👋 Good Monday morning and happy International Women’s Day!
Later this morning, the embassies of Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in the United States are hosting a joint event on “Women in Diplomacy,” featuring Moroccan Ambassador to the U.S. Princess Lalla Joumala, Israel’s Ambassador Gilad Erdan and other diplomats.
President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order today establishing a Gender Policy Council in the White House, co-chaired by Jennifer Klein and Julissa Reynoso.
Tone of tweets. Last Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Both leaders issued readouts and tweets after the call.
Close observers posited that Harris’s tweet was several degrees warmer than Netanyahu’s. “I spoke with Prime Minister @Netanyahu of Israel. @POTUS and I are unwavering in our commitment to Israel’s security. We discussed COVID-19, coordination on Iran, Israel’s warming relations with Arab countries, and advancing peace and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians,” tweeted Harris from her @VP account.
The office of the prime minister tweeted: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by telephone with US @VP @KamalaHarris, who commended the great success of the vaccines campaign in Israel. The Prime Minister and the Vice President agreed to establish a joint team to tighten cooperation in technological research and development in the fight against the coronavirus, water, green energy and in additional areas.”
Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, weighed in: “I think it’s hard to draw big conclusions from these tweets — like reading fortunes from tea leaves or coffee grinds,” he told JI on Sunday, before adding, “This is Harris’s first rodeo as VP with Netanyahu and she clearly wanted to sound upbeat and positive. Netanyahu’s been around the block a few times; not sure it was all that important to him to project the same tone.”
Two U.S. B-52 heavy bombers, accompanied by aircraft from Israel, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, flew over the Mideast yesterday to send a message to Iran amid escalating tensions.
meet the candidate
Ben Kallos keeps the faith
When Ben Kallos graduated from college, he found himself weighing two opposing career goals: lawyer or rabbi. “I felt a calling for both,” Kallos, a former yeshiva student immersed in Talmud, told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent interview. “What one person said to me is, ‘First you sin, and then repent.’” He chose the law, but then, perhaps fittingly, opted for politics. His first bid for public office earned him a seat on the New York City Council, where he represents the Upper East Side. Now, Kallos is hoping he can put off repenting as he runs for the more high-profile role of Manhattan borough president.
Higher calling: Even as he seeks higher office, Kallos emphasized that his actions are still informed by a higher calling, in spite of his decision not to pursue the rabbinate. “I know that I have Hashem on my side doing the right thing,” said Kallos, a self-proclaimed “Conservadox” Jew who is a member of both Park East Synagogue and Congregation Or Zarua on the Upper East Side. Rabbi Scott Bolton, who leads Or Zarua, described Kallos as “a Jewishly soulful person” who “sees the big picture and cares about every detail.”
Crowded field: With no available public polling, it is difficult to assess whether Kallos has an edge in the crowded race to succeed Gale Brewer, who is running for her old seat on the City Council as she prepares to retire as Manhattan borough presidentat the end of her term. The primary field includes a number of formidable candidates, such as New York City Councilmember Mark Levine, state Sen. Brad Hoylman and Lindsey Boylan, a former congressional candidate and former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who recently accused the governor of sexual harassment.
Optimistic view: Still, Kallos believes he will rise to the top thanks to his record. He recently helped open a supermarket-style food pantry on the Upper East Side, an initiative originating from a resolution to address the homelessness crisis he made to himself on Yom Kippur. As a member of the Progressive Caucus who has refused donations from the real estate industry, Kallos said he would use his bullhorn to advocate for reforms around affordable housing and climate change. “Anywhere else in America, you hear stories about people struggling to get out of a small town,” he told JI, “but here in New York City, we’re struggling to stay, and I think we can fix it.”
‘Worker-led recovery’: “I want to see a worker-led recovery,” Kallos said. “I want to invest in New Yorkers.” He said he would build on the momentum established by Brewer, with whom he worked closely as a city councilman. And if he doesn’t win, there’s always the path not taken for him to consider. “Seminary may still be in my future,” he told JI. “It depends on how things go. I see my service and politics and government as doing the real work of tikkun, and the idea of seminary being something that might be one of my more selfish acts. That one would be for me.”
on the hill
Nonprofits chalk up wins in Senate’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill
The Senate’s 50-49 passage of a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on Saturday was hailed as a significant victory by many Jewish community leaders who had lobbied legislators to include more provisions to support nonprofits and human services. The package includes an expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program allowing larger nonprofits to qualify for loans and provides a significant increase in unemployment reimbursements for self-insured nonprofits, as well as aid to state and local governments and an increased child tax credit. Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod spoke with lobbyists involved with the bill about its key provisions.
Back to school: In a win for parochial schooling advocates, the Senate added an additional $2.75 billion in designated aid for non-public schools — matching the amount included in the December 2020 relief bill and replacing a more limited funding stream that the House had included in its relief bill. Under the provisions in the Senate bill, non-public schools deal directly with state education agencies to apply for funding, rather than going through local school districts to determine what spending is covered. Orthodox Union Advocacy Center executive director Nathan Diament credited Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), as well as Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), for spearheading the effort to include the funding.
