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Jewish Insider | Daily Kickoff
September 18th, 2020
👋 Good Friday morning!

Ed note: As Rosh Hashanah begins this evening, we’re wishing all of you a happy and healthy New Year! And go remind Jake Tapper to write 5781 on his checks. Shana Tova!

We’re thrilled to share that following a momentous week, United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba and United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the U.N. Lana Nusseibeh will be joining us for a conversation on peace in the Middle East. More below.  

President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign released a TV ad yesterday titled “Abraham Accords,” that will run on TV in the swing states of Florida and Pennsylvania. 

The Trump administration is expected to announce the snapback of U.N. sanctions on Iran and an executive order on the Iran arms embargo, setting the stage for a showdown with the remaining partners in the JCPOA at the annual U.N. General Assembly next week. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wished “Iranian — and indeed all — Jews happiness, and most of all, good health” in a tweet ahead of the High Holidays. This followed a tweet from Zarif that charged “Israel Firsters” have “ruined our region” and “betrayed their own people, just for votes.” 

On a Rosh Hashanah webcast yesterday, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden told participants: “Shanah Tovah — get it done! We can do this. It's gotta be a better year than last year.”

Pro-Israel America is throwing its support behind two Democrats and four Republicans in its new slate of congressional endorsements.

Check out Jewish Insider’s latest ‘Jewish Nielsen’ report to see which webcasts people tuned into over the past week.

Spread the word! Invite your friends to sign up and earn JI swag through our ambassador program (scroll to the end for more info). 👇

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Shalom & Salam

UAE Ambassadors Yousef Al Otaiba and Lana Nusseibeh to join a JI webcast on peace

Following the historic signing of the Abraham Accords earlier this week, Jewish Insider will be hosting a pair of back-to-back panel discussions on September 29 at 1 p.m. ET featuring leaders from the United Arab Emirates in conversation with a few prominent JI readers. 

On the first panel: UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba will be in conversation with business leader Haim Saban and Dina Powell McCormick, the former U.S. deputy national security director, on how the peace agreement between Israel and the UAE came to be. Saban, a close friend of Al Otaiba and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed, is credited with helping broker the normalization agreement between Israel and the UAE and encouraging Al Otaiba to write a groundbreaking op-ed in an Israeli newspaper earlier this year. 

On the second panel: UAE Ambassador to the U.N. Lana Zaki Nusseibeh will be joined by Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, the inaugural chief rabbi of the UAE, to discuss the growing relationship between the UAE and the Jewish community, both locally and around the world. Nusseibeh has served as the Emirates’ representative at the United Nations since 2013, and holds a masters degree in Israeli and Jewish Diaspora Studies from the University of London.

Of note: Al Otaiba has met with a number of Jewish organizations in recent weeks, including several in the last few days, but this event will be his first public conversation with a largely Jewish audience. 

Spots are limited, so RSVP now.


departure Interview 

Ron Dermer prepares to depart D.C. with a ‘gratifying’ victory lap

McConnell Center
Ron Dermer began his tenure as Israel's ambassador to Washington in October 2013, just as the United States was on the verge of signing an interim nuclear agreement with Iran, leading up to a public rift in the already tense relationship between then-President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Seven years later, Dermer finds himself in a radically different diplomatic situation. Just a few months before his departure, Dermer spoke to Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh about the many shifts that have occured over his tenure in Washington

20 years later: Dermer, who has been dubbed “Bibi’s brain,” first began working for Netanyahu in 2000, as the then-former prime minister was mounting a comeback following his defeat in the 1999 elections. In their first meeting, Dermer recalled, Netanyahu presented him with a video cassette of a speech he gave to an audience in Australia. In that speech, Netanyahu touted his vision for “peace through strength,” and explained that only an Israel that is militarily and economically strong can travel down a path of peace with its neighbors. “To see this trajectory happen over 20 years now — against a lot of critics, cynics and opposition — I think is very gratifying,” Dermer remarked. 

Warm peace: The Israeli ambassador noted that, in contrast with the peace deals Israel signed with Egypt and Jordan, the signing of the Israel-UAE accord this week is the first time an Arab country has expressed a willingness to have open and warm relations with the Jewish state. “Israel would like to have the warmest possible peace with Egypt and Jordan,” Dermer explained. “But we haven't had warm peace. And I think one of the reasons why is there are many forces inside those societies — political, economic and cultural forces — that militate against that. I don't see that in the case of the Emirates.” 

The secret sauce: The recent developments in the region came to fruition thanks to the trust the leaders had in their point people in Washington, Dermer said. “We were able to keep a very close hold among a really small number of people,” he said. “That’s how we were able to break this out.”

