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Hadassah Reopens Washington Office After Nearly 10 Years

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Hadassah is reopening its Washington office, nearly a decade after the women’s Zionist group was crippled because of its unwitting involvement in investment counselor Bernie Madoff’s fraud.

Ellen Hershkin, the president of the group, which claims 300,000 members in the United States, on Monday named Karen Paikin Barall as the director of Hadassah’s new government relations office in Washington DC.

Barall was most recently director of Mid-Atlantic advocacy for the Orthodox Union. She was a political appointee in the President George W. Bush State Department’s Anti-Semitism monitoring office.

Hadassah scaled back operations after the Madoff scandal blew open in late 2008, and eventually shut its Washington office, among other measures. In 2011, Hadassah returned $45 million to other investors, just under half its earnings under the fraudulent scheme, which pays early investors from money garnered from more recent investors, instead of from actual earnings on the investments. The result is to fraudulently make the investment attractive. Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison for his crimes.

As a result of its scale-back, Hadassah focused more on fund-raising for the hospitals that are its namesake in Israel and withdrew to a degree from lobbying on domestic issues, including women’s health. The reopening of the Washington office appears to mean the group plans to reassert its voice in that area.

“I am proud to be representing Hadassah as we make the case for Israel, fight increasing anti-Semitism around the world, and promote women’s health equity at home,” Barall said in the statement.

Alyssa Fisher is a news writer at the Forward. Email her at fisher@forward.com, or follow her on Twitter at @alyssalfisher

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Democratic Candidate Drops F-Bomb On Bimah During Debate At Synagogue

Democratic congressional candidate Scott Wallace lost his cool during a debate with his Republican opponent held at a Pennsylvania synagogue on Sunday night, unleashing the “f-bomb” while standing on the bimah, local radio station WBCB reported.

Wallace’s outburst “silenced” the audience at Congregation Tifereth Israel in Bensalem and led to him being chided by the debate moderator, the station stated. It took place when he was questioning his opponent, incumbent Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, about his position on insurance for those with pre-existing conditions.

“Ironically, there was a later question about the need for civility in politics,” Fitzpatrick told WBCB. “Well, a good start is to not use vulgarities in the sanctuary of a synagogue in the middle of a congressional debate.”

Wallace and Fitzpatrick have been duking it out for months in Pennsylvania’s 1st district, located in a heavily-Jewish part of the Philadelphia suburbs. They have already had several fiery debates, including another one at a different synagogue on Oct. 14, where both candidates struggled when asked to say something they like about each other.

Wallace issued an apology on Monday.

“I was exasperated by yet another attempt from Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick to hide from his votes to take away protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” he said. “I apologize for any offense that might have been taken, I am passionate about protecting people from insurance company abuses, and I’m sorry that in this instance, my frustration got the best of me.”

Wallace previously was the subject of criticism in the Jewish community after the Forward reported that the family charitable foundation he ran had given more than $300,000 to organizations that support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel. Wallace has said that he does not support BDS and that he did not personally approve the donations in question.

The local group Democratic Jewish Outreach of Pennsylvania withheld its endorsement of him over the issue but eventually reversed its position.

But that has not fully quelled the controversy. The Jewish Exponent reported that at the previous synagogue debate, held at Shir Ami in Newtown, Fitzgerald verbally struggled when he was asked by the moderator what he agreed with Wallace on. A member of the audience then shouted out: “You don’t agree with funding BDS!”

Contact Aiden Pink at pink@forward.com or on Twitter, @aidenpink

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Jared Kushner Dodges Saudi Murder Questions In Softball CNN Interview

Jared Kushner reiterated claims that the White House is still gathering details into the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in an interview with CNN on Monday morning, which heavily focused on his personal life.

The president’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser sat down with CNN political commentator Van Jone to kick off “Citizen by CNN,” an all-day forum discussing the polarizing issues at the center of the midterm elections.

Jones led a rather informal interview, according to live tweets by the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman. He began with: “You have like the dopest job in the world, the secretary of everything…how did you wind up in this position?” Kushner responded that he didn’t plan this — he was thrust into politics when Trump announced his candidacy.

They spoke about Kushner’s focus on prison reform before Jones moved to the topic on everyone’s minds: The murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Washington Post columnist and critic of the Saudi government, in Istanbul’s Saudi consulate. Kushner said the administration is still in the “fact-finding phase.”

Phil Mattingly of CNN reported that Kushner said he told the Saudi crown prince, who has been accused of being behind the murder, “to be transparent. To be fully transparent. The world is watching.”

When Jones brought up critics’s response to Kushner’s friendship with the crown prince, he said he only listens to criticism from those he respects, Haberman reported.

Soon, they moved on to lighter topics — Kushner’s “power couple” status with Ivanka Trump and the president’s mark as a grandfather.

Alyssa Fisher is a news writer at the Forward. Email her at fisher@forward.com, or follow her on Twitter at @alyssalfisher

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RBG Adds A Very Jewish Scrunchie To Her Collection

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s commitment to her Jewish identity has long been documented. Now she will be showing it in the form of her favorite accessory— a scrunchie.

Rabbi Yael Buechler, founder of Midrash Manicures, a company dedicated to “creative religious expression,” recently sent RBG a Hanukkah scrunchie to add to her collection, according to Hey Alma.

To Buechler’s surprise, Ginsburg sent a thank-you note to show her appreciation of the festive hair accessory.

“My dear Rabbi: Thank you for today’s surprise, a scrunchie I will wear not only at Hanukkah, but year round,” the 85-year-old wrote.

RBG’s scrunchie collection “is not as large as my [judicial] collar” collection, but they are “catching up,” she told the Wall Street Journal of the quintessential 90s accessory that has since made a comeback.

Those who see the Supreme Court Justice as a supreme fashion inspiration can buy the scrunchie for $6.50 here.

Contact Haley Cohen at hcohen@forward.com

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Jewish Billionaire George Soros Drawn As Puppet Master In Florida Campaign Ad

Jewish billionaire investor and megadonor George Soros is depicted as a puppet master in a Florida campaign ad, which echoed historic anti-Semitic tropes.

The conservative Florida Strong PAC posted on Facebook over the weekend a drawing of Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor, as a marionette being controlled by Soros and Tom Steyer, another liberal activist.

The ad was targeted at women, New York Times reporter Kevin Roose tweeted.

“Andrew Gillum’s campaign has taken more than 2 million dollars from California far-left Billionaires George Soros and Tom Steyer,” the ad reads.

Images depicting rich Jews as puppeteers controlling governments and world events have been used by anti-Semites for centuries, including during the Nazi era.

The ad is not currently found on Florida Strong’s Facebook page.

Soros has long been at the forefront of several right-wing conspiracy theories, several of which have been connected to anti-Semitic tropes.

A National Republican Congressional Committee campaign ad in Minnesota depicted Soros as “owning” a Democratic congressional candidate.

Soros and Steyer donated a combined $650,000 to Gillum’s political committee, Forward Florida, in August, the Tampa Bay Times reported. This was in addition to the millions they’ve given since Gillum launched his campaign in March 2017.

Gillum is running against President Trump-backed Rep. Ron DeSantis. This particular PAC didn’t stop at the one anti-Gillum ad over the weekend — it recently shared a video on Facebook that, set to the voice of Gollum from “The Lord of the Rings,” blames Gillum for the increase in murders in his city, according to Politifact.

Alyssa Fisher is a news writer at the Forward. Email her at fisher@forward.com, or follow her on Twitter at @alyssalfisher

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