👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we interview Rep.-elect George Santos, who won his Long Island congressional race against Robert Zimmerman, and talk to Sen. Susan Collins about her recent trip to Israel and priorities as the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee in the next Congress. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Matti Friedman, Ksenia Sobchak and U.K. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.
It’s not February yet, but it sure feels like Groundhog Day. As results from a number of key House and Senate races — which will decide control of both chambers — continued to trickle in yesterday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced that the Senate race between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Republican Herschel Walker will head to a runoff next month, the second time in two years that a Georgia Senate candidate has failed to reach the requisite 50% to avoid such a scenario.
It feels a lot like 2020, when Warnock advanced to a runoff against Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), who for a year had held the seat vacated by Sen. Johnny Isakson. As Five Thirty Eight put it, “Runoffs Are Sort Of Georgia’s Thing Now.”
Elections officials in Nevada and Arizona are still tabulating the results of those state’s elections. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) holds a 5-point lead over venture capitalist Blake Masters with 70% of the votes in, while next door in Nevada, Adam Laxalt is up 2 points against Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV). If Kelly and Laxalt hold onto their leads, we’re looking at a situation where — again — control of the Senate comes down to GOTV efforts in the Peach State.
While we won’t know the final make-up of the Senate for another month, control of the House is likely to be decided over the coming days, as the final race calls come in. In Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA) held onto her seat in her second race against Lisa Scheller, while state Rep. Summer Lee was declared the winner over Mike Doyle in the state’s 12th District. In New York’s 19th Congressional District, Republican Marc Molinaro, who fell short in his special election bid against Pat Ryan over the summer, defeated Democrat Josh Riley. Molinaro will now serve alongside Ryan, who won his race in the redrawn 18th District. In New Jersey, Tom Kean Jr., ousted Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), two years after falling short in their first match-up. John James won his first House race in Michigan’s 10th District after two failed Senate bids, while Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT) narrowly won reelection.
One of the biggest upsets yesterday was the race in New York’s 17th Congressional District, where state Assemblymember Mike Lawler defeated Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), the chair of the DCCC who had received blowback for running in a district that had, under the prior congressional map, been largely represented by freshman Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY).
While the results of the Hudson Valley race were a personal blow to Maloney, Democrats were able to claim success for their controversial primary effort to boost far-right candidates over more centrist Republicans: None of the six Republicans — including two House candidates — who advanced to the general election with help from Democrats won on Tuesday. As it becomes increasingly likely that control of the House could come down to just a couple of seats, the Democrats’ primary strategy may end up being Maloney’s legacy.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, actor David Schwimmer and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) are among the featured speakers at the Anti-Defamation League’s “Never is Now” summit, taking place today in Manhattan. Follow Ben Sales, the news editor of JI’s sister publication eJewishPhilanthropy, on Twitter at @BenjaminSales for on-the-ground updates from the conference.
President Joe Biden heads to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, tonight for COP27. Israeli President Isaac Herzog was in the Sinai resort city earlier this week for the first days of the United Nations annual climate conference, but is now back in Israel, where he is meeting today with heads of parties in the next Knesset.
Meet the next Jewish Republican congressman from Long Island
In his second consecutive bid for a New York congressional seat, George Santos made history on Tuesday, winning a competitive race that will make him the first openly gay representative from Long Island elected to serve in the House. The newly minted congressman-elect, who will succeed outgoing Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY), can also claim another unique distinction: Santos, 34, will be the only Jewish Republican member of New York’s House delegation when he is sworn in this January. It is not a position Santos is taking for granted, he explained in a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel, as he prepares to represent New York’s heavily Jewish 3rd Congressional District, which covers the North Shore of Long Island as well as a portion of eastern Queens. “The way I look at this is, I’m going to represent one of the most Jewish-rich districts in the country, with the most population of Jews,” he told JI on Wednesday, “and I’m going to do that honorably.”
