👋 Good Tuesday morning!
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is in Israel this week for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leadership.
Sullivan will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, President Isaac Herzog and other senior Israeli government officials “to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security and consult on a range of issues of strategic importance to the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship, including the threat posed by Iran,” according to a statement by NSC spokesperson Emily Horne.
Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart, Eyal Hulata, are expected to co-lead the fourth Strategic Consultative Group meeting during the trip.
In Ramallah, Sullivan will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss efforts to strengthen U.S.-Palestinian ties and advance peace and security for Palestinians and Israelis.
Joining him on the visit are Brett McGurk, deputy assistant to the president and Middle East and North Africa coordinator, and Yael Lempert, State Department acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs.
The Illinois Investment Policy Board (IIPB) is expected to vote on Wednesday whether to divest state funds from Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever, following a decision by the ice cream company earlier this year to stop sales in what it referred to as “Occupied Palestinian Territory.” IIPB began looking into whether the company had run afoul of state law over the summer, shortly after the Ben & Jerry’s announcement.
An individual familiar with the state’s efforts told JI, “Illinois had previously given Unilever 90 days to reverse its boycott of Israel. Now the 90 days are up and Unilever will face yet another significant state pension divestment and blacklisting. At some point the board of directors needs to acknowledge this boycott is harming the shareholders and the corporation. They need to find a ladder down from this tree.”
Leger Fernandez charts uniquely New Mexican course in Jewish community relations
With the exception of a event with the progressive pro-Israel group Heart of a Nation earlier this month, first-term Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM) — behind whom the Santa Fe-area Jewish community rallied in last year’s Democratic primary — has not been particularly outspoken on Israel issues during her first year in office. But she has carved out a niche deeply connected to New Mexico’s history as a vocal advocate for restored Spanish citizenship for descendants of Jews and conversos expelled from Spain during the Inquisition, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Strong foundation: Local Jewish leaders said their relationship with the new congresswoman has remained solid in the year since she took office. Ron Duncan Hart, the former president of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, told JI that Leger Fernandez “identifies with the Jewish community” and “has close contacts within the Jewish community.” He added that she has “expressed her support for Israel very clearly.”
U-turn: Leger Fernandez has carved out a niche deeply connected to New Mexico’s history as a vocal advocate for restored Spanish citizenship for descendants of Jews and conversos expelled from Spain during the Inquisition. Spain’s government announced in 2015 that it would grant citizenship to people of Sephardic Jewish descent, but rejections for citizenship applications have skyrocketed since a new socialist government took office in 2019, leading applicants and advocates to believe that the new government is attempting to backtrack on the citizenship policy.
Taking action: Leger Fernandez’s ancestors include Jews who fled Spain, and one relative was burned at the stake in Mexico City due to his religion. In October, Leger Fernandez organized a letter to the president of Spain raising concerns about the rejections, joined by members of both the House and Senate. She has also raised the issue with the White House and the State Department and spoke at a rally in October outside the Spanish consulate in New York.
Quotable: “When Spain offered the right of return, it meant a lot to my community. My friends, my community, they all applied,” she said in her speech. “The broken promise of the noble gesture of reparation hurts more than if Spain had never made the offer of return in the first place. It’s time for Spain to live up its promise to the many Sephardi Jews who have held onto the love of country and of people for centuries, despite unimaginable hardship.”
Close to home: Activists who have worked with Leger Fernandez on this issue say she’s personally passionate about it, and that it has become an important political issue in her district. “Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez showed [an] incredible amount of leadership and interest in the issue,” Sarah Koplik, who leads the Sephardic Heritage Program at the Jewish Federations of New Mexico, said. “She really cares about this issue. She really cares about the converso experience throughout the world… Why it’s a political issue for her is because of her community and because of her constituents — so many of them have this heritage.”
Amid rising tensions, Israeli and Palestinian NGOs launch fundraising drive
More than a dozen Israeli and Palestinian nonprofit organizations active in various aspects of peace-building will launch a joint online fundraising campaign on Dec. 29, working with the belief that an already saturated yet neglected field will benefit from shared efforts across the board, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Rising tension: The rare initiative comes amid rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians following a spate of recent stabbing and shooting attacks by Palestinians against Israeli civilians and violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank. The Israeli army is currently on high alert after the killing of Yehuda Dimentman, 25, in a shooting on Thursday night.
