👋 Good Thursday morning!
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) appeared to urge his state to not only enforce its state anti-BDS law against Ben & Jerry’s but also to ban the brand’s sale in the state entirely — which falls outside of the purview of the state’s law — in response to the ice cream maker’s pullout from selling in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory.” More below.
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday that Turkey appears to be having “buyer’s remorse” about linking itself more closely to Russia in recent years, but said there is still room to bring Turkey back towards the U.S. and NATO fold.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said, “We all hope for a day when Turkey embodies a high standard of democratic values and respect for human rights expected from a NATO member. The region and the world needs a stable and democratic Turkey. Under [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, such a future is but a dim hope.” Committee members largely shared his frustration and pessimism.
The passport delays that have plagued U.S. travelers aren’t affecting young adult trips to Israel, according to groups that send students and Gen Z-ers on organized tours. MASA, which offers long-term programs for young adults, said that attending their programs is “a big decision, so people have been working on this… for a long while,” and has therefore not been affected by the backlog, while someone close to the Maccabee Task Force, which runs trips to Israel for campus leaders, told JI they haven’t had any issues resulting from delayed passport issuance. A State Department official advised stuck travelers to attempt to schedule limited appointments at a nearby passport agency, which are available on a first-come-first-serve basis, and anticipated increasing their passport output by 100,000 applications per month in the coming months.
Texas to review whether Ben & Jerry’s violated state law
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced today that his office will review state law to determine if Ben & Jerry’s or its parent company, Unilever, had taken “specific action” that would force the state to include either company on a list of those companies that boycott Israel.
Background: The announcement comes days after the Vermont-based ice cream company said it would no longer sell its products in the West Bank, triggering calls from Jewish organizations and Israeli officials for states to apply recently adopted anti-BDS legislation to both Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever.
What it says: Chapter 808 of the Texas Government Code defines a boycott as an action “intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations specifically with Israel, or with a person or entity doing business in Israel or in an Israeli-controlled territory.” Texas is one of nearly a dozen states with a law or executive order prohibiting state pension funds from being invested in companies that engage in boycotts of Israel. Texas includes Unilever in its pension portfolio, with investments reportedly totaling more than $100 million.
to the streets
Cuban Jews step up for their ‘patria’
“Patria y Vida” — “homeland and life” — is the chant that has animated thousands of pro-democracy protesters in Cuba, angry over economic shortages and rising COVID-19 deaths, over the past week and a half. Members of the vibrant Cuban Jewish community in the U.S. have spoken out in support of the protests, hoping for a better life for people in their ancestral country, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Lost legacy: Many Cuban Jews in the U.S. have never been to their patria. Nearly all of Cuba’s 15,000 Jews fled the country soon after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959. For Cubans Jews younger than 60, the country is a place they have never visited or have no memory of. “This is sort of a lost legacy — the fact that Cuba seems inaccessible to us in so many ways,” said Leon Rodriguez, who served as director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service during the Obama administration.
Speaking up: Support for the protesters comes naturally for a community of refugees who fled the Communist regime that still controls the country. “I’m seeing millennials who are Cuban and Jewish talk about their frustration or their feelings on the protests in Cuba,” Janna Berenson, a 25-year-old Miami native whose mother was born in Cuba, told JI. “I’m proud that they’re not leaving it to the people who came from Cuba to do all the talking when this is such a part of their identity.”
Community roots: More than anywhere else in the country, Miami’s Jewish community is defined by its Latino — and Cuban in particular — population. “They are the ones that are the most established Latin American Jewish community in Florida, in Miami,” said Dina Siegel Vann, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs. Last week, AJC tweeted in support of the protests, writing, “We join [President Joe Biden] and leaders from across the world in calling for greater freedom and opportunity for the Cuban people after decades of authoritarian rule.”
Getting political: The protests are already resonating politically in the U.S., with many Republicans accusing Democrats of being soft on the issue and supporting socialism in Cuba. A March poll found that 66% of Cuban American voters in Florida now support keeping the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba in place, compared to just 36% six years ago, when President Barack Obama was loosening ties between the U.S. and Cuba. That puts many Cuban American voters in line with Republican positions. Still, Rodriguez — one of the most prominent Cuban American Democrats — noted that Cuban Jews are not a monolith. “There is definitely a spectrum of views,” Rodriguez argued. “I think there is the one that’s perceived as dominant throughout the country, but I think there’s a broader range than the way it’s perceived.”
