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TALK OF THE TOWN: "Shul ties: Ivanka and Jared's big move has D.C.'s Jews buzzing" by Annie Karni: "The possibility that influential members of the first family could attend services at Kesher [Israel] next year — the only Modern Orthodox synagogue servicing downtown D.C. — has become the premier topic of conversation at Shabbat dinners, and among members gossiping after services. Nobody is certain where Trump and Kushner... will ultimately end up. A source close to Ivanka Trump said the couple has yet to decide where they will attend synagogue... Kesher members can't help but wonder: Will Kushner will really sit in the wooden pews next to Norman Eisen... Will the Trump-Kushner family spend the high holidays with Kesher member and writer Leon Wieseltier, who recently penned an op-ed in the Washington Post imploring Americans to "stay angry" about Trump’s election?" [Politico]
Amb. Norm Eisen tweets: "If Jared & Ivanka come to Kesher Israel to worship we will welcome them as we would anyone" [Twitter]
Aaron Keyak: "Popular question, but this AM as we were waiting for a minyan, I was wondering if Ivanka/Jared & Co would bring more people to weekday davening" [Twitter]
Page Six Report: "Ivanka looks to join DC temple with Trump-hating rabbi” by Aaron Short: “A rep from the Kushner family inquired about membership at Ohev Sholom, the district’s oldest modern Orthodox synagogue, said a source close to the congregation. Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld once shouted down Donald Trump at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference.” [NYPost]
-- Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld: "I never speak about congregants or potential congregants to the press under any circumstances. But I do want to say that this story as far as I know is false. Multiple times this paper called me and I said I am not interested in talking to you at all about this. Period. End of story." [Facebook]
MISSING OPTION: Reports on which DC synagogue Jared & Ivanka may join have left out the viable option of 'The Shul' of the Nation's Capital, run by Rabbi Levi Shemtov of American Friends of Lubavitch. The Shul, at the Chabad-Lubavitch center in Kalorama near Embassy Row and Dupont Circle, is known to host many prominent visitors and residents of D.C. looking for more intimate services. Kushner is said to frequently attend Chabad when visiting Florida and, according to Esquire, he and financier Ronald Perelman first met at a Lubavitch Shabbat service in East Hampton. After which, Perelman invited Kushner to "pray with him at the synagogue in his home office in New York."
"Ivanka Trump is Taking a Unique Approach to Moving To Georgetown" by Kate Bennett: "Last weekend, they were apparently spotted checking out options, most within walking distance of Kesher Israel, the Orthodox synagogue at the corner of 28th and N Streets, Northwest, where it is likely the family, who are practicing Orthodox Jews, will attend services." [IJR]
Speaking of Kesher Israel... -- "The Chief of Staff Behind Portman’s Come-From-Behind 2016 Victory" by JI's Aaron Magid: "Against all odds, this child of two Holocaust survivors, Mark Isakowitz, rose to become the influential Chief of Staff for U.S. Senator Rob Portman. “The idea that a mere few decades after my parents stepped off the boat that I could do jobs like this, I was deeply honored,” noted Isakowitz to Jewish Insider in a wide ranging interview from his Capitol Hill office... When Portman asked him to return to Capitol Hill and run his Senate office, Isakowitz walked away from an almost $7 million salary, according to a Roll Call report... As if recalling details from yesterday’s legislation, Isakowitz enumerates various biblical examples of Jewish leaders from Abraham to heroes of the Purim story positively interacting with local political authorities."
