1. So much has been written about what happened in Israel, but one of the most bracing points was this one: more Jews were killed last Saturday than on any single day since the Holocaust. “Very much still in shock,” Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island CEO Adam Greenman told me Wednesday when I asked about the mood in the local Jewish community. “I’ve been in this role for other big tragedies in our community, unfortunately, from Charlottesville to Pittsburgh, and those were awful – and I’ve never felt it this bad.” Rhode Island’s top elected officials, from the governor to the congressional delegation to the mayor of Providence, spent the week reassuring local Jews of their solidarity not only with them but also with the Jewish state. “In my view, Hamas has forfeited its right to exist,” Senator Whitehouse told Monday’s vigil at the JCC. Appearing on this week’s Newsmakers, Senator Reed described Hamas militants as fanatical and homicidal. “But unfortunately,” he said, “they’re clever, too.” And as troops mobilize for a ground invasion of Gaza, Reed said Americans shouldn’t underestimate how hard it will be for the Israeli military to dislodge Hamas. “What they have to do — and it is extremely difficult — is urban warfare, house to house,” he said. As for Palestinian civilians, Reed said he is hopeful Egypt will open its border to refugees, and that Israel will work to minimize casualties. “We can’t let Israel be in a situation where they become disenfranchised from the world community and an outlier,” he said. “Because that’s Hamas’s goal.”
2. The crisis in Israel has also laid bare real differences in the Democratic Party and on the left more generally over Middle East policy. Some of the most visible evidence of that came Monday in Boston, when Senator Markey was booed at a rally for Israel after he urged “de-escalation.” Minutes later, Congressman Auchincloss drew cheers by tacitly rebutting Markey, saying America didn’t de-escalate after Sept. 11 or Pearl Harbor. (Indeed, this has turned into one of the biggest weeks of Auchincloss’s two terms in Congress, as the Jewish military veteran got wide attention for his statements on the crisis.) Markey’s tone also contrasted with that of his senior senator, fellow progressive Elizabeth Warren, who told me Wednesday, “Right now I am working hard with others on making sure Israel has all of the resources it needs to defend itself.” On the local level, Providence state Sen. Tiara Mack drew a backlash over her pro-Palestine comments on social media, including a since-deleted tweet that said, “I am in support of Palestine full stop. I am not neutral.” She later decried a lack of “nuance” in the conversation, arguing, “Palestinians are NOT Hamas. Support for Palestine DOES NOT ignore the attack on Israel. Support for Palestine means wanting a stop to all the senseless death and violence.” State Rep. Mia Ackerman appeared concerned Friday by the reaction among some of her colleagues, saying in a statement, “I think each and every state leader, including every state legislator, should be publicly condemning these attacks.” Meanwhile, 1st Congressional District GOP nominee Gerry Leonard criticized Democrat Gabe Amo for posting a photo with Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, who like Markey has called for de-escalation, at a fundraiser in Boston. The Rhode Island Current’s Janine Weisman then dug into the two candidates’ positions on Israel, only to find little daylight between the two of them.
3. Speaking at the URI Honors Program early this week, Senator Whitehouse shared a memorable anecdote while commenting on the crisis. “We have a long history between Rhode Island and Israel,” he said. “I came into politics as a young staffer for Gov. Bruce Sundlun. And one of Governor Sundlun’s exploits — and he was a man of many exploits — was [when], as Israel was declaring its independence and as President Truman was making America the first country to recognize Israel, Bruce and some other bomber pilot veterans of World War II had gotten their hands on a number of American bombers that they were able to buy privately — they’d been decommissioned — and flew them to Israel, and landed the aircraft in Israel as some of the first aircraft of the Israeli air force.”
4. Colder weather is here, and that means Rhode Island leaders are once again facing the task of finding shelter for homeless people to get them through the winter months. Housing Secretary Stefan Pryor rolled out a new plan on Friday, touting a 30% increase in bed capacity compared with last January. “We are pleased that Rhode Island nonprofits, property owners, and houses of worship are stepping up in recognition of the need for more shelters and services as the winter approaches,” he said. Karen Santilli — who as CEO of Crossroads runs Rhode Island’s biggest shelter provider — said she welcomed the “short-term steps” announced by Pryor. But, she warned, “state leaders and advocates alike must redouble their support for meaningful investments for the development of permanent supportive housing so we can soon see a day when this annual press conference is no longer necessary.”
