DEM DEBATE RECAP — 2020 Dems spar over foreign policy, healthcare in Houston — by JI’s Ben Jacobs: The first one-night Democratic debate of the 2020 presidential primary was a grueling three-hour marathon, as candidates exchanged blows and parried attacks in a race that polls have shown to be largely stagnant.
Jabs at Joe: For the first time, septuagenarian frontrunner Joe Biden took direct questions about his age while alternating rambling answers about foreign policy with heartfelt remembrances of his wife and daughter, who were killed in a 1972 car accident. In an exchange about healthcare early in the debate, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro accused Biden of having memory loss. “Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?”
Spin Room Takes: Anita Dunn, a senior advisor to the Biden campaign, told JI that Castro had taken a “cheap shot” at the former vice president. “I think Secretary Castro, who likes to talk about learning from history, clearly didn’t learn from the first two debates that taking personal cheap shots at Vice President Biden doesn’t work out that well for candidate who throws that shot.”
Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX), the former cabinet secretary’s brother, insisted it was not intended that way: “Obviously, it’s sad to hear that they would take it that way,” he said in response to a question from Jewish Insider. “Look, the truth is that if anybody else had done that on stage Julian would have pointed out the same thing.”
Tough talk: Other candidates tried to distinguish themselves through bold rhetoric. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke proudly insisted that he would confiscate assault weapons. “Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” he proclaimed. Booker, meanwhile, cracked jokes about his bald head and vegan diet, and spoke passionately about the struggles of his neighborhood in inner-city Newark and about the racial bias in the criminal justice system.
Turning overseas: The debate also featured an extended discussion of foreign policy. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) made his pointed criticism of the Maduro regime in Venezuela, describing the country’s leader as “a vicious tyrant.” Candidates also addressed the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Biden, a longtime advocate of a tripartite division of Iraq along ethnic lines, insisted that Afghanistan was “three countries” during the debate, saying “you can’t put it together.”
When asked for clarity by Jewish Insider, Dunn said it was a reference to “the challenge of it being a unified country which I think as he said in his answer has been a challenge over centuries.” [JewishInsider]
How it played on the right — John Podhoretz writes… “This Democratic debate was pure torture: What happened was what Preminger’s Israelis would have called a ‘balagan’ — bedlam, chaos, tumult, like trying to conduct a conversation at Times Square when the 1 and the 2 are pulling into the station simultaneously.” [NYPost]
WATCH — Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) dropped the phrase “Baruch Hashem” in a post-debate interview on ABC News when praised for his use of Spanish during the debate. Rahm Emanuel, an ABC News contributor, commented: “I actually think your Yiddish was pretty good there for a second… I will get you into the synagogue — you’re just going to have to pay for it at the High Holidays. That’s all.”
Booker: “I’m ready for the Dvar Torah this week. If any synagogue welcomes me to speak, I am ready.”
Emanuel: “Your Yiddish is great, man.” [Video]
HIGH HOLIDAY APPEAL — De Blasio reaches out to Orthodox Jewish community to save presidential campaign — by JI’s Jacob Kornbluh: Bill de Blasio is mounting an unusual appeal to Orthodox Jews in an effort to salvage his struggling presidential campaign. The New York City mayor is hoping that voters in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Midwood and Borough Park will prove more receptive to his message than those in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to hold 2020 primaries.
Playing the schnorrer in Brooklyn to avoid being a national schlemiel: In an interview with Ami Magazine, a widely read weekly print-only publication in the Orthodox community, de Blasio appealed to readers to help him reach the 130,000 donor threshold required to appear on the October debate stage. “I am asking everyone to help me get the kind of name recognition and understanding of what I offer out there,” the mayor stressed in the interview. [JewishInsider]
ISRAELI ELECTION PREVIEW — As Israel heads to the polls yet again this Tuesday, JI’s Amy Spiro breaks down what has changed since the last vote in April, what remains the same, and what is expected to happen next.
