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Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem vandalized for second time

Tue, 06/30/2015 - 13:14

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A joint Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem was attacked for the second time in eight months.

Swastikas and anti-Arab graffiti were spray-painted on the walls of the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Jerusalem School overnight Tuesday, coinciding with the last day of school.

Some of the graffiti read “Arabs to slaughter” and “Arab blood is cheap.” The southern Jerusalem school, which was set on fire in an arson attack in November by right-wing Jewish extremists, cleaned off the graffiti the same day.

In a message on Facebook, the school wrote about the attack, “Like kids throughout the country, the elementary school students at the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Jerusalem school arrived excited for their last day of school today. Their excitement was cut short at the sight of hateful anti-Arab graffiti that was painted on the side of the school.”

The students in response made signs that said “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies” and placed them over where the graffiti had been.

“This is our answer, and we continue to believe and live this every day,” the school said.

Misha Galperin quits Jewish Agency’s fundraising arm

Tue, 06/30/2015 - 12:51

NEW YORK (JTA) – Misha Galperin is stepping down as CEO of the Jewish Agency’s overseas fundraising arm, Jewish Agency International Development.

Galperin announced his resignation several months ago, saying that after five years at the helm he wanted “to return to a simpler schedule, with less globe-trotting and more nightly dinners at the kitchen table.” Tuesday marked his final day at the organization. He will lead a new philanthropic consulting company he formed called Zandafi Philanthropy Advisors.

No announcement about a successor to Galperin has been made.

The Jewish Agency for Israel helps manage and encourage immigration and absorption to Israel and runs a variety of Zionist programs in Israel and overseas. Its $485 million annual budget is funded largely by the Jewish Federations of North America, some individual donors and program income, including programs the agency runs for the Israeli government. It is led in Israel by chairman Natan Sharansky and director general Alan Hoffmann.

Galperin, whose $750,000 pay package was the subject of some consternation among critics, previously worked as the chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. He also has served as chief operating officer of UJA-Federation of New York and worked for or managed such Jewish community institutions as the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, NYANA and The Educational Alliance.

Young Israeli dies from wounds suffered in West Bank shooting

Tue, 06/30/2015 - 11:35

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The young Israeli man critically injured in a drive-by shooting by Palestinians in the West Bank has died.

Malachi Moshe Rosenfeld died Tuesday afternoon, less than a day after the car he was riding in with three other men came under attack on a major West Bank road near the Shvut Rachel and Shiloh settlements. The victims, all in their 20s, were returning to their homes in the Kochav Hashahar settlement after playing basketball.

The driver and two other passengers also were hospitalized with injuries.

Police said that two Palestinian attackers fired on the car after waiting at the side of the road for an Israeli vehicle to pass. At least 15 bullets hit the car, Ynet reported, citing an initial investigation. The attackers fled the scene and are at large.

The road is used freely by Israelis and Palestinians.

Photos of the bloody interior of the car were circulated on social media.

“Attempts to attack us do not halt even for a moment,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday morning at the start of his meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentilloni, adding that the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces have foiled dozens of terrorist attacks since the start of the year and over 200 since 2014.

“The fact that up until now, the Palestinian Authority has not condemned these attacks needs to bother not only us, but also the international community as a whole. Those who do not take an unequivocal stand against terrorism cannot wash their hands.”

Two Palestinian terror groups, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Fatah al-Intifada, claimed responsibility for the attack, Haaretz reported.

Rosenfeld underwent surgery Monday night at Shaare Zedek Medical Center. His father, Eliezer, had called on Israelis to pray for his son.

An older son, an Israel Air Force pilot, died in 2002 during a trip in the Judean Desert.

Also Thursday, an Israeli Border Police officer shot a Palestinian man after he rammed through a checkpoint while shouting “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is greatest.” The attacker was taken to Shaare Zedek in moderate condition, where he was treated for a bullet wound to his abdomen.

Neo-Nazi march in Jewish London suburb ordered moved

Tue, 06/30/2015 - 10:48

(JTA) — Police ordered a neo-Nazi demonstration planned for a London suburb with a large Jewish population to be moved.

