Good Wednesday morning!
July 1 has arrived — with no announcement on Israeli annexation. “We will continue to work on [annexation] in the coming days,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday after meetings in Jerusalem with senior Trump administration officials Avi Berkowitz and Brian Hook. This morning, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said “it seems unlikely to me that this will happen today.”
In an interview with Israel’s Channel 13, Hook said the “military option is always on the table” against Iran, and said annexation is “a decision for the Israeli government to make.”
In a front-page op-ed in Yediot Aharonot, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Netanyahu not to proceed with annexation, saying it would “represent a violation of international law.”
The Joe Biden campaign is searching for a Jewish outreach director, according to a new online job listing.
In the final results from last week’s primary in Kentucky, Amy McGrath beat out Charles Booker for the Democratic Senate nomination, and will face Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in November.
In Colorado, former Gov. John Hickenlooper won the Democratic Senate primary and will work to unseat Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) this fall. In the state’s 3rd district, incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) lost to far-right gun activist Lauren Boebert in the Republican primary.
In Utah, former NFL player Burgess Owens won the GOP primary in the 4th district, and will face Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT). The race for the Republican nomination for governor is still too close to call.
In Oklahoma, Republicans Stephanie Bice and Terry Neese advanced to a runoff for the GOP nomination in the 5th district, for the chance to take on Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK).
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CHARM CITY OFFENSIVE
The projected next mayor of Baltimore is looking to turn the city around
Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott is all but assured to be the city’s next mayor — and its youngest in more than 100 years. Scott narrowly won the Democratic nomination in a tight and crowded race in early June, due, he says, to his “broad range of support throughout the city: white, black, old, young, gay, straight, rich, poor.”Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro spoke to Scott about his plans to invigorate the city and his close relationship with the Jewish community.
All of Baltimore:Baltimore City Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer told JI that Scott was the favorite among the city’s Jewish community. “The Jewish community overwhelmingly supported him,” Schleifer said, because “we all understand that we’re one Baltimore… we need a leader who’s going to be a leader for all of Baltimore, and we just didn’t feel that any of the other leading candidates could be or would be that leader.”
Leading efforts: As calls for police reform reverberate across the U.S., Scott points out that Baltimore is ahead of the curve. “Long before anyone was talking about ‘defund the police’ with a hashtag,” he said, the city has been working toward “responsibly, over time,” reducing the police department’s budget. Schleifer, chairman of the Baltimore City Council’s Public Safety Committee, said “the things that people are calling for are things that we’ve already been doing,” pointing to body cameras for police officers and a shift to a community policing model.
In the Heights: Scott, who was first elected to the city council in 2011, at age 27, grew up in the Baltimore neighborhood of Park Heights, a majority Black area that is also home to a large concentration of Orthodox Jews. “It was a very unique situation, because we learned a lot about the Jewish community,” he told JI. “But that dividing line in Park Heights separated two different worlds.”
Deep effort: Scott admitted that there have been tensions between the city’s Jewish and Black communities, but he believes things are on an upswing. “The relationship between the African-American and Jewish communities in Park Heights is a lot better than it was when I was a kid,” he said. “But it’s nowhere near where it needs to be.” Still, he added, “people have made a very, very deep effort to try to work on issues.” Schleifer paints a somewhat rosier picture, saying: “There’s certainly people on both sides who may create tensions,” he said. “But there’s not a general tension between the Black and Jewish communities… It really is the same handful of people who cause all the problems.”
DRIVING THE CONVO
Why these House Dems refused to add their names to letters against annexation
An overwhelming majority of the 233 Democratic members of the House of Representatives have publicly expressed opposition to Israel’s proposed unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank — but some holdouts have kept House Democrats from unanimous opposition. A handful of Democrats who refused to sign onto a House letter sent to Israeli leaders explained their reasoning to Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh.