"Nathan Diament who has collaborated with Isakowitz on Israel and religious liberty issues, praised his Capitol Hill experience. “Mark has a mastery of the politics and policy around the issues. He’s a great partner. “ Off Capitol Hill, Matt Brooks, Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, emphasized Isakowitz’s lighter side. He recalled the times their joint passion for the sitcom “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” watching the comedy show together when on work trips overseas. On a more serious note, “He is an uber-Mensch, the definition of a giving and caring person,” admired Brooks. “Mark represents the very best that Washington has to offer. He is a consummate professional and a great listener,” gushed Norm Brownstein, a prominent attorney and lobbyist active in national Democratic politics." [JewishInsider]
DRIVING THE CONVERSATION -- “Trump donated $10k to Bet El settlement” by Lahav Harkov: “A Trump Foundation tax form from 2003 shows Trump gave the sum to American Friends of Bet El Former MK Ya'acov "Ketzale" Katz, one of Bet El's founders recounted that when "Friedman was our guest of honor years ago, then the president of the US, I'll tell you a secret, sent us a donation [to the Bet El Yeshiva] of $10,000. But I didn't know then that he would be president, otherwise I would have saved the check.”” [JPost; WashPost]
“David Friedman, Choice for Envoy to Israel, Is Hostile to Two-State Efforts” by Isabel Kershner and Sheryl Gay Stolberg: “Mr. Friedman, whose middle name is Melech — Hebrew for king — grew up in North Woodmere, N.Y., one of four children of Rabbi Morris S. Friedman, who held the pulpit at Temple Hillel there for 46 years. In October 1984, President Ronald Reagan visited the synagogue and went to the Friedman family home for lunch... Mr. Friedman’s connections to Israel date back to his bar mitzvah at the Western Wall. Friends describe him as a strong Zionist who spends many Jewish holidays and most of his summers in his Jerusalem apartment. He and his wife are renowned for gathering people for dinners in their sukkah, a hut observant Jews build on their balconies during a fall harvest festival.“His whole life, he’s been focused and extremely thoughtful about Israel and about the political situation there,” said Philip Rosen, whose friendship with Mr. Friedman began in law school.” [NYTimes]
“Trump’s Daily Bankruptcy and the Ambassador to Israel” by David Remnick: “Asked about this piece of wisdom recently at the Saban Conference, in Washington, Friedman doubled down. “They’re not Jewish,” Friedman said of J Street, “and they’re not pro-Israel.” They’re not Jewish. This is a calumny of the most disgusting order. But hardly a new one. Netanyahu, in the hope of solidifying his conservative and religious base, was once overheard whispering in the ear of the Sephardic leader and rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri, “The left has forgotten what it is to be Jewish.” The question of Jewish identity has for centuries been a matter of debate and halakhah, Jewish law. It has never, to my knowledge, been a matter of bankruptcy law.” [NewYorker]
Howard Wolfson: “Our next ambassador to Israel does not seem to believe I am Jewish.” [Twitter]
“Congressional Dems Assail Trump’s Ambassador Pick” by JI’s Aaron Magid: “I am deeply concerned that David Friedman has focused on supporting settlements and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, rather than building bridges that could allow people to live harmoniously,” Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) told Jewish Insider. “These incredibly decisive issues make violence more likely, rather than achieving a lasting peace,” he noted Representing the largest Jewish population in the nation, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) slammed the pick in a statement on Friday. “This is an appointment with dangerous consequences for both the United States and Israel,” he warned.” [JewishInsider]
“Trump pick signals sharp shift on Israel” by Mike Lillis: “Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), a Jewish lawmaker who will lead the Senate Democrats next year, is withholding comment on Friedman "since they haven't spoken," his office said Friday. Dylan Williams, chief lobbyist at J Street, said that silence is understandable because Friedman has never played an official diplomatic role. "For the average member of Congress and their staff, he's an unknown," Williams said Friday.” [TheHill]
-- “An official with the Israeli Prime Minister's Office told NPR Benjamin Netanyahu is pleased with David Friedman's appointment and looks forward to working closely with him.” [NPR]
