Good Thursday morning!
It’s been close to three weeks since we first reported on a draft letter authored by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) circulating among Senate offices warning Israeli leaders against annexation. The letter has yet to be released.
The initial draft, which threatened that unilateral annexation would end bipartisan support for Israel in Congress, only garnered 10 signatures. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) didn’t sign and told us, “I don’t think it is helpful for us to sow dissension in the United States as it relates to the support for Israel.” The three authors then revised the language and backed away from the threats.
Last week, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) released a solo letter she sent to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against annexation. Word around the Hill is that more senators will follow her lead and release individual letters instead of joining the group one.
As for the 10 senators who signed the initial letter, we found out yesterday that they are Van Hollen, Murphy, Kaine, Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). No word yet on which senators have joined the updated draft of the letter. As of yesterday, J Street was still sending action alerts to its members to lobby senators to join.
Today on the Hill, the Senate will vote to confirm Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) as the director of national intelligence.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committeeis also set to discuss a slate of bills that would elevate the State Department’s envoy on antisemitism to the rank of ambassador (S. 238); the U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2020 (S. 3176); and legislation named after former FBI agent Robert Levinson that aims to strengthen recovery efforts of American hostages abroad (S. 712). We accidentally listed this as happening yesterday in yesterday’s Daily Kickoff.
New York State is now allowing religious gatherings of up to 10 people to resume today, provided they maintain social distancing. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement, particular meaningful to Jewish prayer services, was welcomed by New York Jewish leaders.
Israel is marking Jerusalem Day, which falls this year on Friday, in a scaled-back manner today as coronavirus restrictions continue to ease.
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Carolyn Bourdeaux tries again in Georgia congressional race
In 2018, Carolyn Bourdeaux lost by just 433 votes to incumbent Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) in Georgia’s 7th congressional district. Now that Woodall is retiring at the end of his term, Bourdeaux is trying again in an open-seat contest. “I got so close last time,” Bourdeaux said in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. “So many people came up to me after and were like, ‘This was a victory,’ given that this was such a sleeper race.”
Of the tribe: Bourdeaux is married to Jeffrey Skodnick, a sales manager at LexisNexis who is Jewish. “I have a wonderful, very supportive set of in-laws,” said Bourdeaux, who sends her son to Hebrew school. “I really do feel a sense of deep connection with the Jewish community here.” In the late ’90s, Bourdeaux went backpacking on a solo trip through Israel between studies. “When I was there, I was very involved in trying to understand the Jewish experience,” she recalled. “I went to the top of the Masada, where the troops swear that it will never fall again, and I was just very, very moved by my visit there and my experience.”
In the crowd: Bourdeaux — who received endorsements from Reps. John Lewis (D-GA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) — faces a crowded primary that includes state senator Zahra Karinshak, state representative Brenda Lopez Romero and progressive activist Nabilah Islam, who was recently endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
Priorities: Bourdeaux’s first campaign focused on health care, something she said is even more pressing now amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “I tell folks I got into this race around health care and dealing with the corruption and incompetence in Washington,” said Bourdeaux. “Those issues were important before — they’re even more resonant now.”
Regime change: The candidate said she supports a two-state solution, though she recognizes how “difficult” it will be to get there. “The first, most important thing, though, is, right now, we have to change the leadership in this country,” said Bourdeaux, who believes the Trump administration has destabilized the Middle East. “We just don’t have leadership that’s committed to a peace process that’s going to work.”
Read more here.
talk of the Temple
The real estate exec aiming to be the first GOP Jewish congresswoman in a generation
Margaret Streicker wants to make history this November. The Connecticut real estate executive is taking on 30-year incumbent Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), aiming to be the first Jewish Republican woman elected to Congress in several decades, she told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod in a recent interview.
New blood: Streicker faces an uphill battle to win in Connecticut’s 3rd congressional district, which encompasses New Haven and its suburbs. DeLauro hasn’t faced a serious challenger in years — in 2018, she beat her opponent by an 87-point margin. The idea of ushering in change is central to Streicker’s campaign, something she credits to her Jewish background. “There’s a theme that runs through Judaism of l’dor v’dor — from generation to generation,” she said. “We need to step up as leaders and offer to try and do better… I know without the shadow of a doubt that it’s time for new energy and new blood and new talent, new perspective in our Congress, and certainly here in [the] district.”
