Good Thursday morning!
Rosh Hashanah greetings from U.S. and Israeli officials poured in over the holiday. President Joe Biden wrote that “Rosh Hashanah and the Days of Awe that follow charge those who celebrate to pause, look inward, and reflect on the past year. It is a time to undertake an inventory of the soul, a cheshbon hanefesh, and to ask of ourselves and of each other questions that go beyond our own individual faiths: Who do I want to be? What type of nation do we want to forge? What type of world do we want to create?”
In a video message, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff — who noted he is “the first second gentleman and the first Jewish spouse of an American president or Vice President” — remarked how Rosh Hashannah is “a sacred time marked by deep introspection, a holiday dedicated to reflecting on the past year and reimagining a new beginning.”
Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley arrived in Moscow earlier this week for consultations with Russian officials on Iran’s nuclear program and “the need to quickly reach and implement an understanding on a mutual return to compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” a statement from the State Department read.
Malley’s visit to Russia coincides with that of Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who arrived in Moscow on Wednesday night for a meeting today with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Before the meeting, Lapid laid a wreath at the Monument to the Unknown Soldier.
The Aspen Security Forum: Two Decades On: The 20th Anniversary of 9/11 kicks off today at 9 a.m. ET. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl, who was originally scheduled to speak during the half-day event, pulled out due to a scheduling conflict.
Israeli security forces on Thursday were still searching for six Palestinian prisoners who escaped Monday from Gilboa prison in northern Israel via a tunnel they had surreptitiously been digging over the past year. The escape was described by prison officials as the biggest Palestinian jailbreak in 23 years and followed a series of blunders by the Israel Prison Service, Israeli media reported.
Additional military units were called in to assist in the search for the six escapees. Several family members of the six prisoners, five of whom are members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant faction, were arrested for aiding their escape. On Wednesday night, the IDF announced that a full closure of the West Bank and Gaza would continue through Saturday in an effort to locate the escapees.
In the West Bank, the jailbreak was hailed as a victory for the Palestinian people. Rallies were held in some Palestinian cities, and Palestinian prisoners in at least two other Israeli jails rioted and set fire to prison cells, the Israel Prison Services reported on Wednesday.
J.D. Vance on Trump, Israel and his chosen faith
J.D. Vance, the venture capitalist and Hillbilly Elegy author, got off to a bumpy start when he declared his candidacy in Ohio’s open-seat Senate race two months ago. But despite some initial obstacles, including a CNN investigation uncovering a number of since-deleted tweets in which he expressed criticism of former President Donald Trump, Vance, a Republican, suggested in a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel that he has found his footing. “I feel like we’ve got a lot of momentum,” he said. “Certainly a lot of folks seem excited. We’re raising a lot of money. We’re getting a lot of volunteers. We’re getting a lot of media, and I think the polling is moving in our direction.”
Endorsement game: Still, it remains to be seen whether his tweets, including one describing the former president as “reprehensible,” will be a liability in the crowded Republican primary to succeed outgoing Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). Trump, who maintains widespread support throughout the Buckeye State, has yet to make an endorsement. “I certainly think I have a chance if he ends up doing an endorsement,” said Vance, who now casts himself as a staunch Trump supporter. “But everything I’ve heard from both the president directly, but also his close advisers, is that he is taking a wait-and-see approach on this race.”
Working-class whisperer: Vance established himself as a leading voice of the white working class when he published his 2016 memoir about his turbulent Rust Belt upbringing. But his candidacy will test whether voters in his home state of Ohio feel as if he speaks for them. The Senate hopeful, who grew up in Middletown, emphasized that he will need to appeal to a wide cross-section of voters if he has any hope of prevailing in next year’s primary. “My view here is that, to win a state like Ohio, I have to be a candidate not just winning any one geography or any one group,” he told JI, “but I have to try to appeal to everybody.”
The Jewish vote: For Vance, Jewish voters in particular represent an opportunity to expand his support base. “I think the Jewish community is an important part of our coalition on the right,” he said, noting that he has engaged in conversations with local and national Jewish organizations since he launched his campaign. “I hope it becomes a more important part of our coalition because I think that, frankly, the left has gone pretty crazy on a lot of issues that Jews care about.”
Eye on Israel: “In my experience, Jews, whatever their political affiliation, are pretty patriotic,” Vance elaborated. “They care a lot about living in a country that’s prosperous and free, and they don’t see Western civilization, which obviously has deep roots in the State of Israel and in the Jewish tradition, as something that’s evil and needs to be rejected but as something that needs to be built upon.” Vance has never been to Israel but said that his connection with the Jewish state has deepened in recent years thanks in part to his conversion to Catholicism. “Culturally, morally, politically, it is a real ally in the sense that we’re not just sort of sharing interests,” he argued, “we’re actually sharing common values.”
