Good Wednesday morning!
Longtime Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and former CIA operative Valerie Plame lost their primary bids in Iowa and New Mexico, respectively, last night. More results below.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled that Iran and Syria are liable for compensation of U.S. citizens wounded or killed in Palestinian terror attacks in Israel.
The Jewish community of the United Arab Emirates published a video sharing the prayer they recite on behalf of the UAE government. See more below.
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Leger Fernandez defeats Plame; Feenstra topples King and other results
New Mexico: Teresa Leger Fernandez clinched the Democratic nomination for Congress in New Mexico’s 3rd district, beating out former CIA officer Valerie Plame in a highly watched race that saw an influx of outside spending. With 70% of the vote counted, Leger Fernandez received 42% and Plame was trailing with 23%. Leger Fernandez is aiming to win the seat being vacated by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), who ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination for Senate. In the state’s 3rd district, Yvette Herrell, who lost narrowly in 2018 to Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM), will take on Torres Small again this November, after winning a bruising Republican primary.
Iowa: Nine-term Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who has been repudiated by the GOP for his history of bigoted comments, lost his Republican primary bid in Iowa’s 4th district to challenger Randy Feenstra, who received 46% of the vote to King’s 36%. In November, Feenstra will face Democrat J.D. Scholten, who came within striking distance of King in 2018 and ran unopposed for the nomination.
Pennsylvania: Lisa Scheller appears poised to clinch the Republican congressional primary in Pennsylvania’s 7th district, currently leading 51.8% to 48.2% against Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning, as mail-in ballots continue to be counted. The winner will face freshman Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA) in November. In the state’s 8th district, Jim Bognet held a lead of several hundred votes in the Republican primary, slightly edging out Teddy Daniels in a race that has yet to be called.
Maryland: Rep. Kweisi Mfume received more than 75% of the vote in the Democratic primary in Maryland’s 7th district, after winning a special election in April to fill the seat held by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings. In the 5th district, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) trounced progressive challenger Mckayla Wilkes. In the Baltimore mayoral race’s Democratic primary, disgraced former Mayor Sheila Dixon was leading the count, followed by City Council President Brandon Scott, with former U.S. Treasury official Mary Miller in third place and incumbent Mayor Bernard Young in a distant fifth — with many votes left to be tallied.
The outspoken Georgia state senator who isn’t afraid of a fight
Renee Unterman sits in a rarefied position as one of just two Republican women in the Georgia State Senate — as well as its only Jewish member. And she will have to stand out in the 7th congressional district’s June 9 Republican primary when she competes against six other Republicans, including former Home Depot executive Lynne Homrich and physician Rich McCormick. Unterman spoke with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel about her record and her campaign.
Frontrunner: Observers say Unterman is the frontrunner in the race with the most name recognition in the district, which encompasses the suburbs of northern Atlanta. She leads the field in campaign donations, with more than $1 million in her war chest, according to the Federal Election Commission, having loaned herself about $600,000.
Georgia maverick: In recent years, Unterman has clashed with those on both sides of the aisle. She is infamous among liberal voters for having shepherded anti-abortion legislation known as the “heartbeat bill” into law in the State Senate. And last year she butted heads with her own party and was ousted as chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee after failing to support Gov. Brian Kemp in his bid for office. Unterman — who is used to acts of retaliation — takes it in stride. “The issues that I’ve taken on are issues that nobody else wants to deal with, and they’re out-of-the box issues,” she said. “That’s just my personality.”
On Israel: In a position paper✎ EditSign on the Israeli-Palestinian confict, Unterman says she opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and supports “two-party negotiations toward resolving Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” She told JI that she is “very pro-Israel, and that’s one of the reasons I’m running for Congress. I very much support an independent nation and the ability to be free — and also to keep the dialogue and the economic support of Israel with the United States. And I think Trump is doing a good job with that.”
Communal ties: Unterman, a native of the district who was raised Catholic, converted to Judaism when she got married in the 1980s and has stuck with the religion even after her divorce. “Whenever I do something, I do it all the way — I don’t do it halfway,” she said. “It took me a year for the conversion process. I went through the whole shpiel where you have to go before the three rabbis and do the 100 questions. I had a mikvah. It was very detailed and very meaningful for me.”
Where does the Jewish Community Center movement go from here?
The largest single employer in the American Jewish community is facing an unprecedented crisis. America’s 164 JCCs employ 40,000 full- and part-time staffers. But JCCs around the country have shut their doors to the public since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Most have had to lay off or furlough employees, as well as reduce salaries for those who remained working, reports Jewish Insider’s Debra Nussbaum Cohen.
Getting creative: The Lawrence Family JCC in San Diego has already adapted its summer camp plans to the new reality, said Jewish Community Center Associations CEO Doron Krakow. It will maintain its usual number of summer campers, but split them up among five local Reform and Conservative synagogues in order to host smaller groups. To avoid crowded buses, parents will drop their children off at the different synagogues. That kind of innovative partnering “may create an opportunity for partnership where before it was territorial,” Krakow said.
Helping hand: For many JCCs, temporary relief came in the form of SBA loans. The JCC in Buffalo, N.Y., had enough members keep paying dues, despite the closed facilities, to continue paying staff until federal aid came through. The David Posnack JCC in Davie, Florida, had enough in reserves to tide it over until its SBA loan was obtained. But few JCCs have such financial reserves, said several JCC executives. Krakow said that nearly 90% of JCCs have received federal pandemic financial assistance totaling roughly $110 million.
