Good Tuesday morning!
On Capitol Hill, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs is holding a hearing on the killing of Qassim Soleimani. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined an invitation to testify at the hearing. Also today, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will introduce a resolution in support of Iranian protesters.
Britain, France and Germany triggered the dispute resolution mechanism in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, one step before the snapback of U.N. sanctions.
In South Dakota, Governor Kristi Noem is expected to sign an anti-BDS executive order.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened an emergency meeting with his coalition partners to discuss the Knesset immunity hearing. According to Channel 12, Netanyahu may pull his request for parliamentary immunity in order to prevent Blue and White from winning a photo-op victory.
Tonight at 7 p.m. on CNN, six Democratic candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); and billionaire Tom Steyer — will participate in the seventh televised primary debate, held at Drake University in Iowa.
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2020 WATCH — Booker bows out of 2020 race
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) ended his bid for the Democratic nomination for president on Monday, citing a lack of financial resources and his need to be in D.C. during the Trump impeachment process as hurdles to winning the nomination.
Why it matters: With only three weeks until the Iowa caucuses, Booker’s departure leaves a significant number of endorsements, organizers and staff up for grabs. These could prove crucial in determining the winner of a tight and still-crowded race. Asked by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Monday evening, Booker said he did not know if he would endorse any candidate.
Above the fray: David Magerman, who left the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies after a publicized dispute with then-CEO Robert Mercer over the latter’s support for Trump, was an early supporter of Booker’s candidacy. “I love that he talks about God, and that he’s a positive campaigner, not willing to denigrate his opponents personally,” Magerman told JI last summer. In a letter to supporters, Booker said he didn’t regret his positive approach. “I’m proud I never compromised my faith in these principles during this campaign to score political points or tear down others. And maybe I’m stubborn, but I’ll never abandon my faith in what we can accomplish when we join together,” he wrote.
Unity plea: On Monday, Magerman welcomed Booker’s departure. “I think Booker dropping out was long overdue,” Magerman told JI’s Jacob Kornbluh. “I wish more of the candidates who have no chance to win would drop out, and I wish the Democrats would get smart and align behind an electable candidate. Wishful thinking, of course.”
Ben Choauke, president of N.J.-based NORPAC, tells JI: “Cory Booker is a well-known national politician who was running in a busy field of candidates — some even better known than he was. He is still young and has time to do this again. This election cycle he had trouble finding a unique niche that was attractive to the electorate… People have in the past been inspired by his personal courage. He has that, and if he just lets that flow into more political courage, that will make him more distinct and more genuine which will make him worthy of higher national leadership.”
2020 ranking: Magerman pointed to Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bloomberg as his favorite current contenders. “I’m most excited about Amy Klobuchar. She seems like the most moderate and sensible of the remaining candidates,” he explained. Bloomberg, he said, would be the most electable nominee. “I think Bloomberg is a strong alternative who could beat Trump if the party would rally around him, but he is pretty enigmatic, by design,” Magerman stated.
In other 2020 news: Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) on Monday became the first member of Congress to publicly back Bloomberg’s candidacy. In his endorsement, Rose cited Bloomberg’s management of the city after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. “Mayor Bloomberg’s even-keeled and visionary leadership is what we need to reduce the chaos, partisanship and hyper-vitriol that has overtaken Washington,” the first-term congressman said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) toldTheNew York Times editorial board that while he’s not actively involved in organized Judaism, he believes in God and “in the constitutional right of freedom of religion.”
MAKING WAVES — The woman behind Manhattan’s funniest billboards now boosting Judaism
For decades, Archie Gottesman was the voice behind the catchy and controversial ads for Manhattan Mini Storage that adorned subway cars and billboards in New York City. But in recent years, she’s been marketing something else entirely: Judaism.
Outreach: Together with Stacy Stuart, her longtime advertising partner, Gottesman launched JewBelong, an organization working to reach out to Jews who are disconnected, disengaged and sometimes intimidated by participating in Jewish events or rituals. “I think everyone wants meaning, and if Judaism doesn’t give it to them then they’re going to find it somewhere else,” Gottesman told Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro in a recent interview.
