Daily Kickoff

Congrats to the Nats | Interview with Michael Bennet | Heard at the Hudson Institute dinner

Good Thursday morning! 

Congrats to the Nats! Next up, according to one D.C. insider, Israel’s baseball team winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

Big in the Valley, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey subtweets Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg by announcing his social network will no longer accept political ads.

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WORLD SERIES CHAMPS — Washington Nationals win their first World Series

After a back and forth seven-game series, the Washington Nationals beat the Houston Astros 6-2 to capture the franchise’s first World Series title. 

Congrats: On the field for the trophy presentation, owner Ted Lerner said “the dream came true.” Lerner, who bought the Nationals in 2006, oversaw the team’s transition into Washington. Now retired, Lerner was joined on the field by the current principal owner, his son Mark.

Family background: “Ted Lerner’s father, Mayer, emigrated to America from Palestine in 1921. He married a Lithuanian immigrant, Ethel, and they settled into a rowhouse in a Jewish neighborhood in Northwest Washington, along Georgia Avenue. After a short time working for a clothing company, Mayer went into real estate… Today, Lerner Enterprises is a multi-billion-dollar colossus encompassing 20 million square feet of commercial and retail space in and around Washington.” [WUSA9]

Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer tweeted:
 “Congrats to the #Nats, to all their fans and to the wonderful Lerner family, who are great supporters of the Jewish community and the Jewish state.” 

Bonus: Houston-based Jewish leader Fred Zeidman is a minority owner of the Nationals.

REBUILDING RELATIONSHIPS — Bennet: America will need to restore alliances after Trump

Speaking to JI’s Ben Jacobs this week in D.C., 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) expressed anxiety over the damage he said President Donald Trump has caused to American foreign policy.

New world order: “Every country in the world is going to have to reassess the bargains that it makes with the U.S. as a result of what he’s done in Syria, in Iran and with the Paris climate agreement,” Bennet said.

Bennet praised the Iran deal, from which Trump withdrew in 2018, describing it as “for once an attempt by this country to help manage a problem in the Middle East rather than go to war with it.”

On the trail: The senator said the most common foreign policy question he’s received from voters is: “How are you going to restore our alliances” after Trump leaves office? It’s “an indication to me that people are really deeply worried about the instability that [Trump] is creating,” Bennet said, “and the opportunity cost of having somebody with Trump’s view of the world [as president].”

Don’t believe the hype: The Colorado moderate has established himself as perhaps the most vocal critic of the leftward shift of the Democratic Party among the current field of candidates: “I just don’t think Iowa Democrats are moving way over to the left,” said Bennet. As an example, he argued that “support for the BDS movement is out of kilter with mainstream voters in both parties.”

Read the full interview here.

SPECIAL ELECTIONS — Four House seats up for grabs early next year

Republicans and Democrats are preparing for four congressional special elections around the country in early 2020 to fill vacant seats, with all eyes on California’s purple 25th district following the resignation of Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA).

Hats in the ring: Seven candidates — six Republicans and one Democrat — have already filed the paperwork to run in the March primary to replace Hill, with more expected to officially enter the race before the December deadline. Among those who’ve announced their intention to seek the seat are Democrats David Rudnick and Assemblywoman Christy Smith, who campaigned alongside Hill in 2018.

Contentious race: Hill’s resignation opens up an opportunity for Republicans to win back the district they last held less than a year ago, when Hill defeated incumbent two-term Congressman Steve Knight, who is reportedly considering a run for his former seat. On Tuesday, George Papadopoulos, an advisor to Trump’s 2016 campaign who was sentenced to a brief prison term for lying to the FBI, also filed paperwork for a candidacy, joining L.A. County Sheriff Mark Cripe, Lancaster City Councilwoman Angela Underwood Jacobs and former Navy pilot Mike Garcia, who leads his GOP competitors in fundraising in the district.

Maryland’s 7th: No candidates have filed paperwork yet to run in the district held for 23 years by Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings. A number of names have been suggested as his potential successors following the congressman’s death earlier this month, including Cummings’ widow, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the current head of the state’s Democratic Party, former Congressman in the district and national NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, and former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. 

Wisconsin’s 7th: In the spring, Wisconsinites in the Republican-leaning seventh district will go to the polls to replace Rep. Sean Duffy, who stepped down in September. Declared Republican candidates in the race include a state senator, an Army veteran and former aide to Senator Ron Johnson, and a hobby farmer. Vying for the Democratic nomination are an associate justice of the Ho-Chunk Supreme Court and a Vietnam veteran and local businessman.

