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President Joe Biden accepted an invitation from Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to visit Israel later this year, according to a White House readout of a call between the two leaders on Sunday.
The two also discussed regional challenges, including the Iranian threat and the situation between Russia and Ukraine.
The Austin chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) announced it “will no longer be working on” the congressional campaign of Greg Casar in Texas’ 35th District and that Casar was pulling his request for an endorsement.
The move, announced Sunday night in a statement posted to the Austin DSA-run publication Red Fault, followed an article in Jewish Insider detailing Casar’s foreign policy positions, including his opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and his support for military aid to Israel. The statement called the progressive candidate’s positions on Israel “not reconcilable with DSA’s stance in solidarity with Palestine” and said the decision followed discussions with Casar over his Israel-related policy positions.
The chapter, which had previously announced its backing of Casar, stopped short of pulling its endorsement on Sunday, noting that such a move would require a chapter-wide vote. A spokesperson for Casar did not respond to a request for comment. Read more here.
A new poll of Democratic voters in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District released last night and shared with JI shows Reps. Haley Stevens (D-MI) and Andy Levin (D-MI) in a dead heat, months after redistricting changed the congressional map, pitting the two against each other in one of the most closely watched member-on-member primaries in the country.
Rep. Claudia Tenney(R-NY) led eight GOP colleagues on the House Foreign Affairs Committee on a letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken calling for Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley to testify before the committee to update members on nuclear talks with Iran.
On Friday, President Joe Biden reversed some sanctions put on Iran by the Trump administration that will allow foreign companies to resume non-weapons nuclear energy work in Iran.
Foreign Affairs Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX) condemned the administration’s move, saying in a statement, “I am deeply concerned these waivers show the administration is preparing to cut a nuclear deal with Iran that would be worse than the original JCPOA… Another bad deal is worse for our national security than no deal.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) denounced the waiver in a statement as “just one more step the Biden administration is taking toward reviving a weaker version of the catastrophic Obama-Iran nuclear deal” and promised “a sustained and aggressive response” from Congress.
The story of Rodoba Noori’s harrowing evacuation from Afghanistan
For five months, Rodoba Noori, 20, an Afghan refugee from the town of Herat, has resided inside the stark, white-walled rooms of Emirates Humanitarian City (EHC) in Abu Dhabi, alongside nearly 12,000 other Afghan refugees, following the Taliban takeover of the country last August. Most are still in limbo awaiting answers to their entry status to the United States or to other countries. Some still don’t know where they will go. Noori is one of the few whose days of waiting will soon be over. She is on route to Canada, where she will join her mother, who also escaped, before continuing her studies at Bard College, a private liberal arts college in upstate New York, where she was recently admitted on a full scholarship, Rebecca Anne Proctor reports for The Circuit.
No choice: Noori’s harrowing evacuation from Herat in August and planned move to Canada are due to the efforts of IsraAID, an international non-governmental humanitarian aid organization based in Israel, and Noori’s friend Danna Harman, a former journalist, activist and now staff member at IsraAID. Noori’s story is one shared by thousands of refugees from Afghanistan whose lives have been completely uprooted. On Aug. 21, six days after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, faced with an uncertain life at the hands of the new government — particularly regarding the status of women — Noori felt she had no choice but to flee. The decision posed the risk of being killed, and the possibility of long-term separation from her family, but for Noori, her future depended on it.
Daring to dream: Noori studied medicine at Herat University. Her dream is to become a doctor — one spurred by her late father’s cerebrovascular disease. Noori’s mother told her that if she wanted to fulfill her dream, then she needed to leave. “After the Taliban came, all women had to stay in their homes; we could not leave without one man who was either a brother, husband, father or son,” she said. Noori said that, contrary to what the Taliban has told the media about the situation improving for women and girls in the group’s second takeover of the country, women’s rights have disappeared again. “They are telling lies,” she said. “Three months before [the] Taliban returned, we were free and now we are not. [The] Taliban even sent letters to my university threatening that if they opened the doors to the university, they would attack it with suicide attacks. No one has been able to return to school.”