Bold billboards: In October, JewBelong splashed onto the scene in a big way, with its first ad buy in New York City. The organization poured between $15,000 and $20,000 into advertising on kiosks around New York and New Jersey, with two eye-catching and unforgettable taglines: “Even if you think kugel is an exercise you do for your vagina… JewBelong” and “So you eat bacon. God has other things to worry about.”
Active board member: Gottesman is active in several nonprofits, including the Foundation for Jewish Camp and the Israel on Campus Coalition. She is also a board member of Democratic Majority for Israel, as well as vice president of the board at Zioness — two liberal political groups that embrace Zionism and support for Israel. “I’m Jewish and I’m a Democrat… and when I saw anti-Israel sentiment within the Democratic party, and this high criticism of Israel, I was just like, what?” Gottesman recalled. “Israel is becoming weaponized by people within the Democratic Party.” In today’s climate, she said, “I feel very strongly that people need to speak up for Israel. They need to be talking to everybody who is running for president, everybody who’s running for elected office and say, ‘by the way, I’m pro-Israel.’”
Gateway drug: Gottesman’s husband, Gary DeBode, converted to Judaism before they got married, and his experiences sparked her first interest in starting an organization like JewBelong. “In a way, Gary converting to be Jewish made me really own my Judaism in a way that I don’t think I felt like I had to before,” Gottesman said. “All of a sudden I started to look at being Jewish the way he might… If we can touch people’s hearts with Judaism, they are more willing than one might think to be like, ‘Okay, fine, I’m in,’” she added. “I want to be the gateway drug for Judaism.”
Read the full profile here.
FIRST LOOK — Kushner family spotlighted in new book
JI’s Jacob Kornbluh takes a brief look at Andrea Bernstein’s book, American Oligarchs: The Kushners, The Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power, on the Kushner family history, which hits bookshelves today.
Charlie Kushner’s standards: Bernstein details how Charles Kushner “never drove a Mercedes,” because of the company’s history benefiting from the Holocaust, and “none of his apartments could contain German appliances,” even if it would save him money. But at the same time, she notes, that the Kushner Companies “were holding their poorer tenants to the letter of their agreements, they were flouting their own obligations.”
Jared’s bar mitzvah: Jared Kushner’s bar mitzvah, according to Bernstein, was held at a midtown Manhattan hotel and attended by several members of the New York Giants. After Jared’s Torah reading (Parshat Beshalach), his grandmother Rae “was proud. ‘Jared is my favorite grandchild,’ she said at the reception.”
Day school life: Classes at The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, were split into three rankings, the author notes. ‘H’ was the lowest, ‘K’ was honors, and ‘L’ was highest honors. While Jared claims he was in honors classes, “people in the K or L classes could not recall ever sharing classes with him.” He played basketball, “was popular with girls, in the way a modern Orthodox boy can be,” and at times would “slip into Manhattan to socialize with high schoolers” from Ramaz, another modern Orthodox school. Frisch stressed derech eretz (acting decorously) and Jared acted accordingly. He “was polite to a degree that some of the people who knew him in high school called [him] ‘performative,’ especially around his father.” By the time he graduated from Frisch, Jared had already made $13,000 in political contributions to Senate candidates.
Bonding with Bibi: When Jared was a teenager, his father once invited Benjamin Netanyahu — who was planning a comeback after losing the premiership in 1999 — to meet with potential donors at his office in Manhattan. Charles himself gave Netanyahu a $10,000 check. “Jared was tapped to introduce him,” Bernstein writes. “Netanyahu, the story goes, stayed on Fawn Drive [in Livingston, New Jersey] that night, playing basketball with Jared in the driveway.”
Early de Blasio critic: After Bill de Blasio won the Democratic mayoral primary in 2013, Bernstein writes, a major New York City developer hosted an off-the-record meet and greet to make peace with the all-but-certain next mayor. “Jared did not make nice,” she writes. “He told de Blasio ‘what a disaster he was going to be, how crime was going to go up,’ according to a person in the room.”
