👋 Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we cover the happenings on the Hill, from FBI Director Chris Wray’s testimony about domestic threats to what key U.S. senators told us regarding a reported DOJ inquiry into the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, and talk to U.K. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis about his recent trip to the Gulf. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Amir Rapaport, Ivanka Trump and Yair Rosenberg.
Former President Donald Trump announced his third consecutive bid for the White House from Mar-a-Lago last night, officially kicking off the 2024 presidential race.
Absent from Mar-a-Lago last night was his daughter, Ivanka Trump, who told Fox News that she will not be active in her father’s presidential campaign, opting instead to focus on her young children. “While I will always love and support my father, going forward I will do so outside the political arena. I am grateful to have had the honor of serving the American people and will always be proud of many of our administration’s accomplishments,” Trump, who is married to former White House senior advisor Jared Kushner, said. “I am loving this time with my kids, loving life in Miami and the freedom and privacy with having returned to the private sector. This has been one of the greatest times of my life.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price addressed yesterday’s attack in the West Bank in which three Israelis were killed by a Palestinian man, saying that Washington “is deeply concerned” by the recent uptick in violence. “We strongly condemn today’s terrorist attack, which killed three Israelis and wounded three others. The recent period has seen a sharp and alarming increase in Palestinian and Israeli deaths and injuries, including numerous children. It is vital that the parties take urgent action to prevent further loss of life.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) won the Republican nomination to be House speaker over Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) by a vote of 188 to 31, leaving open the question of whether he can win over those who voted against him in January, when the full House votes on its next speaker (he needs 218 votes in the full House). To secure those votes, McCarthy will likely have to make concessions to members of the House Freedom Caucus, which was formerly chaired by Biggs. “We have to sit down and establish the fundamental changes needed,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), who nominated Biggs, said yesterday.
On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is facing his own leadership challenge this morning from Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), as Republicans trade recriminations over their failure to retake the Senate.
The Senate is set to vote today on the Respect for Marriage Act, which codifies same-sex and interracial marriage protections into federal law. After protections for religious liberties were added to the bill, bipartisan negotiators say they expect they’ll have the votes to pass the bill. A range of Jewish communal groups are supporting the legislation while Agudath Israel of America has opposed it.
Elsewhere in Washington, the Wizards are hosting Jewish Heritage Night, co-sponsored by Israel’s embassy in Washington, when they face off tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
U.K. Chief Rabbi Mirvis reflects on his historic trip to the UAE
When Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis saw the Arabic writing on the plane that would fly him from London’s Heathrow to Abu Dhabi Airport last week, the weight of the moment truly sank in. Not only was it his first time traveling to a country in the Middle East other than Israel, but he was making history as the first U.K. chief rabbi to make an official visit to an Arab country. “I’d previously flown through Dubai airport and transferred to Australia, but to actually be part of the Arabic culture, to be welcomed by them and be treated in a royal way — they went out of their way to show acceptance and warmth and I certainly welcome that enormously, because that is a sure sign that that’s where they want their society to be going in terms of attitude towards the Jewish people,” Mirvis told Jewish Insider’s Tamara Zieve in a phone interview on Tuesday from Bucharest, Romania, where he was participating in a Conference of European Rabbis standing committee meeting.
Window of opportunity: “I was continuously pinching myself — ‘is this really happening,’” Mirvis said. His dream is that visits of this kind will become a new type of normal, and he is confident that it will happen soon. Mirvis had been hoping to make a trip of this kind “for a good while,” and asserted that “if not for COVID, it would have happened some time before.” “I have been cultivating connections and relationships within global Muslim leadership over a number of years,” he said. “And certainly the Abraham Accords provided that window of opportunity, not just for me to engage personally with Muslim faith leaders, but well beyond that — to be welcomed very warmly officially to the UAE for the Abu Dhabi Forum for Peace, to participate and be prominently featured in that, plus engagement with the countries political leaders and of course having a chance to meet with the growing Jewish communities in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.”
Meaningful mingling: During the three days he spent in the Gulf, Mirvis delivered an address to the conference, engaged in the activities of the forum, met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and lunched at the home of Minister of Tolerance Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan. “It’s the only country in the world which has a minister of tolerance,” Mirvis noted. The chief rabbi also held discussions with Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah, the founder and president of the Abu Dhabi Forum for Peace, and the Riyadh-based Secretary General of the Muslim World League Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Issa.
