Good Wednesday morning!
And welcome to April. No fools today.
‘Zoombombing’ is a word you can unfortunately expect to hear more in the coming days. Virtual classes at Yeshiva University were zoombombed by neo-Nazis yesterday, as were livestreamed synagogue services in London. The ADL has a helpful explainer on the trend.
Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) begins his deployment with the National Guard later today as an operations officer assisting in coronavirus response efforts at Staten Island facilities.
Speaking on a conference call hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America yesterday, Rose said, “When I’m a member of Congress, the generals call me ‘sir.’ But when I’m in uniform, I’m just a lowly captain. So I’m going into this with no illusions of grandeur. Just to do my small part and do my duty.”
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The 33-year-old data scientist helping Israel — and the world — fight coronavirus
She’s not a healthcare worker or a government official. But Dr. Kira Radinsky, 33, is at the forefront of Israel’s battle against the novel coronavirus. And she’s hoping to share her new technology with the rest of the world as it fights the global pandemic. Radinsky spoke with Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro about her hi-tech company’s innovative coronavirus-fighting tool.
One-stop shop: Radinsky — Israel’s predictions wunderkind and the co-founder of digital health startup Diagnostic Robotics — has been working day and night to put the finishing touches on a digital platform that is a one-stop shop for managing the disease. Already this week, the company’s COVID360 platform — co-developed with Israeli teams from Deloitte and Salesforce — is beginning to roll out in Israel, billed as an “end-to-end centralized solution for corona treatment.”
Begins at home: The new COVID360 platform starts at home — on smartphones to be exact — helping to both reduce the overload on the medical system and cut the risk of further spreading the infection. “The way it works today, is there’s a text message being sent to all people with a questionnaire,” Radinsky said. Based on the information gathered about symptoms, daily interactions and location, “we create an epidemiological map for the decision makers.” That map helps the software “predict — using machine learning — how the disease is going to spread and in which areas.”
Going global: Radinsky said Diagnostic Robotics has been approached by several countries interested in utilizing the platform in their own fight against COVID-19. “So many countries have approached us about giving access to the system,” she said. “It’s really important for me to convey that Israel is reaching out to additional countries offering our help. If anybody needs help, and our system can be helpful for them, we will be helping them.” The platform is web-based and already available in multiple languages, and ready to be distributed as widely as possible. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff tweeted that the platform is free and ready for use by those in need.
Decision making: The map and predictive AI tool is based on not just locally gathered information, but also the trajectory of the disease in other countries. “We have all the information coming from South Korea, Italy and Israel,” Radinsky said. “So using AI, we can see how the disease progresses for different people and identify COVID symptoms very early on.” Based on the generated map, “people can build better decision making and understand how it’s going to spread,” Radinsky explained. “So if there are certain areas that need more isolation, and if certain areas need more masks or more tests, this is the only way of making such decisions.”
Message to American Jews: “People in New York, the Jewish community there: We have the technology, we’re willing to give it to you,” Radinsky said. “We will not charge for the software. If you want to reach out to us, we’re here to help.”
Elsewhere: Alex Karp’s big data firm Palantir is providing a coronavirus-monitoring app to the CDC based on “anonymized data” from hospitals and health care agencies.
Driving the convo
GOP senators irked by White House’s renewal of Iran sanctions waivers
Middle East experts and GOP senators weighed in on the Trump administration’s decision on Tuesday to renew Iran sanctions waivers to allow Russian, Chinese and European companies to conduct work at Iranian nuclear sites for another 60 days.
Behind the scenes:The Associated Pressreported on Tuesday that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “prevailed” in an internal debate with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who reportedly opposed extending the waivers. Mnuchin maintained that the coronavirus pandemic made revoking the waivers “unpalatable” at a time when the administration is being criticized for refusing to ease economic sanctions on Iran.
On the Hill: Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) called the move “disappointing” in comments to Jewish Insider. “As Iran continues to violate its commitments, the U.S. should ensure that the regime in Tehran does not receive any support for its nuclear program from Russia, China, and other foreign countries,” Rubio said, calling on the White House to “end these waivers and continue maximum pressure against the Iranian regime.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told JI through a spokesperson that “the officials inside the Trump administration who continue to push for these waivers are committed to preserving the catastrophic Obama-Iran nuclear deal, contrary to what President Trump has called for.”
Same deal, different owner: Richard Goldberg, a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, described the move as an attempt to preserve the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. “Four years ago the president declared his top priority would be to dismantle the Iran nuclear deal. Four years later, his administration is keeping the deal alive, extending sanctions waivers for key JCPOA projects and refusing to end the deal’s dangerous sunsets at the Security Council,” Goldberg told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh. “At some point, it’s difficult to call it Obama’s Iran deal if the Trump administration adopts a policy of keeping the deal alive. These waivers serve no other purpose than to legitimize an illicit nuclear program and keep our European allies addicted to the old deal.”
Economic considerations: Fred Zeidman, a Houston-based GOP donor, told JI that despite being a proponent of ending all waivers on Iran, he believes that this time the administration made the right call. “We have so many things right now that are hurting our economy. I think this is the wrong time to do anything that is going to automatically cost Americans their jobs,” Zeidman explained. “I think 60 days is not an eternity.”
