👋 Good Friday morning!
For less-distracted reading over the weekend, browse this week’s edition of The Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent JI stories, including: Behind the scenes at Yad Vashem; Widespread Passover celebrations highlight a changing Gulf; Israeli defense chief hosts Iftar for Arab ambassadors; A seat at the vice president’s Seder; How Israeli philanthropy is changing in the COVID era; The VC who believes investing in women is good business; and Blake Masters’ provocations reach back to his college days. Print the latest edition here.
Find us next week at the Milken Institute Global Conference in L.A. JI will be covering the key panels and events alongside a who’s who from the business, entertainment and philanthropic sectors. If you’ll be in Beverly Hills, shoot us an email — we’d love to say hi to JI readers who are attending the gathering.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff spoke last night at an Iftar event hosted by the American Jewish Committee’s Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council. He told the crowd of 180 people at the U.S. Institute of Peace how important it was “first Jewish person in this role to openly embrace faith and to do it together on an interfaith basis.”
Some House progressives, including Reps. Cori Bush (D-MO), Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), have come out against the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, halting its anticipated passage in the House this week and potentially dooming it entirely.
The previously noncontroversial bill, aimed at combating white supremacist, neo-Nazi and other right-wing extremism, had encountered fierce opposition from Republicans, who claimed that the bill would be used to target parents at school board meetings and individuals who refuse COVID-19 vaccines.
Bowman said in an interview with Punchbowl News, “I need a clearer definition on how we’re defining domestic terrorists and we need a longer conversation around is more money needed to support this?” Omar called it “a horrible bill.”
scene last night
Biden hosts Jewish leaders for White House screening of Holocaust biopic
At a somber and emotional 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. last night, President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden hosted their first film screening in the White House theater: a showing of HBO’s “The Survivor,” a new biopic of Auschwitz survivor and boxer Harry Haft, who was forced to fight while a prisoner and went on to a short-lived boxing career in the U.S. after his liberation, reports Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss.
Poignant remarks: The event, which coincided with Yom Hashoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, featured remarks from the president, who, according to those in attendance, took time to talk with many of the attendees at reception before the screening, held in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden outside the East Wing. “The president said he learned about the horrors of the Holocaust from his father, and then instilled those lessons in his children and grandchildren, taking them to see a concentration camp,” one attendee told Jewish Insider. “He also spoke of the importance of combating Holocaust denial and the importance of vigilance, saying it could happen again.”
Proclamation: Earlier in the day, Biden had issued a presidential proclamation. “Today and every day, we stand against antisemitism and all other forms of hate and continue our work to ensure that everyone can live in a world that safeguards the fundamental human dignity of all people,” he announced.
Spotted: Those in attendance included Haft’s son, Alan Haft, film producers Matti Leshem and Jason Sosnoff, HBO’s Chief Content Officer Casey Bloys, Discovery Corporate Affairs Officer David Leavy, Francesca Orsi, Tara Grace, Tammy Haddad, Stu Eizenstat, Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Susie Gelman, Michael Gelman, Eric Goldstein, Rabbi Moshe Hauer, Darcy Hirsh, Allan Holt, Jason Isaacson, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Adam Lehman, Ann Lewis, Deborah Lipstadt, Daniel Lubetzky, Benjamin Sax, Halie Soifer, Jason Sosnoff, Susan Stern, Angela Tarantino, Ambassador Michele Taylor, Debbie Yamada, Steve Rabinowitz, Matt Dorf and Susan Wojcicki.
Israel is building a wall of lasers to defend against rockets. But will it work?
Earlier this month, Israel’s Ministry of Defense made a dramatic announcement – the successful test of a high-powered, ground-based laser interceptor system, able to defend Israel against UAVs, mortars, rockets and anti-tank missiles. Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports on the strengths and weaknesses of the new system.
Cautious optimism: Smart lasers defending against the salvos of rockets that have become so familiar in recent years in Israel’s conflicts with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon would appear to be revolutionary. Yet, those paying close attention to missile weaponry and defense systems sounded a note of caution. Lasers, analysts and experts interviewed by JI said, are particularly sensitive. They are severely weakened in certain weather conditions and until they are put into a real-life battle situation, it is premature to determine if they will be able to change the future of conflicts across the globe.
More time: “It’s not a game-changer yet,” Seth Franzman, a Jerusalem-based analyst and author of Drone Wars Pioneers, Killing Machines, Artificial Intelligence, and the Battle for the Future, told JI. “It’s technology that has been worked on for many years, usually without success.” He continued: “Once it’s operational and if they can put the technology on long-endurance drones, then we will see if it works on the battlefield.” That, he said, would most likely take a few more years.
