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TOP TALKER: "Jewish groups press Cruz to explain controversial endorsement" by Eric Cortellessa: "American Jewish groups have demanded that presidential hopeful Ted Cruz clarify his position on his provocative endorsement of an evangelical leader whose views on Jews are highly controversial. The Texas senator has been touting the backing of Mike Bickle, a man who seeks to convert Jews to Christianity, who predicts there will be another era of concentration camps, and who has said that Hitler was sent by God to hunt Jews." [ToI]

NJDC: "Prominent Endorser Of Sen. Cruz Said That G-d Sent Hitler To Hunt Jews For Not Accepting Jesus As Messiah: Jewish Dems Call On Sen. Cruz To Clarify His Position" [NJDC]

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, friend of Cruz, tweets:
"I'd like to publicly debate Mike Bickle on Jesus as Jewish Messiah" [Twitter]

Cruz Senior Advisor Nick Muzin shared the following:
"Our campaign welcomes support from faith leaders across the country. Mike Bickle is one of the hundreds who have endorsed us. My understanding is that he was paraphrasing the words of the prophets Jeremiah and Zechariah. I know that he has made support for Israel and the Jewish people a central part of his mission. No one has a better record than Senator Cruz when it comes to standing with Israel, fighting against radical Islamic terror, and combating global anti-Semitism. That is why he has been endorsed by over 70 rabbis and Jewish leaders from across the country, including leaders of major Jewish organizations."

"In September 2014, Senator Cruz very publicly walked off the stage after being booed by a group of Middle East Christians in Washington, D.C., telling them "If you hate the Jewish people, you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ. If you will not stand with the Jewish people and with Israel, then I will not stand with you." A key component of our work in the evangelical and Jewish communities has been shared support of Israel. Last summer, Senator Cruz brought together evangelical faith leaders with Jewish organizations to try and stop the Iran nuclear deal. We are proud of the support we are building in both communities and see them as complementary, and part of our larger goal of restoring Judeo-Christian leadership values to America and the world."

Muzin also forwarded along Mike Bickle's statement: "There are several false statements being promoted by the liberal press that distort what I believe. I am very committed to Israel - so is the ministry of IHOP. My point in sharing Zechariah 12:1-3 and Zechariah 14:1-3 and Jeremiah 16 and especially Zechariah 13:8-9, is to stir the church up to stand with Israel in time of a future persecution as foretold by most of the Jewish prophets in the Bible. My message is that the Church must respond like Corrie Ten Boom’s family by standing with Israel instead of drawing back in fear and silence..." [Video]

"Bloomberg May See Opening in New Hampshire Primary Results" by Mara Gay and Josh Dawsey:
"Far from the New Hampshire primary, aides to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg eyed the solid victories Tuesday by Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump as potential boosts to a Bloomberg candidacy. Bloomberg aides say they are looking far more closely at the results of Super Tuesday, on March 1, when more states will vote in the primaries and it will be easier to gauge the strength of Hillary Clinton and others in the race." [WSJ]

"RNC chairman on Bloomberg entering race: 'We'll take it'" by Jesse Byrnes: "Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Wednesday that Republicans would be happy if former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a third-party run for the White House. "I don't really view it as a third party. I just view it as another Democrat, so you'll have two Democrats running and splitting their vote," Priebus said." [TheHill]

Morton Kondracke: "Bloomberg Could Start a Third Party: The largest group of voters in America are moderate. Neither party offers them a voice, or a home." [WSJ]

DEEP DIVE: "Inside Hillary Clinton’s Massive Foreign-Policy Brain Trust" by John Hudson: "Every day, in offices across Washington, scores of foreign-policy advisors who Hillary Clinton has never met are drafting policy memos for her that she will never read. The group of advisors is so large, officials in the Clinton campaign cannot offer a definitive estimate of its size. “Several hundred” is the stock answer. It is so decentralized, officials admit they no longer directly control its membership. Despite its unwieldiness, this network of policy experts has become one of Clinton’s most important weapons against her challenger for the Democratic nomination for president, Bernie Sanders." [ForeignPolicy]

"Top Clinton adviser sent 'top secret' messages to her private account" by Rachael Bade:
"Hillary Clinton's top national security and foreign policy staffer Jake Sullivan was one of the authors of messages that appeared on several Hillary Clinton email chains recently labeled "top secret" by the State Department, according to multiple intelligence sources who have seen the correspondence." [Politico]

