👋 Good Thursday morning!
Asked if he sees his role as one to ‘noodge’ Israelis and Palestinians together, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides delivered a Larry David-esque answer. “Well, sure I like to noodge. I’m a big noodger. I’ll noodge all day long. Noodge, noodge, noodge. I don’t have any issue with that… I am a big believer in confidence-building measures, doing things that actually make it easier for the Palestinians to live in the security and freedom that they believe they deserve, and I believe they deserve. So I’ll noodge every day,” Nides told the Times of Israel.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid addressed the nuclear talks taking place between Iran and world powers in Vienna during a press conference today with his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock.
“I presented the minister with our position, that a nuclear Iran endangers not only Israel, but the entire world,” Lapid said. “The E-3 countries [France, Germany and U.K.] cannot also ignore the threat posed by Iran beyond its nuclear program. Iran is Hezbollah in the north, Iran is Hamas in the south, Iran is an exporter of terror from Yemen to Buenos Aires,” he added.
Iran unveiled a new domestically made missile yesterday with a range of 1,450 kilometers, capable of attacking Israel and American military bases in the Middle East. The Islamic republic named the missile Khaibar-buster, according to State TV, after a Jewish castle that was overrun by Muslim warriors in the seventh century.
The U.K. recorded the highest ever number of antisemitic incidents in 2021, according to the Community Security Trust (CST) watchdog, which has been tracking incidents since 1984.
A spike in incidents was noted in May 2021, with the flareup of violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai said, “The fact that antisemitism rises around the world when Israel takes military action also behooves the Jewish state to do more to assist Jewish communities at such times when they face fierce waves of antisemitism. And Israel must also take greater responsibility and be more proactive in the broader struggle against the modern rise of antisemitism. From Colleyville, Texas, to Stamford Hill in London, and many places in between, 2022 has already proven that many Jews around the world live in dangerous times.”
Pelosi set for Israel trip later this month
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is expected to travel to Israel later this month, according to official Israeli sources. A spokesperson for the speaker’s office told Jewish Insiderthat security protocols barred them from confirming or denying pending international travel. The House has no votes scheduled for the next two weeks — from Feb. 10-27, but is set to hold virtual committee hearings from Feb. 15-17. Members often use recess periods, when they are not expected in Washington, for international travel.
On the docket: In recent months, Pelosi has met in Washington with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and former Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. Discussion topics in those meetings have included Iran nuclear negotiations, the May 2021 Gaza conflict and funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system — which Democrats aim to include in the still-pending 2022 government funding package. The top House Democrat’s visit comes at what Biden administration officials have described as a critical time for their negotiations to reenter the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
‘Significant gaps’ remain between U.S. and Iran, senators say following classified briefing
Following a classified briefing from the Biden administration on Wednesday morning, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee painted a worrisome picture of Iran’s rapidly advancing nuclear program and unclear prospects for how close or achievable a deal might be, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
On the horizon: “I think a deal is in sight, but only if you really squint,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), one of the Senate’s most vocal supporters of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), told JI. “There’s significant gaps between the two sides. It’s not [that] they can’t be closed, but every day that goes by and they’re not is not great for the chances of success.”
Tick tock: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the upper chamber’s few Democratic JCPOA opponents, said that it is “possible [but] becoming increasingly difficult” to reenter the agreement because “the window is closing and closing rapidly.” He added that “it’s an open question” if the administration believes it is close to a deal with Iran.
Closed doors: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the Senate Intelligence Committee’s vice chair, who participated in another recent classified session with that committee, said that the briefing “reflects a lot of what you’re hearing the public statements are from the administration, which is that a deal is in sight.”
Pressure on: Senators on both sides of the aisle offered dire warnings about the current status of Iran’s nuclear program. “The assessment of where the program — where Iran’s nuclear program is right now — is downright scary,” Murphy said, adding that Iran’s current breakout time is around eight weeks and “that time is getting smaller, not bigger, every single day.”
Cut bait: Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI), who recently participated in a similar briefing for House Foreign Affairs Committee members, said that the administration has a “clear sense of the timeline” for potentially walking away from the talks. “I think the administration has a very sober understanding of what the situation is, and they’re acting accordingly,” he said. “I think the United States has a fairly clear understanding of where things stand, and we’re very, very concerned about Iran emerging as a country that has nuclear weapons… they’re getting closer.”