The decision to relocate Saturday’s demonstration from the Golders Green neighborhood of the Barnet borough to central London followed weeks of intense conversations with Barnet and British officials and law enforcement, according to Britain’s security watchdog, Community Security Trust. CST was joined in the talks by several Jewish groups, notably the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

“This will allow Jewish residents of Golders Green and the surrounding area to observe their Shabbat with integrity and dignity; and sends a strong message of support for British Jews at a time when fears of anti-Semitism remain high,” CST said in a statement. “We will not sit idly by when anti-Semitic neo-Nazis choose to spend their Saturday afternoons agitating against Jews in various areas of North London.”

The demonstration against “Jewish privilege” organized by the self-described fascist Joshua Bonehill will feature “Jewish book burning and Jewish flag destruction,” Bonehill has said. Earlier this year, the neo-Nazis demonstrated against the “Jewification of Great Britain” in the haredi Orthodox neighborhood of Stamford Hill.

Bonehill, 22, on Friday was arrested and charged with inciting racial hatred  for a cartoon on a blog post depicting weed killer being sprayed over Auschwitz-Birkenau accompanied by the words “Liberate Golders Green: An anti-Jewification event” and “Join us on July 4 for what promises to be an absolute gas!”

Extra police will be on patrol in Golders Green in case protesters or counter-protesters still show up in the neighborhood, Police Chief Superintendent Adrian Usher of the Barnet Police told the London-based Jewish Chronicle.

Despite requests from local Jews, the police declined to ban the rally.

CST said it recognized “freedom of speech and assembly are fundamental human rights.”

“It is, nevertheless, surely correct that hate speech and racism are legislated against: and, if those principles are to apply anywhere, then it must surely include when neo-Nazis try to demonstrate in Golders Green,” the security watchdog said.

David Cameron, the British prime minister, said in Parliament earlier this month that the neo-Nazis had a right to free expression, though he also condemned the rally and said any “harassment or threatening behavior … should be prosecuted.”

Other Jewish groups that participated in the negotiations on moving the demonstration were the London Jewish Forum, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism.

Palestinian shooting on West Bank road wounds 4 Israelis

Tue, 06/30/2015 - 08:15

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli man was in critical condition following a Palestinian drive-by shooting in the West Bank.

Three others also were moderately wounded in the attack, which occurred late Monday night near the Shvut Rachel settlement located north of Ramallah.

The victims, all in their 20s, were returning to their homes in the Kochav Hashahar settlement on a main West Bank road after playing basketball when they were attacked, according to reports.

The most seriously injured, Malachi Moshe Rosenfeld, underwent surgery at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

His father called on all Israelis to pray for his son.

“This is a difficult hour for the entire Israeli people,” Eliezer Rosenfeld said.”We know your prayer has power. Please pray wholeheartedly for the Almighty to heal and save him, and we are certain that you will send him strength to fight and that the doctors will do their work.”

Photos of the bloody interior of the car were circulated on social media.

“Attempts to attack us do not halt even for a moment,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday morning at the start of his meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentilloni, adding that the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces have foiled dozens of terrorist attacks since the start of the year and over 200 since 2014.

“The fact that up until now, the Palestinian Authority has not condemned these attacks needs to bother not only us, but also the international community as a whole. Those who do not take an unequivocal stand against terrorism cannot wash their hands.”

Two Palestinian terror groups, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Fatah al-Intifada, claimed responsibility for the attack, Haaretz reported.

Jewish history exhibit defaced in Munich

Tue, 06/30/2015 - 07:01

BERLIN (JTA) — Police in Munich are investigating a graffiti attack on an outdoor exhibit about local Jewish history.

The exhibit is located in front of the Jewish museum and community center on Jakobsplatz, called the new Jewish center, in central Munich.

The graffiti, which was discovered Monday, includes Hitler mustaches burned on photographs of rabbis and politicians. The department for politically motivated crimes is investigating, according to local reports.

The exhibit was erected last week following a public celebration of 200 years since the founding of Munich’s Jewish community and 70 years since its reestablishment after the Holocaust.

Bavaria’s minister of culture, Ludwig Spaenle, said in a statement that “the attack on these images must be seen as an attack on the people themselves.”

In one image, mustaches were burned on a photo of former Munich Mayor Christian Ude and former German President Horst Kohler during the laying of the foundation stone for the Jewish center. A police spokesman told the Bild daily newspaper that it appeared someone had used a cigarette to burn the Hitler mustaches on the image as well as on a photo of prominent rabbis.

Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Jewish Community of Munich and of the umbrella organization for Bavaria, said she was “dismayed” and personally upset about the incident, in part because the image of her own brother-in-law, Rabbi Roman Knobloch, was defaced.

Ukraine office to help prospective immigrants to Israel prove Jewishness

Tue, 06/30/2015 - 06:26

(JTA) – Rabbis from Israel and Ukraine opened an office in eastern Ukraine that will help prospective immigrants to Israel prove they are Jewish.

The office, which opened last week in Dnepropetrovsk, aims to facilitate the process for those seeking to immigrate to Israel under its Law of Return for Jews and their kin. It is a joint initiative of the Jewish Community of Dnepropetrovsk, the Israeli organizations Tzohar and Shorashim, and the Triguboff Institute of Australia.

“It will prevent situations in which there is no ability to prove a Jewish origin once aliyah to Israel was made and the documents were left behind,” representatives of the groups involved in the office wrote in a joint statement published Tuesday. Aliyah is the Hebrew word for Jewish immigration to Israel.

The process of proving a Jewish ancestry has become especially difficult for thousands of Jews from eastern Ukraine, where a stagnant civil war has resulted in loss of access to documents that may help to establish such a family connection.

At the office’s opening, the delegation of rabbis from Israel included David Stav, chief rabbi of the city of Shoham and chairman of Tzohar, a rabbinical organization that helps to involve non-religious couples and their families in religious wedding ceremonies and other life-cycle events.

“There is no bigger aid for a Jew than helping him to prove his Jewish status and consequently his identity as a Jew,” Stav said at a meeting with Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki, the chief rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk and one of Ukraine’s most influential rabbis.

Kaminezki said the new office will be “saving lives,” adding that he will refer many applicants to the office and “supply an abundance of work” to its staff.

Aliyah from Ukraine totaled 5,840 individuals in 2014, a 190 percent increase over 2013, when the unrest that led to the fighting began. More than 6,000 people from Ukraine have come in 2015.

Israeli affiliate to stop using Orange name in 24 months

Tue, 06/30/2015 - 06:09

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The French telecommunications giant Orange has signed an agreement with its Israeli affiliate that will allow the termination of their brand license agreement within two years.

Orange announced the framework agreement on Tuesday less than a month after its CEO, Stephan Richard, said at a news conference in Cairo that his company would abandon its Israeli affiliate Partner “tomorrow morning” if not for contractual penalties, raising questions about a company boycott of Israel.

Under the new agreement, Orange will pay Partner up to nearly $110 million when the brand license agreement is terminated in up to 24 months. Much of that reportedly will go to rebranding Partner’s telecommunications services in Israel.

The two companies will launch a detailed market study to assess Partner’s position within the dynamics of the Israeli telecommunications services marketplace, according to Orange.

“The Israeli telecommunications market study should provide a clear view to determine the best option for Partner, and we are committed to support this objective,” Orange’s deputy CEO, Pierre Louette, said in a statement. “For Orange, Israel is a strategically important country and we have a long term commitment to it, including our innovation activities through the Orange affiliates in Israel.”

Louette said the new agreement came after “productive discussions over the past weeks.”

Partner had previously been expected to operate under the Orange name following a new 10-year agreement that was to expire in 2025. Orange is 25 percent owned by the French government.

The announcement of the new agreement comes two weeks after Richard, in a meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said “I want to make it totally clear that Orange as a company has never supported and will never support any kind of boycott against Israel.”

Berlin Jews cancel culture festival, cite state’s fiscal woes

Tue, 06/30/2015 - 05:39

BERLIN (JTA) — For the first time in 29 years, Berlin’s Jewish community will not hold its popular Jewish Culture Days festival, the community’s board of directors announced.

In a statement issued Monday, the board said it decided not to ask for an annual state subsidy of 255,000 euros, or $282,000, to cover the 10-day festival out of sympathy for the “difficult financial situation of the state of Berlin.”

But representatives of the Berlin State Senate, which assigns the funding and had promoted this year’s festival on its website, said they were surprised and sorry to hear the news.

“We regret the Jewish community’s decision very much,” a spokesman told the daily Tagesspiegel. “The Senate has always been happy to support the festival and would have done it this year, too.”

