👋 Good Friday morning!
Ed note: In celebration of Passover, the next Daily Kickoff will be on Monday, April 5. Chag Sameach!
Today we’re introducing a new feature: The Weekly Print by Jewish Insider, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent JI stories for less-distracted weekend reading. Print the first edition here.
We’re also retiring another regular feature: The weekly Zoom ratings. Over the last 52 weeks, we have compiled and verified viewership stats from virtual gatherings across the Jewish community. Here’s what we’ve learned.
Eric Cantor, the former House Majority Leader, is this week’s guest on Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast.” Be sure to subscribe on Apple | Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Israel’s election results were finalized yesterday, confirming no clear path for anyone toward building a majority coalition. The bloc of parties supporting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won 52 seats, and the anti-Netanyahu bloc won 57 seats. Yamina and Ra’am, which have not committed to either bloc, won 7 and 4 seats respectively.
Yet parties on both sides have refused to consider joining forces with either the Joint List or Ra’am, making any majority government coalition unlikely, barring individual party defectors. Next week, the parties will begin holding meetings with President Reuven Rivlin to each recommend a candidate to be tasked with building a government.
A spokesperson for Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) told Jewish Insider on Thursday that the New Jersey senator is undecided on whether he will back Colin Kahl’s nomination to be undersecretary of defense for policy. Kahl will likely require the support of every Democrat in the Senate to be confirmed.
Jane Timken claims she’s the Trumpiest candidate in Ohio
As Ohio’s open-seat Senate race takes shape, speculation is swirling around which Republican will be anointed with an endorsement from former President Donald Trump. The two most high-profile Republicans in the primary — Jane Timken, a former GOP state party chair, and Josh Mandel, a former state treasurer — are locked in a frenzied game of one-upmanship to earn Trump’s favor. Timken, for her part, believes she is well-poised for victory. “I’m the only person in this race who, for the last four years, has been advancing the America First agenda and championing President Trump,” she said in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Pinch point: Still, there is one possible point of tension between Timken and Trump — Rep. Anthony Gonzalez’s (R-OH) decision to vote in favor of impeachment. Before announcing her Senate bid in mid-February, Timken said the Ohio congressman, in whose district she resides, had a “rational reason” for his vote, describing him as “a very good person.” She soon reversed course, and now calls for Gonzalez to resign as he faces a primary challenge from a former Trump aide. Politico reports that Trump mentioned Timken’s flip-flop at a meeting with Ohio Senate candidates on Wednesday in Florida. Timken said it wasn’t an issue. “He knows exactly my statements about Anthony Gonzalez,” she said.
Mandel’s move: Yet even the appearance of any bad blood could give Mandel an opening to attack his opponent as insufficiently pro-Trump. Scott Guthrie, Mandel’s campaign manager, suggested as much in an email to JI casting Mandel as “the only unabashedly pro-Trump candidate in this race.” “He was the first statewide official in Ohio to endorse President Trump, and will continue to fight for the America First agenda in the U.S. Senate,” Guthrie added. “While other candidates said they ‘didn’t know’ how they would vote on impeaching President Trump, Josh Mandel stood strongly and vocally against the sham and unconstitutional impeachment.”
Combative race: With more Republicans mulling bids — including Hillbilly Elegy author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance as well as Reps. Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Bill Johnson (R-OH) — the primary is likely to become even more combative as each candidate vies for the coveted seat. But Timken argues that her experience traveling the state as Ohio’s GOP state chair puts her in a rarefied position. “I’ve been out there,” she said. “The other candidates in this race have not.”
Bernie mitten-maker and PJ Library fit hand in glove
When she became an internet sensation as the woman behind Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) viral mittens, Jen Ellis, a 43-year-old Vermont schoolteacher and craft hobbyist, decided that, rather than profit from her newfound celebrity, she would use her platform to promote charitable causes. She has since auctioned off select pairs of mittens while partnering with companies like Vermont Teddy Bears and Darn Tough Vermont to raise money for local nonprofits. “It has been a crazy few months!” Ellis told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel earlier this week.
Glove story: On Wednesday, Ellis participated in what she characterized as one of the most meaningful, though unexpected, experiences to have resulted from her recent success. In a virtual interview filmed by PJ Library, the popular free subscription service for Jewish-themed children’s books, Ellis spoke with a former student, Owen, about the Jewish concept of bal tashchit — which discourages wastefulness. Alli Thresher, PJ Library’s director of digital content, reached out to Ellis after Sanders wore her mittens at the presidential inauguration. Thresher was impressed that the mittens were made from repurposed wool sweaters and recycled plastic — and asked if she would discuss her process with a child participant.
