👋 Good Monday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at the controversy touched off at the University of California Berkeley School of Law and go behind the scenes of a global summit of religious leaders in Kazakhstan. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Sarah Wildman, Boaz Weinstein and Noah Shachtman.
A decision by nine student organizations at the University of California Berkeley School of Law in August to adopt bylaws prohibiting pro-Israel speakers sparked an uproar in the Jewish community over the weekend.
Last Wednesday, the Jewish Journal published an op-ed with the headline “Berkeley Develops Jewish-Free Zones,” written by Ken Marcus, the founder and president of the Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. The op-ed ignited a media storm, with the New York Post, The Jerusalem Post, Newsweek, Daily Mail, National Review and other outlets dedicating space to the issue. Barbra Streisand tweeted to her nearly 800,000 followers, “When does anti-Zionism bleed into broad anti-Semitism?” and followed up with a second tweet linking to Marcus’ op-ed.
Days later, The Daily Beast published a counter-argument, “There Are No ‘Jewish-Free’ Zones on the UC-Berkeley Campus,” written by Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the state university’s law school. Chemerinsky argued that fewer than 10 out of the law school’s 100 groups had adopted the bylaws, and while he disagreed with the move, none of the participating organizations had acted on the bylaws, and the debate remained a First Amendment issue.
So what is happening at the law school? “Both trends can be true,” Tyler Gregory, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, told Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss. “We need to give credit to the administration and to the campus Jewish groups — the Hillel, the faculty — for making Berkeley a more friendly place for Jewish and Zionist students. At the same time, we should be rightfully concerned, and be paying attention to this new tactic of clubs trying to ban Zionists from campus groups.”
UC Berkeley, which garnered a reputation beginning in the 1960s as the epicenter of collegiate political activism, is among the American academic institutions producing the highest number of joint academic papers with Israeli co-authors, and has a sizable Israel studies program, with visiting faculty from Israel on campus. In 2019, the Center for Jewish Studies at Berkeley created the Berkeley Antisemitism Education Initiative to address antisemitism on campus. Ethan Katz, a professor at the law school who chairs the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Jewish Life & Campus Climate and was one of the initiative’s co-founders, noted that the challenges facing Berkeley students are similar to those facing students elsewhere in the country, and that the administration has created “a very strong set of supports in place and a very strong set of institutional homes for those students.”
Pro-Israel students at Berkeley, Katz explained, “face the same political headwinds” as students on other campuses. “Those concerns are real,” he added, “and there are things that make it challenging for those students sometimes… It’s a reality of where we are in the contemporary American conversation about Zionism and Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
What we’re reading: The Washington Examiner interviews 32 Jewish and non-Jewish students and young alumni, academics, communal and advocacy group figures about growing pressures in left-wing spaces to hide their Zionist views.
in the room
At first White House Rosh Hashanah event, schmoozing, sushi and presidential selfies
It was a scene reminiscent of the lobby of any synagogue, or a kiddush luncheon after the conclusion of Shabbat services: Hundreds of Jews gathered in one big room, schmoozing and saying “Shana tova” and enjoying some brisket and challah. These were the leading figures of American Jewish life — rabbis and educators; activists, politicians and policymakers; nonprofit professionals and lay leaders — but instead of meeting outside of Yom Kippur services, they were standing under glistening chandeliers in the White House’s stately East Room for the first-ever White House Rosh Hashanah event, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Spiritual home: “If I acknowledge everyone by name, we’ll be here [until] the Hanukkah reception in December,” President Joe Biden joked at the start of his remarks. He mentioned Rabbi Michael Beals of Congregation Beth Shalom in Wilmington, Del., a synagogue in Biden’s hometown. “That’s where I received my education. I probably went to shul more than many of you did,” he said. “It’s been a home, and over the years, we’ve shared deep conversations about faith and finding purpose.”
Torah talk: Biden addressed the crowd, with many Jewish Democratic leaders, to loud cheers and applause. He quoted the Talmud and the late British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, offering what amounted to a D’var Torah that applied Jewish teachings to his policy agenda.
Surprise appearance: The most memorable moment for many was a surprise performance by Israeli-American violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman, who performed the prayer “Avinu Malkeinu” from the High Holidays liturgy. Guests sang along.
