Good Friday morning!
Welcome to May and happy Jewish American Heritage Month.
Israel’s Bank Hapoalim has been ordered to pay $874 million to resolve a U.S. tax evasion case, admitting to helping customers hide billions of dollars in Israeli and Swiss bank accounts.
NYPD officers cracked down yesterday on another crowded Jewish funeral in Brooklyn, sparking tensions and accusations that the city is unevenly policing violations.
The White House has reportedly warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Trump administration will only green-light West Bank annexation if a new government endorses the full Trump peace plan — including the creation of a Palestinian state. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) traded barbs over the administration’s efforts to keep in place the international arms embargo on Iran past its October expiration.
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Where should the Conference of Presidents go from here?
In the mid-20th century, during the Eisenhower administration, the American Jewish community was said to lack a cohesive voice to communicate with the country’s leaders. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations was born out of a desire to effectively communicate the goals and needs of the American Jewish community with the White House. For decades, the Conference was a unified body, despite the ideological diversity among its member organizations.
Earlier this week, the Conference approved a new chair-elect, Dianne Lob, who had previously served as chair of HIAS. The decision to extend the term of current chair Arthur Stark by a year and change the nominee’s status from ‘chair’ to ‘chair-elect’ following an uproar from a few groups on the right, in turn sparked frustration on the left. The episode highlighted the challenges the Conference faces as it seeks to navigate an increasingly polarized society and a less cohesive community. And there is no shortage of views on what the Conference should be and do in the years ahead.
To that end, we asked a few of our community’s thought leaders the following question: If you were given the keys to the Conference of Presidents today with full control, what are the steps you would take and in what direction would you move the umbrella group of the American Jewish community in the year 2020 and beyond?
We’ve highlighted some excerpts of the responses below (see the complete responses here).
Yossi Klein Halevi, senior fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute: “If I were in charge of the Conference of Presidents, my first step would be to open up the floor to some basic questions: What does it mean to be ‘pro-Israel’ in the 21st century? Is the goal of the Conference to strengthen the base or widen the base? What is the minimal pro-Israel consensus that can unite the mainstream community? What are the red lines, which every community needs to define itself, around the American Jewish mainstream? Should those red lines be defined by principles or practical politics?””The underlying question is: How to move the Conference of Presidents out of the 20th century – when external challenges united us – and into the 21st century, when we can no longer even agree on what constitutes an existential threat? (The Iran deal? Annexing parts of the territories?)” Read more.
Nancy Kaufman, former CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women: “If I were ‘given the keys,’ I would hold the Conference to be true to its own mission statement. The COP as it is currently constituted is hardly diverse. While there are a few ‘outliers’ from the progressive Jewish world (Ameinu, NCJW, JWI, APN and URJ), they barely represent the vast majority of Jews who consider themselves ‘progressive’ and there are certainly not 50% women at the table. I would move immediately to change that reality by inviting in organizations… these would include J Street, T’ruah, Hazon, Reconstructing Judaism, and the New Israel Fund, to name a few.” Read more.
Jay Lefkowitz, former senior advisor to both Bush presidents, now a lawyer and law professor in NYC: “Reflexive support for Israel no longer unifies the community as it did in decades past. Nor do we have a humanitarian crisis like the struggle for Soviet Jewry to unify us as we did in the ‘70s and ‘80s. But there are issues that deserve the Conference’s laser-like focus. Most importantly is the rise of violent antisemitism (much of which masquerades as anti-Zionism) that is prevalent throughout the world but, most ominously, is growing in the United States… Our mission should simply be to fight for Israel’s continued survival.” Read more.
Jarrod Bernstein, former White House Jewish liaison under President Barack Obama: “Where should it go from here? Consider an expansion in mission or change the name to reflect the true mission. When created, the COP was a single-issue organization: deal with the U.S. government (and specifically the executive branch) on issues related to Israel. The issues that affect us as a people are far beyond ensuring the safety and security of Israel. The COP would be more relevant if it embraced a wider mission and became the meeting spot for diverse sets of views and spirited conversation on all issues among the leaders of our community organizations.”Read more.
Amanda Berman, founder and executive director of Zioness: “If I had the keys, I would think about how drastically the world, the Jewish community, the State of Israel, and the American political establishment have changed since COP first launched, and since it was at its zenith. Organizations that were ‘major’ in 1980 may not be major anymore, and it may be time to reassess its existing membership and/or put out an open call for new members.” Read more.
