Daily Kickoff

Happy Thanksgiving! 🦃 | The social entrepreneur behind Miracle Messages | Pogrebin joins Bloomberg 2020

Courtesy Jessica Donig

Good Wednesday morning!

Ed note: Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving! We’ll be back on Monday. In the meantime, good advice from New York Times columnist David Leonhardt about replicating the Tech Shabbat method on Thursday. 

On Capitol Hill, the spotlight in the impeachment inquiry is shifting from Adam Schiff to Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who is set to lead the next phase of public hearings next week. Behind the scenes, litigator Barry Berke and former Ambassador Norm Eisen will be at the center of the case. 

In London, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will meet with British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis — now at the center of the U.K election campaign over his warning about Jeremy Corbyn — during a working visit to England. 

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DRAWING PARALLELS —Trump pollster: Democrats behind efforts to oust Netanyahu

Republican pollster John McLaughlin suggested on Sunday that Democrats are behind the effort to topple Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pointing to the work of Joel Benenson, a prominent Democratic pollster who is on the payroll of Netanyahu’s main political rival, Benny Gantz. McLaughlin has served as Netanyahu’s campaign pollster since 2005 and also works for President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign. 

In an interview with John Catsimatidis on the “Cats Roundtable” Sunday morning radio program, McLaughlin compared the Likud leader’s legal and political battles to the ongoing effort in the House of Representatives to impeach President Donald Trump: 

John Catsimatidis: I am now putting two and two together. The people [who are] after Netanyahu, are they the same people or same gang that is after President Trump in Washington?

John McLaughlin: “I would venture that because our main opponent in Israel right now, a fellow named Benny Gantz who runs the Blue and White Party — his campaign was just run by Joel Benenson, and Joel Benenson is one of the smartest left-of-center strategists in the country because he was Obama’s pollster for both his elections and he worked for Hillary Clinton. And just like I am over there advising Prime Minister Netanyahu, he’s advising our main opponent. So, you know, in 2015, [the Obama administration] didn’t want Bibi to wreck things with their deal they were going to have with Iran, so they were trying to beat him, and now they want Trump and Bibi out of the way.”

Listen to the full interview here

The one caveat: New York Times columnist Tom Friedman pointed to “one big difference” between Netanyahu and Trump — the reaction from members of their respective parties — during a panel on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” on Sunday morning: 

“There’s one big difference between Israel and America now, Fareed. And that’s that you see now in the Likud demands for a primary… to run against Netanyahu. You see Likud ministers not defending [Netanyahu]. It turns out Likud ministers, at least a few of them, seem to have a little more spine, self-respect, and integrity than the entire Republican caucus, you know, in the House and the Senate where, other than one exception, basically are not ready to challenge Trump. So that may be a diversion in Israel, but that itself might be a warning sign to Trump as well.” 

Pro-Bibi rally: A few thousand Netanyahu supporters showed up to a rally in Tel Aviv last night, with protesters slamming the legal charges against the prime minister as a “coup” and painting state prosecutors as traitors. In a sign of trouble for Netanyahu, most Likud ministers skipped the event. As the rally was being held, two rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza, and the IDF later struck Hamas targets in response.  

INTERVIEW — Washington Institute’s Rob Satloff on honoring King Abdullah II 

In an interview with JI’s Jacob Kornbluh on Tuesday, Rob Satloff, executive director of The Washington Institute, offered his analysis on Jordanian King Abdullah’s remarks last week at the think tank’s gala, where he said that the Jordanian-Israeli relationship is at “an all-time low.”

All about the tone: “In my view, the most interesting part of that exchange was that the king underscored this was a bilateral issue,” Satloff pointed out. “He didn’t make the more conventional and expected argument that the relationship suffers because of the general downturn in the peace process and how dormant progress is on the Palestinian issue. No, he made a very specific argument that Israel, in his view, is really indifferent to Jordanian opinion, and Jordanian interests have brought about this drastic downturn in the bilateral relationship. I think that underscores the seriousness of this, that it isn’t just an atmospheric issue… It won’t just go away with a breath of fresh air in terms of the Palestinian issue. It won’t just disappear without a concerted and direct Israeli-Jordanian effort to address their bilateral agenda.” 

Warning sign: Satloff also suggested that Abdullah’s mention of Israel’s political crisis shows that there is concern that the relationship is “being exacerbated by this lengthy distraction of Israeli domestic politics.” 

Pointed criticism: Arnold and Frimet Roth, the parents of U.S.-born Malki Roth — who was killed in the 2001 terror attack at the Sbarro’s pizzeria in Jerusalem — penned an op-ed criticizing The Washington Institute’s decision to honor the Hashemite ruler. The Roths argued that the Jordanian king shouldn’t be feted while he refuses to extradite Ahlam Tamimi — a Jordanian national convicted for her role in the Sbarro bombing and freed in the Gilad Shalit deal — to face U.S. federal charges. 

