👋 Good Friday morning!
Ed. note: In honor of Presidents’ Day, the next Daily Kickoff will arrive on Tuesday. Enjoy the long weekend!
For less-distracted reading over the long weekend, browse this week’s edition of The Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent JI stories, including: Inside New Jersey’s Orthodox boomtown; AOC heckled by pro-Palestinian protestors at two Austin events; Jamaal Bowman pulls support for Abraham Accords bill; Tzipi Livni opens up about her Gulf visits before the Abraham Accords; and Art to bring dreamers together in space. Print the latest edition here.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations will host its first mission since the start of the pandemic in Jerusalem early next week, the group’s CEO, William Daroff, told Jewish Insider. Fifty Jewish leaders representing 20 organizations will be in Israel for the start of the mission on Sunday.
On Sunday evening, attendees will hear from Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and U.S. Ambassador Tom Nides. The next day, featured speakers will include Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Energy Minister Karine Elharrar and Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai.
The mission also marks the Conference’s first since the installation of Bennett’s broad coalition government. “We’ve met with them and interacted with them over the eight months that they’ve been in this coalition,” Daroff told JI. “But as a group, bringing a wide spectrum of American Jewish leadership here…we believe that really opens up the opportunities for discourse and engagement.”
“God willing, the only thing negative about the Conference of Presidents mission will be the daily COVID tests,” Daroff quipped.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her delegation of House members met yesterday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, Health Minister Dr. Mai Al-Kaila and other officials and students in Ramallah, and civic society leaders in East Jerusalem.
In Ramallah, the delegation launched a new USAID SMART project, funded by Congress, aimed at helping small- and medium-sized Palestinian business owners and the local economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Israeli government is urging the U.S. to reinstate the Houthi’s designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in conversations with Biden administration officials and members of Congress, an Israeli official told JI.
A new congressional mapproposed by the North Carolina state Senate improves Rep. Kathy Manning’s (D-NC) electoral chances compared to the original map thrown out by the state’s supreme court, which cleaved her district in three. It is now up to the courts to pick a final map.
“This one’s much better for Manning — they drew her into a swing district, but one that makes more geographic sense. And at least she’s not paired with another incumbent,” Chris Cooper, director of the Public Policy Institute at Western Carolina University, told JI. “If we had never seen the other map, this is a tough draw for Manning. Because we have, however, this looks like a glimmer of hope.”
Inside New Jersey’s Orthodox boomtown
In the 1940s, when Jews were being slaughtered in Europe, one rabbi looked to New Jersey and identified his pastoral promised land. In Lakewood — an Ocean County township that is not especially close to either Manhattan or Philadelphia — Rabbi Aharon Kotler, a Talmid chacham, or learned man, who left Europe at the outset of the Holocaust, planted roots. In 1943, a year after opening a small yeshiva in White Plains, he moved the school to this place, which would become a pivotal piece of the American Jewish puzzle. Seventy years later, Lakewood is undergoing massive growth. Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch visited the New Jersey town for a first-hand look, starting with the local airport.
Have it all: The Lakewood Township Municipal Airport is set to undergo a transformation into a new, state-of-the-art terminal building with a high-end kosher restaurant and a large conference center. The project aims to lure more businesses to set up shop in Lakewood and satisfy a legion of increasingly wealthy professionals already in town. With charter flights and helicopter rides taking people to New York City and other economic hubs on the East Coast, why not come to Lakewood, the city asks — Lakewood, where you can have the best of both worlds, learning Torah and raising your family?
Success story: Today, under the leadership of Rabbi Aharon Kotler’s grandsons, the yeshiva — Beth Medrash Govoha, or BMG — has grown from a dozen students in its first year to more than 7,000 this academic year, making it the largest yeshiva outside of Israel. The result has been not just an explosion in Jewish education, but also enormous economic and demographic changes that have transformed this once-sleepy town.
Population explosion: It’s one of the most significant Jewish communities in the U.S., but to people outside of the Orthodox world, it’s largely invisible. Over the last decade, the majority-Orthodox Lakewood, with a population of 135,000 people, was the second-fastest growing city in New Jersey. Its population increased by more than 45%, or some 42,000 people, between 2010 and 2020, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. And that doesn’t even count the corresponding growth in nearby Toms River and Jackson, two towns whose Orthodox populations have increased as Lakewood has become expensive and crowded.
