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Death of Iran’s ‘Oppenheimer’ • Kushner to visit Saudis • Satmar cancel big event
Daily Update

Death of Iran’s ‘Oppenheimer’ • Kushner to visit Saudis • Satmar cancel big event

The poet Hannah Senesh is shown at Moshav Nahalal in pre-state Israel, in a photo from a collection that is headed to the National Library of Israel. 
The poet Hannah Senesh is shown at Moshav Nahalal in pre-state Israel, in a photo from a collection that is headed to the National Library of Israel. (Courtesy)

The killing of a top nuclear scientist in Iran could shake relations between the United States and Israel.

Assassins shot to death Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the nuclear scientist that western intelligence agencies believe to be behind Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Iran’s defense ministry confirmed Friday. Fakhrizadeh was commonly referred to as Iran’s Robert Oppenheimer, the American scientist who helped father the atomic bomb.

The assassination came two years after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said about Fakhrizadeh, “remember his name.” Iranian media blamed Israel’s Mossad spy agency for the killing, and on Saturday its supreme leader demanded the “definitive punishment” of those behind the killing.

Consequences: The killing comes at a delicate time in U.S. foreign policy: President Donald Trump has resisted coordinating policy with Joe Biden. There are signs that Trump is ramping up tensions with Iran, perhaps as a means of frustrating Biden’s pledged to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Trump abandoned in 2018.

Reactions: Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz: “The assassination in Iran, whoever did it, it serves not only Israel, but the whole region and the world.”

Yossi Melman, journalist and intelligence expert: “His death is a major psychological and professional blow for Iran.”

Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street: “The assassination of a senior Iranian nuclear scientist appears to be an attempt to sabotage the ability of the incoming Biden administration to re-enter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as well as the chances of further diplomacy, either by limiting the political leeway of Iranian officials who want to restore the deal, or by triggering an escalation leading to military confrontation.”

Dr. Sara Yael Hirschhorn of Northwestern University: “[I]f you have to go out of your way to decry the death of bad men to disguise/deflect from the utter failure of the diplomatic initiative you support, you might be in the wrong business.”

Former Mideast envoy Dennis Ross: “One can debate the logic of killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. But to argue it was done to frustrate the incoming Biden Administration ignores reality. Such an operation takes extensive planning, having operatives on the ground, actionable intelligence. It can’t be spur of the moment.”

RelatedJake Sullivan, Biden’s newly appointed national security adviser, left the door open earlier in the week for Iran to negotiate with the incoming administration. “If Iran returns to compliance, for its obligations that it has been violating, and is prepared to advance good-faith negotiations on these follow-on agreements,” Mr. Biden is willing to do the same, he said Wednesday at an event at the University of Minnesota.

Jared Kushner will travel to Saudi Arabia this week, in an apparent last-ditch effort to broker a normalization deal between the kingdom and Israel.

A U.S. official told Reuters on Sunday that the White House senior adviser is hoping to orchestrate additional normalization pacts between Israel and Arab states before the January inauguration of Joe Biden, following his success with the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan.

Kushner will meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Neom — the Red Sea city where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week held a secret rendezvous with the prince, alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The archives of the Hebrew poet and war hero Hannah Senesh is headed to the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem.

Senesh, a kibbutznik, wrote the iconic poems “Eli, Eli” and “Blessed is the Match” before her execution in an espionage mission in occupied Europe in 1944.

The collection, long held by her family, includes diaries, family correspondence, photographs, a newspaper she edited at the age of 6, notebooks, personal items and two notes found in her dress following her execution: her last song and a letter to her mother.

Global access will be opened to the collection for the first time, said the library.

The Forward profiles the New York chasidic newspaper Der Blatt, which hid news of a massive Jewish wedding so as not to tip off secular authorities.

The newspaper boasted that it had advance news of the wedding of the grandson of the Satmar Grand Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, which drew thousands of people to a Williamsburg synagogue in violation of Covid-19 rules.

Der Blatt and its rival Der Yid serve more or less as official state organs for the rival Satmar Rebbes, brothers Aaron and Zalman Teitelbaum,” explains the Forward.

Related: The Satmar faction that organized the illegal wedding in Brooklyn said it is canceling its annual Chof Aleph Kislev event “[d]ue to the COVID-19 pandemic and the safety measures in place,” according to The New York Post. Typically, thousands pack a Brooklyn armory to celebrate the day that former Grand Rabbi Joel Teitlebaum escaped from the Nazis at Bergen Belsen in 1944.

Around the Agencies

UJA-Federation‘s annual Wall Street Dinner will honor Marc J. Rowan, co-founder and senior managing director, Apollo Global Management, Inc., and Aryeh B. Bourkoff, founder, chairman and CEO of LionTree LLC. Journalist Bari Weiss is the guest speaker at tonight’s virtual event.

Streaming Today

The Katz Center at the University of Pennsylvania presents a panel of scholars and practitioners as they examine the response of Jewish communities to recent waves of new disease and consider spiritual activities, practical concerns and modes of self-reflection that arose from American Jewish experiences of these pandemics. Register here. 1:30 pm.

American Jewish University presents, as part of the series Sex and Judaism, Dr. Laura Berman — an expert in sex, love and relationships and friend of Oprah Winfrey — with a presentation on the passion prescription to heighten our relationships. Berman is the host of the nationally syndicated show, “Uncovered Radio with Dr. Laura Berman.” Moderated by Rabbi Sherre Hirsch, the chief innovation officer for American Jewish University. Details here. 3:00 pm.

The Cantors Assembly in partnership with Milken Archive of Jewish Music and the Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music presents Cantors on Record. The nine-part program features weekly live interviews with the artists and the music they recorded along with archival photos. It will be hosted by Hazzan Elizabeth Shammash and Dr. Mark Kligman, director of The Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music and Mickey Katz Endowed Chair in Jewish Music of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. 8:00 pm.

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