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Senate Dems ask Netanyahu for private meeting to clear bad feelings

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 09:06

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two top Senate Democrats urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet privately with the party caucus to alleviate bad blood arising out of his upcoming speech to Congress.

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the second-ranked Democrat in the chamber, and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the senior Jewish member of the body and the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, invited Netanyahu to a closed-door meeting in a letter sent Monday.

The letter noted that the invitation to speak from U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the speaker of the House of Representatives, was sent without consulting Democratic leaders in Congress or the White House. Boehner also asked the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, to keep the invitation secret.

“This unprecedented move threatens to undermine the important bipartisan approach to Israel,” the letter said. “As such, to maintain Israel’s dialogue with both political parties in Congress, we invite you to a closed-door meeting with Democratic Senators during your upcoming visit to Washington.”

The Obama administration is snubbing Netanyahu during his visit and some 30 Democrats have said they won’t attend the March 3 speech. Netanyahu is speaking in large part to rebut Obama administration support for nuclear talks underway between Iran and the major powers.

The Durbin-Feinstein letter was posted on Twitter by a staffer for J Street, the Jewish Middle East peace lobbying group. Reuters quoted a Durbin staffer as saying the meeting with the Democrats would not supplant the speech, now seen as inevitable, but would be in addition to it.

Also kept in the dark about the speech was Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Yossi Cohen,  according to i24, an Israeli news website.

Competing pressures to boycott or attend the speech have continued over recent days. An array of groups sharply critical of Israel’s policies, including Jewish Voice for Peace, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Code Pink, organized a letter drive to 75 members of Congress who have said they may not attend, urging them to boycott. The drive garnered 110,000 letters in addition to 20,000 signatures on a petition against attending the speech.

The Israeli-American Council, a relatively new umbrella group, issued a statement urging members to attend. Former Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the first Jewish candidate on a major ticket as the 2000 vice presidential candidate for Democrats, also urged attendance in an Op-Ed for the Washington Post.

While in Washington, Netanyahu will also address the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Israel’s opposition leader, Zionist Union chief Isaac Herzog, has said he will not attend in person in order to focus on the March 17 elections, but he will deliver a message live via videolink, The Jerusalem Post reported.



Palestinian, 19, killed in refugee camp clashes with IDF

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 08:45

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Palestinian teenager was shot and killed during clashes with Israeli troops at a refugee camp near Bethlehem.

Jihad Shehada al-Jaafari, 19, was shot early Wednesday morning when Israeli soldiers opened fire in the Deheishe camp after Palestinian rioters had thrown rocks and firebombs at the soldiers, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported. One Israeli soldier was injured.

“After trying in vain to disperse the crowd of attackers, our forces felt in danger and opened fire at a leader of the rioters, who was hit,” an Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman told reporters.

Jaafari, who was struck in the shoulder while watching the disturbances from his roof, according to Maan, died of internal bleeding. Israeli troops prevented rescue services from reaching him for some time, according to Palestinian sources.

Study: More than half of U.S. Jewish college students encountered anti-Semitism

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 06:40

(JTA) — More than half of today’s American Jewish college students have witnessed or experienced an anti-Semitic incident, according to a new study.

Some 54 percent of the participants in the survey released Monday by the Louis D. Brandeis Center and Trinity College said they had experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism within the past academic year. The survey was conducted in the spring of 2014, prior to the outbreak of hostilities last summer in Gaza.

The online survey of 1,157 students, conducted by Trinity College professor Barry Kosmin and associate professor Ariela Keysar, found that the percentages of students reporting encounters with anti-Semitism were relatively consistent across gender, religious outlook and geographical region.

Students who affiliate with the Conservative and Reform movements were more likely to report such experiences than Orthodox students, with 69 percent of Conservative students, 62 percent of Reform students and 52 percent of Orthodox students responding that they had reported anti-Semitic encounters. Those who said they were always open about their Jewishness on campus were about as likely to have encountered anti-Semitism as those who said they were never open about their Jewishness, at 58 percent and 59 percent, respectively.

