Good Friday morning!
Following three days of talks at the White House over Israel’s annexation plans, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman returned to Israel Thursday, accompanied by White House Mideast peace envoy Avi Berkowitz. The White House says the talks ended with no decision.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuannounced a rare partnership yesterday — a joint effort to fight COVID-19 — between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Hours later, the U.A.E. contradicted his description, describing it as an agreement between private companies from both countries to develop pandemic-fighting technology.
Mossad director Yossi Cohen reportedly visited Jordan several days ago to personally convey a message from the prime minister to King Abdullah II that Israel will not annex the Jordan Valley. Yesterday, the Israeli security cabinet held a tense meeting on the possible outcomes of annexation.
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How Ritchie Torres built a fan base in the Jewish community
“We won a race that no one thought we could win,” 32-year-old Ritchie Torres told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh on Wednesday, the morning after the Democratic primary in New York’s 15th congressional district, before clarifying that he wouldn’t officially declare victory before the mail-in ballots are counted. Torres’s projected success in Tuesday’s primary is the culmination of a 12-month journey that has seen him rapidly become a darling in pro-Israel circles. Along the way, Torres has cultivated a group of millennial peers, who have accelerated his entree into the Jewish community.
Inspiring peers: Amanda Berman first met Ritchie Torres on stage in January 2019. The city councilman, who represents the South Bronx, was speaking on a panel alongside Berman and other young progressives to discuss the Women’s March. “I had goosebumps immediately,” Berman, the founder of Zioness, recalled. After Torres spoke, Berman told Jewish Insider, “I pushed away the microphone we were sharing to tell him quietly, ‘I can’t wait to see what you do next.’” Six months later, Torres made his next steps clear when he entered the crowded race to succeed retiring Rep. José E. Serrano (D-NY) in the south Bronx.
Outlier: Alex Halpern Levy, a speechwriter and communications strategist who first met Torres during the latter’s 2013 City Council campaign, told JI that the candidate strikes a chord with many members of the Jewish community because of his strong pro-Israel views at a time when younger Democrats increasingly seek to distance themselves from more traditional support of Israel. “He is a true believer in the State of Israel and he doesn’t couch and hedge,” Levy said. “He gets Israel and why it’s important to the Jewish community.”
Dual identities: Torres touted his pro-Israel credentials as a theme of his congressional run. “The notion that you cannot be both progressive and pro-Israel is a vicious lie, because I am the embodiment of a pro-Israel progressive,” he told JI for a profile in December. Israeli-American actress Noa Tishby, who lives in Los Angeles, read the profile and says she “was blown away by his positions and his personality.” Tishby told JI that she immediately reached out to the Torres campaign because “you don’t see young people on the Democratic side who read the map as clearly as he does.” Last Friday, Tishby hosted an intimate meet-and-greet fundraiser for Torres over Zoom with Hollywood industry heavyweights.
The Ritchie wave: Erin Schrode, a Democratic activist who met Torres at AIPAC’s 2019 policy conference, was optimistic that his electoral success would kick off a “wave” in future election cycles. “To see someone running on so many of the progressive values I hold dearly, who is also so unabashedly pro-Israel, that inspires me,” said Schrode, who ran for Congress in 2016 at age 25. “I can only hope that we see a wave of Ritchies rising at all levels of government across the country.” David Greenfield, CEO of the Met Council who served in the City Council until 2018, predicted Torres will be tapped “to be the fresh face of the Democratic Party.”
Awaiting him in Washington: One congressman looking forward to welcoming Torres to Capitol Hill is first-term Rep. Max Rose (D-NY). “Ritchie is heartfelt, no one will ever outwork him, and he will always put the community first,” Rose told JI. “He’s exactly the type of leader that we need in Washington, D.C. — one who doesn’t listen to polls, but rather follows his moral compass.”
Minor league baseball unlikely to return in 2020 even as majors make a comeback
Earlier this week, Major League Baseball said it would return for a truncated, 60-game season beginning July 23 or 24. It was good news for those to whom summer is synonymous with baseball — even amid a pandemic — but absent from the announcement was any information about the future of the minors, which remains in question. Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel explores what lies ahead for the 160 minor league teams this summer — and beyond.
