👋 Good Tuesday morning!
President Joe Biden will deliver his first State of the Union address tonight at 9 p.m. EST, which is expected to focus on the economy, the Ukraine crisis and U.S. global leadership.
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) will leave Congress later this year after being named the incoming CEO of the American Jewish Committee (AJC). Deutch will succeed longtime CEO David Harris, who has helmed the organization since 1990.
Deutch, who was first elected in 2010 and represents South Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, told JI, “I didn’t make a decision to move on from Congress, I really made a decision to move into this incredible opportunity to spend all of my time focused on the issues that I’m so passionate about — defending the global Jewish community and Israel’s rightful place in the world and defending democratic values.”
Former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), who held the seat prior to Deutch and vacated the seat to lead the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, told JI that the appointment is “a fabulous fit on both sides.”
“Ted’s stature and skills and passion for Israel and international affairs are only equaled by his passion for many of the domestic issues that impact the Jewish community in a magnified way,” Wexler added. “He has enormous shoes to fill in terms of David Harris. But Ted will be as effective a person from day one as they could have found. I just think it’s an ideal match.”
JI’s Marc Rod spoke to Deutch, the 31st House Democrat to announce retirement, shortly after yesterday’s announcement.
Deutch is one of several leading Democratic voices on Israel and antisemitism to leave office in recent years, but said he’s “really confident” in future leaders in the caucus. “There are really, really good, smart, passionate defenders of the U.S.-Israel relationship in the House in the Democratic Party,” he said. “This is not an issue that comes naturally to everyone. But there’s so many members for whom this is a priority that they do everything that they need to to ensure that this strong bipartisan support for Israel continues, not just next term but well into the future.” Read the full interview here.
The leaders of the House Homeland Security Committee introduced a bill proposing $500 million in funding annually for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program from 2023 to 2028, as well as a dedicated office to oversee the program.
What to look out for in today’s primaries in Texas
It’s primary day in Texas, the official start of the 2022 election season. Across the state, hundreds of candidates are seeking to oust or replace current members in what already appears to be a year of record turnover, as many legislators opt not to seek reelection amid the political turbulence in Washington. While a number of races will be decided outright when polls close at 7 p.m. local time, automatic runoffs — scheduled for May 24 — will be triggered in districts where a candidate does not reach the 50% threshold. Here are some of the races we’re watching today:
TX-08: An open-seat race in the suburbs north of Houston has split Republican legislators between two leading candidates, Morgan Luttrell and Christian Collins. In Luttrell’s camp are Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, while Collins has shored up support from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), and Arizona state Rep. Wendy Rogers, who along with Greene addressed the white nationalist America First Political Action Conference last weekend. But with 11 Republicans vying for the nomination, the race is likely to head to a runoff.
TX-28: Progressive upstart candidate Jessica Cisneros, who came within 3,000 votes of unseating Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) in 2020, is taking on the nine-term congressman, who is considered to be one of the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus. Cisneros has received endorsements from a range of left-wing Democrats — including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as well as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) — as she again takes on Cuellar, whose home and campaign headquarters were raided by the FBI last month.
TX-30: The crowded Democratic primary to succeed outgoing Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) is likely heading to a May runoff election, according to a range of experts who predict that no candidate will garner a majority of the vote required to avoid such an outcome. The ostensible frontrunners in the Dallas-based district, political observers told Jewish Insider, include the left-leaning Texas state legislator Jasmine Crockett, who notched an endorsement from Johnson — despite having previously criticized the congresswoman’s record — and Jane Hope Hamilton, a former chief of staff to Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX), who has shored up support from local establishment figures as well as Democratic Majority for Israel’s political action committee. DMFI PAC hasn’t committed any resources to the race but could get involved if the election goes to a head-to-head matchup this spring. Hamilton supports continued U.S. military assistance to Israel and rejects the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, DMFI PAC’s president, Mark Mellman, said last month. Crockett, for her part, has yet to make her Middle East foreign policy views known to the public. In a brief email exchange earlier this month, she said that such issues “haven’t been discussed within” the district and would need some time to fill out a candidate questionnaire shared with her by JI. She has yet to return it. In a broad follow-up statement provided by her campaign, Crockett said she is “running to address the many needs of the people in the district,” including “fairness, equity, education, good jobs and for the right of every Texan and American to have access to the ballot box and for their vote to be counted.”
