Good Wednesday morning!
In Minnesota’s 7th district, former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach won the GOP primary with 59% of the vote, and will now face Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) in a predicted tight race in November.
In Georgia’s 14th district Republican runoff, businesswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has trafficked in conspiracy theories and posed for photos with a former neo-Nazi leader, beat out neurosurgeon John Cowan. Read more here.
In Vermont, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, who was backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), won the Democratic primary to take on incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott in November.
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Biden picks Kamala Harris. Here’s what you need to know
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced yesterday that he has selected Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) as his running mate. Jewish Insider reporters discussed the pick with several Harris allies and insiders.
Three key Harris allies to know: One of Harris’s closest friends in the Jewish community is San Francisco’s Dr. Anita Friedman. “Over many years, Senator Harris has been a steadfast supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” Friedman told Jewish Insider. “Through traveling to Israel with her several times and closely working with her, I can personally attest to her deep personal commitment to our democratic ally.” Other key Harris backers include Roselyne “Cissie” Swig, whose close ties with Harris were detailed in Politico last year, and Amy Friedkin.
Flashback: When Harris spoke at AIPAC’s Policy Conference in 2017, she began by mentioning “my dear friends and AIPAC board members, Anita Friedman and Cissie Swig and Amy Friedkin.”
Record on Israel: Harris has been active on Israel-related issues since joining the Senate in 2017. The first bill she co-sponsored in the Senate condemned United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which criticized Israeli settlements. “Her support for Israel is central to who she is,” a Harris campaign spokeswoman told McClatchy in 2019. Harris voted against a bipartisan 2019 anti-BDS bill, expressing concern that it could violate First Amendment rights. In June, Harris sent a letter to President Donald Trump expressing opposition to Israel’s potential unilateral annexation of portions of the West Bank. In a 2019 candidate interview with The New York Times, Harris said she believes that “overall” Israel meets international human rights standards, and she has said she opposes the BDS movement.
Right hand: Jewish Democratic Council of America executive director Halie Soifer, who served as a national security advisor to Harris at the beginning of her term in the Senate, told JI she’s excited to see Harris on the ticket because of her leadership skills and her values. Harris is “willing and able to work with the other side of the aisle, to work with Republicans to to get things done,” Soifer said. “She’s no nonsense. She’s very values-driven, and she’s just a person with deep convictions — and one of them is support of the U.S.-Israel relationship and supporting the Jewish community.”
Dream team: Former Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) told JI that he supported Biden from the very beginning “because of his unwavering support for Israel,” and with Harris, Biden now has “a partner who reflects his commitment, his values and his experience” on Israel. The former Democratic congressman noted that while he was in Congress he “had the opportunity of working with” Harris on Iron Dome funding, and pointed to her strong stance against BDS and her past record in prosecuting antisemitic hate crimes.
Close relationship: Rabbi Doug Kahn, then-executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, accompanied Harris on her first visit to Israel in 2004. Kahn remembered Harris being “a great questioner, eager to learn all she could during our trip.” Kahn said Harris appreciated “the complexities of the issues, [was] fascinated and moved by the people we met, and clearly supportive of Israel.” California Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, vice chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, has worked with Harris through the legislature and hosted an event for her with Jewish community leaders. “I expect that she’ll be someone we can count on to listen to our concerns and be an advocate for us in the administration,” he told JI.
Family ties: Harris also has a very personal connection to the Jewish community — her husband, Douglas Emhoff, whom she married in 2014, is Jewish. Harris recounted meeting her Jewish in-laws for the first time during a conversation at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan in January 2019. “The first time I meet my mother-in-law, she looks at me, she puts my face in her hands… she looks at me and she says, ‘Oh look at you. You’re prettier than you are on television. Mike, look at her!’” Harris recalled. Emhoff accompanied Harris on her visit to Israel and the West Bank in 2017 — which included Shabbat dinner at the home of solar energy executive Yosef Abramowitz and his wife, Rabbi Susan Silverman.
Former Mayor Mike Signer reflects on three years since the Charlottesville march
Today marks three years since the violent and deadly “Unite the Right” rally shook Charlottesville, Virginia — and the United States. Then-Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer spoke to Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh about the events leading up to that day and the deep concerns he still has about extremism.
Wake-up call: “All of these forces and the national spotlight that was trained on Charlottesville, and both forces on the left and the right being galvanized to come in to either attack or defend [the city] in pre-military fashion, were going to combine to create a catastrophe, which is what happened,” Signer recalled. “It was, hopefully, a wake-up call on how dangerous this movement needs to be and how much more we need to focus on it using the levers of government.”
