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Jewish Insider | Daily Kickoff
September 11th, 2020
👋 Good Friday morning!

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will commemorate the 19th anniversary of the September 11 attacks at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania later today. This morning, Biden and Vice President Mike Pence will attend the ceremony at Ground Zero in Manhattan. 

Preliminary absentee ballot request data indicates that Democrats are “amassing an enormous lead” among early voters. 

Trump said yesterday that “countries are lining up” to sign normalization deals with Israel. “You’ll be hearing other countries coming in over a relatively short period of time,” he said, specifically referencing ongoing dialogue with Saudi Arabia. 

Israel is poised to become the first developed country in the world to institute a second nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, with the government expected to approve the move Sunday amid a sharp spike in new virus cases.

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

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Sneak peek

Bob Woodward’s 'Rage' paints in-depth portrait of Trump’s foreign policy approach

Carolyn Kaster/AP
In his blockbuster new book, Rage, journalist Bob Woodward concludes that President Donald Trump “is the wrong man for the job.” The book — a series of vignettes that paint a damning portrait of the president and some of those in his inner circle — will be released on Tuesday. Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel obtained an advance copy and highlighted a few noteworthy sections.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Woodward recounts how, in May 2017, Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel and was presented with a video of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “It sounded like Abbas was ordering the murder of children,” Woodward writes. Trump, scheduled to meet with Abbas the next morning, was appalled. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who watched the video, believed that Netanyahu had doctored the tape and shown it to Trump in order to “counter any pro-Palestinian sentiments that were surfacing,” according to Woodward. When Trump met with Abbas behind closed doors, Woodward writes, he accused the Palestinian leader of deceiving him and called him a “murderer” and a “liar.”

On Jamal Khashoggi: In one notable exchange, Trump tells Woodward that he insulated Mohammad Bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, from scrutiny over the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, even while the CIA concluded in 2018 that the Saudi Arabian leader had orchestrated the assassination. “I saved his ass,” the president told Woodward. “I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop.” Woodward asked Trump if he believed MBS was responsible for the killing. “No,” Trump replied. “He says that he didn’t do it.”

Affinity for tough guys: “I get along very well with Erdoğan, even though you’re not supposed to because everyone says ‘What a horrible guy,’” Trump told Woodward of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. “But for me it works out good. It’s funny, the relationships I have, the tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them. You know? Explain that to me someday, okay?” Trump went on, “But maybe it’s not a bad thing. The easy ones are the ones I maybe don’t like as much or don’t get along with as much.”

Verdict on Kushner: Woodward concludes that Jared Kushner’s outsized position in the West Wing is something of a mystery. “Highly competent but often shockingly misguided in his assessments, Kushner’s role is jarring.” According to Woodward, Kushner believes Trump has “developed a new appreciation for some of the people who had been with him since the beginning of his administration,” including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “This is when you’ll really appreciate having the neurotic New York Jews around,” Kushner told Trump, according to Woodward.

Read more here.

Donor Circuit 

Haim Saban backs Biden; will host a fundraiser next week

Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban, a major Democratic donor and bundler, endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden yesterday and is expected to host a virtual fundraiser on Monday. The event will feature Biden, along with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), and cost $500,000 per person, a person with knowledge of the event told JI.

Endorsement: “I am pleased to see so many Democrats coming together in support of Vice President Joe Biden, and I am proud to endorse him for president,” Saban said in a statement. “Joe is a proven leader who has the experience, vision and heart to unify our country in this hyper-partisan time. Joe’s judgement and track record show that he will broadly restore America’s position as a moral and global leader, and ensure that the strong, bipartisan alliance between the U.S. and Israel remains unshakeable,” Saban explained. Pointing to comments Biden made in 2013 at a J Street conference — “If there were not an Israel, we would have to invent one to make sure our interests were preserved" — Saban said: “I am confident that Joe is the right leader to make real progress for Americans and our international partners, and urge our party to unite in his support.”

Of note: Saban and his wife, Cheryl, who were the largest individual donors to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, stayed on the sidelines and didn’t endorse any candidate during this year’s Democratic presidential primary. Saban has maintained close ties in recent years with Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and reportedly helped broker the recent normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Saban also praised the Trump Mideast peace plan earlier this year. 

Read more here

Joe on J Street: Biden addressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s indefinitely postponed plans to annex portions of the West Bank during a virtual fundraiser hosted by J Street’s political action committee yesterday. In his remarks, obtained by Jewish Insider, Biden said that while “it’s a good thing” that Netanyahu’s annexation plan is “off the table for now” — with the announcement of the U.S. brokered Israel-UAE deal — “I don’t know how much is off the table in terms of Netanyahu’s notions.”

