👋 Good Monday morning!
Former Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who represented Utah for seven terms, died on Saturday at 88. Hatch, who was Mormon, was a frequent advocate on religious freedom issues. “A lot of it for him was informed by his being a member of the Mormon church and very conscious of the early history of the Mormons who were persecuted in the United States… through that lens he very much identified with the Jewish community as well,” Nathan Diament, the executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center who worked with Hatch for decades, told JI.
In the late ‘90s, Hatch penned a Hanukkah song titled “Eight Days of Hanukkah.” Read Jeffrey Goldberg’s write-up of the song’s backstory in The Atlantic and check out the video. Hatch also wore a mezuzah on a chain around his neck.
“He was very proud of the Hanukkah song,” Diament said. “After he wrote it, he was like, ‘Nathan, you need to send this all over the Jewish community.’”
It was a big weekend in Ohio, where former President Donald Trump traveled to support Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance, whom he endorsed a week and a half ago, at a rally on Saturday.
The Trump endorsement — which surprised political observers in the Buckeye State and beyond — boosted Vance’s fundraising and polling numbers — the Hillbilly Elegy author’s nearly depleted super PAC raked in $5 million in donations since the April 15 endorsement, and an internal poll had him leading the field for the first time since he entered the race last summer.
Vance, who has fallen to the back of the pack in most polling over the last several months, has much ground to make up ahead of the May 3 primary, where he will go up against former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons, former GOP state party Chair Jane Timken and Ohio state lawmaker Matt Dolan. All the candidates but Dolan had courted Trump ahead of his endorsement of Vance.
Widespread Passover celebrations highlight a changing Gulf
Next year in Dubai. If you can find a seat at the Seder table, that is. “The challenge this year was finding a Seder that wasn’t too crowded,” Michal Divon, a Dubai-based journalist, told Rebecca Anne Proctor for JI’s sister publication The Circuit. The jam-packed Passover Seders held last week in Dubai and Abu Dhabi — more than 2,000 Jews from all over the world were in attendance — marked the largest celebration of the Jewish holiday since the historic Abraham Accords normalization agreements were signed between the UAE and Israel on Sept. 17, 2020. The thousands of attendees mark a significant change from seders in the UAE several years ago, which were often held in secret and attracted only a handful of attendees.
Global outreach: A sign of the UAE’s growing Jewish population, many of the Passover Seders in Dubai and Abu Dhabi were hosted by Rabbi Levi Duchman, an American-born Chabad rabbi and the first resident chief rabbi of the UAE, in the presence of community members, government officials and ambassadors. Seders were also hosted by Lebanese-born Rabbi Elie Abadie, who joined the Jewish Council of the Emirates as its senior and resident rabbi in 2020. And, in an indication of the increasingly global and cosmopolitan makeup of the Jewish community in the Emirates, the Seders were conducted in several different languages, including Hebrew, English, French and Russian. “Eight years ago, I started off at NYU Abu Dhabi making a small Seder,” Duchman told The Circuit, “And this year, to have Seders run by multiple rabbis…and having the Israeli ambassador, the American chargé d’affaires present — it was truly beautiful. This is such a beautiful message for our children and for other communities to witness coexistence and tolerance.”
Read the full story here.
Bonus: JI’s Gabby Deutch got a behind-the-scenes look at this year’s Seder hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff — the first Seder ever held in the Naval Observatory.
Holocaust education bill encounters new roadblock in Albany
A proposed Holocaust education bill that had been met with fierce resistance from New York state lawmakers last legislative session now appears to be facing renewed — if somewhat mysterious — opposition in Albany. Late last week, the bill was removed, with no public explanation, from a detailed list of agenda items that are expected to come up for discussion during a meeting of the state Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee on Monday, according to a Democratic insider who spoke with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kasselon the condition of anonymity.
‘Revised’ agenda: The original agenda, reviewed by JI, had included the bill near the top of the list when it was distributed on Friday afternoon. But just over an hour later, the list was summarily replaced with a “revised” agenda — and the Holocaust bill was nowhere to be found. The bill appears to be the only item that was excluded from the new agenda.
Curious development: It is yet another curious development for the seemingly benign legislation, which — despite persistent efforts to stymie its path to a floor vote — has garnered widespread bipartisan support. The bill would direct New York’s education commissioner to conduct a study verifying whether public schools are educating students about the Holocaust. Those who support the bill argue that it is a useful corrective amid an uptick in antisemitism as well as reports that young American adults are uninformed about the Holocaust.
