👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to sociologist Geneviève Zubrzycki about the renewal of Jewish life in Poland. We also chat with Yehuda Tomor, the founder of ready-to-drink beverage company Cooloo. Also in today’s newsletter: Sen. Sherrod Brown and Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano.
The behind-the-scenes contest for the chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee will come to a close this morning when committee Democrats will elect a successor to Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), an individual familiar with the situation told Jewish Insider. Reps. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Brad Schneider (D-IL) have expressed interest in the position.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), who had been considering a run, is not actively running for the spot, a source familiar with Sherman’s activities told JI.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing yesterday to examine the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity, focusing on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Eli Rosenbaum, the Department of Justice’s counselor for war crimes accountability, testified about the limits of U.S. law in bringing Nazis, and now Russians, to justice.
Rosenbaum urged changes to U.S. law and policy, which currently provide limited pathways to hold perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity abroad accountable.
“Having prosecuted World War II Nazi cases for nearly four decades, I can attest to the deep frustration we experienced, because statutory limitations like those made it impossible to criminally prosecute any of the many Nazi criminals we found here. Instead, we could bring only civil actions against them,” Rosenbaum said. “Russian and other war criminals who come here should not be able similarly to escape criminal justice, or even find safe haven here.”
“Our substantive human rights-related laws” allow the U.S. to bring charges for offenses such as war crimes, genocide and torture, but those statutes have “significant” limitations, Rosenbaum added in his written testimony. The result is that sometimes the “only available recourse” is to go after offenders for immigration fraud — and not for their human rights abuses — “as it was in nearly all the World War II Nazi cases brought by the Department.”
“What is past is prologue,” Rosenbaum continued, quoting Shakespeare. “History is, tragically, repeating itself today in Ukraine … And it is a near certainty that the further repetition of history will ensure that we will, someday, find perpetrators of crimes committed in Russia’s war of aggression here in the United States.”
Rosenbaum also emphasized during the hearing that his current role pursuing ongoing war crimes is very different from his previous work. “It was an experience unlike anything I’ve ever had in nearly four decades of working on cases involving human rights crimes,” he said, reflecting on a trip to Ukraine, “because in all the other cases I’ve worked on the criminal activity was completed. Sometimes it had been completed decades earlier as was true for World War II Nazi crimes… By the time we left Ukraine, I knew I would do everything within my power… to make a difference.”
Lakewood’s Yehuda Tomor is reinventing the frozen cocktail
Yehuda Tomor’s fascination with cocktails began at a young age. On Friday nights in his Lakewood, N.J., home, he’d watch his father unwind from the workweek with special “Shabbos drinks” — alcohol blended with ice and Mr. & Mrs. T mixes, or whatever flavorings he could find. They weren’t always the most elaborate cocktails, but to 7-year-old Yehuda, the process was an art. As he grew, so did his interest in mixing drinks, loving the sophistication and taste, just not always the hassle. “Once I got married, I started making cocktails in my home,” Tomor, now 30, told Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel in a recent interview, “and it started becoming annoying cleaning up and all that. So the idea was really an RTD cocktail, a ready-to-drink cocktail.” And so was born Cooloo, his Lakewood-based business that manufactures frozen cocktail pops and is part of a fast-growing segment of the liquor industry.
Ahead of the curve: Sales of ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages grew by 40% from 2018 to 2019, and soared 162% over 17 weeks in the late fall and early summer of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020, according to analytics giant Nielsen. However, while many brands jumped on the RTD trend, Cooloo is not a bandwagon label. The company, which launched in 2019, was actually conceived by Tomor three years earlier as he began to sense an opportunity in the liquor market. “If you look back in 2016, 2015, when I was looking at this, no one was making those [RTDs],” the Cooloo founder and CEO told JI. “There was no such thing as seltzers, there was no such thing as all that stuff that are currently out there, they didn’t exist.”
