👋 Good Friday morning!
Ed note: In honor of Memorial Day, our next Daily Kickoff newsletter will be on Tuesday morning. Wishing you all a wonderful extended weekend.
Anti-Israel activity on college campuses is on the rise in the aftermath of the Israel-Hamas war, fueled by the ongoing virtual learning environment that often opens up debates to non-students, reports Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss.
Student governments at two University of California campuses debated BDS resolutions this week and two University of California student governments are discussing issuing statements condemning Israel over the recent conflict — while another school, the University of California, Riverside, already issued a similar statement. A BDS resolution passed at Northwestern University this week, while a similar measure failed at the University of Houston. Read more here.
Fifty-eight senators, divided evenly among Democrats and Republicans, signed onto a resolution by Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK) condemning antisemitism and urging the White House to take action.
USAID Administrator Samantha Powerassured a House Appropriations Committee subcommittee hearing this week that U.S. emergency relief to Gaza would be carefully vetted to ensure it does not end up in the hands of Hamas or violate the Taylor Force Act.
Law firm leaders call out silence around rising antisemitism
Managing partners from 16 prominent global law firms issued a letter on Thursday denouncing antisemitism “in all its forms,” reports Jewish Insider’s Sam Zieve Cohen. The letter, originally published behind a paywall in The American Lawyer, comes amid a sharp rise in antisemitic violence and rhetoric stemming from the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The letter condemned the “demonization of Jews pervading the press, social media, and the streets of this country.”
Never forget: The letter’s signatories noted the lack of media coverage and public condemnation following the recent uptick in antisemitic attacks. “We are disheartened and alarmed by the lack of urgency in denouncing these escalating and offensive attacks on Jews. In the face of these acts in our own country, we are frightened by the silence of a nation that vowed never to forget the massacre of millions at the hands of hate.”
Sounds of silence: “The silence is kind of deafening, and it doesn’t make sense,” Joseph Shenker, chair of Sullivan & Cromwell, who first proposed writing the letter, told JI. “We are so used to not being considered a discriminated-against minority — which was nice — that we don’t realize that there are elements that still hate Jews.”
Standing up: The letter is the first of its kind on behalf of a group of major American companies. The firms previously issued a joint letter supporting voting rights, along with numerous internal letters addressing social and civil issues across the country. “I’m very proud of the increasing willingness of private law firm leaders to speak out on important issues of social justice, civil rights and tolerance and inclusion,” Brad Karp, chairman of Paul Weiss, told JI. “I believe it is vital for leaders – whether in business, in law, in government, in academia – to speak out in the face of intolerance and injustice, in all forms. Increasing acts of antisemitism cannot be ignored; they must be called out and hate crimes must be prosecuted.”
Elsewhere: A range of business leaders, including the chief diversity officer at Microsoft and the CEO and chairman of Deloitte, are speaking out against the rash of antisemitic attacks in the U.S.
How a Holocaust education bill stalled in Albany
State legislators are divided over a proposed bill directing New York’s education commissioner to conduct a study verifying whether public school teachers are educating students about the Holocaust. The dispute culminated on Monday in a virtual meeting of the State Assembly’s education committee, a recording of which was obtained by Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel, during which chairman Michael Benedetto tried to block the bill. “I understand the fear that is in people’s hearts,” said Benedetto, a Bronx Democrat, after arguing that the legislation was redundant because Holocaust instruction is already required by law. “I certainly worry about what’s being taught in our schools, but I also have confidence in our teachers that they know what’s going on.”
Strong pushback: In a rare rebuke of a sitting chairman, however, Benedetto’s effort to stymie the legislation was thwarted by a majority of committee members — Democrats and Republicans alike — who voted against the hold. “We are in a unique time where we need to do more in addressing the rise of hatred, not just with Jewish Americans,” Queens Democrat Ron Kim said in the meeting, echoing the sentiments of several colleagues who spoke out in favor of a full audit as antisemitic incidents have ticked up in recent weeks.
Polarizing topic: Even days after the meeting, the disagreement remains a polarizing topic, particularly among lawmakers who view the bill as a useful corrective amid reports that young American adults are woefully uninformed about the Holocaust. “As we’ve experienced historic levels of antisemitism in New York and around the country over the past few weeks, ‘never again’ needs to be a call to action and not merely a platitude,” Nily Rozic, a Jewish assemblywoman in Queens who sponsored the bill, told JI. “When study after study delineate embarrassing ignorance and misinformation about the Holocaust among New Yorkers, we need to rectify the issue at the source — educational requirements.”
