Daily Kickoff

At least they share this in common — Happy Birthday to RJC’s Matt Brooks and JDCA’s Haile Soifer

Good Friday morning!

Spotted on Broadway: Mike Bloomberg attending “The Great Society,” which stars Brian Cox playing Lyndon B. Johnson, at the Vivian Beaumont Theater last night [Pic]

In Houston, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will discuss foreign policy matters at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy at 10:30 a.m. today.

Birthright Israel Excel is holding its annual summit on Saturday and Sunday in New York City with Paul Singer, Terry Kassel, and Strauss Zelnick among the featured speakers.

On Sunday evening, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien will receive the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson Award at the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) annual gala at the Marriott Marquis in New York City. President Donald Trump is expected to address the gathering by video.

Also happening Sunday, The National Committee for Furtherance of Jewish Education will honor New York Attorney General Letitia James and Great Neck Mayor Pedram Bral at its annual dinner

State Visit: Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo will depart on Sunday for a weeklong trade mission to Israel.

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SNEAK PEEK — ‘Anonymous’ says Israel learned to exploit Trump’s ego

JI’s Jacob Kornbluh offers an early look at the tell-all book from an anonymous Trump administration official, titled A Warning, set to be released on November 19th. 

The clever partners playbook: The author, an unidentified senior Trump administration official, details how U.S. allies, described as “clever partners,” advance their interests by cozying up to President Trump. “Our Israeli friends have watched dictators lavish Trump with praise and have learned to similarly cater to his self-conceit in order to get what they want,” anonymous writes. “They’ve named settlements after him and found other extravagant ways to tell Trump how great he is, habitually exploiting the president’s pride to exact concessions.”

Jared’s full basket: The unknown official attempts to explain why Trump seems to assign almost every complex issue to his son-in-law Jared Kushner. “Jared is a likable person, a youthful and energetic advisor and an empathetic listener,” anonymous wrote. “However, when the secretary of defense is cut out of Jared’s meetings regarding a crucial part of the world, or the national security advisor isn’t back-briefed on an important conversation Kushner has with a foreign ambassador, it can cause problems, sometimes big problems,” the official cautioned. “It isn’t clear the president is satisfied that so many issues run through his son-in-law’s office, but the arrangement persists because Jared is careful to always demonstrate loyalty to his wife’s father, even at the expense of his standing among other top officials.”

Dangerous turn: The official also describes Trump’s wavering on Iran, from expressing his eagerness to meet face-to-face with Iran’s leaders “anytime they want” — against the advice of the defense establishment — to initially ordering a muscular strike on Iran following the downing of a U.S drone last June, and then later reaching out for direct talks in the summer. “The president’s impetuousness poses a danger to our military, the full extent of which will not be known for years,” the official asserts. “He is more than a minor headache for the Pentagon. He is a blinding migraine.”

Bonus: In a debate over impeachment with conservative commentator Candace Owens at the Oxford Union last night, James Carville called President Trump “weak,” saying, “The Syrians don’t fear him. The North Koreans don’t fear him. The Israelis don’t fear him. The Russians don’t fear him. The Democrats don’t fear him. The suburbanites don’t fear him.”

CEASEFIRE WATCH — Uneasy quiet in Israel shaken by renewed rocket fire

The declared ceasefire between Israel and Gaza appeared in jeopardy early Friday morning, as rocket fire against Israel continued and the Israel Air Force carried out strikes of Islamic Jihad targets.

Quiet, disquiet: More than 24 hours after the ceasefire purportedly came into effect, rockets continued to target cities in Israel’s south. The IDF struck several targets in the Gaza Strip overnight, including rocket production facilities and senior commanders in Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Schools remained closed for a fourth day in cities including Ashkelon, Sderot and Netivot.   

Earlier, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) welcomed the ceasefire between Israel and Islamic Jihad, after remaining silent while Israel was targeted by close to 400 rockets in 48 hours. “We must work to end rocket attacks on Israel, eliminate the Gaza blockade, and solve the humanitarian crisis,” Warren wrote on Twitter. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) echoed Warren in a tweet, drawing a moral equivalence between Hamas’s terror acts and Israel’s blockade of the enclave, adding “The U.S. must lead the effort to end the crisis in Gaza.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), however, emphasized the importance of continuing U.S. military aid to Israel in a statement condemning the rocket attacks. “Our security aid to Israel ensured the damage wasn’t worse — that support must continue,” the 2020 hopeful stressed.

