Good Monday morning!
At our interactive wine tasting next Sunday, JI’s wine columnist Yitz Applbaum will be joined by Napa’s leading kosher wine vintner Dan Levin. The pair will be broadcasting from OneHope winery’s private estate. If you’re on the East Coast, order by Wednesday to ensure delivery by Sunday. You must purchase to attend. Use code: JewishInsider to get the discounted price of $120 (the four bottles retail for $163.96).
David Cohen of Comcast is hosting a virtual fundraiser for Joe Biden this evening at 6 p.m. EDT. Biden will deliver remarks followed by a musical performance from Jay Buchanan of Rival Sons.
Vice President Mike Pence is not planning to self-isolate after his press secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive for coronavirus on Friday. Her husband, White House senior advisor Stephen Miller, is not expected to work from the White House for the immediate future, CNN reports.
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Senators back away from threatening Israel with end of bipartisan support
Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) are now pushing a revised, watered-down letter to Senate offices after originally circulating an initial draft — obtained by Jewish Insider — warning that annexation of parts of the West Bank would end bipartisan support for Israel.
First draft: The original letter, addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Benny Gantz, warned the Israeli leaders, “If you move forward with unilateral annexation, we could not support that action and would sadly conclude that Israel no longer values the bipartisan support that Congress has provided it for decades.”
Revised: The latest version of the letter reads: “If you move forward with unilateral annexation, we could not support that action. This is consistent with long-standing American policy opposing unilateral actions by either party to the conflict. Pursuit of a viable, negotiated two state solution is essential to ensuring our shared democratic values and lasting bipartisan support for Israel in Congress.”
Toned down: The original draft charged that annexation would “threaten” the commitment to Israel’s security and the shared values between the two countries. In the new version, “threaten” was changed to “undermine.” In another change, the original draft stated that “a negotiated agreement would likely erode the strong support among the American people for the unwavering security assistance” from the United States. The new language changes “unwavering security assistance… from the U.S.” to “special relationship… with the U.S.”
How it’s played: As of Thursday, the original draft had been signed by 10 senators, a Hill source informed JI. The initial draft was also pushed by J Street, which circulated a petition last Monday to its Maryland-based members pushing Van Hollen’s senior senator, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), to sign onto the letter. On Tuesday, Cardin indicated to Jewish Insider that he would not sign the original letter and said, “I don’t think it is helpful for us to sow dissension in the United States as it relates to the support for Israel.”
Hot take: Steven A. Cook writes in Foreign Policy that the U.S. reaction to a potential Israeli annexation bid has proven that America simply “doesn’t get Israel anymore.” Analysts and members of Congress, he posits, should not be surprised by “either Israel’s intention to annex territory that does not belong to it or Gantz’s willingness to consent to that policy… It defies logic to believe that Israel would ever give up on this long-term project.”
A Yang disciple goes up against Jerry Nadler in New York congressional race
Jonathan Herzog admits that his campaign to unseat 15-term incumbent Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) is something of a long shot. But the 25-year-old Democratic primary challenger in New York’s 10th congressional district is campaigning on a “hypothesis,” he told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent interview: seeking support for the idea of providing a universal basic income to every American.
Yang gang: Herzog has embraced the idea championed by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang. He dropped out of Harvard Law School to join Yang’s campaign at the end of 2018 in an effort to bring U.B.I. into the mainstream. And as the coronavirus pandemic rages, he feels the idea has only received further justification. “Tragically, in the darkest of ways, it has vindicated all that we’ve been fighting for,” he said.
Fueling hate: The candidate’s ardent belief in U.B.I. extends from his contention that the global economy has been upended in ways that have left many Americans struggling to stay afloat. “This is just the deep underbelly of what is now decades and decades of, tragically, institutional collapse,” he said. Herzog said upticks in hate crimes including incidents of antisemitism are also indicative of societal decay. “Attacks on Jews are leading indicators of a state of political and economic unrest,” he said. “We see this register in societies and economies that are dead or dying.”
Communal ties: Herzog was born and raised on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to Israeli immigrants from Haifa. “Yes, of course Israel is America’s most reliable friend and only democratic ally in the Middle East,” Herzog declares, adding that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is antisemitic, that the Iran nuclear deal was ill-conceived but “better than nothing,” and that the United States must provide foreign aid to Israel while advocating for a two-state solution. “But none of this is enough,” he writes in a draft position paper. “Jewish history shows us as much.”
