The former U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica who lives in Israel | Iowa State Fair scene | The future of Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures
PROFILE — Meet Fitz Haney, the Israeli-American diplomat, businessman and reality TV star — by JI’s Amy Spiro: Stafford Fitzgerald Haney’s Herzliya office is dotted with photographs. One features him with former President Barack Obama. Another shows him sitting in a meeting with current Vice President Mike Pence. And hanging next to his desk is a collage of photos showcasing his participation on a recent season of Costa Rica’s Dancing With The Stars.
Even these disparate snapshots don’t come close to telling the full life story of Haney, known to most people simply as ‘Fitz.’ From roots in Nashville and Chicago to a decade working in Latin America, conversion to Judaism, aliya, marriage and a recent gig as the U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, Haney has lived a colorful and eventful 50 years.
Haney sat down with Jewish Insider on a recent Sunday morning in Israel to discuss his unexpected life journey, his experience as an interracial family in Israel, and his views on both U.S. and Israeli politics today.
“When we first lived in Jerusalem after my wife and I were married, people at Shabbat tables would try to ask nicely and say… ‘so have you always been religious?’” Haney recalled. “‘Yeah, I grew up in a very religious household,’” he would tell them. “‘Just Catholic.’”
Haney and his rabbi wife made aliya in 2000, and settled — at first — in Israel. “We made aliya right in the middle of the second intifada,” Haney recalled. He said he walked into the Interior Ministry office with their applications, “and the woman said ‘are you sure you want to do this?’”
Haney on President Donald Trump’s Israel policy: “I don’t think the current administration is great for the Jews in the larger sense.” Moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem “was a good thing, it was an important, symbolic move. But I think that the long-term schism in the bipartisan support for Israel is not going to be good.”
Haney on the Obama administration’s approach to the U.S. – Israel relationship: “I think that everything came from good intentions. I didn’t agree with everything that was done… in some places they were completely right and I think in some places they missed the boat. I think the politicization of the relationship was not good, for either side.” Click here for the full profile [JewishInsider]
DONOR CIRCUIT — New GOP small-dollar platform draws scant attention — by JI’s Jacob Kornbluh: When Republican Party operatives launched a new online fundraising portal in June, they pledged to raise a substantial amount to compete with the Democrat’s small-dollar fundraising machine. However, since its launch, WinRed has fallen short of expectations.
According to The Daily Beast, the GOP only managed to raise a little over $4 million in the first five weeks, compared to nearly $250 million in contributions facilitated by ActBlue — the Democratic platform — in the second quarter of 2019. And the numbers were driven by donors who were already giving generously to various Republican efforts. For instance, the publication noted, three GOP donors — Marc Goldman, Thomas Michaud, and Ron Ulrich — contributed a collective $50,000 through the new platform during the last week of June.
In an interview with Jewish Insider, Goldman said Republicans shouldn’t feel discouraged by the modest numbers. “This is a start-up thing [that] I would say 99 percent of Republicans probably are not even aware of yet,” he explained. “I’m sure there’s a couple of little things that may need to be worked out. But if a year from now or even less, the same questions are raised, then I would question it. I have no doubt that it will be effective. It’s an added tool. It’s not taking away from anything. So, I only see the upside in that regard.” [JewishInsider]
Goldman’s view on the Democratic party: “Unfortunately in all too many instances, they are anti-American because the policies that they are espousing and the philosophies that they are speaking and the types of things that they’re saying can have no other effect but to bring down America. I mean, if this is what they want to do [re-entering the Iran deal], yeah, it’s anti-Israel and it’s anti-America.”
TALK OF THE TOWN — A message circulating on local WhatsApp groups urged members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn to contribute just a dollar to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s presidential campaign to help him qualify for the September debate, Politico reported on Thursday. The message, written in Yiddish, is signed by leaders of the Satmar Jewish community in Williamsburg (Zalmanites). “By donating the dollar you support your needs, the entire ultra-Orthodox public and our rights and needs by answering the call of askanim who need to show that the public recognizes those who understand our interests,” it reads. See a copy of the message here [Pic]
HAPPENING TODAY — President Donald Trump will visit the Hamptons for a fundraiser hosted by Related Companies’ developer Stephen Ross. Following backlash, “a list of lifestyle, fitness and restaurant brands affiliated with the Related Companies, of which Ross is chairman and founder, was no longer available on the company’s website,” The Washington Post reported.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was scheduled to attend a fundraiser hosted by NORPAC in The Five Towns. But the event was postponed due to the Republican leader’s recent injury.
