👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we have a scoop on Rep. Chuy Garcia’s conversation with the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board over his votes on Israel in Congress, and we preview Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and Amb. Deborah Lipstadt’s trip to Germany and Poland. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Rob Satloff, UAE Minister Noura Al Kaabi and Barbara Fried.
Earlier today at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates’ Minister of Culture and Youth Noura Al Kaabi cohosted the country’s second annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, together with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi.
Al Kaabi, who also serves as president of Zayed University, addressed the audience and was followed by Holocaust survivor Ruth Cohen, who shared her personal experience growing up in what was then Czechoslovakia and surviving Auschwitz.
Rob Satloff, the executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who also spoke at the gathering, called the ceremony a “historic event.” Satloff was in Cairo and Abu Dhabi a year ago for the first events in the Middle East commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls on Friday.
“It is historic because it is only with the second [year’s] event that we begin to make the exceptional normal,” Satloff said. “What do I mean? We all know that from life, from politics, that the first of almost anything is special, unique, impossible to recreate. But far too often, the first becomes the only. Indeed, the great danger of a… successful first is the letdown that follows, a letdown that often results in there never being a second, third or fourth.”
“In America, for example, the great achievement of our democracy was not the elevation of George Washington as the first elected leader in modern history,” Satloff continued. “Rather, the great achievement was the peaceful and voluntary transfer of the presidency from Washington to [John] Adams, the second elected leader in modern history, setting a precedent that, despite a few bumps in the road, we have followed ever since. So today, I salute all those who refuse to rest on the achievements of the first Holocaust Remembrance Day here in the Emirates, and understood that the real goal was not just some symbolic first, but to enshrine the meaning of this day within our actions every day.”
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff departs today for Krakow, Poland, his first stop on a five-day trip that will focus on Holocaust education and combating antisemitism. It is the second solo international trip for Emhoff, who is the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president. (He traveled to the Paralympic Games in Tokyo last August.)
“The trip was designed essentially to trace the trajectory of Jewish life in Europe, both past, present and future,” a senior White House official said on Wednesday. Emhoff will kick off the trip by visiting Auschwitz on Friday to attend a ceremony commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. That night, he’ll have Shabbat dinner with the local Jewish community. Accompanying Emhoff on the trip is Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, and their next stop will be Berlin, to attend a gathering of antisemitism envoys from around the world.
Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch is traveling with Emhoff this week to cover the trip. For updates, follow Gabby on Twitter.
Chuy Garcia’s record on Israel comes under scrutiny in Chicago mayoral race
Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL), a leading Democratic challenger to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, faced a tough line of questioning over his congressional record on Israel in a candidate interview with the editorial board of The Chicago Tribune on Monday, according to audio of the exchange obtained by Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Raising concerns: During the 90-minute meeting at the Tribune’s offices, where Lightfoot and another top rival, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, were also present, the conversation turned to Middle East policy when an interviewer voiced concerns from Jewish community members about García’s approach to Israel, which has on occasion strayed from the Democratic mainstream.
‘Squishy support’: “Some in that community saw your early years in Congress, your alignment with the Squad, various votes that were taken as reflecting squishy support for Israel, and some even perceive that as antisemitic,” the Tribune interviewer told García, noting that “some prominent members” of the Jewish community “have at least tacitly said, given that record, this is not the candidate for Jewish Chicago.”
Pushing back: Asked if he believed that was a “fair assumption,” García, a staunch progressive elected to Congress in 2018, said it was “not a fair characterization” and explained that he has had “relationships and friends and allies in the Jewish community going back almost 50 years.” The congressman cited such “allies in politics” as Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), a Jewish Democrat from Chicago, “former members” of the city council and elected officials in the Illinois state legislature. “No one of them will tell you that there is any iota of antisemitism or anti-Israel sentiment,” he averred.
Final question: To conclude the exchange, the Tribune interviewer asked García to confirm if the congressman had, during their conversation, been “speaking supportively of Israel and its right to exist.” “Yes, absolutely,” García said, noting that he has “been aligned with” the liberal Israel advocacy group J Street, which has previously endorsed him. “I totally believe in a two-state solution, and the question has never been posed to me before.”
