Good Thursday morning!
Former Vice President Joe Biden welcomed a new Jewish grandchild into the world, a son to Hunter Biden and his new wife, Melissa Cohen.
Israel’s Health Minister, Yaakov Litzman, has tested positive for coronavirus, sending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen and Health Ministry director general Moshe Bar Siman-Tov into quarantine.
In Vanity Fair, Gabriel Sherman details how the Trump campaign’s poll numbers and the news of a personal friend — real estate mogul Stanley Chera — in a coma pushed Trump to reverse course on his approach. Politicoreports how Jared Kushner has taken charge of the White House response to the coronavirus.
Patriots owner Bob Kraftsent his team plane to China to collect protective medical equipment for the state of Massachusetts. The plane will land at Logan airport this afternoon where it will be greeted by Kraft and MA Gov. Charlie Baker.
Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz and his wife, Elana Amsterdam, announced a $2.5 million donation to support employees and mountain communities impacted by coronavirus-related closings.
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BACK AT IT
Darrell Issa’s second political act
Darrell Issa has occupied an unfamiliar role for the past year and a quarter: He hasn’t held elected office. The former Republican representative, who served in Congress for nearly 20 years, chose not to seek reelection in 2018 when it looked as if voters in the 49th district in Southern California would elect a Democrat to replace him. Now, Issa has his eye on Congress again as he mounts a comeback campaign in California’s neighboring 50th congressional district, which sits mostly in San Diego County. In an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel, Issa discussed his second act in politics.
The layout: The 66-year-old Issa is going up against Ammar Campa-Najjar, a 31-year-old Democrat who worked in Barack Obama’s Labor Department. Campa-Najjar’s grandfather was a Palestinian intelligence official who is alleged to have helped plan the 1972 Munich massacre. In 2018, Campa-Najjar ran and lost to Duncan Hunter, who was recently sentenced to 11 months in prison for misusing campaign funds. Hunter used Campa-Najjar’s family history against him in an attack ad, but Issa — who is of Lebanese descent — made clear he has no intention of doing that. “You mean, are two Arab-Americans going to call each other Arabs?” he asked rhetorically.
Background: The Cleveland-born car alarm mogul entered Congress in 2001. Issa points to, among other things, his cosponsorship of the 2012 United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act as evidence of his support for the Jewish state. Throughout his long tenure, he served on the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees, and was chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from 2011 to 2015.
American disunity: During the primary, Issa was accused of “gay-baiting” for an ad that drew attention to the sexuality of his main Republican opponent, Carl DeMaio. Then in late February, Issa was on the receiving end of an attack ad from American Unity PAC, which resurfaced some of the former congressman’s past comments on Israel — including one that likened the country to an “apartheid” state if it abandoned a peace process.
Response: Issa told JI the quotes were taken out of context. “I have a 100% pro-Israel voting record,” he said. “It’s not just me saying it. You can call my AIPAC reps.”
Peace plan: Issa told JI he discussed Trump’s Middle East peace plan with the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, before it was unveiled. “I talked a little bit about the trips that I’d made,” said Issa, who has visited the region numerous times. At the moment, Issa is pessimistic about the prospects for a resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. “I certainly hope for peace and plan for peace,” he said. “And this plan, like every other plan, has everything except a Palestinian Authority that can control its people or, if necessary, take on Hamas in an aggressive way.”
Aid to Lebanon: With regard to U.S. funding of the Lebanese Armed Forces, Issa believes that a balancing act is necessary. “What is the current status of the military?” he said. “Can we ensure that we’re not effectively arming Hezbollah?” He added that “some of what we get in return is always going to be highly classified,” suggesting that the pros and cons of such aid may not be immediately apparent to outside observers.
Dan Shapiro: Gantz and Netanyahu are ‘haggling’ over West Bank annexation
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro joined the “Pod Save the World” podcast with Obama White House veteran Tommy Vietor yesterday where he opined on the Israeli political scene and the possible creation of a unity government between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Annexation watch: Shapiro explained why Netanyahu is insisting on moving ahead with West Bank annexation in ongoing talks with Gantz:
“Netanyahu, of course, wants to proceed with unilateral annexation of about 30% of the West Bank — that’s envisioned in the Trump plan. Gantz, who did go to Washington and said some complimentary things to Trump at the time, has also made it clear he doesn’t believe in unilateral annexation. He wants to do things in agreement with the Palestinians. He doesn’t want to hurt Israel’s relationship with Jordan, which would be very strained by annexation. And so, they are currently haggling over whether that process can proceed. I mean, it would be sort of a crazy use of resources and attention, and any government’s attention whatsoever, to focus on annexation while you’re fighting this public health thing.”
