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TALK OF THIS TOWN -- by Jacob Kornbluh and Aaron Magid: President Donald Trump is hosting his first White House Hanukkah Party next Thursday. In a departure from recent years -- where the event was split into two receptions to accommodate the many Jewish community leaders and activists eager to attend -- the current administration has limited their first Hanukkah gathering to a few hundred guests at a single reception. Several Jewish leaders who have attended the receptions in the past told Jewish Insider that they had not received an invitation, and some stated they would have declined to attend if an invite was extended. Regardless, this year’s White House Hanukkah party appears unlikely to be the same big tent convergence event for the broader Jewish community that it had become in prior years but, as the 45th President likes to say, "we'll see what happens" and we'll see who shows up.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism and a frequent critic of the Trump administration’s policies, confirmed to Jewish Insider that he was not invited this year. The same goes for Rabbi Jack Moline, who was named by Newsweek magazine as one of the top pulpit rabbis in America in 2008, who said he would decline to attend even if had been invited. “I did accept an invitation to the Bush 43 White House,” Moline noted.
Houston-based Fred Zeidman, who sits on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition and is a longtime Bush family donor, said he wasn’t invited.
However, several Jewish organizational leaders that have been more friendly with the White House over the past year, confirmed to Jewish Insider that they were invited and will attend. Among them are the Conference of Presidents’ Malcolm Hoenlein, OU’s Allen Fagin, Agudath Israel of America’s Abba Cohen, ZOA’s Mort Klein, OJC’s Duvi Honig, and Ezra Friedlander.
OU’s Nathan Diament and former ADL National Director Abe Foxman said they were invited, but are not attending due to scheduling conflicts.
AFTER PARTY: The Republican Jewish Coalition, together with America First Action Superpac, is hosting an event at the Trump International Hotel following the White House Hanukkah party. [Pic]
DRIVING THE WEEK: When might Trump announce Jerusalem Embassy move? -- by Felicia Schwartz and Andrew Ackerman and Rory Jones: "President Donald Trump is considering recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital... The announcement would be a way to offset a likely decision delaying his campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv... The outlines of Trump’s plan emerged from a meeting of his top national security advisers at the White House on Monday. Trump himself was expected to drop by the meeting for 15 or 20 minutes. He ended up staying for at least an hour and grew increasingly animated during the session... Trump is likely to issue a waiver on moving the embassy by Monday... The White House also is considering a possible presidential speech or statement on Jerusalem by Wednesday... Another possibility involves Vice President Mike Pence, who is set to travel to Israel in mid-December, making the Jerusalem announcement during his trip." [WSJ]
-- "Trump's top advisers are divided over moving the embassy... The president is nonetheless inclined to relocate the embassy... Trump is also facing pressure from world leaders, including Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who, in a visit to Washington this week, cautioned against moving the embassy in meetings with top Trump administration officials this week." [Politico]
TWEETS BY THE EXPERTS -- Martin Indyk: "Seriously, it’s the right thing to do and an indication that he values peacemaking above domestic politics." Daniel Shapiro: "Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Having our embassy there makes sense. Moving it there should be done in a smart way." Aaron David Miller: "A truly dumb move with absolutely no benefit to the US but considerable risk." Ilan Goldenberg: "Israelis and his political base will be disappointed he isn’t moving the embassy. Palestinians will still be angry they aren’t getting anything for this."
CONFIDENCE DEPT: "Israel intelligence chief says he plans to succeed Netanyahu" by Edith Lederer: "Israel’s intelligence minister... Israel Katz said in an interview... he hopes Netanyahu will be able to continue as prime minister, and “that the clouds that are hanging over his head now will pass... I’m planning to be after him, leader of the Likkud (party) and prime minister of Israel,” he said... Katz talked about President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem... “I’m optimistic. I’m optimistic this will happen,” he said... Katz came to New York from Washington where he said he met with Trump’s special Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt... “I pray that President Trump will succeed to bring the peace,” the Israeli minister said." [AP]
SABAN FORUM THIS WEEKEND -- "Kushner to talk Mideast peace efforts at Sunday forum" by Jonathan Swan and Barak Ravid: "Jared Kushner will make his first public remarks on the Trump administration’s Mideast peace initiative on Sunday at the Saban Forum... He'll answer questions from Haim Saban, the billionaire investor — and Clinton donor — who hosts the forum." [Axios]
Other public sessions at the Saban Forum -- TONIGHT: A conversation between Retired Gen. John Allen and Yonit Levi, and a panel on the Iran deal with Ehud Barak and Sen. Tom Cotton, moderated by Jeffrey Goldberg. SUNDAY: A conversation on Saudi Arabia with Tom Friedman. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the forum via satellite.
