👋 Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we interview Rhode Island congressional candidate Sabina Matos ahead of next week’s special election primary, and preview an event in Riverdale, N.Y., today honoring MLK speechwriter Clarence Jones. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Vivek Ramaswany, Karlie Kloss and Iliza Shlesinger.
It was back to school this week for thousands of students enrolled in the City University of New York system. But not for CUNY Graduate Center President Robin Garrell, whose upcoming departure was announced this week by CUNY Chancellor Matos Rodriguez, Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss writes.
Garrell, who has served as the graduate center’s head for three years, faced criticism last week for her decision to hire Marc Lamont Hill, an academic and activist who has come under fire multiple times in recent years for his comments about Israel.
Hill’s hiring at CUNY came five years after he was fired by CNN after speaking at the U.N. and calling for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea,” generally understood to be a call for the elimination of the State of Israel. The following year, he claimed that some mainstream news outlets were “Zionist organizations” that produce “Zionist content.”
CUNY administrators are still dealing with the fallout from a law school commencement speaker who used her time at the lectern to condemn Israel, which she alleged “indiscriminately rain[s] bullets and bombs on worshipers, murdering the old and young.” In subsequent interviews and writings, Fatima Mohammed has doubled down on her remarks, made a year after another law school student gave a similar speech at the 2022 commencement.
Hill joins the CUNY system as Brooklyn College finds itself under investigation by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights over allegations that students and faculty created a “hostile environment” on campus for Jewish students in the master’s program for mental health counseling.
As to how Rodriguez plans to handle student and faculty concerns? Hard to say — earlier this summer, he canceled a scheduled interview with us at the last minute, and has dodged subsequent efforts to speak to the press about the situation at CUNY — though he did appear earlier this month at the Hampton Synagogue, where he discussed the situation on campus for the first time since the uproar over the law school commencement.
In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has reportedly offered to resume financial support to the Palestinian Authority, a move seen as a sign of progress in efforts to reach a normalization agreement with Israel. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Saudi Arabia in a video message for its “warm attitude” toward Israeli passengers who were on a flight that made an emergency stop in Jeddah on Monday.
one for the rhode
Rhode Island lt. gov. touts Israel support in last days of congressional campaign
In the final days of a Rhode Island congressional primary, an unexpected issue has quietly come to the fore: Israel. The Democratic primary in the special election for the 1st District, newly vacant after former Rep. David Cicilline, a Providence Democrat and pro-Israel progressive who stepped down earlier this year to run a foundation, takes place on Tuesday. Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, who is facing a more progressive challenger in former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg, spent part of the penultimate weekend of the race speaking to a virtual fundraiser hosted by NORPAC, a grassroots pro-Israel group whose members are mostly in the New York area, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Contrasting candidates: “She seemed very heartfelt in terms of wanting to be strong on U.S.-Israel relations,” said NORPAC’s president, Ben Chouake, who co-hosted the event, which raised $20,000 for the Matos campaign. Chouake expressed concern that Regunberg — who appeared this weekend at a rally with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — is “basically going to be another member of the Squad,” referring to a group of far-left lawmakers who are hostile to Israel.
Israel positions: “I’m looking forward to being a strong ally, and making sure that the United States and Israel partnership continues, because they are our strongest democratic ally in the region,” Matos told JI in an interview on Monday. “I don’t want to make this a partisan issue.” Larger pro-Israel organizations have not gotten involved in the race. JACPAC, a Chicago political action committee that supports candidates who are pro-Israel and pro-choice, endorsed Regunberg. He has also been endorsed by Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), two prominent Jewish progressives. “I care deeply about Israel’s future and the safety and well-being of all the people who live there,” Regunberg told JI in July.
Jewish community: Matos, who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, came to the U.S. at age 20. Growing up, Matos never met any Jews, until she arrived in Providence. “Even though there are Dominican Jews, I was never exposed, never had an opportunity to learn about the Jewish community or the religion,” she said. “I know we’re very fortunate that we have a large Jewish community.” The 1st District includes parts of Providence, Newport and Bristol, where Matos on Sunday marked the 100th anniversary of the state’s second-oldest synagogue.
