Good Monday morning!
Yom HaShoah, Israel’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust, begins this evening. Due to the coronavirus, Yad Vashem will be broadcasting its pre-recorded ceremony at 8 p.m. local time.
Happening today at 12:30 p.m. EDT: “Fauda” co-creators Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff will join us for their first live conversation on the show’s new season. Dan Senor will moderate. There are a few slots remaining; register here to join. There will be a Q&A portion but no spoilers for season 3.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on CNN’s “State of the Union” yesterday, addressed a possible primary challenge by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY): “Look, throughout my career, I have done my job. I’m totally focused on this COVID. We are the epicenter. And I have found, throughout my career, you do your job well, everything else works out OK.”
Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Noach Deardied after weeks battling the coronavirus. Dear served as a member of the New York City Council from 1983–2001. In 1998, he ran in a Democratic congressional primary that chose the successor to then-Rep. Schumer, who was elected to the Senate.
Schumer tells Jewish Insider: “Noach Dear served our community with zeal and compassion. My heartfelt condolences go out to all who knew and loved him, and to the many who worked alongside him. His far-reaching and meaningful contributions to our city — and to Brooklyn — will never be forgotten.”
☂ Change: The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has nominated Dianne Lob, the immediate past chair of HIAS, as its next chairperson.
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driving the convo
As Biden seeks party unity, where will his foreign policy land?
Former Vice President Joe Biden is reportedly moving to embrace several foreign policy positions championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders as he seeks to unify the party ahead of the general election campaign. According to a report in Foreign Policy, a group of advisors from the Biden campaign have been in contact with Sanders advisors to discuss a unified foreign policy platform. Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh spoke with several pro-Israel Democrats and Sanders supporters about their expectations from Biden when it comes to the Middle East.
Natural shift: Joel Rubin, who served as director for Jewish outreach for the Sanders campaign, told JI his personal backing of Biden was natural given his track record of inclusion and adapting to new circumstances. “The Democratic Party is not at all split in two,” Rubin explained. Rubin, who also served in the Obama administration as the State Department’s chief liaison to the House of Representatives, described the former vice president as a “natural” partner, who is “absorbing the progressive base that Bernie mobilized” because of his track record of “being able to listen, adapt and lead.”
Token of approval: On Friday, the Biden campaign promoted an endorsement from J Street, marking the first time the dovish group has endorsed a candidate for the country’s top office. Ben Shnider, vice president of political affairs at J Street, told JI on Sunday that the decision to endorse the eventual nominee was taken months ago by the board once they “had a feel [for] where the field was” and the views the top candidates held on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Once Sanders quit the race, Shnider said, “we knew that we wanted to get to work as quickly as possible” to support Biden. “We have full confidence in Biden to lead on our issues once in office.”
Look at the record: Democratic Majority for Israel CEO Mark Mellman maintained that Biden is not shifting his position on Israel-related issues to appeal to the party’s left flank. “Biden has a responsibility to unite the party. At the same time, on foreign policy he has a long record, personal expertise and a personal commitment, and I don’t think that anybody coming in as an advisor, or in any other capacity, is going to change those long-standing views,” Mellman told JI. “His views have been very clear and very strong for a long time.”
The Dem base that matters: Arab American Institute President James Zogby, a longtime Sanders supporter, suggested that Biden’s Mideast policy will be influenced by what happens in the region, in particular if Israel annexes the West Bank, and by the “shifting debate” in the party on Israel. “Regardless of what Biden himself may have said in the past, or done at any time, there is a growing current of opposition to business as usual, and the direction of Israel at this point — maintaining the occupation while keeping a low profile so it doesn’t aggravate the U.S. — is business as usual on steroids,” Zogby said. “I believe in a Democratic administration there will be consequences for Israeli behavior.”
The Biden I know: Jack Rosen, a longtime donor to Democratic candidates who hosted a fundraiser for Biden last year, told JI that given that Biden “hasn’t moved away from his strong position” on Israel, “I don’t think he’s going to be moved by J Street’s endorsement or Sanders’ advisors… Joe Biden has a long-standing bond with Israel. I don’t think that alters,” he explained. “Obama, he didn’t have that long history with Israel. He didn’t have enough time to bond with Israel. I don’t think you will see Joe Biden threatening Israel, embarrassing Israel, using a U.N. vote to press Israel. It will be a different tone, and as we learned, tone matters.”
