👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to Bill de Blasio about his meeting with Harvard Law students to discuss the “progressive case for Israel,” and report on a push by Senate Republicans for theDepartment of Education to address antisemitism on college campuses. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Dana Hyde, Lloyd Austin and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Yesterday evening on Capitol Hill, Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and Sara Jacobs (D-CA), as well as Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the State Department’s antisemitism envoy, addressed a group of female Jewish leaders and others in the Jewish community at an event on Capitol Hill honoring the women of the 118th Congress. The event, held on International Women’s Day, was organized by the National Council of Jewish Women, Hadassah and Jewish Women International.
“It’s not just the United States that is going through very difficult times,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Obviously, Israel is struggling right now. They may not know it but they are struggling… There are those of us In Congress that really want to be helpful while not telling them what to do. So I guess the message that I can project best is, ‘Help us help you,’ or ‘Don’t stop us or slow us down from being able to help you.’”
The Florida lawmaker also said that her Interparliamentary Task to Combat Online Antisemitism is set to hold its second hearing at the European Union headquarters in Brussels in late June, and pledged that the lawmakers will not “let [social media executives] off the hook” until they receive “frank answers to hard but critical questions” about the proliferation of antisemitism on the internet.
Slotkin, who recently launched a Senate campaign, said that debates over Israeli policy “cannot… distract us from antisemitism that is going on in our communities, in our college campuses. And we have to be united on that. We can debate the issues around justice in Israel and Palestinian territories… but antisemitism is the mandate for every single Jewish organization.”
Manning, who took over last year as co-chair of the House’s bipartisan antisemitism task force, said she is working to hold regular task force meetings with relevant speakers. She is also examining the possibility of implementing antisemitism training for new members of Congress, inspired by colleagues from the British Parliament. In addition, she’s working closely with Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff on issues such as improving hate crimes data collection, a topic that was also mentioned by Slotkin.
Echoing German officials who met recently with the task force, Manning emphasized that it is “the obligation of the government to combat antisemitism, not the obligation of the Jewish community.” On campuses, for example, she said, “most of our kids don’t go to college to be warriors for the Jewish people.”
More than 70 Jewish women — including many of the same leaders at last night’s event — will gather at the White House today for its inaugural Jewish Women’s Forum, which was organized by White House Jewish Liaison Shelley Greenspan. They will hear from senior officials including Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, who will talk about his recent trip to Poland and Germany.
Attendees come from a range of Jewish nonprofit and political organizations and include many influential Jewish leaders, as well as social media influencers.
Montana Tucker, a singer and dancer with a significant following on TikTok, is slated to attend, a source tells Jewish Insider. Last year, Tucker documented her visit to Auschwitz for her 9 million followers. Also attending is Miriam Anzovin, who shares Daf Yomi reaction videos and other Jewish educational content to an audience of 26,000 followers on TikTok.
Today on the Hill, the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia subcommittee will hold a hearing on expanding the Abraham Accords, with testimony from Abraham Accords Peace Institute President Robert Greenway, Middle East Institute Distinguished Fellow Gen. Joseph L. Votel and Atlantic Council Distinguished Fellow Ambassador Daniel Shapiro. The House Intelligence Committee will hear testimony from Intelligence Community leaders on global threats.
Gottheimer, Moskowitz: ‘Congress should not publicly intervene’ in Israel’s judicial reform talks
Amid public criticism by some Democratic lawmakers about Israel’s proposed judicial reforms, moderate Democratic Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) are urging legislators against airing their concerns on the ongoing process, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Counterproductive: “Regardless of our personal views and concerns, Congress should not publicly intervene in ongoing negotiations of a key democratic ally,” the lawmakers said in a statement obtained by JI ahead of its release yesterday. “Doing so, especially in a partisan way, could undermine those negotiations toward a positive outcome.”
Calling for calm: The lawmakers added that “we all need to work together — both in a bipartisan manner and with our key ally — to bring calm to the region and work toward peace for Israel and its neighbors,” noting that the Biden administration “has been clear in condemning unilateral actions that dim the prospects for peace.”
Other side: The lawmakers’ statement comes ahead of the anticipated release of a strongly worded letter, led by some top House Democrats, warning of a ‘major conflict’ in the Middle East, a situation the lawmakers say would be exacerbated by the proposed judicial reforms. At least 45 lawmakers had signed onto that letter as of last weekend.
Read more here.
