👋 Good Friday morning!
President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan yesterday, which will send $1,400 checks to many Americans, among a range of other provisions, many championed by Jewish nonprofits.
In his first primetime address last night, Biden said the nation is “emerging from a dark winter into a hopeful spring,” and said he would require states to open COVID vaccines to all adults by May 1.
Officials in both Jordan and Israel are warning that relations between the two neighboring countries are at a low point following the cancellation of both the Jordanian crown prince’s visit to Jerusalem and the Israeli prime minister’s flight to the UAE via Jordanian airspace.
The U.N., EU, Egypt, Jordan, Germany and France said yesterday that they had taken “small steps” toward reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Check out Jewish Insider’s ‘Jewish Nielsen’ report to see which webcasts people tuned into this week.
Ro Khanna keeps the dialogue going
During his time in Congress, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) has drawn criticism from progressives as well as pro-Israel advocates for his heterodox views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His vote in favor of a bipartisan resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement earned him a “barrage of criticism,” as he put it, from the left. More recently, he came under fire for inaccurately accusing Israel of “burning down Palestinian villages,” a claim he later walked back. But the three-term congressman made clear in a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel that he will continue to speak out.
Sensitivities: “I don’t pay so much attention to the noise of politics, as long as you’re consistent in your convictions,” Khanna, a 44-year-old Obama administration alumnus and former tech lawyer, said in a phone conversation on Wednesday afternoon. “I do think that it’s important to speak precisely, and if there are times where any facts or things have been imprecise, I always make the effort to correct the record, because it’s such a sensitive issue.”
Guiding philosophy: In conversation with JI, the Bay Area congressman suggested that he is unconcerned by those who question his positions on the Jewish state. “When I speak out on issues, it’s with the aspiration of strengthening the relationship, strengthening the security of the countries and also affirming the rich tradition of human rights,” Khanna told JI, expressing his admiration for former Israeli prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. Their leadership, he said, “holds open the prospect of peace and a recognition of two states and a recognition of two states living side by side in peace. That’s the philosophy that I believe in and will continue to work toward.” Khanna was critical of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s decision to back out of an event honoring Rabin last year.
Tech-oriented approach: Khanna, who has read Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, said the book may have “subconsciously inspired” the title of his own, Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing is Still Key to America’s Future. He advocates for a tech-oriented approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Cultivating ties: “I think of Israel, at its best, as a fountain for human innovation, for civilizational progress, for contributing to the world of arts and literature and philosophy,” Khanna said. “We want to cultivate that tie with the United States, but we have to do so on the basis of moral principles, and there has to be a recognition of Palestinian human rights. There has to be a recognition of the dignity of Palestinians. There has to be a recognition of the suffering of the Palestinian people.” He added: “That’s what informs my politics, which makes me often criticized by both the left and the right.”
For D.C.’s kosher restaurants, a mix of chaos and community filled the pandemic year
It’s mid-March, the temperature in Washington, D.C., this week hit 70 degrees for the first time this year, and the city’s famed cherry blossoms will soon be in bloom. But the busloads of tourists and students that normally arrive in the nation’s capital at the start of spring are absent for the second straight year. In Washington’s relatively small kosher dining scene, several restaurant owners told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch that they could only survive by entirely revamping the way they do business.
Tourist trap: “Seventy-five to 80% of our business is [made up of] people that visit Washington, D.C., whether it’s a business trip or a school,” said Michael Chelst, the owner of CharBar, the district’s only kosher meat restaurant. CharBar’s margins are down 60-80%, depending on the month. But CharBar has one advantage that most restaurants don’t: Chelst has another job, as a mortgage loan officer. “God bless me,” he quipped, because “It’s been a good year for mortgages,” allowing him to pour his own money into propping up CharBar. “If I didn’t have a job, we’d have closed a long time ago.”
Home for the holidays: With people stuck at home last year over Passover, kosher restaurants saw a massive increase in orders. CharBar prepared 1,100 Seder plates last April, “five times what we normally did,” Chelst said. Souper Girl, a vegan health food company, was “overrun with orders” last spring for its health-conscious Passover Seder package, said founder and CEO Sara Polon. And already, she said, “we’re at a much higher pace than last year.”