Background: The legislation was nearly quashed last spring when Education Committee Chairman Michael Benedetto attempted to block the bill, arguing that it was redundant because Holocaust instruction is already required by state law. His effort was rejected by a majority of committee members who voted against the hold. The bill was directed to Ways and Means just two weeks before the legislative session concluded last June but did not come up for a vote. Benedetto, who also sits on Ways and Means, did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday, nor did Brooklyn Democrat Helene Weinstein, who chairs the committee.
‘Shameful truth’: DemocraticQueens Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, who sponsored the legislation and is a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said she was unsure why the bill was removed from the agenda without any apparent explanation, but expressed frustration with the last-minute edit. “It is a shameful truth that Holocaust survivors still have to fight to ensure that their stories are heard, and more importantly that students are taught the lessons of the not-so-distant past,” Rozic, who is Jewish, told JI on Sunday. “There’s nothing redundant about that.”
tar heel tussle
Pat McCrory is hoping for a comeback
As a former governor and former mayor of the state’s largest city, Pat McCrory might be the most well-known candidate running for U.S. Senate in North Carolina — but that is far from a guarantee of victory in this year’s turbulent political environment. Even to win the Republican primary, McCrory must overcome the symbolic and financial weight of former President Donald Trump’s endorsement of Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC). “I think most Republicans are in agreement on 90% of the issues,” McCrory said in an interview with Jonah Kaplan for Jewish Insider. “The disagreement comes more in personality and how to convey and get support [for] those policies. I do believe in ‘America First,’ but America is first impacted by the rest of the world,” he said, referencing the former president’s political mantra. “A lot of these issues, the economy and safety, they don’t recognize political boundaries and they’re not separated by oceans anymore.”
Test of time: McCrory, 65, who served as governor from 2013-2017, had been a talk radio host in Charlotte when he entered the 2022 race to replace the retiring Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). In addition to Budd, McCrory’s opponents include former Rep. Mark Walker and combat veteran Marjorie K. Eastman. A recent poll from Emerson College found McCrory running a distant second at 22% of the vote, compared with Budd’s 38%. “The thing about McCrory is he’s the biggest name,” Dawn Vaughan, state politics reporter for the Raleigh-based News & Observer, explained to JI. “Almost everyone knew him as the mayor of Charlotte and then everyone knew him as governor. So the main thing is, especially for Republican primary voters — do they still like him?”
Community outreach: “I went to visit the synagogues after I learned of increasing threats [to Jewish institutions],” McCrory said. Rabbi Murray Ezring, the former senior rabbi at Temple Israel, a Conservative synagogue, told JI he extended the invitation after a rise in threats against synagogues in the area. “I told him we needed him, and he moved around his whole schedule to do it,” Ezring added. “He didn’t hesitate, and he recognized how important this was for us.” Jeff Epstein, the former president of Charlotte’s Jewish Community Relations Council, was in the audience during one visit and speech at Temple Israel. “Pat is a guy who really wants to serve. Pat very much had a reputation as mayor as being moderate and getting things done and not being an ideologue,” Epstein told JI. “He wanted to make things better.”
On Israel: Epstein, who later served as secretary of the Department of Revenue, said then-Mayor McCrory also spoke highly of a trip to Israel he took with other mayors from across the U.S. “It made a very big impression on him. I think in his gut he feels a lot of affinity for Israel because it has had so many practical successes,” Epstein explained. “You don’t understand Israel unless you go there,” McCrory added. “I went on a bus ride to the Golan Heights and the folks there were explaining to me the [strategic] importance of the highlands. You have to see it to believe it.”
Long Island Matchup
Longtime Nassau legislator Carrié Solages aims for Congress
Longtime Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages is one of several Democrats who has thrown his hat into the ring for a shot at replacing retiring Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY). With the race heating up, Solages is hoping his long career in the county government will give him an edge, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Background: Solages, who is in his early 40s, argued that he’s the best-qualified candidate to represent New York’s 4th Congressional District — which includes the heavily Jewish Five Towns area — because of his decade in the county legislature, which has allowed him to build close relationships with state and county officials and given him the knowledge to “deliver for my community.” The county legislator, who is the U.S.-born child of Haitian immigrants and previously spent time in Washington as an undergraduate at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, said that running for Congress has been a “lifelong dream” inspired by “a lifelong commitment to service for my community.”
