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Jewish Insider | Daily Kickoff
September 24th, 2020
👋 Good Thursday morning!

Not a fan of Israeli detergent? Neither are the Netanyahus. According to a report in The Washington Post, the Israeli prime minister and his wife, Sara, bring “bags and suitcases full of dirty laundry” for free cleaning at Blair House, seemingly confirming allegations that have dogged the couple for years. 

Also in The Washington Post, Greg Miller reported yesterday that President Donald Trump is said to have remarked following a call with Jewish lawmakers that Jews “are only in it for themselves” and “stick together.” 

Negotiations between the U.S. and Sudan on normalizing ties with Israel have reportedly ended without a breakthrough. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft hinted yesterday that “another country will sign a normalization deal” with Israel in “the next day or two.” 

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tells The Jerusalem Post that even if the sale of F-35 jets to the United Arab Emirates is completed, “the delivery time is probably another six or seven years from now.”

A controversial webcast featuring Leila Khaled, a Palestinian terrorist — hosted by academics and students at San Francisco State University (SFSU) — was shut down by YouTube yesterday 20 minutes into the livestream. The event had been moved to YouTube after both Zoom and Facebook refused to host the webcast. Read more here.
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final respects

Jewish-infused ceremony opens mourning period for Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Andrew Harnik/AP
Three official days of mourning for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg commenced yesterday with a ceremony at the Supreme Court. Her coffin will lie in repose for two days outside the court before being moved to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, becoming both the first woman and first Jewish person to ever do so. 

Remembering: A short ceremony inside the Supreme Court was opened with the words “Baruch Dayan Haemet,” Hebrew for “blessed is the true judge,” uttered by Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt of Washington’s Adas Israel synagogue, where Ginsburg was a member. Holtzblatt noted that Ginsburg’s life arc echoed that of a prophet: “To be born into a world that does not see you, that does not believe in your potential… and despite this to be able to see beyond the world you are in, to imagine that something can be different.”

Roots: Chief Justice John G. Roberts was the only other person to speak at the memorial, noting that Ginsburg’s life “was one of the many versions of the American dream.” Recalling her parents’ immigrant histories, he said: “Ruth used to ask what is the difference between a bookkeeper in Brooklyn and a Supreme Court justice. Her answer: one generation.”

Paying respects: The 18-minute ceremony ended with Holtzblatt reciting the traditional mourning prayer “El Malei Rachamim.” Then, Ginsburg’s coffin was brought to lie outside the Supreme Court, where a series of lawmakers, officials and members of the public — as well as dozens of her former law clerks — stopped by to pay their respects yesterday, including Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). “She was obviously an incredibly brave and brilliant woman, and she has made a mark on history,” Sanders said. “She will not be forgotten.”

where the heart is

Richard Rubin believes the pandemic is paving the way for affordable housing

While the pandemic has ravaged U.S. businesses and placed thousands of Americans at risk of eviction, Richard Rubin, CEO of real estate company Repvblik, sees an opportunity amid the economic uncertainty. Rubin told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod that his company’s business model of “adaptive reuse” — buying up old hotels and commercial spaces and converting them into affordable housing — is well suited for the changing economic environment

Future planning: Repvblik’s apartments target a niche group that Rubin said is vastly underserved: the workers who make between 60% and 120% of the area median income — too much to qualify for subsidized housing, but not enough to afford the high-end housing that is the focus on many developers. Rubin’s company also has its eye of potentially expanding into transitional housing for homeless people who are able to afford to pay some rent. “I think there’s gonna be a lot of adaptive reuse coming down the pike. I think it’s going to become the flavor of the day,” he said. “It’s going to become its own asset class, just based on what’s occurring.”

Big plans: Repvblik has so far opened just one converted building — a former Days Inn in Branson, Missouri, now known as Plato’s Cave — but has about 10 projects in the works across the country, with a goal of expanding further and constructing 20,000 total apartments within the next five years. “Things are definitely changing as far as people’s perception of the profitability of doing naturally occurring affordable housing within the U.S.,” he said. “We have the expertise and fortunately now the capital resources to make a reasonable impression in the market and hopefully deliver on a national basis many thousands of affordable housing units.”

The right moment: Rubin, a native of South Africa, emphasized that in addition to the potential financial opportunities, a spirit of philanthropy and sustainability runs through his work. “I come from very humble financial beginnings,” he said. “I know what it’s like to have a situation where one’s home is not as secure as one would want from a financial perspective,” he added. “Everything I’ve ever done has always been some confluence of capitalism and… philanthropy.”

Read the full interview here.

