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FIRST LOOK: Jewish Staffers in Trump’s White House -- by JI's Aaron Magid: Natalie Strom, Assistant Press Secretary and a former staffer at the Republican National Committee (RNC), completely rejected charges of alleged anti-Semitism in pockets of the administration. “It’s pretty silly to me every time that I hear it and I’ve never felt like anything but supported as a person,” she noted... The White House staffers also cited the press’ role in the perception of the White House’s attitude towards the Jewish community. Adam Kennedy, White House Deputy Director of Research, noted, “There is a natural slant in the media that tries to portray the things that we do in a negative light. That could be this administration is too close to Israel to this administration has a problem with the American-Jewish community. All on the same day.”
A member of Georgetown’s Kesher Israel Synagogue, Ari Schaffer appreciates the respect given to him at the White House. “For me, someone on the more observant side, Sabbath observant, I have never had any problems taking time off. There has never been a question about observing my faith in any way, shape or form.” [JewishInsider]
DRIVING THE WEEK: "Everything You’ve Been Told About Whether the Iran Deal Is Working is Probably Wrong" by Yair Rosenberg: “The erroneous assumption that Trump would immediately tear up the Iran deal... is another example of how Trump’s reputation on the Middle East is often at odds with his statements and actions… Just as consequentially, the misrepresentation of Trump’s position on the Iran deal is of a piece with the broader misrepresentations of the Iran deal by both its proponents and opponents since its signing… Most critics of the deal... argued that Iran would comply with the deal until it obtained full sanctions relief and rebuilt its economy… In other words, both sides have repeatedly moved the goalposts on the Iran deal for political purposes, when there is still plenty of time on the game clock before we know whether the accord helped curb the regime’s nuclear ambitions or enabled them. And for the moment, President Trump seems inclined to let that clock continue to tick.” [TabletMag]
Trump complained Iran is not living up to 'spirit' of the deal during joint press conference with the Italian PM yesterday: "I think they are doing a tremendous disservice to an agreement that was signed. It was a terrible agreement. It shouldn’t have been signed. It shouldn’t have been negotiated the way it was negotiated. I’m all for agreements, but that was a bad one, as bad as I’ve ever seen negotiated. They are not living up to the spirit of the agreement, I can tell you that. And we’re analyzing it very, very carefully and we’ll have something to say about it in the not-too-distant future. But Iran has not lived up to the spirit of the agreement. And they have to do that. They have to do that. So we will see what happens.” [YouTube]
HEARD YESTERDAY -- Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), one of four Democrats to vote against the Iran deal, on MSNBC’s MTP Daily: "We need to make sure that the U.S. does not do anything that would violate the nuclear agreement... I want Iran to comply with the nuclear agreement. We have got to be clear-eyed about it... The agreement has gone into effect. We cannot rewrite history... I don't want [the administration] to look for an excuse to break the agreement. But we want to make sure that Iran complies with this agreement." [MSNBC]
DRIVING THE DAY -- Meeting Mattis, PM hails ‘welcome change’ of US leadership: "Ahead of his meeting with Mattis in Jerusalem, Netanyahu... hailed the Pentagon chief’s “strong and forthright words” on Iran, and US President Donald Trump’s “very forthright deeds” in launching a strike on a Syrian airbase... “We sense a great change in the direction of American policy,” Netanyahu told Mattis at a joint press conference in Jerusalem. “This has been appreciated around the world and in our region. I think this is a welcome change, a strategic change of American leadership and American policy,” Netanyahu said." [ToI] • Avigdor Liberman: Crucial to place more pressure and sanctions on Iran [JPost]
--"Repeating previous statements by the Trump administration, Mattis said Tehran appears to be living up to the agreement reached in 2015... But he added, “That in no way mitigates or excuses the other activities of Iran in the region, to include its support for the war in Yemen, which drags on thanks to Iranian support or what they are doing in Syria to keep Assad in power and continue the mayhem and the chaos and the murder that’s going on there and the refugees." [Politico]
“Mattis' Mideast trip holds promise, reality check for Israel” by Daniel Shapiro: “Strong enforcement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) can be expected, but if Israeli officials expect the tough-talking Mattis to present a plan to dismantle the JCPOA, Mattis may need to adjust their expectations. There is no indication that the Trump administration — with its hands full with North Korea and with the counter-IS campaign as its regional priority — has any near-term plan to consider military action against Iran’s nuclear program.” [Al-Monitor]
PIVOT -- “U.S. pushes U.N. Security Council to focus on Iran not Israel” by Michelle Nichols: “U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the 15-member council that its monthly meetings on the Middle East - traditionally focused on Israel and the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon - regularly turned into "Israel-bashing sessions. Iran is using Hezbollah to advance its regional aspirations. They are working together to expand extremist ideologies in the Middle East," she said... "The incredibly destructive nature of Iranian and Hezbollah activities throughout the Middle East demands much more of our attention. It should become this council's priority in the region.” [Reuters] • Video of Haley's opening statement at the UNSC [YouTube]
