👋 Good Wednesday morning!
Following his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary of State Tony Blinken met yesterday with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
During his meeting with Abbas, Blinken announced that the U.S. would reopen its consulate in East Jerusalem, which serves Palestinians, and provide “more than $360 million of urgent support for the Palestinian people.”
Blinken met this morning with President Reuven Rivlin — and extended an invitation to Rivlin to visit the White House before his term ends in July. Blinken departed Israel this morning to head for Egypt ahead of a scheduled stop in Jordan.
The White House is hosting a virtual event on Friday to mark Jewish American Heritage Month.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has abandoned plans to force a Senate vote on stopping a $735 million arms sale to Israel, after he found out on Friday that the State Department had already finalized the sale.
The Cambridge City Council voted last night to amend a pro-BDS resolution and instead passed an order that affirms Israel’s right to exist and instructs the city to end business ties with any companies that violate human rights in any countries, instead of singling out Israel.
In a Dallas council race, police politics are dividing the Jewish community
Jaynie Schultz and Barry Wernick belong to the same Orthodox synagogue in Dallas, Texas. Growing up, Wernick earned a scholarship from the Schultz family that helped fund his Jewish education. A few years ago, Schultz invested in a horror film Wernick was producing. Their kids go to the same Jewish day school. Now, they are running against each other for a spot on the Dallas City Council in an unexpectedly contentious race that will be decided in a run-off election on June 5 — after Wernick won 38% of the vote and Schultz 36% in the first round. Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch spoke to both candidates as well as a range of community figures about the race that threatens to fracture Dallas’s close-knit Jewish community.
All politics is local: While the race is exceedingly local, it demonstrates how some of the national political dynamics that have flared in the past year can trickle down to elections at other levels. Misinformation about both campaigns has been spread by surrogates, supporters and dark money groups; a conservative is trying to paint his more liberal opponent as anti-police; and partisanship has erupted in a surprisingly fierce way. But because both candidates are members of the tight-knit Dallas Jewish community, the campaign feels more personal than most. One local rabbi called the race a “touchy subject in our community,” and told Jewish Insider that he was “taking a hard pass on talking to the media about it.”
Public safety: “Safety and security is by far the biggest issue in our neighborhood, and Barry has done a very good job of pressing on that issue,” said Bruce Wilke, the president of the Hillcrest-Forest Neighborhood Association, where both Schultz and Wernick live. Wilke does not plan to endorse a candidate, since his organization is a nonprofit. “It is a pretty evenly matched and heated race, more so than I’ve seen in the past.”
Dark money mailers: Residents of the North Dallas neighborhood at the heart of District 11 received mailers last month from a dark money group called Keep Dallas Safe that called Schultz a “Radical Leftist committed to DEFUNDING the Police… Stands With RIOTS, LOOTERS and GANG MEMBERS.” Wernick denied any connection to Keep Dallas Safe, but he also did not condemn the mailers. His campaign has also sent mailers criticizing Schultz, using similar language and imagery that she says misrepresents her beliefs.
Pillar of the community: After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin and then earning a master’s degree in urban studies at the school’s Arlington campus, Schultz worked with her mother to create a retreat center for small businesses to host conferences and events. Her connection to the Dallas Jewish community came naturally. “My family, which has been a very prominent philanthropic family here in Dallas, has been investing in the local community, through the day schools, through the creation of programs,” she explained. When her four kids were under the age of 10, she and her husband took in two Ethiopian boys who had to come to Dallas for surgery. One of the boys eventually came back to live with Schultz’s family when he was in high school, and he recently sent her a video — the now-27-year-old works at a travel company in Ethiopia — saying why people should vote for her in the race. “I was actually sitting at the polling place, and he messaged me on Facebook and said, ‘Ima, are you okay with me posting this?’ and I just started sobbing,” Schultz noted, using the Hebrew word for mother.
