Daily Kickoff

Kushner’s reply to Biden | Congressional efforts to combat antisemitism | The entrepreneur eliminating student hunger

Good Wednesday morning! 

In Jerusalem, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, former Senator Joe Lieberman and former Federal Reserve vice chair Stanley Fischer are headlining the first Herzl conference on contemporary Zionism at Mt. Herzl. Earlier this morning, Rivlin and former Jewish Agency chair Natan Sharansky spoke at Haaretz’s Judaism, Israel, and Diaspora Conference

Today in D.C., the BusinessH2O water innovation summit will focus on “policy, technology, and projects in the Middle East,” including a presentation from Mekorot.

Tonight in New York, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will accept the Herman Kahn award at the Hudson Institute’s annual gala. The American Jewish Committee will be hosting a discussion on global antisemitism at the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center. 

⚾️ In Houston, it’s Game 7 of the World Series. 

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

ON THE HILL — House Dems deny dragging feet on antisemitism bill

House Democrats are disputing a senior Republican’s claim that they are stalling legislation to combat antisemitism, JI’s Jacob Kornbluh reports:

Details: In an op-ed published in the Atlanta Jewish Times last week, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) accused the Democratic House majority of refusing to bring his bill✎ EditSign, the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2019, up for a vote because they “can’t seem to agree on condemning the rank antisemitism within their own party.”

Push back: Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) tells JI that the claim that Democrats are neglecting the issue “is out of step with reality.” Luria, a member of the House Bipartisan Task Force For Combating Antisemitism, maintained that “House Democrats have strongly condemned antisemitism, and we will continue to do so.”

Work to do: Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) stressed that there are “several efforts in the House” to combat the rising tide of antisemitism. Nonetheless, the New Jersey lawmaker acknowledged that “we have much more work to do in this fight and against all forms of hatred.” 

In the Senate: Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a co-sponsor of the Senate bill, and Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) launched this week the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism. The launch date coincided with the one-year anniversary of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre. The two senators explained the move in a joint op-ed published Monday.

A spokesperson for Rosen tells JI that the Nevada Democrat “believes that combating antisemitism must be a non-partisan issue.” 

United against Turkey: The House voted 403 to 16 to impose new sanctions on Turkey over its brutal assault on the Kurds in northern Syria. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) joined 15 Republicans in opposing the legislation sponsored by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Michael McCaul (R-TX). The House also passed a resolution to recognize the Armenian genocide. Omar voted ‘present.’

HEARD YESTERDAY — Jared Kushner talks Mideast peace and 2020

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 13 on Tuesday, White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner hit back at former Vice President Joe Biden for suggesting that he lacks the qualifications to handle the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. 

Cleanup in aisle four: “He’s entitled to his opinion but, a lot of the work that the president’s had me doing over the last three years has actually been cleaning up the messes that Vice President Biden left behind,” Kushner said. 

Coalition conundrum: Kushner told Channel 13’s Barak Ravid that “it would be great for Israel to figure out how to form a government so we can start working on all the big priorities and opportunities that exist.” President Donald Trump’s son-in-law said he hopes Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can work together “and find a way to move forward.”

On Syria: “Anyone in Israel who thinks that the situation has any implications for the U.S.-Israel relationship is badly mistaken,” Kushner said. “Under President Trump the bond between America and Israel has been significantly strengthened and our intention is to continue to do more of the same.”

Biden’s take: Biden discussed Trump’s Syria withdrawal with The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin, saying that Israel will now have to depend on Russia’s protection from Iranian aggression in the region.

Heard at Davos in the Desert: Kushner maintained at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh on Tuesday that “Israel is not the cause of all the suffering of the Palestinian people.” In a conversation with Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman, Kushner explained: “If you want to go and invest in the West Bank or Gaza, the issue that’s holding you back is the fear of terrorism and that your investment could be destroyed.” 

CHANGEMAKER PROFILE — Eradicating food insecurity, one swipe at a time

Just shy of 28, Rachel Sumekh is the co-founder and CEO of Swipe Out Hunger, which has helped hungry college students eat almost two million meals on more than 85 campuses across 32 states. Susan Josephs profiles Sumekh for Jewish Insider.

