Good Thursday morning!
Ed note: Wishing readers a happy Shavuot. The next Daily Kickoff will be on Monday.
For those at home planning to study all night tonight, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has teamed up with Sefaria to offer a series of Shavuot lectures that can be printed here.
The White House is ending sanctions waivers that allowed Russian, Chinese and European entities to do work at Iranian nuclear sites after three years of waiver extensions.
President Donald Trump is expected to sign the Never Again Education Act today. More below.
Israeli government officials are reportedly accusing Scott Leith, senior advisor to the Mideast peace envoy at the State Department and a member of the joint U.S.-Israel committee on mapping the Trump peace plan, of leading a hardened stance on annexation, pushing Israel to forgo any claim over 70% of the West Bank.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israel Hayom in an interview published today that no Palestinians living in areas slated for annexation would be granted Israeli citizenship.
The Biden campaign will host a virtual cooking class on Sunday with award-winning chef Michael Solomonov and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) to mark the end of Jewish American Heritage Month.
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FROM FEDERAL TO LOCAL
Can this Treasury Department veteran bring Baltimore back?
When voters in Baltimore head to the polls on Tuesday, they’ll have two dozen mayoral candidates from which to choose. According to an independent poll released last week, Mary Miller, who served as under secretary for domestic finance at the Treasury Department in the Obama administration, is tied for the lead with former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon. “We need a new kind of leadership,” Miller said in a recent Zoom interview with Jewish Insider‘s Gabby Deutch. “We also need much stronger management of this city if we’re gonna get things going in a better direction.”
Roots: Miller has lived in Baltimore for 34 years and is the first to acknowledge that the city has changed over the years. Harborplace, a shopping center that opened in 1980 on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and now sits half-empty, was at the time, she said, “a spanking new, beautiful symbol of everything Baltimore offered to the world. Tons of tourists. Downtown was coming alive with new investments, hotels, and office buildings.” The National Aquarium, which opened a year later, was a “home run for the Baltimore Harbor,” Miller said. “You were excited about Baltimore. It just felt like a cool place and a city on the move.”
In retrospect, Miller realized that “we still weren’t bringing the whole city along.” Baltimore remains racially segregated from a decades-long history of redlining. As Miller worked her way up to T. Rowe Price’s management committee, she participated in occasional community service projects with groups like Habitat for Humanity. “We painted houses and volunteered at neighborhood cleanups and so forth, but we weren’t changing the economic reality of those neighborhoods,” Miller came to understand. “We weren’t giving people that lived there meaningful jobs. We weren’t giving them [a] good education.”
Government experience: The coronavirus pandemic has made it easier for her to make her case — that her background in investment banking and as an Obama administration official tasked with helping the economy recover from the 2008 financial crisis has prepared her to get Baltimore out of this mess. “I’m bringing in a fresh perspective that I think could really serve the moment where we are going to have to do things quite differently as a city,” Miller argued.
Support from the tribe: Miller recently participated in a Zoom call with members of Baltimore’s Orthodox Jewish community about issues in Northwest Baltimore, where many Orthodox Jews live. On Wednesday, several prominent members of the Orthodox Jewish community endorsed Miller, explaining that “we think Baltimore City has been going in the wrong direction, and if we are going to change the course, it starts with better leadership at the top.” Their letter included a statement from former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, himself an Orthodox Jew (who does not live in Baltimore). “For over four years, Mary worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people, leading the U.S. Treasury department’s efforts to tackle some of the most difficult challenges facing our country,” Lew said in the letter.
Family ties: Last month, Miller marked her first Passover seder, hosted by her son Tom, who recently converted to Judaism and spent last year’s fall semester studying law at Hebrew University. Miller suspects her son’s inclination toward Judaism and Israel might have come from her husband James Dabney Miller, a senior associate at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health. “He was kind of an oddball, Atlanta-raised Episcopalian on a kibbutz,” Miller said of her husband, who took a year off of college to live at Kibbutz Neve Eitan, south of the Galilee. “There was something there that I think reached my son,” Miller said.
LA Mayor Eric Garcetti leans on his Jewish faith amid pandemic
Eric Garcetti has been praying more than usual lately. “I used to pray every night going to sleep, and maybe I slipped a little bit before this,” he told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in an interview yesterday. “But I never formally kind of prayed as much as I have now.”
