👋 Good Monday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we talk to House Democrats who recently returned from a trip to Israel, and spotlight some of the speakers at Saturday’s March on Washington. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Mayor Eric Adams, Shikma Bressler and Irwin Cotler.
Ahead of Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., 60 years ago today, Joachim Prinz, a rabbi who fled Germany in 1937, spoke out against Nazis in the same spot.
Prinz, then the president of the American Jewish Congress, addressed the crowd of about 250,000 lining the Reflecting Pool just ahead of King. “I speak to you as an American Jew,” Prinz said on Aug. 28, 1963. “As Americans we share the profound concern of millions of people about the shame and disgrace of inequality and injustice which make a mockery of the great American idea.”
On Saturday, a new generation of leaders stood before tens of thousands of people gathered in the same spot to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss reports. Prinz’s words “still resonate,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, whose organization participated in the original march, said in his address. “They tell us: stand up in the face of hate, speak out and don’t stand idly by.”
Sheila Katz, the CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, noted that her organization also participated in the original march. Pointing to the upcoming Jewish holidays, Katz suggested that “as the high holidays compel us to repair, we also act together. As our kehila kedosha, our holy community, we draw strength from one another. We remind ourselves that we stand in a long line of people of every race and creed willing to stand firm for the values we believe in. We remember Dr. King’s refusal to be satisfied ‘until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’”
Rabbi David Wolpe called King “a modern prophet” as he quoted the biblical prophet Micah. “Micah looked at the world, a world filled with darkness and despair,” Wolpe said. “And he said that each of us will sit under our own vine and fig tree and there will be none to make us afraid. And that is what we pray for. That candle, that moment, that promise, that dream that we listened to 60 years ago. And God-willing with God’s blessing once again, listening to each other, we can hear the echoes and the promise of that dream again.”
Though most of those who addressed the crowd had not yet been born when King delivered his most famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, many of the event’s speakers invoked the civil rights activist and tied his work to present-day efforts. “Standing on these steps 60 years after Martin Luther King gave his penultimate speech is a very emotional moment for me,” New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who was 22 at the time of the first march, told the crowd. “I watched the speech live on television. The clarity, power and cadence of Dr. King’s words and his delivery was like nothing I had ever heard before. His speech truly moved me and it moved the nation.”
Speakers shared concerns about a resurgence in hatred and intolerance that has had deadly consequences for minority communities. Some 700 miles away in Jacksonville, Fla., three people were killed in a racially motivated attack by a shooter who had painted a swastika onto his gun. “The hatred Dr. King stood against is the same hatred we’re seeing in communities across the nation more and more today,” Kraft said. “We saw what happened with that kind of hate in Germany in the ‘30s and ‘40s, and we saw the way it ripped the fabric of the country apart in the ‘60s. Today, it is our job to fight all hate: hate against blacks, Jews, Asians, Hispanics and members of the LGBTQ plus community, so that history does not repeat itself.”
Imam Abdullah Antepli, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, explained that evil “says racism is a Black problem, homophobia is a gay problem, Islamophobia is a Muslim problem, antisemitism is a Jewish problem. It divides us. It says Black churches are different than Black mosques. It divides us, weakens us, if we assign these forms and manifestations of hate to particular communities.” Read more here.
Seven Democratic lawmakers break down takeaways from trip to Israel
As Israel continues to grapple with internal division over judicial reform, rising Iran-backed terror threats on its borders and the prospect of expanding the Abraham Accords, a delegation of 26 House Democrats traveled to Israel earlier this month on a trip sponsored by the AIPAC-affiliated American Israel Education Foundation. Upon their return, seven of those members — all but one of them House freshmen, some of whom were visiting Israel for the first time, and others visiting for the second time this year — spoke to Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod, sharing their impressions and takeaways from the trip and what they had learned.
Hot topic: The lawmakers described judicial reform as the top issue in Israel, and said they’d engaged in extensive conversations on the subject, but agreed that it is up to Israelis to resolve the issue. They largely shied away from expressing firm opinions on the topic, at a time when a growing number of progressive Democrats have been outspoken against the Netanyahu government’s attempts at an overhaul. Lawmakers said they believed there was broad consensus in Israel around the need for some reforms to Israel’s judicial system.
Better perspective: The Democratic lawmakers agreed that the trip had given them a better appreciation for the security threats that Israel faces, with several saying they were especially alarmed by Hezbollah’s buildup of increasingly sophisticated missiles along Israel’s northern border in Lebanon. “The issues on the northern border, Lebanon, Syria, they are more serious than I realized… It is urgent, it’s a daily issue,” Rep. Greg Landsman (D-OH) said. “This could turn violent very quickly as it has in the past. And this time, they have the ability to do enormous damage.”
Bonus: Reps. French Hill (R-AR), Ben Cline (R-VA) and Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI) briefly traveled to northwest Syria on Sunday — the first time in six years that U.S. lawmakers have crossed the border into the country.