Back To School
California ethnic studies legislation advances, awaits Newsom’s signature
The California State Legislature voted to advance the bill known as A.B. 101, which mandates the teaching of ethnic studies for high school graduates, following the state board of education’s approval of a suggested curriculum earlier this year, reports Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss. The legislation now heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.
What to expect: The bill requires students graduating from California high schools in 2030 and after to have completed a one-semester ethnic studies class, and mandates that high schools, including charter schools, offer the class as of the 2025-2026 academic year. The legislation does not specify a curriculum educators should use in the classroom, though the model curriculum approved earlier this year by the state board of education has already been made available to educators across the state.
Background: A first draft of the ethnic studies curriculum came under fire from Jewish educators and activists across the state for its promotion of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel and its omission of lesson plans about antisemitism. The curriculum approved by the education department earlier this year does not include references to the BDS movement, and includes two lesson plans on antisemitism.
Making amendments: Some of the authors of the curriculum’s first draft requested that their names be removed from the final version, alleging that they “were not fully consulted throughout the process of the curriculum development and significant parts of the curricular text do not fully reflect the work of past or present Ethnic Studies teachers/educators.” The legislation approved on Wednesday includes amendments backed by the California Jewish Legislative Caucus that prevent the teaching of the original draft and mandates that the curriculum be “appropriate for use with pupils of all races, religions, nationalities, genders, sexual orientations, and diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, pupils with disabilities, and English learners.”
Community response: “We applaud the efforts of…the Jewish caucus to include amendments intended to prevent the teaching of the odious first draft of the model curriculum, which included antisemitism,” Tyler Gregory, the executive director of the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council, told JI. “We expect challenges to come at the district level, but the amended version of this bill, which now prevents discrimination by nationality, will present our detractors with a more difficult climb.”
Democratic senators pushed consulate reopening during Israel meetings
During their visit to Israel late last week, four Democratic senators pressured Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, to allow the United States to reopen the Jerusalem consulate that traditionally served the Palestinians prior to 2019, Jewish Insider‘s Marc Rod reports. Such a move is highly contentious in Israel, with some members of the government believing that reopening the consulate, which operated in Jerusalem for decades before it was closed by then-President Donald Trump, would infringe on Israeli sovereignty claims over Jerusalem.
Details: “In our meetings today in Israel w[ith] Prime Minister Bennett and other officials we stressed the importance we place on reopening our consulate in Jerusalem to better serve Palestinians,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) wrote on Twitter last week. “This consulate was open for over 100 years before being cruelly shuttered by President Trump.” Murphy was accompanied on the trip by Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA). As well as meeting with Bennett, the four Democrats also met with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Knesset Speaker Micky Levy and President Isaac Herzog. The delegation also traveled to Ramallah to meet Palestinian officials and, prior to their arrival in Israel, visited Lebanon. Murphy and Ossoff also traveled to Tunisia and Greece.
‘Cosmic oy vey’: Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, took a different view, telling Jewish Insider on Wednesday evening that the statements did not seem especially unusual. “This is what I call the ‘cosmic oy vey,’” Miller explained. “It’s the notion that any bump in the road or any obvious sort of disagreement between Israel and America is basically blown up into some major issue. I don’t think that’s what’s going on here… This was perfectly understandable.”
Admin weighs in? Miller noted that Van Hollen’s invocation of Biden’s name and “commitment” may indicate that high-level administration officials such as Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan may have consulted with the senators on the consulate issue before they met with Israeli officials. “Senators are capable of weighing in on their own and independently, but it’s a curious framing of the issue that this is a commitment the president made, it’s important that he follow through on that commitment. I mean it sounds like a secretary of state speaking, not a U.S. senator,” Miller said.
Read more here.
Afghanistan’s last Jew is bound for New York
Zebulon Simentov, widely considered “Afghanistan’s last Jew,” has been rescued from Kabul and taken to an unnamed neighboring country following the Taliban’s takeover of the country last month, an American-Israeli businessman who spearheaded the evacuation confirmed to Jewish Insider’sTamara Zieve on Wednesday.
Sukkot in New York: Simentov arrived in the unnamed country on Monday, along with 30 other people, mostly women and children. “He wanted to save his neighbors too, which I respect,” Moti Kahana said in a phone conversation with JI. Kahana is hopeful that Simentov will make the journey to New York in the coming days, where he will be able to celebrate Sukkot with relatives.
