👋 Good Friday morning!
President Joe Biden gave his first speech on foreign policy yesterday at the State Department, indicating his administration would adopt a tougher stance than the Trump administration on Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Biden did not mention Israel once, including when he listed his recent conversations “with the leaders of many of our closest friends.” Biden and Netanyahu have not spoken since Biden took office last month.
Former State Department official Aaron David Miller told JI that the omission of Israel “was willful and no accident. And no mention of Iran — a key Biden priority — curiously was no oversight either.”
But the White House National Security Council is reportedly convening today to discuss the administration’s approach to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.
And Secretary of State Tony Blinken is slated to hold a virtual meeting today with the foreign ministers of France, the U.K. and Germany about efforts to revive the deal.
French President Emmanuel Macron told the Atlantic Council yesterday that “we do need to finalize a new negotiation with Iran,” and that he can serve as an “honest broker.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations by a vote of 18-4 yesterday.
The Senate voted 97-3 in favor of a budget amendment yesterday that would keep the U.S. Embassy in Israel in Jerusalem. Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) voted no.
Check outJewish Insider’s ‘Jewish Nielsen’ report to see which webcasts people tuned into this week.
Sol Werdiger is ready for the big game
Under normal circumstances, Sol Werdiger, founder and CEO of the youth sports apparel manufacturer Outerstuff, is a gregarious presence on Super Bowl weekends. He has attended every championship game of the National Football League for more than two decades, always using the occasion to connect with local Jewish community members. “We try to take advantage of it and turn it into a full Shabbat experience,” Werdiger, the chairman of Agudath Israel’s board of trustees, told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. “We’re a frum family and we’re in the sports business — and we’ve been going to the Super Bowl now for almost 25 years.”
Different experience: But as Werdiger heads down to Tampa today for what will be the 55th Super Bowl — a highly anticipated matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — he has no plans for any such revelry due to the pandemic. “This year we’re not going to make our own minyan,” he said. “I’m going to walk to the local Chabad.” Rather than having a catered kosher event at the stadium, he added, “I’m sure we’ll be eating in our hotel rooms before we go and when we get back.” Werdiger’s sons and some grandchildren will be flying in only for the game, but his wife is staying home. “It’s going to be a little bit different this year.”
Solitary Shabbat: Werdiger, who lives in New York, sounded somewhat discouraged by the prospect of spending Shabbat alone, but he seemed more disappointed that he wouldn’t have the chance to support some of the local vendors and caterers he makes sure to seek out for Shabbat festivities. Instead, he told JI that he would likely make a donation to a Tampa day school or Chabad House. “We usually try to find a local yeshiva or institution that we donate some tickets to,” he said. “They can raffle them off to make some money.” But that wasn’t possible this year either, “because the allocation of tickets, I don’t have to tell you, was almost non-existent.”
COVID-19 precautions: Attendance at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa is capped at 25,000 people, approximately 7,500 of whom are expected to include vaccinated healthcare workers invited by the NFL. Werdiger has also already been vaccinated against COVID-19. “Had I not had the vaccines I think that I probably would have been a little bit nervous,” he said. Still, the NFL’s health and safety precautions, he said, were reassuring. “I sit in a suite with the NFL people and they sent me a kit to get tested,” Werdiger told JI. “I have to send it back to them. I have to follow all kinds of very strict NFL protocols.”
‘Kiddush Hashem’: Though Werdiger is, by his admission, “not a huge sports fan,” he added, “I always said there’s a reason that God put us into this business that we could try to do some good and spread the word and make a Kiddush Hashem.” No such encounters will occur this weekend, but Werdiger is hopeful that next year things will return to normal. In the meantime, the game awaits. Who will Werdiger be rooting for on Sunday? He paused for a moment and then gave his answer. “When you’re in this business, the team that sells the most is your favorite.”
Bonus: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft surprised 76 New England-area healthcare workers with an all-expenses paid trip to Sunday’s game in Tampa Bay aboard the Patriots’ team plane. Kraft, who noted this year’s Super Bowl was only possible because of the vaccine rollout, called it “an honor for us to celebrate these healthcare workers… We hope that in doing so, others are also encouraged to get vaccinated as they are able.”
