👋 Good Monday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we interview Rep. David Trone as he mounts a bid for Senate, and talk to Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick about the Congressional Black Caucus’ recent trip to Israel and Rwanda. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Roya Hakakian, Yair Zivan and Darren Walker.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was wheels up to the U.S. just hours after Rosh Hashanah ended last night, heading for San Francisco. He’ll then travel on to New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly, Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov, who is traveling with the prime minister this week, reports.
Netanyahu’s visit will include the much-anticipated first meeting between the prime minister and President Joe Biden since the former returned to office in December, slated for Wednesday, according to the president’s weekly schedule. Netanyahu held out hope that he would be invited to the White House, leaving plenty of space in the schedule to fit in a jaunt to Washington, but the invitation never came.
The subject of the Israeli government’s judicial reform efforts is expected to come up in Wednesday’s meeting, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan saying last Friday that the leaders will discuss their countries’ “shared democratic values.” They’ll also “compare notes on effectively countering and deterring Iran,” Sullivan said. Netanyahu said on the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport that “widening the circle of peace” — presumably meaning Saudi-Israel normalization — will be top of the agenda.
Netanyahu’s trip had hardly begun before his office was doing damage control for a comment the prime minister made before boarding the plane, in which he alleged that anti-judicial overhaul demonstrators are “joining forces with the PLO and Iran” and “slandering Israel,” before the rest of the world. The Prime Minister’s Office later clarified that Netanyahu meant that “while the prime minister of the government of Israel will represent the state of Israel on the U.N. stage, Israeli citizens will protest at the same time as PLO and BDS supporters — something that has never happened before.”
While in the U.S., Netanyahu is also expected to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, on the heels of a phone call to ensure that Hasidic pilgrims could spend Rosh Hashanah in Uman, at the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, a demand that had been made by his Ashkenazi Haredi coalition partner United Torah Judaism. Zelensky, who will travel to Washington this week, has called on Israel to be more vocal and active in its support for Ukraine in its war with Russia.
Other world leaders on Netanyahu’s agenda in New York are Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — a further step in the rapprochement between the countries — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.
The trip will culminate with Netanahu’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Friday.
Before arriving in New York, Netanyahu is slated to stop in Silicon Valley for less than a day, where he’ll meet with X owner Elon Musk and others to discuss artificial intelligence. The meeting comes after Musk accused the Anti-Defamation League of telling advertisers not to work with X, formerly Twitter. Netanyahu and Musk will broadcast their meeting on X, and are expected to discuss antisemitism as well as judicial reform, a Prime Minister’s Office source told JI.
The Jewish High Holy Days got underway this weekend, and in Washington, Adas Israel Congregation welcomed Vice President Kamala Harris as a congregant at Rosh Hashanah services on Saturday. She and her husband, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, sat in the front row of an outdoor service for more than an hour and a half, according to Steve Rabinowitz, an Adas congregant.
The Conservative synagogue announced last week that Emhoff will return to speak to the congregation on the afternoon of Yom Kippur to deliver a speech in conversation with Adas Israel’s two main rabbis, including Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, a frequent speaker at Jewish events hosted by the White House.
Trone pitches a corporate sensibility to Md.’s liberal Democratic base
Rep. David Trone (D-MD) grew up on a farm with no indoor plumbing that his father lost due to alcoholism, and he later built Total Wine & More from the ground up with his brother. That up-from-the-bootstraps attitude is his pitch to Maryland voters — to remind them that his story isn’t so different from theirs, even though he is one of the wealthiest members of Congress who is planning to spend up to $50 million of his personal fortune in next year’s Democratic Senate primary. “We started small, and when people look at me now they say, ‘Oh, you’re wealthy,’” Trone told Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch in a recent interview at a Capitol Hill coffee shop. “But they forget that when I was 11 or 12 years old, we had an outhouse. So we didn’t start with much.”
Meet the candidates: In the race to replace Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Trone’s main competitor is Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, a popular local leader whose campaign has received national fanfare, and fundraising dollars, in her bid to be Maryland’s first Black senator. Elected officials across the state have heaped endorsements on Alsobrooks’ campaign. She raised more than $1.7 million in the first two months of the campaign, compared to just $108,000 that Trone brought in from outside donors. But it remains to be seen whether Alsobrooks, even with a strong fundraising and ground game, can drum up the excitement and finances necessary to beat a man with seemingly infinite resources at his disposal.
