👋 Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on Yom HaShoah ceremonies in Israel and Poland, and interview U.S. Ambassador to Germany Amy Gutmann about her personal connection to the Holocaust. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Meek Mill, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Israel came to a momentary standstill today, as a siren lasting two minutes rang out across the country at 10 a.m. local time. Traffic halted and pedestrians froze and bowed their heads in honor of Yom HaShoah, officially named Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, during which hundreds of ceremonies are held across the country.
Last night, the opening of the state ceremony, which continued today, was held at the Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance center.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, speaking at the ceremony, addressed the inner turmoil the country is experiencing: “[T]his year is no ordinary year. And this remembrance day is like no other. This year, feelings are rough and shoulders are hunched, as if to attest to the weight of the discord bearing down on us. I appeal to you, citizens of Israel, with a simple prayer: let us leave these sacred days, which begin tonight and end on Independence Day, above all dispute; let us all come together, as always, in partnership, in grief, in remembrance.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his speech, sent a message to Israel’s enemies. “People of Israel, I have been standing here for many years and I declare before the whole world — ‘never again,’ he said. “This time, I want to emphasize — those who seek to harm us, our enemies, may think that we lack the determination and internal fortitude to stand up to them — but they are greatly mistaken. The story of the revolt of the Warsaw Ghetto embodies the destiny of heroism and the greatness of heroism that our people possess, and it also obligates us to pass it on to the next generations — spirit, strength and inner unity. Only in this way will we defeat those who rise up against us to destroy us and only in this way will we continue to ensure the victory of Israel.”
In a video made in partnership with the media company ATTN: and the World Jewish Congress, U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken shared the story of how his stepfather, Samuel Pisar, survived the Holocaust after the Nazis invaded his hometown of Bialystok, Poland, when he was 12. Pisar spent four years in concentration camps and was sent to the gas chambers in Auschwitz twice, one of those times surviving by pretending he’d been sent there to clean the floors, Blinken said.
“Among the powerful lessons we reflect on this Yom HaShoah is that the mass murder of 6 million Jews was not a sudden or singular act, but rather the culmination of countless incremental steps designed to vilify and dehumanize people,” Blinken tweeted. “We must remember, now and always.”
President Joe Biden tweeted, “On Holocaust Remembrance Day, we grieve the 6 million Jews and millions of other innocent lives lost during one of the darkest chapters in history. We can’t redeem the past. But we can commit to building a future where we uphold the values of justice, equality, and diversity.”
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, Reps. David Kustoff (R-TN) and Brad Schneider (D-IL) are set to host a Holocaust remembrance event this morning. Expected attendees include House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) and other members of Congress, Holocaust survivors and Stuart Eizenstat, chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.
More than 9,000 people from around the world arrived in Poland for the annual March of the Living from Auschwitz I to Auschwitz-Birkenau to be held today to mark Yom HaShoah, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross reports.
Participants include Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who traveled to Poland together with rapper Meek Mill, as well as philanthropists Miriam Adelson, Ari Emanuel, David Zaslav, Iris and Haim Taib, Eitan Neishlos and Mati Kochavi, as well as Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Israeli Education Minister Yoav Kisch, Jewish Agency Board of Governors Chair Mark Wilf, Jewish Agency Chair Doron Almog and Keren Kayemet Le’Yisrael-Jewish National Fund Chair Ifat Ovadia Luski and CNN anchors Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash, according to March of the Living.
From Berlin, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Amy Gutmann shared her personal connection to the Holocaust with Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch, and discussed how, as a representative of the government, she teaches the lessons of the past to both Germans and Americans. More below.
Also on our radar: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) told JI’s Marc Rod yesterday on Capitol Hill that the U.S. needs to be “bearing down on the parties” responsible for renewed fighting in Sudan between military and paramilitary forces “and sanctioning those that are continuing to keep the unrest going.” Menendez continued, “the sooner we do that, the more lives we’ll save.” The renewed conflict has heightened uncertainty about Israel and Sudan’s long-delayed efforts at normalizing relations.
USAID Administrator Samantha Power will testify today before the House Appropriations Committee’s State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs subcommittee, and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments today in Groff v. DeJoy, a case that could prompt an expansion of religious accommodations in the workplace. More than a dozen Jewish groups have joined briefs in the case, urging an expansion of religious protections.
