👋 Good Tuesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at a new bipartisan push on Capitol Hill for an interagency task force to address antisemitism, and interview Marjan Keypour Greenblatt, who fled Iran as a child, about the current state of affairs in the Islamic republic and her ongoing activist work. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Elaina Pott Calabro and UAE President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed.
It’s Election Day in Georgia — again. Voters across the Peach State will cast their ballots in the runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Republican challenger Hershel Walker until polls close at 7 p.m. local time. Jewish activists from both parties have been on the ground — and working the phones — for their candidates of choice.
Republican Jewish Coalition Political Director Sam Markstein told JI that the group has “been conducting extensive grassroots Jewish outreach in Georgia in support of Herschel Walker for U.S. Senate — making phone calls, knocking on doors, sending text messages — with a particular emphasis on early voting, which took place last week.” Markstein said the group is using “the most advanced, cutting-edge data operation in Jewish politics” to turn out Walker supporters to counter Warnock, who, he said, “is simply too radical for Georgia.”
Jewish Democratic Council of America CEO Halie Soifer said that the group’s PAC has spent upwards of $250,000 in the state, with a focus on digital advertising, in addition to classic canvassing operations. The group held a phone bank last night, which was preceded by a conversation between Brian Tyler Cohen, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro. Jewish voters in the state, Soifer told JI, “understand that Trump’s handpicked candidate, Herschel Walker, represents the antithesis of our values. Jewish voters overwhelmingly supported Raphael Warnock in the 2020 general election, in the 2021 runoff, and in the 2022 general election, and we’re confident that Jewish voters will once again play a key role in reelecting Sen. Warnock.”
Neo-Nazi conspiracy theorist Andrew Anglin, the founder of the Daily Stormer, had his Twitter account reinstated nearly a decade after being banned from the site, a move that Yael Eisenstat, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center for Technology and Society, called “deeply disturbing.” Last month, a judge in Montana issued a warrant for Anglin’s arrest for his failure to pay $14 million to a Jewish woman against whom he had rallied a large-scale antisemitic harassment campaign.
“In the short time since Elon Musk took over Twitter, we have noticed both an increase in antisemitic content on the platform and a decrease in the moderation of antisemitic posts,” Eisenstat added. “This is a troubling development, as the return of extremists to the platform has the potential to supercharge the spread of extremist content and disinformation, and this in turn could lead to the increased harassment of users. Musk’s actions to date show that he is not committed to a transparent process that incorporates the best practices we have learned from civil society groups.”
As legislators struggle to pass massive spending packages in the next two weeks — with all the back-and-forth negotiating that entails — one thing is clear: The broadly bipartisan Stop Iranian Drones Act is likely to be excluded from the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, the umbrella defense and national security policy package.
The legislation would clarify that weaponized Iranian drones fall under existing U.S. conventional weapons sanctions on Iran. It passed the House almost unanimously, but has reportedly been derailed by a jurisdictional issue between the two chambers, raised by an amendment by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that would have placed any Iranian group, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, that uses a drone to kill a U.S. citizen on the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list for 10 years.
By law, any bills relating to raising revenue must originate in the House, and revenue-raising amendments may not be attached by the Senate to non-revenue bills. The House Ways and Means Committee reportedly objected to the Cruz amendment, approved in the Senate, on these grounds.
on the hill
125 lawmakers call for interagency antisemitism task force, coordinator
A bipartisan group of 125 lawmakers urged President Joe Biden on Monday to establish a “whole-of-government” approach to antisemitism, the broadest call yet for such a unified plan to combat spiking antisemitism across the country, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Proposal: In a letter to Biden, the lawmakers specifically suggest that the administration establish an interagency task force to combat antisemitism, to be led by an official of assistant secretary or higher rank, and develop a “National Strategy to Combat Antisemitism.” The communique, organized by the chairs of the bipartisan Senate and House antisemitism task forces — Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK) and Reps. Kathy Manning (D-NC) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) — includes 33 Senate and 92 House signatories.
In the weeds: The lawmakers argue that interagency coordination should include “a broadly understood definition of antisemitism,” as some individual agencies have adopted, as well as “closer coordination” among the various entities involved in combating antisemitism, across the administration and within Congress, to share information, fill gaps and minimize overlaps. “The strategic collaboration of such entities would also send a key message to the American people and the international community that the United States is committed to fighting antisemitism at the highest levels,” the letter continues.
