Good Monday morning!
Join Jewish Insider and the American Jewish Committee for an online candidate forum today at 5 p.m. ET. We’ll be speaking with Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) and Republican challenger David Richter, who are competing in New Jersey’s 3rd congressional district.
Israel and Bahrain formally signed a peace agreement in Manama yesterday, following the first El Al flight to the Gulf nation from Israel. A senior U.S. delegation, headed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Mideast peace envoy Avi Berkowitz, was also on hand.
Mnuchin and Berkowitz headed to the United Arab Emirates from Bahrain for meetings and will return to Israel with a delegation of senior UAE officials on Tuesday.
In an interview with Rolling Stone last week, former Secretary of State John Kerry praised the Trump-brokered Israel-UAE deal, but insisted: “this has been in the making for a number of years now. I talked many times about reducing the sort of crazy hangover of lack of socialization between these countries.” Kerry also added, “it’s not peace in the Middle East. Nobody should pretend that. It has nothing to do with the Palestinians.”
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat — a lung transplant recipient — is in a medically induced coma after contracting COVID-19. He is being treated at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomospoke with Jewish community leaders yesterday in an effort to decrease tensions between New York’s Orthodox Jewish community and the state government. Hamodia published several audio clips of the conversation.
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Jewish Al Smith Dinner
The 2020 campaign trail comes to a Detroit yeshiva dinner
Fresh off dueling town halls last week, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden made back-to-back appearances via pre-recorded video at a Sunday evening virtual event hosted by Yeshiva Beth Yehudah, a Jewish day school in suburban Detroit. The yeshiva’s “Evening of Unity” event, normally held as an annual dinner in downtown Detroit, typically draws high-profile keynote speakers. Biden, who spoke at the 2011 dinner, harkened back to his last appearance, noting “a lot has changed since we were last together.”
On theme: Biden said that the theme of the evening’s event reminded him of his relationship with the late Sen. John McCain, who was the yeshiva’s keynote speaker in 2006. “We had plenty of disagreements,” Biden said of McCain. “We always found a way to come together to do what was best for our nation, respecting each other, treating each other with respect. That’s exactly the kind of thing we’re celebrating tonight, the same spirit of the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam — repairing the world.”
Winning message: Trump praised the school, the oldest Jewish educational institution in the state, as well as its largest — “I have so many friends that know it well. And they said, ‘You have to do this message, you must do it.’ And when they say, ‘do it,’ I do it.” The bulk of the president’s message covered his administration’s Middle East policy achievements, including the U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and having “eradicated” the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and “obliterated ISIS and Al Qaeda.”
Open minds: Also appearing briefly was the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, who encouraged attendees to approach the Middle East and the UAE with an open mind. “I would urge people to dismiss, or at least second guess, your stereotypes of our part of the world. We’re not all the same,” he said. “We don’t all harbor the same views. So get to know us. This is an opening. This is a chance of getting to know an entire country, society, and their values and their history and their culture.”
race to watch
First-term Cunningham gains upper hand in battleground South Carolina district
Republicans had high hopes that the party would be able to take back South Carolina’s 1st congressional district this election. They had a candidate with an impressive resume and solid financial support, a district that President Donald Trump won by 12 points and a first-term incumbent who had been elected by just 1.4 points. But three weeks out from Election Day, Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) appears to have secured a solid lead over Republican state Rep. Nancy Mace, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
By the numbers: A new poll commissioned by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee found Cunningham leading Mace by 13 points, and race handicappers including the Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ballhave moved the race from “Tossup” to “Lean Democratic” in recent weeks. But Mace’s campaign disputes the results of the DCCC poll. “Right on cue, after blockbuster Q3 fundraising that breaks national records for amount raised over D incumbents, the DCCC comes out with a polling memo that defies science,” Mace campaign manager Mara Mellstrom told JI. “This race is a toss-up and all interested parties are acting accordingly… Believe your eyes — not a selectively leaked hack poll designed to scare money away at the close.”
Money race: Mace raised $2.3 million in the third quarter of 2020, while Cunningham raised $1.8 million. This gives Mace a cash on hand advantage going into the final month of the election — Mace has $1.7 million on hand compared to Cunningham’s $1.2 million, The State reported. Still, Gibbs Knotts, a political science professor at the College of Charleston, credited Cunningham’s fundraising and “really effective commercials” for his success in widening the polling gap between himself and Mace. “[He’s] somebody who’s really about not being super ideological,” Knotts told Jewish Insider. “That message has been able to get out, and he’s been able to tell that story a bit more.”
Iran deal watch
O’Brien: Trump reelection will force Iran to return to talks
National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien suggested on Friday that Iran will be forced to return to the negotiation table to stave off economic pressure if President Donald Trump is reelected in November. O’Brien spoke at the virtual Aspen Institute Project Play Summit 2020 in conversation with former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley.
