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Jewish Insider | Daily Kickoff
September 17th, 2020
👋 Good Thursday morning!

On a Rosh Hashanah call yesterday, President Donald Trump urged Jewish leaders and activists to support his reelection. “If we don’t win, Israel is in big trouble,” Trump told participants. “Israel will never be the same. I don’t know if it can recover from that.” 

Sheldon Adelson is looking to spend up to $50 million to support Trump’s reelection, CNBC reported yesterday. 

Multiple White House staffers tested positive for COVID-19 less than 24 hours after Trump hosted leaders from Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain at the White House.

A senior Palestinian Authority official said he believes Israel is in normalization talks with Oman, Sudan, the Comoro Islands, Djibouti and Mauritania.

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all in the family

Meet the Nonoos: The Bahraini Jewish family making waves around the world

Do you know the Nonoos? The recent normalization deal between Israel and the tiny Gulf nation of Bahrain has put a spotlight on its even tinier Jewish community. And among its most prominent members is the Nonoo family, the Jewish tribe that traces its roots to Iraq and has reached the top echelons of both government and high society, reports Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro

Movers and shakers: Bahrain’s Jewish population is estimated to be around 30 members — but they’re not all Nonoos, Ebrahim Dahood Nonoo, the head of the country’s Jewish community, told JI. “We do have some Cohens and we do have some Roubens and we do have some Khedouris.” Nonoo himself made history in 2001, when he was appointed as the first-ever Jewish member of Bahrain’s parliamentary Shura Council. He was succeeded by his cousin, Houda Nonoo, who later made headlines around the globe when she was selected in 2008 to serve as the Bahraini ambassador to the United States — the first ever Jewish ambassador from any Arab country. 

Top envoy: “Our present king, he takes decisions that are really very, very good decisions even though they might surprise people,” Ebrahim told JI of Houda’s appointment as ambassador. He said while some in the country were initially skeptical over Houda’s appointment, “they quickly changed their minds. I’ve had so many friends of mine, stories, about how appreciative they are of Houda when she was ambassador there. She managed to fix their issues, help them with their problems — she was very hands on with everybody.” Today, Houda — who declined to comment to JI — remains on staff at the Bahraini Foreign Ministry, and was on hand at the White House for the celebratory signing ceremony this week.

Fashionably famous: Houda isn’t the only Nonoo who makes headlines. Another cousin, Misha Nonoo, is a world-famous fashion designer who is a tabloid staple and a close personal friend of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and was long rumored to be the couple’s matchmaker. Misha was born in Bahrain, raised in London and is now based in New York — where she lives with her husband, Mikey Hess, a close friend of Joshua Kushner — and oversees her acclaimed eponymous global fashion brand. “There’s no bigger name than Misha Nonoo, it’s really wonderful to see,” Ebrahim told JI of his cousin, adding that she is mostly “far too busy” to visit her home country, though “whenever she can, she will.” 

Hidden scroll: Last week, the White House revealed that Jared Kushner commissioned and paid for a Torah scroll for the Bahraini Jewish community after learning they were lacking one. While Kushner presented the scroll to King Hamad two weeks ago, Ebrahim Nonoo said he did not know the Torah’s whereabouts. “We’re extremely appreciative of this very, very generous donation,” he told JI. “I don’t know where it is yet — but I’m looking forward to it,” he said, adding that he heard about its existence through media reports. “I really don’t know but… it’s a very appreciated offer.”

Read the full feature here

On the hill

Congressional Democrats offer subdued praise on Abraham Accords

Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks
Senate and House Democrats offered mixed reactions to Tuesday’s signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and the recent normalization agreement between Israel and Bahrain. While some legislators praised the two deals as making progress towards peace in the region, others expressed concerns about the long-term implications, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports

One step: Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) — a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who some see as a potential pick for secretary of state should Joe Biden be elected in November — told JI the deal is “a big step forward” and “a very positive thing.” Coons said he hopes the Israeli unity government will now “dedicate some time and effort to a real path forward for a Palestinian state, for a two-state solution.”

Elusive peace: Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) — the current vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and one of several members jockeying to succeed Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) as chair of the body — told JI he welcomed the deal, but was generally pessimistic about the broader circumstances. “Despite the Trump administration’s rhetoric, Middle East peace is still elusive,” he wrote. “This agreement is not a substitute for a two-state solution that both advances Israel’s security and respects the rights of the Palestinian people.” Castro also expressed concerns about the Trump administration’s openness to selling F-35 fighter jets to the UAE, in light of their record of human rights abuses in Yemen. “The Trump administration appears [to] be more interested in an arms deal than a peace deal.”

Floor support: Engel, who attended Tuesday’s White House ceremony, appeared enthusiastic about the peace deals. The HFAC chairman introduced a resolution on Tuesday, co-sponsored by Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), praising the agreements. The resolution repeatedly mentions the need to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge and also emphasizes the House’s support for the suspension of Israeli annexation activities — a step McCaul had previously supported.