‘i have a dream’
Riverdale event to celebrate legacy of MLK speechwriter Clarence Jones
Sixty years after Martin Luther King Jr. gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, one of the men who helped draft it, his friend and attorney Clarence Jones, is set to speak on Wednesday at Manhattan College in Riverdale, a heavily Jewish neighborhood in the Bronx. Jones, who assisted King in drafting the first portion of the famous 1963 speech at Jones’ house in Riverdale, is scheduled to speak to the local community about Riverdale’s connection to the March on Washington and his commitment to Black-Jewish unity. The event is organized by Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), whose district includes Riverdale, Haley Cohen reports for Jewish Insider.
Jones’ legacy: “I am commemorating the legacy of one of Dr. King’s closest confidants, Clarence Jones, who resided in Riverdale in the lead-up to the March,” Torres told JI ahead of the event. “Clarence Jones embodies [the] unity that is needed now more than ever. [He] sees the fight against antisemitism as a continuation of his civil rights activism.” Torres, a pro-Israel progressive and the only openly gay Black man in Congress added, “We are all bound together in the struggle against hate and extremism. An America shaped in the image of Clarence Jones is an ideal we’re striving for and celebrating. Celebrate we will in Riverdale.”
Longtime activist: Jones, 92, was standing just a few feet away when King delivered his historic “Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Jones has been a longtime activist advancing the cause of civil rights. In recent years, he’s promoted Black-Jewish relations. Jones recounts Jewish contributions to the civil rights movement in his new memoir, Last of the Lions, published this month. Jones said in an interview with MSNBC on Monday that despite progress, America still faces similar challenges as it did six decades ago. “I am telling you that there’s a level of violence, and there’s a deep level of antisemitism in this country,” Jones said. “I’m not trying to cry wolf. I’m not trying to scare you. I’m just telling you what I see.”
💰 Money Matters: Puck’s Teddy Schleifer looks at GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswany’s fundraising efforts, even as the tech billionaire is largely self-funding his bid. “I learned the other day that Ramaswamy had a private meeting a few months ago in New York with Steve Schwarzman, the Blackstone billionaire who wants to see the party move on from Trump and has met most of the candidates, but it’s hard to imagine that Vivek — still very much an outlier and an oddity for the G.O.P. donor community, especially on foreign policy — is what he has in mind. ‘A lot of these traditional donors who have been looking at other candidates are going to have to reevaluate,’ the source close to the Vivek campaign told me. ‘You’re getting to the fall here. Who is going to be left to pick from at the end?’” [Puck]
🇱🇾🇮🇱 Diplomatic Drama: The Washington Post’s Claire Parker and Steve Hendrix highlight the implications of the reaction in Libya to the meeting held between Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and his Libyan counterpart, Najla el-Mangoush. “The protests in Libya highlight the persistence of anti-Israel sentiment in the region even as a new generation of leaders in the Gulf and North Africa seek to build economic, technological and security ties with their former adversary. In Libya, a 1957 law makes it illegal to normalize ties with Israel. Former dictator Moammar Gaddafi maintained a strong anti-Israel stance throughout his more than 40-year rule. A decade after his ouster, only 7 percent of Libyans favored Arab states normalizing relations with Israel, according to a 2021-2022 survey by the research network Arab Barometer.” [WashPost]
♯ Music in Hell: In Smithsonian Magazine, Douglas Starr spotlights the efforts of musician Mark Ludwig to give sound to music composed by Jewish musicians imprisoned at the Terezin concentration camp during the Holocaust. “‘I opened the score and started playing it in my mind’s ear,’ says Ludwig, who was then in his early 30s. ‘And the beauty of it was astounding. It opened up a whole new world to me in terms of music.’ The music was written by Gideon Klein, a Czech composer who was murdered by the Nazis at the age of 25. Ludwig was intrigued. As a musician who grew up in a family of musicians, he was acquainted with the classical repertoire, yet he hadn’t realized the inmates of Terezin had produced such beautiful music. He decided to investigate. So began a lifelong obsession. Over the next 30 years he made more than 100 trips to Prague, searching through archives and interviewing historians and elderly Terezin survivors. He traveled throughout Europe, the United States and Israel, scouring museums and archives for handwritten scores. He sought out survivors of Terezin who might have known something about these composers — geniuses murdered in their creative prime. Who were they? What were they like? What drove them? How did they find the will to write music in such dire conditions? As he learned about the composers, he felt compelled to bring their work to the public through concerts and lectures.” [Smithsonian]
Around the Web
🎤 Vivek on Israel: Fox News’ Sean Hannity pressed GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy about his past comments about potentially cutting U.S. aid to Israel.
