Jewish Insider's Daily Kickoff: September 12, 2018

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Cynthia Nixon speaks to people at the Bethesda Healing Center in Brooklyn, New York, March 20, 2018.
Cynthia Nixon speaks to people at the Bethesda Healing Center in Brooklyn, New York, March 20, 2018.Credit: AFP
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Over the Rosh Hashanah holiday... The White House shut down the PLO office in DC... National Security Advisor John Bolton threatened the International Criminal Court in Hague with sanctions... Les Moonves resigned from CBS... Andrew Cuomo aides were revealed to be pitching BDS-related stories against Cynthia Nixon. The Cuomo campaign blamed a mailer tying Nixon to anti-Semitism on a constituency representative... New York tax investigators met with Michael Cohen's attorney, defying federal prosecutors' request... Trump aide Stephen Miller was slammed by his childhood rabbi in Rosh Hashana sermon... Iran's nuclear chief warned in an interview that Iran will increase uranium enrichment to 20 percent if the nuclear deal falls apart... 

TOP TALKER — Trump administration adopts new definition of anti-Semitism in schools — by Michael Stratford: "The Trump administration is changing how the Education Department investigates allegations of discrimination against Jewish students, backing an approach that is favored by pro-Israel groups but that critics worry will stifle free speech on campus. The policy change was outlined in a letter last month by Kenneth Marcus, who leads the department’s Office for Civil Rights... Marcus wrote in the letter that the Education Department, in its investigations into discrimination, would adopt the “working definition” of anti-Semitism that is “widely used by governmental agencies” including the State Department." [Politico]

-- Flashback: In December of 2016, the Senate unanimously passed the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act to expand the Department of Education’s definition of anti-Semitism. However, the House bill, sponsored by Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Peter Roskam (R-IL), was stalled in the Judiciary Committee after Republican Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte voiced concerns with the legislation. [JewishInsider]

-- Context: Education Dept. Reopens Rutgers Case Charging Discrimination Against Jewish Students — by Erica Green: "The new head of civil rights at the Education Department has reopened a seven-year-old case brought by a Zionist group against Rutgers University... In a letter to the Zionist Organization of America... Kenneth Marcus informed ZOA that he would specifically be reviewing one of the three allegations made in its 2011 complaint, which said that a liberal, pro-Palestinian group, Belief Awareness Knowledge and Action, imposed an admissions fee on Jewish and pro-Israeli students who attended an event called “Never Again for Anyone.” [NYTimes

-- Noah Pollak points out: "[The Belief Awareness Knowledge and Action group] is not a "liberal, pro-Palestinian group." It's a [Students for Justice in Palestine] cutout that promotes BDS, endorses terrorism, and calls for the destruction of Israel." 

-- Lahav Harkov also criticized the NYTimes story: "This is appalling. NYT positions itself against the IHRA definition of antisemitism IN ITS REPORTING not even in an opinion piece. (Plus, this reporter is totally ignorant of the precedents of Title VI applying to discrimination vs religions)" 

From a profile of Mark Zuckerberg in this week's New Yorker by Evan Osnos: "Zuckerberg's solution was to ban “hate speech” and impose lesser punishments for “misinformation,” a broad category that ranged from crude deceptions to simple mistakes. Facebook tried to develop rules about how the punishments would be applied, but each idiosyncratic scenario prompted more rules, and over time they became byzantine. According to Facebook training slides published by the Guardian last year, moderators were told that it was permissible to say “You are such a Jew” but not permissible to say “Irish are the best, but really French sucks,” because the latter was defining another people as “inferiors.” [NewYorker]

'NO DAYLIGHT' — U.S. Pressure on Palestinians Raises Middle East Tension — by Michael Gordon and Felicia Schwartz: "The move to shut the PLO office is the latest in a series of steps by the administration that appear to be moving away from the 1993-95 Oslo accords... Dennis Ross... said that “if the administration has an interest in somehow reaching out to Palestinians in advance of presenting its peace plan, its recent steps…will surely make that task much more difficult.” [WSJ] Max Boot: Trump’s bear hug risks crushing Israel [WashPost]

HEARD YESTERDAY — State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert at a press briefing: "The office could reopen in the future. They could, but we would certainly like them to take some meaningful steps in that direction of advancing peace."

