👋 Good Tuesday morning!
Earlier this morning, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin set Sunday, June 13th for the Knesset’s confidence vote in the new government. The vote’s date has been a contentious political issue, as Levin’s Likud party has used it as a tool to derail the proposed coalition.
Meanwhile, presumptive incoming government leaders Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid are still working out the details of their new coalition. The new coalition will have to reveal its agreements on Friday. Among the agreements being made, the Bennett-Lapid coalition is expected to implement an egalitarian prayer section in the Western Wall. The subject of a long political fight that engaged global Jewry, an egalitarian prayer space was approved by Netanyahu’s government in 2016, but Haredi party intervention blocked its manifestation. The new coalition is also rumored to be proposing legislation that will introduce term limits for Israeli prime ministers of two terms or eight years.
Secretary of State Tony Blinken is on Capitol Hill this week after hearings on the 2022 budget were postponed last month when Blinken made a last-minute trip to Israel following the conflict in Gaza. Blinken will testify this morning at a Senate Appropriations Committee and will appear at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing this afternoon. Yesterday, Blinken testified in back-to-back hearings in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. More on those hearings below.
Democrats in Virginia head to the polls today to cast their ballots in several statewide primaries. Eyes are on the gubernatorial race, in which former Gov. Terry McAuliffe will face off against four others looking to deny him the chance at another term in Richmond.
Robert Cornegy’s crowning heights
JI’s Matthew Kassel recently sat down with Robert Cornegy, a New York City councilmember and candidate for Brooklyn borough president:
With his towering 6-foot-10 frame topped by a bundle of impressive dreadlocks, Robert Cornegy, Jr., a New York City councilmember who until recently claimed the title of tallest politician in the world, was hard to miss as he sauntered into Basquiat’s Bottle, a trendy bar and restaurant on a commercial drag in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“This is one of the restaurants that’s kind of central to the community,” Cornegy, 55, told Jewish Insider on a recent Sunday afternoon, settling in at a table in the back while contemplating an order of shrimp and grits.
Cornegy, whose district includes Bedford-Stuyvesant as well as Crown Heights, is now competing for the more high-profile role of Brooklyn borough president — and he has been savoring the opportunity to step away from Zoom, hit the pavement and make a more personal impression on potential voters with just weeks remaining until the June 22 Democratic primary.
“Because I’m such an attraction, I’m used to meeting people and engaging people,” said Cornegy, who wasn’t boasting so much as accurately characterizing his striking height. “I’m on the doors, I’m in the streets, I’m in bars, I’m in restaurants talking to people. When people generally get a chance to speak to me and know me, whether they’re with me or not, they walk away with a solid impression.”
But Cornegy is relying on more than just his memorable presence as he jockeys to succeed Eric Adams, the outgoing borough president and mayoral hopeful. In recent months, Cornegy has established himself as a leading contender in the crowded field of more than a dozen candidates, tying for first place in one poll alongside fellow city councilmember Antonio Reynoso, with Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon not far behind.
on the hill
Blinken covers Iron Dome, Hamas, Gaza aid, Iran deal in House hearings
In a marathon session of back-to-back House hearings on Monday, Secretary of State Tony Blinken discussed the recent conflict between Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, laid out the administration’s case for humanitarian aid to Gaza and appeared to temper expectations for reentry into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the prospects of subsequent agreements, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports from Capitol Hill.
Open wallet: Weeks after Israel deployed its Iron Dome batteries to intercept thousands of missiles fired by terror groups in Gaza, Blinken assured lawmakers that the U.S. is “committed to [Iron Dome’s] replenishment,” adding that “we are working with the Israelis to fully understand their needs and… we look forward to working with [Congress] to make sure that happens.”
Rocket role: Citing a U.S. intelligence assessment, Blinken downplayed concerns from Republican lawmakers that Iran was directly involved in the latest round of violence between Hamas and Israel. “I think Hamas has been provided by Iran in the past with key components, technical knowledge for the [rocket] program,” he explained. “The best assessment — public assessment — that we have is that in this most recent incident, most of the rockets were indigenously produced in Gaza by Hamas. That does not in any way excuse Iran’s support for Hamas including very strong rhetorical support in this most recent incident.”
