👋 Good Thursday morning!
After confirming that Iran was behind a massive cyberattack in Albania in July, the Balkan nation severed diplomatic ties with Iran on Wednesday. In their final hours in Tirana — diplomats were given 24 hours to leave the country — embassy personnel were reportedly seen burning documents inside the embassy.
“The United States will take further action to hold Iran accountable for actions that threaten the security of a U.S. ally and set a troubling precedent for cyberspace,” the National Security Council said in a statement.
A State Department spokesperson vowed that the U.S. will continue to seek a nuclear deal with Iran in light of the news of the Albanian cyberattack and a new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency saying the watchdog “cannot assure” that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful.
“Let me widen the aperture a little bit here for you. We have never sought to insinuate that a mutual return to compliance of the JCPOA will address every single activity that we find problematic that Iran undertakes,” State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters Wednesday. “What we do know is that an Iran with a nuclear weapon takes – makes all of these problems a lot worse.”
The Facebook exec pitching the metaverse to the world
For many Jews, their relationship with their rabbis usually starts — and ends — at the doors of the synagogue. Not so for Nicola Mendelsohn. The stalwart of the British Jewish community built close personal ties with Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and his predecessor, the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. Their outside-of-synagogue hangouts looked a little different than a study session or a Shabbat dinner: Mendelsohn, Meta’s ad chief, once took Sacks and Mirvis on a climbing trip. In the metaverse. “If you reach up, it feels like you’re moving, and the imagery is going down. And in the same way as in real life, when you look up and down,” Mendelsohn told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch in a recent Zoom interview from Herzliya Pituach, the coastal Israeli neighborhood where her family has a home.
Day job: As the vice president of Meta’s global sales group, Mendelsohn oversees the company’s advertising business, a massive portfolio that makes her the biggest booster of Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and the company’s burgeoning metaverse-focused products like Oculus to businesses around the world — and to skeptics in her own communities who haven’t yet bought into the immersive augmented reality that Mendelsohn thinks everyone will soon be using.
Jewish journeys: What if, she explained, someone organized a metaverse tour of the synagogues of Europe? “Look to your left, look to your right, you’ll either have people you know, or people that you’re going into a group that you don’t know, and you’ll be able to converse together. You’ll be able to listen to an informed expert,” she added. “You’ll be able to see these extraordinary things, and then be able to reflect on them afterwards.”
Philanthropic family: In London, where the Shabbat-observant Mendelsohn lived for her entire adult life until relocating to New York City this year, she was active at her family’s synagogue. Her husband, Lord Jonathan Mendelsohn, a member of the House of Lords, brought Jewish themes to his work, too; he once served as chairman of Labour Friends of Israel. Together, they serve as co-presidents of Norwood, a Jewish charity that supports vulnerable children in the U.K. What if, Mendelsohn asks, the metaverse could help drive philanthropy?
Changing times: Meta was a very different company when Mendelsohn, 51, joined nine years ago as vice president for Europe, Middle East and Asia. Back then, the company had no real Israeli presence, which she helped change. At the time, Facebook was still the business’s primary product. Researchers had not yet begun to uncover the ways extremism and misinformation flourish on Meta’s products. “We absolutely don’t want that on our platforms,” Mendelsohn argued.
In a new NY-19 and against a new opponent, Molinaro looks for a second chance
Voters in New York’s 19th Congressional District stunned much of the political world in late August by delivering an unexpected victory to Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, who defeated Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro in a special election in the Hudson Valley district. Molinaro has shrugged off the loss and has trained his eyes on November, when he will again appear on the ballot — but against a different Democrat and in a newly drawn district, following the state’s redistricting earlier this year, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Postmortem: Speaking to JI last week, Molinaro downplayed the implications of his loss for the November election in the newly drawn 19th District, saying that his internal polls never showed him beating Ryan outright, and that Democratic turnout was higher due to competitive Democratic primaries in the area. “All of that and redistricting created so much confusion that, frankly, we knew that turnout was going to be a difficult challenge,” Molinaro explained. “Elections are not about candidates. You can’t tell people what they should believe or what issues are important to them… We as candidates not only have to talk about those issues but be honest and earnest about listening to voters about those issues.”
