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In Israel, voters were handed a third! chance in less than a year to head to the ballot box and hope a government will finally be formed after the Knesset voted to hold yet another election on March 2, 2020. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will face off against Gideon Sa’ar in a Likud leadership primary slated for December 26.
In the U.K., voters are heading to the polls to elect a new prime minister in a charged and close election, as the Brexit chaos rages on and the Jewish community has felt threatened by the antisemitism that has polluted the Labour Party. More below.
In Williamsburg this morning, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea and Deborah Lauter, executive director of the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, will meet with Jewish communal leaders to discuss safety measures following the Jersey City shooting. More below.
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TALK OF OUR NATION — Jewish community in tri-state area grapples with rash of violent antisemitism
Elected leaders in New Jersey and New York sought to comfort and reassure a terror-stricken community on Wednesday following the deadly shooting at a Jersey City kosher supermarket on Tuesday. Authorities revealed yesterday that the shooters deliberately targeted the Jewish store, after antisemitic social media posts of one of the killers were discovered, and a pipe bomb and religious writings were found at the scene.
Safety first: At New York’s City Hall, Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged that members of the Jewish community “are now living in constant fear” amid an “extreme form of violence” reaching the doorstep of New York City. “Members of the Jewish community have told me they no longer feel comfortable wearing anything that is a symbol of their faith for fear of an attack.” The mayor also announced the launch of a new unit within the New York Police Department, named REME, to identify signs of racially and ethnically motivated extremism before any attacks occur. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo directed state police to increase patrols and security around synagogues and Jewish establishments while the investigation is ongoing.
Rabbi David Niederman, a leader of the Satmar sect in Williamsburg, made an emotional plea to elected leaders to address the matter head-on, asking, “Are Jews safe in New York City? It seems that in the New York metropolitan area, they are not.”
Saying goodbye: Thousands of mourners turned out for the funerals last night of Leah Mindel Ferencz and Moshe Deutsch, two of the victims of the shooting attack, in Jersey City and Brooklyn, respectively. The third victim killed inside the supermarket was identified as Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, an employee of the store.
Writing on the wall: Councilman Chaim Deutch (D-Brooklyn), chair of the New York City Council’s Jewish caucus, pointed out that he has been sounding the alarm about a steady rise in antisemitic attacks for the last several years. “We have been told over and over again that we are being paranoid and we are making a big deal out of a small problem,” he tells JI. “Will this most recent attack be the wake-up call that the world needs to stop ignoring our plight and abandoning the Jewish community?”
Standing together: Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said in an interview with JI’s Jacob Kornbluh: “We shouldn’t spend any more time debating whether it’s from the right or the left or the center or anyone in between, wherever it is we have to be clear as a Jewish community that we are not simply offended, but we’re wounded by attacks on any one of us. And if it’s unsafe to walk around Brooklyn or go to the grocery store in Jersey City, that’s a very serious issue for our entire community.”
Living in fear: Emma Green penned an article in The Atlantic titled “American Jews Are Terrified.” Green writes that the U.S. Jewish community lives in fear of antisemitism that stems from a wide range of sources. “It is impossible to name a single enemy responsible for the apparent recent spike of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States,” she wrote. “Jew hatred easily shape-shifts to fit the purposes of many ideologies.”
SCENE YESTERDAY — White House celebrates Hanukkah with two receptions
President Donald Trump’s signing ceremony for the executive order on antisemitism was held in conjunction with the first of two annual White House Hanukkah receptions on Wednesday afternoon in the East Room, JI’s Jacob Kornbluh reports.
Guest speakers: Due to the nature of the signing, several prominent members of the Jewish community showed up for this year’s party, including Patriots owner Bob Kraft and professor Alan Dershowitz, who were both called upon to deliver remarks. Alo delivering remarks was 12-year-old Austin Polonsky from San Francisco, who got invited after sending a letter to the president. Others onstage included Larry Mizel, Howard Lorber, Marc Rowan, Norm Brownstein and Pastor John Hagee. Watch the full event here.
Gestures: Dershowitz, who is reportedly being considered to join the president’s impeachment legal team, called the move “a game changer” in “the 2,000-year battle against antisemitism.” he added, “For 65 of my 81 years I have spent at universities all over the country and all over the world, there is no more important event in those 65 years to turn universities away from being bastions of hatred and discrimination than this executive order being signed today.”
