👋 Good Wednesday morning!
Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), a Detroit-area congresswoman since 2015, on Tuesday night became the 25th congressional Democrat to announce retirement ahead of the 2022 midterms.
Lawrence represents the Wolverine State’s 14th Congressional District, which borders the 13th District, represented by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). Prior to Lawrence’s announcement, some political observers speculated that Lawrence and Tlaib could swap districts, following the redistricting that dropped the state to 13 seats and altered the makeups of both of their constituencies.
Now, it’s Tlaib’s choice. Will Tlaib run in Lawrence’s district, or stick with her current, albeit redrawn, district? State Rep. Shri Thanedar, who has self-funded prior campaigns — including an unsuccessful run for governor in 2018 — announced in November that he was forming an exploratory campaign to challenge Tlaib in her current district. More below.
Smith + Smith. Ben Smith, the Politico veteran who served as editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed for nearly a decade, announced he will step down as media columnist for The New York Times to found a new global news company with Justin Smith, who is leaving Bloomberg Media.
The project is still in its beginning stages, with no name for the company or details about where it will be located having been announced.
The Atlantic’s Yair Rosenberg joked that readers should “pat yourself on the back at having survived Ben’s media column days without him writing about you.”
Lawrence retirement opens options for Tlaib
With news of the retirement of Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) breaking Tuesday night, predictions immediately shifted over the future of the two Detroit-area congressional districts, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Staying home? Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) lives in the newly drawn 13th Congressional District, which includes most of Detroit and some more conservative-leaning southern suburbs. Lawrence was redrawn into the 12th District. Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress, could potentially run in the 12th CD, which includes Dearborn — home to the largest Arab-American population in the U.S. — as well as other parts of the Detroit suburbs and metro area, some of which Tlaib currently represents. According to a Tuesday evening report from The Arab American News, citing an anonymous source, Tlaib is planning to run in the 12th District.
Costly choices: State Rep. Shri Thanedar, who has self-funded prior campaigns announced late last year that he planned to spend $5 million to run in the 13th District, setting up a potentially costly fight for Tlaib should she choose to remain in the district. Tlaib’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the subject earlier Tuesday.
Poor fit? Ed Sarpolus, a longtime Michigan political strategist, told JI that Tlaib may lack a “natural base” in the 13th District. But Tlaib might face similar hurdles in the 12th District as she would in the 13th, Corwin Smidt, a professor of political science at Michigan State University, noted. The western portion of the 12th District also includes more suburban Democrats, many of whom are less aligned with Tlaib on cultural issues. “I would not put them as the natural constituency of Rashida Tlaib,” he said.
Casting call: Given Lawrence’s retirement — she is the only Black lawmaker in Michigan’s congressional delegation — state Democrats will also likely seek to recruit a Black candidate to run in one or both of the 12th and 13th Districts, local experts noted. Lawrence seemed to express support for such an effort in her retirement announcement video released Tuesday evening, saying, “As we have a new redistricting map, a new generation of leaders will step up. We need to make sure our elected officials in Michigan and across the country look like our communities. It is not lost on me that I am currently the only Black member of the Michigan congressional delegation.”
Ohio GOP Senate candidates shy away from two-state solution
Five of the six leading Ohio Republican Senate primary candidates refrained from explicitly supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — if not opposing the concept outright — in questionnaires solicited by Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. The lack of enthusiasm for establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel represents a turn away from a longstanding pillar of American foreign policy in the Middle East that, until recently, had been embraced Republicans and Democrats alike. The six are running to fill the open seat vacated by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who is retiring.
Lone voice: Out of six candidates who submitted answers to a range of questions, just one, former GOP state party chair Jane Timken, directly endorsed a two-state solution, even as she put forth caveats. Timken supports, for instance, Israel’s “right to annex portions of the West Bank,” as she put it in the survey.
