👋 Good Thursday morning!
The Senate confirmed Deborah Lipstadt to serve as the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism by a voice vote at 1o:19 p.m. ET last night, exactly eight months after the Biden administration announced her nomination.
The move to confirm Lipstadt by voice vote required the unanimous consent of the full Senate — meaning any single senator, including some Republicans who have opposed her nomination — could have come to the floor to block this fast-tracked process.
Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA), who is Jewish and represents Lipstadt’s home state, came to the Senate floor Wednesday evening to request the voice vote. “It’s time for the Senate, at long last, to confirm this nominee,” Ossoff said. “Right now as we speak the scourge of antisemitism is rising again in this country and around the world. If we mean the words ‘never again,’ then at long last, Madam President, let’s confirm Deborah Lipstadt to fight antisemitism.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told JI, “She’s eminently qualified. This was long overdue and I’m glad we got her confirmed tonight.” Read the full story here.
The late-night confirmation caps off a quagmire that left Lipstadt stuck in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — which cleared her nomination on Tuesday — for months. Republicans on the committee objected to a tweet by Lipstadt accusing committee member Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) of trafficking in “white supremacy/nationalism” and blocked her for months from receiving a confirmation hearing and subsequently delayed a committee vote.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog traveled to Jordan yesterday to meet with King Abdullah II in Amman. The meeting, on the heels of a terror attack on Tuesday in Bnei Brak that left five Israelis dead, was the most recent effort to calm tensions ahead of next month, which will see Passover, Easter and Ramadan occur nearly simultaneously.
President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett by phone yesterday in the wake of the attacks. According to a readout of the call released by the White House, the president “emphasized that the United States stands firmly and resolutely with Israel in the face of this terrorist threat and all threats to the state of Israel.”
The Treasury Department announced a new round of sanctions against businesses assisting in procuring supplies for Iran’s ballistic missile program. Treasury Undersecretary of Terrorism Brian Nelson said the U.S. “will not hesitate to target those who support Iran’s ballistic missile program” and “will also work with other partners in the region to hold Iran accountable for its actions, including gross violations of the sovereignty of its neighbors.”
D.C.’s Jewish conference scene returns with Chabad gathering
Just days after the Capitol officially reopened to tours, some 250 members of the global Chabad community gathered Wednesday in a stately caucus room in the Russell Senate Office Building to kick off a daylong conference honoring the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson. The Living Legacy conference, which had not been held in several years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrated Chabad’s political muscle in Washington and the movement’s global reach, with high-profile appearances from members of Congress, Biden administration officials and foreign ambassadors, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch and Marc Rod report.
Eyes on Ukraine: Instead of focusing on a single legislative agenda or policy objective, most speakers throughout the gathering spoke passionately — and, at times, personally — about the crisis in Ukraine, a country that is home to a significant Jewish community and many Chabad emissaries, who have been active in humanitarian efforts in the war-torn nation. “I want, like we all want, peace, quiet and success,” Rabbi Jonathan Markovitch, the chief rabbi of Kyiv, told attendees at a lunch reception at the St. Regis hotel near the White House. Markovitch and his wife left Kyiv in the early days of the Russian invasion but returned to help with relief efforts.
Read Gabby Deutch’s full dispatch from the Living Legacy conference here.
Situational awareness: Among the notable speakers throughout the day were Soviet refusenik and former head of The Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky, former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), State Department Special Advisor on Holocaust issues Stu Eizenstat and Justice Marcus Solomon of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, a Chabad-trained rabbi.
Welcome to all: “Not many gatherings have Jan Schakowsky and Madison Cawthorn,” said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), after both the progressive Illinois Democrat and the conservative North Carolina Republican, under fire this week for recent comments he made about illicit parties in Washington, spoke at the breakfast. Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA), whose chief of staff is a Chabad member, conversed with the Chabad rabbis from Japan and South Korea — in Japanese and Korean, respectively.
Faithfulness: A parade of lawmakers sounded off on issues from the separation of church and state to the Iran deal. In his remarks, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) argued for a role for religion in governance. “A lot of people think this country’s about separating church or religion from government. I say no,” Booker remarked. “I say this is a time more than ever that we need our faithfulness. We need to understand that God has a calling for us. And if we do that I promise you we will heal. We will have a better day not just for America but for the whole world.”
