👋 Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we interview Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren and look at a new congressional push for increased funding to the Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff, Rep. Kathy Manning, Michael Masters and Jeff Zucker.
The Biden administration received praise this week from a broad swath of Jewish communal leaders for setting up an interagency group focused on combating antisemitism, which White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced on Monday.
But some critics of the administration, such as former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, questioned why the group will also focus on “Islamophobia and related forms of bias and discrimination” rather than just antisemitism.
“The first order of business is focusing on implementing a national strategy on antisemitism, and this is given the alarming things that we’ve seen recently. But the mandate is to address antisemitism, it’s to address Islamophobia, it’s to address other related forms of discrimination and also bias,” a White House official told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch on Tuesday night. “After the strategy on countering antisemitism has been released, we’ll share more on the next steps for the IPC [interagency policy committee].” The group will be helmed by White House Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Susan Rice.
Several attendees at last week’s White Housemeeting on antisemitism, convened by Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, said they urged the Biden administration to create an antisemitism-focused working group. Individuals with knowledge of the White House decision-making process say it would have been a difficult move politically to create a group focused only on antisemitism, while not doing the same for other forms of hate.
Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), a co-chair of the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism, told JI’s Marc Rod yesterday, “I am concerned about all hate crimes. And I think we should be doing everything we can to address all hate crimes.”
“But I do believe there’s something unique about antisemitism,” Manning added. “And I think sometimes the impact of antisemitism gets lost when you lump it into everything else.”
Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), told JI that he hopes the focus on antisemitism will also inform the White House approach to other forms of hate. “I’m not opposed to the protection of Muslims and other minorities. I just think that this initial phase of the task force seems, from the administration’s words and things that they’ve sent and contact that they’ve made through other senior officials, to be initially focused significantly, if not exclusively, on antisemitism,” said Shemtov, who attended last week’s White House meeting. “I would be delighted if they learn from this how to be effective across the board in combating hate.”
Kevin Warren’s big tent
Last March, Kevin Warren, the powerful commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, took a moment from his demanding schedule to congratulate Yeshiva University’s men’s basketball team after the end of a historic season. The small but mighty Maccabees had drawn national headlines for racking up a stunning 50-game winning streak and bagging a conference title while en route to a highly anticipated Division III tournament game that would ultimately end in defeat. To Warren, the achievements of the regular season were an inspiring testament to “the wonderful influence the Maccabees have had on our nation and the Jewish community,” he wrote in a heartfelt letter to Elliot Steinmetz, the head coach. “As your team uniquely appreciates,” he went on, “so much of life is bashert — predestined and connected through God.” The Yiddish term, as it happens, is particularly resonant for Warren, who holds a personal connection with the Jewish experience that extends back to his childhood and now animates a professional dedication to promoting social justice initiatives. “I heard the word bashert years ago, and it was so apropos for so many periods of my life,” he explained in a series of interviews with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel this fall. “It has great meaning to me.”
New frontiers: As the first Black commissioner of a Power Five conference, Warren, 59, has received plaudits for his business acumen since he assumed leadership of the Big Ten in 2019, after years with the NFL. His most high-profile feat came this past August, when the former lawyer negotiated a TV deal worth more than $7 billion over seven years that divided football games among three leading broadcast networks, setting a record for college athletics while shattering the record set by the league’s previous agreement. But the groundbreaking sports executive, who is based in Chicago, has also leveraged his position to promote diversity, equality and inclusion while raising awareness of antisemitism, racism and other forms of bigotry on college campuses and beyond. Last year, for instance, he helped form an ongoing partnership with the Anti-Defamation League to launch a multi-part training and education commission addressing bias and hate amid an uptick in anti-Jewish incidents.
Team trip: In 2019, shortly before he moved on to the Big Ten, Warren was among a group of Minnesota Vikings staff members who participated in what he described as an “emotional” visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., with Mark Wilf, the team’s president and co-owner, and a former chair of the Jewish Federations of North America. “He was very much always counseling us to share our stories,” Wilf said of his former charge, recalling that Warren had encouraged him to speak openly with players and employees about Wilf’s relationship to the Holocaust as the Jewish son of survivors. “He’s promoted so much in the areas of diversity and tolerance,” Wilf told JI. “He’s been a leader on all of those fronts.”
History lesson: The horrors of the Holocaust have also loomed large throughout Warren’s life. Growing up in Phoenix, he said, his late father, a veteran of World War II, would often recount his experiences witnessing firsthand the concentration camps in Germany and Poland. “He had pictures from Auschwitz and Buchenwald, and he would show us those pictures,” Warren told JI. “They just forever resonated in my mind and my heart and soul.” Years later, he said, the lessons his father sought to impart have continued to guide him. “He spent a lot of time talking to me and my siblings about the Holocaust and for us to make sure we do our part in the world to never let these types of just horrific events ever happen again,” Warren said. “Whether it’s slavery, whether it’s the Holocaust, whether it’s the mistreatment of certain classes of people — just to stand up and protect those who need protecting, and to amplify not only our voice but our actions.”