Renaissance man: After studying in Russia, Wernick spent time in Israel, working with Russian and Ethiopian immigrants to help them acclimate to Israeli society. When he returned to Texas, he got involved with the Zionist Organization of America. Now Wernick is a practicing attorney, but earlier in his career he gave acting a try. He filmed some commercials in New York, and for two-and-a-half seasons he served as a stand-in for the Mr. Big character on “Sex and the City.” But Texas eventually called Wernick home. “It was bucolic. Dallas had everything,” he said. “That’s why I moved back here 13 years ago, to find my Texas girl.” He works full time as a lawyer, but is also producing a film about the unsolved murder of his wife’s sister, who was 28 when she was killed 19 years ago.
Moving on: Both Wernick and Schultz told JI that they don’t expect the results of this race to entrench some permanent divide in the community. “I would never ever hold it against anyone who voted against me, ever, and so I hope that when this election is over, there won’t be any further division,” noted Schultz. Wernick echoed those sentiments: “This is a political race. Whoever wins, wins; whoever loses, loses. We won’t stop davening together.”
on the hill
Amid latest Marjorie Greene firestorm, congressional Republicans introduce antisemitism legislation
Congressional Republicans found themselves responding to antisemitism on multiple fronts yesterday, as they introduced legislation in response to a recent spike in antisemitic attacks at the same time that many GOP lawmakers condemned remarks from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) comparing coronavirus safety measures to the Holocaust. In both cases, many in the party sought to deflect blame and attention toward Democrats, who they argue are contributing to an antisemitic climate.
On the House: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. David Kustoff (R-TN) — one of two Jewish House Republicans — announced legislation aimed at combatting antisemitic hate crimes. In his announcement, McCarthy criticized a range of Democrats by name as partially responsible for anti-Jewish violence. “Over the past several weeks a growing number of House Democrats wrongly blamed the violence in the Middle East on Israel. In fact, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Cori Bush (D-MO) irresponsibly tried to delegitimize our closest ally in the region, calling it an ‘apartheid state,’” McCarthy said in a statement. “Within days, this same sentiment of bigotry spilled into several major U.S. cities.”
Upper chamber: In the Senate, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and 14 other Republicans introduced a resolution condemning the recent antisemitic violence and rhetoric connected to pro-Palestinian protests, as well as “poisonous” anti-Israel rhetoric from politicians and the media they characterized as antisemitic. The resolution also lists four recent instances in which House Democrats have condemned Israeli policies and conduct, describing comments they made on Twitter and in House floor speeches.
Joining forces: Hawley’s resolution is co-sponsored by Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL), Mike Braun (R-IN), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Kennedy (R-LA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Steve Daines (R-MT), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and also has the support of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Pointing fingers: House Republican leaders condemned Greene’s rhetoric on Tuesday amid increasing pressure to respond — days after Greene began making the comparison between COVID restrictions and the Holocaust. “Marjorie is wrong and her intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust with wearing masks is appalling,” McCarthy said yesterday, before adding, “at a time when the Jewish people face increased violence and threats, antisemitism is on the rise in the Democrat Party and is completely ignored by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”
To respond or not respond: Comments like those from Greene raise questions about if and how best to respond, Jewish community leaders told JI. “There’s always this balance — not making her a martyr,” former Anti-Defamation League National Director Abe Foxman told JI. “If the Jewish community takes her on, it only makes her bigger in the eyes of her constituency… It’s always this balance and [you] hope that she’ll shut up and go away.” In the latest blow-up, Republicans waited days before condemning Greene. That delay, as well as the intense media attention her remarks received, have made it more necessary for Jewish leaders to condemn her rhetoric, Foxman added. “You’re almost forced to take her on,” he explained.
Bonus: On the Democratic side, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) is sending a letter today to President Joe Biden — co-signed by Reps. Elaine Luria (D-VA), Kathy Manning (D-NC) and Dean Phillips (D-MN) — which condemns as antisemitic comments from both Greene and congressional Democrats who have accused Israel of apartheid and terrorism. The letter describes both sets of comments as antisemitic, and calls on Biden to swifly nominate an Ambassador to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism.
race to watch
The Ohio GOP Senate hopeful walking a very fine line on Trump
The Republican primary in Ohio’s open-seat Senate race has in many ways come to represent a fierce battle for Donald Trump’s loyalty. The former president, who has yet to make an endorsement, remains popular in the state, and most of the leading candidates are eager to prove that they will advance an “America First” agenda. The Cleveland-based investment banker Mike Gibbons is taking a different approach. “I am a Trump supporter, but I’m not into the cult of personality,” Gibbons told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent interview. “If he wouldn’t have done what he did when he was in there, I wouldn’t have supported him. It’s not about Donald Trump, it’s about America.”