Adjusting his story: Kraft was also bestowed with the honor of being described as the rotating “friend” character in Trump’s story — repeated regularly by the president at Jewish events in recent months — about a friend of his saying that his actions against Iran were the most significant measures affecting Israel that his administration has made.
Bipartisan support: Reps. Doug Collins (R-GA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Max Rose (D-NY), Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and David Kustoff (R-TN) stood behind Trump at the event after they were called up by the president — “even the Democrats can come up,” Trump quipped. Rose said he was “honored” to attend and support the signing. “The fact of the matter is that we need to look past politics and work to make public spaces safer for Jews and all targeted groups,” Rose said. Gottheimer told JI: “I will always stand up against any form of antisemitism, hate, or bigotry.”
Unimpressed: Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, tells JI: “The Hanukkah party appears to be the first time Trump has addressed a room full of Jews without invoking negative stereotypes and epithets, and that’s only because he appeared to be reading (very) diligently from the teleprompter. We support efforts to combat antisemitism and are opposed to the global BDS movement, but this whole charade felt like a choreographed political stunt — ‘come for the latkes, leave with an EO, and try to forget that I called you all money-hungry killers three days ago.’ Jews don’t want to be used as Trump’s political pawns, which is why we don’t accept this effort as genuine or meaningful.”
‘Successful like you’: Crediting Jared and Ivanka with inspiring him to act against the BDS movement as president, Trump noted: “In this position, we can do things about it. Before that, not quite as much. I’d be just like you: successful, doing nicely, but not for this,” Trump said to the crowd gathered.
Other officials who attended include Vice President Mike Pence, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen, Special Envoy on Antisemitism Elan Carr, State Department special envoy for Iran Brian Hook, State Dept. spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, U.S. Ambassador to Italy Lew Eisenberg, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer.
Party part two: In his remarks at the evening Hanukkah party, Trump said that he issued the executive order after Congress failed to pass a “watered-down” measure. “So I authorized a very strong version of it, because I deal with myself.” Watch his full remarks here.
Labels: Conservative TV personality Mark Levin described Trump on stage as the “first Jewish president in the U.S. And if he isn’t, he should be.”
Proud mechuten: At the beginning of his remarks, Trump called on Charles and Seryl Kushner, the parents of Jared Kushner, to join him on the stage. “He loves our country and he loves Israel,” Trump said about the senior Kushner.
Notable attendees included Pence, Carr, Reps. Zeldin, Kustoff and Michael McCaul (R-TX), Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson — “He’s got no cash problem, that I can tell you,” Trump said of Sheldon, joking about his insisting on long leases — former White House Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, Rabbi Moshe Margareten and Rabbi Zvi Boyarsky.
Double invite: “Ron has been an incredible fighter for Israel, and happens to love the United States very much,” Trump said of Dermer, who attended both receptions.
There’s a Trump tweet for everything: On December 9, 2011, Trump tweeted, “Why was the Hanuk[k]ah celebration held in the White House two weeks early? Barack Obama wants to vacation in Hawaii in late December. Sad.”
DRIVING THE CONVO
Trump signs EO as some walk back criticism
Criticism of Trump’s action to combat antisemitism was somewhat reduced on Wednesday after it became clear that the executive order, first published by Jewish Insider, didn’t include language defining Judaism as a “national origin,” despite a widely shared New York Timesreport that it would.
Reaction: Mainstream Jewish American groups praised the executive order, while Jewish Democrats and left-wing organizations maintained their criticism of the decision. In a memo sent to the media, the White House boasted that the administration has “repeatedly taken action to combat hate and support the Jewish community.”
In an op-ed published in The New York Times, Kushner called out the critics — many basing their comments on the publication’s own reporting — who blasted the move because it was said to define Judaism as a nationality. “The executive order does not define Jews as a nationality,” he wrote. “It merely says that to the extent that Jews are discriminated against for ethnic, racial or national characteristics, they are entitled to protection by the anti-discrimination law.”
What’s missing: According to Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First for America, the measure does not address the more serious crisis facing U.S. Jews, which is the rise in violent antisemitic attacks. “This executive order is not going to solve that crisis — certainly not at the same time that federal agencies are disinvesting in civil rights and anti-extremism work, and the president is giving speeches laden with antisemitic tropes.”
