👋 Good Tuesday morning!
At the J Street Conference yesterday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) raised the prospect of restricting U.S. military aid to Israel. “It would be irresponsible not to consider all of the tools we have at our disposal,” she said. “One of those is restricting military aid from being used in the occupied territories.”
Warren also suggested that Israel has been “poorly served” by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and called on Israeli opposition figures to band together to “give the Israeli people a new prime minister.”
Addressing the conference yesterday via prerecorded video, UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba praised last year’s Abraham Accords and discussed future plans for Israeli-Emirati collaboration. Al Otaiba noted the influx of Jewish residents to the Gulf nation, saying that the UAE “is proud to have a growing Jewish community led by the Jewish Council of the Emirates and Dubai. Rabbi Yehuda Sarna and Rabbi Elie Abadie lead that community and they are flourishing.”
In Israel yesterday, the anti-Netanyahu bloc — backed by the Islamist party Ra’am — wrested control of a key Knesset committee from Likud in a 60-51 vote, signaling that Netanyahu has little-to-no chance of forming a coalition — or receiving enough backing for his proposal for a direct prime ministerial vote.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid reportedly promised Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas a spot on the powerful Knesset Finance Committee, a slot for a Ra’am MK as deputy Knesset speaker and to chair a committee on combating violence in the Arab community in exchange for his support.
Likud whip Miki Zohar, who led the party’s unsuccessful efforts to control the key Knesset Arrangements Committee, conceded last night that “we realize that we’re on the way to opposition.”
Iranian officials said yesterday that “some progress has been made” in negotiations in Vienna over Iran’s nuclear program, while Russia’s delegate to the talks said the parties are “entering the drafting stage,” although “practical solutions are still far away,” as the New York Times reports Iran is rattled by recent attacks within its borders.
Former Vice President Walter Mondale died yesterday at 93. An unsuccessful presidential candidate, Mondale is remembered for helping to craft the modern vice presidency and has been credited with helping advance the Camp David Accords.
Congresswoman Kathy Manning reveals she and Rep. Raskin are fourth cousins
On this week’s episode of Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast,” hosts Richard Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein were joined by Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC) to discuss her support for the U.S.-Israel relationship, the current nuclear talks with Iran and the growing threat of antisemitism.
On whether to return to the JCPOA: “I don’t understand how you can go back to a deal that was put into place under different circumstances, many years ago,” said Manning of the negotiations to return to the 2015 Iran deal. “Some of the sunset provisions have already expired. We no longer have the arms embargo at the U.N. We were hoping that being in the deal would cause Iran to curb its bad behavior and perhaps even cease from some of its malign behavior in fostering terrorism around the globe. And what we’ve seen is that they’ve done exactly the opposite. We also see that when faced with real economic trouble for its own people, rather than use their resources to take care of their own people, they are using that money to continue to foster and support terrorists around the world. So when you think about all those things that have changed, or that we’ve learned from since when the deal was put into place, I don’t even understand how you can say, ‘Let’s get back into the same deal.’ We’re not in the same world today.”
On succeeding former Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Nita Lowey (D-NY): “I could never fill the shoes of either of those two individuals. But I am a strong pro-Israel Democrat, and I’m not shy about it. And I will, I will stand up for Israel, and I will also stand up for the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
On UNRWA: “I am going to be leading and getting my colleagues to sign on to a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations objecting to using funds for the kinds of textbooks that we know they continue to promise not to use and yet they continue to use textbooks, that are filled with incendiary, antisemitic comments and language and anti-Israel teachings. I believe that’s got to stop and in this moment, when there’s such attention focused on discrimination of all types. I think this is the moment to step up to this issue as well.”
Favorite Yiddish word? “I think machatunim, because there is no English equivalent. And when you try to describe what that word is to non-Jews, first they get confused, and then they say, ‘Well, why don’t we have a word for that?’” When told she had chosen the same word as former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Manning cheerfully replied, “We have something in common!”
