👋 Good Thursday morning!
Ed. note: In celebration of the upcoming Shavuot holiday and in observance of Memorial Day, the next Daily Kickoff will arrive in your inbox on Tuesday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at how the Democratic primary for Senate in Maryland is shaping up, and interview our own Gabby Deutch about her recent JI series on the 1984 murder of a popular Washington, D.C., rabbi. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Henry Kissinger, Al Moses, Amichai Chikli and Aly Raisman.
The White House’s much-anticipated national strategy to combat antisemitism is set to be released today, after months of behind-the-scenes work and input from more than 1,000 Jewish community members.
An individual familiar with the strategy told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod yesterday evening that supporters of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism — which has become a key sticking point in recent weeks — have been “reassured” by the White House that they will be “pleased” by the final product and that “we have nothing to worry about.”
Earlier this week, JI reported that the White House was planning to feature the IHRA definition prominently but also to reference the Nexus Definition, an alternative promoted by progressives.
Two individuals familiar with the strategy said that, more broadly, it reflects a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to the problem of antisemitism. One individual described the strategy, as previewed by the White House, as “very impressive and comprehensive” and said it reflects that the White House is “taking this very seriously.”
The sources said the strategy includes efforts as diverse as pushing for $360 million in funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program and full funding for the Jabara Heyer NO HATE Act; expanding access to kosher food in U.S. Department of Agriculture food assistance programs; and taking action in departments as wide-ranging as Veterans Affairs, the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition, the President’s Council on Arts and Humanities and the National Endowment for Humanities.
To address antisemitism on campus, the strategy includes an awareness and education campaign for college, as well as for elementary and secondary education through the Department of Education. To tackle workplace antisemitism, the administration will be advancing programs in the Small Business Administration and Department of Labor, such as working to ensure that antisemitism is included in diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
Programs within the federal government will have built-in implementation deadlines for within the year, a source said. The strategy will also include calls to action for state and local government, the corporate world and the media.
Also this weekend, Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state and national security adviser to Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, turns 100 on Saturday. With a seven-decade career serving as a scholar of international diplomacy, architect of American realpolitik foreign policy doctrine, and later as a consultant and esteemed adviser to world leaders, Kissinger has made a lasting mark on influencing America’s national security posture.
One of his most memorable diplomatic overtures was in the Middle East: As Nixon’s secretary of state in 1973, Kissinger played an active role in securing a military disengagement agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors during the Yom Kippur War, shuttling between Israel, Egypt and Syria.
In the run-up to his 100th birthday, Kissinger sat down with the Economist, warning of a great-power confrontation worsening between the United States and China, comparing the crisis to the international instability leading to World War I.
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: ‘Times’ reporter goes inside Israel’s identity crisis, 75 years in the making; A pro-Israel progressive, Joe Vogel seeks to make history in Maryland; and Mike Feuer pitches L.A. voters on three decades of ‘idealism.’ Print the latest edition here.
Maryland Senate primary clash pits money against endorsements
Maryland’s Senate primary isn’t for another year, but Rep. David Trone (D-MD) — one of the frontrunners in the Democratic primary — is already running TV ads in prime time. The millionaire founder of a beverage store chain has said he might spend $50 million of his own money in the race. His chief competitor, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, does not have a personal fortune to draw upon. But Alsobrooks’ supporters say the early excitement she is generating, along with a large slate of endorsements from elected officials across the state, give her a good shot at winning the seat, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Policy picture: At this early stage in the race, there aren’t yet major political fault lines between Trone and Alsobrooks. Even Alsobrooks’ supporters aren’t clear which issues she will emphasize, or what positions she will take on key issues. “There hasn’t been a lot of discussion about her position on federal and international issues,” added Jeffrey Slavin, the mayor of the town of Somerset in Montgomery County. “I’d say she’s more of a mainstream Democrat,” he added, rather than someone on the party’s left flank.
