👋 Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to Jewish communal leaders about the final allocation for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program and spotlight Henry Zachs, the Connecticut philanthropist spotted giving out hundreds of $2 bills to White House Hanukkah party attendees. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff, Sen. Bob Menendez, Miriam Berger and Mat Ishbia.
“It is dead, but we are not gonna announce it.” Those comments from President Joe Biden about the Iran nuclear deal — filmed in a one-on-one interaction with an audience member at a Nov. 3 rally in Oceanside, Calif., and posted online yesterday — were the talk of the foreign policy world.
Biden said there are “a lot of reasons” why the administration won’t announce that the deal is dead, telling the videographer, an Iranian-American activist, “I know they don’t represent you, but if they have a nuclear weapon, they’ll represent…” before the video cut off mid-sentence.
So far, the video doesn’t appear to have changed approaches on Capitol Hill. Four senators who spoke to Jewish Insider‘s Marc Rod yesterday afternoon — Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jim Risch (R-ID) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) — said they hadn’t seen the video yet.
But Menendez told JI he thinks Biden’s description is “a factual statement” and that “what we should be doing is to say, ‘Let’s get to Plan B soon.'” Menendez has been calling for such an approach for some time.
Markey said, “My hope is that it is not dead. My hope is that it is still possible to find a negotiated resolution of the issues and have full International Atomic Energy Agency inspection of the Iranian nuclear program.” The Massachusetts senator declined to say what the administration’s next steps should be if the deal is, in Biden’s words, dead, but emphasized that he had not seen Biden’s remarks for himself.
The administration’s public posture also has not changed. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby responded to the video on Tuesday by telling reporters that the deal “is just not our focus right now and it’s not on our agenda. We simply don’t see a deal coming together anytime soon while Iran continues to kill its own citizens and sell UAVs to Russia.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters later in the day, “It is certainly the case that the Iranians killed the opportunity for a swift return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA.”
There’s competition for the title of who has attended the most Hanukkah White House parties. Agudath Israel’s Rabbi Abba Cohen told us yesterday he thinks he’s at least tied with Conference of President’s Malcolm Hoenlein for attending the most official parties at the White House, and noted he also attended unofficial events at the Eisenhower Executive Building dating back to the George H.W. Bush administration.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is in Washington today, where he will meet with President Joe Biden this afternoon and address a joint session of Congress this evening.
Following yesterday’s firehouse primary in the special election in Virginia’s 4th Congressional District, the counting of more than 26,000 ballots will begin at 10 a.m. ET today, with results expected by mid-afternoon.
NSGP funding increase called a positive step, but also disappointing shortfall
Jewish advocacy groups offered mixed reactions on Tuesday to the announcement of the $305 million 2023 federal budget allocation for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program. The allocation represents a 22% increase over 2022 funding levels but still falls short of the $360 million funding goal that many Jewish leaders and lawmakers have been pursuing for several years, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Last minute: Talks appeared to be closing in on the $360 million funding level as of late last week. Jewish leaders who spoke to JI last week were optimistic, and a source told JI on Friday that the funding was close to locked in, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) leading a push by citing rising rates of antisemitism. But the situation changed between then and the release of the budget bill in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Some negotiators were pushing to keep all funding levels for Department of Homeland Security programs at 2022 levels, a source familiar with the negotiations told JI, but NSGP was one of few exceptions made, alongside flood response funding.
Reflection: The program fulfilled just over half of 2022 grant applications, with total grant requests increasing to $447 million. The Department of Homeland Security has focused efforts recently on increasing outreach about the program and making it easier for institutions to apply. “We of course are disappointed it’s not all the way to $360 [million], which we believe is the minimum necessary given the number of eligible grants that did not receive funding last year, so we’re going to continue to fight another day for more funding, but we’re definitely grateful for this significant increase,” Elana Broitman, the Jewish Federations of North America’s senior vice president for public affairs, said.
View from the Hill: “I remember a few years ago when this program received next to nothing in our budgets. It has been through our hard efforts and by educating our colleagues that we have built the program out to this level, and I am proud of that work. While this figure is not every cent we requested, it represents a healthy increase that will protect communities and put our neighbors’ minds at more ease,” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) said. “I believe lives will be saved by this funding. Because the threat of domestic terrorism only continues to grow, we will keep pushing through the next Congress to get the full amount we sought. We will never stop pushing for this important program.”