Fighting for life: The 49-year-old Democratic mayor of Los Angeles currently finds himself knee-deep in the most consequential moment of his political career as he works to confront the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 2,000 lives in the broader Los Angeles area. “In the earliest days, it was some of the most devastating days I’ve experienced, both as mayor and as a human being,” he said. “It was almost too much to contain. It did, though, help guide the courage that we collectively had in Los Angeles to take actions really early, to step out when there were vacuums in leadership.”
Houses of worship: Garcetti said he is a member of both IKAR and Wilshire Boulevard Temple, but doesn’t expect to attend services “anytime soon.” The synagogues “don’t have plans immediately to open,” he said. “I think they’re smartly using their discretion. We’ve seen this around the world. Political leaders declare victory — I opened up restaurants — and then most restaurateurs can’t make any money and most customers are saying I don’t want to go to restaurants yet. So we really should steer away from politics on these things, and we should make really sensible decisions.”
Prayer leader: Garcetti asked to lead his bi-weekly conference call prayer session with local religious leaders this past Saturday. “It was a commentary on Numbers. It was how this space in between is what we’re living in. We’re not in Egypt and we’re not in the promised land… we have to figure out a way to not only comfortably live in this in-between, but embrace it.”
Eye on November: The L.A. mayor is a national co-chair on Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, and sits on his vice presidential selection committee. “I’m 95% of the time focused on my city,” he said. “I do try to give an hour or so each day to the campaign, and I’ve been very honored to not only be one of the first two co-chairs of the entire campaign — and I think there’s five of us now total, I might be the only Jewish one — but also one of the four folks that the vice president has asked to help him find a vice president.”
Race to watch
Steve King is fighting for his political life in 10th-term bid
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is limping towards his ninth re-election bid. Four candidates are challenging the incumbent congressman in Tuesday’s GOP primary to represent Iowa’s 4th congressional district — and one, state senator Randy Feenstra, may be within striking range of ending King’s tenure in Washington, reports Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh.
Background: King has a history of making bigoted comments against a variety of minority groups, and has faced criticism for his association with far-right political parties in Europe. Last year, House Republican leaders voted to remove King from the Judiciary and Agriculture Committees following comments that appeared to defend white nationalists and white supremacists. Earlier this month, King claimed he’d reached an agreement with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to return to his committee slots, a statement immediately denied by the GOP leader.
Challenger: Feenstra, 51, has represented Iowa’s 2nd district in the State Senate since 2009, where he serves as assistant majority leader in the GOP-controlled legislature. He launched his campaign in January 2019 after King was stripped of his committee assignments, and immediately received the backing of former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. In a recent interview with Jewish Insider, Feenstra maintained that King being deprived of his committee responsibilities, in particular the agriculture committee, is a good enough reason for him to be replaced. “We have a big agricultural area in our 4th district, and we have lost the seat at the table,” he noted.
Notable endorsements: The Republican Jewish Coalition has offered its support to Feenstra, a rare endorsement of a challenger. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), a member of the Steering Committee and former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, didn’t endorse any candidate, but told JTA that the RJC deserves praise for taking the rare step of supporting a challenger to an incumbent.
Better representative: “Steve King’s comments put him clearly outside of the mainstream of the Republican Party and they certainly don’t reflect or represent what we feel to be the values of the Republican Jewish Coalition,” RJC executive director Matt Brooks told JI. “And given that we think we have a strong candidate who can win in Randy Feenstra, we felt it important to take a stand and to make a clear statement that we will do everything in our power to defeat King in the primary and to elect somebody who is better representative of our values.”
Great ally: Feenstra said he is deeply religious and “Israel is so important for us as a nation to have as a great ally in the Middle East, and we have to be their protectors.” He praised President Donald Trump for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. He also backs the president’s Mideast peace plan, but stated, “I don’t believe Israel has to give up ground. We have to create a demarcation line and say, ‘This is Israel’s land and let’s be done with it.’”
DRIVING THE DAY
Trump to sign the Never Again Education Act into law
The Never Again Education Act is set to be signed into law today by President Donald Trump, though details of the signing remain up in the air.
Background: The bipartisan bill, sponsored in the House by Rep. Carolyn Maloney and in the Senate by Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), passed the Senate earlier this month following overwhelming support in the House in January. It authorizes the disbursement of $10 million over the next five years to further Holocaust-related programming in middle and high schools.
Limited space: One congressional staffer confirmed to Jewish Insider that the legislation will be signed in a private event in the Oval Office in adherence with coronavirus-related restrictions. Several Jewish leaders have been invited to attend the ceremony.
Heard the other day: Rosen, co-chair of the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism, called the bill a “first step in centralizing a good quality and authentic curriculum to teach the Holocaust to future generations” during a webcast hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America on Tuesday.
