👋 Good Monday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we examine the first quarter of fundraising reports and share the first of a special five-part investigative series looking into the mysterious 1984 murder of Rabbi Philip Rabinowitz of Washington’s Kesher Israel congregation. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Sen. Ben Cardin, Joe Lieberman and Ishay Ribo.
Nearly 40 years ago, a prominent Washington, D.C., rabbi was stabbed to death in his home. No one was ever arrested for the brazen 1984 murder of Rabbi Philip Rabinowitz. But the police also never closed the case.
Over the last several years, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch has investigated the killing, interviewing dozens of people and uncovering new details about the police investigation and the decades-long ripple effects of the murder of a beloved figure. Today, we are publishing the first in a five-part investigative series reexamining the crime and its aftermath. More below.
On the campaign front, this weekend marked the deadline for all presidential candidates to file their first-quarter fundraising reports, which give a broad state of political play with all the presidential and congressional campaigns as the 2024 elections begin to take shape.
The first-quarter numbers provide something of an early sink-or-swim test for first-time candidates, and also offer clues on lawmakers looking for an early retirement.
To be sure, fundraising is far from the definitive metric of a candidate’s success, especially at a time when the interests of major donors within both parties often conflict with the issues that animate the parties’ grassroots activists.
But failing to raise enough money is a clear political warning sign of future danger. Jewish Insider’s editor-in-chief, Josh Kraushaar, provides some quick takeaways from the first quarter of fundraising reports, which were due on Sunday.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), a stalwart pro-Israel Democrat, has fueled retirement rumors by raising only $15,000 in the first three months of 2023. JI Capitol Hill reporter Marc Rod has more on what Cardin allies are saying about his record. Read the full story here.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) raised only $112,000 in the first quarter, another total that suggests the former presidential nominee isn’t planning to stick around Washington. Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, a Republican, is already exploring a Senate primary against Romney.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) isn’t yet raising big bucks for what would be a tough reelection, bringing in only $371,000 in the first quarter. That’s notably less than the senator’s $556,000 first-quarter haul the last time he was preparing for reelection in 2017. Manchin still has a healthy $9.7 million sitting in his campaign account.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, is expected to jump in the Senate race shortly. Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV), the other Republican running, raised $505,000 in the quarter.
Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT), an outspoken isolationist in the House who’s seriously considering a campaign against Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), raised a mere $127,000 for the quarter. He has $1.2 million in the bank. Tester raised over $5 million.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) outdistanced Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), $3.75 million to $2.1 million in the run-up to a possible three-way Arizona Senate contest. Sinema has significantly more cash on hand, banking $9.9 million at the end of March, compared to Gallego’s $2.7 million.
Based on fundraising, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) has emerged as the frontrunner in the high-stakes California Democratic Senate primary. He raised $6.5 million in the first quarter, comfortably outdistancing the strong haul by Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), who brought in $4.5 million. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), a progressive lawmaker who has often backed legislation opposed by pro-Israel groups, raised only $1.3 million.
On the presidential front,former President Donald Trump raised $14.5 million for his campaign in the first quarter. That’s a notably lower total than his first quarter of 2019, but the total doesn’t fully capture the surge in fundraising his campaign experienced after Trump was indicted.
By raising about $8.3 million in the six weeks since she announced her run and banking $7.8 million at the end of March, Nikki Haley has gone a long way in positioning herself as a serious third candidate against Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — if an opening presents itself. But Haley’s campaign exaggerated her fundraising in the run-up to releasing the report, double-counting transfers it made across different committees.
Also in the news:Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), after meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last week, called for closer ties between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia in an interview from Israel. It marks a shift in outlook for Graham, who said in October 2018 that he would not be “going back to Saudi Arabia as long as [bin Salman] is in charge.”
“The ability to work with Saudi Arabia is at an all-time high. If we could normalize relations with Saudi Arabia and then [their relationship] with Israel, it would be the biggest change in my lifetime regarding Mideast security and American security,” Graham told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. The South Carolina senator is currently in Israel, and said in a statement that he also pushed Saudi-Israeli normalization in a meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
Graham also met yesterday with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, and discussed expanding the Abraham Accords, confronting the Iranian threat and Graham’s impressions from his visit to Saudi Arabia, according to a statement from the Israeli Foreign Ministry. “The two discussed the important relationship between the countries and peoples and emphasized that relations will continue to strengthen based on the partnership and values that Israel and the United States share,” it noted.
