👋 Good Friday morning!
Ed. Note: In celebration of Rosh Hashanah and Labor Day, the next Daily Kickoff will arrive on Thursday, September 9th. Wishing all of you a healthy and happy New Year!
For less-distracted reading over the long weekend, browse this week’s edition of The Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent JI stories, including: Ben Samuels returns to his roots; Bringing the Torah to the blockchain; Inside the effort to extract one family from Afghanistan; A rising tide of cultural tolerance in the UAE as it approaches its 50th year; The ‘Boy With No Job’ gets a new job; and Dara Horn on a world that only teaches about ‘dead Jews’. Print the latest edition here.
A group of Senate Democrats currently in Israel met this morning with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog. “Bipartisanship is a sacred pillar of the U.S.-Israel alliance. Delighted to welcome a delegation of U.S. Democratic Senators to Jerusalem,” Herzog tweeted. “Held an open discussion with Senators Chris Murphy, Richard Blumenthal, Chris Van Hollen & Jon Ossoff about our shared interests and values.”
On Thursday, the delegation visited the Israeli Knesset where they met with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy. The meeting focused on the threat from Iran, improving U.S.-Israel ties and strengthening bipartisan support for Israel, a Knesset source told JI. The senators also raised the issue of reopening the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, which historically served as a base from which to conduct outreach to the Palestinians and was closed by the Trump administration in 2019. Lapid told foreign journalists this week that reopening the office was a “bad idea.” At the end of the meeting, Lapid met privately with the group of senators, the source said.
On their previous stop in Lebanon, the four Democratic senators met with Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri and Lebanese Armed Forces Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun, in addition to Lebanese President Michel Aoun, JI has learned. The meetings touched on political, economic and security issues as well as the situation in Afghanistan.
The State Department “intends to mark the anniversary of the Abraham Accords,” a State Department official told JI, but the official would not provide details about what those plans will be. Israel’s Kann reported this week that the Abraham Accords Peace Institute would host an anniversary event on Sept. 14, to be attended by current members of the Biden administration; former Trump administration officials; and the ambassadors of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.
A trilateral summit between Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority was held in Cairo on Thursday. The meeting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II focused on reaching a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Abbas asserted his commitment to “a comprehensive and just peace based on the resolutions of the international legitimacy and under the auspices of the International Quartet,” a reference to the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States, according to Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency.
Sisi and Abdullah reaffirmed their support for the Palestinian people and their commitment to a two-state solution, according to the report.
British national and ISIS member Alexanda Kotey pleaded guilty in a federal court in Virginia on Thursday to having participated in the torture and killing of American citizens, including journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley.
Toby Dershowitz, senior vice president the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JI, “Alexanda Kotey and the others responsible must be held accountable, and justice must be served. At the same time, let us recognize that he was a foot soldier, a pawn in a larger chess game. To succeed in ending this game of whack-a-mole by terrorists, the U.S. needs to identify who enables these pawns. Who funds them? Who recruits and radicalizes them? Which countries provide material support and allow them refuge? Withdrawing from the fight should not be mistaken for victory. The war on terror will continue because our adversaries have not ended their war against us. We should not surrender.”
An ISIS supporter stabbed and wounded at least six people in a supermarket in Auckland, New Zealand, on Friday, before police fatally shot him. Authorities have described the stabbing as a terrorist attack.
Republicans slam Meeks over blocked NDAA amendment on Iran sanctions
Following Wednesday’s marathon National Defense Authorization Act markup in the House Armed Services Committee, some Republicans on the committee expressed frustration that House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Greg Meeks (D-NY) blocked the Armed Services Committee from proceeding with an amendment eliminating a waiver on Iran sanctions, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Background: The amendment, proposed Wednesday night by Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX), with the backing of the Republican Study Committee, would have repealed an exemption to sanctions imposed by the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 on the country’s shipping, energy and shipbuilding industries provided to Afghanistan in the 2013 NDAA. That legislation gave the president the latitude to provide a waiver “for reconstruction assistance or economic development for Afghanistan.” Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off on the waiver in 2018, under the Trump administration, to allow for Afghanistan to import Iranian oil. The waiver also allowed supplies to be shipped to land-locked Afghanistan via Iran’s Chabahar port.