Spotted on Capitol Hill: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Rick Scott (R-FL), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Michelle Steel (R-CA), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Claudia Tenney (R-NY), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) all delivered remarks. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) attended, but left before he was able to speak at the event.
Polling suggests Madison Cawthorn may be ‘in danger’ in May primary
A recent polling memo, obtained by Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel, suggests that Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) may be “in danger” as he prepares to go up against more than a half-dozen Republican primary challengers this May in North Carolina’s newly drawn 11th Congressional District.
Chuck’s luck: The memo, composed on behalf of one of Cawthorn’s most formidable rivals, state Sen. Chuck Edwards, puts the freshman congressman in first place with 52% of the vote, “right on the bubble of the 50% mark,” writes the Republican pollster Glen Bolger, whose firm, Public Opinion Strategies, conducted the survey. Incumbents “who slip below that during the campaign,” he adds, “are in danger.”
By the numbers: Cawthorn, who represents western North Carolina, still maintains a relatively robust lead over Edwards, who came in second with 20% among 300 likely Republican primary voters surveyed between March 10 and 13. Another candidate, who is unnamed in the memo, pulled in 11%, and 17% of respondents said they were undecided. The margin of error is 5.7%.
‘Off the charts’: But Bolger argues that, with the right messaging and an influx of campaign cash, Edwards could pull off an upset. When respondents were informed of Edwards’ record in the state Senate, for instance, “52% of primary voters said they would be very likely to vote for him after hearing it,” Bolger writes. “I’ve tested this format for decades, and 30% is a good number; 52% is off the charts.”
Gaining momentum: While experts believe that Edwards, 61, is facing a tough race, he appears to be gaining momentum as Cawthorn, 26, has struggled to move past recent controversial remarks that have drawn sharp rebukes from GOP colleagues. In a remarkable show of frustration with Cawthorn’s conduct, for example, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) told CNN on Wednesday that he was endorsing Edwards in the primary.
eBay ‘reviewing’ policy on selling property belonging to Holocaust victims
In the face of fresh allegations that eBay is profiting from the sale of historical Holocaust-related items, a spokesperson for the online platform said this week that it is reviewing its policy on Holocaust-related items available for purchase on the site, Lianne Kolirin reports for Jewish Insider.
Background: Nearly a decade ago, eBay issued a public apology after an investigation by Britain’s Mail on Sunday newspaper revealed it had been selling the items, including a uniform and a pair of shoes purportedly belonging to concentration camp victims, as well as yellow Star of David armbands. Now, amid new charges from New York-based social media influencer and self-proclaimed “heirloom hunter” Chelsey Brown that the online retail giant is openly selling documents, mementos and other personal items acquired from victims of the Holocaust, eBay is making a distinction between those “historical” items and “hateful” items like swastikas, which it claims are banned on the site.
Bad business: Brown, 29, is an interior designer who in her spare time uses genealogy to track the “rightful” owners of old letters, photographs, postcards and other personal items that she comes across while thrifting. Her TikTok, which boasts more than 100,000 followers, alternates posts about home design and WWII-era items she discovers for sale. “Sometimes I’ll use eBay to find old letters or photo albums, and that’s when I saw an ad for a Holocaust letter pop up. This was back in September. That’s when I deep-dived into the horrific world of how Holocaust documentation is sold on eBay.” She has returned hundreds of items to date, including most recently a letter sent by a woman to her sister in July 1945 revealing that she had survived the Holocaust — but that the rest of their family had perished.
For sale: Despite eBay’s pledge to remove items belonging to Holocaust victims, many similar items still populate the site, according to Brown, whose own family tree includes numerous relatives who were killed in the Holocaust. Recent listings include a yellow star armband for $899.99, a letter sent from Auschwitz for $747, a collection of yellow stars for $4,950 and a collection of documents relating to a family of survivors from a German concentration camp for $1,999.99. One live listing by a seller in Florida features 17 letters sent between 1943 and 1945 for $3,600, reduced from $4,000. In the description the seller states: “This is a beautiful correspondence of 17 letters all from the same prisoner in the concentration extermination camp of Auschwitz in Germany occupied Poland.” Further down the seller notes: “This is truly a museum quality correspondence and very very rare.”
