👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at Neera Tanden’s new role implementing the White House’s strategy to combat antisemitism, and host a roundtable with Jewish community officials on the ins and outs of the strategy’s language. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Barbara Leaf, Bobby Kotick and Sarah Silverman.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations will hold a convening on antisemitism today in New York for some 100 Jewish communal leaders from national organizations. The daylong gathering will open with a briefing from Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt on the White House’s recently released national strategy to combat antisemitism, marking the Biden administration’s first in-person briefing with Jewish community leaders on the plan since its release last week.
Additional sessions at the convening, which is being held in conjunction with the Shine A Light antisemitism-awareness initiative, will focus on a range of issues, including ethnic studies and combating antisemitism in education, corporate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts and planning for the upcoming Shine A Light campaign taking place later this year.
Secretary of State Tony Blinken is slated to speak on Monday to around 500 AIPAC legislative activists at a policy summit in Washington, D.C. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and John Barrasso (R-WY) and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) are among the featured speakers, according to an individual familiar with the planning. The fly-in will include more than 430 lobbying meetings on the Hill.
The following day, Vice President Kamala Harris is set to speak at the Israeli Embassy’s celebration of the 75th anniversary of Israel’s founding.
Elsewhere in Washington, the House voted unanimously, 429 to 0, in favor of a resolution commemorating Jewish American Heritage Month and condemning antisemitism. Companion legislation previously passed the Senate by unanimous consent.
Meanwhile, the Republican presidential field is set to grow this month, with former Vice President Mike Pence set to announce his candidacy on June 7 in Iowa, while former N.J. Gov. Chris Christie is expected to launch his campaign the day before in New Hampshire.
Pence loyally served as vice president under former President Donald Trump, while Christie advised Trump throughout his presidency, including helping the former president with debate preparation in 2020. But both have turned critical of the former president: Trump has held a grudge against his running mate after Pence certified the 2020 election results, while Christie has been an outspoken critic of Trump since Jan. 6 from his perch as an ABC News commentator.
As a result, both Republicans hold unusually high unfavorable ratings among Republicans — particularly among the most committed Trump supporters.
In the Middle East, foreign dignitaries and officials — including First Lady Jill Biden and the White House’s climate envoy, John Kerry, as well as Britain’s Prince William and his wife, Kate — are descending on Jordan for the royal wedding of Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein and Saudi architect Rajwa Alseif.
Traveling on the first lady’s plane are NASA administrator and former Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) wife, Grace, and Paul Pelosi. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was seen — in a video shared by a JI reader — boarding a flight to Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport yesterday.
taking up the torch
Neera Tanden’s big test: Implementing the White House’s antisemitism strategy
The day after the Biden administration released its long-awaited national strategy to counter antisemitism last week, the plan’s architect — Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice — departed the White House. The implementation of the strategy will now fall to Rice’s replacement, Neera Tanden, a longtime Democratic operative who is succeeding Rice as President Joe Biden’s top domestic policy advisor, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Lead role: A White House spokesperson told JI on Wednesday that Tanden “will take a lead role in implementing” the antisemitism strategy, and that she “looks forward to vigorously and expeditiously implementing the strategy through an ongoing interagency process.” Tanden has been serving as Biden’s staff secretary.
On the scene: Tanden, 52, has been a top Democratic party operative since the Clinton administration. During the 2016 presidential campaign, while she served as the president of the influential liberal think tank Center for American Progress (CAP), Tanden became a fierce defender of Hillary Clinton — and a lightning rod for criticism from far-left supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), whose campaign she opposed. A prolific tweeter, Tanden has also garnered widespread opposition from Republicans, who attacked her during her OMB nomination process for a history of tweeting scathing insults at Republicans.
At odds: At CAP, Tanden also presided over an early intra-Democratic Party feud around Israel, when pro-Israel advocates put pressure on the organization after one of its staffers had tweeted using language viewed by many in the Jewish community to be antisemitic. Tanden ultimately came out on the side of Israel’s backers in the Democratic Party.
Breaking down the Biden administration’s antisemitism plan
Last week, the White House released “The U.S. National Strategy To Counter Antisemitism,” a groundbreaking 60-page document that the Biden administration hopes will act as a catalyst to combat the nation’s rise in antisemitic attacks. In a first for Jewish Insider’s podcast, co-hosts Rich Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein are joined by three experts in the field of antisemitism policy — Elana Broitman, senior vice president for public affairs of the Jewish Federations of North America; Stephanie Hausner, chief operating officer of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; and Ken Marcus, the founder of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law — for a roundtable on the first-of-its-kind strategy, which takes whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches to fighting antisemitism. Below are excerpts from the conversation.
