👋 Good Thursday morning!
The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act — previously non-controversial, bipartisan legislation — passed the House last night with just one Republican vote, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). The bill’s three Republican co-sponsors, Reps. Don Bacon (R-NE), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Fred Upton (R-MI) voted against the bill. Some Republicans have expressed concerns that the legislation would allow the FBI and DOJ to investigate as domestic terrorists parents who have spoken out at school board meetings and individuals who have protested against vaccine mandates.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced Wednesday that the Senate will vote next week on the legislation, supported by the Anti-Defamation League, the Orthodox Union and Jewish Democratic Council of America. It’s unclear if the bill will have any Republican support.
The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Barbara Leaf — whose nomination was first transmitted to the Senate on April 29, 2021 — as the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs by a vote of 54 to 44. Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rand Paul (R-KY), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted in favor of Leaf’s confirmation.
Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI) accused administration officials of failing to offer a clear rationale for continuing nuclear talks with Iran in an event on AIPAC’s app yesterday.
“I have put this to a number of folks that I can speak with candidly with the administration and just say, ‘What are you trying to do here, guys?’” Meijer said. “It’s far easier for me to criticize something where I’m like, ‘OK, I see where you got this wrong.’ I struggle to actually know what the assessment is with those negotiations.” Read more here.
The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem has reportedly found a residence on Emek Refaim Street for Ambassador Tom Nides, who for six months has been living at the Waldorf Astoria in Jerusalem.
Rob Bassin on the impact of the United Democracy Project
United Democracy Project, a super PAC recently launched by the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC, claimed decisive wins in two races for open House seats in North Carolina on Tuesday, but has so far fallen short of delivering similar results in a closely watched congressional contest in Pittsburgh and its suburbs. That matchup, where UDP had spent most heavily, remains too close to call. Rob Bassin, UDP’s chief executive and former longtime AIPAC political director, summarized the results in a positive light during an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kasselon Wednesday. “It was,” he said, “a very good night for pro-Israel progressive candidates.”
Bitter rivalry: It remains to be seen if the pro-Israel outfit will achieve a clean sweep as final votes are tallied in Pennsylvania’s 12th District, where progressive state Rep. Summer Lee has already declared victory over UDP-backed attorney Steve Irwin. UDP spent a staggering $2.7 million on behalf of Irwin, a mainstream Democrat who overcame a 25-digit polling deficit in the final weeks of the bitterly contested race. The super PAC unleashed a barrage of negative ads casting Lee, 34, as hostile to the Democratic Party, accusations she rejected as misleading.
Postmortem: The current vote tally — likely to be updated as early as Friday — shows Lee ahead by some 400 votes. While Irwin, 62, has called for a “need to respect the process of counting the ballots,” Lee had already claimed victory by Tuesday night. “They hit us with everything they had, and we clawed and we ran, and we got the power of the people,” she said. Bassin scoffed at such declarations. “I think it’s kind of amazing that Summer Lee is being described as the comeback of the night,” he said, noting that Lee had been viewed as “the prohibitive favorite” in the race. “The fact that she may barely eke out a victory,” Bassin argued, “suggests that her brand of anti-Israel, far-left, out-of-the-mainstream doesn’t resonate with the majority of Democrats.”
Addressing criticism: While critics have noted that UDP’s ads have so far made no mention of Israel, Bassin dismissed such charges as hypocritical. “I think it’s ironic that the anti-Israel left doesn’t complain when anti-Israel organizations run independent expenditures against mainstream pro-Israel Democrats,” he said, “but find it highly objectionable when organizations supporting mainstream progressive pro-Israel Democrats get involved in politics.”
‘Significant political force’: “In all of these cases, I think that anti-Israel organizations hope to make an issue out of the candidates’ pro-Israel support, to no effect,” Bassin said. He suggested that Tuesday’s results, while still unsettled, were an encouraging development for pro-Israel advocacy. “I think it’s notable,” Bassin said, “that in a very short period of time, the pro-Israel community has demonstrated it can be a significant political force.”
day in court
Federal judge rejects American Muslims for Palestine motion to dismiss decades-old terror-financing case
A federal judge in Illinois rejected a motion for dismissal by defendants in a decades-old legal fight waged by the family of a slain Jewish teenager, whose parents allege that the defendants had, under other identities, provided funding to Hamas, members of which carried out the deadly 1996 West Bank attack, Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss reports.
Background: Judge Gary Feinerman ruled that a case against American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Americans for Justice in Palestine (AJP) and Rafeeq Jaber, a former president of both the American Muslim Society and the Islamic Association for Palestine, could proceed. A judge had ruled in 2004 that the family of David Boim, who was 17 when he was shot and killed at a bus stop in the West Bank, could collect a $52 million judgment — since tripled — from the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) and the Holy Land Foundation. Both organizations shuttered in the early 2000s.
