Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: August 30, 2017

Penny Pritzker shares her family's Jewish history | Israeli police to question Len Blavatnik | Facebook's wunderkind leaves for Google

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A man poses with a magnifier in front of a Facebook logo on display in this illustration taken in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, December 16, 2015.
A man poses with a magnifier in front of a Facebook logo on display in this illustration taken in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, December 16, 2015. Credit: Dado Ruvic, Reuters

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FIRST LOOK: "How to Get Rich in Trump’s Washington" by Nicholas Confessore in NYTimes Magazine: "There was also Brad Gerstman, a brawny Long Island lobbyist and P.R. man who had done work for Trump in New York over the years. On election night, Gerstman was so sure Trump was going to lose that he got on a plane to Israel. As Gerstman tells it, his business partner called as soon as he landed. ‘‘Why the hell are you in Tel Aviv?’’ his partner asked. ‘‘We have an office to open in Washington.’’ Gerstman hung up and went to his hotel, where he looked out over the Mediterranean, put a cigar in his mouth and listened to the congratulatory messages piled up in his voice mail. In January, he set up an office in downtown Washington. ‘‘We don’t want to sell ourselves as just the Trump guys,’’ Gerstman told me. ‘‘But maybe that’s what it takes for the first few years.’’ 

"By the end of his first 100 days in office, it seemed, Trump had not so much drained the swamp as enshrouded it with a billowing fog of uncertainty... ‘‘White Houses are always somewhat opaque places of fascination, where you don’t quite know who is up and who is down, or how decisions are ultimately reached,’’ said Bruce P. Mehlman, a prominent Republican lobbyist who served in the George W. Bush administration. ‘‘The added complexity here was there was not a single consistent governing philosophy. It was not clear if the president saw trade the way that Gary Cohn sees it or the way Steve Bannon sees it.’’" [NYTimesMag]

PODCAST PLAYBACK -- Former U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker talks to David Axelrod about her family's beginnings on the Axe Files: “My great-grandfather came to the United States from what was Russia -- but is geographically today part of Ukraine -- 135 years ago. My family was escaping the pogroms. In fact, my family had a grain store outside of Kiev because Jews were not allowed to live in the cities. The grain store was ransacked, and for 60 hours my great-grandfather and his father hid in the attic of their grain store. When they came down, everything was gone, destroyed. That was the beginning of the impetus to move and to try and get out of Russia. Fortunately, they were able to come to the United States. I had the privilege when I was in government to be able to go back and actually see the village that they came from and then the place where the grain store was.”

“When he got to the United States, he came to Chicago and sold newspapers on the corner Just to describe our humble beginnings, he couldn't even afford a coat. Yet, his mother had something called the nickel club. The immigrants would save nickels to be able to help the new immigrants. Even back then there was a sense of gratitude for their good fortune to be in the United States and their obligation to try and help others. My great-grandfather went from being a nine-year-old, grew up, became a pharmacist, and then became a lawyer by age 30.”

Pritzker on immigration: “My guess is that either through the pogroms or through the invasion of Hitler and the Germans during World War II, my family probably would not have survived as Jews in that part of the world I went back to the 75th anniversary remembrance of Babi Yar, where 35,000 Jews were rounded up and shot in 48 hours, and in the same area where my family had their grain store. We probably would not be here.”

Axelrod: “In fact, in 1924, Congress enacted a very strict legal immigration law that were very draconian quotas that would have prohibited my father -- who came two years before that -- from entering this country In fact, many Jews couldn't come because of that law and did lose their lives.” [CNNPodcast