Fight for freedom: Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R-FL), a daughter of Cuban refugees who represents the largest Cuban Jewish population in the country, told JI, “The Cuban people have taken to the streets demanding one thing and one thing only: freedom.” “For 62 years, the Castro regime has systematically persecuted the people of Cuba and the United States must stand with them in their struggle for freedom.”
breakfast of kings
On Capitol Hill, King Abdullah II meets with senators to discuss U.S. policy and regional issues
Jordan’s King Abdullah II received a warm welcome on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, as he met with Senate leadership and members of the Senate Armed Services, Foreign Relations and Appropriations Committees to discuss a range of issues related to U.S. policy in the region, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Good relations: “It was very similar to what it’s been before,” Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-OK) told Jewish Insider. “The king is a very personable guy — more than most. And he expressed his concerns. We all had a pretty free and open discussion.” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, echoed Inhofe. “I always enjoy being with King Abdullah,” he said. “I thought he’s always pretty frank and insightful.”
Bone of contention: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), also a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he raised the issue of the U.S.’s longstanding efforts to extradite 2001 Sbarro bombing suspect Ahlam Tamimi from Jordan, and described the ensuing conversation as “productive,” but declined to offer further specifics. The bombing, in a popular Jerusalem pizza shop, killed 15 people — including two Americans — and injured 130. The issue of Tamimi extradition issue did not come up during the meeting with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, a source familiar with the discussion told JI, but Iran and the Abraham Accords were raised.
Mutual interests: On Iran, during the Foreign Relations Committee meeting, “the king expressed very real concerns about the terrorism that would result from billions of dollars flowing to the Ayatollah [Khamenei], about the risk of ballistic missiles being used to target countries throughout the region,” Cruz said.
Helping hand: “I myself talked a lot about the incredible work Jordan is doing when it comes to assuming the burden really of so many Syrian refugees, and what that has done at a time that they’re dealing with such high youth unemployment, and how that affects their request for aid from the United States of America,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said. “They’re a valued ally. And I want to make sure that America is playing a role to keep them in a position where they can really continue their support of, you know, critical humanitarian aid as well as the American agenda in the region.”
Round two: The Jordanian monarch will meet today with House members on the Hill.
The end of the California dream?
The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf explores the trajectory of the state of California — from its beginnings as a haven for a diverse group of minorities who built the state into a thriving powerhouse. But, Friedersdorf warns, new generations of Californians threaten to derail much of what has been built. Today’s Golden Staters, he suggests, “are poised to take the California Dream to their graves by betraying a promise the state has offered from the start.”
California nightmare: Friedersdorf points to the increased gentrification of the state — and with that, the pricing out of millennials, immigrants and others who don’t exist in the top economic echelons of society. “If California fails to offer young people and newcomers the opportunity to improve their lot, the consequences will be catastrophic—and not only for California. The end of the California Dream would deal a devastating blow to the proposition that such a widely diverse polity can thrive.”
Neighborhood watch: The piece zeroes in on Los Angeles, where Friedersdorf’s grandparents raised their family, and explores how efforts to democratize the sprawling city in the 1970s by empowering neighborhood residents ended up having the opposite effect. He cites findings from a land-use expert that showed that “wealthy, mostly white homeowners” took over local advisory committees and “contorted zoning rules in their neighborhoods to favor single-family houses, even though hardly more than a third of households in Los Angeles are owner-occupied, while nearly two-thirds are rented. By forming or joining nongovernmental homeowners’ associations that counted land-use rules as their biggest priority, these homeowners managed to wield disproportionate influence. Groups that favored more construction and lower rents, including Republicans in the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce and Democrats in the Urban League, failed to grasp the stakes.”
