👋 Good Monday morning!
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in Israel on Saturday and Sunday for the launch of a new center to train Israeli mayors — and over the course of Sunday, met with Israel’s political and business A-list.
On Sunday afternoon, the former mayor inaugurated the Bloomberg-Sagol Center for City Leadership at Tel Aviv University, then attended a poolside dinner at the home of Yossi Sagol, which was attended by current and former government officials and business leaders. The dinner celebrated the new $9 million initiative, spearheaded by Bloomberg and modeled on a program at Harvard University, that will work with mayors across Israel to give leadership training with a focus on using data in governance, engaging the public, crisis management and negotiation.
Notable attendees at the dinner included philanthropist Yossi Sagol and his father Sami Sagol, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, Israel’s Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, Israel’s Justice Minister Gideon Saar, Environmental Minister Tamar Zandberg, former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, former Mossad Director and head of Softbank Israel Yossi Cohen, former Knesset Speaker Daila Itzik, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, Modiin Mayor Haim Bibas, Netanya Mayor Miriam Fierberg-Ikar, Oakland, Calif., Mayor Libby Schaaf, Israel Discount Bank Chair Shaul Kobrinsky, Bank Leumi Chair Samer Haj Yehia, Bloomberg’s Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg’s Josh Steiner, author Gary Ginsberg, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ James Anderson, Start-Up Nation’s Avi Hasson, Tel Aviv Foundation’s Hila Oren, Tel Aviv University’s Ariel Porat, MAOZ’s Jeff Swartz, OrCam’s Ziv Aviram, OurCrowd’s Jon Medved and Pitango’s Chemi Peres.
Additional guests included Members of Knesset Ruth Wasserman-Lande and Yoav Gallant, Manuel Trajtenberg, Ophir Pines-Paz, Itai Eiges, the U.S. Embassy’s Jonathan Shrier, Edit Bar, Efrat Duvdevani, Tzvika Brot, former Gen. Poly Mordechai, Uriel Reichman, Amos Elad, Bloomberg’s Yaacov Benmeleh, venture capitalist Lee Moser, Asaf Lupo, Moshik Teumim, Eric Shem Tov, Reut’s Gidi Grinstein, Steeve Nassima, Liat Sagol, Shira Sagol, Nataly Sagol, Tova Sagol, Linda Sagol, Itzhak Sagol and Shirley Sagol.
Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI), who is locked in a member-on-member primary with Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) in Michigan’s redrawn 11th Congressional District, spoke over the weekend at a J Street U conference in Washington, D.C., about his Two-State Solution Act and his own student activism.
Also during the gathering, J Street U activists marched to AIPAC’s headquarters and the Capitol chanting “no aid to occupation.” At least one attendee carried a sign calling to “End the blank check” — a slogan sometimes associated with calls to condition or end aid to Israel. Levin’s campaign spokesperson said he was not involved with the march.
Levin and Stevens announced their first-quarter fundraising hauls on Friday in their head-to-head primary, with Stevens reporting $1 million raised to Levin’s $750,000.
In the announcement, Levin’s campaign spokesperson criticized Stevens’ “bundled contributions and events organized by leaders of one special interest group.”
Stevens raised more than $300,000 at a fundraiser organized by prominent Jewish figures and pro-Israel activists in the Detroit area. AIPAC’s new PAC has also raised nearly $300,000 for Stevens’ campaign.
Steve Irwin is familiar with unfamiliar territory
Last summer, a couple of months before announcing that he would run for Congress, Steve Irwin, an attorney and longtime Democratic activist in Pittsburgh, was traveling through rural Pennsylvania as he considered a separate bid for lieutenant governor. “What I saw,” he said in a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel, “was really unsettling.” The many Confederate flags that he had encountered were enough to make him “sick,” but equally if not more disturbing to Irwin, who is Jewish, was the sight of what he described as “Nazi memorabilia” at the county fairs he had visited during his peregrinations across the state. “It’s there,” he cautioned. “But I know what it’s like to feel like being the other.”
Formative experiences: Beginning at the age of 10, Irwin says he was subject to overt and occasionally violent acts of antisemitic prejudice when he suddenly found himself among one of the only Jewish students in class after his family moved from Queens to the decidedly unfamilair new territory of St. Petersburg, Fla. “I was very much in the minority,” Irwin recalled, and soon enough, “word got out” that he was different. “People literally thought we had horns, I mean literally thought we had horns,” he said. “I was really ridiculed. I was proselytized to every day at lunch. I was beaten up. Our house was egged.”
