👋 Good Tuesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we interview Rep. Pat Ryan about his work to combat antisemitism through his House committee assignments, and spotlight the Jewish and Israeli organizations providing on-the-ground assistance in Turkey. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Rep. Josh Gottheimer, Marne Levine and Eli Cohen.
Secretary of State Tony Blinkenis scheduled to meet with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan this afternoon in Washington.
Some 7,000 miles away, government leaders from around the world are gathering this week in Dubai for the World Government Summit, which began yesterday and runs through tomorrow evening. World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi addressed the gathering yesterday; today, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, WndrCo founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, UAE Economic Minister Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri, Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Jasem Al-Budaiwi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are also slated to speak. Elon Musk is set to speak at the summit tomorrow.
The annual OurCrowd summit doesn’t get underway until tomorrow, but attendees are already pouring into Israel for events surrounding the daylong confab. A delegation of more than 40 entrepreneurs and investors from Morocco arrived today, part of what is expected to be a sizable group of attendees from Arab countries that have normalized relations with Israel through the Abraham Accords.
More than 8,500 people are expected to attend tomorrow’s summit, which marks 10 years since the investing platform’s founding, and three years since its last in-person gathering. Tomorrow’s convening will kick off with an address from Israeli President Isaac Herzog, followed by OurCrowd Founder and CEO Jon Medved and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion.
Among those speaking at breakout sessions throughout the day are former Bahrain Journalists Association President Ahdeya Alsayed, Freightos CEO Zvi Schreiber, OurCrowd Arabia Executive Chairman Sabah al-Binali and former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren. “Fauda” actor and screenwriter Lior Raz will speak at a midday plenary on alternative investing and content creation. Closing out the conference will be U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides and former Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.
Several hundred people gathered in Beersheva today for the Israel Climate Conference, hosted jointly by Haaretz and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
Pat Ryan takes aim at antisemitism, Iran from the Armed Services Committee
Fresh off being reappointed to the House Armed Services Committee last month for a full two-year term, Rep. Pat Ryan (D-NY) told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod last week that he’s aiming to use his seat on the powerful panel — as well as his unique relationship with a colleague across the aisle — to combat antisemitism, counter Iranian malign activities and support the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Personal: For Ryan, antisemitism is “personal” and “from literally day one has been a major focus of mine.” His wife and children are Jewish and his upper Hudson Valley district includes a sizable Jewish community. “I just could have never imagined that almost a century after the horrors of Nazism… that I would have to worry about my kids going to the playground and seeing a swastika on a slide,” Ryan said — referencing a vandalism incident he encountered with his children. “It’s scary from [the perspective of] the safety of my young kids and my wife… It makes me sad on many levels and it makes me outraged that we allow the spread of this hate, and that we aren’t doing more to really directly confront those that are propagating it and hold them accountable.” A West Point graduate who served two terms in Iraq as an intelligence officer and as a defense contractor in Afghanistan, Ryan told JI last week that he sees his position on Armed Services as key to his efforts to combat antisemitism, particularly through the annual National Defense Authorization Act.
Standing strong: Ryan’s seat on Armed Services puts him in a key position in ongoing debates over how the U.S. should respond to those threats from Iran. The former Ulster County executive said that his outlook on Iran is shaped by his service in Afghanistan, which exposed him to “a flood of deadly weapons” provided by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iranian-backed militias “coming in and literally killing my fellow soldiers… and of course lots of innocent Iraqis.” Iran’s support for terrorism across the globe, Ryan continued, “has to be stopped,” as do its “blatant threats and aggression toward Israel.”
Enduring bond: Israel, the New York lawmaker continued, is an “invaluable security partner” who the U.S. must continue to support. Ryan indicated that he does not share the concerns, expressed by some fellow Democrats, that the new Israeli government and its proposed policies could pose a threat to the durability of the U.S.-Israel relationship. “There’s room for disagreement with allies,” he said, “but I remain, as I try to do with all issues, optimistic that we can work through that in good faith. The nature of the threats to Israel and to the U.S. are such that we have to be able to work through those disagreements.”
