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Jewish Insider | Daily Kickoff
September 2nd, 2020
👋 Good Wednesday morning!

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) won the Massachusetts Democratic Senate primary against Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA), picking up more than 55% of the vote.  

In the 1st district, Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) beat challenger Alex Morse 59%-41%, and in the 8th district, Rep. Stephen Lynch easily fended off a challenge from physician Robbie Goldstein, winning 66%-34%.

Meanwhile, the seven-way race to replace Kennedy in the 4th district is still too close to call, with Jesse Mermell and Jake Auchincloss separated by just 105 votes.  

President Donald Trump will visit Wilmington, N.C., today to designate the city as the first World War II Heritage City in the U.S.

The White House Mideast peace team, headed by senior advisor Jared Kushner, is set to meet this week with leaders of Qatar, following visits to Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

A senior UAE official, Jamal al-Musharakh, tells Haaretz that the Emirates have U.S. and Israeli assurances that a plan to annex parts of the West Bank is on “halt.” However, he added, a future move would not sever ties between the two countries.  

Saudi Arabia announced this morning that it would permit future flights between Israel and the UAE to pass through its airspace. 

The Biden presidential campaign is featuring Karlie Kloss, the wife of Joshua Kushner and sister-in-law of Ivanka Trump, at a campaign event tomorrow focused on women’s education.

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What's next?

Elisha Wiesel’s next chapter 

Joshua Schwimmer
In another universe, Elisha Wiesel might be an attorney. Or an Israeli citizen. Or a video game creator. But in this world, he is a husband and father of two embarking on retirement in a world mired in pandemic. Wiesel, the son of Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel, spoke to Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss about the new chapter in his life and his religious and political awakening.

Next stage: Wiesel has already crammed several lifetimes worth of experiences into his 48 years. The philanthropist, activist and self-described geek with a knack for computer programming left Goldman Sachs as its chief information officer at the end of last year. Just nine months into his retirement, he has already volunteered with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s short-lived presidential campaign, archived his father’s writings, joined the board of Zioness and prepared his daughter for her pandemic-era bat mitzvah.

Why he liked Mike: “I'll never forget Mike flying out to Israel, when the Gaza War was occurring,” Wiesel recounted. “The FAA was shutting down flights in and out of Ben-Gurion Airport. And Mike was like, ‘This is crazy. I'm gonna go and I'm gonna stand with the people of Israel.’ I was so impressed by that. But more generally, that was the balance I was sort of looking for in the political spectrum — people who understood the need for social justice, but also understood that you know, the answer is not Marxism.”

Father knows best: “My father was very clear with me. He gave me only really two guidelines in life. One was he expected me to marry Jewish,” Wiesel explained. “And the other thing was he asked me to say Kaddish after he passed. And I had originally thought that he was asking me to say Kaddish for him, that I was doing him a favor. I really realized only later, it was actually the reverse. He was kind of doing me a favor because, you know, I think that's when my reentry into Judaism kind of accelerated.”

L’dor v’dor: Now a parent, Wiesel has worked to ensure his children have a solid Jewish foundation upon which to build. “The number one thing I feel I can do is perpetuate yiddishkeit, is perpetuate Jewish continuity, in my own home.” And his home is not only where he holds regular minyanim, but also where his daughter was bat mitzvahed in April. While untraditional in many ways — it was held over Zoom — they used Wiesel’s father’s Torah.

Runs in the family: While much has been said and written about Wiesel’s father, it is his mother — who came to the U.S. shortly after WWII with her family, aided by HIAS — who instilled in him a passion for social justice. “When my mom came to this country, she kind of surprised her parents, started spending all of the weekends that she could down in Florida and the South, marching for racial justice,” Weisel explained. “She made friends who were black, who were gay, and I'm sure that you know, for Eastern European [immigrants], my grandparents... I'm sure that they were floored by what my mom was doing, but she just jumped into that whole new world of America, that this was where we should be and she was extremely proud as a young person to be an early card-carrying member of the NAACP. And that meant a lot to her.” 

Getting involved: As he approached the brink of retirement, Wiesel began to notice a trend of Zionist voices being intentionally excluded from conversations in the LGBTQ community and other social justice issues. “My brain was exploding, I couldn't process it,” Wiesel said. “When I started hearing Zionists are not welcome in things like women's rights or African Americans’ rights.” It was through social media that Wiesel found Zioness, a progressive organization whose board he joined earlier this year. “I just thought, like, ‘Oh my god, thank god, there's somebody doing this right,” he said. “Thank god, there's somebody, you know, breaking this false duality of you can't both be a progressive and a Zionist.”

Read the full interview here.