The data in the report came from the 2014 National Demographic Survey of American Jewish College Students as part of a broader series of questions. The students who took the surveys were volunteers, and the study’s authors found that the students roughly matched the broader demographic outlines of other surveys of Jewish college students. What constituted an anti-Semitic incident was self-defined by the participants.

The findings were broadly consistent with a 2011 survey of college students in the United Kingdom, which found that 51 percent of students reported experiencing or witnessing an anti-Semitic incident.

Germany sued for return of medieval collection sold to Nazis

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 05:45

From left, Zacharias Max Hackenbroch, Julius Falk Goldschmidt and Saemy Rosenberg, three of the Jewish collectors who purchased the Welfenschatz, or Guelph Treasure, in 1929. (Courtesy of Gerald Stiebel)

BERLIN (JTA) — The heirs of four Jewish art collectors filed suit against Germany to regain a medieval gold treasure they claim was forcibly sold to the Nazis in 1935.

Alan Phillip and Gerald Stiebel filed their claim on Monday against Germany and the
Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. They are demanding the return of a collection known as the Welfenschatz, or Guelph Treasure, whose value
they estimate at approximately $227 million.

The treasure, which a consortium of collectors bought in 1929 as an investment, originally included 82 pieces. The plaintiffs are seeking the return of the portion sold to Hermann Goering, Hitler’s deputy, in 1935.

In a statement issued Tuesday in Berlin, Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation President Hermann Parzinger said he was “astonished by this step” after his foundation had done extensive research that he believed showed “the property at issue was not confiscated by the Nazis. Nor was it part of a forced sale or transfer under duress or coercion by the Nazis.”

Furthermore, he said that the plaintiffs’ attorneys had said they would abide by the advice of the Limbach Commission, a German advisory board for Holocaust-related claims, which one year ago rejected a claim by Phillip and Stiebel that the 1935 sale had been forced.

“We are confident that any court ruling on the merits would reach the same conclusion that we and the Advisory Commission have reached,” Parzinger said.

On Saturday, Parzinger announced that the state of Berlin had formally entered the Welfenschatz into the national registry of valuable cultural assets, which prevents it from leaving the country without permission from the minister of state for culture.

The Linbach Commission recommended that the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation retain the treasure, which is on display at Berlin’s Bode Museum.

“Germany feels itself to be and is regarded as a moral compass in the field of looted art,” Markus Stoetzel, another attorney for the plaintiffs, said Monday. “But it is not.”

In their suit, the plaintiffs called the 1935 sale a “sham transaction” carried out by the Dresdner Bank acting for Goering and Hitler. They claim the price paid for the collection, 4.25 million Reichsmarks, was at best 35 percent of its value at the time, and perhaps as low as 15 percent.

“The transaction relied on the atmosphere of early Nazi terror, in which German Jews could never be arms’-length commercial actors,” the suit claims.

Copenhagen police forbid ‘peace ring’ at attacked synagogue

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 17:17

(JTA) — Copenhagen police denied a request by Danish Muslims to create a peace ring around a city synagogue that came under a deadly attack.

Police cited security concerns for rejecting the request by organizers, according to Danish media reports.

“We have chosen to say no because of a specific security assessment of the situation we have here right now,” Copenhagen police spokesman Mads Jensen told a Danish television station.

The Copenhagen organizers were hoping to duplicate a similar initiative that took place on Saturday night in Oslo, where reports said that more than 1,000 people, including many Muslims, formed a human chain around a synagogue in a show of support for Jews.

Niddal El-Jabri told the public broadcaster Denmark Radio that he would continue to discuss with police the possibility of holding a peace vigil at a later time.

“It is a really good initiative,” Dan Rosenberg Asmussen, the head of the Danish Jewish community, told DR, according to The Local.dk. “I think it is touching and beautiful.”