Satloff’s response: “I am very proud of hosting the King of Jordan, who has steadfastly remained committed to the Jordan-Israel peace treaty throughout the 20 years on the throne and has been an important partner with the U.S. on a broad range of security and strategic matters throughout the Middle East. I have great sympathy for the issue that [the Roths] raised and believe it deserves high-level engagement by the appropriate American authorities with the appropriate Jordanian authorities. It is one important item on a lengthy agenda of bilateral relations.” 

U.K. ELECTION WATCH — Corbyn refuses to apologize to Jewish community

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn turned down four separate opportunities to offer an apology to the Jewish community for his party’s failure to address antisemitism during a BBC interview last night.

Deflecting: BBC’s Andrew Neil grilled Corbyn on the issue, referencing this week’s bombshell op-ed from Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis warning against electing Corbyn as prime minister. “I’m looking forward to having a discussion with him because I want to hear why he would say such a thing,” Corbyn said, before deflecting by bringing up far-right antisemitism.

Not sorry: Neil told Corbyn that “80% of Jews think that you’re antisemitic. That’s quite a lot of British Jews. I mean wouldn’t you like to take this opportunity tonight to apologize to the British Jewish community for what’s happened?” Corbyn once again deflected, and Neil asked three more times before moving on without any apology. 

Bad Timing: The interview occurred the same day as Labour released its manifesto on race relations. In a statement, Gideon Falter, chief executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism, criticized the manifesto for making “a sinister call for reforming the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the very body that is investigating the Labour Party over antisemitic racism following a complaint by Campaign Against Antisemitism.”

How it played: Most of the U.K.’s major papers splashed Corbyn’s refusal to apologize to the Jewish community across their front pages this morning, while Tom Peck wrote in The Independent that “Jeremy Corbyn’s interview with Andrew Neil was so bad it redefined the genre.” In a tweet, Board of Deputies of British Jews called Corbyn’s interview “Shameful.”

Top talker: In a since-deleted post, The Washington Post tweeted that “The Labour Party has been hit by claims of anti-Seminism [sic] because of strong statements on Palestinian rights.” The tweet was immediately slammed for wildly misrepresenting the situation, and for contradicting the Washington Post article linked to in the tweet. The ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt called the original tweet “categorically false,” and called on the newspaper to “Do better.” The Post later admitted that the original tweet “was not accurate and incorrectly summarized Post reporting.”

Bonus: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering halting intelligence sharing with the U.K. should Corbyn become prime minister. 

PROFILE — Jessica Donig uses the power of compassion to reunite families

Jessica Donig works every day to bring families back together. The 34-year-old director of the San Francisco-based Miracle Messages spoke with Matt Villano for Jewish Insider about her work reconnecting homeless individuals with their estranged loved ones through video messages and online detective work. 

Life’s work: Donig first joined the organization — founded by Kevin Adler in 2014 — as a volunteer in early 2017. She had just moved to San Francisco’s Mission District from Oakland, and noticed a row of tents behind her building. Shortly after, she spotted a post online about Miracle Messages and thought it sounded interesting, seeing it as a way to get involved. Since its founding, the organization has recorded more than 1,000 messages from homeless individuals, resulting in more than 250 reconnections and about 40 permanent housing situations.

Spiritual drive: “In many ways Miracle Messages is perpetuating a modern-day form of tzedakah, an obligation to give to those in need,” Donig said. “Being part of a defined people is about being connected to each other… I want the Jewish community to take responsibility for how people treat each other on the streets. It’s so important to be good to each other and to see each other.”

Living in hope: Donig estimates that 10-15% of family members decline the opportunity to reconnect with Miracle Messages clients and request privacy. Still, she said, those statistics offer a pretty reliable outlook of hope. “When you get ‘No’ 10% of the time and 90% of the time you get people saying, ‘This is a gift from God,’ it buoys your spirits,” she said. “If I was in isolation doing this, I would have quit a long time ago because it feels horrible when you strike out. Thankfully, I work with people who remind me that we’re working with the hardest-to-reach population out there, and any successes are successes worth celebrating.”

Read the full story here.