STATE FAIR SCENE — JI’s Ben Jacobs reporting from the Iowa State Fair: Joe Biden finally got to experience the Iowa State Fair as a frontrunner on Thursday. During his third presidential bid after nearly a half century in politics, the former vice president had almost the quintessential State Fair experience. He experienced a throng of selfie-seeking fans, a scrum of cameramen from across the world and heckling from a right-wing reporter. All Biden needed was a corn dog to complete the experience.
Wearing aviator sunglasses and a short-sleeved navy blue polo shirt, Biden gave a somewhat garbled version of his stump speech from the soapbox — a raised platform nestled next to a building in the middle of the fairgrounds where candidates addressed a mix of potential caucus-goers, national media outlets and stray tourists.
He then entered a white tent for a 10-minute press gaggle with about 100 reporters. There, in circumstances that would make a New York City subway car at rush hour seem spacious, he answered questions about whether Trump is a white supremacist (He might “be worse than one”) and was accosted by right-wing reporters asserting that Trump’s praise of neo-Nazis in Charlottesville as “very fine people” was fake news.
Then, finally, Biden was free to wander the fairgrounds. His only impediment to enjoying the sights and snacks were the dozens of people encircling him every time he took a step. Eventually, the 2020 presidential candidate camped out in a beer stand after being reassured by aides that he wouldn’t drive away business. He remained there for more than 20 minutes, taking selfies and signing memorabilia handed to him.
Eventually, Biden managed to squeak through the crowds to the far edge of the fairgrounds, lingering in front of the gate for a few minutes to take questions. At the end, when he was pushed by a reporter to clearly state if he thought Trump was a white supremacist, he fired back, “You want me to say the words so I sound like everybody else. I’m not everybody else. I’m Joe Biden. I’ve always been who I am.” And then, with his aviator sunglasses on, he exited the fair.
DEEP DIVE — Why America is losing the battle against white nationalist terrorism — by Vera Bergengruen and W.J. Hennigan: “From 2009 through 2018, the far right has been responsible for 73% of domestic extremist-related fatalities, according to a 2019 study by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). And the toll is growing… Yet the nation’s leaders have failed to meet this menace. In more than a dozen interviews with Time, current and former federal law-enforcement and national-security officials described a sense of bewilderment and frustration as they watched warnings go ignored and the white-supremacist terror threat grow. Over the past decade, multiple attempts to refocus federal resources on the issue have been thwarted.” [Time; MotherJones]
TRUMP DIPLOMACY — Trump took aim on Thursday at French President Emmanuel Macron via tweet, accusing him of sending “mixed signals” to the Iranian regime. “Iran is in serious financial trouble. They want desperately to talk to the U.S., but are given mixed signals from all of those purporting to represent us, including President Macron of France,” Trump wrote. “I know Emmanuel means well, as do all others, but nobody speaks for the United States but the United States itself. No one is authorized in any way, shape, or form, to represent us!”
The president was likely referencing a recent report by Al-Monitor that Macron invited Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to the upcoming G7 summit in Biarritz later this month to meet Trump. A French diplomat denied the report.
The Iranian Defense Minister said Thursday that Israel joining the U.S.-led coalition in the Strait of Hormuz could have disastrous consequences. According to Newsweek, Defense Minister Amir Hatami said that if Israel joined the effort “such a move could be very provocative and have disastrous consequences for the region.”
HEARD IN JERUSALEM — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that he disagrees with some 2020 candidates’ characterization of Netanyahu as a racist. “I don’t think he’s a racist. Period. No,” Hoyer said during a tour to Israel’s northern border.
Hoyer also charged that Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) receive a lot of attention for comments on Israel “because the press likes controversy.” But he added: “I am not worried because I know that the Democratic Party has been one of Israel’s strongest supporters throughout its history, and continues to be so.”