Candidate profile

Meet the Israeli immigrant mounting a longshot bid for Senate in Wyoming

In every sense of the word, Merav Ben-David is an outlier in Wyoming politics. A Jewish Israeli immigrant who speaks with an accent, Ben-David is running for Senate as a Democrat with a platform focused on climate change in a state that has not elected a Democrat to federal office since 1976, has a minuscule Jewish population and is economically reliant on resource extraction. But she isn’t afraid of the challenge. “I think the vision that I’m offering Wyoming is much more compelling to many,” she told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod in a recent interview

Background: After completing her IDF service, Ben-David earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1984 and a master’s degree in zoology in 1988 at Tel Aviv University. She spent five years as a wildlife tour guide in Kenya before relocating to Fairbanks, Alaska, to pursue a PhD in wildlife management. “I just packed a few things in my suitcase and made it from the equator to nearly the North Pole in one week,” she said. In 2000, she accepted a faculty position at the University of Wyoming, and applied for U.S. citizenship.

Green Platform: Ben-David laid out her vision to help bolster Wyoming’s economy, which includes shifting miners and oil workers to other fields, creating more work opportunities for young people and attracting remote workers to the state. She also backs several progressive policy priorities, including a federal jobs guarantee and universal healthcare. But the issue Ben-David emphasizes most — which lies at the heart of her campaign — is climate change. 

Facing hate: In JI’s candidate questionnaire, Ben-David called out increasing antisemitism across the U.S., both in terms of hate crimes and antisemitic political rhetoric, including in her own primary race — where one of her opponents referred to her as a “fake Jew.” “When antisemitism is virulent and explicit, we must immediately condemn it. When it is organized and violent, we must prosecute it,” she wrote. “But when it is inadvertent, education and compassion will be more effective.”

Tough words: Ben-David is an outspoken critic of current Israeli policies, which she said make a peace agreement more difficult to achieve. “Expansion of West Bank settlements, unilateral annexation of Palestinian lands, demolitions of houses, forced relocations of Palestinian families, and continued violence contribute to escalation of the conflict,” she wrote in the JI questionnaire. “I believe peace can only be achieved if the Palestinian people are treated with dignity, provided with financial assistance to develop a sustainable economy, and their human rights and wishes for self-governance in their own country is guaranteed.” 

Money problems: Ben-David had just $22,000 on hand at the end of July, compared to the $413,000 her Republican opponent, former Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) had in the bank at the time. Ben-David and Lummis are competing to replace longtime Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), who is retiring next year.

Read the full profile here.

on the issues

Issa, Campa-Najjar adopt similar postures on Israel

Former Rep. Darrell Issa and Ammar Campa-Najjar are in a contentious battle for the open seat in California’s 50th congressional district, which includes a large swath of San Diego County. But despite clear political differences, the candidates appear to be in agreement on key issues relating to Israel, according to questionnaires solicited by Jewish Insider.

In agreement: Issa and Campa-Najjar both support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and believe the United States should maintain aid to Israel. “Almost all U.S. aid to Israel is now in the form of military assistance,” Issa told JI. “This assistance should continue. Israel is the region’s only democracy; long-term regional stability in the Middle East will only be possible if Israel remains a decisive military ally.” Campa-Najjar agreed. “The United States enjoys an important relationship with Israel when it comes to military cooperation and intelligence gathering, both within the region and as far-reaching as intel on Russia and other geopolitical opponents,” he said in his questionnaire.

Difference of opinion: Still, the candidates differ on other issues. Issa opposes former President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), while Campa-Najjar argues, with some reservations, that the agreement was a net positive for international diplomacy. 

Antisemitism: Issa, who served in Congress from 2001 to 2019, did not directly address Campa-Najjar in his questionnaire, but he did set his sights on the Democratic Party, claiming it has “been taken over by anti-Israeli and antisemitic forces.” Campa-Najjar, 31, also addressed antisemitism. “As a Christian of Palestinian descent, I believe that it is imperative to ensure everyone is treated fairly and justly, including the Jewish community who are [the] longest oppressed in history,” said the candidate. “In Congress, I hope to address this issue by not only protecting Jewish Americans but also advocating for a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Close race: Despite Issa’s established presence in the region, recent polls have suggested that Campa-Najjar may be a formidable opponent. One from a Republican pollster, first reported by Politico, put Campa-Najjar three points ahead of his opponent with 42% of the vote. A separate internal poll from Campa-Najjar was slightly less favorable for the young candidate, placing him four points behind Issa with 47%.

Read more here
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Podcast Playback: Cantor Howard Stahl joined Mark Gerson's podcast to discuss Leviticus 9:1 - 10:3 [Link]

Podcast: David Makovsky’s Decision Points with Francine Klagsbrun and Ronen Bergman on Golda Meir.

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⚖️ In Court: The trial-in-absentia of the 11 terrorists who carried out the 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre and the shooting in the Hyper Cacher supermarket opens in Paris today. Politico’s John Lichfield looks back over the five years that have passed and asks “what, if anything, has changed in France.” [Politico]

📍Rearranging Cards: Los Angeles Times reporter Tracy Wilkinson explores how a possible Biden administration will undo some of the Trump administration’s policy moves on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while at the same time adjust to the reality created by the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. [LATimes]

📺 Worthy Watch: Billionaire investor Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, talks to David Rubenstein about his father’s influence, his early tech exit and how he managed to essentially retire by age 30. [Bloomberg
Around the Web
Owning It: Hedge fund billionaire Steven Cohen's final bid for the Mets values the team at 2.35 billion — $250 million less than it's February valuation — as talks with team president Saul Katz head towards a deal.

