Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: April 30, 2018

Netanyahu to deliver 'big speech' on Iran today | When Qatar paid Iran's Soleimani a $50M ransom | Milken Scene | Bob Dylan's whiskey

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrive for a joint press conference at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv on April 29, 2018
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrive for a joint press conference at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv on April 29, 2018Credit: THOMAS COEX/AFP
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DRIVING THE DAY -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to deliver a primetime address at 1PM EDT to issue a statement on a "significant development regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran," according to the Prime Minister's Office. Netanyahu will also reportedly "present new intel evidence about Iran's plots to attack Israel and its wide deployment in Syria."

President Trump spoke on the phone with Netanyahu on Saturday. “The two leaders discussed the continuing threats and challenges facing the Middle East region, especially the problems posed by the Iranian regime’s destabilizing activities,” according to a White House readout. The White House did not provide further details of the phone call.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv. Much of the conversation centered on Iran, Pompeo said following the meeting. “We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region and Iran’s ambition to dominate the Middle East remains. The United States is with Israel in this fight.”

-- "Syria Missile Strikes Reportedly Kill at Least 16" by Ben Hubbard: "Missile strikes in Syria hit military bases used by Iran and its proxy militias fighting in the civil war there, killing at least 16 people... There was no claim of responsibility for the strikes, but suspicion fell on Israel, which has repeatedly bombed what are believed to be Iranian convoys in Syria transporting weapons to its regional allies... The Israeli military... declined to comment on whether it had carried out the strikes on Sunday." [NYTimes]

"Pompeo and Palestinians Have ‘Nothing to Discuss’ Amid Gaza Crisis" by Gardiner Harris and Isabel Kershner: "No one at the State Department called Palestinian leaders to ask for a get-together with Mr. Pompeo, according to Palestinian officials. And that may be because the Americans knew the answer they would have gotten: No... “No meeting in Ramallah on his first visit sets an ominous tone about prospects for any progress, or even dialogue, with the Palestinians,” said Daniel B. Shapiro." [NYTimes]

"Pompeo says Israel, Palestinian peace still a US priority" by Matt Lee: "He said the United States is open to a two-state solution to the conflict if both parties agree, calling it a "likely outcome." But he would not agree with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi's characterization of the conflict as "the main cause of instability" in the region. "The parties will ultimately make the decision as to what the correct resolution is," Pompeo told reporters at a joint news conference with Safadi. "We are certainly open to a two-party solution as a likely outcome." [ABCNews

VIEW FROM RIYADH -- “Saudi Crown Prince: Palestinians should take what the U.S. offers” by Barak Ravid: “In a closed-door meeting with heads of Jewish organizations in New York on March 27th, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) gave harsh criticism of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), according to an Israeli foreign ministry cable sent by a diplomat from the Israeli consulate in New York The Saudi Crown Prince told the Jewish leaders: "In the last several decades the Palestinian leadership has missed one opportunity after the other and rejected all the peace proposals it was given. It is about time the Palestinians take the proposals and agree to come to the negotiations table or shut up and stop complaining."

“A source who was briefed on the meeting told me the attendees were stunned when they heard the Saudi Crown Prince comments on the Palestinian issue. "People literally fell off their chairs," the source said.” [Axios]  

-- "Saudi court starts trial of two Arabs accused of spying for Mossad"  by Marwa Rashad: "A Saudi Arabian court began the trial of two Jordanians accused of spying against the kingdom for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency..." [Reuters

Jordan, Israel, Palestinians in rare Japan-hosted meeting: "The Japanese foreign minister has presided over a rare meeting of Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian officials to push ahead with an agro-industrial park intended to enhance cross-border trade and cooperation." [AP

"Pompeo swaps no-profile espionage for overt diplomacy" by Matt Lee: "I haven’t been to my office yet," Pompeo quipped on Sunday after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on only his third full day on the job." [AP

Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky write... "As Pompeo's star rises in Trumpland, Haley and Kushner risk getting eclipsed: [Mike] Pompeo's star will eclipse that of Haley -- who recently angered Trump, and not for the first time, with a statement about new sanctions against Russia -- and she will likely assume a lower public profile in deference to Pompeo... Kushner's wings have been clipped by the Mueller investigation; he's keeping his head down and out of the line of fire. He can claim no foreign policy successes; Middle East peace diplomacy, which he owned lock, stock and barrel, is going nowhere. Pompeo knows it and seems determined to wrestle back foreign policy authority from the White House. The odds are in his favor." [CNN]

IRAN DEAL -- After visiting Saudi Arabia on Saturday, Pompeo accused Iran of "behaving worse" since signing the 2015 nuclear deal, asserting that if the U.S. fails to reach a new deal with the Europeans, Trump will withdraw from the deal." Talking to reporters en route to Israel, Pompeo brushed aside concerns that a decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal could impact negotiations with North Korea. At a campaign-style rally in Michigan on Saturday, Trump critiqued the previous administration ahead of his highly-anticipated summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. "Strength will keep us out of nuclear war," he said. "I'm not gonna be a John Kerry who makes a horrible Iran deal." 

National Security Advisor John Bolton said on Fox News Sunday: "Trump has made no decision on the nuclear deal, whether to stay in or get out." [Video

"Squeeze Iran and It Will Cave Like North Korea, Top Israeli Minister Says" by Ethan Bronner: "If North Korea abandons its nuclear weapons, credit belongs to President Donald Trump for his aggressive rhetoric and increased sanctions -- and a similar policy would defang Iran... Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said in an interview... Katz... was critical of French President Emmanuel Macron for his attempt last week to persuade Trump to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. “Macron made a big mistake. He should have gone to Iran to persuade Iran to change, not to Trump,” he said." [Bloomberg; Reuters]

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) on Fox News Sunday: "If President Trump can successfully lead an effort with our European allies to rein in or to end their ballistic missile program, to change the outcome of the current Iranian deal so there isn't a sunset clause — I think these will be positive things that I would support." [Video]

Peter Beinart writes... "Trump May Already Be Violating the Iran Deal: Section 22 of the deal specifically obliges the United States, subject to some restrictions, to “allow for the sale of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to Iran.” ... Erich Ferrari, a lawyer in Washington who works on sanctions issues, told me there’s “definitely been a shift. Certain transactions that we’ve seen licensed in the past under the Obama administration, are now being denied.” ... The Trump administration has never fully complied with the nuclear deal, and likely never will. The real question isn’t whether Trump violates it, but how." [TheAtlantic]

"Hacked messages show Qatar appearing to pay hundreds of millions to free hostages" by Joby Warrick: "The conversations and text messages obtained by The Post show senior Qatari diplomats appearing to sign off on a series of side payments ranging from $5 million to $50 million to Iranian and Iraqi officials and paramilitary leaders, with $25 million earmarked for a Kata’ib Hezbollah boss and $50 million set aside for “Qassem,” an apparent reference to Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and a key participant in the hostage deal." [WashPost]

REPORT -- Trump could let Pollard go to Israel in honor of embassy launch: “Donald Trump seems increasingly likely to attend the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem next month, and is reportedly thinking of allowing convicted spy Jonathan Pollard to come to Israel at the same time. The president is being pressured to go to Israel for the ceremony by supporters and donors, Hadashot TV news reported.” [ToI

"Trump ‘May’ Go to Opening of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem" by Felicia Schwartz: “I may go,” Trump said at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday... Mr. Trump revealed new details about his deliberations on the decision to construct a temporary facility, saying he almost signed off on a $1 billion plan. “I had my name half-signed, then I noticed the figure. I never got to the word ‘Trump,’” he said... Mr. Trump said he then called David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, who told him he could relocate the embassy for $150,000... In the end, the U.S. spent about $400,000 to retrofit a complex in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood, U.S. officials said. “It will be somewhat temporary, but it could be for many years,” Mr. Trump said." [WSJ; WashPost

HEARD YESTERDAY AT THE JPOST CONFERENCE IN NYC -- Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) on Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem: “Every country determines its own capital – what’s the big news here? I don't see this as a major decision by the president of the U.S. (the audience booed this line). The manner in which the president handled it, in my view, was a missed opportunity. But Israel’s capital is Jerusalem, and we’ve all recognized that and will continue to recognize that." 

