👋 Good Monday morning!
First Lady Jill Biden delivered the keynote address at the annual Yeshiva Beth Yehudah dinner in Detroit last night.
Biden noted “almost one year ago we lost the former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, Jonathan Sacks, a brilliant scholar and teacher.” Biden added, “he once wrote, ‘God does not ask us to save the world — entirely and alone. Instead God asks us to do what we can, when we can. We mend the world one life at a time, one act at a time, one day at a time.’”
An envoy from Shin Bet, Israel’s Security Agency, and a Foreign Ministry representative will travel to the U.S. to present evidence following Israel’s decision to ban six Palestinian human rights groups, a Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed to Jewish Insider.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Friday declared the groups, which he said had ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as terror organizations. They include: Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees; ADDAMEER — Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; Bisan Center for Research and Development; Al-Haq Organization; Defense for Children International – Palestine; and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.
Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told JI that it is “hard to imagine why Israelis are hitting this issue so hard — and so publicly. But once the U.S., U.N. and others questioned the evidence on which these designations were based, the Israelis had no choice but to put up or shut up. Letting it be known that Shin Bet is traveling to Washington to make their case is certainly one way to accomplish the former.”
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) was among the public officials who condemned the decision, tweeting, “The apartheid regime’s labeling of award-winning human rights groups as terrorist organizations — just because they speak truths about Israel’s violence & its human impact — is grossly antidemocratic and dangerous.”
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok was arrested by military forces alongside senior government officials on Monday, amid reports of a military coup.
International relations expert Yonatan Freeman told Jewish Insider that the potential impact of this development on the Abraham Accords depends on who is leading the coup.
“If we look generally at what transpired over the past year with normalization desires of Sudan and Israel, we can see the military rather than the civilian part of the government was more for getting closer to Israel than the civilians who were part of this power-sharing government in Sudan,” Freeman said. “So if indeed it seems to be that the military — and the ones that have been talking to Israel and backing the Abraham Accords — they’re the ones who are now doing it, we can foresee that the turn of events bringing Israel and Sudan closer together, that will continue.”
race to watch
Illinois redistricting sets up primary face-off between Newman and Casten
Illinois Democrats unveiled the second draft of a redistricting proposal on Saturday, setting up a possible primary showdown in the Chicago suburbs between two Democratic incumbents, Reps. Marie Newman (D-IL) and Sean Casten (D-IL), Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Round two: The new 6th Congressional District — currently held by Casten — would combine around 40% of Newman’s current constituents with about a quarter of Casten’s, according to Chicago-area political consultant and mapmaker Frank Calabrese, in addition to smaller portions of other surrounding districts. “This is a much better map in terms of partisanship for Democrats,” Calabrese explained. “The current 6th district is based in DuPage County. DuPage is historically Republican. It voted for Biden, but it votes Republican down-ballot still.”
No improvement: For Newman, it’s “hard to say that [the new map] is worse,” Calabrese said. “It is less likely that a Republican could win this district now,” he continued. “But now she is in the same district with a Democratic congressman who has proven he can win tough elections… It is still a more moderate district. Casten is a liberal but he isn’t a ‘Squad’-type liberal like Newman.”
Big differences: Newman’s positions on Israel set her apart from much of the Democratic Party — she was one of eight Democrats to vote against supplemental funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system in a 420-9 vote last month — but Casten, who voted for the funding, falls more within the mainstream. During the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, Casten condemned both Hamas rocket attacks and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, saying in a statement both “have destroyed the lives of far too many Israeli and Palestinian families, who will continue to suffer from this conflict.”
Endorsements: J Street, which endorsed Newman and held a fundraiser for her weeks after her vote against Iron Dome funding, also endorsed Casten and held a fundraiser for him last year. The Jewish Democratic Council of America also endorsed Casten.