Bean stew: On the call, Rosen was asked how she can work with her Republican colleagues in a bipartisan fashion when they are “hesitant” to call out Trump’s actions and rhetoric. “My motto is agree where you can and fight where you must,” Rosen replied. “So whether it’s the president, or someone else, I’m not going to tolerate antisemitic tropes.” The Democratic lawmaker drew a comparison between her legislative work to her personal life, sharing that despite her distaste of lima beans, she allows them on the dinner table because her husband loves them. “I don’t run off and divorce my husband because he likes lima beans and I don’t, and that’s how I work with my colleagues,” she explained. “I try to find those places where we agree… Move as much forward as you can, and then stand up for the other things where you might have big disagreements.”
🖋️ Learning Lessons: Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman, who testified before the House Judiciary Committee ahead of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, writes in Bloomberg that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial could provide the U.S. with insight on “whether a head of state charged with a crime would be too distracted to perform the duties of his office.” [Bloomberg]
💪 Tough Lady:New York magazine’s The Cut profiles the resilient Marga Griesbach, a Holocaust survivor who lived through several concentration camps and a death march, and was determined to take off on a global cruise in February at age 92. “Normal is something elusive,” she said. “It doesn’t exist. It was just a dream of mine.” [NewYork]
😟 Once Again:Business Insider’s Haven Orecchio-Egresitz spoke to members of the Hasidic Jewish community in New York’s Rockland County, who are experiencing increased hatred amid the coronavirus outbreak, just six months after the horrific Hanukkah stabbing attack in Monsey. [BI]
Around the Web
👊 Social Media War: Members of the Trump campaign are leading an attack on Twitter’s Yoel Roth after the company applied a fact-checking label to one of the president’s tweets — despite the fact that he is not responsible for the decision. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg criticized Twitter on Wednesday for fact-checking Trump.
👨💼 Back in the Spotlight: Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw the Robert Mueller inquiry while in the Trump administration, is expected to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.
💣 Pushing Ahead: The White House is preparing another weapons sale package to Saudi Arabia following the firing of State Department inspector general Steve Linick, who was investigating a large weapons sale to Riyadh.
✈️ Top Secret: Israeli doctors reportedly rushed on a covert flight to Sudan to try and save the life of diplomat Najwa Gadaheldam, who managed secret diplomatic ties between the nations, but she died of coronavirus shortly after the Israelis arrived.
🗺️ Not a Fan:Former Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, now a member of the opposition, said Trump’s peace plan as it stands is not good for Israel.
🛡️ Balfour Declaration:Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s blistering attack on Israel’s justice system is highlighting a growing divide within Israeli society.
🎤 Speaking His Mind:U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said during an appearance at the Haaretz Judaism Conference that Jewish illiteracy is the “greatest threat of all” to Diaspora Jewry.
🤝 Hand in Hand: JINSA’s Michael Makovsky and Charles Perkins explain the benefit of having Israel as a trusted ally — as the U.S. is racing to find a COVID-19 vaccine — amid tension with China.
🛫 Open Skies: Israel is hoping to reintroduce quarantine-free travel with Australia by December as part of a travel bubble with countries with low coronavirus rates.
🏫 School Funds: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said she will force public schools to share coronavirus rescue funding with private schools in their districts.
🏪 Talk of the City: Several businesses in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn are defying the city’s shutdown orders and reopening.
👨🏻⚖️ Delaying Matters: White Plains Federal Judge Cathy Seibel slammed the Bureau of Prisons for failing to provide mental health treatment to accused Hanukkah attacker Grafton Thomas so that he can stand trial.
💲 Tuning In: Silicon Valley billionaires, including Reid Hoffman, Laurene Powell Jobs, Dustin Moskovitz and Eric Schmidt are spending millions to help Joe Biden close the large digital campaign gap with Trump.
🖼️ Talk of the Town: The Museum of Jewish Montreal has been ordered out of its building by the new landlord.
📈 Across the Sea: Antisemitic incidents in Germany rose 13% in 2019 compared to a year earlier.
👩 Transition: Katie Miller, returning to work after recovering from COVID-19, has been promoted to the position of communications director for Vice President Mike Pence.
🥙 Shwarma To Go: Wise Sons is launching a delivery-only Mediterranean-themed Jewish restaurant in San Francisco named Lev.
Gif of the Day
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and his family joined an online broadcast to bake cheesecakes and raise money for the elderly ahead of Shavuot at the Pantry Packers facility in Jerusalem, managed by Colel Chabad.
