👋 Good Tuesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report from the Orthodox Union’s summit on antisemitism in New York, and talk to legislators and Jewish community leaders about the FBI’s new hate crimes report. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Former President Bill Clinton, Sen. Jacky Rosen and Gov. Kathy Hochul.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced on Monday the formation of an interagency group that will “increase and better coordinate U.S. government efforts to counter antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of bias and discrimination within the United States,” according to a White House statement. The group will be led by officials from the Domestic Policy Council and the National Security Council.
The interagency working group’s first order of business is to develop a national strategy to counter antisemitism, which Jean-Pierre said was a directive from President Joe Biden. The strategy aims to “raise understanding about antisemitism and the threat it poses to the Jewish community and all Americans,” and to prevent attacks and address antisemitic harassment, said Jean-Pierre. The goal of the strategy is to “encourage whole-of-society efforts to counter antisemitism and build a more inclusive nation.”
The White House announcement follows a concerted public push last week for such an initiative, including a letter from more than 100 lawmakers from both parties and advocacy from Jewish leaders at a White House summit. But calls for a national strategy from Capitol Hill date back at least a year and a half, to the early months of Biden’s presidency.
Sen. Jacky Rosen(D-NV), one of the organizers of last week’s letter and a co-chair of the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combatting Antisemitism, lauded the move, saying, “The steps announced today will go a long way toward improving the United States’ ability to combat antisemitism, helping to keep communities safe and eradicate hate.” Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC) called the interagency coordination “key” to addressing antisemitism.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), who led a Helsinki Commission working group meeting on Capitol Hill earlier this month to discuss coordination on fighting antisemitism, said, “I believe coordination is essential – Congress included. As events occur, creating a timely, centralized forum for agencies to share information with Congress, key stakeholders — and each other — will strengthen our response to future antisemitic and hate-based activity.” Cardin will lead a Helsinki Commission hearing on Capitol Hill today on antisemitism, with testimony from Amb. Deborah Lipstadt and Rabbi Andrew Baker, director of international Jewish affairs at the American Jewish Committee and the personal representative on combatting antisemitism at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
American Jewish Committee CEO Ted Deutch, who attended last week’s meeting and led an early letter on the issue while still a member of Congress, praised the administration’s “bold move” and said in a statement that “a coordinated government response to antisemitism and other hatred is needed more than ever,” while Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted that “As #antisemitism is increasingly normalized, it is critical for all Americans to see that the Administration is dedicated to fighting this hate.”
Hochul: Antisemitic assailants are ‘picking a fight with 20 million New Yorkers’
“When you attack one of us, anyone, that is picking a fight with 20 million other New Yorkers,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said at meeting on antisemitism attended by New York elected officials and local Jewish community leaders on Monday morning. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also addressed the summit, hosted by the Orthodox Union at the Lincoln Square Synagogue on the Upper West Side. The event’s key takeaway: There’s no place for antisemitism in this country, least of all in New York, Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel reports.
Family first: “This is our family. This is who we are as New Yorkers, we embrace everyone,” Hochul said at the convening, organized in response to rising threats and violence against the tri-state area’s Jewish communities. Hochul announced a new statewide “Hate and Bias Prevention Unit” within the Department of Human Rights and running throughout all 62 counties “to educate and also be an early warning system.”
Actions speak louder than words: “We’re living in a time of unprecedented levels of antisemitism,” OU Advocacy Center Executive Director Nathan Diament told JI. “The good news is that government leaders, within the federal government and state and local governments, have spoken out very forcefully against it. But those statements have to be married with concrete actions…so convening community leaders with the secretary of homeland security, the governor, the mayor, etc., is a critical moment to really…push towards practical steps.”
Getting personal: The speakers gave impassioned speeches on the state of antisemitism — both Schumer and Mayorkas also added personal stories of their families’ connection to the Holocaust — emphasizing it as a “human issue,” not just a Jewish one. “There is no such thing as a small act of antisemitism…It reverberates throughout our community, our country and even the world,” said Mayorkas, who, in a nod to the 50th anniversary of his bar mitzvah on Dec. 9, wore the same kippah donned by his father during the celebration. “We must respond accordingly.”
