Good Monday morning!
Yesterday, Michael Bloomberg threw his hat into the presidential election ring, announcing his bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination. More below.
In New York today, Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) and Denver Riggelman (R-VA) will speak at an AIPAC real estate luncheon.
Following a Columbia College Student Council vote Sunday night, Columbia University will hold a campus-wide referendum on divesting from Israel this spring. The anti-Israel ballot initiative, which in recent years failed to gain the requisite support for inclusion, cleared the council by a vote of 25-12. All eyes will be on Columbia over the next few months as pro- and anti-Israel campus activists lobby students ahead of the school’s upcoming election cycle. Casting a shadow over the referendum is last year’s passing of a BDS resolution at the Columbia-affiliated Barnard College.
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TOP TALKER — Bloomberg kicks off his presidential run
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg formally launched his presidential bid in a video announcement on Sunday. “I’m running for president to defeat Donald Trump and rebuild America,” Bloomberg said. “We cannot afford four more years of President Trump’s reckless and unethical actions.”
Blank check: Howard Wolfson, Bloomberg’s chief advisor, toldThe Associated Press on Saturday that the candidate would not accept any political donations and would work for just $1 a year if elected president. Wolfson said Bloomberg is willing to spend “whatever it takes to defeat Donald Trump.” The Bloomberg campaign has already spent at least $34 million on a single week of TV commercials, hitting airwaves today in more than two dozen — mostly Super Tuesday — states.
On board: Former Facebook exec Gary Briggs joined the Bloomberg campaign as digital director. Voxnotes that the staffing choice is significant: “[Bloomberg] is not afraid to tie himself to Silicon Valley and to some of its most controversial brands.”
Visuals matter: Bloomberg wore a purple tie in his launch video and his campaign slogan is half blue and half red, Politico’s Sally Goldenberg highlighted — “visual nods to what he hopes is his bipartisan appeal.”
MOTUS primary:New York Times reporter Alex Burns notes: “Mr. Bloomberg is also, with [Bernie] Sanders, one of two major candidates for the nomination who are Jewish, and either would be the first Jewish president if elected.”
SNL’s Jewish joke: NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” featured a skit of Bloomberg crashing last week’s presidential debate on MSNBC. “I’d love to see those Trump supporters come up with a conspiracy theory about a Jewish billionaire with his own media company,” the Bloomberg character, played by SNL alum Fred Armisen, joked, while sipping from an oversized 7-Eleven soda cup. “Good luck making that stick.”
WEVIDEOS — Jared Kushner enlisted Adam Neumann to help market Mideast peace
“Last summer, some WeWork executives were shocked to discover Neumann was working on Jared Kushner’s Mideast peace effort. According to two sources, Neumann assigned WeWork’s director of development, Roni Bahar, to hire an advertising firm to produce a slick video for Kushner that would showcase what an economically transformed West Bank and Gaza would look like. (Bahar told me he only advised on the video and no WeWork resources were used.) Kushner showed a version of the video during his speech at the White House’s peace conference in Bahrain last summer.”
Heard it here first: The production of promotional marketing videos for the White House’s peace plan was first reported in Jewish Insider last April:
“Trump has called Middle East peace ‘like a real estate deal.’ While the comparisons have often focused on the contents of a possible deal, there’s another real estate technique that, according to sources who’ve been briefed, Kushner is likely to deploy: marketing films.”
Bonus: According to Sherman, Neumann claimed to have convinced former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to run for president on the “WeWork Agenda.” Vanity Fair also reported that early WeWork investor Michael Eisenberg “rallied WeWork board members to dump Neumann” after things began to spiral.
BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Netanyahu begins battle to remain PM after indictment
A weakened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for both his political and legal survival after his indictment last week only further deepened Israel’s political gridlock.
Sharpening swords: Netanyahu’s longtime Likud rival Gideon Sa’ar is gearing up to challenge Netanyahu for the leadership of the party. Sa’ar said over the weekend that the time has come for a primary in the party, though Likud insiders indicated Netanyahu would do everything to block such a move.
Snap vote: “There isn’t a single person who thinks that after a third or fourth or fifth or sixth election, Netanyahu will succeed in forming a government,” Saar told Channel 12 News. “There is only one way that we can save the country, get it out of this crisis and maintain the rule of Likud, if today we go to a snap primary election.”
Deputy slot: Likud’s Nir Barkat, meanwhile, slammed Sa’ar, and called for a leadership primary with a different purpose: to elect a deputy to Netanyahu who will lead if the prime minister is forced out.
Court battles: The Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel filed a petition to Israel’s High Court to try and force Netanyahu to resign as prime minister. But the court dismissed the filing, saying the NGO had to first try other avenues, including appealing to the attorney general. The Labor Party has also vowed to bring the issue to the courts, and Blue and White wrote to both Netanyahu and the attorney general demanding he resign from the other ministries he holds.
