👋 Good Friday morning!
We have some news to share. As we continue to grow our team and reporting, we are excited to announce that eJewishPhilanthropy.com is joining the Jewish Insider family. eJP will be at the forefront of our expanded philanthropy coverage in the weeks and months ahead. More below.
Citing JI’s reporting on Rob Malley’s likely appointment to be the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, Bloomberg’s Eli Lake wrote last night that “Biden’s first foreign policy blunder could be on Iran.” The story was shared by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), prompting Malley allies including Ben Rhodes, Dennis Ross and Aaron David Miller to respond.
The Biden administration is hiring Maher Bitar — who previously served as the National Security Council’s director for Israeli and Palestinian affairs in the Obama administration — as the NSC’s senior director for intelligence.
Former Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) won’t be Biden’s man in Israel after he took himself out of consideration to be ambassador. Miami real estate developer Michael Adler told The Forward he is “confident” he’ll be offered the job.
The House and Senate voted Thursday afternoon to approve a waiver allowing former retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as President Joe Biden’s secretary of defense. The Senate will convene at 10:30 a.m. today to vote whether to confirm Austin.
Check outJewish Insider’s latest ‘Jewish Nielsen’ report to see which webcasts people tuned into over the last several weeks.
eJewish Philanthropy to join Jewish Insider
Thirteen years ago, Dan Brown started eJewishPhilanthropy.com with the goal of highlighting all the latest happenings in the world of Jewish philanthropy and as a home for original thought pieces on key issues facing the community and the philanthropic sector. Today, eJewish Philanthropy | eJP is a must-read resource for foundation professionals, donors, organizational leaders and entrepreneurs working in the philanthropic space. As Jewish Insider continues to grow and increase our original coverage, we are excited to announce that eJewishPhilanthropy.com will now be a part of the Jewish Insider family.
Goals: The goal of eJP under Jewish Insider will be to capture, convene and drive the daily conversation in the Jewish philanthropic sector each day and to introduce new individuals and readers to the space, thereby expanding the conversation.
Team: eJP’s founder Dan Brown will be eJP’s editor-at-large and Helen Chernikoff, who was most recently The Forward’s news editor and who previously worked at the New York Jewish Week and Reuters, will be joining the eJP and Jewish Insider team as a senior philanthropy reporter.
Fresh website, newsletter: eJP will be increasing its original news reporting and growing its opinion section, which will live on the newly redesigned eJewishPhilanthropy.com, launching early next week. eJP will also be relaunching a new curated daily newsletter called Your Daily Phil. Sign up here and share with your friends.
Beltway insiders weigh in on a big week in Washington
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and The American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka joined the latest episode of Jewish Insider’s Limited Liability Podcast to discuss this week’s historic inauguration — and how the Biden administration will tackle everything from antisemitism to U.S.-Israel relations.
Iran at the forefront: Shapiro addressed Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this week, suggesting that Republicans and Democrats — and Washington and Jerusalem — are more aligned on Iran than most people think. “There really is no distinction, I don’t think, and not any real partisan difference, or really a difference between the United States and Israel in recognizing the various dangers Iran poses: certainly its pursuit of nuclear weapons, certainly its ballistic missile programs, certainly the regional mayhem it conducts including sponsorship of terrorism, the source of a lot of those sanctions.”
‘Trust, but verify’: Pletka praised Biden’s inaugural address, but said she is approaching the new administration with a “wait and see” attitude. “First of all, I liked it much better than I liked Donald Trump’s. And, honestly, I think it struck a lot of very nice, very welcome tones,” she said. “There will be people, and I will be among them, who will say it’s very easy to say these things, it’s much harder to do these things. Let’s see Joe Biden put his money where his mouth is. And that’s what the coming days and months and years are going to be about.”
BDS debate: Shapiro weighed in on whether he thinks Biden will continue the Trump administration’s policy of defining BDS as antisemitic. “There’s no place for BDS in [Biden’s] understanding of appropriate U.S. policy, that it unfairly singles out Israel, it unfairly attaches double standards to Israel. In the past, he has said it often veers into antisemitism. I think there’s room to debate whether every single person who has ever talked about BDS is antisemitic, but that is certainly a characteristic of some people who do.”
on the hill
Cruz: Blinken’s comments to Foreign Relations Committee on Iran are ‘concerning’
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) criticized Secretary of State-designate Tony Blinken and the Biden administration’s approach to Iran in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod on Thursday afternoon.
