👋 Good Thursday morning!
A majority of senators — including 16 Democrats — voted in favor of a nonbinding resolution opposing rejoining a nuclear agreement with Iran that focuses only on Tehran’s nuclear program. More below.
The Jewish Democratic Council of America announced yesterday its endorsement of Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI) — who is not Jewish — over Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) — who is — in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District.
JDCA CEO Halie Soifer told Jewish Insider that JDCA endorsed Stevens “given her strong relationships with her Jewish constituents, whom she strongly represents in the House,” and said that she has been “an active partner of JDCA, engaging with our members and leaders in Michigan, and working to advance the priorities of Jewish Americans in Congress.”
Soifer added that the group had also endorsed Stevens in 2018 and 2020 “because of her partnership with the Jewish community and leadership in the House on issues of importance to Jewish voters.”
JDCA also endorsed Reps. Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Bill Foster (D-IL), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Susan Wild (D-PA) and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA).
Following progressive complaints over lack of support for Nina Turner’s unsuccessful congressional campaign in Ohio, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Andy Levin (D-MI), Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) endorsed former Democratic Socialist Summer Lee, who is running against moderate Steve Irwin in the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said yesterday he would be speaking with Federal Emergency Management Agency leadership today about expanding Nonprofit Security Grant Program access in local communities and small nonprofits.
Testifying before a Senate committee yesterday, Mayorkas said, “We have to develop the capability to reach the otherwise disenfranchised and we’re working intensely on that.”
62 senators, including 16 Democrats, vote to oppose nuclear-only Iran deal
A majority of senators, including 16 Democrats, voted on Wednesday night in favor of a nonbinding Senate measure that opposes an Iran deal addressing only the regime’s nuclear program as well as the removal of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ terrorism designation, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The final vote on the measure was 62 to 33.
Details: Wednesday’s vote came on a motion introduced by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), as part of the Senate’s consideration of the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) aimed at countering China. The motion instructs the senators negotiating the final bill with the House to “insist” that the legislation include language requiring any nuclear weapons agreement with Iran to include provisions “addressing the full range of Iran’s destabilizing activities,” including missiles, terrorism and sanctions evasion; does not lift any sanctions on the IRGC; and does not revoke the IRGC’s terror designation.
Breaking ranks: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) voted for the measure.
Explaining himself: Shortly after the vote, Coons — a close administration ally who has been referred to as President Joe Biden’s “shadow secretary of state” — said in a statement that his vote “does not undermine my continuing support for the administration’s efforts to negotiate an agreement” and that he “maintains an open mind towards any potential outcomes.” He explained that he voted for the motion “in order to encourage the Biden administration’s negotiations to push for the strongest possible deal that addresses Iran’s nuclear weapons program and many other malign activities.”
On the docket: Lankford’s motion was the second measure on Iran to come up for a vote on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, 86 senators voted in favor of a motion, introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), stating that terrorism-related sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran and the IRGC “are necessary to limit… cooperation” between Iran and China. The Cruz motion instructs the Senate’s negotiators on the competition bill to “insist” that the final bill include language requiring the administration to report to Congress on cooperation between China and Iran.
On the list: Twelve senators — Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Carper (D-DE), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Rand Paul (R-KY), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — voted against the motion.
Top Israeli energy official describes role of investors in promoting sustainable energy
Gideon Friedmann, the acting chief scientist at Israel’s Ministry of Energy, detailed on Wednesday how the country plans to transition to renewable energy and urged private investors to fund research in the field, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports from the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles. Government support is important, said Friedmann, but investors will need to more forcefully enter the market if countries hope to work toward net-zero emissions.
Slow and steady: “The private sector is not doing very well, because everyone here wants to get their return, and [a] high return. And it’s not easy to get a high return on infrastructure,” or a quick return, Friedmann told attendees at a Milken panel. According to Friedmann, it takes up to 15 years to build a power line, for instance, so any kind of fast returns would be impossible.