MEDIA WATCH — New York Times examining editor’s ‘poor judgment’ on social media — by Micahel Calderone: “The New York Times is examining a top Washington editor’s social media use after he repeatedly displayed what it called ‘poor judgment.” Jonathan Weisman, the paper’s deputy Washington editor, came under fire last week for suggesting that two congresswomen of color, Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN), weren’t really from the Midwest and that Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) — an Alabama-born civil rights leader — weren’t from the Deep South.” [Politico]
2020 BRIEFS — Cory Booker challenges America’s Disneyfied history… Kamala Harris becomes first major candidate with TV ad as she debuts ’3 a.m. agenda’… How Harris charmed the 1 percenters… Grassroots armies reshapeIowa contest… Steve Bullock broke from his rivals, telling JI that the Second Amendment does contain an individual right to bear arms… John Hickenlooper’s possible retreat to Colorado Senate race could be rough going.
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: David Benioff and Dan Weiss have signed a multiyear film and TV pact with Netflix [HollywoodReporter] • Kushner Companies claim of political bias in nixed subsidy tossed by judge [BNNBloomberg] • Karlie Kloss and Josh Kushner sell Manhattan condo for $6.6M [NYPost] • Woodbridge’s Robert Shapiro faces 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to Ponzi scheme [RealDeal] • Harvey Weinstein started selling his real estate about six months before his downfall [WSJ]
HOLLYWOOD — Megan Ellison addresses Annapurna staff amid Chapter 11 reports — by Matt Donnelly: “Waving off reports of potential Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday, Megan Ellison addressed the staff of her indie film company Annapurna Pictures, saying she has no intention of losing her grip on the pedigreed and financially turbulent studio. The message came after Deadline first reported that the film mogul and father Larry Ellison are playing hardball with bank lenders over purchasing back over $200 million of Annapurna’s debt. Megan Ellison called the issues a matter of ‘restructuring,’ and assured employees their jobs were safe.” [Variety]
TALK OF OUR NATION — Survivor of 1999 attack on Granada Hills Jewish Center reunites with nurse and paramedic who saved his life — by Marissa Wenzke and Jennifer McGraw: “Ben Kadish was 5 years old when he was nearly killed by a self-professed white supremacist who opened fire at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills during the summer of 1999. As the date of the shooting approaches, marking 20 years since the attack, Kadish met Wednesday with a nurse and paramedic who helped save his life… Kadish thanked staff at the [Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills] and touched on the massacres in Dayton and El Paso, saying he plans to reach out to the victims.” [KTLA]
Montana judge orders neo-Nazi website publisher to pay $14M — by Matt Volz: “A judge on Thursday ordered the publisher of a neo-Nazi website to pay a Jewish real estate agent $14 million for inciting his readers to harass her family with hundreds of threatening and antisemitic messages and calls. U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen entered Tanya Gersh a default judgment in her civil lawsuit after The Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin refused to appear for a scheduled deposition in the case… It’s not clear how Gersh will collect the money from Anglin if he remains outside the U.S.” [AP]
Germany to put 92-year old man on trial for Nazi crimes: “A 92-year old German man will go on trial in October charged with helping to murder 5,230 prisoners, many of them Jewish, at a Nazi death camp in World War Two… In what will be one of the last cases against Nazi-era crimes, Bruno D. is accused of being an SS guard in the Stutthof concentration camp near Gdansk, in what is today Poland.” [Reuters]
Born in Israel, hundreds of Filipino children risk expulsion — by Clothilde Mraffko: “In the heat of the summer, Sivan Noel and her sister Michal say they rarely venture outside of their family’s small, basement apartment in Tel Aviv. The two girls, 11 and nine, risk being deported to the family’s home country, the Philippines, even though they’ve never set foot there… They and hundreds of other Filipino families in Israel are caught up in a legal battle that has put them at risk of deportation… The two girls have no legal status and their parents cannot renew their work visas without risking expulsion.” [AFP]
Gazans too poor to afford sheep for Eid sacrifice under blockade, Israel cash row — by Nidal al-Mughrabi: “Ali usually marks the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha with his family in the Gaza Strip by sacrificing a sheep… But this year the 49-year-old police officer says he cannot afford to buy an animal for the ‘feast of the sacrifice’ holiday, which begins next week, after the Palestinian Authority halved his salary five months ago.” [Reuters]
