👋 Good Friday morning!
Ed. note: In observance of Yom Kippur, the next Daily Kickoff will arrive on Wednesday, Sept. 27. Shabbat shalom and gmar hatima tova!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we report on the quickly evolving situation at the University of Pennsylvania ahead of this weekend’s on-campus conference featuring an array of anti-Israel speakers, and look at how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts at international diplomacy are being hampered by the challenges facing his government at home. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Inge Auerbacher, Ruth Wisse and Ron Dermer.
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: Erdogan meets with Jewish leaders, amid warming relations with Israel; Biden, Netanyahu play nice in New York, ‘even with our differences’; UPenn president declines to intervene in antisemitic conference on campus. Print the latest edition here.
Pressure is mounting on the University of Pennsylvania ahead of a conference featuring an array of anti-Israel speakers that is slated to begin today on the Philadelphia campus, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Four attorneys at the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law are claiming in a detailed letter to the University of Pennsylvania’s president, Elizabeth Magill, that she has failed in her legal responsibilities to address a controversial Palestinian literature festival held on the school’s campus and featuring several speakers who have voiced antisemitic rhetoric and called for the destruction of Israel.
“By tacitly condoning the inflammatory and false narratives about Israel and the denial of the Jews’ ancestral connection to the land of Israel — themes that speakers at this weekend’s festival repeatedly espouse — Penn is allowing the festival to create a hostile environment for Jewish students on its campus at a time when, even the university has acknowledged, antisemitic harassment, vandalism and assault are rising on college campuses,” the attorneys write in the letter, which was shared exclusively with JI.
Members of UPenn’s board of trustees — including Washington Commanders owner Josh Harris and Apollo Global Management CEO Marc Rowan — signed onto an open letter expressing concerns about the conference. Read the latest on the situation at UPenn below.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the U.N. General Assembly this morning. His speech is slated to start at 9:15 a.m. ET and is expected to focus on Iran’s barring of U.N. nuclear inspectors, hostage diplomacy and other malign acts, as well as the prospects for peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia, JI’s Lahav Harkov reports. No word yet if he plans to break out any props.
Netanyahu’s speech comes on the heels of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s comments that normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia is getting closer — and a day after the U.N. address given by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who warned that “those who think peace can prevail in the Middle East without the Palestinian people enjoying their full legitimate and national rights would be mistaken.”
This afternoon, Netanyahu will meet with Jewish communal leaders in New York. Among those present at the meeting will be Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs and National Council of Jewish Women CEO Sheila Katz, both of whom have been featured speakers at demonstrations against the Netanyahu government’s proposed judicial reforms in Israel. Also in attendance will be representatives from the Jewish Federations of North America, the American Jewish Committee, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Anti-Defamation League, Orthodox Union, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Jewish National Fund, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, World Jewish Congress, Jewish Agency for Israel, Young Israel, Hadassah, the Zionist Organization of America, UJA-Federation of New York and Agudath Israel. Leaders from the city’s Persian, Syrian and Bukharian communities are also expected to attend.
In Washington, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is following through on a threat made earlier this summer to “hold” the confirmations of Biden administration officials in protest of the administration’s Israel and Middle East policy, JI’s Marc Rod reports.
A Cruz spokesperson told JI that “Sen. Cruz has been clear that it was becoming impossible to advance the Biden administration’s Middle East nominees because they kept lying about their policies to Congress and the American people,” specifically accusing the administration of agreeing to “sealed secret nuclear deal with Iran” and taking “steps to rescind United States recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”
“He has imposed holds on Biden administration nominees who are linked to these decisions until they clarify their roles and policies,” the Cruz spokesperson continued, without specifying which or how many nominees would be impacted. The holds will add to the Senate’s sizable backlog of foreign policy confirmations; Cruz has also previously indicated he’s planning to put a hold on Jack Lew, the administration’s nominee to be ambassador to Israel, when Lew’s confirmation process advances.
Top UPenn trustees protest their alma mater’s antisemitic festival
Several prominent trustees and alumni of the University of Pennsylvania have signed an open letter expressing “deep concerns” over the school’s controversial decision to host a Palestinian cultural festival featuring multiple speakers who have demonized Israel and voiced antisemitic rhetoric. The new letter, which had drawn more than 2,300 signatures as of Thursday evening, calls on the school’s president, Elizabeth Magill, to take a number of steps to address the Palestine Writes Literature Festival, which begins today on the university’s campus in Philadelphia and runs through Sunday, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports.
