Good Tuesday morning!
New York is canceling its June 23rd Democratic presidential primary. The state’s congressional primaries and local elections are still slated for that day.
Penny Pritzker, former secretary of commerce under President Barack Obama and the sister of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, hosted a virtual fundraiser last night for former Vice President Joe Biden.
This afternoon, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Biden foreign policy advisor Tony Blinken join the Jewish Democratic Council of America for a webcast. More details in Community Comms below.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations will meet via Zoom this afternoon to vote on changes to the Conference’s governance and to confirm former HIAS chair Dianne Lob as the umbrella organization’s chair-elect.
Fauda x Jewish Insider: This Thursday at 12 p.m. ET we’ll be having our next live conversation with the co-creators of “Fauda” (plus a few surprise guests from the cast) going deeper into Season 3 of the Netflix original series. Stay tuned for registration details. And for the hundreds of you who asked, here’s the recording of our last convo with Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff.
Spread the word! Invite your friends to sign up and earn JI swag through our Ambassador program
RACE TO WATCH
Meet Antone Melton-Meaux, Ilhan Omar’s primary challenger who wants to end divisive politics
If there’s one thing missing in Washington, according to Antone Melton-Meaux, it’s people willing to work to find common ground amid opposing viewpoints. Melton-Meaux’s background as a mediator, he believes, has primed him to take on the challenges of a divided Washington. But first, he’ll have to face a different challenge: unseating Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the most well-known freshman members of the 116th Congress. Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh spoke to Melton-Meaux about his congressional hopes.
Details: Melton-Meaux, 47, is one of three Democratic primary challengers to Omar in the 5th congressional district, where voters are scheduled to go to the polls on August 11th. He has raised more than $483,000 thus far — largely from local contributors — according to the most recent FEC filings, though Omar has outraised him by almost $3 million.
Talking the talk: Melton-Meaux studied the Hebrew Bible as a religious studies major at Washington University in St. Louis and worked at the local Hillel. After leaving Washington, he moved to New York City, where he received a master’s degree in theology, Hebrew and preaching at the Union Theological Seminary. Melton-Meaux also worked at The New Jewish Home, a nonprofit senior health care system in Manhattan. The congressional contender told JI that he didn’t learn Hebrew as a spoken language, but he is able to translate the original text of the Old Testament to English.
Following Cory Booker’s lead? In 2012, during a Jewish Community Relations Council meeting in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Melton-Meaux delivered a Dvar Torah, expounding on the connections between Leviticus 19 and Matthew 26, which calls for all people to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” He added: “If there was ever a time when Jews, Christians, and all people of faith need to be reminded that we share a common bond, the time is now.”
Local support: Melton-Meaux’s message appears to be gaining traction in the district. Local activist and civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong penned a column in the Star Tribune last week touting Melton-Meaux’s credentials and declaring, “the Fifth District deserves a leader who will put our interests first, and one who will be accountable and transparent.” Melton-Meaux also received the endorsement of civil rights icon Josie Johnson.
Drawing a contrast: Melton-Meaux alleges that his opponent has not worked to find common ground with others, including many of her Jewish constituents. “Omar has made statements that have been reckless and harmful to the Jewish community,” Melton-Meaux told Jewish Insider. “I have spent time with the Jewish community and have met with Jewish leaders, and there’s a deep sense of betrayal by her actions and displeasure with the way that she has handled herself in the process with regard to the residents in this district.”
Community support: Jeff Mendelsohn, executive director of Pro-Israel America, a political action committee supporting pro-Israel candidates for federal office, included Melton-Meaux among the 40 candidates his group has endorsed in the 2020 election cycle so far. Mendelsohn told JI that Melton-Meaux is the “strongest challenger to Omar, is seen as the candidate most likely to succeed in the efforts to unsesat her, and he has voiced his recognition of Israel as a strategic ally of the United States.” An official with J Street told JI that Omar — who attended the organization’s national conference last year — will not receive the organization’s endorsement this cycle.
Is the real cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being overlooked?
The latest headlines about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continously center on settlements, annexation and drawing borders. But that narrative entirely misses the core issue sustaining the decades-long conflict, argues Einat Wilf in her latest book, The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace.
Core issue: The book by the former Labor member of Knesset — written with former Haaretz reporter Adi Schwartz — argues that clearly and definitively removing any premise of a future “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees is the only path forward for peace. “I think that those who care about the conflict tend, by and large, not to understand what the core issue is,” Wilf told Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro in a recent interview. “I think the vast majority who still care about it think that it’s about occupation, settlements, borders, Palestinian statehood.”
