👋 Good Tuesday morning.
Ed. note: In observance of Yom Kippur, the next Daily Kickoff will arrive on Thursday.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at an effort by several Jewish groups to encourage the Supreme Court to take up a case involving religious accommodations provided by employers. We also cover last night’s state treasurer debate in Arizona, in which the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement featured prominently. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Liel Leibovitz, Mahmoud Abbas and Liz Truss.
Twenty-eight Jewish and pro-Israel groups signed on to a letter condemning the recent decision by nine student organizations at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law to adopt a bylaw prohibiting invitations to pro-Israel speakers. Among the signatories are AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, Hadassah, the Jewish National Fund and the Israel on Campus Coalition.
“The bylaw is a vicious attempt to marginalize and stigmatize the Jewish, Israeli, and pro-Israel community and to normalize the requirement that Zionist Jews hide or alter a fundamental aspect of their identity in order to be fully accepted in certain arenas,” the letter reads. “This is unabashed antisemitism.”
The bipartisan advocacy group Pro-Israel America will announce today that its political arm is prioritizing more than a dozen “key” House races in the lead-up to the midterms, according to a statement shared exclusively with Jewish Insider.
The list, which covers 13 competitive races, features a number of candidates who were backed by PIA during the primaries as well as a new endorsement for Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA), who is seeking a second term in California’s redrawn 45th Congressional District. The other candidates include Reps. Don Bacon (R-NE), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Jared Golden (D-ME), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Young Kim (R-CA), Susie Lee (D-NV), Mike Levin (D-CA), Elaine Luria (D-VA), David Valadao (R-CA), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Chris Pappas (D-NH) and Dina Titus (D-NV).
“We are keeping a close eye on these 13 key race candidates, all of whom vary widely along the ideological and political spectrum but share a common goal of strengthening economic and security ties between the United States and Israel,” Jeff Mendelsohn, PIA’s executive director, told JI.
Jewish groups urge Supreme Court to take up religious accommodations case
Several Jewish advocacy groups are urging the Supreme Court to take up a case that could overturn decades-old precedent and significantly expand the scope of religious accommodations that employers are required to provide to their employees as the Court begins its new term, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Background: In Groff v. DeJoy, a former mail carrier from Pennsylvania is suing the U.S. Postal Service, which disciplined him and threatened to terminate him because he refused to work on Sundays. USPS attempted to fill some of his Sunday shifts, but was unable to fill all of them. The mail carrier, an evangelical Christian, quit his job, saying that his religious beliefs did not permit him to work on Sundays. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as amended in 1972, employers must accommodate their employees’ religious beliefs unless doing so causes an “undue hardship.” Soon after this provision was passed, the Supreme Court ruled in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison that employers are not required to grant accommodations that impose anything beyond a “de minimis cost” on the employer.
Long time coming: Jewish groups — particularly those representing Jews who strictly observe the Sabbath and Jewish holidays — have long sought to overturn the “de minimis cost test” established in the Hardison ruling. The National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA), Orthodox Union and The Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty (JCRL) have each filed briefs urging the high court to consider Groff v. DeJoy, with a range of Orthodox groups — including Agudath Israel of America — joining the COLPA brief.
Overturning: The Jewish groups argue that the Hardison ruling effectively invalidated the Title VII provisions. “That’s not what Congress intended… that was such a very big blow,” said Nathan Lewin, a constitutional lawyer who authored the COLPA brief, argued the original Hardison case as a “friend of the court” and was involved in drafting the Title VII language in question. Lewin emphasized that he “cannot overstate… the importance of this case” and that he regularly receives calls from Orthodox Jews who say they have been denied jobs or promotions because their employers have rejected accommodations for them. “I’ve seen lots of cases in which Orthodox Jewish individuals have, as we said in the brief, had their careers curtailed, have lost jobs because of Hardison,” he said.
grand canyon state divide
BDS, antisemitism dominate Arizona state treasurer debate
Israel and antisemitism were among the dominant subjects of Arizona’s heated state treasurer debate on Monday evening, where the two candidates sparred at length over differing approaches to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Accusations fly: Kimberly Yee, the Republican incumbent, wasted little time before accusing her Democratic opponent, state Sen. Martin Quezada, of “directly” aligning himself with BDS, which she has aggressively opposed as treasurer. The former state legislator cited a recent event where Quezada helped organize the screening of a 2021 documentary, “Boycott,” that takes a critical look at anti-BDS legislation, including in Arizona. The movie, Yee argued, promotes “antisemitism and discrimination against the people of Israel.”