Looking back: Reacting to a clip of John Kerry from 2016 that went viral this week, where the former secretary of state is emphatic that “there will be no separate peace between Israel and the Arab world” unless Israel first makes peace with the Palestinians, Dermer said this week’s event might have happened earlier “if there was greater understanding and recognition among policy-makers and if they understood the opportunity.” Netanyahu, he said, “was the lone voice, kind of in the wilderness,” talking about these opportunities. “A lot of people said, ‘Well, he's just talking about this because he doesn't want to deal with the Palestinians,’” Dermer said. “Of course it was real.” Dermer predicted that by the time he leaves his diplomatic posting in January, Israel will have signed “at least two more peace treaties” with Arab countries.

Compromise: The envoy said he doesn’t view Netanyahu’s decision to freeze plans for West Bank annexation as a concession to the Arab world, but rather a compromise with the Trump administration. Dermer pointed out that Israel “said from the beginning that we were only going to go ahead with this plan with the support of the United States.” And once the Trump administration came up with the UAE plan, Dermer said, the dilemma for Netanyahu was: “Do I go ahead against the wishes of the United States, without U.S. support and sort of barrel ahead, or do I seize this historic opportunity, stand with the United States, get a peace treaty with the Emirates and get another and another and another — and actually, hopefully begin to end the Arab-Israeli conflict."

No regrets: Dermer is adamant that Netanyahu’s 2015 speech to a joint session of Congress against the Iran nuclear deal was “one of the critical moments that most contributed to this breakthrough” with the Gulf countries. Dermer said he “feels just as strongly” about it now, “even stronger than I did then,” given the revelations about Iran’s nuclear program. “It was never about politics,” he said. Dermer recalls telling an interviewer at the time that he hopes “that in 10 years from now or 20 years from now, people will talk about a breach of protocol in a speech because then I’ll know that Iran never developed nuclear weapons.” Despite the tensions over the speech, Dermer said he’s hopeful that “the strong forces” within the Democratic Party and voices “that are big advocates for Israel and big supporters of the U.S.-Israel relationship will continue to keep it extremely strong.”

Up next: Dermer plans to depart Washington on January 20, 2021 — the day of the presidential inauguration. Israel’s newly appointed Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan is expected to succeed him in Washington the next day. As of now, Dermer does not know what his future career plans are. At least, that’s all he was willing to share with JI. “Really, I don't have any idea what I'm going to do next,” Dermer said. “What I want to do is go home to my family — in our house in Baka, Jerusalem. Maybe take a day off or two, maybe to get some sleep. The honest truth is I don't know. I haven't focused five minutes on what I'm going to do next.” 

Read the full interview here.


Roger Gastman seeks to prop up a struggling street art scene

Ian Reid
Roger Gastman has noticed that graffiti artists have been busier than usual lately. “I’ve continued to see more and more graffiti on the streets, through photos in lots and lots of cities,” Gastman, the renowned graffiti curator and historian, told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel in a recent phone interview from his home in Los Angeles. “Quite frankly, I think, the authorities have a lot of other things to be worried about right now than knocking on kids’ doors for having done graffiti and chasing them off the highway signs. So, in a sense, the streets are very alive right now and have been most of the year — more so than I've seen in a long time.”

Buoying up the industry: Even amid an apparent uptick in street-level productivity, Gastman still believes that graffiti could use a boost as the pandemic has shuttered galleries, museums and other art spaces and events around the globe. His traveling graffiti exhibition, “Beyond the Streets,” which first opened in Los Angeles in 2018 and came to Brooklyn last year, was one casualty of the coronavirus. So Gastman, at least for the moment, has settled for the virtual world with the hope that he can give artists a platform during a challenging moment for creative types. On December 5, he is planning to launch a two-day online “art fair” to stream on NTWRK, the digital shopping app.

Different times: By necessity, the event will be different from the exhibition. Gastman characterized the fair as a kind of digital revue-cum-online marketplace featuring “limited-edition products” from “today’s leading artists,” “fast-hitting video content,” “drawing lessons” and “a lot of surprises in between.” Gastman is commissioning work from dozens of artists such as DabsMyla, Felipe Pantone and Shepard Fairey, the famous graphic designer with whom Gastman founded Swindle, a now-defunct arts and culture magazine. Gastman declined to reveal what will be sold on NTWRK, but Artnet has reported that the fair will feature a variety of items “from $30 T-shirts to $30,000 paintings.”

Background: Gastman has devoted the entirety of his career to participating in or propping up the street art scene. The 42-year-old street art expert — described as “a nice Jewish kid from Bethesda” in a 2013 Rumpus interview — spent his high school years knee-deep in Washington, D.C.’s burgeoning punk and graffiti worlds. “The graffiti world is, honestly, incredibly broad and vast and welcoming to pretty much anyone there is, regardless of color, race, et cetera — and I know a lot of people in the graffiti community,  from younger kids running around and actively on the streets to established artists now, who all have a Jewish background or heritage,” he said. “No question, but that's one of the things that's always been so great about graffiti.”