Still worried:Fast forward three years, and Signer sees multiple reasons American Jews should be “extremely concerned” about the rise in online hate and antisemitic violence. Pointing to deadly attacks in Pittsburgh, Poway and New Jersey in recent years, Signer said attacks carried out by lone wolf assailants who are radicalized online is “just one phenomenon that we should be gravely concerned about.” He is also deeply worried by the rise in “open street fighting, unmitigated conflict and clashes with police,” and the slow and reactive policy by online platforms against homegrown terrorism, hatred and extremism and violent speech.
Growing pride: Signer, 47, only embraced his Jewish identity later in life. “As I got older, I found myself gravitating toward Judaism on many levels, in terms of faith and practice and my view of Israel,” Signer told JI. “As I grew public, there were junctures where I had to make decisions about how much this was going to be a first-glance part of who I was in public.” The first time he spoke publicly about being Jewish and about facing antisemitism as a child was in his State of the City address in January 2017. Signer said that visiting Israel in 2008 and 2013 and studying the Bible led to a point where his Jewish identity “no longer scared me. I felt very comfortable now that I had a model of toughness, resilience, fortitude and pride.”
Hate continues: New York Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright (D-Manhattan) called on the New York Police Department’s hate crimes unit to investigate the antisemitic vandalism at her office in New York’s 76th Assembly district overnight on Monday. A vulgar and antisemitic message alluding to Jewish donors was written on a large poster and slid under the door. Read more here.
Barry Shrage dishes on two key Massachusetts Democratic primaries
With just a few weeks until primary elections in Massachusetts, Barry Shrage, a professor in the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University and the former president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, spoke to Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel about two races generating buzz in the Jewish community.
Thinking ahead: Shrage was one of 75 Jewish leaders who signed on to a recent letter backing 39-year-old Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) in the Democratic Senate primary against 74-year-old incumbent Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). “I support him because I think that, at the end of this particular era of politics, after the next election, we’re going to be trying to figure out who’s going to lead the Democratic Party into the future,” Shrage said. “The future of the Democratic Party, as everyone knows, is not Joe Biden, it’s not [Nancy] Pelosi. These are all fine people, but they’re not going to be in a position to actually lead the party. So the question is going to be, ‘Who is going to lead the party?’”
Troubling ties: Shrage is somewhat troubled by the support Markey has received from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and from a local group, Massachusetts Peace Action, which supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. “I’m not saying that’s Ed Markey. I’m not,” said Shrage, who added that the senator has a solid record when it comes to Israel. “But I’m saying that all that support from those places makes me concerned.” Shrage said he assumes Markey “will continue to be a supporter of Israel as he has been in the past. But I still worry about the future of the party and maintaining a bipartisan sense of support for Israel.”
Replacement run: Kennedy has given up his seat in the state’s 4th district in order to run for Senate, leading to a crowded Democratic primary to replace him. Shrage declined to publicly back any of the nine contenders, reserving his criticism only for Ihssane Leckey, a young progressive who has been endorsed by Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now Boston. Leckey, Shrage said, “really doesn’t understand the nature of Israel, its political systems, its strengths.”
Bonus: Jesse Mermell, a candidate in the Massachusetts 4th Democratic primary, clarified to Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod that she is “unquestionably opposed” to the BDS movement. Asked about language on her website that states “she does not believe that Israel’s defense requires the silencing of its critics,” Mermell said, it is intended to make clear “that, of course, any individual in his or her own capacity has their own right to free speech.”
Consistency: Mermell said she “would certainly be open” to discussing state-level anti-BDS legislation in Massachusetts, which is not one of the 30 states that has passed such a law. The candidate said she would unequivocally support other restrictions on state contracts, such as a ban on contracts with companies owned by racists or white nationalists. When pressed on what she saw as the distinction between such legislation and anti-BDS legislation, she said, “it probably isn’t much different, which is why I would be absolutely open to having that conversation.” Read more here.
TECH GETS TOUGH
Facebook cracks down on hate speech and expands definition of antisemitism
Facebook is cracking down on hate speech and antisemitism, the social media company announced yesterday. According to its updated community standards policy, the platform will take down content that depicts “Jewish people running the world or controlling major institutions such as media networks, the economy or the government.” The platform will also take down posts that include “caricatures of black people in the form of blackface.”
Inspired by IHRA: The new policy’s language is similar to the text of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism. “The IHRA working definition of antisemitism has always been valuable for informing our own approach to fighting antisemitism,” Jordana Cutler, Facebook’s head of public policy for Israel and the Jewish diaspora, told Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss. “The harmful stereotypes policy that we launched today draws on the spirit and the text of the second bullet point in the IHRA definition.”
Taking action: The decision marks the first substantive policy update to the company’s “objectionable content” standards in months. Facebook said Tuesday that it had scaled up efforts to address problematic content, taking action on 22.5 million pieces of content during the second quarter of 2020, up from 9.6 million pieces of content in the first quarter.
Jewish outreach: “This is a policy that we have been working on for over a year; with stakeholders from many different communities impacted by this policy,” Cutler told JI. In a statement, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said the WJC “has worked closely with Facebook to encourage the platform to remove harmful content including stereotypes as a form of hate speech. We applaud Facebook for its leadership and hope this move will be a guiding light for other social media companies to follow.”