Unique relationship: Ryan may be in a unique position to work across the aisle with the new House majority. He was in the same class year at the military academy as Reps. John James (R-MI) and Wesley Hunt (R-TX), and lived across the hall from James for two years. Ryan said he and James have “a deep, strong bond that transcends partisanship,” which he hopes can be a model for his colleagues that they are “actually on the same team here” and “have to figure out how to work together” in response to increasing global threats, including China, Russia and Iran.
George Santos claimed to be ‘halachically Jewish’ during election campaign
A month before his election to Congress last November, Rep. George Santos (R-NY), the scandal-plagued New York Republican, falsely referred to himself as “halachically Jewish” while courting donations from pro-Israel activists at a fundraising event in South Florida, according to two attendees who were present for the discussion. It was hardly the first time that Santos had made dubious claims to Jewish ancestry. The 34-year-old congressman, who was raised Catholic, has alternately said he is “Jewish,” “Jew-ish,” “half Jewish” “a proud American Jew” a “Latino Jew” and a non-observant Jew, among other descriptors, even as genealogical records have shown he holds no familial connection to Judaism. But his invocation of Jewish law, or halacha, to establish a misleading connection to Jewish heritage through his Brazilian-born mother, whose ancestors were Catholic, adds yet another layer to the convoluted and often contradictory web of deceptions surrounding his purported Jewish roots, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Miami meet: The embattled representative, who fabricated most of his personal and professional background, delivered the remark during an early October event at Mo’s Bagels & Deli in the heavily Jewish Miami suburb of Aventura, according to Andy Fiske, a co-chair of U.S.-Israel PAC, which hosted the meeting. “He said, ‘I’m halachically Jewish,’” Fiske, who lives in South Florida, told JI on Monday, recalling that Santos had “made it seem like” his mother was Jewish. “He just made a big deal out of that.” A second person who attended the event confirmed that Santos had used that phrase to describe himself, but asked to remain anonymous.
Working the crowd: The comment, which has not previously been reported, was positively received as a clever nod to Jewish heritage, Fiske said. That was most likely because, at the time, participants had little reason to doubt Santos’ claim, which remained unchallenged until weeks after the midterm election, when several of his lies were first uncovered. “He got a chuckle out of the crowd,” Fiske, who is Jewish himself, told JI. “It’s sort of funny. It’s sort of like when somebody who’s not Jewish makes a Yiddish comment and you get a little chuckle. It was like that type of thing. It was like, ‘Hey, and by the way, I’m halachically Jewish.’ He was charismatic. He was bantering with the crowd.” Santos arrived at the event an hour and a half late but quickly charmed the room as he discussed his campaign and took questions from participants, Fiske said. “I found him to be very warm and friendly,” he told JI, adding: “He knows how to work a crowd.”
Dashed hopes: Members of the pro-Israel PAC, which mostly backs Republican candidates, were particularly eager to hear from a rare Jewish Republican running for Congress, according to Fiske, as Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) was then poised to vacate his seat. “It’s nice to have a Jewish Republican member, because I like to see diversity,” Fiske said. “It was nice to have a guy that doesn’t fit the Republican model.” Now, however, Fiske holds a different perspective. “He said all the right things, where everyone was like, ‘Yeah, this guy’s good,’” he said of Santos, who has cast himself as a stalwart supporter of Israel. “But it was disappointing later to find out that a lot of this stuff is not true.” While Fiske emphasized that “being Jewish isn’t a prerequisite” for candidates seeking support from U.S.-Israel PAC, he acknowledged that “it helps sometimes,” if only because a shared Jewish identity can engender a unique sense of common understanding.
Read the full story here.
Bonus: The New York Times reports on a slew of Santos’ unexplained campaign expenditures — totaling more than $365,000 and accounting for nearly 12% of the New York Republican’s campaign spending.
