👋 Good Monday morning!
Iran’s Natanz atomic facility experienced a blackout on Sunday caused by an explosion. Israeli media reported that the Mossad was behind the attack at the facility, where on Saturday President Hassan Rouhani announced 150 new centrifuges.
Intelligence officials told The New York Times that Sunday’s attack dealt a severe blow to the site and that it could take at least nine months to restore the Natanz facility. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed Israel for the incident and vowed “to take our revenge from the Zionists.”
News of the attack coincided with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s arrival in Israel, where he met with counterpart Benny Gantz. Following the meeting, Austin said the U.S. commitment to Israel remained “enduring and ironclad.” Austin is slated to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later today.
President Joe Biden’s “skinny budget” request to Congress “fully funds U.S. commitments” to Israel and Jordan, as well as “restores assistance programs and humanitarian aid” to Palestinians, including through the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
“The United States will maintain steadfast support for Israel as the Administration renews relations with Palestinian leadership, restores economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, and works to advance a sustainable two-state solution” the request reads.
To address domestic terrorism and civil rights, the administration requested an additional $33 million for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and related programs, an additional $101 million for DOJ domestic terrorism efforts and a total of $131 million for Department of Homeland Security programs.
a holy high
The Kahn family’s long, strange trip to the D.C. pot business
A rabbi, his wife and their son go into the drug business together: It sounds like the plot of a television show. For the Kahn family, it’s real life. When Jeffrey Kahn left the rabbinate after three decades, he moved with his wife Stephanie, a nurse,to Israel, hoping to enjoy retirement in the Holy Land. Yet Kahn is now back in the U.S. and serving as another kind of rabbi: the Pot Rabbi, as his ID badge from the Takoma Wellness Center — Washington, D.C.’s first and largest medical marijuana dispensary — reads. On a recent tour of Takoma Wellness Center, decorated with Israeli flags and Judaica, Jeffrey and his son Josh spoke with Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutchabout overcoming neighborhood hostility, handling ever-evolving regulations, and why medical marijuana is a manifestation of their Jewish values.
Family values: Stephanie’s father suffered from multiple sclerosis, and someone suggested he try marijuana to relieve his constant pain. But it was the 1970s, and the drug was affiliated with hippies and the counterculture, and it was illegal; where was a respectable middle-aged man supposed to go to find it? Eventually, his caregiver was able to procure some. “It made a tremendous difference for him. It was almost instantaneous the first time,” Jeffrey said. But his father-in-law did not have regular access to marijuana, often leaving him in pain. “Now looking back, we know,” Jeffrey explained. “We see lots of people with MS, and we know how little can really be done pharmaceutically, and how much cannabis still is a lifesaver for so many people.” His father-in-law’s marijuana use was no shameful secret. “My kids grew up knowing that grandpa had a bong in the basement,” Jeffrey remarked.
How it works: The Kahns began thinking of opening a dispensary after Stephanie’s mother died of cancer in 2008. At the time, Americans remained skeptical of marijuana. Polling from the Pew Research Center found that, in 2010, just 41% of Americans wanted to legalize the drug. By 2019, more than two-thirds believed marijuana should be legal. After going to the city for permission in 2011, it took until 2013 for Takoma Wellness to gain the necessary approvals to set up shop. Since then, Jeffrey, Josh and Stephanie had to teach themselves the basics of cannabis, such as the differences among the nearly 100 strains they have on offer (with names like “Sour Diesel” and “Gelato”) and the different forms they offer: straight-up “flower,” edibles, topicals (like lotion) or tinctures. “The main part of how it all works is that it does work,” said Jeffrey. “There are people who come once and never come back, but they’re few and far between. Most people do find some satisfaction.”
Land of marijuana and honey: The Kahns faced local opposition from the beginning. They had to teach skeptical neighbors that their business would not be a headshop but a legitimate community institution, and it would actually help people. In the beginning, the whole family was “working with the neighbors and having tons of meetings,” Jeffrey recalled. It didn’t all go well, he said: “There were screaming matches.” One group that never gave his family a hard time? The Jewish community. “Jewish support has been tremendous,” Jeffrey said. Women of Reform Judaism, the women’s arm of the Reform movement, passed a policy statement in support of medical marijuana in 1999, long before it was widely popular in the U.S. Israel is known as a global cannabis research hub, and the country legalized medical marijuana in the early 1990s.
