👋 Good Thursday morning!
It was a busy social night in Washington, D.C., on the fourth night of Hanukkah.
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden welcomed 125 guests to the White House for a menorah-lighting ceremony, absent the traditional holiday food staples of the annual Hanukkah party at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Eight minutes down the road, the United Arab Emirates and its ambassador in Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, hosted a Golden Jubilee Celebration at the Kennedy Center marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE at a party attended by top administration officials, members of Congress, Israeli diplomats and Jewish leaders, among others, with ample food and beverages to go around. More details below.
Back at the White House, Biden called on Americans to “stand against this resurgence, this tide of antisemitism,” citing a recent incident in which antisemitic fliers were left outside homes in Los Angeles.
Biden noted the recent passing of Abe Schumer, father of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Speaking to Schumer, who attended the lighting, Biden said, “Chuck, you said in the eulogy to your dad, if you don’t mind me saying this, you said he never quit, he never cut corners, he led by example, he knew we had a responsibility to others beyond ourselves, and he lived with the conviction of doing the right thing, even when others don’t, will lead to success. Chuck, he described you. He described you, pal.”
In his opening remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Michael Adler, the nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Belgium, recognized his wife’s parents, who fled the Nazi regime in Germany and subsequently helped liberate concentration camps.
Adler said, “This opportunity to serve my country in Europe is a testament to America’s democracy, and it is a result of the values my family has instilled in me and my efforts to make them proud. My and Judy’s parents serve as my inspiration, and they would be so proud to see my family embrace this incredible opportunity.”
Fred Fleitz, a former Trump administration National Security Council official, speculated on the progress of nuclear talks during a Heritage Foundation event yesterday. “I think Biden is prepared to throw in the towel and to move to tough sanctions — that is, to resume President Trump’s approach of maximum pressure” and that recent events indicate “the Europeans feel they’ve been pushed too far by Iran.”
UAE celebrates its 50th anniversary
At the Kennedy Center, UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba hosted a celebration for the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Arab Emirates. In his remarks, Al Otaiba noted the presence of Israeli Ambassador Michael Herzog and the first time an Israeli ambassador was invited to attend the UAE’s annual national day celebration.
“Fifty years ago, on Dec. 2, leaders from independent Emirates, gathered in Dubai and founded a sovereign country that ultimately became known as the United Arab Emirates. Today is a remarkable day for my country. And I am extremely honored to represent my country as an ambassador.”
“Sheikh Zayed’s [UAE’s founder] legacy of building consensus lives on through our values and interactions with the U.S. and other members of the international community. And 50 years on, the UAE-U.S. relationship has grown to become our most important one with broad human, economic, cultural and security dimensions. Take the Abraham Accords, for example. With U.S. support, we accomplished something extraordinary that creates a path towards a more peaceful Middle East.”
“And I think it’s kind of cool for our 50th anniversary to be the first time we welcome an Israeli ambassador to the UAE National Day event. (enthusiastic applause) And somewhere on the other side, U.S. Ambassador [to Israel] Tom Nides will be attending UAE National Day in the first UAE Embassy in Tel Aviv. (applause) In a little over a year, people-to-people connections between Emiratis and Israelis are flourishing. And those connections have generated opportunities in trade and technology and culture and education.”
Attendees at the celebration included National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Climate Envoy John Kerry, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer, Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger, CIA Deputy Director David Cohen, State’s Daniel Benaim, former Ambassador Marcelle Wahba, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL), Israeli Ambassador Michael Herzog, Shirin Herzog, Bahraini Ambassador Shaikh Abdulla bin Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar, Iraqi Ambassador Fareed Yasseen, Greek Ambassador Alexandra Papadopoulou, Kuwaiti Ambassador Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Benjamin Krasna, Elad Strohmayer, Malcolm Hoenlein, William Daroff, Rob Satloff, David Makovsky, Ken Weinstein, Jason Isaacson, Dan Mariaschin, Brian Hook, Patrick Steel, Matthew Jennings and Mark Vlasic.