Jewish and Israeli humanitarian organizations continue earthquake relief efforts
In the hours and days since a massive, 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey last Monday, dozens of Jewish and Israeli organizations — along with aid agencies from all over the world — have dispatched teams to help with relief efforts as the death toll climbs above 30,000. “Israel’s proximity to Turkey is undoubtedly one reason so many of our Israeli partners were able to get to the scene so quickly after the devastating disaster,” Naomi Lipstein, the communications manager for Olam, a network of Jewish and Israeli relief groups, told Madison Hahamy for eJewishPhilanthropy.
Added need: Sheba Medical Center, the largest medical center in Israel, is another Israel-based organization that has dispatched teams to provide medical humanitarian relief, recently operating in Ukraine and Kenya. In Turkey, there are around eight medical reserve officers assisting in the Israeli Defense Force’s humanitarian effort — in the next month, the IDF plans to rotate out and Sheba will begin running the Israeli humanitarian operation, according to Yoel Hareven, head of Sheba Global. Brian Abrahams, the CEO of American Friends of Sheba Medical Center — the fundraising arm of Sheba Medical Center — noted that Sheba’s sees its “mandate in the world” as being part of humanitarian relief efforts. This mandate, he added, has only increased over the past few years due to the coronavirus pandemic, war, and an influx of natural disasters.
Back to basics: The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has worked specifically with Turkey’s Jewish community and population more broadly to assist with previous earthquake and other disaster responses. In response to last week’s catastrophe, they immediately sent a team to the disaster zone to help distribute blankets, food and direct survivors to shelter. Leora Wine, JDC’s director of disaster response, arrived in Turkey 33 hours after the earthquake initially struck. The initial response, she said, is focused on attending to people’s most basic needs — the “bottom of the bottom” of the Maslow pyramid — and making sure that people afraid to sleep in their homes have hot soup, water, blankets and a general feeling of safety. She noted that these efforts are often communal and not just relegated to foreign humanitarian organizations— everyone who is able to help does what they can.
Long-term plan: IsraAid has worked in over 60 countries. Similar to JDC, they focus both on immediate relief and long-term recovery and resilience. According to Yotam Polizer, the group’s CEO, the teams he dispatches will often spend five to seven years in one location, rather than just a few months. In Turkey, the organization has a team of nine people on the ground in two different locations, which includes trauma specialists, water engineers, and people with operations and logistics experience who are helping to provide immediate relief in the form of heating and winter clothing. At the same time, they are training local people to build capacity while also partnering with local organizations to help make the work sustainable. “This crisis in terms of Turkey, in terms of climate disaster, is the worst we’ve seen in years,” Polizer said, noting the widespread disaster and inaccessibility of many places. “People go to areas more accessible or highlighted on mainstream media, but if you go two miles down the road, there’s a small village equally devastated or more that has received zero support.”
🧊 Iced Out: Bloomberg’s Devin Leonard and Dasha Afanasieva take a deep dive into the legal battle between Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company, Unilever, over the former’s decision to end its decades-long agreement with an Israeli manufacturer. “Many of the political positions of Ben & Jerry’s over the years could be considered controversial, but not among progressives. The debate around Israelis and Palestinians was much thornier, and the brand taking a side on this divisive matter seemed to cross a line. As Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever traded blows in court, the future of corporate activism — of which both companies had often been hailed as the leaders — seemed to hang in the balance. In December we flew to Oakland to spend the better part of the day with [board chair Anuradha] Mittal to discuss the bizarre new terrain Ben & Jerry’s was in: one part of a conglomerate suing its owner. In her office at the Oakland Institute, she had a Free Palestine placard perched on top of a bookshelf and a framed poster hung on the wall of two Palestinian men embracing by what appears to be a barbed wire fence. It says ‘Support the Intifada’ in Arabic.” [Bloomberg]