Humble beginnings: Then a sophomore at UCLA, Sumekh responded to a friend’s Facebook post about starting a program to alleviate student hunger. When they got together to move food across campus to the university’s pantry, nobody else showed up to help. “I said to Bryan, ‘This is insane, let’s reschedule,’’’ Sumekh recounted to Jewish Insider. “But we wound up moving the food by ourselves and this changed my whole sense of agency.”

How it works: Swipe Out Hunger converts unused university dining hall meals into donations to campus food pantries, offers vouchers for community college students to eat at highly subsidized rates at local restaurants and helps students enroll in the federal food stamps program. 

Values: Sumekh, an active participant and board member of Ikar, the Los Angeles-based congregation known for its social justice advocacy, strongly believes that hunger should be taken more seriously as a Jewish issue. “People seem to think… that food is a given in the Jewish community but the intersection of Jews and poverty isn’t over.”

Confidence counts: “As a young entrepreneur,” she told JI, “I would look at the venture capitalist world — and there’s all these guys believing they’re going to change the world because of the app they invented to walk people’s dogs. And here I was, trying to feed people and afraid to say that I’m going to change the world. So I decided to be as shameless as all these guys with their apps.”

Read the full profile here.

TALK OF THE REGION — Lebanese prime minister resigns amid protests

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on Tuesday after nearly two weeks of nationwide mass protests. 

View from D.C.: In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Lebanon’s political leaders to “urgently facilitate the formation of a new government that can build a stable, prosperous, and secure Lebanon that is responsive to the needs of its citizens.” 

The big picture: Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, tells JI’s Melissa Weiss that it seems Hariri’s resignation is just “a maneuver to renegotiate with Hezbollah” the formation of a new technocrat government and to “get the Europeans to unlock some of the funds” pledged at the CEDRE conference for Lebanon in Paris last year. 

Long shot? Nida al-Watan, a Lebanese daily, reported on Tuesday that France canceled a meeting scheduled for November 13 to discuss the aid. But according to Badran, “It’s far from clear whether this gambit has any chance of success — with the sectarian barons, with the protesters, or with the Europeans.”


🔍 Man in the Middle: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top expert on Ukraine, testified yesterday that Trump asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, quickly sparking accusations of disloyalty from right-wing figures. In GQ, Julia Ioffe writes about the “questioning of a American Jew’s patriotism” in a personal and incisive essay. “While Trump has a history of attacking anyone who questions his power,” she wrote, “there is a particularly insidious history to questioning the loyalty of Jewish émigrés.” In Commentary, John Podhoretz writes “that a career Army officer might have a dual-loyalty problem, which is one of the lowest things I can imagine any American politician or commentator insinuating.” [NYTimesGQCommentary]

📱 Spy Suit: WhatsApp filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Israeli intelligence firm NSO Group, claiming it infiltrated the messaging service to spy on journalists and activists. The Financial Times has detailed WhatsApp’s investigation of the breach and its use to target members of civil society. [FinancialTimes]

👩‍💼 Congressional Outlier:Politico’s Burgess Everett profiles Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) who “doesn’t really fit in with her fellow Senate Democrats.” Sinema was one of four Democrats who voted with the Republican caucus in support of advancing the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, known as S.1, when it was opposed by the Democratic leadership — during the government shutdown — earlier this year. [Politico

👬 Sibling Spotlight: One is running for president. The other oversees the editorial page for the venerable Gray Lady. The Washington Post is taking a closer look at the relationship between brothers Michael and James Bennet, and their idealistic hopes to repair a splintered society. [WashPost]


📉 Bonds Battle:The Wall Street Journalshines a spotlight on how New York’s rent control laws are playing out in a battle within Israel’s bond market.  

🕍 Ribbon Cutting: French President Emmanuel Macron was on hand Tuesday to inaugurate a new 53,820-square-foot Jewish communal center in Paris.  

