👋 Good Thursday morning!
Overnight in Miami, a 12-story oceanfront condo in the town of Surfside partially collapsed around 2 a.m. Surfside’s mayor confirmed at least one person has died and hundreds of rescuers are on the scene at 88th Street and Collins Avenue.
The Biden administration will reportedly pause negotiations to reenter the nuclear deal with Iran to seek the opinion of the new Israeli government. The decision to delay the next round of talks in Vienna shows a newfound willingness on the part of both the Biden administration and the Bennett-Lapid government to hold bilateral discussions on the Iran deal. Previously, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adamantly opposed such conversations, arguing against giving the imprimatur of legitimacy to any agreement with Iran.
Danielle Pletka, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, expressed skepticism that the talks would bear fruit. “If the Biden administration cared about what Israel thought,” she told JI, “things would have been different from the get-go.”
Secretary of State Tony Blinken will meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Rome on Sunday. The meeting follows IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi’s visit to the U.S. this week, which has included meetings with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. As part of the new collaboration, Israel is expected to send sanctions experts to speak with U.S. negotiators.
Does this mean Israel supports a possible agreement? No, says Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and former deputy foreign minister. “Israel’s willingness to discuss the Iran deal with American officials does not in any way signal Israel’s approval of the deal,” Oren told JI this morning. “On the contrary, the talks enable Israel to explain, once again, why it views the deal as a strategic if not existential, threat to the Jewish state.”
According to sources close to the negotiations, Iran’s public claims in recent weeks that the Biden administration will soon ease sanctions against the regime are unfounded, the Jerusalem Post reported. Yesterday, the Iranian government’s announcement that the U.S. had agreed to lift all oil and shipping sanctions was met with caution from the State Department and European officials involved in the Vienna talks.
An Iranian centrifuge manufacturing site near Karaj was attacked by drone yesterday. Although Iran previously claimed that the sabotage was intercepted, Israeli media reported yesterday evening that significant damage occurred.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo invoked the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing — in which Iranian-backed terrorists bombed a complex housing U.S. military personnel in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 Americans and wounding 372 more — in a new Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizing the Biden administration for negotiating with Iran.
Meeks details plans for committee’s Israel trip
An upcoming congressional delegation to Israel will be an opportunity for legislators to “be focused on support for Israel and its security and at the same time focused on the humanitarian concerns of the Palestinians,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-NY), who is leading the delegation, told Jewish Insider on Wednesday. The trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories will be Meeks’s first as chairman.
Timely: Meeks, who took over the committee in January, cited last month’s war in Gaza, the Abraham Accords and the new Israeli government as having shaped his decision to prioritize traveling to Israel. “To have an opportunity to sit down with this new government in Israel and bring together a bipartisan delegation from the United States Congress… it seems to me to be the right time and the right message to get that done,” Meeks said. “I just think that it’s really important to do.” The group is also planning to meet with Palestinian leadership.
Agenda items: Meeks said he hopes to hear how the U.S. can help keep Israel safe and address Palestinians’ humanitarian concerns. “We’ve got to try to figure out how to move forward with a two-state solution,” Meeks said, adding that he sees the Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several Arab states, as “a window of strong opportunity to have change.”
On the list: Meeks, who represents Queens and parts of Nassau County, said multiple committee members have signed up for the trip, which is set to depart sometime in July, but did not name any of them, saying he’s deferring to the members themselves to announce their plans. No committee members contacted by JI have confirmed participation so far. Two prominent critics of Israel’s policies during the recent conflict — Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Joaquín Castro (D-TX) — are members of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Meeks said he hopes that representatives who oppose some of Israel’s positions will join the delegation. “Hopefully we’re going to have a cross-section of members from all different viewpoints. I think that’s what’s good about our committee,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to be looking to travel with so that everybody can get information and ask questions.”
Read more here.
Middle East on the menu: Meeks, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer and Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking were spotted dining together at D.C.’s Cafe Milano on Tuesday evening. (h/t Playbook)
Islanders national anthem singer Nicole Raviv bridges nationalities and musical genres
As the New York Islanders’ national anthem singer, Nicole Raviv was used to the spotlight when she took the stage on June 9 ahead of a playoff game against the Boston Bruins. What she wasn’t prepared for, however, was a technical glitch that cut her microphone, resulting in an arena-wide singalong that quickly went viral. After a year in which Raviv had largely sung to an empty arena due to COVID-19 restrictions, the moment was heartwarming. “I think at this point, it’s become a lot more intimate with these [fans] and less distant. This is a crowd, this is a performance… and more of like a collective environment,” she told Jewish Insider’s Madeline Solomon in a recent conversation.
