👋 Good Monday morning!
The scene at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, this weekend was one of chaos as American forces sought to evacuate the remaining U.S. troops and personnel from the country following the Taliban’s quick takeover in recent days. JI spoke to a number of experts and observers about what this decision — and its implementation — mean for President Joe Biden’s foreign policy agenda. Read their responses below.
Lakewood, N.J., is now the state’s fifth-largest city, according to new census data that shows a 46% population increase in the largely Jewish township over the last decade. More below.
Israel recalled its diplomatic representatives in Poland after Polish President Andrzej Duda signed a new bill into law that would prevent Jews from pursuing restitution claims over property confiscated from ancestors during the Holocaust and postwar period.
A massive wildfire burned through the hills outside Jerusalem overnight Sunday and into Monday, with at least 10,000 people evacuated from their homes in six communities west of the capital. Firefighters, including from the air, managed to get most of the fires under control by Monday but several homes in the area were destroyed by the blaze.
view from the field
After Afghanistan evacuation, what comes next?
American forces scrambled on Sunday to evacuate remaining U.S. personnel, local translators and others promised asylum following the total collapse of the Afghan government in Kabul. After weeks of steady gains by Taliban insurgents across the country, the weekend’s events sealed a calamitous few days as the remaining Americans, mostly stationed at the sprawling embassy complex, rushed to complete an increasingly chaotic evacuation. One human rights attorney quoted by the Wall Street Journal called the situation “Saigon on steroids,” comparing the Afghanistan pullout to the American evacuation of the South Vietnamese city at the end of the Vietnam War, a comparison that was rebuffed Sunday by U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken. “It’s a sad day,” Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense in the George W. Bush administration, told JI.
‘Disastrous’: “President Biden has damaged American credibility in the Middle East and elsewhere by his precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan,” said Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, who previously served in the Reagan, George W. Bush and Trump administrations. “Even if one agrees that we should get out, to get out instantly and during the heart of the fighting season, to deny the Afghans air support, and to create the disaster we see in Kabul today were all avoidable. He chose a disastrous policy. Every American ally in the Middle East will shudder at what they are seeing this week and our enemies will rejoice.”
Catastrophe: “This is an unspeakable catastrophe for all the Afghans that the Taliban can be expected to torture and kill,” said Feith, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute think tank and a Pentagon and White House official in the Reagan administration. “Those who must now be terrified include all women and girls and anyone who had ties to the Americans, supported liberal policies or otherwise offended against Taliban ideology.” Under the protection of American forces, NGOs had spent years developing schools and increasing rights and opportunities for women, expecting to leave a legacy of improvement now banned by the Taliban. On Sunday, some commentators were quick to point out the lack of public comment offered by some progressive Democratic lawmakers previously critical of Israel.
Explaining the left: “The left is in a bind between ‘end the endless wars’ and values like feminism and human rights,” Hussein Ibish, senior resident scholar at The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, told JI. “I think it’s very understandable that Democrats are reticent to criticize the president who has gone out of his way to give them policy victories. If this had been done by Trump, I’m sure they would have been up in arms. But they can leave that to Republicans, who would, to the contrary, have defended Trump stoutly. More importantly, this basically serves the agenda of both the progressive left and the Republican Trumpian right, which agree on something approaching a neo-isolationist foreign policy.”
American credibility: “I don’t think it says much for American credibility, except with potential individual partners in the developing world, that is to say ordinary people who might serve as pro-American soldiers, low-level administrators or translators with the U.S. military,” Ibish told JI. “That they may be abandoned en masse to their fates, and very suddenly, as happened in Vietnam before, is further emphasized by this wretchedly quick, slapdash withdrawal. Other than that, I don’t think the world is going to look at the American role much differently, and I don’t think it’s going to have a big impact on American credibility.”
View from the Mideast: With a seeming failure of American foreign policy playing out before the international community, questions were immediately raised as to how the events would impact U.S. allies, especially those in the Middle East. “The team managing America’s disastrous Afghanistan policy is in charge of managing America’s Iran and broader Middle East policies.” Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JI. “Now that American influence and credibility have been severely undermined, American allies like Israel had better start developing their own independent Plan B for countering the threat from Iran.” Feith concurred, adding, “This will gravely damage America’s international standing. It undermines our credibility as a military partner. In the future, it will be far harder for U.S. officials to win high-risk cooperation from foreign friends, especially for projects requiring substantial time and patience.”
