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Jewish Insider | Daily Kickoff
September 21st, 2020
👋 Good Monday morning!
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday evening at age 87. Her death sets up a battle over naming her replacement less than two months before the presidential election. More below. 

The U.S. declared on Saturday that all U.S. sanctions on Iran have been restored. But U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he cannot take any action on restoring sanctions due to “uncertainty” on the issue in the Security Council.

President Donald Trump is expected to announce an executive order today slapping sanctions on more than two dozen people and entities tied to Iran’s nuclear programs.

Sudan is reportedly on the verge of announcing the normalization of ties with Israel, as U.S., Sudanese and Emirati officials meet in Abu Dhabi today. 

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call yesterday that his country hopes to move its embassy to Jerusalem by year’s end. 

Last night at the virtual Emmys, “Schitt’s Creek” swept the comedy category with seven wins. Despite being nominated for eight awards, “Unorthodox” took home just one prize, for best director of a limited series.

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Book Launch

The bygone era of James Baker’s Washington

James Baker — David J. Phillip/AP
A new book about James A. Baker III, the Republican statesman whose career spanned some of the most consequential decades of the 20th century, may serve as something of a palliative for those who yearn to immerse themselves in a period of American politics largely devoid of the intense partisan division and intra-party rancor that have come to define recent years. Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel spoke to media power couple Susan Glasser and Peter Baker about their latest book. 

Past vs. present: The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker III, which hits shelves next week, is an exhaustively reported, authoritative biography of a man whose protean trajectory represents something of a lost art in the nation's capital: dealmaking. “We thought it was, really, a way to write a big and sweeping book about Washington in this period of time that is now pretty clearly past,” Glasser, a staff writer for The New Yorker, told Jewish Insider in a recent joint interview with Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for The New York Times, who has no relation to his subject.

Background: An éminence grise of sorts, the Texan-born Baker, who served as chief of staff under President Ronald Reagan and as secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush, arrived late to politics at 45, but had a hand in many of the most important events of the last half-century, including the 1976 contested Republican convention, the beginnings of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the reunification of Germany, the Gulf War and the Middle East peace talks in Madrid. 

Vexed relationship: Baker, who was seen as an Arabist, clashed with Israel’s leaders during his time as secretary of state, going so far as to ban Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, then the deputy foreign minister, from the State Department because of a critical comment Netanyahu had made with regard to American foreign policy. Infamously, Baker is believed to have said “F*ck the Jews” in a 1992 Oval Office meeting, adding, “They didn’t vote for us anyway.” But Baker claims in the book that his quote has been distorted and was taken out of context. 

Bygone era: Now that Baker and Glasser have finished their biography, they are working on a new book about Trump, to be published next year. At first, they saw the impeachment trial as a narrative construct, but in recent months they have been reconsidering their approach. It all depends, of course, on the results of the upcoming election. “We’ll have a little more clarity by November or by December,” Peter Baker said, “whenever we learn of where things are going.” In the meantime, they believe there are lessons to be drawn from their biography of an unusual man who once presided over a Washington that no longer seems to exist. 

Read the full interview here

mourning a legend

Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87, setting up Supreme Court showdown

European University Institute
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a feminist icon and the second woman — and first Jewish woman — to ever be named to the U.S. Supreme Court, died on Friday at age 87. She is expected to lie in repose at the Supreme Court before being buried later this week at Arlington National Cemetery alongside her husband. 

Jewish legacy: Her death, just as Rosh Hashanah began for millions of American Jews, sent reverberations through the American Jewish community, many of whom learned about her passing as services began. The New York Times editorial board called the timing of her death symbolic: “Fittingly, it is a day when Jews look backward and forward, reflecting on what has passed, and preparing for what is to come.” Ginsburg, born into a Russian Jewish immigrant family in Brooklyn, reflected on her Jewish heritage in a 2004 speech to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which The Washington Post reprinted this weekend. “My heritage as a Jew and my occupation as a judge fit together symmetrically,” she said at the time. “The demand for justice runs through the entirety of Jewish history and Jewish tradition.”

Remembering: Thousands of mourners gathered outside the Supreme Court to honor Ginsburg’s legacy, including those who recited the mourner's kaddish and sounded the shofar. In a statement, Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer said he “heard of Ruth’s death while I was reciting the mourner’s kaddish at the Rosh Hashanah service.” Breyer added that Ginsburg was “a great justice, a woman of valour, a rock of righteousness, and my good, good friend. The world is a better place for her having lived in it.” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, noted that “very righteous people would die at the very end of the year because they were needed until the very end.” Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said in a speech in Philadelphia, Pa., on Saturday: “It’s been noted that she passed away on Rosh Hashanah. By tradition, a person who dies during the Jewish New Year is considered a soul of great righteousness.” 

Bonds of friendship: NPR’s legal correspondent Nina Totenberg reflected on her professional relationship-turned-friendship with Ginsburg, recalling how their close bond endured for decades, despite their respective careers. Totenberg noted Ginsburg’s “extraordinary character, decency and commitment to friends, colleagues, law clerks — just about everyone whose lives she touched.”

