👋 Good Thursday morning!
New York City mayoral candidates Kathryn Garcia, Scott Stringer, Maya Wiley and Andrew Yang will take part in a final Democratic debate tonight, two days ahead of the start of early voting. Eric Adams, one of the frontrunners in the crowded primary, will not participate, and has said he will be spending the evening with the family of a victim of recent gun violence.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is testifying this morning in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Biden administration’s 2022 budget.
Two Palestinian intelligence officials were killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Jenin early this morning. The Israeli forces were conducting an operation against Islamic Jihad terrorists when fire was mistakenly exchanged with the Palestinian Authority officers. One of the Islamic Jihad militants was also killed.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Israeli media, acknowledging for the first time that last year’s F-35 sale to the UAE was “deeply connected” to the Abraham Accords, as was the U.S.’s 2020 targeted killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. In a rare carryover of policy, according to the AP, the Biden administration is preparing to extend the Abraham Accords to additional Arab countries.
Yossi Cohen, the recently departed head of the Mossad, criticized U.S. policy towards China as incoherent during a speech earlier this week, adding that China has been friendly to Israel. This echoes similar sentiments from a number of Gulf countries and comes as Cohen is rumored to be joining former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s investment fund focused on the Gulf.
on the hill
Jewish House Dems slam Omar’s comments equating U.S., Israel to Hamas, Taliban
A group of twelve Jewish House Democrats condemned Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) late Wednesday night for comments on Monday that appeared to liken wartime actions by the U.S. and Israel to terrorist activities of Hamas and the Taliban, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Background: In a tweet on Monday about the status of the International Criminal Court’s probes of the U.S. and Israel, Omar wrote, “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban,” and argued that the U.S. and Israeli justice systems were either unwilling or unable to address these issues. The tweet included a video of the congresswoman questioning Secretary of State Tony Blinken earlier that day.
Firing back: Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Kim Schrier (D-WA), Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) responded in a joint statement Wednesday night. “Equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided. Ignoring the differences between democracies governed by the rule of law and contemptible organizations that engage in terrorism at best discredits one’s intended argument and at worst reflects deep-seated prejudice,” the statement reads. “The United States and Israel are imperfect and, like all democracies, at times deserving of critique, but false equivalencies give cover to terrorist groups. We urge Congresswoman Omar to clarify her words placing the U.S. and Israel in the same category as Hamas and the Taliban.”
Stronger language: Earlier Wednesday, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) issued a separate statement condemning Omar’s remarks in more strident terms, because he “wanted to express himself now” before the joint statement was complete, spokesperson Arya Ansari told JI. “It’s not news that Ilhan Omar would make outrageous and clearly false statements about America and Israel,” Sherman said. “What’s newsworthy is that she admits Hamas is guilty of ‘unthinkable atrocities.’ It’s time for all of Israel’s detractors to condemn Hamas. And it’s time for all those of good will to reject any moral equivalency between the U.S. and Israel on one hand, and Hamas and the Taliban on the other.”
Responding: Omar spokesperson Jeremy Slevin said that Omar was only seeking information about the processes available for adjudicating the accusations against the parties she listed. “As usual, the far right is ginning up hate against Rep. Omar for a technical question about an ongoing investigation,” Slevin told JI. “It is the congresswoman’s role as a member of Congress conducting federal oversight to follow the facts, ask questions of the Administration and work to make sure the public understands our government shouldn’t deny any person from seeking justice.”
Silicon Valley speaks out against antisemitism
A growing number of prominent tech and business executives are signing on to a statement denouncing antisemitism amid a recent uptick in hate crimes against Jews around the country, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports. The letter, which has been circulating Silicon Valley this week, had racked up signatures from more than 150 industry leaders as of Wednesday afternoon, including Thrive Global CEO Arianna Huffington, ViacomCBS chair Shari Redstone and former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo.
‘Collective responsibility’: “As business leaders, we have a collective responsibility to stand up for the society we want,” the letter reads. “Today, we stand against antisemitism and violence against Jews. This is true regardless of your views on Israel; this is about protecting people from the injustice of antisemitism and hatred.”
Origin story: The statement’s author, Jordana Stein, founder and CEO of Enrich, a peer learning company in San Francisco, said she was motivated to speak out while witnessing a surge in antisemitic attacks across the United States and Europe following the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas. “The point here is to make a statement and to show that these flares of violence and attacks don’t go unnoticed,” Stein, who is Jewish, said in an interview with JI. “That there’s a meaningful majority that cares about this issue.”
