👋 Good Tuesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we spotlight the congressional race taking shape in Delaware’s at-large district, and look at how Taylor Swift’s 2024 tour dates are upending planning for Jewish life-cycle events. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Jacob Steinmetz, Ishay Ribo and Hannah Goldfield.
The 2024 primary season officially gets underway today, as voters in Rhode Island go to the polls in a Democratic congressional primary that has grown surprisingly heated and personal. A special election is being held in the heavily Democratic 1st District after former Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) stepped down earlier this year to run a nonprofit.
The race appears to be Aaron Regunberg-versus-everyone. The progressive former state representative led in a recent poll, and the final days of his campaign have featured a flurry of high-profile progressive lawmakers: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) came to Providence to campaign with him, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) endorsed him.
Regunberg has also garnered attacks from his 10 opponents, including former Biden administration staffer Gabe Amo, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos and state Sen. Sandra Cano, the three contenders closest to him in a recent poll commissioned by Amo’s campaign. Even some on the left have criticized Regunberg for his ties to a Super PAC funded by his father-in-law. Matos, who has held the most senior position of anyone in the race, has also faced controversy; dozens of the signatures she gathered to run for office were forged.
“It was hers to lose and she’s done everything she can to lose it,” Fox Providence political analyst Joe Fleming said of Matos on Friday. He added that Regunberg has been working hard to court the progressive vote: “In a 12-way race, you don’t need 50% of the vote to win.”
National Israel advocacy organizations like AIPAC, Democratic Majority for Israel and J Street have largely stayed out of the race. But other grassroots pro-Israel groups have stepped in. Last week, Matos appeared at a virtual fundraiser hosted by NORPAC, a large pro-Israel PAC. JACPAC, a group that supports pro-Israel and pro-choice candidates, is backing Regunberg.
Cicilline has avoided getting involved in the race, but his predecessor, former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), recently endorsed Amo. The district hasn’t elected a Republican since 1992.
Polls close at 8 p.m. tonight. Turnout is expected to be very low in this off-year race, and all it takes is a plurality of the vote for a candidate to win the primary — and be catapulted to Congress.
Republican voters in Utah will also be nominating a likely successor to Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) tonight. Stewart’s former legal counsel Celeste Maloy will be facing off against Becky Edwards, a Trump critic, and Bruce Hough, a longtime RNC committeeman, among others in the GOP primary. Stewart is resigning from the House this month because his wife is ill.
Israeli coalition and opposition figures spent Tuesday morning giving their reasons to resist another attempt by President Isaac Herzog to bring about a compromise on judicial reform – but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his office are being suspiciously quiet about a plan that he reportedly told Herzog he’d be willing to adopt, JI senior political correspondent Lahav Harkov reports.
The plan, according to Israel media, mostly entails compromise from the right, not the left: freezing bills relating to the judiciary for a year and a half, softening the recently legislated ban on using “reasonability” as a reason to overturn government decisions, convening the panel that selects judges and promising not to change its makeup.
National Unity party leader Benny Gantz refuses to talk directly with Netanyahu, but hinted that he’s game, saying at a Jewish People Policy Institute conference that people “must recognize the need to compromise so we can coexist in one Jewish and democratic state…The reality requires complex solutions.”
Justice Minister Yariv Levin told Haredi radio station Kol Barama that he cannot agree to any compromise that does not involve changes to the Judicial Selection Committee. National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said his party won’t accept the plan, period.
Senior figures in Yesh Atid, the party of Opposition Leader Yair Lapid — who is in Washington today — say that Netanyahu is trying to put on a moderate façade in order to get an invitation to the White House. Meanwhile, the prime minister dodged questions about a compromise from the delegation of reporters traveling with him to Cyprus.
In Nicosia, Netanyahu met with Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the presidential palace. Netanyahu tweeted that the three sides are “exploring cooperation in energy, combating climate change, and expanding the Abraham Accords.” He also noted that Israel intends to open its dairy market to Greek, Cypriot and other imports.