New look: Attorneys for the Boim family say that IAP and the Holy Land Foundation reopened under new names, with similar professional and lay leadership, in an effort to evade paying the Boim family. “They were going to have to pay a judgment,” Alyza Lewin, who has represented the Boim family for two decades, told JI. “And they didn’t pay it. They said, ‘We’re out of business.’ They weren’t really out of business. They basically quietly moved down the block, hung out a new shingle that instead of saying ‘Islamic Association for Palestine’ said ‘American Muslims for Palestine,’ and they were back in business.”
Breaking it down: In his ruling, Feinerman denied the dismissal on four key issues: that the defunct organizations had overlapping leadership with the newly created entities; that the groups served the same organizational purpose; that the defunct organizations shared a similar operating structure; and that the defendants were seeking to avoid having to pay the judgment.
ain’t gonna work on saturday
Amar’e Stoudemire clarifies he quit his NBA job due to Shabbat observance
Amar’e Stoudemire revealed on Wednesday that he quit his position as an assistant coach for the Brooklyn Nets because of difficulties fulfilling his job as a Shabbat-observant Jew, Jewish Insider’s Jacob Miller reports. Stoudemire explained his decision in an Instagram post clarifying his earlier announcement that he was leaving his post after two years as the Nets player development assistant, which he first revealed last week on ESPN.
Stepping away: In the video posted on social media, Stoudemire explained the decision was a “mutual understanding” with the Nets, and discussed the challenges posed by his Shabbat observance. “Not working on Friday night and Saturdays is difficult for anyone to grow in the coaching space, because coaching is such a grind. It requires you to be there full-time,” he said. Stoudemire called the Nets a “beautiful organization,” and claimed “there’s no hard feelings, no way, no how.”
Backing Kyrie: Stoudemire also pushed back against media coverage of his disapproval of Nets player Kyrie Irving for his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and highlighted his respect for the All-Star guard in his Instagram post. “Why would I criticize someone who’s similar as I am?” he said. “I also fast during the NBA season, for Yom Kippur. [Irving recently confirmed speculation that he had converted to Islam.] I’m also a guy who has a religious intake. I’m also a guy who’s an activist, who speaks about African American communities, and so forth. So why would I criticize someone who’s very similar to I am?”
Keeping it kosher: Stoudemire, who played for teams in both the U.S. and Israel, including the Phoenix Suns, the New York Knicks, the Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat, Hapoel Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv, became interested in Judaism through his mother’s Black Hebrew Israelite heritage, and underwent an Orthodox conversion to Judaism in August 2020. Speaking about his time with the Nets since his conversion, Stoudemire reflected, “I was there for two years, sacrificing my time away from my family for those two years, but still was able to hold down the fort and fulfill my obligation. So there’s no quitting from that standpoint.”
CUNY Law commencement speaker alleges being targeted by ‘well-funded organizations with ties to the Israeli government’
A commencement speaker at the City University of New York’s law school used her speaking time last Friday to allege that she had “been facing a campaign of Zionist harassment by well-funded organizations with ties to the Israeli government and military,” Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss reports. Nerdeen Kiswani, a member of the graduating class, also characterized a recent Jewish community-led trip to Israel taken by CUNY administrators as “an affront to everyone at CUNY fighting for liberation.”
Accusation: Kiswani called the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York’s “Scholars as Bridge-buildings” trip an effort that “normalizes Israel’s colonization and murder of the Palestinian people.” JCRC-NY took 12 CUNY college presidents, as well as the system’s chancellor, to Israel and the West Bank last month. Among those with whom the group met were Sabri Saidam, the former Palestinian Authority minister of education, and Khalil Shikaki, the director of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.
Rebuttal: Gideon Taylor, executive vice president of the JCRC-NY, told JI that the group “believes that education about the Middle East is the best way to understand efforts to bring peace to the region. Our ‘Scholars as Bridge-builders’ study tours expose participants to a wide range of perspectives, including from within the academic community in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”
Reaction: Kiswani’s remarks at CUNY Law’s commencement, video of which was shared on Twitter, were often punctuated with applause and cheers from the audience. CUNY Law did not respond to a request for comment.
