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Rocket fired in Syria lands in Israeli Golan

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 05:49

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A rocket fired in Syria as part of that country’s war struck Israel near the Golan Heights border.

No injuries or damage were reported from the rocket, which hit by the Quneitra crossing on Monday morning.

On Friday night a mortar shell struck Israel on the Golan, where a number of rockets and mortar shells have spilled over from the Syrian civil war in recent months and more in recent weeks.

Fighting in Syria near the Israel border was reported to be intense on Monday morning.

United Nations peacekeepers reportedly evacuated their equipment to Israel from Camp Faouar, the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force’s main headquarters, located in Syria near Quneitra, the only official border crossing between Israel and Syria. The equipment was evacuated through special gates opened by the Israeli military, the Times of Israel reported, citing Israel Radio.

Also Monday, a siren signaling incoming rockets sounded in communities on the Gaza border, but the Israel Defense Forces said it was a false alarm. No rockets have been fired from Gaza on Israel since a cease-fire went into effect on Aug. 26.

Dutch police release Israeli rabbi fleeing sex crimes accusations

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 15:33

(JTA) — Dutch police released Eliezer Berland, a rabbi who had been arrested because he is wanted for questioning in Israel in connection with alleged sex crimes.

Berland, founder of the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary in Israel and a member of the Breslov Hasidic sect, was released Friday. His passport, however, remained with the Dutch police until the justice system in the Netherlands processes Israel’s request to question him, the Dutch media reported Saturday.

He was taken into custody at Schiphol Airport en route to Uman in Ukraine from Johannesburg, South Africa. The State Attorney’s Office in Israel had issued an international warrant for his arrest through the Israel Police and Interpol, Israel Today reported.

In 2013, Berland fled from Israel to Morocco and from there to Zimbabwe and South Africa after being accused of sexual assault by two young women, both wives of his followers. In addition, he has been accused of molesting a female minor.

Berland and his followers deny any wrongdoing on his part.

Israel intends to ask the Netherlands to extradite Berland, an Israeli Justice Ministry official told Israel Today. The official was not named.

Far-right French party sees sharp rise in popularity among Jewish voters, surveys find

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 15:24

(JTA) — The number of Jews who voted for the far-right National Front party soared in the most recent presidential election from the previous two votes, surveys showed.

In the surveys of French Jews, some 13.5 percent of 1,095 respondents who self-identified as Jews said they voted for National Front President Marine Le Pen in the 2012 presidential elections.

Asked about the two previous presidential elections, from 2002 and 2007, respectively only 6.1 percent and 4.3 percent of Jewish voters polled said they chose the National Front candidate — Le Pen’s father and predecessor as party leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has a history of convictions for “inciting racial hatred” and Holocaust denial.

Marine Le Pen has worked to rehabilitate the party and recently entered a war of words in the media with her father over his suggestion to put a Jewish singer “in the oven.”

The surveys were conducted over 10 years and compiled by the IFOP polling company for publication earlier this month by the news website atlantico.fr, which commissioned the report.

The National Front is a vociferous critic of what it describes as the government’s inaction to stop France’s “Islamization.”

Overall, National Front candidates received 19.2 percent of the vote in the first round in 2002 and 10.6 percent and 19 percent in the first rounds in the following two elections.

In a statement released Friday, National Front General Secretary Nicolas Bay blamed the government’s immigration policy for a 91 percent increase in the number of anti-Semitic attacks documented in France during the first seven months of 2014 over the corresponding period last year.

Muslims are the main perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks on Jews, according to the Jewish watchdog BNVCA, or the National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism.

“It demonstrates what National Front has long denounced: the development of a radical Islam which endangers the safety of citizens,” the statement said. “It is a direct consequence of the massive immigration that the political class of UMPS led for 40 years in an utterly irresponsible manner.”

UMPS is a mashup of the French-language initials of the centrist UMP and the left-wing Socialist Party.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy of UMP received more than 45 percent of the votes of Jews polled in the first rounds of both the 2007 and the 2012 elections — far above his share of the votes in the general voter population.

