Good Friday morning and Happy Hanukkah!
The Kingdom of Morocco became the fourth Arab country to normalize relations with Israel in less than four months yesterday. More below.
The U.S. military flew two B-52H bombers over the Persian Gulf yesterday, looping around Qatar and staying outside Iranian airspace, sending a message designed to deter Tehran from retaliating over the killing of an Iranian nuclear weapons scientist.
A group of House Democratshave signed on to a letter urging President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal and to “selectively” lift some sanctions on Tehran to enable reentering the agreement. The full text of the letter is available here.
Susan Rice, a former Obama administration national security official, will be appointed as director of the domestic policy council in the Biden administration. Rice was on the shortlist for vice president and a rumored candidate for secretary of state.
Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s chances of being appointed to a Cabinet position have reportedly narrowed in recent days, amid pushback from progressives.
In a Hanukkahvideo message from Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, Harris said she loves the holiday because “it is a celebration of, always, tikkun olam.”
Check outJewish Insider’s ‘Jewish Nielsen’ report to see which webcasts people tuned in to over the past week.
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Climate activist Jessica Haller is looking to make her mark on NYC
For Jessica Haller, 2006 was a watershed year. During her daily commute from the Bronx to her job with MasterCard in Westchester, she had plenty of time for contemplation. And that summer, some 5,000 miles away, a deadly war was raging between Israel and Hezbollah. Haller, whose father is Israeli and who has family in Israel, felt a mixture of discontent and helplessness. It was during one of her daily commutes that Haller made the decision to quit her job and refocus her efforts on making a lasting impact closer to home — switching careers to pursue climate change activism and public service. And earlier this year, Haller announced her run for the New York City Council. Haller discussed her campaign and her policy approach in a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh.
Aspirations: Haller, 46, was born and raised on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. After graduating from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Haller pursued a career as a consultant, before switching her focus to the environment. She had hoped to become one of 35 freshmen entering the 51-member New York City Council on January 1, 2022. But the early retirement of Councilmember Andrew Cohen, who will vacate his seat in the coming weeks after winning a state Supreme Court judgeship in November, changed her timetable.
Horse race: The special election to represent the 11th district, which includes the Bronx neighborhoods of Bedford Park, Kingsbridge and Riverdale, will take place within 80 days of Cohen leaving his post. Haller is running in a five-person race, which includes Eric Dinowitz, a local public school teacher and son of State Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz; attorney Daniel Padernacht; social worker Abigail Martin; and local Democratic district leader Marcos Sierra. The winner of the nonpartisan election — which will be one of the first races to use the city’s new ranked-choice voting system — will serve out the remainder of Cohen’s term, but will have to simultaneously campaign for a full term beginning in 2022.
Unique voice: Of the 16 members who are not term-limited and up for re-election in 2021, only Kalman Yeger (D-Brooklyn) is Jewish. The current council has 14 Jewish members, all but one of whom are part of the council’s Jewish Caucus, which was founded in 1991. Haller is worried that the number of Jewish legislators will be largely reduced after the 2021 election, leaving a lack of “voices of Jewish leadership for the next eight years in the council.” Stu Loeser, a political consultant and resident of Riverdale, described Haller as “a model for a lot of young women who know they want to bring change in the world and also want to be great mothers of strong Jewish kids, an approach I think we can use more of in politics.”
Head of the Kehilah: In addition to being members of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Haller and her husband, Chad, co-founded The Kehilah of Riverdale led by Rabbi Dina Najman in 2014. In a post on her campaign website last week, Haller described her Shabbat observance and pledged to keep her office open with a dedicated and diverse staff so that constituents are served even when she’s disconnected and home with her family. “Shabbat, in my tradition, is not meant for working. It is a time for being with the community and for reflecting on our collective values,” she wrote. “You can trust that my office will be available and if the community needs me, I’ll be there.”
heading to washington
Carolyn Bourdeaux’s hard-fought congressional battle pays off
Carolyn Bourdeaux’s hard-fought effort to flip Georgia’s 7th congressional district paid off this cycle when she prevailed over her Republican opponent, Rich McCormick, by nearly three percentage points in the heated race to succeed retiring Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA). “I am honored to be a part of the effort to turn Georgia blue,” Bourdeaux, a former public policy professor at Georgia State University, told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in an interview on Monday afternoon. “It was a four-year project for me to really work on building the community of people involved in the race in this district.”
