👋 Good Monday morning!
French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right politician Marine Le Pen will square off in the country’s runoff on April 24, after both advanced through a crowded first round of elections over the weekend. Macron garnered 27 percent of the vote to Le Pen’s 24 percent in Sunday’s election.
Macron is expected to face a closer race in his rematch against Le Pen, whom he beat in a landslide in 2017.
Eric Zemmour, a far-right Jewish candidate known for his anti-immigrant positions who came in fourth place with 7 percent of the vote, urged his supporters to vote for Le Pen.
Former President Donald Trump caused shockwaves in GOP political circles when he endorsed Dr. Mehmet Oz in the Republican primary for Senate in Pennsylvania over former hedge fund manager David McCormick.
The endorsement drew surprise and criticism from the Trump administration universe. Former administration staffers Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller are working for McCormick’s campaign, and McCormick is married to former Trump White House Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell.
Sean Parnell, who received Trump’s endorsement but dropped out of the Senate race last year and has since backed McCormick, called Trump’s endorsement of Oz “disappointing,” adding, “Oz is the antithesis of everything that made Trump the best president of my lifetime.”
John Fetterman says he’ll ‘lean in’ on U.S.-Israel relationship as senator
John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and the Democratic frontrunner in next month’s high-profile Senate primary, said he was “eager to affirm” his “unwavering” commitment to bolstering ties between the United States and Israel in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel on Thursday, emphasizing that he will “lean in” on such efforts if he is elected to the upper chamber this November.
“Whenever I’m in a situationto be called on to take up the cause of strengthening and enhancing the security of Israel or deepening our relationship between the United States and Israel, I’m going to lean in,” Fetterman declared in his first conversation with a Jewish publication since he launched his campaign more than a year ago. “The relationship is a special one that needs to be safeguarded, protected, supported and nurtured through legislation and all available diplomatic efforts in the region.”
Fetterman, 52,has established himself as an outspoken progressive voice on such domestic issues as universal healthcare, income inequality, criminal justice reform and the legalization of recreational marijuana.
But until now, the first-term lieutenant governor had not publicly clarified his views on a range of Middle East foreign policy matters, including Israel, which has become a source of intense intra-party conflict in recent election cycles as well as a litmus test of sorts for far-left activists who have grown increasingly critical of American support for the Jewish state.
With just over a month remaining until the May 17 primary, Fetterman’s long silence on such matters has fueled curiosity among Jewish leaders in the commonwealth who have wondered where, if at all, he might place himself in that debate.
Speaking with JI, however, Fetterman said he has “not encountered” such concerns during his campaign, noting that he has been “very clear about” his views on Israel in conversations with a number of advocacy groups in recent months. “I would also respectfully say that I’m not really a progressive in that sense,” he added. “Our campaign is based on core Democratic values and principles, and always has been, and there is no daylight between myself and these kinds of unwavering commitments to Israel’s security.”
This year in Orlando
Janet Zuckerman will not be spending Passover at home, but she has already thoroughly cleaned and kashered her kitchen, and done her cooking for the weeklong holiday. After freezing all the food, she will pack it into her car and drive with her husband from their home in Potomac, Md., to Orlando, Fla., where they will celebrate Passover with their children and grandchildren. Zuckerman has no relatives in Orlando or any particular connection to the city. But this year, she will join tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews making the pilgrimage to Central Florida for Passover, which begins Friday at sundown. Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports on the one week a year the nation’s theme park capital becomes the country’s Jewish hotspot.
Destination Passover: “It’s become a real destination,” said Menachem Lubinsky, who operates a website called Kosher Today that reports on kosher food around the U.S. He estimates that some 55,000 Orthodox Jews will visit Orlando during Passover this year, which is more than Orlando’s year-round Jewish population of 51,000. (Messages circulating in WhatsApp groups for people going to Orlando have estimated the numbers will be even higher, somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000 people.)
Place to be: In recent years, Orlando’s popularity as a Passover destination has exploded, even as there have been a number of highly publicized incidents of scams and double-bookings. Some families with young children or grandchildren will visit Disney World over the holiday, but the theme parks alone do not explain the massive growth of the city’s Passover scene. Orlando does not have a large Orthodox community; most of the people who go will form pop-up communities of their own, with makeshift minyans meeting in people’s rental homes.
