MEET THE REP — The relatable Minnesota freshman taking on Congress — by JI’s Laura Kelly: He flipped a red district blue in Minnesota in 2018. He’s the descendant of Jewish refugees from eastern Europe and the grandson of advice columnist Dear Abby. And he has openly criticized both President Donald Trump and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
Jewish Insider sat down for an in-depth interview with Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) to discuss his Jewish background, the reason he got into politics and his goals for his time in office: “I have very distinct memories of my great-grandparents reminding me of my eventual responsibility to advocate for those whose voices are quieter or resources are limited, and whose opportunities are not as significant as my own would be one day,” he recalled.
Phillips worked for years in his family’s business, Phillips Distilling Company, though he always thought that “one day — if the opportunity perhaps arose, or the need existed,” he would run for office. That day arrived in 2016, watching as Trump was elected the president of the United States.
“I was so appalled and disgusted, and frankly embarrassed for our country,” he recalled. “My daughters that night, who were 18 and 16, Daniella and Pia — their reaction left an indelible mark on me,” he continued. “They were fearful, they shed tears, they expressed fear, and the next morning I woke up and at the breakfast table, I promised them that I would do something.”
Read the full profile here, and find out what advice Phillips would ask today from his grandmother, Dear Abby: [JewishInsider]
HEARD ON THE TRAIL — President Donald Trump mocked the Democratic presidential hopefuls following the two televised debates during a campaign rally Thursday evening in Cincinnati, Ohio. “I was watching the Democrats’ debate last night… and the Democrats spent more time attacking Barack Obama than they did attacking me,” Trump said.
2020 WATCH — BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith conducted a text message interview with Montana Governor Steve Bullock in his new newsletter. Smith asked Bullock about his comment during the first night of the Democratic debate this week, where he said “we need to get back to nuclear proliferation… Part of the strength really is the ability to deter.” Bullock admitted to Smith he was “less than artful” with that answer, adding: “We should never take options off the table to defend our nation… Trump’s foreign policy has made it harder to prevent our adversaries from obtaining nuclear weapons.”
IRAN WATCH — On Thursday, France — along with Britain and Germany — voiced concern about the U.S. decision to impose sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. “We consider that all diplomatic channels should stay open, particularly in a context of high tensions,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the U.S. move “childish.” In a speech on Thursday, Rouhani complained the Trump administration has “started doing childish things. Every day they claim: ‘We want to negotiate with Iran, without any pre-conditions.’ And then they put sanctions on the country’s foreign minister.” The Iranian leaders also stressed, “We have a hard battle ahead, but we shall surely win.”
REPORT — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has been tapped by the Trump administration to find an alternative to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, The Daily Beast reported on Thursday. According to the report, “It is unclear how far along the team is in crafting a proposal, but Graham did travel to Israel earlier this month to meet with officials about the situation with Iran.”
Israeli jets appear to have struck Iraq for the first time since 1981 — by Jonathan Spyer: “Two airstrikes on Shiite militia targets took place in Iraq last month. No country or organization has taken responsibility, but there are strong reasons to think they were carried out by Israel. If so, these would be the Jewish state’s first air raids on Iraq since the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.”
“The Israeli security establishment has been acutely worried in recent months by growing evidence that Iran is using the Shiite militia infrastructure in Iraq as a pipeline for weapons transfers to Hezbollah, which menaces Israel from the north in Lebanon, and as a holding point for ballistic missiles that can hit Israel all the way from Western Iraq.” [WSJ]
ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — According to a report by Channel 13’s Barak Ravid, Trump is expected to decide by the end of August whether the rollout of the political portion of the Kushner-led Middle East peace plan should take place before the Israeli elections on September 17. Newsweek suggested on Thursday that Jared Kushner “will reportedly have to return to Trump rather than release the long-awaited plan, as Israeli officials have speculated.”