"Bret Stephens: The next US president may not be pro-Israel" by Steve Linde: “Bernie Sanders worries me. Hillary Clinton worries me. Donald Trump worries me, and frankly Ted Cruz kind of worries me too,” Stephens said in a conversation with editors of The Jerusalem Post. “Bernie Sanders is, as befitting a very left-wing Jew, not exactly sympatico with the cause of Israel,” he said. “I don’t think that Trump’s going to get the nomination, but we’ll see. It worries me that Mrs. Clinton is so close to Sidney Blumenthal, whose son [Max] is a raving, psycho anti-Semite.” Of all the candidates, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has “the most nuanced and sophisticated foreign policy,” Stephens said." [JPost]

"Rubio goes after Trump, Bush on foreign policy" by Jonathan Easley: "Speaking on CNN’s Situation Room, Rubio said he’s not sure whether Trump, who just posted a resounding victory at the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday night, has the temperament to be president... â€œThe fact of the matter is Jeb has no foreign policy experience,” Rubio said. “He has no foreign policy experience and was governor a long time ago. The world has changed a lot in the last 10 years. Foreign policy has changed a lot in the last five years. No one on that stage has more experience or has shown better judgment or has shown a better understanding of national security threats than I have.” [TheHill]

Donors on Rubio: “It’s still early,” said Marc Goldman, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based investor. “Marco acknowledged that he didn’t do so great at that debate. But I think he can recover from that, and we’ve got a ways to go.” [WashPost]

“Clinton Camp Targets Sanders on Israel Record” By Jacob Kornbluh: “Countering the headlines about Bernie making history as the first Jewish candidate to win a presidential primary, one Clinton campaign surrogate rushed to note the Jewish Senator’s secularism and stance on Israel to cool down the “bern”... “Bernie is a secular Jew, and I don’t think his religion influenced his stance on Israel,” Paul Hodes, a former congressman from New Hampshire and a surrogate for Hillary, told The Forward. “We know Hillary and we know she has an unshakeable bond with Israel, so this shouldn’t pose a great dilemma for Jewish voters.” [JewishInsider]

UPDATE: "The Clinton campaign denied that it was considering this strategy. “We have no idea what this report is referring to. The notion that we’re planning to start attacking Sanders’ record on Israel is simply false,” Laura Rosenberger, foreign policy adviser, told the Forward." [Forward]

MK Michael Oren to the Jerusalem Post: “[Sanders] is willing to listen, but I have no illusion that his positions on settlements and Jerusalem will change. His views on those issues are unfortunately closer to Obama’s than Hillary’s.” [JPost]

“As Bernie Sanders Makes History, Jews Wonder What It Means” By Nicholas Confessore: “Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Tuesday became the first Jewish candidate in history to win a presidential primary election, setting off a familiar mixture of celebration and anxiety among Jews in the United States and abroad, who pondered what his victory meant for the broader Jewish population. In Mr. Sanders, 74, they confront a highly prominent Jewish politician who professes to be not very religious and whose calls for social justice often echo Jewish teachings but do not appear purposefully connected to them. There was kvelling. But there was also kvetching.” [NYTimes] • "These are the Jewish socialists who paved the way for Bernie Sanders" [Fusion]

Howard Mortman tweets: "Bernie Sanders 1st Jew to win a primary?  Barry Goldwater, from 1998 NYT obit: 'My father was Jewish... I am Jewish'" [Twitter]

Dovid Margolin reveals some more info on Bernie and his Judaism: “The research sheds new light on Bernie Sanders’ role, as mayor of Burlington from 1981-1989, in defending Chabad’s menorah, which in turn garnered an extraordinary amount of media and advocacy attention to the menorah cause, helping to catapult the public menorah and the Chanukah holiday to great prominence in the U.S.A. and even abroad… Sanders recited the blessings and lit the Menorah’s candles at Burlington’s first-ever public Chanukah Menorah lighting at Burlington’s City Hall." [Chabad]

Seth Lipsky: "What is Bernie Sanders hiding about his radical history?" [NYPost]

Bernie goes back to Brooklyn: "He grew up in Brooklyn, the son of poor Jewish immigrants from Poland. On Wednesday, Sanders took "CBS Evening News" anchor Scott Pelley on a tour of his old neighborhood.. Sanders said he spent a lot of his time playing with other children, with little supervision from adults, which he says taught him about democracy. "The games were all determined not by adult cultures but kids themselves," Sanders said. "We would choose up a team -- there was no other person dictating anything, we worked out our own rules. It was a very interesting way to grow up." [CBSNews; SheepsheadBites]

