Good Monday morning!
“What if you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath — the most sacred of times?” — actress Julia Roberts posted a poem by Lynn Ungar on Instagram over the weekend about quarantining.
Everything has changed: We begin the week as synagogues switch their services over to livestreams, New York City schools have shut down, restaurants from California to Illinois to New York have stopped seating patrons, citizens of Teaneck, NJ are going into self-quarantine, the Fed cut interest rates to zero and the CDC is warning against any gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks.
Our approach: While we’ll continue to cover the coronavirus, we also know that you read Jewish Insider each day for unique original stories you can’t easily get elsewhere. That’s why we’re bringing you the stories below — read about a young political upstart who is challenging an incumbent for Congress in Columbus and could be the next AOC, and the prominent Jewish community leader who was nominated to be the next U.S. ambassador to Japan.
Today in Jerusalem, President Reuven Rivlin awarded Blue and White leader Benny Gantz the mandate to form the government — after he received recommendations from 61 MKs — ahead of the swearing-in ceremony of the 23rd Knesset. More below.
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KNOWN VS. UNKNOWN
In Ohio’s 3rd, pro-Israel groups back Joyce Beatty over next possible AOC
In Ohio’s 3rd congressional district, covering most of Columbus, Democratic voters head to the polls tomorrow to choose between two African-American female candidates: incumbent Rep. Joyce Beatty and 36-year-old progressive challenger Morgan Harper. Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel traveled to Columbus to preview the generational primary battle.
Backed by DMFI, Pro-Israel America: Beatty presents herself as a strong ally of Columbus’s Jewish community and of the Jewish state. “Let me start by saying that I’ve had a longtime, longstanding relationship with my Jewish community and with Israel, and it’s far beyond just what one will say they will do. I have a track record,” said Beatty, who told JI that she has been a “longtime advocate” of providing foreign aid to Israel. Both DMFI and Pro-Israel America are supporting Beatty.
Backed by Justice Dems: Harper has mounted an aggressive grassroots campaign since she announced her candidacy last summer. She has the backing of Justice Democrats, whose platform describes Israel as a “human rights violator.” A spokeswoman for Harper’s campaign did not respond to several email inquiries asking if Harper agreed with the assessment from the group backing her.
What Harper did tell us: “I believe people in Israel have human rights and I respect that human rights are something that need to be preserved all over the world,” she told JI. “My platform is primarily focused on the rights of those living in the 3rd district, but one of the tenets of my life, I would say, is that until all of us are free, none of us are free — and I am committed to making sure that rights are protected.”
Worth noting: Adopted from the foster care system at nine months old, Harper grew up in Columbus and spent significant time at the local Jewish Community Center, where she went to camp and later worked as a counselor for disabled children. Harper, who said she still has many friends from that time, described the JCC as a kind of “community anchor.”
Key factors: Despite an impressive ground game, Harper is going up against an older and more experienced African-American candidate with deep ties to the community and widespread support among business and political leaders, according to Ohio State professor emeritus Paul Beck. “Previous upsets of Democratic congressional incumbents have occurred most notably when the challenger is a minority and the incumbent is not — and in a district where minorities have been becoming more numerous,” Beck told JI. That is not the case, he said, in Ohio’s 3rd congressional district.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) weighs in: “Joyce Beatty is a hardworking, inclusive and results-oriented public servant,” Jeffries told JI. “Apparently, she is being targeted by hard left ideologues determined to prove they can defeat a sitting member of the Congressional Black Caucus. We didn’t start this fight. But we will finish it.”
Gantz handed mandate to build governing coalition
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin tasked Blue and White leader Benny Gantz with forming the next government on Monday. In a short round of consultations with the political parties in the 23rd Knesset at the president’s residence on Sunday, Gantz received the recommendations of 61 members, including Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party and the Joint [Arab] List, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had only 58 members. Gesher MK Orly Levy-Abekasis, who ran with Labor, declined to recommend either candidate.
Why it matters: This marks the first serious attempt to dethrone Netanyahu. With the Arab MKs united in their support of Gantz — something that didn’t happen following the prior elections — the Blue and White leader now has a majority in the Knesset to receive a vote of confidence and a solid bloc to remain as prime minister if he can succeed in creating one.
What happens next: Gantz has 28 days in which to build a coalition government. In the event unity talks with Likud fail, Gantz will aim to create a minority government with overt Arab support and hopes to broaden it once Netanyahu is out of office. To do so, Gantz will have to overcome internal opposition from his own party, and hope Lieberman doesn’t pull a last-minute maneuver. If the two major parties engage in serious talks over a national-unity government, and Blue and White agrees to sit in a government led in its first phase by Netanyahu, Gantz would return his mandate to Rivlin, who would then task Netanyahu with forming a unity government.
In the meantime, Blue and White is seeking a vote to replace Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein with MK Meir Cohen, and pass legislation that would prevent a prime minister under indictment from receiving the mandate to form a government.
