👋 Good Monday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we interview Yad Vashem’s Dani Dayan ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and preview the debate on Capitol Hill over Rep. Ilhan Omar’s HFAC assignment. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff, Rep. Ritchie Torres, Aidan Levy and Mia Ehrenberg.
Political shake-ups in both Israel and the U.S. dominated the news in both countries this weekend. Ron Klain, President Joe Biden’s chief of staff, whose relationship with the president dates back decades to their time in the Senate, will depart the White House after Biden’s State of the Union address next month. Klain will be succeeded by Jeff Zients, who guided the administration through its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zients was an original investor in D.C.’s popular Call Your Mother chain of bagel shops, and remains a co-owner. Presidential historian Tevi Troy, a former deputy secretary of health and human services, noted that Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all had Jewish chiefs of staff during their presidencies — Biden, Troy added, “is the only president thus far to have only Jewish chiefs of staff.”
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahufired Minister of Interior and Health Aryeh Deri on Sunday, following a High Court ruling that found the Shas party leader ineligible to hold a ministerial position due to his past criminal convictions. Netanyahu pledged to “seek every legal path” to help Deri return to government.
The High Court’s 10-1 ruling last week finding Deri ineligible provoked a response from the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board on Friday afternoon, prior to Deri’s dismissal. The editorial board, which wrote that the ruling makes “the best argument for the Israeli right’s judicial reforms,” warned that Netanyahu’s “coalition would crumble if [Deri’s] Shas party withdraws, but if cooler heads prevail, they will find opportunity.” Eugene Kontorovich, also writing in the Wall Street Journal, called the court’s decision “a kind of impeachment by judiciary.”
This week in Washington, the House will vote again on a resolution commending Iranian protesters. The resolution had passed the House last Congress, but was stalled in the Senate by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has historically backed isolationist policies. Paul had also blocked a series of efforts to secure funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system, and was the lone Republican senator to opt out of joining a statement in May 2022 that expressed opposition to the U.S. joining the Iran deal.
Democrats are expected to hand out committee assignments this week, following Republicans’ announcements of their own picks last week. Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said in a statement that no returning lawmakers should involuntarily lose committee assignments from the previous term, except on the Ways and Means Committee, and most committees will have openings.
What we’re watching: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has pledged to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from the House Foreign Affairs Committee — which Democrats intend to assign her to — a move that would require a majority vote from the full House. Punchbowl News reported this morning that Omar submitted a request to sit on the Appropriations committee, and to keep her seats on HFAC and the Education and Labor Committee.
For Yad Vashem’s Dani Dayan, Holocaust education can unite Jewish communities
As an immigrant to Israel, a secular former leader of the country’s mostly religious settler movement and a former envoy for the Jewish state, Dani Dayan has spent his life bridging divides between Jewish communities. Appointed chairman of Yad Vashem: World Holocaust Remembrance Center a year and a half ago, Dayan, who spent the prior four years as Israel’s consul general in New York, told Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash that while ensuring the horrors of the Holocaust are never forgotten is not an optimal way of uniting a people, it is a powerful force in overcoming the increasing ideological and religious divisions polarizing world Jewry today.
Unifying force: “One of my mottos is something that I read from a speech given by Menachem Begin in August 1948,” Dayan, 67, told JI in the run-up to International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls on Friday. “He said that the Mediterranean shore is not the limit of our people, it’s not the boundary of our people, and I am a great believer in that. I’m very passionate about the Israel-Diaspora relationship,” he continued, “and I intend to bring that passion for Jewish unity to Yad Vashem.” At a time when division both among and between Jews in Israel and in the U.S. appears more rife than ever, Dayan, who also spoke extensively about witnessing the rise in antisemitism in the U.S. during his four years in New York, said that “Holocaust remembrance, Holocaust education, Holocaust awareness, has the potential to be a unifying force.”
M.O.: Recalling his first day on the job in August 2021, the former envoy said he noticed a quote on the wall in the Museum of Art that quickly became his modus operandi. The quote, which Dayan later had etched onto a wall in his office, comes from the last will and testament of a Jewish painter who perished in the Warsaw Ghetto. “As I stand on the border between life and death, certain that I will not remain alive, I wish to take leave from my friends and my works…. My works I bequeath to the Jewish museum to be built after the war…,” read Gela Seksztajn’s words, written in August 1942. She is believed to have died the following year, but no official records of her death exist. “When I saw that, I understood she was speaking to me and she was speaking about Yad Vashem – even though she did not know there would be a Yad Vashem – and in that moment I realized the responsibility that lies on our shoulders,” said Dayan.
