👋 Good Tuesday morning!
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will meet today for hearings on Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s nomination to be ambassador to India, University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann’s nomination to be ambassador to Germany and Donald Blome’s nomination to be ambassador to Pakistan.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) spoke at Rutgers University Hillel last night about antisemitism. During the speech, Gottheimer alleged that members of the Working Families Party disrupted a recent event about the bipartisan infrastructure bill by “screaming ‘Jew’ at me.”
Gottheimer expressed concerns about a statement this summer from part-time Rutgers professors attacking the Israeli government after the May conflict with Hamas.
In his speech, Gottheimer called the faculty statement “disgraceful,” adding, “It was even more sickening that the university felt that it had trouble defending the pro-Israel students on campus and stand up to such blatant antisemitism. They had to back down from the initial comments of support.”
Sue Altman, the New Jersey Working Families Party state director, denied Gottheimer’s claim and said that “spurious and false allegations of antisemitism are extremely dangerous; they cheapen real ones.”
The House will vote today on establishing a special envoy to monitor and combat Islamophobia.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wrapped up a historic visit to the United Arab Emirates last night, having become the first Israeli premier to make an official visit to the country. At the conclusion of the visit, it was announced that Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, with whom Bennett met for more than four hours, had accepted an invitation to visit Israel.
Following the meeting, the two issued a joint statement saying that “both sides confirmed a shared desire to advance a range of significant areas of cooperation to further strengthen trade and economic relations, by establishing a joint research and development fund.”
Bennett entered isolation shortly after returning to Israel, after someone who had been on his flight tested positive for COVID-19, his spokesman said in a statement.
child care considerations
Senate modifies child care provisions in Build Back Better Act
The Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee released an updated draft of the Build Back Better Act over the weekend that includes several changes to child care and pre-K provisions pushed by religious groups, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America had, in coalition with other religious organizations, lobbied for changes to provisions they said would bar religious providers from receiving funding under these programs unless they drastically changed and secularized their programs.
Ch-ch-changes: In the latest draft of the bill, the Senate removed provisions subjecting child care and pre-K funding to a series of additional anti-discrimination requirements under the 2007 Head Start Act. Those provisions, activists said, could exclude single-sex programs and bar providers from giving preference to families of their own faith. The Senate also removed a provision designating child care aid as federal financial assistance to child care providers, which activists said could make religious groups ineligible.
Two out of three: The groups’ third major request — reworking the universal pre-K program from direct aid to providers into a certificate program providing funding to parents — was not included in the new Senate draft. “Unfortunately, as the bill is currently written, [universal pre-K] funding will only be provided in the form of direct aid, allowing faith-based participation but only to programs that have been secularized — not a realistic option for religious providers or the parents they serve,” Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s vice president for government affairs, told Jewish Insider.
Leeway: Nathan Diament, executive director of the OU’s Action Center, said that there may be ways for religious pre-K providers to still receive some funding depending on how states implement the program. He offered the example of New York City’s pre-K program, which pays for half days of non-religious instruction at religious pre-K schools, leaving a half day of privately financed religious education.
On the horizon: The Supreme Court’s decision in Carson v. Makin, a pending case involving government funding for religious schooling, could also shake up the pre-K funding provisions. Observers on both sides of the issue expect the Court, which heard oral arguments in the Maine case last week, to rule in favor of parents seeking to use public funding to pay for religious schooling, but it’s unclear how far the Court will go in changing precedents on public funding of religious schools.
Spoon U founder Sarah Adler Hartman brings innovation to the Times
As the entrepreneur in residence at the paper of record, Sarah Adler Hartman has a broad mandate: get kids hooked on The New York Times. She understands that “entrepreneur in residence” is a cool, if unusual, title to hold at a newspaper. “Every time I introduce myself, I have to, like, stop myself from using air quotes in my title,” she joked to Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch in a recent interview.
Not for grown-ups: Since 2017, the Sunday Times began publishing a monthly insert for kids, which has won design awards for its eye-popping page layouts. One cover from August 2019 proclaims, “How to Survive Going Back to School” above a large graphic of a school building, full of the chaos and excitement of the first day of school, depicted in cartoons in muted pastels. “This section should not be read by grown-ups,” an editor’s note warns. Hartman was hired to build on the kids’ print edition and hook kids on journalism with entrepreneurial digital products.