Straddling the ideological divide: The Potomac, Md.-based Trone points to his record as Total Wine’s president as evidence of a private sector progressivism that he argues makes him both in sync with the state’s liberal voters and uniquely able to achieve their priorities. “I’m certainly much more progressive than my main opponent,” he argued. As evidence, he pointed to his tenure at Total Wine, when the company “banned the box” and began offering partner benefits to same-sex employees. In Congress, though, Trone has chosen to align himself with the more moderate members of the New Democrat Coalition rather than the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He is known in the House for his work on opioid addiction and mental-health services.
Saudi skeptic: Trone has positioned himself as an AIPAC-aligned pro-Israel member of Congress, but he also says progressives who have at times attacked Israel shouldn’t be written off entirely, especially when they can collaborate on other issues. “Just because we disagree with a few folks that have made remarks that were certainly hateful, or antisemitic — at the same time, progressive means, where you stand on all those other issues out there to help lift people up,” he said. He has at times teamed up with progressive colleagues on foreign policy matters, most notably related to Saudi Arabia. The result is a skepticism of President Joe Biden’s efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, he detailed to JI.
new path forward
Partnering with Israel can help U.S. expand relationships in Africa, lawmaker says
The U.S. should leverage its relationship with Israel to help expand its relations in Africa and resist Russia and China’s encroachment on the continent, Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-FL) told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod after a trip to Israel and Rwanda with eight other members of the Congressional Black Caucus earlier this month.
Leveraging relationships: Cherfilus-McCormick said that conversations with officials from the three countries, particularly Israel’s ambassador to Rwanda, highlighted Israel’s inroads on the continent through trade and technology, such as irrigation, humanitarian work and discussions about military cooperation. “Israel has successfully [built] this relationship with Rwanda where we have struggled, especially in recent years,” she continued. “We need to make sure we’re maximizing those relationships because, in some spaces, Israel might be the best voice to help us mend the disconnect that we may have.”
Commonalities: The Florida congresswoman said that the trip also highlighted commonalities in the Jewish, Rwandan and Black American experiences. “Some people feel like it’s not necessary” to continue Holocaust education and to continuously call out antisemitism and other forms of hate speech “because we’ve evolved as human beings,” she said. “But the truth is that we haven’t. And another Holocaust, another genocide is really just one step away if we don’t start really hammering down on stopping hate speech and antisemitic speech.”
bridge of books
From Suleiman’s book of love poems to a ninth-century Quran
When Israeli President Isaac Herzog made a state visit to Turkey last year, he presented President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with an illuminated manuscript from a book of love poems composed in 1553 by Suleiman the Magnificent, the longest reigning sultan of the Ottoman empire, Linda Gradstein reports for The Circuit.
Gold leaf: The gift was a museum-quality replica of a page from the Divan-i Muhibbi, an anthology of poems written by Suleiman under the pen name Muhibbi, or “the lover.” The nearly 500-year-old manuscript – a masterpiece of Islamic literature decorated in gold leaf and intricate floral patterns – sits in the National Library of Israel and is one of five existing copies in the world.
$225 million building: Suleiman’s book of verse is among the jewels of the library’s collection of Islamic literature, which will become more accessible next month when the Jerusalem institution’s new $225 million building opens next month across the street from the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
Wealth of treasure: “We have important theological works, Sufi mystical treatises, Persian poetry, miniatures, scientific texts and mathematical texts,” Samuel Thorpe, curator of the Islamic and Middle East collection, told The Circuit. “It’s not the biggest collection in the region, but the quality is very high. There is a wealth of treasure here.”
