👋 Good Friday morning!
Search and rescue efforts continued throughout the night in Surfside, Fla., looking for survivors among the wreckage of the Champlain Towers building collapse, in which at least four fatalities have been confirmed. Ninety-nine people remain unaccounted for. Surfside has a large Jewish population, and a number of the residents of the partially collapsed condo complex were members of the town’s Jewish community.
Area residents flooded The Shul Jewish Community Center in nearby Bal Harbour — where some of those missing were a regular presence — with donations and food. The Shul ran out of space to store donations by Thursday evening and has since set up a relief fund to aid victims and their families.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will meet with Jewish communal leaders in New York on Sunday for a farewell event hosted by Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and U.N. Gilad Erdan, according to an invitation obtained by Jewish Insider. Rivlin is expected to arrive in New York Sunday morning, and will travel to Washington for a meeting on Monday with President Joe Biden at the White House.
Spokespeople for multiple members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee told Jewish Insider that their offices were not aware that Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-NY) is planning a committee delegation to Israel next month until contacted about it by JI.
No members have confirmed their participation to JI. Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) will be going on a separate trip in August for first-term members organized by the AIPAC-affiliated American Israel Education Foundation, a spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) told JI “he has a conflict” the week of the committee trip. Meeks told JI on Wednesday the trip dates have not been set.
on the hill
Senate Foreign Relations Committee advances Arab-Israeli normalization bill
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on Thursday to advance the bipartisan Israel Relations Normalization Act, a broadly popular bill, originally sponsored by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Todd Young (R-IN) and James Risch (R-ID), that seeks to strengthen and expand last year’s agreements between Israel and a number of Arab nations, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod. The legislation, which passed the committee by voice vote, has 56 total sponsors, making it likely to pass the Senate. Despite the bill’s broad support, Thursday’s meeting turned acrimonious over a pair of amendments introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
Two-state or not two-state: One of Cruz’s amendments would have removed a line from the bill stating that U.S. policy is to support a negotiated two-state solution, which was added after Cruz signed onto the bill. The Texas senator argued that it is not Washington’s place to dictate what sort of peace agreement Israel should reach. “My view is we may well see a two-state solution, but it is not America’s place to arrogantly lecture Israel that that has to be the resolution,” Cruz said before the vote. The amendment failed by a 19-3 vote, with Cruz and Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Hagerty (R-TN) voting in favor.
Face off: Debate on the amendment devolved into a shouting match between Cruz and Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who accused Cruz of “blackening” the committee’s bipartisan history by “turning the committee’s business for a political purpose,” speculating that the Texas senator was acting to advance his “presidential aspirations.” He also pointed to Cruz’s move to delay votes on all of the career nominees on the committee’s agenda.
Cut off: Cruz and Hagerty also introduced amendments seeking to block aid to the Palestinian Authority until it stops its “pay-to-slay” payments to families of individuals involved in acts of terrorism against Israelis. Cruz accused the Biden administration of attempting to circumvent the Taylor Force Act, which blocks most aid to the Palestinian Authority as long as it continues the payments. Risch, the ranking member, argued in support of the amendments, saying that, despite existing laws, “this money continues to leak for payments to the terrorists.” Both amendments failed along party lines in tied votes.
Fed up: Menendez argued that both amendments were redundant and appeared politically motivated. “It would seem this amendment, like some others, has been drafted for a purpose that is either redundant or an effort to tweet against those that are voting against it. While I don’t have a substantive objection, since this is already the law, there is absolutely no value added… or legitimate purpose, in my view, of the amendment,” Menendez said of Hagerty’s proposed amendment. He added that Cruz’s amendment “is written in such a way that can only be described from my view as a partisan ‘gotcha’ attempt to come away with some sort of statement that those who vote against it are voting against the Taylor Force Act or its requirements. Personally I’ve had enough of that.”
Backing out: Cruz, originally a cosponsor of the bill, pulled his sponsorship after his proposed amendments failed. He was also the only committee member to request to be recorded as voting no on the bill.
Behind the scenes: Later in the meeting, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) expressed concerns about the methods through which the Abraham Accords were negotiated, pointing to decisions such as recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara and the sale of F-35s and Reaper drones to the United Arab Emirates that were not officially part of the agreements but appear linked to them. “It’s pretty clear that commitments were made by the United States that this committee in particular and Congress did not get a chance to review,” Murphy said.
Elsewhere: A group of 73 House Democrats, backed by J Street, sent a letter urging President Joe Biden to roll back the Trump administration’s Israel policies and take a harder line with the Jewish state, including “[ensuring] that all relevant official U.S. documents and communications once again consistently refer to the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as occupied” and withdrawing the Trump administration’s peace plan, which the letter says “paved the way for possible unilateral annexation of territory.”