Business as usual: Despite the upheaval, Netanyahu visited Israel’s northern border along with Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday and vowed to continue strikes on Iranian targets to prevent them from establishing a presence in the region. “We are taking all the necessary steps to prevent Iran from establishing itself here in the area,” the prime minister told reporters. “That includes the necessary activity to prevent the delivery of lethal weapons from Iran to Syria, whether by air or over land.”
Monitoring Iran’s activities: Netanyahu repeated comments made by CENTCOM commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie on Saturday “that it is very possible” that Iran is planning another attack in the Gulf region. “I can confirm that and I can also confirm to you that we are continuing our plans to thwart this aggression by various means,” he said.
State visit: U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley met on Sunday morning with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and other senior defense officials during a short visit to Israel. The trip follows recent visits by McKenzie, head of the U.S. Air Force Gen. David Goldfein and USAFE Commander Gen. Jeffery Harrigian.
Heard the other day: Jordanian King Abdullah II said during an appearance at The Washington Institute’s gala in New York on Thursday that the Jordanian-Israeli relationship is at “an all-time low” to some extent “because of Israeli domestic issues.” He added, “We are hoping that Israel would decide its future, whether it is in the next several weeks or in the next three months, and then it is very important for all of us, and I am saying, our friends here in the United States, to refocus our energies on bringing all of us back to the table, and looking at the glass half-full.”
SCENE LAST NIGHT — David Friedman addresses Chabad convention
More than 5,800 Chabad shluchim (emissaries) from all 50 states and over 100 countries gathered on Sunday. JI’s Jacob Kornbluh reports from Edison, New Jersey:
Long friendship: U.S. Ambassador David Friedman delivered the keynote address at an evening banquet, recalling his first interaction with Chabad back in 1994 when a Chabad House opened in a little storefront in Woodmere, New York. The rabbi, Zalman Wolowik, led the invocation at the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem last year. The ambassador was welcomed with cheers and a standing ovation at last night’s conference, and his mention of the embassy’s relocation brought the crowd to its feet with rousing applause.
Challenging position: In his remarks, Friedman noted that he’d been preparing for his role as America’s representative to Israel his “entire life.” Friedman cited his Senate confirmation hearing in 2017. “You may recall not all senators were in favor of my nomination,” he said. “Some accused me of not having any prior international diplomatic experience — they were right. Others pointed out that I never before worked for the U.S. government — they were also right. So many doubted that my life experience was sufficient to enter this highly challenging position. But I for one never had a doubt. To my thinking, I had been preparing for this job my entire life.”
🛫 Safe Haven:BuzzFeed has published an excerpt of an upcoming book, From Russia with Blood: The Kremlin’s Ruthless Assassination Program and Vladimir Putin’s Secret War on the West, which takes an inside look at Russian assassination attempts and how exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky fled to Israel, hiding out in Eilat, while Putin’s alleged hit man traveled to London to assassinate him. [BuzzFeed]
🌐 Global Entry: Mark Leibovich details in The New York Times the path donors take during a presidential race to become major players and show off their close relationships with the president. Sometimes, their investment lands them a much-wanted ambassadorship. But with Trump, as highlighted in Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony last week, the shine wears off. [NYTimes]
🇮🇱 Democracy in Decline: In the New Yorker, political economist Bernard Avishai explores the effects of Netanyahu’s indictment and subsequent defiance on the future of democracy in Israel. Avishai specifically compares the indictment to the American impeachment proceedings, but warns that Israel’s democratic institutions are weaker than those in the United States. [NewYorker]
AROUND THE WEB
👨 Spotlight: WeWork has appointed well-known ad man Maurice Lévy as interim chief marketing officer to repair the company’s brand after its recent fall from grace. Meanwhile, SoftBank Group Corp will launch this week a previously planned offer for as much as $3 billion of WeWork shares to its founders, investors and employees.
🥤Pumping up: PepsiCo, which acquired Israeli company SodaStream last year, is planning the expansion of SodaStream’s plant in the Idan Hanegev Industrial Park in southern Israel to the tune of NIS 320 million.
🕶️ In the Shade: Israeli eyewear brand Carolina Lemke is reevaluating its two-year contract with Kim Kardashian after the model’s line of sunglasses flopped.
🇺🇦 Cartel Crew: Andrew Favorov, the head of natural gas for the Ukrainian state-run gas company Naftogaz, told the Wall Street Journal that Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman tried to recruit him for a proposed takeover, telling him a “Soros cartel” in the country was working against Trump.
💪 Tough As It Gets: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was released from the hospital on Sunday after experiencing “chills and fever” Friday night.
📺 Soon Streaming: First Look Media’s streaming service Topic has struck a deal with Keshet International to feature some of its popular titles, including Israeli shows “Autonomies,” “Commandments” (Kipat Barzel) and “Stockholm.”