New technologies: At several sustainability-focused panels at Milken, environmental experts and financial professionals urged investors to consider putting more money into the research and development of technologies such as carbon capturing and bringing deep geothermal heat out of the ground. Developing new technologies may yield smaller returns in the short-term, Friedmann argued, but it will pay dividends as more countries move away from fossil fuels.
Energy bridge: Israel discovered natural gas reserves off its coast more than a decade ago, and natural gas is now used “as a bridge” in the transition to sustainable energy “because it’s much less polluting” than oil, explained Friedmann. “So natural gas is a solution, but we want also to convert the natural gas to something cleaner. We want to invest in R&D to do that.”
Global cooperation: “We also work on international collaboration,” Friedmann said. Israel is now collaborating with the United Arab Emirates, with which it normalized ties in late 2020, on a number of climate-related projects. “There’s a lot of activity going on between the UAE and Israel,” Friedmann said. “It’s not in my area particularly. There’s a lot of discussion as well on R&D but nothing particularly yet. But I think in the near future there will be.”
The former dissident who heads Ukraine’s Jews wants his country to ‘learn to live during this war’
When Josef Zissels talks about how he’s fared during the war in Ukraine, he doesn’t begin with the Russian bombardment that started in late February. Instead, he starts by talking about 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and began funding separatists in Ukraine’s east. That’s when Zissels began sounding the alarm about an invasion and, he says, not enough people listened. Nor does Zissels, who has served for three decades as chairman of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine, anticipate that the war will be over soon. Rather, in a conversation lasting more than an hour with eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales, the former Soviet dissident and political prisoner described an unvarnished vision of the future in which he hopes Ukraine and its Jewish community can both support themselves, even while under constant attack by Russian forces.
Background: Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in 1946, Zissels became active in the Soviet refusenik movement in the 1970s and spent three years in a penal colony as punishment for his dissident activities. Since 1991, he has been at the head of Ukraine’s Jewish community and is also a vice president of the World Jewish Congress. He spoke out against Russian aggression in 2014 and has remained in Kyiv during the past few months and kept working amid the bombing and fighting. The rest of his immediate family has scattered, with some going to Moldova and others to Israel. He is not surprised that more than 10,000 Jews have left Ukraine; Jews, he said, “have this acute sense of history and danger and immigration issues that they faced for thousands of years… It’s our priority to see that the members of the Jewish community are safe.”
Self-sufficiency: Ukraine’s Jewish community is no stranger to such dispersion: By his count, 17,000 of the 20,000 people with Jewish ancestry who once lived in the Donbas — the area attacked by Russian-backed separatists and then Russia — have since left that region. His priority for the Jews who remain in Ukraine, he said, is the same as his goal for the country: self-sufficiency. He understands the need for support from global Jewish organizations, but he’s hoping for a future where it’s unnecessary, and said the community “must rely on our own resources,” adding that “even after the war, there will be a major Jewish community here, and I hope that we’ll eventually come to the stage when we’ll be 100% independent financially and when we’ll be able to provide financial help to Israel and to other communities.”
Back in the USSR: He’s still in touch with friends in Russia, who he says do not support the war. But he’s worried about where that country is headed internally, and what it wants from its neighbors beyond Ukraine. “For me, Russia currently looks like the Soviet Union,” he said. “Russia is moving from [being] an authoritarian power to a completely totalitarian state, with violence as a common practice. I want to be wrong about this, but I think that it’s not only Ukraine that Russia is interested in. Russia is interested in the whole world.” In the face of that threat, Zissels said, he draws on his experience as a dissident, which he called “a very significant part of my personal identity.” While protesting the Soviet Union, he said, he learned that he needed to support himself, by himself. Now, he hopes Ukraine and its Jews can learn the same lesson.