No politics: Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in American history, also spoke of recent and rising antisemitic attacks, adding that politics need to be removed from the issue. “I absolutely shudder to think of what it would mean for the safety of our children and their children and their children after that, if the ideology elevated by those on the far-right and the far-left were to keep seeping into our society like a poison,” Schumer said. “No political prize can ever be worth eroding the rights and privileges and the relative safety that we Jews have here in America.”
Happening this morning:City & State magazine will host a summit titled “Building Bridges” this morning in Manhattan to address the recent rise in religious-based hate crimes.
pomp and circumstance
University of Haifa awards honorary doctorates to Bill Clinton and John Sexton
A ceremony that felt at once formal and intimate honored two former presidents for their work building enterprises across the globe — one a former leader of New York University, and the other the former leader of the free world. The two men, John Sexton and Bill Clinton, received honorary doctorates from the University of Haifa at an hourlong event last night at New York University, in an auditorium across the street from Manhattan’s Washington Square Park, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales reports.
Global reach: Sexton and Clinton were both honored for their international activities. Sexton presided over NYU at a time when it opened up outposts worldwide. It now has three campuses that grant degrees — in New York, Abu Dhabi and Shanghai — as well as a dozen more campuses worldwide, from Madrid to Sydney to Tel Aviv. His doctorate was given “for pioneering the global network university, promoting cross-cultural sensitivity, and offering students and faculty opportunities to engage in innovative research.” Clinton received the doctorate in recognition of his activities as president and of his work at the Clinton Global Initiative, his family foundation that focuses on climate, public health and economic development. His doctorate was given for his “promotion of democracy, advocacy of human rights, and humanitarian assistance,” and for “improving the lives of millions around the globe.”
Hailing Haifa: Ron Robin, the University of Haifa’s president, said a global perspective also inspired his school, which he said was Israel’s most diverse university, and which is located in a city historically known for good relations between its Jewish and Arab populations. “Building a shared society [and] creating global networks are really the only way to face the environmental, social and health crises that affect us all,” Robin said. “Our goal is to create a new, pluralistic and inclusive Israeli middle class that will rise to the environmental and human challenges of the region and the world.”
Invoking Rabin: Clinton was presented with his robe by Tova Sagol, of the Israeli philanthropic family of the same name, as well as the artist Marina Abramović, and was introduced by the philanthropist and real estate developer Eddie Trump (no relation to the former president). He also praised the artist who embroidered his robe, Batia Shani, because he learned that she first met him at the funeral of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, with whom Clinton worked closely before Rabin was assassinated. “I will treasure this for the rest of my life,” Clinton said. “I loved him very much, and I miss him still.”
FBI hate crimes statistics plagued by gaps in reporting from major law enforcement agencies
The FBI’s hate crimes statistics for 2021 showed that Jews remained the largest target of religious-based hate crimes, but the overall statistics likely undercounted the overall scope of hate crimes as a result of a significant drop in reporting by local law enforcement agencies, according to the Department of Justice, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Missing pieces: The statistics showed that Jews were the target of 324 reported hate crimes in 2021. But overall reporting of hate crimes by local law enforcement to the FBI — which is voluntary — dropped significantly, from 81% of law enforcement agencies nationwide in 2020 to just 63% in 2021. The total number of anti-Jewish hate crimes reported last year dropped significantly from 2020, but many jurisdictions with large Jewish populations did not report any data, including New York City and nearly all of Florida and California, including Miami and Los Angeles, which lawmakers and Jewish leaders argue paints an incomplete picture of the threat environment.