Dr. Jonathan Sarna, director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University: “It would be wonderful if the Conference would go back to articulating consensus positions in American Jewish life. If, as sadly seems to be the case, that is now impossible on some issues, the Conference should endeavor to be scrupulously honest, making clear what percent of American Jews feel one way and what percent another way. If it does that, and fairly represents the community’s different voices on controversial matters, it can maintain its role as the organization that explains and represents the American Jewish community to leaders who struggle to understand it — and look to the Conference of Presidents for guidance and help.”Read more.
Jason Greenblatt, a former Middle East envoy under President Donald Trump: “We must stand proud and tall as Jews. We cannot be afraid to unequivocally stand up for Israel, and we must do so without regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This does not make anyone anti-Palestinian or anti-peace. In fact, we must try to help improve Palestinian lives and seek peace… There are clear exceptions — we cannot work with those who aim to harm Israel, such as BDS, the antisemitic, anti-Israel movement and those who support such movements… The Conference must remain a source of hope. These are challenging times for us all. We need one another and our important institutions more than ever.” Read more.
And now to someone who actually has the keys…
William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations: “Thank you to Jewish Insider for the opportunity for me — and esteemed colleagues — to discuss the role of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.”
“Our collective table, which spans the wide universe of Jewish leaders, including the religious streams and the ideological breadth of our community, empowers the Conference to play a facilitating role. We must meet routinely to work out our differences and collaborate. We must speak with one communal voice as often as we are reasonably able and sometimes, when consensus eludes us, agree to disagree without rancor. We must model for the entire community an environment where we can disagree without being disagreeable.”
“In our new Information Age, the ability for a Jew in Fargo — or Kuala Lumpur — to have as much access to community decision-makers as a Jew on the Upper West Side of New York is a game changer. In the new normal of our community, we must meet people where they are, and provide on-ramps for engagement and inclusion and, ultimately, bring us all closer together.” Read more.
Your turn: What would you do with “the keys”? Reply to this newsletter, let us know your thoughts, and the communal conversation continues.
‘THE JEWISH NIELSEN’
Week 6 of Zoom events — who is watching what?
As in-person convenings across the country have been rendered impossible due to the coronavirus pandemic, organizations have taken to the internet to connect with supporters and expand their reach. Since the early days of the pandemic, Jewish Insider has compiled statistics, released weekly, on the webinars and online events being held across the community.
Topics: This week’s conversations covered a range of issues, but many focused on the looming possibility of annexation come summer, should Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu form a government and receive a green light from Washington, both of which remain up in the air. Some events, held earlier this week, commemorated Yom Hazikaron and celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut, while others focused on the challenges posed by the coronavirus in the weeks and months ahead.
Gottheimer ‘hopeful’ the spirit of COVID-19 bipartisanship will last beyond pandemic
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) discussed the state of his hard-hit district and the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak during an interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh earlier this week.
The numbers: With nearly 30,000 confirmed cases and 1,894 deaths, New Jersey’s 5th congressional district, located in the shadow of New York City, has been one of the hardest hit areas in the country. The fatalities in the district make up 26% of all deaths across the state. In early March, the town of Teaneck, which has a significant Jewish population, was the epicenter of the outbreak in New Jersey.
Difficult times: “Between New York and New Jersey, we’ve got about half [of the country’s] caseload” of patients, Gottheimer told JI. “It’s been a very difficult time for the district and for the families and businesses that I represent. It has just been a horrific thing that has touched so many families that we all know.”
Window of opportunity: Gottheimer, who serves as co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, told JI he sees the current bipartisan approach to battling the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to get Congress on a long-term path toward working together. “I’m very hopeful that some of that spirit will carry over on other fronts, beyond just the virus. Our work will be to keep that spirit up. I think people realize it’s good to actually get things done, and if you talk to each other and work together, you can.”
Working from home: Gottheimer — who spoke with JI while preparing lunch for his kids and before hopping onto a Zoom meeting with members of the Problem Solvers Caucus and former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew — said that not much, aside from the introduction of social distancing, has changed for him in recent weeks because he has always made himself available to his constituents. “I’m still working 19-20 hours a day,” he said. “That’s kind of how my job is. It just means I’m doing it on the phone and on Zoom. I get to see my family a lot more than I normally would. We just are all making it work.”
