👋 Good Thursday morning!
Ed. note: The next Daily Kickoff will arrive on Tuesday, Sept. 5. Enjoy the Labor Day weekend!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s purchase of a home for its ambassador in Washington, and feature a book review by Tevi Troy on Marty Peretz’s new memoir. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Guy Nattiv, Rabbi Diana Fursko and Blake Masters.
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: With polished Hebrew, Germany’s ambassador to Israel draws inspiration from the job; At 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, past is present for many; Book Review: ‘The Controversialist: Arguments With Everyone, Left, Right and Center,’ by Martin Peretz. Print the latest edition here.
A flurry of diplomatic visits by Israeli leaders is underway as the summer concludes, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heading to Cyprus on Sunday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog heading to Austria and Slovakia and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen slated to visit Bahrain early next month.
Netanyahu had been scheduled to visit Cyprus and Turkey in July, but the trips were postponed when the premier underwent surgery to have a pacemaker fitted. The original plans for Cyprus reportedly included a trilateral meeting with the leaders of the host country and Greece. A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said there is not yet a new date for the Turkey visit, which would be the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to Ankara since 2008.
Herzog announced yesterday that he will pay a two-day visit to Slovakia and Austria, beginning Monday, as the guest of Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová and Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen.
During the visit, Herzog is set to meet with the countries’ heads of government, other senior officials, and leaders of the Jewish communities. Topics expected to be addressed during the visit include cooperation between the countries in the fight against terrorism and antisemitism.
At the conclusion of his visit, Herzog will participate in an unveiling ceremony at the home of the founder of modern political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, with the participation of the Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig; Karoline Edstadler, federal minister for the EU and Constitution at the Federal Chancellery of Austria; and the leadership of the World Zionist Organization.
Cohen’s visit to Bahrain was, like Netanyahu’s, also postponed from earlier this summer, officially due to scheduling issues, but the timing of the announcement — made hours after Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, drawing condemnation from the Arab world — triggered speculation about the reason for the cancellation.
A September visit to Manama by Cohen will mark his first official visit to a Gulf nation as foreign minister and will coincide with the third anniversary of the Abraham Accords.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met this week with Brett McGurk, White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa; Barbara Leaf, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs; and Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
The meetings took place in New York, after Netanyahu reportedly barred ministers from meeting Biden administration officials in Washington because he hasn’t yet met with the president in the U.S. — a meeting that is expected to take place in September with the location yet to be confirmed, although Netanyahu has said the invitation is to the White House.
During Gallant’s meeting with McGurk, the defense minister raised the importance of expanding the Abraham Accords to include additional countries, while emphasizing the importance of preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge, according to a statement from his office.
Gallant asked McGurk for clarifications regarding a possible civilian nuclear program in Saudi Arabia, which is reportedly a Saudi demand for a U.S.-brokered normalization agreement with Israel, and presented him with a list of questions from the Israeli defense establishment including about the sale of advanced weapons to Riyadh, Axios’ Barak Ravid reported. According to Israel’s Channel 13 Gallant told White House officials: “We will examine the option of a Saudi civilian Saudi nuclear program. We will check all the considerations and come back with an answer.”
The Palestinian Authority reportedly gave Saudi Arabia a wish list of deliverables earlier this year, which included the reopening of a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem to serve Palestinians and a lessening of restrictions in areas of the West Bank, in the framework of Riyadh’s discussions with the U.S. over the parameters of a deal with Israel.
Israel completes purchase of new residence for its ambassadors to Washington
After nearly a decade without a permanent residence for its ambassador in Washington, Israel has finally purchased a house, a source at the Israeli Embassy in Washington confirmed to Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash on Wednesday.
Details: The house, which is in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Northwest Washington, is currently an 11-bedroom, 12-bathroom abode, replete with a grand foyer and a bifurcated staircase, in addition to a gym, steam room, sauna and jacuzzi. It also has a home theater, a wine cellar and a game room, according to property specs advertised by Sotheby’s. The property was listed for $10 million. Israeli Ambassador Michael Herzog, who has been living in hotels and rental properties since taking up the post in November 2021, will likely move into the official residence within the next month, the source, who is knowledgeable about the details, said. The property will undergo some renovations, including the removal of the sauna and jacuzzi, to make it more suitable to house an ambassador.
Long time coming: Since 2013, Israel has rented properties for its ambassador after the former official residence was abandoned due to unlivable conditions. The previous house owned by the Israeli government, which was used by every Israeli ambassador to the U.S. since the 1960s, including Yitzhak Rabin, was located on Chesapeake Street NW. “After almost 10 years of temporary housing, the State of Israel has decided to purchase an official residence to provide a long-term solution for its ambassador,” the embassy source told JI.