⚽ Sports Blink: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is “absolutely not” considering selling his soccer club and is still intensely involved, despite being snubbed for a visa by the U.K. and instead gaining Israeli citizenship, the club’s chairman, Bruce Buck, tellsThe Guardian.
🎶 I Knew You Were Trouble: Taylor Swift has publicly drawn private equity firm Carlyle Group into her ongoing fight with music manager Scooter Braun. Carlyle, which serves as a major investor in Braun’s company, has urged both sides to seek a resolution to the battle over Swift’s song rights.
🎩 Owning the Haters: Abdallah Chatila, a Lebanese-born Swiss businessman, bought a top hat at auction once owned by Adolf Hitler for $55,300 and donated it to the Israeli nonprofit Keren Hayesod so that it doesn’t reach the hands of neo-Nazis.
🕍 Talk of the Nation: Richard Holzer, an avowed white supremacist being held without bail for plotting to bomb a Colorado synagogue this month, has been indicted on additional charges of attempted arson and using explosives to commit a felony on top of an earlier count of attempting to obstruct religious services by force, federal prosecutors said on Friday.
🚇 Hate on the Tube: British police have arrested a man who was filmed harassing a Jewish family on the London Underground with antisemitic statements. A Muslim woman — Asma Shuweikh — with a hijab is being hailed as a hero after the video showed her sticking up for the Jewish family. In a statement, the family’s father has asked to meet Shuweikh.
🇬🇧 U.K. Election Watch:Jeremy Corbyn’s wife, Laura Alvarez, is facing criticism from local Jewish activists for actively campaigning for the Labour candidate in Finchley and Golders Green. The move could hurt Luciana Berger, the ex-Labour MP and current Liberal Democrat candidate, and help Tory candidate Mike Freer, they claim. On Friday evening, Jeremy Corbyn faced tough questioning on his party’s response to antisemitism, racism, and misogyny from the audience at BBC’s Question Time program.
🍷 Shabbat Dinner: Alex Rodriguez posted a photo on Twitter with his fiancee Jennifer Lopez out on a dinner date Friday night with the caption “Shabbat Shalom.”
🤵 👰 Mazel Tov: Jonathan Bronitsky, chief speechwriter to Attorney General William Barr, and Paige Esterkin, senior advisor for policy development and research at the HUD Department, were married on Saturday at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida. The couple met on JSwipe.
🔥 Down in Flames: A large fire early Friday morning in Cedarhurst on Long Island destroyed an entire strip of kosher eateries, including the newly opened Mike’s Burgers, Josh’s Pizza, and a frozen yogurt shop.
🧯 History Destroyed: A 90-year-old synagogue no longer in use was destroyed by an early Sunday morning fire in Breckenridge, Texas.
🥪 Next Gen: Oliver and Sasha Zabar, the third generation to the Zabar empire, are carving out their own food dynasty with a cocktail bar on the Lower East Side called Devon and Broome Street Bakery next door.
👩 Transition: The Museum of Jewish Heritage hired Elyse Buxbaum as their new executive VP for strategy and development. Buxbaum previously worked at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City.
🕯️ Remembering: Rabbi Henry Sobel, a leading human rights activist during Brazil’s military dictatorship, passed away at the age of 75 in Miami on Friday.
GIF OF THE DAY
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) hit the dance floor at a Labor Solidarity Dinner in Manchester, New Hampshire on Saturday.
Israeli fashion and wedding dress designer, her reality show airs in over 145 countries worldwide, Pnina Tornai turns 57…
Award-winning playwright and screenwriter, Murray Schisgal turns 93… Writer, lawyer, actor, including an Emmy Award-winning stint as a game show host, Ben Stein turns 75… Obstetrician and gynecologist, and the immediate past president of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, Norman Ravski, MD turns 66… Beverly Hills commercial real estate investor, Albert Ahobim turns 66… Retired men’s college basketball coach with 615 career wins, Ben Braun turns 66… Director of the Chabad House in Johannesburg, Rabbi David Masinter turns 60… Senior research scientist at ExxonMobil since 1990 and editor of Rav J.B. Soloveitchik’s commentary to the High Holiday prayers, Arnold Lustiger turns 66… Editor-in-chief at the Israel Hayom newspaper, he was previously Israel’s ambassador to Mauritania (2004-2008), Boaz Bismuth turns 55…
U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism, Elan Carr turns 52… Founder and former managing director at Beacon Global Strategies LLC, he was the deputy assistant Secretary of State for strategic communications under Hillary Clinton, Philippe Reines turns 50… Attorney and former member of the Florida House of Representatives (2003-2011), Adam Hasner turns 50… Public relations and communications manager for the Union for Reform Judaism, Lauren Sueskind Theodore turns 49… Deputy administrator in the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor, Keith Sonderling turns 37… Managing editor at Jewish Insider, Melissa Weiss turns 33… Reporter at The Appeal, Kira Lerner turns 31… Bitcoin advocate and podcast host, Charles “Charlie” Shrem IV turns 30…