Good morning and TGIF!
This morning, Democratic Majority for Israel’s political action committee announced its second round of endorsements: Reps. Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05) and Alcee Hastings (FL-20). DMFI also endorsed former Congressman Kweisi Mfume in the June 2nd primary for the seat formerly held by the late Elijah Cummings in Maryland’s 7th district. Read more here.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuordered a nationwide lockdown — enforced by police — to halt the spread of the coronavirus, with exceptions for purchasing food and medicine and for some workers. The governor of California also ordered all residents to stay at home except for necessary trips.
Vikings owner Mark Wilf, who is also the chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, tells Jewish Insider: “I look forward to having Michael on our football team and to working with him in our community, including on our potential visit to Israel with some of his teammates, perhaps as soon as next year.” Wilf also sent a video yesterday congratulating Yeshiva University’s basketball team on its record number of wins this year.
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NYT’s Ben Smith: ‘Every story is now a coronavirus story’
When Ben Smith started his new job as a media columnist for The New York Times in early March, the novel coronavirus had yet to be declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, President Donald Trump had not declared a national emergency and most Americans were still going out to restaurants and bars rather than hunkering down at home. Within days, the column ideas Smith had in mind seemed a lot less relevant.
“I’ve got a long list of stories nobody wants to read,” Smith, the founding editor of BuzzFeed News, told Jewish Insider‘s Matthew Kassel in a phone interview from upstate New York, where he is working remotely. “Essentially,” he said, “every story is now a coronavirus story.”
The media angle: “I think every beat reporter who is not a public health reporter or science reporter is scrambling to figure out how to make themselves useful,” Smith told JI. “And I’m sure that goes for wine columnists and sportswriters and everybody else.” Smith mused that in such dire moments reporters grapple with covering the virus from a daily-journalism perspective while also maintaining an awareness that their coverage is a part of the public health infrastructure working to beat the disease. “I think that’s the thing journalists always really wrestle with,” he said.
Background: Smith began his career in journalism as an intern at The Jewish Daily Forward under Seth Lipsky. “The number one thing he taught me as an editor was to have your reporter’s back,” Smith said of his former boss. In the early to mid 2000s, Smith worked for The New York Sun and The New York Observer, where he was mentored by the late Peter Kaplan. “The thing that he really understood in his bones was the thing that good aggressive journalism covers is power,” Smith said. In 2008, he moved to Politico, pioneering a style of scooplet-driven journalism that has seeped into the practice. He was hired as BuzzFeed’s editor in 2011, where he built up a robust reporting operation.
Settling in at the Times: At his new job, Smith is expected to publish a column every week — a “really disorienting” pace, Smith told JI. “I’m an old blogger, and I think my approach has been, like, can I jam 15 blog items into every column? Back when I was at Politico I was writing five times a day, so I’m trying to do that much reporting and get it all into the column.” Still, Smith has already had the chance to stray from the mandated schedule — as well as his beat. “I wrote a piece about Cuomo on Monday,” he said. “I was very grateful that the Metro folks let me kibitz a bit.”
Walking a fine line: “Politically, the Jewish press sort of faces what everybody else faces, which is the center isn’t holding,” Smith told JI. “On Trump, on Israel, there’s increasingly a demand that you choose sides.” Still, he added, a public health event like the coronavirus has changed that dynamic a bit. “You see the Forward doing great work on the outbreak and the outbreaks in the Orthodox community,” Smith said. He also praised Yeshiva World News for “raising the alarm” and “trying to present trustworthy voices” in an effort to get ultra-Orthodox communities to take the virus seriously.
Operating in David Carr’s shadow: The media column at the Times was launched by David Carr, the gruff, no-nonsense reporter who died unexpectedly in 2015. Smith remembers him fondly, recalling the time early in his tenure at BuzzFeed that Carr stopped by the office to interview Smith and Jonah Peretti, the company’s co-founder. “We sat at the table in the BuzzFeed cafeteria, and he was in the canteen, and Jonah was sort of giving his story, which I had heard before, so I had started kind of looking at my phone, doing other things,” Smith remembered. “And David sort of rounds on me. He’s like, ‘I’m sorry, are you bored? Do you need to go somewhere else?’ And it was so destabilizing it rattled both me and Jonah and made it a much better interview.”
