Daily Kickoff

New year, new look | Jon Ossoff returns | Inside Demi Lovato’s Israel trip

AP Photo/David Goldman

Jon Ossoff is seen here in 2017 conceding his Senate race in Atlanta to Republican Karen Handel.

👋 Good Monday morning! 

New year, new look: With 5780 underway, we’re updating the Daily Kickoff. Our new format is a bit more structured than the previous version. Below you’ll find featured stories followed by several quick reads we think are worthy of your time and other content from around the web. Of course, our fan-favorite birthday section is here to stay. Send in your feedback as we’re still tweaking to ensure the best possible Daily Kickoff.  

Welcome to the team: Debra Nussbaum Cohen has joined Jewish Insider to cover the world of philanthropy. Send your tips and greetings to Debra@JewishInsider.com

In D.C. today, Brookings is hosting a panel discussion on the rise of populism and nationalism in the U.S., Israel and around the globe. Last night, Bari Weiss and Jeffrey Goldberg discussed combating antisemitism before a packed house at Sixth & I. And speaking of combating antisemitism, Robert Kraft has found an executive director to run his new effort. Details below.

Finally, in honor of Yom Kippur, the next Daily Kickoff will be on Thursday morning.

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MEET THE CANDIDATE — Jon Ossoff is back on the campaign trail

Remember him? Before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, there was Jon Ossoff. In the spring of 2017, the lanky then-30-year-old became the face of “the resistance” almost by accident. The Georgia Democrat ran in the first special election of the Trump administration, and the race was treated as a key barometer of public opinion. Ossoff almost won the district outright in the first round of voting, falling just short of the 50% necessary for victory, before being narrowly defeated by Republican Karen Handel in a runoff. 

Take two: Two years after that loss, Ossoff is now mounting his second bid for elected office, throwing his hat in the ring to challenge incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue. Ossoff explained the rationale behind his run in an interview with JI’s Ben Jacobs. 

Why he’s running: Ossoff framed his run as a crusade against Washington corruption and an extension of his career as an investigative journalist. “My first act in Senate will be to co-sponsor a constitutional amendment to repeal the Citizens United decision,” Ossoff told Jewish Insider

Jewish background: Ossoff, who is hoping to be the second Jewish American from the South directly elected to the Senate, explained the influence of his Jewish heritage on his worldview. “My relatives who are Holocaust survivors, my ancestors who fled pogroms in Eastern Europe, I think I have a heightened awareness of [the] dangers of authoritarianism and antisemitism.”

If Jared Kushner can’t do it… Ossoff argued that, if elected, he could play “a constructive role in supporting negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinians as “a Jewish-American United States senator with a strong background in foreign policy and defense policy.” However, he was “deeply pessimistic that any of the parties including the United States are serious about pursuing [a two-state solution].” In his view, “the two-state solution is on life support.”

Ossoff’s approach towards Iran: The U.S. should “recommit to a multilateral approach to the Iran nuclear program… to restrict uranium enrichment and ensure that there are penetrating IAEA and international inspections of their nuclear facilities… The proliferation of nuclear weapons anywhere is a threat to people anywhere, and in the Senate preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon will be a top priority.” 

Read the full interview here

STAFFING UP — Robert Kraft’s initiative to combat antisemitism announces Rachel Fish as executive director

Rachel Fish has been named the founding executive director of the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, a new entity created by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and others, JI’s Debra Nussbaum Cohen reports.

Fish’s role: At the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, Fish will be responsible for strategic vision and planning, fundraising, hiring staff and leading the operations of the foundation. 

In a statement, Fish said: “We live in a time in which we imagined the horrors of antisemitism would no longer persist, yet it does. It is incumbent upon all of us to fight antisemitism and educate our communities so as to eradicate hatred toward Judaism, the Jewish people and the Jewish State.”

Previous work: She most recently worked at The Paul E. Singer Foundation in New York as a senior advisor and resident scholar of Jewish/Israel philanthropy. Before that, she served as executive director of Brandeis University’s Schusterman Center for Israel Studies. 

