👋 Good Friday morning!
Primary season is almost over — but not just yet.
What had for months been a closely watched Democratic Senate primary in Wisconsin turned into a largely one-man race last week after Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry and State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski both ended their campaigns and threw their support behind Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who will face off against Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) in November.
Attention now pivots to the few remaining competitive — and high-profile — Democratic primaries. In New York’s 10th Congressional District, an internal poll from attorney Dan Goldman’s campaign this week has him with a slight lead over state Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou and New York City Councilmember Carlina Rivera. Goldman is up two points over Niou and four points over Rivera, both within the 4.4 margin of error ahead of the Aug. 23 primary.
Elsewhere in New York City, Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) are locked in a tie in the final weeks of the race to determine the next representative from New York’s newly drawn 12th Congressional District. Suraj Patel, who nearly toppled Maloney last cycle running to her left, is banking on the two veteran legislators splitting votes, giving him a pathway to the Democratic nomination.
Further north, in the redrawn 16th Congressional District, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) holds both polling and funding advantages over challenger Vedat Gashi. The Westchester County legislator is hoping that endorsements this week from former Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Nita Lowey (D-NY) will give his campaign a boost.
In Florida’s 23rd District, Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz is the favorite to succeed outgoing Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), but he’ll have to beat a crowded field that includes former Anti-Defamation League Regional Director Hava Holzhauer and Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor Ben Sorensen.
And nearby in the state’s 20th District, Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-FL), who won the special election earlier this year to fill out the term of late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), is facing off again against Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness for the second time this year. Cherfilus-McCormick, who won the January special election by five votes, filed a $1 million defamation lawsuit against Holness late last month over a text message in which the Holness campaign accused Cherfilus-McCormick of embezzlement.
What we’re reading as primary season wraps up: Yair Rosenberg’s latest edition of The Atlantic’s “Deep Shtetl,” where he looks at the elections in which pro-Israel PACs have played a role. Rosenberg takes a particular focus on this week’s battle between Reps. Haley Stevens (D-MI) and Andy Levin (D-MI).
“American policy on Israel is determined largely by non-Jewish political concerns, not Jewish or Israeli money or influence,” Rosenberg writes. “[Michigan Rep. Haley] Stevens defeated Levin because she was the better candidate for the time and place and ran a better race…In fact, when one examines the other alleged AIPAC and mainline Israel-lobby victories in recent Democratic primaries from Ohio to Maryland, a similar pattern emerges: They won races by backing the strong horse against a weak one, supporting talented center-left politicians who already agreed with them against flawed progressive opponents.”
Yonit Golub Serkin joins JI’s ‘Limited Liability Podcast’
From her perch at one of Israel’s leading startup accelerators, Yonit Golub Serkin has seen the “maturation of the entire [tech] ecosystem” from close up. The former managing director of MassChallenge Israel, which helps startups from all over the world in a variety of fields get off the ground, she is now an independent strategic advisor and an innovation trend-spotter. Before moving to Israel, Serkin served as deputy chief of staff for economic development in former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, and later helped found the Israeli venture capital firm Moonscape Ventures. She joined the hosts of Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast,” Rich Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein (she first met Bernstein when the two were undergraduates at Johns Hopkins University), for a wide-ranging conversation about Israel’s tech scene, the growing collaboration between Israel and Gulf nations in the wake of the Abraham Accords and why it is that such a small country attracts so much innovation.
On the Israeli startup scene: “I think the most important thing to remember in Israel is that unlike other ecosystems, what’s been created here is really technology innovation that services a myriad of sectors. So regardless of which sector you’re actually focusing on or what your investment strategy or thesis is, you can find relevant technologies here to take back to your existing holdings or portfolio. What we’ve seen here is a maturation of the entire ecosystem. A decade ago, we would have been talking about early stage technology innovation, that are building tools that are then going to be acquired and used in corporations or in later growth stage companies abroad. What we’re seeing today are actually innovators and founders who can grow their companies throughout those stages, and create really big meaningful companies. We’ve seen companies that are not only going public in major numbers, but are also growing and serving their communities from Israel and from abroad. So really a great maturation of the ecosystem, a lot of innovation that crosses the different sectors, and very quick time to market for many of these companies getting their technologies and their products to market.”
