👋 Good Tuesday morning!
Voters in Florida’s 20th Congressional District head to the polls today in a special election to decide the successor to late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), who died last year. Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, who edged out her closest competitor in the crowded primary by five votes, is expected to win against Republican Jason Mariner in the deep-blue South Florida district.
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), one of the most vocal Israel critics in the House during her two decades in Congress, is facing a primary challenge — from her left. Amane Badhasso, a refugee from Ethiopia and organizer in Minneapolis who has already raised $300,000, has won praise from another Minnesotan legislator: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
Omar told The Intercept of Badhasso, “She truly is one of the most impressive people I have ever met. She is incredible, and I have never met anyone who disagrees in [the] decade I have known her.” For her part, Badhasso said she agreed with McCollum on issues relating to Israel. “I’m not challenging her on the basis of that,” she said. “There’s so much more that we need to do. We can’t just be a champion on one issue.”
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) announced he will not seek reelection this year, becoming the 26th Democrat and 37th House member to announce retirements ahead of the 2022 midterms.
wolverine state watch
Michigan redistricting sets up close races across the state
Michigan’s loss of a congressional seat in this year’s redistricting process has scrambled district lines across the state, promising hotly contested primary races among Democrats in the Detroit area and a range of other close races across the state, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Fight card: Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and Peter Meijer (R-MI), who each won swing districts in 2020, are set for another round of tight races in their new districts. In the southwest corner of the state, Michiganders are waiting to find out if they’ll see a member-on-member primary between Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Bill Huizenga (R-MI). And elsewhere in the state, Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) faces strong Republican headwinds.
Defending: Slotkin’s new district, the 7th, shifts further west away from Detroit and includes more rural areas than her previous one, but includes more of the Lansing area, which leans towards the Democrats. Strategists who spoke to JI said she’s still favored to win, despite unfavorable electoral conditions for Democrats in the midterms. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race as a toss-up. “[Slotkin] was made for that district,” longtime Michigan strategist Ed Sarpolus told JI, citing her previous victories in a conservative-leaning district and her background as a Defense Department and CIA official. She was endorsed by both J Street and the Jewish Democratic Council of America in 2020, and took a leading role in favor of supplemental funding for Iron Dome last year.
Right flank: Meijer’s district, Michigan’s 3rd, leans slightly to the left — unlike his previous district, which had a GOP advantage — Meijer, who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump last year, is also seen as the current favorite, if he can survive the GOP primary. Trump endorsed his primary opponent, John Gibbs, in November. Cook rates Meijer’s general election race as a toss-up. “He can win a Democratic district because of who he is,” Sarpolus said. “Because the district becomes more moderate — and the other thing is it could be easier because there will be fewer Republicans, fewer conservatives in this district, Meijer can play to his moderate base.” Pro-Israel America endorsed Meijer last summer.
In or out: In the southwest corner of the Wolverine State, Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Bill Huizenga (R-MI) may face off in the new 4th District, which is largely made up of territory currently represented by Upton, who has not yet announced if he will seek reelection. Upton has been ostracized by some in the party for his vote to impeach Trump. Upton’s decision will likely come down to his estimation of his current place within the party. “If he does stay and run, if he wins, will he have a committee chairmanship or a position in leadership? Or because he’s so far more moderate, [will he] basically be a backbencher? And he may not like that,” Sarpolus said. Pro-Israel America endorsed Upton last summer.
Endangered: In the eastern part of the state, Kildee’s new district centers around Flint, as his previous one did, and retains its close balance of Democrats and Republicans. Cook rates the race as a toss-up. “This district is trending the wrong way for Democrats,” Michigan strategist Adrian Hemond said. “A quality Republican candidate could be [a threat]” to Kildee.” Kildee has been endorsed by J Street in previous races and was one of the few Democrats who defended Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from accusations of antisemitism stemming from February 2019 comments that support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins,” saying in an interview at the time, “I wouldn’t take it as antisemitism.”
Strauss Zelnick’s Take-Two buys Mark Pincus’s Zynga in $12.7 billion deal
Video game company Take-Two Interactive has reached a $12.7 billion deal to acquire rival company Zynga, catapulting the “Grand Theft Auto”creator into one of the industry’s most formidable game publishers, Jacob Miller reports in The Circuit. The deal, one of the largest in video game history, was announced on Monday by Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick and Zynga CEO Frank Gibeau. Expected to be finalized later this year, the merger will unite Take-Two, which specializes in PC and console gaming, with Zynga, a free-to-play mobile-game behemoth.
Company Creation: Zynga was founded by Mark Pincus in 2007 when it piloted an online poker game played on Facebook. Since then, Zynga has grown into a large company with $2.3 billion in sales in FY2020. In a Medium post discussing the deal, Pincus described the “bittersweet moment” and thanked his colleagues over the years for his business’s success. We’re seeing games expand in every direction from hyper casual to entire persistent worlds,” wrote Pincus. “I believe the company will have the franchises and scale to lead in every category.”