Off the Hill: “That Senators Rosen and Lankford, and Representatives Manning and Smith have come together with more than 100 of their colleagues — a critical moment where Members not only reached across the aisle, but across chambers as well — to stake out a position on this is a welcome and necessary show of leadership from the Hill,” the Anti-Defamation League’s director of government relations, Dan Granot, told Jewish Insider. “Our leaders cannot approach this problem passively — or haphazardly. Now is the time for a concerted, coordinated, whole-of-government strategy to address the hatred that is becoming dangerously mainstream.”
Marjan Keypour Greenblatt: Iranians ‘didn’t know what they were getting’ when they overthrew the shah
Before the global outcry, before thousands of protestors lined city streets, before refusing a headcovering — among other trivial “transgressions” — became punishable by death, Marjan Keypour Greenblatt, founder and director of the Alliance for Rights of all Minorities, remembers what life was like growing up in an Iran that had not yet been overtaken by an oppressive theocracy. She also remembers what it was like directly after. “Life in Iran, starting [at] the onset of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, almost changed overnight,” Keypour Greenblatt told co-hosts Rich Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein during a recent episode of Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast.”
Then and now: “The shah of Iran is really to be credited for a lot of the modernization, and progressive and forward-thinking approaches to create a modern country, a country that was going to look for modern medicine, for modern education, including women in the cabinet…So 43 years ago, or before that, this was very, very progressive and forward-thinking, but the pace of the shah’s movement and vision for the country was not necessarily the pace that the country was able to follow and process. So for a lot of the more traditional sectors of the community of the country, and certain intellectual sectors who felt like there was not enough freedom of expression under the shah’s leadership, they wanted to see some changes and they wanted to create some, in hindsight, perhaps reforms, but what should have been a reform movement during the shah’s period in Iran ended up being a revolution. And given the fact that the shah loved the population and did not want to order the army to draw their weapons against their own civilians, the shah made a decision to leave the country and to give the people seemingly what they wanted, which was an overthrow or an end to his governance. What we see today on the streets is the complete opposite of that. Today we have leaders who are directly ordering the army, and the police, and the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps], and the many, many different repressive elements that they have at their disposal to draw their weapons against their own people.”
On engagement with Iran: “I started my activism just over eight years ago, when in Washington there was talk about a detente and diplomatic relationships with the Islamic republic. There was a level of enthusiasm and fascination by [former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani] being elected. And, you may recall the whole ‘charm offensive’ language that was being thrown around, and people were of the belief that now we have a reformist in Iran, and therefore everything is going to be workable and therefore we should begin our so-called diplomatic relations with Iran in order to perhaps come to a nuclear agreement at the price of lifting sanctions from the regime. And at the time, because of my proximity to the White House and my access to several Iran roundtables, I was privy to certain so-called human rights activists who actually sat around the table and they believed that lifting of sanctions from repressive elements of the Islamic republic would actually help human rights in Iran, or even coming to a nuclear agreement with Islamic republic, a nuclear agreement that had nothing to do with human rights facts on the ground, would improve conditions of human rights in Iran. And I was very much against this perspective, and because I am a woman and because I am of the minority community and I had access and relationships with the Baha’is, the Sunnis, the Zoroastrians and other marginalized populations in the country, I saw all of these events in a different way, and I found it upon myself to have an alternative voice, present an alternative voice around the table.”
Lightning round: Favorite Persian food? “Two things, ghormeh sabzi and tah chin. Tah chin is like tahdig, but it’s even thicker and yummier. It’s really amazing. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside.” Favorite Farsi word or phrase? “‘Ghorbunet beram,’ which means ‘May I sacrifice myself for you,’ which is a term that parents and older people will say to their children. It’s like, ‘I love you,’ but because we’re intensely passionate we don’t just say ‘I love you,’ we say, ‘I love you so much, I would die for you.’ Ghorbunet beram.” Favorite place you would like to visit in Iran? “You’re gonna make me cry. You’re gonna make me cry. The parks. The parks. I have such great memories from the parks, and unfortunately, I’m literally choked up, there has been such a devastation of the environment in Iran — I hear about the trees dying and the environment just being polluted and miserable. But the parks of the 1970s in Iran, I would like to go back to those moments, and just the smell of the trees.”
scene last night
UJA Wall Street Dinner mixes personal stories with calls to fight antisemitism
The aspect of the UJA-Federation of New York Wall Street Dinner that may have stood out the most was a number: $31 million, the amount raised that night — a haul that exceeds the annual budgets of many Jewish organizations. But last night, the tone of the awardees’ speeches belied the event’s astronomical numbers, its dark designer suits and cocktail dresses, and the catered food on offer. The awardees were unquestionably denizens of Manhattan’s financial district, but their remarks were less about their success in business than about the personal journeys they’ve gone through, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales reports.
