Good Tuesday morning!
We’re looking forward to seeing many of you on Zoom this afternoon at 1 p.m. ET for our conversation with United Arab Emirates Ambassadors Yousef Al Otaiba and Lana Nusseibeh, along with Haim Saban, Dina Powell McCormick and UAE Chief Rabbi Yehuda Sarna. Request the Zoom info here.
Tonight at 9 p.m. ET, President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will face off in the first televised debate at the Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.
While we were away… On Saturday, Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The selection, 37 days before a presidential election, sets up what is likely to become a bitter Senate confirmation battle. Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman, who testified in favor of Trump’s impeachment, expressed his approval of the pick.
At a campaign rally on Friday, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden compared Trump to Joseph Goebbels… The New York Timesrevealed that Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he became president.
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call to action
Members of Congress to launch international task force to combat online antisemitism
A bipartisan group of members of Congress will announce on Tuesday the creation of a new global inter-parliamentary task force to combat digital antisemitism, Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh reports.
Details: Members of the task force include Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), along with elected officials from major parties in Canada, the U.K. and Australia. Another member of the panel is member of Knesset Michal Cotler-Wunsh from Israel’s Blue and White Party, the daughter of former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler. The goals set by the task force include raising awareness about online antisemitism and establishing a consistent message in legislatures across the world to hold social media platforms accountable. The group will also work to adopt and publish transparent policies related to hate speech.
Time is now: Deutch told JI the lawmakers coalesced around the issue of online antisemitism because as social media continues to grow, “it’s unfortunately more and more being used to spread hatred and antisemitism. And we know that what may begin as online threats in the virtual world can lead to violence in the real world.” In a statement, Cotler-Wunsh said: “Always and at this time in particular as we stand united in fighting a global pandemic, another virus rages that requires global collaboration and cooperation.”
United force: Deutch maintained that “the power of having a group of elected officials” from different parties across the world come together on this issue “will highlight the need for action by the companies and the need for action by our respective legislative bodies.” He added: “And most importantly, we hope this will help advance the conversation that’s premised upon the fundamental understanding that we just shouldn’t accept this spread of antisemitism that we’ve seen on social media platforms.”
Cancer ‘previvor’ Ali Rogin sets out to fill in the gaps for other women
When “PBS NewsHour” producer Ali Rogin was told by her doctor that she tested positive for the BRCA-1 gene mutation — which significantly increased her risk of breast and ovarian cancer — she didn’t quite know where to turn. “I really wanted to consume as many accounts as I could of people who went through the same experience that I did,” Rogin told Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss in a recent interview. “And there simply were not that many books out there that dealt with the experiences that I went through.” So Rogin set about creating one.
Uncharted territory: Rogin’s first book, Beat Breast Cancer Like a Boss, which was released earlier this month, shares the first-hand experiences of dozens of women at different stages of their fight with the disease. The women interviewed throughout the book range from actresses to musicians, authors, businesswomen and politicians. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) shared her story of undergoing a prophylactic double mastectomy during a February congressional recess after learning that she, like 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jewish women, was a carrier for the gene mutation.
Family ties: Some of the women featured were contacts Rogin had amassed during more than a decade as a journalist. Others she reached through persistent cold-calling. She was able to tap into family connections for women in the entertainment industry — her father, Max Weinberg, is the drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.
Close community: One of the women Rogin interviewed is Sally Oren, who was diagnosed with breast cancer while her then-husband, Michael Oren, was serving as Israel’s ambassador to the United States. After learning of her diagnosis, Oren confided in a close friend, the wife of the Norwegian ambassador, who connected Oren with a group of diplomatic spouses who had all experienced or were in the middle of their own cancer fight. “You can be more intimate with people who are going through the same experience as you,” Oren explained to Rogin. “And also, you can be irreverent. You can be funny. Sometimes, people don’t know how to behave [around people with cancer]. It’s hard for them. I don’t blame them, but they don’t quite know what to do with someone’s diagnosis. But we laughed together. There was an ease at being able to express yourself.”