-- "Reporter's Notebook: Effusive celebration of Israel in NY" by Lahav Harkov: "When I interviewed Senator Ben Cardin – the senior US Senator from Maryland, the former ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a Democrat – you could get whiplash from the crowd, cheering one minute and jeering the next. Few could doubt Cardin’s pro-Israel bona fides in his decades of public service, but when he mentioned that he spoke at the J Street Conference, the crowd seemed to do just that, and began to jeer. And they booed again when Cardin gave Congress credit for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital 23 years ago, as opposed to US President Donald Trump." [JPost]

HIGHLIGHTS -- Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Trump's Jerusalem move: "It should have happened many years ago... However, before we get overjoyed, let's not forget that in Trump's announcement he refers to the West side of Jerusalem, and he also said that the final borders will be determined in negotiations, which means that he does not necessarily accept that all Arab neighborhoods ought to be part of Jerusalem. We rather have a Jewish Jerusalem, and I hope it will be recognized by the entire international community soon." 

Olmert on Trump's peace plan: "From past experience, we know that America can't impose on any of the sides to do what they don't want to do. It depends what the plan is. But for the time being, if the president will sponsor a thoughtful and forthcoming peace initiative, I think it will be a positive step forward... If there is peace between us and the Palestinians, then overnight there will be peace between Israel and 10 Arab Muslim countries and Israel will become the capital of the Middle East and all the money coming to the region will pass through Tel Aviv.” 

Former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi: “I think Trump will nix the deal. I think nixing the deal is a good idea. It's time the world - and I am glad that the Trump Administration understands the real nature of Iran... The real issue is whether the Iranian will decide to go for the [nuclear] bomb.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): "I want to applaud President Trump for understanding this [Iran] deal sucks. I hope we get out unless we make it better because its a lousy deal."

Ron Lauder: "In many ways, the World Jewish Congress serves as Israel's foreign ministry. Which is a good thing, because Israel is probably the only country in the world right now that doesn't have its own foreign minister... Imagine if Israel bought one less F-16 plane, and used that money on hasbara. What a difference that would make." 

-- Lauder on Trump: "With the most pro-Israel president in American history, Donald J. Trump, I believe that peace is possible and within reach. And we all thank President Trump for his historic courage in moving the American embassy to Jerusalem." [Video

Anthony Scaramucci, defending Trump over his Charlottesville 'both sides' comments: "If you think about what the president is doing for the State of Israel and the Jewish community in general, he's the least anti-Semitic person that I know... There are mezuzahs in the West Wing – it's not just Jared's office... Trump's comments [on the Charlottesville protests], he probably meant to say that there are 'bad people' on both sides, and then he said something like there are quite a few fine people on both sides, and that got him into a lot of hot water... I think he gaffed in Charlottesville." [Video

-- The Mooch: Trump "thinks he can beat Netanyahu in an election for prime minister. I know he believes that." Added that Trump told him in a phone call in November, 'You tell Bibi that I am coming to Israel, I'm going to beat him to be prime minister. I am very popular over there, Anthony.'