TX-35: In Texas’ 35th Congressional District, Austin City Councilmember Greg Casar is facing state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez in the congressional district’s Democratic primary. In a letter sent from Casar last month to a local rabbi, which was obtained by JI, the progressive candidate and member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) — who has also been endorsed by Ocasio-Cortez and Warren — stated his opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel and said that, if elected, he would support military aid to Israel. The letter drew a response from DSA, whose Austin chapter said it would no longer support Casar and that Casar was withdrawing his request for an endorsement. In addition to Casar and Rodriguez, the candidacy of Rebecca Viagran, a former San Antonio councilwoman — San Antonio makes up a sizable portion of the district — has the potential to force the race into a runoff in May.
Carla Sands courts Trump but sources say he won’t endorse
Carla Sands, a candidate in Pennsylvania’s crowded Republican Senate primary, often boasts of a unique connection with former President Donald Trump, who appointed her as ambassador to Denmark in his administration. But according to two sources familiar with Trump’s thinking who spoke with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel, the former president has repeatedly conveyed, even as recently as last week, that he has no intention of endorsing Sands ahead of the May primary.
‘Big favor’: “He feels like it’s a big damn deal to be ambassador and he’s already done her a big favor,” said one source who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations with the former president. “He’s not going to do one here. He doesn’t think she’s going to win.” Trump conveyed a version of those sentiments directly to Sands during a meeting last summer at his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J., the source told JI, and has yet to change his mind.
Après Parnell: The question of who, if anyone, will receive the former president’s nod has remained a source of speculation since November, when the Trump-backed candidate Sean Parnell dropped out of the race amid allegations of domestic abuse. But Trump has since reiterated that he won’t be throwing his support behind Sands, even as the 61-year-old Senate hopeful has continued to tout her “America First” bona fides, according to another source who often speaks with the former president. “I don’t think he believes that she will be able to win in the general,” the source told JI.
Broader struggle: Since launching her campaign last July, Sands has struggled to gain momentum in the high-profile race to succeed retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA). Sands — the widow of the late real estate investor Fred Sands who became the CEO of his company, Vantage Capital, after his death in 2015 — loaned her campaign more than $3 million last year. But a source familiar with the campaign said she has been unwilling to spend more of her own money, even as she has otherwise only raised $620,000 in an increasingly expensive race where top-tier contenders like Dr. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick are spending record sums.
‘Skeleton crew’: The apparent resistance to additional investments resulted in the departure of Sands’ consulting firm last week, following a mass resignation of campaign staff in January. Before leaving, the firm had told Sands that she would likely be better off dropping out of the race absent any future spending, according to the source. It is the second firm to have parted ways with Sands over the course of her campaign. “They are running a skeleton crew, to be sure,” the source told JI.
‘Iranian fingerprints are all over’ Houthi attacks, DoD official says
Dana Stroul, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, said on Monday that Iranian support is helping fuel the Yemeni Houthis’ escalating attacks on the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, while distancing Tehran’s support for the militant group from the ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna,” Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Red-Handed: “Iranian fingerprints are all over” the Houthis’ “increasingly sophisticated, increasingly lethal and increasingly complex attack capabilities,” Stroul said at a virtual event organized by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America. “There is no indication that the Iranians are willing to dial back that support or support a political process,” she added.
Keeping Separate: Stroul characterized the efforts as largely distinct from the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna, noting that Iranian-backed terrorism and regional aggression predated the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), continued while the agreement was in place and has escalated since the U.S. withdrew from the deal in 2018. “Inside the JCPOA, there’s no illusion that Iranian aggression is going to change in the region, which is why the United States isn’t going to make commitments about changing our posture in the region or anything like [that], even if there’s a reentry into the JCPOA,” she said.
Come Together: Stroul also spoke about the possibilities for regional missile-defense cooperation, including cooperation between Israel and states targeted by the Houthis. She said that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has been a proponent of regional air-defense cooperation. “We are working to build on this progress that [Central Command] has been doing on a daily basis,” she said. “Israel has so much to offer here and its proven air- and missile-defense capabilities present yet another opportunity to advance on the important work of the Abraham Accords.”
Case by Case: Stroul said the U.S.’s approach to integrated air defense in the region has varied by case, with Israel as a willing participant. “Israel — it’s very clear — has demonstrated the capability to defend against these kinds of attacks and is willing to offer its assistance, consultation and support to other partners in the region,” she said. “There are certain areas where U.S. involvement and facilitation is helpful, and there are others where the demand signal is there and we are in a supporting role but Israel and the countries with which it has normalized are doing just fine on their own.”
Read the full story here.
Meanwhile in Turtle Bay: The U.N. Security Council voted to impose an arms embargo on the Houthis, with 11 countries voting in favor and four — Ireland, Mexico, Brazil and Norway — abstaining.
