👋 Good Thursday morning!
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who is 83, is planning to retire at the end of the Supreme Court term this summer after nearly 30 years on the high court. The retirement paves the way for President Joe Biden to nominate a justice — he has vowed to pick a Black woman — and sets up a confirmation battle heading into the midterm elections. More below.
The 11 GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sentletters this week to Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and FBI Director Christopher Wray requesting information about how Malik Faisal Akram — the Colleyville synagogue hostage-taker — entered the country and acquired a gun.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is in Austria to participate in a ceremony today to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Mauthausen concentration camp, where his grandfather, Bela Lampel, was murdered. Also attending the ceremony are Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, Interior Minister Gerhard Karner and the heads of the country’s Jewish community.
Lapid is also set to participate in the “We Remember” ceremony at the new Holocaust memorial in Vienna alongside Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, Nehammer, and other senior officials.
In Berlin, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levycalled on the Bundestag to do more to preserve memories of the Holocaust, in a Hebrew address as part of a special ceremony commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Brett McGurk, the National Security Council’s Middle East coordinator, will discuss the administration’s priorities in the region with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Aaron David Miller today at 10 a.m. ET.
Nides to JI: People-to-people relations will build the Abraham Accords
The first-ever “Abraham Accords Working Group,” inaugurated last night, will strengthen and deepen the connections forged in 2020 between Israel and five Muslim-majority countries, as well as underscore the importance of Israel’s long-standing ties with Egypt and Jordan, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides told Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash in an exclusive interview on Thursday.
Example of peace: In his first interview with an English-language media outlet since becoming ambassador, Nides explained the importance of the U.S.-facilitated forum, which will bring together Israel-based ambassadors and representatives of Arab states that have peace and normalization agreements with Israel. Its goal, he said, is not only to build upon already blooming business ties or to expand the people-to-people relations, but also to show the benefits of cooperation and serve as an example of stability and peace in a volatile region.
Long-term benefits: “At the end of the day, it’s all about the people of these countries recognizing the importance of the other’s culture and of other people,” Nides told JI. “That will drive business, it will drive political stability and the national security implications of this are also obviously quite important…. The more comfortable these countries are vis-a-vis working with each other, the more it will only enhance the long-term benefits for all the countries and for Israel,” he added.
Credit for starting: Asked by JI about criticism that the Biden administration might not be as enthusiastic or dedicated to broadening Abraham Accords in the same way as the previous administration, Nides countered that his team in Jerusalem and representatives of the State Department in Washington are spending “enormous amounts of time on this… I give the Trump administration, Jared and the team, Ambassador Friedman, an enormous amount of credit for starting this,” he said. “But as you know, the easy part of these things is starting them, the more difficult part is deepening the piece and getting things done.”
Big focus: “If it was that easy, then we would have had all these countries join the first time around,” Nides continued. “So obviously, we have work to do, but make no mistake, we are not only focusing on it, but we also believe that it’s really important. It’s really important for the region and it’s important for the Biden administration.”
Breyer retirement leaves open the Court’s ‘Jewish seat’
Following news reports on Wednesday that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer plans to retire at the end of this term, Court watchers and political activists have begun to speculate about whom President Joe Biden will choose to replace Breyer. The reliably liberal associate justice, 83, who was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994, will have served nearly 28 years on the nation’s highest court. Breyer’s retirement could reduce the number of Jewish justices on the Court to one — Elena Kagan — following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2020. But his seat on the Court has historically been held by Jewish justices, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
‘Jewish seat’: Breyer’s seat on the Court was once routinely, if unofficially, called the “Jewish seat,” because five of the last six justices to fill that seat were Jewish. After Louis Brandeis’ nomination to the Court in 1916, he was the sole Jewish justice until President Herbert Hoover appointed Benjamin N. Cardozo in 1932. Brandeis retired in 1939, leaving Cardozo as the only Jewish justice. Future Jewish justices would go on to occupy Cardozo’s seat — he was succeeded by Felix Frankfurter, Arthur Goldberg and Abe Fortas.
