Good Wednesday morning!
At the White House, President Donald Trump will sign an executive order defining antisemitism prior to hosting two pre-Hanukkah receptions. Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to join both the afternoon and evening receptions. More below.
Tonight in D.C., Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) will host their annual joint Hanukkah reception at the Library of Congress.
In Israel, the final deadline for forming a government coalition will arrive at midnight local time. Deadlock between Likud and Blue and White makes it all but certain that the country is headed to an unprecedented third consecutive election in March.
Following yesterday’s report on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign personnel, former pollster John McLaughlin tells JI: “It’s been a humbling honor to work for such a historic and successful leader over these past 15 years. The prime minister has had many advisors over the years. I was just happy to be on his team. He has made the world a safer and better place.”
In Chicago, the Union for Reform Judaism is kicking off its four-day biennial conference at the McCormick Place convention center.
First look: A new poll published this morning and conducted by New York-based Ami Magazine shows that 91% of Orthodox Jews in the U.S. (with a 723-person sample size) think Trump shouldn’t be impeached.
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BEHIND THE SCENES — How Trump’s executive order was originally hatched in Harry Reid’s office
President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order today that will formally adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.
Details: The measure, which penalizes colleges and universities under federal anti-discrimination laws if they tolerate antisemitic activities, comes in place of the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which had been stalled in Congress. The legislation would have applied the IHRA definition, which the State Department adopted in 2016, to the Department of Education. Trump’s executive order applies the definition to the Department of Justice’s enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well.
Worth noting: The groundwork for the executive order was laid in 2004 by Ken Marcus, at the time the assistant secretary of education for civil rights, and reaffirmed in 2010 by Russlynn Ali, who held the same position in the Obama administration. In a letter to colleagues at the time, Ali wrote, “While Title VI does not cover discrimination based solely on religion, 14 groups that face discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics may not be denied protection under Title VI on the ground that they also share a common faith.” Ali listed Jews, Muslims and Sikhs among the groups facing discrimination.
Behind the scenes: Wednesday’s signing is the culmination of a multi-year effort led by an influential group of Democrats and a private equity businessman from New York. Five years ago, Apollo Global Management co-founder Marc Rowan visited then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Washington to discuss the rise of antisemitism. Attendees at the meeting included Reid’s chief of staff, David Krone, and super-lobbyist Norm Brownstein, a longtime Jewish community leader from Denver. Reid proposed the idea of pushing a wider adoption of the State Department’s definition and Rowan, Krone and Brownstein spent the next five years building a coalition of organizations to push legislation through Congress. Reid himself continued to work on the issue even after leaving the Senate, including hosting a town hall on antisemitism in Las Vegas earlier this year.
Multiple Tries: The bipartisan legislation, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016, which was introduced by Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Bob Casey (D-PA), passed the Senate on December 1, 2016 before being blocked in the House by former Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the House Judiciary chair at the time. Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) reintroduced the bill this past summer. In October, Collins accused the Democratic House majority of refusing to bring the legislation up for a vote because they “can’t seem to agree on condemning the rank antisemitism within their own party.”
Plan B: “We had come to the realization that the legislation was not going to pass the House,” Krone explained, adding, “It is what it is.” So the group looked for Plan B and Rowan decided to approach Jared Kushner about the possibility of Trump signing an executive order. “To their credit, they took action,” Krone says of the White House.
Notable praise: “There are a lot of people who were helpful along the way, but I have to give the president credit for getting this done,” Krone acknowledged. While it is certainly unusual for a longtime Harry Reid confidant to praise Trump, according to Krone, “the fight against anti-Semitism is too important to let partisanship play a role.”
DRIVING THE CONVO — Jewish groups split on new executive order
Reaction from the Jewish community to the new executive order was decidedly mixed. The Republican Jewish Coalition extolled the move, calling Trump the “most pro-Jewish” president in history. The Anti-Defamation League welcomed the federal adoption of IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism. Jewish Democratic groups lambasted the messenger, pointing to Trump’s rhetoric and his recent comments at the Israeli-American Council conference on Saturday. Left-wing activists and civil rights organizations blasted the move as an infringement on First Amendment rights.
Wait and see: Others, including prominent members of Congress who were supportive of the legislation, told JI they are reserving judgment until they see the language of Trump’s executive order.
