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Jewish family foundation awards Baltimore grants in wake of riots

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 09:34

WASHINGTON (JTA) – The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation awarded some $400,000 in emergency grants to 10 Baltimore area nonprofit organizations in the aftermath of the riots there.

The Weinberg foundation, which is based in suburban Baltimore, awarded the money to organizations in the city that it already funds. The programs provide food, job training and assistance in school.

Included in the grants are funds for the Center for Urban Families, Vehicles For Change, Maryland New Directions, Maryland Food Bank, Action in Maturity and Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland.

The grants, which were announced last week, come in the aftermath of the riots last month sparked by the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, while he was in police custody.

The awards are in addition to $960,000 in grants from the Weinberg foundation to support summer youth programs for the city of Baltimore. With the new grants, the foundation will be investing nearly $1.4 million this summer in the city.

The Weinberg foundation provides $100 million in annual grants to nonprofits that serve low-income and vulnerable people in the United States and Israel.

Madonna posts Instagram photo of Hasidic man, Arab man about to kiss

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 07:49

Madonna caused controversy with this Instagram photo. (Instagram)

(JTA) — Madonna’s Instagram photo of a Palestinian man and a Hasidic Jewish man about to kiss received nearly 66,000 Likes in one day.

The photo posted Sunday shows a Jewish man with side curls and wearing a large white knitted kippah of the Breslover Hasidic movement and an Arab man wearing a traditional Arab keffiyeh. Their eyes are closed, noses nearly touching as they lean in for a kiss.

The photo’s caption reads “This image is . ❤#rebelhearts,” which is the title of her new album.

Among the responses on Instagram: “I see two men one Muslim perhaps and one Jewish together sharing a moment of peace. Can’t we just all get along without discussing religious beliefs?” and “I’m arab, and I found this great! People have the right to be whoever they want to be and be who they really are …” and “If this pic portraying love between two human beings is ‘causing a commotion’ … YOU PEOPLE HAVE TOO MUCH TIME ON YOUR HANDS. GET A LIFE!!! IT’S LOVE, IT’S HUMAN.”

Another response said, “I don’t understand all the ppl here say it’s not possible I’m Jewish from Israel my boyfriend is Arab Muslim and we live together for 3 years now!”

Others reacted negatively to the photo, with one response saying in Hebrew, “No. Simply No.” Another respondent wrote, “Israel still kill people everyday. This is beautiful but it’s not real” and “U think cuz u put a gay Israeli n a gay Palestinian together makes it ok to perform in Israel.” One commenter said, “Death to Arabs.”

Madonna has posted other controversial photos with the tag #rebelhearts.

Israel’s Burning Man festival gets go-ahead

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 07:29

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Beersheba police must allow the Israeli version of the Burning Man festival to take place, an Israeli court ruled.

The Beersheba Magistrate’s Court on Monday ordered police to provide a permit for Midburn, as the event in the Negev Desert is known, but laid out rules about indecent exposure. Police and festival organizers had been haggling over the permit for four months, according to reports.

Some 6,500 people are expected to attend Midburn, which is scheduled to take place May 20-24 in southern Israel.

The court ordered the festival to adhere to a number of police demands, including that nudity be allowed only in closed-off areas where minors are not permitted and closed-circuit TV cameras may not film inside tents and private areas, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Modeled after the annual weeklong event held in Black Rock Desert, Nevada, the festival sets up a temporary city “creating a platform which will allow a communal life style, creativity, art and radical self-expression,” according to the Midburn website.

On Sunday, the Beersheba court imposed a stop work order on the festival at the request of police, bringing to a halt work on more than 70 art installations and dozens of theme camps, according to the Times of Israel.

This will be the second Midburn event following two years of smaller-scale, unofficial events.

At least 50 arrested in Israeli organized crime investigation

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 06:57

JERUSALEM (JTA) — At least 50 people were arrested in connection with a massive Israeli investigation into organized crime.

