👋 Good Monday morning!
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues into its fifth day today, with Russian troops surrounding the capital, Kyiv. But the Russian advance has been slowed by Ukrainian military and civilian defense. Ukrainian officials are demanding a cease-fire as top officials, including Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, meet with Russian officials on Ukraine’s border with Belarus in the coming hours. Israel has reportedly also offered to mediate talks.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced on Monday that Israel will cosponsor and vote for a United Nations resolution to condemn Russia that is expected early this week. “Israel has been and will be on the right side of history,” Lapid said in a statement. “Those are our values.”
Lapid noted that “there are two points that we need to be mindful of and require us to be careful” — that Israel “effectively has a security border with Russia,” noting Moscow’s presence as the most significant military power in Syria, and the approximately 180,000 Ukrainians still in the country who are eligible to immigrate to Israel.
Israel had opted not to sign onto a U.S.-led United Nations Security Council resolution on Friday — which had the support of nearly 90 countries — condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Israel did not join the group despite a request from the Biden administration to join as a sponsor, citing Russia’s certain veto of the measure. No other countries voted against the resolution, but three — including the United Arab Emirates — abstained. (Israel is not a member of the Security Council.) Anwar Gargash, a diplomatic advisor to the UAE’s president, tweeted on Sunday that the country didn’t want to take sides in the conflict. The country “believes that taking sides would only lead to more violence,” Gargash said.
Over the weekend, the White House and allies announced sanctions against Russian companies, including the expulsion of some banks from the SWIFT international banking system. European nations have been galvanized by the Russian aggression, with several countries, including Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, joining the U.S. in sending military aid to Ukraine. In an historic speech Sunday before the Bundestag, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced an investment of $113 billion for defense improvements and a pledge to spend 2 percent of annual GDP on defense.
A New York Times report on the days leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine notes that last Monday, President Joe Biden attended a Zoom shiva for Joan Olivere, the mother of Biden’s daughter-in-law Hallie.
Czech ambassador: Ukraine invasion ‘has a lot of emotional connection with my country’
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “one of the two or three most dangerous moments after the end of the Second World War,” the Czech ambassador to the United States, Hynek Kmonicek, told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch hours after Russian troops began their incursion. Kmonicek said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine “has a lot of emotional connection with my country.”
Long memory: Czechoslovakia was a Soviet satellite state throughout the Cold War, and in 1968, Red Army troops invaded Prague to stop the country’s reform efforts. “We still remember the Soviet occupation in Prague 1968,” Kmonicek said. “But we also remember how our rebellious borderland, mainly inhabited by Germans, was reunited with Hitler in 1938-39 in the Sudetenland.”
History lesson: Kmonicek was referring to the Munich Agreement of 1938, in which Great Britain and France signed a pact with Italy and Germany allowing Germany to occupy border regions, including the majority-German Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, in exchange for a commitment from Hitler to maintain peace. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain left the conference declaring that the agreement had brought about “peace for our time.” Less than a year later, Hitler invaded Poland and World War II began.
Pelosi’s point: Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made a similar comparison to that moment. “[Putin] uses excuses like — it’s changed — every time you hear him say, ‘Well, they’re part of us. That’s who we are. They should be us.’ Now they’re saying, ‘But we have to go in because they want to be part of NATO,’” Pelosi said at a press conference. “My friends, this is our moment. This is the Sudetenland. That’s what people were saying there.” Putin has frequently argued that Russia has a responsibility to reunite ethnic Russians in Ukraine with the rest of the Russian population, and to bring them under Russian government control.
Enemy list: Kmonicek called Putin’s actions in Ukraine “a danger for all of Europe, and to face it, the key is the absolute unity of all the allies.” Last year, Russia released a list of “unfriendly countries” that included just two names: the U.S. and the Czech Republic, which blamed Russian agents for a 2014 explosion at an ammunition depot in Vrbětice, in the eastern part of the country. Ukrainians are the largest ethnic minority in the Czech Republic.
Read more here, and keep an eye out for our in-depth interview with Kmonicek later this week.
once more unto the breach
A former Michigan legislator returns to politics to take on Tlaib
Former Michigan state Rep. Phil Cavanaugh thought he was done with politics after a failed bid for Wayne County executive close to a decade ago. But the state’s newly drawn congressional map led the Detroit native to reconsider his political retirement as he mounts a primary challenge to Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The primary is slated for Aug. 2.
