Daily Kickoff: Biden targets oligarchs, nursing homes in SOTU address + Interview with CT Gov. Ned Lamont – Jewish Insider

👋 Good Wednesday morning!

President Joe Biden announced the closure of American airspace to Russian aircraft during last night’s State of the Union address, one of several decisions regarding Moscow announced in the wake of last week’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Six days ago,” Biden said, “Russia’s Vladimir Putin sought to shake the foundations of the free world thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways. But he badly miscalculated. He thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would roll over. Instead he met a wall of strength he never anticipated or imagined. He met the Ukrainian people. From President Zelensky to every Ukrainian, their fearlessness, their courage, their determination inspires the world.”

Biden also announced that the Department of Justice is creating a task force that will look at crimes committed by Russian oligarchs.

“Tonight I say to the Russian oligarchs and the corrupt leaders who have bilked billions of dollars off this violent regime — no more. I mean it,” Biden said. “We are joining with our European allies to find and seize their yachts, their luxury apartments, their private jets. We are coming for your ill-begotten gains.”

The first standing ovation of the night came when Biden introduced Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., Oksana Markarova, a guest of First Lady Jill Biden.

Biden also announced that Medicare will “set higher standards for nursing homes and make sure your loved ones get the care they deserve and expect” in response to growing “Wall Street” control of nursing homes.

Don Shulman, president and CEO of the Association of Jewish Aging Services (AJAS), told Jewish Insider that such issues do not reflect the primary concerns of many Jewish aging groups affiliated with AJAS, Jewish Family Services and The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), which operate as nonprofits.

Nonprofits, Shulman said, are unable to meet their operating costs with Medicaid payments alone, and it is not possible to “fundraise your way out of that” in the long term. Additionally, Shulman noted that the elderly population is growing quickly and people are entering long-term care settings later, at a stage when they need more care.

He explained, “Saying, ‘OK, I’m going to have more oversight in nursing homes’ — that does nothing, it’s just going to punish the people who are trying to do the job the best way they can. We need to go in and support them, we need to go in and talk to them… There’s very little incentive for them to be there when they can make more at Amazon than they can make as a caregiver.”

Jonathan Westin, the senior director of JFNA’s Strategic Health Resource Center, which works with a network of aging-services providers, told JI, “While we welcome reforms to ensure quality, the federal government must provide robust funding to accompany these changes and equitable regulations across the healthcare spectrum.”

Following the address, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told JI, “I thought it was a bold, strong vision that the vast majority of Americans could embrace — happily embrace.”

Asked about a moment captured on camera in which Schumer prematurely stood to applaud Biden, the New York senator seemed not to recall it, but replied, “Oh no,” when told he had gone viral.

Babyn Yar, the Holocaust memorial constructed to commemorate the more than 33,000 Ukrainian Jews killed in a two-day pogrom outside of Kyiv, reportedly sustained some damage by a Russian missile strike that killed at least five people in the vicinity. Photographs from the site indicate that the monument remained untouched, while several buildings in the center’s cemetery were damaged. The memorial sits next to the city’s TV tower, which was targeted by Russian forces on Tuesday.

Hours after the strike, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted, “​​To the world: what is the point of saying «never again» for 80 years, if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of Babyn Yar? At least 5 killed. History repeating…” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid offered Israel’s assistance in repairing any damage caused to the site.

Ukraine’s envoy in Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, asked Israel to provide defense materials to bolster Ukrainian forces, and suggested the country pull Russian broadcasters that are popular among Israelis from the former Soviet Union.

next in line

Race to replace Deutch begins to come into view

GettyImages 1197125024

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)

Rep. Ted Deutch’s (D-FL) surprise announcement on Monday that he will step down after more than a decade in Congress to lead the American Jewish Committee has opened up what one local Democratic activist described as a “once-in a-generation” opportunity for politicians in the Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton areas — and the potential candidate field is already beginning to take shape, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports. Deutch’s solidly blue, largely moderate district, which spans Broward and Palm Beach Counties, has one of the highest Jewish populations in the country, many of them retirees.