God is a woman, and other revelations in Liana Finck’s ‘Let There Be Light’
One of the most famous stories in the Bible — thanks, in part, to the musical about its main character — is that of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers before becoming a trusted advisor to the Egyptian pharaoh. The tale begins when Joseph’s brothers throw him down an empty well before selling him as a slave to passing merchants.But what if Joseph stayed in the well, and that well had been full of water, and the pharaoh was a merman who reigned over the depths of the ocean? This is the world Liana Finck conjures up for Joseph in her new book, Let There Be Light: The Real Story of Her Creation, an illustrated retelling of the book of Genesis: an underwater kingdom where Joseph settles in with an oxygen helmet, first in a deep-sea jail and then next to the king’s deep-sea throne as his advisor. The cartoonist and author talked to Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch about sexism, the process of translating the Torah and why New York City is her promised land.
Bona fide: The book takes the narrative of Genesis and gives it a modern twist, culled from Finck’s own life and her relationship to gender, sexism, art, God and New York City. With nearly 600,000 Instagram followers and a gig as a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, Finck’s bona fides as an artist are unimpeachable. So, too, is her Jewish background; she is not an amateur in the art of Torah study. As she conceptualized the book, her parents were her hevrutas, or study partners. “I didn’t read all the Rashi or commentators. I knew I would never catch up,” said Finck, who understood that whatever spin she put on the sacred text would probably not placate the most traditional adherents of Judaism or Christianity. “But I got into it. And I felt like I was pretty genuine.”
New meaning: As a 36-year-old living in Brooklyn, Judaism now means something different to Finck than it did during her childhood. Writing the book helped her come to terms with that. “I wonder why I’m not as easily observant as my parents are and why this community doesn’t seem to work for me, even though I don’t … I’m not one of those people who’s like, ‘Oh, I hate religion. I hate God. I hate the Torah.’ I love those things,” said Finck, who noted that she does not attend synagogue services as an adult.
Gender dynamics: Throughout Finck’s book, the oft-inexplicable gender dynamics of the Torah are mined for absurdity. She begins with the story of Creation, with God depicted as a woman who craves validation from the humans she created. In this version, Adam assumes God to be a man, and she goes along with it rather than let the first man succumb to an identity crisis. A woman hides who she really is in order to please a man — Finck’s point makes itself.
👨 How J.D. Ad-Vanced: Politico’s Alex Isenstadt writes a post-mortem on how Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance leapt from the back of the crowded Republican primary to notch both the endorsement of former President Donald Trump and his party’s nomination. “While Vance’s rivals took the conventional route and funneled millions of dollars into TV commercials, Vance mostly outsourced his advertising to the [Peter] Thiel-funded super PAC, instead focusing on winning free media attention from conservative outlets. And while his rivals relentlessly pursued Trump’s all-important endorsement with repeated trips to the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate, Vance kept his distance after an early meeting — and ultimately won over the image-focused Trump anyway, with the former president privately telling Vance he had a ‘beautiful’ golf swing and was a ‘handsome son of a b—-.’ ‘J.D. really had to carve his own path,’ said Republican strategist Luke Thompson, who ran Vance’s allied super PAC. ‘There was no traditional path to victory, so doing things conventionally wasn’t an option.’” [Politico]
🇮🇹 Restoring History: The New York Times’ Robin Pogrebin looks at the $11 million effort to restore three synagogues in Venice’s Jewish Ghetto. “The synagogues exemplify the paradox of the Venice Ghetto: It sheltered Jews but also restricted them to the 1.5-acre area. Poorer families were crowded into the low-ceilinged rooms. The professional classes were able to decorate their spaces with opulent furnishings. ‘We were in a way protected in the ghetto and at the same time segregated,’ said Dario Calimani, president of the Jewish Community in Venice, a nonprofit that supports Jewish life in the city. ‘They didn’t want the Jews to mix up with Christians because there was a danger in their view that Jews would convert Christians to Judaism.’” [NYTimes]
🕍 Breaking Ground: Architectural Digest’s Evan Moffitt spotlights Daniel Libeskind’s newly released design for the Tree of Life synagogue’s new building in Pittsburgh, which will stand on the site of the 2018 mass shooting. “For Libeskind, who is Jewish, the project is deeply personal. Tree of Life had been targeted because of its affiliation with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which brought his family to the U.S. in 1959. He was selected as lead architect last year after an open call for proposals and spent months speaking with survivors and victims’ families. Although different in scale from the World Trade Center master plan, Libeskind says Tree of Life was similar in its challenges: ‘It wasn’t easy to bring all the different stakeholders to come together and to agree on all the aspects of the rebuilding.’” [ArchitecturalDigest]
Around the Web
🤒 Another One: Secretary of State Tony Blinken tested positive for COVID-19, days after attending the White House Correspondents Dinner.
