👋 Good Wednesday morning!
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s funeral will take place at 11 a.m. ET today at the Washington National Cathedral. President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton, in whose administration Albright served, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will eulogize Albright.
Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, but appeared to be asymptomatic. Harris’ press secretary said she had not been in close physical contact with the president in the days leading up to her positive test.
It’s another busy day of budget hearings on Capitol Hill: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will testify before a House Appropriations subcommittee and the House Homeland Security Committee, Secretary of State Tony Blinken will testify before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee and Undersecretary of Defense Michael McCord with testify before the House Budget Committee. More below on Blinken’s testimony yesterday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The House Rules Committee will also discuss the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, previously noncontroversial bipartisan legislation that has come under GOP attack, likely setting up a House floor vote later this week.
Behind the scenes at Yad Vashem
A moth-eaten teddy bear, a mangled silver spoon, a well-worn headscarf – all inanimate objects, yet each tells a story, in a powerful and sensitive way, of one of the darkest periods of human suffering, shedding light on both the trials and triumphs of individuals during the Holocaust. As Israel prepares for Yom Hashoah, its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day this week, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash was given a unique look inside the vast archives and storage vaults at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, catching a haunting glimpse into the horrifying experiences of the millions who perished and those who survived.
Careful watch: Michael Tal, curator and director of the artifacts department in the museum’s archives division, keeps careful watch over each item stored in the archive and catalogs new arrivals – a handful of objects are received each week – sent from across the globe by aging survivors or their descendants. He is diligent about researching the backstory of everything that reaches his hands, cross-checking personal stories with the extensive list of names – Holocaust survivors and victims – kept at Yad Vashem and searching out the photographs of each item’s owner and their relatives.
Priceless objects: “Even though I’ve been here for a very long time, I’m still surprised that we keep receiving things,” Tal told JI in an interview. “Gathering artifacts is only one element of what needs to be done, we also need to tell the stories behind them too. That’s what makes an ordinary object so impactful, so priceless. When we receive an object, we try to find out as much information as we can on the person who it belonged to,” he continued, underscoring that in many ways, these belongings are as much testimony to what happened 80 years ago as the writings, artwork and photographs that are also kept at Yad Vashem.
Telling the story: “Every object tells a story,” Tal said, estimating that there are more than 42,000 artifacts stored at Yad Vashem, from the striped uniforms once worn by those imprisoned in concentration camps to unused stacks of yellow stars the Nazis forced Jews to sew onto their clothing, as well as long-lost precious Shabbat candlesticks, Chanukiahs (eight-branch candelabras) and other religious paraphernalia.
Memories from the past: Opening a closet filled with neatly wrapped camp uniforms, Tal explained that for many survivors, such artifacts, even though they are a chilling reminder of the horrors of the past, are also a link to a lost life and lost loved ones, and a way of reminding the world of the terrible injustices to which they were subjected. “As the war continued, people managed to hold on to less and less of their possessions,” he said. “Either they were forced to sell the things they managed to take from home for food, or their belongings were stolen from them. After the war, the artifacts they managed to hold onto represented their past lives and memories.”
on the hill
Blinken: Iran must make changes before U.S. lifts IRGC terror designation
Secretary of State Tony Blinken said on Tuesday that lifting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) would require Iran to take unspecified “steps,” but also argued that, “as a practical matter, the designation does not really gain [the U.S.] much,” Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Quotable: “The only way I could see [the FTO] being lifted is if Iran takes steps necessary to justify the lifting of that designation. So it knows what it would have to do in order to see that happen,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during testimony over the State Department’s 2023 budget request. “It would require Iran to take certain actions and to sustain them.”
Caveats: Pointing to the previous opposition to the designation from top officials in the George W. Bush, Obama and Trump administrations, Blinken argued that the designation may do more harm than good. “In the judgment of the [George W. Bush and Obama] administrations and senior leadership in President [Donald] Trump’s administration, the gain was minimal and the pain was potentially great,” Blinken continued. “And as a practical matter, the designation does not really gain you much because there are myriad other sanctions on the IRGC” which “will remain on the books irrespective” of a nuclear deal.
Deal or no deal: Throughout the hearing, Blinken acknowledged “imperfections” in the 2015 nuclear deal but said that reentering it would be the best way of staving off Iran’s nuclear ambitions. A deal, he said, “would buy us a decade on the critical sunsets in terms of the stockpile of fissile material, in terms of the enrichment level.” Blinken did not address questions about previous comments by State Department officials that a failure to reach a deal by the end of February would significantly decrease its effectiveness.
Hit list: Questioned about whether Iran is attempting to assassinate former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other Trump administration officials, as reports have suggested, Blinken confirmed that “there is an ongoing threat against American officials both past and present,” but declined to specify who Iran is targeting. “Within the context of any engagements that we have, directly or indirectly, with Iranians, one of the strong messages we send to them is they need to stop targeting our people, period,” he continued, declining to say how Iran has responded to those demands.