A gag order was partially lifted on the case Monday.

Dozens of homes were raided in Israel and abroad, and cars, bank accounts and properties were seized due to their links to organized crime.

The suspects are allegedly connected to cases in Israel that include murders, drug trafficking and violent offenses.

Codenamed Case 512, according to reports, the investigation was carried out by Lahav 433, Israel’s crime-fighting umbrella organization.

Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino spoke about the operation on Monday at the Israel Bar Association conference underway in Eilat.

German neonatalogist, 102, receives Ph.D. denied by Nazis

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 05:40

(JTA) — A 102-year-old German neonatologist passed her doctoral defense exam nearly eight decades after she was denied the opportunity by the Nazis.

Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport, a former professor of pediatrics and head of the neonatology department at Berlin’s prominent Charite Hospital, passed the exam on May 13 at the University of Hamburg.

She completed her thesis on diphtheria in 1938, but was refused entrance to the oral exam by the Nazi authorities because her mother was Jewish.

Syllm-Rapoport, who retired in 1973, will receive her doctoral certificate next month.

“This is about principle, not about me,” she told the Daily Tagesspiegel over the weekend. “I did not defend the work for my own sake; that whole situation was not easy for me at 102 years old. I did it for the victims. The university wanted to make amends for wrongs and has shown great patience, for which I am grateful.”

Syllm-Rapoport immigrated to the United States in 1938 and was required to study for two additional years to be certified as a doctor, despite graduating from a German medical school. She married in 1946 and the couple returned to Germany after her husband was persecuted by anti-Communist efforts during the McCarthy era.

Disputed Holocaust memorial to be dedicated ‘very soon,’ Greek mayor says

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 05:08

(JTA) — The mayor of the northern Greek port city of Kavala said that the dedication of a disputed Holocaust memorial will take place “very soon.”

Dimitra Tsanaka appeared to walk back comments attributed to her last week by the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece after municipal authorities canceled a ceremony on Sunday unveiling the memorial, saying that the Star of David must be removed or the monument will not be permitted to go on display.

On Sunday, Tsanaka confirmed that city councilmen from her party objected to the size and placement of the Star of David on the monument, but denied that she agreed with them or wanted the star removed, The Associated Press reported.

Tsanaka was speaking to demonstrators wearing yellow Stars of David who had gathered to protest the delay in the monument’s unveiling, according to AP.

The memorial commemorates the 1,484 Jews from Kavala who were murdered by the Nazis.

Life of Amtrak victim Rachel Jacobs celebrated at New York memorial

Sun, 05/17/2015 - 15:00

(JTA) — Rachel Jacobs, a victim of the Amtrak train derailment, was remembered as loving and attentive at a private memorial service at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.

Jacobs, 39, the mother of a 2-year old son and CEO of the Philadelphia-based video-learning company ApprenNet, also was remembered as one who devoted her life to education and social justice, NY1 reported.

“We will continue to honor her,” her husband, Todd Waldman, said at the service, the New York Daily News reported. “Remember how each and every one of you shaped her world.”

Songs that were special to Jacobs were played at the memorial, including The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” which she sang to her son; the Black Crowes’ “She Talks to Angels”; and Journey’s “Faithfully,” the first dance at her wedding, according to the Daily News.

She was commuting home to her family in Manhattan on May 12 when the train derailed. Jacobs, the daughter of former Michigan state Sen. Gilda Jacobs, was one of eight killed in the crash, which injured more than 200.

The Jacobs family has requested that donations be made to the Columbia Business School to create a scholarship in her name.

A funeral for Jacobs will be held on Monday in Michigan, where she will be buried in her hometown of Ferndale.

Backstreet Boys arrive in Israel

Sun, 05/17/2015 - 14:14

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The American pop band Backstreet Boys has arrived in Israel.

The band, whose popularity was at its peak in the 1990s, is scheduled to give three performances in Ra’anana May 19-21. They landed in Israel on Sunday from their last performance in Thailand.