🤝 Seize the Moment: Yossi Klein Halevi writes in The Atlantic that Israel’s coronavirus pandemic has provided a unique opportunity for increased understanding between Arabs and Jews. “Israel must now do what it has always done best: Turn crisis into opportunity.” [TheAtlantic]
👨💼 Taking Command: In Vanity Fair, Chris Smith explores how New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has become “the coronavirus Trump antidote,” and — after decades in public service — is channeling his extensive experience into taking decisive action as his state is devastated by the virus. [VanityFair]
📓 Long Read: Elizabeth Svoboda writes about the story of Etty Hillesum, a Jewish woman who kept a diary about her life in Amsterdam in the early 1940s before she was deported and murdered in an Auschwitz gas chamber. Unlike the more famous Anne Frank, Hillesum’s diaries took decades to be published. [LongReads]
Around the Web
👀 Keep Watch: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr urging the Justice Department to “closely monitor New York City” for discrimination against Jews.
☎️ Check In: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spoke on the phone yesterday with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and thanked him for his commitment to the welfare of the state’s Jewish community.
💪 Platform Power: Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has agreed to let Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) hold on to hundreds of pledged delegates to unite the party ahead of the August convention, a move that could give Sanders influence over the DNC platform.
🚫 Condemnation: The Arab League yesterday condemned Israel’s West Bank annexation plan as a “new war crime” which would “eliminate the possibility” of a two-state solution.
🚜 Cooling Ties: Jordan has cut off access to Israeli farmers who were allowed — for the past 25 years — to work in fields in an enclave of southern Jordan.
🚁 Golan Clash: Syria has accused Israeli helicopters of striking targets in the country’s south, at sites believed to be Iranian militia posts.
👨⚖️ Buzz on Balfour: Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit — who indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — said yesterday that he doesn’t think the criminal charges should prevent Netanyahu from forming a new government.
🚘 Startup Nation: Samsung, GE and Nationwide Insurance have all invested new funds in Israeli driving software startup Nexar.
⭐ Gold Standard: Venezuela is reportedly tapping into its reserves of gold bars and flying them to Iran to repay the Islamic Republic for its aid in repairing a gasoline refinery.
🚑 Helping Hands: A Wall Street Journal op-ed argues that state governments should loosen their laws for approving new ambulance businesses — including Brooklyn’s Ezras Nashim — to aid during the pandemic and beyond.
🏕️ Summer Blues: Almost all Reform Jewish summer camps and at least one Conservative camp have already announced that they will not be operating this summer.
⚖️ Talk of the Town: The attorney for the man accused of attempting to blow up a Jewish old age home in Massachusetts claims his client has no ties to white supremacist groups.
📉 Calling Out: Tesla stock fell 3% yesterday after Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn called out CEO Elon Musk on Twitter.
📱 Hot Water: New video platform Quibi has been accused of sharing user email addresses with a third party without consent.
🏨 Pink Slip: The Eden Roc hotel in Miami Beach is laying off 458 workers due to the coronavirus impact on the hotel industry.
👨💼 New Head: Jay Bernstein, chairman and CEO of NIC Holding Corp., has been elected as president of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s board of directors.
👩💼 Transition: Elizabeth Leibowitz is starting today as a senior foreign policy advisor to Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), after 3.5 years in the same role for retiring Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY).
Pic of the Day
The daughter of an executed Polish captain and a survivor of the Sachsenhausen Nazi concentration camp survivor sit yesterday in Krakow at a memorial marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the former Nazi concentration camps in Sachsenhausen, Dachau and Ravensbruck.
Israeli judoka, she was the first Israeli to win an Olympic medal when she won Silver at Barcelona (1992), she is now a division head for Israeli operations of Viacom, Yael Arad turns 53 today…
FRIDAY: Former national director of the Anti-Defamation League until 2015, Abraham Henry Foxman turns 80… Progressive political activist, pacifist, literary and political journalist, Larry Bensky turns 83… Assistant professor of Bible and Jewish Philosophy at Yeshiva University and editor of Tradition, Rabbi Shalom Carmy turns 71… Deborah Chin turns 71… Boston-area actor, David Alan Ross turns 71… Of counsel at DC-based Sandler Reiff, he is also the executive director of the National Association of Jewish Legislators, Jeffrey M. Wice turns 68… Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-Colorado-7) since 2007, Edwin George “Ed” Perlmutter turns 67… Founder and CEO of Conduit (now known as Como), Israel’s first billion-dollar internet company, Ronen Shilo turns 62… Real estate entrepreneur, a co-founder of the Israeli American Leadership Council, Eli Tene turns 57…
VP of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester, Rina F. Chessin turns 56… Professor of computer science and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT, David R. Karger turns 53… Member of the Washington State Senate where he currently serves as the Senate Majority Leader, he is a co-owner of minor league baseball’s Spokane Indians, Andrew Swire “Andy” Billig turns 52… Laura Fein turns 51… Director of responsible innovation at Facebook since March, Zvika Krieger turns 37… Video journalist covering investigative and national news for The Washington Post, Jonathan Gerberg turns 34… D.C.-based political reporter, Ben C. Jacobs… Former policy advisor and legislative assistant to Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL-6), he is now in graduate school at Georgetown University, Omri Rahmil turns 28… Program manager at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Jenny Feuer… Associate Editor at Jewish Insider, Sam Zieve Cohen...
