👋 Good Tuesday morning!
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mandate to form the next government expires at midnight local time. If he fails to form a coalition — a task that now seems all but insurmountable — he can return the mandate or ask President Reuven Rivlin for an extension.
Rivlin will have to decide whether to grant an extension, despite Netanyahu’s lack of progress, hand the mandate to a second candidate — something Opposition Leader Yair Lapid is clamoring for — or deliver it straight to the Knesset, to enable any potential candidate to attempt to form a government.
Should nobody succeed in forming a coalition following any of these options, a new election — the fifth in less than three years — would be automatically triggered and likely scheduled for this fall.
Lebanon and Israel resumed indirect negotiations this morning over their disputed maritime border.
Several Biden officials and Democratic senators — including Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) — are criss-crossing a range of Arab and Gulf states to reassure them over ongoing efforts to reenter the Iran nuclear deal.
in the shop
Judaica artist Michael Aram on his Armenian roots
Michael Aram, the artist whose metal jewelry and houseware designs are a staple at high-end department stores around the country, knows that his ethnic-sounding name presents a Rohrschach test to his diverse customer base. “I have my Persian ladies who say, ‘Of course, you’re Persian,’” Aram told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch in a recent intervew. “My Armenian ladies just know, ‘He’s Armenian.’ And then a lot of my Jewish customers are like, ‘Oh, where in Israel are you from?’” The “Armenian ladies” are right: Aramis Armenian Christian, which might come as a surprise to anyone who knows him for his considerable Judaica collection. His passion for ritual objects is rooted in his religion, which he believes has a similar set of values — family, tradition, faith — as Judaism.
Family first: Why is it that Jewish objects and themes — his extensive collection includes Seder plates, mezuzahs, menorahs, kiddush cups and tzedakah boxes — feature so prominently in the work Aram sells to the public? To some extent, it’s simple: That’s what people wanted to buy. “Bloomingdale’s had been asking me for years and years to design Judaica for them,” Aram recalled. But Aram said he did not want to design Judaica only for commercial reasons. “Initially, I paused, because I thought, ‘Everything I design has to be authentic to me, and how can I design a piece of Judaica? I’m not Jewish.’ And then I dug deeper.” He finds inspiration in “things that are passed down from generations, things that are used in celebration, things that are used in worship, heirlooms that are treasured and that become part of family history.”
Broad appeal: Some of the objects appear under distinctly Jewish names, like the Matzah Plate or the Tree of Life Tzedakah Box. But many objects have generic names, perhaps allowing them to appeal to non-Jewish shoppers. The Wisteria Gold Square Plate is almost certainly intended to hold matzah during Passover; the Pomegranate Celebration Cup is clearly a kiddush cup; the Twist Bread Board and Twist Bread Knife are surely meant to be used for challah on Shabbat. This is not an accident or an oversight: many of the Jewish images and themes Aram uses also appear in other religions and cultures, including his own. “I grew up crawling on Armenian carpets with tree of life imagery made with pomegranate dyes,” he said.
Shared trauma: The connection he feels to Judaism is also rooted in a shared sense of trauma. “Certainly genocide, and the Holocaust, is something that has affected both our community as well as, of course, the Jewish community. The tie-ins are just uncanny,” noted Aram, who is a descendant of Armenian Christians who fled the region after a massacre at the hands of the ruling Ottomans. “My great-grandfather, who lived in Constantinople, was rounded up on April 24th 1915, which was the equivalent of our Kristallnacht,” said Aram, referring to the Nov. 9, 1938, “Night of Broken Glass,” in which Nazis destroyed Jewish businesses and sent thousands of Jewish men to concentration camps. President Joe Biden officially referred to the 1915-1916 Armenian atrocity as a “genocide” last weekend — becoming the first U.S. president to do so — a statement Aram called “long, long overdue.”
No boundaries: Aram has seen that his Jewish objects transcend religious boundaries, with a diverse group of customers purchasing the Judaica. “I was with an Indian friend this past weekend — she’s a Hindu — she was asking to buy one of my menorahs, which I didn’t think was strange at all from her, because I’ve been to her home and I’ve seen her home altar, where she has Christian idols, menorahs, Hindu gods,” Aram explained. “She says, ‘My God is every color and every creed,’ which I thought was so beautiful.”
