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Debate over Trump’s remarks continues | State of the 2020 race | One Israeli’s social network for immigrants

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

From left, Marianne Williamson, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock take the stage for the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit.

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DRIVING THE CONVO — Jewish leaders stress bipartisanship amid Trump’s repeated attacks on Jewish Democrats — by JI’s Jacob Kornbluh: Criticism over President Donald Trump’s “disloyal” comments continued for a second day as the president doubled down on his Oval Office statement via Twitter and later in a gaggle with reporters. “In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you are being very disloyal to Jewish people and you are being very disloyal to Israel,” Trump stated outside the White House on his way to Marine One. 

In a tweet yesterday morning, the president shared comments made by a conspiracy theorist who granted him the title “King of Israel.” The tweets, in which the president also quoted a claim that Israeli Jews “love him like he is the second coming of God,” provoked widespread confusion, outrage and a wave of mockery on Twitter. 

Israeli-American mogul Haim Saban told JI that the “president is factually wrong with his statement and he should not have said it.”

In an interview with Jewish Insider, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said that he disagrees with Trump’s remarks because relying just on one party — whether it be Republican or Democrat — “spells a disaster for the Jewish people.” Hier, who gave the invocation at Trump’s inauguration in 2017, also laughed off the idea of applying the title ‘King of Israel’ to the president. “No, there’s no King of Israel. We have had our kings. Now we have our democratically elected leaders, prime ministers and presidents,” he said. “We have had enough kings of Israel, we don’t need another King of Israel.” 

Former NYC Councilman David Greenfield added: “We’ve learned over thousands of years that whenever government officials single us out, it’s usually not good for the Jews.” [JewishInsider]

Spokespeople for both Agudath Israel of America and the Orthodox Union (OU) told JI they don’t have anything to say about Trump’s “disloyal” comments.

VIEW FROM JERUSALEM — President Reuven “Ruvi” Rivlin spoke on Wednesday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to stress the importance of keeping support of Israel a bipartisan matter in the wake of the president’s remarks. “The relationship between the State of Israel and the United States is a link between peoples, which relies on historical ties, deep and strong friendships and shared values that are not dependent on the relationship with one particular party,” Rivlin told Pelosi, according to a readout provided by the Israeli president’s office. 

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has remained silent over the matter, and his cabinet ministers have refused to criticize Trump, Rivlin told Pelosi: “We must keep the State of Israel above political disputes and make every effort to ensure that support for Israel does not become a political issue.”  

Shimrit Meir, an Israeli analyst and commentator, told JI that even the Israelis “who think Trump is the best thing that has ever happened to the Jewish state feel that things have gotten a little bit out of control.” But according to Meir, it’s “hard to blame” Netanyahu for not countering Trump “since it is likely that he will need Trump before the very tight Israeli elections, less than a month from now,” Nonetheless, she said, “things have really gotten out of hand,” and Rivlin “is trying to act like the responsible adult here.”

Meir quipped that perhaps Rivlin and Netanyahu should coordinate their responsibilities in handling U.S.-Israel relations, in which the prime minister maintains his warm relationship with the Republican Party, while Rivlin can focus on strengthening support for Israel in the Democratic Party.   

ON THE HILL — In a statement on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) accused Trump of “encouraging — wittingly or unwittingly — antisemites throughout the country and world.” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said, “Donald Trump may delusionally call himself ‘king of Israel,’ but it is clear that he is no friend to the Jewish community.” 

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) said in a statement, “As a proud Jewish American, I am dismayed that the President is attacking millions in the American Jewish community as unintelligent and disloyal. These are centuries-old tropes that create an antisemitic environment.” Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) said on CNN’s “Outfront”: “I don’t care whether he knows what he is doing or not. He is a danger to Jewish people in this country.” 

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) wrote on Twitter: “The president loves the Jewish people & the U.S.-Israel alliance… It’s been a rough year with some new House Dems who feel very differently & an activist base siding with them. It’s POTUS’ belief Jews shouldn’t be voting Dem & he articulated it in a way that stirred debate, controversy & criticism.” 

