Good Wednesday morning!
Last night, Karen Adler, a senior vice president of the Adler Group, hosted a virtual “Women for Biden” fundraiser with Dr. Jill Biden and her daughter Ashley Biden.
The Senate confirmed by voice vote the nomination of Mitchell (Moyshe) Allen Silk as assistant secretary of the Treasury for international markets, a position he has held in an acting role since last July. Silk is believed to be the first Hasidic Jew confirmed by the Senate for a senior position in a U.S. administration.
The undergraduate student council at Columbia University has postponed a scheduled campus-wide BDS referendum until the fall semester due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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From the Bowery to its Ballroom, Jeryko is breaking walls with sound
When singer-songwriter Yaniv Hoffman got married in January, he couldn’t have anticipated that just two months later he and his wife, fashion designer Simi Polonsky, would be holed up in their Crown Heights apartment sick with the novel coronavirus. Hoffman spoke with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel about his new, six-song EP, Human, his burgeoning music career and his unexpected journey to fatherhood.
Scary times: Though the couple has since recovered from COVID-19, the experience was a grim reminder of the recent past. Polonsky, a co-founder of The Frock NYC — a modest clothing line — lost her first husband in 2017 to an unexpected stomach virus. Hoffman adopted Polonsky’s three children earlier this year. “It’s a very intense time for us, but it’s also a very special opportunity to really build our family unit without any distractions,” he said. “In a weird way, on a personal level, I’m kind of grateful for this opportunity.”
Music mirrors life: The clear-eyed optimism of Hoffman’s remark carries over into his music. Using the stage name Jeryko, the 28-year-old vocalist and guitarist performs an intimate, emotionally direct, autobiographical kind of folk rock that incorporates elements of soul, hip-hop and electronic dance music. His new EP traces his transition from single into married life with earnest dedication, including such titles as “Find You,” “Our Story” and “Friends,” which he wrote soon after he met Polonsky.
Upward trajectory: Hoffman, who sings with an unprocessed voice that draws the listener in, has been on an upward trajectory since he began performing as Jeryko at the end of 2017. “Pretty quickly he’s been able to build up a following, and not only in the States or in New York,” said Shimi Levy, the producer and DJ whose stage name is Levyticus. “He’s talking about relatable issues that a lot of people deal with,” said Levy, likening him to such singer-songwriters as Alec Benjamin and Mike Posner. Still, Levy said, Hoffman has an approach that is uniquely his own.
Journey: Hoffman has always gone his own way. Raised in a Conservative Jewish household in Silver Spring, Md., he began playing music in middle school, when he met his longtime friend and former bandmate, Shlomo Gaisin, who now performs in the neo-Hasidic folk group Zusha. Together, they formed the rock band JudaBlue.
Recalculating: After high school, Hoffman went to a yeshiva in Jerusalem, but quickly found it too constricting. In Thailand, of all places, he found what he was looking for. “I was on my way to an ashram,” he remembered, “and I ended up in a Chabad house” where he became enamored with Hasidism and a new set of values. He enrolled in New York University but found college life too “materialistic,” so he enlisted in the IDF. He returned to New York, got his degree and began performing as Jeryko.
Behind the name: In the Bible, he explained, Jericho is the first city Joshua seizes in the conquest of the land of Israel. “The whole story is about the Jewish people walking around the walls and breaking them down by blowing the shofar,” said Hoffman, whose middle name is Joshua. “It’s the idea of breaking down walls through sound, which is exactly what I want to be trying to do.”
Rep. Max Rose discusses his National Guard deployment to combat coronavirus
Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) discussed his two-week deployment with the National Guard to assist in the coronavirus response in his district during a phone interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh on Tuesday.
Details: Rose, who has represented New York’s 11th congressional district since 2019, began his deployment on April 1. He serves as a captain in the National Guard and, during this most recent deployment, stood in as an operations officer at an emergency hospital in Staten Island.
With my own eyes: “Anything that I did pales in comparison to the extraordinary service that I saw our essential workers and medical professionals doing every single day, which is what matters,” Rose told JI. “I saw that beforehand and it was certainly reinforced again with what I saw on the ground. I think that any moment in which one can see truly heroic action first-hand inspires you and pushes you even harder to do everything you can.”