🇯🇴🇮🇱 Diplomatic Discord: Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel on Tuesday and detained an Israeli citizen who crossed the border illegally, as ties between the country grew further strained over Israel’s detention of two Jordanians.

🔻 Cutting Corners: CNN’s “Reliable Sources” reported that i24, the Patrick Drahi-owned Israeli news outlet, has laid off a number of employees. 

🚩 Alarming Display: A Nazi flag was spotted in the window of a California Department of Corrections building in Sacramento, and officials are investigating. 

🏗️ Building Bolster: Philanthropist and billionaire businessman David Rubenstein has donated $10 million to rehabilitate the Jefferson Memorial. 

🤝 Deals: Dan Gilbert’s Jack Entertainment is selling the Jack Cleveland Casino and the Jack Thistledown Racino for about $843 million in cash. 

🎓 Higher Learning: Real estate mogul Stephen Ross and Gilbert are collaborating on a $300 million University of Michigan graduate center for innovation at a former jail site in Detroit. 

🗓️  Calendar Crunch: A Jewish high school junior from Florida writes in Teen Vogue that his public school’s holiday policies have forced him to sacrifice “the traditions my ancestors have kept for thousands of years to keep up with my workload.”

👩‍🔬 Branch Office? U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reportedly said Tuesday he’d consider opening a branch of the FDA in Israel.

🚫 Shape Up: Former GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor warned that financial firms that ignore workplace impropriety will end up facing backlash from investors. 

💸 Notable Filing: Nathan Milikowsky, Benjamin Netanyahu’s cousin, and his wife maxed out to Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign, according to the latest FEC filings. 

New Hire: Private equity firm TPG has hired Marc Mezvinsky, the husband of Chelsea Clinton, according to the Wall Street Journal.

🇬🇧 Across the Pond: MP Dame Margaret Hodge has been reselected as the Labour party candidate to run for re-election after a failed attempt to oust her over her criticism of Jeremy Corbyn. 

🥙 Eating Emoji: The falafel emoji, a new addition to Apple’s iOS 13.2, was unveiled this week. It is slated to slowly roll out across other platforms. 

🍔 Big Bite: Israel’s Future Meat Technologies is planning to build the first production facility in the world for lab-grown meat in Rehovot.   


Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley speaking at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) annual gala at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. last night. Haley was honored with the Irving Kristol Award. 


NBC anchor and reporter, Andrea Mitchell turns 73… 

Ivanka ‘Yael’ Trump turns 38… Former Chief of Staff to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, David Krone turns 53… Winner of two Pulitzer Prizes for his biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon B. Johnson, Robert Caro turns 84… Former president of the University of Minnesota, chancellor of the University of Texas System and president of the University of California, Mark Yudof turns 75… Actor, best known for his portrayal of “The Fonz” in the “Happy Days” sitcom, Henry Winkler turns 74… Israeli violinist, Shlomo Mintz turns 62…

Meat packing executive, his prison sentence was commuted by President Trump in 2017 after serving eight years, Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin turns 60… Former CEO of Qualcomm and co-owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, Paul E. Jacobs, Ph.D. turns 57… Partner in the DC office of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, he served as the Attorney General of Maryland (2007-2015), Douglas F. “Doug” Gansler turns 57… Partner and co-founder of the Irvine, California law firm of Wolfe & Wyman, Stuart B. Wolfe turns 54… White House correspondent for The New York TimesMaggie Haberman turns 46…

President of The Gold Standard, LLC, a D.C.-based political development and advocacy firm, Jeremy Seth Gold turns 44… Partner in the LA and DC offices of Crowell & Moring, Paul M. Rosen turns 41… AARP’s director of media relations, Joshua Eric Rosenblum turns 41… Founding director at Tech Tribe and Director of Social Media for Chabad, Mordechai Lightstone turns 35… Politico reporter covering races in the U.S. House of Representatives, Ally Mutnick turns 27… Director at D.C.-based Targeted Victory, Rebecca Schieber turns 27…

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.