Wrong approach: Cruz described Blinken’s answers to his questions about Iran during Tuesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing as “concerning,” adding: “I think they reflect a broader naivete from this administration about the Ayatollah [Ali] Khamenei. This administration seems hell-bent on flooding the ayatollah’s regime with billions of dollars, even knowing full well those funds will be used to support terrorism and to murder Americans and our allies,” said the Texas senator. “His answers at the hearing did not seem to reflect any understanding of the enormous national security risk posed.”
Critical: Cruz, who met with Blinken shortly after speaking with JI, did not rule out voting for Blinken’s confirmation, but the Texas senator was pessimistic about the Biden administration’s overall foreign policy agenda. “The answers we’ve seen from the Biden team so far, unfortunately, seem to suggest a reflexive approach of wanting to repeal everything done over the last four years,” Cruz said.
Timeline: The timing of a Senate confirmation vote on Blinken remains uncertain. A Senate Democratic aide told JI on Thursday that the timeline rests largely in the hands of Republicans. If no Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee object to Blinken, the Senate could vote on Blinken this week. Should Republicans object, the aide added, the committee will convene next week to advance his nomination to a full vote.
Bonus: Seven Democrats filed an ethics complaint against Cruz and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) on Thursday afternoon, calling for an investigation into the senators’ potential involvement in the January 6 Capitol riot. A Cruz spokesperson said, “It is unfortunate that some congressional Democrats are disregarding President Biden’s call for unity and are instead playing political games by filing frivolous ethics complaints against their colleagues.”
New German CDU leader draws scrutiny for past statements on Syria and Russia
Armin Laschet’s victory in the Saturday runoff election for the leadership of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union suggests he is likely to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel when she steps down in September. But recently unearthed comments in which Laschet has defended Russian President Vladimir Putin and espoused controversial views about the war in Syria have raised eyebrows. Laschet, the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, has criticized“marketable anti-Putin populism” and accused the American government of supporting ISIS and Al Nusra against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Walking it back: Laschet’s past statements on Russia aren’t exactly out of the ordinary in Germany, experts say. “Of course governors would like to see foreign direct investment, so at times they don’t want to ruffle feathers,” said Tobias Schulze-Cleven, a Rutgers University professor who specializes in German politics. Still, according to Schulze-Cleven, Laschet has toned down his rhetoric, particularly after Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned last year. “I think he has distanced himself somewhat or has become more circumspect on Putin,” Schulze-Cleven said.
Uncertainty on Syria: The CDU leader’s past statements with regard to Syria are harder to explain. In a series of tweets responding to former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in 2014, Laschet took a negative view of America’s involvement in Syria. “Assad was fighting against ISIS and Kerry tried to weaken Assad in this fight,” Laschet wrote. Jeff Rathke, president of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins University, said that Laschet’s tweets were “kind of bizarre,” adding: “I have not really seen anybody give a really good explanation of what he meant by it.”
Exception to the rule: But while Laschet’s views may underscore a certain naïvité on at least one major Middle Eastern conflict, Rathke took a charitable view of the CDU leader’s comments. “I think it’s important not to let that be the tail that wags the dog in telling a story about Armin Laschet,” he said, “because he is somebody who, as a politician, takes the relationship with Israel extremely seriously.” Laschet traveled to Israel in 2018 and again in 2020, the first international visit he made after declaring his candidacy for the CDU chairmanship, according to Rathke. During his most recent trip, Laschet opened a trade and culture office for North Rhine-Westphalia in Tel Aviv.
Heir apparent? It remains to be seen if Laschet’s past statements will draw further scrutiny or fade away. The CDU, in cooperation with its sister party in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union, is expected to pick a candidate for the upcoming election this spring. John Emerson, who served as U.S. ambassador to Germany from 2013 to 2017, believes that Laschet is a front-runner to inherit Merkel’s office. “He’s not a sort of big charismatic person, but Germany has a history of people who started out as not being very charismatic who ended up being quite powerful and important leaders,” Emerson said. “Angela Merkel being at the top of the list.”