Constituent services: Days before the election, Santos met Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau, at the Chabad of Great Neck, where the Republican candidate spoke with Jewish community members and vowed to “stand strong as antisemitism and violent crime shakes us to the core,” according to a recent social media post. He said he would apply the same level of commitment to every constituent in the district. “Whether my mother’s Jewish background beliefs, which are mine, or my father’s Roman Catholic beliefs, which are also mine, are represented or not,” he said, “I want to represent everyone else that practices every other religion to make sure everybody feels like they have a partner in me.”
Trend lines: Santos’ victory comes as Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), one of two Jewish Republicans in the House, leaves Washington. Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran Democratic strategist in New York, said there was once a “substantial number” of Jewish Republican members of Congress in the New York City suburbs. “Santos may be the beginning of something new or just the creation of something old, which is suburban Jews as Republicans,” Sheinkopf said, suggesting that the Long Island election could hint at a possible “resurgence of suburban Jews finding themselves much more comfortable with Republicans than Democrats.”
Persian pals: In his outreach to voters in Nassau County, where Democrats hold a registration advantage, Santos recalled building close relationships with Persian Jews in Great Neck, who are traditionally conservative and, broadly speaking, believe that nuclear negotiations with Iran lend legitimacy to an authoritarian regime. “My friends in the Persian community, they’re fantastic to me…I go to Shabbat with them, I go to temple with them,” Santos said. “I think the largest crime that we can talk about when it comes to antisemitism and the threat to Israel is any kind of negotiation with Iran,” Santos argued. “I want people to understand that I’m a ‘no’ on any kind of deal with Iran. I’m a ‘no’ on any kind of money given to Iran. Matter of fact, I believe sanctions should be doubled and tripled.”
Israel ties: Santos, who described himself as a non-observant Jew, said his four visits to Israel were “the most exciting experiences” of his life. “I’m a partner of Israel. In foreign policy, I believe Israel is our friend, Israel is our ally, and they’re the only democracy in the Middle East and we need to defend them,” he said. “They have a right to exist, they have a right to defend themselves, and it is a promise that must be kept to the Jewish people. I will continue to fight and be an ally for them.” He said he was “very much looking forward, as a member of Congress, to working with” Benjamin Netanyahu, who is likely to be tapped to form the next government in the coming days. “I’m very excited to see the U.S.-Israel alliance just grow stronger and stronger each day.”
Collins, prepping for top GOP Appropriations spot, pledges to fight efforts to condition aid to Israel
As she prepares to become the top Republican on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee — which helps control the government’s purse strings — Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) pledged to fight efforts from some colleagues to condition aid to Israel in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod last week.
Funding focus: The Maine legislator is in line to become the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee in the new year, giving her significant power over where and how funding is allocated across the federal government. “I strongly support [U.S. aid] funding, and in my new role as the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, and I hope, as chairman of that powerful committee, I will continue to push back against those like Sen. [Bernie] Sanders and Sen. [Elizabeth] Warren, and members of the Progressive Caucus in the House, who have proposed conditioning that essential aid,” Collins told JI last week.
Aid conundrum: On a recent trip to Israel, where she met with a number of high-ranking Israeli officials, Collins also met with Bashar Azzeh, a member of the National Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization, with whom she said she discussed her concerns about U.S. aid to the Palestinians given the Palestinian Authority’s continuing practice of so-called martyr payments to the families of terrorists. Direct U.S. aid to the PA is largely blocked by the Taylor Force Act, but the Biden administration has resumed assistance to the Palestinian people through the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations. “As long as the Palestinian Authority is paying the families of terrorists, its very difficult to justify the resumption of any aid,” she said.
Eye on elections: Collins has been one of the most prominent voices for moderation and bipartisanship among Senate Republicans. Speaking to JI on Israel’s Election Day earlier this month, she downplayed the impact that a now-likely right-wing Israeli government would have on the bilateral relationship. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) reportedly warned Israeli Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who is likely to be Israel’s next prime minister, that bringing far-right extremists into his government would damage the U.S.-Israel relationship. “My view is that it’s up to the Israelis to pick their leaders, that is not up to us,” Collins said. “To me, the strong bond that we have with Israel transcends whom the Israelis may choose for their leaders… I would never presume to tell the Israelis whom they should vote for.”