Help from Bahat: Roy Bahat, a venture capitalist who runs Bloomberg Beta, helped craft the letter before signing his name and distributing it among tech leaders. “Jews should stand against all hate. Jews in the U.S. have so much privilege, but not the privilege to be immune from hate directed at us,” Bahat told JI. “In the tech industry, we build the services that connect, employ and entertain us, so we have an even more solemn responsibility to stand against all forms of hate, including the long-lasting and now-flaring antisemitism here in our country.”
Beyond tech: Other signatories include Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, the co-founders of Warby Parker; Mark Pincus, the founder of Zynga; Arlan Hamilton, the founder of Backstage Capital; and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the actor and CEO of HitRecord. As the letter gains traction, Stein hopes it will reverberate beyond the tech community. “Antisemitism is an insidious form of discrimination in that it can be below the surface,” she said, “which is why I think it’s important, when it bubbles above the surface, to be called out.”
Bipartisan Senate letter expresses support for 2022 missile-defense aid to Israel
In the wake of the recent war between Hamas and Israel in Gaza, and as Congress begins to debate the 2022 federal budget, 38 senators voiced bipartisan support for providing Israel with $500 million in funding for the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow 3 missile-defense programs, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod. Under the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Israel — which was codified into law last year — the U.S. is required to provide this aid annually for cooperative missile-defense programs, on top of an additional $3.3 billion in military aid.
Signed, sealed, delivered: The senators, led by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Mike Rounds (R-SD), voiced their support for the $500 million appropriation in a letter to Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Richard Shelby (R-AL). Tester chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, and Shelby is the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee. “Not only does this critical funding help Israel defend itself and save lives, but it also strengthens U.S. national security, aiding research and development,” Gillibrand said in a statement.
On repeat: Gillibrand and Rounds — both members of the Armed Services Committee — have been longtime leaders in advocating for cooperative missile-defense programs, having led similar letters several times in the past. “The advancements we have been able to make in this cooperative effort will benefit our defense capabilities as well as those of our ally Israel,” Rounds said. “This missile defense system has also saved the lives of countless Israeli and Palestinian citizens living in Israel. It is important that we continue to authorize and fund these systems.”
Background: The letter comes as Israel is reportedly requesting an additional $1 billion in funding to resupply Iron Dome, which was used to intercept many of the nearly 3,500 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza in May. The letter describes joint missile-defense programs as “foundational to the defense of Israel since the 1980s,” and emphasizes that they have not only saved lives but also created data to support U.S. missile-defense technology and supported the U.S. economy. The senators also express support for U.S.-Israeli cooperation on efforts to counter hostile drones.
Praying at Babyn Yar
When the architect Manuel Herz was asked to design a prayer space on the grounds of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (BYHMC), which is located on and around the site of the ravine in Kyiv where Nazis shot about 100,000 people, including 34,000 Jews, over two days in 1941, he was deeply honored. He knew the architectural history of Holocaust memorials, which tend to be monolithic, minimalist and sober, and he also knew that he did not want to create a synagogue in that style. “The crime was so monumental that no monumental architecture can match the crime,” he told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Helen Chernikoffin a recent interview.
Memorial: Herz’s determination to depart from the canon of memorial architecture complements the mission of the center itself, which is dedicated to telling a part of the Holocaust story that it is still new to many people — that of the “the Holocaust of bullets” — the killing of 2.5 million people in Eastern Europe who weren’t transported to concentration camps, but instead murdered near their homes, said BYHMC’s deputy CEO, Ruslan Kavatsiuk. “Babyn Yar is the biggest symbol of this story,” Kavatsiuk said. “How do you tell it? There are no artifacts. This is something that has been in the shadows.” Instead, he built a “book.” The wooden structure — which isn’t technically a synagogue according to Jewish law, although it looks and functions as one — opens and closes like a child’s pop-up book, which in this context struck Herz as “radical and profound.”