AN OPEN DOOR
Who Killed Kesher’s Rabbi?
Note: Below, we preview the first installment of a new investigative series by Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch. Read the full story here, and stay tuned for the next installment in your inbox later this week.
The door was ajar.
That was the first thing Howard Smith noticed when he arrived at the pale brown townhouse on 25th Street NW, a stop he did not intend to make on the cold, clear morning of Feb. 29, 1984. The home sat just across the M Street Bridge and a short walk from Georgetown in Foggy Bottom, but it was located on a quiet, low-key block that felt a world away from the tony homes in the popular Washington neighborhood.
Smith, an up-and-coming astrophysicist working at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, was already running late for work, but that wasn’t unusual for him that year. His mother had died a few months before, and Jewish law dictates that the immediate family members of the deceased should recite the Mourner’s Kaddish prayer every day for 11 months following the death. Each morning, he walked to Kesher Israel Congregation, a small Orthodox synagogue in Georgetown, and joined its daily minyan, or prayer service. His colleagues knew that he often arrived at the office after 9 a.m.
On that day, he wouldn’t get to work until well into the afternoon. First, he would make a gruesome discovery that would shock Washington and reverberate in Jewish communities around the world.
Normally, the congregation’s longtime rabbi, Philip Rabinowitz, would arrive before the morning prayers started, but sometimes — when the assembled group was especially prompt — he got there a few minutes late. Rabinowitz never skipped the service entirely.
The morning minyan required a prayer quorum of 10 men, and that morning, only nine men showed up, with the rabbi nowhere to be found. Someone called Rabinowitz to see if he could come to fill out the group. When he didn’t answer, the congregants grew concerned.
Most of them had to head off to work or to drop their kids at school. Smith, along with a Department of Energy attorney and two of the synagogue’s unhurried retirees, drove the five blocks to Rabinowitz’s home and walked up to the door.
Smith paused when he saw that the door was not closed. The rabbi would not purposely have left it unlocked; he always kept it dead-bolted shut, fearful of intruders.
Something was wrong.
THREE’S A CROWD
Despite opposition, No Labels plots independent playbook for 2024
A Washington political organization is rankling partisans over its plans to possibly field a third-party candidate in 2024, with Democrats in particular concerned that mounting such an effort might hand the presidential election to Republicans. But the leader of No Labels, the centrist group that has brought in tens of millions of dollars in a bid to get on the 2024 ballot in all 50 states, told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch in an interview on Friday that the group does not yet know if it will form a ticket, and that it does not intend to announce its plans for next year’s presidential election until April 2024, months into the presidential primary process.
A year away: “April 14 in Dallas we thought would be the time and place,” No Labels chief executive Nancy Jacobson, a former Democratic fundraiser, said, referring to when the organization plans to say whether it will field a 2024 presidential ticket. That’s when No Labels will host a national political convention in the Texas city. “Only then, next year, will we get into candidate selection.”
Insurance policy: No Labels was created in 2010 with the goal of building bipartisan coalitions in Congress. This is the first time the organization has considered getting involved in presidential politics. They call the third-party option an “insurance policy” that will only be used if the Democratic and Republican nominees for president are not acceptable to No Labels members. “After the Super Tuesday primaries in March, it should be pretty clear who the nominees of the two major parties will be,” Jacobson said. “That’s the key factor for us, then, to decide whether we want to use the ‘insurance policy’ and give the American people a third alternative.”
Unpopular presidents: Both former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden are unacceptable to No Labels’ leadership. “We need a president who will be a moderate, independent, problem-solving bipartisan president. We also begin to see a prospect of two party tickets led by President Trump and President Biden, which are extremely unpopular among the people of the country,” said former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who together with former Republican Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan, is the organization’s national co-chair.
Read the full story here.
