Good Thursday morning and happy 2020!
Yesterday at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, more than 90,000 Jews gathered to celebrate the 13th completion of the Daf Yomi program (Siyum HaShas). The celebration and gathering carried extra meaning amid the wave of recent antisemitic attacks.
Today in New York, senior members of the New York congressional delegation will announce additional federal support for security measures at high-risk nonprofits during a press conference at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
Yesterday, longtime NBA commissioner David Sternpassed away at age 77 after suffering a brain hemorrhage last month. Gertrude Himmelfarb, a historian and public intellectual, and the mother of commentator Bill Kristol, passed away at age 97 earlier this week.
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TALK OF OUR NATION — Monsey stabbing rattles already shaken New York Jewish community
The horrific stabbing attack in Monsey, N.Y. on Saturday night, deemed a domestic terror incident, drew fierce condemnation and prompted reassurances from political leaders to combat the growing threat of antisemitism and protect the Jewish community.
Latest details: The suspect, Grafton Thomas, has pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and five federal hate-crime charges. Josef Neumann, the most seriously wounded victim, remains in a coma which he is unlikely to wake up from, his family said in a statement. Thomas could face the death penalty if Neumann dies from his injuries, federal prosecutors said. According to a report Wednesday evening, authorities are investigating if Thomas is linked to the unsolved stabbing of a Hasidic man in Monsey, N.Y. last November, waiting for DNA testing.
Story of a hero: Joseph Gluck, a lifelong resident of Monsey, was hailed as a “hero” who saved lives by throwing a coffee table at the suspect after he entered the rabbi’s home. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who is retiring this year, presented Gluck with a congressional certificate on Tuesday to honor his efforts. Gluck was also awarded the Ramapo Freedom Award, an honor first created in 2001 to commemorate the victims of 9/11.
Weeks of horror: The Monsey attack followed a rash of violent incidents against Jews on almost every single day of Hanukkah. As of Wednesday evening, at least 13 antisemitic incidents had been reported in New York City in just 10 days. Those attacks included a string of assaults on Hasidic men and women walking the streets of Brooklyn.
Not the time: Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh that “now is not the time” for Israelis to suggest that American Jews worried about their safety should emigrate to the Jewish state.
Boots on the ground: Governor Andrew Cuomo visited the Jewish neighborhood of Williamsburg on Wednesday to express his support and solidarity. The visit came on the five-year anniversary of the death of his father, former Governor Mario Cuomo, who had a close relationship with the Satmar community. Cuomo directed police to further increase patrols and security in Jewish neighborhoods across the state.
Across the bridge: The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and the UJA-Federation of New York are organizing a mass march across the Brooklyn Bridge from Foley Square in Manhattan on Sunday. The New York Times editorial board is calling on Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio to join the “No Hate, No Fear” march.
Raising the bar of solidarity: During a panel conversation on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” on Monday, New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss suggested that de Blasio should “put on a kippah and say ‘every one of conscience should join with me on a solidarity march through the neighborhoods of Brooklyn where Jews are being assaulted in the street.’”
SAFETY FIRST — Wave of antisemitic violence prompts soul-searching
The Monsey attack sparked a national conversation about the need to address antisemitism and hate, as well as a call for unity.
In an interview with Jewish Insider, Deborah Lauter, executive director of the newly created New York City Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, said the Monsey attack has “put an exclamation point on how important this office is, and has escalated our work to a higher level.” But she maintained that the city government is capable of addressing the crisis. “Federal hate crime laws are important, but I don’t see the necessity of any federal intervention. I think the city is well-prepared and is dealing with it appropriately,” she said.
Lauter reassured the Jewish community that the city is taking the issue seriously. On Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the creation of new “Neighborhood Safety Coalitions” in Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Borough Park, and a new curriculum in the Department of Education to prevent future hate crimes and antisemitic attacks.
Read my lips: De Blasio told JI’s Jacob Kornbluh that his message to fathers riding the subway to work and mothers sending their children to school is that “we will protect you. We are sending in more and more of the finest police officers in this country to protect the community.”