VIEW FROM RAMALLAH — Palestinians to Consider Severing Israel Ties, Erekat Says — by Abbas Al Lawati: "The Palestinian Authority vowed to reconsider its cooperation with Israel... Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat told reporters in Ramallah that the full range of political, economic and security ties would be reassessed in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision on Monday to shut the Palestinian mission in Washington." [Bloomberg

"Trump Shutters the Palestinian Diplomatic Mission — and Middle East Peace" — by Robin Wright: "During the first ten months of the Trump Administration, the top Palestinian diplomat in Washington, Husam Zomlot, was summoned to the White House every two or three days, he told me. He spent many hours with Jared Kushner... I reached Zomlot by phone on Monday, in Ramallah, the West Bank capital, in between crisis meetings with the Palestinian leadership... “The peace process as we knew it has definitely just received a lethal bullet to its heart,” he told me. “This Administration is using bullying as a tactic and trying to blackmail us.” He called the U.S. announcement “a reckless act in blind execution of Israel’s wish list that started with Jerusalem.” [NewYorkerWSJ

REPORT — Abbas to ‘Personally Insult’ Trump in UN Speech: "PA sources told Channel Ten that Abbas “plans a very critical speech at the end of September and will place the blame for the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East on Trump personally. He plans on using very undiplomatic language, to say the least,” the sources said." [News10Hamodia]

Washington Post's Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash talk to 25-year-old Israelis and Palestinians on the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords signing ceremony. [WashPost]

Aaron David Miller writes... "25 years ago this week, Mideast peace seemed inevitable. Now it's further away than ever: This week on the 25th anniversary of the Oslo agreement, U.S. hopes and dreams of Arab-Israeli peacemaking lie broken and shattered. The Trump administration has shed any pretense of being an honest or effective broker." [USAToday

— How This Brooklyn-Based Artist is Transforming Palestinian Folk Art — by Rebecca Bengal: "Since his first solo American show at Los Angeles gallery Anat Ebgi last year, [Jordan] Nassar has been embraced by collectors and curators on both sides of the Middle East divide and globally. He’s currently making work for upcoming exhibitions at the Center for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv and the Third Line in Dubai, and he has just been announced as one of 16 finalists for the Museum of Arts and Design’s inaugural Burke Prize for contemporary craft...” [WSJ]

NOW AVAILABLE ― Excerpts of Bob Woodward's new book titled Fear: Trump in the White House — When Derek Harvey, Trump's top Middle East adviser on the National Security Council, warned the White House about the threat from Hezbollah (Chapter 14): "Harvey went to see Jared Kushner, who had a small office adjacent to the Oval Office. Kushner sat back, crossed his legs and listened to Harvey's case. Harvey's number one worry in the Middle East was Hezbollah... Hezbollah was a perfect proxy for Iran to use to pressure and attack Israel, whose air bases could be pummeled with rockets. Israel's defenses of Iron Dome, David's Sling and Arrow missiles would be inadequate. Harvey argued there was potential for a catastrophic war, with immense humanitarian, economic and strategic consequences."

"In the summer, the Israeli ambassador to Washington (Ron Dermer) and its national security adviser wanted Harvey to come to Israel. McMaster said Harvey couldn't go, though he gave no reason. In early July, Harvey arranged to meet with senior intelligence officials from Mossad, military intelligence, and representatives from the Israeli Air Force and Army. McMaster, angry with Harvey, would not let him move forward." 

Harvey and Kushner thought Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia, his first trip overseas, and arms deal would benefit Israel: "Making Saudi Arabia the first presidential trip could go a long way to signaling that the Trump administration had new priorities. It was also very attractive to Harvey that the president's first trip might be to his region because all the other senior NSC staffers would be clamoring to have the first trip in theirs. A summit in Saudi Arabia would also benefit Israel... Harvey knew to focus rigorously on such a suggestion from Kushner, who was obviously not just another senior presidential adviser..."