REXIT COUNTDOWN: "Mr. Trump spoke harshly about Mr. Tillerson in front of White House aides as recently as Thursday but did not seem ready yet to replace him... The disclosure of Mr. Kelly’s transition plan may have been a way to nudge him into making a decision... It may also have been meant as a not-too-subtle message to Mr. Tillerson that it is time to go... The White House did little on Thursday to discourage the impression that Mr. Tillerson was on the way out. The secretary was in the West Wing twice for meetings during the day, but neither the president nor his team gave a public reaffirmation of his position in the administration." [NYTimes]
"Pompeo has already been preparing to take over the State Department" by Josh Rogin: "[Mike] Pompeo has been calling around to friends and top Republican foreign policy hands and asking them to help him get ready to be America’s top diplomat, if he is ultimately chosen... Several State Department officials said Thursday they were happy that Tillerson was leaving and hopeful that Pompeo, if selected, would give them a fresh start with the Trump administration." [WashPost] Rex Tillerson’s Slow-Motion Exit [TheAtlantic]
"We'll take Pompeo over Tillerson, frustrated diplomats say" by Nahal Toosi: "“Pompeo’s approach to Iran will definitely cause friction, but if he is more inclusive about overall decision-making and do more to engage with career officials, he will still be an upgrade over Tillerson,” said Ilan Goldenberg, a former State Department official now with the Center for a New American Security." [Politico]
REPORT: "Jared Kushner seen as '100 percent' behind White House plans to oust Rex Tillerson" by Sarah Westwood and Gabby Morrongiello: "There was increasing talk that Rex wasn't going to be on the job for long, but the Ivanka story, that was kind of the last straw. It sort of sealed the deal," the [former White House] aide said, adding, "This is Jared, 100 percent." [WashExaminer]
COMING DEPARTURES: "White House staff exits likely as Trump's first year draws to a close - sources" by Jeff Mason: "Sources [are] saying top economic adviser Gary Cohn and son-in-law Jared Kushner could be among those who depart... One of the sources said Kushner... could go if a scenario, such as giving him an outside adviser role, were found that appealed to the president." [Reuters]
SCENE LAST NIGHT: Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Reda hosted a dinner on Capitol Hill commemorating the 40th anniversary of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's visit to Jerusalem and his speech to the Israeli Knesset. Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer delivered remarks where he referenced the other Arab diplomats in attendance who have yet to recognize Israel but may be inspired by Sadat. Other speakers included White House advisor Jared Kushner, former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt David Welch, and a keynote address from Jehan Sadat.
SPOTTED: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Louise Linton, VA Secretary David Shulkin, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottleib, Rhoda Dermer, Jason Greenblatt, Dina Powell, Nick Ayres, Howard Kohr, Sen. Ed Markey, Reps. Ed Royce, Ted Deutsch, David Cicilline, Darryl Issa, Grace Meng, Chris Stewart, Jeff Fortenberry, Dana Rohrabacher, Mark Meadows, and Doug Lamborn; Susan Blumenthal, former Sen. Norm Coleman, Ken Weinstein, Cliff May, William Daroff, Jerry Silverman, David Makovsky, Michael Makovsky, David Welch, William Daroff, Mort Klein, Cliff May, Reuven Azar, Ezra Friedlander, Gabriella Friedlander, Joseph Stamm, Leon Goldenberg, Jack Avital, Stanley Treitel, Gil Kapen, Shafik Gabr, Maurice Bortz, Dan Mariachin, Michael Edelstein, Isaac and Ivette Dabah, and Mark Levin.
Politico's Jake Sherman tweets this morning: "Just saw Jerry Nadler in the capitol eating a bagel with his tie tucked in his shirt reading the New York Times. Very upper west side of him." [Twitter]
BREAKING THIS AM: Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has been charged with one count of lying to the FBI in part due to his efforts working against a December 2016 UN Security Council resolution that was critical of Israel. According to the Special Council, Flynn made "false" statements that: "On or about December 22, 2016, Flynn did not ask the Russian Ambassador to delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution." At the time, Donald Trump called on then-President Barak Obama to veto the resolution. [Twitter]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Chicago link to Johnny Depp's Hollywood lawsuit: A hedge fund, mayor's brother Ari Emanuel [ChicagoTribune] Altice shares drop down to new lows [Reuters] Recep Tayyip Erdogan Allowed Turkish Banks to Help Iran Make Illegal Payments, Witness Says [WSJ]
PROFILE: “Howard Rubenstein: From starting a business in his mother's kitchen to rubbing shoulders with giants” by Steve Barrett: “The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York had set up an advisory board on community relations, and over the years [Howard] Rubenstein helped build a truly cross-denominational group. "I became very friendly with the archdiocese and they invite me to more Catholic things than the Jewish things I go to," Rubenstein jokes to PRWeek. "I was invited to Rome with Cardinal Egan and I met the pope I was seated outside in the first row and Pope Francis comes out, walks past me, and goes to get into his car, but somebody from the archdiocese ran after him, walked him back to me, and introduced him," remembers Rubenstein. "He blessed some of my rosaries and left. He didn’t say hello to all these other people sitting around me The guy sitting next to me says, ‘You’re Jewish, right?’ I said yes, and the guy just muttered, ‘How did this happen?’"
"Rubenstein also represented New York scions such as George Steinbrenner, Larry Silverstein, Michael Bloomberg, Rupert Murdoch, Leonard Lauder, Leona Helmsley, and Mike Tyson, city mayors from Abe Beame to Ed Koch to Rudy Giuliani, governors Mario Cuomo and George Pataki, Senator Chuck Schumer, and, most notably in the present-day context, President Donald Trump." [PRWeek]
"Why Are Jews Funny?" by Mark Horowitz: "In “Jewish Comedy: A Serious History,” the Columbia professor Jeremy Dauber skates through more than 2,000 years of material without ever settling on one overarching theory. Instead, in the manner of a field biologist, he lays out a detailed taxonomy of Jewish humor: seven categories to cover everything from the Book of Esther to “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” with one chapter devoted to each category. There’s a chapter for humor about anti-Semitism; one for satirical humor; one for highbrow wit and wordplay; another for theological or philosophical humor; and a vaguely defined catchall subgenus, the comedy of disguise, that somehow covers all the work of Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, the Marx Brothers and Jerry Seinfeld." [NYTimes]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS -- FRIDAY: Israeli-born co-CEO and and Board member at Oracle Corporation, Safra A. Catz turns 56... Emmy Award-winning stand-up comedienne, actress, producer and writer, Sarah Silverman turns 47... Actor Woody Allen (born Allan Stewart Konigsberg) turns 82... NYC-based real estate mogul, he owned the New York Post (1988-1993), served as chair of NYC's MTA (2001-2007) and is a noted car collector, Peter Kalikow turns 75... Executive producer on The CW's ’"MADtv." who has produced over 200 shows with more than 15,000 hours of television over a long career, David E. Salzman turns 74... Singer, songwriter, actress, comedian, and film producer, Bette Midler turns 72... Comedian, actor and voice actor best known for his starring role in the animated sitcom "Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist," Jonathan Katz turns 71... Director of Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and New York City (1995-2016), Rabbi Daniel Landes turns 67... British playwright, director and scriptwriter who has won many awards for his work on the stage, film and and television, Stephen Poliakoff turns 65... Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Cambridge, following earlier positions at the University of Chicago and Princeton, Raymond E. Goldstein turns 56... Brett Lieberman turns 49... Foreign policy editor of Vox and the author of a book on military suicides, Yochi J. Dreazen turns 41... Emmy and Peabody Award-winning director, Akiva Schaffer turns 40... SVP of Communications for the National Football League, after stints working for Rupert Murdoch, Mike Bloomberg and Senators Barbara Boxer and Paul Wellstone. Natalie Ravitz turns 38... Political editor and author of the weekly "Against the Grain" column in the National Journal, Josh Kraushaar turns 36... Assistant director of development at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Shira Sacks turns 28... David Seldin... Becky Weissman... David Milstein... Joan Craig-Bailey...
SATURDAY: UC Berkeley Emeritus History Professor, Pulitzer Prize winner, Leon Litwack turns 88... Moroccan-born drummer who switched to a career in contemporary Jewish music, Isaac Bitton turns 70... French historian, professor at University of Paris 13 and author of 30 books on the history of North Africa, Benjamin Stora turns 67... Madison, Wisconsin-based class action and labor law attorney, Sarah Siskind turns 65... Joseph Schlaiser turns 59... Emmy Award-winning actress Rena Sofer turns 49... Member of the Knesset since 2009 for the Likud party, she serves as Israel's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2015, Tzipi Hotovely turns 39... Sephardi / Portugese actress best known for playing Special Agent Kensi Blye in CBS's "NCIS Los Angeles," Daniela Ruah turns 34... Account Executive at Jewish Journal, Lanna Solnit... EVP and Media Director at Rubenstein Communications, Nancy Haberman... Ph.D. candidate at Penn State University, formerly a White House staffer (2001-2005), Eleanor L. Schiff...
SUNDAY: Howard Krizer turns 85... A close associate of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, among the most influential figures within the Chabad movement, Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky turns 84... 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winner for his book on Arabs and Jews in Israel, David K. Shipler turns 75... Sandra Wharton turns 75... Member of the New York State Assembly since 1994, Jeffrey Dinowitz turns 63... SVP of Communications at NBC News, Alison "Ali" Weisberg Zelenko turns 46... Professional tennis player who won the gold medal in women's singles at the 2005 Maccabiah Games in Israel, Sharon Fichman turns 27... Sandy Stackler... Malinda Marcus...
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