Good Tuesday morning!
Happy Purim! 🤡 We’re celebrating today so the next Daily Kickoff will be Thursday morning. Stay safe!
Voters in six primary states will cast their ballots today for the Democratic presidential nominee. First polls close at 8 p.m. EDT. The biggest prize is Michigan, with 125 pledged delegates at stake. Former Vice President Joe Biden is aiming to cement his position as the presumptive nominee, while Sen. Bernie Sanders is hoping to close the gap and regain frontrunner status.
Former Secretary of State John Kerrypitched Biden’s candidacy to Jewish voters in Michigan over the weekend, touting the former VP’s record as “consistently [being] supportive of Israel” but also “fair” and “wanting to find a way to respect the rights of Palestinians, too.”
Closed skies: Israel announced yesterday that all Israelis arriving from any foreign countries will immediately be ordered into quarantine for 14 days. The restrictions on foreign visitors will only take effect Thursday evening, and the order will be re-evaluted in two weeks. Vice President Mike Pence reportedly asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “go global” in his restrictions on travelers, rather than focus only on the United States. The number of confirmed cases in Israel hit 55 today.
In honor of Yeshiva University’s NCAA Division III run, Patriots owner Bob Kraft and Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry sent video messages congratulating the team on their success thus far. Standing alongside his six Lombardi trophies, Kraft reminded the team in Hebrew that “אין דבר עומד לפני הרצון” — where there’s a will there’s a way. Meanwhile, Lasry offered to fly the team to Milwaukee to meet the Bucks if they make it to the Final Four.
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STATE OF THE RACE
Former CIA operative Valerie Plame hits roadblock in congressional campaign
Former CIA operative Valerie Plame’s congressional bid hit a snag on Saturday when she came in fifth with just 5.2% of delegates at the Democratic Party of New Mexico’s pre-primary convention. She needed at least 20% of delegates to automatically qualify for the June 2 primary ballot. Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod breaks down the state of the race.
Down but not out: Plame, who was famously outed as a covert CIA officer in 2003, could still appear on the ballot, but needs to submit a larger number of voter petition signatures within 10 days of the convention — which she says she already has. She is running in New Mexico’s third congressional district, in the northern portion of the state, which includes Santa Fe. The seat is currently held by Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Luján. Luján is running for the Senate seat held by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), who is not running for reelection.
Overpowered by less well-funded competitors: Two candidates, attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez and Sandoval County treasurer Laura Montoya, made the delegate cutoff, with Fernandez picking up 41.9% of delegates and Montoya claiming 20.47%. Plame’s disappointing showing comes despite her national media profile and her fundraising haul of more than $1 million — more than 1.5 times what Fernandez has raised. Montoya trailed even further behind, with just over $28,000 raised.
Accusations of antisemitism: Plame faced accusations of antisemitism in 2017 after she shared an article on Twitter entitled “America’s Jews are Driving America’s Wars” from the Unz Review, which defends conspiracy theories. Plame initially defended sharing the article, and then later apologized, saying she didn’t carefully read or consider it before sharing. Later, Plame told The New York Times that she is “of Jewish descent,” although she was raised Lutheran, and said she’d started attending services at Temple Beth Shalom, a synagogue in Santa Fe in the “aftermath” of her controversial tweet.
Read more about the race here.
Gantz begins work on forming a coalition to oust Netanyahu
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz formally reached out to the leaders of the Joint List — a political alliance of the main Arab parties — on Monday, pledging to form a government “that will serve all of Israel’s citizens, Jews and Arabs alike.” Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh reports on the latest:
Timetable: President Reuven Rivlin will begin consultations with all parties at his residence on Sunday and is expected to thereafter announce his decision to grant the mandate to form a government to one of the two people vying to be premier.
Why it matters: If successful, this will be the first time a candidate for prime minister is able to form a government backed by Arab MKs. As it currently stands, the center-left bloc, which includes Yisrael Beitenu and the Joint List, has a majority of 62 seats compared to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s backing of 58 seats. If Gantz gets the recommendations of at least 59 members of the Knesset, he will receive the first chance to form the government.
Big deal: Dahlia Scheindlin, an international public opinion analyst who worked for the Joint List as a researcher in the March 2nd election, tells JI that the willingness to provide Gantz a single vote of confidence is a “significant statement in the current environment” where the Israeli public has become used to rhetoric against the country’s Arab population. While Gantz is “setting the stage to earn their support,” Scheindlin said, it’s unclear if he will give in to some of their demands.
The obstacles: Two members of the Blue and White party, Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser, have indicated that they would oppose a government that receives Joint List support. According to media reports, the pair — members of former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem faction within Blue and White — were given an ultimatum to either support the government or resign. So far, they are refusing to back off. Scheindlin stressed that this is “going to be a real test for Gantz as he’s facing down this internal discord.”