Book Review: ‘The Controversialist: Arguments With Everyone, Left Right and Center,’ by Martin Peretz
“I have only met Marty Peretz a handful of times. But after reading his fascinating new memoir, The Controversialist: Arguments With Everyone, Left Right and Center, I wish I knew him better. That’s not to say that the author and former editor-in-chief of The New Republic hasn’t had an influence on me. In fact, looking back, his memoir and my own experiences show how far-reaching his impact has been on politics, culture, and the lives of many in Washington,” Tevi Troy writes in a book review for Jewish Insider.
Peretz’s packaging: “After reading The Controversialist, it is abundantly clear that I was far from the only one influenced, challenged and enraged by the magazine. Peretz shows us what was happening behind the scenes in Washington’s hottest magazine. From his initial purchase of the magazine, with the help of his wife, a Singer sewing machine heiress, to the collection of the ideologically eclectic and talented staff and the fights they engaged in, Peretz gives TNR lovers the backstory they would have craved during the magazine’s heyday.”
Pointed pen: “Peretz does not seem too bothered by either of these incidents, which indicates how often TNR was offending people in those days. In that vein, the most enjoyable part of the book is Peretz’s sharp pen. He holds little back throughout, offering many funny observations. Of the late political scientist Judith Shklar, Peretz notes that she spoke Yiddish, but she was still no fun. Regarding Edward Said, Peretz observes, ‘He was a Palestinian Christian, but he even had several versions of where he was born. Maybe his mother didn’t tell him.’ Of Kennedy and Johnson speechwriter Richard Goodwin, Peretz writes, ‘He was full of resentments. Like me, he hadn’t been admitted to Harvard for college, but unlike me he never shut up about it.’”
Elissa Czuker, donor to Jewish and Republican causes, dies at 53
Elissa Czuker, a prominent philanthropist in the Los Angeles area who supported many Jewish causes, donated to several Republican presidential candidates and served on the board of directors of the Republican Jewish Coalition, died last Friday in Los Angeles, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen reports. She was 53.
Long list of causes: Czuker, a mother of nine, was an active member of Beverly Hills Synagogue (Young Israel of North Beverly Hills) and a well-known figure in the local Orthodox community. Together with her husband, Edward, Czuker supported a variety of organizations including the American Society for Yad Vashem, ArtScroll, Israel Bonds, Chabad, Grass Roots Neighbors and Early Alert Canines.
Community impact: “Elissa Czuker was a powerhouse in leading the community at a crucial turning point in the life of our synagogue,” Rabbi Pini Dunner, who leads Beverly Hills Synagogue, told eJP on Wednesday. “Elissa’s enthusiasm for community affairs, and her generosity in every sphere of community life, will be remembered for generations. May Edward and their children find comfort in the wonderful memories of a very special woman, whose kindness and lively spirit continue to be felt even after her passing,” Dunner said.
RJC statement: Czuker was a board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and a major GOP donor. The RJC’s CEO, Matt Brooks, told eJP in a statement, “Elissa devoted herself to her family, her community, and the charitable causes that were meaningful to her. Together with Edward, she gave strength and vibrancy to many communal organizations. We will miss her voice and counsel on the RJC Board of Directors and our thoughts are with her husband Edward and their children: Sarah, Elana, Abraham, Mimi, Ephraim, Isaac, Rivka, Yossi, and Chavi, in this difficult time. May they be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”
⚖️ Feinstein’s Final Chapter: Politico’s Dustin Gardiner looks at the legal battles being waged over the estate of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) husband, who died last year, amid questions over the senior California senator’s mental fitness. “The feud over the estate left by Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s late husband, Richard Blum, has many of the ingredients of a Netflix thriller — complete with a billion-dollar fortune and the potential for a season-ending cliffhanger over whether she will unleash political chaos by retiring from the Senate. It’s the story that everyone is whispering about given the messy final chapter in the life of a grand dame of California politics. The family struggle that has emerged in recent weeks raises fresh questions about the 90-year-old senator’s ability to serve. A review of the San Francisco Superior Court file, along with a half-dozen interviews with family friends and associates, suggests Feinstein appears to be almost completely removed from the legal brawl, despite her stature and vast knowledge of government and the law. ‘The estate battle is a spectacle that diminishes people’s image and memory of her,’ said Jerry Roberts, a journalist who wrote a biography of Feinstein and has closely followed her career for 50 years. “It’s a great sadness.” The family legal battle mirrors the uncomfortable debate over her future in Washington — with Feinstein herself largely silent about the drama surrounding her.” [Politico]
