👋 Good Wednesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on New York’s statewide effort to address antisemitism, and spotlight the development taking place in the area around Jerusalem’s major transportation hubs. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Rep. Katie Porter, Josh Kushner and Amb. Gilad Erdan.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met yesterday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly — a first for an Israeli prime minister since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Jewish Insider’s senior political correspondent, Lahav Harkov, reports from New York.
The meeting came on the heels of a phone call earlier this month, in which Netanyahu sought to ensure that Hasidic pilgrims to Uman, Ukraine, would be able to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov on Rosh Hashanah, and the Ukrainian president pushed for the meeting as a more open sign of solidarity from Jerusalem.
One moment stood out as Zelensky greeted the receiving line of Israelis: While the Ukrainian president shook hands with the rest of the delegation, he hugged Mossad head David Barnea, who accompanied Netanyahu in meetings to talk about the Iranian threat. Barnea looked alarmed by the gesture. When reporters cornered Barnea after the meeting to ask when he’d last been in Kyiv, the spy chief said he “can’t remember.”
The meeting lasted more than an hour, including some one-on-one time, and was “serious and in-depth and on a broad range of topics,” a Prime Minister’s Office source said. Netanyahu promised Israel would continue humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including help with clearing anti-personnel mines. Zelensky tweeted that they discussed cooperation on civilian defense, as well as their shared “concern about increasing military cooperation between Russia and Iran.”
On the way out of the meeting, in response to Israeli journalists asking how the meeting went, Zelensky answered simply: “It was good.”
In another first, Netanyahu met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The leaders celebrated the rapprochement between their countries and exchanged invitations to each other’s capitals. Erdogan is reportedly interested in praying at the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu will meet with President Joe Biden this morning in New York, the first time the two world leaders will meet since Netanyahu’s election last year. The meeting is expected to draw sizable protests from American opponents of Netanyahu’s controversial judicial reform legislation.
A senior Biden administration official said on Monday that the meeting will be “focused on the shared democratic values between our two countries and a vision for a more stable and prosperous and integrated region,” and it will also include a discussion of “effectively countering and deterring Iran.”
Biden reiterated Washington’s support for Ukraine in a Tuesday address before the General Assembly that also sought to remind the world of the value of U.S. involvement globally. Biden ticked off a long list of Washington-led efforts to foster global cooperation, including the recent announcement of a proposed rail project to connect Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Israel.
“This is part of our effort to build a more sustainable, integrated Middle East,” Biden said. “It demonstrates how Israel’s greater normalization and economic connection with its neighbors is delivering positive and practical impacts even as we continue to work tirelessly to support a just and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians — two states for two people.”
Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan attracted attention at the GA when he was escorted out for protesting Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s speech. A U.N. spokesperson denied reports Erdan had been detained, telling The Independent that “at no time was the ambassador detained in any way, shape or form. As far as we are concerned, the incident is closed.”
Raisi, meanwhile, used his speaking time to call for the U.S. to “demonstrate in a verifiable fashion” that it wants to return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The Iranian president made no mention of this week’s prisoner swap. He did, however, bring up the 2020 killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, calling the assassination “a terrorist act” and again vowing retribution. “The blood of the oppressed will not be forgotten,” Raisi said from the dais.
Raisi is slated to meet with the Council on Foreign Relations today, a convening that has drawn criticism of the think tank in recent days. The meeting, originally slated to be held at CFR’s office in Manhattan, was reportedly moved to Raisi’s hotel, which falls inside the GA’s security perimeter, at the Iranian delegation’s insistence.
Netanyahu is slated to meet with Jewish leaders on Friday afternoon in New York. While the attendee list has not been released, our sister publication eJewishPhilanthropy reported yesterday that Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt was not slated to attend the convening, as he had a prior engagement speaking at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin. The ADL now tells us that Greenblatt, who for the last several weeks has been the target of X owner Elon Musk, whom Netanyahu met with on Monday, will attend the gathering in New York. “Due to the importance of meeting with the prime minister, Jonathan will be attending,” a spokesperson for the ADL told eJP’s Haley Cohen.
fighting hate crimes
N.Y. Gov. Hochul announces new state actions to combat antisemitism
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul pledged on Tuesday to use the power of government to combat antisemitism by announcing the state’s first Anti-Hate in Education Center and Annual Convening as well as distributing an additional $38 million to nonprofit organizations throughout the state that face an increased risk of hate crimes. Her announcement comes as the Jewish community in New York faces an elevated threat of antisemitic incidents during the High Holy Days, including bomb threats at a number of synagogues during Rosh Hashanah, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen reports for Jewish Insider.
