Good Friday morning!
Hours after attending last night’s debate in Nashville, Ivanka Trump visited the gravesite of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe in Queens, New York. Ivanka paid a similar visit to the Ohel on the weekend before Election Day in 2016.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper and his Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, signed a joint declaration yesterday, after a meeting at the Pentagon, confirming America’s commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge.
Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok indicated yesterday he is ready to move forward with normalizing relations with Israel once a transitional parliament is established and grants its approval.
The Anti-Defamation League said in a statement that it was opposed to the Trump administration’s attempt to label international NGOs — including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam — as antisemitic.
Check outJewish Insider’s ‘Jewish Nielsen’ report to see which webcasts people tuned into over the past week.
Spread the word! Invite your friends to sign up and earn JI swag through our Ambassador program
Jeff Van Drew will soon find out if he is on the right side
Jeff Van Drew’s abdication from the Democratic Party last January was viewed by many as an act of political suicide. The 67-year-old freshman congressman, who until not long ago identified as a conservative-leaning Democrat, defied his party earlier this year by voting against President Donald Trump’s impeachment and declaring himself a Republican. Van Drew spoke to Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel yesterday in a Zoom interview from his home in Dennis Township.
New label:“I feel more comfortable with issues because I was always a moderate to conservative,” he told JI. “It was probably good for Democrats that I left,” said Van Drew, who has become a harsh critic of his former party members. “I didn’t represent their viewpoint.” Van Drew has been largely press-shy since he left his party behind 10 months ago, but recently he has been doing interviews with a number of media outlets as polls suggest he is narrowly trailing his Democratic opponent, Amy Kennedy, in the race to represent New Jersey’s 2nd congressional district, which includes the southern portion of the state.
Long time coming:Van Drew told JI that his defection from the Democratic Party was a long time coming — and that his nay vote on impeachment was simply the tipping point. The retired dentist said he had always had misgivings about being a self-described Blue Dog Democrat, but he was assured by his party that it could accommodate someone with his leanings. “I originally said many years ago, ‘Are you sure I’m not a little bit too conservative, too moderate for the party?’ And they said, ‘No, because it’s a big tent,’” Van Drew recalled. “Well, that big tent has changed a great deal.”
Eye on Iran:One reason for his disenchantment was Democratic support for the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump abandoned in 2018 — a decision Van Drew supports. “That’s an issue where I’m obviously Republican compared to what the Democrats are moving toward,” he said. “I never was in favor of the nuclear deal,” the congressman elaborated. “We know that Iran is one of the most dangerous forces of terrorism and exporters of terrorism in the world, particularly in the Mideast, and that, quite frankly, they hate Israel.”
Israel ally: Van Drew described himself as an unabashed supporter of the Jewish state, expressing his concern that some progressive members of the Democratic Party have adopted critical views on Israel that he regards as unwelcome. “It’s subtle, but it’s there, and you know that it’s there, and it’s not always so subtle,” Van Drew said. “There are numbers of new members who have joined the Democratic Caucus, who, quite frankly, are not in support of Israel, and not in support of this very close and unique relationship we have.”
Seen on TV
Foreign policy largely left on the sidelines of second presidential debate
President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden traded barbs and criticized each other’s record in office during last night’s second and final televised presidential debate — that had a markedly calmer tone compared to their first faceoff.
Not a dumpster fire: TV pundits and commentators noted that Trump performed better compared to his combative performance during the first debate last month, in which he repeatedly and insistently interrupted his opponent and the moderator. “It was definitely a more normal debate. President Trump behaved more like a regular person might, theoretically,” CNN anchor Jake Tapper remarked at the conclusion of the debate. “I think it’s fair to say that Trump supporters and Republican office holders can relax for the night, they can exhale.”
Not a game-changer:But Trump “failed to get the game-changing moment he needed to dramatically alter the trajectory of the race,” CNN reporters Maeve Reston and Stephen Collinson posited. And Biden appeared to hold his ground in response to Trump’s attacks. On ABC News, former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel described the former vice president’s performance as “passionate” in addressing the American people directly and said he “cleared the bar” as an “acceptable alternative” to Trump. Lloyd Green, a contributor to The Guardian who served as opposition research counsel to George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign, maintained that “the president engaged his base. Biden spoke to a country.”
