Good Wednesday morning!
Niles Francis, the 18-year-old political wunderkind we featured yesterday, gained more than 1,000 new followers on Twitter up from 7k over the past 24 hours. Hats off to all of you for the JI bump!
White House senior advisor Stephen Miller is reportedly drafting a presidential speech on race relations.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) suffered another setback in his already tough re-election bid. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) declined to back his colleague, who is being challenged by Jamaal Bowman in the June 23 Democratic primary. “I’m busy with Senate races,” Schumer told reporters on Capitol Hill. Bowman received the endorsement yesterday of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
World leaderswill not be coming to New York to address the U.N. General Assembly in September, for the first time in the international body’s 75-year history, due to coronavirus-related concerns.
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Behind the scenes, Bill de Blasio’s press secretary garners respect of reporters
Freddi Goldstein is one of the busiest people in New York City these days. As Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary, Goldstein, 30, has had to navigate a series of crises in recent months: first, the novel coronavirus and now ongoing protests over racial inequality that have even led to calls for de Blasio’s resignation. In an interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh, Goldstein discussed her background and the challenges she has faced since taking her current role.
Detour from law: Goldstein always thought she would follow the family path and work in law. But after graduating from Tulane University in New Orleans, it was her mother, an employment lawyer, who talked her into taking a year off to first “experience something in the real world” before deciding on the legal path. Goldstein spent the fall of 2012 volunteering for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in Washington D.C., where she was sent to battleground states to monitor voter disenfranchisement. The experience changed Goldstein’s mind about studying law. In 2016, she joined the de Blasio administration, first as a deputy press secretary and later on as communications director to First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan. Last year, de Blasio promoted her to press secretary.
De Blasio’s friendlier half: While the New York City mayor is notorious for his combative exchanges with local reporters, Goldstein is seen as an accommodating figure in his inner circle. Goldstein “does a really hard job pretty well,” Sally Goldenberg, City Hall bureau chief for Politico New York, told JI, noting the striking difference between de Blasio’s style and Goldstein’s “realistic and reasonable” approach. Goldenberg added that Goldstein is “sort of unique” among the mayor’s senior staff when it comes to responding to reporters. “Her hands are basically tied because there is such distrust of the media from de Blasio that it trickles down to the deputy mayors, the commissioners and to the staff. That mentality makes it hard for her to interact with reporters in the most productive way,” Goldenberg explained. “But given those constraints, she does a good job.”
Wonky chops: In her interview with JI, Goldstein acknowledged she holds a challenging role. “My job is sort of to become an extension of the mayor,” she asserted. “I have to communicate on his behalf, which means, a) understanding the various things that are happening around the city, and b) understanding how the mayor feels about them.” Her communication style is beneficial to the mayor, a Room 9 reporter noted to JI. “She doesn’t worship at the altar of Bill de Blasio, but I think she’s a loyal servant to him. I think her techniques are just as effective, if not more effective.” An administration official told JI that Goldstein’s deep ability to understand policy issues has garnered her the respect of both her team and the top brass of government. “She’s more wonky than you would think a press person would be,” the official said.
Defending the tweet: “Anyone who has watched the mayor over the years knows that he has a very close relationship with the Hasidic community. I don’t think that you can take one tweet out of context and sort of decide that it is determinant of who he is and his message, because it certainly is not the case,” Goldstein told JI regarding the mayor’s infamous April tweet singling out the “Jewish community.” “In fact, he said he was so upset because he has such a deep respect for the community… I think it was unfortunate that it was heard differently by some people because, certainly, his intention was never to single out a community or offend anyone. It was really just a response to what was happening.”
Upbringing: Goldstein, who grew up in Montclair, New Jersey, attended Hebrew school and celebrated her bat mitzvah at Temple Ner Tamid, a Reform synagogue in neighboring Bloomfield. Goldstein, who boasts about having had “a million” Jewish friends growing up, told JI that among her close group of friends today, she’s the only one who is Jewish. But that hasn’t stopped her from including those friends in her family’s holiday celebrations. Every Passover — save for this last one — Goldstein, who has two younger sisters, invites friends to join her parents’ Seder. “At one part during the Seder, we go around and we realize that we have as many people who are practicing Judaism as not at our table because we invite so many friends,” Goldstein recounted. “We say a prayer and we help them with the pronunciation of Hebrew and use it as an opportunity to bring everyone together.”
High-ranking departure: Alison Hirsh, who joined the de Blasio administration last year as a senior advisor for strategic planning, has left City Hall in protest of the mayor’s handling of the recent racial inequality protests. Hirsh, who previously served as political director for 32BJ SEIU, a labor union in Manhattan, will now work as a senior advisor to Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza to help with the school reopening process.
last night’s results
Voting troubles plague races in Georgia, Nevada
Voting problems plagued primary elections in Georgia yesterday, leading to delays, long lines and the extension of voting hours at some polling stations. Long lines also caused delays in Nevada, where results only began to be tallied early this morning, while races in West Virginia, South Carolina and North Dakota have largely already been called.
