👋 Good Monday morning!
Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-TX), who represents Colleyville, Texas, led 119 of her colleagues — 112 Republicans and eight Democrats — to introduce a resolution last week condemning the attack on Congregation Beth Israel and opposing antisemitism.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) attended Shabbat services on Friday evening at Houston’s Congregation Beth Israel. Following services, the senator tweeted, “The ancient hatred that is anti-Semitism has been on the rise all over the world. It is evil. There is no place for it in our society or any society, and we must reaffirm our unequivocal condemnation of anti-Semitism and commitment to fight it in all forms.”
Ten House Republicans, including Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX), sent a letter on Friday urging the Biden administration to reinstate the Houthis’ designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) led that letter and was also joined by Reps. Joe Wilson (R-SC), Scott Perry (R-PA), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Brian Mast (R-FL), Tim Burchett (R-TN), Greg Steube (R-FL), Ronny Jackson (R-TX) and Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL).
Houthi rebels from Yemen targeted the United Arab Emirates today for the second time in a week. The military intercepted two ballistic missiles and there was no damage or loss of life, the UAE Defense Ministry said.
At the annual Arab Health conference, which begins today in Dubai, representatives from 11 Israeli companies will participate as part of an Economy and Industry Ministry delegation.
Secretary of State Tony Blinken will be in conversation with Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, the State Department’s special advisor on Holocaust issues, at the 33rd Annual Fran Eizenstat and Eizenstat Family Memorial Lecture Series in a virtual event tonight normally held in Atlanta.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) leads an array of declared and potential challengers in a poll of the Democratic primary in Michigan’s 12th Congressional District last week, with 62% support among Democratic primary voters.
man in manama
Meet the Israeli diplomat at the forefront of the Abraham Accords
Less than a month after presenting his credentials to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Israel’s ambassador to Bahrain, Eitan Na’eh, is still marveling at his new surroundings. The longtime Israeli diplomat, who was famously expelled from Turkey in 2018, some days cannot believe that he represents his country in an Arab kingdom that less than two years ago had no formal ties with Israel. “I sit here in Manama and look outside to a beautiful view of the [Persian] Gulf, and I am still pinching myself,” Na’eh told The Circuit’s Ruth Marks Eglash in a recent interview. “I feel lucky to work in these countries.”
Business focus: “From the first day I landed here, I found myself sitting in homes and living rooms with people from all over the region – Iraqis, Saudis, Kuwaitis, Lebanese and Palestinians – and they all told me, ‘Enough, let’s put our political disagreements aside and do business; that in its place will calm things down,’” Na’eh told The Circuit from Manama. While Na’eh, who will be in Bahrain for the long term, is focused on developing economic and trade ties between the two countries, he is also well aware of the kingdom’s regional and geographic value as a country that sits in the Persian Gulf just off the coast of Saudi Arabia.
Gateway to the region: “We are looking at Bahrain as a gateway to the region, to the East, and from the East to Israel,” he said. Aside from the lucrative financial opportunities, including in tourism — Na’eh said direct flights from Tel Aviv to Manama will begin in a few months once the Omicron strain of COVID-19 subsides — Israel has indicated that it would like to see Saudi Arabia, the most powerful country in the region, joining the accords.
Saudi Arabia next: “What I’ve learned since coming here is that Bahrain and Saudi enjoy a very close and amicable relationship, and I hope we will find an opportunity to cooperate with them,” Na’eh said. “Israel is obviously open to such cooperation — economic, financial, trade and investment.” Na’eh told The Circuit that he hears more and more people in the region asking when such relations will be formed between their countries and Israel. It is “bound to happen” eventually, he said of Saudi Arabia.
bay state bag man
The ‘Seder Guy’ attempting a leap to the LG’s office
At the end of the Seder on Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, the then-senator said to a group of Jewish staffers at a Pennsylvania Sheraton, “Next year in the White House.” And it happened: For the eight years of Obama’s presidency, those staffers continued to meet in the West Wing for a Seder. But by 2016, the group had grown and changed. Younger staffers like Eric Lesser, one of the Seder’s organizers and Obama’s baggage handler on the campaign, now brought spouses and children. Lesser had finished a stint working in the White House, graduated from Harvard Law School and was serving as a Massachusetts state senator; like a good politician, he showed up to the 2016 seder with something local — shmurah matzah made in Massachusetts. Now, as a candidate for lieutenant governor in Massachusetts, Lesser has more on his plate than handling bags and planning a Seder, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Campaign focus: ”I think that there’s a collective feeling in Massachusetts that it’s a great place to live. People are very proud of Massachusetts and our reputation as being leaders on so many issues,” Lesser, 36,told JIin a recent interview at a café in downtown Boston. “But it’s really hard to live here,” he said, citing the high cost of living. “And that’s going to be the heart of my campaign.”
