Daily Kickoff

Meet the shul president running for Nita Lowey’s seat | Interview with the NBA’s Enes Kanter | Ramah reunion

John Raoux/AP

Boston Celtics' Enes Kanter (11) looks to pass the ball Orlando Magic's Mo Bamba during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in Orlando, Fla.

Good Tuesday morning!

Tonight, President Donald Trump is holding a campaign rally in Sunrise, Florida.

In Israel, a rally is slated for this evening in Tel Aviv in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a day after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ruled that the prime minister does not have to step down following his indictment last week. Netanyahu invested efforts to bolster the crowd, but his Likud party is concerned only a small number of people will come out. 

The IDF is on high alert today after Palestinians declared a “day of rage” in the West Bank following the U.S. decision last week to reverse its longstanding policy on settlements.

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MEET THE CANDIDATE — From Synagogue to Congress: Allison Fine is running to replace Nita Lowey

Allison Fine, one of seven Democrats running to succeed longtime Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), discussed her candidacy in an interview with JI’s Jacob Kornbluh.

Bio: Fine is the past president of Temple Beth Abraham in Tarrytown, N.Y., a former chairwoman of the national board of NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, and a member of the advisory board of the Westchester branch of UJA-Federation of New York.

Female power: “This is not a business-as-usual moment in our country’s history,” Fine explained. “In every government that has more women at the table, they generally have fewer extreme partisan splits and they get more stuff done for people and for their families. I bring a really deep knowledge of technology and community service, and I bring both a passion for and a deep knowledge of women’s equality. This is a woman’s seat and I think it should stay a woman’s seat.” Fine said she didn’t plan to run for Congress, but — citing women’s equality and economics as key issues in the race — told Jewish Insider, “This moment and time is too important to be sitting on the sidelines.”

Big shoes to fill: Fine said that she “can’t replace” Lowey. “But I do want to build on her legacy, in particular on her strong support for Israel, on her deep desire to want to reduce hate in all of its forms, and to support women’s equality and women’s health.” 

From shul to the halls of Congress: Fine pointed to her past role as president of her synagogue as something that may have prepared her to walk the halls of Congress and deal with partisan politics. “I think anybody who can do a good job as president of a synagogue is well-qualified to go to Congress,” she said. “People are really passionate about their congregations and they’re very vocal. It’s not an easy job at all.” 

Of note: Fine wouldn’t be the first synagogue president to enter Congress.

Breaking barriers: Fine suggested that her ability to adapt to meet the demands of a changing environment has prepared her for Washington, noting that during her tenure as synagogue president, “We were the first synagogue to move from dues to a donation model — the idea of remaking communities without the barriers that came last century, in terms of what it meant to be a member in our community. We tried very hard to take down the walls of our synagogue to make sure everyone felt that they were a full member of the community regardless of their financial means, and made it a much more inviting place.”

Read the full interview here.

ON THE TRAIL — Bloomberg launches his campaign in a diner

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched his presidential campaign with a cup of decaf coffee at the D’Egg Diner in Norfolk, Virginia on Monday, followed by a brief press conference.

Setting records: Bloomberg set a record for the largest single-week television buy in American political history this week by spending $34 million of his own fortune on commercials across the country. The former mayor could keep up that pace for the next calendar year without making a significant dent in his more than $50 billion fortune. In his first week alone, Bloomberg will have outspent most of his rivals for the Democratic nomination who have been running all year.

“Arrogance of billionaires”: At a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said Bloomberg’s presidential campaign displayed the “arrogance of billionaires,” while in Iowa Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) flatly accused Bloomberg of trying to “buy the nomination.” “Michael Bloomberg is making a bet about democracy in 2020,” she said. “He doesn’t need people, he only needs bags and bags of money. I think Michael Bloomberg is wrong and that’s what we need to prove in this election.”

Can he win? Democratic strategists are skeptical about Bloomberg’s chances, with one describing him to JI’s Ben Jacobs as “both underrated and overrated.”

What they are saying: The former New York City mayor is planning on skipping the first four primary states (he is not even on the ballot in New Hampshire) and polling shows weak favorability with Democratic primary voters. In addition, Bloomberg has alienated key constituencies in the party with his support for stop-and-frisk policing in New York and his vocal support for George W. Bush’s 2004 presidential campaign. However, Bloomberg has long been one of the biggest progressive donors in the country and a vocal champion on issues like climate change and gun control. That track record helps him build a coalition and provide a strong raison d’etre for running. His deep pockets help with everything else.