The Backstreet Boys are scheduled to tour Israel prior to Tuesday’s performance, including trips to the Galilee, the Sea of ​​Galilee, Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, the Hebrew-language Ynet website reported.

The band, on its first visit to Israel, is accompanied by an entourage of about 25 people.

The band cancelled three sold-out performances last July due to the Gaza conflict. At the time of the cancellation, the band promised to reschedule.

Chicago Jewish families hire private security following anti-Semitic incidents

Sun, 05/17/2015 - 11:40

(JTA) — Jewish families in the West Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago have hired off-duty Chicago police officers to patrol the neighborhood in the wake of several anti-Semitic incidents.

The armed officers were hired to patrol a 16-block area populated largely by Orthodox Jewish families on the Jewish sabbath and holidays, when residents walk to synagogue and do not carry cell phones, DNAinfo-Chicago reported.

More than 25 families pay $25 a month for the extra security.

The Chicago Police are not happy with the arrangement, according to the news website.

“It was brought to our attention there was a group of citizens in the area that don’t feel the police are serving the community the best we can,” Sgt. Shawn Sisk, who leads the district’s community policing office, told DNAinfo. “We can’t stop that from happening; however, we’re not going to support it. We don’t want that to send a false sense of security to the neighborhood.”

Incidents over the last six months include anti-Semitic graffiti, robbery at gunpoint and anonymous envelopes filled with white powder and Arabic writing sent to several Jewish organizations in the area.



Pope Francis presents Abbas peace medallion at Vatican

Sun, 05/17/2015 - 10:59

(JTA) — Pope Francis presented Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas with a peace medallion.

Abbas and the pope met privately for 20 minutes at the Vatican on Saturday, a day before Francis canonized two 19th-century Palestinian nuns.

“May the angel of peace destroy the evil spirit of war. I thought of you: may you be an angel of peace,” the pope said in presenting the medallion, according to the Vatican Insider.

Abbas also met Saturday with the Vatican’s secretary of state to discuss an agreement reached last week covering the Vatican’s interests in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, including churches in the territories, taxes on church charities and cultural and diplomatic issues. Vatican representatives also reiterated the hope that both sides would make “bold decisions” in order to achieve peace.

Sisters Mariam Bawardy and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas were among four nuns who were made saints on Sunday at a Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

Abbas and about 2,000 Palestinian pilgrims, some waving Palestinian flags, were present for the canonization, the Associated Press reported. Israel also sent a delegation.

Marchers come under attack during Jerusalem Day march

Sun, 05/17/2015 - 10:05

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Participants in the annual Jerusalem Day flag march came under attack from Muslims in the Old City of Jerusalem.

At least two police officers were injured Sunday afternoon near the Damascus Gate, which leads to the Old City’s Muslim Quarter and the popular Arab market.

Palestinians, some carrying Palestinian flags, threw rocks at police and marchers. At least two Palestinian Muslims were arrested. Jewish marchers and Palestinians also brawled along the route.

Thousands of Israelis participate in the annual Jerusalem Day march, which runs through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter en route to the Western Wall. Jerusalem Day marks the reunification of the city following the 1967 Six-Day War.

A special prayer service at the Western Wall will be held this evening, followed by a rally in the Western Wall plaza attended by thousands.

Last week, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a petition to change the route of the march to avoid confrontation between Jewish Israelis and Muslims.

The court ordered police to arrest any participants who shout racist slogans or engage in violence or vandalism during the march. Arab residents of the Old City also must be given full access to their homes and businesses during the march, the court ruled.

Last year, marchers were caught on video shouting “Death to Arabs” and “Muhammad is dead.”

Illegal migrant rescues drowning Israeli woman from Rome river

Sun, 05/17/2015 - 09:33

(JTA) — An illegal immigrant was given a permit to live in Rome for the next year after he saved an Israeli woman from drowning.