Delay tactic? While the bill was spared for the moment, its fate is still in question as it now appears to be moving to the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee, where one member said he expected that it would be taken up. However, Doug Smith, a Republican assemblyman who supports the legislation, suggested that the bill’s winding path to the floor was a delay tactic. “The Democratic leadership is concerned about members of their party,” he told JI, speculating that high-ranking Democrats are fearful of some far-left Assembly members publicly opposing the bill at a moment when anti-Israel sentiment seems to have given rise to antisemitic attacks in the wake of the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Learning from history: Benedetto vociferously defended his effort to quash the bill using the same argument he put forward before he was defied by committee members, even as he acknowledged that Rozic’s legislation was “well-intentioned.” But others are still perplexed by the resistance. “I really don’t know why this bill has become an issue,” Anna Kaplan, a Democratic state senator from Long Island who is sponsoring the bill in the upper chamber, told JI. “The fact is,” added Kaplan, a Jewish refugee from Iran, “that we all know people who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it again.”
Edward-Isaac Dovere chronicles the ‘craziest election’ in American history
The day before Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, Edward-Isaac Dovere published an article calling Democrats a “decimated party,” working on a “not-so-certain revival strategy” after having “their brains scrambled by Trump’s win.” The article prompted a book contract, with Dovere pledging to write a reported account of the 2020 campaign. His project could have gone in dramatically different directions — would the Democrats, after a divisive primary with a historic 26 candidates, be able to eke out a victory, or would they lose again to the historically unpopular Trump? But perhaps the biggest surprise of November 2020? “The Biden brand was stronger than the Democrats’,” Dovere told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutchin a recent interview to mark the launch of his new book, Battle for the Soul: Inside the Democrats’ Campaigns to Beat Trump.
Democracy on the line: Dovere pitched the book in 2018 by explaining that “this was going to be the craziest election, and one of probably the most important elections, in American history,” he explained. “I, of course, had no concept that the COVID pandemic was going to hit, that there was going to be an economic crisis, that there was going to be the racial reckoning that started a year ago with George Floyd, and that there would be quite this crisis of democracy that we were in with the [January 6] riot and continue to be in. But it was clear that there would be a lot of this on the line.”
Unforeseen circumstances: In the late summer and fall of 2019, when news broke about Trump’s call to Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelenskiy and raised questions about his solicitation of foreign involvement in U.S. elections, Dovere thought this was as wild as it would get. “We knew that it was gonna be intense, that it was shaking things up for Biden and for others,” he recalled, “and I was like, ‘How am I possibly going to cover this?’” He had that same thought countless more times in the year that followed. On Jan. 4, 2021, Dovere spoke with his book editor, and said he would be ready to turn in his final chapter after the Georgia Senate runoff elections the next day. On Jan. 6, he was sitting in Delaware writing that final chapter when the riot happened at the U.S. Capitol — and changed everything for Democrats, and for the ending of his book. “I had an email from my editor that said, ‘We’re going to push the book back three weeks, because we’re going to need you to write on all this.’”
Gateway hatred: Dovere’s book did not touch on the thorny politics around Israel and the Middle East that have highlighted divisions among Democrats in recent weeks. “Israel did not come up,” he said. But Dovere pointed out that from the beginning, Biden’s campaign took a unique stand against antisemitism, rooted in what happened at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. Many other candidates talked about the deadly rally in binary racial language: “It quickly got turned into, in most people’s minds as just generally racist, or a Black/white issue. But those were neo-Nazis waving Nazi flags, chanting, ‘You will not replace us,’ which is about Jews,” said Dovere. “Every time that Joe Biden has talked about Charlottesville publicly, he uses the same phrase, and he talks about that they were ‘spewing the same antisemitic bile.’” In Dovere’s view, Biden’s understanding of antisemitism is central to the way he views racism and hatred in America. “It’s important to him to talk about Jews, and seeing that antisemitism is a gateway into all sorts of other hate,” said Dovere, “to not let that just be swept aside.”
on the hill
Lawmakers continue to push White House on antisemitism
Lawmakers are continuing efforts to pressure President Joe Biden to take action in response to the recent spike in antisemitic incidents. A bipartisan group of House members, led by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Grace Meng (D-NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Chris Smith (R-NJ), is expected to send a letter to Biden today urging him to take swift action to combat rising antisemitic hate crimes, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod has learned. And in the Senate, Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced a resolution yesterday condemning global antisemitism and accusing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and anti-Israel activists of fueling antisemitism around the world.
