👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we preview Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro’s inauguration and look at House Appropriations subcommittee assignments on Capitol Hill. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Gideon Taylor, Carolyn Maloney and Nelson Peltz.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff is set to meet this afternoon with the co-chairs of the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch has learned. The closed-door meeting will serve as something of a listening session for Emhoff to hear from members of Congress.
“This meeting will be an opportunity for the second gentleman to hear directly from members of Congress and discuss the administration’s efforts to combat antisemitism,” a White House official told JI on Wednesday.
Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president, has made combating antisemitism a core focus of his responsibilities as second gentleman. Last month, he convened a first-of-its-kind meeting on antisemitism, attended by a diverse array of Jewish leaders, at the White House.
An individual with knowledge of Emhoff’s visit to Capitol Hill told JI the meeting is meant to indicate that antisemitism will remain a priority for him as he heads into his third year as second gentleman. Read more here.
Emhoff will deliver remarks tomorrow at a naturalization ceremony commemorating National Religious Freedom Day.
The second gentleman will travel to Poland and Germany later this month with U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Emhoff will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Auschwitz-Birkenau and attend a meeting of special envoys focused on antisemitism in Berlin, Emhoff’s communications director, Liza Acevedo, announced Thursday morning.
Josh Shapiro to use Tree of Life Bible at Pa. governor inauguration
When Josh Shapiro is sworn in as Pennsylvania’s governor next week, he will take the oath of office on a stack of three Hebrew Bibles, including one that was on the bima, or prayer platform, at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue during the 2018 mass shooting that killed 11 worshippers, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Miraculous survival: “It was regularly used on Shabbat mornings, and would have been used that fateful morning, but the services were abruptly interrupted by gunfire,” Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, the spiritual leader at Tree of Life, told JI. “The Bible survived without any damage, and Tree of Life is honored by its presence at the inauguration.”
Keeping the faith: On the campaign trail, Shapiro’s Jewish identity played a prominent part in his pitch to voters. One campaign ad showed his family having Shabbat dinner, which he pledged to continue in Harrisburg. In his stump speech, and in his election night victory speech, Shapiro quoted from Pirkei Avot, or Teachings of Our Fathers: “No one is required to complete the task, but neither are we free to refrain from it,” he told a cheering crowd in November.
Full story: Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s outgoing attorney general, will also use the same family Bible he has used at each swearing-in since he was first elected to the Statehouse in 2004, a spokesperson told JI. The third Bible — a copy of “Readings from the Holy Scriptures for Jewish Soldiers and Sailors,” which was given to soldiers when they entered the military — belonged to Herman Hershman, a World War II veteran who earned a Purple Heart on D-Day. Hershman, who died in 2013 at 87, attended Beth Sholom Congregation, the same suburban Pennsylvania synagogue that Shapiro attends. The Bible is on loan from the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.
Local leaders: A group of four interfaith leaders — including Rabbi Greg Marx of Maple Glen’s Congregation Beth Or — will deliver the invocation at Tuesday’s inauguration.
Read the story here.
Four New York Republicans call for Santos’ resignation
New York Republican Reps. Anthony D’Esposito, Nick Langworthy, Nick LaLota and Brandon Williams called on Rep. George Santos (R-NY) to resign yesterday, amid growing scrutiny of Santos’ fabricated background and alleged campaign finance violations. They joined a push from the Nassau County Republican Party and local GOP officials, who pledged to cut ties with the newly elected congressman, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. As the pressure mounted on the Long Island Republican, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York told JI yesterday that it will also dissociate with Santos, including barring him from an upcoming event. Santos, however, remains defiant, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) suggested he won’t face consequences from the Republican Conference.
Jewish angle:D’Esposito, who shares representation of Nassau County with Santos, became the first House Republican to call for Santos’ resignation during a press conference organized by the Nassau GOP. The New York congressman said later in the day that Santos’ lies about being the descendant of Holocaust survivors were what prompted him to call for Santos’ resignation. “I wanted to make it very clear that that is not our brand. That’s not what we stand for,” D’Esposito said. “The district that I represent has a heavily Orthodox Jewish population and Jews in general, and the fact that he claimed that he was Jewish, that he had family who escaped the Holocaust, that’s just not something that I can tolerate.”