Expectant olim hoping for exemption to allow parents into Israel
Immigrants to Israel due to give birth in the coming weeks are feeling a mix of anxiety, neglect and anger as their parents are locked out of the country due to the latest COVID-19 restrictions. A 14-day ban on the entry of foreigners to the country went into effect on Sunday in response to the Omicron variant, and many expectant mothers in the coming days will have to go through the emotional milestone without the support of their immediate family — unable to share their joy with them or to lean on them in those often-difficult and exhausting initial postpartum weeks, reports Jewish Insider’s Tamara Zieve.
Parental plea: Former Knesset member Dov Lipman, the founder of the NGO Yad L’Olim, an organization that helps immigrants to Israel, made a plea on behalf of expectant parents, as well as lone soldiers, at a Knesset committee meeting on Tuesday, where he spoke about the suffering of foreign first-degree relatives of immigrants. He organized a letter-writing campaign that saw dozens of expecting mothers sending emails to Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who did not respond to a request for comment, on Wednesday, urging her to let parents into the country for their grandchildrens’ births. “It’s solely the decision of Ayelet Shaked, 100%,” Lipman told Jewish Insider on Wednesday. “If she says yes, the parents can come.”
Making it personal: Danielle Fox-Mann, who made aliyah from New York, is expecting her mother to fly in from Florida in mid-December. If her mother is barred from entering, Fox-Mann, 33, doesn’t know who will take care of her toddler when she gives birth later this month. “We got all the paperwork ready already and we applied for an exemption but got declined,” she told JI. “I just feel anxious and helpless because there is nothing I can do to affect the outcome of the situation that changed basically overnight. I choose to live in this country because I am a Zionist, but I will be distraught if my mother won’t be able to be with me and support me and my toddler through this emotional transition in our lives,” she said.
Peace is being written in new Israeli-Emirati art exhibit
At a new Jerusalem exhibition featuring works by Israeli and Emirati-based artists, the writing is literally on the wall. Entitled “Maktoub,” which means both “written” and “destined” in Arabic, some 29 pieces by 10 artists – five based in each country – display swirling calligraphic scripts in Hebrew and Arabic. The show is a result of the cultural flowering that is beginning to take root in the wake of the signing last year of the Abraham Accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Jewish Insider’sRuth Marks Eglash reports.
Painting each other’s languages: “There are connections and similarities between the languages in the works and the way the artists think about letters, modernizing them and doing different things with the scripts — there is already a lot of common ground,” Lenore Mizrachi-Cohen, a New York-born artist of Syrian heritage, who conceived the installation and is one of the co-curators, told JI. Mizrachi-Cohen, 31, who made aliyah to Jerusalem two years ago, was raised in the Syrian-Jewish community in Brooklyn, where Arabic customs and language are part of everyday life. The daughter of a sofer, or scribe, who works with Hebrew texts, Mizrachi-Cohen said that “Hebrew didn’t appeal to me in the same way Arabic letters did. Artistically, I have always loved the beautiful form and flow and curvature of Arabic.”
From Jerusalem to Dubai: Being able to write in Arabic but not converse fluently has always been a source of frustration for the young artist. In the summer of 2020, after the signing of the Abraham Accords, Mizrachi-Cohen described having a “light-bulb moment.” “My brain just started turning and I was like, ‘This is amazing, because I’m sure that there are other artists who would also benefit from having in-person instruction,’” she recalled. “I said, well, if a bunch of artists are coming together, we should do a residency together, then we will also have the opportunity for a cultural exchange.” Mizrachi-Cohen reached out to Moroccan-born, Dubai-based artist and jeweler Chama Mechtaly, who joined her in curating the exhibition.
The power of art: For more than 13 years, Mechtaly, 30, who was raised Muslim but has Jewish roots, has used visual arts to explore her own and Morocco’s Jewish heritage. A social activist, she works to build bridges between Muslims and Jews, advocating for more recognition of Jewish and Mizrahi history in the region. Mechtaly said it was important for her to show that the Abraham Accords “were not forced.” “The agreements come in the context of long-term activism and civil society efforts to engage with the Jewish community and Israel,” she said. “I really want to make sure the Accords are not limited to political, economic and security deals, but they can also relate to the social fabric of this region,” Mechtaly continued. “Art can transform how we speak about each other and can facilitate discussion more effectively than any policy.”
