Jewish Insider’s Daily Kickoff: November 19, 2018

Will Israeli defense minister’s exit impact Russia-Israel cooperation on Syria?; Jewish groups support Ilhan Omar’s rule change push

Then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman announces his resignation from his office following the ceasefire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, during a press conference in the Knesset on November 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman announces his resignation from his office following the ceasefire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, during a press conference in the Knesset on November 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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TOP TALKER — A New York Times story entitled “Are Jared and Ivanka good for the Jews” drew strong reaction on social media over the weekend. In the article, authors Amy Chozik and Hannah Seligson note that the administration use of Kushner and Ivanka’s religion to push back against accusations that Trump’s rhetoric has emboldened anti-Semites, following the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, “has unnerved many Jews who oppose the president.”

The article quoted Eric Reimer, a lawyer in New York who was on Kushner’s trivia team at The Frisch School, as saying, “We, as Jews, are forced to grapple with the fact that Jared and his wife are Jewish, but Jared is participating in acts of Chillul Hashem.” Rabbi Ethan Tucker of the Hadar yeshiva in New York further suggested that the couple would be snubbed when they eventually return to the city. “They certainly won’t be banned, but I don’t think most synagogues would give them an aliyah,” Tucker said.

John Podhoretz tweeted“This isn’t about how Jews hate Jared Kushner. It’s about how liberals hate Jared Kushner.”

Joe Kristol‏: “I understand why my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generation often asked, non-ironically, “is it good for the Jews?” Maybe it’s time to retire this formulation—along with “Renegade Jew” while we’re at it.”

Norm Eisen emails us… “The question was if they were good for our people, not if they are bad for us. There is a difference. They have not been good for us because they have not advanced Jewish or democratic values, and indeed have facilitated gross corruption, illegality and general racial animus. That includes being a part of an operation that advances anti-Semitism, such as the closing campaign ad targeting Jews using stereotypes and dog-whistles, or the ‘good people on both sides’ scandal.  They have also furthered the weaponizing of Israel as a partisan issue and pushed a series of strategic initiatives that in my opinion will leave Israel weaker in the long-term. So there has been no particular Jewish benefit. That is, however, different from saying they have been bad for the Jewish people in particular. They have been bad for everyone.”

Howard Wolfson‏: “Jews voted Democrat 79-17 in the midterms. The rest is just commentary.”

— RJC’s Matt Brooks replied“It’s a stupid and meaningless statistic with no predictive or analytical value. Tell me how the Jews voted in Scott/Nelson, DeSantis/Gilliam or Fitzpatrick/Wallace. That would be interesting and meaningful.”

Haim Saban tells the NYT from his hotel in Israel: “Jared and by extension the president understand the importance of the relationship between the U.S. and Israel on multiple levels — security, intelligence, but most of all, shared values.”

— “In September, Mr. Kushner and his top advisers, Jason D. Greenblatt and Avi Berkowitz, hosted a private dinner at the Pierre Hotel on the Upper East Side. Over a kosher meal, Mr. Kushner… fielded the advice of a range of Jewish leaders, including hedge-fund billionaire and Republican donor Paul Singer and Mr. Saban, to craft his Middle East peace plan. “He called and said ‘I’ll bring 10 Republicans and you bring 10 Democrats,’” Mr. Saban said.”[NYTimes]

HEARD YESTERDAY — Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant at the Jerusalem Leaders Summit held at the Knesset: “[Trump] is all about our relationship with Israel. Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, is a very dear friend of mine, as is Ivanka. I talked to him not long ago when the tragedy occurred in Pittsburgh, the tragic attack there on a synagogue. He said, ‘Phil, I wish people would realize,’ and I think some of them do, that his grandchildren are Jewish. His son-in-law is Jewish. His daughter is Jewish… He understands how important this relationship is.” [Video]

Sam Sokol tweets on Sunday: “So I quit my synagogue over the pervasive anti-press attitude that many of my fellow congregants hold. Didn’t make a fuss. Didn’t announce anything. Just went to a different synagogue yesterday and don’t plan on going back to the old one.”

