👋 Good Monday morning!
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield arrived in Israel today for a four-day trip that will include high-level meetings with Israeli government officials in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority leaders in Ramallah, as well as officials in Amman, Jordan. In Israel, she will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog.
The trip marks the ambassador’s first visit to Israel. She will also be the first representative of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet to meet with members of the new Israeli government, a senior administration official told Jewish Insider on Friday.
Thomas-Greenfield intends to focus on advancing U.S. priorities on Middle East issues, the official said.
In Ramallah, the ambassador will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and members of Palestinian civil society, “continuing the Biden administration’s efforts to rebuild ties with Palestinians,” said the official. In Jordan, Thomas-Greenfield will meet with government officials to strengthen the strategic U.S.-Jordan partnership and explore regional issues.
Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan, who last week completed his term as Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., is accompanying Thomas-Greenfield during her time in Israel.
“I frequently work with Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield on preventing anti-Israel initiatives at the U.N. and in the Security Council,” Erdan said in a statement ahead of the visit. “I am certain that after her visit, her support for Israel will only be strengthened and the ambassador will learn many important things about Israel, which will bolster our standing in the international arena.”
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) emphasized in a statement to JI that the Biden administration’s plan to reopen the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem “must be agreed to by Israel.”
Gottheimer continued, “The U.S. has never opened a diplomatic office without the approval of the host government, and to do so in Israel would create a double standard. Any decision on this issue should be made with Israel’s consent and must recognize that Jerusalem is Israel’s undivided capital.”
President Joe Biden is expected to sign the $1 trillion infrastructure package today, which will provide, among other things, $50 million to the Department of Energy for nonprofit organizations to upgrade their infrastructure and purchase more energy-efficient equipment. Read JI’s explainer here.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) bluntly denied a report in The New York Post that he was considering retirement, writing on Twitter, “I am running for re-election…. I’ll still be fighting for progressive causes in Congress & the NYP [Post] will still be able to publish poorly sourced, fact-free nonsense!”
The congressional delegation to Israel last week led by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) discussed “next steps” regarding the Abraham Accords and Iran’s nuclear weapons program in its meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, a source familiar with the meeting told Jewish Insider.
In their meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh they discussed diplomacy with Israel and the PA’s payments to the families of terrorists, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) told JI. The group also discussed ways to strengthen the PA relative to Hamas and met with Palestinian students, the source told JI.
Meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the group discussed Israeli safety and security, including cybersecurity cooperation. With Defense Minister Benny Ganz, they discussed Iron Dome replenishment and other U.S.-Israel defense collaboration.
Members of the Coons delegation also met with European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels and Olaf Scholz — the likely next chancellor of Germany, and discussed combatting antisemitism, a source familiar with the trip told JI.
Rosen told JI, “Over the past week, I’ve visited multiple countries and discussed with senior European leaders rising levels of antisemitism, specifically violence targeting vulnerable Jewish communities… I welcome the new EU strategy on combating antisemitism, and look forward to continued partnership with our European allies to extinguish the fires of antisemitism and ensure Jewish communities in Europe can feel safe.”
An interview with University of Austin’s founding president
Subscribers to Bari Weiss’s popular Substack newsletter “Common Sense” received an email last week announcing a new, as-yet-unaccredited liberal arts college called the University of Austin. The school will restore “open inquiry and civil discourse” in education at a time of “censoriousness,” according to an essay by its founding president, Pano Kanelos, who most recently served as president of St. John’s College, a liberal arts school in Annapolis, Md. Contrary to the claims of some critics, Kanelos said the goal is not to create a safe space for conservative thinkers. “If everybody at University of Austin, or most people, are on the right or on either end of the political spectrum, if it’s so dominated in one way or the other, we will have failed,” Kanelos told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch in an interview Friday from his home in Austin, where he moved this summer.
Hard and fast lines: “If [students] tried to shut down an event, then of course there’d be consequences. I think objecting to and protesting something is totally fine. But there are hard and fast lines. If we’re an institution that stands for civil discourse, anybody who’s acting outside the bounds of civil discourse is transgressing one of our fundamental tenets. We want speech to be as open and expansive and elastic as possible. But you can only have broad-ranging discussions and ideas if you all agree that nobody is allowed to prevent others from expressing their opinions.”