WhatsApp a source of news, help, hope in Jewish community
As the coronavirus continues its global spread, WhatsApp has become a major source of news and coordination among many traditional segments of the Jewish community. Over the last two months, the app has increasingly become a centralized conduit of information and community organizing — as well as occasional misinformation, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Early warnings: Rabbi Motti Seligson, Chabad’s director of media relations, told Jewish Insider he first heard reports about the pandemic via WhatsApp from Chabad rabbis in China, where the virus is believed to have originated. As the virus spread, members of the community began to hear from people in Europe and Israel, sometimes in family WhatsApp groups, and warnings from doctors were shared widely.
Unverified: Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, an editor at The Forward, told JI that false cures and treatments, as well as other incorrect warnings about the virus, have also circulated on the app. One source noted to JI that some of the larger WhatsApp news operators send out regular updates naming individuals who have died of the disease — some of which turn out to be false. “It’s just important to know where the information that you’re sharing is coming from, especially when dealing with a pandemic,” Seligson said. “These platforms are neutral. It’s up to the users to use it properly and responsibly.”
Stepping up: WhatsApp has also become a hub for charity and other aid efforts. One organizer in the Hasidic community, who asked to be identified by his initials, Y.S., set up WhatsApp groups connecting large networks of people and charitable organizations. He said he’s been touched by how eager the community has been to offer up time, money and other resources throughout the crisis. “People are so giving because there is so much chaos in the community, and all over, with the virus,” he explained. He highlighted one recent incident when a community member needed transportation to Columbus, Ohio, for surgery. A call for help went out to one of the WhatsApp groups, and within a few hours, two people had volunteered for the nine-hour drive, and another offered to pay for gas and tolls. “It went crazy, I didn’t believe it,” Y.S. said. “The response was so amazing.”
👩👩👩 Waning Influence: National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar highlights how three members of “The Squad” — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) — have drawn credible challengers who are making the case that the first-term congresswomen are too extreme for their districts and would be marginalized in a Biden-inspired Democratic Party. [NationalJournal]
🕵️ Big Brother: Zack Whittaker of TechCrunchexplores the role Israel’s embattled NSO Group is playing in the country’s coronavirus contact-tracing efforts, and how it accidentally uploaded a database online amid privacy concerns and fears of hacking and leaks. [TechCrunch]
📱Real Problem: Inc. columnist Jason Aten posits that Facebook’s new oversight board is “impressive” but unable to tackle the biggest issue facing the social network: “The ultimate problem with Facebook is that its interests are in direct conflict with the privacy interests of its users.” [Inc.]
🎹 Hitting The Note: The New Yorker’s Alex Ross profiles Igor Levit, a Russian-born Jewish pianist and political activist in Berlin who has been on the receiving end of antisemitic attacks. “You must never forget that although you grew up in Germany and live in Germany, you belong to a population group that was intended not to live here anymore.” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
👨 Palace Intrigue: White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is trying to navigate his way through the West Wing tightly controlled by Jared Kushner, though Republicans close to the White House tell Politico that President Donald Trump doesn’t always take his son-in-law’s advice.
📈 Low Expectations:Former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew suggested that the best we can expect in the coming year is a “slow recovery.”
🤝 Swap Offer: An Iranian government official indicated that Tehran is ready for negotiations on a prisoner swap deal with the U.S.
🚢 Misfire: Nineteen Iranian sailors were killed when an Iranian missile struck a support vessel during a military training exercise in the Gulf of Oman Sunday.
👨💻 Cyberwar: Iranian hackers have reportedly targeted staff at Gilead Sciences, the company developing an experimental coronavirus drug.
⛓️ Tentative Talks: A Hamas official told AFP that it has taken significant steps toward reaching a prisoner swap deal with Israel.
✉️ On the Hill: Seven Republican House members close to the Trump administration have sent a letter to Jordan’s Ambassador to the U.S. Dina Kawar, warning the Hashemite Kingdom that refusing to extradite Ahlam Ahmad al-Tamimi to stand trial in the U.S. for her role in the 2001 suicide bombing of the Sbarro pizzeria would result in economic sanctions.
🏦 New Order: Israel is cracking down on banks that distribute payments to Palestinians who receive stipends for being imprisoned by Israel on terrorism-related charges.
🕊️ Open Window: Three Gulf states — Bahrain, the UAE and another unidentified country — have reached out to Israel in recent weeks for coronavirus-related assistance.
✈️ Tough Terms: The Israeli government will only offer El Al a bailout if it agrees to layoffs, a cash injection from its main shareholders and granting the state a stake in the company.
📺 Too Far: The Israeli government is threatening to ban a Hebrew Christian TV channel, GOD TV, for broadcasting missionary content.
