👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we interview Maryland Gov. Wes Moore about the state of the Old Line State, and chat with “Ginny & Georgia” creator Sarah Lampert. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: former Rep. Elaine Luria, Dan Loeb and Sander Gerber.
A delegation from USAID’s Partnership for Peace Fund Advisory Board was in Israel last week for meetings with partners on the ground, a USAID spokesperson confirmed to Jewish Insider. The delegation, which included George R. Salem, Farah Bdour, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Rabbi Michael M. Cohen, Sander Gerber, Hiba Husseini, Heather Johnston, Harley Lippman, Nikolay Mladenov and Robert Wexler, met with the USAID staff who manage the Middle East Partnership for Peace Act (MEPPA) projects, as well as Israelis and Palestinians who are involved in the programming.
The group was in Israel to see the first 10 activities implemented through MEPPA, including a nursing hub that brings together Palestinian and Jewish nurses and TechSeeds for Peace, which engages Israelis and Palestinians from underserved communities to help them break into the region’s growing tech scene.
“Being on the ground, interfacing with NGO programs to help the Palestinian people, reinforced my conviction that U.S. support should bypass the PA [Palestinian Authority] and directly support municipalities in continued compliance with the Taylor Force Act,” Gerber told JI.
The delegation occurred at the same time as leaders of the Abraham Accords Caucus — Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK) and Reps. David Trone (D-MD) and Brad Schneider (D-IL) — were meeting in Washington with officials from Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, including Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayeh Al Nahyan, along with other officials from the U.S. and abroad.
Trone said in a statement that “History makes clear that we must work together to ensure security and peace in the Middle East,” adding, “As challenges in the Middle East continue to jeopardize these goals, we will equally continue to protect our good-faith collaboration and open lines of communication. Our meeting last week focused on how we, as Members of Congress, can further these efforts at the federal level and increase participation in these productive dialogues across the region.”
Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL), who is visiting the Middle East this week on a trip led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), told Jewish Insider that the group’s visit to the Abrahamic Family House interfaith complex in Abu Dhabi was “powerful.” “The complex is stunning, and the project is a strong embodiment of religious liberty, cultural coexistence and interfaith harmony,” Britt continued. “I pray that the Abrahamic Family House will help advance these cherished ideals in the region and in hearts across the globe.”
meet the gov
Wes Moore: Maryland should adopt Israel’s public-service ethos
In his first-ever “State of the State” address earlier this month, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore pledged to create a service-year program for recent high school graduates to work in public-service jobs. “These aren’t pie-in-the-sky ideas. These are evidence-based concepts, and you look at how there are best practices around not just the country, but around the globe,” Moore told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch in a recent interview. “Israel has long had a well-planned model for youth engagement.”
Training teens: Moore, a Democrat, made the service-year program — which would offer job training and mentorship to participants — a keystone of his gubernatorial campaign. He told JI that seeing the success of a similar service ethos in Israel, where young people are required to either serve in the military or do a year or two of national service, proved to him that it could be done.
Leadership model: “It’s also how so much of [Israel’s] national leadership, whether it’s political leadership, business leadership, philanthropic leadership, community leadership, comes from that training and comes from that background,” Moore explained. “The thing I’m hoping to also model is the success that we’ve seen for so many people in Israel who have had a chance to participate from their military service.” A military veteran himself, Moore served as a paratrooper in Afghanistan from 2005-2006.
Hate crime spending: Moore’s proposed budget for the 2024 fiscal year includes $5 million in additional funding to law enforcement to combat hate crimes, and $1 million available to public and private schools to address and prevent hate crimes. The proposals come as Maryland’s Jewish community, particularly the heavily Jewish Montgomery County outside of Washington, D.C., has faced a recent surge in antisemitic incidents.
No home for hate: “We’re watching not just a higher frequency of attacks, and when I say attacks, I mean both these physical and also these psychological, these attacks of intimidation that we’ve seen against the Jewish community,” Moore said. “We’ve seen not just a higher level of propensity but also the intensity, they’re more brazen. And I think that the thing that we have to be able to show is that hate does not and will not have a home in our Maryland.”
‘Ginny & Georgia’ creator Sarah Lampert dishes on the hit Netflix show
Moving to a new town is never easy, so when Sarah Lampert left Canton, Mass., for nearby Newton in the fifth grade, her mother sent in popsicles for the entire school to help break the ice. That moment inspired a nearly parallel scene in the first season of Lampert’s hit Netflix show, “Ginny & Georgia,” Lampert told Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel. Like the real-life move made by Lampert, 35, who now lives in Los Angeles, the show’s first season sees the arrival of Georgia, Ginny and Austin Miller to the fictional town of Wellsbury, Mass. The similarities end there. Georgia, a vivacious 30-year-old single mother, moves to Wellsbury in an attempt to flee her past and create a better life for her 9-year-old son Austin and 15-year-old daughter Ginny, who herself is dealing with the challenges of high school while figuring out her own identity.
