👋 Good Tuesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on the opening of the Manara Center in Abu Dhabi, a collaboration between the United Arab Emirates and the Anti-Defamation League, and talk to actor Joshua Malina about his return to Broadway as the lead of “Leopoldstadt.” Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Rep. Kathy Manning, Ben Platt and Sylvia Rafael.
More than two years after signing the Abraham Accords, Bahrain is hosting the Connect2Innovate conference with Israel this week to stoke dealmaking between the two countries, our sister publication The Circuit’s Jonathan Ferziger reports from Bahrain’s capital city Manama.
Some of the five dozen Israelis who arrived Monday afternoon in Manama on a direct Gulf Air flight from Tel Aviv rejoiced when they saw puddles on the tarmac at Bahrain International Airport. It was a rare cool and rainy day as the group cruised into town on a bus, driving past yachts anchored in the Persian Gulf to the conference site at the Wyndham Grand Hotel, a twisted, 46-story building that resembles a drill bit piercing the skyline.
In the hotel’s top-floor ballroom, the conference got underway with about 100 Bahrainis mingling with Israelis over glasses of juice – the Wyndham doesn’t serve alcohol – and spinach pastry hors d’oeuvres.
Among those greeting the participants were Bahrain’s Minister of Industry and Commerce Abdulla bin Adel Fakhro and Bahrain’s Ambassador to Israel Khalid Yusuf Ahmed Al Jalahma.
The group also watched a video address from Israeli President Isaac Herzog and was greeted by Israel’s Ambassador to Bahrain Eitan Na’eh and Avi Hasson, CEO of Start-Up Nation Central, the Israeli tech trade promotion vehicle that organized the conference. Na’eh told The Circuit that Israel is an increasingly attractive place for Bahraini business ventures. “They’re coming to visit and they’re impressed with our technology. They want to find the next thing,” Na’eh said.
Meanwhile in Abu Dhabi, Israeli and Arab government and non-government representatives are set to convene today for the start of a three-day N7 summit focused on cooperation in agriculture, water and food security.
UAE and ADL team up to launch the Manara Center in Abu Dhabi
A new initiative launched this morning in Abu Dhabi seeks to promote region-wide coexistence and opportunities for cross-cultural collaboration and education. The Manara Center, created by the United Arab Emirates in partnership with the Anti-Defamation League, will serve as a mechanism “to interrupt intolerance before it might take root,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss from Abu Dhabi ahead of the center’s opening on Tuesday morning.
Origins: The idea was conceived, Greenblatt said, in conversations with UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba several years ago, as the Gulf nation prepared for its Year of Tolerance, a yearlong national project that in 2019 brought global religious leaders to the country, modernized aspects of the government and saw the announcement of the construction of the Abrahamic Family House, a complex that includes a mosque, church and synagogue. “What I found in Ambassador Al Otaiba is a shared commitment to fighting extremism and hate,” Greenblatt explained. “And what he recognized that really struck me was how, if you try to peel back the layers, why we have extremism, it often comes from a place of ignorance. So if we could promote people-to-people engagement, and encourage understanding, we thought that could be a pathway forward.”
Youth outreach: The center will focus its efforts in part on outreach to university students across the Arab world. “We do know from our own research,” Greenblatt said, “that anti-bias education, Holocaust education, these kinds of interventions can literally reduce instances of prejudice. So we’re going to start with student-to-student activity.” When its programming begins this summer, the center plans to engage students from across the Middle East and Southeast Asia for a variety of conferences and exchanges. The effort, Al Otaiba said, reflects the shared values of the UAE and U.S. in committing “to advancing peace and coexistence, and creating opportunities for the region’s youth.”
Regional endeavor: Greenblatt will sit on the board of the Manara Center, whose chairman is Dr. Ali Al Nuaimi, a leading member of the UAE’s Federal National Council and a global expert on extremism who heads Hedayah, Abu Dhabi’s top institution fighting extremism. The initiative, Al Nuaimi explained, “will be based in our region and for the benefit of our region.” The region-wide focus, Greenblatt said, was intentional. “It’s not for the UAE or even just for the Gulf. It’s how do we think on a broader scale?… It’s how can we help equip and support an indigenous effort from the region to combat extremism and hate? I think if we get it right, we all win.”