Hill response: Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), the co-chair of the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism called the drop in participation “unacceptable.” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said she plans to look for ways to shore up data collection from law enforcement agencies. “We must reexamine making it mandatory for state and local law enforcement agencies to participate in the FBI’s hate crime data collection efforts. We can never solve a problem if we don’t understand its scope,” Wasserman Schultz told JI. Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX), a co-chair of the House antisemitism task force, told JI that “the underreporting of crime statistics — particularly as they apply to the Jewish community — is alarming… As lawmakers, we have a moral imperative to ensure that our fellow Americans are not subjected to physical, verbal, and online abuse — when abuse does occur, we must be unequivocal in its condemnation and punishment.”
Community clapback: Karen Paikin Barall, associate vice president of public affairs and executive director of the Advocacy Corp for the Jewish Federations of North America, called the underreporting “a significant problem,” adding that “without good data, governments and law enforcement cannot accurately do their jobs, including prioritizing limited resources.” Regardless of the report’s shortcomings, she said, “it’s easy to extrapolate from this report what every Jewish community has been feeling, which is that antisemitic incidents are increasingly pervasive in our lives.”
Happening on the Hill: ADL Vice President Oren Segal is set to testify in front of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties today about the rise of white supremacy. Segal is set to say, “We are watching the dangerous normalization of ideologies that animate white supremacy and other forms of extremism” and warn that “this could not happen without elected officials, television pundits and other high-profile influencers legitimizing these views.” He will also warn about the proliferation of extremist consent on social media as well as extremist groups’ membership among law enforcement, the military and elected officials.
🪧 A Different Demonstration: In the Wall Street Journal, Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh explain why the latest protests in Iran differ from previous attempts to effect social and religious reform in the country. “After more than a century of societal involvement in politics, Iranians are more than aware of the serious nature of self-government. They are unlikely to fall victim again to the allure of a secular strongman or militant mullah, having seen the damage such leaders cause. The Arabs who revolted against tyranny a decade ago didn’t have the advantage of decades of trial and error. Self-criticism isn’t a Middle Eastern forte, but Iranians have come far in placing the blame for their own predicament on themselves. Democracy can’t ignite, or last, if the citizenry doesn’t assume responsibility for its own destiny. Iran seems ready.” [WSJ]
⚽ Behind the Stadium:The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson considers how “sportswashing” has allowed World Cup host Qatar to distract the global community from its human rights abuses. “But what of the injustices that built the stadiums where Morocco asserted itself; where Argentine great Lionel Messi pursued the final laurel in his astonishing career; and where Messi’s rival, Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo, wept after Morocco eliminated his team in a match in which Ronaldo was benched in favor of players with younger legs? At that moment, surely marking the great Ronaldo’s last World Cup match, none of the commentators paused to mention that the new stadium, and seven others, had been built by imported workers, mostly from South Asia, whose appalling plight has been well-documented — dangerous and sometimes lethal working conditions, squalid living quarters, restrictions on their freedom of movement and their freedom of speech. It’s hard to think of a more vivid illustration of how sportswashing works. All those lives, all those abuses, are obscured by a few galvanizing stories; the triumphs and disappointments of a small number of very famous men tower over the terrible sacrifices made by those whose names history will not record.” [WashPost]
Around the Web
📰 Bari’s Business: In an interview with Axios, Bari Weiss explained her business plan for her media company The Free Press, launched last week, for which she has already hired 10 full-time staff as she plans to launch a number of newsletters and podcasts.
🚓 In Custody: FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who was slated to testify before the House Financial Services Committee today, was arrested in the Bahamas and is awaiting extradition on charges including wire fraud and money laundering at the request of federal prosecutors in the U.S.
📺 Primetime Pelosi: “Pelosi in the House,” Alexandra Pelosi’s documentary about her mother, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), airs on HBO at 9 p.m. EST tonight.
🧮 Final Tally: Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) defeated Adam Frisch by a margin of roughly 500 votes after an automatic recount in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District.
🗓️ Mark Your Calendar: A special election to succeed Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA), who died last month, will be held on Feb. 21. Next Tuesday, Democratic party leaders in the blue district will hold a “firehouse primary” in which local party officials spearhead the election.
