Daily Kickoff

When Biden was in favor of moving the embassy to Jerusalem | Spotted at The Pierre | Bill Gates on Epstein


Good Thursday morning!

In New York this evening, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres will deliver the keynote address at the Museum of Jewish Heritage for an event commemorating the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht.

Big in Hollywood:Bloomberg Businessweek is out with its cover story on Bob Iger and Disney’s entrance into the streaming wars. The article refers to Iger as “the consummate corporate diplomat,” noting how the CEO was able to make peace with Steve Jobs and even float a run for the White House without incurring the scorn that Howard Schultz did.

Yesterday at DealBook, Bill Gates discussed his association with Jeffrey Epstein calling it a “mistake.” Gates, however, cautioned that he “probably will at some point accept someone into the Giving Pledge and it will turn out that their fortune is a disreputable fortune.” He added, “When you’re engaging in this, if you really want to get out there and get more people drawn into philanthropy, there is a risk that you’ll make a mistake.”

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SB CALLS OUT BS — Steve Bullock says Bernie Sanders is ‘flat wrong’ on Israel

In an interview with JI’s Ben Jacobs, Montana Governor Steve Bullock called out his 2020 rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for expressing support for leveraging aid to Israel. 

Undermining security: According to Bullock, Sanders was “just flat wrong” when he suggested last week that Israel would have to “fundamentally change” its policy on Gaza in order to receive continued U.S. military aid. Cutting military assistance would “undermine our own security, not just Israel’s,” Bullock stressed. 

The Obama doctrine: Bullock noted that the current Israeli aid package was agreed to by former President Barack Obama as part of a ten-year memorandum of understanding with Israel, “even while they were disagreeing in some respects.” He added: “I think that commitment to Israel is more important now than probably forever. We can have serious discussions about domestic and foreign policy, but not to politicize efforts that would undermine our commitment to Israeli security.”

But where’s the party? Bullock also insisted that a majority of Democratic voters disagree with the Vermont senator’s stance on Israel. “Bernie may have shifted away from supporting Israel, but I also believe we as a party certainly haven’t,” he said. The 2020 hopeful maintained that the shift by several candidates doesn’t indicate that the Democratic party is “moving away from support for Israel by any measure.”

Bullock on West Bank annexation: “I’m hopeful that this was a political ploy by [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. We’ve got to get back that environment in which a two-state solution can be achieved, and I think most Israelis feel that way as well.” 

Read the full interview here.

From the archives: Former Vice President Joe Biden said during a hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 23, 1984, that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem “would speed up the peace process, and not slow it up.” Last week, during an interview with PBS Newshour, Biden said he wouldn’t reverse Trump’s decision to move the embassy, but “I wouldn’t have done it in the first place.”

Squad division: Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) further separated herself from her fellow progressive congresswomen, known as “The Squad,” by endorsing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for president. The rest of the pack — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) have endorsed Sanders. Earlier this year, Pressley distinguished herself from the group by voting in favor of the House anti-BDS resolution.

HEARD LAST NIGHT — Nikki Haley touts veto on Jerusalem reso. as ‘one of the greatest honors’ of tenure at U.N.

JI’s Jacob Kornbluh reports from New York: Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley received the World Jewish Congress’s Theodor Herzl Award at its annual gala at The Pierre in New York City last night. “The Herzl Award comes with our gratitude, and with our deep appreciation. But it also comes at a price. You will not be able to rest because we expect even greater things from you,” WJC President Ron Lauder told Haley. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger introduced Haley.  

Speaking about her experience at the U.N., Haley called the U.S. veto of the Security Council resolution on the status of Jerusalem “one of the greatest honors of my tenure.” The former diplomat added that the U.S. has to condition foreign aid on how allied countries vote at the U.N. 

Haley also addressed the rise in antisemitism: “It is baffling to me that in some quarters, antisemitism is not treated with the same disdain as racism or other forms of hate. It is exactly the same. It must never be tolerated… Whether it comes from Iran’s Supreme Leader, or the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, or a congresswoman from Minnesota, or white supremacists on the internet, or from someone we come across in our daily lives, it must be called out for the dangerous bigotry that it is.” 

Spotted: Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon, Rep. Pete King (R-NY), Princess Firyal of Jordan, Jason and Naomi Greenblatt, Bob Kraft, actor Joel Grey, Deputy Israeli Consul General in NY Israel Nitzan, Stanley Chera, Chella Safra, Peter Thoren, Izzy Tapoohi, Linda Mirels, Malcolm Hoenlein, Ze’ev Rubenstein, Siggy Flicker, Dick Parsons, Dr. Dore Gold, Ray Kelly, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, George Klein, Brooke Goldstein, Dor Malul, Justin Hayet, Betty Grinstein, Mark Botnick, Eve Stieglitz, Ezra Friedlander, Corey Weiss, Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt, Aliyana Traison, and Michal Grayevsky. 

Elsewhere in NYC: A group of Code Pink protesters interrupted an event that featured Yair Netanyahu in conversation with Shmuley Boteach in the Upper West Side on Wednesday evening. Netanyahu, who is known for his provocative and controversial social media posts, described the Israeli media as “radical fringes of Israeli society.” 

