👋 Good Tuesday morning!
Deborah Lipstadt will finally get her hearing today. The Biden administration’s nominee to be special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 10 a.m., following a nearly six-month delay fueled by Republicans’ concerns about her tweets. Look out for GOP senators to ask about those tweets, some of which were directed at Republican members on the committee.
Also at 10 a.m., Jewish community leaders will testify before a joint subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee about the Nonprofit Security Grant Program and protecting houses of worship.
Witnesses at the hearing include Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who was taken hostage at his synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, last month, Jewish Federations of North America CEO Eric Fingerhut, Secure Communities Network CEO Michael Masters and Rabbi Yosef Konikov of Chabad of South Orlando, Fla.
Speaking to Sudanese Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who leads the country’s armed forces, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) — who often acts as a Biden administration surrogate on foreign policy issues — expressed “grave concern” about the coup in Sudan.
A readout from Coons’ office read, “He reminded General Burhan of the strong bipartisan support for advancing legislation that would impose targeted sanctions on those undermining the democratic transition in Sudan and violating human rights if the military does not change course, a message that was underscored by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last week on Sudan’s imperiled transition.”
Josh Shapiro’s open Pennsylvania primary lane
In the long days between Election Day 2020 and the moment Joe Biden was declared the victor four days later, Pennsylvania became ground zero for, as attorney general Josh Shapiro called it, “the big lie” — the falsehood that Republicans were the rightful winners of the election. As the state’s top law enforcement officer, Shapiro was in charge of fighting back. He is now running to be governor of Pennsylvania, the state that he says is at the “epicenter” of the national battle over voting. The 15 Republicans vying to take him on “peddle the big lie every day. They didn’t acknowledge that Joe Biden won the election, and they will appoint secretaries of state who I believe will undermine our democracy in the 2024 presidential election,” Shapiro told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch in a recent interview. “I think that is critical.”
Keystone contention: Pennsylvania will be one of the most closely watched states in this year’s election cycle. With Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf term-limited and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) opting not to run for a third term, the state has the rare combination of wide-open fields in both the Senate and gubernatorial races. While 2022 appears set to be a difficult year for Democrats nationwide, Shapiro raised $6.3 million in the fourth quarter of last year alone. ”He’s doing wonderfully because so far he’s preempted a primary, which is very unusual,” said Neil Oxman, a Democratic political consultant based in Philadelphia.
Starting young: Shapiro has held elected office since 2005, first as a state representative, then as a county commissioner in suburban Montgomery County and finally as attorney general. His passion for politics began as a middle schooler, when he launched an international pen-pal movement to connect young Americans with Jewish refuseniks in the Soviet Union. Shapiro’s pen pal, Avi Goldstein, and his family left the USSR in time to make it to Shapiro’s bar mitzvah in Pennsylvania. He later ran for student body president at Akiba Hebrew Academy (now Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy) in Merion Station, Pa. — the only election Shapiro ever lost.
Where they are: “We’re running a campaign that’s focused on meeting people where they are and meeting their needs,” Shapiro told JI. This philosophy is exemplified in Shapiro’s approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. When it comes to vaccination, he emphasizes education and outreach over mandates. His goal is ”educating and empowering the public, giving them facts, as opposed to dictates, [and] making sure that they understand the power of what a vaccine can do to save their lives, and in the case of schools, save children’s lives,” noted Shapiro, whose platform does not include vaccine mandates.
Challah-burg: If he makes it to the governor’s mansion, Shapiro will keep up weekly Shabbat dinners with his wife and four children. “There’s a strong and vibrant Jewish community,” said Shapiro of Harrisburg. “We’ll have lots of Shabbat dinners at the governor’s residence that bring a lot of people from all different walks of life together for good food, good conversation and good challah.”