📈 Numbers Game: A memo from former President Donald Trump’s pollster indicates that Ramaswany and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley have gained ground in Iowa following last week’s Republican presidential debate.
⬆️ Building Up: No Labels is exploring how to build up its grassroots operation ahead of selecting potential candidates for a third-party run next year.
👨⚕️ In Treatment: House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) announced a diagnosis of multiple myeloma, for which he is being treated.
🏃 Michigan Move: Former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) is expected to launch a bid for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) next year.
🗳️ A Rabbi’s Bid: The New York Post interviewed Rabbi David Hirsch, who is facing off against Sam Berger in a special election next month for the Queens Assembly seat vacated by Dan Rosenthal earlier this year.
📖 First Look: The first excerpts of Franklin Foer’s upcoming book on the Biden administration — centered on the American withdrawal from Afghanistan — were released a week before the book hits shelves. “For a man vaunted for his empathy, he could be detached, even icy, when confronted with the prospect of human suffering,” Foer writes about Biden in the book.
🤝 Magazine Murmurings: Karlie Kloss is in talks with Vice Media to buy i-D magazine.
🤣 Funny Girl: In The Wall Street Journal, comic Iliza Shlesinger reflects on her upbringing and her career trajectory.
🍝 Roman Holiday:Condé Nast Travelerinterviews Jewish food expert Leah Koenig about her new cookbook, Portico: Cooking and Feasting in Rome’s Jewish Kitchen.
🏫 Campus Beat: The Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter at the University of California, Berkeley was vandalized with shellfish that was thrown into the house and around the premises on Saturday.
🏢 Office Chatter: Jeff Zucker’s RedBird IMI is in talks to back Front Office Sports, the sports-focused newsletter startup founded by Adam White in 2014.
🏈 Football Fodder: The Washington Postspotlights NFL owners ahead of the start of the season next week.
🍎 Made in Manhattan: Blackstone and Vornado are partnering on a new effort to build a production-studio complex in Manhattan, with plans to break ground later this year on a 266,000-square-foot campus.
🧑⚖️ Court Case: A federal judge in New York dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Michigan pension fund against Unilever, which had been accused of misleading shareholders for not disclosing a decision by its subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s to cease sales in the West Bank; the judge determined that Unilever did not mislead investors as the conglomerate had the final say over the ice cream company’s decisions.
📽️ The Maestro’s Daughter: Vanity Fairinterviews Leonard Bernstein’s daughter ahead of the release of a new biopic based on the famed conductor’s life.
💵 Kushner Investment: Jared Kushner’s Saudi- and UAE-backed investment fund Affinity Partners looks set to acquire a 25% stake in the Israeli Phoenix Insurance Agencies company.
🇮🇱🇱🇧 Release Valve: The U.S. is working to try to deescalate heightened tensions between Israel and Hezbollah on the border with Lebanon, sending Amos Hochstein, the White House’s senior advisor for energy and investment, to meet with senior Lebanese officials in Beirut this week.