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tells JI: “In a world of ambiguity, hate should be unambiguously rejected by all, and the IHRA working definition of antisemitism can help… ADL has been on record supporting IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism, and that is still the case. As it pertains to the full executive order, I am going to withhold commenting on the specifics until we see the exact language.”
Welcomed goodwill: “We are a deeply divided country, politically,” Mark Weitzman, director of government affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center and a member of the U.S. delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Authority (IHRA) who introduced and guided the working definition through IHRA, noted in response to critics of the president. “That’s why it’s important that this has significant bipartisan support. It says that no one should get a free pass when it comes to antisemitism, and at the same time, any good effort to fight [antisemitism] should be accepted.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) tweeted: “We Jews like to argue. About Israel even. Actually, ESPECIALLY about Israel. So the idea that a college campus would have its views on Israel regulated by the federal Department of Education? Oy Gevalt.”
Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, pushed back against critics in an interview with JI’s Jacob Kornbluh. “[Trump] has done more for the American Jewish community than any other president,” Brooks emphasized. “It is very interesting to see how the leading heads of various Jewish organizations and activists who are infected with Trump derangement syndrome twist themselves all in a knot to try and explain how a president, who earlier this week they were accusing of trafficking in antisemitism, just did the most historic action to defend the Jewish community from antisemitism ever in history.”
Pro-Israel, not pro-Jewish: Abe Foxman, director of the Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, argued that this is part of Trump’s pro-Israel agenda, not a significant pro-Jewish act, since “a majority of freedom of speech violations are directed against Jewish and pro-Israel students on campus who are acting out their support of Israel.” However, Foxman maintained that this action does not “obviate the president’s flirting with serious classic antisemitic stereotypes about Jews and money, as he did recently in Florida.”
J Street called the executive order “a cynical, harmful measure designed to suppress free speech on college campuses, not fight antisemitism.” Many also expressed discomfort with the idea of classifying Judaism as a nationality: “The specific intent here may be a worthy one, but ‘effectively interpret Judaism as a nationality’ is the way Jews were discriminated against in the Soviet Union, not protected,” tweeted Russian chess master and political activist Garry Kasparov. “‘Othering’ is the term today, I believe.”
Quite the timing: Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) published an op-ed in the Forward yesterday titled “We Must Hold Trump Accountable For Embracing Anti-Semitism,” citing the president’s attacks on George Soros and his accusations that Jewish Democrats are “disloyal.”
The legal debate: Paul Clement, the former U.S. solicitor general, testified before Congress in 2017 that the effort does not violate the First Amendment.
James Loeffler, a professor of Jewish history at the University of Virginia, explained in The Atlantic earlier this year why singling out American Jews for special protection could do more harm than good. Daniel Hemel, assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School, pointed out that the Supreme Court — in a unanimous 1987 decision — has already characterized Jews as a race and nationality.
TALK OF THE TOWN — Six dead after shootout in Jersey City kosher market
Six people are dead after a violent rampage across Jersey City yesterday that began at a cemetery and ended inside a kosher supermarket in the city’s growing Hassidic neighborhood. Those killed included a police detective, the two suspects and three bystanders inside the market.
Community shaken: Chabad[dot]org identified two of the dead as Leah Minda Ferencz, 33, who co-owned the store, and Moshe Deutsch, 24. The name of the third bystander has not yet been published. The supermarket adjoined a yeshiva and synagogue, and many members of the Jewish community watched the situation unfold in fear and confusion.
Timeline: Two gunmen opened fire at a cemetery in Jersey City shortly after noon on Tuesday, killing police Detective Joseph Seals. The gunmen then drove across the city and exchanged fire with police officers before storming inside the JC Kosher Supermarket on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, where they remained barricaded for hours.
Ongoing investigation: The motives and goals of the two suspects remained unclear Tuesday night. The city’s public safety director initially said that the incident was not considered a hate crime or terror-related. But later in the day, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop tweeted that “we now believe the active shooters targeted the location they attacked.” He did not elaborate on any alleged motivation.
AS SEEN ON TV — Advocates decry Trump allies’ use of antisemitic tropes
Open Society Foundations President Patrick Gaspard described the conspiracy theories against George Soros for his activities in Ukraine as antisemitism in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
Exhibit A: Asked why Soros was “Exhibit A” for the allies of Trump, Gaspard explained that attacks on Soros were part of “a long history of attacks not just against George Soros, but against figures like George Soros who have George Soros’ Jewish ancestry.”
