Good Friday morning!
As Joe Biden nears a decision on his running mate, left-wing activists are lobbying against picking former National Security Advisor and “hawk” Susan Rice.
Yesterday, President Donald Trump said during a visit to Ohio that Biden is “following the radical left agenda… [he wants to] hurt the Bible, hurt God. He’s against God.”
Trump administration officials are reportedly holding back from presenting the president with military options amid fears that he might take action on Iran or North Korea ahead of the election.
Renowned scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who translated the Talmud into accessible Hebrew, died in Jerusalem this morning at age 83.
Check outJewish Insider’s latest ‘Jewish Nielsen’ report to see which webcasts people tuned into over the past week.
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Elliott Abrams replaces Brian Hook as the administration’s Iran envoy
Several years after he was initially rejected for a top State Department post, Elliott Abrams has been tapped as the Trump administration’s lead diplomat on Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the appointment after reports emerged that Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative on Iran, was leaving his post. The transition comes weeks ahead of the October expiration of the U.N. arms embargo on Iran.
Background: Abrams served as assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration, during which he was involved in the Iran-Contra affair. He was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. He also served on the National Security Council during President George W. Bush’s second term. Before his appointment to the Trump administration, Abrams served as a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He was seriously considered for the deputy secretary of state position at the beginning of the Trump administration, but was blocked by then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. He ultimately joined the administration in January 2019 as the State Department’s special representative for Venezuela.
High praise: Richard Goldberg, a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former Trump administration official, called Abrams “one of the smartest and most capable U.S. government officials in history.” Goldberg told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh that Abrams “knows the Iran portfolio well and has deep relationships throughout the Middle East.” The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations welcomed the appointment, calling Abrams a “strong advocate for the U.S.-Israel relationship.” Nazee Moinian, an Iranian native and a former consultant to the Council on Foreign Relations, described Abrams as “a seasoned diplomat whose political views have not drastically changed over the years even as geopolitical circumstances have.”
Alternative view: Ned Price, who served as a National Security Council spokesperson in the Obama administration, told JI that Hook’s departure “speaks to the abject failure” of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” policy on Iran. “Tehran and its proxies are emboldened, Iran has accelerated elements of its nuclear program, and there is no better deal in sight.” Price, who is now head of policy and communications at National Security Action, an organization of former Obama administration officials and policy experts opposed to the Trump administration’s foreign policy, said the decision to tap Abrams for the role indicates “that the administration has not diagnosed or even reckoned with its profound failure.”
The Israel file: Hook, who had a close relationship with Jared Kushner, was also a member of the team that drafted the administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan released earlier this year. Sources told JI that it is still unclear what role Abrams will play in the matter, as the administration continues to consider its next steps in implementing the Trump peace deal.
Bonus: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) toldThe New York Times that “the window on a replacement” for the nuclear deal with Iran “is probably closing before the election.” However, he added, “after the election, it is a win-win proposal.”
How ‘Mishpacha’ guided readers through the coronavirus
Eli Paley, the publisher ofMishpacha magazine, a popular global haredi weekly in Hebrew and English, has felt an elevated sense of duty in recent months, as the coronavirus has devastated ultra-Orthodox communities in both New York and Israel. Paley spoke to Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro about the publication’s mission and how it approached the ongoing crisis.
Middle man: “Part of our role as a publication was really to try to be the middleman to express the sense of urgency to our readership,” he told Jewish Insider in a recent Zoom conversation from his home in Jerusalem. “To bridge the gap and to bring the story to our readers who are missing the direct knowledge through the [mainstream] media.” As the pandemic stretched on, Paley — who is also the founder and chairman of the Haredi Institute for Public Affairs — worked tirelessly to both counter the anti-government attitudes among some haredim in Israel and to work with the government to provide a better understanding of the unique needs of the ultra-Orthodox community during the crisis.
Courage to criticize:The magazine, he said, does not hold back from reporting on stories that expose and criticize behavior in the haredi world, including a recent cover story about yeshivas in Israel that were instructing students not to get tested for COVID-19, so that the results couldn’t be used to justify closures or lockdowns. “Our role as a publication is much more than just reporting, it’s also creating an awareness and creating a discussion,” he said, “and also having the courage to criticize when we see behavior in our own society that is not responsible or appropriate.” The editors and writers on staff, Paley said, “really identify with the mission of serving the community. It’s not just about doing good journalism or entertainment. People have the sense of doing a public service.”
Female faces:Mishpacha has been around more than 30 years, and just over 16 years in English. As a rule, neither magazine — in line with the majority of haredi publications — prints photos of women. But in 2016, the week before the U.S. presidential election, the English magazine bent its rules, printing an outline of Hillary Clinton’s face on its cover. And last year, Mishpacha launched a revamped website, only in English, that made a conscious choice to include photos of women, despite the policy in print.