First responder: The governor’s announcement makes New York State the first in the nation to respond to President Joe Biden’s national strategy to counter antisemitism, which was released in May. Hochul called the 60-page document “a blueprint for other states to follow.”
‘Top priority’: “As governor of the state with the largest Jewish population outside the State of Israel, I feel a solemn responsibility to protect and uplift New York’s vibrant, diverse Jewish communities,” Hochul said at a Rosh Hashanah reception held at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan. “No one should have to fear for their safety while going to their place of work, going to school or just walking the streets. It has always been my top priority to keep the people of New York safe, and we will continue taking action to fight antisemitism and use every tool at our disposal to eliminate hate and bias from our communities.”
Murphy ‘skeptical’ of potential U.S.-Saudi defense pact
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Middle East subcommittee and one of the most vocal critics in the Senate of Saudi Arabia, expressed concerns on Tuesday about a potential U.S.-Saudi mutual defense pact that’s being discussed as part of the administration’s efforts to broker a trilateral deal among the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Hesitations: “Am I skeptical about the United States committing itself to defend Saudi Arabia under this reckless leadership? Of course,” Murphy told reporters. “So I would need to be convinced that it is in our national security interest to commit U.S. blood to a treaty with Saudi Arabia.”
On the other hand: At the same time, Murphy said that the potential deal has “a lot of moving parts” and “I don’t think you can talk about one aspect of this deal in isolation without understanding what the other components are.” He said he’s spoken “extensively” to the administration about “what I think would constitute a good deal, and what would be a bad deal for the United States,” but declined to elaborate, when pressed by JI.
A modern ‘Gateway’ to an ancient city
Jerusalem, with its deeply spiritual holy sites and ancient Old City, is preparing for a modernizing makeover with a series of massive infrastructure projects that are set to dramatically change the look and feel of Israel’s capital. The largest of these construction projects is one that aims to put Jerusalem on the map as both a cultural and high-tech hub, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash reports.
New district: Named Jerusalem Gateway, the new district is located at the entrance to the modern section of the city, starting at the iconic Chords Bridge and circling the Central Bus Station and the Yitzhak Navon Train Station. It will include multiple new streets, pathways, gardens and high-rise towers whose glassy facades may no longer justify the city’s legendary moniker: Jerusalem of Gold.
Thinking big: However, those behind the project, which includes the municipality of Jerusalem and the national government, are hoping it will breathe new life into the city, which in recent years has faced accusations of being neglected and abandoned. It is also hoped that the new quarter will ultimately attract large multinational companies, become a venue for massive international conventions and draw hundreds of thousands of new residents.
Mayor’s vision: “Jerusalem is going through a revolution, not only at the entrance to the city but all across the city,” the city’s mayor, Moshe Leon, told JI in an interview. “My vision is that Jerusalem becomes a strong city economically and that attracts hundreds of thousands of new residents.”
Vast Library of Congress Hebrew collection published online for the first time
For more than a century, the Library of Congress has built up an impressive collection of Hebrew-language manuscripts that are hundreds or even thousands of years old, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports. Now, for the first time, amateur researchers and serious scholars alike can access 230 items from the library’s Hebraic section online, thanks to a digitization effort that began during the pandemic with a $50,000 grant from the David Berg Foundation.
Spreading wisdom: “It’s a library-wide push to digitize, and we’re just part of that,” said Sharon Horowitz, a reference librarian in the Hebraic section. “Since the pandemic, the library as a whole has been trying to digitize as much as is legally possible, and as much as they can afford, because they realize that there are distant researchers who can’t get here.”
Hebrew hub: Earlier efforts to digitize the documents, many of which are handwritten and incredibly fragile, relied on volunteers and limited technology. Now, the works will also appear in high-resolution on the website of the National Library of Israel alongside other Hebrew-language documents housed in libraries and museums around the world.
Read more here.
