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Jewish Insider | Daily Kickoff
September 22nd, 2020
👋 Good Tuesday morning!

A week from today, we’ll be hosting a pair of conversations on peace in the Middle East featuring the UAE’s U.S. Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, Haim Saban, Dina Powell McCormick, the UAE’s U.N. Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, and UAE Chief Rabbi Yehuda Sarna. Register here.  

President Donald Trump issued an executive order that unilaterally extends the U.N. arms embargo and imposes snapback sanctions on Iran — despite pushback from the other members of the U.N. Security Council. Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a virtual address to the Council on Foreign Relations that Tehran is ready for a full prisoner swap with Washington.

Today, Trump will kick off the general debate this morning at the largely virtual annual U.N. General Assembly, which is marking its 75th anniversary. 

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz will meet today with Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the Pentagon during a short visit to Washington to discuss the administration’s commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge. 

A Reuters report claims the U.S. is aiming to finalize the sale of F-35 fighter jets to the UAE by December.

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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Behind the scenes of Apple TV’s new Israeli thriller ‘Tehran’

Apple TV+
Deep in the heart of Tehran, a Mossad agent works against the clock to carry out a top-secret mission aimed at paving the way for an IDF airstrike against an Iranian nuclear reactor. For once, this isn’t a story ripped from the headlines. Rather, it’s the plot of “Tehran,” an Israeli-Iranian spy thriller coming to Apple TV+ this week after a successful run in Israel. Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro spoke to the cast and creator about their experiences filming the much buzzed-about show

Blurred lines: In the series, the streets of Tehran are actually in Athens, the Iranian-born Mossad agent is an Israeli actress with Moroccan heritage and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard henchman is played by a Jewish-Iranian expat living in Los Angeles. And that dissonance perfectly personifies the fast-paced new thriller, which blurs the traditional lines of good guys and bad guys and works to humanize the very enemy people have been conditioned to hate. Actress Niv Sultan plays Tamar Rabinyan, an Iranian native who immigrated to Israel as a child, becomes a computer hacker with the Mossad and sneaks into Tehran for a top-secret operation that goes horribly wrong. 

Both sides: The show, filmed in Farsi, Hebrew and English, follows Tamar as she is stuck in Tehran, racing against both the clock and the enemy to carry out her mission without being caught. “I think one of the most beautiful things about this series, in my opinion, is that it tries to show both sides without favoring any of them,” Sultan, 28, told Jewish Insider in a recent interview from Tel Aviv. “As a viewer, your feelings are constantly changing every episode, you can relate to both sides. And you can also hate both sides.” Moshe Zonder, the show’s co-creator and co-writer, told JI that while the nail-biting series centers around espionage, hacking, evasion and violence, it is really about so much more. “The show is about identity, nationality and the importance of your roots and your family,” he said. “From day one it was not a show of good guys against bad guys. Israel is not a good guy and Iran is not the bad guy.” 

Complex characters: Shaun Toub (“Homeland,” “Iron Man,” “Crash”), a Jewish native of Iran who now lives in Los Angeles, portrays Faraz Kamali, the head of internal investigations with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, who is hot on the trail of Tamar. Toub said he was particularly drawn to Faraz because he was a “multi-dimensional character… one-dimensional characters really bore me.” With Faraz, he said, “you see the humanity in him. You see how he is able to juggle life and the love of country and the love of his wife and his family,” Toub told JI. “You see the complexity of the character and the struggles that he has — like anyone else.” 

Intense study: For several months before shooting began, Sultan was immersed in intensive Farsi lessons in order to convincingly play Tamar — something she said was harder than anticipated. “It was so challenging,” she told JI. “The pronunciation — it’s so different from Hebrew and different from Arabic,” which she was exposed to at home since her dad is a native of Morocco. “I thought, ‘oh it’s probably going to be similar’ — but it has nothing to do with Hebrew or Arabic.” Despite the physical challenges of the role, and the intensity of filming — almost entirely at night — for three months in Athens, Sultan said that “as an actress, this is the type of role that I dreamed of.” 