Other side: While pundits have attributed Ryan’s victory to a significant degree to renewed national debates over abortion, which have energized the Democratic base and were a focus of Ryan’s campaign, it has not been the most prominent message employed by Democrat Josh Riley, an attorney whose resume boasts stints as general counsel to former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) on the Senate Judiciary Committee and as an appellate court clerk. “Folks across upstate New York want more public servants and fewer professional politicians,” Riley told JI. Riley’s core campaign message — and the focus of his first general election ad, released Wednesday — centers around bringing manufacturing and industry back to upstate New York, with a focus on high tech and technologies critical to the renewable energy sector.
Iran agenda: Riley and Molinaro did find some common ground on foreign policy — they both expressed opposition to a nuclear deal with Iran along the lines currently being negotiated. Molinaro said he does not expect any positive outcome could come from negotiations with Tehran, calling for a “hard-line approach” involving the Islamic republic’s “economic, military and cultural isolation.” Riley said he has “some pretty serious concerns with what I have seen so far,” calling for a “longer and broader and stronger” deal than the original 2015 agreement — a pursuit largely abandoned by the Biden administration. Riley noted that he had been part of a legal team representing families of 9/11 victims that sued the Iranian regime.
Home front: Riley said that his experience working for the Senate Judiciary Committee has given him insight into the role that the federal government can play in fighting antisemitism. Congress, he said, could work to ensure proper oversight of and support for the FBI and Justice Department’s efforts to fight attacks against the Jewish community. Molinaro emphasized that leaders and law enforcement need to specifically call out and pursue antisemitism as a distinct issue and trend, rather than generalizing it as part of broader issues of hate, extremism and white supremacy. He also said that the U.S. is doing a “very poor job” of teaching young people about both religion and the Holocaust.
on the hill
GOP resolution seeking draft Iran deal text headed for House Foreign Affairs vote
A Republican-sponsored resolution seeking to force the administration to provide Congress with the still-pending draft text of the Iran deal is headed to a vote in the House Foreign Affairs Committee next week, a spokesperson for the bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
On the docket: The resolution, introduced by Foxx and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) would compel the administration to provide Congress with the text of the draft deal and any related side agreements immediately, even if negotiations are still in progress when the bill is passed. It’s unclear if the resolution will have enough support to pass the committee. Under existing law — the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) — the administration is required to submit any Iran nuclear agreement in full to Congress when it is signed.
Go deeper: A source familiar with the Foxx legislation characterized it as an “opening salvo” in efforts to “forc[e]” the administration to comply with INARA. A Democratic staffer familiar with the process described the legislation as procedural “funny business” that would force the administration into a premature version of the INARA review process for an unfinished deal.
Next steps: Foxx’s resolution was introduced under special procedures that would force a full House vote on the legislation in late September unless it is considered by the Foreign Affairs Committee before then. By bringing the legislation to a committee vote next week, on Sept. 14, Democrats will avert this scenario. Even if the committee votes in favor of the resolution, Democratic leadership would subsequently control its fate, and would be able to prevent it from receiving any further consideration or a floor vote.
Numbers game: The source familiar with the legislation said they were unsure if there are enough votes in the Foreign Affairs Committee to approve the legislation. A Democratic staffer who spoke to JI was confident there are sufficient votes in the committee to block it. The staffer said the Foxx resolution “would break precedent” by interfering with presidential authority to conduct pending international negotiations, such that it would likely be roundly rejected by Democrats. The staffer also noted that Republicans have used the same procedural tool — seen by critics as a mechanism to force committee consideration of and votes on politically sensitive issues — on dozens of occasions during the current congressional session, and have been consistently blocked by Democrats.