Michael Glassner, the Trump campaign’s COO, responded to the widespread criticism in a statement: “Democrats continue to embrace and defend the most vitriolic antisemites in their midst, who sympathize and side with terrorist organizations who want to wipe Israel from the map. As a Jew myself, I strongly believe that President Trump is right to highlight that there is only one party — the Democrats — excusing and permitting such anti-Jewish venom to be spewed so freely. In stark contrast, there is no bigger ally to the Jewish community at home and around the world than President Trump.”

In a response to a request from The Washington Post, White House press secretary Stephanie Grishman produced a list of instances she said proved the antisemitism of “the Squad” that Trump has repeatedly attacked. The list only referenced Tlaib and Omar, citing their support of the BDS movement and several of their tweets. 

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani blasted the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for criticizing Trump’s remarks. “Any number of my Jewish friends have said exactly the same thing,” Giuliani told the New York Daily News. “It’s completely stupid. They say, ‘How can we vote for Democrats when they support the destruction of the State of Israel?’ [Trump] got their attention, that’s for sure.” 

HOW IT PLAYED — Writers, thinkers, activists and partisans across the Jewish spectrum weighed in on Trump’s comments on Wednesday. In The Washington PostTablet magazine’s Yair Rosenberg wrote that Trump believes he is praising Jews while trafficking in classical antisemitism: “Trump believes all the antisemitic stereotypes about Jews. But he sees those traits as admirable.” New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss posited that “A president with authoritarian tendencies who cares about nothing more than lock-step loyalty is not one American Jews, let alone anyone, can rely on.” New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait mocked the president in a column titled “Trump says Jews should love him because he’s almost literally Jesus.”

In The Atlantic, Peter Beinart wrote that “Trump has repeatedly spoken about American Jews as if they were Israelis… the implied threat: You Jews are guests here. Israel is your true home.” And Carly Pildis penned an impassioned treatise in Tablet titled: “What Donald Trump will never understand about Jews: Whole swaths of the American political establishment are treating us like morons… As though we couldn’t recognize both the left and the right have antisemitism problems. Be furious at BOTH. Demand better from BOTH. Look at your side of the aisle and raise hell — that is what you owe your people, your tribe; not lockstep agreement or partisanship, but the courage and conviction to demand the very best from those you vote for, volunteer, donate to, identify with.”

REPORT — Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro reportedlysought to assist Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in setting up meetings with ex-Israeli security officials and both Jewish and Arab Knesset members before Israel decided to bar her from entering the country last week, a congressional source told The Times of Israel.

ON THE TRAIL — Democratic presidential candidates campaigning around the United States also pushed back against the president’s remarks. Former Vice President Joe Biden reacted to Trump’s statement while campaigning in Newton, Iowa on Wednesday: “Come on man. That’s like a dog whistle.” Speaking to reporters, Biden added: “The fact is that talking about loyalty and being disloyal and whether or not, I mean, come on — that’s not who the American Jewish community is. The American Jewish community is extremely well informed and involved and they come from a core value set. You know there’s an expression and I can’t say it in Yiddish, but ‘what comes from the heart goes straight to the heart.’ … They understand that and Trump does not understand it at all.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) contrasted Torah teachings about love and kindness with what he described were Trump’s efforts “to try to divide us against each other, to demean and degrade us… I am a guy who studied the Torah since I was 20 years old,” Booker told reporters. “I know Jewish values and there are words [like] ‘Tzedakah, Chesed.’ There’s an idea in Judaism about kindness, decency and mercy… One of the greatest Jewish ideals is to welcome the stranger…These ideals are not being evident by the president of the United States.” [Video]

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) told Iowa Starting Line: “It gives me no pleasure to say this, you have a president who is a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, a religious bigot and a homophobe. To suggest that Jewish people in this country would be, disloyal — I think was the word that he used — by voting for a Democrat is, again, completely outrageous and it is beyond belief that a president of the United States would say such a terrible thing. Trump wants to divide us up, we’re going to bring people together, and that’s why we are going to beat him.” 

Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke told reporters: “I can think of nothing more un-American, more resonant with what you might see in the Third Reich, than what the president said.” 

Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro said“What it really says is that he’s worried that Jewish Americans will see him for the racist and the bigot that he is. He has fostered antisemitism in this country.”

STATE OF THE RACE — by JI’s Ben Jacobs: A number of Democrats have one week to make the next debate in September — and there is little left many of them can do to change that. 
 
On Tuesday, Julian Castro became the 10th Democrat to qualify for the next debate, when the former HUD secretary reached 2% in his fourth qualifying poll. There are currently three Democratic candidates who have reached the 130,000 unique donor threshold needed to qualify, but have not hit the polling threshold. Billionaire Tom Steyer needs one more qualifying poll, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) needs two, and author Marianne Williamson needs four.
 
The polls must be conducted by August 28 to count towards qualification for the third debate in September. Therefore the fates of Steyer, Gabbard and Williamson rest in the hands of pollsters deciding if they want to go into the field over the next week. For Steyer, one poll will suffice, but Williamson needs a miracle.
 
A number of the candidates have already written off their chances of appearing in the September debate, and are instead focusing on qualifying for the October debate. This gives them extra time to reach the 130,000 donor threshold — key for candidates like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who said earlier this week she is roughly 20,000 donors away — but also to rack up the necessary number of qualifying polls.
 
All qualifying polls for the September debate will count for October as well, which helps Gillibrand, who has one qualifying poll so far, and is advertising heavily in states like Iowa and New Hampshire to boost that total.
 
Campaigns on the bubble are relatively fatalistic about missing the third debate. However, the cutoff for the fourth debate will raise the stakes. If candidates can’t make it in the fall, it will be very difficult for them to get their message out to voters moving forward. In the meantime, they just have to pray that pollsters would rather spend the dog days of August in the field than on the beach. 

Meanwhile, Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced on Wednesday that he’s dropping out of the 2020 race. During an appearance on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” Inslee said it has “become clear I’m not going to be carrying the ball — I’m not going to be president, so I’m withdrawing tonight from the race.” Sources close to Inslee told The Associated Press that the two-term governor plans to seek a third term in his home state. Inslee — who centered his campaign on climate change — had reached the debate-qualifying threshold of 130,000 individual donors, but not the polling requirements. 

2020 BRIEFS — 2020 candidates are racing to match Warren’s ground game, and the ad dollars show it… Trump critics eye GOP primary race, even if defeating him seems ‘preposterous’… Joe Walsh reportedly expected to announce presidential run… In Iowa, Democrats court the long-overlooked Native American vote…

AT THE UN — Leah and Simcha Goldin, the parents of fallen IDF soldier Hadar Goldin, whose remains are still being held by Hamas, met Wednesday with Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon. [Pic]

The Goldins penned an op-ed in The Washington Post Wednesday titled: “Our son, Hadar Goldin, was abducted by Hamas. We want his remains returned: What’s needed now is concrete action by the United Nations and the United States to put these ideas into practice: Make Hamas’s cynical holding of Israeli remains — of our son and his fellow soldier, Oron Shaul, and the two civilian hostages, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed — a burden instead of an asset.” [WashPost]

TALK OF THE REGION — Iraq paramilitary force blames U.S. and Israel for mystery blasts: “A powerful Iran-backed paramilitary force in Iraq has said it holds the U.S. responsible for a series of blasts at its bases in recent weeks. The deputy head of the Popular Mobilisation, which is dominated by Shia militias, alleged that US forces had brought four Israeli drones into the country to target its positions. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis said the force would use ‘all means at its disposal’ to prevent and deter future attacks. The U.S. and Israel have not commented.” [BBC]

RACE TO THE KNESSET — Joint List leader Ayman Odeh announcedThursday that he would be willing to join a center-left coalition designed to bring down Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, marking a historic shift for Israel’s Arab political parties. In an interview with Yediot Aharonot, Odeh laid out his terms for joining the government, including freezing private home demolitions in the West Bank and repealing a law that dispenses harsher punishments for building infractions. Blue and White’s Gabi Ashkenazi, however, immediately said that his party would not sit with any faction “that does not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” Other members of the Joint List also poured cold water on Odeh’s statement, saying he was not speaking for the entire party.