UK ELECTION WATCH — Jewish ex-Labour MP: Corbyn has ‘normalized antisemitism’

Former Labour MP Luciana Berger said during a campaign event on Thursday that she never thought she would have to quit her party because of her religion. “Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has changed everything,” Berger said during a speech on equality and human rights in Central London. “I went from being a Labour MP to being seen as a Jewish MP — one that was at the receiving end of storms of antisemitic insults and harassment… Jeremy Corbyn and his team have created a party machine which protects and normalizes antisemitic ideas and individuals.”

In it to win: Berger also pushed back against Tory claims that voting for her as a Liberal Democrat in her north London district would benefit Labour. “I stood in front of the country in February to announce I was leaving the Labour Party because I believed it to be institutionally antisemitic,” she told The Jewish Chronicle. “If I did not believe Jeremy Corbyn should not be in Number 10, I would not… put myself forward for something that might in any way deliver Jeremy Corbyn to Number 10.” Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid visited the Finchley and Golders Green neighborhood on Wednesday to campaign for Berger’s Conservative Party rival Mike Freer. 

Serving from outside: Another former Labour MP, Ian Austin, explained in an interview this week his decision not to contest his former seat in Dudley North. “I think there is a risk of Corbyn becoming PM. I stood down to try to make sure this doesn’t happen,” he told The Jewish Chronicle. Austin said he stepped down earlier this year to honor his father, who was a Holocaust survivor.  

Standing in solidarity: Twenty-four prominent actors, television presenters, authors and public figures — including Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and thriller writer John le Carre — denounced Corbyn and the Labour Party over antisemitism in a letter to The Guardian on Thursday. 

Troubling alliances: Meanwhile, it was revealed that Corbyn met with a representative of the Hamas-linked Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, during a 2011 trip to Lebanon. 

CAMPUS BEAT — Harvard students stage protest during Israeli diplomat’s lecture

A group of Harvard students and community members walked out of an event Wednesday night on campus hosted by Harvard Law School’s Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law featuring Israel’s Consul General in New York Dani Dayan.

Silent protest: More than 80 attendees stood up and walked out shortly after the beginning of the lecture, titled “The Legal Strategy of Israeli Settlements.” Rami Younis, the Religion, Conflict, and Peace Initiative Fellow at Harvard Divinity School’s Religious Literacy Project, signaled the group’s exit. The walkout was organized by Harvard Students for Bernie, which provided protestors with a set of “HLS protest guidelines” and instructed them to fill in the middle section of the room: “The idea is that once we’re gone, our presence is still visible.”

Student Max August, who attended the event, told JI’s Melissa Weiss: “I wish that at Harvard Law School — one of the preeminent forums for debate and discussion — people would decide to listen and engage, rather than blatantly offending the speaker by refusing to stay for even part of his speech,” August said. “It’s concerning and appalling that students at Harvard who represent a leading democratic presidential nominee, nonetheless a Jewish candidate, harbor such hatred towards the State of Israel… I’m deeply worried because while these people are students now, they will soon be leaders and elected officials around the world.”

Flashback: In 2016, a third-year Harvard Law School student asked visiting former Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, “How is it that you are so smelly?” Despite efforts by students and staff to conceal the student’s identity, it was later revealed that Husam El-Qoulaq, a leader of the HLS chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, had made the antisemitic remark.

Speaking up: George Washington University student Blake Flayton wrote an op-ed in The New York Times yesterday about his experiences on campus as a progressive, gay Zionist: “We often refrain from calling out anti-Semitism on our side for fear of our political bona fides being questioned or, worse, losing friends or being smeared as the things we most revile: racist, white supremacist, colonialist and so on. And that is exactly what happens when we do speak up.”

Looking for answers: The Department of Education is opening a full-scale investigation into allegations of antisemitism at New York University, Fox News reported. The complaint, made by an NYU student who has since graduated, focused largely on the Students for Justice in Palestine club, which was allegedly “creating an unsafe environment where students felt they were being threatened and targeted.” 


🤵Man of the Hour: Los Angeles Magazine’s Bryan Smith details how Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) is handling his confrontation with Trump and the Republicans — facing death threats and daily personal insults — while leading the impeachment hearings. At private events, Schiff mocks the president for his inability to come up with a nickname that sticks. [LAMag]

🎙️ Long Read:Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon is still adjusting to the spotlight that comes with his powerful role, but he has yet to give up his side gig as the DJ D-Sol. Fortune magazine takes a closer look at the man described as a “jarring force in the firm’s tirelessly collegial atmosphere.” [Fortune]

🏖️ Island Hopping: Where is the latest hotspot for New York political dealmaking? Puerto Rico, according to an article in The New York Times about “the tropical conclave where politicians and lobbyists go to make deals.” In addition to Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, a gathering earlier this month drew Met Council CEO David Greenfield, representatives of AIPAC and Dani Dayan, the consul general of Israel in New York. [NYTimes]


🏛️ Spotlight: Cadre, a real estate platform co-founded by Jared Kushner, was eagerly hoping for an investment from SoftBank. But, as Bloomberg reported, talks fizzled when SoftBank wanted Kushner to divest his ownership stake — and he refused. 