‘Look What You Made Me Do’ — Change my bat mitzvah date
Eleven-year-old Orlie Solzman was at Jewish overnight camp when Taylor Swift made a decision that would change her life. The pop star announced in August that she plans to add four additional North American stops to her already massive Eras Tour, including three shows in Orlie’s hometown of Indianapolis. This would be welcome news for most middle school girls to receive in a letter from home. Except Swift’s Indianapolis shows — Nov. 1-3, 2024 — fell on Orlie’s bat mitzvah weekend. Within an hour of Swift’s announcement, Orlie’s parents emailed their synagogue and asked to change the date. Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour is projected to be the largest tour in music history, and its effect on the local economy, and psyche, of each city she visits is indisputable. The downstream impacts of Swift’s tour on the Jewish community and Jewish events are similarly stark, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
You’re On Your Own, Kid: “As soon as we heard the dates, my husband’s first reaction was, ‘We’re going to have to change her bat mitzvah,’” Orlie’s mother, Andrea Solzman, recalled. Their extended family lives out of town, and the Solzmans knew hotels would be impossible to book. (Every hotel in Indianapolis is currently sold out for that weekend, still more than 14 months away, according to Hotels.com.) Just one or two dates remained open at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, and the family settled on Labor Day weekend 2024 for the new bat mitzvah.
Shake It Off: Now that the Eras Tour’s massive scale is known, families living in the cities she will visit next fall — Indianapolis, New Orleans, Miami and Toronto — must decide whether to move lifecycle events including bar mitzvahs and weddings. Rabbis are considering how to incorporate Swift into their teachings, and many are cheekily planning to invite her to synagogue events such as Shabbat dinners or Sukkot gatherings (the fall harvest holiday takes place during Swift’s Miami tour dates).
I Knew You Were Trouble: “Taylor Swift weekend is now part of our programming calendar. We’re not going to counterprogram it,” said Rabbi David Gerber of Congregation Gates of Prayer in New Orleans, where Swift is slated to perform over Simchat Torah. But in New Orleans, a city known for its eclectic cultural events and a thriving music scene, ignoring Swift would be out of the question. “Our [Shabbat] theme next week is ShaBarbenheimer. So it’s entirely possible that we’ll have, like, Swift-hat Torah or something.”
first state race
McBride faces competition in Delaware House race
State Sen. Sarah McBride, a nationally known state lawmaker, made waves as the first entrant in the primary for Delaware’s open House seat in 2024. But McBride now faces possible competition, with the entry of two new candidates, State Treasurer Colleen Davis and Eugene Young, the director of the Delaware State Housing Authority, into the Democratic primary, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Potential addition: State Rep. Kerri Evelyn Harris — an Air Force veteran and staunch progressive who challenged Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) in 2018 from the left with the backing of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and an outside group aligned with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — is seen as a potential additional entrant into the field.
Foreign policy: On foreign policy, both Davis and Young, like McBride, take largely conventional positions on the U.S.-Israel relationship, both emphasizing that they’re supportive of continued U.S. security aid to Israel and oppose adding any conditions or restrictions to it.
No big gaps: Paul Brewer, a professor of communication and political science at the University of Delaware, told JI that McBride “came out very strong with her announcement,” which “pretty clearly established her as a serious candidate for the nomination.” Brewer told JI that he wouldn’t expect major differences among the three declared candidates, given that they are all generally “mainstream progressive Democrats” but said that Harris, if she joined the race, would represent a lane to the left of the currently declared field.
Abu Dhabi is racing to make homegrown generative AI tools in Arabic
Some of the UAE’s biggest firms are set to meet this week with artificial intelligence group G42 to explore ways to deploy its new large language model (LLM) that makes the latest advances in computer technology more accessible in Arabic. Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Etihad Airways, First Abu Dhabi Bank and telco e& have all partnered with the government-backed G42 subsidiary Inception to build commercial applications for Jais, a bilingual LLM it launched last week after a summer of fine-tuning, The Circuit’s Kelsey Warner reports.
