👋 Good Tuesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on remarks made by Rep. Adam Schiff on Israel’s judicial reform plans, and interview MK Dan Illouz about a new Knesset caucus aimed at improving ties between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Ronald Lauder, Jeanie Milbauer and Asaf Zamir.
Antisemitism envoys from around the world are convening in Madrid today for a forum hosted by the World Jewish Congress and its president, Ronald Lauder. The meeting of the Special Envoys and Coordinators Combating Antisemitism (SECCA) comes several weeks after a smaller group of envoys met at the White House.
Among those in attendance at today’s gathering are Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism; Katharina von Schnurbein, the E.U.’s coordinator on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life; and Fernando Lottenberg, OAS’ commissioner to monitor and combat antisemitism. The group, which formed four years ago and meets twice a year, has more than doubled in size since its inception, in part due to the creation by governments and organizations of postings dedicated to addressing antisemitism.
A WJC delegation is also set to meet with Spanish King Felipe VI and José Manuel Albares Bueno, Spain’s minister of foreign affairs.
A senior White House official on Monday pledged to continue the Biden administration’s security assistance to Israel, days after Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee on the Mideast, said the U.S. should consider conditioning aid.
“One of the main things that President Biden stressed to Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu [in their Sunday phone call] was our ironclad support for Israel’s security and that’s going to continue,” John Kirby, the coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, told reporters. “We face some common challenges in the region, not the least of which is Iran. That will continue.”
Kirby demurred when asked if Biden has plans to invite Netanyahu to the White House. “There’s nothing on the schedule right now for that,” he said.
HEARD ON THE TRAIL
Adam Schiff addresses Israel’s proposed judicial reforms in Senate candidate forum
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a leading candidate for Senate in California, said during a virtual forum with pro-Israel activists on Monday that he was “proud” that President Joe Biden had recently “weighed in and tried to encourage” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reach a potential compromise on Israel’s proposed judicial reform, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Protecting democracy: “I think that’s in the best traditions of our country,” Schiff explained during the candidate event hosted by the advocacy group Democrats for Israel California, referring to a phone conversation on Sunday in which Biden and Netanyahu reportedly discussed the Israeli government’s controversial judicial reform plans for the first time. “And that is, to work with our allies, not only to help them protect their own democracy, but to make sure that we’re protecting ours.”
Raising concerns: “I share the concerns that have been raised about these potential reforms of the Supreme Court or the diminution of the court’s ability to strike down laws that are unconstitutional or that are protective of minorities within Israel,” Schiff said of the proposed legislation, which has sparked mass protests across Israel.
‘Who are you to talk?’: Even as he expressed concerns over Israel’s planned policy shifts, Schiff, who is one of threeDemocrats now running to succeed outgoing Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), acknowledged that the U.S. is by no means immune from criticism. “Frankly, we are in a much diminished position,” he said. “All too often now, other countries can point to the United States and say, essentially, ‘Who are you to talk?’”
SHABBAT IN A BOX
Jeanie Milbauer’s Oneg looks to bring Shabbat to the masses
When Jeanie Milbauer’s eldest daughter was 5 years old, she brought home a parsha, or Torah portion, worksheet from school regarding the biblical matriarch Sarah for the family to read over the weekend. “The school sent home simple readings and questions, but without context,” Milbauer recalled in an interview with Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel. “I asked the kids why Eliezer picked Rebecca [to be Isaac’s wife], and the little one, almost 2 years old, picked up her head and said the word ‘water!’” Milbauer, despite always feeling connected to her Judaism, had never really practiced her faith. “I don’t know that I had even lit a Shabbat candle prior to raising my own children,” Milbauer said. That moment, however, when her 18-month-old casually answered correctly a question about the parsha, is when Milbauer said her family’s “Shabbat journey began in earnest.”
Accessible to all: These days, Shabbat is an integral part of Milbauer’s life as the founder and CEO of the recently launched Oneg, a company that curates modern Judaica and guiding materials to make Shabbat more accessible to those who want to observe. “Not only [do we] make it [easy], but take down all those barriers to entry,” Milbauer said. Oneg offers a variety of handcrafted ritual items, but its Shabbat Box is a one-stop shop for everything one would need to host their own celebration. “My feeling is, is once you get to know somebody really well you can’t not connect on some level. And [connection is] one of the things, really the most important, or what we found is the most impactful [aspect] of this whole box,” Milbauer told JI over Zoom.
Opening the box: Each box contains a set of wooden candlesticks with candles and a glass collar set, matches, a match-resting dish, an embroidered challah cover and a ceramic Kiddush cup — all one of a kind and available in a variety of colors. Rounding out the box are four Shabbat guidebooks and Oneg’s signature conversation cards, which Milbauer sees as the “centerpiece” of the collection. Each card is meant to relate to the theme of that week’s parsha, fostering meaningful conversations around the table.