Spoon U grad: The Times brought Hartman onboard just weeks after she sold her own digital news publication — Spoon University, which she started as a college publication at Northwestern University and later turned into a successful venture-backed startup. “It covered everything from recipes that kids could make in their dorm rooms or their first apartment, to restaurant reviews in their college towns, to thoughtful pieces on how food fit into their lives,” she said. By the time she left the publication in 2019, it had chapters at more than 200 colleges.
Hometown spirit: Hartman grew up in Austin, Texas, a city with a reputation for innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity. But her childhood felt far away from the excitement of the city’s hundreds of music venues, barbecue joints and arts studios. “I definitely didn’t go to South By [Southwest] as a kid,” Hartman said. “I wasn’t really exposed to startup stuff until I got to college.”
Sense of wonder: Spoon University was acquired by Discovery in 2017, and Hartman left the company after it was sold in 2019 to Her Campus, a women’s media brand. She started getting interested in childrens’ content while looking for a sense of creative fulfillment; she began taking a class on how to make toys. “What can help me feel motivated and creative and feel a sense of wonder every day?” she explained. “I just totally fell in love with the category and believe that it was really underserved [in the news space]. There’s a lot of low-quality stuff made for kids that’s condescending.”
Birthright Israel trips to resume amid Omicron variant
Despite renewed travel restrictions on foreigners due to the Omicron COVID-19 variant, Birthright Israel trips will be permitted to enter Israel as of Dec. 19, a trip provider confirmed to Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch. All trips must obtain special approval from Israel’s Population, Immigration, and Border Authority.
What it means: Birthright participants will be subject to the same requirements as Israeli citizens when they arrive in the country: Participants must have been vaccinated or have received a booster in the last six months, and they must complete a three-day quarantine upon arrival, according to a copy of a memo sent to trip providers, obtained by JI.
Quarantine qualifier: The three-day quarantine does not require a full 72 hours. “If for example, they land on a Sunday afternoon that will be the first day, Monday will be the second and ideally they can even do a PCR test on Monday at Midnight or early morning on Tuesday,” the memo explained. “3-4 hours later, when all results come in, the trip can begin.”
Restrictions remain: Other foreign tourists are still barred from entering Israel, a restriction put in place in November following the discovery of the Omicron variant, and extended earlier this month. The Israeli government helps fund Birthright Israel.
🪖 On Target: An Israeli strike on Syrian military facilities in June reportedly targeted the country’s chemical weapons program, report The Washington Post’s Joby Warrick and Souad Mekhennet, as concerns grew over the Syrian government’s imports of TCP, a chemical that can be used to create sarin and other deadly nerve agents. “The prospect of a reconstituted chemical weapons program in Syria is regarded as a direct threat to the security of Israel, and perhaps other neighboring countries. While Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad famously used chemical weapons against his own citizens dozens of times since the start of the country’s civil war, Syria’s once-vast chemical arsenal was originally intended for use in a future war with Israel. ‘It is a strategic weapon for the regime,’ said a Western intelligence official, summarizing the consensus among spy agencies that closely monitor Syria’s weapons procurement efforts.” [WashPost]
🇮🇷 Changing Geopolitics: The Wall Street Journal explores how shared concerns about Iran and the shrinking U.S. role in the region is pushing together Middle East rivals. “Monday’s meeting [between Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan] comes after Sheikh Mohammed traveled to Turkey late last month to begin patching up relations with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a supporter of Islamist political movements that the U.A.E. see as a national-security threat. Separately, Qatar is brokering talks between Saudi Arabia and Turkey for a once-unimaginable meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Mr. Erdogan, said people familiar with the efforts, signaling a potential detente in a rift that has divided the region for years.” [WSJ]
🎭 Candid Composer: In The New York Times, Evelyn McDonnell revisits a 1996 interview she did with composer Stephen Sondheim, who died last month, in which he candidly expressed his views on Jonathan Larson’s rock musical “Rent,” several months after the death of the younger composer and playwright. “I think it is a work in progress,” he told McDonnell. “He wanted to put in everything and the kitchen sink, and he did. I think it suffers from that.” “I had spoken with Sondheim on the phone,” McDonell writes. “He generously wanted to honor his sometime protégé for the book that would tell Larson’s story, but he was not overly sentimental. He had been disappointed in the stage version of ‘Tick, Tick … Boom!,’ which at one point was known as ‘Boho Days’ and which chronicled Larson’s efforts to write a show called ‘Superbia,’ originally based on George Orwell’s ‘1984.’” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
✋ Stay Away: GOP leaders are discouraging former President Donald Trump from getting involved in an Illinois House race that will see first-term Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL), whose district was eliminated during the redistricting process, mount a primary challenge against either Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL) or Rodney Davis (R-IL).