Question mark: In Congress, Trone is known for his bipartisan work on issues related to mental health and drug overdoses. He is presenting himself in the Senate race as a progressive who is interested in working across the aisle to get things done. He is also a vocal supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s political action committee endorsed Trone last year. Alsobrooks traveled to Israel on an AIPAC-affiliated trip in 2019, after which she began to engage more closely with members of Maryland’s Jewish community. But her views on the U.S.-Israel relationship are largely unknown.
16 Senate Democrats say Israel still falls short of Visa Waiver Program requirements
As Israel moves toward expected admission into the Visa Waiver Program later this year, a group of 16 Democratic senators suggested in a letter to top administration officials on Wednesday that Israel continues to fall short of the requirements for admission into the program and is unlikely to fix these alleged issues before its expected entry date, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Letter writing: Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) led a letter with 14 of their colleagues to Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas saying that they “support Israel’s candidacy to join the VWP once it meets all of the requirements established by law” but highlight continued concerns about unequal treatment for some U.S. citizens that they say make it ineligible. The letter was co-signed by Sens. Peter Welch (D-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).
Quotable: “Based on past experience and current policies and practices, significant changes will be needed for Israel to come into compliance with this requirement” for “equal treatment and freedom of travel for all U.S. citizens,” the letter reads. “While we would like to see Israel meet the program requirements for entry into the VWP before the September 30th deadline, it does not appear to be on a path to do so.”
JI podcast exclusive: Inside the making of ‘Who Killed Kesher’s Rabbi?’
Rabbi Philip Rabinowitz of D.C.’s Kesher Israel congregation was a tragic figure even before his gruesome murder nearly 40 years ago. A native of Poland, he lost most of his family during the Holocaust, only to lose his wife suddenly decades later in the middle of their daughter’s wedding reception. Rabinowitz was known as a generous and beloved leader within the congregation — at times even allowing homeless community members to sleep in the synagogue’s social hall — which is why the entire community was left shaken when his body was found, lifeless and with multiple stab wounds, in his home on the morning of Feb. 29, 1984. The murder has never been solved and the case is still open — though D.C. police are no longer actively investigating — and sits at the center of Jewish Insider Washington correspondent Gabby Deutch’s five-part series, Who Killed Kesher’s Rabbi?In a first for JI’s podcast, Deutch shares details of the case and what went into her two-year-long reporting process with co-hosts Rich Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein on this week’s episode.
Too much generosity? “After the rabbi was killed, it emerged that he had been expecting a visitor the night before he died,” Deutch said. “ And he was someone who didn’t allow strangers into his home, he didn’t open the door if he didn’t know who was going to be there. He was security conscious and D.C. back then was not the safest place, although that wasn’t as much of a problem in his neighborhood. But there was this one man in particular who he was helping, who needed a lot of assistance both financially, emotionally, and after the rabbi was killed, people began to question whether this person, who was perhaps mentally unwell, belligerent, sort of asocial, whether he had had a role in it, and people began to ask this question [of], when did the generosity go too far? Is that what happened in this case?”
Police motivation: “This is of course not the only unsolved case in Washington, and so the police need to have an interest in wanting to solve the case,” Deutch noted. “From what I could gather, it doesn’t seem like they’re particularly interested in doing that. About a decade ago, they put out a press release urging people to come forward if they had information, and I don’t know what prompted that, actually. I think it was someone from the Kesher community reaching out to the police and expressing their own interest, and then this was perhaps sort of a perfunctory thing they were doing to appease that person, because I don’t get the sense that anything came of it, that they learned anything new a decade ago.”
Read the full story and tune into the Limited Liability podcast here.