Playing a time game: “Right now they’re waiting this out,” O’Brien said about the Iranians holding off to see who wins the U.S. presidential race. “We’re being told that by European countries that are friendly with Iran, and even countries that aren’t friendly but maintain diplomatic relations. The Iranians are waiting to see what happens on Election Day… Iran would very much prefer a different administration. They’d like to go back to the JCPOA days. Those were kind of halcyon days for the Islamic Republic, and we won’t go there if the president is reelected. So we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the election. But I do think that if the president is reelected, the economic pain that’s been inflicted on Iran right now is grave. I don’t think they’ll be able to sustain it much longer… They can hang in there for another month or two. We don’t think they can hang in there for another four years. So I think that they are going to come to the table.”
Red lines: O’Brien outlined the preconditions the Trump administration will insist on in future talks with Tehran. “We need to see a dismantling of their nuclear program which didn’t happen under the JCPOA,” O’Brien said. “A peaceful civilian program with parameters and guidelines around it is something that could be on the table, but this nuclear program that’s held in reserve and bunkers underground, that’s not an option. Long-range ballistic missiles whereby Iran can threaten Europe, Britain and the United States, that has to be off the table. And support for terrorists in the region has to be off the table.”
Knowing my neighbors: O’Brien, a native of Los Angeles, noted that there is a large “successful” Persian-American community in his home state, in drawing a distinction between the current Iranian regime and the people of Iran. “Iran has unlimited potential if the regime would unlock it for its people,” he emphasized.
Bonus: Tony Blinken, a senior foreign policy advisor to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Sunday that Biden “starts with the proposition that we need to reassert American engagement and American leadership. We would actually show up again, day in day out, leading with diplomacy. And not to address the world as it was in 2009 or 2017 when we left office, but as it is and as we anticipated it will become.”
Sacha Baron Cohen explains his political activism
Actor Sacha Baron Cohen granted a rare interview — not as one of his many personas — to The New York Times’s Maureen Dowd, to discuss his new “Borat” sequel, his activities on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League against antisemitism and Holocaust denial and his portrayal of activist Abbie Hoffman.
Speaking out: Baron Cohen gave a speech last year at the ADL’s “Never is Now” summit, something he said told Dowd was “completely out of my comfort zone,” because “I’ve always been reluctant to be a celebrity and I’ve always been wary of using my fame to push any political views, really.” He added that “it was the first time I’d ever given a major speech in my own voice but I felt like I had to ring the alarm bell and say that democracy is in peril this year. I felt, even if it was going to destroy my career and people are going to come at me and say, ‘Just shut up, the last thing we need is another celebrity telling us what to do’ — I fully understand people who do that — I felt I needed to do that to live with myself.”
Borat, revisited: A great deal has changed, Baron Cohen said, since he made the first “Borat” film 15 years ago. “In 2005, you needed a character like Borat who was misogynist, racist, antisemitic to get people to reveal their inner prejudices,” he said. “Now those inner prejudices are overt. Racists are proud of being racists.’’ Baron Cohen said his goal with the film’s sequel, slated for release on Amazon Prime this week, “was not to expose racism and antisemitism. The aim is to make people laugh, but we reveal the dangerous slide to authoritarianism.”
Family history: Baron Cohen said his late father watched Trump on the campaign trail in 2016 with a great deal of concern. “I said, ‘What do you think of him?’ He said, ‘Two things. He’s extremely entertaining. Far more entertaining than Hillary [Clinton]. Two, he’s a fascist.’ My dad was born in 1932. He’d seen fascists on the streets, Mosley’s Blackshirts beating up Jews. And he knew what fascism was.” Baron Cohen said his grandmother Liesel, a ballerina, fled Germany in 1936, settling in Israel and working as a fitness instructor. Baron Cohen filmed her lessons for an exercise video — “and would send her a bouquet of flowers every week until she died.”
Access to Gan Eden: Baron Cohen confirmed that he gave a Zoom toast at Larry David’s recent wedding to Ashley Underwood, who was a producer on “Who Is America?,” his recent HBO miniseries. “Me and my wife introduced him to her at my birthday party,” he said. “Together, we have set up three weddings.”
