Good Monday morning!
Over the weekend, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo embarked on a 10-day trip that will include visits to Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to discuss Iran and regional issues.
Pompeo will attend a trilateral summit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Yaakov Katzspeculated that the high-profile visits to the region could indicate the Trump administration is closely coordinating a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in the final weeks of Trump’s presidency.
Israeli Mossad agents reportedly assassinated Al Qaeda’s second-highest ranking leader, Abu Muhammad al-Masri — who helped mastermind the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa — on the streets of Tehran in August at the behest of the United States.
Israel has announced that Eytan Stibbe will become the second-ever Israeli astronaut in space when he deploys to the International Space Station next year.
Israel is moving aheadwith plans to construct new housing in East Jerusalem’s Givat Hamatos neighborhood, with construction bids due two days before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. The U.N. criticized the decision, and EU officials and settlers clashed at the site this morning.
With just a handful of House races still not called, Republican Young Kim beat out Democrat Rep. Gil Cisneros (D-CA) in California’s 39th district, as Rep. Mike Garcia (R-CA) remains just 100 votes ahead of Christy Smith in the state’s 25th district and Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) is slightly ahead of Tom Kean in New Jersey’s 7th.
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Madison Cawthorn arrives in Washington
Madison Cawthorn was in a jubilant mood on election night, and for good reason. The 25-year-old Republican upstart defeated his Democratic opponent, retired Air Force Colonel Moe Davis, in the race to represent a district in western North Carolina. Although Cawthorn has never held elected office or worked full-time in government, he had convinced a majority of voters to send him to Congress next year, making him the youngest U.S. representative in decades. “It was freakin’ awesome,” Cawthorn recalled in an interview yesterday with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel from Washington, D.C., where he is attending freshman orientation for new House members through Saturday. “I mean, the mood was just electric.”
Crying foul: The first thing he did, according to a post on his Instagram page published the following day, was bow his head in prayer and “give glory to God.” But the first thing many outside his immediate orbit saw was a short but provocative tweet that was far less conciliatory than the seemingly inclusive message he had preached throughout his campaign. “Cry more, lib,” Cawthorn wrote at 9:24 p.m., just a few minutes after the election had been called. For many who read it, Cawthorn’s message was an indication that the young conservative had yet to settle into his role as a congressman-elect. But in an interview on Saturday afternoon, Cawthorn sought to dispel that impression and admitted that, “in the heat of victory,” he had gone too far.
Taking it back: “I’m a fierce competitor, always have been, love competition, love really getting into it,” he told JI. “Even with my brothers, I love talking smack, you know, that kind of thing.” Still, he made sure to note that the tweet wasn’t directed at Davis, with whom he said he has not spoken since claiming victory. “I will say that it was directed at a sect of the liberal party that has really bought into cancel culture,” Cawthorn said. “There’s just been so much, you know, blatant lies about me, specifically when it comes to questions of Nazism and racism.”
Background: The North Carolina native weathered a tumultuous campaign as he struggled to fend off accusations of racism, antisemitism and white nationalism along with allegations of sexual impropriety. Perhaps most notably, Cawthorn came under scrutiny for a July 2017 social media post in which he appeared to glorify Adolf Hitler during a visit to the Nazi leader’s former mountain chalet, referring to him as “the Führer.” Cawthorn told JI he has been making efforts to commune with the Jewish community in his district but because services are online, he has been unsuccessful so far.
New to the Hill: Cawthorn said he was impressed by the new congressional class. “We have some real rock stars,” he told JI. “It’s a diverse field. You’ve got the charismatic people who can really carry a message and communicate with broad spectrums of the American people about what our mission is. You also have some really great thought leaders. You have a few people who are mixtures of those two. And it’s so diverse. There’s so many young patriotic women in our conference this year.” He hasn’t had the chance to speak with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), for whom he has expressed admiration despite taking issue with her policies. “I’m looking forward to it, though, for sure,” he told JI. “Disagree with just about everything she believes in, but I think that we need more people of conviction.”
Bonus: Congressman-elect Ritchie Torres (D-NY) toldBloomberg’s Eli Lake that “the progressive position is to promote a Jewish state and a Palestinian state, not to end the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.”
New FIDF head takes charge at height of fundraising challenges
Rabbi Steven Weil has his work cut out for him. The new head of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces began his job six months into the global pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the philanthropic world at a time when the organization’s fundraising efforts were already on the decline. Weil knows the organization needs to shift its messaging in order to survive. “The perception of the FIDF is that it’s a military organization,” Weil told Jewish Insider’s Debra Nussbaum Cohen. “We’re not. We’re about education, diversity, about welfare and spirituality and social justice,” he said. “This is connecting Jew to Jew.”
