👋 Good Tuesday morning!
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is planning to announce this morning that its 51-member body is adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. The group’s leadership sent a letter to the Biden administration earlier this month encouraging federal agencies to consider adopting the definition.
Yesterday, four groups associated with the Reform movement — which are all member organizations of the Conference of Presidents — issued a statement endorsing the IHRA definition but stating that it “should not be codified into policy.”
Speaking at the Park East Synagogue and U.N. International Holocaust Remembrance Service last night, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres urged a global alliance against rising white nationalism and antisemitism and called for increased Holocaust education.
Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid was one of the last to arrive back at Ben-Gurion Airport before it closed yesterday, after returning from consultations with Democratic political advisors in Washington. Lapid was photographed seated next to Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, the dean of Jerusalem’s Mir Yeshiva.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 15-3 yesterday to advance Secretary of State-designate Tony Blinken’s nomination to a full Senate vote today. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY) and John Barrasso (R-WY) voted against.
The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee is set to vote on Homeland Security Secretary-designate Alejandro Mayorkas’s nomination today.
Janet Yellen was confirmed as the first female Treasury secretary yesterday in an 84-15 vote, making her the third consecutive Jewish secretary. Apollo Global Managment CEO Leon Black told investors yesterday that he will step down as CEO in July but remain chairman, after an independent review found that Black paid more than $150 million to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein for tax advice. Apollo co-founder Marc Rowan will replace Black as CEO.
Eye on indiana
Rep. Trey Hollingsworth is willing to reach across the aisle — up to a point
On January 6, after a violent mob of pro-Trump extremists stormed the Capitol, Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN) hoisted a metaphorical white flag of surrender in a video on his Facebook page. “Many of you, most of you, want me today to vote to overturn the decision made by 160 million Americans,” Hollingsworth said in announcing that he would vote to certify the election results, adding: “We must at some point say that we have lost this election.” In a mid-December interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel, Hollingsworth already seemed to have accepted the outcome, claiming that he would be willing to work with the incoming administration. “I am going to find places where I can compromise,” he said, “where we can see an issue overlapping.”
Attempt at distancing: The 37-year-old congressman — who represents a largely conservative district of south-central Indiana that includes the blue-leaning enclave of Bloomington — was eager to distance himself from the rioters earlier this month. “For some people, these issues may be more abstract,” said Leslie Lenkowsky, a professor emeritus in public affairs and philanthropy at Indiana University Bloomington. “But for Hollingsworth, it’s real. This is in his district.” But Hollingsworth was among 126 Republican members of Congress who signed on to an amicus brief filed by the Texas attorney general challenging the presidential election results in four swing states, which was summarily rejected by the Supreme Court on December 11. “I sent him a note after he signed the brief criticizing that,” Lenkowsky said, adding that he received a boilerplate reply. “But then he didn’t object,” Lenkowsky added. “So he’s obviously prepared to take these folks on.”
Denouncing hate: According to Aaron Welcher, communications coordinator for the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, at least 20 known white supremacist and other hate groups exist throughout Indiana. “All members of Indiana’s congressional delegation have shown a strong desire to help the Jewish community confront growing anti-Jewish bigotry,” Welcher told JI. “We look forward to working with Rep. Hollingsworth in this capacity in the coming months.” Hollingsworth denounced bigotry in any form. “We should seek to root that out wherever it may be,” he told JI, “whether that is at dinner tables, whether that’s at universities, whether that’s in investment philosophies, whether that’s in Congress, whether it’s on Twitter.”
Support for Israel: Though Hollingsworth has never visited Israel, he said he had made a concerted effort throughout his past two terms to support the Jewish state. “A lot of times people say, ‘Gosh, you know, our friendship, our support, our allied relationship with Israel is an issue that matters a lot to the Jewish communities across this country,’” he said. “But I found that that’s not the case. It matters a lot to so many communities across this country. And I’ve got a great district with a diverse group of people inside of it. But I found that this is an issue that matters all the way across all of those dimensions.”
Term limits: As he enters his third term in Congress, Hollingsworth said he has a few immediate goals, including passing legislation to institute congressional term limits. The first bill Hollingsworth introduced, in January 2017, proposed an amendment to the Constitution limiting representatives to just four terms. “The important thing is knowing that there’s an expiration date,” Hollingsworth said. On the topic of his own future, however, he was more circumspect, dodging a question from JI about how long he intended to stay in office. “A lot of public servants get really focused on, ‘What am I going to do next, where am I going to go, am I going to get that gavel, am I going to get that speakership, when am I going to run for this, when am I gonna run for that?’” he said. “And they fail to do the right thing for their constituents today.”
David Halbfinger reflects on his tenure as NYTimes Jerusalem bureau chief
Days before Israel shut down all incoming and outgoing air traffic, David Halbfinger headed back to New Jersey after three and a half years as the Jerusalem bureau chief for The New York Times. In an interview with Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro, Halbfinger reflects on his time in the job, his most memorable stories and the criticism leveled at him throughout his tenure.