Remembering Tree of Life: Such memories are fresh in Irwin’s mind as he mounts his first bid for public office in Pennsylvania’s newly drawn 12th Congressional District, where four years ago, a lone gunman carried out the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history, killing 11 people and wounding six at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh. “We all are suffering from post-traumatic stress from that event,” said Irwin, a former congregant at Tree of Life who says he knew half of those who were murdered. “It’s something that we continue to be experiencing, the whole tragedy,” he added. “We’re in the middle of it still. The trial hasn’t occurred.”
Frontrunner: Since he launched his campaign last November, Irwin — who shares a name but no relation with the late Australian crocodile hunter — has carved out a lane for himself as the leading establishment candidate in the May 17 primary. He recently notched a major endorsement from outgoing Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), who said in a statement that Irwin would “work with” President Joe Biden “to pass an agenda that helps working people” and that he would “deliver results.”
Squaring off: Irwin’s chief rival, Summer Lee, is a rising star in local progressive politics now finishing her second term as a state legislator. The 34-year-old Democratic Socialist — who, if elected, would become Pennsylvania’s first Black congresswoman — has consolidated support from the activist left at the state and national levels. Her coalition includes such like-minded progressives as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) as well as organized labor groups and the Sunrise Movement. The other Democratic candidates in the race include Jerry Dickinson, a constitutional law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and Jeff Woodard, the executive director of Pennsylvania College Access Program.
Endorsements alert: In recent months, the primary has drawn interest from national pro-Israel groups such as Pro-Israel America, a grassroots advocacy group, and Democratic Majority for Israel, both of which have endorsed Irwin. In a statement to JI, Rachel Rosen, a spokesperson for DMFI’s political arm, expressed concern over Lee’s endorsement from Justice Democrats while also suggesting that both Lee and Dickinson “have a history of making disparaging remarks about the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
Read the full story here.
In the other corner: In a statement to JI, Annie Weinberg, Lee’s campaign manager, said, “State Rep Lee has always supported Israel’s right to exist, and her opponent should point to any statements she has made that indicate otherwise. She has never been a part of the BDS movement, but opposes the criminalization of free speech. She believes that the US should hold all its closest allies accountable to international law and human rights standards, which means that taxpayer-funded military aid to Israel should have conditions ensuring the prevention of further illegal annexation of Palestinian land, expansion of settlements, Palestinian home demolitions and the detention of Palestinian children.” Lee is expected to address such issues directly during a virtual conversation with the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh on Monday night.
Princeton students to vote on anti-Israel referendum
Amid an uptick in antisemitism nationwide, Princeton University students are set to vote next week on an undergraduate-wide referendum aligned with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Textual analysis: The proposed referendum, which will appear on the student ballot alongside elections for student government officers, calls on university administrators to stop using Caterpillar Inc. construction equipment on campus “given the violent role that Caterpillar machinery has played in the mass demolition of Palestinian homes, the murder of Palestinians and other innocent people, and the promotion of the prison-industrial complex.”
Student concerns: Some Jewish students at Princeton are concerned that campaigning related to the referendum could lead to an increase in antisemitism on campus, according to an Instagram account run by opponents of the referendum. Last month, the Princeton Committee on Palestine — the group that wrote the text of the referendum — protested outside the campus Hillel, the Center for Jewish Life. “The referendum lobbying creates an atmosphere on campus where it is acceptable to demonize an integral component of the identity of most Jewish students on campus,” said Rabbi Eitan Webb, the Chabad rabbi on campus.
Ivy issue: If the referendum passes, Princeton would become the third Ivy League university student body to approve an anti-Israel referendum. Brown University students approved a broad divestment referendum in 2019, and Columbia University students approved one in 2020. The presidents of both Brown and Columbia released statements saying the schools would not divest from any companies related to the measure given the lack of student consensus on the issue. Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber made a similar argument in 2015 when students defeated an anti-Israel referendum that called on the university to divest from companies that are “complicit in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Gaza Strip.”
Elsewhere: Princeton’s referendum comes amid a busy spring of anti-Israel activity on American college campuses, including at Ohio State University and Loyola University Chicago. “The BDS onslaught on campus has continued unabated this academic year with no signs of letting up anytime soon,” said Jacob Baime, CEO of the Israel on Campus Coalition.
