Good Tuesday morning!
President-elect Joe Biden will introduce Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen and his other appointees to key economic positions in Wilmington, Delaware, later today.
David Cohen, a senior executive vice president at Comcast and chair of the board of trustees at the University of Pennsylvania, is reportedly the frontrunner to become the next U.S. ambassador to the U.K.
Yesterday, a senior Iranian official accused an opposition group of collaborating with Israel on the killing of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
Israel is likely headed toward an early election in March, as Blue and White appears to be in favor of dispersing the Knesset in a no-confidence vote slated for tomorrow. Meanwhile, Blue and White is expected to advance legislation on equal rights to bolster its legislative record ahead of a tough election campaign.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)reportedly tried to recruit Stacey Abrams to run in the special Senate election in Georgia, but Abrams insisted that Rev. Raphael Warnock was the best choice.
In California, Rep. Mike Garcia (R-CA) narrowly beat out Democrat Christy Smith in the state’s 25th district, while in New York, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) officially beat Democrat Nancy Goroff and Rep. John Katko (R-NY) defeated Democrat Dana Balter.
Meanwhile, Iowa has certified Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks as the winner over Democrat Rita Hart in the state’s 2nd district by just six votes, which Hart has vowed to legally challenge. And in the only uncalled House race, former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) is leading incumbent Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) by just 12 votes in New York’s 22nd district, with a couple thousand disputed ballots set to decide the race.
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Rep. Tom Malinowski dishes on former JCC teammate Tony Blinken
It took just over two weeks for Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) to be formally declared the winner in New Jersey’s 7th district election. The Associated Press called the race for Malinowski hours after polls closed, but his lead over State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. shrank from an initial 28,000 votes to just 5,314 — a 1% margin — by November 24. The first-term incumbent is, nonetheless, satisfied with the win. In an interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh on the eve of Thanksgiving, Malinowski sounded relieved. “I had a tougher challenge than many people,” said Malinowski, one of roughly a dozen Democrats reelected in districts that went for President Donald Trump. “[The Republicans] really put up a strong opponent, spent a lot of money. So I feel like we overcame a lot.”
Among friends: Malinowski is also grateful that during his second term, he will serve both in the House majority and alongside a White House he feels he can work with, opening the door to collaborate on issues important to the New Jersey congressman. President-elect Joe Biden’s recently announced pick for secretary of state, Tony Blinken, has only added to the New Jersey congressman’s excitement. Malinowski and Blinken are longtime colleagues, having served together under former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Team players: Malinowski and Blinken were also teammates on the Edlavitch Jewish Community Center of Washington, D.C.’s indoor soccer team. Last week, when reports emerged that Blinken had been nominated to be the country’s top diplomat, Malinowski tweeted a photo of the team after their only championship win, from the winter of 2005, with the caption: “[Blinken] will be joining the best foreign policy team since this one… which was undefeated!” Malinowski gleefully bragged to JI: “You don’t realize. This is a great honor for you — you are talking to the goalie of the D.C. Jewish community center championship indoor soccer team.” The congressman added: “We were just awesome. We were just so good,” he said of the team, which also included former Obama administration officials Robert Malley and Philip Gordon.
Behind closed doors: Malinowski shared with JI that while serving in the Clinton White House, he and Blinken “teamed up” to write “parody versions of famous songs, where we changed the lyrics to make fun of our foreign policy” and “directed a couple of self-parody movies together.” When pressed, Malinowski declined to leak the revised lyrics or share footage of the films — at least not before Blinken’s Senate confirmation. The two friends later “revived the band” when they served together in the State Department under Obama. “Tony and I share a sense of humor about the world, a belief that the more serious your job, the more important it is to find some humor in it,” Malinowski explained.
Word of caution: In the interview, Malinowski cautioned that the Israeli government “has to understand that there are going to be significant changes” in the Biden administration’s approach to the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia. “I think it would be a very serious mistake for the Israeli government to think that they can somehow shield a guy like [Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] from that change, solely because he has — for pragmatic and self-interest reasons — moved closer to the Israeli perspective on some issues,” Malinowski warned. “This is an administration that is going to care about human rights, for example. It is going to care about the plight of civilians in Yemen. It’s not going to tolerate governments in the Middle East that kidnapped and chopped to pieces journalists,” referencing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. According to Malinowski, the recent secret meeting between bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is not an alignment that is in Israel’s medium- to long-term interests.”