Multifaceted mission: During his first few months on the job, Dayan commissioned a team of experts to create a single marketing message that would define Yad Vashem’s work and the lessons of the Holocaust, but quickly realized that “it’s impossible to have only one message.” Dayan’s broad approach is reflected in two exhibitions that Yad Vashem is launching this week for International Holocaust Remembrance Day. One of them, set to open in the United Nations headquarters in New York on Thursday in the presence of U.N Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, will feature a gigantic Book of Names containing the names of some 4.8 million victims of the Holocaust — the names of all known victims. Created by Yad Vashem for the permanent exhibition located in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Memorial, placing an additional copy of the book in the halls of the international body, Dayan said, is Yad Vashem’s “contribution to reminding the U.N. why it was founded.”
History lessons: The biggest dangers today, said Dayan, are Holocaust distortion and trivialization, especially from countries in Europe that continue to downplay their roles in the mass genocide of the Jewish people during the war. He also said that while Holocaust education is not the ultimate cure for rising antisemitism worldwide, it is an essential part of tackling the phenomenon. “In the past, they probably thought ‘OK, they burn books [and] that’s bad, they burn synagogues [and] that’s even worse, but they will never burn human beings…’ Today we know that they can,” said Dayan. “Therefore, the lesson world leaders need to know from the Shoah is that when you see antisemitism don’t wait, confront it vigorously, decisively and immediately before it develops into monstrous dimensions that you can’t stop.”
Torres reaffirms support for Jerusalem embassy after Tlaib tweet
Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) appeared to fire an implicit barb at colleagues Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Betty McCollum (D-MN) on Friday over comments they made earlier in the week about the construction of the planned U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
On the record: “I support the [State Department] as it proceeds to build an embassy where it belongs, in a country’s capital. Israel should be no exception,” Torres said on Twitter. “The [siting] of an embassy in Jerusalem in no way forecloses the possibility of a two state solution, which remains the best path forward for both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Rewind: Tlaib had tweeted earlier in the week that she was “outraged” that the State Department was moving forward on its plans to build the embassy “on land stolen from Palestinians,” adding that in “doing so, the U.S. is complicit in the illegal confiscation of Palestinian property.”
Context: The Michigan congresswoman followed up the tweet by linking to a New York Times op-ed about the U.S.’s reported plans to build a new embassy in Jerusalem on the Allenby Barracks site — parts of which the op-ed’s author says had been in his family’s possession prior to Israel’s war of independence in 1948. McCollum also tweeted about the op-ed last week, sharing a quote from it.
By the book: Torres noted on Friday that the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 required the U.S. to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem. The current embassy facility was previously used by the U.S. consulate that coordinated relations with the Palestinians.
Biographer Aidan Levy puts the spotlight on jazz great Sonny Rollins
When the author Aidan Levy bought his first jazz album at the age of 11 in the late 1990s, he had no inkling that Sonny Rollins’ breakout 1957 masterpiece, Saxophone Colossus, would set him on a uniquely fortuitous path — the product of which is a major new biography, Saxophone Colossus: The Life and Music of Sonny Rollins, released last month to critical acclaim. Seven years in the making, the meticulously researched and exhaustively plotted book is Levy’s second published biography and the first to examine Rollins, the legendary tenor saxophonist and composer, with such granularity, including detailed accounts of his many celebrated recordings, ecstatic live performances and fabled practice regimens, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Artist’s approval: The biography, at 772 pages, hinges on extensive archival research as well as hundreds of interviews with close associates and family members of Rollins, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest improvisers in jazz. Now 92, Rollins last performed in 2012 and stopped playing the saxophone altogether eight years ago as a result of pulmonary fibrosis. But Levy said he was helpful with the book’s creation and personally approved the idea from the beginning, even as he has still not read it in full.
Perfectionist traits: “He had a copy of the manuscript, but he was reluctant to read the whole thing,” Levy, 36, said in a recent interview with JI. “It sounded like it might be too uncomfortable to read a book that details your life with all the minutiae — that it might be like, for Sonny, listening to playback from his recordings, which is something he never liked to do.” The musician who recorded with Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Coleman Hawkins, Max Roach and other jazz luminaries has long resisted looking back on his own music, according to Levy. “He was always looking to the next gig,” Levy said. “He’s still looking to the next gig, in a sense, and has had just a lifelong quest to to improve.”