👍 Victory Lap: President Joe Biden, who endorsed Rep. Shontel Brown (D-OH) last week ahead of Tuesday’s primary, released a statement congratulating the first-term legislator on her primary win over Nina Turner — who once compared voting for Biden to eating a bowl of excrement — calling Brown’s victory “an important step forward toward building a better Ohio and better America.”
🗳️ Voter Fraud: Dr. Mehmet Oz is facing criticism for a photo showing him voting in Turkey’s 2018 election, despite claiming earlier this year that he had “never been politically involved in Turkey in any capacity.”
🌃 Israel in Lights: New York City Hall and other municipal buildings around the city’s five boroughs were lit up in blue and white in honor of Israel’s Independence Day.
🤣 Funny Guy: In an interview during this week’s Netflix is a Joke festival in Los Angeles, actor Larry David said he didn’t know how he has avoided being “canceled,” responding to a question from moderator Robert Weide. “I don’t know. It’s a very good question,” said David. “I don’t know why. I don’t like to think about it too much.”
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: A Labour Party councillor reportedly shared Holocaust denial materials on social media before being elected in 2018, the U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle reported.
🪖 Weapons Watch: Israel is reportedly considering increasing its military assistance to Ukraine, a week after a meeting between U.S. and Israeli officials in which the Biden administration asked Israel to up its support for Kyiv.
🏆 Shortlist: Samantha Sutton, an advisor at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations now serving as chief of staff to U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, is a finalist for the Emerging Leaders Medal, presented by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service to federal employees for their service.
🕯️ Remembering: Publisher Irving Rosenthal, whose literary journals helped to propel Beat generation writers, died at 91.
Pic of the Day
Israelis celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, on the 74th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel.
Managing director of Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm, Lauder Partners, Gary Lauder turns 60…
Senior U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Illinois, Robert W. Gettleman turns 79… Columnist Richard Bernstein turns 78… Best-selling author of 20 novels, Linda Fairstein turns 75… Retired judge on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, once president of the Jewish Community Council of Washington, Peter B. Krauser turns 75… Docent at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ruth Klein Schwalbe turns 73… Member of the Knesset, almost continuously since 1988, Moshe Gafni turns 70… President of American Jewish World Service, Robert Bank turns 63… David Shamir turns 61… Pulitzer Prize-winning author of three nonfiction books, historian and journalist, Tom Reiss turns 58… Executive director of the Legacy Heritage Fund Limited, Yossi Prager turns 57… Television writer and producer, known for “The Simpsons,” Josh Weinstein turns 56… Nancy Simcha Cook Kimsey turns 56… Owner of D.C.-based PR firm Rosen Communications, Nicole Rosen turns 51… Director of public relations at UJA-Federation of New York, Emily Kutner turns 51… Executive director of Micah Philanthropies, Deena Fuchs turns 50… Head coach of the football team at the University of Arizona, he spent the 2020 season as the QB coach for the New England Patriots, Jedd Ari Fisch turns 46… President of Charleston, S.C.-based InterTech Group, Jonathan Zucker turns 44… Television correspondent, actress and activist, Lara Berman Krinsky turns 42… Former Israeli national soccer team captain, he also played for West Ham United and Liverpool in the English Premier League, Yossi Benayoun turns 42… Mayor of Bat Yam, Israel, Tzvika Brot turns 42… Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Michael H. Schlossberg turns 39… Former professional golfer, now a fourth-year resident in orthopedic surgery at the NYU Langone, David Bartos Merkow, MD turns 37… Partner at New Enterprise Associates, Andrew Adams Schoen turns 32… Maxine Fuchs turns 29… Associate at West End Strategy Team, Blake E. Goodman turns 23…