New York’s 27th: In New York, voters in another Republican-leaning district will go to the polls to elect a representative to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Chris Collins, who held the post since 2013 and resigned earlier this month following charges of insider trading. Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to set a date for the primary, but has indicated that it may be scheduled for April 28th, the day New Yorkers turn out for the presidential primary, in a move that has Republicans in the district concerned.

TALK OF THE REGION — Israel seeking international assurance against Hezbollah

A politically gridlocked Israel has reportedly turned to its allies to ask for help countering Hezbollah’s aggression, as the U.S. announced new sanctions against Iran and its proxies.  

Report: Israel asked the U.S. and other Western countries to condition aid to Lebanon on action against Hezbollah’s precision missiles project, Channel 13’s Barak Ravid reported on Wednesday. The demand prompted a debate between the White House and the State and Defense departments on freezing U.S. aid to the Lebanese government. 

Reassurance on Iran: The Treasury Department announced joint sanctions with six Gulf countries on 25 targets linked to Iranian finance networks for its proxies, including Hezbollah. U.S. officials described the action as a “strategically important regional collaboration” in the “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran. The Wall Street Journalnoted, “The move is likely to also reassure Israel after President Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria rattled the close U.S. ally over concerns that the pullback was a gain for Iran.”

Ultimate deal watch: David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh he was “a little surprised” that Jared Kushner appeared to take a stand in the ongoing Israeli coalition negotiations. Makovsky suggested Netanyahu may have asked the Trump administration to intervene, though “whether it’s going to have an impact is a different question.” Makovsky predicted that the Trump administration could release the peace plan as a “vision” and a “historical reference point for the future” if Israel heads to a third election in the coming months. 

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro tweets, “Every sign that the Trump [Mideast] peace plan is on hold until there is an Israeli gov’t. That’s good news, since there’s no sign it envisions a [two-state solution]. In that case, better it is never released.” 

HEARD LAST NIGHT — Pompeo takes China to task in Hudson Institute speech

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called China’s ruling party “hostile to the United States and our values” in a fiery speech at the Hudson Institute gala in New York City last night. 

China Challenge: Pompeo, who accepted the 2019 Herman Kahn Award, used his speech to call out China for being “a secretive regime that doesn’t respect fairness, the rule of law, and reciprocity.” He said the country conducts “massive intellectual property theft” and “threatens American freedoms,” referencing its recent spat with the NBA, as well as its crackdown against demonstrators in Hong Kong. 

Notable attendees at the Hudson dinner included Donald Trump Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle, Karen W. Davidson, Jerry Hall, Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch, Henry Kissinger, Ravenel B. Curry III, Hank Greenberg, Walter Stern, Sarah May Stern, Ken Weinstein, Doug Schoen, Chris Wallace, Suzanne Scott, Ed Henry, Joshua Landes, Annie Dickerson, Rivka Kidron, Ed Cox, Roger Hertog, Susan Hertog, Harry Cohen, Jordan Blashek, Gal Treger and Oliver Mayers.

Echoes in Jerusalem: Israel decided Wednesday to establish a mechanism to monitor the country’s foreign investments, following increased pressure by the White House to halt Chinese investments. A panel tasked with examining matters of national security while approving international investments was approved during a security cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin brought up the administration’s demands during his meetings with Netanyahu and Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon in Jerusalem this week.

Friendly warning: Earlier this year, Pompeo warned Israel that if it doesn’t re-evaluate its cooperation with China, the U.S. could reduce “intelligence sharing and co-location of security facilities.”


📱 The Unwoke: Former President Barack Obama lambasted the “woke culture” and the urge to call out people’s wrongdoings on social media during a panel discussion at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago on Tuesday. [Video]

🗣️ Tale of Two Parties: Peter Beinart writes in the Forward that the Democratic Party is decidedly split when it comes to the issue of U.S. military aid to Israel. “What this year’s J Street conference made clear is that when it comes to Israel, there are now two Democratic Parties,” he opined. [Forward]

🤳 Driving the Convo: Media mogul Barry Diller defended Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg amid criticism over the decision not to fact-check paid political advertising on the site in an interview with CNBC. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, however, blasted Zuckerberg, claiming his priorities “are profits and power, and he seems quite ready to hurt American democracy to get them.” Meanwhile, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced on Wednesday that his special media company will no longer take political ads. [CNBCNYTimes]

📖 Long Read:The Washington Post has delved into the stranger-than-fiction tale of how the son of an Ethiopian Jew duped a neo-Nazi into letting him take control of his white supremacist organization. [WashPost]


🥶 Foreign Freeze: Israel’s embassies across the world have been shut down as workers strike over paying taxes on their stipends. 

