Good Friday morning!
The Nevada caucuses are taking place on Saturday. The latest polls show Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is projected to win.
Howard Wolfsonshouldered the blame for Bloomberg’s debate debut, telling the NYT: “I led the debate prep and I accept the responsibility for inadequately preparing him.”
Bloomberg surrogate Phil Levine tells Jewish Insider, “I think that when the Democratic candidates go against the American dream and they speak against the American dream, what they’re doing is they’re guaranteeing an election loss this November.”
Deputy National Security Advisor Victoria Coates has been reassigned as a senior advisor to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, but the administration rejected the rumors that she was the author of “Anonymous.”
Conference of Presidents CEO William Daroff shared his experience leading the organization’s annual leadership mission to Israel — along with executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein and chairman Arthur Stark — in an interview with Jewish Insider yesterday. Read here.
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The truth and fiction of the new Amazon series ‘Hunters’
“Hunters,” a much-hyped new Amazon Prime series about a ragtag bunch of Nazi hunters living in New York in the 1970s, hit the streaming platform today. Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro spoke with actor Zack Schor about his experience portraying an Auschwitz inmate in the show, and with the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Marvin Hier about the parallels to real-life Nazi hunters.
Familial connection: Viewers first meet Meyer Offerman — played by Al Pacino — in the 1970s, as the leader of his group of Nazi-hunting vigilantes. Schor portrays Offerman in flashbacks as a young man imprisoned in Auschwitz — a storyline close to the actor’s heart. “Based on my family history, I felt a really deep personal connection to the material and to the character,” Schor told JI. His paternal grandparents are both Holocaust survivors; his grandmother fled Paris as a child and lived in hiding for most of the war, while his grandfather was born in Poland, escaped to Hungary but wound up imprisoned in a concentration camp near Budapest.
On location: Schor felt it was important to “do justice to the character,” and pored over firsthand accounts from Holocaust survivors, including Elie Weisel’s Night. He also lost 35 pounds to portray the character as he would have looked while imprisoned in Auschwitz. “These scenes should not be easy to watch,” he said. “I wanted people to be uncomfortable when they saw me on screen.” Much of the show was shot around New York, but a few concentration camp scenes were filmed in Budapest. “I think every person on set — not just the people who were Jewish — every person felt the weight of the scenes and that material,” Schor said. “They were hard days, but they were very gratifying.”
Real life: The show is a heavily fictionalized version of true events. Thousands of Nazis did settle in the United States after World War II, and there were private individuals and groups who sought to hunt them down. Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told JI that the series has no connection to his organization’s namesake, but he appreciates the story being told on screen. “[Wiesenthal] was forced into [Nazi hunting] by circumstances,” Hier told JI. “He told himself: ‘If we don’t do something about it, these guys are going to go free.’” Wiesenthal, Hier said, was troubled that “the people who did the real killing — they will be forgotten, nobody will go after them. The allies are busy with the big fish.”
DMFI taking a step back from presidential race
Democratic Majority for Israel does not intend to run any more televised ads against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) after the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, DMFI CEO Mark Mellman confirmed to Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh. “We don’t have plans to be further involved in the presidential race — against Sanders or anyone else, for that matter,” Mellman told a gathering in New York City earlier this week.
Shifting focus: During a panel discussion at New York’s Marlene Meyerson JCC on Wednesday, Mellman emphasized that DMFI will focus on congressional races. “We have no plans to endorse a candidate in the [presidential] race,” Mellman said. “We will be involved in congressional races and in some cases those are Democrats running against Republicans and in some cases, those are pro-Israel champions running against anti-Israel challengers.”
Details: The group’s political action committee spent $1.4 million on TV ads against Sanders in Iowa and Nevada. After the Iowa caucuses, which ended in a virtual tie between Sanders and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, DMFI took credit for denying the Vermont senator a clear win.
The case against Bernie: Mellman stressed that Sanders would “be a disaster” for Democrats in November and his position at the top of the ticket would hurt down-ballot candidates. “Lots of Democrats — on Capitol Hill, in the consulting community, and people who have been working for this party for decades — are convinced that Bernie Sanders at the top of the ticket is a threat to Democrats running for the House and the Senate and for other offices around the country,” Mellman said, adding that Sanders “presents a unique threat to the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
Interfaith backing: Emgage PAC, which calls itself the biggest Muslim political action committee in the U.S., is backing Sanders for president. Wa’el Alzayat, the group’s CEO, cited the Vermont senator’s record of touting Palestinian rights as one reason the Muslim-American community is excited about his candidacy.