Updated FBI hate crimes statistics show 20% increase in antisemitic hate crimes
An updated FBI report on 2021 hate crimes, released on Monday, showed that antisemitic hate crimes increased by nearly 20% from 2020 to 2021, and that antisemitic hate crimes represented the majority of religious-based hate crimes committed in 2021. The new total — 817 incidents targeting Jews — represents an increase of nearly 500 incidents from initial statistics published late last year, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Follow-up: The supplemental report validates concerns from lawmakers and Jewish groups that the initial 2021 hate crimes report — released without data from areas with significant Jewish populations like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and nearly all of Florida, reporting just 321 antisemitic hate crimes — had severely undercounted antisemitic incidents in 2021. In the new data, anti-Jewish hate crimes represented the fourth largest proportion of hate crimes in 2021, behind anti-Black, anti-white and anti-gay male hate crime, and ahead of anti-Asian. Religious-based hate crimes accounted for 14.1% of the overall incidents reported.
Congressional response: Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), a co-chair of the House bipartisan antisemitism task force who organized a task force briefing with FBI officials last year, said in a statement the initial report was “woefully incomplete” and had created a misperception that there had been a decline in hate crimes in 2021, rather than a “dramatic increase” as indicated by the updated results. “The mistaken conclusion reached in the original report is evidence that the lack of timely data submissions and slow compliance with the new data reporting system risks a faulty analysis by the FBI and handicaps our ability to address the rise in hate crimes and antisemitism,” she said. “There is a clear need for more robust compliance with collection and reporting from all state and local law enforcement agencies to the FBI in a timely manner.”
Joshua Malina’s Broadway return in ‘Leopoldstadt’ packs a personal punch
When Joshua Malina learned that Tom Stoppard’s widely celebrated play about Jewish life in pre-Holocaust Vienna, “Leopoldstadt,” would be making its Broadway debut last fall, the veteran TV actor was determined to nab an audition. “I tried to get in,” he recalled in a recent interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel, adding that, for whatever reason, his initial effort proved unsuccessful. “You never know what happens, but I just remember hearing that, ‘no, there’s nothing really in it for you.’”
Turnaround: The rejection, however, was far from decisive, he would find. Later, thanks to a tip from his agent, Malina expressed renewed interest in signing on amid rumors that a leading actor in “Leopoldstadt,” David Krumholtz, was planning to bow out before the play’s conclusion this summer. “To my delight and amazement,” he marveled, “they offered me the role.” Malina, who began rehearsals last month, will take the stage today at Manhattan’s Longacre Theater, joining a limited run that is scheduled to end on July 2. He is stepping into a major role as the assimilated Jewish patriarch Hermann Merz, a wealthy textile manufacturer who learns, as the Nazis rise to power, that even his conversion to Catholicism offers no protection from the horrors of antisemitism.
Comeback: For Malina, 57, the coveted gig marks something of a triumphant return to his roots in theater. More than three decades ago, he began his acting career in the Broadway production of Aaron Sorkin’s breakout play, “A Few Good Men,” before landing a series of distinctive roles in such cult-status TV shows as “Sports Night,” “Scandal” and “The West Wing,” the NBC political drama for which he is best known. Still, Malina privately harbored ambitions to pursue theater again if the right opportunity should arise. “I haven’t been on Broadway in 34 years, and I’ve wanted to for a long time,” he said. Last September, he inched closer to that goal, accepting a role acting in a monthlong stage adaptation of Nathan Englander’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank,” at The Old Globe in San Diego.
Malina’s mission: From a personal standpoint, the play, which first opened in London in 2020, is a natural fit for Malina, a Jewish actor who is among the most outspoken critics of antisemitism in Hollywood. Two years ago, for instance, in a withering viral essay for The Atlantic, he reopened an uncomfortable conversation around the film industry’s continued acceptance of Mel Gibson, whom Malina dismissed as “a well-known Jew-hater.” Meanwhile, on Twitter, where he identifies simply as “(((Jew))),” Malina, a former yeshiva student who grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y., and now lives in Los Angeles, has dedicated much of his pungently worded social media feed to exposing antisemitism wherever such hatred emerges.
Timely theater: The opportunity to appear in “Leopoldstadt,” he suggested, is in some ways an extension of that mission, which he views with particular urgency as antisemitic incidents have risen sharply in recent years. “I just thought it was a very relevant piece of theater for today,” Malina told JI. “There’s a feeling of security sometimes, and then you can find that your feeling of security and your safety is built on sand,” he elaborated. “We’re at a time, in 2023, when antisemitism and all kinds of racism and senseless hate are on the rise, and so it makes me question sometimes how secure I feel in my life.”