All in: More than half a dozen local political observers who spoke to JI on Tuesday said they expect Jared Moskowitz, a Broward County commissioner who led the Florida Department of Emergency Management from 2019 until last April and also served as a member of the Florida state legislature, to run for the seat. Moskowitz said in a statement on Monday, “In the days to come, I will be announcing my own plans.”

For your consideration: Other names floated for the seat include state Sen. Gary Farmer — who told JI he is “strongly considering it” but will not make a decision until redistricting is finalized; Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg — who told Miami’s CBS4 on Monday that he would consider running for the seat; Ft. Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis; former Ft. Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler; and Broward County Commissioner Mark Bogen. Trantalis, Seiler and Bogen did not respond to requests for comment. Two other potential candidates, state Sens. Tina Polsky and Lori Berman, told JI they intended to remain in their current seats.

Tough fight: Given the potentially wide candidate field, former state Rep. Ron Klein, who chairs the Jewish Democratic Council of America, noted that a candidate could win with a minority of the voters in the district if they lock in a key base of support. “You could have a very interesting scenario develop here if you have a few popular candidates dividing up the votes among themselves,” he explained. Unlike former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), who previously held the seat, Deutch has no “heir apparent,” he added.

Flip side: The seat has traditionally been a Democratic stronghold, which local observers said is unlikely to change, even with redistricting. A local Democratic strategist said that, in a poor year for Democrats, a Republican could potentially come closer than others have in recent years, but would still fall short. State Rep. Chip LaMarca and former state Rep. George Moriatis are being floated as possible Republican candidates. Moriatis told JI he is “seriously considering running for the seat.”

Carrying over: Local observers agreed that whoever ends up representing the district will likely be a vocal proponent of Israel whose views are largely in line with Deutch’s, and that a far-left candidate outspoken against Israel is unlikely to find traction in the area. “It’s not just the Jews, it’s everybody else here is very strongly pro-Israel,” Rabbi Mark Winer, president of the Florida Democratic Party Jewish Caucus, said. “This is a very staunchly pro-Israel section of Florida. The non-Jews are pro-Israel.”

Read the full story here.

texas primaries

And the winner is…

Screen Shot 2021 12 22 at 11.20.20 AM

Greg Casar

A number of races were called last night in the Lone Star State following yesterday’s primary, setting up a number of runoffs that will determine who will be on their party’s ballot in November. In the governor’s race, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), easily won their respective primaries. Here are some of the House races we were watching last night:

TX-08: With the race yet to be called in the Republican House primary, combat veteran Morgan Luttrell, who was backed by Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, appears poised to avoid a runoff against Christian Collins, who has been endorsed by such legislators as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Madison Cawthorn (R-NC).

TX-28: Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and progressive activist Jessica Cisneros are headed for a May runoff after both failed to reach the 50% threshold. Cuellar pulled in 48.5% of the vote, while Cisneros won 46.8%. A third candidate, Tannya Benavides, took the remaining 4.7%.

TX-30: Jasmine Crockett and Jane Hamilton will likely face off in May after Crockett fell two points short of hitting 50% in the Dallas-area district. The two Democrats are vying to succeed Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, (D-TX), who has held the seat for three decades and who endorsed Crockett in the primary.

TX-35: Austin City Councilmember Greg Casar, who lost the support of the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America over his support for military aid to Israel and opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, handily won his closely watched Democratic primary over state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and former San Antonio Councilmember Rebecca Viagran, avoiding a runoff and paving the way for him to head to Washington to represent one of the state’s bluest districts.

trip report

Just back from Israel, Lamont touts business ties

GettyImages 1307089255

Governor Ned Lamont

Following a long-delayed trip to Israel to promote business development, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is optimistic about the future of potential business relationships between Israel and his state, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.