Read more takes on Biden’s approach here.
Inbox: The Republican Jewish Coalition, for its part, blasted out an email yesterday with the subject line: “Anti-Israel Joe Biden”
Major philanthropists launch $80 million initiative to support Jewish non-profits
A consortium of leading Jewish communal philanthropists will announce today an initiative to provide upwards of $80 million in interest-free loans and grants to shore up Jewish organizations struggling to cope with the economic fallout of the coronavirus.
Who’s who: The Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund (JCRIF), is supported by seven major foundations, including the Aviv Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation, the Jim Joseph Foundation, Maimonides Fund, the Paul E. Singer Foundation, and the Wilf Family Foundation.
How it works: The program will be divided in two, with a loan program based at the Nonprofit Finance Fund, providing payroll and basic operational assistance for non-profits in the coming months. The grant program, which is being headed by the Natan Fund’s Felicia Herman, will provide supplementary grants and emergency and strategic funding.
Addressing the need: “We recognize the dire health and economic needs that the pandemic has created and applaud the heroic efforts by so many to address them,” the funders said in a joint statement. “We have also seen firsthand the acute challenges Jewish organizations across the country are facing. While this fund alone cannot address all of those challenges, we believe that investing together in these vital pillars of Jewish life will help ensure a stronger future for American Jewry in the months and years to come.”
Unprecedented: The move surprised even those in the philanthropic world, where foundations tend to operate independently. “This is a real statement that it’s not business as usual. And we recognize it’s not business as usual,” one foundation insider told JI. “Everyone’s putting aside their autonomy and their idiosyncrasies and saying ‘this isn’t going to be perfect, but it’s going to allow us to take an Am Yisrael approach at a time that calls for an Am Yisrael moment.’”
Bonus: Marc Andreessen of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz writes, “Every Western institution was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic, despite many prior warnings. This monumental failure of institutional effectiveness will reverberate for the rest of the decade, but it’s not too early to ask why, and what we need to do about it.”
Composer Dana Sandler channels Theresienstadt poetry on Yom HaShoah
Jazz composer Dana Sandler first read I Never Saw Another Butterfly — a collection of poems written by children who lived in the Theresienstadt concentration camp — when she was 14. Sandler spoke to Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel about her motivation decades later in recording her debut album, a musical interpretation of the collection, which will be released tomorrow to coincide with Yom HaShoah.
Anger, hope: “I went through all these emotions,” Sandler, now 39, told JI in a phone interview from her home in the Boston area, where she lives with her husband and two children. “Sadness, horror, the chilling effect, the anger, hope, beauty, everything — and it just raised a lot of questions for me as a kid, being grateful for living in a time that we were living in and being able to learn from this.”
Some escape: Despite the heavy source material, Sandler told JI that she didn’t set out to disturb her listeners. “I wanted it to be beautiful,” she said of the album, adding that she made a conscious decision not to compose on days that were dark and dreary. Sandler believes that goal was faithful to the spirit of the collection. “You can see in the poems that some of them are finding beauty in their circumstances,” she mused, “and they’re finding some escape.”
Never forget: She feels an obligation to preserve the memory of the Holocaust, particularly at a time when the number of Holocaust survivors is dwindling. “We need to keep these stories alive,” said Sandler, who has relatives who were killed in Auschwitz. “I wanted my children to be able to access it and to be able to sing along with it,” Sandler told JI of her first record. “I wanted people to be able to connect to it in a different way, so that when they listened to it, it would be something that could be stuck in their head that they would want to sing for years and pass on and for it to be remembered.”
RJC withdraws its only endorsement of a GOP primary challenger over racist tweets
Todd McMurtry, who was the first congressional challenger to receive the backing of the Republican Jewish Coalition, lost the group’s endorsement after a few short weeks due to a series of controversial past tweets.
