Daily Kickoff

Yom Kippur terror in Germany | Trump’s Syria decision worries Israel | New Jewish philanthropic approach

Photo: Associated Press

👋 Good Thursday morning! 

Today in D.C., FDD hosts former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, who will discuss the Trump administration’s foreign policy strategy, including the recent decision to withdraw troops from Syria. Retired general and former CENTCOM commander Joseph Votel, who panned President Donald Trump’s Syria decision in The Atlantic, will speak on a panel hosted by the Middle East Institute. Trump is travelling to Minneapolis, Minnesota, today for a re-election campaign rally.  

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OLDEST HATRED — Neo-Nazi gunman targets synagogue in Germany on Yom Kippur

Photo: Associated Press

A neo-Nazi gunman tried to shoot his way into a synagogue in Halle, Germany, and kill Jews who were praying inside during Yom Kippur services. The gunman fired at a heavy door outside the synagogue, and, after he was unsuccessful, shot dead two individuals nearby — including one in a kebab shop. 

On tape: The gunman, identified as 27-year-old Stephan Balliet, wore a helmet camera during the shooting and livestreamed his attack online. Video from the livestream shows him attempting to shoot his way inside the synagogue, but failing to gain entry. Before beginning his attack, Balliet recorded himself saying: “I think the Holocaust never happened… the root of all these problems is the Jews.” 

Solidarity: German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined a vigil at a synagogue in Berlin Wednesday night. “My goal and that of everyone with political responsibility is to do all we can so that you can live in security,” she said. “But today, we’ve seen in a very bitter way that it’s not that easy and that we must do more.” Max Privorozki, a leader of the Jewish community in Halle, said local police rejected multiple requests to provide security at the synagogue. 

View from Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attack over Yom Kippur was “additional testimony that antisemitism in Europe is increasing.” He called on German authorities “to continue taking determined action against antisemitism.” Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog said he spoke with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who “promised firm action against antisemitism in his country… we agreed to cooperate in the fight against antisemitism.”

KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON — Now trending among Jewish philanthropists: ‘Overhead’

Two heavyweight players in the Jewish foundation world — Lisa Eisen, a president of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and Barry Finestone, the president and CEO of the Jim Joseph Foundation — committed their foundations to providing significant overhead funding to grant recipients.

Why it matters: This marks a notable shift from funding restricted to special projects, which has often been the focus of Jewish philanthropic giving in the past. Eisen and Finestone wrote in a joint op-ed in eJewishPhilanthropy that their foundations will now be funding grantees to keep the lights on — that is, to cover the costs of utility bills, rent, salaries and staff benefits. The Jewish non-profit sector, Eisen and Firestone wrote, “will be stronger when we embrace the idea that investing in an organization’s ability to learn, grow and compete is directly tied to its ability to achieve impact.”

Read the full op-ed here

The way it used to be: Jeffrey Solomon, a former president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies and now senior advisor to ChasBro, Charles Bronfman’s family office, tells JI’s Debra Nussbaum Cohen: “As a longstanding grantmaker it has not been the norm in the Jewish community” to provide money to cover overhead expenses, which he said is a peculiarity of Jewish philanthropy. “I’ve yet to see anybody walk into Starbucks and say, ‘I’ll take a latte but won’t pay for your overhead,’ yet that’s the way that many funders behave,” he said. “There are lights to be turned on, rent to be paid. Sophisticated funders know this.”

Grantees react: Yehuda Kurtzer says the shift in focus “is welcome news, and incredibly exciting.” Kurtzer, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, added that the move shifts the dynamic between funders and recipients away from one that “makes organizations almost vendor-like,” adding: “Support for general operating expenses is actually a catalyst for innovation, as it creates a stable foundation for growth. We have been beneficiaries of this kind of support and it has been transformational to our organization.”

DRIVING THE CONVO — Turkey attacks the Kurds as the U.S. stands aside

On the ground: Turkish forces began attacking Kurdish positions in northeast Syria on Wednesday, just days after Trump announced his decision earlier this week to endorse a Turkish military operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces, pulling back American military personnel in the region. Thousands of civilians fled as Turkish airstrikes and artillery closed in border towns. Trump called the Turkish offensive a “bad idea,” saying he did not endorse it, while European leaders and Egypt called on Turkey to halt its operation.    

Why it matters: This move and Trump’s decision to forgo retaliation against Iran following its attack on Saudi oil facilities “have been ground-shaking in terms of the way that the region will view America,” Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JI’s Jacob Kornbluh. “I think that certainly the Gulf states have taken note and the Kurds have lost any illusion where the U.S. is on their issues and their security.” 

On the Hill:  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced on Wednesday bipartisan legislation with Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) that would impose sanctions against Turkey for its invasion of Syria. 

