👋 Good Thursday morning!
During his speech at Israel’s official Yom HaShoah ceremony last night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against reentering a deal with Iran “that will pave the way for nuclear weapons.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters yesterday that the U.S. is prepared to lift sanctions on Iran “that are inconsistent with the JCPOA.”
Three additional Democrats, Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Brian Schatz (D-HI), joined a letter from Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) calling for a swift reentry into the Iran deal, according to a Senate staffer. Their signatures bring the letter up to 14 current signatories.
Nineteen Democratic senators have not signed onto either the Kaine letter or a previous bipartisan letter from Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), which called for a more comprehensive replacement deal.
Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), a vocal opponent of rejoining the 2015 deal, became one of the first Democrats to speak out against the ongoing negotiations, tweeting that she has “serious reservations” about restarting negotiations before Iran scales back its enrichment activities.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), one of two Jewish Republicans in Congress, announced this morning that he is running for governor of New York in 2022.
Biden administration restores aid to the Palestinian Authority
The Biden administration announced yesterday it would provide at least $235 million in aid to the Palestinians, reversing a decision by former President Donald Trump to halt U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority and organizations that provide services and support to Palestinians. The announcement follows a series of quiet steps taken by the administration in recent weeks to restore aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
By the numbers: Approximately $150 million of the total aid will be distributed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the U.N. agency tasked with dealing with Palestinian refugees. UNRWA has drawn criticism numerous times in recent months for distributing learning materials to Palestinian students that glorified militants and promoted violence against Israelis, and has long been dogged by accusations of misconduct.
UNRWA unrest: Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Gilad Erdan promptly criticized the administration for restoring aid to UNRWA, which he said “should not exist in its current form,” adding: “In conversations with the U.S. State Department, I have expressed my disappointment and objection to the decision to renew UNRWA’s funding without first ensuring that certain reforms, including stopping the incitement and removing antisemitic content from its educational curriculum are carried out.” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters yesterday that reinstating aid to UNRWA puts the U.S. in a better position to address issues including the organization’s neutrality, accountability and approach to education.
Capitol Hill consternation: Republican opposition on Capitol Hill to the announcement was also swift. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) accused the administration of “support of pay to slay,” referencing the Palestinian Authority’s payments to the families of individuals who’ve carried out terror attacks on Israelis. Graham was an original cosponsor of the Taylor Force Act, which restricts U.S. aid to the PA until it halts such payments. “Recent decisions by the State Department to provide funding for projects in the West Bank come close to violating the provisions of the Taylor Force Act,” Graham said. “A willingness to make concessions to the Palestinians without demanding anything in return is deeply troubling and should worry us all.”
Education reform: The administration’s move also comes amid renewed action on Capitol Hill over UNRWA- and PA-sponsored education programs. A bipartisan group of House members led by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) reintroduced legislation on Monday mandating State Department reports on the content of curricula distributed to children in the Palestinian territories. A coalition of Jewish groups is also encouraging members to sign a letter to the U.N. secretary general calling for increased transparency and accountability.
The Instagram community connecting Jewish women experiencing infertility
When Aimee Friedman Baron experienced a series of second-trimester miscarriages several years ago, she quit her job as a pediatrician. “I could not keep taking care of other people’s healthy babies while struggling to have my own, even though I had three kids at home. It was just too painful,” she said. She ultimately gave birth to twins, but recovering from the trauma of infertility took time. Her journey led her to create I Was Supposed to Have a Baby, a nonprofit and online community geared toward Jewish women experiencing infertility. Baron spoke with Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch about how IWSTHAB was born, and how it has grown up in the two years since its founding.
Influencer status: The organization runs virtual support groups and offers one-on-one support sessions, and in February, it was an organizer of the First Annual Jewish Fertility Summit. But the main way IWSTHAB reaches people is on Instagram, where it has amassed 8,800 followers — Jewish and not — who gather virtually to be around other women (and the occasional man) who understand the invisible agony of infertility and miscarriage. IWSTHAB’s posts are warm and supportive, sometimes highlighting one woman’s experience and other times featuring an inspirational quote or graphic. Baron answers every single message that comes through the account.
Online interaction: The real community-building takes place in the comments of the posts, or in responses that Baron receives to open-ended prompts she posts on the page’s Instagram story. One recent prompt asked, “What worked and what didn’t this holiday season?” Some comments came from Christian women reflecting on Easter and Christmas, but most were from Jewish women, writing about the difficulty of being joyous or hosting large family gatherings during Passover. “I was with my in-laws pretending all the time I was happy and nothing was going on,” read one comment that Baron reposted to the account’s followers. “But inside me I was devastated.’ I got another negative [pregnancy test] the first day of chol hamoed [the intermediate days of Passover]. And being with my pregnant sisters-in-law made it harder.”
