👋 Good Friday morning!
The Senate confirmed Xavier Becerra as secretary of Health and Human Services by a razor-thin 50 to 49 vote yesterday. CIA Director William Burns was confirmed by voice vote.
Allies of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) are lobbying California Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint him as the state’s attorney general to replace Becerra.
Seventy-two House Democrats co-sponsored a resolution by Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) to expel Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from Congress.
Twitter announced it will collectpublic input on its approach to politicians and government officials as it considers changing its policies. The company has been repeatedly criticized for allowing Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to continue to tweet.
The California Board of Education approved the state’s ethnic studies curriculum yesterday. The 11-member body made only minor changes to the fourth draft released earlier this month — ignoring a recent campaign to move the lesson plan on Mizrahi Jewry to a core section of the curriculum. The approved curriculum will now be available for use in classrooms throughout the state.
Two special elections are being held tomorrow in Louisiana to fill vacant congressional seats in the 2nd and 5th districts, to replace former Rep. Cedric Richmond, who was appointed Biden’s public engagement director, and Luke Letlow, who died of COVID-19 before taking office.
The final polls published today ahead of Israel’s national election on Tuesday show a dead heat between the pro- and anti-Netanyahu blocs, predicting yet another election stalemate.
Check out Jewish Insider’s ‘Jewish Nielsen’ report to see which webcasts people tuned into this week. It’s our 52nd week of tracking Zoom ratings!
Nowruz begins tomorrow. Wishing those celebrating the Persian New Year around the world a happy Nowruz!
The Chabad chief in the House
Nine days after marrying a woman he met at the University of Southern California Chabad on Rosh Hashanah, Arie Dana moved across the country in December to serve as the chief of staff to newly elected freshman Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA), for whom he has worked since graduating college more than a decade ago. Dana sat down with Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch for a recent interview on Capitol Hill.
How he got here: When Dana was a member of the College Republicans at the University of Southern California, he befriended Steel’s daughter and went to work for the future congresswoman, then an Orange County Republican activist, when he graduated. In November, Steel, a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, defeated incumbent first-term Democrat Rep. Harley Rouda (D-CA) to become one of the first three Korean-born members of Congress. “I was actually in Crown Heights” — the Brooklyn neighborhood home to the global headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement — “doing some pre-wedding shopping with my fiancée, and I got an email: ‘Arie, book your flight to D.C. for orientation,’” he recalled. Dana got on a plane to Washington, and “by the end of the orientation, she asked me to be her chief of staff.”
Blazer: Dana is far from the first Orthodox Jew to work on the Hill. There was Peter Deutsch (D-FL), a former member of Congress who now lives in Israel, and of course Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who went on to serve as Al Gore’s running mate on the 2000 Democratic ticket. Before Jack Lew served as Treasury secretary under President Barack Obama, he was a staffer for House Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-MA). But according to Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch and Washington’s most prominent Chabad rabbi, “there has never before been a chief of staff to a member — which is the most senior position you get — who was Hasidic in appearance and in observance.”
New customs: Raised by Mexican parents, Dana did not grow up Orthodox. “In Mexico, some of the different Jewish denominations that you see in [the U.S.] don’t really exist,” he explained. “There’s less religious and there’s more religious, but it’s a very traditional environment.” At the same time that he started working for Steel after college, he began studying with USC’s Chabad rabbi. At work, “it started out with me just turning off my phone on Friday evenings. I didn’t really say so much about it,” he recalled. “Then [Steel] asked me, ‘Hey, why do you wait and not answer your phone until Saturday night?’ [I responded] ‘Oh, because I’m starting to keep the Sabbath.’”
Quite a welcome: About a week after Dana moved to Washington, rioters stormed the Capitol. Dana and his team were in Steel’s office, trying to get the congresswoman out of the Capitol complex — she had tested positive for the coronavirus that morning and did not want to infect her staffers. But when he called the sergeant-at-arms’s office to ask for the best way out, the response was: “There is no safe way out at this time.” So Dana and the other staffers stayed in one wing of the office while Steel isolated in her personal office, keeping the door closed for the next 10 hours that they were trapped together. Her case ended up being mild, and no one else in the office got sick.
High praise: “Arie has been a dedicated member of my team for more than 10 years in three different elected positions,” Steel told JI. “Arie is the one who introduced me to Orange County’s Jewish community, and I’m grateful for his leadership, which is needed here in Washington.”
relevant for this age
The late Rabbi Sacks on the difference between shame and guilt cultures
Yesterday afternoon, Alexi McCammond, who was supposed to take the reins of Teen Vogue next week, announced that she and publisher Conde Nast would instead part ways. McCammond’s resignation followed an outcry from Teen Vogue staffers who were upset over her decade-old anti-Asian and homophobic tweets. McCammond had apologized for the tweets in 2019, and Conde Nast was aware of them prior to hiring her.