❌ Countering Conspiracy: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out Wednesday against a suggestion from a prominent Israeli professor that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated as part of a conspiracy. 

🏈 Sports Blink: Mark Wilf, owner of the Minnesota Vikings and chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, drew a link between his Jewish communal work and owning a sports team in an interview with the Cleveland Jewish News: “We say that you need to be a mensch on and off the field, otherwise, there is no true victory.”

🏀 Israel to China: After playing for Hapoel Jerusalem but falling short of a return to the NBA, Amar’e Stoudemire has signed a deal to play for China’s Fujian Sturgeons.  

⚖️ Case Closed: Evgeny Freidman, the former business partner of Michael Cohen known as New York’s ‘Taxi King,’ was sentenced on Wednesday to probation after a plea deal in his tax fraud case. 

🕯️ Talk of the Town: Many children and teens in Pittsburgh’s Jewish community are still grappling with the trauma of last year’s synagogue shooting, reports Julia Reinstein in Buzzfeed News

🚑 Ambulance Argument: A group of female hassidic EMTs are applying for a city ambulance license — but Hatzaloh isn’t happy about it, according to the New York Post

📉 Bad Biz: Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman warns that WeWork could end up being worth “zero.”  

🇦🇫 Far-Flung: There is believed to be one Jew remaining in Afghanistan. Foreign Policy reports that Zabulon Simentov is watching with fear as the Taliban vies to return to power.  

🎓 Campus Beat: A University of Oregon student and employee accused the school of illegally failing to include antisemitic incidents in its annual list of reported campus crimes. A university spokesperson toldThe Register-Guard that the incidents didn’t fall into the reportable categories.

💪 Taking Action: The German government passed new measures to combat a rise in antisemitic attacks on Wednesday, including tightening gun laws, stepping up prosecution of online hate, and increasing funds to fight antisemitism and far-right extremism.

👎 High Expectations: U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday for refusing to label Iranian rhetoric against Israel as antisemitic. 

🇬🇧 Across the Pond: The Jewish Labour Movement said it will not support the party in the upcoming general election for the first time in its 100-year history. Also this week, former Labour MP John Mann was introduced to the House of Lords as a new independent government advisor on antisemitism by former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

📺 Bibi TV: “The Netanyahu Years,” a biography written by prominent Israeli journalist Ben Caspit, is being developed into a TV series by Fremantle through its Israeli production company, Abot Hameiri. 


Former President of AIPAC and current Chairman of the Orthodox Union, Howard E. (Tzvi) Friedman turns 54… COO of WeGrow by WeWork and founder of Pencils of Promise, Adam Braun turns 36… Author of more than 20 books, best known for his 1972 baseball book The Boys of SummerRoger Kahn turns 92… Actor with a lengthy career in film, television and theatre, Ron Rifkin turns 80… British historian, Avi Shlaim turns 74… Author and writer-at-large for the UK-based Prospect MagazineSam Tanenhaus turns 64… 

Staff writer for The New Yorker, her 1998 book was made into the award-winning movie Adaptation (2002), Susan Orlean turns 64… Managing partner of Arel Capital, a private equity real estate firm based in NYC, Richard Leibovitch turns 56… National director for progressive engagement at AIPAC, Marilyn Rosenthal… British lawyer who has served in many communal roles including CEO of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marc Jonathan (Jon) Benjamin turns 55… Director of development for Foundation for Jewish Camp, Corey Cutler turns 52…

Chief innovation officer of Ralph Lauren, he is the middle child of the luxury label’s eponymous designer, David Lauren turns 48… Member of the California State Assembly since 2016, Marc Berman turns 39… Rabbi-in-residence at the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester (NY), she is the founder of Midrash Manicures, combining Jewish education and creative nail art, Yael Buechler turns 34… Senior manager for global marketing campaigns at PwC, Spencer Herbst turns 28… Campaign consultant at Charidy, Masha Shollar turns 27…

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