Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: June 14, 2018

Madoff trustee reaches $280 Million accord with Merkin Funds | How the king of New York kosher restaurants helped Qatar win over American Jewish leaders

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz addresses an audience at Brandeis University, in Waltham, Mass., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2007
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SPOTLIGHT: "Madoff Trustee Reaches $280 Million Accord With Merkin Funds" by Erik Larson: "Almost a decade after Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme collapsed, the trustee unwinding his fraud struck another settlement with one of the con man’s earliest investors -- a $280 million deal with the hedge-fund operator and philanthropist J. Ezra Merkin. The accord, announced Wednesday, allows the 65-year-old Merkin to avoid what would have been the first major trial in a lawsuit by the trustee since the unraveling of Madoff’s fraud in 2008 wiped out $17.5 billion in principal for thousands of investors." 

"Yeshiva University, a modern Orthodox Jewish institution, invested with Madoff through Merkin and lost about $100 million. Madoff and Merkin both sat on the school’s board... Merkin has said he was simply another a victim of a sophisticated scam. Under the agreement terms, the Merkin entities, which lost hundreds of millions of dollars in Madoff’s firm, will get a belated claim in the bankruptcy case... But the deal requires Merkin to use those funds to finance his settlement and to distribute the remaining money to Ascot investors who are ineligible to get money from the trustee because they weren’t direct Madoff customers." [Bloomberg; WSJ]

DEEP DIVE -- How the King of New York Kosher Restaurants Helped Qatar Win Over American Jewish Leaders -- by Hannah Dreyfus and Dan Friedman: "In the fall of 2017 [Joseph] Allaham approached Dershowitz at a Sabbath service at the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan to invite him to Qatar Last month, Muzin filed a report with the Justice Department noting that the Qatari embassy had paid his firm $204,000 in December 2017 and January 2018 for “travel reimbursement.” Dershowitz returned to Qatar in early March 2018 to present a lecture on the law and the media at the Northwestern University Qatar campus. The speech was sponsored by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, an organization controlled by the family of Qatar’s emir In an interview with Mother Jones, Dershowitz would not say if he was paid for the lecture. Dershowitz says his airfare was covered, but “I have no idea who paid.”

"Malcolm Hoenlein visited Qatar in December on an Allaham-arranged trip. He says he was there for one day and met Emir al-Thani. He also met separately with other officials, including the head of Al Jazeera... Allaham has known Hoenlein since at least 2010, when he helped arrange a meeting between Hoenlein and Syrian President Bashar Assad. Last year, Allaham attended Hoenlein’s daughter’s wedding. As his guest, Allaham brought a younger brother of Qatar’s emir. Hoenlein says this member of the Qatari ruling family did not give his daughter a gift." [MotherJones]

-- Qatar’s Efforts to Influence American Jews Continue to Unravel -- by Armin Rosen: "In the statement... sent to Tablet, Allaham claims as much: “The Broidy case and ending my work for Qatar are not related. I had planned for a while on announcing my resignation this Friday. The Broidy case sped up faster than a lot of people thought, so it’s a coincidence the two things are happening in the same week.” But it’s just as possible that there are more revelations on tap about Allaham’s work with Qatar—and about Muzin’s. For instance, phone records revealed during the discovery process showed over 1,000  calls between Allaham and [Mort] Klein’s numbers during a year-long period ending in mid-May; phone records also show 36 calls between Muzin’s number and Klein’s home phone number, along with roughly 100 calls and texts between the two men’s cell phones over a 9-month period ending in May.” [Tablet

WHITE HOUSE DEPARTURES -- Kris Bauman, who was President Trump's point person on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the National Security Council, is leaving the White House on Friday, Politico Playbook reported yesterday, citing to two sources familiar with the move. Bauman was General (Ret.) John R. Allen’s Chief of Staff when Allen served in the Obama administration as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defense on Middle East Security. He joined the administration in May 2017, replacing Yael Lempert, who left to work at the State Department. ZOA's Mort Klein opposed his appointment, labeling him pro-Hamas. 

