Good Friday morning!
This Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of the deadly shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Jewish leaders are calling on the community to “Show Up for Shabbat” this weekend, and the JFNA is inviting people to “Pause With Pittsburgh” at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Chaim Bloom is reportedly the favorite to become the next Boston Red Sox general manager. Inquiring minds want to know if Bloom’s decade-old gefilte fish jar will make the trip from Tampa to Boston as well.
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INVESTING VALUES — The venture capitalist led by Torah values
Michael Eisenberg of Aleph VC has made a name for himself in the Israeli venture capital world, backing companies including Lemonade, Nexar, Healthy.io, Wix — and was one of the earliest investors in WeWork. His latest book, Tree of Life and Prosperity, draws lessons from Genesis and religious Judaism to apply to modern economics.
Values-based investing: “There’s something incredibly relevant about talking about economics and parshat hashavua,” Eisenberg, a 48-year-old father of eight and grandfather of two, told JI’s Amy Spiro in a recent interview in Tel Aviv. “It’s a different view from probably what anybody’s written before about the Bible.” Eisenberg said he always strives to bring his religious morals to his work decisions: “It’s a question of: How do you align the business that you’re doing with your values?”
No regrets: “The worst investing decisions I’ve made are the ones where I did too much due diligence and talked myself out of a good deal,” he said, pointing to a missed opportunity to invest in the Jerusalem-based photo and image editing app Lightricks — which received a $1 billion valuation earlier this year. Nevertheless, “it’s bad in this business to live with regrets — because then you make dumb decisions.”
WeCouldWork: Eisenberg, an observer to WeWork’s board of directors, was tight-lipped about his firsthand knowledge of the company. But he offered an optimistic note, denouncing the “press hoopla” surrounding the business and alluding to co-founder Adam Neumann’s departure: “I think, fundamentally, WeWork answers a need that the world needs right now. And the business continues to grow at a rapid rate… Things grow and scale and sometimes the person who took you to one place, is not the guy to get you to the next place.”
Still close: While Eisenberg wouldn’t speak to JI about his current relationship with Neumann, the Wall Street Journalreported yesterday that, just two days before being ousted as CEO last month, the WeWork co-founder “dined in a private room at a Midtown Manhattan restaurant with three longtime allies: Israel-based Michael Eisenberg; Bruce Dunlevie from Benchmark; and Steven Langman of Rhone Group, the private-equity firm.”
FRIDAY FUNERAL — Congressman Cummings remembered for his work to bridge African-American and Jewish communities
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) will be laid to rest today in Baltimore after lying in state at the U.S. Capitol.
Paying respects: Among the leaders slated to speak at his funeral are former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Maryland Democrat, who served 23 years in the House of Representatives, has been eulogized by Jewish leaders across the spectrum in the week since his passing.
Enduring legacy: The Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel, which the congressman created in 1999, brings African-American teenagers from Baltimore to the Jewish state each year as part of a two-year fellowship program.
CNN’s Victor Blackwell, a Baltimore native and alum of the program, tells JI: “I was a member of the inaugural class of the Elijah Cummings Youth Program in Israel. Some of the most fulfilling experiences in my life happened during those four weeks in 1998 because I did what Congressman Cummings asked us, when he came to see us off at the airport: to stretch ourselves and to open our minds and our hearts. When we returned, Congressman Cummings encouraged me to attend Howard University. I did that, too. Over the last couple of years, Congressman Cummings made sure that I (and others) knew how proud of me he was. I regret that I never told the congressman that I was proud of him, too. I am proud of how he served our city — proud of how he served our country.”
Read more alumni tributes here.
CONFERENCE CIRCUIT — J Street prez wants 2020 Dems to talk Israel
J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami spoke to Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh in advance of his group’s annual conference beginning this Saturday evening in D.C.
Lineup: The conference will feature five 2020 presidential candidates — Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro — and the top Democratic congressional leaders: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Former Obama administration officials Ben Rhodes and Tommy Vietor will moderate the one-on-one conversations with the 2020 candidates.
Why it matters: “The message out of the conference, for us, is that the positions that J Street holds are really at the center of the political debate these days,” Ben-Ami explained. “We are demonstrating with the presence of these candidates and also the leadership of the Democratic Party that the center of the Democratic Party is looking for a home that is both supportive of Israel and its security and the Palestinians and their rights.”
Sending a signal: Pelosi and Schumer have been featured speakers at AIPAC’s annual policy conferences in recent years. The two leaders also headlined the Israeli-American Council national conference in South Florida last December. Ben-Ami said their attendance doesn’t indicate that they agree with his group’s agenda — but it does send a “clear signal that J Street’s voice and the positions that we articulate are an important part of the policy and political discussions.”
