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Widow sues Antwerp community over husband’s missing headstone

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 16:01

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — The widow of a London banker sued Antwerp’s largest Jewish community for allegedly obstructing the placing of a tombstone on his grave.

The suit, which was filed in November, is set to be heard in an Antwerp civil court on Wednesday. The community denies the accusation.

It concerns the 2012 burial of Albert Fuss at the Jewish cemetery in Putte in the Netherlands owned by the Machsike Hadass community.

Fuss, an Antwerp native who died at 76, was buried in the cemetery because it is the final resting place of his mother. In the lawsuit, Fuss’ widow, Lynda Jane Fuss of London, and two other claimants wrote that Machsike Hadass was paid for the burial but requested additional payments for erecting a headstone.

According to the lawsuit, Machsike Hadass received $15,700 from the Fuss family, though the community disputes the sum and the purpose for which the money was intended. The family further claims that it had been asked on various occasions to pay $78,000 to $157,000 for a headstone. But Machsike Hadass disputes those sums, too, and and the lawsuit’s characterization of the money’s intended use.

Pinchas Kornfeld, the chairman of Machsike Hadass, told JTA that he could not discuss the case’s details because they are subject to judicial review.

The community, Kornfeld said, had tried to reach a compromise with the family, but it “chose for a confrontational approach.” Before the trial, he said, the parties had talked about starting a nonprofit with a donation from the Fuss family.

A Fuss family representative said it had sought arbitration and donated nearly $94,000 to a Jewish charity in Antwerp as a gesture of good will but ultimately had no alternative to litigation.

The lawsuit accuses Kornfeld of not honoring an agreement to bury Fuss and erect a headstone, but Kornfeld denied that such an agreement had been reached.

“The rules in our community are that there are no fixed prices. Families that are more fortunate are charged more, and this allows the poor to be buried for free or almost for free,” Kornfeld said.

In their lawsuit, the claimants wrote that Machsike Hadass and Kornfeld often demand “large sums of money from wealthy families by refusing to allow a tombstone to be placed on the grave of a beloved one until large sums of money are paid.”

Joint U.S.-Israel missile defense system fails interception test

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 15:34

(JTA) — Israel’s Arrow 3 interceptor missile defense system failed its first live interception test.

A senior Israeli Defense Ministry official told The Associated Press that an exercise to test the advanced system developed with the United States was unsuccessful on Tuesday.

In the exercise, the interceptor missile was not deployed to stop a dummy missile launched over the Mediterranean Sea.

“There was a countdown to the launch and then nothing happened,” an anonymous source told Reuters. “A decision was made not to waste the interceptor missile.”

Defense Ministry officials later announced that “conditions were not ripe for launching the intercepting missile.”

The Arrow 3 interceptor was designed to provide an additional level of defense against ballistic missiles, add interception opportunities to the joint U.S.-Israel Arrow weapons system and improve Israel’s defenses against missile threats, according to the ministry.

It is being developed by Israel Aerospace Industries with the U.S. aviation company Boeing Co.

Saudi-backed school in Vienna ordered shut amid anti-Semitism accusations

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 13:19

(JTA) — A Saudi-backed school in Vienna that allegedly used an anti-Jewish textbook was ordered to close after it refused to disclose information about its staff.

The Austrian capital’s school board announced Tuesday that it decided to shut down the Saudi School Vienna after it ignored a Dec. 1 deadline to provide the names of its teaching and administrative staff. Supplying a list of staff is a basic requirement for all private schools in Austria.

The school had earlier stirred controversy following media reports that it used an anti-Jewish book in classes. The book allegedly describes Freemasons as “a Jewish, secret, subversive organization focused on guaranteeing control of the world by Jews,” according to The Associated Press.

Vienna’s school board is investigating the allegations.

“We have also asked the school to supply us with a translation of all teaching materials,” Matias Meissner, a spokesman for the school board, told the French news agency AFP.

The Arabic-language school, which has been open for approximately a decade, has about 160 students. It has four weeks to appeal the decision before being forced to close at the end of the school year.

According to reports, the school has financial backing from Saudi Arabia. The reports, however, do not make clear the funding sources.

Spanish imam probed for asking Allah to destroy Jews

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 10:32

(JTA) — Spanish prosecutors are investigating the actions of an imam from a town near Madrid who called for the destruction of Jews.