TALK OF THE TOWN — Monsey stabbing suspect pleads not guilty
Facing justice: Federal prosecutors accused Thomas of trying to kill the five victims during the attack in the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg in Monsey on Dec. 28 due to their “actual and perceived religion,” according to court documents.
More protection measures: During a press conference in Airmont, New York, yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo — flanked by Rabbi Rottenberg and Josef Gluck, the hero who confronted and fought the attacker and recorded his license plate after Thomas fled the scene — announced that he is allocating $340,000 to the town of Ramapo to install license plate readers to further protect the Jewish community in and around Monsey. The governor also allocated a similar amount to the neighboring village of New Square. “Mayor [Israel] Spitzer said he wanted more license plate readers, I said, ‘Can’t we just get 100 Josef Glucks on all the corners?’” Cuomo quipped.
Taking notice: Cuomo also told reporters that the next steps he will take include adding funding to the state’s hate crimes unit, increasing funding for security measures at nonpublic schools and religious institutions and passing a domestic terrorism law. “I want everyone to know that we have learned from Monsey a painful lesson. We have learned from what is going on and we will respond and we will react, and we will do everything in our power on every level to make sure this horrific act does not happen again,” he said.
Walking the walk: State Senator Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) introduced four new bills on Monday aimed at combating the rising tide of antisemitism. The proposed legislation would create an educational program within the State Department of Education to teach about antisemitism, develop an age-appropriate hate crime awareness curriculum and instructional tools for school districts, amend the criminal procedure law to allow for previous declarations and statements to be admitted as evidence of a hate crime, and implement a statewide campaign promoting acceptance and tolerance.
Podcast playback: Sarah Hurwitz, former speechwriter for First Lady Michelle Obama, discussed the recent wave of antisemitic violence in New York — along with Eli Steinberg, a member of the Orthodox community, and writer Rebecca Pierce — in a conversation with NPR’s Michel Martin on All Things Considered:
“What frustrated me the most was that this has been going on — this otherization of visibly Orthodox Jews and basically practicing Jews who are identifiable. And people really didn’t seem to care. And it’s a shame that it took such extreme stories like the shooting in Jersey City and the stabbing rampage in the rabbi’s house over Hanukkah, which brought it to the public’s consciousness that this is an issue that needs to be dealt with.”
👨💼 On the Hill: In The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg details Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) strategy, navigating between the Trump impeachment process and eyeing the Senate’s top job. According to the report, Schumer’s upbeat mood is a result of his belief in God. [NYTimes]
☮️ Plea for Peace: Richard Green, head of the Crown Heights Youth Collective, spoke with The City’s Reuven Blau about the spike in hate crimes in his neighborhood. He began his program almost 30 years ago, after the violent unrest between Jews and blacks that broke out in 1991. “When I saw Jersey City, that hurt me so much,” Green said. “We have to do better. We have to.” [TheCity]
🕉️ Modern Gurus: Nick Duerden writes in the U.K.’s GQ about the rise of “wellness coaches,” who often take the place that religious leaders once held. “The gurus we can lay claim to are necessarily chameleons; they walk among us,” he wrote. “Failure, or perhaps our squeamish fear of it, is another reason we seek out gurus, because we’re desperate to avoid it and anxious for pointers on how.” [GQ]
AROUND THE WEB
🤝 Ultimate Deal Watch: Jordanian King Abdullah tells France 24 that he expects the U.S. to present its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan soon. The king said he is worried about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s threats to annex the Jordan Valley.
👩👩👧👧 Talk of the Nation: Three years after Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March is struggling to keep its membership and support after the scandals surrounding some of the group’s founding members.
🌲 State Visit: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf visited a memorial in honor of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting victims, and planted a tree adjacent to the memorial on Monday, during an economic development mission to Israel.