Taking care of teammates: On an interpersonal level, Warren is both “fearlessly” and “fiercely inclusive,” said Adam Neuman, the chief of staff, strategy and operations and the deputy general counsel for the Big Ten. Neuman, who is an Orthodox Jew, said the commissioner has always demonstrated an unusual level of sensitivity to his observance of Shabbat as well as kosher dietary laws, among other things. He even keeps the Jewish holidays on his calendar. “We’ve had meaningful dialogue on Judaism and Jewish principles,” Neuman said. “For him to go out of his way to be so inclusive to others, I think, creates an incredible work life for employees,” he told JI. “I think that’s why you’ve seen so much business success.”
As budget bill nears, lawmakers make final push for full nonprofit security funding
Ahead of a congressional leaders’ announcement last night that they had reached an agreement on a 2023 federal budget — leaving them to hash out specific funding levels for various programs in the coming days — a bipartisan group of House lawmakers made a final push to secure increased funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod has learned.
Funding fight: A letter, signed by 79 lawmakers and obtained by JI, seeks $360 million in funding next year for the program, which provides funding for nonprofits and religious institutions to improve their security; it was funded with $250 million last year, and was able to fulfill just over 50% of the grant requests it received. The letter — led by Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) — was sent on Tuesday and was addressed to the chair and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee and the panel’s homeland security subcommittee.
What it says: “The NSGP program is a critical component to the nation’s response to domestic and international threats targeting the nonprofit sector, but the program is significantly over-subscribed. This year’s (FY 2022) NSGP award results made this clear,” the letter reads. “Unfortunately, today’s threat environment provides a compelling public interest in protecting against attacks on the nonprofit sector that would disrupt the vital health, human, social, cultural, religious, and other humanitarian services and practices they provide to communities, and which threaten the lives and well-being of millions of Americans who operate, utilize, live, and work in proximity to them.”
Community call: “From Pittsburgh to Charleston to Colleyville, we have seen how important Nonprofit Security Grants are for securing faith communities, which is why it is so important for Congress to finalize the funding increase to $360 million,” Elana Broitman, the senior vice president of public affairs for the Jewish Federations of North America, which supported the letter, told JI. “As Reps. Pascrell and McCaul note, it is imperative to grow this program until there is enough funding to secure every synagogue, church, mosque and nonprofit facility that is vulnerable to attack.”
Read more here.
Lawmakers press FBI on gaps in hate crimes reporting data, procedures
Lawmakers from the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism met yesterday with representatives of the FBI to discuss the agency’s 2021 hate crimes report, released on Monday, which was hampered by the failure of many major local law enforcement agencies to report data. Lawmakers pressed the FBI leaders on the reasons for the gaps, as well as other issues in their hate crimes enforcement procedures regarding antisemitism, Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), a co-chair of the task force, told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Background: The reporting lapses — which included non-participation from areas with significant Jewish populations, including New York City, Los Angeles and nearly the entire state of Florida — stemmed from changes in the way the FBI collected data this year. Previously, it had used multiple systems to collect hate crimes reports; this year, it only took data submitted through the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), and many local law enforcement agencies failed to sign up for the system in time to report data for 2021.
Long time coming: Manning said that two FBI deputy assistant directors explained to lawmakers that the FBI has been urging local law enforcement to switch over to NIBRS since 1990, initially with limited success. In 2015, the agency announced that, beginning in 2021, it would no longer accept data through other systems, giving agencies a six-year runway to switch. The previous system required only “summary information,” according to Manning, whereas NIBRS requires significant detail from the responding officer on the victim, perpetrator, motivation, weapon and other specifics of the incidents. “What they did tell us is every state now has the capability of using the NIBRS system,” Manning continued. “We made it very clear that [the non-reporting is] not acceptable,” she said.
‘Rotten’ reporting: FBI hate crime data has been riddled with inconsistencies for years, according to Secure Community Network CEO Michael Masters, and even before the problems with the NIBRS system, hate crimes went under-reported. “We know irrespective of the data issue with NIBRS, there is a vast under-reporting,” Masters explained. He added that there are failures with law enforcement agencies around the country, in various jurisdictions, failing to adequately track and report hate crimes. “We’ve seen some commentary about, ‘Why is the FBI data flawed?’ Well, the FBI has a voluntary reporting system, other than for federal agencies, and at the point that it’s in the system, there’s all sorts of other issues that have happened before that,” he noted. “It’s like blaming the chef for having a bad meal, when all the food that went into it was rotten.”