Spelling it out: “The University of Pennsylvania should be doing all within its power to distance itself from the event’s antisemitic speakers, make clear that such antisemitism is wholly at odds with the university’s values, and take proactive steps to ensure that Jewish students, faculty and staff are safe and welcome at Penn,” the signatories write in the letter, which was organized by the Anti-Defamation League.
Notable: The signatories include Josh Harris, the private equity investor who recently acquired the Washington Commanders; Marc Rowan, the CEO of Apollo Global Management; Jay Clayton, the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission; Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer, the billionaire cosmetics heiress and businesswoman; and Jeff Blau, the CEO of Related Companies.
Magill’s prior move: Magill indicated in a private letter sent to the ADL on Wednesday that she would not directly intervene in the festival and indicated other steps to support Jewish students on campus during the three-day conference. Magill said that university leaders had worked “in close partnership” with Penn Hillel to “provide support” in advance of the festival and had boosted security for campus Jewish groups during Rosh Hashanah and through Yom Kippur, which begins on Sunday evening. Despite the increased security measures, Penn Hillel was vandalized on Thursday morning before a service for Orthodox Jewish community members, when an unidentified perpetrator damaged the building’s lobby while shouting antisemitic slurs, according to witnesses who spoke with The Daily Pennsylvanian, UPenn’s student newspaper.
Netanyahu’s foreign policy achievements overshadowed by domestic tumult
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s week in the U.S. would, under normal circumstances, be considered a successful one for the leader whose campaign ads boasted that he is in “another league” when it comes to foreign affairs. But despite his many diplomatic deliverables, he couldn’t escape his volatile political situation back home. His trip was punctuated by Israeli protesters at every stop, a reminder that the stalled judicial overhaul is draining his political capital to get things done in Israel, Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov writes.
What he achieved: The list of Netanyahu’s accomplishments on the trip was significant. He met with billionaire Elon Musk, and showcased a sophisticated understanding of the national security implications of AI, both in his one-on-one conversation with Musk and at a subsequent panel featuring Open AI President Greg Brockman and MIT professor Max Tegmark. Senior sources in his delegation said that the billionaire is considering opening a research and development center in Israel, one of Netanyahu’s goals for the visit and a potentially big economic achievement.
Haunted from home: But for all the accomplishments abroad, Netanyahu is facing major political headaches back home. The judicial reform issue, his unruly coalition and the protesters against them overshadowed any efforts the prime minister made in the international arena. Everywhere Netanyahu went this week, the protesters were there: brandishing signs and sounding vuvuzelas at Ben Gurion Airport, at San Jose Airport, at his hotel in San Jose, at his hotel in New York and at Biden’s hotel half a mile away. They projected a picture of Netanyahu in an orange prison jumpsuit onto Alcatraz and displayed images of him in the same uniform transplanted into classic paintings outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Israeli ambassador’s protest against Iran exposes U.N.’s ‘distorted moral compass’
Israel’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. Gilad Erdan had a viral moment this week that, judging from the news coverage and reactions on his social media, was seen around the world. When Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi stood in front of the United Nations’ green marble wall on Tuesday, ready to begin his speech to the General Assembly, Erdan stood up and held a photo of Mahsa Amini, the woman whose brutal killing by Iran’s modesty police a year ago inspired a protest movement in the Islamic republic. U.N. security grabbed Erdan and escorted him out of the room. On the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, the ambassador took time out to speak with Jewish Insider’s Lahav Harkov about his protest and why the U.N. still matters for Israel.
Unexpected reaction: “I never expected them to forcibly drag me out. It was crazy that they touched me,” Erdan said. “I was silent, so I thought maybe they’d say something to me and then I would stop and leave. When security detained me, I told them that when the war in Ukraine broke out, I remember many ambassadors were holding signs and Ukrainian flags and no one did anything.”
Erdan’s takeaway: “It’s an anecdote that made the whole story much more interesting, because it showed the world how distorted the moral compass of the U.N. is,” the ambassador said. “They’re so pressured to give a mass murderer oppressing his people the red carpet treatment, but the one silently holding up a sign is dragged forcibly outside.”