Bench battle: President Donald Trump vowed to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat “without delay,” and promised to choose “a very talented, very brilliant woman.” But the timing of Ginsburg’s death has echoed the fight that shaped up after Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016 — nine months before the U.S. presidential election. At the time, Republicans refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland, and the seat remained empty until after Trump was sworn in. Two Republican senators — Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have said they will not vote on a nomination until after the Nov. 3 election. But U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — who blocked Garland’s nomination in 2016 — vowed to bring Trump’s pick to a vote on the Senate floor.

Biden’s choice: If given the chance, Biden has promised to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. Given that the current pool of Black female Federal Appeals Courts judges are at least 68 years old, speculation has mounted that Biden would choose California Supreme Court Associate Justice Leondra Kruger. The 44-year old former Justice Department official — born to a Jamaican mother and Jewish father — is considered the moderate swing vote on the seven-seat court. 

Batter’s Box

With Lowey and Engel departing, Elaine Luria says she’ll be stepping up

One of the most frequent questions Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) receives from constituents in Virginia's 2nd congressional district is: “Is it as crazy in Washington as we see on TV?” Her typical answer, Luria told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh, is that while it might seem like there is no real opportunity for positive change in Congress, she has managed to find common ground with members across the political spectrum to pass legislation. While she is only a freshman member of Congress, Luria had the third highest number of bills signed into law by President Donald Trump among her colleagues on Capitol Hill last year.

Representing a Trump district: Luria, 45, was first elected in 2018 as part of a blue wave that flipped Trump-supporting districts, beating first-term incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Taylor with 51% of the vote. This year, her district is considered a toss-up, according to the Cook Political Report, and she will once again face Taylor in November. While Luria voted for Trump’s impeachment last year, she has aligned herself with the president when it comes to his policy on Israel. She is one of a handful of Democrats who have attended Trump White House events, including the signing of Trump’s executive order to combat antisemitism on campus, and more recently, the Abraham Accords signing ceremony between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. 

Speaking out: In an interview last year, Luria told The Washington Post that her Jewish faith inspired her to take a position on impeachment and to speak up in defense of Israel and against antisemitism. “I did not necessarily anticipate going in to be a representative in the House that I would need to be as vocal about these things,” Luria told JI. Her debut speech on the House floor was during a debate over a resolution against hate, widely considered to be watered-down, following Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) comments regarding lawmakers’ support for Israel. Luria quipped that her remarks, decrying the dual loyalty label by pointing to her faith and past experience, sounded like an adapted version of the Passover song “Dayenu.” While she felt “discouraged” that the measure was diluted in the process, Luria said she felt it was important for her to use that opportunity to “speak up against antisemitism.” 

Passing the baton: Luria maintained that with the retirement of longtime Democratic Reps. Nita Lowey and Eliot Engel of New York, and the addition of some newly successful far-left candidates, “I think that it’s much more important that I stay and come back to Congress as a strong voice to counter people who certainly speak up with different views than mine.” Last year, Luria reached out to Omar to discuss Israel and antisemitism. And while those meetings were not “as productive as I hoped for, I will always continue to try to do that,” Luria said, adding that she will “redouble” her efforts to engage with new members about issues of importance to the Jewish community. 

Read the full interview with Luria here.
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⚔️ Family Feud: The Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Kalin, Summer Said and Felicia Schwartz spotlight the argument “raging behind palace doors” in Saudi Arabia over the potential of normalizing the kingdom’s relations with Israel. The king is reportedly against such a move, while Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is in favor. [WSJ]

💸 Deep Dive: An in-depth investigation by close to a dozen BuzzFeed News reporters reveals how the world’s largest banks move money around for “terrorists, kleptocrats and drug kingpins,” while the U.S. government does nothing to stop it. [BuzzFeed]

🏷️ Tearing Off Labels: Deborah Joseph, the editor-in-chief of Glamour magazine, writes in The Times about the racism and antisemitism she has faced as an Iranian Jew in Britain, where she doesn’t quite check any one box. “I am a British, Iranian, German, Jewish, light brown, northern, feminist, vegetarian, working mother of three.” [TheTimes]

🔒 Back at Home: The Daily Beast’s Noga Tarnopolsky explores “the hell” of Israel’s second coronavirus lockdown on the eve of the High Holy Days, where confusing, contradictory and ever-changing government guidelines have left many Israels feeling “alienated, angry, and appalled.” [DailyBeast]
Around the Web
⛓️ Justice Served: Bulgaria sentenced two Lebanese men to life in prison for their role in a 2012 bus bombing in Burgas that killed five Israeli tourists and a local bus driver. 

🌊 At Sea: The Trump administration is reportedly pushing for Israel and Lebanon to open direct talks in their dispute over natural gas explorations in the Mediterranean.

🗣️ Peace Push: Trump’s campaign is pushing to capitalize on his recent Mideast peace accords, but Democrats believe the moves have little chance of swaying voters. 

🎥 Lights, Camera: The film industries in Israel and the UAE signed a wide-ranging cooperation agreement which includes plans for a regional film festival.