Noah Pollak: “The NYT Is Having a Meltdown Over Trump’s Israel Nominee: What the Times is doing here is obvious: The paper is attempting to normalize the extremist agenda of J Street and then to rebrand mainstream critics of that agenda as the real extremists.” [FreeBeacon]
Former Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer: “Mr. Friedman is unqualified for the position, but more important, he holds extreme views on the very issues that he will need to manage as a diplomat His appointment suggests that Mr. Trump is comfortable with these positions, which is extremely perilous and unwise.” [NYTimes]
Tevi Troy: "Troy told Haaretz he thinks the groups' move “has no chance. It’s silly. It’s very rare to get an ambassador voted down, especially when the president’s party is the majority in the Senate.” Troy, who authored the new book “Shall We Wake the President? Two Centuries of Disaster Management in the Oval Office,” added: “I’m surprised that the Jewish community is not more supportive of Friedman. It’s nice to have a committed Jew as the ambassador. People should be praising his nomination, rather than making a futile effort to scuttle it.” [Haaretz]
DRIVING THE DAY -- “Arizona presidential electors report flood of pleas to reject Donald Trump” by Yvonne Wingett Sanchez: “Bruce Ash, Arizona's GOP national committeeman, said he received more than 300 emails Thursday Ash declined to share any of the emails but described them: "They demonize me, they call me a homophobic, an isolationist, a bigot, a misogynist, and an anti-Semite, which is interesting because I'm Jewish."” [AZCentral]
“Jared Kushner says Trump agrees more with Schumer than McConnell on infrastructure” by Cameron Joseph: “Kushner... said at an event at which both he and Schumer appeared Friday morning that the president-elect is more in line with the leader of the other party. "Kushner said Trump agreed more with Schumer than McConnell on infrastructure," a person with knowledge of the remarks told the Daily News.” [NYDN; NYTimes]
"Kushner: We struck deal with Sinclair for better coverage" by Josh Dawsey and Hadas Gold: "Kushner said the agreement with Sinclair, which owns television stations across the country in many swing states and often packages news for their affiliates to run, gave them more access to Trump and the campaign, according to six people who heard his remarks. In exchange, Sinclair would broadcast their Trump interviews across the country without commentary, Kushner said. Kushner highlighted that Sinclair, in states like Ohio, reaches a much wider audience -- around 250,000 listeners -- than networks like CNN, which reach somewhere around 30,000 Two people present said that they were surprised how much Kushner talked about CNN. "He kept going on and on about it," one business executive said.” [Politico]
"Did Ari Emanuel Cover for Donald Trump on the Miss Universe Tapes?" by Yashar Ali: "According to four sources, Donald Trump’s longtime friend and former agent, Ari Emanuel, declined appeals from powerful Democrats to release tapes filmed while Trump owned the Miss Universe Organization... At one point, sources tell The Daily Beast, the Miss Universe archives contained audio and video that could have damaged Trump’s prospects in the presidential race." [DailyBeast]
TRANSITION TOWER: “Mossad chief and security delegation meet with Trump team” by Itamar Eichner and Tzipi Shmilovitz: “Director of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen, clandestinely visited the United States to meet with President-elect Donald Trump's staff and brief them on pressing security matters including the Iranian nuclear deal, the Syrian civil war, terror threats and the Palestinian issue. The security delegation was organized by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was led by National Security Council head Yaakov Nagel. The Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer was also present during meetings Additionally, Israeli officials have also reached out to the President-elect to ask him to come out against President Obama and veto a Palestinian bid submitted to the Security Council.” [Ynet]
“Q&A with Israeli politician Yair Lapid, Netanyahu’s main challenger” by Ruth Eglash: “Could having Donald Trump in the White House change the situation for Israel vis-à-vis reaching a deal with the Palestinians? I think there is incredible window of opportunity. We know the basic strategy of the Palestinian Authority and of President Abbas has collapsed. They have been saying for a while that there is no need to negotiate with Israel, that they just need to make sure international pressure on Israel gets tougher and tougher. But the new U.S. administration has already announced that this strategy is not going to work with them, and I think that if Israel went back to the negotiation table now, it would do so from an interesting position of power that it did not possess in recent years.”
