👋 Good Thursday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to Elad Strohmayer and Tal Naim, respectively the outgoing and incoming spokespeople at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and spotlight a new dating app called Loop. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Shikma Bressler, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and Gal Gadot.
A federal judge in Pittsburgh will sentence Robert Bowers to death this morning, following the unanimous recommendation of a jury that reached the decision on Bowers’ fate yesterday morning after two days of deliberations.
Bowers, the Pennsylvania man whom the same jury convicted earlier this summer of murdering 11 people at the city’s Tree of Life synagogue in October 2018, showed little remorse as the decision was announced in court.
Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who was conducting Shabbat services the morning of the attack, noted that the jury reached its decision on Tu B’Av, the “day of love” on the Hebrew calendar. “I don’t believe in coincidences,” Myers said, adding that the community “received an immense embrace from the halls of justice” that affirmed “we have the right to practice our Judaism and no one will ever take that right away from us.”
The jury’s decision was met with praise from major Jewish organizations. Read more in our sister publication eJewishPhilanthropy here.
It remains unclear when — or if — the sentence will be carried out. The Justice Department under President Joe Biden halted federal executions in 2021, a move that could be reversed by a future administration. Biden had pledged during his 2020 campaign to end capital punishment. Bowers is the first individual to be sentenced to death since Biden took office.
A New York Times/Siena poll released on Monday drew headlines for showing that former President Donald Trump has a clear path to winning a second term despite his myriad legal problems. The survey showed him tied with Biden at 43%, a more competitive showing than he demonstrated in polls throughout the 2020 presidential campaign.
But a closer look at the cross-tabs in the survey outlines other fascinating findings about the state of the American electorate, just over a year before the next election, Jewish Insider Editor-in-Chief Josh Kraushaar writes.
One telling nugget: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis now has a lower net favorability rating (31/47% favorable/unfavorable) than Trump (41/55%). Over twice as many voters view Trump “very favorably” (21%) than view DeSantis in the same way (10%).
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has ramped up his criticism of Trump’s behavior on Jan. 6, has the lowest favorables of any politician tested. He’s not getting credit from Democrats for sticking to his principles, and he’s driven off MAGA-oriented Republicans for bucking Trump.
Tellingly, more voters who supported Trump in 2020 view Pence unfavorably (44%) than favorably (43%).
There are a lot of warning signs as well for Biden in the poll, beyond his struggles in a matchup against Trump. His overall approval rating is only 39%, and he’s losing ground among working-class nonwhite voters — that were once the base of the Democratic Party.
Fewer than half of non-white voters without a college degree support Biden over Trump (49%) in the NYT/Siena survey. Biden still leads Trump with that constituency by 16 points, 49-33%, but that’s a much narrower margin than in 2020.
On the issue of Ukraine, a sizable 57% majority of Americans support additional military and financial support for Ukraine’s defense against Russian aggression. Only 37% oppose. But Republicans are evenly divided, with 47% supporting additional help for Ukraine while 49% oppose.
After five years, new spokesperson set to take the helm at Israeli Embassy in Washington
Elad Strohmayer has been a constant at the Israeli Embassy in Washington since 2018, through three ambassadors, three prime ministers, five Israeli elections, two American administrations, four Congresses and the historic normalization of relations between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors. But later this month, Strohmayer, the embassy’s spokesperson, is set to wrap up his time in the U.S., transferring back to Israel for a new role leading the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Congressional Affairs department, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Up next: Strohmayer is set to be replaced in Washington by Tal Naim, a career diplomat who has served in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for 10 years. Naim has served as the policy advisor to Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and former Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and filled the roles of consul general in Costa Rica and spokesperson of the Israeli Embassy in Mexico. She will formally take over the spokesperson role on Aug. 21, arriving in Washington around a week earlier.
Maintaining support: Strohmayer served as a face of the Israeli Embassy during a time of escalating criticisms of Israel within the U.S. political system, and emphasized the need to keep support for Israel depoliticized and bipartisan — a task he said will continue into his new role. “There are voices on the fringe, that we should really make sure… stay in the fringe and [d]on’t become the mainstream,” he said. “There are people from both sides that want to drag Israel into the partisan debate here in America. America became very partisan and very polarized. I think that’s something of a challenge for us — that we should really try and prevent Israel from becoming a partisan issue and keep Israel a bipartisan issue.”
looping in love
On Loop, an ancient matchmaking tradition becomes modern
Lisa Babich has already secured her place in Olam HaBa, or “the world to come” — at least according to the Jewish maxim that making three successful matches brings the matchmaker a spot in heaven. Babich, 37, is not an official shadchanit, or Jewish matchmaker, by profession. But as the wife of a rabbi at a large synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, she tries to set up young Jewish singles whenever she can. She’s part of a matchmaking tradition that dates back centuries, one she is helping to bring further into the modern era as an early adopter of the new dating app Loop, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Absent algorithm: Launched in May, Loop is an online dating platform that bills itself as “the set up network.” Unlike popular dating apps like Tinder or Hinge or Jswipe, where users are met with a seemingly endless series of matches given to them by an algorithm, singles on Loop can only see friends in their network, and friends of those friends. (People who are in relationships are also encouraged to join the app to help match up their single friends.)
