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Flemish Jews want deputy PM to clarify statements on Nazi collaborators

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 05:00

ANTWERP, Belgium (JTA) — A representative of Flemish Jews asked a deputy prime minister of Belgium to clarify statements in which he appeared to condone the actions of Nazi collaborators.

Jan Jambon, who is also Belgium’s interior minister, made the statements during an interview published last week in the La Libre Belgique newspaper.

During the interview Jambon, who is a member of the New Flemish Alliance party, was asked about his participation in 2001 at a rally organized by the far-right association Sint-Maartenfonds, whose mission statement is to support Flemish Belgians who fought on Nazi Germany’s side in World War II.

Commenting about these veterans, he said, “The people who collaborated with the Germans, they had their reasons. I did not live in those times.”

After the Oct. 13 publication of the interview, Jambon rejected any interpretation of his words as condoning Nazism or collaboration with Nazi Germany and apologized to anyone who was offended by them.

But Raphael Werner of the Flemish Forum of Jewish Organizations told the Antwerp-based Joods Actueel newspaper that the forum wants to meet with Jambon and discuss the issue more thoroughly.

“Then we could hear for ourselves what are the positions of the minister, not only about collaboration but also about the sensitive questions connected to it,” he said, according to an article published Oct. 14.

Several Belgian parties called for the resignation of Jambon, who was appointed to his position last week following months of political deliberations that led to the formation of a coalition five months after the elections.

More than one-third of Belgium’s Jewish population of approximately 66,000 was sent to the Auschwitz death camp, according to Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.

Belgium, a federal binational state, comprises three autonomous regions: the Dutch-speaking Flemish region; the French-speaking Walloon region; and the central Brussels region.

Dutch Christians boycott church over exhibit on jailed Palestinian children

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 04:51

UTRECHT, the Netherlands (JTA) — A group of Dutch Christians boycotted Utrecht’s Domkerk Church over an exhibition on jailed Palestinian children that they said encouraged anti-Semitism.

The exhibition, titled “Room No. 4,” was brought to the Domkerk — one of the Netherlands’ best-known churches and one of Utrecht’s tourist stops — by the Dutch Coalition for Palestinian Children in Israeli Detention.

The exhibition, which ended Sunday, featured pictures of adult models portraying Palestinian children who are suffering in Israeli detention facilities. The group announced its decision to boycott the exhibition for its duration earlier this month.

Among the boycotters was Hebe Kohlbrugge, a writer and a member of the Domkerk Church.

“Many people cannot differentiate between Israel and Jews,” Kohlbrugge told the Trouw daily newspaper. “People wearing kippot are being harassed over Israel’s actions. Thus criticism of Israel becomes anti-Semitism.”

Kohlbrugge also said that the church’s history of anti-Semitism makes it an unsuitable venue for criticizing Israel.

“Before you point fingers, better look at the ones pointing in your direction,” he added.

Jaap Hamburger, whose group belongs to the Dutch Coalition for Palestinian Children in Israeli Detention, wrote an Op-Ed on the news website joop.nl denying the exhibition encouraged anti-Semitism.

In the exposition, the church placed a board displaying members’ complaints against the exhibit, but said it decided to host it anyway because of its “commitment to children’s rights.”

The Liberal Jewish Community of Utrecht also condemned the hosting of the exhibition at the church.


Yaalon heads to D.C. as Israeli gov’t ministers rip Kerry remarks

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 16:12

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon left for a five-day U.S. trip amid criticism by Israeli ministers of remarks made by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Yaalon headed to the United States on Saturday night, two days after Kerry linked the rise of ISIS terrorism to the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at a State Department event marking the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha.

“There wasn’t a leader I met … who didn’t raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation,” Kerry  said.

In the U.S., Yaalon is scheduled to meet with his U.S. counterpart, Chuck Hagel, and other U.S. security officials, to discuss regional issues such as Iran’s nuclear program and the Islamic State. It is his first U.S. visit since Israel’s 50-day operation in Gaza this summer.

Yaalon also is expected to meet in New York with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. He is scheduled to attend official ceremonies at Ground Zero in New York and at Arlington National Cemetery, and to meet with Jewish community leaders.