Choice: “I believe that [these municipalities] need a choice besides a far-left representative that [has] not necessarily got much done,” Cavanagh, who is framing himself as a practical, moderate dealmaker, told JIearlier this month. “I don’t believe we need that brand of politician that moves the whole agenda, including President [Joe] Biden’s agenda, so far to the left that it couldn’t be passed.”
Different direction: Describing himself as a “friend of Israel and Palestine,” Cavanagh, the son of former Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanagh, expressed support for a negotiated two-state solution, as well as for the Abraham Accords. He offered praise for Jared Kushner, the son-in-law and senior advisor of former President Donald Trump, who played a key role in negotiating the normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states. On the other hand, the congressional hopeful sees Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal as “one of the biggest, most uncalled-for blunders.”
Cash dash: The former state lawmaker comes into the race for the new 12th Congressional District seat at a significant financial disadvantage — Tlaib had $1.4 million on hand at the end of 2021. A key question for Cavanagh and other Tlaib challengers will be whether moderate Democratic voters and members of the Detroit-area Jewish community decide to put money into the race, Ed Sarpolus, a local pollster and political strategist, told JI. “I would think Phil Cavanagh would have more likelihood of getting funding because in fact there’s more trust of him and a reputation not only representing a portion of Detroit but [also] the outside communities,” Sarpolus predicted.
breaking the glass ceiling
The Druze emissary ‘bringing the complexity’ of Israel to American Jews
Through her career as the first Druze woman to anchor a Hebrew program on Israeli TV, and then as the first female Druze member of the Knesset, Gadal Kamal-Mreeh drove an hour home from Jerusalem each night to her village near Haifa, Daliyat al-Karmel. But during a recent Zoom interview with Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch, she was not sitting in her home in Israel. She was thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C., her first time living outside of her village of 17,000. Kamal-Mreeh, 37, is in the U.S. as a shlicha, or emissary, of The Jewish Agency for Israel, which sends thousands of Israelis to the U.S. each year to serve as a representative of Israel in American Jewish communities. She is the first non-Jewish Israeli to serve as a senior emissary with the Jewish Agency, a quasi-governmental agency that deals with Diaspora affairs.
Diaspora connection: Israel has had non-Jewish diplomats before — the first Arab Israeli diplomat was Ali Yahya, a Muslim appointed to be ambassador to Finland in 1995 — but Kamal-Mreeh’s position is different. She does not represent the government of Israel, nor is she tasked with advancing Israel’s interests in matters of foreign policy. Her goal is more straightforward, but perhaps also more complicated: strengthening the relationship between American Jews and Israel.
Bring the complexity: “I believe my uniqueness is that I am bringing the complexity. Our role is not just to highlight the beauty. Our role also is to bring the complexity, to tell people, ‘Don’t be afraid to say anything. Don’t be afraid to ask anything,’” Kamal-Mreeh said. “I don’t worry if people criticize me or us as a state. I will worry once they stop [doing] that, because you criticize when you care. And Israel is a complicated state.”
Diverse perspectives: She arrived in the U.S. in July of last year, weeks after a period of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas that touched off a wave of anti-Israel rhetoric and antisemitic attacks in the U.S. The majority of American Jews say they have a connection to Israel. But American Jews, particularly young Jews, have a wide array of views on Israel. “Bringing the superficial propaganda of, ‘We are good, trust us, we are wise, we are good, we are the absolute’ — [that] advocacy, I don’t believe it works anymore. What worked in the ‘80s or in the ‘90s, it doesn’t work anymore,” Kamal-Mreeh explained.
High praise: “For her, Israel isn’t only a home, but a mission and a calling for both Israeli society at large, and Druze society in particular,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who served with Kamal-Mreeh in the Knesset, told JI in a statement. “I see the great work she’s doing and I’m sure she’ll make changes both big and small.”