-- “Of course, the kind of alliance we have with the U.S. is unbreakable. We have had a rough couple of years, but now, Israel has to return to its bipartisan stature. We are grateful for support we’ve had from the Republican Party, but the Democratic Party is just as important to us.” [WashPost]
“His Excellency, Sheikh Donald of the House of Trump” by Elizabeth Dickinson: “After Obama, any change in the White House would have been welcomed here. But Trump’s brand of radical upheaval has the Sunni Arab Gulf enamored. Leaders here hope he will rewrite Washington’s Iran policy and punish Tehran for its activities throughout the Arab world Most are willing to overlook Trump’s Islamophobic rhetoric as a folly of the campaign trail Gulf officials’ central hope for Trump and his administration is that they will lead a rollback of Iranian influence in the region They hope the incoming administration will keep the Iran nuclear deal but link the continued lifting of sanctions to better Iranian behavior in the region.” [FP]
“Kerry leaves a legacy of hope in role at State” by Matt Viser: “Kerry believes the Iran deal “will stand on its rationale.” He praised as thoughtful some of Trump’s nominees, including defense secretary nominee James Mattis and Rex Tillerson, who Trump has selected to be Kerry’s successor “It’s in place and it’s working,” Kerry said.. He spent much of his first year in office attempting to get the Israelis and Palestinians to come to an agreement. Some of his critics said Kerry was wasting time, that his inveterate optimism was never going to change minds. Kerry doesn’t see it that way. “If the two leaders do not want to take a risk and they do not want to move in a direction, nothing you can do,” Kerry said. “No matter how sensible or palatable your proposal might be.”” [BostonGlobe]
“Iran calls for meeting of nuclear deal powers over U.S. sanctions” by Robin Pomeroy: “Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif asked for the meeting in a letter to European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, Iran's official news agency IRNA said.” [Reuters]
ON THE HILL -- "Congress wants to strengthen Trump’s hand to negotiate on Syria" by Josh Rogin: "The legislation, introduced this month by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) would sanction the Assad regime, Russia and Iran for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria while providing a framework for U.S. assistance to Syria going forward... The bill would require the administration to report on whether top officials in all three governments are complicit in the ongoing atrocities, including the blocking of humanitarian aid from those in need. If so, they would be sanctioned." [WashPost]
DNC WATCH: “Keith Ellison Abandons Sanders Supporters to Back Wealthy Donor” by Michael Sainato: “Ellison’s candidacy is marred by his ties to billionaire Democratic donor George Soros, whose son, Alex, is listed on Ellison’s initial list of endorsers in his announcement to run for DNC chair. Shortly after the presidential election, Ellison attended a closed-door conference hosted by the elder Soros, contrary to demands from progressives that Democrats stop allowing the wealthy to buy access and influence to party officials. Now Ellison is reportedly set to endorse a multi-millionaire real estate developer, Stephen Bittel, who is buying his way into the position of chair of the Florida Democratic Party.” [Observer]
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SPOTLIGHT: "Billionaires Forum Considers Putting Staff in Shipping Containers" by Bess Levin: "The World Economic Forum, which takes place in Davos, Switzerland, each year, brings together the über-elites of the business and political worlds. In addition to policy-makers and heads of state, regular attendees of the event include private-equity chief Stephen Schwarzman, bank C.E.O.s Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, Brian Moynihan, and Tidjane Thiam, and hedge-fund managers like George Soros, Ray Dalio, Dan Loeb, and Paul Singer. Which is to say, the collective net worth in town over the multi-day event makes Donald Trump’s zillionaire Cabinet look working-class."