5. The Rhode Island Life Sciences Hub is set to get off the ground, after Governor McKee on Friday made official the widely expected appointment of former Rhode Island Foundation CEO Neil Steinberg as its first chairman. This effort is one of Speaker Shekarchi’s two top priorities, along with housing, and he had Steinberg in mind last spring when the House put together a budget article allocating $45 million to the new quasi-public agency. Steinberg is now charged with strengthening and expanding the life-sciences industry in Rhode Island, with an eye on getting a piece of the action seen in Greater Boston — no easy task. The Senate is expected to confirm Steinberg without an issue when lawmakers return to Smith Hill in January.
6. More on the Governor McKee beat … former Blackstone Valley Prep CEO Jeremy Chiappetta, who’s been the leading the private nonprofit raising money to support McKee’s Learn365 initiative, is joining the governor’s office as a senior advisor for education … the worsening feud between McKee and Johnston Mayor Joe Polisena Jr. made the front page of the Johnston Sun Rise.
7. Big week for Rhode Island general officers making trips to D.C.: Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos is in the nation’s capital this weekend attending the annual Rodel Fellowship Reunion, while Secretary of State Gregg Amore was there Thursday for the White House’s Italian American Heritage Month reception, hosted by First Lady Jill Biden (whose paternal family name was originally Giacoppo).
8. Keep an eye on the Silver City: some observers in Taunton think Mayor Shaunna O’Connell could have a real race on her hands against her former chief of staff, Ed Correira, in the Nov. 7 municipal election. While the mayor’s office is nonpartisan, O’Connell is a former Republican state rep and one of the last prominent GOP elected officials in the region following the ouster of Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson last fall.
9. What brought Elizabeth Warren to a manufactured-home park in Attleboro on Wednesday? Her ongoing crusade against private equity, which she blames for soaring rents there.
10. The website Bolts has put up an interesting state-by-state guide to state Supreme Courts, allowing for easy comparison of the different ways states structure their judiciaries. Rhode Island’s five Supreme Court justices have lifetime appointments, and as the website points out, “Rhode Island is the only state with such an arrangement, which mirrors the federal bench.” In Massachusetts, Supreme Judicial Court justices must retire at age 70; if Rhode Island had the same rule, a majority of the state’s current high court — Chief Justice Paul Suttell (age 74), Associate Justice William P. Robinson (age 83) and Associate Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg (age 72) — would all be off the bench.
11. Some notable stories this week from my colleagues … at Providence City Hall, Alexandra Leslie had the latest on Mayor Smiley’s efforts to get more revenue from the nonprofit colleges and hospitals … Sarah Guernelli reported on the Foster-Glocester and Johnston school districts fighting over who would educate a special-needs student … Eli Sherman has an E.G. man getting convicted for bilking an investor in his “Tales of the Crypt” remake … Kate Wilkinson looked at the toll cyberattacks are taking on Rhode Island hospitals … Tim White continues tracking the Nicholas Alahverdian saga in Britain … and AG Neronha told Kim Kalunian he expects to decide on criminal charges over the signature scandal by year’s end.
12. The Washington Post takes a closer look at Patrick Kennedy’s new mental-health push.
13. Big congratulations to the Projo’s Katie Mulvaney, who will receive the AP Sevellon Brown New England Journalist of the Year award. You’d be hard-pressed to find a reporter in Rhode Island more universally admired than Katie.
14. More congratulations, this time to State Controller Dorothy Pascale and Newport’s recently retired city manager Joseph Nicholson, the recipients of RIPEC’s 47th annual Public Service Awards. The pair will be honored next month at RIPEC’s annual meeting, where Cook Political Report editor-in-chief Amy Walter is this year’s keynote speaker.
15. Thanks to occasional Nesi’s Notes contributor Charlie Bakst for flagging this: a profile of NYT great and Rhody press corps alum Dan Barry.
16. I have a pretty high tolerance for unusual song covers — but even I’m not sure what I think of Steve & Eydie recording Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.”
17. Looking for something fun to do with your family this weekend? Kim Kalunian is out with her annual WPRI.com guide to the best local Halloween light displays.
18. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers — Senator Reed. Sunday at 5:30 a.m. on WPRI 12 and 10 a.m. on Fox Providence, or listen on the radio Sunday at 6 p.m. on WPRO. You can also subscribe to Newsmakers as a podcast on iTunes (or wherever you get your podcasts). See you back here next Saturday morning.
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Threads, Twitter and Facebook.