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea added, “It makes me mad as hell that we have people living in this city in 2019 that have to worry about their kids going to school, and what they’re wearing, or going to a movie, that they’re going to be targeted because of how they look or they’re afraid to worship whatever their religion is.”
Taking it personally: NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer tells JI that the conversation with his two young sons while lighting the menorah “has been very different and difficult” this year. “I was trying to get them to understand the reality of this changing world,” he said.
Building bridges: City Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), who represents parts of Borough Park, tells JI that this is the time for liberal and progressive Jews to “push past” their anti-Hasidic bias and “welcome Orthodox Jews into the conversation and [make] room for frum leaders to… be in dialogue. Unfortunately we just don’t have that kind of relationship” between the communities, Lander said. “I hope we can use this as an opportunity to build more bridges and also hold ourselves accountable for our solidarity with Hasidic and Haredi Jews.” He added that antisemitism and bias “needs to be called out not just when it fits our model.”
Funding security measures: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has requested additional federal funding to protect religious institutions and members of religious groups, calling it a “national crisis.” Flanked by the leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, Agudath Israel of America, the Orthodox Union and members of the Satmar Hasidic sect in New York on Monday, Schumer outlined a plan to strengthen the federal government’s strategy against rising hate and extremist attacks. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) also addressed the issue of funding in a meeting with community leaders.
Rockland County legislator Aron Wieder, also a member of the Hasidic community, tells JI that while the responses from elected officials “were the best that we could expect,” the community lacks the resources and protection measures that the federal government “can and must” provide. “We are American citizens and we deserve nothing less than basic security,” he said.
On the Hill: Rep. Max Rose (D-NY), chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism, will hold a hearing on January 15th on the rise of antisemitic attacks and the federal government’s response.
Food channel: Rep Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, and Borough President Eric Adams announced earlier this week the launch of a “Breaking Bread and Building Bonds initiative,” a series of 100 multi-faith and ethnic dinner parties across the city to “empower everyday voices to be new ambassadors of intersectional unity.” Jeffries explained that the idea is to “move forward and bring people together in an intimate, authentic community-based fashion to turn pain into progress.”
New role: Mitchell Silber, a former director of intelligence analysis at the NYPD, was tapped as executive director of the Community Security Initiative, a newly created position by the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York to secure local Jewish institutions.
TALK OF THE REGION — Iran-U.S. tensions heat up after embassy protest
President Donald Trump has stepped up his rhetoric against Iran, warning that it would “be held fully responsible” for protesters who breached the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad earlier this week. The incident followed U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against five facilities tied to an Iranian-backed militia blamed for a series of attacks on U.S.-Iraq military installments.
Middle East reality: Trump had vowed that he would limit U.S. involvement in the Middle East and Gulf region, but just this week, the Pentagon announced the deployment of more forces to the region, in addition to the president’s reversal on ground troops in northeastern Syria.
View from Jerusalem: Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz condemned the embassy attack on Wednesday, calling on the international community “to stand determinedly against the crimes of the murderous regime in Tehran.” Israeli officials also welcomed the U.S. airstrikes as “a turning point in the regional response to Iran and its proxies.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke twice with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the situation. Pompeo thanked Netanyahu “for Israel’s unwavering commitment to countering Iran’s malign regional influence and its condemnation” of the embassy attack, the State Department said after Wednesday’s phone call.
Red lines: Seth Frantzman writes in The Daily Beast that — despite the close alliance between Israel and the U.S. on the Iranian threat — the two countries have very different red lines. “For Israel, the red line has been Iran’s effort to transfer precision guided munitions through Iraq and Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and its increasing role in Syria close to Israel’s borders,” he noted. “For the Trump administration, the red line has become further Iranian proxy attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq or Syria.
BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Netanyahu asks for immunity after primary triumph
On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formally requested parliamentary immunity from prosecution on corruption charges, ahead of the March 2nd elections that will decide his political future.
Details: In a televised speech, Netanyahu insisted that he is not seeking to avoid prosecution. “I will stand in court to crush all the unfounded allegations against me,” he said, maintaining that he is looking for protection from “false allegations” and to continue “to serve the people according to the public’s will.”