Red tape: Friedersdorf points to “a survey of 383 CEOs by Chief Executive magazine, which weighed regulations and tax policy above all other metrics, [that] ranked California the worst state for business, and Forbes ranked it among the worst for its high business costs and stifling regulatory environment.” In his reporting, he meets with small business owners in and around the state who have been seriously affected by the state’s stringent regulations, some of which he notes are overseen by political appointees with little to no experience in the industry.
💪 Stronger than Hate: Rabbi Shlomo Noginski — the Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi stabbed outside a Boston-area synagogue — writes in the Boston Globe about his experiences with antisemitism and his connection to his faith. “Since that day, I believe that the young man who tried killing me in broad daylight in front of the giant menorah outside a synagogue in Boston was motivated not by theft, but by hate. Hate for the Jews as individuals, hate for us as a people… He had planned for this. He had armed himself. But he missed something crucial about our matchup. He had a gun, a knife, and venom in his heart. I had my bare hands, a background in martial arts, and, most important, faith.” [BostonGlobe]
🗣️ Hostage Crisis: The Washington Post’s Kate Woodsome spotlights the families of Americans held hostage by Iran and used as a bargaining chip. Following Iran’s June presidential election, Woodsome writes, “Tehran stopped engaging in international nuclear talks and discussions about hostages. The simultaneous pause of both tracks has renewed fears that hostages will always take a back seat to the United States’ larger strategic interests — in this case, preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.” [WashPost]
🤝 Dark Diplomacy: In the Financial Times, Mehul Srivastava examines the close relationship between Israel and software company NSO, which has recently attracted global ire amidst revelations that its Pegasus spyware technology was used against world leaders, journalists, and political activists. The company, which requires Israeli Ministry of Defense approval to sell exports, has a cozy relationship with many in the Israeli political and military establishment, who appear to have used the software to further Israel’s agenda. “In recent years, Israel has wooed Gulf countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia… As the countries grew closer, groups such as Amnesty and the Citizen Lab have tracked increasing Pegasus intrusions into the phones of journalists, dissidents and activists across the region.” [FT]
🏠 No Place Like Home: Wall Street Journal columnist Elizabeth Bernstein, whose family has lived in Surfside, Fla., for generations, reflects on the family memories that center on the town, which is now associated with the trauma of the Champlain Towers South collapse. “My great-grandparents came to Surfside to retire in the sun. My great-grandfather bought a plot on the [Biscayne] bay, about half a mile away from where the Towers would later be constructed, and eventually built a house. My grandmother told me he’d bought land in Surfside because, as a Jew in the 1940s, he faced restrictions in more-established nearby communities. From the beginning, Surfside was a refuge.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
🔓 Not Yet: The United States will reportedly wait until the Israeli government passes its budget — expected in early November — before reopening its consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem.
🛑 Diplomat Deadlock: More than a dozen State Department offices are without leadership — and around 60 nominees are waiting to be confirmed — as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) holds up the confirmation process until the Biden administration imposes sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project.
🇨🇦 Ambassador, Eh: President Joe Biden announced the nomination of lobbyist and former telecom executive David Cohen to the posting of ambassador to Canada.
✡️ Readout: Secretary of State Tony Blinken met with Natan Sharansky, a former Jewish Agency head and current chair of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy.
👨 New Role: Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer will join JINSA as a non-resident distinguished fellow, focusing on U.S.-Israel relations, Iran and regional opportunities in the wake of last year’s Abraham Accords.
📡 Making Airwaves: Democratic Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe released his first television ad in the general election, attacking GOP candidate Glenn Youngkin as “a loyalist to Donald Trump.”
💸 Money Game: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is losing key donors amid multiple state and federal investigations into allegations of sexual harassment and mishandling of the pandemic linger.
🎓 Campus Beat: The chancellor of University of Wisconsin-Madison apologized for the university’s plans to start the fall semester on Rosh Hashanah and asked instructors teaching on that day to offer a remote learning option.
📺 New Additions: Emily Rudd, Tommy Martinez, and Udo Kier signed onto Amazon Prime and Monkeypaw Production’s season two of “Hunters,” a fictional TV series based on the true story of American Nazi-hunters.
🚓 Across the Pond: U.K.-based neo-Nazi Andrew Dymock was convicted of 15 offenses including hate crimes and terror and sentenced to seven years in jail.
