Good Thursday morning!
In NYC today, the CITIZEN by CNN 2019 forum is taking place, with speakers including Samantha Power, Jeff Zucker and Lloyd Blankfein. The forum will also feature a panel discussion with the three Republican 2020 challengers to President Donald Trump: Bill Weld, Mark Sanford and Joe Walsh.
Also in New York, Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman, an informal advisor and donor to Trump, is hosting a fundraiser at his Park Avenue apartment with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) in support of incumbent Senate Republicans.
And in D.C., 2020 hopeful Marianne Williamson will discuss her proposal to create a cabinet-level “Department of Peace” at the National Press Club this afternoon.
👉 Received this from a friend? Subscribe to the Daily Kickoff.
MEET THE FOUNDER — Elizabeth Durand Streisand spins the wheel on Broadway startup
Matthew Kassel profiles Elizabeth Durand Streisand, the founder of Broadway Roulette.
Origin story: Streisand, married to a cousin of Barbra Streisand, started Broadway Roulette after interacting with AirBnb guests at her then-fiance’s Upper West Side property. Many out-of-town visitors wanted to see a Broadway show, but had no specific show in mind. Streisand would purchase tickets for the visitors, based on what shows sounded interesting. And so Broadway Roulette was born.
How it works: Users who want to see a show, but don’t have a strong preference for which production, can pay between $49-$59 to let Broadway Roulette decide for them. All they have to do is choose the day and number of tickets, and rule out a couple of shows they don’t want to see — no musicals, for instance. On the morning of the show, Broadway Roulette’s proprietary algorithm randomly picks a show for them to see.
Buying in: The venture has attracted a number of big-name investors, including Morgan Stanley, Halogen Ventures, and Zuckerberg Media.
Randi Zuckerberg tells JI: “I love when new companies bring surprise and delight back to the consumer experience. Broadway Roulette does this especially well, turning the task of researching shows and comparing prices into a game, all while driving new audiences to great shows in the process.”
Mazel tov: At the end of her conversation with JI, Streisand, who had mentioned that she was 38 weeks pregnant, revealed that she was actually in labor but didn’t want to miss the meeting. Four days later, she emailed to say that her baby was born 12 hours after the interview.
TEL AVIV SIGHTING — Richard Branson visits Israel on new Virgin flight
Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson landed in Israel on Wednesday to celebrate Virgin Atlantic’s new daily Tel Aviv-to-London Heathrow route, which launched last month. His visit also marks the launch of Virgin Holidays’ package vacations to Israel beginning in 2020.
Unique moment: Branson got down on his knees and kissed the ground after he landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport after being told by an Israeli reporter that it was a customary practice.
The connection: Aboard the flight, Branson explained that the “great thing about Israel and Palestine is the amount of entrepreneurs there are — thousands and thousands of wonderful young people creating incredible things — and Virgin is very entrepreneurial as well. So we felt that by offering some competition on this route, it would enable them to go with the airline I think they would prefer to fly.”
Thanks but no thanks: In a press conference at Ben-Gurion Airport, Branson revealed that he turned down “a very big check from Saudi Arabia” to the tune of $1 billion for his space program, Virgin Galactic, following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.
Local showing: Branson spoke this morning at the Virgin Atlantic and Calcalist business event held at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Tel Aviv/Yafo, alongside executives from Check Point, Wix.com and the Strauss Group.
MEET THE CANDIDATE — Former Sen. Joe Lieberman’s son mounts U.S. Senate bid in Georgia
In an interview with JI’s Ben Jacobs, Atlanta businessman Matt Lieberman jokes he’s winning the race for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Johnny Isakson at the end of the year. Lieberman is currently the only candidate running to serve the remaining two years of Isakson’s term.
State of play: The daughter of former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn and the grandson of President Jimmy Carter have both run for statewide office in recent years, while incumbent Senator David Perdue is the first cousin of former governor and current Trump cabinet member Sonny Perdue. But they’re not used to the dynasties coming from other parts of the country — Lieberman is the son of former senator and 2000 vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman (I-CT).