After 30 years, Azerbaijan sends first envoy to Israel
Azerbaijan’s first-ever ambassador to Israel, Mukhtar Mammadov, has only been in his new role for several weeks, yet he talks and acts as if he’s been an envoy to the Jewish state for years. From his brand-new offices, overlooking the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean Sea in central Tel Aviv, Mammadov, 40, describes with a passion both his country’s ancient Jewish community — believed to have arrived following the destruction of Jerusalem’s First Temple in 586 BC and which remains 30,000-strong today — and Azerbaijan’s decades-old alliance with Israel, which, due to a range of strategic geopolitical factors, appears to be deepening, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
A new page: “We do not consider opening an embassy now as an end goal, but the turning of a new page in our relations with Israel,” Mammadov, who previously served as the deputy minister of science and education, told JI in one of his first interviews since arriving. “Having an embassy here will further enhance our cooperation with Israel and together we will work towards more official visits, more tourism, more trade and more new projects,” he stated.
Upgrade: Israel and Azerbaijan have had diplomatic ties – both overt and covert – for more than 30 years, establishing relations just months after the Shi’ite Muslim-majority country gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Israel has maintained an embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, for decades, yet this is the first time Azerbaijan has decided to dispatch its own envoy to the Jewish state, marking an upgrade in its relations.
Joint commission: On Tuesday, Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Eli Cohen will head to the Eurasian nation with a large delegation of Israeli officials and business leaders, as part of the Israel-Azerbaijan Joint Intergovernmental Commission. Mammadov said it was an opportunity for the two countries “to take stock of the state of affairs and future perspectives and cooperation in various sectors from economic trade, energy, transportation, high tech, agriculture and education… such visits are important for both Azerbaijan and Israel.”
👨🎤 Spiritual Song:The New York Times’ Patrick Kingsley spotlights Orthodox Jewish singer-songwriter Ishay Ribo as part of a wider trend of rising popularity of musicians from religious backgrounds among a diverse audience, including Israel’s secular population. “Mr. Ribo’s rise comes amid not only a political shift rightward in Israel, but demographic changes as well. Religious Israelis, who have more children than secular Israelis, are the fastest-growing part of the population, allowing them to exert greater cultural influence. Daniel Zamir, an Israeli jazz star who turned religious as an adult, said Mr. Ribo’s broad appeal is part of ‘a bigger process of Israeli society moving toward tradition.’ Simultaneously, Mr. Ribo’s rise embodies a converse but complementary trend: greater willingness among some religious musicians to cater to and mix with mainstream audiences, and greater demand among religious audiences for music with a more contemporary sound.” [NYTimes]
📱Phone Fascination: In The Wall Street Journal, Faith Bottum speaks with Martin Cooper, the first person to ever make a call on a cellphone, about the handheld device’s history and where he sees cellular innovation going in the future. “‘The function of a cellphone — I can’t express it any better — it is to set people free,’ Mr. Cooper, 94, says. We’re sitting in a lounge at the Hilton on the 50th anniversary of that first call. I’ve asked him how he’d describe his vision for the technology to someone in the 1960s. ‘A cellphone gives a person the freedom to be connected to the rest of the world, wherever they are and whenever they want to.’…Mr. Cooper was born in Chicago to Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. ‘They published some time ago a volume of famous Ukrainian people, and guess what?’ he says. ‘There was Marty Cooper.’ Ukrainian defenders credit his invention for the ability to communicate on the battlefield: ‘It turns out the cell systems are designed to be resilient, which is what you want in a war. If cells get exploded by the enemy, there are always lots of cells to pick up the messages.’” [WSJ]
👫 A Parent’s Nightmare:The Wall Street Journal’s Elizabeth Bernstein interviews Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich, the parents of the newspaper’s reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested by Russian security services last month while on a reporting trip and is accused of espionage. “Evan’s parents, Soviet Jewish émigrés who raised two children steeped in Russian culture and American values, spoke this week about the son they nicknamed Vanya and his passionate connection to the land they fled. The days since his arrest have left them shaken, thrust into a geopolitical chess match…Evan Gershkovich’s bond with Russia was forged long before he moved there as a reporter. Ms. Milman and Mr. Gershkovich emigrated from the Soviet Union, separately, in 1979, seeking a life of freedom and the opportunities that come with it. They also wanted to escape the antisemitism that Soviet Jews faced. Now they find themselves at the center of a scenario that embodies everything they hoped to avoid: A son locked up in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, the pre-eminent symbol of the Russian state’s crushing control of its people. ‘When I heard the name, it was complete horror,’ Evan’s mother said.” [WSJ]