Morningstar, Jewish groups at loggerheads over commitments to fix anti-Israel bias
Tensions are flaring between financial services firm Morningstar and a coalition of Jewish and pro-Israel groups that have been lobbying the firm to eliminate purported anti-Israel bias in its ratings products, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. In a letter sent to the company last month, the groups allege that Morningstar had failed to meet its commitments to update its ratings and procedures, provide sensitivity training to its staff and engage outside experts to advise it on Israel and antisemitism. Morningstar defended its actions in a response letter last week, saying that the company had made progress, while attributing some of the delays to the groups themselves.
Called out: “After months of working with Morningstar in good faith, it appears that Sustainalytics is failing to do its part to implement the commitments that Morningstar made to eliminate the pervasive anti-Israel bias in Sustainalytics’ ESG ratings,” the coalition letter, sent Dec. 30 and obtained by Jewish Insider, states. “We have grave concerns about the rate and direction of progress and have observed what we believe to be several alarming deviations from the October commitments.”
Commitment questions: The groups accuse the company of having worked in direct contravention of its previous commitments, and allege that “Sustainalytics’ conduct appears designed to prevent rather than promote substantive progress on the implementation of Morningstar’s commitments.” Morningstar’s letter — pushing back on the coalition letter — claimed that the company had not committed to changing its underlying assumptions that doing business with Israeli companies or in Israel is in and of itself a higher-risk proposition — only to engaging an expert to guide Sustainalytics on the issue. Morningstar’s October public statement said it would “ensure that its analysts understand that business activity… within the regions linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or related to Israel’s defense against terrorism, do not give rise to a presumption that there is a human rights concern.”
Line items: The coalition letter claims that many of the controversy ratings attached to companies operating in Israel have not changed, and also accuses Morningstar of having disregarded and minimized the recommendations provided by the coalition on outside expert analysts and sensitivity training. The Morningstar letter claims that many of the controversy ratings have already been changed or eliminated, but that further progress is contingent on hiring outside experts, a process the company alleges it delayed to give the Jewish groups more time to provide input, at their request. An individual close to the process dismissed Morningstar’s response letter as “ridiculous” and called its argument that it cannot enact further changes to its existing ratings and processes until it hires an expert “a red herring.”
on the hill
House vote on Ilhan Omar’s Foreign Affairs seat appears increasingly uncertain
A House vote on Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee appears increasingly uncertain amid emerging questions about whether House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will be able to muster enough support to remove Omar from her seat, and whether any Democrats will join the Republican effort, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Republican rebels: Reps. Nancy Mace (R-SC) and Victoria Spartz (R-IN) have said they do not support stripping Omar of her seat. Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) remains undecided, an individual familiar with his thinking told JI yesterday. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) has also not made up his mind, according to Politico, nor has controversy plagued Rep. George Santos (R-NY), according to Insider.
Hold fire: Pro-Israel Jewish Democrats, including some who have been critical of Omar’s past comments on Israel, have yet to say if they will support her removal. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) said he would not comment on the issue until a resolution has been formally introduced to remove Omar from the panel. Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), who pledged on the campaign trail to be an outspoken opponent of Israel critics and antisemitism within the Democratic caucus, told JI he won’t make a decision on the issue until the issue comes to the floor but said he is “uncomfortable with speakers of the opposite party removing people from committees.” Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) likewise told JI she hasn’t made up her mind yet, but said, “Democrats should be able to appoint our committee members.”
Digging in: If McCarthy does not pick up any Democratic votes, he can only afford to lose four Republicans. McCarthy, though, is pushing ahead, and has shored up support with at least some Republican moderates, highlighting Omar’s past statements in a private GOP conference meeting on Wednesday, where he purportedly told his conference that the issue would come up for a vote this week.
Differentiating: Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), who voted to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from her committees in the previous Congress, now sits on the Republican Steering Committee, which determines GOP committee assignments. He argued that Greene and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) are different from Omar and deserve their committee seats because Greene “has publicly apologized” and nothing Gosar has said is “equivalent to the vile antisemitic statements made by some of my Democratic colleagues.”
