Good Tuesday morning!
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke on the phone yesterday to discuss Iran and regional developments.
The White House is considering withholding aid to Jordan in order to pressure it to extradite Ahlam Al-Tamimi, the woman who helped organize the 2001 Sbarro suicide bombing in Jerusalem. King Abdullah has reportedly snubbed phone calls from Netanyahu as tensions rise over annexation.
In our feature story on Rep. David Trone (D-MD) yesterday, we noted that he was believed to be the first sitting member of Congress to be an AIPAC “Minyan” club donor. Jewish Insider has learned that Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO) was also an AIPAC Minyan member while serving in Congress.
The Intercept reported yesterday that the “Republican PAC” Americans for Tomorrow’s Future has funneled $100,000 to support Engel through Democratic Majority for Israel.
DMFI’s Mark Mellman hit back at the claim, saying the Americans for Tomorrow’s Future PAC is “a bipartisan pro-Israel PAC” and that The Intercept’s reporting was “dishonest and deceptive.” See Mellman’s full comments here.
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HIDING BUT SEEKING
Inside this New York congressional candidate’s unorthodox campaign strategy
In an interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh, New York City Councilman Chaim Deutsch, a self-described conservative Democrat from Brooklyn, opens up about the peculiar strategy behind his almost non-existent campaign as a first-time congressional candidate in New York’s 9th district. Even as the race enters its final stretch ahead of the June 23rd primary, Deutsch has remained quiet, refusing most interviews and skipping debates.
What he’s been up to: “I may have been absent from playing politics throughout this race, but I’ve been hard at work, representing my constituents at hearings and in budget negotiations, working on the city’s budget, fielding thousands of calls from New Yorkers in need, and fighting for resources to help those who are struggling,” Deutsch, one of four candidates challenging seven-term Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), explained in a rare interview with JI. “I’m not running for Congress to play politics. I’m running on my record of serving the people, and that’s what I will continue to do.”
Chaim’s playbook: The 9th district is majority African American, though around 30% of the population is white. It also encompasses the largely Jewish and Russian neighborhoods of southern Brooklyn. Deutsch’s unusual below-the-radar approach, according to several political observers who declined to go on the record, reflects a strategy focused on the demographics of the district. They posit that Deutsch hopes the three other challengers — Adem Bunkeddeko, who narrowly lost a primary bid in the same district in 2018, community organizer Isiah James and Lutchi Gayot — will split the African-American vote with Clarke, and that his campaign can then pick up enough of the leftover factions to sneak by.
Sending a message: If elected, Deutsch would be one of the only publicly observant Jewish members to ever serve in the House of Representatives. Deutsch told JI that it “would be an honor” to take up that mantle. “I think it would go a long way towards changing the world’s perception of ultra-Orthodox or Hasidic Jews,” he said. “Of course I want to win because I’m the best man for the job, not because I wear a yarmulke.”
Tale of two campaign videos: A campaign video released last week that aimed to wake up Deutsch’s base caught the attention of the media. The 80-second ad features images of looting and assaults on police officers during the recent riots across New York City, as well as clips of Jewish individuals being attacked in the streets. “In just two weeks we will have an opportunity to vote for change and send a powerful message to the world: We won’t tolerate this anymore,” Deutsch says in the video. The campaign released a video with a decidedly different tone on Monday, featuring statements of support by a diverse group of voters, who tout his work on behalf of his constituents and his work against racism.
Lengthy record: Clarke faced criticism from some Jewish constituents after she voted in support of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. She was one of 23 cosponsors of the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act introduced last year by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN). In her second term, Clarke was one of 36 members who voted against a House resolution that urged the U.S. administration to unequivocally repudiate the Goldstone Report on Israel’s handling of the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla raid. She also signed onto two congressional letters criticizing Israel’s blockade on Gaza, but later retracted her signature. Last year, Clarke voted in favor of a House resolution condemning the BDS movement (H.R. 246), is one of 192 co-sponsors of a recent House resolution reaffirming U.S. support for a two-state solution (H.R. 326) and signed on to a bipartisan letter✎ EditSign sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month encouraging the administration to support Israel at the International Criminal Court.
In an interview with JI, Clarke defended her record on Israel. “Throughout my time in office, I have been a fierce defender of Israel’s right to exist as a nation and believe there must be a peaceful agreement between Israel and Palestine that resembles a two-state solution,” she said. Clarke told JI she would not support conditioning military aid to Israel to press the Israeli government on settlements or in response to West Bank annexation. “I do not think using concrete red lines outside of overt violations of human rights provides the optimal path forward.”