SPORTS BLINK — The Goldstein Standard: Interview with NBA player, activist Enes Kanter

Enes Kanter, the Boston Celtics’ Turkish center who is a critic of the Erdogan regime, spoke with Alex Goldstein for Jewish Insider to discuss his political activism, his busy schedule and his love of hummus.

Erdogan enmity: “When you consider what’s going on in Turkey, the sheer immensity of human rights violations, I just don’t know how I couldn’t be an advocate. Especially when you have such a platform that I have,” Kanter said. “As I started speaking out, the Turkish government came down on me harder. They increase the pressure every day, trying to cow me into submission. It only increases my resolve to speak even louder.”

About that White House visit: “Trump should know that pressing Erdogan to stop cracking down on the opposition is in the best interest of the U.S. and makes Turkey a more reliable ally. And this is exactly what I would expect Trump to say to his Turkish counterpart.”

On the Hill: “I met with dozens of U.S. lawmakers this month alone and all of them extended their support. They have been very generous in [hearing] me out… and we exchanged views on how to make a difference to improve the rights situation in Turkey.”

Nosh time: “My favorite restaurant in NYC is a kosher one. They have the best hummus. I always tried to keep it kosher. It’s very similar to Halal food. So I always look for the [kosher] symbols.”

Read the full interview here.

U.K ELECTION WATCH — Chief Rabbi Mirvis warns of a Corbyn victory

On Tuesday, British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis took the unprecedented step of warning U.K. voters against electing a government led by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “The very soul of our nation is at stake,” he declared in an op-ed in The Times

Anxious nation: Mirvis addressed what he described as “anxiety” among British Jews about their safety if Labour forms the next government following the December 12 elections: 

“Convention dictates that the Chief Rabbi stays well away from party politics — and rightly so. However, challenging racism is not a matter of politics, it goes well beyond that… A new poison — sanctioned from the top — has taken root in the Labour Party. Many members of the Jewish community can hardly believe that this is the same party that they called their political home for more than a century. It can no longer claim to be the party of equality and anti-racism. How far is too far? How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be to be considered unfit for office? Would associations with those who have incited hatred against Jews be enough? Would describing as ‘friends’ those who endorse the murder of Jews be enough? It seems not.” 

Voter challenge: While the chief rabbi refrained from calling to vote for the Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he posed the following challenge to voters when they enter the ballot booth: 

“I regret being in this situation at all. I simply pose the question: What will the result of this election say about the moral compass of our country? When December 12 arrives, I ask every person to vote with their conscience. Be in no doubt, the very soul of our nation is at stake.”

Mirvis’s predecessor, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks called the Labour leader “an antisemite” in a wide-ranging interview back in August.

Warning to U.S. Democrats: Mark Mellman, president of the Democratic Majority for Israel, tells JI’s Ben Jacobs, “Britain’s Labour party is losing to the most incompetent British government in history importantly because of Labour’s anti-Zionist antisemitism. Democrats are not where Labour is and we should make sure we never get there.”

Bonus: Johnson’s Conservative Party has included in its election policy manifesto a pledge to ban local councils from boycotting products from foreign countries, including Israel. In contrast, Labour’s manifesto called for a ban on weapon sales to Israel and promised, for the first time, to recognize Palestinian statehood.


📳 Butt Dialing:New York Magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi has been texting — with former New York City mayor and current Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. In an amusing recounting, Nuzzi details receiving emojis, 3 a.m. links, being added to group chats and other bizarre texting behavior from the 75-year-old lawyer. [NYMag]

🛢️ Deep Dive: The Iranian strike on a Saudi processing facility in September was a calculated move by Tehran hardliners to punish the United States but stop “short of direct confrontation that could trigger a devastating U.S. response,” Reuters details. [Reuters]

🎧 Worthy Listen: In the latest episode of Foreign Policy’s podcast I Spy, Mossad agent Mishka Ben-David details his mission in 1997 to assassinate Hamas political leader Khaled Mashal. Ben-David recounts how newly-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tasks Mossad with killing Mashal in Amman, Jordan. [ISpy]


👑 Oh My King: Outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry suggested in an interview with Fox News that President Donald Trump was chosen by God to lead the country, adding that Trump is following in the steps of Kings David and Solomon — who weren’t perfect human beings.

🧱 Moving on from Middle East? Multiple sources told The Washington Post that Trump has appointed Jared Kushner to oversee the construction of his border wall.

⚖️ Judge Jack: At 98, Judge Jack Weinstein is the longest-serving judge on the Federal bench. Formerly the Chief Judge in the Eastern District of New York, Weinstein has maintained a close friendship with Rabbi Sholom Lipskar, founder of Aleph Institute, a Jewish organization caring for the families of the incarcerated. In an interview, Weinstein and Lipskar recount their introduction by Rabbi Menachem Schneerson. 

