Daily Kickoff

Will Mohammad Dahlan run to replace Abbas? | Mexico City’s Shabbat host | Alan Dershowitz now a lobbyist for Dan Gertler

Good Wednesday morning!

In NYCThe New York Times’ Dealbook conference takes place today at Lincoln Center. Hosted by Andrew Ross Sorkin, guest speakers include Bill Gates, Hillary Clinton, Makan Delrahim, Reed Hastings, and NYT chairman Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.

Tonight in New York, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley will receive the World Jewish Congress’s Theodor Herzl Award at its annual gala. Haley attended Strive’s 35th anniversary gala last night (more on that below). 

In Jerusalem, President Reuven Rivlin addressed the Christian Media Summit earlier this morning in a session titled “Between Jerusalem and the Golan: International Recognition,” held at the president’s residence.

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ELECTION RESULTS — Democrats pick up the governor’s seat in Kentucky and sweep the Virginia state houses

Bluegrass goes blue: In Kentucky, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear appeared to narrowly edge out incumbent Republican Matt Bevin Tuesday night. With 100% of precincts reporting, Beshear was up 49.2% to 48.9%. Despite Beshear’s likely win, Republicans swept all other statewide offices in the commonwealth and elected Kentucky’s first Republican attorney general since 1943.

Democrats pick up Virginia trifecta: Democrats won majorities in both the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia State Senate last night. With Ralph Northam already in the governor’s mansion, this gives Democrats a trifecta in the Old Dominion for the first time since 1993, with implications for redistricting and legislative issues including gun control and voting rights. In the Virginia House, Eileen Filler-Corn made history, becoming the first female Jewish speaker in the state legislature.

Mississippi stays red: Republicans held on to the governor’s mansion in Mississippi. Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves managed to edge out Attorney General Jim Hood, who was the last Democratic statewide elected official in the Magnolia State. Hood, a pro-gun, pro-life Democrat, was unable to overcome the state’s strong GOP tilt. Reeves pulled out a 53% to 45% victory as Republicans swept all statewide offices for the first time since Reconstruction.

In New York City, Melinda Katz, a Democrat, was elected as Queens District Attorney with 75% of the vote over Republican candidate Joe Murray.

HEARD YESTERDAY — Biden sets himself apart from Warren with ‘realistic’ approach

Me vs. them: During a conference call with donors on Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden touted his experience and “realistic” policy proposals as an awakening to the leftward shift of the Democratic Party. Amid concerns over the rise of more progressive candidates, Biden explained, “I think you’re going to see more focus on the reality, and in the efficacy and the straightforwardness of the plans being put together by other candidates, and I think we’re now going to get into a comparative notion of who’s for what and what can get done.” 

Wrong direction: On the call, Biden ripped into Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — without mentioning her name — over her Medicare-for-All plan. “A plan I put forward on healthcare is radical by standards of four years ago or five years ago, and it will get everyone covered,” he said. “And it’s going to cost 1/30 of what the plan for Medicare-for-All will.” Biden doubled down in a post on Medium later in the day. “Some call it the ‘my way or the highway’ approach to politics,” the former vice president wrote. “‘If you were only as smart as I am you would agree with me.’ This is no way to get anything done.”

Limitations: David Rubenstein, cofounder of The Carlyle Group and chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, said Tuesday that Warren’s wealth tax — if ever implemented — will not necessarily “solve all of our society’s problems.” In a conversation with CNBC’s Leslie Picker at the Greenwich Economic Forum in Connecticut, Rubenstein explained: “There just aren’t enough highly wealthy people.” 

On his fellow billionaire: Rubenstein also described hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman, who recently admonished Warren over her proposals, as “a very smart man,” but stressed that “taxes are a different issue than philanthropy.”

If I forget thee: A voter in the swing state of Florida told NBC reporter Morgan Radford that Trump has “astounded her” as “a Jewish woman in America,” especially with his decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. “We have been waiting 50 years for the embassy to be changed to Jerusalem, and I think that that shows he’s not afraid to make the right choice.”

POSTCARD FROM MEXICO CITY — The woman rethinking traditions and community across the globe

Joanna Riquett isn’t Jewish. But that hasn’t stopped her from designing and creating Shabbat dinners in Vancouver, Mexico City, Colombia and around the world. For Jewish Insider, writer Kylie Madry traces Riquett’s ties to the Jewish community back to one Friday night dinner in Jerusalem.