Standing out: Solages’ immigrant background is a driving force behind his concerns about immigration reform, which he described as “overdue.” Solages also raised alarms about the Biden administration’s refugee policy. “I’m concerned about the treatment of Black refugees,” he said. “To see now Haitians being deported left and right — more than under Obama, more than under Trump, in one year — President Biden has done that, deported more Haitians. And to see him do that — it’s a violation against the Convention Against Torture,” Solages said, referring to the international human rights treaty that went into effect in 1987.
Cash dash: Solages came in fourth among Democrats in fundraising in the first quarter, behind the three other prominent Democratic competitors: former Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett and County Legislator Siela Bynoe. Gillen raised $256,000 followed by Corbett at $159,000 and Bynoe at $105,450. Solages was the only one of the four to not break $100,000, coming in with a haul of $95,000. Gillen has $217,000 on hand, trailed by Corbett with $156,000, Bynoe with $102,000 and Solages with $82,000.
Looking abroad: Solages — who aspires to serve on the House Foreign Affairs Committee — said that the Biden administration’s efforts to reenter the Iran nuclear deal go “against what I believe — my inner core — we cannot engage with them.” The aspiring congressman said the U.S. should instead keep economic pressure on Iran and continue to provide defense funding to Israel. “Going back to my days at Georgetown School of Foreign Service, I have always stated publicly, and internally I believe, that we must do everything we can to protect Israel,” he said.
DMFI PAC to announce new slate of House and Senate endorsements
Democratic Majority for Israel is expected to announce today that its political action committee is endorsing a dozen new House and Senate primary candidates as the midterm elections come into sharper focus, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel scoops. The pro-Israel advocacy group is throwing its support behind nine Democratic incumbents who are up for reelection this cycle as well as three candidates vying for open seats in California, Maryland and Ohio.
Third round: “As Democrats across the country prepare to go to the polls to decide their nominees for Congress,” Mark Mellman, DMFI PAC’s president and a veteran Democratic pollster, said in a statement to JI, “DMFI PAC is thrilled to announce our third slate of primary endorsees, each of whom believes in — and has demonstrated the willingness to fight for — a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.”
Vulnerable senators: Three candidates, including Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), are viewed as uniquely vulnerable in general-election matchups this November as they prepare to defend their seats — and a tenuous Democratic majority in the upper chamber — amid favorable GOP headwinds. The other Senate incumbents are Patty Murray (D-WA) and Alex Padilla (D-CA).
Holding the House: Among the House members DMFI is endorsing are Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Adam Smith (D-WA) and Elaine Luria (D-VA), whose race is rated a toss-up by the Cook Political Report. Krishnamoorthi, Kilmer and Smith are facing Democratic challengers who have expressed criticism of the Israeli government as well as U.S. funding for the Jewish state. DMFI is also backing Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia in California’s 42nd District, state Rep. Emilia Sykes in Ohio’s 13th District and former state’s attorney Glenn Ivey in Maryland’s 4th District.
More to come: “With this latest round of endorsements,” Mellman said, “DMFI PAC will have endorsed nearly 50 well-qualified, diverse, pro-Israel Democratic candidates for House and Senate — candidates who know well that being pro-Israel is both good policy and good politics.” Rachel Rosen, a spokesperson for DMFI PAC, said the group will be “running ads to support some” candidates but declined to elaborate further. “As races develop,” she told JI, “DMFI PAC will announce additional endorsements for both primary and general elections.”