🤝 Special Relationship:The Atlantic’s Tom McTague and Peter Nicholas explore how world leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have worked to build unorthodox diplomatic relations with Trump. “The joke is that the U.S. ambassador to Israel doesn’t have a role, because the prime minister can go directly to Washington for everything.” [TheAtlantic]
🏺 Dark Discovery: Thomas Rogers writes in The New York Times about the swastika mosaic tiles discovered on the floor of a German museum — and now covered by a carpet — that have become “the center of a pointed debate” surrounding a recent federal grant to the museum. [NYTimes]
Around the Web
💰 Open Mind: Biden has refused to rule out appointing campaign donors and fundraisers as ambassadors, irking some foreign policy veterans who hoped he would make a paradigm shift on political appointments.
⚔️ Peace Clash: The U.S. is backing Israel’s demands for major changes in UNIFIL, the peacekeeping force on the border between Lebanon and Israel, despite opposition from most of the U.N. Security Council.
🇶🇦 Open Tab: Mossad chief Yossi Cohen reportedly visited Qatar on Sunday to urge the regime to maintain assistance to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
😠 Pressure Campaign:Palestinian protesters are trying to pressure Germany into urging Israel to release boycott activist Mahmoud Nawajaa, who Israel says was arrested on security charges.
🏖️ Beach Day:Israel quietly looked the other way at its West Bank crossings over the past few days, allowing tens of thousands of Palestinians a rare trip to the beach.
🎖️ Second Wave: As COVID-19 cases in Israel continue to rise, Israel has called in the IDF to take over testing and contact tracing, shaking up its pandemic response team.
💔 Towards Breakup: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly working to renegotiate his coalition deal with Blue and White’s Benny Gantz, as differences appear to be cracking their already shaky alliance.
🤳 Dancing High: Noa Toledo, a 22-year-old Israeli, has become a TikTok star for her window-washing dance routines spotlighting her role in the male-dominated field.
📷 Behind the Lens: In The Wall Street Journal, Theo Francis, Mark Maremont and Geoffrey Rogow report on “a well-timed gift” of three million Kodak shares by board member George Karfunkel to the little-known Congregation Chemdas Yisroel in Brooklyn, N.Y. The donation, worth $116.3 million, makes it “the single largest gift recorded to a religious group.”
🎰 Big Bet: Barry Diller’s IAC group has invested $1 billion in the casino company MGM resorts, with an eye on developing its online gaming.
💻 Hollywood: ChaiFlicks, a new streaming service featuring Jewish and Israeli content, is launching in the U.S. today.
📺 Binge Worthy: Israel’s Iran spy thriller “Tehran” will premiere on Apple TV+ on September 25.
📋 Talk of the Town:Observers predict that the shortened census-counting period, which will now end in the middle of the Jewish holidays, will likely leave Brooklyn’s Jewish community undercounted.
💸 Under Fire: New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is eyeing a mayoral run, reportedly punished council members who voted against his budget by providing less funds to their districts.
🖼️ Reopening:The Museum of Jewish Heritage—a Living Memorial to the Holocaust in lower Manhattan is planning to reopen in September for three days a week amid the “fluid situation.”
🚉 Next Stop: Montreal is weighing changing the name of a subway station named after Lionel Groulx, a Roman Catholic priest who was a champion for the rights of Francophone Quebecers and a virulent antisemite.
🥪 Big Bite: Jeff & Judes, a modern Jewish deli, opened over the weekend in Chicago for takeout service.
Pic of the Day
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz praying Shacharit before undergoing surgery for a herniated disc at Tel Hashomer’s Sheba Medical Center earlier this morning.
Billionaire investor and philanthropist, George Soros (born György Schwartz) turns 90…
Retired Beverly Hills attorney, Sheldon S. Ellis turns 88… Television writer, David Jacobs turns 81… Historian and author, William Rubinstein turns 74… Former president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Lester Scheininger turns 73… Former U.S. diplomat, Karyn Allison Posner-Mullen turns 69… Director of management operations at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Fredi Bleeker Franks turns 68… Former member of Knesset from the Yesh Atid party, Haim Yellin turns 62…
Founding editor of The Times of Israel, David Horovitz turns 58… Rabbi at Brookline’s Temple Beth Zion, Claudia Kreiman turns 46… SVP for external engagement at NYC’s Educational Alliance, Anya Hoerburger turns 43… Chief marketing officer at Cross Campus, Jay Chernikoff turns 41… VP of public affairs at S-3 Group, Jarad Geldner turns 37… Senior customer success manager at Dynamic Yield, David Fine turns 31… CEO and founder of Forsight, a leading prop tech AI and machine learning company, Ariel Applbaum turns 26…