Sight unseen, Alfred Moses bought one of the world’s most expensive books to fill Jews with pride
When investor Jacqui Safra put the Codex Sassoon, a 1,100-year-old near-complete copy of the Tanakh, up for sale in mid-February, Alfred H. Moses – a longtime litigator, former U.S. ambassador to Romania and a former president of the American Jewish Committee – decided, without too much deliberation, that he wanted to buy it. And Moses knew where he wanted it to go: Tel Aviv’s ANU: Museum of the Jewish People. Last week, at the auction at Sotheby’s in New York, Moses did just that, bidding $33.5 million. Adding in the additional fees and costs, he ended up paying $38.1 million for the Codex Sassoon, also known as “Codex S1” and “Safra, JUD 002,” making it the most expensive bound book ever purchased, or the second-most when accounting for inflation (after an original copy of the Book of Mormon that was sold in 2017). This week, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Judah Ari Gross spoke with Moses to understand why and how he made up his mind to purchase the codex for ANU.
Accessible to the people: “Well, I only bought it because of ANU,” Moses told Gross. “I wanted it to be somewhere where it would be available to the Jewish people, not in some rich person’s bank vault. I had been working with ANU for some years. I thought it was the right place. So it’s now available for everyone to see.”
Ancient and unique: “It’s the oldest Tanakh in existence,” Moses pointed out. “It’s almost complete, written beautifully on parchment, on sheepskins. There’s nothing like it in the world. There are two other old codices, the Leningrad codex, which is in Leningrad, and the Aleppo codex, but they’re both more recent than Sassoon Codex.”
Read the full interview here and subscribe to eJewishPhilanthropy’s Your Daily Phil newsletter here.
🎬 Director’s Cut:The New Yorker’s Peter Canby looks at the making of Jean-Christophe Klotz’s “Filmmakers for the Prosecution,” a documentary about the efforts of those involved in the Nuremberg trials, including Stuart Schulberg, the father of producer Sandra Schulberg, to gather evidence ahead of the trials of top Nazi officials. “The discovery of the Nuremberg material became an obsession for Schulberg, who knew little about either Nuremberg or her father’s important role there. ‘I was tabula rasa,’ she told me. She subsequently restored the Nuremberg documentary in partnership with Josh Waletzky, had it translated into thirteen languages, and disseminated it widely. The restored film reached Klotz in France. He had made two acclaimed documentaries about Rwanda; during an early reporting trip, he’d been shot in the hip by Hutu militiamen and almost lost his leg. It took Klotz time to realize that his repeated trips to Rwanda, and his calling to show the horrors of ethnic cleansing, had to do with his family’s Second World War history. Klotz’s grandfather, a Jewish physician from Alsace, was an Auschwitz survivor. As a seventeen-year-old, Klotz’s father, Georges, joined the French Resistance and fought against the Nazis until the end of the war, at which point he decided to work in film. In the early fifties, he attached himself to a Marshall Plan film program based in Paris that was overseen by Stuart Schulberg, who became his mentor.” [NewYorker]
👨 Ron’s Running: The New York Times’s Matt Flegenheimer assesses Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ positioning in the Republican Party, following his entry into the 2024 presidential race yesterday via a Twitter forum with CEO Elon Musk, in a virtual event plagued with tech glitches. “Across the Republican factions unsure if they are approaching an eventual Trump-free future or still living in an interminable Trump present, DeSantis has been permitted to subsist as a kind of Schrödinger’s candidate, both Trump and Not Trump. He can present as an iron-fisted imitation, touring the country in August with a slate of Trump endorsees who lie about the 2020 election. He can cosplay as the post-Trump choice for those desperate for a post-Trump party — a Yale- and Harvard-educated man of letters just winking at the party’s extremes. He can pitch himself, especially, as the ‘Trump, but …’ candidate — an Evolutionary Trump, the 2.0 — defined most vividly by what DeSantis has learned by watching: Here is Trump, but more strategic about his targets; Trump, but restrained enough to keep his Twitter accounts from suspension; Trump, but not under federal investigation.” [NYTimes]
