Good Wednesday morning and happy 72nd birthday to Israel!
You read about her in JI, now meet her on Zoom: We’re introducing a new feature this afternoon, the post-profile JI hangout. Many of you read the recent story on Morgan Ortagus in JI, For the State Dept’s top spokeswoman, her journey to Judaism began in Baghdad. Now join Morgan and the article’s author, Gabby Deutch, for a post-interview live conversation and Q&A with fellow JI readers on Zoom this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. EDT. Register here.
And for “Fauda” fans, we’re hosting the show’s star Lior Raz and fellow co-creator Avi Issacharoff, along with the new stars of Season 3 Ala Dakka (who plays Bashar Hamdan) and Marina Maximilian Blumin (who plays Hila Bashan), in a second live conversation with Dan Senor (see part one here) this Thursday at 12 p.m EDT. Register here and feel free to invite your friends to join us!
In Ohio’s 3rd congressional district, incumbent Rep. Joyce Beatty easily beat out challenger Morgan Harper in the Democratic primary, 68%-32%. In the state’s 1st district, former Hill staffer Kate Schroder won 68% of the primary vote and will take on incumbent Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) this November. In Maryland, former Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-MD) decisively won the special election for his former seat, that until last year was held by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings.
Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI), the son of a Palestinian refugee father — who left the Republican Party last year to become an Independent — has announced a White House bid as a Libertarian.
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MAKING THE LIST
Craig Newmark of Craigslist fame is stepping up to the plate amid self-isolation
Like many of us, Craig Newmark has been watching a lot of TV these days. Lately it’s “The Plot Against America,” David Simon’s new HBO miniseries about an antisemitic dystopia in the U.S. in the 1940s, which has left the 67-year-old founder of Craigslist feeling verklempt. “It’s gotten me kind of upset,” Newmark told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel via Zoom from his home in San Francisco.
Fighting bigotry: Newmark now operates as a full-time philanthropist as he seeks to give away a sizable portion of his estimated $1.3 billion net worth. As the coronavirus pandemic rages, Newmark is worried about, among other things, minority groups including Jewish and Asian Americans, who have been blamed for spreading the disease. That’s one reason he is set to announce✎ EditSign a new, two-year grant of $1 million to support the Anti-Defamation League in an effort to help the organization expose online antisemitism and bigotry.
Tikkun olam: The ADL donation is just one of Newmark’s many recent charitable contributions — all of which, he says, are informed by a sense of Jewish values and justice instilled in him since childhood. Two local educators in particular, Rafael and Rachel Levin, were influential to Newmark as a boy who spent his Sundays at the Morristown Jewish Center in North Jersey. “They taught me that you want to treat people like you’d want to be treated,” Newmark said. “Later on, they helped me understand something called tikkun olam.”
Supporting media: Newmark has also made significant contributions to support the news industry. In 2018, he gave $20 million to CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism, which now bears his name. He also donated $500,000 to The Forward last year, and $100,000 earlier this month to J. The Jewish News of Northern California. Newmark is an avid reader of the Jewish press. “It reminds me of who I am and what I should do,” he said. “It reminds me that in times of crisis, everyone of good conscience needs to stand up.”
One great uncle: Newmark’s phone rang a couple of points throughout our conversation. The ringtone was “Let It Go,” from Frozen. “I have 22 nieces and nephews and they are fairly unanimous that I need to learn that song,” he said.
Campaign surrogates highlight Biden’s opposition to annexation
In a webcast hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Joe Biden’s senior foreign policy advisor Tony Blinken discussed how a Biden administration would address a unilateral move by the incoming Israeli government to apply sovereignty to Jewish communities in the West Bank.
Naming allies: “My hope would be that Ashkenazi as foreign minister and Gantz as defense minister — in what will be internal deliberations — given their deep experience in the IDF and given the security consequences of an abrupt move, would caution Bibi [Netanyahu] against some significant step like this,” Coons said.
Wait-and-see approach: The Delaware senator, a surrogate for the Biden campaign, declined to elaborate on how a Biden administration would address annexation. “It’s hard to exactly prejudge the circumstances on the ground as of January of next year, and we only have one president at a time,” he asserted. Coons added that as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it is important for him to not only express his views “clearly and strongly, but to also be measured about putting any constraints on what a Biden administration would look like.”
Reserving judgment: Blinken, who served in the Obama administration as a national security official and deputy secretary of state, said on the webcast that he was “not going to prejudge what we might do or not do in the context of a Biden administration because “lots of things can happen between now and then.” But he stressed that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee “has been literally opposed to annexation,” on the record several times.