Liz Crotty takes the middle path to Manhattan DA
Liz Crotty, one of eight Democratic candidates running for Manhattan district attorney, occupies something of a rarefied lane: She is the only avowed centrist in a field crowded with progressives. While many of her opponents emphasize the need for increased police accountability, for instance, Crotty calls for more cops on the subways as well as a renewed focus on law and order. “I really saw a lack of a voice for the everyday, ordinary New Yorker who wants to ride the train and feel safe,” Crotty said in a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Voter priorities: Whether Crotty prevails in the upcoming election will function as a barometer of voters’ priorities. Last year’s protests against systemic racism sparked a nationwide reckoning over criminal justice reform as violent crime spiked across New York City. Crotty, 50, believes she is walking a path Manhattanites will appreciate. “A lot of people in this race are speaking to a national, progressive platform, and not a localized, ‘what is going on here in Manhattan’ platform,” she said. “All politics are local, and I think they should speak to the problems that we’re seeing in New York — especially, since COVID, crime has risen, and I think we have to really speak to it.”
Background: A New York native, Crotty attended Fordham University School of Law and then went on to serve as an assistant district attorney under Robert Morgenthau. After six years, she left the office to work at Kreindler & Kreindler, an aviation law firm in New York, and then started her own criminal law practice, Crotty Saland PC, with Jeremy Saland, a former fellow assistant district attorney. “There is no candidate that has done what she has, both served as a Manhattan prosecutor and been in the trenches on the other side as a defense attorney in the courts,” Saland said of his partner in an interview with JI.
Measured approach: Crotty takes a measured approach to many of the hot topics in the race. She rejects calls to defund the police but concedes that law enforcement officials could do a “better job,” for instance, while contending that restorative justice isn’t always the most effective way to address hate crimes. “I think a lot of hate crimes, some of them do come from ignorance, and I think you have to look to education,” she said. “But I think you have to really say, ‘Listen, we’re going to hold people accountable, especially in hate crimes, and especially in antisemitism.’”
Moderate appeal: Ultimately, Crotty is confident her message will resonate because of her status as the race’s only self-identifying moderate. “The everyday, average New Yorker wants safety, and I think that I’m the candidate who’s been talking about it from the beginning, and I’ve never wavered,” Crotty told JI. “It’s not like we can’t be fair, and it’s not that the district attorney’s office can’t do better. But I understand that public safety in every neighborhood should be the priority of the next DA.”
Netanyahu struggles to build coalition as clock ticks
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has 22 days remaining to build a 61-seat majority government, but ongoing coalition talks have yet to lead to any breakthroughs as the clock ticks.
Countdown: The mandate handed to Netanyahu by President Reuven Rivlin last week expires on May 4. Traditionally, a candidate can request a two-week extension beyond the first deadline, but Rivlin made it clear he is highly unlikely to grant such a request. In his speech awarding the first chance to Netanyahu, Rivlin said he would have preferred to hand the mandate directly to the Knesset immediately, but his hands were tied. If Netanyahu’s mandate expires before he can form a government, Rivlin will have to decide if he should hand it to a second candidate, or straight to the Knesset. Once it arrives at the Knesset, a 21-day countdown will begin until a fifth election is automatically triggered.
Bennett battle: While Netanyahu holds talks with potential coalition partners, the anti-Netanyahu bloc is also continuing to conduct quiet negotiations, hoping for a shot at forming the government if and when Netanyahu fails. Yamina head Naftali Bennett, who either side would undoubtedly need on board in order to build a coalition, has met with both Netanyahu and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. According to reports, Bennett has sought to solidify a rotation deal for prime minister with both Netanyahu and Lapid. Netanyahu publicly denied such a possibility, while Lapid stated he would welcome the move and allow Bennett to serve first. Shas leader Aryeh Deri said yesterday that he would also demand a rotation as prime minister if Bennett receives one — noting that his party received 9 seats compared to Yamina’s 7. Netanyahu and Bennett reportedly conducted their recent meeting in English, something the pair were known to do when Bennett served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff.
Slim chance: The National Religious Party’s Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, the far-right figures who, along with the haredi parties, are Netanyahu’s only solid electoral allies, both restated their opposition to joining a coalition alongside or supported by the Islamist Ra’am Party. Netanyahu appears to be pinning his hopes for forming a government on convincing both Yamina and Gideon Sa’ar‘s New Hope to join him. But Sa’ar has given no indication he would consider such a move and has repeatedly stated he would not sit with Netanyahu. Political analysts seem to agree that a fifth election in less than three years is the most likely outcome — but won’t rule out any last-minute twists. Lapid, meanwhile, departed over the weekend for the United States and will meet with pollster Mark Mellman, according to his fellow Yesh Atid lawmaker Merav Ben-Ari.
