👋 Good Wednesday morning!
Ed note: Enjoy the long Thanksgiving weekend. The Daily Kickoff will be off Thursday and Friday. Gobble Gobble!
A federal jury in Charlottesville, Va., awarded more than $25 million in damages to counterprotesters who experienced physical and psychological harm at the violent Unite the Right rally that occurred in the city in 2017.
The defendants in the civil trial include prominent white nationalists such as Richard Spencer and Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website. The largest damages were awarded against James Fields, who is serving multiple life sentences for murdering a counterprotester with his car.
“We feel that justice was served today,” Karen Dunn, one of the lead attorneys in the case, said at a press conference. “There is going to be accountability for the people who did this.” The jury found that the defendants violated Virginia civil rights statutes, but the jury could not reach a decision on two federal conspiracy charges related to violent race-based conspiracies.
“The general lack of accountability in the aftermath of Unite the Right is really why we believe this case is so important,” Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First for America, the organization behind the lawsuit, told Jewish Insider’s Limited Liability Podcast last week. “What became crystal clear in the days after the violence is that what happened was no accident, but rather it was planned meticulously in advance on social media.”
Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz traveled to Morocco yesterday evening, the first formal visit by an Israel defense chief to the country. “This is an important and historic visit,” Gantz told the press before boarding his flight. During his visit, Gantz is set to sign several cooperation agreements with Moroccan defense officials. Today he signed a defense cooperation memorandum of understanding with his Moroccan counterpart Abdellatif Loudiyi.
Inside Israel’s push to join U.S. Visa Waiver Program
When it comes to visiting the United States, Israelis often feel like the proverbial child: Nose pressed up against the window of the candy store: so near, yet so far. Unlike entry to Europe and most countries in Asia, to visit the country government officials like to refer to as their closest and most strategic ally, Israeli citizens must obtain a visa — a bureaucratic and burdensome process that most visitors to Israel remain totally oblivious to. Now, with wait times for U.S. visas topping more than a year, Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, are stepping up efforts to get the Jewish state included in a special Visa Waiver Program that allows 90-day visa-free tourist and business visits. And, they are hopeful it could happen as soon as 2023, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash and Gabby Deutch report.
Biden’s commitment: Bennett discussed the issue during a meeting with President Joe Biden last August in Washington, D.C. The president said at the time that he was committed to “working together towards Israel’s inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program.” Last week, while in the U.S., Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked emphasized the matter to her counterpart, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. He later tweeted, “DHS remains committed to working with Israel to help it meet all Visa Waiver Program requirements.”
Overcoming barriers: Shaked, who served as justice minister from 2015-2019, told JI she was confident Israel would be able to overcome the barriers. She said representatives from her ministry will now meet once a month, virtually, with counterparts at DHS to iron out specifics such as sharing data and addressing problems faced by U.S. citizens of Palestinian descent. “On a professional level I know what needs to be done in Israel,” Shaked added, highlighting that both Mayorkas and incoming U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, with whom she also met during her visit, “really want this to happen.”
Politically popular: “Israelis look at other countries who are in the program and say, ‘Why not us?’” former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, who served in Washington from 2009-2013, told JI. “They want to go to the U.S. to travel or study. Many have family connections. Politically this would be very popular in Israel,” added Oren, who says he also worked intensely on the issue during his tenure. “I used to tell my staff, ‘Whoever does this, they will erect a statue to them in Dizengoff Square.’”
Important for Israelis: Scott Lasensky, a senior adviser to former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, told JI that the visa issue “looms large for Israelis,” while “Americans, including American Jews, are nearly blind toward it.” Lasensky added, “It has really outsized impacts on certain segments of Israeli society, thousands of people who work in certain industries, anyone who’s working with the Diaspora, especially North American Jewry.”
A nouvelle rugelach from the Best Damn Cookies guy
For many people at the beginning of the pandemic, baking cookies, cakes and other treats was a coping mechanism — a sugary salve for the soul. For Dave Dreifus, it was a matter of professional survival. The 29-year-old private chef, who lives in New York City, had recently found himself out of work last year when he turned to baked goods, churning out cookies from a friend’s restaurant in Williamsburg. “I was biking 30 miles a day selling chocolate chip cookies,” Dreifus recalled in a conversation with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Damn good business: Business has grown considerably since then. Best Damn Cookies, as the company is called, now operates out of a permanent storefront in the Essex Market food hall on the Lower East Side, where Dreifus oversees production at a nearby commissary kitchen. He says he is making thousands of cookies a week, while shipping orders nationwide.