Israeli-Gulf collaboration: “There has been activity between the Gulf and Israel for well over a decade. It was happening quietly, it was happening under the radar, but it was happening…There is no doubt that the Abraham Accords has been a significant catalyst in activity between the two countries. I’ll say even we as MassChallenge launched an accelerator in the UAE, so we were running programs in the UAE. I had team members who were flying back and forth on a weekly basis. That’s been incredibly significant – the ability to get to another market, their interest in technologies, and really getting to learn one another. There’s a lot of significant business there. I will say you are seeing a cultural education, because Israeli culture and the Gulf-based culture is very different. I’m not sure you could find more different business cultures. That’s taking more time to really understand certainly than Israeli founders originally gave it credit for. There are founders, Israeli technologists, who are going over there on a weekly basis, who are finding open doors to pitch their business, to look for partnerships, and I think you’re seeing real meaningful learnings from one another about how to do business in the Gulf. It’s very different from doing business in the U.S. It’s certainly different from doing business here in Israel, and Israeli entrepreneurs are learning that. What they continue to have to balance between is ‘what are the opportunities there versus other markets?’”
Yonit’s upbringing: “I’m the daughter of a Conservative rabbi and a executive director in the Jewish nonprofit space, so very steeped in North American Jewish life. My family made aliyah when I was an infant for the first time – in our household it is called Aliyah Aleph. We moved over here when I was a year and a half old, settled in Haifa, lived there as a young kid, went through the First Intifada here, went through the first Gulf War here as a child, and moved back to the New York area for the end of elementary school and middle school. It was supposed to be a two-year sabbatical, but you know, life has a way of getting in the way of all plans. I went to undergrad and graduate school at Johns Hopkins – met Jarrod in the middle there – worked for the Bloomberg administration, and have been here [in Israel] ever since.”
NSGP Improvement Act sails through Senate committee, but with lower funding proposal
The Nonprofit Security Grant Program Improvement Act sailed through the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee this week — but with a lower funding proposal for the program than was agreed upon in the House, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Making changes: The version of the bill that passed the House proposed providing $500 million for the program annually — far exceeding the $360 million funding goal that Jewish community groups and advocates for the program on the Hill had been targeting for 2023. The NSGP is funded at $250 million for 2022. The version of the bill that passed the Senate committee this week brought the proposed funding level down to $360 million, in line with proposals from appropriators in both chambers for 2023 funding.
Consensus building: Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, told Jewish Insider that the proposed funding level was pared down because “there were some folks who weren’t willing to do the full amount.” The bill passed through the committee by a voice vote as part of a package of numerous other pieces of legislation. The bill passed the House at the $500 million level by a vote of 288 to 129, with all Democrats voting in favor. Peters pledged that “we’re still going to try to get the larger amount. I’m going to be working to do that. It’s something I feel strongly about.”
Other changes: Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), the ranking member of the committee, said during the Wednesday meeting that the Senate version of the bill also included an amendment that would allow nonprofits to receive support and technical assistance to apply for the program. Small organizations without grant-writing staff and experience have historically struggled to apply.
Leaf: China has ‘actively acted’ against Mideast security
Barbara Leaf, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, told a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Thursday that growing Chinese influence in the Middle East has made the region less safe, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Bad influence: Leaf argued that Chinese influence in the region has been inimical to the goals the U.S. has been pursuing, including Israeli-Palestinian peace and expanding normalization between Israel and Arab states. “The [People’s Republic of China] hasn’t just been absent from the space… in some significant instances Beijing has actively acted against the region’s security,” she explained, “whether in its relations with Iran or Syria or in its sales of advanced weaponry, UAVs as an example, that are used by non-state actors against our Gulf partners and others.”