✡️ Jewish Hero: The Atlantic’s Gal Beckerman looks at how the Jewish background of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky molded his style of governing and unlikely political rise. “In the Soviet world that shaped Zelensky and his parents, Jews were perceived as the eternal outsiders, possible fifth columnists, the ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ of Stalin’s imagination. This of course came on top of living in a place where a particularly virulent strain of anti-Semitism had always existed, a legacy of pogroms and Nazi collaboration. Just outside embattled Kyiv is Babi Yar, where 33,771 Jews were shot and thrown into a ravine over the course of two days in 1941. If Zelensky has now become synonymous with the blue-and-yellow flag of his country, it might signal an unexpected outcome of this conflict that has found Jews feeling finally, improbably, one with a land that has perpetually tried to spit them out.” [TheAtlantic]
🤥 Propaganda Problem: Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer analyzes Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts — which have not seen widespread success — to spread misinformation about Ukraine among the Russian populace. “As far as the official Russian version goes, this is still just a ‘special operation’ focusing on preventing a ‘genocide’ in the Donbas region. The Russian public isn’t stupid and has other means of getting information, as the Kremlin’s current attempts to block local social media show. But it’s not just a propaganda issue. It seems Russian soldiers aren’t hugely enthused at the prospect of fighting in a sister country where the people speak their language and look just like them and their family members. This contributes to a massive morale gap between them and the Ukrainian soldiers defending their homeland.” [Haaretz]
📊 Data Dive: In The Hill, Diane B. Kunz, a scholar in residence at the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, calls on the U.S. Department of Education to expand its civil rights data collection to include information regarding religious discrimination. “Data-gathering must cover religious bias more extensively, and it should specifically identify which religious group is being targeted. This is important because you can’t solve a problem unless you know what the problem is. Schools, local educational authorities and the federal government need this valuable and specific information. They need to understand precisely which religious groups are being victimized and which specific hate crimes students face to know how to effectively reverse the trend in religious harassment. The FBI takes the same approach to hate crime reporting. Now, with religious crime in schools on the rise, we must apply the same standards.” [TheHill]
🌱 Climate Challenge: The New Yorker’s Andrew Marantz spotlights efforts by the Sunrise Movement, which has aligned itself with far-left legislators including Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), to change the political conversation around climate change, despite strategic errors that threaten to derail their work. “At the beginning of the hunger strike, Sunrise staffers had asked some of their allies in Congress, including Ocasio-Cortez, to join the protest. But then Sunrise’s D.C. hub put out an unrelated statement disavowing a voting-rights rally. The rally was hosted by a coalition of more than two hundred progressive organizations; the hub was objecting to three of them, Jewish groups that were ‘in support of Zionism and the State of Israel.’ Representative Jamie Raskin condemned the hub, calling the statement ‘frightful sectarian scapegoating.’ Sunrise’s national arm apologized and publicly repudiated the D.C. chapter; behind the scenes, the repudiation was even harsher. (A Sunrise staffer told me, ‘I called the kid who wrote the statement and went, “If you needed to spout some dumb shit, couldn’t you at least have waited until we were not in the middle of negotiating a once-in-a-decade climate bill?”’) Still, Ocasio-Cortez kept her distance. Instead, she tweeted about a different hunger strike being held at the same time, in Manhattan, by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
📅 Happening Today: The White House is holding a celebration of Black History Month for the Jewish community, featuring remarks from White House Jewish Liaison Chanan Weissman, Jews of Color Initiative Executive Director Ilana Kaufman and former U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica S. Fitzgerald Haney.
🚨Speaking Circuit: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA)is under fire for keynoting the America First Political Action Conference’s annual conference, organized by white supremacist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) also delivered prerecorded remarks at the event.
🗳️ Handpicked: Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) announced he will retire in January 2023 and endorsed his chief of staff, Luke Holland, who is expected to run in the November special election, to serve out the remainder of Inhofe’s term, which ends in 2027.
✍️ District Debate: North Carolina’s Republican-controlled General Assembly asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the new congressional map implemented last week by a panel of state court judges.
📞 Concern in Ukraine: The Los Angeles Times talked to Jewish leaders across Ukraine who are fielding worried calls and requests for support from Jewish community members, many of whom are elderly and survived the Holocaust.
🆘 Like a Good Neighbor: Israel is reportedly assisting individuals from Lebanon, Syria and Egypt who are fleeing Ukraine. “Israel does such mitzvahs all the time during wars and natural disasters, with little fanfare or recognition,” Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) wrote on Twitter.
🕍 Eye on Uman: Foreign Policy looks at how the Russian invasion of Ukraine has affected the city of Uman, which once had a thriving Jewish community and today is a pilgrimage site for those visiting the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.
⚽ Sanctions Shield: Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich has transferred “stewardship and care” of the club to a group of trustees as the U.K. begins to level sanctions against Russia, though none have been directed at Abramovich.
🏈Off to the Caribbean: Ali Marpet announced his retirement from professional football after seven seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
📈 Power Pitch: Fast Company spotlights the rapid rise of Michael Rubin’s Fanatics fan sports apparel company.