Bump in the road: When Fortas left the Court in 1969 over an ethics scandal, he was replaced by Henry Blackmun, a Methodist, and the “Jewish seat” disappeared. But not forever. The next Jewish justice named was Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in 1993, who did not fill the “Jewish seat.” That went to Breyer, a year later, when Blackmun retired. “No one saw us as filling a Jewish seat,” Ginsburg said in a 2003 speech.
Slow progress: Breyer told the writer Abigail Pogrebin in 2005that he was “a little surprised” that his Jewish faith did not come up in his confirmation hearings. “If you told my grandfather that there would be two Jews on the Supreme Court at the same time and nobody would make an issue of that, he would have found that to be impossible.” Nearly 80 years before Breyer joined the Court, Brandeis’s confirmation hearings were tinged with antisemitism.
Hillel’s lessons: Breyer often speaks to Jewish audiences, although he has spoken less frequently about his Jewish faith and upbringing than other Jewish justices. He told Pogrebin that his Hebrew school and Jewish summer camp experiences “made an impression,” and that he views the world like his father did: “My favorite way of looking at things is what Hillel said: ‘If I am not for myself who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?’ That captures it to me.”
Who’s who: During his campaign, Biden pledged to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. One jurist Biden is reportedly considering is California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, who has Jewish and Jamaican roots.
White House names new members to U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council
President Joe Biden named 10 new members to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, the governing body of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, on Wednesday, a day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, reports Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss.
Who’s Who: Two of the appointees — Allan M. Holt, managing director at The Carlyle Group, and Tom Bernstein, president and co-founder of Chelsea Piers L.P. — are current Council members whose terms are being renewed. Bernstein, the chair emeritus, has been on the Council since 2002, and Holt will continue as vice chairman. Stuart Eizenstat, the State Department’s special advisor on Holocaust issues, will chair the council.
‘Perilous times’: Several of the appointees have connections to Democratic politics, including Susan Stern, founder of Jewish Women for Joe and a member of the executive committee for Jewish Democratic Council of America. “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work to make the museum stronger, and get the message out to as many people as possible. I’m afraid that the story is slipping away, and we can’t let that happen,” Stern, whose mother-in-law survived the Holocaust, told JIon Wednesday. “We’re living in very perilous times, and I think this is an important time and the museum has an important role to play in telling the story and making sure people understand the perils that we face.”
Passage of time: Other members appointed by Biden include Abe Foxman, the former longtime national director of the Anti-Defamation League who had previously been tapped to serve on the Council by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; Marsha Laufer, a philanthropist and Democratic activist; and Sam Lauter, who worked on Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign and sits on the board of Democratic Majority for Israel. Foxman told JI that continuing to educate the public about the Holocaust is critical “because of the lapse of time, the loss of survivors and witnesses,” noting that when he first joined the board, he was one of many Holocaust survivors nominated. Now, many of the board’s members are the descendants of survivors. “That’s what time does.”
The many names, and lives, of a child hidden in the Holocaust
At the age of 3, Iza Harnik was forced to assume an entirely new identity, memorize a new life story and learn prayers belonging to her newly adopted religion — a false but life-saving guise that saved the young Jewish girl from the Nazis when a Christian family provided her with refuge in German-occupied Brody, formerly Poland, today Ukraine, Jewish Insider’s Tamara Zieve reports.
Holed up: On June 22, 1941, the Germans began the invasion of the Soviet Union. Brody, which had been occupied by the Red Army since 1939, was bombed before the Germans occupied it at the end of June 1941. Despite her young age during World War II, Iza, today named Israela Hargil, retained vivid memories from that time. “I remember we were in a kind of cellar with a group of Jews — and the bombs, it was very noisy outside,” Hargil, 84, told JI in a phone interview this week. “When it became quiet outside my father went out cautiously, and when he came back he said he met his Polish friend, [Jacenty] Miklaszewski, and he offered to take me to his house. Well, I had nothing to say about it,” Hargil said.