Crossover: Since the issue fell into the jurisdiction of both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, Meeks needed to provide a waiver to allow the amendment to move forward in Armed Services, but declined to do so. Without the waiver, Fallon withdrew the amendment after introducing it.
Frustration: With the Taliban now in control of Afghanistan and Iranian oil sales to Afghanistan resuming, some of the amendment’s supporters argued the waiver should be eliminated.“It baffles me that a bipartisan amendment striking language from a previous NDAA was not granted a waiver by Chairman Meeks,” Fallon told Jewish Insider. “We’re removing an exception from Iranian sanctions meant to benefit the previous allied Afghan government — an exception that now benefits the Taliban and Iran. This shouldn’t be controversial. Additionally, where better to repeal outdated provisions of old NDAAs…than the NDAA.”
Pushback: “Waiving or not waiving jurisdiction is part of the regular negotiations between committees for any bill,” a House Foreign Affairs Committee aide told JI. “When it comes to Rep. Fallon’s proposed amendment, the committee wants to preserve this or any future administration’s ability to provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable Afghans who may be in need of assistance.”
Read more here.
Elsewhere on the Hill: Reps. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), Mike Waltz (R-FL), Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Grace Meng (D-NY) are expected to introduce a House bill creating a joint U.S.-Israel artificial intelligence research center today, Jewish Insider has learned. The legislation is a companion to a Senate bill introduced in June by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
Biden addresses rabbis ahead of Rosh Hashanah
In a Thursday Zoom call attended by over 1,000 rabbis, President Joe Biden shared Rosh Hashanah greetings and commended the U.S. Jewish community for being the “backbone of staying with what’s right,” Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. The event was organized by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and hosted by Chanan Weissman, the White House’s new liaison to the Jewish community.
Tradition interrupted: “I must start off with an apology,” Biden began, noting that he had wished to host a Rosh Hashanah event with rabbis, a tradition he began as vice president when he invited members of the Jewish community to his home at the Naval Observatory ahead of the High Holidays but was not able to do this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I hope next year — not only next year in Jerusalem, next year at the White House, God willing,” he said. JI sat in on the call.
Steadfast security: The president reaffirmed his support for Israel’s security: “In this new year, we’re going to have to remain steadfast in our pursuit of peace. We never waver on our support for the future security of the State of Israel,” he said.
Soul of this nation: Biden mentioned the 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, arguing that fighting antisemitism is a core American value. “Antisemitic attacks aren’t just a strike against the Jewish community. They’re striking against the soul of our nation, and the values which we say we stand for,” he said.
Welcome the stranger: In his speech, Biden defended his recent decision to remove all American troops from Afghanistan. He also enlisted American Jews in the task of helping resettle and welcome Afghan refugees. “We now embark on the next phase of this mission, which is a cause that the Jewish community has so often led, whether it was Soviet Jews coming to America or Ethiopian Jews headed to Israel,” Biden said. “We have to integrate these newcomers and help them begin to renew and rebuild their own lives.”
Criticism: In his address, Biden remarked “I remember spending time at the, you know, going to the, you know, the Tree of Life synagogue, speaking with them.” Barb Feige, executive director of Tree of Life told the New York Post that Biden did not visit the synagogue in the nearly three years since the attack.
Birthright receives Health Ministry approval to resume trips to Israel
Birthright Israel has received approval from Israel’s Health Ministry to resume trips to the country, Jewish Insider’s Tamara Zieve reports. The popular 10-day tours of Israel, which bring thousands of young Jewish adults from around the world to the country every year, were halted in August due to new restrictions put in place to curb the latest wave of COVID-19 in the country. The measures, which went into effect last month as the Delta variant of the virus spread, barred quarantine-free entry to the country to individuals from a number of countries, including the United States.
Swift and safe return: Hundreds of young adults who were supposed to travel to Israel with Birthright in recent weeks had their trips canceled. “We received an approval and we hope to resume trips in a safe way for vaccinated Jewish young adults soon,” a spokesperson for Birthright told JI.
Priority status: The Birthright Israel website assures those whose trips were canceled that they will receive priority status for a future trip.