N.C. Supreme Court’s rejection of congressional map creates opening for Kathy Manning
The North Carolina Supreme Court’s decision this past Friday to throw out the state’s new congressional and General Assembly maps gives Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), whose district was eliminated during the redistricting process, new hope that she may see a second term in Congress, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
You’re out: According to the high court, the maps, drawn by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled General Assembly, violated multiple clauses of the state’s constitution. The map, which would have given Republicans the advantage in an additional two districts, cleaved Manning’s home county and current district into three GOP-friendly seats, functionally eliminating it.
Race to the finish: The state Supreme Court’s decision sets up a scramble to finalize the state’s maps. The General Assembly and the plaintiff groups that challenged the maps have until Feb. 18 to file their own proposals. At that point, the trial court that initially heard the case — and sided with the General Assembly — will have until Feb. 23 to make a final decision, ahead of the start date for candidate filing on Feb. 24. “We’re going to know something, we’re going to know it relatively soon, but we don’t know what we’re going to know,” Christopher Cooper, director of the public policy institute at Western Carolina University told JI, summing up the current state of affairs.
Questions abound: The court has several options for deciding on the final map: It can adopt the General Assembly’s new map, it can accept a map submitted by one of the plaintiffs or it can appoint an independent expert, known as a special master, to draw yet another map, Cooper said. The General Assembly said on Monday it would submit new maps by the deadline, but what those maps might look like is unknown. In its brief to the state Supreme Court, the General Assembly also hinted at plans to potentially appeal the ruling on the congressional map to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Changes likely: J. Michael Bitzer, a politics professor at Catawba College in Salisbury, said he expects that the new General Assembly maps will likely be substantively different from and less skewed toward Republicans than the ones being challenged — although Republicans would likely keep their majority status.“I think they would have to change things because… the current maps, the ones that were struck down, would have had the potential of electing supermajorities to the General Assembly and would have probably elected at least 10 Republicans — if it was a good Republican year maybe 11 — to the U.S. House of Representatives,” he said. “That outcome, I think, is what the court was saying, ‘Try again.’”
Alessandra Biaggi announces congressional bid in redrawn NY-03
Alessandra Biaggi, a progressive state senator and Democratic political scion representing parts of the Bronx and Westchester, announced her bid for the open House seat in New York’s redrawn 3rd Congressional District on Monday, setting the stage for what is likely to be a competitive primary battle in a swing district that includes large portions of Long Island, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports. “Our country doesn’t just need more Democrats in Washington, we need bolder ones,” Biaggi said in a statement. “I am running for Congress in NY-3 to bring progressive and honest leadership to the front lines of our country’s most important fights.”
New opportunity: Biaggi, 35, joins a crowded field of Democratic primary candidates now vying to succeed moderate three-term Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY), who is running for governor. In an interview with JI last May, Biaggi said she had no immediate plans to run for Congress but suggested she was keeping her options open. The two-term state legislator appears to have pivoted after Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a new redistricting plan into law last week. The updated 3rd District map now includes segments of the Bronx and Westchester County in addition to a large swath of northwestern Nassau and northern Suffolk Counties along the Long Island Sound.
Familiar surname: If elected to the House, Biaggi would follow the path of her late grandfather, the former longtime Bronx Rep. Mario Biaggi (D-NY), who resigned from office in 1988 amid a corruption scandal but whose name remains familiar to a certain subset of traditional Democratic voters in New York. “That helps her and may put her in the top of the contenders,” said Leslie Feldman, a professor of political science at Hofstra University. “But to the extent that she is left of Suozzi, that may hurt her, as Nassau County went Republican in November.”
Striking a balance: Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Democratic New York state assemblyman in Riverdale whose district overlaps with Biaggi’s, echoed that view, speculating that some of her more polarizing past comments, including those in support of defunding the police, “might not play well in large areas of the district.” Biaggi makes no mention of defunding the police on her campaign website, arguing instead for a need to “focus our police forces on reducing gun violence, domestic violence and other violent crimes.”