Survey the field: Lesser, a Western Massachusetts native, enters the race as a four-term state senator, first elected in 2014 at age 29 — then the youngest state senator in Massachusetts. He has joined a crowded field of Democrats vying to become the state’s second-in-command. The Democratic frontrunner for governor is Attorney General Maura Healey, who officially entered the race last week after months of speculation.
Tikkun olam: Growing up, Lesser’s family was active in a local Reform synagogue, and that’s where Lesser’s interest in social justice and political advocacy was kindled. He participated in a Black-Jewish dialogue with a local Baptist church, and as a member of his synagogue’s NFTY youth group, he was involved in campaigns with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. In 2002, as a high school student, he traveled to Washington to join a pro-Israel march on the National Mall that drew tens of thousands of participants at the height of the Second Intifada.
Man on hand: “He was upbeat, positive, friendly, obviously bright and inquiring,” David Axelrod, a senior advisor and close friend to Obama, who hired Lesser as an assistant when Obama became president, told JI. “He always got our bags to the right place at the right time, so I figured he could probably get me to the right place at the right time in the White House.” His job was to make sure Axelrod could keep everything together. Not infrequently, he had to draw upon his knowledge of stain removal. “I’m not the most fastidious person in the world. I’m famous for spilling stuff on myself,” Axelrod admitted. “Eric always kept club soda nearby. He would race in there like a volunteer fire department, because I’d have to go on TV or I’d have to be somewhere and, you know, having a big block of oatmeal on my jacket was not desirable.”
Fighting intolerance: Combating hate crimes and bias incidents has been a priority for Lesser, who helped create a nonprofit security grant program in Massachusetts, modeled off a similar program at the federal level. The program began with $100,000 in 2018. Four years later, the program has $2.1 million to award to “nonprofits at risk of terrorist or hate violence: LGBTQ organizations, African American churches, mosques, synagogues and religious centers,” he explained.
Ahead of government funding deadline, House members push for Iron Dome supplement
With the next government funding deadline just weeks away, a bipartisan group of 106 House members is pushing to ensure that supplemental Iron Dome funding is included in any final spending package, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Applying pressure: The lawmakers penned a letter, obtained by Jewish Insider, to Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-TX) urging them to ensure that the $1 billion Iron Dome supplement — which the Senate has proposed including in the 2022 defense appropriations legislation — remains in the final bill negotiated by the House and Senate. The letter comes amid difficulties passing the supplement as a standalone bill.
Stay the course: “We strongly support providing the full $1 billion for the Iron Dome replenishment,” the letter, organized by Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ), reads. “We hope that as you negotiate with the Senate on FY2022 appropriations, the $1 billion in supplemental funding that the Senate included is maintained.”
Making tweaks: The letter also requests that language be added “to ensure U.S. co-production is employed to the maximum extent practicable.” The Iron Dome missile-defense system is jointly produced by the U.S. and Israel, and similar language is included in the defense funding bill relating to the $500 million in missile-defense aid set to be provided to Israel in 2022.
Read more here.
Elsewhere: Former House candidate Evelyn Farkas, a Department of Defense official under former President Barack Obama, suggested to Politico that the Biden administration “equip the Ukrainians with an Iron Dome defense system or Patriot missiles” as protection against a potential Russian invasion.
House members urge boost to nonprofit security funding
Following the recent hostage standoff at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, members of the House are making a renewed push for increased funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and John Katko (R-NY) are asking fellow lawmakers to sign onto a letter requesting increased funding for the NSGP, which provides nonprofits with financial support to improve their security, according to a copy of the request and letter obtained by JI.
Quotable: “As you finalize the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, we respectfully ask you to fund NSGP at a level that reflects increased risks to the nonprofit sector,” the letter reads. “[Charities and faith-based organizations] often cannot alone shoulder the investments required to deter, detect, and prevent violent extremist attacks. For this reason, and in recognition of the increased threat environment under which these organizations must navigate, we respectfully encourage you to increase the NSGP funding in FY2022.”
