👋 Good Wednesday morning!
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote this morning on the nominations of Deborah Lipstadt and Barbara Leaf, who were tapped to be the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism and assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, respectively.
Following a classified Senate Foreign Relations Committee briefing from Biden administration officials, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) indicated on Tuesday that major issues still remain unresolved between the U.S. and Iran before a nuclear deal can be reached.
“The deal is not done. There are significant decisions that have to be made in both Washington, D.C., and Tehran” before a deal can be finalized, Murphy told Jewish Insider‘s Marc Rod, adding, “There are still not-insignificant outstanding issues.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-ID) issued a statement blasting the administration and urging it to abandon the talks. “Reports out of Vienna are unsettling at best, and I’m appalled at the concessions this administration is considering to placate the Iranian regime,” he said. More here.
Rep. Shontel Brown (D-OH) expressed hope that a nuclear deal with Iran would be “longer and stronger” than the original 2015 agreement in a statement to JI, echoing the concerns of other House members who have recently voiced reservations over the Biden administration’s renewed efforts to reach a deal.
“While I don’t know enough about the details of the emerging deal, I have long hoped that negotiations with Iran would result in a longer and stronger agreement,” Brown told JI on Monday. “I will review any announced deal closely to determine whether it will make the U.S. safer, improve stability in the region, and strengthen the security of our longtime ally Israel.” More here.
According to his public schedule, New York City Mayor Eric Adams is set to speak this afternoon at an AIPAC real estate luncheon in New York City.
Four Israelis were killed yesterday and two others wounded in a terror attack in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba. The assailant, an Arab Bedouin, struck and killed a bicyclist before driving to a local shopping center, where he stabbed several people, three of whom died from their injuries.
The assailant, who had previously confessed to supporting ISIS, served four years in prison for attempting to join the terror group in Syria.
Killed in the attack were Rabbi Moshe Kravitsky, a Chabad emissary in Beersheba, Doris Yahbas, Laura Yitzhak and Menahem Yehezkel.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides tweeted about the incident, calling it a “[d]espicable terrorist attack” and adding, “This has to stop! My heart goes out to the victims and their families.”
git ‘er done
Biden’s man in Brussels
As Russian troops expand their invasion across Ukraine, President Joe Biden will travel to Brussels today for a series of high-level emergency meetings with NATO and European Union officials. When he lands in Europe, he will be greeted by a familiar face: Mark Gitenstein, the U.S. ambassador to the EU — and the president’s best friend. At a time when Russia is upending geopolitics on the European continent, Gitenstein suddenly finds himself as one of Washington’s most important representatives abroad, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Important organization: “The European Union is the most important organization in the world to which the United States does not belong,” said Daniel S. Hamilton, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs and a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Understanding Eastern Europe: Gitenstein, a lawyer, previously served as U.S. ambassador to Romania under President Barack Obama. Former colleagues and foreign policy experts suggest his time in Eastern Europe will leave him well-equipped to navigate the crisis in Ukraine. “I think he must bring with him a sensitivity to the concerns and the historical experiences that countries in the eastern part of Europe bring with them, post-communist countries still dealing with lots of legacy issues from a Soviet time,” said Hamilton. Gitenstein did not respond to a request for comment.
Direct line: That Gitenstein already served as an ambassador for three years could help him in his current posting at this high-stakes moment. And Gitenstein’s relationship with Biden doesn’t hurt: “It’s not like Mark picks up the phone once a day and says, ‘Joe, how are you?’ But the fact that he could do that at any time gives him a gravitas and credibility in his dealings abroad,” said Howard Gutman, who served as U.S. ambassador to Belgium when Gitenstein was in Romania. During an October 2009 visit to Romania, then-Vice President Biden called Gitenstein “my best personal friend.”
History matters: One lesson Gitenstein may have learned from his stint in Romania is that “history can have a very real impact on what goes on today,” particularly at a moment when Putin is trying to rewrite the history of Europe, said Andrew Baker, director of international Jewish affairs at the American Jewish Committee, who has worked with Gitenstein on Holocaust-related issues, including the delicate internal politics around the dedication of Romania’s Holocaust memorial in 2009.
Supporting democracy: Ukraine and Romania are young democracies, and both countries have faced challenges in their transitions out of communism. Gitenstein is familiar with those challenges. A White House press release announcing Gitenstein’s nomination to his current post highlighted how he “focused on fighting corruption and preserving democratic institutions” when he was in Romania.