⚖️ Learning Lessons: Rabbi Avrohom Zippel, a child sex abuse survivor, opened up in Deseret News about his struggles with panic attacks following his abuser’s conviction, and his efforts to establish a continuing education seminar for prosecutors and defense lawyers dealing with such issues. “The wounds that are opened during a process like that, they fester and they sit, and they come and claim their dues.” [Deseret]
😞 Time to Mourn: In The New York Times, author Allison Gilbert suggests that Americans must begin to “address the toll” of COVID bereavement as millions grieve the loss of loved ones. “Grief plays out in waves across one’s life and has no clear ending. We should be prepared for another health catastrophe.” [NYTimes]
🏗️ Restoration: In the Chicago Sun-Times, Kyle Brown explores the history behind a newly restored mosaic at the Horwich JCC that highlights the struggles of Jewish immigrants. “In addition to our strong feelings for the themes of the mosaic, it was profoundly meaningful and satisfying to repair something,” said artist Cynthia Weiss. [Sun-Times]
Around the Web
💉 Red Flag: An Israeli study found that the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine may be ineffective against the South African strain of the virus.
💥 On Camera: Joint List MK Ofer Cassif, the only Jewish member of the mostly Arab coalition, was beaten by Israeli police during a protest in Jerusalem on Friday, sparking outrage.
🌊 Sea Scuffle: Lebanon’s transport minister said the country was expanding its claims over a disputed maritime border with Israel, after talks between the countries on the issue stalled.
🤝 Outreach: Freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) met last week with the acting Israeli consul general to New York, Israel Nitzan, for a “thoughtful conversation.”
🛑 On Hold: Jennifer Davis, a top aide and presumptive chief of staff to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas Greenfield, has stepped aside after her security clearance was revoked, but plans to appeal the decision.
🖥️ Reconnecting: Several Holocaust survivors who met in an orphanage near Brussels after being rescued by the Belgian resistance reunited recently over Zoom.
💰 Startup Nation: Israeli startup Talon, which focuses on cybersecurity for the post-COVID workplace, raised $26 million in seed funding.
📺 Media Watch: The ADL called on Fox News to fire host Tucker Carlson over his recent “impassioned defense of the white supremacist ‘great replacement theory.’”
🏠 Campus Beat: The University of Illinois will establish Jewish student housing in the wake of a pair of antisemitic incidents this year, and a year after a complaint was filed with the Department of Education over the school’s handling of antisemitic activity on campus.
🎥 Hollywood: Israel’s Yes Studios unveiled a trailer for its upcoming new series, “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,” set in the early-mid 20th century.
👧🏻 Spotlight: Air Mail profiles Ella Emhoff, the stepdaughter of Vice President Kamala Harris and “Brooklyn’s — and America’s? — new it girl.”
💍 Engaged: IfNotNow co-founder Emily Mayer and Justice Democrats spokesperson Waleed Shahid got engaged last week in Philadelphia (h/t Politico).
🏆 Ad 120: Israeli journalist Walter Bingham, 97, was named the Guinness World Record holder for oldest living journalist.
🕯️ Remembering: Benita Raphan, who made short films about eccentric individuals, died at 58 in January. Yehuda Ben-Yishay, a psychologist who worked with wounded Israeli soldiers, died at 88. Emmy-winning director and producer Harold Kooperstein, born Hillel ben Yaakov, died at 78.
Song of the Day
Israeli rapper Bazzi B released a new single, “Me Again.”
Phoenix resident, Anita Rochelle Goldberg turns 84… Founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel, Pastor John Charles Hagee turns 81… Attorney and bestselling novelist, Scott Turow turns 72… Television producer and chairman of the Liverpool Football Club and the Boston Red Sox, Thomas Charles Werner turns 71… Senior Vice President at UJA Federation of New York, Stuart Tauber turns 69… West Bloomfield, Michigan resident, Ron Mitnick turns 67… Washington, D.C. attorney, Norman B. “Norm” Antin turns 65… Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, recently appointed to the House of Lords, Baroness Joanna Merron turns 62… U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York, Judge Paul A. Engelmayer turns 60… Twin brothers, both real estate agents starring in the Netflix original series “Selling Sunset,” Jason and Brett Oppenheim turn 44… Actress, director and writer, Jordana Spiro turns 44… Realtor and VP for Keller Williams in Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts, Ilya Jacob Rasner turns 40… President at National Student Legal Defense Network, Aaron Ament turns 40… California State Senator, Henry I. Stern turns 39… Member of the Seattle City Council, Daniel Aaron Strauss turns 35… Comedian, writer and actress, Ilana Glazer turns 34… Israeli actress, winner of Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival, Hadas Yaron turns 31… Actor Larry Saperstein turns 23…