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PROFILE -- "Meet the other mayor of Lakewood: How one man's vision reshaped a school and community" by Stacey Barchenger in the Asbury Park Press: "Four dire words had Rabbi Aaron Kotler scrambling up Capitol Hill in 2010. The phrase, "who is not married," was tucked on page 14 of the 906-page tome of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. The words were a tiny parenthetical overlooked by many during the chaotic moment as Congress was passing health care reform. The statement, though, had a profound meaning to Kotler, the president of Lakewood's Beth Medrash Govoha, the largest Orthodox Jewish yeshiva, or college, outside of Israel."
"Kotler went to Washington with goals to get meetings and get those four words deleted. “Try to buttonhole, same thing just as everyone else on Capitol Hill is doing," he recalled recently of his mad-dash to Congress. "The beauty of the legislative system is that people can do that." ... Students at Beth Medrash Govoha often marry in their mid-20s. Obamacare extended the time those students could stay on their parents' health insurance to age 26, but that four-word provision drawing Kotler's concern threatened to cancel the insurance for couples who married young. So Kotler went to Washington, and when then-President Barack Obama signed the historic bill, those four words were gone."
"Howard E. Friedman exemplifies the connections that Kotler brought to Beth Medrash Govoha — and how Kotler gets them there. Friedman is a former head of AIPAC and a political donor who hosted President Obama for a $32,000-a-plate dinner at his home in Baltimore... [Friedman connected Kotler with Obamacare's architect, U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana] ... As kids, Kotler and Friedman attended the same summer camp in New York state... The Baltimore resident said Kotler has been successful because of what Friedman saw on a ski slope in Utah more than a decade ago — a charisma and an inability to say something was impossible. "When he was learning how to ski he just wouldn't give up," Friedman said... "He pushes and pushes and pushes," Friedman said, "until he gets something done." [APP]
FROM APP'S FEATURE ON BMG: "The college opened in 1943 with 13 students in a Tudor mansion at the center of what was then a town known for chicken farming. Poultry once outnumbered people here. Now, 75 years later, the institution of about 6,700 students costs $50 million a year to run and has transformed the township into an economic powerhouse... Charles and Seryl Kushner, parents to President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, are benefactors whose surname is emblazoned on the school’s rotunda. Board members include billionaire investors, investment bankers and a media company director." [APP]
SCENE LAST NIGHT -- "Murdoch, Kravis, Schwarzman Among Trump Guests at Macron Dinner" by Jennifer Epstein and Jennifer Jacobs: "Apple Chief Executive OfficerTim Cook, leveraged buy-out billionaire Henry Kravis and Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman were among the guests Tuesday at the first state dinner of Donald Trump’s presidency... Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Fluence Corp chairman Ron Lauder... also were among the corporate titans attending the White House celebration... Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger walked past reporters using a cane and was followed by a man with a wheelchair." [Bloomberg] Full list of attendees [CNN]
"A National Security Aide’s Departing Wish: Cooking for the State Dinner" by Mark Landler: "Michael Anton, a classically trained chef who favors French cuisine, resigned on April 8 in a phone call with President Trump, the night before General McMaster’s successor, John R. Bolton, started work. As he packed up his office the next day, he made a special request of the current chief of staff, John F. Kelly: that he be allowed to come back for a day to work as a line cook in the White House kitchen, helping to prepare Mr. Trump’s state dinner for President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte. At first bewildered by the request, Mr. Kelly readily gave his blessing." [NYTimes]
IRAN DEAL -- "Trump, Macron call for 'new' nuclear deal with Iran" by Andrew Beatty: "[Trump] described the deal as "insane" and "ridiculous," despite European pleas for him not to walk away. Instead, Trump eyed a broader "deal" that would also limit Iran's ballistic missile program and support for militant groups across the Middle East. "I think we will have a great shot at doing a much bigger, maybe, deal," said Trump, stressing that any new accord would have to be built on "solid foundations."
