Good Monday morning!
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchinnegotiated late into the night over a massive economic stimulus package that still appears to fall short of the requisite support to move forward in Congress.
This morning, the Jewish Democratic Council of America is announcing new hires and a new approach for the November general election. More below.
The Israeli Supreme Court ordered Likud Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to hold a vote for a new Knesset Speaker by Wednesday — giving him until 5p.m. today to indicate his intention to comply, after Edelstein shut down the parliament last week ahead of a vote.
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MEET THE CANDIDATE
The Lincoln Legislator: Driving the Bronx with Reverend Rubén Díaz, Sr.
Wearing his trademark cowboy hat and a wool topcoat over his pin-striped suit, New York City Councilman Rubén Díaz, Sr., was hard to miss as he stood outside the Mechler Hall Senior Center in the South Bronx on a recent Thursday morning. The Pentecotal minister, who is running for a seat in New York’s crowded 15th congressional district, gave a tour of the Bronx and an in-depth interview to Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel, where he discussed his deep roots in the borough and his congressional aspirations.
Outlier: Throughout his tenure in local government, the former state senator, who describes himself as a “conservative Democrat,” has earned his fair share of critics for holding some beliefs that would seem to be more at home in the Republican Party. In the past, Díaz has vehemently expressed opposition to same-sex marriage, likened abortion to the Holocaust and expressed an affinity for President Donald Trump. These views have alienated Díaz from his opponents in the primary, which is set to be held on June 23.
Deeply rooted: The Puerto Rico-born Díaz is deeply rooted in the Bronx, and experts predict that it is unlikely his inflammatory statements will impede his chances at the polls. Díaz — already a minor celebrity in his district, thanks in part to his recognizable wardrobe — also enjoys extra name recognition from his son, Ruben Diaz, Jr., the Bronx borough president. Díaz is proud of his record, particularly when it comes to his stances on social issues, which he does not try to hide. “I’m against abortion,” he said. “I’m against gay marriage. I’m against gambling. I’m against using the schools to distribute condoms for children. I’m against the death penalty. I am pro-Israel.”
Chosen people: Díaz is a diehard supporter of the Jewish state; his philosemitism contributes substantially to his worldview. He wholeheartedly endorsed Trump’s decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and he talks reverentially about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He believes the Jews are an extraordinarily resilient people. In fact, Díaz only consented to speak with JI, he said, because he considers himself to be such a strong advocate of the Jewish community. “They don’t have a better defender than me,” he boasted. “My savior is Jewish,” he explained. “I base my religion in the Jewish faith. There is no other candidate — oh man, the Jews? Forget about it. Don’t even go there, OK? To me, that’s the chosen people.”
Worthy of your time — Read the full feature here.
Jewish Democratic group expands team ahead of general election season
The Jewish Democratic Council of America is set to launch its general election campaign on Monday, adding prominent members of the American Jewish community to its team and outlining a strategy to mobilize voters in the age of social distancing.
Details: Adapting to a new dynamic amid the coronavirus pandemic, the JDCA is expected to transition to a fully digital operation. Starting this week, the Jewish Democratic group will host twice-a-week conference calls — every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon — with prominent Democrats and experts who will engage with supporters about the impact of COVID-19 and key political issues ahead of the November election. This week’s calls include veteran campaign finance lawyer Marc Elias, former chief of staff at the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency Jeremy Bash and former National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.
Battlegrounds: Most of the group’s activities will focus on voters in states including Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Colorado, Virginia, Ohio and Georgia — key battlegrounds that may determine the presidential race and the makeup of the next Senate. JCDA plans to spend more than $1 million before November.
New hires: JDCA is also adding three members to its leadership team. Writer and activist Carly Pildis, most recently the director of grassroots organizing for Zioness, will serve as the head of the group’s grassroots organizing. Chicago-based writer and pro-Israel activist Steve Sheffey will be a strategy and policy advisor, and Elle Segal of the Jewish Community Relations Council in San Francisco will manage outreach, programs and policy.
Eyes on votes: While many establishment Democrats are starting to coalesce behind former Vice President Joe Biden as he inches towards clinching the nomination, JDCA is remaining neutral until a nominee is selected. Democratic Majority for Israel, an organization that supports pro-Israel Democrats, announced its endorsement of Biden earlier this month. JDCA executive director Halie Soifer told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh that her group decided early on to support the eventual nominee and not intervene in the primary process. “We have been laying the groundwork to defeat Donald Trump and are focused just on that,” she explained. “That’s what makes us distinct — the ability to mobilize Jewish voters in all states to support the nominee and Democratic candidates running for the House and Senate. We are not just endorsing candidates.”