Rising star: The second season of “Ginny & Georgia,” though it has only been available for less than two months, has hit a number of milestones. As of Tuesday, the season has continued into its seventh week on Netflix’s top 10 most-watched list in the United States, also appearing on the most-watched lists of 45 other countries (Season 1 only recently ended its run, having been in the U.S. top 10 for the past six weeks). On Feb. 7, Season 2 broke into Netflix’s all-time most popular list, edging in at No. 10 among the streamer’s English-language TV series with 504.8 million hours viewed within its first 28 days. Lampert, who also serves as an executive producer and writer on the show, wrote the pilot for a writing class she was taking in between working as a manager of development in reality TV.
Art imitating life: Lampert grew up in a very tight-knit family in the Boston suburbs, many aspects of which seeped into the fabric of “Ginny & Georgia” — Season 1’s “Sophomore Sleepover” was a real event at Lampert’s high school, and the neighborhood club Georgia tries to join in Season 2 mirrors one that existed in her hometown. Despite certain character and setting parallels, the show is largely a work of fiction. “For the most part, these characters, the inception of them, is a real work of imagination and then the building out of them across the two seasons is a real group effort from the writers room,” Lampert said. “I think that it’s really important to include all of the other writers in the building out of these characters, to make them as deep as they are, as truthful as they are, and ultimately, to give those experiences a sense of truth.”
Sharing the faith: Growing up in Canton, Lampert was one of a few handfuls of Jews, but she recalled the “Jewish pride” her mother surrounded her family in during that time. “There was only like one other Jew in my entire class in elementary school, and my mom came in during Hanukkah with a hot plate and made latkes for everyone in my class, and taught everyone how to play dreidel,” Lampert recalled. “She made it seem so cool to be Jewish, like all of my friends thought it was like the coolest thing ever, and I didn’t even kind of realize that the rest of the world didn’t always share that opinion.” Once the family moved to Newton, which has a large Jewish population, Lampert’s mother continued to make Judaism feel special, putting together Passover plays every year that got the whole family involved. “I was raised Jewish, so I think it’s an inextricable part of myself that I’m proud of, and it was important to me to make characters in ‘Ginny & Georgia’ Jewish,” Lampert said. “It was important for me to have that be a part of the show, even if it wasn’t a main element of the show.”
🧒 Tainted History: In The Atlantic, Valentine Faure spotlights the children of the Nazi-era Lebensborn movement, which aimed to produce children of “racial purity” to populate the Reich. “Gisèle rejects the idea that there’s a connection between her career and her early years spent in a very different kind of day care — she chose her path, after all, long before she knew where she had really come from. Still, she doesn’t minimize the fact that her life story is inextricable from the history of Nazism. She has often wondered how her origins might shape what she calls her ‘internal memory’: She has always been terribly afraid of military trucks, trains, and leather boots. She cannot bear to hear babies crying; at her day care, she would often leave her office to comfort the little ones. She worries, too, that she somehow passed something evil on to her children through her genes.” [TheAtlantic]
🔵 Blue State Blues: In The New York Times, Ross Barkan spotlights the New York State Democratic Committee, which has been criticized for its showing in the 2022 midterms under the leadership of chair Jay Jacobs. “These disappointments have cast into sharp relief both the divisions within the party and the peculiar void of the state’s Democratic organization itself. Few New Yorkers cared, until late 2022, that the statewide Democratic apparatus operated, for the most part, as a hollowed-out appendage of the governor, a second campaign account that did little, if any, work in terms of messaging and turnout. New Hampshire, a state with roughly half the population of Queens, has a Democratic Party with 16 full-time paid staff members. New York’s has four, according to the state chairman, Jay Jacobs. One helps maintain social media accounts that update only sparingly. Most state committee members have no idea where the party keeps its headquarters, or if it even has one.” [NYTimes]
🎭 Theater Critique:The Guardian’s David Jays interviews Jewish actors and directors about how they approach the antisemitic themes and characters — including Shylock — in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.” “‘This play has always fascinated and repulsed me and I don’t like it. I’ve never liked it.’ It’s rare for an actor promoting their latest project to express revulsion. But nothing is simple for Tracy-Ann Oberman, playing Shylock in her own adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice.’ How do Jewish creatives approach English literature’s most notorious antisemitic archetype? Indeed, why return to the source of so many bloodthirsty, moneygrabbing slurs? Oberman first encountered the play aged 12. ‘It was taught in my school, very badly. In the playground afterwards everybody was running around, rubbing their hands, doing a ‘Jewish’ voice. It was cringe-making.’ Nothing she saw as an adult reassured her. ‘I’ve seen productions where Shylock is mocked. I’ve seen versions where he’s a complete victim. I don’t know which is worse.’” [TheGuardian]
🇦🇪 Business Tips: In The Jerusalem Post, ThetaRay CEO Mark Gazit lays out a series of suggestions for Israelis hoping to do business in the UAE following normalization between the two countries. “Many Israeli businesspeople thought they could simply go to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), find local partners and do business in the same way as they do in Europe or the US. But to be successful, it is important to go about business and personal conduct in the UAE in the correct and proper manner and to consider the local culture. The uniqueness of building a foothold in the UAE is that it is also a stepping stone to the entire Arab world, even to countries with which Israel has no official commercial ties.” [JPost]
Around the Web
🤝 Saudi Meetup: Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) met with Saudi Prime Minister Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh earlier this week.