Why it matters: Netanyahu’s request is aimed to delay the criminal proceedings against him until a hearing can take place in the Knesset’s House Committee. Since no such committee has been formed due to the political deadlock, this move could turn Netanyahu’s re-election bid into a referendum over immunity.
Once a kingmaker, now a political foe: Avigdor Lieberman, who has repeatedly pushed for a national unity government, announced that he would not only oppose immunity for Netanyahu, but that he also supports efforts to immediately form a House Committee, led by Blue and White, to debate the matter before the election. In such a scenario, Netanyahu’s request could be voted down in the coming weeks.
Primary win: Last week, Netanyahu resoundingly defeated primary challenger Gideon Sa’ar to hold on to the leadership of the Likud in a vote last week. Netanyahu received support from 72% of the close to 60,000 party members who showed up to the polls. Sa’ar congratulated Netanyahu on his win and vowed to support the prime minister in the general election.
What’s next? Further complicating matters is the hypothetical question of whether a candidate for prime minister who is facing criminal prosecution is legally permitted to be tasked with forming a government. On Tuesday, Israel’s Supreme Court dismissed a legal petition to form an opinion, passing the question to President Reuven Rivlin, who will have the authority to nominate a candidate to form a government after the elections.
BETWEEN THE LINES — Bret Stephens op-ed garners outrage, partial retraction
Pulitzer Prize winner Bret Stephens’ most recent New York Timescolumn, “The Secrets of Jewish Genius,” sparked a wave of backlash over the weekend, including a lengthy editor’s note amending the original op-ed.
His words: Stephens’ original column touted the statistically high intelligence of Ashkenazi Jews, claiming that “many Ashkenazi Jews have higher I.Q.s.” Stephens also linked to a 2005 study co-authored by Henry Harpending, which argued that Jews have a genetic edge on intelligence. Harpending, who died in 2016, has been denounced for promoting white supremacist ideas in his lectures and publications.
Retraction:The New York Times appended an editor’s note to Stephens’ column, and also removed any references to I.Q. and deleted the citation of Harpending’s study. “Stephens was not endorsing the study or its authors’ views, but it was a mistake to cite it uncritically,” the editors wrote. “The effect was to leave an impression with many readers that Mr. Stephens was arguing that Jews are genetically superior. That was not his intent.”
☑️ Not Their Savior: In Politico, Derek Robertson delved into the anger young progressive activists feel toward 2020 contender Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “The first millennial to take a serious run at the presidency is nothing like the left’s imagined savior. Buttigieg is a veteran, an outspoken Christian, a former McKinsey consultant, and… in the eyes of radicalized young leftists, Buttigieg isn’t just an ideological foe, he’s worse than that: He’s a square.” [Politico]
🗄️ From the Archives: Recently released papers show behind-the-scenes strife between aides to then-British Prime Minister John Major and the Foreign Office over plans for a 1995 trip to Israel. Under pressure from Jewish groups, Downing Street officials nixed a plan for minister Douglas Hogg to visit Orient House accompanied by a PLO official. [Guardian]
🕵️ Master Hacker:Bloomberg’s Kit Chellel has penned an in-depth profile of hacker Daniel Kaye, aka Spdrman, a 31-year-old British citizen who was raised in Israel. Kaye, who will soon be released from prison, was behind a massive botnet attack on Liberia in 2016, allegedly ordered by former Cellcom Liberia CEO Avishai Marziano, in order to cripple a competitor. [Bloomberg]
AROUND THE WEB
💼 Transition: Elisha Wiesel, Goldman Sachs’s co-chief information officer and son of the late Elie Wiesel, is joining the Bloomberg campaign to oversee its technology push.
🚘 Gearing Up:U.S.-based electric carmaker Tesla is setting up an R&D office in Israel.
📺 Going Biblical: “Messiah,” a new Netflix miniseries, has garnered attention for its plot about a messianic Palestinian man who gains a global following a stint in Israeli prison.
🎬 Hollywood: Gal Gadot announced that her production company is creating a U.S. film based on a controversial Hebrew book about an Israeli-Palestinian romance.
🎶 Taking Notes: Polish rock band Trupa Trupa recently completed a U.K. tour confronting Holocaust denial with their songs, including the track “Never Forget,” which examines the destruction inflicted by the Nazis.