This town: Some kosher restaurants already had experience in handling circumstances beyond their control. When the federal government shut down for a month two years ago, the nonprofit World Central Kitchen offered free meals to furloughed government employees, but chef Margaux Riccio said she noticed a lack of kosher food. “No one during the federal shutdown was doing kosher free lunches, so we started doing those on our day off,” Riccio, the chef at Bubbie’s Burgers and Pow Pow, told JI. “The way we’ve been able to give back to communities, they’ve also supported us during this,” she said of the Jewish community.
Beyond the tribe: Yael Krigman, the owner of the cake pop bakery Baked By Yael, now offers a weekly challah subscription and sells hamantaschen year-round. And even non-Jewish customers love her Jewish baked goods. “The black-and-white cookies and the rugelach and the hamantaschen have just been a huge, huge hit.”
Bonus: The newest item on CharBar’s menu — which names dishes after local residents — is Steve’s Steak Sub, a grilled steak sandwich with peppers and onions, named for Bluelight Strategies’ Steve Rabinowitz, whose father was a butcher.
on the hill
House sends another bipartisan letter on Iran to Blinken
Two dozen members of the House of Representatives, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), sent a bipartisan letter yesterday to Secretary of State Tony Blinken calling for continued pressure on Iran, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Signed, Sealed: The letter, which has 12 signatories from each party, comes on the heels of another bipartisan letter addressing similar issues sent to Blinken earlier this week. Republican signatories on the new letter include Reps. John Katko (R-NY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Ann Wagner (R-MI), David Kustoff (R-TN), Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Tom Reed (R-NY). Democratic signatories include Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Elaine Luria (D-VA).
Strict terms: This latest letter, amid a wave of at least four congressional letters addressing the Iranian nuclear threat, argues that the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action “did not sufficiently ensure Iran could never obtain a nuclear weapon,” and calls on Blinken to work with U.S. allies — particularly Israel — and Congress to “outline a better, comprehensive deal with Iran” that would address both its nuclear program and other malign activities. The letter spotlights multiple issues with the original agreement including sunset clauses and Iran’s moves to restrict the International Atomic Energy Agency’s access to its nuclear sites. It calls on the Biden administration to keep U.S. sanctions on Iran in place — and praises the president for the recent decision to strike Iranian proxies in Syria.
Quotable: “This letter really encourages the United States to drive a hard bargain with Iran in any negotiations going forward,” Gottheimer told JI. “This is about protecting the United States and our allies and standing strong against a country that has failed to show any good-faith measures for the last years and has been a significant harborer of terror.”McCaul told JI that “keeping a nuclear weapon out of the ayatollah’s hands is not a Republican priority or a Democrat priority — it’s an American priority… the Biden administration should work with Congress and our allies to put together a better, more comprehensive deal than the JCPOA that will ensure Iran does not get a nuclear weapon while addressing its others malicious threats.”
At its annual conference, JFN will try to host the ‘hallway chatter’ online
A year ago, the pandemic forced the Jewish Funders Network (JFN) to cancel its annual conference, and soon after that, the group started working on this year’s gathering, which kicks off on Monday. One of the biggest services that JFN — a membership organization open to individuals or foundations that donate at least $25,000 annually — offers is access to expertise in funding areas like the arts and the environment.“What’s hard to replicate online is not the content, but the fact of everyone being in the same place at the same time,” David Ezer, JFN’s vice president of programs, told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoff.
Virtual hallways: While the organization easily pivoted to webinars, replicating the development of relationships that stem from its in-person conference is more of a challenge. Ezer knows that even with the help of an online platform designed to facilitate interaction, the conference might not fully succeed in turning attendees’ laptops and phones into the fabled hallways where introductions were made, ideas were pitched and deals were sometimes struck. This conference is the 15th Ezer has planned for JFN; some 650 people will attend, up from 582 in 2019. This year members will pay a fee of $360, just a fraction of the $1,099 for the last in-person conference.