Georgia: In the Democratic Senate primary, Jon Ossoff appears to have fallen just short of avoiding a runoff, garnering 48.6% of the vote as the remaining ballots are still being counted. He will face off against former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who received 15% of the vote, just edging out Sarah Riggs Amico, who got 13%. In the state’s 7th congressional district, Rich McCormick easily picked up the Republican nomination with 55% of the vote, leaving Renee Unterman behind with just 17%. On the Democratic side, after receiving 46% of the vote, Carolyn Bourdeaux will face Brenda Romero, who got just 14.5%, in a runoff. In the 14th district, far-right conspiracy theorist Marjorie Greene will advance to a runoff after picking up 41% of the vote, facing John Cowan, who received 20%.
South Carolina: In the state’s 1st district, former Trump campaign staffer Nancy Mace picked up the Republican nomination with 58% of the vote compared to Kathy Landing’s 26%. In the 5th district, Moe Brown cruised to victory in the Democratic primary with 68% of voters. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) easily fended off his primary challenge, picking up 68% of the vote; his closest competitor, Michael LaPierre, won 17.1%. Graham will face Democrat Jaime Harrison in November.
Nevada: In the 4th congressional district, Jim Marchant was leading the Republican primary with 34% as votes continue to be tallied. Randi Reed is so far ranked in eighth place with just 2.5% of the vote.
Palestinians indicate opening on peace talks with ‘counteroffer’
The Palestinian Authority claims it has submitted to the Quartet — the U.S., E.U., Russia and U.N. — a Mideast peace proposal intended as a counteroffer to the plan unveiled by President Donald Trump earlier this year.
Details: Speaking to reporters in Ramallah on Tuesday, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the five-page document included a demilitarized Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, with one-to-one land swaps with Israel. Shtayyeh declined to provide further details, saying only that Palestinians would accept “minor border modification” and the exchange of territory equivalent “in size, in volume and in value.” Shtayyeh did not explicitly mention the Palestinian right of return or specify the location of a future capital.
Why it matters: Khaled Elgindy, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, tells Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh that the positions laid out in this proposal are “essentially the same positions” that have guided Palestinian negotiators since 2008. “The only difference is they’re now public.” Since the Palestinians would never want to legitimize the Trump plan in any way, “this is a way of filling the ‘dead air’ and ticking the box” for those urging them to engage or at least come up with a proposal of their own, Elgindy explained.
View from Washington: Former White House Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt told JI: “It sounds like the response is merely a repetition of the demands the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah have made over the years. That is not a counteroffer or a negotiation. That is simply another rejection of yet another peace proposal.”
Late to the party: A former Bush administration official noted that the proposal being put forth by Ramallah mirrors the offer former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made in 2008. “They are a bit late,” the official told JI. “In 2008, Olmert’s proposal had U.S. support, but now the U.S. has its own plan. In 2008, the Palestinians had very wide Arab support, but now the Israelis have better relations with a lot of Arab states than the Palestinians do.” The official quipped that by this calendar, the Palestinians will probably end up accepting Trump’s plan 12 years from now.
On the ground: A possible coalition crisis is brewing in Israel as the country’s High Court struck down a 2017 law that retroactively legalized some 4,000 settler homes built on privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank, and Likud lawmakers have promised to pass a new, similar law. Shtayyeh vowed yesterday that if Israelis move ahead with annexation, Palestinians will declare statehood over all of the West Bank and Gaza.
First visit: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas landed in Israel this morning, the first foreign minister to visit since the new government was sworn in. Maas expressed “serious and honest worries” over Israeli annexation plans. In response, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said the government has yet to see finalized maps under the Trump plan and no final decisions have been made.
Eye on 2020
Joe Lieberman: Israel will be an issue in the presidential campaign
Speaking at the virtual conference on Israel-Diaspora relations hosted by Makor Rishon on Tuesday, former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) said Israel “will be an issue” in the presidential campaign this year “because there is, on the left of the Democratic Party, a group that is not as reflexively pro-Israel as the Democratic Party has been through most of my life.”
Legit concerns: Lieberman said while President Donald Trump’s comments last year — alleging that Jewish Democrats are disloyal to Israel — “may be a bit edgy,” the president’s remarks reflected a broader observation about the future of the Democratic Party’s stance on Israel. “That’s a great concern to me.” The 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee said he is hopeful that presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden’s strong pro-Israel record will be reflected in the party’s platform at the Democratic National Convention in August, putting any concerns to rest. “It will be important. A lot of people care about Israel,” he said. “Jews and Christians will be watching that.”
Stamp of approval: “The truth is [Trump] has been, I would say, one of the most pro-Israel presidents that we’ve had since the establishment of the modern state [of Israel] in 1948,” Lieberman added. But he also noted that he has known Biden for a long time, serving together in the Senate for 24 years, and he has proven himself to be a friend of Israel. “I am sure if you ask the pro-Israel community in his state of Delaware they would tell you he’s been wonderfully supportive of Israel,” Lieberman said. “My guess is, people in the Israeli government over the years would say the same.”