Guest list: Biden did not stick around long to chat with attendees, but he did borrow the phone of National Council of Jewish Women’s Chief Policy Officer Jody Rabhan to take a selfie with a couple dozen people. The event’s guest list was intended to reflect the diversity of the U.S. Jewish community, with efforts made to ensure representation of Jews of color, Orthodox Jews and LGBTQ Jews, according to officials with knowledge of the event plans.
Florida thoughts: Biden, First Lady Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff all began their remarks by mentioning the impact of Hurricane Ian. “This reception comes at a very difficult time for so many Jewish families in Florida, possibly for some of you who have loved ones in Florida, mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends,” said Biden. “Temples will be shuttered on Yom Kippur,” Jill Biden acknowledged, “and some will have to break their fast without beloved family beside them.”
Inside the summit bringing together the world’s top religious figures in Kazakhstan
Israel’s two chief rabbis, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and Rabbi David Lau, Egypt’s Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayyeb and Pope Francis were just some of the top clergy who gathered last month at the VII Congress of Leaders of World And Traditional Religions in Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital city, to discuss ways in which the world’s religious leaders could work together to overcome extremism, conflict and disunity around the world, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Growing gathering: “It was an extremely well-organized event and obviously the centerpiece was the participation of the pope,” Malcolm Hoenlein, vice chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who was honored at the event for his multifaith work, told JI. “People’s remarks were very sensitive and guided towards the role religion can play in fighting against extremism.” Hoenlein has seen the congress grow from an intimate gathering with a handful of religious leaders in 2003 to a global forum drawing religious leaders from more than 100 countries and communities.
Papal presence: The presence of the pope at the event for the first time helped to propel the interfaith meet-up into the spotlight, Hoenlein noted. “The pope certainly elevated the gathering because he brings a lot of attention and media focus,” Hoenlein continued. “He was the centerpiece; his participation wasn’t the same as everybody else – he came with a big entourage of people and him being there certainly elevated the significance of the gathering.” The pontiff addressed attendees during the September gathering. “Peace is born of fraternity,” he said in his concluding address. “It grows through the struggle against injustice and inequality; it is built by holding out a hand to others. We, who believe in the Creator of all, must be on the front lines in promoting the growth of peaceful coexistence.”
Unlikely friends: The participants, who included representatives of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism and Bahá’í, as well as notable leaders of international organizations and political figures, signed an official declaration of peace and unity, which was later submitted to the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Hoenlein said that while the formal speeches and declarations were moving, it was the activities on the sidelines, in the hallways beyond the main plenum, that were most powerful. “I sat beside an Iranian and a Pakistani,” he said. “When I first sat down, I shook hands with the Iranian, who holds a significant position, but he was very reluctant to talk to me, obviously, but later on, by the time we finished the second session, I engaged him, and we talked – the same with the Pakistani.”
Mobileye files for IPO amid barren Wall Street landscape
While stocks drop ever lower and corporate funding sources remain dry, investors saw some light last week when Mobileye, the Jerusalem-based chipmaker for self-driving vehicles that is owned by Intel Corp., filed for its long-anticipated initial public offering, The Circuit’s Jonathan Ferziger reports.
Still unanswered: When the IPO will take place and how much Mobileye will seek to raise on the Nasdaq remains unanswered. But the company’s filing of its S-1 preliminary prospectus with the SEC late Friday generated rare optimism during a tough year. “I am thrilled,” Michael Granoff, founder and managing partner of Maniv Mobility, told The Circuit. “Mobileye is the most impactful company that has ever been created in Israel, and its impact may grow manyfold in the years to come,” said Granoff, a veteran automotive technology investor who doesn’t hold an interest in the company.
Shrinking IPOs: If Mobileye starts selling shares before the end of 2022 as executives have indicated, it will be one of the biggest IPOs of the year. The IPO market has shrunk amid a 33% slide in the Nasdaq Composite Index since the end of 2021, a steady rise in interest rates and global tensions from the Russia-Ukraine conflict. According to the filing, the IPO is being led by investment banks Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. Among the 24 financial advisors listed are Citigroup, Barclays, Evercore ISI and RBC Capital Markets.