"When the U.S. Turned Away 20,000 Jewish Children Fleeing Nazi Germany" by Sean Braswell: "By 1939, U.S. officials had received more than 125,000 visa applications, many from Germany and occupied Austria, and the Congress and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt were under pressure to relax the annual quota for German and Austrian immigrants, then set at 27,000. A bipartisan bill crafted by Sen. Robert Wagner, a New York Democrat, and Rep. Edith Rogers, a Massachusetts Republican, was put forward in early 1939 that would admit 20,000 child refugees to the U.S. over and beyond existing quotas. The Wagner-Rogers proposal was carefully couched as a humanitarian effort, was not limited to Jewish children, and it even specified that the costs would fall on private sources, not the government. But the bill, says Bon Tempo, a professor at the University at Albany, SUNY, “goes nowhere. It doesn’t even make it out of committee.” Why on earth not?" [Ozy]

HARVEY'S IMPACT: "Houston’s Jewish community devastated by Hurricane Harvey: ‘You’re pretty much helpless’" by Eitan Arom: "Michael Wadler’s tefillin were among the only things he owned that survived Hurricane Harvey. As he was tossing objects into a trash bag before dawn on Aug. 27 while a rescue boat waited outside, he managed to grab the leather boxes, with their ritual scrolls, leaving behind other crucial belongings, such as his shoes. For most of the day, he walked around barefoot." 

"Although the damage to the local Jewish community is obviously significant, the full extent is as yet unclear. Flooding at the United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston, where Wadler is a member, caused as much as $1 million in damages, even waterlogging a newly built wing designed to resist floods. Congregation Beth Yeshurun, a Conservative synagogue where Wadler’s wife teaches Sunday school, also flooded." [JewishJournal]  "Houston Runs Low On Kosher Food As Harvey Floods Delivery Routes" [Forward; Chabad]

DRIVING THE CONVO: "Bush’s Press Secretary Criticizes Trump’s Harvey Response For Lacking Empathy" by Carla Herreria: “There was something missing from what President Trump said... but that’s the empathy for the people who suffered,” [Ari] Fleisher said during an appearance on Fox News. “That, in my opinion, should have been the first thing he should have said was that his heart goes out to those people in Houston who are going through this and that the government is here to help them to recover from this.” [HuffPost]

“Trump’s Reassuring Hurricane Response” by Tevi Troy: “It may be premature to conclude that Mr. Kelly has succeeded in bringing order to the Oval Office, but Harvey has demonstrated a reassuring ability to focus on a disaster when needed It’s reassuring that the White House understands the importance of relying on trusted messengers during a crisis—especially given the backlash to Mr. Trump’s comments this month after the violence in Charlottesville, Va. During an emergency, the government needs wide cooperation from the public, which may not be possible under any president with credibility problems. Messrs. [Brock] Long and [Tom] Bossert have the standing to appeal to Americans across the partisan divide during Harvey and whatever disaster may come next.” [WSJ

“How Trump Kills the G.O.P.” by David Brooks: “When you have an intraparty fight about foreign or domestic issues, you think your rivals are wrong. When you have an intraparty fight on race, you think your rivals are disgusting. That’s what’s happening. Friendships are now ending across the right. People who supported Trump for partisan reasons now feel locked in to support him on race, and they are making themselves repellent.” [NYTimes

WHAT ISRAEL WANTS TO TALK ABOUT: “Iran Building Weapons Factories in Lebanon and Syria, Israel Says” by Isabel Kershner: “Israel is using a visit this week by the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, to highlight concerns about what it says are Iran’s efforts to produce advanced, precision weapons in Lebanon and Syria The assertions are not new, but Israel now appears to want to put them on the international agenda While Israel has acted with relative impunity in the chaotic environment of Syria, any pre-emptive strike on Lebanese soil could spiral into a broader conflict over Israel’s northern border. Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported this week that in the face of the Israeli warnings, Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon has been working to stop Iran’s construction of the missile factory in his country.” [NYTimes

BUT... ON UN CHIEF’S MIND: “UN's Guterres Says Israel Must Cease Settlement Construction” by Fadwa Hodali and Jonathan Ferziger: “There is no plan B for the two-state solution,” Guterres said Tuesday after meeting Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. “We believe that settlement activity is illegal under international law. It’s an obstacle to the two-state solution.” [Bloomberg