Sobuj Khalifa, an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh, saw a body floating in the Tiber River last week. The 32-year-old Muslim man, who was a fisherman in his home country, jumped into the water and pulled the Jewish woman to safety, according to newspaper reports. The rescue was caught on video.

Khalifa had been living under a bridge along the river.

Khalifa arrived in Italy in 2008 with a permit to work, but the permit expired years ago. He has reportedly has been homeless for the last four years.

The Israeli woman, 55, reportedly was trying to commit suicide.

Riccardo Pacifici, the head of Rome’s Jewish community, told Haaretz that the city’s Jews want to thank Khalifa for his bravery and are working to find him a job and housing.

Rivlin, Netanyahu pledge to repair relations with Ethiopian Israelis

Sun, 05/17/2015 - 08:32

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel erred in its treatment of Ethiopian immigrants, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said at a state ceremony in memory of the Ethiopian Jews who died on their way to Israel.

Sunday’s ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, which takes place annually on Jerusalem Day, commemorates the 4,000 Ethiopian Jews who died as they walked from their birthplace through Sudan toward Jerusalem.

Rivlin referred to the anti-racism protests by the Ethiopian-Israeli community in recent weeks, stressing the need to repair the damage and to create equal opportunities in all areas.

“In recent weeks we have all seen and heard the cries and pain of Israelis of Ethiopian origin. The protesters uncovered an open wound, alive and bleeding within Israeli society. We heard a wounded community who voiced their heartfelt cries of feelings of discrimination, racism, insult and lack of response,” Rivlin said, according to a statement released by his office.

Rivlin acknowledged that Israel had “erred … in integrating and treating the Ethiopian community,” and said the country was obliged to do better.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the ceremony about a meeting he held two weeks ago with Ethiopian Israelis in which he agreed to form a special committee to address the problems of their community.

“I heard complaints about racism, prejudice, discrimination, and the use of excess force. I heard concerns about walking down the street because of the color of your skin. I cannot accept this, not in our country, not in the Jewish state,” Netanyahu said.

Scott Walker: U.S. must view Israel as true ally

Sun, 05/17/2015 - 08:04

(JTA) — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a likely candidate for the GOP nomination for president, said his recent visit to Israel strengthened his belief that the United States must view Israel as a true ally.

Walker spoke about his recent trip to Israel Saturday night during the Iowa Republican Party’s Lincoln Dinner.

“It is time to send a message around the world that we stand with our allies,” he said.

Walker said his helicopter tour of the area, from Israel’s border with Syria to the Sea of Galilee and then south to the border with the Gaza Strip, made him realize the fear Israelis live with on a daily basis, the Washington Post reported.

“Remember for a moment how many of us—the young people don’t remember this probably so well—but those of us as adults remember what we felt like on the day after Sept. 11,” Walker said. “That’s how they feel almost every day. That’s what they feel like because of what they’re dealing with.”

Walker confirmed that he met during his trip earlier this month with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Walker did not take media on his Israel trip, calling it a “listening tour.”


Jewish-backed Buenos Aires rugby club takes national title

Sun, 05/17/2015 - 07:27

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — An Argentinian rugby team with a Jewish history and many Jewish fans won the national league championship.

The Buenos Aires-based Hindu Club team won the Argentinean national title after beating Club Newman in a vibrant 27-25 final.

Identified as the Jewish rugby team among the national clubs, Hindu fans display Israeli flags during some matches.

“During the 60s, a lot of Jewish families started to sign up for membership [in the club]. So we have a lot of Jews in the club, they are part of our identity and also many Jewish families have houses and live in the residential sector of our country club,” Carlos Solari, a former Hindu secretary general and former rugby player, told JTA.

Despite having Jewish members and fans, Hindu isn’t a Jewish institution.  Hebraica is the only amateur rugby team in Argentina under the auspices of a Jewish institution.