💍 Losing its Sparkle:The New York Times’s Alyson Krueger explores how New York City’s Diamond District is struggling amid the pandemic, with tourism and in-store sales down, and mask tensions high among many shop owners. [NYTimes]
💰 Doing Good:Daniel Loeb, the CEO of Third Point LLC, writes in The Wall Street Journal about the need for effective, hands-on philanthropy. “Effective philanthropy requires rolling up your sleeves and engaging as a builder, and sometimes as a public activist, to call attention to injustices.” [WSJ]
🕍 Synagogue Builder:In The New York Post, Jon Levine tells the story of how Fred Trump, Donald Trump’s father, donated the land and much of the building costs to finance the Beach Haven Jewish Center in Brooklyn in the 1950s. [NYPost]
🤳 Getting Political:The Wall Street Journal’s Deepa Seetharaman and Emily Glazer dive deep into Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent crash course in politics, including his now-frequent interactions with Jared Kushner, and newly “forged ties” with commentator Ben Shapiro. Zuckerberg’s “greater involvement in politics shifted the dynamic between him and Ms. Sandberg, his longtime second in command.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
💸 Chipping In: Oracle chairman and founder Larry Ellison donated $250,000 to the Security Is Strength super PAC supporting Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — on the same day his company was chosen as TikTok’s U.S. provider, a deal Graham supported.
💵 Dropping Cash:World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder is pouring $4 million into supporting Republicans running in six state Senate races in New York.
🛬 Red Zone:Israel will now require travelers from the United Kingdom to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival after a sharp rise in cases in the U.K.
🏗️ Inside Look:Bloomberg reporter Ivan Levingston takes a closer look at how the coronavirus could be a catalyst for Israel’s haredi community to move away from ultra-Orthodox population centers in the country.
📈 Startup Nation: The Israel-based, Chinese-owned Playtika gaming company has filed for a U.S. IPO.
😷 Red Wave:Doctors toldThe Wall Street Journal that the recent COVID-19 spike in Brooklyn could be linked to residents who spent the summer on the shores of Deal, N.J.
⚖️ In Court: County and state officials have filed a lawsuit against a school in Kiryas Joel that is operating in violation of COVID-19 restrictions.
⛓️ Hate Attack: A 14-year-old boy was arrested on Friday and charged with a hate crime for attacking a Los Angeles rabbi during Sukkot.
😲 Across the Sea: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán accused his country’s largest Jewish group, Mazsihisz, of ignoring antisemitism for failing to speak out against a far-right candidate who previously made antisemitic remarks.
🎭 On the Stage: A play about the horrors of the Auschwitz and Plaszow concentration camps premiered over the weekend at the Jewish State Theater in Bucharest.
📦 Rightful Heir:A Maryland man recovered a 16th-century brass kettle that his grandparents were forced to sell to the Nazis 86 years ago, before they were murdered in the Holocaust.
📋 Paper Trail: The Jewish National Fund has been battling for years to revise an Israeli government-commissioned report that details major irregularities in the organization’s actions.
👩 Transition:Ariel Zwang, previously the CEO of Safe Horizon, was appointed CEO of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the first woman in JDC’s history to hold the position.
🕯️ Remembering:The Star Tribune’s sports columnist, Sid Hartman, died at age 100. Jim Feezel, a U.S. soldier who drove a tank through the front gate of Dachau to liberate prisoners, died at age 95. Paul Schultz, a resident of Illinois who fostered and found homes for 118 greyhounds, died at age 79.
Co-owner of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and English soccer club Manchester United, Avram A. “Avie” Glazer turns 60…
South African-born developmental biologist, Lewis Wolpert turns 91… Former CEO of Aramark Corporation and currently the chairman of the University of Chicago’s Board of Trustees, Joseph Neubauer turns 79… Founder and former ringmaster of the Big Apple Circus, Paul Binder turns 78… Writer and former Israeli ambassador, Yoram Ettinger turns 75… Ob-Gyn at the Center for Fetal Medicine in Los Angeles, Lawrence David Platt, MD turns 73… Retired hospitality executive, Michelle Fischler turns 72… Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, she directs the journalism program at MIT, Deborah Blum turns 66… Founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist turns 64… Member of Knesset, former mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat turns 61… Author, social psychologist and professor at New York University, Jonathan David Haidt turns 57…
Chief rabbi of Ukraine since 1990, he has also served as a VP of the World Jewish Congress, Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich turns 56… Founder of Global Policy Initiatives where he is now an advisory board member, Jay Footlik turns 55… Ritual coordinator at Congregation Emanu El in Houston, Shira Kosoy Moses turns 54… Actor, director, producer and screenwriter, his television production company is Golem Creations, Jon Favreau turns 54… Recent mayor of Portland, Maine, Ethan King Strimling turns 53… Editor-in-chief of Input, Joshua Ryan Topolsky turns 43… Film director, screenwriter and producer, Jason R. Reitman turns 43… VP of development and strategic Initiatives at itrek, Evan Majzner turns 38… David Ochs turns 37… Pittsburgh-based marketing director for Weatherman Umbrella, Lindsay Applebaum turns 35… Founder of iTrade[dot]TV, equities trader and financial marketer, Elie Litvin turns 28…