Foreign policy: While the two candidates sparred on America’s approach towards China and Russia, foreign policy was barely discussed in the 90-minute debate, and the Middle East was not discussed once. Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told JI the topic is largely “an inside-the-Beltway issue, completely untethered from the priorities of the vast majority of Americans — who are focused today on the health and economic wellbeing of their families.”
Surprising analogy: During the brief national security portion of the debate, Biden made an eyebrow-raising reference to Adolf Hitler in response to Trump’s defense of forming a “good relationship” with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “That’s like saying we had a good relationship with Hitler before he in fact invaded Europe,” Biden remarked. Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker told JI: “Biden should apologize for his outrageous reference to Hitler.” However, former ADL national director Abe Foxman, a Biden supporter, said he didn’t find it inappropriate. “I don’t have a problem with it,” said Foxman, a Holocaust survivor. “It is a comparison about dealing with a dictator — nothing to do with the Shoah.”
Post-election season: Mideast experts speaking to The Wall Street Journal believe Biden would stay on track with the Trump administration’s attempts to get additional Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel. However, Gregory Gause, a scholar at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government, suggests that even if Trump wins reelection he will probably lose interest in aggressively pursuing more deals, and if Biden wins and “is less buddy-buddy with the Saudis,” it will relieve pressure on the Saudis to establish ties with Israel.
In the details
U.S. accuses Iran of sending fake Proud Boys email threats
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe’s announcement late Wednesday that the Iranian government, posing as members of the far-right Proud Boys group, was responsible for a voter intimidation campaign directed at swing-state Democrats set off waves of concern, confusion, and in some cases, suspicion. National security officials believe Iran has been conducting a broader campaign to undermine President Donald Trump and prevent his reelection. But some experts told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod that, although the emails encouraged targets to vote for Trump, the threats fit with Iran’s broader goals.
Master manipulator: “The Iranians understand how to manipulate the American media better than almost any U.S. adversary,” Richard Goldberg, a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former member of Trump’s National Security Council, told JI. “The intent here is not to actually stop Biden supporters from voting but rather to generate negative media coverage about President Trump feeding off the Proud Boys controversy from the first debate.”
Opposing view: But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said yesterday — following a classified briefing — that he was not convinced the efforts were aimed at discrediting Trump. “I can’t discuss the details but I can tell you one thing it was clear to me, that the intent of Iran in this case, and Russia in many more cases is to … basically undermine confidence in our elections,” he said. “This action, I do not believe was aimed — from my surmise — was aimed at discrediting President Trump.”
Only the start: Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at FDD, noted that the emails would help Iran sow chaos and distrust in the U.S. electoral system. “In my view, this opposite message is not in favor of the president, this opposite message is designed to press on existing fault lines in society that already may have doubts in election, or that are already hyperpartisan, or that already may be able to be deterred from voting,” Ben Taleblu told JI. He expects Iran will continue to intensify its efforts up to and beyond Election Day. “The ultimate goal of any of these actors,” he said, “is to have Americans perceive their neighbors to be the enemy, is to have America divided at home, and America rendered impotent to act abroad.”
Bonus:: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced on Thursday that the U.S. had sanctioned three entities, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Quds Force for “having directly or indirectly engaged in, sponsored, concealed, or otherwise been complicit in foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.” The Treasury Department also sanctioned two Iranian media outlets who are under the control of the Quds Force.
University of Illinois faces Title VI complaint over antisemitic incidents
A complaint has been filed with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) against the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign over the university’s handling of antisemitic activity on the campus dating back to 2015, reports Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss.
Details: The complaint, first filed in March by Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights and announced today, charges that university administrators have “simply not provided the community of pro-Israel, Jewish students with a discrimination-free academic environment.” The filed complaint, reviewed by JI, lists nearly a dozen incidents, including defacing and destroying property owned by Jewish fraternities and sororities on the campus, the repeated vandalism of the Chabad House’s menorah and the decision by a university vice chancellor to remove a Jewish student from the school’s elections commission over concerns regarding the student’s opposition to the BDS movement.
