Good Monday morning!
“We should spare a moment for sorrow and grief,” John Dickerson writes in The Atlantic.
“If we spare a moment, we give our neighbors the simple communal feeling of being seen in their loss. If we spare a moment, we minimize the risk of sending a public signal to those who have just lost their world that the rest of the world is indifferent to their suffering. If we spare a moment, we acknowledge that the national push to find solutions and get back to normal at some point, as reasonable as that is, is impossible for many.”
Over the weekend, deaths in New York State alone eclipsed 1,000, including more than a dozen confirmed deaths in the Jewish community.
Josef Neumann, the 72-year-old man who was wounded during the antisemitic machete attack in Monsey, New York on Hanukkah last December, succumbed to his wounds yesterday.
Following Friday’s passage of the $2 trillion CARES Act, non-profit organizations and small businesses are expected to scramble to apply for the $350 billion available in forgivable small business loans to keep employees on payroll through the global pandemic.
New York became the latest state to delay its presidential primary race due to the spread of COVID-19 — from April 28 to June 23.
Spread the word! Invite your friends to sign up and earn JI swag through our Ambassador program
HEARD AT HARVARD
Mitt Romney: Trump’s endorsement of a Palestinian state is a ‘positive step’
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) discussed his support for Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in a video interview for the Israel Summit at Harvard, a university-wide conference originally scheduled for yesterday but postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Two states: In the video obtained by Jewish Insider, Romney told the conference’s founder, Max August, that he’s “encouraged” by President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan released last January. “I say that because I don’t necessarily agree with every element of the plan, and I know that much of the Arab world and the Palestinians, in particular, have rejected it,” Romney said. The senior Republican lawmaker pointed out that the plan acknowledges that the creation of a Palestinian state “continues to be an American objective.”
Framework for peace talks: Romney described the Trump peace plan as a basis for potential negotiations between the two parties. “We have been going for a number of years now without anything on the table — just talking about [how] we wish things will get better,” he explained. “This president has actually made a proposal and it’s saying, ‘We are willing to sit down and talk.’ I think that’s a positive step as well.” Romney added that while it remains unclear whether the Palestinian Authority is ready to make the right decisions for peace, “having our country lead with a plan that includes the creation of a independent state, I think, is a positive step.”
meet the candidate
The only Republican primary challenger with the backing of the RJC
Todd McMurtry is a seasoned trial attorney who first received national exposure after representing a student filmed in a confrontation with protesters after last year’s March for Life in Washington, D.C. The lawsuit, filed against media organizations for their coverage of the incident, drew national headlines. But it was President Donald Trump’s tweets on Friday against libertarian Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) that put the spotlight on McMurtry, who is challenging the four-term incumbent for his seat in Congress.
Stepping up: In a phone interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh on Sunday, McMurtry, 57, said he was in Dallas, Texas, last fall visiting his daughter and grandchildren when the entire family caught a cold. “So I spent too much time on social media and I saw things that Thomas Massie had posted that were, I thought, pretty upsetting,” he recounted. “I followed him for a long time and saw his questionable votes. And I said, ‘We’ve really had enough of this guy and his crazy votes — we have to do something about it.’ I posted something on Facebook and people started to contact me to run for office. So I did some inquiries and polling and all that stuff and decided that we had a shot and I was going to try it.”
RJC boost: The Republican Jewish Coalition announced on Friday that it is backing McMurtry and will actively fundraise for his campaign, describing Massie as “the only anti-Israel member of the House GOP caucus.” This marks the first time the RJC is supporting a primary challenger to an incumbent. In January, the group’s executive director, Matt Brooks, told Jewish Insider that the RJC will not support Massie — along with three other Republican House members — after they voted against the bipartisan Never Again Education Act, legislation to authorize new funding to help schools teach students about the Holocaust and antisemitism.
McMurtry told JI he was “thrilled” and feels “very honored” to get the RJC endorsement, “and we intend to make that endorsement pay off for the RJC by winning this race.”