Quotable: “The bottom line is that this pandemic has hurt every school and every schoolkid, and we should do all we can to help each and every one of them confront and overcome the COVID crisis, both public and private,” Schumer told JI. “This fund, without taking any money away from public schools, will enable private schools, like yeshivas and more, to receive assistance and services that will cover COVID-related expenses they incur as they deliver quality education for their students.”
Helping hand: Elana Broitman, the Jewish Federations of North America’s senior vice president for public affairs, highlighted other provisions of interest to the federations’ umbrella group in the package. Those include transportation to vaccine sites and mobile vaccinations for homebound seniors, increased funding for older Americans, nutrition assistance and child-care block grants. The bill also provided an additional $510 million for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, which JFNA has “been a key proponent of,” Broitman said. The EFSP program supports programs like food pantries and rent assistance.
Hit and miss: Despite these victories, Jewish nonprofits were not able to push through all of the changes they’d hoped would be incorporated into the final legislation. JFNA had lobbied senators for further increases in unemployment insurance reimbursements — from 75% in the bill as passed by the House to 100% — as well as an extension of the application deadline for PPP loans, but neither change was included in the Senate’s finalized bill.
Supreme Court ruling on conversions fuels Israeli campaign ads
The decision last week by Israel’s Supreme Court to recognize non-Orthodox conversions for the purpose of citizenship became a hot-button issue with just two weeks to go until the March 23 national election. Officially, campaign ads on TV and radio are not allowed to begin airing until tomorrow, but on social media and WhatsApp many ads are already making waves. Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro highlights the clips causing controversy.
‘Bark Mitzvah’: A campaign ad from the haredi United Torah Judaism Party in reaction to the conversion ruling ignited a firestorm of controversy. The ad, titled “Bark Mitzvah,” depicted dogs wearing yarmulkes declaring: “According to the High Court, these are Jewish… only United Torah Judaism will protect your Judaism.” The ad was pulled down by Facebook from UTJ’s page, which celebrated the move by proclaiming: “Even Facebook understands that the ugly phenomenon of dog bar mitzvahs is a harm to the community that must be ended.”
Reaction: In response, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid tweeted: “For generations antisemites have always compared Jews to dogs. Now United Torah Judaism is joining them — disgusting.” Rabbi Gilad Kariv, number four on the Labor Party list who is the head of Israel’s Union for Reform Judaism, tweeted: “I think most of the public agrees that harmless animals with tactless costumes are better than Godless, vile people lacking human decency.”
Pushing back: The Labor Party published an ad — set to “Hava Nagila” — taking the opposite tack, proclaiming that the Supreme Court ruling is “just the beginning” in a series of reforms it will promote, including civil unions, public transport on Shabbat and expanded LGBTQ rights. Yisrael Beytenu, headed by Avigdor Liberman, published an ad referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc with the haredi parties and with the National Religious Party as a “junta that wants to stay in power at any price.” The ad ends with Liberman’s campaign slogan: “Putting an end to haredi rule.”
🗣️ Speak Up: In Tablet magazine, yeshiva student Cole Aronson argues that Orthodox Jews should make efforts to speak in less “yeshivish” language, in order to be more accessible to millions of American Jews. “Anywhere a non-Orthodox Jew might be listening in… is a place where a small change in language can invite someone toward Judaism instead of repelling her from it.” [Tablet]
👩💼👨💼 Staffing Up: In Foreign Policy, Jack Detsch and Robbie Gramer highlight the team that President Joe Biden has assembled to handle the Middle East, including Julie Sawyer, who will become the Israeli-Palestinian director on the National Security Council, and Daniel Benaim, who is joining the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. [ForeignPolicy]
🎧 Scratch That: New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Patrick Kingsley spotlights Sama’ Abdulhadi, 30, a rising Palestinian D.J. who faced controversy — and arrest — after performing next to a West Bank mosque. Now, the once “pride of Palestine has become a villain to many amid a public debate about what it is to be Palestinian.” [NYTimes]
✍️ Paying Tribute: Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan memorialized her friend, the civil rights activist and former White House advisor Vernon Jordan. “Vernon was a singular figure in that he was a true and honest partisan, declared and convinced, a liberal Democrat, but he didn’t only tolerate the other side; he had deep affection and respect for the other side, for those he judged deserved it, and there were many.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
🤝 To the Table: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif promised to soon present a “constructive concrete plan” to restart negotiations over its nuclear activities.
💥 Malign Forces: Indian security forces have reportedly determined that Iran was likely behind a blast outside the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi in January.
🗳️ Battle Within: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is facing increased competition within Fatah ahead of the presidential vote scheduled for July, the first in 15 years.
⚕️ Get Jabbed: Israel officially launched its COVID-19 vaccination drive today for more than 100,000 Palestinians who work within Israel.
😷 Opening Up: Israel lifted most of its remaining coronavirus restrictions on Sunday, opening up indoor dining, event halls and most schools — under specific conditions.
💉 Green Perks: Many Israeli employers are offering perks to COVID-vaccinated workers, to both encourage vaccines and track how many employees have received it.
