👋 Good Friday morning!
Ed. note: In observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the next edition of the Daily Kickoff will arrive on Tuesday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we have a scoop on a call from Capitol Hill to increase funding to the State Department’s Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, and spotlight Rep. John James (R-MI) a week after the freshman Republican delivered his first floor speech. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff, Tara Sonenshine, Kevin Warren and Esther Hayut.
For less-distracted reading over the weekend, browse this week’s edition of The Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent stories from Jewish Insider, eJewishPhilanthropy and The Circuit, including: Ron Dermer: ‘The lesson of the Holocaust is that the Jewish people need power’; General Atlantic doles out $1 billion to maturing Israeli startups; The Year of Sophie Beren; How Jewish funders and organizations are approaching Israel’s new government; Josh Shapiro to use Tree of Life Bible at Pa. governor inauguration; Through subsidized salaries, a program hopes to place women clergy at Orthodox synagogues; and How an uncommon group for Jewish fathers formed — and folded — in Connecticut. Print the latest edition here.
The World Economic Forum kicks off on Monday in Davos, Switzerland, bringing together more than 2,700 officials, thought leaders and executives from around the world. The U.S. delegation to this year’s convening, with the theme “Cooperation in a Fragmented World,” includes Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Trade Representative Katherine Tai and FBI Director Chris Wray. Speakers at the forum include Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and BlackRock’s Larry Fink. A Tuesday session titled “America (Un)bound” will feature Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Reps. Maria Salazar (R-FL) and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ).
In a video released by AIPAC yesterday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who attended the group’s congressional reception earlier this week during its Political Leadership Forum in Washington, noted that his speech to the pro-Israel group on Monday was his first since being elected as House speaker. “My commitment is always to make this bond even stronger, and I look forward to being right back in Israel later this year with all the freshmen.”
Former Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said in a separate video that he was pleased to have spoken at the conference because members of Congress “really need to know the real facts and why we have to be such strong supporters of Israel.”
Calls within the Republican caucus for Rep. George Santos (R-NY) to resign grew on Thursday, with Reps. Mike Lawler (R-NY) and Marc Molinaro (R-NY) joining the rest of their freshman Republican colleagues from New York in calling on Santos to step down.
Rep. Max Miller (R-OH), one of two Jewish Republican House members, also called on Santos to resign yesterday, saying, “It is not okay to fabricate or lie for political gain. This is especially true when the lie seeks benefit from the murder of millions of Jewish people.” Former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Santos should resign.
GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) demurred when asked, saying that “it will play itself out… he’s a duly-elected member of Congress. There have been members of Congress on the Democrat side who have faced investigations before.” McCarthy said yesterday that Santos has “got a long way to go to earn trust.”
The remaining GOP members of the New York delegation — Reps. Nicole Malliotakis and Claudia Tenney — did not respond to requests for comment, and Rep. Andrew Garbarino is staying mum, citing his service on the Ethics Committee.
Santos, for his part, appeared in conversation with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) on Steve Bannon’s podcast yesterday, where he claimed to have “lived an honest life. I’ve never been accused of, of any bad doings so, you know, it’s my, it’s the equity of my hard-working self, and I’ve invested inside of me.”
The White House interagency working group to counter antisemitism, Islamophobia and related forms of bias and discrimination held its first listening session this week.
The working group will host several additional listening sessions with a range of external stakeholders who will discuss “how to counter antisemitism as a threat both to the Jewish community and all Americans,” a source familiar with the group’s plans told Jewish Insider. Those stakeholders include the Jewish community, civil rights and faith leaders, civil society, the private sector and others.
Lawmakers urge additional funding increase for antisemitism envoy’s office
A bipartisan group of House members will urge the administration to request a significant funding increase in its 2024 budget proposal for the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Moving on up: In a letter obtained by Jewish Insider, the group urges Secretary of State Tony Blinken to request $2 million for the office in 2024, up from $1.5 million in 2023, an increase of 33%. The 2023 funding level itself represented a 50% increase from the year prior.
Signatories: “Antisemitism is on the rise across the globe and we must ensure our government provides adequate resources to address this ongoing challenge,” Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Maria Salazar (R-FL), Grace Meng (D-NY) and Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) wrote.
Continuation: The letter suggests that a $2 million funding request would “build upon” Congress’ “progress” in its 2023 funding bill and “make clear to the world the United States’ steadfast commitment to combating this hate and will help the Special Envoy continue to address the alarming rise in antisemitism while advancing partnerships and opportunities to engage with like-minded international partners.”
