Good Thursday morning!
The headline of the Daily Kickoff one year ago today: “Why Bloomberg decided not to run.”
Yesterday, House Democrats blocked consideration of a bill sponsored by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) that would ban support for the BDS movement.
Jared Kushnerbriefed a group of senators on the Trump peace plan yesterday. According to Axios, Kushner used a PowerPoint presentation to point to obstacles to the plan, including Palestinian reliance on foreign aid and increasing expansion of West Bank settlements.
In Israel, Avigdor Lieberman announced he would support a bill that would prevent a prime minister under indictment from forming a government, giving a potential 62-vote majority to such legislation.
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United for Mike’ supporters pivot to Biden
Several members of Michael Bloomberg’s national Jewish leadership team are throwing their support behind former Vice President Joe Biden following the former mayor’s departure from the presidential race Wednesday morning. The “United for Mike” team, comprised of more than 30 Jewish communal leaders, elected officials and CEOs, was first announced at a January campaign event in Florida.
Smooth transition: Daniel Lubetzky, the founder and CEO of KIND, told JI he is now supporting the former vice president because “Biden is a strong leader that will unite our country and protect the American values that have made our country so exceptional.” Rabbi Yehuda Sarna pointed out that Biden has focused on “restoring dignity and decency” to the conversation.
Sam Yebri, co-founder of the Iranian Jewish nonprofit 30 Years After, noted Biden’s positions on key issues for the Jewish community: “He has a strong consistent record — condemning antisemitism, supporting the U.S.-Israel alliance, and advocating for the most vulnerable in our society.”
The cause that matters: Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, former head of the Rabbinical Assembly and co-chair of United for Mike, told JI that Biden is the right person “to win this race, unite our country and lead on the many crucial issues” which prompted her to push for Bloomberg’s candidacy. “We came together because as American Jews we are united for the many ways in which our Judaism, our community, and the incredible gifts of being American inspire us to want to make this country all that it can be,” she said.
Co-chair Ari Ackerman told JI, “On the Democratic side, it has to be Joe Biden,” noting Sanders’s recent criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and AIPAC.
Sunshine State support: Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), who served as a surrogate for the Bloomberg campaign, also endorsed Biden on Wednesday. “Joe has the experience, judgment, and decency to defeat Donald Trump and bring America together,” Deutch — who joined fellow Florida Reps. Lois Frankel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz in backing Biden — said in a statement.
Kishke test: Former Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh on Tuesday that Joe Biden’s “strong support for Israel” is one reason he is backing the former vice president for the Democratic presidential nomination. “It is my DNA on U.S.-Israel relations that leads me to support Joe Biden,” Israel said.
Donor circuit: Biden is now consolidating support on Wall Street after his comeback. In addition to financial support from Blackstone’s Jonathan Gray, hedge fund managers Marc Lasry, Seth Klarman, and Leon Cooperman, who supported Bloomberg’s candidacy, are also backing Biden.
Sanders steels for primary battle amid criticism
After losing his frontrunner status to Biden on Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) maintained that the Democratic primary is a “neck and neck” two-person race over ideas, not personalities. “The American people have got to understand that this is a conflict about ideas, about a record, about a vision for where we go forward,” Sanders told reporters at his Vermont campaign headquarters.
The campaign released a one-minute video on Tuesday highlighting his support for progressive causes, including standing up for Palestinian human rights.
Media spin: Sanders told reporters yesterday that his campaign has had to face “venom by some in corporate media.” He pointed to a CNN host comparing him to the coronavirus as well as being “described as the Nazi army marching across France” by MSNBC host Chris Matthews — who abruptly retired this week.
Beware Bernie: Former Cuban prisoner Alan Gross, who splits his time between Tel Aviv and Washington D.C., shared with Jewish Insider his deep concerns about Sanders’s years-long defense of the Castro regime and approach toward the pro-Israel community. “I pity the future of U.S. diplomacy under a Sanders administration,” he told JI’s Melissa Weiss.
The room where it happened: Gross, who was held in a Cuban prison for attempting to distribute internet-connected devices on the island nation, recalled a 2014 meeting with Sanders and Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Heidi Heitkamp while the group was visiting the country as part of a congressional delegation. Gross noted that “Sanders did not engage much in conversation until the end of our meeting time, when he said, ‘I don’t see what’s so wrong with this country.’” Gross told JI he was shocked by the “disturbing” comments made by Sanders, with whom he has not communicated since: “I have no idea why he was granted permission to see me or why he was part of that [congressional delegation].”
Battle ahead: Mark Mellman, CEO of Democratic Majority for Israel, tells JI’s Jacob Kornbluh, “There is a fight ahead, no question about it. But the fight could have been over, in Bernie’s favor, had we not done what we did in Iowa and Nevada. Now, not only is it a real race, if anything, Biden has an advantage — obviously it is up to him and his campaign to maintain that advantage — but we are also going to continue to try and make sure that Sanders is not the party’s nominee.”