Orthodox Jewish groups rally against Daylight Saving legislation
It’s a race against time for groups representing Orthodox Jews as they work to lobby Congress against making Daylight Saving Time permanent, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The Orthodox Jewish community sprang into action last week following the Senate’s unexpected passage by unanimous consent of a bill eliminating the twice-annual time change, an accomplishment that reportedly even surprised some senators who opposed the legislation.
Blindsided: “We were completely blindsided,” Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel of America’s vice president for government affairs, told Jewish Insider. “This has been going on — it has a history already over the years — there should have been more notice and there should have been an opportunity for groups to really weigh in in a serious way and there wasn’t.”
Jumping to action: Agudath Israel, the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America sent letters in recent days to House leadership raising concerns about the legislation, arguing that it would force young children to travel to school in the dark and also make it difficult, if not impossible, for many Orthodox Jews to attend morning prayers prior to going to work at some points of the year. The OU and RCA also argue that the shift would have long-term negative health impacts on all Americans.
Slow motion: Cohen and Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, said the House has already appeared to slow down on the legislation, following initial speculation that the lower chamber might seek to fast-track the legislation as well. “I think the reality is setting in in the House that we need to really think through this and discuss it more,” Cohen said. “It’s basically a different reality even just a few days later.”
Road ahead: Cohen recounted that a previous push to address time changes around 2005 was defeated by a coalition including Orthodox Jewish groups, farmers, school groups and transportation groups. “I think if we can form that coalition and get to that bottom line and educate people in the House, I think we can turn it around,” Cohen said, adding that he believes the new legislation can still be defeated. “There’s an effort right now on the Hill to find the allies that existed years ago and rebuild the coalition. So I know that effort is underway.”
Bonus: The Wall Street Journal reports that sleep experts are warning against a permanent move to Daylight Saving Time, arguing that year-round adherence to DST will disrupt circadian rhythms and sleep patterns, affecting overall health.
Josh Mandel continues to court pro-Israel donors
A range of prominent pro-Israel advocates will host a virtual fundraiser next month for Josh Mandel, a leading candidate in Ohio’s hotly contested Republican Senate primary, according to an invitation distributed by his campaign and obtained by Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Who’s going: The Zoom event, scheduled for April 12, will include such hosts as Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus; Houston-based businessman and GOP donor Fred Zeidman and AIPAC lay leaders Howard Friedman and Michael Tuchin. David Friedman, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, is billed as a “special guest.”
Round two: Friedman was also a guest last spring at a similar fundraising event for Mandel, a former Ohio state treasurer who is among five top-tier GOP candidates vying to succeed outgoing Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) in the May primary. Portman, whom Mandel has described as a “mentor,” endorsed former Ohio state party chair Jane Timken in February.
‘Anti-establishment’? Appearing recently on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast, Mandel, 44, argued that Timken “is running the total establishment campaign. I’d say most of the political establishment in Washington, most of the political establishment in Ohio, is behind Jane.” He added: “I’ve been anti-establishment my whole career.”
Playing catch-up: Mandel began the new year with nearly $6 million on hand but has struggled to keep up with other well-heeled contenders such as Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons, who has personally loaned his campaign more than $11 million. During a debate last Friday, Mandel and Gibbons exchanged insults in a heated, near-physical confrontation that drew national attention.
race to watch
Laura Gillen hopes to follow in Kathleen Rice’s footsteps
In just four terms in Congress, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) has garnered national attention as a dissident in the Democratic caucus pushing for new leadership. Her surprise announcement last month that she would not seek reelection sent shockwaves through the party, and through her Long Island district. The first Democrat to announce a run to succeed the former Nassau County district attorney in New York’s 4th Congressional District, which includes the heavily Jewish Five Towns community, was Laura Gillen, a former Hempstead, L.I., town supervisor. She’s since been joined in the race by an array of other local officials, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Next up: Gillen’s quest to frame herself as Rice’s natural successor received a boost on Monday when Rice endorsed Gillen, saying in a statement that Gillen “has already proven her political tenacity with a strong record of getting things done,” and praising her work on women’s rights, gun safety and tax reform. In an interview with Jewish Insider in early March, Gillen described herself as a “moderate to conservative Democrat.” She said she is eager to pursue “fiscal responsibility” and is interested in joining the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus and building cross-party dialogue.
