Good Thursday morning!
Tonight is the NFL Draft. It’s the first major sports-related event in over a month. We talk with one team owner below about his plans.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has committed to donate $10 million to New York State to develop a coronavirus contact-tracing program, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday.
Cornell University is launching the Bipartisan Policy Review today — spearheaded by former Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) — focusing on bipartisan initiatives from Democratic and Republican leaders in Washington. Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh spoke to Israel about the initiative.
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WITH THE 22ND PICK…
How Vikings owner Mark Wilf is preparing for a virtual draft and other coronavirus challenges
Last year, Minnesota Vikings owner Mark Wilf took part in the NFL draft from Minnesota, surrounded by his general manager, scouts and coaches. This year, things will be a little different. Wilf, who is waiting out the coronavirus pandemic with his family in New Jersey, will, like everyone else, participate in tonight’s draft virtually. Wilf spoke to Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss about the league’s switch to a digital draft, the NFL’s fundraising efforts and, wearing his JFNA chair hat, how Jewish philanthropy is supporting struggling organizations amid the pandemic.
Game time: Wilf told JI that a lot of planning has gone into running the draft online. Despite partaking in the draft from home, Wilf is optimistic. “I’m sure it’ll be something exciting for the fans and it’ll be exciting for us — it always is.” The league is also hosting a three-day ‘Draft-A-Thon’ to raise money for organizations responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Earlier this week, the Wilf family made headlines with a $1 million donation to United Way, one of the six participating charities supporting relief efforts. To date, the Wilf Family Foundation has contributed more than $5 million to causes related to the pandemic.
‘Arm-in-arm’: Wilf is also part of the newly formed Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund, a coalition of foundations collectively contributing $80 million to organizations struggling to cope with the economic impact of the coronavirus. The foundations are partnering with the Jewish Federations of North America — Wilf is the chair of JFNA’s board of trustees — to disburse the interest-free loans and grants. “We’re in a crisis and a time that’s unique and we have to respond in ways that are collective,” he told JI. “We’re most effective or most powerful or most impactful when we do things together and collectively. So the reality of the crisis means we have to certainly be arm-in-arm together and fighting all this.”
What’s next? JCRIF’s backers, Wilf said, want to make sure communal institutions are able to stay afloat in the short term, recognizing that “we also have to begin planning and get the best and brightest to think about how do we move going forward.” The community, he said, will be faced with new challenges, specifically when it comes to financial solubility in a post-pandemic environment. “I keep using the phrase ‘all hands on deck,’” he said, “and we have a lot of bright minds in the Jewish community and we’re going to look to engage them to help us think through some of these things.”
Meet the college students trying to bring Jews together behind Biden
Three college students, organizing under the name “Jews 4 Joe,” are working to rally the Jewish community behind former Vice President Joe Biden in his bid for the presidency. Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod spoke with the trio about their outreach efforts and their plans for the campaign.
Filling a void: The Jews 4 Joe website and social media accounts were started earlier this month by Columbia University student Eva Wyner, along with Ben Kanas and Ethan Wolf, who both attend The Ohio State University. The three had been involved with the Students for Biden campaign and saw an opening for outreach to the Jewish community. “We discovered there was a vacuum,” Kanas said, “and the three of us came together and took the initiative upon ourselves to say, ‘Let’s change what’s going on and be the people that create this movement.’”
Reaching out: The students are hoping to appeal to Jews of all types and backgrounds. “We thought we were in a very unique position to create a big tent support group of varying beliefs on Jewish issues,” Wolf said. “And we wanted to advocate for that and create as big and wide of a support network as we humanly could.”
Mobilized: Established political operatives have high hopes for the group. “There is a new generation of young Jewish leaders emerging. They represent that,” said Sarah Bard, who served as the director of Jewish outreach for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid and is now a volunteer with the Biden campaign. “[I] found them incredibly energized, mobilized and organized. They are tapping into a fast-growing grassroots wave.”
Heard last night
Hosting Linda Sarsour, Engel challenger rails against the congressman’s ‘uncritical’ support of Israel
Andom Ghebreghiorgis, one of five candidates challenging Rep. Eliot Engel in the June 23 Democratic primary in New York’s 16th congressional district, hosted Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour for a digital town hall discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and about former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential platform. During the Instagram webcast, Ghebreghiorgis blasted Engel, who is chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, for being an “uncritical supporter of Israel — sort of a mild way to put it.”
Aid to Israel: Ghebreghiorgis pointed to Engel’s comments at AIPAC last month in which the congressman said that conditioning aid to Israel “has to be just about the stupidest thing” he’s ever heard. “To me, it’s obviously a very wild statement,” Ghebreghiorgis posited, adding that an “integral part” of his campaign platform is about “ending aid” to Israel, Egypt and countries in the Gulf region “until there are actually conditions on their behavior they have with respect to their citizens.”