🏦 Deficit Growth: Israel’s 12-month budget deficit grew to 12.4% of its output in February as a result of pandemic-related government spending.
⚖️ Day In Court: The 25-year-old Israeli woman who crossed into Syria last month was charged in Israeli court yesterday with violating the law against entering Syria.
🛥️ Misfire: Three Palestinian fisherman were killed when an errant rocket fired by Palestinian militants hit their boat off the coast of Gaza.
🇲🇲 New Look: Myanmar’s military has hired Israeli-Canadian lobbyist and former arms dealer Ari Ben-Menashe to help rebrand itself to foreign governments after deadly protests.
🤢 Poor Taste: The Jewish owner of Indianapolis’s Milktooth restaurant was accused of antisemitism for joking about “tasting children’s blood” with a new Jewish-themed menu.
📰 Stepping Back: New York Times columnist David Brooks resigned from his position at the Aspen Institute, but will remain a volunteer with the group, following criticism over not previously disclosing his paid association.
💰 Feeling Charitable: Two men accused of laundering money for a Ukrainian billionaire reportedly gave more than $11 million to Jewish organizations and yeshivas in New York.
🚔 New Rule: Refusing to give a get, a Jewish writ of divorce, is now considered a crime in the U.K. that can be punishable by jail time.
🎓 Campus Beat: The UCLA student government recently passed a resolution calling on the university to divest from “the war industry,” citing “ethnic cleansing in Palestine by the Israeli government.”
🏀 Winning Streak: Yeshiva University’s men’s basketball team has an unbroken two-season winning streak, the longest current streak in any NCAA program.
📺 Baltimore Beat: David Simon is writing and co-executive producing a new HBO miniseries on police corruption in Baltimore, based on a book by journalist Justin Fenton.
🏠 Moving On: CNN’s Jeff Zucker sold his Upper East Side apartment to philanthropist Michael Steinhardt for $15.4 million.
🥯 With a Schmear: Food and Wine catalogues the 50 best bagel shops in the U.S.
🍽️ Bon Appetit: The JCC in Palo Alto, Calif., is opening an expansive kosher food hall that will offer Japanese, Yemenite, Italian and Jewish cuisines.
🕯️ Remembering: David Newhouse, who oversaw Harrisburg’s Patriot-News when the newspaper won a Pulitzer for its coverage of a scandal at Penn State, died at 65.
Pic of the Day
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin met yesterday with the cast of “Women Create Israeli Theater,” in honor of International Women’s Day and the reopening of Israel’s cultural sector.
Jazz pianist and composer, Dick Hyman turns 94… Congressman since 2013 (D-CA-47), Alan Stuart Lowenthal turns 80… British television executive and member of the House of Lords, Baron Michael Grade (family name Winogradsky) turns 78… Judaism and science blogger, Roger Price turns 77… Lyricist, singer and New York Times best-selling author, Carole Bayer Sager turns 74… Licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Mona Fishbane turns 74… Senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Alan Makovsky turns 71… Brenda Krantz turns 71… Former chair and CEO of MGM, he is now vice-chair of DraftKings, Harry Evans Sloan turns 71… Public affairs producer and weekend assignment editor at KDKA News in Pittsburgh, Aviva Radbord turns 71… Former governor of Virginia and U.S. senator, his mother was from a Sephardic Jewish family in Tunisia, George Allen turns 69… Retired executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester NY, Larry Fine turns 69… Managing editor of the WNYC radio program “On the Media,” Brooke Gladstone turns 66… President of the World Bank, David Malpass turns 65… DC-based labor and employment attorney at Bredhoff & Kaiser, Bruce R. Lerner turns 64… Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning actress, Camryn Manheim turns 60… Founder and CEO of 32 Advisors and co-founder of drone software company Measure, Robert Wolf turns 59… VP of talent acquisition at Sageview Consulting, Carin Maher turns 58… VP for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Evan A. Feigenbaum turns 52…
Albany reporter for New York’s news channel NY1, Zack Fink turns 48… Congressman since 2017 (D-NJ-5), Josh Gottheimer turns 46… Alexis C. Rice turns 43… Executive director of Masbia soup kitchen, Alexander Rapaport turns 43… COO of social networking site Raya, Jared Morgenstern turns 40… Director at PJT CamberView, Eric Louis Sumberg turns 39… Deputy executive director and EVP at the Arlington, Virginia-based American Press Institute, Jeff Sonderman turns 39… Policy director at the Washington State Hospital Association in Seattle, David Streeter turns 34… Actress and comedian, Milana Vayntrub turns 34… Project manager at Voices Vote Now, Lauren Farber turns 33… Redstone fellow at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Nathaniel Sobel turns 32… Program analyst at Mathematica Policy Research, Karen Katz turns 32… Senior manager of government and external affairs in the Washington office of PepsiCo, Taylor Jaye Lustig turns 31… Senior instructor and curriculum coordinator at Poker Powher, Amanda Helen Botfeld turns 28… Senior campaign strategist at LeagueSide, Charleston native, Alexa (Lexi) Chavin… Analyst on the partnerships team at Optum Ventures, Miriam Applbaum…