Up for an award:Levy, who published a biography of Lou Reed in 2015, lives in Lancaster, Pa., and is now teaching a class on jazz and fiction at Columbia University, where he recently completed his doctorate in English and comparative literature. His new book, published by Hachette, was longlisted on Friday for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography, which is given to a “biography of exceptional literary, narrative and artistic merit, based on scrupulous research,” according to the announcement.
Inside the process: Speaking with JI, Levy discussed the painstaking process of writing a biography worthy of its subject and gave insight into some of the lesser-known aspects of Rollins’ artistry, including an apparent interest, detailed in his journals, in the connection between the saxophone and the shofar, or Jewish ram’s horn, as well as a one-off recording with Leonard Cohen captured on video in 1989, among other things.
Endangered Red Sea coral reefs connect Sudan and Israel
Less than two years ago, Israeli and European researchers took a Nazi-built naval ship that had been used to place mines, outfitted it with modern scientific equipment and set sail from the Israeli city of Eilat to the Port of Sudan to study coral formations. The journey, which took place just months after Israel and Sudan normalized relations through the Abraham Accords, was among the first instances of formal scientific cooperation between the two countries, Melanie Lidman reports for The Circuit. But in the middle of the night, just a day into the voyage, a huge crash threw the researchers out of bed. The ship had run aground on a coral reef off the coast of Sinai, causing extensive damage and canceling the survey, which was sponsored by the Swiss-founded Transnational Red Sea Center.
Strained relations: “It was scary,” Maoz Fine, a professor of marine ecology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Science in Eilat, told The Circuit. “We were stuck on the reef for a few hours before we were rescued by the Egyptian navy. We lost a lot of equipment and personal stuff, but… the biggest loss was not to continue the cruise to Sudan.” Although Sudan signed onto the normalization agreements in January 2021, and there have been some high-profile visits between the two countries, relations are still strained. While some European researchers flew to Sudan for a coral survey a few months later, Fine has not returned. Next month, the Transnational Red Sea Center, founded by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, plans to carry out the full coral survey that was planned for 2021.
Psychedelic playground: Just below the surface of the Red Sea is a riot of psychedelic color, a Dr. Seuss-like jungle of more than 200 species of corals stretching down to the seafloor. Diving in the Red Sea is like entering a playground of underwater cliffs and caves and narrow canyons filled with corals that look like giant brains the size of a school bus, two-dimensional neon yellow oak trees, and bright orange tubes waving hello to the circulating schools of fish. The water in the Red Sea is exceptionally clear compared to other marine environments, which allows sunlight to penetrate farther down than other areas, so the color is spectacular at every depth. And, most enticing for researchers, the Red Sea’s vibrant corals have been barely perturbed by the rising sea temperature that is bleaching other corals around the world, causing them to lose their color and sometimes die.
Bleaching danger: “We think the northern Red Sea has the best chance of survival, because the corals are farther away from the bleaching threshold than any other locality in the world,” said Fine, who has spent decades studying the corals in the Red Sea. Until recently, he’s only been able to collaborate directly with Jordanian and Egyptian scientists. There are eight countries that border the Red Sea: Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan and Egypt. Cooperation across the entire Red Sea is essential for understanding why the coral are so resilient, Fine said. “If we don’t have a spread of monitoring and research along the Red Sea, we miss part of the picture,” he said. “There is a latitudinal gradient in temperatures, and of course there are local parameters like overfishing, so to have a full picture, we have to do it all along the gradient.” Since its founding in 2019, the Transnational Red Sea Center has run two research missions to Jordan and Djibouti.