"Macron admitted after meeting Trump that he did not know whether the US president would walk away from the nuclear deal... "I can say that we have had very frank discussions on that, just the two of us," Macron told a joint press conference... Putting on a brave face, he said he wished "for now to work on a new deal with Iran" of which the nuclear accord could be one part... Trump -- true to his background in reality TV -- teased his looming decision... "We're going to see what happens on the 12th."" [AFP; WashPost]
Sen. Ted Cruz tweets: "These proposed European ‘fixes' don't address the missiles Iran would actually build, the inspection problems that would actually arise, or the eventual sunsets as they would actually occur. They would only constrain the Iranians from doing things they never would have done."
Eli Lake writes “Trump, Macron and Merkel Have an Opportunity in Iran's Crisis: Any deal to fix it might save the regime at a moment the world should let it fall. A step in the other direction, like re-imposing sanctions, could give the regime a pretext to spark a nuclear crisis and distract the Iranian people from the regime's misruleTrump, Macron and Merkel have an opportunity [to] use negotiations over the nuclear deal to maintain the uncertainty that discourages foreign investment in Iran. Every week of inaction buys more time for the next Iranian revolution.” [BloombergView]
"The Iran Regime-Change Crew Is Back" by Vali Nasr: "These days, those regime-change evangelists having shrugged off the lessons of the Iraq war, are back at the helm of U.S. foreign policy. John Bolton, Donald Trump’s new national-security adviser, has long advocated regime change in Iran, and more recently has argued that the administration should openly embrace it as a foreign-policy goal." [TheAtlantic]
HEARD THIS AM: Top policy planning official at State Dept. Brian Hook tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that the Iran Deal is not binding in any way and simply a political agreement made by a previous administration. "This JCPOA is not a treaty. It's not an executive agreement, it has no signatures, it has no legal status. It is a political commitment by an administration that's no longer in office." [Twitter] Full interview with Hook [NPR]
"As Donald Trump Eyes Iran Nuclear Deal, North Korea Is Watching" by Christopher Dickey: "North Korea, which has close and controversial ties to Iran, will be watching closely, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif notes that any leader, including Kim Jong Un, would see little value in agreements with Washington that would last only as long as the term of the president who signed them. So, while Trump may have high hopes for his upcoming talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the “Little Rocket Man” he decided to describe on Tuesday as “very honorable,” Zarif is blunt: “People will not be prepared to give if the take is only temporary.”"[DailyBeast]
HEARD THIS MORNING -- NYTimes columnist Bret Stephens on Morning Joe: "Listening to the President reminded me his 'fire and fury' remarks that he directed at Kim Jong Un just a few months ago, and now, of course, he's entertaining negotiations with the North Koreans. So with this President, you never know. I argued strenuously against the Iran deal back in 2015. I think it has critical flaws... The real question is whether he can renegotiate the agreement... My question about this administration is whether it has the intellectual capacity and the seriousness to see through a renegotiation of a very flawed deal. Under a different Republican administration, I'd feel more confident about the idea of withdrawing from it completely."
