Good Monday morning!
Happy Star Wars Day! May the fourth be with you. It’s also the first Monday in May but no Met Gala this evening.
In Jerusalem, 11 Supreme Court justices are holding a second day of hearings on a series of petitions challenging both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ability to form the next government while under indictment, and the constitutionality of the coalition agreement signed between Likud and Blue and White. A ruling is expected by Thursday, the deadline for the formation of a new government.
Ruth and Judea Pearl, the parents of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, filed a petition with Pakistan’s Supreme Court asking to prevent the men convicted of their son’s murder from going free. A full appeal could take years.
Hundreds of members of Congress from both parties have signed on to a letter urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to take “increased diplomatic action” on the U.N. arms embargo against Iran, which is set to expire in October.
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The social entrepreneur aiming to help Israelis balance their budgets
When Riseup formally launched last October, its founders had no idea how timely it would end up being. But six months later, the startup aimed at helping Israelis manage their finances and work their way out of debt could not be more relevant — or necessary. Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro spoke to co-founder Tamara Harel-Cohen about her path to the startup world and Riseup’s pressing timeliness.
New reality: “Most people are still sort of bracing for what is to come,” said Harel-Cohen, Riseup’s co-founder and chief growth officer, of the coronavirus’s economic impact. “Our role is to help them understand what their reality is, what the new reality is, and when the money will run out. And then what their options are.” Unemployment in Israel surpassed 25% earlier this month, the highest rate in the country in recorded history. In early April, Riseup announced it was waiving its NIS 45 ($13) monthly fee at least through the end of June.
How it works: The service is a “hybrid model of human and machine,” which is set up to automatically connect to customers’ credit cards and bank accounts and streamline information, sending updates to users via WhatsApp three times a week — and flagging unusual or suspicious transactions. “We built a very simple model on the basis of cash flow,” Harel-Cohen explained. “The nice thing about cash flow is it gives you one number: How much money do I have left to spend until the end of the month?” Within the WhatsApp chat with Riseup, customers both receive automated updates and can reach out to the company’s team of human advisors with questions and requests for advice.
Hi-tech bubble: Four years ago, Harel-Cohen — a London native who attended Harvard — packed up her bags and moved to Israel, looking to join the world of social impact and make a difference. She quickly met up with hi-tech veterans Iftach Bar and Yuval Samet. “We got together and we started looking for a problem that we could solve,” Harel-Cohen said. “When I moved here, I was super shocked — it’s the ‘Startup Nation,’ but the Internet here doesn’t work,” she added. “So many things are backwards.” The “Tel Aviv bubble” of the hi-tech world, she said, doesn’t seem to have improved life for the average Israeli.
Israel-focused: Unlike most Israeli startups, it was important to the company’s three founders to focus solely on the local market. It was something Harel-Cohen, Samet and Bar agreed upon before they had any other details in place. “It was always important to all of us… to create an impact in Israel,” Harel-Cohen said, and “to work to make it work here” instead of aiming at the international market. And while their focus right now is wholly at home, they aren’t ruling out an eventual expansion abroad. “Once we feel that we’ve really built that base we’re looking to build in Israel — and created the impact that we want to — then we can start that discussion.”
Sarah Feinberg is aiming to steer the NYC Transit Authority through the pandemic
Sarah Feinberg stepped in as interim president of the New York City Transit Authority in early March, just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic tore through the city. “It’s certainly been, I think, absolutely the most difficult few months of my professional career,” Feinberg, 42, told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent phone interview. “But it’s nothing compared to a lot of what the men and women who work at New York City Transit are going through.”
Making history: Feinberg is preparing the subway system for what may be the biggest change in its 115-year history. On May 6, the city is scheduled to cease 24-hour subway service — shutting down entirely between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. — in an effort to disinfect trains while also clearing cars of homeless individuals who are taking refuge in the city’s subways amid the pandemic. “In these crises, things are unfathomable,” she said, “and then you wake up the next day and you realize whatever you did the day before, you have to figure out a way to do more.”
High hopes: Though Feinberg has had to abandon many of the plans she had for New York’s public transportation system — which suffers from, among other things, chronic delays — she hopes to find time in her busy schedule to address some of the issues that were on her agenda, such as making stations more wheelchair-accessible. “I still have high hopes that we’re going to get through this,” Feinberg said.
Background: Feinberg’s extensive resume put her in a position to take over the NYCTA. Previously, she served as president of the Federal Railroad Administration and before that as chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Transportation. She also worked as a special assistant to President Barack Obama and as a senior advisor to his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, where she advised on the government’s response to the H1N1 swine flu pandemic.
Coming back: Feinberg said her full focus right now is on weathering the COVID-19 pandemic. “I have no prediction on when ridership comes back to pre-pandemic levels of moving millions of people every single day,” Feinberg told JI. “But it will come back in ways that people probably can’t fathom right now because that’s who we are.”