Aryé Elfenbein wants to revolutionize how we consume fish
Aryé Elfenbein has glimpsed a brave-new-world vision of the kosher restaurant of tomorrow: Glance down the menu past the grilled lamb chops, the Porterhouse steak and even the vegan burger, and you’ll find sustainable dishes with “wild-caught fish, farmed fish and plant-based alternatives.” Then, if all goes as planned for the cardiologist who moonlights as a cell engineer, you’ll find “cultivated seafood” of the kind he and his partner are creating in a San Francisco lab — sashimi-grade salmon grown from just a few salmon cells, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Sea to lab to table: Launched in 2016, the San Francisco-based Wildtype joined the growing ecosystem of startups seeking to create cultivated, or lab-grown, meat. Wildtype, which has succeeded in its efforts to create cultivated salmon, begins by taking just a few cells taken from a live fish. Then, through a complex scientific process, these handful of cells become a whole piece of fish — fat, muscle and all. “When we began, I think there were maybe three or four other startups in the world working on this,” Elfenbein said of he and his co-founder, Justin Kolbeck. “Now there’s, I think, more than 60.”
Rabbinic approval: For cultivated fish, kosher certification is likely to be much easier than it is for cultivated beef. Fish is not slaughtered like an animal, so there does not need to be any observation when the fish is killed. And a kosher consumer can go to any grocery store or fish market and buy fish without a hechsher (kosher certification), as long as it’s “identifiable that it’s from the kosher species,” said Rabbi Menachem Genack, rabbinic administrator of the Orthodox Union’s Kashrut Division. “The OU’s position has been that salmon, since it has its own unique pink color, even though it doesn’t have a scale on it, people going to the store can identify it as salmon.” Unlike beef, the cultivation of salmon in a lab would not need to be observed the entire time by a mashgiach.
Around the world: While doing his residency and fellowship at the Yale School of Medicine, Elfenbein met Kolbeck, a business student at Yale. Both developed an interest in sustainable food and cultivated meat for different reasons. Kolbeck “had been a diplomat and worked in the U.S. Foreign Service in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, these very food insecure parts of the world, and really wanted to do something after finishing his MBA that addressed that in some way,” Elfenbein explained.
Big questions: Born in Petah Tikvah, Israel, Elfenbein left Israel when he was young, and grew up mostly in Australia. After attending Brandeis University as an undergraduate, he went to Dartmouth for his Ph.D. and MD. Elfenbein was back home in Australia on a rare vacation from his medical residency when he saw that much of the rainforest near where he grew up was now used to raise livestock. “This question came to me of, ‘Do we need animals to produce meat?’” he asked.
Israeli inspiration: Wildtype is building a production facility in San Francisco that will also hold a tasting room, where consumers can buy the fish after it gains approval from the Food and Drug Administration. As Wildtype seeks regulatory approval, Elfenbein has looked to his home country for inspiration. “Israel really is on the forefront of this field, not just in terms of the startups that have emerged there, but I think also in terms of the government’s willingness to engage in terms of constructing a regulatory framework,” Elfenbein pointed out. “As a very generally progressive society, it’s one that has embraced technologies such as these.”
paint by numbers
Lakewood sees surge in population, census reveals
The central New Jersey community of Lakewood, home to one of the country’s largest Orthodox Jewish communities, is now the state’s fifth-largest city, a result of the 46% population increase over the last decade, reports the local Asbury Park Press. The city’s population grew from 92,843 to 135,158 between 2010 and 2020, according to new census figures. Politico New Jersey’s Matt Friedman said the growth was driven by the city’s Orthodox Jewish population.
Mayor weighs in: “Anybody who’s been around for the past 10 to 20 years understands how quickly the town has grown,” Mayor Raymond Coles said. “It’s the fifth-biggest city, but it’s still a small town… When I walk down the street, I feel like I was when I was growing up in Staten Island 50 some odd years ago. Lots of kids outside playing. All the moms sitting on the lawn talking. It’s just a very nice, family-oriented town.”
📗 Next Chapter: Bloomberg’s Devon Pendleton explores businessman Lev Blavatnik’s charitable giving as the billionaire and philanthropist founder and owner of Access Industries expands his philanthropic portfolio to include the biotech sector. “A lot of families make money in a certain sector and their focus will stay there. Yes, they’ll do stuff outside to diversify but never to the same extent as Len. He is kind of like Madonna was in her career. A different person with every album,” consultant Samy Dwek told Pendleton. [Bloomberg]
🎮 Inside Story: In the Wall Street Journal, Sarah Needleman explores how Ryan Cohen drove out GameStop’s executive team — winning favor among rogue investors who sparked a trading frenzy that resulted in GameStop stock’s price surge — only to face a vague future for the company. “If Mr. Cohen has made winning look easy thus far, it is far from clear what comes next. From his perch as chairman, he has to revamp GameStop’s business, if only to justify the stock’s remarkable run. The stock closed Wednesday around $159 per share, up more than eightfold this year, but far below the high of $483 it touched in January. The company has reported annual losses for three consecutive years.” [WSJ]
🙏 Keep the Faith: In The New York Times, columnist Ross Douthat provides “A Guide to Finding Faith,” an argument about the relevancy of religion, even in the modern (and postmodern) world. “The resilience of religious theories is matched by the resilience of religious experience. The disenchantment of the modern world is a myth of the intelligentsia: In reality it never happened,” Douthat writes. “Instead, through the whole multicentury process of secularization, the decline of religion’s political power and cultural prestige, people kept right on having near-death experiences and demonic visitations and wild divine encounters. They just lost the religious structures through which those experiences used to be interpreted.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
🎈 Uninvited: Comedian Larry David was one of the few invitees to former President Barack Obama’s birthday celebration relieved to have his invitation revoked as the Obamas restricted attendance to the Martha’s Vineyard event following a surge in COVID-19 cases.