Catering to the base: Noga Tarnopolsky, a Jerusalem-based freelance reporter for the Los Angeles Times, pointed out that Gantz “is undertaking this not only so as to gain power, but also in order to fulfill his main election promises — to undo the polarization Netanyahu has rooted in Israeli political rhetoric and, as he sees it, to save Israel’s democratic institutions,” Tarnopolsky explained to JI.
Bonus: The Washington Post editorial board suggested that “the curdling of Mr. Netanyahu’s ‘victory’” in last week’s election “should be welcomed by Israel’s friends.” In Foreign Policy, Shalom Lipner wrote that Netanyahu is “no Houdini,” and his “dubious wizardry is holding his right-wing camp back from asserting power.”
Pittsburgh donations distributed to victims and to synagogue rebuilding efforts
An independent committee charged with distributing more than $5 million in donations to the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh has issued its final recommendations and will begin dispersing the funds to the victims, families and communities affected by the deadly October 2018 terror attack. JI’s Debra Nussbaum Cohen spoke with Tree of Life president Sam Schachner to get the details.
By the numbers:
- The two individuals seriously injured and the families of the 11 people killed will each receive approximately $232,633, totalling $3,024,231.
- Nine people who were trapped inside the building during the carnage will share $215,262 equally, and six others who were on site that day will divide $23,905, according to the committee’s report.
- The two congregations renting space that day — Dor Hadash and New Light — will each receive just over $240,000. The building’s primary occupant, Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha, will receive $1,275,871 toward rebuilding its synagogue complex. A fund of $200,000 has been set aside to honor the first responders and approximately $234,000 will go toward memorializing the victims of the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.
The aftermath: Neither Tree of Life*Or L’Chadash nor its two tenant congregations have moved back into the synagogue space, which will undergo a complete renovation, using the donated funds, expected to begin in 2021. “We’ve been very victim-centered on how we move forward and victims and their families needed a certain amount of time before going back in,” said Schachner. “We’ve had a lot of people going through a lot of trauma.” The complex will be rebuilt with partners including the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh and a local university, Schachner said.
Holiday spirit: With no space to hold large events, the congregations have benefited from the kindness of other Pittsburgh religious institutions, including the city’s Calvary Episcopal Church, which gave the community its sanctuary to use for High Holiday services. “It really helped us learn how much in common we have,” said Schachner. The congregation is renting space for its regular services from a local Reform temple less than a mile away. Tree of Life*Or L’Chadash held rehearsals for its Purim shpiel at the church, with “several pastors involved —they plan to come to Purim services to do it again,” Schachner said. “It shows us how much love there is that dwarfs the hate that spawned the situation.”
Cora Neumann drops out of Montana Senate race after Steve Bullock steps in
Montana Democrat Cora Neumann ended her Senate campaign on Monday, following the announcement that onetime presidential candidate and current Gov. Steve Bullock had entered the race, the last day a candidate could file to run. Neumann immediately threw her support behind Bullock, calling him “the best chance” to win the seat in November.
Once the frontrunner: Neumann was seen as the frontrunner in the Democratic primary, the winner of which will challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Daines in November. Since announcing her campaign in October 2019, she raised more than $650,000.
Background: Neumann, a Montana native, worked as a communications coordinator at the American Jewish Committee from 1999-2001. She was also a two-time participant on the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation’s REALITY trips to Israel.
Big picture: Nationwide, Democrats are looking to flip a handful of seats to retake the Senate in November; Bullock enjoys high approval ratings in the state and is widely seen as Democrats’ best shot at winning this fall. As a presidential candidate, Bullock faced a number of challenges on the national stage. A late entrant to the race, he ended his campaign in December 2019, having trailed behind a number of higher-profile candidates in the crowded primary field. Since Bullock left the presidential race, he has faced numerous calls to run for the Senate. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) visited the state in February to encourage Bullock to enter the race.
🕵️ Mystery: In Tablet magazine, Peter Theroux explores the “head-scratching case” of New York Times Tehran correspondent Thomas Erdbrink, who hasn’t been heard from in a year: “The Times itself has been conspicuously silent about the fate of its marquee Tehran correspondent.” [Tablet]
🇨🇳 Unlikely Ambassador: Etan Smallman profiles the “dwindling” Jewish community in Kaifeng, China for The South Morning China Post. The tiny and mysterious community has found a new ambassador in recent years: an 18-year-old Hong Kong teenager studying at a British boarding school, whose great-grandmother once worked at the kosher Concord Resort Hotel in the Catskills. [SMCP]
🎭 Holiday Lessons: Author Anna Solomon writes in The Washington Post about how Purim has taught her how to have “tough conversations” with her children. The story in the book of Esther, she writes, is full of “questions tricky to answer,” but brings up conversations worth having. [WashPost]
Around the Web
✍️ Step Forward: State Department officials are pushing to designate at least one violent white supremacist group as a foreign terrorist organization, after lobbying by Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) and others. State Department officials told Politico they want to have the designation finalized by next week, but the White House has yet to give the green light.
