👋 Good Tuesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at what the legal battle over North Carolina’s congressional districts means for Rep. Kathy Manning, and interview Gen Z influencer Sophie Beren about her media platform, The Conversationalist. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Ron Dermer, Ken Marcus and Naomi Replansky.
The focus of this week’s two-day AIPAC Political Leadership Forum in the nation’s capital, where roughly 1,000 top pro-Israel donors and activists met for the organization’s first major gathering in three years, is increased involvement in the 2024 elections — and supporting pro-Israel candidates who will appear on the ballots. That’s according to one person who attended the gathering and spoke to Jewish Insider anonymously, citing the conference’s no-press policy. (Despite precautions, a clip of the crowd’s response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s video address made its way online.)
“It’s all about giving more to more campaigns,” the attendee said. “It’s about fighting enemies, and that’s the language — ‘enemies.’ This is a very practical, focused conference. It’s about muscle and helping get people elected.”
AIPAC’s first foray into electoral politics brought the pro-Israel group several high-profile victories, including the election of Reps. Haley Stevens (D-MI) and Glenn Ivey (D-MD) over less aligned Democratic candidates.
If there’s one takeaway from the group’s work in 2022, the attendee said, it’s that “we need a massive war chest to support pro-Israel candidates and defeat anti-Israel candidates.”
The forum ends this afternoon, after an address by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Other speakers today include Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX).
Also wrapping up today is the meeting of the Negev Forum working groups in Abu Dhabi, where senior officials from the U.S., Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt are meeting to develop initiatives that advance regional integration and cooperation.
A State Department official told JI that Washington sees the goal of the Negev Forum as advancing “our shared interests, advancing peace and prosperity for the region and all its inhabitants, including by countering terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism, while additionally underscoring our commitment to improving Israeli-Palestinian relations.”
Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer is in the U.S. this week for meetings with White House and State Department officials. Tonight, he’ll be honored alongside his wife, Rhoda, at March of the Living’s 35th anniversary gala in South Florida.
Today in New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul will deliver the State of the State address at 1 p.m. ET.
Manning, freshman Dems may lose seats under redrawn North Carolina congressional map
The political world has been closely watching Moore v. Harper, a U.S. Supreme Court case launched by North Carolina Republicans that could vastly reshape the way that congressional districts are drawn across the country. But the results of that case may actually have fewer consequences for North Carolina’s own congressional districts, which are set to be redrawn before the 2024 election, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
What’s next: North Carolina’s Republican-controlled state legislature sought to significantly redraw the state’s congressional map in 2021 to reduce the number of Democratic districts, in the process carving up the Guilford County district represented by Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC) and two other districts. The North Carolina Supreme Court, which at the time had a Democratic majority, blocked those plans and instead implemented a map drawn by nonpartisan redistricting experts that ultimately delivered seven Democratic and seven Republican seats. That process led to the Moore v. Harper case, in which the Republican legislature is asking the Supreme Court to bar court intervention in the drawing of congressional maps. But the state Supreme Court’s 2022 map was temporary, for the last election only, and is set to be redrawn again by the state legislature. Given that the state Supreme Court flipped to Republican control in November, North Carolina political analysts say it’s unlikely that the court would intervene to block the maps, as it has in the past.
Non-intervention: “The conventional wisdom is that this new court will be much less sympathetic to gerrymandering claims and will be much more sympathetic to claims of legislative supremacy,” Chris Cooper, the director of the Public Policy Institute at Western Carolina University, told Jewish Insider. “There will almost certainly be lawsuits. They may get to the state Supreme Court. But again, the conventional wisdom is that it is a much more conservative court — the majority of whom were elected with an R next to their name — are not going to stop the Republican general assembly from enacting whatever map they want to.”