Ken Marcus: The White House has created enough ambiguity so that major Jewish organizations are able to declare victory, but also strong anti-Zionist organizations, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, are able to declare victory as well. And both sides are able to find material within both the strategy and the associated documents that seem to support their point of view.
Stephanie Hausner: In the plan, [the White House talks] about this antisemitism awareness campaign within the Department of Education, and there are like 10 goals related to both [the] Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, but I think Ken’s right. Where are the specifics in it?…I think we’ve been engaged productively with the Department of Education, certainly our three organizations over the last several years, but how are we going to ensure that technical assistance in a Dear Colleague letter and saying that the universities treat antisemitism with the same seriousness as other forms of hate — how do we ensure that that happens, and that DEIA [diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility] offices on college campuses include Jewish students in mandatory training on discrimination and harassment?
Elana Broitman: In addition to what we’re all asking ourselves of, ‘How did the administration do with this strategy?’ I also look at it as an opportunity to have a real call to action that unites our community and all the various organizations. For the most part, we are quite united, and so it’s an opportunity to double down on everything that we’re talking about and to bring on the education piece. So glad that University of Vermont, where Ken did wonders, was mentioned. We know there are other campuses where there’s an enormous, enormous problem, and we also know that that has metastasized down to the high schools and even middle schools, and it is good that that is mentioned.
Barbara Leaf downplays reports of imminent Saudi-Israeli normalization
Barbara Leaf, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, downplayed recent reports indicating that Israel and Saudi Arabia are close to reaching a normalization agreement, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Looking ahead: “There’s a lot of misreporting and a lot of hyperventilation in the press, a lot of excitable rumint, I would say, in the press, especially in the Israeli press. They’re just electric with the idea that Saudi Arabia might take that step,” Leaf told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Wednesday. Saudi-Israeli normalization “is an end goal for us” and “it’s fair to say the crown prince [of Saudi Arabia] has been very candid… that that is very much on his mind,” Leaf added, referring to Saudi Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman.
Potential complications: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) called a potential normalization agreement “a pivotal and immensely positive development” and said the U.S. “should be actively engaged in trying to help make that happen.” But he sought assurances that any security guarantees to Saudi Arabia — which the kingdom has reportedly demanded — would require Senate ratification. Leaf responded that “we’re very mindful of the right and left limits of what becomes a treaty versus something else.”
Senate Abraham Accords Caucus pushes for cybersecurity cooperation
Members of the Senate Abraham Accords Caucus introduced legislation on Wednesday pushing for increased cyber cooperation among members of the 2020 normalization agreements, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. The legislation, which follows a move by the Department of Homeland Security earlier this year to expand cooperative efforts under the Accords to include cybersecurity, comes in response to Iran’s increasing cyber attacks targeting the U.S. and its partners in the region, the senators said.
Details: The Abraham Accords Cybersecurity Cooperation Act of 2023, sponsored by Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and James Lankford (R-OK), would formally authorize cyber cooperation between the United States and the Abraham Accords partners, including information sharing, technical assistance to Abraham Accords members, joint cybersecurity training, participation in DHS’ annual cyber exercise program and an annual table-top response exercise with Abraham Accords countries. The bill would also require DHS and the Department of State to annually report to and brief Congress on progress toward the bill’s goals and plans to further expand cooperation with each Abraham Accords member.
Going deeper: An individual familiar with the legislation said that it would give “teeth” to the announcement from DHS earlier this year, setting down “specific actions for cooperation” and “expectations from Congress.” The individual added that the reporting requirement would help ensure that the executive branch continues to implement and expand such cooperative programs.