“We love the spirit of friendship and the values of rugby,” Javier Veinberg, the president of the Argentine Federation of Maccabean Community Centers, told JTA. The federation has about 55 affiliates and a network of 50,000 people.

“We want to attract more rugby players in Jewish clubs. Rugby teaches kids values like team work, respect for the others … [It] is a sport with interesting values to us as Jews,” Veinberg said.


Rabbi Moshe Levinger, a founder of the settlement movement, dies at 80

Sun, 05/17/2015 - 06:05

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Rabbi Moshe Levinger, a founder of the settlement movement and the spiritual leader of the Jewish community of Hebron, has died.

Levinger died Saturday at the age of 80 following recent health problems and complications from a stroke seven years ago. He died on the eve of Jerusalem Day and its companion celebration of Hebron Day, which his son Malachi Levinger, head of the Kiryat Arba municipal council, called “symbolic.”

Levinger was one of the founders of the Gush Emunim movement, the national-religious movement established in 1974 that called for settlement of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights to assert Israeli sovereignty.

The rabbi  was a leader in the founding of the Kiryat Arba settlement near Hebron, which brought Jews back to the city in 1968 for the first time since the massacre of Jews by Palestinians there in 1929.  Levinger rented rooms in the Park Hotel in Hebron to hold a Passover seder and when the holiday was over remained there, refusing to leave. The small group of Jews was later able to live on an army base near the city, and after a year and a half moved to the newly built neighborhood of Kiryat Arba.

Levinger was born in Jerusalem in 1935 to parents who immigrated from Germany and studied at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva there. He studied under Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, a founder of religious Zionism and the son of Rabbi Avraham Issac Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine and the founder of the yeshiva.

Levinger was a founder and a former chairman of the Yesha Council, which represents Jews living in the West Bank.

In 1988, Levinger fired at a group of Palestinians who threw rocks at his car, killing one. He was sentenced to five months in prison.

In 1992, Levinger created a political party, Torah VeEretz Yisrael, or Torah and Land of Israel, which did not receive enough votes in elections that year to pass the electoral threshold.

He is survived by his wife, 11 children and 50 grandchildren,

He was buried Sunday in the Jewish cemetery in Hebron after a funeral service in front of the Cave of the Patriarchs.

Vancouver gay film festival bans national symbols after Israeli flag ad

Sun, 05/17/2015 - 05:25

(JTA)–A gay film festival in Vancouver banned “overt expressions of nationalism” after organizers came under fire over an advertisement featuring an Israeli flag.

The advertisement in last year’s guidebook for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, placed by the local gay Jewish group Yad b’Yad, featured a gay pride flag alongside an Israeli flag. That led to accusations of “pink washing,” the supposed tactic of using Israel’s support for gay rights to divert attention from its treatment of the Palestinians.

Following the ad’s publication, two directors withdrew their films from the festival and the festival donated the ad revenue to a third party, the Canadian Jewish News reported.

“We now have stronger policies that will enable us to make sure all our partnerships reflect our values and allow us to focus on bringing people together through film,”Shana Myara, the festival’s director of programming,  told the newspaper.

Jonathan Lerner, spokesman for Yad b’Yad, told the CJN that the festival’s revised policies are a form of censorship.

“The VQFF has proactively and very publicly weighed into the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Lerner said. “Its specific policies are aimed at silencing proud supporters of the LGBTQ community and of Israel, all while remaining silent on the plight of gays and lesbians in places such as Iran, Syria, China and even the Palestinian Authority. One can only judge the VQFF by its very public actions and obvious inactions.”

Lerner also said that under the revised policies, Israeli films could only be included in the festival if they sought to create “critical dialogues about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Israeli occupation,” the Shalom Life news website reported.

The festival will run from Aug. 13 to Aug. 23.

Greek town demands Star of David removal from Holocaust memorial

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 18:41

(JTA) — Authorities in the Greek port of Kavala want the Star of David removed from a Holocaust memorial or they will not permit its display.