🇮🇷 Supreme Succession: In Foreign Affairs, Ali Reza Eshraghi spotlights the impending battle to succeed 84-year-old Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “Given all the mistrust and enmity, the struggle to succeed Khamenei is unlikely to be an orderly competition between the regime’s two major factions, moderates and hard-line conservatives. Indeed, it is unlikely to be orderly at all. Instead, the fight is likely to be much like the one that brought Khamenei to power in 1989: an ad hoc, transactional, and bitter contest. As different candidates battle, sudden alliances could emerge as quickly as they dissolve. Various elites could use the competition to settle scores, stab one another in the back, and air dirty secrets. The rules, insofar as they exist, will be manipulated. The ultimate winner could be a surprise to even the best-informed observers. The only certainty is that Khamenei’s death will bring great uncertainty — and chaos.” [ForeignAffairs]
🛫 Talking Travel: In the Arab News, Foundation for Defense of Democracies CEO Mark Dubowitz weighs the benefits of Saudi Arabia allowing direct flights from Israel for Muslims traveling to Mecca for the hajj. “A pilot program that ran between August and October proved promising, with dozens of Palestinians from the West Bank traveling back and forth from Ramon to Cyprus and Turkey. This program proceeded over the objections of the Palestinian Authority, which fears being sidelined by such accommodations. Jordan, too, has reason to be concerned about the loss of Palestinian passenger dinars at Amman’s airports. But Palestinians deserve easier travel. Since Israel is willing to be magnanimous in this regard, Saudi Arabia can certainly follow suit by allowing Ramon to be the springboard for direct Hajj flights for Palestinian and Israeli Muslims alike. And that would be a net positive for efforts to normalize ties between Tel Aviv and Riyadh. Which airline gets to fly the route, how frequent flights would be and what happens for Muslims who wish to perform Umrah — outside of Hajj season — are also questions worth looking into.” [ArabNews]
⚖️ Playing Politics: In The Hill, Jon Lerner suggests that the debate over judicial reform in Israel is a matter of politics as well as policy, noting that “vitriol, infighting and even hatred have been part of Israeli politics” since the country’s founding. “Let us stipulate that a prime minister who is under indictment is not the best advocate for judicial reforms. The appearance, if not the reality, of self-dealing is too inescapable. In the case of [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, it is compounded by him being Israel’s most polarizing politician. To a sizeable minority of Israel’s population, anything Netanyahu is for must be considered not only bad but a danger to all things good. In certain communities in Israel, at some Passover tables, and in some corners of the White House, there’s a virtue-signaling effect — being against Netanyahu demonstrates one’s own wisdom and social worth. That’s an unfortunate aspect of democratic politics, but it’s far from new in Israel or elsewhere. It is, as they say, a feature of democracy, not a bug.” [TheHill]
Around the Web
🔊 On Deck: President Joe Biden is expected to announce the selection of Gen. C.Q. Brown as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing Gen. Mark Milley.
✈️ Upcoming Travel: Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi are slated to travel to Washington next week for meetings with White House officials including National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, with discussions expected to focus on Iran and Saudi Arabia.
✡️ Jew Crew: Axioslooks at the “informal” Jewish caucus on Capitol Hill that coalesces when Israeli dignitaries come to Washington or debates around Israel flare up in the capital.
❓ Questioning Chikli: The Atlantic’s Yair Rosenberg interviewed Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli about Chikli’s recent defense of comments about George Soros made by Twitter CEO Elon Musk that invoked antisemitic tropes.
🥣 On the Menu: Washington, D.C.’s Soupergirl is raising $1 million from investors, and will use the funds to upgrade its manufacturing equipment to drive down costs.
🥪 Movin’ on Up[state]: Riverdale, N.Y., appetizing shop Liebman’s Delicatessen will open an outpost in the Westchester County town of Ardsley, this fall.
💲 Funding Feat: Semafor co-founder Justin Smith said the media company raised $19 million, surpassing the $10 million it needed to supplement the funding provided by FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, which will eventually be turned over to creditors.
🇮🇱 Peace Prediction: In the Washington Post, Gershom Gorenberg considers the lessons Israel can learn from its 2005 Gaza disengagement and how they can be applied to a future agreement with the Palestinians.
🏜️ Desert Discussions: Israeli and American officials are optimistic that a postponed ministerial meeting held under the auspices of the Negev Forum will take place next month, Axios’ Barak Ravid reports.