Quezada’s rebuttal: Quezada forcefully rejected such allegations during the debate. “I am not antisemitic, hard stop, full period right there,” he said, adding: “We need to understand the constitutionality of every law that is passed that impacts the treasurer’s office. I can do that, and I want to ensure that every move that the treasurer’s office makes is both legal and sound under our state constitution and our federal constitution.”
Anti-BDS enforcer: As treasurer, Yee has enforced the law to divest from Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever over the Vermont-based ice cream company’s decision last year to stop selling its products in what it called “Occupied Palestinian Territory.” In August, she notified Morningstar that its Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) rating system contravenes the state’s anti-BDS law, giving the investment firm 30 days to prove otherwise or be placed on a list of blacklisted companies.
Low-profile race: The treasurer’s race in Arizona has kept a lower profile than other statewide contests for Senate, governor and secretary of state, where a range of extreme-right candidates have all faced scrutiny for using antisemitic rhetoric or associating with known antisemites. Yee, on the other hand, presents herself as a comparatively moderate Republican and does not appear to have drawn similar concerns.
Ten books to read in October
In the latest installment of a series exploring new and upcoming books, Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss previews top titles coming out in October:
Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America, by Maggie Haberman (Oct. 4): In one of the most-anticipated books of the season, the New York Times political reporter provides one of the most in-depth looks at the 45th president, from his childhood in Queens to his tumultuous four years in the White House.
If You Want Something Done: Leadership Lessons from Bold Women, by Nikki Haley (Oct. 4): The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations looks at 10 women — from former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir to Cindy Warmbier, who fought for her son’s release from North Korean captivity — who have demonstrated courage and leadership, while sharing stories from her own trailblazing life.
Bibi: My Story, by Benjamin Netanyahu (Oct. 18): Weeks ahead of the election that could determine the final chapter in Netanyahu’s political life, the former Israeli prime minister and current opposition leader chronicles his life, weaving his personal narrative with the history of a young Jewish state.
The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World, by Jonathan Freedland (Oct. 18): Freedland, a longtime Guardian columnist, spotlights Rudolf Vrba, the first individual known to have escaped from the notorious Polish concentration camp, bringing with him a detailed report of Nazi atrocities being committed against Europe’s Jews.
📘 Heart of the Story: Tablet‘s Liel Leibovitz reviews Ruth Wisse’s new translation of Chaim Grade’s My Quarrel with Hersh Rasseyner, describing it as required reading for the Days of Awe. “At the very end of her introductory essay, Wisse called Grade’s story ‘an act of war, a subdued victory lap on the blood-soaked battlefield of Europe.’ Go back and read it again, and you see exactly what she means. Pay special attention to how Grade advances the plot from 1939 to 1948: ‘Nine more years passed, years of war and destruction.’ That’s it. Nine words is all the Holocaust merits, no more than a footnote to a much more fundamental, ancient, and eternal story, the story of the Jewish people.” [Tablet]
📲 Summers Days: The Washington Post‘s Jeff Stein and Tyler Pager analyze the influence of economist Larry Summers on the Biden administration. “After being ignored in discussions over the White House’s $1.9 trillion economic rescue package early last year, Summers emerged as a powerful critic of Biden — giving Republicans a political weapon as inflation skyrocketed and the president’s economic approval ratings cratered. Since then, White House officials have worked on what some privately characterize as a campaign to manage Summers, trying to make sure he feels heard — if not always heeded. Summers is in routine contact not only with [Treasury Secretary Janet L.] Yellen and [Director of the National Economic Council Brian] Deese but also Chief of Staff Ron Klain, with whom he communicates roughly weekly, as well as the president himself, with whom he has spoken privately around a half-dozen times over the last year.” [WashPost]
💸 Grassroots Fundraising: Axios‘ Andrew Solender takes a look at fundraising tactics employed by lesser-known candidates challenging prominent House members, such as Marcus Flowers, who is running against Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District. “Flowers has raised a staggering $10.8 million — despite being all but certain to lose. He’s the Democrat challenging the right-wing firebrand Greene, whose district voted for former President Trump by nearly 40 points in 2020…If you’re on Twitter and follow politics, you’ve probably encountered at least one tweet like this: ‘I’m [name], the [party affiliation] and [profession] running to defeat [controversial House member]. Please retweet and follow to help grow our platform and spread the word that this seat is winnable!’ It’s a format often employed by candidates running against these high-profile bogeymen.” [Axios]
🇦🇿🇮🇱 Baku Bedfellows: In The Jerusalem Post, Seth Frantzman spotlights the growing ties between Israel and Azerbaijan, following Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s trip to the country. “With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a new world order has emerged that is more chaotic. This means there will likely be more conflict in the region and adjacent areas. There could be more clashes between Baku and Yerevan. Turmoil in Iran could spill over and it is only a matter of time before more clashes in Iraq; and in Yemen. Given all these realities Israel not only wants the ties with Baku to flourish but to cement them publicly. That is partly why Gantz’s trip matters so much. It’s about the public aspect, not just quiet arms trade or energy trade. The government of [Yair] Lapid and [Naftali] Bennett, along with Gantz’s transformative role as a Defense Minister diplomat, has put emphasis on public meetings and trips; unlike Netanyahu’s administration which preferred fewer public events.” [JPost]
Around the Web
💲 Strategic Spending: Republican megadonors have avoided donating directly to some Senate candidates backed by former President Donald Trump, skeptical of the candidates’ chances of winning; strategists are advising clients to donate to the Senate Leadership Fund instead.