The American Jewish Committee said Friday that its partner body in Greece, the Central Board of Jewish Communities, reported that municipal authorities had canceled a May 17 ceremony unveiling the memorial.

A Star of David is currently engraved into the Kavala monument. The authorities want the Jewish symbol removed before they allow the memorial’s display.

“How can it be that the eternal symbol of the Jewish people – the very symbol that the Nazis required Jews to wear in the death camps and ghettos of Europe during the Second World War – is deemed unfit for public display in Kavala?” AJC’s executive director, David Harris, said in a statement.

The memorial commemorates the 1,484 Jews in the northern city murdered by the Nazis.

“The mayor and the City Council have insulted the memory of victims, the Greek Jewish community, and Jews around the world, and we join with the Greek Jewish community in voicing our outrage,” Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, said in a statement.

The AJC statement quoted the Greek minister of culture, education and religious affairs as blasting the Kavala municipal authorities.

“As an Orthodox Christian, I feel deeply insulted by this issue, because it would be as if someone asked us to erase or modify for ‘aesthetic reasons’ the symbol of the cross on the tombs of our grandfathers executed by the Germans,” the statement quoted Giorgos Kalantzis as saying.

Mikvah-peeping rabbi sentenced to 6.5 years

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 15:49

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rabbi Barry Freundel was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for videotaping dozens of nude women at a ritual bath.

“You repeatedly and secretly violated the trust your victims had in you, and you abused your power,” Senior Judge Geoffrey Alprin of D.C. Superior Court said at the sentencing, the Washington Post reported. Alprin also fined Freundel more than $2,000.

Prosecutors had sought 17 years after Freundel, the former spiritual leader of a prominent Washington Orthodox synagogue, pleaded guilty in February to 52 counts of misdemeanor voyeurism. Freundel’s lawyers sought community service. Each count carried a maximum penalty of one year in prison and fines of $1,000 to $2,500.

Freundel was given 45 days for each of the 52 counts. He will serve the sentences successively, amounting to nearly six and a half years.

The rabbi, now 64, was arrested last October and charged with six counts of voyeurism after investigators found hidden cameras in the National Capital Mikvah’s shower room and in his home. He was fired from Kesher Israel, the congregation he had led for 25 years and which abuts the ritual bath, or mikvah, soon after his arrest.

In addition to the 52 women he filmed while they were completely naked between March 4, 2012 and Sept. 19, 2014, Freundel recorded an additional 100 women since April 2009 who were not part of the criminal complaint due to the statute of limitations.

RELATED: New details show mikvah-peeping rabbi had extramarital sexual encounters

Obama to to mark Jewish heritage month at D.C. synagogue

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 15:33

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Barack Obama will address a Washington congregation to mark Jewish American Heritage Month.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz, announcing the president’s schedule for next week, said that next Friday, May 22, Obama would speak at Adas Israel, a Conservative movement synagogue in the city’s northwest quadrant.

“On Friday, The president will travel to the congregation of Adas Israel, one of the largest congregations here in Washington, to deliver remarks in celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month, which recognizes contributions of Jewish Americans to American society and culture,” Schultz said Friday.

Obama’s visit would be during the daytime, and would not coincide with Sabbath eve services, an Adas congregant said.

The announcement of the visit comes as the White House gears up a charm offensive targeting American Jews and Israelis in the wake of months of tensions between the Israeli and American governments.

Referring in a Thursday news conference to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new right-wing government, Obama said the prospect of peace “seems quite distant now.”

Obama’s May 22 visit to the synagogue coincides with the “Solidarity Sabbath,” an initiative of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice that calls on world leaders to show solidarity with victims of anti-Semitism.

Twelve members of the U.S. Congress and a number of European ambassadors will attend synagogues on May 22 and participate in other activities to show their concern about anti-Semitism.

The Lantos Foundation is named for the late Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor elected to Congress. Lantos, a California Democrat, was noted for his focus on human rights and chaired the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee in 2007-08.