VIEW FROM MOSCOW: "Russia weighs in on Bannon-free White House” by Maxim A. Suchkov: “Another subject that makes Russia uncertain of US behavior is a potentially more assertive stance by Israel The view in Moscow is that although [Steve] Bannon was one of the most pro-Israeli figures in the administration, there are still enough advocates for a greater convergence between the United States and Israel in the administration, not to mention Congress. Thus, counting on the United States to restrain Israel’s greater assertiveness is not an option. Moscow still hopes to maintain healthy relations with Tel Aviv and work through Israel's concerns directly. At the same time, Russia’s not ruling out the worst-case scenarios. Russia has set up an air defense system with the Syrian military that links their communications and technical resources.” [Al-Monitor]

PRAISE, FOR ONCE: “U.S. Jewish Groups Laud Tillerson for Keeping Office for Fighting anti-Semitism” by Amir Tibon: “U.S. Jewish organizations applauded the Trump administration on Tuesday for not scrapping a State Department office devoted to battling anti-Semitism A senior official in a prominent Jewish organization added that “this is likely a win, and it’s the best deal we’re going to get.” The Anti-Defamation League, which led a campaign against canceling the office, commended Tillerson. “At a time when there is a growing prominence to anti-Jewish movements and actions, the special envoy to combat anti-Semitism continues to be essential and it is important that the State Department has recognized this vital work,” the organization’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, said in a statement.” [Haaretz

A State Department spokesperson tells us “We at the Department of State, as well as President Trump and Vice President Pence, are deeply concerned by continued high levels of – and in some places increasing incidents of – anti-Semitism in many countries. The Trump Administration considers the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism to be a crucial position, and hopes to announce an appointment soon.”

HEARD YESTERDAY -- Ousted White House aide Sebastian Gorka on The Michael Savage Show: “Some great Jewish Americans came to my defense. We have had people like Mort Klein, Jeff Ballabon and Bruce Abramson, and even numerous rabbis from New York They told me that this is one of the saddest phenomena of American politics now that liberal, the liberal elements of the American Jewish population has basically become anti-Israeli. It’s the greatest saddest paradox. There are key people such as at The Forward, who are pro-BDS, who are pro-Iran deal. It’s this very tragic phenomena that the people who should be supporting Israel and US-Israel relations the most have really done so much to betray our great friendship with Jerusalem.” [YouTube

"The Zionist Leader Who Can’t Quit Steve Bannon" by Lloyd Green: "For Bannon, the ZOA dinner is an opportunity to push back against charges that he and Breitbart are anti-Semitic. As for ZOA, the Bannon event gives it another chance to stake out its position that it is the go-to address for die-hard Israel supporters in the U.S. Unlike AIPAC, ZOA does not pay any mind to a two-state solution... As Bannon and ZOA’s [Mort] Klein correctly understand, Jews who voted for Trump voted in large part out of cultural affinity, just like white working-class voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. They represent Trump’s core, and Bannon and ZOA are not about to surrender that vote without a fight." [DailyBeast]

ANTI-BOYCOTT ACT: "McCaskill Skips Israel Question, Says She Doesn’t Know What BDS Is" by Brent Scher: "[Claire] McCaskill was asked about the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement, commonly referred to as BDS, during a town hall stop in Camdenton, Missouri, last week. "I don't know what anti-BDS is," McCaskill said as she moved on to the next question. McCaskill is one of thirteen Democratic senators to sponsor the Israel Anti-Boycott Act... A spokesman for McCaskill said that the senator is "obviously" familiar with the issue, despite not recognizing the acronym. "She didn't immediately recognize the acronym, but is obviously familiar with the issue," said the spokesman." [FreeBeacon]