Keeping up: Business is booming in Lakewood. Hundreds of thousands of square feet of premium office space have been built in recent years to accommodate new companies and old ones that are growing. Luxury shopping developments keep popping up. More than 13,000 people work at the city’s industrial park, the second-largest in the state.
Company town: Luring people to Lakewood has, until recently, largely been the purview of the BMG yeshiva. Steven Reinman, the city’s economic development director and airport manager, compared the situation to Hershey, Pa.: ”Somebody could come and open up a business years ago in Hershey town, and Hershey town still remained centered around the chocolate factory.” Similarly, in Lakewood, industrious BMG graduates could set up, say, an e-commerce warehouse to sell goods on Amazon, but their business wouldn’t exist if the yeshiva hadn’t brought them to Lakewood in the first place — just like a law office or family business in Hershey could thrive because of the people who come to Hershey to work for the chocolate giant, or visit the theme park. (Lakewood, it should be said, has a kosher chocolate factory.)
Mike Pence to visit Israel and Morocco in early March
Former Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to visit Israel on March 7 for two days, and will then travel to Morocco in an effort to bolster the Abraham Accords, scoops Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. The occasion for the Israel trip is to accept an honorary doctoral degree from Ariel University in the West Bank, according to Tom Rose, a close confidante and former senior advisor to Pence who will accompany the former vice president on his visit next month.
‘Makeup trip’: Pence last went to Israel in January 2020, on the eve of the coronavirus pandemic. Before leaving office he had been scheduled to travel to Israel on an international tour beginning on Jan. 6, 2021, the day of the Capitol riot, but canceled the trip in late December. “As you may remember, things didn’t quite work out,” Rose quipped to JI in a brief interview on Thursday. “This is a makeup trip.”
New friends: Rose said the itinerary was still shaping up but that Pence had expressed interest in meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as well as Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, President Isaac Herzog and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “He wants to go back and make new acquaintances,” Rose said of Pence.
Morocco meet-up: While in the White House, Pence played a behind-the-scenes role in shaping the normalization deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain as well as Sudan and Morocco, according to allies of the former vice president. Pence will be visiting Morocco — his first trip to the Arab nation — on his way home from Israel “to buttress his faith in that element of the Abraham Accords,” said Rose. He added that Pence would be meeting with “senior government officials” in Morocco but that his schedule had not been finalized.
Harris, Blinken, Gantz among the VIPs gathering in Munich this weekend
A who’s who of global leaders, from Vice President Kamala Harris to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, will gather today in Munich’s old-world Hotel Bayerischer Hof for the Munich Security Conference, Jewish Insider’s Jacob Miller reports.
Big League: Described as the “granddaddy of international conferences,” by Hudson Institute fellow Kenneth Weinstein, the Munich gathering has, since 1963, drawn world leaders in politics and business annually for a weekend of discussions and meetings. This year’s conference, hosted by German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, who previously served as Berlin’s envoy to the U.S., marks a return to in-person programming after last year’s virtual conference, and will cut back on invitees to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread. The three-day gathering occurs against a backdrop of a looming Russian invasion of Ukraine, a topic that is expected to be a focus at the conference.
Big debut: “Your head turns one way and you see Bill Gates, your head turns another way and you see the German chancellor, you see members of the [U.S.] Senate, you see heads of government, giants of technology,” explained Weinstein. Along with Harris, who is slated to speak at a session titled “The U.S. on the World Stage,” the U.S. delegation also includes Secretary of State Tony Blinken and several dozen members of Congress. The venue has traditionally been a place for American vice presidents to rub shoulders with their international peers. “This is [Harris’s] debut in a big way on the big international stage,” explained Weinstein.
Hill Haul: Among the more than two dozen current and former American legislators in attendance are former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joni Ernst (R-IO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Rob Portman (R-OH), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). In a statement, Coons called the event a “‘marketplace of ideas’ where initiatives and solutions are developed and opinions are exchanged.”
