👋 Good Thursday morning!
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin handed the mandate to attempt to form the next government to Opposition Leader Yair Lapid yesterday.
Lapid now has 28 days to try and build a government coalition of at least 61 seats. “We need a government that will reflect the fact that we don’t hate one another,” Lapid said following the president’s decision. “A government in which left, right and center will work together.”
Amid mounting frustration over her comments criticizing former President Donald Trump, it appears likely that members of the House GOP will vote again on removing Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from her position as chair of the House Republican Conference.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), a vocal Trump backer, appears to be the most likely candidate to replace Cheney as the third-ranking House Republican, should she be removed from her position.
Talks in Vienna over Iran’s nuclear program have reportedly hit an impasse over the fate of recently installed advanced centrifuges that Iran is using to enrich uranium.
Odessa Kelly stands up in Nashville
Justice Democrats launched an early warning shot into Middle Tennessee last month when the group backed Nashville activist Odessa Kelly in her bid to unseat a House Democrat with deep establishment ties. As the first primary challenger of the 2022 cycle to have earned an endorsement from Justice Democrats, Kelly is hoping one of the nation’s leading progressive groups will lend some initial momentum to her fledgling campaign. “I didn’t want to be one of those people that was just running to get their name out there and have a moral victory,” Kelly, 39, told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent interview. “I want to win this race.”
Promising start: So far, Kelly’s decision to jump in well ahead of next year’s August primary seems to have paid off, at least financially. Within 36 hours of announcing her candidacy, the nonprofit leader and former civil servant reported that she had raised more than $100,000 for her insurgent campaign to take down Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat whose legislative record is in many ways anathema to the party’s far-left flank.
Tough fight: Kelly is nevertheless in for a tough fight. Cooper — who has held his current seat since 2003 and previously served in Congress from 1983 to 1995 — remains a fixture in the district and throughout Tennessee. His late father, Prentice, was the state’s governor, and his brother, John, is the mayor of Nashville. Cooper, for his part, welcomed Kelly’s challenge. “Competition is good,” he told JI in a statement. “During the last election six months ago, I got a record 250,000 votes and I am grateful for the support of the community.”
Conditioning aid: Kellybelieves the United States should condition aid to Israel — a view held by two other progressive challengers who have earned endorsements from Justice Democrats this year. “I would be in favor of conditioning aid for the reason that I believe that no U.S. dollars should go toward infringing on anyone’s human rights,” she said, without going into specifics. “That’s anywhere that U.S. dollars are going, not just in Israel but Saudi Arabia and other places as well.” Kelly added that she is in favor of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and would like to visit Israel.
Farrakhan: Shortly after she announced her candidacy, Fox News, having combed through Kelly’s old social media posts, dug up a potentially damaging finding: that she had attended a speech by Louis Farrakhan, the antisemitic Nation of Islam leader. “Currently @ Jefferson St. Baptist Church, waiting to hear Louis Farrakhan speak,” Kelly wrote in an April 2012 Facebook post that is no longer publicly available. But Kelly says she has no affinity for Farrakhan, noting that she was unaware he would be speaking at a church rally she attended in April 2012. She had assumed the event was for Trayvon Martin, but “the next thing I know, Farrakhan is crossing my path,” Kelly recalled. “I’ve learned about a lot of the antisemitic things that he’s saying, and I in no way condone that whatsoever. As a gay woman, he [goes] hard on gay people 24/7. So I understand how people have sensitivity there.”
women who lead
Natsec expert Jenna Ben-Yehuda was shaped by her Jewish upbringing
As the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor, Jenna Ben-Yehuda understood from a young age that U.S. policy is more than just a bill signed by a president — and that even the most arcane, bureaucratic components of American policy have the ability to change people’s lives, for better or for worse. “I knew there was a pretty strong dotted line between decisions that somebody at a port of entry at Ellis Island had made about whether or not to let in my grandfather, and my being here,” she told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutchin a recent interview.
Worldview: After 12 years at the State Department, Ben-Yehuda is now the CEO and president of the Truman National Security Project, a think tank and membership organization that has helped cultivate a generation of Democratic foreign policy leaders. Its members are heavily represented in the Biden administration, with officials including National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg among Truman’s alumni. Truman was founded in the early days of the Iraq War. At the time, “voters did not trust Democrats and progressives to keep the country safe, and that was a very wrongheaded view,” said Matthew Spence, who co-founded Truman in 2004 and later served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy in the Obama administration. Ben-Yehuda, who joined Truman in 2019, was wary of using the word “progressive” to define her organization, but acknowledged that its worldview in support of international institutions and diplomacy now means “it’s mostly Democrats who are aligned with us. I hope we can get to a place where that shifts over time.”