Building peace: The campaign was initiated by Amal-Tikva, a Jerusalem-based organization that provides strategic consulting and training for nonprofits to improve effectiveness, together with B8 of Hope, which supports Israeli and Palestinian grassroots peace-building initiatives. It will unite some 14 Israeli and Palestinian NGOs for focused online fundraising and is being billed as an opportunity where “people from all over the world will join together to support organizations building a more peaceful reality for Israelis and Palestinians.”
Learning together: “Even if the organizations do not raise as much as they hope to, they will learn how to engage their own communities more effectively and how to manage a project more professionally,” Meredith Rothbart, co-founder and CEO of Amal-Tikva told JI. “One of our main goals is to move from a culture of fragmentation and competition to one where peace-building organizations turn to each other for support.” Rothbart said that throughout the preparation process for the campaign, the organizations learned from one another and received support from Causematch about how to put together a fundraising campaign. She also said that many of the organizations are so small that they do not have dedicated fundraising staff.
📜 History Lesson: The New Yorker’s David Remnick looks at the recent release of interviews with Donald Trump in which the former president employs antisemitic tropes about Jews and Israel and the media, and considers Trump’s legacy with the American Jewish community. “Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, in Jerusalem, told me, ‘In judging a President’s relationship to the Jews, I take a pragmatic Israeli view. What matters aren’t a few thoughtless or even hateful comments but a President’s policies. Some of the most pro-Israel Presidents—Truman, Nixon—made anti-Semitic comments. F.D.R. is still beloved by many Jews even though he was a disaster for European Jewry. The Trump paradox is that he was a blessing for Israel and a curse for American Jewry. His Administration negotiated the Abraham Accords, Israel’s first genuine normalization agreement with Arab countries. And he existentially threatened the liberal order that allowed American Jewry to thrive as no other diaspora. That’s Trump’s Jewish legacy.’” [NewYorker]
👨 Second Gentlemen: The Washington Post’s Cleve R. Wootson Jr. explores the role that Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff plays in the Biden administration and his outreach to the Jewish community. “As the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president, Emhoff also serves as ambassador to a constituency that Democrats and the Biden administration continue to cultivate, taking part in Passover and Hanukkah celebrations at the White House, visiting synagogues and affixing a mezuza — a small ornate case containing a religious text — to the door frame of the vice president’s mansion. All the while, the self-described ‘second dude’ gives off the aura of a man who is genuinely surprised to be where he is, a neophyte to the choreography of politics who is having the time of his life. But those close to Emhoff say his role is more serious and tactical than it looks, helping Harris manage a volley of attacks that may be unprecedented.” [WashPost]
🏙️ Gaza Glimpse: The Associated Press’s Joseph Krauss and Fares Akram look at life inside the Gaza Strip — with soaring unemployment, widespread corruption and the ever-present threat of a new conflict with Israel. “[Israel] has largely accepted Hamas’ rule in Gaza because a prolonged invasion is seen as too costly. At the same time, Hamas furnishes Israeli leaders with a convenient boogeyman — how can the Palestinians be allowed statehood if they are divided between two governments, one of which steadfastly opposes Israel’s very existence? Meanwhile, Hamas’ willingness to use violence — in the form of rockets, protests along the border or incendiary balloons — has helped it to wrest concessions from Israel.” [AP]
🖥️ Brain Drain: Software engineer and entrepreneur Ben Wajdi warns of the dangers of internet addiction, which include the decline in the reading of physical books, and provides a roadmap for how to break free of the need to be online. “Perhaps, the first step is becoming conscious. Consciousness about how much time are we spending emailing and texting, listening and watching, filling forms and closing popup ads. When we track the hours, we become shocked — not at the numbers per se — at what could have been learned, grasped, or done during these wasted hours. After consciousness about the amount of time we waste online, the next move is to transition towards being a pragmatic user of the internet. This might not work for everyone, but becoming pragmatic users means planning our online tasks before we even open the internet — that’s how serious we must become towards the addiction: treat it as an addiction, a serious threat to our minds and to our lives. And we should forget about throwing [out] our phones, deleting all of our accounts, and isolating ourselves from the rest of the digital world, all at once. Almost all cold turkey attempts to break free from internet addiction have failed, and ours will probably fail too. Instead, we should progressively attempt to limit and plan the time we spend online — in advance.” [BenWajdi]
Around the Web
👉 Blame Game: Hundreds of antisemitic flyers blaming Jews for starting the COVID-19 pandemic were distributed in residential areas of Greensboro, N.C., and Pasadena and Beverly Hills, Calif, prompting investigations by local authorities.
