Good Tuesday morning!
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) added her signature to a bipartisan congressional letter backed by AIPAC and addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that calls for extending the Iran arms embargo, which is set to expire in October of this year. The letter was part of AIPAC’s legislative agenda during the group’s annual policy conference in March.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) are planning to push legislation later today, according to Playbook, that would mandate public disclosures for the Paycheck Protection Program, including names of recipients and the loan amounts.
In a conference call yesterday with Jewish media outlets, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he will “continue to apologize” for his careless phrasing but asked the community to “move forward” and focus on safety and saving lives.
Congrats to Ben Taub and Barry Blitt of The New Yorker on winning Pulitzer Prizes yesterday for feature writing and editorial cartooning respectively. The NYTimes’ Brian Rosenthal received the Pulitzer for his investigative reporting on the taxi medallion industry.
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A Virginia congressman, popular in the Jewish community, is fighting the local GOP for his political life
Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA) is only midway through his first term in office, but he’s already in the fight of his political life. Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod spoke with Riggleman, his primary challenger — Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good — and other experts about the internal GOP battle shaping up in Virginia’s mammoth 5th congressional district.
Background: The Virginia congressman is an unconventional politician in an unconventional district. An Air Force veteran, Riggleman and his wife opened a whiskey distillery in 2014. In 2016, he launched his first unsuccessful bid for public office, dropping out of Virginia’s gubernatorial primary only months after he entered the race. A year later, he was selected from among a crowded field by the district’s Republican Committee to run to replace outgoing Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA), going on to win the general election in November against Leslie Cockburn 53-47%.
Growing censure: Good is running to Riggleman’s right at a time when the congressman is facing mounting pressure from within the party. The Rappahannock County Republican Party censured Riggleman last September for “abandoning party principles,” citing votes on fiscal spending and immigration. In addition, Riggleman was criticized by some in his district for officiating the gay wedding of two former campaign volunteers. The Cumberland County Republican party passed a vote of no confidence over his role at the wedding and Riggleman has claimed the Rappahannock County censure vote was actually about the wedding as well.
Battle: Riggleman is accusing local Virginia Republican officials of colluding with Good to deny him the party’s nomination in his bid for re-election. Republican officials in the district are holding a nominating convention instead of a traditional primary, where only pre-registered delegates can vote and all voting takes place at a single location. Riggleman lambasted the convention process as corrupt and part of a rigged system designed to boost the committee’s preferred candidate. “They [hold conventions] to try to limit the amount of voters,” he told JI. “If they have a candidate they can’t control or somebody who they don’t think is far-right enough, they’ll try to run conventions to get that person out.”
Community support: Riggleman’s position on Israel — as well as on other foreign policy and national security issues — has made him popular in the Jewish community. “He’s one of our favorites and one of our top priorities right now,” Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks told JI. “He’s been a terrific leader and an outspoken supporter of the issues we care about.” Pro-Israel America told JI it is also planning to announce its endorsement of Riggleman. The freshman congressman said he first “fell in love with Israel” when he visited in the mid-90s while serving in the U.S. military. “It’s hard not to support Israel when you see the people, when you understand the culture.”
Fighting Covid: As Riggleman fights for his political future, his family has converted their distillery’s operations to focus on producing hand sanitizer. The distillery has distributed more than 400,000 oz. of the antibacterial solution to his community in recent weeks. “Just the other day, I went to the University of Virginia hospital, and there was our sanitizer at UVA hospital, because they had run out,” he said. “I think that’s what makes me feel the best, is when you serve others.”
How Dr. Joel Sandberg helped save Eli Beer’s life
Eli Beer, the founder of United Hatzalah, recently returned home after recovering from a life-threatening brush with the novel coronavirus while visiting South Florida. For weeks, he was intubated in a medically induced coma at the University of Miami Medical Center, with a tireless advocate and friend working on his behalf: Dr. Joel Sandberg — the father of Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer — who sits on the board of Hatzalah. “I was intimately involved in his entire hospital course,” Sandberg said in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Chance encounter: Beer and Sandberg met years ago on a plane from Miami to New York. When Sandberg found out Beer was the founder of Hatzalah, he told Beer that he knew of the nonprofit and had donated to it. The next morning, they met for breakfast, after which Sandberg and his wife, Adele, decided to become more involved, donating an ambulance and ambucycle.
