👋 Good Monday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we feature Tevi Troy on JI’s podcast and visit Audrey Gelman’s Cobble Hill housewares shop. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Marina Rosenberg, Alice Tapper and Robert Oppenheimer.
With the beginning of Hanukkah last night, official celebrations are in full swing around Washington. Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff hosted approximately 300 guests at the Naval Observatory on Sunday evening for what’s believed to be the first official Hanukkah gathering at the VPR. The vice president introduced her husband, who spoke about his own Hanukkah traditions and helped light the menorah.
“Flash forward to when I met this beautiful woman over here,” Emhoff said, gesturing to Harris. “She bought me a menorah for our first Hanukkah together, when we were first setting up our home in Los Angeles, because it was important for her to know that we had a menorah to illuminate this home that we were building together.” He also pointed from the tent where the party was taking place across the lawn to the window of the Naval Observatory, where a lit menorah stood in the window.
Emhoff also discussed the recent rise in antisemitism and White House efforts to combat it, including a meeting he hosted earlier this month with Jewish community leaders. “Anyone who is not speaking up and speaking out, and not taking action, needs to be called out,” said Emhoff.
Harris and Emhoff, who took photos with attendees in an official receiving line, used a menorah on loan from the Jewish Museum in New York that was made in Eastern Europe in the late 19th or early 20th century, with a Hebrew inscription dedicating it to a mutual aid society, a White House official told Jewish Insider. The society provided aid to Jews in Eastern Europe and to others who immigrated to the U.S.
After the speeches, guests enjoyed a hearty kosher spread and several flavors of jelly doughnuts that rivaled Israeli sufganiyot. A three-piece klezmer band played throughout the night. Attendees left with a party favor: a blue velvet bag with the vice presidential seal that held a dreidel that read “Happy Hanukkah 2022.”
Ten minutes down Massachusetts Avenue, the National Menorah Lighting ceremony took place earlier in the evening at the Ellipse, just south of the White House. Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke about his family history at the event, saying he pursued a career in the Justice Department because “I wanted to repay the debt my family owes to this country for our very lives. Before World War I, America gave my family a refuge from persecution that allowed them to survive the Holocaust when World War II arrived.”
The attorney general added, “As a descendant of those who fled persecution because they were Jewish, it is especially meaningful to be here tonight as we light this menorah in our nation’s capital and under the protection of its laws.” Garland also spoke about rising antisemitism, saying, “All Americans have a moral obligation to stand up against… hate. Together we must stand up against the disturbing rise in antisemitism, and together we must stand up against bigotry in any of its forms. Our democracy depends on it.”
The annual event was organized by the American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) and featured remarks by the organization’s Executive Vice President Rabbi Levi Shemtov, its founding director Rabbi Avraham Shemtov and winners of a youth essay contest, as well as a performance by the United States Army Band.
Tonight is the annual White House Hanukkah party, hosted by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. The first family will debut the first menorah to be added to the White House permanent archives collection, rather than using a menorah loaned to them from a Jewish community institution or museum. The menorah was created by the White House’s carpentry shop.
“The first-ever White House menorah is a work of historic importance, and it’s also a work of love,” said the first lady. “Its beauty reminds us of the Hanukkah miracle and the joy it inspired. From this day forward, this menorah is a permanent piece of the White House — the People’s House.”
Elsewhere in Washington, congressional leaders are expected to release their negotiated 2023 omnibus budget today. An individual familiar with the negotiations told Jewish Insider‘s Marc Rod on Friday that negotiators were close to locking in $360 million in funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program. The individual said that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had emphasized the recent uptick in antisemitism in talks about the funding level.
Presidential historian Tevi Troy joins JI’s ‘Limited Liability Podcast’
When it comes to the who’s who of Washington, few are plugged in like Tevi Troy. A bona fide presidential historian, the New York native has written three books about the nation’s top office. He has served as deputy secretary of Health and Human Services, was the White House Jewish liaison and a senior adviser under former President George W. Bush and is the founder and former CEO of the American Health Policy Institute. In a conversation on Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast,” Troy, who is currently a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, spoke with co-hosts Rich Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein about Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, America’s COVID-19 response and Iran.