Focus areas: Overall, the night brought together 1,400 people — double last year’s attendance but lower than that in 2019 — to hear about UJA-Federation’s themes of aiding Ukraine, addressing the legacy of COVID-19, ameliorating food insecurity and fighting antisemitism. Eric Goldstein, the group’s CEO, said that in recent years, UJA’s total annual grantmaking has risen from $155 million to $175 million and is likely to grow. He discussed how the cost of food has risen 12% with inflation — 16% for kosher food — and said that demand at New York-area food pantries is nearly 70% higher than it was before the pandemic. He lamented that people are paying less attention to the war in Ukraine, even though the fighting and the corresponding humanitarian crisis are ongoing.
Honoree’s moment: The night’s main honoree, Third Point CEO Daniel Loeb, won the Gustave L. Levy Award. Last night, he pledged $3 million over two years to UJA. In his speech, he said, “Jewishly speaking, I was raised by wolves,” and narrated his experience of becoming more involved with the Jewish community. When the pandemic began, he said, a rabbi who was an early COVID patient asked Loeb to recite the Shema on his behalf — but Loeb didn’t know it. That request led Loeb to begin praying regularly and putting on tefillin — something he credited for a turnaround at his fund. Now, he said, he sends siddurim to his friends. Near the end of his speech, he quoted a line about committing to love one’s neighbor as oneself. “Say this every day,” he said. “Be kind to each other. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself. And be kind to the UJA.”
Joining communities: CNN host Van Jones, the keynote speaker, opened his speech with “an apology for the silence of my community” regarding discrimination against Jews. Jones, who is Black, invoked his Jewish godmother in calling for a renewal of the Black-Jewish civil rights alliance, and condemned Kanye West, now known as Ye, for his stream of antisemitic remarks. He repeated, “Ye, nay! Ye, nay! Ye, nay! No more, no more, no more,” to loud applause. “The reason this country is a democracy at all is because Black and Jewish people have loved each other and helped each other and supported each other,” he said. “The best in your community and the best of our community stood together.”
Read more here.
heard last week
Van Hollen says Biden ‘missed an opportunity’ to reenter the Iran deal
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said the Biden administration “missed an opportunity” to reenter the Iran nuclear deal early in its term and expressed deep concerns about the incoming Israeli government during an event last week, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Conflicting visions: “I think that the Biden administration missed an opportunity early on to simply return to the JCPOA,” Van Hollen argued during the virtual event hosted by the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development and the College of Behavior and Social Sciences at the University of Maryland, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official name for the nuclear deal signed in 2015.
Different opinion: Secretary of State Tony Blinken offered a distinctly different narrative than Van Hollen about the path back to a deal during his confirmation hearing in January 2021, describing a renewed deal as “a long way” off at that time. Talks regarding reentry into the deal have remained stalled since the late summer, after Iran made what the administration has described as “extraneous” demands outside the scope of the talks.
Alarm bells: Van Hollen, who has been a prominent critic in the Senate of Israeli policy, called the emerging Israeli government coalition, featuring several far-right ministers, “a very worrisome development” and a “very, very difficult moment.” He added, “I know that the Biden administration is in the process of doing everything they can to try to limit the potential for damage of the inclusion of these extremist elements within the governing coalition,” and said he believes the administration “is weighing its options and doing what it can right now, behind the scenes to signal to [Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin] Netanyahu what, what its limits will be.”
