Good Monday morning!
Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation that would require the State Department to provide an accounting of countries that punish individuals for engaging with Israel. More below.
Following a public lobbying effort from J Street and other groups, Reps. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Joaquín Castro (D-TX), the three candidates vying for chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs committee, expressed support for a measure that would prohibit Israel from using U.S. military assistance to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank.
In a rare show of unity, a coalition of Gulf countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia — sent a letter to the United Nations Security Council urging the body to extend the Iran arms embargo ahead of its October expiration. The letter comes after weeks of shuttle diplomacy by outgoing U.S. envoy on Iran Brian Hook.
Yesterday, President Donald Trump raised $5 million at a fundraiser in the home of the late Stanley Chera in Long Branch, New Jersey. Speaking to reporters on the tarmac before departing for Washington, Trump paid tribute to Chera, who died in April of coronavirus.
In a phone call last week, Trump scolded GOP meganodor Sheldon Adelson for not spending enough on his reelection. A person with direct knowledge of the call told Politico “it was apparent the president had no idea how much Adelson, who has donated tens of millions of dollars to pro-Trump efforts over the years, had helped him.” Adelson “chose not to come back at Trump,” the publication noted.
In Massachusetts’ 1st congressional district, the campaign of Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse was disrupted over the weekend following reports of inappropriate sexual behavior with students while an instructor at UMass Amherst. Morse vowed to remain in the race and denied that any of his behavior was inappropriate or illegal.
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20 years later, Joe Lieberman reflects back on the moment he was picked by Gore
On August 7, 2000, Sen. Joe Lieberman awoke to find media vans outside his Connecticut house, cable news blaring his name and reporters peering through his windows. Twenty years after he was selected as the first Jewish candidate on a major party U.S. presidential ticket, Lieberman and several others linked to the 2000 campaign spoke to Jewish Insider’s Sam Zieve Cohen about their reflections on the historic run.
Bold choice:Two decades later, Lieberman continues to praise former Vice President Al Gore’s boldness in choosing a Jewish candidate, adding, “I don’t know if any presidential nominee would have had the courage to do it 20 years, let alone 50 years, before.” Gore told Lieberman that before his decision he reached out to friends in the Jewish community, who counseled caution, afraid of backlash. But when Gore asked for advice from fellow Christians, they unhesitantly approved the choice. “Obviously the Jewish ambivalence or anxiety comes from Jewish history,” Lieberman said. “It’s really a marvelous story, and very hopeful because the Christian confidence says that — this being a majority Christian country — this place was different. It wasn’t like other places and other times.”
Under wrap:Lieberman was not just Jewish, but observantly so. From the outset, Lieberman let it be known that his religious practices would remain an unbreachable commitment, leaving staff scrambling to learn the laws of kashrut and requirements of Shabbat. “I’ve never seen more cellophane everywhere,” Tom Nides, who served as the vice presidential campaign manager and who travelled alongside Lieberman for the length of the campaign, laughingly recalled in a recent conversation with JI. “Every hotel room was covered with cellophane. I think people got a little carried away with it.”
Breaking barriers:The Jewish community immediately embraced Lieberman’s candidacy, devouring the weekly coverage of his choice of congregation to join for Shabbat or mentions of fast days on national television. “He made being a religious Jew not unusual” to the rest of the country, said Nides. “I think it was a broken barrier. It looks like you can be an observant Jew and run for president. You don’t have to work on Saturdays to run for president. And I think that itself was a barrier that I think was really important for people to understand.”
Kiddush Hashem: Lieberman’s faith was not just for show. Those who surrounded him on the trail — including staffers to the media, who journalist Matea Gold says he endearingly called nuchschleppers — found him courteous, gracious, and pleasant. Michael Granoff, a supporter and friend who spent significant time on the trail with Lieberman during the 2000 campaign, readily concurred. “If the Jewish people arranged to put their best foot forward with the first of them to run in a national campaign,” he said, “they could not have invented someone more well-suited to the task than Senator Lieberman.”