“Charlie Crist maintains centrist persona at Clearwater town hall” by Mitch Perry: “Crist earned some boos when he said he wouldn’t likely reconsider his support for the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. “I’ll take a look at it,” Crist said after the pro-Palestinian speaker had talked about the [BDS] movement for several minutes. After hearing the boos, Crist said, “You asked me to review it, and I said I will.” A member in the audience asked him why would he support it? “Because I believe in it,” he said. “But I’m willing to keep an open mind.”” [FLPolitics]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Carl Icahn selling unfinished Fontainebleau Vegas resort for $600M to Vector Group Chairman Bennett LeBow and Chief Executive Howard Lorber [NYPost]  King of Beverly Hills: Inside Beny Alagem's new Waldorf Astoria [FinancialTimes]  How a Hotel Industry President, Harris Rosen, Created a Private Foundation [ChiefExecutive] Estee Lauder CEO Denies Takeover Rumors: Company ‘Not for Sale’ [Bloomberg]  Roman Abramovich Is Buying Up Teslas to Give to His Friends [MoscowTimes]

KAFE KNESSET -- Latest with Bibi investigations -- by Tal Shalev and JPost's Lahav Harkov: Police investigators are on their way to London to collect additional testimony – this time from British-Russian businessman and owner of Israeli Channel 10, Len Blavatnik. Blavatnik is reportedly involved in File 1000, a/k/a “the Gift Affair,” in which Netanyahu is suspected of receiving favors from his tycoon friends, such as Arnon Milchan, who is also a partial owner of Channel 10. Blavatnik will also be investigated for his involvement in File 2000, aka “the Noni Mozes affair.” The police suspect that Netanyahu tried to mediate between Blavatnik and Mozes, the publisher of Yeidoth Aharonoth, in a deal to purchase the paper. Ari Harow, Bibi’s former chief of staff who signed a state witness agreement and is supposed to provide information on both File 1000 and File 2000, is also back in the country after a few weeks abroad on vacation. Harow’s interrogation has resumed during these past few days. Read today's entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

“Summer on David Geffen's Yacht: Jerry Seinfeld, Obama, Oprah and More” by Chris Gardner: “David Geffen has had a busy summer on his megayacht, as evidenced by the Instagrams shared with his 37,300 followers. The movie and music mogul, who seems to enjoy posting pics of famous friends on Instagram, has shared a string of images these past few months including a busy August when he welcomed (at the same time) Oprah Winfrey and BFF Gayle King, Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger with wife Willow Bay, Barry Diller with wife Diane von Furstenberg, and Diane Sawyer Earlier this summer, Geffen posted, “Seinfelds, LeFraks in Ibiza,” name checking Jerry and Jessica followed by real estate mogul Richard and wife Karen, all posing on the deck in June off the Spanish island, a vacation hotspot.” [THR

"Facebook's 21-Year-Old Wunderkind Leaves for Google" by Sarah Frier: "Facebook Inc. hired Michael Sayman for an internship when he was 17 years old, and gave him a full-time engineering job at 18. Now, the wunderkind is leaving for Alphabet Inc.’s Google. He turned 21 last week. At Facebook, Sayman was a product manager who helped the social-media giant understand how his generation uses their phones, advising on experimental products for teens and helping executives understand trends. At Google, he’ll be a product manager for Assistant, a voice-based service built on the search engine’s giant database." [Bloomberg]

"Meet the Orthodox Entrepreneur Bringing Luxe Fashion to the Masses" by Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt: "Yoni Chesner was no fashion expert when he was growing up. He was a yeshiva student; his first job was making $6 an hour in a bagel shop in his hometown of Baltimore. “I went to the clearance section at Ross,” he says now, chuckling. But one visit to the Saks Fifth Avenue Company store in Aberdeen, Maryland, popular among local religious Jews on the hunt for good suits, not only changed his style, but his entire career. “I bought a few designer sweaters there, and put them up on eBay,” he said. “Before I knew it, I turned $300 into $900.”" [Forward]