Wildcard: According to Calabrese, it is “hard to say what” this latest proposed map would mean for former Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), a conservative Democrat who was ousted by Newman in the 2020 primary. Lipinski is reportedly considering a primary bid to reclaim his seat. “He could do well in a three-way Democratic primary,” Calabrese said. “Split the liberal vote [between Newman and Casten] and he can win the moderate vote. Still lots of moderate Democrats in the district.”
Read more here.
Bonus: Claire Wirth, a primary challenger to Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), condemned the Kentucky legislator for voting against $1 billion in supplemental funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system in a statement to JI. “Thomas Massie is the most anti-Israel member of Congress — this includes both sides of the aisle… I believe it is our moral and patriotic duty to support our greatest ally, Israel,” she said. “I thought Massie’s ‘No’ vote was shameful, yet not surprising unfortunately.”
pretty, pretty, pretty good
‘Curb’ director Jeff Schaffer says new season will bring surprises
Larry David’s popular comedy series, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” returned to HBO on Sunday night for its 11th season. But viewers hoping for spoilers as the show rolls out over the next couple of months will be hard-pressed to find them, said Jeff Schaffer, a longtime “Curb” collaborator, who directed all but one of the 10 new episodes. “You know how there are those teenagers who go to prom and their stomach hurts and they go to the bathroom and they’re totally surprised that they had a baby?” Schaffer, 51, deadpanned to Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassellast week. “That’s how Larry wants the season to come out. He wants it to just come out like a bathroom baby. A prom bathroom baby that no one knew was coming.”
‘Strange predicaments’: Schaffer, who helped David write most of the new season over daily FaceTime sessions early on in the pandemic, remained faithful to that wish in an interview from his office in Los Angeles. “From minute one this season, you’re going to see that Larry’s gotten himself into some strange predicaments,” he said, only broadly characterizing the narrative arc. “I will say that at the beginning of the season, it seems like there’s a lot of disparate threads, but they do all tie together very nicely by the end, I think in a way you’d never expect.”
Jewish lens: Still, he was willing to reveal a few noteworthy — and distinctly Jewish — tidbits that viewers should look out for. “There are quite a few places where Judaism comes front and center,” said Schaffer, who describes himself and David, now 74, as “the Impossible Burger of Jews.” “We look like one, we sound like one, but on the religious side there’s a fundamental difference between us and, I think, your more observant Jew,” he said.
‘His goy Friday’: There is an episode in which David addresses “the issues of antisemitism and hate groups as, of course, only ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ can,” Schaffer disclosed. “There’s a discussion about how the Jews fled Egypt that features prominently in an episode,” he added. “It’s sort of part of who Larry is, so these kinds of things are always getting woven into the fabric of our shows.” Elsewhere, David is tasked with instructing Jon Hamm — his “goy Friday,” Schaffer quipped — on the intricacies of Yiddish slang. “Poor Jon Hamm,” Schaffer said. “He didn’t go to Sunday school. What does he know?”
On the horizon: Schaffer, who has worked with David since the “Seinfeld”days in the 1990s — and whose most recent independent project is “Dave,” the FXX comedy series — said he was in the process of putting the final touches on the “Curb”season finale. “We’re basically almost done,” he told JI. And then? “And then, we’ll see,” Schaffer said. “Every season is the last season, and if this happens to be the last season, I think it ends on a very strong note.” But, he suggested, there may be more in store. “I have a feeling Larry might get into more scrapes in the future that he wants to write about.”
Bonus: The Wall Street Journal examines how Larry David has emerged as a fashion icon despite — or perhaps because of — his plain attire.
Charlottesville Jewish community braces for Unite the Right trial
White supremacists and neo-Nazis will return to Charlottesville, Va., this week, four years after they marched through the sleepy college town’s streets chanting Nazi slogans in the violent Unite the Right rally. This time, they’ll be in a courtroom — defendants in a sprawling lawsuit filed against them in federal court, seeking to hold them accountable for what plaintiffs allege was a carefully coordinated violent riot, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. The plaintiffs bringing the suit, which is set to begin today with jury selection, are Charlottesville residents who charge that they experienced physical and psychological trauma on Aug. 11-12, 2017.