Bringing Holocaust education into the Metaverse
Anticipating a day not too long from now when there are no Holocaust survivors left to tell their stories, Meta and StoryFile have teamed up to create the next iteration of Holocaust education, a virtual reality experience called “Tell Me, Inge…” which had its launch Wednesday evening in New York City, Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel reports. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO,) the World Jewish Congress and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany are also partners in the project.
Lauded by Lipstadt: “I think Meta deserves a lot of credit for taking this seriously,” Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, who was in attendance at Wednesday’s event, told JI. “It would be wonderful if all online platforms lived up to the standards they set for themselves.”
Survivor’s story: “Tell Me, Inge…” shares the story of chemist and noted Holocaust writer Inge Auerbacher, who survived the Theresienstadt Ghetto as a child. Auerbacher, who was born in Germany, and has lived in the U.S. since 1946, was in attendance at the launch event and participated in a conversation with Meta’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, which was moderated by StoryFile CEO and co-founder Stephen Smith.
👴 Grandpa’s Politics: In The Atlantic, Joshua Benton looks at the personal and political beliefs of Elon Musk’s grandfather, who moved his family from Canada to South Africa in part because he supported the country’s apartheid regime. “An examination of Joshua Haldeman’s writings reveals a radical conspiracy theorist who expressed racist, antisemitic, and anti-democratic views repeatedly, and over the course of decades — a record I studied across hundreds of documents from the time, including newspaper clips, self-published manuscripts, university archives, and private correspondence. Haldeman believed that apartheid South Africa was destined to lead ‘White Christian Civilization’ in its fight against the ‘International Conspiracy’ of Jewish bankers and the ‘hordes of Coloured people’ they controlled. ‘Instead of the Government’s attitude keeping me out of South Africa, it had precisely the opposite effect — it encouraged me to come and settle here,’ he told a reporter for the South African newspaper Die Transvaler shortly after his arrival. The far-right Afrikaner newspaper treated Haldeman’s arrival as a PR victory for apartheid. (‘PRAISES ACTION OF NATIONALIST PARTY REGIME: Canadian Politician Settles In South Africa,’ the headline read.)” [TheAtlantic]
✡️ Lessons of Old: In The Wall Street Journal, Ruth Wisse explores the modern-day application of a century-old Jewish folktale about a rabbi who disappears during the High Holy Days. “‘Where could the rebbe be?’ Where else, [congregants] conclude, but in heaven, interceding on their behalf at God’s holy throne. One year, there arrives in town a skeptic determined to learn the truth. Hiding under the rebbe’s bed, and sensing him rise in the middle of the night, he peeks out. The rebbe dresses in peasant clothing, girds himself with rope and axe, and makes for the forest. There the skeptic watches as the rebbe chops and binds branches for firewood, and then goes to the home of a poor widow at the outskirts of town. Still in disguise, the holy man lights the woman’s fire and assures her that he can wait for payment. Without revealing what he has witnessed, the skeptic becomes the rebbe’s disciple. Whenever he hears someone praising the rebbe’s annual ascent to heaven, he murmurs, ‘If not higher.’ Yiddish and Hebrew writers of the Jewish enlightenment, I.L. Peretz conspicuous among them, often mocked and parodied the hagiographic tales Hasidic Jews told about the miraculous interventions of their leaders. When Peretz published this story in 1900 under the title ‘If Not Higher,’ his readers understood its subversive point. Yet here in place of satire, Peretz was practicing a mild form of Nietzsche’s ‘transvaluation of values.’ The Peretz-like skeptic who discredits supernatural belief is won over by the act of human kindness performed anonymously and in secret — by Judaism’s humanistic, humanitarian ethic.” [WSJ]
🪧 Power of Protest: In the Washington Post, former political prisoner Atena Daemi writes about the strength of Iran’s protest movement. “I, too, have paid a price, spending seven of the past 10 years in prison. In 2014, I was jailed for campaigning against capital punishment and held in solitary confinement for 3½ months, my interrogations lasting up to 10 hours at a time. In prison, I saw firsthand the courageous resistance of ordinary Iranians… We keep fighting in part because we have nothing to lose. Over the past decade, skyrocketing housing and food costs have pulled vast swaths of Iranian society into poverty. People have dared to take to the streets despite a massive imbalance of power. During a protest in Tehran’s Haft-e-Tir Square last fall, an 18-year-old was shot by police and collapsed before my feet. We ferried him to a hospital, where I noticed that his pockets were filled with tiny rocks. The Islamist regime has tear gas and fully automatic guns, while we come bearing pebbles. But we will not stop.” [WashPost]
Around the Web
💬 Scott’s Thoughts: Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) denounced recent comments by fellow GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, saying that Ramaswamy’s proposed policies on Israel and Taiwan are “just dead wrong, and it could lead to the loss of life, and certainly lead to the loss of confidence in the greatest nation on God’s green Earth.”