Next stop: The evening was very special for Raviv as the team’s national anthem singer, a job she first took on in 2019. She will soon to head to Israel — where her parents grew up — for the hockey off-season and plans to travel back and forth to North America. It is the next natural step for Raviv, who was born and raised in Montreal with her three siblings after her parents relocated to Canada. For years she has seamlessly woven her personal identity and her creative expression as a musician who moves between languages, cultures and genres. “Hebrew is the first language I was taught at home. My father used to sing with me from a very young age and taught me my first melodies,” Raviv told JI. “I always felt a connection to the Hebrew language. I’m always asked to sing in Hebrew for Jewish events in America. When I’m on stage in Tel Aviv, I’ll throw in a few Hebrew cover songs, of course.”
Background: Raviv seemed destined for an international musical career. Her mother, a child of Holocaust survivors who was born in Romania, and her father, who was born in Morocco — both actors — met while on stage performing in Israel. When she was 18, she moved from Montreal to New York to study musical theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and at The New School, where she received a bachelor’s degree, and never left the city. “New York was always the place I wanted to go to,” Raviv said. “Because I think the opportunities were best for my industry — and for every industry.”
Discography: “Angel,” released last year as a tribute to her late grandfather, a Holocaust survivor who passed away in 2018, was her first official bilingual song. The music video is a mixed-media compilation of home movies and vintage clips of Israel that underscore Raviv’s multicultural background. Many of her songs are in Hebrew. “I’ve kind of been everywhere, but I’ve always been Jewish. I’ve always been Israeli, I speak the language,” Raviv said. “So I’ve always just carried that with me. And that sense of pride has always been with me. I’ve been getting a lot of reactions from people saying, ‘So nice to see someone Jewish and proud out there.’ It gives them confidence to do the same,” Raviv said.
heard last night
Doug Emhoff reflects on his path from Bet Tzedek to second gentleman
Speaking at the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Los Angeles virtual annual meeting, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff got candid about his experiences as the pioneering first Jewish spouse of a vice president and how his early legal work informs his present activities.
Year in review: In conversation with Scott Edelman, the immediate past president of AJC’s L.A. chapter, Emhoff reflected on the ways in which his life changed since the beginning of the pandemic. “March 12 , I went to D.C. from L.A. for what I thought was a long weekend, and I never left for almost a year,” he said. “So from March till August, I was like everyone else out there, trying to get through COVID, and deal with work and family and that horrible experience that we’re hopefully getting out of.”
Ticket time: “Then in August,” Emhoff recalled, “we got put on the ticket. And that was a complete and massive change, not only to get out of COVID, but then all of a sudden, to be on the road during COVID for this campaign. So we get through that, and then we won. And now you have this transition period, which was difficult and challenging, but also completely different from the campaign. And then on January 20, we had the inauguration, which was then this whole other new experience that we’ve now been in almost five months, which was completely different from anything else I had just done. So think about all that change that I have undergone, in a year or so. And so it’s a little head-spinning.”
Speaking out: The second gentleman recognized his pioneering position representing the Jewish community at one of the highest levels of government during a time when antisemitism is on the rise. “I take it very seriously, you know, being the first Jewish spouse of any president or vice president, and I understand what that means. And I understand that role. And I’m very grateful I’m able to do things like the Passover Seder and others, and I will continue to do that in the future,” Emhoff said. “I’ve been speaking out on this publicly. I’ve been doing everything I can behind the scenes on the issue of antisemitism, and I will continue to do that as strongly and as forcefully as I can, and assist this administration any way I can on this issue.”
New traditions: This Passover, Emhoff hosted a first-of-its-kind virtual Seder that brought together administration officials and community leaders. “To this day, people come up to me — even this past weekend — and bring it up, and talk about what it meant to them. So hearing what it meant to them, it just makes it all the more impactful to me,” he explained.