👨 New Boss: The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Flint looks at how new Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav is reshaping the company, in part by showing some executives the door and cutting unprofitable projects. “Mr. Zaslav, who starts working at 6 a.m. and holds meetings as early as 7 a.m., is looking to be more hands-on than his predecessors. Creative executives now report directly to him, a change that led to the ouster of many executives who once held these intermediary roles. ‘Command and control’ is a favorite phrase for Mr. Zaslav—Zas to friends and colleagues. ‘Zas is not particularly patient,’ said Margaret Loesch, now retired, who ran Discovery Kids for him. ‘He is going to want to change things quickly.’ His axing CNN+ was ‘pure Zas,’ she said.” [WSJ]
🐡 Spice Up Your Life: As Old Bay rolls out its newest product, goldfish crackers seasoned with the company’s namesake spice mix, the Washington Post’s Karina Elwood explores the history behind the famed Baltimore seasoning company. “Gustav Brunn, born in 1893, had been a successful spice merchant in Wertheim, Germany, where he specialized in sausage spices before the Nazis came to power. In the late 1930s, after the antisemitic attacks of Kristallnacht, he and his family fled to the United States. When Brunn struggled to find work in Baltimore, he decided to start his own spice business. He set up shop across from the Baltimore wholesale fish market on the Inner Harbor, and the Baltimore Spice Company was born. At first, Brunn sold just individual ingredients such as red pepper, celery seed and mustard. But over time, he noticed that the fish market vendors — many of whom were steaming crabs — used their own spice blends. Brunn thought he could make a better one.” [WashPost]
🇵🇾 A Hezbollah Hit?: In Tablet, Emanuele Ottolenghi looks at the recent targeted killing of Paraguayan prosecutor Marcello Pecci, who spent his career taking down organized crime, money launderers and drug rings. “Where there is organized crime there is money laundering, and for decades, Hezbollah has been a key financial service provider to crime syndicates across Latin America. It operates in multiple locations, with Colombia being a historic hub of cooperation with organized crime. But its facilitators also operate along all of Paraguay’s frontiers, mostly in the Tri-Border Area, or TBA, a riverine junction of the Parana and Iguazu Rivers, which naturally separates the countries of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Hezbollah’s regional headquarters are in the large metropolitan area that sits astride the frontier. The TBA is a magnet for all criminals: More than a pirate island offering a haven to fugitives, it is a global hub for money laundering. Money has no political connotation—criminals need to launder it and shop for the best service providers. Hezbollah financiers are the best in the trade, and have an ecumenical approach to working with infidels. Money, after all, has no odor, as the old Latin proverb says.” [Tablet]
🗳️ What Went Wrong: Puck’s Teddy Schleifer spotlights Tuesday’s primary in Oregon’s 6th Congressional District, where cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried spent $12 million supporting Carrick Flynn, who ran on a campaign focused on pandemic preparedness — a top issue of Bankman-Fried’s — but ultimately lost by a 2-to-1 margin. “The Flynn race could have been a turning point for the 30-year-old mega-donor. Last summer, S.B.F. and his brother, Gabe, embarked on an extraordinary individual lobbying push to convince Congress to spend big to study future epidemiological threats. That effort has basically failed to date: the reconciliation bill last year didn’t include anything close to the $30 billion they sought for the cause. When the monster legislation got deep-sixed by Joe Manchin anyway, the Bankman-Fried brothers and their brain trust regrouped to develop Plans B and C. The strategy had two prongs. The first was to make an end-run around Washington by sponsoring a pandemic-prevention initiative in California that will appear on the fall ballot, thanks to $12 million in contributions from the Bankman-Frieds’ pandemic lobbying group (and a $9.5 million boost from the philanthropy of Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, another effective altruist mega-donor). The second was to elect just a few candidates who would prioritize their pet issue in Congress, above all the other things that lawmakers can focus on.” [Puck]
Around the Web
📜 Across the Aisle: The Taylor Force Act follow-on legislation introduced yesterday in the House has bipartisan backing, with the support of Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA), as well as nine Republicans.
💰 Gopuff Daddy: Former Disney CEO Bob Iger is investing an undisclosed sum in Gopuff and will serve as an advisor to the home delivery startup.
🏈 Rush Hashanah: New York Giants co-owner John Mara expressed disappointment with the NFL for scheduling the team’s only “Monday Night Football” game on Rosh Hashanah.
🚨 Endorsement Alert: Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) endorsed Jessica Cisneros in her second primary challenge to Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX).
🏃♂️ He’s Running: Former New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer will run for a state Senate seat representing Manhattan’s West Side.
⚖️ Bias Verdict: A sex offender who threatened to kill all Democrats and called Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) a “Jew senator from Jew York” will serve three years in prison.
👉 Court Case: A Connecticut attorney who was disbarred after accusing a judge of favoring Jewish people was ordered to be taken into custody for refusing to produce all of the documents related to her disbarment.