ADL acquires JLens, entering the impact investing space
The Anti-Defamation League will acquire the Jewish impact investing organization JLens, heralding an increased focus on combating antisemitism and anti-Israel boycotts in the corporate world, reports eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales.
What it means: For the ADL — which has historically campaigned against antisemitism in the market through advocacy, coalitions, boycott campaigns and the media — this means entering directly into shareholder meetings and speaking with corporate social responsibility executives in order to impact company policies. For JLens, it means gaining the support and imprimatur of one of the largest and most prominent Jewish organizations. And it likely means a doubling down on pushing companies to disavow antisemitism and distance themselves from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, known as BDS.
Expanding: More immediately, in practical terms, it means JLens will “grow considerably” in terms of budget and staff, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told eJP. JLens has a staff of four that will now grow to six. It will add on a researcher focused on companies’ environmental, social and governance policies, known as ESG, and will also hire a day-to-day director so that JLens’ founder and current CEO, Julie Hammerman, can focus on growing the organization and gaining buy-in across a wider swath of the Jewish community.
Trusting brands: “Brands mediate so much of our lives,” Greenblatt told eJP. “In our country, when consumers are so cynical about government, and are so cynical about organized religion, and so cynical about political candidates… consumers feel like their brands represent them and their values. This gives the ADL the opportunity, it gives us a seat at the table in a way that I think will allow us to be more effective advocates for our community and its core values.”
Read the full story here and sign up for eJewishPhilanthropy’s Your Daily Phil newsletter here.
🇷🇺 Russian Roulette: In Puck, Julia Ioffe looks at how Russian President Vladimir Putin turned against Ksenia Sobchak, the socialite and media personality-turned-presidential candidate and Putin critic, and the broader implications of Russia’s war in Ukraine as it affects Moscow’s elite. “No matter how outspoken [former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly] Sobchak’s daughter or his widow, senator Lyudmila Narusova, have gotten, they have remained essentially untouched. Until now. On October 26, two days after Sukhanov was arrested, investigators showed up with a search warrant at Ksenia Sobchak’s dacha in the elite Moscow suburb of Gorki-8. Sobchak, however, was a step ahead of them. Apparently tipped off that she was a suspect in the case and that arrest awaited her at the airport, she bought two airplane tickets — one for Dubai and one for Istanbul — and instead drove west, through Belarus, and crossed the Lithuanian border on foot, using her brand new Israeli passport.” [Puck]
🌈 Fantasy Land: In his Israel from the Inside newsletter, Daniel Gordis responds to a New York Times column by Tom Friedman headlined “The Israel We Knew is Gone,” with his own article, “‘The Israel We Knew’ is not gone …But Israelis never wanted that ‘Israel we thought we knew.'” Gordis writes: “Here’s the heart of the problem. There are many people around the world who want Israel to be something it does not wish to be. They want it to be successful, but humble. They want it to be strong and secure, but still desperate for foreign support of all sorts. They want it to be Jewish, but in a ‘nice’ kind of way. Israeli dancing (which I haven’t seen here in years), flags at the right time, a country filled with ‘Hatikva moments’ as some call them. A country traditional enough to be heartwarming, but not so traditional that it would dare imply that less intense forms of Jewish life cannot make it. A country steeped in memory, but also one that is finally willing to move on. An Israel moderate in every way would be an Israel easy to love. It would be a source of pride, but not a source of shame. It would be an Israel that would make us feel great as Americans and as Jews. The only problem is that that Israel doesn’t exist, and it never has. Of course, there’s also never been an America like that, or an England like that.” [IsraelfromtheInside]