Bonus: NPR’s Greg Myre profiles Avril Haines, Biden’s nominee for director of national intelligence, from her childhood on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to her judo studies in Japan, her piloting adventures and her entry into government work.
on the hill
Trump admin officials testify before Senate panel on UAE F-35 sale
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee received a closed briefing on Monday evening about the Trump administration’s plan to sell F-35 fighter jets and other weaponry to the United Arab Emirates. Assistant Secretary of State R. Clarke Cooper, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker and Michael Cutrone, who served as Vice President Mike Pence’s top national security aide for South Asia and is now head of the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon, testified behind closed doors.
Background: Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified Congress that the administration approved a $23.3 billion arms deal with the UAE that includes the sale of 50 F-35 fighter jets and 18 advanced armed drone systems. Though Congress is not required to approve the sale, there are concerted efforts, primarily from congressional Democrats, to block the deal. Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a Senate bill aimed at blocking or delaying the F-35 sale, and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) introduced a similar bill in the House. Menendez, along with Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) also introduced a series of bipartisan resolutions expressing disapproval of the arms sales.
Letter to my colleagues: Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) announced his support for the sale yesterday and urged his former colleagues to approve the Trump administration’s deal. “The U.S. government has made a bipartisan commitment to protect Israel’s qualitative military edge while also providing technology to important partners like the Emirates that are actively contributing to the expansion of peace in the region,” Lieberman, the current chairman of the advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, explained in a statement. Lieberman added that the UAE has been a longtime U.S. ally, and that the recent developments between the UAE, Israel and Bahrain, advanced through the Abraham Accords, “should be nurtured and expanded by both political parties in Washington in the years ahead.”
Will magic save the National Museum of American Jewish History?
Two important things are happening at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia this month, both of which, if successful, will require a disappearing act. Magician David Copperfield will perform sleights of hand at an online event celebrating his and Harry Houdini’s induction into the museum’s Hall of Fame. And just a few days later, the museum’s last scheduled bankruptcy hearing will take place, reports Jewish Insider’s Debra Nussbaum Cohen.
Court hearing:Museum leadership is hoping that the judge in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will discharge about $20 million of the $30 million in debt it owes to Bridgehampton National Bank and a dozen bond holders. Another half million dollars, museum leaders say, is owed to unsecured creditors, including the companies that provide security and cleaning services to the museum.
Disappearing debt:If the museum is relieved of two-thirds of its debt, leaders are hopeful it will be able to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy and allow the non-profit to establish firm financial footing. “We should be able to exit bankruptcy around the end of the year or early next year, and it would be with significantly less debt than we have now,” Philip Darivoff, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees, told Jewish Insider. But Misha Galperin, the museum’s CEO, admitted that it will be an uphill battle: “David Copperfield won’t make our debt disappear,” he said.
Constant struggles:From the beginning, operations, as well as construction, cost more than had been budgeted, and money meant to pay down the construction debt instead went to cover those costs, Darivoff told JI. “It is a common problem with most museums,” Darivoff said. “The operations and annual fundraising of the museum is not sufficient to pay for the entire cost of the museum. The difference is typically provided by endowments which produce annual income to support the operations, and many are supported by federal, state and local governments.” On top of that, he pointed out, “we were just coming out of the great financial recession [of 2008] when we opened. It wasn’t the best environment for raising funds.”
Optimism ahead:“I had hoped to get the money I invested in the bonds back with interest,” said Darivoff, who is a chairman of Vibrant Capital, a New York City firm specializing in structured credit, and who personally contributed $1.2 million to the museum’s bond issue. “It hasn’t turned out as I had hoped. I am prioritizing not just the viability of the museum, but for the museum to have a flourishing future. I hope through this bankruptcy that we come to a solution that provides for that flourishing future.”
scene last night
Annual UJA-Fed dinner honors Marc Rowan and Aryeh Bourkoff
The UJA-Federation of New York held its annual Wall Street Dinner virtually last night, raising $31 million. Apollo Global Management co-founder Marc Rowan received the Gustave L. Levy Award, while LionTree founder and chairman Aryeh Bourkoff received the Alan C. Greenberg Young Leadership Award. While the event focused heavily on UJA’s efforts in the community, all of the evening’s speakers addressed the rise of antisemitism in the United States.