Ohio Jewish leaders weigh in on Rep. Fudge as potential VP
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) is one of several names suggested as a potential vice president pick for Joe Biden, if he wins the Democratic presidential nomination. Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh examined Fudge’s record on Israel and spoke to members of Ohio’s Jewish community about her tenure.
Background: Fudge represents the 11th congressional district of Ohio, which includes Cleveland and Akron and has the largest population of Jewish residents in the state. Fudge, 67, has represented the district since being appointed to a vacant seat following the death of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones in August 2008.
Record on Israel: The Ohio lawmaker voted in favor of last year’s bipartisan anti-BDS resolution (H.R. 246) and a resolution reaffirming U.S. support for the two-state solution (H.R. 326), which included amendments reaffirming the “ironclad” U.S. commitment to the MOU and to annual military assistance without new conditions. She led a mission to Israel, sponsored by the AIPAC-affiliated American Israel Education Foundation, in February 2014.
Community relations: Alan Melamed, a local political consultant, pointed to Fudge’s commitment to fighting the growing rise in antisemitism as a member of the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism as something the community appreciates. Melamed said the congresswoman “has been out there with us and for us” since being elected. Shaker Heights City Councilman Rob Zimmerman described Fudge’s relationship with the Jewish community as “very good” despite the fact that she wasn’t well known before entering office.
Open door policy: Howie Beigelman, executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities, told JI that Fudge and her staff have “an open door” to the community. “She understands, implicitly, the need to support Israel and our community’s needs, and has been very active in connecting the Jewish and the African-American communities together,” he said. Beigelman noted that Fudge has a point person, Esther Kelsch, who has been dedicated to Jewish outreach for the past five years and is “very well aware of the community’s needs.”
Bonus: While Fudge has been floated by some as a potential running mate for Biden, there are a number of names in the mix, including three of Biden’s former rivals — Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) — according to The New York Times’s Reid Epstein and Lisa Lerer, who spoke to more than 60 Democratic officials to get a sense of who may be Biden’s favorite for 1 Observatory Circle.
PIECE ON PEACE
Ethan Bronner explores the evolving relationship between Israel and America
In The New York Review of Books, Bloomberg senior editor Ethan Bronner delves into the relationship — sometimes warm, sometimes fraught — between Israeli and American Jews. Looking at recent books by Daniel Gordis and University of Pennsylvania professor Amy Kaplan, Bronner draws on his own observations and experiences reporting from Israel to gauge the state of relations between the Jewish diaspora and the Jewish state.
“Gordis and Kaplan represent two main strands of the uneasy, polarized discourse about Israel that has emerged in the past decade. Gordis, an American-born-and-educated Israeli scholar and a Conservative rabbi, scolds American Jews for criticism he views as either misguided or naive. He wants them to find common cause again with Israeli Jews. Kaplan, a professor of American studies at the University of Pennsylvania and a critic of Israel, wants virtually the opposite. By exposing the cultural forces that have drawn the two countries close, Kaplan hopes that Americans, Jewish and otherwise, will stop seeing their bond with Israel as unbreakable.”
Bronner spoke with Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss about his views on the changing ties between the two communities. “My broad view is that the left in the United States, and that’s focused often on campuses, is angry about Israel. And that is likely to remain true,” he said. “I don’t think that the American Jewish community in 10 or 20 years will be as defined by the left as it has been in recent decades… it is shifting — the organized Jewish community — more to the right/center right, and away from a kind of secular humanism, toward a more Jewish identity.”
The modern era: Bronner — who lived in Israel from 1991-1997 and then again from 2008 to 2012 — explained that Israel underwent massive economic changes in the early 1990s, shifting from a largely agrarian society to one that was more focused on the tech sector. “The digitalization of the world economy fit perfectly into Israel’s abilities,” Bronner said. “Once it became possible to create software, then the Israelis really took off. And it didn’t matter that there was hostility around them; they could leapfrog economically and digitally to Europe, the U.S., Asia and South America.”