Self-protection: That posture, however genuine, may also be a form of self-protection. Gibbons first ran for Senate in Ohio’s 2018 Republican primary, losing by nearly 16 points to former Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH), who went on to lose the general election to incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Despite having served on Trump’s 2016 campaign, Gibbons failed to earn the former president’s endorsement. “I was Ohio finance co-chair in his campaign, and he didn’t even know it,” Gibbons griped. “He was never told.”
Fine line: This time around, the 69-year-old GOP hopeful seems guarded on the subject of an endorsement. “If he wants to endorse me, that’s fine,” Gibbons said of Trump. “I think it’s a shame that an endorsement should mean that much. But generally, what I do is when all these people are fighting about how Trumpy they are, I just kind of say, here’s my business card from the ’16 election. I was his co-chair, I raised a lot of money for him, I gave a large amount of money, and I support his policies, period.”
Voice of reason?: “I don’t think we should be electing the person that yells the loudest or inflames your passions the most,” Gibbons argued. “I think you’ve got to calculate and see who could be effective, who could reason with the philosophical opposites. I’ve done that my whole life. I think I could be very effective at it.”
Eye toward Israel: “I have a lot of Jewish donors that are friends of mine, longtime friends of mine, and they know how I feel about Israel,” Gibbons told JI. “I think that the Jewish people were the most persecuted people in the history of the world. I think that it’s imperative that we support Israel in every regard. I’ve been a Zionist since I knew what the term meant, and I strongly support Israel. I think they could stop the whole conflict if Hamas would stop shooting rockets. I think they’re literally sacrificing their own children for the media, and it’s a real shame.”
🎓 Quad Conundrum: CNN’s Mallory Simon highlights the challenges faced by Jewish college students amid the latest uptick in antisemitic violence in the U.S. “Students are feeling lonely because they’re not seeing the kind of outcry about anti-Semitism that they themselves participated in, in other formats of hate,” said Merav Fine Braun, the director of Hunter Hillel. “Seeing silence on the internet is deafening.” [CNN]
🏕️ Forest Freedom: Financial Times reporter Najmeh Bozorgmehr spotlights the growing number of young Iranian dissidents who gather in the country’s wilderness to feel some freedom from the chafing restrictions of the Islamic Republic. “Young people have no other ways to have fun. I never ask them what they are smoking or drinking, or who they are sleeping with in their tent,” said one local tour guide. [FT]
✊ Woke Woes: In the Wall Street Journal, Gerard Baker argues that attacks against Jews in response to the conflict between Israel and Hamas are a result of the conflating of race issues in the U.S. and a geopolitical conflict in the Mideast. “It takes extraordinary intellectual flexibility to represent the Jewish people, especially those in Israel, as part of some grand global historical pattern of white-supremacist aggression, but these ascendant protagonists of modern progressivism are used to such gymnastics.” [WSJ]
💔 Fractures: In NPR, Deena Prichep explores how the recent wave of violence between Israel and Gaza is threatening years of interfaith work to unite Jewish and Muslim groups in the United States. “We’ve been doing all this work for five years — trying to create dialogue, trying to create openness and hoping that when we get to these moments, people will somehow hold hands and, you know, bring peace,” said Michelle Koch, executive director of the Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee. “But, you know, that’s not necessarily the case.” [NPR]
Around the Web
💥 Northern Threat: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that “resistance” to Israeli actions in Jerusalem would not stop in Gaza and would include “a regional war.”
☢️ Progress: Delegates to the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna said yesterday they are optimistic that the latest and fifth round of talks will be the final round.
🗳️ Ballot Block: Iran blocked dozens of reformists and moderates from running in next month’s presidential elections.
💼 Moving On: Outgoing Mossad chief Yossi Cohen is reportedly considering joining the investment fund led by former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
⚖️ Struck Down: A federal judge has ruled that a law in Georgia requiring people doing business with the state to sign an oath not to boycott Israel is unconstitutional.