💵 Big Investment: Israeli startup UVeye announced that they’ve secured an additional $60 million, raising their cumulative investment to over $90 million.
📈 Full Stream Ahead: Kaltura, the Israeli-U.S. video platform startup founded and led by Ron Yekutiel, began trading on the Nasdaq stock market on Wednesday.
📹 Caught on Tape: A woman was caught on video smashing the windows of a Jewish school with a hammer in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
🦠 Trendsetter: Nations with high levels of vaccination are lifting COVID-19 restrictions, emulating Israel’s decision to pursue a “soft suppression” strategy, which seeks to limit severe cases of the virus while acknowledging that some level of infection will persist.
🕵️♂️ Detective Work: Israel appointed an inter-ministerial task force to investigate Israeli company NSO’s global Pegasus spyware sales.
🛢️ Digging Deep: Amid an increase in the demand for gas in the East Mediterranean, Chevron announced it will drill a fifth production well in the Leviathan gas field, located 125 kilometers west of Haifa.
👋 Friendly Foes: Israeli President Isaac Herzog reassured Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou that their status as allies wouldn’t change if Israel and Turkey become closer, following a call between Herzog and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish leader’s first conversation with an Israeli official since 2007.
👩 Transition: Sarah Breger was named editor of Moment Magazine.
🕯️ Remembering: Gil Wechsler, the Metropolitan Opera’s first lighting designer, died at 79.
Gif of the Day
One hundred Israeli paratroopers parachuted into Slovenia in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of poet Hannah Szenes.
Winner of eight Academy Awards, 11 Grammy Awards, pianist and composer of many Disney movie musical scores, Alan Menken turns 72…
Israeli film and theater actress, Gila Almagor turns 82… British Conservative Party member of Parliament for 36 years (74-10), Anthony Steen CBE turns 82… Historian, author and professor (now emerita) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Judith Walzer Leavitt turns 81… British biochemist and professor at the University of Dundee in Scotland, Sir Philip Cohen turns 76… Actor, director and comedian, Albert Brooks (born Albert Lawrence Einstein) turns 74… Past president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Detroit, owner of Nodel Parks, Richard Martin Nodel turns 73… Owner of Baltimore’s Seven Mile Market, Hershel Boehm turns 71… Born in Norwalk, Conn., and now based in Munich, Germany, where he is the managing director of a public affairs firm and works to ensure that the Holocaust and its many victims are not forgotten, Terry Swartzberg turns 68… Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia since 2011, Judge Amy Berman Jackson turns 67… Member of AJC’s Jewish Religious Equality Coalition, Cindy Masters turns 63… Former secretary of veterans affairs, David Jonathon Shulkin turns 62… Founding partner of the DC-based intellectual property law firm Greenberg & Lieberman, Stevan Lieberman turns 56…
Television journalist and news anchor, David Shuster turns 54… Owner of West Bloomfield-based Saltsman Industries, Daniel A. Saltsman turns 47… Former Pentagon official, now a consultant on operations and political intelligence, Jonathan Freeman turns 46… Contemporary artist living in Brooklyn, Dustin Yellin turns 46… Director of the field operations team at the Pew Charitable Trust, Elise Rachel Shutzer turns 41… Nominee to be an associate justice on the New Jersey Supreme Court, Rachel Wainer Apter turns 41… Former White House assistant press secretary, now the managing editor of podcasts at NBC News, Reid Cherlin turns 40… White House correspondent, Andrew Grant Feinberg turns 39… General treasurer of the state of Rhode Island, he was elected in 2014 and re-elected in 2018, Seth Magaziner turns 38… Executive director of the American Sephardi Federation, Jason Guberman-Pfeffer turns 34… Actor best known for his role in “Pretty Little Liars,” Keegan Phillip Allen turns 32… CEO and co-founder of n*gram health, Maor Cohen turns 31… Talia Thurm Abramson turns 30… Serial entrepreneur and software strategist, Yoela Palkin turns 29… Actor and voice actor, Skyler Gisondo turns 25… Director of speechwriting and a senior adviser to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Warren Bass… Michael Suissa…