Daily Kickoff

Dem debate recap | Inside Benioff’s new book | Meet the Jewish mayor of Portland, Maine


Sen. Bernie Sanders, Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren The CNN and New York Times Democratic Presidential Debate Otterbein University Westerville, Ohio 2019

👋 Good Wednesday morning! 

Congrats to the Lerner family — Mark, Ted and Annette — on the Washington Nationals’ win last night and the team’s first World Series appearance in franchise history. 

Today on Capitol Hill, Congress returns to business after a two-week holiday break. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the administration’s Iran policy with the State Department’s Brian Hook. 

Tomorrow in D.C., the Hudson Institute will host a panel discussion on the recent developments in Syria due to shifting U.S. policy and the maximum pressure campaign against Iran. The Washington Institute will have a panel to discuss the 25th anniversary of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty.

Happy holidays! 🌴🍋

👉 Received this from a friend? Subscribe to the Daily Kickoff.

DEBATE RECAP — Elizabeth Warren takes heat at wide-ranging Democratic debate

In a heated debate Tuesday night, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) bore the brunt of the attacks from rival candidates after taking the lead in national and early state polls, JI’s Ben Jacobs reports from Westerville, Ohio. On a crowded stage of 12 presidential hopefuls, the Massachusetts Democrat faced barbed questions about her health care and tax policies from more moderate rivals, including South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

Only Israel mention: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) referenced Israel while criticizing Trump’s policy on Syria: “Think about our other allies, Israel. How do they feel right now? Donald Trump is not true to his word when they are a beacon of democracy in the Mideast.” 

Warren on the Middle East: “I think that we ought to get out of the Middle East. I don’t think we should have troops in the Middle East but we have to do it the right way, the smart way.” 

How it played: After the debate, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), a Biden supporter, told reporters in Ohio that Warren’s statement “showed a striking degree of naïveté or ill preparedness.”

👩👴 Squad backs Bernie: Following the debate, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) announced her endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for president. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) will endorse Sanders at a rally in Queens, N.Y. on Saturday, The Washington Post reports. CNN reports that Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) will also back the Vermont senator’s candidacy.

Bonus: Steve Schwarzman tells Yahoo Finance that a wealth tax would make businesses get up and leave.


DRIVING THE DAYCongress takes action after U.S. withdrawal, Turkish invasion of northern Syria 

President Donald Trump has invited congressional leadership and key committee members to discuss Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria at the White House this afternoon. In Ankara, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Ankara to discuss a ceasefire deal. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that he will not be meeting with the U.S. delegation.

The House of Representatives will vote today on a resolution✎ EditSign on the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urged Republican lawmakers to back the measure, introduced by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Michael McCaul (R-TX). 

Senate action: An identical measure was introduced in the Senate by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Todd Young (R-IN), though Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was noncommittal about any action during a floor speech on Tuesday. In his remarks, the Republican leader warned that the move created a power vacuum that is “leaving northeastern Syria wide open for Iran to extend its reach, unimpeded, all the way from Tehran to the doorstep of our friends in Israel.” 

Up next: Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) are expected to introduce sanctions legislation against Turkey on Thursday, though a vote is yet to be scheduled. 

Making up? Graham met with Trump at the White House on Monday ahead of the announcement on new sanctions against Turkey. Graham, a prominent critic of Trump’s decision on Syria, said in a statement that he supported the administration’s plan for resolving the crisis. Graham was also on a phone call between Trump and the Turkish president on Tuesday in which Erdogan committed to stay away from Kurdish territory in Syria. 

TV take: In an interview with “Fox and Friends” on Monday, Graham did not repeat his criticism of Trump, instead focusing on how the president is moving to “punish Erdogan” over the Turkish leader’s actions. 

Hot take: Peter Wehner explains in The Atlantic why every American ally should worry about meeting the same fate the Kurds met when Trump betrayed them. “President Trump will betray anyone who no longer serves his needs.” 

BOOK SHELF — Inside Salesforce founder Marc Benioff’s new book, Trailblazer

Marc Benioff, the founder and CEO of Salesforce, is out with his first new book in a decade. Trailblazer details Benioff’s efforts to make Salesforce — and the tech world at large — less focused on profits and more focused on doing good, both within local communities and around the world.