Pushing for data: Manning said that she and her colleagues emphasized to the FBI that they’re not willing to wait until the next annual report for more complete data, and asked them to follow up in the first quarter of 2022 with more accurate data. “I hope that these two FBI [officials] will go back particularly to the communities that we talked about and say there’s going to be a lot of pressure from Congress to get this data reported,” she said. She noted that the FBI officials said that most training on hate crimes that they provide to local law enforcement relates to inputting data into the NIBRS system, rather than on how to identify what constitutes antisemitism. “I am grateful for their attempt to make sure that local law enforcement agencies understand how to address hate crimes,” she said. “But it doesn’t address one of the larger issues, which to me, is how you educate people about what antisemitism is.”
🏫 Misplaced Memory: In a New York Times opinion piece, Lev Golinkin calls out American institutions that honor former Nazis. “The institutions that whitewash the Nazi past of men whose names grace Harvard and Stanford programs, part of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and multiple locations in Huntsville, Ala., typically do so via deception by omission — erasing history by leaving out or sidelining inconvenient facts….Perhaps the most astonishing example of Nazi laundering comes from the Redstone Arsenal, a U.S. Army post next to Huntsville, which has a building complex named after von Braun. The arsenal’s history section features dozens of photos of von Braun, while his bio says he was ’employed by the German Ordnance Department’ and was the technical director of the center where the V-2 was developed. No mention is made of how the V-2 was used by the Third Reich to unleash hell on civilians. Though our military is slowly dealing with its numerous tributes to the Confederacy, it has yet to adequately address its lionization of a man who built weapons for Hitler.” [NYTimes]
🇮🇷 Opposing Forces: The editorial board of the Washington Postposits that Tehran’s execution of protestors indicates that the regime has no strategy to tackle the protests that have swept the Islamic republic. “What’s developing is a growing and irreversible chasm between state and society, between the rulers and the ruled — a potential death knell for an authoritarian regime. The protesters are demanding a free, open, secular and modern country, a stark change from the cloistered, suffocating Islamic republic. As Carnegie Endowment expert Karim Sadjadpour noted, the protests have become ‘a historic battle pitting two powerful and irreconcilable forces,’ the predominantly young population of Iran, desperate for change, and the aging and isolated theocracy, clinging to power” [WashPost]
🤡 Power Play:The New York Times‘s Bret Stephens examines a current reality in which people in positions of power are afraid of those who aren’t. “I’ve thought about this a lot in recent years, as one organization after another capitulated in the face of outrage mobs, hanging good people out to dry to avoid having to stand on principle. I thought about it again last week, when Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, speaking at a New York Young Republicans gala, said that if she and Steve Bannon had organized the Jan. 6 attack on Congress, ‘we would have won. Not to mention, it would’ve been armed’… The problem with evil clowns is that it’s the clownishness, not the evil, they soon shed. This is not a new problem. Communist dictatorships came to power in Central Europe after World War II by pretending to play by democratic rules, until they didn’t. The Nazis came to power in Germany the same way. They joined the institutions they intended to destroy. And the people who were supposed to be the keepers of those institutions, the guardians at the gate, allowed — and sometimes even helped — them to do it.” [NYTimes]
🚣♂️ Historic Hero: In a multi-chapter longread, Tablet’s David Samuels chronicles the life of Knud Christiansen, a Danish Olympic rower who was honored by Yad Vashem for his efforts to save Denmark’s Jews during the Holocaust before leaving the Scandinavian country after being targeted by Nazi collaborators in the post-war years. “The way Knud helped save the Jews of Denmark was also more or less an accident. Knud had a workshop by the docks in Copenhagen, where he made ski bindings and motorcycle helmets and other leather goods. One day, a large ship arrived in Copenhagen from Germany, curiously bearing no cargo; when he inquired about the nature of the ship’s business, he was told that the return cargo would be Denmark’s Jewish population. As it turned out, a register of Copenhagen’s Jewish families had recently been taken from a local synagogue. Putting these two pieces of information together, Knud and Karen’s cell set out to warn Copenhagen’s Jews to stay away from their homes to avoid the coming roundup. Knud and [his wife] Karen hid hunted Jews in their apartment, and then secretly ferried them northward to Karen’s father’s country house on the coast. From there, Knud began rowing their guests one by one to safety in Sweden.” [Tablet]
Around the Web
🇺🇦 Patriot Passage: The Department of Defense is likely to authorize the transfer of a Patriot battery to Ukraine as early as this week to help Kyiv defend against Russian attacks, after which the decision will go to the White House for final sign-off.
➡️ Jeff’s Next Move: Former CNN President Jeff Zucker will be the chief executive of a new sports and media firm that is a partnership between private-equity firm RedBird Capital Partners and Abu-Dhabi-based International Media Investments.
Ξ Bankman-Fried’s Fraud: FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried was charged yesterday with making illegal contributions of tens of millions of dollars to federal political campaigns, in a case prosecutors are calling “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history.”