Membership evolution: More than a century ago, said Ivy Harlev, CEO of the Siegel JCC in Wilmington, Delaware, “JCCs started so they could help Jews become Americans,” by teaching English and helping them acculturate. “Now we help American Jews connect to Judaism. It’s always been in a cultural way.” That has shifted in recent decades. “Even in 1990, the percentage of Jewish members of JCCs was on the wane and they had more non-Jewish members than Jewish,” said Amy Sales, the recently retired associate director of Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies. “The successful places have totally dropped the notion that the JCC is about serving the Jewish community, but now serve everyone.”
What’s next? This pivot has made many JCCs less attractive to Jewish philanthropists. “There are JCCs like the one in Manhattan that have such a deep commitment to Jewish education, robust offerings. Then there are other JCCs that serve a range of programming to, at best, a mixed population of Jewish and non-Jewish clientele,” said Mark Charendoff, president of the Maimonides Fund, a grantmaking organization focused on Jewish identity and education. “It becomes a vicious circle. If they’re getting non-Jewish clientele there is temptation to not be too explicit about Jewish programming in order to not alienate that clientele. Then I would question what their claim is on Jewish [communal] dollars. At some point you have to ask yourself why the Jewish community should subsidize this.”
Engel takes heat for hot mic gaffe at Bronx presser
Gaffe: The 16-term congressman, who has been accused of being absent in his district, appeared at a press conference in the Bronx on Tuesday alongside Borough President Rubén Díaz, Jr., and his father, city councilman and congressional candidate Rubén Díaz, Sr. At one point, Engel could be heard asking the younger Díaz for the chance to address the crowd despite Díaz not appearing to have room for him at the lectern. “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care,” Engel pleaded. “Don’t do that to me,” Díaz Jr. replied.
Defense: In a statement provided to Jewish Insider by his campaign spokesman, Engel defended the comment. “In the context of running for re-election, I thought it was important for people to know where I stand, that’s why I asked to speak,” the congressman said. “Of course I care deeply about what’s happening in this country, that’s what I wanted to convey. I love the Bronx, grew up in the Bronx and lived here all my life. I would not have tried to impose on the Borough President if I didn’t think it was important.”
📜 Ancient DNA: Genetic studies of the Dead Sea Scrolls by scholars at Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority have provided new insights into the creation of the ancient documents — and could also help protect against forgeries. [Reuters]
🖼️ Art Battle: The U.S. Supreme Court is being urged by the Justice Department to take up the case of the “Guelph Treasure,” a collection of artifacts that was sold by its German Jewish owners to the Nazi government in 1935. Heirs of those owners claim the sale was a “genocidal taking.” [TheArt]
⛪ The Base: McKay Coppins writes in The Atlantic that Trump’s photo-op on Monday outside St. John’s Church has resonated with the president’s evangelical supporters exactly as he intended. “To Trump, the Bible and the church are not symbols of faith; they are weapons of culture war.” [TheAtlantic]
Around the Web
🎖️ Call for Action: Rep. Max Rose (D-NY), who served as a captain in the National Guard, called for the reserve force’s deployment to help stop rioting in New York City.
🙏 No Equivalence: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference yesterday that protests were allowed while large prayer services are banned because of “400 years of American racism.” He added that it isn’t the same as the “devout religious person who wants to go back to services.”
🏕️ Bright Future:New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that summer day camps will be allowed to open on June 29, while the status of sleepover camps is still under review.
🌊 Second Wave? Just weeks after schools reopened in Israel, more than 10,000 students and teachers have been forced to quarantine due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in high schools.
🇮🇱 Annexation Watch: Conflicting leaked reports from a meeting yesterday between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and settler leaders claim that U.S. enthusiasm for annexation has lessened and that the prime minister pledged to pursue the move even outside of the framework of Trump’s plan.
✍️ Hurt at Home: Retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, who led security talks with Israel during the Obama administration, wrote in The Hill, alongside former Amb. Daniel Shapiro, that Israeli annexation efforts would damage American security interests.
💰 Rebuilding:Israel-based OurCrowd announced a goal of raising $100 million for a Pandemic Innovation Fund to invest in tech solutions to solve the problems caused by the global pandemic.
💽 Startup Nation: U.S.-based National Instruments has acquired Israeli big data analytics company OptimalPlus, founded by Dan Glotter and Nir Erez, for $365 million.
🇨🇿 Rising Hate: The Jewish community in the Czech Republic says antisemitism in the country has doubled over the past year.
👮 Live Free: Austria has unveiled the winning architectural bid to replace Adolf Hitler’s birth home with a police station and “neutralize” the building.
⚰️ Grave Decision: Veterans Affairs officials announced they will begin removing gravestones of German prisoners of war inscribed with swastikas and messages honoring Hitler from American military cemeteries.
🥪Deli Damage: D.C. kosher eatery Char Bar was vandalized by rock throwers on Sunday night.
🕯️ Remembering: Jewish historian Steven Lowenstein died at age 75. Elsa Dorfman, an artist famous for her giant Polaroid camera, has died at 83.
Gif of the Day
A Jewish Twitter account in the United Arab Emirates published a video clip of the prayer that members of the UAE Jewish community recite in synagogue each week praying for the welfare of the Emirati rulers and its government and armed forces.
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