Reaching far and wide: Built on English-and Arabic-language data and in collaboration with Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) and California AI company Cerebras, the makers of Jais say it is the best-performing Arabic-language LLM available, with potential to be a foundational tool to serve the more than 400 million Arabic speakers worldwide.
What’s next: “The next step now quite literally is to sit down with a number of these different organizations” to determine what’s next for Jais, Timothy Baldwin, acting provost and department chair of natural language processing at MBZUAI, told The Circuit. Baldwin, who led the academic research team of about 20 postdoc students and professors, said that at the outset, the LLM may be used to build customer service, contract and workflow optimization tools.
⚾ Jacob’s Ladder: The Washington Post’s Zach Buchanan interviews baseball pitcher Jacob Steinmetz, the first practicing Orthodox Jew in Major League Baseball. “Steinmetz was embarking on a career that might be at odds with his religion. Would he be able to keep kosher while making his way through the small towns that populate the minors? Would he be able to properly observe the Sabbath, abstaining from riding in cars and buses and using any kind of electricity? Could professional baseball and Orthodox Judaism coexist? Those questions percolated in the wake of his third-round selection, but a day later came a second call. [Arizona] Diamondbacks assistant general manager Amiel Sawdaye had grown up in a Jewish community, and as the post-draft anxiety began to set in for the young right-hander, Sawdaye rang with a salve. Don’t worry about it, he had said. We’ll make sure you have everything you need.” [WashPost]
🕯️ Remembering Richardson:The Atlantic’s Mark Leibovich remembers Ambassador Bill Richardson following the governor and congressman’s death last week. “That September, all of the 2004 Democratic candidates for president — John Kerry, Howard Dean, John Edwards, etc. — were straining to pay respects to Richardson after a debate in Albuquerque. I was working for the Washington Post Style section at the time, and I found Richardson’s full-frontal ‘love of the game’ quite winning. He was over-the-top and unabashed about the enjoyment he derived from the parade of candidates coming before him. ‘It’s fun to get your ring kissed,’ Richardson told me that night, though he might not have said ring. We were walking into a post-debate reception for another candidate, Senator Joe Lieberman. Like most of the Democratic VIPs in Albuquerque that night, Lieberman was an old friend of Richardson’s; they’d worked together on the 1992 Democratic Party platform committee. ‘I wore this to curry favor with you,’ Lieberman told Richardson, pointing to a New Mexico pin on his jacket. ‘You also saw that I spoke a little Spanish in [the debate].’ ‘I thought that was Yiddish,’ Richardson said. Lieberman then got everyone’s attention and offered a toast to El Jefe.” [TheAtlantic]
👵 Aging Well: The Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Kalin looks at a Saudi-funded push to research life-extension efforts. “The prospect of a huge surge of funding into the area, whose budgets pale in comparison to research on diseases like cancer, is causing a stir among scientists who study aging. ‘People in the field are kind of holding their breath to see how the money is going to be spent,’ says Steven Austad, a researcher on aging at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and senior scientific director at the American Federation for Aging Research, or AFAR, a U.S. nonprofit that has received $7.76 million in funding from Hevolution. The Saudi foundation’s chief executive, Dr. Mehmood Khan, says much of the initial grant money is likely to end up at universities and startups in the U.S., where scientists are trying to develop treatments that slow, prevent or even reverse the aging process for humans.” [WSJ]
🍲 Soul Food: The New Yorker’s Hannah Goldfield reviews Gertrude’s, a new bistro in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood serving Jewish-inspired fare. “The result transcends expectations you might have for a neighborhood restaurant while also resisting gimmickry — though not humor. The half chicken is brined, cleverly, in dill-pickle juice before it’s roasted. The excellent hamburger is sandwiched on a tall, shiny braided challah roll, which can also be ordered on its own, with a schmear of duck butter. All entrées, including a beautiful whole trout — stuffed with lemon rounds and showered with chopped green olives and herbs — come with a choice of fries, greens, or latkes. The latkes are available as an appetizer, too, topped with celery crème fraîche and trout roe — as elegant as a dish of thin-sliced coins of beef tongue, both tender and crispy, drizzled in a persillade made with parsley, garlic, capers, anchovies, and Fresno peppers.” [NewYorker]
