Daily Kickoff

Inside the chaos at The Joint | Meet AOC’s challenger | Bibi indicted


Haim Zach/GPO

Good Friday morning!

In Israel, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced an indictment against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday. More below. 

On Capitol Hill, Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) are introducing a bipartisan House resolution condemning rocket attacks on Israel and reaffirming Israel’s right to defend itself. 

Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) has authored a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing “strong disagreement” with the U.S. announcement on settlements. The letter was signed by 106 House Democrats.

On Sunday in New Jersey, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman will keynote the annual Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries banquet.

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DISJOINTED — The chaos disrupting the Jewish organization with a $366m. annual budget

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee — popularly known as “The Joint” — is enormous by every measure: its $366 million annual budget, the 55,000 Jews it serves around the world each day, the more than 150 lay leaders who serve on its board and a donor list that includes some of the biggest names in Jewish philanthropy. Today, however, multiple sources within the historic agency tell Jewish Insider’s Debra Nussbaum Cohen that The Joint is in crisis mode as it struggles with issues of funding, turmoil among its board members and a change in executive leadership. 

Why it matters: As several significant funders have scaled back their gifts, a focus on new fundraising efforts has been disrupted by infighting and a power struggle among board members ahead of next month’s election of a new board president. 

Board battle: For the first time in The Joint’s 105-year history, a challenger is running against the board’s own nominee for the position of board president. Earlier this year, the board nominated Mark Sisisky, a JDC board member since 2009, to be its next board president. Sisisky’s bid has been challenged by Harvey Schulweis, a real estate investor and longtime board member who reportedly has the backing of several influential supporters and board members.

What’s next: The board will convene on December 9th and 10th to choose its next president, but in the meantime, several funders have frozen gifts until the question of the board’s next leader is resolved. “No one knows until after the election” if those donations will come through, said Susan Stern, one of six vice presidents on the JDC’s board. 

Who’s the boss? Adding to the disarray is the question of the organization’s next executive director. CEO David Schizer plans to return to Columbia Law School on January 1st, where he previously served as dean before moving to JDC. Asher Ostrin, currently The Joint’s senior executive for international affairs, will assume the position of acting CEO upon Schizer’s departure, and the search for a permanent replacement has been slow moving. 

Read the deep dive here.

MEET THE CANDIDATE — AOC’s primary challenger has visited Israel 7 times

New York City Councilman Fernando Cabrera, who is mounting a primary challenge against incumbent Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in New York’s 14th congressional district, sat down with JI’s Jacob Kornbluh to discuss his bid for Congress. 

Political bio: Cabrera previously failed in two consecutive attempts to oust incumbent New York State Senator J. Gustavo Rivera. In his last re-election bid for the city council, he received 55% of the vote against two primary challengers. Cabrera was a registered Republican until 2008. 

Neighborhood cred: Cabrera, currently the majority whip in the Democratic-controlled city council, also serves as a senior pastor at the New Life Outreach International church in the Bronx. In Cabrera’s view, the majority of voters in his district are moderate with centrist views. 

The challenge: Ocasio-Cortez stunned the political establishment in last cycle’s primary when she ousted ten-term Rep. Joe Crowley with 56% of the vote, virtually guaranteeing a general election victory in the heavily blue district. A Siena poll conducted in April had Ocasio-Cortez with a 65% favorability rating among Democrats in the district.

Unlikely odds: Ross Barkan, a New York-based journalist, explained to JI that the anti-AOC voters are “not enough to build a winning coalition” for a conservative Democrat to oust her. “In Democratic primaries, it’s very hard to run to someone’s right and try to win that way,” Barkan stressed. 

The caveat: The Democratic firebrand is fairly unpopular around the country. In the latest Quinnipiac poll, Ocasio-Cortez registered a negative 23-36% favorability rating, matching previous polls. “I am AOC’s biggest nightmare,” Cabrera declared confidently. “This is a national race. I believe this will be the second most-watched race in America after the presidential primary.”  