Actress and singer Idina Menzel, known for her roles in “Wicked” and “Frozen,” turns 49 on Saturday…
THURSDAY: Tidewater (Virginia) community leader Arnold H. Leon turns 87… Rabbi ShlomoRiskin turns 80… UCSF’s neurologist Stanley Benjamin Prusiner M.D. turns 78… Former NYC Mayor RudyGiuliani turns 76… Ner Israel’s Jerome H. Kadden turns 76… Mayor of Toronto John Howard Tory turns 66… Winnipeg-born attorney Gail Sheryl Asper turns 60… Member of the Knesset Ofir Akunis turns 47… Rabbi in Huntsville, Alabama, EricBerk turns 45… Pew Charitable Trusts’ Lauren Mandelker turns 39… Singer-songwriter Adam Green turns 39… Entrepreneur Matthew Pritzker turns 38… Lobbyist David A. Lobl turns 36… Founder of At The Well Sarah Michal Waxman turns 34… Shafik Gabr Foundation’s Adelle Malka Nazarian turns 32… Freelance journalist Thea Glassman turns 29… Harry Weinstein turns 21… Adam Daniel Pearl turns 18… Irwin Weiss…
FRIDAY: Longboat Key, Florida’s Paul G. Morton turns 82… Israeli diplomat Eli Cohen turns 71… Composer Danny Elfman turns 67… Television writer and producer Mitchell Hurwitz turns 57… Wichita, Kansas, resident Ellen Ginsburg Beren turns 55… Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt turns 53… 70 Faces Media CEO Amiram (Ami) Eden turns 47… RSM McGladrey’s Yaakov Feinstein turns 47… London-based businessman Nathaniel Jerome Meyohas turns 46… Fashion designer Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss turns 45… Film producer Edward Frank “Teddy” Schwarzman turns 41… Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh turns 39… Pro-Israel activist Annika Hernroth-Rothstein turns 39… AREX Investment’s Alexander Berger turns 37… Jacob “Jake” Adler turns 34… Baseball player and coach Alon Leichman turns 31…
SATURDAY: Former New York State Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn turns 94… Historian Dolores Sloan turns 90… Real estate developer Larry A. Silverstein turns 89… Attorney Ira Lee “Ike” Sorkin turns 77… Maureen McCully “Mo” Winograd turns 74… CAA Agent Alan Louis Berger turns 70… Los Angeles caterer Brenda Walt turns 69… Former Chief Rabbi of France Gilles Uriel Bernheim turns 68… Business attorney Andrew W. Hyman turns 67… Author Daphne Miriam Merkin turns 66… Former Congressman Steve Israel turns 62… BBC News’ David Shukman turns 62… The New York Times‘ Michelle Cottle turns 50… Member of the Knesset Oded Forer turns 43… NYC’s Congregation Rodeph Sholom staffer Scott Hertz turns 40… Alina T. Katz turns 37… Executive director at Northeastern University Hillel, Gilad Skolnick turns 36… Healthcare attorney Ashley Bender Spirn turns 30… Political aide Miryam Esther Lipper turns 29… CNN’s Eric Levenson turns 29… San Francisco’s premier challah baker Jason Friend…
SUNDAY: U.S. Postmaster General and bank executive Anthony Melchior Frank turns 89… Investment advisor Alfred Phillip Stern turns 87… Industrialist Ira Leon Rennert turns 86… Food critic Jeffrey Steingarten turns 78… Democratic activist Alvin “Al” From turns 77… HBO’s Bernard Richard “Bernie” Goldberg turns 75… Comedian Susie Essman turns 65… Canadian billionaire Daryl Katz turns 59… Matchmaker Patti Stanger turns 59… Serial entrepreneur Alon Nisim Cohen turns 52… Toronto-born investor Andrew Rivkin turns 51… Maryland politician Joshua Jackson “Josh” Cohen turns 47… Melissa York turns 44… Freelance writer Sara Trappler Spielman turns 40… Attorney and author Michelle Hodkin turns 38… Zoox’s Bert Eli Kaufman turns 38… Zume’s Zoe Goldfarb turns 37… Stephanie Oreck Weiss turns 36… Politico‘s Brad E. Bosserman turns 35… Rabbi at Sixth & I Aaron Potek turns 34… BuzzFeed‘s Matt Berman turns 31… Premed student Amital Isaac turns 31… Brad Goldstein turns 27… Clearline Capital’s Hannah Swieca…