Striking up conversation: “Judaism is a communal sport. Our materials are experiential for everyone to participate. Oneg’s [conversation] cards were created to spark an exchange of ideas, to talk with each other without interruption or judgment,” Milbauer said. “The cards elevate the Shabbat experience, engaging people who’d never even celebrated Shabbat before. I’ve learned things about friends I would never have known; it’s brought us closer to friends and to our family.” Beth Marcus, an Oneg customer from New York, had similar sentiments about the conversation cards and overall Shabbat Box’s ability to create an “interactive experience at the Shabbat table.” The cards, she said, “ give whoever is at our table — our adult kids, friends, those who have not before celebrated Shabbat — a way to get involved.”
Further learning: In addition to Oneg’s purchasable products, those requiring further support can go on the company’s website for pages dedicated to Shabbat melodies such as “Shalom Aleichem” and “Eshet Chayil,” to teach those less familiar with the Jewish ritual how to recite the blessings at their own tables; the Jewish holiday calendar; and Milbauer’s blog, which includes recipes and hosting tips from the founder herself. Milbauer hasn’t ruled out the possibility of focusing on other Jewish holy days as well, but she sees Shabbat as “the base of Judaism,” which is why she said it will always be at the heart of Oneg.
DIASPORA IN THE KNESSET
Israeli lawmakers establish Knesset caucus to hear Diaspora Jews’ voices
A new Knesset caucus aimed at improving ties between Israel and Diaspora Jewry will soon begin operating, allowing Jews from communities worldwide a platform to air their views in the Jewish state’s corridors of power and, say those behind it, help allay concerns over some of the current Israeli government’s political moves. “At the end of the day, Israel is a democracy and so the citizens of the State of Israel are the ones making the decisions, but that does not mean that we shouldn’t listen to our brothers all around the world,” Member of Knesset Dan Illouz, a first-time parliamentarian who made aliyah from Montreal in 2009, told Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash in an interview.
Creating a space: Illouz, who was selected by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to serve in the Likud party in a spot specially reserved for new immigrants, established the caucus with coalition partner Ohad Tal from the far-right Religious Zionism party. Illouz told JI that the forum, which has no formal legislative powers, will likely begin operating in the next few weeks and that it plans to cover a broad range of topics, including some of the controversial issues currently being debated in the Knesset. The caucus’ hybrid structure will allow members of the Diaspora to join either in person or via Zoom. “We felt that there wasn’t a place in the Knesset where Jewish communities around the world could feel that their voices are being heard, including on issues that affect them,” he explained.
Consensus challenges: “I think that there’s a large agreement in the Jewish world that the State of Israel is a common project that we can be very proud of,” added Illouz, who previously served as the COO of external relations at JGive and managed activities of the Zionist Organization of America in Israel. He said he hoped the forum would also be used to discuss consensus challenges facing world Jewry such as the rise in antisemitism or the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
Discussing the reforms: Asked about criticisms by some Diaspora Jewish groups of the government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary, which some believe could weaken the country’s democratic nature and leave minority communities vulnerable, Illouz said that a lot of Diaspora Jewry’s fears are based “more on perception than on fact.” Ilouz, who was previously an advisor to Justice Minister Yariv Levin and also worked for the Kohelet Policy Forum, the architect of the current judicial reforms, told JI “even after a discussion, they might not agree with all the positions the government is taking, but at least they will not be afraid of steps the government is taking.”
📓 A Journalist’s Identity Crisis: In The New Republic, Sam Adler-Bell dives into the life and work of the late journalist Janet Malcolm, whose family fled Nazi-occupied Prague to the U.S. in 1939. “In the United States, Malcolm’s parents changed their name from Wiener to Winn for ‘fear of an anti-Semitism that was not limited to Nazi Germany.’ Malcolm and her younger sister, Marie, didn’t learn they were Jewish until one of them ‘brought home an anti-Semitic slur’ from school. By then, Malcolm notes, the girls had internalized the (milder but still palpable) Jew-hatred of their adopted home, and she ‘resented and hid’ her Jewishness through adolescence. Malcolm’s parents had concealed their Jewishness out of uncertainty about whether they had actually ‘found a refuge’ in New York. ‘By the time they understood that they had,’ Malcolm writes, ‘their children’s imaginative life had been deeply affected by their dread.’” [TheNewRepublic]
✡️ Marking Moments: In Smithsonian Magazine, historian Flora Cassen, author of the book Marking the Jews in Renaissance Italy: Politics, Religion, and the Power of Symbols, shares some of her research into the history of forcing Jews to wear badges, the subject of her Ph.D. “Though the yellow badge has come to symbolize Nazi cruelty, it wasn’t an original idea. For many centuries, communities throughout Europe had forced Jewish residents to mark themselves. In lands under Muslim rule, non-Muslims had been required to wear identifying marks since the Pact of Umar, a ruling attributed to a seventh-century caliph, though scholars believe it originated later. For Jews, these were usually a yellow belt called zunnar or a yellow turban. In Europe, forced markings for Jews and Muslims were introduced by Pope Innocent III at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. The pope explained that the markings were a means to prevent Christians from having sex with Jews and Muslims, thereby protecting society from ‘such prohibited intercourse.’ But he didn’t specify how Jews’ or Muslims’ dress had to be different, resulting in various distinguishing signs.” [Smithsonian]
🖊️ Mad About Milton: TheNew Yorker’s Adam Gopnik explores the mark made on America by the late graphic designer Milton Glaser. Glaser’s passion, as his published notebooks reveal, was drawing. “No art director’s work was more influential or instantly identifiable than that of Milton Glaser. The extent of that style, which adorned books and records and movies — and is revealed in a new anthology from Monacelli, courtesy of Steven Heller, Mirko Ilić, and Beth Kleber, titled simply ‘Milton Glaser: Pop’ — is astounding. Glaser was famous as the co-founder and original design director of New York and as a creator of two images that helped define two decades. One was the 1966 poster of Bob Dylan that showed him with snakelike hair blossoming into a skein of rainbows. The other was the 1976 ‘I❤️NY’ logo—which was commissioned by the State of New York but promptly adopted as a local symbol of the city, and, being keyed to the city’s unexpected revival, is the closest thing there has ever been to a logo that changed social history. But Glaser’s real achievement lies in what the book lays out: a breathtaking empire of imagery that encompassed both decades and more.”