"Unfortunately, Davos is also a relatively tiny place in the Alps whose population—approximately 13,000—nearly doubles when the W.E.F. comes to town. So, how to deal with the housing crisis? Since asking attendees to go buddy system on beds is apparently out, and the number of panelists going home with locals only puts a small dent in the problem, organizers have come up with the next best solution: stick the staff in large metal boxes." [VanityFair]
TALK OF OUR NATION: "White Supremacists Threaten Jewish Community in Whitefish, Montana" by Hannah Gold: "Anglin’s post becomes potentially dangerous when he lists the personal information of members of Love Lives Here, including photos, email addresses, phone numbers, and social media accounts. Love Lives Here Chairman Will Randall told the Missoulian that the people targeted were singled out because they are Jewish or have Jewish-sounding last names (the six-pointed stars stamped onto each photo bearing the word “Jude” is also not subtle). The post calls Love Lives Here “a terrorist group,” and describes Jews as “vicious, evil race of hate-filled psychopaths” and “a people without shame.”" [Jezebel; Missoulian]
PROFILE: “The nation’s first deaf leader of a Hillel aims to make Judaism accessible to all” by Julie Zauzmer:“I can see they’re Jewish. I have Jewish radar,” he joked. The students whom he takes under his wing — about 45 active Hillel participants and growing — sometimes tell him that they grew up with a strong connection to their religion, but others felt left out or simply less informed than they’d like to be. [Jacob] Salem, who knows English, Hebrew, American Sign Language and Israeli Sign Language plus a healthy dose of Latin and Spanish, can fill in the gaps, especially for those who grew up at synagogue Hebrew schools that didn’t provide the resources to teach deaf kids In his first semester as the director of Hillel at Gallaudet, Salem has worked on drumming up a budget for a weekly ASL Shabbat dinner, bringing in speakers who are deaf and involved in Jewish life, and teaching some Israeli Sign Language to curious students.” [WashPost]
“The Humiliations of Life After Congress” by Steve Israel: “After the November election, all 53 of us were required to leave our offices so they could be redecorated for our replacements in the new Congress. Now we’re corralled into makeshift space in a cafeteria. Once, we projected an aura of power. Now, we project the odor of French fries and tuna fish... We learned we could still park near the Capitol (but not in the garages); give tours of the House Floor (but only if the speaker approved our request) and bypass Capitol metal detectors (so long as we had our congressional lapel pins and proper forms of identification). We even have two seats each to President-elect Donald J. Trump’s inauguration. Folding seats. On the lawn. Down below. (Anyone want mine?) The intoxicating prestige of Washington ultimately yields to the sobriety of private life. I’ll be writing, among other things, separated from my loyal staff and C-Span audience. For kicks, I may give Floor speeches to the bathroom mirror.” [NYTimes]
KAFE KNESSET -- by Tal Shalev & Amir Tibon: For months, Israeli political pundits have dreaded the looming evacuation of the Amona outpost as the only real threat hovering over Netanyahu's coalition. Yesterday, that sword was removed, as the 40 families living in the outpost finally accepted one of the plans Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett had suggested for voluntary evacuation. The Amona arrangement is bound to cost the Israeli public more than 30 million dollars, and has attracted barrages of criticism from the opposition, but from Netanyahu's point of view it is a clear victory. He successfully dismantled the threat posed by Naftali Bennett's right wing Jewish Home Party by passing him on the right, and instead of fighting each other, the two worked closely to find a joint solution to the crisis and forcing the Amona residents to accept the solution.
Netanyahu and Bennett, well known enemies, spent hours together in recent weeks, and enjoyed a peculiar and unprecedented harmony. However, this love affair will soon be over. Bennett is already preparing for January 20th and intends to launch a new political campaign when the Trump era begins, and demand strategic moves to apply sovereignty in various areas of the West Bank.
Meanwhile, the Knesset is back to usual, and will be dedicating the rest of the week to the double-year budget, slated to pass by the end of December. With Amona off the table, the common assumption is that the budget will be an easy ride. Today, the lawmakers were much more engaged in the latest Jewish-Arab debacle, as Basel Ghattas, a Joint List MK, is suspected of allegedly smuggling mobile phones to Palestinian security prisons in Israel. Ghattas claims the police investigation is part of a political persecution against the Arab public leaders and political activities, but in the Knesset – no one is waiting for a final verdict.