On the Bibi-Biden dynamic: “You know, about Bill Clinton, they used to say this thing about, ‘you may disagree with him on policy, but he’s pro-Israel in his kishkes,’ and that Obama didn’t pass the kishkes test. I think that Biden may be more in the Clinton camp in that there’s disagreement on policies, but he’s got a kishkes affiliation with Israel, and I think that makes it a little easier in some ways, but that said, there are stark disagreements between the Biden administration’s policies and where Bibi is likely going to want to go. I think he [Bibi] is effective politically at using the Americans as a foil, but you have to be careful, because America is Israel’s most important ally and America provides a lot of assistance to Israel, so it’s a careful line to walk. I think Bibi has largely done it well, although I think that speech to the joint session of Congress [arguing against the Iran nuclear deal] certainly hurt him in the views of congressional Democrats, and I think Democrats largely, and I think he would probably not do something like that again in the future, but it’s definitely something that will complicate this next term that he has coming.”
On the Iran deal: “I don’t think a deal — the deal that the Biden administration may or may not still be negotiating — is going to solve the problem. I don’t think the absence of a deal is going to solve the problem. I think you need some paradigm changer to solve the problem. One of those paradigm changers is kinetic action, which I think has a lot of problems with it and I’m not advocating it; another is if Iran, the current…government falls…But I don’t think that if the two alternative pathways are deal or no deal, neither one is going to solve the problem…The reason I have problems with the deal is because it is giving concessions and a great deal of money to Iran for a deal that will not solve the problem or stop Iran from engaging in its terroristic behavior, and they don’t even claim to be addressing that in the deal. So that’s why I have a problem with the deal.”
Read more and listen to the podcast here.
Bonus: In the Wall Street Journal, Troy and Rabbi Stuart Halpern look at how presidential administrations through the years have marked Hanukkah.
Hanukkah comes to Audrey Gelman’s Six Bells
On a recent gloomy morning in brownstone Brooklyn, Audrey Gelman, the former chief executive of the women’s co-working space, the Wing, was snugly ensconced in her country-inspired homewares store, the Six Bells, where a festive assortment of holiday trappings made for a welcome distraction from the imminent prospect of mid-December rain. The shop, which opened eight months ago in Cobble Hill, had undergone an intensive Christmas-themed makeover for its first holiday season, replete with dark-red ribbons, coniferous garlands, cheerful stockings, glistening silver bells and a sumptuously appointed Christmas tree, among other things. “We really doubled down on the holiday stuff,” Gelman, 35, told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel last Thursday before opening hours, sitting at a large wooden desk near the back of the store.
Hanukkah collection: In a heimish nod to her Jewish roots, Gelman commissioned a small but meticulously curated selection of Hanukkah items to accompany the Christmas offerings now on sale, including hand-paintedivory taper candles, hand-decorated gingerbread cookies shaped like the Star of David and a blue-and-white porcelain menorah sourced from the English pottery company Spode, which maintains a Judaica collection. “It sold out immediately,” Gelman proudly said of the menorah, which cost $160 and was available in-store as well as online. “Then we reordered a bunch and those sold out, and we reordered again, and those sold out. So we don’t have it.”
Childhood memories: The Jewish festival of lights, which commenced on Sunday evening, has always been a “really big deal” for Gelman. “Latke-making was just an awesome kind of conveyor belt, like every member of my family doing something different,” she said. “It’s been fun to introduce my son, so far, to making latkes and sufganiyot and the traditional part of it that’s so important, I think, to family.” Gelman, who lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Ilan Zechory, a co-founder of the music annotation site Genius, and two children, was raised in a religious household on the Upper West Side, and regularly went to synagogue on Fridays and Saturdays. “As a toddler,” she recalled, “I would sit on the bima with my dad when he was doing services.” “He has a really beautiful voice,” she said of her father, Irwin Gelman, who served as a cantor at the Conservative Synagogue of Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village. He now serves at Congregation Beth Abraham in Buffalo.