🤔 Israel’s ‘Real’ Problems:The New York Times’ Bret Stephens dismisses arguments of impending fascism in Israel, but highlights other issues facing the country. “The election holds two important clues, though they aren’t the ones foreign observers usually notice. The first is the political self-destruction of the Israeli left. Meretz, Israel’s progressive party, failed to win a single seat in Parliament after taking six in the 2021 elections. Labor, Israel’s historic center-left party, is down to four seats from seven. ‘Ever since the Palestinians violently disproved the Israeli left’s assumption that withdrawing from the West Bank and Gaza would bring peace, the left has no compelling message for Israeli voters,’ says Einat Wilf, a former Labor member of Parliament. ‘Also, like everywhere in the world, right-wing populist parties rise when the concerns, especially of the lower classes, around crime and immigration are looked down upon.’…The second clue is that the deepest divide in Israeli politics, between the Jewish majority and the Arab minority, is becoming wider. In Lod, an Arab-Jewish city that was the scene of intercommunal rioting and looting in May 2021, [Itamar] Ben-Gvir’s party saw its vote tally double from the last election. So did Balad, the most extreme of Israel’s Arab parties, [Haaretz’s Anshel] Pfeffer told me. Arab towns in Israel have been swept up in a huge crime wave, becoming local mafia kingdoms into which Israel’s police seldom venture.” [NYTimes]
🌴Date with History: In Smithsonian Magazine, Matti Friedman writes a thoroughly researched ode to the date and the date palm, looking at how they have held their pride of place across the Middle East through the ages and how it is likely to fare in the future. “The same overriding sense of the date’s importance struck me several times during the past few months, sitting in air-conditioned libraries, hunched over books, looking at the ancient art and literature of this part of the world. When I began my research, the date palm seemed to appear merely as a background detail in art, from pharaonic tombs and Assyrian palaces to a 2,500-year-old seal impression showing the Persian Emperor Darius shooting arrows at a lion. But after a while my perception changed. The date palms stopped looking like decorations and came to the fore. After all, the pharaohs are long gone and Darius no longer matters, but the date palm does, feeding multitudes, linking people with their ancestors, rising everywhere like millions of green fireworks frozen mid-blast. Maybe these trees are the stars in the story of this region, and we’re the extras?” [Smithsonian]
🗳️ The Right Stuff? In The New York Times, Sohrab Ahmari considers some of the reasons Republicans fell short of anticipated midterm gains in the House and Senate. “Mutual recriminations will ping-pong around right-wing circles in the coming days and weeks. Most will likely center on ‘messaging,’ candidate choices and other such tactical failures. It’s true that local circumstances shape any midterm election — we live in a vast and variegated country, and each race has its own contours. Still, in an era when national politics exerts such a strong gravitational pull on local elections, the most important question is: What sort of national vision did the Republican Party offer working Americans in 2022? It’s hard to say, really. The best I can come up with is something like this: Hand us the keys to government, but don’t expect us to give you anything in return. And in that indifference lies the central problem bedeviling Republicans up and down the ballot.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
✍️ Pence’s Passages: In an excerpt from his upcoming book published in the Wall Street Journal, former Vice President Mike Pence details his interactions with former President Donald Trump and White House staffers in the lead-up to and day of the certification of the 2020 presidential election results.
🗳️ Ensler In: Alabama Democrat Phillip Ensler is the first Jewish state lawmaker elected in the state in more than 40 years.
🗺️ Map Margins: The Citylooks at how former Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) could have won the race in New York’s 11th Congressional District under the redistricting map that was thrown out by the courts and replaced by a new map that gave Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) a significant advantage.
Ξ U-turn: Cryptocurrency exchange Binance backtracked on an offer to buy Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX and rescue the company from a multibillion-dollar shortfall.
👦 Toy Talk: Max Tuchman’s online children’s learning platform Caribu was acquired by toy giant Mattel.
🥯 Deli Delights:The New York Times‘s Nikita Richardson takes a tasting tour of the Big Apple’s Jewish deli scene.
🤤New in Town: The Eater Portland dining guide shares what’s on the menu at Wise Sons alumnus Noah Jacob’s new Jewish deli, Jacob & Sons.