🇮🇱 History Lessons: Wall Street Journal columnist Walter Russell Mead suggests that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu look to history — specifically David Ben-Gurion — as he navigates challenges both domestic and international. “Bibi’s problem is a mirror image of Ben-Gurion’s. Ben-Gurion found a way for religious Jews to flourish even as the secular majority dominated the political and military institutions of the emerging state. Mr. Netanyahu must ensure that even as religious and conservative Jews gain greater political power, secular and liberal Jews feel confident that the state of Israel will remain a country they can live in and love. The state of Israel cannot survive without both religious and secular Jews. Religious Jews sustained the beating heart of Jewish peoplehood through the millennia, and without their passion for the God of Abraham and the covenant of Moses, the Jewish people would have gone the way of the Hittites long ago. Yet the modern high-tech economy and the world-class national security institutions that keep Israel rich and safe were largely created by secular Jews.” [WSJ]
♟️ AOC’s Game Plan: Puck’s Tara Palmeri explores Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) political strategy, observing a shift in her demeanor from the outspoken, headline-grabbing, “powerhouse” freshman legislator that she came in as. “On the Hill, which is filled with gossips and more gossips and schadenfreude addicts and unofficial H.R. executives, observers are trying to decipher her strategy. Is she starting to choose legislative juice over celebrity? Is she playing the long game? Is this all part of some three-dimensional chess? Or is she suffering some payback from people she rubbed the wrong way when she first landed in D.C.? Unsurprisingly, given the subject, there are a multitude of views. ‘She has a huge impact but it’s just not in Congress,’ said a former Democratic member. ‘She faces a choice: does she want to be productive or continue to become a celebrity and have influence the way celebrities have influence on Congress, which is not through legislation?’ Another member put it differently: ‘She’s come to realize that you cannot be an agitator as a congressperson.’ But a person familiar with her thinking explained the plan more expansively. ‘She recognizes in this moment that she’s not in a powerful position within the caucus because of the way she came in,’ this person said. ‘She sees that she’s set up for something bigger down the line.’” [Puck]
📸 Eye of a Spy: In The New York Times, Ronen Bergman previews a new exhibit at Tel Aviv’s Yitzhak Rabin Center featuring the photography of Mossad agent Sylvia Rafael, who used the craft as a cover for her work with Israel’s intelligence agency. “Ms. Rafael’s work as a photographer was just a cover for her espionage activity but the photographs she took, the curators of the exhibition say, show great talent. The pictures open a window into the two lives of a woman, as a spy and a photographer. They include portraits of regional leaders like President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and his successor, Anwar Sadat, oblivious to the fact that they were being photographed by a Mossad agent. Other images show scenes of flooding in Yemen and social unrest in Djibouti, as well as daily life in countries like Lebanon and Jordan, which would have been off limits for any Israelis, let alone a Mossad agent.” [NYTimes]
🏠 No Place Like Home: The New Yorker’s Zach Helfand accompanies actor Ben Platt to the Brooklyn home that once belonged to the family of Leo Frank, whom he portrays in “Parade” on Broadway. “At last, he arrived at a brownstone with chalk hearts scrawled up the stoop. Platt recognized it from photographs. (He keeps one of Frank and his wife, Lucille, in the pink dressing room.) ‘It looks the same,’ he said. ‘The door is the same, these railings are the same.’ Another link: ‘There’s this girl in our ensemble who’s amazing — her name is Florrie Bagel. Jewish, as you can imagine. She’s really into the, like, spiritual connection of everything. She came on a day off to this address and left a note and some flowers.’ Platt then got a call from his friend Jeff Levin, who’d worked on Platt’s two studio albums; Levin’s sister had just found a note outside her house. Frank’s home was her home. ‘She had no idea,’ Platt said. ‘I figured — based on Jewish geography, and, just, New York — maybe I’d find some connection to the person there. But it was like an hour later.’” [NewYorker]
😷 Politics of Poison: In the Wall Street Journal, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Reuel Marc Gerecht and the Council on Foreign Relations’ Ray Takeyh consider the political ramifications of the recent poisoning of Iranian schoolgirls, widely believed to have been orchestrated by Tehran. “The poisonings, which might have been done via gas, were likely conceived as a way for Mr. Khamenei and his men to pre-empt more-convulsive demonstrations. It isn’t surprising the attacks started in Qom, where protests have been the most embarrassing and potentially dangerous to the regime’s religious cohesion. Yet the attackers might have miscalculated egregiously. The theocracy is caught in a balancing act that few governments battling nationwide insurrections have managed to execute. The flimsy denials and deflections have outraged the public, forcing an aggrieved Mr. Khamenei to address his people: ‘If anyone is involved in this incident, the agents and the masterminds must be severely punished,’ he said last week. He has forgotten a lesson of the revolution: Teachers and students have always been on the forefront of national protests. Targeting schools and killing girls, whose protection is a religious injunction, is a type of mistake a regime makes when it has lost its bearings.” [WSJ]
Around the Web
🗳️ McCormick’s Moment? Republican Party officials and strategists have reportedly signaled to businessman David McCormick that he will have the party’s backing if he mounts a second Senate bid in Pennsylvania in 2024.