🗳️ Michigan Move: Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, a Republican, is expected to enter the Michigan Senate race to succeed Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) next month.
☢️ Riyadh Reservations: More than two dozen Mideast and nuclear policy experts signed onto a letter urging the Biden administration against allowing Riyadh to have its own nuclear program on Saudi soil.
💸 Bloomberg Succession: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg laid out a succession plan for Bloomberg L.P. and Bloomberg Philanthropies, noting that at the age of 81, “common sense says I should have succession plans.”
🕍 Different Days of Awe: In the Washington Post, Josie Glausiusz considers how she will observe Yom Kippur, six months after the death of her son.
🪖 Border Bluster: The IDF said its tanks destroyed two temporary Syrian structures in the Golan Heights that were in violation of a 1974 disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria.
👮 In Other Tank News: Israeli police arrested two individuals in connection with the theft of a 65-ton Merkava 2 tank that was taken from a base in northern Israel.
🇹🇷🇮🇱 Working Together: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Israel and Turkey will begin to explore joint energy drilling, days after his first one-on-one meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
🇨🇩 Coming Soon: Netanyahu said that the Democratic Republic of Congo will move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following a meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly between Netanyahu and Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi.
🇸🇦 Peace Prospects: Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer suggested that a Saudi-Israel normalization agreement could be a “reverse 9/11” that could restore Washington’s standing in the Arab world.
🇶🇦 Qatar Conversations: Qatari officials held separate bilateral meetings with Iranian and U.S. officials on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly that included conversations on Iran’s nuclear program and drone cooperation between Moscow and Tehran.
🇮🇷🇪🇬 Diplomatic Thaw: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told reporters that he “does not see any obstacle” to restoring relations with Egypt, after decades of rocky relations between the countries.
🔄 Prisoner Swap Problems: Former counter-proliferation authorities expressed concern over the backgrounds of the Iranians released in this week’s prisoner exchange that freed five Americans and unfroze $6 billion in Iranian funds.
🕯️ Remembering: Photographer Marvin Newman, whose work appeared in such publications as Sports Illustrated, Life, Look, Smithsonian, Esquire and Newsweek, died at 95.
Pic of the Day
Marking the National Memorial Day for the Genocide of Lithuanian Jews, Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė, along with other senior Lithuanian government officials and the International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania, yesterday joined members and leaders of the Lithuanian Jewish community and the International March of the Living in a symbolic march from the site of the Jewish Ghetto in Vilnius to the mass grave outside of the city.
From left: Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė, Israeli Ambassador to Lithuania Hadas Vitenberg Zilberstein, Lithuanian Member of Parliament Emanuel Zingris and March of the Living Europe Director Michel Gourary.