🙅♀️ Invite Declined: In The Atlantic, Roya Hakakian explains why she won’t be attending an upcoming event with Iranian President Ebrahaim Raisi that is being hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, of which she is a member. “If democracy is to survive the current wave of authoritarianism, Western nations must band together to uphold the rule of law…. Once, America led the establishment of modern democracy as we know it; today, it needs to show that sustaining democracy depends on a collective defense of its laws and judicial decisions. That means exercising an equal commitment to upholding dialogue with our adversaries and ending dialogue with those who are recognized as outlaws. So I do not believe that the Council on Foreign Relations, in this context, can stand to one side and claim that its invitation does not confer endorsement or approval: It does confer legitimacy, by treating this criminal as a reasonable interlocutor. As the philosopher Karl Popper warned: ‘If we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.’ To invite Raisi to one of our most prestigious venues, to let him sit among us, and to listen courteously to what he has to say would be to let him think he has gotten away with murder. And he would be right.” [TheAtlantic]
✡️ Ford Focus: On the occasion of Rosh Hashanah, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker reflects on rising rates of antisemitism. “America’s history is rife with our own version of persecution and pogroms, entangling even those that our familiar stories anoint as heroes. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, for instance, simultaneously defended the ‘freedom of every person to worship God in his own way’ while turning away Jewish asylum seekers through the 1930s. The very ideology that they were fleeing manifested itself again in Charlottesville, where neo-Nazis brandished torches and chanted, ‘Jews will not replace us.’ We can and must do better. We must look to the lessons of history, which affirm — as do the Jewish high holy days this week—that there can be no reconciliation without atonement, no justice without accountability. I feel this obligation acutely as the leader of an institution that protects and promotes democratic values, which also was founded by Henry Ford — an icon of innovation, and industry, and philanthropy, and one of the twentieth century’s most virulent American antisemites.” [FordFoundation]
📓 Notes from the Road: The New York Times’ Jeffrey Gettleman travels to Uman, Ukraine, for the annual pilgrimage to the burial site of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. “Many of the Hasidim who came to Uman came to party. But Uman serves as a testament to something even deeper. Once a year, it becomes a thriving Jewish community in a place where Judaism was virtually wiped out. The fact that one of the world’s biggest Jewish New Year’s celebrations unfolds in Ukraine, the site of some of the Holocaust’s worst atrocities, and in Uman specifically, where the Nazis gunned down a thousand Jewish children and threw their bodies in a pit, illuminates a resilience quite apt for the moment. It is the High Holy Days, after all, a time for joy but also painful remembrance. ‘It adds meaning,’ said Yitzy Gradman, another one of the many New Yorkers who flocked to Uman. ‘The biggest tribute I can give to the people who suffered here is to walk these streets today and say, “We are proud of who we are, and we will never be extinguished.”’ The Uman pilgrimage goes back more than 200 years. It is cemented on Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, who died in Uman in 1810 and was a great-grandson of the man widely considered the founder of Hasidic Judaism.” [NYTimes]
👩 Generally Speaking: The Wall Street Journal’s Dov Lieber and Anat Peled spotlight Israeli Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara. “Baharav-Miara, a graduate of Tel Aviv University’s law school, began as a little-known public servant, working for 30 years in the Tel Aviv district attorney’s office. She served a short stint as a consultant for a law firm before being launched into the limelight in her current position. She became Israel’s first female attorney general when in 2021 she was appointed by a government packed with Netanyahu rivals. People who work with her describe her as professional, dedicated to her job and unmoved by outside public tension. ‘Pressure is being put on us to bias our professional judgment and violate our duty as gatekeepers,’ she said in a speech at the state prosecutors’ conference in July. ‘I will not be deterred.’…The current government sees her opposition to its landmark legislation as proof that the judicial system needs fixing, saying unelected officials hold too much power to overturn the will of the people. Coalition lawmakers have had her job in their sights. Bills have been proposed that include dividing up the powers of the attorney general and ministerial legal advisers, so that it would be a political rather than a professional appointment, while rendering their legal opinions nonbinding.” [WSJ]
🇮🇱 What’s Next: In the Liberal Patriot, Yair Zivan, a diplomatic advisor to Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, suggests a blueprint for those protesting the Israeli government’s judicial reforms. “Patriotic liberalism must always combine the universal liberal values outlined above with the local national identifying factors. Israel’s liberal camp cannot simply copy and paste an American or European model. We need to create an authentic Jewish and Middle Eastern variety. We have to find a role for Judaism in our liberal identity, we have to find the place for the Arab minority of the country — which makes up 20 percent of the population — in our liberal identity, and we have to find a way to live harmoniously alongside the growing ultra-Orthodox (and non-liberal) population without compromising on our identity or forcing them to compromise on theirs. Those are big challenges.” [LiberalPatriot]
Around the Web
💬 Platform Politics: In a message posted to Truth Social on Rosh Hashanah, former President Donald Trump suggested “liberal Jews” had “voted to destroy America & Israel because you believed in false narratives!”
📰 No R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Jann Wenner was removed from the board of directors of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame after a New York Times interview in which the Rolling Stone co-founder denigrated female and Black musicians.
🍏 ‘New Year, Brighter Future’: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered Rosh Hashanah greetings to a group of Ukrainian rabbis in Kyiv.
⛪ What Pius Knew: Newly published documents from the Vatican’s archive dating back to WWII indicate that top aides to Pope Pius XII in 1942 had knowledge that thousands of Jews were being killed in gas chambers a day in Poland.
