👋 Good Thursday morning!
President Joe Biden addressed a COVID-limited joint session of Congress last night, labeling the threat of domestic white supremacist terrorism as “the most lethal terrorist threat to the homeland today.”
The Senate confirmed Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.,as the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development by a vote of 68-26 yesterday.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) voted against Power, because he “believes that Ambassador Power’s role in the drafting and passage of UN Security Council resolutions 2231 and 2334 are disqualifying for any American official,” a spokesperson told Jewish Insider earlier this month.
The Biden administration is reportedly considering a “near wholesale rollback” of Trump-era sanctions on Iran in order to pave the way to a return to the 2015 nuclear deal.
A team of U.S. envoys, led by Brett McGurk, the National Security Council’s Middle East policy coordinator, and State Department counselor Derek Chollet, is slated to travel to the Middle East this week, with expected stops in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Jordan.
Rudy Giuliani’s phones and computers were seized after federal investigations obtained a warrant as part of a criminal investigation into the former New York City mayor and Trump attorney’s dealing with Ukrainian officials.
New York City mayoral candidate and current Comptroller Scott Stringer denied allegations of sexual impropriety made yesterday by a former campaign volunteer.
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt on the state of antisemitism
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt joined Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast” hosts Jarrod Bernstein and Rich Goldberg this week to discuss antisemitism, online hate and the ADL’s new report on antisemitic incidents in 2020.
By the numbers: “Our 25 offices around the country collect this data all year long,” said Greenblatt of the new ADL report, issued this week. “And it’s submitted to us directly by victims or synagogues or schools or law enforcement officials. We might hear a media report and then we check up on it. We verify every incident that we report. So it’s all very credible, bulletproof data.” Greenblatt said the report shows that despite the COVID lockdown in 2020, “we still saw the third-highest total of antisemitic incidents we’ve ever tracked at ADL.” The ADL CEO said the organization was surprised by the figures, because it expected antisemitism to drop last year “dramatically, because no one was on a college campus. Offices were closed. Schools were shuttered. People weren’t going to worship in synagogues.” But that was not the case.
On IHRA: Greenblatt weighed in on the controversy over the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, amid the recent proliferation of other definitions, which he called a “great example of a tempest in a teapot.” The IHRA definition, he said, “was an intellectually honest and objective and scholarly effort to develop a consensus definition.” ADL adopted the IHRA definition in 2018, Greenblatt said, but he doesn’t believe it should be used “as a piece of policy… it’s intended to inform a process, not to be a process.” The ADL CEO added that he therefore views efforts to create new definitions to be “a real waste of time.”
Misplaced efforts: Greenblatt noted that he had personally expressed his opposition to a letter being circulated by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) encouraging Secretary of State Tony Blinken to consider alternative definitions to that of the IHRA. “I don’t think we need any new definitions,” he recalled telling her in a recent conversation. “I wish Congresswoman Schakowsky — who I like very much, she’s an excellent legislator — and all of these other individuals would take their energy and channel it toward actually addressing antisemitism itself, because that’s where we really need help.”
Lightning round: Favorite Yiddish word? “Tachlis. It translates roughly to like, ‘What’s the meat of the issue? What’s the real deal?’ So I like that a lot. Because I always want to try to talk tachlis with people. And just, like, cut to the chase.” Favorite Jewish food?Ashkenazi: Matzah brei. Mizrahi: Gondi Tehrani.
After 100 days, Jewish leaders weigh in on Biden’s domestic policy
As the White House has largely focused on the pandemic, the first 100 days of Joe Biden’s presidency also offer insight into how the administration will approach key issues of interest to the American Jewish community. A clearer picture is emerging of how Biden plans to address antisemitism and domestic extremism, and how the White House is engaging with Jewish organizations and other faith-based groups. So how is Biden doing? Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutchchecked in with community leaders across the ideological spectrum to see where they think the president is doing well, and where there is room for improvement.
Go slow: “The Biden administration is taking a go-slow approach to many things of strong interest and concern for American Jews,” said James Loeffler, director of Jewish studies at the University of Virginia. “I think that that has frustrated Jewish progressives who want bigger, faster change. I think it’s also frustrated conservatives, who expected to see more telltale signs of radical change and were looking for ways to differentiate and say, ‘Oh, the Biden administration doesn’t take antisemitism seriously, or it doesn’t take Israel seriously.’ Centrist liberals are kind of calmed and content.”