The Socialist Party, which is believed to have been a favorite among Jews in the 1970s and 1990s, fell far behind Sarkozy in the poll of Jews, nabbing 19.7 percent, 28.8 percent and 22.5 percent of the Jewish vote in the first rounds of the presidential elections of 2002, 2007 and 2012, respectively.

Merkel at Berlin rally: Anti-Semitism is ‘outrageous scandal’

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 15:00

(JTA) — Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany told thousands at a rally in central Berlin that it was the German state’s duty to fight anti-Semitism.

“That people in Germany are threatened and abused because of their Jewish appearance or their support for Israel is an outrageous scandal that we won’t accept,” Merkel said Sunday at the rally to protest rising anti-Semitism in Germany.

The national rally, organized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, was held under the banner “Stand up! Say no to anti-Semitism.”

Some 240,000 people of Jewish background are living in Germany today, including about 105,000 members of official Jewish communities. In 1933, before the Nazis came to power, there were more than 500,000 Jews in Germany.

“Anyone who hits someone wearing a skullcap is hitting us all,” Merkel said. “Anyone who damages a Jewish gravestone is disgracing our culture. Anyone who attacks a synagogue is attacking the foundations of our free society.”

Merkel called Jewish life “part of our society” and the Jewish population of Germany “a gift.”

German President Joachim Gauck also attended the rally, as did government ministers and religious leaders, including Protestant, Catholic and Muslim.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said in Berlin ahead of the rally that European voters risk giving “their whole country a bad name” by electing extremist far-right candidates.

Death row inmate in Connecticut suing state for kosher food

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 14:54

(JTA) — A death row inmate is suing the Connecticut Department of Correction claiming he is an Orthodox Jew and is being denied kosher food.

Steven Hayes, 51, a convicted murderer and rapist, filed a handwritten lawsuit in federal court saying that he has been requesting kosher food since May 2013 and that he has lost weight due to its denial of kosher food, the Hartford Courant reported. Hayes is incarcerated at the Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Conn.

Hayes said the state is violating his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion by preventing him from eating kosher food. He also accused the state of violating his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.

In his lawsuit, Hayes said that the prison’s kitchen is not certified to provide strictly kosher food. The kitchen staff told him the food served at the prison is “kosher-like.”

“Kosher-like is not kosher,” he said in his lawsuit, according to the Courant.

Hayes has been consulting and speaking with a rabbi, and has been asking for more time with the rabbi, according to the New Haven Register.

He is requesting a trial by judge and has asked for an injunction ordering the Department of Correction to provide pre-packaged kosher meals to all Jewish prisoners in Connecticut’s prisons. Hayes also is seeking $15,000 in punitive and compensatory damages for “intentional infliction of pain, suffering and resulting weight loss from the deliberate denial of a kosher diet.”

IDF, fellow reservists rip refusal letter by intelligence corps members

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 12:52

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israel Defense Forces said it will take disciplinary action against dozens of Israeli intelligence corps reservists who signed a letter vowing to stop collecting information on Palestinians.

Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz, the head of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, in a statement issued Sunday called the letter from 43 reservists, including 10 officers, an “exploitation of military service in order to express a political position. We see the incident as severe and serious disciplinary action will be taken.

“There is no room in the IDF for refusal to serve,” Almoz said.

The letter from members of the 8200 signal intelligence unit was sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Army Radio reported Friday, as well to IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Aviv Kochavi, who heads the Military Intelligence Directorate.

“The intelligence gathered harms innocents and is used for political persecution and for invading most areas of Palestinians’ lives,” the 43 reservists wrote. “Our conscience no longer permits us to serve this system.”

In response to the letter, more than 200 former soldiers and officers from the 8200 unit published a letter saying they were “ashamed” of their fellow servicemen.

“We wish to express our dismay, disgust and complete disavowal of our friend’s unfortunate letter,” they wrote. “Refusal to serve on the basis of politics has no room in the IDF and certainly not in Unit 8200. When we as reserve soldiers are called to serve, we put our orientations and political opinions aside and serve our country.”