A shtetl grows: One way the shop itself differs from others is its playful focus on a fictional parish of undetermined vintage called Barrow’s Green, which Gelman invented as the imaginary inspiration for the Six Bells’ rustic offerings. The small village is populated by an eccentric group of archetypal townspeople, who are depicted in a cluster of oil paintings that hang from a wall in the store. Culled from Gelman’s personal art collection, the pictures portray, among others, a “town gossip,” a “mystery writer,” a “parlor maid” and a bespectacled rabbi, Haskel Frumkin, whose black skullcap, long white beard and slight scowl suggest an air of bemused authority. “I definitely wanted him to have a place in all of this,” Gelman said of the rabbi. “He’s just got a vibe.”
new in town
Israel’s former ambassador to Chile to head ADL’s international affairs work
Veteran Israeli diplomat Marina Rosenberg, who is set to join the Anti-Defamation League as its new senior vice president for international affairs, told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod that she was driven to take the job by her experiences fighting anti-Israel bias and antisemitism, particularly as Israel’s former ambassador to Chile.
Turning point: “I think my experience in Chile especially marked me quite a bit, understanding how antisemitism is spreading [quickly] around the world,” Rosenberg, 46, said. “And I felt the need to take my actions on a more global spectrum. I really see it as an opportunity to bring my experience to the international team at ADL, in order to keep up the fight against antisemitism and against hate worldwide.” The Argentinian-born former diplomat said that she had grappled with antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiments coming from Chile’s sizable Palestinian population, which she described as having a strong voice in the country’s legislature and as having a closer affinity for Hamas than the Palestinian Authority.
Challenges ahead: Rosenberg acknowledged that she comes into the job at a particularly challenging time, with antisemitism rising both within the U.S. and around the world. She said she’s focused on building partnerships with other organizations, governments and companies around the world. “The main challenge is that the world is big and we see a rise in antisemitism in many countries around the world,” she said. “And we need all the assistance and partnerships that we will be able to get.”
Dead Sea rebounds from pandemic slump as tourist magnet for Jordan
Jacqui Taylor Basker, an art historian from lower Manhattan, loved making annual trips to Jordan to teach college classes and visit the Dead Sea, where the desert air and mineral-suffused water provided relief from asthma and annoying skin conditions. After two years in which COVID-19 kept the Hashemite kingdom closed to most outsiders, Basker has now come back to soak up the winter sun at the lowest place on earth. She was unprepared, however, for the extent to which some of her favorite beaches have turned into a moonscape of craggy rubble and salt-encrusted sinkholes. “I was shocked,” she told Saeb Rawashdeh for The Circuit. “The Dead Sea is a great Jordanian treasure and must be protected for everyone.”
Shrinking sea: The once-rolling Jordan River has shrunk to just 7% of its capacity from the 1960s, when both countries diverted the water for national irrigation projects. In turn, the water level of the Dead Sea drops four to five feet per year, leaving it some 15% shallower than in 1970. “It’s not irreversible,” said Christian Siebert, a hydrogeologist at the Helmholtz-Center for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany, who does fieldwork at the Dead Sea. If the two countries were to open their major upstream dams, he told The Circuit, “the situation would tremendously relax.”
Channeled efforts: Extensive plans for building a channel south to the Red Sea that would bring water flowing into the Dead Sea tripped over its $11 billion price tag. Dubbed the “Dead-Red Canal,” it accompanied another failed plan known as the “Dead-Med” project that would have piped water in from the Mediterranean. Among the activists pushing the government to take action is Amman radio personality Mona Naffa Nazzal, who says the Dead Sea is a pillar of Jordan’s national identity. Foreign visitors find it irresistible to bring home the iconic photo in which they are floating on their back and reading a newspaper or a book that stays dry because the water’s salinity won’t let them sink. If the Dead Sea dries up, she said, “this photo will be lost.”