Linda’s squad: Sarsour pointed to three members of ‘The Squad’ ― Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) — serving as “disrupters” of the longstanding bipartisan U.S. support for Israel. “Right now we have the Rashidas of the world, the Ilhans of the world; we have the AOCs of the world who are going in and disrupting a longstanding Democratic-Republican unequivocal policy position on Israel,” Sarsour boasted.
Pushing Biden to the left: During the Q&A portion of the conversation, Sarsour suggested “there is some potential” for progressives to “force” Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, to shift his long-standing views on Israel. “I think that with the Donald Trump presidency, we are working against a brick wall, and I think with Joe Biden there’s a fence there, and we are going to have to figure out how we jump over that fence,” Sarsour said.
Bemoaning her options: Sarsour, who was a surrogate for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign during the past two primary elections, expressed her disappointment about the binary choice in the general election. “The reason why I was a Bernie Sanders supporter was because the narrative of ‘let’s just defeat Trump’ doesn’t work for me. And it doesn’t work for a lot of people,” Sarsour stated. “What they’ve done to us is they’ve come inside our minds to believe that every four years we wake up and somebody hands us two candidates. One is bad and one is outrageous and they tell us, ‘Well of course you don’t want the outrageous one, so just vote for the bad candidate.’ And my thing is that’s not how I work. I want to vote for someone inspirational, someone who is full of conviction.”
The man, the myth, the Jewish comic book legend
Liel Leibovitz, a writer for Tablet magazine, saw his childhood dreams come true when he was approached to write a book about Marvel comics’ legendary creator Stan Lee. But Leibovitz didn’t want to write a straightforward biography. “What I wanted to do was to take these creations that he forged, and find the hidden meaning in them — which I’ve always expected was fiercely Jewish, and far more layered than most critics give them credit for being,” he told Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro in a recent interview.
Layers of meaning: The resulting book, Stan Lee: A Life in Comics, is the latest entry in Yale University Press’s “Jewish Lives” series. Dispersed among stories from Lee’s many decades at Marvel Comics, Leibovitz delves deep into his famed creations, imbuing them with layers of meaning and examining them with Talmudic concentration. Spider-Man is not just another superhero, but “a young man learning how to be human, a direct descendant of the first biblical figure who wrestled with this very question: Cain,” Leibovitz writes. The Hulk and his alter-ego, Bruce Banner, he suggests, are analogous to the concepts of Adam I and Adam II, coined in Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik’s seminal essay “The Lonely Man of Faith.”
Under the surface: Despite his in-depth literary criticism, Leibovitz makes it clear that he is not making any literal claims about the superheroes’ origins. “What I want to do is to try and draw connections, to try and find themes and ideas that sort of lurk right under the surface of the text, that, once seen, give the comic books and Stan Lee and the whole enterprise a totally different meaning,” he said. He recognizes that the mythologies he spins may “not always be the literal intention of the author — and so be it.”
Greatest contribution: But Leibovitz has no real doubts that his beloved Marvel heroes are born of a particularly unique sensibility, one shared by Lee and his co-creator Jack Kirby, two men born in Manhattan, just a few years apart, to Jewish immigrant parents from Europe. “You see Jewish life and culture in [the superheroes] from the very first page,” he said. “They argue, they’re neurotic, they have these tremendously interesting flaws that bring about their downfall and redemption — just like, say, King David. I think that’s Stan Lee’s greatest contribution to contemporary American Jewish history.”
✍️ Recalibrating: New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss opines that the coronavirus pandemic has put into perspective the “out-of-touch” online debates over issues that now feel irrelevant.”What could be a better reminder of what really matters — and what absolutely doesn’t?” [NYTimes]
📽️ The Anti-Hero: Oleg Ivanov writes in The Los Angeles Review of Books about the journey of Jewish masculinity on screen, particularly in the recent film “Uncut Gems.” One day, he posits, the film “might be viewed as the cinematic death knell of the Jewish male libertine, introspective or otherwise.” [LARB]
Around the Web
🗣️ Talk of the Town: Ohio State Senator Andrew Brenner faced a wave of backlash after comparing the state’s shutdown order to Nazi Germany.
💻 Zoom-bombing: A Holocaust Remembrance Day event for for Jewish students in Europe on Zoom was interrupted on Tuesday by racist and antisemitic posts and messages. Meanwhile, Zoom announced it was further upgrading features to better safeguard data.
🔥 Not This Year: The annual Lag B’Omer pilgrimage to the ancient Ghriba synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba has been called off because of the pandemic.
🕯️ Paying Tribute: Representatives of the Jewish, Serbian and Romanian communities joined an official commemoration for the victims of the Jasenovac death camp, known as Croatia’s Auschwitz, for the first time in five years.
