👋 Good Monday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we spotlight the first delegation of U.N. diplomats to travel to both Israel and the UAE, and interview Ohio Jewish leaders on the political legacy of outgoing Sen. Rob Portman. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, Lahav Harkov and Jake Tapper.
After weeks in which acts of antisemitism made headlines across the country — and amid continued attacks on Jews in New York — two events seek to address the uptick in incidents. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and others are set to speak at the Lincoln Square Synagogue this morning at an antisemitism summit hosted by the Orthodox Union.
The summit comes a day before “Building Bridges,” an event being hosted by City & State magazine. The OU’s Rabbi Moshe Hauer and Maury Litwack will be on hand for the gathering, which will also feature remarks from representatives from the mayor’s office and the city’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships.
Elsewhere in New York, former President Bill Clinton and NYU President Emeritus John Sexton will receive honorary doctorates from the University of Haifa this evening at NYU’s New York campus.
Tonight in Washington, the Israeli Embassy will hold its annual Hanukkah celebration, hosted by Amb. Michael Herzog and Shirin Herzog.
Later this week, Jewish communal leaders will meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch scoops. Sissi will be in Washington for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit being convened by the White House.
Over the weekend, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) defended his recent trip to Qatar for the World Cup amid concerns over the country’s record on human rights, saying that “in many ways, they are our best partner in the region.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who also visited Doha for the World Cup, predicted similar concerns to be raised about the U.S. in 2026. “We are slated to host the World Cup next with Mexico and Canada,” she said. “I wonder what kinds of conversations will be had, and how many people will object to that happening with the history of indigenous people, of enslavement, of police brutality.”
In first, U.N. delegation travels to both UAE and Israel
What began as a diplomatic endeavor two years ago came full circle on Tuesday when Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan touched down in Abu Dhabi with a group of diplomats representing 14 countries around the globe, Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss reports. The ambassadors were part of the latest cohort of diplomats traveling with Erdan to the Middle East. As Israel’s envoy in Turtle Bay, Erdan has made it his personal mission to bring colleagues to the Jewish state. The addition of the United Arab Emirates, he explained, was a natural extension of the Abraham Accords, signed two years ago, which normalized relations between Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and, months later, Morocco and Sudan. UAE Ambassador to the U.N. Lana Nusseibeh organized the UAE portion of the trip.
VIP meeting: In Abu Dhabi, the group sat with UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed in a meeting that lasted more than an hour, several participants told JI. Sheikh Mohamed, Erdan said, “explained about his vision and why he believed that Jews, Muslims and Christians can not only live together, but also pray together…it was inspiring.” The meetings with Emirati leaders were “one of those instances where the reality might exceed the dream of what you know really is achievable,” Eric Goldstein, the CEO of UJA-Federation of New York, told JI. UJA funded the Israel portion of the trip; the UAE covered the costs for the ambassadors’ Emirati visit.
Packed itinerary: The delegation is in Israel until Tuesday, where the traditional touring sites — Yad Vashem, Masada, the Peres Center for Peace — are on the itinerary, along with some less-traditional sessions. The group met on Sunday with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu. “Our schedule has been jam-packed and we’ve had some really, really good meetings,” Amb. Robert Wood, the U.S. alternate representative for special political affairs at the U.N., told JI. “It’s just been a great trip.”
Long game: The U.N. remains a controversial body for its outsized focus on Israel. On Friday, Israeli Arab lawmaker Ayman Odeh, previously the head of the now-disbanded Joint Arab List, broke with tradition and met with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. While the trip’s backers aren’t expecting the experience to alter countries’ voting patterns, they believe the experience, in Goldstein’s words, is “vital” in the long term. “Many of these ambassadors are very close to their heads of state,” Goldstein explained. “Many of them, or at least some of them, will become heads of state. So this is not only about changing U.N. votes now. It’s really more over a period, what are the consequences of these kinds of experiences?”
Bonus: Israel and the UAE ratified a comprehensive economic partnership agreement over the weekend.
Lahav Harkov joins JI’s ‘Limited Liability Podcast’
Lahav Harkov, The Jerusalem Post’s senior contributing editor and diplomatic correspondent, is as prominent of a figure on Twitter as she is within Israel’s political journalism scene. Harkov, who moved to Israel at the age of 17, is the Post’s point person for all things relating to Israeli foreign policy and its revolving door of prime ministers. She also co-hosts The Jerusalem Post’s own podcast: “The Yaakov and Lahav Show,” alongside Editor-in-chief Yaakov Katz. On this week’s episode of Jewish Insider’s “Limited Liability Podcast,” Lahav joins co-hosts Rich Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein for a conversation about the U.S.-Israel relationship and potential policy changes under Netanyahu.