🎓 Kathy and CUNY: In the New York Post, former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who challenged Gov. Kathy Hochul in the state’s gubernatorial race last year, criticizes the governor for not addressing antisemitism within the CUNY system, and calls to suspend taxpayer funds to the schools. “Leadership as New York’s governor is about passionately speaking out in moments like these, harnessing all your voice and power to condemn the cancer of antisemitism being unleashed throughout taxpayer-funded CUNY, and taking action to crush this hate that has left too many Jewish students and faculty feeling unwelcome and searching for the exits. Fatima Mohammed’s vile, hate-filled speech at CUNY Law’s May 12 commencement ceremony was cheered on by students and faculty as she attacked Jews and other Zionists, proudly flung around antisemitic tropes, accused Israel of carrying out ‘lynch mobs,’ pushed the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and labeled the NYPD ‘fascist.’ A commencement ceremony that should be a day of celebration for all attendees was ruined. The day should have instead been about the culmination of years of hard work to fulfill the dream of earning a college degree.” [NYPost]
☕ Tatte-à-Tête: Politico’s West Wing Playbook looks at how Boston cafe chain Tatte Bakery, which recently opened an outpost across from Washington’s Lafayette Park, has become a favorite of White House staffers and the D.C. press corps. “Ever since the Boston-based chain opened a new location earlier this month across from Lafayette Park, White House officials have been unable to stay away. During lunchtime, dozens of people with blue and green White House staff badges tucked into their pockets line up to order iced honey halva lattes and homemade sourdough grilled cheeses. On Tuesday afternoon, Office of Management and Budget director Shalanda Young stopped in to pick up the breakfast sandwich with a runny egg before heading back to the White House to brief reporters on the debt ceiling agreement. It was a bold lunch order given how messy that sandwich can be. But Young — who was carrying a bag of new clothes she’d just purchased after falling behind on laundry during negotiations — said the sandwich was so delicious that she couldn’t resist. It was her second day in a row ordering it. Young is not the only person who has made multiple trips in one week to Tatte. Nor is it just White House officials frequenting the cafe. AP’s Zeke Miller has been spotted three (!!!) times in the past week and WSJ’s Annie Linskey on Tuesday was enjoying a roasted peach and ricotta tartine when Young walked in (she managed to chat up the OMB director before she headed to the briefing room). Linskey was back in line again on Wednesday.” [Politico]
👨 Conversation with Kotick: Speaking to Variety’s Cynthia Littleton for his first extensive interview in more than a decade, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick addresses claims of toxicity in the workplace and reflects on some of his successes and missteps in his tenure leading the company. “Activision has operated mostly on the fringes of traditional Hollywood. Kotick grew up in Roslyn, N.Y., and has the kind of Long Island street smarts that have helped many East Coast expats in Hollywood. He’s well liked among the showbiz elite with whom he has rubbed elbows for many years. Despite the severity of allegations around the company, Kotick has not been drummed out of the in-crowd. He has many defenders who feel the company, its influence in pop culture and Kotick’s role in building it have never been appreciated by mainstream Hollywood. ‘Activision is a creative company through and through,’ says Dawn Ostroff, a TV and digital veteran who has known Kotick for years and joined Activision’s board in 2020. ‘They’re so protective of the creative process. He really believes in allowing his creators to get the games right, and to make sure the players are first and foremost in their minds. They know their consumers so well.’” [Variety]
🇺🇸 Congress Considerations: In National Review, Jewish Insider podcast host Rich Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, considers what leverage Congress has in pressuring the Biden administration to advance U.S. interests on the global stage. “Engagement for the sake of engagement is not a strategy. Just having a seat at a broken table will not advance U.S. interests or defend them from U.S. adversaries. The failing carrot-only approach to the U.N. must come to an end — and Congress can help change it. Every year, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees allocate taxpayer funding for the U.N. and dozens of affiliated agencies. While the U.N. wants that money to come with no strings attached, appropriators have the power to condition U.S. assistance on concrete behavioral changes. For example, Congress could decree that no U.S. funds may be provided to any organization that denies Taiwan membership or observer status. It could bar funding for any organization that unfairly targets Taiwan or Israel or engages in outright antisemitism. It could withhold funds for the U.N. until the General Assembly reforms the U.N. Human Rights Council or overhauls the UNRWA’s mandate. And it could ban funding to groups that promote the Belt and Road Initiative. There are no doubt other ways Congress could attack this problem, as well. The point is that the Constitution gives legislators the power of the purse, and exercising that authority to defend U.S. interests inside international organizations should be a priority.” [NationalReview]
Around the Web
✋ The Center Holds: The House comfortably passed bipartisan legislation raising the debt ceiling, 314-117. The compromise package, negotiated between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), also imposes spending caps and includes several policy proposals favored by conservatives.
🎧 Trump Trouble: Federal prosecutors obtained an audio recording of former President Donald Trump from the summer of 2021 in which Trump acknowledged that he had been in possession of a classified document regarding a potential strike on Iran.
🗳️ Watch This Space: JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon told Bloomberg TV that he’s considering entering politics in the future, saying that “maybe one day I’ll serve my country in one capacity or another.”
📰 Silverman in the Spotlight: The New Yorkerinterviewed comedian Sarah Silverman about the recent death of her parents, the Hollywood writers’ strike and her friendship with controversial comedian Dave Chappelle.
👟 Sneaker Sale: Adidas resumed sales of Yeezy footwear, with some of the proceeds going to anti-hate groups.