“The relations between the U.S. and Israel are based on common interests and shared values, and those should not be overshadowed by any disagreement of any sort,” Yaalon said in a statement before he left Israel.

On Friday, some Israeli ministers rapped Kerry for his remarks.

“Even when a British Muslim beheads a British Christian, someone will always blame the Jew,” Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the right-wing Jewish Home party, responded in a Facebook post that linked to a report of Kerry’s remarks.

On Saturday night, Bennett posted, “The notion regarding the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not true and puts Israel at risk.” He listed several examples.

Likud minister Gilad  Erdan also criticized Kerry on Facebook, asking whether anybody really believes Islamic State fighters would put down their arms if Israeli-Palestinian talks were relaunched.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Saturday night accused Bennett of using Kerry’s remarks for his own political benefit.

“There can be differences of opinion between friends, but there needn’t be attacks,” Liberman said in an interview on Israel Channel 2.

On Friday, the State Department clarified Kerry’s statement.

“What he said was that during his travels to build a coalition against the Islamic State, he was told that should the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be resolved, the Middle East would be a better place,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. “His comments were distorted for political gains. He did not make that connection.”

But PLO secretary general Yasser Abed Rabbo told the French news agency AFP on Saturday night, in response to the Kerry statement, that “linking the fight against terrorism and the end of the Israeli occupation is a strategic position that we support.”


Rivlin: Violence an epidemic in Israeli society

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 15:52

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The epidemic of violence permeates every sector of Israel, the country’s president, Reuven Rivlin, said in an address.

“It is time to honestly admit that Israeli society is ill – and it is our duty to treat this disease,” Rivlin told the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities on Sunday at a conference titled “From Xenophobia to Accepting the Other.”

“The tension between Jews and Arabs within the State of Israel has risen to record heights, and the relationship between all parties has reached a new low,” he said. “We have all witnessed the shocking sequence of incidents and violence taking place by both sides. The epidemic of violence is not limited to one sector or another, it permeates every area and doesn’t skip any arena. There is violence in soccer stadiums as well as in the academia. There is violence in the social media and in everyday discourse, in hospitals and in schools.”

The president added that he has been verbally abused, including on his Facebook page.

Rivlin said that Israeli academia can play a “crucial role” in reducing violence in Israeli society.

“The academic sphere, in which cultures and languages ​​are taught from a desire to get to know them deeper, where there is a ‘you and I’ affinity, there is a place which generates not only learning but also a real encounter,” he said.

Rivlin called on the academy to be “a space which prepares a new generation of Israeli citizens to talk to each other, and especially to learn how to listen to each other.”



Daughter of Hamas’ Haniyeh treated at Israeli hospital

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 15:19

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A daughter of Gazan Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was treated this month at a Tel Aviv hospital, according to reports.

Haniyeh’s daughter received emergency treatment at Ichilov Hospital, the hospital confirmed, according to Haaretz. She remained hospitalized in Israel for about a week.

The hospital did not name the daughter — Haniyeh has 13 children — and did not disclose her ailment.

Palestinian officials would not confirm the hospital stay to Israeli media.

Ichilov Hospital said it treats more than 1,000 patients each year from the Gaza Strip and Palestinian Authority.

Haniyeh’s mother-in-law and year-old granddaughter both were cared for in Israeli hospitals this year. Israeli doctors were not able to help the granddaughter, Amal — she had an infection of her digestive tract that affected her nervous system and damaged her brain — and died after being returned to her family in Gaza.

Anti-Semitic graffiti in Spain due to media coverage of Gaza, watchdog group says

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 11:57

(JTA) — A Spanish pro-Israel group said the recent spraying of anti-Semitic graffiti in Toledo was the result of media coverage of the latest Gaza war and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Madrid-based Action and Communication on the Middle East lobby group, or ACOM, made the assertion over the weekend in connection with the Oct. 4 spray-painting of dozens of epithets on Jewish heritage sites in the Old City of Toledo. Two days later, police arrested a 32-year-old in connection with the graffiti, lavanguardia.com reported.

“Spanish media coverage of the last Gaza war and the Israeli conflict in general has encouraged such actions,” Daniel Fernandez of ACOM wrote in a statement on Friday. “Spanish public TV’s coverage, coupled with general ignorance in Spain about Israel, could serve to incite just about anyone.”