Flashback: In 2015, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said the U.S. should not only directly arm Kurdish fighters to fight ISIS, but also promise the Kurds a country. “I think they would fight like hell if we promised them a country.” They did and now, as The National Review’s John McCormack notes in a blistering column, Paul is applauding Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurds. 

View from Jerusalem: The decision “set off clanging alarm bells among officials in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv,” David Halbfinger reports in The New York Times. Former MK and former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Orentold Halbfinger he doesn’t know if Israel “can bank” on Trump to come to its aid at a time of “a serious war.” 

Netanyahusaid in remarks this morning at a state memorial ceremony for the Fallen of the 1973 Yom Kippur War on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem: “Like in 1973, today we very much appreciate the important support of the U.S., which has greatly increased in recent years, as well as the major economic pressure that the U.S. is using on Iran. Even so, we will always remember and implement the basic rule that has guided us; Israel will defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”

Daylight? According to Schanzer, while the Israeli political leadership and the defense establishment maintains a good relationship with the Trump administration, there are certainly going to be concerns going forward about predicting future policy decisions. 

Seth Frantzman, author of After ISIS: America, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East and Middle East affairs analyst at The Jerusalem Post, tells JI:“When the U.S. appears weak, as it does in leaving Syria and having its Kurdish partners bombed, that means enemies of Israel will think the U.S. is withdrawing from the Middle East. Those who gain from U.S. withdrawal in eastern Syria are Iran and Turkey.” 

Times of Israel founding editor David Horovitz writes that “in terms of the dependability of the Trump administration in an Israeli hour of need, the president’s latest policies… are causing overt dismay in some Israeli circles.” 

ON THE TRAIL — Harris vows to re-enter, strengthen Iran deal

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said she would rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal if elected president during a town hall meeting in Ames, Iowa, on Sunday. 

“When elected with your help… we will re-enter the agreement,” Harris said. “But also, I will want to strengthen it, and that will mean extending the sunset provisions, including ballistic missile testing, and also increasing oversight.” 

Reaction: Kat Wellman, a Californian resident affiliated with the Democratic Majority for Israel, who asked Harris the question, told The Ames Tribune that she was “very impressed” with the answer. “She gave a very detailed, responsive answer to my question,” Wellman said. “I’m pro-Israel, so I was very concerned and all about making sure we limit nuclear missiles in any country that could possibly destroy us all. I thought her answer was very good.”

Watch the full exchange here

TALE OF OUR TIMES — Henry Platt on his mental wellness journey

Henry Platt — a proud member of the Los Angeles Platt family that includes older brother actor Ben Platt and father Marc Platt, a noted producer — penned a personal and incisive essay for The Conversationalist about his own mental health struggles, the stress and anxiety many young adults face in the age of social media obsession, and why Instagram should remove “likes.” 

“I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression about a month into my freshman year of college… As part of my personal therapy, I made it a point to conduct individual conversations with other students, so as to make deeper interpersonal connections and get a sense of what people were experiencing. Suffice it to say, 100% of individuals with whom I spoke were struggling with a certain aspect of their newly redefined lives… I would never have been able to guess it from surfing through their respective Instagram feeds.”

“We are extreme liars. We cover the truth. We wear masks of happiness to hide our humanity. We try to program ourselves as robots, unfeeling and insusceptible. We only show to others what is deemed ‘likeable’. On Instagram, that means feigned happiness and forced smiles.”  

Read Henry’s full post h/t Rabbi David Wolpe 


😰 Buzz on Balfour: Ruth Margalit writes in The New Yorker about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political standing following his pre-indictment hearing and his “nightmare scenario” of being indicted while trying to cobble together a coalition. The Likud Central Committee will meet in Tel Aviv today to pass a resolution reaffirming Netanyahu as the party’s indisputable leader. 

🇮🇳🇺🇸 Parallels: A prime minister cozies up to Trump, Democrats raise concerns about the foreign leader’s policies and there’s an effort to convince the more than 80% of diaspora voters who voted for Hillary Clinton to switch to the Republican party. Sound familiar? Ozytakes a look at India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Trump and the Indian-American vote. 

🙋‍♂️Reaching out for help: Richard Stengel, a former Obama administration official, is out with a new book, Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About It. In the book, Stengel details how he got Michael Lynton, then-chairman of Sony, to assist him in countering ISIS messaging and Russian propaganda in the 2016 election. 

🛃 War on immigration: NYTimes reporters Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael Shear offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Trump administration’s harsh immigration policies and share a biographical sketch of senior advisor Stephen Miller in a new book, titled Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration.

