Good Friday morning, TGIF!
Dozens of Jewish schools across the United States have shut down as the coronavirus spreads, and many Jewish communities are facing a Shabbat of increasing isolation with closed synagogues and limited social gatherings. In an unprecedented measure, the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County in New Jersey ordered all synagogues in the area closed, and all bar mitzvahs, weddings and shiva visits canceled.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to join a national emergency government that will focus only on dealing with the pandemic as he announced the closure of all schools and universities until after Passover. Confirmed cases in Israel have reached 126, including a six-month-old baby.
En route to North Carolina, Yeshiva University’s basketball team turned their bus around to return home, just as they were preparing to play the third round of the NCAA men’s basketball championship, after the NCAA abruptly ended the tournament on Thursday afternoon.
Nearly two dozen major Jewish fundersreleased a statement on their approach to addressing the short-term and long-term needs of nonprofits struggling amid the pandemic.
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THE GENTLEMAN FROM RA’ANANA
The former U.S. congressman who now calls Israel home
Former Congressman Peter Deutsch (D-FL), who has split his time between the U.S. and Israel since leaving office 15 years ago, recounted his relationship with Sen. Bernie Sanders, his views on the Trump peace plan and the work that keeps him busy these days in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro at his home in Ra’anana.
On Bernie Sanders: “I actually know him reasonably well,” Deutsch told JI. “I served with him for many years — his locker in the gym was actually next to mine and we both worked out a lot. And we’re both sort of New York Jews, so I was always very friendly with him.” While Deutsch cast his vote for Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary, today the thought of him winning the nomination disturbs him. “Sanders would just be absolutely horrific for the world,” he said. “He’s a lovely person… but he is not a socialist. He’s a Trotskyite.” If Sanders were elected president, Deutsch predicted, he would stop not just aid to Israel, but even “spare parts,” and demand Israel open its borders with Gaza and the West Bank.
Jewish education: Deutsch is largely uninvolved in politics today. He spends the bulk of his professional work, while in both Florida and Israel, on the network of Hebrew charter schools, Ben Gamla, that he founded in 2007. The school system — which now includes five elementary schools and one high school — is public, strictly non-religious and government-funded, but teaches Hebrew, Jewish history and culture to approximately 2,000 students of all backgrounds and religions in south Florida. “What we’re doing is incredible, and the impact on kids is amazing,” Deutsch said of the schools, where he serves as a pro bono attorney.
Peace prospects: Deutsch says the recent Trump peace plan is more realistic than most people want to admit. “At the end of the day, if there were a settlement, it would sort of look like this,” he said. “There might be a few changes… but, here’s reality. If you don’t want reality, that’s fine. But this is reality.” And while he’s critical of and concerned by President Donald Trump’s “erratic nature,” he notes that the president “has done some amazing things for Israel.” It was therefore disappointing, he said, to see the reaction from fellow Democrats following the administration’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
Name games: As for the other Deut(s)ch in Congress from Florida, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), they’re not related, but Deutsch jokes that “he owes all his success to me.” However, their similar names and home states have led to a fair share of confusion. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Deutsch said, still purportedly calls Ted Deutch, “Peter.” And approximately a year and a half ago, Peter Deutsch’s phone rang — it was former Vice President Joe Biden, thinking he had reached Ted Deutch. When Peter realized the error, he passed along Ted’s cellphone number to Biden.
in the race
Not Adam Schiff yet: The former LA federal prosecutor vying for Nita Lowey’s seat
Adam Schleifer, one of 14 Democrats running to succeed longtime Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) in New York’s 17th congressional district, discussed his candidacy in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh.
Bio: Schleifer clerked for federal judges in New York and California after graduating from Columbia Law School and before joining the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz as an associate focused on commercial litigation. After joining New York’s Department of Financial Services as a consumer protection and banking regulator in 2013, Schleifer served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles from 2016 to 2019, where he specialized in major fraud, drug cartel and gun crime cases. One of his more notable cases was the investigation of Motti and Sassi Mizrahi, brothers who were charged with wire fraud for scamming members of their San Fernando Valley synagogue.