Jerusalem embassy: Blinken suggested that a Biden administration would keep the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, telling viewers that reversing President Donald Trump’s decision and moving it back to Tel Aviv “would not make sense practically and politically.”
For the Platt brothers, Yom Ha’atzmaut is a family affair
Ask Jonah Platt about celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut and he will tell you about the year he spent the holiday in Israel. Ask his younger brother Henry the same question, and he, too, will tell you about his own experience celebrating Israel’s Independence Day in the Jewish state. “I just remember it being, probably, one of the most joyous, most unique experiences,” Henry told Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss. “That experience of being there,” Jonah concurred, “There’s nothing like it.”
Star-studded celebration: This year, the brothers Platt will be marking the occasion from their homes in Los Angeles, but with a twist. Appearing in a virtual Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration today alongside their brother, Tony Award-winner Ben Platt, the trio will perform an original composition of the “Ahavat Olam” prayer. The event, organized by the Jewish Federations of North America, will feature a number of celebrity appearances, including “Unorthodox” actress Shira Haas, singer Matisyahu, cookbook author Adeena Sussman, renowned sex therapist Dr. Ruth and actor Joshua Malina.
Backstory: Wanting to perform a piece that matched their contemporary vocal styles, the brothers considered their options. “We were kind of racking our brains about what to do for this,” Jonah told JI. “We wanted to do something that really spoke to celebrating Israel and for the moment.” Jonah remembered seeing a recording of his friend Gabe Mann performing a version of “Ahavat Olam” with his children at his daughter Piper’s bat mitzvah. Jonah reached out, and Mann tweaked the key to better suit a balanced three-person performance.
Blessings in disguise: Today’s Yom Haatzmaut event marks the first time the brothers have performed in public as a trio. Despite the age gap — Jonah, at 33, is 12 years older than Henry, while Ben is in between at 26 — the brothers are close, and the family has been brought even closer by the pandemic. “For some reason the universe wants us to take a pause and hit the pause button, which I think is really hard to do,” Henry said. “When the world is always go, go, go, go, go. And obviously this is not a natural state to be in. But I do think that there are some blessings in disguise that I’ve been trying to lean into when it gets tough.”
Dianne Lob confirmed as Conference of Presidents’ chair-elect
Former HIAS chair Dianne Lob was confirmed as the chair-elect of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Tuesday afternoon. The vote capped off a tumultuous two weeks, during which a few of the umbrella group’s right-wing member organizations waged a campaign to remove her from consideration.
Details: A motion to create the position of chair-elect passed 39-1, with five abstentions. A subsequent motion to elect Lob as chair-elect and retain outgoing chair Arthur Stark until April 2021 passed by a vote of 31 in favor, eight opposed and five abstaining.
United together: Conference of Presidents CEO William Daroff, who took the helm of the umbrella organization in February, said in a statement that Lob is “the right leader to help steer our community toward greater unity and shared purpose” amid a rising tide of global antisemitism “and the utmost importance of Jewish communal security.”
No regrets: Zionist Organization of America President Mort Klein, who led the campaign against Lob, called the one-year delay “a minor step” that will not satisfy his organization. “We have 11 months to see what actions she takes, what statements she makes,” Klein told JI, adding that he is not willing to give Lob a grace period. “We vehemently oppose her being chair of the conference. This was a mistake on so many fronts.”
‘Nastiest campaign imaginable’: A Jewish leader noted to JI that the organizations opposing Lob spent 10 days “besmirching and defaming” Lob and the Conference of Presidents in the “most ugliest and nastiest campaign imaginable.” The official added, “All they got was eight votes. They not only got embarrassed, they got beaten badly. This proves they are on the fringe, and do not represent the American Jewish community.”
📱 Big Brother: A special Reuters report dives deep into the Israeli data extraction firm Cellebrite, which often works with law enforcement to gather evidence from locked phones and is now turning its services toward tracking the spread of COVID-19. [Reuters]
🎖️ Pain of Liberation: Writing in The New York Times, Jennifer Orth-Veillon explores the dehumanizing treatment that some liberated Holocaust survivors received from Allied forces. “Even the most ‘battle-weary’ service members were stunned” and unprepared for what they discovered inside the camps. [NYTimes]
📚 Saving History:The Wall Street Journal reviewsFrom Left to Right, a biography of Lucy S. Dawidowicz, who fled the Nazis and became “the mother of modern Jewish studies in America,” which included salvaging the YIVO library in post-war Germany and serving as the first American chair of Holocaust studies at Yeshiva University. [WSJ]
🖋️ Weighing In: The Jewish Journal’s David Suissa, whose own family emigrated from Morocco with the help of HIAS, proposes that the refugee aid organization dedicate some of its global efforts to helping Jews struggling amid an increase in antisemitism and other hardships. [JewishJournal]
Around the Web
⏰ Early Bird: Film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg told the Wall Street Journal that since launching Quibi he wakes up at 2:30 a.m. each morning to fit in 20 video conferences a day.