Scary scene: “It was really frightening to be here and to watch Nazis march down the UVA lawn saying, ‘You will not replace us,’” said Micah Schwartzman, a law professor at the University of Virginia and board president of Congregation Beth Israel, the city’s only synagogue, which has about 400 members.
Tiki torches: The 2017 Unite the Right rally began on Aug. 11 with the infamous Friday night scene of white men walking the streets of the city with tiki torches, chanting “Blood and Soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” The next morning, neo-Nazis marched past the synagogue. Alan Zimmerman, then the president at CBI, called it an “eye-opening experience.” He was at the synagogue for Shabbat services. “It really changed my view as to the place of Jewish Americans in our country. It made me feel more different than I’ve ever felt as a Jew in America ever,” Zimmerman said.
Racial conspiracy: The plaintiffs’ case hinges on a statute that reaches back to the years following the Civil War. “The lawsuit is a conspiracy case brought under the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, and this 150-year-old statute, specifically, is meant to protect against racially motivated violent conspiracies,” said Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First for America, the nonprofit that is funding the suit. “The violence in Charlottesville was so clearly motivated by racial animus that included not just racism and xenophobia, but obviously very obvious and explicit antisemitism.”
Constitutional dispute: The case is called Sines v. Kessler, named for plaintiff Elizabeth Sines — a University of Virginia law student who has suffered “severe emotional distress” since witnessing a car drive into a crowd — and defendant Jason Kessler, one of the rally’s organizers and a member of the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group. Lawyers for the defendants argue the organizers’ actions are protected under the First Amendment.
Hadassah Lieberman shares her American story
For more than 30 years, Hadassah Lieberman had a front-row seat to American politics in Washington, D.C. Born in Massachusetts, Lieberman became a household name during the 2000 presidential election as a campaign surrogate for her husband, the Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman — a longtime Connecticut senator and groundbreaking observant Jewish national politician. In an interview with Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast” co-hosts Richard Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein, Lieberman, who released her memoir, Hadassah: An American Story, earlier this year, discussed the experience of her American Dream narrative and bringing Judaism to the capital.
American story: “They came as immigrants. They came with no language,” Lieberman said of her parents, a rabbi and a Holocaust survivor. “My mother knew a few words of English here and there. And my father was a rabbi and he used to have to practice his speaking and vocabulary on the tape recorder at night.” In her book, Lieberman describes waking up as a child to her mother, who had survived Auschwitz and Dachau, screaming in the night. “When I heard the cries at night, I was younger. I can’t point to a date. It took me a while to understand that she had these nightmares. So I was a little different from your average 4-year-old, 6-year-old,” Lieberman told Goldberg and Bernstein. “She was a lively personality — able to really command looks on the street to people passing by — and it wasn’t so easy for her to be happy in the house all the time.”
Seeing history: In 1994, Lieberman and her husband were chosen by the White House to represent the United States at the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. “That was the most incredible trip and I repeated much of it in the book,” Lieberman recalled. “Some of it was in the Congressional Record, and that was an amazing moment for me… That invitation from the White House — which was President Clinton’s White House at that point in time — inviting me on the Auschwitz commemorative trip with Elie Wiesel and several others was amazing. I remember my mother had spoken about being in Auschwitz and how the gendarme were whipping prisoners and her sister. I remember she talked about being whipped and the toilet facilities, the bunks, everything that was horrendous and all very real. But to walk through Auschwitz and see it before my very eyes was overwhelming to me, because it was very real.”
Lightning round: Favorite Jewish recipe? Honey cake. The senator — other than her husband — she respected the most? “John McCain… he was a very wonderful, strong, strong man, and I appreciated that. I also have to share that when we went to his ranch in Arizona he even bought a new broiler and bought all this kosher food so we didn’t have anything in the other broiler. And that was so caring and wonderful and nice. He really respected Joe and Joe respected him.” Favorite Yiddish words? Gevalt and genug.