Flip side: The request comes just a week after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) promised House conservatives that he would seek significant cutbacks in federal spending, with the aim of rolling back to fiscal year spending levels.
Abraham Accords Caucus calls on State Dept. to back interfaith dialogue among signatories
Members of the congressional Abraham Accords Caucus are urging the State Department to launch new programming to facilitate interfaith dialogue among countries that are signatories to the Abraham Accords, potential signatories and the United States, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Letter writing: The lawmakers — Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and James Lankford (R-OK), as well as Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Brad Schneider (D-IL), David Trone (D-MD) and Ann Wagner (R-MO) — note in a letter to U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain that the September 2020 agreements between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which Morocco and Sudan later joined, include language encouraging interfaith and intercultural dialogue. The letter was sent on Wednesday.
Moving forward: “We applaud the efforts initiated by a number of U.S. partners in the Middle East who are pursuing religious freedom initiatives and which are seeking cultural understanding across faith traditions. However, persecution and discrimination of religious groups persist throughout the region,” the letter reads. “The Abraham Accords have the potential to anchor Middle Eastern security cooperation, economic prosperity, and cultural exchange grounded in mutual understanding.”
Next steps: The lawmakers urged Hussain to launch a grant program to support dialogue among Christians, Muslims and Jews in the nations that signed onto the Abraham Accords and “potential signatory countries,” as well as brief the caucus on the State Department’s work on the subject by March 1.
Bonus: Rosen and Lankford are leading a bipartisan delegation to Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco this weekend, joined by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Ted Budd (R-NC). Rosen said that the trip will include meetings with government and business leaders and civil society to discuss strengthening and expanding the Accords. “This time will be invaluable for members of the Senate Abraham Accords Caucus as we continue to strengthen relationships throughout the region through reconciliation and common goals,” Lankford said in a statement. “In the days ahead, we will continue to bring nations together for the future of U.S. national interest and for our allies.”
Third time’s the charm for Michigan’s John James
Amid the drawn-out, days-long process to elect a new House speaker last week, Rep. John James (R-MI), a freshman from suburban Detroit, stood before Congress to deliver his first floor speech as he exhorted his colleagues to end the stalemate. In an impassioned address prior to the seventh speaker vote, the newly elected Michigander invoked his personal biography as the Black son of parents who faced discrimination under Jim Crow, upbraided hard-right Republicans for stalling the election and concluded with an enthusiastic endorsement of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who had recruited James to run for Congress after two failed Senate bids, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Breaking the mold: The newly elected congressman became Michigan’s first Black Republican congressman when he assumed office earlier this month, and he has frequently spoken of his experience as a Black conservative who, by dint of his own family history and upbringing, is attuned to issues of racial injustice. His election alongside freshman Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-TX), a fellow Apache pilot and West Point alumnus, helped double the number of Black Republicans in Congress. In a statement to JI, Hunt described James as a “friend” and “conservative fighter” who will “make an excellent congressman for Michigan’s 10th Congressional District,” which covers parts of Macomb and Oakland counties. The feeling is mutual. In an interview with JI last spring, James said he was eager to serve with his “buddy Wes,” noting that he and Hunt would be the first Black West Point graduates elected to Congress. “The fact that he and I went to West Point together, we went to flight school together, we went to war together — to go to Congress together, we represent more than just ourselves,” James said. “To make it about red, white and blue, not just Black and white.”
Post-COVID politics: In the interview with JI before he had clinched the Republican nomination, James was particularly energized as he stood well poised to win the primary and claim the open House seat in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. He said he was simply having “more fun” than his previous Senate bid, which had overlapped with the beginning of the pandemic. “I couldn’t look people in the eyes, I couldn’t hug them, I couldn’t reassure them when they were crying,” he said. “I couldn’t do that from behind a Zoom link.” “I’m having more fun talking and engaging with people, whether it’s on a shop floor or in a park or in a diner,” James said. “There’s no substitute for being able to look someone in the eye and be able to earn their trust.”
Israel position: Sheldon Yellen, a business executive and pro-Israel activist in Detroit who has long supported James, said the congressman has a “charisma about him that just invites you in.” “He came up to me one day, I was at a basketball game,” Yellen recalled in an interview with JI. “He comes up from behind me and grabs me and gives me a kiss on the cheek. That’s what we need, someone who puts it on the sleeve. That’s a real guy.” The first-term Republican cast himself as a strong supporter of Israel and said he would stand with the country while in Congress. “There must be no public space between the United States of America and Israel,” he told JI. “We need to make sure that Israel maintains its economic and military dominance in the region. That is without question.”