Jewish roots: While Dreifus had previously done tours of duty at such Michelin-starred establishments as the French Laundry and SingleThread, Best Damn Cookies is, in many ways, a return to his roots: His paternal grandfather, Armin Dreifus, once ran a Jewish pastry shop, Stern’s, in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Midwood. Until recently, Dreifus had largely ignored his Ashkenazi culinary heritage, highlighting different cultures instead. His latest offering, rugelach, hits closer to home.
High-toned touch: Even for an old-fashioned Jewish pastry, his approach, as he described it, is somewhat high-toned. Call it Jewish fusion. “My grandpa traditionally used walnuts, golden raisins and cinnamon. I was like, ‘Walnuts, raisins … that’s basically charoset,’” Dreifus said, referring to the sweet, chunky mixture traditionally served at Passover Seders. “So I started making a charoset rugelach.” His take includes cinnamon walnut butter, apples and golden raisins, stewed with white wine and apple brandy — all combined with homemade cream cheese and sour cream.
Deli dream: For Dreifus, his foray into Jewish cuisine, particularly after years in fine dining, represents the answer to a question he has long been mulling. “It’s about finding my identity and how I feel,” he said. The rugelach, he suggested, is just the first step in a new direction, one that includes moving beyond cookies as he seeks to celebrate his past. “I’m an Ashkenazi Jew — German, Hungarian and Russian,” he said. “I have aspirations of opening up my own deli one day, named after my grandparents, Hannah and Armin Dreifus.”
84 House members call on Biden to push Iron Dome funding in year-end appropriations bill
A bipartisan group of 84 House members will send a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday requesting that the administration push for the inclusion of $1 billion in supplemental funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system in an upcoming government spending bill, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The funding, passed by the House in September, is currently stalled in the Senate, where Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is blocking a fast-tracked approval process.
Pushing ahead: The House members — 76 Democrats and eight Republicans — led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) will urge Biden in their letter, a draft of which was obtained by JI, to “specifically request that Congress include supplemental funding for Israel’s Iron Dome in an appropriations bill enacted before the year’s end — including in any anomalies you may request to a new continuing resolution.”
Time crunch: Government funding is currently set to run out on Dec. 3 — just days after Congress returns from its Thanksgiving recess, requiring the House and Senate to pass either a series of appropriations bills setting government funding levels for the year or a shorter-term continuing resolution (that would carry forward previously set funding levels) before that date to avert a government shutdown.
Backstory: The letter follows clashes over attempts by House Democratic leadership to include the Iron Dome funding in a continuing resolution in September. No Republicans supported that continuing resolution because it also increased the debt limit. The federal government is set to hit another debt limit in the coming weeks, but it is unclear how congressional leadership plans to address it.
Twenty-three House Dems urge Senate to move forward on Lipstadt nomination
With Deborah Lipstadt’s nomination to be the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism stalled in the Senate, 23 House Democrats sent a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee leadership on Tuesday urging them to “swiftly” schedule a confirmation hearing for the Holocasut historian, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Republicans have blocked the committee from setting a hearing due to concerns about Lipstadt’s past tweets, particularly those about committee members.
Tick tock: Led by Reps. Kathy Manning (D-NC) and Ted Deutch (D-FL), the Democrats urged Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-ID) in their letter to schedule a hearing for Lipstadt next week. The Senate committee has scheduled its next hearing for Biden administration nominees for Dec. 1, but Lipstadt is not set to be considered at that convening.
Quotable: “In a time when antisemitic incidents are on the rise, and when Jewish people feel less and less safe, we need a respected leader and true fighter leading our government’s response to antisemitism,” Deutch told JI. “Dr. Deborah Lipstadt has a proven track record of fighting antisemitism in all its forms, wherever it originates. And she has earned the admiration she has received from the Jewish community and from members of both parties. The Senate must confirm her now and let her get to work.”
No dice: Manning’s spokesperson, Hailey Barringer, told JI that the letter’s authors solicited GOP signatures but no Republicans joined before the signing period closed Monday night.