Sending support: Blinken acknowledged Hamas’ popularity in and control over Gaza — speculating that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delayed Palestinian Authority Elections out of “concern that Hamas would do well.” Nevertheless, Blinken said that the U.S., Israel, Egypt, the United Nations and other partners believe that they can successfully provide humanitarian and reconstruction aid to Gaza without benefiting Hamas, despite the terrorist group’s popularity in Gaza. Aid to Gaza, the secretary of state suggested, could help break Hamas’ grip over the Palestinian population.
Lowering expectations: Blinken appeared to cast doubt on the prospects of reentry into the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, despite reports of progress from the ongoing indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran in Vienna. “We’re not even at the stage of returning to ‘compliance for compliance,’” Blinken said, punctuating his remarks with a chuckle. “It remains unclear if Iran is willing and prepared to do what it needs to do to come back into compliance” with the 2015 agreement. He also appeared to temper previous rhetoric about seeking follow-on agreements that would “lengthen and strengthen” the deal after reentry. Blinken said instead that the administration would use a revived deal “as a platform both to look at whether the agreement itself can be lengthened and, if necessary, strengthened and also to capture these other issues.” A State Department official told Jewish Insider on Monday afternoon that Blinken’s comments did not reflect a change in administration policy.
Rookie doctors in the COVID ward push through the grief
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors held an esteemed position in American society. Factor in a global pandemic, and suddenly virologists, public health experts and medical doctors of all stripes have become media sensations. At the same time that a handful of seasoned doctors were gaining newfound respect and public acknowledgment, a new crop of young doctors entered the field for the first time. Some New York City medical schools graduated fourth-year students a few months early to allow them to provide much-needed support for hospitals and COVID wards as the city struggled through a catastrophic coronavirus surge last spring. A new book from New York Times reporter Emma Goldberg documents these neophyte doctors’ experiences entering the medical field at a time when they were most needed, and most in danger. “These are stories about being courageous, and service-minded and inspiring people,” Goldberg told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch.
New angle: Life on the Line: Young Doctors Come of Age in a Pandemic, in stores today,is not just a chronicle of how six doctors adapted and served New Yorkers in a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Goldberg’s book also explores how these doctors sought to draw on their own experiences to bring quality medical care to patients from underserved communities. “There’s so much incredible, incredible coverage of medical research and scientific breakthroughs,” Goldberg noted. “There’s not as much coverage and stories about the day-to-day lives of doctors and the cultural forces that affect who gets represented in the field and what working conditions are like for doctors.” Goldberg, 26, does not need to convince readers that doctors are important. But why should readers care about the working conditions of the members of such an exclusive, highly paid profession? “They are normal people with an outsize impact on whether we live or die,” Goldberg argues in the book’s introduction.
Fresh faces: The six doctors in the book “represent the new face of American medicine,” Goldberg writes. They seek to interact with patients in new ways and take seriously the concerns of marginalized populations that have not always received quality medical care. COVID-19 illustrated this fact in dramatic ways: Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that Black Americans, Latino Americans, and Native Americans have double the risk of white Americans when it comes to the possibility of dying from COVID-19. These six doctors “know the fear that white coats and sterile white halls can so easily provoke. They are intent on remaking the field in their image,” writes Goldberg.
Close to home: Goldberg includes two doctors whose connection to Judaism is a key part of their identity. One of those doctors is Sam (Goldberg does not use their last names), whose decision to serve on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic was inspired by the AIDS crisis; he met his boyfriend Jeremy at the New York City AIDS march, which both had attended with their queer synagogue, Beit Simchat Torah. Another is Elana, an observant Jew and Yeshiva University graduate who frequently consults Jewish tradition when making medical decisions. Early in the pandemic, when she was working in COVID units, she had to decide whether to work on Shabbat if a call came in late Friday or during the day on Saturday. Her father reminded her of the principle of pikuach nefesh, which “meant that saving a life trumped any other religious commandment, including the rules of Shabbat,” Goldberg writes.
