👋 Good Friday morning!
Ed. note: In celebration of the upcoming Sukkot holiday, the next Daily Kickoff will arrive on Wednesday morning. Chag sameach!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to cross-ticket voters in Pennsylvania who plan to cast ballots for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro and Republican Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz. We also take a look at the Biden administration’s efforts to pressure companies still complying with the Arab League’s boycott of Israel. Also in the Daily Kickoff: Amb. Tom Nides, Marianne Williamson and Jose Andres.
For less-distracted reading over the weekend, browse this week’s edition of The Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent JI stories, including: Gainesville’s Golden boy; Jewish groups urge Supreme Court to take up religious accommodations case; Mobileye files for IPO amid barren Wall Street landscape; A growing teen leadership program at an Orthodox synagogue is combining Jewish text and college credit; A relaxing retreat with a slice of history on Mount Carmel; and Ten books to read in October. Print the latest edition here.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) confirmed yesterday that he is likely to depart the Senate to become the president of the University of Florida. Sasse, the sole finalist for the job, is expected to leave the Senate before the end of the year, reports indicate.
First elected in 2014, Sasse emerged as an early and vocal critic of the Republican Party’s embrace of far-right extremism and conspiracy theories, and of former President Donald Trump.
Sasse, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been a supporter of Israel and critic of Iran during his time in office. In his first term, he declined to sign onto an AIPAC letter with broad bipartisan support opposing one-sided U.N. intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — because he felt it did not go far enough. “I am concerned that the United Nations treats Israelis and Palestinians as equivalent partners — there is simply no comparison,” he said at the time.
The Nebraska senator was vocal about the lack of congressional involvement in the Iran nuclear negotiations following Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran deal in 2018, saying at the time, “Today is a reminder that if you live by the Presidency, you die by the Presidency. We ought to be clear about this: Donald Trump isn’t ripping up a treaty; he’s walking away from Barack Obama’s personal pledge.”
Following the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January 2020, Sasse issued a strident statement: “This is very simple: General Soleimani is dead because he was an evil bastard who murdered Americans.” Late last month, Sasse delivered a similarly fiery speech on the Senate floor condemning the Iranian leaders as “pathetic cowards.”
In the current congressional session, Sasse was an early supporter of legislation seeking to promote and expand the Abraham Accords and GOP initiatives seeking to cut off aid to UNRWA and block the administration from reopening a consulate in Jerusalem.
Should Sasse depart the Hill later this year, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, would appoint a successor to hold the seat until a special election in 2024. Ricketts, a part owner of the Chicago Cubs who mounted an unsuccessful bid for Senate in 2006, could potentially name himself Sasse’s successor.
For many Pennsylvania Jewish Republicans, yes to Oz and no to Mastriano
In Pennsylvania, a state with the nation’s fifth-largest Jewish population — a total that represents 3% of the state’s electorate — every Jewish vote counts. In two key races in the state — an open Senate seat and the battle for the governor’s mansion — Jewish Republicans are straddling party lines, their loyalties tested. They appear to be unifying around Dr. Mehmet Oz, the prominent talk show host and the party’s Senate nominee. But they also appear to be leaving gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano behind, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
So low: “I think that Mastriano’s support in the Jewish Republican community isn’t zero, but it’s about as low as it — it’s pretty low,” said Jon Tucker, a Pittsburgh orthopedic surgeon who switched his party registration from Democrat to Republican in 2015. “Of all the people that I know, I mean, I probably only know one person who’s gonna vote for Mastriano, but he’s also an election denier and conspiracy theorist.”
Under fire: The Pennsylvania state senator has come under fire for his presence at the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, 2021, his support for election fraud conspiracies and his association with Andrew Torba, the founder of Gab, a social-media platform preferred by antisemites. Mastriano’s critics have called him a “Christian nationalist,” a term he has not personally used. But he does speak often about Christianity and its important place in America, and the role of God in national affairs. At his campaign launch event, Mastriano appeared with a pastor dressed in a Jewish prayer shawl who blew the shofar. He also has a yearslong history of invoking the Holocaust when talking about his political opponents and policies with which he disagrees.
Crossing the aisle: Mastriano is competing against Josh Shapiro, the state’s Democratic attorney general, who has made his Jewish identity central to his campaign. Shapiro is banking on the support of Republicans to defeat Mastriano. He has recently been rolling out endorsements from prominent Pennsylvania Republicans, including former U.S. Reps. Charlie Dent and Jim Greenwood, and from unions like the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, which usually supports Republicans. (It also endorsed Oz.) Shapiro’s supporters like to point out that he earned more votes in the state in 2020 than President Joe Biden did.