Do it yourself: Unlike more established “Passover programs,” which are generally all-inclusive affairs at resorts, Orlando is more of a do-it-yourself experience. Central Florida is less built up and thus less expensive than cities further south like Boca Raton and Miami, so visitors can rent large homes (“villas,” as renters call them) for their entire extended family — villas with up to a dozen bedrooms, game rooms, swimming pools and other warm-weather amenities like backyard grills and hot tubs. But that doesn’t mean Passover in Orlando is cheap.
Nothing like it: “We’ve done a couple of programs before, but I had never seen anything like this in my life. It is such a racket,” said Zuckerman. She’s in a WhatsApp group with several hundred other people who are heading to Orlando for Passover, and the group is bombarded with ads for different culinary options, such as personal chefs for hire.
Festive food: For those who do not want to transport crates of food on long car rides, many Jewish caterers and kosher markets transport their food to Orlando. The food comes south from the New York tri-state area and north from Boca Raton and Miami. The Rebbe’s Choice, a direct-to-consumer kosher herring company based in Queens, is arranging a pick-up spot in Orlando this year for the first time. “We shipped many orders down there last year, and because of that volume, we decided it would be worthwhile for our customers to put together a pallet of goods that would be going down to Orlando, and have a central pickup point,” said Naftali Engel, who founded the company eight years ago while studying at a yeshiva in Israel.
Investigators have ‘no idea’ why fake federal agent went to Iran
A hearing on Friday for two men accused of impersonating federal agents provided few additional answers about the potential motives or Iranian ties of two men federal authorities say attempted to ingratiate themselves to members of the Secret Service, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Unknown: Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Rothstein said that Haider Ali, who allegedly told a witness that he was affiliated with Pakistan’s intelligence service, had traveled to Iran twice in recent years. His passport contained an Iranian visa that expired in late January 2020, shortly before the alleged scheme began in February. But, Rothstein said, “we have no idea why he went to Iran.” Ali — who prosecutors believe was born in Pakistan and became a dual U.S. citizen — had also traveled twice to Pakistan, once to Egypt and once to Iraq in recent years.
Follow the money: Alleged co-conspirator Arian Taherzadeh allegedly told investigators in a lengthy interview last Wednesday that Ali was providing the funding for the scheme as of their arrest, but said he was unaware where the money was coming from. Under questioning from Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey, Rothstein said authorities were not suggesting that Iran may have funded the scheme and are unsure where the funding came from or how much money was involved. Rothstein said authorities are also unsure whether the accused individuals requested anything from the federal agents involved in the plot.
Concerning: Some observers have argued that the scheme — particularly the Iran visas in Ali’s U.S. passport — appears too amateurish for a professional Iranian intelligence operation. Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies focusing on Iran, told JI that the general outline of the scheme “does raise potential red flags for potential vectors of entry for foreign intelligence services.”
Next steps: “The origins and story behind the Iranian visa, the alleged tie to Pakistan, as well as the multiple ties to the region should be sussed out both for law enforcement purposes and national security,” Ben Taleblu continued. “Compromising U.S. Secret Service persons should not be an easy feat. It should not be something that is able to be achieved through a sloppy operation.”
Incoming UAE envoy to the Vatican says warming ties with Israel is the real deal
Israelis should feel confident about their newfound ties with the United Arab Emirates and be assured that the normalization process ignited by the Abraham Accords is based on core Emirati values that do not stem from any special or fleeting transaction with the United States, the newly appointed UAE ambassador to the Vatican, Omar Ghobash, told The Circuit’s Ruth Marks Eglash in a recent interview.
Principled decision: “It’s something that comes up a lot,” said Ghobash, who is currently assistant minister for culture and public diplomacy, referencing some cynical voices that still question the genuineness of the 18-month-old Accords. “It’s actually a principled decision that comes right from the core of the royal family.” Speaking to JI on the sidelines of the recent Jewish Funders Network Conference in Palm Beach, Fla., Ghobash, 50, who is a well-known diplomat, businessman and author in his own country, will soon be at the forefront of interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance in the Vatican as his country leads a historic process in the Arab world to encourage peaceful relations with the world’s only Jewish state.