Laser-wall: Both Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a former defense minister, have been touting Israel’s “laser-wall” building efforts for some time. Last June, following the successful test of the aerial laser system, Gantz said it was a “technological breakthrough” and a “milestone in the development of the multi-tier defense array of the State of Israel.” Bennett also emphasized such a defense would be attractive to Israel’s new regional allies – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and even Saudi Arabia – who also face threats from Iran and its proxies. “This is another way in which we will create assets, use them and give what we have to the world in order to gain support, create alliances and become even stronger,” he said.
Sensitive lasers: Uzi Rubin, the founder and former director of Israel’s Missile Defense Organization and a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Institute of Strategy and Security, said Bennett was being “over-optimistic” about the prospects of a wall of lasers to seal Israel’s borders. “Lasers have limitations,” he said, explaining how weather degrades their performance because they cannot penetrate clouds. “People think this is a country of eternal sunshine, but we have between 60 and 80 days of rain and cloud coverage and that renders this kind of weapons system unoperational.”
Lowering costs: Dore Gold, president of Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations who has worked with Israel and the United States on developing laser defense systems in the past, said, however, that Bennett and Gantz’s “game-changer” assessment was not far off the mark. “The main thing is to compare this laser tech with the previous technology that was tested, and what really stands out in this case is the incredibly reduced cost of each interception – it can make laser defense something which any defender can afford,” he told JI.
Early optimism from Mideast peacebuilders following new U.S. grants
A generation after the collapse of the Oslo process, and with the gaps between Israelis and Palestinians having grown into a chasm, a veteran Jewish legislator stepped into the breach. At the end of 2020, former Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) spearheaded the bipartisan passage of the Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act (MEPPA), which allocated $250 million over five years to support grassroots organizations working to build relationships between Israelis and Palestinians. The legislation was signed into law by former President Donald Trump, and the newly created Partnership for Peace Fund, operated by USAID, began awarding its first grants last month, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Status update: “I am an optimist, and I am not — I keep my eyes open. I know the reality of what’s happening there. But I think programs like this do create opportunities for people to know each other, work together and work towards peace,” Lowey, who retired last year after representing New York City’s northern suburbs for more than 30 years, told JIon Thursday.
Two-state support: The goal of each project supported by the fund is mandated to be the advancement of a two-state solution, said a senior USAID official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss an ongoing project. “While there is some flexibility, and we are looking for creative ideas, any application must be committed to a two-state solution, and also to show how the work that they’re proposing builds that enabling environment,” the USAID official told JI.
Set it up: “If we can improve the daily lives of the Palestinian people, and get the grassroots constituencies in Israel and on the Palestinian side working together to achieve common goals, then I think we will be in a position where a two-state solution will be better realized when the time comes,” George Salem, the board chair of the Partnership for Peace Fund, said at a Jewish Council for Public Affairs conference this month.
Direct support: The grants awarded by USAID go directly to the recipients. Neither the Israeli government nor the Palestinian Authority (PA) is involved with the Partnership for Peace Fund. Sander Gerber, who was appointed to the advisory board by Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), said his motivation has been supporting Palestinian civil society in a way that bypasses the PA. “My belief is that the PA’s corruption is stealing the future from the Palestinian people, and to the extent the U.S. government can help provide a future for the Palestinian people, I like to participate,” Gerber told JI.
on the hill
U.S. efforts to tamp down recent Israeli-Palestinian tensions ‘largely, for now’ successful, Blinken says
Despite high tensions and ongoing clashes between Israel and the Palestinians, Secretary of State Tony Blinken argued on Thursday that recent U.S. efforts to head off conflict have been largely successful, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Blinken — who testified at budget hearings on Thursday with the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a House Appropriations subcommittee — said the administration has been “very focused” on preventing a repeat of last May’s conflict between Israel and terrorist groups in Gaza, during which over 4,000 rockets were fired into Israel and Israel repeatedly bombed sites in Gaza.
Teamwork: “I sent a senior team to Israel to work with the Israelis, to work with the Palestinians, to work with the Jordanians and others to try to help everyone avoid taking actions that could precipitate more violence,” Blinken said. “And I think this has been largely, for now — I’m knocking on wood — largely successful.”
