Good Friday morning.
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at the debate over ethnic studies education in California following the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks, and spotlight Mazi Pilip, the GOP candidate in the upcoming special election to replace Rep. George Santos. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Len Saxe, Sen. Ben Cardin and former Sen. Ben Sasse.
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: Voices against Hamas growing louder as war in Gaza continues; Judaica sales surge as community members seek ‘a little Jewish joy’ during a difficult time; Northern Israel a ‘waking nightmare’ amid efforts to push Hezbollah from border, says resident and security analyst. Print the latest edition here.
Another major tactical disagreement between Washington and Jerusalem over operations in Gaza spilled into public view on Thursday during U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s visit to Israel, Jewish Insider Washington correspondent Gabby Deutch reports.
The purpose of Sullivan’s visit, according to several senior Biden administration officials, was to urge Israel to shift its strategy in Gaza — and soon.
“The issue really is, when does Israel shift from the high-intensity military operations that are underway today to a different phase of this conflict, one that’s more precise, more targeted, more driven towards things like those high-value individuals?” Sullivan said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 News.
The New York Times reported that President Joe Biden would like to see such a change within the next three weeks. That’s a very different timetable from what Israeli officials are relaying publicly. “It will require a long period of time. It will last more than several months, but we will win and we will destroy them,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said of Hamas, while standing next to Sullivan before their meeting.
The Biden administration has not laid out any consequences that Israel might face if it does not follow U.S. recommendations regarding the war. But it’s not the first time the two governments have been at odds this week. This policy shift comes amid a clash between Biden and the far-right government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is skeptical of pursuing a two-state solution — the only outcome acceptable to the White House. Whether Israel follows Washington’s lead, or whether the two countries publicly come to a head, remains to be seen. Read more here.
hit the books
In California’s public schools, ethnic studies becomes a flashpoint
Weeks into the Israel-Hamas war, an Oakland, Calif., City Council meeting went viral as local residents stepped up to the lectern and spread outlandish, antisemitic lies about the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks in Israel. The council was considering calling for a cease-fire in a resolution that the Bay Area Jewish Community Relations Council called “inflammatory” and “anti-Israel.” But this meeting was far from the first time that anti-Israel and antisemitic ideas had appeared in Oakland since Oct. 7. Often, the rhetoric mirrored what’s being taught in some of the area’s public schools. It’s part of a broader trend of educators bringing current events into the classroom — and in this case, teaching one-sided depictions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to children as young as 6, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch reports.
Statewide questions: While the most egregious examples of antisemitism have taken place in the state’s most progressive communities, a city in Orange County has also adopted a school curriculum that Jewish leaders view as anti-Israel and antisemitic. But the Bay Area has become the epicenter of radical activity.
Beast of a fight: “The local fight is a beast. It is an absolute beast. It’s extremely difficult and challenging,” said Sarah Levin, executive director of JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa. Levin and other Jewish community advocates in California described a fraught atmosphere for Jewish students in the weeks since Oct. 7. It’s one that they have long feared — and tried hard to avoid — after California passed an ethnic studies requirement in the state’s public high schools, following years of activism from left-wing groups.
Curriculum fight: “What we’ve been concerned about since 2019 is that some ethnic studies activists have been insistent on incorporating anti-Zionist and in some cases explicitly antisemitic content in curricula,” said David Bocarsly, executive director of the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California, a coalition of Jewish communal organizations throughout the state.
Start to spread: The issue is not confined to California, even if that’s where it is playing out in its most extreme form. “We’ve been so hyper-focused on the college and university-level issues, and rightfully so,” said Tyler Gregory, CEO of the Bay Area JCRC. “But I think this, in the long run, could be much more damaging if we don’t head it off now.”
Oakland fallout: A Jewish environmentalist on the Oakland City Council was disinvited from a lecture at the University of California, Berkeley after students discovered his social media posts in support of Israel.
long island sound
Long Island GOP taps Mazi Melesa Pilip for special election
Following an intensive search, New York Republicans on Thursday chose Mazi Melesa Pilip, an Ethiopian-born county legislator and Israel Defense Forces veteran, to run for the seat recently vacated by expelled Rep. George Santos (R-NY), a source familiar with the matter confirmed to Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel.