Vision of peace: Biden told the group that he assumes “Netanyahu knows and the Israelis know my position” on the matter. “I’ve made clear that I’m going to oppose annexation as president,” he said. “A two-state solution is the only way to ensure Israel’s long-term security while sustaining its Jewish and democratic identity. I don’t know how they do it without a two-state solution. And it’s also the only way to ensure Palestinian rights to a state of their own.” 

Read more here

kosher biz

Orthodox Union gears up for major UAE kosher operations

The Park Hyatt on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island
L’Shana Haba B’Abu Dhabi? If the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the Orthodox Union kosher certifying agency are successful, thousands of Jews could be celebrating Passover in the United Arab Emirates next year. Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro spoke to Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the OU’s kosher division, about its ramped up efforts to bring kosher food to the UAE following its historic peace accord with Israel. 

Room service: Earlier this week, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Ministry issued a letter instructing “all hotel establishments” in the city to include kosher food options for guests, including by designating an area of every hotel kitchen “for kosher food preparation.” Genack told JI that he imagines in reality the kosher facilities will vary from hotel to hotel. “I’m guessing it doesn’t mean that every single hotel will have a full-fledged kosher kitchen necessarily,” he said. “I think part of it might be that they’ll have options, that if a person wants kosher food that they can get a kosher meal and they can heat it up for them double wrapped,” while other hotels will have a full kosher kitchen with an on-site kosher supervisor. 

Seder night: While an Emirati official told Globes that the government believes many Israeli and American Jews will be visiting the UAE during Sukkot, Genack believes things will be more feasible come spring. “I suspect that significant tourism... I don’t think it’s going to really come until after we’re beyond the corona pandemic,” he said. “I’ve been told that the crown prince, at his directive… wants to see all those hotels filled for this coming Pesach,” Genack told JI of the hotels on the tourist-centric Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. “So for Pesach we hope to have it all set in place.”

On the move: Just over two weeks from now, Genack said, a young couple hired by the OU will be moving from Jerusalem to Dubai to oversee the burgeoning kashrut operations in the Emirates. Rabbi Yaakov and Zlaty Eisenstein — along with their baby — will be working on both kashrut issues for the OU and communal outreach for the World Zionist Organization. And while it all seems to be happening very fast, the OU has been in talks for more than a year to begin working in the UAE, specifically to oversee the Dubai-based Elli’s Kosher Kitchen, the UAE’s only kosher operation. “And then came this extraordinary historic change in terms of the peace treaty between Israel and the Emirates, which expanded dramatically the kosher needs within the country.” 

Read the full interview here.

Bonus: American-Israeli venture capitalist Michael Granoff recounts his 2-day business trip this week to Dubai with other Israeli investors.

On the Hill

Riggleman, Malinowski introduce resolution condemning QAnon

Rep. Denver Riggleman/Gage Skidmore
Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Denver Riggleman (R-VA) have introduced a resolution, co-sponsored by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), condemning the QAnon conspiracy theory, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports

Pushing back: The resolution enumerates a series of concerns, including the numerous violent and criminal acts that have allegedly been inspired by the conspiracy theory, as well as the antisemitic elements central to QAnon. The conspiracy theory has seen a massive surge in public attention in the month since Marjorie Taylor Greene, a promoter of the conspiracy theory, won the Republican run-off in Georgia’s 14th congressional district, all but ensuring she will head to Washington come January. 

Taking action: Both Malinowski and Riggleman told JI that QAnon’s increasing prominence — including President Donald Trump’s recent approving comments — convinced them to take congressional action. Riggleman said he was shocked by poll results showing that more than half of Republican voters believe QAnon is mostly or partly true — although he questioned their accuracy. If they are true, he added, “the Republican Party’s in trouble,” and “we need a massive education effort in the Republican Party to identify what’s ridiculous about QAnon.”

Bipartisan support? While several Republican leaders — including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) — have condemned QAnon, Riggleman and Kinzinger have been more outspoken than most of their colleagues on the issue. And many Republicans — including McCarthy — have declined to distance themselves from Greene. “There’s gonna be people who don’t want to sign on to this, obviously, but I really don’t care about that,” Riggleman said. “There’s certainly Republicans that have jumped on this… but there certainly hasn’t been enough and I believe a lot of it has to do with — they’re scared of voters or they’re scared of the backlash that they might have going out against something like QAnon.”

Read more here.

Race for Gracie

Scott Stringer becomes first elected official to enter NYC mayoral race

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer became the first elected official to officially enter the 2021 New York City mayoral election this week, making the announcement in a campaign kickoff event on Tuesday in the Manhattan neighborhood where he grew up. Flanked by progressive lawmakers, Stringer vowed to bring leadership that is “as good, as tough, as creative, and as determined as its people” back to City Hall. 