Last year, some 35,000 people attended the festival, about 70 percent of them non-Jews, according to Martin Kranz, the event organizer hired by successive administrations of the Jewish community to run the festival since 2004.

Kranz told JTA that his four-year contract ran out after last year’s festival, and that he did not hear from the Jewish community’s president, Gideon Joffe, or his board about future plans.

According to some reports, the community leadership was unhappy with Kranz and had someone else in mind for the position.

“Nothing negative was said, nothing at all was said,” Kranz told JTA. Last December he announced that he was “no longer available.”

Kranz, who is not Jewish, is organizing a new multicultural festival “with a Jewish core” in Erfurt. His Achava, or Brotherhood, festival opening Aug. 27 will be the first festival of its kind in the former East German city.

Some members of Berlin’s Jewish community are discussing possible alternatives — perhaps a pop-up Jewish cultural festival or a joint effort of several independent groups.

Jewish council member Sergey Lagodinsky formally stepped down as head of the culture committee in part due to the “rash cancellation” of the festival and failure to find a successor to Kranz, all without informing the culture committee. The community’s statement “has become the joke of the summer” in the capital, he said in a statement.

Lagodinsky told the Tagesspiegel that the festival is a “cultural highlight for the Jewish community and the city. If it dies, this is further proof that the Jewish community is becoming irrelevant.”

The Jewish board’s stated sympathy for the state’s financial situation follows several years of contentious relations.

The cultural festival was launched in 1987 as part of celebrations marking the 750th anniversary of Berlin’s founding. It has since become a popular event through which non-Jews learn about Jewish culture and Jewish life in Germany.

ADL poll: Anti-Semitic attitudes down in France, Belgium and Germany

Tue, 06/30/2015 - 05:00

A man wears a kippa as he takes part in a silent march to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogroms on November 9, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (JTA) – Anti-Semitic attitudes fell in two countries where Jews were attacked over the last year while rising significantly in Italy, Romania and the Netherlands, a new Anti-Defamation League poll found.

The survey of 10,000 respondents in 19 countries in March and early April was a follow-up to the ADL’s first-ever global anti-Semitism poll released in May 2014.

Compared to the 2014 figures, anti-Semitic attitudes as gauged by the ADL fell from 37 percent to 17 percent in France, where in January a Muslim gunman killed four hostages at a kosher supermarket in Paris, and from 27 percent to 21 percent in Belgium, where in May 2014 a Muslim gunman killed four at the Jewish museum in Brussels.

The poll also found that concern about violence against Jews increased in France by 20 percent and in Belgium by 30 percent. Anti-Semitic attitudes also fell significantly in Germany over the last year, the survey found, from 27 percent to 16 percent.

Among the survey’s other significant findings:
• Among Western European Muslims, an average of 55 percent harbor anti-Semitic attitudes.

• When asked whether violence against Jews in their country affects everyone and constitutes an attack against “our way of life,” respondents agreed at high rates in Germany (78 percent), France (77 percent) and Belgium (68 percent).

• Turkey is the most anti-Semitic country in Europe, with 71 percent of respondents espousing anti-Semitic views, followed closely by Greece at 67 percent.

• Among the countries newly surveyed, Denmark scored as least anti-Semitic, at 8 percent. Anti-Semitic attitudes in the Netherlands, United States and the United Kingdom polled at 10 to 12 percent.

• Anti-Semitic attitudes rose significantly over the last year in Romania (from 35 percent to 47 percent), Italy (20 percent to 29 percent) and the Netherlands (5 percent to 11 percent).

• Anti-Semitic views were down markedly in Poland (from 45 percent to 37 percent), Russia (30 percent to 23 percent) and Ukraine (38 percent to 32 percent).

The survey gauged anti-Semitism by asking whether respondents agreed with an index of 11 statements that the ADL believes suggest anti-Jewish bias: Jews talk too much about what happened to them during the Holocaust; Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the countries they live in; Jews think they are better than other people; Jews have too much power in international financial markets; Jews have too much power in the business world; Jews have too much control over global affairs; people hate Jews because of the way Jews behave; Jews have too much control over the U.S. government; Jews have too much control over global media; Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars; Jews don’t care about what happens to anyone but their own kind.

Respondents who agreed that a majority of the statements are “probably true” were deemed anti-Semitic.