Hard fought: Parts of the American Rescue Plan — Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill — received widespread praise throughout the Jewish nonprofit world. Jewish social service agencies lobbied for certain components of the legislation, such as the expanded Paycheck Protection Program, and additional aid for parochial schools, including Jewish day schools. “It’s very significant that we were able to expand eligibility for PPP loans. We also got the second round of a historic $2.75 billion for a total of $5.5 billion of aid to nonpublic K-12 schools, including Jewish day schools, to deal with their COVID costs,” said Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center.Halie Soifer, CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, argued that the more than 200 million vaccine doses administered in Biden’s first 100 days are good news for the Jewish community: “Not only does [vaccination] help save lives and livelihoods, but it also allows us all to get back to our life and return to camp this summer, which for Jewish parents like myself is a priority,” Soifer explained.
Going it alone: Despite polling that showed strong bipartisan support for the legislation, it did not receive any support from congressional Republicans. “If you’re going to unite the country, you’ve got to figure out how to do it. The first bill that passed through Congress of any note since he became president was this relief package. The prior relief packages have bipartisan support. This one didn’t,” said Richard Sandler, executive vice president of the Milken Family Foundation and a self-described centrist who has donated to both Democrats and Republicans. “They’re not really interested in collaboration with the Republicans. They’re interested in capitulation with the Republicans,” suggested Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks.
Signaling on antisemitism: The White House has not yet nominated an antisemitism envoy, an appointment that is expected once Biden begins naming ambassadors. Jarrod Bernstein, who served as director of Jewish outreach in the Obama administration and is a co-host of Jewish Insider’s Limited Liability Podcast, suggested that appointing a visibly Orthodox Jew as antisemitism envoy could send an important signal. “A lot of antisemitism these days tends to be focused at Jews who are visibly Jewish, usually yarmulke-wearing Jews,” Bernstein noted. “It would send a strong statement to that community and other communities that it’s okay to be visibly Jewish, and that antisemitism against that community won’t be tolerated.”
Jerry Nadler endorses Alvin Bragg for Manhattan DA
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is endorsing former federal prosecutor Alvin Bragg in the jam-packed race for Manhattan district attorney. “He is the only candidate who’s got both the policy experience and the executive experience to run a very large criminal justice organization,” Nadler said in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. “Lots of people can have good intentions, but this is a massive organization and you have to have shown that you can run a massive organization. He’s really the only one who has.”
Pragmatic progressive: Before Bragg, 47, entered the race, he worked as New York’s chief deputy attorney general from 2017 to 2018, where notable cases included suing Harvey Weinstein and the Trump administration. Previously, he served in the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. Bragg, whom one expert has characterized as a pragmatic progressive, vows to reduce mass incarceration, establish an independent unit for police accountability and revamp the DA’s hate crimes unit, among other goals.
Taking the lead: “He’s pushed to make the office the progressive leader it should be in criminal justice reform,” Nadler said, adding that Bragg had “taken the lead” on “refusing to criminalize poverty and ending racial disparities, on demanding justice for survivors of sexual assault, on making incarceration a measure of last resort.” Nadler, a 15-term congressman whose district covers most of Manhattan’s West Side and parts of South Brooklyn, said he spoke with each of the eight candidates vying to succeed outgoing Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr., before landing on Bragg.
‘Extraordinarily meaningful’: “It’s extraordinarily meaningful for me personally to earn the support of someone with his track record for impacting justice,” Bragg said of Nadler’s endorsement, citing the congressman’s recent introduction of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed in the House last month.
Elsewhere: The leaders of several Hasidic sects in Borough Park, Brooklyn endorsed Andrew Yang as the next mayor of New York City.
🛑 Not So Fast: In Foreign Policy, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Morgan Ortagus, a former U.S. State Department spokeswoman, argue that rejoining the Iran nuclear deal “would be a singularly seismic event” that would launch a Middle East arms race and provide freedom to the Iranian Revolution Guards Corps to “spread mayhem and death across the region.” [ForeignPolicy]
🧐 Quincy Questions: Tablet magazine’s Armin Rosen dives deep into the Quincy Institute, “Washington’s weirdest think tank,” backed by George Soros and Charles Koch. Rosen suggests the think tank, which appears to be heavily steered by executive vice president Trita Parsi, is a “three-ring circus of governmental, academic, and think tank washouts, funded by two megalomaniacal billionaires.” [Tablet]
🧳 End of an Era: Zebulon Simentov, the last remaining Jew in Afghanistan, is making plans to move to Israel as he fears the return of the Taliban once the U.S. withdraws all forces. “Why should I stay? They call me an infidel,” he said. “I’m the last, the only Jew in Afghanistan… It could get worse for me here. I have decided to leave for Israel if the Taliban returns.” [AFP]
Around the Web
🗳️ No Delay: Hamas issued a forceful rejection yesterday of the possibility of delaying planned Palestinian Authority elections slated for next month.
🌊 Back to the Table: U.S.-mediated talks between Israel and Lebanon over the countries’ disputed maritime border are slated to resume next week.
🗣️ Separate Convos: Israeli and U.S. officials reportedly want to “fence off” discussions of the Iran nuclear deal from other conversations about the Islamic Republic’s activities.
