👋 Good Monday morning and Happy Hanukkah!
In a statement marking Hanukkah, President Joe Biden said, “At its core, Hanukkah recounts a story at the heart of the human spirit – one that is inherently Jewish and undeniably American. It commemorates how even the most fragile flame can sustain a tradition and nourish the soul of a people. It teaches us that even a little bit of light, wherever it is found, can dispel the darkness and illuminate a path forward. And it reminds us that whether it is the Holy Temple in Jerusalem or the temple of our democracy, nothing broken or profaned is beyond repair.”
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff was on hand and spoke at the lighting of the National Menorah on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. The annual lighting, produced by American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), was tied this year to the “Shine a Light” campaign that aims to draw attention to rising antisemitism. Later in the evening, Emhoff shared a photo of himself and Vice President Kamala Harris lighting a menorah at their residence.
U.S. newspapers began their Hanukkah coverage over the weekend. In The Washington Post, Michelle Boorstein explores the origins of Hanukkah amid rising antisemitism against Jewish communities, while The New York Times spotlights efforts — which sometimes fall short — by major retailers to appeal to Jewish customers during the holiday season.
Tributes have poured in praising the work and influence of Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, who died on Friday at age 91. Sondheim, who is credited with reimagining the Broadway musical, was remembered for such iconic works as “Sunday in the Park with George” and the lyrics to “West Side Story.”
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides arrived in Jerusalem today to begin his posting. “After my first trip to Israel, I wrote in my local newspaper that “the moment I put my feet on the ground, I had a feeling which I will never forget.” Landing today in Israel to be U.S. Ambassador is another moment I’ll never forget,” he posted alongside a video on Twitter.
The student government at the University of Toronto passed two anti-Israel measures last week, including one that allowed for kosher food on campus to come only from catering companies that “do not normalize Israeli apartheid.” University President Meric Gertler said in a statement to the campus community that the motions “are specifically focused on Israel in a way that is troubling to many members of the community” and that he’d be following up with the student group.
Israel’s dilemma as negotiations resume on Iran’s nuclear program
As diplomats return to Vienna this week to resume negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, Israel faces a strategic dilemma: Ramp up the rhetoric that, in the past, has put it at odds with its closest allies; or find a quieter, more polite, way to work within the renewed diplomatic push and perhaps achieve a more acceptable outcome than the deal negotiated with Iran in 2015. Thus far, Israel’s new government, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett — who met with President Joe Biden following the most recent round of talks in August — seems to be adopting the latter approach, a clear departure from the combative and divisive tone of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But, as the new round of talks begin, Israel could once again find itself on a collision course with major world powers, including the United States, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Public diplomacy: “I believe and consider the relationship between Israel and U.S. as the cornerstone of our national security, and it is [in] our interest to be coordinated with the administration and with Europe,” Israel’s former Defense Minister and former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon told Jewish Insider in a recent interview. “There might be disputes but those should be discussed indoors, not publicly.” Yaalon, who held various positions in Netanyahu’s cabinet, slammed the former leader for using the Iranian nuclear issue for “political interests” and for openly meddling in internal U.S. politics – most notably Netanyahu’s controversial 2015 speech to a joint session of Congress in which he publicly opposed the Obama administration’s efforts to secure the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
‘Tremendous mistake’: “I did not like it at the time — the whole idea of an Israeli prime minister intervening in U.S. politics,” Yaalon said. “We should work to keep the bipartisan relationship and though I was not then serving in any official capacity, it was Netanyahu who pushed [President Donald] Trump to withdraw [from the nuclear deal in 2018].” “The JCPOA was a historic mistake, but the withdrawal from it was even worse,” said Yaalon. “At least in 2015, we had an international coalition; the P5+1 voted together in the U.N. Security Council. But by withdrawing and going alone, the U.S. lost Europe, Russia and China. It was a tremendous mistake.”
New approach: There are signs that Israel’s new leaders also recognize the flaws in the previous government’s public approach, keeping their criticisms of the Biden administration’s diplomatic strategy under the radar. Speaking last week at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at Reichman University in Herzliya, Bennett alluded to a reevaluation, saying, “We need to look at what we’ve accomplished and examine if we need to recalibrate this vast effort. And the answer, if we look openly and reasonably, is yes.” At the same event, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who will travel to the United States in the coming weeks, said a diplomatic solution on Iran was “preferable.” But, he added, “the use of force should be on the table.” He urged the world to “add a ‘Plan B’ to the diplomatic option.”