Marking the spot: The idea of a synagogue came from philanthropists — many of them Russian and Ukranian — who support the foundation, a group that includes Mikhail Fridman, Pavel Fuks, Ronald Lauder and Victor Pinchuk, said Rabbi Yaakov Bleich, an American who moved to Kyiv in 1989 to help rebuild the Jewish community and now serves as chief rabbi of Ukraine. Local memory of Babyn Yar as the site of a mass grave was further hampered by Soviet efforts to destroy the evidence, such as the decision to fill the ravine with slurry from nearby brick factories. In 1961, a dam failed, and the resulting flood killed at least 145 people. Authorities turned the area into a park the next year, and much of it is still used that way by pleasure seekers who patronize a shooting range and hold cookouts, Kavatsiuk said.
Remembering: Bleich is planning to hold at least part of the Yom Kippur service there; those who want to participate will make the hour walk from Kyiv. It’s important, he said, because it’s the tradition in his congregation that the entire community says Kaddish, the mourner’s prayer, on Yom Kippur. When Bleich first came to Ukraine, he thought this custom was a little strange, until he realized that it probably originated because the first massacre at Babyn Yar happened on Yom Kippur. Everybody in the surviving congregation had lost at least one person that day, which meant they all needed to say the mourner’s prayer, Bleich said. The congregation maintained its custom with his blessing, and when they chant the prayer in the fragile, open book that is Herz’s chapel, it will be an amazing moment, he said.
👩🏻 The Senator from Nevada: The Washington Post’s Jacqueline Alemany profiles Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a former synagogue president and now a top ally of Democratic Senate leadership — and a strong proponent of bipartisanship — who has brought the concept of tikkun olam to Capitol Hill. “The drive to ‘take care of your corner of the world,’ as Rosen describes it, is consistent with her insistence on legislating with any member on either side of the aisle — even as partisan rancor has further clouded Capitol Hill relations since the Jan. 6 insurrection.” [WashPost]
🕵 Eulogizing Ethel: Joseph Dorman reviews Anne Sebba’s An American Tragedy for The New York Times. Sebba chronicles the life and sacrifice of Ethel Rosenberg, who was executed in 1953 for allegedly spying for the Soviet Union, along with her husband Julius. “In the end, the book is a plea for Ethel the woman, an attempt to understand who she really was, to free her from the confines of the stock political figure she inevitably became. Because of the dour demeanor she publicly showed, many viewed her not just as an accomplice but also as the calculating mastermind behind the espionage. This was far off the mark. Less so was the portrait of her as a kind of political fanatic.” [NYTimes]
💻 Social Clout: In Los Angeles Magazine, Peter Kiefer explores a new kind of journalist power broker: Yashar Ali, who uses his 800,000-strong Twitter following to promote or punish, while racking up a deep bench of high-profile supporters, from Rabbi David Wolpe to comedian Sarah Silverman. “Yashar has this incredible Twitter feed with several personalities within it,” CNN President Jeff Zucker said. “He’s not just an investigative reporter, he’s not just an animal lover, he’s not just a bon vivant and a man about town—he’s all of those things, and that’s actually what makes him so interesting.” [LAMag]
Around the Web
🚀 Intervention: Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and U.N. Gilad Erdan said that Israel’s strike last month on a Gaza building housing the Associated Press’ office — where the ambassador said Hamas was developing technology to disable the Iron Dome — prevented a situation “where you will have no other choice but to initiate a ground operation.”
🚫🇪🇺 Not Happening: A number of top Israeli officials refused to meet with Sven Koopmans, the European Union’s new envoy for the Middle East, on his recent visit to Jerusalem, citing E.U. foreign policy head Josep Borrell’s response to last month’s conflict with Hamas.
🤳 BibiBook: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attacked J Street in a Facebook post, calling them a “radical left organization” that wants him out of office.
💵 Pay for Slay: Palestinian Authority President President Mahmoud Abbas approved a $42,000 payment to the family of a terrorist who killed two Israelis in 2015, sending a district governor to personally deliver the funds earlier this week.
💗 Technology Partnership: Israeli medical technology Sensible Medical company is partnering with a Dubai distributor to sell heart monitors in the UAE.
🎯 On Target: Israeli arms developer Smart Shooter delivered a new long-range targeting system, which works on 600-meter ranges and automatically performs ballistic calculations, to the U.S. Department of Defense for testing.
📈 Booming Business: Israeli startups have raised $10.5 billion since January, already surpassing last year’s record for funding raised in a single year.
🧠 Brain Injury Battle: Israeli President Reuvin Rivlin urged Britain’s Prince Charles to help transfer a 2-year-old ultra-Orthodox girl suffering from a critical brain injury back to Israel after London’s High Court stated that her care in a British hospital would be withdrawn.