💂♂️ Talk of the Town: Members of the Jewish community in Whitefish, Montana, believe their response to white supremacist threats should serve as a nationwide model.
👩🏫 Learning from Mistakes: More than 30 trainees in the West Virginia corrections department have been fired for participating in a Nazi salute photo. Meanwhile, the remaining staff will be attending seminars about the Holocaust led by the local ADL chapter.
⚰️ Never Again is Now: More than 40 gravestones were vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in the town of Geilenkirchen, a small town in western Germany, on Sunday night.
🚓 Behind Bars, At Last: Tiffany Harris, the suspect in a series of antisemitic hate crimes in Brooklyn, was kept in police custody for psychiatric evaluation after three arrests in the span of five days.
⚖️ Case Closed: A court in Cyprus found a British woman guilty of making a false gang rape claim against a group of Israelis last summer.
👨💼 Term Extension:Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon will stay on for another six months after Netanyahu decided to once again extend his four-year term — which ended last summer — until after the formation of a new government.
🤔 Awkward Partner:In a blog post, Isaac Herzog considers the Trump and Obama administrations willingness to fete Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad despite his antisemitism.
🍽️ Eat Up: NPR’s Alex Schmidt reflects on her dining experience at the Golden Rose restaurant in Lviv, Ukraine, a mock Jewish restaurant that encourages diners to haggle and serves matzah with every dish.
🙏 Prayers:Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) announced that he is battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
🤵 Commemoration:The Washington Post details how friends and family gathered recently for the shloshim of Ron Meyers, an accountant from Maryland who died of an aggressive brain tumor on what was supposed to be his wedding day.
Owner of The Wonderful Company which operates POM, Fiji Water, Teleflora, Wonderful Pistachios and other businesses, Lynda Rae Resnick turns 77…
Poet and professor at Columbia, Princeton, Brooklyn College, Cooper Union and William Paterson University, David Shapiro turns 73… Founder and CEO of Boston-based investment firm, Weiss Asset Management, he is also an emeritus professor at Boston University, Andrew M. Weiss turns 73… Pulitzer Prize-winning ex-reporter for The New York Times, she went to jail to protect her source in the Valerie Plame matter, now an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Judith Miller turns 72… Long-time journalist for The New York Times, also author of two books including a memoir about fighting cancer, Joyce Wadler turns 72…
Former executive director of the Western Publishing Association (1996-2018), Jane Silbering turns 71… Prime Minister of the Czech Republic (2009-2010), then Minister of Finance (2013-2014), Jan Fischer turns 69… President of the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum, she was previously with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Alice M. Greenwald turns 68… CEO of Loews Corporation, James Tisch turns 67… Cantor at Agudath Achim Synagogue in Shreveport, Louisiana, Neil Schwartz turns 67… Commissioner of Israel’s Civil Service Commission, he is a congregational rabbi in Haifa, Daniel Hershkowitz turns 67… Israeli ambassador to Denmark since 2017, he was previously Israel’s ambassador to Sweden (2008-2012), Benny Dagan turns 63… Of counsel at the DC-based Potomac Law Group, Anita J. Finkelstein turns 63… President of the DC-based S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, he was previously a member of Congress (D-FL-19)(1997-2010), Robert Wexler turns 59…
Actress, best known for her role in the 1990s television series “Beverly Hills, 90210,” in 2016 she was elected president of SAG-AFTRA, Gabrielle Carteris turns 59… Financial advisor at First Manhattan in NYC, Julia Beth Rabinowitz turns 59… Justice on the Supreme Court of Israel since 2012, she was previously dean of Tel Aviv University’s law school, Daphne Barak-Erez turns 55… Russian oligarch and founder of Basic Element, he is currently subject to U.S. sanctions, Oleg Deripaska turns 52… Writer, artist, baseball player and coach, he was the first base coach for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Nate Fish turns 40… Film and television actress, Lauren Storm turns 33… Associate brand manager at Colgate-Palmolive, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Langer turns 30… Desktop engineer for the City of Memphis, Tennessee, Tandameshia Hastings turns 30…