👋 Garcetti’s Goodbye: CNN interviewed outgoing LA Mayor Eric Garcetti about his future, his record and the state of the city, as his nomination to be ambassador to India remains stalled.
👨⚖️ Court Case: A Texas court ruled that a Jewish death row inmate who was involved in the fatal shooting of a police officer during a prison escape should get a new trial because of the trial judge’s antisemitic bias.
🥯 District Dining: Washington bagel joint Call Your Mother is rumored to be planning its next storefront in the Northwest D.C. space occupied by outgoing Little Red Fox.
👨🎤 Across the Pond: In an interview with U.K. podcaster Andy Gold, singer Robbie Williams notes that his wife, Ayda Field, and children are Jewish, at one point boasting that Field is a kohen.
🤔 Problematic Posting:The Times of Israel unearthed a Facebook post by Francesca Albanese, the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories, in which the diplomat suggested that the “Israel lobby” controls the U.S. government.
💥 Claiming Responsibility: Israel was responsible for an airstrike on an Iranian arms convoy near the Syria-Iraq border in November, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said Wednesday.
🪖 Army Assessment:The New York Times looks at how last month’s elections in Israel are playing out in relations between the Israeli Defense Forces and the incoming government.
⚽ Euro Scandal: Four European Union officials were arrested and charged in connection with accepting bribes from Qatar as the Gulf nation successfully sought to be named host of the 2022 World Cup.
✈️ Grounded: Royal Air Maroc, Morocco’s national airline, canceled all of its flights to Qatar scheduled to depart today, citing “the latest restrictions imposed by the Qatari authorities” ahead of tonight’s World Cup semi-finals game between Morocco and France.
🌟 Soccer Stunners: In The New York Times, Moroccan writer Issandr El Amrani explains how the Moroccan team’s winning streak has affected the Arab world.
🛢️ Energy Auction: Israel is planning to auction off four gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean to energy companies looking to explore for national gas.
Pic of the Day
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) hosted her annual Capitol Hill Hanukkah party yesterday evening at the Library of Congress. Guests included Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Kim Schrier (D-WA), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), David Kustoff (R-TN), Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Darren Soto (D-FL), the State Department’s Amb. Deborah Lipstadt and Aaron Keyak and White House Jewish Liaison Shelley Greenspan. Rabbi Larry Bazer, the senior ranking Jewish chaplain in the U.S. Armed Forces, led a menorah lighting. Kol Sasson, a Jewish a cappella group from the University of Maryland, also performed.
British chef, restaurateur and food writer, Yotam Assaf Ottolenghi turns 54…
Dean emeritus at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, Rabbi Zevulun Charlop turns 93… President emeritus of The George Washington University, Stephen Joel Trachtenberg turns 85… Co-founder and chairman of Creative Artists Agency, later president of the Walt Disney Company, Michael S. Ovitz turns 76… Retired N.Y. state assistant housing commissioner, he also served as a military chaplain for 38 years, Jacob Goldstein… President of Bard College since 1975, he is also music director of the American Symphony Orchestra and conductor laureate of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, Leon Botstein turns 76… Retired SVP at Warner Brothers, key advocate for Israel on the Platform Committee of the Democratic Party on the national and state levels, Howard Welinsky… Director of government affairs at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Robin Schatz… Member of Knesset for the Likud party, Avi Dichter turns 70… Co-founder of Beanstalk, Sixpoint Partners and Vringo, author of New York Times bestseller Let There Be Water, Seth (Yossi) Siegel turns 69… Hedge fund manager John Paulson turns 67… Owner of Bundles of Boston, Sheree Boloker… Retired CEO of San Francisco-based Jewish LearningWorks, David Jonathan Waksberg turns 66… Nurse and mental health counselor, Martina Yisraela Rieffer… Founder of the Center for Class Action Fairness established to combat abusive class-action settlements, now a division of the Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute, Ted Frank turns 54… Partner and COO of Chicago-based Resolute Consulting, David Smolensky… Senior rabbi of the Beth Jacob Congregation of Beverly Hills, Calif., Kalman Topp turns 50… Policy counsel in the criminal defense practice at The Bronx Defenders, Eli Clemans Northrup turns 38… SVP for the acquisition of skilled nursing facilities, psychiatric hospitals and addiction centers at TL Management, Matt Kosman… Former NFL player now playing rugby, he was on the Patriots when they won three Super Bowls, Nathan “Nate” Ebner turns 34… Speech-language pathologist, Leora Neuberger… Former offensive lineman for the New York Giants, now a medical sales representative at Stryker, Adam Bisnowaty turns 29… Co-director of Chabad of Macalester-Groveland in the Minneapolis area, Tzemach Feller… Television, teen theater and voice actress, Mia Sinclair Jenness turns 17…