📖 New Chapter: In The Washington Post, Prof. Jeff Melnick posits that new Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA) will together “write the next chapter” in Black-Jewish ties, with their alliance providing a “model for a sustainable 21st-century Black-Jewish relations… [that] might also facilitate meaningful progressive change.” [WashPost]
🙏 Higher Authority: In The Wall Street Journal, Tevi Troy and Stuart Halpern explore the tradition of Biblical references in presidential inaugurations, which Biden continued in his address on Wednesday. “Even in an ever more secular world, there’s still value in referencing such timeless words.” [WSJ]
🏀 Music to the Ears: The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg spotlights Sadie Smith, a teen whose piano version of the Philadelphia 76ers fight song has raised fans’ spirits, a testament to the power of sports. Steinberg’s father, who observes Shabbat, set a clock radio to turn on during a recent Saturday game, but when it shut off he “walked to the nearest supermarket and saw Buffalo’s first playoff win in a quarter-century on a television in the closed cafe. I’m not sure what the Talmud would say, but I think Sadie Smith might understand.” [WashPost]
Around the Web
🎓 Campus Beat: The New York Times examines how university and tech companies involvement in campus conversations about Israel impact student life.
💥 Deadly Strike: Israeli airstrikes in central Syria this morning allegedly killed a family of four, including two children.
✈️ On the Go: Israel Hayom reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make his first official visit to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain next month.
😷 Stay Home: Israeli police have violently clashed with haredi extremists in Bnei Brak in recent days over the enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions.
🏥 End in Sight: Israel’s COVID reproduction R number fell below one yesterday for the first time in months, indicating the virus’s spread may be beginning to slow down.
💉 Take the Shot: Washington Post Jerusalem bureau chief Steve Hendrix reflected on receiving the COVID vaccine in Jerusalem this week while many others at risk cannot.
🧼 Sanitizing Surge: Gojo Industries, owned by the Lippman Kanfer family, is adding a new factory and warehouse in a bet that public health hygiene habits will remain long past COVID-19.
🛫 Time to Fly: American Airlines announced a new direct flight from New York to Tel Aviv beginning in May.
🇸🇦🇺🇸 Riyadh to DC: Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan predicted that U.S.-Saudi relations under Biden will be “excellent,” praising the president’s appointments.
🇦🇹 Fighting Back: The Austrian government announced a new plan to combat rising antisemitism, including education reforms and increased security measures.
🎓 Taking Action: The University of Toronto announced the launch of a working group to combat antisemitism following several recent antisemitic incidents at the university.
📱 Tough Tweet: A New York City Council candidate in Queens is under fire for a 2015 tweet in which she replied to an antisemitic image with the words: “My every heartbeat is for the children of Palestine <3.”
🎥 Silver Screen: “The Human Factor,” a new film about the decades of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, is full of “humanizing touches,” according to an Associated Press review.
🥩 Modern Meat: 3-D meat printing company Redefine Meat is partnering with Best Meister to distribute its products in Israel.
Gif of the Day
To celebrate President Joe Biden’s inauguration, the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene released “Got Bentsh Amerike,” a Yiddish version of “God Bless America” performed by the cast of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
D.C. government reporter for the Washington Post, she is also a professional balloon twister and was a 2018 contestant on “Jeopardy!,” Julie Zauzmer turns 30…
FRIDAY: Co-founder of Japanese video game company Sega, David Rosen turns 91… Nobel Prize laureate in chemistry in 2000, Alan J. Heeger turns 85… Los Angeles resident, Ruth Lynn Sobel turns 80… Managing director and founder of investment firm Brave Warrior Advisors, he is the son of Hall of Fame baseball star Hank Greenberg, Glenn H. Greenberg turns 74… Rabbi Mark Samuel Hurvitz turns 74… Brooklyn-born conductor, Gilbert Levine turns 73… Partner and head of the political law practice in the DC office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Kenneth Gross turns 70… Executive director of the Brooklyn-based Bridge Multicultural and Advocacy Project, Mark Meyer Appel turns 69… Publisher at Chicago Public Square, Charlie Meyerson turns 66… Partner in the Cleveland law firm of Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis, Lisa Arlyn Lowe Denker turns 65… Director-general of the Israeli Defense Ministry until last May, Ehud “Udi” Adam turns 63… Systems engineer, Charles Ovits turns 62… Member of the Knesset for Likud, Katrin (Keti) Shitrit-Peretz turns 61… Justice on the Supreme Court of Israel, Noam Sohlberg turns 59… Michael S. Marquis turns 56…