On the Phone: With mobile gaming ascendant, Take-Two will benefit from Zynga’s mobile development team, which is expected to develop mobile options for Take-Two’s offerings. Under the planned acquisition, more than half of Take-Two’s projected bookings in Fiscal Year 2023 will come from mobile, diversifying Take-Two’s offerings and making it competitive with other developers as mobile gaming gains traction. Zelnick called rolling out mobile options for Take-Two games a “high-priority initiative,” saying, “We see tremendous untapped potential to bring Take-Two’s renowned console and PC properties to mobile.”
Market Temperature: The deal comes after the gaming industry enjoyed a boom during the pandemic, as social distancing interventions and lockdown restrictions pushed consumers to spend more time gaming, a trend that translated to large share price increases for both Take-Two and Zynga over the past two years. Yet Zynga’s stock tumbled last summer amidst societal reopening following COVID-19 shutdowns and after Apple instituted privacy reforms restricting how advertisers can track consumers on its devices, which made gaming less profitable.
Jewish community in Kazakhstan perseveres amid violent clashes
Israel is seeking the return of the body of an Israeli man killed last Friday during bloody Israel and the chief rabbi of the Kazakh Jewish community, Rabbi Yeshaya Cohen, are trying arrange a special flight to return the body of an Israeli man killed last Friday during bloody demonstrations in the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan. Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai spoke yesterday with Cohen for a briefing on the challenges faced by the community amid political unrest in the country.
Israeli Casualty: Levan Kogeashvili, 22, was killed in Almaty — the country’s largest city — during a violent protest, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said. According to Israeli news site Walla, he wasn’t involved in the demonstration but was shot while traveling to work in a car. A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry told Jewish Insider he hoped Kogeashvili’s remains would arrive in Israel later this week but that ministry officials first had “some issues to resolve in order to get the body on a plane there,” due to the unfolding situation in Kazakhstan. Cohen explained to JI that they were having difficulty obtaining approval for an airplane to land at the airport in Almaty, which has been closed temporarily after a state of emergency was declared.
Jewish community: According to Shai’s office, Cohen told the minister that the tensions have abated to a great extent in recent days, and that there have been no further casualties among the Jewish community. He said, however, that a great deal of property had been looted during the disturbances. The rabbi noted that the community has been able to maintain internal communications, but that curfews imposed on the country have brought communal life, activities and commercial life to a halt. In conversation with JI, Cohen expressed his support for the Kazakh regime, describing it as a “model of peace and tolerance,” adding that he hoped that the crisis would end soon.
Israeli outreach: Shai said that Israel would provide assistance to the several thousand Jews living in Kazakhstan if needed, and that he and his ministry would keep in close contact with Cohen and the Jewish community. “My ministry and I are available to help with whatever is necessary during this complex period. Israel stands at your side to help at all times,” Shai told the rabbi. “All Jews are responsible for one another,” Cohen said, citing the Talmud, expressing the Kazakh Jewish community’s appreciation for Israel’s support.
Russian withdrawal: Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said today that a Russian-led military bloc will begin withdrawing its troops from Kazakhstan in two days, after fulfilling its main mission of stabilizing the country. Nearly 8,000 people were detained throughout the country during the demonstrations, the Interior Ministry said yesterday, which began over a hike in gas prices and grew to reflect a wider discontent with the government and demands for political change.
🤝 Joining In: In The Hill, the Wilson Center’s president and former Ambassador Mark Green and Hallam Ferguson suggest that the Biden administration incentivize other Arab nations to join the Abraham Accords with Israel as the Middle East rapidly changes in the face of unprecedented cooperation and the continuing threat from Iran. “The Middle East that existed just five years ago is no more. Iran’s belligerence can no longer be denied, China’s and Russia’s predatory ambitions are clear, and Israel’s neighbors increasingly see that they have more interests in common with Israel than opposed. Together Israel and its neighbors are tackling climate, economic, and security challenges because of the Abraham Accords. ” [TheHill]
🍽️ Diner’s Club: Eater NY’s Luke Fortney spotlights the soon-to-open Edith’s Eatery & Grocery, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, which first-time restaurateur Elyssa Heller hopes will revive an old New York Jewish tradition. “The ‘eatery’ is really more of a restaurant, bakery, deli, grocery, small bookstore, and place to linger. (Eventually, there will also be a bar.) According to Heller, she wanted to open the kind of old-school Jewish restaurant where people can come to eat — but also celebrate birthdays, mourn losses, meet for business, and so on. ‘The Jewish deli of the now is really not like that,’ she says. ‘A lot of the ones that are still around are so old and iconic that they have become tourist destinations.’” [EaterNY]
📘 Hidden Meaning: In The New Yorker, Caleb Crain explores how the experiences of wartime Poland impacted writer and Holocaust survivor Stanisław Lem and his stories. “But two recent books by Polish authors make clear how much Lem’s wartime experience weighed on him. In Agnieszka Gajewska’s deeply researched Holocaust and the Stars, translated by Katarzyna Gucio (Routledge), we discover that Lem excelled in Jewish studies in secondary school, and that his father, a doctor, gave to the local Jewish community despite a modest income. And Lem: A Life Out of This World, a lively, genial biography by Wojciech Orliński, which has yet to be translated into English, relates a story of Lem’s parents, shortly before the Nazis sealed the Lwów ghetto, being spirited away to a safe house. Gajewska and Orliński both believe that Lem must have had to wear a six-pointed star: he told his wife, Barbara, about being struck for failing to take off his cap in the presence of a German, something only people identified as Jews were required to do. Privately, Lem told people that he had witnessed the executions described by his fictional character. ‘Dr. Rappaport’s adventure is my adventure, from Lwów 1941, after the German army entered — I was to be shot,’ he wrote to his American translator Michael Kandel. When Orliński asked Lem’s widow which elements in the scene were drawn from life, she replied, ‘All of them.’” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
🎒 Classroom Concerns: A Republican state legislator in Indiana backing new legislation to ban “divisive concepts” from the classroom said that instruction on “Marxism, Nazism, [and] fascism” should be kept “impartial.”