Massie stands alone on Israel: Massie was the only Republican to vote “no” on a House resolution (H.R. 246) last year condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In 2014, he was the only member of Congress from either party to oppose the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act. Later that year, Massie voted against sending emergency aid to Israel to boost the Iron Dome program during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. In 2016, Massie was again the only House member to oppose extending sanctions against Iran and was the only lawmaker to vote “present” on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
McMurtry’s case: The Republican candidate stressed that support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship “actually plays very well here in Kentucky” and is of “primary importance” for voters. “I know that the people here want their elected representatives to be strong supporters of Israel,” he said. “I share that support both personally and politically.” McMurtry called Massie’s vote against the anti-BDS resolution “pretty crazy” and “odd.” He said he would have voted “in favor of a resolution opposing and condemning the BDS movement,” as well as in favor of a House resolution reaffirming U.S. support for the two-state solution.
On the left: Politico’s Alex Thompson and Holly Otterbein look at how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has evolved her “disruptive, burn-it-down” strategy — seen in her first months on Capitol Hill — to breaking with Justice Democrats and only backing a select few primary challengers to Democratic incumbents ahead of the 2020 elections.
BERNIE BROS BA’ARETZ
The voters who delivered Bernie his primary win in Israel
When the votes were counted up in Israel this month, the result was too close to call. That was the case not just in the country’s third consecutive national election, but also among the votes cast in the Democrats Abroad primary in the Jewish state, where Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) beat out former Vice President Joe Biden by just two votes. Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro spoke with a range of Sanders supporters in Israel to better understand why they are backing the senator from Vermont who once spent several formative months on a kibbutz in northern Israel.
More even-handed: “Anybody who says that Bernie Sanders is against Israel does not know what they’re talking about,” Eli Cook, 38, a professor and historian at the University of Haifa, told JI. “I think that Bernie Sanders’s success is great for Israel, the best possible thing for Israel… We need a president in the White House who will be more even-handed.” Cook spent months trying to convince his friends to vote for Sanders, and even hosted a “victory party” in Tel Aviv after his win in New Hampshire.
Kibbutz power: Moshe Chertoff, a peace activist who made aliya to a kibbutz in 1974 through Hashomer Hatzair — the same socialist-Zionist youth movement that brought Sanders to a kibbutz for several months in the 1960s — said his enthusiasm for Sanders has never wavered. “I realized as this guy talks, I have to feel my lips to see if they’re moving or not, because he’s saying everything exactly as I — a kibbutznik — would say,” said Chertoff, a 66-year-old political organizer and conference committee member of Meretz. “I was enthralled that somebody in the United States is talking about this stuff,” referencing Sanders’s social and economic policies as well as his attitude toward Israel.
Measured take: Not all of Sanders’s supporters in the Jewish state are quite as gung-ho. New Jersey native Becky Rowe, who now lives on a moshav in northern Israel, isn’t a huge fan of the Vermont senator, but voted for him anyway. “I agree with him but I don’t like him,” she told JI, citing as drawbacks his refusal to register as a Democrat, his advanced age and his recent war against AIPAC. “I was pissed off that he didn’t go to AIPAC,” she said. “I thought he had an opportunity to have a progressive person tell the truth — tell it like it is.”
Read the full feature here.
In Florida: A Sanders campaign office in Florida was spray-painted with swastikas over the weekend. Florida for Bernie, the Twitter account that tweeted photos of the incident, did not identify where the office was located. Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt noted that this is the second time Nazi symbolism has been used to target Sanders on the campaign trail: “This type of hate needs to be addressed head-on and rejected by all.”
David Simon drew from his Jewish heritage to write ‘The Plot Against America’
Fans of screenwriter David Simon’s work — including “The Wire” and “The Deuce” — may be surprised that the writer’s Ashkenazi heritage plays a central role in his identity. But in a recent conversation withJewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel about his new show, HBO’s “The Plot Against America,” Simon said he has never tried to obscure the fact that he is Jewish. The opportunity to write a universe of Jewish characters, he explained, had simply never presented itself.
Dinner table talk: His latest show — an adaptation of the Philip Roth novel in which a Nazi-sympathizing Charles Lindbergh is elected president in 1940, a story refracted through the plight of a tight-knit Jewish family in Newark — provides just that opportunity. “Suddenly, I was writing things that reminded me of my father or my mother or my grandparents or extended relatives,” Simon recalled, adding that he borrowed some lines from them while he worked on the script. “There was a lot of dinnertime table conversation I could access.”