👕 Dress Codes: In The New Yorker, Hua Hsu delves into the history and evolution of the J.Crew brand and preppy fashion. “Perhaps because [Ralph] Lauren, like [Arthur] Cinader, was Jewish and Bronx-born, he was alert to the codes and customs that the Greenwich set took for granted. Although sometimes described as more of a stylist than a designer — he had little hands-on experience in the making of clothes — Lauren was, above all, a visionary salesman: he understood how to extract Americana out of American history. His looks alluded to outdoorsmen and boarding-school culture, American frontier myths and even the Indigenous legacies displaced in the name of those myths. The story told by a Lauren jacket — maybe the one worn by Robert Redford in ‘The Great Gatsby,’ or maybe the one worn by Diane Keaton in ‘Annie Hall’ — could dissolve all manner of historical contradictions in a dreamy nostalgia.”[New Yorker]
Around the Web
✋ ESG AOK: President Joe Biden vetoed a measure — his first veto as president — that would have overturned a regulation allowing human resources officers to consider environmental, social and corporate governance guidelines (ESG) when investing in retirement plans.
🗳️ Santos Challenger: Democrat William Murphy announced a 2024 bid for Congress in New York’s 3rd Congressional District to unseat Rep. George Santos (R-NY).
❌ Not Running: Lansing, Mich., Mayor Andy Schor ruled out a run for Congress in the state’s 7th Congressional District, which is currently represented by Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), who is mounting a bid for Senate.
☕ Coffee Break: Starbucks interim CEO Howard Schultz stepped down from the company’s top job, two weeks ahead of his anticipated April 1 departure. Schultz was previously scheduled to testify before a Senate committee over a conflict between the company and baristas seeking to unionize.
🏈 Magic Bid: Magic Johnson joined Joshua Harris’ bid to purchase the Washington Commanders NFL franchise.
🐦 Musk’s Mess: A new study by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue found that antisemitic tweets more than doubled following Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.
👀 Morgie and The Donald: In The New York Times, Robert Morgenthau biographer Andrew Meier reflects on the former Manhattan district attorney’s relationship with former President Donald Trump.
🪖 Farewell to Arms: The Eisenhower Media Network, for which Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen serves as president, is behind a media campaign advocating for an end to U.S. military support to Ukraine; Cohen’s foundation has given the organization more than $1 million.
🥪 The Last Pastrami on Rye: Kornblatt’s Deli, which has operated continuously for more than three decades and is the oldest Jewish deli in Portland, Ore., will close at the end of the month.
⚖️ A Time to Influence: The New York Times takes a deep dive into the Kohelet Policy Forum, the Israeli think tank founded by two New Yorkers that is one of the prime architects behind many of the Israeli government’s proposed judicial reforms.
🛬 Facing the Music: Asaf Zamir, Israel’s consul general in New York, was summoned to Jerusalem over comments critical of the Israeli government’s proposed judicial reforms.
😃 Happy News: Israel was ranked No. 4 on the U.N.-sponsored World Happiness Report, having placed ninth the previous year.
☢️ Nuke Omission: Semafor’s Jay Solomon reports that the Beijing-brokered agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran did not address the nuclear ambitions or programs of either country.
🇸🇦🇮🇷 Iran Invite: King Salman of Saudi Arabia has invited Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi for an official visit, a senior Iranian official said.
🙏 Praising the Protestors: President Joe Biden paid tribute to Iranian women and girls who have taken part in the anti-regime protests at a White House event to celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year.
🏦 Big Loss: A $1.5 billion Saudi investment in Credit Suisse is almost wiped out following the latter’s merger with UBS Group AG, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Pic of the Day
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides and “Tehran” series star Liraz Charhi celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year, at an event held on Sunday at the Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv, hosted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and attended by senior officials from the Israeli security, political and cultural world. The gathering was held in solidarity with the Iranian people in light of the ongoing protests against the regime.
Israeli rock musician and record producer, he is best known for being the guitarist and one of the songwriters in the rock band Mashina, Shlomi Bracha turns 61…
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