👴 👩 In Hindsight: A spokesman to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the potential presidential candidate’s controversial past statements about women “disrespectful and wrong.” The response came after NYTimes contacted Bloomberg’s office about previously reported crude comments.

📷 Behind the Camera:B&H, the biggest standalone photo and video equipment retailer in the U.S., has been accused of withholding $7 million in state sales taxes over the course of 13 years, according to a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday.

🖼️ Art History: Simon Schama reviews a new exhibit at the London Jewish Museum of works by German-Jewish painter Charlotte Salomon. Many of Salomon’s paintings show the rise of Nazi power in Germany. Born in Berlin, the Expressionist painter died in Auschwitz in 1943.

👎 Foggy Bottom: The State Department’s inspector general recommended on Thursday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “consider disciplining” Brian Hook, currently the special envoy for Iran, for his role in reassigning Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, an expert on Iran who was suspected of being disloyal to the Trump administration.

🗞️ Influencer: Joint List head Ayman Odeh was named to the Time magazine’s “100 Next” list of rising stars, for emerging as both “a possible kingmaker but also as a stirring new voice for equality and inclusion.”

📧 MillerGate: A second trove of emails from White House advisor Stephen Miller touting white nationalist groups was published by the Southern Poverty Law Center yesterday, as Democratic congressional leaders demanded he resign.   

👨‍⚖️ New Judge: The Senate voted 51-41 to confirm Steven Menashi to the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York after a heated confirmation period.  

💲No Conditions: Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker rejected Israeli criticism of the U.S. decision to continue sending aid to Lebanon without conditions. “We have confidence in the Lebanese army and we think they are important partners in the fight against Sunni jihadists,” he said during a visit to Jerusalem on Wednesday. “We listen to our ally Israel and we will take their request under consideration.”

🗣️ Crazy Conspiracies: Rep. Steve King (R-IA) falsely alleged on Thursday that Alexander Soros, the son of billionaire George Soros, is the government whistleblower on Ukraine. King later deleted the tweet. 

📺 More Conspiracies: The ADL and J Street spoke out yesterday after a lawyer on Fox’s Lou Dobbs Tonight claimed that George Soros controls “very large parts” of the State Department. 

⚖️ Fighting Hate: A lawsuit has been filed by a group of counter-protesters at the 2017 far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, against more than two dozen groups and individuals, accusing them of “engaging in a violent conspiracy.” 

🥚🥚 Talk of the town: A teenager is facing multiple hate crime charges for hurling eggs at Orthodox Jews and into a synagogue in Borough Park last Saturday night.

🔨 Never Again is Now: Danish police have arrested a prominent neo-Nazi activist suspected of vandalizing 84 Jewish tombstones in the city of Randers on the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht.

📀 Giving In: Netflix said yesterday it will edit its miniseries “The Devil Next Door,” about alleged Nazi guard John Demjanjuk, after complaints from the Polish government.

🕯️ Remembering: Branko Lustig, a Holocaust survivor who went on to win two best picture Oscars for “Schindler’s List” and “Gladiator,” passed away at the age of 87.

👨🏽‍🍳 Drowning in Hummus: JWeekly profiles 28-year-old Elliot Sharifi, a Persian Jew who is building up a hummus empire just years after founding his company Obour Foods in San Francisco. 


Bill Swersey/HIAS

HIAS honored Dr. Ruth Westheimer, songwriter and pianist Regina Spektor and the Jones Day international law firm at its awards dinner held at Manhattan’s Prince George Ballroom last night.

Spotted: HIAS President Mark Hetfield, Beth Heifetz, Anwar Kahn, President of Islamic Relief USA; Elisha Wiesel, actor Alysia Reiner, Ed Shapiro, Caryn-Seidman Becker, Manny Lindenbaum and Annabel Lindenbaum.


JI’s weekly wine columnist Yitz Applbaum reviews the 2013 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon Yonatan Vineyard:

“The Yarden Yonatan Vineyard is one of the great wineries in Israel, a real jewel. When enjoying wine from this vineyard, one can vividly imagine the physical depths of the vines, the tight clusters of grapes clinging together and the careful harvesting process.”

“The 2013 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon Yonatan Vineyard is deep. This wine is a flavor minefield — at any moment your mouth might explode with the taste of ripe blueberries or cranberries. This wine is aged for 18 months in French oak and has taken on many of the flavors of the oak. Endeavor to drink this wine with barbecued ribs, and sometime within the next ten years.”


Executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Matt Brooks turns 54 on Saturday…

Executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, Halie Soifer turns 41 on Sunday…

Read our birthday interview with Brooks and Soifer here

FRIDAY: Actor and former president of the Screen Actors Guild, Ed Asner (born Yitzhak Edward Asner) turns 90… Rosh Yeshiva of Ohr Etzion Yeshiva and a longtime member of the Knesset (1977-2003), Rabbi Haim Drukman turns 87… Author Daniel Pinkwater turns 78… Pianist and conductor, Daniel Barenboim turns 77… Stephen Wolff turns 74… Former chairman and CEO of Film and Music Entertainment, Lawrence (Larry) Lotman turns 72… NYC-based consultant for non-profits, Perry Davis turns 71… Immigration and nationality attorney in Southern California, Michael D. Ullman turns 70… Executive director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museums of Tolerance, Rabbi Meyer H. May turns 67… Executive producer of “Friends,” Kevin S. Bright turns 65…

Member of the Knesset and former mayor of Dimona, Meir Cohen turns 64… Senior project manager at Boeing, Michael A. Lewine turns 56… Former member of Knesset for the Likud party, Nava Boker turns 49… Founder and chairman of Perilune Capital and founder of Harspring Capital Management, Carey Robinson Wolchok turns 48, he’s celebrating by landing a plane in 48 states in 48 hours… Mortgage executive, Joshua Shein turns 47… As a 12-year-old baseball fan in Yankee Stadium, he interfered with a ball batted by Derek Jeter in the 1996 ALCS that was ruled to be a game-tying home run, Jeffrey Maier turns 36… White House reporter for the Associated PressZeke Miller turns 30… Acting national director at Mission: Readiness and Champions for America’s Future, Ben Goodman turns 30… Client strategies analyst at Targeted Victory, Alison Borowsky turns 25…

SATURDAY: Retired justice on the Supreme Court of Canada, Morris Fish turns 81… Roxanne White turns 71… CEO of direct marketer, A.B. Data, Ltd., chair of the Pincus Fund for Jewish Education, Bruce A. Arbit turns 65… Professional golfer who has played on the PGA Tour, he won two gold medals at the 1981 Maccabiah Games, Corey Pavin turns 60… Susan Brooks turns 56… Television and film writer and producer, Jeff Pinkner turns 55… SVP of national programs at Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, Rabbi Justus Baird turns 47… Deputy chief strategy officer at TIAA, Michael A. Levi turns 42… Stage, film and television actress, Margalit Ruth “Maggie” Gyllenhaal turns 42… After 15 seasons in the NBA, he became an owner and player for Hapoel Jerusalem and led the team to the Israeli League championship in 2017, two weeks ago he signed with the Fujian Sturgeons of the Chinese Basketball Association, Amar’e Stoudemire turns 37… Director of external relations at The Dershowitz Group, Allie Shisgal

SUNDAY: Biochemist and winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Medicine, Stanley Cohen turns 97… Rabbi of Agudath Israel of Baltimore and the Rabbinic Administrator of the Star K Kosher Supervision service, Rabbi Moshe Heinemann turns 82… Original creator and producer of “Saturday Night Live,” Lorne Michaels (born Lorne Lipowitz) turns 75… Detroit philanthropist and director of the William Davidson Foundation, Karen Davidson… Global editorial director of the Huffington Post Media Group, his bar mitzvah was at Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh, Howard Fineman turns 71…

Retired CEO of Feeding America, Diana Aviv turns 68… Warehouse logistics manager at Dohler North America, Daniel Gastaldi turns 62… Author and lecturer in the graduate journalism program at Stanford University, Gary M. Pomerantz turns 59… Attorney and business executive who once played on the South African national teams in both cricket and field hockey, Mandy Yachad turns 59… Former national security advisor to President Obama, Susan Rice turns 55… “The Travelling Rabbi” of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies who serves 13 sub-Saharan countries, Moshe Silberhaft turns 52…

Former Microsoft executive, she served as U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein (2014-2017), Suzan Gail Davidson (Suzi) LeVine turns 50… Managing editor and Washington bureau chief of Talking Points MemoDavid Kurtz turns 50… Editorial producer and guest booker for CNN’s “Van Jones Show” and “The Axe Files,” Michele Tasoff turns 50… Partner at Seven Letter, Ralph Posner turns 49… D.C. area-based social entrepreneur, Michael Ostrolenk turns 49… President of NBC News, Noah Oppenheim turns 41… Partner at AKPD Message and Media, Isaac Baker turns 40… Tel Aviv-based reporter for the Wall Street JournalFelicia Schwartz turns 28… Pinsker Centre founder Jonathan Hunter turns 26… Zack Teichman

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