Tough decisions:“I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but this is the standard in haredi media today,” Paley told JI. “If I want to be relevant to our core readership, in order to be effective — not in order to sell more magazines — if I want to really be a voice that will be heard and appreciated and taken seriously, I have to choose my battles.” The magazine even passed up an opportunity for an exclusive interview with Clinton in 2016 because she conditioned it on printing her photo. But as the election approached, Mishpacha’s rabbinic oversight board “started talking to gedolei haposkim [leading rabbinic arbiters] and rabbonim in America about what we should do,” Paley said. The rabbis who were consulted, he recounted, told the magazine there was no halachic prohibition on printing photos of women at all. “They said, ‘no question that if Hillary is going to be elected, you have to put her picture in the magazine, including the cover,” he said. The rest, as they say, is history.
USC vows to counter hate after Jewish student government leader resigns
The student government vice president at the University of Southern California resigned this week, alleging she was the subject of antisemitic harassment over her support for Israel. In response, the university administration said it is launching a new educational initiative to counter on-campus hate, reports Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss.
Toxic conditions: “As you may know, our Vice President of Undergraduate Student Government, Rose Ritch, resigned yesterday from her position in student government,” wrote USC President Carol Folt in a letter sent Thursday evening. “In her heartbreaking resignation letter, Rose described the intense pressure and toxic conditions that led to her decision — specifically the anti-Semitic attacks on her character and the online harassment she endured because of her Jewish and Zionist identities.” In the statement, Folt announced the launch of a new initiative by the USC Shoah Foundation to provide educational programs and antiracist and anti-hate for-credit courses.
Online hate: Ritch, who is Jewish, told JI that the online harassment began earlier this year during her campaign for student government vice president. “From there, it just kind of greenlighted a lot of students to say some pretty horrific things on social media messages, text messages,” Ritch told JI. “Most of it was entirely isolated onto Instagram, a little bit on Twitter as well.” In a series of messages in one Instagram screenshot — included in a complaint✎ EditSign sent to the university by the Louis D. Brandeis Center — a resident assistant on USC’s campus, Shaden Awad, wrote: “Even if all the orgs on campus that r Jewish r also Zionist That’s not an excuse For you to join That’s still blood on ur hands.”
Cancel culture: In her statement of resignation✎ EditSign Wednesday night, Ritch listed “cancel culture” and a campus environment that made it inhospitable for a pro-Israel student leader to hold office as her reasons for stepping down from the post she had held since the spring. “Because I also openly identify as a Zionist, a supporter of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, I have been accused by a group of students of being unsuitable as a student leader,” the statement read. “I have been told that my support for Israel has made me complicit in racism, and that, by association, I am racist.”
💸 Deep Thinking:Bloomberg reporters Shahien Nasiripour and Hema Parmar take a closer look at why some top Wall Street donors have scaled down political donations to the Trump reelection campaign but haven’t opened their wallets to boost Joe Biden, and why Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman remains committed to Trump this cycle. [Bloomberg]
📊 Crunching Numbers: Tablet’s Sean Cooper explores the “American blindness” that has resulted from “the rise of data-driven political journalism,” perfectly epitomized by the near-universal wrong predictions about the 2016 election. Four years later, he argues, little appears to have changed. [Tablet]
🇮🇱 Top Op: In Foreign Policy, Sigurd Neubauer posits that Israel has become an “unlikely peacemaker” in the Middle East amid tensions between Qatar and other Gulf countries. “Israel has shown that it can help uphold the balance of power within the Gulf… that is progress that all interested parties should want to double down on.” [FP]
Around the Web
🎖️ Calling it Quits: Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein, who was passed over to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2018 amid a feud between President Donald Trump and then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, has announced his retirement.
🎤 On Record: Former Treasury Secretary and current Biden advisor Larry Summers ruled out taking a job in a possible future Biden administration.
🤐 Yellow Card:NAACP national leadership condemned its Philadelphia chapter head Rodney Muhammad for posting an antisemitic meme on Facebook, but stopped short of firing him.
⚠️ Red Flag: World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder warned in an interview with The Jewish Chronicle that nationalistic trends in Israel and talk of annexation could lead to increased global antisemitism.
📈 Cash In: Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert’s wealth soared to $34 billion as his parent company, Rocket Companies, rose 26% in its first day of public trading.
🏫 Education:Delaware will require middle and high schools to teach the Holocaust after a bill was signed into law by Gov. John Carne last month.
💉 Speeding Up: The Israel Institute of Biological Research, overseen by the Defense Ministry, will begin human trials for a possible COVID-19 vaccine as early as October.
🏭 Sea of Opportunity:Delek Drilling CEO Yossi Abu tellsReuters that Chevron’s entry into Israel’s Leviathan natural gas field can turn it into a global supplier.
📫 Inbox: Natan Sharansky wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal defending the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center against charges it is a “Holocaust Disneyland.”
⚾ Sports Blink: Oakland A’s coach Ryan Christenson is under fire for making a Nazi salute after a game last night, something he apologized for doing “unintentionally.”
Wine of the Week
JI’s wine columnist Yitz Applbaum reviews Shirah Bro.Deux 2017:
“One of the positive lessons I have learned while living with the coronavirus pandemic has been to enjoy local activities and opportunities as much as possible. I have a new appreciation for shopping locally, having small local barbecues and even walking in the Oakland Hills.”