A foundation for sustainable peace: Both Mizrachi-Cohen and Mechtaly say the show is a first step, designed to signal a willingness between regional artists to engage with each other on a cultural level. “We can create a foundation for sustainable peace in the region and use this as a launching pad,” said Mechtaly. She described future plans for an artist’s residency in the UAE and taking the exhibition on the road. Mizrachi-Cohen said the COVID-19 pandemic had severed budgets for the arts but that the exhibition would “show whoever may be interested in supporting such initiatives how nice it can be when we put our best work forward, and when we all get together this is what we can accomplish.”
🎓 Campus Beat: The Wall Street Journal’s Douglas Belkin looks at coordinated efforts by university alumni to pressure their alma maters to enforce free speech rules, as debates over culture and discourse drive the conversation on campus. “Many of the [alumni] groups are driven by politically moderate or conservative men who graduated from college in the late 1960s and 1970s, according to interviews with several of the group leaders. They believe progressive groupthink has taken over college campuses, and are urging schools to protect free speech and encourage a diverse set of views. In some cases, alumni are withholding donations to pressure schools to take them seriously.” [WSJ]
☢️ The Iran Squeeze: The Atlantic’s Kim Ghattas explains how regional shifts — including the Abraham Accords and the fallout from Tehran’s efforts to sow discord — have weakened Iran’s standing in the Middle East. “All of this regional activity is happening with the U.S. quietly coordinating in the background, encouraging some moves while discouraging or ignoring others (such as the overtures to Assad), but overall engaging in much more diplomacy across the region ahead of the nuclear talks with Iran that resumed this week after a five-month hiatus. Crisis is always around the corner in the Middle East, and if the nuclear negotiations with Iran go nowhere, tensions will rise again rapidly. This is where the unusual level of inter-Arab dialogue and efforts at cooperation could provide some balance, and a rare win-win for everyone. Except the leaders of Iran.” [TheAtlantic]
🎶 Right Note: In the Financial Times, actor Mandy Patinkin, who starred in Stephen Sondheim’s “Sundays in the Park with George,” reflects on the lyricist’s enduring legacy. “I’m always stunned when people say, ‘Aren’t his music and lyrics complicated and difficult to sing?’ No! It’s the clearest, simplest music to sing in the world because it’s so emotionally clear. You never have to struggle to learn the words because they make such profound sense. When it’s written from the gut and it’s truthful and honest and generous, those are the things that you never have to look at twice. You know them at ‘hello.’” [FT]
Around the Web
📝 Check it Twice: Forbes released its annual “30 Under 30” list, including FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, Helaina founder Laura Katz, Real founder Ariela Safira, Just Women’s Sports founder Haley Rosen, Wonder Media co-founders Shira Atkins and Jenny Kaplan, Vine Ventures co-founder Daniel Povitsky, Torch Capital principal Katie Reiner, Foresight founders Ariel Applbaum and Ivan Ralasic and the co-founders of Givebutter.
⌛ Tapping Out: Baltimore tech executive Michael Rosenbaum announced he’s dropping out of the Maryland Democratic gubernatorial primary.
🤭 Blue Dog: Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), who faces a difficult reelection battle in 2022, has avoided discussing the Biden administration’s Build Back Better agenda when speaking with constituents, instead opting to highlight the administration’s defense policy.
✍️ Making a List: The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake compiled a list of Republican candidates and lawmakers who have compared elements of managing the COVID-19 pandemic with the Holocaust and Nazi Germany.
🚓 Behind Bars: White supremacist Shane Robert Smith, who previously served time in prison for assembling a “hit squad” to target Black and Jewish people, will serve more time after investigators found homemade weapons and ammunition at his residence.
🚨 Synagogue Safety: Highland Park, Ill., police are investigating a vandalism incident at a synagogue in the northern Chicagoland suburb as a hate crime.
📚 What’s in a Name: California State University at Fresno will likely rename its Henry Madden Library after revelations that the library’s namesake harbored antisemitic and Nazi-sympathetic feelings.
🍞 Shabbat Table: Clothing designer Batsheva Hay discussed her perfected challah recipe with The New York Times.
📺 Pressure Point: The suspension of CNN anchor Chris Cuomo following revelations about his involvement in the case against his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, shone a spotlight on the network’s head, Jeff Zucker, who was under pressure to act following the release of 1,000 pages of evidence around the case.
❌ About-Face: The student government of a satellite University of Toronto campus walked back a resolution that called for a ban on contracting with kosher caterers who are pro-Israel.