After visiting Israel and Egypt, Kushner arrived in Morocco on Thursday and met with the UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah. In Egypt, Kushner met with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who told him that Egypt supports “a two-state solution and the creation of Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
Guy Ziv and Benjamin Shaver write… “Don’t give up on a two-state solution — The Trump administration’s rhetoric is deeply worrying: The political phase of the Trump administration’s Mideast peace plan, which is expected to be unveiled following the Sept. 17 Israeli elections, will be a defining moment in U.S. mediation efforts. If Israel’s security is indeed a priority for this White House… then its peace team should listen to those who understand it best rather than to ideologues whose annexation plans endanger the future of Israelis and Palestinians alike.” [NYDailyNews]
ON THE HILL — Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) posted a picture of herself with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on a current trip to Africa. “They said ‘send her back’ but Speaker Pelosi didn’t just make arrangements to send me back, she went back with me ✊🏽,” Omar tweeted on Thursday.
Forget the Squad, politicians like Chellie Pingree represent the real threat to Israel — by K.C. Johnson: “A more notable opponent of the [anti-BDS] bill was far lower profile — Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, the only New England legislator to oppose the resolution and a sign, perhaps, of things to come. It’s likely Pingree, rather than figures such as [Ilhan] Omar and [Rashida] Tlaib, who represent the greatest looming threat to Israel in the coming years… Pingree is no Omar or Tlaib, legislators whose passionate hatred for Israel runs deep. Indeed, there’s scant evidence Pingree has given much thought to Israel at all… Pingree’s opposition to Israel, instead, seems to be more tribal, caused by her fellow progressives coming to view the Jewish state skeptically.” [Tablet]
ARGUMENT — Seth Mandel writes… “Al Sharpton is not a lifelong fighter for justice: “Calling Sharpton a lifelong fighter for “justice” ignores his history of race-baiting and deadly antisemitic incitement… Sharpton, meanwhile, is free of shame or apology. ‘You only repent when you mean it, and I have done nothing wrong,’ he insisted years later. In 2011, he wrote a gobsmacking piece of revisionist history for the New York Daily News, claiming his remarks were being manipulated by ‘extremist Jews.’” [WashPost]
CLOSED DOORS — The Israel Project has shut its offices in Israel, The Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday. The Washington office of the 17-year-old Israel advocacy organization is also expected to close soon. The nonprofit struggled to fundraise in recent years, and its CEO, Josh Block, resigned last month. A source close to the organization told Haaretz that “They just have no money left, absolutely nothing.”
2020 BRIEFS — Man arrested at Warren event for tussling with MAGA protesters… Kamala’s Harris’ Medicare-for-all straddle… Debates identifyplenty of Democratic divisions, but not a consensus favorite… Kirsten Gillibrand campaign sells ‘Clorox the Oval Office’ sticker after debate… Cory Booker has biggest fundraising day of campaign after the second debate… When will the 2020 Democratic field start to shrink?… Bill de Blasio makes fliers wait on tarmac so he can rush to ‘The View.’
ROAD TO THE KNESSET — 32 parties submitted their final electoral lists to the Central Elections Committee by midnight on Thursday, the deadline to run in the September 17 redo election. In April’s election, a record 47 parties registered to run; just 11 passed the electoral threshold.
Despite pressure from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the extremist Otzma Yehudit faction did not join the united right-wing party led by Ayelet Shaked, rejecting an offer to take the eighth slot. Instead Otzma Yehudit is running alone, led by Itamar Ben-Gvir; the third slot on the list went to Adva Biton, the mother of Adelle Biton, a young girl who was killed as a result of a rock-throwing terrorist attack in 2013. The party is not predicted to pass the electoral threshold.
Kachol Lavan leader Benny Gantz said Thursday that he would consider sitting in a national-unity government, before quickly reversing and saying that he would not sit with Likud. Avigdor Lieberman turned his sights on Amir Peretz, accusing the Labor leader of having a secret deal with Netanyahu, something Peretz vehemently denied.