✡️ Star Power: New “Jeopardy!” co-host Mayim Bialik revealed she wore Star of David jewelry during every episode she taped as a guest star.
🇻🇮 The Shul Where it Happens: Author and historian Andrew Porwancher, highlighting Alexander Hamilton’s upbringing and later engagement with the American Jewish community, suggests that the Founding Father had deep ties to the faith resulting from his mother’s conversion before he was born.
🥺 Last Words: The attorney who represented the acquitted defendants in the kidnapping case of Samuel Bronfman admitted on his deathbed that his successful defense had been predicated on a lie.
📹 Now Streaming: Rumble, a new video site based in Canada, is making a play to attract users who oppose content regulation on mainstream platforms.
💣 Blame Game: Human Rights Watch accused Hamas of committing war crimes during the latest military conflict with Israel in May.
🦠 Deja Vu: A surge of COVID-19 in Israel, driven by the virus’s Delta variant, is threatening to undo much of the reopening allowed by the country’s vaccination campaign though health officials said the third shot booster campaign was gaining steam and would likely halt the rise in severe cases of the virus.
📈 Booming Business: Viola Ventures realized a 50x return on its investment in IronSource, a mobile-ad company.
🦑 Sea Life: Eilat’s coral reefs have emerged as a battleground, pitting companies and diplomatic officials, who favor an Israeli-Emirati collaboration that would send oil through the southern Israeli city before heading to Western markets, against environmental groups concerned about the deal’s ecological impact.
🎵 Sharps and Flats: Israeli classical pianist Evgeny Kissin has begun composing music again, ahead of a planned fall concert tour, and has plans to stage his Yiddish-language musical, “The Bird Alef From the Old Gramophone,” in Moscow next summer on the anniversary of the Night of Murdered Poets.
💻 New Suspect: A cyberattack on Iran was likely conducted by a rogue opposition group, despite initial speculation that the Israeli government was behind the effort, according to a report from an Israeli-American cybersecurity company.
🖥️ Computer Clash: China has conducted multiple cyber espionage attacks against Israel to support its Belt and Road Initiatives in the Middle East, according to a new report from cybersecurity firm FireEye.
Pic of the Day
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was spotted at San Francisco International Airport en route to Hawaii.
President of Profitero, Sarah Hofstetter…
Solicitor general of New York State, Barbara Dale Underwood turns 77… Former member of Congress and both houses of the New Jersey Legislature, Richard Alan “Dick” Zimmer turns 77… Sportscaster known as the “Voice of the Dallas Cowboys,” Brad Sham turns 72… President and CEO of the Business Roundtable, he was previously chief of staff in the Bush 43 White House, Josh Bolten turns 67… Gerald Platt turns 67… Media consultant, Sol Levine turns 66… Former IDF fighter pilot, he served as commander of the Israeli Air Force and later as CEO of El Al, General Eliezer Shkedi turns 64… Senior partner at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Steven C. Demby turns 63… Founder of Value Retail Plc and co-owner of the New York Islanders professional hockey team, Scott David Malkin turns 63… Sports journalist and founder of Walk Swiftly Productions, Bonnie Bernstein turns 51… Johannesburg-born actress and singer-songwriter living in NYC, Caron Bernstein turns 51… Senior staff writer for Politico Magazine and editor-at-large of The Agenda, Michael Grunwald turns 51… Member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party, Vladimir Beliak turns 48… Former senior editor of Kol HaBirah, Kami Troy…
Co-founder of Johannesburg-based LLH Capital, Gil Oved turns 46… Political and public relations consultant based in Albuquerque, Jonathan Lipshutz turns 43… CBS producer, Matthew J. Silverstein turns 40… Associate at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Julian Olidort turns 32… Studio manager at Barre3 Bethesda and founder of Atom, LLC, Anna Dubinsky… VP and chief of staff to the Global CMO at BlackRock, Phillip Schermer turns 30… Argentine professional tennis player, he was the 8th seed at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Diego Schwartzman turns 29… Development assistant project manager at AIPAC, Rachel Berman… Former president of the Israel Alliance at Pomona College, currently in law school at The George Washington University, Katherine Dolgenos… Member of AJR, an indie pop multi-instrumentalist trio, together with his two brothers, Jack Metzger turns 24… Submissions coordinator at Nishlis Legal Marketing, Galit Tassi… Assistant regional director in the New England office of J Street, Cooper Boyar… Ellen Weissfeld… Marshall Cohen… Dave Jacobsen…