Skeptical view: Others, including State Sen. Matt Dolan and Cleveland businessmen Bernie Moreno and Mike Gibbons, suggested that they favored a two-state solution in theory but were pessimistic about the possibility or desirability of pursuing negotiations at present. “I will support meaningful efforts to bring a lasting peace to the region,” Moreno told JI in a characteristic response, “but I will never pressure Israel to make compromises or concessions that threaten the security of the Jewish State.”
Deferring to Israel: J.D. Vance, the Hillbilly Elegy author and venture capitalist, was largely ambivalent and said he would defer to Israel on the matter. “If there’s use in creating another state for the Arabs in the region, and our allies want that to happen, I’m not going to stand in the way,” he told JI. “But I don’t like our country using its leverage to bully Israel to do something against its sovereignty.”
Wholesale rejection: Former Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel went a step further than his opponents, rejecting the idea entirely. His view is notable given that few Republicans seem to have arrived at that position, even as the party omitted references to a two-state solution in its 2016 platform, which it renewed last cycle. “The Palestinians are not interested in peace or a two-state solution,” Mandel wrote in his questionnaire. “They are interested in pushing the Jews into the sea.”
Abu Dhabi grants first civil marriage in move to modernize legal system
On Dec. 27, 2021, Abu Dhabi’s newly opened Non-Muslim Personal Status Court issued its first civil marriage contract to a Canadian couple — the first to marry under a new law on the personal status of non-Muslims in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, according to WAM, the country’s official state news agency. Under the new law, which contains 20 articles divided into several chapters, non-Muslims are allowed to marry, divorce and get joint child custody under civil law in Abu Dhabi. It also covers alimony, proof of paternity and inheritance. After a divorce, the law says that joint and equal custody of children will automatically be granted to parents, with procedures set in place to settle disputes, Rebecca Anne Proctor reports for Jewish Insider.
New law: In early November, UAE President and Emir of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan made history for the federation of seven emirates when he issued a law to regulate personal status matters for non-Muslims in Abu Dhabi; the law provided an advanced judicial mechanism for the determination of personal status disputes for non-Muslims. Previously, all personal-status laws regarding marriage and divorce in Abu Dhabi were based on Islamic Sharia principles, as in other Gulf states.
Changing standards: The law is the latest in a series of legal changes in the UAE at the federal level introduced in November 2020. Those include statutes to decriminalize premarital sexual relations and alcohol consumption and to cancel legal clauses allowing judges to issue overly lenient sentences in defense of “honor” killings — crimes that will now be treated by UAE courts as murder cases. Given that nearly 90 percent of UAE’s population of 10 million people are foreigners, such moves make practical sense and have been viewed as a way for the UAE to make itself more attractive for foreign investment and extended residency.
Showing tolerance: Rabbi Levi Duchman, the first resident rabbi of the United Arab Emirates and head of the Jewish Community Center of the UAE, says the move is a reflection of the “tolerance and coexistence” that he sees in the country. “We have been licensed since 2020 to conduct Jewish marriages in Abu Dhabi, and our marriages were always recognized,” Duchman told JI. “Our marriages were always recognized by the UAE government, by the royal court and by the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs.”
