Good Tuesday morning!
The Biden campaign is hosting a pre-Passover call featuring Dr. Jill Biden at 2 p.m. ET this afternoon.
British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, the son of a Jewish refugee who fled the Nazis, will take over duties leading the U.K. “where necessary” and is running the day-to-day coronavirus response after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to the ICU while fighting the disease. The Wisconsin primarywill go ahead today after the state’s Supreme Court overruled Gov. Tony Evers’s efforts to shut down the vote due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) blasted the ruling to hold the election now as “dangerous” and announced his campaign “will not be engaged in any traditional get out the vote efforts.”
Longtime Agudath Israel of America leader Rabbi Yaakov Perlow died early Tuesday morning of coronavirus complications at age 89.
Speaking yesterday, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said the NYPD will “aggressively” shut down “dangerous” funerals after several were held in Borough Park in violation of social distancing restrictions. At his daily briefing Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said: “Now’s not the time to go to a funeral with 200 people… the risk is too great.”
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Teresa Leger Fernandez takes on Valerie Plame in heated New Mexico race
Teresa Leger Fernandez, a candidate for New Mexico’s open 3rd congressional district, took a class last year at Temple Beth Shalom, a Reform synagogue in Santa Fe. One of Leger Fernandez’s opponents, former CIA officer Valerie Plame — who came under fire for sharing an antisemitic post in 2017 — has attended services at the same synagogue in recent years. Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel explores the much-watched New Mexico race and its surprising connections to the area’s small Jewish community.
State of the race: Leger Fernandez is the party favorite: She raked in 42% of the delegate vote at the state’s Democratic pre-party convention in early March, the most of any candidate. Plame, meanwhile, came in fifth at the convention, with just 5.2% of delegates. But Plame’s high profile — coupled with her $1.1 million war chest — still puts her in a competitive position ahead of the June 2nd primary, particularly at a moment when the novel coronavirus pandemic threatens to impact voter turnout.
Lingering suspicions: Lance Bell, a third-generation Santa Fean who serves as president of the Jewish Community Council of Northern New Mexico, told JI that “Valerie Plame is trying to make amends with the Jewish community, and I’ve heard some positive things about her. But I have concerns about her, personally, running for Congress — and she definitely won’t get my vote.” Leger Fernandez, on the other hand, had earned his trust. “I love the fact that she’s rolled up her sleeves and is willing to find common ground and wants to partner with the Jewish community and be a real friend,” Bell said.
Common ground: Leger Fernandez says her affinity for the Jewish community comes from a personal place. Her father, the late New Mexico state Sen. Ray Leger, joined a mixed Jewish-Latino fraternity during college at Highlands University, after both groups were locked out of the school’s fraternities. “When we start including all of this nation’s beautiful history, we recognize how interconnected we are and how diverse we are,” she said.
Progressive backing: Leger Fernandez supports Medicare for All and the Green New Deal and has racked up endorsements from Emily’s List, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Latino Victory Fund, Working Families Party and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. From a campaigning perspective, there are few practical reasons why Leger Fernandez would need to ingratiate herself to the 3rd district’s Jewish community, which does not represent a significant voting bloc.
But Ron Duncan Hart, the former president of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, told JI that of all the candidates in the primary race, Leger Fernandez is the one who has most consistently made an effort to commune with the Jewish community, attending a number of meetings with Jewish groups in Santa Fe and making it known that she is an ally.
Eyes on Israel: Leger Fernanez admits she is not “an expert in the Middle East,” but is working to learn and has issued a position paper✎ EditSign outlining her support for a two-state solution, her opposition to the BDS movement and a belief in the importance of rejoining the Iranian nuclear deal. “I will always work to ensure that the U.S. relationship with Israel remains strong and that we stand up to hate and division at home and abroad,” she wrote. In Plame’s position paper✎ EditSign, the ex-CIA officer also endorses a two-state solution, supports aid to Israel and opposes BDS.
ON THE HILL
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn talks coronavirus
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) has had a big year. In late February, his endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden in the South Carolina primary helped give the Democratic presidential candidate a decisive win against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that Clyburn would lead a bipartisan House committee to oversee the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package. In an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel, the 79-year-old Democrat from South Carolina discussed the new committee and other pressing issues.
Learning from history: The oversight panel, Clyburn told JI, “is patterned after the Truman Committee,” the congressional oversight committee formed in 1941 to investigate war profiteering. “I have seen reports of contractors charging the federal government hundreds of dollars for toilet seats,” Clyburn said. “Hundreds of dollars for a toilet seat! I think I saw one someplace where a toilet seat was $600 or $700.”
Forward focus: The congressman elaborated on a point he made in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper over the weekend, when he said the coronavirus oversight panel would be “forward-looking” instead of examining President Donald Trump’s sluggish response to the virus. The Truman Committee didn’t look “back at what happened in World War I,” he told JI by way of explanation. “Where we’re going to be spending our time is looking at what is happening in response to this virus… We’re not going to spend our time looking at what happened before we came into creation. It’s not what we were created to do.”