Career high: “I knew that intuitively [the job] was hard and it seemed like the ultimate journalistic challenge, and I kind of was dying for that chance,” Halbfinger told JI from New Jersey, a day after arriving back in the United States. “But what I didn’t know was how enriching in so many different ways it would be.” Halbfinger, who will be replaced by veteran foreign correspondent Patrick Kingsley, said the job was “challenging, grueling at times and exhausting all the time,” but richly rewarding. “We had this huge emotional investment as a family, but we got enormous rewards from it,” he said. “This is hands down the most amazing, rewarding, three and a half years… for me, it was easily the highlight of my career.”
Backlash: Halbfinger said he was amply prepared for the level of criticism he knew would come his way in one of the most scrutinized jobs in journalism, and the “thick skin” he would need to adopt. “That was the one thing I didn’t need to be told.” He noted the “large number of very vitriolic people” who regularly comment on his work, including those who were “calling me a self-hating Jew, and somebody is calling me a Zionist imperialist pig, an antisemite — on the same story.” But it was important for him to also place that in context. “I think until the Trump era, the Jerusalem job probably took the worst incoming,” he said. “But I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that I had it any worse than Maggie Haberman or others in our Washington operation.”
Held back: It does pain him that the final year of his posting was heavily constrained by the COVID-19 pandemic. “It really just decimated stories,” he said, including a planned followup to an early March article about Israel’s strained health, education and transportation infrastructures. “I haven’t been able to roam free and do the close-up, carefree reporting I would have liked all over the country,” he noted, pointing out that he was also unable to enter Gaza for an extended period. His children, who he and his wife placed in Israeli schools, rather than international ones, were also upset to leave after a year in which their lives were largely hampered. “It was very wistful” to depart, he said. “We all felt robbed.”
Biggest story: While COVID-19 overshadowed much of his last year in the job, in some ways, Halbfinger felt that his three-and-half-year tenure provided him with a wide mandate. “It was busy, but we didn’t have a war to deal with that was like, all consuming,” he said. “We had major stuff happening, but we had a lot of room to either do enterprise [reporting], or to really try to get out in front of the news in an interpretive and analytical way.” But if there was one overarching narrative that drove his time in the job, Halbfinger said, it was the same one that dominated much of world news over the past four years. “I think the story was the Trump administration, and what it did and what it tried to do. And how that played, and what it unleashed, and what it encouraged [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to do, and how he tried to leverage that into another term.”
Before she was the inaugural poet, Amanda Gorman was a Milken scholar
Amanda Gorman became the youngest inaugural poet and an overnight star after reciting her vivid spoken-word piece, “The Hill We Climb,” during the January 20 inauguration of President Joe Biden. Much has been reported about Gorman since the inauguration, but less known is her connection to the Milken Scholars program, a joint initiative of the Milken Family Foundation and the Milken Institute that awards exceptional students with undergraduate scholarships, reports Ryan Torok for Jewish Insider.
Powerhouse: Gorman was chosen for the highly selective program in 2016 when she was an 18-year-old high school senior at New Roads School, a private school in Santa Monica. She was selected for her ability to overcome obstacles faced throughout her life along with her achievements in academic performance, community service and leadership, said Jane Foley, director of Milken Scholars. “I remember meeting Amanda when she was 18 years old, when she marched that tiny little powerhouse [of hers] into the foundation, and we interviewed her,” Foley told Jewish Insider. “She was so charismatic, so much personality. I remember things she told us in that room. She believed in the power of language to effect social change. She’s doing that.”
Choosing family: In an interview published last year with the Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream, Gorman said she was proud to be a Milken Scholars alumnus. “When I learned I was a Milken scholar, it was this weird moment where dream meets reality,” Gorman said. “And that was such a powerful, exciting moment. Knowing Milken Scholars has my back is this interesting new phase where I am choosing my family and we are all committed to each other and each other’s success.”
Nurturing talent: Gorman was also involved with WriteGirl, an L.A.-based mentoring program which matched her with poet-editor Dinah Berland, who is Jewish and became Gorman’s mentor. In an interview with Jewish Insider, Berland recalled seeing Gorman perform her work for the first time at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, when Gorman was a junior in high school. “She was far superior to any of the other kids in terms of her ability, not only her reading but her writing,” Berland said. “I was sitting outside afterward, she walked by, I jumped up and said, ‘You are really talented. I hope you take this seriously.’ Very soon after, she was chosen as youth poet laureate in L.A.”