La Boulangerie

A taste of Paris comes to Tel Aviv amid the pandemic

Dana Meirson
When Israel’s first Maison Kayser bakery opened in Tel Aviv’s Old Port area in early September, the country was just two weeks away from a second national lockdown, now in effect. The period leading up to the stay-at-home order was a relatively fruitful one given the circumstances, Yoan Smadja, chief executive officer of Maison Kayser Israel, told Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel

Lockdown blues: Smadja said the bakery attracted about 1,000 customers per day in its first two weeks. “Even if we are in a complicated period, it was a great success,” he said. But the lockdown has made the situation even more complicated. Though Maison Kayser has been allowed to stay open because it sells bread, considered essential, business is much more sluggish, as only 10 people at a time can enter the store, compared with 20 prior to the lockdown. “We try every day to adapt ourselves,” said Smadja. “We don't know what will be our future here in Israel.”

Three’s a charm: Plans to bring Maison Kayser — the chain founded by renowned French baker Eric Kayser — to Israel have been in the works for more than a year. The new bakery, whose opening was delayed by a few months, is the first of three that Smadja expects to launch in Tel Aviv. The Old Port location, which employs about 30 people, will serve as a kind of flagship and production unit.

Local flavors: Smadja said the venture exists not as a licensing deal or a franchise but as a partnership with Kayser and two other shareholders. According to Smadja, about 80% of the products sold at the new Tel Aviv location include standard chain items such as baguettes and croissants. The other 20% were developed to suit regional tastes. Unable to travel due to the coronavirus, pastry chefs and bakers in Israel and in Paris coordinated over Zoom and WhatsApp to create new menu items including challah and poppy seed cake: “Much more local flavors,” Smadja said.

Read the full feature here.

Red Light

NYC mayor vows tougher enforcement amid COVID spike in Jewish neighborhoods

Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to increase outreach efforts to Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Queens and to provide them with supplies and enforce coronavirus-related restrictions amid a dramatic rise in new cases. The city’s health department has identified the neighborhoods of Borough Park, Bensonhurst, Midwood and Williamsburg, which are home to a significant Jewish population, as hotspots that make up about 20% of all new coronavirus cases in the city.

Details: Dr. Mitchell Katz, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, said the city has made more than 200,000 robocalls and engaged with community leaders, physicians, elected officials and residents to “improve outreach plans in that community and drive home our messages about physical distancing, wearing a face covering, staying home when you’re sick and practicing good health and hygiene.” Katz said the city has distributed more than 13,000 masks across the neighborhoods and placed ads in local publications — in both English and Yiddish — to “get the word out” and attempt “to prevent COVID from being spread.” 

Carrot and stick: De Blasio told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh he is in constant contact with Jewish community leaders to make sure the guidelines are being followed. “There was a lot of enforcement in March and April,” the mayor insisted. “No one wants to do it, but we have to do it when it is needed, and it had some impact for sure. We want to do it productively, cooperatively. If some people don’t want to be helpful to their neighbors, then we will take stronger action.” Katz warned that “in the absence of us doing the right thing, we will need to be in a lockdown-type situation as has occurred in Israel because they haven't been able to control the spread of the virus.”

Closer to home: Katz shared with reporters that his Israeli father-in-law, the father of his partner, Rabbi Igael "Iggy" Gurin-Malous, died earlier this week of the coronavirus. Katz told JI his father-in-law, who lived in Tel Aviv, wore a mask and followed the social distancing guidelines, but likely contracted the virus during unrelated medical appointments. Katz said this tragedy is motivating him to caution people about the disease. “We can wear masks and comply with social distancing measures and still live our religious life,” he said. “We have talked about wearing masks as a way to protect yourself and protect others, but it's also a way to make sure that the city does not have to go into lockdown. We shouldn’t close down businesses, schools, and have shelter at home orders when there is a way that is both effective and much less onerous for all of us.” 

Read more here.
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💰 Big Bucks: In Vox’s Recode, Theodore Schleifer spotlights the political activities of LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who is spending up to $100 million, and raising even more, to oust Trump. But he is a “polarizing figure” among Democratic mega-donors, by “pushing the envelope and funding risky and unorthodox projects.” [Vox]

🎸 Holy Roller: Lenny Kravitz speaks to The New York Times’s Rob Tannenbaum about his new memoir and his religious upbringing from his Jewish dad. “As with many Jews in my family at the time, it was all about tradition and keeping that alive, especially after what people in the family had gone through in World War II.” [NYTimes]

🗿 Touchy Tribute: In Smithsonian magazine, Andrea Cooper explains why the monument to Jewish confederate official Judah Benjamin, erected in Charlotte in 1948, was controversial before it was even built. Rabbi Asher Knight believes the Jewish community may have felt “it was a big deal to have a Jewish person recognized, especially by a group of white southerners.” [Smithsonian]

:building_construction: NIMBY: In Brooklyn’s Industry City, The New York Times highlights how “progressives defeat Brooklyn project that promised 20,000 jobs.” Despite high unemployment in the area, the left-wing of the Democratic Party viewed the project as a favor to big business that would bring gentrification to the area. The episode has raised concerns among business leaders about the future of New York City. [NYTimes]
Around the Web
🔒 Lockdown 2.0: The Israeli government approved tightening its COVID-19 lockdown restrictions beginning tomorrow, shuttering most workplaces and putting flights in question. 