Shifting alliances: The overall party landscape is relatively similar to the vote five months ago, with a few changes. Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu merged with Likud. Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right Party — which didn’t pass the 3.25% electoral threshold in April — has joined back up with Jewish Home to form Yamina, this time excluding the far-right Jewish Power Party. Amir Peretz replaced Avi Gabbay as Labor head and merged with Orly Levy’s Gesher, which also missed the threshold earlier this year. The Arab parties reformed their merged Joint List, and Moshe Feiglin’s failed Zehut dropped out after cutting a deal with Netanyahu. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak reentered politics and joined up with Meretz and renegade Labor MK Stav Shaffir to form the Democratic Union.
Fewer on the fringe: While in April, a record 47 parties registered for the election, this time just 31 are in the running. More than 350,000 votes — 8.4% of all ballots — were thrown out earlier this year after being cast for parties that fell beneath the threshold. With the number of competing parties dropping, that figure is likely to fall as well.
It all comes down to turnout: Perhaps the biggest change between the two elections is voter apathy. Turnout is predicted to drop significantly from April’s 68%, something that could strengthen the haredi parties, whose constituents tend to vote out of a sense of religious obligation.
Kingmaker or kingslayer: In a twist of irony, while Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Lieberman is largely responsible for the redo election, and the do-over vote is unpopular, the former defense minister himself appears poised to benefit, with polls giving him a 3-5 seat boost over April. Lieberman heads one of the few parties that has not promised to join either Likud or Blue and White in a governing coalition.
What’s next? The final vote tallies will likely be out by Thursday, but that’s only the beginning of the battle. Unless the final results are vastly different than the most recent polls, both Netanyahu and Gantz will struggle to build a coalition. Lieberman appears to hold all the cards, and he has vowed to push Likud and Blue and White to sit together in a unity government, something the two leading parties have repeatedly and vociferously rejected.
Could Netanyahu be ousted from Likud and could Israel hold a third election? Full analysis here [JewishInsider]
Warning sign: On Thursday, Facebook suspended a chat bot operated by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s official page for 24 hours after it violated the social network’s hate speech rules. The page had sent a message saying that Israel’s Arab politicians “want to destroy us all — women, children and men — and enable a nuclear Iran that would wipe us out.” Netanyahu’s Facebook page, which he actively uses to engage with voters on a daily basis, was not affected. But Facebook warned, “Should there be any additional violations, we will continue to take appropriate action.” Netanyahu blamed the chat message on a staffer.
TOP-OP — Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, writes… “Israel and the decline of the liberal order: There is a certain shortsighted selfishness to the current Israeli approach to the world. The price Israel paid for being born into the liberal world order was that it would have to suffer liberal criticisms and be held to liberal standards. This may have been difficult and even, from Israelis’ perspective, unfair, but Israeli leaders have borne this burden for 70 years because they knew Israel had no choice, that there was no home for Israel except within the liberal world order. That many Israelis now believe they have a choice is a reflection of our times, but it is a dangerous illusion.” [WashPost]
The New York Times editorial board writes: “What won’t Netanyahu say to get re-elected? Netanyahu’s arithmetic indicates he needs far-right votes to survive in office and stave off an impending corruption indictment… His sole focus is getting a few more votes on Tuesday. His desperation is showing.” [NYTimes]
TOP TALKER — Netanyahu vehemently denied any Israeli connection to the planted surveillance devices outside the White House over the past two years, as reported by Politico. “We have a directive, I have a directive, no intelligence work in the United States, no spies,” Netanyahu told reportersbefore a meeting yesterday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia. “And it’s vigorously implemented, without any exception. It [the report] is a complete fabrication, a complete fabrication.”
President Donald Trump told reporters on the South Lawn: “I don’t think the Israelis were spying on us. I really would find that hard to believe. My relationship with Israel has been great… I wouldn’t believe that story… Anything is possible, but I don’t believe it.”
TALK OF THE REGION — During his meeting with Putin on Thursday, Netanyahu said that Israel must have the freedom to act against Iran. “Security coordination between us is always important, but it is especially important now, since in the past month there has been a serious increase in attempts by Iran to hit Israel from Syria and to place there precision missiles to use against us,” Netanyahu said at the start of the meeting. According to Reuters, Russia’s RIA news said Putin praised military and security cooperation between Russia and Israel.