📺 Taking on ESG: American Freedom, the group launched by former Vice President Mike Pence — who is considering a 2024 presidential bid — will run ads in Arizona and Montana targeting environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) investing.
👩 PAC Debut: Former Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) announced the launch of Defend Democracy PAC, which she says will aim to support Virginia Democrats running at the state level.
🛀 Proxy Fight: Dan Loeb’s Third Point, which owns a 6% stake in Bath & Body Works, is planning to nominate candidates to the board as part of a larger proxy fight against the company.
🎒 Bad Lesson: A high school teacher in the Bay Area is under fire for disseminating antisemitic materials to his 10th grade students and repeatedly demonstrating the Nazi salute.
💒 Twist of Faith: In the Wall Street Journal, Masada Siegel details the unlikely setting — a Catholic wedding — that connected a Jewish man with his faith.
🇺🇦 Diplomatic Disappointment: Axios’ Barak Ravid looks at former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s efforts last year to negotiate an end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
👨 Washington View: State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. is “deeply concerned” over the IDF’s operation in Nablus this week.
🚀 Rocket Launch: Palestinian militants in Gaza fired six rockets toward Israel overnight, following an IDF operation in the West Bank city of Nablus.
☢️ Nuclear Nod: Iran acknowledged a report from the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog that Tehran had enriched uranium to 84% purity.
👋 Booted: Germany expelled two Iranian diplomats after an Iranian court handed down a death sentence to an Iranian-German U.S. resident accused of terrorist activities.
💼 Transitions: New York Times film critic A.O. Scott will transition to writing for The Times Book Review. Jess Goldblatt, formerly the director of media relations at the Israeli consulate in Chicago, joined the University of Chicago’s Alumni Relations & Development Office as the assistant director of college development.
🕯️ Remembering: Former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, who was a major figure in the 1993 Oslo Accords, died at 85. Sarann Horwitz Klain, mother of former White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, died at 81. Comedy Club owner Rick Newman, who opened Manhattan’s Catch a Rising Star in 1972, died at 81. Entrepreneur Roger Schank, who was one of the early contributors to the field of artificial intelligence, died at 76. French Resistance fighter Simone Segouin died at 97.
Pic of the Day
A bipartisan group of New York State assemblymembers in Jerusalem meets with Israeli Diaspora Minister Amichai Chikli this week. The legislators are in Israel with the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.
Actor, comedian and singer, Josh Gad turns 42…
Recently retired senior counsel in the Baltimore office of DLA Piper, he served as president of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Shale D. Stiller turns 88… Former New York City comptroller for 16 years, Harrison J. Goldin turns 87… EVP emeritus of the Orthodox Union and editor-in-chief of the Koren Talmud Bavli, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb turns 83… Bethesda, Md., resident, Lois Copeland… Philosopher, novelist and public intellectual, she earned a Ph.D. from Princeton and was a winner of a MacArthur Genius Fellowship in 1996, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein turns 73… Chairman of Agudath Israel of America and CEO of the OuterStuff sportswear line, Sol Werdiger turns 72… Film director, writer and producer, Marshall Schreiber Herskovitz turns 71… Investor and former president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, Alexander Mashkevitch turns 69… 25-year veteran of USAID’s Foreign Service, she was the mission director for USAID in the West Bank and Gaza, Monica Stein-Olson turns 66… Strategic communications consultant, Joe Berkofsky… Political consultant and pollster, he is the founder of Luntz Global, Frank Luntz turns 61… Founder and CEO of Dell Technologies, Michael Dell turns 58… Best-selling author of young adult novels, Nova Ren Suma turns 48… CEO of film production firm Benaroya Pictures, Michael Benaroya turns 42… Founder of Tahrir Scarf, Johnathan Morpurgo… Chief operating officer and director of research at The Lawfare Project, Benjamin Ryberg… Member of the Knesset for the Likud party, Dan Illouz turns 37… Deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at USAID, Rebecca Chalif… White House reporter for Bloomberg, Jennifer Epstein turns 37… Senior front-end web engineer at Business Insider, Reuben A. Ingber… Strategy and impact officer at Walton Enterprises, Mary Ann Weiss… Political reporter for the Texas Tribune in Austin, Patrick Svitek… Head of public affairs and regulatory strategy at Polymateria, Gidon Feen… Barak Daon…