Good Tuesday morning!
Stanley Ho, considered the ‘godfather’ of Macau casinos, died at age 98, his family announced earlier today. According to The Guardian, Ho’s great-grandfather was a Dutch-Jewish entrepreneur in mid-19th century Hong Kong named Charles Bosman (aka Ho Sze Man) and he was cousins with Bruce Lee.
U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell, who also served as interim director of national intelligence until Rep. John Ratcliffe’s confirmation last week, is stepping down from his diplomatic post.
Jared Kushner has reportedly been overseeing a “radical overhaul” of the Republican Party platform, according to Axios’s Jonathan Swan. Kushner told aides he wants to shrink the platform down to a pocket-sized index card.
George Washington University provost M. Brian Blake said that a BDS activist tapped as interim head of the university’s Elliott School of International Affairs is not under consideration for the permanent position.
Following pressure from the U.S., Israel has selected a local firm to build a desalination plant, passing over a Chinese-linked company whose bid drew controversy.
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Race to watch
In Pennsylvania’s 7th, Rep. Wild and her opponent tout community ties
Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA) and Lisa Scheller have lived most of their adult lives in Pennsylvania’s 7th congressional district in the state’s Lehigh Valley. Both have established their careers and raised families in the district, and both are actively engaged in the Jewish community. This November, Scheller is looking to unseat Wild, who was first elected in 2018. Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh spoke recently with both Wild and Scheller about their work and the election ahead.
A first term in Washington: Wild, 62, first entered Congress in November 2018 after a close special election for the seat in Pennsylvania’s 15th district, left open by the resignation of seven-term Republican incumbent Rep. Charlie Dent earlier that year. On the same day, she also won the race for the seat in the newly redrawn 7th district. Wild knows voters in her district haven’t had long to get to know her. But the freshman congresswoman has made a point of making herself accessible to constituents, and taking the time to get to know them.
Guiding principle: In a recent interview, Wild told JI she tries “very, very hard to work in a nonpartisan manner, not even a bipartisan manner.” Wild teamed up a few weeks ago with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) from the state’s 1st district to introduce legislation aimed at stopping federal cuts to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expected in October. “I really try hard to focus on the issues where I think I can find some common interests [with Republicans],” Wild said.
Taking the high road: Last year, when Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) ignited a political firestorm by charging that pro-Israel activists had an “allegiance to a foreign country,” Wild rebuked her colleague’s comments. But she also took it upon herself to engage with the Minnesota congresswoman — with whom she sits on the House Foreign Relations Committee — to educate her about the matter. Wild told JI she had a private conversation with Omar following the incident. “I guarantee you she remembers our conversation about this issue much more than she remembers which members spoke out on the House floor,” Wild said. “I just have a different approach to those things. I think it’s a more effective approach.”
Challenge ahead: Scheller, 60, was born in Greenwich, Connecticut, and grew up in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, after her grandfather moved his company, Silberline Manufacturing, to Lansford, 37 miles northwest of Allentown, where she now resides. Her family was one of just two Jewish families in the small town of Tamaqua and her mom drove 15 miles every Saturday to attend Shabbat services and Hebrew school at a nearby Reform synagogue. In recent years, Scheller has begun to share her own personal story as a recovering heroin addict and alcoholic for the past 36 years.
Connection to Israel: Scheller, who speaks Hebrew fluently and describes herself as a Zionist in her campaign position paper on Israel, first visited the Jewish state in 1985, at age 26, on a singles trip sponsored by the American Jewish Congress. She told JI that she was so inspired by the visit that she considered making aliyah and enlisting in the Israeli Defense Forces. She chose instead to finish her degree in the U.S. and — after the unexpected death of her brother — took control of her grandparents’ company, putting to rest the idea of aliyah. In the decades that followed, Scheller, who owns a home in Beersheba, found other avenues to express her connection to Israel. In 2012 she founded the Zin Fellows Program, a biennial mission to Israel’s Ben-Gurion University for community leaders across the U.S. She also founded the Woodman-Scheller Graduate Program in Israel Studies at the university’s Sde Boker campus, which provides English-language masters and doctoral programs for students from around the world.
ON THE BOOK CIRCUIT
Rep. Ilhan Omar’s memoir puts her back in the spotlight
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) raised eyebrows with comments she made about Israel in an interview with the U.K. Sunday Times, ahead of today’s release of her new book, This Is What America Looks Like: My Journey from Refugee to Congresswoman.
