Good Thursday morning!
Happening now: World leaders are attending the World Holocaust Forum 2020 at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Watch live here.
Later today, Vice President Mike Pence will visit the Western Wall, accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two leaders will then meet at the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. This morning, Pence met with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.
On Capitol Hill, Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), James Lankford (R-OK) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) will introduce this morning a bipartisan resolution commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Grace Meng (D-NY), and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) will introduce a similar House measure next week, Jewish Insider has learned.
In Park City, Utah, the Sundance Film Festival kicks off today. According to the NYPost, the star power of the event has waned as celebrities make only brief appearances to fulfill their obligations and “wannabe influencers” flood Park City.
Amnesty International is suing the Israeli NSO Group that experts say might have helped Saudi Arabia hack Bezos’s phone with the Pegasus-3 malware.
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Bloomberg to launch Jewish leadership team next week in Florida
Former New York City mayor and 2020 presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg is expected to announce his national Jewish leadership team at an event in the battleground state of Florida next week, Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh reports.
Details: The “United for Mike” campaign event will take place at the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center & Tauber Academy in South Florida on Sunday afternoon. According to the invitation obtained by JI, Jewish community leaders will have “an opportunity to hear directly from” Bloomberg “about his priorities and plans for our future.”
Building a team: In recent weeks, the Bloomberg campaign quietly expanded its Jewish outreach team, adding several staffers who worked in Bloomberg’s mayoral administration. Journalist and author Abigail Pogrebin joined the campaign as director of Jewish outreach in November.
Number crunching: Jewish voters represent 3-6% of the electorate in Florida, one of the swing states that could determine the outcome of the presidential race. According to a 2016 exit poll, 68% of Jews in the state voted for Hillary Clinton.
View on the Iran deal: A Bloomberg campaign spokesperson told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Wednesday that Bloomberg “was initially against the Iran deal but thinks it was a mistake for President Trump to unilaterally walk away from it.”
Bonus: Jason Zengerle writes in The New York Times Magazine about Bloomberg’s “radically conventional” campaign. His ubiquitous TV ads don’t attack Trump on his character, but on his record: “With enough money and enough ads, he hopes to normalize Trump on the way to defeating him.”
World leaders gather in Jerusalem with a message against antisemitism
Historic gathering: World leaders are attending the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The program includes speeches from the heads of state of Israel, Russia, the U.S., France, Great Britain and Germany. The attending leaders will also lay wreaths at the base of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Monument.
Moment to watch: “Another fraught encounter is possible for Pence in the person of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky,” The Washington Post pointed out. “It was unclear if the two would bump into each other on the Yad Vashem stage however. Zelensky reportedly surrendered his seat during the main ceremony at Yad Vashem to Holocaust survivors.”
State dinner: On Wednesday night, President Reuven Rivlin implored world leaders — gathered for dinner at his residence in Jerusalem — to “stand united together in the fight against racism, antisemitism and extremism.” Among the 40+ dignitaries present were President Emmanuel Macron of France, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, King Felipe VI of Spain and Italian President Sergio Mattarella. The U.S. was represented by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a bipartisan congressional delegation.
Speaking volumes: The Spanish king concluded his remarks: “We will always need to persevere so that the words ‘Never Again,’ ‘leolam lo od’ [repeating the phrase in Hebrew] stay true.”
Kushner scraps trip: White House senior advisor Jared Kushner and Mideast peace envoy Avi Berkowitz abruptly canceled their trip to Israel this week, blaming weather for preventing them from departing Davos in time. Prince Charles was also in Davos yesterday, and arrived in Tel Aviv last night.
View from D.C.: U.S. officials told Axios on Wednesday that the Trump administration has “made its position clear” to the Israeli government that it is against unilateral steps on annexation before the Mideast peace plan is published.
Optics: New York Times reporters David Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner noted that during dinner in Jerusalem, “the Israeli opposition leader, Benny Gantz, who is battling Mr. Netanyahu in a third straight election in March, was seated next to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who officials said had been invited by Mr. Rivlin’s office in an acknowledgement of the importance of Israel’s maintaining bipartisan ties to the United States.”
At the Knesset: Pelosi touted the Democratic Party’s commitment to a strong U.S.-Israel alliance in remarks during a working lunch with Knesset members hosted by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein in Jerusalem. “It is something that is a joy to all of us: our love of Israel,” the Democratic leader said. “And no matter what our party — or wherever we are within our party — the fact that we have shared values with Israel is one reason for our joy in the creation of Israel as a historical miracle.”
From Russia With Love: Russian President Vladimir Putin reassured Yaffa Issachar, the mother of Israeli-American backpacker Naama Issachar, that “everything will be OK” during a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Putin later attended the dedication of a new Jerusalem memorial to the Siege of Leningrad.