Not welcome: Gideon Taylor, the CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, told JI on Wednesday that Santos has been disinvited from the group’s upcoming congressional breakfast — one of the group’s hallmark events and its first in-person event since the pandemic — and that the JCRC will not associate with Santos going forward. The group cultivates relationships with elected officials in New York at various levels. Taylor called Santos’ claims of Jewish and Holocaust heritage “particularly concerning” and “deeply hurtful” for the Jewish community. “I don’t see a way in which we’re working with him going forward,” he continued. “It’s just a breakdown of trust.”
Leadership weighs in: McCarthy told reporters yesterday that Santos “is going to have the opportunity” to “try to build the trust here” in Congress, and suggested that Republicans will not take formal action against him until and unless he is indicted. He did indicate, however, that Santos will not be given preferential committee assignments. When a reporter noted that Santos had fabricated much of his resume, McCarthy responded, “And so did a lot of people here, in the Senate and others.”
Read the full story here.
Bonus: Talking Points Memodiscusses the recent Santos revelations with former campaign staffers, including Toby Gotesman Schneier, a Florida-based artist who briefly worked for the Santos campaign as a fundraising consultant. “Gotesman’s family survived the Holocaust and many of her paintings focus on related themes. When she saw news reports about Santos’ Holocaust claims, Gotesman began to suspect he got the idea from her. ‘I come from Holocaust survivors, rest in peace both of them. I sat with him, not one time did he mention anything to me about being Jewish or part of the Holocaust,’ Gotesman said. ‘I had no idea. He told me he was Catholic.’ Once the story broke, Gotesman saw videos of Santos claiming to be Jewish and descended from survivors. She was stunned. ‘I saw that on YouTube and I was like, holy shit. That’s when I thought he was a sociopath. It occurs to me now, I think that he got that idea from me. … He knew I was a Holocaust painter. He knew it very well. How do you sit down with a very famous Holocaust artist and not say a word about your own family?’”
House Appropriations subcommittee chairs selected
House Appropriations Committee Chair Kay Granger (R-TX) reportedly made her picks for the committee’s subcommittee chairs yesterday. Granger’s picks will still have to be ratified by the Republican Steering Committee.
State and Foreign Ops: Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), who represents parts of Miami-Dade County, is set to chair the State and Foreign Operations subcommittee. Diaz-Balart — a co-chair of the Latino-Jewish Caucus who is outspoken on a range of Jewish community issues — is a vocal supporter of Israel and critic of the Biden administration’s policiestoward the Palestinians. During last year’s Appropriations amendment process, he introduced amendments related to Iran policy and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s educational materials.
Homeland Security: Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) was picked to lead the Homeland Security subcommittee. Joyce voted last year in favor of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program Improvement Act, which recommended increased funding for the cash-strapped program. He was among the handful of Republicans who signed onto a letter last year condemning antisemitism by “public figures” amid the furor over Kanye West and Nick Fuentes’ dinner with former President Donald Trump, and co-sponsored a bill honoring a Cleveland-area Holocaust memorial.
Defense: Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) was tapped to chair the Defense subcommittee, of which he was previously the ranking member. In the subcommittee amendment process last year, Calvert argued that withdrawing the U.S.’s Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq would embolden Iran. In 2017, he introduced an Appropriations amendment condemning UNESCO designations of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as part of Palestinian territory.
Elsewhere on the Hill: Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod that he is undecided about staying on as the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee, after winning the subcommittee gavel last September. “I’m waiting for the formation of both the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees,” Cicilline said. “I’ve got to see who will be the chairmen of the respective [sub]committees.” The Rhode Islander also chaired a Judiciary subcommittee in the last Congress, but can only retain leadership of one of the two subcommittees this year.