Parallels: The trip, Lamont’s first to Israel, was originally set to take place two years ago, but was pushed back due to COVID-19. His trip marked the first time in 25 years that a governor of Connecticut has visited Israel. “It’s the most innovative country in the world,” Lamont, a Democrat, told Jewish Insider on Monday, a few days after returning from the weeklong trip. “I just thought it was very simpatico for Connecticut to be there,” noting that both the Jewish state and the Constitution State have robust industries in defense manufacturing, fintech innovation, cryptocurrency, healthcare and venture capital.

Who’s on board: His delegation included representatives from Raytheon, Hartford HealthCare, the Digital Currency Group, the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut, University of Connecticut, the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development and Connecticut Innovations, the state’s venture capital firm.

Making moves: During the trip, the group met with businesses including food manufacturer Strauss Group, VC firm Vintage Investment Partners, tech investment group Viola Ventures, investment platform OurCrowd and biotech firm Future Meat Technologies. It also participated in a program at Google’s campus in Tel Aviv and hosted a venture capital competition. The University of Connecticut signed a memorandum of understanding with Technion, Israel’s technology institute. Lamont said the state is now following up with around 20 companies about potential opportunities.

Chicken dance: One moment that Lamont said stood out was sampling “really delicious” lab-grown chicken. “That’s the type of company that we’re thinking about [for] Connecticut because it’s getting all of the preliminary regulatory approvals,” Lamont continued. “They want to come.”

Better than ever: The Connecticut governor said he heard concerns from Israelis about antisemitic comments from the progressive ‘Squad’ in Congress, as well as growing anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses, but told JI he sees the concerns as unwarranted. “I think the Jewish/Israel/American relationship is as strong as it’s been in my lifetime. I go to a lot of college campuses. I think that’s true, even there. I think it’s even more true than it was five years ago,” he said. “Under Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, we’re not ever going to let Israel be a partisan issue in the United States, and he’s very conscious of the fact that we’re going to have strong bipartisan support for Israel.”

Read the full story here.

book shelf

Ten books to read in March


In this month’s installment of a series exploring new and upcoming books, Jewish Insider’s Melissa Weiss previews top titles coming out in March:

Ida Rubinstein: Revolutionary Dancer, Actress, and Impresario, by Judith Chazin-Bennahum (March 1): Dance historian Chazin-Bennahum looks at the life of the Russian-born Rubinstein, an actress, dancer and producer born to immense wealth and orphaned at age 8, who went on to be a storied financier — and occasional performer — of plays and ballets across Europe in the years after WWI.

Hollywood and Israel: A History, by Tony Shaw and Giora Goodman (March 8): Shaw and Goodman take an academic approach to Tinseltown’s decades-long relationship with Israel, highlighting the ties between Hollywood’s biggest names — such as Steven Spielberg, Haim Saban and Barbra Streisand — and the Jewish state.

Searching for Peace: A Memoir of Israel, by Ehud Olmert (March 15): Israel’s 12th prime minister wrote his memoir almost entirely from his prison cell, where he served 16 months of a 27-month sentence after being convicted of bribery. The son of Irgun members, Olmert takes readers inside his political ascent, from Knesset member to mayor of Jerusalem to acting prime minister, eventually taking the nation’s highest office following the incapacitation of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, where he engaged in talks with top Palestinian officials in the failed hope of ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Who By Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai, by Matti Friedman (March 29): Friedman, whose recent writings have shined a light on nearly forgotten moments in modern Israeli history, used a combination of interviews, journals and photographs to piece together the Canadian singer-songwriter’s tour through the Sinai with a group of musicians tasked with raising the morale of soldiers on the front lines of the Yom Kippur War.

Read the full list here.