🇨🇦 Retrospective: Former Canadian Green Party leader Annamie Paul said on Tuesday that she felt she was prematurely pushed out of politics, following her resignation last month after losing in her local election.
⚠️ Past is Present: Four people were injured on Wednesday when an unexploded bomb from WWII went off near the main train station in Munich, Germany.
🍕 That’s Amore: A New York City art director who gave away 5,000 pizza pies after taking up cooking during the pandemic is making plans to open a brick-and-mortar shop in Brooklyn.
💉 Public Debate: Israeli health officials publicly contradicted each other about the merits of mandatory vaccination, with the country’s COVID-19 czar supporting the measure, and the director of public health services opposing required shots.
💼 Transition: Emily Weinstein was promoted to editor of The New York Times’s Food and Cooking section.
🕯️ Remembering: Former Harpo Entertainment executive Leah Newman died at 33.
Pic of the Day
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff (right) leads lighting the menorah with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Susie Stern and Dr. Aaron Glatt at the White House Hanukkah menorah lighting on Wednesday evening.
In his remarks before the lighting, President Joe Biden said, “This is a White House tradition, but the first time in history, it is a family tradition [at the White House].”
Attendees at the White House ceremony included Attorney General Merrick Garland, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Israeli Ambassador Michael Herzog, Shirin Herzog, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Rabbi Jack Moline, Aaron Keyak, Jonathan Greenblatt, Howard Kohr, Norm Eisen, Rabbi Moshe Hauer, Fitz Haney, Ann Lewis, Sol Werdiger, William Daroff, Malcolm Hoenlein, Susie Gelman, Mark Mellman, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Jeremy Ben Ami, Steve Rabinowitz, Mark Wilf, Eric Fingerhut, Leon Goldenberg, Halie Soifer, Matt Nosanchuk, Deborah Lipstadt, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Sheila Katz, Andrew Weinstein, Jack Rosen, David Schwartz, Barbara Goldberg Goldman.
Ambassador Norm Eisen is offering a free signed copy of his book The Last Palace: Europe’s Turbulent Century in Fives Lives and One Legendary House to the first person who can identify all the White House Maariv attendees in his photo outside the East Wing.
Sephardi/Portuguese actress best known for playing Special Agent Kensi Blye in CBS’s “NCIS Los Angeles,” Daniela Ruah turns 38…
Professor of rabbinic literature at Yeshiva University’s Gruss Institute in Jerusalem, Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff turns 84… Real estate executive and founder of the Sunshine Group, Louise Mintz Sunshine turns 81… Sociologist and human rights activist, Jack Nusan Porter turns 77… Partner at Personal Healthcare LLC, Pincus Zagelbaum turns 75… French musician, Isaac “Jacky” Bitton turns 74… EVP and media director at Rubenstein Communications, Nancy Haberman turns 74… Author of more than 15 volumes of poetry, Bob Perelman turns 74… French historian and author, Benjamin Stora turns 71… Retired associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Barbara A. Lenk turns 71… Professor at Montana State University, Dr. Franke Wilmer turns 71… Partner in the Madison, Wisc., law firm of Miner, Barnhill & Galland, Sarah Siskind turns 69… Rabbi of Baltimore’s Congregation Ohel Moshe, Rabbi Zvi Teichman turns 69… Canadian fashion designer and entrepreneur, Joe Mimran turns 69… Celebrity physician, author and president of the Nutritional Research Foundation, Joel Fuhrman turns 68… Education, residential real estate and hospitality sales manager at the Los Angeles Business Journal, Lanna Solnit turns 65… Cleveland resident, Joseph Schlaiser turns 63… Emmy Award-winning actress, Rena Sofer turns 53… Identical twin sisters, known as The AstroTwins, they are magazine columnists and authors of four books on astrology, Tali Edut and Ophira Edut turn 49… Professor of political science, Eleanor L. Schiff turns 45… Former member of the Knesset, now serving as Israel’s ambassador to the U.K., Tzipi Hotovely turns 43… Deputy director of FDD’s Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation, Annie Fixler turns 37… Senior director with Alvarez & Marsal in Atlanta, she was a sabre fencer at the 2004 Summer Olympics, Emily Jacobson Edwards turns 36… Actor Fred Hechinger turns 22…