Advocate: Sandberg says he sprung into action when Beer entered the hospital on the Tuesday after the Purim holiday. “It was just natural for me to be his medical advocate,” said Sandberg, a physician and voluntary professor of ophthalmology at the University of Miami Medical Center. While Beer was unconscious, Sandberg made sure to convey to each hospital worker the character of the man they were tending to. “I told everyone who he was and that we wanted to do everything possible,” he said. “I would email them his Wikipedia page and tell them to look up his TED Talk. And when I was on the phone, I would just tell them about Eli.”
High praise: “He just never stopped,” lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who also sits on United Hatzalah’s board, told JI regarding Sandberg. “He’s not the youngest man in the world. And it was as if he was a 30-year-old new doctor. I mean, he just wouldn’t stop. He was like the Energizer Bunny. He just went on and on and on. He has accumulated more mitzvahs than anybody needs to get into heaven.”
Go between: Though he couldn’t be present at the hospital, Sandberg was in constant talks with the medical workers who were treating Beer, analyzing lab data and relaying information from various doctors to Beer’s wife, Gitty, three times a day. Sandberg also told JI that he sent out a report on Beer’s status once or twice a day to a team at Hatzalah. “It was my pleasure and honor to do it,” said Sandberg, who speaks with Beer every day. “I mean, I love Eli — and he’s saving lives all the time.”
Friendly skies: Beer is no stranger to making new friends in transit. On a November 2015 flight from New York’s LaGuardia Airport, Beer found then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sitting in business class. “You’re a big supporter of Israel, you know that?” Beer told the presidential hopeful as she nodded her head. “[You should] continue,” he said. “I will,” Hillary replied.
Former national security officials call on DNC to amend 2020 platform’s Israel plank
A group of 32 former diplomats and national security officials are calling on Democratic Party leaders to ensure the party’s 2020 platform includes language that balances Palestinian rights with a committment to Israel’s security and explicitly opposes Israeli settlement expansion and unilateral annexation of West Bank settlements.
Signatories include former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, former Deputy National Security Advisors Avril Haines and Ben Rhodes, and former U.S. Ambassadors to Israel Martin Indyk and Daniel Kurtzer.
Details: The letter urges top officials in the Democratic National Committee to allow platform committee members to revise the party’s Israel plank ahead of this summer’s slated convention “to make clear what a comprehensive effort to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should look like under a future Democratic administration.” It criticizes past Democratic platforms as having “been nearly silent on the rights of Palestinians, on Israeli actions that undermine those rights and the prospects for a two-state solution, and on the need for security for both peoples.”
Why now? Kurtzer told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh that U.S. policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “needs a serious course correction” following the Trump administration’s approach. “The Democratic Party platform is a good place to start to put the policy and our ability to help shepherd a serious peace process back on track,” Kurtzer explained.
On the Hill: A letter is being circulated among Democratic senators by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) warning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Benny Gantz that annexation “would fray our unique bonds, imperil Israel’s future and place out of reach the prospect of a lasting peace,” according to an action alert sent out by J Street on Monday. The offices of Murphy, Kaine and Van Hollen did not confirm the content of the letter by publication time.
Bonus: In a New York Post op-ed, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman hit back against Obama administration veterans Philip Gordon and Robert Malley for publicly criticizing the Trump peace plan and the prospect of Israeli annexation. Friedman called their comments “downright obnoxious” and “flat-out wrong.”
👩⚕️ Front Lines: Dermatologist Nava Greenfield shares with Allure’s Jessica Defino how she was inspired to volunteer on the front lines to treat COVID-19 patients at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital. “If there was an opportunity to help my city, where I come from, I was going to. I’m also an Orthodox Jew, so I felt like this was very much in line with the values of my family.” [Allure]
🤴 Dead End: In Bloomberg, Bobby Ghosh explores how Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has “hit a dead end” in Washington, only now realizing how “his ill-judged strategy” to focus solely on building a relationship with the Trump family has left him “close to a pariah.” [Bloomberg]
📜 Remembering: Rockstar and KISS frontman Gene Simmons was presented with documents showing his mother’s liberation from the Mauthausen concentration camp 75 years ago, during an interview with Bild. “If somebody says that all of this was in the past – that’s not true,” he said. “It was yesterday.” [Bild]
💻 No Snooze on Zoom: In Harvard Business Review, Sarah Gershman offers five tips on how to make participation in virtual meetings — now a standard during the coronavirus outbreak — more effective. [HBR]
Around the Web
🧫 Making Strides:Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett claimed yesterday that an Israeli lab has made a “significant breakthrough” toward a COVID-19 treatment.