The VC who believes investing in women is good business
When Leslie Feinzaig had a hard time raising capital for her gaming startup in 2016, she thought the problem was her: her idea, her work ethic, herself. But the problem, she realized, was industry-wide — venture capital funds weren’t investing in companies founded by women. So after founding a community of 25,000 female founders, Feinzaig became a VC herself and started investing in women-led startups. “We’re investing specifically in tech companies,” Feinzaig told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch, “with a goal of reshaping what the NASDAQ looks like by the time my daughters” — they’re 6 and 3 — “graduate from college.”
Fragile footing: Early on in her career, the barrier the Costa Rica-born entrepreneur had to face most regularly was not her gender. It was her lack of a green card. After graduating from Harvard Business School, Feinzaig was drawn to startups and early stage companies, but the precarity of her immigration status and the expense of landing a work visa led her to take a job at Microsoft, where she weathered the Great Recession. “If I lost my job, I would have had 60 days to find a new one or leave the country,” said Feinzaig.
Dream come true: That she ended up in the U.S. at all represented something of a multigenerational full-circle experience for Feinzaig. Her grandparents had hoped to settle in the U.S. when they fled Poland on the eve of the Holocaust. But strict immigration quotas were the law of the land in the 1930s. Her grandfather and the 10 other Jewish men who had traveled from his village were not allowed to leave their ship when it docked in Ellis Island. Instead, the boat sailed south, and an immigration officer in Costa Rica said anyone could enter the country if they paid a small fee. “They pooled all their money together. They basically just, like, wadded up the cash,” Feinzaig said.
Rough out there: Feinzaig received several rejections when she pitched her gaming startup in 2016. Investment stats show a dismal environment for female founders: In 2021, companies founded solely by women garnered just 2% of funds invested in VC-backed startups in the U.S., according to PitchBook. The amount of money raised by female-founded startups improved significantly over 2020 — those startups raised $6.4 billion in 2021, an increase of 83% from the previous year — but the percentage has hovered around 2% since PitchBook began releasing the figures in 2019.
Community evolution: Her frustration in the pitching process led Feinzaig to launch a Facebook group in 2017 called the Female Founders Alliance, which initially connected 24 CEOs. The community has since ballooned to 25,000 members. A couple years into the project, Feinzaig began to question why she was sending promising startups to other VCs instead of making investments herself. She had no experience raising a fund — the vast majority of general partners at VC funds are men, although the percentage of female GPs in the U.S. recently increased to 15.4% — and it took her two years to raise $10 million, which was raised mainly (but not entirely) from women. She launched Graham & Walker, a VC firm, in October.
race to watch
Keith Corbett leverages local experience, party ties in race to succeed Kathleen Rice
Malverne, N.Y., Mayor Keith Corbett is hoping his history of local government service and his long-held position as a Democratic Party lawyer will give him the edge he needs to beat out a field of other local officials running to replace retiring Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
In the race: Corbett, who has been mayor of the Nassau County village since 2019, previously spent nearly a decade on the village board and also served as deputy mayor. His connections to the state’s institutional Democratic circles run deep — he is also the law chair for the Nassau Democratic Party and a lawyer for the state party. Corbett told JI in a recent interview that he’s running for Congress “to get back to basics, reach across the aisle and start working and get this country back to what it used to deliver.”
Welcome to the party: Corbett claimed he has the broadest coalition — owing to his deep local connections — which would make him the most competitive in the general election. He described himself as “right in the center” ideologically and “willing to work with anyone… as long as we can get significant resources back to the 4th Congressional District,” which includes the heavily Jewish Five Towns area. Crossover appeal could be critical to victory in November, given that Republicans snatched victory in a recent special election in a usually Democratic area of the district. But Corbett also slammed the left flank of his party. “I don’t believe the people on the far left are members of this party,” he said. “If you want to be a socialist, be a socialist. Create your own socialist party and God bless. Don’t infiltrate another party.”
Foreign policy: He described himself as “pro-Israel in every way” and “a strong supporter of making sure that Israel has what it needs, making sure that Israel is an independent state and ensuring that it stays that way.”
Maverick: Breaking with broad bipartisan consensus, Corbett expressed skepticism about the Abraham Accords, the normalization agreements between Israel and several Arab states, saying he was concerned that they are a “short-term” solution — although he acknowledged they have worked so far. “What I hear… is that it’s kind of short-term for the peace that it has had, but there were certain issues that were not addressed in the Accords that are going to bubble up again,” Corbett said, declining to elaborate further.
🇦🇪 Emirati Experiment: The New York Times’ Mona El-Naggar spotlights the growing Jewish community in the United Arab Emirates, a year and a half after the signing of the Abraham Accords. “Apart from seeking jobs or other business opportunities, all of these newcomers said they came in search of an unusual experience, only made possible after the 2020 diplomatic agreements known as the Abraham Accords, normalizing Israel’s relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco. ‘There’s a deep sense here in the U.A.E. of it being like a social experiment, something that is very forward-looking and progressive,’ said Ross Kriel, a South African constitutional lawyer who moved to Dubai from Johannesburg with his wife and children in 2013. He recalled the discreet life he had led there as an observant Jew before the Abraham Accords.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
⚖️ In the Courts: A federal prosecutor alleged that a New Jersey software developer worked as a secret agent for Hezbollah for several years.