Family ties: Streicker has been deeply involved with the Jewish community as a trustee of New York City’s Temple Emanu-El and the Jewish Museum. She’s worked closely with the synagogue’s Streicker Center — funded by a donation from her family — to help organize events and lectures. At both institutions, she said, she has worked to modernize and make “them more accessible and relevant to people of all backgrounds.”
A new generation: Streicker is one of several Republican Jewish women vying for a seat in Congress this election cycle, including Pennsylvania’s Lisa Scheller and Nevada’s Randi Reed. Only two have ever served: Rep. Florence Kahn (R-CA), from 1925 to 1937, and Rep. Bobbi Fiedler (R-CA), from 1981-1987. “I’m proud to be part of a growing movement that is reforming the Republican Party and showing that it is a varied and multi-ethnic and multi-viewpoint party,” Streicker said. Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks told JI that his organization was “excited that we have a strong slate of Jewish Republican candidates running,” but that RJC was holding off on putting money behind Streicker until it’s clear she’ll be competitive in November.
Heard last night
Florida’s Jewish Democratic members of Congress tout Biden
The three Jewish Democratic House members from Florida — Reps. Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz — discussed their support for Joe Biden and the issues that matter to Jewish voters in a Zoom event yesterday moderated by Sarah Bard, the de facto director of Jewish outreach for the Biden campaign, and attended by senior advisor Tony Blinken and deputy political director John McCarthy.
Born free: Frankel noted in her remarks that she was born on the same day Israel formally applied for membership in the United Nations — May 16, 1948. “It’s always been especially important to me that we have Israel’s back, that we have this warm friendship and security pledge, and I know that Joe Biden would do that without making Israel a political football, that has been just a terrible mark of this current administration,” Frankel said.
Strong at home, stronger abroad: Deutch stressed that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is committed to a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, “and he doesn’t view Israel as a political issue. He views it as something that matters to him, something that he learned about growing up, and the need for the State of Israel after the Holocaust.”
Biden first: Wasserman Schultz pointed out that her first vote for president at age 18, while studying at the University of Florida, was for Biden in his 1988 presidential bid. “And this year, my twins cast their first vote for president in the Florida primary, and they voted for Joe Biden,” she said. “So we’ve come full circle in our family.”
Pushback: Former Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt reacted to Biden’s recent warning that Israeli annexation of portions of the West Bank “will choke off any hope for peace” during a webcast with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach yesterday. “That’s nonsense,” Greenblatt said. Pointing to Hamas’s rule of Gaza as an example, he said, Biden and the Europeans “are so hyper focused on what they call settlements and annexation — as if that is key to solving this conflict. It’s not, it shouldn’t be spoken about in that way.”
🕍 Yearning to Return: Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple writes in The Atlantic that the “whole world is sitting shiva” right now alone in their homes. He hopes that when the pandemic ends, everyone “will rush, smiling, back into one another’s arms,” as they did 100 years ago to the L.A. synagogue after the end of the Spanish Flu. [TheAtlantic]
👨💻 Cash Zoom: Politico’s Marc Caputo reports how the Biden campaign has managed to successfully adapt to virtual fundraisers in its rush to catch up with President Donald Trump’s re-election war chest. According to Caputo, two recent fundraisers — one hosted by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and another event for Jewish Democrats — raised $1.5 million. [Politico]
↩️ Paradigm Shift: The Council on Foreign Relations’ Steven A. Cook writes in Foreign Policy that the U.S. should curtail its push for a two-state solution, phase out military aid and end the “special relationship” with Israel in favor of normalized ties, ending “the contradictions and burdens of peacemaking” that has been continually out of reach. [ForeignPolicy]
Around the Web
🚫 Not Welcome:Israel has extended its ban on non-Israeli citizens entering the country until at least June 15.
🏦 Cautious Steps: Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron said he will push for an expanded budget to help the economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
👩⚖️ Buzz on Balfour:IsraeliPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was denied his request to skip the opening of his criminal trial scheduled for Sunday in the Jerusalem District Court.
👬 Seize the Moment: In Foreign Policy, Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, implored Netanyahu and Benny Gantz to use their alliance to speed economic recovery and heal the wounds of the year-long political deadlock.
🏖️ Tanning Time: After weeks of lockdown, Israelis took advantage of a blistering heat wave to rush to beaches on the first day they officially reopened.
😷 Startup Nation: Sonovia, an Israeli maker of reusable antiviral masks, is considering launching an IPO on Nasdaq later this year.