Two months away: The selection, which withstood a rigorous vetting process that included several Republican prospects, sets the stage for a high-stakes race against former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY), whom Democrats picked as their nominee last week. Pilip will officially launch her campaign on Friday at noon in Massapequa. The special election will be held on Feb. 13, leaving candidates with just under two months to campaign.
Jewish ties: The race pits a 44-year-old Black and Jewish refugee with a compelling biography but limited political experience against a veteran moderate Democrat, who held the seat before Santos and has long been well-known to voters on Long Island. Despite clear differences, the two rivals tout strong records of support for Israel, which polling shows is particularly important to the district in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, and deep ties to a sizable population of Jewish voters who could be a decisive bloc in what is expected to be a closely fought race.
Early polling: A recent poll released by a Republican candidate who had also been seeking the nomination showed Suozzi leading Pilip 43-39% in a hypothetical two-way matchup. The survey indicated that Suozzi is much better known across the district: Among 900 respondents from both parties, just 4% said they had never heard of Suozzi, compared with Pilip at 47%.
on the quad
Survey of Jewish students shows antisemitism varies greatly, campus to campus
When researchers at Brandeis University set out in 2016 to measure antisemitism on college campuses across the country, they found a small number of “hotspot” schools where Jewish students faced a hostile environment. Now, in a new survey in the wake of Oct. 7 and the ensuing war between Israel and Hamas, that same team of researchers has found many more “hotspots” — including top universities such as Columbia, NYU, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Berkeley — where hostility toward both Jews and Israel is increasing dramatically, eJewishPhilanthropy’s Haley Cohen reports for Jewish Insider.
But…: Yet the study, “In the Shadow of War: Hotspots of Antisemitism on US College Campuses,” found that at a number of other top schools, including Duke, Washington University in St. Louis, Tulane and the University of Florida, Jewish students report far lower — though still significant — levels of antisemitic hostility. The study, which according to its authors is the first to identify levels of antisemitism at specific campuses and to compare campus levels of antisemitism since Oct. 7, was conducted by the Maurice and Marilyn Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University and released on Thursday evening.
‘Dramatic increase’ in antisemitism: “There’s no question that after Oct. 7 there has been a dramatic increase in the level of antisemitism on campuses,” Leonard Saxe, one of the study’s authors and a Brandeis professor of contemporary Jewish studies and social policy who heads the Steinhardt Social Research Institute and the Cohen Center, told JI. “But one of the most important takeaways of this study is that there’s a huge amount of variance among campuses… not all campuses have the high rates of antisemitism that are perceived on the campuses in that top quartile.”
on the hill
Cardin ‘very concerned’ about Houthi attacks, says it ‘may be time’ to reinstate terror designation
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Thursday that he is “very concerned” about the Houthis’ escalating attacks on shipping lanes and commercial vessels in the Red Sea, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Redesignation considerations: “The Houthis are extremely dangerous, what they’re doing with commercial shipping,” Cardin told JI. “It’s a very dangerous situation. We’ve been briefed on it. And the United States will protect our interests.” Cardin said that it “may be time” to look at re-designating the Houthis as a terrorist organization, a label the Biden administration withdrew in 2021. But he also emphasized that the U.S. has to “be careful” not to disrupt the delicate cease-fires that have been reached between the Houthis and opponents in the region.
Arab states and Gaza: Cardin attended the COP 28 climate conference in the United Arab Emirates last weekend, during which he met with Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed; he also met at the Capitol last week with senior officials from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. The chairman said that the Arab states are “all willing to get engaged” politically and financially in rebuilding and setting the course for the future of Gaza and the Palestinian people after the current war with Hamas ends, “but it must be with a genuine path forward in regards to two states,” calling that “basically a precondition.”
Supplemental update: Senators involved in the negotiations to finalize the supplemental appropriations bill including aid for Israel and Ukraine indicated they were making progress toward a deal on Thursday, prompting Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to cancel the first week of the Senate’s Christmas recess. Some Republicans said that, even if a deal is reached promptly, the week won’t be enough time to finalize it and pass the bill. Some also suggested that they don’t plan to show up for votes next week. And House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) refused to keep the House in Washington to wait for a Senate-passed deal, meaning that the supplemental won’t be finalized until the new year, regardless of what happens in the Senate next week. House Republican leadership has also offered no guarantees that it will take up whatever bill the Senate passes.