💵 Worrying Withdrawal: A woman withdrawing money from a Chase ATM in Manhattan discovered two bills stamped with Nazi symbols.
🇵🇱 You’re Fired: A Polish diplomat tasked with improving relations with the Jewish community was fired after he denounced a Polish law giving the government the power to prosecute historians who say that Poles were complicit in the Holocaust.
✍️Across the Pond: British Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries penned a letter to the BBC’s director-general asking how the British national news service will address criticisms that it misreported an antisemitic incident.
🐖 Vegan Delight? Upside Foods Inc., which cultivates meat from animal cells, hopes to hit the market this year pending FDA approval.
🐟 A True Fish Story: Researchers at Ben-Gurion University have found success in teaching goldfish how to navigate on land — using a robotic car that can be operated from within a fish tank.
👩 All in the Family: Salam Zawawi, whose father, Salah Zawawi, was the Palestinian ambassador to Iran for four decades, will succeed him as the Palestinian Authority’s envoy to Tehran.
🛫 Beijing-bound: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian will travel to China this week to discuss the regime’s 25-year strategic agreement with China.
🔌 Powered Up: The U.S. has been supporting low-carbon electrical power sources in a bid to link power grids in the Eastern Mediterranean and Europe, including the EuroAsia Interconnector project, which will join the Israeli and Cypriot electrical grids to Europe’s.
☢️ No Deal: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stated that Israel would not be bound by any nuclear deal with Iran and could act “with no restraints” if it chooses to do so.
🏦 Small Wave: Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron told the Knesset Finance Committee that Israel’s current fifth wave of coronavirus infections, driven by the Omicron variant of COVID-19, is not yet a “macroeconomic event,” but recommended targeted financial support to affected sectors.
⚖️ In the Courts: Former Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu faced off in a Tel Aviv court as part of a defamation lawsuit being pushed by Netanyahu against Olmert.
🦤 Closed for the Season: Israel ended its annual five-month hunting season early amid concerns over a strain of bird flu that has infected at least 8,000 wild cranes.
💼 Transitions: Freddi Goldstein, who previously worked in the office of former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, joined Uber as a communications manager (h/t Playbook NY). SKDKnickerbocker’s Hilary Rosen announced she will leave her position as the company’s vice chair and managing director at the end of March (h/t Politico). Gal Beckerman, Maya Chung, and Emma Sarappo have joined The Atlantic as editors for the Culture team. Signal messaging app’s founder and CEO, Moxie Marlinspike, is stepping down and has appointed WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton as interim CEO.
🕯️ Remembering: Carl Bennett, who with his wife founded the regional retailer Caldor, died at 101.
Pic of the Day
NYPD Inspector Richie Taylor comforts Imam Musa Kabba after a devastating fire in the Bronx killed 17 people, including nine children, some of whom were members of Kabba’s mosque.
Actress and star of the 2000 comedy film “The Whole Nine Yards,” she wrote a book about a Jewish girl during the Christmas season, Amanda Peet turns 50…
Retired judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, Judge Richard Posner turns 83… Violinist and music teacher, Shmuel Ashkenasi turns 81… Film and TV director Stephen Needleman turns 80… Economist and professor of banking at Columbia University, Frederic Stanley “Rick” Mishkin turns 71… Noted gardener and florist, Lynn Blitzer… Professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of experimental medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dr. Jerome E. Groopman turns 70… Former member of the Canadian House of Commons, Susan Kadis turns 69… Former director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Avi Gil turns 67… CEO of Sense Education, Seth Haberman turns 62…
Attorney, author and activist, Brian Cuban turns 61… VP at Republic National Distributing Company and a former president of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, Alan Franco turns 60… Rabbi at Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto (BAYT), Rabbi Daniel Korobkin turns 58… Socialite and television personality, Kyle Richards turns 53… Defensive tackle in the Canadian Football League for twelve seasons, he is a co-owner at Vera’s Burger Shack based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Noah Cantor turns 51… Former goaltender with the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, Josh Tordjman turns 37… Member of the Knesset for the Labor Party, Naama Lazimi turns 36… VP and head of strategic partnerships at Penzer Family Office, Mickey Penzer… French-American actress, Flora Cross turns 29… Founder of Nannies by Noa, Noa Mintz turns 21…