👋 Good Wednesday morning!
The first day of the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump concluded yesterday with six Republicans and all 50 Senate Democrats voting that the proceedings are constitutional.
The day’s arguments were marked by sharp contrasts, including a tearful speech by lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a compilation of video clips from the Jan. 6 riot, and a meandering, widely mocked presentation by Trump attorney Bruce Castor.
Trump’s defense attorney David Schoen, an observant Jew, set off a wealth of speculation on social media and cable news for covering his head with his hand while taking a sip of water.
Schoen later toldCNN that he didn’t wear a yarmulke during the trial proceedings because “I just wasn’t sure if it was appropriate, frankly… I didn’t want to offend anyone.”
Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod was on Capitol Hillspeaking to senators about their thoughts on each side’s arguments as well as the case overall. The trial is slated to resume at noon today.
Iran’s intelligence minister said yesterday that if U.S. sanctions are not lifted, Iran would be “pushed” to consider producing a nuclear bomb, and “it would not be Iran’s fault but the fault of those who pushed Iran.”
A new Israeli intelligence assessment reportedly indicates that Iran is at least two years away from being able to produce nuclear weapons.
By the book
Meet the Jewish Florida senator poised for statewide office
During her first five years in office, Florida State Senator Lauren Book, a Democrat who represents Broward County, has built a track record as an effective and empathetic lawmaker who is widely regarded as a bipartisan workhorse on child advocacy, Holocaust education and gun safety. And with the 2022 election on the horizon, Book, 36, may be banking on that reputation as speculation swirls over whether she will pursue statewide office. “Any opportunity that I have to be a voice for those in my community, I will do it,” Book told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent interview. “I’m focused on what that means for here and now, but going forward, obviously, my duty is to serve, and so I will do that in any capacity that I possibly can.”
Trailblazer: Statewide office bids remain daunting for Democrats hoping to break out of South Florida’s blue bubble. Nikki Fried, Florida’s agricultural commissioner and the lone statewide elected Democrat, defied the odds when she prevailed by a razor-thin margin over her Republican opponent in 2018. Fried, the first Jewish woman ever elected to statewide office in Florida, is something of an outlier, but she also charted a course for future statewide Democratic candidates. “You can’t not have respect for her,” said Book, “the things that she has done and the trail that she has blazed.”
Survivor: Book’s personal story is a moving one — all the more so because of the struggles she overcame on her way to elected office. Book is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse perpetrated for six years by her live-in nanny, an experience that, “for a long time, defined who and what I was,” she told JI. Now, she said, “the most important thing is that I utilize my voice as somebody who lost their voice for such a long time. Being a survivor, being a child in that situation and having your voice taken from you and your power taken from you — I have committed to myself, and to everyone around me, that I will never let that happen again. It’s my responsibility to be that voice for others that don’t have it.”
Never forget: Much of Book’s legislation is informed by her personal background. Last session, she passed a Holocaust education bill that mandates additional instruction around antisemitism. “I grew up learning about the Holocaust, so the thought of people thinking that it didn’t really happen is abhorrent to me,” she said. Book was moved to pass the bill upon returning from a trade mission to Israel during which she visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum. It wasn’t her first time in the Jewish state — she was, in fact, bat mitzvahed there.
Different world: After the trade mission, Book, who is raising twin toddlers with her second husband, Blair Byrnes, said she became more attuned to Judaism, bringing her children to Israel and conducting their naming ceremonies at the Western Wall. “It’s a piece of your life, your world, and how you connect to your family,” she said of her faith. “I have no living grandparents, so I feel like it’s an opportunity to connect with all of those parts.” Though Book said she never experienced antisemitism growing up in South Florida, she worries her kids won’t be as lucky. “I’m very, very cognizant of the fact that I am raising two Jewish children who will probably experience a little bit of a different world than I did when I was growing up,” she said, mentioning the man who wore a “Camp Auschwitz” shirt during the Capitol breach. “Those things are very real.”
On the Hill
Luria: U.S. must include regional allies in Iran negotiations
Two years into her tenure on Capitol Hill, Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), a 20-year Navy veteran with the longest active-duty tenure of any current House Democrat, was tapped as the vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee. The Virginia congresswoman spoke to Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod yesterday about her approach to the new position.
On the agenda: “It’s an honor to be selected for that position by my peers,” Luria told JI. “[Given] both my personal military background, the importance overall of national defense issues, and our district being home to eight major military installations, I am hopeful that I can contribute in the same way that my predecessor did.” Luria said the committee’s top priorities will include modernizing the nuclear triad; countering the threat of China by increasing the U.S. naval presence in the Western Pacific; maintaining and improving shipyard infrastructure; supporting recruitment, retention and veterans; and countering cyber threats.