📽️ Coming Attractions: TheJewish Museum and Film at Lincoln Center will jointly hold the 31st annual New York Jewish Film Festival — a mix of virtual and in-person programming — Jan. 12-25, 2022.
💉 Denied: The Supreme Court rejected appeals by health care workers in New York to get exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for religious reasons.
🕵️ Clipped Wings: The Israeli NSO Group is considering shuttering its controversial Pegasus unit and refinancing or selling off the entire company.
✡️ One Down: Irina Nevzlin withdrew her candidacy from the race for Jewish Agency chair, citing a drawn-out and confusing selection process.
☢️ Timely Talks: White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is expected to visit Israel next week for talks on Iran.
🥂 Wedding Toast: At the Sunday wedding of Ohio real estate executive Brian Schottenstein and Toria Aronoff, held at Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald Trump gave a brief speech, noting his support for Israel. “So many of my friends are in this room, and they happen to be Jewish, and they said tonight that no president has done more for Israel than I have. And if that weren’t true, this man [gesturing to Gary Schottenstein, the groom’s father] would come down on me, I would have a big problem, right?”
🏢 Incoming: Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced a plan to import foreign tech workers to fill the labor shortages created by the coronavirus pandemic.
🕹️ Gaming Gains: Tel Aviv-based VGames has raised a second fund totaling $141 million to invest in game studios.
✈️ No Speed: The U.S. rejected an Israeli request to speed up the delivery of two KC-46 refueling jets out of four purchased, which would assist the Israeli Air Force’s capability to attack Iran’s nuclear program.
🛰️ To Infinity: Satellite images indicate that Iran is preparing for a space launch at its Imam Khomeini Spaceport amid a renewed focus on space under the administration of President Ebrahim Raisi.
🇨🇿 Czech Relent: Czech President Milos Zeman is set to approve the government of Prime Minister-designate Petr Fiala following months of delay over Zeman’s objection to the foreign minister nominee Jan Lipavsky for holding a “distant attitude” towards Israel and other European allies.
➡️ Transitions: Ilan Goldenberg began work as the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs yesterday, after seven years working for the Center for a New American Security.
🕯️ Remembering: Lithuanian-born Eda Solome, who survived World War II by hiding from the Nazis in the woods before being hidden by a Polish farmer, died at 100.
Song of the Day
Israeli singer-songwriter Hanan Ben Ari released a music video for his new song, “Place,” last week.
President of Bard College since 1975, he is also music director of the American Symphony Orchestra and conductor laureate of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, Leon Botstein turns 75…
Dean emeritus at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, Rabbi Zevulun Charlop turns 92… President emeritus of The George Washington University, he is an attorney in the D.C. office of Rimon Law P.C., Stephen Joel Trachtenberg turns 84… Co-founder of Creative Artists Agency and later president of the Walt Disney Company, Michael S. Ovitz turns 75… Retired N.Y. State assistant housing commissioner, he also served as a military chaplain for 38 years, Jacob Goldstein turns 75… Retired SVP at Warner Brothers and active on the Democratic platform committee, Howard Welinsky turns 72… Director of government affairs at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Robin Schatz turns 70… Member of Knesset, Avi Dichter turns 69… Serial entrepreneur and author of Let There Be Water, Seth “Yossi” Siegel turns 68… Hedge fund manager, John Paulson turns 66… Owner of Bundles of Boston, Sheree Boloker… Retired CEO of San Francisco-based Jewish LearningWorks, David Jonathan Waksberg turns 65… Nurse and mental health counselor, Martina Yisraela Rieffer… Founder of the Center for Class Action Fairness, Ted Frank turns 53… Partner and COO of Chicago-based Resolute Consulting, David Smolensky turns 53… British chef, restaurateur and food writer, Yotam Assaf Ottolenghi turns 53… Senior rabbi of the Beth Jacob Congregation of Beverly Hills, Calif., Kalman Topp turns 49… Policy counsel in the criminal defense practice at The Bronx Defenders, Eli Clemans Northrup turns 37… Safety and special teams player for the New York Giants, he won three Super Bowls with the Patriots, Nathan “Nate” Ebner turns 33… SVP at TL Management, Matt Kosman turns 33… Former offensive lineman for the New York Giants, now a medical sales representative at Stryker, Adam Bisnowaty turns 28… Teen theater and voice actress, Mia Sinclair Jenness turns 16… Senior media relations associate at Chabad, Tzemach Feller…