👨⚖️ Legal Case: An Israeli rabbi who claimed that former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was not halachically Jewish was forced to apologize for the remarks and pay damages, which Bennett plans to donate to charity, after the former Israeli leader launched a successful defamation suit against the rabbi.
🪖 Military Moves: Axioslooks at the recent Hezbollah war games that took place near Israel’s border this week, in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution that prohibits militias from operating in the area.
🤝 Mending Fences: Canada and Saudi Arabia agreed to restore relations, five years after ties between Ottawa and Riyadh broke down over Canadian criticism of Saudi Arabia’s arrest of human rights activists.
☢️ Tunnel Trouble: Iran’s nuclear chief said he will cooperate with international inspectors on “new activities” following an Associated Press report that Iran was building an underground tunnel system near its Natanz nuclear facility.
🇴🇲 Dignitary on the Move: The sultan of Oman is scheduled to travel to Iran this weekend, his first visit since assuming power in 2020, with a delegation that also includes Oman’s foreign minister.
🏦 Banking Summit: The governor of the Bank of Russia met with her Iranian counterpart in Tehran, following the leveling of sanctions against her over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
🚀 Rocket Power: Iranian state media announced that the country had successfully launched a 2,000 km-range ballistic missile.
🌊 Sea Shenanigans: The U.S. Navy is increasing its patrols in the Strait of Hormuz following several attempts by Iran to seize oil tankers.
🕯️ Remembering: Holocaust survivor Marta Wise, who along with her sister was subjected to medical experiments at the hands of Josef Mengele, died at 88. Former University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer died at 75.
Pic of the Day
Azerbaijani Ambassador to Israel Mukhtar Mammadov (center) toasts with Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Fariz Rzayev and Israeli Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel at an event celebrating Azerbaijan’s Independence Day yesterday in Tel Aviv.
Olympic Gold medalist in gymnastics at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics, Alexandra Rose “Aly” Raisman turns 29…
Academy Award-winning film producer and director, Irwin Winkler turns 92… Holocaust survivor as a young child, now a professor of physics and chemistry at both Brooklyn College and the City University of New York, Micha Tomkiewicz turns 84… Co-founder of the clothing manufacturer, Calvin Klein Inc., which he formed with his childhood friend Calvin Klein, Barry K. Schwartz turns 81… Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 1986, he is now on senior status, Douglas H. Ginsburg turns 77… British journalist, editor and author, he is a past VP of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Alex Brummer turns 74… Of counsel in the Chicago office of Saul Ewing, Joel M. Hurwitz turns 72… Screenwriter, producer and film director, Bob Gale turns 72… Los Angeles resident, Robin Myrne Kramer… Retired CEO of Denver’s Rose Medical Center after 21 years, he is now the CEO of Velocity Healthcare Consultants, Kenneth Feiler… Israeli actress, Rachel “Chelli” Goldenberg turns 69… Actor, voice actor and stand-up comedian sometimes referred to as “Yid Vicious,” Bobby Slayton turns 68… Professor of history at Fordham University, Doron Ben-Atar turns 66… U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) turns 63… Senior government relations counsel in the D.C. office of Kelley Drye & Warren, Laurie Rubiner… Israel’s ambassador to Lithuania, Yossi Avni-Levy turns 61… Actor, producer, director and writer, Joseph D. Reitman turns 55… Tech entrepreneur and investor, he was the original COO of PayPal and founder/CEO of Yammer, David Oliver Sacks turns 51… Member of the Australian Parliament since 2016, Julian Leeser turns 47… Former Israeli minister of diaspora affairs, Omer Yankelevich turns 45… Senior political reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Greg Bluestein… VP of pharmaceutical sales at Maryland-based HealthSource Distributors, Marc D. Loeb… Comedian, actor and writer, Barry Rothbart turns 40… Communications manager at Kaplan, Inc., Alison Kurtzman… Pitcher in the Boston Red Sox organization who had two effective appearances for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic qualifiers, Ryan Sherriff turns 33… Laura Goldman…