Menendez says he’s ‘not comfortable’ with Senate’s lack of focus on Iran
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) told an audience of AIPAC members on Thursday afternoon that, owing to the current tensions between Russia and Ukraine, his colleagues in the Senate are not currently focused on the Iranian nuclear threat and the ongoing negotiations in Vienna, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Russia, Russia, Russia: Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in an interview published on AIPAC’s app that, with fellow senators “riveted” on the imminent threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, nuclear talks with Iran — which diplomats have indicated are nearly complete — have flown under the radar. “I’m not sure that my colleagues are as fully immersed on the challenges of Iran as we speak, as I would like them to be,” Menendez said. “I wanted to rivet the attention of my colleagues — and for that fact also send a message to the administration and our allies abroad… about what is and is not ultimately going to pass muster here. What can get support, but what can not get support.”
Engagement: On Thursday, he added that colleagues told him in the days after his floor speech that they had watched or read his remarks — which he described as significant, given that the speech ran for nearly an hour — but he is “still not comfortable” with where things stand. “I’m happy to see that at least there’s that level of interest,” he continued. “Several have told me, ‘I learned a lot at the end of the day,’ things they didn’t quite particularly know. But still, out of 100 United States senators, that was a few.”
Eyes on Ukraine: The Democrat also warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine not met with strong consequences from the West could embolden Iran. “The Ayatollah and the Iranians are looking as well and saying, ‘Is the West going to do the same thing again?’” Menendez said. “Beyond the fact of the immediacy of the issue, how we respond to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin if he invades will be critically important not just for Ukraine’s future and for the future of Eastern Europe… but also for a global message that when you violate the international order, there are real consequences.”
Under Review: Menendez added that Congress would “certainly” review any “agreed-upon document” under the terms of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which gives Congress a period to review any Iran nuclear agreement and potentially vote to block it from going into effect. Recently, some in Washington have been speculating that the administration might seek to circumvent such a review.
🎭 Funny Faith: In The New York Times, Jason Zinoman explores the history of antisemitism and Jewish representation in the arts, and how audiences react to dark humor around Jewish topics. “There is a long, rich Jewish tradition of grappling with antisemitism by laughing at it. This has produced a vast amount of great comedy, from Mel Brooks turning Nazis into musical theater buffoons in ‘The Producers’ to Sacha Baron Cohen, in character as Borat, leading the denizens of a Southern bar in singing, ‘Throw the Jew down the well.’ There is a sensibility behind these jokes that I grew up around and have long embraced… Of course, one reason some Jews don’t make a bigger fuss about discrimination, one reason they feel comfortable laughing at it, is that they — we — feel safe. It’s easier to laugh at antisemitism when it happens in an unthreatening place. The feeling is: There are worse problems in the world.” [NYTimes]
🧵 Scandinavian Seamstresses: In Tablet, Nina Lichtenstein spotlights “the sewing girls,” a group of Norwegian Jewish women who meet regularly to sew tachrechim, the clothing used in Jewish burials. “Though it’s easier to buy ready-made sets, [Rabbi Joav] Melchior points out that when a community transitions to modernity and outsources, despite the obvious convenience, something unique is lost. He gave the example of how everybody used to have their own utensils and set-up to kasher meat at home. Now that butchering and kashering is done industrially, the shared communal doing of the mitzvah is lost. ‘We are few enough that we are able to maintain self-sufficiency in caring for our own in death as well as in life,’ Melchior said. ‘And this strengthens us as a community.’” [Tablet]
✡️ An Inward Look: In The Bulwark, Hilary Miller calls for the immediate confirmation of Deborah Lipstadt as U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, but notes that the role is limited in its domestic purview. Miller suggests the creation of a similar role to tackle domestic antisemitism in the U.S. “A ‘domestic diplomat’ could first and foremost provide a repository of knowledge and expertise on how to fight anti-Semitism in America. They could coordinate among relevant offices in federal agencies, and stakeholders on the state level that work on anti-Semitism issues, as well as the respective House and Senate bipartisan task forces on combating anti-Semitism. The coordinator could work with policymakers, academics, and civil society to develop a national action plan to prevent and combat anti-Semitism. The coordinator could serve as a primary contact for local Jewish communities and Jewish organizations and represent the U.S. at relevant thematic global gatherings. Even more, acknowledging a problem in your own backyard can have cascading positive effects.” [TheBulwark]
Around the Web
📄 One Voice: The Senate unanimously passed a resolution condemning the attack on Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, and antisemitism generally. The resolution was co-sponsored by 55 senators and also expresses support for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism.