Abraham Accords Peace Institute signs cooperation deal with Israeli NGO
Seeking to spur dialogue between young Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders in the Middle East and build on the emerging ties forged by the recent Abraham Accords, the Washington-based Abraham Accords Peace Institute (AAPI) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tel Aviv-based NGO ISRAEL-is during a special ceremony last weekend, The Circuit’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports from Marrakesh, Morocco. Taking place on the sidelines of the Leaders of Tomorrow Summit, a forum that brought together young Israeli and Moroccan leaders, the two organizations said the new arrangement would bolster such interactions and help the parties develop sustainable innovation projects, build additional cultural exchanges and promote influencer delegations between Israel and Morocco, as well as other Arab countries — primarily the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
People ties: Asher Fredman, Israel director of AAPI, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the implementation and expansion of the Abraham Accords, who was present at the weekend seminar, told JI that the new cooperation would serve to “strengthen culture, tourism and people-to-people ties.”
Shared future: Eyal Biram, co-founder and CEO of ISRAEL-is, which educates and trains young Israelis to conduct meaningful encounters with their international peers, said the cooperation with AAPI was “deeply important.” “The seeds of this effort were planted by the United States government,” he said. “Every development could not have happened without the support of the U.S., and we are looking forward to creating more wonderful opportunities and building a shared future.”
Tomorrow’s leaders: The two organizations said they will work together to bring regional delegations to Israel to meet with both Jews and Arabs in diverse fields such as politics, business and culture, and to bring Israeli young leaders and prominent figures to the Arab world. “The key to ensuring that the Abraham Accords continue to flourish for generations is through deepening people-to-people cooperation,” AAPI’s president and executive director, Robert Greenway, said in a statement.
🤳 Going Viral: In The Atlantic, Megan Garber looks at the impact of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s “selfie videos” filmed on the streets of Kyiv since the start of the invasion. “The videos, in that sense, are presidential speeches of last resort. They are attempts to preserve the first thing attackers will try to destroy, when they attack: the lines of communication. The videos summon, in their terse messaging, the grim solidarity of emergency. Last week, 43 million people who had been going about their lives found themselves at the sudden mercy of a man stationed hundreds of miles away. The citizens of Ukraine are vulnerable. What Zelensky’s videos announce, above all, is that their leader has chosen to be vulnerable along with them.” [TheAtlantic]
📚 History Repeats: In The Hill, former Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) compares the Putin-led invasion of Ukraine with similar actions taken by Hitler and Stalin. “The invasion of Czechoslovakia was a naked, unprovoked, unjustified land grab; a savage conquest. No different than today’s military operations in Ukraine. No different in how Putin views Ukraine than Stalin, whose policies murdered 4 million Ukrainians in the 1930s (chillingly described in Anne Applebaum’s ‘Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine’). Putin may not be Hitler or Stalin, but he refracts their grotesque images.” [TheHill]
🎨 Art with Heart: eJewishPhilanthropy’s Esther Kustanowitz highlights the impact of art collector and philanthropist Batia Ofer’s work to help children diagnosed with life-threatening diseases. “Fundraising can take artistry. In the case of Batia Ofer, that has included commissioning and curating artworks by underrepresented and emerging artists, which are then auctioned to benefit Make-A-Wish UK, the organization that grants the wishes of critically ill children. ‘The primary goal of our events is to raise as much money to grant as many wishes as possible,’ Ofer, the founder of Art of Wishes and herself a prolific art collector, told eJewishPhilanthropy. In 2021, Ofer and her husband Idan, an Israeli billionaire businessman and philanthropist, were listed by ARTnews magazine among the top 200 art collectors in the world.” [eJP]
🔍 Woman to Watch: New York magazine’s Rebecca Traister spotlights the challenges being faced by New York Attorney General Letitia James — who is navigating both a civil case against former President Donald Trump and political and legal fallout following the resignation of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo — as she vies for a second term. “As James runs for reelection, two of the most merciless politicians in the country are breathing down her neck. These are battles between people who feel entitled to their positions of influence and a person who believes she can use hers to hold them accountable. It remains an open question whether James — who not only is the first Black woman to hold her office but also uses her authority in markedly different ways from the brash, overweening white men who preceded her — will win and what the fight will cost her.” [NYMag]
Around the Web
💵 Cash Dash: Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) raised $380,000 at a Detroit-area Jewish community fundraiser last week, her campaign announced, beating the campaign’s initial $300,000 goal. That total is more than her opponent in the 11th Congressional District Democratic primary, Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI), raised in the entire fourth quarter of 2021.
📜 Defining Hate: The Georgia House of Representatives passed a resolution adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, 141-19.