🇧🇷 Santos Saga: In Brazil, the Washington Post’s Terrence McCoy and Marina Dias interview former friends and acquaintances of Rep. George Santos (R-NY), who will appear in federal court in New York next month, where he faces charges of fraud, money laundering, theft and false statements. “Friends and family disagree over how long he lived here. Some say he spent much of his adolescence. Others believe it was only a few months at a time over several years. Further uncertainty surrounds how he passed his days in Brazil and if he ever held a job here. But one element connected all the friends and family interviewed: surprise. Few could believe that the young man they knew as Anthony Devolder — an extrovert with a penchant for self-aggrandizement — had managed to talk his way into the highest echelons of American power. ‘With the image that we have of the United States, I am stunned that he was able to run for office without anyone verifying anything,’ said Carlos Affonso Horta de Mendonça, a cousin in Niterói. ‘And people say it’s Brazil that’s a corrupt mess.’” [WashPost]
✡️ Acknowledging Antisemitism: In Time magazine, Rabbi Diana Fursko reflects on the manifestation of modern-day antisemitism. “Sometimes, we don’t call out antisemitism because we simply can’t. We don’t know the first thing about Jews, Jewish history, or the history of Jew hate. And even if you are Jewish, you may not feel like you know enough about antisemitism to talk about it. You may feel ambivalent about Judaism and a little bit embarrassed about how little you know. You may have never studied Judaism as an adult. Or perhaps, talk of antisemitism makes you feel like an imposter. How can you claim to be a victim of antisemitism when, overall, America has been so good to you? Other times, we deny antisemitism for a completely different reason. We hide from it because the resurfacing of Jew hate in this country is simply too terrifying to consider. But the Neo Nazi marches and tiki torches are real. The pro-white, anti-Jewish fliers pinned on community bulletin boards and pasted to telephone poles are real. The letters I’ve received in the mail, the comments I read online, the dollar signs spray-painted on my friends’ synagogues are real. Sometimes we diminish antisemitism because acknowledging it is just too scary. But where will ignoring it lead us?” [Time]
📽️ Inside ‘Tatami’: The Hollywood Reporter’s Alex Rittman interviews “Tatami” co-directors, Israeli Guy Nattiv and Iranian Zar Amir Ebrahimi, about the making of the film, which was in production in the republic of Georgia when widespread protests against the Iranian regime began last year. “But its central story — about Leila, an Iranian female judo fighter…competing for gold at an international championship who is issued with an ultimatum to fake an injury and lose by the Islamic Republic — tapped into the same issues of persecution faced by Iranian women that were being angrily voiced on the streets. Not only did the headlines from Iran hit the team — particularly the cast, many of them Iranian exiles now living around the world — hard, but they instantly gave the project extra weight. ‘We just felt this sudden urgency of telling the story,’ says Ebrahimi, who notes there wasn’t a single dry eye among the Iranians on set when they shot a climactic scene in which Leila removes her hijab. In the wake of Amini’s death, the veil’s mandatory enforcement quickly came to represent Iranian authoritarian oppression, and its removal — then taking place defiantly by Iranian women — the symbol of the protest movement. ‘I think we all somehow felt like we were in this revolutionary time while making this movie,’ says Ebrahimi. For Nattiv, the production became ‘much more than just shooting a film.’” [HollywoodReporter]
Around the Web
✅ Backing Omar: House Democratic leaders endorsed Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), keeping with a previous pledge to support incumbents in 2024.
🗳️ Father-Daughter Pitch: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and his daughter, Heather Manchin, are pitching donors on a new plan to invest in centrist policies as part of an effort, according to a memo, to “mobilize the middle.”
🏃 Mastering the Race: Arizona Republican Blake Masters plans to launch a second Senate bid, potentially setting him up in a primary against Kari Lake, the GOP nominee for governor last year.
💬 AOC Interview: In The New York Times, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) reflects on how she’s changed and what she’s learned since entering Congress in 2019.
🫓 Kosher for Pesach: Lawmakers in Pennsylvania advanced legislation to move the date of the commonwealth’s 2024 primaries, which falls on the first day of Passover; the date change has the backing of Gov. Josh Shapiro.
🤝 Daines in Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) in Jerusalem yesterday.
📆 Epstein’s Agenda: The Wall Street Journalreports on the relationship between Jeffrey Epstein and supporters of former President Donald Trump, including Peter Thiel and Thomas Barrack.
💰 Battery Buy: The U.S. Marine Corps plans to purchase three Iron Dome batteries — including close to 2,000 Tamir interceptors and 44 launchers — from Israel, in a deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
↪️ Hoffman Pivots: LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman plans to scale back his involvement in new ventures at Greylock Partners as he focuses on AI technology.