Aid watch: The secretary of state also said the U.S. is using aid to the Palestinians, which the Biden administration restored after it was cut by the Trump administration, “in a variety of… ways to try to make progress with the Palestinian Authority” and is “working very hard” to end Palestinian Authority payments to the families of those who conduct terror attacks against Israelis. “We think it’s vital that the Palestinian Authority — for all of its shortcomings — be supported because the alternative is Hamas,” he continued. “And that’s in no one’s interest.”
Deal watch: Amid repeated questioning on the issue, Blinken did not explicitly commit to submitting any new Iran nuclear deal in full to Congress for review, saying, “we will commit to following the law, including INARA,” referring to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which requires the administration to submit any nuclear deal with Iran for congressional review. The secretary of state appeared to confirm that the sunset provisions in a new agreement would be the same as in the 2015 agreement, one primary concern cited by opponents of the prospective agreement.
Clarification: Blinken clarified comments from earlier in the week about Iranian demands that the U.S. lift the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ terrorist designation as part of the deal. He had said that Iran would have to take certain unspecified actions for this designation to be lifted. Asked directly if the IRGC would have to “cease support for terrorism” in order for the designation to be lifted, Blinken responded “that’s correct.”
Bonus: In an oversight hearing on Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the Department of Homeland Security has taken various steps to tamp down on domestic extremism and hate crimes. Those include creating a domestic terrorism branch in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, which “has been disseminating an unprecedented level of information and intelligence throughout the nation,” as well as launching the Centers for Prevention Programs and Partnership to disseminate information and funding to communities to counter violent radicalization. He said he has also been in touch with Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, whose organization recently published a report indicating that 2021 was the worst year for recorded antisemitic incidents in the U.S.
Yehuda Kurtzer joins ‘Limited Liability Podcast’
On this week’s episode of Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast,” co-hosts Rich Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein were joined by Yehuda Kurtzer, president of the New York-based Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, for a discussion of the Jewish community’s “tent,” anti-Zionism and antisemitism and the future of Jewish-Christian and Jewish-Muslim relations. A sampling of his comments on these topics is below.
Making friends: “Both Jewish-Christian relations and Jewish-Muslim relations, as we see them at Hartman, I wouldn’t say they’re struggling in the same ways, but they, in many ways, are facing the same challenge, which is Zionism in the State of Israel. If you take Jewish-Christian relations, there was a huge industry built around Jewish-Christian relations after the Holocaust, a lot of Christian theological reckoning and rethinking of what Jewish powerlessness and Christian power resulted in for Jews.”
Controlling destiny: “I think a lot of very well-meaning and very well-intended people who believe that their actions in being critical of the State of Israel stem from the fact that Jews have the ability to shape our own destiny. There’s something inherently Zionist about it. Any Jew who believes that they actually can take some control of history and shape it and make it different, is, in some ways, influenced by Zionism. That was our great accomplishment. I think a lot of the folks who are most publicly critical of Israel are doing so because they think they have a moral responsibility at a particular time of history to help Israel to correct its flaws.”
Bonus: Favorite Yiddish word or phrase? “Goyim nachas, gentile’s delight.” Future of outfielder Aaron Judge with the New York Yankees? “I think he’s going to sign… I would say a 3% chance that he goes to Anaheim, other than that, I think it stays.” Favorite New York restaurant? Izzy’s on the West Side of Manhattan.
