👋 Good Monday morning!
Iran suspended talks with Saudi Arabia meant to restore ties that have been severed since 2016.
The move comes as talks in Vienna over Iran’s nuclear program remain stalled over Russian demands that it recieve Ukraine-related sanctions protection in its dealings with Iran, which were rejected by a senior State Department official on Sunday.
The official said that the U.S. would begin exploring other options to the deal — including a possible agreement that excludes Moscow — in the next week if Russia continues its demands.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps claimed responsibility for a missile attack on a U.S. consulate being built in Erbil, located in the Kurdish region of Iraq, days after Iran promised revenge for an Israeli airstrike against Iranian targets in Syria.
Last night, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board warned that the attack “shows the incongruity of the looming nuclear deal.”
Similar to the 2015 agreement, the editorial board wrote, a new deal “would do nothing to restrict Iran’s support for regional terror groups. It includes no restrictions on Iran’s missile program that is growing more sophisticated and dangerous.”
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thanitraveled to Moscow on Sunday to discuss the stalled Iran nuclear talks and the ongoing situation in Ukraine with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The day prior, Al-Thani spoke by phone — separately — to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.
In Bay Area congressional race, parsing Democrats’ differences on Israel
The race to represent California’s new 15th Congressional District is increasingly taking shape around two leading Democratic primary candidates whose competing policy objectives typify some of the finer distinctions between the moderate and activist wings of the party, particularly on foreign policy in the Middle East, reports Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Establishment lane: Kevin Mullin, a 51-year-old state assemblyman in South San Francisco who is dominating the establishment lane, cast himself as a more traditional “pro-Israel lawmaker” in an interview with JI, expressing reverence for America’s longstanding relationship with the Jewish state. He supports continued security assistance to Israel as well as supplemental Iron Dome funding as “crucial elements of maintaining America’s support for Israel.”
Far-left corner: David Canepa, a 46-year-old San Mateo County supervisor and Squad-aligned progressive, emphasized what he described as a “firm commitment” to strengthening the “critical relationship” between the U.S. and Israel. But he insisted that “we can’t be afraid to criticize” the Israeli government on the “issue of taking properties and lands” from the Palestinians. “These are tough conversations,” he told JI. “But they have to be had.”
Blind spots: In contrast with his opponent, Canepa was unversed on a number of basic issues concerning the Middle East. For instance, he was unfamiliar with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement — for which he at first expressed support before backtracking — as well as the memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Israel. Speaking with JI, Canepa endorsed legislation from Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) that would place restrictions on U.S. aid to Israel.
‘Standing with Israel’: For his part, Mullin, who has sought guidance on such matters from a number of Jewish leaders and pro-Israel advocates in California, said he could not comment on Canepa’s positions. “I just know what my position is, and it’s going to be unequivocal in terms of standing with Israel and honoring the traditions of allyship and friendship and that unshakable bond,” he told JI. “To that end, I think part of this process will be further educating myself.”
the last jew
Only one Jew remains in Yemen, U.N. says
A lone Jewish person remains in Yemen, down from seven a month ago, according to a new United Nations report about the treatment of religious minorities in conflict zones. The report, which was published by the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, described the treatment of religious minorities around the world, writes Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch.
Global problem: “In recent years, the rise in situations of conflict and insecurity has impacted communities of every religion or belief system, subverting their enjoyment of fundamental human rights, including freedom of religion or belief,” the report noted.
Marhabi missing: Although the report did not name the one Jewish individual remaining in Yemen, “that Jew is undoubtedly Levi Salem Musa Marhabi, who has been illegally imprisoned and tortured by Ansar Allah since 2016,” said Jason Guberman, executive director of the American Sephardi Federation, referring to the Houthi rebel forces by their official name, Ansar Allah.
U.S. response: Yemen’s Houthis have imprisoned Marhabi since 2016, despite court orders demanding his release. American officials have also issued calls for Marhabi’s release. “We understand the Houthis continue to detain Mr. Marhabi despite our calls, and those by the international community, for his release,” a State Department spokesperson told Jewish Insiderlast month.
Weakened morale: According to the U.N. report, the Houthis “coerced Jewish and Baha’i communities into leaving — blackmailing them by arbitrarily detaining religious leaders, influencers and community members.” The goal of such actions, Ahmed Shaheed, the special rapporteur, wrote, is “to weaken the community’s morale, resilience, or cohesion.” As a result of the Houthis’ treatment of religious minorities, “only one Jew reportedly remain[s] in the country, from a population of approximately between 1,500-2,000 Jews in 2016.”
Spending Shabbat at SXSW
For the first time since 2019, the blockbuster South By Southwest (SXSW) festival has returned in-person to Austin, Texas, where, beginning on Friday, hundreds of thousands of people will attend concerts, films and a gamut of panels. But on Friday night, at the Hilton Downtown Austin, one of the hottest tickets for the Jewish crowd was to Open Shabbat, a March 11 event where 400 people gathered, unplugged from the tech-centered festival and celebrated Shabbat together, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther Kustanowitz.