The meaning of Mecca — by Sabeeha Rehman: “One of the largest gatherings of religious pilgrims in the world, the hajj, begins Friday in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. More than two million Muslim men, women and children will assemble to honor the prophet Abraham and his second wife, Hagar. All of them will be challenged to uphold the spirit of the hajj.” [WSJ]
BOOK REVIEW — Karl Marx: Prophet of the present — by James Miller: “Marx himself continues to inspire fresh research, which now includes Karl Marx: Philosophy and Revolution, by Shlomo Avineri, a political scientist who served as director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin… Besides being approachably succinct, Avineri’s sympathetic account is distinguished by its appearance in the highly regarded Jewish Lives series. Both of Marx’s parents were the children of rabbis, and according to the strict matrilineal principles of Jewish law, he was born a Jew. But at no point was he observant.” [NYTimes]
DESSERT — Silver Spring vegan restaurant hosts pop-up event at National Synagogue — by Charlie Wright: “Vegan restaurant PLNT Burger will open its first location in early September in Silver Spring… PLNT Burger [debuted] on Thursday with a pop-up event at a synagogue in Washington, D.C., a preview of what customers can expect when it opens in Silver Spring… The restaurant’s plant-based concept fit well with the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av, a day of fasting. It comes at the end of a nine-day period when Orthodox Jews don’t eat meat, Goldman said. PLNT Burger wasn’t ready in time for the August holiday, but Goldman still wanted to do an event with the synagogue.” [BethesdaMagazine]
WINE OF THE WEEK — Kitron Sumka 2009 — by Yitz Applbaum (whose birthday is on Sunday): “This is the first time I am using the word ‘elixir’ in one of my weekly wine columns. Fate would have it, that due to a particular wine, the word ‘elixir has become attached to my current business trip in Cabo, Mexico. Here, we are working on a business deal and the bottle selected for dinner was a 2009 Kitron Sumka. This wine was magical and bewildering to both my palate and soul.”
“The 2009 Kitron Sumka is 97% with the balance being Syrah. The Syrah is like a drop of blood in a pool of water, small in concentration, outsized in influence. The Syrah impacts the color and the taste. This wine is aged in new French oak for 36 months. The wood of the oak and the deep luscious flavors of the Cabernet-Syrah blend perfectly into a plummy jam and smoked pastrami duet. The nose is chalky and earthy. Drink this wine over the course of three hours if you can muster the patience and don’t eat any food with it. This bottle itself is the feast.” [KitronWinery]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Prominent Sephardic rabbi and former member of the Knesset for the Shas party (1992-1996), Rabbi Moshe Maya turns 81… Physicist and venture capitalist, co-founder and general partner of New Markets Venture Partners, Donald M. “Don” Spero, Ph.D. turns 80… Emmy Award-winning correspondent for ABC News for more than 20 years and a professor of national and international affairs at Boston University, Carl Robert Zelnick turns 79… Host of Showtime’s “Inside Comedy” and son of a rabbi, he has appeared 130 times on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show,” David Steinberg turns 77… Romance novelist with 19 books on the NYT bestseller list, Barbara Delinsky (born Barbara Ruth Greenberg) turns 74…
Author of 36 Jewish-themed books, publisher, editor, educator, and founder of Rossel Books, Seymour Rossel turns 74… Psychologist and bestselling suspense novelist, Jonathan Kellerman turns 70… Southern California resident, Faith Schames turns 68… Director of the Steinhardt Family Foundation in Israel, Tova Dorfman turns 61… Member of the Minnesota State Senate since 2007, following four years in the Minnesota House of Representatives, Ronald Steven “Ron” Latz turns 56… Chief of Staff for Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), Amy B. Rutkin turns 50… Kiev-born, member of the Maryland House of Delegates since 2007 from Montgomery County, Kirill Reznik turns 45…
Reporter in the Washington bureau of The New York Times, where he covers the confluence of money, politics and influence, Kenneth P. Vogel turns 44… Partner at Hilltop Public Solutions, who served as Special Advisor to NYC Mayor de Blasio, Rebecca Kirszner Katz turns 44… Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition since 2013, Jacob Baime turns 34… Law student at Boston College, Isaac Lederman turns 27… South Pasadena, California resident, Giovanna Fradkin… Senior director at Dezenhall Resources since April 2017, he was previously communications director for the Republican Jewish Coalition and an RNC alum, Fred Brown… Amanda Isaacson… Elise Aronson… Dan Zimerman… Mark Shapiro…