Bonus: Biden will make his first “presentation” to counter Trump’s daily briefings on the coronavirus outbreak from a home TV studio later this morning.
VIEW FROM JERUSALEM
Holocaust survivor is Israel’s first coronavirus fatality
Aryeh Even, an 88-year-old Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor who lived in Jerusalem, became Israel’s first coronavirus fatality over the weekend as the country’s battle against COVID-19 ramps up.
Bio: Even, who lived in an assisted living facility in Jerusalem, arrived in Israel as a teenager in 1949 after surviving the Holocaust by hiding under the protection of Swedish diplomats. He embarked on a career as a foreign diplomat before resigning to support his wife’s career in the foreign service. He is survived by four children, 18 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Until the end: Rachel Gemara, a nurse at Shaare Zedek who volunteered to work in the hospital’s special COVID-19 ward, described caring for Even in a Facebook post. “The circumstances of your hospitalisation did not allow for your loving family and caretaker to be by your side,” she wrote. “For us and them, this was heartbreaking. We did our best to go in as often as possible.”
Final rest: Even was the first Israeli to be buried according to Health Ministry regulations on how to handle deceased COVID-19 patients. The traditional Jewish ritual purification process, known as tahara, was skipped, and he was carried to his burial by mourners in full biohazard gear, at a funeral limited to 20 people. Many of his family members could not attend because they were in mandatory quarantine. “Aryeh, I want to ask you for forgiveness,” Gemara wrote. “I’m sorry for how we were required to handle your body, we did our best to preserve your dignity and respect you based on the circumstances.”
Court order: The number of confirmed coronavirus in Israel surpassed 1,200 Monday morning, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is holding discussions over tightening restrictions among the public to curb the virus’s spread. Critics of Netanyahu accuse him of using the pandemic to maintain his power and sidestep parliamentary oversight. Likud Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who shut the parliament down last week, will likely be replaced when a full vote moves forward, since the anti-Netanyahu bloc controls 62 seats.
Bonus: Neri Zilber writes in the Globe and Mail that Israel is uniquely positioned and prepared to counter the global pandemic. “The Jewish state is ever vigilant and, in a physical sense, always on guard,” Zilber wrote. “Politics, for once, is not at the top of the agenda in the most politicized place on Earth.”
👨 Man of the Hour: BuzzFeed’s Hannah Ryan profiles Scottish-Australian journalist Norman Swan, who has become a popular trusted source on the coronavirus outbreak in Australia. Swan, a health reporter for Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the father of Axios political reporter Jonathan Swan, has warned for years about an upcoming pandemic. [BuzzFeed]
📅 Timetable: Juliette Kayyem, a former Department of Homeland Security official, writes in The Atlantic that the coronavirus pandemic could last more than a year, and there will be no clear signal when it is over. But earlier, when “the surge in testing kits, intensive-care beds, and other resources is finally sufficient to meet the need,” life will begin slowly going back to normal. [TheAtlantic]
✍️ New World: Israeli professor and historian Yuval Noah Harari details how the decisions we are making during the COVID-19 crisis will shape world order — on the economy, our political system and cultural behavior — for years to come. [FinancialTimes]
👴 Behind the Scenes: New York Times reporters Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin take an inside look at how the Democratic nomination slipped out of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s hands — in the few days between the South Carolina primary and Super Tuesday — just when it seemed he was on the path to cement his short frontrunner status. [NYTimes]
Around the Web
🛢️ Big Deal: Occidental Petroleum Corp. is nearing a truce with activist investor Carl Icahn that would end one of the highest-profile corporate clashes of the past year, bringing Icahn’s two lieutenants onto Occidental’s board and reinstating former CEO Stephen Chazen as chairman.
📉 Losing Matters: Marc Lasry’s Avenue Energy Opportunities Fund has seen five years of positive returns wiped out following the spread of coronavirus.
📺 Media Watch: Ben Smith writes in The New York Times about how Fox News’s programming “repeatedly played down the threat” of the coronavirus, in part due to the disconnect of chief executive Lachlan Murdoch.
😠 Closing Shop: Former field staffers of Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign expressed their anger at the former candidate for abandoning an initial plan to continue to employ them through November in the midst of a major public-health crisis.
💵 Wallets Open: The Atlanta Hawks’ principal owners Tony Ressler and Jami Gertz have partnered with the city to provide food to the most needy during the coronavirus crisis. Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank’s family foundation donated $5.4 million to relief efforts.
✡️ Talk of Our Nation: Six leading Orthodox rabbinical groups in the U.S. united in calling✎ EditSign for severely limiting any social interactions due to the coronavirus, leading to “socially distant” weddings in Brooklyn and networks of Passover shoppers in Los Angeles.