Silent struggle: Ten to 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to data from the Mayo Clinic, although the actual number is likely higher due to women who miscarry before they even know they are pregnant. “It is happening to someone you know, they just might not be telling you about it,” Baron said. Jewish women — particularly Orthodox women — face unique challenges. Rachel, 30, a lawyer who is now pregnant with her second child after a miscarriage and infertility following the birth of her first child, said that her non-religious friends and doctors do not understand her concerns. “When I started going to my reproductive endocrinologist, or even my OB after my miscarriages, they were like, ‘You’re so young, you’re 30.’ And I was like, ‘Well, it’s nice that you think I’m young, but compared to my friends, who are also 30 and have three or four kids, I feel very behind,’” Rachel said.
A community that cares: Although the account’s intended audience is women and their partners who are struggling with infertility, Baron hopes that its message can begin to reach deeper into the Jewish community. Ultimately, her goal is not only education about infertility. It’s “universal messages of love and caring and support for anyone who’s going through anything,” she explained. “People struggle with lots of different things in their life, and we as a community try to be sensitive to all the downtrodden, right? The widows, the orphans, the people who are poor, the people who don’t have jobs, the people who are going through cancer, alcoholics and mental illness — we do all of those things as a Jewish community. So this is another group.”
peach state politics
The Democrats launching long-shot bids to unseat Marjorie Taylor Greene
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) — the first-term Republican congresswoman notorious for her history of antisemitic, racist, Islamophobic and conspiratorial comments — has, in just three months in office, become a prominent subject of Democratic ire and is increasingly frustrating some GOP colleagues. But Greene hails from Georgia’s 14th congressional district, one of the most reliably Republican districts in the country, and Democrats are believed to have next-to-no chance of toppling Greene in the November 2022 midterm election. Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod spoke to a pair of Democrats who are trying anyway.
In the race: Though more than a year out from the district’s Democratic primary, four candidates already entered the race, including Army veteran and defense contractor Marcus Flowers and small business owner Holly McCormack. Another candidate, Lateefah Conner, is also in the race, and local activist Brittany Trambauer Smith filed to run in February, but quickly dropped out.
Riot response: In recent interviews with JI, both Flowers and McCormack said the January 6 Capitol riot was their impetus for entering the race. Greene has associated with some of the individuals and groups involved in the riot, and promoted the election fraud falsehoods that inflamed the crowd that entered the Capitol. “Once I saw that, and how far we’ve fallen, and a Confederate battle flag paraded through the Capitol rotunda, for me, it became mission critical,” Flowers said. “And I had to get in, I had to do something because I felt Marjorie Taylor Greene helped incite that insurrection. And I feel that her twisted conspiracy theories are not only dangerous for our district, and Georgia, for the entire country as well.”
Money race: Flowershas raised more than $500,000 in his first month in the race. That puts him well ahead of McCormack, who has raised just $85,000, but has built up a larger Twitter following. The Democrats significantly trail Greene, who has used the controversies she has become embroiled in and her status as a Democratic bête noire to raise $3.2 million in the first quarter of 2021 — an astounding haul for a freshman nearly two years out from reelection.
Long shot: Asked whether a Democratic challenger has a shot at defeating Greene in the ruby-red district, Charles Bullock, a longtime political science professor at the University of Georgia, chuckled. “That would probably be a longer shot than the University of Georgia’s men’s basketball team winning the national championship — which has never happened,” Bullock told JI. He believes the most viable route to ousting Greene would be a conservative launching an independent challenge, but added, “for that to work, you probably would have to also hope that there would not be a Democrat there to split the anti-Greene vote.”
🤳 Never Again: The Associated Press’s David Rising spotlights a new campaign enabling Holocaust survivors to use social media to share their stories and spread awareness. “There aren’t too many of us going out and speaking anymore, we’re few in numbers but our voices are heard,” said survivor Sidney Zoltak. [AP]
🤝 Reconnecting: AFP’s Sudan bureau chief Menna Zaki speaks to the descendants of Sudan’s once-vibrant Jewish community, who are hoping to connect with Israel following the recent normalization deal. “I am almost sure we have extended family living in Tel Aviv or elsewhere in Israel that we lost touch with over the years,” said Yoshar Basha. “Normalization will help us reconnect with our origins.” [AFP]
🕍 Riyadh Rabbi: The Forward’s David Ian Klein profiles Rabbi Yaakov Herzog, who is planning to move to Saudi Arabia to spearhead efforts to establish a Jewish community there. “I think there’s a brighter future for that kingdom and I think that I can add value to it and for the Jews who end up coming to it.” [Forward]
🛬 Detour: In JTA, Asma Ali Zain tells the story of Richard Bernstein, a blind Michigan Supreme Court judge who got stuck in Dubai in January on his way to Israel — and now has no plans to leave. “I had already started becoming close with so many incredible people here and so I decided to stay back.” [JTA]
Around the Web
💥 Air Strikes: Syria accused Israel of carrying out an air strike against military sites near Damascus last night.
