JTA Breaking News

Syndicate content
The Global Jewish News Source
Updated: 2 hours 10 min ago

Shimon Peres in hospital, cancels speaking engagement

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 12:30

(JTA) — Shimon Peres has been hospitalized after complaining of feeling unwell.

The former Israeli president, 91, had been scheduled to speak at an event for KamaTech, an Israeli start-up, the London Jewish Chronicle reported, citing a Twitter post from Israeli journalist Niv Elis.

According to Elis’ tweet, Peres on Monday “had to go to hospital for check-ups, but they understand that he’s doing fine.”

Arab-Israeli street cleaner stabbed in nationalist terror attack

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 11:00

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Arab-Israeli worker in Herzliya was stabbed by a local man who reportedly shouted “Death to Arabs.”

The 27-year-old victim, a street cleaner in the central Israeli city, was slightly injured in the Monday morning terror attack. Police captured the attacker, who the injured man described as being Jewish with a Russian accent, Haaretz reported.

The suspect reportedly later confessed to the attack, which he said had nationalistic motives.

Herzliya Mayor Moshe Fadlon said he would increase police patrols in the wake of the attack.

“We will not tolerate acts of violence against any human being,” the mayor said.

Body of missing Polish tourist found in Nazareth

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 10:49

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The body of a Polish tourist to Israel who has been missing since last week was found in Nazareth.

The woman, in her 20s, was discovered Sunday in a wooded area of the city by local residents. The body showed signs of violence, according to reports.

She was traveling with her father as part of a tour group and was reported missing on Thursday.

Biden: No major sanctions relief at front end of Iran deal

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 09:31

WASHINGTON (JTA) — An Iran nuclear deal will not include substantial sanctions relief at the front end, Vice President Joe Biden said.

“If at the front end they expect there to be total sanction relief or significant sanction relief, there will be no deal,” Biden said in an address in Cambridge, Mass., on Friday to a Democratic political action committee, Politico reported. “This will be, ‘You have to earn it.’”

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said that there will be no deal between Iran and the major powers unless there is immediate total sanctions relief.

Iran and the major powers earlier this month announced the outline of a deal that would swap sanctions relief for strictures aimed at keeping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

President Barack Obama on Friday said that the sides would have to come up with “creative” formulas that would make a deal acceptable to their publics.

Australian companies remove kashrut certification symbols over halal fears

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 08:08

(JTA) — A number of companies in Australia have removed kosher certification symbols from their packaging due to pushback over halal certification.

Rumors that money raised from halal certification helps fund terrorism are spurring the pushback, the general manager of the Kosher Australia certification, Yankel Wajsbort, told the Australian Jewish Times, and companies have called the Victorian-based kashrut certification authority and asked that the kosher symbols be removed.

The companies reportedly believe it is better to have no identifying religious certification at all.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre and the Australian Crime Commission both reject the halal-terrorist link rumors, saying there is no evidence to support them, according to the AJN.

“In the last three months we have probably received 10 requests from companies that say they support kosher and want to stay kosher, but how do they argue that it’s different to halal,” Wajsbort told the newspaper. “Of those 10, we have had four or five companies that have asked to remove our symbol.”

Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, prominent modern Orthodox scholar, dies

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 06:34

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, a leader of the national religious movement in Israel and a prominent modern Orthodox scholar, has died.

Lichtenstein, a head of the Har Etzion Yeshiva in the West Bank’s Gush Etzion bloc, died Monday morning. He was 81.

The rabbi, who received a doctorate in English literature from Harvard University, was awarded the Israel Prize for Jewish Literature in 2014 for his scholarly works.

Lichtenstein was the head of Yeshiva University in New York when he was asked to head the fledgling Har Etzion Yeshiva jointly with the late Rabbi Yehuda Amital. He made aliyah in 1971. Lichtenstein’s son, Mosheh, currently serves as one of the yeshiva’s heads.

Lichtenstein was ordained in 1959 in Boston by the prominent American modern Orthodox leader Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik and became his son-in-law a year later. He had fled his native France with his family in 1940, settling in the United States.

The former chief rabbi of Britain, Jonathan Sacks, called Lichtenstein “a man of giant intellect, equally at home in the literature of the sages and of the world, a master Talmudist, a profound exponent of Jewish thought, a deep and subtle thinker who loved English literature and whose spiritual horizons were vast.”

“No less impressive was his stature as a human being, caring and sensitive in all his relationships, one who honored his fellows even when he disagreed with them, a living role model of Jewish ethics at its best.”