"Roseanne Barr Talks Donald Trump, Says She Wants to Run for Prime Minister of Israel" by Kathy Campbell: "Barr, who has been to Israel three times, told interviewer Dana Weiss, “I want to move to Israel and run for prime minister, I do. In 2012, I said I was gonna run for president of the United States and prime minister of Israel, a twofer. I do have that fantasy. If God calls me, I’ll go, of course.” “I still have this fantasy of being an old Jewish lady living in the Jewish homeland, so someday I will do it,” added the star... “I want to buy a farm there, maybe bring my family.”" [USMagazine

Roseanne on Natalie Portman: “I asked a lot of Israeli friends what they thought, and they said, ‘Oh I wish she would have said it in Israel.’ Because Israel is a country where dissent is allowed, and to go out of your country and say something like that, it's not the bravest way of doing it. Also, I think it plays into the hands of the BDS movement. You know, they are thanking her today. But, whatever, we have to figure out a way to talk to each other and stand together... We have to be able to talk to the young people in America because they’re way off, they’re way out there. We have to figure out a way to reach them instead of turning them off... I would make her a lovely meal, and then I would talk to her about Jewish history and Torah because I think those are the things that bring people back and wake people up.” [Video; JPost]

NYTIMES AD DEPT: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach's World Values Network ran a full-page ad in the New York Times on Saturday calling Portman a "hypocrite" for criticizing Israel. Boteach emails “Our full-page NYT ad holding Natalie Portman to account for her false charge of Israeli atrocities generated a massive response, both pro and con. Those who agree with her excoriated us for pointing out her hypocrisy. But those who understand that Israel, a righteous democracy, has a moral obligation to defend innocent life thanked us in untold number for our bold defense of the Jewish state.”

"Blasted limbs, broken dreams: Israeli gunfire is taking a severe toll on the lower limbs of Palestinian protesters" by Erin Cunningham and Hazem Balousha: "For some youths like [Muhammad al-] Ajouri, the weekly protests were a welcome distraction, an escape from daily life in the Gaza Strip, where jobs and hope are both rare. The soft-spoken 17-year-old said he was injured at a March 30 protest after he had turned to leave. The bullet tore through his right leg, which was subsequently amputated above the knee. He still smiles, his eyes crinkling, when he recalls the medals he’d won for the 400-meter dash. “I’m fast, and I love running,” he said from his bed in a sparse room in Jabalya’s refugee camp, as friends and family held vigil. “My hope was to travel to the West Bank and to compete in international games." [WashPost

HAPPENING TODAY -- The Charles Bronfman Prize is expected to hold its annual award ceremony in New York, honoring David Lubell, founder of Welcoming America, for helping immigrants coming into the U.S. feel welcomed in 190 communities across the nation. The Charles Bronfman Prize is an annual award of $100,000 presented to humanitarians under 50 who have significantly improved the world. The prize was created by Charles Bronfman’s children as a surprise for his 70th birthday back in 2004

Bronfman, co-founder of Taglit-Birthright Israel, tells JI's Jacob Kornbluh... “Immigrants have made this country great. If we are an outreaching society, we must welcome those who come to our shores. I know that my own grandparents came to Canada in the 1890s, and there was a Jewish organization at that time called the Jewish Colonization Association, which bought a lot of land in western Canada for 2-5 dollars an acre. They saved that land for the Jewish people when they immigrated to Canada, and look at Canada today, and the Jewish community today. It's great.”

Bronfman on Israel-Diaspora relations: "I think it's vital to the Jewish future that these two great societies have empathy for each other. Really, we are one people. It's not just a campaign slogan. And the day we forget it, we're in terrible trouble. I think that there has to be some accommodation on both sides. The diaspora is not going to do legislation in Israel, but at the same time, I think we have a right and a responsibility to say, 'Look, this might be very good for your country, but it's going to be very difficult for the Jews in America, or Jews in Russia etc.' Yes, we do not vote in Israel, but we are Jews and we are one Jewish people, and our view must be taken into account." [JewishInsider]