💰 Can, Kicked: The Senate passed a stopgap funding bill on Thursday to keep the government open through March 11, as Congress works to finalize the much-delayed 2022 government funding bill.
✋ Nomination No-Go: The Wall Street Journal examines how Republican senators are attempting to derail Sarah Bloom Raskin’s appointment to the Federal Reserve board over her views on climate policy and business ties.
🗳️ Off the Ballot: The Oregon Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Nicholas Kristof to appear on the state’s ballot, ending the former New York Times opinion writer’s prospects of running in Oregon’s gubernatorial election.
📽️ Corporations Critic: The Wall Street Journal previews the HBO documentary “Icahn: The Restless Billionaire,” about investor Carl Icahn.
📺 Unintended Consequences: The Guardian‘s Adrian Horton explores how a criminal, such as the Israeli con artist featured in the hit documentary “The Tinder Swindler,” can profit from newfound fame gained from Netflix.
🍺 Brewing up a Storm: CEO and co-founder of popular Brooklyn brewery Threes Brewing, Josh Stylman, drew criticism for drawing comparisons between COVID-19 vaccine mandates and the Jim Crow South and Nazi Germany.
🏑 Hockey History: The Guardian looks into the story of Rudi Ball, the only Jewish Olympian on Nazi Germany’s 1936 ice hockey team, who, by one account, was believed to have struck a deal with the German government to play in exchange for his family’s passage out of the country.
🍓 Big Berry: A strawberry picked in central Israel was named the world’s largest by the Guinness Book of World Records after weighing in at more than half a pound.
🛩️ Drone Down: Israeli officials said yesterday that the military shot down a Hezbollah UAV that entered Israeli airspace. Today, the army said a UAV crossed from Lebanon into Israeli airspace and Iron Dome interceptors were launched.
🟩 Return to Normalcy: Israel is ending its “green pass” system that allowed vaccinated individuals access to restaurants, venues and other public places as the number of coronavirus cases in the country subsides.
👎 Not Welcome: Israel will not cooperate with a U.N. commission looking into last year’s conflict with Gaza, citing the anti-Israel biases of the commission’s members.
🕯️ Remembering: Harold Bonavita-Goldman, a former president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and executive director of Manhattan’s B’nai Jeshurun, died at 79. Philanthropist Betty Sembler, a powerhouse in Florida Republican politics, died at 90.
Song of the Day
The music video to Israeli singer-songwriter Eden Hason’s new single, “Kaha Kol Yom” or “Like This Every Day.”
Instagram celebrity known commonly as The Fat Jewish, Josh Ostrovsky turns 40…
FRIDAY: Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Hershel Reichman turns 78… Former congressman from New York, Eliot Engel turns 75… Former national and Washington correspondent for The New York Times, Michael Janofsky turns 75… Pharmaceutical oligarch, Boris Spiegel turns 69… Principal at NYC-based Liebman Advisors, Scott Liebman turns 64… Israeli singer and actress, Ilana Avital turns 62… Portfolio manager at Capital Group and board member at Hillel International, Hilda Lea Applbaum turns 61… Co-principal of the Institute for Wise Philanthropy, Mirele B. Goldsmith turns 61… Executive vice president of donor experience at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Lori Tessel turns 59… Israel’s ambassador to Romania, David Saranga turns 58… Author and school safety activist, Andrew Scot Pollack turns 56… Chair of the chemistry department at Stony Brook University, Nancy Sarah Goroff turns 54… CEO of an eponymous Baltimore-based marketing and design firm, David F. Warschawski turns 51… Actor, director and producer, Isaac “Ike” Barinholtz turns 45… Co-founder of StockX, Josh Luber turns 44… Singer-songwriter and pianist, Regina Spektor turns 42… SVP of development for J Street, Adee Telem turns 41… President of baseball operations and general manager of MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers, David Stearns turns 37… Opinion columnist for The Washington Post, James P. Hohmann turns 35… Senior city planner at the NYC Department of City Planning, Dylan Sandler turns 34… Political reporter at CBS Interactive, Rebecca R. Kaplan turns 34… French movie actress, Esther Garrel turns 31… Partner at Globatec Digital Integration, Larry C. Leider…