Immediately after the suspicions were revealed, Netanyahu said that if they are true, Ghattas should be severely punished and banned from the parliament, and Defense Minister Lieberman went even further calling to strip his citizenship. Other MKs asked to change the entry regulations and make sure the MKs go through a security check when they enter, and coalition members started plotting how they will use the new bill, legislated just months ago, allowing lawmakers to impeach their colleagues. Zeev Elkin, one of the senior Likud members, already started gathering signatures, but the bill requires 10 supporters from the opposition. So far, they are not willing to cooperate and prefer to give the police time to do their thing.
"Abbas’s de facto ‘successor’ doesn’t want to talk about ‘the day after’" by Avi Issacharoff: “I learned Hebrew and English in prison,” [Jibril] Rajoub recalls. “I wrote two books. I translated Menachem Begin’s entire book, ‘The Revolt,’ into Arabic. I studied your history. I read about the Torah and also about the Oral Torah. About Rabbi Akiva, and also, of course, about everything that had to do with the Zionist movement.” [ToI]
SPOTTED last night at Ambassador Danny Danon’s Hanukkah reception at the Jewish Museum: Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan, JCRC’s Michael Miller, professor Daniel Hershkowitz, Israel Bonds CEO Israel Maimon, ZOA’s Mort Klein, Eli Bennett, Andrew Gross, Dvir Assouline, Danielle Ziri, Dr. Marc Berger, Rabbi Mendy Carlebach, and Tali Krupkin.
Neil Diamond On Loving Christmas Music As A Jew: "I think it's because we're denied Christmas in our youth: It's not part of our liturgy, it's not part of our holiday list, but we want it. I think when most Jewish people grow up, they just bathe in Christmas music, and I'm no different," he says. "I didn't observe Christmas, I didn't have a Christmas tree, I didn't get Christmas gifts growing up. So here I am, an adult, with the chance to do a Christmas album. And it was a joyful experience for me." [NPR]
SPORTS BLINK: "A Jewish Player’s 1914 Baseball Card Triggers a $125,000 Dispute" by Ben Berkon: "Jeff Aeder, a Chicago real estate developer, is one of the most prominent figures in that subculture, and a 1914 [Guy] Zinn card owned by a Maryland man has become, as other collectors describe it, Aeder’s holy grail. It is believed to be the only card of its type still in existence. Aeder offered $125,000 for the card in 2014 and nearly claimed it. But the deal went sour at the last minute. Aeder balked because, he said, he received a poor appraisal of the card’s condition. The owner, Dan McKee of Baltimore County, refused to renegotiate... “If Zinn was not a Jewish player, this card is probably worth $10,000,” Aeder said... So why was Aeder willing, at one point, to pay $125,000? “It really is something that if you have the means and the obsession, then someone pays a lot more than it’s worth,” he said." [NYTimes]
BIRTHDAYS: White House Communications Director in the Clinton administration (1999-2001) and thereafter in various senior roles for Hillary Clinton, older brother of Barney Frank, Ann Frank Lewis turns 79... President and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva University (1976-2003), scholar, author and communal leader, Rabbi Norman Lamm turns 89... 1983 winner of a MacArthur Genius Fellowship, mathematical physicist, scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Mitchell Feigenbaum turns 72... Israeli scientist, high-tech entrepreneur and leading businesswoman, Orna Berry turns 67... British cellist, distinguished for his diverse repertoire and distinctive sound, Steven Isserlis turns 58... SVP for Education and Research at The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, Eli Schaap... Publisher of Long Beach (California) Jewish Life, Jon Strum... Founder, President and Chief Creative Officer of Rachel G Events LLC since 2008, following an event-planning career in the private and non-profit sectors, Rachel L Glazer... Peter Keizer... David Ginsberg... Ruth Wolff... Jane Troy...
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