Mainstream appeal: Gastman’s success as a kind of graffiti impresario has grown in tandem with the art form’s acceptance by mainstream culture, though of course he played a large part in helping to get it there. Though the pandemic has put most of his plans on hold, Gastman assured JI that “Beyond the Streets,” which he seems to regard as his magnum opus, was only in hibernation. “There's no question ‘Beyond the Streets’ will be back,” he said. “We're using this time to make sure that when we come back, we're just as great and better than before.”

Read the full interview here.
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📈 Deep Dive: Vanity Fair’s Katherine Eban explores Jared Kushner’s resistance to taking federal action in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s up to the states to figure out what they want to do,” he said at one meeting in March. “Free markets will solve this.” [VanityFair]

🧫 Guinea Pig: Molly Jong-Fast writes in The New York Times about her experiences taking part in a coronavirus vaccine trial. “I felt like a middle-aged Joan of Arc, except Jewish and without any of the actual fighting, and none of the fabulous armor.” [NYTimes]

☢️ Red Lines: In Foreign Policy, Azriel Bermant posits that Israel should be concerned by the nuclear programs of its new ally, the UAE, and its burgeoning partner Saudi Arabia. Israel will have to choose “between acquiescing to the erosion of Israel’s qualitative military edge” and limiting its ties “with newfound friends in the Gulf.” [ForeignPolicy]
Around the Web
💥 On the Ground: Nathan Sales, the State Department coordinator for counter-terrorism, said during an American Jewish Committee webcast yesterday that Hezbollah is storing explosive chemicals in several European countries. 

📚 Hold the Presses: Skyhorse, which has come under fire for publishing works by Woody Allen, Michael Cohen, Alan Dershowitz and Roger Stone, is now facing accusations of workplace misconduct. 

📺 Media Blast: Republican Super PAC Preserve America is pouring $25 million into pro-Trump advertising in seven battleground states. 

🧑‍⚖️ Legal Issues: Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, charged with campaign finance violations last year, is facing new federal charges related to defrauding investors.

😠 New Plague: QAnon conspiracy theorists have launched an antisemitic harassment campaign against a Jewish California state senator pushing an LGBTQ bill. 

🎥 Hollywood: Sister is teaming up with Taffy Brodesser-Akner on a new film, “The Get,” based on the true story of a group of rabbis who went to prison for their extreme methods of convincing husbands to grant their wives a divorce.

👨 Netflix and Chill: Actor Dan Levy discusses how he’s keeping busy following the end of “Schitt’s Creek,” the popular comedy he created with his father, Eugene Levy.

🧑‍🏫 Campus Beat: The search for a new director of an international human rights program at the University of Toronto’s law school is on hold following controversy over the initial pick for the position, an academic who has been critical of Israel.

😮 Can’t Make This Up: A Hong Kong-based makeup company is under fire for selling a product named after Anne Frank.

😷 Powerful Blast: Israel is offering free courses to shofar blowers on how to safely carry out the Rosh Hashanah ritual this year. 

👎 Talk of the City: A law firm is accusing an LA County health order prohibiting gatherings of extended family of infringing on the rights of Jewish families.

👨‍🍳 New Eats: Chef Yehuda Sichel is opening his first restaurant, called Huda, in Philadelphia. 

🍽️ Quick Kosher: The UAE is rushing against time to make kosher food available for tourists ahead of Sukkot, while the country’s first kosher restaurant, Armani/Kaf, opened in Dubai’s famed Burj Khalifa yesterday.
Israeli vocalist Shlomi Shabbat, joined by singers including Idan Amedi, Eden Alene and Yuval Dayan, sing Arik Einstein's "You and I Will Change the World," in a music video released yesterday to mark the peace deals between Israel and Arab countries.
JI's wine columnist Yitz Applbaum reviews the Shiloh Legend Fiddler 2017: 

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of attending the White House signing of the Abraham Accords. There was a distinctly sweet energy in the air. I felt that the bonds concretized on that dais were sincere and built to last. How to find a wine which encompasses all these great feelings, in a taste? Luckily, I found a hotel in DC with a kosher kitchen, that serves kosher wine, including the Shiloh Legend Fiddler 2017.

The Shiloh Legend Fiddler 2017 is an amalgamation of four of my favorite grapes. It is 45% Shiraz, 40% Petite Syrah, 9% Petit Verdot and 6% Merlot. The wine is most distinctive for its New-York-cheesecake-cherry-topping-sauce flavor which dominates the front and middle palate. The Petit Verdot is clearly dominant on the finish. Enjoy this bottle with Dover sole meunière.