Changing Times: In The Economist, former New York Times editorial page director James Bennet writes about the state of journalism, three years after he tendered his resignation over the publication of an op-ed that roiled the Times newsroom. “The Times’s problem has metastasised from liberal bias to illiberal bias, from an inclination to favour one side of the national debate to an impulse to shut debate down altogether. All the empathy and humility in the world will not mean much against the pressures of intolerance and tribalism without an invaluable quality that Sulzberger did not emphasise: courage. Don’t get me wrong. Most journalism obviously doesn’t require anything like the bravery expected of a soldier, police officer or protester. But far more than when I set out to become a journalist, doing the work right today demands a particular kind of courage: not just the devil-may-care courage to choose a profession on the brink of the abyss; not just the bulldog courage to endlessly pick yourself up and embrace the ever-evolving technology; but also, in an era when polarisation and social media viciously enforce rigid orthodoxies, the moral and intellectual courage to take the other side seriously and to report truths and ideas that your own side demonises for fear they will harm its cause.” [TheEconomist]
Failing Grade: In The Atlantic, University of Florida President Ben Sasse, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, reflects on the state of college campuses following last week’s Capitol Hill hearing on antisemitism at the collegiate level. “Three fundamental tenets of a free society are that beliefs are not necessarily true merely because they are held by a majority, or wrong because only a minority agree; that while we seek to eliminate violence, we do not seek to suppress diversity of views; and that souls cannot be compelled. The reigning orthodoxy on supposedly elite campuses is that the first two theses are retrograde, and the third is naive because souls don’t even exist. In this upside-down system, an oppressor’s speech is violence. Sometimes an oppressor’s silence is violence. But for the oppressed, even violence is just speech. The university presidents who testified before Congress were not wrong that the line beyond protected speech is action — this is the well-established American tradition. But having so selectively applied that standard in the institutions they wield, they forfeited any claim to be motivated by protecting speech; they are simply in the business of choosing allies and outcasts based on a dogma of victimology.” [TheAtlantic]
Yuletide, Jewltide: The New York Times’ chief TV critic James Poniewozik considers the Jewish lessons of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” “At the risk of sacrilege, the older I get, the more I wonder if the tiny Midwestern Protestant characters of Peanuts actually read to me a little bit … Jewish? I’m not just talking about the comic’s midcentury affinity for psychiatric analysis. For instance, notwithstanding his Gospel quotes, Linus, my favorite character, has many attributes of the Brainy Jewish Friend archetype, like Seth Cohen of ‘The O.C.’ or Ross Geller of ‘Friends.’ He analyzes and overanalyzes, talking Charlie Brown through his depressions and existential confusion. He nurses his anxieties and neuroses, carrying his security blanket like an emblem of strength (capable of whipping a snowball like David’s slingshot). Every Halloween, he forgoes the celebration of the larger community around him and awaits a messiah. … And in theme and spirit, the Peanuts special is no raucous Christmas party. It’s a story about ambivalence (that great Jewish value). It’s also about something that many Jewish kids can relate to: alienation from the very Yuletide holiday that the special celebrates.” [NYTimes]
Generational Gap: The Bulwark’s Will Saletan considers what recent polling says about Gen Z attitudes toward Israel. “The persistence of the age gap on questions that go beyond Israel and Palestine — questions about hate crimes, antisemitic tropes, and the Holocaust — shows that young Americans aren’t just more sensitive than their elders to the plight of Palestinians. They’re also more skeptical of and less sensitive to the plight of Jews. Compared to older generations, younger Americans are less likely to see Jews as victims and more likely to see Jews as bullies. These views don’t represent a majority of the rising generation. But they’re a sign of danger ahead — not just for Israelis, but for Jews.” [TheBulwark]
Around the Web
Biden’s Warning: President Joe Biden said he wants Israel to “be more careful” in its operations in Gaza, amid reports that nearly half of the munitions used in Israeli airstrikes in the enclave were unguided missiles.