Making foreign policy a 2020 priority: J Street has targeted 2020 hopefuls, urging candidates to reconsider their relationships with AIPAC and lobbying them to express support for re-entering the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Ben-Ami says he expects to hear the candidates lay out specific plans to re-enter the 2015 deal, reverse President Donald Trump’s policies on Israel — “perhaps on day one” — and start “a very serious examination” of U.S. aid to Israel to make sure the government doesn’t “get a blank check” to use the assistance on certain activities.
Coalition in the capital? The conference will also feature MK Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, who recently made history recommending Benny Gantz for prime minister; former prime minister Ehud Barak; MK Nitzan Horowitz, head of the Democratic Union; and Druze Blue and White MK Gadeer Kamal-Mreeh. “I am absolutely not going to provide any advice to potential Prime Minister Gantz” on how to form a coalition, Ben-Ami insisted, but said there will be a lot of discussion at the conference about “the vital importance of full engagement of Arab citizens of Israel in the politics of Israel.”
HEARD YESTERDAY — Marianne Williamson pushes back against ‘smears’ from ‘political elites’
JI’s Ben Jacobs reports from the National Press Club in D.C., where 2020 longshot and author Marianne Williamson bemoaned a smear campaign by “political elites.”
Political barriers: Speaking to a crowd of a few dozen journalists and supporters, Williamson suggested that “the political hits began” as a result of her popularity following her performance at the second presidential debate in Detroit in July. “I sure as hell did break through,” she said.
The one who makes peace: Advocating for a Department of Peace, Williamson argued, “our national security agenda is dominated — as you know — basically by a constant perpetuation of war.” She argued that “peace-building exemplifies skill sets and expertise [that are] just as sophisticated, just as important and, in many ways, take just as much courage” as those shown by the armed forces.
Williamson also outlined her foreign policy vision and reiterated her longstanding support for reentering the nuclear deal with Iran. She harshly criticized the Iraq War, saying “it was an absolutely horrible transgression on every level” — and argued that “the genesis of ISIS comes from that.” She also expressed her support for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan after September 11 by noting the brutal treatment of the Taliban towards women.
Elsewhere in 2020 news: Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld and former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) discussed their primary challenge of Trump and the future of the GOP in a panel discussion at the CITIZEN by CNN 2019 forum in NYC on Thursday. Explaining the Trump phenomena, Sanford said that while he is “not linking Trump to Hitler,” the president managed to captivate the minds of voters by appearing as a “strongman” promising to take care of a dysfunctional government.
Walsh blasted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for becoming one of Trump’s public defenders. “If John McCain were alive right now, he’d be slapping Lindsey Graham upside the head, every day,” he suggested.
👂Displeased Allies: President Donald Trump is getting an earful from prominent evangelical and religious leaders about his Syria decision as he seeks to preserve his base ahead of a re-election campaign, Politicoreports. A longtime friend of the president explained that Christian conservatives are now raising doubts about Trump’s moves in the Middle East and wondering what’s next — even after sticking with him through prior controversies.
⚠️ On the Edge: IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi warned on Thursday that the situations along both the northern and southern borders are “tense and fragile,” with the possibility increasing that Israel will be dragged into a military conflict with Iran or its proxies in the near future.
🥶 Cooling Down: Twenty-five years after the signing of a landmark peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, AFP features conversations with ordinary Jordanians who still regard the Jewish state as an “enemy.”
🕍 Profile: In The Atlantic, Emma Green profiles Pittsburgh’s Eric Lidji who is on a one-man mission to preserve the memory of the Tree of Life massacre.
AROUND THE WEB
⛈️ Batten Down: A rare storm known as a “medicane” — with tropical cylone-level winds and heavy rain — is heading for Israel and Egypt this weekend.
🌊 Across the Pond: Britain’s Campaign Against Antisemitism denounced the response by Labour Party leaders to the resignation of MP Dame Louise Ellman. Last week, Ellman became the thirteenth Labour MP to resign membership over charges of antisemitism within the party.
🎤 Unwelcome company: Disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was spotted at a Lower East Side bar Thursday evening during an Actor’s Hour event. After noticing his appearance, one of the performers and at least two audience members reportedly confronted Weinstein. According to the Hollywood Reporter, all three women were asked to leave the event.
🏟️ Spotlight: Billionaire Len Blavatnik is seeking to raise at least $500 million to expand his company DAZN, a sports streaming service.
👔 Going, Going Gone: Barneys New York is set to be sold to licensing firm Authentic Brands Group after a competing bid from Israeli businessman Samuel Ben-Avraham failed to qualify for a bankruptcy auction.
👨💼 Meet the Candidate: In the Chicago Sun Times, Lynn Sweet spotlights Congressional candidate Rush Darwish who is running to be the first Palestinian-American and Muslim elected to Congress from Illinois. “As he seeks to make history, Darwish’s newfound political muscle is bringing attention to comments he made [regarding Jews, Israel and AIPAC] this summer and years ago,” Sweet notes.