Witnesses attacked as neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party trial opens

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 05:54

(JTA) — Witnesses in the trial of Golden Dawn party leaders reportedly were attacked outside the courthouse by supporters of the Greek neo-Nazi party.

The trial convened Monday in the high-security Korydallos prison outside Athens, where the party leaders are being held, but was adjourned until May 7 amid reports of the attacks, the Kathimerini newspaper reported.

Sixty-nine leaders and activists, including Golden Dawn head Nikolaos Michaloliakos and several lawmakers, are charged with running a violent criminal organization behind the murder of an anti-fascist musician and several attacks on immigrants.

Many of the party leaders have been held since October 2013, when they were arrested in the wake of the killing of Pavlos Fyssas, a rapper also known as Killah P. Prosecutors charge that he was killed on the orders of the party hierarchy.

Golden Dawn has maintained its political strength in recent years despite the crackdown on its leadership. It currently has 17 lawmakers in the national parliament.

The party, which frequently uses Nazi imagery, has been accused of being behind dozens of racist attacks on immigrants. Its leaders have denied the existence of Nazi death camps and gas chambers.

In first, Women of the Wall read from full-size Torah scroll at Kotel

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 05:40

Women from the Women of the Wall organization dance with the Torah scroll at the group’s monthly prayer services at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, April 20, 2015. It marked the first time since the group was founded 26 years ago that members read from a full-size Torah scroll at the Western Wall, in violation of regulations at the holy site. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Women of the Wall for the first time read from a full-size Torah scroll during the group’s monthly prayer service at the Western Wall, contravening regulations there.

The Torah scroll, one of 100 available for public use on the men’s side of the Wall, was passed across the barrier between the men’s and women’s sections by male supporters of the 26-year-old organization on Monday during services for the new month of Iyar.

Regulations at the site set by the office of the Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel, headed by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, have prevented women from using a Torah scroll in their section.

An April 2013 Supreme Court ruling acknowledged women’s right to pray at the Western Wall according to their beliefs, claiming it does not violate what has come to be known as “local custom.”

Haredi Orthodox men praying at the Wall physically attacked the men who helped the women with what the group described in a statement as their “carefully planned help” to obtain the scroll, and then broke through the mechitzah barrier and attempted to take the scroll away from the women.

Police reportedly removed the men, and the women completed what the organization said in a statement was “a full and deeply moving service.”

In October, the women smuggled a miniature Torah scroll into the women’s section, despite their bags being searched, and held a bat mitzvah using the 200-year-old Torah, which was brought  from Britain for the prayer service.

Women of the Wall gather at the Western Wall at the start of each Jewish month for the morning prayer service. The group’s members have clashed frequently with staff from Rabinovitch’s office and with police for holding services that violate the rules enforced by that office, including singing, wearing prayer shawls and other customs that are forbidden to women under the office’s interpretation of Orthodox Jewish law.

Elio Toaff, chief rabbi of Rome for 51 years, dies at 99

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 05:05

ROME (JTA) — Elio Toaff, the chief rabbi of Rome for 51 years, has died, two weeks before his 100th birthday.

Toaff, who died on Sunday, served as chief rabbi from 1951 to 2002 and is considered an important figure in the history of Italy and European Jewry.

He welcomed Pope John Paul II on his historic April 1986 visit to the Great Synagogue, the first known visit by a pope to a synagogue in some 2,000 years.

During World War II, already a rabbi, Toaff fought Nazi fascism with the Italian partisans and witnessed the crimes committed by the Nazis in the Sant’Anna di Stazzema massacre.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said of Toaff’s death, “We have lost a giant.”

Renzo Gattegna, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, said Toaff “was a leader and a point of reference. We will never forget him.”

Toaff will be buried Monday afternoon in the Jewish cemetery in his hometown of Leghorn.

European chief rabbis meet Pope Francis to discuss anti-Semitism

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 04:51

(JTA) — A delegation of chief rabbis from Europe met with Pope Francis at the Vatican to discuss rising anti-Semitism.

After meeting Monday with the delegation of 10 rabbis representing the Conference of European Rabbis, the pope was scheduled to meet privately with the chief rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, who is a prominent promoter of interfaith ties.

The meeting will be the first time that a Conference of European Rabbis delegation is received at the Vatican, Korsia’s office wrote in a statement that was sent Friday but authorized for publication only Monday for security reasons.