For JFNA’s chief lobbyist, the Ukraine crisis is personal
Elana Broitman, The Jewish Federations of North America’s chief lobbyist in Washington, has spent recent weeks lobbying for more aid for Ukraine, expediting processing for visa holders and pushing for other ways to help Ukrainian refugees enter and remain in the United States. But for Broitman, JFNA’s agenda isn’t just a job. It’s an outgrowth of her experience fleeing Ukraine as a child, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Coming to America: Broitman came to the U.S. from Odesa, Ukraine, in the mid-1970s when she was 9, “thanks to the lobbying of the Jewish community,” and with the assistance of HIAS, the Jewish refugee resettlement agency, she told Jewish Insider in a recent interview. The family arrived in the U.S. with few belongings — books, a set of silverware, and one piece of luggage each. Soviet border guards even ripped open her 4-year-old sister’s teddy bear to check for valuables. In the U.S., her family settled first in Hazleton, a small town in Pennsylvania, before relocating to Texas.
First steps: “The JCC, one of the local synagogues, really welcomed us. They embraced us and helped my parents find jobs,” she said. “And the Jewish community in this little town called Hazleton was just incredible, really embraced us… the Jewish community sent my sister and me to Jewish summer camp, nothing we could have afforded.”
Flashbacks: Broitman said it has been “heart-wrenching” to watch the images coming out of Ukraine, observing that the refugees “look just like my parents or grandparents” and “live in buildings that look just like the ones I grew up in.” She added, “It’s so reminiscent of stories I heard from my grandparents when we were fleeing, for example, Odesa, which ended up being occupied.”
Culmination: Broitman is now leading JFNA’s lobbying on issues including aid for Ukraine, expediting processing for visa holders, the renewal of the Lautenberg Amendment — which allows Ukrainian religious minorities, including Jews, to be reunited with family members in the U.S., and Temporary Protected Status — which allows Ukrainians already in the U.S. to remain here. “It is incredibly heartwarming and I feel like my life has led here,” she said. “The Lautenberg Amendment is born out of the Jewish experience, was put there by a Jewish senator — to now be able to bring it full circle to help the people who need to get our right away, is incredibly gratifying.”
Amid rise in terror, Arab Israeli minister says Abraham Accords can spark peace with Palestinians
As Israel grapples with a surge of terror attacks, one of the government’s more left-leaning ministers told Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash last week that the way to combat extremist violence is to bring the Palestinians into the wave of regional normalization deals sparked by the Abraham Accords. Issawi Frej, an Israeli Arab and member of the Meretz party who currently serves as minister of regional cooperation in what is considered politically the broadest coalition government in the country’s history, said that a way must be found to include the Palestinians in the process, which began in September 2020 with Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signing the Accords. Morocco and Sudan inked their own agreements in the following months.
Incomplete picture: “The Middle East is like a picture, with Israel and other countries, the Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and Jordanian in the frame, but the picture is not complete without the Palestinians,” said Frej, who was in West Palm Beach, Fla., last week to attend the Jewish Funders Network Conference. His comments came as foreign ministers from five regional countries and the U.S. held a first-of-its-kind summit in Israel’s Negev desert exploring ways to increase cooperation and boost stability in the Middle East.
United against extremism: “When these people attack, they don’t only attack Jews, they attack all human beings, they attack you and me and everyone who is looking for hope and for peace,” Frej told JI. “We must not let these extreme people take us to a dark place.” He said forums such as the Negev Summit were the best response to extremism, and though the recent attacks were not said to be coordinated, they almost certainly appear to be a reaction to efforts by a growing number of countries to widen the circle of peace in the region. “I believe that all together, Arabs and Jews, and all the citizens and states in the region, must be united together and fight back against this extremism,” stated Frej. “All countries must come together to fight these extreme people; we are all on the same mission.”
Living together: Frej, whose ministry is responsible for initiating collaborative regional-wide cultural, economic and environmental projects, among others, also proposed a greater focus on education — a complete overhaul of what is being taught to the next generation and not just putting on a Band-Aid each time there is violence. “The Jews are here to stay, the Muslims are here to stay, the Christians are here to stay, and we need to find a way to live together – there is no other solution,” he said.
