👋 Good Tuesday morning!
Ed note: In an effort to bring you, the readers, closer to what our team is seeing and hearing, on occasion we’ll be handing over the pen to individual reporters to lead off the Daily Kickoff. First up, Jewish Insider’s Jerusalem correspondent Ruth Eglash, who accompanied Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on his first trip to Germany as prime minister.
Hi there, it’s Ruth Marks Eglash, Jewish Insider‘s Jerusalem correspondent. Yesterday, I flew aboard Israeli Prime Minister Lapid’s plane, returning from a whirlwind 24 hours in Germany, where the prime minister met with top German officials, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Lapid’s primary goal on the trip was to reaffirm Israel’s opposition to a return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, but the Israelis added a level of gravitas to the visit by including five Holocaust survivors in the delegation.
Speaking last night to the Israeli press accompanying the delegation, Lapid, himself the son of a Holocaust survivor, said that “visiting Germany as the prime minister of Israel is very different to visiting any other country in the world.”
Those optics were on full display from the moment the Israeli delegation touched down in Berlin. Exiting the plane, Lapid walked arm-in-arm with one of the survivors, who had experienced Nazi atrocities as a child in Ukraine and froze at the sight of the German military honor guard.
Lapid’s emotional response to being in Germany for an official visit as the prime minister of the world’s only Jewish state was captured again on Monday when the delegation, accompanied by Scholz, visited the historic Wannsee Villa, just outside of Berlin. Despite the villa’s serene setting, the location, infamous for being the site where the Nazi leadership met in 1942 to finalize the “Final Solution,” brought tears to the eyes of some of the survivors, who shared their chilling personal stories with Scholz.
Lapid, too, was visibly moved as he listened to each of the elderly survivors’ recollections of their horrific experiences and painful losses during World War II. Lapid himself recalled to the chancellor his own father’s story about witnessing his father — Lapid’s grandfather, Dr. Bela Lampel — being taken away by German soldiers. He never saw him again. Lampel died in a concentration camp, but Lapid’s father, Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, became a well-known politician and government minister in Israel.
Writing in the visitors book at Wannsee, Lapid noted: “Here, at the place where the Nazis convened and decided on the final solution to the Jewish people, I stand as Prime Minister of the Jewish state and say: “Am Ysrael Chai” – the nation of Israel lives.”
The delegation headed from Wannsee straight to the airport, arriving back in Israel late on Monday night. A look of triumph — and relief — over what was a significant and powerful visit to Germany, was clear in the eyes of the survivors, and the relatives accompanying them, as they shuffled off the plane.
Read more below on Lapid’s trip to Israel and follow @reglash for regular updates from Jerusalem.
In the U.S. today, we’re watching the final primaries of the 2022 midterms. In Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District, Seth Magaziner is expected to pick up the Democratic nomination, which will set him up against former Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, who is facing no primary opposition. Below, JI’s Matthew Kassel looks at the situation in New Hampshire, where a leading Republican running in the state’s primary to challenge Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) is facing blowback for accepting the endorsement of a lawmaker who has drawn the ire of the state’s Jewish community.
Kushner, Trump admin alums commemorate Abraham Accords anniversary
A who’s who of former Trump administration officials and a coterie of diplomats gathered in a Washington, D.C., downtown office suite on Monday to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. The event was jointly hosted by the Abraham Accords Peace Institute, a nonpartisan organization working to build multilateral ties between Accords member nations, and the America First Policy Institute, a Trump-aligned think tank. Speakers praised former President Donald Trump for his accomplishments in the Middle East and bemoaned the media for not giving him adequate credit for the Abraham Accords.
New administration: “We knew that we had an amazing opportunity,” keynote speaker and former Trump senior advisor Jared Kushner said of the normalization deals that he helped negotiate with Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. He blamed “Trump derangement syndrome” for the Biden administration’s early tepid response to the Abraham Accords. “The current administration, it took them a year to really call it by its name,” he added, “and I think now they’ve embraced it, because they see how good it is, and that was because it’s been enduring in the region.”