Justice department: Emhoff described his involvement as a young lawyer with Bet Tzedek, a California-based legal aid organization that provided assistance to vulnerable populations. “I got involved with Bet Tzedek 30-plus years ago. As a brand-new lawyer, I was introduced to Bet Tzedek by my first firm, Pillsbury [Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP], still around. And it was a great connection because of the Jewish angle. But it was really the justice angle — you know, bet tzedek, justice — and I was so impacted as a young lawyer… going downtown to court, and just seeing all those folks in need, and that’s just affected me. So I had the opportunity to actually work on cases pro bono. [I] wanted to hone my skills as a lawyer, but you really represented a client, and they needed you whether it was an unlawful detainer action, or a consumer fraud action, you name it, I did it. And 30-plus years later, you still remember those faces, you still remember those cases.”
Read more here.
🔥 Crashed and Burned: In the Jewish Review of Books,Matti Friedman reviews Reeves Weideman’s Billion Dollar Loser, which wraps elements of WeWork founder Adam Neumann’s Judaism into the story of how he led the company to its sharp rise and spectacular fall. “Early on, in 2011, a potential employee remembered coming in for an interview and speaking with both Adam and [his wife] Rebekah about ‘the Neumanns’ embrace of Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition, and how spirituality had come to play a role at WeWork.’ We learn that WeWork sought an oddly specific sum in debt financing: $702 million. They arrived at that number by taking Adam’s age, thirty-nine, and multiplying the Hebrew word by eighteen, a propitious number in Jewish tradition that has the numeric equivalent of the word chai, or ‘life.’” [JewishReview]
🤝 From Generation to Generation: In New York magazine, Abraham Riesman wrestles with his late grandfather’s relationship with Israel and Zionism, which conflicts with his own present beliefs. “In my grandfather’s day, Israel was the great unifier of the American Jewish community. Now it is the great divider, both inside our own community and in cleavages with other ones. Bring up Israel with any American Jew and you can feel the atmosphere tighten. There is no topic that incenses us more, whether the emotions are pride or shame, defensiveness or hatred, fear that not enough of our coreligionists support the Jewish state or rage that they support it too much.” [NYMag]
🤫 Conformity in Corona: Writing in Vice, Frimet Goldberg — a former member of Kiryas Joel’s Satmar community — explains Haredi communities’ resistance to coronavirus restrictions, and later, against dissent among their ranks. “The insularity and suspicion of external authority in Haredi communities means that dissent within is not only frowned upon, but also routinely quashed. Beginning in late March of last year, as COVID cases, hospitalizations, and death rates increased, friends in my hometown and other Haredi communities pleaded for help. They noted the negligence — mothers crowding in children’s clothing stores, schools, and synagogues operating out of back rooms and basements, and weddings taking place in ballrooms, where the lights had been dimmed to fool authorities. All around them, people were getting sick, and hundreds died. For them, publicizing these transgressions would risk their livelihoods, their children’s school admission, and their overall standing. They refused to go on record for this reason: dissenting views are not only discouraged; they have dire consequences.” [Vice]
Around the Web
💰 Nice Exit: Israeli fintech company Payoneer will be taken public via a merger with NASDAQ-listed FTAC Olympus Acquisition Corp, a SPAC. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is among the investors expected to have a liquidation event.
🇩🇪 Moving Along: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, speaking alongside Secretary of State Tony Blinken in Berlin, said the original parties to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran were “making progress” but that hurdles remained. The two are scheduled to visit the city’s Holocaust memorial today.
🇸🇩 Interlocutor Ask: Sudanese civilian officials asked the Biden administration to facilitate communication with Israeli officials, who have traditionally had a relationship with the African country’s military leaders.
🇵🇱 Polish Property: The Polish Parliament is considering a bill that would make it difficult for Jews to win restitution claims over property confiscated during the German occupation of Poland during World War II.
🐇 Podcast Playback: In the CBS podcast “Intelligence Matters,” Mideast analyst and former diplomat Dennis Ross discussed the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, Iran and how former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reputation as a politician who “could always pull a rabbit out of the hat and somehow survive” has taken a hit.
📊 Swelling Sentiment: A poll by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 51% of Democrats think the U.S. should be more supportive of Palestinians.
✉️ In Protest: Retired general and former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster resigned from the board of the Atlantic Council, citing concerns over funding the organization received from Charles Koch.