🛫 COVID Conversation Starter: In the wake of recent debate over who is allowed entry into Israel amid COVID-19-related restrictions — and dueling comments from American Jewish leaders and Israeli government officials — Israeli-American author Daniel Gordis explores the history of ties and tensions between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. “Citizenship versus non-citizenship has never adequately captured the relation between the two communities, but we have never spent much time speaking openly about what the obligations and prerogatives of each community on opposite sides of the Atlantic ought to be. The horrors of Covid are obvious; but so, too, have been some of the unexpected social and workplace silver linings of the pandemic. For Jews, the implicit conversation between [Prime Minister Naftali] Bennett and [Conference of Presidents’ head William] Daroff is long overdue. Might the challenges of Covid ironically create the moment when visionary and honest leaders on both sides of the divide finally begin the conversation — about Israel, the Diaspora and the nature of the relationship — that we’ve never really had?” [Substack]
⛪ Canterbury Fails: Writing in The Bulwark, Elliott Abrams suggests that the Archbishop of Canterbury is applying a double standard in criticizing Israel for its treatment of Christians while opting to stay silent about the plight of those facing religious persecution around the world. “Archbishop of Canterbury Welby should understand that his apology for the church’s actions regarding Jews in England 800 years ago is of far less importance to Jews everywhere today, including in England and especially in Israel, than treating the Jewish state fairly. If he can’t manage that, no apologies will ever be sufficient.” [Bulwark]
🖖 Live Long and Prosper: The New York Times’s Adam Nagourney spotlights a new “Star Trek” exhibit at Los Angeles’s Skirball Cultural Center, a venue known for its Jewish community events, as the center reemerges from the pandemic. “Jessie Kornberg, the president of Skirball, said that the center had been drawn by the parallels between Judaism and the television show. ‘Nimoy’s Jewish identity contributed to a small moment which became a big theme,’ she said. ‘We actually think the common values in the “Star Trek” universe and Jewish belief are more powerful than that symbolism. That’s this idea of a more liberal, inclusive people, where “other” and “difference” is an embraced strength as opposed to a divisive weakness.’” [NYTimes]
👩🔬 Model Behavior: Vogue’s Liana Satenstein profiles college student and model Lior Cole, who is continuing her studies while she walks runways. “A science buff studying information science at Cornell, she uses her downtime to explore artificial intelligence and how it merges with spirituality and religion. ‘It works very well with modeling. In between jobs you have downtime, and with computer stuff you can do it whenever you want,’ says Cole over Zoom. ‘I did a photo shoot for a magazine the other day, and I brought my computer, and I was coding.’” [Vogue]
Around the Web
😷 Unmasked: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s military secretary Avi Gil was spotted alongside senior executives of the controversial NSO Group at a New Year’s party that violated COVID-19 regulations.
🇪🇹 On the Move: U.S. Horn of Africa envoy Jeffrey Feltman will travel to Ethiopia on Thursday to meet with senior government officials to address the ongoing conflict between the country’s military and the paramilitary Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which has killed thousands in the last 14 months.
🚓 Another Assault: An identifiably Jewish man was chased and assaulted by two perpetrators in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, in what the NYPD is investigating as a potential hate crime.
✋ Never Again: An 86-year-old Holocaust survivor who spent four years imprisoned in Theresienstadt took to TikTok to respond to a comedian’s video on the platform in which she shaved her head and joked about being in an “unvaccinated camp.”
👎 Baseless Comparison: A woman sentenced to 60 days in prison for her role in the riot at the Capitol last year compared the public backlash she has faced to the treatment of “Jews in Germany.”
🔨 Prison Time: Chabad of Poway’s Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein was sentenced to 14 months in prison for an array of financial crimes dating back at least a decade, against the recommendation of prosecutors who pushed for probation.
🏫 Midtown Move: Touro College and University System inked a long-term lease for space at Three Times Square, where it will house classrooms, lounges and other amenities for roughly 2,000 students.
🏢 Building Back: Landlord Chaskiel Strulovitch has secured exit financing to take 18 of his 31 buildings in Brooklyn out of bankruptcy. The remaining 13 buildings are headed to auction this week.
🎭 Art Attack: Over 20 acts have withdrawn from the Sydney Festival over the performing art show’s partnership with the Israeli embassy in Australia.
🎤 Wonder Woman: Israeli actress Gal Gadot acknowledged that her widely panned rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” released at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, was “in poor taste,” but that she only had positive intentions when producing the celebrity-filled music video.
📽️ In Thunder, Lightning or Rain?: In response to Joel Coen’s new film rendering of “Macbeth,” the Wall Street Journal looks at five classic characters from the Coen brothers’ movies who could be Shakespeare characters.
⚖️ In the Courts: Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. were served subpoenas by the New York Attorney General’s office, as part of AG Letitia James’s investigation into former President Donald Trump’s finances.
