Good Thursday morning!
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said during her first appearance yesterday as Joe Biden’s running mate: “I’ve had a lot of titles over my career, and certainly ‘vice president’ will be great, but ‘momala’ will always be one of those that means the most,” referring to the Yiddish-inflected nickname she was given by her two stepchildren, which rhymes with her first name.
Sources tell The New York Times that a Harris event with members of the Jewish community is “in the works.”
The United States is preparing to announce sanctions against Hezbollah-linked Lebanese officials in the wake of the Beirut explosion. This morning, Lithuania officially designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
The Trump administration is also threatening to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution to extend the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) as part of a pressure campaign on Iran and Hezbollah.
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The Israeli artist creating lifelike portraits from biblical stories
Matan Ben Cnaan has been working on his latest painting for more than a year. But the idea for the enormous artwork, which is still a few months from completion, has been germinating in his mind since he was just 6 years old. Ben Cnaan spoke to Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro about his current work and the arc of his career as a painter in Israel.
Historical story:His in-progress painting, “The Bureaucrat,” is centered on an average-looking man, clad in casual clothing and grasping a clipboard, surrounded by men, women and children. The deceptively calm scene is intended to echo the selection process at a Nazi concentration camp. Ben Cnaan was a young child when he first saw the Polish passport of his great-grandmother, complete with the stamp that granted her passage to leave and escape the impending Holocaust. “I still remember vividly the insight I had back then as to the power bureaucracy has on people’s destiny,” he said. “I have been carrying this thought at the back of my mind” since then.
Ancient inspiration:His work has often drawn heavily on biblical tales and themes, reinterpreting them through a modern lens, including his 2007 painting, “Yael and Sisra,” and his 2009 work, “Batsheva and Uriah.” “I find them so relevant to our days nowadays, in terms of human relationships,” Ben Cnaan, 40, said of the biblical stories that inform much of his work. “In order to be able to touch on our era, and our days, I have to get far away from it… I’m not trying to take the biblical story and [make] it look like it was back then. It’s about now. But the stories allow me to build this scene in my mind — they’re the trigger.”
International recognition: In 2015, his painting “Annabelle and Guy” won the prestigious BP Portrait Award from the National Portrait Gallery in London, beating out 2,748 submissions for what is widely considered the most important prize in the portrait world. The work depicts the tragic biblical tale of Jephthah, who arrives home after winning a battle and vows to sacrifice whatever emerges first from his house as a thanksgiving — and is devastated when his daughter comes out to greet him. “I was shocked to even participate, not to mention being shortlisted” for the award, Ben Cnaan said. So even five years later, he added, “I can’t fully understand” the fact that he took home the top prize.
Painting process:For Ben Cnaan, his work begins long before he touches brush to canvas. “It starts with a vague idea I have in my mind — a vision,” he said in a recent Zoom interview with JI from his studio in Ramat Yishai. Once the idea is fully formed, he recruits models to pose for photographs, coaches them into producing the image he envisions, snapping more than 1,000 photos and then preparing a composite reference image in Photoshop. “Then starts the real fun work — to paint it,” he said. “Not the easy part, but the fun part.” But it is important to Ben Cnaan that people understand the intent behind his process. “It’s not about copying the photo,” he said. “It’s about how to reveal my initial vision — that got richer by being able to forge a photo that somehow echoes what I had in my mind.”
The Bernie Sanders lawyer with his sights set on N.H.’s top job
In 1967, 11-year-old Andru Volinsky came in third place in the Bergen County Bible Contest in Fair Lawn, N.J. Though he didn’t win the top prize, the outcome was a milestone for the 6th grader. His parents were not religious but Andru, who attended a local religious school, had been taken under the wing of the rabbi’s wife, who tutored him. “I got 99 out of 100, which put me in third place because two people got perfect scores,” Volinsky recalled in a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh. Fast forward 53 years, and Volinsky isn’t going to settle for third place. This time, he’s aiming for first.