"Harvey was as well connected as any intelligence officer to Israeli intelligence and knew that Kushner had established his own connections there... Kushner told Harvey he had important and reliable intelligence that the key to Saudi Arabia was the deputy crown prince, the charismatic 31-year-old Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS... When McMaster learned of Kushner's Saudi summit idea, he asked Harvey nervously, 'Who's pushing this? Where's it coming from?'"

"Kushner said that if the United States was going to stay engaged in the region, they needed to help the Saudis and Israelis succeed. The president was not going to continue paying the bills for U.S. defense in the Middle East when the primary beneficiaries were the countries in the region, according to Kushner... Get the Saudis to buy more, Kushner said. If they bought weapons systems, it would help the U.S. economy and job creation... At times the Saudis were not delivering enough on contracts or arms purchases. 'I'll make a phone call,' Kushner said to Harvey. He phoned MBS directly and the Saudis increased their arms purchases... Trump finally gave the go-ahead and the trip to both Saudi Arabia and Israel was announced on Thursday, May 4... Harvey believed the summit had reset the relationships in a dramatic way, a home run." 

Rex Tillerson lobbied Trump to certify Iran deal: "When [Reince] Priebus briefed Trump on Tillerson's proposal, the president retorted, 'You aren't going to jam this down my throat!' Priebus ran shuttle diplomacy between the president and the secretary of state. 'They're not in violation,' Tillerson said... Tillerson went to see the president. 'This is one of my core principles,' Trump said. 'I'm not in favor of this deal. This is the worst deal that we have ever made, and here we are renewing this deal.' Since it was only for 90 days, he would go along. 'This is the last time. Don't come back to me and try to renew this thing again. There's going to be no more renewals. It's a shitty deal.' Mattis found a diplomatic, quieter way to agree with Tillerson. 'Well, Mr. President,' Mattis said, 'I think they are probably in technical compliance.'" 

"Priebus and Tillerson and McMaster made sure they were "calendaring"—as they say in the White House—when the next 90-day renewal would come up. 'They're in violation,' Trump said in a meeting before the July 17 deadline, 'and you need to figure out how the argument is going to be made to declare that.' One day Tillerson came to the dining room next to the Oval Office to see Trump and Priebus and explain to the president again that there was no violation. 'They are in violation,' Trump insisted, 'and you should make the case that this agreement is done and finished.' ... CIA Director Pompeo did not disagree with Tillerson's arguments on Iran and the reality of the Iran deal, but he, like Mattis, handled it more softly with the president... 'I'm never signing one of these recertifications again,' Trump said. 'I can't believe I'm signing this one. There's no way you're going to get me to sign another one.'" (Chapter 16) 

NEW HAMPSHIRE PRIMARY RESULTS: Levi Sanders, the son of Senator Bernie Sanders, and former Obama administration official Maura Sullivan fell short in their respective bids for New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District. The winner of the Democratic primary, Chris Pappas, will face off against Republican Eddie Edwards for the toss-up seat of retiring Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH).

MIDTERMS — Peter Roskam and Democratic challenger face off in debate over past comments —  by Mary Ann Ahern: "In one of the most closely watched congressional races in the country -- Republican incumbent Peter Roskam and Democrat Sean Casten clashed over President Donald Trump in their debate at the Daily Herald Monday... "He's compared the president of the United States to Osama bin Laden, he said there are Nazis that are working in the White House," Roskam said. "Peter has taken a number of things out of context and I don't claim to remember everything that I've ever tweeted," Casten responded." [NBCChicago]

NEW YORK PRIMARIES — New York voters will go to the polls on Thursday to select Democratic and Republican nominees for statewide offices.

Over the weekend, Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is running for a 3rd term, came under fire for a mailer — aimed to boost turnout among Jewish voters — that suggested his challenger Cynthia Nixon supports the BDS movement and would turn a blind eye towards anti-Semitism. Cuomo later distanced himself from the mailer and his campaign identified the creator as “an individual helping the campaign on constituency outreach.”

Nixon called the mailer "deeply offensive" and demanded an apology. "To use this in this nasty and untruthful way — it’s really Trumpian," she said in an interview. The NYTimes, which had endorsed Cuomo's reelection, called on Cuomo to apologize and "describe Ms. Nixon as a worthy opponent who abhors anti-Semitism." 