Role model: Since he gave up his role as a federal prosecutor, Schleifer has been mistakenly identified on the street as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who led the impeachment process against President Donald Trump. In an interview with Jewish Insider, Schleifer explained that the two share more than a similar name. Schiff and Schneider both worked in the same major fraud section of the Los Angeles prosecutor’s office. “I will take it anytime because I am very proud of Adam Schiff and the work he has done,” he said. “The more people want to associate me with him, the prouder I will be.”
Day of reckoning: Schleifer told JI he decided to run for office the day after Yom Kippur, after hearing a sermon about ‘cancel culture’ and the divisions in our public discourse. “That sermon inspired me. I went up to the rabbi afterwards to say it was such an inspiring sermon, but by the time I finished saying that and said that we have to do something about it, he turned to the next person to shake his hand,” Schleifer recounted. “I don’t think he heard me, but I heard [myself]. The next morning I learned that Nita Lowey announced she would not seek re-election. For me it was sort of a ‘bashert’ moment. I felt maybe the universe was speaking to me.”
Checks and balances: Schleifer suggested that the executive branch has too much power over foreign policy decisions that go beyond declaring war and issuing treaties. “We need to get back to giving Congress its due role in the constitutional structure” on foreign policy matters, he said. With regard to conditioning military aid to Israel, Schleifer said it needs to be viewed as a bilateral benefit to both countries, “not as a carrot and stick to move a particular administration in Israel.”
Family ties: Schleifer is the son of Harriet Schleifer, national president of the American Jewish Committee.
Read the full profile here.
Real-life Nazi Hunter Eli Rosenbaum reflects on 40 years of service
Eli Rosenbaum, who works for the Justice Department’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, reflected on his four decades of service as a trial attorney prosecuting Nazis who had moved to the U.S., in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Background: Rosenbaum began working for the Office of Special Investigations, a now-defunct unit tasked with finding Nazis in the U.S., in 1980. He served as its director from 1994 to 2010, when the OSI merged with another criminal division to become the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section. Over 40 years, the office has won 109 of its 133 cases, some of which ended because the defendants either died or became medically incapable of appearing in court, according to Rosenbaum.
Building the case: Last week, a Memphis immigration judge ruled that Friedrich Karl Berger — a former armed guard in a Neuengamme subcamp during the Holocaust and longtime resident of Oak Ridge, Tennessee — be deported to his native Germany. The case took “quite a while” to put together, Rosenbaum said. “These cases all take months, if not years.” Rosenbaum credited his colleague, attorney Susan Masling, for doing “most of the heavy lifting.” The biggest piece of evidence used in the case, he said, was an index card featuring Berger’s name and service details that had been recovered, not long after the war, from a sunken German ship in the Baltic Sea — though prosecutors also assembled other supplemental Nazi documentation and historical information.
U.S. leads the way: Over the last 30 years, Rosenbaum told JI, his office has won more cases against Nazi criminals than authorities in all of the governments of the world combined. “This country,” he said, “which has a tiny percentage of the perpetrators, should not have really been leading the world for the last 30 years. But there are aspects of political will involved — let’s put it that way.” Rosenbaum estimates that there are hundreds of Nazis still living in Europe.
Actuarial odds: “We are definitely at the very last moment in history when these cases can still be brought,” Rosenbaum told JI. “It’s simply a function of the passage of time.” Rosenbaum acknowledged that it may be jarring to see an old man such as Berger and think of him as a Nazi. “They clearly don’t come out of central casting in that regard,” he said. But, he added bluntly, “You can’t go by appearances. That’s all I can say.” When asked if he anticipated prosecuting more Nazis in the U.S., Rosenbaum was discreet. “We’re not finished in our work,” he said. “We’re almost finished.”
Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg on his new album of Shabbat music
Yair Rosenberg is known for his insightful thoughts, published regularly in Tablet magazine and posted on Twitter, on antisemitism, Jewish communal life and politics. He’s less known for his musical talents — but that’s about to change. Rosenberg, who moonlights as a composer, is working on an album of Shabbat music — which he hopes to release in full later this year — that he hopes will connect generations of Jews across communities and cultures. Rosenberg spoke toJewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss about his latest endeavor.
New to the music industry: “It’s not something that I’ve ever done before,” he said. “That makes it a little bit scary. I know what I’m doing as a journalist and as a writer. I know largely when I produce things in the literary realm how that will be received if I do my job well. Art doesn’t really work that way and so you don’t really know how it’s going to be received until you put it out there — and you put yourself out there. I was a little bit trepidatious about putting it out — I pushed it back a few times. At a certain point I realized, if you believe in what you’re doing, you should put it out there for other people.”
Music in the time of coronavirus: “Large numbers of people are quite worried and afraid and some of them, like my family members, are stuck at home because either their schools are shut down or they themselves are in precautionary quarantine,” Rosenberg told JI. “And I thought maybe I shouldn’t put this out now, maybe it’s the wrong time. But then I talked to some people and they said, on the contrary, it’s a time when people could use things that bring them joy, and things that can hopefully help distract and occupy them while they’re in a difficult place.”
Runs in the family: Rosenberg is not the only musically inclined member of his family — his grandfather was a Hasidic composer who, as a young man, escaped Nazi Europe with the assistance of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who issued him a visa. In time, Rosenberg’s grandfather ended up in China, eventually making his way to the United States. “Afterwards in America he composed many niggunim, many melodies, that Chabad still sings today.”
🗳️ Counting Votes:Writing in the Wall Street Journal, former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel suggests that Joe Biden’s rise and the fall of the rest of the field of candidates indicate that the “conventional wisdom about money’s role in American politics is overblown,” and proves that a candidate’s presence on social media doesn’t necessarily reflect their standing among Democratic primary voters. [WSJ]
🤗 Childhood memories: Billionaire David Rubenstein discussed his privilege growing up in a blue-collar family, described as “schleppers,” in northwest Baltimore in an interview with The New York Times. Rubenstein said that growing up in the 1950s, if you didn’t have a family business, “you would go be a lawyer or doctor or a dentist if you were Jewish. It was a big advantage in hindsight.” [NYTimes]
👵 Respect Your Elders: Rabbi Shai Held, president of Hadar, writes in The Atlantic that the coronavirus pandemic has exposed a “degree of cruelty” and callousness towards the elderly population, who are disproportionately affected by the disease. “What does it say about our society that people think of the elderly so dismissively — and moreover, that they feel no shame about expressing such thoughts publicly?” [TheAtlantic]
Around the Web
😯 Palace Intrigue: Republicans close to the White House are privately blaming Jared Kushner for Trump’s error-riddled Oval Office address, The New York Times reports. A Kushner aide described the criticism as “unfair,” pointing out that the president’s son-in-law stepped in to help respond to the crisis and that it’s easy to blame him “when things are difficult.”
👨⚕️ Mechuten: Kurt Kloss, an emergency room doctor and the father of Kushner’s sister-in-law Karlie Kloss, told a Facebook group of 22,000 medical professionals that he was asked by Jared via his son-in-law Josh for his professional recommendations to combat the coronavirus.
⛔ Grace Period: The United Nations Human Rights Council has suspended its 43rd session in Geneva, postponing its Agenda 7 debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict due to the coronavirus outbreak.
😷 Can’t Hide: Satellite images show Iran has dug two large trenches, totaling 100 yards in length, in a new section of a graveyard in Qom as the coronavirus began to spread last month. Meanwhile, Iran is seeking financial aid from the International Monetary Fund for the first time since the 1960s to fight the virus.