Bonus: McCarthy floated removing Rep. George Santos (R-NY) from his committee seats pending an investigation during the GOP Conference meeting yesterday, just a week after supporting Santos receiving those assignments, according to Axios. Santos delivered his first floor speech yesterday, supporting the Iran resolution.
Senate bill seeks to honor diplomats who saved Jews during the Holocaust
Sens. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) are set to introduce a bill today, on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, that would grant a Congressional Gold Medal to 60 World War II-era diplomats who helped save Jews fleeing Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod learned.
High honor: The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest award that Congress can grant, and must be co-sponsored by two-thirds of each chamber before it can be brought for a vote. It was recently bestowed on Ben Ferencz, the last living Nuremberg prosecutor. The legislation specifically highlights diplomats — primarily from foreign countries, but also a few Americans — for securing passports and setting up safehouses and routes out of Europe, often at great personal risk and in defiance of instructions from their governments.
Reminder: “The Congressional Gold Medal authorized under this Act will help remind humanity that when the diplomats were faced with terrible crises, they went beyond the fold, including risking their careers and the lives of themselves and their families, to engage in this humanitarian mission,” the bill reads. “The diplomats of today and future generations can look towards these heroes and be inspired by their lives of heroism and sacrifice.”
In support: Abe Foxman, the former national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a chair of the Forgotten Heroes of the Holocaust Congressional Gold Medal Committee, which is supporting the effort, told JI that he feels it’s important to focus on the “courageous, decent people” who emerged from the Holocaust, not only the “evil people, hateful people.” Foxman added, “I survived the Holocaust because there was a Roman Catholic Polish woman who risked her life to save mine. And so the issue of rescuers, the issue of the righteous, to me has always been an important element of my growing up.”
Lower chamber: Companion legislation is set to be introduced in the House, sponsored by Reps. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL), whose district includes a significant number of Holocaust survivors, and Ritchie Torres (D-NY), who has close ties with the Jewish community, according to lobbyist Ezra Friedlander, whose Project Legacy nonprofit is organizing the initiative.
🇸🇰 Roots Travel Trip: In Tablet magazine, Danny Gold travels to Slovakia to meet the man whose family risked their lives to hide his grandfather and other Jews during the Holocaust. “I asked him: What should I tell my children one day about what he did? He replied: ‘Just what happened. Your grandfather was saved in Vadovce, together with others. It was good that such people were there [to save him] and it’s important that such people are here in the future. But the best would be if such things would never happen again.’ Later, he told me, ‘I think that, essentially, man is not evil. Something will make him a bad person. There must be some impulse, but it’s difficult to say. People were able to do such things … it’s difficult for me to explain.’” [Tablet]
👩 SBF’s Mom: Puck’s Teddy Schleifer looks at how the collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX has affected his mother, Barbara Fried, a co-founder of Mind the Gap, which raised hundreds of millions of dollars for Democratic candidates. “Six days before the 2022 election, her son’s cryptocurrency empire had begun to collapse. A run on FTX, which began just before the midterm election, revealed that S.B.F. had somehow misplaced billions of dollars of his customers’ money. Unable to raise the emergency financing necessary to keep FTX solvent, Sam declared bankruptcy on November 11 and was arrested a month later. Fried, who should have been riding high after helping Democrats hold the Senate, instead found herself flying to the Bahamas to tend to her eldest son, who was erratically tweeting acrostics and furiously mounting a legal response that would require all of Barbara and Joe’s attention and relationships, and ultimately most of their money. Just before Christmas, they helped Sam post bail, allowing him to fly back to California, where he remains under house arrest. They have since entered a new, unexpected phase of their careers: parents of one of the most infamous alleged financial criminals in history.” [Puck]
🇸🇦 Fact or Fiction? In The Jerusalem Post, Douglas Bloomfield, formerly a lobbyist at AIPAC, questions Saudi statements that the country won’t normalize relations with Israel until the Palestinians achieve statehood. “Normalization between the kingdom and Israel has actually been underway for some time even though Palestinian statehood remains further away than ever. The Saudis have grown weary of Palestinian intransigence and have decided it is in their own interest to build relations with the Jewish state. Also, the two countries share a common cause: stopping Iran’s terrorism and nuclear ambitions. The Arabs states have vetoed the Palestinian veto, which said no recognition or peace with Israel until Palestinian claims, including statehood, were achieved. Several moderate Sunni states have opted for normalizing relations with Israel and the trade, technology and tourism that would bring them, but most of all for the critical shared strategic interest.” [JPost]