Other ad buy: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) purchased a full-page ad in Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Review-Journal, showing how much the billionaire and GOP mega-donor would pay under her tax plan: $2.3 billion.
Georgetown grad student leader, who’s running for Congress, under fire for antisemitic tweets
The vice president of Georgetown University’s Graduate Student Government, Heerak Kim, is facing calls to resign and a pending impeachment trial following an uproar over his recent social media posts. Kim is also a Republican congressional candidate in Virginia’s 8th district.
Fighting words: Kim’s posts include a call for the FBI to investigate politicians “with ‘questionable’ ties to Israel,” alleging that Israel has bribed U.S. politicians; a demand that Americans “[curtail] the power of Jewish lobby groups and other Jewish groups”; and a posed question: “Is the Natioanal [sic] Republican Party going to become a SLAVE of the JEWS and go after every Republican leaders whom the Jews call ‘anti-Semitic.’”
On the quad: The South Korean-born candidate is pursuing a master’s degree in nursing at Georgetown and was elected to the Graduate Student Government’s executive board in March 2019. In response to Kim’s social media posts, the rest of the executive board unanimously condemned his comments and said it would initiate proceedings to remove Kim from office. An impeachment hearing scheduled for Thursday night was postponed after Kim alleged he was being targeted for his political and religious beliefs. The hearing is now likely to take place next week in order to comply with the student government’s guidelines.
Background twist: According to a profile in the University of Pennsylvania’s alumni newsletter, the Penn Gazette, Kim, a 1990 graduate of the university, spent time in Jerusalem doing research for his doctoral dissertation, at one point enrolling in Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School. According to Kim’s self-submitted Ballotpedia survey, he is an “expert in Jewish studies with a professional membership in the Association for Jewish Studies (AJS).”
Unlikely odds: Kim is one of four Republicans vying for a spot on the ballot in November. Even if he emerges victorious in Virginia’s June 9th primary, Kim is unlikely to beat incumbent Democratic Rep. Don Beyer, who has represented the district — which includes the Washington suburbs — since 2015. Beyer coasted to victory in the most recent election, defeating his Republican opponent by a 52-point margin.
Former NBA star Paul Westphal discusses his connection to Israel
Former NBA player and coach Paul Westphal — decked out in a souvenir Masada hat — talked to Tablet’s “Unorthodox” podcast about his visits to Israel and his ties to the Jewish community. Westphal won the 1974 NBA championship with the Boston Celtics, and led the Phoenix Suns to the finals in 1993 as a coach.
Long relationship with Jewish community: Westphal said he grew up playing basketball every day for five years at the Phoenix Jewish Community Center. He’s visited Israel three times, and during his tenure as coach of the Sacramento Kings, the team drafted Omri Casspi, who became the NBA’s first Israeli player.
Jews in the NBA: Westphal, who is Christian, opened the interview by talking about some of the NBA’s legendary Jewish stars. “A little bit before my time, the Jews ruled the NBA,” he quipped. “[Red Auerbach] gave me the greatest advice I ever had. He said, ‘Dress British and think Yiddish.’”
😂 Jews Telling Jokes: In an interview with The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman, comedy legend Carl Reiner and producer Mel Brooks talk about their 70-year friendship, their epic careers and the connection between Jews and comedy. [TheGuardian]
🏢 What Went Wrong: The Financial Times’ Eric Platt and Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson examine what went wrong for “ultimate unicorn” WeWork — and how the company’s implosion changed the market’s view of start-ups with big ambitions but little profits. [FT]
🤔 Learning From History: Former British MP Ian Austin recounts in an interview with Tablet’s James Kirchick an encounter he had with Holocaust survivors during a 2018 visit to Auschwitz that prompted him to leave the Labour Party over its handling of antisemitism. Austin also cautions Democrats that what happened to Labour could happen in the U.S. [Tablet]
📚 Fact and Fiction: Christine Kenneally writes in Australia’s The Monthly about the best-selling Holocaust novels by Heather Morris and the “problem of truth in historical fiction.” Morris’s books have sold millions of copies and been translated into dozens of languages, but, she said, her tales are vastly inconsistent with the real stories of the people she portrays. [TheMonthly]
Around the Web
✍️ Change of Guard: L Brands founder Leslie Wexner announced on Thursday that he is stepping down from his role at the company after selling a majority stake in Victoria’s Secret. “With the news of my business transition, I write to assure you that the work of our Foundation continues,” the businessman wrote in an email to the Wexner Foundation community.
