Good Friday morning!
Ed note: In celebration of Sukkot, which begins this evening, the next Daily Kickoff will arrive on Tuesday.
Last night, Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity that he condemns “the KKK, I condemn all white supremacists, I condemn the Proud Boys — I don’t know much about the Proud Boys, almost nothing.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition is spending $3.5 million in a TV ad buy in South Florida.
Democratic Majority for Israel launched its first general election ad today, targeting Jewish voters in key battleground states. The digital ad, titled “Enduring,” features Biden’s warm personal relationships with Israeli leaders.
Israel and Lebanon have agreed to a framework for direct talks, mediated by the U.S., on the countries’ maritime border — the first negotiations between the neighboring nations in 30 years.
Check out Jewish Insider’s ‘Jewish Nielsen’ report to see which webcasts people tuned into over the past week.
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New York Jewish leaders perplexed that AOC won’t engage with them
In a new feature story published this morning, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel and Jacob Kornbluh interviewed a wide range of organizational leaders about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) engagement, or lack thereof, with the Jewish community in New York. The freshman congresswoman’s decision earlier this week to withdraw from an Americans for Peace Now event commemorating Yitzhak Rabin, underscored what many Jewish leaders have come to regard as a perplexing dynamic in which Ocasio-Cortez seems to have distanced herself from mainstream Jewish groups.
From the story:
Not long after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) pulled off a surprise upset in the June 2018 Democratic congressional primary, Michael S. Miller, executive vice president and CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, reached out to set up an in-person meeting. Ocasio-Cortez, then 28, was a relative newcomer to politics, but her star was rising, and she was all but assured a seat in Congress representing the reliably blue 14th district, which encompasses parts of the Bronx and Queens.
Miller, whose organization represents the Jewish community to New York government officials and counts more than 50 local Jewish groups as members, had hoped to begin a dialogue with the young progressive upstart — and, after speaking with her chief of staff, was informed that a meeting with Ocasio-Cortez would be arranged. Two years and multiple follow-ups later, Miller is still waiting on her call.
“That was October of 2018,” Miller said in an interview with Jewish Insider on Wednesday afternoon. “We’re now on the verge of October 2020, and I have yet to meet with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”
“There is a lot of frustration,” he sighed.
Miller isn’t alone among New York’s Jewish leaders in wondering why Ocasio-Cortez, who is poised to be reelected to a second term in November, won’t return their calls. In interviews with JI, several prominent members of New York’s Jewish community said they have made overtures to the freshman congresswoman, who turns 31 this month, only to have their entreaties be ignored.
“We were prepared to meet, but there was no reciprocity,” said Rabbi Joe Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, recalling an experience similar to Miller’s. “When I spoke to her she was like, ‘Of course.’ But when it came to arranging a meeting, no response.”
“I don’t know what her reasoning is,” Potasnik added with a sense of befuddlement. “I think she has to explain why, as a member of Congress who meets with all different kinds of groups, she’s not willing to meet with us.”
Amanda Berman, founder and executive director of Zioness, which has made several unsuccessful attempts to set up a meeting with Ocasio-Cortez, said: “it’s really painful that when we want to… say thank you for standing up for us as women, we have to hesitate and think that she doesn’t stand up for us as Jewish women.”
Of note: Over the last two years, Ocasio-Cortez appears to have only participated in three publicly known Jewish events in New York. Just before taking office, she appeared at a Hanukkah celebration at the Jackson Heights Jewish Center in Queens, organized by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, the progressive advocacy group whose members have spoken with Ocasio-Cortez “many times in the past,” according to its political director Rachel McCullough. In 2018 she visited the Bronx House Jewish community center, after “I had convinced her staff that she needed to be out in the community,” said Bronx House CEO Howie Martin, adding that since the event, “we have not had any contact with her or her staff.” And in January, Ocasio-Cortez participated in a widely attended march against antisemitism.
About that Rabin event: In making her decision to back out of the memorial, Ocasio-Cortez consulted with at least two far-left Jewish groups, Jewish Voice for Peace Action and IfNotNow, according to representatives from both organizations who declined to disclose the particulars of the discussions. Beth Miller, senior government affairs manager at Jewish Voice for Peace Action which supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, said that the group’s local leaders in New York, as well as its Palestinian partners, have met with Ocasio-Cortez in her district.
on the hill
Senators and members of the House introduce bipartisan resolution honoring Rabin
A bipartisan group of legislators from the Senate and the House have introduced a resolution honoring former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin ahead of the 25th anniversary of his assassination on Nov. 4, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Bipartisan backing: The resolution is being led by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH) in the Senate and Reps. Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Tom Reed (R-NY) in the House. Senate cosponsors include Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kevin Kramer (R-ND) and Tim Kaine (D-VA). In the House, the bill is being cosponsored by Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Karen Bass (D-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY).