Rain check: Though rumors have circulated that the minor league season has been cancelled, “nothing has been determined” on the season at this point, according to Jeff Lantz, senior director of communications for Minor League Baseball, which is affiliated with the MLB. “I’m guessing it will be a few days at least before they turn their attention to us.” Lantz, however, wasn’t optimistic that the minor leagues — which have had a strained relationship with the MLB over the past year — would emerge unscathed from the coronavirus crisis, speculating that some of the 160 teams now in operation might go out of business.
Curve ball: Few seem to believe that the minors will come back this year. “There’s very little light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dick Nussbaum, president of the Class A Midwest League, made up of 16 teams. “As each day passes, it’s becoming more and more apparent that there won’t be a minor league season for 2020.” The reasons for that outcome are primarily financial. The MLB can afford to play without fans if necessary — it has lucrative TV deals — but minor league teams can’t because their revenues are generated primarily from ticket sales and concessions. “The economic model of the minor leagues doesn’t work if there aren’t fans in the stands,” Nussbaum told JI.
Going to bat: Andy Appleby, the owner and CEO of the independent United Shore Suburban Baseball League — which operates four teams in suburban Michigan — was optimistic his teams would return this summer, under a strict COVID protocol program. Along with the competition, Appleby told JI that he missed the communal aspects of minor league ball throughout a 75-game season. “We’ve had over 1,000 different charities leverage our ballpark, we have 60,000 kids in our reading program, we’ve got a kids’ club,” he said. “I mean, we’re all about community.”
Meet the man who worked to flatten the curve in Israel’s Arab communities
It was early March in Israel, and Rasool Saada was worried. Saada, the Arab society lead at Maoz, an Israeli leadership network and incubator, was watching the number of COVID-19 cases in Israel creep up. And he was deeply concerned that the country’s Arab population would be uniquely vulnerable to the spread of the disease, he told Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro in a recent interview.
Speaking up: “Until the third week in March, the Israeli government, the Health Ministry, weren’t speaking at all in Arabic,” said Saada, a longtime activist. “And it’s not just a language issue, it’s also the content — they weren’t speaking to the Arab society.” Much of the country’s messaging was coming from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and “there’s a deep mistrust between the Arab society and Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Saada said. “People [in Arab communities] won’t believe what they hear from him, and they don’t trust that he is coming to serve them.”
Video campaign: Saada worked quickly to help coordinate a series of educational videos warning about the dangers of the disease. Working with the Arab Mayors’ Forum and other local authorities, Saada and Maoz mobilized the many Israeli-Arab healthcare workers to get out the message. “We are 25% of the health system,” said Saada, pointing to the many Israeli-Arab doctors, nurses and pharmacists as the ideal “agents on the ground to talk to people… they were part of a huge campaign to raise awareness.”
On the ground:But the battle was far from over. Over the course of the next two months — along with the Health Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the Arab Mayors’ Forum — Saada worked to counter the factors stacked against the population. That included ramping up testing in Arab towns, convincing infected community members to move to IDF-staffed coronavirus hotels, and coordinating a government plan for the month of Ramadan. “The meaning of Ramadan is to be together, the whole family, to visit and to eat together,” Saada said. “Suddenly in the coronavirus period it’s not allowed.”
Lasting effects: Saada, 30, has a long history of advocacy and fighting for reform. The trained lawyer has dedicated his life to working to counter crime in Israeli-Arab communities. And he is hopeful that the coronavirus mobilization can have a lasting, positive effect on cooperation between Jewish and Arab Israelis. “Emergencies in Israel are generally connected to wars or military operations,” Saada said. “This is the first time that the emergency case is about a civilian issue… In times of emergency, people are more open to others to learn, to hear, to make changes,” Saada posited. “We succeeded to do a lot of things that in a regular situation could take years. We did it in 48 hours, and that’s amazing.”
U.K. Labour leader hailed for firing shadow cabinet member over antisemitic tweet
Labour leader Keir Starmer was praised by the U.K. Jewish community on Thursday after firing MP Rebecca Long-Bailey as shadow education secretary for sharing an article promoting an antisemitic conspiracy theory. Starmer said the tweet undermined his attempts to rebuild trust with the Jewish community. “As Leader of the Labour Party, Keir has been clear that restoring trust with the Jewish community is a number one priority,” the party said yesterday.