Salahuddin al Mussaoui of Azuqueca de Henares made the statement in a video that appeared Aug. 25 on the YouTube channel of the Islamic Cultural Center of Azuqueca de Henares, but authorities only now have launched a probe, according to a report Sunday by the Europe Press news agency.

In the 30-minute video, which is titled ”Gaza triumphs depite Jewish world dominance,” Mussaoui is seen telling his congregation during a sermon, “Oh, Allah, most merciful, throw stones at them. Stone them. Leave none of them alive.” He also said, “Allah, destroy the Jewish occupiers.”

Mussaoui is suspected of inciting hatred and provoking violence, Europe Press reported.

The Islamic Cultural Center of Azuqueca de Henares apologized for the sermon in a statement released on Oct. 19, saying the center “calls for respect and coexistence between religious communities.”

The statement said the video “was recorded during the brutal attacks of the Zionist state of Israel against the Gaza Strip, attacks which provoked anger and indignation by all peoples of the world. The Muslim community of Azuqueca de Henares in this context ‘made statements which are absolutely inappropriate’ for the coexistence in our city. We apologize to individuals or groups offended by the sermon,” read the text.

It did not say who was quoted in defining Mussaoui’s words as inappropriate.

Israel launched Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza this summer to quell rocket fire from the coastal strip.

Palestinians short on votes for U.N. resolution, Palestinian official says

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 07:08

TEL AVIV (JTA) — The Palestinian Authority does not have the majority needed to approve a U.N. Security Council resolution setting a deadline for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, a senior Palestinian official said.

Saeb Erekat told a Nazareth-based radio station Monday that Palestinians have yet to secure the necessary nine votes from the 15-member council, according to Haaretz.

The proposal, which calls for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank within two years, is set to come before the Security Council on Wednesday.

Majority approval could force a U.S. veto, though the United States has yet to say whether it will use its veto.

Several European nations are formulating an alternate proposal calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state through negotiations within two years.

According to the Times of Israel, the European resolution may include reference to Israel’s Jewish character. Such recognition was a sticking point during this year’s failed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as a Jewish state, but Palestinian negotiators strongly opposed the provision.

Greek Jews slam right-wing politician for saying Jews don’t pay taxes

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 06:35

ATHENS, Greece (JTA) — A prominent Greek Jewish communal organization condemned a right-wing politician for saying that Jews don’t pay taxes.

Panos Kammenos, leader of the small Independent Greeks Party, made the comment Monday during an interview on the Antenna television channel.

The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece issued a statement in response, saying it “categorically refutes” Kammenos’ comments.

“It is a disgrace that a leader of a party in Parliament does not know that Greek Jews are equal citizens and subject to the all the rights and obligations of every citizen,” the statement said, noting that Jewish institutions were governed by the same tax obligations as the Church.

The Jewish community called on Kammenos to apologize for the “serious anti-Semitic act.”

The comments come days after gunmen opened fire on the Israeli Embassy in Athens, an attack blamed by Greek police on a far-left Greek terror group.

A recent Anti-Defamation League poll found that anti-Semitic stereotypes were widespread in Greece, which had the highest percentage of anti-Semitic views in Europe.

Poll: Most Israelis see a crisis in U.S.-Israel ties

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 05:21

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The majority of Israelis believe there is a crisis in U.S.-Israel ties and that the Netanyahu government has harmed the relationship, according to a new poll.

A poll commissioned by J Street, the liberal U.S. Jewish Middle East policy group, and released Monday, found that 61.7 percent of respondents said “yes” when asked if there was a crisis in U.S.-Israel relations, while 22.8 percent said the relations were “stable and good.”

Asked whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has harmed or strengthened the relationship, 60.4 percent opted for “harmed,” 9.8 percent said “strengthened” and 16.4 percent said it had no influence on relations.

Netanyahu and President Obama were statistically tied when respondents were asked who was mainly responsible for the crisis. Nearly one quarter each chose Netanyahu  and Obama, while 26.4 percent blamed “everyone equally.”

A majority of respondents, 61 percent, favored a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while 32.1 percent were opposed.

Additionally, a slight majority, 52 percent, opposed settlement expansion while 39.5 percent were in favor. The poll, carried out Nov. 9-13 over the phone and the Internet, reached 600 voting-age Israelis.

The questions were authored by pollster Dahlia Scheindlin with data collection by New Wave Media.

93-year-old former Nazi SS guard to be tried in Germany

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 05:17

(JTA) — A 93-year-old man accused of being a guard at the Auschwitz concentration camp will be tried in Germany next year for being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Jews.