Critics say those statements are poor gauges of anti-Semitic attitudes and that some actually indicate admiration for Jews.

Netanyahu was ‘smuggled’ to hospital in disguised pita delivery, pest-control vans

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 16:30

Netanyahu, 65, in both cases had routine prostate examinations that found “nothing uncharacteristic for a man of his age.” (Handout/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “smuggled” to medical appointments in disguised vans shortly before and after elections.

Netanyahu, 65, in both cases had routine prostate examinations that found “nothing uncharacteristic for a man of his age.”

In the first instance, shortly before the March 17 elections, he was transported to Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center, a haredi Orthodox hospital in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, in what appeared to be a pita delivery van, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.

Shortly after the vote, Netanyahu was taken in a disguised pest-control van, with his security guards dressed as pest controllers around the vehicle.

Channel 2 did not explain why Netanyahu employed the disguised vehicles.

Israel’s defense chief: Help for Syrian rebels is exchange for Druze safety

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 14:05

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told reporters that Israel has been providing humanitarian aid to Syrian rebels in exchange for the safety of Druze Arabs.

The medical aid has been conditioned on the rebel fighting not getting too close to the border fence between the Israeli and Syrian sides of the Golan Heights and that the local Druze population is not harmed, Yaalon said at a briefing on Monday.

He called Druze attacks last week on Israeli ambulances carrying Syrian fighters “irresponsible.” In one of the attacks, an injured fighter was dragged from the ambulance and beaten to death. The Druze-Israeli attackers believed the men were members of the rebel forces from the Al-Nusra Front, a branch of al-Qaida in Syria that has harmed the Druze in Syria.

Israel has primarily dealt with non-jihadist rebels, a Defense Ministry official said, according to Reuters.

Israel treats wounded from the civil war in the field and at local hospitals regardless of what side they are fighting for. More than 1,600 wounded Syrians have been treated in Israeli hospitals during the civil war, according to the IDF.

“Our general policy is that we are not getting involved in the Syrian war,” Yaalon said.

He added: “We will not tolerate any violation of our sovereignty or even accidental fire from Syria into our territory. We will act immediately to strike at those who plant explosives near the border or fire at us.”

Israel has fired on Syrian positions on the Golan in retaliation for rocket fire believed to be part of the ongoing four-year civil war that has landed in Israeli territory.

Israel backers rally outside U.N. Human Rights Council

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 13:37

(JTA) — About 1,000 Israel supporters demonstrated outside the U.N. Human Rights Council in Switzerland as a commission of inquiry presented a report on last summer’s Israel-Gaza conflict.

The participants in the Geneva rally on Monday represented more than 80 nongovernmental organizations and came from a dozen countries.

At the protest, Adele Raemer, a resident of Kibbutz Nirim, near the border with Gaza, described how the kibbutz residents were nearly murdered during the conflict when terrorists emerged from a tunnel from Gaza.

“I am disappointed by the tone at times of the Human Rights Council which insinuates that Israel does not demand accountability from her army,” Raemer said. “I know that in the process of protecting my community, our soldiers have put their lives at risk to save innocent Palestinian lives, aborting vital missions when non-combatant Palestinians were in harm’s way.”

Also Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told a closed meeting that he would consider leaving the Human Rights Council over the United Nations body’s report issued last week that said both Israel and Palestinian armed groups may have committed war crimes during last summer’s 50-day conflict. Army Radio reported on the closed meeting on Monday evening.

Israel and the United States boycotted the Human Rights Council session that discussed the report, which focused more on Israel’s role in the conflict and accepted Palestinian casualty figures. Israel did not cooperate in the investigation, saying the panel commission biased against Israel.

The council will vote later this week on whether to adopt the report’s findings.

 

Possible arson attack destroys rabbi’s car in Los Angeles

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 11:13

(JTA) — A car belonging to a Chabad rabbi in Los Angeles was set on fire, burning prayer books and tefillin inside.

Security cameras at the Chabad of Mt. Oympus, located in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood, captured footage of two people vandalizing the car at about 2 a.m. June 24, the Jewish Journal reported. Nothing was stolen from the car, Rabbi Sholom Rodal told the Journal.

The Rodal family was home at the time of the attack on the car, which was parked on the street in front of the house.