Growing crowd: A number of local officials, including Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, are rumored to be considering Democratic primary bids to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio when his term expires next year. Nearly a dozen candidates, including former de Blasio administration officials and political neophytes, have announced their intention to seek the city’s top job. Former City Councilman David Greenfield described Stringer as “sort of the Joe Biden of the race — an establishment figure who has a lot of political support” across the party. 

Progressive support: Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, who succeeded Stringer in the state legislature, told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh that Stringer has been a frequent leader on progressive issues and has regularly challenged the establishment. “That's the kind of mayor that New York City needs — not someone [who] is going to just sit back and do what everyone else has done, or even worse, come in and espouse progressive change but then turn your back on progressive change as we've seen.” Stringer was also endorsed by State Senators Jessica Ramos, Alessandra Biaggi and Julia Salazar, as well as Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, progressive lawmakers whom Stringer backed in the last election. 

Member of the Tribe: Stringer, who is Jewish, was raised in Washington Heights by a single mother, Arlene Stringer-Cuevas, who recently succumbed to the coronavirus infection at age 86. His wife, Elyse Buxbaum, currently serves as executive vice president for strategy and development at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan. In a statement to JI, Stringer noted that New York City is “home to the largest Jewish community outside of Israel” and that the Jewish community “is a powerful force for change” in the city. “I'm proud of my Jewish heritage and how I'm raising my two sons to know our history, our faith, and our shared values of compassion, tolerance, and justice.”

Read the full story here
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Community Comms

Podcast Playback: Hebrew Union College President, Dr. Andrew Rehfeld, joined Mark Gerson's podcast to discuss Judges 17:6 [Link]

Conference: The Israel Hedge Funds Association hosts its 8th annual conference on September 15th. JI readers can register for free with code: IHFA20351.

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💥 Behind the Scenes: In an interactive feature, The New York Times explores how “a system of corruption and bribes” in Beirut — where officials ignored repeated warnings — aligned “to produce the most devastating explosion in Lebanon’s history.” [NYTimes]

📚 Book Shelf: Author David Nasaw speaks to NPR about his new book, The Last Million, which explores the fate of the million displaced civilians in Germany who had nowhere to go at the end of the war — including Jewish concentration camp survivors that no country wanted to accept. [NPR]

📋 Jewish Census: A new study from the Jewish Electorate Institute finds that Florida’s 21st district — home to Mar-a-Lago and a battle between Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Laura Loomer — has the most Jews in the country, while New York’s 10th, represented by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), comes in second. [JTA]
Around the Web
🛍️ Final Sale: The Century 21 discount department chain, founded by the Sephardi Jewish Gindi family, is shutting its 13 locations after filing for bankruptcy.   

⚖️ Hot Seat: Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is pressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to sign a conflict-of-interest agreement preventing him from being involved in appointments that could affect his corruption trial.

✈️ Flight Plan: Netanyahu backtracked from his initial plan to fly to the White House signing ceremony next week on a private jet, and will instead join the rest of Israel’s delegation.

Hold Up: Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said yesterday that he needs to hold further consultations before a decision on moving his country’s Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.   

💣 Shadow War: Syria claims Israeli jets carried out an airstrike near Aleppo early Friday morning. 

😷 Startup Nation: Israeli mask producer Sonovia is awaiting test results from Beijing on its fabric, which purportedly destroys bacteria and viruses even after multiple washes.

🤔 Jobs Math: Three different Israeli government bodies have calculated three very different figures when it comes to unemployment, leaving policy makers at a loss. 

🇦🇹 Safety First: The Austrian government has signed a deal to triple the security funding for its Jewish community to 4 million euro per year.

📺 Binge Watch: Moshe Zonder, the creator of the Israeli TV show “Tehran,” slated to premiere on Apple TV+ this month, has signed a first-look deal with Apple. 

🕯️ Remembering: Joan Feynman, an astrophysicist who broke down barriers for women in science, died at age 93.
Chateau Lascombes 2016
JI's wine columnist Yitz Applbaum reviews the Chateau Lascombes Margaux 2016: 

Extreme “big wave” surfing is not something I expected to do this late in my life. However, that is exactly what I did this past Friday night at dinner with my friends the Pixars. We opened four wines and each one rose higher than the previous. Each wine fed off the greatness of the other. Over the next four weeks I am going to describe each wine, and in so doing, attempt to tie together this extraordinary experience and motivate the reader to try and create such an experience for themselves.

The first wine was the Chateau Lascombes Margaux 2016. Drinking this wine was to walk through a marsh on a truffle hunt. Earthy and moldy on the nose with an exquisite finish of truffle-funk. The East-bank Bordeaux blend is mostly Merlot, with some Cabernet Sauvignon and a touch of Cabernet Franc. The forward is of chocolate ice cream, deep cherry pie in the mid-palate, and a finish that lingered for hours. Drink this wine with a ribeye steak and let it breathe for three hours.