Going for broke: Michael Bitzer, the politics department chair at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., said the state is, for now, in a “holding pattern” until the Moore v. Harper decision is announced, and the legislature will then proceed with drawing maps “as it sees fit.” He predicted, based on past comments by lawmakers, that Republicans will aim for at minimum a map with 10 Republican and four Democratic districts, but there is a “distinct possibility” of an 11-3 map if Republicans can manage to draw it. Cooper suggested that the legislature may seek to flip the districts held by Manning — a former Jewish Federations of North America chair who now leads the House’s antisemitism task force — as well as newly elected Reps. Jeff Jackson (D-NC) and Wiley Nickel (D-NC) to the Republican column. Bitzer likewise said Manning’s district is unlikely to be preserved under the new maps.
gen z voice
The Year of Sophie Beren
Bringing matzah to school on Passover seems like a nonevent, but for Sophie Beren, whose goal in life is to break down echo chambers, doing so as a teen in Kansas was a first effort at bridging the gap she had long been feeling. Wichita, where she was raised, is not known for its large Jewish presence, however, and Beren’s attempts at dialogue were often left unanswered. “Growing up in Wichita, even though my whole life I resented [being one of the only Jews], could have actually been my greatest gift, because it taught me what it looks like to be surrounded with people who are different from me,” Beren recalled to Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel.
Striking up conversation: Since then, Beren, 27, has been on a journey to promote conversation between disparate voices, particularly among Gen Zers, whom she reaches through her nonpartisan educational platform, The Conversationalist, which she founded in 2019. In the last two months alone, that journey has included a new content distribution partnership with Snapchat, a speaking engagement at a “GenZ, the News, and the World” panel hosted by the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C., and a Forbes 30-Under-30 nod for Beren. “It’s just another reaffirmation of the incredible support that I have in our community, on our team, and just of this Gen Z ecosystem that we’ve been able to build over the last three years,” Beren, who’s now in New York City where The Conversationalist is based, told JI of her inclusion among Forbes’s 2023 education winners.
Setting the record straight: The Conversationalist has always been a labor of love for Beren; a purpose she furthered in college to amplify the Gen Z perspective and counter negative stereotypes about her peers in the broader media sphere. “There is a lot of skepticism and there are a lot of misconceptions about Gen Z, and so I almost feel like it’s my duty to help ameliorate some of those fears and help showcase that this generation really has so much power,” Beren said, citing Gen Z as “the most diverse generation to date.” “We’re seeing that through a lot of data, and you know, election turnout, that young people do want to make their voices heard, and I just think we have all of the tools at our disposal. Whether it’s the fact that we’re considered the activist generation or whether it’s because we’re considering different career pathways and rejecting traditional institutions, I just think there’s such an opportunity for this generation to disrupt the status quo in ways that we’ve never seen before,” Beren said.
Turning a corner: After living like a self-described “Froot Loop in a world of Cheerios,” Beren immersed herself in Jewish life when she started at the University of Pennsylvania. The chance to finally be around other Jewish Gen Zers helped Beren gain confidence in her identity, until, during a seemingly insignificant walk through campus, she began to realize the benefits of having grown up in a diverse community. “I kind of realized that every single person on campus was huddled in groups of people who were like them. And that’s when I had to really look within and realize that because I was finally so happy to be around other Jews, I actually only surrounded myself with Jews…and I realized that there was this larger cultural potential issue that I wanted to explore,” Beren recalled.
🛬 Sullivan’s Situation: In the Wall Street Journal, Walter Russell Mead considers the challenges facing National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan ahead of his upcoming trip to Israel. “Mr. Sullivan’s visit comes after a 15-year decline in America’s regional influence. Israelis, Arabs, Iranians and Turks all have less respect for American power — and therefore less regard for U.S. wishes — than they did in 2008. President Obama’s waffling and President Trump’s incoherence left regional powers deeply skeptical about American wisdom and stability. The Biden administration faces a real dilemma. Feeling overstretched against Russian aggression in Ukraine and Chinese ambition in the Indo-Pacific, the White House wants to minimize its exposure to the Middle East. Yet the region is too important to ignore — and the more the U.S. withdraws, the more influence it sheds. As America becomes less relevant, regional actors feel free to make more decisions that Washington dislikes, effectively undermining U.S. influence around the globe.” [WSJ]