Setting the record: Joel Rubin, the Sanders campaign’s Jewish outreach director, noted that Sanders has been on the record in multiple statements and official campaign videos condemning antisemitism and committing to fight it. “Senator Sanders is the most successful Jewish candidate in presidential political history,” Rubin told JI. “His family perished in the Holocaust. He personally grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust. He is also the only candidate to run for president who has actually lived in Israel. He has also voted for every military aid bill to Israel and continually calls for Israel to live in peace and security with its neighbors.”
Speaking out: Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon defended his controversial comments against Sanders that he distributed by press release after speaking at AIPAC earlier this week, at an event in New York on Tuesday night. “When a candidate is calling my prime minister a racist, I cannot sit idly by,” Danon said.
Bonus:Bklyner took to the streets of Midwood to ask Jewish locals how they feel about Sanders. The news site did not find many supporters of the Brooklyn-born presidential contender.
Pro-Israel groups celebrate Cuellar’s defeat of progressive primary opponent in Texas
A day after Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) fended off a tough primary challenge from 26-year-old Jessica Cisneros in Texas’s 28th congressional district, some groups involved in the closely watched contest boasted about the effectiveness of their investments. Cuellar, a seven-term incumbent, received 52% of votes to Cisneros’s 48%, according to unofficial results.
Why it matters: The race was a test of the political influence of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and the power of Justice Democrats, a progressive group challenging moderate Democrats. Cisneros was also backed by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as well as J Street PAC. Cuellar, a moderate Democrat, was backed by his party’s establishment and pro-Israel groups including Democratic Majority for Israel and Pro Israel America.
Think smart: DMFI CEO Mark Mellman said that the message coming out of Super Tuesday was that “being pro-Israel is good politics and being anti-Israel is bad politics.”
Powerful message: Jeff Mendelsohn, executive director of Pro Israel America and a former AIPAC official, included Cuellar among the 36 House and Senate candidates his group endorsed this election cycle. “I think it sends a signal that the pro-Israel community is strong and that we will defend to the best of our abilities those who have been supporters of the U.S.-Israel relationship in Congress,” Mendelsohn said.
A tad short: Ben Shnider, vice president of political affairs at J Street, told JI that while Cisneros — who was ranked as a top priority for the group — fell short in her bid, her “near win, as a millennial first-time candidate, demonstrates the strength of her message and impressive energy behind her campaign.” Shnider boasted that the stances Cisneros took on Middle East politics were in line with J Street’s positions: “Her principled positions in favor of effective Middle East diplomacy and a balanced Israel-Palestine policy helped fuel an impressive performance that far exceeded expectations.”
Buzz around town
From New York to Israel, coronavirus impact shakes global Jewish community
The ongoing spread of the coronavirus across the United States, Israel and Europe is leading to self-quarantine, event cancellations and widespread concern among the Jewish community.
Spreading quickly: A Jewish lawyer in Westchester unwittingly transmitted the disease to nine other friends and family members, bringing the total confirmed cases in New York State to 11. The man remains hospitalized, and his wife, two children and a neighbor have tested positive for coronavirus. A friend of the family has also tested positive, along with his wife and three children.
Shutdowns: The confirmed cases across Westchester led to the self-quarantine of more than 1,000 people, the suspension of activities at the Young Israel of New Rochelle, and the cancellation of classes at SAR Academy through next week and at Yeshiva University temporarily. A Jewish school in Baltimore sent home three students who may have had “indirect contact” with one of the patients. Nefesh B’Nefesh canceled an aliya fair slated for March 15 in New Jersey amid concerns.
No stigmas: Councilmember Mark Levine (D-Manhattan), former chair of the New York City Council Jewish Caucus, tells JI, “Once again Jewish New Yorkers are at the center of a public health crisis. And once again ignorance and prejudice are leading to scapegoating of the community. We need to do everything possible to ensure that coronavirus does not further exacerbate already surging antisemitism and that no group in this city is targeted as a result of this crisis.” Members of the Jewish community expressed concerns about being stigmatized due to the outbreak to Lohud.
Holy land: The Israeli Health Ministry has ordered more than 50,000 people into mandatory home quarantine. With a confirmed 15 cases of coronavirus in Israel, the Health Ministry has ordered anyone returning from France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and Austria — in addition to Italy and most of Asia — confined to home quarantine for 14 days. El Al has laid off 1,000 employees and cut salaries of top management as it struggles with the fallout. Israeli Chief Rabbi David Lau advised Jews yesterday to forego the traditional touching and kissing of the mezuzah to help prevent the disease’s spread.
Cancellations: The ministry’s orders also banned gatherings of more than 5,000 people, leading to widespread cancellations of concerts, Purim parties, sports games and conferences across Israel. While there are currently no specific restrictions on travelers from the United States, the ministry said that anyone who attended a conference overseas — which would include the recent AIPAC policy conference — must also observe a 14-day quarantine. In addition, AIPAC on Wednesday sent a warning to those at its conference earlier this week that a group of attendees were “potentially in contact” with an individual with confirmed coronavirus, though no attendees have tested positive so far.