Resistance to rescue: Efforts to evacuate Simentov began a month ago but he was initially resistant. On August 17, not long after the Taliban took control of the capital city of Kabul, JI spoke to Simentov — who only speaks Persian — by phone, through an Iranian interpreter. He confirmed that he was safe and did not feel he was in danger. He said he wasn’t willing to leave the country until he resolved some financial issues.
Turning point: According to Kahana, Simentov was not afraid of the Taliban, under whose rule he had already lived when the group was in control of Afghanistan from 1996-2001. The turning point seemed to be when fighting between the Taliban and ISIS-K intensified. “I told him, ‘ISIS will either kidnap you and try to sell you or they will chop your head off,’” Kahana said. He felt Simentov’s sense of urgency to flee the country increased last Wednesday when he started receiving numerous messages from him. “He was texting me saying ‘please get me out,’” Kahana said.
Get to be granted: Simentov may eventually move to Israel, Kahana added, where his children and estranged wife — to whom he has finally agreed to give a get, or divorce under Jewish law — live.
😬 Tense Ties: Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief Yaakov Katz delves into the tense relationship between Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who have squabbled both privately and publicly for years. “The last place Gantz thought he’d end up is in a government with Bennett as prime minister. Gantz does not like Bennett, and has very little respect for him and his way of management. Which is why everyone in the coalition is concerned about Gantz and what he might do. That he is unhappy is an understatement. What seems to really be happening is that Gantz is actively trying to bring down the government and unseat Bennett as its prime minister.” [JPost]
🏘️ Team Effort: The New York Times’s Elizabeth Williamson traveled to Whitefish, Mont., where residents, the Jewish community and state and local government officials worked together to oppose a hate campaign orchestrated by Daily Stormer co-founder Andrew Anglin and inflamed by white supremacist Richard Spencer, who resides part-time in the resort town. “Residents who joined with state officials, human rights groups and synagogues say their bipartisan counteroffensive could hold lessons for others in an era of disinformation and intimidation, and in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot… ‘You have to act swiftly and decisively and come together as a community to tackle hate and make sure it doesn’t infiltrate your town,’ [Mayor John Muhlfeld] said.” [NYTimes]
👀 Eye on 2024: In Vanity Fair, Gabriel Sherman spotlights the delicate dance performed by veteran GOP politicos — including former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — as the party looks ahead to the 2024 presidential election amid one looming question: whether or not former President Donald Trump will enter the race. “At this nascent stage, it’s common for prospective candidates to compete fiercely for donor dollars and Fox News airtime. But the 2024 contest is playing out like no other in memory. That’s because the race is either entirely wide open or over before it begins. The outcome hinges on the whims, grievances, and obsessions of one Donald J. Trump.” [VanityFair]
🗳️ A Tale of Two States: The Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere looks at the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, where former President Donald Trump appears to be as much on the ballot as the Republicans running in those states, Glenn Youngkin and Jack Ciattarelli, in the run-up to the November election. “The suburbs have always been competitive political territory, but they have taken on a different significance with urban and rural voters spinning further and further away from one another. Last December, a top Democratic operative laid out for me one way of thinking about the party’s future: Had Democrats just rented the suburbs under Trump, or do they own them?” [TheAtlantic]
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Around the Web
🗽 Looking Back: Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, PBS Newshour’s Ali Rogin spoke to victims’ loved ones in her hometown of Middletown, N.J., which lost more residents than any other town outside of New York City.
🚰 Water Cooler Talk: In The New York Times, Claire Cain Miller explores the idea that in-person conversations and chance encounters with colleagues in the workplace contribute to the fostering of new ideas and projects.
🕌 Making Amends: Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt apologized for the organization’s opposition in 2009 to the construction of a mosque and Islamic community center near Ground Zero. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg applauded the apology.
✉️ Call Out: The ADL’s Greenblatt sent a letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken calling on him to ensure that a State Department employee accused of running an antisemitic website “faces the full consequences of his detestable actions.”
🤝 Strange Alliances: Eliana Johnson details in Politico Magazine how foreign policy experts backed by “the isolationist-leaning Koch network were among the loudest — and loneliest — voices in Washington” who applauded the Afghanistan withdrawal.
💰 Done Deal: Current and former executives of Renaissance Technologies, including Robert Mercer and James Simons, will pay up to $7 billion to the IRS as part of a tax settlement.
💸 Looking East: Goldman Sachs has hired bankers from rival Citigroup and HSBC as the investment bank looks to increase its Middle East presence amid a surge of opportunities in the region.
🧪 Science Experiment: A new company formed in the wake of a retreat, held at businessman Yuri Milner’s Los Altos Hills, Calif., estate, seeks to develop the technology to reverse the aging process.