💸 Funding Round: Israeli startup AI21 Labs raised $155 million at a $1.4 billion valuation in a Series C funding round led by Walden Catalyst, Pitango, SCB10X, b2venture, Samsung Next and AI21 co-founder Amnon Shashua.
🤨 Dayan Drama: Israeli Education Minister Yoav Kisch reportedly seeks to fire Dani Dayan, former consul general of Israel in New York, from his position as chairman of Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance center, accusing him of mismanagement and aiming to replace him with a Likud party ally.
🚑 Flare-up of Violence: An Israeli man was killed and at least five others were wounded in a truck ramming attack this morning close to the Maccabim checkpoint in the West Bank, near the central Israeli city of Modiin. Also this morning, an IDF officer and three soldiers were wounded by an explosive device detonated at the entrance to Joseph’s Tomb in the Palestinian city of Nablus in the West Bank. Last night, an Israeli man was wounded in a stabbing attack at a Jerusalem light rail station; the assailant, a 14-year-old Palestinian, was killed at the scene.
🏋️♂️ Heavy Price: Iran’s weightlifting federation levied a lifetime ban on an Iranian weightlifter who shook hands with an Israeli competitor.
🇮🇷 Tehran Warning: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian warned Israel that it will face retaliation for attacks on targets in Syria.
☢️ Nuke Watch: An upcoming report from the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog is expected to find a slowdown in Iran’s production of near weapons-grade uranium.
🇺🇳 Task Force Trouble: The U.N. Security Council delayed a vote on renewing the mandate for UNIFIL, the peacekeeping task force along the border between Lebanon and Israel, amid disagreements over the freedom of movement given to U.N. troops.
💊 Drug Demand: The Washington Postlooks at how demand for Ozempic in the Gulf has resulted in shortages of the drug that is increasingly being used as a weight-loss tool.
🪧 Protest Movement: Anti-Assad demonstrations have popped up across Syria in recent weeks, a result of economic challenges following the government’s decision to slash fuel subsidies.
📺 As Seen on TV: Iran’s PressTV ran a 25-minute program spotlighting the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ work to counter the regime.
➡️ Transitions: New York Times and BBC veteran Mark Thompson was named the next chairman and editor-in-chief of CNN. Tsach Saar has joined Israel’s embassy in New York as its new deputy and acting consul general, moving from his posting as deputy head of mission in Athens.
🕯️ Remembering: Magazine publisher Richard Ekstract died at 92.
Pic of the Day
Stumbling stones, also known as stolpersteine or “stones of the disappeared,” are unveiled in Holesov, Czech Republic, this week to commemorate local Jewish residents who perished in Nazi concentration camps. The stones bear the names of members of the Beer and Bricht families.
Israeli film director and screenwriter, Yossef (Joseph) Cedar turns 55…
Howard Crim… World-renowned violinist and conductor, Itzhak Perlman turns 78… Attorney and a member of the boards of UJA-Federation of NY, JCRC-NY and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Joseph Rafalowicz… Screenwriter for theatre, television and film, Lowell Ganz turns 75… Member of the Los Angeles Police Commission, Steve Soboroff turns 75… Health care policy expert, his brother is Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), David Blumenthal turns 75… 2004 Nobel laureate in Physics and professor at California Institute of Technology, Hugh David Politzer turns 74… Professor emerita of journalism and women’s studies at American University and author of seven books on marriage and relationships, Iris Krasnow turns 69… Rabbi Jonathan I. Rosenblatt turns 67… Owner of thoroughbred racehorses including the 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Ahmed Zayat (a/k/a Ephraim David Zayat) turns 61… Television host including “Antiques Roadshow” and “Temptation Island,” Mark L. Walberg turns 61…
Gold medalist in volleyball at the Maccabiah Games in 1997, she is currently the athletic director at Seattle University, Shaney Fink turns 51… Physician assistant now serving as a senior clinical director at NYC’s Mount Sinai Medical Center, Lyudmila Milman… English golfer, he won five tournaments on the PGA European Challenge Tour, Sam Little turns 48… Israeli poet, translator and literary editor, Sivan Beskin turns 47… Communications director at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Jessica Levin Raimundo… Israel’s former consul general in New York from 2021 until earlier this year, Asaf Zamir turns 43… Group director at W2O Group, Nick Horowitz… Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, colloquially known as MBS, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud turns 38… SVP for critical infrastructure at Venn Strategies, Bennett E. Resnik… Correspondent in the Washington bureau of The New York Times, Thomas Kaplan… Southwest regional political director of AIPAC, Deryn Sousa… Israeli fashion model, Yael Shelbia Cohen turns 22…