🔐 Closed Doors: The Beth Sholom Synagogue in Toronto is temporarily closed after one of its lay leaders tested positive for the coronavirus.
🚫 Coronavirus Watch: A fourth attendee at the AIPAC policy conference last week, from Ohio, has tested positive for the coronavirus. The man is an employee of the Jewish Education Center in Cleveland, which said it will close for two weeks as a result.
🖖 Corona V’Shalom: Actor George Takei, who rose to fame playing Sulu on “Star Trek,” has suggested Spock’s “Live Long and Prosper” gesture for greetings during the coronavirus crisis.
🤝 Dealmaking: Twitter and activist hedge fund Elliott Management have agreed to a truce that will shake up the company’s board but leave CEO Jack Dorsey in place.
📈 New Opportunities: Pro athletes are returning to private equity to diversify their investments after years of focusing on real estate and tech startups. The driving financier is entrepreneur and media executive Mark Patricof.
💵 Open Checkbook: Former 2020 candidate Michael Bloomberg has given $2 million to Collective Future, a nonprofit working to register 500,000 black voters ahead of the general election. Politico reports that Bloomberg’s shuttered campaign is dismissing staffers across the country and offering them to reapply for jobs on his new independent committee — despite guarantees of being paid through November when they were hired.
📢 Presidential endorsements: Democratic Majority for Israel’s political action committee announced its endorsement of Joe Biden for president. The Jewish Democratic Council of America told JI that it will not endorse a candidate in the primary. Meanwhile Justice Democrats, which recruited Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) as a primary challenger in 2018, endorsed Bernie Sanders.
🎤 Open Ear: Bob Bakish’s ViacomCBS is hosting Linda Sarsour, a controversial Palestinian-American activist and former Women’s March leader, for a Women’s History Month event on Wednesday. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) posted a photo on Facebook yesterday with Sarsour’s new book while wearing a t-shirt depicting the entire land of Israel as Palestine.
🗣️ Pros and Cons: The British parliament is holding a debate today on the “radicalization in the Palestinian school curriculum,” initiated by Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis.
🚫 Across the Pond: A Labour council candidate, Paul Connolly, has been suspended from the party after the revelation of past tweets in which he complained about “Jewish hate-mongers” and attacked Jewish MPs.
⛹️♂️ Sports Blink: Yeshiva University athletic director Joe Bednarsh told The Washington Post that everyone has been accommodating to the YU Maccabees basketball team’s religious observance as the team heads for its first Sweet 16. “The NCAA’s been fantastic about it. Schools in our conference are fantastic about it.”🖼️ Talk of the Nation: Concerned about the rise in antisemitism, Holocaust and Jewish museums across the country are working to develop programs and exhibitions to highlight the lessons of the Holocaust and preach for tolerance.
Pic of the day
Last night, Ivanka Trump posted a picture of her 8-year-old daughter, Arabella Kushner, dressed up as a soldier for Purim.
Peabody Award-winning financial journalist and market news analyst for CNBC and one of the co-hosts of its morning show “Squawk on the Street,” David Faber turns 56…
Long Beach, California general surgeon, Leonard M. Lovitch, MD turns 76… Former chairman and president of Purdue Pharma (the developer of OxyContin), Richard Sackler, MD turns 75… Author and publisher of the Phoenix Scottsdale Jewish Friendship Trail Guidebook, Michael A. Ross turns 73… Albert (Bert) Meyers turns 72… Senior cryogenics engineer at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Lawrence Sobel turns 67… Founder and CEO of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Pegasystems, Alan N. Trefler turns 64… Chief executive officer at Strategy3i Ltd., Jeffrey Kahn turns 62…
Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics, he won four medals in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games and is a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Mitch Gaylord turns 59… Record producer, former co-president of Columbia Records and a co-founder of Def Jam Records, Frederick Jay (“Rick”) Rubin turns 57… Executive director of the America Israel Friendship League, previously president of the Genesis Prize Foundation and Hillel, Wayne L. Firestone turns 56…
Stage, screen and television actor, he is the son of novelist Norman Mailer, Stephen Mailer turns 54… Investigative reporter for The New York Times, Danny Hakim turns 49… Real estate agent and reality television personality, Josh Altman turns 41… Deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. State Department, Carrie Filipetti turns 31… Actor and director, he is the son of Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg, Sawyer Avery Spielberg turns 28… Vice president of lending at the Celsius Network, Aliza Landes… Editor-at-large of Mishpacha Magazine, Binyamin Rose…