🌏 Democracy Downgrade: In Bloomberg, Robert Kaplan argues that in many parts of the world — including much of the Middle East — the desire among those who live there for democracy is less than the hope for functioning governments. “As I have traveled the globe, especially in the Middle East, most of the people I interviewed yearned for competent technocratic governance, personal freedoms, meritocracy and a sense of justice from their regimes. Few longed specifically for democracy. It isn’t that they are opposed to democracy per se. It is simply that personal freedoms — protecting minorities, freedom to travel or to order any book from abroad, etc. — and efficient governance matter more to them than the ability to vote every few years. This may seem strange to Western elites who take mundane personal freedoms for granted, and thus are consumed with politics — and therefore assume everyone else should be, too.” [Bloomberg]
🗳️ Eye on Ohio: The Atlantic’s Russell Berman spotlights Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ahead of the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary next month. “As governor, DeWine has notched conservative policy wins and handled Donald Trump deftly, managing to succeed in a state the former president won easily twice without either fully embracing or repudiating him… Yet it’s unclear whether Ohio Republicans will nominate him for another term this spring, or punish DeWine for the sin of believing in science and taking COVID-19 seriously. The governor has come under withering attack not only from his primary opponents but also from the bevy of Trumpist conservatives vying for Ohio’s open Senate seat. For the moment, however, DeWine appears to be in decent shape, a position he owes to both luck — his gubernatorial challengers are currently splitting the anti-DeWine vote, and the Senate race is hogging the spotlight — and the combination of savvy and tenacity that has defined his long career in politics.” [TheAtlantic]
🇸🇦 Saudi Split: Former Wall Street Journal publisher Karen Elliott House suggests that Riyadh and Washington “need to put aside wounded pride and repair their relationship” in order to preserve global economic security. “In the first year of his administration, President Biden refused even to speak with Crown Prince Mohammed. And in February 2021 Mr. Biden released the Central Intelligence Agency’s conclusion that the crown prince had ordered the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. When Russian oil abruptly disappeared from world markets in March, the president turned to Riyadh, but Crown Prince Mohammed refused his call. In the 40 years I have been visiting this country, never has anger at the U.S. been so visceral or so widespread. ‘The relationship is dead,’ one senior Saudi businessman declared. ‘Obama dug the grave, and Biden put the lid on the casket.’ [WSJ]
💰 Money Man: Bloomberg’s Zeke Faux profiles Sam Bankman-Fried, CEO of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange, who has prioritized philanthropy — giving away $50 million last year, by his own estimate — as his company grows. “Bankman-Fried lives like a college student perpetually cramming for finals. He drives a Toyota Corolla, and when he’s not at the office, he crashes at an apartment with 10 or so roommates, though it’s a penthouse at the island’s nicest resort. Bankman-Fried figures as many as five of his co-workers are also billionaires. All are around his age. Friends say he calmly assesses the odds in any situation, whether it’s in the middle of a board-game marathon or after he’s been nudged awake on his beanbag to weigh in on a tricky trade. He tells me that, while he doesn’t like to waste time by economizing, he doesn’t see much value in buying things. ‘You pretty quickly run out of really effective ways to make yourself happier by spending money,’ Bankman-Fried says. ‘I don’t want a yacht.’” [Bloomberg]
🌴 Trendy Town: The New York Times’ Bob Morris spotlights Palm Beach, Fla., which has been attracting younger visitors and residents since the start of the pandemic. “The narrow island of Palm Beach — 16 miles long with many billionaires according to a 2021 Forbes ranking and a median sale price for a single-family home of about $9.9 million according to Redfin — has drawn young arrivistes from New York City and elsewhere, who fled during the pandemic. Many, at first, stayed with their parents, then bought houses and, finding life and parties better, have decided to stay.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
📺 As Seen on TV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise appearance via telecast at last night’s Grammy Awards.
🇺🇦 Crisis Moment: The Washington Post looks at the challenges facing Zelensky as the country’s war with Russia enters its sixth week.
💸 Tycoon Talk: Russian billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who has lived in self-exile for nearly a decade, called on other Russian businessmen and government officials to denounce Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
🇵🇹 Passport Problem: A program that granted Portuguese citizenship to the descendants of individuals with Sephardic Jewish ancestry is in jeopardy amid an investigation into Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich’s acquisition of citizenship through the program.
📉 Falling Short: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is privately admitting to Senate Democrats that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Biden administration’s nominee to be ambassador to India, lacks the 50 votes necessary for confirmation.
🎓 Quad Convo: Liberty University hosted a discussion on the Abraham Accords with Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan, UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba and Bahraini Ambassador to the U.S. Abdulla Khalifa.