Jewish geography: Manning revealed her family’s recent discovery that she and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) are fourth cousins. “It is a very small world.”
Listen to the full episode here.
Bonus: Manning met with Vice President Kamala Harris yesterday when Harris swung through her North Carolina district on a visit to promote the American Jobs Plan.
22 senators call on Biden to hasten antisemitism envoy nomination
Twenty-two senators sent a bipartisan letter to President Joe Biden yesterday calling on him to “swiftly” nominate an ambassador to monitor and combat antisemitism, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod. The letter, organized by Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK), who lead the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism, comes as Biden submitted his first round of ambassador nominees for Senate confirmation.
Quotable: “Swiftly nominating a qualified Ambassador to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism will help ensure that the United States remains a leader in combating anti-Semitism internationally and will equip the State Department with a designated senior diplomat to engage foreign governments to track and respond to this growing scourge,” the letter reads. “We encourage you to move quickly on the nomination, and look forward to working with you.”
Signatures: The other signatories on the letter are Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rob Portman (R-OH), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), John Boozman (R-AR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tim Scott (R-SC), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ).
Past delays: President Donald Trump left the position — which previously did not require Senate confirmation — unfilled for the first two years of his term. In 2017, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cast doubt on whether the administration would fill the position at all. Tillerson’s successor Mike Pompeo appointed Elan Carr, a former Los Angeles deputy district attorney, to the job on February 5, 2019, amid growing pressure from Congress.
Shortlist: Among the names reportedly in consideration for the envoy now are former Anti-Defamation League national director Abe Foxman, ADL Vice President Sharon Nazarian, Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt, Simon Wiesenthal Center director of government affairs Mark Weitzman, National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry CEO Mark Levin, Biden campaign Jewish outreach director Aaron Keyak and former National Council of Jewish Women CEO Nancy Kaufman.
In another spring without JazzFest, a New Orleans synagogue steps up to support musicians
Just weeks after Mardi Gras last year, the coronavirus began to sweep through New Orleans, forcing the city to shutter its storied jazz clubs, bars and restaurants. When the city canceled its famed JazzFest last year, local radio stations broadcast festival sets from years past. Now, this year’s JazzFest has been postponed to the fall, but one community institution is stepping in to host its own jazz festival this spring: a synagogue. Congregation Gates of Prayer, a Reform synagogue in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans, will host a music festival called “GatesFest” in its parking lot on the weekend that JazzFest would have occurred this year, reports Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch.
New Orleans needs music: “I’m a big lover of jazz: I turned 18 at JazzFest. I turned 30 at JazzFest. My 40th birthday was supposed to be last year at JazzFest, with the Beach Boys,” said David Gerber, the synagogue’s senior rabbi. “I kind of jokingly said last year that if they cancel JazzFest, I’m going to have it in my backyard.” GatesFest is selling tickets for pods of up to six adults and anticipates an audience of 400 at the April 25 event, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands who usually attend JazzFest, but a sizable showing for the congregation. But the goal of GatesFest, which is a fundraiser for the synagogue, is not to rival the festival; it’s to offer a show of support to the city’s struggling musicians and demonstrate the Jewish community’s support. “In New Orleans, when there’s no music, the city isn’t quite the same,” Gerber said.
Local support: Gerber worked with synagogue member Howie Kaplan, the owner of the Howlin’ Wolf club in New Orleans’s Warehouse District, to bring musicians to the congregation. Gerber got to know Kaplan early in the pandemic; Kaplan’s son’s bar mitzvah was the first that Gerber performed after COVID-19 emerged. “It’s a very New Orleans thing. We like to say New Orleans knows how to take care of itself,” Kaplan told JI. Kaplan is the manager for the festival’s top-billed performer, the Rebirth Brass Band, and he helped Gerber handle contracts and other logistical preparations for the event.