Fresh start: The Campaign Against Antisemitism, a British NGO that collects and analyzes data on antisemitic crimes, welcomed Starmer’s “swift and firm action,” and said it was an indication of him shifting the gear on dealing with antisemitism within his party. The group criticized Starmer for initially appointing Long-Bailey, an ally of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, to the shadow government. “We now expect that Ms. Long-Bailey will be the subject of disciplinary proceedings under an overhauled system which must be fair, transparent and efficient,” the group’s CEO Gideon Falter said in a statement.
Positive step: Former MP Ian Austin, who gave up his seat in parliament to protest Corbyn’s extremist views, told Jewish Insider the move sends the right message. “Under Jeremy Corbyn, wild conspiracy theories were not just tolerated, but endorsed from the top,” he said. “Now they get you sacked — that’s got to be good news,” explained Austin, who is now chair of the anti-extremism organization Mainstream. “It will take tough and determined action to deal with these problems, but today’s decision sends out the right message and is a good step in the right direction.”
📰 Media Watch: Josh Barro and Olivia Nuzzi try to explain in New York magazine why The Washington Post chose to publish an article about an unknown graphic designer’s blackface Halloween costume in 2018. “We blew up this woman’s life for no reason.” [NYMag]
🏃♀️ She’s Running:The Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere reports on Sen. Kamala Harris’s (D-CA) “shadow campaign” to be picked as Joe Biden’s vice president while “officially, Harris is pretending that she’s not campaigning to be Biden’s running mate.” [Atlantic]
🎶 On Repeat: Wall Street Journal music critic Mark Richardson has high praise for the latest album from Haim, the trio of Jewish sisters from L.A. “The production… is brilliant, weaving together an array of styles and sonic textures into a seamless whole.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
✋ No Oversight: The Trump administration is considering ending a congressional process that gave lawmakers the power to block weapons sales to foreign countries over humanitarian concerns.
🗳️ Get Out the Vote: Nonprofit group Protect Democracy, which is backed by investor Seth Klarman, is looking to secure the November elections against foreign and domestic interference.
👨⚖️ Back Behind Bars: Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who served time in jail for defrauding clients, has pleaded guilty to a criminal conspiracy related to cryptocurrency, and could face up to five years in prison.
⚖️ Legal Fight: Alan Dershowitz said he is suing Netflix over accusations made in its documentary series about Jeffrey Epstein.
📈 Raising the Bar: Israeli-founded insurance startup Lemonade, which is backed by SoftBank, is looking to raise up to $286 million as it files for an IPO.
🗣️ Endless Debate: The American Jewish Committee said it will “defend annexation” if needed, despite the fact that it will “will exact a price,” while The Washington Institute’s Robert Satloff wrote that annexation “makes no sense.”
💵 Giving Away: Falcons owner Arthur Blank announced he would donate his proceeds from an upcoming book to the The National Center for Civil and Human Rights in addition to a $300,000 donation.
📺 Tune In: Investment banker Paul Wachter leads the team backing SpringHill Co., a new media company helmed by LeBron James and Maverick Carter seeking to boost underrepresented voices.
👩💼 New Face: Blackstone has named Google CFO Ruth Porat to its board of directors.
🎥 Hollywood: Israeli director Dani Rosenberg’s debut film, which will be screened at Cannes, gets a sneak peek in Variety.
🖼️ For Sale: Sotheby’s is set to auction a collection of paintings and drawings owned by former U.S. Ambassador to France Felix Rohatyn, who died last year at 91.
🏆 Award: The Atlantic’s Emma Green was named the 2020 Laureate of the George W. Hunt, S.J., Prize for Journalism, Arts & Letters.
Wine of the Week
JI’s wine columnist Yitz Applbaum reviews Hadju Seraglio 2017:
“I have a dear friend Alan, who to put it gently, misses the finer points of wine. I generally brush off his recommendations with the old phrase: ‘Over taste and smell one cannot argue.’ You can imagine my surprise when twice this month, he introduced me to two fantastic wines. By virtue of these two recommendations, I have learned that there are people and wines I might have ignored, that with a little patience, I can derive enjoyment.”
“One of the two wines Alan recommended, the Hajdu Seraglio 2017, is a super interesting wine. The wine is a blend of Sangiovese, Barbera and Montepulciano, three great Italian varietals. The color of this wine is mesmerizing and transports you to the hills of Tuscany. The nose reminds me of honey. The body of this wine tastes slightly peated, like my favorite Islay whiskies. The finish is a mixture of dark roasted coffee beans and wild cherries. Drink this wine now, and alongside spicy tuna sushi.”