Personal concerns: Like “every other American,” Clyburn said he was worried about catching the virus. “I worry about getting a bunch of stuff. I’m 79 years old.” But the congressman told JI he couldn’t let his own personal concerns get in the way of his work. “I get worried, you know, driving an automobile.”
Veepstakes: “I’ve said time and time again I think it ought to be a woman and being the father of three black women, my preference would be a black woman,” Clyburn said of his views on Biden’s vice presidential pick. “I don’t always get my preference,” he added. Though he didn’t get more specific than that, he told JI that Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge — whom he described as a “personal friend” — was “a very competent legislator with an extensive background and a resume that would be very complimentary on the ticket.”Read the full interview here.
The power of being ‘Weird’
Olga Khazan is finally comfortable being weird. Khazan, a health and science reporter for The Atlantic, has worked for close to five years on her debut book Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World. She channels her experiences growing up as a Russian Jewish immigrant in suburban Texas into an exploration of what it means to be an outsider — and its positive and negative effects. Khazan spoke to Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro about the experiences that led to her writing Weird.
Cast of characters: In interviews with more than three dozen individuals, Khazan highlights people from all walks of life who have struggled to fit in. “I was interested in the state of being weird and what it’s like to be different from everyone else around you,” she told JI. “So I just started reaching out to people who met that definition in different ways to learn what their life was like.” She gets to know a female race car driver, a male kindergarten teacher, a doctor with dwarfism, a woman who left the Amish community, a transgender mayor in Texas and many others.
Outside outsider: Khazan always felt like an outsider growing up in West Texas because of her Russian heritage, her father’s Jewish background and her parents’ non-religious beliefs and practices. In a way she was a double outsider, not quite fitting in to her overwhelmingly Christian surroundings or to American Jewry. She once explained to an on-stage interviewee that her last name, Khazan, is the Hebrew word for cantor. “Did you have enough Jews in Midland for a minyan?” he asked. “For a solid three seconds I thought he was asking me if my West Texas hometown was populated by yellow animated creatures, the Minions,” Khazan wrote.
Coronavirus caution: In one section of the book, Khazan explores the studies that show that being afraid of getting sick makes people even more insular, something that resonates strongly today amid the global spread of COVID-19. “When our bodies become afraid of getting sick — it’s almost on a subconscious level — we vaguely get the sense that everything is contaminated. We become more conformist; we get more afraid of outsiders or people who are different.” she said. And the behavior on exhibit today, where people are shunning or discriminating against Asian Americans or ultra-Orthodox communities — “it’s a really poignant and unfortunate illustration of that principle.”Read the full interview here.
Schumer’s message to Jewish leaders amid coronavirus pandemic
On a webinar with Jewish leaders yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) thanked Jewish groups for working to secure relief for families in need amid the coronavirus crisis. The discussion was hosted by the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York:
“It is part of our Judeo-Christian tradition to help people who need help — we Jewish people call it tzedakah — and you are doing it, and it’s vital. In this religious season — Passover and Easter — we have got to focus on what we can do to help one another, even though we can’t be near each other. We will survive. In our Jewish tradition, as you know, Passover is a time when we had plagues. This is like one ancient plague — it really is — and they have always befallen on generations of us, but by sticking together, by being strong, by having faith in God, we prevail. We will prevail once again.”
In his introduction, JCRC Executive Vice President Michael Miller said of Schumer:
“Many of us know that the derivation of your name, Schumer — as you have spoken in front of audiences — derives from your ancestors who were guardians of the ghetto wall in Chortkiv, Galicia. And as we approach Passover, the theme of ‘Shomer’ is highly evident — with matzah, the matzah has to be watched, and the first night is referred to as a ‘Leil Shimurim,’ a night of divine protection. You, senator, have devoted your public career to being a ‘Shomer.’ The role that you have played, particularly in the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, combating antisemitism, and of course the role that you have played in support of Israel, and now with this CARES Act during this modern-day plague, you are playing a key role in ensuring that America, New York, our Jewish community and many other communities are well served.”
Standing together: In a joint op-ed, the leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations — chairman Arthur Stark, CEO William Daroff and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein — emphasize why it’s important to support communal organizations and institutions during the current economic downturn. Also yesterday: New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who lost his 86-year-old mother due to coronavirus complications, charged in an interview on CNN: “Donald Trump has blood on his hands and he has my mom’s blood on his hands… There can’t be a funeral. There can’t be a traditional shiva… My little kids can’t say good-bye to their grandma.”
😷 Working the Phones: Washington Post reporter Greg Jaffe details how Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) worked the phones to bring more N95 masks from China for hospital workers in her district as the national stockpile of emergency medical equipment failed to satisfy the needs of Michigan’s hospitals. [WashPost]
👀 2024 Watch: Politico’s Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine explore the path ahead for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), whose role as the chairman of the Small Business Committee is now in the spotlight, and who said he is still interested in another run for president “one day.” [Politico]✍️ Long Read: Writing in The New Republic, Peter E. Gordon expounds upon the legacy of Karl Marx in light of a new biography focusing on his Jewish roots by Shlomo Avineri, where he wonders “how Marx might have judged the stirrings of nationalist sentiment that were to transform Jewish history after his death.” [NewRepublic]
Around the Web
🚫 Fighting Hate: The White House has designated a Russian white supremacist group, the Russian Imperial Movement, as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” and imposed sanctions on its members after the urging of House members led by Rep. Max Rose (D-NY).