Brass band bar mitzvah: Well before the pandemic, New Orleans synagogues joined in the culture that defines the city, sometimes in unexpected ways. “Congregation Gates of Prayer, years ago, used to host crawfish boils. Not exactly the most kosher thing in the world, but it’s a very New Orleans thing,” said Kaplan. Gates of Prayer also routinely hosts “second lines,” which Gerber defined as “a kind of spontaneous mini-parade.” Second lines are a local tradition, not just at Mardi Gras but also at weddings and even funerals: a brass band performs, and revelers parade behind them. “When the [NFL] Saints are in the playoffs, we do a Saints Shabbat, and at the end of the service, I had a little marching band of about a half dozen brass instruments come play our closing song,” Gerber recalled. “Then we just march around into the oneg.”
Congressional efforts to repeal Iraq war authorization raise questions about battling Iranian proxies
A House push to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which enabled the Iraq war, has picked up support across the political spectrum as President Joe Biden begins taking significant steps to extract the U.S. from Middle East conflicts that date back to his time in the Senate. But the efforts have left some legislators concerned that a full repeal could open the U.S. and its assets to future attacks, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Coming together: Last month, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to advance a bill that would fully repeal the 2002 AUMF, originally passed to allow the U.S. to wage war on Saddam Hussein’s regime. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the only lawmaker at the time to vote against the post-9/11 2001 AUMF targeting terror groups and the 2002 AUMF. The current bill is cosponsored by 114 members reflecting a rainbow of ideological viewpoints, from House Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) to progressive “Squad” members such as Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Democratic moderate Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA).
Overdue: Repealing the 2002 AUMF, Lee told Jewish Insider, “is a no-brainer. It does nothing to support troops in the field; it is only a temptation for abuse. [The] 2002 repeal passed the House twice in the 116th Congress. It is past time to get it off the books,” she said, adding: “The 2002 AUMF was intended to enforce UNSC [United Nations Security Council] resolutions regarding Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs. Those programs have been dismantled; the UNSC resolutions have expired; and Saddam himself has been dead for 15 years.”
Red flag: Both inside and outside of Congress, there remains considerable debate over the continued necessity of the 2002 AUMF. It was most notably cited in recent years as part of former President Donald Trump’s legal justification for the 2020 strike on Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Iraq. “It signals unilateral disarmament,” Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a vocal opponent of repealing the 2002 AUMF alone, said in an interview with JI. “The fact that it has been used, the fact that it has been referenced, the fact that it remains there is a deterrent in and of itself to those would-be actors that think they can potentially operate with impunity without it.”
Flip side: Others say that repealing the 2002 AUMF would have little to no practical effect on U.S. engagement with Iranian proxies in Iraq, given that presidents can continue to cite Article II self-defense powers. “If you look at the legal justifications associated with military strikes in the Middle East, the primary justification is almost always either the 2001 AUMF or Article II authority,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), who introduced a separate bill to repeal the 2002, 1991 and 1957 AUMFs. “Where the 2002 AUMF is cited, it’s a secondary source of legal authority that is ultimately unnecessary.”
😕 Muddling Through: In The New York Times, psychologist Adam Grant puts a label on what he believes may be the “dominant emotion of 2021”: languishing. The feeling, he wrote, isn’t burnout or depression, but rather “a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield.” [NYTimes]
📸 Iconic Moment: In The Washington Post Magazine, Patricia McCormick speaks with Mary Ann Vecchio, aka “the girl in the Kent State photo,” who was captured in a now-iconic image during the campus shootings 50 years ago. “That picture hijacked my life,” said Vecchio, now 65. “And 50 years later, I still haven’t really moved on.” [WashPost]
⚾ Ball Call: Comedian Jerry Seinfeld weighed in on the Mets’ performance and Jewish humor during a call-in to Steve Somers’s WFAN radio show last night. Seinfeld praised new team owner Steve Cohen, and said he wouldn’t buy the baseball team himself since he doesn’t have enough money, and “I don’t need more people yelling at me on 79th Street when the Mets are on a losing streak.” [Newsday]
Around the Web
💉 Let’s Make a Deal: Israel has signed a new deal with Pfizer to secure millions more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as a new Indian COVID variant surfaces in the country.