“It’s the worst kind of antisemitism,” Gaspard continued. “Regrettably, it is not a new thing, but it’s unfortunate to see it transmitted in the highest corridors of office and the most important office in the world.”
Meanwhile, Fox News welcomed back contributor Joe diGenova less than a month after he used antisemitic tropes to criticize Soros. DiGenova, a conservative Trump supporter, appeared on “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” the same show on which he previously claimed Soros controlled most of the State Department. Jewish groups and leaders, including the ADL, denounced the move after previously calling for Fox to cease inviting diGenova.
Irony: The Daily Beast has published emails showing that while Fox News host Tucker Carlson has recently used his show to attack GOP donor Paul Singer for his political contributions, his digital media outlet The Daily Caller unsuccessfully courted Singer’s financial support over the course of four years.
PODCAST PLAYBACK — How Jeremy Corbyn journeyed from the fringe to the top
Foreign Policy’s Sarah Wildman speaks to Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, a popular British Jewish weekly, about Jeremy Corbyn’s turbulent relationship with the Jewish community.
Origin story: Corbyn “had been one of that kind of tiny fringe of the Labour Party — from the extreme, revolutionary socialist end that was never anywhere near any position of influence,” Pollard said. “You would see them if you’d go to the Labour Party conference every year, for instance, you would see Jeremy Corbyn and his allies walking around with plastic bags full of leaflets to hand out to whoever they could find. And that was really the sum total of their influence — they were a tiny, tiny coterie that no one took any notice of, especially when the new Labour crowd and Tony Blair took over. They were even less of any consequence.”
Never saw it coming: “It would have taken the most astonishing act of prediction to ever conceive that he would be in any position of influence in the Labour Party, let alone leader of the party. It’s almost impossible to overstate the shock that happened in July 2015 when it emerged… that he was ahead in the contest to succeed Ed Milliband.”
Pollard recounts an interaction between senior Labour MP Margaret Hodge and Corbyn last year, describing how Hodge, “who in fact had the bravery, as it were, after one of these incidents with Jeremy Corbyn, to go up to him in the House of Commons — and the exact words she used were, ‘You are a recast antisemite’ and she called him that to his face, and she then faced disciplinary action, which was eventually dropped. It’s a pretty torrid time. It’s interesting that a lot of the hatred has been directed against female Jewish parliamentarians. There are plenty of male Jewish Labour MPs who’ve not had anything like the same vitriol directed at them. Now, that’s because some of them call themselves Corbynites. But I think it’s also because there’s a very deep strand of misogyny which seems to run alongside the antisemitism.”
Bonus: In a Snapchat interview this week, Corbyn was asked, “If you could edit anything from your past, what would you change or tweak?” His response: “Choice of clothes at one time. Those bell-bottoms which we all thought were wonderful, my goodness.”
SCENE LAST NIGHT — Latkes & Vodka in Washington
Some 100 guests attended the 25th annual “Latkes & Vodkas” holiday party hosted by Steve Rabinowitz and Aaron Keyak at the Bluelight Strategies offices in Washington, D.C.
Menu: Three types of latkes, with 10 assorted toppings, and more than a dozen brands of vodka.
Spotted: Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Ken Marcus, William Daroff, Ken Weinstein, Hadar Susskind, Boris Zilberman, Rabbi Ken Cohen, Joanne Kenen, Gidon Feen, Lauren Markoe, Laurie Moskowitz, Shai Franklin, Josh Keating, Ezra Friedlander, Noam Neusner, Benji Krasna, David Roet, Dan Arbel, Rob Bassin, Jay Footlik, Sarah Arkin, Ron Kampeas, Joel Rubin, Amy Kaufman, Jennifer Packer, Jamie Kirchick, Alana Goodman, Corey Jacobson, Shayna Estulin, Matt Landini, Ben Spangenberg, Avigail Goldgraber, Laura Kelly, Matt Gold, Scott Siff, Rob Zucker, Lauren Strauss and Jon Meyer.
Ohr Torah Stone held its annual dinner at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan last night, celebrating Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and featuring the spirited dedication of a Sefer Torah.
Attendees included Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi, Jason Greenblatt, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, Rabbi Marc Schneier, Rabbi Ari Berman, and representatives of the Weiss, Straus, Lindenbaum and Beren families.