💱 Hill Honcho:Business Insider’s Rob Price, Dakin Campbell, Jack Newsham and Darius Rafieyan showcase how FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried dedicated himself to building relationships in Washington with an end goal of changing regulations for the cryptocurrency industry. “Over the past two years, Bankman-Fried set out to rig a notoriously rigged system through a potent mix of charm, charitable giving, and political contributions. From planning the ‘party of the century’ to crafting industry-friendly legislation, SBF made himself a mover and shaker in Washington to a degree that other CEOs only dream of. ‘He understood that Washington, in particular, can be wooed through aggressive fundraising and political giving,’ says Eric Soufer, a partner who leads the crypto and fintech practices for the strategic communications consultant Tusk Strategies. ‘And that opens a ton of doors.’” [BI]
🇶🇦 Football Facelift:The New Yorker’s Sam Knight travels to the World Cup in Qatar, where he talks to foreign laborers, Qataris and visiting soccer fans to better understand how the Gulf nation reshaped itself in preparation for the sporting event. “It’s probably a mistake, in fact, to try to disentangle the World Cup from anything that has happened in Qatar. The Qatari Investment Authority, which manages an estimated four hundred and fifty billion dollars, didn’t build a stage for a soccer tournament; it built a city to encompass the stage. The World Cup cost more than two hundred billion dollars (that’s around sixty times the expense of the 2010 tournament, in South Africa), but the price tag included the metro system, an airport extension, bridges, man-made islands, fighter jets, a collapsible stadium, and a bulk order of five-star hotels. Doha tripled in size during the twenty-tens. The population of Qatar increased by a million people, or sixty per cent. A lot of that growth probably would have happened without the World Cup. ‘Doha has been “under construction” since I was born,’ Ali said. ‘Road closures or towers or new cities or whatever aren’t really a new sight.’ The World Cup, as much as anything, was a deadline.” [NewYorker]
🏋️♀️ Greene New Deal:The Atlantic’s Elaina Pott Calabro chronicles the life of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), beginning with her childhood in suburban Georgia and culminating with her election to a second term in Congress. “What Marjorie Taylor Greene has accomplished is this: She has harnessed the paranoia inherent in conspiratorial thinking and reassured a significant swath of voters that it is okay — no, righteous — to indulge their suspicions about the left, the Republican establishment, the media. ‘I’m not going to mince words with you all,’ she declared at a Michigan rally this fall. ‘Democrats want Republicans dead, and they’ve already started the killings.’ Greene did not create this sensibility, but she channels it better than any of her colleagues… Whether Greene actually believes the things she says is by now almost beside the point. She has no choice but to be the person her followers think she is, because her power is contingent on theirs. The mechanics of actual leadership — diplomacy, compromise, patience — not only don’t interest her but represent everything her followers disdain. To soften, or engage in better faith, is to admit defeat.” [TheAtlantic]
👟 Born to Run: In Tablet, Hillel Kuttler interviews sprinter Blessing Afrifa, who was born in Israel to Ghanaian parents and has his sights set on the Paris Olympics. “In telephone interviews and conversations at the track, the reporter sensed that, too. Afrifa responded very briefly to most questions and texts, with the calm of a budding star. Afrifa and [his coach Igor] Balon speak from the same page — unsurprising, given their five-year pairing. They talk of fundamentals, discipline, dedication, and proper training, trusting that they’ll yield positive results. When asked about his goals in the sport, Afrifa concedes only that he aims to be Israel’s fastest runner and be mentioned alongside the country’s soccer stars and judoka champions. Moderating his aspirations, at least publicly, seems to be a virtue. Only while alone in his hotel room an hour or so after nipping [Botswana’s Letsile] Tebogo did Afrifa grasp that striving for the Paris Olympics ‘would be realistic’ and ‘a dream come true.’” [Tablet]
🛂 Diplomacy Discourse: The editorial board of the Washington Post pens an op-ed raising concerns about the lack of ambassadors confirmed since President Joe Biden took office, citing that dozens of postings, including India, Saudi Arabia and Russia remain unfilled. “Some of the blame for these vacancies should fall on Mr. Biden. At least 10 of the vacant posts, including Italy, have no nominee yet for the position, and dozens of other posts that aren’t technically open still have former president Donald Trump’s picks serving. But the bulk of the problem is the fact that Senate Republicans are slow-walking confirmations. It’s becoming increasingly common for senators to hold them up solely to score political points against the White House — often over issues that aren’t remotely related to the nominee in question.” [WashPost]
Around the Web
👨 More Details: Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will convene tomorrow’s antisemitism roundtable at the White House, joined by Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, Director of Public Engagement Keisha Lance Bottoms and Deborah Lipstadt, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.
