👋 Good Tuesday morning!
President Joe Biden signed the $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law on Monday afternoon in a ceremony on the White House lawn.
Attendees included Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), Andy Levin (D-MI), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Brad Schneider (D-IL), California Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, White House Jewish Liaison Chanan Weissman, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Joel Rubin, Sheila Katz, Nathan Diament, Elana Broitman and Susie Stern.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the longest-serving current U.S. senator, announced that he will not run for reelection in 2022. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is expected to take over the top Democratic spot on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Leahy’s retirement also sets up Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to become president pro tempore of the Senate — the third position in the presidential line of succession — if Democrats keep their Senate majority.
Mike Herzog, Israel’s new ambassador to the U.S., officially assumed office yesterday, replacing Ambassador Gilad Erdan, who will continue serving as Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. Herzog arrived in Washington on Friday and hosted the annual conference of Israeli consuls general in the U.S. He dedicated his first day on the job to meetings with embassy staff, according to an embassy spokesman.
In Jerusalem, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield met with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, President Isaac Herzog, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli on Monday.
In her meeting with Bennett, the two discussed U.S.-Israel ties, their commitment to battling anti-Israel bias at the U.N. and Iranian aggression in the region, according to a readout from the U.S. Mission at the U.N. Bennett lauded Thomas-Greenfield for “sounding a fair and supportive voice in a place that is extremely biased against Israel.”
In her discussions with Lapid, Thomas-Greenfield reaffirmed the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to strengthening and supporting the Abraham Accords and normalization agreements with Arab nations and reiterated the U.S. position on preserving a two-state solution. With President Herzog, the ambassador discussed efforts to combat antisemitism and promote Holocaust education globally, and with Michaeli she spoke about transportation and infrastructure, advancing gender equality and combating violence against women, and shared strategic challenges facing Israel and the U.S.
In Washington, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll met yesterday with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman as part of his debut visit to the U.S. “It was a pleasure to meet with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll today to discuss the strong partnership between the United States and Israel, our commitment to Israel’s security, and the need to take steps to improve both Israeli and Palestinian lives,” Sherman tweeted. Roll’s office said the two discussed regional security in the Middle East, Iran, Israel’s normalization agreements with Arab countries and the possibility of expanding them.
Roll also met with leaders from AIPAC and attended an NBA game between the Washington Wizards, with Israeli forward Deni Avdija, and the New Orleans Pelicans.
Surprising observers, U.S. Army tests Iron Dome in Guam
The U.S. Army announced last month that it would temporarily send one of its two Iron Dome missile-defense batteries to Guam for testing, a move that has baffled some observers, who say it would be better suited for deployment in a combat zone like Iraq or Syria, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Questions: “The Iron Dome system is one of the most capable systems in the world for what it was designed to, but given the threats to Guam, it’s not the first place I would have sent it,” Bradley Bowman, the senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) told Jewish Insider. “A deployment for Iron Dome where you’re not integrating it and you’re not conducting a live fire reduces the utility of the deployment.”
Inside the decision: Iron Dome has been deployed — to great success — in Israel for the past decade to intercept short-range threats from Israel’s neighbors to populated areas. But the situation in Guam, which faces longer-range threats from China, is very different from Israel. The Army purchased two Iron Dome batteries at Congress’s direction in 2019. The current Guam deployment appears to largely be an attempt to fulfill congressional requirements enacted in National Defense Authorization Acts in 2019 and 2021, to deploy an “interim” cruise-missile defense system and to deploy the Iron Dome batteries by the end of this year.
From the Pentagon: “The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act required the deployment of [an] interim cruise-missile defense system to an operational theater no later than the end of 2021,” Army spokesperson Jason Waggoner told JI, adding that the system is being deployed “to fulfill those NDAA requirements, test the capabilities of the system and further train and refine the deployment capabilities of air defenders.”
Other options: “I just don’t think it’s the right system for Guam. I don’t think there’s a real rocket and mortar threat to Guam right now,” retired Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, the senior director of FDD’s Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation, told JI. “There is probably a future in Iron Dome where they could be useful [in Guam], but right now… it’s not the appropriate system.” Montgomery added that there are other theaters where Iron Dome could be more useful, naming Iraq, Syria and the United Arab Emirates, where U.S. forces are regularly under threat from drones and missiles launched by Iranian proxy forces.
Amy Spitalnick is bankrupting neo-Nazis in court
With the closely watched trial against neo-Nazi activists alleged to be behind the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., underway, Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First America, the organization behind the civil lawsuit, joined Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast” to discuss the litigation.
Accountability: “The general lack of accountability in the aftermath of Unite the Right is really why we believe this case is so important. 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, where leaked Discord chats that came out in mid-2017 illustrated how these defendants — the people who are now defendants in our lawsuit and their co-conspirators — talked about everything in advance, from what to wear, what to bring for lunch, to which weapons to carry, to whether they could hit protesters with cars and then claim self-defense.”
