👋 Good Wednesday morning!
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convictedyesterday on three counts — second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — for killing George Floyd.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced a bill yesterday that would force the Biden administration to submit any Iran nuclear agreement — including rejoining the 2015 deal — for Senate consideration as a treaty. Blackburn’s bill is a companion to one Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) introduced in the House last month.
Blackburn said: “It’s time for Biden to wake up and realize that the U.S. cannot negotiate an honest agreement with Iran because they are a fanatical, anti-American regime. No amount of negotiating, or ‘indirect discussions,’ can change that. My legislation will prevent Biden from circumventing the U.S. Senate to salvage the failed deal or forge a new, just as disastrous one.”
The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Rick Scott (R-FL), and is one of a score of recent GOP bills related to the Iran nuclear issue that are unlikely to pass.
Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) introduced a resolution yesterday recognizing infertility as a disease. The resolution, which was timed to coincide with National Infertility Awareness Week, notes that Ashkenazi Jews experience infertility at higher rates than other groups.
The Senate confirmed Gary Gensler to a full five-year term as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday by a vote of 54 to 45.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuadmitted yesterday that forming a government with the Islamist Ra’am Party was not an option, and called for a snap, direct election for prime minister — a move that would require a majority Knesset vote.
The State Dept.’s diversity officer grew up among Orthodox Jews in Cleveland
The Biden administration is working to mediate the diplomatic corps’s systemic and well-documented lack of diversity in its ranks. Last week, Secretary of State Tony Blinken named former Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, a Black woman who served as ambassador to Malta after three decades as a foreign service officer in postings including Tel Aviv, as the State Department’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer. Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch spoke to Abercrombie-Winstanley’s friends and colleagues about the challenge she now faces.
‘Honorary male’: Abercrombie-Winstanley’s career centered on the Middle East and North Africa, taking her to postings ranging from Cairo to Baghdad to Jakarta. She spent a stint in Tel Aviv monitoring the Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s. Martin Indyk, who was ambassador to Israel at the time, told JI that “she was an excellent young foreign service officer in those days.” In the early 2000s, she became the first woman to serve as U.S. consul general in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She has said that the posting gave her the status of “honorary male,” since women in Saudi Arabia — particularly at the time — are often barred from working in public-facing roles. But that also allowed her to learn from women in the country: “I get to see literally half of Saudi society that my (male) predecessor did not,” she said in a 2004 interview. Later that year, Abercrombie-Winstanley survived an al-Qaeda attack on the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, going on to receive a State Department award for her courage on that day.
Hebrew High: Abercrombie-Winstanley has spoken in the past about how her experience studying abroad in Israel helped spark her interest in diplomacy. “My first two plane rides ever were to and from college” — at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. — “and my third was to Tel Aviv,” she said in an interview with a magazine affiliated with her childhood school district. Growing up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Abercrombie-Winstanley took Hebrew classes at the public Cleveland Heights High School. At her nomination hearing to become ambassador to Malta in 2012, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced Abercrombie-Winstanley by noting that her education was “reinforced by the culture of Orthodox Judaism that shaped the neighborhood of Cleveland Heights where she was raised.”
Shared experiences: “The joke about the Foreign Service is that it’s ‘pale, male and Yale,’ but that’s not without some historical foundation,” said Tamara Cofman Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs in the Obama administration and worked with Abercrombie-Winstanley to launch the Leadership Council for Women in National Security, a group that helps women advance in foreign policy and diplomacy. Wittes did not get to know Abercrombie-Winstanley well until their work together on LCWINS, but at an event early last year, Wittes learned that they shared something surprising in common: “She and I went to the same overseas student program at Tel Aviv University, a few years apart. We had both done that program, we had both gone through the ulpan [Hebrew instruction] there, we both lived in the same dormitory building,” Wittes recalled. “That experience both drew us closer to the field.”
Diplomatic departures: The diversity initiative at State comes as the Biden administration is seeking to grow the foreign service. Blinken has spoken of staffing up the State Department’s ranks after a historic number of career diplomats and foreign service officers resigned or were fired during the Trump administration. In late 2017, just months after former President Donald Trump took office, the head of the American Foreign Service Association — the union that represents diplomats — said that the State Department had lost 60% of career ambassadors in that year alone. Abercrombie-Winstanley was among the wave of diplomats who left the State Department early in the Trump administration.
Elsewhere: The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. and China are expected to announce their ambassadorial picks to postings in each other’s capitals, with Biden likely to nominate R. Nicholas Burns, who served at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem from 1985-1987.
race to gracie
NYC mayoral candidates field questions about BDS at UJA forum
The leading Democratic candidates in the New York City mayoral race fielded questions about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement at a virtual forum hosted by the UJA-Federation of New York last night, reports Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Brooklyn to Tel Aviv: Of a questionnaire from the NYC Democratic Socialists of America that asked candidates to pledge not to visit Israel if elected, Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, said, “I was asked that same question, and I made it clear that I traveled to Israel twice and I will do so again,” Adams said it was unfair to “demonize an entire country” because of a “philosophical disagreement with some of the policies,” while adding his belief that “people have a right to protest, but that protest should not be antisemitic. I consider myself to be a friend of Israel.” He concluded: “I like to say that Brooklyn is the Tel Aviv of America.”