🔍 Spy Secrets: In The New Yorker, Ronan Farrow explores the use of the NSO Group’s controversial Pegasus spyware by governments around the world, and efforts to find and block the spyware on targets’ devics. “’It’s outrageous,’ [NSO Group CEO Shalev Hulio] told me. ‘We never sold to any country which is not an ally with the U.S., or an ally of Israel. We’ve never sold to any country the U.S. doesn’t do business with.’ Deals with foreign clients require ‘direct written approval from the government of Israel,’ Hulio said. ‘I think that it is not well understood by American leaders,’ Eva Galperin, the director of cybersecurity at the watchdog group Electronic Frontier Foundation, told me. ‘They keep expecting that the Israeli government will crack down on NSO for this, whereas, in fact, they’re doing the Israeli government’s bidding.’ Last month, the Washington Post reported that Israel had blocked Ukraine from purchasing Pegasus, not wanting to alienate Russia. ‘Everything that we are doing, we got the permission from the government of Israel,’ Hulio told me. ‘The entire mechanism of regulation in Israel was built by the Americans.’” [NewYorker]
🫓 Seder in Odesa:UnHerd’s David Patrikarakos reports from Odesa, Ukraine, where he attended a Seder hosted by a local rabbi. “If the rabbi’s message tonight was clear, the God of the Talmud’s is clearer. Passover is not just a story of triumph, but of sadness. And here in Odessa, amid the joy there is darkness, too; amid what we hope is eventual victory is tragedy. This great port city, which once looked out onto the world and welcomed nationalities of all kinds, now walls itself up behind sandbags and wire. Its surrounding waters, which once brought in goods from Africa and India and Asia, are mined. Each day, I listen to Odessans mourn their country’s dead in a war that was forced upon them by the bloodlust of a Tsar in Moscow. Ukrainians, like the Israelites, will be free. Theirs will also be a story of victory, but it will also be one laced with tragedy and sorrow.” [UnHerd]
📺 No Comic Relief: In The Atlantic, Devin Gordon looks at the challenges facing former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, who, even with a new show, has struggled to find his professional footing in the years since signing off as host of the popular Comedy Central program. “Once upon a time, if you accused Jon Stewart of actually trying to solve problems, of attempting to contribute something more useful than dick jokes, he’d plead dumb comedian — I’m just here to make people laugh! It was insincere then, and now it’s being parroted by Joe Rogan to excuse spreading COVID lies around the world. Yet again Stewart’s tactics have been weaponized by forces of disinformation. Stewart’s reaction, though, has been to drop the veil of comedy altogether. Aside from his Jon Stewart thing at the beginning of ‘The Problem’ and a few wry asides during interviews, he’s not even trying to be funny. When you take the comedy out of topical comedy, though, you become … the media.” [TheAtlantic]
🙏 Prayer Power: In the Wall Street Journal, David DeSteno looks at the correlation between religion and ethical behavior. “The answer to whether religion improves morality doesn’t come down to a simple yes or no. That’s because when it comes to morality, the power of religion is more in the doing than in the believing. Studies of religion and health show that identifying with a religion — saying you believe in God or going to worship once a year on Easter or Yom Kippur — means very little. Epidemiological research shows that it is people who live their faith, regularly going to services and engaging in their religion’s rituals, who tend to live longer, healthier and happier lives. In most faiths, being religious isn’t just defined by a creed but by rituals and practices that permeate daily life. When we pray and sing together, listen to readings from scripture, or give offerings and blessings of thanks to God, our minds and bodies aren’t passive. They’re subtly being nudged toward virtue.” [WSJ]
✒️ Ink Industry: The New York Times’ Isabel Kershner interviews Wassim Razzouk, whose family has owned a tattoo parlor in Jerusalem’s Old City for 27 generations. “Mr. Razzouk’s tiny store is something of a haven amid all the hostility, a symbol of religious and political tolerance. ‘I have tattooed Christians, Palestinians, Ethiopians, Israelis — believe it or not, I’ve tattooed an Orthodox Jew with sidelocks,’ said Mr. Razzouk, who identifies as a member of the Palestinian Christian minority. ‘I’ve tattooed nuns, atheists and bishops.’” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
🛫 Trip Time: President Joe Biden will travel to Israel “in the coming months” following a phone call on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
🤝 Week in Washington: Israeli National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata will be in Washington this week to meet with a team led by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, part of a series of ongoing meetings between the two parties to discuss Iran’s nuclear program.
🪖 High-Level Meeting: Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin traveled to Kyiv on Sunday for a three-hour meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which the U.S. officials told the Ukrainian leader that the U.S. would provide $300 million in foreign military funding, and had greenlit a $165 million sale of ammunition.
🗳️ Macron Majority: French President Emmanuel Macron beat challenger Marine Le Pen by a 17-point margin in Sunday’s election.
💼 Washington Shuffle: Rebecca Lissner, currently a member of the White House National Security Council, will join Vice President Kamala Harris’ team as deputy national security adviser.
🇸🇦 Route to Riyadh: Michael Ratney, who serves as the charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, was announced as the Biden administration’s nominee to be ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
📉 Roiled Relations: The Wall Street Journal explores the state of U.S.-Saudi relations, which it says are at the “lowest point in decades.”
✍️ Poetic History: Air Mail traces the history of the creation of the Babyn Yar memorial to a poem written by a non-Jewish Soviet poet two decades after the massacre.
🇺🇦 Survivor Succumbs: A 91-year-old Ukrainian Holocaust survivor died as a result of Russia’s siege of Mariupol, Ukraine. NBC News spotlights the killing of a Ukrainian Jewish journalist who was buried on the eve of Passover.