The fire is being investigated by the Los Angeles Fire Department’s arson division, according to Chabad.org. Police also have increased patrols in the area.

Rodal and his wife, Rochela, initiated a mitzvah campaign called “Fighting Fire With Fire,” asking Jewish women and girls to light Sabbath candles last Shabbat in response to the attack.

Jury to hear molestation charges against ex-leader of British Jewry

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 11:08

(JTA) — The former head of a Jewish umbrella group in Britain will go on trial for the alleged molestation of children over two decades, prosecutors said.

On Monday, the Crown Prosecution Service overturned a decision not to try Lord Greville Janner, 86, a former president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews who is accused of committing 22 offenses in the 1970s and ’80s, The Independent reported.

Three months ago, the director of public prosecutions had decided against charging Janner, who served in the House of Commons for 27 years, due to his advanced dementia. He and his family have denied the allegations.

The trial envisaged by the service will likely result in neither a conviction nor sentencing of Janner, according to The Independent report, but will aim to establish the facts around the actions attributed to him in keeping with the demands of his alleged victims. He would not be required to make a plea and likely will not be present at the trial, the report said.

Still, a jury will hear evidence against Janner, who is considered too ill for a full trial.

Janner, who served as Board of Deputies president from 1978 to 1984, also was a vice president of the World Jewish Congress until 2009.

Simon Danczuk, a lawmaker from Janner’s Labor Party who has campaigned on behalf of child abuse victims, said the news that Janner will now be prosecuted was the latest in a “catalogue of errors from Alison Saunders,” the public prosecutions director, who he said had “brought the criminal justice system into disrepute.” He called on Saunders to resign.

Iranian nuclear talks expected to go past scheduled deadline

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 10:34

Kerry arrives on April 3, 2015 in Maryland after participating in Iran nuclear program talks in Switzerland. (Brendan Smialowski-Pool/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Negotiations for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program will go past the scheduled deadline, several officials said from Vienna, where the final round of talks was underway.

The agreement was scheduled to be concluded on Tuesday.

On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif left the negotiations and flew home to Tehran for consultations after first meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Zarif is scheduled to return on Tuesday, the deadline day for the talks.

The talks between Iran and the six world powers were expected to continue for a few days beyond the deadline, according to reports.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the world powers do not have to sign a deal in Vienna.

“No deal is better than a bad deal,” Hammond said. “There are red lines that we cannot cross and some very difficult decisions and tough choices are going to have to be made by all of us.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the deal on Sunday, saying “there is no demand that Iran change its behavior and its violations are being completely overlooked. Its extreme demands, as well as the concessions to Iran, are increasing.”

President Barack Obama said in April that the interim framework agreement achieved then was “a good deal” that “meets our core objectives, including strict limitations on Iran’s program and cutting off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.”

Netanyahu and other critics of the deal, which would gradually lift sanctions on Iran, say elements of the emerging deal allow Iran to continue a degree of uranium enrichment that would enable it to creep toward nuclear offensive capabilities.

22 senators sign letter to Obama urging Israel support

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 10:15

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Nearly one-quarter of the U.S. Senate signed on to a bipartisan letter urging President Barack Obama to support Israel around the world.

Twenty-two senators signed the letter, which was written “in response to your welcomed recent remarks at Congregation Adas Israel” on May 22 concerning his commitment to Israel’s security. The letter was sponsored by Sens. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

While welcoming Obama’s “unwavering commitment” to Israel’s security, the signers also want the Obama administration to remain committed to the United States’ “long-standing policy” of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians as the way to peace.

The letter specifically asked the administration to oppose Palestinian efforts for membership in the United Nations and other international bodies.

Among the signers are five Jewish Democrats: Ben Cardin of Maryland, Barbara Boxer of California, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Charles Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

The signers wrote that they were “deeply concerned by previously reported and unattributed comments by U.S. officials that the U.S. might change its approach to the peace process at the United Nations Security Council.”

“The United States has a critical role to play in facilitating these direct negotiations,” the senators wrote.

$11 million Jewish cultural center to be built in Paris

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 09:56

The City of Paris leased the land for the center, which will be among the largest opened in Western Europe in recent years, free of charge. (Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

PARIS (JTA) — An $11 million Jewish cultural institution will be built in Paris, the city’s mayor and the oldest existing Jewish organization in France announced.