Vaccinated only: The Health Ministry confirmed to JI that it had issued approval for “Birthright Israel delegations to come for educational activities in Israel, due to the value and educational importance of the trip.” The ministry’s statement to JI stressed that entry into the country “is conditional on the participants being vaccinated and conducting a COVID-19 test upon arrival in the country.” It added that the groups will be allowed into Israel after the High Holidays.
Axel Springer doubles down on pro-Israel support in lead-up to Politico acquisition
As the German publishing giant Axel Springer prepares to acquire Politico in a high-profile transaction valued at more than $1 billion, questions have arisen concerning the degree to which the scoop-driven Beltway news site will adapt to a long-standing set of corporate values held by the European media conglomerate, including staunch support for Israel, reports Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Covering the essentials: Axel Springer is guided by a list of core principles, known internally as the “essentials,” that promote a “united Europe” and the “trans-Atlantic alliance” while supporting “the Jewish people and the right of existence of the State of Israel,” among other things. The mission statement was largely enshrined in 1967 by the company’s late eponymous founder, but Axel Springer remains fiercely committed to its five values, which editorial employees at German publications like Bild and Die Welt are contractually committed to uphold.
Plans for Politico: Whether Politico staffers will face a similar mandate has been a source of ongoing speculation since the deal was announced late last week. In a recent New York Times interview, Robert Allbritton, who currently owns Politico, revealed that employees will not be required to sign Axel Springer’s mission statement when the sale goes through, likely by the end of the year. But an Axel Springer spokesperson suggested to JI that the focus on contracts was ultimately misguided since the values are “an integral part” of the company-wide code of conduct.
Universal values: Until recently, the values had not been included in the code. But a couple of years ago, Axel Springer’s executive board decided that its guiding principles should pertain to every employee, not only journalists in Germany who had signed the mission statement, as the company went private amid an aggressive international push culminating most recently in the acquisition of Politico.
Pro-Israel push: At a recent company-wide town hall, streamed live from Berlin on June 14 and previously unreported, Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner announced that the company was embarking on a renewed effort to promote the “essentials.” “I have to say that, for me, it’s quite a terrible experience to talk to more and more friends here in Germany, Jewish friends, who are seriously discussing whether they should leave Germany because they feel unsafe,” he said, adding: “I feel a real shame, and also for that reason, I think it is important that we are making a clear point here.”
🎒 School Choice: Writing in the Wall Street Journal, David Margolin, a senior editor at Chabad.org, highlights attempts to force a secular curriculum into yeshiva educational institutes, comparing it to the Soviet crackdown on Jewish religious learning 100 years ago. “Today New York’s yeshivas face a challenge with echoes of ancient persecution. As of 2018, 110,000 students were enrolled in Orthodox yeshivas in New York City, an increase of 46.3% in the past two decades. Many parents, including my wife and me, are opting for yeshiva education,” he writes. “But some in New York—such as the Young Advocates for Fair Education, or Yaffed, a fringe group of mostly former Orthodox Jews who bill themselves as yeshiva-reform advocates—wish to place the city’s Jewish schools on trial. They accuse yeshivas of concentrating too much on Jewish teachings and neglecting secular education.” [WSJ]
🤙 The Great Kibitzer: Molly Ball profiles Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in a Time magazine piece titled “The Great Kibitzer: How Chuck Schumer Got the Senate Moving Again.” Ball details how Schumer knows the phone numbers of his fellow senators by heart. “Schumer’s flip phone has a two-tone ring: buzz-buzz, buzz-buzz; two low tones, two high ones. The Senate majority leader almost always knows who’s calling, even though he doesn’t program the numbers in. ‘Elizabeth, I’ll call you back,’ he says, flipping the phone open in the middle of a recent interview in his office off the floor of the chamber. ‘Where are you? You’re here? O.K., I’ll call you back.’ He sees he’s missed a call from a restricted number. ‘I know who’s restricted–it’s probably Warner,’ he says. He punches in the 10 digits for Virginia Senator Mark Warner, which he’s memorized along with all the others. ‘Did you just call me?’ Sure enough, that’s who it was. It’s an old Schumer party trick. Montana Senator Jon Tester, he says, just got a new number, ‘and now I have it stuck in my head.’” [Time]