↕️ Turning Wheel: Forbes published a list of hedge funds that were impacted both positively and negatively in March due to the COVID-19 shutdown.
⚔️ Persian Pride: The Iranian regime has rejected offers from the U.S. for humanitarian assistance in dealing with the virus: “Iran has never asked and will not ask America to help Tehran in its fight against the outbreak,” a government spokesman said Monday. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approved the withdrawal of €1 billion from the country’s sovereign wealth fund in Europe to help fight the epidemic.
💉 Choosing Life: Omar Barghouti, the leader of the BDS movement, said in a webinar on Sunday that it is “not a problem” for BDS supporters to use medical equipment from Israel to fight the deadly virus.
🏠 Home Rest: The Israeli government announced a nationwide lockdown and curfew for citizens over the first days of Passover from Tuesday evening through Friday morning. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address that he hopes to gradually loosen restrictions after the holiday.
🤝 Coalition Conundrum: Though a final coalition deal has not yet been reached between Likud and Blue and White, the sides have reportedly agreed to an approach on implementing West Bank annexation in the wake of President Donald Trump’s peace plan.
👴 Feeding Our Elderly: The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty has partnered with Uber to deliver 500 Passover meals to homebound Holocaust survivors.
✡️ Passover Prep: In the Washington Post, Daniel Drezner argues that “in a year of plague,” perhaps Passover restrictions should be loosened, while Julie Zauzmer spotlights a Mexican Jewish family living in Maryland who are readying for their first Zoom Seder.
📚 Do It Yourself: The New York Times has published a guide to the wide array of unique and specialty Haggadahs available for Seders of all stripes.
📦 Coming to You: Chabad has partnered with Deliveroo to distribute “Seder in a Box” kits across the U.K. and Ireland.
⛓️ Talk of the Town: The Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from Texas death row inmate Randy Halprin, who argued that he deserved a new trial because the judge was biased against Jews.
🚉 Talk of the Nation: The Supreme Court also declined to take up a case about banning religious advertising on the D.C. Metro.
🏦 Bold Moves: The Bank of Israel cut interest rates yesterday to an all-time low of just above zero, and hinted that moving to a negative interest rate “is no longer taboo.”
🚄 Full Speed Ahead: With trains shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Israeli Transportation Authority was able to complete the next link of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high-speed railway earlier than planned.
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: New Labour leader Keir Starmer hosted a video conversation today with Jewish groups about the best ways to stamp out antisemitism within the party.
🖼️ Back on the Market: After the heirs of a German Jewish banker recently won restitution of a Picasso drawing from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the artwork is now for sale for at least $10 million.
📺 New Buy: ViacomCBS has acquired the Israeli production company and pay-channel provider Ananey Communications Group.
📽️ Hollywood: The Hollywood Reporter reviews “Shiva Baby,” an indie feature that was supposed to premiere at the now-canceled SXSW, about awkward encounters at a shiva house.
👩 Transition: Holly Huffnagle has been appointed U.S. director for combating antisemitism at the American Jewish Committee. Huffnagle served as assistant director of AJC in Los Angeles, and previously worked at the State Department as policy advisor to the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, and as a researcher at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
🕯️ Remembering: Isaiah Kuperstein, the father of NBC New York anchor Adam Kuperstein and a noted Holocaust historian, died of coronavirus complications at age 70.
Gif of the Day
At the behest of the Haifa municipality, a rabbi, a priest, an imam and the spiritual leader of the Druze community gathered together outside the Bahá’í Gardens to pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic.
Reporter covering the White House and Washington for Politico, Daniel Lippman turns 30…
Political activist and former U.S. military analyst, in 1971 he released the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg turns 89… Professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt University, Marilyn Ann Friedman turns 75… Retired president of Yale University (1993-2013), then CEO of education company Coursera until 2017, Richard Charles “Rick” Levin turns 73… Brookline, Massachusetts resident, Jonathan Ruby turns 68… Born in Haifa, a historian and professor at Pennsylvania State University since 1981, Simon J. Bronner turns 66… Los Angeles-based casting director, Jane Sobo turns 62… Director of project staffing at Tower Legal Solutions in Addison, Texas, Ilene Robin Breitbarth turns 58…
Member of the House of Commons of Canada from the Winnipeg area, Martin B. Morantz turns 58… Washington, D.C. bureau chief at Insider Inc. since last month, following 10 years at Politico, Darren Samuelsohn turns 45… Chicago-based progressive activist, he is a co-founder of Project Shema, Oren Jacobson turns 38… Travel expert and founder of Pretentious Pocket, a silk pocket square business, Justin Ross Lee turns 37… Public relations specialist at CACI International, Gregory Hellman turns 34… MBA candidate at the Kellogg School of Management in the class of 2021, Marissa Wizig turns 28… Professional golfer who joined the PGA Tour in 2015 when he won Rookie of the Year, Daniel Berger turns 27… David Farahi turns 26…