“Ariel Foxman on taking a break from fashion media and his new role at Olivela” by Jessica Schiffer: “While consulting for some of those digital-native brands at the start of this year, [Foxman] was connected to Olivela where he began assisting with brand and content development. The e-commerce platform... donates a portion of sales to children’s charities, including Good+ Foundation, which helps fight poverty “My job is to get the promise and the story of our innovative retail experience to the right people, in the most compelling way,” he said.” [Digiday

“Japan's Aso retracts Hitler comment after criticism” by  Kaori Kaneko: “It is clear from my overall remarks that I regard Hitler in extremely negative terms, and it’s clear that his motives were also wrong,” [Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro] Aso said in a statement. Aso said he wanted to stress the importance of delivering results, but not defend Hitler. “It was inappropriate that I cited Hitler as an example and I would like to retract that.” On Tuesday, Kyodo news agency quoted Aso as saying, “I don’t question your motives (to be a politician). But the results are important. Hitler, who killed millions of people, was no good, even if his motives were right.” [Reuters

“How Israel Won the War and Defeated the Palestinian Dream” by Gregg Carlstrom: “A growing number of Gazans... don’t feel liberated. In private conversations, the anger they once directed at Israel and Egypt is now aimed at their own leaders. They often have these conversations in the dark, owing to the lack of electricity In a courtyard outside Azhar University, recent graduates peddle cheap snacks and cigarettes to current students, who offer bleak predictions about their own futures: "I'll be here with my own cart next year," said one young man, a computer science student.” [Newsweek

“Can This MIT Student Entrepreneurship Program Bridge the Israeli-Palestinian Divide?” by Mary Jo Madda: "MEET brings together equal numbers of Israeli and Palestinian high school students each year to engage in coding and entrepreneurship training [MEET’s] U.S. Development Director Etai Freedman: “I think the biggest lesson that people can take away, especially when we're looking at current events and the issues that we're seeing in the United States, is that MEET was able to leverage the impact of a project-based, excellence program into a value-shifting experience. What I mean by that is, when our students come together and work hard on binational projects, they accomplish something that they thought was going to be impossible for them to accomplish. They don't just merely feel proud of the fact that they finished this project—they feel proud about the fact that they did it together. That's model that can be replicated anywhere.”” [EdSurge

THEATER: "Race, Money and Broadway: How ‘Great Comet’ Burned Out" by Michael Paulson: "The show is collapsing after a conflagration that was racially charged and distinctly contemporary: a social media uproar prompted by the financially motivated decision to bring in a white actor to replace a black actor who had succeeded a white actor. The result: Investors will lose most of the production’s $14 million capitalization, and more than 100 people will be out of jobs after the final performance on Sunday... Okieriete Onaodowan is Nigerian-American; Mandy Patinkin is white, and Broadway, like much of the entertainment industry, is facing scrutiny over its commitment to diversity." [NYTimes]

"The Story Behind Lemon’s ‘A Million Matzoh Balls’ Sing-along, One of the Greatest Jewish Film Moments Ever" by Jada Yuan: "One wouldn’t necessarily expect the black, Panamanian director of Atlanta’s brilliant “Juneteenth” episode to dream up a sequence that may well enter the canon of great Jewish film moments. But [Janicza] Bravo did grow up Jewish, by way of her nonpracticing mother, and is married to “the most Jewish person ever,” she says, in [Brett] Gelman, who’s also Lemon’s co-writer... She first heard “A Million Matzoh Balls” when she was 19, at the Seder of a friend’s family who knew [Dean] Friedman and had invited him to come. Friedman never made it, but, she says, “I think we listened to it like 20 times in a row, and by the end I knew a good chunk of the words.” [Vulture]