📽️ A Spielberg Story:The New York Timesinterviews Steven Spielberg about his new semi-autobiographical film “The Fabelmans.”
📷 A Thousand Words: Previously unseen images from Kristallnacht, which Yad Vashem said showed that the attacks were orchestrated by the state, were released by Israel’s Holocaust remembrance center yesterday on the anniversary of the pogrom.
🍗 Tasteless Promotion: Kentucky Fried Chicken’s German branch apologized yesterday after advertising a “treat” of “tender cheese with crispy chicken,” to mark “memorial day of the Reich pogrom night.”
🇪🇹 Addis Assistance: In a New York Times op-ed, International Crisis Group CEO Comfort Ero called on the Biden administration to double down on its efforts to preserve a fragile peace between the Ethiopian government and Tigray leaders after a two-year-long civil war that has devastated the region.
☢️ Same Old: Iran did not offer anything new during a recent meeting in Vienna about its nuclear program, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi toldReuters, but said talks would continue in the coming weeks.
💆 Ancient Lice: Israeli archaeologists discovered a comb dating back some 3,700 years ago, bearing what is likely the oldest known full sentence in Canaanite alphabetical script — about lice.
🛰️ Syria Strike: Israel reportedly conducted airstrikes in eastern Syria late Tuesday, targeting a convoy suspected of smuggling Iranian weapons.
🪖 Be Prepared: Israel has the capability to conduct a military operation against Iran’s nuclear facilities, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said yesterday.
⚽ Tuesday Morning Football: Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter said choosing Qatar — a country embroiled in accusations of corruption and human rights violations — to host the World Cup was a “mistake.”
🤐 Hunger Strike: A Wall Street Journal contributor, imprisoned by Iran after publishing articles calling out rights violations by the regime, has lost some 40 pounds on a hunger strike and risks death in his protest against his captivity.
🤝 Anti-West Axis: Russia and Iran’s security officials pledged yesterday to deepen the military cooperation between their countries.
Pic of the Day
UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and U.K. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis attend the Abu Dhabi Forum for Peace. The theme for this year’s gathering, which is taking place this week, is “Global Conflict and Universal Peace: Urgent Needs and Opportunities for Partnership.”
Former MLB right-fielder for 14 seasons, he founded Greenfly, a software firm for sports and entertainment organizations, Shawn Green turns 50…
Manager of the Decatur, Ga.-based Connect Hearing, Murray Kurtzberg… Former NBA player who became a lawyer and then a New York State judge, Barry D. Kramer turns 80… One of the four deans of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, N.J., one of the largest yeshivas in the world, Rabbi Yerucham Olshin turns 79… Professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, he is a cofounder of Nebraska Jewish Historical Society, Oliver B. Pollak, Ph.D. turns 79… Former CNN news anchor, Aaron Brown turns 74… Executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles, Raphael J. Sonenshein, Ph.D. turns 73… Executive producer, writer, journalist at Holaro and The Muck-Rake, Howard L. Rosenberg… Chief administrative officer at the Legacy Heritage Fund, Elaine Weitzman… ESPN’s longest-tenured SportsCenter anchor, Linda Cohn turns 63… Rabbi at Temple Beth Kodesh in Boynton Beach, Fla., Michael C. Simon… Bar-Ilan University professor and social historian, Adam Ferziger turns 58… Senior rabbi of Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles, Ken Chasen turns 57… National security editor at The Washington Post, Benjamin Pauker… Co-founder in 2004 of Yelp, where he remains the CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman turns 45… Executive director of the Ruderman Family Foundation, Shira Menashe Ruderman turns 44… Chief investigative reporter at ABC News, Josh Margolin turns 43… Global communications official for Bloomberg Philanthropies on public health, Jean B. Weinberg… YouTube personality with 347 million views, Josh Peck turns 36… Actress and producer, Zoey Deutch turns 28… National board chair for Repair the World and former co-chair of JFNA’s National Young Leadership Cabinet, Robb Lippitt… Vice president of the Illinois State Society, Howard Marks…