🌊 Sea Strife: An exclusive Wall Street Journal report from Gordon Lubold, Benoit Faucon and Felicia Schwartz alleges that Israel has carried out previously unreported attacks on at least a dozen ships carrying Iranian oil to Syria since late 2019. “Experts say the string of attacks against Iranian tankers has stemmed from perceived inaction by the international community.” [WSJ]
🧑🏫 Elite Education: In The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan, herself a former private school teacher, argues that elite private schools “pass on the values of our ruling class — chiefly, that a certain cutthroat approach to life is rewarded.” Within the schools, she says, “money guides all sorts of decisions” and the children of high-donor parents abide by “a separate set of rules.” [TheAtlantic]
🎬 High Drama: Hollywood Reporter editor-at-large Kim Masters delves deep into a bitter Hollywood dispute that entangled Joel Silver, Ari Emanuel, Ron Meyer and Daryl Katz, shining a light on a drama that “offers an unusual if somewhat blurry view into the ties that bind in Hollywood and the assortment of favors that may be exchanged among powerful, high-level friends.” [HollywoodReporter]
Around the Web
🎖️ Joint Defense: Israel, Greece and Cyprus conducted a joint naval drill this morning as tensions between the three nations and Turkey continue to rise.
💉 Gift of Jab: The Palestinian Authority received 40,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine yesterday, gifted by the UAE.
☑️ GOTV: Israeli diplomats around the world, from Washington to Dubai to Rabat, cast their ballots yesterday for Israel’s upcoming election.
🗳️ Rival Rift: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party expelled Nasser Al-Qudwa, the nephew of Yasser Arafat, over his attempts to form a rival electoral list.
🎒 Waiting: Residents of Jaba, a West Bank village, are hoping President Joe Biden will restore funding cut off by the Trump administration to help refurbish the village’s only school.
☎️ Call Me, Maybe: Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told Israel’s Channel 12 News that Netanyahu called him “30 times” in order to broker a deal for COVID-19 vaccines.
📰 Bombshell: An in-depth Haaretz report reveals decades of allegations that ZAKA founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, who was recently awarded the prestigious Israel Prize, sexually abused men, women and children.
🏀 Benched: Miami Heat star Meyers Leonard was fined $50,000 and suspended for a week for using an antisemitic slur in a live video game stream on Twitch.
⚽ Sports Blink: The French Champions Trophy season-opening soccer match will be played this August in Tel Aviv.
🎥 Hollywood: Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s debut novel, Fleishman is in Trouble, is being adapted as a limited series on FX.
🍲 Crazy Cuisine: The “Meshugganah” pop-up Jewish deli in Charlotte, North Carolina, serves up babka, knishes and kugel around the city.
🍷 L’Chaim: A new shop, Baltimore Kosher Wine, is working toward opening this summer.
🥪 Last Bite: The New York Jewish deli Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop, in the Flatiron district, has closed its doors after more than a century in operation.