On Monday, the court in Lueneberg said that the man, who was not identified, is alleged to have been an SS guard for the Nazis. The man is also believed to have been in charge of managing money seized from those deported to Auschwitz, Reuters reported.

The accused allegedly was an SS guard at Auschwitz from September 1942 to October 1944. The charges refer to the period in 1944 between May and July, when 300,000 Jews were murdered upon arrival at the camp.

“The accused knew that, as part of the selection process, those not chosen for work and told they were going to the showers were really going to the gas chambers where they would be put to death in an agonizing manner,” the court said in a statement in September.

Eight of the 16 Holocaust survivors who came forward were chosen as witnesses, Reuters reported.

Most of those who are suspected of being former Nazis are either dead or unfit for trial, but in September the Simon Wiesenthal Center sent the German government a list of 80 Nazi suspects who should be investigated.

Palestinian killed in fight with Israeli troops

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 04:42

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian man and wounded another in a gunfire exchange in the West Bank.

Israeli troops were arresting a suspect in the Qalandiya refugee camp near Jerusalem on Tuesday morning when they were fired upon, according to Israeli reports. The soldiers responded with fire. A man then threw an explosive device at the soldiers and they fired back, killing him.

The slain Palestinian was identified as Mahmoud Adwan, according to reports. No soldiers were injured in the clash.

Qalandiya has been the site of previous shootings. In July, two Palestinians were killed in clashes at a riot in Qalandiya. In 2013, Israeli soldiers killed three Palestinians after coming under attack there.

Israeli police arrest head of anti-coexistence group

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 04:41

TEL AVIV (JTA) — The head of Lehava, a group that opposes Arab-Israeli coexistence and assimilation, was arrested.

Israeli police arrested Benji Gopstein, the group’s chairman, on Tuesday in his West Bank hometown of Kiryat Arba, according to Israeli reports. Nine other Lehava members also were arrested in raids across the country on suspicion of incitement to violence.

The arrests come a day after three Lehava members were charged with vandalizing and setting fire to an Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem last month.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, the lawyer for the arson suspects, said the arrests were due to “pressure from leftist politicians,” according to reports.

Lehava opposes intermarriage and joint Jewish-Arab initiatives. Members of the group staged a protest this year opposite a marriage between an Israeli Muslim man and a Jewish woman. Four Lehava members were arrested at the protest.

Tufts University vandalized again with swastikas

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 16:59

(JTA) — Swastikas were found spray-painted on a Tufts University building for the third time in nearly two years.

The latest swastikas were found Saturday morning on the back wall of the Lewis Hall dormitory on the Somerville, Mass., campus, Boston.com reported.

In June, swastikas were found on the university’s Granoff Family Hillel Center. In April 2013, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom Hashoah, swastikas and other anti-Semitic hate speech were found on Tufts athletic facilities and buildings in the neighboring town of Medford.

The university released a statement saying that campus and local police were investigating the incident.

“[S]uch deplorable acts, which are counter to the values of the Tufts community, are deeply concerning,” the statement read. “We are taking this incident extremely seriously.”

Nearby Northeastern University experienced a similar incident in November: Swastikas were drawn on fliers posted on campus to publicize a lecture by Eran Shamir-Borer, an Israeli army official.

Settler population jumps, growth rate slows during Netanyahu’s term

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 16:47

(JTA) — The population of Jewish settlers in the West Bank has increased at more than twice the pace of Israel’s overall population during Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest term as prime minister.

From 2009, when Netanyahu launched his second term, to 2014, the Jewish settler population in the West Bank grew 23 percent, to 355,993 residents, while the overall population increased 9.6 percent, according to figures from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics obtained by The Associated Press and reported Monday.

Under Netanyahu, however, the settler growth rate was slower than the 31 percent increase witnessed in the previous five years under his predecessors, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.

The growth in the settlement population was attributed to the higher birthrates of the settlers, who tend to be more religious. Other Israelis are also drawn to settlement housing for economic reasons.

Outside of a 10-month settlement freeze in 2009-10, Netanyahu has remained committed to expanding settlements, which has drawn international condemnation. The United States, the United Nations and the European Union are among those that have criticized expansion, saying that settlements are illegal under international law and building is inimical to peace.

The Palestinian Authority has denounced settlement building, pointing to settlements as evidence that Israel is not committed to a two-state solution. The Palestinians claim the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem for their future state, and settlement building in the areas often stokes tension. Israel’s November announcement of 5,000 new settlement housing units provoked rioting.