California’s Jesse Gabriel weighs in on the ethnic studies controversy
On this week’s episode of Jewish Insider’s Limited Liability Podcast, hosts Jarrod Bernstein and Rich Goldberg are joined by California State Assembly Majority Whip and Chair of the California Jewish Caucus Jesse Gabriel and JI’s Melissa Weiss to discuss the recent controversy around the California ethnic studies curriculum.
Making progress: “This is not a new issue for us here in California, this is something that first came to our attention, really in 2019,” said Gabriel of the controversial curriculum, which is now in its third draft. “The first draft had some really noxious and bigoted and inappropriate stuff in it… so it really caught our community off guard… and so our caucus pushed back really, really strongly,” he said. “And since then we’ve made a lot of progress, and things have gone in a much more positive direction… thanks to a lot of really good work by advocacy organizations in the Jewish community.”
Looking abroad: Gabriel also weighed in on the role that states, particularly large states like California, can have in foreign policy. “I do think states have a really important role to play here,” he said, referencing the state’s pension investments as well as an anti-BDS law passed in California in 2016. “A better way to do this is to just actually strengthen relations between California and Israel and do things that are positive… let’s focus on all the great things that Israel is doing and all the benefits to the people of the state of California and the United States of America from strengthened relations,” he said, pointing to a memorandum of understanding signed in 2014, as well as cooperation “on wildfires and water and clean tech and other things that are really important to both states.”
Lightning round: Favorite Hebrew word? “For this year, ‘balagan’ has been at the top of the list.” Favorite Jewish food? “The black pastrami Reuben from Brent’s Deli in the San Fernando Valley.” Favorite recent books? To Heal a Fractured World by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and Abraham Joshua Heschel: Mind, Heart, Soul by Edward K. Kaplan.
Podcast soundtrack: “Who’s Yellen Now” by Dessa, celebrating the groundbreaking appointment of Janet Yellen as the first female Treasury secretary.
No credit: The original authors of California’s ethnic studies curriculum want their names removed from the final draft, alleging that “pro-Israel lobbyists” and “right-wing interest groups” watered down the original version.
House strips Greene of committee assignments
The House of Representatives voted yesterday to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) of her assignments on the Education and Labor and Budget Committees in response to her extensive history of comments promoting conspiracy theories, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod from Capitol Hill.
Breakdown: The final vote was 230-199, with 11 House Republicans joining the Democratic caucus to vote in favor of Greene’s removal from the two committees. Four of the votes came from Greene’s fellow first-term representatives, including freshman Reps. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) and Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL). Three other votes were cast by Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump.
Speaking up: “Past comments made and endorsed by Congresswoman Greene are deeply disturbing and extraordinarily offensive and hurtful to thousands of 9/11 families and first responders, our Jewish community and many others in my district,” Malliotakis told Jewish Insider. “As Americans, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard and fully condemn such comments regardless of which side of the aisle they come from.” Rep. John Katko (R-NY), who also voted yes, told JI he wasn’t concerned about consequences from party leadership, which supported Greene.
Not quite: In a speech on the House floor Thursday morning, Greene renounced her previous comments, claiming that she “was allowed to believe things that weren’t true,” but averred that she “never once said any of the things that I am being accused of today, during my campaign,” a claim not supported by evidence. Greene concluded her speech by saying that the “media… is just as guilty as QAnon” and never explicitly apologized for her past behavior. Greene is slated to hold a press conference on the issue this morning.
Slotkin steps up
Slotkin: Internal divisions are fueling domestic terrorism
Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) warned that domestic divisions that enable and embolden domestic terrorism are “the single greatest threat to American security,” in a press conference held Thursday afternoon, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod. The longtime CIA, NSC and Pentagon official — who spent much of her career tackling terrorism abroad — is now turning her expertise to the home front as the new chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism.
New battlefield: “As someone who worked at the CIA and the Defense Department and spent the first 20 years of my career looking at foreign terrorist threats, I really think that we have seen the end of the post-9/11 era,” she said. “I think we can officially say on the 6th of January we saw the end of those 20 years of the post-9/11 era. Instead of the greatest threat coming from abroad, and foreign terrorist organizations, I think the single greatest threat to Americans’ security is the division between us.”