CYNTHIA NIXON ON BDS — On BDS, Nixon says she’s not a supporter but supports the rights of those who are — by Jacob Kornbluh: “I am not a supporter of BDS, I have never been a supporter of BDS,” Nixon proclaimed at a press conference on Sunday. “I am a supporter of a two-state solution... I do not personally support BDS, but I support the right of those who do to speak about it.” Nixon indicated to Jewish Insider that she would revoke Cuomo’s executive order on BDS because it is “trampling on people’s civil liberties.”

Nixon also told us she stands by her 2010 support of Israeli artists for boycotting a performance in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. “My signing of the letter had nothing to do with the appropriateness or inappropriateness of performing there,” Nixon explained. “It had to do with the protection of Israeli artists. It was a letter that was signed by a 150 English and American artists.” [JewishInsider]

Attorney General candidate Zephyr Teachout, competing in a four-way Democratic primary to replace former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's seat, was endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders on Monday. Teachout will hold a campaign event with House candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez outside a Kushner Co. building in Long Island City this afternoon. 

Real estate and insurance firms tout AG candidate to Jewish voters — by Will Bredderman: "A new business-backed political action committee hopes to convince religious Jews that supporting Letitia James for attorney general is a mitzvah." [CrainsNewYork

This Week in Julia Salazar: She had a trust fund, her ancestors were Catholic elites, and she has a new version of her conversion story — by Garance Franke Ruta: "Interviews with [Salazar] and with Jewish religious leaders show her story about converting to Reform Judaism could not have happened as she has described it to multiple reporters, because the person she now says guided her conversion process was not an ordained rabbi and also was, in any case, not affiliated with Columbia University the year she initially said she converted through the Columbia/Barnard Hillel... And she now says, for the first time, that she was certified by a beit din, though she has no record of it. “I just did not keep my records,” she told me." [NYMag]  This Is the Story of How a Campaign Goes Off the Rails [RollingStone]

— Netanyahu Spokesman Denies Sexual Assault Claim by N.Y. State Senate Candidate Julia Salazar — by Allison Kaplan Sommer: "Julia Salazar... publicly accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign media spokesman, David Keyes, on Tuesday of sexually assaulting her in 2013. Keyes denied the claims to Haaretz... On Tuesday evening, Keyes once again denied Salazar’s charges, telling Haaretz, “This false accusation is made by someone who has proven to be repeatedly dishonest about her own life. This is yet another example of her dishonesty.” [Haaretz

HAPPENING TODAY — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will meet with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in New York. 

IN THE SPOTLIGHT — Awaiting Sentencing, Cohen Grapples with Trump’s Good Luck — by Emily Jane Fox: "Caught in limbo as he awaits sentencing, Michael Cohen spent a reflective Rosh Hashanah weekend with family in Long Island... Cohen no longer has an office to go to each day, or clients to call... Under the conditions of his bail, he is permitted to leave the Southern or Eastern Districts of New York only to go to Florida, where some members of his family live, or to Illinois, where he has some business, and to Washington, D.C." [VanityFair]

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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Blackstone Agrees to $500 Million NYC Apartment Deal [Bloomberg] Joe Sitt's Thor Equities just put a huge Coney Island assemblage on the market [TheRealDeal]  Bryan Goldberg and his Bustle Digital Group will relaunch gossip blog Gawker in 2019 [NYPost]  Prying inside Alex Sapir’s real estate empire [TheRealDeal]   Boston investor Seth Klarman is top donor to pro-transgender equality group [Bizjournals]  Volkswagen Trial Offers Hedge Funds a Chance to Settle Old Scores [NYTimesThe Incredible Shrinking Hedge Fund [Bloomberg

STARTUP NATION — Drone delivers food and drinks at North Dakota golf course — by Scott Gleeson: "The company providing the drones is FlyTrex, an Israeli start-up which has already found success in the food delivery business in Iceland this year. For the drones to be a permanent fixture at the golf course, they'd need an FAA permit... However, the open spaces provided by a golf course make an ideal test market, CEO Yariv Bash told CNN." [USAToday]

C-SUITE — With Leslie Moonves out, Shari Redstone emerges the winner in the fight over control of CBS — by Meg James: "In one dramatic swoop, CBS announced the departure of longtime CEO Leslie Moonves amid a widening sexual harassment scandal, installed an acting CEO and announced six new members to its board. Gone were the old-timers, friends of Sumner Redstone, who were some of Moonves’ strongest allies... Not mentioned in CBS’ statement was that Shari Redstone... was deeply involved in the group’s selection... 