The response letter said that “when ethical dilemmas arose, we saw they were seriously and maturely addressed in accordance with international law and the IDF’s ethical code.”

CUNY graduate students, citing Jewish Sabbath, delay boycott Israel vote

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 12:31

(JTA) — A student group at the City University of New York postponed a vote on a boycott resolution of Israel because it would have taken place on the Jewish Sabbath.

About 100 people attended the meeting of the Doctoral Students’ Council on Friday evening and debated the “Resolution for the Endorsement of Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions.” Following the debate, the vote was postponed “out of respect for the Jewish Sabbath,” Haaretz reported.

Eric Alterman, a professor of English at Baruch College, which has a partnership with CUNY, told the council that passing the resolution on Shabbat is a “terrible idea” that “would look as it was done in the middle of the night, the way communists used to pass their resolutions in the ’30s,” Haaretz reported.

Representatives from Hillel, StandWithUs and the Israel Campus attended the meeting.

The text of the resolution reads: “The DSC hereby endorses the boycott of Israeli academic institutions and the divestment from Israeli companies, and calls for the end to the partnership between Baruch College and the College of Management Academic Studies.”

It cites, among other points raised, Israel’s alleged violations of international law and restrictions on Palestinian academics; universities’ shows of support for Israeli troops fighting Hamas in Gaza this summer; and a claim that “Israeli professors and students at Israeli universities who speak out against discriminatory or criminal policies against Palestinians are ostracized and ridiculed if not publicly shamed, or worse.”

The council advertised the measure earlier this month in advance of Friday’s meeting.

It voted strongly in favor of a similar resolution at the end of the spring term, but the proposal did not have the requisite majority.


In N.Y. Times ad, Hollywood elite slams Hamas for conflict with Israel

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 12:16

(JTA) — Some 300 Hollywood elite published an ad in The New York Times holding Hamas responsible for the “devastating loss of life” in the latest Hamas-Israel conflict.

Actors to directors to studio heads signed the statement by members of the Creative Community for Peace. Among the signers are Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Seth Rogen, Aaron Sorkin, Roseanne Barr, Sherry Lansing, Sarah Silverman and Kathy Ireland.

“Hamas cannot be allowed to rain rockets on Israeli cities, nor can it be allowed to hold its own people hostage,” the statement reads. “Hospitals are for healing, not for hiding weapons. Schools are for learning, not for launching missiles. Children are our hope, not our human shields.”

The statement laments the “devastating loss of life endured by Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza” and expresses ” hope for a solution that brings peace to the region.”

Amid the conflict, the statement had been published in August in Hollywood publications including Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. The statement with additional signatures reportedly will be printed in international publications.

The statement concludes: “We join together in support of the democratic values we all cherish and in the hope that the healing and transformative power of the arts can be used to build bridges of peace.”

Creative Community for Peace was formed to counter the singling-out of Israel as a target for cultural boycotts.


U.S., Israel differ on emphases in strategic dialogue

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 09:31

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel and the United States issued sharply different statements describing their strategic dialogue, with Israel saying Iran poses the longer-term threat in the Middle East.

The teams, led by the U.S. deputy secretary of state, William Burns, and Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, met for two days late last week and discussed the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS; the nuclear talks with Iran; and humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip.

Unusually, statements from the sides differed substantially. In the past, the sides have issued joint statements.

The U.S. statement issued Thursday did not mention Iran, although Wendy Sherman, the undersecretary of state in charge of Iran talks, was present. Instead, it focused on the aftermath of the recent Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza.

In contrast, the Israeli statement said that Steinitz called Iran a graver threat than ISIS.

Steinitz welcomed the decision by President Obama to build a coalition to destroy ISIS, the Israeli statement said, “but emphasized that the more important mission remained stopping the Iranian nuclear project.”

The United States is leading a team of major powers in talks with Iran aimed at instituting guarantees that Iran does not advance toward a nuclear weapon in exchange for sanctions relief. Israel fears that the talks, which have a Nov. 24 deadline, will allow Iran limited uranium enrichment capabilities.