Read the full story here.
Elsewhere: National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with his Israel counterpart, Eyal Hulata, yesterday at the White House to discuss a range of issues, including “the threats posed by Iran and its proxies,” according to a White House readout.
Sol Werdiger’s Super Bowl LVI game plan
Sol Werdiger, founder and CEO of the youth sports apparel manufacturer Outerstuff, has attended every Super Bowl game for more than two decades. While he enjoys the competition, the chairman of Agudath Israel’s board of trustees has always arrived a few days early so he can mingle with Jewish locals while hosting a Friday night Shabbat meal, including kosher food and a ticket raffle, writes Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. The festive dinners are an annual tradition for Werdiger, who enjoys regaling his guests with the colorful Super Bowl stories he has collected over the years.
Change of plans: On Friday, Werdiger is planning an event with Olami, a nonprofit Jewish organization, in Los Angeles, where the hometown Rams will be facing off against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at SoFi Stadium for the NFL’s 56th championship game. The only tradition Werdiger himself will be breaking is that he won’t be there for Shabbat. “The plans have changed only because of some good news,” Werdiger told JI ecstatically. “Thank God, my grandson had a boy. It’s my first great-grandson’s bris on Friday morning.”
Eager to engage: Instead, Werdiger is now flying into Los Angeles on Saturday night after the Sabbath. “We’ll be there at the Super Bowl,” he told JI, adding that he would be hosting “whoever wants to come into our hospitality suite at one of the downtown hotels” in Los Angeles. The Orthodox leader is grateful for any opportunity to engage in Jewish communal life now that COVID restrictions have eased. At last year’s Super Bowl in Tampa, Werdiger was unable to host a catered event. He had dinner in his hotel room before the game.
Bengals business: From a business standpoint, Werdiger said the situation has also improved considerably. “Thank God,” Werdiger told JI. “The stadiums are open. People are going. People are shopping at the stores.” According to Werdiger, the underdog Bengals are a more reliable source of revenue than the Rams. “We get all the if-win orders in advance,” he said. While he emphasized that “we like both teams,” Werdiger suggested that, “business-wise,” a Bengals victory would lead to more jersey sales than a Rams win.
Beyond jerseys: Werdiger admitted that he is by no means “a sports-crazy guy.” Over the years, he has often questioned how he ended up in the sports apparel industry, and he has found the answer, he said, by joining with Jewish community members of varying religious persuasions in a manner that has imbued an otherwise secular American pastime such as football with an extra layer of meaning. “There’s no question,” Werdiger concluded, “that the reason God put us into the sports business is because He knew that we’ll use it beyond just selling a lot of jerseys.”
Addressing the gender imbalance in Israeli high-tech
Not far from Ben Gurion Airport, in a spacious and airy hangar, sits Israel’s latest collection of highly sophisticated Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Large and small, short distance and longer range — even the first Israeli drone, circa 1980, strung from the ceiling — the space has everything one might expect to inspire, create and develop these innovative flying machines. However, among the workstations, spare parts and a plethora of highly trained engineers, there’s one thing conspicuously missing: women. The space is part of a sprawling campus belonging to Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), a state-owned company that develops all manner of civilian and military aerial systems it sells to more than 100 countries. It is a leader in the field both in Israel and around the world, however, among its 15,000 engineers only around a third are female, reports Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash.
Gender imbalance: The shortage of female engineers at IAI mirrors Israel’s broader technology and innovation sector today where women make up roughly a third of employees. And IAI is among the leaders in the industry looking for ways to address this gender imbalance.
Future engineers: “We want to raise the percentage of women in the engineering positions in the high-tech world in the future, not only for the IAI but for all of Israel,” Gili May, IAI’s chief relationship officer, who is responsible for the company’s social responsibility outreach, told JI. “I think IAI has an obligation to fight for the right of women to take their place in the field of engineering. Of course, we hope that those graduating from our program will come back to us in the future, but that does not really matter as long as some of the girls from this program end up becoming engineers.”