Purchase the bottle here.
Life editor at The Forward, Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt turns 29...

FRIDAY: Three-time winner of an Academy Award as a lyricist and songwriter, Alan Bergman turns 95... De Pere, Wisconsin resident, Janis Kohlenberg turns 81... French physicist who was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physics, Serge Haroche turns 76... U.S. District Court senior judge for the Southern District of Ohio, Judge Susan J. Dlott turns 71... Pediatric nephrologist, Dr. Jonathan Heiliczer turns 70... Member of the New Jersey General Assembly since 2006, Gary Schaer turns 69... Television producer, Jon Meyersohn turns 64... Global real estate advisor at ONE Sotheby's International Realty, Rosy Lofer turns 64... Owner of the NFL's Carolina Panthers, he is the founder and president of Appaloosa Management, David Tepper turns 63... Agoura Hills, Calif. resident, Marian Rubinstein turns 63...

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge, Ellen Ceisler turns 63... Co-founder of the UK hedge fund, Brevan Howard Asset Management, Alan Howard turns 57... CEO and founding partner of Stanhope Capital, Daniel Pinto turns 54... CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Mark Dubowitz turns 52... Israeli journalist, Raviv Drucker turns 50... CEO of NYC's 92nd Street Y, Seth William Pinsky turns 49... Executive director at JP Morgan Chase, Daniel E. Berger turns 47... Member of the Illinois Legislature, Yehiel Mark Kalish turns 45... Arbi Tatevosian turns 45... Jessica S. Setless turns 33... Udi Ben Zeev... Director of partnerships at Masa Israel, Gali Gordon...

SATURDAY: Chairman at Waxman Strategies, he served for 20 terms as a Democratic congressman from Los Angeles, Henry Waxman turns 81... 2017 Nobel Prize laureate in Economics, University of Chicago behavioral economist, Richard H. Thaler turns 75... Director of intergovernmental Affairs in the Obama White House, Jerry Abramson turns 74... President of Israel21c, she is the former president of AIPAC, Amy Rothschild Friedkin turns 74... U.S. Ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, he was governor of Kansas and a U.S. senator, Sam Brownback turns 64... Miami-based chairman of American Principles Super PAC, Eytan Laor turns 61... SVP of government and public affairs at CVS Health, Melissa Schulman turns 59... Internet entrepreneur and a pioneer of VoIP telephony, Jeff Pulver turns 58...

Attorney specializing in the recovery of looted artworks during the Holocaust and featured in the 2015 film "Woman in Gold," E. Randol (Randy) Schoenberg turns 54... Paralegal at The St. Joe Company, Sherri Jankowski turns 53... Senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Max A. Boot turns 51... Deputy chief of staff for Senator Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota) and co-founder of The Haym Salomon Center, Jason Stverak turns 47... Israeli singer, songwriter and musician, Idan Raichel turns 43... Founder of the Loewy Law Firm in Austin, Texas, Adam Loewy turns 43... Venture capitalist and one of the co-founders of Palantir Technologies, Joseph Todd "Joe" Lonsdale turns 38... AIPAC's area director for Philadelphia and South Jersey, Kelly Lauren Stein turns 34... Former advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel for foreign affairs and world communities, Sara Greenberg turns 33... Senior audience development editor at Yahoo! News, Ethan Klapper turns 31... National political correspondent at Politico, Ben Schreckinger turns 31... Natalie Raps turns 30...

SUNDAY: Retired motion picture editor, Avrum Fine turns 85… Chairman of global brokerage at CBRE, Stephen Siegel turns 76… Senior investigative reporter at One America News Network, Richard Pollock turns 69... CEO of the Democratic Majority for Israel, Mark S. Mellman turns 65... Ice dancer, who won the 1981 and 1985 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Judy Blumberg turns 63... Executive director of Aspen Digital, part of the Aspen Institute, Vivian Schiller turns 59... Comedian who earned the title "Roastmaster General" for his Comedy Central celebrity roasts, Jeff Ross turns 55... Attorney General of North Carolina, Joshua "Josh" Stein turns 54...

Member of the Los Angeles City Council, Robert J. Blumenfield turns 53... Founder of United Hatzalah of Israel, Eli Beer turns 47... Founder and president of Reshet Capital and co-founder of Supersonas, Betty Grinstein… Senior associate regional director at the Anti-Defamation League, Meredith Mirman Weisel turns 45... Member of the Colorado House of Representatives, Jonathan Singer turns 41... Advocacy strategist with experience in opinion research, Gary Ritterstein turns 37... Associate at Mission Capital Advisors, David Behmoaras turns 29... Political education assistant at AIPAC, Noa Silverstein turns 24...
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