No return: The Palestinians’ commitment to a right of return — and their willingness to walk away from repeated deals without one — illustrates how unwilling Palestinian leadership is to accept any state of Israel, Wilf argues. Demanding the right of millions of Palestinians to “return” to what is now Israel — even if there were a neighboring Palestinian state — would effectively end the Jewish state, Wilf noted. And it’s no accident, she claimed, that the matter is not always front and center.
Losing argument: “The Palestinians themselves have made a point of not highlighting it,” she said. “Because it’s much easier to score points with ‘occupation’ and with ‘settlements.’” Wilf suggested that the Palestinians are “smart enough to understand that if they speak clearly on the refugee issue, they lose the argument.” Instead, Wilf claimed, “they’ve created the impression that it’s a secondary issue, and that it’s a solvable issue, which it’s not.” Faced with a choice between a Palestinian state or the right of return, “then it’s the state that gets bargained away, not the return.”
Blame game: Wilf and Schwartz point a finger directly at who they see as the main culprit in perpetuating the issue: the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). “The tragic but inescapable reality is that UNRWA has facilitated the perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee problem rather than its resolution,” the authors write. The organization, “acts under the guise of the United Nations and cover of concern for refugee rights to effectively ensure that the conflict with Israel will continue and remain intractable.” They lay out a path for dismantling the organization in an effort to take a step toward resolving the conflict.
Long view: Wilf has long identified with Israel’s Left, working for veteran peacenik Yossi Beilin, then serving as an advisor to Shimon Peres before being elected to the Knesset with the Labor Party in 2010. Today, she said, she considers herself a “long-term optimist” when it comes to peace. “I quote Chazal, the Jewish sages, who say that ‘You’re not the one who’s going to finish the job, but that doesn’t give you the license to not do it.’” Whether that “takes 5 years, 15 years, 500 years, who knows,” she said. “There are actions we can take that it can be sooner rather than later. If I can do work that shaves off time from when it’s going to happen, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
Health care advocate, Air Force vet square off in Ohio’s 1st District
In today’s Democratic primary in Ohio’s 1st congressional district, Air Force veteran Nikki Foster and health care advocate Kate Schroder are going head-to-head to determine who will take on longtime Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) in November. Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod examines the state of the race that is setting up a showdown for this fall.
Formidable opponent: The two women hold similar positions — including on health care, foreign policy and veterans’ affairs — that largely fall within the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Either candidate, observers say, could be a formidable opponent in the race to represent the district, which includes most of Cincinnati and its northern suburbs. “Whoever wins this primary has a really good campaign to run against Chabot,” Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Pepper told JI. “Chabot hasn’t faced a candidate like either one of them.”
Read more about the race here.
Also on the ballot today: Elsewhere in Ohio, incumbent Rep. Joyce Beatty is hoping to fend off a primary challenge from progressive contender Morgan Harper. And in Maryland’s 7th congressional district, former Rep. Kweisi Mfume is all but assured to win today’s special election to replace the late Rep. Elijah Cummings and reclaim his old seat.
The 23-year-old computer science prodigy who wants to crack contact tracing
In the race to track the novel coronavirus, a 23-year-old computer science whiz has devised a unique approach that, he hopes, communities around the globe will use to curb the spread of COVID-19. Aron Szanto, a researcher at Harvard University and an engineer at Kensho Technologies, a machine learning company in New York, spoke to Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel about his new nonprofit aimed at curbing the spread of the virus without curbing individuals’ privacy rights.
Alternative app: Szanto co-founded the nonprofit Zerobase Foundation a little over a month ago to develop a contact-tracing platform that would serve as an alternative to contact-tracing apps that pose privacy issues for users who don’t want their every move logged by third parties. The method is relatively Low-tech. It involves distributing QR codes on pieces of paper in highly trafficked locations such as banks, pharmacies and grocery stores — where the disease is likely to spread — as well as hospitals, doctor’s’ offices and other medical sites, where patients who may have the virus go to get tested.
Trace back: “If people are scanning the codes around their neighborhood, when one person gets infected, we can trace back and figure out who else might have been in the same place at around the same time or even a little bit after,” Szanto told JI. “And so we’re able to do things like recommend that they self-isolate out of an abundance of caution.”
Pilot test: According to Szanto, the information collected by Zerobase is completely anonymous. Users can either provide their phone number when they check in or will be alerted to a threat the next time they scan. If after two weeks no alarms have been raised, your information is deleted from the Zerobase system. The approach, Szanto said, has been pilot-tested in a small town in Germany, but has yet to be deployed on a mass scale. Zerobase has been in talks with communities in New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, Colorado, Massachusetts, Germany, Ireland and Slovakia, as well as a couple of African countries, according to Szanto.