More than 400,000 kosher meals distributed to NYC residents during coronavirus pandemic
More than 400,000 kosher meals have been distributed to New York City residents in recent weeks in an effort to address food scarcity during the lockdown that has paralyzed the city at the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.
Grab & Go: The kosher meal program began on April 21st following an extensive lobbying effort by the New York City Council’s Jewish Caucus. Though provisions quickly ran out on the first day of distribution, the Department of Education has been able to serve 150,000 kosher meals at more than a dozen “Grab & Go” sites across all but one of the city’s five boroughs, and delivered an additional 220,000 kosher meals to seniors and families under mandatory quarantine.
Full speed: NYC Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, who was tapped by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as the coronavirus-response food czar, told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh that “beyond the first day, where we had not projected the inventory numbers, we have not had any location that has run out of food. It’s been going from zero to 1,000 miles an hour in the amount of food that we are able to get out into communities.”
Crisis mode: Councilmember Mark Levine (D-Manhattan), who lobbied for the expansion of the program to all New Yorkers, told JI, “There has never been a time in our history where the city needed to do more to get food to New Yorkers, and it’s critical that the unique dietary needs of the Jewish community be served in this crisis.” Levine, who served as chair of the Jewish Caucus from 2014-2018, added that the need to accommodate is more important given “how hard this virus has been hitting the Orthodox community.”
Fixing things: Councilmember Chaim Deutsch (D-Brooklyn) told JI his office received several complaints from people who received non-kosher meals. The commissioner told JI that other than a few missteps, she’s “satisfied” with how the DOE is accommodating observant Jewish families, noting that employees make sure kosher meals are kept separate and that errors made early on have not been repeated.
🎓 Quarantine Commencement: Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari shares his advice to the class of 2020 in a Wall Street Journal column, emphasizing that their generation will be tasked to defend freedom against governments and corporations armed with invasive technologies. [WSJ]
📱 Tech Shabbat: Talia Lakritz, a senior reporter at Insider, details how disconnecting from social media and the news on Saturday — while she observes Shabbat — has helped her distract from distressing reports during the coronavirus pandemic. [Insider]
🙌 Making Miracles: Tablet’s Armin Rosen spotlights Borough Park’s Mordy Getz, who has been paying for groceries for bereaved families and sourcing books and toys for children in the neighborhood, a place where God “is both intangible and quite literally everywhere.” [Tablet]
💗Coming Around: The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos recounts the unlikely path to embracing Trump taken by Republicans in Greenwich, Connecticut, “America’s country-club Republicans, the cultural descendants of Prescott Bush.” [NewYorker]
🧫 Relay Race:The Wall Street Journal’s Mene Ukueberuwa interviewed billionaire philanthropist Michael Milken about his efforts to speed up the hunt for both a coronavirus treatment and a vaccine. [WSJ]
Around the Web
📢 Choose Your Medium: New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said in a radio interview Saturday night that Mayor Bill de Blasio erred in his Twitter warning to the Jewish community. New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss noted that if de Blasio really cared for the safety of the Hasidic community, “he would have grabbed a bullhorn and found a Yiddish speaker” to get his message across.
💵 2020 Watch: The campaign of Antone Melton-Meaux, who is challenging Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in the Democratic primary for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district and was featured in Jewish Insider last week, is gaining traction, raking in $121,000 in a single day of fundraising last week.
🧑⚖️ Claiming Rights: Paul Singer’s Elliott Management is funding a patent lawsuit accusing Jeffrey Katzenberg’s video platform Quibi of stealing trade secrets from interactive video company Eko.
🧂 Feeling Salty: U.S. officials have requested Israel review the role of a Chinese company that has placed a bid to build a $1.5 billion desalination plant in the country.
🚍 Big Buy: Intel is reportedly in talks to purchase Israeli public transit app Moovit for $1 billion.
⛽ Hit the Gas: Delek Group, Israel’s largest energy company, is scrambling to repay its debt and placate creditors.
💰 Step Up: The Israeli government is boosting its funding for the tech sector and calling on the country’s institutional investors to step up to the plate.
🎒 Opening Doors: Some Israeli students returned to class yesterday, wearing masks and carrying hand sanitizer. Meanwhile, the Sea of Galilee has reached its highest level in two decades, but tourism is still nonexistent.
⛏️ Digging Deep:The Daily Beastspotlights a recent archeological discovery upending claims about the biblical roots of the “Pools of Solomon” south of Bethlehem.
🖋️ Locking Arms: Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) tout their respective Palestinian and Jewish heritage in a joint op-ed calling on the Trump administration to release all funds appropriated by Congress to the Palestinian Authority to help it fight the coronavirus.
🧑🏭 Rebuilding:The New York Timeshighlights how the pandemic has rescued Gazans from growing unemployment as factories work to fulfill new orders of protective gear from Israel.