Paying it forward: Learning at such a young age that she carried the mutated BRCA gene and being able to take preventative measures has empowered Rogin to do what she can to educate women about their own risk factors — and to encourage regular medical check-ups and testing. “I want to use my experience to help others,” Rogin said. “I don’t want to be defined by my possession of this genetic mutation. But I’m totally cool being defined as somebody who has used challenges in her life to help others. I think that’s in the spirit of tikkun olam.”
tar heel tussle
Moe Davis is banking on a redrawn map to win a bitter North Carolina contest
Moe Davis had no intention of running for Congress when he retired from his position as a judge in the U.S. Department of Labor and moved with his wife to the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina in the spring of 2019. The former Air Force colonel and military prosecutor, now mounting his first bid for public office, says he had planned to spend his days largely at leisure. “If I had any notion of running, I wouldn’t have put all my suits in long-term storage,” Davis, 62, quipped in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Eyeing an opportunity: But North Carolina’s 11th congressional district was recently redrawn to include all of Asheville, a liberal stronghold. The new, court-ordered map gives Democrats a glimmer of hope that they can claim the seat this cycle, though Republicans still have an advantage in the historically red district. Still, Davis saw an opportunity. He entered the race in December 2019 thinking he would be challenging former Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), who vacated the seat to become President Donald Trump’s chief of staff. Davis is now competing against Madison Cawthorn, a 25-year-old political upstart whose campaign has hit some snags as some of his past social media comments — including an Instagram post in which he referred to Adolf Hitler as “the Führer” — have surfaced.
Background: Davis grew up in Shelby, about an hour east of Asheville. He joined the Air Force in the early 1980s and worked his way up to colonel, during which time he served as the chief military prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay, prosecuting Al-Qaeda terror suspects. He quit in protest after refusing to use evidence obtained by torture. Davis’s decision to stand up for his principles wasn’t an easy one, according to Amos Guiora, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Israel Defense Forces who met Davis nearly 20 years ago. “Moe got blasted for being unpatriotic,” said Guiora. “He did exactly what he said he would do.”
Foreign policy view: Davis is aware his opponent has an edge in the traditionally conservative district, and he has made an effort to put forward policy proposals that place him squarely in the political center. But he doesn’t hesitate to call out the president for what he views as a litany of failures, particularly on the international stage. Davis reserves his harshest criticism for Trump’s move to withdraw American troops from northern Syria, leaving Kurdish forces in the lurch. “The thing that really appalls me the most is abandoning the Kurds in Syria after they fought and died for us fighting ISIS,” Davis said. “We used to be a dependable, reliable ally, and I think right now, with the current administration, that that’s no longer the case.”
Campaign promise: The congressional hopeful promises that he has no political ambitions beyond the House. “I’m not going to run for the Senate or president or anything else,” he said. If he is elected, Davis said he will serve in the House until he feels the timing is right to return to his retirement. “We built a really nice house with a nice porch,” he said, “and I want to sit on the porch and drink some good IPAs and enjoy some of the time I got left.”
Sweet New Year
The Israeli startup with the answer to high-calorie sugar
Can natural sugar contain fewer calories? One Israeli startup aims to prove the answer is yes. In The New Yorker, Nicola Twilley profiles the company, DouxMatok, and its founding CEO Eran Baniel.
Warning: As government health agencies have increasingly taken aim at high-sugar foods over the past decade, requiring health warning labels and even introducing new taxes on sugary products, the race has begun to find a suitable, lower-calorie natural replacement for sugar. DouxMatok — matok is Hebrew for sweet — is an innovator in an increasingly competitive field, and is preparing to explode on to the open market later this year.
Beginnings: Baniel was inspired to start the company by his father, Avraham Baniel, a chemist who made some early discoveries on artificial sweeteners in the 1990s. The elder Baniel grew up in British Mandate Palestine, where, after receiving a degree from the University of Montpelier, he worked as a bombmaker in Haifa. After 1967, Avraham helped create Israel’s mining institute and began work as a chemical engineer. “The first chemical technology sold abroad by Israel was from my father,” Eran told The New Yorker. This work extended into the field of artificial flavoring and sweeteners, which Avraham undertook as a consultant for a British company in the 1990s.
Sweet! DouxMatok’s “Incredo” sweetener will soon reach European and American markets through a deal with the German sugar behemoth Südszucker and an undisclosed American company. According to The New Yorker, a blind taste test showed two-thirds of tasters preferred a cookie (a petit beurre, to be exact) made with Incredo over the same recipe made with regular sugar.