Making ends meet: Weil, who started at FIDF on September 15, said he can’t explain why — aside from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — there has been such a dramatic decrease in fundraising. FIDF, which just two years ago brought in $133 million in a year, is only expecting to raise $60 million this year, he said. But the decline in donations has not meant a decline in requests from the IDF, which Weil acknowledges he may fail to meet. In a typical year, FIDF provides services to 8,000 current and recent members of the IDF. That support ranges from providing holiday ritual items to assisting wounded veterans with medical and health services that Israel’s Defense Ministry is not always able to provide.
Higher needs:Unemployment in Israel has risen significantly because of the pandemic’s impact on the economy. One FIDF program provides food vouchers to soldiers whose family income falls below or near Israel’s poverty line. This year, FIDF provided $1.4 million to that program, said Weil. For 2021, the IDF has asked the FIDF for $8 million to fill that need. “I don’t know that we can do it,” Weil said.
Going virtual: FIDF’s most successful fundraising events, galas hosted throughout the country, used to bring in tens of millions of dollars. “It’s not the same without the gala and the people in person announcing gifts,” said Ruth Schwalbe, the daughter of FIDF founder John Klein, who was a Holocaust survivor, in an interview. Schwalbe, whose family is in commercial real estate, continues to support FIDF. Today “there’s not much room for charity, especially in the real estate field.” Weil said that media mogul Haim Saban, the single largest donor to FIDF, “as a mentor has been very helpful,” adding that Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson “are also significant donors.”
Optimism:In non-pandemic times, the FIDF brings hundreds of Israeli soldiers and commanders to the U.S. for the galas and parlor meetings. It also brings hundreds of American Jews and Christians to visit Israeli military bases. “That hasn’t taken place since early February, and that is a factor and challenge in fundraising,” Weil said. At the galas, big donors are often inspired to make new gifts, or announce gifts they have already committed. Virtual events don’t inspire the same level of generosity, noted Weil. But “coming out of COVID, we’re very optimistic about the future.”
heard on tv
Christiane Amanpour criticized for Kristallnacht comparison
CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour came under fire over the weekend for comments she made on her TV program comparing Kristallnacht to the Trump presidency, even garnering a rebuke from the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Her words: “This week, 82 years ago, Kristallnacht happened,” Amanpour said on air last week. “It was the Nazis’ warning shot across the bow of our human civilization that led to genocide against a whole identity and, in that tower of burning books, it led to an attack on fact, knowledge, history and proof,” she said, without specifically noting the Jewish victims of the pogrom. “After four years of a modern-day assault on those same values by Donald Trump, the Biden-Harris team pledges a return to norms, including the truth.”
Pushback: Israeli Consul-General in Atlanta Anat Sultan-Dadon wrote a letter yesterday to CNN calling for Amanpour and the network to apologize, and Israeli Diaspora Minister Omer Yankelevitch penned a letter demanding an apology and decrying the “belittling of the immense tragedy of the Holocaust.” Neither CNN nor Amanpour have publicly acknowledged or addressed the criticism as of Monday morning.
Critics: White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany tweeted Saturday that Amanpour “must immediately apologize for trivializing the Holocaust & the tragic genocide of millions of Jews” as well as apologize to Trump, “the most pro-Israel President in history.” Jerusalem Post reporter Lahav Harkov said Amanpour’s statement “minimizes the Holocaust and amplifies its denial,” while U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer claimed that “Never before in the history of U.S. news networks did a journalist distort the Holocaust for political purposes as Amanpour just did on CNN & PBS.”
✍️ In Context: In an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, former President Barack Obama said: “I think Bibi is a fascinating character the same way that Putin is a fascinating character. I think you can’t understand them, or Russia or Israel, without looking at the history out of which they arose, what shaped them… My hope is that there is going to be some young future politician in Israel who is reading this book and is reading for this context and sees that I’m paying attention to this context.” [TheAtlantic]
🏪 Making Amends: Thomas Edelmann, a German businessman, recently tracked down Hanna Ehrenreich, an 83-year-old retired teacher in Israel, to apologize for the actions of his grandfather Wilhelm, a Nazi who forced her grandfather to sell his store before the Holocaust. After a friendly phone call, Edelmann agreed to visit Israel in the near future. [CNN]
💉 On Target:In Wired, Christopher Cox highlights how vaccines could target COVID-19 super-spreaders — like New Rochelle patient zero Lawrence Garbuz — to most effectively stem the disease’s spread. Israeli physicist Shlomo Havlin proposed such a model during the 2003 SARS outbreak. [Wired]
📺 Finding Faith:NBC News anchor Savannah Guthrie toldThe New York Times’s Sridhar Pappu that she and her husband are raising their children with both Christian and Jewish traditions. “Having a faith really helps you know your place in the world… believing in a compassionate God, just absolutely spreads through everything I feel and the way I look at the world.” [NYTimes]
📝 Pain and Poetry:The New Yorker’s Ruth Franklin explores the now-translated poetry of Paul Celan, a Holocaust survivor who “reconceived language for a post-Holocaust world,” including poems in which “a more searing indictment of God’s absence during the Holocaust — a topic of much analysis by theologians in the decades since — can hardly be imagined.” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
💥 Fighting Fire: Israel struck several Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Sunday in response to rocket fire from Gaza.