🏨 Peace Pandemic: The hotels in Israel hosting coronavirus patients have proven to be a bridge-building experience for Israelis and Palestinians, reports Daniel Estrin in NPR. “I was like, wait, where is the racism?” said comedian and patient Noam Shuster-Eliassi. “Where’s all the problems? Where’s all the prejudice? Everybody’s getting along here in this hotel.” [NPR]
⏪ Undo: Vanity Fair’s Katherine Eban reports on the White House’s “secret plan” to reverse Trump’s surprise withdrawal from the World Health Organization. Clandestine negotiations have been held to mitigate the effects of the president’s announcement late last month that “blindsided top federal officials.” [VanityFair]
🗣️ Column Controversy: Andrew Marantz writes in The New Yorker about the “backlash to the backlash” surrounding Sen. Tom Cotton’s New York Times op-ed last week. “But things have gone too far in this country for an old script about campus culture wars to be of much use,” he argued. If the paper wants to be more than a barometer of public opinion, “some opinions will have to fall beneath its standards.” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
💄Mending Fences: Estee Lauder Companies is expected to hire more black employees and boost donations to racial equality groups after more than 100 employees called for the removal of board member Ron Lauder over his support of Trump.
✍️ Taking a Stand: More than 800 American rabbis have signed on to a letter supporting “the right to peaceful protest” against racial inequality.
🏋️ Ousted: CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman said he was stepping down after the reaction to his controversial comments on the death of George Floyd.
⛹️♂️ Joining Hands: Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry joined several of his team’s NBA players to protest with the Black Lives Matter movement this weekend.
⚾ Eye on Another Ball: Josh Harris, the owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils, is among those in talks to purchase the New York Mets.
🏃♂️ On the Run: A Kuwaiti sheikh provided Malaysian financier and fugitive Jho Low with the means to fend off U.S. and Malaysian investigators and escape Interpol.
🚨 Hacker Nabbed: The only arrest so far in a U.S. federal investigation against hackers who targeted environmental groups protesting Exxon Mobil is of Aviram Azari, a former Israeli police officer and private investigator.
💵 Cashing In:Israel’s Finance Ministry is considering a public offering of a 25% stake in the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries with the goal of raising about $1 billion to help fund the new annual budget.
✈️ Air Control: Facing a financial crisis, El Al airlines may be heading back into state control amid bailout talks.
🛬 Hidden Goods:A second plane from Etihad Airways carrying medical aid for Palestinians — this time emblazoned with the company’s logo — landed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport yesterday, though Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told reporters he was unaware of the UAE delivery.
👱♀️ No Bars: Israeli top model Bar Refaeli has signed a plea bargain to settle a tax evasion case, in which she will serve nine months of community service while her mother, Zipi, will serve a 16-month jail sentence.
🚢 Stepping Up:Iran has replicated a mock U.S. aircraft carrier off its southern coast to possibly use for live-fire drills, according to satellite images published by The Associated Press.
✍️ Campus Beat:Kyle Krueger, the student president at the University of California, Davis, has vetoed a pro-BDS resolution that passed last week “because it included minimal to no input from the Jewish community beforehand.”
📚 Book Shelf: The Washington Post reviewsYou Exist Too Much, the debut novel of Zaina Arafat that features a Palestinian woman born between the wars of 1948 and 1967 who immigrates to the U.S.
💻 Six Degrees: “Jewish Geography Zoom Racing” is the latest game being played by thousands of American Jews stuck at home over quarantine.
📰 Media Watch: 99-year-old Mad magazine comic artist Al Jaffee has finally retired after 65 years at the publication.
👨Transition: Boris Epshteyn, former White House aide and later the chief political analyst at Sinclair Broadcast Group, has joined the Trump re-election campaign as a strategic advisor for coalitions.
Gif of the Day
The music video for Hasidic rapper Nissim Black’s latest song, “Win,” features him vanquishing a demon with the biblical Hebrew phrase “I have placed the Lord always before me.”
Actress and author Gina Gershon turns 58…
Author of books about the Holocaust Aranka Davidowitz Siegal turns 90… TV journalist and author Jeff Greenfield turns 77… Cathy Farbstein Miller turns 63… Encore.org’s Stefanie “Stef” Weiss turns 62… Former Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer turns 61… Pharmore Drugs Avi H. Goldfeder turns 61… Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg turns 60… Actress and the sister of comedian Sarah Silverman, Laura Silverman turns 54…
Israeli actress Avital Abergel turns 43… Veteran of 9 NFL seasons Mike Rosenthal turns 43… Birthright Israel Foundation’s Rabbi Daniel Kraus turns 39… Anchorman at Israel’s Channel 10 News, Matan Hodorov turns 35… Executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, Tyler Gregory turns 32… Belgian singer and songwriter, known as Blanche, Ellie Delvaux turns 21… Encounter Programs Yona Shem-Tov… Editor-in-Chief of The Algemeiner, Dovid Efune…