** Good Thursday 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: Amazon seeks new local vendors in Israel as it eyes expansion [WSJ] • L brands’ profit beats amid Les Wexner cloud, disappoints on outlook [Bloomberg] • Scandalized billionaire Steve Wynn pays $43M for Palm Beach mansion [NYPost] • Photog sues Steven Spielberg for blocking his view of ‘West Side Story’ film set [NYPost• Alex Sapir accused of mismanaging family fortune amid feud with Rotem Rosen [RealDeal] • Shares of Teva up 3% on positive migraine trial [MarketWatch] • Via to manage New York’s school bus system [Calcalist• Israel eases rules on cyber weapons exports despite criticism [Reuters]

STARTUP SPOTLIGHT — Social network Homeis thinks a safe space for immigrants online is possible — by Sara Ashley O’Brien: “Ran Harnevo, 44, is the co-founder and CEO of new startup Homeis — a social network that feels like a hybrid between neighborhood social networking app Nextdoor and Facebook. It’s a place for people born in foreign communities to find each other in their new home city for tips, dates, jobs and more. For example, Israelis living in New York City can find recommendations on locating authentic Israeli cuisine or babysitters and doctors who speak Hebrew nearby. Harnevo was inspired to create Homeis after moving to New York City for his past startup and struggling to call it home.” [CNNBusiness]

SIX FEET UNDER — Jeffrey Epstein has been laid to rest in unmarked tomb besides his parents at a Jewish mausoleum in Florida — by Ben Ashford: “This unmarked stone crypt at an exclusive Jewish mausoleum is the likely final resting place of Jeffrey Epstein… Sources believe the pedophile financier’s remains were transported to Loxahatchee, Florida so they could be entombed beside his parents, Pauline ‘Paula’ and Seymour Epstein.” [DailyMail]

INTERVIEW — Gamal Palmer: On being black, gay, and Jewish in America — by Jeffrey Masters: “As a young boy, Gamal Palmer — Senior Vice President of Leadership Development at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles — would sit in his local synagogue, wearing a yarmulke and in mid-prayer, as people would routinely approach to ask if he was Jewish.” [Advocate]

SPORTS BLINK — Yasiel Puig spends day off at camp for kids with cancer — by Mandy Bell: “Yasiel Puig… took advantage of his first free day in three weeks to rent a helicopter that would fly him to visit Camp Simcha in New York’s Catskill Mountains. It is the only kosher overnight summer camp for children and teens with cancer, and it hosts children battling other diseases, most of which are terminal… So how did Puig, a Cuba native, get involved with a Jewish organization? That tie dates back to the outfielder’s first year in the big leagues with the Dodgers in 2013. He attended a Lakers game and was introduced to a man named Irv Bauman, who quickly became one of his best friends. The two text nearly every day and Bauman’s grandson, who was helping out with the camp, requested that his grandfather ask a favor of the Major Leaguer.” [MLBNews]

When the Donald Sterling saga rocked the NBA — and changed it forever — by Ramona Shelburne: “Donald Sterling had been a blight on the NBA for three decades. There were dozens of incidents that could have been grounds to kick him out of the league, but this tape was something else… The NBA’s players were appalled. They threatened to boycott playoff games if new NBA commissioner Adam Silver didn’t get rid of Sterling quickly and definitively… Within four days, the entire course of NBA history had changed.” [ESPN]

CAMPUS BEAT — Brandeis University investigates posts on antisemitic site: “School safety officials are investigating after images from the university’s website appeared on the Vanguard News Network Forum, which promotes white nationalist views. The photos were posted in a thread containing hundreds of other images along with comments mocking the appearance of Jews. The university issued a campus letter this week saying that the situation is ‘obviously disturbing’ but that safety officials found ‘no direct threat’ to Brandeis or those depicted in the photos.” [AP]