Noting the meeting came 50 years after the Nostra Aetate — the declaration on the relation of the Catholic Church with non-Christian religions – Conference of European Rabbis President Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt told JTA that the event is “vitally important and gives us a chance to further strengthen the relationship between the two communities.”

The rise in recent years in anti-Semitic violence and hate speech will feature prominently in the talk, added Goldschmidt, the chief rabbi of Moscow.

Interfaith work, Goldschmidt said, “is particularly relevant in the wake of recent attacks on the Jewish communities of Europe and the Catholic communities in Africa and the Middle East.”

Korsia, whose community has been among the most affected by violent anti-Semitism, last year compared the persecution of Christians in the Middle East to the Holocaust-era persecution of Jews.

“The situation of religious minorities all over the world and especially in the Middle East resonates, unfortunately, with our commemoration today,” Korsia said in September during a commemoration ceremony in Paris for Holocaust victims. “As our parents wore the yellow star, Christians are made to wear the scarlet letter.”

N.Y. students’ anti-Semitic T-shirts spur unity gathering

Sun, 04/19/2015 - 15:32

(JTA) — Responding to anti-Semitic T-shirts worn to a party by its high school students, a suburban New York town will hold what is being called “A Night of Unity.”

Teens and their parents in Commack, on Long Island, were set to participate in the meeting on Sunday night planned by local Jewish leaders.

Photos taken last weekend and posted on the Internet showed two Commack teens at a drinking party wearing red T-shirts bearing hand-drawn swastikas over the word “Auschwitz” written in big letters. “Hit the showers” is written in smaller letters at the bottom of the shirts.

The unity event at the Chai Center in Dix Hills will include a presentation from local police on Internet safety, a video presentation on the Holocaust and a talk by a local Holocaust survivor.

The Commack School District on April 15 said it would investigate the T-shirt incident, but noted that since the activity did not take place on school grounds and was not school sponsored, it was limited in the actions it could take.

“Please know that the Commack School District is taking this incident very seriously, and we do not condone or permit any form of discrimination, bullying, or hateful messaging,” the school district said in a statement that was updated Friday. “Further, meaningful consequences were imposed on the students involved, as allowed by law.”

Hundreds march in Prague against anti-Semitism

Sun, 04/19/2015 - 12:57

PRAGUE (JTA) — Hundreds of demonstrators, many waving Israeli flags, marched in Prague to protest the rising levels of anti-Semitism in Europe.

The 12th annual event, titled “A March of Good Will,” was held Sunday in the center of the Czech capital.  The demonstration was organized by the Czech branch of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, a Christian Zionist group.

The participants, many of whom also waved Israeli banners with slogans denouncing anti-Semitism, included several Holocaust survivors and some hundred young Germans who came to Prague for the occasion.

The march moved from the city’s Old Town across the Vltava River to the gardens of the Czech Senate, where the minister of culture, Daniel Herman, along with the Israel’s ambassador to the Czech Republic and other officials addressed the crowd.

Two Israeli jazz bands were to perform at a Prague theater to conclude the event.

Europe in recent years has seen a steep surge in anti-Semitism, with a number of violent attacks and incidents targeting Jewish institutions and people having occurred in France, Belgium and other countries.

The Czech Republic, however, has one of the lowest levels of anti-Semitism in Europe, with 13 percent of its population harboring anti-Semitic attitudes, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s Global 100 Index.

Abbas: Arab-Israeli lawmakers to meet with Arab League in Cairo, Doha

Sun, 04/19/2015 - 12:46

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Arab-Israeli lawmakers will meet in two Arab capitals with the Arab League, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said.

Abbas made the statement on Saturday in Ramallah during his second meeting in less than a month with Ayman Odeh, the head of Israel’s Joint Arab List political coalition. The lawmakers would go to Cairo and Doha, Qatar, the P.A. leader said, but did not say when the visits would be arranged.

Also present at the meeting was the head of the southern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Abdullah Nimer Darwish.

Odeh is scheduled to meet in the next week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

While Netanyahu reportedly plans to use the meeting to patch up relations with the Arab-Israeli community, Odeh told the Times of Israel he would use the meeting to push the Arab community’s agenda.

In a video posted on his Facebook page on Election Day, Netanyahu urged his right-wing supporters to vote to counteract the Arab-Israelis who he claimed were voting “in droves” with assistance from foreign groups. The statement was widely criticized.

Netanyahu later apologized to representatives of the Arab-Israeli community during a meeting in Jerusalem. Joint Arab List lawmakers were not invited to the meeting.

Odeh and members of the Joint Arab List also met with Abbas a week after Israel’s March 17 national elections.