🎭 Life as Art: The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd interviews playwright Tom Stoppard ahead of the Broadway opening of “Leopoldstadt,” a loosely autobiographical work that was inspired by Stoppard’s late-in-life reckoning with his family’s Jewish background and the deaths of his relatives, including all four of his grandparents, in the Holocaust. “Tommy immigrated to England at 8, assuming an identity as British as white flannel cricket pants. It was a duality he did not dwell on for decades. Even when he was eventually prodded in his 50s into examining the identity of his Eastern European family and their fate in the Holocaust, it would take him six more years to write a magazine piece about it, and then two more decades for the play to gestate. ‘I think he’d already faced it, but he hadn’t faced it all the way through his body to be sufficiently able to write it,’ said Patrick Marber, the playwright (‘Closer’) who directed ‘Leopoldstadt’ as well as the successful revival of Stoppard’s ‘Travesties’ a few years ago in London and on Broadway. ‘It’s looking at his Jewishness, but it’s Tom looking at death and his own mortality and everyone’s mortality as well.’” [NYTimes]
🇨🇳 China’s Gain: In Foreign Policy, Craig Singleton cautions that a new nuclear deal with Iran could stand to benefit China, challenging U.S. foreign policy around the world. “Free from the threat of sanctions, China will almost certainly ramp up its investments in and trade with Iran, deepening not only its influence there but in the region as well. China’s increased access will be most acutely felt in a handful of strategically significant industries, many of which carry serious national security ramifications. For instance, whereas U.S. sanctions led state-owned China National Petroleum Company to back out of a multibillion-dollar deal to develop natural gas in the South Pars field — the world’s largest gas deposit by far — in 2019, Chinese firms will probably reexamine the viability of this and other lucrative energy initiatives, some of which are overseen by Iran’s military. China will also expand its reach throughout Iran’s steel, gold, and aluminum sectors, having previously invested in other materials processing projects that enabled Iran to produce inputs for its missile program.” [ForeignPolicy]
👨💼Work-Faith Balance: In the Brunswick Review, Michael France and Kevin Helliker profile Pierre Gentin, who serves as McKinsey’s global general counsel. “An Orthodox Jew, Gentin disagrees that religious inspiration should be entirely off limits in the workplace. ‘The notion that something so fundamental to the lives of billions of people should be hidden at the office? I find that amazing.’ That his spiritual interests extend beyond Judaism is clear from his long friendship with Father Patrick Ryan, a Catholic priest and Fordham University scholar who holds a Ph.D. from Harvard in Islamic Studies. ‘Pierre isn’t afraid. He really wants to understand the points of view of people of other faiths,’ says Father Ryan.” [BrunswickReview]
Around the Web
🇮🇱 Two States: U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides asserted during a meeting with the Foreign Press Association that a two-state solution would “maintain Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”
👩 In the Spotlight: GQprofiles Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) as the two-term representative considers the direction of her political future.
📝 Oath Keepers Cabal: A recently leaked list of members tied to the Oath Keepers extremist group included the names of hundreds of U.S. military, law enforcement and government officials.
🖼 Art on the Move: New York City officials returned $19 million worth of stolen antiquities to Italy — some of which had been part of hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt’s personal collection.
💁🏻♀️ Kim Cash: Kim Kardashian is opening a new private-equity firm, SKKY Partners, with the help of former Carlyle Group partner, Jay Sammons.
🍕 Nice Slice: Ricotta, New Haven’s first and only kosher pizza joint, opened this week.
📚 Course Review: The Anti-Defamation League is reviewing its educational content after an investigation by Fox News.
🗳️ Concerning Candidate: A fringe candidate for mayor in Oakland, Calif., used antisemitic language targeting a synagogue in a email tirade sent to activists, journalists and other candidates, after the synagogue invited just three of the 10 candidates in the race to participate in a forum.
🌡️ Hot Issue: A new study published in the Review of Geophysicswarns that the Middle East is facing increases in temperatures at double the rate of the rest of the world, placing the region on track to be 9 degrees warmer by 2100.
🛒 Shopping Spree: Israeli supermarket chain Shufersal opened its first checkout-free location in Tel Aviv.