DRIVING THE CONVO — Jewish groups support Ilhan Omar’s rule change push: A new rule change proposed by Democrats would roll back a 181-year-old ban on hats in the House of Representatives and allow religious headwear like yarmulkes and hijabs to be worn by lawmakers. The proposal is backed by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Jim McGovern (MA) and member-elect Ilhan Omar (MN), one of the two first Muslim women to serve in Congress. Several Jewish groups are supportive of the rule change.

Worth Noting — Omar received some criticism in the pro-Israel community when she announced last week that she “believes in and supports the BDS movement.” On the rule change issue, however, Omar has found support from prominent Jewish leaders.

Nathan Diament, Executive Director for the Orthodox Union’s Advocacy Center, tells us… “The OU has long supported laws and policies that foster the accommodation of religious practices in the workplace. Religious practices – such as wearing religious garb, whether a kippah or a hijab, should be accommodated in all workplaces – including Congress.”

Avi Shafran, Director of Public Affairs at Agudath Israel of America… “While we haven’t seen the wording of the proposal, the Agudah has long been in the forefront of advocating for religious rights in the workplace and public spaces – both of which characterize the Congressional chambers. And so, just as we would want a Jewish Congressman to be able to wear a yarmulke in chamber, we would want a Muslim or Sikh representative to be able to hew to his or her religious convictions. That said, relaxing the rules on hats in general, where religious rights aren’t at issue, is not something we have any position on.”

Jewish Insider asked the RAC and Rabbinical Assembly for comment but they did not respond prior to press time.

BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Israel avoids early elections as coalition is kept intact — by Tia Goldenberg: “Israel avoided early elections after… Naftali Bennett said his hard-line, pro-settler Jewish Home party would give Netanyahu another chance to address the security challenges facing Israel… “I tell the prime minister here: we are withdrawing right now all of our political demands and will stand to help you in this great mission of getting Israel to win again,” he said… While the move put off early elections for now, it keeps the governing coalition on shaky ground with only a slim 61-seat majority in Israel’s 120-seat parliament.” [APWashPost]

“On Monday morning, Netanyahu called it “irresponsible” to topple the government at this “sensitive security time.” Attending the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee for the first time as Defense Minister, Netanyahu said, “Whether our partners decide to topple the government or not, we will continue to take action to ensure the security of our state and of our people. We will do so sensibly, responsibly and with determination.”[CNN• Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s political stalwart, survives another day[TheNational]

Why did Bibi seek to avoid early elections? Dan Arbell, a 25 year veteran of the Israeli Foreign Service and a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings, tells us… “Netanyahu would like to set the playing field, as convenient as possible for him, and right now, the last few weeks have not been so good to him. Naturally, he feels this is not a good time to announce the elections. I feel he’s trying to buy time and hold the elections at a date which is likely more favorable to him when the memory of the recent crisis with Hamas is a distant memory. I think it’s politics and not security that is driving his consideration.”

Noah Efron, a professor at Bar-Ilan University,  emails us… “Netanyahu believes that if elections are held now, they will become a referendum on his government’s handling of Gaza, a poor starting point for an election campaign. But it goes deeper than that. Netanyahu has worked hard to draw back to the Likud votes that had, over the past decades, devolved to Bennett and Lieberman. An election called after Lieberman and Bennett resigned over putative government’s ‘weakness’ over Gaza would spur right-wing Likud voters to cast their ballots for the further right parties. This would deny Netanyahu the option of forming a government that includes Yesh Atid (and perhaps a new Benny Gantz party). It is a center-right government that Netanyahu seems to wish to lead because he thinks he can better rule with such a government… And, as perhaps a secondary matter, having a good portion of what is today the opposition in a government with him may prove useful once the first indictments come. Elections next fall, as opposed to this winter, will produce for Netanyahu a stronger Likud, a weaker niggling right, and increase the likelihood of a center-right government.”

David Horovitz writes… “How Netanyahu dwarfed his political rivals within: Netanyahu has for the umpteenth time given his would-be successors a political leadership masterclass, and apparently given his fractious, depleted coalition a little more breathing space… Some might wonder why he bothered. There is certainly an argument to be made that elections in spring might suit Netanyahu… It would presumably be easier for the state’s legal hierarchy to announce to the public that it is going to prosecute a prime minister who is facing new elections than one who has just been voted back into office. But since Netanyahu seems determined to stay on and fight even if he is indicted, that may not be a central consideration.” [ToI]

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH — Trump, top advisers to meet about launch of Middle East peace plan — by Barak Ravid: “President Trump will hold a crucial meeting this week with his top national security and foreign policy advisers to discuss both the details of the White House’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan and the timing for its release… U.S. officials said the current political crisis in Israel and the imminent announcement on early elections in the country will play a role in any decision Trump makes regarding the plan’s release… David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, flew to Washington this weekend to be there.” [Axios]

REPORT: “Netanyahu is planning to reach out to the White House to try and push back the publication of the peace proposal until after elections.”