Different strategies: Both Oz,who is facing Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, and Mastriano have been endorsed by former President DonaldTrump. But Oz has “done two things” since the state’s May primary to shore up support, said Berwood Yost, director of the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College, which has conducted polling in both races. “One is consolidated Republican support. Our last poll showed far more Republicans supporting him now than did in August.” The other, Yost added, is that Oz has “also made an effort to moderate his stance.” Mastriano has not done the same.
Ballot busters: “There will be A LOT of Shapiro/Oz ticket splitting votes,” Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director MattBrooks tweeted last month. The RJC has gone all-in for Oz; in August, the group hosted an event in which Oz appeared next to Trump-appointed U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Earlier this week, the organization’s affiliated super PAC announced a $1.5 million television ad buy that will target Black voters in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with an anti-Fetterman message. The advertisements target Fetterman for a 2013 incident — for which he received significant criticism from Democrats in the Senate primary — in which he pulled out a shotgun to stop and detain an unarmed Black jogger. Fetterman was the mayor of Braddock, Pa., outside of Pittsburgh, at the time.
Bonus: Fetterman announced a $22 million haul in the third quarter, $5 million more than Oz raised in the same time.
Biden administration ups penalties for compliance with Arab League’s Israel boycott
As part of an effort to increase pressure on the Arab League over its boycott of Israel, the Department of Commerce announced on Thursday plans to tighten penalties for and increase enforcement of preexisting anti-boycott laws, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Background: Under U.S. law first passed in 1979, U.S. companies and individuals face criminal and civil penalties for participating in the Arab League’s long-running boycott of the Jewish state — which predates Israel’s existence. Companies are also required by law to inform the Commerce Department if they are asked to agree to boycotts, even if they refuse to do so. The law applies to any foreign government-imposed boycott of a U.S. ally, but has primarily been applied regarding Israel.
Changes: Under the new policy, the Commerce Department will increase fines for violations of the anti-boycott law, require companies that settle cases out of court to publicly admit their wrongdoing and increase its focus on foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies. It is also reevaluating how it categorizes various offenses, in line with the increased penalties. Matthew Axelrod, who oversees anti-boycott enforcement at the Department of Commerce as the assistant secretary for export enforcement, unveiled the new policy in a memo to Commerce Department staff and at an event on Thursday at the American Jewish Committee’s Washington office.
Antisemitism angle: “Antisemitism too often manifests itself in attempts to delegitimize Israel through conspiracy theories and through discourse that dehumanizes Jewish people,” Axelrod said at the AJC event. “I want to ensure that we in the Commerce Department are doing what we can to have the strongest possible anti-boycott enforcement program.”
Outside the lines: But one area that generally falls outside of existing regulations is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. Axelrod and Cathleen Ryan, the longtime director of the Office of Antiboycott Compliance, explained that existing federal anti-boycott laws apply only to U.S. companies’ and persons’ compliance with boycotts enforced by foreign governments targeting U.S.-allied countries — such as if a U.S. company entered into a contract containing language mandating an Israel boycott with a company in a country that enforces such boycotts. If a company boycotted Israel in support of the BDS movement but not in “trying to comply with a foreign government’s laws,” it would not be subject to any federal penalties, Axelrod said.
Kelly, Masters spar in first and only scheduled Arizona Senate debate
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and his Republican challenger, Blake Masters, squared off on Thursday night during Arizona’s first and only scheduled Senate debate before early voting begins next week. The highly anticipated showdown, which also included Libertarian candidate Marc Victor, ran for an hour and touched on such issues as inflation, border security, abortion and the U.S. military, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Tempered image: Masters, a Trump-endorsed former venture capitalist who has trailed Kelly in public polling, tried to temper his image as a right-wing extremist, softening hardline positions on abortion and election denialism he took during the primary. Meanwhile, he accused Kelly, now seeking his first six-year term after winning a special Senate election in 2020, of backing President Joe Biden’s policies “every single time,” while sowing “chaos” at the border and contributing to rising crime rates, among other things.
Pushing back: For his part, Kelly sought to cast himself as an independent voice willing to buck his party “when Democrats are wrong” — especially, he emphasized, when it comes to border security — in the service of bipartisan cooperation. He touted his efforts to counter drug trafficking from Mexico and “bring manufacturing back to America to cut costs.” Masters, he argued, “has some beliefs that are just dangerous for Arizonans,” citing instances where the Republican upstart has vowed to privatize social security and called abortion “demonic.”