Fight for peace: Cardin said, “Rabin’s legacy is one of hope and peace overcoming generations of mistrust and violence. Over the course of his lifetime, Rabin experienced personal and political transformations that led to his courageous fight for peace, for which he paid the ultimate price. It is this courage and vision of two states for two peoples that we must continue to embrace and make real.” Portman said the resolution “honors his efforts and upholds his memory, while reaffirming the continued support for the close ties and special relationship between the United States and Israel.”
Timing:The resolution, which also reiterates U.S. support for a two-state solution, comes amid criticism of Rabin from far-left activists. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) recently pulled out of an event organized by Americans for Peace Now commemorating Rabin’s assassination following criticism from pro-Palestinian activists. However, work on the resolution started a month ago, before the controversy began, according to a Capitol Hill staffer familiar with the resolution.
Off Broadway but still in the spotlight
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended New York’s entertainment sector, indefinitely dimming Broadway’s lights and putting thousands — actors, ushers, stagehands and more — out of work. Adam Kantor, who was starring in the off-Broadway musical “Darling Grenadine” until the pandemic forced the show to close, told Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss that he has taken on a new career of sorts in recent months: celebrity guest on Jewish communal webcasts.
Background: Kantor was one of the creators of “Saturday Night Seder,” an online event that drew tens of thousands of live viewers and raised more than $3 million for the CDC Foundation’s Emergency Response Fund. It was particularly fitting for Kantor, who had been diagnosed with COVID weeks earlier, and spent the lead-up to the event recovering in his childhood bedroom. Following the success of “Saturday Night Seder,” Kantor said, “a bunch of organizations reached out and said, ‘Hey, can you do something like that for us?’ And so it’s been a really great way to continue the spirit of tikkun olam and helping the world, helping organizations that are doing really beautiful work, while also staying somewhat employed, and being able to collaborate with people I love.”
All in the family: While many of his appearances were festive and celebratory, others have been more serious. Earlier this week, Kantor participated in a Kol Nidre webcast hosted by Hillel International. “My great-great-grandfather, Samuel Kantor, was an Orthodox rabbi and cantor. And I think he was known, in part, for his Kol Nidre… Jews would travel far and wide to hear him sing Kol Nidre,” Kantor explained. “So it was a meaningful moment to learn the song and to perform it.” Kantor’s great-grandfather ran his synagogue’s choir. “I have all of his transcribed cantorial music. In fact, I had that in my ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ dressing room. A book of his handwritten, transcribed cantorial music as well as portrait, a photograph of my great-great-grandfather. So it all feels very full circle. It’s like I’m fulfilling my prophecy.”
Shabbat shalom: With the High Holy Days over, Kantor’s next project, which he launched in conjunction with OneTable, focuses on Shabbat. The initiative, called Pause, is a way, he explained, to celebrate Shabbat when traditional ways of going about most aspects of life are on hold. As part of Pause, performers will appear in short videos released on Fridays sharing their own interpretations of Shabbat traditions and practices. “The beauty of Shabbat is that it’s a weekly ritual, and it’s something that we can come back to and continue to come back to,” Kantor explained. The series will consist of 12 videos, one released each month through next fall, “so we can keep it timely and sort of informed by the forces of the world around us, but also, somewhat ritualistic like Shabbat is.”
In Zoom chat, UAE Ambassador Al Otaiba answered questions from JI readers
During Tuesday’s Jewish Insider webcast conversation with United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba, Israeli-American businessman Haim Saban, and former White House deputy national security advisor Dina Powell McCormick, live viewers were treated to some bonus content in Zoom’s comments section. Ambassador Al Otaiba pulled off a feat of multitasking as he generously engaged with attendees and their questions while fully participating in the panel conversation.
Below are some of the highlights from Al Otaiba’s brief responses to JI readers’ questions during the live event.
Question:“How much credit goes to the Trump administration for this agreement between the UAE and Israel and between Bahrain and Israel?”
Al Otaiba: “A lot of credit!”
Question:“What challenges did you face when coming up with the [2019 op-ed] piece and subsequently drafting the Abraham Accords?”
Al Otaiba: “Domestic Israeli politics.”
Question: “Do you see UAE citizens visiting Jerusalem and the Islamic holy sites… What if the Palestinians object?”
Al Otaiba: “Honestly, not sure yet. It’s something we will discuss.”
Question:“When do you think flights start?”
Al Otaiba: “Hopefully within a few months.”