👮 Clearing Desk:Israel’s outgoing Justice Minister Amir Ohana is urging authorities to investigate the state prosecutor and attorney general for “conflicts of interests” and “alien motives” in investigating and charging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
👩⚕️ In The Spotlight: Dr. Amy Acton, director of Ohio’s department of health, has drawn widespread praise for spearheading the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, but has also become the target of angry Ohioans protesting the strict stay-at-home measures.
🛐 Talk of the Nation: The Trump administration has voiced support for several lawsuits from religious leaders claiming that coronavirus restrictions infringe on their freedom of religion.
🗳️ Mitz-Vote: Nearly three dozen rabbis are encouraging Missourians to vote absentee and avoid in-person voting in the upcoming June 2 and August 4 elections because the Jewish tradition “values life above virtually all else.”
⚰️ Talk of the City: The Hebrew Home in Riverdale is covering up the number of deaths at the facility, whistleblowers claim, estimating that 119 residents have died, instead of the official count of 25.
😷 Hate Continues: The NYPD arrested two people for tearing off the masks of Orthodox Jews walking down the street in Brooklyn.
🏕️ Re-opening Plea: A group representing more than 50 Jewish summer camps is urging officials in Sullivan County, New York to allow camps to open in July with new precautions in place.
🕍 Final Warning: The City of New York has taken action against a Brooklyn synagogue following repeated social distancing violations, warning it will shut down the building if a cease-and-desist order is ignored.
📧 Close Ties: New internal emails show New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his staff were personally involved in trying to stall the city’s investigation of the education system at a handful of yeshivas.
💪 Triumphant Survival: New York Times columnist Bret Stephens tells the story of family friend Luis Stillmann, who survived the odds and was liberated from Mauthausen 75 years ago.
😡 Troubling Numbers:Germany’s Jews experienced 2,000 antisemitic incidents last year, a 13% increase over 2018, according to a new report.
💰 Cash Infusion: Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor Group has secured a $260 million loan to help it weather the coronavirus crisis.
👪 Stepping Down: Carolyn Tisch Blodgett is leaving exercise equipment company Peloton, where she served as head of marketing, to spend more time with her family.
📖 Book Shelf: In The Los Angeles Review of Books, Sarah Abrevaya Stein explores seven generations of a Ladino-speaking Sephardi family from Greece.
🕯️Remembering: Jerry Stiller, an actor and comedian known for roles in “Seinfeld” and “King of Queens” — and the father of Ben Stiller — has died at age 92. Scotty Miller, the co-owner, manager and chef of the former Jewish Mother restaurant in Virginia Beach, died at age 64.
Pic of the Day
Patriots owner Robert Kraft is auctioning off his Super Bowl ring and a trip on a private plane to meet him in Boston to benefit charity.
Israeli actress, she appeared in all 24 episodes of “Shtisel” and played the lead role in the recent Netflix miniseries “Unorthodox,” Shira Haas turns 25…
Pioneer of social and political satire for comics, comedian Mort Sahl turns 93… Israeli optical and kinetic artist and sculptor Yaacov Agam turns 92… Retired judge of the International Court of Justice in The Hague until 2010, law professor at The George Washington University and author of a memoir about his survival in Nazi concentration camps, Thomas Buergenthal turns 86… Sociologist and author, Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D. turns 75… Managing shareholder of the D.C.-based law firm of Carmel & Carmel PC, Frank Joseph Carmel turns 66… Treasurer and Receiver-General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Deborah Goldberg turns 66… Immediate past president and now chairman of AIPAC, Mort Fridman, MD turns 62… Copy chief at Random House and the author of “Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style,” Benjamin Dreyer turns 62… Brian Mullen turns 61…
Howard M. Pollack turns 55… CEO of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, William Albert “Bill” Ackman turns 54… Senior fellow and a Middle East analyst at the Hudson Institute, Michael Pregent turns 52… Member of the California State Senate since 2016, his district includes San Francisco and parts of San Mateo County, Scott Wiener turns 50… EVP for North American content at sports streaming service DAZN, Jamie Horowitz turns 44… Filmmaker and podcast host, Dan Trachtenberg turns 39… PR & Marketing Coordinator at Leket Israel, Shira Woolf turns 34… Manager of special projects in the Office of the President at Carnegie Mellon University, Pamela Eichenbaum turns 34… Director of regional affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in NYC, Michael Jeremy Alexander turns 34… Staff writer at Time magazine, Olivia B. Waxman turns 31… Student at Columbia University’s digital marketing boot camp, James Frichner turns 29…