Flashback: In 2021, Jewish Insider visited the Library of Congress to see some of its Hebrew treasures. The library’s collection contains works in dozens of languages. “If you’re going to be a country of great scholars, you can’t really be parochial in your outlook, and the Library of Congress is now the largest library in the world, with all languages and all subjects,” then-Hebraic specialist Ann Brener told JI in 2021. “You’re asking why Hebrew, but the point is, why not?”
💰 ‘Ransom Grabs’: The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board raises concerns that, following this week’s prisoner exchange that also saw the release of $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds, Tehran will continue to pursue a strategy of imprisoning foreign nationals and holding them for ransom. “President Biden, in his statement, warned Americans not to travel to Iran, but the U.S. should be firmer and say that Americans who travel there do so at their own risk. That includes dual U.S.-Iran citizens. No ransom will be paid in the future for their release. The U.S. and its allies will also have to make clear that Iran and other countries will pay a steep price for taking American hostages. The response can include diplomatic steps such as expelling Iranian diplomats, imposing economic sanctions, and harsher forms of retribution against Iranian assets and officials.” [WSJ]
🇮🇱 We the Israeli People: In the Washington Post, Liav Orgad and Ariel Procaccia suggest that the job of crafting an Israeli constitution be written by a constituent assembly of randomly selected people. “The silver lining is that a constitutional crisis can also be a constitutional moment. Public polls indicate that a majority of Israelis support drafting a constitution based on the principles of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. And that same document might hold the key to the creation of a new constitution, in that it originally called for the establishment of a constituent assembly. Such an assembly should be convened today. … This isn’t a random idea: It’s rooted in the practice of convening citizens’ assemblies, which has emerged in recent years as a way of addressing thorny policy questions. A citizens’ assembly brings together a group of ordinary people who are selected by lot from volunteers. The dice are loaded (in a benign sense), however, so that the composition of the assembly mirrors the population along salient dimensions such as gender, ethnicity, age and level of education. Members of a citizens’ assembly are informed about the topic at hand and discuss it over weeks or months before delivering their conclusions.” [WashPost]
📲 Trump’s Trope: The Atlantic’s Yair Rosenberg spotlights former President Donald Trump’s Rosh Hashanah Truth Social post that singled out “liberal Jews” whom the former president said he hoped “learned” from their “mistakes.” “But while Trump’s message may be offensive, it is also instructive, because it reflects the way that many people think about Jews. Some anti-Semites treat Jewish people as a menacing monolith that suborns society to its sinister ends. But others divide the community into ‘good Jews,’ who warrant respect and provisional protection, and ‘bad Jews,’ who can be subjected to all manner of abuse. In this construction, the righteous Jews are those who affirm the bigot and support his worldview, while the unworthy ones are those who stubbornly refuse to get with the program. Like other minorities, the Jewish minority is expected to conform to the preferences of a dominant majority culture — whether that is political or religious — and those who dissent become fair game for denunciation and discrimination.” [TheAtlantic]
✡️ Antisemitism in Asia: In The Diplomat, Ross Darrell Feingold reflects on the antisemitism he has experienced while living in Asia. “In nearly 30 years living in Asia, I have witnessed antisemitism on numerous occasions. It spans the commercial world, politics, and academia. As an active social media user in Mandarin who engages with netizens in China, antisemitic remarks directed at me are common. Examples include comments like ‘how’s the gas room smell’ and ‘the only good Jew is one going up the chimney in smoke.’ At other times I am on the receiving end of well-intentioned comments praising Jews for their business acumen and ability to make money, without the speaker realizing that this is also an antisemitic trope. In recent years, examples of antisemitism have been reported in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand. Regardless of whether these incidents arise from ignorance rather than outright antisemitism, usually the local Jewish community, along with German and Israeli diplomats, will explain to the perpetrator why it is inappropriate to include Nazi or Holocaust analogies or references in political statements or advertisements.” [TheDiplomat]
Around the Web
😬 Shutdown Saga: Washington inched closer to a shutdown as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) failed to muster the support of congressional Republicans for a stopgap funding bill.
🇸🇦 Treaty Talk: American officials said the White House is mulling a mutual defense treaty with Saudi Arabia that would resemble similar agreements Washington has with Japan and South Korea.
👍 Endorsement Alert: The Republican Jewish Coalition endorsed incumbent Reps. Marc Molinaro (R-NY), Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY), Tom Kean Jr. (R-NJ), Mike Lawler (R-NY) and Brandon Williams (R-NY).