Background: Ellis, who isn’t Jewish, was nevertheless enthusiastic about the request — and suggested bringing in Owen, now a third-grader who subscribes to PJ Library, for a Zoom discussion. “His mother came in a couple times to teach us about Jewish traditions and read books to us when he was in my class in first and second grade,” recalled Ellis, who said that Owen is one of just two Jewish students she has taught throughout her 15-year career in public education. “I have been intentional to give them a platform to talk about being Jewish if they want to,” Ellis emphasized, “and both of them have.”
Lively discussion: In conversation with JI on Thursday, Ellis said the interview with Owen, who is 9, had exceeded her expectations. “He came prepared with all kinds of great questions,” Ellis remarked, “which he had numbered and written on note cards and clearly practiced.” They discussed, among other things, why Ellis believes it is important to use materials that would otherwise go into a landfill — and she briefly demonstrated how to salvage old sweaters to make her mittens, which she describes as “swittens,” a portmanteau of sweater and mittens. “We talked about how when you reuse something you give it a second life,” she said.
Eric Cantor: GOP needs to return to ‘suburban agenda’
Former Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) joined Rich Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein on this week’s episode of Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast.” Cantor shared his thoughts on the state of the Republican Party and the trajectory of bipartisan support for Israel in Washington.
Who leads the GOP: “Clearly Donald Trump has demonstrated that he’ll do what’s good for him, no question about it,” Cantor said. “And so it’ll be an interesting primary season for the midterm elections in 2022 to begin to understand what Donald Trump will do. If he wants to maintain his importance, obviously, he’ll need to play ball with the party, if you will. If he wants to do what’s good for him and believes he can be of outsize [importance] on his own. That’s a different story. And then in the meantime, clearly, the other leaders in the party nationally, [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has stated very definitively that it is his job to go in and make sure that Republicans regain the majority in the Senate. My former colleague and successor, [Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)] has said, without qualms, that his job is to make sure that Republicans regain the majority in the House. So at that point, I don’t think you have a national voice speaking for the Republican Party. And naturally that will come as we then pass the midterms and begin the primary season for the presidential race, which will occur in ‘24.”
Suburban living: Asked about the key steps Republicans would have to take in order to win back the House and Senate, Cantor recalled his early days in Congress with fellow Republican (and Goldberg’s former boss) then-Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL): “I first went to Washington, and I was in Mark’s class, and Mark was famous for the suburban agenda. I will say today, that that’s what my party needs to regain its footing within the electorate that it seems to have lost during the last four, six, eight years.”
Special relationship: “Increasingly, I think two things happened on Israel. One is, as we saw, the more radicalization, if you will, of the progressive left. That term they use of intersectionality — I don’t quite understand all of it — but if you’re a victim, then we’ll be for you because we’re a victim. And it almost became [like] Israel after the Yom Kippur War proved to the world that it was no longer the underdog, and that it was actually the strongest player, certainly in the Levant, and in the eastern Mediterranean, if not throughout the Middle East… Secondly, during the Obama administration, there’s no question about it, [then-White House Chief of Staff] Rahm Emanuel was unequivocal at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: he was not supportive of Bibi [Netanyahu] as prime minister. And the sharing of political talent on both sides that played out in Israel reflected what we had going on here. So I do think those two issues really started to cloud the support for Israel. I do think it’s still somewhat bipartisan, but there’s definitely a lot more difficulty at it.”
Lightning round: Favorite Yiddish word? “The term, for which there is no English word and only Yiddish, is Machatunim” said grandparent-to-be Cantor, who earlier in the episode described meeting his wife, a Florida Democrat, on a blind date in New York City. Favorite part of Passover? “The eighth day at sundown.” Current reading list? Dealing with China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpowerby Hank Paulson, and We Should Have Seen It Coming: From Reagan to Trump — A Front-Row Seat to a Political Revolution by Gerald Seib. Favorite place in Virginia nobody has heard of? “Colonial Trail, which is a new bike trail between Richmond and Williamsburg and goes along the plantation alley along the James River, is a great new addition.”
on the hill
Bipartisan Senate letter calls for agreement with Iran
Forty-three senators, led by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — 28 Republicans, 14 Democrats and independent Sen. Angus King (I-ME), who caucuses with the Democrats — sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Thursday calling on him to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran addressing its nuclear weapons program as well as its provocations in the Middle East and its ballistic missile program, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Quotable: The letter calls on Biden to “use the full force of our diplomatic and economic tools in concert with our allies on the United Nations Security Council and in the region to reach an agreement that prevents Iran from ever acquiring nuclear weapons and meaningfully constrains its destabilizing activity throughout the Middle East and its ballistic missile program.”
Areas of agreement: While acknowledging that “Democrats and Republicans may have tactical differences,” including disagreements about the underlying 2015 nuclear deal and the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign, the letter emphasizes that the senators are “united on preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon and addressing the wide range of illicit Iranian behavior.” It further calls on Biden to “prioritize” the release of Americans detained in Iran. The letter doesn’t give specific recommendations on how the U.S. should approach Iran, including how, or whether, the Biden administration should continue the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign.