Border tensions: Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Israel is “tiptoeing toward conflict with Lebanon’s Hezbollah… analysts say a conflict could break out at any time.” The report noted that Israel is aware its strikes are adding to tensions. “But they say the alternative scenario is unacceptable: allowing a foe to obtain missile technology that could overwhelm Israel’s defenses and enable sneak attacks.”
HEARD YESTERDAY — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin denied a report that Trump was considering a French proposal to grant Iran a $15 billion line of credit during an interview at The New York Times’ DealBook DC Strategy Forum, moderated by columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, in Washington, D.C.: “The sanctions are working. There is no question that they’re having an economic impact on Iran, and the only reason why they’re contemplating changes in behavior or conversation is because of the economic issues.”
Mnuchin added: “The French understand clearly that they cannot give a line of credit without our consent; that it would be a violation of the sanctions. So there is not a ‘proposal’ from France right now to give the Iranians $15 billion… Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo and I are executing the president’s strategy of maximum pressure. We think it’s working. Simultaneously, the president has said he’s willing to sit down and have a conversation with no conditions. So that’s our strategy.” [Video]
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) warned on Thursday that giving Iran sanctions relief “would be an enormous mistake.” A spokesperson for Cruz told Jewish Insider that the Republican senator “believes that under no circumstances should we be going soft on Iran. The maximum-pressure strategy on Iran is effective and is weakening the world’s leading state sponsor of terror. Changing that strategy would be an enormous mistake, and enabling Europe to send an economic lifeline to the Ayatollah to return to Obama’s failed foreign policy would undo the single greatest national security victory of the Trump administration.”
FDD’s Cliff May tells JI: “I do think it would be a serious mistake for President Trump to provide Iran’s rulers with sanctions relief in order to incentivize them to negotiate. Indeed, it would be precisely the same mistake that President Obama made when he lifted economic pressure in exchange for an interim agreement.”
May also said that a meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani would be unwise because, if anything, his counterpart should be Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. “Trump is president — the commander-in-chief, in effect America’s supreme leader. Rouhani is just the assistant, the factotum to the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader. And he’s a lame duck to boot.”
MAN OF THE HOUR — For Mike Pompeo, a moment of singular influence — by Peter Baker and David Sanger: “As the past 32 months have shown, the only permanent aspect of Mr. Trump’s administration is impermanence. Next week, Mr. Pompeo could just as easily find himself on the wrong side of the president… But at the moment, no other foreign policy adviser has the president’s ear like Mr. Pompeo, and Mr. Bolton’s exit gives him a chance to further enhance his influence… For Mr. Pompeo, 55, the rise to the top of Mr. Trump’s team is the culmination of a rocket ride from obscurity in only eight years… And while he agreed with and facilitated the president’s desire to abandon the international nuclear agreement with Iran negotiated by President Barack Obama, he also kept private any skepticism he may have had over Mr. Trump’s diplomatic outreach to North Korea and Iran.” [NYTimes]
Notable Mention: Amid the coverage of Bolton’s departure this week, one National Security staffer has been singled out. The Washington Post reportedthat Pompeo instructed his aides not to consult with Bolton’s team on Iran, naming the NSC’s director for countering Iranian weapons of mass destruction Rich Goldberg. The WaPo mention appears in the same paragraph as State Department officials complaining about leaks to news outlets regarding sanctions policy.
A veteran political operative who works with the administration on Iran issues tells JI: “Everyone who does Iran thinks [the State Department’s lead on Iran] Brian Hook is the one who lashed out against the Washington Free Beacon and Rich Goldberg. Now that Bolton’s out, the pro-deal people are trying to knife the remaining people who want more pressure. It’s bloody but there’s also a real policy disagreement there, and it’s not clear yet which route the administration will choose.”
Be Smart: This appears to be a Trump-era classic of leaks on leaks.