Bus hopping: Noori recounts the terrifying journey out of Afghanistan with pain, compassion, sadness and, at times, even laughter. On Aug. 21, she and her brother boarded buses leaving for Kabul, a grueling, 24-hour journey. “I kept jumping from bus to bus because sometimes the Taliban would change their mind and not let a certain bus into the airport,” Noori recalled. “When one bus was told not to go, someone would call me to run and get another bus.” She and her brother spent nine days, from Aug. 22-30, jumping from bus to bus. They ate and slept on the buses. “We didn’t have money to buy good food, so we ate junk food.”
Close call: The Taliban put them in another bus in Kunduz City, telling them they were going to Tajikistan, but in fact the bus was heading back to Kabul. When Noori realized this, she called Harman to tell her. “Everyone on the bus was yelling and screaming not to go back to Kabul,” she remembered. The driver and a security man on the bus were both from the Taliban. Suddenly, the bus stopped in a deserted area and a Toyota Corolla arrived. “We thought maybe they brought us here to kill us, and everyone on the bus started crying,” recalls Noori. “But instead, they just wanted to send us off the bus. The passengers stayed at different homes nearby for several days until they finally managed to cross the border to Tajikistan by car. The IsraAID team had spoken to the Taliban and gotten permission for the group to cross.
Fruits of Abraham: The harrowing evacuation of refugees from Afghanistan via Tajikistan to the UAE is the first Israeli-Emirati joint humanitarian mission between the two countries, the fruit of the signing of the Abraham Accords in September 2020, which normalized relations between the two countries. “The UAE were particularly helpful and quickly approved this group because of the Israeli connection, which was very important for them,” Yotam Polizer, the CEO of IsraAID, told The Circuit. IsraAID had called numerous countries around the world seeking a home for the Afghans trying to flee, and the UAE was one of the only ones that would take in the refugees. “This is not a job most of us do for a living, but we all felt compelled to help,” Harman told The Circuit.
Josh Malina and Shira Stutman differentiate antisemitism and ignorance
Amid a growing discussion about antisemitism in Hollywood, actor Joshua Malina and Rabbi Shira Stutman, co-hosts of the new “Chutzpod” podcast, joined the most recent episode of Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast.” Days after controversial comments made by “The View” co-host Whoopi Goldberg about race and the Holocaust, Stutman and Malina directed their attention toward antisemitism in the media.
Seeking repentance: “Sometimes we say incorrect things and so what’s most important is what we do afterwards. And she actually was trying to do teshuva [repentance],” Stutman, who was the rabbi of the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in Washington, D.C. for 11 years, said, disagreeing with the decision by ABC to suspend Goldberg for two weeks. “I do not know or have any reason to think she was an antisemite before this whole thing went down. But, my God, if she’s not an antisemite now, God bless that woman.”
Malice vs. ignorance: Both Malina and Stutman emphasized that Goldberg appeared to show contrition in the days following her remarks. The day after her comments aired, the show invited Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt to speak about antisemitism. “If we kept her on the air, maybe she could talk even more about what she’s learning,” Malina said, adding, “if people were suspended for ignorance all the time, I’d be on permanent suspension.”
Cancel culture: The “West Wing” star contrasted the controversy around Goldberg’s comments with that of actor and filmmaker Mel Gibson — whom Goldberg has defended in the past — who faced an informal, yearslong banishment from Hollywood following a series of antisemitic remarks. In December, Malina wrote a widely shared article in The Atlantic arguing against Gibson’s comeback into the mainstream. “Did I think that I was gonna get Mel Gibson canceled? No. Did I think that I was going to shame Warner Brothers into withdrawing its offer for ‘Lethal Weapon V’? No, not really. Although I’d like to see it happen,” the actor concluded.
