Daily Kickoff: Meet Moshe Lax — Jared & Ivanka’s matchmaker | Forbes on Josh Kushner in the Trump era | Bibi’s black hair | Witty Passover Products

April 10, 2017
Jared-KushnerPresident Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner. Photo from Reuters

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Ed note: Wishing all of you a Happy Passover! We’ll be back Thursday…

FIRST LOOK — Cover Story: “Josh Kushner’s Complex World: How Jared’s Liberal Brother Runs A Billion Dollar Fund In Trump Era” by Steven Bertoni: “As the world’s attention on November 8 turned to New York City, where both candidates awaited the results of the U.S. presidential election, one of Manhattan’s most connected people, Thrive Capital founder Joshua Kushner, boarded a flight to San Francisco… Josh Kushner’s expectation: By the time he touched down, the Trump political experiment would be retired as a historical ego trip. Pre-Trump, Kushner had pretty much everything an ambitious 31-year-old could possibly hope for: a $1.5 billion venture capital shop that shot to prominence with an early bet on Instagram, a slew of high-profile startups that he was directly incubating and a life that remained low-profile even as he dated supermodel Karlie Kloss. The Trump Train had derailed much of that.”

“Jared and I still speak every day,” says Kushner, who won’t elaborate on what they discuss or pretty much any other family dynamic. The Kushner brothers rate among the dullest, least forthcoming people ever to emerge as glamorous power brokers… Josh Kushner scrambled. “It is no secret that liberal values have guided my life,” he says, “and that I have supported political leaders that share similar values.” For the next week, he held one-on-one meetings with nearly 100 employees across Thrive and the two startups he’s currently incubating. People were sad, frustrated, worried, angry. “Just as Jared is my family, I feel similarly responsible to everyone at my companies,” Kushner says… And as he gazes across the room, his older brother’s shadow looms, from the black-and-white photo of his Holocaust-survivor grandparents (Jared reportedly has one in his White House office, too) to a brick from Citi Field, inscribed: “Fans for Life/Jared Kushner/Josh Kushner.” [ForbesMag]

Drew Friedman on Observing Jared Kushner: “In 2006, 25 year old real estate developer Jared Kushner bought the Observer and Peter Kaplan continued on as editor. I would create over 50 covers over the next 10 years under the Kushner regime. The first assignment Peter gave me under the new Jared Kushner regime was to draw Sacha Baron Cohen for a cover story, also in the guise of his two characters, Ali G. and Borat, (The Borat film was about to be released). When the issue hit the stands the following Wednesday, a very excited Peter called me to say that Jared, a huge fan of Ali G., loved the cover and wanted to purchase the original art for his younger brother Joshua as a gift. Peter also told me, (in a more subdued voice), that this was “finally really good news.” Peter acted as Jared’s liaison and we agreed on my fee, and at the end of the conversation he said, “Drew, thank you… thank you”, as if I had done him a tremendous favor.” [DrewFriedman]

“A glimpse inside the Trump inner circle” by Gary Silverman: “Donald Trump has a funny way of making friends. In the case of rival US property developer David Cordish, Mr Trump sued him first. Mr Cordish became an issue because he had landed a deal to build two Native American casinos in Florida that Mr Trump had wanted for himself. Angered that one of his former associates had joined the winning Cordish team, Mr Trump filed a civil suit in 2004, hoping to win hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. His legal action failed — Mr Cordish denies paying a cent to the plaintiff who would be president — and the suit was settled in 2010. But along the way, Mr Trump had a chance to meet Mr Cordish, and the result was the formation of one of the key alliances in the president’s inner circle. Mr Trump’s White House staff today includes Reed Cordish, son of David, the man the president once wanted to rip apart.” [FinancialTimes

–Flashback to when we broke the news in January that Reed was joining the Trump administration: “In introducing Trump, David Cordish recalled how he once asked Ivanka if she had a twin sister who could date his youngest son, Reed. Instead, Ivanka set the junior Cordish up with one of her best friends from college, Margaret Katz.” [JewishInsider]