💳 Cyber War: In The New York Times, Ronen Bergman and Farnaz Fassihi detail how Iranian authorities are dealing with a security breach that exposed the credit card information of close to 20% of the country’s population. ClearSky, a cybersecurity firm that became aware of the compromise, issued a warning to Israeli credit card companies to be on alert for an Iranian counterattack if Tehran blames it on hostile foreign powers. [NYTimes]
🎥 Behind the Lens: Kelefa Sanneh takes New Yorker readers up close and personal with the full-immersion filmmaking of brothers Josh and Benny Safdie and their latest film, “Uncut Gems.” The movie, set in Manhattan’s heavily Jewish diamond district, is partly based on their father “Alberto, a Sephardic Jew who grew up in Italy and France before moving to New York” and worked for a time on 47th Street. [NewYorker]
AROUND THE WEB
😩 Pink Slip: Carl Icahn’s firm, Icahn Capital, announced layoffs in its New York offices months after the billionaire investor told staff he would relocate operations to Florida.
🏡 Moving Out: Ousted WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann is considering selling his penthouse on Irving Place in Manhattan.
🎬 Hollywood: Husband-and-wife authors Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman have signed an exclusive content deal with CBS, which includes a Showtime adaptation of Chabon’s novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.
📱 Violence in Europe: An Israeli student was beaten unconscious on the Paris Metro on Tuesday after he was overheard speaking Hebrew on the phone.
🎈 Parading Around: The UNESCO General Assembly is gathering this week in Colombia and will weigh stripping a Belgian parade of its World Heritage status over the event’s antisemitic floats.
✈️ Down Under: The first El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Australia is slated to take off in April 2020.
💃 Cracking the Glass Ceiling: Michelle Farber is organizing the first large-scale Daf Yomi ceremony (Siyum HaShas) for women in Jerusalem next month — with the goal of encouraging more women to engage in intensive Talmud study.
👨🏻🍳 Move Over, Doughnuts: At Zak the Baker in Miami, Zak Stern is drawing inspiration from Jewish Latinos and introducing sweet fritters for Hanukkah, instead of the traditional jelly doughnuts.
🍕 One Bite: Barstool Sports’ David Portnoy is gearing up to open a pizzeria in Manhattan’s East Village.
PIC OF THE DAY
Leon Black, Debra Black, Sharon Harel-Cohen and Sir Ronald Cohen attended Israel’s Academy Awards International Film Entry “Incitement” screening at The Museum of Modern Art on Sunday in New York City.
In an interview with Variety, Dalia Rabin, daughter of assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, discussed the film, which chronicled the days leading up to her father’s assassination.
U.S. Secretary of State in the Obama administration and former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry turns 76…
Businessman and philanthropist who kept 3,000 employees on his payroll in 1995 when his company’s factory burned down, Aaron Feuerstein turns 94… Glenview, Illinois resident, Marshall Wolf turns 86… Bethany, Connecticut resident, Stuart Paley turns 74… Professor of international economics at Princeton University, Gene Grossman turns 64… Speech language pathologist in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Joanne Ring turns 61… Best-selling author, she has published eleven novels including seven books in the series The Mommy-Track Mysteries, Ayelet Waldman turns 55… Partner in Pomerantz LLP where he leads the corporate governance litigation practice, he serves as a trustee of Manhattan’s Beit Rabban Day School, Gustavo F. Bruckner turns 52…
Former member of the Knesset, Einat Wilf turns 49… Policy researcher at Rand Corporation and a special advisor on Israel with Rand’s Center for Middle East Public Policy, Shira Efron Ph.D. turns 41… Israeli poet and founder of the cultural group Ars Poetica, Adi Keissar turns 39… Chasidic rapper from Boston, Massachusetts, known as Nosson, Nathan Isaac Zand turns 38… Director of public affairs and marketing at Englewood (N.J.) Hospital and Medical Center, Michael Chananie turns 30… Criminal justice reporter for the Washington Examiner, Kelly Cohen turns 29… Reporter at Politico who covers lobbying and co-authors Politico Influence, Marianne LeVine turns 28… SVP of alternative investments at CAIS, Judah Schulman turns 28… Co-host of “What A Day” at Crooked Media, Gideon Resnick turns 27… CEO at D.C.-based Brown Strategy Group, Josh Brown turns 30… Perry Rosen…