📮 Posting Problems: The Washington Post’s Ann E. Marimow details Pennsylvania mail carrier Gerald Groff’s upcoming Supreme Court case and what led one man to sue the U.S. Postal Service for religious discrimination. “As a part-time mail carrier in this rural stretch of central Pennsylvania, Gerald Groff knew he would have to be flexible, filling in for full-time colleagues on holidays and weekends. The U.S. Postal Service position seemed ideal, a respected role in the community where Groff grew up and, since there is no Sunday mail delivery, days off to worship on the Christian Sabbath. His route took him past his great uncle’s tomato farm, the horse-drawn buggies of the local Amish community and the Mennonite Church where he attended Bible school as a kid. Groff had every intention of turning his part-time gig into a career, he said, until the Postal Service began Sunday deliveries for the online retail giant Amazon. Then, Groff said, he was forced to choose between his work as a mail carrier and his religious practice. He resigned and sued the Postal Service for discrimination.” [WashPost]
Around the Web
🧑💻 Online Obsessions: Jack Teixeira, the U.S. airman accused of leaking classified government documents, has been linked to various online communities, whose members posted slurs against Black, gay and trans individuals, Jews and Ukrainians.
📄 Leaky Details: Leaked U.S. documents detail America’s struggle to foster Middle Eastern support for Ukraine amid growing concerns over America’s commitment to the region.
🇷🇺 Moscow Mess: U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken said Saturday that Russia needs to grant U.S. consular access to detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, and called for his immediate release.
🗳️ Blackburn Backing: Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has endorsed Donald Trump for president.
👍 Gott Your Back: Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), one of the leading pro-Israel Democrats in the House, released a statement defending House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), following revelations that he publicly defended his uncle, Leonard Jeffries, while in college in the early 1990s, after the elder Jeffries made antisemitic comments.
⚖️ The Jordan Rules:The New York Timesprofiles Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, who is set today to convene his panel in New York for a hearing concerning allegations that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg advanced “radical pro-crime, anti-victim policies” while pursuing a case against former President Donald Trump.
💸 Debt Ceiling Deadline: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will visit the New York Stock Exchange this morning, delivering a speech about why any increase to the debt ceiling needs to be paired with spending cuts.
👋 Return of the Leader: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is returning to the Capitol today, almost six weeks after a fall at a Washington-area hotel. He’ll be joined by Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), who is also coming back to the Senate after a six-week hospitalization for depression.
↔️ Return to Sender: Rep. George Santos’ campaign refunded more contributions than it took in during the first three months of the year, casting doubt on his reelection campaign, The Wall Street Journal reports.
🤔 Thinking Twice: Top Republican donor Thomas Peterffy is putting on hold his plans to financially back Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ run for president due to the candidate’s positions on social issues, such as abortion and banning books dealing with sexual and LGBTQ themes, the Financial Times reports.
🤫 DeSantis Interrupted: Protesters from far-left anti-Israel group IfNotNow interrupted a speech by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday night, storming the stage during a New Hampshire fundraiser over the weekend.
👨⚖️ Trial Delay: A Delaware judge delayed the start of the trial of Dominion’s Voting Systems defamation claims against Fox News, which came as the network is looking for a possible way to settle the case.
🚀 Allies in Arms: Quds Force commander Esmail Qaani of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has been meeting with leaders from Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to discuss future attacks against Israel.
🎙️ Interview with Rabbi Dee: Sky News interviews Rabbi Leo Dee, whose wife and two daughters were killed in a terror attack in the West Bank during the Passover holiday.
🇸🇦 Scene in Saudi: A group of senior Hamas leaders are reportedly visiting Saudi Arabia for talks on improving relations between the two.