False identities: Hargil’s harrowing story is documented by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, which is spotlighting her and others who survived under false identities, in a new virtual exhibition launched for this year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls today. The exhibiton, “Remember Your New Name: Surviving the Holocaust Under a False Identity,” tells the stories — through testimonies, personal documents, photographs, artworks and footage — of 14 Jews who survived outside of the ghettos, concentration and extermination camps, under assumed identities in countries across Europe.
Escaping certain death: Hargil’s mother, Elsa Harnik, a teacher and musician, was killed alongside her brother Shoylek Kahana some two weeks after the occupation of Brody, when German soldiers interrogated and murdered approximately 250 Jewish men and women. By January 1942, the Jews of Brody were confined in a ghetto. Iza was smuggled out, and into the home of Miklaszewski and his wife, Maria. Her father, Kalman-Karl Harnik, knew Miklaszewski from the orchestra he conducted. Iza’s grandmother Sheindel perished in the ghetto. Kalman-Karl escaped and hid, with Miklaszewski’s assistance, in a pit in a village near Brody.
Adopting a new life and religion: Iza’s new name was Eva. She had to learn her new Polish identity, along with Christian prayers that she would recite while kneeling by her bed. She was instructed to tell anyone who asked that her parents were killed in the bombing of their village and she was subsequently adopted by her “uncle and aunt.” “Whenever the neighbors or anybody asked, I told them this story,” Hargil said. The family later moved to Krakow, where “Eva” went to a kindergarten run by nuns and then to first grade. “I learned that the Jews are a terrible people, very ugly, very hateful, that killed God, Jesus. And I didn’t want to belong to them but I always remembered that I am a Jew, always it was in the back of my mind,” Hargil said.
Today’s SAPIR releases propose two very different ideas for a year off between high school and college.
Gap Year Refresh: Natan Sharansky and Gil Troy reimagine what a universal gap year in Israel could do for every young Jew. “Many young Jews and their parents see a gap year as a needless detour from their cultivated career paths (which in some cases began with competition to get into the right nursery school!). Our effort will succeed only if American Jews recognize en masse that a gap year is, in fact, a not-to-be-missed opportunity that better prepares their children for college emotionally, intellectually, ideologically, even socially.” Read here.
Join us for a conversation with Natan Sharansky, Gil Troy, and SAPIR Editor in Chief Bret Stephens on Feb. 28 at 12 noon ET. Register here.
Classical Judaism: Princeton professor Joshua Katz envisions another kind of gap year program: “I propose to give you the opportunity to participate, cost-free, in a gap-year program that stresses textual tradition and good-faith argument. It would be a year spent reading (really reading!) the texts that make up our American story: founding documents, famous speeches, and the canonical works that influenced them. I imagine that for most, the experience—which, if popular, would necessitate a substantial change to our educational infrastructure—would take place immediately after high school, though it would also be available to those who feel the need for something different after their undergraduate freshman year. Most importantly, it would be open to everyone, not just those who are labeled, or label themselves, academically talented. The goal is to save both academia and society at large by creating better and more-engaged citizens of all stripes: plumbers as well as professors, landscapers as well as lawyers.” Read here.