🕵️♂️ The Catcher is A Spy: In Smithsonian Magazine, Zachary Clary spotlights the wartime efforts of former MLB player Moe Berg, who served as a spy in South America and Europe after retiring from the major leagues. “Despite his lackadaisical attendance record and general disregard for orders from his superiors, Berg was an effective agent. Kean says he ‘did a good job gathering technical information’ from European scientists, including Antonio Ferri, Lise Meitner, Paul Scherrer and Edoardo Amaldi. Berg, in essence, weaponized both the disarming demeanor he’d perfected by telling stories in the bullpen and the assorted knowledge he’d acquired from years of incessant curiosity to cut through the defenses of his targets. During a period of intense intellectual isolation — Amaldi was the only University of Rome physicist not to leave fascist Italy during the war, and the Jewish Meitner fled Germany for Sweden in 1938 — Berg was an individual who could listen to these scientists and, for the most part, understand them.” [Smithsonian]
Around the Web
🗳️ Biden Ad Blitz: President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign will air an ad in battleground states on Thursday to coincide with the NFL’s season opener, part of a $25 million blitz touting the president’s economic record.
🇸🇦 Saudi Sights: White House senior advisor Brett McGurk is in Saudi Arabia this week for meetings with top Palestinian officials to discuss a potential Palestinian component to a normalization agreement between Jerusalem and Riyadh.
✈️ CBC + Bibi: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who are also traveling to Rwanda as part of an AIPAC-affiliated American Israel Education Foundation trip.
✖️ Musky Moves: Elon Musk, the chairman of X, formerly known as Twitter, threatened to sue the Anti-Defamation League, blaming the group for lost revenue, days after ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt met with Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino and said the two had a “very frank + productive conversation” about antisemitism on the platform.
💸 Sculpting a Sale: Daniel Och is battling with the board of Sculptor Capital Management over a potential sale to Rithm Capital in a deal that Ochs had slammed for its undervaluing of Sculptor.
🇺🇦 A Rabbi’s Mission: The Washington Post interviewed Kyiv-based Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, who has conducted humanitarian missions to the hardest-hit parts of Ukraine since Russia invaded the country last year.
🔨 Auction Angst: Auction house Christie’s canceled the planned second sale of jewelry that had belonged to an Austrian heiress whose husband had profited from the looting of Jewish businesses ahead of WWII, citing “intense scrutiny” by Jewish groups and opponents of the sale.
🇩🇪 Nazi Detained: Germany arrested a 98-year-old man who worked as a guard at Sachsenhausen concentration camp, charging him with aiding and abetting the murders of thousands of people.
🤨 Dayan Drama: U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt and State Department Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues Ellen Germain denounced an alleged attempt by Israeli Education Minister Yoav Kisch to remove Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan, citing the importance of the museum’s independence.
🇯🇴 Envoy to Amman: U.S. Ambassador to Jordan Yael Lempert presented her credentials to King Abdullah II.
👮 Detained in Larnaca: Israeli diamond king Beny Steinmetz was arrested at an airport in Larnaca, Cyprus, on a Romanian warrant; Steinmetz was convicted in absentia of real estate fraud and sentenced to a five-year prison term by a Romanian court in 2020.
🇮🇱 Migrant Matters: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for all unauthorized migrants living in the country to be deported following a violent confrontation between pro- and anti-Eritrean regime demonstrators that saw dozens of people injured over the weekend.
🇧🇭 Cohen in Manama: Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who made his first visit to Bahrain since the signing of the Abraham Accords, was on site for the opening of Israel’s embassy in Manama.