Missing words: Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), who represents New York’s 22nd congressional district, told JI he did not sign the letter because it didn’t strongly oppose conditioning military aid to Israel. “My concern with the letter is that I believe it’s important that we reiterate and make it very clear that it’s in America’s national security interests to maintain our commitment to security assistance to Israel without conditions,” Brindisi said. “That’s a red line for me… The security aid that we provide is not symbolic. In my mind, it saves lives, and we need to reiterate that commitment to make sure that it’s clear.”
Preserving bipartisanship: Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) told JI she refused to sign the letter because it lacks bipartisan support. “I generally do not sign letters or cosponsor bills on Israel that are partisan in origin or nature,” Murphy explained. “When it comes to preserving and protecting the U.S.-Israel alliance, and influencing Israeli government actions, I think Congress is most effective when it acts in a bipartisan way.”
Solo efforts: Last Thursday, Rep. Max Rose (D-NY), who didn’t sign onto either letter, released a statement saying that unilateral annexation “would only take us further from our shared goal of long-lasting peace in the region.” He also noted that he continues “to oppose attempts to delegitimize or condition aid to Israel.” Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) issued a similar statement last week, urging Israel to “refrain” from annexing parts of the West Bank “outside of the context of negotiations.” He added that “it is in America’s national interest to maintain our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security” by providing security assistance.
Lobbying on the Hill: Progressive Jewish groups and pro-Palestinian groups✎ EditSign have issued action alerts to pressure House members to join Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and 11 other members of Congress vowing to introduce legislation to condition aid to Israel if annexation takes place. Ocasio-Cortez has reportedly been touting support for her letter from a range of BDS-supporting groups, some with ties to State Department-designated terrorist groups. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 alumni of J Street’s college arm, J Street U, have signed a letter asking the pro-peace group to support such legislation.
Nothing to worry about: Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) told JI on Wednesday that he’s not worried about lawmakers following through with their threat to cut aid, noting that members introduce “thousands of bills over the course of year” that never progress. Schneider said he remains “confident in the broad support within the Democratic caucus” for Israel. “I don’t see that diminishing,” he added. “It gets tested at times and a unilateral move would certainly be a test. But my hope is that, a) we avoid it, or, b) if Israel does go down that path, we’ll be able to address it at that time.”
Told ya so: Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) — one of the four authors of the original House letter — said yesterday during a Zoom call hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America that she had warned the Israeli Consul General in Chicago that “inevitably” the issue of aid would arise in response to annexation. “The only way I see to avoid that in a really damaging way is that this annexation be dropped,” Schakowsky said.
Orthodox Jewish groups celebrate Supreme Court ruling on Montana scholarship program
Religious schooling advocates are celebrating Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling on Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which struck down restrictions on a private school tax credit program in Montana, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. In the 5-4 decision, the court ruled that states can not exclude religious schools from scholarship programs that provide a tax credit to contributors.
Why it matters: “We believe that this decision represents a great stride in both religious liberty and in American education. A great stride in the sense that it will bring greater equity to religion, so that religion will be able to play on the same equitable playing field as non-religious institutions,” said Abba Cohen, the vice president for government affairs and Washington director for Agudath Israel of America. Cohen told JI the court’s decision is a “tremendous leap forward” for legal and political change on religious education.
Down the road: The Orthodox Union also applauded the court’s ruling. “This is going to be a very powerful tool in the advocacy work that we engage in and in state and local legislatures to expand government support for Jewish schools and other non-public schools,” said Nathan Diament, the OU’s executive director for public policy.
Next on the agenda: Nathan Lewin, a veteran lawyer who has worked extensively on religious liberty issues, suggested the justices could have gone farther to entirely overturn Lemon v. Kurtzman, a 1971 ruling restricting government funding to religious schools. “[The decision] indicates that there are clearly five votes, and I hope more than five, to go so far in the religious education area that hopefully ultimately Lemon v. Kurtzman will be overruled,” he told JI.