Purchase the bottle here.
Candidate for Manhattan district attorney, Tali Farhadian Weinstein turns 45 today... 

FRIDAY: Marina Del Rey, Calif., resident, Kathy Levinson Wolf turns 72… Retired neurosurgeon now serving as U.S. secretary of housing and urban development, Dr. Ben Carson turns 69… Business executive who served as co-CEO of SAP and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Léo Apotheker turns 67… Harvard professor of psychology, Steven Pinker turns 66… Executive director of the Los Angeles Westside JCC, Brian Greene turns 64… One of the earliest Israeli tech entrepreneurs, best known for starting Aladdin Knowledge Systems in 1985, Yanki Margalit turns 58… Classical pianist, Simone Dinnerstein turns 48…

Co-host of the morning show on Bloomberg Radio and a member of Bloomberg Television's on-air markets desk, Lisa Abramowicz turns 41... A former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from 2006 to 2014, a CNN contributor, Bakari Sellers turns 36... Professional poker player, Nick Schulman turns 36... New Jersey native, Aaron Kaplowitz turns 36... Managing director of global communications at the American Jewish Committee, Avi Mayer turns 36... Host of the Washington Nationals’ pregame and postgame shows on MASN, Dan Kolko turns 35... Senior associate in the DC office of Finsbury, Zak Sawyer turns 28... Senior brand ambassador at Canada Goose, Jonathan Polson turns 27...

SATURDAY: Professor of Jewish history and literature at Yeshiva University, he is the only son of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Haym Soloveitchik turns 83… Member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, Jeffrey Colman Salloway turns 79… Professor at Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law and director of the Innocence Project, Barry Scheck turns 71… Senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, after a 28-year Pentagon career as a Middle East expert, Harold Rhode turns 71… Writing instructor at Montana State University Billings, Bruce Alpert turns 70… Stockton, Calif.-based physician, he practices at the Pacific Sleep Disorders Center, Ronald Kass M.D. turns 68… Senior rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, Rabbi David J. Wolpe turns 62…

Boston-based attorney focused upon Section 529 college savings plans, Mark A. Chapleau turns 60… Bow tie-clad field reporter for Fox Major League Baseball, sportswriter and reporter, Ken Rosenthal turns 58… Executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, Ronald Halber turns 52… Author of seven popular business books, Mike Michalowicz turns 50… Founder and managing director at Two Lanterns Venture Partners, he is also the founder of startup accelerator MassChallenge, John Harthorne turns 47… VP at kglobal, Neal Urwitz turns 37… Former Major League baseball player for nine seasons, now on Team Israel set to play at the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Danny Valencia turns 36… A program manager at a private foundation and a recently announced fellow at Schmidt Futures' International Strategy Forum, Joe Kristol turns 33...

SUNDAY: After a 40-year career at The New York Times, he founded The Hill and then helped launch Politico, journalist and author Martin Tolchin turns 92… Florida real estate developer who built Aventura and Turnberry Isle Resort, Donald Soffer turns 88… Author, television personality and philanthropist, Carole Gene "Candy" Spelling turns 75... Long-time SVP at Booz-Allen after a career that included two White House staff positions, former CEO of Special Olympics International, Bruce Pasternack turns 73... Dean of the Yeshiva of Greater Washington Tiferes Gedaliah, Rabbi Aaron Lopiansky turns 67... Senior chairman of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein turns 66... Co-founder of Broadcom and owner of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks, Henry Samueli turns 66... Former rabbi of Congregation Beit Torat Chaim of Jakarta, Indonesia and the founder of Outreach Judaism, Rabbi Tovia Singer turns 60... Attorney and legal analyst on NBC, Lisa Bloom turns 59...

Member of the Knesset for the Likud party, Keren Barak turns 48... Founder of PFAP Consulting and special advisor for the Efrat Development Foundation, Melissa Jane Kronfeld, Ph.D. turns 38... Policy director at the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, James Mazol turns 34... Director of development and partnerships at MassChallenge Israel, Emily Grunewald turns 33... Director of membership for the Sacramento-based California Solar & Storage Association, Carter Lavin turns 32... Associate director of digital strategy and executive communications at Sony Music Entertainment, Alison Bogdonoff turns 31... Founder of marketing consultancy Zoe P. Sky Strategies, she is also a community strategist for OneTable, Zoe Plotsky turns 28... Manhattan resident, Isabel Eliana Tsesarsky turns 26... Senior reporter and deputy team leader at Bloomberg LP, Drew Singer... Lauren Ackerman...
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