On the accomplishments and shortcomings of the Bennett/Lapid era: “I think Bennett and Lapid were not the same, for starters, but I think overall they tried to do something admirable, which is that they tried to do something that would unite Israelis and tried to pursue policies that wouldn’t be too divisive. And they failed, partly because of their own failures and partly because of how sort of, maybe ‘rabid’ is not a nice word, but the opposition was really just… wouldn’t cut them slack for one day, even when they were doing things that this government would support if it was coming up in their time.”
On Israel’s stance on the war in Ukraine: “There was a debate in the U.S. that I felt, in a lot of ways, it was not realistic. People were acting as though Israel is the U.S. and has the kind of money the U.S. has, the size and power the U.S. has…the one thing people kept talking about is Iron Dome, right? Like Israel has 10 Iron Domes, and when there’s rockets coming in from Gaza, they’re moved all around the country, they don’t stay in one place, they’re moved in order to cover the spots that they think are going to be trouble spots. Ukraine is 11 times bigger than Israel — you think if Israel gave up a couple of Iron Domes that would really be significantly helpful to them?”
On whether new countries will be added to the Abraham Accords under Netanyahu: “I think it’d be great if we could have relations with more Arab and Muslim countries — I do think that U.S. buy-in and U.S. encouragement is very important to making that happen, and I don’t think the Biden administration is opposed, but I just think that it’s not their priority…And so Biden, we saw him sort of talk about it, encourage it in Indonesia, for example, and Indonesia is definitely an option, a possible country that may normalize relations with Israel and there’s stuff going on there, there’s business relationships, anyway…So maybe Indonesia could happen without a greater U.S. buy-in, but the Saudis, I just don’t see it.”
Ohio Jewish leaders bid farewell to Sen. Rob Portman
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is a longtime Methodist, having joined the church in the mid-1980s before marrying his wife. But in his decade in Washington, Portman has been a prominent voice for Ohio’s Jewish community, whose leaders are mourning the retirement from Congress of an ally and friend, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Trusted ally: In his two terms in the Senate, Portman has promoted policies to combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, worked to expand the Nonprofit Security Grant Program and been a vocal supporter of Israel and the Abraham Accords. “We’re losing someone in the Senate who we really relied on,” Jason Wuliger, a former member of the board of trustees of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, told Jewish Insider. “He was more than just our senator, he was our friend. And he knew our issues well because he took the time to learn them to really make himself a part of our community over many years.”
Feeling’s mutual: Portman praised the Ohio Jewish Communities umbrella organization in a statement to JI as “an important partner to me” and “a critical voice on public policy issues.” “I have been proud to work with the Jewish community throughout my years in public service and am particularly proud of our work combatting antisemitism and increasing funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which is benefiting nonprofits and religious institutions of all faiths,” Portman continued. “None of this could have been achieved without OJC’s efforts.”
Israel ally: Howie Beigelman, executive director of OJC, said he had “lost count” of how much legislation Portman, working frequently in partnership with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), had introduced to support Israel. “From that perspective,” Beigelman said, “the community feels there’s no better friend in Congress for Israel than Rob Portman.”
Reflections: In remarks at a farewell event earlier this month, Portman addressed the Tree of Life Shooting in Pittsburgh. The senator visited the Youngstown Jewish Community Center, not far from the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, shortly after the 2018 attack. “As he started to tell the story, he was talking about getting a full appreciation of what the threats really were to our community and how we then had to live moving forward,” Bonnie Deutsch Burdman, the executive director of community relations/government affairs for the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation, recounted. “And he started to get choked up… He said that that visit to our JCC that morning had a very profound impact on him. It made him fully appreciate and understand what the threats were, and how important it was for the federal government to get engaged in helping to protect vulnerable nonprofits.”
Arab fashion struts into Saudi Arabia
In shimmering gold headscarves, embroidered capes and floor-length leather coats, fashion models from more than 25 brands will take to the catwalk this week at the Saudi capital’s swank Al-Faisaliah Hotel, Rebecca Ann Proctor reports for The Circuit from Riyadh.
Always on trend: The event, which opens Thursday, is the first time that the Modest Fashion Show, a growing biannual display of couture designed for Muslim women, will be staged in Riyadh, where black robes, veils and hijab head coverings are more familiar apparel. The three-day lineup of designers, held previously in cities such as Dubai, Jakarta and London, is aimed at a growing Islamic market around the world that is estimated to be worth more than $300 billion. “For us, modest fashion is not a trend,” Ozlem Sahin Ertas, CEO of the Istanbul, Turkey-based Modest Fashion Weeks organization, told The Circuit. “It was always big but it had no global platform for us to come together and speak out through our fashion. We believe in democratizing fashion, making it more inclusive and diverse.”