Details: Volinsky, who has served as a state executive councilor of New Hampshire since 2016, is competing in the September 8 Democratic gubernatorial primary against New Hampshire Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes. The winner of the primary will face off against Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who is running for a third two-year term. A poll released last month showed Feltes and Volinsky with equal statewide name recognition and favorability numbers among Democratic voters. The winner of next month’s primary will have a steep hill to climb in order to emerge victorious in November — Sununu leads both men by 3-1 in a head-to-head matchup in the fall.
Bernie’s blessing: Volinsky, who has worked at the Bernstein Shur law firm in Manchester, N.H., since the early 2000s, served as Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) counsel in New Hampshire in 2016, handling legal challenges and filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission for the presidential candidate. Sanders ultimately won the New Hampshire Democratic primary that year by 21 points. Volinsky was endorsed by Sanders, who called him a “progressive beacon in New Hampshire,” during a campaign stop ahead of the state’s presidential primary in February. He is one of three gubernatorial candidates nationwide who received the Vermont senator’s backing this year, including Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, who won the Democratic primary this week. “This election cycle has made it clear that the fire Senator Sanders sparked on a national level will not fade out,” Zolinsky told JI on Wednesday.
Family ties: Volinsky and his family became involved in the Jewish community in Concord after their move to New England; his wife, Amy Goldstein, was previously president of their Reform synagogue, Temple Beth Jacob, as well as co-principal of the congregation’s religious school. For six years, Volinsky taught a 7th grade Judaica curriculum, with an emphasis on Pirke Avot (Chapters of the Fathers). Goldstein told JI that her husband was a very popular teacher. “His students referred to him as ‘Avo,’ a nickname that he was very proud of,” she said. “I think that at his core he is a teacher — he uses whatever role he is in to teach others what he believes is important, his core values.”
Views on BDS: Volinsky, who was a board member and legal counsel to the New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, told JI that if elected governor he would veto legislation against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. To date, 30 states have implemented anti-BDS measures. “I would not support that legislation, although personally I have no hesitation speaking out against the BDS movement,” he said. “I think it’s counterproductive and makes no sense, and would be harmful to Israel.”
Setting a path
Hakeem Jeffries hopeful Bowman will become a pro-Israel member of Congress
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, expressed hope that his likely new colleague, Jamaal Bowman — who beat Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) in the Democratic primary for New York’s 16th district — will join the majority of the Democratic Party in support of Israel.
Positive sign: “Mr. Bowman has explicitly said he doesn’t support BDS. And so, while his perspective is certainly different than Eliot Engel’s, I think there’s obviously a recognition and an openness there as it relates to the State of Israel, its relationship to the United States and its importance,” Jeffries said during a Zoom call hosted by the American Jewish Committee yesterday. Jeffries added that Bowman’s opposition to BDS creates “a pathway there to more dialogue.”
‘Big family’: Jeffries stressed that the House Democratic Caucus is “a big family, a diverse family and an enthusiastic family,” but “at the end of the day. I think that the overwhelming sentiment is that we’re going to work together on behalf of the American people to advance shared values and objectives.” Referring to Bowman and Cori Bush — a Justice Democrats-backed candidate who, like Bowman, unseated a longtime Democratic member of Congress and has aligned herself with ‘The Squad’ — Jeffries said that “it remains to be seen what their perspectives are going to be as they come into that family.”
Actions matter: He pointed out that Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), one of the ‘Squad’ members elected to Congress in 2018, voted with the Democratic caucus on the anti-BDS House resolution.”I actually think that when you begin to look at a caucus generally, it’s important to look at everybody individually and their perspectives and how they articulate and vote, and that you’ll actually find something different than what the media often projects.”
👩⚖️ Notorious RBG:New York Times writer Amanda Hess examines the potentially misplaced “fandom” surrounding Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “She was fashioned into the star of a mythical vision of the Obama era that never really existed,” celebrating politics as “kitschy pop-culture artifacts.” [NYTimes]
😟 Hate Lingers: In CNN, attorney Roberta Kaplan and scholar Deborah Lipstadt reflect on three years since the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. “Sadly, it is now clear that the violence and hatred evident at Charlottesville was not a passing moment or a onetime event.” [CNN]
🤘 Futile Fun:In The New York Times, Matti Friedman posits that the “energy surge” of protests against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won’t have much of a lasting impact. “Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party may have just a quarter of the vote, but right now it’s the only substantial political movement in Israel. No vuvuzelas or dancing aliens can change that.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
📓 Surfacing: According to a new report in Airmail, three years after he was fired following #MeToo allegations, writer and editor Leon Wieseltier is attempting a reentry into the literary world with a new quarterly, Liberties.