🇮🇱 Way Out: The Washington Post’s editorial board opines that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should agree to President Issac Herzog’s proposal for a compromise to the government’s plans for a judicial overhaul. “Certainly, the crisis distracts from what Mr. Netanyahu says are his priorities — a peace deal with Saudi Arabia and solidifying Israel’s economy. He has said his support for judicial reform is unrelated to his own indictment and will be enacted based on broad agreement. He has never quite closed the door on negotiations. If Mr. Netanyahu was sincere about all of the above, he ought to have no problem taking the good advice and the political off-ramp Mr. Herzog has offered — while he still can.” [WashPost]
⛹️♂️ Kyrie’s Quirks:New York magazine’s Simon van Zuylen-Wood chronicles the rise of basketball star Kyrie Irving — alongside the controversies he has been at the center of since entering the NBA. “A number of agents, executives, and assorted NBA figures professed their nonchalance about the saga. ‘Was I surprised that he tweeted out a random antisemitic documentary? Yeah, a little bit. Then again, if you know the YouTube or Instagram algorithm, what kinds of things get fed to a conspiracy-minded guy like him …,’ said one team front-office figure, who happens to be Jewish. ‘I feel like the antisemitism thing is such a footnote to the whole Kyrie story, another example of him spouting off on things he doesn’t know about. He thinks he’s discovered something nobody else knows.’ Before returning to the Nets, Irving offered an apology during a televised SNY interview. When he had claimed he couldn’t be antisemitic because ‘I know where I come from,’ he said, he wasn’t referring to a lost tribe of Israel. He said he meant suburban New Jersey.” [NYMag]
🚨 Alarm Bells: In Newsweek, American Jewish Committee CEO Ted Deutch, formerly a member of Congress, raises concerns about the findings of this week’s AJC survey on attitudes toward antisemitism. “Before coming to AJC, I spent more than 12 years in Congress fighting against antisemitism. We launched the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism in 2014, when antisemitism was becoming increasingly common and violent in Europe. Murders in Jewish institutions there led to the normalization of armed guards protecting synagogues and Jewish schools. At the time, it was inconceivable that the U.S. would one day face a similar experience. After the horrifying attack on the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, others have followed in Poway, Monsey, Jersey City, and countless attacks against visibly Jewish members of our community, 90 percent of Jews across the country now say antisemitism is a problem in America. Despite the growing regularity of visible security, one in five American Jews feel unsafe even in Jewish institutions.” [Newsweek]
🎨 Art Attack: New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg delves into the saga surrounding a provocative exhibition by Iranian-American artist Taravat Talepasand, which was temporarily closed in light of the reaction to it by some Muslim students at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. “Some readers might object to dwelling on one instance of misguided sensitivity at one small college when the country is in the midst of a nationwide frenzy of right-wing book bans, public school speech restrictions, and wild attempts to curtail drag performances. But I think this moment, when we’re facing down a wave of censorship inspired by religious fervor, is a good time to quash the notion that people have a right to be shielded from discomfiting art. If progressive ideas can be harnessed to censor feminist work because it offends religious sensibilities, perhaps those ideas bear rethinking.” [NYTimes]
Around the Web
🪑 Brainard Trust: President Joe Biden will nominate Federal Reserve Vice Chair Lael Brainard to succeed Brian Deese as director of the National Economic Council.
👋 Klain’s Farewell: The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos interviews former White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain on his tenure in Washington and his work in the Biden administration.
📺 Haley’s In: Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley shared her campaign launch video with Axios.
🇸🇦 Saudi Sojourn: A group of high-level U.S. officials, including Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, are in Riyadh this week for meetings with Gulf leaders and military officials to coordinate and discuss their approaches to Iran.
👨 Settlement Statement: State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the U.S. is “deeply troubled” by Israel’s retroactive legalizing of nine settlement outposts in the West Bank.
⚖️ Court Conversation: Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin said he is open to meeting with opposition leaders over the government’s proposed judicial reforms, but will not stop the legislative process while doing so.
🏃♀️ Reverse Course: Former Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, who mounted a failed bid for Florida’s governorship last year, is running to lead the Florida Democratic Party, reversing an earlier decision not to seek the top spot.
🇺🇦 Military Aid: In the Washington Post, Jonathan Lord and Andrea Kendall-Taylor call on the U.S. to send Iranian weapons seized by the West to Ukraine.