Starting young: Goldberg got her start in journalism at the student newspaper at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in New York, where she focused on topics like kosher food production and how her school’s Orthodox minyan confronted feminism. “Probably no one read it but my mom,” she joked. Years before, as a fourth grader, she wrote about a pro-choice protest — and earned an early lesson in the importance of using precise medical language. “I was trying to explain to my fellow fourth graders what abortion was,” Goldberg recalled, but the language she used to describe the medical procedure led to a call from the school to her parents to “rein her in,” as she put it.
💻 Bad Information: Time’s Brian Bennett reports on Iranian state disinformation efforts in the U.S., which include reinvigorated pushes to sow discontent and spread antisemitism via social media. “But within days of the conflict beginning last month in Israel and Gaza Twitter accounts linked to Iran were amplifying anti-Semitic messages in English, including the phrases ‘hitler was right’ and ‘kill all jews’ at a rate of 175 times per minute, according to analysis by Network Contagion Research Institute, which studies disinformation and is affiliated with Rutgers University and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).” [Time]
🇦🇪 Strong Stance: Writing in Newsweek, Dr. Ali al Nuaimi, a senior UAE official who helped broker the Abraham Accords, argues it’s time for the world to help the Palestinians rid themselves of Hamas and Iranian influence. “The truth is, the Middle East conflict isn’t between the Israelis and Palestinians but between Israel and Iran. Ask yourself who benefits from this conflict? The Palestinian people’s rights and hopes have been hijacked by Hamas to serve an Iranian agenda. And it is against Iran’s extremism that we must continue to fight.” [Newsweek]
⚔️ Convert Census: In The Atlantic, Graeme Wood looks at the potential root causes of overrepresentation of converts to Islam among jihadists. “Among the converts I have observed who are associated with the Islamic State, disagreeability is a way of life. They are absolutely willing to say things they know I will consider repulsive, if they believe them to be true…Mean people have obvious value on the battlefield. If converts are more likely to be disagreeable than born Muslims, then we’ll see more converts among jihadists, even if converts are, on average, not more religious.” [TheAtlantic]
🕸️ Web of Deceit: Vanity Fair‘s Gabriel Sherman dives into the decades-long relationship between Les Wexner and Jeffrey Epstein speaking to dozens of individuals who knew one or both of the men and could elaborate on their confusing and complicated relationship that often served to bolster Epstein’s standing. “Sources say Epstein occupied different roles in Wexner’s life depending on the audience…Whatever the nature of their relationship, Epstein’s long-standing connection to one of America’s richest men inarguably aided his public profile, adding to his air of legitimacy and thus his power.” [VanityFair]
Around the Web
😶 Silence: The Israel Defense Forces partially lifted a gag order yesterday on the highly classified case of an intelligence officer who died in military prison custody.
🏛️ Standing down: Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit informed the Supreme Court yesterday that he would not intervene on behalf of the Palestinian families facing eviction from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
🇮🇷 Goodbye: Iranian cleric Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, one of the founders of the militant group Hezbollah who lost his hand in a 1984 bombing later attributed to Israel, died of coronavirus complications in Tehran.
📞 No Answer: The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency raised concerns that Iran has still not addressed the discovery of uranium at several undeclared sites around the country.
🤝 Meeting Time: Dominiac Raab, Britain’s foreign minister, met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss Iran and other key issues.
🏠 Homeward Bound:The New York Times explores the tensions between Israel’s Arab and Jewish populations, using the example of a house in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan occupied by two families: one Muslim, one Jewish, who each claim the building as their own.
📖 Never Forget: The recently opened “We Remember” exhibit in Dubai’s Crossroads of Civilizations Museum, which features eyewitness testimony from the Holocaust, is the first of its kind in the Middle East outside of Israel.
🌹 Memory Lane: Rabbi Irvin Wise reminisces about Cincinnati neighborhood Roselawn’s heyday as a Jewish community in the 1950s.
⭐ Star Power: New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who broke the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal story nearly four years ago, are set to be immortalized on the silver screen following a move by Universal Pictures to adapt their book She Said into a movie of the same name, starring Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan.