✈️ Home Again: Sky News’s Middle East correspondent, Mark Stone, chronicles his family’s unusual return to Tel Aviv this week from London.
💸 Giving Back: Former Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky has said he will use his $1 million Genesis Prize winnings to fight COVID-19 in Israel and abroad.
📷 Major Cuts: B&H Photo & Electronics has furloughed 400 of its 2,000 employees a month after its megastore in Manhattan was forced to shut down.
📱 Skimm Off: Newsletter startup TheSkimm is cutting 20% of its staff and co-founders Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin have pledged to take pay cuts.
👎 Hate on the Street: The Auschwitz Memorial in Poland condemned the use of the Nazi slogan “Arbeit Macht Frei” against Jewish Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker during an anti-lockdown protest in Chicago on Friday.
💬 Talk of the Nation: Organizations that track the movements of white supremacist groups told The New York Times that extremists and white nationalists have taken advantage of protests against stay-at-home orders to display anti-immigrant and antisemitic signs.
👨⚕️ Hot Seat: Federal prosecutors are investigating Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, a physician from Kiryas Joel in upstate New York, who has touted an experimental coronavirus drug to White House officials.
🥪 Community Service: Solomon’s Deli in downtown Sacramento, California, has turned into a community kitchen — preparing meals for the elderly and homeless.
😔 No Exit: Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s expected early release from federal prison to house arrest on Friday has been delayed without explanation.
💻 Taking Action: Conspiracy theorist David Icke‘s YouTube account and Facebook page were deleted after linking the pandemic to 5G and “Jewish cults.”
😠 Across the Pond: Jewish groups are accusing Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer of breaking his pledge to fight antisemitism after he declined to suspend two Labour MPs who participated in an online webcast with former Labour members who were removed from the party under Jeremy Corbyn.
⚖️ BDS Ruling: The U.K. Supreme Court ruled last week that the government’s guidelines to ban local pension funds from boycotting any foreign nations, including Israel, are unlawful, in a win for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s petition.
📨 Warning: More than 130 British MPs from the Conservative and Labour parties have signed a letter urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to sanction Israel if it moves ahead with West Bank annexation.
👶 Mazel Tov: Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) and his wife Leigh Rose, discussed welcoming their adopted newborn son Miles amid the coronavirus pandemic.
📺 Full Recovery: “60 Minutes” anchor Lesley Stahl has returned to the show after recovering from COVID-19.
👩💼 Transition:Galia Slayen, most recently the traveling press secretary for Mike Bloomberg’s 2020 presidential campaign, is joining Glover Park Group as director of strategic communications. (h/t Playbook)
🕯️Remembering: Former longtime CBS Chief Communications Officer Gil Schwartz passed away at age 68. Madeline Kripke, who kept one of the world’s largest private collections of dictionaries in New York, passed away at age 76 of coronavirus. William Haddad, a journalist and businessman whose 1964 run for Congress caused a stir, passed away at age 91.
Pic of the Day
Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles sporting his new JI Ambassador hat during a recent morning quarantine prayer.
Baltimore-born triathlete, she earned a Ph.D. in 2001 from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Joanna Sue Zeiger turns 50…
Former CEO of AIG, now chairman and CEO of the Starr Companies, Maurice Raymond “Hank” Greenberg turns 95… Rabbi emeritus at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, Zvi Dershowitz turns 92… Former executive director of the Texas A&M Hillel, now a consultant for the tourism industry, Peter E. Tarlow turns 74… Senior fellow at the Brookings Institution for climate change, Todd D. Stern turns 69… EVP and Global General Counsel of the Las Vegas Sands, Lawrence “Lon” A. Jacobs turns 65… Executive director of Surprise Lake Camp, Bradley Solmsen turns 50… State attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida, Dave Aronberg turns 49… President and CEO of the Riverside Park Conservancy, he is a former member of the New York City Council (2006-2017), Daniel Garodnick turns 48…
Former Secretary of State of Missouri (2013-2017), founder of “Let America Vote” dedicated to ending voter suppression, Jason Kander turns 39… Managing director of food programs at NYC’s Met Council on Jewish Poverty, Jessica Chait turns 38… Tech entrepreneur, best known as the co-founder of both Vine and HQ Trivia, Rus Yusupov turns 36… Mechal Wakslak… VP at BerlinRosen, Allison Fran Bormel turns 33… Miami Beach and South Dade director at AIPAC, Rebecca Leibowitz Wasserstrom turns 31… Assistant to the executive producer of ABC’s “General Hospital,” Steven A. Rosenberg turns 31… Director of speechwriting for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Shana Mansbach turns 28… Senior growth account manager at EVERFI, Sasha Altschuler… Director of political affairs at the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles, Elliot Miller turns 26… Medalist in the women’s halfpipe event at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Arielle Townsend Gold turns 24… Incoming associate at Boston Consulting Group, Olivia Breuer…