HAPPENING AT 10:30AM: Macron will address a joint meeting of Congress. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has invited Fran Greenberg, a Holocaust survivor and Paris native, as his guest for the speech. “She is a tribute to the triumph of the human spirit and a reminder of why we must remain vigilant against hatred across the globe,” Brown said in a statement. [CSPAN]
DRIVING THE DAY: "For their part, Israeli officials moved to shape Mr. Trump’s thinking as well. Avigdor Liberman, the Israeli Defense Minister, said he planned to leave for the United Stateson Tuesday night so that he could meet with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and John R. Bolton, the president’s new national security adviser and a longtime opponent of the Iran nuclear agreement. The meetings, he said on Twitter, were to discuss “Iran’s expansion in the Middle East and Syria.”" [NYTimes]
-- Liberman arrived this morning at Newark Liberty International Airport where he then boarded Amtrak to DC. The Defense Minister was welcomed by Rabbi Mendy Carlebach, Chaplain of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department [Pic]
TALK OF THE MIDDLE EAST -- "Russian SC chief meets Israeli, Iranian counterparts" by Itamar Eichner, Alexandra Lukash and Nir Cohen: "Secretary of Russia's Security Council Nikolai Patrushev met separately on Tuesday with his Israeli and Iranian counterparts—Eytan Ben-David and Ali Shamkhani... The meetings were held in the Russian resort town of Sochi, and Patrushev discussed "Middle East developments" with the two officials."[Ynet] Russia says it will soon deliver new air defense systems to Syria [ToI]
Dennis Ross writes “Russia Risks a Wider Mideast War: So long as the Israelis said nothing publicly, neither the Iranians nor Hezbollah had to retaliate to avoid losing face. But with the Iranians losing at least seven Qods Force officers in the Israeli attack, and the Russians declaring Israeli responsibility, the Iranians have been exposed Putin wanted it known this was not an American strike. He is allergic to anything that suggests American power might be shaping events in Syria. Russia is the arbiter The president’s stated determination to get out of Syria and “let others take care of it” no doubt also emboldens both Russia and Iran—and tells the Israelis they are on their own.” [WSJ]
HEARD YESTERDAY -- Trump's Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt at the American Jewish Committee's Women’s Leadership Board Spring Luncheon in New York: “I’ve seen the wonder in the eyes of Syrian parents when they realize Israelis don’t want to kill them, but to help them. If one can find hope in something as terrible as the war in Syria, imagine what can happen with a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians."
Greenblatt, who was introduced by former Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell via video, also discussed the peace process, according to excerpts released by AJC: “Past failures do not absolve us of the responsibility to try. I ultimately believe there may be a clear path toward peace... True, lasting peace will be only as strong as the moral values that underlie it." [Pic]
"Israel scraps contested plan to deport tens of thousands of African migrants" by Ruth Eglash: "The government’s announcement Tuesday that it was abandoning the effort to send the migrants to unidentified African countries — widely reported to be Rwanda and Uganda — was welcomed as a positive step by advocates for about 36,000 migrants in Israel. But the move is also likely to bring even more uncertainty to those who have no official status here." [WashPost]
Tom Friedman writes... "Israel’s Got Its Own Refugee Dilemma: African ‘Dreamers’: [Taj] Haroun said he and his friends are trying to explain to Israel’s government and business community what an asset they could be: “Israel has a lot of companies working all over Africa. We could be their ambassadors and representatives.” Why not? They speak Hebrew, know Israel and know Africa. “We are normal people,” he added, “with dreams like everybody else’s dreams — to have your family safe and be able to contribute to your society.”" [NYTimes]
"Israel and South America: Strange Bedfellows or Great New Besties?" by Nick Fouriezos: "Many other Latin American countries are cozying up to Israel, and the reasons go beyond Trump and America. It starts with religious ties. “There are a lot of Christians and evangelicals in South and Central America,” [Eli] Hazan says, and they feel tied to the Jewish cause, which in turn ties their leaders. Also, about a “third to a quarter” of Israeli backpackers visit South America after their mandatory military service, a relationship built over decades of visiting Jewish relatives in those countries as part of their post-military “rite of passage,” as Chaim Noy, a tourism studies professor at Ashkelon Academic College in Israel, puts it." [Ozy]