Economic ties: Kathryn Garcia, the city’s former sanitation chief, said she “would very happily travel to Israel” if she is elected, noting that Israel is one of New York City’s most important trading partners. “They will be about vaulting us into that next tier of what the future is going to look like,” she said. Shaun Donovan, who previously held high-ranking positions in the Obama White House and Bloomberg mayoral administration, echoed that view, emphasizing that the “economic future of this city and this country are tied to a deep relationship with Israel.”
Yang’s future visit: Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, whose views on BDS have vacillated in recent months, came out strongly against efforts to boycott the Jewish state when it was his time to speak at the forum, saying that his “first official trip as mayor” would be to Israel. “I’m very cognizant of the fact that New York City is home to the largest Jewish population outside of Israel, and I cannot wait to visit Israel, frankly, certainly my first official trip as mayor,” he said.
Wild cards: Former Citigroup executive Ray McGuire was not asked about BDS. Neither was Scott Stringer, the seasoned city comptroller whose campaign is backed by some DSA-aligned politicians in New York. Maya Wiley, a former aide to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, was evasive while fielding a question about BDS. “We have to come together — no more hate, no more division,” she said. Dianne Morales, a former nonprofit executive who called Israel an “apartheid state” at a virtual event last December, according to an audio recording obtained by The Forward, did not participate in the forum.
on the hill
CENTCOM commander warns about Iranian drone threat during House hearing
In a stunning admission, the Marine Corps general heading the U.S. Central Command disclosed in a House Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday that, based on the threat of Iranian drones, “for the first time since the Korean War, we are operating without complete air superiority.”
Major threat: Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees the Middle East, Central Asia and parts of South Asia, repeatedly emphasized the danger to U.S. forces and partners in the Middle East posed by small and medium-sized armed Iranian drones, which have been used for both surveillance and attacks. “Sometimes it is very difficult for us to detect them until it is too late,” McKenzie said during the hearing. “We have a variety of systems that we’re testing now in a free market competition to find the best and most integrated capabilities. We are not there yet, and it remains a very concerning priority of mine.”
Sharing the love: McKenzie said that the U.S. sale of F-35s to the United Arab Emirates, a Trump administration-era deal that Biden had temporarily put on hold but approved last week, is part of a strategy of deterrence. “One of the key aspects to deterring Iran is an international community that is devoted to that deterrence. Iran has no friends. What we have is lots of friends,” McKenzie said. “One of the things for supporting our friends in the region is to give them the best capability that we can afford to give them, consistent with the other requirements, such as reassurance of Israel… But I think that is a good capability and [the sale] will stand us in good stead with our friends in UAE.”
Shifting responsibilities: Members of Congress also questioned the military leaders on the Pentagon’s recent move to transfer Israel from European Command’s area of responsibility to CENTCOM. McKenzie explained that the decision was based on the fact that Israel has operationally worked most closely with CENTCOM for some time, despite the Jewish state’s close partnerships with European nations and NATO.
🖼️ Behind the Brush: In The New York Times, Marisa Mazria-Katz spotlights the two Israeli artists who were behind the paintings that served as a critical plot point in the latest season of “Shtisel,” which hit Netflix last month. “Akiva has a combination of humor and childishness, along with deep and spiritual emotions,” said illustrator Menahem Halberstadt. “I tried to give expression to both of these sides.” [NYTimes]
🙎 Face Scan: Reuters reporters Paresh Dave and Jeffrey Dastin explore how controversial Israeli facial recognition startup AnyVision is being increasingly used across the United States, including by Macy’s, the Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and oil giant BP. “There’s a potential for abuse of this technology both in terms of bias and privacy,” said AnyVision CEO Avi Golan. But “blanket bans are irresponsible.” [Reuters]
✊ Looking Back: In Commentary Magazine, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik explores the link between Israel’s Yom HaShoah and Yom Ha’atzmaut, which he links to the liberation of Bergen-Belsen and the prayers led there by U.K. Army Chaplain Rabbi Leslie Henry Hardman. “Those whom Leslie Hardman saw initially as the weakest specimens of humanity revealed themselves to be among the strongest individuals in all of history. They hoped, and they were lifted from the grave, and embodied the endurance of an eternal nation.” [Commentary]
👦 Memory Lane: For The New York Times Magazine, Jonah Weiner sits down with actor Seth Rogen, the self-described son of “radical Jewish socialists,” to discuss his quarantine hobbies and career trajectory, including an upcoming collection of essays titled Yearbook. In one, Rogen remembers attending bar and mitzvahs as a youth, when “a slow song would come on, boys would ask girls to dance, girls would ask boys to dance and I’d generally find myself standing on the side watching it all happen.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
💥 Boom: An explosion causing no injuries was heard at an Israeli missile factory in the city of Ramle yesterday, which was reportedly part of a controlled test by the company.