Motivations to run: In his interview with Jewish Insider, Cabrera cited Ocasio-Cortez’s “embrace of socialism in America” and her approach toward Israel as his motivation for running. The Middle East is not one of the core issues on the congresswoman’s agenda, but she has made comments critical of Israel in the past. Earlier this year, Ocasio-Cortez signed on as a sponsor to H.R. 496, a resolution supporting boycotts, which was introduced by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), a supporter of the BDS movement. “I am very concerned with the tone that she brings,” Cabrera explained. “Her agenda has been very anti-Israel and she’s not a friend of the Jewish community.”

Frequent traveler: Cabrera, who is affiliated with Christians United For Israel, said he’s been to Israel seven times over the last several decades. “I think I have been there all together close to 60 days,” he joyfully claimed, quipping that he’s visited the country “more than an average member of the Jewish community living in NYC.” The incumbent congresswoman, he pointed out, has never been to Israel and has “shut down every invitation to go to Israel.” 

Read the full profile here.

TOP TALKER — Netanyahu claims judicial ‘coup’ as AG announces bribery charges

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became the first sitting prime minister in Israel’s history to be charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Why it matters: The development brings Israel closer to a third round of elections — as Blue and White ruled out joining a government led by a prime minister under indictment — that could end Netanyahu’s 11-year consecutive rule. 

View from Balfour: Netanyahu delivered a fiery response to the indictment, accusing state prosecutors of an “attempted coup.” The embattled prime minister called for an inquiry into the investigation and vowed to “continue leading this country, in accordance with the law, with devotion and seeing to the future and security of all of us.” Watch his address here.

What’s next: It could take months until the charges are formally filed in court. If Netanyahu is still prime minister at that point, he would face trial in front of three judges in Jerusalem, which would grant him a better chance to fend off conviction than making his case to a single District Court judge. Netanyahu will likely request parliamentary immunity, a request that would be considered by the Knesset’s House Committee. The committee can only convene once a government is in place, either somehow in the next few weeks or following a third election in the spring, potentially delaying his trial. But seeking immunity could also jeopardize his next election campaign. In September, Netanyahu insisted that he was not seeking immunity from prosecution.  

Cabinet reshuffle? Current Israeli law allows a sitting prime minister to remain in power until a final court verdict. However, Netanyahu will have to relieve himself from the additional portfolios he holds, which include diaspora affairs; health; labor, social affairs and social services; and agriculture. In an interim government, the appointment of a new minister requires the cabinet’s approval. 

Bibi’s nightmare: Now that the task to form a government has shifted to the Knesset, legal experts argue that this could prevent President Reuven Rivlin from giving the mandate to form a government to a member of Knesset facing indictment. “Decisions about the political future of the prime minister in this new reality should not be left only to the legal system,” Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, posited. The Labor Party and other activists are expected to petition the Supreme Court to rule that Netanyahu must step down or accept a leave of absence. 

View from Third Avenue: The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a rare immediate statement, calling the charges “deeply disturbing” and emphasizing that “no one is above the law.” 

Warren weighs in: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) compared Israel’s leader to President Donald Trump, who is facing an impeachment inquiry. “Like his pal Donald Trump, [Netanyahu] will stop at nothing to enrich himself and stay in power. This blatant corruption has no place in any democracy.” She vowed in a tweet, “I’ll fight it at home and abroad.”

In Bibi’s defense: In an interview with Jewish Insider, renowned American lawyer Nathan Lewin expressed his disappointment at Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit for not dropping the bribery charge in Case 4000. Lewin, along with Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz and other attorneys, presented Mandelblit with a brief last month in defense of Netanyahu. Lewin suggested that the indictment “severely jeopardizes freedom of press and freedom of speech.”

HEARD IN NEW YORK — Actor Sacha Baron Cohen speaks at the annual ADL summit

Comedian and actor Sacha Baron Cohen received the ADL’s “International Leadership” award at its annual Never Is Now Summit at the Jacob Javits Center in New York yesterday. 

Funny business: “As a comedian, I’ve tried to use my characters to get people to let down their guard and reveal what they actually believe, including their own prejudice,” Baron Cohen said at the keynote address during the summit yesterday.

Blame game: The actor used his speech to place blame squarely on the shoulders of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and other internet giants, who “deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged — stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear.”