Hypocrisy alert: Writing in the Forward, Ari Hoffman highlighted that a “fake” story about the executive order “garnered more outrage” than the Jersey City attack.
View from the other side: James Zogby, head of the Arab American Institute, tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh that the “issue of weaponizing antisemitism in this way is deeply troubling” to him. “There is real antisemitism. It’s a real problem, and we know that language that attributes negative qualities to an entire people is racism, bigotry and, in the case of Jews, antisemitism,” he explained. “But saying Israeli policy and building settlements is wrong and therefore I am going to boycott the country or people who support those settlements, that’s not antisemitism. It’s not just the silencing of free speech, I think it’s doing a grave injustice to what antisemitism really is.”
Dueling editorials: Today’s Wall Street Journaleditorial told readers to “worry about murders in Jersey City, not Trump’s executive order,” and called for tackling real antisemitism instead of “rushing to project it onto political enemies.” The New York Times editorial board, meanwhile, said Trump’s decree “did as much to stir the waters as he did to settle them.”
U.K. ELECTION DAY — Britain votes today after a bruising campaign leaves its Jews fearful
Millions of voters across the United Kingdom will head to the polls today for a snap election that caps off years of political uncertainty kicked off by the 2016 Brexit referendum, which threw the government into chaos.
What to expect: Polls close at 10 p.m. across Britain, and an exit poll will be announced at that time. The official results are expected to be finalized in the early hours of Friday morning local time. The latest polls have shown Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party in a comfortable 10-point lead ahead of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, but unlikely to gain the outright majority Johnson is seeking to push his Brexit deal through parliament. But as Britons saw in the Brexit referendum, the polls don’t always match the final results.
How did we get here? Johnson called the snap vote last month after repeatedly failing to get his Brexit deal approved by parliament. He is hoping that the election can secure him a majority and enable him to complete Brexit before the already-extended deadline hits in January 2020. Theresa May called a snap vote in 2017 amid similar Brexit woes, and wound up losing the Conservatives’ overall majority, forcing the party to form a minority government with the support of the small Democratic Unionist Party.
Good for the Jews? The U.K.’s 300,000-strong Jewish community has become unusually tied up in the campaign, due to the rampant antisemitism that has plagued Labour. In an unprecedented move, British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis penned a scathing op-ed last month calling Corbyn unfit for office, positing that “a new poison — sanctioned from the top — has taken root in the Labour Party.” Jewish groups across the spectrum have united in their opposition to the Labour Party’s handling of antisemitic incidents. Corbyn has repeatedly denied that the party has turned a blind eye to antisemitism, and vociferously claimed — despite evidence to the contrary — that charges of antisemitism have been taken seriously and handled expediently.
Bad choices: Many in the British Jewish community, which has historically been split between the Conservative and Labour parties, find themselves faced with no good choices in today’s election, sickened by the antisemitism in Labour and turned off by Johnson’s pro-Brexit fervor. In the heavily Jewish district of Finchley and Golders Green, the incumbent Conservative MP Mike Freer is facing a serious challenge from Liberal Democrat candidate Luciana Berger, who quit Labour earlier this year over the party’s antisemitism.
LONG READ — Marc Benioff’s Billionaire Philanthropy 101
Chris Colin’s profile of Marc Benioff, published yesterday in Wired, details the philanthropic efforts of the Salesforce founder.
Prop C: Benioff publicly threw his support — including a $2 million donation — behind passing San Francisco’s Proposition C, a measure aimed at raising taxes on tech companies to address the city’s spiralling homelessness problem. Despite the money his company would lose, Benioff seemed not to care about the financial cost.
Local Boy: The son of an immigrant father from Kyiv, Benioff was raised in the Bay area. From his father, who owned a dress shop, Benioff learned the principles of a strong work ethic. Today, Benioff still gives back to his boyhood community, including a recent $18.2 million grant from Salesforce to the San Francisco and Oakland Unified School Districts.
Tough Questions: The profile turns tense when Colin directly asks Benioff to comment on his company’s annual tax rate and Benioff’s stance on Trump’s 2017 tax cut. While Benioff publicly supported higher tax rates, records show Salesforce increased lobbying for tax cuts. To both questions, the Salesforce chief demurred, claiming he did not know the details.