🏫 Campus Beat: In Newsweek, the Brandeis Center’s Ken Marcus addresses the recent announcement by the assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education that the department will delay the delivery of a regulation implementing the 2019 executive order to combat antisemitism, which directed the federal agencies to use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism. “The importance of [Catherine] Lhamon’s statement is that it signals to the higher education community that OCR will continue, under this administration, to evaluate campus antisemitism under the same internationally agreed-upon standard that was used during the last administration. Eleven months is too long to wait to formally codify rules to combat the surge in antisemitic incidents in schools and on college campuses, however we should not fail to recognize the important commitment the Department of Education has made to IHRA. For those campus administrators who have defied the IHRA definition, or denigrated it as merely political, this is an important statement that the Biden administration stands by this definition. The IHRA Working Definition remains the federal regulatory standard for evaluating whether harassing conduct is motivated by antisemitic intent. Colleges, universities, and public schools who ignore IHRA do so at their own risk.” [Newsweek]
💰 Money Matters: Puck’s Tara Palmeri highlights a challenge facing House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) as he takes the reigns of Democratic leadership from Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): fundraising. “‘It’s hard to raise money, to govern; [Jeffries] could be handicapped by her just by being in [Congress],’ said another former Democratic lawmaker. ‘She needs to give up the access and not pull the strings, and I don’t think she will be able to do that.’ It’s true that Jeffries may struggle to build his own autonomy and relationships while remaining deferential to Pelosi, but her guidance and network is invaluable — and she knows it. ‘She will help him with a spoon, not a shovel,’ said a source close to Pelosi. ‘I think she’s genuinely committed to seeing it through that he’s successful. They talk, he leans on her, but he also doesn’t want to completely overshadow her in the outset. You’ve seen him genuflect in a lot of ways. It’s noted by her and smart by him.’” [Puck]
🎞️ Hollywood’s Israel: In Mosaic magazine, Rick Richman looks at Hollywood’s presentation of Israel, with films that have focused on or been inspired by the Jewish state through its history. “But there is an inherent limitation in Hollywood’s ability to deal with Israeli history. Feature films reflect American perspectives and the imperatives of mass entertainment, and Hollywood frequently strays from the underlying Israeli history to present a story reflecting an American universalist message…But American films continued to represent the landscape of the American mind, and the films discussed in this essay — made over a period of 45 years, nominally or implicitly about Israel — demonstrate that. ‘Exodus’ turned into an American sermon on brotherhood and peace; ‘Munich’ became a call for America to come home from its foreign wars; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is a paean to the individualism of contemporary American heroes, riding planes rather than horses to face their enemies. The Jewish and Israeli history that underlie these films tell a broader story — of a people who recreated their state after two millennia, in the place it had originally stood for centuries; defended their state against waves of war and terror that began the day it was re-established and that continue to this day; and dealt with repeated threats of annihilation by surrounding states seeking nuclear weapons, who publicly promised to destroy Jewish life in the miniscule Jewish state.” [Mosaic]
📚 Lost in Translation: In Tablet, Naomi Seidman compares the French and English versions of Elie Wiesel’s Holocaust memoir Night with the original Yiddish manuscript, Un di velt hot geshvign (And the World Kept Silent), written and submitted for publication in 1954. While Night ends with Wiesel gazing at his image in the mirror, in Un di velt hot geshvign he smashes that mirror and the book continues to the survivor’s experience of postwar Europe. “By stopping when it does, Night provides an entirely different account of the experience of the survivor. Night and the stories about its composition depict the survivor as a witness and as an expression of silence and death, projecting the recently liberated Eliezer’s death-haunted face into the postwar years when Wiesel would become a familiar figure. By contrast, the Yiddish survivor shatters that image as soon as he sees it, destroying the deathly existence the Nazis willed on him. The Yiddish survivor is filled with rage and the desire to live, to take revenge, to write. Indeed, according to the Yiddish memoir, Eliezer began to write not ten years after the events of the Holocaust but immediately upon liberation, as the first expression of his mental and physical recovery. In the Yiddish we meet a survivor who, ten years after liberation, is furious with the world’s disinterest in his history, frustrated with the failure of the Jews to fulfill ‘the historical commandment of revenge,’ depressed by the apparent pointlessness of writing a book.” [Tablet]
Around the Web
🪑 Green’s Gig: Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) was selected to chair the House Homeland Security Committee, beating out Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) for the role.
☎️ Donors Deceived: A campaign staffer for Rep. George Santos (R-NY) impersonated a top aide to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) during the 2020 and 2022 elections in an effort to fundraise for Santos.
👋 Santos Saga: In the New York Daily News, American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen calls on congressional Republicans to remove Rep. George Santos (R-NY) from office.