Watch Baron Cohen’s remarks here.

PROFILE — In Atlanta, Dems rally supporters at HBCUs

Black voters take center stage: Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) held post-debate events on Thursday designed to demonstrate their appeal to black voters, Jewish Insider’s Ben Jacobs reports from Atlanta.

Sanders gets personal: Speaking at an outdoor rally at Morehouse College and standing next to a statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Vermont senator invoked his past as a civil rights activists to a crowd that had a mix of college students and Sanders loyalists. Although Sanders has long been reticent to talk about himself on the campaign trail, he boasted about having gone to jail while protesting housing discrimination in Chicago in the 1960s. He also used the occasion to introduce his plan to provide additional funding for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as well as to make all HBCUs tuition-free. 

Warren gives a setpiece: The Massachusetts senator gave a rare formal speech inside a gymnasium at Clark Atlanta University. Warren used a successful strike by black washerwomen in 19th century Atlanta as a jumping-off point for a comprehensive speech about racism and discrimination faced by African-Americans and African-American women in particular. Although pro-charter school activists briefly disrupted her remarks, Warren received a warm reception for her argument that “the federal government helped create the racial divide in this country through decades of active, state-sponsored discrimination and that means the federal government has an obligation to fix it.”

Candidates court Al: Five Democratic hopefuls also appeared at a breakfast hosted by Reverend Al Sharpton’s organization National Action Network on Thursday. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) appeared along with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang.

ACROSS THE POND — Church of England Urges Christians to Repent for Antisemitism

On Thursday, the Church of England released a new teaching document that urged Christians to repent for past sins against their “Jewish neighbors.” The 121-page document, titled “God’s Unfailing Word: Theological and Practical Perspectives on Christian-Jewish Relations,” covers the “difficult” history of the Jewish-Anglican relationship.

Details: Reiterating the Anglican church’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, the document’s section on Israel defended the Jewish people’s right to self-determination and criticized applying a double-standard. “While fear of being labelled ‘antisemitic’ should not prevent genuine political discourse, it is the case that some of the approaches and language used by pro-Palestinian advocates are indeed reminiscent of what could be called traditional antisemitism,” the document warned.

Links: In the forward, Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote “Understanding the relationship between Christianity and Judaism is not an optional extra, but a vital component of Christian formation and discipleship.” Welby included praise for Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, whose afterward to the document offered misgivings about the tradition of Evangelism.

Reaction: In a statement to Jewish Insider, Mirvis called the document “a thoughtful new contribution to the ever deeper friendship between Christians and Jews, and its publication will be warmly welcomed by the Jewish community.” He added, “this document does not shy away from the pain of the past or indeed the present, is evidence of the great strength of our relationship and of the trust that increasingly exists between us.”


👴 OK Boomer: Amid his travels across the United States on a book tour, Tablet’s Liel Leibovitz believes he has discovered what ruined American Judaism: the baby boomer generation, who, “instead of giving their children the gift of being Jewish… put the onus entirely on their children.” [Tablet

📣 Faith and FreedomThe Washington Post’s Jenna Portnoy penned a feature on Rep. Elaine Luria’s first year in Congress, detailing how the congresswoman’s military career and her Jewish faith inspired her to speak out in defense of Israel and to support the impeachment inquiry. [WashPost]☕ Cup o’ Golda: Karen Chernick explores in Atlas Obscura how a coffee blend at a shop in Tel Aviv came to be named after the late Prime Minister Golda Meir, and how her signature “favorite brew was sipped by heads of state, decision makers, and foreign dignitaries.” [AtlasObscura]


🎙️ On the Hill: During an impeachment inquiry hearing on Thursday, former National Security Council official Fiona Hill suggested that George Soros conspiracy theories are “the new Protocols of The Elders of Zion.”

🇺🇸🇮🇱 Executive Meeting: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin met yesterday in Jerusalem with the governors of Rhode Island, New Mexico and Michigan, who are visiting Israel on a trade mission. [Pic]

⚾ Home Run: A digital publishing platform founded in Israel, Minute Media, has acquired Derek Jeter’s website The Players’ Tribune, created for athletes to tell their stories.