On Feb. 14, outside the central Copenhagen synagogue, a volunteer security guard, Dan Uzan, was shot and killed by a lone Islamist gunman who hours earlier had killed one in a shooting at a free speech event at a cultural center in the Danish capital.






Monument at synagogue in northern France vandalized

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 16:07

(JTA) — A Holocaust-era monument at a synagogue in northern France was destroyed in a vandalism incident.

The vandalism at the synagogue in Elbeuf was discovered last week, the news website normandie-actu.fr reported.

Red paint was thrown on yellow stars that pro-Nazi French collaborators drew on the synagogue in 1942. The stars had been preserved as a somber reminder of that period in French history. The synagogue is not used by a Jewish community.

Police were looking for the perpetrators, the report said.

Elbeuf Mayor Djoude Merabet said the act was anti-Semitic.

“A little over 70 years after what happened here, this act is clearly the disgusting fruit of the anti-Semitism that is manifested [also] in the profanation of Jewish cemeteries,” he  said.

French watchdog groups on anti-Semitism and the CRIF umbrella group of Jewish communities have said that most anti-Semitic attacks in France are being perpetrated by a minority of radicals from within the country’s Muslim community.

CRIF President Roger Cukierman reiterated this assertion on Monday during a radio interview, drawing condemnation from the French Council of the Muslim Faith. A spokesman from the group told the French media that his organization would pull out of the CRIF annual dinner in reaction to Cukierman’s statement, which the spokesman called “”irresponsible and unacceptable.”

Cukierman said he was disappointed at the Muslim’s group decision to boycott the annual dinner, which French President Francois Hollande said he would attend along with other dignitaries.

Separately, swastikas were discovered twice last week on the walls of a sports center named for a Jewish family in the city of Issoudun, in central France. Police have no suspects in custody, the news website francebleu.fr reported.

Al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists urge attacks on ‘American or Jewish’ malls

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 15:58

(JTA) — A threat on “American or Jewish” shopping centers by the terrorist group responsible for the deadly 2013 attack on a Kenya mall has the U.S. security apparatus calling on the public to be vigilant.

Al-Shabab, a Somali group affiliated with al-Qaida, posted a video over the weekend about the Nairobi attack, which killed 67. The video concluded with a masked fighter encouraging followers to attack shopping centers around the world.

“If just a handful of mujahedeen fighters could bring Kenya to a complete standstill for nearly a week, just imagine what the dedicated mujahedeen could do in the West to American or Jewish shopping centers across the world,” the masked person said.

He specifically named the Mall of America in Minnesota, the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, Oxford Street in London and two malls in France.

According to the Christian Post and Wikipedia, the Ghermezian family, which owns both the Mall of America and the West Edmonton mall, along with numerous other shopping malls around the world, is of Iranian-Jewish descent.

Security was increased at the Mall of America, UPI reported, and the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security were working with malls to prevent attacks.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said the global war on terror has entered a “new phase” and urged the public to be “vigilant.”

“Groups like ISIL [Islamic State], al-Shabab, AQAP (al-Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula) are now publicly calling for attacks either through the Internet, through videos, through publications,” Johnson said on ABC News. “Which means that we need to respond militarily, but we also have to have a whole government approach through law enforcement, homeland security and frankly countering violent extremism efforts here in the homeland in communities.”

Forward editor Jane Eisner wins Twersky Award

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 14:51

(JTA) — Forward editor-in-chief Jane Eisner has been awarded the 2015 David Twersky Journalism Award.

The prize was awarded to Eisner for her June editorial calling for an easing of the Jewish conversion process, according to a news release. Eisner will receive a medal and a $1,000 honorarium at an award ceremony in the spring.

The editorial, titled “Why Is it so Hard to Convert to Judaism?,” called for an easier and quicker conversion process to Judaism, particularly through the Conservative movement.