Question:“Some on the Jewish right have been critical of streets in Sharjah that are named for who they perceive to be Palestinian terrorists as well as Intifada roads, and that because of that Israelis and Jews should be skeptical of the UAE. How does the UAE respond to this criticism?”
Al Otaiba: “We’re moving in the right direction. This is a process of evolution. And the best sign of that forward progress is the Abraham Accords.”
👨👦 Not in Line:Politico’s Burgess Everett and James Arkin spotlight how the actions of both former Sen. Joe Lieberman and his son, Georgia Senate candidate Matt Lieberman, are irking mainstream Democrats and “haunting the party nearly eight years after Joe Lieberman left office.” [Politico]
💲 Money First:Robert Mogielnicki writes in Foreign Policy about the “special economic zones” in the Middle East that helped quietly pave the way for new normalization deals, and also underline China and Iran’s dealings. Such economic agreements “have moved to the forefront of geopolitical relations in the broader Middle East.” [ForeignPolicy]
⚔️ Not So Fast: In Bloomberg, Hussein Ibish pours cold water on the idea that Hamas and Fatah are nearing reconciliation, despite a mutual promise to hold elections. “This latest proposal will almost certainly fade away, just like all previous promises.” [Bloomberg]
😲 Survey Says: In Slate, Eleanor Cummins explored the recent findings from a Claims Conference survey indicating that young Americans have a shockingly low level of knowledge about the Holocaust, highlighting the “decadeslong debate over Holocaust knowledge surveys, which are notoriously difficult to design.” [Slate]
Around the Web
😠 Diplomatic Spat: Armenia recalled its ambassador to Israel yesterday in anger over news that Azerbaijan is using Israeli-made weapons in the ongoing conflict between the neighboring nations.
🛬 Hitting the Ground: Israeli Mossad chief Yossi Cohen met with top intelligence and security officials in Bahrain on Wednesday.
😷 Refuah Sheleima: Israeli Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, 92, a leading haredi Jewish authority, has tested positive for COVID-19.
👨👦 Slow Move: Carl Icahn cut a deal with his son, Brett, to hand over control as chairman and chief executive of Icahn Enterprises in a seven-year-long transition process.
📣 Missed Opportunity: Former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said Trump missed an easy opportunity to condemn white supremacist groups during the debate.
🚒 Come Forward:Arson investigators in Portland, Oregon, are offering a reward for information about two fires that damaged the city’s Chabad Center in August.
🧪 Number Crunch: Some Orthodox Jewish leaders in Brooklyn have reportedly urged residents not to get tested for COVID-19 in an attempt to avoid new lockdown measures.
🤝 On the Road: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is slated to visit Ocean County today, where a sharp rise in new coronavirus cases is centered in the town of Lakewood.
😟 Challenging Times: Rabbi Menachem Margolin, president of the European Jewish Association, described a “frustrating” period for European Jews with strict restrictions on religious practices.
🖼️ Right of Return: A court in Paris has ruled that three Nazi-looted paintings currently held by two French museums must be returned to the heirs of Jewish art dealer René Gimpel.
🏥 Helping Hand: BlackRock’s Phil Schermer has launched Project Healthy Minds, a mental health nonprofit with Hollywood backing.
🎥 Hollywood: The new trailer for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” to be released on Amazon later this month, features star Sacha Baron Cohen crashing a CPAC event earlier this year.
⛹️♂️ Sports Blink: Israeli basketball player Deni Avdija is rumored to be a target for the New York Knicks this season ahead of next month’s NBA draft.
🥙 Feel At Home: Ethiopian-Jewish restaurateur Beejhy Barhany serves up a taste of her cultural traditions at Tsion Cafe in New York’s Harlem.
🥪 Bacon on Challah: Inspired by other Manhattan dine-ins, Gertie has relaunched its Williamsburg location with a modern Jew-ish deli menu.
👶 Mazel Tov: “Fauda” star Lior Raz and his wife, Meital Barda, welcomed their fourth child.
Wine of the Week
JI’s wine columnist Yitz Applbaum reviews Nik Weis’ Gefen Hashalom Riesling 2016:
Fall is upon us. The air is fresh and pure as we enter our Sukkah. As I scouted wines in my cellar for the next seven days, my attention turned to white wine. For me, fall in California is the best season for white wine. Kosher white wine has had a renaissance over the last decade and my fascination these days are with white wines from Germany and Alsace. They are subtle, fruity and balanced.
The Nik Weis’ Gefen Hashalom Riesling 2016 is a stunning wine. It is majestically sweet on the open and finishes with a hint of old mossy stones and peach fuzz. Upon completing the bottle (which happens almost unknowingly), you realize that you have decomposed into the soil, and become one with the terroir — being of the earth creates a new love for the earth. Enjoy this wine with mellow cheese. The wine will age well, so no rush to open the bottle.