Cultural commonalities: Modest fashion shows are also popular with Orthodox Jewish women, taking place regularly in Jerusalem and New York. The burkini, a bathing suit designed in Australia for Muslim women that covers the head and whole body, has developed a market among Jewish consumers. On the other hand, the swimwear has been banned by several municipalities in France for what they’ve called excessive religious separatism. “Modest fashion is not related to any religious or cultural background,” Ertas said. “We want to showcase its strong cultural diversity, elegance and variety of options.”
Hotspot Dubai: Revenue from the fashion industry in Dubai is projected to reach $4.6 billion this year, according to Statista, an 11 percent increase from 2021, driven by customers in China, Japan, South Korea, India and Indonesia. The great purchasing power of Gulf customers alongside a flood of international residents to Dubai since after the COVID 19 pandemic anchors the industry. “Dubai used to be a place where brands would come, make some quick money and leave,” said Lori Rhodes, founder of Red Letter MENA, a marketing and communications consulting firm specializing in retail and fashion. “The growth of the luxury market here made the fashion much more relevant and gave an opportunity for homegrown brands to take advantage of selling to consumers all over the world from here,” she told The Circuit.
🇮🇷 Winds of Change: In The New York Times, the Carnegie Endowment’s Karim Sadjadpour writes that the ongoing protests in Iran are weakening the ayatollah-led regime as a new generation calls for secularism and religious moderation. “The ideological principles of Ayatollah Khamenei and his followers are ‘Death to America,’ ‘Death to Israel’ and insistence on hijab. Mr. Khamenei’s ruling philosophy has been shaped and reinforced by three notable authoritarian collapses: The 1979 fall of Iran’s monarchy, the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Arab uprisings of 2011. His takeaway from each of these events has been to never compromise under pressure, and never compromise on principles. Whenever Mr. Khamenei has faced a fork in the road between reform and repression, he has always doubled down on repression.” [NYTimes]
🪧 Taking on Tehran: The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood considers how reforms to Iran’s morality police would fall short of the change needed to quell protests across Iran. “Iranian opponents of the regime remember the last time protests against the government erupted across the country. One lesson from the 2009 revolt’s failure was that half measures brought no results, just another decade-plus of misery. If the regime reconsiders the hijab issue and announces modest changes — fewer cops on the street, more in your bank — the protesters will rightly regard that offer with suspicion. It is a promise that by changing a little, the government will change nothing. Morality police, temporarily defanged, grow new fangs eventually. And for everyone’s sake, including theirs, they need to suffer the fate also richly deserved by the government that spawned them: total collapse, as soon as possible.” [TheAtlantic]
🦅 Philly Phans:The Ringer’s Bryan Curtis spotlights a niche email group — whose members include CNN’s Jake Tapper, The Intercept’s Ryan Grim and The New York Times’ Kenneth Vogel — that brings together Washington-area Philadelphia sports fans who work in politics and media. “Most of the talk is about the Eagles. But the thread also includes Eagles-adjacent subjects like the Phillies’ World Series run, the legendary local news anchor Jim Gardner, and the opening of Wawa convenience stores in Washington. ‘The only rules,’ says Tapper, ‘are no politics and no one can change the subject line of the email.’ The subject line (‘Reminder – Re: Hawk ’n’ Dove – Eagles Expat gathering – save the date’) was intact when the team won its first-ever Super Bowl a few months after the thread’s creation. Some emailers consider it a lucky charm.” [TheRinger]
🥯 Sweet Reminders: For The New York Times, Joan Nathan visits the Charlotte Menora bakery in Warsaw, Poland, which sells Ashkenazi pastries alongside its more typical French fare in an effort to preserve the Jewish culinary history of the area. “For Charlotte Menora, Ms. Kosmala, who serves as the Charlotte chain’s culinary adviser, found inspiration in the Polin’s collection of books and recipes. She piles slices of pastrami on a half bagel with sweet onions and sour pickles, loads her rugelach dough with local farmer cheese instead of cream cheese and pairs latkes with crème fraîche and trout caviar. Also on the menu is her family’s bread pudding, made with challah or babka and flavored with Polish poppy seeds and chocolate. (The use of challah — chalka in Polish — is especially notable, illustrating a shared culinary history: Served on the Sabbath and at Jewish holidays, it’s an everyday bread in Poland, widely found in supermarkets.)” [NYTimes]
✡️ Dangerous Tropes: In the Chicago Tribune, Ari Emanuel warns that the latest uptick in antisemitism is corroding modern society. “In the last year, we’ve seen how antisemitic conspiracies from the far right about Jewish control of politics, finance and Hollywood have become mainstreamed. Dave Chappelle’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ monologue was funny, but the problem with dancing on the line of antisemitic tropes is that he was doing it for an audience that no longer has a shared understanding of how dangerous they are. No doubt many thought it was funny. No doubt that it gave others permission to repeat their own versions of the tropes going forward. Every time someone like Kanye goes too far, the antisemitic Overton window gets shifted. And bit by bit, the line of what’s acceptable to say moves.” [ChicagoTribune]
Around the Web
🪖 Axis of Evil: The Biden administration is raising concerns over increased Russian-Iran cooperation, citing a recent intelligence report that suggests that Moscow is providing advanced military support to Tehran.