Bill de Blasio presses the ‘progressive case for Israel’ at Harvard
Bill de Blasio, the former mayor of New York City, wasn’t sure what to expect when, a week ago, he met with a group of students at Harvard Law School to defend his belief that progressive values are compatible with, if not contingent upon, maintaining support for Israel. But de Blasio said he was encouraged by the response to his talk, billed as “The Progressive Case for Israel” and held in a classroom at Harvard’s Wasserstein Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 28. “We had a real dialogue, and folks were struck by that,” he told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel. “There was actually a sustained discussion.”
Keeping it civil: Even as the tenor of the discussion “was at times heated” and “at times a little tense,” he acknowledged, “it was still civil in the scheme of things. I heard views I would call left-wing, views I would call right-wing, views I would call pro-Israel and views I would call pro-Palestine,” de Blasio added. “I heard a range in the course of an hour, and no one left the room, no one walked out. People stuck with it. I actually saw some hope in that.”
Bearing witness: De Blasio, who recently concluded a semester-long fellowship at Harvard, was asked to speak at the university by the Alliance for Israel at Harvard and the Harvard Jewish Law Students Association, which co-hosted the event. The invitation to speak at Harvard, de Blasio said, was an opportunity to “dispel” what he described as “a horrible stereotype that suggests that some vast number of progressives are not supportive of the State of Israel,” adding: “I think that’s just absolutely inaccurate and based on no evidence, and I think it’s important to bear witness.”
Small first step: The former mayor said he considers it a minor if ultimately meaningful achievement that the conversation did not devolve into a shouting match or result in a walk-out. “This is a microcosm of what we have to do for our country and for the Middle Eastern region in general,” he suggested. “It was a very, very small, localized first step at Harvard, but it was better than never being in the room together.”
Washingtonian Dana Hyde to be buried in Israel following tragic plane accident
Before Dana Hyde, 55, died last week as a result of turbulence experienced on a business jet, she was at the peak of a Washington career. But when Hyde arrived in Washington in 1989 soon after her graduation from the University of California Los Angeles, she didn’t yet have any of those credentials. Her first job in the nation’s capital was, like many other young idealists hoping to get their foot in the door in Washington, an internship, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch writes.
Right values: “Even at that young age and with no work experience, she was just an extraordinarily brilliant, capable, committed person who had all the right values,” said Ester Kurz, who hired Hyde for that first internship at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “In all the many jobs she had in Washington, and she had many, she was always driven by the desire to help others.”
Life of service: Hyde, who grew up in Oregon, worked on Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign and later in his White House, and served as counsel to the congressional 9/11 Commission. Hyde was flying with her husband and son back from visiting schools in New England when their jet, which is owned by her husband’s company, experienced unexpectedly severe turbulence.
Remembering: Hyde’s funeral on Wednesday took place at Temple Micah in Washington and drew more than 200 people, among them National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. Hyde will be buried in Israel today.
Read the obituary here.
on the hill
Senate Foreign Relations approves Iraq AUMF repeal, advances Garcetti, Ratney nominations
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on Wednesday to advance the long-delayed nominations of Eric Garcetti and Michael Ratney to be the U.S. ambassadors to India and Saudi Arabia, respectively, as well as to repeal past authorizations for use of military force (AUMFs) in Iraq, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
New roadblocks: Garcetti’s nomination was approved by a 13-8 vote; Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), the committee’s ranking member, said that “new evidence” into the allegations “has raised enough questions regarding his judgment,” leading him to vote against Garcetti after supporting him last year. Garcetti continues to face opposition from at least one Democrat, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), and Risch’s opposition could further complicate his prospects for confirmation. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said last week he’s still reviewing the situation. Ratney’s nomination was approved by a voice vote, in a package with other nominees. Fast-track confirmation will remain out of reach as long as Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) continues to object to his confirmation.
Rollback: The committee also voted 13-8 to repeal the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs for Iraq. The effort is expected to come to the floor in the coming weeks, with the support of Senate Democratic leadership. Risch argued that the 2002 AUMF “has long been used to address threats emanating from Iraq such as Iranian-backed Shiite militias,” saying that he is “concerned about the message this repeal would send to the region as much as anything else,” a position shared by some fellow lawmakers. The 2002 AUMF was cited as a secondary authority in the 2020 strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Iraq. An unidentified senator on the committee asked that a vote on legislation aiming to create cooperative programs with Iraq and Arabian Peninsula nations to counter Iranian drones be postponed until the committee’s next meeting.