💔 Breakup: The founders of $6.9 billion hedge-fund firm Senator Investment Group, Douglas Silverman and Alexander Klabin, are splitting up after 12 years together, following a rift that had grown between the two.
🚗 Congestion Pricing: Douglas Jemal, owner of Douglas Development Corp., said he gave up millions in tax exemptions for the Seneca One tower to make sure the City of Buffalo had the revenue to open Main Street back up to vehicular traffic.
🏷️ No Labels: Agudath Israel’s Avi Shafran writes in The New York Times that the term “ultra-Orthodox” should no longer be used, since it serves only to “other” the Haredi community.
📹 First-hand Footage: Newly released bodycam footage shows moments of chaos during the gun battle last year at a kosher grocery story in Jersey City.
🚖 Private Cab: The IPO dreams of Israeli taxi app Gett do not appear to be getting any closer, reportsCalcalist.
🖥️ Aiming High:Israeli website-building platform Wix predicts it will bring in $1 billion in revenue in 2020.
🚦 Green Light: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Thursday that he has approved the construction of 5,000 new homes in the Har Homa and Givat Hamatos neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, located beyond the Green Line.
👨🌾 Farmers Market:Wall Street Journal reporter Dov Lieber details how the Israeli government’s push to apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley threatens the complex ties between Israeli and Palestinian farmers. Meanwhile, Israel and the Palestinian Authority have resolved a five-month trade dispute over agricultural exports.
👮 Israeli Election Watch: Israeli prosecutors announced yesterday that they will be opening an investigation into the failed cybersecurity startup once headed by Blue and White leader Benny Gantz — who said he has no concerns that any wrongdoing will be uncovered.
🔍 Transparency: The Vatican will open up the archives of its activities during the Holocaust on March 2, but promises there is no “smoking gun” to be discovered.
🛬 Surprise Visit: Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA) made an unannounced visit to northeastern Syria and met with Kurdish forces fighting against ISIS.
👎 Across the Pond:The U.K. Labour Party has suspended a Blackburn councillor, Tasleem Fazal, who suggested that Jews created ISIS.
📚 Book Ban: Publisher Hachette UK has pulled a history textbook after complaints over a section linking the creation of the state of Israel to the 9/11 attacks.
🔊 Talk of Our Nation: Israel is calling on Belgium to cancel a parade scheduled for this weekend after it featured an antisemitic float last year.
👨💼 Transition: Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder and chief technology officer of CrowdStrike, has left the firm to launch a non-partisan policy accelerator.
🥪 Full Plate: Sauce Magazine has profiled Kohn’s Kosher Meat and Deli in Creve Coeur, Missouri, which opened in 1963.
🕯️ Remembering: Sy Sperling, founder of the Hair Club for Men, has died at age 78.