SATURDAY: U.S. District Court judge in the Eastern District of New York since 1967, he took senior status in 1993 but maintains an active caseload, Judge Jack B. Weinstein turns 98… Beverly Hills resident, Robert N. Feldman turns 75… NYC-based real estate developer, he is the founder and principal of Clipper Equity, David Bistricer turns 70… Born in Johannesburg, she was elected to Parliament in 1994 and then served as the ninth Governor of the South African Reserve Bank (2009-2014), the first woman to hold that position, Gill Marcus turns 70… Conservative rabbi who serves as the Executive Director of Interfaith Alliance since January 2015, he is a former director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, Rabbi Jack Moline turns 67… Co-leader of the securities litigation practice at Weil, Gotshal & Manges and co-president of NYC’s Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, Joseph S. Allerhand turns 66…
Austrian journalist, writer and the current director of the Jewish Museum of Vienna, she was a founder of the German language magazine “Nu” devoted to Jewish politics and culture, Danielle Spera turns 62… Winner of a special election in 2015 to the California State Senate and then re-elected in 2016, he was previously the mayor of Orinda and an advisor to Governor Jerry Brown, Steven Mitchell Glazer turns 62… Member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2019 (D-MI-9), he succeeded his father, Sander Levin, to this seat, Andrew Saul (Andy) Levin turns 59… Early employee of Yahoo in the 1990s, then a member of the Florida State Senate (2006-2016), he was the Democratic nominee for Chief Financial Officer of Florida in the 2018 election but did not win, Jeremy Ring turns 49… Technical director in the South Texas office of Technologent, Jason P. Reyes turns 43… Senior development officer of the NYC-based Tikvah Fund, Eytan Sosnovich turns 36… Eliza Daddario… Ella Raevskaya…
SUNDAY: Massachusetts attorney who is also a co-editor of a number of egalitarian Jewish prayer books, C. Peter R. Gossels turns 89… CEO of CBS Records (1975-1990), he was the chief architect of the sale of CBS Records to Sony to create Sony Music Entertainment in 1988, Walter Yetnikoff turns 86… Former member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-NY-16) (1973-1981), she was succeeded by Chuck Schumer, she also served as Brooklyn DA (1982-1989) and NYC Comptroller (1990-1993), Elizabeth Holtzman turns 78… Principal of Investors Research Group based in Los Angeles, Jacob S. Segal turns 73… Consultant for non-profits, she was an SVP for international affairs at the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles (2002-2010), Lois Weinsaftturns 72…
Co-founder and co-chief executive officer of The Carlyle Group, he serves as chairman of the Smithsonian and the Kennedy Center, David Rubensteinturns 70… Former U.S. Trade Representative, the country’s top trade negotiator (1997-2001), now the chair of the international trade group at WilmerHale, Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky turns 69… Senior counsel for benefits and employment at the DC-based law firm of Keightley & Ashner, Linda E. Rosenzweig turns 67… Lenore Solomon turns 66… Artistic director and choreographer of an eponymous dance company based in Union, New Jersey, Carolyn Dorfman turns 64… CEO, chairman and major shareholder of the Russian gas company Novatek, reported to be one of the wealthiest Russian oligarchs, Leonid Viktorovich Mikhelson turns 64…
Former member of the Massachusetts Senate (2011-2017), he is the founder of Cape Air (an airline started on Cape Cod but that now has 43 domestic and international destinations), Daniel A. “Dan” Wolf turns 62… Publisher of Yated Ne’eman, a weekly English-language Haredi newspaper, Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz turns 61… Partner of MizMaa Ventures and wine columnist for Jewish Insider, Isaac “Yitz” Applbaum turns 59… Member of Knesset since 2015 for the Likud party, now serving as Minister of Communications, David “Dudi” Amsalem turns 59… Chief of the Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security service) since May 2016, Nadav Argaman turns 59… Chairman at Duty Free Americas, Simon Falic turns 59…
Conservative political and cultural commentator for The New York Times, David Brooks turns 58… Emmy nominated producer at NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Ilana Marcus Drimmer turns 48… MLB pitcher (1994-2002) for seven teams, he was the pitching coach for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic in South Korea and Japan, Andrew Lorraine turns 47… Ukrainian-born and San Francisco-raised, a magna cum laude graduate of Columbia University with a comparative literature degree, she is a journalist and copywriter, Yelena Shuster turns 32… General surgery resident at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Sara Ginzberg turns 28… Daniel Weitz turns 26…