Today is Inauguration Day. Our partners at JTA have a list of all the Jewish firsts as Joe Biden takes office; a list of Day One agenda items popular among many of the largest Jewish groups, and a report on the Delaware rabbi who blessed Biden on the eve of his big day.
Sheldon Silver, the disgraced former State Assembly speaker in New York, won’t be granted clemency after all.
President Trump, in his last full day of office, did not include among the 143 granted clemency the former Democratic power broker, who is serving a prison term on corruption charges.
“Mr. Trump was planning to move ahead with clemency for Mr. Silver until The Times reported he was considering it, prompting a torrent of criticism from Republicans in New York and an editorial in The New York Post urging the president not to do it,” The New York Times reports.
Making the cut: Trump did commute the remaining sentences of Sholam Weiss, a Brooklyn-born businessman sentenced to more than 800 years in prison in 2000 in a huge insurance fraud scheme, and Eliyahu Weinstein, who defrauded his neighbors in the Orthodox Jewish community of Lakewood, N.J., in a real estate Ponzi scheme.
Trump pardoned Aviem Sella, a former Israeli Air Force officer who was indicted in 1987 for recruiting Jonathan Pollard to collect U.S. military secrets for the Israeli government. Israel never agreed to extradite him. Pollard, who moved to Israel in December after serving his 30-year sentence and parole, welcomed the news of Sella’s pardon.
Trump also pardoned Ken Kurson, a friend to Trump’s son-in-law and presidential adviser Jared Kushner, who was arrested in October on charges of cyberstalking surrounding his ex-wife. A former journalist and digital entrepreneur, Kurson was once named Journalist of the Year by the Jewish paper The Algemeiner.
Wait, there’s more: Trump pardoned Elliott Broidy, the Republican fundraiser who violated foreign lobbying laws on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests; Alex Adjmi, a New Jersey businessman who served a five-year sentence in a 1996 money-laundering scheme; Michael Ashley, a Long Island mortgage executive who was sentenced in 2019 to three years in prison for bank fraud, and Drew Brownstein, a Denver hedge fund manager who pleaded guilty to insider trading charges.
Max Rose appears headed to the Pentagon to be a top adviser on the coronavirus pandemic.
The Staten Island Jewish congressman defeated in his bid for reelection appeared on a long list of likely Biden administration political appointees leaked on Tuesday to Defense One, which covers the Pentagon. His title would be special assistant to the secretary of Defense (senior adviser, Covid).
More Biden picks: Brooklyn native Eric Lander, a geneticist and professor at MIT and Harvard, was tapped as presidential science adviser and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Pennsylvania’s health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, was tapped to be the deputy health secretary, the first known transgender person to be nominated to a Senate-confirmed position.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of guests packed into a Borough Park synagogue on Monday night to celebrate the wedding of the youngest son of Bobover Grand Rabbi Ben Zion Halberstam.
Videos circulated over WhatsApp showed a packed wedding hall with thousands of people and no masks in sight. Large tapestries with the words “mazel tov” were hung from a wall to cover windows into the hall.
JDN, an Israeli news site, revealed the wedding plans on Monday, making clear the extent to which wedding organizers made sure to keep the event under wraps.
More than 3,500 New Yorkers volunteered in person and virtually during UJA-Federation of New York’s region-wide MLK Day of Service.
Monday’s events included 35 projects for 18 nonprofits, with particpants supplying meals to people experiencing food insecurity, assembling care packages for homebound seniors, and telephoning and sending cards to isolated seniors.
Volunteers packed food for area Holocaust survivors at Met Council’s Greenpoint warehouse; packaged medical supplies to be shipped to underserved communities around the world through the Afya Foundation, and delivered packages of fresh produce to homebound seniors through the Shorefront YM-YWHA of Brighton-Manhattan Beach.
“This year, MLK Day looked a little different, but the drive to give back and build a better world remained stronger and more critical than ever,” said UJA CEO Eric S. Goldstein, in a statement.
Today’s inauguration does not assure the future of decency, or democracy, writes David Elcott of the Wagner School of Public Service at NYU. “Donald Trump, his enablers and successors remain dedicated to destroying the competition, gutting democratic standards and norms, and purging those institutions that seek to uphold them,” he writes in a Jewish Week essay.
Rabbi Stuart Halpern of Yeshiva University suggests a biblical verse appropriate to Joe Biden’s inauguration: “They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:4). Writes Halpern: “As Americans seek comfort and assurance after the raid on the Capitol and anxiously await their vaccines, Micah offers a redemptive vision.”
Two Netflix documentary series offer contrasting views of New York City. In “Pretend It’s a City,” Fran Lebowitz looks at Times Square and other iconic sites and laments what was. In “How To with John Wilson,” a filmmaker looks at some nameless corner in Long Island City and celebrates what is. Andrew Silow-Carroll reports.
Join us on Jan. 25 as The Folio: A Jewish Week/UJA Cultural Series presents a virtual conversation with Nicole Krauss, author most recently of “To Be a Man,” her first collection of stories, and Eshkol Nevo, whose latest novel is “The Last Interview.” Moderated by award-winning author and editor Sandee Brawarsky. Register here.