** Good Friday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **
BUSINESS BRIEFS: How the rich get spending money: Locking fine art in storage and borrowing against it [LATimes] • Apollo’s Leon Black clarifies his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein to investors [Bloomberg; NYTimes] • WeWork’s Adam Neumann solicits offers for building he leases to his own $47 billion company [RealDeal] • Meir Shamir offers to buy Africa-Israel for half of debt [Globes]
SPOTLIGHT — Ponzi schemer stole millions from Jewish community to fuel lavish lifestyle — by Lisa J. Huriash: “A federal judge will sentence Shayeh Dov, a man who prosecutors say preyed on the goodwill and trust of South Florida’s orthodox Jewish community, for his role in an elaborate, multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. Dov acted as a ‘predator’ to persuade more than 30 people to invest in bogus real estate from May 2012 through April 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. The losses are estimated at $3 million.” [SunSentinel]
How one ultra-Orthodox man got full control of 500,000 Israelis’ cellphones — by Nati Tucker: “A group of Haredi rabbis founded the [Rabbinical Committee for Communications] 15 years ago to defend the community from the onslaught of the internet and the risk that Haredim would gain access to inappropriate content… Today nearly all of Israel’s cellular operators offer subscribers accounts without access to the internet or text messages… Even the more moderate ultra-Orthodox factions have embraced kosher phones, which now are estimated to number 500,000 devices.”
“But, as TheMarker discovered… the committee is no longer the broad-based undertaking it once was. Today, Yehuda Dweck, a resident of Bnei Brak, has exclusive control of the flow of information to hundreds of thousands of Haredim… At the same time, Dweck has leveraged his work with kosher phones into a thriving business owned by his wife. And he is now trying to gain exclusive control through the power that he has received from the rabbinic committee over the sale and distribution of kosher phones.” [Haaretz]
SCENE IN ISRAEL — Jennifer Lopez put on quite a show in Tel Aviv last night, entertaining the estimated 57,000 fans who turned up for her concert. “Tel Aviv, what an amazing night this has been,” she called out at the end of the show, according to the Times of Israel. “I want to thank you for coming to celebrate with me. Shalom! I learned how to say this — ‘Ani ohev otcha,'” she said, Hebrew for ‘I love you.’ Lopez arrived in Israel on Tuesday with her fiance, Alex Rodriguez, and her children.
HOLLYWOOD — Apple developing English-language remake of Keshet International’s Israeli thriller ‘False Flag’ — by Peter White: “Deadline understands that the company’s forthcoming streaming service is working up an adaptation of Keshet International’s Hebrew-language TV series, which was created by Amit Cohen and Maria Feldman. The first season of the drama, which first aired on Israel’s Channel 2 in 2015, tells the story of five people, who wake up one morning to find themselves implicated in a ruthless kidnapping operation following the disappearance of the Iranian Defense Minister… Directed by Oded Raskin, it starred Ishai Golan, Maggie Azarzar, Angel Bonanni, Ania Bukstein and Orna Salinger.” [Deadline]
Review: ‘Tel Aviv on Fire’ deliciously walks fine comedic line of Israeli-Palestinian conflict — by Kenneth Turan: “Genial mirth and the nightmarish gloom of the Middle East do not sound like natural companions, but the droll and delightful ‘Tel Aviv on Fire’ has made the impossible possible. Directed by Palestinian Sameh Zoabi, what we have here is a sly, very human comedy that is just serious enough around the edges about the Israel-Palestine imbroglio to make us sit up and take notice… As co-written by Zoabi and Dan Kleinman with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, “Tel Aviv” has very much of an insider sensibility, even making the region’s shared passion for the tastiest, most authentic hummus a key subplot.” [LATimes]
DEEP DIVE — My affair with Meyer Lansky, the mobster — by Maya Guez: “Even though Lansky was a well-known figure in Israel at the time he met [Zali] De Toledo, in 1970, the couple initially enjoyed relative freedom and anonymity. They traveled to Nahariya in the north, ate in restaurants, frequented cafés… during the two years he lived here, the country was divided into two camps: those who supported the right of any Jew, without exception — and certainly one who had assisted Israel — to take advantage of the Law of Return; and those who were apprehensive about taking him in, because of his involvement with organized crime.” [Haaretz]