For the record: The prime minister’s eldest son insisted that he doesn’t have any political ambitions, but that won’t prevent him from commenting on politics or praising Trump as the best friend Israel has ever had. [Pic

ON THE HILL — Impeachment hearings to kick off next week

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, a career diplomat, testified behind closed doors on Wednesday before House impeachment investigators. Hale reportedly said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was reluctant to defend then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, because it would hurt efforts to free up military aid to Ukraine, The Associated Pressreported

Status: Hale, who was appointed to his current post in 2018, previously worked for the Clinton and Obama administrations. He also served as special envoy for Mideast peace from 2011 to 2013. He is the highest-ranking State Department official to date to testify in the impeachment inquiry.

On camera: House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced on Wednesday that the committee will kick off its first public impeachment hearings next week.

Trip logs: Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) shared a photo from his recent visit to the contested village of Susya, located in the southern Judaean Mountains of the West Bank, during a J Street-sponsored trip to Israel this week. 

Eye witness: While some Palestinian areas of Susya are currently under a demolition order, Levin tweeted that “we watched the government utility, right before our eyes, lay in pipes right across the village’s land to deliver tap water to an illegal Israeli outpost nearby. It was simply incredible. As angry as the situation made me, the resilience of the Palestinian villagers left an even stronger impression.” 

Report: Earlier this year, President Donald Trump rejected a request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow $12 million in U.S. aid to be transferred to Palestinian security forces, Israeli Channel 13’s Barak Ravid reported on Wednesday. According to the report, Trump’s aides tried to convince the president that transferring the money to the PA was “very important for Netanyahu,” but Trump refused. “If it is that important to Netanyahu, he should pay the Palestinians $12 million,” Trump told his aides. 

MEDIA WATCH — The death of Sh’ma journal

Earlier this week, more than half a dozen current and former editors and publishers announced that the Sh’ma journal would cease publication after 50 years. Sh’ma’s sole backer, the Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, pulled the plug on its last lifeline, having spent more than $1 million on the publication over the past decade. 

Timeline:Sh’ma was founded in 1970 by Rabbi Eugene Borowitz as “a dialogue in difference,” a place for the lively discussion of Jewish ideas. The journal was edited by Borowitz until 1993, when the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership took the reins. In 1998, the journal was purchased for $1 by the now-shuttered Jewish Family & Life, led by Yosef Abramowitz. The Foundation for Living Torah took it over in 2009, establishing the Sh’ma Institute and creating a board of directors for the journal.

50 years of thought: Editions of Sh’ma ran anywhere from 4 to 24 pages, publishing text with no artwork or photos. The journal included perspectives from a wide range of rabbis, scholars and community thought-leaders. Each issue was themed, with topics ranging from eternal Jewish perplexities and questions to what editors believed was timely and relevant to readers.

Sign of the times: “In the age of Twitter, people aren’t sitting down for a deep dive on one topic in 24 pages,” Joshua Rolnick, president of Sh’ma’s board of directors, told JI’s Debra Nussbaum Cohen. “It was at odds with the way people consume content today.” The decision to end Sh’ma’s 50-year run “wasn’t strictly a dollars-and-cents decision,” Rolnick said, but a general feeling that its time had come and gone.

Read the full article here.

EYE ON IRAN — Tehran crosses red lines as 2015 deal in peril

French President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged on Wednesday that Iran’s decision to resume uranium enrichment at the Fordow nuclear facility raises the risk of the 2015 nuclear deal collapsing. “I think that, for the first time, Iran has decided in an explicit and blunt manner to leave the [JCPOA],” Macron said, calling it a “significant shift.” 

Forging ahead: The Islamic Republic began injecting uranium gas into centrifuges just after midnight on Thursday. A spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said it is now enriching uranium up to 4.5%, violating the accord’s limit of 3.67%. The U.S. State Department called it a “big step in the wrong direction,” and said it would continue economic pressure on Iran until it changes its behavior.

Blame game: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted Wednesday that “thanks to US policy and its allies, Fordow will soon be back to full operation.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Iran’s move was deeply disturbing, but that he understood the decision, blaming it on the U.S. pulling out of the pact.

Word from D.C.: Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a statement on Thursday that Iran’s “latest nuclear escalations reflect the regime’s intentions all along: to extort the international community into accepting its violence and terror,” adding that now is the time to “take serious steps to increase pressure” on Tehran. 