With politics in his blood, JCRC-NY’s Gideon Taylor takes on Jewish community relations
Gideon Taylor is no stranger to politics. The son of the first Jewish cabinet minister in Ireland, Taylor is now building his own political career of sorts as the recently appointed executive vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Different than Dublin: Responsible for pulling together an increasingly polarized Jewish community and reaching out to an increasingly hostile wider community, Taylor – whose father was Mervyn Taylor, minister for equity and law reform in Dublin during the 1990s, and who passed away last September – understands the vast complexities of his new position. He is also aware that the scale and scope of the Jewish community in New York are somewhat different from where he grew up. “I live on the Upper West Side and there’s more Jews on my block than there were in the whole of Ireland,” he quipped to JIin his first interview since taking over in July.
Breaking barriers: Taylor recognizes the myriad challenges of uniting an extremely diverse Jewish population, as well as building ties with a rapidly changing general population, but he believes it is all possible with a bit of patience and a lot of education and outreach. “New York is a big, complicated, diverse place, with many hundreds of thousands of people who grow up barely meeting or interacting with any Jews,” he said, adding, “In some ways, New York is a melting pot city, and, in some ways, people live in their own worlds, their own bubbles, and their own segments. I think the role of the JCRC is to break down those barriers and connect people –– that’s what community relations is all about.”
Changing demographics: Taylor noted the contrast between today’s political and societal structures compared to when he first arrived in the city. “Then, the power structures were all very well-defined and concentrated in the hands of relatively few people, but now, the demographics have shifted tremendously and so have the structures of power,” Taylor said, citing a decline in Jewish members of the City Council from 27% just two years ago to 12% today. He also identified New York’s rapidly changing demographics – with more divergent religious beliefs and increasing numbers of new immigrants – as another challenge to building bridges between the Jewish community and the rest of the city.
Jewish voice: “The JCRC needs to be the voice of the mainstream Jewish community at the tables where those critical issues of the day are being discussed in New York,” he continued, highlighting issues such as criminal justice reform and combating all forms of hate. “The second one is a big priority for us,” Taylor highlighted. “Antisemitism is one example of hate crimes, but hate crimes, in general, are like cancer that corrodes the city, and what we’ve seen is that a person who attacks a Jew on the street is often the same person who will attack a person of color, or will be promoting anti-Asian hatred, Islamophobia or homophobia. Hatred knows no boundaries.”
Tackling antisemitism: Among the many activities facilitated by the JCRC, Taylor points to its educational fellowships aimed at promising young leaders, as well as its efforts to shape state’s educational curriculum and tackle anti-Jewish content or sentiments. The programs it uses to train upcoming leaders also include addressing conversations around Israel, which has become a catalyst for antisemitism. “Israel is a core part of the Jewish community and of our identity as Jews,” stated Taylor. “On the one hand, there are clearly very many diverse opinions about Israel both within the Jewish community and outside the Jewish community, and the way to approach this from a community relations perspective is… educating people.”
⛹️♂️ Court King: The New York Times’ David Waldstein profiles Yeshiva University basketball star Ryan Turell as the team’s profile rises amid a flurry of wins and increasing media attention. “But at Yeshiva, with a student body of about 2,600 undergrads, Turell has fulfilled his quest to be a hero. He is known there and around the world. He can barely make it across campus without several admirers greeting him and wishing him luck. Elliot Steinmetz, the head coach and a former Yeshiva player, says he receives emails from across the globe expressing support and admiration for the team, which has become a kind of torch bearer for Jewish athletic pride.” [NYTimes]
💰 Con Man: In Airmail, William Cohan spotlights Zach Avery — nee Zachary Joseph Horwitz — whose yearslong Ponzi scheme bilked Hollywood investors out of more than $200 million. “He may not have been a big talent in Hollywood, but the business — and the deals — captured his imagination. And around the time that he and [Mallory] Hagedorn got married (in October 2014 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles), he teamed up with the Hallivis brothers to form a film-production company of sorts. They called it 1inMM Productions. (It was named for one of Horwitz’s mantras: ‘When odds are One in a Million …. Be That One.’ In other words, he liked to say, ‘a million people could be walking into a room but you bring a unique perspective simply because you are you. Know that and truly believe it…. And other people will as well.’)” [Airmail]