Hate crimes: The House letter, which had 55signatories as of late Thursday evening, calls on Biden to rapidly implement provisions to improve hate crime education and reporting procedures for local law enforcement, which was signed into law last week as part of a hate crimes legislation package. It also urges the administration to develop a strategy to combat antisemitic hate crimes and encourages the president to nominate an ambassador to monitor and combat antisemitism.
Placing blame: The Risch resolution condemns the BDS movement against Israel and ties anti-Israel sentiment to growing antisemitism globally. “The rise of anti-Israel groups and voices in the United States has contributed to increased anti-Semitism in, and outside, the United States,” the resolution reads. “This rhetoric has fueled support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement which represents a financial, political, and economic manifestation of anti-Semitism against Israel.”
Looking abroad: The resolution also notes “a particularly high rate of antisemitic attacks” in Europe, and enumerates a series of incidents around the world, including an assault on Rabbi Rafi Goodwin in London; pro-Palestinian protests in Canada that have involved antisemitic slurs and violence against Jewish individuals; protests in Spain that featured Israeli flags defaced with swastikas; threats and attacks on Jewish organizations in Germany; and vandalism of a Jewish community building in Argentina.
⛏️ Long History: Rabbi David Wolpewrites in The New York Times that the Jewish history in the land of Israel dates back thousands of years, complicating the modern conflict. “Part of the intractability of the conflict in the Middle East is that the Jewish relationship to Israel did not begin in 1948. Our history here, of both pain and holiness, stretches back dozens of generations.” [NYTimes]
📝 Empathy: Donna Brazile, former chair of the Democratic National Committee, writes in The Wall Street Journal calling on “all people of goodwill” to stamp out “the pandemic” of antisemitism. “While I’m not Jewish, I can empathize with the pain and the injustice anti-Semitism inflicts in the same way Jews have expressed empathy for the racist oppression black Americans have suffered for centuries.” [WSJ]
🌊 Changing Tides?: Hollywood Reporter editor Tatiana Siegel explores the shifting sentiments among some in the entertainment industry over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while others figures work to push back. “Whether in Hollywood or elsewhere, uninformed influencers should refrain from posting inflammatory information about issues they don’t understand,” said pro-Israel stalwart and media mogul Haim Saban. [HollywoodReporter]
🗺️ Map Muddle: Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler spotlights the dueling narratives that surround an oft-shared and controversial succession of maps of Israel, which was used in a New York Times op-ed this week and defended as “art” rather than a factual map. “We often hesitate to delve into the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, as there are two competing narratives. History can be open to interpretation and not always easily fact-checked.” [WashPost]
Around the Web
💥 Tinderbox: Secretary of State Tony Blinken told Axios that renewed unrest on the Temple Mount or evictions in Sheikh Jarrah could spark new “tension, conflict and war.”
🕊️ Next Steps: Egypt invited Israeli, Palestinian Authority and Hamas officials to Cairo to hold talks aimed at bolstering the cease-fire deal.
🗳️ U.N. Vote: Israel slammed the U.N. Human Rights Council for voting 24-9, with 14 abstentions, to launch an investigation yesterday into Israeli and Hamas war crimes.
⚖️ Facing Trial: Israeli Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman is slated to be indicted on charges of obstruction of justice over his involvement in the case of alleged pedophile Malka Leifer.
🗣️ Setting the Narrative: In a wide-ranging interview with Times of Israel’s David Horovitz, former ADL head Abe Foxman said that Israel has “lost its vision,” and that decisions made by its leaders create a narrative that “feeds those who say that Israel doesn’t care about peace.”
📜 Two-State Treatise: Former Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni penned a defense of the two-state solution in The New York Times.
📵 Cyber Attack: A new disk-wiping malware believed to originate in Iran is reportedly targeting Israeli sites and organizations.
🛬 Bruchim Habaim: The first group of foreign tourists arrived in Israel yesterday, more than a year after the country shut its borders to non-residents due to COVID.
🚨 Indicted: Three men were charged with committing hate crimes after yelling antisemitic phrases and attacking two Jewish teenagers outside a Brooklyn synagogue.
⚔️ Under Attack: Staten Island EMT Paul Lebowitz told NBC New York he was beaten for being Jewish during a recent vacation in Las Vegas.