Culture of trust: “The most pressing issues that we have in our society, the ones that we’re really wrestling with — it’s the role of universities to provide a way for society to engage and work through those issues. It’s not to want to embrace controversy, or be contrarian. We always talk about dialogue. If we don’t have somewhere where that actually can happen, then we’re at a stalemate. And we see the kind of polarization that we have today. I think issues like gender or race, things that are very much on the forefront of everybody’s mind, can be discussed if we create a culture of trust and a culture of openness and grace.”
The other university in Austin: “My dream would be that we could become, like, the Stanford to [the University of Texas at Austin’s] Berkeley. There’s a world-class public institution here, and if we can have a complimentary world-class private institution, I think that would be wonderful.”
Who’s who: The university’s founding trustees include Weiss; the historian Niall Ferguson; Heather Heying, an evolutionary biologist who has garnered attention recently for remaining unvaccinated against COVID-19; and Joe Lonsdale, a co-founder of Palantir and managing partner at the venture capital fund 8VC and the university’s main financial supporter. Its board of advisors includes some conservative figures, such as Harvard professor and former American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks and the activist and researcher Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but other notable members include former ACLU President Nadine Strossen and former Harvard President Larry Summers.
Minister Elharrar outlines Israel’s biggest challenge
With the pressures of addressing climate change falling to politicians around the world, in Israel it is Karine Elharrar, a relative newcomer to environmental issues, who is feeling the heat. The 44-year-old minister of national infrastructure, energy and water resources, who earned a reputation for championing social causes in Israel’s Knesset, is determined to figure out a way to have Israel pivot away from fossil fuels. “From my perspective, Israel’s biggest challenge is in transitioning to green energy,” Elharrar told Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash in a recent interview. “We live in a region that is very reliant on old forms of energy — oil, gas and petroleum — and we need to become a green arrow in this field.”
Amazing Opportunity: Taking on the planet’s biggest challenges might seem like a surprising career swerve for a politician who, for the last eight years, focused more on matters of education, welfare and health, but when Yesh Atid received this portfolio as part of the coalition deal back in June, Elharrar, who joined the party in 2012, said it was the office that “spoke to me to the most…. I wanted something different. It is an amazing ministry that involves issues of security, geopolitics, foreign policy [and] economics, and I felt it was an amazing opportunity, even though many people do not even know what we do.”
Key player: As the new government, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, prioritizes finding ways to tackle the global climate crisis at home, Elharrar’s portfolio — the Energy Ministry for short — will become a key component. And Elharrar, who has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair — and who made international headlines earlier this month after being unable to physically access the summit in Glasgow, Scotland — will be a key player.
Breaking barriers: “Israel has some amazing innovators with incredible abilities, and we need to take advantage of this,” Elharrar told JI. “There are so many pioneers who get initial assistance here, but end up leaving for the U.S. or Europe to continue their work. We need to fix this problem and stop them from leaving.” She believes Israel must break down bureaucratic barriers that prevent innovators from developing and implementing their work in the country, including access to land, permits and basic resources and create what she described as a “one-stop shop that can help innovators not only invent their ideas in Israel, but also develop and build them here too.”
Making changes: Already, Elharrar said she is implementing changes. She told JI that she was in the process of establishing a department for new energy, which did not exist previously. She also spent time in Glasgow meeting with counterparts from around the world — and Bill Gates — to explore options for Israel’s move to cleaner energy.
Israeli startup ‘cracks code to saliva’ with world’s first pregnancy spit test
Spit, it turns out, is the scientific glue that binds an Israeli medical startup’s rapid COVID-19 test, which it developed last year, and what is now being billed as the first-ever saliva-based pregnancy tests. The founders of Salignostics, the company behind the SaliCov kit COVID-19 tests and the Salistick pregnancy tests, are graduates of the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Dental Medicine who all dealt with various aspects of saliva during their doctoral studies, Jewish Insider’s Tamara Zieve reports.
Seeking innovation: “In that environment we thought about saliva diagnostics and how to take it to the next generation of IVD [in vitro diagnostics] products,” Guy Krief, co-founder, deputy CEO and director of business development of Salignostics, said. Founded in 2016, the Salignostics team observed that pregnancy tests were the most common tests in pharmacies, and set out to investigate how pregnancy could be detected via saliva instead of the common blood or urine tests.
