Good Monday morning!
Ed note: As we continue to celebrate Passover, we remain on a holiday publishing schedule. The next Daily Kickoff will be on Friday.
Israel’s former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doronwas mourned by Israeli leaders after dying of coronavirus complications yesterday at age 79.
Israel inched closer to holding a fourth consecutive election, after President Reuven Rivlin yesterday rejected Benny Gantz’s request for a 14-day extension to form a government, and talks between Likud and Blue and White reached a stalemate.
This week marks 75 years since the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was liberated by British soldiers.
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meet the candidate
Former Obama staffer Suraj Patel tries his luck again against Rep. Maloney
Suraj Patel — who is mounting his second consecutive campaign to challenge Rep. Carolyn Maloney in the June 23rd Democratic primary for New York’s 12th congressional district — discussed his personal battle with the coronavirus and touted his pro-Israel credentials in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh.
Background: Patel, 36, is the president of Sun Development & Management, a hotel management company founded by his father in 1989, and a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business. He joined Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008 as a field organizer and later served on the White House advance team, before heading back to Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. A political unknown in 2018, Patel received 40% of the vote in the 2018 primary, but fell short of defeating the longtime incumbent. Patel has raised more than $480,000 for his second congressional bid, according to the most recent FEC filings. Two other candidates — Lauren Ashcraft and Peter Harrison — are also challenging the 14-term congresswoman.
A COVID-19 survivor: Last month, Patel began to notice the onset of coronavirus symptoms. Patel’s brother, who is also his roommate, is an emergency room doctor. “Luckily, in my case, my doctor lives one bedroom away,” Patel told Jewish Insider in a recent phone interview. The Patels got tested at home and sent the samples to a private lab. Days later, the results came in: Both brothers tested positive for the coronavirus. “I had a 102-degree fever and difficulty breathing,” Patel said. “We were all sick for about five days.”
Uphill battle: Maloney, one of the senior members of New York’s congressional delegation, is admired in her district and has longstanding ties to the Jewish community. She was the main sponsor of the Never Again Education Act, which bolsters and expands the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s educational programming, and directs the museum to dedicate an online repository of lesson plans to give teachers the resources and training to teach the Holocaust. Maloney was one of the first candidates to be endorsed by Democratic Majority for Israel.
Pro-Israel bona fides: In the interview, Patel vowed to be a defender of the U.S.-Israel relationship “in the same way” Maloney is. “Our communities have a strong bond, as my parents are Hindu-Americans whose immigrant experience in this country very closely mirrors that of the Jews a couple of generations before us.” Patel pointed out that as a college student in 2003, he signed on to a letter published by members of the Stanford Israel Alliance affirming Israel’s right to exist as a democratic independent state in the Middle East and disavowed “what was the beginning” of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. “Long before I ever contemplated running for office — in college — I was pro-Israel,” he stressed.
Read the full profile here.
Jewish nonprofits plagued by anxiety and uncertainty amid coronavirus
The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has left Jewish community leaders around the country scrambling to remain operational and concerned for their long-term survival. Jewish Insider’s Debra Nussbaum Cohen spoke with a wide range of non-profits about the struggles they’re facing.
Perfect storm: “The future for Jewish non-profits is very scary because it’s a perfect storm,” said Felicia Herman, executive director of The Natan Fund, a Jewish giving circle that includes about 70 families and individual donors and distributes close to $1,000,000 a year. “It’s the inability to deliver programs, inability to earn revenue, donors worried about their own position and institutional foundations whose endowments have decreased. Every single way you bring in money is imperiled.”
Cutting back: The New Israel Fund has furloughed more than half its Israel-based staff for two months, and cut the salaries of its U.S. employees in April and May. More than 700 employees at four San Francisco-area JCCs have been temporarily laid off, as have nearly all the 178 employees of the Kaiserman JCC in suburban Philadelphia. The Zionist Organization of America is waiting until after Passover to consider layoffs, while Hands of Peace is taking a “gap year” off its operations.
Desperate for donors: Executives at Jewish non-profits that depend primarily on individual donors are gravely concerned. As much as 90% of donations to J Street come from individuals rather than foundations, Jeremy Ben-Ami, the organization’s president, told JI. J Street’s planned 2020 budget of $9 million has already been trimmed by about $1 million because there is no travel for meetings or paying speakers, Ben-Ami told JI. He said he is seeing where else the budget can be trimmed in order to avoid layoffs.
Shaky future: “I’m 100% sure there are Jewish non-profits that won’t survive this,” Herman told JI. “It’s not a sector that can withstand economic hardship. How many non-profits have endowments or cash reserves? What we’ve learned in the last few weeks is that the financial model of restaurants are the same for non-profits. They don’t generally have cash cushions” to see them through major drops in funding. If the current economic crisis goes on long enough, “it will force mergers,” Herman said. “It will enable a tremendous amount of innovation. It will unleash a huge amount of creativity.”