👨⚖️ Stringer’s Suit: Former New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer filed a defamation suit against a woman who last year accused him of inappropriate conduct nearly two decades ago, derailing his mayoral campaign.
🐦 Twitter Takeover: Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, had to leave his home amid an uptick in threats following the release of internal company communications dubbed the “Twitter Files.” Meanwhile, Twitter dissolved its Trust and Safety Council, which provided guidance on how to combat hate speech, child exploitation, suicide and self-harm on the platform.
🎒 School Struggle:The New York Timeslooks at the challenges facing divorced parents from the Hasidic community who want their children to attend schools that place more emphasis on secular education.
🕎 Eight Crazy Nights: Indie rock band Yo La Tengo will begin its annual Hanukkah run — eight nights of performances — at New York’s Bowery Ballroom on Dec. 18.
🍽️ New Nosh: Chabad’s Rabbi Levi Duchman opened Rimon Market in Dubai, the first kosher grocery store in the UAE. Meanwhile in Haifa, Emirati and Israeli business partners inaugurated a new Turkish restaurant.
👨 New Speaker: Likud MK Yariv Levin was elected as the new Knesset speaker today, replacing Yesh Atid MK Mickey Levy.
🛫 Diplomatic Efforts: The UAE Embassy in the U.S. tweeted photos of Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba greeting basketball player Brittany Griner, who was released over the weekend from a Russian penal colony, on the tarmac at Abu Dhabi International Airport with the note, “Honored to have played a small part in getting you home for the holidays.”
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to visit Israel next year as part of the country’s 75th birthday celebrations.
🚀 Backlash Backtrack: Israeli officials toldAxios that gathered intelligence indicates that Iran wants to limit the range of missiles it has agreed to provide Russia with, as Tehran is reportedly concerned about the international backlash to its collaboration with Moscow.
🛂 Travel Trouble: A U.N. agency operating in the West Bank and Gaza accused Israel of delaying processing visas for incoming staff.
🪖 Jenin Update: The IDF said there was a “high probability” that a teenage Palestinian girl who was shot on her rooftop on Sunday in Jenin was killed accidentally as troops engaged in an exchange of fire with Palestinian militants from rooftops in the area.
🇮🇷 Another Execution: Iran executed a prisoner, publicly hanging him from a construction crane, after convicting him of stabbing two security force members to death and wounding four others.
🕯️ Remembering: Lord David Young, a member of the U.K.’s House of Lords who advised Conservative governments, died at 90.
Pic of the Day
Washington, D.C.’s Jewish community gathered last night at the Israeli Embassy in Washington for an early Hanukkah celebration hosted by Amb. Mike Herzog and Shirin Herzog (pictured here with Sen. Jacky Rosen). The event featured remarks from Amb. Herzog as well as Adas Israel Rabbis Lauren Holtzblatt and Aaron Alexander. Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), also spoke at the gathering, where she compared the White House announcement and the Abraham Accords to the miracles from the Hanukkah story. Representatives of Israeli NGO Larger than Life, which supports children with cancer, led a menorah lighting.
Lawmakers in attendance included Rosen, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC) and Rep.-elect Glenn Ivey (D-MD). From the Biden administration, Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr, White House Jewish Liaison Shelley Greenspan, Deputy Special Envoy to Combat Antisemitism Aaron Keyak and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mira Resnick attended.
The undeniable star of the evening was a table at the back of the reception hall laden with elaborately decorated Israeli-style sufganiyot in flavors including blueberry pistachio, dulce de leche, jelly-filled, chocolate and vanilla — the latter two including small syringes of alcohol for injecting into the donuts. The treats were created by Philadelphia-based chef Yehuda Sichel, owner of Huda Restaurant. Latkes — potato, zucchini and leek, sweet potato and beet — were provided by Signature Catering. The donuts were such a hit that guests who stayed until the end of the party lined up to pick up containers and plates to carry home the leftovers.
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