🎓 Campus Beat: A new report released this week by Alums for Campus Fairness catalogues more than 100 antisemitic incidents at Columbia University and Barnard College over the last several years.
✡️ Talk of the Town: Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, is warning that a resurgence of antisemitism in Europe “poses an existential threat to the Jewish community.” A new study from the World Jewish Congress (WJC) shows that 27% of Germans agreed with a range of antisemitic statements and stereotypes about Jews.
🛬 Guessing Game: Israeli media is speculating if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or another top official secretly met with Saudi officials in recent days following reports that a private jet took off from Ben-Gurion International Airport on Tuesday evening, landed for about an hour in Riyadh and then returned to Israel.
🏀 Sports Blink: Former NBA swingman Jordan Hamilton has signed with the Israeli Hapoel Tel Aviv basketball team.
🎞️ Hollywood: An upcoming Netflix docuseries titled “The Devil Next Door” — premiering November 4 — digs into the story of John Demjanjuk, the man accused of being notorious Nazi guard Ivan the Terrible.
🎼 End of an Era: Legendary conductor Zubin Mehta has ended his 50-year tenure with the Israel Philharmonic, passing his baton to 30-year-old wunderkind Lahav Shani.
WINE OF THE WEEK
Yitz Applbaum reviews the 2017 Hajdu Zinfandel Ancient Vines Contra Costa County:
“Simchat Torah is a holiday that for me is best fulfilled by blending both spiritual and physical joys. To achieve this religious balancing act with a single activity, I took to tasting many wonderful bottles of fine wine. The great stand-out pour of the day was Hajdu’s 2017 Zinfandel Ancient Vines Contra Costa County.”
“The vines are more than 100 years old. One can smell the age, like that first whiff of a grandparent’s undusted parlor. The taste is not for the faint of heart as the fruit has not yet had time to emerge from the thick tannins. The wine manages to wake you up, and keep you awake. The finish is bold and adventurous. Drink this wine with any meat which has strong spices. This wine is very approachable now but will be even more accessible in a year.”
- On Saturday, Hillary Rodham Clinton turns 72…
- Also Saturday, staff writer for The New York Times, her 2019 novel Fleishman Is In Trouble hit the best-seller lists, Taffy Brodesser-Akner turns 44…
- On Sunday, producer and director, Ivan Reitman turns 73…
FRIDAY: U.S. District Court Judge (now on senior status) serving in the Eastern District of New York, Judge Edward R. Korman turns 77… Chief Policy and Strategy Officer of Oscar Insurance, former Chancellor of NYC schools, Joel Klein turns 73… Board chair of the Israel Policy Forum, Susan Gelman turns 65… President of Dallas-based SPR Ventures, Steven Rosenberg turns 61… Former assistant secretary of state, Victoria Jane Nuland turns 58…
Voice actress and singer, best known for voicing Asajj Ventress in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” Nika Futterman turns 50… Physician, author and public speaker on health issues, Michael Herschel Greger, MD turns 47… Singer and songwriter, Vered “Didi” Benami turns 33… Program Associate at San Francisco’s Koret Foundation, Rachel Elana Schonwetter turns 30…
SATURDAY: Actress Shelley Morrison, born into a Sephardic family as Rachel Mitrani, turns 83… South African judge who led the 2009 UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, Richard Goldstone turns 81… Actress best known as one of Charlie’s Angels, Jaclyn Smith turns 74… Evie Sullivan turns 73… National Director of Development at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Janice Prager… Rabbi of Chicago’s Congregation K.I.N.S. and Dean of the Ida Crown Jewish Academy, Leonard Matanky, Ph.D. turns 61…
Director of communications at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Jeffrey Rubin turns 60… Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Stacy Schiff turns 58… Founding partner and president of Global Strategy Group, Jefrey Pollock turns 48… Figure skater who won a 2006 Olympic silver medal, Alexandra Pauline “Sasha” Cohen turns 35… Senior product manager at CoStar Group, Danielle Feldman… Tel Aviv resident, Dr. Alberto Calo… Evan May…
SUNDAY: Pacific Palisades resident, Gordon Gerson turns 83… Rabbi emeritus at Miami Beach’s Temple Beth Sholom, Gary Glickstein turns 72… Author, actress and comedian, Fran Lebowitz turns 69… CEO of Jewish Creativity International, Robert Goldfarb turns 68… Specialist in Middle Eastern affairs at the Congressional Research Service, Dr. Kenneth Katzman turns 60…
Owner and co-chairman of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a director of English football club Manchester United, Bryan Glazer turns 55… Television meteorologist at The Weather Channel, Stephanie Abrams turns 41… Appropriations associate and foreign affairs legislative assistant for Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY-17), Elizabeth (Liz) Leibowitz turns 31… Co-founder of NYC-based Arch Labs, Ryan Eisenman turns 27…