Joining forces: The letter’s other signatories include Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Susan Wild (D-PA), Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Grace Meng (D-NY), Dina Titus (D-NV), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), David Cicilline (D-RI) Juan Vargas (D-CA), Ritchie Torres (D-NY), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Marc Veasey (D-TX), Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Elaine Luria (D-VA).
🛒 Man in Charge: Vanity Fair’s Nick Bilton spotlights Andy Jassy, the successor to Jeff Bezos, as the Amazon founder hands the reins to the little-known head of Amazon Web Services. “But back in 2018, as he was firing up the rocket boosters on his lunar-level midlife crisis, according to one person close to the company who knows Bezos and Jassy, Bezos foresaw what the next decade for Amazon would look like and knew that not only did he want to pursue other passions, but most important, he was no longer the right person to be the face of the company. Even Bezos had the self-awareness to recognize that the richest man on the planet, who owns more than a billion dollars’ worth of homes, planes, and yachts, whose laugh evokes Dr. Evil, would not be the best witness to place in front of Congress when arguing that Amazon is indeed not an antitrust threat and a monopoly and that it does not pay its employees ‘starvation wages.’ There was really only one other person at Amazon, a true blue Amazonian, who was not only capable of running the entire empire but also came across as a nice, unthreatening guy, just like you and me. Andy Jassy.” [VanityFair]
🏈 Portnoy’s Complaint: New York magazine’s Reeves Wiedeman profiles Dave Portnoy, the controversial founder of digital media company Barstool Sports, as he navigates a volatile political environment, online gambling and a slew of sexual misconduct allegations. “Portnoy insists he and Barstool are apolitical. Critical race theory is not regularly discussed on Barstool podcasts, and plenty of progressives both consume and produce the company’s content. (One of Barstool’s earliest writers went on to become Ayanna Pressley’s chief of staff when she was a Boston city-council member.) If Barstool and Portnoy can be said to have a cohesive political ideology, it is probably some kind of libertarianism mixed heavily with indifference, an appetite for casual cruelty, and a desire to dunk on the libs not for political points but for the LOLs and the clicks.” [NYMag]
👋 Retirement Talk: Los Angeles magazine’s Sam Youngman talks to Democratic activists in California, as pressure mounts on Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to step down from the seat she has held for nearly 30 years and pass the torch to a new generation of politicos. “But for many of Feinstein’s constituents, the senator is already behind, both in representing California’s increasingly progressive ideology and its diverse demographics. The impatience and frustration among her detractors that started in earnest after her last re-election have only grown more intense with time and controversial moves and Lindsey Graham hugs. ‘I think she should’ve retired a long time ago,’ said R.L. Miller, a veteran environmental leader and an elected member of the Democratic National Committee from California. ‘I would not be surprised if she dies in office, as much as someone hates to be predicting stuff like that.’” [LAMag]
Around the Web
🖼️ Helping Hand: The U.S. solicitor general filed a brief in support of the family members of a Holocaust survivor attempting to retrieve art looted by the Nazis in a Supreme Court case.
📃 Mathematical Manuscript: A newly discovered Einstein manuscript, only one of two surviving handwritten documents containing work on the physicist’s general theory of relativity, is expected to garner millions at an auction in Paris.
📗 Book Shelf: Author Diane Cole reviews Meriel Schindler’s new book, The Lost Cafe Schindler: One Family, Two Wars, and the Search for Truth, calling it an “insight-filled reckoning with the past” that tells the tale of an Austrian family before and during the Holocaust.
🇦🇺 Down-Under Designation: Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews announced that Canberra will designate all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
🕎 Fortress Found: Ahead of Hanukkah, Israeli archeologists uncovered a Hellenistic fortress that was destroyed by Judah Maccabee’s nephew during the Maccabean revolt against Greek forces in the 160s BCE.
☢️ Atomic Account: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he anticipates Iran will develop a nuclear weapon within five years, regardless of progress on the diplomatic front to restrain the country’s nuclear program. Israeli government sources say the Islamic Republic is using drone attacks on Persian Gulf targets as a way to pressure the U.S. and others into concessions on its nuclear program.
🇮🇷 Drone Warfare: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz alleged that Iran used a drone to smuggle explosives from Syria to a terror cell in the West Bank in 2018.