🏭 Hold Off: David Walsh, an investor in Noble Energy, is suing the company in a New York federal court for allegedly filing a misleading registration statement in its merger with Chevron. 

⛓️ Closing In: The Justice Department is preparing to charge Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy over allegations he worked to influence the U.S. government on behalf of foreign parties.

🗳️ Tough Choice: Yiddish professor and author Ruth Wisse writes in The Wall Street Journal that she will be voting for the “lesser of two evils” in November, since “‘progressives’ may destroy even more of the good that exists.”

🗳️ Panic Button: Josh Mendelsohn, CEO of political data group Hawkfish, funded by Michael Bloomberg, warns that Trump may hold a big lead over Biden on election night due to high mail-in vote tallies. 

💵 Offering Help: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, pledged $300 million to two nonpartisan groups to help overcome the pandemic’s effects on the U.S. election.

📹 Step Back: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly canceled filming a campaign ad — aimed at eligible voters in Israel — while in Jerusalem last week amid backlash over his RNC speech.

👩‍💼 Turtle Bay: The U.N. Security Council’s rejection of U.S. efforts to impose snapback sanctions on Iran has thrown the body into “paralysis,” with no procedure for moving forward.

🙏 Pilgrimage Pleas: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing for a solution to allow thousands of Hasidim to travel to Uman for Rosh Hashanah despite opposition from health experts. 

🛫 Final Ruling: The Israeli Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that Malka Leifer, the former school principal accused of sexually abusing her students, is fit to be extradited to Australia to stand trial.

📣 Voices Heard: A court in Melbourne has granted three accusers of Leifer — Elly Sapper, Dassi Erlich and Nicole Meyer — the right to speak publicly about their allegations of abuse. 

🎒 School’s Out: An Orthodox Jewish school in Toronto canceled its slated opening after two staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

👴 Hold Up: Rabbi Alvin Kass, the 84-year-old longtime NYPD chief chaplain, was mugged on the Upper West Side early Tuesday morning, but left uninjured. 

👎 Too Tough: Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) criticized New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s reluctance to allow reopening restaurants, accusing him of “actively trying to kill” the industry. 

🏺 Ancient Trove: A new analysis of a 1972 archeological find in Israel reveals that the artifacts were accumulated over 400 years, rather than the result of one shipwreck, as previously believed. 

💻 SPOTTED at a Zoom party for David Rubenstein's new book How to Lead on Tuesday night where he was interviewed by Ken Burns: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Madeleine Albright, Sylvia Burwell, Tom Nides, Josh Bolten, Bob Barnett, Steve Case, Bill Frist, Mike Mullen, Dina Powell McCormick, Indra Nooyi, Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski, Mack McLarty, Nelson Cunningham, Jorge Guajardo, Virginia Boney, Ken Duberstein, John Allen, Richard Haass, Walter Isaacson, David Axelrod, Chris Ullman and Andrew Ross Sorkin.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conducted a video chat entirely in Hebrew with a United Arab Emirates representative named Khalifa, who accompanied the Israeli delegation to Abu Dhabi, and invited him to Jerusalem. 
Managing director of the Israeli office of Koch Disruptive Technologies, Eli Groner turns 50... 

Attorney who was part of the team that defended O.J. Simpson, he is a co-founder of LegalZoom, Robert Shapiro turns 78... Rabbi of Baltimore's Shearith Israel Congregation, Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer turns 76... Lincolnwood, Ill., resident, Tobi Rebecca Kelmer turns 74... Tech entrepreneur and consultant at Xynetics Group, Richard Mandelbaum turns 74... Member of the Knesset, he currently serves as Israel's minister of housing and construction, Yaakov Litzman turns 72... Founder of TMZ, Harvey Levin turns 70... CEO of Lions Gate Entertainment, Jon Feltheimer turns 69... Retired president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, Lee Wunsch turns 68... Editor-in-chief of Yahoo News, Daniel Klaidman turns 56...

Washington correspondent for Sinclair Broadcasting, James Rosen turns 52... Founder of Israeli media organization TheMarker and a deputy publisher of the Haaretz daily newspaper, he is also a clinical professor at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, Guy Rolnik turns 52... Serial entrepreneur, co-founder and chairman of Groupon, Eric Lefkofsky turns 51... Executive producer at PBS's "Frontline," Raney Aronson-Rath turns 50... Chief of staff for U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jessica Fassler turns 43... DC-based U.S. tax policy reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Richard Rubin turns 42... SVP and leader of the technology practice in the San Francisco Bay area at Edelman, Margot Edelman turns 33... Assistant to the senior vice president and chief of staff in the Office of the President of the University of Pennsylvania, Seth Zweifler turns 29... VP at Axiom Strategies, Ethan Zorfas...
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