🛬 Mixed Feelings: Palestinians have mixed feelings toward the expected boost of Emirati tourism to Muslim holy sites following the recently signed Abraham Accords with Israel.
✈️ Airborne: The UAE’s Etihad Airways is beginning daily flights between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv starting in March.
🙅♂️Blocked: Twitter suspended Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh for violating its policy against impersonation, while the ministry claims the move was linked to U.S. sanctions.
😯On Defense: Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman reportedly defended President Donald Trump’s legal challenge of the election results in a CEO meeting last week.
🎖️ Loose Tongue: Retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, who was appointed senior advisor to acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, once accused Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of getting rich from “the Israeli lobby.”
👴🏻 No Commitment: In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would not commit to joining Biden’s cabinet if he is offered a position.
🌿 Higher Authority: Israel plans to legalize recreational marijuana over the next year, according to Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn.
🎅 Ho Ho Ho: Israel’s Tourism Ministry sent Santa Claus to the middle of the Dead Sea on a paddle board — with a Christmas tree — to promote Christmas cheer.
🚑 You’re Fired: Magen David Adom fired an Israeli medic for spitting on portraits of Jesus outside the home of a Christian patient in Tel Aviv.
💸 New Platform: Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of hedge fund investor Robert Mercer, is among the financial backers of Parler, a new social media platform popular among conservatives.
🛍️ Big Deal: David Simon’s Simon Property Group is set to purchase rival mall operator Taubman Centers.
💼 Expanded Portfolio: According to DealBook, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon announced this morning that Dina Powell McCormick is adding a new role to her portfolio: head of Goldman’s burgeoning sustainability programs.
💊 Big Buy: David Rubenstein’s Carlyle Group is investing more than $250 million in digital pharmacy Pharmapacks.
🏀 Game Time: Serbian-Israeli Deni Avdija has been named one of the top international draft picks ahead of Wednesday’s NBA draft, and an ESPN mock draft projected the Atlanta Hawks will choose the 19-year old forward with the sixth pick in the draft.
🙏🏻 Pandemic Prayer:The New York Timesspotlights how houses of worship, including The Jewish Center in Manhattan, are weathering the COVID-19 pandemic.
✍️ Transition:New York Times columnist Roger Cohen reflected on his long journalistic career in his final opinion piece before departing to head the Times’s bureau in Paris: “Trees have roots. Jews have legs. Displacement is hard. A new land is also the loss of the old.”
🕍 Helping Hand: U.K. Labour Party leader Keir Starmer visited a synagogue in North London yesterday to participate in a “Mitzvah Day” event.
🥃 L’Chaim:The New York Timesspotlighted Dutch’s Spirits, a thriving upstate New York distillery named for 1920s bootlegger Dutch Schultz — real name Arthur Flegenheimer.
🕯️Remembering: British entertainer and TV host Des O’Connor died at age 88.
Pic of the Day
The Fresh Market in Dubai’s Ras Al Khor industrial area opened its first-ever display of Israeli produce, with the attendance of Israeli and United Arab Emirates officials, on Saturday.
After 15 seasons in the NBA, he became an owner and later a player for Hapoel Jerusalem and won Israeli League championships with Hapoel and Maccabi Tel Aviv, he signed last month with the Brooklyn Nets as a player development assistant and his formal conversion to Judaism was completed this past August, Amar’e Stoudemire turns 38…
Retired justice on the Supreme Court of Canada, Morris Fish turns 82… Roxanne White turns 72… Milwaukee-based founder and co-managing director of A.B. Data, Ltd, he is chair of the Pincus Fund for Jewish Education, Bruce A. Arbit turns 66… Professional golfer who has played on the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour starting in 1982, he won two gold medals at the 1981 Maccabiah Games, Corey Pavin turns 61… Former co-chair of Jewish World Watch’s Lemkin Summit, Susan Brooks turns 57… TV and film writer and producer, he was an executive producer of Fox’s “Fringe” and co-writer of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” Jeff Pinkner turns 56… Executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition since 1990, Matt Brooks turns 55… SVP of national programs at Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, Rabbi Justus Baird turns 48… Author of several novels and book columnist for The Washington Post, Lavie Tidhar turns 44… Senior managing director at TIAA, Michael A. Levi turns 43… 1994 Olympic gold medalist in figure skating, Oksana Baiul turns 43… Stage, film and television actress, she is the older sister of actor Jake Gyllenhaal, Margalit Ruth “Maggie” Gyllenhaal turns 43… Actress, producer and TV host, Adi Ezroni turns 42… Deputy director of project strategy and management at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Allie Shisgal…