Full story here 

PEOPLE WITHOUT SHAME — Rabbi Lord Sacks describes the leaders in power today

At the Hampstead Synagogue in London, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks delivered a High Holidays address titled “An Unforgiving Age.” The speech included mentions of Nobel-winning biochemist Sir Tim Hunt and conservative commentator Jordan Peterson… however Sacks also alluded to a few world leaders with the following: 

“What happens when an entire culture loses faith in God? All that’s left is an unconscious universe of impersonal forces that doesn’t care if we exist or not. And in the other direction, all that’s left is a world of Facebook, Twitter and viral videos in which anyone can pass judgement on anyone without regard to the facts or truth or reflective moral judgement and by the time the person accused has had the chance to explain or the truth has emerged, the crowd has already moved on. They’re not interested anymore.”  

“And what happens in an unforgiving culture? In an unforgiving culture, the people who survive and thrive are the people without shame. Have a look at who is powerful in the world today and they are people without shame because those are the only people who survive in a world without forgiveness.”

Watch Rabbi Sack’s speech

EXCLUSIVE — Inside Demi Lovato’s controversial Israel trip

Demi Lovato’s recent trip to Israel has continued to generate headlines, after BDS activists targeted her original posts about the trip, her hastily deleted apology, her mother’s defense and the debunked claim that she was paid to visit. JI’s Amy Spiro spoke to several people familiar with the trip to gain some clarity. 

Backtrack: Yediot Aharonot originally reported that Lovato was paid $150,000 to visit Israel — partly funded by the Israeli government — a claim that reverberated among BDS activists. But the newspaper later quietly edited its article, saying instead that the trip — which was free for the singer — cost $150,000 overall. Three figures familiar with the trip told Jewish Insider — and Lovato herself wrote online — that she was not paid a shekel for the visit. 

Sorry, not sorry: Industry insiders speculate that Lovato removed the apology post quickly because it violated a confidentiality agreement signed ahead of the trip. The singer was likely told not to reveal that she “accepted a free trip to Israel in exchange for a few posts.” One source familiar with the trip said that the funders themselves likely also signed a confidentiality agreement, explaining their reluctance to speak publicly about the trip. 

Pre-trip prep: Ashley Perry, who met with Lovato during her visit, said “I know for a fact that they did prepare her, and she was aware that there are active forces who will try and get her to distance herself from the trip — but no one can prepare you for the barrage of bloody pictures people post.” Ari Ingel, director of Creative Community for Peace, said his organization would have “advised that she disabled comments on all three [Instagram] posts from the beginning.”

Full story here

LESSON FROM HISTORY — Jordanian diplomat Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on antisemites

Former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein details the antisemitic playbook of Karl Lueger, the mayor of Vienna during the 1980s, in an interview with Johns Hopkins Magazine for its fall 2019 issue.

‘How could you be so antisemitic when you have Jewish friends?’: “[Lueger] was an interesting character because he was a sophisticated mayor, not a maniac. He took antisemitism, which was already quite a prominent feature of the Habsburg Empire, and turned it into a more virulent form. He earned enormous political profit from it. He was asked by a journalist, ‘How could you be so antisemitic when you have Jewish friends?’ He separated the two. The political dividends were so great that he could not resist an antisemitic course of action.”

On the playbook being used today: “What we’ve seen in the last 15 years is otherwise third-rate politicians who have taken a leaf from Lueger’s playbook, albeit with a different victim, and you get someone like [Jair] Bolsonaro who was once a laughable character on the fringe of Brazilian politics… and suddenly he’s elected president by 55% of the vote.”

The full interview with Al Hussein 

Bonus — Al Hussein discussed his freshman roommate at Johns Hopkins University, an Orthodox Jew from Great Neck, New York, named Ira: “We’ve remained very good friends. But at that time, Jordan and Israel had no peace treaty. I thought, someone here has a sense of humor sticking the Arab and the Jew together [laughs]. But there really is something about being exposed to a culture that’s multiethnic.”


Be Featured: Email Comms@JewishInsider.com to inform the JI readership of your upcoming event, job opening, or other communication.


📈 It’s private equity’s world, we just live in it: “Private equity managers won the financial crisis,” declares the opening line of Bloomberg Businessweek’s latest cover story on how PE is changing finance and the economy itself. Worth reading to better understand the industry. 

🕵️ First look: Ronan Farrow’s explosive new book, Catch and Kill, about the conspiracy to protect sexual predators, is out next week, but a sneak peak was published in The New Yorker this morning. In it, Farrow details the key role that the Israeli firm Black Cube played in trying to quash the Harvey Weinstein revelations. “Black Cube played the largest role in Weinstein’s efforts to suppress the stories,” Farrow wrote. “Weinstein shared the lists of targets with the Israeli agency, which forwarded them to a network of operatives around the world.”  