🇸🇦 On the Agenda: In an address to the U.N. General Assembly, Saudi Arabia's King Salman slammed Iran, called to disarm Hezbollah and pushed for restarting Israeli-Palestinian talks. 

🏡 In the Dark: State Department officials are allegedly telling members of Congress the sale of the Israeli ambassador’s Herzliya residence is not complete, despite paperwork showing it is.  

📺 Harsh Words: MSNBC contributor Donny Deutsch compared Trump to Hitler on “Morning Joe” yesterday, accusing Jewish Trump supporters of “walking like a lemming off a cliff.” 

✈️ Transition: Former White House Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt is expected to join El Al’s board of directors as part of a reshuffle by the new controlling stakeholder, Eli Rozenberg. Meanwhile the airline is appealing to the government to stop Rozenberg’s takeover, arguing that he is merely a “straw man” for his father. 

🚘 No Hands: Israel’s Mobileye signed a partnership with United Arab Emirates-based Al Habtoor Group to deploy a fleet of self-driving robotaxis in Dubai by the end of 2022. 

📦 Fast Route: Danish shipping company Maersk will transport cargo between Israel and the United Arab Emirates now that the boycott has lifted.

🤝 Face to Face: Israel’s Ambassador to Azerbaijan George Deek met his UAE counterpart in Baku on Tuesday. 
🤔 Mea Culpa: Former Mideast negotiator Aaron David Miller writes that the new Israeli peace accords have proven how wrong he and other Mideast experts and analysts have been.  

🧑‍⚖️ On the Hill: Democrats are reportedly worried that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 87, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, is not up to the challenge of the looming Supreme Court confirmation battle.

:airplane_departure: Hot Seat: Former Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) is facing a federal investigation over charges she improperly used campaign funds for personal vacations.

⚖️ Ongoing Battle: Attorneys for a Jewish woman harassed by neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin are seeking to seize his assets to pay off a $14 million court-imposed fine. 

🎉 Talk of the Town: Residents of the coastal New Jersey town of Deal have been holding parties, weddings and bar mitzvahs despite high levels of COVID-19. 

🎤 Back on Air: Fox said the decision to keep Nick Cannon as host of “The Masked Singer” after his antisemitism controversy was “not made lightly,” but “it was so clear of his remorse.” 

🗞️ Passing the Baton: New York Times chairman Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. will retire at the end of 2020 and be replaced by his son, A.G. Sulzberger, the paper’s current publisher. 

📰 Last Edition: The Jewish Advocate, founded in 1902 in Boston by Theodor Herzl, is halting its print edition and switching to digital only. 

🤝 Media Merger: Penske Media Corp., which owns Rolling Stone, Variety, and Deadline, is merging with MRC, which owns The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard
The United Arab Emirates's Ambassador to the U.N. Lana Nusseibeh met with her Israeli counterpart, Gilad Erdan, in New York City yesterday.
Actor, singer and songwriter, Ben Platt turns 27...

Author, known for the semi-autobiographical novel I Never Promised You a Rose GardenJoanne Greenberg turns 88... Retired Israeli diplomat who served as Israel's ambassador to Peru, Argentina, Brazil and Chile, Rafael Eldad turns 71... Former CEO of American Media, David Pecker turns 69... Feature writer for Sports Illustrated for 27 years, he is a 2015 inductee into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Franz Lidz turns 69... Attorney and former judge advocate, Michael Alan Weiss turns 67... Founder, chairman and CEO of Hilco Global, Jeffrey Hecktman turns 67... CEO at The MAI Group and response professional at Hagerty Consulting, William Gross turns 61... President of Princeton University, Christopher L. Eisgruber turns 59...

Co-founder and principal at DC-based PRG Hospitality, Alan Popovsky turns 58... EVP of governmental affairs at the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, Chanina Sperlin turns 57... Economist, best-selling author and a great-granddaughter of former British Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz, Noreena Hertz turns 53... Screenwriter, television producer, comic book writer and novelist, Marc Guggenheim turns 50... Israeli television host, actress and model, Yael Goldman-Pfeffer turns 42... Yale Law graduate and former executive director of Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector, Jessica Schumer turns 36... Political reporter at The Associated Press, Alexandra Jaffe turns 31... 
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