Georgia congressional contender accuses GOP candidates of antisemitism
Carolyn Bourdeaux, the Democrat running to represent Georgia’s 7th congressional district in the upcoming general election, accused two Republican candidates in her state of propagating antisemitic conspiracy theories in a questionnaire✎ EditSign solicited by Jewish Insider.
Background: Rich McCormick, an emergency room physician and military veteran who is running against Bourdeaux, suggested in a June interview with a QAnon-linked YouTube channel that billionaire philanthropist George Soros funneled millions of dollars to sow discord at Black Lives Matter protests. “If you look at what Soros did,” McCormick said in the interview, “I just heard today — and I don’t want to get conspiracy on you or anything like that — but that $20 million was donated to Black Lives Matter, basically through ActBlue, basically as a way to incite more violence and unrest to get people out to vote the wrong way based on a narrative that we know is false.”
No tolerance: Bourdeaux, writing in the questionnaire✎ EditSign, was direct in her assessment of McCormick’s statement. “Antisemitism is reprehensible, no matter what political party it comes from — and it’s alarmingly clear that antisemitic behavior is on the rise,” said Bourdeaux, whose husband is Jewish. “We are seeing the consequences of this right here in Georgia,” Bordeaux added. “Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican candidate running for Congress in GA-14, peddled very disturbing antisemitic conspiracy theories, such as the claim that George Soros betrayed other Jews during the Holocaust. And in my campaign, my opponent Rich McCormick has spread conspiracies of his own, suggesting that the philanthropist was paying $20 million to Black Lives Matter protesters in order to incite violence. This violent, shameful rhetoric cannot be tolerated — at home or in the halls of Congress.”
Both sides: In his questionnaire✎ EditSign, McCormick told JI that he believes antisemitism emanates from the margins of both the Democratic and Republican parties. “Sadly, there is an element of antisemitism on the fringe of both the political left and the political right,” he wrote. “Far-left elements of the Democratic party, including some members of Congress, have made antisemitic remarks and posts on social media. Likewise, the extreme right white supremacy groups embrace Nazi symbolism and perpetuate hateful stereotypes.”
Pondering peace: Elsewhere in the questionnaire, McCormick expressed his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Any plan for the Middle East must recognize Israel’s right to exist, provide the Palestinian people with the right to self determination and ensure access to the holy sites of Jerusalem,” said McCormick. “I also believe that peace should not demand the uprooting of people — Arab or Jew — from their homes.” Bourdeaux rejected Trump’s Middle East peace plan while endorsing a two-state solution. “I reaffirm the position of the United States over the last four presidential administrations that a just and lasting peace will be best brought about by a two-state solution with a capital in Jerusalem for both states,” she said.
Melton-Meaux’s local Minnesota backers are ‘cautiously optimistic’
In the run-up to tomorrow’s primary in Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, mediator Antone Melton-Meaux, who has run one of the most high-profile — and expensive — congressional bids this cycle, is feeling confident voters will boost him over freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). “I am pleased with the work that we’ve done throughout this campaign to connect with residents and to offer them an opportunity for change, and I think we were successful in doing that,” Melton-Meaux said in a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh. “I believe strongly that we are in a position to win.”
A real race: Melton-Meaux’s staggering fundraising totals and rise as a viable candidate turned national attention to the Minnesota 5th primary. According to the most recent filings from the Federal Election Commission, Omar and Melton-Meaux have each raised more than $4 million in the five-person Democratic primary. “The amount that Antone raised made him a serious contender because he was able to match the money Omar had in her war chest,” Rabbi Avi Olitzky, a senior rabbi at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park, told JI.
Prominent backers: Omar has garnered support from fellow Squad members Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). On Sunday, Omar held a virtual GOTV rally with progressive activist and BDS advocate Cori Bush, who narrowly defeated longtime incumbent Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) last week. Melton-Meaux’s backers include Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, former Seagrams CEO Charles Bronfman, Baupost Capital founder Seth Klarman, as well as pro-Israel groups including NORPAC, Americans for Tomorrow’s Future and Pro-Israel America PAC. Last week, The Star Tribune — the largest newspaper in Minnesota — endorsed Melton-Meaux.