💲Helping Hand: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged during a global conference that Israel will invest $60 million towards efforts to develop a vaccine and treatment for coronavirus.
✌️ Declaring Victory: Israel is easing many of the coronavirus restrictions that have been in place since March, but the Knesset has extended the Shin Bet’s ability to track cellphones for a further three weeks.
🎤 Heard Yesterday:Israeli Consul General to New York Dani Dayan said during a webinar hosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York that Iran’s battle against the coronavirus “didn’t change one iota of the expansion of their terrorist fomenting activities” in the Middle East. Dayan added that “Israel continues to monitor and act to safeguard our security as if there is no coronavirus, and fight the coronavirus as if there are no security threats.”
🥺 Global Effort: Israel is calling on the U.K. and France to follow Germany’s lead to ban all Hezbollah activities within their borders.
🕺 Busted Moves: The IDF has decided to stop drafting dancers to its entertainment division after a controversial recent video featuring a pop star-turned-soldier.
🚖 Auto Future: Intel has inked a $900 million deal to buy Israel’s Moovit to help the chipmaker develop self-driving “robo-taxis.”
🤝 Let’s Make a Deal: Elon Musk has reportedly put two of his Los Angeles properties up for sale after announcing on Twitter that he is selling all of his possessions and “will own no house.” The former home of Gene Wilder is listed for $9.5 million, while a house Musk bought from Canyon Capital Advisors co-founder Mitch Julis is selling for a cool $30 million.
🚫 Deal Off: L Brands has called off a deal to sell Victoria’s Secret to Sycamore Partners amid a dispute, though the company said it still plans to split in two and for embattled CEO Les Wexner to step down this month.
⚖️ Legal Battle:WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann officially filed a lawsuit yesterday suing SoftBank for backing out of a $3 billion deal to save the company.
👋 Stepping Down: NBC News chairman Andy Lack announced on Monday he is moving aside as part of the company’s reorganization.
💑 Quarantine Love: Investor Sam Altman and Grindr founder Joel Simkhai are backing a new dating app based on videochatting.
🎥 Looking Back:A new documentary will spotlight the Icelandic band Hatari’s decision to use their Eurovision performance in Israel last year to send a pro-Palestinian message — against competition rules.
📺 Changing Minds: Hussein Ibish, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute, writes in Bloomberg that a new Saudi TV show featuring Jewish characters represents “a genuine reflection of a generational shift in attitudes.”
😷 Limited Space: Adam Mintz writes in openDemocracy that the idea of the rabbinic eruv could serve as a model for “reimagining our social space” in the age of coronavirus.
👩 New Hire: Zioness has hired Rabbi Lindsey Danziger as its national director of organizing.
👨 Transition: Siamak “Sia” Kordestani, formerly AJC’s assistant director in the Los Angeles office, is joining the Friends of ELNET as West Coast director.
Pic of the Day
The Western Wall is reopening for prayers — up to 300 worshipers will be permitted and the plaza will be divided to limit each prayer group to 19 people — on the condition that people wear face masks and practice social distancing.
Former Israeli national soccer team captain, Yossi Benayoun turns 40…
Conservative talk radio show host, Barry Farber turns 90… Author of the “Letter from America” column for The International Herald Tribune, Richard Bernstein turns 76… Best-selling author of 20 novels featuring fictional Manhattan prosecutor Alexandra Cooper, former head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office (1976-2002), Linda Fairstein turns 73… Retired judge on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, Peter B. Krauser turns 73… Member of the Knesset, almost continuously since 1988, for the Haredi parties of Degel HaTorah and United Torah Judaism, Moshe Gafni turns 68… South African-born president of American Jewish World Service, Robert Bank turns 61… David Shamir turns 59…
Executive director for North America of the Avi Chai Foundation since 1994, Yossi Prager turns 55… Television writer and producer, known for “The Simpsons,” Josh Weinstein turns 54… Owner of DC-based PR firm Rosen Communications, Nicole Rosen turns 49… Director of public relations at UJA-Federation of New York, Emily Kutner turns 49… Television correspondent and actress, Lara Berman Krinsky turns 40… Global McKinsey fellow and scholar, Noah Greenfield… Principal at New Enterprise Associates, Andrew Adams Schoen turns 30… Dental hygiene student at CUNY New York City College of Technology, Maxine Fuchs turns 27… Blake E. Goodman turns 21…