HAPPENING TODAY — David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs, will meet with American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris and chief policy and international affairs officer Jason Isaacson at the State Department in the afternoon.
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Carl Icahn moving hedge fund to Miami, whether his workers like it or not [NYPost] • WeWork to list shares on Nasdaq, make governance changes [WSJ] • Warburg Pincus to invest $8m in Cyren rights offering [Globes] • What a Purdue Pharma bankruptcy means for the Sacklers [AP] • Harvard reviewing Epstein gifts and pledging to donate to funds benefiting victims [WashPost]
HOLLYWOOD — ‘Fleishman Is In Trouble’ limited series based on Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s novel in works at FX & ABC signature studios — by Anthony D’Alessandro: “Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s hot summer New York Times bestseller Fleishman Is in Trouble has been scooped up by ABC Signature Studios after a 10-way bidding war that included such parties as HBO and CAA Wiip, and is being set up at FX as a limited series. Brodesser-Akner will write and executive produce the series with EPs Sarah Timberman, Susannah Grant and Carl Beverly. ABC Signature’s Tracy Underwood and Lisa Lang McMullen are the executives on the project.” [Deadline]
BACKING OUT — Top YouTuber PewDiePie withdraws $50,000 pledge to Anti-Defamation League, calls it a ‘mistake’ — by Todd Spangler: “A day after the Swedish-born YouTuber — whose name is Felix Kjellberg — announced that he would be donating $50,000 to the Anti-Defamation League anti-hate group, he backtracked and said his initial decision was a ‘mistake’ and that the contribution didn’t ‘feel genuine.’… ‘I made the mistake of picking a charity I was advised [to donate to] instead of picking a charity I’m personally passionate about, which is 100% my fault,’ he said.”[Variety]
CAMPUS BEAT — Jewish ex-professor sues Pace University for being ‘pushed out’ of job — by Priscilla DeGregory: “A former professor has sued Pace University for discrimination, claiming observant Jewish and older teachers were pushed out of the math department when it came under new leadership, according to the new lawsuit. Jonathan Gersch — who is Jewish and wore a yarmulke to school — says he worked as an adjunct math and statistics professor at Pace for more than 15 years. Then, starting in 2016… all of the ‘observant Jews’ and 50 percent of the 15-year-plus employees were let go… Gersch said ‘there had been friction’ between him and the university ‘regarding making reasonable accommodations for Jewish holidays in the past,’ the court papers say.” [NYPost]
University of Tennessee rock vandalized with ‘Jews did 9-11’ graffiti — by Jenni Fink: “A University of Tennessee landmark used to pay tribute to a young fan who was bullied was vandalized with an antisemitic message. The Rock, a 97.5-ton chunk of Knox dolomite stone located on the Knoxville, Tennessee, campus, is an iconic symbol that’s frequently painted by individuals and groups… On Wednesday night… an unidentified person or persons painted over the message of love for the young boy with an antisemitic hate message. A photo of the Rock posted on social media showed the message reading ‘Jews did 9-11’ and ‘Google: Dancing Israelis.’” [Newsweek; Pic]
TALK OF THE TOWN — Man with white supremacist material and weapons is arrested, police say — by Michael Gold: “The police in a small New Jersey town called a 25-year-old man into their headquarters in June after they began investigating a report that he had sent a photo of his ex-girlfriend wearing parts of a Nazi uniform to her employer… After he arrived, the police said they discovered that the man, Michael V. Zaremski, was carrying a loaded handgun in his jacket. Concerned, officers were sent that same day to search his home, where they found a cache of assault-style rifles, ammunition and a trove of white-supremacist paraphernalia, literature and images.”[NYTimes]
Suspect accused of beating Jewish man with large stone in custody: “Police have arrested a suspect accused of beating a Jewish man with a large paving stone last month in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Oniel Gilbourne, 26, faces assault as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon charges.”[CBSNewYork]
Airmont, N.Y.: Feds eye involvement in Hasidic Jewish-discrimination lawsuit — by Steve Lieberman: “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is evaluating whether to get involved in a civil rights lawsuit filed by Orthodox and Hasidic Jews claiming the village practices systemic discrimination, according to a letter to a federal judge… The U.S. Attorney’s Office has been monitoring Airmont’s zoning and enforcement based on two previous legal actions accusing the village of discriminatory zoning against Hasidic and Orthodox Jews since its incorporation in 1992.” [Lohud]