‘Willing to listen’: “While she is unflinching in her morals and values, she is also always willing to listen with an open mind and is virtually without peer on true constituent engagement,” Michael Davis, a Jewish community leader in Riverdale and the founding partner of The Plymouth Group, a New York City-based real estate investment firm, said of Biaggi. “She will be a successful and productive leader in Congress if we are all fortunate enough to have her representing New Yorkers on Capitol Hill.”
🇺🇸 Blinken’s Bind: The New York Times’ Laura Jakes and Michael Crowley look at the challenges faced by Secretary of State Tony Blinken during his first year on the job — punctuated midway by the bungled U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. “Allies welcomed the renewed attention after feeling mistreated during the Trump years. A burst of shuttle diplomacy helped quell an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas. Even a heated public debate with Chinese envoys became a moment for the new secretary of state to highlight the Biden administration’s top foreign policy priority. But on the morning of Aug. 15, Mr. Blinken looked ashen on Sunday news shows as he defended President Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan, and how the departure unfolded… Current and former State Department officials, and foreign diplomats, say Mr. Blinken has spent the months since then trying to recover.” [NYTimes]
☢️ Dangerous Deal: Bloomberg’s Bobby Ghosh suggests that the Biden administration’s recent loosening of sanctions on Tehran — done in an effort to achieve concessions from Iran — will embolden the Islamic republic rather than move the parties toward any sort of compromise. “If the U.S. is willing to make some concessions unilaterally, it might be willing to make other, more substantial ones. Because the gesture comes on the heels of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s warning that Iran will soon be ‘a matter of a few weeks’ from having enough fissile material for a bomb, Tehran will conclude that its nuclear brinkmanship is working. Why not stick with it?” [Bloomberg]
🍽️ Foodie Frenzy: In the Commercial Observer, Chava Gourarie traces the rise of real estate heir Jeff Zalaznick as a successful restaurateur. “The drift from hospitality to real estate is a natural one for Major Food Group, whose other name brands include Parm, ZZ’s Clam Bar and Dirty French. They are masters of showmanship. With each concept, the food, the design and the performance all work together to transport guests into a themed world, whether that’s a 1950s family-style Italian restaurant, a Jewish deli or a naughty French steakhouse. ‘They’re capturing lightning in the bottle over and over again,’ said chef Eli Kulp, who worked with Major Food Group in its early days.” [CommercialObserver]
Around the Web
✍️ On the Hill: Thirty-three Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), sent a letter on Monday to President Joe Biden stressing that he is legally required to provide Congress with the chance to review any agreement with Iran — even if it is not submitted for ratification as a treaty.
👋 Toxic Workplace: Eric Lander, the Biden administration’s top science advisor, resigned following a White House investigation that concluded that he had engaged in bullying subordinates.
⚠️ On Alert: A Department of Homeland Security bulletin issued on Monday warned of threats to places of worship and minority institutions.
💸 Giving Big: Former L Brands CEO Les Wexner made a $250,000 donation to the Republican Governors Association last month, his first six-figure political contribution in four years.
📽️ Silver Screen: The Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film School is joining forces with Netflix and VIS Social Impact to launch a Series Lab that aims to cultivate talent in the television industry and connect creators with industry leaders.
⛷️ Snowballing: After selling a record number of passes at slashed prices last year under the leadership of then-CEO Rob Katz, Vail Resorts is now inundated with complaints of congestion, long lines and reduced operations.
🏦 Economy Forecast: Major banks are split on the future of Israel’s economy, with Goldman Sachs predicting continued low levels of inflation and estimating that interest rate hikes will wait until next year, while Deutsche Bank expects a spike in inflation and interest rate hikes in the coming months.
📢 Shaky Ground: Israelis will now be warned of coming earthquakes by an alarm system, an effort that was expedited following two small earthquakes near the Dead Sea last month.
🇮🇷 Nuclear Option: The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal cautioned the Biden administration against capitulating to Iranian demands.
😐 Still Waiting: Iran’s foreign minister said that some of Tehran’s demands for the lifting of sanctions “have not been addressed” by the nuclear talks in Vienna.