Joining forces: The letter, addressed to Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-TX) as well as Homeland Security Subcommittee Chair Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Ranking Member Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), follows a similar one sent Friday by five senators to the leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Pushing ahead: “What happened in Texas last week was one more blaring alarm bell to the five-alarm fire of antisemitism. It is one of the pillars of our country that our neighbors will be absolutely secure in their houses of worship, and we must help Jewish Americans feel safe today in their synagogues,” Pascrell told JI. “For years we have been pushing to provide greater resources to nonprofit institutions across America and have been successful growing the pot from $10 million to $180 million. But we must redouble our efforts because the threat of domestic terrorism has not abated but grown. This funding will save lives and secure houses of worship.”
Rewind: Pascrell and Katko brought together 145 members for a letter in May 2021 that supported $360 million in funding for the program for 2022, double the current funding level. This new letter does not offer a specific funding recommendation.
😞 Klain’s Stain: Politico’s Christopher Cadelago, Laura Barron-Lopez and Sam Stein take a deep dive into discontent among Democrats over White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, who is facing criticism as the Biden administration struggles to deal with a number of foreign and domestic policy issues. “For months, moderate Democrats in Congress have complained that Klain is overly deferential to their liberal colleagues, to the point where some members and Hill staff privately said he needed to be replaced. With Biden’s domestic agenda stalling out, the Covid pandemic lingering and inflation rising, second guessing of his leadership is now coming from a wider swath of the party and even some corners of the administration. ‘The president was elected because we all thought he was going to be good at governing,’ said a House Democratic lawmaker, who spoke candidly about Klain on condition of anonymity. ‘He was going to govern from the center, he was going to work with Republicans. And to have a chief of staff that apparently has decided that he’s going to be Bernie Sanders, I think that’s confusing. It’s just not helpful.’” [Politico]
🇷🇺🇨🇳 Brave New World: The Financial Times’s Gideon Rachman spotlights the Russia-China alliance as the two countries attempt to create a new world order that would weaken the U.S. and strengthen their individual interests. “The ambitions of Russia and China, however, are far from being wholly defensive. Both Putin and Xi believe that their vulnerability to ‘colour revolutions’ stems from fundamental flaws in the current world order — the combination of institutions, ideas and power structures that determines how global politics plays out. As a result, they share a determination to create a new world order that will better accommodate the interests of Russia and China — as defined by their current leaders.” [FinancialTimes]
🕍 Hate’s History: The New York Times’s Bret Stephens looks at the delayed move by the FBI and media outlets to assign antisemitism as the underlying cause of the recent attack on a Texas synagogue. “For American Jews, this small silence about what happened last week should be profoundly worrisome, and not just as a matter of a journalistic lapse. It’s bad enough that the Jewish state, which gained what power it has because its neighbors threatened it with extinction, is still treated by so many as a global pariah — its sympathizers abroad risking social or professional ostracism by mere association. It’s bad enough, too, that the foul antisemitism of the right, yoked to its old themes of nativism, protectionism, nationalism and isolationism, is erupting into the public square like a burst sewage pipe. Now American Jews find ourselves at perhaps the most successful period in our history, at a moment when much of the progressive left has decreed that privilege is a sin and that those who hold power should be stripped of it.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
💸 Raising the Stakes: American investor Nelson Peltz’s activist hedge fund Trian Partners has built a stake in Unilever, increasing pressure on the U.K. goods company after it failed to buy the GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer health business.
🏦 Big Bucks: An upcoming fundraiser for Republican Pennsylvania Senate candidate David McCormick being hosted by Stephen A. Schwarzman, Gary Cohn, Ken Griffin, Stanley Druckenmiller and other Wall Street heavyweights underscores the support the former Bridgewater Associates chief executive has in the banking industry.
👚 Dressed Down: Spotlighting costumer Helen Uffner, The New York Times looks at how rising rents and the building of high rises and Amazon distribution centers have devastated pockets of the New York fashion industry that supply wardrobes to film and television studios.
🍻 Rocky Mountain High: Norm Brownstein’s Denver-based firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck reported $15.96 million in lobbying revenue for the fourth quarter of 2021, an industry record and a 29% increase for the firm over the same quarter in 2022.