What’s next: The same day he delivered his floor speech late last week, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) — whom James had challenged in 2018 — announced that she would not seek reelection next cycle, setting the stage for a potentially crowded race to succeed her. Among the names floated as possible candidates was James. He has not commented on whether he will run for the seat. “I’ve only been here for a couple of days, but I’ve heard a lot of D.C. politicians tell me about how broken D.C. is,” James said in his address to Congress last Thursday. “I don’t need D.C. politicians to tell me how broken D.C. is. The American people have already told us how broken D.C. is by giving Republicans the majority so we can fix this mess.”
looking back, looking ahead
Colleyville rabbi reflects on anniversary of the attack
In the year since he and three of his congregants survived an hours-long hostage crisis in Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker has testified before Congress, was published in national news outlets, took a new pulpit in Winston-Salem, N.C., became a special adviser to the Anti-Defamation League and has served as a role model for how synagogue clergy should respond to violent antisemitism. But, he told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Ben Sales, as he approaches the anniversary of the attack, which falls on Sunday, he’s just grateful to be alive.
Being prepared: “[The attack is] a part of my life, but I don’t dwell on it,” Cytron-Walker said. “And it really depends on which moments. There were moments of absolute terror. There were moments of even laughter, and there were so many moments in between. But I don’t dwell on it. I haven’t had any symptoms of PTSD that I’m aware of. It’s not something that plagues me. However, it’s very much a part of my life. It’s the kind of thing that, when I do think about it, it makes me renew the call for advocacy to educate ourselves in the Jewish community, to make sure that we have proper training and procedures. Not because we expect something bad to happen — because the chances are very low that something would happen in any one given synagogue or institution. However, just like you don’t take CPR expecting people standing in line next to you to have a heart attack, you don’t take a civilian response to an active shooter event expecting that someone’s going to walk into your institution with a gun.”
Sharing knowledge: “It’s really important that not just the Jewish community, but that all communities really get to experience [security training],” Cytron-Walker noted. “One thing that I think is important for the Jewish community to hear Is that when we do something like an active shooter training, I’ve been encouraging people to invite other religious organizations to participate In that training. Because in those moments, those are vulnerable moments. An active shooter training is not fun. It’s not easy. And when other religious institutions — because it can happen anywhere in today’s world — when people from other religious institutions experience that with us, it really does create more of a bond, it really elevates our common humanity.”
Marking the day: “My family and I are planning to do something that is life-affirming. Ice cream may be involved,” he said. “The way that I’m commemorating is by trying to speak out, raising awareness about the current rise in antisemitism and the ways that we as a Jewish community can respond. To work towards building relationships with others, to put the time and the energy and the effort into building those relationships, and giving our clergy and our community leaders the opportunity to really develop real relationships. Because those relationships are at the heart of a broader communal response.”
New survey: A new ADL survey of 4,000 Americans found a resurgence in what Matt Williams, the vice president of the ADL’s Center for Antisemitism Research, described as “antisemitism in its classical fascist form.”