🇷🇺 Moscow Man:Foreign Policy’s Colum Lynch spotlights Russia’s top negotiator in Vienna, as talks over Iran’s nuclear program continue, albeit on shaky ground. “Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s envoy to the Iran nuclear talks, has emerged as an unlikely champion of the nuclear deal that U.S. President Joe Biden has identified as his prime foreign-policy goal in the Middle East, and in the process he has garnered praise from senior U.S. officials and other observers who believe Ulyanov has helped keep the talks on track… But Ulyanov’s critics say the Russian diplomat is merely serving his government’s traditional role as Iran’s chief great-power advocate, engaging in diplomacy to undercut U.S. leverage and secure the best possible deal for a critical client state. The U.S. and other Western governments, critics contend, have unwisely afforded Russia’s envoy too prominent a role as a mediator between Washington and Tehran, which are not negotiating directly with one another in Vienna.” [ForeignPolicy]
⛪ Faith and Fraud: In The New Republic, Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt looks at how some houses of worship have fallen into corrupt practices, in part due to the lack of oversight granted to religious institutions. “Fraud, while unfortunately rampant, goes largely unreported in religious communities — as much as 95 percent of it, according to one report — thanks to both the secrecy around finances and the pressures that whistleblowers face to stay silent… The issue is systemic and may be a uniquely American problem: In the U.S., houses of worship have effectively no public oversight of their finances, while enjoying massive tax benefits. As long as churches, synagogues, and mosques are the only nonprofits exempt from filing 990s [IRS forms] and thus reporting their finances to the public, houses of God will continue to be black holes for charitable donations and magnets for fraudsters.” [NewRepublic]
🪖 Army Assessment: In Bloomberg, Zev Chafets argues that Israel’s mandatory conscription model focused on a ground army is outdated and does not meet the country’s current security needs, which now center on threats from Iran and its regional proxies. “As a result, the IDF has adopted a defensive doctrine of containment. To accomplish this, it has armed itself with expensive and highly complex weapons systems: American-made fighter planes that can strike distant targets, multi-billion-dollar German submarines refitted to provide second strike deterrence against a nuclear Iran, a multi-tiered anti-missile system capable of downing (or lasering) incoming fire from across the border or outer space, and a vast network of cyber and intelligence units capable of anticipating threats and disrupting enemies.” [Bloomberg]
🇦🇪 In a Bind: In Foreign Policy, Steven A. Cook suggests how the U.S. can build trust and maintain a position of influence in the Middle East, in the wake of the recent attacks against the UAE from Houthi rebels in Yemen. “If the Biden administration and members of Congress are serious about relieving the suffering of Yemenis, they must start making sure that the Iranian weapons pipeline comes to an end. Administration officials will also have to lean on the Omanis, who were supposed to be able to bring the Houthis along in negotiations, though at this point, officials in Muscat have been far too indulgent of them. Ultimately, the Houthis have to be denied cash and weapons, and should be isolated diplomatically. If American policymakers are worried that their regional partners do not trust the United States and that Washington’s strategic position is eroding because countries are hedging with the Chinese, Yemen would be a good place to prove it otherwise.” [Foreign Policy]
Around the Web
🔫 Gun Supplier? A 32-year-old man is facing federal charges for supplying the pistol used in the Colleyville, Texas, hostage standoff.
⚖️ Riot Rap: Robert Packer, who was photographed during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor trespassing charge and could face up to six months in prison.
⛔ Hardball Politics: A Democratic challenger to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said she was “barred” from attending a town hall event in the district.
🚓 Rabbi’s Rights: A rabbi is suing the Broward County Sheriff’s Office after he was forced to remove his yarmulke while under arrest.
📘 Holocaust Ignorance: A new survey of Canadian students found that one in three did not believe the Holocaust happened or thought it was exaggerated.
🤝 Funding Peace: A new initiative based in Warsaw and launched on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day will provide grants to support projects that fight hate and indifference.
📃 Court Case: The German government is being sued over its possession of a trove of WWII-era documents chronicling the Nazi regime’s impact on a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which was sold in 2009 by a relative to a military museum operated by the German army.
🖼️ Art Restoration: A piece of art looted by the Nazis and eventually reclaimed by the great-granddaughter of its previous owner after a yearslong legal battle will go to auction today and is expected to fetch upwards of $1 million.
✡️ Uncovered: The Israeli Antiquities Authority discovered pendants bearing the prayer Shema Yisrael in excavations at the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland.
👮 Italian Investigation: Police in Tuscany are investigating an attack on a 12-year-old Jewish boy who said a group of teenagers beat him while hurling antisemitic slurs.
🍿 Binge Buy: William Ackman’s Pershing Square bought 3.1 million shares of Netflix following a sell-off of the streaming service.
🎙️ Sign Up: CNN’s recent hiring spree of top-name talent is a big bet on the future of streaming platform CNN+, set to debut in March.