“But it is a part of the legacy that Netanyahu wants to accomplish during Trump’s reign. I suspect at the end, they’re going to wait and see what happens in [the U.S.] election in November. If Donald Trump is re-elected, it’ll be hard to withstand that tide over the next four years. If Joe Biden is elected, why would you start an annexation process in the final weeks or months of 2020, only to have an immediate clash with a new Democratic administration in January 2021?”
Intelligence speculation: Vietor quipped in response that the Israeli government is “probably going to be putting the intelligence community on overdrive to figure out just how intense that clash would be with Biden.”
Pause on the conflict: Shapiro said he was “cautiously optimistic” about Israel and the Palestinian Authority locking arms to deal with this public health emergency and contain the spread of the virus. “I do think it’s one of those moments when ideology and identity is being somewhat sublimated to the practical reality,” he said. “This is a threat that does not observe borders.”
Do or die: Speaking on the “AFL 1on1” podcast — hosted by American Friends of Likud executive director Adam Fishman — Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who is Likud’s lead negotiator in coalition talks with Blue and White, said that applying Israeli sovereignty over Jewish communities in the West Bank is “a condition that will stand even if the result will be that we won’t be able to form a government.” Levin explained that Netanyahu doesn’t want to “miss this historical opportunity” with Trump in office, “and we won’t enter a government or form a government that won’t allow us to implement” this move.
Discovering the secrets of the Jewish South
Philadelphia native Sue Eisenfeld has lived most of her adult life in Virginia. But it took a chance discovery of a Jewish Confederate soldier cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, to set her on the path of travel and research that led to her latest book, Wandering Dixie: Dispatches from the Lost Jewish South. Eisenfeld spoke with Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro about her four years of travels across nine states in the Deep South to conduct research for the book.
Surprising tales: One of the earliest Jewish settlements in the United States, she discovered, was a thriving Sephardi community established in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1695. That community “became the largest Jewish community in North America through the 1830s,” Eisenfeld wrote, “with about five hundred Jewish people, compared to only about four hundred in New York.”
Relics of the past: Most of her research focused on small Jewish communities that are all but historical relics today, with overgrown synagogues, uncared-for cemeteries and dwindling — or nonexistent — Jewish populations. “As I was writing this book, I felt deeply sad about the state of some of these Jewish communities,” she said, “and I think some of them don’t have a great future ahead of them.” Part of her hope in writing the book, she told JI, is to drive awareness and potential fund-raisers to preserve the synagogues and historical sites that are in a state of disrepair.
Learning experience: “I came to this book with a lot of assumptions and biases and stereotypes in my head about various things,” Eisenfeld said. “And traveling to these places and doing this research shattered a lot of those things, it made me see how incomplete my worldview really was.”
⚰️ End of Life:Reuters reporters took a closer look at how the coronavirus pandemic has upended traditional Jewish and Muslim burial practices in Israel. “We don’t know what to expect, we don’t know how many dead we will have to tend to. There are many fears.” [Reuters]
📰 Tale of Two Men: Ben Smith, the New York Times’s new media columnist, examines the hero narrative in much of the coverage of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, while NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has become “an irresistible punching bag.” [NYTimes]
🍹 Your Plate:The Atlantic’s Sophie Gilbert takes a look at the Instagram page of Ina Garten, host of the Food Network program “Barefoot Contessa,” who provides daily tips and shares recipes and cocktail mixes with those in lockdown.[TheAtlantic]
Around the Web
⚖️ No Justice: A court in Pakistan has overturned the convictions of four men imprisoned for their involvement in the murder of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl, 18 years after he was killed.
🚨 Preemptive Warning: President Donald Trump warned Iran and its proxies that if they attacked U.S. troops in Iraq, Tehran would “pay a very heavy price, indeed!”
🚧 Keep Out: Israel has virtually sealed off the city of Bnei Brak due to its high coronavirus infection rate.
😷 New Measures: Israelis were ordered on Wednesday to wear face masks while in public as a precaution against the virus, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced additional restrictions.
✈️ On Hold: El Al announced on Wednesday that it is extending the suspension of all its passenger flights through May 2nd.