LONG READ — Secrets and Lies: Sexual abuse in the world of Orthodox Judaism — by Linda Stasi: “Stories of abusive Catholic priests are commonplace, but a similar, less publicly familiar crisis has also been unfolding in certain Orthodox Jewish communities — particularly in New York — over the past several decades. Like their Catholic counterparts, rabbis accused of sexually assaulting minors or shielding other predators have been protected and transferred in order to save the reputations and financial well-being of the religious institutions they serve… Getting the full scope of the problem, particularly among the ultra-Orthodox, is close to impossible. Part of the reason for the lack of dependable data is the concept of mesirah — a violation of rabbinical law in which one Jew reports another for a crime to nonreligious, civil authorities.” [Harper’s]
She was shot dead by the Nazis in 1942. Her secret diary is to be published after 70 years in a bank vault — by Gianluca Mezzofiore: “For almost 70 years, the secret Holocaust diary of the Polish Jewish teenager Renia Spiegel was sealed away in a New York bank vault… Now, Renia’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust is finally to be published by her family. And it is already drawing comparisons to the diary of Anne Frank for its clarity and skillful writing. Described by its publisher, Penguin Books, as ‘an extraordinary testament to both the horrors of war, and to the life that can exist even in the darkest times,’ the journal will be released on September 19.” [CNN]
SCENE THE OTHER NIGHT — The Orthodox Union’s Impact Accelerator held its inaugural demo day at Bedford on Park in NYC. The Jewish nonprofit ventures that presented to the roomful of supporters included: Imadi, helping families facing mental health challenges; GrowTorah, creating educational Torah garden programs; NechamaComfort, supporting families suffering loss; TorahAnytime, a video library for Torah lectures; and Yemeni Moshe, helping at-risk youth. The accelerator’s director Jenna Beltser and chair Ezra Friedberg presented certificates to the ventures alongside OU President Moishe Bane.[Pic]
TRANSITIONS — Kai Falkenberg, a leading media lawyer, has joined G/O Media as its general counsel. Falkenberg will oversee the company’s legal, business, and compliance functions and report to CEO Jim Spanfeller.
Gabby Deutsch, formerly a global editorial fellow at The Atlantic, has started a new job as the Washington correspondent for NewsGuard.
DESSERT — Shalt thou eat an Impossible Burger? Religious doctrine scrambles to catch up to new food technology — by Laura Reiley: “This month, Tyson announced it is investing in a company that will launch plant-based shrimp early next year, raising a curious question. Will it be kosher? The short answer is its ingredients — which mimic the verboten crustacean with a proprietary algae blend — could well be both kosher and halal. Once the product launches, the company will seek certification.” [WashPost]
Smoked salmon the old-fashioned way for family biz in London — by Louise Dixon: “Lance Forman’s family has been producing traditional smoked salmon in London for four generations, and he says the smoking process hasn’t changed much since those early days… Lance’s great grandfather Aaron “Harry” Forman started in the salmon business back in 1905 with his son Louis. A Jewish immigrant from Ukraine, he settled in the East End of London and began smoking salmon to preserve the fish for friends and family.” [AP]
Russ & Daughters history goes on display — by Melissa Guerrero: “Don’t expect a platter of herring and bialys. But prepare to be hungry anyway at the new ‘Russ & Daughters: An Appetizing Story’ exhibition produced by the American Jewish Historical Society at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan. The exhibition, which is free and opens to the public on Friday, aims to teach visitors about the Russ & Daughters appetizing shop on the Lower East Side and its impact on New York’s rich food and cultural history.” [NYT]
WINE OF THE WEEK — Backsberg 2017 Pinotage — by Yitz Applbaum: “I was recently with friends in Stellenbosch, in South Africa’s Western Cape province, where we visited the region’s largest kosher winery, Backsberg. The wine of particular note on this trip was the Backsberg 2017 Pinotage. It is a sophisticated, well balanced and satisfying wine.”