And finally, in case you missed it: Yesterday we published the first installment of a five-part investigation into the 1984 murder of Washington, D.C., Rabbi Philip Rabinowitz. We heard from many of you who are wondering when the second part will be published. Look for it in your inbox on Thursday morning.
DeSantis takes steps to attract center-right Jewish voters
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is taking steps to attract support from the center-right Jewish community ahead of a widely expected presidential campaign launch, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports. The 44-year-old Republican recently signed legislation that will significantly expand Florida’s school choice program and, later next week, is scheduled to visit Israel to deliver the keynote address at a high-profile event hosted by the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem.
‘Definitely appealing’: The bill was applauded by Orthodox Jewish groups that represent a key constituency, and would be a boon to the state’s Jewish day school population, which is among the largest in the country. The governor’s upcoming speech in Jerusalem, meanwhile, will allow him to flex his pro-Israel record before potentially jumping into the 2024 GOP contest. The legislation and the trip to Israel “are both definitely appealing to the Jewish community,” Gabriel Groisman, a board member with the Republican Jewish Coalition and a former mayor of Bal Harbour, Fla., told JI on Monday.
Polarizing pivot: Still, those moves have come in tandem with more polarizing efforts, including a controversial six-week abortion ban that DeSantis quietly signed into law last week. In response to the bill, a major Republican donor, Thomas Peterffy, said over the weekend that he and “a bunch of friends” were withholding their funding to DeSantis over “his stance on abortion” as well as “book banning.”
The Haley factor: Jay Lefkowitz, a former Bush administration official who is backing Nikki Haley for president, said DeSantis “understands” that he will need to compete with the former U.N. ambassador for support from moderate conservative Jewish voters. “Pro-Israel American Jews would certainly have two good options with DeSantis and Haley,” Lefkowitz told JI. “The primary distinguishing feature is that Haley has actually demonstrated her incredibly strong or uncompromising or unwavering commitment to Israel on the front lines — and actions often speak louder than words.” (A spokesperson for DeSantis did not respond to a request for comment.)
‘Donor Presidential Primary’: While the Jewish vote “isn’t particularly significant in most Republican primaries,” said Frank Luntz, a political pundit and Republican pollster, “the ‘Donor Presidential Primary’ matters a lot, particularly with the passing of Sheldon Adelson,” the late GOP mega-donor. “It makes perfect sense that DeSantis would seek to appeal to the Jewish community, as a significant share of donors either live or vacation in Florida,” Luntz added. “His challenge will be the abortion issue, as most Jewish donors are strongly pro-choice.”
In Jerusalem, Sen. Graham says U.S. should mediate Israel-Saudi normalization
In a round of shuttle diplomacy between Washington, Riyadh and Jerusalem this week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) relayed messages to Israeli leaders from Washington and Riyadh on his — and the Biden administration’s — efforts to bring Saudi Arabia into the 2020 Abraham Accords, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
Closing window: “Saudi Arabia is ready to move forward with Israel, if they can get a relationship with us,” Graham, who traveled to Jerusalem after visiting Saudi Arabia and meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last week, told journalists at a press conference at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Monday. “They [the Saudis] asked the question of whether Israel is capable of doing this,” Graham continued. “I told them that I had a lot of confidence in the Israeli political system, but I will say that this opportunity is not unlimited, that if we do not do it in 2023 or early 2024, the window of opportunity may close.”
Game changer: Graham said he had been encouraged to travel to the Middle East by the White House, with the goal of “upgrading the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States,” which, in turn, would help to normalize ties between Israelis and Saudis – an ultimate foreign policy goal that Netanyahu has set himself since returning to office in January. “I told [National Security Advisor Jake] Sullivan, [Special Envoy to Counter ISIL Brett] McGurk, and the Biden administration, that I would like to be helpful as a Republican to try to normalize relationships between Saudi Arabia, the United States and Israel,” Graham explained, adding, “If this could happen, it would be the biggest change in my lifetime in the Middle East. It would bring about stability in a troubled region.”
Israeli support: In his meetings with Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Graham said he emphasized that normalizing ties with Saudi Arabia was still possible but that it had to be achieved as soon as possible, despite the ongoing unrest in the country over the Netanyahu’s government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary. “The reason I came here is because the Democratic administration is soliciting my help to close a deal with Saudi Arabia that will be beneficial to Israel,” he said. “[Former Israeli Defense Minister Benny] Gantz, [opposition leader and former Israeli Prime Minister Yair] Lapid and Bibi all said, ‘If you can pull this off, count us in.’ I think what you will find is that if the United States can upgrade the relationship with Saudi Arabia, then you’ll have every corner of Israeli politics supporting it.”
LESSONS OF THE PAST
For America’s ambassador to Germany, a personal reflection on Yom HaShoah
When Amy Gutmann, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, was a child, her father was always awake nearby and ready to bring her a cup of hot cocoa if she couldn’t sleep at night. Only later did she learn that it was because her father was haunted by nightmares, the consequence of his upbringing in Germany in the years before the Holocaust. He got out not long after the Nazis came to power, but many family members and friends did not. “He didn’t share any of the horrors with me. Just the big picture, which I took to heart,” Gutmann told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch. “He instilled in me how important it is to speak out early and often against antisemitism and not take democracy for granted.”
Full circle: Speaking to JI on Monday, the eve of Yom HaShoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day — Gutmann reflected on her diplomacy in the country that her father, who died when she was a teenager, fled 90 years ago, and that is now one of America’s closest allies in the global fight against antisemitism.
Steadfast and strong: “It’s something my father would be so proud of,” said Gutmann, 73, who served as the president of the University of Pennsylvania for 18 years. “Not simply proud of me, but proud of our country, the U.S., in the journey that it has helped Germany take to being in a place where Germany and the U.S. now can stand steadfast and strong as allies, fighting against antisemitism in all its forms. Making sure ‘never again’ is a reality, being strong and steadfast supporters of the State of Israel and above all, making sure that all forms of antisemitism and hatred and violence are combated.”
Remembering together: On Monday night, Gutmann hosted Muslim leaders, as well as members of the Jewish community and other local faith communities, for a Yom HaShoah gathering at her residence in Berlin to talk about bringing different religious communities together “in the cause of peace,” she said.
Stumbling stones: Gutmann expects the most meaningful part of her Holocaust remembrance efforts to come later this week, and to be much more personal. Last year, Gutmann visited her father’s hometown, the small Bavarian city of Feuchtwangen, for the first time. “I am finalizing plans to go back there and lay the first couple Stolpersteine, the first stumbling stones that this town has, in honor of my father and my aunts and uncles and grandparents,” said Gutmann, referring to the small memorials that appear across Europe to mark the former homes of Nazi victims.
Aliza Licht knows how to stay ‘On Brand’
In a world where it seems as if everyone is busy crafting a personal “brand” for themselves, Aliza Licht is something of a branding connoisseur. In 2015, Licht penned her debut book, Leave Your Mark: Land Your Dream Job. Kill It in Your Career. Rock Social Media., a mentorship guide for young professionals looking to jump-start their dream careers. Licht used the book’s success as a stepping stone to create her multimedia brand and consultancy, LEAVE YOUR MARK LLC — of which she is founder and president — solidifying herself as a global mentor. Licht’s newest book, On Brand: Shape Your Narrative. Share Your Vision. Shift Their Perception., is out today. It’s a book, Licht described to Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel, for those wanting to reach the next step in their careers or looking to pivot into something completely new.
On making your accomplishments known: “This book is not about teaching people to brag, what it is trying to do is teach you to strategically position yourself. And that can show up in a lot of different ways,” Licht said. “For people who are really uncomfortable talking about maybe something great that happened or an accomplishment, why not lean on trusted colleagues to say, ‘hey, you know what, I would love my manager to know this, but I feel really weird talking about it, would you be able to mention it?’ and then return the favor. Or put your results in a deck that you present to your manager, for example. But, I think if you’re waiting around for people to notice you’re really good at your job or what you do, that’s a huge mistake, because people are thinking about themselves.”
On if it’s possible to come back from a public mistake: “It really depends on what the person has done,” Licht told JI. “Public apologies, especially well-known people, we know that we all analyze the sincerity of the apology and what steps the person has taken, whether to educate themselves or really show that they really didn’t understand the topic or really didn’t understand the history of a conversation and really want to better themselves. You know, we see this a lot with antisemitism, we see a lot of people who have overtly been antisemitic, especially sports figures online, end up at Yad Vashem on a tour, learning about the Holocaust. By the way, I think that’s a great thing and I think it’s important, like if you are a public person, to show that you are taking an action to actually learn more. Can you come back? Sometimes you can. And I think that regardless of who you are, you need to definitely take a break to show that you are actually sorry. I think when people just sort of snap back like a rubber band, they’re like, ‘oh, sorry,’ and then they move on to their sort of regularly scheduled programming, we can all see that like, OK, they didn’t take this that seriously. So there is definitely a moratorium on activities.”
✉️ The Court and the Sabbath: In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, provides commentary on today’s upcoming Supreme Court case, Groff v. DeJoy, and the realities of workplace religious discrimination in the U.S. “Congress amended the Civil Rights Act in 1972 to require employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious needs so long as that doesn’t impose an ‘undue hardship’ on the business. A plain reading of that text means that employers must make a real effort to provide accommodations when requested. They did so, until the high court eviscerated the provision in TWA v. Hardison (1977). Like Mr. Groff, Larry Hardison was a devout Christian; he observed the sabbath on Saturday. He too asked his employer, Trans World Airlines, to honor his request to work on other days of the week. The company resisted, claiming that doing so would force the business to violate the seniority system embodied in its contract with its employees union. Mr. Hardison was fired, and he sued for religious discrimination. The court ruled against him, holding that his request amounted to an “undue hardship” because it would impose ‘more than a de minimis cost’ on TWA. With this ruling, the court shifted the law such that virtually any increased financial cost — even a few hours of a manager’s time spent sorting out scheduling changes — can remove the employer’s obligation to its religious employees.” [WSJ]
📚 Shoah Scribes: In an essay for The New York Times, author Daphne Kalotay, details what it’s like to be a Holocaust storyteller and the importance of having secondhand voices to keep its history alive. “I’m grappling, of course, with the fact that I am one generation removed — I was not alive during the war — and these memories belong to others. At the same time, second-generation storytellers have grown up with something pervading our existence. ‘Secondhand smoke,’ as one of the Happy Forced Laborer’s daughters calls it. At a remove yet just as toxic…The paradox of Holocaust storytelling is that as powerful as the familiar images may be — the heaped shoes, the indistinguishable starved bodies — these collective symbols dehumanize. And as we move farther and farther from the event, these images are ever more divorced from the people who wore those shoes and lived in those bodies. A single person’s or family’s story rehumanizes and reinvigorates generalized history. That is why our collective recollection and understanding of historical events relies on storytelling, past, present and future, and why the next generations of writers haunted by the Holocaust now shoulder this responsibility.” [NYTimes]
🇺🇸 Biden’s Biding Time:The New York Times’ Shane Goldmacher and Reid Epstein dissect President Biden’s laissez-faire attitude toward announcing a second-term run at the White House. “What is clear is that any external pressure that Mr. Biden and his team once felt to formally enter the 2024 race has mostly evaporated. No serious primary challenge to the president has emerged, and potential opponents have rallied behind him. The leading Republican candidate, former President Donald J. Trump, faces felony charges related to a hush-money payment to a porn star. And Republicans are generally more focused on thrashing one another and dragging the party to the right than on attacking Mr. Biden, who is content to draw a sharp contrast to the G.O.P. chaos from the Oval Office. ‘There is no immediate urgency,’ said Kate Bedingfield, who recently departed the White House as communications director. ‘The president has the luxury of being able to decide when he wants to announce.’” [NYTimes]
👴 Before and After Trump: The Bulwark’s Sarah Longwell looks at how Donald Trump’s presidency changed the landscape for Republican voters. “Eight years after he declared his intention to run for president, it’s now clear that we should consider Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign not as part of America’s political continuum but as one of these temporal dividing lines….In American politics, there were conventions and candidates that existed in 2015 Republican politics as the before times. 2015 BT. Before Trump…I’ve sat through hundreds of focus groups with GOP voters over the last four years and one thing is perfectly clear: The Republican party has been irretrievably altered and, as one GOP voter put it succinctly, ‘We’re never going back. It’s easy to identify people who don’t realize the transformation undergone by GOP voters. Many of them, in fact, have been talking about running for president. Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Chris Christie, Asa Hutchinson, Mike Pompeo — these are Before Trump (BT) politicians who don’t quite realize they’re living in an After Trump (AT) world.” [Bulwark]
Around the Web
🇷🇺 Evan’s Appeal:Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich appeared in a Moscow courtroom, standing in a glass enclosure, in his first public appearance since being arrested on trumped-up charges of espionage.
😟 Civil War: Republicans are worrying that the anti-tax conservative group the Club for Growth could cost them a Senate majority by boosting weak candidates.
🏃♂️ He’s Running, No Lie: Rep. George Santos (R-NY) announced his 2024 reelection campaign on Monday.
🗳️ Battleground Wisconsin: Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-WI) signaled he’s seriously considering a Senate campaign against Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in 2024.
🛑 Senate Standstill: Senate Republicans are prepared to block Democratic efforts to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on the Judiciary Committee, a move that could intensify pressure on her to resign.
🏥 Rest and Recovery: Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) underwent surgery to remove a small, cancerous tumor in his tonsil and will be absent from Congress as he recovers.
😠 Sparks Fly: A mention of “Jewish racism” in a new report on antisemitism co-authored by the Anti-Defamation League and Tel Aviv University led to a heated exchange between Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and the ADL.
🏫 Coverage of the Coverage: In The Wall Street Journal, William McGurn opines that The New York Times should “leave New York’s Yeshivas alone.”
👬 Friendship Under Fire: In an interview with The Dallas Morning News, real estate magnate Harlan Crow defends his friendship with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, which has drawn criticism in recent days.
📺 Coming Soon:The Washington Post spotlights billionaire philanthropist David Rubenstein ahead of the release of a new PBS television series, “Iconic America,” which he will host.
📚 Bookshelf:The Wall Street Journal reviews Meryl Frank’s Unearthed: A Lost Actress, a Forbidden Book, and a Search for Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust.
👨⚖️ On Trial: A group of former Austrian officials was put on trial over the weekend for allegedly granting asylum to a suspected Syrian war criminal at the behest of the Mossad.
🇸🇦🇮🇷 Resumed Relations: The U.S. regards the “detente” between Saudi Arabia and Iran as “a very important moment,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf told The National.
📧 Antisemitic Associations: Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) showcased on his official government newsletter a story published by the antisemitic site, Veterans Today, that named Jewish supporters of Ukraine as “warmongers” and praised him for attacking them.
🚑 Shooting Attack: Two Israeli men were injured in a terror attack in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah while walking to morning prayers on Tuesday, police said.
Pic of the Day
Israeli President Isaac Herzog lays a wreath at Yad Vashem this morning in honor of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day.
Former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Ira Saul Glasser turns 85…
Chief rabbi of the Old City of Jerusalem until 2008, Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl turns 88… Partner in the intellectual property law firm of Furgang & Adwar, Philip Furgang turns 86… Biochemist, geneticist and winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1985, Joseph Leonard Goldstein turns 83… Managing director of fundraising consulting firm, Mirsky, Jaffe & Associates, Michael Jaffe turns 83… English barrister and arbitrator, his clients have included the British Chief Rabbi, Michael Jacob Beloff turns 81… Corporate turnaround expert and mergers & acquisitions specialist, Jerry W. Levin turns 79… Los Angeles resident, Saul Bernstein… Former member of the Vermont State Senate and co-founder in 1984 of Jogbra, Hinda Miller turns 73… Former Mayor of Phoenix, Arizona for eight years after two terms on the Phoenix City Council, Phil Gordon turns 72… Composer, pianist and musicologist, Robert M. Greenberg turns 69… Former college basketball coach for 34 years, he is now an ESPN analyst, Seth Greenberg turns 67… Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and director of the Northeastern University School of Journalism, Jonathan Kaufman turns 67… Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of four acclaimed books, Susan Faludi turns 64… Community leader in Detroit and former President of AIPAC, David Victor… Editor of Commentary magazine, columnist for the New York Post, author and speechwriter for presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, John Mordecai Podhoretz turns 62… President and dean of Ohr Torah Stone institutions in Israel since 2018, prior to making aliyah he was a VP at Yeshiva University and rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue, Rabbi Dr. Kenneth R. Brander turns 61… VP and deputy general counsel at Scholastic Inc, he is a past president of Beth El Synagogue Center in New Rochelle, NY, Mark Seidenfeld… Executive director of the American Zionist Movement, Herbert Block… Emmy Award-winning actress known for her work on daytime television, Tamara Braun turns 52… Film director, producer, writer and actor, Eli Roth turns 51… Rabbi, founder and executive director of the Aspen Chabad Jewish Community Center, Rabbi Mendel Mintz turns 48… Poet, critic, translator and professor, Ilya Kaminsky turns 46… Undersecretary of Homeland Security for strategy, policy and plans, Robert P. Silvers turns 43… Political director for AIPAC’s Florida region, Evan Philipson… Dov Maimon…