🎤 Hill Intrigue: FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried will testify before the House Financial Services Committee tomorrow.
💻 Platform Problems: A group of five Jewish and anti-hate organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, issued a call for social media platforms and influencers to stop hosting interviews with Kanye West, following the artist’s repeated antisemitic comments, which have been amplified on social media.
🗣️ Quoted: Former President Donald Trump suggested that American Jews displayed a “lack of loyalty to their greatest friends and allies” in the wake of calls for the former president to distance himself from Kanye West.
🖌️ Antisemitism in Art:The New York Times’ Jason Zinoman proposes that Jewish artists are optimally poised to elevate issues surrounding antisemitism into the mainstream through their work.
🎥 Booming Business: In Rolling Stone, Rabbi Jay Michaelson explains why Jews have traditionally thrived in certain professions, often due to antisemitism that prohibited them from pursuing other career paths.
☕ Starbucks Saga:The New York Times chronicles how Starbucks executive Howard Schultz has handled challenges in his third run as the company’s CEO as employees attempt unionization.
🛑 Persona Non Grata:Bloomberginterviews Yale University professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, whose list of foreign companies trading in Russia earned him a spot on a list of individuals banned from entering the country.
💻 Cyber Cooperation: Israel’s Joint Cyber Defense Division and the United States Cyber Command held a joint drill to address potential challenges and scenarios.
🔍 Cohen’s Cable: The Mossad revealed that an intercepted cable resulted in the capture and subsequent execution of Israeli spy Eli Cohen in Syria in 1965.
🔥 Hebron Hotspot:The Washington Post spotlights the West Bank city of Hebron as a test case for relations between the Israeli and Palestinian people in the face of the growing influence of far-right politicians in Israel.
🏌️♂️ Golf Goal: Leaked documents indicate that the Saudi effort to create a new golf league was driven in part by a desire to elevate Riyadh’s global stature.
⚖️ Facing Justice: A Libyan bomb-maker was charged for his role in the 1988 downing of Pam Am Flight 103, and will be extradited to the U.S. to face prosecution.
🇮🇷 Faith in Freefall:The Wall Street Journal reports on challenges facing an increasingly secular Iran, as its religious leaders struggle to contain nationwide protests.
🕯️ Remembering: Soccer journalist Grant Wahl, 49, died after collapsing while covering the World Cup in Qatar. Restaurateur Michael Ginor died at 59. Tom Tugend, a longtime journalist at JTA, died at 97.
Song of the Day
“Home,” the title track of Simcha Leiner’s latest album
Chairman of Full Stop Management, Irving Azoff turns 75…
Attorney, author and television commentator, Lanny Davis turns 77… Former Congressman and physician who founded four allergy clinics, Steven Leslie Kagen, M.D. turns 73… 2007 Nobel Prize laureate in economics, he is a professor at Harvard University, Eric Stark Maskin turns 72… Associated Press science writer and adjunct professor at NYU’s academic center in Washington, Seth Borenstein… Israeli-born real estate developer active in Los Angeles, partner in Linear City Development, Yuval Bar-Zemer turns 60… CEO at Chicago-based Next Realty, he chairs JFNA’s domestic policy and government affairs council, Andrew S. Hochberg… Afternoon anchor on the Fox Business Network, Elizabeth Kate “Liz” Claman turns 59… Rabbi of the Bet Israel community in Zagreb, Croatia, Kotel Dadon turns 55… Minnesota secretary of state, Steve Simon turns 53… Actress, game show host and neuroscientist, Mayim Chaya Bialik, Ph.D. turns 47… Former account director at Lewis Global Communications, Sarah R. Horowitz… Marketing professor at the University of Chicago, Abigail Sussman turns 40… Freelance producer for ABC News, Rebecca “Becky” Perlow… One-half of the duo known for their YouTube channel h3h3Productions, Hila Hakmon Klein turns 35… EVP at Targeted Victory’s public affairs practice, David Pasch… Brazilian mixed martial artist, Neiman Gracie Stambowsky turns 34… Senior director of strategy and consulting at Fidelity Investments, Jeffrey S. Goldstein… Film and television actor, Lucas Jade Zumann turns 22…
BIRTHWEEK: Senior director of the Rafik Hariri Center and Middle East Programs at the Atlantic Council, William Wechsler…