🚪🚶Pink Slip: WeWork is laying off 2,400 employees amid sweeping changes to its business following co-founder Adam Neumann’s resignation.

📖 Long Read: Vanity Fair‘s Gabe Sherman chronicles the rise and fall of WeWork’s Adam Neumann.

👩 Transition: Randi Zuckerberg, former spokeswoman for Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg’s sister, has joined investment fund Sababa Ventures as general partner. 

📉 Humble Stumble: Les Wexner’s L Brands announced on Thursday that it will cancel the Victoria’s Secret fashion show this year after falling ratings.

🔗 Chain Link: Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed several bundlers who are linked to Rudy Giuliani’s indicted associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. 

🖊️ Better Than That: Joseph Kristol and Stephen Petraeus, both U.S. combat veterans, criticized Trump’s recent decision to pardon two service members involved in war crimes cases, suggesting it will damage Americans’ perception of the military. 

🌍 Walk Back: Roger Hallam, co-founder of the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion, apologized yesterday for comments he made this week that the Holocaust was “an almost normal event.”  

🖼️ Childhood Memories: Visual artist Jojo Anavim showed off his personal art collection in Chelsea to The New York Times, which he says reflects the cultures that imbued his Persian-Jewish roots, growing up in a household to parents who fled Iran before the 1979 revolution. 

✡️ Unique Town: Haaretz reporter Jacob Judah documents his recent visit to the village of Qirmizi Qesebe in Azerbaijan, one of only two entirely Jewish towns outside of Israel. 

👩 Staying Silent: A feature by AFP shines a spotlight on an association working to aid abused women in Israel’s close-knit ultra-Orthodox communities. 

🎓 On Campus: Four students at Syracuse University were suspended this week in connection with a series of racist and antisemitic incidents on campus. 

📈 Worrisome Trend: One in four Europeans holds antisemitic views and 40% believe that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their own countries, according to a survey published yesterday by the Anti-Defamation League. 

🤯 Ballot Headache: Benjamin Mueller details in The New York Times how the debate in Britain’s Jewish community over the upcoming election “has already rattled rabbinical conventions, strained friendships and started a war of letters in the left-wing press, as many Jews wrestle with nerve-racking options,” having to choose the lesser of two evils.  

❤️ Hope: In a blogpost for the U.K.-based The Muslim Vibe, a Muslim journalism student living in London disucussed her experience working as a nanny for a Jewish family. As a child, Leyla Ridha, 23, was taught to treat Jewish people with suspicion. Her close relationship with the Grossman family brought an opportunity for inter-cultural exchange and a change of opinions.

👑 Royal Reality: As the third season of “The Crown” dives into the story of Princess Alice of Battenberg, the mother of Prince Philip, Esquirelooks at her full and colorful life, including sheltering Jewish refugees in Athens during the Holocaust and her eventual burial in Jerusalem. In 1994, Yad Vashem named Princess Alice “Righteous Among the Nations.”


JI’s wine columnist Yitz Applbaum reviews Tzora Vineyards Shoresh Red 2017:

“It’s difficult to find a place to calm your mind in the bustling city of Tel Aviv. I was recently blessed with one such spot: the backyard of the Alma boutique hotel on Yavne street, where one can get a phenomenal glass of Tzora Shoresh Red 2017 along with the quiet to enjoy a quality conversation.”

“The Shoresh Red is equally Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, and it has a pinch of Petite Verdot to wake up the palate. This wine is aged for 16 months in barrel. The flavors are of dark-roast coffee astringency, pear tartness and a toasty mid-palate.  This is a wonderful wine to drink with focaccia and cheese.” 