👨 Gottheimer’s Goal: Politico’s Sarah Ferris looks at the key role Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) plays as co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, and the power he’ll wield as one of its leaders in the narrowly divided 118th Congress. “‘Josh is kind of the glue to this stuff,’ said Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), who’s been Gottheimer’s roommate, along with [former New York Rep. Tom] Suozzi, since they both came to Congress in 2017. He believes the key to Gottheimer’s effectiveness — besides his seeming inability to sit still or sleep for more than four or five hours a night — is that notorious candor: ‘“I’m not going to stab you in the back. If anything, I’m going to stab you looking at you.” That’s kind of how he is… I think that’s where the respect comes from. He’s willing to basically look at you, and talk to you, and explain where he is. Whereas a lot of people here will not do that. Josh has the balls to do that.’” [Politico]
🇮🇷 A Moment Like This: In The Hill, Tara Sonenshine, a former U.S. undersecretary for public diplomacy during the Obama administration, cautions that Washington should not “miss the moment” to act against Iran, as it did during the 2009 protests. “With Iran in the global spotlight, including a United Nations investigation of violations committed against protestors, the West has a window of opportunity to tighten the screws on the Iranian regime with more sanctions, and to galvanize the Iranian public with open and consistent support for civil society… We have a historic chance to help Iran redefine itself and move away from religious restrictions, morality police and domestic surveillance of innocent citizens while safeguarding the world from a nuclear Iran eager to do damage at home and abroad. It is paramount that Congress acts with one voice.” [TheHill]
😨 Lapid’s Lament: In Haaretz, former Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who now leads the country’s opposition, voices concern about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition. “There will come a moment, in the not too distant future, when the damage will become irreversible. If this government does not fall, Israel will cease to be a liberal democracy; it will not be possible to rehabilitate its constitutional structure. The inevitable consequence will be a quiet exodus by the country’s economic and technological elites. What does it take, after all? A plane ticket, a bank transfer, a page of instructions for the agent selling the house. It has already happened in other countries. Colombia, for one. One day, the elites there understood that things weren’t headed anywhere good, so they quietly moved to Miami. No one noticed that it was happening until the country suddenly imploded at breathtaking speed. The lure of Miami threatens us, too. The cultural and artistic elites may still speak wistfully of the gray gloom of Berlin the way the old communists used to wax poetic about Maxim Ghilan’s Paris, but the money and the tech talent are already checking out Miami. The sun feels familiar, the food is excellent, and they like the governor, Ron DeSantis.” [Haaretz]
🪖 Sergeants on the Spectrum: Business Insider’s Joshua Zitser spotlights a volunteer program that places Israelis with autism in units within the Israeli Defense Forces. “Ron, an 18-year-old from Givatayim, says the course has helped him work on his ‘short fuse’ and has been vital to his personal development. The skills and unique perspectives that autistic people can bring to the table are advantageous to the army because ‘we see the world in a different way,’ he says, ‘that offers creative solutions.’ For example, Ron says his intense and highly focused interests, which are common among people with autism, make him a dedicated worker and a quick learner. ‘I know when I’m fixated on something, when something really gets my interest, it’s hard for me to stop thinking about it and enjoying it,’ he adds.” [BusinessInsider]
Around the Web
🪑 Cornhusker State to the Capitol: Former Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts will fill the Senate seat vacated by Ben Sasse, who left Capitol Hill to head the University of Florida.
🗳️ California Campaign: Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) is considering mounting a Senate bid in 2024, but ruled out a run for the White House should President Joe Biden not seek reelection.
❓ Republican Roadmap:The New York Times’ David Brooks and Bret Stephens consider the future of the Republican party as it faces what the Times calls “an extremist fringe seemingly in control of the House.”
⚠️ Disney Disarray: Nelson Peltz reportedly raised concerns that Disney’s new board chair, Mark Parker, is too close with CEO Bob Iger to be an impartial decision-maker.
Ξ FTX Fallout: In Sam Bankman-Fried’s first Substack post — in which he claims he “didn’t steal funds, and I certainly didn’t stash billions away” — the FTX founder lays out a “pre-mortem” on the collapse of the cryptocurrency company.
🏢 Workplace Woes:Bloomberglooks at the rise of antisemitism in the workplace.
📱 TikTok Trouble: Jewish leaders and activists are raising concerns about the targeting of pro-Israel activists on TikTok.
🏫 Across the Pond: An independent investigation found that the U.K.’s National Union of Students failed to protect Jewish students from antisemitic harassment.
⚖️ Judicial Warning: Israeli Supreme Court President Esther Hayut cautioned that proposed reforms to Israel’s judiciary would “deal a fatal blow” to Israeli democracy, while S&P suggested that the reforms, if implemented, could affect the country’s credit rating.
🪧 Show of Solidarity: The city of Laguna Beach, Calif., adopted a resolution supporting anti-regime protesters in Iran.
🕯️ Remembering: Equal education activist Norm Fruchter died at 85.
Pic of the Day
Israel Antiquities Authority excavators uncovered eight ostrich eggs believed to date back more than 4,000 years near an ancient fire pit in the Nitzana sand dunes in the Negev.