🍉 Gaza Grub: The Associated Pressspotlights lasima, a savory watermelon dish popular in southern Gaza and believed to have originated with Bedouin tribes in the Sinai more than a century ago.
👨🎤 Let Him Entertain You: British singer Robbie Williams arrived in Israel ahead of a concert in Tel Aviv, his first show in the country in eight years.
🏥 Terror Victim: An Israeli-American woman who was left in a vegetative state following the 2001 Sbarro terrorist attack died of her injuries.
🦭 Celebrity Seal Sighting: The agriculture ministry in Gaza reported a brief sighting of a seal, believed to be Yulia the endangered monk seal, on its shores.
🙅♂️ Not Attending: The Israeli Foreign Ministry is boycotting an upcoming conference in Jerusalem that will focus on increasing violence against Christians in Israel.
🇮🇱🇵🇸 Conflict Resolution: In Foreign Affairs, Michael Oren, Martin Indyk, Dahlia Scheindlin, Asad Ghanem, Robert Satloff, Michael Barnett, Nathan J. Brown, Marc Lynch and Shibley Telhami weigh in on the viability of a two-state solution.
✍️ Nides’ Nudge: U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week asking him not to move forward on legislation limiting the ability of Israeli NGOs to fundraise from foreign governments.
🏳️🌈 Eyes on the Pride: Police in Jerusalem are on high alert ahead of this afternoon’s Pride Parade and counterdemonstration in the city.
🔥 Deadly Blast: Five members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command were killed in a strike on one of the group’s bases in southern Lebanon.
🇦🇪 Pulling Back: The UAE announced it had stopped its participation in a U.S.-led maritime security task force two months ago, a move that comes amid heightened tensions over Washington’s handling of increased Iranian activity in the region.
🇮🇷 Eye on Iran: Leaked U.S. intelligence reports indicate that Iran is planning to step up attacks on U.S. troops in Syria and collaborating with Moscow to push American forces out of the war-torn country.
☢️ Growing Stockpile: A new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency found that Iran increased its stockpile of highly enriched uranium by more than a quarter in recent months.
🇸🇩 Sudan Strife: Talks between two warring generals in Sudan collapsed on Wednesday, with the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces accusing the other of violating cease-fire agreements.
🕯️ Remembering: Former SEC Chair Harvey Pitt died at 78.
Pic of the Day
New York City Mayor Eric Adams addresses attendees at a reception at Gracie Mansion marking Jewish American Heritage Month.
Grammy Award-winning classical pianist, Richard Goode turns 80…
Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, pianist and conductor, Yehudi Wyner turns 94… Holocaust survivor as a child, he served as the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel for 10 years and twice as chief rabbi of Tel Aviv for 16 years, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau turns 86… NYC-based attorney, author of two books regarding the history and operations of El Al, owner of 40,000-plus pieces of memorabilia related to El Al, Marvin G. Goldman turns 84… Former member of the Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Shimon Ohayon turns 78… Retired attorney in Berkeley, Calif., Thomas Andrew Seaton… Pediatrician in the San Francisco Bay area, Elliot Charles Lepler, MD… Former member of the Knesset for the Shinui and the Hilonit Tzionit parties, Eti Livni turns 75… Founding editor of The American Interest, Adam M. Garfinkle turns 72… Former editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News, Matthew Winkler turns 68… Founding rabbi of Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, N.Y., Rabbi Moshe Weinberger turns 66… Former IDF officer and now a London-based political scientist and journalist, Ahron “Ronnie” Bregman turns 65… Former member of the Knesset for the Shas party, Amnon Cohen turns 63… Owner of MLB’s Oakland Athletics and chair of the KIPP Foundation, John J. Fisher turns 62… Poet, performance artist and essayist, Adeena Karasick, Ph.D…. Founding editor and publisher of the Dayton Jewish Observer, Marshall J. Weiss… Television personality and matchmaker, Sigalit “Siggy” Flicker turns 56… Actress, voice actress and film director, Danielle Harris turns 46… Journalist and writer, Spencer J. Ackerman turns 43… Comedian, writer, actress, director and producer, Amy Schumer turns 42… Partner in Oliver Wyman consulting firm, Daniel Tannebaum… Musician, songwriter, author, actor and blogger, Ari Seth Herstand turns 38… CEO of The Good Food Institute, Ilya Sheyman turns 37… Political reporter for NBC News and MSNBC, Alex Seitz-Wald… Senior reporter at CNN Business, Nicole Goodkind… Privacy engineering lead at Palantir Technologies, Naomi S. Kadish… Associate advance director for VPOTUS, Isabel Keller… NYC-born Israeli pair skater, she competed for Israel at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Hailey Esther Kops turns 21…