👎 Dislike: A number of Facebook employees are arguing internally that the company is selectively enforcing content on its platforms about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is biased against Arabs.
🕍 Faith Matters: A group of Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders laid the cornerstone yesterday for a new complex in Berlin slated to house a synagogue, church and mosque.
📺 Coming Soon: A one-hour special on antisemitism will air Monday evening on MTV and the Smithsonian Channel to mark the final day of Jewish American History Month.
💰 Extra Cash: As part of a renegotiated departure package, WeWork gave co-founder Adam Neumann a $245 million enhanced stock award in February, new filings show.
🪙 Crypto Crazy: Carl Icahn told Bloomberg TV he may invest in cryptocurrency “in a big way,” labeling criticism that the virtual currency lacks value as “wrong-headed.”
🕯️ Remembering: Jarad Geldner, vice president of public affairs at the S-3 Group, died of cancer at 37. Philanthropist and businessman Walter Kissinger, brother of Henry, died at 96. Harvey Schlossberg, a New York City cop who coached police officers on hostage situations, died at 85. Rusty Warren, a groundbreaking comedian born Ilene Goldman, died at 91. Brazilian architect and urban planner Jaime Lerner died at 83.
Whiskey of the Week
Our weekly wine columnist Yitz Applbaum is out exploring more vineyards to bring to you. In his stead, guest columnist and former White House speechwriter Noam Neusner reviews the “Hava” whiskey from rapper Nissim Black:
“Rapper Nissim Black is the ultimate crossover artist, blending the urban hip hop and yeshivish worlds in his own personal biography. Now he has overseen the creation of a crossover Israel-born whiskey brand, Hava. I have to concede that I ordered it more out of curiosity than need — there are a lot of good whiskeys and at $90 a bottle, Hava isn’t cheap. But it’s good, and holds up well against other better-known scotch whiskeys. Hava pairs beautifully with dark chocolate and opens up nicely with a few drops of water. It’s also a good l’chaim — it doesn’t sting the palate and finishes with no bite. This is a creative whiskey, and its creator and inspiration should be proud of yet another crossover hit.”
FRIDAY: Longtime activist in the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater (Virginia), Arnold H. Leon turns 88… Founding rabbi of both Lincoln Square Synagogue in NYC and then later the city of Efrat, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin turns 81… Director of UCSF’s Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, he won the 1997 Nobel Prize in Medicine, Stanley Benjamin Prusiner M.D. turns 79… Former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani turns 77… Executive director of Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Jerome H. Kadden turns 77… Mayor of Toronto, his maternal grandmother is said to have been Jewish, John Howard Tory turns 67… Winnipeg-born attorney and prior campaign chair for Winnipeg’s Combined Jewish Appeal and governor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Gail Sheryl Asper turns 61… U.S. senator, Marco Rubio (R-FL) turns 50… Member of the Knesset since 2009 on behalf of the Likud party, Ofir Akunis turns 48… Rabbi at Temple B’nai Sholom in Huntsville, Alabama, Eric Berk turns 46… Manager of the executive office at the Pew Charitable Trusts, Lauren Mandelker turns 40… Singer-songwriter and one half of the band The Moldy Peaches, Adam Green turns 40… Entrepreneur and investor, Matthew Pritzker turns 39… VP at lobbying firm Kasirer LLC, David A. Lobl turns 37… Founder of At The Well, a women’s wellness organization rooted in Jewish spirituality and women’s health, Sarah Michal Waxman turns 35… Director of communications at Citizens for a Secure and Safe America, Adelle Malka Nazarian turns 33… Freelance journalist, Thea Glassman turns 30… Harry Weinstein turns 22… Named for his father who was the Wall Street Journal bureau chief that was kidnapped and murdered by Pakistani terrorists a few months before he was born, Adam Daniel Pearl turns 19… Irwin Weiss…