JERUSALEM, HERE I COME -- “Finding a house in Jerusalem for new US ambassador” by Orly Harari: “While the Ambassador (David Friedman) already owns a private residence in Jerusalem’s Talbiya neighborhood, State Department officials ruled out his request to work out of the home, saying that it does not meet the logistical requirements necessary for the Ambassador’s office or residence, where foreign officials are received for official events… According to a report by Channel 10, aides to the ambassador and Jerusalem city officials are currently searching for a new residence in the city. The report claims that officials involved in the search are strongly considering properties in the Katamon neighborhood.” [INN]
JI INTERVIEW -- with Marc Goldman, a Boca Raton-based investor and RJC board member, who supported Scott Walker and Marco Rubio earlier in the 2016 Republican primary but later became a strong supporter of the Trump/Pence ticket. “I think it is all going according to expectations and the best I would hope for,” Goldman told JI’s Jacob Kornbluh in a phone interview when asked to grade Trump’s performance so far. “I feel that in each arena that he has stepped up to he has shown a change in direction for America. The enthusiasm generated amongst most working people and many business people will stand us in good stead - because people are starting to feel that government is with them, not against them.”
Q: Do you still believe Trump will move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem?
MG: “I do. Since in the last eight years America has shown itself to be an unreliable ally, that would send a clear message to friend and enemy alike that the U.S. will stand up for what’s right.”
Q: Have you spoken to the President since the inauguration?
MG: “I have seen him a number of times. I belong to his golf course (Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach) and he’s been there a number of times - either for lunch or for some of the dinners.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]
"Citing ethics concerns, Ivanka skips book tour" by Annie Karni: “In light of government ethics rules, I want to be clear that this book is a personal project,” she wrote Thursday in a post on her Facebook page. “I wrote it at a different time in my life, from the perspective of an executive and an entrepreneur, and the manuscript was completed before the election last November.” She said her decision to opt out of promotion was made “out of an abundance of caution and to avoid the appearance of using my official role to promote the book.” [Politico]
COMING SOON -- Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer will deliver the keynote address and receive an honorary doctorate at Yeshiva University’s 86th Commencement at Madison Square Garden in New York City on May 25. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was last year’s keynote speaker. [YU]
PROFILE: "Conservative with a Big C" by Binyamin Rose: "[Sen. Tom Cotton] made his first Jewish friends at Harvard, where he quickly learned what Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were all about. “I’d heard of them in a vague Biblical sense, but the idea that you wouldn’t have classes on them or that people might be going home for them was just not something that was within my realm of experience as a high school kid growing up in rural Arkansas,” Cotton says. Two months into his first semester at Harvard, Israel’s prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. Cotton took interest in the intense debates among his right- and left-wing Jewish classmates, and through that experience, began to gain an appreciation for the depth of the bonds between the US and Israel. That’s when he began reading more about US-Israeli relations and Israel’s role in the Middle East." [Mishpacha]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Jerry Della Femina sells Hamptons paper to Ron Perelman [Newsday; TNM] • Pencils Of Promise Founder Adam Braun Has An Audacious Plan To Reinvent College [Forbes] • West Bank to get 3G mobile service [Al-Monitor] • World Trade Center Developer Janno Lieber to Oversee M.T.A. Expansion Projects [NYTimes] • Ralph Lauren still paying rent at abandoned former flagship store [NYPost]
SPOTLIGHT: "Stephen Harper goes to Silicon Valley" by Murad Hemmadi: "The ex-PM has started an international business consulting firm based in Calgary and joined the board of real estate giant Colliers International. His latest gig: Advisor to Silicon Valley venture capital firm 8VC. The firm was started after the breakup of Formation 8, where founding partner Joe Lonsdale and other members of the team worked." [Macleans; Medium]
KAFE KNESSET -- All in the family -- by Tal Shalev and JPost's Lahav Harkov: Two TV channels possibly ruined Netanyahu's weekend last night, by reporting on the deep involvement of his family in ongoing police probes and legal decisions. Channel 10 reported that the State Attorney’s Office is expected to recommend an indictment against Sara Netanyahu in the PM’s residence affairs, in which the PM’s wife allegedly ordered food for private events and paid for her father's caregiver from the official residence expenses. Meanwhile, Channel 1 reported that the premier's cousin, Nathan Milikovsky, recently testified to the police in two of the ongoing investigations, File 1000 in which Netanyahu is suspected of allegedly receiving illegal gifts and in File 3000 - a/k/a the "submarine affair" which involves another Bibi cousin - David Shimron.