🎸🎙️Band profile: Haim, a band of three Jewish sisters from Los Angeles, sat down withThe Guardian for an interview about their journey to fame, their latest album and their Jewish identity. Notable line — “Haim are more than Jewish: they fast on Yom Kippur even if they have a gig and ‘Summer Girl’ contains an interpolation of lyrics from Lo Yisa Goy, a song sung at Jewish summer camps.”

👴 What’s going on with Joe? Democrats are expressing concern that former Vice President Joe Biden is not equipped to mount an effective defense against President Donald Trump’s aggressive attacks, according to a detailed report from The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin, Alex Burns and Katie Glueck. According to The Washington Post, some Dems also fear that Sen. Bernie Sanders’s recent heart attack has put a spotlight on the age of the top tier candidates.


🏡 Home expansion: Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson bought his eighth property in the Malibu Colony in California for $14.7 million on Friday. Over the years, Adelson has spent nearly $70 million on vacation compounds in the gated oceanfront community.

🕊️ Talk of the region: Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz revealed on Saturday that Israel and the Gulf states are working on a historic “non-aggression pact” that will, in his words, “put an end to the [Israeli-Arab] conflict.” According to Israel’s Channel 12, Katz met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly with several counterparts from Gulf states to discuss the initiative. Katz didn’t meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his visit to New York, but claimed he discussed the matter with outgoing White House Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt. 

🚥 Window of opportunity: In an interview with the Makor Rishon weekly, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman cautioned that Israel might “miss” the boat on diplomatic opportunities if a new government is not formed in the months ahead. 

🙏 Days of mercy: Randy Halprin, a Jewish death row inmate who was part of the “Texas 7” gang of escaped prisoners, was granted a stay of execution by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday after his lawyers argued that his trial judge was antisemitic. The appeals court ordered his case sent back to the Dallas County court to review the claims. 

🕍 Deep dive: Boston’s WGBH points out that the city’s Vilna Shul is celebrating 100 years — and undergoing a massive restoration which is uncovering much of its forgotten history and art. 

⚰️ Underground: To counter a major shortage of burial sites in Jerusalem, a mile-long underground chamber with 23,000 gravesites is nearing completion in the capital. 

🏫 Talk of the city: Thirty of the New York City Council’s 51 members signed a letter sent to the state Education Department opposing the strict guidelines imposed on private and religious schools. Meanwhile, the NYPD is reporting a 20% increase in antisemitic attacks compared to the same time last year, and Jewish leaders are demanding a higher police presence over Yom Kippur.

🐟 Fishy business:Bloomberg takes a closer look at “How lox, whitefish and herring became American staples,” and the industry’s deep roots in immigrant Jewish communities. 

💍 Mazal Tov:The NYTimesgoes inside the wedding of Doug Davis, son of music exec Clive Davis, and Jessica Muscio. Officiated by Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, along with a surprise musical performance by Lil Jon, see mentions of “seven blessings,” “ketubah” and “huppah.”  

🕯️ Remembering: Elaine Feinstein, a multifaceted British novelist and biographer who published more than a dozen poetry collections inspired by her Russian Jewish heritage, passed away last month at age 88.


U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attended a global day of prayer for peace in Jerusalem broadcast to over 200 million evangelical Christians, held at the Tayelet Haas Promenade on Sunday.


Assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education, Kenneth L. Marcus turns 53…

President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin turns 67…

Atlanta area resident, Allan Nelkin turns 70… Margery Nyberg turns 69… Senior advisor to the chairman of the Genesis Prize Foundation, Jill Smith… Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Closter, New Jersey, Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner turns 46… Director at the William Davidson Foundation, Eli Saulson… Political fundraiser and strategist, Arie Lipnick turns 38… Member of the Knesset for the Shas party since 2016, Michael Malchieli turns 37…

Director of the leadership institute at AIPAC, Natalie Lascar Lefkowitz turns 36… Leadership development director at AIPAC, Adam Teitelbaum turns 32… Director of strategic initiatives and partnerships at Charidy, Sam Schear… Co-founder of Riseup Israel, Tamara Cohen… Director of marketing at MPG Promotions, Daniel Mael turns 27… Senior editor for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Magazine, Barbara E. Martinez

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