The figures do not include the approximately 200,000 Jewish-Israelis living in eastern Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed.

 

 

Irish Holocaust ceremony will mention Israel after all

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 15:20

(JTA) — Despite initial guidelines banning the mention of Israel, speakers at a Holocaust commemoration ceremony in Ireland in January will refer to the Jewish state.

The Holocaust Education Trust Ireland, responding to complaints after a website published a letter indicating that the event’s longtime master of ceremonies should “not refer to the Jewish state or the State of Israel” in his speech, said it had reversed that policy, The Jerusalem Post reported.

An array of Jewish leaders and Jewish organizations, including Ireland’s former justice and equality minister, who is Jewish, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, criticized the original policy, which was reported Dec. 11 in The Jewish Chronicle of London.

Netanyahu, in Rome to meet with Kerry, rebuffs Palestinians’ deadlines

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 15:17

ROME (JTA) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would rebuff deadlines set by Palestinian officials for his country’s withdrawal from the West Bank and a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu made his remarks on Monday prior to a nearly three-hour meeting in Rome with Secretary of State John Kerry.

Overshadowing the talks was an announced plan by Palestinian officials, working through Jordan, to put forward as early as this this week a United Nations Security Council resolution that would set a November 2016 deadline for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank.

Another proposed resolution backed by France would set a two-year deadline for negotiations to create an accord that would establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

“We will not accept attempts to dictate unilateral, time-bound moves to us,” Netanyahu said. “In a reality in which Islamic terror is reaching every corner of the globe, we will rebuff any attempt that would bring this terror into our home, into the State of Israel. … Even if there are dictates, we will stand up to them firmly.”

From Rome, Kerry flies to Paris to meet with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, and then to London, where he is scheduled to meet Tuesday with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. A senior State Department official traveling with Kerry said the goal of the trip was “to hear from and engage with other stakeholders,” to “hear their views, and to the best of our ability work towards a common path forward.”

In Rome, Kerry also met Monday with the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and other senior Vatican officials to discuss the situation in the Middle East and other issues, including the possibility of closing the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Netanyahu also discussed the Middle East situation with Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi.

New gas field discovered off Israel’s coast

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 15:00

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A new natural gas field was discovered off Israel’s Mediterranean coast — the third largest found in Israeli waters.

The Royee field contains 3.2 trillion cubic feet of extractable natural gas, the Israeli business daily Globes reported, citing a report released Sunday by Ratio Oil and Israel Opportunity Energy Resources, which owns the field.

Royee, located about 93 miles from Israel’s coast, near the international maritime border with Cyprus and Egypt, ranks behind the Leviathan and Tamar fields.

Tamar, which has at least 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, is expected to meet Israel’s energy needs for the next 20 years. Leviathan is estimated to hold 16 trillion to 18 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Globes reported that Royee is unlikely to be developed soon due to the quantity of gas available in Leviathan and Tamar.

2 hostages, gunman killed in Sydney cafe rescue operation

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 11:42

(JTA) — Two hostages and an Islamist gunman were killed in a police operation that ended a 16-hour siege at a Sydney cafe.

Heavily armed forces from the Australian Federal Police stormed the Lindt Chocolate Cafe at about 2 a.m. Tuesday following the escape of several hostages from the building, which is located in the heart of the city’s financial and shopping district. Four people were injured in the rescue effort, according to New South Wales Police, The New York Times reported.

Australia’s Jewish community went into official lockdown after the gunman, identified as self-styled Iranian cleric Man Haron Monis, entered the cafe and took hostages on Monday morning. Sky News Australia reported that Monis was killed. 

Monis, 50, who was granted political asylum in Australia, was out on bail for several violent offenses, including being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

On Monday, television images showed two hostages holding a black-and-white flag with the Arabic text of the Shahada – the affirmation of Islam – at the window of the cafe.

Counter-terror agents swarmed the city center, evacuating the Opera House and other key sites as Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the media that the gunman had a “political motivation.”

By nightfall, five hostages had escaped or been freed; more than a dozen others reportedly remained captive until right before police stormed the cafe.

Although Jewish leaders do not comment on security matters, several did confirm the threat level to the Jewish community had been elevated by the Community Security Group, which handles security for the Jewish communities of Australia, as a result of the crisis.

At least one major Jewish institution in Sydney issued a “code red” emergency alert; the building was sealed with no one allowed to enter or exit for several hours before the alert was lifted.