🏨 Historic Hotel: Forbesspotlights Tel Aviv’s Drisco Hotel, built in the mid-19th century by a pair of American Christian brothers before being sold to German templars, eventually being seized by the British and used as the headquarters of Israel’s Education Ministry before being abandoned in the late 20th century.
🎤 Read the Room: Axiosrecounts an uncomfortable scene in a closed-door meeting between former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a visiting delegation of U.S. officials, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), when Netanyahu appeared to wear a neck microphone and brushed off legislators’ concerns about a camera in the room, eventually acquiescing to having both removed.
🚢 Maritime Mediation: Israel and Lebanon see upcoming border dispute talks with U.S. Energy Envoy Amos Hochstein as “crucial” to reaching an agreement and easing tensions.
🚫 Request Denied: Israel said it will not review the Israel Defense Forces’ rules of engagement in the West Bank, in response to a State Department spokesperson’s urging to do so in the wake of the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
🇵🇸 PA Prop-up: The U.S. government has called on Israel to “stabilize” the Palestinian Authority, whose hold on the West Bank, officials say, is weakening.
🚀 Grounded: An Israeli missile attack — the second one this week — has left Syria’s Aleppo airport unable to operate.
🧑💻 Hack Work: American cybersecurity firm Mandiant warned that hackers are aiding Iran’s efforts to spy on U.S. officials.
💡 Fuel Friends: Lebanon is turning to Iran for fuel to help ease massive outages throughout the country.
🕯️ Remembering: Dr. Ronald Glasser, who treated wounded Vietnam War troops from a hospital in Japan and would go on to pen 365 Days, which detailed their experiences, died at 83.
Pic of the Day
A scrap of ancient papyrus inscribed with Hebrew writing that dates back nearly three millennia was returned to Israel more than 50 years after being taken from the Judaean desert by a tourist from Montana, whose son returned the artifact.
CEO of Weight Watchers until earlier this year, Mindy Grossman turns 65…
Holocaust survivor and a pioneer in children’s Holocaust education, Bat-Sheva Dagan turns 97… Chair emeritus of L Brands, Les Wexner turns 85… United States Senator from Vermont and past presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders turns 81… Labour party member of the U.K. House of Commons, Dame Margaret Eve Hodge (née Oppenheimer) turns 78… Pharma executive, Samuel D. Waksal turns 75… Chairman of Douglas Elliman and its parent company, NYSE listed Vector Group, also chairman of Nathan’s Famous, Howard Mark Lorber turns 74… Owner of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, Jeffrey Lurie turns 71… Former co-chair of the Jewish National Fund, he was previously a member of Knesset, Eli Aflalo turns 70… Owner of Sam’s Fine Wines & Spirits in Walpole, Mass., Jay W. Abarbanel… British physician and professor of neuroscience at Columbia University, Daniel Mark Wolpert turns 59… Founder and president of Cedille Records music label, he is the son of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, James Steven Ginsburg turns 57… Russian real estate developer, Zarakh Iliev turns 56… Australian businessman, James Douglas Packer turns 55… Rabbi of the Jewish Center of Princeton, Rabbi Andrea Merow… Aspen, Colo., resident, Adam Goldsmith… Actress, model and television personality, Brooke Burke turns 51… Founder and executive education consultant Atlanta-based JewishGPS, LLC, Robyn Faintich… Principal and co-founder of BerlinRosen, Jonathan Rosen… One of the world’s best-selling music artists, Alecia Beth Moore, known professionally as Pink, turns 43… Head coach for the University of Hawaii men’s basketball team, Eran Ganot… and his twin brother, the creative director of an eponymous clothing line, Asaf Ganot, both turn 41… Founder and CEO at SPARK Neuro, Spencer Gerrol… Director of corporate communications at Related Companies, Andrei Berman… Drummer for heavy-metal band Slipknot, he is the son of drummer Max Weinberg, Jay Weinberg turns 32… Washington correspondent for Jewish Insider, Gabby Deutch… and her twin sister who is the external affairs associate at VELA Education Fund, Serena Deutch… Former director of the Israel Fellows Worldwide program for the Jewish Agency, Gilad Peled… Philip Ehrensaft…