✍️ Pikuach Nefesh: Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem al-Shirazi issued a fatwa that permits Iranians to use an Israeli vaccine for coronavirus in the event such a product is developed.
⚠️ Talk of the Region: The killing of two U.S. troops in a rocket attack in Iraq is raising new tensions that could lead to a conflict with Iran. U.S. jets conducted airstrikes against multiple Iranian-backed militia sites in Iraq on Thursday.
🌬️ Mother Nature: Israel is bracing for a vigorous thunderstorm, nicknamed the “dragon” on social media, that has left five dead in Egypt.
🙏🏻 Final Wish: Bernie Madoff, who is currently serving a 150-year jail sentence for orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history, is requesting a court hearing to deliver a “final dying, personal plea” for early release due to terminal kidney disease. Madoff’s lawyers also submitted letters from 20 of his victims supporting his early release.
🚔 Suspect Nabbed: A man in Louisiana has been arrested for vandalizing a local synagogue with antisemitic graffiti in 2018.
🏀 Reaching Out: Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, said he is working on a plan to financially support team employees and arena workers after the NBA season was abruptly canceled.
👩💼 Transition: Sarah Nash has been appointed to replace Les Wexner as the chair of the embattled L Brands, the owner of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works.
📺 Pull the Plug: Stephen Smith, the executive director of the Shoah Foundation, writes that Amazon should cancel its miniseries “Hunters,” which he calls “the most egregious distortion of Holocaust history in my lifetime.”
📸 LA Scene: Members of the Republican Jewish Alliance turned out in Los Angeles on Wednesday night to hear from Fox News regular Candance Owens.
Pic of the day
Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a.k.a. “Notorious RBG,” turns 87 on Sunday…
FRIDAY: Pop singer, pianist, composer of over 500 songs and record producer, Neil Sedaka turns 81… Israeli singer who won the 1978 Eurovision song contest, Izhar Cohen turns 69… Robert Smith turns 68… Psychotherapist in private practice in Manhattan and Teaneck, New Jersey, Shana Yocheved Schacter turns 68… Founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, a NYC-based organization working to end the War on Drugs, Ethan Nadelmann turns 63… Former Florida congressman (2009-2011 and again 2013-2017), Alan Grayson turns 62… Ordained by Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1986, he now serves as a faculty member at HUC-JIR Los Angeles, Rabbi Neal S. Scheindlin turns 60… Founder and CEO of MediaBistro, which she sold in 2007, now managing director of Supernode Ventures, Laurel Touby turns 57…
Heavy metal songwriter, vocalist for the band Disturbed as well as for the band Device, David Draiman turns 47… Member of the California State Senate since 2014, Benjamin Allen turns 42… Former member of Knesset for the Jewish Home party, Yonatan “Yoni” Chetboun turns 41… Deputy campaign manager for 2020 candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, he is the former host of daily Sirius XM program “The Agenda,” Ari Rabin-Havt turns 41… Television and film actor, Emile Hirsch turns 35… EVP of Nefco, a distributor of construction and industrial supplies, Matthew Gelles turns 32… Television and film actor, Emory Isaac Cohen turns 30… Senior manager of social marketing at NBC Universal, Jessie Hannah Rubin turns 29… Gabriel Romano…
SATURDAY: Professor emeritus of Chemistry at Tel Aviv University, winner of the 1982 Israel Prize, Joshua Jortner turns 87… Founder and president of Los Angeles-based Skirball Cultural Center, Rabbi Dr. Uri Herscher turns 79… Canadian criminal defense attorney, Brian Greenspan turns 73… Actor, director and comedian, he has hosted the Academy Awards nine times, Billy Crystal turns 72… Executive director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services of San Francisco, Dr. Anita Friedman turns 71… Member of the Maryland House of Delegates since 1995, Shane Elizabeth Pendergrass turns 70… One-half of the eponymous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (Ben is four days younger), Jerry Greenfield turns 69… Retired Hebrew teacher, Eliezer Cohen Barak turns 69… President of Stand By Me, an organization that supports cancer patients, Gila Milstein turns 67…