⚾ Bad Baller: The Boston Red Sox released minor leaguer Brett Netzer following a series of social media posts in which Netzer bragged about being racist, including some that specifically attacked the franchise’s chief baseball officer, Chaim Bloom.
📐 Right Angles: Washington Post senior architecture critic Philip Kennicott praised the newly constructed Audrey Irmas Pavilion in Los Angeles, which sits next to the historic Wilshire Boulevard Temple.
🏀 Crying Foul: The Alabama High School Athletic Association is under fire after a basketball team from a Seventh Day Adventist school forfeited a match when the association would not honor its request to play after the Sabbath.
⚖️ Libel Suit: The NSO Group filed a lawsuit against Calcalist, the Israeli business-focused news outlet, over a series of articles — found during an investigation to be without merit — alleging that Israeli police had used the embattled company’s controversial spyware to track civilians.
🏆 Awards Season: CODA, starring Marlee Matlin, took home the Screen Actors Guild award for outstanding performance by a cast in a major motion picture.
✉️ Transition: Daniel Goldstein, who has headed Israel’s national postal service for seven years, announced plans to step down later this year.
👨 New Gig: George Washington University professor and former Obama administration economic advisor Jay Shambaugh was nominated to be the Biden administration’s undersecretary for international affairs at Treasury.
🕯️ Remembering: Hudson InstituteChairman Emeritus Walter P. Stern died at 93.
Pic of the Day
Yeshiva University won its second consecutive Skyline Conference championship, beating Manhattanville College 74-40 before a packed home crowd — including Brooklyn Nets assistant Amar’e Stoudemire and center Enes Kanter Freedom. The win earned the Maccabees an automatic spot in the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament.
Former State Department special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism from 2013 to 2017, he is now a senior advisor at Human Rights First and an adjunct professor at Georgetown, Ira Niles Forman turns 70…
Winner of the Nobel Prize in physics and professor of science at Brown University, Leon Cooper turns 92… Professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of California, San Diego, Linda Preiss Rothschild turns 77… Actress and singer, Ilene Susan Graff turns 73… NYTimes op-ed columnist and 2008 winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, he is also the author of 27 books, Paul Krugman turns 69… Chief scientific officer at Sansum Diabetes Research Institute and professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, Samuel Klein, MD turns 69… Stand-up comedian and actor, Gilbert Gottfried turns 67… Greensboro, N.C., businessman and past chairman of Hillel International, Randall Kaplan turns 66… Self-described as “America’s most notorious lobbyist,” Jack Abramoff turns 63… Editor-in-chief of the New York Jewish Week, Andrew Silow-Carroll turns 61…
Owner of a commercial lavender farm in New Jersey, former member of the New Jersey State Senate, Ellen Karcher turns 58… Jerusalem-born businessman and philanthropist, Mordechai “Moti” Kahana turns 54… President and CEO of The New York Times Company, Meredith Kopit Levien turns 51… Member of the Knesset for the Blue and White party, Ruth Wasserman Lande turns 46… Mayor of Jersey City, N.J., Steven Fulop turns 45… National political correspondent for The New York Times, Lisa Lerer turns 42… Senior director at Purple Strategies, Erica Goldman turns 34… Associate in the Los Angeles office of Davis Wright Tremaine, Adam Sieff turns 33… Executive director of the New Jersey-Israel Commission, Andrew H. Gross turns 33… Senior manager in the Boston office of PwC, Li-dor David turns 32… Executive director of the Montreal chapter of ORT, Emmanuel Kalles…
February 29th: Economist and professor at NYU, Roman Frydman turns 74… Advisory director and senior investment strategist at Goldman Sachs, former Board Chair of JTS, Abby Joseph Cohen turns 70… Former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, Paul D. Rosenthal turns 62… Co-founder of Biebelberg & Martin in Millburn, NJ, he is chair of the Golda Och Academy in West Orange, Keith N. Biebelberg turns 62… Denver-based attorney at Recht Kornfeld, Richard K. Kornfeld turns 58… Former U.S. Supreme Court law clerk and now a UCLA law professor known for his eponymous prominent legal blog “The Volokh Conspiracy,” Eugene Volokh turns 54… Israeli mountain climber, search and rescue professional, photographer and speaker, known for his heroic rescue of an unconscious Turkish individual he found near the summit of Mount Everest in 2012, Nadav Ben Yehuda turns 34… Synagogue initiative associate at AIPAC, Samantha Friedman Fallon…