🤝 No Daylight: In Foreign Affairs, former IDF Gen. Amos Yadlin argues that Israel’s shadow war on Iran does not have to strain relations between Israel and the United States.
🧳 Green Light: Israel and the U.K. are exploring the possibility of creating a “green” travel corridor to allow vaccinated citizens to travel freely between the two countries.
🌱 Seeds of Friendship: Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and U.N. Gilad Erdan and United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba, with the ambassadors of Morocco, Egypt and Jordan in attendance, planted an olive tree in the garden of the UAE Embassy to mark Earth Day and the recent normalization agreement between the countries.
🚓 Law and Order: Police and protesters scuffled for a second night in Tel Aviv yesterday amid rising tensions after an attack this weekend on a rabbi in Jaffa.
🔎 Kosher Question: A popular Jerusalem bakery caused a stir after announcing it was switching its kashrut certification from the state-run rabbinate to private kosher supervision.
🚑 Helping Hands: The New York Times spotlighted the women of Ezras Nashim, the first Hasidic women’s EMT corps that finally received its ambulance license last year.
🧕 Controversial Ruling: A Quebec court largely upheld a ban on public sector employees wearing religious symbols while at work — while exempting English-language schools.
💰 Try, Try Again: Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor, now valued at more than $10 billion, is seeking to raise nearly $600 million in a new IPO two years after calling off its first attempt to go public.
📈 Big Bet: The Israeli-founded startup Orca, which was recently valued at $1.2 billion, reportedly had just $4 million in annualized revenue earlier this year.
🙅♂️ No Thanks: Hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman said he is likely to decline an invitation from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to speak at a Senate Finance subcommittee hearing.
👨 New Gig: Former journalist Mark Halperin, who left NBC and MSNBC following accusations of sexual harassment, is joining the policy group No Labels as a consultant.
👵👴 Coming Soon: A new documentary, “The Home,” looks at the lives and interactions of residents and staff at a Jewish retirement home in South Africa.
🎥 Inclusion: The Ruderman Family Foundation has given a $1 million grant to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to advance its inclusion efforts for people with disabilities.
🕯️ Remembering: Composer and lyricist Jim Steinman, who wrote for Meat Loaf, Celine Dion and Bonnie Tyler, among others, died at age 73. Film director and producer Monte Hellman, born Monte Himmelbaum, died at 91.
Gif of the Day
Randi Zuckerberg, CEO of Zuckerberg Media and the sister of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, appears in a new SodaStream ad campaign for Earth Day urging people to “don’t just share, show you care” about environmental issues.
Insurance agent, Irving Silberberg turns 94… Comedian, director and actress, Elaine May turns 89… Board member of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, Howard Rosenbloom turns 82… British chemist and emeritus professor at the University of Cambridge, Sir Alan Roy Fersht turns 78… Former White House Chief of Staff (1988-1989), Kenneth Duberstein turns 77… Award winning folklorist and author, Howard Schwartz turns 76… Former lieutenant governor of Connecticut, Nancy S. Wyman turns 75… Walnut Creek, Calif.-based interior designer, Marilyn Weiss turns 74… Emergency physician for Kaiser Permanente in Panorama City, California, Joseph Edward Beezy turns 73… UCSB mathematician and an early winner of a MacArthur genius fellowship, Michael Hartley Freedman turns 70… Rabbi, psychologist, and writer, Susan Schnur turns 70… Professor of law at George Mason University Law School, Michael Ian Krauss turns 70… Australian barrister who is a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly following 31 years as mayor of Botany Bay, Ron Hoenig turns 68… Rabbi at Temple Ner Simcha in Westlake Village, Calif., Michael Barclay turns 58… Co-founder of the Russian Jewish Congress, the Genesis Prize and the Genesis Philanthropy Group, Mikhail Fridman turns 57…
Chicago-based lobbyist and attorney, Scott D. Yonover turns 57… Art collector and dealer, Alberto “Tico” Mugrabi turns 51… Washington correspondent for DealBook, Ephrat Livni turns 49… Founder of I Was Supposed to Have a Baby (IWSTHAB), an online community geared toward Jewish women experiencing infertility, Aimee Friedman Baron turns 47… Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for The New York Times and best-selling author, Jodi Kantor turns 46… Head of business development and innovation at Birthright North America, Ifat Bechor turns 45… Director of social television at CNN, Eric Weisbrod turns 38… Voice actress, Shayna Bracha Fox turns 37… VP of business development and investor relations at FTV Capital, Robert J. Kaufman turns 37… Once the top-ranked collegiate female tennis player in the U.S. and currently the head women’s tennis coach at the University of Oklahoma, Audra Marie Cohen turns 35… Program coordinator at Israel 21c, Alexandra Cohen turns 31… Manager of digital marketing at 97 Switch, Joshua Gibbs turns 31… Outfielder for MLB’s Chicago Cubs, he played for Team Israel in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Joc Pederson turns 29… Writer, magazine editor and actress, Tavi Gevinson turns 25…