NY mayor admires drones, slurps vegan honey in Israel tech tour
New York City Mayor Eric Adams got a crash course in Israel’s startup scene during his three-day tour last week, which was tailored to the former police captain’s interests in surveillance drones, crowd control and vegan cuisine, Linda Gradstein writes for The Circuit.
Surveillance drones: During a demonstration at Israel’s National Police Academy, Adams showed particular interest in the symbiosis between leather-jacketed motorcycle cops and the crowd-surveillance drones flying above them. He challenged the New York police brass with whom he traveled to figure out how such methods could be adopted back home. The mayor was less enthusiastic about face-recognition technology, which has been criticized by some over privacy concerns.
Treading carefully: The mayor came to Israel at an especially fraught time over anti-government protests and met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as several activists in the opposition movement. Adams stressed that he met people with differing viewpoints and did not take a side on the government’s efforts to reform the judicial system. “I listened. I didn’t weigh in,” he said.
an open book
Sefaria launches first-ever digital Torah-writing project
Jews are often referred to as Am Ha Sefer, “People of the Book,” because of their close relationship with the Torah. A new project aims to give all Jewish people worldwide a small part in “writing” a Torah — all 304,805 letters. The initiative was launched Aug. 20 by Sefaria, a digital library of Jewish texts with 650,000 monthly users, in honor of the nonprofit’s 10th anniversary. Called the “Global Community Torah,” the project is the first digital Torah scroll that provides the opportunity for Jews of all ages and backgrounds to participate in its writing, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen reports.
So far: Since its launch last week, individuals from 73 countries have participated. As of Thursday, the writing has reached Genesis chapter 2, verse 20.
How it works: Users first learn about different Hebrew typefaces and select their font before “making their mark” by entering their first name and location, according to Sefaria. Next they receive emails with a graphic of the Torah verse containing their letter and information about the parshah, or weekly Torah portion in which the verse appears. Participants can spin the digital globe to view locations of fellow contributors. They can also read the entire digital scroll when completed, hovering above each letter to learn about their fellow digital “scribes.”
No rush: Just like a physical Torah scroll, each letter must be perfect. “So it will be complete whenever it is complete,” Chava Tzemach, a Sefaria spokesperson, told eJP.
🤝 Trade Deals: In The Atlantic, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian academic who was held in Iran’s Evin prison for more than two years, considers the implications of prisoner swaps, days after such an agreement between Iran and the U.S. was announced. “Every time a hostage is freed, those of us who have survived Iran’s prison system collectively rejoice. We are a surprisingly large cohort, and our numbers swell further as Iran’s hostage-taking grows bolder and more blatant. Namazi, Tahbaz, Shargi, and two other Americans whose names have not been released have been removed from prison and placed under house arrest, in anticipation of the second phase of the deal: The arrival of the $6 billion into a Qatari bank account. The Qataris will ostensibly act as guarantors to ensure that the Iranians use these funds only for humanitarian purposes. Such provisions should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism, however. Nothing is preventing Iran from, for example, moving the equivalent of $6 billion from school and hospital funding across to the military or the IRGC, before plugging the gap with the South Korean money. Although our community of former Iran hostages is thrilled that five innocent Americans are soon to be freed, many of us have felt compelled to speak out against any deal that might conceivably incentivize Iran’s hostage-taking further.” [TheAtlantic]
🪧 Physicist and Protestor: The Financial Times’ James Shotter interviews Israeli physicist Shikma Bressler, a prominent leader of the protests against the government’s judicial overhaul effort. “‘For us, this is the biggest battle of our generation,’ she says. ‘We have no choice but to win. If we lose, this country will still be called Israel. But it won’t be Israel as you thought of it [before]…’ As the waitress walks away, I ask Bressler about the battle consuming Israeli society, which has split the country into two camps: one broadly nationalist and religious that backs the government’s overhaul as a way to rein in an overly activist judiciary; and another, more secular and politically heterodox, which sees it as an assault on Israel’s checks and balances that will allow Netanyahu’s ultraorthodox and extreme-right allies to impose their worldview on the rest of society. Bressler is firmly in the second group. ‘In the end, it’s about getting full power and staying in power,’ she says of the judicial overhaul, likening Israel to a list of other states, from Poland to Turkey, that have seen similar battles. ‘[But] I think that each country has its own flavour.’” [FT]