Eyes on November: Bronner said he does not expect a “180-degree turn” in relations if a Democrat replaces President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. “Let’s assume for the moment that a Democrat means [former Vice President] Joe Biden. Joe Biden has, certainly, a fairly different attitude toward the conflict than Donald Trump. But I don’t think, given the changes of the last decade, he’s likely to revolutionize our policy there… There’s just so much other stuff that is central to American foreign policy. Even in the Middle East, the Iran-Saudi issues are just far more important,” Bronner told JI. “The moral concerns about the treatment of Palestinians remain as they ever were, but the geopolitical ones have shifted.”
🌎 Reflection: Garrett Graff, director for cyber initiatives at the Aspen Institute, highlights the collective American public’s response to the coronavirus pandemic — sacrificing daily routines to save lives — and how it will stand as a remarkable moment of national mobilization. [TheAtlantic]
🙏 Mourning Alone: Former White House Jewish liaison Tevi Troy writes in The Wall Street Journal about holding a minyan at a time of social distancing, during the year he is meant to recite kaddish for his mother: “It will be hard not to feel alone as I join other Jewish mourners in trying to meet my sacred obligation to the departed.” [WSJ]
👊 Process Learning:New York Times reporters Astead Herndon and Shane Goldmacher point out that while progressive policies such as single-payer health care and student debt forgiveness are popular among Democratic voters, left-wing candidates are still losing primaries. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) acknowledged that the progressive movement may require different political tactics to win over suburban women and older black voters. [NYTimes]
Around the Web
😡 Raising Ire: Four U.S. senators, Richard Burr (R-NC), Kelly Loeffler (R-SC), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and James Inhofe (R-OK), have been accused of selling millions in stock after attending closed-door Senate briefings on the coronavirus beginning in January.
💰 Spotlight: Some of the world’s richest people — including Warren Buffett, Barry Sternlicht and Carl Icahn — have spent more than $1 billion on companies’ stock as the market tumbles.
🚫 Shut It Down: Pershing Square Capital Management founder and billionaire Bill Ackman is recommending that President Donald Trump shut down the country for a month, insisting that the markets will rebound.
📉 Homework:Hedge fund manager Seth Klarman toldThe New York Times that while the pandemic wouldn’t last forever, he and his 275 employees at Baupost Group are adjusting to a new and more isolated way of continuing their work.
🏃♀️ Preparing for ‘24 takeoff?Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley resigned from Boeing’s board yesterday, saying she disagreed with the company’s request for a federal bailout.
🎧 Now Streaming: Evan Lowenstein, formerly half of the pop group Evan and Jaron, is seeing a coronavirus comeback for his struggling decade-old start-up Stageit, which hosts virtual concerts and music festivals.
🕊️ Olive Branch:Iran released U.S. Navy veteran Michael White yesterday, and Lebanon freed American Amer Fakhoury after he was detained for months on charges — dating back to the 1980s — of working with Israel.
⚖️ Oversight Needed: The Israeli Supreme Court ruled last night that the Shin Bet’s tracking of coronavirus patients must receive Knesset approval by noon on Tuesday.
🚘 Road Rage:Hundreds of Israelis joined a convoy in Jerusalem yesterday to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for what they call his antidemocratic moves to crack down on the coronavirus.
🗣️ Harsh Critic: Historian and author Yuval Noah Harari accused Netanyahu of destroying democracy and establishing a “dictatorship… under pretext of fighting corona.”
🏦 Unprecedented: The Bank of Israel is being urged to “throw out every rule” to counter the threats to the market and to the economy.
⚕️ Helping Hand: Israeli pharmaceutical giant Teva announced plans to donate six million tablets of a malaria drug touted as a potential coronavirus treatment to hospitals in the United States.
💊 Trial Run: Israel has approved a preliminary permit of a generic HIV drug to fight coronavirus, despite doubts over its effectiveness.