Priorities: Looking ahead to her first term, Bourdeaux’s immediate goals, she said, include curbing the coronavirus crisis, passing an economic relief package and improving healthcare. “The pandemic has really highlighted the gaping holes in our safety net, how each and every one of us is only one lost job, one medical crisis away from medical bankruptcy,” she said. “We have to tackle the system. It is badly broken.”
Drawing the line:Bourdeaux says she is making connections with her fellow incoming freshman, both Democrats and Republicans. She draws the line, however, at collaborating with fringe members of the Republican Party like Marjorie Taylor Greene, the newly elected Georgia businesswoman and QAnon adherent. “The QAnon stuff is beyond the pale. It is not OK. And that is something we are going to call out whenever it crops up,” said Bourdeaux, who — in a questionnaire solicited by JI in August — accused Greene of espousing antisemitic conspiracy theories, “such as the claim that George Soros betrayed other Jews during the Holocaust.” Bourdeaux said she has spoken with the American Jewish Committee about strategies for addressing antisemitism in Congress. “I don’t know if there’s any legislative paths,” she said, adding that she was determined not to “let people get away with that kind of antisemitic talk and rhetoric.”
Battle ahead:As she works to set up her offices in-district and on the Hill, Bourdeaux said she is simultaneously operating as a surrogate for Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, the Democratic Senate candidates in Georgia who are locked in a heated battle with their Republican opponents ahead of the January 5 runoffs that will decide which party controls the upper chamber. Bourdeaux, who has lent her field staff to the effort, is hopeful that the Democrats can pull off an upset this cycle. “What we know is that we have voters to win,” she said. “We just have to turn them out to vote.”
Seat in peril:Charles S. Bullock III, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs, predicts that Republicans, who will control redistricting in the state, could alter the 7th district’s map for the next cycle by jettisoning portions of the blue-leaning Gwinnett County population and pulling in Republicans from Forsyth and Hall Counties. That makeup, he postulated, could freeze Bourdeaux out of another term. “I think Bourdeaux is the one who is endangered,” he said of Georgia’s upcoming redistricting. But Bourdeaux was intent on staying focused on the present as she prepares to be sworn into public office: “I can only say we will cross that bridge when we get there.”
Why Biden donated $180K to Chicago’s Jewish federation in 2017
When President-elect Joe Biden makes charitable contributions, he has a host of organizations to consider: a non-profit named after his late son that seeks to protect abused children, the Catholic diocese in Wilmington, Delaware, and… the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago. According to 2017 tax returns filed by the president-elect, Biden made a donation of $180,000 to JUF, which has dominated Jewish communal life in the Windy City for nearly a century. Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss dug up the details and backstory of the gift.
How it happened: The donation was announced by Biden at a dinner hosted by Lester Crown at the Ritz Carlton, Chicago, at the end of September 2017, according to an individual who attended the event. “He donated back his honorarium,” the attendee told JI. “And everybody gave him a standing ovation.” The individual noted that “there were people, obviously, that are not Democrats in that audience… I was looking around to see if there are people who weren’t giving him a standing ovation. And actually, they did stand.”
Background: Crown, a Chicago businessman and philanthropist, has hosted the annual dinner, which traditionally kicks off the fall fundraising season in Chicago, for many years. Previous keynote speakers at the event include former Israeli President Shimon Peres, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former President Bill Clinton.
Morocco and Israel to normalize relations following Trump administration efforts
The Kingdom of Morocco became the fourth Arab country to normalize relations with Israel in less than four months on Thursday in a deal brokered by the outgoing Trump administration.
Details: The announcement — by tweet — followed a phone call between President Donald Trump and Moroccan King Mohammed VI. The White House said that the agreement includes Morocco establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel, granting overflight permissions and allowing Israelis to travel on direct flights between the countries. The two nations plan to reopen liaison offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv immediately — after shutting them down at the start of the second intifada in 2000 — with the intention to open official embassies “in the near future,” White House senior advisor Jared Kushner said in a press call Thursday. Morocco’s Royal Court said the United States will open a consulate in the Western Sahara as part of the deal that secured U.S. recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the territory.
Behind the scenes: Walla News diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid reported that Kushner and Mideast peace envoy Avi Berkowitz negotiated directly with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita over the past two years. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had encouraged the administration to pursue this track in recent years, was only briefed about a possible breakthrough with Morocco in recent weeks. “This is something that’s been talked about for a long time but something that seemed inevitable at this point,” Kushner said. “It’s something that we think advances the region and helps bring more clarity to where things are going.”