💻 Teen Titan: High schooler Avi Schiffmann launched a website from his home outside Seattle to track COVID-19, and has seen more than 100 million visitors.
😷 Talk of the Region: The arrival of the coronavirus in the Gaza Strip in two patients who recently returned from Pakistan raised fears that the pandemic could wreak havoc and complicate the health of some of the most vulnerable populations in the world. On Sunday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh ordered a lockdown on the West Bank after 57 confirmed cases. Israel reportedly transferred $120 million in emergency assistance.
😤 Relatable Rant: A video posted online by a frustrated Israeli mother of four — complaining about the homeschooling measures during the self-isolation period — has gone viral worldwide with English subtitles.
✈️ Homeward Bound: Israel has chartered special flights to bring thousands of stranded Israelis back from Peru, India, Australia, Costa Rica and other locations before global airspace shuts down further.
😀 Happy Always: Israel was listed as the 14th happiest country in the United Nations’s eighth World Happiness Report.
☢️ New Weapon: Neo-Nazis and other white supremacist groups are encouraging members who contract the COVID-19 virus to spread it to police officers and Jews, according to intelligence gathered by the FBI.
🤝 Across the Sea: ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tells NBC News that there are “clear links” between white supremacists in the U.S. and neo-Nazi groups in Europe who often mingle to share ideas and strategies at concerts in Germany.
👎 Diplomatic Dispute: The U.S. State Department harshly criticized France for releasing an Iranian man, Jalal Rohollahnejad, who is the subject of a U.S. extradition request on charges of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, in a prisoner swap with Tehran.
📚 Book Shelf: Max Hirshfeld’s book, Sweet Noise: Love in Wartime, combines letters and photos to tell the story of a secret romance in a Polish ghetto during the Holocaust.🕯️ Paying Tribute: Gertrud Steinl, the last surviving German honored for saving Jews during the Holocaust, passed away on the eve of her 98th birthday.
Gif of the day
A truck organized by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel — reading “We’ve had enough of corruption” — takes part in a protest convoy against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier today.
French actress who has appeared in more than 30 films, her Holocaust survivor grandparents changed their name from Goldreich, Judith Godrèche turns 48…
Actor and producer, Mark Rydell turns 91… Former National Football League referee for 23 seasons, the only NFL head referee to officiate four Super Bowl games (1983, 1987, 1992 and 1995), Jerry Markbreit turns 85… Of counsel at the law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, he served as White House counsel for President Clinton (1993-1994), Bernard W. Nussbaum turns 83… Together with her husband, Theodore, she pledged $25 million to BBYO last year, Harriette Perlman turns 80… Mandolinist and composer of acoustic, instrumental, bluegrass and newgrass music, David Grisman turns 75… Writer and producer, creator of “Deadwood” and co-creator of “NYPD Blue,” David Milch turns 75… Tel Aviv native, she is a professor of music at the Juilliard School since 1993, Yoheved “Veda” Kaplinsky turns 73…
Los Angeles-based psychologist, author of “The Blessings of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children,” Wendy Mogel turns 69… Designer of men’s and women’s footwear and clothing, Kenneth D. Cole turns 66… Mayor of Austin, Texas, Stephen Ira Adler turns 64… Former director of business development at Fannie Mae (1993-2019), she was also the president of the Jewish Federation of Howard County (Maryland) until last year, Beth Millstein turns 59… Investor, he owns an offshore bank, a management company and a NYC-based precious metals dealer, Peter Schiff turns 57… Russian-American billionaire oil businessman, Eugene Shvidler turns 56… Senior writer for “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” Daniel Radosh turns 51… Client partner at Facebook working with clients in the real estate industry vertical, Scott Shapiro turns 48… Member of the Maryland General Assembly since 2011, State Senator Craig Zucker turns 45…
Israeli actress, comedian and television host, Adi Ashkenazi turns 45… Three-time Grammy Award-winning record producer, audio engineer and songwriter, Ariel Rechtshaid turns 41… Israeli stage and screen actor, Itay Tiran turns 40… Member of the rabbinics faculty at the Academy for Jewish Religion California, Yehuda Hausman turns 38… Reporter for The New York Times, her first book, “Horse Crazy,” will be published in August, Sarah Maslin Nir turns 37… Israeli singer-songwriter, actress and musician, she performs in Hebrew, French and Arabic and was the winner of Israel’s 2013 “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” award, Riff Cohen turns 36… VP of political affairs and strategy at J Street, Benjamin Shnider turns 31… Tennis coach at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, Julia Cohen turns 31… Former member of the National Israeli Rhythmic Gymnastics Team, she competed in the 2012 Olympic games, Moran Buzovski turns 28…