Bad deal: Unlike the majority of her House Democratic colleagues, Luria does not support rejoining the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. “The Iran deal was a bad deal at the onset and actually set a course where Iran could obtain the components that they needed to create a nuclear weapon,” Luria said. “I don’t agree with the sunset clauses. I think that lifting sanctions on Iran allowed them to use those resources to fund other proxy groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.”
Come to the table: Although the Biden administration is seeking to rejoin the deal, Luria said she was encouraged by President Joe Biden’s recent pledge not to lift any U.S. sanctions until Iran first scales back its nuclear program. “If we are going to come to the table with Iran, we need to make a deal that ensures that Iran does not have the path to acquiring or developing a nuclear weapon,” Luria said. “And I think that we need to do a better job of including our regional allies and partners in that discussion and agreement in the future.”
Learning lessons: Luria recently reintroduced a bill to establish a joint U.S.-Israel PTSD research grant program. “There is great research going on in both countries that is looking to provide better care for those people who experienced that illness,” Luria said. “The opportunity for the U.S. and Israel to work together in a cooperative way and share their research is really meaningful and impactful, and I think furthers our security cooperation on another level.”
Day in court
Polish court ruling on Holocaust libel is ‘very disturbing,’ historians say
A Polish court ruling yesterday calling on two of the country’s leading Holocaust historians to apologize for their work under the country’s new libel law has raised concerns among other historians and researchers, as well as human rights groups, reports Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss.
Background: Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski were ordered by a Polish judge to issue a written apology to the niece of a man mentioned in Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland, which Engelking and Grabowski co-edited. Filomena Leszczynska argued that the historians published inaccurate details about her uncle’s wartime activities. The book includes testimony from a Holocaust survivor who said that Leszczynska’s uncle had robbed them and had also been involved in the deaths of 18 Jews near the village of Malinowo. Leszczynska insisted that her uncle, who was acquitted of complicity in the murders in 1950, had saved Jews during the Holocaust.
Rewriting history: Holocaust historian and Dorot Professor at Emory University Deborah Lipstadt told Jewish Insider that the ruling was “very disturbing,” adding, “this is what I call softcore Holocaust denial. It’s softcore Holocaust denial because you’re not denying the facts, you’re not saying anything didn’t happen. But you’re changing who was involved. You’re rewriting the script: ‘So the genocide took place. The horrors took place, but moi, me? Never.’”
Bad precedent: Mark Weitzman, director of political affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, noted that the new ruling sets a precedent for several other libel cases that are working their way through Poland’s court system under the controversial 2018 law. He suggested that the ruling would discourage future efforts by academics and historians in Poland to study the country’s history. “I’m concerned that this is the message that’s going to go to the Ph.D. student who’s just looking for a topic to write about and goes, ‘Why am I going to even touch this when everything I do could get me in trouble here?’ or the history teacher in a local town, who was planning on assigning their high school students to do a history of the town during World War II,” he told JI. “So there is, I think, an incredible chilling effect there.”
⚖️ Never Again: The New York Times’s Melissa Eddy explores why Germany is pushing ahead with prosecutions of now-elderly former Nazi guards — including a 100-year-old man charged yesterday — as part of the country’s “race against the clock to bring the final members of the Nazi generation to justice.” [NYTimes]
👨🏻💼 Earnest Appeal: Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) choked back tears yesterday at the impeachment trial while recalling the events of Jan. 6, which occurred just days after the suicide of his son, framing the incident “not just as a technical matter or a violation of law, but as a violation of something the nation holds sacred,” writes The Atlantic’s David Graham. [Atlantic]
📜 Living History: In The San Diego Union Tribune, Pam Kragen tells the story of the Weiss family in San Diego, who recently received a package containing the shares of stock in a Zionist bank that their ancestor Sadie Weiss purchased in 1923 — tracked down by an avid collector of Zionist artifacts. [Union-Tribune]
🪲 Pest Problem: In The New York Times, Matti Friedman explores the unlikely alliance blooming in the Middle East to counter red palm weevils, which are devastating date orchards and uniting former foes in the quest to vanquish them. An Israeli-created weevil sensor “might offer an early sign of a political opening, a willingness to put aside old problems in favor of new solutions to different problems.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
🇮🇱 No Go: Following Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s comments on the Golan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that the area “will remain forever a part of the State of Israel.”
☢️ Teamwork: Retired IDF General Amos Yadlin argues that Netanyahu needs to work with President Joe Biden, not against him, in order to combat a nuclear Iran.
