👋 Good Wednesday morning!
Israel’s national baseball team takes the field against South Korea in the opening round of the Tokyo Olympics tomorrow at 6 a.m. ET, led by former Major Leaguers Ian Kinsler, Danny Valencia and Ryan Lavarnway. The team, which held its training on Long Island, gained a rabid following while barnstorming across the Northeast.
Unilever CEO Alan Joperesponded to at least two Jewish community leaders, the Conference of Presidents’ William Daroff and the Anti-Defamation League’s Jonathan Greenblatt, regarding inquiries into the decision of its subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s to cease sales in what the ice cream company referred to as “Occupied Palestinian Territory” last week.
The Conference tweeted that Jope’s letter — in which he asserts the company’s “longstanding commitment to our business in Israel” and notes that Unilever has never supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel “and have no intention of changing that position” — “does not go nearly far enough” and that Unilever should rescind the original decision by Ben & Jerry’s.
Meanwhile, at least 19 of the 33 state anti-BDS laws also target companies that include boycotts of the Palestinian territories.
A swastika was found etched in the wall of a State Department elevator, near the office of the envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism earlier this week, Axios’s Hans Nichols and Jonathan Swan reported.
Secretary of State Tony Blinkensent a department-wide email condemning the incident and reassuring “our Jewish colleagues: please know how grateful we are for your service and how proud we are to be your colleagues.”
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) said in a statement, “this hateful display of antisemitism… is extremely disturbing, repugnant and simply un-American,” adding that it is “critical” that an antisemitism envoy be “immediately named.”
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a co-chair of the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism, said she is “deeply disturbed by this hateful vandalism” and “appreciate[s] Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s condemnation and announcement of an investigation.”
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), Rosen’s task force co-chair, tweeted “Antisemitism has no place in the US, & especially not a few doors away from the special envoy tasked with combatting antisemitism in the State Dept. This is not who we are as a nation.”
race to watch
An early test of Trump’s clout in Ohio special election
In some ways, the special election next Tuesday in Ohio’s deep-red 15th Congressional District has come to be viewed as an early test of former President Donald Trump’s prevailing influence within the GOP. The Republican primary in the suburbs south of Columbus pits a Trump-backed former energy lobbyist, Mike Carey, against Jeff LaRe, a state legislator endorsed by former Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), who vacated the seat in May. The race is being billed as a matchup between the Trump-aligned faction of the GOP and its establishment wing. So far, Trump appears to have the edge, reports Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel, even as the former president suffered a stinging rebuke last night in a Texas runoff.
Top contender: Carey, a 50-year-old former executive at American Consolidated Natural Resources, has raked in more than $460,000 since May, outraising every candidate in the field, according to filings from the Federal Election Commission. Meanwhile, a June poll commissioned by Carey’s campaign put him well ahead of his opponents even with just 20% of the vote — a number that jumped to 52% when voters were informed of Trump’s endorsement. “Donald Trump is the Republican Party in the 15th Congressional District,” Carey boasted to JI.
LaRe’s way: LaRe, who placed second in Carey’s poll, made sure to note that he agreed with Trump’s policies in an interview with JI, mindful not to alienate supporters of the former president who are likely to turn out on Election Day. But the 45-year-old state lawmaker, a former deputy sheriff and a longtime security industry executive at the Whitestone Group, was eager to emphasize that he is running his own race. “I’m certainly honored to have the endorsement and support of Steve Stivers,” he said, “but at the end of the day, I’m Jeff LaRe.”
Crowded field: With 11 Republicans angling for the seat, the primary has proven difficult to forecast, observers say. “It’s an odd contest to have to try to handicap,” said Paul Beck, a professor emeritus of political science at The Ohio State University. The primary may be more competitive than is immediately apparent, he says, because of the wide assortment of candidates, none of whom are particularly well-known, all jockeying for support during an off-cycle election in late summer — when turnout is expected to be significantly lower than usual. The race hasn’t predictably unfolded along intraparty lines, either, as some prominent out-of-state Republicans wading into the open-seat contest have indicated that they won’t be falling in line behind Carey.
Jewish support: LaRe and Carey both touted their support for Israel in conversations with JI, vowing to build on Trump’s Middle East foreign policy achievements, including the Abraham Accords. Still, the district’s modestly sized Jewish community doesn’t appear to be rallying behind one particular candidate, mostly because the viable contenders in the expansive field have all earned positive reviews from Jewish activists. “It’s a bumper crop of great candidates who know our community issues and have worked with our community’s leaders,” said Howie Beigelman, the executive director of the nonprofit Ohio Jewish Communities.