⚖️ Countering the Court: In the National Post, former Canadian Minister of Justice and Attorney General Irwin Cotler and Orde Kittrie, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, argue against a potential International Court of Justice advisory opinion requiring Israel to unilaterally withdraw unconditionally from the Palestinian territories. “The current UNGA request to the ICJ is manifestly designed to replace that ‘land for peace’ framework with an ICJ opinion that international law requires Israel to withdraw from the disputed territories without any Palestinian concessions on any of the permanent status issues. Such an opinion would make it far more difficult or even impossible for Palestinian leaders to compromise with Israel on such issues. If the ICJ were to treat Israel as if it has annexed the disputed territories, when it has not done so, it would likely encourage Israeli extremists to urge the government to proceed with annexation. No Israeli government will agree to unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank. Israel’s presence in the West Bank has enabled it to keep the number of rockets fired into Israel from there to around five since 2005. In contrast, over 20,000 rockets have been launched at Israel from the Gaza Strip since Israel’s withdrawal in 2005.” [NationalPost]
🇮🇷 Aftermath of a Coup: The Associated Press’ Nasser Karimi and Jon Gambrell explore the lasting impact of the CIA-backed 1953 coup in Iran, 70 years after it toppled then-Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. “‘Maybe the U.S. did this out of fear of the emerging power of the Soviet Union, but it was like wishing for an earthquake to get rid of a bad neighbor,’ said Rana, a 24-year-old painter who like some others who spoke to The Associated Press gave only her first name for fear of reprisals. For Iranians, ‘the rancor has never melted.’ The August 1953 coup stemmed from U.S. fears over the Soviet Union increasingly wanting a piece of Iran as Communists agitated within the country. The ground had been laid partially by the British, who wanted to wrest back access to the Iranian oil industry, which had been nationalized earlier by Mossadegh. Though looking initially like it failed, the coup toppled Mossadegh and cemented the power of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It also lit the fuse for the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which saw the fatally ill shah flee Iran and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini usher in the theocracy that still governs the country.” [AP]
Around the Web
🗳️ Trail Talk: GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy unveiled his foreign policy platform, pledging to “lead our nation from the bloody follies of neoconservatism and liberal internationalism abroad towards a strategy that affirmatively defends our homeland: Ramaswany also expressed hope “that the United States will need to concern itself with the Middle East far less than we have in the last century” and suggested the U.S. “return to the Nixonian wisdom of keeping a minimal footprint in a region beset by historic grievances that Americans neither can change nor should even try to change with social engineering, unless a major great power threat emerges.”
🇮🇱 Israeli Concessions: Biden administration officials reportedly told Israel that it would have to make concessions to the Palestinians as part of any broader normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich told Israel’s Army Radio today that an agreement with Saudi Arabia has “no connection to Judea and Samaria” and that Israel won’t make any concessions to the Palestinians.
💬 Debate Drama: Biden administration advisors are privately expressing concerns over a planned debate between California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
⬇️ Scooting from Scooter: Puck looks into why talent manager Scooter Braun has lost a number of high-profile clients in recent days.
📈 Data Rebbe: Yitzhak Kesselman, the vice president of messaging and real-time analytics platform at Microsoft, is completing his rabbinic ordination.
👽 Professor E.T.: The New York Times Magazine spotlights Harvard University theoretical astrophysicist Avi Loeb, who has drawn both praise and criticism for his theory about an interstellar object in the sun’s orbit.
🍏 Bad Apple: A farmer’s market in Overland Park, Kan., suspended a vendor after complaints over his social media posts, including his allegation that Jewish people “believe we only exist to serve them.”
🕎 Religious Reflection: Tablet held a roundtable with 11 baalei teshuvah, Jews who grew up non-Orthodox and later chose to live an observant lifestyle, about why they made the life change, what they have gained from it and what challenges they faced.
🕍 Shabbat Speaker: Israeli MK and former Defense Minister Benny Gantz addressed New York’s Hampton Synagogue congregation on Saturday.
🇺🇦 Modeled on Israel: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he believes that Kyiv and Washington will “probably have a model like [the U.S. and] Israel, where we have weapons and technology and training and finances and so on.”
🇨🇳 Beijing Bid: Riyadh is contemplating whether to move forward with a bid from China to construct a nuclear power plant in the Gulf nation.
😬 Diplomatic Dust-up: Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush was suspended and referred for investigation — and has since reportedly fled the country — after Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said the two had met last week in Italy despite the absence of formal relations between the countries.
🇵🇬 Coming Soon: Papua New Guinea is expected to open an embassy in Jerusalem next week, according to Israeli officials.
🛬 Airport Attack: Aleppo International Airport is out of service after an airstrike that Syria’s defense ministry attributed to Israel.
🔄 Prisoner Swap: Voice of America explores which Iranians held by the U.S. could be released in a potential prisoner exchange with Tehran.
🕯️ Remembering: “Dallas” and “Knots Landing” creator David Jacobs died at 84.
Pic of the Day
Israel’s rhythmic gymnastics team celebrates on the podium yesterday after winning the country’s first-ever gold medal at the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships in Valencia, Spain.
Founder and CEO of retail chain Indigo Books & Music and co-founder and past chair of Kobo, Heather Reisman turns 75…
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