📚 Vernacular Version: A group of academics is translating nearly century-old novels and stories by Yiddish-speaking female authors into English, saving the tales from extinction, writes The New York Times’ Joseph Berger. “Yiddish novels written by women have remained largely unknown because they were never translated into English or never published as books. Unlike works translated from the language by such male writers as Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Bashevis Singer and Chaim Grade, Yiddish fiction by women was long dismissed by publishers as insignificant or unmarketable to a wider audience. But in the past several years, there has been a surge of translations of female writers by Yiddish scholars devoted to keeping the literature alive.” [NYTimes]
👨 Not Getting Chucked: The Daily Beast‘s Sam Brodley explores how Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) succeeded in removing any threat of a primary challenge in his home state this year by endearing himself to his biggest Democratic critics. “A distant incumbent is a common ingredient for a successful primary. That was never going to be Schumer. But in parsing the senator’s frenetic schedule, a newer trend is clear: A heightened strategic outreach to the left-wing constituencies that would be most inclined to support a primary challenge. Schumer’s charm offensive — which has entailed not just personal engagement with lefty organizers but also intentional high-profile work on key progressive issues — has not only foreclosed the threat of a primary challenge but brought the rumor mill screeching to a halt… It’s gotten to the point where there is a running joke now in left-wing political circles in New York: For members of the Democratic Socialists of America, Schumer is easier to get a hold of than Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” [DailyBeast]
Around the Web
🍗 Bad Taste: A 1993 recipe cookbook entry for “Jewish-American Princess fried chicken,” submitted by Whoopi Goldberg, resurfaced following an uproar over comments made by “The View” co-host about the Holocaust last week.
🚓 Kidnap Plot: Police apprehended a man who kidnapped a housekeeper from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Colorado ranch.
💸 Tainted Donations: President Joe Biden and a number of Democratic legislators and candidates have reportedly accepted donations from Emadeddin Muntasser, a terrorist financier who spent five months in prison after being convicted in 2008 for a number of charges relating to fraud.
📘 Bookshelf: In The Wall Street Journal, Anna Mundow reviews Joseph Roth’s novel Rebellion, which escaped destruction at the hands of the Nazis, as well as Hugo Hamilton’s The Pages, narrated by the former from 1930s Germany to the present day.
🤳 Swipe No More: Shimon Hayut, the subject of Netflix’s new documentary “Tinder Swindler,” was banned from the dating app.
🎥 Casting Concern: Helen Mirren weighed in on criticism over her casting as former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and the decision to select a non-Jewish person for the role.
🎤 Never Again: British comedian Jimmy Carr came under fire for a joke about Holocaust victims in a Netflix stand-up routine.
👮 Antisemitic Attacks: Two more antisemitic incidents — an attack on a Jewish man and graffiti spray painted on a yeshiva school bus — were reported in Brooklyn over the weekend.
🗓️ Rare Meeting: The PLO Council convened yesterday for the first time in four years.
🤝 New Plan: Israeli and Palestinian public figures reportedly have put together a proposal for a two-state confederation, set to be presented next week to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres by Yossi Beilin and Hiba Husseini.
✈️ Closed Skies: Israel may temporarily halt its flights to Dubai over concerns regarding new security policies at the airport, and is considering rerouting flights to Abu Dhabi.
🇦🇪🇮🇱 Field Trip: A group of Emirati Parliament members is in Israel this week to meet with Israeli counterparts, a week after President Isaac Herzog visited Abu Dhabi with a delegation of Knesset members.
➡️ Shaky Status: The African Union has deferred a vote to review Israel’s observer status by a year.
🐁 Science Experiment: Tel Aviv University researchers have engineered human spinal cord implants for treating paralysis, which have been successfully tested on mice.
🏦 Money Matters: The IMF said that Israel’s central bank need not raise interest rates yet, but advised the bank that it may need to exercise tighter monetary policy soon, should inflation continue and exceed targets.
