👋 Good Monday morning!
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to call out antisemitism on the political right and left during remarks he is set to deliver tonight at UJA-Federation of New York’s annual Wall Street Dinner in Times Square.
“Too many on the right seem only concerned about antisemitism when it occurs on the left – and vice versa,” Bloomberg will say, according to a draft of his remarks obtained by Jewish Insider.
Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Steve Daines (R-MT) are set to announce a follow-on bill today to the 2018 Taylor Force Act, which cut off U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority as long as it continues its “martyr payments” to the families of terrorists.
Stuart Force, the father of Taylor Force, the U.S. Army veteran who was killed in a 2016 terrorist attack in Israel, described the new legislation to Jewish Insider as “a more nuts-and-bolts approach to the actual mechanics of funding terrorism.” Force is set to speak at the announcement today alongside the senators.
He added that he and his wife, Robbi, “will do whatever we can do to help [Cotton] attack the problem” and promote the bill. The Taylor Force Act “became our mission and it was our therapy. We didn’t go to grief counseling, we focused on doing this,” he continued.
Bob Dole, a former senator from Kansas, longtime Senate majority leader and 1996 presidential candidate, died on Sunday at 98.
Steven Olikara’s next act: A Senate bid
Steven Olikara, a 31-year-old political activist from Milwaukee, is likely the only Democratic candidate in Wisconsin’s crowded Senate primary field who once played guitar in a Klezmer band — a personal tidbit that, on first glance, may seem largely irrelevant to his current campaign. But on a recent afternoon in downtown Madison, he suggested that his experience communing with Jewish folk music in high school was by no means trivial. “When I was growing up playing music, I was connecting with all of these different cultures,” he told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel, “and in many ways, I’m trying to bring that spirit of togetherness in music into our political sphere.”
Bridging divides: Olikara, who hasn’t held public office before, is the founder of a nonpartisan youth advocacy group, the Millennial Action Project, that aims to bridge political divides through involvement on such issues as voting rights, climate change and criminal justice reform. He says he is bringing a similar ethos to his Senate campaign, which he announced in September following a statewide listening tour. He is among a dozen Democrats competing to replace Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who has yet to announce if he will seek reelection in the midterms next year.
Music to politics: Olikara, whose parents settled in Milwaukee from Kerala, in southern India, in the early 1980s, had long anticipated a different path for himself. “Like a good son of Indian immigrants, I figured I would become an engineer for most of my life,” he said. “Every male in my family did go into engineering.” Yet primarily through music, “I became interested in people,” he said. “That led to an interest in public service, particularly how you can bring people together across lines of division.”
‘Exhausted majority’: While the limited publicly available polling suggests that Olikara lags behind such apparent frontrunners as Mandela Barnes and Alex Lasry, the nonprofit leader argues that he is gaining momentum. “Really where I think our campaign differentiates itself is we are activating what some researchers have called ‘the exhausted majority,’” he told JI. “People who feel disillusioned by politics right now, and who feel left out, and feel like politics is not responsive to their daily challenges.”
Beyond Klezmer: Olikara has been gaining support from Jewish community leaders as well as pro-Israel advocates at the state and national levels. Among those who have contributed to his campaign are Moses Libitzky, a donor to Jewish causes in San Francisco, and Hannah Rosenthal, the Obama administration’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism. “My interest in supporting pro-Israel issues and supporting the Jewish community here starts with the people who I love most — my close circle of friends,” said Olikara, whose engagement with Jewish issues extends beyond Klezmer. “Hearing their passion for Israel has truly moved me on a deep level.”
Ritchie Torres endorses Jazz Lewis in Maryland’s 4th
As the campaign for an open congressional seat in Maryland gets underway, freshman Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) is flexing his political muscle in the race with an endorsement of Jazz Lewis, a former senior aide to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Pragmatic progressive: “I am proud to endorse Jazz Lewis, who would bring a powerful brand of pragmatic progressive leadership to the United States Congress,” Torres told JI. “As a longtime staffer and protege of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, he is no stranger to problem-solving at the highest levels of government, as well as in moments of crisis.”
Open seat: Lewis, who earned Hoyer’s endorsement last month, is taking on Glenn Ivey, a former prosecutor in Prince George’s County who also ran for the seat in 2016, losing in a primary to Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD). Brown is vacating his seat in Maryland’s 4th District to run for Maryland attorney general in 2022.Local political experts say former Rep. Donna Edwards, who held the seat before Brown, is considering entering the race, although Edwards has not said publicly whether or not she will run.
Early support: “I am thrilled to have the support of Congressman Ritchie Torres,” Lewis told JI. “In such a short time in Congress, he has been a vocal advocate for affordable housing and infrastructure funding in communities that need it the most.” Over the last two years, Torres has attracted significant support from the Jewish community and is outspokenly supportive of U.S. support for Israel. Torres “has also shown that you can be both a progressive congressman and a strong friend of Israel,” Lewis noted.
