👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we interview Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares about the state’s new antisemitism task force, and talk to Israeli long-distance runner Beatie Deutsch, who is in Kenya training for the Tokyo Marathon. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Jeff Zients, Danielle Haim and Mohamed Alabbar.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is visiting Kyiv today, the first time an Israeli minister has traveled to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion. Cohen is set to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Cohen will formally reopen the Israeli Embassy in Ukraine and will visit Babyn Yar and Bucha, a city just outside Kyiv where Russian forces killed over 450 civilians in March last year.
“In the last year, Israel has stood by the Ukrainian people and by the side of Ukraine,” Cohen said, according to a statement released by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. “Today we will raise the Israeli flag at the Israeli embassy in Kyiv, which will return to continuous activity with the aim of strengthening relations between the countries.”
Speaking at the Babyn Yar memorial site, Cohen said, “We stand today in this painful place, where more than 30,000 Jews were murdered in a process that preceded the terrible Final Solution that led to the annihilation of more than one and a half million Jews in the territories of the former Soviet Union.”
“Standing here today as a foreign minister of the State of Israel and a representative of the government of Israel, I can guarantee that we will do everything to protect our people and provide them with security against those who sow evil against them,” Cohen added.
The student government at the University of California, Berkeley is scheduled to vote tonight on a resolution to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism.
OLD DOMINION DUTY
Under shadow of Charlottesville, Virginia AG sets up antisemitism task force
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares last week announced the creation of a statewide task force that will monitor and combat antisemitism in Virginia, citing the deadly 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally as the guiding influence behind the move. “Virginia is particularly sensitive after, I think, one of the most shameful, darkest chapters in modern Virginia history,” Miyares said of the Charlottesville incident, in a Monday interview with Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch. “Virginia made national news for all the wrong reasons then.”
State of hate: The Old Dominion is now at the forefront of growing national efforts to fight antisemitism. Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, signed an executive order on his first day in office in January 2022 creating a commission to examine antisemitism in the commonwealth. The commission’s report, which was released in December, included a detailed list of 21 recommendations policymakers could adopt to make the state better equipped to fight antisemitism. The task force was its first and most immediate suggestion. “The idea is having a coordinated response,” explained Miyares. “The best way to fight bad information is good information, and having that level of coordination both on law enforcement and education, so everyone knows this is a broad problem.”
Get the facts: Many law enforcement officers come from parts of Virginia, “particularly rural areas, that don’t have a very visible Jewish community,” Miyares said. One proposal is to require officers in the Virginia State Police to visit the state Holocaust memorial in Richmond during their training. A 2020 survey from the Claims Conference found that 63% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 39 did not know that 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust. “They have no idea that there was this horror that happened, and it happened in one of the most highly educated societies in Europe up to that time, and so it can happen anywhere,” said Miyares. “It’s so critically important that those that are in law enforcement understand that.”
Going abroad: In March, Miyares and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, a Democrat, will lead a bipartisan delegation of U.S. attorneys general to Auschwitz and then to Israel. Weiser’s mother and grandparents are Holocaust survivors. “We thought it was important to start off with seeing the face of antisemitism, the horror of it at its absolute worst, and then the symbolism of then going from Poland to what is the amazing miracle that is the modern state of Israel,” Miyares said, adding that Israel must be part of conversations about antisemitism. “Israel is held to a standard that no other country seems to be held to.”
ON THE HILL
While some sound alarm, pro-Israel members call for measured approach on judicial reform
Amid a public outcry from some lawmakers on the left over the new Israeli government’s moves towards passing sweeping judicial reform policies, several pro-Israel Democrats are urging a more measured approach, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Senate side: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Wednesday that he’s planning to wait and see how the policy changes ultimately shake out. “Like every country Israel has its own democracy, it’s finding its own way. I look forward to seeing what its ultimate decisions are,” Menendez told JI on Wednesday. Menendez indicated that he sees colleagues’ stated concerns about vast consequences of the policies as premature. “Israel is a democracy, it makes its own decisions; when those decisions are final, we’ll judge whether or not that’s the case,” the New Jersey senator said, referring to the claims from fellow lawmakers that the proposed reforms would undermine Israeli democracy and the U.S.-Israel relationship.