Standing firm: Rice made a name for herself as an occasional antagonist to Democratic Party leadership, notably opposing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) bid for the speakership after Democrats reclaimed the House in 2018. “I’m certainly not afraid — if I believe that the leadership of the Democratic caucus is going in the wrong direction — to voice my opinion,” Gillen said, when asked if she envisions a similar role for herself. “For example, if the leadership went into a far-left extremist kind of anti-Israel position, I would fight that and I would fight that leadership.”
Looking east: Gillen was also quick to make clear to JI that supporting Israel “will be at the forefront of my agenda in this campaign because I have a significant Jewish population that I would represent.” Like Rice, Gillen opposed the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran. “I didn’t think it was properly constructed and it didn’t sufficiently address what we know are clearly Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” she said, pointing to the original deal’s sunset provisions and “insufficient monitoring.” She called for “really, really strong sanctions” in lieu of reentering the deal.
Kudos: The former Hempstead town supervisor sees more positive signs elsewhere in the region. “[The Trump administration] had a real win with the Abraham Accords,” she said, describing herself as “motivated and encouraged” by the normalization agreements with four Arab countries.
📰 Real News: In The Atlantic, Renée DiResta, the technical research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, looks at the shift in online discourse in the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when debates over culture wars fell to the background and users focused on the situation in Eastern Europe. “Those first few days after Russia’s invasion revealed something important about the United States: Much of what looks like unbridgeable polarization online may be the product of boredom, distraction, and jadedness; when something real happens, people pay attention to that instead. We refresh our feeds incessantly, looking for new information and sharing it. And as a shooting war started, average users sought out experts and reputable news organizations. Google Trends, for example, showed a relative increase in searches for nuclear weapons and potassium iodide — a treatment used after radiation emergencies — while searches for Ukraine were at an all-time high. The culture war temporarily faded into the background — much as it did in the early days of 2020, when a new pathogen was still largely confined to China.” [TheAtlantic]
🗺️ Regional Recommitment: In The Wall Street Journal, George Washington University professor Firas Maksad suggests that the Biden administration recommit itself to engaging in the Gulf, as countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates look to engage other world powers. “Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. have deepened cooperation with both Russia and China out of necessity, not preference. Should the Biden administration renew its commitment to regional defense by publicly affirming a strategic alliance, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi will revert to more-cooperative ties with Washington, including on oil prices, at the expense of Moscow and Beijing. It isn’t too late. The U.S. can signal its renewed commitment to the region by designating a special envoy assigned to restore trust and elevate the relationship, particularly since there hasn’t been a U.S. ambassador in Riyadh or Abu Dhabi for years. The U.S. can also expand Arab Gulf air defenses by meeting requests for deploying more anti-missile defense systems, stepping up intelligence cooperation, and providing early warning against incoming attacks.” [WSJ]
🤝 Dangerous Deal: The New York Times’ Bret Stephens warns that a new deal with Iran will embolden adversaries around the region, and will weaken Washington’s standing around the world. “Reaching a kick-the-can-down-the-road agreement may seem like a diplomatic victory to the State Department. But it’s a strategic defeat when it does little more than delay a crisis for the future in exchange for strengthening our adversaries in the present. Tehran attacked Iraq with ballistic missiles earlier this month and (through its Houthi proxies) launched missile and drone strikes on Abu Dhabi in January. What can Iran’s neighbors expect from it when its coffers are refreshed with tens of billions in oil revenues, free from sanctions?” [NYTimes]
🙏 To Forgive, Divine: Vox’s Aja Romano explores the concept of forgiveness as it relates to cancel culture and individuals in the public eye. “The idea of ‘canceling’ turns every potential interaction into a bad-faith nightmare, reframing earnest calls for accountability as witch hunts and often derailing the possibility of penitence before the question of forgiveness can ever arise. Those who sound the cancel culture alarm do have some valid concerns, namely: How is anyone supposed to attain lasting forgiveness at a cultural level without having their past offenses permanently held against them? What if they don’t want your forgiveness — can you still interact with them and their work? When is it okay to move on? Is it ever?” [Vox]
🇺🇦 The Good War:The Atlantic’s David Frum argues that Ukraine, should it prevail in the conflict with Russia, has an opportunity to redefine itself for future generations as a melting pot for varying communities and faiths. “In Ukraine, a new national myth is being created. It’s a myth of collective resistance to violent foreign tyranny, of a citizen army fighting for European liberal and democratic values. Wars almost always make societies more tribal, more authoritarian, more violent, and more inhumane. But sometimes — as with the Western Allies in World War II, the North in the U.S. Civil War, and perhaps now in Ukraine — a war for ideals and principles can challenge a society to become what it says it is fighting for, even if it does not yet wholly live up to the ideals it espouses.” [TheAtlantic]
Around the Web
🛢️ Oil Oy Vey: A Saudi Foreign Ministry official said the country would not be held liable for global oil supply shortages, following a series of attacks on its facilities by Houthi rebel forces in recent days.
