Good Wednesday morning!
In the early hours of the morning, Congress and the White House reached a deal on a $2 trillion economic stimulus package, the largest in U.S. history. More below.
Today at 2 p.m. ET, President Donald Trump will hold a conference call with leaders of faith-based charities and nonprofits to discuss the coronavirus situation.
🕯🕯Tragic: Noted mohel Rabbi Avraham “Romi” Cohn passed away at age 91, Queens Hatzolah volunteer Rabbi Yaakov Meltzer died at 60 and Maurice Berger, an art historian and curator for New York’s Jewish Museum, passed away at age 63, all due to coronavirus complications. Cohn delivered the opening prayer before the House of Representatives — after being honored by Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) — on January 29, the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Rose said he was “heartbroken” to learn of Cohn’s death.
In Israel, four more people died of coronavirus complications, bringing the country’s death toll from the disease to five. The government approved tighter restrictions — including a ban on traveling further than 100 meters from home except for essentials, enforced with heavy fines — which take effect this afternoon.
Meanwhile, Likud Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein resigned this morning rather than follow a Supreme Court order to convene the Knesset for a vote on a new speaker, calling the ruling an “undermining of democracy.” The Knesset is not slated to reconvene until Monday, when a candidate from Blue and White will likely be elected to the position — barring an earlier intervention by the court.
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Detroit City Council president mounts rematch challenge to Rep. Rashida Tlaib
After narrowly losing to now-Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) in the 2018 Democratic primary in Michigan’s 13th congressional district, Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones is challenging Tlaib to a rematch in the district’s primary in August. But this time around, Jones — who served in Congress for just five weeks after winning a special election in 2018 to fill the seat of former Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) — faces even tougher odds, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Last time: In the 2018 Democratic primary, Jones narrowly lost to Tlaib, winning 30.2% of the vote to Tlaib’s 31.2%, before mounting a last-minute, unsuccessful write-in challenge days before the November 6 election in the solidly blue district. Tlaib comes to the rematch with a war chest of more than $1.6 million. Political consultant Ed Sarpolus predicted that Jones will struggle with fundraising, because major Democratic donors see Tlaib as a strong candidate and Michigan Democrats are redirecting money to more competitive races in the state.
Why Jones is running again: Sarpolus suggested Jones is mounting a challenge against Tlaib because she felt “cheated” in 2018, and thought she would have won in a two-way race. “It’s been a grudge thing,” he said. “She feels that she’s been shortchanged. That seat should be hers.”
Long-shot race: As the head of the city council, Jones was better known than Tlaib ahead of their 2018 match-up. But President Donald Trump’s attacks on Tlaib have boosted the freshman congresswoman’s profile and support among constituents, Sarpolus told JI.
Other challengers: With the filing deadline four weeks away, there is still time for new candidates to jump into the race. A third candidate, Stephen Michael Patterson, has raised no money since filing to run in June 2019 and is not actively campaigning. Other candidates may still enter the race, Sarpolus said, suggesting that any late entrants likely have other political ambitions and would run to raise their profile. Former state legislator Sherry Gay-Dagnogo and Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey are both considering launching bids, Sarpolus said, but neither has filed to run.
Discouraging factor: Michigan is slated to lose one of its 14 congressional seats following redistricting after this election cycle. The uncertainty around the district’s future beyond 2022 could discourage other serious contenders from jumping in.
on the hill
Jewish groups lobby for government relief for charities
Congressional negotiators came to a deal on a bipartisan $2 trillion emergency stimulus package — after five days of frenetic talks and two failed attempts — to assist those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Pleading for help: Earlier this week, leading Jewish organizations and nonprofits — including the Jewish Federations of North America, the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel of America, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Anti-Defamation League — lobbied Congress to increase immediate and long-term relief for faith-based charities and religious nonprofits.
Details: In a joint letter, the groups asked for $60 billion in emergency funding to assist communities facing loss and declining revenue due to the pandemic. The organizations listed proposals including improving the “above-the-line charitable deduction” and raising the cap to at least $2,000 to allow post-March 1st donations to immediately be claimed on 2019 tax returns — due July 15 — through 2021. An initial draft of the bill had baselined the “above-the-line” deduction to $300 for charitable contributions.
Lifting the cap: A bipartisan amendment, led by Sens. James Lankford (R-OK) and Chris Coons (D-DE), calls to increase the cap to $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for couples. The groups also sought to qualify all nonprofits for new small business loans by lifting the cap on 500 employees and omitting language that excludes nonprofits from receiving Medicaid reimbursements — such as nursing homes, community health centers, family service and workforce development agencies, and group homes for adults with disabilities.