Details: McMurtry is challenging libertarian Rep. Thomas Massie in the June 23 Republican primary for Kentucky’s 4th congressional district. The RJC announced last month it was backing McMurtry as a result of Massie’s troubling voting record on Israel, Holocaust education legislation and his bucking of party leadership on coronavirus relief matters. But following the revelation of tweets by McMurty containing racist tropes and anti-immigrant sentiments, the Jewish group withdrew its endorsement.
Quote: “The RJC has consistently spoken out against hate, bigotry and racism,” the organization tweeted on Saturday. “As a result of troubling comments that have come to light by congressional candidate Todd McMurtry which don’t share our values or the values of the GOP, we are asking for a refund and withdrawing our PAC support.”
Pulling back: House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH) have also requested the return of their contributions to the McMurtry campaign.
Losing support: Political action committee Pro-Israel America also endorsed McMurtry earlier this month, and then withdrew that endorsement last night. “We are concerned by Todd McMurtry’s statements that have come forward this week, as these don’t reflect our values,” the organization tweeted. “We are withdrawing our endorsement and requesting reimbursement for contributions from our PAC.”
McMurtry’s response: In a statement to JI, McMurtry claimed he’s a victim of media bias. “My wife is Puerto Rican. My kids are bilingual. But the New York Times wants to call me a racist. That’s what they do to conservatives,” the candidate said. “Well, I’m not going to let them intimidate me. I’m going to vote for Kentucky and in support of President Trump, and Thomas Massie won’t.”
🌊 Dipping Doubts: Emma Green writes in The Atlantic about the issue facing many Orthodox families amid the coronavirus pandemic: the mikvah. “For these women, the quarantine has set up an impossible choice between protecting their health and upholding their faith.” [TheAtlantic]
❤️ Love Story: In The Washington Post, Michael S. Rosenwald tells the tale of the love story linked to the establishment of unemployment payments in the U.S. Elizabeth Brandeis, the daughter of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, and Paul Raushenbush, the son of theologian Walter Rauschenbusch, fell in love, married, and also drafted legislation that formed the basis of the nation’s first unemployment compensation law. [WashPost]
🕵️ Big Brother:Yediot Aharonot’s Ronen Bergman sat down with Edward Snowden, who said Israelis should be furious over the country’s coronavirus surveillance efforts. “What Netanyahu is doing today by using the Shin Bet database is more dangerous than the coronavirus.” [Yediot]
🇯🇴 Face to Face: Rob Satloff, executive director at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, revealed the never-before-told story of his 1996 discussion with then-Jordanian King Hussein over his successor. “He told me in words that were crystal clear that he eventually planned to change the order of royal succession and restore his eldest son to the role of future king… a bombshell about who would serve as Jordan’s next king.” [AmericanInterest]
Around the Web
✡️ Oldest Hatred: Antisemitism experts tellThe Associated Press that the coronavirus has led to a spike in anti-Jewish sentiments around the world.
🕯️Holocaust Remembrance: The annual memorial events for the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising were scaled down on Sunday and moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
📈 Outperforming: Jim Simons’s Medallion hedge fund, Renaissance Technologies, gained 9.9% in March despite a brutal month for the stock market, totalling a 24% gain year to date.
📨 Junk Mail: Billionaire hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb blasted the Federal Reserve in his latest quarterly letter to investors for its decision to buy shares in exchange-traded funds in the junk bond market.
🧫 Stepping in:Bloomberg opinion columnist Michael Lewis visited the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, led by Joe DeRisi, a biochemist at the University of California at San Francisco, which is processing 2,500 coronavirus tests a day.
💸 Helping Hand: George Soros has pledged more than $130 million toward coronavirus relief, including $37 million to help at-risk populations in New York City.
⛓️ Back Behind Bars: John Michael Rathbun, the Massachusetts man charged with a white supremacist plot to firebomb a Jewish nursing home, has been ordered back to jail by a federal judge.
🤝 A-Team: California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s economic recovery task force includes former presidential contender Tom Steyer, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Disney chairman Bob Iger and others.