Guns down: Ben-Yehuda knew she was not interested in a desk job in Foggy Bottom. “I flew around in Blackhawk helicopters, surveying flood damage, doing border assessments,” she said of her work in the Western Hemisphere bureau while at the State Department. “I remember sitting with a group of gang leaders in Haiti, in their armed compound, and seeing myself — surrounded by a group of gang leaders, and all of them showing visible weapons — and trying to help negotiate, effectively, a ceasefire.”
Day care lottery: As Ben-Yehuda moved up the State Department’s ranks, she began to observe some troubling personnel disparities. “I saw, at the entry level, it was pretty 50/50 male/female,” she observed, but “the senior leadership is so heavily male-dominated.” When she got pregnant — she now has three children — she began to understand in a personal way what gender-based discrimination looked like in the government. “When my oldest, who’s almost 14 now, was born, there were eight infant beds at the onsite childcare facility in a building that housed over 20,000 people. I think I called my mother and told her I was pregnant, and my second call was to the childcare facility to get my name on a waitlist,” Ben-Yehuda remembered. That sparked a realization: “Oh, this is actually not a place that is built to support women.” At Truman, Ben-Yehuda tries to bring a sense of equity and accountability to the think tank world, which skews heavily male. “I’m somewhat used to being one of the few women in a particular room, but I feel a tremendous responsibility to change that and to bring people up behind me.”
Josh Mandel fundraiser next week to feature high-profile roster
Josh Mandel, a Republican Senate candidate in Ohio, is holding a high-profile virtual fundraising event on Monday alongside several pro-Israel heavyweights including former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, billed as a “special guest” on the invitation for the May 10 event. “Josh is a proud American, Marine, Jew and Zionist,” Scott Guthrie, a spokesman for Mandel, told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. “He is grateful to have the support of so many American patriots who have fought for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. He also feels blessed to have evangelical Christian Zionists across Ohio supporting his campaign for U.S. Senate.”
Gaining traction? The fundraiser suggests that Mandel is likely to receive some significant support from prominent members of the pro-Israel community as he struggles to gain traction in the crowded field of candidates vying to succeed outgoing moderate Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). Former GOP state party chair Jane Timken, tech executive Bernie Moreno and businessman Mike Gibbons have entered the race in recent months, and more are expected to join as election season heats up.
⛓️ Unchained: Vogue writer Liana Satenstein highlights the growing number of Orthodox Jewish women who are turning to social media in order to raise awareness and pressure on men who refuse to grant their wives a divorce writ, known as a get. “If I don’t use my platform for this, what good is it for?” said Instagram influencer and singer Dalia Oziel. [Vogue]
🗞️ Help Wanted: Guardian editor Julian Borgen explores the surge of classified ads placed in The Guardian in the late 1930s by desperate parents seeking British families to provide their children with safe harbor from the Nazis — including one placed by his grandfather. “I seek a kind person who will educate my intelligent Boy, aged 11, Viennese of good family,” read the ad placed by Borgen’s grandparents. [Guardian]
🏢 Back at It: Bloomberg’s Yaacov Benmeleh lays out how the post-pandemic return to office life in Israel can serve as a model for the rest of the world as COVID vaccine rates are catching up. “There’s a huge bounce back,” said Dotan Weiner, COO at the co-working firm Labs. “Companies are telling us that without the office, it’s harder to recruit and maintain their culture.” [Bloomberg]
Around the Web
💥 High Tensions: An Israeli teen wounded in a shooting attack in the West Bank on Sunday succumbed to his wounds last night, as IDF forces apprehended the Palestinian terror suspect. A Palestinian teen was killed in clashes with IDF troops last night near Nablus.
⚖️ Court Clash: An ongoing court case about an Israeli-Palestinian land dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem is spurring ongoing clashes with police in the city.
⚠️ Warning: In his first public comments in seven years, Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif said Israel would pay a “heavy price” if it evicts Palestinians living in East Jerusalem.
🕊️ Interlocutor: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said yesterday that Moscow is ready to facilitate direct peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis.