💵 Money Moves: Republican megadonor Peter Thiel is reportedly shifting his efforts from helping Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance to boosting Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters.
⚖️ Court Case: Eric Herschmann, who served as a top White House lawyer to former President Donald Trump, is serving as lead counsel to former NFL quarterback Brett Favre as the football player navigates a public corruption case.
🗳️ Tied: An internal poll for Rep. Tom Malinowski’s (D-NJ) reelection campaign in New Jersey’s 7th District shows him tied with his Republican challenger, Tom Kean Jr., who is mounting his third bid for the seat.
😠 Opinion Piece: In The Wall Street Journal, Tikvah Fund fellow Tal Fortgang criticizes Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and five other New York Democrats for “trying to enforce conformity” by urging Yeshiva University to recognize a student LGBTQ club.
🎭 Theater Review: The New York Times‘ Jesse Green reviews the new Broadway production of Tom Stoppard’s “Leopoldstadt,” about a Viennese Jewish family whose members mistakenly think they are too assimilated to be targeted by the Nazis.
🇬🇧🇮🇱 Across the Pond: U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss told a Conservative Friends of Israel reception that she is a “huge Zionist and huge supporter of Israel,” and pledged to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.
🗣️ Bridging the Divide: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas encouraged Palestinian Americans to “speak to the Zionist lobby,” referring to AIPAC.
🪧 Blame Game: Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed the U.S. and “the fake Zionist regime” — a reference to Israel — for recent protests that have swept the country.
➡️ Transition: Henry Rome will depart the Eurasia Group to join The Washington Institute for Near East Policy as a senior fellow focused on Iran issues.
🕯️Remembering: Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Max Baer died at 74.
Pic of the Day
Thousands of Jews participate in the Selichot prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem ahead of Yom Kippur, which begins tonight.
Former MLB pitcher, he is now the director of international scouting for the Lotte Giants in the Korea Baseball Organization, Ryan Sadowski turns 40…
Youngest member ever elected to the Los Angeles City Council at 22, she served as chair of the 1984 Democratic National Convention, Rosalind Wiener “Roz” Wyman turns 92… Former lieutenant governor of Maryland from 1987 to 1995 after 20 years in the Maryland Senate, Melvin A. “Mickey” Steinberg turns 89… Senior judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, his father served as a rabbi in Brooklyn for 35 years, Judge Robert David Sack turns 83… Former executive editor of the Los Angeles Times, Norman Pearlstine turns 80… Publisher of lifestyle magazines including Wine Spectator and Cigar Aficionado, Marvin R. Shanken turns 79… La Jolla, Calif., resident, Adam M. Curtis… Chairman of the executive committee at the University of Haifa, he was Israel’s negotiator in the Middle East peace process during the term of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Dov Weissglass turns 76… Actor and past president of the Screen Actors Guild, Alan Rosenberg turns 72… President of the Genesis Prize Foundation, Steven A. Rakitt… Retired deputy chief of staff for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Nathan Steven Bergerbest… Director of the Israeli Government Press Office, Nitzan Chen turns 59… Canadian businessman, producer, impresario and philanthropist, Aubrey Dan turns 59… Actor, director, screenwriter and producer, Liev Schreiber turns 55… Meteorologist at New York City’s WABC-TV, Lee Goldberg turns 50… Film, television and stage actress, Alicia Silverstone turns 46… Member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party, Ron Katz turns 37… Senior director of executive programs at Leading Edge HQ following 11 years at Hillel International, Sara Stesis Singla… Policy and legislative analyst at AIPAC, Gefen G. Kabik…