‘Pretty insulting’: Near the end of the heated debate, Kelly, a former astronaut and Navy captain, said he was personally insulted by Masters’ frequentcriticisms of the U.S. military. He alluded to one comment from a controversial essay in which Masters, at 19, suggested “the U.S. hasn’t been involved in a just war in over 140 years,” as JI first reported in April. “Folks, let me tell you what he’s talking about here,” said Kelly, whose campaign has also highlighted the comment in attack ads. “He’s saying that World War II was unjust. We had hundreds of thousands of Americans die in that war, and I just find it pretty insulting.”
Masters’ rebuttal: While Masters has acknowledged he “went too far” in the essay, he did not directly address his past comments, written for a libertarian website that describes itself as “anti-war,” on Thursday evening. “The military is not a woke social experiment,” he argued instead. “I won’t tolerate that. It should be focused on lethality and projecting force to defend America and her allies.” Despite such assertions, Masters, who advocates for a non-interventionist approach to U.S. military engagement, has strained to articulate his foreign policy views throughout the race, particularly on Israel and the Middle East.
🇮🇱🇺🇸 Jerusalem Update: In a wide-ranging interview with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, Mishpacha Magazine’s Gedalia Guttentag covers an array of topics ranging from the Iranian nuclear deal to the recent death of Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh in the West Bank. “It’s certainly true that the Biden administration is under strong pressure from senior members of its own party to hold Israel to account. Patrick Leahy, the longest-serving member of the Senate, recently warned that Israel faced the loss of military aid under a law he sponsored 25 years ago cutting weapons supplies to countries that abuse human rights, if it didn’t explain Abu Akleh’s death. ‘In my heart of hearts, I don’t think that we mishandled this in any way,’ Nides says. ‘She was an American citizen and a very famous journalist, and I think that we dealt with this with the utmost respect for her family, and for our ally. Like any great friend, you push back. That’s what the Israelis do to us on Iran — do we get offended?’” [Mishpacha]
🧕 Generation Gap: In The Washington Post, Ishaan Tharoor differentiates the current protests in Iran with past protest efforts in the Islamic republic, noting the presence of younger Iranians at the forefront of the effort spreading across the country. “The Islamic Republic emerged in 1979 in the wake of a mass protest movement against an autocratic monarchy. Many of its ruling elites are holdovers from that revolutionary era and reflect a status quo that, while entrenched, is also calcifying, seemingly incapable of change. The toll of sanctions, economic mismanagement and years of political overreach in Iran’s neighborhood now dog the regime, whose rhetoric of revolution and resistance to Western imperialists is proving more hollow than ever… This week, [Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei cast the unrest as ‘riots’ and blamed it on foreign agitators. That age-old scapegoating can hardly assuage a revolt that is being driven by young people who seem fed up with the stultifying, stifling controls placed on them by an aging crop of ideologues.” [WashPost]
🏃♂️ Race to Watch: Politico’s Alex Isenstadt spotlights Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, whose unconventional campaign — which has eschewed polling and Washington strategists — has propelled the Republican to a neck-and-neck race with her Democratic opponent. “The guerrilla-style approach provides a window into the role Lake would embrace in the party should she win, and the style of candidate Republican voters are increasingly gravitating toward. With senior Republicans increasingly viewing her as a rising figure, Lake is — much like [former President Donald] Trump, who backed her in the primary — breaking the norms of politics and establishing herself as a firebrand outsider driven by the sheer force of personality and celebrity. ‘I don’t need a pollster or a consultant from D.C. or another big city to come into Arizona and tell me what Arizona is about,’ Lake said during an hour-long interview in her Phoenix campaign office, pointing to her 27-year-history as an anchor, which made her a household name in the state. ‘I understand Arizona.’” [Politico]
✋ Amp It Up: In The Hill, Anthony Ruggiero and Andrea Stricker opine that Europe must abandon efforts to negotiate with Iran and instead turn up the pressure through other means against the Islamic Republic’s advance toward a nuclear weapon. “To begin, the E3 (U.K., France and Germany) should initiate ‘snapback’ to formally terminate UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which codified the JCPOA and suspended UN sanctions on Iran’s nuclear, missile, and military programs. The snapback would restore previous UN sanctions resolutions on Iran, including a requirement that Tehran halt uranium enrichment and come into compliance with its NPT [Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons] obligations. Likewise, the resolutions prohibited Iran’s import or export of certain missiles, sensitive equipment, and materiel. The resolutions also imposed an arms embargo on Iran, which lapsed in 2020 but would be restored via snapback.” [TheHill]
Around the Web
❌ Upping the Ante: The U.S. Treasury sanctioned seven Iranian government and security leaders yesterday for violence against anti-regime protestors and for blocking citizens’ access to the internet.