🚢 Supreme Shipment: The Navy will name a new fuel ship after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who died in 2020.
👮 NY State of Crime: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul directed the New York State Policy Hate Crimes task force to investigate a weekend attack on a Jewish man in Brooklyn, for which one teenager has already been arrested.
🚓 Security Breach: A private security guard at a Jewish day school in Columbus, Ohio, was arrested after posting antisemitic threats on social media.
📚 Historical Happenings:The Washington Post looks at the history of the Jewish Vacation Guide, a publication for Jewish travelers in the early 20th century looking for places and businesses that were safe to patronize amid an uptick in antisemitism.
📸 Fan Fiction: In the Paris Review, Hannah Gold considers her own fandom of the artist David Wojnarowicz, whose works are now on exhibit at the P·P·O·W Gallery in New York City.
🥯 Northwest Nosh: Eater spotlights the soon-to-open Jacob & Sons delicatessen in Portland, Ore.
⚖️ Across the Pond: A British man was jailed for 18 months for refusing to give his wife a Jewish legal divorce.
⚽ Soccer Swear: The Ricketts family — which is attempting to purchase Chelsea FC along with Citadel CEO Ken Griffin and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert — pledged to keep the team from joining a European Soccer League if their effort is successful.
🚀 Spaced Out: “DreaMars,” a new live-action series about teenagers on a mission into space, was greenlit by Israeli and German networks and will air next year.
💥 On the Defensive: Germany is considering purchasing a missile-defense system from the U.S. or Israel, to protect against threats, including Russian missiles capable of hitting most of Europe.
🛢️ Gas Supplier: Israel is looking to increase its natural gas exports to Europe, following supply concerns after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
👍 Partner Praise: National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan praised “proactive diplomacy underway with our friends and partners across the Middle East region” following Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s visit to the region last week.
🤝 Trade Deal: Jerusalem and Dubai finalized a free-trade agreement that will include regulation, customs and government procurement.
👑 Family Feud: Jordan’s Prince Hamzah bin Hussein — who was until 2004 the heir to the throne — renounced his title amid a family dispute.
💼 Retiring: Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, who led CENTCOM for the last two years, handed power to Army Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla on Friday in a change-of-command ceremony in Florida.
🕯️ Remembering: Israeli-American pianist Joseph Kalichstein died at 76.
Gif of the Day
Actress since she was 6 years old, Natasha Lyonne (born Natasha Bianca Lyonne Braunstein) turns 43. A profile of Lyonne out in The New Yorker today says she was “educated in part at a Modern Orthodox Jewish high school where students read the Talmud in the original Aramaic, and she runs ‘Russian Doll’ a bit like a yeshiva study circle.”
Author of books about her childhood experiences as a Jewish girl in the Netherlands during the Holocaust, Johanna Reiss turns 90… Retired MLB player for the Orioles, Senators, Athletics, Rangers and Angels, Mike Epstein turns 79… Sherman Oaks resident, Gloria Margulies turns 79… French-German politician who is a Green Party leader in Europe, Daniel Cohn-Bendit turns 77… Hungarian dramatist, novelist and essayist, György Spiró turns 76… Professor of history at American University, Allan Jay Lichtman turns 75… Professor emeritus of English at the University of Pennsylvania, Charles Bernstein turns 72… Visiting fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, Bruce Wolpe turns 71… Petah Tikva-born, Emmy Award-winning film director, producer and writer, Simcha Jacobovici turns 69… Retired partner from the M&A group at Skadden, David J. Friedman turns 67… Founder and president of Stutzman Public Affairs, Robert Stutzman turns 54… Tel Aviv-born animator and film director, Tatia Rosenthal turns 51… Former member of the Knesset, Yoel Hasson turns 50… Israeli social activist promoting the rights of the disabled, Hanna Akiva turns 48… NYC-based artist and founder of the Midnight Society, an artist-run curatorial project, Abshalom Jac Lahav turns 45… Israeli journalist, Haviv Rettig Gur turns 41… Actress and YouTube personality, Lisa Schwartz turns 39… Israel’s top men’s tennis player, who had broken into the top 30 of world rankings, David “Dudi” Sela turns 37… NYC-based freelance editor and lifestyle writer, Daisy Melamed Sanders turns 35… Writer at Big Shot and young leader in the Los Angeles Jewish community, Leslie Schapira… JCRC director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Jason Holtzman…