Read more here.

Elsewhere: Meanwhile, a slate of congressional Democrats — including Reps. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) — are reportedly teaming up with the BDS-supporting group American Muslims for Palestine in support of its “Palestine advocacy days.”


Sens. Rosen, Lankford push Polish president on Holocaust restitution

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) — Courtesy
Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK) are calling on Poland to enact comprehensive Holocaust restitution legislation following an uptick in antisemitic activity in the country, reports Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod

Act now: In a letter sent to Polish President Andrzej Duda and shared with JI, Rosen and Lankford, co-chairs of the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, highlighted a series of controversial comments regarding restitution made by Duda and other politicians and journalists. They also cite a State Department report noting that Poland is the only European Union nation with significant WWII-era property issues not to have enacted legislation regarding restitution.

Friendly advice: Rosen told JI that Warsaw’s reluctance to move forward on restitution was concerning given Poland’s status as a U.S. ally: “Poland is a strategic partner for the United States — which is why I was alarmed that the recent presidential campaign in Poland displayed shocking antisemitic rhetoric and exploitation of the Holocaust restitution issue, including from President Duda and his allies,” Rosen said in a statement to JI. Lankford echoed this sentiment: “There are several public comments that have been made by political leaders there or newscasters that read [as] very antisemitic, and we want them to be able to clarify that and say, ‘is this really the direction the country’s going to continue to go?’” he told JI.

Tough crowd: Duda has been vocally opposed to adopting the legislation pushed by the two U.S. lawmakers, telling Polish state television in July: “There won’t be any damages paid for heir-less property. I will never sign a law that will privilege any ethnic group vis-a-vis others. Damages should be paid by the one that started the war.”

Read more here.


Celebrities join ADL ‘Stop Hate For Profit’ social media blackout

Glenn Francis
Dozens of celebrities went dark on Facebook and Instagram on Wednesday as part of the Anti-Defamation League’s “Stop Hate For Profit” campaign to pressure social media platforms to crack down on hate-driven content. “You have athletes. You have actors. You have artists. It's a pretty diverse group,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss. “We're all stepping forward.”

Celeb cred: The group — including former basketball player Dwyane Wade, singer Paula Abdul, and actors Orlando Bloom, Kerry Washington and Leonardo DiCaprio — joined a 24-hour blackout on social media. Kim Kardashian West explained her participation in the campaign in an Instagram caption that accompanied a Stop Hate For Profit graphic. “I love that I can connect directly with you through Instagram and Facebook, but I can’t sit by and stay silent while these platforms continue to allow the spreading of hate, propaganda and misinformation — created by groups to sow division and split America apart — only to take steps after people are killed,” she wrote.

Cyber challenge: The campaign has been met online with pushback from some users, which did not surprise Greenblatt. “A lot of people love the idea that you can just say whatever you want and make ad hominem attacks and level any kind of criticism on these platforms,” he said. “There is a place for that, but I would ask whether or not it should be a swipe away from our children? I don't think so. And moreover, I think that we've just got to recognize that the anonymity of social media allows this kind of stuff to circulate.”

Long game: The 24-hour pause comes three months after a month-long campaign by the ADL and other groups calling on companies to freeze their Facebook ads. Hundreds of companies took part in the boycott, which caused the company’s stock to drop 8.3% in the first week of the campaign. “We never thought we were going to put a dent in Facebook's [profit and loss]. They earned $70 billion last year,” Greenblatt said. “The goal was always to illustrate to the company the consensus around them demonstrating a little bit of courage and a lot of responsibility to finally wrestle down the antisemitism, Holocaust denialism, the racism and the other forms of intolerance that again have really, really spread like weeds across their different services.”

Read more here.
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✡️ Family Roots: In an interview with The Washington Post’s Manuel Roig-Franzia and Tom Hamburger, Attorney General William Barr noted that his father, who was born Jewish and converted to Catholicism, came from a family of “secular Jews. They were atheists.” [WashPost]

🗳️ Reassessing: The Atlantic’s Elaine Godfrey spotlights progressive left-wing pollster Sean McElwee who has been shifting to the center with a message of centrist compromise and coalition building. “You need to change the way that [voters] understand Democrats by using more popular policies,” he said. [TheAtlantic]

👩‍💼 Lining Up for DWS: Roll Call’s Jennifer Shutt explains why the backing of two senior House Black Caucus members, Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) and Alcee Hastings (D-FL), will boost Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s (D-FL) chances to succeed retiring Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) as chair of the House Appropriations Committee. [RollCall]

⚰️ Grave Situation: Vice’s Lauren Kaori Gurley reports on the disturbing conditions at the Beth Israel cemetery in Woodbridge, N.J., where overworked staff, poor conditions and disrepair have been exacerbated by the pandemic. “We had to leave people’s loved ones in graves left open for four to seven hours, and even overnight, going against Jewish tradition.” [Vice]

💰 Fall from Grace: Amanda Cantrell explores in Institutional Investor how and why hedge funder Dan Kamensky, an investor and philanthropist who gave heavily to Jewish groups, wound up arrested two weeks ago on four counts of criminal fraud. [InstitutionalInvestor]
Around the Web
🛬 Come Home: Israel is calling on several thousand Jewish pilgrims congregated at the border between Belarus and Ukraine to return home before Rosh Hashanah, and abandon their thwarted plans to travel to Uman. 