⚽ Committee Concerns:Politico’s Eddy Wax looks at the corruption scandal engulfing the European Parliament’s committee on human rights, amid allegations that officials accepted bribes from Qatari officials in exchange for their support for Doha to host last year’s World Cup. “The European Union’s historic commitment to human rights is one of its core founding values, and this panel of MEPs serves as the custodian of those principles within the Parliament. Even though it is not a legislative powerhouse, the committee still plays an influential and agenda-setting role in the public debate. Known as ‘DROI’ in EU-shorthand for the French droits de l’homme, the group shines a spotlight on human rights abuses by countries outside the bloc, garnering international attention and making it an ideal target for lobbying. The question facing [EU Parliament human rights chief Maria] Arena and her colleagues now is whether this collective of MEPs has become nothing more than a zombie panel, infiltrated by foreign powers who use it to whitewash their own human rights records.” [Politico]
🗞️ Intrepid Journalists: BBC’s Parham Ghobadi details the challenges facing Persian journalists reporting on Iran from outside the country. “In Iran, the anti-government protests of 2022 have continued into the new year. Reporting on one of the biggest international stories of the moment is an ongoing challenge for BBC Persian Service journalists, who are not allowed into the country, suffer daily harassment, and whose families back home are persecuted. Iran has been in turmoil since September, when the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini sparked mass protests against the compulsory hijab and other restrictions — leading to calls for regime change. It has meant working around the clock for BBC Persian journalists. But reporting on events in Iran is not just a logistical challenge, it also has serious personal ramifications. The harassment it triggers from the Iranian government creates consequences for the lives of the journalists.” [BBC]
✡️ View of a Jew: In Real Clear Books, Karol Markowitz describes “the New Jew” and the hints of a political shift underway in the Jewish community. “The New Jew does not cower. He does not make excuses for those who hate him, whether white supremacist or black nationalist. She speaks plainly about threats, refuses to pretend they’re exclusive to the far right when she can see with her own eyes that they are not. This New Jew might not be conservative but they are no longer of the left. His story is laid out in ‘The Turn’ by Liel Leibovitz. He didn’t shift, the left shifted around him. She isn’t afraid of name-calling. As Leibovitz wrote ‘We have a better word to describe ourselves: free.’ The New Jew openly loves Israel and does not let anyone believe otherwise so that she can fit in with her usual political side. There is no ‘but…’ same as one can love France or England and not launch into a dissertation about their political wrongs.” [RealClearBooks]
✍️ Clearly Seeing Kafka:New York Times book critic Dwight Garner reviewsThe Diaries of Franz Kafka, a “new, unexpurgated and essential” edition of the Czech author’s writings, decades after his friend Max Brod published a heavily edited version. “The new volume, in a sensitive and briskly idiomatic translation by Ross Benjamin, offers revelation upon revelation. It’s an invaluable addition to Kafka’s oeuvre. Where Brod strove to clean Kafka up and foster a sense that he was, in Benjamin’s words, a ‘saintly, prophetic genius, whose purity places him at an elevated remove from the world,’ this edition scuffs him up and returns him to earth, in an intimate manner that does no injury to our sense of his suffering, or his profound and original gifts.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
⚠️ Security Status: The State Department extended protection for former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Iran envoy Brian Hook, amid continued “serious and credible” threats to their safety.
🏃♀️ Golden [State] Opportunity: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) told Congressional Black Caucus colleagues she intends to mount a Senate bid in 2024, a day after Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) announced a run for the seat currently held by Sen. Dianne Feinsten (D-CA). Former Rep. Harley Rouda (D-CA) announced he will seek the seat being vacated by Porter for her Senate run.
🗳️ Second Try: Republican Joe Kent, who was backed by former President Donald Trump, announced a second bid for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District after losing to Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez (D-WA) by less than 5,000 votes.
👩 Next Steps: Former Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) joined Hunter College’s Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute as the Eleanor Roosevelt Distinguished Leader in Residence.
🪑 Seat Struggle: Nelson Peltz is planning a proxy fight to gain a seat on Walt Disney Co.’s board, following failed discussions with Disney leadership early this week.
🚓 Crime Watch: Three people, including two children, were injured in a shooting near Washington, D.C.’s Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School.
👩🏫 Campus Beat: StandWithUs filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights alleging that administrators at George Washington University did not act to address “a pattern of persistent, discriminatory, and retaliatory antisemitic acts” by a professor in the school’s psychology program.
👮 On the Case: The NYPD is investigating a hit-and-run incident in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood as a possible hate crime.