🎓 History: Writing in The Washington Post, Heather Tirado Gilligan looks back at the period leading up to the Holocaust, when historically black colleges and universities in the United States helped rescue Jewish refugees from Europe. [WashPost]
👩 Profile: The Associated Press’ Frank Bajak talks to Shoshana Zuboff, the Harvard professor taking on Big Tech. Zuboff, one of the first female scholars to earn tenure at Harvard Business School, has written numerous books on advances in technology and coined the term “surveillance capitalism” to describe how companies like Facebook and Google take users’ data to change how individuals interact with technology and social media. [AP]
📉 Slowdown: Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, LionTree CEO Aryeh Bourkoff explains why he expects fewer big media merger deals as companies expand their streaming services over the next decade. [WSJ]
AROUND THE WEB
🏠 Work From Home: The embattled office-space company WeWork is expected to lay off around 2,400 employees, including 414 employees in New York state, in February.
🎬 Hollywood: “Succession” star Nicholas Braun has been cast as ousted WeWork CEO Adam Neumann in the upcoming miniseries about the company’s struggles.
🎞️ LD is Back: HBO will premiere the 10th season of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” comedy series on January 19.
📺 Media Watch: Sinclair Broadcast Group axed its chief political analyst, former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn, on Wednesday. The move is part of an effort by the company, which owns 193 stations, to move away from political commentary and focus on local news and investigative journalism.
💲Giving Back: The wealthy German family that owns Krispy Kreme, Pret A Manger and a host of other international brands is giving upwards of 10 million Euros to assist elderly Holocaust victims as penance for the company having used forced labor during World Word II.
✈️ Flight Risk: Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to revoke the bail of Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, claiming that the Ukrainian-born businessman lied about his finances and is far wealthier than he claimed.
🎒 Fighting Figures: Yossi Gestetner writes in The Wall Street Journal that heavy-handed state intervention in Orthodox Jewish schools is based on “a flawed reading of poverty levels among Hasidim.”
💰 2020 Watch: Presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg revealed yesterday that he will donate $10 million to help re-elect Democrats in vulnerable congressional districts.
📸 Photoshop: A Swedish Jewish journalist claims that police in Stockholm manipulated a photo for her new ID and gave her a prominent hooked nose.
📚 Higher Ed: Two Israelis — Lev Cosijns and Anat Peled — have been selected as the Israeli recipients of the prestigious Rhodes scholarship this year.
PIC OF THE DAY
CONSULATE GENERAL OF ISRAEL IN NY
Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy attended a vigil at the site of the Jersey City attack on Wednesday. “When I came to serve here as Israel’s envoy, I never imagined in my worst nightmares that I would be in Pittsburgh burying 11 Jews, now here in Jersey City we mourn once again after yesterday’s deadly attack at a kosher supermarket. Terrible,” said Dayan.
Actress and neuroscientist, she played the role of neuroscientist Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory,” Mayim Chaya Bialik turns 44…
Attorney whose clients have included President Bill Clinton and more recently, Michael Cohen, Lanny Davis turns 74… Chairman of Full Stop Management, he previously served as chairman and CEO of Ticketmaster and Live Nation Entertainment, Irving Azoff turns 72… Two-term congressman (2007-2011) (D-Wisconsin-8), he is a physician who founded four allergy clinics, Steven Leslie Kagen, M.D. turns 70… 2007 Nobel Prize laureate, he is a professor of economics at Harvard University, Eric Stark Maskin turns 69… Associated Press science writer and adjunct professor at NYU’s academic center in Washington, Seth Borenstein turns 58…
Israeli-born real estate developer in Los Angeles, partner in Linear City Development, Yuval Bar-Zemer turns 57… Afternoon anchor on the Fox Business Network, Elizabeth Kate “Liz” Claman turns 56… Minnesota Secretary of State, Steve Simon turns 50… Account director at Lewis Global Communications, Sarah R. Horowitz turns 33… Denver-based reporter-producer for ABC News, Becky Perlow turns 32… VP at Targeted Victory’s public affairs practice, David Pasch turns 31… Dual Master’s degree candidate at Harvard and Dartmouth, former deputy chief of staff at the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Jeffrey Goldstein turns 30… Chief of Staff at Sefaria, Tali Herenstein…