The TikTok exec looking to spread Hasidic values
When Michal Oshman walked into Facebook’s London offices on her first day of work at the social media giant, she encountered a question emblazoned on the wall at the entrance: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” The question struck a deep chord with Oshman, 45, who felt that she had lived much of her life controlled by deep-seated fears and anxieties. “It was only when I was about 37-38 [years old], after trying every single thing I was aware that was possible to deal with anxiety and fear and despair and mental health challenges that many of us face, when I discovered Judaism more from the spiritual side,” Oshman told Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro in a recent interview from London, where she lives with her husband, Yair, and four children. “Then I started slowly, slowly practicing, which is when I started healing my soul.”
Book shelf: Oshman, who recently started a new job as TikTok’s head of culture, has a new book out today titled What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?: Discover a Life Filled with Purpose and Joy Through the Secrets of Jewish Wisdom. Part memoir, part self-help book, Oshman recounts her own upbringing as the daughter of Yehuda Hiss, Israel’s former chief pathologist, and the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors — and her journey to self-healing through Jewish wisdom. Each chapter is based around a concept in Jewish thought and is followed by questions aimed at guiding the concepts’ application to the reader’s own life.
Global audience: Once Oshman realized how much she personally gained from her experience, she set out to share her insights and discoveries with the world. “I really got myself off of very, very bad thoughts and started to enjoy things that I just couldn’t see before,” she said. That realization, she said, prompted her to seek to share her discoveries with the larger world. “This book was written for universal readership, it’s not aimed just for the Jewish community,” she added. “My hope is that the people that will show curiosity to read this book are people that are curious about developing themselves… anyone that’s interested in spirituality… anyone that just is curious to learn something new.”
Jewish journey: Oshman grew up in Tel Aviv, in a house that was more about “Israeliness than Judaism in any spiritual way,” she recalls. As a young newlywed, she moved to London with her husband and worked to start over and climb the career ladder in a new country. After a series of business and tech jobs, she arrived at Facebook seven years ago to join its leadership and development team. It was during that time, she recalls, that she first began to explore spirituality, Jewish beliefs and her own journey to religious observance. “It definitely wasn’t a one moment” of discovery, she told JI. “Slowly, slowly, I started lighting [Shabbat candles] but without expecting anything, really, just trying it.” But after a while, she said, there was “this moment when I realized that this lighting of the candle does open a door to something within myself… and I started playing around with the idea of keeping Shabbat.”
Company culture: Oshman said that her employers at Facebook were also welcoming of her new observance, even when it meant she stopped answering the phone or emails on Saturdays. “Facebook has an amazing company culture,” said Oshman, who noted that she had experienced antisemitism at past jobs in London. But her experience at Facebook, she said, “wasn’t any special treatment that I got,” but was indicative of a larger company policy to “help people bring themselves… their full selves, for whatever that is, if it’s faith, whether it’s sexuality, if it’s how you want to live your life — it’s very inclusive.” And her new workplace at TikTok, she said, is equally welcoming. “TikTok has also very much embraced me and welcomed me with who I am,” she said. “The same way that we want our platform to welcome different voices and different opinions and have that diversity on the platform.”
on the menu
Would Eleven Madison Park go all the way?
The revered Manhattan restaurant Eleven Madison Park took the fine-dining world by surprise yesterday when it announced it will no longer serve meat or seafood upon reopening in June. The restaurant is known for offerings such as lavender honey-glazed duck and butter-poached lobster — dishes that chef and owner Daniel Humm acknowledged would be difficult to replace even as he emphasized that it was “time to redefine luxury as an experience that serves a higher purpose.” In the Jewish community, the restaurant was applauded for its commitment to sustainable cooking, as Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports, while some saw an opportunity for Eleven Madison Park to go a step further and make its kitchen kosher.