📗 Never Forget: In Newsweek, Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan stresses the importance of remembering the victims of the Holocaust as individuals, a mission carried out by the Holocaust remembrance center, including a new Book of Names being inaugurated at the United Nations Headquarters as part of the activities marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day. “On this, the 78th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet troops, where more than one million ‘nameless’ Jews were slaughtered, we rekindle their identities by restoring their names. Our mission has never been more relevant, and our responsibility to keep alive the memory of the Holocaust and its victims will never abate. The Book of Names of Holocaust victims will help us, Jews and non-Jews, educators and statespersons, historians and influencers, citizens of the world, to convey the chronicles of this singular Jewish and human event. The names and the people they stand for serve as a beacon of light and warning against the mortal dangers of unconstrained antisemitism and racism, and exhort us to fulfill the vital 11th commandment: Remember.” [Newsweek]
💣 Regional Responsiveness: In the Wall Street Journal, JINSA’s Michael Makovsky and Blaise Misztal call on the U.S. to restock its arsenal reserves in Israel with updated munitions to defend against modern threats. “As Washington asks its allies to do more to contribute to collective security, the WRSA-I [stockpile] can provide Israel with the necessary tools to help defend itself and American interests. This comes on the heels of Israel’s being assigned in 2021 to the ‘area of responsibility’ of the U.S. Central Command, or Centcom, meaning the country is now part of America’s military’s training, planning and operations in the Middle East. A WRSA-I fully stocked with modern weapons and better integrated into American military supply chains, plans, and operations will doubtless enhance the security of both nations and that of America’s traditional — and Israel’s newer — Arab partners.” [WSJ]
📰 Media Matter: In Mishpacha Magazine, Avi Schick addresses the recent media attention focused on Yeshiva University and the Jewish education system. “For months, The New York Times and others have been attacking yeshivos and yeshivah education. They attempt to cloak their efforts as motivated by a desire to increase secular studies offered in yeshivos. The nasty attacks on YU, however, make it clear that what bothers yeshivah critics is not a lack of secularity — that is not a charge that can be leveled at YU — but the presence of G-d. They simply can’t countenance our stubborn insistence on living lives in accordance with our faith. Our way of life is under attack. To be sure, other major newspapers don’t harbor The Times’ animus toward our community, and legislative leaders in Albany have never exhibited anything but respect toward the Orthodox. But their caucuses are not trending friendlier, and legislation today is less likely to show a deference to religious practice than that seen previously. That reflects the broader shift in societal attitudes toward religion.” [Mishpacha]
Around the Web
🪧 420-1: The House voted nearly unanimously yesterday in favor of a resolution expressing solidarity with the protesters in Iran, the second time the measure has passed the House. The lone holdout was Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), a libertarian with isolationist foreign policy views.
⛔ Hawkish Request: Israel rejected a request from the U.S. for its stockpile of old Hawk anti-aircraft missiles to be transferred to Ukraine.
💵 Santos Saga: The Washington Posttalks to potential investors whom Rep. George Santos (R-NY) attempted to recruit into an alleged Ponzi scheme by using lavish dinners and inflated credentials.
🪖 Paul’s Plea: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) urged Republicans to consider cuts to the military budget during a press conference yesterday about the nation’s debt limit.
⚖️ Judicial Reform: Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, writes in Haaretz that he fears the U.S.-Israel relationship “could be irrevocably strained” if the government moves ahead with its proposed judicial amendments. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintained during a press conference yesterday that the judicial reform would strengthen both democracy and the economy.
😟 Dim Outlook: National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was reportedly “bleak,” Axios reports.
🌟Rising Stars: Politicoconsiders the political futures of Govs. Wes Moore of Maryland and Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania after both garnered national attention on the campaign trail.
📱 Guess Who’s Back: Meta will reinstate former President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.
📺 Spotlight on Segel: The New York Times interviews Jason Segel, the star, writer and executive producer of a new series “Shrinking,” which premieres on Friday on Apple TV+.