Truce talks: Rivlin hosted Gantz and Netanyahu for an hour-long meeting at his residence on Sunday evening. At the end of the meeting, the two sides agreed that their negotiating teams will meet to continue the discussions. Rivlin welcomed both leaders’ “willingness to do so.” Ahead of the meeting, Netanyahu offered Gantz the opportunity to join an “emergency government” for six months to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, or to form a four-year rotational coalition with Netanyahu leading during the first two years.
Buzz on Balfour: Netanyahu’s corruption trial, which was slated to begin tomorrow, has been postponed for at least two months after the Justice Ministry placed the courts under a state of emergency over the coronavirus.
Hudson Institute CEO Ken Weinstein nominated as U.S. ambassador to Japan
President Donald Trump will nominate Hudson Institute President and CEO Ken Weinstein to be the next U.S. ambassador to Japan, the White House announced on Friday afternoon.
Bio: Weinstein is a member of Kesher Israel Synagogue and a past board president of the Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School in Washington, D.C. He has led the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, as the Walter P. Stern Chair since 2011. Weinstein also currently serves as a member of the Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations, which provides counsel to the U.S. Trade Representative. In recent years, Weinstein was a frequent visitor to Japan, where he held talks with the country’s leadership. Last summer, he launched Hudson’s Japan Chair and appointed former national security adviser H.R. McMaster to lead the new division.
Familiar face: James Carafano, vice president of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy and the E.W. Richardson fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh on Sunday that Weinstein “has been a tremendous asset bridging U.S.-Japan relations from the beginning of the Trump administration.” Carafano added, “There’s not a better ‘Trumpsplainer’ than Ken, whom I have been with all over the world, not only in Japan, but all over Europe and Asia. I have watched him in action explain U.S. foreign policy in an incredibly objective and constructive way.”
High praise: Michael Makovsky, president and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America and a personal friend of Weinstein’s, commended the decision. “There is not a better person that I know in Washington or elsewhere that is more qualified for the job,” Makovsky told JI. “He’s a tzadik [a righteous person] in my opinion. I was very happy to see the appointment on a personal level, but also as a professional appointment to an important country.”
Gracious host: Makovsky consulted with Weinstein before joining JINSA, he told JI. “In fact, it was due to his encouragement that I even interviewed for the job,” he said. Makovsky also shared a personal story about Weinstein: “When I wanted to have a small Jewish wedding with my wife four years ago, I called him to see whether we could hold it at the new Hudson office, which I heard was lovely and spacious, and he said, ‘Come right over.’ We held our wedding there and he and his staff could not have been more hospitable.”
Bonus: Bonnie Glick, a Trump loyalist and current deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, is expected to be elevated to acting head of the agency after the current chief, former Congressman Mark Green (R-TN), submits his resignation this week.
Biden campaign deploys Obama alums for Florida Jewish outreach
Joe Biden’s presidential campaign launched a Jewish outreach effort in Florida on Sunday, deploying former Obama officials to vouch for the former vice president and boost turnout ahead of Florida’s scheduled March 17th primary. In a Sunday morning conference call with Jewish leaders — led by John McCarthy, deputy political director for the Biden campaign, and Sarah Bard, who served as the director of Jewish outreach for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid — the campaign touted Biden’s relationship with the Jewish community and his support for Israel.
No labels: Bard, who now resides in Israel, told JI that she is volunteering for the campaign as a “passionate supporter” of Biden, “because of his leadership and his record of decades of friendship and support.”
Biden bros: Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and Miami-based developer Michael Adler, who served as Biden’s national finance chair during his 2008 presidential campaign, spoke on the call about Biden’s commitment to Israel and “building on” the Obama administration’s record of support for the Jewish state. Adler is a co-chair of the Biden campaign’s Jewish outreach team in the Sunshine State.
Heard last night: Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) suggested in an interview with “Axios on HBO” that the U.S. “could very well go the way of Germany in the 1930s” if President Donald Trump is re-elected in November.
Drawing parallels: Clyburn — who endorsed Joe Biden and is credited by some for the former vice president’s comeback in the South Carolina primary last month — pointed to instances in which Republican members of Congress applauded the president — despite numerous inaccuracies and exaggerations in his speech — comparing them to Germans who cheered on Adolf Hitler in the early 1930s. “I really believe that the people of Germany knew Adolf Hitler was lying, but they cheered him on and before they knew it, they no longer had a chancellor, but a dictator,” he asserted. “Anything that happened before can happen again.”