🕎 Hanukkah Kitsch: In The New York Times, Mirielle Silcoff looks at the growing popularity of “Hanukkah kitsch,” which has ballooned in recent years but was begun by Jewish immigrants to the U.S. “Before coming to America, Hanukkah was a minor and oft-overlooked holiday. In the 19th century, European Jews might improvise a menorah on strips of tin or a poked-out potato and call it a night. But in the early 20th century, in part because many Yiddish-speaking Americans were celebrating Christmas as a rite of passage into the New World, there was a push to make Hanukkah a big-time holiday — a domestic festival with songs, foods and rituals, increasingly aimed at children. Hanukkah is, in no small way, a work of American genius. And, of course, American marketing. By the mid-20th century, there was already such novelty: foil-covered chocolate coins, Star of David decorations, singalong records, plastic dreidels, musical candleholders and cookbooks including recipes for menorah salad, a molded concoction that includes nearly a pound of cream cheese.” [NYTimes]
✡️ Hanukkah as a Microcosm: In the Wall Street Journal, Daniella Greenbaum Davis suggests that antisemitism is only one threat facing the Jewish community, and that assimilation and a cultural detachment from Judaism also pose a challenge to modern Jewry. “Jews living in Jerusalem during the reign of Antiochus III (241-187 B.C.) led relatively secure lives. While the Greeks doubtless encouraged their Jewish counterparts to conform to their culture, they were also largely tolerant and respectful of Jewish particularism. In ‘The Antiquities of the Jews,’ the Roman-Jewish scholar Flavius Josephus quotes a letter from Antiochus in which he declares that all Jews should be able to ‘live according to the laws of their own country.’ Yet by the time of the Maccabean Revolt only one generation later, Jews were increasingly embracing Greek culture and eroding their own. Such evolutions demonstrate the challenges that come with being different, even in societies that ostensibly tolerate difference. We rarely focus on such challenges today. Instead, our attention is understandably directed toward the consequences of anti-Semitism.” [WSJ]
👨 What’s in a Name: On Substack, Jonathan Alter interviews writer Calvin Trillin, whose father was a Ukrainian Jew who changed the family’s name upon arrival in the U.S. “I got a call once from a Chicago rabbi who wanted me to speak. And he said, ‘We’re doing a series on the American experience as seen by Gentile writers.’ So I said, ‘Rabbi, I don’t qualify as a Gentile writer,’ and he said, ‘Oh, I thought the name…’ He persuaded me to speak for less than usual — as rabbis usually do — and asked, ‘What would be your topic?’ He said, ‘I like titles that are long and have a colon in the middle.’ And I said, ‘Well, there’s one that I’ve talked about doing but never actually given it, which is: Farm Price Supports: A 30-Year Overview Concentrating on Soybean Pricing Structure.’ The rabbi said it’s OK and I say I’ll be there. Half an hour later, he called and told me the nice lady who types up the temple bulletin said about your title, ‘What’s the Jewish content in that?’ And he told me I have to have another title and asked, ‘Do I have one with a colon?’ I said, ‘Yeah, and the title is, Midwestern Jews: Making Chopped Liver with Miracle Whip.’ After my talk, a woman came up and said that was a very interesting metaphor in your title, and I said, ‘Alas, madam, that was my mother’s recipe.’” [Substack]
📽️ Big Screen: In The New York Times, Esther Zuckerman explores how American Jewish families have been depicted in films — many of which were created or directed by Jews — over the decades. “‘Armageddon Time’ and ‘The Fabelmans’ are new entries in what I’ve come to think of as a slim canon of movies that depict and explore American Jewish life. In these movies, the character’s faith is not incidental but somehow central to the narrative, be that in matters of religion or, more commonly, the cultural space they occupy. It’s an imperfect canon that provokes more questions than it provides answers. Does the Catskills-set ‘Dirty Dancing’ belong, even if Baby’s family is only coded as Jewish? What about the comedies of Mel Brooks wherein the humor is specifically Jewish, if not the subject matter?” [NYTimes]
🤣 Laugh Track: The New Yorker’s Michael Schulman spotlights David Levine and Ethan Mansoor, who performed a comedy set at Katz’s Deli in Manhattan. “After the leather-shop show, the duo celebrated at Katz’s and started dreaming big. The meat slicers directed them to the head of catering, who eventually led them to David Manheim, who handles the deli’s strategic partnerships. Katz’s had hosted events, such as a cast party for the movie ‘Uncut Gems,’ but never standup. ‘I was, like, They’re f—ing idiots, but they’re passionate,’ Manheim recalled at lunch. He was joined by Katz’s owner, Jake Dell, who inherited the place from his father and grandfather. (He had his bar mitzvah there, in 2000.) ‘I was a little skeptical at first, I’m not going to lie,’ Dell said. ‘But then I met these two knuckleheads, and it all made sense.’ Katz’s has had plenty of comedian regulars (Jackie Mason, Jim Gaffigan), he reasoned. ‘If this store had an identity, it would be Don Rickles.’” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
👨🔬 Oppenheimer’s Opportunity: The White House reversed the decades-old revocation of nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer’s security clearance, saying that the 1954 decision by the Atomic Energy Commission was politically motivated.