The politically lonely progressive Zionists
As rockets flew between Israel and Gaza last month, American Jews watched with alarm as anti-Israel rhetoric became the norm in some left-wing circles. Accusations of Israel’s alleged genocide, ethnic cleansing and apartheid spread widely, even reaching the halls of Congress. “It’s become a very common experience for rabbis, and Jews of really any kind who lean to the left progressively, to find, at the very least, difficulties in progressive circles with the love for Israel,” Rabbi Menachem Creditor, the Pearl and Ira Meyer Scholar-in-Residence at UJA-Federation of New York who recently released a book of essays about progressive Jewish Zionism, toldJewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch.
In it together: The idea behind Fault Lines: Exploring the Complicated Place of Progressive American Jewish Zionism, which Creditor edited alongside Zionness Executive Director Amanda Berman, was to allow members of the Jewish community to grapple, collectively, with the increasing difficulty of being a Zionist in progressive spaces. “Why should people continue to feel lonely when it’s a very obvious problem?” Creditor asked.
Details: The book contains four dozen essays, half of which are original; the rest were reprinted from other publications or taken from speeches or sermons given by the book’s contributors over the past couple of years. Writers include rabbis, journalists, nonprofit professionals and activists; organizations represented include the American Jewish Committee, the National Council of Jewish Women and the pro-Israel LGBTQ organization A Wider Bridge, along with major Reform and Conservative congregations around the country. “The presumption from anti-Zionists in the progressive world is that you cannot be a good person and love Israel, and that’s just wrong,” Creditor told Jewish Insider.
Here we are: While Creditor hopes the book might inspire progressive politicians to engage in dialogue on these topics, his desired audience is the Jewish community. “I want to support those who are showing up with courage as Zionists in progressive spaces, for them to feel the camaraderie and community of those who are experiencing similar struggles,” said Creditor. He also wants to remind right-leaning pro-Israel advocates that progressives — including those who might criticize, but deeply love, the Jewish state — are, in fact, Zionists. “Certain conservative Zionist circles typically judge progressive Zionists as naive or disloyal. Those are the same arguments, the same aspersions that progressive Zionists receive from progressive circles.”
phone a friend
Chuck Schumer called Yair Lapid to offer congratulations
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke with Israel’s new foreign minister, Yair Lapid, in a phone conversation on Thursday afternoon that touched on strengthening Israel’s relationship with Democrats, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports. During a short break off the Senate floor, Schumer called Lapid, the leader of Israel’s Yesh Atid Party, to congratulate him on successfully forming a new unity government earlier this month, according to Schumer’s press secretary.
The talk: The Senate majority leader said he looked forward to strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship and told Lapid that he appreciated the foreign minister’s public comments about bolstering Israel’s rapport with Democrats following recent violence between Israel and Hamas that has divided Democrats in the House and Senate, according to the press secretary, Angelo Roefaro. Schumer and Lapid also spoke about the importance of bipartisan support for Israel among Democrats and Republicans.
Democratic outreach: The call comes on the heels of a recent conversation between Lapid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who, in a phone conversation on Tuesday, also discussed continuing a bipartisan consensus on Israel. Secretary of State Tony Blinken is scheduled to meet with Lapid in Rome on Sunday.
🎓 Campus Beat: In The New York Times, Matthew Bronfman, chair of Hillel’s international board of governors, describes the antisemitism — ranging from verbal harassment to physical assault — faced by Jewish college students, and suggests how university administrators address the growing issue. “Over the past year, college students on many campuses have rallied to support different communities facing bias and discrimination, or to protest hate. But now as Jews — who have our own long history of discrimination, violence and oppression — face attacks, it is being met largely by silence.” [NYTimes]
📘 Pretty Cover: Jessica Testa reviews fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff’s new book Fearless in The New York Times, where Minkoff discusses entrepreneurship, burnout and her parallel practices of Judaism and Scientology. “‘I think there’s a lot of confusion when people hear the word ‘religion’ — immediately you hear that I pray to L. Ron Hubbard,’ she said, [referring to the controversial founder of Scientology.] ‘I study it, I take classes and that’s the extent of it, and it’s helped me stay centered. I don’t have all the answers. When I needed someone, it was a place for me to go get some answers.’” [NYTimes]
🎸Cancel Culture: In a Medium post, Mumford & Sons banjo player Winston Marshall announced he is leaving the band in order to express his opinions without his bandmates experiencing the social media fallout, after being attacked earlier this year after expressing support for a book that denounced far-left extremism. “Thirteen members of my family were murdered in the concentration camps of the Holocaust. My Grandma, unlike her cousins, aunts and uncles, survived. She and I were close. My family knows the evils of fascism painfully well. To say the least. To call me ‘fascist’ was ludicrous beyond belief.” [Medium]
Around the Web
🇴🇲 High Hopes: Omani Foreign Minister Badr al-Busaidi told Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid that he hopes that the new government led by Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett would take steps to create an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
⛺ Test Case: A new settlement in the West Bank is providing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who had traditionally backed the settler movement but now sits atop a coalition with a broad range of ideological partners, with his first big test in office.