Remarkable opportunity: Ghobash explained that because the UAE is a “leadership organized society,” everyone looks to the royals for guidance, and his fellow countrymen have chosen to embrace the historic steps taken over the past two years by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, better known by his initials, MBZ. “We know that life is short, and we have a remarkable opportunity in the Emirates to take the country to the next stage, we’ve got an ambitious leadership and a whole bunch of great kids,” said Ghobash.
Breaking taboos: Ghobash also said that those who have been critical of the Abraham Accords or downplayed their significance do not understand that the Gulf nation was “breaking with the biggest taboo we’ve ever had in our history – to recognize Israel, to recognize the Jew, to recognize this country and to want to work with them publicly. It is a massive thing for us.”… “The lack of seriousness that is attributed to the Abraham Accords by certain parties and groups has really surprised me; it’s almost offensive for us,” he emphasized.
📜 Designation Dispute: The Washington Post’s David Ignatius reacts to President Joe Biden’s decision not to remove the Foreign Terror Organization designation from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. “The issue of the IRGC’s designation as a terrorist group has been closely watched by Israel and Arab Gulf nations such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They see it as a test of the Biden administration’s credibility and commitment in the Middle East. The Trump State Department formally designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization in 2019 despite arguments from some senior officials in the U.S. military that the step was unnecessary and potentially counterproductive. However, once the designation was imposed, congressional Republicans and Democrats alike have argued that it shouldn’t be removed without meaningful improvements in the IRGC’s behavior. Removing the designation and related sanctions would further strain relations with the Saudis and Emiratis, who have grumbled about the United States’ unreliability.” [WashPost]
🇺🇦 History Repeats: In The New Yorker, Masha Gessen details their visits to the Babyn Yar memorial in Kyiv, and her conversations with those involved in the memorial’s creation, in the months before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “I walked away from the installation, past the remains of a soccer goal, into what felt like a half-abandoned industrial zone. It housed a hip coffee shop, the shooting range, and the sports complex. On March 1st, a Russian missile, possibly meant for the television tower, hit near the sports complex. It burned, and four people burned with it. Several people affiliated with Babyn Yar sent me video recordings of the burning bodies. A witness, likely a firefighter, can be heard saying, ‘So, Russians, who are you fucking fighting? This is a child.’ Unlike the last war fought in Ukraine, this one will leave ample visual evidence.” [NewYorker]
🪆 Russian Review:The New York Times’ Patrick Kingsley looks at the scrutiny that Russian-Israeli businessmen have come under since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. “Of Israel’s 9.2 million citizens, about 13 percent are from the former Soviet Union and qualified for citizenship through their Jewish ancestry. Some, like Mr. [Avigdor] Liberman or Zeev Elkin, another cabinet minister, have become major political figures. Others, like Yitzchak Mirilashvili, who owns a right-wing Israeli television channel, control media outlets that help shape public discourse. Several, most prominently Roman Abramovich, the billionaire punished in Britain for his links to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, have become major donors to Israeli institutions… But though Russian-Israeli oligarchs do wield influence, experts say they are not the reason for Israel’s neutral stance on the Ukraine war, which is driven by national security concerns.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
💰Crime Time: A former operations director for Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) pleaded guilty to theft of funds for inflating his own salary by nearly $80,000.
🕍 Reclaiming Colleyville: Congregation Beth Israel is preparing to reopen, three months after the rabbi and three members of the Colleyville, Texas, synagogue were held hostage for 11 hours.
😷 COVID and the Clergy:The New York Times spoke to New York City clergy members about how the pandemic has changed the structure of worship and religious community.
🍎Taste of Home: Former New York residents who have left the city for points west and south have created WhatsApp groups to connect and network with other New Yorkers in their new homes.
🪖War Footing: Vanity Fair explores CNN’s pivot to focusing on its Ukraine coverage in the aftermath of the departure of its top executive, Jeff Zucker.