Squad & co: Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ed Markey (D-MA), along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI), among 34 lawmakers, sent a congressional letter to Pompeo and Mnuchin, asking the administration to suspend sanctions on entities that “encompass major sectors of the Iranian economy.”
Rebuttal: FDD’s Mark Dubowitz and Richard Goldberg argue against suspending Iran sanctions. “Exploiting Iran’s coronavirus crisis to demand an end to sanctions is fundamentally dishonest—and panders to a brutal regime,” they write.
meet the candidate
Amid a pandemic, a Boston physician takes on a popular incumbent in Congress
For physician and researcher Robbie Goldstein, the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic comes at a unique moment, for both him and the country. Goldstein is seeking to unseat longtime Rep. Stephen Lynch, challenging him on the ballot when Democratic voters in Massachusetts’s 8th congressional district head to the polls on September 1. In a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh, Goldstein elaborated on his experience in the healthcare industry.
Background: Goldstein, 36, was born and raised in Pittsford, a suburb of Rochester, New York. The son of a dentist, he had his bar mitzvah at Temple Sinai, a local Reform congregation. After graduating from college and medical school at Tufts University, he trained in internal medicine and infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he then stayed on as a faculty member. For the past five years, Goldstein has served as the medical director of the Transgender Health Program at Mass. General.
Popular incumbent: Goldstein is challenging Lynch, a socially conservative moderate Democrat, who has served in Congress for nearly two decades. Lynch, who represented the 9th district until restricting in 2010, won his 2018 re-election bid with 71% of the vote.
Trending: In the interview with JI, Goldstein compared himself to Marie Newman, a progressive candidate who defeated moderate Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) in the Democratic primary in Illinois’s 3rd district earlier this month. “There’s a limited space — and I would say no space — in the Democratic Party for an anti-choice Democrat, for somebody who is going to stand against what the Democrat Party feels is so important.”
No on conditioning aid: Goldstein said he would not support conditioning military aid to Israel as a means to put pressure on settlement expansion or in the wake of West Bank annexation. “We need to make it very clear to Israel that we will support them, and conditioning aid to Israel, I think, does pull back on some of that support,” he explained. “But we also have to be very clear that there are consequences and there are lines that Israel cannot cross.”
Smooth transition: Goldstein described the transition from medicine to politics as “eye-opening” but also “very comfortable.” There are “certainly things that happen in politics and happen in campaigning that I’m just not used to,” he told JI. “But there are other things that feel just like being in the hospital. I don’t mind not sleeping. I don’t mind getting called in the middle of the night and I don’t mind being on the go 24 hours a day.”
CoronaCrush seeks to spark romance amid isolation
Last week, Ariela Abesara was on a date, watching the sunset from the balcony of her Tel Aviv apartment. The 28-year-old, who works at insurance startup Lemonade, was drinking tea; her date was having wine. The conversation was going well. Pretty standard as far as dates go, except for one thing: They weren’t actually together. The date, which took place virtually on FaceTime, had been arranged through a private Facebook group called “CoronaCrush – creating Jewish couples in quarantine,” launched about a week ago by a group of friends in New York and Israel.
Chuppah-bound: “The whole goal of the group is really for people to meet each other, go out on Zoom dates, and potentially turn it into a serious relationship,” co-founder Bracha Katsof, 29, told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. “And to do it in a fun way with a little bit of humor.” Since its launch, the private group has grown considerably, with more than 2,600 members as of this writing, including people in France, England, South America, New York, California and Israel.
Romantic backdrop: Ben Lang, who helped create the group — and is the man behind International Hummus Day — said he and his friends have been trying to help members set the mood. Recently they shared a post instructing users on how to change their Zoom backgrounds — to a lake, for example — in order to conjure a more romantic setting. “I think people are just really enjoying it because they’re going on a dating experience but on a more social, connected platform,” said Lang, who is 26 and works at a technology company. “And people are craving that right now.”
Finding their bashert: So far, there are no success stories, though Katsof said she is certain that some matches on CoronaCrush will result in marriage. “I’ll be really happy,” she told JI. Abesara’s date didn’t quite work out, but she’s still optimistic about the project. “I really think this — maybe not for me personally but maybe for other people — could result in a lot of success stories.”
📜 Historical Horrors: Elizabeth Kolbert writes inThe New Yorker about the way past pandemics, plagues and outbreaks have shaped the course of human history. During the Black Death in the 14th century, the Jews of Strasbourg were blamed for the disease. Half were forcibly converted, and the rest “were rounded up, taken to the Jewish cemetery, and burned alive.” [NewYorker]
⏳ Value of Life: New York Times op-ed writer Elizabeth Bruenig expounds on how Americans are being confronted by — and dealing with — the specter of death. “Such an easy dismissal of the sick and elderly is a ghastly indictment of one of our most cowardly cultural reflexes: an abandonment of the dying as a means of wishing away death.” [NYTimes]
👋 So Long: Stephen Daisely writes in The Spectator about the “toxic legacy” that will be left behind by outgoing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, as the voting to replace him comes to an end tomorrow. “Under his dull, dismal leadership, Labour has become a byword for animus against Jews and every strain of conspiracy theory that proceeds therefrom.” [Spectator]
Around the Web
🌿 Biblical Roots: What’s in a name? Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod explores why Gilead Pharmaceuticals, which is working on a potential coronavirus treatment and has received scrutiny, is called that.