Looking ahead: The $360 million target has remained largely consistent in the past few years in part because of congressional support for that funding level, even as total grant requests have continued to increase, Jewish community leaders said. “A lot of the $360 [million] revolved not only around the actual needs of the program but also support from Chuck Schumer,” Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel of America’s vice president for governmental affairs said. “We’ve got to get to $360… clearly what we’re getting now isn’t enough,” he continued. “I don’t know that $360 will be enough. We’ll have to see how that goes. But going forward, I think we’ll have to talk about broadening the scope of the program.”
The White House gelt peddler
Some lucky guests at Monday night’s White House Hanukkah party walked away with two types of gelt: the traditional chocolate kind, and a $2 bill handed to them by Henry Zachs, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. The philanthropist and telecommunications pioneer from Hartford, Conn., knew just two other people at the event. But the bespectacled 88-year-old, wearing a navy-and-white striped shirt and a navy bowtie with white polka dots, didn’t mind.
Offer’s up: He went up to anyone in the room — except the president, though Zachs swears he would have if he had gotten closer to Joe Biden — and offered them a rare $2 bill. “I went to the bank and I got 200 $2 bills. I didn’t know that there would be 500 or 600 people there, so I gave those bills out,” he told JI in a Tuesday phone call. He had just four left at the end of the night.
New in town: Zachs is not a major political donor, so unlike many others in the room, he was not used to schmoozing with the Washington set. Zachs had only been to the White House once before, on a tour more than three decades ago. But in Hartford, his hometown, Zachs is a familiar figure. He sits on the board of nearly a dozen nonprofits, and he started a major project called Endow Hartford 21, encouraging area organizations to create endowment funds.
Treyf tradition: The roots of Zachs’ gelt tradition can be traced back to an unlikely source: an oyster house. The owner of Honiss Oyster House, a once-iconic Hartford culinary institution that has since closed, would give out silver dollars or $2 bills to young visitors on Hanukkah. Zachs brought the tradition to his family, and has given out $2 bills to his grandchildren for years. Last night was the first time he took the practice into the outside world.
Ethics exemplar: “There wasn’t a single person that said, ‘Oh, I don’t want the money. I don’t take money.’ There only was one congressman, he says, ‘I can’t take it.’ That I understand,” Zachs said with a laugh. He does not remember which member of Congress it was.
How FTX’s implosion is impacting the Israeli effective altruism movement
When the cryptocurrency firm FTX imploded last month after the discovery of an $8 billion shortfall, the sudden collapse sent shockwaves through a bevy of charity organizations that depended on funding from the philanthropic initiatives associated with the firm. But in Israel, the ripple effects of FTX’s destruction will be felt in a surprising place: table salt, Melanie Lidman reports for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Salt situation: The FTX Foundation, the firm’s philanthropic arm, donated approximately NIS 1 million, or some $288,000, to help a new Israeli organization called ALTER, the Association for Long Term Existence and Resilience, find ways to increase Israelis’ access to iodized salt. Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of preventable brain damage in children, according to UNICEF, which found that insufficient iodine during pregnancy and infancy results in serious neurological and psychological deficits. More than 90 percent of people around the world use salt enriched with iodine, according to the U.N. agency, often mandated by government legislation, but Israel does not require it. Although iodized salt is available in Israel, it is more expensive, and few people understand the benefits, leading to Israel having among the world’s worst levels of iodine deficiency.
ALTER alternative: ALTER is guided by effective altruism, a philosophy that the FTX Foundation trumpeted that says donors should leverage their giving to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The organization identified iodizing salt as one achievable goal that would have a significant impact on children’s lives in Israel. The iodizing process costs around two cents per child per year. The FTX donation is about as large as ALTER’s annual budget, and has already been deposited in the organization’s account. But with FTX in bankruptcy proceedings and its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, under arrest for fraud, ALTER founder David Manheim told eJewishPhilanthropy that he assumes his nonprofit will be required to return the money, and is already treating it as a loss. “We certainly are not willing to use money that would otherwise be going to compensate people who were defrauded,” he said.