COVID comparison: Writer Bari Weiss, the event’s keynote speaker, called antisemitism “a virus that travels in the immune system or that travels in the kind of DNA, if you will, of Western civilization. If you put it that way, it sounds really scary. But the good news is that when the immune system of a given society or given culture is strong, just like with a virus, it doesn’t express itself,” Weiss explained. “It’s when the immune system of a society is weakened, and the immune system of America right now is weakened in all kinds of ways, antisemitism begins to express itself. Also, like a virus, antisemitism is always mutating. It’s extremely, extremely resilient, probably more resilient in the end than this current coronavirus.”
Strength in numbers: Rowan encouraged the Jewish community to heal internal divisions before they have external consequences. “In my opinion, the Jewish community in the U.S. at the moment is weak. We are weak not because we should be, not because there’s some structural impediment to us being strong as a community,” he said. “We are weak because we are divided. If one looks back in history, history has not been kind to the Jews when they are divided. The divisions that I’m focused on are divisions of politics, divisions of culture, and divisions of level of observance, each of which, in their own way, has led to a fracturing of the Jewish community and the Jewish voice.”
Looking ahead: Bourkoff cited the recently signed normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates in providing a positive outlook. “Optimism does not require averting our gaze. It demands looking closer and seeing even further. We need to go forward to extraordinary, not back to normal. Let us take not only what we can carry, but what will carry us,” Bourkoff said. “The rest — injustice, stagnation, the rank or the status quo — we leave behind. Just a few weeks ago, I visited the Arabian Peninsula in the wake of the Abraham Accords, experiencing how an ancient civilization and a young country embraces the future. I saw fruit in a market in Dubai that was grown in Israel. Sometimes progress looks like a grapefruit. And sometimes it looks like the prime minister of Israel, visiting Saudi Arabia and meeting with its crown prince. The world becomes smaller when horizons become larger.”
⏱️ For the Moment: Former Israeli government officials tellWashington Post reporters Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s current strategy is to leverage President Donald Trump’s unpredictability in the remaining weeks of his administration to target Iran without facing retaliation — and while benefiting from it politically. [WashPost]
👩👦 Parental Battles: In The New Yorker, Larissa MacFarquhar details the struggles that many individuals who leave the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community endure, including losing custody of their children, and spotlights the organization, Footsteps, that serves them. [NewYorker]
👩🎤 Opening Up:In an interview with T: The New York Times Style Magazine, singer and icon Barbra Streisand discusses in detail her lifelong musical career, dating back to her childhood, as well as her political activism during the Trump era and her excitement over a Biden presidency. [NYTimes]
👨⚕️ Health Struggles:In The San Francisco Chronicle, Jill Tucker spoke to Dr. Taylor Nichols, a Jewish physician who struggled to feel compassion for a likely COVID-19 patient he recently treated whose chest was emblazoned with a swastika tattoo. [SFChronicle]
Around the Web
👩 2024 Watch:Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley tweeted an op-ed countering former President Barack Obama’s view on Israel as reflected in his new memoir, adding that it’s “not surprising that President Obama misstates and distorts Israeli history in his book.”
🔎 In the Spotlight: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a moderate Democrat who almost quit politics last year, is anticipating becoming a consequential figure in a sharply divided Senate.
💰 Open Door: Political fundraiser Imaad Zuberi is facing 10 years in federal prison for selling access to U.S. politicians to “at least a half dozen countries and officials,” including Turkey.
🤝 Rapprochement: Turkey has reportedly been holding secret talks with Israeli officials to reset relations as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan finds himself increasingly isolated.
🏦 Closing In: The U.S. and other Western countries are leveraging Lebanon’s financial struggles to push for a forensic audit of its central bank in an attempt to isolate Hezbollah.
🌊 Time Out: The next round of talks between Israel and Lebanon over its maritime border dispute has been postponed until further notice.
🚁 Flying High: Israel’s Elbit Systems won a $96 million contract to supply an undisclosed European country with a training center for military helicopter pilots and crews.
✈️ Go Ahead: Saudi Arabia granted Israir Airlines a last-minute permit to fly over its airspace ahead of its inaugural commercial flight to the UAE today.