“This may look like a compromise resolution at first blush, but it's not,” Los Angeles investment banker Lloyd Greif said. “Shari won this round — big. Les Moonves must feel like he got run over by an 18-wheeler.” The retirement of long-serving board members and Moonves’ resignation handed Redstone a major victory and could eventually strengthen her influence in shaping the future of the storied media company that her family controls." [LATimes]  Strauss Zelnick Among New CBS Board Members [Variety]

A Top Goldman Banker Raised Ethics Concerns. Then He Was Gone — by Emily Flitter, Kate Kelly and David Enrich: "James C. Katzman, a Goldman partner and the leader of its West Coast mergers-and-acquisitions practice, dialed the bank’s whistle-blower hotline in 2014 to complain about what he regarded as a range of unethical practices... Senior investment-banking executives at the firm — including David M. Solomon, now Goldman’s incoming chief executive — urged Mr. Katzman to move past his complaints... Mr. Katzman refused. In 2015, he left Goldman and was required to sign a confidentiality agreement that he believed prevented him from sharing his concerns with board members or regulators... Goldman’s board will be briefed on his interactions with Mr. Katzman at its scheduled board meeting on Thursday, said two people who have been briefed on the plans." [NYTimes

MEDIA WATCH — The Atlantic's new cover: "Is Democracy Dying?" — by Brian Stelter: "The Atlantic is rolling out this special issue on Wednesday and Thursday... The mag says "the editors have assembled some of the top voices on law, race, history, and the constitution, to look at the slow-motion crisis to democracy in America, and what can be done to right the ship." Among the contributors: Justice Stephen Breyer, Anne Applebaum, Ibram X. Kendi, Amy Chua, Yoni Appelbaum, and Jeffrey Rosen." [ReliableSources; TheAtlantic]

LongRead: The real Goldfinger: the London banker who broke the world — by Oliver Bullough: “The main buyers of these bonds were individuals, usually from eastern Europe but often also from Latin America, who wanted to have part of their fortune in mobile form so that if they had to leave they could leave quickly with their bonds in a small suitcase,” Fraser wrote in his autobiography. “There was still a mass migration of the surviving Jewish populations of central Europe heading for Israel and the west.” [TheGuardian]

TALK OF THE TOWN: Nazi Collaborator or National Hero? A Test for Lithuania — by Andrew Higgins: "For the tiny village of Sukioniai in western Lithuania, the exploits of General Storm, a local anti-Communist hero executed by the Soviet secret police in 1947, have long been a source of pride... All along, though, there have been persistent whispers that General Storm, whose real name was Jonas Noreika, also helped the Nazis kill Jews. But these were largely discounted as the work of ill-willed outsiders serving a well-orchestrated campaign by Moscow to tar its foes as fascists. Blaming Russian propaganda, however, has suddenly become a lot more difficult thanks to Mr. Noreika’s own granddaughter, Silvia Foti, a Lithuanian-American from Chicago who has spent years researching a biography of her revered relative and went public in July with her shocking conclusion: Her grandfather was a fierce anti-Semite and Nazi collaborator." [NYTimes

HEARD ON ROSH HASHANAH — Key Trump aide Stephen Miller condemned by childhood rabbi — by Andrew Gumbel: "Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Beth Shir Shalom, a progressive reform synagogue in the beachside city of Santa Monica where Miller grew up, devoted his sermon marking the Jewish New Year to a striking denunciation of Miller... “Honestly, Mr. Miller, you’ve set back the Jewish contribution to making the world spiritually whole through your arbitrary division of these desperate people,” the rabbi said. “The actions that you now encourage President Trump to take make it obvious to me that you didn’t get my, or our, Jewish message." ... Rabbi Comess-Daniels found a receptive audience, which greeted his words with rapturous applause." [TheGuardian; NYDailyNews