🚨 Warning: The Economist warns of the threat from the “illiberal left,” arguing that the American left has turned away from classical liberalism. “Aspects of liberalism go against the grain of human nature. It requires you to defend your opponents’ right to speak, even when you know they are wrong. You must be willing to question your deepest beliefs. Businesses must not be sheltered from the gales of creative destruction. Your loved ones must advance on merit alone, even if all your instincts are to bend the rules for them. You must accept the victory of your enemies at the ballot box, even if you think they will bring the country to ruin….In short, it is hard work to be a genuine liberal.” [Economist]
👋 Great Migration: In City Journal, Tevi Troy writes that the rise in antisemitic violence — evidenced by the FBI’s latest hate crimes report — could motivate Jews to leave the U.S., leading to a loss of cultural and business institutions, as happened in previous Jewish migrations. “The new hate crimes figures, as well as the recent and insufficiently denounced anti-Semitic incidents, are worrisome to the Jewish community, and should be disturbing to the nation as a whole. America’s Jews will continue monitoring the situation closely. It doesn’t take concentration camps or expulsion orders to send Jews looking for happier pastures. All that’s needed is for a government and its police forces to look away as Jews get attacked in the streets. We should all hope that the day never comes when the U.S. has to say, as other countries said before it, ‘We should have kept those Jews.’” [CityJournal]
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Around the Web
✍️ Surfside Support: Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rick Scott (R-FL) sent a letter to Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Retting requesting that he issue definitive guidance that charitable payments to victims of the Surfside, Fla., apartment collapse are non-taxable.
🕵 Spy Talk: In his new podcast “The Diplomat,” former presidential special advisor Jason Greenblatt interviews Shalev Hulio, founder of Israeli cyberarms firm NSO, about the fallout from recent revelations that his controversial spyware product Pegasus has been used to target journalists, human rights activists and even some world leaders.
🚫 Never Again: The Australian state of Victoria will ban the public display of Nazi symbols as part of a large-scale effort to protect individuals of marginalized identities.
💉 Faith Freedom: Legal cases concerning individuals who claim religious exemptions to vaccine mandates could become a new battleground testing how far religious freedom extends.
🎥 Silver Screen: Michale Boganim’s new documentary, “The Forgotten Ones,” showcases her father’s involvement in Israel’s Black Panthers movement, which was spearheaded by Mizrahi Jews fighting discrimination.
🔎 Ongoing Case: The IDF announced it will investigate the shooting of Raed Jadallah, a Palestinian civilian who was shot and killed by the IDF.
🛩 Air Strikes: Syrian state media reported that Israel carried out air strikes on targets near Damascus on Friday morning; no casualties were reported. The IDF later said in a statement that a surface-to-air missile was launched from Syrian territory to Israeli territory and exploded in the sea; residents in central Israel located several fragments of the missile on the ground.
🚢 Prime Port: Israel opened a Chinese-operated shipping port in Haifa, injecting new competition for the region’s ports.
🛢️ Drilling Deal: Israel’s Delek Drilling announced it will sell its 22% stake in the country’s Tamar gas field to Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Petroleum, a $1 billion deal made possible by the recent warming of relations between Israel and the UAE.
😀 Come In: Abu Dhabi has lifted quarantine restrictions for vaccinated travelers, provided they test negative within 48 hours prior to arrival.
💼 Transition: Eitan Na’eh, who served as the head of Israel’s temporary diplomatic delegation in the United Arab Emirates for eight months, will become the country’s first ambassador to Bahrain.
Wine of the Week
JI’s wine columnist Yitz Applbaum reviews the Herzog Special Edition Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford 2017:
“My dear friend and kindred “spirit” Ron and I were sitting on his Cape Cod porch this week searching for a bottle to drink while observing the blustery near-tornado winds from Tropical Storm Ida. We needed something that would take our minds off of the imminent danger. We chose the Herzog Special Edition Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford 2017, and we could not have been happier with our pick. This wine is elegant and calming in its formulaic structure. The front palate serenaded us with light hints of toasted barrel, the mid-palate presented with a slight hint of mint and the finish was a bold big red cherry blast. The wine helped to make the evening rather memorable. Enjoy this bottle alongside seared tuna seasoned with sea salt. This wine will be good for 10 years, at least.”
Purchase this bottle here.