🕍 Talk of Our Nation: Writing in The Atlantic, Gary Rosenblatt, the editor-at-large of The Jewish Week, describes the level of “palpable fear and anger” among American Jews as antisemitism has turned into more violent and physical acts, targeting sacred institutions and Jewish strongholds. [TheAtlantic]
🎂 Milestone Day: In Time magazine, Olivia Waxman recounts the story of Albert Einstein’s 70th birthday, on March 14, 1949, which he celebrated in Princeton, N.J. with Jewish children who had just arrived in the U.S. from a displaced persons camp in Europe — despite the physicist generally eschewing birthday celebrations. [Time]
Around the Web
🏠 Self-Quarantine: Ivanka Trump is working from home “out of an abundance of caution” after she met with Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who subsequently tested positive for coronavirus.
⌛ No Rush: Former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Thursday that the government should “wait and see” before bailing out large companies impacted by the coronavirus.
💸 Stimulus: Israel’s central bank will begin purchasing government bonds for the first time since 2009, when then-Governor Stanley Fischer took action to smooth volatility and boost liquidity, as an emergency step to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
🛐 Prayer Limits: The wakf, the Jordanian body that controls the Temple Mount, ruled that prayer services will no longer be held inside Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock until further notice, though prayers will continue in the courtyard.
💉 Racing Against Time: Dr. Ofer Levy, a vaccines expert in Boston, is working on a COVID-19 vaccine that is designed to protect the elderly population.
🍲 Matzah Bowl: Kosher D.C. eatery Souper Girl kicked into high gear to provide food for Shabbat for Jewish families across New Rochelle who were ordered into quarantine over the rapid spread of coronavirus in the area.
🇮🇷 Seeking Relief: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, asking for “inhuman” U.S. sanctions to be lifted to help the country fight the virus.
🛍️ Dream Halted: The American Dream mall in New Jersey is shutting down and delaying its slated wave of openings amid the spread of the coronavirus.
✡️ Talk of the Town:Gothamistreports from a recent summit in Lakewood, N.J., where Orthodox Jewish residents and government officials addressed ways to handle the recent spike in antisemitic violence.
📺 Small Screen: “The Plot Against America,” the new HBO miniseries about Nazism taking root in the United States, viewed through the frame of a Jewish family in New Jersey, is “essential viewing for all Americans,” writes Judy Berman in Time magazine.
📚 Book Shelf: The TelegraphcallsHouse of Glass by Hadley Freeman the best book ever written “about the anguish of Jewish survival.”
📜 Fake History: All 16 of the fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls purchased by the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. have turned out to be fraudulent, the museum admitted over the weekend.
Gif of the day
On Sunday, guests danced on the balconies overlooking the courtyard at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem to celebrate with a newlywed couple — after the government restricted all gatherings to 10 people to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Actor and comedian, best known for playing the role of writer Frank Rossitano on the NBC sitcom “30 Rock,” Judah Friedlander turns 51…
Former CEO and chairman of Citigroup, Sanford I. “Sandy” Weill turns 87… Dean and founder of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Marvin Hier turns 81… NYC tax attorney and litigator, Stuart A. Smith turns 79… Actress and film director, Susan Linda Bay turns 77… Computer scientist and professor emeritus at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Andrew S. Tanenbaum turns 76… Actor and singer, Victor Garber turns 71… Customer care manager at CCRA Travel Commerce Network, Judy Karta turns 69… Mathematician and founder of four technology companies, he is the creator of the first camera phone, Philippe Kahn turns 68…
Peabody Award and Emmy Award-winning NPR journalist and host of NPR’s “Weekend Edition Saturday,” Scott Simon turns 68… VP of external affairs and government relations at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, Amy Reich Kaplan turns 66… Film producer, production designer and adjunct faculty member at Chicago’s Columbia College, Gail Sonnenfeld turns 65… Adjunct professor at both The George Washington University Law School and Stanford in Washington, Andrew D. Eskin turns 63… VP for talent, booking at ABC News, Eric Avram turns 55… President of the Ruderman Family Foundation, Jay Ruderman turns 54… Senior producer of “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” at MSNBC, Amy Shuster turns 48… VP at the BGR Group focused on financial services and tax issues, Andy Lewin turns 46…
Partner at West Wing Writers, Jeff Nussbaum turns 45… Founder of Seward Square Strategies, Jason Rosenbaum turns 43… Retired soccer player in the Israeli Premier League who is now the first team manager of Maccabi Tel Aviv, Yoav Ziv turns 39… Detroit-based founder and managing partner of Ludlow Ventures and Sandwich Fund, Jonathon Triest turns 38… Head of policy and communications at Facebook’s Israel office, Jordana Cutler turns 38… VP at the Glover Park Group, Adam Blickstein turns 38… Strategic communications consultant at Endeavor WME-IMG, Alexandra Stabler turns 31… Director in the New York office of the Jewish National Fund, Sarah Azizi turns 30… Former senior legislative assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, now a first-year student at the University of Michigan Law School, Nathan Bennett… Investigative reporter on the Metro desk of The New York Times,Brian M. Rosenthal… Jackie Stern… Jeremy Levin…