PROFILE -- "Meet the pro-Trump PR Guy at the Center of the Mueller Probe — And Everything Else" by Ben Schreckinger: "[Ronn] Torossian’s numerous other ties to Trumpworld span the professional, the political and the personal. He sends his children to the same New York private school that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s children attended before the family decamped for Washington. And in August, when POLITICO revealed numerous allegations of financial misconduct against Moshe Lax, a former close business partner of Ivanka Trump’s who first introduced her to Kushner, Lax turned to Torossian to make a video statement in response... Trump’s longest-serving political adviser, the dirty trickster Roger Stone, has done work with Torossian, too, and once delivered a speech at 5W’s offices. And before he was Stone’s protege, future Trump political adviser Sam Nunberg, while on the payroll of Jay Sekulow’s American Center for Law & Justice, regularly worked out of 5W’s offices in 2009 and 2010... Despite his extensive ties to Trump world, Torossian gave $2,700 to Hillary Clinton in June 2016 and did not give to Trump’s campaign." [PoliticoMag]

"The Original Donald Trump: The New York Establishment will ignore unscrupulous acts to serve its interests — just look how it treated Roy Cohn, onetime lawyer to the president" by Frank Rich: "The more I’ve looked back at the entanglements of Trump, Cohn, and their overlapping circles and modi operandi, the more I think the crux of their political culture could be best captured if Edward Sorel were to create a raucous mural depicting the Friday night in February 1979 when Cohn celebrated his 52nd birthday at Studio 54. The guest list? “If you’re indicted, you’re invited,” went the comedian Joey Adams’s oft-repeated joke about Cohn’s soirées."

"The investigative reporter Wayne Barrett, who covered the scrum from the sidewalk for the Village Voice, noted that, among the usual Warhol celebrity crowd, politicians, and fixers, was a “surprise” attendee — “newcomer Chuck Schumer, a ‘reform’ assemblyman from Brooklyn who insisted he was just the date of a gossip columnist.” Also in attendance, less surprisingly, and camera-ready for the paparazzi, was the 32-year-old Trump, who by then had been in Cohn’s orbit for six years." [NYMag]

"'Who the hell is this person?' Trump's Mar-a-Lago pal stymies VA project" by Arthur Allen: "Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, an internist and friend of Trump confidant Ike Perlmutter, who advises the president informally on vet issues, objected to the $16 billion Department of Veterans Affairs project because he doesn't like the Cerner Corp. software he uses at two Florida hospitals... With the White House's approval, Moskowitz has been on two or three monthly calls since November with the contracting team responsible for implementing the 10-year project... Perlmutter, the Marvel Entertainment chairman, has also been on some of the calls... Perlmutter, meanwhile, has been advising Trump on veterans affairs since before the inauguration. Some news reports say the Israeli-born businessman’s interest in veterans stems from serving in the Six-Day War of 1967." [Politico

2018 WATCH -- "Republican Senate Candidate, Who Has Called for Country 'Free From Jews,’ Could be Dianne Feinstein’s Challenger" by Michael Edison Hayden: "Patrick Little, an extremist with hardline anti-Semitic views who is backed by David Duke and other far-right extremists... will be squaring off in a top-two primary with 10 other Republicans as well as Democrats and independents on June 5 for the chance to oppose veteran Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein... A poll conducted by local ABC News affiliates along with the polling company Survey USA, suggested that Little is polling at 18 percent of the vote on the Republican ticket, a full 10 points ahead of his next strongest opponent." [Newsweek]

"Rahm Emanuel racks up campaign cash — fund nears $5 million" by Fran Spielman: "The new donors also include: Bernard Schwartz, CEO of BLS Investments ($100,000); Eli Broad ($25,000) and Michael Polsky, CEO of Invenergy LLC ($25,000)." [ChicagoSunTimes]

2020 WATCH -- Trump’s Role in Midterm Elections Roils Republicans" by Jonathan Martin, Alex Burns and Maggie Haberman: "The president’s announcement that Brad Parscale, his 2016 digital guru, would manage his 2020 re-election campaign caught many of his most senior advisers by surprise... And the hasty decision immediately raised suspicions it was part of a power play by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, to isolate Corey Lewandowski... Mr. Parscale has rankled Trump advisers by giving the president a perpetually rosy assessment of his poll numbers. He often tells Mr. Trump his numbers have “never been higher,” according to two advisers." [NYTimes