ULTIMATE DEAL WATCH -- Trump's Mideast peace plan won't have pro-Israel bias, U.S. officials say -- by Barak Ravid: “Senior U.S. officials involved in drafting President Trump's Middle East peace plan pushed back on claims from Palestinian leadership... that the plan will be biased in favor of Israel. One official told me "If we wanted to draft a 'Bibi plan' that is not fair, balanced, realistic and appropriate we could have done that 17 months ago. I don't think characterizing it as a 'Bibi plan' is a fair characterization of our plan. There will be parts of the plan both sides are going to not like." One senior official told me: "Look what happened two days ago in North Korea. Things change and we have long term view of this.” [Axios

-- Top U.S. Officials: Peace Plan Will Be Basis for Talks, Not 'Take It or Leave It' Document -- by Amir Tibon: “The current administration is considering making its peace plan available to the public, but only after its final version is shared with the leaders in the region. “We want the public to know what is in it, at the right time, because the public needs to support it, not just the leaders,” said one official.”

“When asked if it is possible that following his summit with Kim [Jong Un], Trump will lose interest in an Israeli-Palestinian deal since he no longer needs a foreign policy achievement to present to the American public, one official used a metaphor from Trump’s real estate career to explain why he’s convinced that that’s not going to happen. “The president built Trump Tower, and then what did he do after that? He went and he built another five Trump Towers,” the official said. “He didn’t just stop with one.” [Haaretz

Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and Ambassador David Friedman addressed an Orthodox Union delegation at the White House but, according to two sources, warned the group at the outset not to ask them about the peace plan. [Pic]

Vice President Pence spoke to the Southern Baptist Convention -- recap by Julie Zauzmer: “Pence drew the most sustained ovations when he mentioned the Trump administration’s action of moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and when he described Trump as “the most pro-life president in American history,” two extremely popular issues among evangelicals.” [WashPost; Video]  

Chemi Shalev writes “The Secret of Israel’s Trumpmania? He’s One of Our Own: The U.S. President speaks the blunt “dugri” that Israelis cherish. He abhors convention, thrives on provocations, detests political correctness, ignores human rights, mocks liberals and leftists, torments immigrants and trashes the media on a daily basis. Even the fact that he has isolated America in the Western world speaks in his favor: Welcome to the club, Israelis would say.” [Haaretz

TURTLE BAY -- UN Assembly blames Israel for Gaza violence, but not Hamas -- by Edith Lederer: “The U.N. General Assembly approved a Palestinian-backed resolution Wednesday blaming Israel for violence in Gaza after narrowly rejecting a U.S. demand to add a condemnation of attacks on Israel by Gaza’s Hamas rulers The U.S. motion was approved on 62-58 vote, with 42 abstentions. But General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak declared that under an assembly rule, a two-thirds majority was needed so the amendment failed. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley appealed, citing another rule that says only a majority vote was required. After a short break, Lajcak then put the U.S. appeal to a vote. The U.S. narrowly lost that vote 66-73 with 26 abstentions. Finally, the assembly voted on the original Palestinian-backed resolution, approving it 120-8 with 45 abstentions.” [AP

-- “Loud applause greeted the outcome of the vote posted on a digital board in the cavernous General Assembly chamber.” [NYTimes

Robert Satloff tweets"Silver lining in UN vote critiquing Israel: 62 countries, a plurality, voted with USG on amendment to condemn Hamas. Small but important step in right direction." 

INSIDE THE ADMIN -- The Silence of John Bolton -- by Rosie Gray: “The secretary of state is supposed to be the nation’s chief diplomat and top foreign-policy adviser to the President,” former Bush administration national-security official Elliott Abrams said in an email. “This is what people like Kissinger, Jim Baker, George Shultz, and Condi Rice were and what it seems Pompeo is now. The system works best this way, with the national-security adviser an inside player making sure that all relevant perspectives get to the president and that his decisions are implemented. Bolton appears to be playing exactly that role, to the surprise of some of his critics. If we now enter long and complex negotiations with NK over denuclearization, several agencies (State, DOD, CIA, DIA, and more) will have to be involved and that coordinating job is why we have an NSC. So it seems to me so far so good for Bolton.” [TheAtlantic

JARED INSIDER -- Sessions Fumes as Kushner Pushes Pardons -- by Gabriel Sherman: "[Jared] Kushner’s absence from the G7 and Singapore summits is being discussed and parsed by Trump advisers. “He’s staying out of everything,” one administration official told me... Talk of Kushner returning to New York has quieted. “Jared is winning,” a former West Wing staffer said. But instead of trying to fix problems around the globe, Kushner has refocused on a much narrower agenda... aggressively lobbying his father-in-law to pardon more people. It’s part of Kushner’s strategy to repair his reputational damage with liberals." 