📱 Meta Moves: The Supreme Court will allow Meta — the parent company of WhatsApp — to move forward a lawsuit accusing the NSO Group of exploiting a bug in WhatsApp to install its Pegasus spyware on the devices of 1,400 users.
⬅️ Driving the Dems: Foreign Policy looks at how the growing number of progressives elected to the House could impact the party’s positioning on foreign policy issues.
🏦 Stepping Down: Morgan Stanley COO Jonathan Pruzan will retire from the bank at the end of January, two years after assuming the top operations role.
⚖️ Lawyered Up: The Wall Street Journal spotlights attorneys Mark Cohen and Christian Everdell from Cohen & Gresser, who were hired to represent Sam Bankman-Fried as the FTX founder faces a series of federal charges tied to the collapse of his cryptocurrency company.
📰 News News:The Interceptwill spin off as an independent entity from its parent company, First Look Media.
🎭 Broadway Farewell:The New York Times interviews “Beetlejuice” star Alex Brightman, who suffered a concussion two weeks before the show’s Broadway closing but mustered the energy to lead its final performances.
🔨 Alarming Auction: Following an auction in which Nazi memorabilia — including a photo album containing photographs of concentration camps that was signed by Nazi leaders — was among the items sold, Australian Jewish leaders called on the winning bidders to donate the items to the Sydney Jewish Museum.
➡️ New Gig: Former Israeli MK Yuval Steinitz will serve as chairman of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, replacing Uzi Landau.
🎒 Back to School: Senior Emirati officials confirmed to The National that the UAE is working to incorporate Holocaust education into its primary and secondary school curricula.
🇮🇷 Taking on Tehran: An Iranian court sentenced the daughter of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to five years in prison for her role in anti-government protests, while three others were sentenced to death for taking part in the demonstrations.
🪧 Fuel to the Fire: The Washington Post looks at economic challenges in Iran and its impact on the large protests in the country.
Pic of the Day
Candles lit in tribute to victims during a commemorative ceremony yesterday marking the eighth anniversary of the 2015 deadly Islamist terror attack on the Hyper Cacher Jewish supermarket in Paris.
Film director and screenwriter, Joe Nussbaum turns 50…
Founder of the Center for Research on Institutions and Social Policy, Adam Walinsky turns 86… Conservative columnist and author, David Joel Horowitz turns 84… Physician and medical researcher, Bernard Salomon Lewinsky turns 80… Executive editor of Denver’s Intermountain Jewish News, Rabbi Hillel Goldberg, Ph.D. turns 77… Longtime president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston for 30 years, now a professor at Brandeis, Barry Shrage turns 76… Former president of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Baron David Edmond Neuberger turns 75… Musician, singer-songwriter and co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band “Steely Dan,” Donald Fagen turns 75… World renowned Israeli cellist, Mischa Maisky turns 75… U.S. senator (R-MO) until one week ago, Roy Blunt turns 73… Longtime editor at Bantam Books, Simon & Schuster and Crown Publishers, Sydny Weinberg Miner… Retired executive director at Beta Alpha Psi, Hadassah (Dassie) Baum… Founder and CEO at Los Angeles-based Quantifiable Media, Rose Kemps… Fellow for religious freedom at the Freedom Forum Institute after 33 years at AJC Global, Richard Thomas Foltin… Professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, Jonathan D. Sarna turns 68… Majority owner of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, Joe Lacob turns 67… Member of the Knesset for the United Torah Judaism party, Uri Maklev turns 66… U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) turns 64… Member of the U.K.’s House of Lords and advisor to the government on antisemitism, Baron John Mann turns 63… Actor with a recurring role in “Sex and the City” and author of two books on his recovery from acute myeloid leukemia, Evan Handler turns 62… Vice chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples, Beth Ellen Wolff… Author and journalist best known for his novels Gangster Nation, Gangsterland and Living Dead Girl, Tod Goldberg turns 52… Member of the Knesset for Likud, Galit Distel-Atbaryan turns 52… Caryn Beth Lazaroff Gold… Jared Kushner turns 42… Advisor and speechwriting director for Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) until last week, Adam David Weissmann… Spokesperson on terrorism and financial intelligence at the U.S. Treasury, Morgan Aubrey Finkelstein… Israeli rapper, singer and songwriter, Michael Swissa turns 27… Andrew Tobin… Debbie Seiden…