The award, in its third year, is named for the former editor of the New Jersey Jewish News who died of cancer in 2010 at age 60. The award recognizes the work of journalists at the Forward and New Jersey Jewish News, the two publications where Twersky worked for nearly two decades.

Amir Cohen, a colleague of Twersky during his tenure with both publications, founded the award in Twersky’s memory.

“The goal is to always find that one piece that David would have considered most remarkable,” said Cohen, the head of the judges’ committee. Three of Twersky’s children also served as judges.

Iran reports finding, returning stolen Shiraz Torah

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 14:47

(JTA) — A stolen Torah scroll uncovered by an Iranian volunteer militia was returned to the Shiraz Jewish community, the Fars News Agency reported.

Members of the Basij located the ancient scroll taken from a Shiraz synagogue. The scroll was returned to the community at a ceremony on Feb. 11, the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution’s victory, according to Fars, which has ties to the government.

Fars reported that Siamak Mareh Sedq, the representative of the Iranian Jewish community at the parliament, said in a letter that the move demonstrated the respect that the Islamic establishment has for all faiths.

London soccer fans chant anti-Semitic slurs on subway

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 14:36

(JTA) — The British Transport Police is investigating an incident in which soccer fans allegedly chanted anti-Semitic slurs while riding a London subway train.

Video filmed by another passenger and circulated on social media shows several men, believed to be supporters of the West Ham United club, chanting “I’ve got foreskin, how about you? F******Jew” while passing through the Stamford Hill neighborhood, Fox Sports reported. Stamford Hill has a large population of Hasidic Jews.

The men reportedly were en route to a soccer game on Sunday between West Ham and Tottenham Hotspur, a club with many Jewish and pro-Jewish fans.

In a letter emailed to Sunday’s ticket holders, the West Ham team wrote that it will “continue to adopt a zero tolerance policy towards any form of discriminatory behaviour and any fan found to be acting inappropriately — including racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic behaviour — will be punished to the full extent of the law and banned from attending matches.”

Israel briefly cuts Nablus, Jenin electricity

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 14:32

(JTA) — Israel’s state-owned electric company temporarily cut electrical power to two Palestinian cities to protest the Palestinian government’s failure to pay.

The Israel Electric Corp., saying it was owed approximately $500 million, reduced power in Nablus and Jenin for 45 minutes on Monday, Reuters reported.

Nablus Mayor Ghassan Al-Shaka called the power cut “collective punishment,” according to Reuters.

Palestinian officials in Nablus told the French news agency AFP that thousands of homes were affected and denied that the government owed more than $12.5 million.

Palestinian groups must pay U.S. terrorism victims over $218 million

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 14:28

Israeli rescue workers tend to victims’ bodies from the scene of a Palestinian suicide bombing on a passenger bus in Jerusalem June 18, 2002. (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

NEW YORK (JTA) — A New York jury ordered the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority to pay more than $218 million in damages to American victims of six terrorist attacks in Israel.

The verdict Monday in a Manhattan federal court was in favor of 10 American families suing over attacks in the Jerusalem area from 2002 to 2004.

The attacks have been attributed to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Hamas. The $218 million award could be tripled under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act.

“Now the PLO and the P.A. know there is a price for supporting terrorism,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, in an interview with Reuters after the verdict.

The verdict followed a six-week civil trial that included testimony from survivors of suicide bombings in Jerusalem. The PLO and the Palestinian Authority are expected to appeal.

While the plaintiffs argued that PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat had arranged for attackers and their survivors to be compensated, lawyers for the PLO and Palestinian Authority said the groups had condemned terror attacks and that any payments made to terrorists were done by low-level employees acting independently.

“Money is oxygen for terrorism,” Kent Yalowitz, a lawyer for the families, said in a closing argument, according to the New York Times. Yalowitz added that the U.S. antiterrorism law “hits those who send terrorists where it hurts them most: in the wallet.”