MOSHE LAX PROFILE: “Polish Your Diamond” by Yisroel Besser: “In time, [Moshe] Lax would do more than offer Ivanka Trump a partnership. He was putting together a real estate deal and he invited Jared Kushner to take part. He called a meeting at Prime Grill, where Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner met for the first time. “I wasn’t playing shadchan- it was a business opportunity.” Did he get shadchanus? I ask. He doesn’t bite, laughing instead. “That’s a state secret.” Lax’s vantage point allowed him to see a different side to the president. “I would notice a certain decency, I remember how we were at an event and Trump noticed his ex-wife, Ivanka’s mother, come in to the room. ‘Go say hello to your mother,’ he told her, right away…” And Lax even got a glimpse of the sense of humor. “We were working on a deal and most of the partners were Jewish: Trump looked at me and shrugged, ‘I must be the only goy in New York real estate,’ he said and laughed.”” [Mishpacha

TOP TALKER: “The Happy-Go-Lucky Jewish Group That Connects Trump and Putin” by Ben Schreckinger: “The links between Trump and Chabad kept piling up. In 2007, Trump hosted the wedding of Sapir’s daughter and Leviev’s right-hand man at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach resort. A few months after the ceremony, Leviev met Trump to discuss potential deals in Moscow and then hosted a bris for the new couple’s first son at the holiest site in Chabad Judaism. Trump attended the bris along with Kushner, who would go on to buy a $300 million building from Leviev and marry Ivanka Trump, who would form a close relationship with Abramovich’s wife, Dasha Zhukova. Zhukova would host the power couple in Russia in 2014 and reportedly attend Trump’s inauguration as their guest.” [PoliticoMag]

BACKLASH — ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt tweets: “This article is offensive on many levels. Denigrating Chabad or implying it is driving a conspiracy evokes age-old myths about Jews. And for those unfamiliar, Chabad is a joyous community but also charitable, non-judgmental, apolitical and focuses purely on Jewish renewal.” [Twitter]

Avital Chizhik‏: “All Russian Jews go to Chabad”?! Uh, not exactly. Many don’t go to synagogue at all, sick of being patronized. Also I just love how the new experts on Jewish peoplehood are Torossian and Boteach. Solid sources.” [Twitter]

Politico changed the sub-header from “Chabad, a worldwide Jewish movement, is at the center of a web of ties between the Kremlin and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” to “Where Trump’s real estate world meets a top religious ally of the Kremlin” [Twitter]

–Flashback to November: “A high-ranking and well-informed source has told online Russian news publication Gazeta that in their search for channels of communication with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, Kremlin representatives have used members of Russia’s Jewish business circles who have contacts with the family of his daughter Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jew.” [RussiaInsider]

HAPPENING TONIGHT — A White House staffer tell us: “The White House will be having a Seder for staff tonight. Obviously the previous administration had their own Passover tradition… Many of our Jewish staff are actually going to be able to spend the holiday with their families. Our tradition is still taking shape but this year it will be an opportunity for observant WH staff that can’t be with their families to celebrate the holiday among friends. We’ll also be opening it up for other interested WH staff (Jewish and non-Jewish alike) to take part in a Seder on campus. A few details are still being nailed down but as of now it seems the President will not be attending.”

Eric Lesser, who was one of the originators of the Obama White House Seder and is now a Massachusetts State Senator, tweets: “This may be the first thing Donald Trump has done that I agree with…EXCLUSIVE: Trump White House to Host Seder.” [Twitter

Lesser tells us he is not sure if President Obama will be attending a Seder this year. “I’ll be in Maryland with my in laws for both nights,” Lesser said in a Twitter message.