Education: Slotkin said passing a bill she co-sponsored in the last Congress that federally mandates Holocaust education would be an important step toward addressing radicalization. “I walked through those crowds, the morning of the 6th,” she said. “If you are not educated on the Holocaust, when you see something like a ‘Camp Auschwitz’ sweatshirt, or a swastika, or some of these tropes that have been around forever, about wealthy Jews running the world — if you don’t know that has a historical legacy and connection to genocide, then when you see it in a random protest, you might not think it’s that big of a deal.”
✍️ Live in Hope: In The Washington Post, Mariane Pearl, the wife of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl, said she still has hope despite the injustice of the Pakistani decision last week to release his killers. “I have seen how abuse and corruption rip apart the lives of a family or a community. The justice I have come to believe in lies in the power of humanism.” [WashPost]
🗳️ Ballot Box: Vice’s Barnaby Papadopulos explores the upcoming Palestinian national elections, the first slated to be held in 15 years, which still face a number of hurdles. “We are trying our best to make these elections happen”, said Mustafa Barghouti. “But there are lots of obstacles, of course.” [Vice]🍦 Melt Down:Marker’s Courtney Rubin details the “shocking meltdown” of Ample Hills, a Brooklyn-based ice cream company which expanded from a mom-and-pop shop to a nationwide chain including a major deal with Disney that stemmed from finding a loyal customer in Bob Iger. But rapid expansion and cost-cutting efforts led them into bankruptcy. [Marker]
Around the Web
😷 Opening Up: Israel will begin easing its COVID-19 lockdown on Sunday, lifting a 1,000-meter restriction on movement as well as allowing most offices to open.
👋 Dropping out: Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai pulled his “The Israelis” Party from contention yesterday, hours before the final registration deadline for Israel’s March national election.
🏕️ On the Ground: Clashes between Palestinians living in caves across the West Bank and Israeli settlers have increased in recent months.
🤝 Deal or No Deal: Former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh argues that it would be “a mistake” for Netanyahu to continue to oppose the Iran deal.
🧑⚖️ Locked Up: A Belgian court sentenced Iranian envoy Assadollah Assadi to 20 years in prison for organizing a thwarted bombing against Iranian opposition leaders in France.
⚰️ Assassinated: Longtime Hezbollah critic Lokman Slim was found dead in his car in southern Lebanon yesterday with multiple bullet wounds.
💍 Socially Distanced Shidduch: Orthodox Jews in Israel have been forced to seek out new, unorthodox dating venues amid the pandemic and ongoing lockdowns.
📺 Sticking Around: CNN President Jeff Zucker announced that he will remain at the network through the end of the year.
🏊 Dip Dues: Chabad of North Dakota is raising $250,000 to build a mikvah in Fargo, which would be the city’s first in almost 75 years.
🧑🤝🧑 Solidarity: The Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation is launching a new program to counter various forms of bigotry and hatred.
🔒 Fiery Flyer: Piers Corbyn, the brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, was arrested after distributing leaflets comparing the U.K. vaccine rollout to Auschwitz.
💉 You’re Fired: The Central Massachusetts Chabad cut ties with longtime New England Rabbi Michoel Green over his public anti-vaccine rhetoric.
📺 Back in Business: After parting ways over his antisemitism controversy, Nick Cannon is returning to produce “Wild ‘N Out” with ViacomCBS after the TV host worked to make amends.💼 Transitions:Ellie Cohanim, who served as the U.S. deputy envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, is joining the Independent Women’s Forum as a visiting fellow. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has tapped Hank Gutman as the city’s new transportation commissioner.
Gif of the Day
Israeli singer and “Fauda” star Idan Amedi released a new single, “Look Into My Eyes.”