👋 Stepping Down: Meta Chief Business Officer Marne Levine is departing the company this summer after 13 years, and will step down from her position next week.
🏢 Tech Talk:The New York Timesinterviews Marc Benioff, co-founder and chief executive of Salesforce, pondering over choices between happiness and success as Benioff carves out his path forward as the tech industry weathers turbulent times.
📚 Book Shelf: The Wall Street Journal reviews the new book by James B. Stewart and Rachel Abrams, Unscripted: The Epic Battle for a Media Empire and the Redstone Family Legacy.
👨🎤 Hard Rock Antisemitism: Universal Music Group has dropped German hard rock group Weimar on the heels of a Der Spiegel investigation that found some of the group’s members allegedly had Neo-Nazi affiliations and had in the past performed songs containing Holocaust denial lyrics.
👨 The Good Fight: Forbesspotlights the efforts of filmmaker Carl Laemmle to save the lives of Jews in Nazi Germany.
🇹🇷 Diplomatic Gesture: Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen arrived in Turkey for a one-day solidarity mission following last week’s earthquakes.
💻 Hack Attack: Israel’s Technion University was hacked by a group demanding the bitcoin equivalent of 6 million NIS.
👀 Viable Vision? The Los Angeles Times considers the viability of a two-state solution amid increased tensions and an uptick in violence.
🪖 Soldier’s Sentence: An Israeli soldier who was filmed attacking a Palestinian man was sentenced to 10 days in prison.
🛬 Warming Ties: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is visiting China to meet with Xi Jinping this week.
👶 Mazal Tov: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced yesterday that he had welcomed to the world his third grandchild, Henry, on Thursday.
🕯️ Remembering: Ted Lerner, billionaire real estate developer and owner of the Washington Nationals baseball team, died at 97.
Pic of the Day
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) speaks with hundreds of students and educators at the Torah Academy of Bergen County yesterday about his work as co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, working across the aisle to find common ground and leading bipartisan efforts to support the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Long-distance runner, she won the bronze medal in the women’s marathon at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Deena Drossin Kastor turns 50…
Philanthropist, owner of Bloomberg LP and former mayor of NYC, Michael Bloomberg turns 81… Award-winning investigative journalist for The Washington Post and author, Carl Bernstein turns 79… Chairman and CEO of Reebok for 26 years until its 2005 sale to Adidas, Paul Fireman turns 79… British businessman and founder of WPP plc, Sir Martin Stuart Sorrell turns 78… Former borough president of Brooklyn and New York State senator, Marty Markowitz turns 78… Chairman and CEO of the Blackstone Group, Stephen A. Schwarzman turns 76… Film producer and chairman and EVP of the NFL’s New York Giants, winner of a Golden Globe award, an Academy Award and two Super Bowl rings, Steven Elliot “Steve” Tisch turns 74… Retired chairman and CEO of Los Angeles-based City National Bank, Russell Goldsmith turns 73… Host of “Fresh Air” on NPR, Terry Gross turns 72… Sports executive and former All Star basketball player, she served as president of the WNBA for 6 years and as SVP of the PGA Tour for 17 years, Donna Geils Orender turns 66… Executive board member at the Los Angeles Museum of The Holocaust, Paulette Nessim… Co-founder and CEO at 25Madison, he was previously deputy assistant U.S. secretary of defense, Steven Price turns 61… Volleyball and beach volleyball star, she is the only Brazilian in the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Adriana Brandão Behar turns 54… Senior government affairs director for the National Insurance Crime Bureau and elected trustee of the Deerfield Illinois Public Library, Howard Handler… Financial advisor in the Boca Raton office of Oppenheimer, Alan Feinberg Jr.… Hockey player selected in the first round of the 2002 NHL draft, he was also a player on the United States national team, Eric Nystrom turns 40… Director of community engagement for the Anti-Defamation League, Carly Pildis… Co-founder of Run for Something, Amanda Litman… Four-year basketball player for the California Golden Bears, now a real estate broker in Miami, Sam Singer turns 28… Actress Madison Iseman turns 26…