"In recent months, Kushner has cultivated a close relationship with CNN host and criminal-justice reform advocate Van Jones. “Jared is obsessed with Van,” one Trump adviser said. Kushner invited Jones to the White House multiple times and the two communicate frequently... The Kushner-Jones alliance has infuriated some Republican members of the administration, especially Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “He hate, hate, hates it,” a person close to Sessions said.... Sources say Trump may even like that Sessions is outraged because Trump is looking for anything that will get Sessions to quit." [VanityFair

HEARD YESTERDAY -- Sessions backs Supreme Court decision in favor of Christian baker -- by Candice Norwood: "Speaking at the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center’s annual Leadership Mission in Washington, Attorney General Jeff Sessions characterized an increasingly hostile environment for people with religious convictions. He then commended the Supreme Court’s decision to support Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado. “There is no need for the power of government — no need for the state’s power — to be arrayed against an individual who is honestly attempting to live out — to freely exercise — his sincere religious beliefs,” Sessions told the gathering of the Advocacy Center... During his address on Wednesday, he announced... the Justice Department had filed a lawsuit against Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, for violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act [by preventing] an Orthodox Jewish congregation from expanding into a larger synagogue." [Politico] Watch the speech [CSPAN]

PIC: The OU's Nathan Diament presented Sessions with a plaque from Deuteronomy 16:20: "Justice, Justice shall you pursue." [Pic

-- OU President Mark Bane explained the verse: "Why does it repeat 'Justice' twice? Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa (in Poland) offered the following comment. The Bible repeats the word 'Justice' twice to teach us that, of course, we must pursue justice but not only must we pursue justice to its end but we must pursue it through a just means... Our prayer to you is that God will bless you and your colleagues at the department with the wisdom to serve America through the pursuit of justice and through the means of justice." [Video

Earlier in the day, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told the group at a luncheon on Capitol Hill that he's proud the Taylor Force Act passed [Pic]

SCENE LAST NIGHT IN DC: The Simon Wiesenthal Center hosted a private screening for their new documentary film on Shimon Peres, Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres, at the Kennedy Center. The two hour film, narrated by George Clooney, features interviews with three former Presidents. Last night's event was chaired by Norm Brownstein and Howard Friedman. [Pic]

Attendees included Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, Rep. Ken Buck, Rep. Jim Himes, Rep. Bobby Rush, Larry Mizel, Dawn Arnall, Chemi Peres, Rabbi Marvin Hier, Rabbi Meyer May, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Marvin Feuer, Avi Jorisch, Tara Brown, Ari Mittleman, Alex Friedman, Amy Rotenberg, Mark Rotenberg, Rabbi Stewart Weinblatt, Simcha Weinblatt, Ezra Friedlander, Corey Meyer, Logan Tessler. 

TOP TALKER -- Michael Cohen, Trump’s Fixer, Parting With Lawyers as Federal -- by Alan Feuer, William Rashbaum and Maggie Haberman: "Prosecutors conducting the inquiry have not yet approached Mr. Cohen to seek his cooperation... But as the investigation continues, and with Mr. Cohen’s legal team in flux, the pressure on him to cooperate with the government may well intensify... The dispute between Mr. Cohen and his lawyers involves the payment of his legal bills, part of which are being financed by the Trump family." 

"One person with knowledge of the legal staffing change said Mr. Trump’s camp was “very displeased” with the way the Cohen investigation had so far been conducted... But the president has also indicated to allies that he is worried that if he pushes Mr. Cohen away too hard, it could increase the likelihood that Mr. Cohen will offer information to the government." [NYTimes; WSJ

2018 WATCH -- How Corey Stewart Could Endanger Other Virginia Republicans -- by Michael Tackett and Trip Gabriel: "The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party’s campaign arm, said it would not support Mr. Stewart, who lags far behind Mr. Kaine in fund-raising and has a history of cozying up to white supremacists and anti-Semites... The real worry for national Republicans — and the hope for Democrats — is that Mr. Stewart’s nomination may cost some incumbent Republicans in Virginia their seats in Congress." [NYTimes]  GOP Senate candidate Kelli Ward disavows anti-Semite Paul Nehlen [CNN