💣 On the Ground: U.S. troops and Kurdish fighters resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against ISIS in northern Syria on Monday.  

🛫 Talk of the Region: After a protracted court battle, Israel yesterday deported Human Rights Watch’s Omar Shakir, who boarded a flight to Jordan — where he vowed to continue his work.  

💰 Recalculating: The Council on Foreign Relations said Monday that it will spend the $350,000 it received from Jeffrey Epstein on efforts to fight human trafficking.  

✉️ Heartfelt Plea: Yaffa Issachar, the mother of U.S.-born Israeli army veteran Naama Issachar, sent a personal letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin through the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem asking him to pardon her daughter from a 7.5-year sentence in a Russian jail. 

😲 Act of Hate: A monument named after Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem in Kyiv, Ukraine was discovered Monday defaced by a big red swastika. In a tweet, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko denounced the vandalism as “disgusting, appalling and in need of prompt investigation.”

📱 Milestone:The Auschwitz-Birkenau museum has reached 1 million followers on social media.

📺 Media Watch: Fox Sports in the Netherlands suspended analyst Marco van Basten for a week after he used the phrase “Sieg Heil” on air.

🖋️ Power of the Pen:New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law legislation that would establish a hate crimes recognition training program for law enforcement officers.

🇮🇱 Transition: Ishmael Khaldi, Israel’s first Bedouin diplomat, assumed the role of acting consul general in Miami yesterday.

🏦 Holding Steady: In a surprise move, the Bank of Israel kept its benchmark interest rate at 0.25% yesterday, and warned that political uncertainty may have a negative economic effect.

💊 Drug Deals: Teva signed research deals with two Israeli academic institutions to focus on early-stage cancer treatments, as the company continues talks with the U.S. government to resolve an alleged price-fixing probe.

🥙 Mideast in Midtown:Philadelphia Magazinereviews Michael Solomonov’s recently opened diner, Merkaz, and its celebration of Israeli street food.

🥪 Last Bite: Mensch Jewish Delicatessen is hosting a pop-up eatery in Vancouver this weekend. 


Ramah Reunion: CNN’s Jake Tapper and actor Ben Platt snap a selfie


Over 1000 people attended the annual AIPAC real estate luncheon in Manhattan on Monday. The program featured a bipartisan panel with Reps. Max Rose (D-NY) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY), moderated by AIPAC’s northeast political director Jason Koppel. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) delivered closing remarks. [Pic]

Other elected officials in attendance: Reps Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Grace Meng (D-NY); State Senator Anna Kaplan, Assemblymembers Michael Blake, Nicole Malliotakis, Daniel Rosenthal, Simcha Eichenstein and David Weprin; Councilmembers Chaim Deutsch, Rory Lancman and Kalman Yeger; Deputy Consul General Israel Nitzan, and Andrew Gross.


Senior editor at Bloomberg News following 17 years at The New York TimesEthan Samuel Bronner turns 65…

Holocaust refugee from Budapest, he founded a generic drug company in 1965 that he sold to Teva Pharmaceuticals 35 years later, Leslie Dan turns 90… San Francisco-based venture capitalist, he is a founding partner of CMEA Capital, Formation 8 and Baruch Future Ventures, Thomas R. Baruch turns 81… Diplomat and author, he worked under Presidents Bush (41), Clinton and Obama on Middle East and Persian Gulf matters, in 2002 he co-founded a synagogue in Rockville, MD, Dennis B. Ross turns 71… Former national executive director of the Zionist Organization of America, Gary P. Ratner turns 71… Former member of the Illinois House of Representatives (1987-2019), now a lobbyist, Louis I. Lang turns 70…

Editor, journalist and publisher of Hebrew media for U.S.-based Israeli readers, Meir Doron turns 65… Israeli reporter and writer, Ari Shavit turns 62… First Jewish governor of Delaware (2009-2017), following 10 years as the treasurer of Delaware, Jack Alan Markell turns 59… CEO and founder of Dansdeals[dot]com, a credit card and travel blog, he is a fifth-generation Clevelander, Daniel Eleff turns 35… Editor-in-Chief of W MagazineSara Anne Moonves turns 35… Lead software architect at Advisor Perspectives, Benjamin Huebscher turns 34… Ohio director for Agudath Israel, Rabbi Eric “Yitz” Frank turns 33… Associate at Covington & Burling’s litigation department focusing on white collar and national security-related issues, Jordan Chandler Hirsch turns 32…

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