Learning from tradition: The app’s founders insist that Loop holds widespread appeal. But the three — all Jewish — say the app taps into their own ancient tradition, as well as other dating traditions from around the world. There’s no better cultural moment for Loop to land in, after millions of people tuned into the Netflix reality shows “Indian Matchmaking” and “Jewish Matchmaking.”
Anyone’s a matchmaker: “This is really about bringing Jewish wisdom to the world,” said Moriya Blumenfeld, Loop’s CEO and co-founder. “We love the idea of aunties in Indian culture and shadchans in Jewish culture, but a matchmaker could be a friend. It could be a peer. They could be single, they could be not single. It could be your family.”
Suspect in Tennessee Jewish school shooting was receiving psychiatric care prior to attack
The Tennessee man shot by police after firing a handgun outside of a Jewish day school in Memphis was reportedly receiving psychiatric care and had published a number of erratic social media posts in the lead-up to Monday’s incident, The Times of Israel’s Luke Tress reports. The suspect, identified as Joel Bowman, is Jewish and a former student of the Margolin Hebrew Academy, where the incident took place.
Charges brought: Bowman was charged on Wednesday with carrying weapons on school property, reckless endangerment, criminal attempted second-degree murder, possessing a firearm during the commission or attempt to commit a dangerous felony and assault against a first responder. Bowman remains in critical condition at a local hospital.
Echoes of the past: The incident came two decades after a similar event in 2003, in which Bowman’s father, Dr. Anthony Bowman, was shot and killed by police after his wife called to report her husband’s erratic behavior, saying he was “acting erratically and appeared to be emotionally distraught.” The younger Bowman was present when his father was killed, and a family friend said he had struggled with having been a witness to his father’s death.
Social media activity: In a rambling social media post published on Facebook on Saturday that referenced “familial pain” and “the afterlife,” Bowman shared a photo of his father’s headstone. “He was a great guy and has some mental health issues that needed to be dealt with, and trauma from his father,” the family friend told TOI. “He was in psychiatric care but he was still able to buy guns. They knew he has problems.” In the Facebook post, Bowman said he had visited a gun shop in Brownsville, Tenn., an hour away from Memphis.
👩🔬 The Physicist Protestor: The New York Times’ Isabel Kershner spotlights Shikma Bressler, a physicist who has become one of the most prominent faces of Israel’s judicial reform protest movement. “She said she never planned to become a leader of the protests, and had no political ambitions. ‘If I had wanted to be a politician, I’d have gone into politics,’ she said. Dr. Bressler said she first became concerned about where Israel was headed in March 2020, when Benjamin Netanyahu, then the prime minister, as he is now, ordered a shutdown of the courts at the start of a coronavirus-related lockdown. Mr. Netanyahu cited health concerns for the move, but it also postponed the opening of his corruption trial, angering many Israelis. Dr. Bressler said she and two of her three brothers decided they had to do something. They devised a plan to lead a convoy of cars driving to Parliament in Jerusalem, and made video clips calling on people to join them. Dr. Bressler’s clip circulated widely online, and scores of people turned up with their cars for the protest.” [NYTimes]
⛪ Faltering Faith: The Wall Street Journal’s Clare Ansberry explores recent data that indicates that church attendance among Gen Xers dropped significantly in recent years. “The percentage of Gen Xers who worship weekly is now as low as millennials, according to the Cultural Research Center survey. Baby boomers and people ages 77 and older had the highest attendance rates, at 38% and 53% respectively. ‘No generation endured greater spiritual turbulence than Gen X during the pandemic,’ says George Barna, director of research at the Cultural Research Center, which also found drops in other religious practices and beliefs among Gen Xers. Church attendance levels have been declining for decades across generations, with less than half of U.S. adults belonging to houses of worship in 2020, compared with 70% in 1999, according to Gallup. The drop-off for those in their 40s and 50s has been building, says Josh Packard, a 45-year-old sociologist of religion, who has researched changing forms of religious expression. Parents often attend church or temples to get their kids through certain religious milestones, including confirmation and bat mitzvahs, Packard says. ‘Then, after that, it starts to wane more every year,’ he says.” [WSJ]