🚰 Drink Up: U.S. officials have encouraged Israel to provide Jordan with additional water, amid an ongoing diplomatic spat between the neighboring countries.
🛫 Liftoff: El Al will raise at least $105 million through an offering of shares and/or options to meet the conditions for a government bailout.
🚗 In the Neighborhood: Ford is partnering with Israeli startup Mappo to offer an in-car app in its new models that lists nearby cultural hotspots.
🥓 Bringing Home the Bacon: Israeli-founded alternative meat startup Mission Barns, which is working on creating “kosher bacon,” raised $24 million in a new round of funding.
🗳️ Eye on ‘24: Former Vice President Mike Pence is launching a new policy group — with an advisory board that includes former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
🧑⚖️ No Trial: Federal prosecutors agreed that Grafton Thomas, the suspect in the 2019 Monsey Hanukkah attack that left one dead, is mentally unfit to stand trial.
🙏 Losing My Religion: A new Gallup poll shows that Americans are becoming less involved in organized religion.
📸 Caught on Camera: Elliot Resnick, editor of the New York-based Jewish Press, was among the crowd that stormed the Capitol on January 6, reports Politico.
💼 Transitions: Author and historian Tevi Troy has joined the Bipartisan Policy Center as a senior fellow. Former House Budget Committee staff director Thomas Kahn has been named a distinguished fellow at American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies.
🥇 Sports Blink: U.K. native Georgie Cohen spoke to the BBC about her journey to become an Olympic skeleton competitor representing Israel.
🏀 Outreach: The University of Miami Hillel is holding a Zoom event next week for students with Meyers Leonard, the NBA player who came under fire for using an antisemitic slur, titled “From Heat to Healing.”
⛹️♂️ Never Forget: Washington Wizards star Deni Avdija hit the court last night in sneakers emblazoned with the Hebrew word “Yizkor,” (remember) in honor of Yom HaShoah.
🕯️ Remembering: Attorney Howard Weitzman, who represented high-profile clients including O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson, died at 81. Lois Kirschenbaum, known in New York as an opera superfan, died at 88.
Pic of the Day
The first official United Arab Emirates Yom HaShoah ceremony was held in Dubai last night, with a group of Jewish and Muslim participants lighting six candles to represent the six million Jewish victims.
Comedian Shecky Greene (born Fred Sheldon Greenfield) turns 95… Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and longtime contributor to The New Yorker magazine, Seymour Myron “Sy” Hersh turns 84… French actor Jean Benguigui turns 77… Political fundraiser, Joy Silverman turns 74… Bassist for the rock band Grand Funk Railroad, Melvin George “Mel” Schacher turns 70… Longtime college and NBA basketball coach, Larry Shyatt turns 70… Russian-born businessman who emigrated to Israel in 1972 and president of the Congress of Jewish Religious Communities of Russia, Arcadi Gaydamak turns 69… Member of the National Assembly of Quebec, David Birnbaum turns 65… Leading UK pensions expert and a member of the House of Lords, Baroness Rosalind Miriam Altmann turns 65… President of Wesleyan University, Michael S. Roth turns 64… Member of Knesset for the Likud party, David Bitan turns 61… Beverly Hills resident, Shahnaz Mossazadeh turns 61… Judge on the Maryland Court of Appeals, Judge Jonathan Biran turns 55… Financial advisor in the Cedarhurst, New York, office of Citigroup Global Markets, Jeffrey Kramer turns 53… Filmmaker, she co-wrote The Tribe that explored American Jewish identity through the history of the Barbie Doll, Tiffany Shlain turns 51… Executive director of American Jewish Congress, Joel M. Rubin turns 50… Political director for NBC News and moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Chuck Todd turns 49… Professional baseball pitcher and coach, Matt Ford turns 40… Israeli actor and TV host, Ofer Shechter turns 40… NYC-based head of investor relations for the Israeli Ministry of Finance, Jason Reinin turns 39… Television personality and entertainer, Richard Rubin turns 38… Deputy business editor of The Washington Post, Zachary A. Goldfarb turns 38… Lead vocalist and guitarist of the indie rock band Vampire Weekend, Ezra Michael Koenig turns 37… Associate at Talpion LP, Daniel E. Smith turns 29… Film, television and voice actress, Shelby Young turns 29… Associate professor of pediatric anesthesia and intensive care at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, Albert Gyllencreutz Castellheim… Janet Goldstein…