NY-Jerusalem: One of the people in Westchester who tested positive for coronavirus visited Israel between the dates February 22-28. The Israeli Health Ministry released a detailed list of the woman’s activities in Jerusalem, including visits to shops, restaurants and travel on public transportation. The ministry ordered that anyone who was on the same El Al flights or visited locations at the same time as the tourist must enter quarantine for 14 days.
🗳️ Bounced Check: In The Atlantic, politics reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere details Michael Bloomberg’s final days on the campaign trail — and how he fell short in getting his money’s worth from Democratic voters. [TheAtlantic]
🎒 Boiling Point: New York Times reporter Sharon Otterman describes in detail the story of a Jewish student named Paige, who left her elite New Jersey high school after enduring years of antisemitic harassment. [NYTimes]
🍊 Oranges to Apple:Bloomberg’s Ivan Levingston explores how the drastic drop in the prominence of Israel’s Jaffa orange serves as a metaphor for the country’s shift from an agricultural economy to “its emergence as a tech powerhouse.” [Bloomberg]
⚰️ Graveyard Watch:The New York Times’s Adam Nossiter shines a spotlight on the volunteer groups patrolling the dozens of Jewish cemeteries in Alsace, France, amid an uptick in antisemitism vandalism. [NYTimes]
Around the Web
👹 Hiding Behind: The Jewish Museum’s Purim Ball raised $2 million for the museum with prominent attendees including designer Marc Jacobs, artist Rachel Feinstein, Stephen Scherr of Goldman Sachs and Robert Pruzan of Centerview Partners.
⚔️ Arm Twisting: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doubled down on his attacks against the Arab Joint List on Wednesday amid fear that Blue and White may pass a law — with the support of the 62-member anti-Bibi bloc — that prevents him from serving as prime minister under indictment.
☑️ Opposite Outcome:The New York Timesexplores how Netanyahu’s rhetoric led to the best-ever showing for the Arab Joint List party in Monday’s election.
⚖️ On the Hill:The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed yesterday the bipartisan ‘‘Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act” introduced by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Michael Waltz (R-FL). The bill empowers the president to impose sanctions on those who take American hostages.
💰 Big Spender: Qualcomm billionaire Irwin Jacobs has poured millions of dollars into helping his granddaughter, Sara Jacobs, win election to Congress in California. Jacobs was the top vote-getter in Tuesday’s primary and will advance to the November general election.
💻 Soon Streaming: A month before its slated launch, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s video streaming platform Quibi has raised an additional $750 million.
🏷️ Big Buy: Mark Penn’s Stagwell Group has purchased Dana Gibber and Caroline Klatt’s ecommerce startup Headliner Labs.
🌪️ Helping Hand: A group of Kentucky rabbis have set out with supplies to aid those impacted by the deadly tornado in Nashville, Tennessee, this week.
👨💼 Transition:A Wider Bridge executive director Tyler Gregory is departing the LGBTQ organization and will join the Jewish Community Relations Council in San Francisco as its next executive director.
🥪 Bon Appetit: Attendees at the annual Tallahassee Jewish Food and Cultural Festival on Sunday will have the choice of grabbing a corned beef or pastrami on rye, as well as potato knishes and cheesecake from New York City’s famed Carnegie Deli.
🕯️Remembering: Henry Abraham, a Holocaust refugee who became a leading historian of the U.S. Supreme Court, passed away last week at age 98.
Gif of the day
A dual-purpose contraption.
President of AIPAC, she is the founder of BVision Sportsmedia dedicated to making sports more accessible to women, Betsy Berns Korn turns 52…
Israeli-American psychologist, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics for his work with Amos Tversky on the psychology of decision-making, Daniel Kahneman turns 86… Former university counsel for California State University, Donald A. Newman turns 77… Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and author, in 2019 he joined the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as an associate fellow, Roy Gutman turns 76… Partner emeritus of Los Angeles law firm, Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP, Mark Edelstein turns 75…
President of Los Angeles PR firm Robin Gerber & Associates, Robin Gerber Carnesale turns 74… Managing partner at Lerer Hippeau, he co-founded Huffington Post and was the longtime chair of BuzzFeed, Kenneth B. Lerer turns 68… Founder and CEO of the DC-based News Literacy Project, he was a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter with the Los Angeles Times for 21 years, Alan C. Miller turns 66… Artist, writer, and professor of computer science at Yale University, he was a national fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior fellow in Jewish thought at the Shalem Center, David Hillel Gelernter turns 65… Actor, screenwriter and film producer, he has been a contestant on three seasons of CBS’s “Survivor,” Jonathan Penner turns 58…
President and founder of West End Strategy Team, Matt Dorf turns 50… Los Angeles area builder and developer, he is a trustee of Temple Beth Am, Michael Reinis turns 49… President of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association, he was previously in public affairs at the U.S. Department of Commerce, Michael N. Kruger turns 44… Director of strategic communications for the House Judiciary Committee, Daniel S. Schwarz turns 35… Administrative manager in the office of U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), Andrew Leiferman turns 26… Singer with 15 million followers on Instagram, her career started with a song she performed at her own bat mitzvah, Madison Elle Beer turns 21…