📚 Bookshelf:The Wall Street JournalreviewsTwo Roads Home: Hitler, Stalin and the Miraculous Survival of My Family, by British journalist Daniel Finkelstein, a member of the U.K.’s House of Lords, which details his parents’ survival in WWII-era USSR and Nazi Europe.
🚑 Tragic Pilgrimage: An Israeli man traveling to Uman, Ukraine, for Rosh Hashanah collapsed and died at the entrance to the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.
🇺🇳 World Heritage Sites: The U.N. World Heritage Committee voted to acknowledge a group of medieval Jewish sites in Erfurt, Germany, as World Heritage Sites; another vote by the committee to designate ruins near the ancient West Bank city of Jericho as a World Heritage Site in Palestine was condemned by Israel.
🪧 On Air: CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired a segment on Israel’s protest movement and efforts to reform the judiciary.
🐬 Spotted: The Sousa plumbea, a rare hunchback dolphin, was spotted off the coast of Eilat after not being seen for nine months.
🧕 Girl Power: In the Washington Post, Masih Alinejad spotlights Iranian women who are defying Tehran’s restrictive modesty laws, a year after protests around the Islamic republic first began.
🔄 Prisoner Swap: The five Americans held in Iran are expected to be released today as part of a broader prisoner swap between the U.S. and Iran, following the moving of $6 billion in frozen Iranian assets to Qatar.
☢️ Inspectors’ Expulsions: Iran expelled several inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, a move the U.N. nuclear watchdog condemned as being done “in a manner that affects in a direct and severe way the ability of the IAEA to conduct effectively its inspections in Iran.”
🌏 Regional Vision: U.S. Ambassador to the UAE Martina Strong reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the region, stating that the relationship between Washington and Abu Dhabi “can very much serve as an anchor to President Biden’s vision, which is a region that is more secure, more stable, more prosperous, more integrated.”
🇦🇪 Arabian Venture: Israel’s Integrated Data Intelligence, an OurCrowd subsidiary, is aiming to triple the number of staffers in its Abu Dhabi office.
💥 Holiday Attacks: Israeli border police foiled an attempted stabbing attack at an East Jerusalem checkpoint, less than two days after an attempted shooting near the West Bank town of Shuwaika.
🕯️ Remembering: Bobby Schiffman, who for 15 years oversaw New York’s famed Apollo Theater, died at 94.
Pic of the Day
A man blows a shofar on a Tel Aviv beach as Jews gather to perform the tashlich ritual on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.
Business executive who served as co-CEO of SAP and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Léo Apotheker turns 70…
Marina Del Rey, Calif., resident, Kathy Levinson Wolf… Retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, he served as U.S. secretary of housing and urban development in the Trump administration, Dr. Ben Carson turns 72… Harvard professor of psychology, specializing in visual cognition and psycholinguistics, Steven Pinker turns 69… U.S. senator (R-AL), Tommy Tuberville turns 69… Former CEO of The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, Howard Tevlowitz… Executive director of the Los Angeles Westside Jewish Community Center since 2004, Brian Greene… Attorney general of Israel, Gali Baharav-Miara turns 64… Professor of economics at MIT and a 2021 Nobel Prize laureate in economics, Joshua Angrist turns 63… One of the earliest Israeli tech entrepreneurs, he is best known for starting Aladdin Knowledge Systems in 1985, Yanki Margalit turns 61… Founder and executive chairman of Delek US, Ezra Uzi Yemin turns 55… Life and culture editor of The Times of Israel and children’s book author, Jessica Steinberg… Classical pianist, Simone Dinnerstein turns 51… Associate vice president, public affairs and executive director of the Advocacy Corps at the Jewish Federations of North America, Karen Paikin Barall turns 50…NBC and MSNBC legal analyst, she was a 2021 candidate for Manhattan district attorney, Tali Farhadian Weinstein turns 48… Comedian, actor, producer and screenwriter, Billy Eichner turns 45… Rome bureau chief of The New York Times, covering Italy and the Vatican, Jason Horowitz… Co-host of “Bloomberg Surveillance” every morning on Bloomberg Television and Bloomberg Radio, Lisa Abramowicz turns 44… CNN analyst and a former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, Bakari Sellers turns 39… Professional poker player whose total career live tournament winnings exceed $15.3 million, Nick Schulman turns 39… Editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post, Avi Mayer… Baseball broadcaster for the Washington Nationals, Dan Kolko… Director at the Levinson Group, Zak Sawyer…