👔 Ad Man: In The Wall Street Journal, Nick Kostov profiles British businessman Martin Sorrell as he takes down advertising agency WPP, which he founded, and builds up a new rival company, S4 Capital.
🕵️ Spy Secrets: The BBC takes a look at Mossad operations that allegedly infiltrated Iranian institutions at the highest level.
📱 Hack Job: Reacting to a Calcalist report that exposed a list of dozens of Israeli citizens targeted by police via NSO spyware technology, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted, “This tool (Pegasus), and similar tools, are very important tools in the fight against terrorism and also in the fight against serious crime, but they were not intended for widespread ‘phishing’ among Israeli citizens or among public figures in the state of Israel, so we need to understand exactly what happened.”
👩 Taking Charge: The Israeli government approved the appointment of Gali Baharav-Miara as the new attorney general, the first woman to serve in this position.
🛡️ Mideast Landscape: Israel is in talks with the UAE over providing the Gulf nation with military and intelligence support, a move designed to build up regional defenses against Iran, whose Houthi proxies have launched a series of attacks against the UAE in recent weeks.
🕯️ Remembering: Editor and publisher Jason Epstein, one of the main forces behind both paperbacks and The New York Review of Books, died at 93. Writer and social activist Todd Gitlin died at 79. Naomi Pearlman, a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor who lost both her legs when a rocket struck her home in Ashkelon during last May’s conflict between Israel and Hamas, succumbed to her injuries on Sunday.
Pic of the Day
American snowboarder Taylor Gold performs a trick during the halfpipe training session at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. With an arsenal of bold tricks, the Steamboat Springs, Colo., native is considered a serious medal contender in the men’s halfpipe.
Israeli actor, model and musician, Angel Bonanni turns 50…
Milwaukee-born politician and businessman, former U.S. senator from Wisconsin and owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, Herb Kohl turns 87… and also born in Milwaukee on the same date 16 years later, his first cousin, Senior rabbi (now emeritus) of Beth Tzedec Congregation in Toronto, Baruch Frydman-Kohl turns 71… French native, now living in West Roxbury, Mass., he is director of training for the Bulfinch Group, Michel R. Scheinmann turns 74… U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO) turns 70… Democratic member of the Illinois House of Representatives, Robyn Gabel turns 69… Senior research scientist at Battelle Memorial Institute and part-time instructor at Carnegie Mellon University, Rick Wice turns 66… American businessman and investor arrested in Bolivia in July 2011 and held for 18 months without charges, freed through public outcry and the efforts of Sean Penn, Jacob Ostreicher turns 63…
Actor, humorist, comedian and writer known for his “TV Funhouse” cartoon shorts on “Saturday Night Live” and as the puppeteer and voice behind Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, Robert Smigel turns 62… President and COO of The Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC, Dr. David L. Reich turns 62… Director general of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alon Ushpiz turns 56… Professional hockey player who played in 418 regular and post-season games in the NHL spanning 13 seasons, Mike Hartman turns 55… Rabbi at Beth Chai Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland and author of Jewish children’s books and teen novels, Deborah Bodin Cohen turns 54… SVP of communications at PM Hotel Group in Chevy Chase, Md., Jennifer Diamond Haber turns 53… Author of 22 fiction and non-fiction books including a recent book on the GameStop short squeeze, Ben Mezrich turns 53…
Executive director of the UJA and JCRC-NY’s Community Security Initiative, Mitch Silber turns 52… Executive director of the Aviv Foundation, Adam Simon turns 47… Vice president and general manager at Material+, Jonathan Weiss turns 46… Hasidic singer and recording artist, Shloime Daskal turns 43… Former member of the Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Mark Ifraimov turns 41… Former MLB pitcher, now an angel investor in the San Francisco area, Scott Feldman turns 39… Former professional basketball player in Germany, Italy and Israel, now a VP at Lightspeed Venture Partners in Menlo Park, California, Dan Grunfeld turns 38… Director of advancement field services for Hillel International, Rachael Fenton… David Israel… Michael Harris…