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: "AIPAC, prominent D.C. developers in court fight over proposed HQ expansion" by Michael Neibauer: "The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is one of the nation's most powerful lobbying organizations, but even it is not immune to a local zoning fight. A plan to expand AIPAC's headquarters at 251 H St. NW in Mount Vernon Triangle is now the subject of a D.C. Superior Court battle. An affiliate of two prominent developers argues in a lawsuit that AIPAC's proposal to add two stories to its home office would irreparably harm its plans to build a new apartment tower on neighboring property." [BizJournals]
**Good Thursday 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: "Mark Suster, L.A.'s Top Tech Guru, Is Preparing for the Bubble to Burst" [LAWeekly] • "Three Former Talmud Students Partner Up to Create Early-Stage Venture Capital Firm" [Yahoo] • "Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Appalled by Marc Andreessen’s Appalling Comments About India" [ReCode] • "Stewart Butterfield Makes the Case for Slack: Company’s CEO explains why he thinks eventually all organizations will use this kind of messaging app" [WSJ] 

STARTUP NATION: "Woo Wants To Take The Hassle And Fear Out Of Job Hunting" by Jon Russell: "Woo, an Israeli-U.S. company, has eschewed the LinkedIn model of scale and instead taken the approach of luring highly-sought talent who can explore potential new job opportunities without commitment and, perhaps most importantly, maintaining anonymity." [TechCrunch]

"Inside the Israeli tech startup that tackles terrorists and is backed by an ex-CIA director" by Lianna Brinded: "It’s pretty easy to slip past radars and there aren’t a whole host of other ways to monitor threats. That’s what Ami Daniel and Matan Peled found out when they both served as naval officers. The pair co-founded the Israeli startup Windward to solve this problem in 2010 after getting out of the Navy. It uses technology that can identify suspicious maritime activity and has bagged investment from the former Director of the CIA General David Petraeus, former Thomson Reuters CEO Tom Glocer, Start Up Nation co-author Dan Senor, and even Horizons Ventures, a fund backed by the richest man in Asia, Li Ka-shing." [BusinessInsider]

SPOTLIGHT: Head Over Heels: Inside Steve Madden's Empire" by Doree Shafrir: "Madden has no formal training in designing shoes. He grew up in a heavily Jewish area on the South Shore of Long Island, the son of a Jewish mother and a Catholic father. During high school, he worked in a shoe store, but his post–high school education consisted of two years at the University of Miami, where he embarked on a high-flying lifestyle that included drinking, drugs, and gambling. He left college after a phone call from his father, who told him, “I’m not paying any more money for you to play golf and take Quaaludes.” (Madden has been sober since 1989.)" [BuzzFeed]

TALK OF THE TOWN: "Police See Possible Hate Crime in Stabbing of Jewish Man in Brooklyn" by Benjamin Mueller: "A 25-year-old Jewish man dressed in Hasidic clothing was stabbed in the back on Wednesday as he walked along a street in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, and his assailant was being sought in what the police were investigating as a possible hate crime, officials said. The victim sustained a collapsed lung, the authorities said." [NYTimes]

DESSERT: "Could Israel Be the World’s Next Craft Beer Hub?" by James Oliver Cury: "The craft beer scene as we know it started in the UK and U.S. in the 1970s, hit its stride in the 1990s and skyrocketed over the last few years. But in Israel, beer has long played second fiddle to wine. The first official microbrewery, Dancing Camel, didn't even open until 2006. Now, with the launch of several new breweries, bars and beer festivals, Israel seems to be getting serious about its suds." [Food&Wine]

"Brooklyn Museum Cafe going kosher with Wolf and Lamb" by Melissa Kravitz: "Starting Wednesday, Feb. 10, the museum's BKM Cafè is offering a slew of Glatt kosher items to its menu. Wolf and Lamb, an upscale kosher steakhouse and caterer based in midtown and Brooklyn, will be providing the OK-certified eats, which will contain ingredients sourced from the Union Square Market." [amNewYork]

BIRTHDAYS: Jeb Bush, 6'3 in height, turns 63... David Stern, deputy CoS for Rep. Bob Dold (h/t Alex Jakubowski)... 

** A message from American Jewish World Service: AJWS’s 30th anniversary gala in Los Angeles—March 13th, 2016—will recognize the organization’s incredible and life-changing human rights work in the developing world. The event will honor AJWS President Ruth Messinger and high-profile philanthropists and community leaders who have been instrumental in advancing AJWS’s mission, including Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, and U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. Hosted by comedian, actor, writer and producer Nick Kroll, the celebration will also pay tribute to acclaimed Mexican human rights defender Alejandra Ancheita. To attend, support or sponsor the gala, please visit [AJWS] **
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