When Moammar Gadhafi tried to pitch a tent in New Jersey — by Austin Bodetti: “Many people despise their neighbors. Few, however, have feelings as strong as New Jersey Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Until 2011, the mansion next to his own belonged to a Libyan government headed by Moammar Gadhafi, an autocrat long associated with terrorism… A decade after his showdown with Gadhafi, Boteach is still keeping an eye on Thunder Rock. ‘The story didn’t just end with Gadhafi,’ said Boteach. ‘I still have a lot of questions, and there’s no reason to have a diplomatic mission in Englewood. Why is it tax-exempt? Is it really a diplomatic mission? Who uses it? Who owns it?’” [OZY]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Department of Education rolls out race-based school curriculum in NYC, sparking outrage from parents: “A controversial change is coming in the way teachers educate New York City public school students — based heavily on a child’s ethnicity and not their intelligence. The Department of Education says the new policy will be more inclusive, highlighting more cultures in the classroom, but critics say the basics will get lost in the shuffle.” [CBSNewYork]
Handcrafted: Inside Brooklyn’s best tailors — by John Leland: “You spend 80 hours making a custom suit, crafting every stitch by hand, measuring and fitting five times — a beautiful thing — and then the customer goes and drapes it over the back of a metal chair. This is the sort of thing that tests the sartorial sang-froid of Yosel Tiefenbrun, the bespoke tailor and non-practicing Chabad rabbi of East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.” [NYTimes]
ACROSS THE POND — Antisemitic incidents in Britain up 10% on last year, finds charity — by Harriet Sherwood: “There were 892 reported incidents between January and June, a 10% increase on the same period of 2018 — which also had a record high — said the CST, a charity that monitors antisemitism and provides security for the British Jewish community. More than a third of the incidents involved social media.” [TheGuardian]
DESSERT — Finally, Manhattan gets Kosher Al Fresco dining — by Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt: “Just a few blocks from the offices of the Forward on Pearl Street, a new kosher restaurant has opened its doors, and it promises to do just that. You might walk by without even noticing the humble black awning of the Wall Street Grill… The restaurant was founded by a unique trifecta — Steve Traube (an Ashkenazi Jewish restauranteur from Brooklyn), Ines Kincaid (a German Christian restaurant house manager) and Tarik Ghadouani (a Moroccan Muslim maître d’). The three met while working for the now-closed Prime Grill.” [Forward]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Jerusalem-born actor, who moved to the U.S. as a child, and has appeared in over 400 TV episodes, Nehemiah Persoff turns 100… Co-founder and chairman of NYC-based real estate development firm, Rockrose Development Corporation, Henry Elghanayanturns 79… Longtime member of Knesset in the Likud party (1984-2006) and the Yisrael Beiteinu party (2009-2015), he also held several ministerial posts, he is presently chairman of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Uzi Landau turns 76… Retired colonel in the U.S. Army and a recipient of the Medal of Honor and seven other medals, he taught at West Point and serves as a military analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, Jack H. Jacobs turns 74…
Longtime librarian, now residing in Houston, Irene Seff turns 73… Nationally syndicated radio talk show host, author and public speaker, Dennis Pragerturns 71… Op-Ed columnist for the International New York Times, he has worked as a foreign correspondent in fifteen different countries, Roger Cohenturns 64… U.S. Senator from Nevada, elected in 2018, she was previously (2017-2018) a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-Nevada-3), Jacklyn Sheryl Rosen turns 62… Owner of Newton, Massachusetts-based MPG Promotions, Elliot Mael turns 54… VP and General Counsel of Yeshiva University, Andrew ”Avi” Lauer turns 52… ATP professional tennis player (1983-1996), who was once ranked sixth best in the world, Aaron Kricksteinturns 52… SVP of Sales for Hearst Television, Eric J. Meyrowitz turns 49…
Former reporter for both the AP and Wall Street Journal, now a DC-based national security reporter for The New York Times where he won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018, Matthew Rosenberg turns 45… Product marketing manager at Google, Stephen L. Rabin turns 41… CEO of a multi-national toy and gift company, a founding member of Mesila of Baltimore (a non-profit financial advisory organization) and The Jewish Entrepreneur (a mentoring program), Isaac William “Zevy” Wolman turns 35… Director of special projects at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Julia Nayfeld Schulman turns 35… Actress best known for her 1999 “Pepsi Girl” role as a seven-year-old, and later for subsequent teen roles, Hallie Kate Eisenberg turns 27… Harriet Cohen…