📥 Hateful Letter: David Bateman, the founder of a Utah-based tech company, who is a prominent donor to GOP candidates in the state, stepped down from its board of directors after emailing an antisemitic missive — condemned by Utah Senate candidate Evan McMullin — blaming the Jewish community for the COVID-19 pandemic.
📺 Across the Pond: BBC broadcaster Rabbi YY Rubinstein resigned from the British national radio station, citing its recent coverage of an antisemitic attack in which it incorrectly reported that a group of Jewish bus passengers who were assaulted had made Islamophobic slurs.
👨⚖️ Missing Manifest: A Canadian court ordered Iran to pay $84 million to relatives of six passengers on a civilian flight it mistakenly shot down in 2020.
⚓ Crude Cargo: The Washington Post exposes how the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps works with private companies to smuggle Iranian oil to circumvent economic sanctions using middlemen transporting the oil on small fishing ships in international waters to larger vessels.
🛂 Green Light: Israel is poised to allow dual citizen Palestinian-Americans to transit through Israel in a deal with the U.S. that could be concluded in February 2023, as Israel seeks to be added to Washington’s Visa Waiver Program.
💉 Vaccine Boost: Preliminary results from an Israeli study indicate that a fourth dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine provokes a fivefold increase in antibodies.
👩⚕️ Record High: Israel recorded an all-time high of new daily COVID-19 infection cases, with 11,978 cases on Tuesday.
💸 Startup Cloud Nine: Google acquired Israeli cybersecurity startup Siemplify for $500 million, which it will integrate into its Google Cloud platform.
🚘 Revving Up: Mobileye, the autonomous driving and advanced driver-assistance company launched in Israel, announced its new EyeQ system-on-a-chip, which it described as its most advanced system yet.
💰 Doubling Down: Investment banking company Goldman Sachs plans to double its staff in Israel by adding to its investment banking division and expanding its asset management and private wealth teams in Tel Aviv.
🤝🏼 Done Deal: A Palestinian detainee ended his 141-day hunger strike in an agreement with Israeli authorities to release him next month.
🤔 Wall Woes: The Associated Press looks at the debate over the egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall, whose future, which is reliant on a diverse government that has not agreed on how to move forward on the issue, is on shaky ground.
🕯️ Remembering: Broadway and soap opera star Joan Copeland died at 99.
Pic of the Day
Two years ago today, thousands marched across the Brooklyn Bridge as part of the “No Hate, No Fear” march following an uptick in antisemitic violence across the country.
San Diego-based attorney, former member of Congress and later chief of staff for then-California Gov. Gray Davis, Lynn Alice Schenk (pictured with Davis) turns 77…
Former speaker of the Knesset, Dan Tichon turns 85… Sports journalist and author, Robert Lipsyte turns 84… NBA superfan who attends over one hundred basketball games a season, James F. Goldstein turns 82… Former Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor, currently a special counsel at Ballard Spahr, Ed Rendell turns 78… Retired attorney for Latham & Watkins, Paul Israel Meyer turns 78… Former attorney general of the U.K., now London co-managing partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, Lord Peter Goldsmith turns 72… CEO of Legacy Interactive / Legacy Games and President of HitPoint Studios, Ariella Lehrer, Ph.D. turns 69… Founder and principal of D.C.-based Mager & Associates, Mimi Mager… Recently retired chairman of the Jewish National Fund and former member of Knesset, Danny Atar turns 64… Contributor to Fox News since October, John F. Solomon turns 53… Actress and television personality, Heather Paige Kent Dubrow turns 53… Co-founder and partner of Davis Goldberg & Galper PLLC and the PR firm Trident DMG, Joshua P. Galper turns 50… Professional poker player who won the 2010, 2012 and 2018 World Series of Poker Players Championships, Michael Mizrachi turns 41… Producer at Madison Square Garden and creative director at ALSALL Studio, Alexandra Lauren Sall turns 33… Israeli tennis player, Yshai Oliel turns 22…