A growing community: Having spent the anniversary of Kristallnacht, which marks the date in 1938 when hundreds of synagogues and shops were destroyed by the Nazis, in the UAE, Mirvis reflected on a positive trend in the country: encouraging the growth of its Jewish community and opening more synagogues. One of those synagogues will stand next to a church and a mosque in the Abrahamic Family House interfaith complex in Abu Dhabi, which is due to open in February, and which will also house an educational center. Mirvis said the center will “certainly enhance the engagement of world faith leaders and is likely to serve as a pivotal and central stage for interfaith activities to happen in the future.”
on the hill
FBI’s Wray warns that Iran ‘has become more aggressive, more brazen, more dangerous’
FBI Director Christopher Wray warned lawmakers on Tuesday of increasing threats to Americans from Iran, suggesting that “the Iranian regime across multiple vectors has become more aggressive, more brazen and more dangerous” over the last 18 months, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Laundry list: In testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee, Wray cited Iran’s attempted cyberattack on the Boston Children’s Hospital, plot to assassinate former National Security Advisor John Bolton and plans to kidnap journalist and dissident Masih Alinejad in Brooklyn.
U.N. unrest: Wray’s comments came in response to a question from Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) about a member of the Iranian parliament — which recently urged stronger penalties on those protesting within the Islamic republic — who is visiting the United Nations in New York. “Do we need more resources? Or should we reconsider who we allow to come to the United States?” Swalwell asked. “After [they] voted for such an atrocity, it really concerns me that people could be enjoying themselves in New York.”
Antisemitsm action: Wray and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also spoke on the administration’s efforts to combat antisemitism. The Jewish community “deserves and desperately needs our support because it’s getting hit from all sides,” Wray said. He explained that the administration is working to combat hate crimes through a variety of programs, including creating a new domestic terrorism hate crimes unit, which he said had prevented a planned synagogue attack in Colorado in 2019. He also noted that the bureau has stepped up its outreach efforts in the Jewish community, including distributing Yiddish- and Hebrew-language materials detailing how to spot potential threats. Mayorkas, who is Jewish, reiterated his support for increasing Nonprofit Security Grant Program funding to $360 million.
Bonus: Researchers and an official at the Department of Homeland Security said that $10 million intended to fund domestic terrorism research remains unused due to privacy concerns more than two years after the funding was announced.
on the case
Democratic senators speak out on Shireen Abu Akleh FBI investigation
Two Senate Democrats responded to reports on Tuesday that the Department of Justice has opened an independent investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, treading carefully as they addressed questions about the investigation’s implications for U.S.-Israel relations, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Investigation action: “If [the administration] made that determination [to open an investigation], then obviously it’s a pursuit of whatever the information is to come to a conclusion,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) told JI yesterday. Menendez criticized the administration’s handling of the case earlier this year, urging President Joe Biden to seek “accountability.” Speaking to JI on Tuesday, he praised Israel’s investigation. “The Israelis have already done an investigation. I think it’s a rather transparent investigation,” he said. “I think they have issued their findings with the Americans, but, of course, as a U.S. citizen, the FBI has every right to conduct its own.”
Not cooperating: Israeli officials have said publicly that they will not cooperate with the new U.S. probe. The administration has not publicly confirmed the investigation and the Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment. The State Department referred an inquiry to the Justice Department. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who praised the news of the investigation on Monday, told JI that Israel’s refusal to cooperate is “a disappointment,” but expressed hope that the Department of Justice will continue its investigation.
Moving forward: Asked whether he sees a path to resolving the situation and achieving accountability without damaging the U.S.-Israel relationship, Menendez responded, “Transparency is the most important thing. All the information, giving it light — that’s the best way to get [accountability].”
U.S., UAE and Israeli cyber leaders share the stage in New York
At CybertechNYC, the latest in a series of global conferences geared toward tech entrepreneurs at the forefront of the cybersecurity industry, day one of the two-day conference on Tuesday showcased Israel’s prominence in the field and international unity against virtual threats, Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel reports. Among a series of notable speakers discussing today’s state of cyber security was a panel on cooperation within the Middle East against cyber threats.
Working together: Moderated by Christopher Roberti, senior vice president for cyber, space, and national security policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the panel included Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Rob Silvers, Director General of the Israel National Cyber Directorate Gaby Portnoy and UAE Cyber Security Council head Mohamed Al-Kuwaiti. The three industry leaders discussed the biggest threats their respective countries are facing and why collaboration between each other is so important. “We’re here because we face common threats. We all have critical infrastructure to defend, and it’s just a proven point at this point that cybersecurity is an international issue,” Silvers said. “These threats know no boundaries.” Al-Kuwaiti, citing cyberattacks as one of the UAE’s greatest challenges, said he sees inter-country collaboration as a way to bridge gaps. “The first line of defense we said, is partnership,” Al-Kuwaiti expressed, “and we need to spread that culture of cybersecurity…with the like-minded minds of countries and entities who can help us on that.”