👎 Cutting Ties: Utah is ordering the suspension of a new surveillance system over reports that the company’s founder was an active white supremacist involved in the drive-by shooting of a synagogue in the ‘90s.
🧒 No Child Left Behind: The Orthodox Union welcomed the New York City Department of Education’s announcement that special ed students in nonpublic schools will be eligible to receive free iPads.
🔬 Out of the Box: A group of Israeli researchers are proposing a plan to deliberately infect the public with COVID-19 in a controlled manner to develop a “herd immunity” until a vaccine is found.
💸 Rebounding: The Bank of Israel is working to stymie the strength of the shekel, which is slowly rebounding after coronavirus-related losses, in order to cope with an expected steep deflation.
💇♂️ Snip Snip: The Telegraph’s James Rothwell examines how and why Israeli hairdressers have reopened and could serve as a model for other countries.
👨⚖️ Buzz on Balfour:The Israeli Supreme Court will begin hearing petitions on Sunday against allowing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government while under indictment.
💻 Zoomboming: Melba Pearson, a Miami ACLU official running for state attorney, claims her campaign Zoom meeting was interrupted by individuals displaying “Nazi imagery.”
⛓️ Behind Bars:The Pittsburgh Tribune-Reviewrecalls 20 years since Richard Baumhammers — who still sits on a death row — murdered his Jewish neighbor and defaced her synagogue as part of a xenophobic killing spree.
🏥 Refuah Sheleimah: Attorney Ben Brafman is recovering at home after being hospitalized over a serious fall.
✍️ Pen Pal: Broadway icon Lin-Manuel Miranda sent a letter of support to a Miami girl who has been sewing face masks for first responders for her bat mitzvah project.
✡️ Jewish Pride: Fran Drescher tellsThe Los Angeles Times that she had to fight with CBS to keep her character in “The Nanny” Jewish.
📕 Book Shelf: The New York Times review of The Inevitability Of Tragedy, a new biography of Henry Kissinger, frames him as one of a class of Jewish intellectuals who escaped Nazi Germany and “bent their brilliant minds toward the questions raised by the century’s savagery.”
Gif of the Day
Marking Israel’s 72nd Independence Day while under lockdown, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged Israelies to follow the coronavirus-related restrictions to overcome the pandemic. “A day will come when the hugs will return,” Netanyahu said in a video message. “But we’re not there yet, because the pandemic is still here.”
Israeli-born, NYC resident, stand-up comedian, actor and sometimes chazzan, Modi Rosenfeld turns 50… He is seen above roasting former Sen. Joe Lieberman at the Commentary Dinner two years ago.
Inmate #61727-054 at the Butner Federal Medical Center in North Carolina, his scheduled release date is in 2137, Bernard Madoff turns 82… Nobel Prize-winning economist and professor at MIT, Peter Diamond turns 80… Marcy Smith turns 68… Award-winning broadcast journalist for more than 30 years, now SVP of communications at the University of Maryland Global Campus, Michael Freedman turns 68… Comedian, actor, producer and director, he is best known for playing a semi-fictional version of himself in the 180 episodes of the sitcom “Seinfeld,” Jerry Seinfeld turns 66… London-born highly acclaimed actor, knighted at Buckingham Palace in 2014, Sir Daniel Day-Lewis turns 63… Sportscaster, best known as the radio and television play-by-play announcer for MLB’s New York Mets, Gary Cohen turns 62… New York City Comptroller since 2014, Scott M. Stringer turns 60…
CEO and chairman of 20th Century Fox until its acquisition by Disney, she now leads the Los Angeles office of Sister Pictures, Stacey Snider turns 59… Political director at AIPAC, Rob Bassin turns 58… Professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, he is the founder of The Center for Advanced Hindsight and author of many books including “Predictably Irrational,” Dan Ariely turns 53… NYC-based award-winning artist who works with sound, kinetics, optics, magnetism and other materials to make sculptures and photographs, Julianne Swartz turns 53… Member of the Knesset since 2013 (and recently re-elected), she is the chairwoman of Meretz party, Tamar “Tami” Zandberg turns 44… Russian-born Israeli model and actress, Bar Paly turns 38… SVP of government affairs at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Anne Brachman turns 38… Commercial, industrial and residential real estate developer in the Mid-Atlantic region, Samuel A. Neuberger… Director of state political affairs for Teach Coalition, Daniel Mitzner turns 34…