SATURDAY: Paul G. Morton turns 83… Former member of the Knesset and later Israel’s ambassador to Japan, Eli Cohen turns 72… Actor, singer-songwriter and record producer, Danny Elfman turns 68… U.S. senator, Jerry Moran (R-KS) turns 67… Television writer, producer and actor, Mitchell Hurwitz turns 58… Wichita, Kansas philanthropist, Ellen Ginsburg Beren turns 56… Economist on the faculty of the University of Chicago, co-author of the best-selling books in the Freakonomics series, Steven Levitt turns 54… CEO and executive editor of 70 Faces Media, Amiram “Ami” Eden turns 48… Policy analyst at Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Yaakov Feinstein turns 48… Founding partner of Blandford Capital, Nathaniel Jerome Meyohas turns 47… Fashion designer and the founder of the fashion label Shoshanna, style director for Elizabeth Arden, Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss turns 46… Film producer and former corporate lawyer at Skadden, Arps, Edward Frank “Teddy” Schwarzman turns 42… Senior political reporter at The Forward, Jacob Kornbluh turns 40… Swedish-born pro-Israel activist and commentator, Annika Hernroth-Rothstein turns 40… Partner at Cove Lane Partners, Alexander Berger turns 38… Jewish liaison for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Jake Adler turns 35… Israeli-born baseball player and coach, now working in the Seattle Mariners’ player development program, he coached for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Alon Leichman turns 32…
SUNDAY: Santa Monica-based historian of Sephardic and crypto-Jewish studies, Dolores Sloan turns 91… Real estate developer and former chair of UJA-NY, Larry A. Silverstein turns 90… Partner in the NYC law firm of Mintz & Gold, Ira Lee “Ike” Sorkin turns 78… Board member of the Colliers County chapter of the Florida ACLU and the Naples Florida Council on World Affairs, Maureen McCully “Mo” Winograd turns 75… Agent at Creative Artists Agency, Alan Louis Berger turns 71… The owner and chef at Los Angeles-based Catering by Brenda, Brenda Walt turns 70… Former chief rabbi of France, Gilles Uriel Bernheim turns 69… Encino, California-based business attorney, Andrew W. Hyman turns 68… Author and a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and Tablet magazine, Daphne Miriam Merkin turns 67… Former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, since leaving Congress he has written two novels, Steve Israel turns 63… Science editor for BBC News, David Shukman turns 63… Editorial writer at The New York Times, Michelle Cottle turns 51… Actress and singer-songwriter, she sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl in 2015, Idina Menzel turns 50… Member of the Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Oded Forer turns 44… Director of engagement and program at NYC’s Congregation Rodeph Sholom, Scott Hertz turns 41… Deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, Reema Dodin turns 41… Alina T. Katz turns 38… and her husband, renown challah baker and manager of San Francisco’s Howard Properties, Jason Friend… Executive director of Northeastern Hillel, Gilad Skolnick turns 37… Counsel at Gilead Sciences, Ashley Bender Spirn turns 31… Senior advisor for U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Miryam Esther Lipper turns 30… Writer for CNN Digital, Eric Levenson turns 30…
MONDAY: Investment advisor working at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, Alfred Phillip Stern turns 88… Industrialist and philanthropist, Ira Leon Rennert turns 87… Food critic at Vogue magazine and judge on “Iron Chef America,” Jeffrey Steingarten turns 79… Founder and retired CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council, Al From turns 78… Author, political pundit and a correspondent for HBO’s “Real Sports,” Bernie Goldberg turns 76… Comedian, actress and TV producer, Susie Essman turns 66… Founder and chairman of the Katz Group of Companies, Daryl Katz turns 60… Reality television personality on “The Millionaire Matchmaker,” Patti Stanger turns 60… Jerusalem-born serial entrepreneur, novelist and the founder of CyberArk Software, Alon Nisim Cohen turns 53… Co-founder of CryptoLogic, an online casino software firm, and FUN Technologies, Andrew Rivkin turns 52… Former Democratic mayor of Annapolis, Maryland, now director of policy at Greenlots, Josh Cohen turns 48… Assistant director of community outreach at the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, Melissa York turns 45… Israeli actress, singer and dancer, she played a Mossad agent in the espionage TV series “Tehran,” Liraz Charhi turns 43… Author of the Money Stuff column at Bloomberg Opinion, Matthew S. Levine turns 43… Freelance writer in Brooklyn, Sara Trappler Spielman turns 41… Attorney and NYT-bestselling author of the Mara Dyer Trilogy, Michelle Hodkin turns 39… Head of corporate and regulatory affairs at Zoox, Bert Eli Kaufman turns 39… Program director at public mobility firm Via, Zoe Goldfarb turns 38… Stephanie Oreck Weiss turns 37… Head of corporate and brand partnerships at Politico, Brad E. Bosserman turns 36… Rabbi at Sixth & I, Aaron Potek turns 35… NYC-based politics editor for BuzzFeed News, Matt Berman turns 32… Amital Isaac turns 32… Brad Goldstein turns 28…