First look: Walking through CybertechNYC’s conference room in Manhattan’s Javits Center, attendees first hit the event’s “startup pavilion” — four rows of booths showcasing the latest in cyber tech innovation — where a chorus of Hebrew was being thrown around in the crowd. Cybertech — whose founder, Amir Rapaport, is Israeli — promotes its conferences as international events, with a schedule for next year that includes conferences in Singapore and Rome. Israel, which boasts a reputation as “the startup nation,” had a sizable showing on Tuesday.
Startup central: “This isn’t an Israeli event,” Anat Katz, economic minister to North America for the Government of Israel Economic Mission, East Coast, told the seated crowd. “At the same time, I think that it’s no coincidence that there’s such a strong presence of Israeli speakers and Israeli companies outside. Outside you’ll be able to find over 35 Israeli companies…and in a reality where every third cyber unicorn is Israeli, and over 30% of investments in cybersecurity basically is channeled to Israel, I think that these figures speak for themselves to the Israeli leadership.” To explain the country’s abundance of entrepreneurs, Yossi Vardi, an entrepreneur himself and the conference’s chairman, joked that “behind every Israeli kid, there is an ambitious and aggressive Jewish mother who pushes him to succeed.”
🎭 The Context of Comedy: In “Deep Shtetl,” The Atlantic’s Yair Rosenberg explains concerns within the Jewish community regarding recent controversies involving celebrities and antisemitic comments. “When so many people have proved so susceptible to the conspiracism that animates anti-Semitism, it becomes harder and harder to laugh about it. Comedy cannot be divorced from its context. Jokes assume a shared set of presuppositions between the comedian and the audience, which are subverted for ironic effect. But when that collective context is called into question, and one no longer knows whether everyone in the room is operating from the same premises, what was once satire becomes suspect. After all, the best parody is often indistinguishable from the thing itself — the perfect impressionist is the one who sounds exactly like Donald Trump. But when the performance is anti-Semitism, and so much of society seems in thrall to its essential elements, it’s not clear whether the bit is setting up a punch line — or just a punch.” [TheAtlantic]
🚘 Hometown Reckoning: In The Washington Post, Rebecca Sonkin considers the legacy of Henry Ford — “the most prominent, virulent antisemite the nation has ever known” — in her native Detroit, amid controversies over antisemitic comments by Kanye West and Kyrie Irving. “Drivers leaving the Detroit metropolitan airport encounter a highway sign pointing to Henry Ford College, another to the Ford Expressway. And still another to the Henry Ford, a 250-acre museum campus dedicated, as its website says, to ‘a vibrant exploration of genius.’ Downtown, the Henry Ford Hospital bills itself as a haven of ‘science + soul.’ It is part of the Henry Ford Health system, with more than 250 locations in Michigan. At one in suburban Detroit that I visited recently, its marketing campaign posters covered the waiting room walls. One photo showed a smiling African American woman in a white lab coat. Another showed an Asian American doctor. Both beam from behind the slogan ‘I AM HENRY.’ Jews, so far as I can tell, are nowhere to be found in a campaign that otherwise strains for inclusivity. Jews are also hard to find on the website of the Henry Ford museum complex. Digging eventually turns up ‘Henry Ford and Anti-Semitism: A Complex Story.’ The article begins, ‘As with most famous people, Henry Ford was complex and had traits and took actions that were laudatory as well as troublesome.’” [WashPost]
🪧 Taking on Tehran: In Newsweek, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Mark Dubowitz and Jacob Nagel propose steps that Israel could take to support protesters in Iran. “No country is more threatened by the Islamic Republic. And no security establishment has better capabilities inside Iran to practically support the protests. Some will argue that protesters will be accused of working with Israeli intelligence services. But the regime is leveling these charges anyway and it’s the worst of both worlds: the regime is accusing Iranians of working with Mossad and the CIA, while they’re getting too little support. The regime is brutal, but its resilience is overestimated, as we now see from its difficulties in stopping the demonstrations that have spread to all of Iran’s 31 provinces.” [Newsweek]
🗳️ Comes Down to Turnout: The Albany Times-Union’s Lana Bellamy and Phillip Pantuso look at New York Republican Assemblymember Mike Lawler’s victory last week over DCCC Chair Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), attributing Lawler’s success in part to his engagement with Hasidic communities in the district. “‘The guy is extremely popular, well-liked and he showed up time and again,’ said Yossi Gestetner, co-founder of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council, a nonprofit based in Spring Valley. ‘There was no event too small for him to engage. People see that and feel that.’ Gestetner estimates that at least 21,000 Orthodox voters turned out for the midterms. Other than in the Hasidic village of New Square — which has about 2,800 voters and where leaders endorsed Maloney — Lawler got 80 percent of the vote, Gestetner said. Gestetner noted that while Orthodox Jews are conservative on many issues, ‘they’re a swing voter base that is up for grabs.’ He pointed to the results in Kiryas Joel, a Satmar Hasidic community in the neighboring 18th District, where U.S. Rep. Pat Ryan [a Democrat] netted 1,510 votes in a race he won by just over 2,000 votes.” [TimesUnion]
Around the Web
🛬 Kahl-ing Card: Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl traveled to Israel for meetings with members of Israel’s defense establishment, and will continue on to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates for additional consultations later this week.