🇭🇳 Capital Move: Honduras became the fourth country to open an embassy in Jerusalem.
🇵🇱🇮🇱 Row: Poland’s lower house of parliament approved a bill last night imposing time limits on restitution claims, prompting Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to respond that the bill is a “direct and painful violation of the rights of Holocaust survivors and their descendants” and that Poland was making a “serious mistake.”
⛏️ Big Dig: Israeli scientists have identified bone fragments found in Nesher Ramla in 2010 as belonging to a prehistoric group closely related to Neanderthals that lived in the region 120,000 years ago.
💰 From Des Moines to Manhattan: A number of potential 2024 GOP presidential hopefuls, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Gov. Ron DeSantis, have or will soon be traveling to New York to meet with top-dollar party donors.
👩 Nominees: President Joe Biden announced the nominations of Bathsheba Nell Crocker to be the ambassador-rank representative to the Office of the United Nations in Geneva and Jessica Stern to be State Department special envoy to advance the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons.
📺 Content is King: Comcast Corp. CEO Brian Roberts is navigating how to transform the cable provider into a content creator.
🎼 Enduring Hits: Pershing Square leader Bill Ackman is bullish on the music industry, and just acquired 10% of Universal Music Group for $4 billion.
📞 Seat at the Table: CEO of BlackRock Laurence Fink was in frequent contact with former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell as the pandemic struck last year, as the latter two consulted him concerning the announcement of the Fed’s emergency rescue programs.
🏢 New Landlords: Jordan Slone-led Harbor Group and Rubin Schron’s Cammeby’s International are teaming up to buy a portfolio of 5,300 apartment units for $1 billion in one of New Jersey’s biggest apartment deals in recent years.
🏃♀️ Looking Good: Los Angeles-based athlete and dancer Liana Levi has quickly become the go-to Pilates instructor for celebrities and models.
🎉 Big Day: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared June 24, 2021, as Michael Miller Day, after the outgoing Jewish Community Relations Council of New York Executive Vice President and CEO Rabbi Michael Miller.
Wine of the Week
“My erstwhile publisher, a great friend with a decent palate, gifted me a surprising wine that I consumed with my dear friend Abdulrachman, an interesting man with a newfound palate for kosher wine. The Anna Muscat is spiritual and requires at least five of our six senses to truly appreciate.
“The Anna Muscat is syrupy. It coats your tongue with a sweet, viscous nectarine-and-marmalade film. Tart green apple manages to poke holes through the glaze, a reprieve in the mid-palate. The finish tastes like the lazy comfort of basking in your backyard’s sunlight. This wine has been aged for eight years and at 18% alcohol deserves to be sipped with vanilla crème brûlée and apple tart. I rarely use my position as the writer of this column to gain access to large quantities of inventory, but for this wine I broke my rules.”
Pic of the Day
Secretary of State Tony Blinken speaks with 99-year-old author and Holocaust survivor Margot Friedländer during a visit, yesterday, to the Holocaust memorial in Berlin. “You’ve done a remarkable thing with your first 100 years, we’ll wait for the next 100 years to see what you do next,” Blinken told Friedländer.