🐦 Twitter Trouble: The Washington Post’s Joseph Menn looks at the correlation between hate speech online and physical attacks on minority communities. “White nationalists and some Black Americans at times amplified one another, [Network Contagion Director Joel] Finkelstein said. Neo-Nazi groups posted memes on image boards with Ye as a heroic new Hitler, while Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, a Black American Green Party activist who served six terms in Congress, tweeted that 2022 is ‘the year of #TheNoticing, the year that gaslighting finally began not to work!’ That hashtag, driven by hardcore antisemites on Twitter and image board 4chan, refers to a supposed discovery that some Jews are in influential positions… Finkelstein has seen the same patterns before, including during an Israel-Hamas conflict in May 2021. A team of analysts from Network Contagion and elsewhere examined 6 billion tweets and Reddit posts and recently found that the volume of tweets using human rights language was a better predictor of both U.S. street protests and antisemitic incidents than was the actual fighting in the Middle East.” [WashPost]
🪖 Weapons Worries:The New York Times’ Steven Erlanger and Erika Solomon explore Germany’s reluctance to provide tanks to Kyiv to defend Ukraine against the ongoing Russian invasion. “While Germans overwhelmingly support Ukraine in its fight, the hesitation on sending tanks reflects the deep ambivalence in a nation with a catastrophic history of aggression during World War II and that remains profoundly divided about being a military leader and risking a direct confrontation with Russia. Opinion polls show that half of Germans do not want to send tanks. ‘German reluctance here can be summed up in one word, and that’s “history,”’ said Steven E. Sokol, the president of the American Council on Germany. ‘Germans want to be seen as a partner, not an aggressor, and they have a particular sensitivity to delivering arms in regions where German arms were historically used to kill millions of people,’ he said, citing Russia, Poland and Ukraine. ‘People do not want German weapons on the front lines being used to kill people in those regions.’” [NYTimes]
❄️ Snow Day: The Jerusalem Post’s Greer Fay Cashman notes a lecture given by UAE Chief Rabbi Yehuda Sarna during a recent trip to Jerusalem. “Another subject that Sarna mentioned was the Abrahamic Family House that was initiated in Abu Dhabi in 2019, in tandem with the visit to the UAE by Pope Francis. Enclosed in a single complex are a mosque, a church and a synagogue, collectively symbolizing the descendants of Abraham. The project, which Sarna said is magnificent, is nearing completion, but there is a problem with the mikveh – the Jewish ritual bath, which, according to Jewish law must be filled with rainwater. But as it hardly rains in the UAE, this has proven rather difficult. The solution? Specially packed snow imported from Siberia or Mont Blanc.” [JPost]
🧲 Jewish Muscle: In Tablet Magazine, Robert Rockaway spotlights Polish Jewish strongman Zishe Breitbart, who gained popularity on both sides of the Atlantic in the early 20th century before his untimely death due to an injury sustained while performing. “But throughout his career, Breitbart’s most devoted and enthusiastic fans were the Yiddish-speaking Jews of pre-Holocaust Eastern Europe. To them, he was a great Jewish hero who embodied their hopes and aspirations. And many viewed him as symbolizing an important response to the increasing number of antisemitic attacks that arose in Europe and America during the 1920s and ’30s. The Yiddish-Jewish press venerated Breitbart, and even Orthodox and Haredi rabbis admired him. Gillerman quotes a talk he once gave in Brooklyn, in which he told the audience, ‘If I meet an antisemite, I will take care of them. Let them come to me. If I meet them, I will tear them apart like this.’ He then tore apart a horseshoe he was holding. He ended his talk by saying, ‘I will break them like a match.’ The tailors, peddlers, and young people in the audience rose as one and cheered and applauded.” [Tablet]
Around the Web
🇺🇳 Do-Over: Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) reintroduced legislation seeking to shut down the U.N.’s Commission of Inquiry investigating Israel. The legislation picked up Democratic sponsors in the previous Congress subsequent to its introduction, but its 10 original co-sponsors this term are all Republicans.
💲 Selling Salesforce: Elliott Management took a multibillion-dollar stake in Marc Benioff’s Salesforce.
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: Steve Cohen’s Point72 received British regulatory authorization following a yearslong effort to get certified to operate in the U.K.
📱 Touchy Texting: A new artificial intelligence app that lets users message with notable historical figures is receiving criticism for including Adolf Hitler and other top Nazi officials on the list of individuals eligible to “converse” with.
📺 Fleshing Out Fleishman: The New York Times’ Ross Douthat looks at how Taffy Brodessor-Akner’s Fleishman Is in Trouble and the subsequent television adaptation portray extreme wealth and class mobility.
🕵️ On the Case: The Berkeley Police Department is investigating as a hate crime the vandalism of two billboards placed in the Northern California city by the nonprofit JewBelong to raise awareness about antisemitism.
⚖️ Trouble in Texas: A Texas man was sentenced to two years in federal prison for threatening to kill three rabbis in December 2021, while in Houston, a woman was charged with felony criminal mischief for repeatedly desecrating a local synagogue, including on the day she was scheduled to be arraigned.