House side: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) told JI yesterday that she is “confident that a steadfast majority of my Democratic colleagues will continue to advocate for Israel’s security and further the unbreakable bond between our two nations” and pledged to continue her own “strong advocacy” because “the relationship is too important for both of our nations’ interests.” Wasserman Schultz expressed some reservations about the judicial proposals while praising the ongoing public debate in Israel — which has included protests by tens of thousands of Israelis and a call from Israeli President Isaac Herzog for compromise. “Defending Israel doesn’t mean defending everything Israeli policymakers do,” she said. “The strength of our partnership is predicated on our shared values of democracy and mutual respect. While I’m concerned that those values aren’t being fully represented by some of the new government’s policies, I do see them clearly in the robust civic engagement and dialogue that is taking place across the country regarding the more controversial initiatives.”
Flip side: Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, explained to JI on Wednesday that he “of course” has concerns. “They’ve taken a turn in a very dangerous direction and I think lots of American Jews are deeply, deeply, concerned,” Schatz told JI. “The U.S.-Israel relationship is strong, and will continue to be strong,” the Hawaii senator continued. “But it has to be based on shared values… I think that the prime minister needs to understand that the American Jewish community is increasingly uncomfortable with the actions he’s taken, and that can get in the way of a friendship.”
BORN TO RUN
Israel’s ‘marathon mom’ gets back on track in Africa
When Beatie (Bracha) Deutsch ran her first marathon in Tel Aviv seven years ago, she cut an unusual and surprising figure. Hair covered modestly with a scarf and donning a stretchy running skirt, the 4-foot-11-inch Deutsch stood out among the hordes of other runners as one of the few Orthodox Jewish women. “I did not see a single woman in a skirt running in that marathon,” Deutsch, who surprised everyone – including herself – by placing sixth in that race, recalled recently to Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash, speaking from Kenya, where she is training. “I also didn’t see a lot of women at all running in the marathon… it felt like women were intimidated by the distance… and I was like, we got to get more women doing this.”
Looking for change: While the number of women running marathons in Israel is growing, female participation – and notably Orthodox female participation – in such long distances remains markedly low compared to the men. With annual races such as the Tel Aviv Marathon, which takes place next week, and the Jerusalem Marathon, set for next month, becoming a staple of the Israeli sporting calendar, and with both the men’s and women’s national running teams scooping up more and more medals on the world stage, Deutsch, who joined the national team four years ago, said she hopes to see a change in the sport.
Motivational mom: A Haredi mother of five, the runner, who is better known by her nickname, “Marathon Mom,” is already serving as an inspiration of sorts for other religiously observant women – and women in general – who are interested in taking up running. “I can’t take credit for everyone, but many, many, many women and girls have now started running,” Deutsch said proudly. “This is something that I’m kind of passionate about,” Deutsch, who daily shares motivational clips with her nearly 30,000 followers on Instagram, continued. “It does not matter where you are, what you’re doing, or what you’re up to in life, you can do a marathon if you want.”
Getting out there: “You could be a mom and run a marathon, you could choose any distance to run and all you need to know is how important it is to get out there and do it for yourself,” the New Jersey native added. “It’s so empowering to pick a distance and you train for it, get to the race and execute it,” Deutsch said. “For me, that was the biggest message I learned from my first marathon. I was just so amazed by the fact that I did it, that I could do that distance because I never in my life thought I could.” Since that first marathon, Deutsch, whose story as an Orthodox female runner has drawn international headlines, has been defying the odds. A year after running that first Tel Aviv Marathon in 2016, she ran the race again, but this time she was seven months pregnant. A year after that, 10 months postpartum, Deutsch beat out all other Israeli female runners to win the Jerusalem Marathon.
Kenya calling: Now, Deutsch, 33, is in the midst of preparing for her next big race, the Tokyo Marathon on March 5. This time, she is ratcheting up her regimen a notch by training with other world-class distance runners in the professional sports village near the Kenyan town of Iten. “Basically, all endurance athletes will train before big races at a high altitude,” Deutsch told JI in a phone interview from the East African nation. “Most of the Israeli marathon runners are Ethiopian, so they go to Ethiopia, but I decided on Kenya because there is more English spoken here and it is better set up for foreigners. If you train at altitude or higher elevation then when you come back down, you’re stronger, and running feels a lot easier,” she explained.