The reports about the Toledo vandalism did not name the suspect or indicate whether the actions were believed to be connected to Israel.

One of the epithets was spray-painted on the foot of a statue of Samuel Levi Abulafia, who in the 14th century founded Toledo’s El Transito Synagogue. It read “No Jews!” and featured dollar signs. Abulafia, or Samuel Levi, served as treasurer under Peter I, the King of Castile, until his death in 1360 in Seville, where he was tortured on trumped-up charges of treason.

In July, the Jewish community of Madrid said it would sue a celebrated Spanish author, Antonio Gala, who in a July 23 Op-Ed in the El Mundo daily cited Israel’s attacks in Gaza to justify the mass expulsion of Spanish Jewry during the 15th and 16th centuries, among other atrocities committed against Jews.

Later that month, 100 Spanish celebrities, including Academy Award winners Pedro Almodovar, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, endorsed an open letter accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza.

Fewer than 100 Jews live in Toledo, which prior to the Spanish Inquisition was home to one of the Iberian Peninsula’s largest Jewish populations.

Palestinian girl dies after being hit by settler driver

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 11:36

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Palestinian girl died after being hit by a car driven by a Jewish West Bank settler who fled the scene.

Einas Khalil, 5, died hours after being struck near the central West Bank town of Sinjil, located northeast of Ramallah. Another 5-year-old Palestinian girl also was injured.

Residents of the Palestinian town accused the driver, 29, of the Yitzhar settlement, of deliberately hitting the girls, who were walking home from kindergarten.

The driver told police he did not stop after striking the girls because he feared for his life due to the crowd that had gathered around the injured girls, according to Ynet. He stopped in the nearest Jewish community, Ofra, where he reported the accident and turned himself in.

Israel Police said a preliminary investigation showed that the incident was an accident, according to Ynet.

Argentine far-left leader gets prison term for threatening Jewish rally

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 11:29

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — The leader of the Argentine far-left group Quebracho was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison for threatening a Jewish community demonstration.

Fernando Esteche was sentenced Friday after pleading guilty that day to charges of intimidation and violence against the 2006 protest in front of the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires.

Local Jewish groups said their rally was “against terrorism and in favor of peace.” The Quebracho group held a counterdemonstration supporting Hezbollah and against the State of Israel in reaction to the Israel-Lebanon conflict at the time. Esteche said he was protesting Israel’s “massacre against the Palestinians.”

The day of the demonstration, Esteche told the Argentine media that “we come here to repel the fanatics and to prevent the same type of aggression and arrogance that they carry in the Middle East and they want to do here with fundamentalist youth in Argentina.”

Esteche, who serves on the faculty at the National University of La Plata’s journalism school, has spoken publicly against Israel in demonstrations and in the media.

He was sentenced in a summary trial of two criminal cases involving protests and intimidation: the counterdemonstration at the Iranian Embassy and another against the International Monetary Fund in 2004.

After been threatened by “sticks and insults,” the Jewish demonstrators were forced to leave the site of their August 2006 rally.

The local Jewish political umbrella DAIA expressed satisfaction with the sentence.

Israeli rowing team debuts in world’s largest event

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 11:13

BOSTON (JTA) — For the first time, an Israeli rowing team is being represented in the Head of the Charles Regatta, the world’s largest two-day rowing event.

The event was being held Saturday and Sunday on the Charles River in Cambridge, Mass.

The annual event attracts over 11,000 athletes from around the world and 400,000 spectators who line the banks and bridges of the river near Harvard University.

The Israeli team consists of Irina (Roni) Vorvoreanu, Moran Samuel, Daniel Rutenberg, and Reuven Magnagey, along with their coach, Robert Nuckowski.

Due to injuries and eligibility issues, only Vorvoreanu raced in the event. The 16-year-old has rowed for Israel at the junior world championships. Samuel is a para-rowing champion who before suffering a stroke at 24 was a member of the Israeli national women’s basketball team.

The team’s participation was arranged through a collaboration between Israeli and American businesspeople, the Boston chapter of the Israeli American Council, Combined Jewish Philanthropies and the Consulate General of Israel to New England.

Samuel and other team members were scheduled to speak at a public program in a Boston synagogue and attended a Brandeis University screening of “Two Who Dared,” a film by Joukowsky’s brother, Artemis, about Joukowsky’s grandparents, who rescued thousands of Jews during World War II.