Raising billions: Intel, which bought Mobileye for about $15.3 billion in 2017, had hoped to raise $50 billion with the IPO and has since trimmed the target to $30 billion, according to Bloomberg. Neither company has confirmed the report. Only two IPOs have raised $1 billion or more on New York exchanges since Jan. 1, compared with 45 in 2021.
Chips and software: Mobileye is one of the leaders in creating software, semiconductor chips, cameras and sensory arrays to enable the development of self-driving vehicles. Chief executives from the world’s largest car companies have made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to see the company and meet with CEO Amnon Shashua. In Friday’s filing, Mobileye said that Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger will serve as chairman of Mobileye and that the board will include Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah. Huntsman, who previously served as U.S. ambassador in both Russia and China and was a Republican candidate for president in 2012, serves on the board of Ford Motor Co.
🧘 Meaningful Moments: In The New York Times, Sarah Wildman reflects on her efforts to be present and celebrate the mundane moments of life through her teenage daughter’s battle with cancer, drawing inspiration from the prayers of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. “As a child, I tuned out the more awful potentials of the prayer’s plaintive cry — and there are many, and they are terrible, assigning an agency to God I find uncomfortable at best. Instead I was drawn to the sentences that enjoy less notoriety than the others: ‘Who shall be at rest and who shall wander,’ the poem asks. In Hebrew, that sentence is a play on words, a single letter altering the meaning from ‘rest’ (yanuach) to ‘wander’ (yanuah). It goes on: ‘Who shall be at peace and who shall be pursued? Who will be calm and who will be tormented?’ To be forced to wander another week, another month, another year is physical and also spiritual, literal and also emotional. In almost three years of cancer and pandemic, I have wondered how my family can find rest as we wander. It has been, and continues to be, I think, in these small in-between moments, in the noticing.” [NYTimes]
🏖️ Ya Habibi: In the Financial Times, French architect and designer Charles Zana, a frequent visitor to Tel Aviv, shares his favorite spots in the White City. “Tel Aviv is a magical city. Your first time there is usually a shock. It is a modern city in an old world, chaotic but fun. The art and architecture, the food and the hospitality are all world-class, but everything is on a smaller scale, which I have come to appreciate more and more. As a child, I used to go to Jerusalem more than Tel Aviv. Then, towards the end of my studies at the Beaux-Arts in Paris, I got the opportunity to work with an Israeli architect in Tel Aviv named Mordechai Ben Chorin with whom I got to discover the city, its endless streets and secret corners. I now travel there about six times a year to work, create and relax. I have drawn several pieces for my furniture collections here and I’ve had many projects in Tel Aviv over these past years, mostly private homes.” [FT]
📓 Gray Lady: Politico‘s Michael Kruse spotlightsNew York Times political reporter Maggie Haberman, author of the recently released Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America, talking to her and dozens of her colleagues, competitors, critics, friends, operatives and strategists about her dominance of the Trump beat. “A particular dynamic emerged between her and Trump: She was focused on him, but he was equally fixated on her. If Haberman was on the list of press scheduled to take a trip on Air Force One, realized other White House reporters, Trump was that much more likely to talk to the group. Eli Stokols of the Los Angeles Times (a Politico alum, too) told me about such a trip in 2018. He called them up to his cabin from theirs. They sat on a couch across from Trump at a desk. ‘Ashley would ask a question, or Steve Holland would ask a question … or I would ask a question, and Trump would start responding, and before very long, his gaze would sort of turn back to Maggie,’ Stokols recalled. ‘It did not matter who was asking the question,’ he said. ‘He would answer it to Maggie.'” [Politico]
🧕 Roiling the Regime: The Atlantic‘s Kim Ghattas takes a look at the anti-regime demonstrations in Iran and their reverberations in the wider region. “Protesters are back in the streets across Iran, picking up where they left off two years ago, their lives and prospects having deteriorated in the interim. And just as in 2019, we are witnessing expressions of solidarity across the Middle East, where many, impressed by the courage of Iranian women in particular, are cheering the protesters on. But since 2019, the Islamic Republic’s domestic and regional competencies have taken a hit, and its hand in the regional game has worsened. Now, from Baghdad to Beirut, those who oppose Tehran are exploring the possibility that the protests might help weaken Iran’s grip on what it considers its forward defense bases: Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and, to some extent, Yemen. So far, in all these countries, no one has found a local mechanism to outmaneuver Iran — it can only come as a result of changes in Tehran.” [TheAtlantic]
🐪 Desert Days: In The Wall Street Journal, Sara Lieberman shares her experience of hiking in the Israeli Negev. “The canyon walls rose so high above us that we had to throw our heads back to see the sky. The eroded granite rock around us revealed layers and layers of quartz crystals that almost seemed too perfectly aligned to be natural. Then the path dipped dramatically, descending deeper into the canyon. Thanks to metal ladders and handrails set into the rock, we climbed the walls like monkeys. On the way back, we took the narrow trail above the canyon, looking down at the section we’d just scaled. Relying on railings definitely beat the alternative — rolling off the ledge as easily as the rocks we kicked while trudging along. About an hour later, we made it back to our car, impressed with ourselves, but truthfully, it wasn’t that hard at all.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
🌊 Making Waves: Israel and Lebanon are optimistic about a draft they received last week of a U.S.-brokered deal to resolve a maritime border dispute between them.