🎧 Worthy Listen: Jason Greenblatt hosted Bahraini Ambassador to the U.S. Shaikh Abdullah bin Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa on the first live taping of his podcast, “The Diplomat,” at Yeshiva University.
💰 Cyber Confession: An Israeli man confessed to European investigators that he had scammed hundreds of people for a total of $10 million as part of a fake cyber-trading scheme.
⚖️ Dodgy Dealing: Dov Malnik, an Israeli securities trader and finance professional who used to swim for the Israeli national team, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in an international insider trading scheme, the U.S. Justice Department said.
⛽ Ally Agreement: A Hamas official said that the group has reached an agreement with Qatar in which the Gulf nation will provide fuel to Hamas, which it will then sell in Gaza to provide for energy needs and create a cash flow to pay civil servants.
👨⚖️ Day in Court: Apple is suing the NSO Group in an effort to prevent the Israeli company from using its software.
🤝 Meet and Greet: A group of 84 businesspeople from the United Arab Emirates are attending the first UAE-Israel Business Forum in Tel Aviv today.
⚽ Foul Play: An Associated Press report revealed that Qatar hired a former CIA officer to spy on international soccer officials and other potential host countries amid Doha’s successful push to host the 2022 World Cup.
➡️ Transition: Erica Brown was named the inaugural director of the Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks Center for Values and Leadership at Yeshiva University.
🕯️ Remembering: Columbia University professor Sylvere Lotringer, known for his contributions to postmodernist philosophy, died at 83.
Pic of the Day
Rabbi Levi Shemtov (right) kicked off Hanukkah festivities at the World of Light event on Tuesday night at the InterAmerican Development Bank in Washington, D.C., with World Bank President David Malpass, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and IDB President Mauricio Claver-Clarone.
This year’s menorah lighting on the Ellipse will take place on Sunday evening.
Sunday’s gathering also kicks off the Shine a Light on Antisemitism initiative, a week of programming and trainings for the Jewish community and beyond to spread awareness about antisemitism.
Israeli actor and screenwriter, best known for portraying Doron Kabilio in the political thriller television series “Fauda,” Lior Raz turns 50…
VP of the Aspen Institute and a former member of Congress from Kansas, Secretary of Agriculture and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Dan Glickman turns 77… Retired English teacher, Adele Einhorn Sandberg turns 77… Chairman of Lyons Global Insurance Services, he is a senior advisor to the Ashcroft Group, Simcha G. Lyons turns 75… Professor emeritus of chemistry at Bar Ilan University, he is also an ordained rabbi, Aryeh Abraham Frimer turns 75… Actress, best known for her role as Gaby in the film “Gaby: A True Story,” Rachel Chagall turns 69… Partner in the Los Angeles-based law firm of Gordon & Rees, Ronald K. Alberts turns 66… President of the University of Michigan, Mark Steven Schlissel turns 64… Coordinator of clinical oncology trials at Englewood Health, Audrey E. Ades turns 64… Born to a Jewish family in Havana, Cuba, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas turns 62… Philanthropist and former co-CEO of Westfield Corporation, Steven Lowy turns 59… Political consultant and pundit, Jeff Ballabon turns 59… Author and founder of Nashuva, a Los Angeles-area Jewish outreach community, Rabbi Naomi Levy turns 59…
Leader of the Israeli Labor party and the minister of transport, she is a granddaughter of Rudolf Kastner, Merav Michaeli turns 55… Professional poker player, his tournament winnings exceed $7.8 million, Robert Mizrachi turns 43… President of Jigsaw and an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Jared Cohen turns 40… Jewish Learning Fellowship (JLF) rabbi at the Austin campus of the University of Texas, Rabbi Moshe Trepp turns 40… Educator, author and analyst at the Georgia Public Service Commission, Benjamin Deitchman turns 39… Director at Green Strategies, Inc., Rachel Kriegsman turns 34… Market development director at Phreesia, Madeline Bloch turns 32… Actress best known for her lead role in the Netflix series “Bonding,” Zoe Levin turns 28… Michael Davis… Special assistant to the director at the Center for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue, Kennedy Lee… Executive vice president and COO at the Orthodox Union, Josh Joseph…
Birthweek:Jewish Insider’s managing editor Melissa Weiss celebrates her birthday tomorrow.