Read the full story here.
In other special election news: In a surprise victory in Texas, State Rep. Jake Ellzey beat the Trump-endorsed candidate, Susan Wright, in the special election runoff in the state’s 6th Congressional District. Check out JI’s conversation with Ellzey in March.
The young crypto billionaire who wants to change political fundraising
Think of the biggest donors to U.S. political campaigns and candidates, and you might imagine hedge fund magnates or septuagenarian titans of business, dressed perhaps in bespoke suits and designer ties. But among the top donors during the 2020 election cycle, one name stands out — Sam Bankman-Fried, a 29-year-old MIT graduate who prefers casual T-shirts and has been known to sleep in a beanbag chair. He also made billions in the cryptocurrency industry. Last year, he gave $5.6 million to Democratic causes. Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports on Bankman-Fried’s political giving.
Crypto king: In the rapidly growing cryptocurrency industry, Bankman-Fried is among the first crypto entrepreneurs to get involved in U.S. politics at such a large scale. His company, FTX, is one of the world’s fastest-growing cryptocurrency exchanges, processing nearly $11 billion in trades a day. Bankman-Fried’s net worth is estimated to be just shy of $9 billion.
First-timer: Bankman-Fried’s first-ever political donation was less than two months before last year’s election. The bulk of his donations — $5 million — went to Future Forward USA, a super PAC affiliated with Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz. Now, Bankman-Fried is bankrolling a political project called Guarding Against Pandemics, which is lobbying members of Congress to support $30 billion in pandemic prevention funding in Biden’s infrastructure bill. His brother, Gabriel Bankman-Fried, who runs the organization, told Punchbowl News that the organization plans to spend at least $128,000 on TV and digital ads in the Washington region.
Effective altruism: Bankman-Fried buys into the philosophy of effective altruism, which uses “evidence and reason to figure out how to benefit others as much as possible,” according to the Centre for Effective Altruism. As an effective altruist, Bankman-Fried’s goal “is just to find out how I can do the most good,” he told Vox. “And I had a long list of things to look at, at least briefly. And politics has always been on that list, and I’ve been fairly skeptical of it.”
Spend it all: His plan, he said, is to give away all of his money in his lifetime. He is skeptical of other billionaires who give large sums to political causes because he thinks they can give more: “The thought of being someone who has $50 billion of completely liquid wealth that’s just been sitting there for years and you don’t find anything to do with $100 million of it in a big moment? That’s obviously an enormous amount for most people. But for some people in the country, that’s a rounding error,” he said.
Read more here.
Less than half of NSGP grant applications approved for 2021
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) fulfilled less than half of the applications it received for 2021 grants, a FEMA spokesperson told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod. In total, nonprofits submitted 3,361 applications requesting nearly $400 million in NSGP funds, far outstripping the $180 million appropriated by Congress for the 2021 fiscal year. Of those, 1,532 applications were approved.
Alarm bells: Anti-Defamation League National Security Director Ryan Greer suggested in an interview with JI that closer to 80% or 90% of applicants to a security grant program should receive funding, rather than what he called the “astonishingly low” 46% that were funded this year. This year’s shortfall is “a fantastic illustration of the real need and how we are not meeting it,” added Rabbi Moshe Hauer, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union. The acceptance rate, Hauer emphasized, “isn’t because 50% are worthy and the others aren’t worthy. It reflects the funds which the federal government is making available.”
Trouble on the horizon: It is unclear if the situation will improve next year. The House Appropriations Committee decided last month not to provide additional NSGP funding for 2022, holding the funding level at $180 million despite a spike in antisemitic, anti-Asian and other hate crimes and domestic extremism this year. Program advocates on and off Capitol Hill largely support increasing the funding to $360 million for 2022, which Greer and Hauer argued is an appropriate target based on this year’s hate crimes data.
In the wind: Greer told JI that there has historically been a “mismatch of the rise of the threat versus the rise in security funding, in that they are wildly disproportionate.” He estimated that the 3,361 applications were likely “a drop in the bucket,” placing the number of organizations that could have applied at around 7,000.
