👋 Good Monday morning!
Over 800 attendees packed into a Long Branch, N.J., ballroom last night to hear former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley address a Chabad of the Shore event against antisemitism. Asked about her plans in ’24 for a presidential run, Haley said she’s focused on “electing good people in ’22” but added she has “a big decision to make at the beginning of ’23.” Pic.
Ten members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee — Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Ted Deutch (D-FL), David Cicilline (D-RI), Andy Barr (R-KY), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), Brad Schneider (D-IL), and French Hill (R-AR) — traveled to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Qatar last week.
Members of the group met with members of the new Israeli government including Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Palestinian Authority leaders and U.S. Central Command forces, and attended the inauguration of Israeli President Isaac Herzog. Stay tuned later this week for in-depth interviews with some of the legislators who took part in the delegation.
A Washington Post report published over the weekend suggested that Iran is watching the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan with a mix of happiness and trepidation as the Taliban works to consolidate power. American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Danielle Pletka told JI, “Iran is delighted the U.S. has withdrawn from Afghanistan. They don’t like being surrounded by Americans. Also it signals weakness, and Tehran likes us weak. As to the Post’s analysis of the Sunni Taliban and Shiite Iran, it’s sophomoric. The Iranians have supported both the Taliban and al Qaeda when it has served their interests.”
Crowds gathered on the National Mall in Washington on Sunday for a demonstration against antisemitism. Elisha Wiesel, the son of Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who played a role in organizing the event and also spoke at the rally, told JI that the attendees — numbering somewhere between 1,800 and 3,200 — and speakers represented a diverse array of religious and political opinions.
A number of cosponsoring organizations, Wiesel said, joined up in a span of one day. “All the major denominations are saying, ‘You know what? We’re with you. We know there are risks. We know there’s always a risk that somebody is going to say something we disagree with. But it’s the right thing to do. And we can tolerate that because we need to stand together.’ That’s very powerful.”
Billed as a rally against antisemitism, the event provoked ire from some groups concerned about the equation of Zionism and antisemitism. “There’s some people within the community who think that Israel has to zig, and there are others who think Israel has to zag,” Wiesel said, pointing out that the event had the backing of both Republican and Democratic groups. “But [an] 80% majority of Jewish Americans believe that Israel has a right to exist in peace and security, as do we here. And you can build on that.”
Personal not personnel: New book on presidential best friends
Gary Ginsberg, a former political strategist and longtime media executive, decided to write his new book, First Friends: The Powerful, Unsung (And Unelected) People Who Shaped Our Presidents, during the Trump administration, when he perceived that the former president had no friends in his immediate orbit willing to give it to him straight. “One of the real benefits to having a first friend is the ability to speak the blunt truth,” Ginsberg told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent interview. With Trump, “there really wasn’t that person,” he added. “I was able to confirm that with somebody very close to the president who also recognized that void in his life.”
Decades coming: Still, the idea for the book, published by Twelve and released last week, had been gestating for decades. “I saw in my own life, and then in my own work experience, the value of a first friend,” said Ginsberg, who worked on Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign and later served in his administration. In the book, Ginsberg details Clinton’s close personal relationship with the late civil rights leader Vernon Jordan — one of nine chapters detailing friendships between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Franklin Pierce and Nathaniel Hawthorne and Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Daisy Suckley, among others.
Truman and Israel: When he sat down to begin working on the book, there was at least one story Ginsberg knew he wanted to write: the relationship between Harry Truman and Eddie Jacobson, a Jewish haberdasher who played a key role in convincing his longtime friend from Kansas City to recognize the state of Israel in 1948. “For me, it was the most consequential moment of the book in terms of a friend’s influence,” Ginsberg said, “a friend calling on all the tools that a first friend has to influence a decision for the betterment of the country and the world.”
Personal note: For Ginsberg, who is Jewish, the story also resonates on a personal level. Ginsberg was raised in a Conservative Jewish household in Buffalo; two of his great-grandfathers were rabbis from Eastern Europe. He first visited Israel in 1977, during a teen tour while he was in high school. “I was mesmerized by the country,” he said. “We spent a week on an army base. We toured the whole country.” Ginsberg, who has family in Israel, added, “I became a pretty ardent Zionist early on in my life from ’77 on.” He returned for a summer in 1983, when he studied at Hebrew University as a Dorot scholar.