Team up: Iran and China struck a deal last year to expand their cooperation, which Leaf described as an attempt by Iran to duck U.S. sanctions by turning to alternative markets. Beijing, Leaf said, “could play a constructive role vis-a-vis Iran, but they don’t,” particularly with regard to “kinetic activity” and support to terrorist proxies. But, she added, China has been “reasonably constructive” in nuclear talks with Iran. She emphasized that the U.S. has been sanctioning additional entities in Iran to try to staunch Iranian-Chinese cooperation, and “you will see an increasing tempo of these sanctions.”
Other topics: Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) — of the most prominent critics of the U.S.’s handling of the investigation of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh’s death — used his questioning time to discuss the investigation into her death. “A lot of us are concerned that this is not getting the attention that it deserves,” Van Hollen said. “That report, as you know, just stapled the [Palestinian Authority] report and the [Israeli Defense Forces] report together and then reached some conclusions.”
💰 Crypto Cash: In Politico, Elena Schneider analyzes the political giving strategy of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who has spent roughly $40 million in primary races this year to support new candidates in safe seats. “He’s guided by an arcane social philosophy that’s obsessed with doing the most good for humanity by tackling neglected problems, which led him to investing in certain types of endangered-species candidates: people who commit to making pandemic preparedness funding a top issue, and people willing to work across the aisle to achieve it. And Bankman-Fried is taking great pains to shed traditional labels as quickly as Democratic operatives are trying to pin them on him. ‘There have been a lot of times when I have been a bigger supporter of Democratic candidates than Republican candidates. That’s not — that’s not an immovable fact about the world,; Bankman-Fried said in an interview at the bland, inland office park where FTX, the cryptocurrency exchange platform he founded in 2019, has its cramped headquarters. ‘I am legitimately worried about doing things that will make people view me as partisan when it’s not how I feel … because I think it both misses what I’m trying to do and makes it harder for me to act constructively.’” [Politico]
🎶 Hazzan High Notes: NPR’s Jon Kalish discusses the history of Brooklyn cantorial music and an attempt by the next generation — led by musician Jeremiah Lockwood — to revive it. “But Hankus Netsky, professor at the New England Conservatory of Music, believes what’s happening with the Brooklyn cantors may be both a passing and a re-birth of the genre. ‘I think Jeremiah Lockwood is an arbitrator between the generation that is seeing cantorial music die in the congregation and the younger generation that’s seeing the potential of cantorial music to be re-discovered,’ Netsky said. Lockwood fervently believes that these ‘young’ cantors (the oldest is 46) deserve to be discovered. ‘These guys are brilliant singers, brilliant artists and they’re so underground, nobody’s heard of them,’ he said. ‘I wanted to create a possibility for them to be able to do what they are greatest at out in the world and I wasn’t sure who the audience for that would be or if there would be an audience for it.’” [NPR]
Around the Web
👩 On the Ballot: Kari Lake, who was backed by former President Donald Trump, was declared the winner of the GOP gubernatorial race in Arizona.
🕵️ On the Run: The Daily Beast looks at the curious case of a staffer in Rep. Brad Schneider’s (D-IL) office who lost his job after impersonating an FBI officer and leading law enforcement on a chase through Washington, D.C.
🚓 Vandals Strike: A Spanish town formerly known as Fort Kill the Jews was vandalized with antisemitic graffiti, which the town’s mayor said was likely a response by neo-Nazis to a Jewish family moving into the area.
🎭 Here She Is: The New York Timesspotlights Broadway actress Julie Benko, who is stepping in as Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl” for a month before Lea Michele takes over the role, following the departure of Beanie Feldstein from the show.
🏀 Hoop Hopes: The Auburn men’s basketball team will play an exhibition game in Israel on Sunday, airing live on the SEC Network at 1 p.m. ET.
🔼 New Role: The U.N.’s Economic and Social Council granted the American Zionist Movement NGO Special Consultative Status.
🛰️ Drone Mission: Israeli Defense Forces sent armed drones over the Gaza Strip to locate Islamic Jihad operatives in response to recent threats by the movement.