Iowa Pairing: GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy campaigned with former Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who while in Congress was removed from his committee assignments over racist comments, in the Hawkeye State.
Hamas Resolution: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is introducing a bipartisan resolution condemning Hamas’ use of sexual violence during the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks.
NDAA Passage: The House passed the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, sending it to the president’s desk. The bill includes several key programs and policies supporting Israel and the Abraham Accords.
Gaza Aid: Reps. Ami Bera (D-CA) and Andy Kim (D-NJ) introduced a resolution calling for increased aid to Gaza, expanded safe shelters and renewed humanitarian pauses and hostage releases. It also calls on the Red Cross to examine the well-being of hostages being held in Gaza, as well as points blame for civilian casualties toward Hamas’ “intentional use of civilian infrastructure and tactics to blend into the civilian population.”
Defenders in Disarray: The New York Timeslooks at the debate roiling the Bronx Defender’s office over the Israel-Hamas war amid allegations of antisemitism — potentially putting the finances of the publicly funded office for defense attorneys in peril.
Packing a Punch: Punchbowl Newsacquired Electo Analytics, a startup that tracks legislation on Capitol Hill.
Peltz Move: Nelson Peltz intends to nominate himself and former Disney CFO Jay Rasulo to the Disney board, the latest move in a proxy battle between Peltz and the corporation.
‘Curb’ Curbed: Larry David’s long-running “Curb Your Enthusiasm” will end next year at the conclusion of its 12th season.
Across the Pond: U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron announced a travel ban targeting “extremist” Israeli settlers,
Foiled Plot: German officials announced the arrest of four men believed to be members of Hamas who were plotting attacks on Jewish sites in the country; Denmark announced the unrelated arrests of three individuals with ties to the terror group who were planning similar attacks in the Scandinavian country.
Iran Warning: Iran’s defense minister warned against an effort backed by the U.S. to create a multinational task force in the Red Sea.
New Sanctions: The U.K. leveled sanctions against seven Iranians previously sanctioned by the U.S., including the head of Iran’s Quds Force, citing the “unacceptable threat” posed to London and its allies.
Pic of the Day
Israeli President Isaac Herzog (center) and Israeli First Lady Michal Herzog (right) assist the family members of one of the hostages held by Palestinian militants since the Oct. 7 attack as they light the menorah on Thursday, the last night of Hanukkah.
Actress, singer and songwriter, she appeared in the title role of the 1984 film “Supergirl,” Helen Slater turns 60…
FRIDAY: Former member of the New York State Assembly, attorney general of New York and member of the New York City Council, Oliver Koppell turns 83… Senior rabbi emeritus at Congregation Mt. Sinai in Brooklyn Heights, now EVP of the New York Board of Rabbis, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik turns 77… Film, stage and television actress and voice artist, best known for her role in the 1990s Fox sitcom “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose,” Melanie Chartoff turns 73… Owner of the largest construction company for gas pipelines in Russia, Arkady Rotenberg turns 72… Associate lecturer in religious studies at the University of Wyoming, Seth Ward turns 71… President and CEO at JFCS of the Suncoast in Sarasota, Fla., Dr. Helene Lotman… Chairman and founder of BizBash, David Adler turns 70… Sportscaster, best known as the radio voice for the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, Eli Gold turns 70… U.S. senator (D-VA), Mark Warner turns 69… Executive chairman of South Africa’s Resolve Communications, Tony Leon turns 67… Executive director at Silicon Couloir in Wyoming, Gary S. Trauner… Partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz specializing in M&A, Adam O. Emmerich turns 63…Television and movie producer, screenwriter and executive, producer of the first eight seasons of the “Pokémon” TV series and writer of most of the “Pokémo”n films, Norman J. Grossfeld turns 60… Rabbi serving communities in California’s Central Valley, Paul Gordon… Chicago-born stand-up comedian and author, Joel Chasnoff turns 50… Director of community relations and Israel affairs at the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte, Tal Selinger Stein… Actor, writer and musician, Adam Brody turns 44… Former mayor of Bal Harbour, Fla., he is an attorney, Gabriel Groisman turns 43… Washington, D.C.