Meet the Christian pro-Israel activist who is teaching Jewish communities about racism
In his new position at the Maccabee Task Force, Marvel Joseph’s job is “bridging the gap between the black community and Israel,” he told Gabby Deutch for Jewish Insider. But lately the recent college graduate has been spending his time talking to Jewish communal groups about racism in America.
Speaking out: Over the past few weeks, the outspoken AIPAC activist has participated in Zoom webinars with different Jewish communities — including an Orthodox synagogue and his alma mater’s Hillel — about the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. “This is the first time that I’ve really been able to say, ‘This is what it’s like being black,’” Joseph explained. “Never before in my entire time as a pro-Israel advocate or pro-Israel leader… have I ever had the opportunity, necessarily, to really stand up and say, ‘This is what my community is going through.’”
Active activists: Joseph, who interned at AIPAC and has traveled to Israel four times, is hoping that the friends he has made in the Jewish community will show up for him now. “What I’m hoping comes out of all of this, when it’s all said and done, is that in the same way that we have black activists in the pro-Israel movement, I hope we also get strong Jewish activists in the pro-black community and the Black Lives Matter movement,” Joseph said.
Sense of belonging: The child of Haitian immigrants who grew up in Boca Raton, Florida, Joseph says his Haitian identity is what inspired his connection to Israel. He has only been to Haiti once, on a three-day visit in 2019, which he described as the most meaningful trip of his life. “It was the first time when I walked into a place I didn’t feel out of place. I got to actually be part of my people,” Joseph explained. “Probably how a lot of Jewish people feel when they get to go to Israel.”
Bridge builder: Joseph views his position in the Jewish community as a bridge-builder, someone who supports Israel and fights antisemitism but also helps “my friends in the Jewish community understand that there’s a world outside of just the Jewish issues.” He understands that the anti-Israel policies in the official Black Lives Matter platform give some Jews pause. “But the idea of Black Lives Matter is black lives matter. There’s other ways to support a community,” Joseph said. “At the end of this,” he added, he hopes to see “more education and a more genuine partnership, not an ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine,’ but a ‘please tell me how I can help.’”
Meredith Fineman’s new book explores the ins and outs of self-promotion
Meredith Fineman knows the word “brag” is off-putting. But she doesn’t think it should be. “I just find bragging and stating true facts in a strategic positive manner about your work [can] propel your career forward,” Fineman told Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss in an interview yesterday. “And that’s what it is — bragging is stating facts.”
On brand: Fineman — whose debut book, Brag Better: Master the Art of Fearless Self-Promotion, comes out today — has been working as a freelance writer for 15 years, focusing on business, entrepreneurship and women’s issues. The book was born out of her experiences as a writer and branding expert through her work as the founder and CEO of the consulting firm FinePoint.
Book beginnings: “I help people figure out what they want their voice to be online and offline,” Fineman explained to JI. “I’ve been doing that for myself for a long time and people wanted personal branding work, [they] wanted to be able to be proud of what they’ve done. But I realized that nobody knew how to talk about themselves.” The issue, she noticed, was particularly acute in women, “though Brag Better is not only for women,” she was quick to note. “It’s for demographics that I call the ‘qualified quiet,’ which are people that have done the work but don’t know how to talk about it, which to some degree is all of us.”
Virtual salons: One upside to the lockdown has been the opportunities to connect with broader audiences. Throughout the year, Fineman usually hosts events featuring different writers and interesting figures in Washington, D.C., where she lives. Those events, she realized, could be broadcast online for people who aren’t able to join. “There’s a democratization of access. All these amazing things that are happening online are hard — it’s hard to have your wedding online, but then you realize you should always have that option now for people who can’t attend. It’s just added a whole new category of ‘showing up’ in different ways.”
Family ties: Fineman, the daughter of veteran journalist Howard Fineman and writer Amy Nathan, credits her parents with helping her to find her voice over the years. “They influenced this journey,” she said.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer talks Judaism and justice
Speaking at a Zoom event for the Harvard University Hillel, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer addressed recent anti-racism protests and his Jewish beliefs.
Rule of law: Discussing the importance of the rule of law, Breyer cited the aftermath of the highly controversial Bush v. Gore decision in 2000 (in which he joined the dissent). “People didn’t throw rocks, they didn’t go into the streets and have riots, they didn’t start shooting each other, they accepted the rule of law.”
Jewish background: “Justice is so central to Judaism,” Breyer remarked, quoting Deuteronomy: “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” He added: “Throughout the Torah, throughout the books that compose it, and throughout the history of the Jewish people, you see considerable interest and placing of great importance on the ability of human beings to live in this world together, peacefully, and harmoniously… Of course other religions have the same idea, but I think Judaism emphasizes that. And that, to me, is what law is about.”