Star-studded online Seder raises coronavirus funds
A veritable who’s who of Jewish — and non-Jewish — celebrities showed up for a “Saturday Night Seder” on YouTube this past weekend. The dozens of famous faces gathered — virtually — to tell the story of Passover and raise funds for the CDC Foundation. As of Monday morning, the show had been viewed more than one million times and raised more than $2 million.
Laugh track: The show opened with host Jason Alexander, who welcomed via song those who are “stressed by all the stories that you hear on cable news/ Well it’s time to trade the cable for a table full of Jews.” Singer Josh Groban, who admitted he is not a member of the tribe, sang that the goal is “to come together as one glorious mishpacha/ And guilt you into giving some tzedaka.”
Best bits: Fran Drescher demonstrated how to wash your hands to “The Nanny” theme song, Nick Kroll joked that his favorite part of “being a Jew is controlling the banks and the media,” Bette Midler showed up as a joke-cracking, pitch-perfect prophet Elijah, Andy Cohen led a virtual afikomen hunt and Josh Malina urged views to “give some tzedaka, motherf***er.”
Serious moments: It wasn’t all laughs. Rabbis Sharon Brous and David Wolpe provided insight into the meaning of the holiday, and Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone offered a message of Jewish unity. While Ben Platt sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Judith Light told the story of lyricist Harold Arlen’s immigrant family, as well as the countless immigration tales in Jewish history.
Behind the scenes: The whole event came together in about two weeks, comedian and head writer Alex Edelman told JI. Edelman worked with songwriter Benj Pasek and Broadway performer Adam Kantor, along with a varied and extensive technical team including composer Mark Sonnenblick, audio producer Michael Moritz, producer Rachel Sussman and writer Hannah Friedman to get the program together. The New York Times reveals a handful of anecdotes along the way, including Alexander’s wife forgetting to hit the record button, and producers making sure Groban hit the guttural “ch” in Chad Gadya. Edelman told JI that the writers in the Zoom room “screamed” when Bette Midler agreed to play Elijah. “She said the script word for word and she gave a couple of riffs on it and it was exactly what we wanted.”
Family connection: Edelman’s father, who runs the intensive care unit at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, appears at the end of the show. “He’s one of the people coordinating the responses of Massachusetts hospitals and universities to COVID. He was going into the hospital every day and then he’d come home and I’d be set up at my computer working on it. And so a lot of those nurses [in the video] are his nurses.”
🎢 Roller Coaster Ride:The New York Times’s Ben Smith examines how Bob Iger has stepped up toward more actively running and “remaking” Disney operations just weeks after giving up the CEO title, as the company is hit particularly hard by the global coronavirus shutdown. [NYTimes]
🖋️ View from New York: Frimet Goldberger, a writer and former member of the Kiryas Joel Hasidic community, describes in The New York Times the challenge of social distancing in the ultra-Orthodox community, and how the precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are at odds with communal and ritualistic life. [NYTimes]
👴🏻 Bern’ed on Hilltop: Foreign Policy’s Michael Hirsch explores the impact and legacy of Bernie Sanders’s run for president, who ended “his hopes to become the first Jewish American president” on the eve of Passover. [ForeignPolicy]
🌉 Long Read: In New York Magazine, Sarah Weinman tells the story of Estelle Evans, a woman who jumped to her death from a bridge in 1966 after discovering the man she had been having an affair with — Meir Kahane — was married and ending their relationship. [NYMag]
Around the Web
📞 Speed Dial: Associated Press reporter Jill Colvin details how connections with the Trump administration helped steer medical supplies and protective gear to New York. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) revealed that Jared Kushner reached out to him “within minutes” after tweeting that Long Island was in critical need of PPE.
👂 Behind the Scenes:NBC Newsreports on how Kushner’s White House’s pandemic response team has favored large corporations, operated without oversight and sown confusion among governors and local officials.
💵 Giving Back:Mark Zuckerberg and his wife have donated $1 million to efforts to fight the coronavirus in Hawaii, where they own a home.
✌️ Positive News:Eli Beer, founder of United Hatzalah of Israel, who was intubated in a Miami hospital with coronavirus for three weeks, has regained consciousness and spoken to his family in Israel.
🕵️ Secret Mission:The New York Times details the “outsize role” the Mossad has played in Israel’s COVID-19 response, including acquiring medical equipment already ordered by other countries.
⛔ Jerusalem Lockdown: Israel has locked down most ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem, heavily restricting travel in an effort to stop the further spread of the virus.
💡 End of the Tunnel? Israeli finance officials predict the country’s economy will begin a slow, gradual return to normalcy after Passover.
🏥 ER Fear:Investigative journalist Ronen Bergman writes in The New York Times about how his fears over bringing his elderly father to an Israeli hospital amid a pandemic led to a dangerous delay in treatment.