Urgent need: Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), along with Rep. John Katko (R-NY), led approximately a third of House members in a letter in May urging appropriators to double 2022 funding to $360 million. “That FEMA received this many requests for NSGP grants demonstrates in the clearest possible terms why I called for the program’s funding to be doubled,” Pascrell said of the application data in a statement to JI. “Drastic NSGP increases are absolutely essential to giving Americans peace of mind and keeping them safe from the rising tide of violence… We have successfully expanded available funding in recent years and increased demand shows we need even more growth. I will keep fighting for more resources and will not shrink from the challenge in front of us.”
Question mark: Greer said he is “cautiously optimistic — emphasis on caution” that the Senate will support increasing NSGP funding in its own budget proposal, highlighting Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) past support for funding increases. But he also noted there was also strong support in the House for a funding increase, where no increase materialized. Hauer told JI, “There is a real chance — we’re not going to stop trying.”Read more here.
🤝 Teamwork: The Palm Beach Post’s Wendy Rhodes spotlights the Israeli Defense Forces’s National Rescue Unit, which deployed to Surfside, Fla., last month to assist in rescue-and-recovery efforts following the Champlain Towers South collapse. By interviewing families, mapping the collapsed building and studying victims’ personal possessions, the Israelis found 81 of the 98 victims. “What the untrained eye saw as a pile of rubble the IDF team viewed as a building in puzzle form. And each piece, whether a stone column, slab of concrete, or crushed family heirloom, pointed them toward where a victim might be found. Sadly, their success would not result in anyone’s rescue, but rather in bringing closure and solace to grieving loved ones and providing them an opportunity to say goodbye and begin to heal their broken hearts.” [PalmBeachPost]
🇦🇪🇸🇦 New Path: In Foreign Policy, Neil Quilliam and Sanam Vakil explore the increasingly strained ties between the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, countries that have largely worked closely over the last decade but have recently seen a fraying of their friendship. Quilliam and Vakil also look at the larger uncertainties over the future of the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which both countries are members. “The fundamental problem for the GCC is that the security narrative which was the glue that once stuck together the collective interests and political narratives of all six states has come undone, even though the threat from Iran remains. National interests which include economic diversification and domestic security are superseding GCC ones leading countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia to chart their own path.” [ForeignPolicy]
🎧 Worthy Listen: In a podcast interview with “Decoder with Nilay Patel,” moderator of “Meet the Press” and NBC political director Chuck Todd reflects on the state of the media and cultural landscape and how he approaches “educating” his viewers. “Frankly, there’s four cultural centers in America, right? For entertainment, it’s LA. For tech, it’s essentially San Francisco. For finance and media, it’s New York. And then DC, for politics. All four of them, though, have a common cultural identity, when it comes to perhaps religion, when it comes to some sort of cultural norms. And so a guy like [Roger] Ailes exploited that really well, over a long period of time, so that they could say, “Hey, that proves there’s a liberal bias,” when really, this was just more of an urban/rural divide, not a left/right divide.” [Verge]
☢️ Daunting Demands: The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board examines Iran’s latest demand for the Vienna nuclear talks: that a future deal require U.N. approval for an American withdrawal from any future agreement. The demand, which follows former President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 deal, is both illegal and unpopular in Congress, argues the WSJ: “A U.S. President can’t stop a future Congress or President from changing policy, especially when the nuclear agreement was never submitted to the Senate for ratification as a treaty. Most treaties have planks that allow for withdrawal under certain conditions.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
☎️ Ring Ring: Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) spoke to Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid yesterday about bilateral relations, Iron Dome resupply, global antisemitism, Polish Holocaust restitution legislation, the Abraham Accords and Iranian regional aggression.
✍️ Crackdown: Thirteen Senate Republicans and 27 House Republicans introduced a bill adding stricter oversight over U.S. aid to UNRWA — conditions the agency would likely be unable to meet.
🧑💼 Nominated: President Joe Biden nominated Mark Gitenstein to the post of U.S. ambassador to the European Union.
♟️ Chess Moves: Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov proposed that the Biden administration pursue aggressive sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s wealthy enablers who hide the leader’s riches, as a strategy for constraining the recalcitrant country.
⚒️ Wrath of Ishtar: Hobby Lobby turned over a cuneiform tablet, a rare ancient fragment containing the Epic of Gilgamesh, after the Justice Department ordered the forfeiture following an investigation into smuggled artifacts.
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: Barnardo’s — a British charity for children — suspended one of its teachers after a local Jewish publication found her antisemitic posts on LinkedIn.