Tradition: Simon, 60, grew up in a secular Jewish family in Silver Spring, Maryland, and had a bar mitzvah. He expressed a reverence for Jewish tradition though he himself is reluctant to uphold it. “Generally speaking,” he said, “the joke in my family is the shul that we fail to attend regularly must be Conservative. It cannot be Reform or Reconstructionist.” He said he doesn’t keep Shabbat but said he regrets not doing so because it would be a welcome opportunity to slow things down.
Holy land: Simon said he hopes to one day visit relatives in Israel, but emphasized that he is very much opposed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who, he alleged, has marginalized Arab-Israelis as “second-class citizens” and represents an “incredibly destructive force in Jewish life.” He told JI that he believed there was a “precise parallel” between Lindbergh’s and Netanyahu’s approach to politics. But his main target with “Plot” is President Donald Trump. “The book,” he said, “is astonishing in its parallels to our current political moment.”
🍷 Yearning to Be Free:Tablet magazine editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse writes in The New York Times about the now “cruelly ironic” celebration of freedom at this year’s Passover, and how to overcome the gloom. “We will do what millions of Jews have done before us: manifest our hope for liberation.” [NYTimes]
👨💼 Man of the Hour: The Washington Post argues that President Donald Trump still has lingering doubts about the coronavirus approach of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, while The Daily Beast claims that Mnuchin has successfully retained “the confidence of his famously mercurial boss.” [WashPost; DailyBeast]
👵👵 Survivors: Naomi Replansky, 101, who survived the Spanish flu, and her wife, Eva Kollisch, 95, who survived the Holocaust, toldThe New York Times that they are not fazed by confinement, but that they worry more for “their generation.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
💸 Divestment: Microsoft announced on Friday that it would sell its stake in AnyVision, an Israeli facial recognition start-up, and end minority investments in any facial recognition company. An investigation of AnyVision found that its technology is used at border crossing checkpoints but it “does not currently power a mass surveillance program in the West Bank that has been alleged in media reports.”
🎁 Care Package: Alibaba’s Jack Ma has donated two cargo flights full of COVID-19 test kits, face masks and protective gear to Israel.
💰 Hollywood Helps: Bob Iger, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg are among the Hollywood heavy hitters who have donated $500,000 each to Los Angeles’s coronavirus-fighting efforts.
☎️ Phone A Friend: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently in quarantine, received his much-anticipated congratulatory call from President Donald Trump on Friday as he inched closer to forming a government. The prime minister’s office described the call as “warm and friendly.” The White House said Trump also thanked Netanyahu “for his strong action to stop” the spread of coronavirus in his country.
🤝 Unity Deal: As negotiations between Likud and Blue and White continue, sources close to Benny Gantz said he opposes unilateral annexation and has demanded to maintain the status quo on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process for at least another six months.
🔒 Closed Gates: The ancient Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City closed its gates to the public for the first time since 1349, during the Black Plague, due to the coronavirus outbreak.
📖 Unique Challenge: Ultra-Orthodox communities in Israel have proven a challenge to the country’s severe coronavirus crackdown, where small groups of extremists continue to hold prayer services and study groups.
💵 Generous Gift: U.S. citizens and Green Card holders living abroad, including Israel, are eligible to receive the stimulus relief check if they have a social security number and they filed taxes in 2018 or 2019.
⚰️ Talk of Our Nation: Rabbis are among those faith leaders grappling with the inability to traditionally mourn loved ones amid the pandemic: “I have seen Zoom minyans popping up to allow mourners to say kaddish.”
⚱️ Against Their Wishes: The Jewish community in Argentina is outraged that Ruben Bercovich, the first Jewish victim of coronavirus in the country, was cremated despite protests.
🇮🇱 Stuck in Jerusalem:The Los Angeles Timesspotlights married couple Rabbi Donald Goor and Cantor Evan Kent, longtime Los Angeles residents who now call Jerusalem home, and are unable to travel to Milan for Passover, where they usually serve as clergy for the holiday.
🙏🏻 Talk of the Town:Lawrence Garbuz, the 50-year-old lawyer from New Rochelle who was identified as ‘patient zero’ of the coronavirus in Westchester, has been discharged from the hospital.