Leading the way: “I thought it was the right thing to do. It begins and ends there,” Rose said of his decision to join the fight against COVID-19. “Nobody ever wishes to have to be deployed to their own district, but the necessity of us building up our hospital infrastructure, I think, is absolutely critical, not only to deal with this situation but to prepare for the next surge [in hospitalizations].”
Stronger together: Rose, who was wounded while on duty during a tour in Afghanistan, compared the heroic response by health care workers to the service of soldiers in war: “People putting their differences aside and getting the job done. We are all weathering this storm together as a country and we have to be united accordingly.”
On alert: FBI Director Christopher Wray wrote in a letter to law enforcement officials that the agency is “concerned” about the potential for hate crimes against minority groups during the coronavirus pandemic. “Now more than ever we have to stand up against hate wherever it rears its ugly head,” Rose told JI. “We are experiencing horrific incidents of antisemitism, as well as anti-Chinese and Asian xenophobia. This is despicable and disgusting, and certainly, we can enforce the law against those who display it, especially during these trying times.
Hate continues: A white supremacist group with ties to Staten Island has reportedly begun shifting tactics amid the coronavirus, distributing flyers reading “globalism is the virus,” and “stop coronavirus/deport all illegal aliens.”
Harold Grinspoon Foundation contributes $10 million to fund Jewish camps amid coronavirus
Earlier this week, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation announced a $10 million grant to support Jewish camps struggling to meet the challenges posed by the novel coronavirus. In a Zoom call Tuesday, Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss spoke to Harold Grinspoon and Winnie Sandler Grinspoon, president of the foundation’s board of trustees, about the recent gift.
Background: The entire summer camp industry is expected to be affected by the pandemic. So far, no Jewish camps have canceled their summer season. If they do open, they will be forced to adapt to the altered circumstances. “They’re going to have to spend money in ways they hadn’t anticipated in order to create a safe environment,” Sandler Grinspoon told JI from her home in the Boston suburbs. “They can’t get their counselors from abroad, they can’t operate as they planned. So there are additional financial needs if they open. And even worse, if they don’t open, they are out revenue for this summer — revenue that they’ve already expended in order to prepare for the summer, and they will be in severe financial difficulty.”
The investment: The program announced Monday will provide a 1:2 match to dozens of Jewish camps around the country struggling to cover operational costs. After Harold Grinspoon saw how his own children benefited from summer camps, he established JCamp 180 in 2006. The program supports not-for-profit camps with both financial backing and help in developing fundraising mechanisms to provide long-term stability. “Bringing Jewish kids together, having a Jewish experience, is a great way to have a very positive experience,” Grinspoon told JI from his home in western Massachusetts. “It’s like magic.”
What’s next? “We are hoping to get to post-pandemic like everybody else,” Sandler Grinspoon said. “What we know is that families will continue to want to provide their kids with engaging content and experiences… And so we plan to continue to be there every step of the way..” As the virus begins to plateau in hotspots around the country, Grinspoon is waiting out the pandemic at home. He’s planning some camping of his own in August — a five-day whitewater rafting trip to celebrate his 91st birthday.
😢 Talk of the City:New York Times reporter Liam Stack visited the Jewish neighborhoods of Borough Park and Williamsburg in Brooklyn to hear the devastating stories of members of the Hasidic community whose families were hard hit by the coronavirus. [NYTimes]
📚 The Legend: Benjamin Taylor reminisces in The Atlantic about his long and complicated relationship with the late Philip Roth, “an incomparable student of inner lives,” in an excerpt from his upcoming memoir, Here We Are: My Friendship With Philip Roth. [TheAtlantic]
📱 Still Standing: Nick Bilton writes in Vanity Fair about how Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey barely survived an attempt by activist hedge fund Elliott Management to oust him, to remain a “near-deity” in the tech world. “In an uncanny twist, given the virus now decimating the global economy, Dorsey might have just received a stay of execution.” [VanityFair]
Around the Web
🧫 Startup Nation: Israeli investing platform OurCrowd is leading a $12 million investment in a new Israeli startup working on a COVID-19 vaccine.
🤗 Then and Now: Elias Feinzilberg, a 102-year-old Holocaust survivor, commemorated Yom HaShoah looking down at his family from his third-floor Jerusalem home due to the coronavirus lockdown.