Actor and director Mel Brooks (born Melvin James Kaminsky) turns 94 on Sunday…
FRIDAY: Former British Labour party member, David Winnick turns 87… Partner in the law firm Baker Hostetler, Irving H. Picard turns 79… David Marks turns 74… Retired co-host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Robert Siegel turns 73… Founder of Grover Strategies, Alan Solow turns 66… Managing director of Emerging Star Capital and CEO of Transclick, Robert E. Levin turns 65… CEO of ZMC, he was previously chairman of CBS and CEO of 20th Century Fox, Strauss Zelnick turns 63… Professor of psychology at Loyola University Maryland, Amy Ruth Wolfson, Ph.D. turns 60… Former Russian oligarch, then a prisoner in Russia and now living in London, Mikhail Khodorkovsky turns 57…
Novelist and journalist, Lev Grossman… and his twin brother, author and video game designer, Austin Grossman both turn 51… Dean of Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business, Noam T. Wasserman turns 51… President and founder of Reut Group, Gidi Grinstein turns 50… Political commentator and talk show host, Dave Rubin turns 44… Director of operations communications at American Airlines, Ross Feinstein turns 38… Associate in Mayer Brown’s DC office, Michael “Mickey” Leibner turns 32… Chief of staff at NYU’s Bronfman Center and associate producer of TabletMagazine‘s Unorthodox podcast, Sara Fredman Aeder turns 31… MBA and MPP candidate at the University of Chicago, Asher J. Mayerson turns 27…
SATURDAY: Co-founder of Taglit Birthright, former owner of MLB’s Montreal Expos, Charles Bronfman turns 89… Brooklyn resident, Meyer Roth turns 79… Former member of the Pennsylvania Senate, Constance H. “Connie” Williams turns 76… Director at the Israel Democracy Institute, Ami Ayalon turns 75… New Jersey resident, Kenneth R. Blankfein turns 64… Democratic member of the Florida Senate, Lori Berman turns 62… Managing director at Osprey Foundation, Louis Boorstin… and his twin brother, SVP at Albright Stonebridge Group, Robert Boorstin both turn 61… British historian, author and television presenter, he is a great-great-nephew of Sir Moses Montefiore, Simon Sebag Montefiore turns 55…
Woodland Hills, California-based accountant, Susan M. Feldman turns 55… Creator of multiple TV series including “Felicity,” “Alias,” “Lost” and “Fringe,” Jeffrey Jacob (J.J.) Abrams turns 54… Gordon Gerstein turns 48… Reporter for The New York Times on the climate desk, Lisa Friedman turns 48… Member of the Knesset, Yoel Yaakov Tessler turns 47… Director of the Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute, Ilya Shapiro turns 43… Communications director for Michelle Obama, Caroline Elisabeth Adler Morales turns 38… Talent partner at Greylock Partners, Holly Rose Faith turns 35… Researcher at the London School of Economics’ foreign policy think tank, Charles Dunst turns 24… Senior startup advisor at Chirpp Corp, Deydra Cavazos…
SUNDAY: Laguna Woods, California, resident, Saretta Platt Berlin turns 90… Former United States senator from Michigan, Carl Levin turns 86… Owner of NYC’s United Equities Companies and chairman of Berkshire Bank, Moses M. Marx turns 85… Former member of Congress, now CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Jane Harman turns 75… Political consultant, he is married to Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9), Robert Creamer turns 73… Conservative commentator and senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, Mark Helprin turns 73… Author of crime fiction, Peter Abrahams turns 73… Documentary producer, James Ruxin turns 72… West Orange, N.J., resident, Saralee Rosen turns 72…
Former member of the California State Senate, Martin Jeffrey “Marty” Block turns 70… Partner at Chicago-based CPA and consulting firm of Morrison & Morrison since 1981, Mark Zivin turns 69… Founding partner of NYC law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres, Marc Kasowitz turns 68… Israeli journalist and author, Amira Hass turns 64… Chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation, Brian L. Roberts turns 61… Rabbi of the Har Bracha community, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed turns 59… Principal of GPS Investment Partners and chairman of Chiron Investment Management, Marc Spilker turns 56… Actress and singer, Jessica Hecht turns 55… Former member of Knesset, Michal Biran turns 42… Toltzy Kornbluh and her twin sister Chany Stark turn 39… J.D. candidate at Georgetown University Law Center, Molly Rosen turns 28… Mark Winkler…