🇮🇶 Republican Warning: In a letter to the White House, Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee cautioned that Iraq is “on the verge of being lost to Iran.”
🗳️ Porter’s Pitch: The Washington Postspotlights Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), who is mounting a Senate bid to succeed Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
💸 California Cash: Josh Kushner’s Thrive Capital is raising $300 million from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.
📖 Rothschild Read:Rolling Stoneinterviewed Jewish Space Lasers: The Rothschilds and 200 Years of Conspiracy Theories author Mike Rothschild about his recently released book, which looks at conspiracy theories about the famous Jewish banking family — to whom the author is not related.
🍏 Shana Tovah: CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky exchanged Rosh Hashanah greetings at the conclusion of a recorded one-on-one interview.
🎤 The King’s Speech: Jordanian King Abdullah II spoke at length about Jerusalem during his address at the U.N. General Assembly.
🤝 Sidelines Chatter: UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan met with Jewish community leaders in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, during which he condemned recent antisemitic remarks by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
⚖️ Public Perception: In The Wall Street Journal, Israeli journalist Amit Segal compares the public responses to the indictments of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former President Donald Trump.
🚑 Flare-up: Four Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli troops during an IDF raid in Jenin on Tuesday evening. A fifth Palestinian man was killed in clashes with Israeli forces in the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp near Jericho. In addition, a Palestinian in Gaza was killed by Israeli forces during violent protests along the Gaza-Israel border on Tuesday evening.
⛔ Sanctioned: The Treasury Department announced sanctions against seven individuals and four companies in China, Turkey and Russia alleged to have provided support for Iran’s drone program.
⚽ Ronaldo in Tehran: Hundreds of soccer fans descended upon a Tehran hotel where soccer star Christiano Ronaldo, now playing with Saudi club Al Nassr, was staying ahead of a match.
🕯️ Remembering: Broadcast radio executive Michael Freedman, who worked at UPI and CBS before becoming a vice president at The George Washington University, died at 71.
Pic of the Day
Ten leading Israeli law firms participate in a charity basketball tournament held on Tuesday night to raise money for the purchase of an ambucycle for United Hatzalah. The event, which was spearheaded by attorney Jeremy Lustman, head of DLA Piper Israel Group, was held at Hashalom Sports Center in Tel Aviv.
Pictured: Naomi Maryles, Jeremy Lustman (on the ambucycle), Eli Beer (left), Eli Pollak (right) and partners from the participating law firms.
Author, television personality and philanthropist, Candy Spelling turns 78…
Florida real estate developer of Aventura and Turnberry Isle Resort, Donald Soffer turns 91… Wealth management advisor, he won four Super Bowls with the Steelers during his 8-year career as a tight end, C. Randy Grossman turns 71… Dean of the Yeshiva of Greater Washington, Rabbi Ahron Lopiansky turns 70… Senior chairman of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein turns 69… Co-founder of Broadcom and owner of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, Henry Samueli turns 69… Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, Yosef Elron turns 68… Insurance agent in Tulsa, Okla., Lawrence M. Schreier… Real estate developer, sports agent and boxing promoter, Marc Roberts turns 64… Former rabbi of Congregation Beit Torat Chaim of Jakarta, Indonesia, Rabbi Tovia Singer turns 63… Emergency medicine physician in Austin, he was the goalkeeper for the U.S. field hockey team at the 1984 Summer Olympics, Randolph B. “Randy” Lipscher turns 63… Attorney, author and legal analyst on “The Today Show,” NBC Nightly News and MSNBC, Lisa Bloom turns 62… Former member of the Knesset for the Likud party, Keren Barak turns 51… Founder of PFAP Consulting, Melissa Jane Kronfeld, Ph.D…. Republican policy director at the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, James Mazol… Deputy news team lead at Bloomberg Law, Drew Singer… Senior associate at Blue Laurel Advisors in Israel, Emily Grunewald… Climate activist in Oakland, Calif., Carter Lavin… Senior director of strategic initiatives at Sony Music Entertainment, Alison Bogdonoff… Director of brand and community marketing at Sakara Life, Zoe Plotsky… Isabel Eliana Tsesarsky… Lauren Ackerman…