🍦 Bad for Business: Arizona’s state treasurer announced that the state will divest all public funds from Ben & Jerry’s and its parent, Unilever, over the ice cream company’s decision to cease selling products in the West Bank.
⚖️ Guilty As Charged: A German man was found guilty for his role in an attack on a Jewish restaurant in the city of Chemnitz that left the business damaged and the owner injured.
🧑⚖️ Paris trial: The trial of the main suspect in a rampage that killed 130 people in Paris in 2015 began on Wednesday.
🙏 Smoothing Over: Pope Francis is working to allay concerns among Jewish allies over a comment made about the Torah that drew criticism last month.
🩺 Big Operation: Doctors in Israel successfully separated year-old twins who were conjoined at the back of the head.
🇮🇱 Dotting the I’s: Michael Herzog was confirmed by the Israeli government as the country’s next ambassador to the U.S. on Sunday. Dr. Ronen Hoffman was also confirmed as Israel’s ambassador to Canada.
🧳 Optics: The White House’s mention of working to bring Israel into the U.S.’s visa waiver program was reportedly more of a public gesture made at the request of Israeli officials, with efforts to move forward expected to proceed slowly.
💼 New Gig: Former Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was named the honorary chair of the Israel Democracy Institute.
💉 Follow the Science: A new drug pioneered by Israeli scientists offers a possible treatment for individuals with severe cases of COVID-19.
🌊 Ebbing wave: Daily coronavirus infection numbers in Israel have decreased in recent days and there has been a 20 percent drop in the daily numbers of new critically ill patients. The reproduction rate has fallen to 0.95, according to government COVID-19 advisor Eran Segal, who said Israel’s fourth wave appears to be “on its way down.”
☢️ Breaking Rules: The International Atomic Energy Agency accused Iran of preventing inspectors from visiting nuclear-related sites and of expanding its nuclear activities in two new reports released on Tuesday.
🕯️Remembering: Former newspaper executive Paul Levine, whose daughter Danielle Levine Cava serves as mayor of Miami-Dade County, died of COVID-19 complications at 87. Former New York State Supreme Court Justice Edward Greenfield died at 98. Longtime New York radio DJ Phil Schaap, who illuminated the music and lives of iconic jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong, Lester Young and Charlie Parker, died at 70.
Pic of the Day
The 9/11 Living Memorial Plaza in Jerusalem, erected in 2009, includes the names on every victim of the September 11 attacks. In 2018, a plaque was added listing the victims of the Tree of Life shooting.
Actor, comedian, producer and musician, creator of “The Chanukah Song,” Adam Sandler turns 55…
Former president of Israel, Reuven “Ruvi” Rivlin turns 82… Real estate investor and manager in the Orlando area, Harris Rosen turns 82… Senior fellow emeritus in the foreign policy program at The Brookings Institution, Kenneth Lieberthal turns 78… Former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the Obama administration, Donald M. Berwick turns 75… President of the Middle East Forum, Daniel Pipes turns 72… President emeritus of Yeshiva University, Richard Joel turns 71… A founder of the Shas party, he was previously deputy mayor of Jerusalem and later a member of Knesset, Nissim Mordechai Ze’ev turns 70… Founding president of Shalem College in Jerusalem, he is also a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Martin Kramer turns 67… Brooklyn educator, Steven Elworth turns 66… Editorial director of Schocken Books, Altie Karper turns 65… Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist, Shari Arison turns 64… Suzanna Stone turns 63… D.C.-based communications strategist and tactician, Jeffrey Weintraub turns 61…
Founder and managing member of Alternative Asset CFO Services, Lloyd Eric Appel turns 58… U.S. Senator (D-DE), Chris Coons turns 58… Professional golfer on the PGA Tour and then on the Champions Tour, Jules Ira “Skip” Kendall turns 57… Senior national correspondent at HuffPost, Jonathan Cohn turns 52… Former member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party, Dov Lipman turns 50… Partner and associate director at Boston Consulting Group, Sacha Frédéric Litman turns 48… New York City-based freelance journalist, David Freedlander turns 44… Co-founder and CEO of Lightricks, Zeev Farbman turns 42… Director of digital asset education at Tiedemann Advisors, Michael B. Greenwald turns 38… M.Ed candidate at USC’s Rossier School of Education, Carla Hashley turns 37… Head of Google Cuba, Brett Perlmutter turns 35… Digital and data operations manager at the Academic Engagement Network, Trey Meehan turns 29… Fourth overall pick by the New Jersey Devils in the 2021 NHL draft, he is the son of hockey star Ellen Weinberg-Hughes, Luke Hughes turns 18… Founder of International Hummus Day, now working on Notion, Ben Lang… Beverly Hills resident, Barbara Schechter…