🚨 Violent Turn: The Secure Community Network, which monitors antisemitism around the U.S., said antisemitic attacks have increased by 80% in recent weeks.
💸 Seeing Green: Israel defense tech firm Elbit reported a rise in first quarter revenue after securing a $442 million contract last year to supply the U.S. Army with night vision goggles.
📵 Seeking Help: The major print, TV and radio news outlets in Israel called on Facebook and Twitter to take “decisive action” after a sharp increase in threats to local journalists.
⏯️ Press Play: Israeli video startup AnyClip raised $47 million in private funding after seeing a sharp increase in revenue over the past year.
💾 Acquired: Israeli automotive chipmaker Valens announced an agreement with the PTK Acquisition Corp. SPAC to go public on the New York Stock Exchange.
⌚ Waiting Game: Efforts by Bill Ackman’s blank-check company to close a SPAC deal have yet to bear fruit, leaving investors still waiting.
🙏 Power of Prayer: Pope Francis offered prayers to Eitan Biran, the lone survivor of a cable car accident in Italy that killed 14 people, including his parents, great-grandparents and brother. Three people were arrested for disabling the cable car’s emergency brakes.
📰 Merger Murmurings: The New York Times is considering purchasing The Athletic, which raised $50 million in a Series D funding round last year.
🗞️ Media Watch: The Associated Press says it is reviewing its social media policy after the firing of young reporter Emily Wilder over comments on Israel drew backlash.
🌟 Mensch Move: Former Anti-Defamation League head Abe Foxman was honored at a congressional tribute hosted by the National Museum of American Jewish History for Jewish American Heritage Month.
🎓 Ivy Honor: Yale University posthumously awarded a doctorate of divinity to the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who died last year.
🎭🇬🇧 Fed Up: British actress Dame Maureen Lipman quit the Equity actors guild after its president urged people to sign a petition calling for sanctions against Israel.
Song of the Day
Israeli rapper Bazzi B’s newest song, “Phenomenali,” is the first single from his debut album, TaTeKe, which is his name in Amharic.
Political cartoonist and journalist, Ranan Lurie turns 89… Public speaker, teacher and author, Richard Lederer turns 83… Journalist and educator, the mother of Susan (CEO of YouTube), Janet (a Fulbright-winning anthropologist) and Anne (co-founder of 23andMe), Esther Hochman Wojcicki turns 80… Member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1999 (D-IL), Janice Danoff “Jan” Schakowsky turns 77… Lake City, Florida resident, John W. Davis turns 72… Former SVP of news at NPR, Michael Oreskes turns 67… Co-founder and CEO of Mobileye, he became an SVP of Intel after Intel acquired Mobileye in 2017, Amnon Shashua turns 61… NYC real estate developer and chair of The Charles H. Revson Foundation and a former commissioner on the NYC Planning Commission, Cheryl Cohen Effron turns 56… Former brigadier general in the IDF, she has been a member of the Knesset for the Likud party since 2009 and now serves as minister of transportation, Miriam “Miri” Regev turns 56… Counsel in the government affairs practice in the D.C. office of Paul Hastings, Dina Ellis Rochkind turns 52… Photographer Naomi Harris turns 48… South Florida entrepreneur, Sholom Zeines turns 41… Former minor league baseball player, he has become one of the leading agents for NBA players with four contracts of over $100 million each, Jason Glushon turns 36… Tel Aviv-based freelance journalist, Yardena Schwartz turns 35… Special counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice, Mark Goldfeder turns 35… Deputy Washington director of Bend the Arc, Arielle Gingold turns 35… Litigation associate in the Washington office of Covington & Burling LLP, Benjamin L. Cavataro turns 32… Toronto-born Israeli actress and singer, best known as the protagonist of the television series “Split,” Melissa Amit Farkash turns 32… Program associate at the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Morgan A. Jacobs turns 31… Program officer for media and communications at the Maimonides Fund, Rebecca Friedman… Catcher in the Houston Astros organization, Garrett Patrick Stubbs turns 28… Eytan Merkin…