🔍 Happening Today: The Jan. 6 committee will hold its final hearing today on Capitol Hill, when members will vote on what recommendations, if any, to submit to the Justice Department.
✍️ Resume Review: A New York Times review of documents and court filings indicates that Rep.-elect George Santos (R-NY) misrepresented portions of his background, including his matriculation at NYU and Baruch College, as well as his employment at Citigroup.
👨👩👦 First Family Fashion: President Joe Biden and Jill Biden were photographed with their grandson Beau Biden Jr., who donned Hanukkah-themed pajama pants.
🔥 Big Apple Celebration: In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams lit the menorah with Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan.
🏫 Oldest Hatred in the Old Dominion: A week after Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin released a report about antisemitism in the state, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares sent a letter on Friday to university presidents and trustees in the state to highlight the rise in antisemitism on college campuses and urge them to work to root out and eliminate the problem on their campuses.
🔢 Numbers Game: The community of Lakewood, N.J., had the lowest violent crime rate of cities with populations above 100,000, according to recently released FBI data.
🗞️ Peculiar Puzzle:The New York Times drew attention on social media for its Sunday crossword, whose shape resembled a swastika.
👮 Under Investigation: The NYPD is investigating an incident in which a Jewish man was assaulted in Central Park by an assailant who reportedly shouted “Kanye 2024” after the attack, a reference to Kanye West, who has gone on a spate of antisemitic tirades in recent months.
🚓 More Problems in MoCo: Authorities in Montgomery County, Md., are investigating graffiti posted on the sign of a local public high school that read “Jews not welcome here,” after a high-profile debate in the county legislature over whether to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism. One Jewish student told the Washington Post that she was not surprised by the vandalism, explaining that Jewish students at Walt Whitman High School feel “ridiculed constantly” because of their faith.
📰 History Repeats: Twenty-nine years after Montana’s Billings Gazette published a full-page menorah and encouraged residents to display the page in their windows following an antisemitic incident in the city, the newspaper is again publishing the menorah with a similar ask of its readers to show solidarity with the Jewish community.
🏰 What About Bob: The Wall Street Journallooks at the long-running tensions between Disney execs Bob Iger and Bob Chapek, which culminated in Chapek’s ouster and Iger’s return to the company’s top job this fall.
🇦🇷 Cantor’s Calls: Argentina-born Jewish sports announcer Andrés Cantor went viral for his reaction to Argentina’s shootout victory over France in the World Cup final yesterday shortly after the winning goal was kicked.
⚽ World Cup Watch: Jared Kushner was spotted watching the World Cup final alongside Elon Musk, as Ivanka Trump, who was in Paris, posted a photo of a lit menorah in front of a television showing the match.
🏥 Close Call: Alice Tapper, daughter of CNN anchor Jake Tapper, penned a piece on a recent medical emergency that was exacerbated by misdiagnoses.
🕎 Back to Berlin: The menorah at the center of a photograph that went viral for its juxtaposition of the candlestick in a window facing a Nazi banner was returned to Germany for the first time since its owners fled the country in 1933.