🏦 Bank Buddies: Israel’s Bank Leumi and the UAE’s DP World signed a deal to collaborate on developing ports and logistics assets in Israel.

🇹🇷 Talking Turkey: Al-Monitor’s Amberin Zaman explains why the recent UAE normalization deal with Israel is bad news for Turkey. 

🤔 Hedging Bets: Leaders in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh are contemplating how to continue their close relationship with the United States even if Trump loses his reelection bid in November. 

📣 Protesting Peace: A large protest was held in Morocco on Friday against the recent accords signed between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. 

🖋️ Wild Card: Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer and former Obama official Steven Simon wonder whether Trump will seek an escalation with Iran as an “October surprise.” 

🗳️ Under Attack: The Department of Homeland Security believes that “white supremacist extremists” pose the greatest threat to this November’s election. 

◀️ Rerouted: The majority of the Hasidic pilgrims who were thwarted from spending Rosh Hashanah in Uman, Ukraine, turned back from the border on Friday and spent the holiday in Belarus. 

🕍 Out and About: The Village Temple’s new spiritual leader, Rabbi Diana Fersko, speaks to The New Yorker about taking up the pulpit amid a pandemic and instituting a “Shabbat Walk.” 

📈 Extra Income: MarketWatch explains the thinking behind the investment strategy known as “Sell Rosh Hashana, Buy Yom Kippur.”

Foul Ball: A handful of discrimination complaints against Steve Cohen are resurfacing ahead of a vote by MLB owners on his bid to buy the New York Mets. 

📺 Gone Sour: New York Times media columnist Ben Smith takes a closer look at how the relationship between Trump and CNN President Jeff Zucker deteriorated in recent years. 

🤳 Stamp of Approval: Trump has given his “blessing… in concept” to a bid by Oracle to join up with Wal-Mart in taking control of the U.S. operations of Tik Tok. 

🍃 New Leaf: Former U.K. Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks told The Evening Standard that the British Jewish community feels “very reassured by” new Labour leader Keir Starmer, but Dame Margaret Hodge said Labour needs “a decade or so” to win back the Jewish community’s trust. 

🏷️ Going Once: Items belonging to Jewish-Polish composer Wladyslaw Szpilman, the inspiration for the film “The Pianist,” will go up for auction next week in Warsaw. 

😡 Flag Fracas: Two Nazi flags spotted in Miami drew the ire of Jewish residents, though a local museum said it was all a misunderstanding.

📰 Media Watch: The Jewish News of Detroit is shifting from a private ownership model to a nonprofit model in order to sustain its ongoing operations. 

📽️ Life Story: A new documentary screening at the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival focuses on the life of the groundbreaking gay Jewish neurologist Oliver Sacks. 

🍞 Roll Up: A new bakery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, called “Dolla Makes Me Challah” offers up Jewish staples including challah and rugelach. 

🕯️ Remembering: Stephen F. Cohen, a historian and professor of Russian studies, died at age 81. Former Jerusalem deputy mayor Meron Benvenisti, a vocal supporter of a binational state, died at age 86.
Israeli pop singer Stephane Legar released a new song, "I'm in Dubai," in Hebrew and French, to mark Israel's new peace accord with the United Arab Emirates.
Professor at Harvard Law School, following a three-year stint in the Obama White House, Cass Sunstein turns 66... and his wife, with whom he shares a birthday, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the Obama administration, Samantha Power turns 50... 

One of the highest-grossing Hollywood box office producers of all time, Jerry Bruckheimer turns 77… George Washington University professor of economics and international affairs and law lecturer, Dr. Joseph Pelzman turns 71…President of the JDC since February of this year, Mark Sisisky turns 70... Member of the Knesset for the Likud party, now serving as minister of finance, Yisrael Katz turns 65... Professor of political science at Tel Aviv University and professor emeritus at Georgetown, Yossi Shain turns 64... One half of the renowned film-making team of the Coen Brothers, Ethan Jesse Coen turns 63... Attorney, author and conservative talk show host, Mark R. Levin turns 63... Retired managing director of equity trading at Goldman Sachs, Andrew Berman turns 63... Russian oligarch who fell out of favor with President Vladimir Putin, now living in Israel, he was an owner of Yukos Oil, a company expropriated by the Russian government, Leonid Nevzlin turns 61...

Owner of Total Wine & More, the largest alcohol retailer in the U.S., he is now a member of the House of Representatives (D-MD-6), David Trone turns 65... Janet Bunting turns 54... SVP at polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Anna Greenberg Ph.D. turns 52... Emmy Award-winning talk show host, actress and producer, Ricki Lake turns 52... Contemporary religious Jewish musician in Israel, Nachman Fahrner turns 48... Editor of Kveller, Lisa Keys turns 44... Assistant professor of radiology at Duke, he is an Olympic gold medalist in swimming, Dr. Benjamin M. Wildman-Tobriner turns 36... Chief operating officer of TAMID Group, Nathan Gilson turns 30... Dual Master's candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Divinity School, Mia Appelbaum turns 28... Lead sustainability consultant at Allstate, Scott Frankel... Program director for strategic engagement at B'nai B'rith International, Sienna Girgenti...
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