Entrepreneurial spirit: As a child, both of Tomor’s parents owned their own businesses, which still exist today — his father opened a locksmith and security shop called Arrow Locksmiths, while his mother founded a retail clothing store, His Place. Tomor worked at the boutique with his older brother, who helped expand the company into wholesaler T.O. Collection. The experience, and watching his brother take the reins of the family company, drew Tomor into the entrepreneurial world, where he sought to build his own legacy.
Business is booming: Public reception of Cooloo has been overwhelmingly positive, and the company is growing. Cooloo sold 300,000- 350,000 frozen cocktails in its first year, according to Tomor, which it surpassed nearly fivefold two years later, selling over 1.5 million pops in 2021. The manufacturing plant itself grew as well, Tomor added, expanding from a small, 2,500-square-foot space to a 10,000-square-foot building, despite operating during a global pandemic.
Kosher cocktails: The Lakewood community was also invaluable to the brand’s success. A largely Orthodox Jewish town of about 100,000 with a thriving business culture, Tomor spent time studying at Beth Medrash Govoha, or BMG, Lakewood’s famous yeshiva — and the largest outside of Israel. Though he now lives in the neighboring town of Jackson, N.J., it was Lakewood where he wanted his business to thrive. “This is my house. This is where I live, you know. I wanted to make sure to be on top of, especially in the beginning stages, be on top of every single aspect [of the company],” he said. The community has also been receptive toward Cooloo, Tomor expressed. “In the beginning it was exciting,” he said. “Some people didn’t realize that it’s a kosher, it’s a frum Jewish guy owning the product.”
‘Thinking of Polishness in different terms’: New book examines Poland’s Jewish revival
To outside observers, the ongoing revival of Jewish life in Poland, of all places, may seem like a kind of perverse fad, not least because the movement has largely been animated by non-Jewish Poles who are increasingly communing with Jewish history through such acts of philosemitism as visiting klezmer clubs, studying Yiddish, attending Jewish festivals and wearing yarmulkes. “Sometimes, when North Americans or Western Europeans hear about the Jewish revival in Poland, they think it’s all fluff,” Geneviève Zubrzycki, a professor of sociology at the University of Michigan who has closely observed the phenomenon for years, said in a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. “I think they are very wrong.” Zubrzycki is the author of the new book, Resurrecting the Jew: Nationalism, Philosemitism, and Poland’s Jewish Revival, which was published this week.
Jewish renewal: “In the book, I document the growth and spread of festivals of Jewish culture, and there are over 40 in Poland,” Zubrzycki explained. “Obviously, these are not made solely or even primarily by Jews and for Jews. At one point, I didn’t go to Poland for five years, and when I went back in 2010, the festival of Jewish culture in Krakow that I had been attending for several years in the 1990s was like 10 days long and had 30,000 people. That was a shocking difference. There’s not a day where you open a newspaper or a magazine or something where there’s not a new book about Jewish life in Poland or Jewish culture. I became really interested in what Jewishness and Poland’s Jewish path means for non-Jewish Poles.”
Family secrets: “You hear stories, very, very moving stories, of grandchildren, you know, snooping around and finding, for example, a grandmother’s application to the German government to receive compensation, and the grandchildren had no idea that she was Jewish and no idea that she had been in a camp. You have stories of people learning on their grandparents’ or parents’ deathbeds that “I’m not your birth mother,” for example, or one story of a grandfather who had a stroke and woke up speaking Yiddish. You have stories like that that are just unbelievable. And then you have stories from non-Jews who say, “Well, I heard about that pogrom in Jedwabne.”… There are stories like this, of individuals who are building their life around this difficult reckoning and supporting the revival of Jewish communities in Poland.”
History beyond the Holocaust: “There has been a lot of commemorative activity over that, but also the argument that you cannot just commemorate the murders and the death, and that the Jewish contribution and Jewish life in Poland cannot just be restricted to only the murder of Jews in Europe. That’s why it’s going both ways. Some of the argument is that in order to understand what was lost, we need to understand what was. It’s understanding the music, the literature, the architecture. What’s interesting, too, and I tried to show in the book, is that it’s not just like a cosmopolitan, urban, elite movement. There are organizations that go especially to former Galicia — so, Eastern Poland — and school kids and their teachers prepare programs about their small villages that used to be shtetls. There’s a movement for local education, and recovering [the] Jewish history of a region is part of local education.”