🗳️ Breaking the Mold: The New Yorker’s Ruth Margalit profiles Ra’am party head Mansour Abbas, who earlier this year made history when he joined the coalition government with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. “Throughout the past year, Abbas had demonstrated his skill at navigating life in the belly of the whale. Still, he told me, ‘there are moments when you ask yourself, What’s the limit of my ability to withstand this? You find yourself alone.’ He might be a cynical operative in a broken system. He might represent the battered aspirations of a sidelined minority. For now, though, he finds himself positioned to deliver something extraordinary to the Arab citizens of Israel: a corrective, in the form of improved living conditions, to years of governmental neglect, but still faces distrust from both his Jewish colleagues and his Arab constituents.” [NewYorker]
📜 History Lesson: In The New York Times, Brandeis University’s Jonathan Sarna explores the origins of a statue of Thomas Jefferson — commissioned by Jewish naval officer Uriah Levy — at the core of a debate in the New York City Council, which voted to remove the piece last week because of the Founding Father’s history as a slaveholder. “Jefferson, for all of his blindness concerning the evils of slavery, championed religious liberty in Virginia and in the nation as a whole… And he specifically championed the rights of Jews. He expressed pride that the University of Virginia, whose founding he considered one of his supreme achievements, both accepted Jews and ‘set the example of ceasing to violate the rights of conscience by any injunctions on the different sects respecting their religion.’ Even as he denied his enslaved people their liberty, Jefferson espoused high-minded views concerning religious liberty as well as the ‘inalienable rights’ that he detailed in the Declaration of Independence. Mr. Levy, like many Jews, honored him for that.” [NYTimes]
🌅 Take to Task: Elliot Kaufman, the letters editor of the Wall Street Journal, looks at the recent decision by a Washington, D.C.-area climate activism group to cease collaborating with Jewish organizations that support Israel’s right to exist, a move that was widely panned as antisemitic. “Excursions like Sunrise DC’s may succeed in chilling the already tenuous support for Israel in leftist circles. But the national Sunrise Movement’s belated damage control suggests it senses that anti-Zionism risks marginalizing the left. Americans are fair-minded, and whatever they think of statehood for the District of Columbia or the Green New Deal, they will recognize the exploitation of unrelated campaigns to dogpile on Israel and vilify Jewish groups as a sign of an ideological obsession. One handy word for this obsession is anti-Semitism.” [WSJ]
🪧 False Facts: In The Atlantic, Susie Linfield spotlights the messaging used by anti-Israel activists to draw misleading parallels between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and civil rights causes in the U.S. and beyond. “The recent equation of African American oppression and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been hailed as a triumph of intersectionality, whose proponents aim to build international solidarity across barriers of class, race, gender, and nation. And sometimes, they do. But in the current case, the theory has been used (or, I would argue, misused) to occlude complex realities, negate history, prevent critical thinking, and foster juvenile simplifications.” [TheAtlantic]
🇸🇦 Regional Trends: In the Financial Times, Andrew England and Simeon Kerr explore changing dynamics in the Gulf as Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is on a mission to modernize his nation, develop new industries, create jobs and bring more companies to operate out of his country, rather than basing them in the neighboring United Arab Emirates. “Deliberately or not, the UAE is in the crosshairs. In July, the first month after the imposition of Saudi Arabia’s new tariffs, the volume of UAE imports into the kingdom slumped by about a third. Trade between the two in 2019 was $24bn with a $2.8bn surplus in Saudi Arabia’s favour, according to its official statistics. UAE data puts total trade, including re-exports, at $30bn that year, with an Emirati surplus of about $17bn,” they write. [FT]
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Around the Web
👨👩 Choosing Sides: Jeff Miller, a top Washington lobbyist with ties to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), is telling Republican consultants that they must choose between working for the minority leader or Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who was ousted as the party’s House conference chair earlier this year over her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.