Expressing regret: Melton-Meaux acknowledged that he “was wrong” for suggesting the campaign contributions he’s “received from the Jewish community” won’t “influence” his policy decisions on Israel, a statement for which he has come under fire. “We tried to answer that question just because we want to be forthcoming, but in doing so we conflated the notion of the Jewish community being focused on Israel, and I was wrong for doing that and I’ll continue to own up,” Melton-Meaux told JI. “When you make a mistake as an elected official, your job is to acknowledge it, to not make excuses, learn from it and move forward.”
Omar’s spokesman Jeremy Slevin told JI in a statement, “We’re confident we’re going to win. That’s because our district believes in the progressive values Ilhan fights for every day.”
Bonus: Melton-Meaux condemned an anti-Omar mailer sent out by the controversial Alliance to Combat Extremism, which pushed for Republicans to vote against the freshman congresswoman in the Democratic primary.
ON THE Hill
Sens. Booker, Portman cosponsor legislation addressing Arab anti-normalization policies
In a bipartisan effort to ease decades of tensions between Israel and Arab states, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced legislation on Thursday that would require the State Department to provide an accounting of countries that punish individuals for engaging with Israel, reports Jewish Insider’s Sam Zieve Cohen.
Details: The bill, “Strengthening Reporting of Actions Taken Against the Normalization of Relations with Israel Act of 2020✎ EditSign,” would require the State Department to include a status report on anti-normalization laws in countries covered by the department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs in its annual Report on Human Rights Practices. The requirement would run from 2021 to 2026.
Promoting peace: In a statement to Jewish Insider, Portman said: “I am proud to join Senator Booker on this bipartisan legislation which supports our ally Israel and the longstanding U.S. policy that encourages Arab League states to normalize their relations with Israel. Anti-normalization laws in the region continue to be a barrier toward communities, people, NGOs and business coming together. In my visits to the region, I’ve seen the deep and abiding friendships that exist, and they are essential to building a long term peace,” Portman continued. “This bill will discourage those Arab League states that continue to enforce anti-normalization laws and support efforts like those proposed by the Arab Council that encourage and defend community engagement amongst Arabs and Israelis.”
People to people: Booker told JI that while in the Senate, “I have consistently supported Arab-Israeli engagement. The need for people-to-people engagement between these communities is not only a critical tool for diplomacy but also important for peace and economic prosperity in the region. Our bill will strengthen America’s commitment to pursuing peace by supporting and encouraging dialogue between Arab and Israeli citizens.”
Critical step: On Sunday, the leadership of the Conference of Presidents released a statement praising Portman and Booker. “This bipartisan measure takes action against [anti-normalization] policies and promotes the process of further regional normalization with Israel, which is critical to achieving a genuine and lasting peace between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbors.”
🌿 Higher Authority:In Air Mail, Michael Kaplan spotlights Texas Rabbi Yaakov Cohen, who provides kosher certification to marijuana-infused fruit squares, in part because his 6.5-year-old son, who died of brain cancer, found relief from cannabis products during treatment. [AirMail]
🗳️ Solid Choice: Writing in The New York Times, columnist Shmuel Rosner posits that Joe Biden’s pro-Israel sentiments are genuine, and Israel should have no concern about the election’s outcome. “From an Israeli perspective, Mr. Biden is as good as it gets — for a Democrat.” [NYTimes]
👩Israel’s Squad: The Washington Post’s Ruth Eglash spotlights four groundbreaking female Israeli politicians: first Ethiopian-born minister Pnina Tamano-Shatta, first female haredi minister Omer Yankelevitch, first hijab-wearing MK Iman Khateb Yassin and first female Druze MK Gadeer Kamal Mreeh. [WashPost]
Around the Web
🚨 Red Alert: U.S. intelligence agencies said Friday that Iran and China are attempting to interfere in the presidential election to help Biden defeat Trump, while Russia is seeking to improve the president’s reelection chances.
🇮🇷 Holding Pattern: With Brian Hook’s abrupt departure as Trump’s Iran envoy, the administration appears unlikely to notch any diplomatic wins with Tehran before the election. Yesterday at a fundraiser in Long Branch, New Jersey, Trump said that if he wins re-election, he will make a deal with Iran “within four weeks.”