Fair shot: “For voters here in Georgia who like [Joe Lieberman], I hope they’ll give me a little bit of an extra hearing, and for the people who really don’t like him I would just remind them that technically speaking we are two different people and I think they’ll give me a hearing as well,” Lieberman tells JI. “Honestly, I think ultimately people are fair in that regard, even if they have no intention of supporting you, I think they will hear you out so I think people will do me that courtesy because it’s what engaged citizens ought to do so.”
Rolling out his foreign policy: Lieberman shared his views on a number of foreign-policy related issues:
On the Kurds: Lieberman expressed concern that Trump had “completely sold out” the Kurds, whom he described as a “reliable [and] heroic ally of the United States under difficult circumstances.”
On the Iran deal: “I will say only as a lay person, only as a citizen, that the benefit of delaying Iran’s nuclear capability may well have been outweighed by the cost of freeing up enormous sums of money for Iran to wreak havoc.”
HEARD YESTERDAY — Trump rewards Turkey by lifting sanctions
President Donald Trump announced Wednesday the lifting of recent sanctions on Turkey as he touted a “permanent” ceasefire along the border with Syria.
Details: For the time being, Trump said, a small number of U.S. troops would remain in Syria to secure oil fields. Trump used the opportunity to push back against broad criticism of his policy. “The people that I watched and read giving me and the United States advice were the people that I had been watching and reading for many years,” he said. “They are the ones that got us into the Middle East mess, but never had the vision or the courage to get us out. They just talk.”
White House spin: In a call with reporters following the president’s remarks, a senior administration official acknowledged that the troops are not coming home immediately, but are being deployed to other parts of the region. “Some soldiers are being moved out of what is the area of operations near the border. Some will go to Iraq, some will go to other places,” the official said. But the official added, “Eventually, the goal of the administration, the goal of the president… is to have all American troops out of Syria, and that’s something that we believe will ultimately happen.”
What ‘they’ are saying: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) welcomed Trump’s declaration, but also stressed that the creation of a safe zone by Turkey must be policed and controlled by the U.S. providing “air power” to an international force on the ground. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) dismissed the notion that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stopped all military operations in Syria and predicted that Russia will help Turkey further push out the Kurds from their controlled areas. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) expressed his opposition to the “ill-advised announcement” about lifting the sanctions.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who has previously endorsed the BDS movement, pens an op-ed in The Washington Post urging her fellow lawmakers to stop relying on sanctions, stating they are part of a failed foreign policy playbook.
Members of Congress and community leaders attended the launch of the bipartisan Black-Jewish congressional caucus, organized by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) on Capitol Hill on Wednesday evening. [Pic; Pic]
🥰 Naches Alert: Dr. Aviva Neumann, the mother of former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann, told an Israeli radio station that she’s “extremely glad” her son has stepped down from his role at the company he co-founded so that he can spend more time with his family. She said he is now “a member of the Chabad religious movement, which is something nice.” At the annual dinner hosted by the UJA-Federation of New York’s Wall Street and Financial Services Division last December, Neumann recalled observing Shabbat for the first time in Crown Heights.
Meanwhile, facing job cuts, some of WeWork’s approximately 12,000 employees are angered over reports of Neumann’s $1.7 billion payout after leaving the company. According to the Financial Times, the company expects to cut 4,000 jobs.
🇮🇱 🇦🇪 Talk of the Region:Bloomberg’s Ivan Levingston writes on how next year’s World Expo in Dubai where Israel will have a pavilion is yet another sign that Israel and the Gulf States are going public with their relationship. “Participating in the Expo is like setting up an embassy that will last only six months: Close coordination between Israel and its host will be required on myriad and mundane tasks,” Levingston points out.
🕍Talk of the Town: As the one-year anniversary of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh draws near, the Associated Press has explored how recent tragic attacks against both Jews and Muslims have strengthened ties between the two communities that are often at odds. Ari Gordon, AJC’s director of U.S. Muslim-Jewish relations, told the AP that the two faiths “can work together for mutual benefit and build trust despite this disagreement” on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
AROUND THE WEB
🏫 Never Forget: Maryland state officials said Wednesday that they will be strengthening and enhancing the requirements for middle and high schools teaching both the Holocaust and the roots of antisemitism.
