Good Monday morning!
The country is burning. Following the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis, protests and riots have spread from coast to coast. More below.
Tomorrow, amid the chaos, seven states are holding primary elections, including Iowa, New Mexico, Montana, Maryland, Indiana, Pennsylvania and South Dakota. Since the beginning of 2020, JI has featured and interviewed nearly 100 House and Senate candidates, including a number in the aforementioned states.
Today, we’re rolling out a new feature: JI’s interactive election map. The map, which will be regularly updated, features all active congressional candidates and highlights relevant articles and policy positions. Check it out, let us know your thoughts and come back often.
The Financial Timesreports that a recent Iranian cyber attack on Israeli water systems was designed to increase the chlorine in drinking water to poisonous levels, and “was close to successful.”
Spread the word! Invite your friends to sign up and earn JI swag through our Ambassador program
The New Mexico congressman setting his sights on the Senate
When Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) decided that he was going to run for a seat in the Senate, the first thing he did was ask his mother — “the matriarch of the family,” as he put it — for her blessing. After she gave him the nod, the second thing Luján did was have a frank conversation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), he told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent interview.
Speaker support: “During the 2018 cycle and under the threat of a gerrymandered map, Congressman Ben Ray Luján led our House Democrats to an astounding majority not seen since Watergate,” Pelosi said in an enthusiastic statement to Jewish Insider. As the assistant Democratic leader, Luján, 47, has developed a close relationship with the Speaker since he was elected to represent New Mexico’s 3rd congressional district more than a decade ago.
Flip or flop: Luján has raked in more than $5 million in donations, according to the Federal Election Commission, as he runs unopposed in the June 2 primary to succeed outgoing Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), who announced last spring that he would retire at the end of his term. Luján is optimistic that his party can flip the Republican-controlled Senate in November. “As we get closer to Election Day, the numbers are only getting better for Democratic candidates,” Luján told JI.
Communal ties: Halley Faust, chairman of the pro-Israel organization Santa Fe Middle East Watch, was effusive in his praise of the congressman. “Ben Ray Luján has been the most responsive and respectful congressman I’ve known over the 42 years I’ve been lobbying and working with members of Congress,” he told JI in an email. “He has an excellent relationship with the Jewish community, and has an excellent pro-Israel record.”
Unbreakable bond: Luján made his first trip to Israel in 2017 on a trip led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), something he called an “eye-opening” experience. “It just helps put everything into perspective, of proximity, how close everything is,” he said of a visit to the Golan Heights, where he recalled hearing “the crack of gunfire and explosions” as he looked out on the Syrian border. The congressman supports a two-state solution and believes that Israeli annexation efforts would hamper that goal. “The U.S.-Israeli relationship is strongest when the bonds transcend political lines,” Luján averred. “And there’s an effort to cast the unbreakable bond between the two countries into a partisan fight that needs to be rejected.”
Elsewhere in the Land of Enchantment: Teresa Leger Fernandez, running against former CIA spy Valerie Plame for the seat Luján is vacating in New Mexico’s 3rd congressional district, nabbed an endorsement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) over the weekend. A poll released last week showed the New Mexico attorney leading Plame by nine points.
RACE TO WATCH
Democrats take aim at a red district in Indiana
The area that makes up Indiana’s 5th congressional district has been represented by Republicans for nearly six decades. But with the retirement of Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), the district is now in play, and Democrats are determined to pick up the seat come November, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
National support: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has thrown its weight behind former State Rep. Christina Hale, including her on its list of “Red to Blue” districts they hope to flip — and backing her in tomorrow’s Democratic primary over former Xerox executive Dee Thornton, who was the party’s nominee in 2018. With a war chest of over $1 million, Hale has brought in more than every other candidate in the race from both parties, including Thornton, who has raised roughly $64,000.
World order: Hale, who visited Israel on a 2018 trip for community leaders organized by the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, described the U.S. alliance with the Jewish state as “something that we have to absolutely protect not only for the interests of our country and Israel, but also to maintain world order.” Hale backs a two-state solution and restoring aid to the Palestinian Authority. She said that her trip allowed her to “learn how complicated issues are” for the region.