The U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act was also used last September by a Brooklyn jury that found the Arab Bank liable for supporting Hamas terrorism. Damages in that case will be decided in a second trial.

Poll: Seven in 10 Americans view Israel favorably

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 14:19

(JTA) — Seven in 10 Americans continued to view Israel favorably, despite the breakdown of relations between the U.S. and Israeli leaders, a Gallup poll found.

By contrast, some 17 percent of Americans viewed the Palestinian Authority favorably, according to Gallup’s Feb. 8-11 World Affairs survey. The results were nearly identical to the same question asked one year ago.

However, while 83 percent of Republicans viewed Israel favorably, 48 percent of Democrats shared the same view — a drop of 10 percentage points from last year. The decrease was a possible fallout from the controversy over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial March 3 address to Congress.

The poll also found that 62 percent of Americans say they sympathize more with the Israelis than the Palestinians in their conflict, and that 16 percent sympathize more with the Palestinians, also nearly identical results from one year ago.

The results follow the high-profile disagreements between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, as well as Israel’s 50-day operation last summer against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The poll was based on a random telephone and cellphone sample of 837 adults living in the United States; it has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Since 2005, Israel’s public image in the United States has averaged 68 percent of Americans viewing it favorably, according to Gallup. Between 2000 and 2004, the score averaged 60 percent.  In 1991, when Israel was a victim of Iraqi rocket attacks, its favorable rating was a record 79 percent, according to Gallup.

Gallup has measured American’s impressions of the Palestinian Authority since 2000, with the percentage viewing it favorably averaging 17 percent.


Returned Nazi-looted art donated to Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 13:04

“Portrait of Emma Hart,” by the English artist George Romney, was among the prized works donated to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston by a member of the famed Rothschild family. (Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts)

BOSTON (JTA) – Millions of dollars worth of prized art and objects once stolen by the Nazis and later forcibly relinquished to the Austrian government was donated to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

The donation of 186 objects from the original collection of Alphonse and Clarice de Rothschild of Vienna of the famed Jewish banking dynasty was made by Bettina Burr, a granddaughter of the baron and baroness. Many of the works were seized in 1938 following the Anschluss, or annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany, according to the museum.

As heiress to the collection, Burr’s mother, Bettina Looram, spent decades pursuing the art from the Austrian Ministry of Culture, which in 1999 reversed its earlier decisions, returning the 250 pieces of art to the family. Many of the works were sold at auction, but some objects of personal significance were kept back, many of which have now been given to the museum.

The gift includes European decorative arts, furniture, prints, drawings, paintings, personal objects and jewelry, including an emerald and diamond Art Deco brooch that Alphonse Rothschild gave to his wife as a 25th wedding anniversary gift. Among the paintings is “Portrait of Emma Hart,” later Lady Hamilton, by the English artist George Romney.

“Through my mother’s tenacity and courage, 60 years after the 1938 Anschluss, these works were returned to my family,” Burr, a museum trustee, said in a statement. “Now, as my mother would have wished, I am delighted that this collection will stay at the MFA for as long as I can envision.”

Malcolm Rogers, the museum’s director, called the gift a transformation of the museum’s collection.

“This gift allows us to tell, in a very moving way, one of the saddest stories of the Second World War, and the story of Bettina’s mother and her long pilgrimage to set history right,” he said.

An exhibit of some of the collection goes on view from March 1 to June 21, and will include material that addresses how curators traced the provenance of the art.

Santorum, Jindal to join conservative Christian tour of Israel

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 11:22

(JTA) — Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, both likely Republican presidential candidates, will join a conservative Christian tour to Israel this fall.

The tour to Israel sponsored by the Family Research Council, a conservative policy and lobbying organization based in Washington, is scheduled for Oct. 27-Nov. 6.