🚫 Touchy Subjects:The Israeli Tourism Ministry has warned visitors to the UAE to avoid discussing sensitive political topics with locals during their trips.
📝 Buzz on Balfour: Netanyahu is reportedly considering resubmitting a request for immunity to the Knesset in a new attempt to avoid his looming corruption trial.
🧑⚖️ Jewish State: An Israeli court dismissed a lawsuit brought by two Arab siblings against the town of Carmiel to reimburse their travel expenses to an outside school, citing Israel’s nation-state law.
🗳️ Delayed Again: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is once again delaying elections in the West Bank and Gaza, which has not held a vote since 2006.
👨 Free Man: Former Syrian general Khaled al-Halabi, who is facing charges on war crimes, has reportedly gained asylum in Austria with the help of the Mossad and other foreign agencies.
⛹️♂️ Sports Blink: Israeli basketball star Deni Avdija — a first-round draft pick for the Washington Wizards — spoke to The Washington Post about his upcoming move to the NBA.
🐷 Hateful Act: Lakewood, N.J. police are investigating a hate crime after a dead pig was left on the doorstep of an unidentified rabbi’s home on Saturday.
🇩🇪 Zero Tolerance:Germany has banned the far-right neo-Nazi group Wolfsbrigade 44, which is known for its antisemitic and racist ideology.
🏬 Shopping Delays: Don Ghermezian, co-chief executive of the American Dream mall in New Jersey, tellsThe New York Times it’s “extremely unfortunate” that the mall’s full opening has stalled due to COVID-19.
🏅 Team Players: Billionaire Steve Cohen’s Cohen Private Ventures is teaming up with Dan Sundheim’s D1 Capital Partners and Nat Turner to privatize collectibles-grading company Collectors Universe Inc.
⚾ Big Spender:Cohen, whose purchase of the New York Mets makes him the wealthiest owner in baseball history, appears poised to drop big money on boosting the team’s prospects.
💸 Lost Battle: Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, which controls hundreds of British retail stores, has filed for insolvency.
📱 New Gig:Josh Elman, a former venture capitalist at Greylock Partners, has joined Apple to work on the company’s App Store.
🤳 Add On: Facebook has acquired Kustomer, a business messaging software company co-founded by Brad Birnbaum and Jeremy Suriel, for more than $1 billion.
🇬🇧 Across the Pond:The U.K. Labour Party suspended two party officials for moving ahead with a motion in support of Jeremy Corbyn despite local opposition.
👶 Mazel Tov: Katie Waldman Miller, communications director for Vice President Mike Pence, and White House senior advisor Stephen Miller welcomed their first daughter, Mackenzie Jay, last month.
Gif of the Day
Emmy Award-winning stand-up comedian, actress, producer and writer, Sarah Silverman turns 50…
Real estate mogul and former chair of NYC’s MTA, he once owned the New York Post, Peter Kalikow turns 78… Executive producer of over 200 shows with more than 15,000 hours of television, David E. Salzman turns 77… Singer, songwriter, actress, comedian and film producer, Bette Midler turns 75… Comedian and actor best known for his starring role in the animated sitcom “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist,” Jonathan Katz turns 74… Former director of Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, he is now the director of Yashrut, Rabbi Daniel Landes turns 70… Award-winning British playwright, director and scriptwriter, Stephen Poliakoff turns 68… Israeli-born CEO of Oracle Corporation, Safra A. Catz turns 59… Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Cambridge, Raymond E. Goldstein turns 59… Florida real estate investor, Isaac “Ike” K. Fisher…
Assistant vice chancellor for news at the University of Pittsburgh, David Seldin turns 53… Brett Lieberman turns 52… Principal in the media and communications practice at The Raben Group, he is the author of a book on military suicides, Yochi J. Dreazen turns 44… Emmy and Peabody Award-winning director, comedian, writer and actor whose work includes SNL Digital Shorts, Akiva Schaffer turns 43… Former chief communications officer at Oath, Natalie Ravitz turns 41… Political editor and author of the weekly “Against the Grain” column in the National Journal, Josh Kraushaar turns 39… English teacher at Jerusalem’s Keshet Talpaz, an idealistic, public elementary school, Shira Sacks turns 31… Becky Weissman… Special Assistant to the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Milstein…