House legislators urge SEC inquiry into Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s
Four members of Congress led by Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) are urging the Securities and Exchange Commission to look into whether Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, needs to amend its regulatory filing to reflect the risks to the corporate giant’s shareholders following the decision in July to stop selling its products in what Ben & Jerry’s referred to as “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Bipartisan backing: Joining Torres are Reps. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), who sent a letter on Friday to SEC Chairman Gary Gensler raising concerns about the potential regulatory implications of the ice cream company’s decision.
Risky business: The legislators argue that the company’s pullout requires Unilever to amend its regulatory filings to disclose the “material risk factors” stemming from the steps taken by five states thus far to divest from Unilever and the anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions laws in place in 30 other states. The letter further describes the independent decision-making authority of the Ben & Jerry’s board of directors as another risk factor.
😷 Ever After: The Atlantic‘s Deputy Managing Editor Amy Weiss-Meyer reflects on Stephen Sondheim’s recent passing and his approach to endings, and how that can be applied to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Sondheim’s work was at its strongest when it lingered in the pain of the dawning realization that no ever after ever lasts long. His music and lyrics looked squarely at life and insisted, gently and eloquently, that of course it was never going to be exactly how we wanted it to be, that messiness and ambiguity were to be expected, and could even be part of the beauty… We haven’t reached the pandemic’s ever after yet, and if we do it won’t be in a single glorious moment.” [TheAtlantic]
🎭 Fast Friends: Founder of Israel-based VC Maniv Mobility, Michael Granoff, reminisces in Medium about his lifelong relationship with Stephen Sondheim, spanning from his first words while sitting in the backseat of his parent’s car listening to the “Company” soundtrack, to his high school paper review of “Sunday in the Park with George,” which drew a response from Sondheim that blossomed into a close friendship including technological support from the younger fan. “For me, for my whole life, Stephen Sondheim has always been there. First his work. And then, in one of my life’s greatest blessings, the man himself… Once I hosted friends for dinner on a Friday night. A voice came in over the answering machine. ‘Hey Mike, it’s Steve Sondheim, how do you get back to the Finder from….’ My guests thought I had someone do it as a joke.'” [Medium]
🌊 Nice Ride: The New Yorker’s Danyoung Kim spotlights New Jersey-based entrepreneur Corey Orazem, who wants to popularize Jet Skis as a commuter option for workers living in and around New York City. “On to Brooklyn. Orazem rounded the tip of Manhattan. A Staten Island ferry honked authoritatively. Sea levels rose. He reached Wallabout Channel, near Williamsburg, and pointed to barren banks along the water. ‘This whole canal is literally perfect,’ he said. He noticed buses nearby with Hebrew lettering. Orazem runs Jet Ski tours, and he has many Hasidic clients. ‘I’ve never met people who are more motivated to come out in groups and go Jet-Skiing than the Hasids,’ he said. ‘Sometimes I have to pull a yarmulke out of a Jet Ski propeller, but it’s no problem.’” [NewYorker]
📘 Brooks Bares All: In The New Yorker, Michael Schulman interviews 95-year-old actor and comedian Mel Brooks, who is set to release his new autobiography All About Me! this week. Asked about any trepidation he had, as a Jew who served in the U.S. Army during the Second World War, in writing the Hitler-centric black comedy “The Producers,” Brooks said: “That was a fight within me, a big struggle. Of course, I didn’t want to pay any homage in any way to the Third Reich. However, I was true to my story. You can encapsulate ‘The Producers’ in one sentence: you can make more money with a flop than you can with a hit. But you need the ammunition to make that flop. I knew I was on thin ice, but I said, ‘This will surely send the Jews flying out of the theatre in a rage, and they’d have their flop’…If you can reduce the enemy to an object of ridicule and laughter, you’ve won. And that’s why, when ‘The Producers’ played throughout Europe, it was very successful.” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
📣 2022 Watch: Pro-Israel America is set to announce six new House endorsements later today, including Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO), Shontel Brown (D-OH) and Ted Lieu (D-CA).
💸 Fundraising Foray: Jared Kushner is facing mixed results as he fundraises in the Middle East for his new fund, Affinity Partners.
🏃 Between Billionaires: A feud between hedge fund founder Ken Griffin and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is likely to sway the race for the state’s next governor, the Wall Street Journal reports.
🧑💼 Wall Street to City Hall: New York City Mayor-electEric Adams is considering hiring Goldman Sachs CFO Stephen Scherr to join his mayoral administration when he takes office on Jan. 1.