👑 Royal Relations: Iran’s exiled crown prince, Reza Pahlavi, is set to arrive in Israel today — his first visit to the county — to commemorate Yom HaShoah alongside Israeli President Issac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
✡️ Kotel Question: U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain visited the Western Wall for the first time yesterday and called on Israel to expand the egalitarian prayer section.
💲Corporate Change-up: Investment firm KKR & Co. is looking toward the future with the appointment of two new co-CEOs with a vision to exponentially increase the company’s earnings. Joseph Bae and Scott Nuttall told the Wall Street Journal “they are so close that their families regularly vacation together, traveling to places like Israel and Mexico.”
🕵️ Closing Time: Israeli spyware developer Quadream, a rival of the NSO Group, reportedly summoned most of its staff for hearings on Sunday ahead of layoffs as the company prepares to close.
📉 Moody Forecast: International risk assessment firm Moody’s recently downgraded Israel’s economic outlook from “positive” to “stable,” a decision the agency said was due to a “deterioration of Israel’s governance.”
🪧 Protests Continue: Hundreds of thousands in Israel took to the streets on Saturday as protests against the current government’s planned judicial overhaul continue.
🕯️Remembering: Hedda Kleinfeld Schachter, Holocaust survivor and bridal industry pioneer, died at 99.
Pic of the Day
Participants take part in the March of the Living to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust in Budapest, Hungary, on Sunday. Tonight marks the start of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day in Israel. Tomorrow, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides and his predecessor, Ambassador David Friedman, will together lead the March of the Living in Auschwitz, Poland, which this year marks 80 years since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Offensive lineman for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers for seven seasons, he retired in 2022, Alexander “Ali” Marpet turns 30…
Retired Los Angeles cardiologist and active Yiddish enthusiast, Martin Bobrowsky, MD… NYU professor and noted legal scholar, he spent 38 years on the faculty of University of Chicago Law School, Richard Allen Epstein turns 80… Marketing manager at Allied Interpreting Service in Los Angeles, he is also affiliated with Tel Aviv law firm Guy, Bachar & Co., Barry Schreiber… Sports historian, author, publisher and cultural commentator, he has been the official historian for Major League Baseball since 2011, John Thorn turns 76… Talk radio host best known for his work on NYC’s sports radio station WFAN, his nickname is “The Schmoozer,” Steve Somers turns 76… Rebbe and leader of the Pupa Hasidic group, Rabbi Yaakov Yechezkiya Greenwald turns 75… CEO of B’nai B’rith International, Daniel S. Mariaschin turns 74… Dean of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, NJ, Rabbi Aryeh Malkiel Kotler turns 72… French businessman, based in Geneva, he and his brother own the House of Chanel perfume company as well as holdings in vineyards and a thoroughbred horse racing stable, Gérard Wertheimer turns 72… Elizabeth H. Scheuer… Rabbi of Beth Hillel Temple in Kenosha, Wisconsin since 1985, her brother is a former U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Dena Feingold… Actress, screenwriter and film director, Daphna Kastner turns 62… Winner of two Super Bowl rings during his career with the San Francisco 49ers, he is now a physician and an inductee in the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Dr. John E. Frank turns 61… Director of Rutgers University Press, Micah Kleit turns 53… Professor of politics at NYU and co-author of The Monkey Cage, a politics and policy blog at The Washington Post, Joshua A. Tucker turns 52… Congressional editor for The New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis turns 48… Member of the Alaska Legislature, first in the Assembly and then in the state Senate, Jesse Kiehl turns 47… Executive director at Morgan Stanley, Nadya Belenkiy… New York bureau chief for Bloomberg News, Shelly Banjo… Southern California-based regional director at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Miri Katz Belsky… Press secretary for Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, Angelo Roefaro… Senior communications manager at the Center for Responsible Lending, Matt Kravitz… Managing director at Bully Pulpit Interactive, Alex Kellner… Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, Avriel “Avi” Benjamin Kaplan turns 34… Foreign policy speechwriter and national security communications advisor for VPOTUS Kamala Harris, Dean Lieberman… Member of the Baltimore City Council, Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer turns 34… Enforcement counsel at the Missouri Ethics Commission, Brian T. Earll turns 31…