The saliva enigma: In an initial experiment, the researchers added the β-hCG pregnancy hormone to samples of water, blood and saliva from males (to be sure the samples were free from β-hCG); they found that only the saliva didn’t show up positive on commercial pregnancy tests. “That was an enigma because we just put it in so we knew it had β-hCG, and that was a key experiment which made us understand that saliva possesses a lot of information, but for some reason you can’t see it.”
Developing a toolbox: “That’s when we started all the developments, all the technologies, and today we have a toolbox of technologies which we can combine and optimize for any application,” Krief added. The technology, for example, can be used to detect malaria. The Salignostics team had their toolbox ready to adapt for COVID-19 home tests, and did so within about a year.
Coming soon: The startup’s focus on COVID-19 delayed its progress with the Salistick, but it aims to start commercializing it early next year in Europe and in Israel. Krief also hopes it will have approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by the end of next year. Salignostics says it is in advanced stages of receiving the European Union’s CE mark for Salistick and has completed its initial submission of the test kit to the FDA in the US. The company has successfully completed clinical trials in Israel on more than 300 women, both pregnant and not, and has completed thousands of analytical trials. Salignostics is displaying its product at the Medica 2021 exhibition in Düsseldorf, Germany, this week.
↔️Party Pull: The New York Times’s Katie Glueck and Nicholas Fandos look at the dichotomy between Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) national stardom and her availability to and representation of her constituents in Queens and the Bronx, who are not always supportive of the sophomore legislator’s efforts to push her party left. “She remains overwhelmingly popular among many in her district, who watched her rocket from working as a waitress and bartender to becoming one of the Democratic Party’s biggest stars. But where Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was once seen by many political observers as at the vanguard of the party’s new direction, she may now be more emblematic of its divides. Even in her New York City district — perceived as one of the most liberal in the nation — there are sharp disagreements unfolding over how far left the party should go and how change is best achieved, according to interviews with more than three dozen constituents, elected officials and party leaders.” [NYTimes]
🕎 Roots Revival: In the Wall Street Journal, Ian Lovett describes a “race against time” in efforts to rebuild the Polish Jewish community nearly 80 years after it was almost destroyed in the Holocaust. “Through deathbed confessions of elder relatives, genealogical research and, increasingly, DNA tests, thousands of Poles have discovered their Jewish roots. But it remains an open question whether it is possible to bring back Jewish life in a place where a once-thriving Jewish community was nearly wiped out….Even after discovering Jewish heritage, many Poles remain reluctant to identify as Jewish in a country where, for half a century, doing so put them in mortal danger. Ms. Adamowska said she often faces questions from visitors about why she stays here: ‘In Poland, you’re all the time in the shadow of the Holocaust.'” [WSJ]
🍦Frozen No: Bloomberg’s Eli Lake looks at efforts by state attorneys general to punish Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, for the ice cream company’s refusal to sell its product in what it called “Occupied Palestinian Territory.” “U.S. states are increasingly asserting themselves in foreign policy. They can target banks in their states that have corresponding relationships with banks that do business with Iran, for example. Or they can divest their multibillion-dollar pension funds from funds that invest in Chinese companies that are not subject to U.S. laws. This strategy is now being used to target Unilever. [Bloomberg]
Around the Web
🕍 Chasidic Chuck: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) met with the Satmar Rebbe of Kiryas Yoel, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, on Sunday and also visited the Skverer Rebbe, Rabbi David Twersky, in New Square.
🐱💻 Cyber Club: The U.S. and Israel announced a joint initiative to combat ransomware attacks, which will include closer cooperation between government agencies and training on how to respond to cyber attacks.
👁️ Eye on 2024: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu — who announced last week he is not considering a Senate bid — told “Meet the Press” that a 2024 presidential bid is “on the table.”
🗳️ Congressional Candidate: Palestinian activist Huwaida Arraf, who co-founded the anti-Israel International Solidarity Movement, announced that she is running as a Democrat in Michigan’s 10th Congressional District, currently held by Republican Rep. Lisa McClain.
🇮🇱🇦🇪 Ambassadorial History: Amir Hayek officially became the first Israeli ambassador to the United Arab Emirates today when he presented his credentials.