🕵️ Murder Mystery: Bloomberg’s Matthew Campbell and Ari Altstedter do a deep dive into the murders of Canadian philanthropists Barry and Honey Sherman, and the effect that their unsolved killings has had on their family and business dealings. “Barry, 75, was the founder and chairman of Apotex Inc., a large generic pharmaceutical producer. His net worth was estimated at $3.6 billion at the time of his death in 2017. He and Honey, 70, used that money to become major philanthropists, donating generously to charities, cultural institutions and Jewish causes. They weren’t the richest people in Canada, but they were as prominent as anyone, appearing at seemingly every charity gala in Toronto and known to have strong connections to the Liberal Party of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Autopsies would determine that both of the Shermans had died from ‘ligature neck compression’ — strangulation. They were among the wealthiest murder victims in history… As investigators dug into the Shermans’ past, they uncovered a family drama rife with vendettas and grudges, accusations and rumors, centered on a dominant patriarch and a next generation vying for his favor. With Barry Sherman gone, that drama entered a new, bare-knuckle phase. Suddenly inheriting his empire, his children made it clear that their priorities differed from their father’s. They broke with his and Honey’s closest confidants and began making plans to sell off Apotex, the company Sherman had devoted his life to building. Then, some of them turned on each other.” [Bloomberg]
👟 Sneaker Saga: The Associated Press’ Tiffany Stanley, Luis Andres Henao and Mariam Fam look at how Adidas is handling sales of its stockpile of Yeezy footwear following the dissolution of the company’s partnership with Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, over the artist’s repeated usage of antisemitic tropes. “Adidas is releasing more Yeezy sneakers this week via an online sale, the second such drop since the company cut ties with Ye in October after he made antisemitic and other offensive statements online and in interviews. The divorce left Adidas searching for a responsible way to unload the inventory. When asked previously if Ye would receive royalties from the sales, the company replied, ‘We will honor our contractual obligations and enforce our rights but will not share any more details.’ Adidas hasn’t said how many pairs it hopes to sell. And it says, without providing financial details, that part of the profits from the sneaker sales will go to the Anti-Defamation League, which is deeply engaged in combating antisemitism. Shoes sold directly by Adidas in North America will include blue square pins established by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s Foundation to Combat Anti-Semitism.” [AP]
Around the Web
🏕️ Gone Camping: Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff is traveling to NJY Camps in Milford, Pa., today. Emhoff, an alum of NJY, will meet with campers and staffers to discuss “fostering Jewish life” and the administration’s efforts to combat antisemitism.
🔎 Internal Review: The State Department’s Office of Inspector General told Republican senators it is looking into the circumstances surrounding the suspension of Iran envoy Rob Malley’s security clearance in May.
⚠️ Trump Talk: The Washington Post reports on a conversation earlier this summer between President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama, in which Obama cautioned that Democrats may be underestimating the political strength of former President Donald Trump, the leading GOP candidate ahead of the 2024 primary.
⚖️ Family Feud:The New York Timeslooks at Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) legal dispute with the daughters of her late husband over his estate.
🛫 Trip Talk: House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) announced at an event at the Boro Park JCC in Brooklyn that he will lead an upcoming delegation to Israel.
🖼️ Art Attack: Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) recently attended a Michigan art show that included pieces that call for the elimination of Israel and praised Palestinian terrorists.
📽️ Return of Wonder Woman: Actress Gal Gadot said that DC Studios still plans to move forward with “Wonder Woman 3” after a leadership change that ushered in James Gunn and Peter Safran as co-CEOs.
📺 New Gig: Jeffrey Goldberg was officially announced as the new host of PBS’ “Washington Weekly,” beginning Aug. 11.
🕵️ Personnel Probe: Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez called for an independent investigation following a report that a top aide — who is involved in Equal Employment Opportunity cases — had made antisemitic comments, saying he has “no tolerance for antisemitism, or any other form of bigotry or discrimination in this office.”
⛹️♂️ Midwest to Mideast: The Kansas State University men’s basketball team will travel to Israel and the United Arab Emirates next week on a trip that will include both sightseeing and exhibition games.
👋 Uncoupling: The Workers Circle announced it was resigning from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Wednesday, citing differences of opinion over Israeli, American and Jewish communal politics, eJewishPhilanthropyreports.
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: A fledgling Jewish community in York, England, hired its first rabbi since the community was wiped out eight centuries ago.