🕍 Keeping the Faith: Author and former Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson discussed Judaism, atonement on Yom Kippur, and her daughter’s bat mitzvah and wedding in an interview with Max Raskin.
🏢 Troubling Findings: Nearly half of all U.S. State Department employees have experienced discrimination, bullying and harassment in the workplace, according to an internal survey reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
🚀 Missile Money: The State Department greenlit a $3 billion agreement to sell a medium-range missile-defense system to Kuwait. Congress now has 30 days to review the agreement.
🛢️ Oil Oys: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that Congress would consider “legislative tools to best deal with this appalling and deeply cynical action” following the decision by OPEC+ to cut oil production.
🗳️ Striking Range: An internal poll from the campaign of Adam Frisch shows the former Aspen city councilman within 2 percentage points of Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO).
💬 Evading the Question: Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey, speaking at a debate last night, doubled down on his claim that Jewish leaders supported his comments comparing abortion to the Holocaust, but declined to name any when asked by a moderator.
🍽️ Sephardic Savor: Chef Jose Andres told a crowd at Washington, D.C.’s Adas Israel Congregation that he hopes to open a restaurant that focuses on Sephardic cooking, and has received encouragement from cookbook author Joan Nathan to do so.
🍋 Down Under:Tablet spotlights the Sukkot celebrations undertaken in Tasmania — including the transporting of lulavs and etrogs to the Australian island state — which is subject to strict import/export restrictions due to its wildlife.
🪖 Probe: An IDF examination found no correlation between army activity and the death of a 7-year-old Palestinian boy in the West Bank.
🚓 Gruesome Murder: A gay Palestinian man who had been living under asylum in Israel was abducted and beheaded in the West Bank city of Hebron, according to Israeli reports.
🌊 Wavering: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the IDF to be on alert in the country’s north as prospects faltered for a maritime border deal to be reached with Lebanon.
🇹🇷🇮🇱 Back in Town: Turkey appointed a new ambassador to Israel, the latest step in the renewal of full diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Wine of the Week
Jewish Insider wine columnist Yitz Applbaum reviews the Feldstein Grenache Rose 2021 and the Stern Sauvignon Blanc 2021:
“Sitting here on my porch in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem with my publisher, we decided to celebrate this magnificent moment, the moment where Shabbat and Sukkot are nearly upon us by opening two fresh, flowery and glowing Israeli wines in honor of the days of joy ahead. One bottle comes from the Western Galilee and the other from the Upper Galilee. The first one we tried is the Feldstein Grenache Rose 2021 from the Upper Galilee. The nose reminds me of Kyoto cherry blossom fields. The front palate is soaked with tart apricot and the mid-palate is soft with a finish of pineapple. Enjoy this bottle with muenster black truffle cheese. The second bottle is the 2021 Sauvignon Blanc from Stern Winery in the Western Galilee. This bottle opens with a pink grapefruit party in the mouth. The mid-palate features notes of white nectarine and the finish is as though you’ve chewed on a grapefruit peel. Enjoy this bottle with pinnacle baby gouda cheese and preferably on a Friday afternoon in Jerusalem.”