United States Senator from New York since 1998 and the Senate Minority Leader since 2017, Chuck Schumer turns 69 on Saturday…

FRIDAY: Majority owner of MLB’s New York Mets, he was a high school teammate of Sandy Koufax and went on to a successful career as a real estate developer, Fred Wilpon turns 83… Professor at NYU Law School, she served in the Carter and Clinton administrations and on the Obama transition team, she once taught Hebrew School in Pittsburgh, Sally Katzen turns 77… Novelist and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, Roger Lichtenberg Simon turns 76… Born to a Jewish family in Tunisia, he served as a member of the Canadian House of Commons (1997-2006), Jacques Saada turns 72… Former president of the Service Employees International Union, now a senior fellow at the Economic Security Project, Andy Stern turns 69…

Television personality, he was previously an advertising executive, Donny Deutsch turns 62… Silver Spring, Maryland resident, Marty Robinson turns 62… Ukrainian businessman, best known for being the chairman of Dynamo Kyiv (Kiev’s soccer team) since 2002, Ihor Surkis turns 61… SVP of development for Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, Tim R. Cohen… Senior editor and writer for The Daily Beast and columnist for the New York Daily NewsHarry Siegel turns 42… Actress Scarlett Johansson turns 35… Communications director for theSkimm, Jessica Sara (Turtletaub) Pepper turns 34… Actor who has appeared in films directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen, the Coen brothers and Warren Beatty, Alden Ehrenreich turns 30… Chief of staff of Israel’s Embassy in Washington, Yarden Golan...

SATURDAY: Grammy and Academy Award-winning composer and music arranger, Johnny Mandel turns 94… Investment banker and former Chairman of NYC-based Lazard Frères, Michel David-Weill turns 87… Mayor of Pasadena, California, Terry Tornek turns 74… U.S. District Court Judge in Massachusetts since being appointed in 1985 by President Reagan, Judge Mark L. Wolf turns 73… Board member of the Yitzhak Rabin Center and former member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, Andrea Lavin Solow turns 67…  President of Eastern Savings Bank in Hunt Valley, Maryland and a partner at Baltimore’s Abramoff Neuberger LLP, Yaakov S. Neuberger

Former United States Senator, Mary Landrieu turns 64… Psychiatrist, television personality and author, Keith Ablow turns 58… Israeli-born entrepreneur, Raanan Zilberman turns 59… Majority owner of the NFL’s Washington Redskins, Daniel Snyder turns 55… Born in Tehran, a neurosurgeon and professor at Indiana University School of Medicine, Aaron Cohen-Gadol turns 49… VP at Glen Echo Group, Amy Schatz turns 48… Partner at Blueprint Interactive for digital strategy, Geoff Mackler turns 44… VP of wealth management and financial advisor at UBS Financial Services in Baltimore, P. Justin “P.J.” Pearlstone turns 45… Spokane, Washington resident, Erin Ross turns 44… New England deputy regional director for J Street, Jasmine Gothelf Winship turns 32… Development and grant writer for Friends of Israel Disabled Veterans (Beit Halochem), Elise Fischer… Associate at The Richard L. Rosen Law Firm, Shmuel Winiarz… Toronto-based lyricist, author and playwright, Naomi Matlow

SUNDAY: VP of the Aspen Institute, a former member of Congress from Kansas, Secretary of Agriculture and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Dan Glickman turns 75… Chairman of Lyons Global Insurance Services, he is a senior advisor to the Ashcroft Group, Simcha G. Lyons turns 73… Professor emeritus of chemistry at Bar Ilan University, Aryeh Abraham Frimer turns 73… Actress Rachel Chagall turns 67… Los Angeles resident, Ron Alberts turns 64… Born to a Jewish family in Havana, Cuba, former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security and now a partner at WilmerHale, Alejandro N. Mayorkas turns 60… Philanthropist and former co-CEO of Westfield Corporation, Steven Lowy turns 57…

Political consultant and activist, Jeff Ballabon turns 57… Author and founder of Nashuva, a Los Angeles area Jewish outreach community, Rabbi Naomi Levy turns 57… Member of Knesset for the Labor-Gesher party, Merav Michaeli turns 53… President of Jigsaw and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Jared Cohen turns 38… Jewish Learning Fellowship (JLF) rabbi at the Austin campus of the University of Texas, Rabbi Moshe Trepp turns 38… Educator, author and analyst at the Georgia Public Service Commission, Benjamin Deitchman turns 37… 2019 recipient of a Master’s degree in environmental management at Duke University, Rachel Kriegsman… Michael Davis

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