Poland wants apology for FBI chief saying Poles were complicit in Nazi atrocities

Sun, 04/19/2015 - 10:49

WARSAW (JTA) — Poland’s Foreign Ministry protested remarks by FBI director James Comey in which he said the Poles were the Nazis’ accomplices during the Holocaust.

“In their minds, the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn’t do something evil. They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do,” Comey said in his April 14 speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s 2015 National Tribute Dinner and published two days later by the Washington Post under the headline “Why I require FBI agents to visit the Holocaust Museum.”

A spokesman for the Polish Foreign Ministry, Marcin Wojciechowski, announced Sunday that the U.S. ambassador to Poland will be summoned to the ministry, where he will receive a “note of protest and call for an apology.”

“This statement is offensive to Poles, for the memory of the victims of the Nazi occupation of Poland and a profound ignorance of the history of this period,” said Poland’s ambassador to the United States, Ryszard Schnepf, adding that Comey was “accusing Poles of perpetuating crimes which not only they did not commit, but which they themselves were victims of.”

Poles mark anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto uprising

Sun, 04/19/2015 - 10:44

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) – Hundreds of people commemorated the 72nd anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

The main ceremony was held Sunday afternoon in Warsaw at the monument to the ghetto heroes in front of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Polish authorities and visiting Israeli youth joined Warsaw residents at the commemoration.

Many of those on hand wore paper daffodils pinned to their clothes, symbolizing the memory of the uprising.

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, secretary of state in the Prime Minister’s Office of Poland, participated in the uprising and spoke at the ceremony. Bartoszewski, 93, was an Auschwitz prisoner and a Resistance fighter who was recognized by the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel as Righteous Among the Nations for his help in saving Jewish lives.

“This is not the speech of the representative of the government, but a man who was and is witness to historical events,” he said. “It is the fulfillment of my life that after 72 years since those events, I talk about it also in the name of those absent.

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising broke out on April 19, 1943, and lasted for a month. It was the first military action of underground organizations against Germany and the first urban uprising in occupied Europe.

“The insurgents were fully aware that they were fighting only for a dignified death,” Piotr Kadlcik, a board member of the Warsaw Jewish Community, told JTA.

Before the main ceremony, the Jewish Military Union fighters were commemorated at the memorial plaque.

Netanyahu and Putin exchange warnings on potential arms sales

Sun, 04/19/2015 - 09:36

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel views with “upmost gravity” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to sell advanced surface-to-air missiles to Iran.

Netanyahu made his remarks Sunday at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting, a day after Putin warned Israel against selling arms to Ukraine, which Israel floated as a response to the Russian sale of S-300 missiles to Iran.

“Israel views with utmost gravity the supply of S-300 missiles from Russia to Iran,” Netanyahu said, “especially at a time when Iran is stepping up its aggression in the region and around the borders of the State of Israel.”

Iran reportedly has said Russia could deliver the missile systems to the Islamic Republic this year.

“Every year the missiles are bigger and enhanced – in accuracy, strength and deadliness. However, one thing does not change. What does not change is the inscription ‘Death to Israel’ on the missiles,” Netanyahu said. “Against the threats that I have described, Israel will do whatever is necessary to defend the security of the state and its citizens.”

He reportedly called Putin last week to protest the sale.

“Vladimir Putin explained the rationale for the decision in the current context and highlighted the fact that due to their tactical and technical characteristics, S-300s have a purely defensive significance and pose no threat to Israel,” the Kremlin said in a statement, according to Russian media reports.

Putin also reportedly said that Russia’s withholding of selling the weapons to Iran had been voluntary and not connected to international sanctions against Iran.

The Russian leader, speaking to state-run media, in his warning to Israel reportedly said, “It’s the Israeli leadership’s choice. It’s their right to do what they think is appropriate.” Putin called the proposed sale “counterproductive.”

“It will only lead to another round of conflicts, to a rise in the number of victims, and the outcome will be the same,” he reportedly said.

Netanyahu to meet Rivlin, seek extension for coalition building

Sun, 04/19/2015 - 08:08

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with President Reuven Rivlin to request an extension in forming a ruling government coalition.

The two leaders are scheduled to meet Monday at the president’s residence in Jerusalem, the President’s Office said in a statement issued Sunday afternoon.

Under Israeli law, the head of the party who garnered the most votes in national elections is given 28 days to form a coalition and can request an extension of 14 days. The 28 days ends on Tuesday.