🐱💻 Cyber Swipes: Tense relations between Israel and Iran are playing out in a series of virtual attacks, including the hacking of an Israeli LGBTQ dating site and Iran’s fuel-distribution system, that are affecting civilians in a significant way for the first time.
👩⚖️ Across the Pond: A U.K. judge ruled that the claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich to purchase the team — made in a new book on the Russian leader — was defamatory and that the lawsuit filed by Abramovich can proceed.
📗 Book Shelf: Veera Hiranandani’s new children’s book, How to Find What You’re Not Looking For, explores the zeitgeist of the 1960s and the complexities of being an American Jew by telling the story of a Jewish girl growing up in 1967.
🏀 Hoop Dreams: The Wall Street Journal spotlights Yeshiva University’s basketball team, which is enjoying the longest current winning streak in the NCAA.
📱 AI on Abuse: A new awareness campaign in Israel uses artificial intelligence to shine a light on victims of domestic violence.
☀️ Access Denied: Riyadh reportedly attempted to spike a solar deal between the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Jordan as a result of the Abraham Accords, which was ultimately signed last week.
🤝 Diplomatic Discussions: Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrived in London yesterday for a two-day trip to the U.K. and France, with Iran expected to be a central topic of discussion.
🇮🇱🇬🇧 Tightening Bonds: Lapid and U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss penned a joint op-ed published today in the Telegraph and Yediot Ahronot, outlining a new “strategic plan” for closer cooperation in the fields of trade, tech, cyber and security.
🇪🇹 Bruchim Habayim: Israel will permit 3,000 Ethiopians to immigrate to the Jewish state amid ongoing unrest in Ethiopia that has killed tens of thousands.
🛑 No Entry: Noncitizens are banned from entering Israel for two weeks as the country grapples with the emergence of a new coronavirus variant.
👑 Beauty Beat: Plans for Israel to host the Miss Universe pageant in Eilat next month are still on despite new coronavirus restrictions on entry to the country.
✈️ Flying High: Israel Aerospace Industries expects to sell 25% of the company on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in the first half of 2022, Reuters reports.
🕯️ Remembering: Abe Schumer, whose son Chuck serves as the first Jewish Senate majority leader, died at 98. Sylvia Weinstock, who was known as the “Da Vinci of Wedding Cakes” for the ornate cakes she made for A-list celebrities, died at 91. Novelist Noah Gordon, who wrote The Rabbi, died at 95. Laszlo Z. Bito, known for discovering a treatment for glaucoma and for speaking out against authoritarianism in Hungary, died at 87.
Song of the Day
Rappers Nissim Black and Kosha Dillz released a remix of Adam Sandler’s iconic “Hanukkah Song” last night, the first night of the holiday.
Senior half of the renowned filmmaking team of the Coen Brothers, Joel David Coen turns 67…
Former lord mayor of Westminster, philanthropist and heiress of the U.K.’s Tesco supermarket chain, Lady Shirley Porter turns 91… Management analyst for the City of Los Angeles, Lou Loomis turns 75… Co-founder of Knowledge Universe and founder of the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement, Lowell Milken turns 73… Women’s volleyball coach at Penn State University since 1979, Russell David Rose turns 68… Chairman of Yad Vashem, Dani Dayan turns 66… Comedian, host and judge on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” Howie Mandel turns 66… Chief rabbi of Safed, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu turns 65… Rabbi and author, currently president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, Rabbi Irwin Kula turns 64… Mountain states regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, Scott Levin turns 64… Co-owner and CEO of Covenant Wines in Napa, Jodie Morgan turns 63… Former congressman, White House chief of staff, mayor of Chicago, his nomination as U.S. ambassador to Japan is pending Senate confirmation, Rahm Emanuel turns 62… CEO of the Georgetown Business Improvement District, Joseph Sternlieb turns 61… Brooklyn resident, Andrea Glick turns 61… Actress, singer and comedian, Jacqueline Laura “Jackie” Hoffman turns 61… Foreign policy and public diplomacy advisor to seven consecutive Israeli prime ministers, now a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, Shalom Lipner turns 56… Baseball Hall of Fame relief pitcher and pro-Israel activist, Mariano Rivera turns 52… Former Olympic alpine skier, now a reporter for Sirius XM Radio, Carrie Sheinberg turns 49… Louise Rothschild turns 42… Research scientist, Gregory Ferenstein turns 39… Former development director at Faith and Freedom Coalition, Orit Sklar Kwasman… Chanoch Ben Yaacov… Abigail Langer…