"Howard Kaminsky, Publisher With a Best-Seller Sense, Dies at 77” by Richard Sandomir: “One of the books Random House published during Mr. Kaminsky’s tenure was “The Art of the Deal” (1987)... In pursuit of the company’s deal with [Donald] Trump, according to The New Yorker, Mr. Kaminsky produced a mock-up cover with large gold block lettering, which pleased Mr. Trump but prompted him to make one suggestion: “Please make my name much bigger.” Mr. Kaminsky came to be unhappy about having published Mr. Trump’s book, his daughter said. And when its sequel, “Surviving at the Top,” was published three years later, he told The Washington Post: “A lot of the yuppies that bought the first book were looking at Trump as, perish the thought, an icon. Now they probably don’t have jobs or can’t afford to buy the book.”” [NYTimes

"Michael Bloomberg talks tough on health and junk food" by Andrew Jack: "His comments sit a little incongruously with the free biscuits, crisps and other snacks nestled alongside healthier options visible from the glass-walled office where he settles down to talk. Yet he dismisses any irony. “Do we have full-sugared drinks or only diet?” he asks his aides. “We have full sugar,” replies one. “But small cups,” adds another... His health commissioner tried unsuccessfully to take a similarly tough approach on unhealthy food in New York, with a proposed ban on “Big Gulp” giant soda servings, which was rebuffed in the courts. “We won that by sort of losing,” he argues. “If you take a look at [soda] sales, they’ve plummeted around the world. So we really did win that; if they had [just conceded], it wouldn’t have percolated around the world.”" [FT]

"Hava NaGrilla! At kosher BBQ, thousands rejoice" by Allison Steele: "Jeff Klein approached his brisket like a cleaver-wielding surgeon, slicing away at the meat until he revealed the pink that remained at its center some 12 hours after it hit the grill... The brisket was promptly whisked to the judges’ table, joining entries from 19 other teams who came together over the weekend for Hava NaGrilla, Philadelphia’s first-ever kosher barbecue festival. Organized by the Men’s Club of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El and held on the synagogue’s grounds in Wynnewood, the event last Sunday drew an estimated 4,500 attendees who lined up for smoked meats, whiskey tasting, a beer garden, mechanical bull rides, and a pickle-eating contest. The event raised an estimated $20,000 to $30,000 for the Mitzvah Food Project of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, organizers said." [PhillyInquirer

BIRTHDAYS: Founding editor of "George" magazine together with JFK, Jr., currently EVP of Time Warner, Gary L. Ginsberg turns 55... Active in CJP (the Jewish Federation of Boston), co-chair of Acharai (CJP's volunteer leadership development program) and a co-founder of Maoz (a leadership network in Israel), Deborah Cogen Swartz... Basketball star in both the US and Israel, a first round pick in the 1965 NBA draft, Tal Brody turns 74... Stand-up comedian (known for his angry face), author, political activist and voice actor, Lewis Black turns 69... Hasidic Rebbe of Zvhil-Mezhbizh, based in Boston, Miami and Jerusalem, previously married to CBS & Viacom's Shari Redstone, Rabbi Yitzhak Aharon (Ira) Korff turns 68... Producer for CBS News "48 Hours," previously a criminal justice editor of Joe Ricketts' DNAinfo and reporter for the NY Post and NY Daily News, Murray Weiss turns 66... Israeli vocalist who sings in Hebrew, Turkish and Spanish, a judge in the inaugural season of "The Voice Israel" on Israeli television, Shlomi Shabat turns 63... Rosh yeshivah at Yeshivat Maale Gilboa and the rabbi of Kibbutz Lavi, he served as a member of the Knesset for the Meimad party (2002-2003), Rabbi Yehuda Gilad turns 62...  Business manager of the Perth Amboy (NJ) Free Public Library, Herschel Chomsky turns 57... Member of the UK's House of Lords, former executive editor of The Times of London where he remains a weekly political columnist, and is now associate editor, Baron Daniel Finkelstein turns 55... Associate Producer at Fox News Channel, Eldad Yaron... Mati Geula Cohen...

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