-based chef and restaurateur, Spike Mendelsohn turns 43… Israeli singer-songwriter and actress, Marina Maximilian Blumin turns 36… Client solutions manager at Samsung Ads, Julie Winkelman Lazar… Musician and actress, her first major film, “Licorice Pizza,” was released in 2021, Alana Mychal Haim turns 32… Principal at Activate Consulting, Lily Silva… and her twin brother, a communications specialist at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Nicholas Silva… Figure skater who represented the U.S. at the 2014 and 2022 Winter Olympics, Jason Brown turns 29…
SATURDAY: CBS News journalist who has won 13 Emmy Awards, she has reported for CBS’s “60 Minutes” since 1991, Lesley Stahl turns 82… Numismatist specializing in ancient Jewish and Biblical coins and their archaeology, David Bruce Hendin turns 78… British chemist and research professor at the University of Nottingham, Sir Martyn Poliakoff turns 76… Attorney, professor and author, she was the first woman to serve as president of the Harvard Law Review, Susan Estrich turns 71… Litigator in Denver, Craig Silverman… Novelist, journalist and lecturer, Allen Kurzweil turns 63… President and co-founder of The New Agenda, Amy Siskind… First OMB Director in the Obama administration, now CEO of Lazard, Peter R. Orszag turns 55… Astrophysicist and professor at Johns Hopkins University and the Space Telescope Science Institute, he was a winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, Adam Guy Riess turns 54… Deputy national director of AIPAC’s synagogue initiative, Rabbi Eric Stark… Director of public affairs at Charles Schwab, Adam Bromberg… Director of lifelong learning at Congregation Beth Emeth in Albany, N.Y., Shara Siegfeld… VP of crypto risk at Ciphertrace, a Mastercard company, Melissa Wisner… Chief of staff for U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Matthew Bennett Klapper turns 41… Middle East analyst at Christians United For Israel, Kasim Hafeez turns 40… Founder of Punchbowl News, Jake Sherman… Actress best known for her role on The CW’s teen drama “Gossip Girl” and more recently ABC’s “General Hospital,” Amanda Setton turns 38… Congressional reporter at Bloomberg Government, Zachary C. Cohen turns 32… Senior technology consultant at the Ignyte Group, Drew Liquerman…SUNDAY: Life-long advocate on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers for the International Rescue Committee and KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), Sheppie Glass Abramowitz turns 87… and Sheppie’s son, president of Freedom House, Michael J. Abramowitz turns 60… Retired attorney and vice chair of The American Jewish International Relations Institute, Stuart Sloame… Former CEO of multiple companies including the San Francisco 49ers and FAO Schwarz, Peter L. Harris turns 80… VP of strategic planning and marketing at Queens-based NewInteractions, Paulette Mandelbaum… Professor of Jewish history, culture and society at Columbia University, Elisheva Carlebach Jofen… Retired chair of the physician assistant studies program at Rutgers, Dr. Jill A. Reichman turns 68… Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and senior foreign policy advisor to prime ministers Sharon, Barak and Netanyahu, Danny Ayalon turns 68… Former chairman and CEO of HBO for 28 years, he now heads Eden Productions, Richard Plepler turns 65… Founder and CEO of LionTree LLC, Aryeh B. Bourkoff turns 51… Israeli soccer goalkeeper, now on the coaching staff for the national team, Nir Davidovich turns 47… CEO of the New Legacy Group of Companies, he is also founder and chairman of Project Sunshine, Joseph Weilgus… Co-director of the Civic Signals project at the National Conference on Citizenship, Eli Pariser 43… Associate editor of Commentary and author of Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America, Noah C. Rothman… Director of foundation partnerships at the UJA-Federation of New York, Julia Sobel… National correspondent for Vanity Fair and author of the 2018 book Born Trump: Inside America’s First Family, Emily Jane Fox… Consultant at Boston Consulting Group, Daniel Ensign… Actor, singer-songwriter and musician, he starred in the Nickelodeon television series “The Naked Brothers Band,” Nat Wolff turns 29…