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Trump may pardon Sheldon Silver • Ron Dermer exits Washington • Nervous groups want speedy nod for Homeland Security chief
Daily Update

Trump may pardon Sheldon Silver • Ron Dermer exits Washington • Nervous groups want speedy nod for Homeland Security chief

Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, arriving at a courthouse in New York on Nov. 24, 2015, is said to be on President Trump's list of possible pardons and commutations. (JTA)
Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, arriving at a courthouse in New York on Nov. 24, 2015, is said to be on President Trump's list of possible pardons and commutations. (JTA)


Sheldon Silver, the disgraced former speaker of the New York State Assembly, may be granted clemency by President Donald Trump before he leaves office Wednesday.

Silver, 76, for years a fearsome power broker in New York politics, was sentenced in 2018 to seven years in prison in a federal fraud case involving kickbacks for using his influence as the Assembly speaker to dispense favors.

The New York Times reported Monday that Silver was among the 60 or more people Trump was set to grant a pardon or commutation.

It’s not clear why Silver, a Democrat who was prominent in Orthodox Jewish circles on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, would get clemency, although the Times noted that he has a professional connection with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner: “his former chief of staff, Judy Rapfogel, worked for a time for Mr. Kushner’s family company.” The Times also noted that Silver’s prosecutor was Preet Bharara, who has emerged as a prominent Trump critic.

The Orthodox Union and the Anti-Defamation League are urging a speedy confirmation for President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for Homeland Security secretary.

Alejandro Mayorkas is a Cuban American Jew who was deputy Homeland Security secretary under President Barack Obama.

Spurred by concerns about rising extremist violence and anti-Semitism, both groups pressed for a quick confirmation. So did the the American Jewish Congress and the Democratic Majority for Israel.

Background: The Washington Post profiles Mayorkas. “Through his Romanian-born mother, whose relatives were murdered by the Nazis, Mayorkas discovered the horrors that can unfold when refugees cannot flee to safety, friends and former colleagues say. Through his Cuban-born father, he learned someone can love a country and still feel compelled to leave it forever.”

RelatedJanet Yellen, Biden’s nominee to run the Treasury Department, will appear before the Senate Finance Committee today. She is expected to say that the government must “act big” with its next coronavirus relief package.

Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., wraps up his tenure Wednesday and will be succeeded by UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan.

The Times of Israel looks back on Dermer’s tenure, during which he had an “exceptionally close alignment” with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Donald Trump and the Republican Party, while shutting out Democrats.

President Trump released an executive order Monday calling for a “National Garden of American Heroes” that is unlikely to be built by his successor.

Among the 244 people suggested as honorees are German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt, Albert Einstein, Irving Berlin, Lauren Bacall, Milton Friedman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Jonas Salk.


Mel Reisfield, a Bronx-born Zionist educator in the Young Judaea youth movement and its Camp Tel Yehudah, died this month. He was 92 and had lived in Jerusalem since 1983. Reisfeld helped launch Kibbutz Hasolelim in 1949, and returned to the United States to run a Hebrew school and Young Judaea chapters in New Jersey. His work as a teacher and mentor earned him the Hebrew University’s Samuel Rothberg Prize for Jewish Education in 1984. In an appreciation, historian Gil Troy said Reisfield “inspired generations of American Jewish youth as their own Zionist rebbe to understand the centrality of Israel to Jewish life.”

Sylvain Sylvain, a guitarist best known for anchoring the influential 1970s band the New York Dolls, has died at 69. Born Sylvain Mizrahi to a Syrian Jewish family in Cairo in 1951, he arrived with his family in New York in the wake of the 1956 Suez Crisis, eventually settling in Rego Park, Queens. The New York Dolls, formed in 1971, helped seed the punk movement later in that decade.

Around the Agencies

Rabbi Leon Morris, the president of Pardes Institue for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and the founding director of the Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning at Temple Emanu-El of New York City, has received the 2020 Rabbi Samuel S. and A. Irma Cohon Memorial Foundation award. The award honors “individuals for accomplishments that benefit Klal Yisroel — the entire Jewish people.” The award ceremony will take place Jan. 24 on Zoom.

Streaming Today

Israel Policy Forum presents Aaron Miller, Carnegie Endowment Senior Fellow, in a discussion about the Trump administration’s policy legacy in the Middle East and President-elect Joe Biden’s priorities in the region. To register, click here. 2:00 pm.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, the German Consulate General in New York, and the Fritz Ascher Society for Persecuted, Ostracized, and Banned Art present pianist Carolyn Enger in a performance of Enger’s “Mischlinge Exposé.” Her composition brings to light the stories of Mischlinge—a derogatory term used by the Nazis to describe people with both Jewish and Aryan ancestry—like her father and godmother, interwoven with the music and writings of prominent German Jewish converts and Mischlinge. Register here. 2:00 pm.

Democratic Majority for Israel will host an online event to celebrate the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. The celebration will include conversations with Representatives Jake Auchincloss, Elaine Luria, and Ted Lieu as well as a performance by Israeli guitarist and singer-songwriter David Broza and a cooking demonstration from best-selling author and chef Adeena Sussman. Register for the Zoom event here. 8:00 pm.

The Blue Dove Foundation, The Gender Equity In Hiring Project, and SVIVAH present Katherine Goldstein, journalist and expert in the stuggles of the modern working woman, on the impact of the pandemic on women. RSVP here. 8:00 pm.

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.

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