🤝 Campaign Promise: Former Iranian Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati, one of seven presidential candidates running in next week’s election, signaled that he is potentially open to meeting with President Joe Biden.
☢️ Direct Discussions: Saudi Arabia and the UAE are engaging with Tehran to discuss concerns about Iranian aggression, sidestepping meetings in Vienna to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement, which many of the Gulf countries considered flawed.
🛢️ Pump it Up: Iran is planning a quick oil production ramp up, should the U.S. remove sanctions that have kept it pumping below capacity since 2018.
🛥️ Arms Deal: U.S. officials have warned Venezuela not to accept an Iranian shipment of arms, purportedly containing long-range missiles and fast-attack ships.
🚢 Shipped Off: Pro-Palestinian activists rallied outside of a ZIM Integrated Shipping Services facility in Michigan, part of their campaign to boycott the Israeli company in the wake of the recent conflict in Gaza.
📡 Upgrading: French-Israeli billionaire Patrick Drahi has bought a 12% stake valued at $3.1B in BT Group Plc, to back the company’s expansion of its high-speed broadband internet network.
📹 Recording History: Los Angeles-based startup StoryFile, which uses AI technology to archive video interviews, is raising $4 million in its latest round of funding. The technology has been used to record interviews with a range of historical figures, including a number of Holocaust survivors.
💰 Coin Shatters Records: Shoe designer Stuart Weitzman’s 1933 double eagle gold coin was sold for $18.9 million at Sotheby’s — a rare coin that broke auction records.
👩⚖️ Court Dismissed: Judge Judy Sheindlin is laying down her daytime TV gavel, after a remarkable career spanning 25 years and over 12,500 episodes. Sheindlin is expected to move to Amazon’s IMDb TV.
🗳️ On the Campaign Trail: Amber Adler, an Orthodox Jewish candidate for New York City Council, is fighting an uphill battle as a number of the publications in her district refuse to run ads that feature her image.
🧑🏫 Boycotting the Boycotters: A Jewish middle school teacher in California quit the United Teachers Los Angeles this week as the labor union considers adopting a pro-BDS policy. Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education member Nick Melvoin expressed concern that the move, which will be voted on in September, “could inflame antisemitism here in LA and in our schools.”
✋ We’re Back: Startup Grind hosted an event yesterday in Tel Aviv, as the city continues to return to normalcy.
🕯️ Remembering: Stuart Silver, the longtime design director at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, died at age 84.
Pic of the Day
Argentinian tennis player Diego Schwartzman hits a baseline forehand in his Roland Garros quarterfinals match against Rafael Nadal yesterday. Despite losing in a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 four-set thriller, it was the best showing in a year for 28-year-old clay court specialist who had not dropped a set heading into Wednesday’s match.
Belgian singer-songwriter, known as Blanche, Ellie Blanche Delvaux turns 22…
Author of several award-winning books about her experiences before, during and after the Holocaust, Aranka Davidowitz Siegal turns 91… TV journalist and the author of 13 books, Jeff Greenfield turns 78… Physical therapist at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, Andrea Sachs turns 69… Cathy Farbstein Miller turns 64… Strategic communications director at the Generation to Generation program powered by Encore[dot]org, Stefanie “Stef” Weiss turns 63… Former attorney general and then governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer turns 62… President of Pharmore Drugs, Avi H. Goldfeder turns 62… Blogger and columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, Neil Steinberg turns 61… Film, television and stage actress, Gina Gershon turns 59… Actress and the older sister of comedian Sarah Silverman, Laura Silverman turns 55… Israeli actress, Avital Abergel turns 44… Veteran of nine NFL seasons as an offensive tackle, now an athletic coordinator for a high school in Austin, Mike Rosenthal turns 44… Associate VP of strategic partnerships at the Birthright Israel Foundation and director of community education at NYC’s Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, Rabbi Daniel Kraus turns 40… Associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, Yascha Mounk turns 39… Anchorman at Israel’s Channel 10 News, Matan Hodorov turns 36… Editor-in-chief of The Algemeiner, Dovid Efune turns 36… Belgian singer-songwriter, known as Blanche, Ellie Blanche Delvaux turns 22… Executive director of the Encounter Programs, Yona Shem-Tov…