Rabbi Yitzchak Abadi turns 88… Sam Cohen turns 88… Photographer, musician and author of 15 children’s books, Arlene Weiss Alda turns 88… Carol Margolis turns 76… U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) turns 74… Director, producer and screenwriter, Rob Cohen turns 72… One-half of the eponymous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Jerry Greenfield turns 70… British sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor turns 67… Pitching coach of MLB’s San Diego Padres, Larry Rothschild turns 67… Founder and CEO of R.A. Cohen & Associates and past president of AIPAC, Robert A. Cohen turns 66… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party, Ayoob Kara turns 66… Founder of Lone Pine Capital, Stephen Mandel turns 65… Sales representative at Paychex, Lynne Blumenthal turns 63… Senior official at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Diane Saltzman turns 58… Senior attorney in the DC office of Squire Patton Boggs, Stacey Grundman turns 58… Sportscaster for ESPN and host of SportsCenter, Steve Levy turns 56… Born in Haifa and former president of the Central Bank of Brazil, Ilan Goldfajn turns 55… U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) turns 53… Chief Washington correspondent for CNN, Jake Tapper turns 52… Founder and CEO at Miller Strategies, Jeff Miller turns 47… VP for media affairs at USTelecom — The Broadband Association, Brian T. Weiss turns 45… Founder and publisher of Fleishigs food magazine, Shlomo Klein turns 41… Writer and communications specialist at the American Hospital Association, Talia Schmidt turns 34… Freshman member of Congress (D-NY-15), Ritchie Torres turns 33… Senior Middle East specialist at Leidos, Aaron Magid turns 32… Co-founder and CEO of Serotonin, Amanda Gutterman Cassatt turns 30… CEO and co-founder of Wonder Media Network, Jenny Kaplan turns 29… Israeli figure skater who won the 2016 World Junior championship and competed for Israel at the 2018 Winter Olympics, Daniel Samohin turns 23… Israeli Internet personality, Anna Zak turns 20…
Saturday: Pop singer, pianist and composer of over 500 songs, Neil Sedaka turns 82… Israeli singer, winner of Eurovision 1978, Izhar Cohen turns 70… Robert Smith turns 69… Psychotherapist in private practice in Manhattan and Teaneck, Shana Yocheved Schacter turns 69… U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) turns 64… Founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, Ethan Nadelmann turns 64… Former Florida congressman, Alan Grayson turns 63… Rabbi Neal S. Scheindlin turns 61… Managing director of Supernode Ventures, Laurel Touby turns 58… Heavy metal songwriter and vocalist, David Draiman turns 48… Member of the California State Senate, Benjamin Allen turns 43… Former member of Knesset for the Jewish Home party, Yoni Chetboun turns 42… Legislative Director for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Ari Rabin-Havt turns 42… Television and film actor, Emile Hirsch turns 36… EVP of Nefco, Matthew Gelles turns 33… Television and film actor, Emory Isaac Cohen turns 31… Senior manager of social marketing at NBC Universal, Jessie Hannah Rubin turns 30… Gabriel Romano…
Sunday: Professor emeritus of chemistry at Tel Aviv University and winner of the 1982 Israel Prize, Joshua Jortner turns 88… Founder and recently retired president of Los Angeles-based Skirball Cultural Center, Rabbi Dr. Uri Herscher turns 80… Canadian criminal defense attorney, Brian Greenspan turns 74… Actor and director, Billy Crystal turns 73… Member of the Maryland House of Delegates, Shane Elizabeth Pendergrass turns 71… Retired Hebrew teacher, Eliezer Cohen Barak turns 70… Co-founder of the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation and president of Stand By Me, Gila Milstein turns 68… Partner at Hefter, Leshem, Margolis Capital Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors in Illinois, Steven Hefter turns 67… Communications consultant at American Jewish World Service, Jo-Ann Mort turns 65… NYC-based restaurateur and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, Danny Meyer turns 63… Of counsel in the Minneapolis office of Maslon LLP, Jonathan S. Parritz turns 62… Past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Denise Davida Eger turns 61… Owner of Baltimore’s Tov Pizza which he founded in 1984, Ronnie Rosenbluth turns 58… Owner and COO of EJM Development Company and New Frontier Capital, Jon Monkarsh turns 57… Microgrid architect at Urban Ingenuity, Shalom Flank, Ph.D. turns 56… Film and television actress, Meredith Salenger turns 51… Canadian fashion stylist and publicist, Jessica Brownstein Mulroney turns 41… Heiress to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, philanthropist and former child actress, Liesel Pritzker Simmons turns 37… Former NASCAR driver, he is the sole inductee into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in the “Auto Racing” category, now a credit trader at TD Securities, Jon Denning turns 34… Product quality specialist at The Topps Company, Philip Liebman turns 31… Four-time Israeli national champion in the skeleton event and general manager of the Israel Bobsled and Skeleton team, Adam Edelman turns 30… Head of people operations at Happy Place Hospitality Group in Shanghai, China, Sophie Galant…