Along with its focus on Israel’s operation this summer in Gaza, the U.S. statement reiterated U.S. complaints to Israel about a decision earlier this month to appropriate West Bank land for settlement expansion.

“The parties discussed the recent conflict in Gaza, and the importance of reaching a durable peace and an end to the cycle of conflict,” the State Department statement said.

“The two delegations also agreed on the urgent need for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance to support the people of Gaza, and underscored the importance of strengthening the Palestinian Authority. The United States reiterated its concern about continued settlement activity in the West Bank.”

Autopsy shows teen was killed by sponge bullet, Palestinian doctors say

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 09:15

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The autopsy on a Palestinian teenager whose death inflamed rioting in eastern Jerusalem showed that he was killed by a sponge bullet to the head, Palestinian doctors said.

The autopsy results on Muhammad Abd Al-Majid Sunuqrut were made public on Sunday by Palestinian doctors. Israeli doctors reportedly are waiting for further tests to determine what killed the 16-year-old.

Sunuqrut, who died in Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital on Sept. 7 nearly a week after being shot by Israeli Border Police at a demonstration in eastern Jerusalem, would be the first person to be killed by a sponge-tipped bullet, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

The sponge-tipped bullets have been used for several years, since rubber-coated bullets were banned from Jerusalem because they proved to be lethal.

Sunuqrut’s father, Abd, told the Palestinian Maan news agency that his son was shot in the head at close range with a sponge-tipped bullet at the rally in the Wadi Joz neighborhood. He claimed that his son was talking on the phone and not taking part in the demonstration.

Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Associated Press that the teen was hit in the leg with a sponge-tipped bullet while throwing stones during the demonstration. He then fell and injured his head, Israeli police claim.

Protests in eastern Jerusalem grew the day after Sunuqrut died; the area has been the scene of demonstrations and violence since the beginning of July.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been detained during the two months of unrest, which started when a Palestinian teen was kidnapped and burned to death by Jewish Israelis in a revenge killing for the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teens, and with the launch of Israel’s military operation Protective Edge.




Israeli army stops Palestinian’s infiltration attempt near kibbutz

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 08:46

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Palestinian man was caught trying to infiltrate Israel from Gaza.

An Israeli army patrol spotted the man from a post overlooking the border as he tried to enter Israel near Kibbutz Kissufim, which is near central Gaza, according to Israeli media reports. He was carrying a knife.

The man was detained and taken for questioning.

It was not known if he entered via an undiscovered tunnel from Gaza to Israel.

Netanyahu following Briton’s beheading: ISIS, Hamas ‘branches of same poisonous tree’

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 07:45

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called ISIS and Hamas “branches of the same poisonous tree” after ISIS released a video showing the beheading of a British aid worker.

ISIS, or the Islamic State, on Saturday released a video showing the apparent murder of David Haines, who was kidnapped in Syria in March 2013 while working for the French Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development, or ACTED. Haines, 44, of Perth, Scotland, is the father of two.

“What’s the great difference between ISIS and Hamas? The great difference, supposedly, between ISIS and Hamas is that those, the former, lop heads off and the others shoot people in the head,” Netanyahu said Sunday morning while also offering condolences to the people of Britain.

Haines was shown nearly two weeks ago being threatened at the end of a video showing the beheading of Jewish-American journalist Steven Sotloff, who had dual Israeli citizenship.

The video released on Saturday, titled “A Message to the Allies of America,” shows British Prime Minister David Cameron presenting a speech about working with the Iraqi government and allied Kurdish Peshmerga forces against ISIS.

“This British man has to pay the price for your promise, Cameron, to arm the Peshmerga against the Islamic State,” said a masked man dressed in black with a British accent, who appears to be the same man who killed Sotloff and American journalist James Foley.

At the end of the video, a captive identified as British citizen Alan Henning was shown and threatened with death if Cameron continued to support the fight against ISIS.

Haines’ family had appealed to the kidnappers earlier in the day to contact them in order to secure his release.

Cameron called the beheading “an act of pure evil” and vowed to bring the killers to justice.