SATURDAY: 2004 Nobel Prize laureate in physics and a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, David Jonathan Gross turns 81… Former chairman of the board and CEO of Sony Corporation, Howard Stringer turns 80… Retired co-founder of integrated digital marketing agency Hawkeye/Mosaic, now known as Publicis Hawkeye, Sharon Edelman turns 74… Founder and president of the eponymous Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, she is on the boards of the NFL’s New York Giants, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Aspen Institute, Laurie M. Tisch turns 71… and also the birthday of her first cousin once removed, co-founder and CEO of Atria medical institute in NYC, Alan Tisch who turns 34… Haifa-born managing partner of Hager Pacific Properties, Adam Milstein turns 70… Former Goldman Sachs partner and then a senior executive at JPMorgan Chase, Barry L. Zubrow turns 69… International CEO of Taglit Birthright Israel, Gidi Mark turns 66… Novelist, essayist and short story writer, Jonathan Allen Lethem turns 58… U.S. District Court judge for the Northern District of Illinois, he was a law clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy (1993-1994) alongside future justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, Judge Gary Scott Feinerman turns 57… Co-founder of the band Phish where he was the lead drummer and frequent songwriter, Jon Fishman turns 57…
SVP of government relations at Las Vegas Sands Corp., Andy Abboud… Communications director since 1997 for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Kevin D. Bishop turns 51… Chairman of the World Zionist Organization and acting chair of the Jewish Agency, Yaakov Hagoel turns 51… Canadian media personality, Ezra Levant turns 50… Managing principal at InfraStrategies and senior fellow at the UCLA Institute for Transportation Studies, Joshua Levi Schank, Ph.D. turns 47… Founder of NYT’s DealBook and co-creator of Showtime’s “Billions,” Andrew Ross Sorkin turns 45… Hollywood writer and producer, Gideon Yago turns 44… Jewish rapper, part of the alternative hip hop group Darshan, better known by his stage name Eprhyme (pronounced “E-Prime”), Eden Daniel Pearlstein turns 42… Writer of the “In the Know” gossip column for The Hill, Judy Kurtz Altscher turns 38… Founder of a Middle East NGO called ROPES, Ben Birnbaum turns 37… Former MLB pitcher for the Phillies, now running Big League Advance, Michael Schwimer turns 36… Samantha Zalaznick turns 35… Tight end for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, Anthony Firkser turns 27… Actor who played the young autistic Jacob “Jake” Bohm in the Fox TV series “Touch,” later portraying a young Bruce Wayne in another Fox series “Gotham,” David Mazouz turns 21… Daniel Blum…
SUNDAY: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) turns 80… Former head of the Shin Bet and later a member of Knesset for Yesh Atid, Yaakov Peri turns 78… Born in Tehran, emigrated to the U.S. in 1950, co-owner of NYC-based TF Cornerstone, Kamran Thomas Elghanayan turns 77… University professor at Brown University, winner of a 2015 Pulitzer Prize for biography, David Kertzer turns 74… Physician and acupuncturist based in Valley Village, Calif., Andrea Hoffman Kachuck turns 71… Nursing home administrator in Hazlet, N.J., Benzion Schachter turns 71… Founder and publisher of “Punch,” M. Sloane Citron turns 66… Former SVP of News at CBS-owned local television stations, David M. Friend turns 66… Former NFL player who played for seven different teams over 16 seasons, he was one of the NFL’s original long snapper specialists, Adam Blayne Schreiber turns 60… Senior editor at Politico, David Cohen turns 59… Professor of mathematics at the University of Chicago, Shmuel Aaron Weinberger turns 59…
U.S. Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) turns 58… Pulitzer Prize-winning staff writer for The New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum turns 56… Senior cantor at University Synagogue in the Brentwood area of West Los Angeles, Kerith Carolyn Spencer-Shapiro turns 52… Comedian, actress and writer, best known for portraying Gina Linetti on Fox’s series “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Chelsea Peretti turns 44… Actor best known for his role as Joel Maisel on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Michael Zegen turns 43… Owner of a baseball development facility in Denver, he was a starting pitcher in the MLB for the Houston Astros and the Colorado Rockies, Jason Hirsh turns 40… Executive director at NYC-based Integrity First for America, Amy Spitalnick turns 36… Aimee Weiss… Ethiopian-born Israeli fashion model and television personality, winner of the Israeli version of “Big Brother,” Tahounia Rubel turns 34… Levi Shemtov (not from D.C.) turns 29…