⚠️ Joint Warning: Officials from the U.S., U.K. and E.U. plan to jointly warn the UAE against trade with Russia that could potentially aid Moscow in its ongoing war in Ukraine.
🛬 Presidential Visit: Israeli President Isaac Herzog met his Slovakian counterpart in a state ceremony at the Grassalkovich Palace in Bratislava yesterday. Herzog also visited the grave of Rabbi Moses Schreiber, known as Chatam Sofer, and met with representatives of the Jewish community, before traveling to Austria.
🔌 Power Plan: Israel’s Finance Ministry will deduct funds collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority to pay the Israel Electric Company to supply the PA with electricity, resolving a decades-long challenge.
🇪🇺 Held in Iran: An E.U. diplomat from Sweden has reportedly been held in Iran’s Evin prison for nearly a year and a half after traveling to the country as a tourist last spring; months after his detainment, Iran said it was holding a Swedish national on charges of espionage.
😡 Blame Game: Iran accused Israel of sabotaging its ballistic missiles program by supplying faulty parts through foreign intermediaries.
🕵️♂️ Rushdie Probe: A Western New York district attorney’s office said the federal government is looking into the possibility of international involvement in the attempted assassination last year of writer Salman Rushdie.
🇰🇷 Unfrozen Funds: South Korea is working to transfer the roughly $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds to Tehran, following an agreement with Washington that included the unfreezing of the Iranian assets.
🕍 Doors Open: Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly inaugurated Cairo’s Ben Ezra synagogue, believed to be one of the world’s oldest synagogues, after more than a decade of renovations.
🕯️ Remembering: Edith Grossman, who translated Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera and Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote died at 87. Tangent Agency CEO Marc Becker died at 37. Attorney David Rowland, who worked to repatriate hundreds of pieces of art looted by the Nazis, died at 67. AI researcher Douglas Lenat died at 72. Emmy Award-winning documentarian Nancy Buirski died at 78. TV and stage costume and set designer Franne Lee, who worked on “Saturday Night Live,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Candide,” died at 81.
Pic of the Day
Singer Ishay Ribo became the first Israeli artist to ever perform at New York City’s Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
COO of The New York Public Library, she has been married to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) since 1980, Iris Weinshall turns 70…
Member of Knesset for 25 years and a law professor at Reichman University in Herzliya, Amnon Rubinstein turns 92… Author, educator, and activist, Jonathan Kozol turns 87… Front-end web developer, Catherine Nelson… Rabbi emeritus of Congregation Rinat Yisrael in Teaneck, N.J., and Rosh Yeshiva of the Torah Academy of Bergen County, Rabbi Yosef Adler turns 72… Judge of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, JoAnne Fishman Kloppenburg turns 70… Principal at Watershed Associates, Stuart Shlossman… Heidi Beth Massey… New York-based real estate developer, Jacob Frydman turns 66… Chief judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, for the Southern District of Florida, Laurel Myerson Isicoff turns 66… Russian investigative journalist, Yevgenia Albats turns 65… Member of the Knesset until five weeks ago, she is the first woman in the IDF promoted to major general (the IDF’s second highest rank), Orna Barbivai turns 61… Canadian lawyer and investor, he is a past chairman of Cirque du Soleil, Mitch Garber turns 59… Nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and a senior editor at Reason magazine, Jacob Z. Sullum turns 58… Entrepreneur and investor, he is the chairman of education technology platform Mentored, Eric Aroesty… Supreme Court and USDOJ editor for USA Today, Holly Rosenkrantz… Academy Award-winning filmmaker, Ari Devon Sandel turns 49… Member of the Knesset for the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Yulia Malinovsky turns 48… Staffing analyst at Apex Global Solutions, Jeremy C. Frankel… Voice actor for English versions of anime, animation and video games, Maxwell Braden Mittelman turns 33… Director in the D.C. office of Baron Public Affairs LLC, Jeremy Furchtgott… Anthony (Tony) Klor… Shoshanna Liebman… National director of Israel Policy Forum’s Atid young professionals network, Shanie Reichman…