🕵️ Deep dive: Two moreexcerpts from Ronan Farrow’s upcoming book, Catch and Kill, published in The New Yorker this week, revealed further details of the role Israel’s Black Cube played in Harvey Weinstein’s plot to quash sexual assault allegations against him. Farrow writes that Black Cube was recommended to Weinstein by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and most of its operatives are former Israeli intelligence officials. But one of Black Cube’s operatives, he wrote, had enough of the Israeli company’s tactics and leaked damning documents to Farrow. The book also accuses former NBC anchor Matt Lauer of raping an employee during the 2014 Winter Olympics, which Lauer denies.     

💸 Spotlight: The Council on Foreign Relations is facing criticism from a group of 56 policy wonks — including Garry Kasparov — for accepting a $12 million donation from Ukrainian-born Jewish oligarch Len Blavatnik. In a written response, CFR president Richard Haass insisted that the think tank received an overwhelmingly “positive response” to Blavatnik’s donation.  


✡️ Has Cory Booker thought about converting? According to former classmate and Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman, the New Jersey senator has never indicated any interest in joining the tribe. The New York Times also spoke to Rabbi Menachem Genack, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Rabbi Shmully Hecht and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach about Booker’s Jewish learning.

🏀 Full-court press: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver eventually stood form against Chinese pressure over a pro-Hong Kong tweet from the general manager of the Houston Rockets, despite Chinese companies cutting ties with the organization: “We will protect our employees’ freedom of speech,” Silver declared. 

📰 News biz: Joseph Meyer, the brother-in-law of Jared Kushner, has exited his role as publisher and CEO of the Kushner family-owned news site Observer. According to The New York Post, Meyer is moving upstairs and will be replaced by Michael Rose while James Karklins is leaving as president with no replacement named. 

⚔️ Battle: Boaz Weinstein’s hedge fund Saba Capital Management LP faced a setback in its wrangle with Neuberger Berman Group LLC for more power over the fund, the WSJ’s Rachael Levy reports.

📚 Book shelf: The author of a new book about a blood libel in New York in 1928 tellsThe Daily Beast that American Jews “need to be vigilant… it’s possible for some of the worst aspects of antisemitism to surface in this country. It can happen again.”

🛣️ On the road: Are electric roads the future? The NYTimeslooks at efforts to install rechargeable roadways in Israel and Sweden, including the Israeli startup ElectReon.

🎓 Campus beat: Authorities at Yale Law School are conducting an investigation following the discovery over the weekend of a swastika on the side of the school, the first reported incident of a swastika appearing on campus since 2014. Yale’s Jewish chaplain told community members via email that administrators “very much see this as an attack not just on Yale’s Jewish community, but on Yale itself and its values.”

🕍 Talk of the town:Rabbi Mendy and Sara Turen, describing themselves as a “walking billboard” for Hasidic Jews, discussed their activities heading the Chabad House in Springfield, Illinois, in an interview with the local affiliate of NPR.  

🛐 Local hate: A man in New York lit a fire on the steps of the Park Slope Jewish Center in Brooklyn over Yom Kippur, and a Holocaust memorial in White Plains was vandalized with antisemitic graffiti on the eve of the holiday.  

🌯 Dessert:The Vanderbilt Hustler, a student newspaper at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, profiles Aryeh’s Kitchen food truck serving Jewish students on campus. 

🔥 Who by fire: Some 38,000 pounds of frozen bagels were burnt to a crisp in a truck fire on the I-65 about 90 miles southeast of Chicago on Sunday, just days before Yom Kippur.



👨‍🚀 Former NASA astronaut who flew on five Space Shuttle missions, John M. Grunsfeld turns 61…

🎤 Vocalist and songwriter best known as the lead singer of Van Halen, David Lee Roth turns 65…

✍️ Author and op-ed contributor for TheNew York TimesMatti Friedman turns 42…

Professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, Laurence Tribe turns 78… Chairman and CEO of KB Home, Bruce Karatz turns 74… Longtime IDF Chaplain, Yedidya Atlas turns 66… Award-winning writer and photographer based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Diane Joy Schmidt turns 66… Co-chairman and chief investment officer of Oaktree Capital Management, Bruce Karsh turns 64… Shareholder at the Bethesda, Maryland law firm of Selzer Gurvitch, Neil Gurvitch turns 61…

Founder and principal of two Los Angeles-based real estate firms, Freeman Group and Metro Properties, Rodney Freeman turns 57… Governmental relations and strategic communications principal at BMWL & Partners, Sam Lauter turns 56… Israeli comedian and actor, Asi Cohen turns 45… Director of political and public affairs at Equinor, Seth Levey turns 33… Investment advisor in the Chicago office of Goldman Sachs, Avi Davidoff turns 33…

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