Capital dinner: In 2016, while she was living in Vancouver, Riquett was invited to visit Israel. While there, she said, she began to reflect as she learned about the concept of tikkun olam — or, “repairing the world.” Things started to click while celebrating her first Shabbat in Jerusalem. “I loved the intentionality behind it,” Riquett said. “I said, ‘I just have to do Shabbat.’”

Outside the tribe: Riquett explained that although she’s not Jewish, she is drawn to Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Shabbat. “I saw this opportunity to create a space to connect with your neighbor,” she said. “It’s a way to bring forward conversations that wouldn’t normally happen, all while unifying people. And, if you have meaningful conversations around Shabbat, then the likelihood of inspiring change or planting a seed is much higher.”

Mixed reactions: Riquett has received mixed reactions to her Shabbat invitations. “It was so traditional in Colombia,” she said with a laugh. “They would ask me, ‘Are you Jewish?’ ‘Are you a convert?’ ‘No? I don’t understand!’” Even in Mexico, Jewish families tend to celebrate holidays at home. Riquett jokingly says her events in Mexico City appeal to the “orphans” – those living far from home, or traveling, or those yet to find a community in the city. 

Read the full profile here

TALK OF THE REGION — Israeli court upholds deportation of BDS activist

Israel’s Supreme Court has upheld a 2018 decision by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to expel Omar Shakir — a U.S. citizen and the Human Rights Watch’s director for Israel and the Palestinian territories — over his support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. 

Watch from afar: While in the past Israel has denied entry to BDS supporters, most notably barring Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) earlier this year, this is the first time the state is applying the new law to a legal resident. The court gave Shakir 20 days to leave the country. Minister for Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan said Shakir “took advantage of his stay in Israel to harm it,” and suggested the advocacy group appoint a replacement.

Rep. Ilhan Omar tweeted on Tuesday: “This is the silencing of political dissent. Deporting and blocking critics who speak out against human rights abuses goes against basic democratic values. Solidarity with Omar Shakir for standing up for human rights regardless of the consequence.” 

End of an era? Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub said on Palestine TV on Monday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is not planning to run for re-election.

View of Ramallah: Abbas’s recently revived proposal to hold national elections is an attempt to improve the Palestinians’ standing “in a changing world,” Nabeel Shaath, a senior advisor to Abbas, said in an interview with Bloomberg on Monday. “There are two ways to restore legitimacy. The first is to make political achievements, which is not likely to happen. The other way is to have elections,” Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian cabinet minister, explained. 

The big picture: Khaled Elgindy, a nonresident fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh that even if Abbas is serious about holding an election for the first time since 2006, “there are still many obstacles to overcome, including getting Hamas to allow parliamentary and/or presidential elections in Gaza and whether Israel will allow voting by Palestinians in East Jerusalem.” 

Skipping the line: Mohammad Dahlan, a former Palestinian Authority security commander in the Gaza Strip and longtime Abbas rival, hinted that he might run as a presidential candidate in an election. “If elections take place, I have the right to present my candidacy anywhere I wish,” Dahlan told the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) television network. “The question of whether I practice my right or not is another issue.” A PA official told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that it’s “highly unlikely” Dahlan would qualify for the ballot. 

Ultimate deal 2.0: The Trump administration is advancing a historic “non-aggression pact” between Israel and the Gulf states, Israel’s Channel 12 reported on Tuesday. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz revealed last month that he met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly with several counterparts from Gulf states to discuss the initiative. According to the report, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed interest in pursuing the move during his recent trip to Israel, calling it an “excellent initiative.” In recent days, the report says, the State Department reached out to Israel’s Foreign Ministry to establish joint work teams to begin and advance the move.


🍷 Kiddush Practices: Andy Lassner, executive producer of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” opened up to Variety about his past addiction to heroin and alcohol after battling anxiety and depression as a teenager. The drinking problem, Lassner revealed, started when he was “offered a cup of wine at synagogue after a service” for the first time while growing up on New York’s Upper East Side. [Variety]

🛢️ Gold Mine: Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz has formally registered to lobby the U.S. government to ease sanctions on Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler, who has been accused of “corrupt mining and oil deals” with former Congolese President Joseph Kabil, CNBC reported on Tuesday. [CNBC]

💊 Rebranding: The legacy of the Sackler family name is at stake, reportsThe Washington Post, as they hope to settle thousands of lawsuits over the opioid crisis and transform the Purdue Pharma business in a gambit designed to save the family’s public image. [WashPost]


👊 Nickname Game: Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, tells the NYTimes he’s not sure whether the nickname Trump uses to describe him, “Shifty Schiff,” is antisemitic. But the Jewish lawmaker at the center of the congressional impeachment inquiry says he believes Trump is using it as “a dog whistle.” 