🗣️ Hill Talk: Shortly before his departure from the White House was announced, it was reported in excerpts from an upcoming book on the White House that Biden administration advisor Cedric Richmond called Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) “f**king idiots.”
✍️ Revamp: The State Department announced it is changing its application process for the Foreign Service Officer Test to be less reliant on a pass/fail metric.
👮 Secured Statesman: Israel’s security service enhanced its protection for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett after he received a mailed death threat containing a live bullet.
🥘 Cultural Cuisine: The BBC spotlights the culinary traditions of the dwindling Jewish communities of India.
📗 Tragic Tale: In a memoir, Stephen Mills recounts the sexual abuse he experienced at Jewish summer camp, and the subsequent effort to bring his abuser to justice.
📘 Bern Book: A new book by Ari Rabin-Havt, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) 2020 deputy campaign manager, takes readers behind the scenes of the Vermont senator’s second White House bid.
🪦 Memorial Markers: Insider looks at a nonprofit’s efforts to replace crosses that mark the graves of Jewish service members killed during WWII.
🎙️ Funding Haul: Recording service Riverside.fm announced it raised $35 million in Series B funding, which was led by Zeev Ventures’ Oren Zeev.
🧑🚀 Touch Down: Participants in the first all-private trip to the International Space Station, including Israeli pilot Eytan Stibbe, returned safely near Florida’s coast on Monday.
🏺 Historical Find: A farmer in Khan Younis, Gaza, found a Bronze Era-age stone statue of a Canaanite deity.
🗳️ Party Pooper: The Knesset’s House Committee barred Amichai Chikli, who had run with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party, from running in the next elections with a different party, after Chikli broke from the party when Bennett formed a coalition government.
🤑 Follow the Money: The Associated Press looks at how sanctions on Russian-Jewish philanthropists have affected the Jewish organizations that have benefitted from their activities.
🚢 Incoming: A tanker of crude oil from Abu Dhabi will head to Europe in early May, as the continent pivots away from Russian oil.
💼 Transition: Former congressional candidate Evelyn Farkas will join Arizona State University’s McCain Institute as executive director.
Pic of the Day
Denver’s Babi Yar memorial on Sunday ahead of the “6 Million Lives, 6 Million Steps” event around the 27-acre Babi Yar Memorial Park to mark this week’s observance of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Physician, former NASA astronaut, and chief of the education/medical branch of the NASA astronaut office, Ellen Louise Shulman Baker, M.D., M.P.H. turns 69…
Financial executive Harvey Hirsch turns 81… Turkish figure living in exile in Saylorsburg, Penn., Fethullah Gülen turns 81… Nonprofit executive who has managed the 92nd Street Y, the Robin Hood Foundation, the AT&T Foundation and Lincoln Center, he is also the lead director of First Republic Bank, Reynold Levy turns 77… Former director-general of the Israel Antiquities Authority, previously a member of Knesset and deputy director of the Shin Bet, Yisrael Hasson turns 67… VP at Covington Fabric & Design, Donald Rifkin turns 64… Biologist and professor of pathology and genetics at Stanford University School of Medicine, he won the 2006 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Andrew Zachary Fire turns 63… Entertainment executive and cofounder of Casamigos tequila, Rande Gerber turns 60… Partner in 100 State Street Development, Elliot Mayerhoff turns 56… Showrunner, director, screenwriter and producer, Brian Koppelman turns 56… Founder and CEO of NYC-based Gotham Ghostwriters, Daniel Gerstein turns 55…
Author, political analyst and nationally syndicated op-ed columnist for The Washington Post, Dana Milbank turns 54… U.S. senator (D-NJ) since 2013, Cory Booker turns 53… Professor of science writing at MIT, Seth Mnookin turns 50… Cinematographer and director, Rachel Morrison turns 44… Identical twin brothers, between the two of them they won 11 Israeli championships in the triathlon between 2001 and 2012, Dan and Ran Alterman both turn 42… Deputy regional director for AIPAC, Leah Berry turns 40… Television and film actress, Ariel Geltman “Ari” Graynor turns 39… Basketball coach, analyst and writer, profiled by Sports Illustrated in 2018 as “the smartest basketball mind outside the NBA,” Benjamin Falk turns 34… Creative director at Trilogy Interactive, Jessica Ruby turns 33… Jonathan H. Glidden turns 33… Judicial law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, David Jonathan Benger turns 31… Founder and CEO at EREM outdoor footwear and apparel company, Noah Swartz turns 29… MD/MPH candidate in the 2025 class at the University of Arizona College of Medicine where he serves as the student body president, Amir Kashfi…