👋 Good Tuesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer following her address to a group of JFNA lay leaders, and interview Israeli actress Swell Ariel Or, star of the Netflix period drama “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem.” Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Victoria Coates, Amb. Deborah Lipstadt and Daniel Norber.
Here’s a clear sign that Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) is emerging as a top draw for donors looking for an alternative to former President Donald Trump, Jewish Insider Editor-in-Chief Josh Kraushaar reports: He’s headlining a fundraiser on Aug. 9 in the Hamptons featuring some of the party’s heaviest hitters — including former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Donald Trump’s former economic adviser Gary Cohn.
Other big names hosting the VIP reception include billionaire investor Stanley Druckenmiller, a Trump critic who endorsed Scott’s campaign in June; Marc Rowan, the CEO of Apollo Global Management who was just tapped as board chair of UJA-Federation of New York; and former Trump backer Andy Sabin.
Also listed as a co-host for the event is GOP strategist Nick Muzin, a former senior advisor to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who was Scott’s chief of staff and played a key role in his 2012 Senate bid and has maintained a relationship with the South Carolina legislator over the years.
The renewed interest from donors in Scott’s campaign comes as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been slipping in the polls and laying off over one-third of his campaign staff. Sabin was originally planning to back DeSantis but switched over to Scott during the spring. He has donated the maximum possible amount to Scott’s campaign.
Scott raised $5.8 million in the just-completed second fundraising quarter, and has a cash-flush allied super PAC that brought in $19.3 million in the first half of the year. His biggest backer, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, had poured $35 million into the Opportunity Matter Action PAC between 2021 and 2022. But Scott’s campaign fundraising lagged well behind Trump and DeSantis, the GOP money leaders, raising about as much as fellow South Carolinian Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
An alum of Memphis’ Margolin Hebrew Academy Feinstone Yeshiva of the South was shot by police after firing shots outside of the Jewish day school and unsuccessfully attempting to enter the building.
The incident comes days after the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would reduce funding levels for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which funds security for nonprofits and religious institutions, by more than $18 million.
One individual familiar with the situation told JI that they felt there had been gaps in Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) office’s engagement in the NSGP funding negotiations this year due to a recent staff change. Schumer has long been supportive of the $360 million funding level. Schumer’s office was not immediately available for comment.
The White House’s antisemitism strategy also requests $360 million for the program — funding it calls “vital to offset the costs of physical security enhancements for Jewish and other communities across the country.” The White House did not comment on its efforts to secure such funding.
Final funding levels are still subject to negotiation between the House, which proposed a slight increase in funding, and the Senate.
Senate Democrats call to withhold military aid to Egypt over human rights violations
Eleven Senate Democrats are urging the administration to withhold hundreds of millions in military aid to Egypt in light of ongoing human rights issues in the country, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Holding back: The lawmakers wrote to Secretary of State Tony Blinken last week urging him to follow through on a provision in the 2022 State Department funding bill instructing that up to $320 million of the $1.3 billion allocated for military aid to Egypt be withheld if Egypt fails to make progress on human rights issues, including rule of law, civil rights, accountability for security forces, extrajudicial killings and disappearances, oversight access for U.S. officials and the release of political prisoners.
The argument: “Over the last year, Egypt’s human rights record has continued to deteriorate, despite the Egyptian government’s claims to the contrary,” the letter argues. The letter also acknowledges the “mutual security concerns that merit the sustainment of our military-to-military relationship” between the U.S. and Egypt, but argues that withholding a portion of U.S. aid would not significantly undermine ties.
Signing on: The letter was signed by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tom Carper (D-DE) and Ben Cardin (D-MD).
Mich. Gov. Whitmer highlights ties with Israel after address to Jewish leaders
Following an address to a Jewish leadership gathering in Detroit on Monday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer touted her connection to the state’s Jewish community and the ties she has built with Israel. “I’m proud to have had a wonderful relationship with so many folks in the Jewish community here in Michigan,” Whitmer, a Democrat, told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch in an interview after her speech to the Jewish Federations of North America’s Young Leadership Cabinet Retreat.
Community priorities: The state’s budget, which Whitmer recently signed, includes a $15 million grant given to the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit for security. “I’m so grateful to build up a wonderful group of people that give me counsel and advocate for the community,” Whitmer said. “That’s why we got things done in this budget, like supporting the Jewish social services, as well as heightened security for members of the Jewish community.”