👉 Le Acuso: Brazilian mining company Vale SA has accused Beny Steinmetz of fraud in a case before a London court.
🎬 Screen Team: Filmmakers Betsy West and Julie Cohen, who partnered on the 2018 documentary “RBG,” will direct an upcoming documentary about former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ).
📴 Offline: Twitter suspended nearly 45,000 accounts in the first half of 2021 for promoting terrorism or violent groups, according to a transparency report from the social media platform.
📷 Candid Camera: Photographs of missile fragments indicate that Ethiopia used a Turkish drone in an attack that killed 58 civilians earlier this month.
💻 Touching Base: American and Israeli officials, led by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart Eyal Hulata, met virtually on Wednesday as part of ongoing conversations over nuclear talks between Iran and world powers.
🚓 Following Up: An autopsy on a Palestinian-American man found dead after being detained by Israeli officials in the West Bank found that the 78-year-old died from cardiac arrest.
💰 Coming Soon: Israel’s long-awaited sovereign wealth fund is expected to be operational by the fall.
🌊 Back On: Stalled U.S.-brokered talks over the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon are set to resume next week.
📉 Money Matters: A new report from the World Bank warned that Beirut’s ongoing financial crisis is “leading to the disintegration of key pillars of Lebanon’s post-civil war political economy.”
🔥 On Fire: Israeli startup Firebolt announced it raised $100 million in a Series C round.
🕵️ Too Close to Home: The Washington Post‘s Shira Rubin examines a shift in scrutiny of the NGO Group among the Israeli media and public after a report last week that the Israeli police had used it to target local activists, mayors and other citizens.
💸 Buyout Business: The NSO Group is reportedly in talks with a number of U.S. funds over a potential sale of the controversial Israeli company.
Pic of the Day
Acting Dean of York Michael Smith helps light 600 candles in the shape of a Star of David in commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the York Minister Cathedral, in York, U.K., one of the largest cathedrals in Europe.
and the University of Cincinnati, Anna Ornstein turns 95…
Senior counsel at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, Arthur Fleischer turns 89… Investor Paul Sislin turns 87… Winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, Barry Clark Barish turns 86… Priscilla Alexander… Casino magnate Steve Wynn (Weinberg) turns 80… Corporate venture capitalist and scientist, co-founder of Intel Capital, Avram Miller turns 77… Topanga, Calif., resident, Joseph Helfer turns 75… Columbia, S.C., resident, Charles Geffen turns 74… Accountant at North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction, Gene Bruton turns 73… VP at Elnat Equity Liquidity Providers, Eliezer Edelman turns 73… Professor of medieval Judaism and Islam at the L.A. campus of HUC-JIR, Reuven Firestone turns 70… Cookbook author and co-founder of Foundation for Jewish Camp, Elisa Spungen Bildner turns 68… Chief justice of the United States, John Roberts turns 67… Member of the Missouri State Senate, Jill Schupp turns 67…
Television writer and producer, he stars in the Netflix series “Somebody Feed Phil,” Philip Rosenthal turns 62… Founder and chairman of Willoughby Capital, Daniel Och turns 61… Communications director at C-SPAN and author of “When Rabbis Bless Congress,” Howard Mortman turns 55… Founder and managing member of Liberty Peak Capital and co-founder and lead investor of Multiplier Capital, Ezra M. Friedberg turns 52… CEO of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Rochester, Josh Weinstein turns 49… Editor-in-chief of The Foreign Desk, Lisa Daftari turns 42… Jerusalem-born rapper and YouTuber, Rucka Rucka Ali turns 35… English fashion model, Daisy Rebecca Lowe turns 33… Former college and professional basketball point guard, now a coordinator at Herzl Camp in Wisconsin, Jacqui Kalin turns 33… Foundation program manager at Jewish for Good in the Triangle area of North Carolina, Grace Kaplan… Co-founder of Quai.MD and an MBA candidate at Stanford, Lia Michal Weiner… Financial markets advisory associate at BlackRock, Joshua Henderson…