💣 Deadly Plan:The Jersey City shooters had a massive bomb with the capacity to kill people up to 500 yards away, authorities said on Monday. There was no evidence that the assailants targeted the yeshiva next door, the feds said, but investigators found that the shooters made online searches for a Jewish community center in Bayonne.
📈 Spike in Hate: Bias incidents in the state of New Jersey jumped by 65% in the last year, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said on Monday. The AG’s office noted that the Jersey City shooting was “by far the most violent bias incident in New Jersey last year, but it was hardly the only one.”
👐 Straddling Communities: Black Jews spoke to The New York Post about often feeling alienated within the observant Jewish community, especially after recent attacks. Meanwhile, Jew in the City set up a “Meet a Jew, Make a Friend” popup tent in Harlem yesterday.
📱 Hand it Over: Lev Parnas — the Rudy Giuliani associate indicted for plotting to violate campaign finance laws — handed over a phone containing text messages and documents to the House Impeachment Committee, his lawyers said Monday.
🏆 Awards Season: “Jojo Rabbit,” a satire film about Hitler and the Nazis during the Holocaust, was nominated for six Academy Awards yesterday, including best picture.
🎲 Touchy Toy: The board game Secret Hitler was yanked from shelves in Montreal after a complaint from B’nai Brith Canada.
😋 Food Grab: Sam & Gertie’s in Chicago, described as the world’s first vegan Jewish deli, ran out of food during its grand opening, the owners wrote in a Facebook post.
🕯️ Remembering:Dr. Ronald Melzack — a noted psychologist and Montreal native who devised a psycho-biological model for understanding pain perception — died last month at age 90.
PIC OF THE DAY
On Sunday, former White House envoy for Mideast peace Jason Greenblatt keynoted an event to launch the capital campaign of the Northern New Jersey Holocaust Memorial & Education Center’s Centerpiece Sculpture at Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck, N.J.
Other dignitaries in attendance included Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes, State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, the OU’s Rabbi Menachem Genack and Rabbi Jacob Schachter of Yeshiva University.
Staff writer at The New Yorker and a CNN global affairs analyst, Susan B. Glasser turns 51…
Chairman emeritus of the publicly traded Empire State Realty Trust, he is the father-in-law of U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Peter L. Malkin turns 86… Washington Nationals baseball fan known as Rubber Chicken Man, he waves a rubber chicken over the Nationals dugout and is one of the few fans for whom Topps has issued a baseball card, Hugh Kaufman turns 77… Award-winning legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio since 1975, focusing primarily on the U.S. Supreme Court, Nina Totenberg turns 76… Screenwriter, director and producer, best known as co-writer of the films “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Return of the Jedi,” Lawrence Kasdan turns 71… Board-certified orthopedic spinal surgeon, inventor and philanthropist, he sold his medical patents to Medtronic in 2005 for $1.35 billion, Gary K. Michelson, M.D. turns 71… Painter, editor, writer and book artist, she taught art reviewing and criticism at the University of Pennsylvania (2012-2018), Susan Bee turns 68… Shaul Saulisbury turns 62…
Former member of the Knesset (2015-2019) for the Likud party, she holds a Ph.D. in criminology, Anat Berko turns 60… Historian and writer, he is currently a professor at Brooklyn College and the media columnist for The Nation, Eric Alterman turns 60… AIPAC activist, founding member and co-managing partner of LA-based law firm, Klee, Tuchin, Bogdanoff & Stern LLP, Michael L. Tuchin turns 55… Actress best known for her movie roles in the late 1980s in “The Goonies” and “Lucas,” she later became a film producer, Kerri Lee Green turns 53… Venture capitalist and brother of Michael Dell, one of his start-ups was acquired by Goldman Sachs in 2018 where he is now a partner, Adam R. Dell turns 50… Movie and television producer and co-founder of Electric City Entertainment, Jamie Patricof turns 44… Sales associate in the Montclair, NJ office of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, David Frey turns 41… Associate attorney in the Toronto law firm of Zarek Taylor Grossman Hanrahan, Aryeh Samuel… Barbara Singer-Meis…