Alternative view: Rabbi David Saperstein, former U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom and director emeritus of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said the RAC was “disappointed” by the ruling. “We don’t think that tax dollars ought to be used to support religious activity,” Saperstein told JI. “In general, we feel that creates problems of entanglement. It creates problems of government rules and regulation and monitoring and interference with religion.”
Never-before-heard Thelonious Monk recording to be released
Retired concert producer Danny Scher helped promote such high-profile acts as The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Metallica throughout his career. But it’s a 1968 concert by pianist Thelonious Monk that Scher arranged at his high school in Palo Alto, California that is now in the headlines, reports Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
New release: In the fall of 1968, the 16-year-old Scher convinced the renowned pianist to come to his school and play a set to raise funds for the school’s International Club, which supported music programs abroad. Fifty years later, the concert — recorded, fortuitously, by an enterprising custodian — is scheduled to be released by Impulse! Records on July 31 as a 47-minute album called Palo Alto.
Feeling good: “I’m really pleasantly surprised and pleased with the energy of the concert — everything seems to me just to be a little faster,” Scher said. “In music, we call it ‘up.’ Everything was played a little up. I mentioned that to T.S., and he said, ‘Yeah, that’s how my father played when he was feeling good.’”
Long wait: Why did it take nearly 52 years for Palo Alto to surface? No special reason, according to Scher, now 68. He held onto the recording for decades until the mid-aughts when, through a connection with another jazz musician, he reached out to Monk’s son, the drummer T.S., who controls his father’s estate. Negotiations moved slowly, however, and it was only in 2017 — on Monk’s centennial — that they signed a contract and agreed to release the music.
Musical harmony: The album’s unique backstory resonates with the mood of the country as protests against systemic racism have swept the nation. A number of residents of the Black neighborhood of East Palo Alto attended the show, Scher said, at a time of heightened racial tensions. “My whole thing is, music unites us,” he said, while adding that his intention wasn’t necessarily to promote any sense of racial harmony. “When I did this show, it wasn’t to put Blacks and whites together,” Scher told JI. “It was, ‘Hey, you should come out and check out Thelonious Monk. If you’re not into Thelonious Monk, you should be.’”
🧍♀️Leading Voice:Vogue’s Liana Satenstein profiles Mayaan Zik, a Black Orthodox woman living in Crown Heights, who has opened the eyes of many in Brooklyn’s Hasidic community, and educated them about racial and social injustice and the struggles of people of color. [Vogue]
😓 Hanging On:New York Times reporter Elaina Plott talks to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is struggling in a GOP primary to reclaim his Senate seat in Alabama. Sessions said Christians continue to back Trump because “they felt they were under attack” — just like Christians in Egypt who supported Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. [NYTimes]
👨 Next In Line: Foreign Policy’s Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer report that Reps. Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Gregory Meeks (D-NY) have emerged as the top candidates to replace Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) — who is trailing challenger Jamaal Bowman in the primary vote count — as the next chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee after Rep Ted Deutch (D-FL) took himself out of the running. The race is a reflection of the battle between centrists and progressives over the Democratic Party’s foreign policy agenda. [FP]
✍️ Alternative Way: Former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad writes in Time magazine that Palestinian leadership must produce “a credible response” to annexation, and rethink our “past commitments in order to build a new future together” by the P.A. proposing its own, clear “alternative way forward.” [Time]
Around the Web
🙉 No Takers: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s call to indefinitely extend the arms embargo on Iran fell largely on deaf ears at the U.N. Security Council.
📋 On the Table: On Capitol Hill today, the House Armed Services Committee will consider the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2021 fiscal year. The Senate’s version includes a provision to require the establishment of a U.S.-Israel Operations-Technology Working Group.
👨💼 Shake Up: Michael Glassner, who served as the Trump campaign CEO since 2017, has reportedly been reassigned to handle the campaign’s various lawsuits following the Tulsa rally flop last month.
👀 Visitor Log: Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) were spotted yesterday morning outside the White House’s West Wing.