Rep. Steve King retweeted a neo-Nazi, and doesn’t seem sorry about it -- by Zack Beauchamp: "On Monday, Iowa Rep. Steve King made headlines for retweeting a British neo-Nazi, Mark Collett... It’s been more than a day now and King has neither deleted his tweet nor apologized for signal-boosting an anti-Semite." [Vox

Trump's departed — sometimes disgraced — staff hit the campaign trail -- by Anita Kumar And Katie Glueck: "[Sebastian] Gorka... is slated to rally and raise money with [Sean] Spicer on behalf of Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York on June 28. “I will support anyone who is a fighter, fed up with the domination of RINOs, and who wants to Make America Great Again,” Gorka said in an email." [McClatchyDC]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: WeWork Is Raising Funds at $35 Billion Valuation, SoftBank Executive Says [Bloomberg]  Ivan Glasenberg's Glencore writes off $7 billion of debt to end legal battle in Congo [SydneyMorningHerald]  Two Cybersecurity Companies with Links to Israel Placed on U.S. Blacklist [Calcalist]  Real estate mogul Sam Zell made another offensive comment about women recently, source says [Politico]  Brad Pitt’s Israeli MIT crush still going strong with billionaire hedge funder Bill Ackman [NYPost]

MEDIA WATCH -- Jeff Zucker Renews at CNN Through the 2020 Election -- by Joe Pompeo: "I’ve learned that the veteran broadcast executive, who has served as president of Time Warner’s cable news channel since 2013, signed a new deal several months ago that will keep him at CNN through the 2020 election... Zucker’s future at CNN has been one of the biggest question marks hanging over journalists at the network ever since they began bracing for life under AT&T many months ago." [VanityFair]  AT&T’s Time Warner Prize—A Load of Hollywood Headaches [WSJ]

REPORT: "As the world pays tribute to Anthony Bourdain days after his death, the culinary star was cremated in France on Wednesday, a source tells PEOPLE. His ashes will be flown back to the United States on Friday, the source adds." [PeopleMag]

My Dinner With Drake -- by Amos Barshad: "It was for Heeb magazine, a spiky publication that imagined itself as the home for discerning, self-effacing Jewish hipsters... The ensuing reader comments were appropriately on-brand for the Heeb readership. Like: “I really do hope he follows his mom’s desire and marries a nice Jewish girl—and I really hope that girl is me!” and “I’m a Black Jewish Canadian mom with a beautiful son of my own. Drake’s story is a 1-in-a-billion fairytale. If he continues to be proud of who he is, the success will always follow.” We know now how the story goes. He did not marry that one Jewish girl. But he did succeed and succeed and succeed until—at some point, maybe around a half-a-decade ago—he became totemic." [Pitchfork

Spotify’s Troy Carter Receives UJA Music Visionary Award, Minus Fellow Honoree Daniel Ek -- by Jem Aswad: "If there’s one single event in the music industry year besides the Grammys that draws more top-flight executives than any other, it’s the United Jewish Appeal’s luncheon, which raises money for the organization and honors a different executive or executives with its Music Visionary of the Year accolade. This year, the honorees were Spotify’s Daniel Ek and Troy Carter... Musical entertainment was provided by R&B singer H.E.R. and Grammy-nominee Leon Bridges, and NBA legend Julius “Dr. J” Erving and iconic soul singer Patti LaBelle — both of whom have known Carter since his childhood in Philadelphia — paid homage to him." [Variety]

What’s So Funny About Orthodox Judaism? This Comic Has One Answer -- by Jason Zinoman: "At the Theater Center in Times Square... a slickly funny stand-up show, “Strictly Unorthodox,” presents a more culturally marginal Jewish perspective. An ultra-Orthodox Jew from England, Ashley Blaker has built an act about the rituals of an insular, deeply traditional community that treats much of modern culture and society with suspicion... This is pitched to a mainstream audience, but his live set also caters to an observant Jewish audience, and appealing to both is the challenge of his show. Mr. Blaker, a producer at the BBC whose credits include “Little Britain,” jokes that he might be the only person who works in television who doesn’t own one... He does not perform during the Sabbath, and in an effort to accommodate religious audiences who do not want to sit next to a member of the opposite sex, some of his performances feature seating segregated by gender." [NYTimes]