As Europe celebrates Jewish culture day, Brussels museum reopens

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 07:20

(JTA) — Some 30 countries celebrated the 15th European Day of Jewish Culture, which was marked in Brussels with the reopening of the Jewish Museum of Belgium several months after a deadly shooting there.

This year’s events are focused on women in Judaism.

In Italy, performances, exhibits, lectures, concerts, guided tours and other activities were organized Sunday in more than 70 towns and cities, including large Jewish culture festivals in Rome and Milan.

“We believe that culture is the principal means to combat prejudice [and] help society grow and progress,” said Renzo Gattegna, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities. “We also want to demonstrate our solidarity with all the women who are victim of discrimination and harassment and to denounce the inacceptable conditions in which women in many parts of the world live still today.”

More than 25 Spanish cities presented programs. A Jewish network of 26 cities where authorities have undertaken conservation and restoration of Jewish heritage sites will focus its activities during the week of Sept. 14 on the role of women in Jewish culture.

In Barcelona, the city is organizing a scientific conference led by the writer and translator Moriah Ferrus on the subject — part of a five-day program on Judaism that started Saturday. Opting for a less intellectual approach, the city of Cuenta assembled a food fair to celebrate the gastronomical inventions of the Sephardic housewife.

Many of the cities are offering concerts of Ladino music, with a special emphasis on music written and performed by women.

In Brussels, a plaque commemorating the four victims of the museum shooting in May was unveiled on Sept. 9 at the museum entrance. The previous day, the City of Brussels increased the museum’s annual budget for security from $6,500 to $38,000.

Belgian and French prosecutors said the murder was perpetrated by Mehdi Nemmoche, a French Muslim who is believed to have fought with jihadists in Syria. He is standing trial in Belgium.

In Belarus, the Jewish educational nonprofit Limmud FSU and the Israeli Embassy in Minsk announced a plan to center the nonprofit’s next conference in the former Soviet country around the family history of former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, who was born in what is now Ukraine but whose parents both hailed from Pinsk in Belarus.

The day of Jewish culture was launched as an expansion and outgrowth of a Jewish heritage program in France. Each country’s programs are organized locally; the overall theme is  loosely coordinated by the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage.

European Friends of Israel mostly pleased by new European Commission

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 06:20

(JTA) — A major pro-Israel group working within the European Union said it was “largely happy” with the new makeup of the European Commission.

The European Friends of Israel, which has over 1,000 members from the European Parliament and parliaments of individual European countries, noted early in its statement of Sept. 10 that EU foreign policy chief “Catherine Ashton’s replacement was already agreed by EU leaders.” Jewish groups have accused Ashton of harboring bias against Israel.

Federica Mogherini of Italy will replace Ashton.

“Already active in the region, Mogherini visited Israel a week into Operation Protective Edge, holding meetings with both Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas and called for an immediate cease-fire,” EFI said in its statement. “She talked about the dangers of radicalization in the Arab world.”

Ashton faced intense criticism in Israel and by Jewish groups when she said at an event in Brussels about Palestinian refugees that the murder of three Jewish children by an Islamist in Toulouse made her think of children who died in Gaza as a result of Israeli attacks on Hamas.

The European Commission is the executive arm of the European Union, with new nominations occurring every five years.

EFI praised Cecilia Malmstrom and Corina Cretu, the commission’s ministers for trade and regional development, respectively, saying both have “been actively involved in fighting and tackling anti-Semitism, and engaging with Israel.”

Maros Sefcovic, in charge of transport and space, “is a former ambassador to Israel and knows the country, its people and politics,” and Dimitris Avramapoulos and Miguel Arias Canete — migration and home affairs and climate action and energy, respectively — “are both on the record as vocal supporters of Israel,” the group added.

Other new commissioners include Frans Timmermans of the Netherlands, who has faced criticism by pro-Israel groups for allegedly encouraging local initiatives to boycott Israel, though he has denied the claim. Timmerman, the new human rights chief, was rapped recently in the Netherlands for implying that religion was a marginal factor in the fight between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas.