‘Where the hell are we?’ Jonathan Swan, who worked with McCammond at Axios, tweeted yesterday: “I’ve worked with @alexi for four years. I know her well and can say this unequivocally: The idea she is racist is absurd. Where the hell are we as an industry if we cannot accept a person’s sincere and repeated apologies for tweets when they were a teenager?”
Shame vs. guilt: The late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks penned the following essay in December 2017 titled, “What it Takes to Forgive.”
“…the difference between cultures of the eye and of the ear. Visual cultures are almost always shame cultures. Shame is what you feel when you imagine other people seeing what you are doing. In cultures of hearing, however, morality is represented by an inner voice, the voice of guilt that you cannot hide from even if you are invisible to the world. The key difference between the two is that in shame cultures, wrongdoing is like a stain on the person. Hence the only way to be rehabilitated is to have the stain covered up somehow… You do this by placating the victim of your wrong so that in effect he “turns a blind eye” to what you did…”
“In guilt cultures, however, there is a fundamental distinction between the person and his or her acts. It was the act that was wrong, not the person. That is what makes forgiveness possible. I forgive you because, when you admit you did wrong, express remorse and do all you can to make amends, especially when I see that, given the opportunity to repeat the crime you do not do so because you have changed, then I see that you have distanced yourself from your deed. Forgiveness means I fundamentally reaffirm your worth as a person, despite the fact that we both know your act was wrong. Forgiveness exists in righteousness-and-guilt cultures. It does not exist in honour-and-shame cultures like those of ancient Greece and pre-Christian Rome.”
“Contemporary culture in the West, often thought by secularists to be morally superior to the ethics of the Hebrew Bible, is in fact – for good or bad – a regression to pre-Christian Greece and Rome. That is why, nowadays, people who are found to have done wrong are publicly shamed. Examples are not necessary: they abound in every day’s news. In a shame culture, the main thing to do is not to be found out, because once you are, there is no way back. There is no place in such a culture for forgiveness. At best you seek to appease… Eventually they hope, not that people will forgive but that they will forget. This is an ugly kind of culture.”
all that jazz
Spike Wilner is improvising his way through the pandemic
Like most music venue proprietors, Spike Wilner, who owns two jazz clubs in New York’s Greenwich Village, Smalls and Mezzrow, was unsure whether his businesses would survive when the pandemic ripped through New York City in the spring of 2020. But Wilner, the son and grandson of Holocaust survivors, was prepared for the worst. A couple of years before the virus struck, he launched the SmallsLIVE Foundation to subsidize club expenses, and in April, he established the foundation as a true nonprofit. Salvation came early, through a $25,000 donation from Billy Joel — and soon after, more came flowing in. “Without the foundation,” Wilner, a 54-year-old pianist and impresario, told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent interview, “the clubs would not subsist.”
Background: For jazz musicians, the grim prospect of losing two of New York’s most cherished clubs is almost unthinkable. Smalls, a casual basement lair on West 10th Street established in 1994, is one of the city’s most important proving grounds for up-and-coming improvisers looking to establish themselves in the city’s competitive jazz scene. Its nightly jam sessions, before the pandemic, ran until the wee hours of the morning, usually ending around 4 a.m. Mezzrow, an underground lounge and piano bar founded in 2014, is a minute’s walk across Seventh Avenue — and hosted the city’s top performers in intimate small-group sessions.
Essential to the ecosphere: “His clubs are not just another pair of small venues to hear music in New York City,” Loren Schoenberg, a tenor saxophonist and the founding director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, said of Wilner’s establishments. “They are an essential part of the artistic ecosphere for young jazz musicians in New York — and have been now for a long time. The opportunity they afford for not just the gigs, but for the quote unquote hang, is invaluable.”
Spreading the wealth: Wilner declined to reveal how much he has raised through the foundation, but the regular stream of donations, he said, has allowed him to operate his clubs, cover rent and, since June, host one live-streamed concert every day through a sponsorship initiative that pays bands $600 apiece. Wilner also funded a compact new piano trio album, Aliens and Wizards, which he recorded with his longtime bandmates, bassist Tyler Mitchell and drummer Anthony Pinciotti. “One of the motivations was really to create an opportunity to pay Anthony and Tyler for work,” said Wilner. “These guys had been out of work for months.”
Back open: In early March, Wilner opened Smalls and Mezzrow to the public again, at limited capacity, with jam sessions at Smalls that now begin earlier than the usual 1 a.m. start time because of a curfew. Though Wilner is grateful for the extra revenue, things are still tough. “Right now, we’re still not viable as a business,” Wilner said. “We’re not really operating independently.” But for the moment at least, he is glad just to be back in business. “Smalls has always been underground,” Wilner said, “so we’re going to just stay underground where we belong for the time being.”