Israeli follower of fugitive rabbi drowns in Belgian river

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 11:04

(JTA) — A follower of Rabbi Eliezer Berland, an accused sex offender who fled Israel, drowned in Belgium while swimming in a river near Antwerp.

The body of Nissim Levy, 27, was buried last week in his hometown of Ashkelon, the news website ashqelon.net reported Saturday.

Levy was in Belgium to be near Berland, head of the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary. Last year Berland fled Israel amid allegations that he sexually assaulted at least two female followers, including a minor.

Berland, who is living in a southern suburb of Amsterdam with scores of his supporters, apparently was in the Antwerp area for the weekend.

Israel has requested his extradition from the Netherlands, where Berland was arrested last month at the airport upon his arrival from South Africa. Since fleeing Israel, he has taken up residence in the United States, Switzerland, Morocco and Zimbabwe, often with dozens of followers.

Levy’s body was sent to Israel with help and funding from the Shomre Hadass Jewish community of Antwerp, according to the Hebrew-language Behadrei Haredim news website.

His family also contacted another Jewish community, the haredi Orthodox congregation Machzikei Hadass, for assistance, the website reported, quoting an unnamed member of Shuvu Bonim who claimed that the congregation declined to help.

Rabbi Pinchas Kornfeld of Machzikei Hadass denied the claim, telling JTA, “The deceased’s family asked us for assistance and we offered to cover all expenses for burial in the Benelux, but we also said that we would need a third party to cover the costs attached to sending the body to Israel, which are substantial.”

Anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on Temple Mount

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 08:31

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Graffiti equating the Star of David with a swastika was found painted on the Temple Mount.

The graffiti in blue paint was found Sunday in at least three places on the Temple Mount, according to reports. Israel Police are investigating.

Two days earlier, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in a speech in Ramallah that Jews should be prevented from entering the Temple Mount and that Palestinians should protect the site, home to the Al-Aksa Mosque.

“It is our sacred place, Al-Aksa is ours, this Noble Sanctuary is ours. They have no right to go there and desecrate it,” Abbas said Friday.

On Saturday, Abbas called Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount “a herd of cattle.” He also said that he would take legal action to prevent Jews from ascending to the site, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims.

The Temple Mount has been the site of tension over the recent Jewish holiday period, as well as conflicts between Palestinians and the Israel Police.


Pope Paul VI, first pontiff to visit Israel, moves closer to sainthood

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 07:02

ROME (JTA) – Pope Paul VI, the first pontiff to visit Israel, has moved a step closer to sainthood.

Pope Francis beatified Paul VI at a Vatican ceremony Sunday at the close of a synod of bishops.

Paul VI, who reigned from 1963 to 1978, opened the Roman Catholic Church to formal dialogue with the Jewish world.

He visited Jerusalem in January 1964 on a brief trip to Israel and Jordan. It was the first time a reigning pope had visited the Holy Land, but at the time the Vatican did not recognize Israel as a state — Israel and the Holy See established full diplomatic relations in 1993 — and Paul did not pronounce the word “Israel” in public during his tenure.

Paul’s trip came more than a year before the landmark Nostra Aetate declaration of 1965, which opened the way to Catholic-Jewish dialogue and was one of a number of reforms enacted at the Second Vatican Council.

Vatican Radio described Paul as “the pope who steered and implemented the Second Vatican Council” and whose decisions “were often met with psychological resistance from those around him for moving with the times.”

Francis visited Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority at the end of May, in part to mark the 50th anniversary of Paul VI’s trip.


Israeli-Arab doctor killed fighting for ISIS

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 06:47

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A doctor who worked as a resident at a hospital in southern Israel was killed while fighting for ISIS.

The family of Othman Abdal-Kian, 26, from the Bedouin village of Hura, near Beersheba, confirmed to Ynet that he had been killed fighting for the jihadist group.

Abdal-Kian had been doing his residency at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon since February after studying medicine in Jordan.

The hospital confirmed to the Israeli media that he failed to show up in May at the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, where he was supposed to do an elective month, after which the hospital learned he had joined the Islamic State.