Response: An eBay spokesperson told JI, “eBay generally does not prohibit historical documents, including letters and postcards. In response to Ms. Brown’s correspondence, we are reviewing our policy to update the relevant sections to clarify what is prohibited. eBay does not allow the sale of items that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual, or religious intolerance, or promote organizations with such views. As such, most items with swastikas or that promote Nazis or Nazism are prohibited. To ensure we prohibit hateful items, while allowing legitimate historical and educational items, we engage with a wide range of experts from NGOs and third-party groups.”
Yad Vashem weighs in: Robert Rozett, senior historian at Yad Vashem, denounced the general phenomenon of trading in Holocaust artifacts. “Yad Vashem is opposed to the commercialization of documentation and artifacts relating to the Holocaust, and certainly anything that glorifies Nazim and similar ideologies from that period,” he said in a statement to JI. “The proper place for authentic items from the Holocaust is in collections like that of Yad Vashem,” he added. “In such collections the items are not only preserved for posterity, they are made available for research and other legitimate purposes, and may be displayed with proper historical information and contexts, all of which prevents them from being misused.”
🪧 Widening Reach: The New York Times’ Yuval Levin diagnoses the political stagnation that has been the status quo for the last several decades in Washington. “Bigger majorities are possible if politicians seek broader support. That sounds obvious, yet it has eluded our leaders for a generation because it requires seeing beyond our age of deadlock. That doesn’t mean reaching for the center in a shallow ideological sense, let alone hoping swing voters catch up with the priorities of party activists. It requires not so much offering different answers to the questions that have long shaped our political divisions but taking up some new questions better rooted in the public’s contemporary concerns — about new sources of financial insecurity and high living costs, threats to parenthood and childhood, dangers of concentrated corporate power, sources of cultural dislocation, perils of internet governance and other challenges that scramble familiar partisan dogmas. Such questions can be answered in right-leaning or left-leaning ways, but they first need to be asked.” [NYTimes]
🏜️ Summit Symbolism: CNN’s Hadas Gold explores the significance of the “Negev Summit” held in Israel earlier this week in Israel, which brought together foreign ministers from six countries. “The meeting was heavy on symbolism and optics. It was held not in Jerusalem, which Israel claims as its capital, or Tel Aviv, where most foreign embassies in Israel are located. Instead, it took place in a desert retreat where Israel’s founding father and first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, is buried. A figure long detested in the Arab world, Ben-Gurion is seen as an emblem of Zionism, Israel’s state ideology, who viewed Jewish settlement in the Negev as vital to the state’s future.” [CNN]
🗺️ Blazing a Trail: In the Miami Herald, Sarah Cohen suggests that countries that have inked normalization agreements with Israel can act as a blueprint for the rest of the region. “Less than two years after the signing of the Abraham Accords, a new generation of Arabs committed to changing the narrative about Jews and Israel across their societies is emerging. These developments offer immense hope for the future of the Middle East. Recent years have seen an alarming increase in violence against Jews. Efforts to delegitimize Israel remain strong, and data show a decline in Holocaust literacy in the United States and growth in Holocaust denial and distortion in Europe. Vladimir Putin has characterized his invasion of Ukraine — and targeting its Jewish president — as an attempt to ‘denazify’ the country. But in the Middle East, the region most frequently associated with anti-Semitism today, leaders from grassroots to government are building a new society based on tolerance and mutual understanding. The Arab world is defining a new narrative. We should look to it to lead us in fighting hate.” [MiamiHerald]
Around the Web
💸 Big Buy: House Democrats’ main PAC will spend over $100 million in ad buys across 50 media markets ahead of the midterms — more than was spent in fewer markets during the last two congressional elections.
⚖️ Notorious Possessions: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s family is donating several dozen of the late Supreme Court justice’s possessions, including her famous dissent collar, a briefcase and her robe, to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
💰 Money Matters: Pershing Square Capital Management founder and CEO Bill Ackman announced his firm will no longer engage in activist short-selling.
📺 Tyke TV: The Daily Wire plans to invest at least $100 million in the children’s entertainment market over the next three years.
📰 Bnai Brak Dispatch: The New York Times spotlights the victims of Tuesday’s terror attack in Bnai Brak.