JFK, Jr.: Ginsberg got his undergraduate degree from Brown University, where he was a close friend of John F. Kennedy, Jr. He would later become a founding editor at George, the magazine on American politics and culturestarted by Kennedy in 1995. Ginsberg was with Kennedy the night before he died in a plane crash in 1999 at the age of 38; they talked at length about Kennedy’s plans for after George, which was failing at the time and would shutter two years later. He said his friendship with Kennedy, who is said to have harbored political aspirations, perhaps played a role in informing his new book. “Maybe on a subconscious level, sure,” Ginsberg acknowledged. “But, you know, John was a long way from being president of the United States. Unfortunately, we’ll never know whether he would have become a president.”
The funnier, happier glory days of politics, according to an insider who lived it
As a Democrat who represented a mixed urban-rural district in Kansas for nine terms, former Rep. Dan Glickman (D-KS) was not a party-line lawmaker. Everything about his career in Congress is a bit of a throwback, which he acknowledges. “I could afford to be independent. I didn’t follow my party’s lead all the time, when I thought it was inconsistent with my congressional district. That’s hard to do today,” he explained to Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch. In a new book Laughing at Myself: My Education in Congress, on the Farm, and at the Movies, Glickman looks back at his decades of service in what he now feels was a very different era in American politics, one with, he explained, less money and partisanship, and more humor.
Bygone days: Glickman, a Democrat, represented Kansas’s 4th Congressional District in the House of Representatives from 1977 to 1995 — his “best job” — until losing in the “Gingrich Revolution” that took place in the midterm elections during President Bill Clinton’s first term. He attributes today’s polarization in Washington to two things: “Socialization was different back then. Members and their families lived in Washington,” said Glickman. “Another difference, of course, is money in politics, the metastasis of money.”
Starting early: Growing up, Glickman’s family was active in Wichita’s small Jewish community of some 300 families. After arriving from Belarus, his grandfather joined the scrap metal industry, which Glickman said was an “exclusively Jewish industry” at the time. His family belonged to the local Reform temple, one of two synagogues in town — “or as my dad would say, the synagogue that we went to and the synagogue nobody would go to,” Glickman joked. Glickman grew up without any significant partisan affiliation, although he noted that his parents always voted and followed politics. “They were interested in politics, but not ideological,” he noted. He was class president in the sixth grade; after graduating from law school, he worked for a Republican senator in Washington. “I always knew I wanted to be in politics. I went back to Kansas probably with that in mind,” he told JI.
‘A different era’: Before running for Congress, Glickman served on his local school board, though when he ran for the position he was so young that his children were not yet of school age. He said his age contributed to his decision to run for Congress, too. “Being young had a lot to do with my initial political process because when you’re young, you don’t analyze it quite as carefully,” he explained. “This was a different era. I didn’t have 1,000 consultants, and I wasn’t raising money every second. It was more of instinct that I said, ‘You know, I think I can win this race.’”
High honor: His most consequential — or, more accurately, almost-consequential — moment as agriculture secretary came when he served as the “designated survivor” during Clinton’s 1997 State of the Union address, during which time he went, accompanied by Secret Service, to New York to visit his daughter. (Prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, designated survivors were not obligated to stay in Washington.) “I was honored to be selected,” Glickman wrote, “but if I am completely honest, there was the tiniest voice in the back of my head thinking something altogether unexpected. God forbid it happens; I could be the first Jewish president of the United States!” His wife talked him out of his “delusions of grandeur,” he noted.
on the hill
Luria: Jan. 6 committee ‘much more important than whether I get elected again’
Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), one of the eight lawmakers appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to the House’s select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod she is prioritizing the probe over her reelection prospects in 2022.
On the bubble: Luria, who hails from Virginia’s 2nd District, a swing district, is among the most electorally vulnerable members of the panel. She’s almost certain to face attacks in the 2022 election based on her role on the committee, the creation of which was opposed by most congressional Republicans. “I think that this work is important and necessary and much more important than whether I get elected again or not in the next election,” Luria told JI late last week. “I’m honored to be part of this committee. I think the work is incredibly important.”