Melting pot: “There were so many languages on set and it was so, so special because we were so different, but also, at the end, the same,” said Sultan of the diverse cast and crew. “We have the same dreams and so many things in common, and we just put everything aside and focused on telling the story in the best way that we can.” Toub said he hopes the series can break down barriers and prejudices between Israelis and Iranians. “The way the script was written, the hope is that people can just really watch this as a series and enjoy it without any hesitation, without any prejudices,” Toub added. “The show basically tries to show that people are just people and everybody is the same — and we all have our issues and our problems in life.” 

Read the full feature and watch the trailer here.

Keystone fight

In the heart of the Keystone State, two Pennsylvania politicos battle it out 

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is locked in a close race against incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Perry in the state’s 10th congressional district, which the Cook Political Report rates as a tossup. Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod spoke to DePasquale about his campaign and his own personal story.

Background: DePasquale’s congressional run comes after a long career in state-level elected office. He first ran for the state legislature in 2006 on a platform of governmental reform, alternative energy and education reform. DePasquale and Perry entered the Pennsylvania House of Representatives the same year, and both concluded their terms in 2013. “My style of leadership [is] needed at the Capitol. Being tough and fair on both parties,” DePasquale said. “Certainly I’m a proud Democrat, but… I’ve looked out for what is right, not necessarily just what’s right for the Democratic Party. And I thought our nation could use some of that right now.”

Personal stake: Many of the issues DePasquale is campaigning on are deeply personal. His family was never able to obtain health insurance for his younger brother while he struggled with — and ultimately died of — muscular dystrophy. The devastation of his brother’s death was compounded by other family tragedies. DePasquale’s father, a Vietnam War veteran, became addicted to painkillers prescribed for gunshot wounds he suffered during the war. To finance his addiction, he sold drugs, eventually landing in prison. “He actually had to come to my brother’s funeral in shackles,” DePasquale said. “So criminal justice reform, treating drug addiction — these are also high priorities for me.”

Promised land: DePasquale — who supports a two-state solution, and believes the United States has a major role to play in brokering such a deal — described his trip to Israel last year with the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition as “life changing” and “eye opening.” Members of the local Jewish community praised DePasquale’s stance on the Middle East, and said he’s been very open to discussing these issues, as well as other topics, with members of the Jewish community. “I came away being very impressed with his views and his knowledge of the Middle East and Israel issues,” said Arthur Hoffman — a Harrisburg attorney who organized a fundraiser for DePasquale. “He’s willingly spoken and been open to anyone approaching him with concerns.”

Moneyball: A late August and early September York Dispatch poll of 1,100 voters showed Perry leading DePasquale 44.7% to 38.4%, with 10% of voters undecided. But a poll of 500 voters by GBAO Strategies found the two in a statistical tie, with DePasquale at 50% and Perry at 46%, with a margin of error of 4.4 points. Monetarily, the candidates are fairly evenly matched — Perry had banked $1.9 million and DePasquale had raised $1.6 million by the end of the June. Both had approximately $990,000 in the bank as of the end of June. But DePasquale is optimistic: “We’ve been on the air for three-and-a-half weeks and his first ad went on the air as a negative ad, and we’ve been positive,” he said. “So that lets me know that they know they’re in trouble.”

Incumbent support: Eric Morrison, a longtime Perry supporter, praised DePasquale’s work as auditor general, but said he will be supporting Perry again this cycle. “I’ve known [DePasquale] for a while as well… I hold him in high esteem,” Morrison told JI. “My concern is when you go to Washington, in the House or Senate, you tend to fall into the majority leader, speaker of the house platform regardless.” Morrison said Perry has a “fantastic” relationship with the local Jewish community. “He is very much involved in listening to AIPAC and we have meetings with him, he always avails himself, he wants to listen, he wants to learn,” Morrison said. Elliott Weinstein, a member of AIPAC’s national council, likewise described Perry as strong on Israel issues. “He’s a friend of all of the things that we support,” Weinstein told JI. “He understands the issues that we bring forward to him.”