🎉 Mazal Tov: Nicola Peltz and Brooklyn Beckham were married over the weekend at the Peltz family home in Florida. Brooklyn’s father, David, whose maternal grandfather was Jewish, read one of the blessings during the ceremony. Rabbi Michael Resnick, whose Palm Beach synagogue counts Nelson Peltz among its members (though a newer member) who donates to the shul at the highest level, said he “would have loved to marry them” but guessed that the family planned to fly in a rabbi from New York.
🎥 Mayim’s Lens: The New York Times looks at Mayim Bialik’s “As They Made Us,” the “Jeopardy!” host’s directorial debut.
🏠 A Shtiebel of One’s Own: The Wall Street Journal spotlights South Philadelphia Shtiebel leader Rabbanit Hadas Fruchter, one of the first Orthodox women to seek ordination.
🎵 Complex Chords: A new exhibition in Berlin on Richard Wagner confronts the composer’s deeply held antisemitic and nationalist beliefs.
🚀 Strikes on Syria: The Wall Street Journal reports on what Israeli leaders have termed the “war between the wars,” an effort to deter Iran through a series of more than 400 airstrikes within Syria over the last five years.
🇾🇪 Power Vacuum: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pledged $3 billion to support a transition of power in Yemen following the resignation of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi last week.
⛔ Rudy Rapped: Iran imposed sanctions on 24 Americans, including Rudy Giuliani, on Saturday.
🤝 Meetup: Iranian and Iraqi senior diplomats will meet following recent attacks on U.S. troops in the region.
⛪ Come All Ye Faithful: Hundreds of pilgrims traveled to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Palm Sunday mass for the first time in several years following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
🙏 Peaceful Prayers: Tens of thousands of worshippers peacefully converged on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem for the first Friday prayers of Ramadan.
🕯️Remembering: Civil rights activist June Shagaloff Alexander, who focused on school desegregation issues for the NAACP, died at 93. Herb Turetzky, the official scorer for the Nets for more than half a century, died at 76. Mimi Reinhard, who as a concentration camp inmate typed up the list of more than 1,000 Jews who were to be saved by Oskar Schindler, died at 107.
Pic of the Day
UAE Ambassador to France Hend Mana Al Otaiba (right) hosted Israeli Ambassador to France Yael German at a bilateral meeting in Paris on Friday to discuss promoting peace in the Middle East region. According to a source with knowledge of the meeting, it was the first official meeting between the two ambassadors, who have known each other for many years.
Head of fixed income sales at Citadel LLC, he was previously a Major League Soccer midfielder, Jordan Cila turns 40…
Actress who played the title character on the 325-episode soap opera satire “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” Louise Lasser turns 83… Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and syndicated columnist, Ellen Goodman turns 81… Founder of the USA Network and co-founder of Springboard Enterprises, Kay Koplovitz turns 77… West Bloomfield, Michigan-based inventor on more than forty patents, Barry Schwab turns 75… Actor, director and screenwriter, Peter Riegert turns 75… Sarita Dery turns 73… Former deputy director of WomenStrong International, Sydney Rubin turns 70… Managing partner and a founder of LA-based law firm Glass & Goldberg, Marshall F. Goldberg turns 68… Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 1999 from the Pittsburgh area, Dan B. Frankel turns 66… Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, he is the director of the narrative medicine program at the Temple University medical school, Michael Vitez turns 65… Australian executive chairman of Visy Industries and Pratt Industries US, the world’s largest privately owned packaging company, Anthony Pratt (family name in Poland was Przecicki) turns 62… Executive chairman of The Estée Lauder Companies, William P. Lauder turns 62… Professor at Sarah Lawrence College, he is a scholar of Eastern European Jewry, with a focus on the social history of Hasidism, Glenn Dynner turns 53… Co-founder of Caracal Global Strategies and founder and CEO of Brigadoon, Marc A. Ross turns 51… Israeli-based angel investor and entrepreneur, he is a partner at Tel Aviv-based Accomplice Blockchain, David Galper turns 47… Lecturer of Talmud at Yeshiva University and a judge at the Beth Din of America, Rabbi Itamar Rosensweig turns 33…