💻 Request to Connect: Israel said it thwarted a likely North Korean-led cyber attack on its defense industry by hackers posing as fake employers on LinkedIn.
👎 Still Standing: The Israeli Knesset voted down a law yesterday that would block candidates under indictment from forming a government.
⛽ Good to Go:Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said he is confident regulators will approve a bid by Chevron to take over Noble Energy’s gas drilling platforms in Israel.
✈️ Low-ball Offer: Eli Rozenberg, the 30-year-old American-Israeli bidding to purchase El Al, faces an uphill battle in winning board support for his below-market bid. Meanwhile, real estate exec Meir Gurvitz is entering the race to buy the struggling airline.
🏠 Dealmaking:Film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg has sold his Beverly Hills home for $125 million, making it one of the priciest real-estate deals ever in the Los Angeles area.
🏖️ Heading South: Billionaire investor Carl Icahn has officially left New York and set up business in south Florida.
👨💼 New Path: Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, who took the reins of the company in 2018, has brought a “different vibe” to the company as he steers it through the coronavirus.
🕵️ Under Watch:Both the SEC and the FBI are investigating investments sold by online investment platform YieldStreet.
🛍️ Final Sale: Department store chain Stein Mart has filed for bankruptcy and will shutter the majority of its 281 stores.
📜 On Display: The Dead Sea Scrolls and other artifacts were reinstalled in the Israel Museum ahead of its reopening today after a five-month shutdown.
🎥 Now Filming: Israel’s Yes Studios is beginning production on “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,” a big-budget series adapted from Sarit Yishai-Levy’s novel.
🇨🇳 Teaching History: The expansion and remodeling of the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum is slated to finish later this year, allowing it to reopen to the public.
📢 Transition: Mark Regev, who served as Israel’s ambassador to the U.K. for the past four years, has returned to his previous job as Netanyahu’s spokesman to the international media.
🕯️Remembering: Sumner Redstone, the former owner of Viacom, died at age 97.
Pic of the Day
Israel successfully carried out a flight test of the Arrow-2 Weapons System yesterday in conjunction with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.
Former Chair of the Federal Reserve System, Janet Yellen turns 74…
Long-time White House correspondent, Trude Feldman turns 96… County Clerk of Queens County, Audrey I. Pheffer turns 79… Retired CPA and senior executive in Los Angeles, Morton Algaze turns 77… Beverly Hills resident, Ruth Fay Kellerman turns 62… VP and chief of staff at the Aspen Institute, James M. Spiegelman turns 62… Film producer and director, Susan Landau Finch turns 60… Founder of the Council of Orthodox Jewish Organizations of the West Side (Manhattan), Michael Landau turns 56… Chairman Of MGM Motion Picture Group, Michael De Luca turns 55… Storyteller, producer and writer, Slash Coleman turns 53…
Founder and managing director at Beacon Global Strategies, Jeremy B. Bash turns 49… President of Accessibility Partners, Dana Marlowe turns 44… Three-time Olympian water polo player, now associate head coach at Pepperdine, Merrill Moses turns 43… Professor at Harvard University, he was the director of the Harvard Center for Jewish Studies, Eric M. Nelson turns 43… Deputy editor of PowerPost, a Washington Post vertical, Sara Sorcher turns 33… Recent graduate of Cardozo School of Law, Nathan Jablow turns 29… Senior account executive at Red Banyan, Jodie Michelle Singer turns 29… Senior financial analyst for the Azul Hospitality Group, Adam Dahan turns 27… Director of strategic partnerships at Ogen, David Angel… Elaine Hall… Jonathan Gerber… Noa Meir…