Read more on the race here.

Campus Beat

Columbia University student council holding divestment referendum this week

Columbia University will hold the first campus-wide BDS referendum in its history this week, during which students will vote on whether they believe the school should divest its holdings and interests in a number of companies, including Bank Hapoalim, Hyundai and Boeing. Brian Cohen, the executive director of Columbia’s Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life, told Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss that the first BDS campaign on the campus, in 2015, failed “overwhelmingly,” but efforts to divest have gradually gained support on campus. 

First-year woes: Though the referendum was greenlit in the spring, the new student body — including more than 1,000 freshmen who were not on campus during previous campaigns and are attending classes remotely this semester — is voting on the measure. “Freshmen have not stepped foot on campus,” Jessica Fuzailof, president of the pro-Israel student group Aryeh, pointed out. “They haven't joined clubs, they haven't really heard about anything yet… So [freshmen are] walking into this world where they've got no idea what's going on and all of a sudden their Facebooks blow up with language that they're unfamiliar with and a referendum that they're unfamiliar with.” 

Bad climate: Ahead of the spring vote, Columbia President Lee Bollinger reiterated his opposition to BDS and warned against “legitimate debate turning into anger, then to hatred and demonization, and invidious discrimination.” He also noted that any divestment decisions are made by the university’s socially responsible investment group, not by student referenda. Fuzailof told JI that the campus climate deteriorates during times of increased anti-Israel activity. “Every time we have a BDS referendum, a lot of hate speech, a lot of online bullying, and harassment comes out,” she said.

In the news: Over the weekend, the campus newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, pulled an ad opposing BDS that had been placed by the school’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel. One version of the ad read, “CUAD’s BDS REFERENDUM IS JEW HATRED. Vote NO to hate! Vote NO to keep Jewish students safe on campus!” In an email sent to the Spectator’s mailing list, the outlet’s top editors and publisher called the ad “clearly inappropriate” and said it “did not meet our standards for distribution.”

Details: The voting period, which falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, begins Tuesday at 10 a.m. and ends on Friday at 8 p.m. The results will be announced on Sept. 29.

Read more here.

on the hill

Lowey urges Senate to act on Israeli-Palestinian partnership legislation

Retiring Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) expressed hope on Monday that her recent legislation on Middle East peace would be passed by the Senate and signed into law before she leaves office in January 2021. The Middle East Partnership for Peace Act, which passed in the House of Representatives in July as part of a spending package for Fiscal Year 2021, would provide $250 million over five years to facilitate joint economic ventures between Israelis and Palestinians. 

Departing gift: “I want to get this passed before I leave the Congress,” Lowey said during a Zoom call hosted by the American Jewish Committee. “This is something that's very important to me and is something that everyone can support… We have to do a good job in the time that's left to make sure it passes the Senate… because I want to get this done before I leave, before we all leave for the session.” 

At the very least: Lowey explained that she has often said she “couldn't leave Congress until Middle East peace is achieved between Israel and the Palestinians. And it really breaks my heart to be leaving at a time when we are nowhere close to that reality.” She added, “I cannot retire from the Congress without ensuring that there is funding for the people on the ground who want to come together and make progress in their communities [with] peaceful coexistence, reconciliation and economic cooperation.”

Credit due: Lowey suggested that the recently signed peace accords between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain “didn't miraculously come together” during President Donald Trump’s time in office. “They represent the fruits of decades of work to make Israel an undeniable reality in the Middle East, a democratic powerhouse with the resources necessary to defend itself and protect its citizens,” the New York Democrat stressed. “So while we celebrate these agreements, and certainly welcome other countries to join, we must not forget that Israel and the Palestinians could not be farther apart, and resolving their complicated differences [with] the goal of a negotiated two-state solution, a democratic Jewish state of Israel and a viable democratic Palestinian state living side by side, and peace, security and mutual recognition must remain paramount.”