✈️ Friendlier Skies: Several flights going to and from Israel have flown over Saudi Arabia for the first time after the recent opening of Saudi airspace.
🇷🇺 Spying Game: Russia will launch a new spy satellite on Iran’s behalf next week, but plans to first use the technology in Ukraine for an undetermined amount of time.
👎 Failing Grade: A new report from the World Bank found that a Ponzi scheme run among Lebanon’s ruling class had caused significant economic and social damage.
💥 Silo Collapse: Grain silos in Beirut’s port that had been damaged in an explosion two years ago collapsed ahead of an event that marked the second anniversary of the blast.
🕯️ Remembering: Author Melissa Bank, author of The Girls’ Guide To Hunting And Fishing and The Wonder Spot, died at 61.
Wine of the Week
JI’s wine columnist Yitz Applbaum reviews the Castel Grand Vin 2020 (purchase a 2019 bottle here):
“It is not often that one has the opportunity to meet a great artist at the beginning of his journey. Eytan Ben Zaken has been making wine for many years alongside his father, Eli Ben Zaken, founder of the Domaine du Castel winery outside Jerusalem. However, 2020 was the first year that the younger Ben Zaken took upon himself the responsibility of delivering the wine from start to finish. Ben Zaken made some bold choices; taking on risk by letting the grapes sit on the vine through a major heatwave. He was intimately involved in every detail, including choosing the degree to which each new barrel was toasted, and in so doing he created a masterful wine that his father will surely appreciate.
“The Castel 2020 Grand Vin Cabernet is a blend of cabernet, merlot and petit verdot. As in all previous Grand Vin’s, the drinker feels as though they are journeying down a single-lane Bordeaux road as the taste of blackberries and raspberry tart coats their tongue. The terroir of the luscious Judean Hills is deeply present in this wine. The 2020 vintage is still rather young and needs 10 to 15 years to open fully. However, buy plenty now, taste along the way and enjoy as this masterful wine develops. Consume this bottle with anything that your heart desires.”
Israel’s ambassador to France, Yael German turns 75…
FRIDAY: Former New York state senator for 34 years, now of counsel at Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, Manfred Ohrenstein turns 97… Chairman of Delphi Capital Management, Robert Rosenkranz turns 80… Author of many nonfiction books, including The Portable Curmudgeon, Zen to Go and Advice to Writers, Jon Winokur turns 75… Historian, Nazi hunter and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, Efraim Zuroff turns 74… Banker, once known as “Austria’s woman on Wall Street,” Sonja Kohn turns 74… Former Soviet Refusenik, he served as speaker of the Knesset for seven years, Yuli-Yoel Edelstein turns 64… Intellectual property and entertainment attorney based in Ithaca, N.Y., Howard Leib… Member of the British House of Lords, Baron Jonathan Andrew Kestenbaum turns 63… Songwriter, author, political columnist and noted baseball memorabilia collector, Seth Swirsky turns 62… Murray Huberfeld… Chair of the Department of Jewish History at Baltimore’s Beth Tfiloh Dahan High School, Neil Rubin, Ph.D….