👨💼 Senate Scholar: Huffington Post reporter Tara Golshan profiles Bill Dauster, the longtime Senate aide who came out of retirement to serve as chief counsel on the Senate Budget Committee, now chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Dauster has written or contributed to all 54 Wikipedia articles on the weekly Torah portions. “Torah study is a similar use of the mind,” he said. “You are working with laws and text and trying to understand the text better.” [HuffPost]
🗳️ Thick Skin: Associated Press correspondent Laurie Kellman interviews Rabbi Gilad Kariv, number four on Israel’s Labor Party list who is expected to become the first Reform rabbi to serve in the Knesset. “Politicians in general need to have the skin of an elephant, a thick skin,” he said. “An Israeli Reform rabbi needs the skin of a mammoth.” [AP]
🎥 Movie Mourning: In The Atlantic, Daniel Pollack-Pelzner reflects on the impact a new film, “A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff,” had on his own mourning experience. “Watching this Kaddish on-screen, I felt an acute sense of loss: for the shared presence that the film captures, for live performance in a physical space, for artists’ livelihoods, for Madoff’s victims, for COVID-19’s death toll, for my Jewish immigrant forebears.” [Atlantic]
🕍 End of an Era: Following the death of Dr. Thafer Elyahou, Times Middle East correspondent Richard Spencer highlights the vanishing Jewish community in Iraq, which is now believed to number just four individuals. “The imminent end of the Jewish presence in Iraq comes at a time of revived popular interest in their heritage. Iraqi historians have begun to renew studies into the topic.” [Times]
🎙 Podcast Playback: On Dan Senor’s “Post Corona” podcast this week, New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman reflects on a piece that her father, a former Jerusalem-based correspondent Clyde Haberman, penned in the NYT on September 12, 2001, in which the elder Haberman posed the question on behalf of Israelis: “DO you get it now? It is a question that many Israelis wanted to ask yesterday of America and the rest of the finger-pointing world. Not in a smart-alecky manner. Not to say, ‘We told you so.’ It was simply a question for those who, at a safe remove from the terrorism that Israelis face every day, have damned Israel for taking admittedly harsh measures to keep its citizens alive.” [Podcast]
Around the Web
🗣️ Final Speech: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has reportedly been invited to give a farewell address to a joint session of Congress before his term ends in July.
📝 On Notice: The International Criminal Court sent formal notices of investigation to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, providing each a month in which to seek a deferral.
🤝 Behind the Scenes: Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and then-Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer reportedly pushed the Trump administration to ease sanctions on mining billionaire Dan Gertler.
🌍 On Deck: President Joe Biden has reportedly almost finalized his first round of ambassador nominations, and will be announcing some key appointments next month.
🛍️ Breakup: L Brands founder Les Wexner and his wife, Abigail, are stepping down as board members ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting in May.
⚖️ See You in Court: Former inmate Moshe Iskhakov sued New Jersey’s Ocean County Corrections Department over claims he was the subject of antisemitic bullying.
🦸♀️ Wonder Woman: Actress Gal Gadot joined the Israeli and American U.N. delegations and a Google official to promote new digital programs to fight domestic violence.
📚 Legacy: Time magazine explores the virulent antisemitism of popular children’s author Roald Dahl and its impact on the legacy of his works today.
🧑🎤 Desert Sounds: The techno and house music festival Day Zero is slated to return to the foothills of Masada this fall, with a lineup including Damian Lazarus, Diplo and more.
🕯️ Remembering: Carola Eisenberg, a former dean at Harvard and MIT who helped found Physicians for Human Rights, died at 103.
Wine of the Week
“Wine tastes best when shared, so this year has been a tough one for wine,” writes Jewish Insider‘s wine columnist Yitz Applbaum. “Passover will soon usher in a sort of redemption and the faint light at the end of a COVID-riddled tunnel. Perhaps we will soon be free to truly enjoy wine together. As I do before every Passover, I’ve reviewed eight cups of wine for the Seder night; four to sanctify with Kiddush blessing, and four wines to drink in the sublime quiet between the blessings.”
Cup one: Hajdu Seraglio. We start with uppers on long nights. This wine might as well be laced with espresso beans. It is a blend of Sangiovese and Barbera, both extraordinary Italian grapes which blend together to energize you for the long night ahead. If you can manage not to consume the entire bottle in one night, keep some for the second seder when the tannins will have mellowed out.
Cup five: Herzog Limited Edition Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2018. This is best of the Herzog Napa Cabernets. It is distinct in its vanilla flavors, extracted from the plush new oak barrels in which it came of age. It is also full of fresh fruit to cut through the inevitably-too-dense Matzo ball about to be served.