🙏 Power of Prayer: City & State NYnamed its “Faith Power 100,” which includes Rabbis Aaron and Zalman Teitelbaum, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, the Met Council’s David Greenfield, JCRC-NY’s Gideon Taylor, Y.U.’s Rabbi Ari Berman and UJA-Federation of New York’s Eric Goldstein and Hindy Poupko.
📄 Fighting Hate: A new report issued by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s Commission to Combat Antisemitism found a rise in antisemitism in the state and suggested more than a dozen actions the government could take to combat the increase.
🖥️ Historical Helper: The Washington Postspotlights the efforts of a Bay Area software engineer to help Holocaust survivors and their descendants find and identify WWII-era photos of themselves and loved ones who did not survive the Holocaust.
⛔ Off Track: Nike officially severed its relationship with Kyrie Irving, a month after it was put on hold following the Brooklyn Nets player’s promotion of an antisemitic film and book.
🛬 Doha Trip: UAE President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nayhan arrived in Qatar yesterday, his first trip to the Gulf nation since a multiyear Saudi-led blockade of the country was lifted.
🗞️ Fake News: In the New York Post, Rich Goldberg describes a disinformation campaign led by Iranian media to spread false reporting that the country’s morality police had been abolished.
🤝 Let’s Make a Deal: Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu inked an agreement with Bezalel Smotrich that will see the Religious Zionism leader become finance minister in the new government, as well as an official within the Defense Ministry who will have control over non-military operations in the West Bank.
🇹🇷 Ankara Angling: An Israeli trade delegation with officials representing more than 50 companies is in Turkey for meetings with Turkish exporters.
☎️ Detached Diplomat: The Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned the U.N.’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process after he called for an investigation into an IDF soldier who was stabbed in a terror attack by a Palestinian assailant, the latter of whom was killed in the scuffle.
⚖️ Court Case: Al Jazeerafiled a lawsuit in the International Criminal Court over the May death of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist killed during a skirmish between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid responded to the suit by saying that “no one will investigate the IDF soldiers and no one will preach to us about morals in warfare, certainly not Al Jazeera.”
📰 Transition: Josh Greenman, formerly the opinion editor at the New York Daily News, is joiningVital City as managing editor.
Pic of the Day
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog is hosting a conference at the Israeli Embassy for the heads of all Israeli missions in North America to meet with officials and stakeholders in Washington.
Founder of Craigslist, the San Francisco-based website used around the world, Craig Newmark turns 70…
Judy Clark… Moshe Hochenberg… Former member of the National Assembly of Quebec for 20 years, Lawrence S. Bergman turns 82… Renowned artist whose sculpture, photography, neon and video works appear in museums worldwide, Bruce Nauman turns 81… Israeli-born producer and art collector, Arnon Milchan turns 78… Founder of Susan G. Komen (named after her late sister), she also served as U.S. ambassador to Hungary and chief of protocol of the U.S., Nancy Goodman Brinker turns 76… Senior U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Ohio, he serves on the executive committee of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, Judge Dan Aaron Polster turns 71… Cell and molecular biologist, he is the director of research and professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, David L. Spector turns 70… Film and television actress, Gina Hecht turns 69… Faculty member at Harvard Law School since 1981, she served as dean of Harvard Law School from 2009 to 2017, Martha Minow turns 68… Author of a bestselling novel, Arthur Sulzberger Golden turns 66… SVP and general counsel at United Airlines, Robert S. Rivkin turns 62… Former EVP and COO of the Inter-American Development Bank, Julie T. Katzman turns 61… Emmy Award-winning producer, writer, director, actor and comedian, Judd Apatow turns 55… Member of Knesset for the Likud party since 2015, Yoav Kisch turns 54… Professor of economics at the University of Chicago, Michael Greenstone turns 54… Professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, he is the son and grandson of rabbis, Julian E. Zelizer turns 53… Founder of Orange Grove Communications, Amir Mizroch turns 47… Managing director in the NYC office of PR firm BerlinRosen, Dan Levitan… Editor-in-chief at The Air Current, Jon Ostrower… Atlanta native, now a venture capitalist in Israel, Ilan Regenbaum… Licensed community association manager in South Florida, Beth Argaman… Head of the Mediterranean, Middle East and Africa program at Rome’s Istituto Affari Internazionali, Andrea Dessì… Joe Blumenthal…