🪧 Ad Budget: Hedge fund manager David McCormick, who filed paperwork with the IRS creating an exploratory committee for a Senate run on Monday, will launch his first statewide ad across Pennsylvania today. McCormick will reportedly put $1 million of his own money behind the ad.
👕 Startling Sympathies: A British man pleaded guilty to wearing a Hamas-sympathizing T-shirt — banned under the country’s law against wearing images of terrorist-designated organizations — around Golders Green, an area in London with a significant Jewish population.
🤝 Booming Business: Larry Ellison’s Oracle Corp. is set to purchase electronic records medical firm Cerner Corp. for $28.3 billion, in the company’s biggest deal.
🏟️ Fair Game: The International Olympic Committee announced that countries hosting events cannot ban athletes from other countries from participating, following the cancellation of a squash tournament in Malaysia after officials there banned Israeli athletes from the competition.
🎯 Targeted Hit: A former Israeli intelligence chief confirmed Israel’s involvement in the 2020 killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
☢️ Serious Warnings: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned that Israel would take “both overt and covert actions” to thwart Iran’s nuclear program, should talks in Vienna continue to falter; Iran said it would respond with a “crushing” counterattack to any Israeli offensive.
🔉 Noise Complaint: Iranian officials said that noises observed near the country’s Bushehr nuclear facility were due to an air-defense drill after media sources described hearing anti-aircraft fire.
💰 Taxing Turpitude: Knesset member Aryeh Deri is set to sign a plea deal in which he will confess to tax offenses and resign from the Knesset by the end of its current term.
💻 Billable Hours: Law firm Quinn Emanuel has indefinitely extended its “work from anywhere” policy, amid concerns about the coronavirus.
🇦🇫 Out of Afghanistan: Just three American citizens remain in Afghanistan and making efforts to leave the country, Sen. Angus King (I-ME) said following a trip to Pakistan and Qatar last week.
💼 Transitions: New York Times Magazine chief national correspondent Mark Leibovich, who is writing a sequel to his 2013 book This Town, will join The Atlantic as a staff writer in April. Goldman Sachs senior investment strategist Abby Joseph Cohen will retire at the end of the month.
👶 Mazal Tov: Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and his wife, Dr. Alisha Kramer, welcomed their daughter, Eva Beth Ossoff.
Pic of the Day
The University of Haifa announced last week that Israeli archeologists had discovered a 2,000-year-old synagogue on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in northeastern Israel. The Jewish house of prayer was unearthed in the ancient city of Magdala, casting light on the social and religious lives of the Jews in the Galilee region in that period.
Producer of over 90 plays on and off Broadway, winner of seven Pulitzer Prizes and ten Tony Awards, Daryl Roth turns 77…
Former member of the Knesset for over 36 years, David Levy turns 84… Former chair of the NY Fed and a partner at Goldman Sachs, Stephen Friedman turns 84… Born in Auschwitz five weeks before liberation, she is one of only two babies born there known to have survived, Angela Orosz-Richt turns 77… Conductor and artistic director of the New World Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas (family name was Thomashefsky) turns 77… Member of Knesset since 1999 for the Likud party, Haim Katz turns 74… Director of the LA Initiative at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, former longtime member of the LA County Board of Supervisors and the LA City Council, Zev Yaroslavsky turns 73… Actor and past president of the Screen Actors Guild, Barry Gordon turns 73… CEO of WndrCo and former CEO of DreamWorks Animation, Jeffrey Katzenberg turns 71… Former member of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, where she became the first female Jewish minister in Australia, Marsha Rose Thomson turns 66… Atlanta-based criminal defense attorney, Drew O. Findling turns 62… Retired four-star general who served as chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, David L. Goldfein turns 62… Former U.S. secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin turns 59… Senior NFL insider for ESPN, Adam Schefter turns 55… Owner of Liberty Consultants, Cherie Velez turns 52… Former member of the Knesset for the Kulanu party, Rachel Azaria turns 44… President of France since 2017, Emmanuel Macron turns 44… Principal of Kona Media and Message, Brian Goldsmith turns 40… Israeli actor and fashion model, Michael Mario Lewis turns 34… Chief creative officer of Five Seasons Media, Josh Scheinblum turns 33… SVP in the financial services practice at NYC-based The Bliss Group, Julia Bloch Mellon turns 32… Politics editor at the Boston Globe, Joshua Miller…