The commission’s new president, Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, earned praise in July from the American Jewish Committee for fighting anti-Semitism. AJC’s executive director, David Harris, wrote to Juncker with hopes that the incoming president would address the fight as a “high priority early in your mandate.”


Budapest synagogue community boots ex-leader over government post

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 06:06

(JTA) — A longtime former leader of Hungarian Jewry was ousted as president of a small Jewish community in Budapest following his nomination as a government consultant on Jewish matters.

Nine of the 10 members of the board of the Jewish community of the Dohany Synagogue voted last week in favor of ejecting Gusztav Zoltai, the synagogue’s ex-president and former director of the Mazsihisz Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary. The 10th member abstained.

Zoltai, who resigned as Mazsihisz director earlier this year after decades on the job, stunned many Hungarian Jews last week by accepting the offer to work as senior consultant for Janos Lazar, a minister who runs the office of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The center-right head of state has come under intense criticism from Mazsihisz and other Jewish groups over Holocaust commemoration issues.

“I read the news with dismay and disbelief,” Mazsihisz President Andras Heisler told nol.hu in an interview, adding the nomination “ruined the record of a life’s work” for Zoltai.

Rabbi Zoltan Radnoti, who works for Mazsihisz, told JTA, “This outrageous move has cost Mr. Zoltai any shred of respect he used to have within the Jewish community.”

Reached by JTA, Zoltai declined to comment. But in an interview that Nol.hu published on Friday, he was quoted as acknowledging that some regard his nomination as a betrayal.

“I’m not a traitor,” Zoltai said. “Those who think I am working against Hungarian Jewry are crazy, these are insane thoughts.”

He also said that in the months following his resignation, “No one called on my experience for help” in talks with the government. Upon receiving Lazar’s offer, “I immediately said yes because I wanted to help the Jewish community,” Zoltai said.

Relations between Mazsihisz and the Orban government soured this year over the government’s erection of a controversial monument in Budapest for victims of Nazi occupation.

Mazsihisz, which complained that the monument served to whitewash the Hungarian state’s Holocaust-era complicity, pulled out of talks on the issue with the government over its refusal to consider an alternative.

Last week, the government and Mazsihisz had their first roundtable meeting since the falling-out, with Zoltai sitting squarely between government officials and Jewish community representatives.

Zoltai reportedly resigned as Mazsihisz director in April in protest of the government’s actions, though many believed he was pushed out by the reform-oriented Heisler over financial irregularities.

Rifle-toting man making threats arrested outside French Jewish school

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 05:50

(JTA) — Police in Marseille, France, arrested a man brandishing a hunting rifle in front of a Jewish school who threatened to commit murder.

The man, who was not named, approached the Gan Ami school on the afternoon of Sept. 10 and shouted “I will kill all of you,” an unnamed police source told the Le Figaro daily. The man, 48, was drunk and was arrested soon after making the threats, according to the report.

He lived next to the school and was annoyed that a truck parked outside the school was blocking traffic and prompting drivers to sound their horns, the police source said. Parents were arriving to pick up students at the time.

The incident comes amid a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic attacks in 2014 compared to last year. In response, police have beefed up security at Jewish institutions, especially schools.

The tightened security is part of a heightened state of alert that began in 2012, when an Islamist murdered three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

SPCJ, the security unit of France’s Jewish communities, said the increase in anti-Semitic incidents this year owed to a proliferation of attacks on Jews over Israel’s summer conflict with Hamas in Gaza.


Portugal state airline honors diplomat punished for saving Jews

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 05:39

(JTA) — Portugal’s national airline named its newest plane in honor of a diplomat who saved about 30,000 Jews from the Holocaust.

TAP Portugal last week announced the naming of the Airbus A319 after Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who in 1940 served as consul in Bordeaux, France, where he gave visas to refugees fleeing the Nazi advance.

“The naming of one of the planes of our fleet for Aristides de Sousa Mendes is an honor for the Portuguese national airline which, in this way, seeks to pay homage to this person and his exemplary actions,” TAP Executive Director Luiz da Gama Mor said on Sept. 9, according to the news website fugas.publico.pt. The plane “will carry his name to many European cities where we operate.”