🇸🇦🇮🇷 Behind the Scenes: Saudi and Iranian security officials have reportedly held five secret meetings since January, without U.S. involvement, aimed at ending the nations’ hostilities.
⌚️ Last-Minute Push: Three Jewish Democrats —Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Jerry Nadler (D-NY) — are reportedly pushing the Biden administration to consider former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) for the next ambassador to Israel. Former Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides is considered the leading contender for the role.
💉 Good News: A new study based on data from Israel and Qatar shows that the Pfizer vaccine is more than 95% effective against COVID variants from the U.K. and South Africa.
🍗 On the Shelf: The Israeli start-up Future Meat has slashed its production costs with an eye at introducing lab-grown chicken to the market at a competitive price to real poultry.
🇪🇺 Call to Action: Eight members of the European Parliament urged the EU Commission president to withhold some aid to the Palestinian Authority until it replaces textbooks that encourage violence.
💰 Reward: A $30,000 reward is being offered to anyone with information about the shooting death earlier this week of Ephraim Gordon, an Israeli man visiting family in Baltimore.
🚨 Locked Up: A member of the anti-government Boogaloo Bois group pled guilty to providing property, services and weapons to individuals he believed were members of Hamas.
🗣️ On Record: In conversation with JCRC-NY CEO Michael Miller, freshman Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) defended co-sponsoring a bill seeking to restrict U.S. aid to Israel: “The bill calls for more transparency in terms of how the aid is being used.”
📖 Bible Lesson: House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) related on “The Carlos Watson Show” that his grandmother used the story of Cain and Abel to teach him and his brother to not “let the passions of the moment overwhelm you.”
📘 Side Project: CNN anchor Jake Tapper’s second novel, The Devil May Dance, hits bookshelves next week.
⚾ Sports Blink: Yankees fans and Touro classmates David Taub and Jacob Naghimson taunted the Houston Astros at the team’s first New York game since its cheating scandal was exposed.
📺 Coming Soon: WestEnd Films has acquired international distribution rights for Dismissed, an Israeli comedy series about female IDF soldiers.
✡️ Pushback: “Real Housewives of New York City” star Leah McSweeney defended herself against criticism after revealing on the show this week that she is converting to Judaism.
😋 Feeding Frenzy: D.C. eatery Little Sesame will begin selling its hummus at farmers markets in the area.
🧑🍳 Second Chance: Israeli businessman Issac Yosef has hired two dozen formerly incarcerated people to work at Frena, his kosher bakery in San Francisco.
Song of the Day
Singers Avraham Fried, Eli Gerstner and Baruch Levine released a new song titled “RISE!”
U.S. senator, Richard Shelby (R-AL) turns 87… Senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, Abraham David Sofaer turns 83… Longtime media executive and philanthropist, Gerald M. “Jerry” Levin turns 82… Novelist, playwright, essayist, academic and human rights activist, professor of Latin American studies at Duke University, Vladimiro Ariel Dorfman turns 79… Professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago, Martha Nussbaum turns 74… Israeli theoretical physicist and astrophysicist, Tsvi Piran turns 72… Partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, she was the deputy attorney general of the U.S. from 1994-1997, Jamie S. Gorelick turns 71… Former prime minister of the United Kingdom, he then served as the special envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, Tony Blair turns 68… President emeritus of the Jerusalem College of Technology / Lev Academic Center, Noah Dana-Picard turns 67… Director of the Jewish studies program and professor of English, both at Northeastern University, Lori Hope Lefkovitz turns 65… Vice chairman and co-founder of Boston-based HighVista Strategies following 23 years at Goldman Sachs, Daniel Jick turns 64… President and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America, Eric David Fingerhut turns 62… Chair of the Community Relations Committee of Greater MetroWest NJ and chair of Livingston Celebrates Israel, Sheri Goldberg turns 58… Los Angeles-based attorney, Daniel Todd Gryczman turns 46… Los Angeles-based television personality and actress, Shira Lazar turns 38… Conductor, pianist, clarinetist, and composer, he is currently music director of The Louisville Orchestra and Britt Festival Orchestra, Edward “Teddy” Paul Maxwell Abrams turns 34… Founder at ALC Hospitality, Alyse Cohen turns 33… VP at DC-based Sovereign Infrastructure Group, Benjamin Levine turns 31… Associate at Courtside Ventures, Oliver Ressler… Chief communications officer and head of investor relations at aMoon, Brachie Sprung…