SATURDAY: Retired head coach of both the NFL’s KC Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills, member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Marv Levy turns 94… English actor, author, playwright and theatre director, known for his roles as the villain in both James Bond and Rambo films, Steven Berkoff turns 82… EVP of the UJA-Federation of New York (1993-2015) now EVP emeritus, John S. Ruskayturns 73… Chairman and CEO of the NYC office of commercial real estate brokerage firm Savills, he is a past member of AIPAC’s Real Estate Division Executive Council, Mitchell S. Steir turns 64… Board Member of both the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles and the LA Museum of Contemporary Art, Orna Amir Wolens turns 58…
Former aide to Senator Schumer, then senior adviser to President Clinton at the White House and thereafter, now President of DC-based Freedman Consulting, LLC, Thomas Z. Freedman turns 56… Co-founder in 2018 (together with Malcolm Gladwell) of Pushkin Industries, a new podcast company, he was a Rhodes Scholar and editor-in-chief and chairman of Slate Group, Jacob Weisberg turns 55… Russian-born Canadian entrepreneur, he developed the 65-story Trump International Hotel in Toronto (which has since been renamed) and was president of the Jewish Russian Community Centre of Ontario, Alexander Shnaider turns 51…
VP of community planning at the Jewish Federation of Broward County (Florida), Evan Goldman turns 50… Member of the New York Daily Newseditorial board and the paper’s opinion editor, Josh Greenman turns 46… Chief advancement officer at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Joshua Cherwin turns 42… Deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for external affairs, Brian Morgenstern turns 37… Director of national security policy at SoftBank, he was previously the national security advisor for then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and then-Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Jeffrey A. Dressler turns 35…
Director of development at the Anti-Defamation League, Erica Greenblattturns 35… Associate at McKinsey & Company, Caroline Keller-Lynn turns 32… Congressional district grassroots coordinator at Christians United For Israel, she was born in Lutsk, Ukraine and raised in Sacramento, California,Liliya Bychuk turns 32… Program Officer at The Natan Fund, Adina Poupko turns 31… Co-founder and president of the Reducetarian Foundation (a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing meat consumption), Brian Kateman turns 30… Engagement editor at Politico, Emily Goldberg turns 25… Ariana Kaufman…
SUNDAY: 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama turns 58… Philanthropist, political donor and casino magnate, owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation including casinos in Las Vegas, Macao and Singapore, Sheldon Adelson turns 86… Professor emerita of American history at Yeshiva University and Stern College, she is an expert on the history of McCarthyism, Dr. Ellen Schrecker turns 81… Talmudic scholar, Av Beit Din (head of the rabbinical court) of Mekor Haim in Queens, New York and a prominent leader of New York’s Sephardic Jewish community, Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Haim turns 79… Bethesda, Maryland resident, Michael Salzberg turns 76…
Member of the Knesset since 2013 for the Yesh Atid party (and since 2019 for the Blue and White party), she served as mayor of Herzliya between 1998 and 2013, Yael German turns 72… Senior Vice President for Growth at the NYC HQ of the Anti-Defamation League, Frederic Lewis Bloch turns 67… Longtime member of the Knesset for Likud (1992-2015) including multiple ministerial positions, Silvan Shalom turns 61… Executive producer of “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” Michael Gelman turns 58… Executive editor of PwC’s management magazine “Strategy + Business,” he was previously editor of global finance for the Daily Beast and Newsweek, Daniel Gross turns 52…
Co-founder of the music and culture magazine The Source, former director of programming for the Wynn Las Vegas and current editor-in-chief for Cuepointat Medium, Jonathan Shecter (also known as Shecky Green) turns 51… Washington director of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block turns 47… CEO of Aspiration (a financial services firm), Andrei Cherny turns 44… Account executive at Riskified, he previously served as executive director of the European Union of Jewish Students (2014-2016), Jonathan Keyson turns 27… Born in Johannesburg, he moved to Florida as a 7-year-old where he attended the Donna Klein Jewish Academy in Boca Raton, he is now the placekicker for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, Greg Joseph turns 25… Natalie Roberts… Evelyn Murphy...