Sherrod Brown distances Democrats from Tlaib’s Israel comments
en. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), a leading voice among progressive Democrats in the Senate, distanced himself and the Democratic Party as a whole from comments by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) last week that support for “Israel’s apartheid government” is incompatible with “progressive values,” Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Both sides: “I think [support for Israel] is bipartisan. I think there are a few outliers in both parties, some on the far right, some on the left,” Brown said during a briefing with Jewish news outlets on Wednesday. “I don’t agree with that. I think that the mainstream Democratic Party — and I include in the mainstream virtually almost all of us, literally — and most Republicans support Israel and will continue to.”
Iran angle: The Ohio senator, who was supportive of the original 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, said that efforts to reenter the accord are currently “not top of mind for Senate Democrats.” He explained, “I don’t think that the political stars have aligned in a way that we go back in.”
All about timing: On an issue closer to home for the Ohio Democrat, he is a lead Senate sponsor of legislation that would designate a Cleveland-area Holocaust memorial — one of the oldest in the U.S. — as a national monument. The bill passed the House earlier this month, and Brown said he is talking to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) about scheduling time on the Senate floor to pass it in the upper chamber. “I would feel confident we will do it by the end of the year,” Brown said. “We don’t see opposition. We just see scheduling issues always.”
🗳️ Dem Drain: Politico’s Connor O’Brien spotlights the concerns facing Democrats in Washington, where a number of members who sit on national security committees are either retiring or facing competitive general election races. “The urgency to retain national security Democrats — many of whom came to Congress in recent years with extensive military, diplomatic or intelligence experience — is compounded by the retirements of senior Democrats, who represent decades of institutional knowledge on military and national security issues. Losing leading national security lawmakers, either through retirements or in a wave of election losses, would mean less expertise and less aggressive oversight, Democratic lawmakers said… ‘I’m going into my fourth term now on the Armed Services Committee and I do see the turnover of everyone below me on the dais and I have never thought that’s ever been good,’ said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), a former Marine.” [Politico]
🤝 Gulf Gains: For the BBC, Natalie Lisbona looks at how the Abraham Accords have deepened ties between Israel and the agreement’s Gulf signatories. “Mas Watad is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, and the co-founder and president of Arab-language dieting app and website Dawsat. Together with her partner Tally Zingher, they have recently expanded to the Gulf, thanks to the Abraham Accords. She says the agreements have been [a] ‘game changer,’ as she and her team are now able to move freely between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. Ms Watad has also been able to relocate her family home to Abu Dhabi. ‘The UAE wants to be a leader amongst some of the most important issues, health being at the forefront,’ she says, adding that the Abraham Accords is allowing Dawsat to see its ‘full effect and impact across the Arab world.’” [BBC]
👪 All in the Family: In The New Yorker, Rivka Galchen reflects on her relationship with her Israeli father, who died when she was young. “There was one meal that my family did eat together. That was the Passover meal, which we usually shared with the Scottish Jewish Orthodox family who lived on the other side of town, the Levines. To this day, my brother and I still call roasted potatoes Levine potatoes. What I remember best about those Seders was how my dad and Martin Levine, a dentist, were capable of long discussions about almost any line of the Haggadah. They debated the meaning of the line ‘My father was a wandering Aramaean.’ Where and when had they got this knowledge? My dad came from a very secular family, but, in the Israeli Army, he had won some sort of contest in Bible knowledge. (This is also true of Bertie Wooster.) That my father had been in the Army — that fact felt to me like fiction, though we had his old Army water bottle under the kitchen sink. For some reason, the inessential learnedness of those Seder meals impressed me as something that I could never accomplish but which resided in the realms where true worth lay.” [NewYorker]
🛢️ Energy Efforts: In The Hill, former Rep. Tony Coelho (D-CA) and Houston businessman Fred Zeidman look at how the confluence of oil production and politics has affected America’s standing and global alliances. “America’s status and production capacity enabled a geopolitical reset in the region, galvanizing parts of the Arab League to join Israel in counteracting a resurgent Iran. This reset was embodied in the signing of the Abraham Accords — linking America’s closest ally Israel with former foes like the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Morocco, the Kingdom of Bahrain, and even the African nation of Sudan. Effectively, energy independence in the U.S. laid the foundation for the Middle Eastern political block to partially refocus its geopolitical position — where once it saw Israel as a foe to viewing it today as a regional ally. There is a bipartisan effort to continue bringing new countries into the fold, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. All of this would not have been possible without American domestic production.” [TheHill]
Around the Web
👨💻 Tech Ties: Israeli and U.S. officials held high-level talks in Washington yesterday to discuss opportunities for civilian technology cooperation, against the backdrop of increased U.S. concerns over Israel’s technological ties with China.