In the game: The only speaker at the event who had never served in government was Bruce Pearl, the Jewish head coach of the Auburn men’s basketball team, who just returned from taking his players on a trip to Israel. Pearl participated in a panel discussion with former top national security officials. “I’m working on taking college basketball teams next year to UAE, to Dubai, and play some games there, and then get on a plane and go to Tel Aviv and play some games there, and create the Abraham Accords Cup and have it be something that is just normal,” Pearl said to applause. “Bringing ESPN alongside us and just see, yes, this is how it is now, and this is how it can be in the future.”
Who’s who: Diplomats in attendance included Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog, UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba, Egyptian Ambassador to the U.S. Motaz Zahran, Finnish Ambassador to the U.S. Mikko Hautala, Hungarian Ambassador to the U.S. László Szabó and Romanian Ambassador to the U.S. Andrei Muraru. Other attendees included Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY), executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) Rabbi Levi Shemtov, former Trump administration advisor and Abraham Accords negotiator Avi Berkowitz, former USAID Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick, former Defense Department senior official and director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center William Wechsler and Linda McMahon, former administrator of the Small Business Administration and chair of AFPI.
After trip to Berlin, Israel hopes West will adopt new approach on Iran
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid concluded what officials described as a moving and successful visit to Berlin on Monday, increasing hope in Israel that floundering attempts to return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action could pave the way for a new strategic dialogue on how to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
New position on Iran: “It is important that Iran does not develop a nuclear bomb,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters in a joint press conference with Lapid on Monday, adding that it was unlikely that an agreement would be signed between Iran and the West in the near future. In his public remarks at the Bundeskanzleramt, the chancellor’s office, Lapid welcomed the new position from Europe, saying, “it is time to move past the failed negotiations with Iran.”
Military threat: A senior Israeli official, who briefed the press following the meeting between the two leaders, said the Americans and Europeans had expressed to Israel in “definite terms” that they have many reservations about the possibility of returning to the original nuclear agreement, which Israel has long campaigned against. Asked what the next step might be, the official said the goal was to “hold a strategic dialogue” with Western powers that would lead to a “longer and stronger agreement” and put the threat of military action on the table if Iran continues to destabilize the region and work towards nuclear armament.
Europe in crisis: In addition to Iran, Lapid and Scholz discussed ways Israel could assist Germany, and Europe, with the looming energy and economic crisis as the continent heads into the winter months. In an effort to push back against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe has sharply reduced its reliance on Russian gas sources, causing severe shortages; Israel, which recently, together with Egypt, signed a deal to send natural gas to Europe, could become an alternative supplier in the future. Scholz said the two leaders also discussed ways to mitigate the impact of the war, including the possibility of Germany purchasing the Israeli-developed Arrow 3 defense system.
Read the full story here.
Meanwhile, stateside: Iran has taken a “step backward” with its latest response to a European Union nuclear deal proposal, Secretary of State Tony Blinken said yesterday, adding that a near-term agreement is “unlikely.”
granite state gripe
NH Senate candidate faces scrutiny for accepting support from lawmaker who shared antisemitic cartoon
Last summer, a group of five Jewish Democrats in the New Hampshire Statehouse forcefully spoke out against a GOP fundraiser co-sponsored by a Republican lawmaker who, months earlier, had shared an article from a well-known neo-Nazi website on social media. Now, as New Hampshire voters head to the polls today in the state’s primary, one of those legislators is advancing the fight as he calls on Don Bolduc, a top Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, to reject an endorsement from Dawn Johnson, who drew fierce and bipartisan backlash after she tweeted a link to The Daily Stormer two years ago, Jewish Insider‘s Matthew Kassel reports.
What do you meme: Paul Berch, a longtime Democratic representative from southwestern New Hampshire, said he learned with “regret” that Bolduc, a retired Army general, had accepted support from Johnson, whom he accused of amplifying “a virulent and hateful meme about Jews.” The article, which promoted a discredited conspiracy theory about election fraud in the 2020 presidential race, featured an antisemitic cartoon of a grimacing Jewish man with a long, hooked nose bearing a “rent hike” notice alongside a doctored image of Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp. “Riggers, Jews … Bad News!” the meme stated. “Perhaps Ret. Gen. Bolduc is unaware of this history,” Berch, who is regarded as a leading voice against antisemitism in the New Hampshire Statehouse, said in an email to JI on Sunday. “I call upon him to forthwith reject this endorsement.”