✈️ Successful Bid: Eli Rozenberg, the Israeli-American millennial who faced an uphill battle in his bid to purchase El Al, has bought a controlling 43% stake in the airline. The airline said it will restart passenger flights to New York, London and Paris in October. 

📈 Moving Forward: Oscar Health, co-founded by Joshua Kushner and named after his great-grandfather, hired banks to prepare for a possible public listing in 2021.

🎰 Tracking Chips: Sheldon Adelson’s casino in Singapore is investigating the transfers of more than $1 billion in gamblers’ money to third parties. 

🐸 Leaping Ahead: Israeli-founded software company JFrog held a successful IPO yesterday, including a plug from CNBC’s Jim Cramer. 

⚖️ Legal Trouble: A federal judge in New York rebuked prosecutors for mishandling a case against a banker accused of violating Iran sanctions, leading to the indictment being dismissed.  

💎 On the Go: The state-run Abu Dhabi Investment Office is slated to open an office in Tel Aviv, and the Israel and Dubai diamond exchanges have begun “strategic collaboration.”

🕺 On the Trail: At campaign events, Doug Emhoff, the husband of Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, has joked about the “three-piece, brown velour suit” he wore at his bar mitzvah and Harris’s “dead on” impersonation of his mother’s New York accent.

💸 Pay Cut: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he and his staff at City Hall will take an unpaid, weeklong furlough to save other jobs amid cuts in the city’s budget. 

🚜 Talk of the City: In South Jersey, two families — one Black, one Jewish — have teamed up to build and run an organic farm in an enclave once known for its tight-knit Jewish immigrant community.

🤨 Troubling Trend: Delaware Republican Senate candidate Lauren Witzke has a history of spreading antisemitic and racist conspiracy theories and associating with white nationalists. 

🤳 Touchy Tweets: Two top aides to South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison have posted antisemitic and misogynistic comments on Twitter in the past. 

🇩🇪 Taking Action: Germany fired 29 police officers in the western region of North Rhine-Westphalia for sharing antisemitic content in WhatsApp groups.

🥙 Helping Hands: Survivors of last year’s attempted Yom Kippur attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, are raising money to support the Turkish-owned kebab shop that was hit by the shooter.

🍲 Feeding the Hungry: The Met Council is operating 101 distribution points for kosher food in the New York area ahead of the High Holy Days. 

🍛 Kosher Keepers: OZY spotlights the “Kosherati” cuisine offered by Elli’s Kosher Kitchen, the only kosher operation in the UAE.
Jacob Kornbluh
The White House had custom-made challenge coins presented to the Middle East peace team in honor of the Israel-UAE accord, a person close to the administration shared with JI.
Elected official on the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Board of Education, Nick Melvoin turns 35... 

Founder of the Oreck Corporation, manufacturers of vacuum cleaners and air purifiers, David Irving Oreck turns 97... Investment banker who once served as a NYC deputy mayor, Peter J. Solomon turns 82... Newberry award-winning author, Gail Carson Levine turns 73... Rochester attorney, he served as the executive director of the philanthropic leadership group at UJA-Federation of NYC, Frank Hagelberg turns 72... Professional tennis player who achieved a world ranking of No. 5 in 1980, Harold Solomon turns 68... Comedian, writer and actress, Rita Rudner turns 67... Founder and chairman of NYC-based Alto Real Estate Funds and chair of the Israel Advertising Federation, Mody Kidon turns 66... Author and graphic designer, Ellen Kahan Zager turns 65...

Former member of the Knesset for the Yesh Atid party, Rina Frenkel turns 64... Senior rabbi of Masorti Judaism in the UK and rabbi of the New North London Synagogue, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg turns 63... Editorial producer at Newsmax Media, Elliott S. Feigenbaum turns 56... Washington columnist for The Guardian, author of two books on the Obama presidency, Richard Wolffe turns 52... Former regional communications director and spokesperson for President Obama, now a partner at Seven Letter, Adam Abrams turns 39... Former Obama White House speechwriter who has since written a best-selling comedic memoir, David Litt turns 34... Founder of the Israel Summit at Harvard, now working at growth equity firm General Atlantic, Max August turns 23...
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