⚠️ Safe Side: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged New Yorkers to avoid any Seder gatherings this Passover, pointing to Purim parties that spread the infection. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned synagogues that if they continue to hold services, their buildings may be shut down permanently. Meanwhile, a Brooklyn lawyer is suing the governor for limiting his rights to free speech and to observe his Jewish faith.
💻 Online Hate: A New Jersey man has been arrested for making violent threats on Facebook against Jews in Lakewood.
🖋️ Contrarian Conservative: The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner interviews libertarian law professor Richard Epstein, whose writings accusing the progressive movement of overreacting to the coronavirus pandemic have been circulating around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
🍩 Never Forget: The owners of Krispy Kreme, who recently vowed to make amends for its parent company’s Nazi past, have pledged €1 million to support Holocaust survivors during the pandemic.
🖼️ Deal Reached: An art museum in Basel, Switzerland has settled a Holocaust restitution claim with the heirs of a Jewish museum director who fled Nazi Germany in 1933.
👋 End of an Era: Nate’n Al’s, an iconic Beverly Hills restaurant, is set to close its doors after a rocky two years in which a deal to save the deli fell through.
🕯️Remembering:Solomon Kerzner, the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia and developer of luxurious hotels, casinos and resorts across the globe, passed away at the age of 84.
🥀 Farewell: Former Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, the Republican lawmaker described by his colleagues as “Dr. No” for using a rule-book technicality to block legislation, died at the age of 72. In 1997, Coburn was condemned for slamming the airing of “Schindler’s List” on NBC.
Pic of the day
A photo shared by Southwest Airlines of health care professionals from Georgia on a flight to New York to assist hospitals with the coronavirus outbreak went viral online.
Senior advisor to Ambassador David Friedman at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, Aryeh Lightstone turns 40…
New York meteorologist, science and health reporter, Frank Field turns 97… Musician and former chairman of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Charles Koppelman turns 80… Ft. Lauderdale resident, Lois Goldberg turns 80… Professor of international trade at Harvard and winner of the Israel Prize in 1991, Elhanan Helpman turns 74… Boca Raton resident, Janet Grant David turns 73… Cherry Hill, New Jersey resident, Zelda Greenberg turns 73… Film and television director, Michael Stephen Lehmann turns 63… Comedian and actor, Paul Reiser turns 63… Host of Public Radio International’s “The World,” Marco Werman turns 59… Lifelong civil liberties attorney who sued the Philadelphia Police Department 75 times, he was elected as district attorney in 2017, Larry Krasner turns 59…
Career Foreign Service officer, he served as United States Ambassador to Bulgaria under Presidents Obama and Trump, Eric Seth Rubin turns 59… Actor best known for his role as Steve Sanders on the television series “Beverly Hills, 90210,” Ian Ziering turns 56… Owner and founder of DC area’s Ark Contracting, Noah Blumberg turns 55… Actress and director, Juliet Landau turns 55… Partner at OurCrowd, former White House special representative for international negotiations, Jason Dov Greenblatt turns 53… Regional director in the Washington office of the American Jewish Committee, Alan Ronkin turns 53… Tel Aviv-born actress, Mili Avital turns 48… Mexican-American chef and television personality, Pati Jinich turns 48… Treasurer of Oakland County, Michigan, he is now running for county executive, Andy Meisner turns 47…
Iranian-born LA-based actress, best known for her roles in “Crash” and the “Saw” franchise, also as the mother of the inspirational amputee Ezra Frech, Bahar Soomekh turns 45… Most recently director of communications at the DC Public Library, Gabriela Schneider turns 44… Jerusalem-born documentary photographer for the Associated Press, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography in 2007, Oded Balilty turns 41… Detroit-area Jewish leader, Alicia Chandler… Author, composer and playwright, Robert J. Saferstein turns 37… Chief innovation officer and managing director at Kivvit, Zach Silber turns 32… Foreign policy and national security reporter at the Huffington Post since 2015, Jessica Schulberg turns 32… Professional baseball infielder for MLB’s Houston Astros, Alex Bregman turns 26… Feature writer for Haaretz, Danna Harman…