🗣️ No Language Barrier: The New York Times’ Saki Knafo spotlights Frankie Light, a “YouTube polyglot” who spends hours on the video-streaming platform learning different languages — among them, Yiddish — and then tests his newfound skills on fellow New Yorkers, recording the interactions as they happen. “On the way to Crown Heights, Mr. Light had worried that they might take offense to his presence; if anything, the opposite seemed true. Here was a telegenic young person expressing interest in their culture, potentially in front of thousands, even millions, of viewers. One particularly exuberant man insisted on giving him a tour of the Mitzvah Tank, a truck used to spread the teachings of their late leader, the Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. An Israeli yeshiva student lectured him on the Seven Laws of Noah.” [NYTimes]
✡️ From Moscow to Modi’in: Forbes’ Jemima McEvoy looks at the increasing interest in immigration to Israel from well-off Russians with Jewish ancestry, a number that has increased since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “The country seems to be attracting a broad spread of Russia’s wealthier residents. Israel-based attorney Eli Gervits, who specializes in the ‘Law of Return,’ told Forbes his law firm is seeing 25 times more business compared to before the war. The surge is even greater than after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, he notes. ‘Almost all of the people that approach us are not from Ukraine,’ Gervits says. ‘They are not from Russia. They are from Moscow,’ emphasizing the surge of inquiries from businesspeople from the country’s capital. ‘I feel that in the next two years [Russians] are going to have a really tough time in business,’ agreed David Angel, who runs a law firm based in Tel Aviv that helps people around the world immigrate to Israel. ‘Of course, the ones that are Jewish will want to arrive in Israel and will find themselves in an easier position to deal with it.’ Angel says his number of clients has ballooned 500% since the start of the war.” [Forbes]
🎓 Hard History: In the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Kennedy School professor Ira Stoll reckons with the report released by the university this week detailing its affiliates who were slave owners, including Judah Monis, Harvard’s first Jewish faculty member, who taught Hebrew grammar to some of the country’s Founding Fathers. “The question that goes beyond mere sectarian interest is what the news about Monis means for the story that historians have been telling about the influence of Christian Hebraism in the American Revolution. Samuel Adams described the British as ‘taskmasters’ and likened the American revolutionaries to the children of Israel fleeing slavery in Egypt. In a speech to the Continental Congress in 1777, Samuel Adams noted that they had told the world of their determination ‘to die freemen, rather than to live slaves.’ The Declaration of Independence spoke of how all men are created equal, ‘endowed by their Creator’ with the right to liberty. It’s one thing to reckon with hypocrisies in the stories of plantation-owning Virginians like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. That’s old news. But Samuel Adams’s Harvard Hebrew professor? That hits closer to home for those who consider Boston to be the cradle of liberty.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
🏈 Home Field Advantage: Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper is considering renovations to the team’s Charlotte stadium to keep it operational for another decade, rather than build a new stadium or move the team outside of the Queen City.
🕍 Gone West: The college student behind the “This Used to Be a Shul” Twitter account, which has tweeted more than 1,000 sites of former synagogues around New York City, has exhausted her Big Apple list and plans to continue the project in the Old West, cataloguing former synagogues from the turn of the 20th century.
☢️ Nukes From Underground: The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran has an underground workshop to build centrifuge parts at its Natanz nuclear facility.
⚖️ Diplomat Drama: Ambassador Richard Olson, who served as the Obama administration’s envoy to Pakistan and the UAE, was charged with violating laws restricting foreign lobbying by former government officials, for work done on behalf of the Qatari government after he left his posting.
🛴 Scooting Along: Bloomberg looks at how electric scooters are transforming Tel Aviv, and how the metropolis is adapting to keep up with the new, more eco-friendly mode of transit.
🚀 Bombshell Backpack: An American family vacationing in Israel provoked panic at Ben-Gurion Airport when they attempted to bring home an unexploded shell they found in the Golan Heights.
🍫 A Chocolate Mess: Israel’s Health Ministry ordered the Strauss Group to halt production at the candy-making facility near Nazareth where traces of salmonella were found in products.
📰 Transition: Politico Magazine’s Ruby Cramer will join The Washington Post as a national politics enterprise reporter in June.
Pic of the Day
Participants walk through the main gate of the former Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland during this week’s March of the Living to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day. The march returned after a two-year COVID hiatus.