Milikovsky is Netanyahu's cousin from his father's side, and according to recent reports in Israeli media, Netanyahu himself testified that Mililkovsky used to fund some of Bibi's cigar-smoking habits. Milikovsky is also the former director of GrafTech International, a major business partner of Thyssenkrupp, the German conglomerate which is the subject of the alleged corruption probe in the "submarine affair." According to the report, Milikovsky gave open testimony and was not questioned under warning.
The Netanyahu family spokesperson, Nir Heffetz, released two statements adamantly rejecting both reports: "It is a disgrace to consider prosecuting the Prime Minister's wife for these false claims and, first and foremost, the shameful accusations of her "sin" - taking care of her dying father in his last days. Apparently there is no limit to the hatred towards Netanyahu." Milikovsky, according to another statement, has been helping Netanyahu for decades, "and this is allowed, well known, and legal.” As for the submarine affair, attempts to tie the prime minister to it are "absurd and pathetic." Heffetz ended with the Bibi refrain: "There was nothing and there will be nothing." Read today's packed Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]
TALK OF THIS TOWN: “Prominent Adas Israel Rabbi Gil Steinlauf is leaving the synagogue” by Julie Zauzmer: “Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, who has preached to Supreme Court justices and hosted speeches by a president and vice president during his nine years as rabbi at Washington’s Adas Israel, told congregants on Thursday that he will leave the synagogue for a new job… A grandchild of President Trump is enrolled in the Adas Israel preschool… Steinlauf has been outspoken about politics. On the day of Trump’s inauguration, he published a forceful letter to the new president: “I know you so well, Mr. Trump, because in every generation, you hate and seek to destroy us.”” [WashPost]
“Amos Oz, David Grossman among Intl Booker Prize nominees” by Jill Lawless: “Two of Israel's most renowned authors and an Argentine first-time novelist are among six finalists for the Man Booker International Prize for fiction. David Grossman's "A Horse Walks Into a Bar," Amos Oz's "Judas" and Samanta Schweblin's "Fever Dream" are on a six-book shortlist announced Thursday for the 50,000 pound ($64,000) prize. Edinburgh International Book Festival director Nick Barley, who chaired the judging panel, said Grossman's portrait of a failing standup comic and Oz's story of history and betrayal were masterworks by mature writers with big international reputations.” [AP]
“Vogue Editors Share Their Favorite Wedding Day Moments” by Alexandra Macon -- Hildy Kuryk, Communications Director, Vogue: “We first heard the choir from the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn at an event for Mayor Bloomberg, and I remember being completely overwhelmed by how powerful their voices were and the immense impact they had. I jokingly turned to Jarrod [Bernstein] and said that I wanted to have them for our Jewish wedding—never thinking it could happen. Well . . . he always seems to make magic happen for us, and our wedding day did not disappoint. We were able to completely surprise our guests when, after dinner ended, the doors opened and 60 members of the choir came out and led everyone upstairs to kick off the dancing… We will be celebrating our 10-year anniversary this June, and he still makes me as happy now as I was in this picture.”” [Vogue]
WINE OF THE WEEK -- Katlav 2013 Cabernet -- by Yitz Applbaum: Spending Shabbat in Jerusalem with my eldest son was guaranteed to be a great Shabbat. His Chabad Rabbi from Princeton surprised us both when he texted that he was in town with his student-board. He brought with him some great wine for us to taste— a lot of good things all in one place.
We opened three bottles from the Katlav Vineyard. The 2013 Cabernet shined the brightest, although the other two are worth drinking as well. The Cabernet is very rich—full of blueberries and a hint of boysenberry. The grapes used are from the Judean Hills which give this wine a Bordeaux overtone and a long lingering soft finish. I saved half the bottle from our tasting and enjoyed it very much later that evening with a healthy serving of veal. [Katlav]
BIRTHWEEK: Law professor at Arizona State University, former State Department official and an expert on Iran's nuclear program, Orde Félix Kittrie turns 53...