REPORT -- "Mike Pompeo to head U.S. delegation to embassy ceremony" by Gil Hoffman: "Mike Pompeo... is slated to lead the delegation of some 250 American officials and Jewish leaders at a ceremony inaugurating the United States Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, Channel 10 reported on Wednesday. It was previously reported that United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would head the delegation." [JPost]
TALK OF THE NATION -- "Supreme Court: Foreign corporations can't be sued under U.S. law for human rights abuses" by Richard Wolf: "The Supreme Court ruled Tuesdaythat an Arab bank cannot be held liable for a decade of terrorist attacks against Israel under an obscure 1789 law... Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by the court's four other conservative justices, said only Congress can make such a decision. The ruling was 5-4... Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented and was joined by the court's three other liberal justices... The decision was a blow to some 6,000 foreign victims, including survivors and relatives, of suicide bombings and other attacks in Israel and the Palestinian Territories from 1996 to 2005." [USAToday]
STATE-SIDE -- Missouri House OKs boycott on companies boycotting Israel: "The Missouri House is advancing a proposal to ban public contractors from protesting Israel. House lawmakers gave the bill initial approval in a voice vote Tuesday." [Fox2Now]
ON THE HILL -- House unanimously passes bill to help Holocaust survivors obtain restitution, seized assets: "The measure approved Tuesday requires the State Department to report on the progress of certain European countries toward the return of or restitution for wrongfully confiscated or transferred Holocaust-era assets, including property, art and other movable property... The Senate unanimously approved its version of the bill in December... The bill now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature." [JTA]
Lawmakers near deal on Kushner-backed prison reform plan" by Heather Caygle: "Lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee are nearing agreement on a bipartisan prison reform bill that could be approved by the panel as soon as Wednesday and reach the floor in early May... Getting the legislation signed into law would be a coup for Kushner, who has struggled to land a policy win despite a sprawling portfolio that at times has included everything from negotiating peace in the Middle East to trying to combat the opioid epidemic." [Politico]
IN THE SPOTLIGHT... "Michael Cohen, Amid Bewildering Stormy Chaos, is Still Holding Out Hope for Survival" by Emily Jane Fox: "[Cohen] sometimes sits with an espresso at his usual table in Sant Ambroeus, with his phone buzzing and beeping. Sometimes they're messages of support from old friends, telling him they're behind him and that he is going to be some sort of phoenix rising from the ashes-that there will be book deals, movie deals, all sorts of offers down the road. More often, however, it's reporters seeking comments he can't give. For someone who relishes defending himself, staying quiet is not easy, the people familiar with Cohen's thinking said."
"Not being in communication with Trump also weighs on Cohen. The president did call him several days after the F.B.I. raid, and publicly said that what happened to Cohen was a 'disgraceful situation.' But their relationship had shifted since Trump took office. Cohen, who sees the Trumps as family, has only visited the White House a handful of times, including the White House Hanukkah party in December." [VanityFair]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: WeWork documents reveal it owes $18 billion in rent and is burning through cash as it seeks more funding [BusinessInsider] Kushners' Loan for Troubled N.J. Site Backed by Web Lender [Bloomberg] Aby Rosen’s RFR lands $74M loan for Gowanus acquisition [TheRealDeal] Joe Lonsdale's 8VC has closed its second early-stage fund with an eye on logistics and biotech [TechCrunch] NYC Developer Michael Stern Gets Loan for Condo Project in Glutted Miami Area [Bloomberg] Mobile credit card startup called Extend will announce it has a $3 million investment led by Steve Cohen's Point72 Ventures [CNBC] Kanye West fires manager Scooter Braun [PageSix]