Actor who starred in “Weekend at Bernie’s,” Jonathan Elihu Silverman turns 56… President at ConservAmerica, Jeffrey Kupfer… Former member of the Knesset for the Kulanu party, Roy Folkman turns 47… Director of the Center for Middle East Policy at The Brookings Institution, Natan Sachs… Investment and foundation manager at Denver-based Race Street Management and a board member of JFNA, Cintra Pollack… SVP of government and public affairs at the Wireless Infrastructure Association, Matt Mandel… Chairman of The New York Times Company, Arthur Gregg (A.G.) Sulzberger turns 42… Member of the comedy duo Jake and Amir, Jacob Penn Cooper Hurwitz turns 37… Longtime member of the Israeli national soccer team, Gil Vermouth turns 37… Lead strategic designer at BCG Digital Ventures, Lila Cohn… Product engineer at Platform[dot]sh, Abby Milberg… J.D. candidate in the 2023 class at Harvard Law School, Michael E. Snow… State affairs advisor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, Lisa Geller… Leslie Saunders…
SATURDAY: Century City-based partner at the Jaffe Family Law Group, Daniel J. Jaffe… E-sports executive and casino owner, he is a three-time winner of the World Series of Poker, Lyle Berman turns 81… Founder and spiritual leader of The Elijah Minyan in San Diego, Wayne Dosick… Professor emerita and former dean at Bar Ilan University, Malka Elisheva Schaps turns 74… Austrian businessman, Martin Schlaff turns 69… Former state treasurer of Virginia and then Virginia secretary of finance, Jody Moses Wagner turns 67… Distinguished fellow at The George Washington University, former under secretary of state for public diplomacy, Tara D. Sonenshine turns 63… Professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center, Alan J. Lipman, Ph.D. turns 62… Israeli diplomat, Alon Pinkas turns 61… NASA astronaut who spent 198 days on the International Space Station during 2008, he brought bagels from his family’s bagel store in Montreal into space on his first mission into orbit, Gregory Chamitoff turns 60… Co-chair of Gibson Dunn’s white collar practice group, Joel M. Cohen… Famed computer hacker, now a computer security consultant, Kevin Mitnick turns 59… VP of public affairs and strategic communications at the American Council on Education, Jonathan Riskind…
SVP of the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, Melanie Roth Gorelick… Vice chair of the board of directors at the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, Susie Sorkin… Television and radio sports anchor on ESPN and ABC, Mike Greenberg turns 55… Chief economist at The Burning Glass Institute, Gad Levanon, Ph.D…. Boxing commentator and co-host of ESPN’s “This Just In,” Yiddish speaking Max Kellerman turns 49… Co-founder and former CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick turns 46… E-sports executive and casino owner, he is a three-time winner of the World Series of Poker, Lyle Berman… Actress, director and screenwriter, Soleil Moon Frye turns 46… PR consultant, Jeffrey Lerner… Chief creative and culture officer at an eponymous firm, Rachel Gogel… Winner of two gold medals in swimming at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Garrett Weber-Gale turns 37… Legislative director for Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA), Corey A. Jacobson… Senior producer at 10% Happier, Jessica I. Goldberg… Reporter at the Ouray County Plaindealer in Ridgway, Colo., Elizabeth Teitz… School safety activist and former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Hunter Pollack turns 25…
SUNDAY: Brooklyn resident, Esther Holler… Counsel at Mayer Brown, previously U.S. trade representative and U.S. secretary of commerce, Michael “Mickey” Kantor turns 83… Co-founder of the world-wide chain of Hard Rock Café, his father founded the Morton’s Steakhouse chain, Peter Morton turns 75… Retired lieutenant general in the Israeli Air Force, he also served as chief of staff of the IDF, Dan Halutz turns 74… Former PR director for the New York Yankees and author of more than 20 books, Marty Appel turns 74… President of private equity firm Palisades Associates, Greg Rosenbaum turns 70… Jonathan Pollard turns 68… Spiritual leader of Agudas Israel of St. Louis, Rabbi Menachem Greenblatt… Founder and CEO of the Cayton Children’s Museum in Santa Monica, Esther Netter… CEO at Capital Camps & Retreat Center, Havi Arbeter Goldscher… National political reporter at Axios covering both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, Jonathan Swan turns 37… Public address announcer for MLB’s Oakland Athletics, Amelia Schimmel… Catcher in the Miami Marlins organization, he batted .350 with two home runs for Team Israel at the 2020 Olympics, Ryan Lavarnway turns 35… Co-founder and CEO of ShopDrop and group product manager at Cerebral, Estee Goldschmidt… Goalkeeper for Real Salt Lake in Major League Soccer, Zac MacMath turns 31… Founder of Love for the Elderly, Jacob Cramer turns 22… Scott Harrison…