On protests: While refraining from directly commenting on the recent wave of racial justice protests, Breyer said: “Of course we want this to succeed. Of course we want to build a multi-racial society. Of course we want to prove to the world that our society of many races, of many religions, of many points of view, of many national origins can work because we can pull together.” Referencing Lincoln’s second inaugural address, Breyer held up his pocket copy of the Constitution while exhorting the promise of the American experiment. “There are lots of obstacles. But we have overcome many and so you keep going.”
📺 Breaking His Silence: In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times Magazine, former TV host Jon Stewart — who has written and directed a new political satire film — reflects on the legacy of “The Daily Show” five years after he went off the air. “The algorithm is not designed for thoughtful engagement and clarity,” he said of TV news. “It’s designed to make you look at it longer.” [NYTimes]
💪 Underground Fighter: In Smithsonian Magazine, Laura Spinney highlights the life of Paul Rivet, a museum director in Paris who became a key figure in organizing the underground resistance against the Nazis during World War II. [Smithsonian]
💻 Big Plan: Philanthropist and hedge fund millionaire David Magerman speaks withPhiladelphia magazine’s David Murrell about his radical plan to counter the internet’s encroachment on personal privacy and the influence of social media giants. “People are being modeled, and anything from companies to candidates are shaping people’s opinions and pushing them to have certain views.” [Philly]
Around the Web
🧾 On the Hill: Sens. James Lankford (R-OK) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) are introducing legislation that would expand tax breaks for charitable donations as nonprofits continue to struggle amid the coronavirus pandemic.
🇪🇺 European Pressure: E.U. foreign ministers urged the Trump administration to join an international effort to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and shelve President Donald Trump’s peace plan. Meanwhile, European officials have warned Israel that annexation could cost it lucrative science research grants.
🛣️ Road Ahead:Israel is building a new bypass road around Jerusalem to connect West Bank settlements north and south of the city. Israeli officials claim the highway, which will include a one-mile tunnel east of the Mount of Olives, will ease traffic for both Israelis and Palestinians.
✉️ Death Threats: Israeli Supreme Court Judge Anat Baron was assigned a security detail after she received death threats referencing her son, who was killed in a 2003 suicide bombing.
🤝 Friendly Visit: Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited Israel today to discuss renewing tourism, joint energy projects and “neighborhood bully” Turkey.
🏞️ Escalation: New York State Sen. Simcha Felder, Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein and City Councilman Kalman Yeger have warned Mayor Bill de Blasio they will forcibly open the gates of playgrounds in their district if he doesn’t reverse course, as protesters cut the locks on one Brooklyn park.
😡 Talk of the Town: A sheet bearing antisemitic and white supremacist messages was hung at the Holocaust memorial at the Gordon Jewish Community Center in Nashville over the weekend.
🇵🇱 Across the Sea:State-owned Polish TV accused opposition presidential candidate Rafal Trzaskowski of being open to property restitution to Jews, which is “not based on Polish interests.”
🏈 Sports Blink: Josh Harris and David Blitzer, owners of the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils, have acquired a stake of less than 5% in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
🎶 Holy Tunes: Universal Music Group has opened a new office in Tel Aviv, the first major music company to operate in the country.
🕯️ Remembering: Nur Omar Mohamed, the father of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), died yesterday at age 67 due to complications from COVID-19.
Pic of the Day
Former NBA star and current Maccabi Tel Aviv player Amar’e Stoudemire posted a photo of himself — after shaving off the iconic dreadlocks he has sported for the past few years — at a Beit Din in Bnei Brak yesterday.
Former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel Daniel C. Kurtzer turns 71…
Plaza Health Network’s Elaine Bloom turns 83… Retired IDF Brigadier-General and former member of Knesset Avigdor Kahalani turns 76… Rickey Wolosky Palkovitz turns 71… Yahoo! News‘ Michael Isikoff turns 68… UC Berkeley professor and WSJ columnist, Alison Gopnik turns 65… Professor of Jewish studies at the University of Freiburg, Gabrielle Oberhänsli-Widmer turns 63… Chair of Jewish studies at Indiana University, now a visiting fellow at Dartmouth, Shaul Magid turns 62…
Southern California resident, Roberta Trachten-Zeve turns 61… President of GEM Commercial Flooring Company Matthew Elyachar turns 60… Former chair of the Broward County, Florida JCRC, Keith Wasserstrom turns 53… Actor and director, Daniel Zelman turns 53… Yedioth Ahronoth‘s Ronen Bergman turns 48… Marathon Strategies’ Phil Singer turns 45… Geographer and writer, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro turns 41… Singer and songwriter, Benjamin Lev Kweller turns 39… Pitcher for Team Israel, Zack Weiss turns 28…
BIRTHWEEK: Policy Advocate at Protect Democracy, Ariela Rosenberg…