On the horizon: The annual threat assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, released yesterday, warned that Iran will continue to threaten U.S. interests, U.S. persons and Israel. The report stated that “Iran’s hardline officials’ distrust of Washington and doubts that the United States would deliver or sustain any benefits of a renewed” nuclear deal have blocked an agreement, but that Iran is “not currently undertaking” activities necessary to produce a nuclear weapon. It also notes that “compounding crises in the coming year probably will further challenge the regime’s legitimacy and staying power.” The report also found that racially and ethnically motivated violent extremism continues to be the primary terror threat to the U.S. homeland. At a Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines downplayed links between increased Iranian nuclear enrichment and President Joe Biden’s election.
Elsewhere on the Hill: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) grilled Dilawar Syed, the long-stalled nominee for deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration, about his involvement with Muslim American advocacy group Emgage, which has been critical of Israel. Syed responded by saying, “My allyship with the Jewish community, my work with Israel as a partner, both at the State Department and as a businessman, all my life, I think speaks for my take on this issue.” Jewish groups, including the American Jewish Committee and Anti-Defamation League, have roundly rejected implications from Republicans that Syed may hold anti-Israel or antisemitic views, which have contributed to the delays to his confirmation.
Senate Republicans claim Department of Education has funded antisemitic programs on college campuses
Senate Republicans raised concerns in a new letter sent yesterday that the Department of Education has, for decades, funded antisemitic programs on college campuses with taxpayer money, and accused the department of having failed to enforce federal law, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Red flags: “We write with grave concern that the Department of Education, over the course of decades, has been allowing taxpayer-funded antisemitism to take place on college campuses throughout the United States,” 15 senators wrote in a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. “We are especially concerned the Department of Education is failing to enforce a Higher Education Act (HEA), Title VI requirement that college programs that receive federal funds must ‘reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views.’”
Signatories: The letter was signed by Sens. Jim Risch (R-ID), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Ted Budd (R-NC), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), John Cornyn (R-TX), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Rick Scott (R-FL), Mike Braun (R-IN), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Hoeven (R-ND), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ted Cruz (R-TX). The DOE did not respond to a request for comment before press time.
Antisemitic: The letter alleges that many of the Near East and Middle East-focused programs that receive DOE funding disproportionately focus their curricula and public output on criticizing Israel, in a way the senators say meets the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism. They add that “a core reason college campuses are plagued by antisemitism is because professors who teach the curriculum indoctrinate students with anti-Israel bias and viewpoints.”
🧠 Shattering Stigmas: In an interview with Time magazine’s Mini Racker, Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) details how his struggles with mental health have strengthened his ability to serve as an elected official. “Politics is more of a struggle for me than it is for most people in politics, because I’m an introvert who has a history of struggling with depression. I’m exactly the opposite of the kind of person one would expect to be in politics. I have figured out how to excel in politics, not only despite my depression, but in some ways because of it. We’re living in a time where you have a new generation of elected officials who are running based on their lived experience, and my struggles with depression are part of my lived experience. I often analogize coming out about my depression to coming out about my sexuality. As a public figure, I feel compelled to be open and honest about my struggles with depression in order to break the shame and silence and stigma that often surrounds the subject of mental health. I see it as a teachable moment.” [Time]
👟 Tread Marks: The New York Times’ Melissa Eddy looks at the challenges facing Adidas and its new CEO, Bjorn Gulden, as the sportswear company considers what to do with $1.3 billion worth of sneakers produced through a partnership with Ye, which was severed following the artist’s antisemitic comments. “When the contract was severed, Mr. Gulden said, Adidas decided to continue with the production of Yeezy goods in the pipeline to prevent thousands of people involved from losing their jobs. The future of that inventory is now in question. ‘If we sell it, I promise that the people who have been hurt by this will also get something good out of this,’ Mr. Gulden said. He did not elaborate, but added that donating the proceeds would make more sense than just giving away the shoes, which have an outsize value on the resale market among collectors and other fans. Before last year’s uproar, Yeezy sneakers often sold for hundreds of dollars a pair.” [NYTimes]
🇮🇱 Center Stage: In Tablet, Dan Schueftan suggests that Israel’s current political situation provides an opportunity for the country’s center-left and center-right factions to unite. “The road to common ground, likely long and drawn out, will be dictated by political reality. It will feature ugly scenes and will require politicians to climb down from tall trees and abandon empty slogans. Such common ground is probable because, over time, the two main parties — from the center-left and center-right, the likely constituents of the future coalition — will need each other to establish a functioning government, adjusting itself to the shift in the tectonic plates of society and politics in Israel.” [Tablet]
Around the Web
🧕 Marking the Day: The Treasury Department announced sanctions on several Iranian individuals and entities, including two senior prison officials responsible for human rights abuses against women and girls, noting that the announcement was timed for International Women’s Day.