☝️ The Adult Behind the Door: In Politico Magazine, Ryan Lizza outlines former President Barack Obama’s role in the 2020 primary, serving as an unsolicited advisor to most of the candidates and waiting in the wings to unite the party behind the presumptive nominee. The story also details how Obama was blocked from joining the Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Maryland over his Israel policies. [PoliticoMag]

📳 Man of the Decade: BuzzFeed’s Matt Berman explains why former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) has personified the dramatic change in U.S. history over the past decade — from his scandalous tweet through his failed mayoral campaign — which was followed by the rise of far-right media and the election of Donald Trump. [BuzzFeed]

🥯 War on Bagels: The New York Times features two rival bagel companies in Montreal, Fairmount Bagel and St-Viateur Bagel, who are locking arms in a united front against environmentalists pursuing an effort to abolish the pollutant-producing ovens where the bagels are made. [NYTimes]


📺 Spotlight: Danna Stern, managing director of Israel’s Yes Studios, spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about turning “hyper-local” Israeli shows like “Fauda” and “On the Spectrum” into international hits. 

😂 Yiddish Humor: In an interview with the Jewish Week, comedian Seth Rogen discussed his role in “American Pickle,” a new movie in which he plays Herschel Greenbaum, a Yiddish-speaking immigrant at the turn of the 20th century who falls into a pickle barrel.

👩 2020 Hire: Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign is bringing on writer Abigail Pogrebin to serve as the campaign’s director of Jewish outreach. 

👨‍💼 Latest Trump Whisperer: Mark Penn, one of President Bill Clinton’s top strategists, is advising Trump amid his impeachment battle, The Washington Post reported on Monday. 

👋 Troublesome Ties: Activist firm Blackwells Capital is seeking to remove Tom Barrack from his role as CEO of Colony Capital due to his close ties to Trump. 

🏫 Talk of the Town: There’s tension between the Orthodox and Conservative Jewish communities in Flatbush over a plan to rent a former Jewish day school building to a charter school devoted to educating at-risk kids. 

🌍 Never Again Is Now: A new survey from the Anti-Defamation League has found that antisemitic attitudes in central and eastern Europe have risen significantly since 2015, The Washington Post reports. 

🥣 Double Life: NBC News has discovered that a prominent neo-Nazi and white supremacist is living in government housing and eating at a city-run soup kitchen in Denver.


President Trump issued a “full and complete pardon” to a turkey named Butter in an annual tradition in the White House Rose Garden yesterday.


Congressman (D-NY-11) from Staten Island since January 2019, he served in the U.S. Army (2008-2013) and was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, Max Rose turns 33 on Thursday…

WEDNESDAY: Attorney and investor, Brian J. Strum turns 80… Founding partner of TPG Capital, David Bonderman turns 77… Principal at ESL Catalyst, Lawrence Greenberg turns 71… Director-at-large of the JCC Association of North America, Joyce Goldstein turns 70… Former collegiate (Harvard) and professional (Maccabi Tel Aviv) basketball player, he then practiced corporate law at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan in NYC, Louis Grant Silver turns 66… Founder and CEO of Starwood Capital Group, Barry Stuart Sternlicht turns 59… CEO of website Time4Coffee, she was previously VP of Global Engagement at Mercy Corps (2011-2017) and a television journalist like her father, Ted Koppel, Andrea Koppel turns 56… Mayor of Englewood, New Jersey (2004-2010 and re-elected in 2018), he is an immigration attorney for several celebrities, Michael Jay Wildes turns 55…

1996 graduate of the University of Maryland Dental School, he worked for the U.S. Navy for three years and now practices in Stevenson, Maryland, Joshua P. Weintraub, DDS turns 50… Co-host of seasons two through nine of Dancing with the Stars and then a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight, Samantha Harris (born Samantha Harris Shapiro) turns 46… Former NFL player who appeared in 147 games over ten seasons for the 49ers, Lions and Cowboys (2002-2011), Kyle Kosier turns 41… Israeli model, she represented Israel in the 2005 Miss Universe pageant, Elena Ralph turns 36… Executive director for the Alliance for Middle East Peace, he is a contributor at Ha’aretz and The Jerusalem Post, Joel Braunold… DJ Levy

THURSDAY: Former Homeland Security Secretary (2005-2009), he is senior of counsel at Covington & Burling, Michael Chertoff turns 66… Former CFO of Citigroup and then president of the Global Wealth & Investment Management division of Bank of America, now CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, Sallie Krawcheck turns 55… 

FRIDAY: Consul General of Israel in New York since August 2016, Dani Dayan turns 64… Former Mayor of Chicago, member of Congress and White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel turns 60…

SATURDAY: Douglas Jemal turns 77… Former U.S. Treasury Secretary (1999-2001) and then President of Harvard University (2001-2006), Larry Summers turns 65…  CEO designate of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, William Daroff turns 51…

SUNDAY: CEO at Oracle Corporation, Safra A. Catz turns 58… Foreign editor of Vox and the author of a book on military suicides, Yochi J. Dreazen turns 43…

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