EA in Israel: Rei Dishon, who teaches a six-month course in community and organizational development at Bar-Ilan University, said the philosophy has “fundamental gaps,” and particularly takes issue with the idea that donors should aim to make as much money as possible in order to give it all away. However, he also thinks that Israelis’ mentality means people are open to the questions about how to do the most good, and willing to change their habits when confronted with a convincing argument. “We’re more open, blunt, and we don’t [beat] around the bush, so when we get feedback, we like to see what’s bad and try to fix it,” said Dishon.
Staying positive: For Ezra Hausdorff, Effective Altruism Israel’s CEO, watching the public face of his movement crumble has been challenging, and Hausdorff said his staff has been navigating ways to respond to the crisis while still focusing on the work they believe in so deeply. “It made me think again about the reasons that I believe in effective altruism. I thought about whether or not this situation impacted the core beliefs, and I don’t think it does,” said Hausdorff. “The fact was that there’s one bad actor, and even though he became sort of a figurehead, it doesn’t change the principles and the potential to do a significant amount of good.”
📅 Calendaring Conflicts:The New York Times’ Franz Lidz spotlights a new methodology used by archeologists to accurately date military conflicts described in the Old Testament. “The project is an attempt to check the historical authenticity of Old Testament accounts of the Egyptian, Aramaean, Assyrian and Babylonian offensives against the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and conflicts between these two realms. For those readers without a scorecard, the principals included Shoshenq I (1 Kings 14: 25-26), Hazael (2 Kings 12:18), Jehoash (2 Kings 14:11-15), Tiglath-pileser III (2 Kings 15:29), Sennacherib (2 Kings 18-19) and Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:1-21). ‘With this new data set, we can narrow things down to a decadal level,’ said Thomas Levy, an archaeologist at the University of California, San Diego, who was not involved with the study. ‘That is super important when trying to connect ancient historical events to the archaeological record.’” [NYTimes]
🪧 Protest Power: Citing small, brief labor strikes around Iran, The Washington Post’s Miriam Berger posits that large-scale labor protests could tip the scales in favor of the protestors demonstrating against the Islamic republic. “The ongoing movement, sparked by the alleged police killing of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, has been fueled in part by poverty and despair at economic deterioration under years of Western sanctions and state mismanagement. Many demonstrators have embraced broad demands to oust Iran’s clerical leaders and dismantle their tools of repression. But massive labor disruptions on a level that could add exponential weight to the movement, such as those that helped oust the shah in 1979, remain difficult to envision, in part because the state retains near-total control of workers’ organizations at a time of deep poverty and labor fragmentation, activists and analysts say.” [WashPost]
✍️ Hour of Reckoning:The New York Times’ Bret Stephens compares Winston Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech — in which the former British prime minister suggested two outcomes to WWII: “broad, sunlit uplands” or “the abyss of a new Dark Age” — to the present. “Broad, sunlit uplands are the women of Iran tearing off their hijabs the way the people of Berlin once tore down their wall. And Ukrainian soldiers raising their flag over Irpin, Lyman, Kherson and other cities liberated from Russian barbarism. And Chinese protesters demanding — and gaining — an end to their regime’s cruel and crazy Covid lockdowns by holding up blank sheets of paper, where nothing needed to be written because everyone already knew what they meant… This isn’t just a laundry list of the year’s good news. It is a demonstration of the capacity of people across cultures and circumstances to demand, defend and define freedom; to defy those who would deny it; and to use freedom to broaden the boundaries of what we can know and do and imagine. But it isn’t the only thing 2022 demonstrated. We continue to stare into the abyss of a new Dark Age, brought about not just by the malice of the enemies of freedom but also by the complacency and wishful thinking of its advocates.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
🎅 Santos Clause: Incoming House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) called Rep.-elect George Santos (R-NY) “woefully unqualified” and “clearly unfit to serve” following a slew of allegations, first published in The New York Times, that Santos had misrepresented portions of his biography, including education and past employment.
👨 Moore’s Maryland: Maryland Gov.-elect Wes Moore tapped state Sen. Paul Pinsky to head the Maryland Energy Administration.