JFNA CEO Eric Fingerhut tells Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh: “There seems to be no controversy about set-asides for the airline industry or hotels and other tourist industries who have been so impacted by this. But people don’t appreciate the extent of the role of the nonprofit sector in America’s civil society — providing basic services to citizens and being in the first line of support. And if the country were to allow the nonprofit sector to fail or to significantly diminish, we would feel the impact of that across every aspect of society in every religious and ethnic community and every community of any kind. And we can’t let that happen.”
Achievement: The first draft of the legislation already included nonprofits ― capped by the 500-employee limit — as eligible for the Small Business Administration $350 billion fund, which provides loans that are convertible to grants. Stephan Kline, interim director of JFNA’s Washington office, called it a “pretty significant” achievement that “had never happened” before. “The breadth that the organizations in the Jewish community would be able to take advantage of this program is immense and is really needed,” Kline explained.
Bonus: Rep, Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) commented on the partisan bickering over the stimulus package in an interview with Yahoo Finance on Tuesday: “A lot of these muscles have atrophied for too many folks in Washington who are not used to bipartisan work in a bipartisan way.”
BREAD AND BUTTER
How New York’s Jewish food establishments are faring amid the pandemic
Restaurants in New York have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ruling that eateries can remain open for takeout and delivery. The city’s Jewish food establishments — including delis, bakeries and appetizing stores — are no exception. The Second Avenue Deli and B&H Dairy have closed completely, if only temporarily, while other restaurants are just barely eking by. Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel takes a look at how some of them are holding up.
Stimulus needed: “Business is hugely down everywhere,” said Russ and Daughters owner Josh Russ Tupper, who has been forced to lay off close to half of the restaurant’s staff, despite its ongoing nationwide shipping operation. He said a stimulus package from the government would help the store. “We’re hoping we can maintain.”
Comfort food: Ben’s Kosher Deli closed one restaurant in Scarsdale because of its proximity to the New Rochelle outbreak, but said the others are open for takeout and delivery. “Chicken noodle is going out more than anything,” said Ken Eccles, the restaurant’s general manager. “It’s a comfort food — and also if you’re not feeling good that’s the best thing.”
E-Candy: Economy Candy on the Lower East Side has closed its doors, but is still selling all of its merchandise — including its extensive selection of kosher for Passover candy — online. Mitch Cohen, the store’s owner, told JI that normally during a one-month period this time of year, he sells more than a thousand pounds of chocolate macaroons alone. “It’s all here,” he said. “As long as I don’t eat it.”
Keep back: Upper West Side appetizing store Barney Greengrass is still open for takeout and delivery, but business is down about 75% overall, said owner Gary Greengrass. “I’m worried,” he told JI. “There’s no end in sight.” Still, Greengrass managed to maintain a sense of humor amid the ordeal. The other day, he said, a woman called in and asked for four nova sandwiches with cream cheese, tomato and extra, extra onions. “I said to her, ‘That’s your version of social distancing?’”
🏔️ Hiding Out: NPR tells the story of 73-year-old Danièle Enoch-Maillard — taking refuge from the coronavirus in the French Alps — who is thinking of her father, who survived the Holocaust by hiding out nearby. “My father survived the Second World War because he was able to hide out in the high mountains only a couple kilometers from where I am now.” [NPR]
🌟 Star Is Born:New York Times reporters Jesse McKinley and Shane Goldmacher detail how New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has become the face of the Democratic Party amid this crisis, and how his handling of the situation and daily media appearances have boosted his nationwide recognition. [NYTimes]
⏯️ On Hold: Yuval Levin argues in The Atlantic that the United States needs to enact “a hard pause,” to be followed by a “soft return toward normalcy,” which will be slow, graduated and enable a “uneasy return to work, school, commerce, and culture” before too long. [TheAtlantic]
🌎 New World Order: In The Wall Street Journal, columnist Walter Russell Mead makes the case for the return of establishment politics and global policy making to re-establish world order and stabilize the global economy in the wake of the current pandemic, which, he says, would be aided by Trump’s defeat in November. [WSJ]
Around the Web
🚫 Talk of Our Nation:Tablet’s Armin Rosen details how the near-complete shutdown in New York due to the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the communities of Crown Heights and Borough Park.
🥫 Talk of the Town:Met Council CEO David Greenfield described the food crisis in New York — as a result of charities and food pantries closing down — as “unprecedented.” Greenfield said the situation is becoming even more critical as food prices rise dramatically, supplies dwindle and Passover approaches.
🏦 Restart-Up Nation: The Bank of Israel is urging the government to spend heavily on shoring up businesses, even at the expense of the national deficit.
🏠 Human Alert:The Financial Times details how Israel is relying partly on “nosy neighbors” to report on people breaking their mandatory coronavirus quarantine.
🕍 Stay Home: A detailed study in Israel has found that the most common place that people within the country were infected with the coronavirus was in synagogues.