🏃♂️ No Slowing Down: Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), 89, announced last night that he will seek reelection to serve a 15th term in 2024.
📰 New News: Media entrepreneur Jimmy Finkelstein, former owner of The Hill, plans to launch a media startup called The Messenger in May, with a goal of having some 550 journalists covering entertainment, politics and sports within a year.
🇸🇦🇮🇷 Diplomatic Dilemmas: In The Wall Street Journal, former publisher Karen Elliott House considers Saudi Arabia’s motivations for restoring relations with Iran.
🛫 Saudi Sights: Saudi Arabia plans to launch Riyadh Air, with the goal of having flights to 100 cities by 2030. The airline is expected to purchase 39 Dreamliners from Boeing, with Saudia, another of the Gulf nation’s airlines, expected to purchase the same number of jets.
❌ Trip Trouble: Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen canceled an upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia for a U.N. conference after failing to have a substantive conversation on security with Saudi officials.
⚖️ Reform Advances: The Knesset this morning passed the first of three readings of the judicial reform bill, in a 61-52 vote.
🇲🇦 Palace Plea: The Moroccan royal palace asked the country’s leading Islamic party to stop criticizing the country’s ties with Israel.
🤝 Regional Impact:Agence French-Presssetalks to regional officials and analysts about their hopes and hesitations surrounding Saudi Arabia and Iran’s rapprochement.
➡️ Transition: GatherDC CEO Rachel Gildiner is joining Hillel International as chief engagement officer.
🕯️ Remembering: Former Maryland state Del. Marilyn Goldwater died at 95.
Pic of the Day
Israeli Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne and Lili Haber, president of the Krakow Association in Israel, lay flowers on Monday at the monument to those murdered in Plaszow, at the close of an event commemorating the 80th anniversary of the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto, in Krakow, Poland.
Actor, producer, director and comedian who has hosted the Academy Awards nine times, Billy Crystal turns 75…
Professor emeritus of Chemistry at Tel Aviv University, winner of the 1982 Israel Prize, Joshua Jortner turns 90… Founder and retired president of Los Angeles-based Skirball Cultural Center, Rabbi Dr. Uri Herscher turns 82… Dean of Yeshiva Toras Moshe in Jerusalem, Rabbi Moshe Meiselman turns 81… Canadian criminal defense attorney, Brian Greenspan turns 76… Recently retired member of the Maryland House of Delegates after 28 years, Shane Elizabeth Pendergrass turns 73… One-half of the eponymous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Jerry Greenfield turns 72… Retired Hebrew teacher, Eliezer Cohen Barak… Co-founder of the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, she is the president of Stand By Me, an organization that supports cancer patients, Gila Milstein… Partner at Hefter, Leshem, Margolis Capital Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors in Highland Park, Ill., Steven Hefter… Founder and leader of ChangeCommunications, Jo-Ann Mort… NYC-based restaurateur and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, he and his team have won 28 James Beard Awards, Danny Meyer turns 65… Professor at Tel Aviv University and senior research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, Menachem Lorberbaum turns 65… Of counsel in the Minneapolis office of Maslon LLP, Jonathan S. Parritz…
Past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Denise (Davida) Eger turns 63… Owner of Baltimore’s Tov Pizza which he founded in 1984, Ronnie Rosenbluth… Owner and COO of EJM Development Company, he also heads its lending division, New Frontier Capital, Jon Monkarsh… Microgrid architect at Urban Ingenuity, a DC-based consulting firm for advanced clean energy infrastructure projects, Shalom Flank, Ph.D…. Film and television actress, Meredith Salenger turns 53… Entrepreneur, musician, songwriter and record company executive, Josh Gruss turns 49… Canadian fashion stylist and publicist, Jessica Brownstein Mulroney turns 43… Heiress to the Hyatt Hotels fortune and former child actress, Liesel Pritzker Simmons turns 39… Oldest of three sisters who are members of the rock band Haim, Este Arielle Haim turns 37… Former NASCAR driver, he is the sole inductee into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in the Auto Racing category, now a credit trader at TD Securities, Jon Denning turns 36… Former point guard at the University of Pennsylvania, Zack Rosen turns 34… Product quality specialist at The Topps Company, Philip Liebman… Four-time Israeli national champion in the skeleton event, he competed for Israel at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Adam Edelman turns 32… People operations manager at Santa Monica-based Upfront Ventures, Sophie Galant…