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Jewish Insider | Daily Kickoff
September 1st, 2020
👋 Good Tuesday morning!

White House senior advisor Jared Kushner told reporters yesterday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has full confidence in President Donald Trump ahead of talks over the sale of F-35 jets to the United Arab Emirates. 

Defense Minister Benny Gantz told The Jerusalem Post that he is convinced the U.S. will preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge in any deal. 

Israeli approval of the deal, which could be finalized by November, will be critical for approval by Congress, U.S. officials and congressional staffers tell Foreign Policy. “It will be difficult [for Congress] to oppose if Bibi blesses it,” a Democratic congressional staffer said. 

UAE Foreign Minister Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan said yesterday that the Emirates remain committed to the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Hamas and Israel have agreed to a ceasefire deal, brokered in part by Qatar, to bring quiet to the border region after weeks of rocket fire and retaliatory air strikes.

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Primary Day

The races to keep an eye on in Massachusetts’s primaries

L to R:  Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA)
As voters head to the polls today in Massachusetts, there are a number of key primaries to watch out for. In an interview with Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel, Stephanie Murray, a reporter for Politico who writes the Massachusetts Playbook newsletter, outlined four races to keep an eye on, including the hotly contested Senate primary and a few congressional matchups of note.

Senate showdown: Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) gave up his seat in the state’s 4th congressional district to run against incumbent Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). Though polling initially indicated Kennedy was the frontrunner, Markey has caught up as progressive heavyweights have rallied to his side. A recent JI poll found Markey leading Kennedy by four points with 48% of the vote in Kennedy’s home district. “This race, to me, is a chance to test whether progressives can protect an incumbent in the same kind of powerful way that they can unseat an incumbent,” Murray mused, alluding to some of the races this cycle in which veteran politicians such as Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Lacy Clay (D-MO) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL) have been unseated by younger, left-leaning challengers. 

1st district: In this district in western Massachusetts, Alex Morse, the 31-year-old mayor of Holyoke, earned an endorsement from Justice Democrats in his race against Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), chair of the Ways and Means Committee. “This is the best example, in Massachusetts, of where progressive groups are trying to flex their muscles and replicate something that we've seen across the country in the last two election cycles,” Murray told JI. A Jewish Insider poll last week had Neal up nine points at 49% to Morse at 40%.

4th district: Kennedy’s current district has attracted a wide variety of candidates who are vying for the chance to replace him in Congress. “This is a rare opportunity in Massachusetts, an open House seat, which is why so many people are running for it,” Murray said. The frontrunners in the crowded race include Newton City Councilors Jake Auchincloss, former Brookline select board member Jesse Mermell and Becky Grossman. A JI poll found that Auchincloss and Mermell were in a statistical tie for first among voters surveyed, while Grossman ranked third with 15% of the vote. Murray cautions the primary could go to a recount because there are so many people running, which could stretch the election out for a couple of weeks. 

8th district: Boston physician Robbie Goldstein is taking on incumbent Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) in this matchup. Though the race hasn’t been as closely watched as others in the state, “this is another example of a more progressive Democrat trying to knock out a more moderate member of the party who has some clout in Congress and has been there for a long time,” according to Murray. Goldstein, an infectious disease specialist who worked in a coronavirus intensive care unit this spring, has gotten support from progressives on the local and national level. “But I think it's going to be tough for him because there's so much attention on these other races,” Murray said.

Read the full preview of today’s races here.

seen it all

From prison to politics, Natan Sharansky never loses hope

Sipa via AP Images
Natan Sharansky believes he is way too young to write a memoir. The 72-year-old activist, politician and former Jewish Agency chairman told Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro that his latest work is not a memoir, but “a book about the dialogue between Israel and the Jewish people.” 

Vantage point: Never Alone: Prison, Politics, and My People, which hits shelves today, is an exploration of the relationship between Israel and the Jewish people from the multiple perspectives Sharansky has held during his remarkable life. “I watched and participated in this dialogue from three different directions — from prison, from a government position, and as the head of the Jewish Agency,” he told JI. “It’s three different dimensions which together can give the full picture.” 

Three views: For lovers of symmetry — Sharansky among them — his incredible life journey has a satisfying rhythm. He spent nine years in a Soviet Gulag as a ‘prisoner of Zion,’ nine years in politics as a Knesset member and minister, and nine years as chairman of the Jewish Agency, enabling him to make one of his favorite jokes, “that having served for nine years in each, I didn’t know where I suffered most.”