"What about Bob? Behind the Leadership Drama Holding Up a Viacom-CBS Deal" by Keach Hagey and Joe Flint: "Over cookies and snacks in late March, [Bob] Bakish and Viacom Chief Financial Officer Wade Davis pitched CBS board members on their vision for wringing $1 billion in synergies out of the merger. The CBS directors later told their Viacom counterparts that they were impressed by Mr. Bakish’s presentation... So Viacom’s camp and [Shari] Redstone were shocked when CBS made an initial offer on April 3 that carved out no role for Mr. Bakish... Viacom immediately countered with a proposal that would name Mr. Bakish as [Leslie] Moonves’s No. 2 and give him broad responsibilities." [WSJ]
STARTUP NATION -- "Former BP CEO joins Israeli co Windward's board" by Nati Yefet: "Lord John Browne, 70, formerly the dominant CEO of British Petroleum (BP), is joining the board of directors of Israeli company Windward, founded in 2010 by CEO Amit Daniel and VP product Matan Peled. The big-data company, based on Hashlosha Street in Tel Aviv, analyzes maritime risks through reliable mapping and analysis of all the information about maritime traffic on the oceans and seas." [Globes]
ACROSS THE POND -- "Jewish Leaders Say Their Meeting With Jeremy Corbyn About Anti-Semitism Was A “Disappointing Missed Opportunity”" by Hannah Al-Othman: "Following weeks of criticism of Labour's handling of antisemitism allegations, [Jeremy] Corbyn met the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies at Westminster on Tuesdayevening in a bid to repair relations. While Corbyn described the meeting as positive and constructive, the groups released a joint statement that made clear their dismay at the party leader's response. It was followed by an even stronger statement from Labour Against Anti-Semitism... to describe what it saw as the "arrogance and complacency" of Corbyn and his team as "astonishing." [BuzzFeed]
HOLLYWOOD -- "Hank Azaria Says He'd Be Willing to "Step Aside" From 'Simpsons' Apu Role Following Controversy" by Patrick Shanley: "Hank Azaria dropped by the Late Show on Tuesday night to promote the new season of his IFC comedy Brockmire, and also address the recent controversy surrounding one of the characters he voices on The Simpsons, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. The character, an Indian immigrant who runs Springfield's local convenient store, was the subject of the recent documentary, The Problem With Apu, which criticized Azaria's voice portrayal as portraying a stereotype. When asked about the controversy surrounding his character, Azaria said... "The idea that anyone young or old, past or present, being bullied based on Apu really makes me sad," the actor went on. "It certainly was not my intention. I wanted to bring joy and laughter to people."" [HollywoodReporter]
"Natalie Portman Is No Prize" by Vivian Bercovici, former Canadian Ambassador to Israel: "Local gossip among the chattering classes in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem has it that the Israel Genesis Prize is a response of Russian-Israeli oligarchs who resented feeling sidelined in the fishbowl of Jewish power, which tends to be dominated by Americans. So, they pooled their considerable resources to create what some refer to as the “Jewish Nobel Prize.” ... Rather than pandering to bankable stars who draw glitter and gold, perhaps they will refocus on the many exceptionally deserving individuals beavering away in obscurity and bereft of the obnoxious hubris with which Natalie Portman is afflicted." [CommentaryMag]
SPORTS BLINK -- Robert Kraft celebrates Meek Mill’s release from prison" by Tanya Ray Fox: "Two weeks after Robert Kraft told media that Meek Mill “shouldn’t be here” after a visit with the rapper in prison alongside Philadelphia 76ers owner Michael Rubin, the New England Patriots owner – and Meek Mill’s millions of supporters – got their wish. On Tuesday, Pennsylvania’s high court ordered the immediate release of Meek Mill... The Patriots Twitter account posted photos of Kraft and Meek Mill together on Tuesday." [PatriotsWire;DailyNews] Meek Mill thanks 76ers Owner Michael Rubin [BleacherReport]
"Josh Rosen Details Anti-Semitic Slurs Used Against Him by Opponents During Games" by Rob Golberg: "NFL draft prospect Josh Rosen recently said he has heard a lot of anti-Semitic slurs used against him by opponents so far in his career. "I get a lot of Jewish things," the former UCLA quarterback said about trash talk, per Michael Silver of NFL.com. "My nose, particularly. I get, like, 'Stay the f**k down, you Jewish bastard ... I'm gonna break your f***g nose, you Jew.'" Rosen, who is usually not afraid to speak his mind, said the taunts don't bother him."[BleacherReport; NFL]