Governors spotlight threat of antisemitism in national campaign
As part of a national campaign that launched during Hanukkah to spotlight and combat antisemitism, Democratic and Republican governors from eight states issued official proclamations throughout the holiday denouncing the threat and vowing to do more to fight it, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. The governors — from Ohio, South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Delaware, Connecticut, New York and Michigan — represent a politically and geographically diverse set of leaders.
Working together: “There was a time not too long ago when we as a community were alone, with the government either acting against us or sitting on their hands, while others spewed hate and violence at us,” said William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which was a major organizer of the campaign. “The difference as we sit here in December 2021 is that the government here in the United States is on our side. They are allies. They’re working with us to combat antisemitism, to combat violence against Jews.”
Shine a Light: The proclamations were issued as part of the “Shine a Light” campaign, which was organized by the Conference of Presidents in partnership with other groups including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and The Jewish Federations of North America. Fifty-eight percent of all religiously motivated hate crimes in 2020 were directed at Jews, according to FBI data.
Small but mighty: A proclamation from Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, which has the smallest Jewish population in the country with just 250 Jews, spotlighted “members of the Jewish faith [who] have been coming to South Dakota for nearly 150 years as early settlers” and praised “their role as early community leaders in our state and ongoing contributions to our diverse culture.” She also embraced the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.
State by state: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine wrote a letter to the state’s college and university presidents, laying out concrete steps for the schools to take to “create a culture on our campuses that does not tolerate antisemitic and anti-Israel sentiments or any other type of discrimination.” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy participated in an event in Jersey City alongside families of the victims killed in the shooting at a local kosher supermarket two years ago.
🥯 Schmear Campaign: A supply chain problem is affecting New York’s bagel shop owners as they struggle to secure enough cream cheese to serve customers. “‘It sounds kind of silly, talking about this like it’s some kind of huge crisis,’ [Tompkins Square Bagels owner Christopher] Pugliese said. But, he noted, a bagel with cream cheese is a New York institution and a ‘big deal’ to many of his customers. ‘Sunday bagels are sacred,’ Mr. Pugliese said. ‘I hate feeling like I’ve let people down.’” [NYTimes]
👨 The Big Lie: In AirMail, Bill Adair catches up with disgraced journalist Stephen Glass, whose downfall due to fabricating sources and situations garnered national attention, shortly after the death of his wife from early-onset Alzheimer’s complications, which he admitted to lying to their loved ones about in an effort to support her. “He just wanted to be loved. That was the reason he gave for spinning the intricate web of fabrications in more than 40 articles in the New Republic and other magazines in the late 1990s. The scope of his fraud is stunning, even 20 years later. He filled his stories with lies, then lied to cover them up… For Glass it was excruciating. ‘Here I am lying again on some level, which I promised I wouldn’t do — and I’m lying in some ways to the person I love most,’ he says.” [AirMail]
👩 Legal Shift: The New York Times’s Isabel Kershner profiles Shira Isakov, a 33-year-old mother who became the face of the movement within Israel to protect women from domestic violence, after her now ex-husband almost killed her in a brutal attack in 2020. “But since the attack, Ms. Isakov has become a household name in Israel, and a hero to many, not because she was a victim of horrific abuse but because of how her case, and her speaking out, have helped shift Israel’s legal landscape — especially when it comes to the laws protecting abusers’ parental rights and their ability to control decisions about a child’s medical care and schooling from prison.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
✅ Facts First: CNN fact-checks President Joe Biden’s comments at the White House’s menorah-lighting about his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.
🎉 Mazal Tov: Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) celebrated her bat mitzvah at age 51.
📛 What’s in a Name: Tevi Troy looks at the history of nicknames bestowed upon White House staffers: Clinton advisor Dick Morris was known as “the Unabomber,” while Sid Blumenthal, was called both “Sid Vicious” or “GK,” which stood for Grassy Knoll; Ben Rhodes, the Obama administration’s deputy national security advisor, was known as “Hamas” for his criticism of Israel; Trump’s chief economic advisor Gary Cohn was known as “Globalist Gary” — which was shortened via text to 🌎.
🙏🏻 Religious Revival: Theological schools have seen an uptick in enrollment during the pandemic for the first time in more than a decade.
🗣️ Rabbinic Rivalry:The New York Times examines the fallout over the firing of a popular assistant rabbi at New York City’s Park East Synagogue this fall.
⛔ Out of a Job: Philadelphia Commerce Director Michael Rashid resigned on Sunday after reports that he had verbally abused staff and made antisemitic comments.
🎄 Holiday Greetings: Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), who stoked controversy last year when he voted against a Holocaust education bill, came under fire for a holiday-themed family portrait in which he, his wife and their five children held large guns days after a school shooting in Michigan. Massie captioned the photo with “Merry Christmas! ps. Santa, please bring ammo.”
⚖️ Behind Bars: A British video game streamer pleaded guilty to spreading racial hatred through sharing more than 4,000 video clips sharing antisemitic conspiracy theories.
📚 Heroic History: Two sisters in Australia discovered the role their British mother, who as a child had lived with a German Jewish family in Berlin through an exchange program, played in resistance efforts to get Jews out of Nazi Germany prior to and during WWII.