On the list: Signatories on the Democratic side include moderates like Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Gary Peters (D-MI). Republican signatories include Sens. James Risch (R-ID), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Todd Young (R-IN). Many of the Senate Republican conference’s most vocal critics of the Biden administration’s Iran policy did not sign on.
Outside clash: The letter became a flashpoint between AIPAC and J Street, with AIPAC lobbying for the letter and J Street against it, according to a Senate staffer. The letter was one of AIPAC’s lobbying priorities during its virtual national council meeting last week, and spokesman Marshall Wittmann described it as “an important bipartisan statement.” J Street lobbyist Dylan Williams said that his group “has deep concerns” that the letter “will be framed by opponents of diplomacy with Iran as demonstrating the signatories’ opposition to the Biden administration’s compliance-for-compliance approach.”
Elsewhere: Politico reports that the Biden administration is being criticized by progressives for slow movement on a number of their key issues, including reentering the Iran deal.
⚾ Big League: The New York Times’ David Waldstein profiles Nevada high school baseball standout Elie Kligman, a Shabbat-observant teenager who has dreams of playing in the majors — if college and MLB coaches will allow him to miss Friday night and Saturday afternoon games. “My goal is to become the first Shabbas observant player in Major League Baseball,” Kligman said. [NYT]
✍️ Facing Oblivion: Writing in Foreign Policy, Yehudah Mirsky argues that democracy in Israel has declined, “moving steadily in the direction of religious nationalism and authoritarian populism.” A significant problem, Mirsky writes, is Israel’s reliance on American liberalism tied to the concepts of American exceptionalism, currently experiencing its own internal divisions. With the end of America’s global liberal leadership, Mirsky suggests Israeli liberalism can pull itself from “oblivion” by rethinking its own liberal beliefs. [ForeignPolicy]
🫓 Generations Past: Rabbi Avi Shafran writes in the Wall Street Journal’s Houses of Worship column about how his father in Siberia and his father in law in a Dachau concentration camp celebrated Passover during the Holocaust.[WSJ]
Around the Web
🍷 Live from the White House: The White House hosted a virtual Passover celebration yesterday led by Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and Rabbi Sharon Brous that featured guest appearances from President Biden, First Lady Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris along with other White House staffers.
🚢 Direct Hit: An Israeli cargo ship bound for India was damaged after being hit by an Iranian missile in the Arabian Sea on Thursday.
◀️ Reverse Request: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti to reconsider the decision to open an embassy in Jerusalem, which it did last month after formally establishing diplomatic ties with Israel.
✍️ HFAC Happenings: In bipartisan votes Thursday, the House Foreign Affairs Committeeadvanced several pieces of legislation, including two bills that would levy further penalties on Saudi Arabia and its Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman for the killing of Jamaal Khashoggi and a bill repealing the 2002 Authorization of Military Force in Iraq, despite some pushback from Republicans.
🏦 Deadline Extended: The Senate passed an extensionof the application deadline for Paycheck Protection Program loans by a vote of 93 to 7. The measure was a top priority for some nonprofit groups during negotiations for the recent COVID-19 relief bill, but was omitted from that package.
💽 Keeping Track: DHS officials are seeking to improve the department’s ability to collect and analyze data, including social media posts, in relation to domestic terrorism.
👎 Tech Trouble: Google is under fire for scores of antisemitic reviews of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp on its Maps feature.
🖇️ We SPAC: WeWork has agreed to merge with the BoxX Acquisition Corp. SPAC that values the company at $9 billion.
💸 Ultimate Purchase: Ari Emanuel — whose agency, Endeavor, owns just over half of Ultimate Fighting Championship — is seeking to purchase the remaining 49.9% of the mixed martial arts company.
💰 Directing Gelt: Director Steven Spielberg will donate — and match — his $1 million Genesis prize money to a range of social justice groups, including Avodah, Collaborative for Jewish Organizing, Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action, Jews of Color Initiative and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
🕯️ Remembering: Emmy Award-winning actress Jessica Walter, known for her role as matriarch Lucille Bluth in “Arrested Development,” died at age 80.
Song of the Day
The Maccabeats released their latest Passover song, “Nirtzah: The Seder Finale” this week.
Wine of the Week
JI’s wine columnist Yitz Applbaum reviews the Vignobles Mayard, Le Hurlevent, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 2019:
Over the years I have tried to temper my wine reviews so as not to cry wolf on every new bottle that excites me. However, when I’m hit over the head with a masterpiece, I cannot shy away from sharing my enthusiasm. The Le Hurlevent Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2019 is the product of Francoise’s passion, one of Burgundy’s most talented female winemakers. The color is a soft purple, and the aroma is of sun-drenched French soil.