** Good Monday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Alibaba chairman Jack Ma to visit Israel this week, will meet with Netanyahu [Globes; Calcalist]  Sumner Redstone's Grandson Rips RICO Lawsuit Filed by Mogul's Ex-Companion [HollywoodReporter]  Dan Gertler seeks $3bn damages from former partner Glencore [FinancialTimes

MILKEN CONFERENCE -- "Milken Lures Mnuchin, Goldman’s Solomon to ‘Davos of the West’" by John Gittelsohn, Christopher Palmeri and Sonali Basak: "With an expected attendance of 5,000 and a more eclectic agenda than the World Economic Forum, some call the gathering “Davos of the West” or “Davos With Palm Trees.” ... “Mike always assembles an array of fascinating individuals and things to talk about going on around the world, whether it’s in the capital markets, whether it’s about science or health care,” said Eric Cantor, the vice chairman of Moelis & Co. and former House majority leader who’s a Milken conference regular... Milken, 71, is set to take the stage with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, retired CIA Director David Petraeus and former Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer." [Bloomberg

-- HAPPENING THIS MORNING -- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will be interviewed by Frank Luntz and Milken Family Foundation’s Richard Sandler at 9:30 AM PT. [Program] Schumer was spotted holding court at the opening reception yesterday at the Beverly Canon Gardens adjacent to the Montage [Politico]

GQ interview with former Labour leader Ed Miliband -- on Trump: What does it say about the US that they elected him? "It is similar to Brexit. Read about the Midwest, where he won. It was economic. No doubt there is racism among some people. But two days before the election, his last big ad was taken as being anti-Semitic because he attacked three Jews, but it was his message that the global elite have taken your jobs, closed the factories and it’s time to take back the country. This has been coming for a long time. The same kind of discontent that drove Brexit drove Trump.” [GQ]

"Krafts honor family legacy at newly renovated CJP building" by Joe Halpern: "Robert Kraft, along with sons Jonathan and Dan, were on hand Friday morning to dedicate the newly renovated headquarters for Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) in downtown Boston... [Kraft] earned the honor of cutting the ceremonial ribbon... after his family donated $10 million... in honor of Robert's late wife who served as chair of the CJP board of directors. The Krafts' donation is the largest ever received by the CJP for a capital project." [Bizjournals]

"The tycoon who donated half a billion dollars to Jewish causes" by Tamara Zieve: "Russian businessman Roman Abramovich had poured half a billion dollars into Jewish communities in Russia, Israel and other countries around the world, over the past 20 years, The Federation of Jewish communities of Russia (FJCR) announced... A special recognition has been bestowed upon Abramovich, honoring him for his contributions... The award is signed by Rabbi Alexander Boroda, FJCR president and the Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar." [JPost]

COMING SOON: "Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles to Celebrate Trio of Honorees" by Gregg Kilday: "The Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles will honor Netflix exec Larry Tanz, Star Wars: The Last Jedi producer Ram Bergman and philanthropist Stanley Black at a May 31 Sponsor Luncheon to be held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. The fest, which bills itself as the largest showcase of Israeli films in the U.S., will use the luncheon to kick off its 32nd edition, which will is set to run Nov. 6-20, and to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Israel. The honorees were announced Friday by festival founder and executive director Meir Fenigstein. [HollywoodReporter]

LongRead: "Who Stole The Torahs? An Ancient Sect, A Brazen Theft And The Hunt To Bring The Manuscripts Home" by Daniel Estrin: "Before dawn on March 21, 1995, someone broke into a synagogue in the Palestinian city of Nablus. The thief — maybe it was a band of thieves — crossed the carpeted sanctuary, pulled back a heavy velvet curtain, and opened a carved wooden ark. Inside were two handwritten copies of the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. One was a sheepskin scroll written around 1360 and kept in a slender copper case. The other was a codex, a thick book, probably from the 15th century and bound in a maroon leather cover..."