Greenblatt: I quit as peace envoy due to Israeli political gridlock
Former White House Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt revealed in an interview with Mishpacha magazine, a New York-based Orthodox Jewish publication, that the ongoing political crisis in Israel prompted him to abruptly leave the Trump administration.
Impasse: “The truth? When I perceived that Israel was likely headed to a third round of elections,” Greenblatt said of the timing of his decision to leave. “Once I did the math and realized that there’s an impasse and it might mean long months in which we couldn’t move forward, I felt like it was appropriate to step down,” he told the magazine in an interview published on Wednesday.
Background: Greenblatt announced his intention to leave his White House position due to family reasons on September 5th, two weeks before Israel’s second-round September 17 election, but didn’t specify when his departure would take place. A week later, he told a New York crowd that he would stay on “until the plan is launched.” But as it became apparent that Netanyahu and Benny Gantz would both fail to form a government, Greenblatt left his post.
Farewell tweet: Greenblatt also shared details of how Trump reacted to his departure: “On the day Jason announced he was leaving the post, Trump’s communications team composed a tweet, words of praise for his trusted envoy. Jason came into the Oval Office to formally thank his boss of twenty-two years and President Trump looked at the tweet, before hitting send. ‘Nah,’ he said, ‘this doesn’t do justice.’ He deleted and composed a new one.”
HEARD FROM THE PULPIT
Rabbi’s sermon recalls tense meeting with ex-Women’s March leaders
During a sermon this past weekend, Romemu Jewish Congregation’s Rabbi David Ingber described a contentious meeting with Women’s March leaders Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour a year earlier.
Tense times: According to Ingber, the meeting — called to address allegations of antisemitism leveled against Mallory and Sarsour — was attended by various rabbis and other Jewish leaders, along with the then-leaders of the Women’s March. Mallory, who had previously posted a photo to social media with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, refused to apologize for her association with the noted antisemite.
No apology: Instead, Ingber said, “We sat with our mouths wide open in shock as, one after another, the leaders of the Women’s March said to us [about Farrakhan]: ‘Oh, pay him no mind — he goes on for three, four hours, nobody pays attention to him.’”
Friendly fire: “What happened next will be indelibly etched in my soul for the rest of my life,” Ingber continued. “It was so upsetting to me that I can still feel it in my body as I speak to you right now.” After Ingber asked Mallory for an apology, the rabbi claimed that a “prominent left-leaning rabbinic colleague” stood up. Directly accusing Ingber, she said, “David Ingber, you are embarrassing all of us. You have gone too far.”
Stand strong: “Jews who demand the right to simply exist without fear or favor make some people — including other Jews — really queasy,” Ingber concluded, describing Jews throughout history as “contorting and accommodating ourselves to fit into whatever roles keep us safest amidst our often hostile neighbors.”
A new path: Ingber urged his congregation to choose a different path, arguing that “what Jewish history has taught us — and has taught us in a bloody way — is that this doesn’t work. We are not the cause of anti-Zionism. We are not the cause of antisemitism. We are the victims of irrational hatred that defies all attempts to understand it.”
Bonus: TV anchor Eylon Levy notes, “The caravan of world leaders to Jerusalem for the #WorldHolocaustForum is the definitive symbol of how, for the international community, Israel has become synonymous with Jewry. None of them would have shown up if invited to a ceremony at the Washington Holocaust Museum.”
🧕 Life Story:The Washington Post tells the surprising tale of Leila Jabarin, a Muslim grandmother in Israel, who began life as Helene Berschatzky, a Jewish Holocaust survivor who was hidden as a newborn in a Nazi concentration camp before boarding a ship to Israel in 1948. [WashPost]
🌎 Tikkun Olam: Marc Benioff, the billionaire co-founder of Salesforce, tellsBloomberg that he will “never be a politician,” but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to change the world — because “if you and I don’t change the world, no one else is going to.” [Bloomberg]
🎧 Worthy Listen: Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and author Dan Senor joined the Washington Institute’s “Decision Points” podcast hosted by David Makovsky to discuss the continued growth of the Israeli hi-tech sector. The conversation focused on the close U.S.-Israel relationship in the development and sharing of technology, including congressional allocations, MOUs and partnerships with American companies such as Intel, IBM, Google and Microsoft. [DecisonPoints]
Around the Web
🏗️ Sky High: At 90 years old, architect Frank Gehry tellsNew York Magazine that he has no real plans to retire, and has a full docket of projects ahead, including the World’s Jewish Museum in Tel Aviv.
👸 Royalty: At the World Economic Forum, Ivanka Trump stood out from the rest of the U.S. delegation in meetings with the world’s power brokers, who have come to acknowledge her influence in the White House.
📱 Snippy Reply: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos tweeted out a photo of himself attending a 2019 vigil for murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in response to the revelation that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman allegedly hacked his phone in 2018. CNN’s Jake Tapper trolled the Saudi embassy after it called for an investigation into the matter, saying Khashoggi could’ve helped figure it out “but you killed him.”