‘All the way’: The restaurant will continue serving milk and honey with tea and coffee but will otherwise be vegan, obviating the possibility that meat and dairy will intermingle — which is forbidden by Jewish dietary law — and making it simpler to achieve kosher status. “If 11 Madison Park wanted to go fully hechshered, that’d be AMAZING,” Seffi Kogen, global director of young leadership for the American Jewish Committee, wrote in an enthusiastic email. “But even if they’re not going all the way, they could become an option for Orthodox Jews like me by blow torching and boiling their ovens, appliances and utensils to kasher their kitchen back to a ‘neutral’ kosher status before switching to their plant-based menu.”
Nouveau kosher dairy: Eleven Madison Park did not respond to a request for comment about any plans for kosher certification. Some vegan establishments in New York have gotten certified through the International Kosher Council, including Blossom Du Jour and By Chloe. But if Eleven Madison Park were to go kosher it would represent a significant step for New York’s fine-dining scene. “My immediate thought is that there is a robust tradition of kosher dairy restaurants and this place could become a new version of that because of the decision they’ve made,” said Roger Horowitz, the author of Kosher USA: How Coke Became Kosher and Other Tales of Modern Food.
Untapped clientele: While Eleven Madison Park is in a separate class of restaurants, thanks in part to its three Michelin stars, kosher certification would likely attract a valuable and previously untapped clientele as it emerges from a pandemic that has devastated the restaurant industry. “There’s a huge market in New York City for people who will only eat at a kosher restaurant,” Horowitz said. “They will increase their possible consumer base if they become kosher, no doubt about it.”
‘Shabbos specials’: Stu Loeser, a modern Orthodox political consultant in New York, seemed to confirm that view when asked if he was holding out hope that Eleven Madison Park would opt for kosher certification, though he appeared doubtful that it would happen. “Since all the reservations for a month already sell out in a matter of hours, it’s not clear that Eleven Madison Park could even handle the same bump in business that Curry Hill vegetarian joints a block over get from being kosher,” he told JI. “But on the other hand, can you imagine how great the Shabbos specials takeout would be?”
🦵 Regrowth Growth: In The New Yorker, Matthew Hutson spotlights the work and life of Michael Levin, a biologist who studies the possibility of humans being able to regenerate missing body parts. “Levin’s parents faced anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. In 1978, when he was nine, they took advantage of a visa program for Soviet Jews and moved the family to Lynn, Massachusetts.” [NewYorker]
🚨 Combatting Crime: The Atlantic’s Russell Berman lays out the ripple effect that the reelection defeat of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, amid an uptick in violent crime, would have on criminal justice reform in the city and nationwide. The upcoming primary “will test the durability of progressive prosecution in a city that until recently has chosen leaders who have championed a punitive approach to combatting crime.” [Atlantic]
⛓️ Locked Up Abroad: In The Washington Post, Areej Al-Sadhan details the arrest and torture of her brother, an American citizen detained in Saudi Arabia since 2018 for criticizing the regime on social media after a Twitter employee leaked his name to Saudi authorities. “Although the United States — my family’s country and my own — has spoken out against the murderous actions of Saudi authorities, failing to match those words with actions signals that such violations can be carried out with impunity.” [WaPo]
😃 Cheer Up: In The Wall Street Journal, Walter Russell Mead suggests that observers should “cheer up about the Middle East,” since the region is safer than it was 20 years ago. Americans are largely safe, oil is less dominant, U.S. technology is more advanced and “the leading Arab states and Israel aren’t exactly friends, but they are forming something at least equally valuable in international relations: a partnership that both sides consider essential to their continued security.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
⛔ No Go: A State Department spokesperson confirmed that the U.S. will not participate in U.N. events marking the 2001 Durban conference, where Israel was singled out as racist.
🇮🇳 Friend in Need: Israel will begin sending COVID-19 aid — including ventilators — to India, which is struggling to handle its skyrocketing coronavirus cases.
🤝 Working Together: Israel’s Trendlines Agrifood has partnered with Mitsubishi to focus on medical and agrifood technologies.