Student concerns: “Every time I consider doing something Jewish in public I have to think about who might see it,” University of Illinois senior Lauren Nesher told JI. “Will I get doxxed? Will I be endlessly harassed online like other students have been? Will I be attacked as others have been? There’s been property destruction, and swastikas on campus.”
Washington weighs in: “When you have an event here, an event there, you have an issue, and you need to address it,” Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) told JI. “When you have a series of events, repeatedly and coming time and again, creating an environment where students feel that they can’t wear a Jewish star or yarmulke, can’t celebrate their passion for their faith or for their connections to the State of Israel without being verbally or in some cases physically attacked for it — it’s not an issue, it’s a real problem at that point. And it needs a response that goes across time and isn’t just at that one moment.”
👨🏼🦳 Alter-ego: Huffington Post reporter Kevin Robillard spotlights former Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-DE), the co-chair of Biden’s transition team who is described as the former vice president’s “alter-ego,” but is beloved by many progressives. “His leading role in shaping and staffing the next Democratic presidency gives progressives hope a Biden administration can outperform its leader’s centrist track record.” [HuffPost]
🎨 Life Cut Short:In The Washington Post, critic Michael Dirda reviews a new biography of Max Jacob, a Jewish-born painter, author, poet and close friend of Pablo Picasso, who “could never settle on, or settle for, a single identity” and was killed in the Holocaust. [WashPost]
Around the Web
👴🏻 Thinking Ahead: Sen. Bernie Sanders is reportedly pushing to serve as labor secretary in a future Biden administration.
🗳️ Chosen Voters:High Jewish voter turnout in Florida is buoying the Biden campaign’s hopes of carrying the swing state.
💥 Latest Round:Israel struck sites in Gaza overnight after rocket fire from the Strip was aimed at Israel.
💰 Adjusting: Goldman Sachs will pay upwards of $3 billion and fine its executives $174 million following a settlement over its role in a bribery scandal involving a Malaysian investment fund.
📚 New Endeavor: Molly Stern, the former publisher of Michelle Obama’s memoir who left Crown Publishing after it merged with Random House, is starting her own publishing company, Zando.
⚖️ Under Oath: In a newly unsealed 2016 deposition, Ghislaine Maxwell was asked if Jeffrey Epstein had any connections to the CIA, FBI or Israeli government.
📜 On Board: Albania has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, the first Muslim-majority country to do so.
😠 Going, Going, Gone: Handwritten speech notes by Adolf Hitler were sold at an auction in Munich to anonymous bidders despite protests from Jewish groups.
👎 Bad Optics: North Carolina’s GOP candidate for lieutenant governor is under fire for appearing with a religious figure who has spouted antisemitic tropes.
🚫 Off the Air: A new show on the U.K.’s Sky History channel was canceled after a contestant was discovered to have several neo-Nazi and white supremacist tattoos.
🥪 Last Bite: Zaidy’s Deli in Denver is closing its doors after almost 30 years in business.
Wine of the Week
JI’s wine columnist Yitz Applbaum reviews the 2016 Katzrin Cabernet Sauvignon:
When asked to name my favorite wine, I’m usually hesitant to do so. Last Friday, however, I’m quite certain I identified my second favorite. The 2016 Katzrin Cabernet Sauvignon has an aroma like the barrel rooms of top wineries and engulfs the mouth with velvety deep cherry and plum jam flavors. I recommend tasting it from a large bowl-like glass and swirling it for at least 15 minutes prior. Let this wine breathe for two hours and enjoy with a bbq ribeye and a side of spinach.
Purchase the bottle here.