🏀 Basketball Buy: United Wholesale Mortgage CEO Mat Ishbia, who as a teenager played with Detroit’s Maccabi basketball team, agreed to purchase the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and the WNBA’s Mercury for $4 billion, ending the nearly two-decade tenure of current owner Robert Sarver.
🎓 Campus Beat: The New York Timeslooks at the controversy that erupted at the University of California, Berkeley’s law school over an August announcement by nine student groups that they would not host Zionist speakers.
🖌️ New in Nolita: A mural honoring Tibor Baranski, a Hungarian man whose efforts to rescue Jews during the Holocaust earned him the Righteous Among the Nations honor from Yad Vashem, was painted in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood.
🚑 ‘End of a Chapter’: Jacob Luitjens, the last Nazi collaborator jailed in the Netherlands for his wartime activities, died at 103.
⏲️ Ticking Clock: Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce the formation of a new government ahead of tonight’s midnight deadline.
🇦🇪🇮🇱 Musical Meeting: United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan discussed the strategic partnership between Israel and the UAE with Israel’s First Lady Michal Herzog on the sidelines of a concert by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at the Emirates Palace Auditorium in Abu Dhabi yesterday evening.
🪦 Digging Deep: Israeli archeologists are excavating a tomb outside of Jerusalem that has been associated with Jesus’ midwife.
💡 Bringing Light: Israel donated 17 generators to Ukraine yesterday for use in the southeastern Kherson region, which has sustained significant damage as a result of attacks by Russian forces.
🛰️ Weapons Trade: U.K. Defense Minister Ben Wallace alleged that Moscow planned to supply Tehran with advanced military components, in exchange for hundreds of drones given by Iran to Russia to use in its conflict with Ukraine.
🛬 Tourism Takeover:Agence France-Presselooks at a Saudi effort to revamp the city of Khaybar, a town that had a sizable Jewish population before a bloody seventh-century conflict with the Prophet Muhammad’s army, into a tourist destination.
🕯️ Remembering: Former Rep. Elliott Levitas (D-GA), the first Jewish member of Congress from Georgia, died at 91. Canadian Member of Parliament Jim Carr died at 71. Clarinetist Stanley Drucker, who played for six decades with the New York Philharmonic, died at 93.
Pic of the Day
A 150-drone menorah light show organized by Chabad Lubavitch marks the third night of Hanukkah in Manchester, U.K.
Former U.S. secretary of the Treasury during the Trump administration, Steven Mnuchin turns 60…
Former member of the Knesset for more than 36 years, David Levy turns 85… Former chair of the NY Fed and a partner at Goldman Sachs, Stephen Friedman turns 85… Producer of over 90 plays on and off Broadway for which she has won seven Pulitzer Prizes and 10 Tony Awards, Daryl Roth turns 78… Born in Auschwitz five weeks before liberation, she is one of only two babies born there known to have survived, Angela Orosz-Richt turns 78… Artistic director laureate of the New World Symphony, conductor, pianist and composer, Michael Tilson Thomas (family name was Thomashefsky) turns 78… Member of Knesset since 1999 for the Likud party, Haim Katz turns 75… Director of the LA Initiative at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, he was a longtime member of the LA County Board of Supervisors and LA City Council, Zev Yaroslavsky turns 74… Film, television and voice actor, Barry Gordon turns 74… CEO of WndrCo, Jeffrey Katzenberg turns 72… Former member of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, where she became the first female Jewish minister in Australia, Marsha Rose Thomson turns 67… Atlanta-based criminal defense attorney, he is a behind-the-scenes fixture in the rap industry, Drew O. Findling… Retired four-star general who served as chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, David L. Goldfein turns 63… Senior NFL insider for ESPN, Adam Schefter turns 56… Owner of Liberty Consultants in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, Cherie Velez… Former member of the Knesset for the Kulanu party, Rachel Azaria turns 45… President of France since 2017, Emmanuel Macron turns 45… Principal of Kona Media and Message, Brian Goldsmith… Assistant director of public affairs at J Street, Laura Benbow turns 37… Israeli actor and fashion model, Michael Mario Lewis turns 35… Chief creative officer of Five Seasons Media, Josh Scheinblum… EVP in the financial services practice at Weber Shandwick, Julia Bloch Mellon… Politics editor for the Boston Globe, Joshua Miller…