✈️ Test Flights: Israel’s Defense Ministry announced this week the commencement of test flights of the ORON aircraft, which it described as “the world’s most advanced aircraft of its kind.”
🔫 Rising Violence: The New York Times spotlights the rise in gun violence in Israel’s Arab sector.
🛃 Closed-Door Policy: Israeli Tourism Minister Haim Katz expressed his opposition to Israel’s efforts to join the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, saying under the parameters required for acceptance into the program, Israel will be required to allow the “entry of unwanted parties, Palestinians.”
⚽ Qatar Spend: Tabletreports that documents submitted in federal court reveal that Qatar bribed members of the FIFA committee that voted on the host country to the tune of 210 million pounds (then worth over $330 million) in order to hold the 2022 World Cup in Doha.
🇱🇾 Diplomatic Disarray: Arab diplomats toldThe Times of Israel that the fallout from Israel’s publication of a meeting held between Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and his Libyan counterpart has harmed efforts to reconvene the Negev Forum.
🇮🇷 Raisi’s Reversal: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi issued mixed messages when speaking to reporters yesterday, first calling on Japan to “act independently from the U.S. by releasing our blocked funds,” and then backtracking to “clarify that our Central Bank earlier said we only had unjustly frozen funds in South Korea. All other assets abroad are at the disposal of Iran’s Central Bank.”
Song of the Day
Basketball star in both the U.S. and Israel, he was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Bullets in the 1965 NBA draft, Tal Brody turns 80…
Author and genealogist, Judith R. Frazin turns 81… Israeli actress known for her role as Chaja Dresner in “Schindler’s List,” Miri Fabian turns 80… Israeli activist and a former mayor of Kedumim, Daniella Weiss turns 78… Stand-up comedian, Lewis Niles Black turns 75… Author of the novel Dead Poets Society, which is based on the movie of the same name, Nancy H. Kleinbaum turns 75… Hasidic rebbe of Zvhil-Mezhbizh, based in Boston, Miami and Jerusalem, Rabbi Yitzhak Aharon (Ira) Korff turns 74… Producer for CBS News, Murray Weiss… Israeli vocalist who sings in Hebrew, Turkish and Spanish, he was a judge in the inaugural season of “The Voice Israel,” Shlomi Shabat turns 69… Actor, comedian and television director, David Paymer turns 69… Rosh yeshivah at Yeshivat Maale Gilboa and the rabbi of Kibbutz Lavi, he served as a member of the Knesset for the Meimad party, Rabbi Yehuda Gilad turns 68… Co-founder of Maoz leadership network in Israel, Deborah Cogen Swartz… U.S. senator (R-NC), Thom Tillis turns 63… Business manager of the Perth Amboy (N.J.) Free Public Library, Herschel Chomsky… Partner at N.J.-based law firm, Rubenstein, Marucci & Shinrod, Richard B. Rubenstein… Corporate strategist and author of best-selling First Friends: The Powerful, Unsung (and Unelected) People Who Shaped our Presidents, Gary L. Ginsberg turns 61… Member of the U.K.’s House of Lords, former executive editor of The Times of London where he remains a weekly political columnist, Baron Daniel Finkelstein turns 61… Israeli venture capitalist and social entrepreneur, Elie Wurtman turns 54… Eldad Yaron… Israeli television presenter, actor and singer, Tal Mosseri turns 48… Director of search and analytics for Politico, Mitchell Schuler… Politician who founded the anti-Trump resistance movement Daily Action, Laura Moser turns 46… Principal at Neuberger, Quinn, Gielen, Rubin & Gibber, Simon Marciano… Political fundraiser in Massachusetts, Julia Hoffman… Actor, following in the footsteps of his father Dustin Hoffman, Max Hoffman… Member of the New York City Council representing a portion of Brooklyn, Inna Vernikov turns 39… Director of external affairs at Upstream USA, Margy Levinson… Project manager at Shalom Bayit Construction in Beverly Hills, Mati Geula Cohen…