💬 ‘Chanshi’ Chat: The Hollywood Reportertalks to Aleeza Chabowitz, actress and creator of the series “Chanshi,” drawn from her own experiences as a young observant Jewish woman who moved from Brooklyn to Israel.
🖊️ Page Turner:The New Yorker’s Molly Fischer profiles the New York Times’ book review editor-turned-opinion columnist Pamela Paul.
📰 New Gig: British journalist Ben Judah is starting a new monthly column for the Jewish Chronicle that focuses on Jewish culture, history and religion.
🤔 In Neverland: Nearly a quarter of young people in the Netherlands believe the Holocaust was a “myth” or exaggerated, according to a survey by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
🥚 Not Egg-cellent: Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture announced that the price of eggs will rise by about 12% due to a global hike in the prices of seeds to feed hens.
💸 Money Matters: Israeli payroll service Papaya Global said it is moving all of its money out of Israel in light of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements that he is committed to passing a series of judicial reforms.
✋ Mysterious Imprint: The Israeli Antiquities Authority is trying to uncover the meaning of a recently discovered hand imprint on the wall of an ancient moat outside of Jerusalem’s Old City.
🚑 West Bank Clashes: Nine Palestinians, including at least one member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, were killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers who entered the West Bank city of Jenin this morning in an effort to foil attacks against Israelis.
☢️ Nuke Ready: Tehran has enough material for “several nuclear weapons,” International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi warned yesterday, calling on the West to restart diplomatic efforts.
➡️ Transition: D.C.’s Theater J appointed director and producer Hayley Finn as its new artistic director.
🕯️ Remembering: Ian Black, the Middle East editor of The Guardian, died at 69.
Pic of the Day
Israeli President Isaac Herzog delivers a speech to the European Parliament on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Actress, comedian and television screenwriter, Claudia Lonow turns 60…
Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, Jules Feiffer turns 94… Actor, film director and playwright, Henry David Jaglom turns 85… Pioneering computer scientist, Barbara Bluestein Simons, Ph.D. turns 82… Singer-songwriter, socialite and political fundraiser, Denise Eisenberg Rich turns 79… Economic and social theorist, author of 23 books, Jeremy Rifkin turns 78… New Haven, Conn.-based personal injury attorney, Herbert Ira Mendelsohn… Publishing professional, Agnes F. Holland… Professor emeritus of modern Judaic studies at the University of Virginia, Peter W. Ochs turns 73… Emmy Award-winning film and television director, her 2018 film is a biographical legal drama based on the life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Mimi Leder turns 71… President of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Rabbi Marc Schneier turns 64… Argentinian real estate developer, president of Chabad Argentina, president of Hillel Argentina and president of Taglit Birthright Argentina, Eduardo Elsztain turns 63… Co-founder of the Laura and Gary Lauder Family Venture Philanthropy Fund, Laura Heller Lauder… President of HSK Consulting focused on strategic planning and fundraising services, Hilary Smith Kapner… Former CNN anchor and correspondent and author of two books, Daryn Kagan turns 60… Co-founder of Boardroom One, Brent Cohen… Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy turns 58… Major general in the IDF, he was recently appointed as director general of the Ministry of Defense, Eyal Zamir turns 57… Senior strategist and consultant at Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach, Jill Weinstock Deutch… Oakland County (Michigan) Clerk and Register of Deeds, Lisa Brown turns 56… Middleweight boxing champion, he retired in 2003 with a 37–1–1 record, now a loan officer, Dana Rosenblatt turns 51… Retired tennis player who was the top-ranked player in his age group at the ages of 12, 14, 16 and 18, then as an adult he won 15 doubles championships, Justin Gimelstob turns 46… Actress, she hosted The CW reality series “Shedding for the Wedding,” Sara Rue turns 44… Co-host of Jewish Insider‘s podcast and of counsel at Morrison Cohen LLP, Jarrod Neal Bernstein turns 43… President of the Palm Collective, Tamar Remz… Former Olympic figure skater, now a product marketing manager for Meta/Facebook, Emily Hughes turns 34… Blues and jazz musician, Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton turns 34… Fay Goldstein…