After his actions in Bordeaux — a city located just 120 miles north of France’s border with Spain and the Iberian Peninsula, Mendes was suspended and ejected from the diplomatic service of Portugal, then a dictatorship under Antonio de Oliveira Salazar.

However, Mendes was posthumously vindicated and recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations — a title conferred on behalf of the State of Israel by the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

Mendes was the first diplomat to receive the title.

Belarussian Jews celebrate JDC ex-leader’s 100th birthday

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 05:33

VITEBSK, Belarus (JTA) –Russian-speaking Jews in Belarus celebrated  the 100th birthday of Ralph Goldman, former leader of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and a central figure in Israel’s establishment.

The birthday party for Goldman, who lives in Jerusalem, was held as part of the opening gala of the Belarus conference of Limmud FSU, a nonprofit responsible for annual Jewish learning conferences in 10 cities for Russian-speakers across the world.

Hundreds of Russian-speaking Jews attended the conference’s opening on Friday afternoon.

“It is a great honor for me, that my service, which has always been very gratifying but not always easy, is remembered in this way by Jews attending Limmud FSU, which is a big development in the region,” Goldman, JDC’s honorary executive vice president, told JTA Saturday from his Jerusalem home.

JDC, which was established the year Goldman was born, is among the donors to Limmud FSU, which was founded in 2006.

Born on Sept. 1, 1914, in the town of Lechovitz in what is now Ukraine, Goldman immigrated with his family to the United States at the age of 11. He studied history at Harvard University before moving temporarily to Israel, where in the late 1930s he participated in the establishment of Kibbutz Hanita in the Galilee.

Goldman, who after Israel’s establishment served as an envoy of the Jewish state to the United States, was a driving force in JDC’s activity behind the Iron Curtain after he joined that organization in 1969.

In 1992, Goldman’s son, David ben Rephael, died in the terrorist bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina.

Israel’s Conservative movement inducts first openly gay rabbi

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 05:12

(JTA) — One of Israel’s oldest Conservative congregations became the first Conservative synagogue in Israel to install an openly gay rabbi.

Rabbi Mikie Goldstein, who completed studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, was installed as spiritual leader of Congregation Adat Shalom-Emanuel in Rehovot. Goldstein, a native of Liverpool, England, moved to Israel in 1989 at the age of 24. He began his rabbinical studies at JTS in 2010.

“From my point of view, gender identity is not an issue,” Goldstein said. “What was important for our congregation was a rabbi who could teach and do outreach, and I believe that’s why they chose me. Being gay wasn’t an issue.”

The 160-family Congregation where Goldstein will serve is located in Rehovot, where he and his partner of 20 years, Isi Yanouka — Israel’s ambassador to the Ivory Coast — live.

Yizhar Hess, executive director of the Conservative Movement in Israel, told the Israeli daily Haartez: “Mikie and the rabbinate were meant for each other, and he will be a remarkable pulpit rabbi.”


Hillel’s Fingerhut calls for Ohio U apology for arrests

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 17:06

(JTA) — The President of Hillel International called on Ohio University to apologize to four pro-Israel students who were arrested during a protest.

“I cannot understand how the university administration could have possibly allowed the university police to arrest these students,” Eric Fingerhut said in his letter Friday to Roderick David, the university’s president. “These students are owed an apology from the university.

Pro-Israel students had staged a filibuster during Wednesday night’s meeting of the Ohio University Student Senate.

The students called for the resignation of Student Senate President Megan Marzec over a recently recorded video in which Marzec poured a bucket of “blood” (red-colored water) over her head to support the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

When the protesters would not stop speaking, Marzec asked the Senate to vote on whether the protesters should be arrested, and when that was approved, police removed them.

They were charged with a fourth degree misdemeanor, disturbing a lawful meeting.

Fingerhut, a former U.S. congressman from Ohio, noted his longstanding relationship with the university in his letter.

“I urge you to personally take charge of the university’s response to the arrest of the students, and to see that this wrong is made right,” Fingerhut wrote.