Aaron David Miller emails us… “Trump now faces a timing challenge with his peace plan. Putting it out during an election campaign is no longer the problem since elections isn’t in cards. But unless the plan is so pro-Netanyahu and poses no challenges for him on statehood or Jerusalem, offering it up in these charged political circumstances might cause the government to fall. And one thing is clear, Bibi isn’t interested in running a campaign defending Palestinian statehood.”

David Makovsky writes“Waiting until after early elections, U.S. officials may hope that the next Netanyahu government will incorporate centrist parties that are more receptive to President Trump’s ideas. The gaps between Netanyahu and Abbas make it unlikely that a U.S. peace plan could succeed anyway. Yet early elections could at least affect the Israeli political map at the margins. They also provide better timing for the Trump administration than the original schedule of November 2019, when the U.S. presidential campaign season would have made a peace push too difficult politically.”

Will Israeli defense minister’s exit impact Russia-Israel cooperation on Syria? — by Luiza Khlebnikova: “In Russia, some pro-Israeli experts who have advocated for a stronger response to Hamas attacks raised concerns over the departure of Lieberman. The concern is that Netanyahu’s backtracking on the operation in Gaza may send a wrong signal to Iran and Hezbollah over Israel’s resolve to tackle the security challenges they pose in the north of the country. This, the argument goes, may embolden Tehran and pro-Iranian militias, and thus create new risks for Russia’s own policies in Syria and its relationship with Israel.” [Al-Monitor• Benjamin Netanyahu battered by bungled Gaza raid [TheTimes]

INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE — John Bolton Energizes Trump’s Agenda—And His Own — by Dion Nissenbaum: “Mr. Bolton’s ability to shape Mr. Trump’s priorities and pursue his own causes have given rise to a new nickname among some critics: President Bolton… “If John ever behaved in a way that led people in the administration to refer to him as ‘President Bolton,’ his effectiveness would be destroyed,” said Elliott Abrams, a longtime Bolton friend and one time member of President George W. Bush’s National Security Council. “It’s critical that the president never think that, and no one understands that better than John.”[WSJ]

2020 WATCH — Beto O’Rourke blows up the 2020 Democratic primary — by David Siders: “Sparked by his narrow defeat in a Texas Senate race, Beto O’Rourke is scrambling the 2020 presidential primary field… “He’s game changing,” said Robert Wolf, an investment banker who helped raise Wall Street money for Obama in 2008 and 2012. “If he decides to run, he will be in the top five. You can’t deny the electricity and excitement around the guy… A lot of people have comparisons around him and a Robert Kennedy or a Barack Obama. And the [Democratic] Party likes young, ambitious and aspirational.” [Politico]

GOP money group prepares opposition research blitz against Mike Bloomberg if he runs for president in 2020 — by Brian Schwartz: “America Rising, a super PAC whose targets have included Hillary Clinton, is preparing an opposition-research blitz against Bloomberg… It’s a sign that Republican Party insiders are taking the prospect of a Bloomberg run seriously.” [CNBC]

Bloomberg donates record $1.8B to Johns Hopkins — by Cristina Alesci: “Michael Bloomberg… is donating $1.8 billion to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins. The university and Bloomberg are calling it the biggest contribution to an academic institution in American history, according to a press release — and the gift’s record-setting size will not be lost on possible challengers in a [2020] Democratic primary…  The gift will fund financial aid for qualified low- and middle-income students, allowing the university to forever make admissions decisions on a “need-blind” basis — without considering an applicant’s ability to pay.” [CNNNYTimes]

How the biggest donors’ candidates performed in the midterms — by Melissa Klein: “Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, were the top donors, contributing $113 million, according to a list compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, which was released Friday. The Adelsons were followed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who gave $61.3 million… shipping supplier Richard Uihlein and his wife Elizabeth, who kicked in $39 million; and financier Donald Sussman, who donated $22.8 million… Bloomberg… spent a total of $110 million, including $8 million on state races, according to his office.”