Agenda: Luria said the committee’s work must include probing the disinformation that spurred the events of Jan. 6, the logistics of how the riot was organized and how information was disseminated, the potential financing of the incident, what warning signs law enforcement and intelligence officials missed ahead of the attack, failures in the responses by the Capitol Police and other law enforcement and the delay in the deployment of the National Guard. She added that the committee must also “try to understand why there is this rising tide of instances of antisemitism, and the close examination of all the factors that went into what happened on Jan. 6 could potentially lead to ways to prevent or stem that in the future.”
On deck: Asked whether she thinks the committee will need to subpoena testimony from former President Donald Trump or House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Luria said it is “too early to tell,” but added, “nothing has been ruled out at this point… We will follow the information where it leads us, and time will tell what witnesses are important to the work of the committee.”
Coming onboard: It also remains to be seen who, if anyone, McCarthy will recommend for the five remaining committee spots, and whether those appointees will participate in the committee’s investigative work or seek to obstruct it. “I hope it will be people who want to do an investigation that’s grounded in facts, who are pragmatic and who are not going to try to turn this into a sort of partisan spectacle,” Luria said.
⚔️ Unfriend: Facebook’s once-unified front of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg is fracturing, according to a forthcoming book by The New York Times’ Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang. The close working relationship between the two industry titans hit a rough patch as the Trump era began, with Zuckerberg taking over much of Sandberg’s portfolio, especially dealing with Washington and issues of disinformation. Since then, Zuckerberg has elevated other executives, while his working relationship with Sandberg deteriorated. Despite the two continuing to hold twice-weekly meetings, “The view from inside the upper echelons of the company was clear: It felt as though Facebook was no longer led by a No. 1 and No. 2, but a No. 1 and many.” [NYTimes]
👻 Mystic Merchant: The story of a family heirloom wine cabinet, brought to the U.S. by a Holocaust survivor and sold in Portland, Ore., after her death, was nicknamed the “Dybbuk Box” for the supposed evil spirit contained inside, spawned viral videos, horror movies and worldwide fascination. When furniture store owner Kevin Mannis bought the box in 2001, he claimed to have found a set of unexpected objects inside, including a granite sculpture with Shalom written in Hebrew and a carving of the Shema in the back. Now, according to a report in InputMag, the entire backstory was false. “Though Mannis did buy the wine cabinet at a yard sale, it was from an attorney, not the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor. ‘The carving in the back of it is my carving,’ he says. ‘The stone that was in the box is something that is a signature creation of mine also. Make no mistake, I conceived of the Dybbuk Box — the name, the term, the idea — and wrote this creative story around it to post on eBay.’” [InputMag]
🎶 Mizrahi Musician: InTablet’s Matti Friedman profiles Israeli musician Kobi Oz, whose growing popularity has introduced traditional Mizrahi music into the mainstream. “Who is the most important Israeli musician of the last generation? Not the most gifted or popular, but the most influential, one without whom the country’s sound wouldn’t be the same?” Friedman writes. “My vote goes to Kobi Oz—the mix-track trickster, the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down, the Tunisian from a town of Moroccans who brought the South to Tel Aviv and changed what we mean by Israeli pop.” [Tablet]
Around the Web
✋ Hold It: Israel froze an expected tax transfer of $180 million to the Palestinian Authority over continued payments to the families of individuals who carried out attacks against Israelis.
👎 Voted Down: The Knesset failed to block the extension of a law that forbade residents of the West Bank and Gaza who have married Israeli citizens from obtaining citizenship or residency rights.
👩 Front and Center: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has reportedly tapped advisor Shimrit Meir as his main point of contact with the White House. Bennett also picked Eyal Hulata as his national security advisor.
🏦 New Gig: Former Mossad head Yossi Cohen will head SoftBank’s new office in Israel.
💉 VacciNation: Israel sent 700,000 soon-to-be-expiring doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to South Korea after the doses were rejected by the Palestinian Authority as Israeli officials prepare to distribute third doses to at-risk adults.
🚀 Moon Shot: SpaceIL announced it raised $70 million in private donations for a moon landing project scheduled for 2024, following a failed landing in 2019.
🏠 New Digs: Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vacated the Balfour Residence, the prime minister’s official residence, one month after his ouster from office.
🙅♀️ False Facts: Former President Donald Trump told then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly “Hitler did a lot of good things,” according to a reported excerpt from Michael Bender’s upcoming book.