💰 Payout: The Department of Justice’s Madoff Victim Fund began its eighth round of distributions, bringing to more than $4 billion the total amount of money repaid to victims.
💔 Marriage Story: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-GA) husband filed for divorce after 22 years of marriage.
🙏 Living on a Prayer: Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano called for “40 days of fasting & prayer” as he struggles to catch up to Democrat Josh Shapiro, whose most recent financial filing shows a $25 million haul over the summer.
⚕️ Health Scare: Journalist Katie Couric announced she underwent radiation and surgery after being diagnosed with breast cancer over the summer.
🙊 Gray Lady + Goldberg: The New York Timesinterviews Whoopi Goldberg about her history of outlandish comments.
✡️ Time for Tulsa: eJewishPhilanthropyspotlights a group that is working to “put Tulsa on the map for young Jewish adults.”
🎭 Across the Pond: A new play showing at London’s Royal Theatre — which came under fire itself for housing a recent production that included antisemitic tropes — spotlights instances of antisemitism in the U.K.
🛂 All Access: The Allenby border crossing connecting the West Bank with Jordan will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, beginning at the end of October, as part of a pilot program that officials hope will improve coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
🇰🇷 Seoul Sale: A free-trade agreement between Israel and South Korea, which will lower the prices of many Korean products sold in Israel, will go into effect in December.
🚑 IRGC Attack: A U.S. citizen was reportedly among 13 people killed in an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps strike in Kurdistan.
🛰️ Drone Down: U.S. forces in Iraq downed an Iranian drone that officials said “appeared as a threat to CENTCOM forces in the area.”
🛫 Na Nachman: Ukrainian officials estimated that 25,000 people traveled to the pilgrimage city of Uman for Rosh Hashanah.
💼 Transition: Matt Duss, formerly a foreign policy advisor to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), is joining the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he will be a visiting scholar in the institute’s American Statecraft Program.
Pic of the Day
An Israeli worker at a shofar factory in Tel Aviv prepares inventory ahead of Yom Kippur.
Tony Award-winning actor and singer, Roger Bart turns 60…
Professor of physics emeritus at MIT, he is a 2017 Nobel Prize laureate in physics, Rainer Weiss turns 90… Israeli author, translator, journalist and restaurant critic, Avital Inbar turns 78… Retired CEO of Southern Calif.-based LinQuest Corporation, he is the finance VP at Temple Sinai, Leon Biederman, Ph.D…. Former member of the Knesset, he serves as the executive director of Beit El Yeshiva and as chairman of Arutz Sheva, Ya’akov Dov “Katzele” Katz turns 71… Past treasurer of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America, Harold Gernsbacher… Composer and pianist, he is the winner of the 2020 Azrieli Foundation Prize for Jewish Music, Yitzhak Yedid turns 51… Chief strategy director for national affairs at AIPAC, Brian Shankman… Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s office of international relations, Aviva Rosenthal… YouTube-based yoga instructor with over 1.2 billion views, Adriene Mishler turns 38… Project manager at NYC’s Neighborhood Restore, Aron Chilewich… Research director at DC-based S-3 Group, Shawn Pasternak… Film and television actress best known for her role in the ABC comedy “The Neighbors,” Clara Mamet turns 28…