“This will be a unique, one-of-a kind tour where you will not only explore the land of the Bible and the roots of our Christian faith, but you will hear directly from some of Israel’s political and religious leaders,” the council’s president, Tony Perkins, said in an announcement of the trip issued on Friday.

The trip already has come under fire from People for the American Way, an advocacy group that monitors what it characterizes as “right-wing” activities. The group wrote on its website that “Jindal and Santorum’s decision to travel to Israel with FRC may raise eyebrows, given the group’s history of making dismissive comments about American Jews and expressing hope that Jews in Israel will convert to Christianity.”

Perkins “once attacked the ‘Jewish lobby’ for its ties to Democratic elected officials, lamenting that Democrats ‘enjoy the money coming from the Jewish community,'” People for the American Way said.

Earlier this month, Republican National Committee members visited Israel in a trip that launched controversy for being sponsored by the conservative groups American Renewal Project and the American Family Association. The Anti-Defamation League said the American Family Association promoted anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT and anti-Mormon hate, while the Southern Poverty Legal Center called the AFA a “hate group.”

Ayelet Tsabari wins 2015 Sami Rohr Prize

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 08:40

(JTA) — Ayelet Tsabari, author of “The Best Place On Earth: Stories,” is the winner of the 2015 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature.

Tsabari takes home $100,000 for winning the prize, which was announced Monday.

Tsabari explores Israeli history through Jewish characters of Middle Eastern and North African descent.

“I grew up not seeing myself and my family in literature, so writing “The Best Place on Earth” was a way to create the characters that were missing from my childhood stories,” Tsabari said in a statement issued by the Rohr Prize. “By portraying characters of Mizrahi background I was hoping to complicate readers’ perceptions of Israel and Jewishness, and to expand and broaden their ideas of what a Jewish story and Jewish experience can be.”

The runner-up was Kenneth Bonert, author of “The Lion Seeker: A Novel. He receives a   prize of $25,000.

The Rohr Prize, which has been given annually since 2007, considers works of fiction and nonfiction in alternating years.

It was created by the late businessman and philanthropist Sami Rohr to recognize emerging writers who articulate the Jewish experience as determined by a specific work, as well as the author’s potential to make significant ongoing contributions to Jewish literature.

Matti Friedman, author of “The Aleppo Codex,” won the prize last year.

This year, for the first time, the winners and finalists will be celebrated at a public program, sponsored by the Jewish Book Council together with the Museum of Jewish Heritage, on May 6.

Shin Bet arrests Hamas cell in Hebron planning attacks on Israel

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 08:26

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Shin Bet Israel Security Agency arrested 11 members of a Hamas cell in Hebron that planned terrorist attacks on Israel including suicide bombings.

The arrests, in a joint operation with the Israel Defense Forces, took place last month, the Shin Bet announced on Monday.

The suspects during questioning admitted that they had planned attacks against Israeli civilians in both Jerusalem and Hebron, including carrying out suicide bomb attacks.  A terror attack on the Tel Rumeida settlement near Hebron was attempted in early December, which could have led to the death of many Israeli soldiers.

The suspects also turned over explosives and two weapons they planned to use in the attacks, according to the Shin Bet.

“The cell’s activities show the real threat of Hamas in Hebron, in particular from military operatives who had been detained in the past and who had returned to the cycle of terror,” the Shin Bet said in a statement released on Monday.

The Shin Bet has requested that the men be held until their trials in military court.

Shas Party spiritual head calls “Hatikvah” a “stupid song”

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 06:59

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The spiritual leader of the Sephardic Orthodox Shas party said at a party convention that “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem, “is a stupid song.”

Rabbi Shlomo Cohen, head of the Council of Torah Sages of the Shas Party, made the comments Sunday at a party convention, the Israeli news website Walla reported. Walla also put a recording of the statement on its website.