SATURDAY: Former Lord Chief Justice and president of the Courts of England and Wales, Baron Harry Kenneth Woolf turns 87… Professor of international relations and Middle Eastern studies at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir turns 83… President of four radio stations in the Pacific Northwest and a conservative political activist, Alan Merril Gottlieb turns 73… Former member of the Texas Senate, Florence Shapiro turns 72… Former USAID contractor imprisoned by Cuba from 2009 to 2014, Alan Gross turns 71… David Eden turns 68… Co-founder and president of private equity firm NCH Capital, he has supported the establishment of more than 220 Chabad Houses at universities throughout the world, George Rohr turns 66… Analyst at MSNBC, former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and managing editor of Time magazine, Richard Allen “Rick” Stengel turns 65… Member of the New York State Assembly since 2010, David Weprin turns 64…
Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce and now chairman of private investment firm PSP Capital Partners, Penny Sue Pritzker turns 61… Partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, active on several non-profit boards including Penn Law School and the Jewish Federations of North America, Jodi J. Schwartz turns 60… General in the IDF, he served as the Commander of the Israeli Navy from 2011 to 2016, Ram Rothberg turns 56… Director of the Chabad Center in Bratislava, Slovakia, Rabbi Baruch Myers turns 56… Founder and CEO of Shutterstock, Jonathan E. Oringer turns 46… Deputy chief of staff to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Stephen Schatz turns 40… D.C.-based CBS News correspondent, Julianna Goldman turns 39… Founder and president of ETS Advisory, Emily Tisch Sussman turns 38… J.D. candidate at Cardozo School of Law, Gabe Cahn turns 30… Director of development at Cornell Hillel, Susanna K. Cohen turns 30…
SUNDAY: Southern California-area philanthropist and founder of the New Americans Museum in San Diego, Deborah Shainman Szekely turns 98… Physicist and Nobel laureate in 1979, professor at University of Texas at Austin, Steven Weinberg turns 87… Founder and CEO of Westgate Resorts, David A. Siegel turns 85… Pioneer in late-night television advertising for his company Ronco, known for the phrase, “But wait, there’s more!” Ronald M. “Ron” Popei turns 85… Senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at The Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Ely Karmon, Ph.D. turns 79… Host of a radio show and podcast produced by Santa Fe (NM) Public Radio, David Marash turns 78… Francine Holtzman turns 75… U.S. Senator from Oregon since 1996, Ron Wyden (original family name was Weidenreich) turns 71… Partner at Jones Day, he represents political clients on election law matters, Benjamin L. Ginsberg turns 68… Retired in 2017 as chair and CEO of Mondelez International, a multinational food and beverage company, Irene Rosenfeld turns 67…
Real estate attorney and partner in the Chicago office of DLA Piper, Mark D. Yura turns 67… Political reporter and columnist for The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jeff E. Schapiro turns 65… Senior advisor at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Susan Steinmetz turns 64… EVP for corporate affairs at Booz Allen Hamilton, Stephen Labaton turns 59… Russian billionaire who sold the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, Mikhail Prokhorov turns 55… Lobbyist since 2010, he was previously deputy COS at the RNC, Scott A. Kamins turns 45… Veteran of 13 NHL seasons, in 2005 he sat out a hockey game to observe Yom Kippur, he is now an assistant coach for the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, Jeff Halpern turns 44… Educated at the Hebrew Academy of San Francisco, he was a defensive lineman in the NFL from 2004 until 2011, Igor Olshansky turns 38… Managing director and head of executive communications of SKDKnickerbocker, Stephen Andrew Krupin turns 38… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party, May Golan turns 34… Benji Davis turns 33… Arielle Heffez…