🧼 Trippy: Dr. Bronner’s soap company, run by the grandsons of the original Jewish founder, is promoting soap bottles that tout the benefits of mind-altering therapies, as the company offers its workers ketamine therapy in the employee health plan and funds efforts to relax government regulations on psychedelics.
🪖 Military Might: Pershing Square Capital Management executive Bill Ackman, in a Twitter thread reported in Bloomberg, says the U.S. should consider military intervention in Ukraine and that it should set a red line to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin’s use of nuclear weapons.
⛔ Denied: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S. told him that Israel denied Ukraine’s request for Stinger air-defense missiles. Graham said he plans to urge Israel to reconsider.
🇺🇦 Killed in Ukraine: A Ukrainian-born Israeli man was killed — reportedly by Ukrainian forces who confused him for a Chechen militant — as he was driving toward the Moldovan border as part of a convoy.
🎓 Campus Beat: The University of Washington returned a $5 million gift for its Israel studies program, following concern from the donor over an endowed chair’s criticism of Israel.
🎨 Returned Painting: A work by the iconic Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky was returned by the city of Amsterdam — where it had been held at the Stedelijk Museum since 1940 — to heirs of a couple who sold it as they tried to flee the Netherlands after the Nazi invasion.
🍺 What’s in a Name?: Putin’s Pub, a Jerusalem bar popular with Russian-speaking immigrants, is reportedly in search of a new name after its owner pulled down the sign in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
✍️ Wacky Words: The Atlantic’s crossword puzzle editor Caleb Madison looks at the “shm-reduplication” — the addition of “shm” before a word, a trend that originated with Yiddish but has since become common in today’s vernacular.
🕯️ Remembering: San Francisco businessman Richard Blum, the husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), died at 86. Harold “Smoky” Simon, a former World War II fighter pilot and key founder of the Israeli Air Force, died at 101. Jaime Daremblum, the Hudson Institute’s former director of Latin American studies and a former Costa Rican ambassador to the U.S., died at 81.
Pic of the Day
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides played a drum as members of the Orthodox Union’s Pearl and Harold Jacobs Zula Center for at-risk teens sang during an event in downtown Jerusalem last Thursday.
CEO of Mandalay Entertainment and a co-owner of both the LA Dodgers and Golden State Warriors, Peter Guber turns 80…
President of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in NYC, he served for thirty years on the Los Angeles City Council prior, Joel Wachs turns 83… Real estate developer, Tulane’s basketball arena is named in his honor, Avron B. Fogelman turns 82… Professor emeritus of Jewish studies at Los Angeles Valley College and the former editor of “Shofar,” Zev Garber turns 81… Former chairman and CEO of IBM, Lou Gerstner turns 80… Member of the Knesset for the New Hope party, he is a son of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Ze’ev Binyamin “Benny” Begin turns 79… Librarian at the Anti-Defamation League’s NYC HQ, Marianne Benjamin turns 78… Israeli historian, author and journalist, Tom Segev turns 77… Israeli journalist, author and political commentator, Ehud Yaari turns 77… Industrialist, magazine publisher, film producer and art collector, Peter M. Brant turns 75… Cantor at the Jewish Community Center of Paramus/Congregation Beth Tikvah, Sam Weiss turns 72… U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) turns 71… Former executive of Viacom, Philippe Dauman turns 68… Chairman and president of Berexco in Wichita, Kansas, Adam E. Beren… Author and human rights activist focused on Eastern Europe, Nina Willner turns 61…
Satirist, novelist, short story writer and journalist, he is also a three-time “Jeopardy!” champion, Neal Pollack turns 52… VP of philanthropy at the Baltimore Community Foundation, Dara Schapiro Schnee turns 51… Television writer, director and producer, Brad Falchuk turns 51… Six-time Emmy award-winning national correspondent for The Weather Channel, Dave Malkoff turns 46… Founder and principal at narrative/change, a Philadelphia-based media and communications firm, Jonathan Lipman turns 45… Israeli journalist, Yair Tarchitsky turns 42… Principal at Mosaic Realty Partners and a director of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, Isaac Pretter turns 42… CEO of eToro, one of the world’s largest social investment networks, Yoni Assia turns 41… Former member of the U.S. national soccer team, now head of international recruitment and development at Atlanta United FC, Jonathan Spector turns 36… VP of Special Projects at ASAPP, Joshua Lachter turns 35… Senior data reporter for CNN and the host of its “Margins of Error” podcast, Harry Enten turns 34… Law clerk for Judge Stephen A. Higginson on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Hannah Klain turns 31… Israeli shortstop for Team Israel now playing for the Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, Assaf Lowengart turns 24…