Co-founder and owner of Covenant Wines, Jeff Morgan turns 67 on Saturday…
FRIDAY: Commercial real estate broker and partner in Baltimore’s Workshop Development, Richard Manekin turns 75… Co-chair of external relations at the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy, Diana Ely Epstein turns 75… Bethesda, Maryland resident, Samuel G. Kaplan turns 74… Fashion designer and the creator of the Donna Karan New York label, Donna Karan turns 72… Portrait photographer, Annie Leibovitz turns 71… Member of Knesset for the Shas party since 1996, Rabbi Yitzhak Cohen turns 69… Former member of Knesset for the Labor-Gesher party, Omer Bar-Lev turns 67… Former member of the Texas House of Representatives, Scott Hochberg turns 67… Israeli financier and philanthropist, with interests in shipping, drilling and mining, Idan Ofer turns 65… Venture capitalist and board member at a number of prominent Jewish organizations including the Jewish Agency, The Associated and Tamid, Bruce Sholk turns 63… Chief program officer of the Union for Reform Judaism, Mark J. Pelavin turns 59… Managing partner of the Fort Lauderdale-based Weinstein Law Firm and a major Democratic bundler in Florida, Andrew Weinstein turns 51… Former MLB left-handed pitcher (1999-2010) with more MLB appearances than any other Jewish pitcher, Scott David Schoeneweis turns 47… President and CEO of DC-based government relations firm King Consults, Michelle Sara King turns 44… Associate attorney in the capital markets department at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Alexander B. Fullman turns 30…
SATURDAY: Radio show host and author, Michael Medved turns 72… President and CEO of the Better Medicare Alliance, she is a former member of Congress (D-PA-13), Allyson Young Schwartz turns 72… Theoretical physicist and professor at Rutgers, he was named a MacArthur Genius Fellow in 1987, Daniel Friedan turns 72… Westport, Connecticut-based holistic health coach, Orna Stern turns 65… Lisa Gordon Leff turns 63… Born in NYC to Israeli parents, global head of music for YouTube, Lyor Cohen turns 61… President of real estate development group The Ferber Company, P. Shields Ferber, Jr. turns 57… VP and director of real estate development at the NYC Housing Partnership Development Corporation, he is a 2021 candidate for the NYC Council, Daniel Marks Cohen turns 50… Art collector and dealer, David Mugrabi turns 49… Jerusalem-born record executive turned talent agent whose clients include Madonna and U2, Guy Oseary turns 48… Israel’s minister of intelligence, Eli Cohen turns 48… Rabbi of Congregation Ohr Torah in North Woodmere, NY and author of “We’re Almost There,” Dovid M. Cohen turns 48… Venture capitalist and political strategist, Bradley Tusk turns 47… Executive director at the Jewish Book Council, Naomi Firestone-Teeter turns 37… The assistant rabbi at Park East Synagogue in Manhattan, Benjamin Goldschmidt turns 33… …
SUNDAY: Former lieutenant governor of Maryland (1987-1995) after 20 years in the Maryland Senate, Melvin A. “Mickey” Steinberg turns 87… Senior judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, his father served as a rabbi in Brooklyn for 35 years, Judge Robert David Sack turns 81… Executive editor of The Los Angeles Times, Norman Pearlstine turns 78… Chairman of the executive committee at the University of Haifa, former Israeli peace negotiator on behalf of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Dov Weissglass turns 74… President of the Genesis Prize Foundation, Steven Rakitt turns 65… Director of the Israeli Government Press Office, he has served as chairman of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, Nitzan Chen turns 57… Canadian businessman and impresario, Aubrey Dan turns 57… Film, television and stage actress, Alicia Silverstone turns 44… Akiva Gerstein… Gefen Kabik…
MONDAY: South African-born lyricist whose works include the English-language musical adaptation of “Les Misérables,” Herbert Kretzmer turns 95… Investor who owned the Baltimore Orioles from 1989 to 1993, Eli Jacobs turns 83… Psychiatrist in Cameron, North Carolina, Morton Meltzer, M.D. turns 81… Theodore Steiner turns 81… Long Beach, California resident, Robert Winer turns 79… Senior U.S. senator from Maryland since 2007, Benjamin L. Cardin turns 77… Author, lecturer and journalist, Jonathan Dobrer turns 76… EVP of donor relations at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Andrew Cushnir turns 57… Former editor of the Atlanta Jewish Times, Michael Jacobs turns 51… Canary Islands native, she is a mission coordinator at Israel’s Mission to the United Nations, Gladys Bendahan…