This wine is a combination of Grenache, Syrah and two grapes I have never had before, Cansault and Mourvedre. Rest assured, I will seek out kosher bottles made from these varieties. The front palate is earthy, the mid-palate is of a viscus orange marmalade and cherry jam, and the finish lingers forever. Drink this wine sooner rather than later and the bottle can be enjoyed regardless of any accompanying food.
CEO of BBYO, Matthew Grossman (pictured left) turns 50 on Saturday…
FRIDAY: President of the Palestinian Authority since 2005, Mahmoud Abbas turns 86… Argentine-born, Israeli clarinetist, Giora Feidman turns 85… Actor who has appeared in more than 60 films since 1964, including as Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather,” James Caan turns 81… Award-winning novelist and poet, Erica Jong turns 79… Martin J. Rosmarin turns 70… Retired ENT surgeon and former medical correspondent at ABC News and NBC News, Nancy Lynn Snyderman, MD turns 69… President and CEO of the Ottawa-based Public Policy Forum, Edward Greenspon turns 64… Actress Jennifer Grey turns 61… Lori Tarnopol Moore turns 60… Patent attorney from Detroit and former Michigan state representative, Ellen Cogen Lipton turns 54… Deena Thurm turns 53… Co-founder of Google, Larry Page turns 48… Founder and CEO of Waxman Strategies, Michael Waxman turns 47… Talk show host and founder of Israel Sports Radio, Ari Louis turns 38… Actress Carly Chaikin turns 31… Israeli judoka who won a gold medal in the Montreal Grand Prix 2019, Gefen Primo turns 21…
SATURDAY: Music executive and chairman emeritus of Warner Brothers Records, Mo Ostin turns 94… Founder of Business Wire, Lorry I. Lokey turns 94… Composer and violinist, Malcolm Goldstein turns 85… Founder of Thomas H. Lee Partners, Thomas H. Lee (family name was Leibowitz) turns 77… Former longtime technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal, Walter S. Mossberg turns 74… Executive director at Milwaukee’s Grand Avenue Club, Rachel Forman turns 74… Chairman and CEO of First International Resources, Zev Furst turns 73… Sports agent, Leigh Steinberg turns 72… Host of the “Matty in the Morning Show” in Massachusetts, Matt Siegel turns 71… Deputy director of leadership giving at Baruch College, Linda Altshuler turns 71… Member of the Knesset, Yisrael Eichler turns 66… Director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Germany, Susan Neiman turns 66… Economist and banker in Latvia, Valerijs Kargins turns 60…
Smooth jazz saxophonist, Dave Koz turns 58… COO of the Maimonides Fund, Daniel Gamulka turns 54… President of NYC’s Tenement Museum, Dr. Annie Polland turns 48… Founder and CEO of the Movement Vision Lab, Sally Kohn turns 44… Associate professor at Columbia University School of the Arts, Dorothea Lasky turns 43… Correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC, Jacob Hirsch Soboroff turns 38… Baseball outfielder for the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, he starred for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Blake Shane Gailen turns 36… Business partner for global strategic alliances and partnerships at Yext, Adam B. Engel turns 32… Producer at ABC’s “The View,” Daniella Greenbaum Davis turns 27… Theodore James Kushner turns 5…
SUNDAY: Professor emeritus of physics at MIT and winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physics, Jerome Isaac Friedman turns 91… Chairman and CEO of the Hartz Group and Hartz Mountain Corporation, Leonard Norman Stern turns 83… Founder and first general manager of Intel Israel and the inventor of the EPROM chip, Dov Frohman turns 82… Expert on the healthcare industry and supporter of women’s health issues, Hadassah Lieberman turns 73… Glenview, Ill., resident, Genie Kutchins turns 71… CEO of Los Angeles-based toy company MGA Entertainment, Isaac Larian turns 67… Former member of the Knesset, Shelly Yachimovich turns 61… Presidential historian and former Jewish liaison and deputy HHS secretary in the Bush 43 administration, Tevi Troy turns 54… President and CEO of Hillel, Adam Lehman turns 54… Film producer, Brett Ratner turns 52… Journalist, crime writer and blogger in Japan, Jake Adelstein turns 52… Israeli journalist and radio presenter for Reshet Bet, Keren Neubach turns 51… Author of seven best-selling novels, Lauren Weisberger turns 44… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party, Makhlouf “Miki” Zohar turns 41… Los Angeles-based, Israeli-born fashion designer, Yotam Solomon turns 34… Retired MLB outfielder, Ryan Kalish turns 33… Project manager at Tradepoint Atlantic, Michael Hurwitz turns 33… VP of asset management at Hackman Capital Partners, Zachary David Sokoloff turns 32… Benjy Spiro…
BIRTHWEEK: Central shlicha to Hillel International, Michelle Rojas Tal… Rebecca Gold…