PODCAST PLAYBACK -- Pete Souza, the former White House photographer for President Obama, discussed one of the photos he’s most proud of with The Atlantic's editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg: “Another one is this from Israel. They were overlooking the city, I believe. It’s taken from behind. There were a whole group of people, including Prime Netanyahu and [Shimon] Peres.. And at one point, the president just sort of raised his hands to say the something and the light just happened to magically fall in his hands, and I saw it happen. It happened so quick. Aesthetically, I love that picture.” [TheAtlantic] See the pic [Instagram]
DESSERT -- "A Kosher Barbecue Joint and Deli Will Soon Open Under One Roof" by Alaena Hostetter: "Just imagine a typical New York Jewish deli where you go in and buy prepared foods and sandwiches. You can sit down or take it to go,” Howard Goldfeder, owner of Kosher Palate [in Dallas, Texas], told CultureMap. “We’ll experiment with other things. We want it to be kosher but we want to have a good time.” [EaterDallas]
“Farm-to-table pastrami and much more at new deli in Providence’s Wayland Square” by Gail Ciampa: “With his business partner, Nick Mazonowicz, [Ben] Lloyd visited eight New York City delis in one day to gather information that would help them design the perfect deli To try so many places in one day, Lloyd and Mazonowicz resolved that they would only take two bites of each sandwich at each deli. They were on foot and not taking any to-go bags. One server asked why they were leaving so much food on their plates. Far more dramatic was the woman who chased them from a deli into a subway station demanding that they tell her what they knew about the food that caused them to not eat it.” [ProvidenceJournal]
"An Old-School Deli from a Fermentation Expert Opens in Cleveland" by Douglas Trattner: "Chef Jeremy Umansky counts visiting his local Jewish deli on Cleveland’s east side among his most powerful childhood food memories. And stepping into Larder Delicatessen and Bakery, which opens in Cleveland this week, isn’t unlike the experience Umansky would have had on his after-school trips to grab a black-and-white cookie, a few flaky rugelach, and a chocolate phosphate." [Eater]
BIRTHDAYS: Commissioner of the National Basketball Association since 2014, Adam Silverturns 56... American-British academic, social worker and health spokesman of the Green Party of the UK, he is the older brother of US Senator Bernie Sanders, Larry Sanders turns 83... Chairman and CEO of Omega Advisors, a NYC-based investment advisory firm, Leon G. "Lee" Coopermanturns 75... Rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University since 1973, Rabbi of the Young Israel of Riverdale Synagogue since 1974, Rabbi Mordechai Willig turns 71... Former French Finance Minister and later Managing Director of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn turns 69... David Handlemanturns 69... Los Angeles-based partner in the energy practice group of the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, Beth A. Fox turns 58... Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, focused on the international politics of the Middle East, Michael Scott Doran turns 56... Litigator at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, he served as US Ambassador to the Czech Republic (2014-2017) and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun (1992-1993), Andrew H. Schapiro turns 55...
Actor, voice actor, comedian and producer, voices many roles on the "The Simpsons," descended from a Sephardic family rooted in Thessaloniki, Hank Azaria turns 54... Beersheba-born director, writer, comedian and infomercial pitchman, better known as Vince Offer, Vince Shlomi, or "The ShamWow Guy," Offer Shlomi turns 54... Editor of Shalom New Haven, the publication of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, Jeannette Brodeur turns 51... Democratic member of the Utah House of Representatives since 2000, currently serving as the Minority Leader, David E. Litvack turns 46... Moscow-born Democratic party strategist and television personality on the Fox News Channel, Julie Roginsky turns 45... Johannesburg-born political commentator, author and senior-editor-at-large for Breitbart News, Joel Barry Pollak turns 41... Attorney turned grocer, she is the founder of Glen's Garden Market, carved out of the old “Secret” Safeway north of Dupont Circle, Danielle Brody Rosengarten Vogel turns 39... Director in the NYC office of Burson-Marsteller, Kenneth R. Gold turns 32 (h/ts Playbook)... Deputy press secretary for NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, Jaclyn Rothenberg turns 30... Film and television actress, model and singer, Sara Paxton turns 30... Senior political reporter in Manhattan for the news and media website Mic,Emily C. Singer, née Cahn, turns 29... Attorney, partner in the NYC-based law firm of Bernstein Liebhard LLP, Sandy A. Liebhard... Mike Sponder...
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