TALK OF THE TOWN — South Philly’s historic Jewish community is growing. She opened a new synagogue to serve it — by Oren Oppenheim: “Last month, in a former Vespa scooter shop on East Passyunk Avenue, [Hadas ‘Dasi’ Fruchter] opened the doors of a Modern Orthodox synagogue that she named the South Philadelphia Shtiebel — Yiddish for a small, homey house of worship. On a recent Saturday night, the sounds of drums and guitars filtered into the street during a two-hour kumzits musical gathering, as Fruchter led about 20 congregants singing and jamming by candlelight… The Shtiebel held its first Friday night services on July 19, with about 70 people attending. The following week, about 30 came.” [PhiladelphiaInquirer]

Prosecutor probes possible hate crime in synagogue shooting: “Prosecutors are investigating to determine whether hate crime charges are warranted in the shooting of a 68-year-old man outside a North Miami Beach synagogue. Miami-Dade police arrested Carlints St. Louis, 30, on Tuesday, a day after he reported his gun stolen from a car spotted outside the synagogue. He’s charged with attempted felony murder, discharging a weapon from a car and aggravated battery on a person over 65.” [MiamiHerald]

American-born Israeli woman, 25, detained in Russia for 4 months over 9 grams of cannabis — by Talia Kaplan: “A 25-year-old woman with dual American and Israeli citizenship has been behind bars in Russia since April after authorities allegedly found nine grams of cannabis in her luggage while she was traveling — and her family has been fighting for her freedom for months. ‘My sister is falling apart,’ Naama Issachar’s sister, Liad Gold, told Fox News Wednesday. ‘She is in a Russian prison where no one speaks English and she is at her breaking point.’” [FoxNews]

LONG READ — How Canada imprisoned Jewish refugees alongside POWs — by Carly Stern: “Erwin Schild was just 20 years old and had already survived Dachau concentration camp when he boarded a military ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean to Quebec. When the SS Sobiesky docked in Canada in July 1940, the Cologne, Germany, native hoped the imprisonment and discrimination he and other Jewish refugees had faced in Europe was at an end. Instead, the Canadian government placed them into various prisoner-of-war camps, where they would reside for two years.” [Ozy]

ACROSS THE SEA — German theme park shuts swastika-shaped ride — by Liam Stack: “An amusement park in Germany shut down a new attraction this week after complaints that it resembled a pair of giant, spinning swastikas that lifted riders into the sky over the Black Forest town of Löffingen… Rüdiger Braun, the owner of the park, told reporters from the European Broadcasting Union that until the backlash, he had not noticed the ride’s resemblance to an iconic symbol of Nazi Germany. Mr. Braun told the news service that he apologized ‘to all persons who feel disturbed and insulted by our design’ and said that the ride would be redesigned to have three cars on each arm instead of four.” [NYTimes]

BIRTHDAYS: Founder of Elliott Management, Paul Elliott Singer turns 75… Chairwoman of Israel’s Strauss Group, Ofra Strauss turns 59… Emmy Award-winning television news journalist, Morton Dean turns 84… Former director of Prozdor, the high school program of the Hebrew College in Newton, Massachusetts, Margie Berkowitz turns 76… Los Angeles dermatologist, Joyce Naness Fox, MD turns 73… Co-founder of NewsGuard, Steven Brillturns 69…  Former Chief of Staff to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby (family name was Liebowitz) turns 69…

Portland, Oregon’s Marque Lampert Scherer turns 69… Chairman of Israel Military Industries (now known as IMI Systems) and former member of the Knesset, Yitzhak Aharonovich turns 69… Robin Elcott turns 63… Former MLB outfielder, then investment banker, until 2017 he served as U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and also served as President of B’nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton, Florida, Ambassador Mark Gilbert turns 63… Former investment banker who left his job to run a Los Angeles-based homeless service provider, he is now a professor at USC, Adlai W. Wertmanturns 60…

Co-founder of Marquis Jet, former rapper and part-owner of the Atlanta Hawks, Jesse Itzler turns 51… Director of strategic partnerships at The Paul E. Singer Foundation, Deborah Hochberg turns 46… Deputy mayor of Lawrence, NY, political consultant and investor, Michael Fragin turns 46… Project coordinator for “The Conversation: Jewish In America” gathering, Rachel Saifer Goldman turns 45… Co-executive director of Christians United for Israel, Shari Dollinger turns 42…

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