Travel abroad: She also promoted the state’s “unique and very important relationship” with Israel, noting that her first trip as governor, in 2019, was to Israel, with a group led by the Detroit federation.
Meet the Israeli actress telling the story of Israel’s creation – on Netflix
Israeli actress Swell Ariel Or is only 23 years old, but as the star of a period drama airing on Netflix that for the past year has been drawing in worldwide audiences, she now finds herself in an important role: sharing with a global audience key elements of the backstory of Israel’s founding. “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem,” which launched its second season on Netflix last month, follows three generations of a Sephardi family living in Jerusalem beginning in the 1930s. “Do you know how many messages I get from all over the world, from people who love the show, who said it was amazing, and tell me that they did not know there were Jews living in Jerusalem before the Holocaust?” Or, who plays the role of Luna, the beauty queen of Jerusalem in the Israeli-made show, told Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash in a recent interview.
A Sephardic story: Not only are many of the show’s fans surprised to learn that Jewish communities resided in Jerusalem long before the founding of the Jewish state in 1948, Or told JI that they are also shocked to learn that most of those communities were comprised of Sephardic Jews, who emigrated to the holy land when it was still part of the Ottoman Empire. “This community is so under-represented in films and on television. This is a huge win for Sephardic Jews,” she said.
History lesson: “I really recommend that everyone watch this show, Jews and non-Jews,” Or continued. “Everyone talks about the Middle East so much and they all tell us what we need to do or not do, but not everyone knows the real history of this area.”
🇸🇦 Road to Riyadh: Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal Abbas considers the benefits of potential normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel — a prospect he described as “highly likely” — following meetings last week between high-level Saudi and U.S. officials in Riyadh. “However, let us suppose Israel takes serious and satisfactory steps toward a solution, and suddenly a Saudi-Israeli normalization and peace treaty becomes a potential reality. What, then, would the subsequent consequences be? If such a treaty were signed, then the US should have no more concerns about a Saudi nuclear program (which was always meant to be peaceful anyway), nor should it have any reservations about putting its verbal commitments to protect the Kingdom in writing. Indeed, although Israel has never been a security threat to Saudi Arabia, a peace treaty with Israel would mean that the only real threat to the Kingdom would be from Iran and the Houthis. Given that the first refers to the US as the Great Satan, and the latter’s official slogan is ‘Death to America,’ then the Biden administration should really have no reservations committing to a signed treaty with the Kingdom, be it in the form of a ‘major non-NATO ally’ or something else. (This, of course, is assuming Iran doesn’t abide by the China-brokered peace treaty with Riyadh).” [ArabNews]
👀 After Abbas: In Foreign Policy, The New Yorker’s Adam Rasgon and The New York Times’ Aaron Boxerman profile Hussein al-Sheikh, the director-general of the PLO’s executive committee who has been floated as a potential successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “After the PA’s establishment in the 1990s, Sheikh slowly rose through its ranks. He served in the nascent Palestinian security forces before assuming his current role — the head of the General Authority of Civil Affairs — in 2007. His ministry handles ties with Israel, including the Israeli permits that allow Palestinians to circumvent restrictions on their movement. His journey from leather jacket-wearing street activist to detested official has paralleled an ever-widening gap between the Palestinian government and its people, who no longer believe their leaders will free them from occupation, let alone build a democratic state. Sheikh works closely with Israel to prevent Palestinian attacks on Israelis. He negotiates with Israeli officials to upgrade outdated Palestinian infrastructure. The 62-year-old leader says it’s all necessary to preserve an increasingly distant hope that Palestinians will one day achieve freedom. ‘We need to narrow the wide gap between us,’ said Sheikh, comparing his approach to seizing one apple instead of an unreachable bundle of four. ‘So, however small the accomplishment is, it is important.’” [ForeignPolicy]