🏘️ Island Living: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner purchased a $24 million waterfront home on Indian Creek Island in South Florida.
🇮🇳🇩🇪 Foreign Exchange: The White House released the latest slate of ambassadorial picks, with President Biden nominating Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as ambassador to India and University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann as ambassador to Germany.
🔥 Diplomatic Fire: Michael Lynk, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, is under fire for comments made before the U.N. Human Rights Council comparing Israeli settlements to war crimes.
🔍 On the Case: The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating an attack on a Jewish man in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood last week.
✊ Solidarity: Officials in Baltimore gathered last week to denounce the vandalism of more than a dozen Jewish graves in a local cemetery.
🎥 The End: Former studio head Barry Diller declared the movie business “dead” in a recent interview with NPR, explaining the trend towards streaming has impacted film quality.
⚾ Big League: The New York Post spotlights Jacob Steinmetz, an Orthodox Jewish Fordham University baseball player expected to be drafted by an MLB team this week.
👶 Mazal Tov: WriterBethany Mandel and the Washington Examiner’sSeth Mandel welcomed a baby boy on Sunday.
⚮ Uncoupled: Music producer Scooter Braun and his wife Yael Cohen, a social entrepreneur, have reportedly split following seven years of marriage.
🕯️Remembering: Moshe Bistricer, a prominent real estate developer in Brooklyn, died at 101. Washington, D.C., real estate developer and philanthropist Norman Bernstein died at 100. Pittsburgh Jewish community leader Symoine “Sy” Laufe died at 95. Holocaust survivor and restitution advocate David Mermelstein died at 92.
Pic of the Day
Tennis player Denis Shapovalov hits a forehand in his Wimbledon semifinals match against Novak Djokovic, Friday. Despite showing consistent power and shot-making, the 22-year old Canadian, born in Tel Aviv to a Ukranian-Jewish mother, went on to lose in straight sets.
Co-founder of Imagine Entertainment, his films and TV series have been nominated for 43 Academy Awards and 198 Emmys, Brian Grazer turns 70…
Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council and senior partner for more than twenty years at the NYC law firm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, Rita E. Hauser turns 87… Former Republican congressman from Oklahoma from 1977 to 1993, he was a founding trustee of the Heritage Foundation and national chairman of the American Conservative Union, Marvin Henry “Mickey” Edwards turns 84… Former executive director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, Dan Botnick turns 83… Canadian journalist and author of three bestselling books, Michele Landsberg turns 82… Former member of the Florida House of Representatives, Franklin Sands turns 81… Bestselling author, screenwriter and playwright, sister of the late Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron turns 77… Professor of religion at the University of Vermont, he was an advisor to Bernie Sanders on his 2016 presidential campaign, and as an undergrad at Yale was Joe Lieberman’s roommate, Richard Sugarman turns 77… Board-certified lactation consultant based in Riverdale, N.Y., Rhona Yolkut turns 70… Founding executive director of Newton, Massachusetts-based Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, focused on children with special educational needs, Arlene Remz turns 66…
Co-owner of the Midland Group with holdings in steel, shipping, real estate, agriculture and sports, Eduard Shifrin turns 61… Member of the Knesset for the Blue and White party, Alon Tal turns 61… Nancy Billin turns 58… Acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel turns 50… Israeli journalist, television presenter and politician, mother of eight children, she served as a member of Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Anastassia Michaeli turns 46… Founder in 2019 of Innovation Policy Solutions, a D.C.-based health care consulting and advocacy firm, Jennifer Leib turns 46… U.S. Senator (D-AZ), Kyrsten Sinema turns 45… Chief news anchor of the Israeli commercial television channels Keshet 12 and Reshet 13, Yonit Levi turns 44… Staff writer at The Atlantic, Edward-Isaac Dovere turns 41… Partner in the Des Moines-based public relations firm AdelmanDean Group, Liz Rodgers Adelman turns 40… Israeli media personality, sociologist and designer, Ortal Ben Dayan turns 40… President of executive communications firm A.H. Levy & Co, he was previously chief speechwriter and deputy communications director for Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Alex Halpern Levy turns 35… Registered nurse now living in Jerusalem, Rena Meira Rotter turns 32… Benjamin Birnbaum turns 32…