Is Saudi Arabia next? Shimrit Meir, an Israeli analyst and commentator, suggested the recent deals, which are “going to be a huge success,” might motivate Saudi Arabia to enter into a normalization agreement with Israel. “Morocco, like the United Arab Emirates, is very close to Saudi Arabia. It signals that we might be getting there,” Meir told JI. Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, posited that the accord with Rabat came in place of a more grandiose deal with Riyadh. “The Trump administration couldn’t produce the main course — Saudi normalization — so they settled for an appetizer,” Miller said. Kushner expressed hope that open relations between Jerusalem and Riyadh are on the horizon. “Israel and Saudi Arabia coming together and having full normalizations to this point is an inevitability, but the timeframe, obviously will come,” Kushner told reporters. “It is something that has to be worked out, but, obviously, you need strong U.S. leadership in the region in order to achieve that.”
Side bonus: In addition to U.S. recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, the country is reportedly close to a deal to purchase four sophisticated aerial drones from the United States.
Oversight: Outgoing Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) welcomed news of the deal, but cautioned against “casting aside legitimate multilateral avenues of conflict resolution” in recognizing Morocco’s control of the Western Sahara. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) slammed the decision as “shocking and deeply disappointing.”
⚔️ Echoing History: Tevi Troy writes in Politico that John Kerry’s cabinet-level climate czar position in the Biden administration could lead to clashes and chain of command issues with Secretary of State-designate Tony Blinken, mirroring infighting that occurred in the Eisenhower administration. [Politico]
🕎 Boruch the Builder: Rabbi Boruch Klar, director of the Lubavitch Center of Essex County in West Orange, N.J., talks to The Wall Street Journal about his bustling business selling specialty oversize menorahs. “It’s the essence of Judaism, to bring light into the world,” he said. [WSJ]
🥁 Rock On:The New York Post’s Doree Lewak spotlights a new documentary, titled “Saul & Ruby’s Holocaust Survivor Band,” which tells the story of Holocaust survivors Saul Dreier and Ruby Sosnowicz teaming up to create their own klezmer band. “I want to play for the six million to hear us. I want to play for my parents.” [NYPost]
Around the Web
👨💼 New Role: Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, will join Georgetown Law as a fellow of the faculty’s Institute for Technology Law and Policy.
🎉 Storytelling: In The Washington Post, Michael Kranish recounts the story of the first-ever White House Hanukkah celebration in 1979, under President Jimmy Carter.
💥 Censure: The Trump administration is planning to impose sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.
👮 Stepping Up: Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop maintained that his city is now better equipped to combat antisemitism one year after a deadly kosher supermarket shooting.
💰 Workaround:Former Goldman Sachs COO Gary Cohn, who is refusing to give $10 million back to the company in a dispute over the 1MDB scandal, said he will instead donate the money to charity.
🚪 Exit Door: Disney Studios chief Alan Horn is reportedly planning to leave the studio this month; Disney announced a massive slate of upcoming new content at its investor’s day presentation last night.
⛓️ Not Behind Bars:An Israeli military tribunal upheld a plea bargain that allows a soldier who killed a Palestinian man and wounded another in the West Bank in 2019 to avoid jail time.
🌞 Bright Future: Israeli startup HiBob, a cloud-based platform for HR departments, raised $70 million in funding at a valuation of approximately $500 million.
🎥 Hollywood:An upcoming documentary film, titled “The Conspiracy,” will explore the evolution of antisemitism through history.
🍿 Holiday Watching:Rachel Handler argues satirically in Vulture that the 2010 film “Black Swan,” starring Natalie Portman, should be considered a Hanukkah movie.
📺 Late Night: “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon joked that Trump’s Hanukkah Party this week was like “the festival of lies,” adding: “Even the dreidel was looking at Trump like, ‘Damn, this guy spins more than I do.’”
🥪 Seasonal Bites: B&H Dairy in Manhattan’s East Village has added a special menu option for Hanukkah: a latke, egg, and cheese sandwich on house-baked challah.
💼 Transition: Rob France, director of campus initiatives for the Shalom Hartman Institute, is joining Encounter as its chief program officer.
🕯️ Remembering:Dale Sheets, the former personal manager of famous singers Mel Tormé and Patti Page, died at age 91. Joseph Safra, the world’s richest banker — born to a Sephardi Jewish family in Lebanon — died at age 82.