Israeli-French singer-songwriter whose hit single “New Soul” was used by Apple in a 2008 advertising campaign for its MacBook Air, Yael Naim turns 43…
FRIDAY: A child survivor of Bergen Belsen and a guest at the 2019 State of the Union as a survivor of the Tree of Life shooting, Abraham Judah Samet turns 83… Director and producer, Michael Kenneth Mann turns 78… Israeli engineer and entrepreneur, he holds 567 patents and is a founding partner of investment company Rainbow Medical, Yossi Gross turns 74… Actor and comedian, best known as the voice of Jafar in Disney’s “Aladdin” franchise, Jonathan Freeman turns 71… Professor at Georgetown University Law Center, Randy E. Barnett turns 69… Past chair of the board of The Associated of Baltimore, Linda A. Hurwitz turns 63… Ellen Braun turns 63… Actress, writer, producer and director, Jennifer Jason Leigh turns 59… Founding rabbi of The New Shul in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, now the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Shalom of Napa Valley, Niles Elliot Goldstein turns 55…
Member of the New York State Assembly representing the east side of Manhattan, Harvey David Epstein turns 54…Canadian environmental activist, Tzeporah Berman turns 52… Associate director of the Jerusalem-based Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, columnist for The Times of Israel, Pesach Wolicki turns 51… Baltimore-area chiropractor, president of Congregation Shomrei Emunah and kosher wine curator, Dr. Kenneth S. Friedman turns 48… President and COO of American Signature, Jonathan Schottenstein turns 39… Global head of public affairs at Teach For All, Sarabeth Berman turns 37… Political and strategic communications consultant at Number 10 Strategies, Joshua Hantman turns 36… Olympic sprinter, Donald Sanford turns 34… Senior manager of communications at the American Geriatrics Society, Nicole A. Levy turns 31… Israeli golfer who played in seven LPGA events during 2019, Laetitia Beck turns 29…
SATURDAY: Israeli pediatric endocrinologist and winner of the 2009 Israel Prize, Laron syndrome is named after him, Dr. Zvi Laron turns 94… Bill Levine turns 89… New Jersey State Senate majority leader, Loretta Weinberg turns 86… Rosalyn Kaplan turns 84… Cantor of Congregation Hugat Haverim in Glendale, California, Harvey Lee Block turns 80… Syndicated columnist for the Washington Post for 43 years until 2019, Richard Martin Cohen turns 80… Louisiana commissioner of administration and former lieutenant governor of Louisiana, Jay Dardenne turns 67… Professor of journalism at Harvard and at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, Michael Pollan turns 66… Los Angeles attorney specializing in criminal and civil appeals, Paul Kujawsky turns 64… Former long-time foreign correspondent for NPR and author of The Geography of Bliss, Eric Weiner turns 58…
Special events producer at Ballas Bloom Consulting, Jacquelyn Ballas Bloom turns 52… Television and film actress, best known for her role as Pepper in the FX series “American Horror Story,” Naomi Grossman turns 46… Rabbi and author of seven books, Danya Ruttenberg turns 46… Professor at the MIT Media Lab, where she leads the Mediated Matter research group, Neri Oxman turns 45… AIPAC’s mid-Atlantic regional political director, Stephen Knable turns 40… Deputy division director, public diplomacy & international relations at the Israeli Ministry of Health, Adam Cutler turns 40… Former director of programming for The Jewish Channel, Steven I. Weiss turns 40… Global CEO of the Kirsch Foundation, Carly Maisel… Head of sales and business development at Fabko Ltd, Yadin Koschitzky…
SUNDAY: Former U.S. senator from Wisconsin and former owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, Herb Kohl turns 86… and also born in Milwaukee on the same date 16 years later, his first cousin, senior rabbi (now emeritus) of Beth Tzedec Congregation in Toronto and former president of the Toronto Board of Rabbis, Baruch Frydman-Kohl turns 70… Director of training for the Bulfinch Group, Michel R. Scheinmann turns 73… U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO) turns 69… Democratic member of the Illinois House of Representatives, Robyn Gabel turns 68… Senior research scientist at Battelle Memorial Institute and part-time instructor at Carnegie Mellon University, Rick Wice turns 65… American businessman arrested in Bolivia in July 2011 and held for 18 months without charges, freed through public outcry and the efforts of Sean Penn, Jacob Ostreicher turns 62…
Actor and writer known for his Saturday Night Live “TV Funhouse” cartoon shorts and as the puppeteer and voice behind Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, Robert Smigel turns 61… Rabbi at Beth Chai Congregation in Bethesda, Md., and author of Jewish children’s books, Deborah Bodin Cohen turns 53… VP of communications at PM Hotel Group, Jennifer Diamond Haber turns 52… Executive director of the UJA and JCRC-NY’s Community Security Initiative, Mitch Silber turns 51… Executive director of the Aviv Foundation, Adam Simon turns 46… Vice president and managing director at Material+, Jonathan Weiss turns 45… Hasidic singer and recording artist, Shloime Daskal turns 42… Former MLB pitcher, he is now an angel investor in the San Francisco area, Scott Feldman turns 38… Director of development at Chicago’s Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, Rachael Fenton… David Israel… Michael Harris…