🤝 Smooth Sailing: Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s meeting with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed lessened tensions between the two countries and helped to put relations between Washington and Abu Dhabi “back on the right track,” UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba told Axios.
🇷🇺 Not a Haven: Israeli officials told Blinken last week that the country is taking steps to ensure that Russians with ties to the Kremlin cannot use Israel to sidestep Western sanctions, an effort that includes banning unregistered planes and ships from staying in the country for more than a day and blocking sanctioned individuals from transferring funds to Israeli bank accounts.
👨 Roamin’ Roman: The New York Times looks into the role that Roman Abramovich is playing in negotiations between Russia and Ukraine following the Russian-Israeli businessman’s unexpected appearance at peace talks in Istanbul.
⛔ Partners in Crime: Russian state media quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying that Moscow would work with Tehran to circumvent sanctions imposed by the West.
👮 Security Showdown: Israel is boosting its security in the West Bank amid a rash of terror attacks that have left 11 people dead in the last two weeks.
📈 Defense Dollars: Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems is forecasting a surge in defense spending over the next several years, driven in part by countries ratcheting up defense spending in the wake of fighting between Russia and Ukraine.
🕯️ Remembering: Noam Shalit, who fought for his son Gilad’s freedom during five years of Hamas captivity, died at 68.
Pic of the Day
Workers at the Western Wall remove messages and prayers written on pieces of paper from the cracks of the wall in preparation for Passover.
Chief economic correspondent for Politico and co-author of its “Morning Money” newsletter, Ben White turns 50…
Music producer, bandleader of the Tijuana Brass, Herb Alpert turns 87… New York Times best-selling novelist, poet and social activist, Marge Piercy turns 86… Longtime former Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, currently a director at Signature Bank, Barnett “Barney” Frank turns 82… U.S. Senator (D-VT), he is the Senate’s longest-tenured member, Patrick Leahy turns 82… Former syndicated talk radio host on 400+ stations under the name Michael Savage, Michael Alan Weiner turns 80… U.S. Senator (I-ME) Angus King turns 78… Comedian, actor and professional poker player, Gabe Kaplan turns 77… Retired professor of special education at Long Island University, Joel E. Mittler turns 76… Emmy Award-winning movie and television actress, Rhea Jo Perlman turns 74… Ice dancing coach and former competitive ice dancer, Natalia Dubova turns 74… Chairman of Apple, Inc. since 2011 and CEO of Calico (an Alphabet R&D biotech venture), Arthur D. Levinson turns 72… N.J. attorney, Steven Sacks-Wilner turns 72… Flagstaff resident, David L. Freedman turns 71… Chairman of Danaher Corporation, Steven M. Rales turns 71… Israeli singer and songwriter, Ehud Banai turns 69… Former deputy chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency, David Breakstone, Ph.D. turns 69… Author and advertising executive, Joseph Alden Reiman turns 69… President at the Detroit-based Nemer Property Group, Larry Nemer turns 68…
Show-jumping equestrian and 10-time American Grand Prix Association Rider of the Year, she is a 2009 inductee into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Margie Goldstein-Engle turns 64… Founding director of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Los Angeles director at the American Jewish Committee, Richard Hirschhaut turns 62… Emmy Award-winning writer and producer, Howard Gordon turns 61… Consultant for synagogues, Judah E. Isaacs turns 58… Two-term former mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee, now a special representative for Broadband in the U.S. Commerce Department, Andy Berke turns 54… Rabbi of the Ashkenazi Jewish community of Turkey, Menachem Mendel Chitrik turns 45… Chief legal correspondent at MSNBC, Ari Naftali Melber turns 42… Footballer for Beitar Jerusalem, who has also played for Chelsea, Manchester City and West Ham United in the English Premier League, Tal Ben Haim turns 40… Tal Meir Levine turns 39… Internet entrepreneur, co-founder and former CMO of Tinder, Justin Mateen turns 36… British-French journalist and thought leader, author of This Is London and Fragile Empire, Ben Judah turns 34… A 2010 contestant on “America’s Next Top Model,” she went on to join the IDF, Esther Petrack turns 30… Howie Keenan turns 28… John Jacobson…