Read more here.

Elsewhere: Arab American Institute President James Zogby suggested that the Middle East will not play a prime role among Jewish, evangelical or Muslim voters in this year’s presidential election, during a virtual panel discussion at the Arab Center Washington DC’s annual conference. “No candidate ever runs on the Middle East, but their performance is ultimately judged on how they get on in the Middle East. This is an election about Donald Trump. The Middle East, even with the evangelical vote, people aren't going to vote for that,” Zogby suggested. “They're not going to vote because he moved the embassy to Jerusalem. It just puts a punctuation point on the fact that, ‘Yeah, he's on our side.’ But this is not the motivator in this election.”
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Webcast: On Sept. 29, join top ambassadors from the UAE for a conversation with JI readers on peace in the Middle East.

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💸 Data Dive: An investigation by BBC News Arabic reveals that companies controlled by Israeli-Russian billionaire and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich have donated $100 million to Elad, which runs the City of David and supports Israeli settlement activity in the area. [BBC]

Never Again: In Smithsonian magazine, Carol Schaeffer explores the history of the 700-year-old antisemitic sculpture on display in a quiet east German town — and the failed decades-long battle to remove it. Today, Michael Dietrich Düllmann, a 76-year-old German convert to Judaism, is leading the charge. [Smithsonian]

👩🏻‍🤝‍👨🏿 Fast Friends: Eric L. Motley writes in The New York Times about his most unlikely friendship: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a Jewish urbanite who had just turned 70 and had been appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by a Democratic president. I was a 30-year-old African-American from the rural South who had recently arrived in Washington to serve as a special assistant to George W. Bush.” [NYTimes]

🗳️ Never Say Never: Danielle Pletka, senior fellow of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, spoke to The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner about her journey from vocal Trump opponent to reluctant supporter. A Biden win, she claims “might usher in an era of irreversible drift in the direction that I think will be dangerous for the country.” [NewYorker
Around the Web
🧕🏾 Speaking Out: In an interview with The New York Times Magazine, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) suggested there’s a “preconceived notion” about her views on antisemitism that came in the wake of 2019 tweets accusing AIPAC of bribing lawmakers to be pro-Israel.

📋 Planning Ahead: The Democratic Socialists of America-NYC, backed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is considering backing a slate of New York City Council candidates who would become part of a “socialist caucus.”

🗣️ Getting Ready: Biden aide Ron Klain said the Democratic presidential nominee doesn’t hold mock debates to prepare — but Klain has the “Donald Trump outfit” on hand just in case. 

🏷️ New Journey: Billionaire Ron Perelman tells Bloomberg he’s decided to “clean house,” live a simpler life and seek new investment opportunities. 

📱 Way Out: After a disappointing launch, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s streaming platform Quibi is considering a sale as it rethinks its strategic options.

🏘️ Signed and Sealed: Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has completed his purchase of the former U.S. ambassador’s residence in Herzliya for more than 250 million shekels. 

💰 Party Loyalty: Adelson and his wife, Miriam, gave $25 million to the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Billionaire Steve Wynn donated $4 million.

🇸🇩 Behind the Scenes: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly promised to remove Sudan from the list of U.S. state sponsors of terrorism if it agreed to normalize ties with Israel. 

🕵️ Deep Dive: Israeli journalists digging through the recently leaked FinCEN files found that the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries transferred $155 million to two companies associated with money laundering for the Azerbaijani government.

🏥 Battle Cry: Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital is warning that it will soon run out of capacity to take in more coronavirus patients, and the current lockdown is not strict enough to make a difference. 