Background: Johnson faced widespread condemnation from both sides of the aisle — as well as calls for her resignation — when she posted the Daily Stormer article in December 2020. The newly elected state representative had initially attempted to upload the link to Facebook but was blocked from doing so. “When you try to share truth FB says NOPE we will not allow it,” she griped at the time. In an interview with JI on Monday evening, Johnson said she had found the Daily Stormer article through a “Google search” and did not immediately “think anything of it” because she had never heard of the site before. “I don’t live in that world,” she said, adding: “I’m not like that at all.” Johnson claimed she had not noticed the antisemitic meme and was otherwise unaware it was offensive when she was roundly criticized for sharing the post. “I didn’t even understand it,” she said of the cartoon. “Someone had to explain it to me.”
Race report: Bolduc, who unsuccessfully ran for Senate in 2020, has leapt into contention ahead of the primary, even as he has drawn scrutiny for a host of controversial statements. The former general has called Republican Gov. Chris Sununu “a Chinese Communist sympathizer,” voiced support for sending U.S. forces into Ukraine and advocated for abolishing the FBI as well as repealing the 17th Amendment, which allows for the direct election of U.S. senators by popular vote. Former President Donald Trump has stayed out of the primary but recently praised Bolduc — who has far outpaced Morse in some polling but has otherwise lagged in fundraising — as a “strong guy, tough guy.”
DOE opens investigation into alleged antisemitic incidents at the University of Vermont
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has opened an investigation into a complaint alleging that Jewish students at the University of Vermont faced numerous instances of discrimination and harrassment, which have altogether created a “hostile environment on campus,” Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel reports. The complaint, jointly filed in October by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and Jewish on Campus, names four incidents that occurred in 2021 and includes testimonials by students who admitted that they feared openly expressing their Jewish identity on campus.
Group think: The first two incidents mentioned in the complaint involved student groups that were alleged to have discriminated against pro-Israel students. A social media account tied to a campus group to support survivors of sexual assault posted on Instagram that it would “follow the same policy with zionists that we follow with those trolling or harassing others: blocked,” going on to say that “we will not be engaging in conversation about . . . Zionism.” The group “basically, in one fell swoop, excluded the Jewish Zionist students from this sexual assault survivor group,” Brandeis Center President Alyza Lewin told JI. “That was extremely traumatic, particularly for Jewish survivors of sexual assault.”
TA trouble: The complaint also named a university teaching assistant who repeatedly made comments on social media targeted at student supporters of Israel. In a series of tweets on April 5, 2021, she wrote, “is it unethical for me, a TA, to not give zionists credit for participation??? i feel its good and funny, -5 points for going on birthright in 2018, -10 points for posting a pic with a tank in the Golan heights, -2 points just cuz i hate ur vibe in general.” In a tweet the following month, the TA wrote that “the next step is to make zionism and zionist rhetoric politically unthinkable,” adding that it should be “worthy of private and public condemnation, likened to historical and contemporary segregationist movements.”
Student response: Incidents like these, as well as other actions against members of UVM’s Jewish community, have made many students feel unsafe on its campus. Avi Zatz, a former UVM student who transferred to the University of Florida after his second year, said that antisemitism on campus was a significant factor in his decision to leave. “It would be hard to find a Jewish person at UVM, who is identifiably Jewish, who hasn’t experienced something [of antisemitic nature],” Zatz said. “Things like if you run into the wrong person, they’ll call you a baby killer or something for being Jewish, if you’re wearing a Jewish star or something. It’s just like an everyday culture [where] you have to hide that you’re Jewish or hide the extent to which you’re Jewish in order to be a normal successful student.”