✉️ John Hancock: A total of 87 House Republicans signed onto a letter opposing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ removal from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list.
🇮🇱 Dems Divided: In the New York Daily News, Noa Tishby writes about the ideological divide within the Democratic Party over Israel.
🚗 Promised Land: Newsweek spotlights the work of Ukrainian Chief Rabbi Moshe Azman, who is coordinating a volunteer operation providing assistance and transport to the border to both Jewish and non-Jewish Ukrainians.
🚢 Ship Sighting: A second ship linked to sanctioned Russian-Israeli businessman Roman Abramovich docked in Turkey yesterday.
👔 Going Solo: Jack Hidary’s Sandbox AQ spun off from Alphabet Inc.’s Google, where it was created six years ago.
📰 New Mag: Matthew Schmitz, Sohrab Ahmari and Edwin Aponte launched Compact, a self-described “radical American journal,” this week.
🚓 Behind Bars: A New York man who previously attacked a Jewish man in Brooklyn was sent back to jail for smashing a glass window at a storage facility in Harlem.
🖼️ Lost and Found: Most of the 39 ancient artifacts that formerly belonged to hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt have been repatriated to Israel, with three in the process of being returned and eight others missing.
🎞️ Fighting Stereotypes: Allison Josephs’ Jew in the City is launching a Los Angeles bureau to address Jewish representation in Hollywood, Variety reports.
🕯️ Remembering: Chemistry professor Julian Heicklen, who spent his later years protesting in support of civil liberties, died at 90.
Pic of the Day
Israeli singer Yaakov Shwekey released his latest single, “There is Nothing Wrong,” the lyrics of which were written by 20-year-old Shimon Levi. As a newborn in 2002, Levi was rescued from under a car following a terrorist attack in Jerusalem.
French actress who has appeared in 40 films, her Holocaust survivor grandparents changed their name from Goldreich, Judith Godrèche turns 50…
Actor, director and producer, Mark Rydell turns 93… Former National Football League referee for 23 seasons, the only NFL head referee to officiate four Super Bowl games, Jerry Markbreit turns 87… Philanthropist Harriette Perlman turns 82… Mandolinist and composer, David Grisman turns 77… Writer and producer of television series, creator of “Deadwood” and co-creator of “NYPD Blue,” David Milch turns 77… Tel Aviv native and professor of music at the Juilliard School, Yoheved “Veda” Kaplinsky turns 75… Los Angeles-based psychologist and author, her first book is The Blessings of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children, Wendy Mogel turns 71… Designer of men’s and women’s footwear, clothing and accessories, Kenneth D. Cole turns 68… Mayor of Austin, Texas, Stephen Ira Adler turns 66… Former president of the Jewish Federation of Howard County (Maryland), Beth Millstein turns 61… Investor, author, and financial commentator, Peter Schiff turns 59… Russian-American businessman, Eugene Shvidler turns 58… Co-founder of Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes, Meredith Berkman turns 57… Senior writer for “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” he is also the creator of 2018’s television series “Liberty Crossing,” Daniel Radosh turns 53…
Board chair of Pro-Israel America, Jonathan Missner turns 53… Client partner at Meta/Facebook, Scott Shapiro turns 50… Member of the Maryland General Assembly since 2011, Craig Zucker turns 47… Israeli actress, comedian and television host, Adi Ashkenazi turns 47… Three-time Grammy Award-winning record producer, audio engineer and songwriter, Ariel Rechtshaid turns 43… Member of the rabbinics faculty at the Academy for Jewish Religion California, Yehuda Martin Hausman turns 40… Staff reporter for The New York Times, Sarah Maslin Nir turns 39… Israeli singer-songwriter, actress and musician, she performs in Hebrew, French and Arabic, Riff Cohen turns 38… Chief of staff for the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Fairfax County, Virginia, Benjamin Shnider turns 33… Tennis coach at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, as a player she won five singles and four doubles titles on the ITF Women’s Circuit, Julia Cohen turns 33… Former member of the National Israeli Rhythmic Gymnastics Team, she competed in the 2012 Olympic games, Moran Buzovski turns 30… Television and film actress, Victoria Pedretti turns 27…