🛢️ Less Greasy: In its efforts to diversify from oil, Abu Dhabi has already invested $2.3 billion in the cultural and creative sectors and now plans to invest another $6 billion over the next five years.
🎫 Bet on Betting: Barry Diller’s IAC’s investment in MGM Resorts International is considered a long term bet on the growth of sports betting, writes WSJ columnist Laura Forman.
🚨 Crime Alert: Manny’s, a Jewish-owned bookshop, cafe and event space in San Francisco that has been a frequent target for anti-Israel activists since its opening in 2018, was vandalized amid an uptick in reported hate crimes in the city.
🚗 Birthday Bash: New England patriots owner Robert Kraft received a new limited edition Bentley from his celebrity friends for his 80th birthday.
🕯 Remembering: Allan Marvin “Geli” Gelfond, a former executive at the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit died at age 85.
Pic of the Day
A sinkhole opened up beneath the parking lot of Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Hospital, swallowing multiple cars but resulting in no injuries.
Businesswoman, art collector and founder of the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Dasha Zhukova turns 40…
Hebrew University mathematics professor and 2005 Nobel Prize laureate in Economics, Robert Aumann turns 91… Partner in the Cincinnati-based law firm of Aronoff, Rosen & Hunt, he was a member and then Senate president of the Ohio State Senate, Stanley J. Aronoff turns 89… Founder of the Family Dollar Stores chain in 1959, he remained chairman and CEO until 2003, Leon Levine turns 84… Guru of alternative, holistic and integrative medicine, Dr. Andrew Weil turns 79… South African businessman and philanthropist, formerly the chairman of De Beers, Nicholas F. “Nicky” Oppenheimer turns 76… Hedge fund manager and founder of the Paloma Funds, Selwyn Donald Sussman turns 75… Detective novelist, best known for creating the character of V.I. Warshawski, Sara Paretsky turns 74… Founder and CEO of Sitrick And Company, Michael Sitrick turns 74… Classical pianist, teacher and performer at the Juilliard School and winner of a Grammy Award, he is the child of Holocaust survivors, Emanuel Ax turns 72… Community affairs coordinator at UCLA’s Leve Center for Jewish Studies, Mary Enid Pinkerson turns 70… Former member of Knesset from the Zionist Union party, professor at Ben-Gurion University, Yosef “Yossi” Yona turns 68… Barbara Panken turns 68… Senior advisor at Bloomfield Hills, Michigan-based O2 Investment Partners, Robert Harris “Rob” Orley turns 66… Journalist, stand-up comedian and author, Aaron Freeman turns 65…
AVP for campaign at the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, Patti Frazin turns 60… Co-founder and CEO of the Genesis Prize Foundation, Stan Polovets turns 58… Star of the long-running TV series “The Good Wife,” Julianna Margulies turns 55… Actor and screenwriter, married to the sister of baseball executive Theo Epstein, Daniel Paul “Dan” Futterman turns 54… Former congresswoman, she survived an assassination attempt in 2011 and is married to U.S. Senator Mark Kelly, Gabrielle Giffords turns 51… Actor who starred in USA Network’s “Royal Pains,” he also wrote and created the CBS series “9JKL,” Mark Feuerstein turns 50… Executive director at Consulate Health Care in New Port Richey, Florida, Daniel Frenden turns 48… Head of North America for the Jewish Agency and CEO of Jewish Agency International Development (JAID), Daniel Elbaum turns 47… Deputy chief of staff for Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Michael Emanuel Vallarelli turns 42… Senior educator at Hillel Jewish Student Center at Arizona State University, Suzy Stone turns 41… Fourth-generation supermarket executive at Klein’s ShopRite of Maryland, Marshall Klein turns 40… Corporate litigation associate at Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, Daniel Kirshenbaum turns 39… SVP of social media for CBS News, CBS Sports and CBS Entertainment, Eric J. Kuhn turns 34… CEO of the Bnai Zion Foundation, Rabbi Dr. Ari Lamm turns 34… Offensive tackle for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs until this past March, his Hebrew name is “Mendel,” Mitchell Schwartz turns 32…