“Keep Your Politics Out of Passover” by Shmuel Rosner: “A Passover Seder during which you spend time criticizing the Trump administration’s immigration policies or regretting the evacuation of Israeli settlements from Gaza is not a “relevant” Seder, it is a mediocre and redundant one. Passover is for celebrating the transcendent, the mysterious, the eternal, not rehashing worn-out political debates.” [NYTimes

DRIVING THE CONVERSATION: “Democratic Syria hawks love Trump’s airstrikes” by Michael Crowley: “Obama should have done this four years ago when the problem was easier. History will judge him harshly because he didn’t,” said Jane Harman, a former Democratic congresswoman from California who is now director of the Wilson Center… “I am completely torn,” said Ilan Goldenberg, who served as a senior official for Middle East issues at both the State Department and Pentagon under Obama. “For six years we’d been wringing our hands about this thing. And then — boom — a hammer on your head and it’s done,” he said… “I wish we could have somebody who is more aggressive than Obama—but I have no confidence that Trump is the guy,” he said… One longtime proponent of military action against Assad is former Secretary of State John Kerry, who was ‘absolutely supportive’ of Trump’s strike and ‘gratified to see that it happened quickly,’ according to a person close to the former diplomat.” [Politico] • Obama aides push back against criticism of inaction on Syria [AP

“The Emerging Trump Doctrine: Don’t Follow Doctrine” by Peter Baker: “After the missile strike, Israeli news outlets were filled with headlines like “The Americans Are Back”… “What is striking to me is a subtle yet clear shift away from the rhetoric of pure American self-interest narrowly defined, as espoused by candidate Donald Trump,” said Robert Danin, a former Middle East negotiator who is now at the Council on Foreign Relations. “What has emerged is a new language of American leadership in the world that we have not heard before from President Trump.”” [NYTimes] 

“Does Israel Have a Special Duty to Stop a ‘Holocaust’ in Syria?” by Sigal Samuel: “The sight of innocents being gassed resonates for Israelis not only because many of them are descendants of European Jews gassed in the Holocaust, but also because Syria’s chemical weapons were originally produced to kill Israelis… But the Holocaust comparison, and the victimhood narrative that accompanies it, is double-edged: Even as it causes some to reach out to contemporary victims, it causes others to focus only on looking out for themselves.” [TheAtlantic

JI INTERVIEW — “From Republican Governor to Democratic Congressman: Charlie Crist’s Journey” by JI’s Aaron Magid: “After deciding to run for a U.S. Senate seat in 2010, Crist was collapsing in the polls. Given his ongoing discomfort with what he perceived as a rightward shift among the Republican Party, Crist reached out to Senator Joe Lieberman for advice. The two became friendly in the 2008 presidential race; Crist asked Lieberman if he should make the switch to Independent and Lieberman responded, “Charlie, if you do it, you’ll feel so liberated.” That same week, he left his longtime party and registered as an independent. While he ended up losing the Senate race to Marco Rubio (R-FL), Crist emphasized, “It worked out the way it’s supposed to. Beshert.”

Crist on love for Israel and Judaism: “I love Israel. I committed in the race for governor, the one I won, that if I won that my first trade mission would be to go to Israel. And so I did that in May, 2007 with Robert Wexler. We went to Tel Aviv, which reminded me of Florida because you are right on the coast. The food is amazing. The people are amazing. Afterwards, we went to Jerusalem. There is no place like it. I love to go there. I think Democrats, and many Republicans, are so strongly aligned and care about the State of Israel. As Floridians, we do particularly. We have an enormous Jewish population in my state and I’m very proud of that. When I became governor, with Ted Deutch, he was Senator Deutch, in the Florida State Senate, a wonderful man, we had a divestment bill that would not have our retirement funds invest anything that would somehow favor Iran. I was the first governor who did that. The State of Florida and the State of Israel have a unique bond. Probably the most moving thing I did on the trade mission to Jerusalem was visit Yad Vashem. I love Judaism, anything that I can do to strengthen, protect and help.” Read the full interview here [JewishInsider]

“White House Orders Staffers to Quit Church and Synagogue Boards” by Amir Tibon: “Two weeks ago, a White House staffer who was a board member at the Orthodox synagogue Kesher Israel in Washington, D.C. announced his resignation in an email to the other board members, citing a demand by “the ethics office at my current job” to “roll off any board positions.” The staffer, Ari Schaffer, works in the White House communications department and used to be the social chair of the synagogue. A member of Kesher Israel told Haaretz that, at the same time, Trump’s special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jason Greenblatt, who regularly prays at Kesher Israel, also told members of the synagogue that he could not engage in other activities at the synagogue in order to avoid possible ethics questions.” [Haaretz