🇩🇪 Across the Sea: German authorities carried out a raid at the homes of 21 members of the antisemitic hate group United German Peoples and Tribes, and issued a ban on the organization.
🎭 Oy to the World: The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene has put together free online programming via its Facebook page, livestreamed straight from the actors’ living rooms.
🕯️ Remembering:Wolf Kahn, who fled Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport as a child and later enjoyed a successful career as a painter of landscapes, has died at age 92.
Wine of the week
JI’s wine columnist Yitz Applbaum recommends a few bottles to uncork while you’re stuck at home:
“I am sitting at my computer in California, my fingers twitching as I have not been on an airplane for a week for the first time in many months. I have a great deal of pent up energy and will expend some of it in an effort to create experiences while stationary. It’s a time to reflect on some wonderful bottles and to open up a few great ones from the cellar and not let them collect dust any longer.”
Flam Noble 2013: This wine is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc. The most notable characteristic of this wine is that every time I took a sip it improved. The Cabernet and Petit Verdot created the perfect marriage on the mid-palate, the flavors were powerful and bore a hole in my tongue. The Cab Franc was dominant on the finish and the softness of the merlot was as inviting as the empty seat for Elijah on Passover. This wine has many years to still develop and should be part of any feast you are planning.”
He’s only at the halfway mark — activist philanthropist, pioneer in corporate social responsibility, formerly CEO of Timberland, Jeff Swartz turns 6-0 today…
FRIDAY: Actor, director, producer and writer of comedy, Carl Reiner turns 98… Actor and musician, best-known role as the title character in the television comedy series “Barney Miller,” Hal Linden (born Harold Lipshitz) turns 89… Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences as a geologist and oceanographer, but known popularly as poet and performer, Alexander Gorodnitsky turns 87… Australian award-winning writer of Portuguese Sephardi descent, David George Joseph Malouf turns 86… Retired executive officer at Standard & Poor’s where he was responsible for credit ratings of states and municipalities, Hyman C. Grossman turns 85… Senior advisor to the family office of Charles Bronfman, Dr. Jeffrey R. Solomon turns 75… Rosh Yeshiva at Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Rabbi Tzvi Berkowitz turns 69… Award-winning author of 26 children’s books, Louis Sachar turns 66… Owner of Diamond Point Metals, he serves on the boards of the Baltimore Jewish Council and the Maryland Israel Development Center, Jack Zager turns 66…
Retired as Israel’s chief of police (2015-2018) after a 27-year career at Shabak, Roni Alsheikh turns 57… Host of “Time Team America,” a PBS program, Justine Shapiro turns 57… Chilean businessman with substantial mining interests, Leonardo Farkas turns 53… Journalist and author best known for writing about his lifestyle immersion experiments, he is an editor at large for Esquire, Arnold Stephen “A. J.” Jacobs turns 52… Actor, podcast host, director and comedian, Michael Rapaport turns 50… Director in Accenture’s NYC-based communications, media and technology practice, Daniel M. Eckstein turns 36… Senior director of strategic messaging at National Geographic Partners, Matt Finkelstein turns 35… Political reporter at NBC News, Benjamin (Benjy) Sarlin turns 35… Development associate at the CIM Group, Jason Lifton turns 31… Comedian and actress, she is a correspondent on the Netflix series “Bill Nye Saves the World,” Joanna Hausmann turns 31… Social justice fellow at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Max Buchdahl turns 24…
SATURDAY: The first woman appointed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, Ellen Ash Peters turns 90… Rabbi emeritus of Manhattan’s Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein turns 88… Harvard professor and winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Walter Gilbert turns 88… Scholar of Jewish mysticism and founding dean of the non-denominational rabbinical program at the Hebrew College in Boston where he serves as the rector of the rabbinic school, Arthur Green turns 79… Samuel Gross turns 71… Istanbul-born entrepreneur, hotelier and real estate developer, Izak Senbahar turns 61… First Jewish member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Hampshire (2007-2011), later on the boards of the ADL and NJDC, he is of counsel to the law firm of Shaheen & Gordon, Paul Hodes turns 69…