🚨 Silencing Dissent: Palestinian Authority police have arrested dozens of supporters of Mohammed Dahlan, a rival to PA President Mahmoud Abbas who is based in the UAE. 

💁 Doing Time: Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli began her nine-month community service sentence yesterday on tax evasion charges, while her mother, Zipi Refaeli, entered prison. 

⚖️ Standing Trial: Christopher Cantwell, aka the “Crying Nazi,” is going on trial this week in New Hampshire on charges of extortion, threats and cyberstalking.

✈️ Awaiting Trial: The premier of Victoria, Australia, welcomed an Israeli court decision to extradite Malka Leifer to stand trial in Australia on charges of child sex abuse. 

🎒 Passed Deadline: The New York City Department of Education is falling behind on deadlines to address the lack of secular education at two dozen Brooklyn yeshivas.  

📰 Media Watch: The Los Angeles Times is facing a series of workroom scandals, and executive editor Norman Pearlstine has acknowledged mistakes but says he will not yet step down.

🥋 Flying Home: Indian MMA and kickboxing champion Obed Hrangchal, a member of the Bnei Menashe community, is set to make aliya with his family after the High Holy Days. 

🕯️ Tragic Deaths: Two members of the Rockland Jewish community, identified as Moshe Herzog and Dovid Tzvi Schnebalg, died after an accident with a tractor-trailer on the New York State Thruway.
Israeli drivers around the country face dozens of checkpoints manned by police officers aiming to enforce the renewed COVID-19 lockdown, as new cases continue to climb.
Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, he has held multiple Israeli cabinet portfolios and was the chairman of the Labor party, Isaac "Bougie" Herzog turns 60... 

Brooklyn resident, Jay Kanter turns 75... Former president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles from 1992 to 2009, now a consultant at Diane and Guilford Glazer Philanthropies, John Fishel turns 72... Professor of journalism at Columbia University and a former reporter for The New York TimesAri L. Goldman turns 71... Former publisher of The New York TimesArthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. turns 69... Chief political analyst at CNN, Gloria Borger turns 68... Clarinetist who performs klezmer, jazz, classical music and avant-garde improvisation, David Krakauer turns 64... U.S. ambassador to Romania, he was a real estate attorney in the NYC office of Seyfarth Shaw, Adrian Zuckerman turns 64... Nobel Prize laureate, astrophysicist and professor of physics at UC-Berkeley, Saul Perlmutter turns 61... Director of development at the Los Angeles Conservancy, Elizabeth "Liz" Leshin turns 60... Editor-in-chief of The AtlanticJeffrey Goldberg turns 55... Member of the Knesset for Likud, Osnat Hila Mark turns 53...

CEO of Philadelphia's Terravet Real Estate Solutions and founder of Community Veterinary Partners, Daniel Eisenstadt turns 51... Founder and CEO at P3 Media, he has won three Emmys, a Peabody Award and a Polk Award, Adam Ciralsky turns 49... Arlington, Virginia resident, Karen Elyse Simpson turns 47... Writer-at-large for The New York Times focused on the personalities in business, politics and media, Amy Chozick turns 42... Actress best known for her role as Quinn Perkins in the ABC political drama series "Scandal," Katie Lowes turns 38... Hungarian politician who served as a Member of the European Parliament, Csanád Szegedi turns 38... Conservative activist, Bryan Leib turns 35... Deputy editor of Tablet magazine and host of "Unorthodox," its weekly podcast, Stephanie Taylor Butnick turns 33... Entertainment reporter, journalist, fashion designer and entrepreneur, Baruch Yehudah Shemtov turns 33... Director of partner revenue and consulting producer at The Daily WireJared Sichel turns 31... Assistant director of International Jewish Affairs at AJC Global, Alyssa Weiner turns 29... Director of government affairs at the Jewish Federations of North America, Darcy Hirsch... Executive leadership coach and founder of BraverMe, Maya Dolgin...
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