Manpower shortage: A recent study by Power in Diversity, a joint venture of more than 60 Israeli venture capital firms and more than 170 Israeli startups aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion, found that women account for only 33% of all industry employees. Dror Bin, CEO of Israel’s Innovation Authority, told JI last month that boosting the number of women in the sector was one of the authority’s main priorities, also in part to address an overall shortage of manpower in the country’s high-tech sphere.
High-tech pipeline: “The manpower shortage in Israel’s high-tech [sector] is chronic,” Maty Zwaig, CEO of Scale-Up Velocity, a branch of Start-Up Nation Central, which seeks to advance Israel’s high-tech industry and provide solutions to its human capital challenges, told JI. Zwaig said that along the traditional route to careers in Israeli high-tech there were many points where young women could and should be encouraged and engaged much more, which would ultimately increase their participation in the industry. “The pipeline to the high-tech industry in Israel begins with STEM, then there is the army and then university,” she described, using the acronym for the curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering and math. “We have a clear understanding of points where things go wrong, where we lose girls in the system.”
🏠 Under One Roof:The Washington Post’s Sydney Page spotlights the collaborative effort undertaken by a group of faith leaders in the Washington, D.C., suburbs to assist an Afghan refugee family that recently arrived in their community. “For the past month, the congregations have divvied up responsibilities to support the newcomers. The church has taken on a health-care advocacy role, identifying doctors and dentists willing to provide pro bono services for the family. The mosque, meanwhile, has been helping with translation services and assisting with cultural needs, such as providing traditional Afghan clothing. The synagogue has been organizing transportation, legal and financial support, as well as helping the family to apply for food stamps and Medicaid… While each house of worship has taken on separate duties, they have all fundraised within their respective communities, collecting hundreds of dollars’ worth of gift cards for the family. The congregations have scheduled regular meetings to discuss how the Wahdats are adapting and to determine what other supports are needed along the way. They are also planning to start a card-making project for children and teenagers from the three faith groups to write welcome letters to Afghan families.” [WashPost]
📚 History Lesson: In Teen Vogue, Gwen Katz and A.R. Vishny explore the concept of “pajamization,” the act of using historical fiction books to sanitize difficult subjects, a name that was inspired by historians’ criticism of the Holocaust novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. “Often, pajamafied books about the Holocaust star heroic non-Jews who hide and rescue Jews, and the Holocaust becomes the background for a heartwarming, redemptive story instead of the horror it really is. ‘If you only tell stories of people who helped hide Jews, or were otherwise involved in the war but were not Jewish, it makes it easier to block out the trauma the victims went through,’ says Rebecca Levitan, librarian at Baltimore County Public Library. ‘And it’s important that we don’t ignore what really happened.’” [TeenVogue]
👉🏻 Et Tu: In the Wall Street Journal, George Mason University law professor Eugene Kontorovich suggests, in the wake of a controversial Amnesty International report about Israel, that the Palestinian Authority is engaging in apartheid practices against Jews. “Apartheid is suggested by policies that carve out massive zones where the disfavored group cannot live or work, create ethnically homogenous zones, and restrict the disfavored group to ghettos. One might consider it apartheid if a government enforced a policy of extrajudicial execution of members of a disfavored group. All these policies are practiced in the West Bank and Gaza — by the Palestinian Authority government against Jews. What makes the ‘Israel apartheid’ meme particularly despicable is that is not just a lie, it is an inversion of the truth. In all areas controlled by Israel, Jews and Arabs mix openly. Yet the Palestinian Authority has for decades ruled over Gaza and about half the West Bank — and all the areas under its jurisdiction are Jew-free.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
🪑 Bloomberg For the Defense: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was nominated to chair the Department of Defense’s independent Defense Innovation Board.
🗳️ Road to Albany: Former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence will host separate fundraisers for Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-NY) gubernatorial campaign, as the Long Island legislator attempts to unite different factions of the Republican Party behind his candidacy.
📘 Coming Soon: The New York Times‘s Maggie Haberman released the title and cover of her upcoming book, Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America, which will hit bookshelves in October.
🗞️ Out of Print: Barry Diller’s IAC media group will end print circulation of six magazines, including Entertainment Weekly, as part of a plan to shift to a digital-only model.