🎞️ Moment in History: Twenty-three minutes of film captured by a Jewish man visiting his native Poland from the U.S., which contains moving images of the Jewish community of Mikolajow shortly before the Nazi invasion, was recently donated to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
🇺🇦 Light in Darkness: The Associated Pressspotlights how Ukrainian Jewish communities are celebrating Hanukkah.
🪖 Meeting Notes: In a meeting with then-Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in March, Vladimir Putin, whose army had already seen unexpected resistance from Ukrainian fighters, reportedly said that the Ukrainians were tougher “than I was told.”
📰 Coalition Concerns: In an editorial titled “The Ideal of Democracy in a Jewish State Is in Jeopardy,” The New York Times’ editorial board cautions that the incoming Israeli government led by Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu “marks a qualitative and alarming break with all the other governments in Israel’s 75-year history.” Netanyahu responded in a Twitter thread, saying that the Times was guilty of “burying the Holocaust for years on its back pages and demonizing Israel for decades.”
🇮🇱 Bibi Interview: In a wide-ranging interview with the Washington Examiner, Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu discussed his return to power, work to build up Israel’s economy and efforts to normalize relations with the Arab world.
✈️ Rescue Op: Israeli companies Magnus and PassportCard are carrying out a rescue mission to repatriate Israelis in Peru, following widespread protests tied to the ouster of Peruvian President Pedro Castillo following Castillo’s attempt to dissolve the country’s congress.
🧳 Packed for Paris: Israel deported Salah Hammouri, a Palestinian activist and attorney alleged to have ties to the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group, to France.
🪧 Iran Intel: Western and Middle Eastern security officials told the Wall Street Journal that the ongoing protests in Iran have shaken the Islamic republic’s ruling establishment, but are unlikely to topple the regime.
🚨 Arrested: Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti, who starred in the Oscar-winning film “The Salesman,” was arrested by Iranian authorities after a social media post in which she expressed support for anti-regime protestors.
🕯️ Remembering: Portrait artist Philip Pearlstein died at 98.
Pic of the Day
King Charles III dances at a pre-Hanukah reception for Holocaust survivors at the JW3 Community Centre in London on Friday.
Co-chair of the Democratic Majority for Israel and former communications director in the Clinton administration, Ann Frank Lewis turns 85…
Journalist and playwright, former foreign correspondent for The New York Times based in Saigon, London, Nairobi and New Delhi, Bernard Weinraub turns 85… NYC-based real estate investor, Douglas Durst turns 78… Ardsley, N.Y., resident, Ruth Wolff… Israeli computer scientist and high-tech entrepreneur, Orna Berry turns 73… Town justice in Ulster, N.Y., Marsha Weiss… Host of RealTalk MS Podcast, Jon Strum… SVP at the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, Eli Schaap… CFO at wine importer and distributor New York Wine Warehouse, Jane Hausman-Troy… U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) turns 67… British cellist, distinguished for his diverse repertoire and distinctive sound, Steven Isserlis turns 64… Author of 25 best-selling thriller and espionage novels whose main protagonist is an Israeli intelligence officer, Daniel Silva turns 62… Member of the Knesset for the Meretz party until the most recent election, Moshe “Mossi” Raz turns 57… Israeli high-tech entrepreneur, he is the founder and CEO of MyHeritage, Gilad Japhet turns 53… President and chief creative officer of Rachel G Events, Rachel L. Glazer… VP and head of federal government relations at American Express, Amy Best Weiss… Acclaimed actor, Jake Gyllenhaal turns 42… Film and television actress, Marla Sokoloff turns 42… Deputy Washington bureau chief for the Boston Globe, Tal Kopan turns 36… Head of global creator programs at LinkedIn, Callie Schweitzer… VC investor Aaron Rosenson… Actress, best known for her role in Amazon Prime’s “Sneaky Pete,” Libe Alexandra Barer turns 31… Member of the Minnesota Senate, Julia Coleman turns 31… MBA candidate at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Haim Engelman… Founding partner of Puck, Theodore Schleifer… Sarah Wagman turns 18… and her brother, exactly two years younger, Daniel Wagman turns 16… David Ginsberg…