📛 Davos Darkness: With Davos’s in-person events canceled for the second year in a row, New York Times columnist David Gelles considers the effects of not holding the annual gathering.
📗 Good Place Guide: The New York Times’s Alexandra Alter profiles Michael Schur, the comedy producer whose works include “Parks and Rec” and “Brooklyn Nine Nine” and who is writing a book based on the philosophical themes explored in his latest comedy, “The Good Place.”
🚓 Never Again: The NYPD arrested a 21-year-old woman who spat on a group of Jewish children outside a synagogue in Brooklyn and said they should have been murdered during the Holocaust.
📄 Heightened Hate Speech: An annual report on antisemitism by Israel’s Diaspora Ministry found that calls for violence against Jews on social media spiked dramatically during Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza in May of last year.
🕍 Across the Pond: The U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle looks at Texas hostage-taker Malik Faisal Akram’s descent into extremism.
⚖️ Behind Bars: A white supremacist in the U.K. originally sentenced to read great works of literature will now spend two years in prison and a third on supervised release after an appeals court issued a harsher sentence.
🛑 Bot Ban: The United Arab Emirates banned the use of recreational drones after a Houthi drone strike in Abu Dhabi last week killed three people.
🇸🇦 IPO Growth: Investment banking company Goldman Sachs believes Saudi Arabia will remain the Middle Eastern leader of IPO deals, despite a push from the United Arab Emirates for more companies to go public, Bloomberg reports.
🕵️ I Spy: Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit opened an investigation into possible police misuse of the NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware.
🚑 Internal Leak: A leaked report indicated that Israeli security forces blindfolded and gagged a Palestinian-American man who was later found dead.
🌊 Open Case: Israel’s cabinet voted to authorize a state investigation into a purchase of German submarines involving close associates of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
💰 Accords R&D: The cabinet also voted to approve a joint Israeli-Emirate research-and-development fund to support tech companies, with the UAE and Israel each providing NIS 150 million ($48 million) over the next decade to support the initiative.
✈️ Airlift Option: Israeli officials and Diaspora organizations are discussing the possible evacuation of up to 75,000 Jews living in Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion.
🛢️ Oil Oh-no: Iran’s oil minister encouraged Iranians to cut down on their gas use as consumption hit record highs over the weekend.
Pic of the Day
Ebrahim Nonoo (center), a leader of the Jewish community in Bahrain, looks on as Rabbi Yaacov Phia (right) prays over tombs at the Jewish cemetery in the capital city of Manama. The community has launched a project to finance, renovate and maintain one of the only Jewish cemeteries in the region. The restoration effort was launched earlier this month to coincide with the Tu B’Shevat holiday. Members of Bahrain’s small Jewish community, about 50 people, have until recently practiced their faith behind closed doors since 1947, when the country’s only synagogue was destroyed in disturbances at the start of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and an official in three prior U.S. administrations, Elliott Abrams turns 74…
Singer-songwriter and one of the world’s best-selling recording artists of all time, Neil Diamond turns 81… 2011 Nobel Prize laureate in Chemistry, professor at the Technion and Iowa State University, Dan Shechtman turns 81… Chairman of the Sazerac Company and of Crescent Crown Distributing, William Goldring turns 79… Professor of modern Jewish history at New York University, Marion Kaplan turns 76… Comedian and writer, noted for the catchphrase “What a country,” Yakov Smirnoff turns 71… Conductor and violinist, Yuri Bashmet turns 69… VP of strategy at LiveWorld, Daniel Flamberg turns 68… Founder of an online software training site acquired by LinkedIn, Lynda Weinman turns 67… Burlingame, Calif.-based surgeon at Peninsula Plastic Surgery, Lorne Rosenfield M.D. turns 66… Board member of the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County, Beryl Eckstein turns 64… Former senior correspondent for Fox News, Rick Leventhal turns 62… Former CEO of Ford Motor Company, now CEO of Hertz, Mark Fields turns 61… B’nei mitzvah coordinator at Temple Beth Am of Los Angeles, Judith Alban turns 60… Founder and executive director of Protect Democracy, Ian Bassin turns 46… Senior associate at Stonehage Fleming, Joshua Runyan turns 41… Founder and CEO at TACKMA, Jeffrey Schottenstein turns 36… Regional director of synagogue initiative at AIPAC, Miryam Knafo Schapira… Deputy regional political director at AIPAC, Michael Krasna turns 28…