🧕 Secret Life: Shohreh Bayat, an Iranian chess referee who faced controversy after being photographed without a hijab, reveals to The Telegraph that she has been hiding her Jewish heritage her whole life and is now seeking asylum in the U.K. — where she celebrated Rosh Hashanah for the first time this year. [Telegraph]
🤳 Viral Vitriol:NBC’s Kalhan Rosenblatt speaks with half a dozen Jewish teenagers who say they regularly experience antisemitism on Tik Tok. “It can make you think twice before you post this stuff, and it can sometimes get to you a bit.” [NBC]
📺 Man of the Hour:New York Times media columnist Ben Smith details the role of Arnon Mishkin, the head of the “decision desk” at Fox News, who could seal the deal on an election night projection as President Donald Trump attempts to cast doubt on the validity of the presidential election. [NYTimes]
🏖️ Gap Year: The Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz spotlights the scores of young American students arriving in Israel for a gap year despite — or because of — the raging pandemic. Masa Israel said there is a 40% increase over last year, in part because Israel is one of the few countries accepting foreign students. [WSJ]
Around the Web
🇫🇷 Deadly Hate:The trial of the terrorists who killed four people at a kosher supermarket in Paris in 2015 has left the country’s Jews wondering why they are the target of such hatred — as French authorities vowed to protect the community after an Islamic terrorist stabbing on Friday.
🌊 Ocean View: An Israeli official told AP that the U.S. will be mediating direct Israeli-Lebanese talks next month over the countries’ maritime border.
🤝 Fast Friends:UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said Iran’s aggressive behavior made the country look at Israel with “fresh eyes,” and that the normalization deal was a strategic move.
🙅♂️ No Quid Pro Quo:Amid intensive efforts by the Trump administration, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said any normalization of ties with Israel must be separate from its removal from the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism blacklist.
🎤 Back to the Table: In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for a “genuine peace process” to be launched next year.
🤔 Looking Back: Marking 20 years since the beginning of the second intifada, many young Palestinian activists say they are weary at the prospect of renewed violence.
🚫 Cancel Culture: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was criticized after pulling out of a virtual memorial for former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, saying the event “was presented to my team differently from how it’s now being promoted.”
📖 Pandemic Psak:The Associated Press spotlights the many queries on Jewish law that Orthodox rabbis are seeking to answer about the ongoing pandemic.
✍️ Call for Action: New York Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein (D-Brooklyn) is urging the state’s health department to suspend a Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital resident for antisemitic social media posts.
🕍 Torah Thief: Police are hunting for a suspect who stole a Torah scroll from the Lincoln Park Jewish Center in Yonkers on Friday.
⛓️ Behind Bars: “Crying Nazi” Christopher Cantwell was found guilty of online harassment charges.
🇳🇬 Harsh Sentence:Piotr Cywinski, the head of the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum, pleaded for a pardon for a 13-year-old Nigerian boy sentenced to 10 years hard labor for blasphemy, and offered to serve part of his sentence.
🎬 Hollywood: Actor Sacha Baron Cohen filmed “Borat 2,” a sequel to his 2006 comedy, during the pandemic.
🕯️ Remembering: Nobel-prize winning physicist Arthur Ashkin died at age 98.
Gif of the Day
The United Arab Emirates’ Al-Nasr soccer team has signed a two-year deal with Arab-Israeli midfielder Dia Saba, making him the first Israeli player to sign with an Arab club.
Film and television actress, best known for her role in the ABC comedy “The Neighbors,” Clara Mamet turns 26…
A 2017 Nobel Prize laureate in Physics, Rainer Weiss turns 88… Israeli author and restaurant critic, Avital Inbar turns 76… Retired CEO of Southern California-based LinQuest Corporation, an aerospace engineering firm, he is the administration VP at Temple Sinai, Leon Biederman Ph.D. turns 73… Former member of the Knesset, Ya’akov Dov “Katzele” Katz turns 69… Treasurer of the board of trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America, Harold Gernsbacher turns 66… Tony Award-winning actor and singer, Roger Bart turns 58… Composer and pianist, he is the winner of the 2020 Azrieli Foundation Prize for Jewish Music, Yitzhak Yedid turns 49… Director of regional affairs and development at AIPAC, Brian Shankman turns 48… Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s office of international relations, Aviva Rosenthal turns 48… Candidate for a graduate degree in urban planning at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Aron Chilewich turns 29… Research director at DC-based S-3 Public Affairs, Shawn Pasternak turns 28…