“In all, Bloomberg got a hefty rate of return with 21 of 23 House candidates he backed winning their races… Adelson also got a bang for his buck by kicking in $25 million to the Senate Leadership Fund, whose mission is to expand the Republican majority.” [NYPost

** Good Monday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: With Facebook at ‘War,’ Zuckerberg Adopts More Aggressive Style [WSJ• Marc Benioff defends Salesforce’s contract with Customs and Border Patrol [Recode• Trouble in the Congo: The Misadventures of Glencore [Bloomberg• Wharton’s Amir Yaron Confirmed as Bank of Israel Governor [Bloomberg

STARTUP NATION — Israeli Investment House Offers Crypto Funds for Institutions — by Gwen Ackerman: “Silver Castle Ltd., Israel’s first dedicated cryptocurrency investment firm for institutional and accredited investors, launched two funds this month and expects to have $50 million under management by the end of the year… “We spent close to a year building robust infrastructure for managing other people’s money at the level of institutional grade with very, very high security,” Chief Executive Officer Eli Mizroch said.” [Bloomberg]

Developer Reed Cordish buys into Baltimore sports management firm after leaving White House — by Meredith Cohn: “Reed Cordish, who left his family’s development firm for a year-long stint leading a White House effort on infrastructure and government innovation, plans to announce that he has invested in a five-year-old Baltimore-based sports management agency. PFS Agency represents players in the National Football League players and was founded by NFL agents Dan Saffron and Jon Herbst.”[BaltimoreSun]

Hollywood power crowd hosting fundraiser for wildfire relief — by Ian Mohr: “A power crowd of Malibu regulars — including… Rande Gerber… U2 manager Guy Oseary… producer Lawrence Bender and financier Vivi Nevo — are hosting a Woolsey Fire Fundraiser on Friday night.”[PageSix]

PROFILE — How to Talk to People, According to Terry Gross — by Jolie Kerr: “It’s fair to say Terry Gross knows some things about talking to people. The host and co-executive producer of NPR’s “Fresh Air” has interviewed thousands of personalities over the course of her four-decade career… Ms. Gross brings a combination of empathy and rigorous preparation to the job. “I read, watch or listen to as much of the person’s work as possible, so I have an understanding of what makes them, or their story, important,” she said… One thing she does not allow of her interview subjects, however, is input on the edit. “When the interview is over, you don’t have a chance to call back and say, ‘Well I like my answer to this, I don’t like my answer to that, can you edit that out,” she said.” [NYTimes]

Inside Christian Jerusalem’s New Makeover — by Neri Zilber: “The Terra Sancta Museum (Latin for “Holy Land”) is located near the start of the Via Dolorosa… Up the Via Dolorosa is the Convent of the Flagellation, inside of which the museum is located. Appropriately for the Old City, the convent sits just past a row of Palestinian carpet merchants, across the street from the exit to the Western Wall subterranean tunnels (a major Israeli/Jewish attraction), and around the corner from a Muslim-only entrance to the Haram al-Sharif compound.” [DailyBeast]

‘We were kidnapped by El Al’ say passengers on horror flight from New York — by Jeremy Sharon: “Passengers on the nightmare El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv on Thursday night have accused the airline of lying and of a “kidnap” after a five-hour delay in taking off meant that the plane could not reach Israel before Shabbat began. Despite El Al’s initial statement alleging that haredi fliers had been violent, numerous passengers stated subsequently that there had been no violence at all, with many blaming the late arrival of the cabin crew to the airport for the severe delay and failure to reach Israel on time.” [JPostDailyMail]

TALK OF THE TOWN —  Michigan rabbi leads caravan of faith to help immigrant kids in Texas — by Niraj Warikoo: “As someone rooted in Jewish tradition, [Rabbi Josh] Whinston of Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor said his faith and the faith of other religions compels them to help the stranger.  So the 37-year-old rabbi launched an effort to lead a multi-faith caravan from Michigan and other states to drive to Tornillo, Texas, to help immigrants and refugees in shelters and the growing tent camp… The Pittsburgh synagogue shooting — which was carried out by a man who targeted Jews because he said they supported immigrants and refugees — added to the urgency of their mission. “That man murdered 11 of my brothers and sisters not only because they were Jews but because of the values we hold,” said Whinston.” [DetroitFreePress]