👩🚀 Down to Earth: Jewish astronaut Jessica Meir, who landed last week after spending 205 days at the International Space Station, spoke withVanity Fair’s Laura Regensdorf about her time in space and how she is processing “the gravity of a world in quarantine.” [VanityFair]
🕯️ Remembering: The New York Times’s David Halbfinger highlights how Israel’s Yom Hazikaron under lockdown has provided a boost to the virtual alternative Israeli-Palestinian ceremony, which pulled in more than 170,000 participants this year. [NYTimes]
🇨🇿 No Income: Reuters’ Robert Muller spotlights the Jewish community in Prague, which is struggling to support its Holocaust survivor population without the usual influx of funds provided by tourists. [Reuters]
😟 Caught Up: Writing in New York magazine’s The Cut, Rebecca Traister explores “the trap” facing progressive female colleagues of Joe Biden, who are angling to become his vice presidential pick but will be forced to answer questions over his treatment of women — including a sexual assault claim that is gaining ground. [NewYork]
Around the Web
🤷♂️ Palace Intrigue: A senior Trump administration official tellsThe Daily Beast that Jared Kushner is solving the coronavirus crisis “like he’s bringing peace to the [Middle East].”
🔑 Holding the Key: Washington Post opinion editor Jackson Diehl suggests that Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz have handed Trump the power to destroy the prospect of a two-state solution and “forever alter Israel’s character” by backing West Bank annexation.
👑 Quarantine at Balfour: Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, points out how, unlike for most global leaders, COVID-19 came at the right moment for Netanyahu.
🚸 Risk Averse: Netanyahu has approved a plan to gradually reopen schools in Israel next week, providing the current rate of coronavirus cases doesn’t increase.
👩⚕️ Front Lines: AFP spotlights Dr. Khitam Hussein, the head of the coronavirus outbreak response at Haifa’s Rambam Hospital.
💉 Startup Nation: Israel’s Compugen says it has seen positive initial results in its early-stage cancer trial.
🏢 Campus Beat: Hillel International has laid off or furloughed 20% of its workforce at its Washington, D.C. headquarters due to the coronavirus crisis.
😷 Alternative Use: A Jewish family from Houston, Texas is collecting yarmulkes and turning them into face masks to distribute to the homeless.
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: An Orthodox Jewish girls school in London has been accused of censorship for gluing together textbook pages featuring historical female leaders.
📺 Open Window: “Umm Haroun,” a Saudi TV show about a Jewish midwife in an Arab state in the 1930s, is drawing both criticism and praise for its rare inclusion of Jewish characters on Saudi television.
🇨🇦 Hate Up North: Antisemitic attacks against Jews in Canada set a new record in 2019 for the fourth consecutive year.
📽️ Coming Soon:HBO Max has acquired worldwide rights to Seth Rogen’s comedy “An American Pickle,” about a Jewish immigrant to America who accidentally preserves himself in brine for 100 years.
Pic of the Day
Magen David Adom volunteers pause for a minute of silence to commemorate Yom Hazikaron in Israel last night.
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Elena Kagan turns 60…
Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. in the years 1990-1993 and 1998-2000, he served four terms in the Knesset, Zalman Shoval turns 90… White House Chief of Staff for Presidents Reagan (1981-1985) and Bush 41 (1992-1993), Secretary of the Treasury (1985-1988) and Secretary of State (1989-1992), James Baker turns 90… Retired judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals (1994-2008), Judge Irma Steinberg Raker turns 82… Co-founder of Mirage Resorts and Wynn Resorts with her former husband, Elaine Wynn turns 78… Retired four-star United States Marine Corps general, Robert Magnus turns 73… COO of IPRO and former president of the Bronx/Riverdale YM-YWHA and the Riverdale Jewish Center, Harry M. Feder turns 70 (y/t Josh Landes)… Cantor of Congregation Beth Jacob of Galveston, Sharon Colbert turns 68… Criminal defense attorney, Abbe David Lowell turns 68…
Director of congregational engagement at Temple Beth Sholom of Miami Beach, Mark Baranek turns 62… American-born Israeli writer, David Hazony turns 51… Associate judge of the Baltimore City Circuit Court, Karen Chaya Friedman turns 49… Retired soccer player, she played for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team from 1997 to 2000, Sara Whalen Hess turns 44… Actress and film critic, she is the writer and star of the CBC comedy series “Workin’ Moms,” Catherine Reitman turns 39… Israeli artist and photographer, Neta Cones turns 32… Director of communications and marketing at Jewish World Watch, Jeffrey Hensiek… Columbia Business School student, Talli Lefkowitz… News junkie Ahron Fragin turns 22… Arena co-founder, Ravi Gupta…