🤐 Hindsight: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed regret over his leaked remarks about the Revolutionary Guards and Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
🕍 Who Run the Shul: A rabbanit in Efrat was named the sole religious leader of her synagogue, the first woman in Israel to head an Orthodox congregation.
💉 No Shot: The CEO of Teva Pharmaceuticals said it is unlikely to reach a deal with the makers of COVID vaccines to co-produce the shots in Israel and Europe.
💰 Startup Nation: Israeli electric vehicle startup IRP Systems raised $31 million in its Series C funding round.
💵 Deal Flow: 25madison, a venture capital firm founded by Michael Lynton, Steven Price, Gary Ginsberg, and Matt Fremont-Smith received new backing from Apollo Global Management and Endeavor according to Dealbook.
⛪ Carved in Stone: A bust of the late author and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel will soon take its place on the Human Rights Porch of the National Cathedral in Washington.
⚖️ In Court: New Jersey filed a lawsuit against Jackson Township alleging that it passed ordinances to keep out Jewish residents and discriminate against Orthodox Jews.
🪧 Shut it Down: A Jewish congregation in Ann Arbor, Mich., is appealing to a federal court to ban ongoing antisemitic protests outside the synagogue.
🎒 Back to School: Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers signed into law yesterday a bill mandating Holocaust education for middle and high schoolers in the state.
🎥 Coming Soon: Gal Gadot is set to star in and produce a film adaptation of the novel Meet Me in Another Life.
💵 Doc Money: Jewish Story Partners, the new foundation supported by Steven Spielberg, announced its first round of grants to 10 documentary films.
🎞️ Lights, Camera, Action: Israeli filmmaker Rotem Shamir, who directed the second season of “Fauda,” has been tapped to helm the upcoming action thriller “Savior.”
📰 Changing times: As part of the New York Times’ shifting editorial page, Peter Beinart and Shmuel Rosner will no longer keep the titles ‘contributing opinion writer.’
🥮 Bay Area Baker: Laya Cooperman turned her baking hobby and side hustle into a full-time gig, baking custom-made kosher desserts for San Francisco’s Jewish community.
🕯️ Remembering: Education research pioneer Robert Slavin died at 70. Grammy Award-winning recording engineer Al Schmitt died at 91.
📸 Spotted: Attending a going-away party for Jake Siewert, who is departing Goldman Sachs, at Milos at Hudson Yards (h/t Playbook): Josh King, David Leavy, Liz Bowyer, Joel Johnson, Gary Ginsberg, Brian Steel, Russell and Alex Horowitz, Christine Anderson, George Walker, Michael Feldman, Brian Steel, John Rogers, Dina Powell McCormick, Patrick Steel, Joe Lockhart, Jonathan Prince, Andrew Williams and Tom Nides.
Gif of the Day
Netflix released the trailer yesterday for the upcoming new show “Hit and Run,” from “Fauda” co-creators Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff, about a mysterious hit-and-run murder in central Tel Aviv.
Nobel Prize-winning economist and professor at MIT, Peter Diamond turns 81… U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) turns 71… Marcy Smith turns 69… Award-winning broadcast journalist, now SVP of communications at University of Maryland Global Campus, Michael Freedman turns 69… Comedian, actor, writer, producer and director, Jerry Seinfeld turns 67… London-born highly acclaimed actor, Sir Daniel Day-Lewis turns 64… Sportscaster and play-by-play announcer for the New York Mets, Gary Cohen turns 63… Co-founder and first CEO of Netflix, Marc Bernays Randolph turns 63… Israeli diplomat who served most recently as Israel’s ambassador to Latvia, Lironne Bar-Sade turns 62… New York City comptroller since 2014, now a candidate for mayor of NYC, Scott M. Stringer turns 61… CEO and chair of 20th Century Fox until its acquisition by Disney, she now leads the Los Angeles office of Sister Pictures, Stacey Snider turns 60… Political director at AIPAC, Rob Bassin turns 59…
Professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, he is the founder of The Center for Advanced Hindsight and author of many books including Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely turns 54… NYC-based award-winning artist who works with sound, kinetics, optics, magnetism and other materials, Julianne Swartz turns 54… Film and television actor, Paul Adelstein turns 52… Stand-up comedian, actor and occasional chazzan, Modi Rosenfeld turns 51… Member of the Knesset since 2013 as part of the Meretz party, Tamar “Tami” Zandberg turns 45… Israeli model and actress, Bar Paly turns 39… SVP of government affairs at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Anne Brachman turns 39… Director of state political affairs for Teach Coalition, Daniel Mitzner turns 35… Baseball pitcher for Team Israel at the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Jonathan de Marte turns 28… Commercial, industrial and residential real estate developer in the mid-Atlantic region, Samuel A. Neuberger…