Flyers with KKK logo, hate speech found in Howard Co. — by Keara Dowd: “Howard County police are investigating after fliers containing hate speech and a Ku Klux Klan logo were found in Ellicott City, Maryland. Police collected around 40 fliers that appeared to be tossed along Main Street.”[WTOP]

Ex-NYPD police chief Raymond Kelly on how to fight surge in anti-Semitic crimes: “For the last 12 months we have been on a mission to assess the depth, manifestation and trajectory of anti-Semitism in key European countries as well as the physical security of the Jewish diaspora, personally commissioned by Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress… So what can be done? First, every Jewish institution needs to develop a comprehensive security plan, including active-shooter drills, functioning alarm systems and the use of CCTV cameras.  In Europe, virtually all of the Jewish institutions we visited had installed a “double door” system…” [NYPost• Spotted: Kelly at the World Jewish Congress awards gala on November 7th[Pic]

MAZEL TOV — Chuck Schumer’s daughter weds in Brooklyn — by Reuven Fenton and Aaron Feis: “Alison Schumer, the younger of Sen. Chuck Schumer’s two daughters, married Elizabeth Weiland on Sunday in Brooklyn, with the couple posing for wedding photos on a bridge over the toxic Gowanus Canal. Alison Schumer, 29, is a six-figure product-marketing manager at Facebook… Sen. Schumer showed up for his daughter’s big day wearing a green yarmulke.” [NYPost]

Via Playbook: Jenna Sakwa and Jake Kastan got married on Saturday at Franklin Hills Country Club in Franklin, Michigan. Jake is [Paul] Ryan’s political director, and Jenna is director of media affairs. Dan Senor led the hora in his New York Jets kippah. [Pic]

BIRTHDAYS: Award winning television and radio host including the eponymous “Larry King Live” nightly show on CNN from 1985 to 2010, Larry King (born Lawrence Harvey Zeiger) turns 85… Retired New York State Supreme Court judge, whose tenure on the television program “The People’s Court” was far shorter than that of his wife “Judge Judy,” Jerry Sheindlinturns 85… Attorney, investment banker and major fundraiser for the Democratic party, he served as US Ambassador to the United Kingdom (2009-2013), Louis B. Susman turns 81… Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University, Richard Zare turns 79… Fifteen term member as a Democrat in the US House of Representatives from New York (1983-2013), since 2018 he is a partner in NYC-based Gotham Government Relations, Gary Ackermanturns 76… Fashion designer Calvin Klein turns 76… Following a 27-year career as a Professor at Princeton, in 2004 she became President of the University of Pennsylvania, Amy Gutmann turns 69… Los Angeles based real estate investor, Sydney Cetner turns 69… Owner of Patty’s Piano Studio in Los Angeles, Patricia Fiden turns 65…

Member of the California State Senate since 2014, he was previously a member of the California State Assembly (1996-2002) and Speaker of the California State Assembly (2000-2002), Robert Myles “Bob” Hertzberg turns 64… University professor of Jewish history, literature and law at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel turns 63… Hollywood screenwriter, producer, director and lyricist, best known as the writer of “Being John Malkovich,” Charlie Kaufman turns 60… Angel investor, investment banker and President of Sunrise Financial Group, Nathan Low turns 58… Member of the Knesset (2003-2016) originally for the Likud party and then as head of the Kulanu party, he has served as Israel’s Minister of Finance since 2015, Moshe Kahlon turns 58… Vice President of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and director of its Washington, DC office, Lisa Eisen turns 55… Author of over 30 books, television host and Chabad Rabbi in Oxford, England (1988-99), Rabbi Shmuley Boteach turns 52… Senior Director of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Seth Cohen turns 45… Member of the New York State Assembly since 2005, Andrew D. Hevesiturns 45… New York Times best-selling novelist, she is also a professor at Rutgers University-Camden, Lauren Grodstein turns 43… Digital director and executive editor of Time Magazine, Samuel P. Jacobs turns 33…

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