FASHION WEEK — At a Celeb-Filled 50th Anniversary Show, Ralph Lauren Was Back on Top, Doubters Be Damned — by Jacob Gallagher: "Mr. Lauren’s Friday night Central Park soirée on the second night of New York Fashion Week was a celluloid dream-scene come to life. Attendees included actors (Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Pierce Brosnan, Jessica Chastain), Grammy winners (Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, Sheryl Crow, Bruce Springsteen) and corporate titans (Barry Diller, Martha Stewart)." [WSJ]

SPORTS SCENE — Djokovic Has Schwarzman’s Support as Billionaires Gather at U.S. Open — by Gillian Tan: "Novak Djokovic clinched his third U.S. Open and 14th major crown Sunday night... The three-hour match was witnessed by a crowd of more than 23,000 -- including billionaires from Wall Street and Silicon Valley... Dotted across suites and lower-bowl of the stadium were KKR & Co.’s Henry Kravis, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick, comedian Jerry Seinfeld, actress Meryl Streep and art curator Vito Schnabel, seated next to Wendi Deng... Decked out in several layers, Blackstone Group’s Stephen Schwarzman said before the match that he was pulling for Djokovic." [Bloomberg

Karlie Kloss Says She's 'Chosen to Be With' Josh Kushner 'Despite the Complications' From His Trump Ties —by Alyssa Bailey: "[Kloss] would not confirm or deny rumors she is converting to Orthodox Judaism for him the way Ivanka did before marrying his brother. “At the end of the day, I’ve had to make decisions based on my own moral compass—forget what the public says, forget social media,” she said of the relationship's strings generally. “I’ve chosen to be with the man I love despite the complications." [Elle; Vogue]

TRANSITION: Former VA chief, fired by Trump, to serve as Sanford's chief innovation officer — by Patrick Springer: "David Shulkin, a physician whom President Donald Trump tapped to head health care for veterans and later fired, will serve as Sanford Health's chief innovation officer. Shulkin's portfolio will put him in charge of Sanford's research, clinical genetic medicine, Profile weight loss and world clinic programs." [GrandForksHerald]

DESSERT: Philly region gets its first all-kosher supermarket — by Kristin Holmes: "House of Kosher, on Bustleton Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia, is believed to be the first major all-kosher supermarket in the region... Having such an expansive store — 13,000 square feet and about to grow — "is a big thing," said [Yael] Tkachuk, showing off the fish head she purchased for a ceremonial dinner plate to be displayed during the High Holidays." [Philly]

BIRTHDAYS: 20-term Democratic Congressman (served in office from 1975-2015) from Los Angeles, Henry Waxman turns 79... 2017 Nobel Prize laureate in Economics, University of Chicago behavioral economist, Richard H. Thaler turns 73... Director of Intergovernmental Affairs in the Obama White House (2014-2017), he was previously Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky (2011-2014) and mayor of Louisville (1986-2011), Jerry Abramson turns 72... US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, he was Governor of Kansas (2011-2018) and a US Senator (1996-2011), Sam Brownback turns 62... Miami based Chairman of American Principles Super PAC, Eytan Laor turns 59... Internet entrepreneur and a pioneer of VoIP telephony, Jeff Pulver turns 56...

Attorney specializing in the recovery of looted artworks during the Holocaust and featured in the 2015 film "Woman in Gold," E. Randol (Randy) Schoenberg turns 52... Sherri Jankowski turns 51... Author and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Max Boot turns 49... South Dakota native, now serving as deputy chief of staff for Congressman Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota-1), he was previously legislative director at Christians United for Israel, Jason Stverak turns 45... Israeli singer, songwriter and musician, who has performed around the world, Idan Raichel turns 41... AIPAC's area director for Philadelphia and South Jersey, Kelly Lauren Stein... Sara Greenberg...

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