🍝 Pasta Party: Bloomberg spotlights restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi’s “new and improved” recipe for the classic macaroni and cheese — featured in his latest cookbook — which calls for the addition of a zaatar-based pesto.
😋 From Haifa to Toronto: The Toronto Star features The Haifa Room, a Middle Eastern restaurant which brings the flavors of Israeli and Palestinian street food to the Canadian city.
📸 Snapshot in Time: Acclaimed photographer Steven Godlis is out with a new book, Godlis Miami, that showcases the final years of Miami Beach as a hub for aging Eastern European immigrants.
💰 Buy Back Better: The Jewish community in Helena, Mont., is raising funds to purchase back the 1891 building that served as its first synagogue, which it sold to the state for $1 nearly a century ago, and plans to turn into a Jewish community center.
🛑 Never Again: Polish officials and the Polish Catholic Church condemned an antisemitic rally, which saw Polish nationalists call for the expulsion of Jews while chanting “death to Jews.”
🚨 Ankara Arrest: Israel is working for the release of an Israeli couple arrested in Turkey on Friday on charges of espionage, after they were caught taking pictures of the presidential palace; Israel has denied charges that the couple works for the state.
👨⚖️ Across the Pond: A London man pled guilty to wearing clothing supportive of banned terror groups for donning a T-shirt supporting Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad earlier this year.
🇱🇾 Wanted Candidate: Saif al-Islam, a son of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, is running in the country’s presidential elections in December. The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant against him for crimes against humanity during the 2011 war.
🧳 DC Visit: Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll began his trip to Washington, D.C. with a meeting with representatives from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
📽️ Business Incentive: The Israeli government approved a 25% rebate for film and production companies to entice international companies to work in Israel.
🏘️ Mortgage Morass: The Bank of Israel introduced reforms to ease the process of receiving mortgages, which bring the country in line with international standards.
✈️ Rescue Effort: The Ethiopian community in Israel and the Israeli government are at odds with how — or whether — to assist in emigration efforts of the “Zera Israel,” Ethiopians who claim their Jewish ancestors converted to Christianity under duress hundreds of years ago.
Pic of the Day
Amir Hayek became the first Israeli ambassador to present his credentials to United Arab Emirates ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum earlier today.
Executive producer and director of television programs including “Friends,” Kevin S. Bright turns 67…
Dean of Ohr Etzion Yeshiva and a leader of the Bnei Akiva Youth Movement, he was a long-time member of the Knesset, Rabbi Haim Drukman turns 89… Author of dozens of children’s books and young adult fiction, Daniel Pinkwater turns 80… Pianist and conductor, Daniel Barenboim turns 79… Stephen Wolff turns 76… Former chairman and CEO of Film and Music Entertainment, Larry Lotman turns 74… NYC-based consultant for non-profit organizations, Perry Davis turns 73… Immigration and nationality attorney in Southern California, Michael D. Ullman turns 72… Past president of Gratz College in Pennsylvania, Paul Finkelman turns 72… Executive director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museums of Tolerance, Rabbi Meyer H. May turns 69… Member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party, Meir Cohen turns 66… Partner in Toronto-based accounting firm Fuller Landau, he serves as president of the Toronto Congregation BAYT, Jeffrey M. Brown turns 66… Senior project manager at Boeing, Michael A. Lewine turns 58… Member of the Florida House of Representatives (D-98), Michael Alan Gottlieb turns 53… Former member of Knesset for the Likud party, Nava Boker turns 51… Founder and chairman of Perilune Capital and founder of Harspring Capital Management, Carey Robinson Wolchok turns 50… Mortgage executive, Joshua Shein turns 49… CEO of the Riverdale Y, Deann Forman turns 47… As a 12-year-old baseball fan in Yankee Stadium, he interfered with a ball batted by Derek Jeter in the 1996 ALCS that was ruled to be a game-tying home run, Jeffrey Maier turns 38… Professional golfer, he won the gold medal at the 2013 Maccabiah Games, Ben Silverman turns 34… White House reporter for the Associated Press, Zeke Miller turns 32… National director at Mission: Readiness, a nonprofit national security organization, Ben Goodman turns 32… Account manager at SingleSprout, Alison Borowsky turns 27… 1L student at Harvard Law School, Micah Rosen turns 25…