Husband-and-wife birthdays: Scholar-in-residence at UJA-Federation New York, Rabbi Menachem Creditor (Saturday) and musician and singer, the protégé of her late father, singer-songwriter Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, Neshama Carlebach turns 48 (Sunday)
FRIDAY: Atlanta-area resident, Allan Nelkin… Highland Park, Ill., resident, Margery Nyberg… Senior advisor to the chairman of the Genesis Prize Foundation, Jill Smith… Director of community security at the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, Ron Vosatka… Founder and chair of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights, Kenneth L. Marcus turns 56… President of Detroit’s Imperial Management and a board member of the William Davidson Foundation, Eli Saulson… Creator, host and producer of “Extra Virgin” on the Cooking Channel, Gabriele Corcos turns 50… Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Closter, N.J., Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner… Political fundraiser and strategist, Arie Lipnick… Member of the Knesset for the Shas party, Michael Malchieli turns 40… Director of the leadership institute at AIPAC, Natalie Lascar Lefkowitz… Executive director at the Israel Action Network and AVP for public affairs at the Jewish Federations of North America, Adam Teitelbaum… CEO of Holbrook, N.Y.-based MW Impressions, Daniel Mael… Executive assistant at WPP, Tayla Harris… Senior editor for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Magazine, Barbara E. Martinez… Senior associate on the real estate team at Korn Ferry, Samuel Schear… Co-founder and chief growth officer at Riseup Israel, Tamara Harel-Cohen…
SATURDAY: Leah Koenig turns 95… Founder and chairman of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, author and philanthropist, Isadore “Issy” Sharp turns 91… General surgeon in Tempe, Ariz., Agustin Estrada, MD… Gossip columnist and businesswoman, Rona Barrett (born Rona Burstein) turns 86… Author of more than 300 horror fiction novels that have sold over 400 million copies, R. L. Stine turns 79… Attorney general of Maryland, Brian E. Frosh turns 76… Academy Award-winning film producer and director, Edward Zwick turns 70… CEO of Heart of a Nation, Jonathan Kessler… Movie director, writer and filmmaker, Shira Piven turns 61… One of two Jewish Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives, he represents Tennessee’s 8th Congressional District, David Kustoff turns 56… Entertainment reporter and sports commentator, Ben Lyons turns 41… Magazine editor and daughter of Wolf Blitzer, Ilana Michelle Blitzer Snider turns 41… Freelance communications specialist, Aliyana Traison… Founder of Knock Knock, Give a Sock, an organization assisting the homeless, Adina Lichtman… Board member at Israel Policy Forum, Michael Hershfield…
SUNDAY: Founder, executive chairman, and now retired CEO of C-SPAN, Brian Lamb turns 81… Retired federal government manager and analyst, Charles “Chuck” Miller… Burbank, Calif., resident, Richard Marpet… Former U.S. ambassador to Canada in the Obama administration, he is now an executive at Bank of Montreal, Ambassador David Jacobson turns 71… Commissioner of Major League Soccer since 1999, Don Garber turns 65… VNOC engineer at Avaya, David Gerstman… Director of Jewish learning at the Brandeis School of San Francisco, Debby Arzt-Mor… Managing director and financial advisor at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management and co-chair of DMFI, Todd Richman… Best-selling author and motivational speaker, his 2010 TED Talk about leadership is one of the most popular talks of all time, Simon Sinek turns 49… Rosh yeshiva at Yeshivas Elimelech following 17 years as rabbi at Ohev Shalom Synagogue in Washington, D.C., Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld turns 48… Israel’s minister of energy, Karin Elharar Hartstein turns 45… VP for Jewish education at Hillel International, Rabbi Benjamin Berger… Partner at Left Hook Strategy, Justin Barasky… CEO at Denver-based energy firm Nexus BSP, Ben Lusher… Associate director of legislative affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, David Meyerson… VP at JBG Smith Properties, a publicly traded REIT, Lily Goldstein… Manager of corporate communications at Apple, Julia Schechter… Instock manager at Amazon in NYC, Kayla Levinson Segal… CEO at Tel Aviv-based Keese, Daniel Rubin… SVP at SKDKnickerbocker, Jason Kaplan… Physical therapist in Montreal, Chaya Notik…
MONDAY: Professor emeritus of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, he has argued 35 cases at the U.S. Supreme Court, Laurence Tribe turns 81… Past chairman and CEO of KB Home, Bruce Karatz turns 77… Physician, philanthropist and the majority owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, Miriam Adelson turns 77… Longtime IDF chaplain, Yedidya Atlas… Award-winning writer and photographer based in Albuquerque, N.M., Diane Joy Schmidt… Vocalist and songwriter best known as the lead singer of Van Halen, he is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, David Lee Roth turns 68… Co-chairman and chief investment officer of Oaktree Capital Management, Bruce Karsh turns 67… Former NASA astronaut who flew on five Space Shuttle missions, he has held many positions at NASA including chief scientist, John M. Grunsfeld turns 64… Shareholder at the Bethesda, Md., law firm of Selzer Gurvitch, Neil Gurvitch… Founder and principal of two Los Angeles-based real estate firms, Freeman Group and Metro Properties, Rodney Freeman… Governmental relations and strategic communications principal at BMWL Public Affairs, Sam Lauter… Israeli comedian and actor, twice voted as the funniest Israeli, Asi Cohen turns 48… Israel resident and writer, he is the author of four acclaimed books, Matti Friedman turns 45… State Department official and Jewish liaison in the Biden White House until a few months ago, Chanan Weissman… President at the Alliance to Combat Extremism Fund, Ian Sugar… Head of public policy and sustainability at thredUP, Seth Levey… VP in the Chicago office of Goldman Sachs, Avi Davidoff… Director of campus programming and strategic relationships at CAMERA, Hali Haber Spiegel… Adviser for human rights at Israel’s Mission at the United Nations, Or Shaked…