Chief strategist for both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, now a distinguished senior fellow at the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago and a CNN commentator, David Axelrod turns 65 on Saturday…
FRIDAY: Award-winning science fiction and mystery author, Richard A. Lupoff turns 85… Developer of the L’Ermitage Beverly Hills, Severyn Ashkenazy turns 84… Co-founder of Dreamworks, David Geffen turns 77… Vice-chairman of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and board member at Seeds of Peace, Arn Herschel Tellem turns 66… Winner of two Pulitzer Prizes during his 30 years at the Wall Street Journal, he is the director of a fiscal and monetary policy group at the Brookings Institution, David Meyer Wessel turns 66… Chairman of the KABR Group, a New Jersey-based real estate investment firm, Kenneth D. Pasternak turns 66… President of Yale University, Peter Salovey (family name was Soloveitchik) turns 62… Former owner of the Cleveland Browns of the NFL and Aston Villa F.C. of the English Premier League, Randy Lerner turns 58…
CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner turns 50… Special assistant to President Trump for legislative affairs, Paul Teller turns 49… Reality television star Jonathan Cheban turns 46… NYT best-selling novelist Jonathan Safran Foer turns 43… Former Chicago Cubs player Adam Greenberg turns 39… Counsel in the Ft. Lauderdale office of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, and former Florida House representative, Katie A. Edwards-Walpole turns 39… Dr. Miriam Wachter turns 39… French actress, best known in the U.S. for her starring role as Shosanna Dreyfus in Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 war film “Inglourious Basterds,” Mélanie Laurent turns 37… Rochester, NY resident, Joshua Futerman turns 32… Pitcher for the Israeli team at the 2017 World Baseball Classic qualifier, he is now the director of pitching development for the Ohio State Buckeyes baseball team, Brad Goldberg turns 30… Israeli rhythmic gymnast who competed in the 2012 Olympics, Polina Zakaluzny turns 28… Monsey, NY resident, Efrayim Katz turns 27… Professional tennis player Noah Rubin turns 24… Class of 2021 J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School, Jay S. Schaefer turns 24… Attending emergency department physician at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and AIPAC National Council member…
SATURDAY: The first-ever poet laureate of New Jersey, Gerald Stern turns 95… Singer-songwriter and 1969 winner of Eurovision, she converted to Judaism and her children live in Israel, Helena “Lenny” Kuhr turns 70… Former White House Counsel to President Obama, now a professor at NYU School of Law, Robert (Bob) Bauer turns 68… President of the New York Yankees baseball club since January 2000, Randy Levine turns 65… Winner of five major golf championships and 24 other LPGA Tour championships, she is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Amy Alcott turns 64… IDF colonel (res.) who currently serves as a member of the Knesset for the United Right party, Mordechai “Moti” Yogev turns 64… Director of administration and special projects at Cincinnati’s Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education, Lisa Shusterman turns 61…
Writer Clifford Lawrence Meth turns 59… Former spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid in Glendale, Wisconsin and a consultant for the Shalom Hartman Institute, Rabbi Jacob Herber turns 57… Actress, comedian and past cast member of “Saturday Night Live,” Rachel Dratch turns 54… CEO of Cellcom, former Leader of the Israeli Labor Party (2017-2019), Avraham “Avi” Gabbay turns 53… Israeli soccer player (1990-2004), now a businessman, Haim Michael Revivo turns 48… Winner of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” in 2008, she has released five stand-up specials on Netflix, Iliza Shlesinger turns 37… Associate in the appellate practice of Norton Rose Fulbright, Peter B. Siegal turns 34… Director of customer experience at Israeli cosmetics firm IL Makiage, Miranda R. May turns 27…
SUNDAY: Partner in the Baltimore office of DLA Piper, he served as President of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation (2005-2010), Shale D. Stiller turns 85… EVP Emeritus of the Orthodox Union and editor-in-chief of the Koren Talmud Bavli, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb turns 80… Bethesda, Maryland resident, Lois Copeland turns 76… Philosopher, novelist and public intellectual, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein turns 70… Madison, Wisconsin resident, Mark Jacobs turns 69… Investor, born in the Soviet Union, now holder of both Kazakh and Israeli citizenship, he served as president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (a regional branch of the WJC), Alexander Mashkevitch turns 66… 25-year veteran of USAID’s Foreign Service, now the mission director for USAID in the West Bank and Gaza, Monica Stein-Olson turns 63…
VP at West End Strategy Team, Joe Berkofsky turns 60… Political consultant and pollster, Frank Luntz turns 58… Founder and CEO of Dell Technologies, Michael Dell turns 55… Movie, stage and television actor, Josh Gad turns 39… Financial consultant Johnathan Morpurgo turns 35… Chief operating officer and director of research at The Lawfare Project, Ben Ryberg turns 35… Former head of communications at the Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, Rebecca Chalif turns 34… Bloomberg political reporter, Jennifer Epstein turns 34… Senior front-end web engineer at Business Insider, Reuben A. Ingber turns 32… Program officer for U.S. Jewish grantmaking at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation, Mary Ann Weiss turns 31… Political reporter for the Texas Tribune in Austin, Patrick Svitek turns 28… Director of special projects at Securing America’s Future Energy, Gidon Feen turns 25…