Chabad of California fined for misappropriating federal funds

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 10:53

(JTA) — Chabad-Lubavitch of California must pay nearly $850,000 in damages for misappropriating federal grant money, a U.S. court ruled.

Chabad failed to pay for the installation of state-of-the-art video surveillance equipment at several of its buildings from a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant of $272,495, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday. Instead, Chabad used the money for operating expenses such as employee payroll, building repairs and utility bills.

The damages assessed by U.S. District Judge Morrison England in a summary judgment filed on Dec. 9 represent a tripling of the grant amount plus penalties.

Whistleblowers Aria and Donna Kozak, whose company installed the surveillance equipment, will receive a portion of the damages, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Kozaks sued Chabad in 2010; the U.S. government later joined the suit.

The grants were administered by the California Emergency Management Agency. Chabad applied for the grant in 2008.

Claims Conference raising allocations for Holocaust survivors by 21 percent

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 09:47

(JTA) — The Claims Conference will increase its allocations to social service organizations serving Jewish Holocaust survivors by 21 percent over last year.

The allocations for 2015 will total $365 million, a raise of $80 million over 2014, the president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Julius Berman, announced in a statement.

Additional allocations from Germany enabled the increase, the Claims Conference said.

“All Shoah victims should be able to receive the help and support that they need to live the rest of their lives in dignity, after having endured indescribable suffering in their youth,” Berman said in the statement. “Holocaust victims deserve all the aid and comfort that it is possible to give them in the twilight of their lives.”

The funding, which goes to survivors in 47 countries, is used primarily for home care, as well as hunger relief, medical care and transportation.

Phil Stern, photographer to the stars, dies

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 09:14

(JTA) — Photographer Phil Stern, known for his candid shots of Hollywood stars and jazz musicians, has died.

Stern died Saturday in Los Angeles after an extended hospital stay. He was 95.

Stern worked as a combat photographer for the Army newspaper Stars and Stripes during World War II, where he served as a U.S. Army Ranger in the North African and Italian campaigns.

He settled in Los Angeles after the war and became a staff photographer for Look magazine. He also worked as one of Life magazine’s top Hollywood photographers.

Among the iconic stars he photographed were Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, Sammy Davis Jr., Judy Garland, James Dean and John Wayne. He also shot album covers for Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Dizzy Gillespie, among others.

Stern, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants to the United States, grew up in New York.

He did not believe that he or other photographers should be considered artists.

“Matisse I ain’t,” Stern was widely quoted as saying.

His work has been displayed for decades at the Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles.

Australian Jewish communities on lockdown amid Sydney hostage crisis

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 07:08

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – Australia’s Jewish community went into official lockdown after a gunman held hostages inside an inner-city cafe in Sydney.

On Monday, television images showed two hostages holding a black-and-white flag with the Arabic text of the Shahada – the affirmation of Islam – at the window of the Lindt cafe.

Counter-terror agents swarmed the city center, evacuating the Opera House and other key sites as Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the media that the gunman had a “political motivation.”

“This is a very disturbing incident,” he said. “It is profoundly shocking that innocent people should be held hostage by an armed person claiming political motivation.”

By nightfall, five hostages had escaped or been freed; more than a dozen others reportedly remained captive over 12 hours after the siege began.

“Jewish institutions across Australia are in lockdown, excursions have been canceled and tight security measures are in place,” a senior Jewish official said.

Although Jewish leaders do not comment on security matters, several did confirm the threat level to the Jewish community had been elevated by the Community Security Group, which handles security for the Jewish communities of Australia, as a result of the crisis.

At least one major Jewish institution in Sydney issued a “code red” emergency alert; the building was sealed with no one allowed to enter or exit for several hours before the alert was lifted.

Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, said the incident was “most likely the work of an Islamist terrorist organization.”

“We have excellent relations with Australia and help in whatever way we can,” Yaalon told Army Radio. “There are things that can be done from a distance.”

Gad Elbaz, an Israeli Sephardi singer who played a concert in Sydney on Sunday, was inside the Lindt cafe with his father, Benny, moments before the hostages were taken captive.

“While thankful, my father and I are praying and hoping for a quick release of all the hostages safely and without harm,” Elbaz said.

On Facebook, Benny Elbaz described it as a “Hanukkah miracle.”

“The worst almost happened,” he wrote. “A few minutes before the attack on the cafe in Sydney my friends and I left there.”