Endorsing diplomacy: Thornton told JI that she supports a two-state solution. Speaking more broadly about U.S. foreign policy, she bemoaned what she called a lack of leadership, explaining that diplomacy should be the foundation of U.S. relationships with all countries, including Israel. Thornton has also expressed frustration that the DCCC backed Hale before the primary election. “The DCCC’s decision to choose a specific candidate before the voters have their say appears to be motivated by an age-old Washington tradition: money,” she said.
DRIVING THE DAY
Protests and riots spread from coast to coast over the killing of George Floyd
Anti-racist protests that originated in Minneapolis have unfurled across the United States, with many devolving into violence and often garnering an aggressive police response. The protests have shaken a country rattled by the COVID-19 pandemic, and split an already divided nation.
Caught up: Congregation Beth Israel, a synagogue in Los Angeles’s Fairfax District, was vandalized with graffiti that read “Free Palestine. F**k Israel” during a day of rage against the police. A number of Jewish-owned stores in the area were among local shops looted by violent protesters. The window of a synagogue in Richmond, Virginia, was smashed during protests in the city.
Hear their voices: S. Fitzgerald Haney, the former U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica who now lives in Israel, tweeted his anger that “our race will inevitably be weaponized against us at some juncture in our lives,” and said that he is “tired of the extra burden we all carry… and tired of worrying each and every time my child steps out of my house.” Writer Tema Smith told JTA that she is hopeful about the “growing chorus of voices in the Jewish community speaking up,” while Gulienne Rishon said that at times she looks “at the beautiful brown skin of my daughter and her parents, and I’m angry and afraid.”
Organizational response: Many mainstream Jewish organizations published messages of support for protesters. The Jewish Federations of North America tweeted: “We will not stop fighting for a world free of racism and bigotry in all of its forms,” and the Anti-Defamation League proclaimed that “systemic injustice and inequality calls for systemic change. Now.”
City in the spotlight: Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a member of two Reform synagogues in the city, has been heavily criticized as unrest in the area has continued unabated for days. Some of the city’s Jewish activists have been working to repair damage and distribute supplies, while many have expressed distress at the violence and looting.
At the top: Senior White House advisors are reportedly expressing concern over President Donald Trump’s tone and incendiary tweets in response to the protests. Trump’s tweet that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” was censored by Twitter for “glorifying violence.” According to Axios’s Jonathan Swan, one advisor described the situation as Trump’s worst moment since Charlottesville.
2020 watch: Yesterday, former Vice President Joe Biden visited the site of Saturday night’s protest in Wilmington, Delaware. The outrage over Floyd’s killing has complicated Biden’s veep search, putting the selection of three potential candidates — Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) as well as Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) — in jeopardy over their past records on policing, Politico reports.
AIPAC cancels its 2021 conference due to coronavirus
AIPAC has canceled its 2021 policy conference, scheduled for next March in Washington, D.C., due to concerns regarding future waves of the novel coronavirus.
Details: In an email sent to members of the organization on Sunday, AIPAC President Betsy Berns Korn said that “given the continued uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and without a predictable avenue to safely bring together thousands of pro-Israel Americans, we have been forced to cancel the 2021 AIPAC Policy Conference.”
Happening this week: AIPAC has already begun to move lobbying efforts online. In place of the group’s annual national council meeting this week, AIPAC will hold a virtual plenary session on Monday followed by a series of lobbying meetings with members of Congress and staff, which will be held via Zoom.
On schedule: Christians United for Israel will hold its annual summit virtually on June 28-30. Speakers include U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley and outgoing Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon.
🐎 Hold Your Horses: In The Daily Beast, Neri Zilber tells the unlikely story of a prized stallion stolen by Palestinians from an Israeli mobster — and the efforts, led by Palestinian security forces, to retrieve it. But with tensions over annexation rising, every incident “holds within it the potential to break bad and turn into a major strategic crisis.” [DailyBeast]
🇨🇳Nǐ Hǎo: Jonathan Kaufman writes in The Wall Street Journal about the Kadoorie family, an Iraqi Jewish dynasty that became one of the biggest power players in China despite a long-fluctuating relationship. “As the country turns more assertive and nationalistic, the tightrope the Kadoories walk is growing thinner.” [WSJ]
💰 Ahead of the Curve: Tablet’s Sean Cooper spotlights the “small cohort of foundations and wealthy patrons” who are funding the progressive Jewish group Bend the Arc, which is quickly rising and seeking “to obtain and cement Jewish-branded support for progressive political causes.” [Tablet]
Around the Web
🏃♂️ He’s Running: CNN President Jeff Zucker tells The New York Times’s Ben Smith that he’s considering running for mayor of New York City next year.