💸 Backtrack: SoftBank has withdrawn an offer to buy $3 billion in shares from WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann.
💵 Charitable: New York’s Mount Sinai Health System flew in 130,000 face masks from China with the help of a senior partner at Goldman Sachs, Rich Friedman, and a call to Warren Buffet. Sheldon Adelson is paying all his workers for two months. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts announced Wednesday that the company would commit $500 million to supporting employees.
🏋️♀️ Big Sacrifice: Bryant Johnson, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s longtime personal trainer, toldLaw360 that the 87-year-old had to give up her workout schedule at the Supreme Court’s private gym due to stay-at-home orders.
🧘♂️ More Time on the Bench: The coronavirus outbreak and the pause in the primary contest between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders — who insists he is staying in the race — is giving former President Barack Obama more time to stay on the sidelines and have a greater impact in the general election, his advisors tell The Wall Street Journal.
👮 Talk of the Town: Lakewood police have charged 10 people, including a 99-year-old man, with violating New Jersey’s coronavirus ban by holding an engagement party, while at least five rabbis in the community have died of the virus over the past few days.
😮 Oops: Channel 13’s Barak Ravid reports that Netanyahu accidentally showed a clip from the Hallmark miniseries “Pandemic” at a cabinet meeting, claiming it was footage from Iran.
😡 Hate Continues: A synagogue in Rockville, Maryland, was vandalized with swastikas and antisemitic slurs.
⛓️ Early Release: Barry Freundel, the rabbi sentenced to prison for spying on women using the mikvah, was released from jail yesterday.
💲 Across the Pond: The U.K. government’s Home Office gave the Community Security Trust a £14 million grant to bolster protection of Jewish community institutions.
📸 Powerful Message: A video of a young Israeli girl explaining the stay-at-home orders to her parents went viral worldwide.
📺 Hollywood: The creators of ABC’s upcoming sitcom “Baker and the Beauty” talk to Varietyabout adapting the Israeli TV show for American audiences.
🏺 New Boss: The Berlin Jewish Museum has a new director after the previous head was ousted over a controversial exhibit on Jerusalem.
🕯️ Remembering: Adam Schlesinger, the Emmy Award-winning musician and member of Fountains of Wayne, has died of coronavirus at age 52.
Song of the day
Israeli musician Ishay Ribo released this week a new song, “Keter Melucha,” which he composed while following the stay-at-home orders. “I’m sending this song to the people of Israel in the hope that we’ll return to being free people very soon,” Ribo told Times of Israel.
Olympian, holder of the world record in the 50-mile walk which stood since 1972, he is a concentration camp survivor via the Kastner train and a professor at Ben Gurion University, Shaul Paul Ladany turns 84…
National security advisor under President Clinton, executive director of UNICEF from 2010 to 2017, he converted to Judaism in 2005, William Anthony Kirsopp Lake, best known as Tony Lake, turns 81… United States deputy attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen turns 62… Academy Award-winning film director and producer, David Frankel turns 61… Elected as a civil court judge in Brooklyn in 2016, now serving as a criminal court judge, she is the founder of Ezras Nashim, the first all-female volunteer ambulance corps in NYC, Rachel “Ruchie” Freier turns 55… On-air ice hockey analyst for NESN covering the Boston Bruins, Billy Jaffe turns 51… Los Angeles-based Israeli singer and songwriter, he is a founding member of the Jewish rock band Moshav, Duvid Swirsky turns 44… Best known as the creator and showrunner of the television series “Breaking In” and “The Goldbergs,” Adam F. Goldberg turns 44…
Actress, producer and singer, she and her husband won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 2019, Jaime Ray Newman turns 42… Senior associate general counsel at the Office of the United States Trade Representative, Brian Janovitz turns 39… Ph.D. candidate at NYU, he was a law clerk on the Israeli Supreme Court and a corporate attorney at the NYC office of Dechert LLP, Isaac Roszler turns 29… Deputy national field director at the Israel on Campus Coalition, Elisabeth Rosenfeld turns 27… Associate director for college engagement at the Union for Reform Judaism, Evan Lerner Traylor turns 26… Officer of both the annual Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival and the Warsaw Jewish Film Festival, Magda Strehlau… Attorney and senior legal manager at Medtronic, Rhona Shwaid… Miriam Rosen… Judith Berman…