Actor, singer and songwriter, Ben Platt turns 30 on Sunday…
FRIDAY: Brooklyn resident, Jay Kanter… Former president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles for 16 years, now a consultant at the L.A.-based Diane and Guilford Glazer Philanthropies, John Fishel… Professor of journalism at Columbia University and a former reporter for The New York Times, Ari L. Goldman turns 74… Former publisher of The New York Times, Arthur Ochs “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr. turns 72… Chief political analyst at CNN, Gloria Borger turns 71… Clarinetist who performs klezmer, jazz, classical music and avant-garde improvisation, David Krakauer turns 67… Former U.S. ambassador to Romania, Adrian Zuckerman turns 67… Nobel Prize laureate in 2011, astrophysicist and professor of physics at UC-Berkeley, Saul Perlmutter turns 64… President of Israel since 2021, Isaac “Bougie” Herzog turns 63… Director of development at the Los Angeles Conservancy, Elizabeth “Liz” Leshin… Editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg turns 58… Former member of the Knesset for Likud, Osnat Hila Mark turns 56… Founder and CEO of Terravet Real Estate Solutions, Daniel Eisenstadt… Founder and CEO at P3 Media, he has won three Emmys, a Peabody Award and a Polk Award, Adam Ciralsky turns 52… Arlington, Va., resident, Karen Elyse Simpson… Writer-at-large for The New York Times, she is the author of Chasing Hillary, Amy Chozick turns 45… Actress best known for her role as Quinn Perkins in the ABC political drama series “Scandal,” Katie Lowes turns 41… Hungarian politician who once served as a member of the European Parliament, Csanád Szegedi turns 41… Deputy editor of Tablet magazine and host of “Unorthodox,” Stephanie Taylor Butnick… Entertainment reporter, fashion designer and entrepreneur, Baruch Yehudah Shemtov turns 36… Partner at Winning Tuesday, Jared Sichel… Associate director for combating antisemitism at AJC Global, Alyssa Weiner Sandler… Senior writer for the Jewish Federations of North American and deli historian, he is the author of Pastrami on Rye: An Overstuffed History of the Jewish Deli, Ted Merwin
SATURDAY: Vice chairman of the board of Chanel, Arie L. Kopelman turns 85… Sarasota Jewish Federation executive, Richard Bergman… Former CEO of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris turns 74… President at Trendlines America, Mark J. Dollinger, Ph.D…. Co-chairman and COO of Chesapeake Realty Partners, he is also a founding partner of Boulder Ventures, Josh E. Fidler… Senior analyst at AIPAC, Colin M. Winston, Ph.D…. Partner at Steptoe & Johnson, Darryl Nirenberg… Business manager for Los Angeles Cardiovascular Medical Group, she is also a past president of Sinai Temple, Angela Maddahi… Former vice chair of The Jewish Federations of North America, she is the president-elect of the Birmingham (Ala.) Jewish Federation, Sheryl W. Kimerling… Israeli-American venture capitalist and head of Zeev Ventures, Oren Zeev turns 59… Co-owner of Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs, Todd M. Ricketts turns 54… Former U.S. ambassador to the E.U., now president and COO at the Business Roundtable, Ambassador Kristen Silverberg turns 53… VP of external affairs at Whistleblower Aid, Naomi Seligman… Executive director of the Foundation at Alpha Epsilon Pi, Jay S. Feldman… Author of two best-selling books and co-founder of the non-profit Sefaria, he is the board chair of Boston’s Lehrhaus, Joshua Foer turns 41… Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington bureau reporter for The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt turns 40… Director of product content operations focused on Generative AI at Meta / Facebook, Gabriella Schwarz… VP of sales at Idomoo Personalized Video, Abby Glassberg… Saber fencer, this year he became the first-ever American to claim gold in saber at the World Fencing Championships, Eli Dershwitz turns 28… Record-setting powerlifter, Naomi Chaya Kutin turns 22… Deputy director-general for Latin America at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jonathan Peled… Founder and director of the Lerhaus Institute of Jewish Studies, Rabbi Seth Frisch…SUNDAY: Author of 26 books, best known for the semi-autobiographical novel I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Joanne Greenberg turns 91… Retired Israeli diplomat who served as Israel’s ambassador to Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Chile, Rafael Eldad turns 74… Former CEO of American Media, David Pecker turns 72… Feature writer for Sports Illustrated for 27 years, he is a 2015 inductee into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Franz Lidz turns 72… Attorney and former judge advocate, Michael Alan Weiss… Founder, chairman and CEO of Hilco Global, Jeffrey Hecktman turns 70… Public safety success manager at FirstNet by AT&T, William Gross… President of Princeton University since 2013, in his mid-40s he discovered that his mother was Jewish, Christopher L. Eisgruber turns 62… Co-founder and principal at D.C.-based PRG Hospitality, Alan Popovsky… EVP of governmental affairs at the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, Chanina Sperlin… Economist, best-selling author and a great-granddaughter of former British Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz, Noreena Hertz turns 56… Screenwriter, television producer, comic book writer and novelist, Marc Guggenheim turns 53… Israeli television host, actress and model, Yael Goldman-Pfeffer turns 45… Yale Law graduate and senior policy manager at Amazon, Jessica Schumer… Former White House reporter at The Associated Press, Alexandra Jaffe…