📱⛏️ Activist Play: Arex Capital’s Andrew Rechtschaffen is pushing for the sale of phone screen protector company Zagg, per the NYPost.
👗 Off the Rack: Israeli fashion magnate Samuel Ben-Avraham submitted a bid to purchase the bankrupt Barneys New York, challenging an offer from Authentic Brands.
🏆 Lucky Year: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been named the recipient of the 2019 Berggruen Prize, a $1 million award for being “a lifelong trailblazer for human rights and gender equality.”
👊 Fighting Back: Actress Rose McGowan filed a lawsuit yesterday against Harvey Weinstein, his lawyers David Boies and Lisa Bloom, and the Israeli intelligence agency Black Cube, accusing them of conspiring to silence her accusations of sexual assault against Weinstein.
📣 Noisy Welcome:Jewish activists from Bend the Arc were arrested protesting Trump’s visit to Pittsburgh on Wednesday. The protesters carried a large sign reading “Our solidarity will defeat white nationalism” as they marched downtown. Another group interrupted Trump’s speech at a conference in support of fracking, chanting: “Trump endangers Jews.”
🌱 Startup Nation: Rapper Snoop Dogg has signed on as a brand ambassador for Seedo, an Israeli start-up that promotes home-grown marijuana. The refrigerator-like machine helps people grow plants with the help of artificial intelligence.
🌑 Moon or Bust: The Israeli team behind the crashed Beresheet moon lander plans to fly a new version of their spacecraft to the moon within 2-3 years, an engineer on the original mission told the 70th International Astronautical Congress in D.C. this week.
🖼️ Lost and Found: A painting seized by the Nazis from philanthropist Rudolf Mosse in 1933 has been recovered from a museum in upstate New York by the FBI. The painting is being kept at the FBI’s Albany office until it can be reunited with the Mosse family.
⚖️ Court Battle: Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, the two indicted associates of Rudy Giuliani, pleaded not guilty to campaign finance charges at a New York court on Wednesday. Parnas’s lawyer suggested that Trump could try to invoke executive privilege since his client worked for the president’s personal attorney.
GIF OF THE DAY
President Reuven Rivlin hands the mandate to form the next government to Blue and White leader Benny Gantz in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Rapper, singer-songwriter, Aubrey Drake Graham, now known as Drake, turns 33…
Writer and adjunct instructor at Queensborough Community College, Ira Greenfest turns 76… Stock market analyst Charles Biderman turns 73… Retired chief of staff in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Judy Gleklen Kopff turns 73… Financial planner and president of Laredo, Texas-based International Asset Management, Inc., Joseph Rothstein turns 67… Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Southern California since 1997, Brad Sherman turns 65… Executive editor of The Washington Post since 2013, Martin “Marty” Baron turns 65… Chattanooga-based CEO of Mohawk Industries, the world’s largest flooring company, Jeffrey S. Lorberbaum turns 65…
Program director at the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, Alan Divack turns 63… Co-founder and CEO (1990-2001) of Sirius Satellite Radio, he made aliyah in 2002, David Margolese turns 62… Producer of CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Henry Schuster turns 62… Born in Kiev, an active member of the Russian Jewish Congress and a co-founder of the Genesis Prize, German Khan turns 58… Professor of politics at the University of Hull in the UK, Raphael Cohen-Almagor turns 58… Editor at The New York Times and author of “(((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump,” Jonathan Weisman turns 54…
Russian-born oligarch and owner of the Premier League’s Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovich turns 53… Co-founder of the Ira Sohn Conference Foundation, Evan Sohn turns 52… Political communications consultant, formerly comms director and deputy chief of staff for Senator Patty Murray, Tovah Ravitz-Meehan turns 50… Executive director at Flatbush Community Fund, Yitzy Weinberg turns 33… The Orthodox Union’s associate director of synagogue services and community engagement, Yehuda Joel Friedman… Founding partner of Be Clear Communications, Matt Lehrich…