Drawing equivalence: Speaking to reporter Josh Glancy, Omar attempted to draw a moral equivalence between Saudi Arabia and Israel. “We know the amount of money and influence and connection that the Saudis have with the administration is really the reason that everything destructive they do is nullified,” she said. “And that really is no different to what’s happening with Israel.”
Continuing her comments: “There’s an alarming connection to the really destructive policies Israel is proposing and how much of it is being rubber stamped by this administration,” Omar told the Times. “And how much of it is being urged by Americans who have connection and influence with this administration.”
Moment of reflection: In the interview, Omar maintained that she’s “moved past” her tweets that accused AIPAC of paying lawmakers to be pro-Israel. “My expression of those things was hurtful to people, that has really broken my heart,” the Minnesota lawmaker said. “I talk about Saudi blood money and them being bloodsuckers and no one says ‘This is Islamophobic,’ but I know if I use those terms for another country, that could be [a problem]. And so you learn what history is tied to words. As someone who didn’t have an understanding, I now do.”
Fighting words: Coming to Capitol Hill, Omar writes in her book that she was no stranger to dust-ups, recalling several incidents from her childhood. “I was small but a good fighter. I pulled the boy down and rubbed his face in the sand,” Omar wrote, describing a fight with a classmate in Somalia. Recalling a fight years later in a Virginia middle school, Omar said, “As I hit her, the others yelled, ‘She’s pregnant!’ I didn’t stop hitting.”
There’s a race: On Sunday, Omar won the endorsement of the DFL state district convention, winning 65% of the delegates — just above the threshold required to receive the state party’s endorsement. Her main challenger in her first bid for re-election, Antone Melton-Meaux, who is gaining traction ahead of the August 11 primary, received support from 31% of the delegates.
Bonus: New York Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican challenging Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) in the 11th congressional district, compared herself — a lone Republican lawmaker in New York City — to IDF soldiers fighting in the Six-Day War.
Inside the secret double lives of some Hasidic Jews
While researching her first book, Mitzvah Girls, professor Ayala Fader first encountered the phenomenon that led to her second book. For the better part of five years, Fader devoted herself to researching and writing Hidden Heretics: Jewish Doubt in the Digital Age, which hits bookshelves today. “I learned that there was this category of people who didn’t leave, but who had lost their faith and who were living double lives,” Fader told Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro in a recent interview.
Online apostate:Hidden Heretics takes a close look at the role the internet has played in facilitating the trend of Hasidic men and women who have questioned or abandoned their faith but still remain within the community, hiding their thoughts and transgressions. Observant Jews harboring hidden doubts is “not a new phenomenon,” Fader points out, but the internet has made it something that is “increasingly possible” to attain. “It was more difficult and more isolating and lonely to live a double life before the internet,” she said. “What the internet enabled was for people to recognize that there were people like them within their own communities, and to anonymously and more safely start to build relationships with those people.”
Questioning values: Fader herself grew up in a Reform Jewish family in New York, saying she felt a “shared history” with the Hasidic Jewish community — but little else in common. “I think I entered with certain assumptions about religious belief and doubt and secularism that I was quickly disabused of,” she said. She had assumed that community members who developed doubts and skepticism would want to leave and become secular. “But that was not really accurate,” she said. That revelation “made me start to question what it was that they did value… and what kind of alternatives they had.”
Black and white: Fader said she enjoyed the recent Netflix show “Unorthodox,” despite recognizing that it was not a fully accurate portrayal of the populace she had gotten to know. “I don’t think it was successful in humanizing the Satmar community,” unlike, she offered, the show “Shtisel” (which is also on Netflix and also stars Shira Haas). Fader said the “Unorthodox” character of Moishe — who was portrayed as someone who left the community but later returned — echoed in some of the “double lifers” she had met, leaving out his more unsavory proclivities. “You don’t often see a representation of a Hasidic man that has a foot in both worlds,” she said. “There are secular kinds of stereotypes of ‘you’re all in or you’re all out.’ And that’s the kind of secular black-and-white thinking that doesn’t hold for religious black-and white-thinking.”