🏷️ Short Sale: WeWork has sold its minority stake in women co-working space operator The Wing to a group of new and existing investors, including Google Ventures.
☁️ Helping Hand: Microsoft announced on Wednesday that it would establish a major cloud data center in Israel to enable customers to store data within the country.
🥑 Food for Thought: Tastewise — an AI-based Israeli startup that predicts food trends — forecasted a growing concern for food sustainability among American consumers, citing waste, health benefits and animal treatment.
✈️ Air Miles: Boeing has signed a deal with Israeli company Tactical Robotics to work on potentially developing piloted and autonomous light aircraft.
🛐 Historic Visit: Mohammed al-Issa, the secretary-general of the Mecca-based Muslim World League and a former Saudi justice minister, is visiting Auschwitz today on a trip sponsored by the American Jewish Committee. According to AJC CEO David Harris, this is “the most senior delegation of Muslim religious leaders to visit Auschwitz ever.” The delegation will tour the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw on Friday and attend an interfaith Shabbat meal.
📚 Book Shelf:The Sun and Her Stars, a new book by Donna Rifkind, tells the story of Hollywood heavy hitter Salka Viertel, who helped Jewish refugees enter the U.S. and provided an artistic safe haven for refugees from the Nazis.
✡️ Year of Fun:Germany is planning to launch a year-long campaign in 2021 celebrating Jewish culture, hoping to counter growing antisemitism in the country.
🐄 Holy Cow: Ben & Jerry’s will remove the promise printed on its cartons that its ice cream comes from “Happy Cows” after a lawsuit brought by the Organic Consumers Association alleged the slogan misled consumers.
🏫 Talk of the Nation: Conservative justices on the Supreme Court appeared open to allowing state tax credits for scholarship programs to also apply to religious and other private schools.
🕍 Talk of the Town: Germany-based Deutsche Welle spoke with members of the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn about their concerns and the changes to Jewish life amid an increase in antisemitic violence.
🗣️ Under Fire:Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who is expected to run for mayor next year, is facing backlash for a rant against outsiders and gentrification. “We’re going through a lot of antisemitism right now and this only kind of helps it along,” Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz said. The New York Daily Newspointed out that Adams reaped at least $750,000 in campaign donations from non-NYC residents and the real estate industry.
🛒 Premature Mourning: Fairway Market on Wednesday denied reports that it filed for bankruptcy and that it was preparing to close all of its stores in the tri-state area, following an outcry from loyal customers. The Wall Street Journalreported that the company is preparing to sell off the supermarket chain to a number of buyers.
Gif of the Day
French President Emmanuel Macron got into a verbal tussle with Israeli security officers in the Old City yesterday. Macron was about to enter the Church of St. Anne, which is considered French territory, and refused to allow Israeli security officials to enter, shouting “Go outside. I’m sorry, you know the rules.” While Israeli police said Macron later apologized to the officers and shook their hands, a French official said there was no apology.
Creator and host of Jew in the City, Allison F. Josephs turns 40…
Real estate developer and former minority owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, Bruce Ratner turns 75… Professor of biological chemistry at Weizmann Institute of Science, David Wallach turns 74… Educational consultant, he was previously a longtime aide to Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug (D-NY), Peter D. Rosenstein turns 73… Manager of Innovative Strategies LLLP and JHJ Investment LLLP, he is a board member of the Baltimore-based Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund, Howard K. Cohen turns 73… Israeli archaeologist, educator, on the faculty of the University of Haifa, Estee Dvorjetski turns 69… 41st mayor of Los Angeles (2005-2013), Antonio Villaraigosa turns 67… Broadway theater owner, operator, producer and presenter and president of the Nederlander Organization, James L. Nederlander turns 60… Former president and CEO of Staples Inc., she serves on the boards of three public companies (CBRE, CarMax and Henry Schein), Shira Goodman turns 59…
CEO of Foundation for Jewish Camp since 2010, after a 20+ year career in the food business including stints at Campbell Soup, General Mills and as CEO of Manischewitz, Jeremy J. Fingerman turns 59… National affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, co-author of “Game Change” and “Double Down: Game Change 2012,” John Heilemann turns 54… Hilary Bangash Cohen turns 49… Journalist, screenwriter and film producer, in 2009 he wrote and produced “The Hurt Locker” for which he won two Academy Awards including for Best Picture, Mark Boal turns 47… CEO of Instagram since 2018, he formerly served as an executive at Facebook, Adam Mosseri turns 37… Manhasset, New York native who competed for Israel in figure skating, she was the 2014 Israeli national champion, Danielle Montalbano turns 31… Professional soccer player who plays as a defender for DC United, Steven Mitchell Birnbaum turns 29… New York City native who competed for Israel in pairs figure skating, she and her partner won silver medals in the 2008 and 2009 Israeli championships, Hayley Anne Sacks turns 29… Strategic communications consultant, Arielle Poleg…