⚠️ Washington Warning: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) reportedly cautioned former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that forming a coalition with right-wing extremists after next month’s election could harm U.S.-Israel bilateral relations.
🇪🇺 Euro Trip: Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid will today lead the first meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council in over a decade.
🪧 Taking on Tehran: White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan expressed his support for Iranian anti-regime protestors and Iranian-Americans targeted by Tehran in conversations with journalists Masih Alinejad and Kambiz Foroohar, as college students in Iran launched a new wave of protests across the country over the weekend.
🏃♂️ Race to Watch: The Salt Lake Tribune’s Robert Gehrke looks at the state of the Utah Senate race, where independent Evan McMullin has rallied a broad array of supporters and is “in potential striking distance” of Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).
🗳️ Endorsement Alert: Former Arizona Senate candidate Jim Lamon, who said during the Republican primary that Blake Masters “would be shred to pieces” by Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) in the general election, threw his support behind Masters over the weekend.
👨⚖️ Trial Trouble: Prosecutors in Texas agreed that a Jewish man on death row was prevented from a fair trial, citing antisemitic comments made by the sitting judge, putting the man, who was convicted for his role in the murder of a police officer, one step closer to receiving a new trial.
📅 Calendar Check: Brooklyn College scheduled its faculty “implicit bias training” on Yom Kippur.
🏫 Campus Beat: Yeshiva University campus groups will resume activities after Sukkot following the university reaching an agreement with the YU Pride Alliance while the case between the two goes through the legal system.
💭 Moscow to Jerusalem: Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, who led Moscow’s Jewish community before fleeing to Israel after refusing to support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, reflects on his first Yom Kippur in self-exile.
👏 Hey, Mr. Ziegfeld: The New York Timespraised Lea Michele’s portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway revival of “Funny Girl” following the show’s controversial opening, which starred Beanie Feldstein.
🎵 On a Roll: Vanity Fair looks at how Noah Shachtman has transformed Rolling Stone in his first year as editor in chief of the publication.
🪖 Attempted Attack: Israeli soldiers shot dead two Palestinians who attempted to carry out a car-ramming attack against them during an arrest operation near Ramallah, the army said.
🤝 Hostage Release: Caracas released seven American hostages on Saturday in exchange for U.S. clemency for two nephews of Venezuela’s first lady convicted and imprisoned over drug charges; Tehran released its longest-held American captive, Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi.
➡️ Transitions: Claudia Gould, director of New York’s Jewish Museum since 2011, will leave the museum in June 2023. Hélène Le Gal, former ambassador of France to Morocco and Israel respectively, was appointed managing director for Middle East and North Africa in the European External Action Service.
🕯 Remembering: Author and activist Meredith Tax died at 80.
Pic of the Day
On a recent episode of “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” “Jeopardy!” host Mayim Bialik and actor Max Greenfield explain the significance of the Jewish custom of blowing the shofar. Bialik revealed that she has a large Yemenite shofar that was gifted to her by her grandmother, and Greenfield called out the different blasts for Bialik to demonstrate, sans horn.
“This will be my dad’s favorite bit that I’ve ever done on a show,” Greenfield quipped. “Don’t cut it out, please!”
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