Price to pay: “Suing Nazis isn’t cheap or easy in general. It’s harder when those neo-Nazis try every trick to avoid accountability, including dropping phones in toilets or otherwise. And it’s even harder when we have a global pandemic. And so all of those factors combined made it take about four years to get to this moment. We first filed this case [in] October of 2017. The trial started nearly four years to the day. In 2018, the court threw out the defendants’ motions to dismiss the case in a really, I think, well-written, important opinion… Since then, for the last three years, we’ve been in this discovery process.”
Masochist? Spitalnick, who previously worked as press secretary to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, observed her propensity for difficult jobs. “I must be a masochist, because over my career I’ve worked in the Jewish community and [on] Israel issues, I’ve worked in politics and now I work on neo-Nazis. So it’s hard to know which is more difficult because they all have their own unique challenges. I will say, in some ways, being a flak in New York politics is harder than running an organization that holds neo-Nazis accountable. In certain ways. Of course, the risks of that job were perhaps less than the risks of this job. But certainly the challenges were significant.”
Lightning Round: Favorite Yiddish word? “Mishegas.” Favorite Jewish food? Bagel with smoked fish and a schmear. “I have not had that in a few weeks here in Charlottesville. I’m sure there is a delicious place to get Jewish food here in Charlottesville, but I have not been there yet. And so I think one of the first things I’ll do when I get back to New York is [go to] Russ & Daughters.” Book on reading list? Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead. Favorite legal film character? “The cast of ‘My Cousin Vinny.'”
Baltimore judge Karen Friedman appointed to Justice Department post
Karen Friedman, a judge on the Baltimore City Circuit Court’s 8th Judicial Circuit, has been appointed by President Joe Biden to serve as director of criminal justice innovation, development and engagement at the Justice Department, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. Friedman will start in the newly created position, which is housed in the department’s Office of Justice Programs and does not need Senate approval, on Jan. 3, 2022.
Barrier breaker: Friedman, who also goes by the Hebrew name Chaya, was the first female Orthodox Jewish judge in Maryland. She has served on the circuit court since 2014 and will step down from the bench at the end of this year. Friedman was previously a district court judge in Baltimore, and before that served as a judge on the city’s Orphans’ Court.
Changing one life: “Being a woman and being Jewish have been important factors in my life, and [in] shaping who I am and how I view the world, and that definitely informs my decisions on the bench,” Friedman said in a 2018 podcast interview. “Jewish people have a very strong belief that if you change one life it’s as if you’ve changed the world. It’s straight in the Talmud that that’s the case. Well, if you grow up with that belief and that belief is part of your value system, then you know that your ability to touch people’s lives on the bench is so important. And you have the ability to shape people’s lives and affect people’s lives in the most intimate way when you are a judge.”
Chiming in: “Whenever she talks about her courtroom experiences, I hear how much she cares – how she cares about the victims, the offenders, and justice,” said Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, the political and community relations arm of the Associated, Baltimore’s Jewish federation. (Friedman serves on the boards of both organizations.) “I am sure that her leadership experiences here in Baltimore will help to shape her work, and I am confident that she will be successful.”
📆 Eight Days a Week: In a review of historian David Henken’s new book, The Week: A History of the Unnatural Rhythms That Made Us Who We Are, The New Yorker’s Jill Lepore explores the various calendar proposals that have emerged in recent centuries, including the World Calendar, which suggested that dates fall on the same day of the week every year. “The World Calendar created new days: Year-End Day, Leap-Year Day, extra Saturdays in December and June. Once every year and twice every four years, in other words, the World Calendar had an eight-day week. If adopted, it would have thrown out of whack the seventh-day Sabbath of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as the League for Safeguarding the Fixity of the Sabbath Against Possible Encroachment by Calendar Reform explained. ‘Six days do they labor and do all that they have to do but the seventh they worship and rest,’ Time reported in 1934. ‘If one extra day alone were introduced into their year they would eventually be observing the Sabbath on weekdays while the rest of the world worked.’” [NewYorker]
🤔 Challenging Concepts: In his newsletter “Oh, MG,” Malcolm Gladwell argues that liberal students should consider attending the newly created University of Austin in order to broaden their horizons and have their preconceived ideas challenged. “So if 18-year-old Malcolm had been a liberal, I would say — he should definitely enroll at a school like the University of Austin! Give his ideas a stress test! Learn how to defend his positions against worthy opponents. But if all the University of Austin does is attract students who already think the way the professors at the University of Austin think, then I would say the school is a failure. So to all you young conservatives out there, I say: Stay away from Austin! Go to Oberlin, and spend four years engaged in some very productive squirming and double-taking at the back of the classroom.” [OhMG]
🤑 Billion-dollar Advice: In The New York Times, Nicholas Kulish profiles the Bridgespan Group, a consulting firm that advises donors and charitable organizations on how and where to put their dollars. “Proponents say the advisers make the field more effective. Critics question whether consultants, even at nonprofits with good intentions, are the right solution for the charitable sector… Bridgespan may not be a household name but its reach in philanthropic circles is significant. The group advises the biggest names in the field: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation on the philanthropy side and the YMCA of the USA, the Salvation Army and even the Sesame Workshop on the nonprofit side.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
📈 Ivory Tower Take: Harvard economist and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who served in senior roles during both the Clinton and Obama administrations, sounds the alarm on inflation in a Washington Post op-ed, warning that current trends will not prove transitory.