🏈 Football and Faith: The Supreme Court will hear arguments today in the case of an assistant high school football coach who prayed on the field after games.
🔥 Burn Notice: A Chabad house in Louisville, Ky., was destroyed by fire over the weekend.
👰 Change of (Vows) Venue: The New York Times spotlights the wedding of Meny Stambler and Rikel Deutch, originally set to take place in Ukraine but moved to New York after Russia invaded the country.
⏱️ Lost in Time: A family was reunited with a century-old pocketwatch — made by a relative who died in the Holocaust — that was stolen by a Nazi soldier and found decades later on a farm in Belgium.
😶🌫️ Weed Works: The New York Post spotlights the YIVO Institute’s new exhibit “Am Yisrael High,” which examines the historical connection between Judaism and cannabis.
📰 Transition: Joe Kahn was named executive editor of The New York Times, and will succeed Dean Baquet in June.
🇮🇷 Designation Discussion: Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin looks at a recent push by hundreds of Gold Star families to pressure the Biden administration against removing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Foreign Terrorist Organization designation.
☢️ Down Under: Iran said it relocated a centrifuge facility to its underground nuclear site at Natanz.
⛔ Border Blocked: Israel closed its civilian border crossing with Gaza, after militants in the enclave fired several rockets at Israel over the weekend.
⛪ Fire Fest: Christians observed the “Holy Fire” ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Saturday amidst new safety capacity limits, imposed after last year’s Lag B’Omer stampede in which 45 people died.
🕯️ Remembering: Specialty Records founder Art Rupe, who helped popularize rhythm and blues music, died at 104. Charles Temel, a past president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, died at 68.
Pic of the Day
The Chicago Cubs played a remix of a “Thank You Hashem” song before the at-bat of Cubs DH Rafael Ortega during Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Ortega, who thanked “Hashem” in an Instagram post on Opening Day, doubled twice with a run scored in the Cubs’ 4-3 loss to the Pirates.
Commissioner of the National Basketball Association, Adam Silver turns 60…
Myron “Mike” Sponder turns 92… American-British academic, social worker and health spokesman of the Green Party of the U.K., he is the older brother of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Larry Sanders turns 87… Hedge fund manager and founder of Renaissance Technologies, James Harris Simons turns 84… Chairman and CEO of Omega Advisors, Leon G. “Lee” Cooperman turns 79… Rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University since 1973, Rabbi of the Young Israel of Riverdale Synagogue since 1974, Rabbi Mordechai Willig turns 75… Former French finance minister and later managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn turns 73… David Handleman turns 73… Recent chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, previously president of Bed, Bath and Beyond, Arthur Stark turns 67… Administrative law judge at the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, Beth A. Fox turns 62… Senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, Michael Scott Doran turns 60… Litigator at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, Andrew H. Schapiro turns 59… Voice actor, comedian and producer, he voices many roles on the “The Simpsons,” and descended from a Sephardic family rooted in Thessaloniki, Hank Azaria turns 58…
Beersheba-born director, writer, comedian and infomercial pitchman, better known as Vince Offer, Vince Shlomi, or “The ShamWow Guy,” Offer Shlomi turns 58… CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester (NY), Meredith Dragon turns 51… New York Times best-selling author and professor of neuroscience at Stanford University, David Eagleman turns 51… Deputy director of the Utah State Department of Human Services, David E. Litvack turns 50… Democratic party strategist, she is a co-founder of Lift Our Voices, Julie Roginsky turns 49… President of the Alliance for Downtown New York, Jessica S. Lappin turns 47… Johannesburg-born political commentator, author and senior-editor-at-large for Breitbart News, Joel Barry Pollak turns 45… Attorney turned grocer, she is the founder of Glen’s Garden Market, carved out of the old “Secret” Safeway north of Dupont Circle, Danielle Brody Rosengarten Vogel turns 43… Graduate of the Israeli Naval Academy, he is the co-founder of WeWork, Adam Neumann turns 43… Senior director of community engagement at NYC-based Integrity First for America, Adina Mermelstein Konikoff turns 39… Managing director, head of social, content and influencer at Deloitte Digital, Kenneth R. Gold turns 36… Public affairs director for FEMA, Jaclyn Rothenberg turns 34… Actress, model and singer, Sara Paxton turns 34… Emily Cahn Singer turns 33… TikTok Star, he runs the culinary website CookWithChefEitan, Eitan Bernath turns 20…