Philanthropist, art collector and chairman emeritus of The Estée Lauder Companies, Leonard A. Lauder turns 88… Rabbi of Temple Hatikvah in Flanders, New Jersey, Dr. Daniel M. Zucker turns 72… Israeli politician and the daughter of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Dalia Rabin turns 71… Senior lecturer on journalism at Harvard and the first woman to be executive editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson turns 67… NYC-based real estate investor and chairman of Turtle Pond Publications, a co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, Craig Hatkoff turns 67… Singer songwriter, Yehuda Julio Glantz turns 63… EVP of merchandising at American Signature Furniture, Steve Rabe turns 61… Author and commentator, Seth Rogovoy turns 61… Neurologist in Naples, Florida, Brian D. Wolff, MD turns 59… Dean of students at IDC Herzliya and a former member of Knesset, Dr. Adi Koll turns 45… Brazilian-born angel investor and a co-founder of Facebook, Eduardo Luiz Saverin turns 39… Former director of North American staff at Taglit-Birthright Israel, Aaron Bock turns 37… Founder of two lines of jewelry, the Brave Collection and Zahava, Jessica Hendricks Yee turns 33… Line producer at CBS Interactive, Emma Gottlieb turns 27… Partner at Latham & Watkins, Jonathan Rod…
Saturday: Stage and screen actor, Hal Linden turns 90… Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences as a geologist and oceanographer, but known popularly as poet and performer, Alexander Gorodnitsky turns 88… Australian award-winning writer of Portuguese Sephardi descent, David George Joseph Malouf turns 87… Retired executive officer at Standard & Poor’s, Hyman C. Grossman turns 86… Senior advisor to the family office of Charles Bronfman, Dr. Jeffrey R. Solomon turns 76… Senior lecturer at Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Rabbi Tzvi Berkowitz turns 70… Award-winning author of 26 children’s books, Louis Sachar turns 67… Owner of Diamond Point Metals, Jack Zager turns 67… Activist philanthropist and former CEO of Timberland, Jeffrey Swartz turns 61… Retired as Israel’s Chief of Police after a 27 year career at Shabak, Roni Alsheikh turns 58… Host of Time Team America, Justine Shapiro turns 58… Chilean businessman and philanthropist, Leonardo Farkas turns 54… Former member of the Knesset for the Israel Resilience Party, Avraham Daniel (Avi) Nissenkorn turns 54… Author best known for writing about his lifestyle immersion experiments, he is an editor at large for Esquire, A. J. Jacobs turns 53… Actor and podcast host, Michael Rapaport turns 51… Senior director of global strategic alliances at ServiceNow, Daniel M. Eckstein turns 37… Senior director of strategic messaging at National Geographic Partners, Matt Finkelstein turns 36… Policy editor at NBC News, Benjy Sarlin turns 36… Associate vice president at the CIM Group, Jason Lifton turns 32… Comedian, writer and actress, Joanna Hausmann turns 32… Rabbinical school student at The Jewish Theological Seminary, Max Buchdahl turns 25…
Sunday: The first woman appointed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, Ellen Ash Peters turns 91… Rabbi emeritus of Manhattan’s Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and former principal of the Ramaz School, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein turns 89… Harvard professor and winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Walter Gilbert turns 89… Scholar of Jewish mysticism and founding dean of the non-denominational rabbinical program at the Hebrew College in Boston, Arthur Green turns 80… Samuel Gross turns 72… Istanbul-born entrepreneur, hotelier and real estate developer, Izak Senbahar turns 62… First Jewish member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Hampshire, currently of counsel to the law firm of Shaheen & Gordon, Paul Hodes turns 70… Former executive director of The Charles Bronfman Prize, Jill Collier Indyk turns 70… President of KWR International, Keith W. Rabin turns 65… Retired Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yuval Rotem turns 62… Co-founder of Wynnefield Capital Management, Joshua H. Landes turns 59… Actor and singer whose roles include the title role in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and the adult voice of Simba in The Lion King, Matthew Broderick turns 59… Israeli rock musician and record producer, Shlomi Bracha turns 59… Hedge fund manager and former chairman of the board of the New York City Opera, Roy Niederhoffer turns 55… Attorney and chair of the private education practice group at Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, Michael Blacher turns 53… Founding editor of The Dispatch, Jonah Goldberg turns 52… James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef from Miami, Michelle Bernstein turns 51… Co-anchor of CNN’s “New Day,” John Berman turns 49… President and founder of Bully Pulpit Interactive, Andrew Bleeker turns 36… Founding partner at Plant Medicine Law Group, Hadas Alterman turns 32… Law clerk at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Addison Caruso turns 25…