🧑⚖️ Legal Letter: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is threatening former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with legal action after Olmert alleged that Netanyahu and his family are mentally ill.
🇵🇱 Honoring History: A new monument in Poland paying tribute to the archive hidden by Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto was unveiled yesterday on the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
⛔ Across the Pond: U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel is seeking to outlaw the U.S.-based neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division.
🇬🇧🇮🇱 Sharing Ideas: U.K. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove arrived in Israel yesterday to study the country’s “green pass” system for identifying COVID-vaccinated individuals.
🖼️ That’s Settled: A Dutch museum will pay €200,000 in restitution to the heirs of a Holocaust survivor who sold a 17th century painting under duress before fleeing Nazi Europe in 1939.
🎙️ Online: PJ Library debuted its virtual interview with Jen Ellis, the Vermont educator and mitten-making hobbyist whose hand warmers went viral after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wore them to the presidential inauguration.
👶 Whoops: Karlie Kloss and Joshua Kushner announced their new baby is named Levi Joseph, after the news was leaked by Israeli Yeshiva Reishit in a congratulatory email blast.
⚖️ In Court: The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern district of New York announced new charges of child exploitation against the extremist Lev Tahor sect for kidnapping and marrying off a 14-year-old girl.
🏫 Transition: Dr. Jeffrey Kress was announced as the new provost of the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Song of the Day
Popular Israeli singer Nasrin Kadri, a Muslim convert to Judaism, has released a new song, titled “My Love.”
Swiss scientist and 1987 Nobel Prize laureate in physics, Karl Alexander Müller turns 94… Stanford University professor and 2020 Nobel Prize laureate in economics, Paul Robert Milgrom turns 73… Chairman of the media networks division of Activision Blizzard, Steve Bornstein turns 69… Immigrants’ rights activist and professor at Salem State University, Aviva Chomsky turns 64… Television and radio host, Steve Malzberg turns 62… Past president and executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Marc Rotenberg turns 61… Executive producer and host at “The Femsplainers Podcast,” Danielle Crittenden Frum turns 58… Entrepreneur, semi-professional race car driver and restaurateur, Alan Wilzig turns 56… Television personality and game show host, J.D. Roth turns 53… Israeli jazz bassist and singer, Avishai Cohen turns 51… British film director, Sarah Gavron turns 51… Member of the Florida House of Representatives from southern Brevard County, Randy Fine turns 47… VP of government and public affairs at Cleveland-based GBX Group, Seth Foster Unger turns 42… DC-based strategic communications consultant, Michael C. Frohlich turns 41… Director of development at Democratic Majority for Israel, Elliott G. Mendes turns 40… President and CEO at the Los Angeles-based Skirball Cultural Center, Jessie Kornberg turns 39… New York-based human rights lawyer, Irina Tsukerman turns 36… General manager of Bird in Israel, he is a nephew of Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, Yaniv Rivlin… Evening breaking news editor at CNN Politics, Kyle Feldscher turns 33… Associate attorney in the DC office of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Zachary L. Baum turns 33… Systems engineer at Google X, Joseph Gettinger turns 33… Facilitator, coach and workshop organizer, Daniela Kate Plattner turns 32… Research analyst at the U.S. Department of State, David Mariutto turns 31… VP at Cedar Capital Partners and bread baker @BermTheBaker, Alex Berman turns 31… CEO of Social Lite Creative and research fellow at the Tel Aviv Institute, Emily K. Schrader turns 30… Israeli model and designer, Neta Alchimister turns 27… Strategic partner manager at Taboola, McKenna Klein turns 26… Founder and CEO of Olive Branch Pictures, Andrew J. Hirsh turns 25… Singer and actress, Carly Rose Sonenclar turns 22… Diane Kahan…