📣 Calling Out:The American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, J Street, the StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism and B’nai B’rith criticized Trump’s nomination of retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor as U.S. Ambassador to Germany over his reported past comments about the Holocaust and Jewish groups.
👨⚖️ On the Hill: Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) is calling on the Justice Department to investigate reports that the International Criminal Court is working with anti-Israel NGOs to probe Israel.
👕 Boosting Sales: Trump’s mispronunciation of “Yosemite” last week skyrocketed sales of the National Museum of American Jewish History’s ‘Yo Semite’ t-shirt.
💻 On the Job:Hawkfish, the surviving digital remnant of Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign, is still working under the radar to aid Democrats in November.
⚾ Sports Blink: Former MLB player Cody Decker toldTMZ Sports that antisemitism is “rampant” in Major League Baseball.
⛈️ Storm Clouds: A local Seattle station fired its meteorologist, Cliff Mass, after he compared anti-racism protesters in the city to Nazi Brownshirts carrying out Kristallnacht.
⚔️ Shaky Ground: Israeli leaders have agreed to push off the contentious August 25 budget deadline in a bid to avoid a coalition crisis that could lead to a fourth election.
⚠️ Last Warning:Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron warned that a new round of elections would negatively impact the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
🚑 Helping Hands:The Cityspotlights the all-female Ezras Nashim volunteer EMT group, which is still waiting for an appeal ruling on the denial of their ambulance license.
👨👩👧👦 Together Again:The UAE government said it helped to reunite a Yemenite Jewish family separated for 15 years.
💎 Bling Bling: Israel’s Yvel jeweler is creating a $1.5 million mask fitted with an N99 filter and 3,600 diamonds at the request of a Chinese businessman living in the United States.
👩💼👨💼 Transitions: Dani Lever, the communications director for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is departing for a new job at Facebook. Stephen Silverman, former deputy assistant to President Bill Clinton, is joining Cuomo’s team as a senior communications advisor.
🇦🇺 Down Under: An Australian transgender woman who tried to kill her Orthodox Jewish father over his refusal to pay for her reassignment surgery won her battle to overturn his will and claim $3.2 million.
🕯️Remembering: Historian Bernard Bailyn died at age 97.
Song of the Day
Musician Jeryko released a powerful new word poem over the weekend titled “Hey, Jew” about fighting antisemitism. “Hey, are you a Jew? Because I need you. I need you not to be afraid. It’s not a time to hide your fame.”
Director of the Jewish Museum of Vienna and a founder of the German language magazine Nu devoted to Jewish politics and culture, Danielle Spera turns 63…
U.S. District Court judge in the Eastern District of New York, recently on inactive status, Judge Jack B. Weinstein turns 99… CEO at Royal Health Services in Beverly Hills, Robert N. Feldman turns 76… Professor of biochemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Shimon Schuldiner turns 74… NYC-based real estate developer, David Bistricer turns 71… Former governor of the South African Reserve Bank, Gill Marcus turns 71… Executive director of Interfaith Alliance, Rabbi Jack Moline turns 68… Co-leader of the securities litigation practice at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, Joseph S. Allerhand turns 67… Member of the California State Senate, Steven Mitchell Glazer turns 63…
Rabbi in the Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem and a leader of the Shas party, Rabbi David Yosef turns 63… Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Andrew Saul (Andy) Levin turns 60… Rector of Tel Aviv University, Yaron Oz turns 56… Former member of the Florida State Senate, Jeremy Ring turns 50… Chief military advocate general of the IDF, Sharon Afek turns 50… Technical director in the South Texas office of Technologent, Jason P. Reyes turns 44… Senior development officer of the NYC-based Tikvah Fund, Eytan Sosnovich turns 37… Assistant director of social media at Penguin Random House, Sophie Vershbow turns 31… Senior market surveillance analyst at CME Group, Jacob Cohen turns 27…
BIRTHWEEK: Chair of JEWELS (Jewish Education Where Every Level Student Succeeds), Jules Friedman turned 45 on Sunday…