"They were perhaps the most ancient Torahs stolen in the Holy Land since the Crusaders pillaged Jerusalem. And they belonged not to Jews but to the Samaritans, one of the world's oldest and tiniest religious sects... Benny [Tsedaka] believes the community did not wish to revisit Palestinians' potential involvement in the theft, which could threaten the Samaritans' delicate relations with their neighbors. The high priest says he was not willing to lose ownership of the Torah scroll by allowing a museum to purchase it. And community members were clearly uncomfortable investigating prominent Samaritans who may have helped orchestrate the theft. Whatever the reason, the Samaritans sacrificed their chance to recover the very Scriptures their ancestors had protected for centuries." [NPR]

"Is Germany Capable of Protecting Its Jews?" by James Kirchick: "Completely sealing off the continent’s borders is neither sensible nor humane. But nor is it sensible or humane to admit unlimited numbers of people whose cultures and value systems are so fundamentally different from those of the native population—and among whom are many who hold beliefs so firmly at odds with Europe’s post-Holocaust reckoning. A country like Germany will have to try harder at inculcating an appreciation for its liberal democratic values among the Muslim migrants wishing to live there. Among those values is acceptance of what it means to be a citizen of the country that perpetrated the Holocaust." [TheAtlantic]

DESSERT -- "Bob Dylan’s Latest Gig: Making Whiskey" by Ben Sisario: "A trademark application for the term “bootleg whiskey” had been filed under Mr. Dylan’s name. Among those who noticed the news was Marc Bushala, 52, a lifelong fan and a liquor entrepreneur whose bourbon brand, Angel’s Envy, had just been sold for $150 million. Mr. Bushala said he immediately spent weeks “obsessing over this concept of what a Dylan whiskey could be.” ... Next month, he and Mr. Dylan will introduce Heaven’s Door, a collection of three whiskeys — a straight rye, a straight bourbon and a “double-barreled” whiskey... Mr. Dylan is not simply licensing his name. He is a full partner in the business, Heaven’s Door Spirits, which Mr. Bushala said had raised $35 million from investors." [NYTimes

BIRTHDAYS: Psychologist, glassblower and founder of Cheryl Saban Designs, president of the Saban Family Foundation, Cheryl Saban... Israeli actress, star of Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot turns 33... Social critic, political activist, co-founder of the DC-based the progressive Institute for Policy Studies and professor of public policy at GWU, Marcus Raskin turns 84... Rabbi, scholar, associate professor at Yeshiva University, adjunct professor at Columbia University Law School, Saul J. Berman turns 79... US Ambassador to Portugal (2010-2013), distinguished professor at UMKC, former City Commissioner of Tallahassee, Allan J. Katz turns 71... Marsha S. Rimler turns 71...  Tunisian-born, Israeli Supreme Court justice since 2014, previously Attorney General of Israel (2004-2010), Menachem "Meni" Mazuz turns 63... Partner in the communications and ad agency GMMB, James David (Jim) Margolis turns 63... Cartoonist and illustrator, best known for his over one hundered magazine covers appearing on The New Yorker and other publications, Barry Blitt turns 60... 

Commissioner at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since 2010, previously a US Supreme Court law clerk and then a professor at Georgetown Law Center, Chai Feldblum turns 59... Professor of sociology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and president of Jerusalem's Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Eva Illouz turns 57... Founding VP of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies and diplomatic columnist for The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom newspapers, David M. Weinberg turns 56... Democratic member of the New York City Council and chair of the New York City Council Jewish Caucus, Mark D. Levine turns 49... Washington, DC-based senior program officer for the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, David Rittberg turns 38...  Growth strategy editor at The New York Times, Ari Isaacman Bevacqua turns 33... Founder of Lubin Strategies, former director of the Obama White House Office of Digital Strategy, Nathaniel (Nate) Lubin turns 31... Press secretary for Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Rachel S. Cohen turns 31... Manager of Digital Strategy at the Podesta Group, Daniel Wolman turns 28... Jenna Luks turns 25... Idan Megidish... Noam Aricha...

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