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS -- FRIDAY: Comedienne, screenwriter, film director and actress, Elaine May (born Elaine Iva Berlin) turns 85... British chemist and professor at the University of Cambridge, Sir Alan Roy Fersht turns 74... White House Chief of Staff (1988-1989), now serves on many corporate, cultural, educational and volunteer boards, commissions and task forces, Kenneth Duberstein turns 73... Award winning folklorist, author, poet and editor of dozens of books, Howard Schwartz turns 72... Emergency physician for Kaiser Permanente in Panorama City, California, Joseph Edward Beezy turns 69... UCSB mathematician, an early winner of a MacArthur genius fellowship, Michael Hartley Freedman turns 66... Aide to the Mayor of Chicago, attorney Scott D. Yonover turns 53... Voice actress, whose career included the voice of Regina "Reggie" Rocket on Nickelodeon's Rocket Power, Shayna Bracha Fox turns 33... Once the top ranked collegiate female tennis player in the US and currently the head women's tennis coach at the University of North Florida, Audra Marie Cohen turns 31... Editor-in-chief of the online Rookie Magazine, aimed primarily at teenage girls, Tavi Gevinson turns 21... VP of operations at HEED, an event platform of WME-IMG and AGT, after 4 years as executive director of Israel Birthright Excel, Ifat Bechor... Engagement associate and Ezra Fellow at the University of Chicago Hillel, Joshua Gibbs... Marketing and recruitment associate at Birthright Israel, Alexandra Cohen... Irv Silberberg... Robert Kaufman... Howard Rosenblum...
SATURDAY: Real estate developer and principal owner of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, Zygmunt "Zygi" Wilf turns 67... Calgary-based businessman and philanthropist, CEO of of Balmon Investments (holdings in hotels, nursing homes, energy, real estate and financial services), Alvin Libin turns 86... Actor and later one of Hollywood’s most prolific producers, Mark Damon (born Alan Harris) turns 84... Co-founder of Human Rights Watch, formerly national director of the ACLU (1970-1978), president of George Soros's Open Society Institute (1993-2012), Aryeh Neier turns 80... English journalist and former anchor of of BBC Television's Newsnight, Adam Eliot Geoffrey Raphael turns 79... Former US Poet Laureate and winner of a Pulitzer Prize, Louise Elisabeth Glück turns 74... Conductor and professor of music at Boston University, Joshua Rifkin turns 73... Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin since 2011, he has served as mayor twice before (1973-1979 and again 1989-1997), Paul R. Soglin turns 72... British economist and former Chief Economist at the World Bank, Sir Nicholas Herbert Stern turns 71... Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania (1995-1999), Jon D. Fox turns 70... New Zealand native, managing director and CEO of the Commonwealth Bank Group, an 1,100 branch bank based in Australia, Ian Narev turns 50... NYC-based attorney, member of Kriss & Feuerstein LLP, represents financial institutions, bridge lenders, real estate debt funds, hedge funds and real estate companies, Jerold C. Feuerstein turns 49... Goldman Fellow at the NY Regional Office of AJC Global, Zachary Krooks turns 22... Competitive ice dancer, Elliana Pogrebinsky turns 19... Israeli columnist, editor and researcher, contributing opinion writer for the New York Times and the Jewish Journal, Shmuel Rosner... Edward Lifshitz...
SUNDAY: Literary critic, essayist, philosopher, novelist, Holocaust scholar and educator, George Steiner turns 88... Stage, television and film actor Alan Oppenheimer turns 87... Uruguayan-born author, software developer and entrepreneur, co-founder of Gryphon Software, author of a book on the history of anti-Semitism, Gabriel Wilensky turns 53... CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, Bill Browder turns 53... DC-based Executive Director of the Orthodox Union's Advocacy Center, Nathan J. Diament turns 50... Russian Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics (1988), Yelena Shushunova turns 48... Billionaire heiress and businesswoman, daughter of Ronald Lauder, style and image director for the Estée Lauder Companies, Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer turns 47... Former University of Michigan quarterback, now an investor, Alex Swieca turns 25... Director General of Aish HaTorah, previously Eastern Director at the Wiesenthal Center, managing director of OU and international director of NCSY, Rabbi Steven Burg... Israel Program Officer for the Helmsley Charitable Trust since 2014, Ariella Saperstein... SVP of Government Relations at the Council on Foundations, previously director of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, Hadar Susskind... Health services researcher focused on smoking cessation programs for women, maternal health and child health, Judith Katzburg... Deputy Director of NCSEJ, the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, Lesley L. Weiss... Oberlin, Ohio resident Patricia Ann Haumann... Marim Weissman... Terry Pullan... CEO of New Spirit Elisheva Mazya... Gary Pickholz...
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