🥈 Tokyo Time: Judoku Saeid Mollaei, an Iranian defector who now represents Mongolia, dedicated his silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics to Israel, thanking the country “for the good energy.”
👮 Tehran Trouble: Iranian state media reported that officials arrested a network of spies working for the Mossad and found a cache of weapons in their possession, which authorities claim the group was planning to use during water shortage protests throughout the country.
✈️ Travel at Risk: The State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated travel advisories, warning against visiting Israel and several European countries, as the Delta variant prompts new fears about viral infections.
💉 Vaccines for the Vulnerable: Israel authorized the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for vulnerable children between 5 and 11 years old.
🇫🇷 Bon Voyage: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is in France today to discuss the NSO spyware debacle that allegedly targeted French President Emmanuel Macron’s phone, as well as regional issues.
🐪 Diaspora in the Desert: The United Arab Emirates is seeing an influx of individuals from Lebanon who are seeking jobs and better wages amid widespread economic instability at home.
🙍♂️ Head Honcho: The Lebanese Parliament handed billionaire tycoon Najib Mikati, who has twice served as the country’s prime minister, the task of forming a government as the country’s economy tanks in the wake of a deadly explosion in the Beirut port and a global pandemic.
📺 Scaling Up: Israeli content producer Ananey Communications is looking to expand beyond its programming for kids following its acquisition by ViacomCBS.
🎵 Entertainment Nation: Universal Music Group is opening a recorded music division and a local arm of the Universal Music Publishing Group in Israel to recruit talent from a country that has recently seen a boon in its entertainment stock.
💰 Booming Business: Mor Assia and Shelly Hod Moyal announced a $55.5 million closing for iAngels Ventures, a venture capital fund providing global investors with investment opportunities in Israel.
🕯️ Remembering: Longtime Detroit Jewish News columnist Danny Raskin, whose career with the paper spanned 79 years, died at 102.
Song of the Day
Israeli singer Omer Adam and DJ Skazi are out with a new song titled “Cattleya.”
Chairwoman and chief technology officer at Diagnostic Robotics in Jerusalem, the firm produced an app for managing COVID-19 patients, Kira Radinsky Ph.D. turns 35…
Survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau as a teen, he emigrated to Israel and became an artist, Yehuda Bacon turns 92… Chicago news personality, Walter David Jacobson turns 84… Former U.S. District Court judge in Manhattan, then U.S. attorney general, now of counsel at the international law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton, Michael Mukasey turns 80… Swedish industrialist, chairman of the Nobel Foundation from 2005 to 2013, Marcus Storch Ph.D. turns 79… In 1986 she became first woman in the IDF to hold the rank of Brigadier General, she was a member of Knesset and now serves on multiple for-profit and non-profit boards, Amira Dotan turns 74… President of the Council on Foreign Relations since 2003 and previously a State Department official, Richard N. Haass turns 70… Sports columnist, commentator and author of 42 sports-related books, John Feinstein turns 65… Tel Aviv-born real estate developer, he has restored many historic buildings in Downtown Los Angeles, Izek Shomof turns 62… Partner and managing director of private investment bank DH Capital, he serves on the boards of American Jewish World Service and Hazon, Marty Friedman turns 61…
French-Israeli hairdresser and entrepreneur, Michel Mercier turns 60… Sports executive, attorney and former president of basketball operations for the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, David Kahn turns 60… Television and radio personality in Atlanta, Mara Davis turns 52… Tech entrepreneur and New York Times-bestselling author, Joshua M. “Josh” Linkner turns 51… Actress and reality show personality, Elizabeth Berkley Lauren turns 49… Co-founder and CEO of 23andMe, Anne Wojcicki turns 48… CEO of Xukuma, LLC, Jennifer Lew Goldstone turns 48… Jerusalem-born actor, Ori Pfeffer turns 46… Associate justice of the Supreme Court of California, Leondra Kruger turns 45… Managing partner at healthcare venture capital firm Altitude Ventures, Jay Zeidman turns 38… Member of the editorial board at the New York Daily News, Laura Nahmias turns 37… Assistant general manager and director of baseball research and development for the Washington Nationals, Samuel Mondry-Cohen turns 34… Administrator at Gardenview Home Care in Trenton, N.J., Menachem (Mark) Perl turns 34… Senior staff writer at Politico Magazine, Ruby Cramer turns 31… Larry Gordon…