💥 Not Me: After a mysterious explosion at an Iranian missile facility, Israeli officials indicated they believe it may have been an internal accident.
🤝 Media Watch: Politicoreports that The Hill owner Jimmy Finkelstein helped secure a position in the White House for his wife, Pamela Gross, a longtime friend of Melania Trump.
🧊 Melt Down: The rapper Ice Cube threatened CNN anchor Jake Tapper for calling Louis Farrakhan an antisemite and posted a cease and desist letter sent to a Daily Beast reporter for claiming he once assaulted a rabbi.
💊 Long Shot: Hedge fund manager Wayne Holman and his wife, Wendy, are backing a tiny biotech company’s efforts to produce a coronavirus pill.
✈️ Grounded: El Al has canceled all its passenger and cargo flights until further notice, after posting a $140 million loss in the first quarter.
✊ Pressure: SodaStream has become the first Israel-based company to join an advertising boycott of Facebook to protest its handling of hate speech.
💼 Job Hunting:As the Israeli economy struggles to recover from the pandemic, young workers have been hit the hardest.
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: Data shows that the British Jewish community was hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19, with up to 2.5 times more deaths than the average population.
🎞️ LD in Quarantine: HBO has renewed Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” for an 11th season.
🙇♀️ Stepping Down:A prosecutor in Harris County, Texas, resigned on Monday after facing backlash for sharing a Facebook post comparing Black Lives Matter protesters to Nazis.
🚑 Paying a Price: A 26-year-old woman was shot multiple times in Oklahoma after grabbing a Nazi flag from the man’s yard.
⚖️ Court Battle: Florida prosecutors appeared to be faltering in their attempt to salvage the case against Patriots owner Robert Kraft on charges of prostitution, as an appeals judge questioned the legality of secret police recordings.
⚾ Minor Changes: Minor League Baseball officially announced yesterday it will not return this season, leaving only unaffiliated teams set to play this summer.
👨💼 Transition: Jeffrey Nadaner, a former Pentagon and State Department official under former President George W. Bush, has been appointed deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy.
🎵 Musical Drive: Two songs from the virtual “Saturday Night Seder” have been released as singles to benefit Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.
🖼️ Last Work: The New York Times published one of the last interviews — and the last graphic design work — of Milton Glaser, who died last week.
🥩 Chow Down: The Israeli company Redefine Meat says its vegan 3D-printed steaks will become available in 2021.
🕯️Remembering: Hollywood songwriter Johnny Mandel died at age 94. Legendary actor, comedian and writer Carl Reiner died at age 98.
Song of the Day
Jewish folk singer Eitan Katz released a new song this week — titled “Karvah” — in collaboration with the neo-hasidic band Zusha.
NASA astronaut, on her recent trip to the International Space Station she took socks with Stars of David and menorahs, Jessica Meir turns 43…
Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch turns 82… Nobel laureate in Economics and co-creator of the Black-Scholes model for valuing options and other derivatives, Myron Scholes turns 79… First Jewish woman to serve on the Canadian Supreme Court, Rosalie Silberman Abella turns 74… Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk turns 69… Partner in the Century City-based law firm of Greenberg Glusker, Douglas E. Mirell turns 64… Hall of Fame player and coach in the WNBA and now an NBA broadcaster, Nancy Lieberman turns 62…
National editor at The Forward, Rob Eshman turns 60… President of the Orthodox Union and a partner at Ropes & Gray, Mark Irwin (Moishe) Bane turns 60… Senior counselor at Albright Stonebridge Group, Victoria Jane Nuland (family name was Nudelman) turns 59… Journalist, filmmaker and educator, a co-founder of Aish[dot]com, Shraga Simmons turns 59… Member of the Virginia House of Delegates, Marcus Bertram Simon turns 50… Adam B. Siegel turns 44… Co-founder of Edgeline Films, Elyse Steinberg turns 41…