🕊️ Peace Through Courage: Rami Aman, leader of the Gaza Youth Committee that has been organizing small-scale video chats with Israelis under an initiative called “Skype With Your Enemy,” has been arrested by Hamas in Gaza after hosting a Zoom call with 200 participants. A Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman said the call amounted to the “betrayal of our people and their sacrifices.”
💵 New Deal: Israeli defense company Elbit Systems has been awarded two contracts worth $20 million from Latin American customers.
👎 Hate Continues:The FBI is investigating vandalism at two synagogues in Alabama — Etz Chayim in South Huntsville and Chabad of Huntsville — over the weekend.
✍️ Never Forget: 75 years after she perished in Bergen-Belsen, Anne Frank’s diary remains more relevant than ever around the globe, AFP reports.
🙇🏽♂️ Across the Pond: Labour MP Ian Murray, who was appointed shadow Scottish secretary after Kier Starmer’s election as party leader, apologized for the way his party treated the U.K. Jewish community under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
🏫 Greater Cause:After an investigation, The Ohio State University said it had identified $336,000 in donations from Jeffrey Epstein and his foundation, and will redirect the money to fight human trafficking.
🎧 Brotherly Advice: Hollywood mogul Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor agency is launching a new podcast, “Making the Call,” co-hosted by his brother, Dr. Zeke Emanuel.
📺 Heard on Cable: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — at the start of yet another interview with his brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night — proclaimed: “Happy Passover to you, brother. Next year in Jerusalem, right?” In his closing argument, Chris Cuomo also reflected on Passover amid the coronavirus crisis.
🎥 Show Must Go On: “Shepherded” by producer Lorne Michaels, “Saturday Night Live” returned to the airwaves this weekend with a special at-home quarantine episode.
⛹️♂️ Sports Blink: The New York Postspotlights potential NBA lottery pick Deni Avdija, who joined the IDF earlier this month while Israeli sports are indefinitely on hold.
🎥 Hollywood: Jesse Eisenberg is writing and directing a new film, “When You Finish Saving the World,” starring Julianne Moore.
👨🦲 New ‘Do: Model and activist Karlie Kloss shared a video on Instagram of her shaving husband Joshua Kushner’s head.
👨 Transition: Former longtime House Budget Committee staff director Tom Kahn, who sits on the boards of AJC, Israel Policy Forum and the Jewish Electorate Institute, is joining American University as an adjunct professorial lecturer teaching about Congress and the federal budget.
🕯️ Remembering: Ruth Mandel, a Holocaust survivor who became head of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey, passed away at age 81. S. Fred Singer, a scientist and climate-change skeptic, passed away at age 95. Dario Gabbai, who was notable for his role as a member of the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz, passed away at age 97.
Gif of the Day
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman was among a select group of 10 worshippers who recited the “Priestly Blessing” (Birkat Hakohanim) at the Western Wall on Sunday. Friedman’s attendance did not fully comply with Israel’s quarantine guidelines, which restrict group prayers to those living within 100 meters of the Western Wall.
Resident of Rancho Palos Verdes, California, she spied on the Nazis for the French Free Forces in the latter days of World War II, Marthe Cohn turns 100…
Curator and former director of the Louvre, he is the son-in-law of the late Alain de Rothschild, Pierre Rosenberg turns 84… Geneticist and Nobel Prize laureate, Michael Stuart Brown turns 79… Former CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Gloria Feldt turns 78… Member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2001 (D-CA-53), Susan Carol Alpert Davis turns 76… Actor who won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Vincent in the television series “Beauty and the Beast,” Ron Perlman turns 70… Longtime drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and the bandleader for Conan O’Brien on “The Tonight Show,” Max Weinberg turns 69… Partner in RMS Investment Group, she was previously the Washington D.C. regional chairman for Brookfield Properties and president of Forest City Washington, Deborah Ratner Salzberg turns 67…
Former member of the UK Parliament (1992-2005), Barbara Roche (née Margolis) turns 66… Principal of Dubin & Co. and a founding board member of the Robin Hood Foundation, Glenn Dubin turns 63… Author of six books and co-host of “Democracy Now!,” Amy Goodman turns 63… The youngest-ever Federal Reserve governor, he served from 2006 — 2011, Kevin Warsh turns 50… Guitarist and founding member of the rock group Staind, Aaron Lewis turns 48… Executive director DC’s Sixth & I, Heather Moran turns 47… Staff writer at Tablet magazine, Armin Rosen turns 32… Director of government affairs at CUFI Action Fund, Alexandria Paolozzi turns 31… Senior director of global operations at Dataminr, Morgan Hitzig turns 30… Major gifts officer for OneTable, Lauren Epstein… Chief of staff at the Israel on Campus Coalition, Ian Hersh… Helene Cash…