🪧 Price of Protest: The Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian looks at ongoing concerns over Tehran’s treatment of high-profile government protesters. “Iran’s freedom movement isn’t faltering, but the price some of its most committed figures are being forced to pay is becoming increasingly steep. The Islamic republic has been feigning to ease repression by releasing large numbers of prisoners arrested during recent protests against the regime. But it’s a ruse. In reality, authorities are doubling down on personally targeting individuals who have long records of standing up for basic human rights… Iranians are not fooled by this shell game. But that’s not a bug, it’s a feature. Iranian authorities want to make their brutality conspicuous and obvious. It sends a clear message about the strict limits on dissent they are intent on enforcing.” [WashPost]
🔨 Going, Going…: The New York Timesspotlights the upcoming auction of the Codex Sassoon, a millennia-old Hebrew Bible that is expected to fetch between $30-50 million. “One day, about 1,100 years ago, a scribe in present-day Israel or Syria sat down to begin work on a book. Copied out on roughly 400 large parchment sheets, it contained the complete text of the Hebrew Bible, written in square letters similar to those of the Torah scrolls in any synagogue today. After changing hands a few times, it ended up in a synagogue in northeast Syria, which was destroyed around the 13th or 14th century. Then it disappeared for nearly 600 years. Since resurfacing in 1929, the Bible has been in private collections. But one afternoon last week, there it was sitting in a cradle at Sotheby’s in Manhattan, where Sharon Liberman Mintz, the auction house’s senior Judaica consultant, was turning its rippled pages with a mixture of familiarity and awe… ‘It’s electrifying,’ Mintz said. ‘This represents the first time the text appears in the form where we can really read and understand it.’” [NYTimes]
🍒 Cherry Picking?: In The Hill, Dennis Ross and David Makovsky suggest that Israel’s proposed judicial reforms “cherry pick” parts of the American legal system that stand to benefit the legislation’s authors. “What is true is that it selectively takes the part of the American approach that politicizes the selection of judges and legal advisors, even as it ignores the checks and balances that protect individual rights. Yes, in the United States there is a political process for selecting judges, meaning that Republican and Democratic administrations, based largely on their different political philosophies, choose who will be judges. Similarly, unlike in Israel where the legal advisors in ministries answer to the attorney general not the head of the ministry, in America every department’s legal advisor is appointed by the Cabinet official who heads the department or agency.” [TheHill]
🎤 Conference Circuit: The Financial Times’ Guy Chazan considers the implications of Russia and Iran being absent from this weekend’s Munich Security Forum. “‘The advantage of Munich is you don’t have to negotiate about meeting in Helsinki or Alaska — if you’re both in the Bayerischer Hof you just go to the second floor and have a half-hour bilateral,’ [former MSC chair Wolfgang] Ischinger said. Then there are the serendipitous informal meetings too. ‘You have so many chance encounters there,’ said the senior diplomat. ‘The Hof isn’t big, and everyone has to squeeze past each other in the corridors . . . you bump into people you might otherwise never meet.’ It is this unique atmosphere that has yielded some of Munich’s most celebrated rendezvous, such as the 2020 meeting between Chris Murphy, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, and Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s then foreign minister, which provoked a wave of outrage in Washington. Murphy justified the get-together, which came at a time when the Trump administration had shut down all dialogue with Iran, by saying: ‘It’s dangerous not to talk to your enemies.’” [FT]
Around the Web
🥯 Bagel Bites: White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients — a co-owner of D.C.’s Call Your Mother bagel shops — is reinstituting “Bagel Wednesday” at the White House and bringing in a variety of bagels and schmears for the staff.
📄 On the Hill: A new bill introduced by Sens. Jim Risch (R-ID) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) yesterday urges the U.S. to cooperate with Iraq and countries on the Arab Peninsula to develop counter-drone systems, with an eye toward the threat from Iran.
🛫 In the Region: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is scheduled to travel to Israel in the coming days for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials.
🎧 Podcast Playback: Speaking on the “One Decision” podcast, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a “known terrorist.”