“Trump’s envoy pushing two-state solution as Abbas’ US visit nears” by Uri Savir: ““Jason Greenblatt surprised us at the Arab League summit meetings in Amman,” a senior PLO official told Al-Monitor this week… The PLO official told Al-Monitor that Greenblatt explicitly spoke about the possibility of a two-state solution… “The Palestinian leadership was asked to be constructive when Abbas meets later this month with US President Trump in the White House. The main emphasis of the US move is to create a regional framework for dealmaking,” he said.” [Al-Monitor] 

BUZZ ON BALFOUR: “Israeli media: Billionaire questioned in Netanyahu probe” by The Associated Press: “Channel 2 TV says police grilled British businessman Poju Zabludowicz on Saturday about alleged presents he provided Netanyahu and his wife, Sara… Zabludowicz owns several assets in Israel and has been friendly with Netanyahu for decades.” [AP

KAFE KNESSET — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: Netanyahu is set to be investigated again in the upcoming weeks, but investigators are reportedly still trying to reach Aussie billionaire James Packer and fetch his version of the events. Meanwhile, another Bibi billionaire friend visited the Lahav 443 special unit’s offices last week and testified about their relationship. British-Finnish magnate “Poju” Zabludowicz, a renowned art collector, media and business investor and founder of BICOM, the UK version of AIPAC, already starred in a Bibi affair in the past, as he was mentioned in the Bibi-tours probe as funding flights and luxury hotel stays for Netanyahu and his wife Sarah. Now, the police are investigating whether Zabludowicz provided other gifts to the Netanyahus.

Another bad hair day: Meanwhile, social media is abuzz over the Prime Minister’s coif. Netanyahu has veered all the way into black hair this week. Some speculated on social media that he was wearing a toupee, but it’s just the dark color making his comb-over look less patchy. Chiming in on Twitter was former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, who said Netanyahu’s hair was a sure sign of an early election. Netanyahu’s media arch-enemy Yediot Aharonot made an infographic of all of the premier’s recent hair colors, with the headline “black is the new purple.” The Prime Minister is not going to get back to the wavy-haired glory of his youth (Google Ben Nitay if you don’t know what we’re talking about), so maybe he should give the hair dye a rest. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]

FRENCH ELECTIONS WATCH: “Le Pen says France not responsible for WWII round up of Jews” by AFP: “Former President Jacques Chirac and current leader Francois Hollande have both apologised for the role French police played in the round-up of more than 13,000 Jews at the Vel d’Hiv cycling track which was ordered by Nazi officers in 1942. But Le Pen told the LCI television channel on Sunday: “I don’t think France is responsible for the Vel d’Hiv.” [AFP

** Good Monday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI]. Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email Editor@JewishInsider.com **

BUSINESS BRIEFS: Steven Cohen Is Selling His $28 Million Basquiat Cop Painting [Bloomberg] • Frank McCourt spends $77M on Palm Beach estate [TRD• Top hedge fund manager, Michael Gelband, who said he generated $7 billion in revenue is prepping his own fund launch [BI] • Wall Street Made Charles Murphy Successful and Rich, but Happiness Eluded Him [WSJ] • Jake Horowitz’s Mic Raises $21 Million in Series C Round [WSJ]

SPOTLIGHT: “Maggie Haberman: The New York Times reporter Trump can’t quit” by Dylan Byers: “There may be no reporter Trump respects, and fears, more than Haberman. He may bash and beat up on the Times, and her, but he inevitably returns to her to share his thinking and participate in interviews… “I think he respects her diligence, her fairness, her intelligence and the investment she’s put into the relationship,” said Michael Barbaro, a colleague of Haberman’s at the Times… “It’s hard to think of a reporter who has balanced that better than her — who gets access to Trump because he needs her, not because she needs him,” said BuzzFeed editor-in chief Ben Smith.” [CNNMoney