🕍 Act of Hate: A synagogue in Montreal was vandalized, with Torah scrolls destroyed and prayer shawls stuffed into toilets.
👮♂️ Excessive Force:Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz apologized for the shooting death of an unarmed autistic Palestinian man by Israeli police in the Old City of Jerusalem after he was spotted “with a suspicious object.”
🕌 Renewed Prayers: Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound reopened on Sunday after being shut down for the past two months.
🛃 Life Matters: Global travel interruptions have complicated the deliveries of life-saving organ transplants, including by Israel’s Ezer Mizion — with one man keeping the globe-spanning operation going.
🖋️⚠️ Warning:The New York Times editorial board has cautioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his attempt to annex parts of the West Bank may come back to haunt him after the November election, leaving Israel isolated if Joe Biden wins.
🌿 High Holy Place: Israeli archaeologists have found two limestone altars that contained cannabis for ritualistic use at Israel’s Tel Arad, located west of the Dead Sea.
🗒️ Transcripts:Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn lobbied then-Russian Ambassador to Washington Sergey Kislyak to block the U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in December 2016, according to transcripts released by the FBI.
👩 Questionable Hire: Mark Kevin Lloyd, the newly appointed “religious freedom advisor” for the U.S. Agency for International Development, has a history of promoting anti-Muslim propaganda on social media.
😔 Troubling Ties: Lauren Witzke, a Senate candidate running in the Republican primary for the seat held by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), hired a self-identified monarchist and antisemite as her campaign manager.
📉 Bad Call: Billionaire Carl Icahn lost $2 billion in a failed investment in Hertz, which filed for bankruptcy on Friday.
🕍 Talk of the Town:Two historic Reform synagogues in New York, Congregation Beth Elohim and Union Temple, are discussing a potential merger after facing financial difficulties tied to COVID-19.
👨💼 Transition: Jonathan Karp has been named the president and CEO of Simon & Schuster.
📺 BB-TV:Screenwriter Kirk Ellis has been tapped by to pen the screenplay for “Bibi,” a TV adaptation of Ben Caspit’s book about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
🎥 Hollywood: MGM is planning to produce a new film adaptation of “Fiddler on the Roof,” directed by Thomas Kail, director of the Broadway sensation “Hamilton.”
🕯️Remembering: Rabbi Norman Lamm, former president of Yeshiva University, died at age 92.
Pic of the Day
Today in history — June 1, 1976: Visiting New York, California Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown, Jr. meets with Albert Friedman and Harold Jacob, delegates from New York, who were committed to Senator Henry Jackson (D-WA) for the first ballot in the Democratic National Convention.
Comedian, writer, actress and producer, Amy Schumer turns 39…
Actress Joan Maxine Miller Copeland turns 98… Composer Yehudi Wyner turns 91… Former Chief Rabbi of Israel Yisrael Meir Lau turns 83… Beth Jacob Jerusalem’s Dean Bruria David turns 82… El Al historian Marvin G. Goldman turns 81… Berkeley, California attorney, Thom Seaton turns 74… Pediatrician Elliot Charles Lepler, MD turns 72… Editor and speechwriter Adam M. Garfinkle turns 69… Bloomberg biographer Matthew Winkler turns 65… Political scientist and journalist Ahron “Ronnie” Bregman turns 62…
Oakland Athletics owner John J. Fisher turns 59… Poet Adeena Karasick, Ph.D. turns 55… Dayton Jewish Observer‘s Marshall J. Weiss turns 53… Television personality Sigalit “Siggy” Flicker turns 53… Actress Danielle Harris turns 43… The Daily Beast’s Spencer J. Ackerman turns 40… Musician Ari Seth Herstand turns 35… MoveOn[dot]org’s Ilya Sheyman turns 34… NBC News reporter Alex Seitz-Wald turns 34… Palantir Technologies’ Naomi S. Kadish turns 25… CAA’s Isabel Keller…