🇹🇷 Turning Tide: In The Times, Israeli reporter Anshel Pfeffer explores how Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “has begun clamping down” on Hamas activities in Turkey after years of tacit support. The decision, says Pfeffer, is motivated at least in part by Erdogan’s desire to improve Turkey’s foundering ties with Israel.[TheTimes]
🎻 Music Mess: A rare violin once owned by a Jewish instrument dealer is at the center of a dispute that is testing Germany’s commitment to Holocaust restitution, reports Catherine Hickley in The New York Times. The current owners of the violin, now worth $185,000, are refusing to pay restitution to the heirs of Felix Hildesheimer, despite a ruling from a government commission. [NYTimes]📝 Checklist: In Foreign Policy, Jonathan Ferziger highlights the ways that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is working to accomplish his most pressing goals: “Polish his legacy as peacemaker with the Arab world — Palestinians be damned — neutralize Iran, retain the support of the United States under Biden, and stay out of prison.” [FP]
Around the Web
🇸🇩 First Steps: Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen led the first official delegation to Sudan following its normalization deal with Israel.
🙅 Different Approach: The Bank of Israel criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stimulus plan as unneeded and potentially misdirected.
📵 Blocked: Facebook blocked a chatbot set up by Netanyahu’s page soliciting contact information from citizens reluctant about receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.
🎖️ Window of Opportunity: Gen. Frank McKenzie of U.S. Central Command told Defense One that the U.S. and Iran have a “period of opportunity” following Biden’s inauguration.
👋 He’s Out: Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is unlikely to run for a fourth term, having largely skipped fundraising and campaigning ahead of the June Democratic primary.
⚖️ No Day in Court: The Supreme Court has opted not to hear an appeal from former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on his federal corruption conviction.
🎿 Ghost Town: The Wall Street Journal spotlights the stark differences in Davos, Switzerland, this year without the annual World Economic Forum.
💰 Big Deal: Steve Cohen’s Point72 and Ken Griffin’s Citadel LLC are investing $2.75 billion into Gabe Plotkin’s hedge fund Melvin Capital Management.
🏗️ Under Construction: Kushner Companies is seeking approval to build a one-million-square-foot distribution facility in Palm Beach County.
✍️ Triggered: More than 100 Politico staffers signed a letter to publisher Robert Allbritton condemning the company for allowing Ben Shapiro to guest-write its Playbook newsletter.
📺 Small Screen: Filming has begun on the new Israeli series “Jerusalem,” about an officer seeking to prevent catastrophe in the Old City as Tisha Be’av and Eid al-Adha approach.
🎥 Hollywood: Variety criticized “Dara of Jasenovac,” Serbia’s Oscar entry this year, for being “thinly disguised propaganda” that is “cynically using the Holocaust” to push a nativist agenda.
📚 Book Shelf: The Los Angeles Times called Rebecca Sacks’s debut book, City of a Thousand Gates, an American novel that “manages, for once, to get Israel right.”
🏀 Day of Rest: Amar’e Stoudemire is taking Shabbat off every week in his new position as a player development associate for the Brooklyn Nets.
🍦 You Scream: A new flavor from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, the “Everything Bagel,” has prompted a wave of confusion, intrigue and derision. 💼 Onboarding: Geraldine Acuña-Sunshine and Donna Levin are joining the Anti-Defamation League’s board of directors.
Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, his most famous works include the classic “The Phantom Tollbooth,” Jules Feiffer turns 92…
Actor, film director and playwright, Henry Jaglom turns 83… Pioneering computer scientist, Barbara Bluestein Simons, Ph.D. turns 80… Singer-songwriter and socialite, Denise Eisenberg Rich turns 77… Economic and social theorist, Jeremy Rifkin turns 76… New Haven, Connecticut-based personal injury attorney, Herbert Ira Mendelsohnturns 72… Publishing professional, Agnes F. Holland turns 71… Emmy Award-winning film director, Mimi Leder turns 69… President of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Rabbi Marc Schneier turns 62… Argentina real-estate developer, president of Hillel Argentina and president of Taglit Birthright Argentina, along with president of Chabad Argentina, Eduardo Elsztain turns 61… Associate judge of the New York Court of Appeals, New York State’s highest court, Paul George Feinman turns 61… Chief marketing officer of Experience Resorts and co-founder of Boardroom One, Brent Cohen turns 58… Former CNN anchor and correspondent, she runs a website focused on uplifting and positive news, Daryn Kagan turns 58…
Actress, comedian and television screenwriter, Claudia Lonow turns 58… Development director at Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach, Jill Weinstock Deutch turns 54… Oakland County (Michigan) Clerk and Register of Deeds, Lisa Brown turns 54… Head of school at Manhattan Day School, Raizi Gruenebaum Chechik turns 49… Middleweight boxing champion, he retired in 2003 with a 37–1–1 record and is now a mortgage broker, Dana Rosenblatt turns 49… Retired professional tennis player, Justin Gimelstob turns 44… Actress, she hosted The CW reality series “Shedding for the Wedding,” Sara Rue turns 42… Co-host of Jewish Insider‘s new Limited Liability Podcast and executive at Bloomberg LP focused upon disaster response and recovery, Jarrod Neal Bernstein turns 41… Director at the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and vice chair of Moishe House, Tamar Remz turns 36… Former Olympic figure skater, now on Facebook’s sports league partnership team, Emily Hughes turns 32… Communications manager at Upstream Security, Fay Goldstein turns 30…