🆓 Press Release: American journalist Danny Fenster, who last week was sentenced by a court in Myanmar to 11 years in prison, was released following efforts by former U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson.
🎼 Heard Yesterday: In The New York Times’s “Sway” podcast, composer Hans Zimmer discusses the process for scoring the recently released film “Dune,” and why he will not write music for the metaverse.
🖼️ Going, Going, Gone: An art collection belonging to Harry Macklowe and his former wife Linda raked in $676.1 million, “the most valuable single-owner auction ever staged,” according to Sotheby’s.
💰 Faithful Funding: Religious groups are mounting a lobbying effort to remove an anti-discrimination provision in the White House’s proposed social spending plan that could disqualify them from receiving federal funds.
💵 Call for Cash: Israel will call for more international aid for the Palestinians at a conference of donor countries in Norway this week.
👨⚖️ Bibi Trial: Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared in court today, for the first time in over half a year, for a hearing in the corruption trial against him.
👕 Classroom Fight: An English teacher in Brooklyn filed a discrimination complaint after he claims his school forbade him from wearing a “Proud Zionist” T-shirt, but allowed other teachers to wear apparel that promoted the Blacks Lives Matter movement.
🏫 Across the Pond: Last academic year, 111 antisemitic incidents were reported at British universities, a 59% increase from the preceding year.
🏴 Antisemitism Row: Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has drawn fire from Jewish students who compared her government’s policies on Israel to the “desecration of a synagogue.”
🎖️ Smart Power: The recent joint exercise between the Israeli, American, Emirati and Bahraini militaries signals growing concern over Iran’s presence in the region, Frank Gardner writes for BBC.
🐷 Kosher ‘pork’? The Wall Street Journal‘s Dov Lieber explores why there is resistance to stamping plant-based pork as kosher, while a meat burger with vegan cheese can pass the test.
💉 Vaccination Nation: Israel will begin vaccinating children ages 5-11 against COVID-19 as soon as Pfizer’s doses for children arrive in the country.
🌳 Climate Coordination: Israeli climate startups have been collaborating with Emirati firms to produce technology to mitigate climate change, following the opening of relations between Israel and the Arab world.
🇲🇦 Diplomatic Visit: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is slated to visit Morocco next week, where he will sign a defense-related memorandum of understanding with his Moroccan counterpart, Abdellatif Loudiyi.
✍️ Backup: A group called Commanders for Israel’s Security released a letter signed by more than 300 former Israelis military and security officials in support of U.S. efforts to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem for Palestinians.
👨🎤 Ticket Master: Justin Bieber announced his upcoming tour, with a scheduled performance in Tel Aviv in October 2022.
💼 Staffing Up: The recently launched Abraham Accords Peace Institute hired Asher Fredman as the group’s Israel director, and David Aaronson as deputy Israel director.
🕯️ Remembering: Journalist Netty Gross-Horowitz, known for her work at The Jerusalem Report, died at 66. Former Illinois state lawmaker Howard Carroll, who was a vocal advocate for the Jewish community, died at 79.
Pic of the Day
Israel’s national soccer team beat the Faroe Islands 3-2 on Monday to keep its World Cup qualifying hopes alive.
Stage, film and television actress, she is the older sister of actor Jake Gyllenhaal, Margalit Ruth “Maggie” Gyllenhaal turns 44…
Retired justice on the Supreme Court of Canada, Morris Jacob Fish turns 83… Director general and founder of TAV College in Montreal, Abraham J. Boyarsky turns 75… Milwaukee-based founder and co-managing director of A.B. Data, Ltd, he is chair of the Pincus Fund for Jewish Education, Bruce A. Arbit turns 67… Torrance, Calif.-based former co-chair of Jewish World Watch’s Lemkin Summit, Susan Brooks turns 58… Writer and producer, he was an executive producer of Fox’s “Fringe” and co-writer of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” Jeff Pinkner turns 57… Executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Matt Brooks turns 56… SVP of national programs at Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, Rabbi Justus Baird turns 49… Israeli singer-songwriter, author and travel documentarian, Gilad Segev turns 47… Author of several novels and book columnist for the Washington Post, Lavie Tidhar turns 45… SVP at The D. E. Shaw Group, Michael A. Levi turns 44… 1994 Olympic gold medalist in figure skating, Oksana Baiul turns 44… Actress, producer and TV host, Adi Ezroni turns 43… President of operations at ArtNaturals in Ladera Ranch, Calif., he is a former NFL placekicker and punter, Hayden Scott Epstein turns 41… American-Israeli professional basketball coach and former NBA player, Amar’e Stoudemire turns 39… Director of program strategy and management at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Allie Shisgal… Snowboarder for the U.S. Olympic team in 2014 competing in the halfpipe, Taylor Gold turns 28…