Sizing up: Never Alone is chock full of Sharansky’s ever-present wit, as well as juicy personal and political tidbits from throughout his life, including his blunt assessments of his longtime political colleagues Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. He has no love lost for either President Barack Obama — who “prioritized engaging with dictatorial regimes” — or President Donald Trump, whose “human rights-free foreign policy” continues to reach “absurd new depths.” 

Myth vs. reality: While he pulls no punches, Sharansky is at his core an optimist, and hopes this book can prove that the worldwide Jewish community is not as divided and fractured as it may seem. It is easy, he says, to look at the global Jewish movement to free Soviet Jewry as the peak of Jewish unity. But the truth, he posits, is more complex. “It’s quite an illusion to think that then it was all unity and now it is all division,” he told JI. In reality, the movement “was full of contradictions and competing Jewish and Israeli organizations who didn't trust one another, who sometimes even hated one another, who were coming from very different positions,” Sharansky told JI. “But in the end we all had one aim, and we were united — at least that’s what it looked like to the KGB: one monolithic movement.” 

Working together: It is easy these days, he said, to get bogged down in the differences and deep fissions between Israeli and American Jews. “Both sides sometimes feel deeply betrayed by the other side,” he said. “But at the same time, everybody wants to be part of the Jewish family. To continue this journey together. And we have to build on this.” What he tries to show in the book, Sharansky said, “is the fact that you have different sets of priorities for our own survival [based on] where we chose to live, doesn't have to make us hostile to one another.”

Read the full interview here.

Book Shelf

Jonathan Sacks wants to prevent the failure of liberal democracy

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
Philosopher, writer, spiritual leader...soothsayer? Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has filled many roles, but even he could not predict the timeliness of his latest book Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times. In its pages, Sacks mixes sociology, history, philosophy and theology, all the while writing with a perceptive clarity and underlying warmth that explains his status as one of the foremost Jewish thinkers of today.

I vs. we: The book, released today for American audiences, examines what Sacks terms the “I” of self-interest and the “we” of shared values and responsibility, ultimately providing a pathway for moving from the former to the latter. In doing so, Sacks provides as good an argument as any for moving forward productively and conscientiously. In an interview with Jewish Insider’s Sam Zieve Cohen, Sacks cited the multiculturalism that began in the 1970s and more recent identity politics each as a wave that “fragments and destroys the idea of an overarching culture that turns disconnected individuals and communities into a cohesive society.”

Defining differences: While he reserves no criticism, Sacks treats these movements and their disciples with evident care, describing them as unfortunate products of postmodernism rather than simply the work of ill-intentioned radicals seeking disruption. “The first country to introduce multiculturalism, and the first to regret it, was the Netherlands.” Sacks writes in his chapter on identity politics. “When asked why they were against it, the Dutch people interviewed said: because they were in favor of tolerance. When asked for their explanation of the difference between the two, they tended to reply that tolerance means ignoring differences; multiculturalism means making an issue of them at every stage.”

A new hope: The way forward, Sacks argues, requires an acceptance of difference alongside a shared cause, more commonly and aptly called patriotism. In conversation with JI, Sacks cited George Orwell’s differentiation of patriotism and nationalism in his 1945 essay “Notes on Nationalism,” during which the English novelist wrote: “The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.” Patriotism, Sacks argues, is the best means to turn from “I’ to “we.” Throughout his book, Sacks also refers to this commitment as a “covenant,” a permanent and powerful collaboration that turns individual “I”s seeking personal good into “we”s seeking common good.

Broadway bonus: “Britain, like America, has recently become sort of ashamed of its national narrative,” Sacks remarked, noting that he has spent time working alongside numerous prime ministers in an effort to resurrect a respectable replacement. He cited the popular Broadway musical “Hamilton” as an important example of renewing old values by “[retelling] the national narrative in a thrilling way.”

Read the full review here.
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Community Comms

Podcast Playback: Former AIPAC President Dr. Mort Fridman joined Mark Gerson's podcast to discuss Micah 6:8 [Link]

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👩‍🔬 Profile in Courage: The New York Times’s Kenneth Chang profiles Dr. Myriam Sarachik, a groundbreaking scientist born to Orthodox Jewish parents in Antwerp, Belgium, who fled the rise of Hitler and established an award-winning career in physics in New York — despite a 10-year break after the murder of her young daughter. [NYTimes]

Hate Empowered: In New York magazine, Jonathan Chait explores how “we all have grown accustomed” to the prominence of vocal Nazi supporters of President Donald Trump. “Trump’s evocation of racist tropes is not Nazism, exactly. It is better described as Nazi-adjacent.” [NYMag]

📱 Speed Snacks: Forbes’s Lauren Debter spotlights Rafael Ilishayev and Yakir Gola, the two 27-year-old co-founders of GoPuff, a Softbank-backed national delivery platform based in Philadelphia. The pair met in college and built up the company over five years to a $2.8 billion valuation. [Forbes]
Around the Web
😠 Speaking Out: Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie criticized American leadership, without naming names, over the handling of COVID-19. 