❓ Plot Hole: The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood observes the gap in sophistication between recent Iranian assassination plots against Americans and Washington and Jerusalem’s targeting of Iranian threats. “Afshon Ostovar, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, told me that since the [Gen. Qasem] Soleimani assassination, Iran’s military and intelligence services have obsessed over proving that they, too, can kill senior officials of hostile countries. ‘They desperately want to achieve some form of revenge,’ Ostovar said. ‘But this covert stuff,’ like the U.S. assassination of Soleimani or Israel’s killing of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, ‘is something they just haven’t mastered.’ Instead they have tried and failed to execute overseas operations, Ostovar says, and each failure has reminded them of their weakness. Killing [former Ambassador John] Bolton or [former Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo, the second target in the Bolton plot, would restore confidence in their status on the international assassination scene. But even assuming a solid connection to Iran, these three recent cases would not demonstrate that it can kill with the same professionalism and brio as the Americans and Israelis.” [TheAtlantic]
💬 What’s in a Name: Washingtonian’s Andrew Beaujon spotlights a growing group chat comprised entirely of people named Matt Cohen. “One surprise that several Matt Cohens told me they’d had since they joined the group was the revelation that not every Matt Cohen is Jewish (despite the facts that Cohen means priest in Hebrew and that a famous Cohanim hand gesture appears to have inspired the Vulcan salute), though quite a few seem to have a brother or a cousin named Andrew, the seventh-most popular name in the ’90s, which is around the time all of the Matt Cohens I spoke with were born.” [Washingtonian]
Around the Web
🛫 Travel Plans: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that she plans to visit Israel for the first time in her current role.
📱 On the Line: Justice Department officials seized the cell phone of Boris Epshteyn, who served as a strategic advisor to former President Donald Trump during the 2020 campaign, as part of the department’s probe into the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot and potential efforts to alter the results of the 2020 election.
📺 The Emmy Goes To…: Brett Goldstein took home the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Roy Kent on Apple TV’s “Ted Lasso,” while Julia Garner won Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for her role in “Ozark.”
🪙 Shekel Shipped: A rare silver coin believed to be minted in the first century CE as a sign of Jewish sovereignty during the Great Revolt was returned to Israel by the U.S.
🔊 Loud and Clear: Israeli lawmaker Nir Barkat said in an interview that Israel would attack Iran if needed.
💣 Launchpad: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz alleged that Iran has used more than 10 different facilities in Syria to produce advanced missiles and weapons for its proxies.
🌊 Maritime Moves: Iran has reportedly agreed to release the crews of two Greek tankers it seized in the Gulf in May in response to a U.S. confiscation of oil.
➡️ Transition: Former Canadian Ambassador to the UAE Marcy Grossman is joining the Atlantic Council as a nonresident senior fellow with the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative and Israel Project in the Middle East Programs.
Pic of the Day
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff met with leaders from the National Council of Jewish Women yesterday in Washington, D.C.
Columnist, author and etiquette authority known as Miss Manners, Judith Perlman Martin turns 84…
Retired motion picture editor, Avrum Fine… Chairman of global brokerage at CBRE, Stephen Siegel turns 78… Retired reporter for the Washington Examiner, Richard Pollock… CEO of the Democratic Majority for Israel, Mark S. Mellman turns 67… Ice dancer who won five straight U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Judy Blumberg turns 65… Executive director of Aspen Digital, part of the Aspen Institute, Vivian Schiller… Senior lecturer in Talmud at Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Rabbi Chaim Kosman… Comedian known as “Roastmaster General” for his Comedy Central celebrity roasts, Jeff Ross (born Jeffrey Ross Lifschultz) turns 57… Attorney general of North Carolina, Joshua Stein turns 56… Member of the Los Angeles City Council, Robert J. Blumenfield turns 55… Founder of United Hatzalah of Israel and president of its U.S.-based support organization, Friends of United Hatzalah, Eli Beer turns 49… Member of the Knesset for the Shas party, Uriel Menachem Buso turns 49… Regional director at the Anti-Defamation League, Meredith Mirman Weisel… Former member of the Colorado House of Representatives, Jonathan Singer turns 43… Advocacy strategist with experience in opinion research, Gary Ritterstein… Director at Finsbury Glover Hering, Walter Suskind… Software engineer at Capital Connect by J.P. Morgan Chase, David Behmoaras… Managing director at Page Four Media, Noa Silverstein… Founder and president of Reshet Capital, Betty Grinstein… Director of programs and partnerships at Israel Policy Forum, Sierra DeCrosta…