🇵🇹 Jewish Route: Travel writer John Krich explores Portugal’s Rede das Judiarias, a network of dozens of towns along the country’s border with Spain with Jewish quarters from pre-Inquisition times.
🟢 Green Light: The U.S. approved Israel’s $340 million sale of the David’s Sling defense system to Finland.
⚖️ High Court Hearing: Israel’s High Court of Justice is hearing petitions against an amendment to a law passed earlier this year that places further restrictions on the court’s ability to order a sitting prime minister incapacitated — a law that petitioners argue was designed to keep Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in office.
🛃 VWP Criteria: Following a loosening of travel restrictions, an Israeli official said that more than 2,000 Palestinian Americans have transited through Israeli border crossings in recent weeks as Israel seeks to meet the criteria for entry into the U.S.’ Visa Waiver Program.
🪧 Mixed Bag: In The New York Times, Gershom Gorenberg reflects on the “unlikely coalition” that has formed to oppose the Israeli government’s judicial reform efforts, and the fissures among differing factions within the protest movement over issues unrelated to judicial reform.
🛢️ Energy Levels: Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz weighed in on an ongoing debate over the distribution of the country’s natural gas reserves, saying he would like to export more gas outside of Israel.
🧕 Dress Code: Iran is considering new legislation that would further crack down on women’s attire in public and escalate penalties for individuals and businesses who don’t abide by the country’s strict modesty codes.
🇸🇦 Riyadh Relations: Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said the PA is hoping to engage with Saudi Arabia to express concerns over Riyadh’s potential normalization of relations with Israel.
🕯️ Remembering: Psychoanalyst Alan Roland, who drew attention to Western biases in his field, died at 83. Journalist Lois Libien, who drew a national audience with a syndicated column of household tips, died at 87.
Pic of the Day
Seventeen-year-old Aviv Weizman holds a piece of a plaque that researchers say framed a 1,500-year-old “magical mirror” from the Byzantine period, which she found during an Israel Antiquities Authority archaeological excavation at the ancient site of Usha, in northern Israel.
According to Navit Popovitch, Israel Antiquities Authority curator of the classical periods, a glass mirror, for protection against the Evil Eye, was placed in the middle of the plaque. “The idea was that the evil spirit, such as a demon, who looked in the mirror, would see his own reflection, and this would protect the owner of the mirror. Similar mirror plaques have been found in the past as funerary gifts in tombs, in order to protect the deceased in their journey to the world to come,” Popovitch said.
First-round pick of the Atlanta Braves in the 2020 Major League Baseball draft, he made his MLB debut this year, Jared Shuster turns 25…
Retired head coach of both the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills, member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Marv Levy turns 98… English actor, author, playwright and theater director, known for his roles as the villain in both “James Bond” and “Rambo” films, Steven Berkoff turns 86… EVP emeritus of the UJA-Federation of New York, John S. Ruskay turns 77… Retired regional director and development director in the Cleveland office of the ADL, Anita Gray… Former chairman and CEO of the NYC office of commercial real estate brokerage firm Savills, Mitchell S. Steir turns 68… Voice actor in dozens of Disney films, video games and television programs, known professionally as Corey Burton, Corey Gregg Weinberg turns 68… Chair of the board of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles and board member of JFNA, Orna Amir Wolens… President of D.C.-based Freedman Consulting, LLC, Thomas Z. Freedman turns 60… CEO and co-founder of Pushkin Industries, Jacob Weisberg… Israeli filmmaker, producer and director, Ilan Moskovitch turns 57… Canadian entrepreneur and former commodities trader, Alexander Shnaider turns 55…
Executive director of public affairs at the Jewish Federation of Broward County (Florida), Evan Goldman… Emmy Award-winning sportscaster, Suzy Shuster turns 51… Editorial page editor of the New York Daily News, Josh Greenman… U.S. senator (D-CT), Chris Murphy turns 50… Chief advancement officer at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Joshua Cherwin… Head of public policy at Riot Platforms, Brian Morgenstern… Executive editor of the Washington Examiner magazine, Seth Mandel turns 41… Partner at SoftBank Group International, Jeffrey A. Dressler turns 39… Director of philanthropic outreach for the southern division of the Anti-Defamation League, Erica Greenblatt… Political correspondent at The Times of Israel, Caroline Keller-Lynn… Director of member engagement at Christians United For Israel, Liliya Maskovcevs… Executive director of The Natan Fund, Adina Poupko … Executive director of the Reducetarian Foundation, Brian Kateman… Fashion model and social entrepreneur, Karlie Kloss turns 31… U.S. newsletter editor at the Financial Times, Emily Goldberg… Ariana Kaufman… Director of talent at VMG, Leigh Bonner Levine…