🗳️ She’s Running: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
👋 Exit Plan: Laura Rosenberger, a special assistant to the president and the National Security Council’s senior director for China and Taiwan, will leave the NSC next month.
🗞️ Media Matters: Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt calledThe New York Times’ coverage of issues related to yeshiva education “irresponsible” and warned that it “can encourage more antisemitism.”
Ξ Bankman-Fried’s Bond: Unsealed court documents revealed that two Stanford academics — including Larry Kramer, the dean emeritus of Stanford’s law school — signed bonds totaling $700,000 to secure FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s release ahead of his trial.
👋 Malpass Move: World Bank President David Malpass announced he will step down from the role before the end of his term, following controversy over his comments about climate change.
✡️ Shabbat Strolls:The New York Times spotlights how the establishment of a boroughwide eruv in Brooklyn has given the city’s observant Jews greater freedom of movement on Shabbat and holidays.
🚓 Case Closed: Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced that charges against NewsNation reporter Evan Lambert, who was arrested while covering a speech by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, had been dropped.
🐢 Turtle Bay Talk: The U.N. Security Council is considering holding a vote next week on a demand for Israel to immediately halt settlement activity, following the Israeli government’s legalization of nine settlements, as the Biden administration, Axios reports, considers its response to the Israeli move.
⚖️ New Law: The Knesset, in an attempt to curb the rise in attacks against Israelis, passed a law that will allow the revocation of the citizenship and residence permits of individuals convicted of terror offenses who receive “martyr payments” from the Palestinian Authority.
🕊️ Push for Peace: In The Jerusalem Post, Mohamed Aldhuhoori writes that the Abraham House interfaith complex in Abu Dhabi “represents a message to the international community that achieving peace requires efforts that can be translated into such projects.”
🔄 Prisoner Swap: The U.S. and Iran are engaging in indirect talks surrounding a potential prisoner exchange, with London and Doha serving as intermediaries.
🛰️ Drone Damage: The E.U. is likely to impose sanctions on seven entities tied to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps over their support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the form of drone deliveries, Axios’ Barak Ravid reports.
🏝️ Island Project: Mohamed Alabbar is launching a $3.5 billion project that will include residences, a hotel, a marine and 1,800 beach villas off the coast of Abu Dhabi.
🕯️ Remembering: Publicist Howard Bragman died at 66.
Pic of the Day
The American Jewish Committee’s Jason Isaacson speaks at a prayer event at Georgetown University earlier this week. The event was held for those affected by earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, and attended by Muslim, Jewish and Christian clergy.
Singer-songwriter and guitarist, Danielle Haim turns 34…
Financier and activist shareholder, Carl Icahn turns 87… Founding national director of American Friends of Lubavitch and the director of Chabad in Greater Philadelphia, Rabbi Abraham Shemtov turns 86… Educator, theorist, writer and professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, Michael Joseph Shapiro turns 83… Chair emeritus and founding chair of the Jewish Electorate Institute, Ralph Grunewald… Secretary-General of the World Council of Religious Leaders, Bawa Jain turns 66… Editor of the Talent Network at the Washington Post, Susan K. Levine… Co-founder, president and managing partner of Avenue Capital Group, Sonia Gardner… British serial entrepreneur and philanthropist, Maurice Samuel Ostro turns 58… Co-director of Women for Israel’s Tomorrow, Nadia Matar turns 57… Past president of Hebrew Free Loan in Detroit and founder of Brilliant Detroit, Carolyn Glaser Bellinson… President of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, Amy Kurtz turns 54… Reporter for The New York Times since 1994, she is the author of a novel and two cookbooks, Jennifer Steinhauer turns 54… Spokesman for Bloomberg LP, Ty Trippet… French actress, director and screenwriter, Géraldine Nakache turns 43… Regional director of the Westchester region of Birthright Israel Foundation, Marissa Schaevitz Levey… CEO of FinePoint, she is the author of “Brag Better,” Meredith Fineman… U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) turns 36… Rachel Rubenstein… Actor, singer and dancer, he is one youngest-ever winner of a Tony Award at 15 years old, Kiril Jacob Kulish turns 29… Eric McDonald…