💣 War Room: The Atlantic’s David French dissects Russia’s strategic missteps in the first days of its invasion of Ukraine, while warning that Ukraine, despite its backing from most of the free world, is not guaranteed to come out on top. “This is not a movie. There is no script that gives the underdog the victory in the end. NATO’s renewed solidarity is of limited benefit to Ukrainians under fire in Kyiv. Germany’s increased defense budget does absolutely nothing to destroy the miles-long Russian armored convoys now inching down Ukrainian roads. The West has woken up. NATO is united. Russia has already been made to pay for its aggression. But its army is still in Ukraine, grabbing more territory every day. It may learn from its mistakes, growing more aggressive to both destroy the Ukrainian resistance and deter additional foreign interference in the fight. If Russia does ultimately break Ukraine, the first flush of hope is likely to be forgotten amid the ashes of defeat.” [TheAtlantic]

🚚 Historical Precedent: In The Atlantic’s “Deep Shtetl” newsletter, Yair Rosenberg speaks to an Odessa rabbi who oversees a network of social assistance programs in the Ukrainian city, and who orchestrated a convoy for Jewish children out of the city when Russia’s siege began. “‘I once thought that I was a freak,’ says Rabbi Refael Kruskal, the vice president of the Jewish community in Odessa, a port city in Ukraine. While many others in the country doubted the prospect of a Russian invasion, Kruskal — the son of a Holocaust survivor — took his cues not from the headlines but from Jewish history. ‘I had supplies on trucks. I had generators prepared. I said there’s gonna be a rush on gas stations, so I had gas prepared for the buses on the way.’ He ended up needing every gallon.” [TheAtlantic]

🙏 Funny Faith: The Wall Street Journal’s David Camp looks at how talk show host Stephen Colbert — a former Sunday school teacher — leans into his Catholic faith as he brings a more wholesome, positive approach to the late night comedy scene. “Colbert’s exchanges with [Andrew] Garfield and [Elvis] Costello — and also with the singer Dua Lipa, who in February quizzed the host on how his faith and his comedy overlap, prompting from him an earnest disquisition about how sadness is ‘not a defeat if you can find a way to laugh about it’ — throw this rhythm off. They are pebbly and awkward, and all the more rewarding for it. The studio audiences seem to pick up on the vibe; they respond not with the unison ‘Awww’ of a baldly manipulated daytime-show crowd, but with low murmurs of assent and soft laughter. ‘The openness and ownership that he has with seemingly culturally taboo subjects, such as grief, allows his guests permission to be in contact and reveal those aspects of their own selves and experiences,’ Garfield wrote in an email after I asked why he spoke so unguardedly on The Late Show. ‘In turn,’ he continued, ‘the audience gets to have a genuine, deep, and connected experience. So the show feels like an act of service to people. I think Stephen would have made a great priest.’” [WSJ]

🚶🏽Father’s Footsteps: In The New York Times, Jessica Shaw retraces the path that her father, at the time 5 years old, took with his family from France to Spain as they fled the Nazis during WWII. “​​His legs were scratched and bloody, but Henri never complained. That’s all I was told about my father’s escape from the Germans over the Pyrenees Mountains some time in the second half of 1940. He was 5 years old, his sister, Cecile, was 3, and the day they walked out of their apartment in Paris’s 17th Arrondissement, my grandmother left pots of unfinished food on the stove lest any neighbors, nosy or Nazi, became dangerously curious.” [NYTimes]

↩️ U-Turn: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who in 2015 opposed the Iran nuclear deal, told reporters he thinks discussions to re-enter it are “important and good,” adding that he and others have encouraged the Biden administration to address issues with the original agreement.

 Walker Walks: Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker pulled out of a rally scheduled this weekend hosted by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) after the congresswoman keynoted a white supremacist conference last week.

🍸 Fight Night: The U.S. Capitol Police confirmed that an officer doing advance work ahead of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) trip to Israel last month was arrested by Israeli authorities after getting into a fight while intoxicated.

❌ Peer Review: The Arizona state Senate voted 24-3 to censure state Sen. Wendy Rogers over inflammatory remarks she recently made about fellow lawmakers. The censure did not include mention of Rogers’ participation in a white nationalist rally last weekend, nor recent antisemitic and racist comments the Republican lawmaker has made on social media.

📱 Troublesome Tweets: Tablet’s Liel Leibovitz criticizes hedge fund manager Bill Ackman for his recent tweets on the Ukraine conflict, including calls for Israel to get involved.