🌐 Antisemitism Around the World: In Distinctions, Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, reflects on the recent terror attack outside a synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia, where she had been a day prior. “When many people think of antisemitism, they tend to think of the six million Jews murdered across Europe by the Nazis and their collaborators, a genocide that took the lives of one third of the Jewish people. Or, if they are looking at more contemporary events, they cite the ugly example of young men with tiki torches chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’ in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. Sadly, many people don’t think of the struggles that Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews have faced in their homelands throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Iran. Though they often lived in harmony with their non-Jewish neighbors, there were far too many moments of discrimination and persecution. Far too many people fail to recall that one million Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews were displaced from their ancestral lands in the past century.” [Distinctions]
🇵🇸 PA Policy: In National Review, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) and the Heritage Foundation’s Victoria Coates suggest that the Biden administration’s continuing financial support for the Palestinian Authority is damaging the U.S.-Israel relationship. “In reality, Biden’s misguided policy has achieved almost the opposite of its aims. The last year has been the deadliest for both Israelis and Palestinians in decades. In Jenin, for example, which was the direct beneficiary of much of the UNRWA funding, the Palestinian Authority has lost security control and ceded space to Iranian-backed militants who packed the camp with fighters and weapons until the Israel Defense Forces moved in to clean them out. This intolerable threat, not the presence of Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, is what prompted the biggest Israeli military action in the West Bank in 20 years and the corresponding loss of life. Biden’s insistence that Israel’s provocations are to blame is disingenuous at best. At worst, it could be a self-inflicted blow to one of America’s most important alliances, needlessly damaging our interests in the Middle East and increasing the threat of terrorism right here at home.” [NationalReview]
🪖 Wagner Woes: The New Yorker’s Joshua Yaffa delves into the history of the Wagner Group and what led to its rebellion against Russia in June. “The name Wagner came from the call sign of its first commander, Dmitry Utkin, a former lieutenant colonel in the G.R.U., who is said to be a fan of the German composer Richard Wagner. For Utkin, the appeal went beyond just admiration for the ‘Ring’ cycle or ‘Parsifal’; Wagner was Hitler’s favorite composer, and Utkin was known to exhibit fascist sympathies. A former Wagner fighter told me that Utkin greeted subordinates by saying ‘Heil!’ and wore a Wehrmacht field cap around the unit’s training grounds. The Dossier Center, an investigative outlet funded by the exiled oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, published internal Wagner documents, which showed that Utkin occasionally signed his name with two lightning bolts — the insignia of the Nazi S.S.” [NewYorker]
Around the Web
➡️ New Role: Politicointerviews former Deputy National Security Advisor Victoria Coates as she begins a new role leading the Heritage Foundation’s Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy; among her earliest moves is hiring Abraham Accords Peace Institute Executive Director Rob Greenway as her No. 2.
💬 Bad Signal: Semaforreports on a Signal chat populated by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ campaign staffers, including top aides, where the staffers brainstormed ideas for campaign videos, including a since-deleted video that controversially used Nazi imagery. Meanwhile, the Washington Free Beaconuncovered additional antisemitic comments made by magazine editor Pedro Gonzalez, a DeSantis ally, in 2019 and 2020.
💵 Fundraising Figures: Internal records from Never Back Down indicate that the pro-DeSantis super PAC has received donations of upwards of $1 million from at least seven Republican donors, including Saul Fox.
💰 Money Trouble: Former President Donald Trump’s Save America PAC has less than $4 million in its coffers — down from $105 million — after paying tens of millions of dollars in legal fees for both the former president and allies.
💪 Santos Challenger: Republican Daniel Norber, an IDF veteran, announced a primary challenge to Rep. George Santos (R-NY) in New York’s Third Congressional District.
✖️ Musk Matters: X Corp., the parent company of X, formerly known as Twitter, is threatening to sue the Center for Countering Digital Hate, alleging that the nonprofit has made “a series of troubling and baseless claims that appear calculated to harm Twitter generally, and its digital advertising business specifically.”
🥤Cola Kashrut: Tasting Tablelooks at how Coca-Cola obtained its kosher status.
🌞 Sunny Endeavor: SolarEdge Technologies Inc., an Israeli solar energy company, will form a joint venture with the Saudi-based Ajlan & Bros Holding in an effort to increase renewable energy usage in the kingdom.
🚢 Blockade Buster: Three cargo ships — Israeli, Greek and Turkish-Georgian — broke the Russian blockade in the Black Sea, anchoring at a Ukrainian grain port on the Danube Delta.
🪧 Sitting This One Out: The Wall Street Journal talks to Arab Israelis who are largely absent from the country’s weekly protests against efforts to reform the judicial system.
🇵🇸 Palestinian Unity Talks: National unity talks between Palestinian factions wrapped up in Egypt yesterday, reportedly with no clear outcome.