🤳 Start-Up Nation:The Seattle Times explores the deep ties between the tech sectors in Israel and Seattle, and the lingering questions surrounding the usage of facial recognition technology.
🍷L’Chaim:Archie Gottesman, the co-founder of JewBelong, talks to The New Yorker about her popular Zoom Seder which even drew Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).
😷 Talk of the Town: A nurse at the Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation in Queens, New York, shared with The Daily Beast photos of the dire situation at the nursing home, which has recorded 38 coronavirus-related deaths.
😢 Lives Lost: Leaders of the Orthodox Jewish and Latinx communities in Lakewood estimate that more than 50 of its residents have died of COVID-19.
🛍️ Return to Normal? Israel has begun lifting some of its coronavirus restrictions, restarting limited public transport, allowing some hi-tech workers to return to the office and some stores to reopen under strict guidelines.
⚔️ Protecting Borders:Israel accused Hezbollah of “provocative” activity along the Lebanese-Israeli border over the weekend and said it would complain to the U.N. Security Council.
👩🚀 Down to Earth: Jewish astronaut Jessica Meir landed safely in a remote area of Kazakhstan early Friday after spending 205 days in space, and flew back to Houston aboard a NASA plane.
🗳️ 2020 Watch: With the help of Trump backers, controversial conservative activist Laura Loomer is gaining traction in her bid to unseat incumbent Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) in Florida’s 21st congressional district.
🥋 Sports Blink: Israeli judo Olympian Sagi Muki is training at home after the one-year delay in the Tokyo Olympics, and auctioning off belts and badges to raise money for ventilators for hospitals in his hometown of Netanya, ESPN reports.
🙅♀️ Repeated Denial: Former deputy national security advisor Victoria Coates has denied new allegations, published by Real Clear Investigations, that she has been identified as the author of Anonymous.
👩💼 Transition: Simone Ledeen, former director for special operations at the Defense Department, has been tapped as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy.
Pic of the Day
Wearing face masks and waving black flags while keeping two yards apart, thousands of Israelis demonstrated against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv yesterday.
Swiss physicist and Nobel Prize laureate, Karl Alexander Müller turns 93…
Chairman of the media networks division of Activision Blizzard, Steve Bornstein turns 68… Immigrants’ rights activist and professor at Salem State University, she is the eldest daughter of Noam Chomsky, Aviva Chomsky turns 63… Host of “The Steve Malzberg Show,” a news and opinion show on Newsmax TV, Steve Malzberg turns 61… President and executive director of the DC-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, Marc Rotenberg turns 60… Founder and CEO of e-commerce website Fig Tree & Vine, Danielle Crittenden Frum turns 57… Semi-professional race car driver and restaurateur, he was previously president and chairman of the Trust Company of New Jersey, Alan Wilzig turns 55…
Television personality and game show host, J.D. Roth (born as James David Weinroth) turns 52… Israeli jazz bassist and composer, Avishai Cohen turns 50… British film director, Sarah Gavron turns 50… Member of the Florida House of Representatives, Randy Fine turns 46… Director of development at Democratic Majority for Israel, Elliott G. Mendes turns 39… New York-based human rights lawyer, Irina Tsukerman turns 35… General manager of Bird in Israel, Yaniv Rivlin… Evening breaking news editor at CNN Politics, Kyle Feldscher turns 32… Systems engineer at Google X, Joseph Gettinger turns 32… Facilitator and workshop organizer, Daniela Kate Plattner turns 31…
Data and analytics manager for Climate Action Campaign DC, David Mariutto turns 30… Real estate executive and bread baker @BermTheBaker, Alex Berman turns 30… Israeli swimwear designer and model, Neta Alchimister turns 26… Singer and actress, at 13 years old she was the runner-up on the second season of “The X Factor,” Carly Rose Sonenclar turns 21… Diane Kahan… Strategic partner manager at Taboola, McKenna Klein… VP of government and public affairs at Cleveland-based GBX Group, Seth Foster Unger turns 41…DC-based strategic communications consultant, Michael C. Frohlich turns 40…Associate attorney in the DC office of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Zachary L. Baum turns 32… (h/ts Playbook)