⛔ No Thanks: The Palestinian Authority has reportedly rejected a shipment of coronavirus aid from the UAE because it was coordinated through Israel.
🙏🏻 Life Support: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday that he hopes security coordination between Israel and the Palestinians will continue, despite Palestinian officials vowing to press ahead with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s threat to cut ties.
🤝 Mediating: Russia has reportedly offered to host American and Palestinian officials in Geneva for a summit on Trump’s peace plan.
😱 Home Confinement:Iran has decided to call off nationwide anti-Israeli rallies to mark Quds Day on Friday following a spike in new coronavirus cases. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed however that Iran will support any nation or group that fights Israel.
🛢️ Blocking the Path: The Trump administration is considering new sanctions to stop the flow of Iranian oil exports to Venezuela.
🤗 Play Nice: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has asked his delegates to this year’s Democratic convention to sign agreements promising not to attack other candidates in interviews or on social media.
💻 Virtual Attack: The NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force is investigating a hate-filled video-bombing incident during online Shabbat services held by the Central Synagogue.
⚖️ Court Battle: The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against Jackson Township in New Jersey for allegedly passing zoning laws to discriminate against the town’s Orthodox Jewish community.
🗣️ Criticism:Michigan’s Democratic Jewish Caucus slammed Republican State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey for speaking at a rally where protesters used Nazi symbols.
⛓️ Free Man: Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen is slated to be released from prison today and serve the rest of his sentence from home.
🚫 Red Line: More than 250 Jewish leaders have called on the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to ban any member who has committed sexual harassment or assault.
❤️ There For You: During an appearance on “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” actress Courteney Cox surprised a fan whose “Friends”-themed bar mitzvah was canceled
👨💼👩💼 Transitions: Israel Policy Forum has appointed talent agent Rick Rosen, head of the television department at WME, and Jonathan Kamel as members of its board of directors. Kamel was also named national chair of IPF Atid, the group’s young professionals network. Journalist Dana Wechsler Linden and attorney Marc Stanley became members of the group’s executive committee.
🕯️ Remembering: Else Blangsted, who fled Nazi Germany and became a music editor in Hollywood, has died at age 99. Former Newsday reporter and author Leonard Levitt, who wrote extensively about the NYPD, has died at 79. Israeli-American peace advocate Robert Ullian died of coronavirus complications at age 75.
Pic of the Day
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) shows off his menorah selection as a backdrop for a Senate hearing on environmental protection at the Committee on Environment and Public Works yesterday.
Bestselling author, staff writer at The New Yorker and legal analyst at CNN, Jeffrey Toobin turns 60…
CEO of the Boston-based Baupost Group, Seth Klarman turns 63… Former U.S. Senator from Minnesota until his resignation in 2018 amid sexual misconduct allegations, Al Franken turns 69… Guitarist and composer, Marc Ribot turns 66… Executive vice president of American Friends of Bar-Ilan University, Ron Solomon turns 66… Chief rabbi of Mitzpe Yericho and dean of Hara’ayon Hayehudi yeshiva in Jerusalem, Rabbi Yehuda Kroizer turns 65… President, publisher and co-owner of City & State NY, Thomas Allon turns 58… Actress and playwright, Lisa Edelstein turns 54… Head of Dewey Square’s sports business practice, author and former Associated Press journalist, Frederic J. Frommer turns 53… President and CEO of the Michigan-based William Davidson Foundation, Darin McKeever turns 46… University chaplain for NYU and executive director of NYU’s Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life, he was appointed in 2019 as the non-resident chief rabbi of the United Arab Emirates, Rabbi Yehuda Sarna turns 42…
Brandon Pollak turns 40… Professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin, Scott Joel Aaronson, Ph.D. turns 39… Showrunner for Condé Nast magazine brands for the Quibi platform, Mosheh Oinounou turns 38… Los Angeles-born, raised in Israel, international fashion model for Versace and others, Sharon Ganish turns 37… Windsurfer who represented Israel in the Olympics (Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016), she is now a project manager at 3DSignals in Kfar Saba, Maayan Davidovich turns 32… Player on the USC team that won the 2016 NCAA National Soccer Championship, she now plays as a defender for Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC in the Swedish Damallsvenskan, Savannah Levin turns 25… Associate director of the Israel Action Program at Hillel International, Tina Malka… Managing partner at 202 Strategies, Steve Miller…