Partner at Hefter, Leshem, Margolis Capital Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors in Highland Park, Illinois, Steven Hefter turns 66… Communications consultant at American Jewish World Service, she is also the founder and leader of ChangeCommunications, Jo-Ann Mort turns 64… NYC-based restaurateur and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, Danny Meyer turns 62… Of counsel in the Minneapolis office of Maslon LLP, Jonathan S. Parritz turns 61… Past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Denise (Davida) Eger turns 60… Owner of Baltimore’s Tov Pizza which he founded in 1984, Ronnie Rosenbluth turns 57… COO of EJM Development Company, he also heads its lending division, New Frontier Capital, Jon Monkarsh turns 56… Microgrid architect at Urban Ingenuity, a DC-based consulting firm for advanced clean energy infrastructure projects, Shalom Flank, Ph.D. turns 55…
Film and television actress, Meredith Salenger turns 50… Canadian fashion stylist, publicist and close friend of Meghan Markle, Jessica Brownstein Mulroney turns 40… Heiress to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, Liesel Pritzker Simmons turns 36… Former NASCAR driver, he is the sole inductee into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in the “Auto Racing” category, now a director of corporate trading at INTL FCStone Financial, Jon Denning turns 33… Product quality specialist at The Topps Company, Philip Liebman turns 30… Four-time Israeli national champion in the skeleton event, he competed for Israel at the 2018 Winter Olympics and is currently head of development and programming for the Israel Bobsled and Skeleton team, Adam Edelman turns 29… Operations manager at SideChef in Shanghai, China, Sophie Galant…
SUNDAY: Winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, professor emeritus at Harvard University and director of the Biophysical Chemistry Laboratory in France, Martin Karplus turns 90… Emmy, Golden Globe, and Tony Award-winning actor, Judd Hirsch turns 85… Former federal prosecutor (1961-1966), then founder of Baer & McGoldrick (now Schulte, Roth & Zabel), movie producer, Thomas H. Baer turns 83… UCLA professor, biochemist and biophysicist, David S. Eisenberg turns 81… First-ever New York City Public Advocate (1994-2001), winner of Democratic primaries for NYC Mayor (2001), the House (1980) and the Senate (1986), Mark J. Green turns 75… George Samuel Treynor turns 72… Chairman of retail conglomerate Arcadia Group, Sir Philip Nigel Ross Green turns 68… Managing member at Buena Vista Fund Management in San Francisco, Robert Mendel Rosner turns 64… Animator and director of numerous episodes of “The Simpsons,” David Silverman turns 63…
Real estate agent at Signature Realty Associates in the Tampa and Florida Gulf Coast market, Ze’ev (Wolf) Bar-El turns 63… Los Angeles-based writer, director and producer, Andrea Blaugrund Nevins turns 58… Chief operating officer at Jewish Child & Family Services of Chicago, Wendy Platt Newberger turns 57… CEO and executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis, Debra Barton Grant turns 51… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party and interim justice minister, Amir Ohana turns 44… Retired MLB infielder, he now owns Loma Brewing, a brew pub in Los Gatos, CA, Kevin Youkilis turns 41… Global business editor for Defense One, Marcus Weisgerber turns 38… MSW candidate at Simmons University, Mindy Beth Reinstein Brodsky turns 37… Born in Jerusalem, she is a member of the New York State Assembly for the northeast portions of Queens, Nily Rozic turns 34… Vice chair of the African Middle Eastern Leadership Project, Justin Hefter turns 31… Freelance multimedia journalist and SAT tutor, Max J. Schindler turns 28… and his twin sister, Rachel Schindler, who is a global strategy, planning and operations news lead at Facebook, and also turns 28…Deputy secretary of Young Democrats of America, Zach Shartiag turns 27… Shirley Hoffner…