Gif of the Day
Deni Avdija, the Israeli basketball star who was recently drafted to the Washington Wizards, lights the first Hanukkah candle last night during a virtual celebration hosted by the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
Former member of the Knesset for the Labor party and then the Independence Party, Einat Wilf turns 50 today…
FRIDAY: Businessman and philanthropist who kept 3,000 employees on his payroll in 1995 when his company’s factory burned down, Aaron Feuerstein turns 95… Former U.S. secretary of state and U.S. senator, incoming climate envoy in the Biden admin, John Kerry turns 77… Lumber and wood products executive in Bethany, Conn., Stuart Paley turns 75… Professor of Jewish history and Jewish thought at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter turns 70… Professor of international economics at Princeton University, Gene Grossman turns 65… Senior attorney in the environment and natural resources division of the U.S. Department of Justice, Perry Rosen turns 65… Speech language pathologist in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Joanne Ring turns 62… Best-selling author, she has published eleven novels including seven books in the series The Mommy-Track Mysteries, Ayelet Waldman turns 56… Partner in Pomerantz LLP and trustee of Manhattan’s Beit Rabban Day School, Gustavo F. Bruckner turns 53… Senior research fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, Shira Efron Ph.D. turns 42… Israeli poet and founder of the cultural group Ars Poetica, Adi Keissar turns 40… Chasidic rapper from Boston, Massachusetts, known as Nosson, Nathan Isaac Zand turns 39… Director of public affairs and marketing at Englewood (NJ) Hospital and Medical Center, Michael Chananie turns 31… CEO at DC-based Brown Strategy Group, Josh Brown turns 31… DC-based reporter for ESPN, Kelly Cohen turns 30… Reporter at Politico who covers the U.S. Senate, Marianne LeVine turns 29… SVP of alternative investments at CAIS, Judah Schulman turns 29… Co-host of “What A Day” at Crooked Media, Gideon Resnick turns 28…
SATURDAY: Attorney, political operative, lobbyist, author and television commentator, Lanny Davis turns 75… Chairman of Full Stop Management, he previously served as chairman and CEO of Ticketmaster and Live Nation Entertainment, Irving Azoff turns 73… Two-term congressman from 2007 to 2011 (D-Wisconsin-8), he is a physician who founded four allergy clinics, Steven Leslie Kagen, M.D. turns 71… 2007 Nobel Prize laureate, he is a professor of economics at Harvard University, Eric Stark Maskin turns 70… Associated Press science writer and adjunct professor at NYU’s academic center in Washington, Seth Borenstein turns 59… Israeli-born real estate developer active in Los Angeles, partner in Linear City Development, Yuval Bar-Zemer turns 58… Afternoon anchor on the Fox Business Network, Elizabeth Kate “Liz” Claman turns 57… Minnesota secretary of state, Steve Simon turns 51… Actress and neuroscientist, she played the role of neuroscientist Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory,” Mayim Chaya Bialik, Ph.D. turns 45… Account director at Lewis Global Communications, Sarah R. Horowitz turns 34… Field producer for ABC News, Rebecca “Becky” Perlow turns 33… One-half of the duo known for their YouTube channel h3h3Productions, Hila Hakmon Klein turns 33… VP at Targeted Victory’s public affairs practice, David Pasch turns 32… Director of strategy and consulting at Fidelity Investments, Jeffrey S. Goldstein turns 31…
SUNDAY: Former New York state senator (1985-2012), Suzanne “Suzi” Oppenheimer turns 86… California-based real estate developer active in the revitalization of downtown San Jose, he is a former co-owner of the Oakland Athletics, Lewis Wolff turns 85… Senior rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood since 1988 (now emeritus) and a national co-chair of the rabbinic cabinet of J Street, John Rosove turns 71… Executive chairwoman and chief media officer of Eko (a start-up focused on interactive music videos), Nancy Tellem turns 68… Former chairman of the Federal Reserve, now a distinguished fellow in residence at the Brookings Institution, Ben Shalom Bernanke turns 67… Academic, hedge fund manager, writer and adjunct professor at Columbia University, Joel Greenblatt turns 63… Assistant secretary for management at the U.S. Department of the Treasury since 2018, David F. Eisner turns 63… Member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2017 (D-MD-8), Jamin Ben “Jamie” Raskin turns 58… Real estate developer and owner of Fontainebleau Development whose holdings include the landmark Fontainebleau Miami Beach, Jeffrey M. Soffer turns 53… Co-founder and principal of The Lead PR, LLC, a NYC based public relations firm, Jeffrey W. Schneider turns 52… Mayor of New Rochelle, N.Y., since 2006, Noam Bramson turns 51… Florida commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, Nicole “Nikki” Heather Fried turns 43… Manager of global communications and public affairs for Google, Riva Litman Sciuto turns 35… President at UCLA Faculty Women’s Club, Bette Billet…