Pic of the Day
The Jewish Journal print edition returned to Los Angeles area newsstands on Thursday for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Mayor of Haifa, the first woman to lead the city, Einat Kalisch-Rotem turns 51…
FRIDAY: Past chair of the Anti-Defamation League and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Robert Sugarman turns 82… Betty Lederman… Media personality known as Dr. Estella, Estella Sneider, Psy.D. turns 71… Software engineer at IBM in Cary, NC, in 2008 he located and interred the remains of the crew of a crashed WW2 American B-24 in the Indian Himalayans, Gary Zaetz turns 67… Actor best known for portraying Bobby Baccalieri on “The Sopranos,” Steve Schirripa turns 64… Senior advisor at Guggenheim Partners, Jonathan Silver turns 64… Producer and reporter at NBC and MSNBC, Adam Reiss turns 56… Editor-in-chief and CEO of Time Magazine, Edward Felsenthal turns 55… Author and journalist, Eric S. “Rick” Perlstein turns 52… Executive director of the Sarnoff Center for Jewish Genetics at Chicago’s Jewish United Fund, Jason Rothstein turns 50… Visual editor for The Wall Street Journal, Todd Lindeman turns 50… CEO of PR and communications firm Sunshine Sachs, Shawn Sachs turns 48… Founder of the Silverstein Group, Rustin Silverstein turns 45… Rabbi of The Hampton Synagogue, Avraham Bronstein turns 41… Chief advancement officer of Honeymoon Israel, Avital Ingber turns 40… Public affairs official at Facebook, Joel Martín Kliksberg turns 37… Chief media correspondent for CNN, Brian Stelter turns 36… South Florida-based attorney and co-chair of JFNA’s national young leadership cabinet, Lindsey Tania Glantz turns 35… Fashion model and actress, Kaia Jordan Gerber turns 20…
SATURDAY: Award winning computer scientist and philosopher who is a pioneer in artificial intelligence, he is the father of slain WSJ journalist Daniel Pearl, Judea Pearl turns 85… Emeritus professor of law and former acting dean at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Lester Brickman turns 81… Retired professor at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, Edmundo N. Kraiselburd, Ph.D. turns 78… Political consultant who has served as board president of Louisville, Kentucky’s Jewish Family & Career Services, Mark Steven Ament turns 70… Celebrity doctor known as “Dr. Drew,” David Drew Pinsky, M.D. turns 63… Former Congressman Anthony Weiner turns 57… Real estate advisor, E. O’Brien “Obi” Murray turns 55… Screenwriter Barry Louis Levy turns 49… Former member of Knesset and Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, Yehiel “Hilik” Bar turns 46… General partner of Thrive Capital, Jared Weinstein turns 42… Television and film actor, Max Greenfield turns 41… Development officer at Atlanta’s Jewish Home Life Communities, Melissa Horen Kaplan turns 37… Television and film actor, Carter Mark Jenkins turns 30…
SUNDAY: Long-time former member of Knesset, he is a law professor at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Amnon Rubinstein turns 90… Former Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Judge Dolores Korman Sloviter turns 89… Author, educator, and activist, Jonathan Kozol turns 85… Front end web developer, Catherine Nelson turns 73… Rabbi of Congregation Rinat Yisrael in Teaneck, New Jersey and Rosh Yeshiva of the Torah Academy of Bergen County, Rabbi Yosef Adler turns 70… Judge of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, JoAnne Fishman Kloppenburg turns 68… Principal at Watershed Associates, Stuart Shlossman turns 66… Heidi Beth Massey turns 66… New York-based real estate developer, Jacob Frydman turns 64… Russian investigative journalist, Yevgenia Albats turns 63… Member of the Knesset serving as the Economy Minister, she is a retired Major General in the IDF, Orna Barbivai turns 59… Chairman of the board of Investment Canada and past chairman of Cirque du Soleil, Mitch Garber turns 57… Nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, Jacob Z. Sullum turns 56… Chairman of Mentored, Eric Aroesty turns 51… DC-based freelance reporter, Holly Rosenkrantz turns 51… Member of the Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Yulia Malinovsky turns 46… Staffing analyst at Apex Global Solutions, Jeremy C. Frankel turns 31… Director in the DC office of Baron Public Affairs LLC, Jeremy Furchtgott turns 30… Product marketing manager at CrossBorder Solutions, Anthony Klor turns 28… Shoshanna Liebman…