Former executive director of The Charles Bronfman Prize, Jill Collier Indyk… President of NYC- and Singapore-based Asia-focused consulting and business development practice KWR International, Keith W. Rabin turns 64… Director general of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yuval Rotem turns 61… Co-founder of fund manager Wynnefield Capital Management, he serves on the Board of Trustees of S.A.R. Academy in Riverdale, NY, Joshua H. Landes turns 58… Award-winning actor and singer whose roles include the title role in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and the adult voice of Simba in Disney’s “The Lion King” trilogy, Matthew Broderick turns 58… Israeli rock musician and record producer, Shlomi Bracha turns 58…
Hedge fund manager and former chairman of the board of the New York City Opera, Roy Niederhoffer turns 54… Attorney and chair of the private education practice group at the Los Angeles office of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, Michael Blacher turns 52… Founding editor of The Dispatch in 2019, Jonah Goldberg turns 51… James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef from Miami, Michelle Bernstein turns 50… Co-anchor of CNN’s “New Day,” John Berman turns 48… Digital marketing guru and founder of Bully Pulpit Interactive, Andrew Bleeker turns 35… Israeli-American attorney, writer, and activist, Hadas Alterman turns 31… 3L law student at Duke University School of Law, Addison Caruso turns 24…
SUNDAY: Professor emeritus of education and humanities at the University of Virginia and founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation, E.D. Hirsch turns 92… Mad Magazine’s caricaturist for over 50 years, Mort Drucker turns 91… Composer and lyricist, winner of eight Tony Awards, eight Grammy Awards, an Academy Award and a Pulitzer Prize, Stephen Sondheim turns 90… Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, William Shatner turns 89… Born in Iran, he came to the U.S. as a teen and was elected to the Beverly Hills City Council in 2003 and then elected mayor of Beverly Hills in 2007 and 2010, Jamshid “Jimmy” Delshad turns 80… Dentist, born in Tel Aviv, raised in NYC and practicing in Norwalk, CT, Murray Bruckel, DDS turns 75… Academy Award-winning screenwriter, his work includes “Forrest Gump” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Eric Roth turns 75… Israeli viola player and teacher, Rivka Golani turns 74…
Television news host and lead political anchor for CNN, Wolf Blitzer turns 72… Senior principal of the law firm of Neuberger, Quinn, P.A., Isaac M. Neuberger turns 73… Mike Orkin turns 71… Former manager of the Fidelity Magellan Fund and the current owner of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, Jeffrey N. Vinik turns 61… Popular musical entertainer in the Orthodox Jewish community, Avraham Shabsi Friedman, better known by his stage name, Avraham Fried turns 61… Former corporate secretary, EVP and general counsel at Hertz Corporation, J. Jeffrey Zimmerman turns 61… Philanthropy correspondent at Jewish Insider, Debra Nussbaum Cohen… Head of real estate for Morningstar founder Joe Mansueto, previously at Zeller Realty, Ari Glass turns 51… Managing director of Mercury Public Affairs, Jonathan Greenspun turns 49… Senior vice president at HCA Healthcare, Jeff E. Cohen turns 49…
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Judge Neomi Rao turns 47… Visual editor at The City, Ben Fractenberg turns 41… Senior advisor at both Fenway Strategies and Emerson Collective, and author of “The Survivors,” Adam Perecman Frankel turns 39… Founder and CEO of Glossier, Emily Weiss turns 35… Creator and director of the Yehi Ohr program at Jewish Community Services of South Florida, Zisa Levin turns 34… Retired MLB first baseman, he starred for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Isaac Benjamin “Ike” Davis turns 33… Communications director for U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana), Sarah Alice Frank Feldman turns 32… Energy and environment reporter at the Washington Examiner, Joshua Adam Siegel turns 30… Director of the Dan David Prize, Charlotte Hallé… CEO of BICOM (Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre), he was previously spokesman for the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, James Sorene…