👨‍🏫 Junior Class: Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is teaming up with Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Business School to train mayors in navigating the coronavirus crises.  

👨‍💼 Rising Star: Forbes profiles Tricon CEO Gary Berman, who recently scored a $300 million equity investment by a group of investors led by Blackstone. 

💲 On Board: Senior Republicans are launching a new super PAC, Preserve America, to bolster Donald Trump’s reelection with the help of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus.

🏡 Closing In: Adelson is reportedly in advanced talks to buy the iconic U.S. ambassador to Israel’s official residence in Herzliya — on the market for $87 million. 

✈️ Runway Ready: Etihad Airways has begun selling tickets to Israeli passengers for its existing flights, before direct flights from the UAE to Tel Aviv are established. 

🗣️ Speaking Out: Suha Arafat, the widow of Yasser Arafat, is under fire from many Palestinians for her comments welcoming the UAE-Israel peace accord. 

💥 Up North: Syria claims Israel fired missiles at a military site south of Damascus last night, killing two soldiers. 

📋 Clarion Call: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, requested the White House withdraw the nomination of Col. Douglas Macgregor as ambassador to Germany over his history of “disturbing statements.” 

🤳 No Joke: A U.S. Army soldier was suspended and is under investigation after making a joke about the Holocaust on Tik Tok.  

📣 Calling Out Hate: German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier condemned antisemitic far-right protesters who attempted to storm the Reichstag building over the weekend.

👵 Family Ties: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg officiated the outdoor wedding of family friends Barb Solish and Danny Kazin on Sunday. 

🧹 Clean Sweep: The New Yorker profiles Alan Bloom, the “broom-sweep” who cleans out New York City apartments of whatever residents and antiques and arts dealers have left behind.

🥪 Treyf Taste: Los Angeles pop-up eatery “The Bad Jew” serves “porkstrami” and a corned pork Reuben.

👨‍💼 Transition: Former AJC official Scott Richman has been appointed as the new regional director of the New York/New Jersey office of the Anti-Defamation League. 

🕯️Remembering: Longtime media journalist Morrie Gelman died at age 90. “Scooby Doo” co-creator Joe Ruby died at age 87.
Koby Gideon/GPO
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Yoav Galant visited the Netaim school in Mevo Horon to mark the first day back to school across the country.
Laura Ashbrook Photography
Author and former director of Sixth & I historic synagogue, she is the matriarch of a literary family (her sons are Franklin, Jonathan and Joshua), Esther Safran Foer turns 74... 

Retired Harvard Law School professor, Alan Dershowitz turns 82... Conductor, author and composer, Leonard Slatkin turns 76... Israeli rock singer, lyricist and composer, he is often referred to as "The King of Israeli Rock," Shalom Hanoch turns 74... Linda Feldman turns 71... Vice chair of the Miami-Dade GOP, Corey Breier turns 65... Director of donor travel programs at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Nadia Ficara turns 64... Former speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, the first Jewish speaker in Texas, Joe Straus turns 61... Formerly EVP for worldwide corporate communications at Warner Brothers, Dee Dee Myers turns 59... Executive director of Detroit's JCRC/AJC and rabbi of Kehillat Etz Chayim, Asher Lopatin turns 56...

Former clinical sciences group lead at Pfizer, Malca Resnick turns 56... VP of global government affairs at Global Citizen, Elana Broitman turns 54... Capitol Hill producer for C-SPAN, Craig Caplan turns 53... Fashion designer, businesswoman and writer, Rachel Zoe Rosenzweig turns 52... Director of national outreach for the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, Harris Vederman turns 50... Novelist and playwright whose parents, Faye Kellerman and Jonathan Kellerman, are both best-selling authors, Jesse Oren Kellerman turns 42... Video producer at MSNBC, Amitai Perline turns 35... Samuel Asher Salkin turns 34... General manager of Bloomberg Green, a multiplatform editorial brand of Bloomberg focused on climate news, Lauren Kiel turns 31...
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