☢️ Meeting Point: Following meetings between top Israeli and U.S. officials in Washington this week, an Israeli official toldAxios’ Barak Ravid that the two countries are approaching the issue of Iran from “a much closer point of view.”
🪧 Demonstration Disruptions: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s visit to Israel this week was delayed by “day of resistance” protests around Israel, and his meetings with senior Israeli officials were confined to an area near Ben Gurion Airport. In his meeting today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Austin is expected to warn the Israeli leader that the uptick in West Bank violence is weakening U.S.-Israel efforts to work together to counter Iran.
🏥 Bad Fall: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was hospitalized after tripping and falling at D.C.’s Waldorf Astoria last night.
☕ Schultz in the Senate: Starbucks interim CEO Howard Schultz agreed to testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions over the company’s labor practices.
👨⚖️ Judge’s Decision: A judge in California dropped hate crime enhancements against a San Francisco man accused of firing blanks in a synagogue, saying that it was not clear that he targeted the San Francisco venue because Jews were there; prosecutors, meanwhile, are pursuing felony charges against the man.
🔈 Not Sorry: A Republican county commissioner in Florida is facing calls to resign after using an antisemitic slur — an action he later defended during a public forum.
🤝 Hasta La Vista: The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Marvin Hier and Rabbi Abraham Cooper met with former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger days after the politician and actor released a 12-minute-long video denouncing antisemitism.
✡️ Community Chat: The New York Timeslooks at how Jewish Americans are approaching Israel’s domestic debate over proposed governmental reforms.
🇮🇹 Ciao, Bibi: Ahead of his visit to Rome today, the Italian newspaper La Repubblicainterviewed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, touting it as the premier’s first interview with a foreign newspaper since the protests against the government’s judicial reform plans began. Israeli protestors sought to disrupt Netanyahu’s departure to Italy.
🛃 Treasurer’s Trip: Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has not yet received a diplomatic visa for his upcoming trip to the U.S., scheduled for early next week.
🪖 Military Operation: Israeli forces killed three Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants who were believed to have carried out shooting attacks in the area near the West Bank city of Jenin.
🕯️ Remembering: Chaim Topol, who garnered international acclaim for his portrayal of Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” died at 87.
Pic of the Day
Israeli pop star Noa Kiel unveiled her entry for Eurovision 2023, “Unicorn.”
Israeli-born singer, now one-half of the world music duo Shlomit & RebbeSoul, Shlomit Levi turns 40…
Holocaust survivor, he became the rabbi of Adath Israel Congregation in Toronto in 1947 where he is now rabbi emeritus, Erwin Schild turns 103… Professor emeritus of sociology and Jewish studies at the University of Toronto, Y. Michal Bodemann turns 79… Sag Harbor-based painter, sculptor and printmaker, Eric Fischl turns 75… Host of Public Radio International’s Science Friday, Ira Flatow turns 74… Author and political journalist, Michael Kinsley turns 72… Member of the Knesset from 1989 to 2021, now chairman of Israel Aerospace Industries, Amir Peretz turns 71… President and CEO of NYC’s flagship public TV station WNET, Neal Shapiro turns 65… Professor emeritus of economics at NYU, nicknamed “Dr. Doom,” Nouriel Roubini turns 65… Susan Liebman… Founder and president of NYC-based Gotham Media Strategies, Gordon Platt… Member of the Canadian House of Commons, Ya’ara Saks turns 50… VP and head of global communications and public affairs for Meta/Facebook, David I. Ginsberg… Senior fellow at Harvard University’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Matthew Vogel… Former CEO of the Trevor Project, Amit Paley… Co-founder and CEO at ImpactTechNation, he is also a co-founder of the political party Wake-Up Jerusalem, Hanan Rubin… News editor at JNS, Menachem Wecker… Partner in the Los Angeles law firm of Bocarsly Emden, Rachel Rosner… Political analyst on the Fox News Channel, Jessica Tarlov… Communications director for North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, Alissa “Sadie” Weiner… CEO at New Orleans-based QED Hospitality, Emery Whalen… Pitcher for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Jared Lakind turns 31… Founding partner of Mothership Strategies, Jacob “Jake” Austin Lipsett… Director of adult education and Israel engagement at the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County (FL), Marla Topiol… First-round pick by the San Jose Sharks in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, now playing in the AHL, Ozzy Wiesblatt turns 21… Private equity and venture capital investor, Howie Fialkov… Stephen Lent…