💉 Their Turn: Members of the Young Israel of New Rochelle, who were among the first in New York to contract the coronavirus, are now donating their blood in the hopes their antibodies can aid those still fighting the disease.
💰 Giving Back: Billionaire George Soros has donated $1 million to the city of Budapest for its battle against coronavirus.
📦 Revamp: Back massager company HoMedics is retooling its supply chain in China to produce 40,000 tons of masks and protective gear for health workers, said company co-founder and CEO Alon Kaufman.
🏥 Startup Nation: Israel’s Defense Ministry says it has converted a missile production facility to produce much-needed ventilators for beleaguered hospitals.
🖨️ Talk of the Town: Philadelphia’s Kohelet Yeshiva High School is using its 3D printer to create surgical face shields for health care workers amid a nationwide shortage.
🚘 Spotlight: The billionaire Agnelli family has invested $200 million in the Israeli-founded ride-hailing startup Via.
💸 Short Sale: WeWork is selling its social networking platform Meetup to AlleyCorp and a team of private investors.
👩💼👨💼 Staffing Up: The White House is sending aides to help staff the now-inundated Small Business Administration.
☎️ 2020 Watch: The Biden campaign is reaching out virtually to top donors to close his fundraising gap with Trump.
🏨 Covering Costs:The Magen David Yeshivah day school in Brooklyn is suing Miami’s famed Eden Roc hotel after the resort refused to refund its $2.3 million deposit for a 1,200-person Passover reservation that was canceled over coronavirus.
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: Hundreds of people are infected and at least five are dead in the Haredi Stamford Hill neighborhood in London, where the local Shomrim group is working to get people to stay home.
🍷 This Night is Different: British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has issued unprecedented leniencies for Passover as the community struggles to prepare for the holiday amid the pandemic.
🖼️ Art Restoration: The National Gallery of Art in Washington has said it will return a Picasso artwork to the heirs of a German-Jewish banker who sold it in 1934 amid Nazi persecution.
🍗 On the Table: Ahead of Passover, Joan Nathan shares a K4P recipe for a delectable Moroccan chicken artichoke dish flavored with hints of saffron and cinnamon.
🕯️ Remembering: Steve Steiner, who was director of public relations for the Orthodox Union, passed away from suspected coronavirus complications at age 75.
🕯️ Remembering: Hellmut Stern, a Holocaust survivor who later became a leading violinist with the Berlin Philharmonic, has died at age 91.
Gif of the day
Magen David Adom workers at a drive-through coronavirus testing center in the Arab-Israeli city of Tamra in the Galilee dance for arrivals yesterday.
Four-year star basketball player at the University of Maryland who helped lead the team to its first NCAA championship in 2006, she was drafted into the WNBA and now plays for Maccabi Ashdod, Shay Doron turns 35…
Physicist and Nobel Prize laureate Claude Cohen-Tannoudji turns 87… Clinician at the Center for Clinical and Forensic Psychology in Plantation, Florida, Annie Schlachet Garfield, LCSW turns 73… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party, he is a nephew of Moshe Dayan, Uzi Dayan turns 72… Research associate and lecturer at Harvard University noted for her studies in animal cognition, Irene Maxine Pepperberg, Ph.D. turns 71… President and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, Gilda Z. Jacobs turns 71… Singer-songwriter best known as the original lead guitarist for Sha Na Na and as the youngest person, at age 18, to play on the main stage at Woodstock in 1969, Henry Gross turns 69… Producer and director including of the “Men in Black” trilogy, Barry Sonnenfeld turns 67… NYC-based attorney, Freddie Berg turns 65… Lecturer at Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism, Jonathan P. Friedman turns 65…
Former six-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida (1993-2005), he is the founder of the Ben Gamla Charter School network in Florida and now resides in Ra’anana, Israel, Peter Deutsch turns 63… Chairman of the Orthodox Union’s Advocacy Center and President of Baltimore-based HealthSource Distributors, Jerry L. Wolasky turns 62… Author of over 150 children’s books, Mark Shulman turns 58… Former member of the Knesset for the Kadima party (2009-2013), she made aliyah from the Soviet Union in 1979, Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich turns 56… VP of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress and a leader of the Jewish community of Kiev, Alexander (Aaron) Levin turns 52… Lawyer, turned political thriller novelist, Brad Meltzer turns 50… Chief Operating Officer at J Street, Jessica Smith turns 43… Law clerk for Judge Timothy M. Reif on the United States Court of International Trade, Noah L. Schwartz turns 33… Deputy White House communications director, her grandmother is noted philanthropist Lynne Honickman, Julia Aviva Hahn turns 29…