🗣️ Listen Up: The Israeli Defense Ministry is testing a pilot program to use voice recognition software to diagnose coronavirus in patients.
😣 Coalition Conundrum:The Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz details how Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is struggling to form a minority government backed by the Joint List.
📞 Conference Call:President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence discussed the market and economic issues with a group of Wall Street investors yesterday, including Third Point’s Dan Loeb, Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman, Vista Equity’s Robert Smith, Jeffrey Sprecher, CEO of Intercontinental Exchange and chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, and hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones.
🤝 Working Together: Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison is partnering with the federal government — after a series of phone calls with President Donald Trump — on several experimental drugs to treat COVID-19.
🏟️ New Digs: Los Angeles Clippers owner and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has reached a deal to purchase the Forum in Inglewood, California, in order to build the team a new stadium.
📉 Spooked: SoftBank reportedly held talks with Paul Singer’s Elliott Management about potentially taking the Japanese company private, before moving ahead with a different plan.
👔 Restart: Alex Taub and Michael Schonfeld have turned their networking startup Upstream into a job board and platform to discuss coronavirus layoffs.
📽️ Postponed: The theatrical release of Gal Gadot’s “Wonder Woman 1984” has been pushed off until August.
⚾ Extra Time:Israel’s first Olympic baseball team will be waiting at least another year to pursue its medal dreams — and some of the players may have to rethink their plans.
🏢 High Life: The New York Times real estate section is spotlighting a “golden kilometer” of new high-rise luxury buildings along the Tel Aviv waterfront, fueled in part by foreign Jewish buyers looking for a safety net amid increasing antisemitism.
💣 Ticking Bomb: Eight members of a German neo-Nazi cell have been jailed after a high regional court in Dresden found them guilty of forming a terrorist organization and planning “violent attacks and armed assaults.”
Pic of the day
Muslim and Jewish paramedics with Magen David Adom take a break to pray amid working to help curb the coronavirus pandemic in Israel.
Actress, comedian and author, Jenny Slate turns 38…
Film and book critic, Gene Shalit turns 94… Pulpit rabbi, author and historian, Rabbi Berel Wein turns 86… Feminist, journalist and social activist, Gloria Steinem turns 86… Actor and director, best known for his role as Detective David Starsky on the 1970s television series “Starsky & Hutch” and as Captain Jack Steeper, Paul Michael Glaser turns 77… Mayor of Las Vegas, Nevada elected in 2011 and re-elected in 2015 and 2019, her husband had been Mayor of Las Vegas from 1999 until 2011, Carolyn Goodman turns 81… Norman N. Goldberg turns 76… Senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and global fellow at the Wilson Center, after 24 years at the State Department, Aaron David Miller turns 71… Former member of the Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party and then Israel’s ambassador to Belarus from 2012 to 2015, Yosef Shagal turns 71…
Chair of Eastern Savings Bank in Hunt Valley, Maryland and chair-elect of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, Beth H. Goldsmith turns 70… Glynis Gerber turns 67… Founding director of the initiative on communication and sustainability at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Andrew C. Revkin turns 64… Columbus, Ohio resident, Cynthia S. Levy turns 63… Executive director at Plum Community Center in Pittsburgh, Karen Hochberg turns 63… Film producer, she previously served as co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Amy Pascal turns 62… Author and healthcare reporter for Politico Pro, Arthur Allen turns 61… Retired IDF Major General, from 2014 to 2018 he served as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Yoav (Poli) Mordechai turns 56… Emmy Award-winning actress and producer, Sarah Jessica Parker turns 55… Resident of Efrat, he is the founding director of ATID and its WebYeshiva program and is the Editor of the Rabbinical Council’s journal Tradition, Rabbi Jeffrey Saks turns 51… Member of the Knesset for the New Right party, he is also currently the holdover Minister of Defense, Naftali Bennett turns 48…
Regional Director for New Jersey and Rockland County in the Orthodox Union’s Department of Community Engagement, Rabbi Avi Heller turns 47… Attorney and President of Mizel Financial Holdings, Cheston David Mizel turns 45… Principal at DC-based Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas, Lauren Aronson turns 41… Boston-based director of media and public relations at Oxfam America, Alissa C. Rooney turns 40… YouTube personality and filmmaker, Casey Neistat turns 39… Political editor at The Associated Press, Steven Sloan turns 37… Staff writer and editor for The New York Times op-ed pages, Bari Weiss turns 36… Director of communications at University of Chicago Urban Network, Meredith Shiner turns 33… Political director of Democratic Majority for Israel since April 2019, he was previously at the DCCC, Joel Wanger turns 32… Legislative director for U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada), Grant C. Dubler turns 31… Jordan Rossman turns 30… Pamela Snyder…