“The Pinotage grape is endemic to South Africa. This Pinotage was loaded with tart tannins which covered the entire front of my palate. The mid-mouth feel is slightly coarse and the finish is a jammy explosion that coats your mouth. The wine is aged for six months in French Oak and the woodiness spikes occasionally throughout the wine. Drink in the next three years and, if you can, find some South African rusk cookies to pair with this wine.” [Backsberg]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: Retired motion picture editor, Avrum Fine turns 84… Television executive Fred Silverman turns 82… Chairman of global brokerage at CBRE, Stephen Siegel turns 75… Senior investigative reporter at One America News Network since last month, Richard Pollock turns 68… CEO of The Mellman Group and CEO of the Democratic Majority for Israel, Mark S. Mellman turns 64… Ice dancer who won the 1981 and 1985 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Judy Blumbergturns 62… CEO at Civil Media Foundation, Vivian Schiller turns 58… Comedian who earned the title “Roastmaster General” for his Comedy Central celebrity roasts, Jeff Ross (born Jeffrey Ross Lifschultz) turns 54… Attorney General of North Carolina, Joshua “Josh” Stein turns 53…
Member of the Los Angeles City Council, Robert J. Blumenfield turns 52… Founder of United Hatzalah of Israel, Eli Beer turns 46… Attorney, triathlete and director of Maryland government and community relations at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, Meredith Mirman Weisel turns 44… Member of the Colorado House of Representatives, Jonathan Singer turns 40… VP of message and media at Trippi Norton Rossmeissl Campaigns, Gary Ritterstein turns 36… David Behmoarasturns 28… Assistant in the Israel Seminar program at AIPAC, Noa Silversteinturns 23… Founder and president of Reshet Capital and the co-founder of Supersonas, an Israeli women’s business network in NYC, Betty Grinstein…
SATURDAY: CEO of MDC Holdings and Chairman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Larry A. Mizel turns 77… Actor, writer and director, first known for his role in the original Star Trek television series, Walter Koenig turns 83… Founder of Vermont-based Kidrobot and Ello, an ad-free social network, Paul Budnitz turns 52… President of Strauss Media Strategies, Richard Straussturns 50… Partner at NYC-based corporate communications firm Kekst and Company, he is also a past president of the Young Israel of New Rochelle, Mark A. Semer turns 49…
Comedian Elon Gold turns 49… Public relations professional, Courtney Cohen Flantzer turns 41… Staff writer at The Atlantic, Russell Bermanturns 36… New York Times reporter covering national politics, Matt Flegenheimer turns 31… Founder and owner of ARA Capital, a British firm with holdings in e-commerce and energy, Arkadiy Abramovich turns 26… Los Angeles-based attorney working as a contracts manager at Sony Pictures Entertainment, Roxana Pourshalimi… Senior national political reporter for Bloomberg, Jennifer Jacobs… Amy Kauffman…
SUNDAY: Senior chairman of Goldman Sachs since 2019, Lloyd Blankfeinturns 65… Borscht Belt comedian known as “The Master of Malaprop,” Norm Crosby turns 92… Professor of Education at Wheelock College in Boston, Diane Levin turns 72… NYC-based composer and multi-instrument musician, Ned Rothenberg turns 63… Managing partner and chief technology officer at Differential Ventures in Philadelphia, he is also the founder of a series of kosher restaurants, David Magerman turns 51…
NPR’s media correspondent and one of the hosts of NPR’s On Point, David Folkenflik turns 50… Vice President of Leadership at the Anti-Defamation League, Deborah Leipzig turns 43… Chicago public school teacher, Shayla Rosen turns 41… Director of business operations at the Israel on Campus Coalition, Tomer Elias turns 32… Chief Strategy Officer at PW Communications, Amanda Bresler turns 31… New York Times reporter, covering New York City education, Eliza Shapiro turns 29…