Surfer, she represented Israel at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Anat Lelior turns 22…
FRIDAY: Nobel Prize-winning economist and professor at MIT, Peter Diamond turns 82… U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) turns 72… Marcy Smith turns 70… SVP of communications and journalist in residence at University of Maryland Global Campus, Michael Freedman turns 70… Comedian, actor, writer, producer and director, Jerry Seinfeld turns 68… London-born actor with three Academy Awards for best actor, knighted at Buckingham Palace in 2014, Sir Daniel Day-Lewis turns 65… Sportscaster and announcer for the New York Mets, Gary Cohen turns 64… Co-founder and first CEO of Netflix, Marc Bernays Randolph turns 64… Israel’s ambassador to Ireland, Lironne Bar Sadeh turns 63… Former New York City comptroller, Scott M. Stringer turns 62… CEO and chairman of 20th Century Fox until its acquisition by Disney, she now leads the Los Angeles office of Sister Pictures, Stacey Snider turns 61… CEO of the United Democracy Project, Rob Bassin turns 60… Head of TV at WME, Rick Rosen…
Professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, he is the founder of The Center for Advanced Hindsight and author of many books including Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely turns 55… NYC-based award-winning artist who works with sound, kinetics, optics, magnetism and other materials to make sculptures and photographs, Julianne Swartz turns 55… Film and television actor, Paul Adelstein turns 53… Stand-up comedian, actor and sometimes chazzan, Modi Rosenfeld turns 52… Israel’s minister of environmental protection, Tamar “Tami” Zandberg turns 46… Russian-born Israeli model and actress, Bar Paly turns 40… SVP of government affairs at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Anne Brachman turns 40… COO and director of government affairs for Teach Coalition, Daniel Mitzner turns 36… Baseball pitcher for Team Israel at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Jonathan de Marte turns 29… Real estate developer in the Mid-Atlantic region, Samuel A. Neuberger…
SATURDAY: Rabbi, scholar and professor of Jewish studies at Yeshiva University, Saul J. Berman turns 83… Founder and CEO of Kansas City-based American Public Square, former U.S. ambassador to Portugal, Allan J. Katz turns 75… Brooklyn-based clinical social worker, Marsha S. Rimler turns 75… Psychologist, author of several children’s books and president of the Saban Family Foundation, Cheryl Saban turns 71… Israeli Supreme Court justice, previously attorney general of Israel, Menachem “Meni” Mazuz turns 67… Partner in the communications and ad agency GMMB, James David “Jim” Margolis turns 67… London-based international real estate investor and developer, Zachariasz “Zak” Gertler turns 66… Cartoonist and illustrator, best known for his over one hundred magazine covers appearing on The New Yorker and other publications, Barry Blitt turns 64… Former commissioner at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Chai R. Feldblum turns 63… Professor of sociology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Eva Illouz turns 61… Senior fellow at The Kohelet Forum and a diplomatic columnist for The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom, David M. Weinberg turns 60… Borough president of Manhattan, Mark D. Levine turns 53… CEO of Newton, Mass.-based Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, focused on children with special educational needs, Tamar Davis turns 46…
Senior director for U.S. Jewish grantmaking at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, David Rittberg turns 42… Head of federal and international affairs at Airbnb, Eric Feldman turns 42… National security advisor for U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Omri Ceren… Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot turns 37… Director of communications at The New York Times, Ari Isaacman Bevacqua turns 37… Founder of Lubin Strategies, Nathaniel “Nate” Lubin turns 35… Communications director for Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Rachel S. Cohen turns 35… Associate in the D.C office of Eversheds Sutherland, Daniel E. Wolman turns 32… Elementary school teacher at Broward County Public Schools, Jenna Luks turns 29… Reporter at The Wall Street Journal, Rachel B. Wolfe turns 26… Senior manager for NextGen at the World Jewish Congress, Yonatan “Yoni” Hammerman turns 26… GM and operations lead at Israel’s Lightricks, Idan Megidish… Director of career development at Masa Israel for North America, Noam Aricha… Israel fellow at Israel Policy Forum, Nimrod Novik… Board member at Israel Policy Forum, Marc Slutsky…
SUNDAY: National director emeritus at the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Henry Foxman turns 82… Progressive political activist, Larry Bensky turns 85… Assistant professor of Bible and Jewish Philosophy at Yeshiva University and editor emeritus of Tradition, Rabbi Shalom Carmy turns 73… Deborah Chin turns 73… Boston area actor, David Alan Ross turns 73… Of counsel at D.C.-based Sandler Reiff, Jeffrey M. Wice turns 70… Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-CO), Ed Perlmutter turns 69… Founder and CEO of Conduit, Israel’s first billion-dollar internet company, Ronen Shilo turns 64… Real estate entrepreneur in Southern California, Eli Tene turns 59… Member of the board of governors of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester, Rina F. Chessin turns 58… Member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT, David R. Karger turns 55… Israeli judoka, she was the first Israeli to win an Olympic medal when she won Silver at Barcelona (1992), now the head of the merchandise division of Viacom Israel, Yael Arad turns 55… Majority leader of the Washington State Senate, he is a co-owner of minor league baseball’s Spokane Indians, Andrew Swire “Andy” Billig turns 54… Associate in the Newark office of Eckert Seamans, Laura E. Fein… Director of responsible innovation at Facebook, Zvika Krieger turns 39… D.C.-based political reporter, Ben Jacobs… Video journalist covering investigative and national news for the Washington Post, Jonathan Gerberg turns 36… Senior director at Avisa Partners, Omri Rahmil turns 30… Director of operations and associate editor at Jewish Insider, Sam Zieve Cohen… Partner at Pryor Cashman, he is a past president of the American Jewish Community and chairman of the board of the Jewish Museum, E. Robert Goodkind…