The event was planned by Tech Tribe, the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Chabad organization led by Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone and his wife, Chana. In previous years, attendance had reached 300, and this year’s larger crowd was a mix of returning SXSW participants and new faces. On Sunday, the Lightstones ran a meetup focused on a new Chabad initiative known as ARK (which stands for “acts of routine kindness”). Lightstone said that the initiative distributes what is essentially a tzedakah box, shaped like Noah’s ark, “to teach people how creating a practice of giving every day allows you to create a foundation of goodness upon which to build the rest of your daily experience.”
‘Critical’ conversation: “SXSW is a unique venue for engaging a wide audience far beyond the communal Jewish world and talking about issues that matter,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who is speaking at the conference about political polarization, told eJP. “There’s so much energy here in Austin this week around the latest trends in tech, like blockchain, NFTs, AR/VR and other topics, so I find it very encouraging that SXSW is prioritizing the fight against anti-Jewish hate and creating space for this critical conversation,” he added.
Second time’s a charm: Rachel Sumekh, the Persian Jewish founder of Swipe Out Hunger, which combats food insecurity among college students, returned to the conference to join a panel on that topic. “Food and pursuing higher education feel like two very Jewish things to me,” she told eJP. “It’s also Texas, so I met lots of people who don’t spend much time with Jews, or Persian Jews, at that. It’s such an open-minded place so it was a great chance to share first-hand about my religion and identity, because everyone really comes with a learning mindset,” she added.
Read the full story here.
🏙️ Breaking the Mold: Politico’s Ruby Cramer profiles New York City Mayor Eric Adams 10 weeks into his run at City Hall. “In a city of weird people and weird mayors, Adams is maybe the most idiosyncratic figure to ever hold the office. And yet he has presented himself as a national model, a new brand of politics for others to emulate, built on the notion that you can be two or more things at once. If this is a good model for his party, torn in an existential crisis about what it means to be progressive or a moderate, establishment or anti-establishment, it’s a hard one to replicate. He is telling politicians they don’t have to choose. They can, in fact, be everything, assuming they want to be. Adams has called himself the new ‘face of the Democratic Party,’ and it’s one of the few labels he is willing to embrace, but there’s no easy way to nail down what it will mean today, tomorrow, or the day after that. It’s an instruction manual where all the parts fit in all the sockets. By his own description, Adams is ‘perfectly imperfect,’ embracing his many facets as a feature rather than a bug — and thus leaving open the possibility for … well, anything.” [Politico]
👪 Role Reversal: In The Washington Post, Daniella Greenbaum spotlights the efforts of the descendants of a Ukrainian Holocaust survivor to rescue the granddaughters of the woman who, during WWII, sheltered their family’s matriarch. “Cousins and Ukrainian refugees Lesia Orshoko and Alona Chugai are among the millions who are running for their lives as Russian forces invade their country. But in a wartime twist of fate, the cousins landed in Israel last week to a friendly face — someone who was repaying a decades-old kindness. The friendly face was Sharon Bass, whose Jewish grandmother was sheltered and saved by Lesia’s grandmother in Ukraine during the Holocaust… It felt like history repeating itself, she said. But in this case, it’s an inversion of the norm. Jews have been persecuted throughout our entire history. We’ve been killed, kicked out or forced to flee from every country we’ve stayed in long enough. But this time we have the privilege and responsibility of being a safe haven for other fleeing refugees.” [WashPost]
👨 Fall of the Roman Empire: The New York Times looks at Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich’s meteoric rise, from college dropout to businessman and philanthropist who has had Jewish leaders and institutions campaign on his behalf in recent weeks to keep the U.S. from imposing sanctions amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “The request [by Yad Vashem, Israel’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi and others] to [U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides] reflects the extraordinary effort Mr. Abramovich, 55, has made over the last two decades to parlay his Russian fortune into elite standing in the West — buying London’s Chelsea soccer team, acquiring luxury homes in New York, London, Tel Aviv, St. Barts and Aspen, collecting modern masterworks and contributing to arts institutions around the world. With two superyachts, multiple Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin sports cars, and a private 787 Boeing Dreamliner jet, Mr. Abramovich wanted everyone to know that he had arrived. But now the backlash against the Russian invasion of Ukraine is tarnishing the status that Mr. Abramovich and other oligarchs have spent so much to reach.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
⏸️ On Hold: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is looking to delay Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s nomination to be ambassador to India as he conducts a probe into whether Garcetti lied while testifying before a congressional panel regarding sexual harassment allegations against a top advisor.
🛡️ Security Breach: A Department of Homeland Security task force found “significant gaps” in the department’s efforts to address violent domestic extremism.