THIS TOWN: “At Cafe Milano, Politicians Are Served Dinner and Peace of Mind” by Katie Rogers: “The CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer has covered several presidential administrations and has been coming to Cafe Milano regularly for two decades. He said the Trump team was avidly going out. “A lot of the cabinet secretaries are not just finishing the day and going home,” Mr. Blitzer said. “I think from their perspective it’s probably part of their job to go out and work their various contacts.” [NYTimes

AIRED LAST NIGHT ON CNN — “Why I worry about Israel’s future” by Reza Aslan: “In the interviews I conducted with ultra-Orthodox leaders during the filming of this week’s episode of “Believer,” I was repeatedly told that the only way Israel could legitimately be a “Jewish state” is if it abides by Jewish law… One of our interviewees, Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox deputy mayor, Yitzhak Pindrus, threatened not too long ago to cut off all municipal funding to any event that violates the law of the Sabbath… I myself spoke to a number of secular Jews in Israel who openly worried that the ultra-Orthodox are on the verge of turning Israel into a Jewish version of Iran. While that may sound extreme, it shows the level of concern that is running through the secular community in Israel.” [CNN] • Growing up ultra-Orthodox [Video]

“The Contradictions of Reza Aslan’s “Believer”” by Elias Muhanna: “[Aslan] stumbles upon a sub-sect of Haredim, an exuberant band of Hasidic Jews called the Na Nachs, who preach a religion of happiness through trance music, reggae, and ecstatic dance…. The Na Nachs’ unique belief that “happiness is basic, the beginning of everything,” suggests to Aslan that they may represent a bridge between secular and religious Jews… He also finds the grand finale his series needs, as he and the Na Nachs dance together in a cemetery near Jerusalem. When one of them asks Aslan if he is Jewish, Aslan surprises him by saying no, then looks at the camera and shrugs. “I feel Jewish today,” he says.” [NewYorker] • Pray, study, party: Inside a growing sect of Judaism [Video]

Rabbi David Wolpe on being Don Rickles’ Rabbi… “Öne day as requested, I showed up at his place for his grandson’s brit milah. I rang the bell. “Who is it?” answered the famous voice. “It’s Rabbi Wolpe.” “Sorry, no Jews here. Go home.” Now, that alone was funny. And I laughed. But it didn’t end there. Rickles kept me on that stoop, ringing and refusing, for a good ten minutes. Each time he pretended he didn’t know who it was, and came up with a new variation. “Rabbis not wanted.” “Rabbis not needed.” “Are you a deaf Rabbi?” It wasn’t until he could hear that I was convulsed with laughter that the buzzer rang and I was admitted… The last time I had the chance to be in his company was a few months ago, when I sat with him and his wife Barbara at a birthday luncheon for a friend… The lunch was on a Friday, and it was starting to get late. “Rabbi, you better run home for Shabbes, or I’m telling everyone you’re an apikorous” — the traditional Jewish word for “heretic.”” [TIME] 

“The Netflix Of Torah: Coming Soon To A Military Base Near You” by Laura E. Adkins: “The American Forces Network (AFN), which broadcasts into the homes of U.S. servicemen and women stationed abroad, has teamed up with Aleph Beta Academy and will be airing “Passover: The Exodus That Could Have Been,” on April 9. Starting in May, AFN will also be airing a weekly video on the parsha (the week’s Torah portion)… AFN’s Director of Religious Programming, Chaplain Allen Vaughan, says that to his knowledge, this is the first time AFN will be airing weekly Jewish religious programming.” [Forward]

“You Shall Tell Your Child: In Time for Passover, a Journalist Celebrates a Year of Jewish Holidays” by David Gregory: “During lunch at a Washington, D.C., steakhouse more than a decade ago, [Leon] Wieseltier encouraged my own Torah study and efforts to deepen my faith by admonishing, “Who are we to let this 4,000-year-old tradition slip through our fingers?” The journalist Abigail Pogrebin, who interviewed Wieseltier for her book about Jewish identity, “Stars of David,” takes his cri de coeur seriously. In “My Jewish Year,” she becomes curious about how Jews search for meaning — “something tugged at me, telling me there was more to feel than I’d felt, more to understand than I knew” — and decides to celebrate all the Jewish holidays of the calendar year, even the ones she’s never heard of… This is what Wieseltier was talking about. He wrote in his book “Kaddish,” “Do not overthrow the customs that have made it all the way to you.”” [NYTimes