💁🏻 Stepping Up: In The Atlantic, author Vivian Gornick describes how challenging times can often foster a sense of solidarity. She points to an experience in Israel where she witnessed tough, unemotional women who had survived numerous conflicts suddenly mobilize to pass out food and clothing to soldiers during a war alert. [TheAtlantic]
🙏 Talk of Our Nation:The Wall Street Journal’s Ian Lovett spotlights a group of volunteers who gather daily in Jerusalem to recite the kaddish prayer for those who have lost loved ones, but cannot participate in a minyan due to coronavirus-related restrictions. [WSJ]
🌟 Golden Relic: Shira Telushkin writes in Atlas Obscura about the curious language spoken by goldsmiths in Cairo, a mix of reworked Hebrew and Egyptian Arabic, a living remnant of the time, decades ago, when Jewish families dominated the business. [AtlasObscura]
📺 Media Watch: In the Columbia Journalism Review, Adam Piore explores MSNBC’s “identity crisis” surrounding its coverage of Bernie Sanders’s presidential bid, including comments by Chris Matthews comparing his win to Nazis — which fueled the anchor’s resignation. The network offers “a confused jumble of viewpoints tipped to favor the old guard,” Piore charges. [CJR]
Around the Web
🧑⚖️ Buzz on Balfour: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made history Sunday as the first sitting prime minister to stand trial on charges of corruption. With his fate in the hands of three judges, Netanyahu intends to play for time, Israeli political columnist Ben Caspit posits.
🗺️ Annexation Watch: Netanyahu said yesterday that the July 1st starting date for moving forward with annexation remains a top priority for the new government.
🛫 Trusting Friends: Israel is expected to allow international travel to restart in July between countries with low rates of COVID-19, including Greece, Cyprus, Slovenia and Montenegro.
😨 Too Soon? Israeli journalist Dina Kraft writes in NBC News that she is concerned Israel has “embarked on an overly hasty modern-day Exodus” as it rapidly lifts its coronavirus restrictions.
🇹🇷 Warming Up: Israel has resumed cargo flights to Turkey for the first time in 10 years, a sign that tensions between the countries have cooled down.
🥺 On the Hill: Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Nita Lowey (D-NY), John Carter (R-TX) and Kay Granger (R-TX) sent a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie urging the removal of gravestones inscribed with swastikas and messages honoring Hitler from military cemeteries.
✍️ Dark Underbelly: Washington Post columnist Helaine Olen writes that Trump’s recent comments on Henry Ford’s “bloodlines” serve as “both incitements and validation to the dark underbelly of his base.”
🐦 No Dove: Israel’s new Strategic Affairs Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey urging him to order the “immediate suspension” of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s account “over his consistent posting of anti-Semitic and genocidal posts.”
🖋️ Jumpstart: Former White House Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt writes in Arab News that he believes investment in tech could spur peace and prosperity in the Middle East.
🕵️ Private Eye: Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz has hired surveillance group Black Cube to gather information on Brazilian former partner company Vale SA amid a $1.8 billion legal battle.
⚾ Striking Out: Billionaire Len Blavatnik’s sports streaming group DAZN is seeking an influx of cash as it struggles amid the coronavirus fallout.
🙏 Prayer Showdown: One Los Angeles synagogue opened its doors this weekend against the orders of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, saying that the law was “useless” and that President Donald Trump’s statements gave it the authority to reopen.
🛍️ United Front: Orthodox small business owners in the New York area have banded together to lobby the state to allow retailers to re-open.
😂 Funny Bone: Investment banker-turned-comedian Mordechai “Modi” Rosenfeld is putting his humor to good use, raising money for those affected by the pandemic.
💵 Don’t Bill Him: Jewish community leaders in Argentina are criticizing the government for featuring Dr. Ramón Carrillo on the 5,000-peso bill despite his historic links to Nazi Danish Dr. Carl Peter Vaernet.
🎖️ Recent History: The Guardian spotlights the surviving members of the 43 Group, a gang of Jewish war veterans who teamed up to fight fascism on the streets of London after World War II. 🕯️Remembering: Holocaust survivor Hank Brodt, who shared his story of surviving five concentration camps, died at age 94.
Gif of the Day
Holocaust survivor Heinz Wallach from Dallas, Texas, celebrated his 100th birthday yesterday with a parade of cars and visitors — who practiced social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic — organized by the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum.
Co-founder and CEO of Mobileye, he became an SVP of Intel after Intel acquired Mobileye in 2017, Amnon Shashua turns 60…
Ranan Lurie turns 88… Richard Lederer turns 82… Janice Danoff “Jan” Schakowsky turns 76… John W. Davis turns 71… Michael Oreskes turns 66… Morley Todd Feinstein turns 66… Cheryl Cohen Effron turns 55… Miriam “Miri” Regev turns 55… Dina Ellis Rochkind turns 51… Naomi Harris turns 47… Sholom Zeines turns 40… Jason Glushon turns 35… Yardena Schwartz turns 34… Mark Goldfeder turns 34… Benjamin L. Cavataro turns 31… Melissa Amit Farkash turns 31… Morgan A. Jacobs turns 30… Arielle Gingold… Etaiy Shisgal… Eytan Merkin…