TOP PICS -- John Mulaney, a stand-up comedian and a writer on Saturday Night Live, shared a picture of Benjamin Netanyahu working out at the hotel gym while in Paris last week [Pic

German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted AIPAC Board Chair Lillian Pinkus and a leadership delegation in Berlin this week [Pic

HEARD YESTERDAY -- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at the Magen David Yeshivah in Brooklyn, New York: "New York is proud of its relationship with the Jewish community. We celebrate our relationship with the Jewish community... And we stand shoulder to shoulder with the state of Israel always and forever. And whenever there's a question of, who is the ally to Israel? New York will stand up and say, it starts with us." [Video]

At the event, hosted by the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, Cuomo announced a $5.8 million award for nonprofit schools, daycare centers and cultural museums in Brooklyn through the state's new $25 million Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Grant Program. Cuomo called the OU's Allen Fagin a 'mensch' and joked, "In Italian, we would call Allen a mensch. He is, yes, it was Italian first, a mensch." He also poked fun at his younger brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo, at an earlier event at the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway in Long Island: "I have three sisters, two of three sisters married Jewish men. One married an Irish man. None married an Italian. I don't know why none of my sisters married an Italian. I have a theory, because I have a younger brother named Chris, who I think was not a good role model as an Italian." 

Cuomo tells Jewish Insider's Jacob Kornbluh: "I am one hundred percent supportive of the Jewish community. I always have been and I always will be. My father [Mario Cuomo] was before me. As governor, I have been a stronger supporter of Israel than any governor in the history of the State of New York. I don't want to get into a competition with my father on who is a stronger supporter of Israel, but I will take a tie with my father, and that will never change." 

DESSERT -- Smokey Joe’s Joins Expanding Array of Kosher Foods at ShopRite -- by Bracha Schwartz: "Joe Godin was back in his element, serving samples of his special cornbread and onion jam at the new and expanded kosher food section of ShopRite in Englewood on Sunday, June 11. Since his restaurant Smokey Joe’s in Teaneck closed in 2016, Godin has focused on his catering business. Now he’s branching out with a line of packaged fresh products exclusively for ShopRite." [NJJewishLink]

BIRTHDAYS: 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump turns 72... Civil rights activist with the NAACP in the US and for Peace Now when she lived in Ashkelon (1972-1983), June Shagaloff Alexander turns 90... Retired Soviet nuclear scientist, now writing from Skokie on Jewish intellectual spirituality, Vladimir Minkov Ph.D. turns 85... Member of Knesset (1988-2003) and twice Israel's Minister of Finance, Mayor of Arad for twenty years and son-in-law of former Israeli prime minister Levi Eshkol, Avraham ("Beiga") Shochat turns 82... Senior Vice President for Synagogue and Rabbinic Initiatives at the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, Dr. Beryl Geber turns 81... Former French UN Ambassador (2000-2002), French Ambassador to the USA (2002-2007), then diplomatic advisor to former French Presidents Chirac and Sarkozy (2007-2012), Jean-David Levitte turns 72... Writer, critic, philosopher and magazine editor, Leon Wieseltier turns 66... Russian-born billionaire and philanthropist, now a UK resident, Leonard "Len" Blavatnik turns 61... 

Principal at M+R Strategic Services, a consulting firm for non-profits with 130 employees, William Benjamin ("Bill") Wasserman turns 59... Head of News Partnerships at Facebook, previously an Emmy Award-winning television news anchor on NBC (2003-2007) and CNN (2008-2010), Campbell Brown turns 50... Global communications executive at Nike, previously an official at USAID, Daniel M. Gaynor turns 37... NYC-based businessman, living in the US since 2003, he is the son of Russian oligarch and former political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Pavel Khodorkovsky turns 33... New Leadership Network Director at AIPAC, Lilly Rapson turns 27... Freelance writer specializing in European and Israeli politics, Liam Hoare... Joanna Lerner... Julia Cohen, a reporting fellow at the Daily Caller News Foundation... Dan Schwerin, former director of speechwriting for Hillary Clinton (h/ts Playbook)...