💸 Hefty Haul: Ben Smith and Justin Smith are looking to raise between $20 million-$30 million for their new media venture, and have approached such investors as Bob Iger and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for support.

🤳 Bad Position: A popular San Francisco-area yoga instructor was fired and plans to sell her one of the studios were scrapped over her boyfriend’s involvement in an antisemitic website.

🏀 Hoop Hopes: The Northwest Yeshiva High School boys basketball team — which comprises roughly half of the school’s male students — is headed for Washington state’s championship tournament for the first time in the school’s 48-year history.

🏆 Prestigious Prize: The revamped Dan David Prize, now awarded to early and midcareer history experts and artists, announced nine new prize recipients, including Natalia Romik, an academic who studied where Jews hid in Ukraine during the Holocaust and who is now helping Ukrainian refugees in Poland.

 Ball Bids: Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich is expecting to receive several bids to purchase the soccer team, as the Russian-Israeli businessman waits to see if he will be impacted by sanctions in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

☢️ Nuke Negotiations: Talks on Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna are moving slower than projected, with both the United States and Iran prepared to walk away amid lingering differences over sanctions relief, a proposed prisoner swap and mechanisms to prevent the U.S. from withdrawing from a revived deal.

🇮🇷 Houthi Suit: Six Americans held by Houthi rebels between 2015 and 2020 who endured torture and inadequte medical care are suing Iran over its support of the Yemeni militia group.

✋ Eviction Moratorium: The Israeli high court ruled that four Palestinian families living in Sheikh Jarrah will not be evicted while the country’s Justice Ministry settles the property’s ownership claims.

⚖️ In the Courts: The Israeli securities regulator announced it would financially support a class-action lawsuit against the Starwood Capital Group alleging that the American firm omitted disclosing details about the risks associated with some of its assets.

💰 Big Business: Israeli synthetic medical data startup MDClone netted $63 million in its latest fundraising round, led by Warburg Pincus and Viola Growth.

🕯️ Remembering: Ned Eisenberg, known for his roles on “Law & Order: SVU” and “Mare of Easttown,” died at 65.

GettyImages 1238867481

(Photo by RONEN ZVULUN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (left), Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (center) and Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan participate in a ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance museum in Jerusalem during a state visit earlier today.

GettyImages 1203445033

Laraine Newman attends the 2020 Writers Guild Awards West Coast Ceremony at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 01, 2020, in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for WGAW)

Comedian, actress and writer, part of the original cast of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” Laraine Newman turns 70…

Restaurateur, lawyer and former owner of Braniff International Airlines, Jeffrey Chodorow turns 72… Former U.S. senator from Wisconsin, Russ Feingold turns 69… Anesthesiologist in Skokie, Ill., Samuel M. Parnass, M.D. turns 65… Member of the Knesset for the Blue and White party, now serving as Israel’s deputy minister of defense, Alon Natan Schuster turns 65… First Soviet-born individual to become a member of the New York State Assembly, Alec Brook-Krasny turns 64… Recently retired global government relations manager for Ford Motor Company, Mitch Bainwol turns 63… Author and reporter for The New York TimesKatherine Rosman turns 50… Executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, she is a board member of the Washington JCRC, Daphne Lazar-Price turns 49… Editor and director of communications at Twin Cities, Minnesota’s TC Jewfolk, Lonny Goldsmith turns 47… Israeli hip hop singer and rapper better known as Mooki, Daniel Neyburger turns 47… Culture reporter for The New York TimesDavid L. Itzkoff turns 46… Former member of the Knesset for the Kadima party, Yuval Zellner turns 44… Director of marketing at Window Nation, Eric Goldscher turns 43… Staff director of the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, Yuri Beckelman turns 40… Israeli physician, she is also a television and radio newscaster, Dr. Hila Chaya Korach turns 38… Senior producer at Film45, Sally Rosen turns 36… Executive operations at Bonobos, Kaylee Berger Porco turns 30… Project manager at Halo Development, Donni Lurman turns 28…