👪 Family History: In a wide-ranging interview with The Cut ahead of the upcoming release of her memoir, Katie Couric recounts the casual antisemitism faced by her mother, as well her late husband’s deep interest in the Confederacy.
📵 Don’t Call on Shabbos: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reportedly declined multiple calls from Russian President Vladimir Putin while in Moscow over Shabbat, saying he would only speak on the phone to discuss urgent matters. The two leaders spoke after Shabbat.
🕍 Making a Point: Israeli Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel, who identifies as Orthodox, attended the Conservative Sutton Place Synagogue in New York City on Friday evening in order to make a point about inclusivity and Israel’s relations with Diaspora Jews.
✍️ On Display: A new exhibit at the New-York Historical Society highlights the life and work of Lyndon Johnson biographer Robert Caro.
👋 Getting Out: Boaz Weinstein dumped his shares of Digital World Acquisition after learning that the firm was involved in former President Donald Trump’s SPAC deal to open a new social media company.
⚖️ Verified Verdict: A federal jury found Trump associate Lev Parnas guilty of campaign finance violations.
♀️ Gender Gap: Israel’s securities regulator is pressuring companies to appoint more women to their boards in an effort to promote increased gender representation at high levels in corporations.
🧳 Pack Your Bags: Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed an agreement allowing vaccinated individuals to travel between the two countries.
🇹🇷 Trouble in Turkey: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is moving to expel 10 diplomats — including the U.S. ambassador in Ankara — after the envoys signed a letter calling for the release of a jailed activist.
📺 Bad Intel: A former Saudi intelligence official now living in Canada claimed in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman plotted to kill him and has imprisoned his children.
✈️ Syria Strike: An alleged Israeli air strike hit three Hezbollah-linked targets in Syria overnight, according to Syrian media.
🪖 Military Might: In Bloomberg, Eli Lake argues that a recent attack on a U.S. outpost in Syria, near the border with Iraq, shows that “the American advantage in unmanned weapons is receding.”
🕯️ Remembering: Architect Alan Lapidus, who was known for his work on hotels and casinos, died at 85.
Pic of the Day
At the Javits Center in New York City on Thursday night, former and current staffers of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) gathered at the annual Al Smith Dinner including (from left to right) Nick Martin, Ryan Whalen, Phil Goldfeder, Steve Barton, Angelo Roefaro, and Alex Katz.
U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, Victoria Jane Nuland turns 60…
U.S. District Court judge (now on senior status) in the Eastern District of New York, Judge Edward R. Korman turns 79… Chief policy and strategy officer of Oscar Insurance, Joel Klein turns 75… Board chair of the Israel Policy Forum since 2016 and president of the Goldman Environmental Foundation, Susan Gelman turns 67… President of Dallas-based SPR Ventures, he serves on the boards of Texas Capital Bancshares and Cinemark, Steven Rosenberg turns 63… Television personality and author of 15 books, Bruce Feiler turns 57… Voice actress and singer, best known for voicing Asajj Ventress in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” Nika Futterman turns 52… Actor, he is currently starring opposite Queen Latifah on the CBS show “The Equalizer,” Adam Charles Goldberg turns 51… Television screenwriter, showrunner, executive producer and director, best known for running the television medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” Krista Vernoff turns 50… Actress, she has appeared as various characters on the FX anthology series “American Horror Story,” Leslie Erin Grossman turns 50… Physician, author and public speaker, Michael Herschel Greger, MD turns 49… Sharon Iancu turns 44… Rapper and songwriter, known professionally as “The Alchemist,” Daniel Alan Maman turns 44… Director of the Chabad House at Princeton University, Rabbi Eitan Webb turns 44… Singer and songwriter who competed in the ninth season of “American Idol,” Vered “Didi” Benami turns 35… Singer and model, Hannah Cohen turns 35… Program officer at San Francisco’s Koret Foundation, Rachel Elana Schonwetter turns 32… Musician, known professionally by the mononym “Grandson,” Jordan Edward Benjamin turns 28…