FRIDAY: Chairman emeritus of the shopping mall developer Simon Property Group and the principal owner of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, Herbert “Herb” Simon turns 86… Distinguished professor of American and Jewish studies at the State University of New York at New Paltz, Gerald Sorin turns 80… Attorney best known for his role as special master for the 9-11 Victim Compensation Fund and for similar roles in a number of mass torts, Kenneth Feinberg turns 75… Filmmaker famous for creating the cult horror “Evil Dead” series, as well as directing the original “Spider-Man” trilogy, Sam Raimi turns 61… Founder and CEO of global outsourcing company TeleTech with 51,000 employees in 22 countries, Kenneth D. Tuchman turns 61… Founder of the New Democrat Network and the New Policy Institute, Simon Rosenberg turns 57… Former editor-in-chief of The New York Observer, Kenneth Kurson turns 52… Filmmaker and talent agent, Trevor Engelson turns 44… Vice president of communal relations at J Street, Shaina Wasserman turns 43… Director of development at Ein Prat – The Midrasha, Ayelet Kahane turns 32… Associate at Hogan Lovells, Annika Lichtenbaum turns 28… Email fundraising strategist at Biden for President, Rachel Shabad turns 28… Chief of staff at Barstool Sports, Allison Rachesky… Richard Rubenstein…
SATURDAY: Genealogist, author and lecturer who specializes in the research of Jewish roots in Poland and the former Soviet Union, Miriam Weiner turns 78… Writer and adjunct instructor at Queensborough Community College, Ira Greenfest turns 77… Stock market analyst, Charles Biderman turns 74… Retired Pentagon official, Judy Gleklen Kopff turns 74… Financial planner and president of Laredo, Texas-based International Asset Management, Joseph Rothstein turns 68… Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Southern California since 1997, Brad Sherman turns 66… Executive editor of The Washington Post since 2013, Marty Baron turns 66… Chattanooga-based CEO of Mohawk Industries, the world’s largest flooring company, Jeffrey S. Lorberbaum turns 66… Program director at the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, Alan Divack turns 64… Co-founder and former CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio, he moved to Israel in 2002, David Margolese turns 63… Producer of CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Henry Schuster turns 63…
Russian oligarch, an active member of the Russian Jewish Congress and a co-founder of the Genesis Prize, German Khan turns 59… Professor of politics at the University of Hull in the UK, Raphael Cohen-Almagor turns 59… Deputy Washington editor of The New York Times and author of (((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump, Jonathan Weisman turns 55… Russian born billionaire, philanthropist and owner of the Premier League’s Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovich turns 54… Co-founder of the Ira Sohn Conference Foundation, Evan Sohn turns 53… Political communications consultant, Tovah Ravitz Meehan turns 51… Founding partner of Be Clear Communications, Matt Lehrich turns 35… Rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer and actor, born to a Jewish mother in Toronto, Aubrey Drake Graham aka Drake turns 34… Executive director at Flatbush Community Fund, Yitzy Weinberg turns 34… The Orthodox Union’s associate director of synagogue services and community engagement, Yehuda Joel Friedman…
SUNDAY: US District Court judge (now on senior status) serving in the Eastern District of New York, Judge Edward R. Korman turns 78… Chief policy and strategy officer of Oscar Insurance, Joel Klein turns 74… Board chair of the Israel Policy Forum since 2016 and president of the Goldman Environmental Foundation, Susan Gelman turns 66… President of Dallas-based SPR Ventures, he serves on the boards of Texas Capital Bancshares and Cinemark, Steven Rosenberg turns 62… Former CEO of the Center for a New American Security, she served as an assistant secretary of state (2013-2017) and held the rank of career ambassador, Victoria Jane Nuland turns 59… Voice actress and singer, best known for voicing Asajj Ventress in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” Nika Futterman turns 51… Television screenwriter and showrunner, best known for running “Grey’s Anatomy,” Krista Vernoff turns 49… Physician, author and public speaker on health issues, Michael Herschel Greger, MD turns 48… Chaplain at Princeton University, Rabbi Eitan Webb turns 43… Sharon Iancu turns 43… Rapper and songwriter, he is Eminem’s official DJ, known professionally as The Alchemist, Daniel Alan Maman turns 43… Singer and songwriter who competed in the ninth season of American Idol in 2010, Vered “Didi” Benami turns 34… Singer and model, Hannah Cohen turns 34… Program officer at San Francisco’s Koret Foundation, Rachel Elana Schonwetter turns 31… …