Senior counsel at Covington & Burling, he was previously the domestic policy advisor to President Carter, U.S. ambassador to the EU and deputy secretary of Treasury, Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat turns 80 on Sunday…
FRIDAY: Marriage and family therapist in Bakersfield, Calif., Kathleen Arnold-Chambers… Las Vegas resident, Cathy Nierenberg… Retired teacher, Lucia Meyerson… NYC pediatrician at Carnegie Hill Pediatrics, Barry B. Stein, MD… Lifelong resident of Greenwich Village, a two-time Emmy Award winner as a television producer, she worked for NBC Nightly News, Susanna Beth Aaron… President of the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, Cindy S. Moelis turns 62… Actress and producer, winner of 11 Emmy Awards, Julia Louis-Dreyfus turns 62… Kaileh Lynn Pistol… Founder of the Freelancers Union, she was a MacArthur Fellow in 1999, Sara Horowitz turns 60… Retired member of the Senate of Canada, she is the past chair of the UJA of Greater Toronto, Linda Frum turns 60… Partner at King & Spalding, he served as deputy attorney general of the U.S. following 12 years as U.S. attorney for Maryland, Rod J. Rosenstein turns 58… Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel since 2013, Rabbi David Baruch Lau turns 57… Executive assistant to the president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, Bruce Maclver… Senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he works on Middle Eastern political-military affairs, Kenneth M. Pollack turns 57… President and CEO of Amazon, Andrew R. Jassy turns 55… Social media professional and pro-Israel activist, Heidi Krizer Daroff… Statistician and writer who analyzes sports and elections, he is the editor-in-chief of The New York Times‘ FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver turns 45… Marriage and family therapist, Shira Berenson Feinstein… Master of science candidate at the University of Denver, Carly Freedman Schlafer… Rebecca Seider… Sandra Shapiro…
SATURDAY: Chairman emeritus of the publicly traded Empire State Realty Trust, Peter L. Malkin turns 89… Retired travel counselor, Barbara Singer-Meis… Washington Nationals baseball fan known as Rubber Chicken Man, he waves a rubber chicken over the Nationals dugout and is one of the few fans for whom Topps has issued a baseball card, Hugh Kaufman turns 80… Award-winning legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio since 1975, focusing primarily on the U.S. Supreme Court, Nina Totenberg turns 79… Screenwriter, director and producer, best known as co-writer of the films “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Return of the Jedi,” Lawrence Kasdan turns 74… Orthopedic surgeon, inventor and philanthropist, he sold his medical patents to Medtronic in 2005 for $1.35 billion, Gary K. Michelson, M.D. turns 74… Painter, editor, writer and book artist, Susan Bee turns 71… Co-founder and chairman of the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, which he manages with his wife Penny Pritzker, Bryan Traubert turns 68… Shaul Saulisbury… President of the Sprint Foundation and Sprint’s 1Million Project Foundation, Doug Michelman… Former member of the Knesset for the Likud party, she holds a Ph.D. in criminology, Anat Berko turns 63… Professor of English and journalism at Brooklyn College, Eric Alterman… AIPAC president, he is a founding member of LA-based law firm, Klee, Tuchin, Bogdanoff & Stern, Michael L. Tuchin… Actress and film producer, Kerri Lee Green turns 56… Staff writer at The New Yorker, Susan B. Glasser turns 54… Venture capitalist Adam R. Dell turns 53… Movie and television producer and co-founder of Electric City Entertainment, Jamie Patricof turns 47… Sales associate in the Montclair, N.J., office of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, David Frey… Attorney at Toronto-based Sokoloff Lawyers, Aryeh Samuel…
SUNDAY: Partner in BECO Management LLC, Michael David Epstein turns 78… University professor at Columbia University, he won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Martin Chalfie turns 76… Longtime member of Congregation B’nai B’rith in Santa Barbara, Madelyn Silver Palley… Founder of Prospect Global, Toni G. Verstandig… Chairman and CEO of Stagwell Global, Mark Penn… Football head coach and general manager, he has worked in both the NFL and CFL, Marc Trestman turns 67… President and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, David M. Zaslav turns 63… Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel in Rumson, N.J., Douglas Sagal… Cryptographer, computer security specialist, blogger, writer, author of 13 books, he is a fellow and lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Bruce Schneier… Former White House deputy press secretary, now CEO of Words Matter Media and executive producer of the “Words Matter Podcast,” Adam L. Levine turns 54… Filmmaker and educator, her films are aimed at an audience of Haredi women, Tali Avrahami turns 54… Former deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Belgium, Sophie Wilmès turns 48… Basketball analyst for Fox Sports, Doug Gottlieb turns 47… Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Judge Steven Menashi turns 44… Conservative political commentator, Ben Shapiro turns 39… Investigative reporter at The New York Times focused on health care, Sarah Kliff… Real estate investor, Hershy Tannenbaum… Actress, singer and writer based in NYC, she starred as Hodel in Bartlett Sher’s acclaimed revival of “Fiddler on the Roof,” Samantha Massell turns 33… CNN’s White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond turns 33…