Cohen told the convention that in 1955, at the ceremony appointing Yitzhak Nissim as Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, those gathered stood up and began singing Hatikvah. Cohen said he did not stand for the anthem, but that his popular predecessor, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef did. Cohen said he asked Yosef why he stood and that Yosef replied that he said the Aleinu, a Jewish prayer recited while standing.

“A real man. Why did he say Aleinu? He didn’t want this stupid song to influence him,” Cohen said.

Cohen has served on the Council of Torah Sages since the founding of the Shas Party in 1984.

In response to the airing of the video clip, the Shas Party said: “No one will teach the wise man Shalom Cohen, who grew up all his days in Jerusalem, what Zionism is and what his relationship is to the Land of Israel. It is his right and duty to think that the sources of the Torah in Israel are 10 times more important than a poem composed only in the last decades.”

Shmira Imber, daughter of Naftali Herz Imber, the composer of “Hatikvah,” also responded to Cohen’s remarks in an interview with Walla.

“It is stupid to say that,” she said. “I am sorry that the spiritual leader of Shas does not walk in the way of Rav Ovadia, his teacher and rabbi.

Oscar nods go to Jewish talent, but Israel loses again

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 02:51

Filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski accepting the Best Foreign Language Film Award for ‘Ida’ during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Feb. 22, 2015. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Jewish artists and themes featured among the winners at the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood Sunday night, but an Israeli nominee once again failed to bring home the treasured trophy.

The Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film went to “Ida,” a Polish film about a Catholic novitiate who learns she is the daughter of Jewish parents killed by the Nazis.

But Israel’s losing streak at the Oscars continued, as the short film “Aya,” co-written and co-directed by Mihal Brezis and Oded Binnun and starring Sarah Adler, failed to win for Best Short Film.

The director of “Ida,” Pawel Pawlikowski, whose paternal grandmother was Jewish and died in Auschwitz, was asked during a backstage interview whether he considers the Holocaust and the fate of the Jewish people one aspect of post-World War II Poland. Pawlikowski, in his response, tried to shift the emphasis.

“Of course, Polish-Jewish relations are difficult,” he said. “And the two lead characters, Ida and [her aunt] Wanda, who are Jewish, but for me they are Polish. I don’t like people who attack the film from various sides and say ‘Oh, it’s about Jews and Poles and stuff.'”

“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which tied with “Birdman” for the most Oscars at four apiece, has an oblique Jewish connection, as it was, according to director Wes Anderson, inspired by the writings of the Austrian-Jewish novelist Stefan Zweig.

In the individual categories, Mexican-Jewish cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki accepted the Academy Award for “Birdman,” repeating his victory last year for “Gravity.”

Graham Moore won Best Adapted Screenplay for the script for “The Imitation Game,” and he used his acceptance speech to make a plea for gay rights. His mother, Susan Sher, served as President Obama’s liaison to the Jewish community and as chief of staff for First Lady Michelle Obama.

Patricia Arquette, whose mother is Jewish, won for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Boyhood.”

The evening’s “In Memoriam” segment, devoted to film industry notables who have passed away over the past year, included, among others, Israeli filmmaker Menachem Golan, director Mike Nichols, and legendary film actress Lauren Bacall. A number of writers and people on Twitter were outraged that longtime red carpet grandee Joan Rivers was not mentioned.

Holocaust film ‘Ida’ wins Oscar

Sun, 02/22/2015 - 22:32

Filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski accepting the Best Foreign Language Film Award for ‘Ida’ during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Feb. 22, 2015. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — “Ida,” a Polish film about a Catholic woman who discovers she is the Jewish child of Holocaust victims, won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Writer-director Pawel Pawlikowski collected the Oscar at the 87th annual Academy Awards Ceremony Sunday night in Los Angeles.

The  spare black-and-white drama, set in Poland in 1962, won international plaudits but also drew criticism in Poland for its portrayal of Polish complicity in the sins of the Holocaust.

The film was also personally significant for Pawlikowski, whose own paternal grandmother was killed at Auschwitz.