🤝 Big Deal: Israel’s Property and Building Corp. will sell the HSBC building in Midtown Manhattan to Innovo Property Group in an $855 million deal.
🙂 Abrahamic Optimism: A series of government-to-government deals and private sector collaboration has allayed concerns that the Abraham Accords were slow to generate tangible economic activity.
✈️ Rare Visit: The United Arab Emirates’s national security advisor Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran on Monday, in a rare visit marking an effort to reduce tensions between the countries.
✋ Not Welcome: Kuwait has reportedly banned the entry of ships carrying goods to and from Israel.
📈 Hitch Hike: Rideshare app Via reached a $3.3 billion valuation after raising $130 million in its latest round of funding.
📱 Tapping Troubles: NSO Group’s Pegasus software was reportedly used to hack the phones of nearly a dozen American officials working at the embassy in Uganda, the first discovery that the software, which was manufactured by a private Israeli firm, was used against American officials.
🔪 Israeli-Palestinian Unrest: An Israeli security guard was moderately injured in a suspected car-ramming attack in the West Bank on Monday, two days after a Haredi man was stabbed by a Palestinian near Damascus Gate. Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered checkpoints across the West Bank to go on high alert. This was at least the sixth such incident in three months.
🇮🇷 Plan B: The U.S. is preparing contingency plans should the Vienna talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal collapse, said a State Department official, who claims Foggy Bottom has “tools” such as sanctions in the event there is no return to the agreement.
💥 Explosive News: An explosion was heard near Iran’s nuclear Natanz facility, with Iranian officials providing conflicting reports on the source of the blast.
🕯️ Remembering: Col. Edward Shames, the last surviving member of the famed “Easy Company” regiment, who toasted his son’s bar mitzvah with cognac taken from Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest compound, died at 99. Stage actor Antony Sher, who was known for his portrayals of Shakespearean characters through his decades at the Royal Shakespeare Company, died at 72. Ralph Ablon, who turned a family business into a conglomerate comprising dozens of companies in a variety of industries, died at 105. Artist Lawrence Weiner, known as a pioneer in the Conceptual arts movement, died at 79.
Pic of the Day
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides spent the first weekend of his posting visiting the kibbutz where he once volunteered, meeting with business leaders in Akko, lighting the menorah at the Western Wall and formally presenting his credentials to Israeli President Isaac Herzog (at right).
Following the ceremony, where he was surprised by the presence of his former Hebrew school principal, Elizabeth Aloni, Nides, who is from Duluth, Minn, Nides held his first meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday.
On Saturday night, Nides lit the seventh Chanukah candle with Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the rabbi of the Western Wall, at the Kotel in Jerusalem.
A day earlier, Nides met with Arab and Israeli business leaders in Akko. He tweeted that the discussion was focused on “practical ways to increase access to opportunities for all and grow the U.S.-Israel economic relationship.” Nides also visited Kibbutz Ein Hashofet, near Haifa, where he volunteered as a 15-year-old, meeting kibbutz members and tweeting a Shabbat message.
Founder of Susan G. Komen (named after her late sister), she also served as U.S. ambassador to Hungary and chief of protocol of the U.S., Nancy Goodman Brinker turns 75…
Former member of the National Assembly of Quebec for 20 years, Lawrence S. Bergman turns 81… Renowned artist, Bruce Nauman turns 80… Israeli-born producer of over 130 full-length films, Arnon Milchan turns 77… U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Ohio, he serves on the executive committee of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, Judge Dan Aaron Polster turns 70… Cell and molecular biologist, he is the director of research and professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, David L. Spector turns 69… Philanthropist and founder of Craigslist, Craig Newmark turns 69… Film and television actress, Gina Hecht turns 68… Faculty member and professor at Harvard Law School since 1981, professor since 1986, Martha Minow turns 67… Author of a bestselling novel, Arthur Sulzberger Golden turns 65… SVP and general counsel at United Airlines, Robert S. Rivkin turns 61… EVP and chief operating officer of the Inter-American Development Bank, Julie Katzman turns 60… Emmy Award-winning producer, writer, director, actor and comedian, Judd Apatow turns 54… Member of Knesset for the Likud party since 2015, he was a fighter pilot for the IDF and then a civilian pilot for El Al before entering politics, Yoav Kisch turns 53… Professor of economics at the University of Chicago, Michael Greenstone turns 53… Professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, the son and grandson of rabbis, Julian E. Zelizer turns 52… Israeli communications professional, Amir Mizroch turns 46… EVP in the NYC office of PR firm BerlinRosen, Dan Levitan turns 39… Editor-in-chief at The Air Current, Jon Ostrower turns 38… Chief of staff and head of operations at Israel-based PrettyDamnQuick, Ilan Regenbaum turns 31… Licensed community association manager, Beth Argaman turns 31… Head of the Italian foreign policy program at Rome’s Istituto Affari Internazionali, Andrea Dessì… Joe Blumenthal…