⚖️ Balance of Power: The Israeli Supreme Court said it will hear petitions next month against the recently passed judicial reform law that bars the justices from striking down laws and appointments on the basis that they are unreasonable.
🛰️ Drone Deals: CNBC looks at Iran’s efforts to expand its drone sales to South America, noting that Bolivia’s defense minister, recently returned from meetings in Tehran, has expressed interest in acquiring the technology.
☢️ Nuclear Ambitions: Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi said that Israel does not oppose Saudi Arabia’s desire for its own nuclear program, believed to be a key Saudi demand for normalization with Israel, citing other countries in the region that have similar programs, noting that such endeavors are “not something that endangers them nor their neighbors.”
🇷🇺 In Plain Sight: The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency is increasingly using open-source material to track Russian movements in Ukraine.
🕯️ Remembering: Actor Paul Reubens, known to audiences as Pee-wee Herman, died at 70. Alan Sherman, a co-founder of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame who served on the International Maccabiah Committee for 16 years, died at 87. Longtime Associated Press reporter and Pulitzer Prize finalist Fred Hoffman died at 100. Philanthropist Dorothy Tapper Goldman, who until 2021 owned one of 13 known original prints of the U.S. Constitution, died at 78.
Song of the Day
Israeli singer Netta Barzilai’s newest music video, “Everything.”
Media analyst and host of “MediaBuzz” at Fox News, Howard Kurtz turns 70…
Culver City, Calif., resident, Allene Prince… Formerly CEO of Cendant Corporation, now CEO of 54 Madison Partners, Henry Silverman turns 83… Israeli film director and screenwriter, winner of the Israel Prize and professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University, Ram Loevy turns 83… Founder and chairman of NYC-based Midtown Equities, Joseph Cayre turns 82… U.S. district court judge for the Southern District of New York, now on senior status, Judge Jed S. Rakoff turns 80… Former president of Brandeis University, now president of the Cleveland-based Mandel Foundation, Jehuda Reinharz turns 79… British businessman, he has been described as “the father of British venture capital,” Sir Ronald Mourad Cohen turns 78… Israeli-born businessman and film producer, later CEO of Marvel Studios, he won the 2018 Academy Award for best animated feature, Avi Arad turns 75… Second-generation owner of a Los Angeles flooring business, Eric Kalman Biren… President of Hadassah, Rhoda Smolow… Director of New York government relations at Agudath Israel of America, Yeruchim Silber… U.S. career diplomat now serving as ambassador to South Korea, Philip Seth Goldberg turns 67… CEO of Atlanta’s Jewish Family & Career Services, she served for 12 years in the Minnesota Senate, Terri E. Bonoff turns 66… Professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Rachel Yehuda, Ph.D. turns 64… Policy director in the D.C. office of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Andrew (“Drew”) Littman… Former senior rabbi of the British movement for Reform Judaism, now a rabbi at London’s Bromley Reform Synagogue, Laura Naomi Janner-Klausner turns 60…
Former U.S. ambassador to Israel, now the State Department’s senior advisor for regional integration, Daniel B. “Dan” Shapiro turns 54… Producer for CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Shachar Bar-On… Professor of mathematics at Princeton and Hebrew U, he was the winner of the 2010 Fields Medal, Elon Lindenstrauss turns 53… CEO of Goliath Records and former president of Def Jam Recordings, best known as the agent of Eminem, Paul D. Rosenberg turns 52… CEO of NYC’s Quantum Media Group, Ari Zoldan… Israeli film director, writer and producer, Asaf Epstein turns 45… Partner in Climate Capital, Jessica Alter… Founder and CEO of Moishe House, David Cygielman… Chief communications officer at The Center for Strategic and International Studies, H. Andrew Schwartz… CEO of National Council of Jewish Women, Sheila Katz… Chief operating officer at the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Noam Gilboord… VP of public relations at Burford Capital, David Helfenbein… Board-certified family physician, Mor Toledano Shapiro, M.D…. Cross-country skier who competed for the U.S. at the Winter Olympics in 2014 (Sochi) and 2018 (Pyeongchang), Noah Hoffman turns 34… Director of operations at Elmwood Capital Group, Yael Rabin… Miami-based attorney, Asher Perez… Television, stage and film actor, Benjamin “Ben” Rosenfield turns 31… Senior program officer, Schusterman Fellowship at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, Roey Kruvi…