Family lessons: In Trailblazer, Benioff explains that his mindset was driven largely by seeing the hard work of his father, the CEO of a small apparel business, and his grandfather, a lawyer and local politician who created San Francisco’s BART mass transit system.

Tzedakah: “I decided that no matter how much Salesforce grew, it would donate 1 percent of its product, 1 percent of its equity, and 1 percent of its employees’ time to help nonprofits and charities.”

Keeping the faith(s): “With more than half of people in the United States saying that faith — whether Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Jewish, Christian, Catholic, or anything else — is the core element of their identity, we want all employees to feel safe bringing their full authentic selves to work. So as you can imagine, nothing made me prouder than when Joe Teplow, whose company Rebel we acquired last year, told me about what he called a ‘remarkable moment of religious harmony powered by Salesforce.’ He was about to recite a Jewish prayer in one of the mindfulness rooms of our New York tower when Yousef Abbasi, a solutions engineer, walked in to perform his midday Muslim prayer. Joe moved over to make room, and they prayed beside each other in the languages of their religions.”

On the creation of Ohana Groups, small collectives of employees from underrepresented communities: “One of our newest Ohana groups, Faithforce, is currently the fastest-growing, with a thousand members in less than a year. Two employees started this group with the support of our Chief Equality Officer, Tony Prophet. He told me how employees were holding secret prayer meetings because they weren’t certain that it was allowed, and how a director of content experience, Sue Warnke, had confided to him that she was a born-again Christian but worried that she should tuck her cross necklace inside her blouse at the office.”

PROFILE — Meet Ethan Strimling, the macher mayor of Portland, Maine

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling drew national attention when he responded to one of the president’s tweets about sending asylum-seekers to sanctuary cities around the country. “If Trump wants to send more immigrants our way, I say, ‘Welcome Home!’ the mayor of Maine’s largest city, still in his first term, tweeted. Two months later, a call came — hundreds of asylees were en route to the coastal municipality.

Immediate response: Asylees who arrived in June were given temporary shelter at a city-owned basketball arena. “The city’s response made me so proud that I was a member of this community, let alone the mayor,” Strimling told JI’s Debra Nussbaum Cohen. “I went to the shelter every night and talked to the families, made sure they were safe. It gave me great joy to be down there every day.”

How did a nice Jewish boy from New York end up in Maine? Strimling, who will turn 52 this week, was born and raised in New York City. His father, Arthur Strimling, is a theater director and midrashic story-maker based in Brooklyn. The younger Strimling was a student at Julliard when he decided to move to a New England farm owned by a family friend. He earned his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Maine and a Master’s degree in education at Harvard before going to Washington to work as a legislative aide, returning to the Pine Tree State to run a congressional campaign.

Read the full interview here


🕍 Letter from Europe: Ezra Waxman, an American Jew living in Berlin, was inside the synagogue in Halle, Germany, last week on Yom Kippur when an armed neo-Nazi tried to break inside, he told The New Yorker’s Elisabeth Zerofsky. “I really don’t know why I stayed calm but I stayed calm,” he said. “Your mind-set is a different mind-set on Yom Kippur.” [NewYorker

🍑 Road to impeachment? Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) was one of the last Democratic holdouts to endorse the impeachment of Trump. Writing in New York Magazine, David Freedlander details how the brash Jewish Army veteran and freshman congressman finally got on board, and his efforts to forge “a new kind of politics, one that makes an authentic connection with voters that enables them to look past his party label.” [NewYorkMag]

🇷🇺 🇮🇱 🇺🇸 Deep dive: A 26-year-old woman is facing a 7.5-year prison sentence in Russia after a third of an ounce of marijuana was found in her suitcase. Naama Issachar, a dual American-Israeli citizen, has been caught up in a geopolitical battle in which Russian officials are pressing for the release of a hacker arrested in 2015 in Israel at the request of American authorities, and slated to be extradited to the U.S. The case has prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make a personal appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin for Issachar’s release. [NYTimes]