He played Harvey Specter on the USA Network series “Suits,” Gabriel Macht turns 49… Sportscaster and host of a late afternoon radio show on ESPN 630 AM in Washington, Bram Weinstein turns 48… Director of the Chabad House in Kathmandu, Nepal, Rabbi Yechezkel “Chezki” Lifshitz turns 47… News editor, Yochonon Donn turns 44… Project officer at an International Rescue Committee early childhood development program for Syrian refugee children, Heidi Rosbe turns 41… SVP at SKDKnickerbocker, she was previously a press secretary for then-Vice President Biden, Kendra Barkoff Lamy turns 41… Financial regulation reporter at Politico, Zachary Warmbrodt turns 36… Serena Hines Steinberg turns 36… Corporate associate at Covington & Burling LLP, Mark Donig turns 34… Founder and director of Chai Lifeline Mid-Atlantic, Tzvi Haber… NYC-based senior director of strategic partnerships at Politico, Jesse Shapiro turns 30… Israeli singer known by the mononym Netta, she was the winner of the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest, Netta Barzilai turns 28… The first round pick of the New York Islanders in 2014, Josh Ho-Sangturns 25… 2022 J.D. candidate at the University of Michigan Law School, Matthew Lustbader…
SATURDAY: Real estate developer, Bruce Ratner turns 76… Professor of biological chemistry at Weizmann Institute of Science, David Wallach turns 75… Educational consultant, previously a longtime aide to Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug (D-NY), Peter D. Rosenstein turns 74… Manager of Innovative Strategies LLLP and JHJ Investment LLLP, he is a board member of the Baltimore-based Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund, Howard K. Cohen turns 74… U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) turns 74… Israeli archaeologist and educator at the University of Haifa, Estee Dvorjetski turns 70… 41st mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa turns 68… Former vice chairman at Citigroup, now a candidate to be mayor of NYC, Ray McGuire turns 64… Broadway theater owner and operator, James L. Nederlander turns 61… Former president and CEO of Staples Inc., she serves on the boards of three public companies (CBRE, CarMax and Henry Schein), Shira Goodman turns 60…
CEO of Foundation for Jewish Camp since 2010, Jeremy J. Fingermanturns 60… Executive editor of The Recount, John Heilemann turns 55… Hilary Bangash Cohen turns 50… Journalist, screenwriter and film producer, in 2009 he wrote and produced “The Hurt Locker,” Mark Boal turns 48… Creator and host of “Jew in the City,” Allison F. Josephs turns 41… Strategic communications consultant, Arielle Poleg turns 40… CEO of Instagram, Adam Mosseri turns 38… Manhasset, N.Y. native who competed for Israel in figure skating, Danielle Montalbano turns 32… Professional soccer player who plays as a defender for DC United, Steven Mitchell Birnbaum turns 30… New York City native who competed for Israel in pairs figure skating, Hayley Anne Sacks turns 30…
SUNDAY: Singer-songwriter, Neil Diamond turns 80… Born in Tel Aviv, 2011 Nobel Prize laureate in Chemistry, professor at Technion and Iowa State University, Dan Shechtman turns 80… U.S. special representative for Venezuela in the Trump administration, he is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and also served in both the Reagan and Bush 43 administrations, Elliott Abrams turns 73… Soviet-born comedian, actor and writer who emigrated to the U.S. in 1977, noted for the catchphrase, “What a country,” Yakov Smirnoffturns 70… Conductor, violinist, and violist, Yuri Bashmet turns 68… VP of strategy at LiveWorld, Daniel Flamberg turns 67… Founder of an online software training website that was acquired by LinkedIn 2015 for $1.5 billion, Lynda Weinman turns 66… Burlingame, California-based surgeon at Peninsula Plastic Surgery, Lorne Rosenfield M.D. turns 65… West Hempstead, N.Y., resident, Beryl Eckstein turns 63… NYC-based senior correspondent for Fox News, Rick Leventhal turns 61… Former CEO of Ford Motor Company, now a senior advisor at TPG Capital, Mark Fields turns 60… B’nei mitzvah coordinator at Temple Beth Am of Los Angeles, Judith Alban turns 59… Founder and executive director of Protect Democracy, Ian Bassin turns 45… Associate at Montgomery McCracken, Joshua Runyan turns 40… Founder and CEO at TACKMA, Jeffrey Schottenstein turns 35… Miryam Knafo Schapira turns 33…