“The Witty and Weird of Passover Products (Matzo Print Bra to Come)” by Joanne Kaufman: “Last year, American consumers spent $1.3 billion on Passover food, gifts, textiles and assorted Judaica, according to Menachem Lubinsky, the head of Lubicom, a marketing consultant firm… Passover innovations aren’t limited to food…. Searching for a baby bib that says “Little Mensch” or “Future Doctor”? Ms. Tyding’s company, Davida Aprons, aims to deliver, specializing in textiles with a high kitsch factor. This is the place to buy matzo-print lounge pants, an “Oy Vey!” baseball cap and a toilet seat cover that says, “Let My People Go.” A matzo print sports bra is in the offing. “Passover is a very serious holiday,” Ms. Tydings said. “But it’s also celebrated for eight days, so people enjoy having different and fun things. Even the Orthodox love our stuff.”” [NYTimes] • Kosher food modernizes for Passover to lure foodies [USAToday]

PASSOVER TRAVEL: Why Delta Air Lines Paid Me $11,000 Not To Fly To Florida This Weekend” by Laura Begley Bloom: “After hours of delays, Delta Airlines started offering money for volunteers to give up their tickets on our overbooked flight, which had 60 (sixty!) standby passengers hoping to get a seat…. When the compensation for volunteers got to $900 a ticket in gift cards… my husband convinced me to consider the offer. I thought it was too low, but I said I was open to the idea. My husband approached the gate agent and offered to give up our seats for $1,500 apiece. She countered: $1,350 each.” [Forbes

David Greenfield: “Many people trying to get to Florida for Pesach led to others to make big bucks for agreeing to be bumped off flights.” [Twitter

Read Jet Blue’s Four Questions: “Next year in the Caribbean!” [Facebook

DESSERT: “This New Deli Is Making Vegan Jewish Classics That Look Like the Real Deal” by Melissa Kravitz: “Just a few blocks south of Lower East Side deli mainstays Russ & Daughters and Katz’s is a new modern deli counter and grocery: Orchard Grocer. Here, the shelves are filled with specialty products like Sir Kensington’s Ketchup and organic rice ramen, and there’s a tidy case of packaged products that at first glance look like standard sliced salami and bricks of cheese. But there’s just one thing missing: animal products.” [Thrillist]

BIRTHDAYS: Martin B. Bordo turns 82… President of the U.S. Soccer Federation (1990-1998), previously an executive of both the LA Lakers and the LA Clippers, Alan Rothenberg turns 78… Author of 200 books including the Cam Jansen series and books for youth on the Holocaust, David A. Adler turns 70… Soviet-born Israeli-American pianist, Yefim Bronfman turns 59… Member of Knesset (Likud) since 1999, Israel’s Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources, in charge of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, Yuval Steinitz turns 59… Governor of Missouri since January 2017 (and one of the youngest governors in the US), former Navy SEAL, Eric Greitens turns 43… Director of Communications at RespectAbilityUSA, Lauren Appelbaum… Yishai Schwartz… Robin Samot… Naomi Atlani… Phil Hayes… Susie Diamond

BIRTHWEEK — TUESDAY: Australian billionaire, executive chairman of Visy Industries and Pratt Industries US, the world’s largest privately owned packaging company, Anthony Pratt (family name in Poland was Przecicki) turns 57… Executive chairman of The Estée Lauder Companies, on many charitable boards including the University of Pennsylvania and the 92nd Street Y, William P. Lauder turns 57…

WEDNESDAY: Moroccan-born fashion designer, businessman, investor, and philanthropist, co-founder of the Guess clothing and accessory brand, Paul Marciano turns 65… Businessman, media entrepreneur and philanthropist, built SFX Entertainment (a concert and stage performance promoter that was sold to Clear Channel in 2000 for $4.4 billion), Robert Sillerman turns 68… Comedienne, best known for co-creating and co-starring in the Comedy Central series Broad City, Ilana Glazer turns 30…

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