🇦🇪 AI in the UAE: Jon Medved’s OurCrowd is partnering with Abu Dhabi Investment Office on a $60 million expansion into the United Arab Emirates, a significant part of which will go to building an artificial-intelligence business in the Gulf state.
👋 AUMF Adios?: Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) and Concerned Veterans for America’s John Byrnes called on Congress to debate and vote on the repeal of the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force.
🛑 Stop Work: Voters in Miami Beach rejected referenda last week that would see the construction of new real estate projects planned by Stephen Ross and Barry Sternlicht.
☛ Blame Game: In an American Conservative piece titled “Don’t Blame Trump,” Sen.-elect J.D. Vance (R-OH) attributes Republican losses on Election Day to the lack of a sophisticated fundraising and GOTV apparatus.
🖋️ New Trump Deal: The Trump Organization inked an agreement with Saudi real estate company Dar Al Arkan to license the Trump name for a housing and golf complex in Oman, the company’s first international agreement since former President Donald Trump left the White House.
🇵🇷 Place to Be: City & State NYspotlights the Chabad Jewish Center of Puerto Rico, which has become an “essential” stop for New York politicos who travel to the island territory for the annual SOMOS conference.
🚓 Hate Crime: More than a dozen Jewish headstones in a cemetery in Waukegan, Ill., were vandalized with swastikas, including one that was spray painted with the words “Kanye wz rite.”
🍦 Cold Call: The independent board of Ben & Jerry’s again attempted to distance itself from the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream products sold in Israel, as the company remains embroiled in a legal battle with its parent company, Unilever, over the conglomerate’s sale of its Israel-based operations to its longtime Israeli manufacturer.
💄 Luxury Beauty Buy: Estée Lauder will buy Tom Ford’s beauty company for $2.8 billion, the largest deal in the luxury industry this year.
🚢 Tensions at Sea: An oil tanker owned by Israeli businessman Idan Ofer was struck by a suspected Iranian drone last night in the Gulf of Oman, causing damage to the ship but no injuries.
🛰️ War Zone:The Drivelooks at the capabilities of Elbit’s new LANIUS drone system, which has the capability to operate in ambush situations and clear blocked openings.
Pic of the Day
Actor Jeremy Piven wraps tefillin with yeshiva student Yossi Farro in Los Angeles.
After 15 seasons in the NBA, he became an owner and player for Hapoel Jerusalem and led the team to an Israeli League championship, now an Orthodox Jew and philanthropist, Amar’e Yehoshafat Stoudemire turns 40…
Retired justice on the Supreme Court of Canada, Morris Jacob Fish turns 84… Director general and founder of TAV College in Montreal, Abraham J. Boyarsky turns 76… Milwaukee-based founder and co-managing director of A.B. Data, Ltd, he is the immediate past chair of the Pincus Fund for Jewish Education, Bruce A. Arbit turns 68… Manager of HR and operations at IKAR, Susan Brooks… Writer and producer for television and film, Jeff Pinkner turns 58… Executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Matt Brooks turns 57… SVP of national programs at Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, Rabbi Justus Baird turns 50… Israeli singer-songwriter, author and travel documentarian, Gilad Segev turns 48… Author of several novels, he was the book columnist for the Washington Post until a few months ago, Lavie Tidhar turns 46… SVP at The D. E. Shaw Group, Michael A. Levi turns 45… 1994 Olympic gold medalist in figure skating, Oksana Baiul turns 45… Stage, film and television actress, Margalit Ruth “Maggie” Gyllenhaal turns 45… Actress, model, film producer and TV host, Adi Ezroni turns 44… VP at Jetro Restaurant Depot, he is a former NFL placekicker and punter, Hayden Scott Epstein turns 42… Director of program strategy and management at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Allison “Allie” Michelle Tenenbaum Shisgal… Snowboarder for the U.S. Olympic team in 2014 and 2022, he competes in the halfpipe, Taylor Gold turns 29…