The European Center for Judaism will be built in the 17th arrondissement, or district, in northern Paris and is set to open in 2017, according to the announcement on Sunday by Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Joel Mergui, the president of the Consistoire Centrale, the body responsible for providing French Jewry with religious services since its foundation in 1808 under Napoleon I.

“I wouldn’t want us to leave for the summer vacation and close this especially tragic year for France and for the Jewish community without being able to provide a note of hope,” Mergui told the Liberation daily. He said the center will operate from “a large building situated in an area of Paris where a large Jewish community has developed.”

Hidalgo is scheduled to attend a fundraising dinner on Monday at the seat of the Paris municipality along with French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and officials from the European Jewish Congress under Moshe Kantor, who has helped to realize the center’s construction.

The institution, which is intended to serve as an academic center as well as a cultural institution, will have a synagogue, conference halls, exposition space and offices, according to Liberation.

Just over a quarter of the $11 million estimated cost will be paid in subsidies by government offices. The City of Paris leased the land for the center, which will be among the largest opened in Western Europe in recent years, free of charge.

The center’s opening comes at a time of record emigration from France by French Jews, partly because of violent anti-Semitism that has led to the slaying of 12 people since 2012 in attacks attributed to French Islamist terrorists targeting Jewish institutions. About 20,000 French Jews have left for Israel since 2012.

“It would’ve been easy to give up on this project and say that Jews are leaving,” Mergui said. “I want to convey a different message to France and its Jews: We determine our own future.”

Queen Elizabeth II visits Nazi camp Bergen-Belsen

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 09:41

(JTA) — Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II met with survivors and liberators in a visit to the former Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen.

The visit to the camp in northern Germany was the concluding event in the queen’s three-day state visit to Germany that ended Friday. It was her first visit to a Nazi concentration camp.

Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Phillip, met with survivors of the camp and British soldiers who liberated it, the BBC reported.

“The memory of the Holocaust remains such a fundamental aspect of modern Jewish identity that the queen’s journey to memorialize the victims will be viewed as tremendously significant by Jewish communities across the world,” Ephraim Mirvis, the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth in Britain, who met with the queen at the Bergen-Belsen ceremony, told The Associated Press.

Chief Rabbinate reportedly extends Riskin’s chief rabbi term in Efrat

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 07:47

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat conducting the pidyon haben ceremony for a 30-day-old firstborn son in the West Bank Jewish settlement he serves as chief rabbi, May 25, 2015. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s term as chief rabbi of Efrat was extended five years by Israel’s Council of the Chief Rabbinate.

Riskin appeared before the 16-member council on Monday. He turned 75 last month, the age at which municipal rabbis are required to retire unless their tenure is extended five years, as is usually done automatically.

But the Chief Rabbinate declined to automatically renew Riskin’s appointment as chief rabbi and summoned him late last month for the hearing. Riskin has been the chief rabbi of Efrat since 1983, when he helped found the settlement located in the Gush Etzion bloc of the West Bank.

During the hearing, the legal adviser to the Chief Rabbinate said that only health issues may be considered in determining whether to extend the term of a municipal rabbi. In approving the extension, the council said it disagreed with many of Riskin’s halachic opinions, according to Israel National News. The council also reportedly appointed a committee to establish new guidelines as to what can be discussed in extending a municipal rabbi’s term.

Riskin recently appointed a woman, Jennie Rosenfeld, to serve as a religious leader in Efrat, giving her the title “manhiga ruchanit,” or spiritual adviser. He has also come under fire from the Chief Rabbinate for his views on reforming the conversion process in Israel, supporting a government directive that would allow municipal chief rabbis to form conversion courts rather than requiring potential converts to appear before four Chief Rabbinate-led courts.

These issues reportedly were discussed in connection with summoning Riskin for the hearing.

“Rabbi Riskin is pleased and honored to continue to serve the residents of Efrat, and the extended community, as the City Rabbi as he has done his entire life with an unwavering commitment to Halacha and the laws of the State of Israel,” read a statement from Riskin’s office released after the hearing.

Earlier this month, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said that “the issue of Rabbi Riskin’s continued service has been blown out of proportion.”

In addition, Israel’s chief Sephardi rabbi, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, slammed Riskin during his weekly sermon, saying he made “all kinds of innovations” regarding women and is “making a new war.”