As of Sunday afternoon, Netanyahu’s Likud party had not signed coalition agreements with any parties. Likud representatives are negotiating with the Yisrael Beiteinu, Jewish Home, Kulanu, Shas and United Torah Judaism parties.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog of the left-wing  Zionist Union coalition, which received the second highest vote total, continued to assert over the weekend that he would not join a unity government and would remain in the opposition working to force Netanyahu from power.

Palestinian Authority to receive withheld tax revenues without Israeli deductions

Sun, 04/19/2015 - 07:26

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel will transfer withheld tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority without deductions for Palestinian debts.

The transfer of about half a billion dollars in taxes collected between December and March was set to take place Monday following Friday’s agreement between Israel and the P.A., according to reports.

The P.A. has refused the transfer because Israel wanted to deducted some of the money to cover the Palestinians’ debts for utilities and hospital bills.

Under the agreement, Israel will transfer the full amount for December through February, and then a joint Palestinian-Israeli economic committee will discuss the remaining debt and how to repay it, Haaretz reported Sunday.

P.A. Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said that once the funds are received, the P.A. will pay the April salaries of its 180,000 employees, who have received 60 percent of their wages since December, the Palestinian news agency Maan reported.

Israel collects taxes for the Palestinians and transfers the funds to the Palestinian Authority, about $127 million a month.

Israel withheld the collected tax revenues beginning in January after Abbas signed requests in late December to join the International Criminal Court and other international conventions as a result of the failure of the United Nations Security Council to pass a Palestinian statehood proposal.

The Palestinians are believed to owe millions of dollars to Israel for utilities, as well as for visits to Israeli hospitals.

Police: Deadly Jerusalem car-ramming was deliberate

Sun, 04/19/2015 - 06:57

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Palestinian man who drove his car into two Israelis at a Jerusalem bus stop, killing one and critically injuring the other, did so deliberately, police determined.

“Today we can say that it is a horrible attack,” Israel Police Chief Yohanan Danino said in a statement issued Saturday about the April 16 incident  in the French Hill neighborhood, near the border of eastern and western Jerusalem.

Police had originally treated the incident as an accident, saying at the time that the driver “swerved from his lane and hit two civilians standing at the station,” Ynet reported.

Shalom Sharki, 25, of Jerusalem, died hours later of his injuries. A 20-year-old woman remains in critical condition.

The driver, Khaled Kotina, 37, of eastern Jerusalem, was questioned by police and the Shin Bet security service. He reportedly is married with no children and has no criminal record.

There have been several terror attacks in recent months in which cars were used to ram pedestrians in Jerusalem. In one such incident in October, two people were killed, including a 3-month-old girl.

Obama: Sanctions deal will have to allow Iran’s leaders to save face

Sun, 04/19/2015 - 05:27

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Barack Obama said a solution on sanctions must allow Iran’s leaders to present an “acceptable” version to their public.

Obama was asked at a news conference on Friday what his position was on phasing out sanctions as part of a nuclear deal with Iran. The agreement would exchange sanctions relief for restrictions aimed at keeping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

“How sanctions are lessened, how we snap back sanctions if there’s a violation, there are a lot of different mechanisms and ways to do that,” he said.

Obama then referred to the negotiators, including Secretary of State John Kerry and the P5+1, the acronym for the major powers in talks with Iran.

“Part of John’s job and part of the Iranian negotiators’ job, and part of the P5+1’s job is to sometimes find formulas that get to our main concerns while allowing the other side to make a presentation to their body politic that is more acceptable,” he said.

Obama also said he was likely to sign legislation that would mandate a congressional review of any Iran deal after the bill’s sponsors deleted language opposed by his administration. The measure was approved unanimously on April 14 by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Among the stipulations in earlier versions opposed by the White House were measures that sought to shape the deal, including demands that Iran end its backing for terrorism. The White House said such provisions were a poison pill and asked for a bill that would require congressional approval and nothing else. A final Iran deal is due by June 30.

Obama praised the leaders of the committee — Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., its chairman, and Ben Cardin, D-Md., its top Democrat — for their work, and suggested that if the bill did not undergo any major changes throughout the legislative process, he would not veto it.

“Both Senator Corker and Senator Cardin, at least in my understanding, agreed that there is not going to be a whole bunch of poison pills or additional provisions or amendments added to it, and that they will be protective of this being a straightforward, fair process for Congress to be able to evaluate any deal that we may come up with, and then register its views, but that it’s not going to be tilted in the direction of trying to kill the deal,” he said.