✡️ Living in Fear:The Forwardspoke to 27 Jews across the U.S., U.K., Canada and Israel about living in a climate of rising antisemitism. “I have stopped wearing my Magen David,” said one, while another wrote that, whenever they go to synagogue, “I will start thinking about an escape plan and how I would try to save my friends and community members.” [Forward]

📱Social Media Spies: Two former employees of Twitter were charged by the Justice Department on Wednesday with spying on behalf of Saudi Arabia. The Washington Post details how the men used the social media platform to track users and access their personal information, passing it along to Saudi authorities. [WashPost]

🔬Superstar Scientist: In a New York Times’ op-ed, Ron Cowen explores the legacy of Albert Einstein, “the first science superstar.” Cowen details the story behind how, on November 6, 1919, a team of British scientists presented evidence that proved Einstein’s general theory of relativity, upending the world of Newtonian theoretical physics and making Einstein a household name. [NYTimes]

👨 Acting Presidential:Wired’s Nicholas Thompson published a deep dive on 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s background and campaign, telling the story of a first-generation American who is less tech entrepreneur than serial start-up founder. [Wired]


🧗‍♂️ Moving on Up: Anton Levy is one of three promoted to serve as co-president of General Atlantic, laying the groundwork for succession within the company. Levy, 45, is a 21-year veteran of the firm and leads its technology sector investments.

🛂 Open Borders: The United Arab Emirates is expected to allow tourists holding Israeli passports to attend the 2020 World Expo, starting next October, in Dubai. A senior UAE official told Yediot Ahronot that if successful the country “might leave its doors open to Israeli tourists permanently.”

👬 Regional Alliance:Israel is assisting Syrian Kurds, “mainly in the diplomatic and humanitarian realm,” Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, told the Knesset on Wednesday. 

💰 Misused Funds: The head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Pierre Krahenbuhl, has resigned after an ethics probe was established to review “management-related matters.”

⚽ Pocket Money: More than a year after drastic cuts for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence projects, the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem gave $200,000 to a project bringing Jewish and Arab kids together to play soccer.

💸 Admitting Errors: Masayoshi Son, the CEO of SoftBank, said Wednesday that his judgment on WeWork was poor, the same day the company began cutting jobs in Europe. 

🎤 Never Again: Rainer Hoess, the grandson of Auschwitz concentration camp commander Rudolf Hoess, shared his family’s history of hatred towards Jews and talked about the lessons of the Holocaust in a lecture to students in Toronto. Hoess recalled his dad’s “brutal” punishment when he asked to attend a Passover seder at the home of a Jewish friend at age 10. 

📝 Recording History: Historians are racing against the clock to preserve the history of the Jewish community in Wales, the BBC reports. 

🖼️ Come One, Come All: D.C.’s Museum of the Bible is planning new programming to attract visitors, including an exhibit titled “A Fence Around the Torah,” a Passover-themed exhibition and a concert with New York synagogue cantors.  

🚇 Talk of the City: The NYPD said Wednesday that antisemitism is driving a rise in hate crimes on the subway. Police officials also said yesterday that they expect to soon make arrests in a string of recent attacks in Borough Park. 

⚰️ Grave Robbery: Police in Hartford, Connecticut are investigating after finding that somebody recently dug up and stole a body from the Agudas Achim Cemetery. 

🚪🚶🏼‍♂️Losing an Ally: Labour MP Tom Watson announced on Wednesday that he’s stepping down as the party’s deputy leader. In a letter to Corbyn, Watson said his decision was “personal, not political.” The Jewish Labour Movement called Watson’s decision “shocking and saddening,” saying he had been a “strong ally in the fight against antisemitism in the Labour Party.”


ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו ושר המדע אופיר אקוניס במפגש עם נבחרת ישראל שהשתתפה באולימפיאדת הרובוטיקה בדובאי
Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO

ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו ושר המדע אופיר אקוניס במפגש עם נבחרת ישראל שהשתתפה באולימפיאדת הרובוטיקה בדובאי Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO

At his office in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the Israeli team that participated in the first global “Robotics Olympics” in Dubai.


Founder and CEO at Swipe Out Hunger, a campus focused non-profit that allows students to donate their remaining meal points to those in need, Rachel Sumekh turns 28…

Neuropsychiatrist, a 1944 graduate of Yeshiva of Flatbush and a 2000 Nobel Prize laureate in Medicine, Eric Kandel turns 90… Former United States Senator from Minnesota (1978-1991) who later served on the boards of AIPAC and JINSA, Rudy Boschwitz turns 89… Stage, screen and television actor, Barry Newman turns 81… MIT professor in electrical engineering and computer science, Barbara Liskov turns 80… Senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, he was a governor and vice chairman of the Federal Reserve System, Donald Kohn turns 77…

University professor of the Humanities at Harvard and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Stephen Greenblatt turns 76… Founding president of Santa Monica, California synagogue, Kehilat Maarav, and senior partner in the West Los Angeles law firm of Selvin & Weiner, Beryl Weiner turns 76… Constituent affairs representative and community liaison for Congressman Adriano Espaillat (D-NY-13), Laurie Tobias Cohen turns 63… Canadian entrepreneur and CEO of luxury apparel company, Canada Goose, Dani Reiss turns 46…

SVP of global public affairs at Blackstone, Jennifer B. Friedman turns 39… The founder at The Intercollegiate, Daniel Libit turns 37… Ph.D. candidate at the Yale University Department of Nursing, Avi Zenilman turns 35… Campaign reporter at PoliticoElena Schneider turns 29… Founder and CEO of Count Me In, a global youth empowerment organization, Shane Feldman turns 25… Co-Founder and CEO at NYX Technologies, Tomer Aharonovitch

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