📺 Shtetl Series: Sasha Baron Cohen will narrate and co-executive produce the upcoming animated special “Chelm: The Smartest Place on Earth,” which will air on HBO Max and Cartoon Network.
🤣 Funny Guy: The New York Times spotlights comedy director Marty Callner.
🎞️ Lights, Camera, Action: Marco Bellocchio has signed on to direct a film based on the true story of a Jewish boy who was kidnapped and raised by Christians in 19th-century Italy.
📽️ Silver Screen: The Cohen Media Group purchased North American rights to “My Neighbor Adolf,” a tragicomedy premiering this week at Cannes about a Holocaust survivor living in Colombia who suspects that his neighbor is Adolf Hitler.
🇨🇬 Congo Crisis: Yossi Cohen, the head of Israel’s Mossad, was allegedly deported from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2019 after three visits to the African nation, during which time he was reportedly involved in planning a coup to depose President Felix Tshisekedi.
🛫 Sky’s the Limit: Israeli national air carrier El Al said it narrowed its first-quarter losses as air traffic climbed back to pre-pandemic levels, following the reopening of Israel’s borders to international tourists.
🏦 Rate Watch: Economists expect the Bank of Israel to raise interest rates a quarter point to 0.6% next week due to rising inflation.
💱 Crypto Card: Two Israeli credit card companies, Max and Isracard, will now allow users to purchase Bitcoin.
📈 Money Matters: Masterschool, an Israeli coalition of tech career schools, said it raised $100 million in an early stage funding round.
🔥 One Year On: Thousands of worshippers traveled to Mt. Meron in Northern Israel on Wednesday evening to mark Lag B’Omer, one year after the annual pilgrimage saw a deadly stampede that resulted in the deaths of 45 people.
🚶♂️🚶♂️ March On: Israeli officials signed off on this year’s Jerusalem Day march, amid heightened tensions in the city.
🚢 Boat Blocked: Iranian state media said authorities seized a foreign ship that was attempting to smuggle fuel out of the country.
💼 Transition: Former American Jewish Congress Executive Director Joel Rubin joined the National Peace Corps Association as vice president for global policy and public affairs.
🕯️ Remembering: Sid Kramer, who served as the county executive for Montgomery County, Md., from 1986-1990, died at 96.
Pic of the Day
More than a dozen lawmakers spoke at an event on Capitol Hill on Tuesday honoring Jewish American Heritage Month. Speakers included Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mike Lee (R-UT), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Grace Meng (D-NY), Mike Turner (R-OH) and Brad Schneider (D-IL). White House Jewish Liaison Chanan Weissman also addressed the audience. The event honored former Anti-Defamation League National Director Abe Foxman, philanthropists Tzili Charney and Rabbi Moshe Margaretten and Bukharian Chief Rabbi Itzhak Yehoshua. It was sponsored by Project Legacy and organized by Ezra Friedlander.
Business manager and spokesperson for NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, Estee Portnoy turns 55…
Retired senior counsel in the D.C. office of Blank Rome LLP, Harvey Sherzer… Retired New York State judge, including six years as chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, now of counsel in the NYC office of Latham & Watkins, Jonathan Lippman turns 77… Clinical psychologist, author, teacher, public speaker and ordained rabbi, Dennis G. Shulman turns 72… Former member of the California State Senate, Hannah-Beth Jackson turns 72… Israeli novelist and journalist, Edna Shemesh turns 69… Nurse and former member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, Sandra “Sandy” Pasch turns 68… Harvey D. Harman… Retired chief of the general staff of the IDF, Gadi Eizenkot turns 62… Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi, born in Milan, now chief rabbi of Russia, Rabbi Shlomo Dovber Pinchas Lazar (better known as Berel Lazar) turns 58… Journalist, teacher and playwright, Gersh Kuntzman turns 57…
Professor of mathematics at the University of Chicago, Alex Eskin turns 57… Author of 28 novels that have sold over 40 million copies in 34 languages, four of which have been adapted into Lifetime Original Movies, Jodi Picoult turns 56… Former CEO of Bend the Arc, Stosh Cotler turns 54… Israeli-born chef, owner of multiple NYC restaurants, Einat Admony turns 51… Israeli actress and fashion designer, Dorit Bar Or turns 47… Canadian food writer and cookbook author, Gail Simmons turns 46… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party, Ofir Katz turns 42… Former professional baseball player, he pitched for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic and is now pitching coach for the Santa Barbara Foresters, Zachary “Zack” James Thornton turns 34… Activist, advocacy educator, engagement strategist and TED speaker, Natalie Warne… Professional ice hockey forward currently playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Kontinental Hockey League, Brendan Leipsic turns 28…