💸 Strapped: Private-equity firm Sycamore Partners wants to cancel its $525 million takeover bid of Victoria’s Secret due to the decision by Leslie Wexner’s L Brands to close its U.S. stores during the coronavirus pandemic.
🏗️ Level Headed: Real estate mogul Barry Sternlicht cautioned on Tuesday that the possible destruction of the economy must be weighed against the health risks from the virus.
🎰 Strip Shutdown: Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. posted a net loss of $51 million in the first quarter after a steep drop in revenue.
📉 Talent Cut: Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor is planning staffing cuts and reduced pay affecting about a third of employees due to the coronavirus pandemic.
🏦 Virtual Deposit: India’s TCS was chosen by Israel’s Finance Ministry to launch the country’s first-ever all-digital bank.
⚖️ Buzz on Balfour: Israeli courts are slated to return to activities next month, paving the way for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial to open on May 24.
🇮🇱 Free Hand: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that West Bank annexation is an Israeli decision and the Trump administration will share its views with the new Israeli government through diplomatic channels.
⚔️ Fighting Words: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the P.A. would consider agreements with Israel and the U.S. “completely cancelled” if Israel annexes the West Bank.
🚙 De-escalation: Israeli forces fired a warning shot at Hezbollah fighters last week before blowing up an SUV, part of a calculated effort to minimize casulaties and avoid an all-out war in Lebanon.
🛰️ Talk of the Region: Tensions between Iran and the U.S. ratcheted up yesterday, after Trump threatened to “shoot down and destroy” Iranian gunboats and Pompeo said the U.N. should evaluate if Iran’s military satellite launch was lawful.
📰 Media Watch: The Jewish Chronicle has been sold to a group of backers led by Robbie Gibb, who emerged to submit a last-minute bid to save the newspaper from liquidation and retain editor-in-chief Stephen Pollard.
📺 Tuned In: Keshet CEO Avi Nir told Deadline that the Israeli TV network had to rebuild its entire schedule of programming amid the coronavirus pandemic.
🎥 Now Streaming: A new Netflix documentary, “Circus of Books,” tells the story of a middle class, synagogue-attending Jewish family who became the largest distributor of gay pornography in the U.S.
Pic of the Day
Rep Jerry Nadler (D-NY), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, sporting a quarantine beard during an endorsement meeting with Stonewall Democrats of NYC.
Style and image director for the Estée Lauder Companies and founder of AERIN, Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer turns 50…
Stage, film and television and actor, Alan Oppenheimer turns 90… Los Angeles resident, Marim Weissman turns 81… Owner of Council Bluffs, Iowa-based Ganeeden Metals, Harold Edelman turns 81… Oberlin, Ohio resident, Patricia Ann Haumann turns 76… Retired real estate brokerage executive, Terry Pullan turns 70… Retail industry analyst and portfolio manager at Berman Capital, Steve Kernkraut turns 70… Chair emeritus of Israel Policy Forum, he serves as chairman of an organics recycling-to-energy business Trenton Biogas in Trenton, Peter A. Joseph turns 68… Health services researcher Judith Katzburg, PhD, MPH, RN, turns 67… Deputy director of NCSEJ, Lesley L. Weiss turns 66…
Principal of Philadelphia-based Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy, Larry Ceisler turns 64… Chairman of edutech firm Weird Science Lab based at the University of Oxford, Gary Pickholz turns 62… Co-founder of Gryphon Software, Gabriel Wilensky turns 56… Author of Red Notice and the primary proponent of the Magnitsky Act, Bill Browder turns 56… D.C.-based executive director of the Orthodox Union’s Advocacy Center, Nathan J. Diament turns 53… Director general of Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Steven Burg turns 48… SVP of government relations at the Council on Foundations until February 2019, Hadar Susskind turns 47… Co-founder of Edgeline Films, he co-directed and co-produced “Weiner,” a documentary about Anthony Weiner’s campaign for NYC Mayor, Joshua Kriegman turns 40…
Program officer at Maimonides Fund, she was previously Israel program officer for the Helmsley Charitable Trust, Ariella Saperstein… Founder and CEO at 90 West, a Boston-based strategic communications firm, Alexander Goldstein turns 36… Communications director at the Republican Jewish Coalition, Neil Boylan Strauss turns 35… Executive director of Alums for Campus Fairness, Avi Gordon turns 32… Editor at T Brand Studio, Alexis Kleinman turns 30… Former University of Michigan quarterback, now a fund manager at Coatue Management, Alex Swieca turns 28… GM at Create venture studio, Byron Edwards… CEO at Khan Theatre in Jerusalem, Elisheva Mazya… News editor and head of online content and strategy for The Jerusalem Post,Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman…