👋 Good Wednesday morning!
Ed note: Wishing you all a healthy and happy Passover. The Daily Kickoff will return on Friday, April 14.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we interview the creator of the ChatGPT-generated Haggadah, and talk to former allies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the current state of politics in Israel. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: the Lauder family, Maer Roshan and Jamie Dimon.
For less-distracted reading over the weekend, browse this week’s edition of The Weekly Print, a curated print-friendly PDF featuring a selection of recent Jewish Insider, eJewishPhilanthropy and The Circuit stories, including: Israel’s consul general in Dubai builds new ties; White House to host virtual Passover Seder; The chaos roiling a luxury Passover getaway in Atlantic City; Richmond’s Levar Stoney, recently returned from Israel, eyes governor’s mansion; Scott Wiener’s delicate balancing act; Tech meets religion with world’s first AI-powered Haggadah; Still under fire, Ukraine’s Jews seek ‘spiritual power’ this Passover; and Eight wines for Seder night 5783. Print the latest edition here.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) are scheduled to visit Israel later this month, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
McCarthy is set to visit the Jewish state between April 30 and May 2, while Jeffries will visit between April 22 and 24, according to two people familiar with the planning for the trips. The visits appear to be the first foreign travel for the new House speaker and minority leader since taking office earlier this year. The trips bracket the celebrations for the 75th anniversary of Israel’s independence, Yom Ha’atzmaut, on April 25 and 26.
Both McCarthy and Jeffries most recently visited Israel last year with the AIPAC-linked American Israel Education Foundation. Jeffries told Jewish Insider during that visit that the then-Israeli governing coalition, led by former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, was “a political miracle,” adding, “The Middle East is a tough region with seemingly intractable challenges, but I left our meetings with the Israeli government hopeful and cautiously optimistic about the future.”
Amid criticisms of Israel’s judicial reform plans from the Biden administration and some congressional Democrats, McCarthy recently offered strong support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Prime Minister Netanyahu is an Israeli patriot, statesman, and most importantly, a great friend of the USA,” McCarthy said in a statement. “Free societies have vigorous and open debate. Israel is no exception. I support [Netanyahu], and America’s support for Israel’s strong, vibrant democracy is unwavering.” Read the full story here.
In a CNN op-ed published on the eve of Passover, President Joe Biden stresses the moral obligation to speak out and act against antisemitism in the face of rising anti-Jewish incidents.
Passover, Biden writes, “is more than just a recounting of the past. It is also a cautionary tale of the present and our future as a democracy. As Jews read from the Haggadah about how evil in every generation has tried to destroy them, antisemitism is rising to record levels today.”
“To the Jewish community, I want you to know that I see your fear, your hurt and your concern that this venom is being normalized,” Biden says. “I decided to run for President after I saw it in Charlottesville, when neo-Nazis marched from the shadows spewing the same antisemitic bile that was heard in Germany in the 1930s. Rest assured that I am committed to the safety of the Jewish people. I stand with you. America stands with you. Under my presidency, we continue to condemn antisemitism at every turn. Failure to call out hate is complicity. Silence is complicity. And we will not be silent.”
Meanwhile overnight, violence flared between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Jerusalem.
A barrage of rockets was fired into Israel from Gaza, prompting the Israeli Air Force to strike military targets belonging to Hamas in the Palestinian enclave. The rocket fire followed violent clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem overnight, on the eve of Passover and during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Police said masked youths barricaded themselves inside the mosque, amid concerns that more Jewish visitors would visit the Temple Mount ahead of Passover and calls by fringe groups for the ritual sacrifice of goats to be carried out at the site. Police in recent days have arrested suspects who intended or called to bring goats to the holy site for slaughter.
Police arrested and removed over 350 individuals from the mosque, after they said their attempts at dialogue failed. “The hundreds of rioters and Mosque desecrators who barricaded themselves at the Temple Mount tonight in a violent manner, threw fireworks, hurled stones and caused damage in the place were arrested,” the Israeli police said in a statement. Two police officers were wounded, one as the result of stone-throwing and the other by fireworks.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said 12 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with police. Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia released separate statements condemning Israel for “storming” the mosque.
This morning, an IDF soldier was shot and wounded during a riot in the Palestinian town of Beit Ummar, near Hebron, the army said.
After former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty yesterday to 34 felony counts connected to hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels, The New York Times breaks down the charges he faces.
the future of passover
Tech meets religion with world’s first AI-powered Haggadah
In a world where edible 3D-printed cakes and Artificial Intelligence-crafted novels exist, it was only a matter of time before the entirety of the human experience became fair game in the pursuit of technological innovation. Now, tech is meeting religion. The result? A ChatGPT Haggadah, Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel reports.
Sign of the times: Before last week, Julie Shain, senior editor for the Daily Skimm and creator of the first-ever ChatGPT Haggadah, never had an interest in AI. The new technology was in the headlines and even made it into theSkimm’s morning newsletter, but the idea of penning an entire book using ChatGPT had never crossed her mind. That is, until her husband mentioned the very real possibility that AI could uproot her chosen field in the near future. “I was in a state of denial,” Shain, 31, told JI. “I’m a writer and an editor by training. What I do is creative, and for me, I was in a state of denial for days about the possibility of GPT to displace me as a profession. I was having an existential crisis, and where do we take existential questions? A lot of us take them to our religious lives.”
Fresh commentary: With two children under 3 — one only 6 weeks old — and a new mortgage, it was important for Shain to see how she might fit within this changing climate. Add in the looming presence of Passover, just days away — as well as annual requests by her parents to come up with fresh commentary for their family’s Seder — and she started playing with the idea of merging the two: What could ChatGPT bring to the Passover story?
Compiling the Haggadah: The answer came in the form of The AI Haggadah. Shain, who wrote the Haggadah’s introduction, named herself its editor, compiler and prompter, but left the top author billing to ChatGPT and Sefaria, a free online library of Jewish texts, which provided all of the book’s commentary and traditional text, respectively. The Haggadah’s illustrations are attributed to a separate AI entity, Midjourney, which generated its images based on Shain’s prompts. The entire project took Shain all of three days. Earlier this week, she made it available for purchase as both a PDF and in paperback through Amazon.
‘ChaiGPT’: After some persistent prodding on Shain’s part, she was able to elicit responses from the ChatGPT — which Shain dubbed “ChaiGPT” — that ranged from deeply thought-provoking to downright frightening. “I was like, hey, come up with a fifth question at the Seder…And it gave me something boring at first, something that I would probably have come up with at Jewish day school,” Shain told JI. “And then eventually it said, ‘What if I told you that you’re the only person at the Seder that’s not an AI in disguise?’” Many of ChaiGPT’s comments were one-off jokes: “The Lord’s outstretched arm must have made the Israelites feel like they were being led by the world’s largest traffic cop,” one reads, but the chat bot also managed a number of insightful textual commentaries.
while they’re young
Christian ‘Birthright’ expands to high schoolers, plans to send 4,000 to Israel in coming years
Passages, a Christian group that organizes Birthright-style trips for college students, will expand significantly in the coming years to send thousands of high school students to Israel, following a $12 million grant from the Marcus Foundation, the CEO of the organization told eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross.
Game plan: In the next four years, Passages plans to send upwards of 4,000 high school students to Israel with the dual goals of strengthening their Christian faith and educating them about Jews and Israel before they go off to college, CEO Scott Phillips told eJP. Passages, which launched in 2016, has sent thousands of Christian college students to Israel on Birthright-style trips, where they both learn about the country’s modern history and visit biblical sites.
New opportunities: Phillips said that while the organization is still dedicated to running these college trips, it was a “very natural expansion” to include high school students. “College is one of the best times. The students are out on their own and they’re still being formed in college. It’s a pivotal time,” Phillips said. But offering these trips to high school students, who are still living at home and going to church with their parents, provides an opportunity to reach them before they have a potential crisis of faith in college, he said.
Marcus’ MO: Bernie Marcus, chair of the Marcus Foundation and the co-founder of Home Depot, said that it was critical to focus on younger people, to get to them before they reach college. “It has become abundantly clear that we need to focus our energy on high school students and teens. Getting them ready and connecting them to Israel has never been more important, because we want them to be prepared for what they will face on college campuses,” Marcus said in a statement.
Where is Bibi’s head at?
Once referred to as “King Bibi,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is viewed by many as an impressive global diplomat and master political tactician, but that image has lately been battered as he faces massive public demonstrations, threats of a national labor disputes and widespread criticism – both from former allies within Israel and from Washington – mainly over his government’s attempts to overhaul, and some say weaken, the country’s independent judiciary, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
It’s complicated: Netanyahu’s refusal to heed warnings from the country’s top economic experts and from top security chiefs past and present, even going so far as announcing plans to dismiss (and then reversing) his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who spoke up publicly urging the coalition to pause the judicial overhaul, have also raised concerns. “Like everything else, it’s very complicated, we are not talking about a single event with a narrow explanation,” Uzi Arad, once a trusted foreign policy and national security advisor of Netanyahu’s, told JI.
Self-preservation: Arad, who also served for many years in the Mossad, said Israel’s increasingly tense situation, which some fear will cause irreparable social divisions and threaten Israel’s special relationship with the U.S., is centered on Netanyahu’s criminal indictments and has evolved from there over the past few years. “As he sits on the bench and is leveled with three criminal cases, the effects are many,” Arad explained. “He’s trying to protect himself and much like with [former U.S. President Richard] Nixon – the cover-up is much worse than the original acts.”
Not the same Netanyahu: “What I am seeing today is not the Netanyahu that I have known and this is what is so painful to watch,” former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Danny Ayalon, who has known Netanyahu since 1997 and previously served as his foreign policy advisor, as well as deputy foreign minister in a previous Netanyahu government, told JI. “The Netanyahu that I worked with was charismatic, was very cool, was very calculating in the sense that he was smart and always put Israel’s security above anything else.”
No clear answers: Neri Zilber, a Tel Aviv-based journalist and advisor to the Israel Policy Forum, told JI, “I don’t think even his former aides or journalists who have been covering him for many, many years or from the beginning of his career, have a clear answer as to what is going on,” he said, adding, “I think it’s important to say that nobody has a clear answer about what is going through Netanyahu’s mind right now, so we should show some humility in terms of trying to diagnose the man either politically or psychologically.”
Bonus: The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner interviews Israeli journalist Ilana Dayan about the state of the Israeli government and possible scenarios for the coming months.
🛢️ Loud and Clear: The Washington Post’s David Ignatius opines that Saudi Arabia’s recent decision to cut oil production and raise prices sent a clear message to the U.S: “The United States doesn’t call the shots in the Persian Gulf or the oil market anymore. For better or worse, the era of American hegemony in the Middle East is over. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pressed OPEC producers on Sunday to reduce production by about 1 million barrels a day, which boosted the price of crude oil by more than 6 percent to about $85 a barrel. For a Biden administration struggling to contain inflation and avoid recession, the Saudi-led price increase was as welcome as a poke in the eye. Saudi Arabia is hedging its bets, and so is the United States. Neither country wants a break in relations, but leaders in both capitals feel disrespected. It’s not an easy or stable balance — especially for Israel, which wants better relations with Riyadh but depends absolutely on the reliability of U.S. power in the region.” [WashPost]
🥄 The Charoset Diaries: In Tablet magazine, Alexander Aciman concludes a decade-long effort to recreate his great-grandmother’s charoset for Passover, following a request from his father, who had celebrated the holiday in Egypt as a child. “All I have are the highlights, the kind of trite banalities that descendants cling onto in the hope that they mean something, or that they offer some connection to these lost worlds. But if I ever got a sense of who my great-grandmother was, it was through a dish that told the story of my great-grandmother’s life, of her ancestry, of her likes and dislikes, the way she cooked and the way her dishes might have diverged from every codified recipe in any book or on any website, and that she saw herself not as Egyptian, but as a relic of the Ottoman Empire. Here, like her apartment on that last Passover, was a thing that had not changed since before even my dad was born. It is its own earmark; charoset, like a seance, for a split second seems to raise the dead. And this Passover, I cannot help but wonder, in half a century or more, which dish of mine will some stranger, who does not yet exist and who may never exist, finally manage to reproduce?” [Tablet]
📓 Reporter’s Notebook: The New York Times’ Bret Stephens highlights the reporting of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, arguing that if Russian President Vladimir Putin had read his articles, he might have “thought a little harder” before imprisoning him on what he calls “transparently bogus” espionage charges. “Had the Russian president read Gershkovich’s reporting over the past year, he might have read a story or two that would have pleased him, like one from last summer about young Russians largely ignoring the war. (That was before a partial draft sent many Russians fleeing to Dubai, Bali and even a remote Alaskan island.) Yet Putin would also have learned, thanks to Gershkovich’s solo reporting in Belarus in the earliest days of the war, that the war was not ‘going to plan,’ in contrast to what Russia’s defense minister kept telling him. He would have learned how utterly incompetent his war machine is, thanks to an inside account from a Russian paratrooper who participated in the invasion and later fled to France. He would have learned that despite last year’s energy-revenue windfalls, Russia’s economy is coming undone under Western sanctions and that his old pal Oleg Deripaska has warned: ‘There will be no money next year. We need foreign investors.’” [WSJ]
🏫 School Blues: Tess Winston, a third-year student at Stanford Law School, reflects in the Washington Post on the threat to inclusive discourse amid pressures by classmates to withhold certain views. “It’s even worse outside the classroom. Expressing nuance about certain matters — whether on Israel or policing — is essentially taboo for anyone who doesn’t want to invite social ostracizing. I know this from helping organize a spring-break trip this year to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Far-left, pro-Palestinian students opposed the trip, urging classmates to abstain from visiting the ‘apartheid state’ of Israel. One student, who ended up going anyway, was first subjected to an intervention-like meeting with critics of the trip. Others, intimidated, dropped out. One told me, ‘It’s not my fight.’ On another occasion, a message that invited classmates to meet to discuss anti-Black police violence declared: ‘All are welcome, but the conversation will be explicitly abolitionist (so we will not be entertaining convos that seek to reform, rather than abolish, the police).'” [WashPost]
Around the Web
🗳️ Elections Results: Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson was declared the winner of Chicago’s mayoral election, beating Paul Vallas in yesterday’s runoff. In Wisconsin, Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz was elected to the state’s open supreme court seat, giving liberals the majority in the purple state.
⚖️ In the Courts: GOP fundraiser Elliot Broidy, who was pardoned by former President Donald Trump after pleading guilty to conspiring to violate foreign agent laws, testified before a federal jury in a case involving a Malaysian financier whose current whereabouts are unknown.
👩🔬 Alzheimer’s Aid: The Lauder family is pledging $200 million to their Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, which Leonard Lauder said “sets the stage for the next generation to tackle and ultimately end this devastating disease,” from which their family matriarch Estée Lauder suffered.
🏦 Don’t Bank on It: JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon released his annual message to shareholders, saying that in the wake of the collapse of two major banking institutions, “This wasn’t the finest hour for many players.”
🎙️ Podcast Playback: Former Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz, the co-founder and chair of Maoz, joined Michael Eisenberg’s “Invested” podcast to discuss philanthropy and social impact investing.
🎞️ Coming Soon: National Geographicreleased the trailer for the upcoming limited series “A Small Light,” which is based on the experiences of Miep Gies, one of several people who helped to hide the Frank family and others during the Holocaust.
👪 Family Roots: Tablet magazine looks at how an effort to debunk rumors about Leonardo da Vinci’s family ancestry revealed that the artist was likely the son of a Jewish woman.
🎓 Campus Beat: The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is opening an investigation into The George Washington University, a week after the school released findings from an internal probe that found “no evidence” that the professor who is the subject of the federal complaint created a hostile learning environment for Jewish students.
🐶 Why Is This Dog Food Different…?: The Wall Street Journalspotlights the market for kosher-for-Passover dog food.
👨⚖️ Sticking to its Guns: A Swiss court upheld the conviction of Beny Steinmetz, who was found guilty last year of bribing foreign officials tied to mining rights in Guinea.
🇷🇺 Sharanky’s Call: Former Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky, who as a Soviet refusenik was imprisoned for nine years in Russia, called on Moscow to release detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich; in Washington, the White House said securing the journalist’s release is a top priority.
☎️ Phone Call: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to United Arab Emirates President Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan, in a conversation in which “the two leaders agreed to continue their dialogue in a personal meeting in the near future,” according to a readout from the Prime Minister’s Office.
🛢️ Saudi Strategy: The Wall Street Journal explores how Riyadh’s oil production strategy is tied to the country’s efforts to fund large-scale domestic development projects.
🕯️ Remembering: Klaus Teuber, the creator of the Settlers of Catan board game, died at 70.
Pic of the Day
Western Wall Heritage Foundation workers remove the tens of thousands of notes left in the Kotel in Jerusalem over the last six months, ahead of the start of Passover.
British novelist, author of over 50 books specializing in mystery and suspense, his Alex Rider series is estimated to have sold 21 million copies worldwide, Anthony Horowitz turns 68…
Ed. note: In yesterday’s Daily Kickoff, we mistakenly published the April 5 birthdays a day ahead of schedule. Happy birthday to all who celebrated or are celebrating this week!
April 4: Author of books about her childhood experiences as a Jewish girl in the Netherlands during the Holocaust, Johanna Reiss turns 91… Retired MLB player for the Orioles, Senators, Athletics, Rangers and Angels, Mike Epstein turns 80… Southern California resident, Gloria Margulies… French-German politician who is a Green Party leader in Europe, Daniel Marc Cohn-Bendit turns 78… Hungarian dramatist, novelist and essayist whose recent works are focused upon Jewish characters, György Spiró turns 77… Professor of history at American University in D.C., Allan Jay Lichtman turns 76… Poet and professor emeritus of English at the University of Pennsylvania, Charles Bernstein turns 73… Senior non-resident fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, Bruce Wolpe turns 72… Petah Tikva-born, Emmy Award-winning film director, producer and writer, Simcha Jacobovici turns 70… Retired partner from the M&A group at Skadden, David J. Friedman… Founder and president of Stutzman Public Affairs in Sacramento, Robert Stutzman… Chairman of The Western Wall Heritage Foundation and rabbi of the Kotel since 1995, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch turns 53… Tel Aviv-born animator and film director, now a freelance director in NYC, Tatia Rosenthal turns 52… Former member of the Knesset, he last served in 2019 as a member of the Hatnua party, Yoel Hasson turns 51… Journalist and author, he is a great-grandson of famed Talmudist Rabbi Yehezkel Abramsky, Sasha Abramsky turns 51… Israeli social activist promoting the rights of the disabled, Hanna Akiva turns 49… NYC-based artist and founder of the Midnight Society, an artist-run curatorial project, Abshalom Jac Lahav turns 46… Actress since she was six years old, Natasha Lyonne (born Natasha Bianca Lyonne Braunstein) turns 44… Israeli journalist Haviv Rettig Gur turns 42… Actress and YouTube personality, Lisa “Lisbug” Schwartz turns 40… Israel’s top men’s tennis player, who had broken into the top 30 of world rankings, David “Dudi” Sela turns 38… Fashion editor for Hearst Digital, Daisy Melamed Sanders… Writer at HBO Max and young leader in the Los Angeles Jewish community, Leslie Schapira… Figure skater, he competed for Israel at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Ronald Zilberberg turns 27… Phyllis Wilner…
April 5: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, he was the executive editor of The New York Times, Joseph Lelyveld turns 86… Former vice-provost of the California Institute of Technology where he also served as a professor of applied physics, David L. Goodstein turns 84… Research scientist and former CEO of the Ontario Genomics Institute, Mark J. Poznansky turns 77… Marketing consultant Eugene Kadish… Professor emeritus in the Department of Jewish thought at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Daniel J. Lasker turns 74… Engineer, inventor, businessman, best known for his invention of the Segway, Dean Kamen turns 72… CEO of Hess Corporation, John Barnett Hess turns 69… Founder of merchant bank Alnitak Capital Partners and chairman of the board of Sodastream, Stanley B. Stern turns 66… Russia editor for BBC News, Steven Barnett Rosenberg turns 55… Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle P. Walensky turns 54… Israeli actress and model, Sendi Bar turns 47… Film and television writer, producer and co-founder of Quantity Entertainment, Lee Eisenberg turns 46… Assistant managing editor for CNN Politics focused on legal and justice issues, Dan Berman… Senior director of global sanctions policy and strategy at PayPal, Howard Wachtel… Boston-based musician and fine artist, Marissa Nadler turns 42… VP at D.C.-based Porter Group, Benjamin J. Rosenbaum… Israeli screenwriter and political activist focused on disability benefits, Alex Fridman turns 35… Program director at 2U educational technology company, Adam Maslia… Director at Bully Pulpit Interactive, Sarah Horvitz… British Labour party Member of Parliament, Charlotte Louise Nichols turns 32… Congressional analyst at GovTrack Insider and box office analyst at BoxOffice Media, Jesse Rifkin… Manager at Schmidt Futures, Wilson Shirley… Executive and brand consultant at Creative Artists Agency, Camila Seta… Adam Ross Rubenstein… Harvey Levin… Dubai-based chief of Middle East division for Steinreich Communications, Ariella Steinreich…