“Security forces turned to us in their investigation of his disappearance and then we found out he joined the Islamic State,” the hospital said in a statement.

He reportedly traveled from Israel to Turkey and then into Syria.

Earlier this month Ahmed Habashi, 23, an Israeli-Arab man from the Galilee in northern Israel, was reported killed while fighting in Iraq for ISIS.

More than a dozen Israeli-Arabs reportedly have joined ISIS in recent months, according to reports.

Rudy Giuliani among N.Y. pols to protest Met’s ‘Death of Klinghoffer’

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 06:19

(JTA) — Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be among several New York politicians who are expected to protest at the premiere of “The Death of Klinghoffer” at the New York Metropolitan Opera House.

Among the politicians expected to join the rally are Reps. Eliot Engel and Peter King along with former Govs. George Pataki and David Paterson, the New York Observer reported.

There will be a “heavy police presence” at the opening, according to the New York Post, which citing police sources.

Critics charge that the production is anti-Semitic, hostile to Israel and sympathetic to terrorists.

A coalition of groups organized the protest, which will be held across the street from the Met. The organizers include the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Zionist Organization of America, StandWithUs, the Catholic League and several New York City synagogues.

The opera tells the story of the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro by Palestinian terrorists and the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old Jewish-American passenger in a wheelchair. The opera by John Adams debuted in 1991.

The Anti-Defamation League has said that while “The Death of Klinghoffer” itself is not anti-Semitic, “there is a concern the opera could be used in foreign countries as a means to stir up anti-Israel sentiments or as a vehicle to promote anti-Semitism.”

Under heavy criticism, the Met decided in June to cancel a planned global simulcast of the opera in November. But it stuck to its decision to stage the show in New York.

Last month, thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the Met on its Opening Night Gala chanting “Shame on the Met!” and “Say no to the show!” in protest of the Met’s decision to produce the controversial opera.

“Twenty nine years ago, our 69 year old, wheel chair-bound father, Leon Klinghoffer, was shot in the head by Palestinian hijackers on the Achille Lauro cruise ship. The terrorists threw his body, along with his wheelchair, overboard into the Mediterranean. A few days later, his body washed up on the Syrian shore,” wrote Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, the daughters of Leon Klinghoffer, in a statement released Sunday by the Anti-Defamation League, which will be featured in the playbill.

“Tonight, as you watch “The Death of Klinghoffer,” a baritone will play the role of Leon Klinghoffer, and sing “The Aria of the Falling Body” as he artfully falls into the sea. Competing choruses will highlight Jewish and Palestinian narratives of suffering and oppression, selectively presenting the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict.The terrorists, portrayed by four distinguished opera singers, will be given a back story, an ‘explanation’ for their brutal act of terror and violence.

“We are strong supporters of the arts, and believe that theater and music can play a critical role in examining and understanding significant world events. “The Death of Klinghoffer” does no such thing. It presents false moral equivalencies without context, and offers no real insight into the historical reality and the senseless murder of an American Jew. It rationalizes, romanticizes and legitimizes the terrorist murder of our father. Our family was not consulted by the composer and librettist and had no role in the development of the opera.”



Palestinian boy, 13, killed by Israeli troops after throwing firebomb

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 03:58

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Palestinian boy was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.

The boy, Baha Samir Bader, 13, reportedly was shot in the chest in a town near Ramallah on Thursday evening.

The IDF said troops fired at the boy when he threw a firebomb at a unit leaving the village of Beit Liqia, according to the Times of Israel.

An Israeli military spokeswoman told the Palestinian Maan news agency that the soldiers “responded to the threat with live fire,” and that there would be a military police investigation into the reports of the dead teen. She also told Maan that the firebomb posed a “direct threat” to the lives of the soldiers.



Rabbi Avi Weiss to step down as rabbi of Hebrew Institute of Riverdale

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 03:48

(JTA) — Rabbi Avi Weiss, spiritual leader of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, announced that he will step down as rabbi of the congregation.

Weiss — who has been an ardent activist on behalf of embattled Jewish communities and pushed a more religiously liberal brand of Orthodoxy — made the announcement Thursday during holiday services. Weiss said his retirement would be effective next July.

He said he will continue to serve as rabbi-in-residence at the synagogue, the Forward reported.