🗣️ Sanctions Stance: Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, speaking in Slovakia, said that Israel will comply with Western sanctions against Russia.
🤝 Peace Partners: Ukraine sounded optimistic about a proposal for Israel to host mediations between Ukraine and Russia, denying earlier reporting that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett counseled Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to accept Russian conditions for ending the conflict.
↪️Walk Back: “The Rachel Maddow Show” apologized for tweeting a segment in which former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said that Adolf Hitler did not kill German speakers.
❌ Cancel Culture: The Oakland, Calif.-based Sierra Club canceled two upcoming trips to Israel after coming under pressure from anti-Israel activists and progressive organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace and the Sunrise Movement.
🇵🇹 Citizenship Case: Portuguese authorities confiscated the passport of Rabbi Daniel Litvack, who provided documentation used by Roman Abramovich to claim Portuguese citizenship, as part of Portugal’s investigation of Abramovich’s citizenship application.
🏨 Polish Sanctuary: NPR visits the Hotel Ilan in Lublin, Poland, which once served as a yeshiva and now houses Ukrainian refugees fleeing violence in their country.
🇷🇺 Moscow Misinformation: In the Wall Street Journal, the Alexander Hamilton Institute’s Juliana Geran Pilon looks at the history of Russian disinformation that has focused on antisemitism.
⚖️ Take the Stand: Eighty-four-year-old Judah Samet, a Holocaust survivor who also survived the deadly mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, hopes to testify against Robert Bowers in the mass shooter’s trial, which does not yet have a set date.
🕰️ Spring Forward: The New York Times interviewed Marvin Schneider, New York City’s clock master, who spent the weekend darting around the city to change the time on the city’s public clocks to account for Daylight Savings Time.
🎿 We Don’t Ski on Shabbat:The New York Times spotlights Sheina Vaspi, Israel’s first Winter Paralympian and an observant Jew who skied with a skirt over her uniform and forewent one of her races when it was rescheduled for Shabbat.
🕯️ Remembering: Longtime Wall Street executive Wally Stern, a former Hudson Institute board chair who reshaped the think tank, died at 93. Read his Wall Street Journal obituary here. Former Atlanta Mayor Samuel Massell Jr., who served as the city’s first Jewish mayor from 1970-1974, died at 94. Cultural historian Leo Marx, who for decades taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, died at 102.
Gif of the Day
Comedian Alex Edelman performed a set on Thursday night on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Edelman joked about his family, including his brother, Winter Olympian in skeleton sledding for Israel Adam Edelman, whom he nicknamed the “frozen chosen” and “shul runner.”
Former NASCAR driver, he is the sole inductee into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in the “Auto Racing” category, now a credit trader at TD Securities, Jon Denning turns 35…
Professor emeritus of chemistry at Tel Aviv University, winner of the 1982 Israel Prize, Joshua Jortner turns 89… Founder and retired president of Los Angeles-based Skirball Cultural Center, Rabbi Dr. Uri Herscher turns 81… Dean of Yeshiva Toras Moshe in Jerusalem, Rabbi Moshe Meiselman turns 80… Canadian criminal defense attorney, Brian Greenspan turns 75… Actor, producer, director and comedian, he has hosted the Academy Awards nine times, Billy Crystal turns 74… Member of the Maryland House of Delegates since 1995, Shane Elizabeth Pendergrass turns 72… One-half of the eponymous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Jerry Greenfield turns 71… Retired Hebrew teacher, Eliezer Cohen Barak turns 71… President of Stand By Me, an organization that supports cancer patients, Gila Milstein turns 69… Partner at Hefter, Leshem, Margolis Capital Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors in Highland Park, Ill., Steven Hefter turns 68… Founder and leader of ChangeCommunications, Jo-Ann Mort turns 66… NYC-based restaurateur and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, Danny Meyer turns 64… Professor at Tel Aviv University and head of the Bet Midrash program at the Shalom Hartman Institute, Menachem Lorberbaum turns 64… Of counsel in the Minneapolis office of Maslon LLP, Jonathan S. Parritz turns 63… Past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Denise Davida Eger turns 62… Owner of Baltimore’s Tov Pizza which he founded in 1984, Ronnie Rosenbluth turns 59… Owner and COO of EJM Development Company, Jon Monkarsh turns 58… Microgrid architect at Urban Ingenuity, Shalom Flank, Ph.D. turns 57… Film and television actress, Meredith Salenger turns 52… Canadian fashion stylist and publicist, Jessica Brownstein Mulroney turns 42… Heiress to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, philanthropist, former child actress, Liesel Pritzker Simmons turns 38… Former point guard at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of a basketball camp, Zack Rosen turns 33… Product quality specialist at The Topps Company, Philip Liebman turns 32… Four-time Israeli national champion in the skeleton event, currently general manager of the Israel Bobsled and Skeleton team, Adam Edelman turns 31… Emotional fitness coach, Sophie Galant…