🇮🇳 India Inc.: James Murdoch and Uday Shankar are partnering on “Bodhi Tree,” a $1.5B Qatar Investment Authority-backed media and tech venture in Southeast Asia that will focus heavily on India.
🍽️ My Dinner With Adolf: Washington Commanders defensive tackle Jonathan Allen apologized for a Twitter comment in which he said he’d like to have dinner with Adolf Hitler, whom he referred to as “a military genius.”
🍅 Tomayto, Tomahto: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) became the butt of online jokes after accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) of having “gazpacho police,” apparently confusing the Gestapo — the Nazi secret police — with the name of a chilled tomato soup.
🏫 Hot Mic: A community college president in Highland, Kan., is facing pressure to resign after a recording surfaced in which he compared a Black student athlete to Adolf Hitler, whom he called a “great leader.”
🔨 Unlikely Story: A partial tattoo kit put on auction in Israel is unlikely to have been used on Jews at the Auschwitz death camp, as had been alleged, a court found after Holocaust survivors asked that the sale be suspended.
📽️ Silver Screen: Menemsha Films, Israel’s Red Cape and other international firms bought the rights to Global Screen’s historical drama “The Conference,” which tells the story of the Wannsee Conference in Berlin, where the Nazi’s Jewish extermination plan was born.
🚦 Green Light: Israel reportedly told U.S. officials it would not oppose Washington’s return to UNESCO, years after the Trump administration withdrew over its purported anti-Israel agenda.
🌊 Calming the Storm: TheU.S. State Department’s senior advisor for energy security called on Lebanese authorities yesterday to settle a maritime border dispute with Israel.
✋ Stay Away: The Board of Deputies of British Jews told Israeli Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich, of the far-right Religious Zionist Party, that he’s not welcome, as he toured Jewish communities in the U.K. and France to advocate against government plans to reform rabbinate-controlled conversion and kashrut practices.
✡️ Obstacle Course: Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to sabotage the candidacy of World Likud Chairman Danny Danon for head of the Jewish Agency, according to sources in the Likud party.
📃 Terror Designation: The White House held a meeting last week to discuss a possible redesignation of the Houthis as a Foreign Terror Organization, a designation it removed last year.
⛷️ Snowed Out: Iran’s sole male athlete at the Beijing Olympics, a slalom skier, tested positive for an anabolic steroid ahead of his competition.
🤰 Baby on Board: Quentin Tarantino and his wife, Daniella Pick, are expecting their second child.
Pic of the Day
CEO of Metromedia Company and board member at Carnival Corporation, Stuart Subotnick turns 80…
Rabbi in Europe including stints in Vienna, Munich and now Berlin, Yitshak Ehrenberg turns 72… Swimmer, who won seven gold medals at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Mark Spitz turns 72… Recently retired, long-time executive of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger turns 71… Partner in ThinkLAB Ventures, Jayne Harris Abess turns 67… Host of CNBC’s “Mad Money,” Jim Cramer turns 67… CEO emerita of D.C.-based Jewish Women International, Loribeth Weinstein… Ethiopian-born former member of Knesset for the Likud party, Avraham Neguise turns 64… Syndicated newspaper columnist for the Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby turns 63… Former NASA astronaut, famous for his mezuzah in the International Space Station, he is a consultant for Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Garrett Reisman turns 54… Member of the Maryland House of Delegates, Anne R. Kaiser turns 54… Senior associate director of development at the Midwest regional office of the Anti-Defamation League, Matthew Feldman turns 51… Executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities, Howie Beigelman turns 48… Israeli pop star and part of the duo “TYP” also known as The Young Professionals, Ivri Lider turns 48… Co-founder and principal at the Klein/Johnson Group, Israel “Izzy” Klein turns 45… Israeli rock musician, Dudu Tassa turns 45… CEO at Citizen Data, Mindy Finn turns 41… Director of marketing and communications at Greens Farms Academy, Michelle Levi turns 39… Partner in the Washington, DC office of Venable, Ariel S. Wolf turns 39… Business operations manager at Tel Aviv-based Pragma, Avital Mannis Eyal turns 29… NFL quarterback, now with the Atlanta Falcons, Josh Rosen turns 25… Israeli singer, songwriter and dancer, Jonathan Ya’akov Mergui turns 22…