Weiss is the founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a liberal Orthodox rabbinical school, and Yeshivat Maharat, an institution for women that has graduated two cohorts of female spiritual leaders called Maharats, an acronym meaning female spiritual, legal and Torah leader.

Israel holds Ebola identification training exercise at Ben Gurion airport

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 03:31

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel is holding an Ebola identification training exercise at Ben Gurion Airport.

The exercise Friday will simulate the arrival of a passenger with Ebola, including initial questioning as well as evacuation and hospital treatment.

On Thursday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held additional consultations to evaluate the readiness of state agencies readiness to fight Ebola.

Netanyahu also ordered that preparations be increased at all entry points into Israel including preventive measures, such as taking the temperature of passengers arriving from areas in which there is concern over the spread of Ebola.

A meeting of top Health Ministry officials decided this week that any Ebola cases detected in Israel will be quarantined and treated at either Tel Aviv’s Sheba Hospital or at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, the Times of Israel reported.

Freundel pleads not guilty to voyeurism charge

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 14:38

(JTA) — Rabbi Barry Freundel pleaded not guilty to voyeurism in a Washington, D.C. court.

Freundel, rabbi of Washington’s prominent Kesher Israel Congregation, was arrested Tuesday at his home in Washington. He was charged with voyeurism after a witness allegedly saw him installing a clock radio with a hidden camera in the women’s showers of the congregation’s mikvah.

On Wednesday, District of Columbia Superior Court Judge William Nooter ordered Freundel to stay away from Kesher Israel and the Jewish converts who immersed in the mikvah, according to Reuters.

Kesher Israel has suspended Freundel without pay, as has the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America. The RCA probed Freundel this summer for allegedly making reservations to stay in a hotel room with a conversion candidate who was not his wife, according to the Jewish Daily Forward.

The RCA questioned Freundel about the matter, but the person who made the allegation could not provide supporting evidence.

“There were conversations with Rabbi Freundel on this matter,” RCA President Rabbi Leonard Matanky told the Forward. “Those who were involved with the conversations were satisfied with the explanation and no further action was taken.”

RCA suspends Freundel after voyeurism charge

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 15:35

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Rabbinical Council of America suspended Barry Freundel, the Washington D.C. rabbi arrested this week on a voyeurism charge.

The RCA board met in an emergency meeting Wednesday and suspended Freundel, effective immediately, extending the ban to his activities with the Beth-Din of America, meaning that Freundel’s functions as one of the leading conversion rabbis in the United States were also suspended.

In a letter to member rabbis of the Orthodox body, the president, Rabbi Leonard Matanky, said the charges Freundel faces are “deeply troubling” and confirmed what had until now been attributed to anonymous sources — that the alleged peeping took place in the mikvah adjacent to Kesher Israel, Freundel’s Georgetown shul.

Freundel is “facing charges that are deeply troubling,” Matanky said, adding that the alleged peeping is a “terrible, awful violation of privacy and of the sanctity of the mikvah.”

A recipient of the letter read it out over the phone to JTA. Freundel, according to reports, hid a camera in the mikvah, which was open for use to Orthodox Jews throughout Washington.

Washington’s police chief, Cathy Lanier, is meeting Sunday with Orthodox Jews to discuss privacy issues related to whatever recordings police may have uncovered in a search of Freundel’s house.

Matanky praised the Kesher Israel board, which reported Freundel to the authorities, for “acting responsibly” in the matter. He said in the letter that the RCA would “take further action as appropriate.”

Israeli hikers among fatalities in Nepal avalanche

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 13:45

(JTA) — A blizzard and avalanche in Nepal have killed more than a dozen trekkers, including at least two Israelis.

Extreme weather conditions spurred by the remains of Cyclone Hudhud struck the mountainous country on Tuesday, killing 17 hikers, including the Israelis, according to a report by the French news agency AFP. Other reports have varied, with the BBC placing the death toll at 21 trekkers in addition to three yak herders.

The death toll may rise as officials continue to hunt for some 100 missing trekkers.

Israeli media reported that the number of Israelis killed may be three or higher. The Israeli Foreign Ministry was waiting for reports to determine the official figures, according to Haaretz. Four Israelis have been rescued.

About a week ago, two Israeli tourists were killed in a rafting accident on the Apurimac River in Peru.