🚔 Behind Bars: Two Iranian men have pleaded guilty after they were caught conducting surveillance on U.S. targets, including a Jewish center in Chicago. 

🚢 Iran Watch: The U.S. is training Gulf allies to “protect navigation” in the region’s waterways from Iranian aggression during a three-week International Maritime Exercise.

🖍️ Talk of the Town: A suspect accused of drawing a swastika at an elementary school in Minnesota will not be charged because there was no permanent damage to the property, police said Tuesday. Meanwhile, multiple posters containing a swastika were found throughout Arizona State University’s campus on Monday.

🕍 On Edge: After a thwarted attack on a synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado, the Jewish community there is vigilant — and reconsidering its security measures. In New York, Jewish residents of Borough Park are reeling after four alleged hate crimes in one day. 

👬 Good Neighbors:The Christian Science Monitor is shining a spotlight on the coexistence between the Jewish and Muslim communities in Morocco and Tunisia. 

🚡 Flying High: The Israeli housing cabinet approved a controversial plan yesterday to build a cable car over the Old City of Jerusalem. 

💰 Startup Watch: Israel’s Papaya Global raised $45 million from Insight Partners and other investors to expand its payroll startup, while fraud prevention startup Riskified raised $165 million. 

📉 Cash Burn: Rivals tellReuters that WeWork is still in critical condition, despite a $9.5 billion bailout from SoftBank. 

📺 Hollywood: Actors Julianna Margulies and Corey Stoll are set to appear in recurring roles on “Billions,” a Showtime drama, for its fifth season.

🥯 Bagel Brouhaha: Jewish deli Call Your Mother’s plan to open a second location in Georgetown is being met with resistance by local residents because “it will draw large crowds that will block sidewalks and those large crowds will bring trash and rats.” 

👨‍💼 Transition: Josh Hurvitz, who served as vice president for public policy at Time Warner and WarnerMedia, has joined NVG, a DC-based government relations firm, as a partner. 


Dina Powell McCormick was honored last night at the 35th anniversary gala of Strive, an organization with over 75,000 graduates whose programs provide skills training and jobs to those who otherwise have no source of income. 

Notable attendees included emcee Gayle King, former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (who received the Strive Leadership Award), former Amb. Nikki Haley, Michael Haley, Co-CEO of Bridgewater Associates David McCormick, Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio, Bloomberg Philanthropies CEO Patti Harris, Gala co-chair & Morgan Stanley’s Tom Nides, Fox News’ Dana Perino, Robin Hood’s Wes Moore, Jefferies’ Brian Friedman, The Bail Project’s Robin Steinberg and Lydia Gray Kives, K5’s Michael Kives, former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Juul Labs VP Josh Raffel, Politico’s Daniel Lippman, and Morning Consult’s Kyle Dropp.


Actress and cellist best known for her lead role in the 1984 film “Footloose” and the television series “Fame,” Lori Singer turns 62…

Belgian theoretical physicist, a Holocaust survivor and 2013 Nobel prize laureate, François Englert turns 87… Former president and CEO of American Jewish World Service, Ruth Messinger turns 79… Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Andrew Saul turns 73… Former aide to President Bill Clinton and a long-time advisor to Hillary Clinton, Sidney Blumenthal turns 71… Research scientist at NYU’s Langone Medical Center, Barbara Volsky turns 69… Chairman of Sullivan & Cromwell, Joseph C. Shenker turns 63… COO/Managing Director of the NFL Players Association, Ira Fishman turns 62…

Founder of Nourish Snack, she is the host of NBC’s “Health & Happiness” and author of 12 New York Times best sellers, Joy Bauer turns 56… COO at Santander Bank, Andrew S. Weinberg turns 56… Vice Chairman and CEO of Genie Oil E&P and CEO of Genie Israel Holdings Ltd., Geoffrey Rochwarger turns 49… Investor, political advisor and author of “Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle,” Dan Senor turns 48… Senior program officer for Jewish Life at the William Davidson Foundation, Kari Alterman… Film producer Susan Nicole Levin Downey turns 46… South Florida entrepreneur, Earl J. Campos-Devine turns 39… Head Cantor of Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York City, Yaakov (“Yanky”) Lemmer turns 36…

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