“Two of the most inventive living kosher wine makers, the Weiss Brothers, are also local. The siblings source their grapes from some of the most interesting and off the beaten path vineyards. This past week, I searched through my cellar to find one of their wines and came up with a real winner: the Shirah Bro.Deux 2017. This wine is a combination of many interesting and fun grapes. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Syrah each add to the vivaciousness and lively nature of this wine. The Malbec was a particularly fine element as it mystified our mid-palate with a milky bitter chocolate taste. The Syrah imparted a hauntingly dark blackberry color and taste. This wine needs ninety minutes to breathe. It should be consumed with a large plate of charcuterie. The wine has the bones to last for at least another seven years.”
MLB catcher since 2011, he played for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Ryan Lavarnway turns 33 today…
FRIDAY: Rabbi of the Community Synagogue of Monsey, N.Y., Rabbi Moshe David Tendler turns 94… Brooklyn resident, Esther Holler turns 83… Former U.S. trade representative and then U.S. secretary of commerce, Michael (“Mickey”) Kantor turns 81… Co-founder of the world-wide chain of Hard Rock Café, Peter Morton turns 73… Retired chief of staff of the IDF, Dan Halutz turns 72… Former PR director for the New York Yankees, Marty Appel turns 72… President of private equity firm Palisades Associates, Greg Rosenbaum turns 68… Former U.S. intelligence analyst convicted of spying for Israel and released from prison in 2015, Jonathan Pollard turns 66… Spiritual leader of Agudas Israel of St. Louis, Rabbi Menachem Greenblatt turns 65…
Founder and CEO of the Cayton Children’s Museum in Santa Monica, Esther Netter turns 62… Chief development officer at Capital Camps & Retreat Center, Havi Arbeter Goldscher turns 41… National political reporter at Axios, Jonathan Swan turns 35… Executive producer of ballpark video and entertainment for the Oakland Athletics, Amelia Schimmel turns 34… Co-founder and CEO of ShopDrop, Estee Goldschmidt turns 30… Goalkeeper for Real Salt Lake in Major League Soccer, Zac MacMath turns 29… Founder of a global nonprofit organization (Love for the Elderly), he is now a student at Yale University, Jacob Cramer turns 20… Scott Harrison…
SATURDAY: Chair emerita of the Drug Free America Foundation, Betty Sembler turns 89… Academy Award-winning actor for “Kramer vs. Kramer” and “Rain Man,” Dustin Hoffman turns 83… Arlington Heights, Illinois resident, Elizabeth Gordon turns 77… Dutch diplomat and politician, Frans Weisglas turns 74… Greenwood Village, Colo. resident, Robert M. Schwartz turns 71… Tampa, Fla. resident, Roy D. Pulliam turns 67… Vancouver, Wash. resident, Juliana E. Miles Bagherpour turns 63… U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Melech Friedman turns 62… CEO of BusinessGhost, a ghostwriting firm that has written and published over 700 books, Michael Graubart Levin turns 62… EVP and general counsel at Revolution, Ron Klain turns 59…
Film director whose works include nine Disney films, Jon Turteltaub turns 57… Founder and former CEO of D.C.-based Connections Media, Jonah Seiger turns 49… Writer and blogger, Rabbi Gil Ofer Student turns 48… Former MLB pitcher and now director of strategic initiatives for the Chicago Cubs, Craig Breslow turns 40… Dr. Rebecca Berger turns 33… Senior strategist at West End Strategy Team, Sarah Garfinkel turns 31… Senior manager of content development at Omaze, Morgan Furlong turns 28… Internet celebrity and fitness model, Jennifer Leigh “Jen” Selter turns 27… Director at Fundamental Advisors, Bara Lane… Director of one-trip cities at Honeymoon Israel Foundation, Zachary Pellish… Jack Baum… Rob Schwartz…
SUNDAY: Prominent Sephardic rabbi in Tel Aviv, Rabbi Moshe Maya turns 82… General partner of New Markets Venture Partners, Donald M. “Don” Spero, Ph.D. turns 81… Comedian and actor, David Steinberg turns 78… Romance novelist with 22 books on the NYT bestseller lists, Barbara Delinsky turns 75… Author of 36 Jewish-themed books, Seymour Rossel turns 75… Chattanooga, Tenn. telecommunications consultant, Mark Shapiro turns 74… Psychologist and bestselling suspense novelist, Jonathan Kellerman turns 71… Southern California resident, Faith Schames turns 69… Director of the Steinhardt Family Foundation in Israel, Tova Dorfman turns 62…
Member of the Minnesota State Senate, Ron Latz turns 57… Chief of staff for Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), Amy B. Rutkin turns 51… Member of the Maryland House of Delegates, Kirill Reznik turns 46… Reporter in the Washington bureau of The New York Times, Kenneth P. Vogel turns 45… Founding partner of New Deal Strategies, Rebecca Kirszner Katz turns 45… Executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition, Jacob Baime turns 35… Amanda Isaacson turns 34… Recent graduate of Boston College Law School, Isaac Lederman turns 28… South Pasadena, California resident, Giovanna Fradkin… VP at Dezenhall Resources, Fred Brown… Elise Aronson… Dan Zimerman…