💔 Breathing Space: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have reportedly been distancing themselves from former President Donald Trump, who remains mired in his 2020 election loss.
💻 Tech Space: Israeli startup Transmit Security, founded by cybersecurity entrepreneur Mickey Boodaei in 2014, raised $543 million in Series A funding.
🏈 Owner’s Suite: JPMorgan has purchased a stake in Robert Kraft’s sports-data company, The Kraft Analytics Group, which has more than 20 clients across professional and collegiate sports.
👩 Breaking Barriers: The New York Times profiles Alexandra Friedman, a Hasidic mother of 10 living in Monsey, N.Y. who defied societal norms as she studied and then graduated from medical school.
⭐ As Seen on TV: During a recent appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” director Quentin Tarantino, who is married to Israeli actress Daniella Pick, discussed his efforts to learn Hebrew alongside his toddler son and how he unexpectedly spent most of the last year in Israel, which he called “the country that handled COVID the best.”
🎟️ Back on Tour: Comedian and former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) announced a new comedy tour, titled “The Only Former US Senator Currently on Tour Tour,” which will visit 15 cities this fall.
🍴 What’s the Deal with Pop Tarts? Jerry Seinfeld is slated to star in, direct and produce a Netflix film, “Unfrosted,” inspired by a bit the comedian has told about his first encounter with Pop Tarts.
🔔 Wedding Bells: Former Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit married longtime girlfriend Nitzan Shabbat, last night.
Song of the Day
In his latest single, “Chayot Hanohamot,” Israeli singer Shlomo Katz is joined by rapper Nissim Black.
Former secretary of labor, author and professor at UC Berkeley, Robert Reich turns 75…
Former chief rabbi of Denmark, Rabbi Bent Melchior turns 92… Former congressman from New Jersey and real estate investor, Herbert C. Klein turns 91… Ruth Weinstein turns 82… Co-founder of Trian Fund Management, Nelson Peltz turns 79… Professor emeritus in the College of Business at San Francisco State University, Sam Gill turns 79… Former chairman and CEO of New York Life Insurance Company, Seymour “Sy” Sternberg turns 78… Professor of Jewish philosophy at American Jewish University and founding dean of its rabbinical program, Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff turns 78… Founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, he is also the founder of Yeshivat Maharat, Rabbi Avraham Haim Yosef “Avi” Weiss turns 77… Former member of Knesset, Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon turns 71… Early childhood specialist at Columbus City Schools and Columbus School For Girls, Carol Glassman turns 71… EVP at Edelman, he is the author of a book on the Saatchi & Saatchi ad firm, Kevin Goldman turns 67… Circuit judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Sandra Segal Ikuta turns 67… President and CEO of public relations firm Steinreich Communications, Stanley Steinreich turns 61…
U.S. district judge for the Southern District of Florida, Beth Bloom turns 59… Principal of Mount Scopus Memorial College, a co-educational Jewish day school with over 1,500 students from K to 12, located in Melbourne, Australia, Rabbi James Kennard turns 57… The first on-air talent of the NFL Network when it debuted in 2003, he has been the face of the network ever since, Rich Eisen turns 52… Israeli businesswoman and owner of the soccer team, Hapoel Beer Sheva, Alona Barkat turns 52… Author and columnist, Shulem Deen turns 47… Singer and songwriter Ariel Pink, born Ariel Marcus Rosenberg, turns 43… Film director, producer, editor and cinematographer, Todd Strauss-Schulson turns 41… Resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Matthew Continetti turns 40… Senior digital producer at WSB-TV in Atlanta, Brett Rosner turns 36… One-half of the duo known for their YouTube channel h3h3Productions, Ethan Edward Klein turns 36… VP of Houston-based RIDA Development, a multi-national real estate development company started by his Holocaust-surviving grandfather, Steven C. Mitzner turns 35… A 2015 contestant on “Jeopardy!” who earned $413,612 by winning 13 consecutive episodes, he is a son of USDC Judge Amy Berman Jackson, Matt Jackson turns 29… Actress and singer, Elizabeth Greer “Beanie” Feldstein turns 28… Senior tax associate at Mazars USA, Moshe Gruber turns 27… College basketball player for the Harvard Crimson, Spencer Freedman turns 23…