🎤 Under Investigation: The Canadian government is investigating an audio recording purported to be of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claiming that “infiltrators” deliberately shot down flight PS752 last year.
🗳️ On Track: Fatah and Hamas agreed in Cairo yesterday to move forward with Palestinian national elections in May and July, the first in 15 years.
🦠 Science Success: Netanyahu said yesterday that 97% of COVID-19 deaths in Israel over the past month were unvaccinated individuals.
💉 Shots for All: Tel Aviv has begun providing foreigners, including undocumented asylum seekers, with the COVID-19 vaccination.
🤝 Sit Down: Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Gilad Erdan met with Egyptian Ambassador to the U.S. Motaz Zahran on Monday.
🧪🥩 Test Tube Steak: Israeli startup Aleph Farms has produced the first-ever 3-D printed ribeye steak, and is looking to expand to other types of meat.
🌇 On the Market: Buyers from Arab states which recently normalized relations with Israel are fueling a luxury real estate boom in Tel Aviv.
⚽ Foul Ball: Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan’s bid to purchase 50% of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club is in jeopardy following a recent Israeli audit.
🏆 Winners: Israel awarded its prestigious Wolf Prize today to a range of laureates including musical legend Stevie Wonder.
🧑⚖️ Camp COVID: An ultra-Orthodox Jewish organization that runs summer camps in New York is suing local officials for levying health regulation fines over the summer.
🏙️ You’re Fired: Vornado Realty Trust, run by longtime Trump friend Steven Roth, is looking to end its partnership with Trump’s real estate company.
🥅 Download: Former Disney executive Ben Sherwood has launched a new app, Mojo, to aid youth soccer coaches, raising $8 million in a Series A funding round.
📚 Book Shelf: The New York Times reviews a new biography of Bugsy Siegel, the once infamous Jewish mobster.
📰 Transition: The New York Times’s Rebecca Blumenstein was promoted to a newly created role as deputy editor in the publisher’s office, reporting directly to publisher A. G. Sulzberger.
🕯️ Remembering: Murray Lynn, a Holocaust survivor who began speaking about his experiences later in life, died at age 90. Hershel Shanks, co-founder of the Biblical Archaeology Review who fought for public access to the Dead Sea Scrolls,died at age 90. Flory Jagoda, a musician who worked to preserve Sephardic music, died at age 97.
Gif of the Day
Chef and YouTube personality Matty Matheson released a new video, that previously aired on Vice TV, featuring him exploring kosher food in Montreal with Rabbi Yisroel Bernath.
Executive chairman of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger turns 70…
CEO of Metromedia Company and a board member of Carnival Corporation, Stuart Subotnick turns 79… Founding figure of Postminimalism’s conceptual art, Lawrence Weiner turns 79… European rabbi who has served in Vienna, Munich and now Berlin, Yitshak Ehrenberg turns 71… Swimmer, who won seven gold medals at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Mark Spitz turns 71… Partner in ThinkLAB Ventures, Jayne Harris Abess turns 66… Host of CNBC’s “Mad Money” and a co-founder of TheStreet, Inc., Jim Cramer turns 66… CEO emerita of DC-based Jewish Women International, Loribeth Weinstein turns 66… Ethiopian-born, former member of Knesset for the Likud party (2015-2019), Avraham Neguise turns 63… Journalist and syndicated newspaper columnist, Jeff Jacoby turns 62…Former NASA astronaut, famous for his mezuzah in the International Space Station, Garrett Reisman turns 53… Member of the Maryland House of Delegates and chair of its Ways and Means Committee, Anne R. Kaiser turns 53… Associate director of development at the Midwest regional office of the Anti-Defamation League, Matthew Feldman turns 50…
Columbus-based executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities, Howie Beigelman turns 47… Israeli pop star and part of the duo “TYP” also known as The Young Professionals, Ivri Lider turns 47… Co-founder and principal at Klein/Johnson Group, Israel “Izzy” Klein turns 44… Israeli rock musician, Dudu Tassa turns 44… Candidate for vice president of the United States in the 2016 election as the running mate of Evan McMullin, entrepreneur and digital media strategist, Mindy Finn turns 40… Director of marketing and communications at Greens Farms Academy, Michelle Levi Noe turns 38… Counsel in the Washington, D.C. office of Venable where he leads the firm’s mobility and transportation technology team, Ariel S. Wolf turns 38… Global operations specialist and project manager at Mixtiles in Israel, Avital Mannis turns 28… NFL quarterback, now with the San Francisco 49ers, he was the tenth overall pick in 2018 NFL Draft, Josh Rosen turns 24… Israeli singer, songwriter and dancer, Jonathan Ya’akov Mergui turns 21…