🖥️ Eight days a week: Judith Shulevitz, journalist and author of The Sabbath Worldwrites in The Atlantic that the rise of flexible, unpredictable and extended working hours are having a deleterious effect on family life and socializing. Shulevitz references Hannah Arendt’s comments about Nazism and Stalinism isolating individuals: “We don’t need a secret police to turn us into atomized, isolated souls. All it takes is for us to stand by while unbridled capitalism rips apart the temporal preserves that used to let us cultivate the seeds of civil society and nurture the sadly fragile shoots of affection, affinity, and solidarity.” [TheAtlantic]


🗣️ Heard on the trail: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) was confronted at a town hall event by activists from IfNotNow, who accused the Republican Party of engaging in antisemitic rhetoric. Scalise rejected their claims, and said he fights against antisemitism wherever he sees it. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump last week endorsed a Republican candidate for Senate who once said that the “Jewish lobby” controlled the GOP.

💸 Campaign cash: Ilhan Omar raised more than $1.1 million in the third quarter for her re-election, as a former Obama campaign staffer announced a primary challenge. 

✡️ Ron vs. Bill: World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder slammed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for not doing enough to counter the rise in antisemitic violence in the city. 

🗞️ Deny, deny: Shari Redstone said Tuesday that a report in The Hollywood Reporter that she is looking to launch a conservative TV network as an alternative to Fox News is not true

🤝 Tête-à-tête: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met recently with a slew of conservative thinkers at private gatherings, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Fox News host Tucker Carlson and pundit Ben Shapiro, Politicoreports.  

📉 Under siege: Aaron Levie, the CEO of Box Inc., is struggling to boost revenue growth and stave off demands from activist investor Starboard. 

🎥 Hollywood: Gal Gadot is set to both produce and star in a film about Irena Sendler, a woman who helped save 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto. 

📺 Small screen: Sarah Silverman has signed a deal for a new late night show on HBO where she said she will be “weighing in on the mishigas of the week.” 

👟 Run on water: “Jesus Shoes,” a $1,425 sneaker injected with water from the Jordan River — dreamed up by Daniel Greenberg, a Jewish executive at the MSCHF design brand — sold out within minutes.  

👷‍♀️ Transitions: Elana Wien has been announced as the inaugural executive director of the Safety Respect Equity Coalition, starting November 15th.

⚾ Sports blink: Andrew Friedman, the president of baseball operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers, will be returning next season, despite rumors he was being considered for the same role with the Boston Red Sox.  

🥪 Fishy business: Barney Greengrass, the 113-year-old restaurant and Jewish deli, was shut down by health inspectors the day after Yom Kippur, amid its busiest season. 

🧁 Dessert: A new kosher bakery is set to open in Richmond, Virginia, and a Jewish-Israeli eatery is coming to Portland, Oregon.

🕯️ Remembering: Harold Bloom, a famed literary critic whose biblical scholarship became a bestseller, died on Monday at age 89. 


Israelis and tourists stop by the sukkah in the Kotel plaza amid the first rains of the season – Photo: Melissa Weiss


Omri Casspi poses with Maccabi Chairman Shimon Mizrahi after a press conference on June 26, 2009.

Moti Milrod

Omri Casspi poses with Maccabi Chairman Shimon Mizrahi after a press conference on June 26, 2009.

Israeli attorney, chairman of Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball since 1969, Shimon Mizrahi turns 80…

National President of the ZOA, Morton A. Klein… Retired CFO of the Airlines Reporting Corporation, Alfred Altschul turns 80… Film director David Zucker turns 72… Professor of economics at Smith College, Andrew S. Zimbalist turns 72… Director of policy and government affairs at AIPAC, Dr. Marvin C. Feuer turns 69… Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives since 1999, David Linsky turns 62… Bestselling French novelist, one of whose books was made into Steven Spielberg’s “Just like Heaven,” Marc Levy turns 58… 

Actress Kala Lynne Savage turns 41…  Founder and CEO at Social Studies, Inc., Brandon Jared Perlman turns 38… West Point graduate, a four-time U.S. Army light-middleweight boxing champion who boxed with a Star of David on his trunks, Boyd “Rainmaker” Melson turns 38… Avi Fink turns 34… West Coast regional director at Foundation for Jewish Camp, Margalit Rosenthal turns 34… Assistant commissioner for external affairs at the New York City Police Department, Devora Kaye turns 33… Campaign staffer for Kamala Harris, Sam Ginsberg

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered daily in a must-read newsletter.