Co-founder of Taglit Birthright, the first chairman of the United Jewish Communities, owner of MLB’s Montreal Expos, Charles Bronfman turns 90 on Sunday…
FRIDAY: New Jersey-based criminal defense attorney, Miles Feinstein turns 80… Music publicist in the 1970s and 1980s for Prince, Billy Joel and Styx, later an author on human behavior, Howard Bloom turns 78… Founder and CEO of Bel Air Partners, a financial advisory firm for automotive retailers, Sheldon J. Sandler turns 77… Real estate developer and founder of The Continuum Company, Ian Bruce Eichner turns 76… Lake Worth, Fla., resident, Joseph C. Goldberg turns 76… Woodland Hills, Calif.-based mentor, coach and consultant for business executives through Vistage International, Gary Brennglass turns 69… Chairman and CEO of Chicago-based investment firm, Henry Crown and Company, he is a director of JPMorgan Chase and General Dynamics and the managing partner of the Aspen Skiing Company, James Crown turns 68… Member of the Knesset for the Meretz party, Michal Rozin turns 52… Founder and CEO of The Agency real estate brokerage, Mauricio Umansky turns 51… Long-time CEO of the Boston-based Achievement Network, co-founder and board chair of the Eli J. Segal Citizen Leadership Program, Mora Segal turns 48… Senior reporter at eJewishPhilanthropy, Helen Chernikoff… Founder and director of The Biblical Museum of Natural History in Beit Shemesh, Natan Slifkin turns 46… Television presenter, Michele Merkin turns 46… Foreign affairs officer and congressional advisor at the U.S. State Department, Zachary Silberman turns 36… Manager of strategic content at Leidos, Isaac Snyder turns 34… Avital Mintz-Morgenthau turns 29… Center-fielder in the San Francisco Giants organization, he was the 10th overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft, Hunter David Bishop turns 23… Producer and reporter covering the White House for CNN, Betsy Klein…
SATURDAY: Former British Labour party member of Parliament for 42 years, David Winnick turns 88… Partner in the law firm BakerHostetler, known for his recovery of funds from the Madoff investment scandal, Irving H. Picard turns 80… Independent insurance agent, David Marks turns 75… Retired co-host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Robert Siegel turns 74… Rabbi of Congregation Chaverim in Tucson, Arizona, Stephanie Aaron turns 69… Founder of Grover Strategies and former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Alan Solow turns 67… Managing director of Emerging Star Capital and CEO of Transclick, Robert E. Levin turns 66… CEO of ZMC, he was previously chairman of CBS and CEO of 20th Century Fox, Strauss Zelnick turns 64… Professor of psychology at Loyola University Maryland, Amy Ruth Wolfson, Ph.D. turns 61… Was once one of the wealthiest Russian oligarchs, then a prisoner in Russia and now living in London, Mikhail Khodorkovsky turns 58… Novelist and journalist, most notably as the author of the Magicians trilogy, Lev Grossman… and his twin brother, author and video game designer, Austin Grossman both turn 52… Author and Dean of Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business, Noam T. Wasserman turns 52… President and founder of Reut Group, a Tel Aviv-based think tank, Gidi Grinstein turns 51… Political commentator and talk show host, Dave Rubin turns 45… SVP of strategy and communications at Teneo, Ross Feinstein turns 39… Associate in Mayer Brown’s D.C. office, Michael “Mickey” Leibner turns 33… Executive director at American Friends of Nishmat and manager of Tablet Studios, Sara Fredman Aeder turns 32… Consultant at Boston Consulting Group, Asher J. Mayerson turns 28…
SUNDAY: Brooklyn resident, Meyer Roth turns 80… Former member of the Pennsylvania legislature: lower house and Senate, daughter of Leon Hess, Constance H. “Connie” Williams turns 77… Former commander of the Israeli Navy, head of the Shin Bet and member of Knesset, Amihai “Ami” Ayalon turns 76… New Jersey resident, Kenneth R. Blankfein turns 65… Democratic member of the Florida legislature: House of Representatives (10-18) and Senate (since ’18), Lori Berman turns 63… Managing director at Osprey Foundation, Louis Boorstin… and his twin brother, SVP at Albright Stonebridge Group, Robert O. Boorstin both turn 62… British historian, television presenter and award-winning author, he is a great-great-nephew of Sir Moses Montefiore, Simon Sebag Montefiore turns 56… Woodland Hills, California-based accountant, Susan M. Feldman turns 56… Creator of multiple TV series including “Felicity,” “Alias,” “Lost” and “Fringe,” and film director, Jeffrey Jacob “J.J.” Abrams turns 55… Gordon Gerstein turns 49… Reporter for The New York Times on the climate desk, she and her husband own a pizzeria and bakery in D.C., Lisa Friedman turns 49… Former member of the Knesset for the United Torah Judaism alliance, Yoel Yaakov Tessler turns 48… Director of the Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute, Ilya Shapiro turns 44… Communications director for Michelle Obama, in July she will become director of stakeholder advocacy at Ford Motor, Caroline Elisabeth Adler Morales turns 39… Executive talent partner at Greylock Partners, Holly Rose Faith turns 36… Associate with Eurasia Group’s global macro practice, Charles Dunst turns 25… Managing partner of Cavazos Partners, Dalia Deydra Cavazos…