👪 Family Found: Baltimore Magazine interviewed genealogist Jennifer Mendelsohn about her effort to connect Holocaust survivors and their descendants with long-lost relatives through a project that provides free DNA testing.
📚 Bookshelf: The Wall Street Journal reviewed Richard Hurowitz’s In the Garden of the Righteous: The Heroes Who Risked Their Lives to Save Jews During the Holocaust.
🖼️ Art in the Courts: The heirs of a Jewish couple whose Pablo Picasso painting was sold at a fraction of its value when they fled Nazi Europe in 1938 are suing the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for either the painting or its estimated value, believed to be between $100-$200 million.
🏥 Healing History: The Jerusalem Post spotlights a hospital in Thuringia, Germany, whose CEO, the grandson of a Nazi soldier, opened a synagogue in the facility.
🎭 Theater Circuit: The Washington Post reviews “Two Jews Walk into a War,” a play showing at the Washington, D.C.’s Edlavitch Jewish Community Center that focuses on the last two remaining Jews in Afghanistan.
👋 Stepping Down: Israeli Ambassador to Canada Ronen Hoffman announced his resignation, attributing his departure to “different policy in Israel” as a result of the formation of the new government.
🧑✈️ Top Gun: The Circuitinterviewed Lockheed Martin’s Joshua Shani about the aerospace company’s growth and work with defense contractors in Israel.
🍔 Kosher Classification: Israel’s chief rabbi determined that cell-cultivated meat can be deemed kosher “as long as cultured meat is defined and marketed as a vegetable product [that is] similar to meat, and there is supervision over the rest of its ingredients.”
👨⚖️ Stockholm Sentence: Two Iranian-born Swedish brothers were sentenced to life in prison and nearly 10 years in jail, respectively, after being found guilty of spying for Russia and Moscow’s military intelligence arm.
➡️ Transition: Mia Ehrenberg, who previously worked in the office of former Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), joined the Department of Homeland Security as press secretary.
🕯️In Memoriam: The New York Times chronicled the life of Hollywood reporter Nikki Finke, who died last year after battling health issues.
Pic of the Day
“Saturday Night Live” cast member Bowen Yang makes his first appearance as Rep. George Santos (R-NY) during the show’s cold open on Saturday.
CEO of Instagram, Adam Mosseri turns 40…
Real estate developer and former minority owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, Bruce Ratner turns 78… Professor of biological chemistry at Weizmann Institute of Science, David Wallach turns 77… Educational consultant, trade association and non-profit executive, Peter D. Rosenstein turns 76… Manager of Innovative Strategies LLLP, he is a board member of the Baltimore-based Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund, Howard K. Cohen… U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) turns 76… Israeli archaeologist and professor at the University of Haifa, Estee Dvorjetski turns 72… Former mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa turns 70… Former vice chairman at Citigroup, he was a 2021 candidate for mayor of NYC, Ray McGuire turns 66… Broadway theater owner, operator, producer and presenter and president of the Nederlander Organization, James L. Nederlander turns 63… Former president and CEO of Staples Inc., she serves on the boards of three public companies (CBRE, CarMax and Henry Schein), Shira Goodman turns 62… CEO of the Foundation for Jewish Camp, Jeremy J. Fingerman… Executive editor of The Recount, co-author of Game Change and Double Down: Game Change 2012, John Heilemann turns 57… Palm Beach, Fla., resident, formerly of Greenwich, Conn., Hilary Bangash Cohen… Journalist, screenwriter and film producer, in 2009 he wrote and produced “The Hurt Locker” for which he won two Academy Awards including for Best Picture, Mark Boal turns 50… Film director, comic book artist and musician, S. Craig Zahler turns 50… Fourth Rebbe of the Pittsburgh Hasidic dynasty, Rabbi Meshulam Eliezer Leifer turns 44… Creator and host of Jew in the City, Allison F. Josephs… Strategic communications consultant, Arielle Poleg… Manhasset, N.Y., native who competed for Israel in figure skating, she was the 2014 Israeli national champion, Danielle Montalbano turns 34… Professional soccer player who plays as a defender for DC United, he also played on the United States men’s national soccer team, Steven Mitchell Birnbaum turns 32… NYC native who competed for Israel in pairs figure skating, she and her partner won silver medals in the 2008 and 2009 Israeli championships, Hayley Anne Sacks turns 32…