➡️ Transition: Martin Gruenberg, formerly the chairman of the FDIC during the Obama administration, returned as acting chair of the powerful financial agency after the former chair resigned after a partisan dispute. Jonah Goldberg, who left Fox News last year, will join CNN as a commentator. AIPAC lobbyist David Gillette will succeed Marvin Feuer as the organization’s chief lobbyist and director of policy and government affairs as Feuer moves into the role of director of strategy. Former Hudson Institute CEO Kenneth Weinstein has joined the Brunswick Group as a senior advisor who will focus on U.S.-Japan issues.
🕯️ Remembering: Jack Mikulincer, a Holocaust survivor who served as a gabbai at his Brooklyn synagogue, died at 99 after being hit by a car while on his way to Shabbat services.
Pic of the Day
Ali Rashid al-Nuaimi, chairman of the Defense, Interior and Foreign Affairs Committees in the UAE’s Federal National Council, spoke yesterday at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem during his visit to Israel.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Hudson Institute, Sarah May Stern turns 63…
Boston attorney and author, his 2013 book on Jews and baseball was turned into the 2016 play “Swing, Schmendrick, Swing,” Larry Ruttman turns 91… Broadcast journalist, best known as the anchor of ABC’s “Nightline” from its inception in 1980 until his retirement in 2005, Ted Koppel turns 82… Stand-up comedian, singer and actor, Robert Klein turns 80… Chair of the Morris A. Hazan Family Foundation, Lovee Arum turns 78… Therapist and life coach based in Wake County, N.C., Sheila Kay turns 77… Columbus, Ohio-born attorney and president of Schottenstein Legal Services, James M. Schottenstein turns 75… Former CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York (Albany), now an executive coach and nonprofit consultant in Venice, Fla., Rodney Margolis turns 75… Town and village justice in Red Hook, N.Y., Judge Jonah Triebwasser turns 72… CEO of NYC-based Cohen Brothers Realty Corporation, Charles S. Cohen turns 70… Investor and business operator, Marc Lauren Abramowitz turns 69… President of BlackRock and a past chair of UJA-Federation of New York, Robert S. Kapito turns 65… Chief rabbi of the IDF, Brigadier General Eyal Moshe Karim turns 65… Senior director of synagogue affiliations and operations for United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Barry S. Mael turns 64… British businessman and chairman of the Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur since 2001, Daniel Levy turns 60… Former member of the Knesset for the Jewish Home and New Right parties, Shulamit “Shuli” Mualem-Rafaeli turns 57…
Chairman of Andell Inc. and former owner of Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire, Andrew Hauptman turns 53… Attorney, rabbi and New Jersey political consultant, Benjamin G. Kelsen turns 50… Popular Israeli musician, singer and songwriter, Eviatar Banai turns 49… Member of the Knesset for the Labor party until 2021, he is now director-general of the Israeli office of the UJA-Federation of New York, Itzik Shmuli turns 42… Founder of D.C.-based JTR Strategies, she is the former head of aviation and international affairs at USDOT under President Obama, Jenny Thalheimer Rosenberg turns 42… Deputy general counsel for investigations for the Inspector General at USAID, Adam Kaplan turns 40… Partner at Sidley Austin, he was previously chief of staff to then Attorney General Bill Barr, William Ranney Levi turns 38… Retired professional ice hockey center, Trevor Smith turns 37… Staff attorney at Public Justice, Alexandra Brodsky turns 32… Director of government relations at Small Business Investor Alliance, Celia Glassman turns 29… Canadian jazz-pop singer-songwriter, Nicole “Nikki” Rachel Yanofsky turns 28… Pitcher in the Miami Marlins organization, he was on Team Israel for the 2020 Olympics, Jake Layton Fishman turns 27… J.D. candidate in the class of 2023 at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Samantha Grosinger turns 25… Director of global brand and marketing at Olami, Michal Nordmann…