🎓 Senate Speaks: Three New York State Senate committee chairs called on Yeshiva University to give an accounting of more than $230 million it received in public funds following a legal battle over the recognition of an LGBTQ group on campus.
Ξ FTX Funders: Financial backers to FTX included the Kraft Group and Endeavor Group Holdings, according to bankruptcy court documents filed this week.
🛫 Grounded: American Airlines is pulling its daily direct flights from Miami to Tel Aviv, which first launched in June 2021.
📽️ Coming Soon: Rachel McAdams and Kathy Bates will star in the film adaptation of Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen was suspended for comparing COVID-19 vaccines to the Holocaust, comments that were denounced by U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as “utterly unacceptable.”
👋 Closed Arena: E.U. Parliament human rights head Maria Arena resigned from her position following a Politico investigation that found she had not properly declared free flights and accommodation she received from Qatar.
🇮🇱 Mount-ing Tensions: The Wall Street Journal looks at rising tensions regarding the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, following Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir’s visit to the site last week.
🇮🇷 Death Sentence: Iran sentenced former Deputy Defense Minister Alireza Akbari to death, alleging that the dual Iranian-British citizen spied for MI6.
💵 Fighting Inflation: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced a series of measures to ease inflation, reducing the prices of electricity, water, fuel and property taxes.
🇧🇷 Back to Brazil: Brazil’s ambassador to Israel, who had been appointed by former Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro, was removed from his post by the country’s new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in a shake-up that also involved the ouster of Brazil’s envoy to Washington and consul general in New York.
🇦🇿 Diplomatic Move: Azerbaijan appointed its first ambassador to Israel, following the recent announcement that Baku would open an embassy in the Jewish state.
🥤 Shalom Slurpees: 7-Eleven opened its first Israel branch in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center, with plans to open eight more branches in the city by the end of the year.
➡️ Transitions: Rebecca Blumenstein, a deputy managing editor at The New York Times, will join NBC News as head of editorial as Noah Oppenheim steps down as NBC News president. Jewish Insider podcast host Jarrod Bernstein joined Morrison Cohen as of counsel.
Pic of the Day
On his first day on the job, Australian Ambassador to Israel Ralph King visited Yad Vashem: The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. “A time to pause, reflect and remember. Never Again,” King tweeted.
Real estate and casino magnate, he is a minority owner of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox, Neil Gary Bluhm turns 85…
U.S.-born biochemist and winner of the Israel Prize, Howard “Chaim” Cedar turns 80… Stephen Moses… Israel-born jewelry designer, editor and businesswoman, she was the first lady of Iceland, Dorrit Moussaieff turns 73… Author of over 40 books, most widely recognized for his crime fiction, Walter Ellis Mosley turns 71… NYC-based psychiatrist and the medical director of the Child Mind Institute, Harold S. Koplewicz, MD turns 70… Radio personality on Sirius XM, Howard Stern turns 69… British novelist and grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien (one of the latter’s two Jewish grandchildren), Simon Mario Reuel Tolkien turns 64… Senior director of philanthropic engagement at Jewish Funders Network, she was a consultant for DreamWorks on the film “The Prince of Egypt,” Tzivia Schwartz Getzug… Midday news anchor at Washington’s WTOP Radio, Debra Feinstein turns 61… Former chair of Hillel International, she is also a vice-chair of Moishe House, Tina Price… Member of the Maryland House of Delegates, Jon S. Cardin turns 53… Identical twin comedians and actors, Randy Sklar and Jason Sklar, turn 51… Filmmaker known for parody films, Aaron Seltzer turns 49… First-ever woman to be an MLB coach, Justine Siegal, Ph.D. turns 48… Recording artist and musical entertainer, Yaakov Shwekey turns 46… Professional golfer, Rob Oppenheim turns 43… Two-time Olympian (2012 and 2016) in beach volleyball, now a chiropractor, Josh Binstock turns 42… National director of AIPAC’s Synagogue Initiative, Jonathan Schulman… Director of Jewish life and learning at the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center, Amanda Herring… VP of finance and operations at NYC-based Hornig Capital Partners, Daniel Silvermintz… Israeli tennis player, Lina Glushko turns 23…