🏦 Back to Work: The Bank of Israel called on the government to provide more incentives aimed at getting people back in the labor market and lowering the unemployment rate.
💾 Tech Talks: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Intel Corporation CEO Pat Gelsinger yesterday, who is visiting Israel to open the company’s new campus in Haifa.
☀️ Power of the Sun: Photo-voltaic solar panels are being installed in fields in Israel as part of a four-year pilot program.
🚓 On the Rise: Hate crimes in New York City soared in the first four months of 2021, up 73% from last year, fueled by crimes against Jewish and Asian New Yorkers.
🔫 No Charm: A 31-year-old Israeli man was shot and killed late Sunday night in an attempted robbery while visiting family in northwest Baltimore for the wedding of a cousin.
🇦🇺 Down Under: Australia’s Jewish community is divided over a speaking invite to convicted spy Jonathan Pollard from Mizrahi, the largest religious-Zionist movement in Australia.
📱 Going Gone: After widespread criticism, Democratic Majority For Israel deleted a tweet from yesterday critical of Nancy Kaufman’s approach to antisemitism. Kaufman, the former head of the National Council of Jewish Women, is said to be one of a number of candidates under consideration to be the State Dept.’s antisemitism envoy.
🏗️ Rebuilding: The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh has hired architect Daniel Libeskind to renovate and redesign the site following the 2018 deadly shooting.
🏫 Campus Beat: Tufts University is investigating swastika graffiti that appeared on a campus sports facility last week.
🗿 Never Again: A Holocaust memorial in Portland, Ore., was defaced with swastikas and other antisemitic graffiti.
🎥 Coming Soon: An upcoming film titled “Blue Box” explores the complex and controversial early efforts of the Jewish National Fund to acquire land across Israel.
📺 Hollywood: Apple TV+ has cast Luke Evans in “Echo 3,” a U.S. adaptation of the Israeli hit series “When Heroes Fly.”
🏈 Happy Place: Patriots owner Robert Kraft was spotted touring Disney World last weekend with the 8 year-old daughter and widow of a Long Island frontline worker who died of COVID.
Song of the Day
Israeli singer Shiri Maimon released a new song, “Tipa,” (“A Drop”) to celebrate her upcoming 40th birthday.
Former chairman and CEO of American International Group, now chairman and CEO of the Starr Companies, Maurice Raymond “Hank” Greenberg turns 96… Rabbi Emeritus at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, Zvi Dershowitz turns 93… Congregational rabbi and later executive director of the Texas A&M Hillel, Peter E. Tarlow turns 75… Nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution for climate change, he was previously the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change in the Obama administration, Todd D. Stern turns 70… Partner at NYC-based Mintz & Gold, he was EVP and general counsel for both the Las Vegas Sands and News Corporation, Lawrence “Lon” A. Jacobs turns 66… Northern Virginia-based portrait artist, Ilisa G. Calderon turns 57… Triathlete, Joanna Sue Zeiger turns 51… Executive Director of Surprise Lake Camp, Bradley Solmsen turns 51… State Attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida, Dave Aronberg turns 50…
President and CEO of the Riverside Park Conservancy and a former New York City Councilman, Daniel Garodnick turns 49… Former Secretary of State of Missouri and founder of “Let America Vote,” Jason Kander turns 40… Managing director of food programs at NYC’s Met Council on Jewish Poverty, Jessica Chait turns 39… Tech entrepreneur, best known as the co-founder of both Vine and HQ Trivia, Rus Yusupov turns 37… VP at BerlinRosen, Allison Fran Bormel turns 34… Miami Beach and South Dade Director at AIPAC, Rebecca Leibowitz Wasserstrom turns 32… Assistant to the executive producer of ABC’s General Hospital, Steven A. Rosenberg turns 32… Director of speechwriting for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Shana Mansbach turns 29… Senior enterprise account manager at Everfi, Sasha Altschuler turns 29… Legislative analyst at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Elliot Miller turns 27… Medalist in the women’s halfpipe event at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Arielle Townsend Gold turns 25… Scrum Master Michele Wakslak… Associate at The Boston Consulting Group, Olivia Breuer…