📺 Campaign Pitch: New York congressional candidate Adam Schleifer debuted a new ad on Tuesday — timed to coincide with Yom HaShoah — detailing his Jewish upbringing and reflecting on the legacy of his maternal grandfather, who survived the Holocaust.
💲Money Talks: Barry Diller’s Expedia is closing in on a deal to sell a stake in the company to Silver Lake and Apollo Global Management.
🖼️ Closed Curtains: The Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side of Manhattan has drastically cut its budget to weather the pandemic.
💰 Give Now: The Silicon Valley Community Foundation is urging its tech billionaire donors to start donating up to 5% of their assets to fight the pandemic.
🥡 On the Menu:Former Starbucks CEO and billionaire Howard Schultz says the government needs to do more to save struggling small restaurants.
👨💻 Part Time: Tel Aviv University’s Eran Yashiv proposes in The Financial Times that people work for 4 days, then quarantine for 10, in order to permit economic activity but limit the virus spread.
🧑🏭 No Borders: An Israeli fashion retailer has reopened a clothing factory in Gaza, employing its 200 workers to produce 100,000 masks a day for Israel.
🛒 Shuk Look: Cookbook author Adeena Sussman argues in Eater that Israel’s open-air markets should be allowed to reopen, since supermarkets are still operating amid the coronavirus.
🏖️ Beach Bummer: AFP spotlights how the Eilat resort town is “paralyzed” by the coronavirus, with 75% of its residents now unemployed.
💡 Celebration in Quarantine: The Terminal Tower Residences in downtown Cleveland lit up blue and green in honor of the National Council of Jewish Women’s 125th anniversary, and “Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr., who was slated to appear at the now-canceled celebration, sent a video message of support.
👏 New Era:U.K. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who was an outspoken critic of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said it was “heartening” to see how Labour has begun to rebuild trust with the Jewish community.
📰 Media Watch:The U.K.’s Jewish Newsis back to “business as usual” despite bidding farewell to readers in last week’s paper, as plans to merge with The Jewish Chronicle fell through at the last minute over its bidding war drama.
🚀 Talk of the Region: Iran claimed on Wednesday that it has launched a military satellite into orbit.
🕯️Remembering: Alvin Donald, a cantor and progressive Jewish leader in Maryland, has died of coronavirus complications at age 92.
Pic of the Day
Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer spoke at an annual Yom HaShoah ceremony — held over Zoom — at the Israeli Embassy in D.C. yesterday.
Real estate developer and principal owner of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, Zygmunt “Zygi” Wilf turns 70…
Calgary-based CEO of Balmon Investments, Alvin Libin turns 89… Actor and later one of Hollywood’s most prolific producers, Mark Damon turns 87… Co-founder of Human Rights Watch, formerly national director of the ACLU and president of George Soros’s Open Society Institute, Aryeh Neier turns 83… English journalist and former anchor of BBC Television’s “Newsnight,” Adam Eliot Geoffrey Raphael turns 82… Former U.S. Poet Laureate and winner of a Pulitzer Prize, Louise Elisabeth Glück turns 77… Conductor and professor of music at Boston University, Joshua Rifkin turns 76…
Recent mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, from 2011 to 2019, he has served as mayor twice before, from 1973 to 1979 and again 1989 to 1997, Paul R. Soglin turns 75… British economist and former chief economist at the World Bank, Sir Nicholas Herbert Stern turns 74… Chief financial officer of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google, Ruth Porat turns 63… Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for The Washington Post, Sari Horwitz turns 63… Partner at EisnerAmper, Edward Lifshitz turns 62… New Zealand native, he was previously the managing director and CEO of the Commonwealth Bank Group, Ian Narev turns 53… NYC-based attorney, member of Kriss & Feuerstein LLP, Jerold C. Feuerstein turns 52…
Editorial director of “From the Grapevine” and the author of “My Jesus Year: A Rabbi’s Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith,” Benyamin Cohen turns 45… Contributing opinion writer for TheNew York Times and the Jewish Journal, Shmuel Rosner… Member of the Knesset for the Blue and White alliance, Yehiel Moshe “Hili” Tropper turns 42… Chicago-based reporter for The Wall Street Journal covering the Midwest, Shayndi Raice turns 38… Former president of Y Combinator and now the CEO of OpenAI, Sam Altman turns 35… 2L student at New York University School of Law, Zachary Krooks turns 25… Competitive ice dancer, Elliana Pogrebinsky turns 22…