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Prisoner suing for kosher food notes weight loss in amended complaint

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 15:04

NEW YORK (JTA) — A death-row inmate in Connecticut suing the state because he has not been provided kosher food filed an amended complaint noting that he has lost 50 pounds as a result of eating inadequate food.

Steven Hayes, who was convicted in the 2007 murder of a woman and her two daughters, sued the state’s Department of Corrections in August for allegedly not serving him kosher food.

The amended complaint says he has not eaten any non-kosher food since Aug. 24 and is now down to 120 pounds, The Associated Press reported. In the lawsuit, Hayes describes himself as an Orthodox Jew and says he has been asking for kosher food since May 2013.

Hayes and Joshua Komisarievsky were sentenced to death for the murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters during a home invasion in which two of the victims were sexually assaulted and the house was set on fire. They also severely beat Hawke-Petit’s husband, Dr. William Petit, who survived.

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. He said the kitchen staff told him the food served at the prison is “kosher-like.”

“Kosher-like is not kosher,” Hayes said in his lawsuit, according to the Hartford 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 Corrections 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.”

Hadassah hospital’s board chair quits

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 14:50

TEL AVIV (JTA) — The interim board chairman of Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem resigned.

Avi Balashnikov stepped down over the weekend, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz, because Health Minister Yael German had failed to find a permanent replacement by an agreed-upon deadline. Moti Debi, a member of the board of directors, also resigned.

The resignations are the latest development in an ongoing budget crisis at the Hadassah Medical Organization that began early this year.

The hospital declared bankruptcy in February and, after weathering an employees’ strike, finalized a bailout deal with the Israeli government and the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America, which built and partially funds the hospital.

Since the crisis began, the hospital has been forced to search for a new director general, as well as a new chair of the board of directors. The hospital is still struggling financially and saw eight of its doctors quit in recent weeks, Haaretz reported.

Israel’s Health Ministry earlier this month ordered the hospital to stop organ transplants for a month due to the continued dispute between doctors and hospital management.

Israel, Jewish Agency draft preliminary goals for Diaspora Jewish youth project

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 13:52

(JTA) — The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government drafted an agreement outlining their respective roles in a new initiative promoting Jewish identity in the Diaspora.

In a nonbinding Memorandum of Understanding, the Jewish Agency and the government’s Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Ministry outlined preliminary goals and structure for the project that had been previously mired in a dispute between the two players, according to The Jerusalem Post. While the government approved the initiative itself in June, few specifics had been announced.

The initiative plans to focus on seven program areas, eJewishPhilanthropy reported, including teen trips to Israel; summer camps; Jewish/Israel engagement on college campuses; internships in Israel for students and young adults; and community service projects in Israel and the developing world. Specific goals include doubling the number of teens traveling to Israel and doubling enrollment in Jewish summer camps.

Funding for the initiative is to be split among the Israeli government, Diaspora Jewish organizations and Jewish philanthropists.

However, while the Israeli government has committed to funding a third of the project, the private funds have not yet been raised.


Swastikas painted on Babi Yar memorial, Jewish school

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 12:46

(JTA) – Swastikas were painted on the Holocaust memorial monument at Babi Yar in Kiev.

It is the second time that the monument has been vandalized in two months.

The graffiti was found Monday during a tour at the site for schoolchildren, The Jerusalem Post reported.

A swastika was painted on the monument, located at the site where Nazi troops murdered more than 33,000 in September 1941.

In a separate incident, anti-Semitic graffiti was spray-painted on the walls of a Jewish school in Kharkov, Ukraine.

The graffiti included messages such as “Kill the Jews” and “Heil Happy Holocaust,” along with crossed-out images of Stars of David and swastikas, according to Israel National News.

Local police have launched an investigation into the Nov. 13 incident.

“At such a sensitive time, it is difficult to know who is behind this act,” Kharkov’s chief rabbi, Moshe Moskowitz, told the news website.

Israel adding F-35 fighter jets to Lockheed Martin order

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 12:42

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel will add another 10 to 15 F-35 stealth fighter jets to its order of 19 from Lockheed Martin.

Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s intelligence minister, told Reuters on Monday that the Cabinet had approved the purchase. The number is below the additional 25 to 31 planes reportedly sought by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.

“We are not the Defense Ministry’s rubber stamp,” Steinitz told the news agency.

Israel, facing budget restraints, recently canceled an order of the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. Israel first ordered 19 F-35s for $2.75 billion in 2010.

While led by the U.S.-based Lockheed Martin, the F-35, or Joint Stealth Fighter, is a joint project of a number of nations.

“The JSF program is central to the United States unwavering support for enhancing Israel’s qualitative military edge,” a Pentagon spokesman told JTA.

Israeli companies are manufacturing the jet’s wings and helmets for its pilots.

Planes will begin delivery to clients between 2016 and 2018.

Israeli ID cards adjusted for same-sex parents

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 12:36

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s national identity cards for children of same-sex parents will list the parents with gender-appropriate titles.

The Interior Ministry announced Sunday that the cards will list parents under the appropriate gender. Until now, the cards only allowed for the listing of one mother and one father, meaning one parent was registered as the other gender.

The new cards, with two lines for mothers or two lines for fathers, are expected to be available next month, Ynet reported.

The decision comes after four children each with two mothers appealed to the Population Immigration and Border Authority to make the adjustment.

In 2006, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the Interior Ministry to recognize same-sex couples and allow the non-biological parent to adopt his or her partner’s child.

Palestinian bus driver found hanged in his vehicle in Jerusalem

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 10:23

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Riots broke out in eastern Jerusalem following the discovery of a Palestinian bus driver hanged in his bus at a Jerusalem bus terminal.

The body of Egged driver Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni, 32, was discovered late Sunday night. His family claims he was killed by “settlers.”

An autopsy Monday at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv found that the death was not criminally related, Israel Police said. The body was returned to the family.

However, a Palestinian pathologist said in a separate report that there were signs of violence on his body.

Closed circuit cameras on the bus could provide some insight into the circumstances of the hanging.

Al-Ramouni’s brother, Louy, told Reuters that he saw marks on his brother’s body that indicate he was killed.

Riots began Sunday night and continued into Monday in several eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods, including the Arab and Jewish neighborhood of Abu-Tor, where Ramouni lived with his wife and two young children. Several Palestinian bus drivers reportedly did not show up for work on Monday in apparent protest of the incident.

Charley Levine, top Anglo-Israeli PR professional, dies

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 09:00

(JTA) — Charley Levine, a top public relations professional in Israel and well known in Ango-Israeli circles, has died.

Levine, of Maale Adumim in the West Bank, died Sunday after a short illness. He was 62.

Levine, the founder and CEO of the Israeli public affairs and media relations consultant company Lone Star Communications, worked with dozens of international leaders, including Al Gore, Mike Huckabee, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Irwin Cotler, Rupert Murdoch, Ed Koch, Hillary Clinton, Michael Bloomberg, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He also served as a media adviser to national Israeli leaders including former president Shimon Peres, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Silvan Shalom, Uzi Landau, Isaac Herzog, Gidon Saar and Yudi Edelstein.

Until 2006 he was the CEO of Ruder Finn Israel. In 1983, he had established Charles Levine Communications, which he served as president and CEO.

Levine worked in public relations for Jewish organizations including the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, Hadassah and the World Zionist Organization.

A native of San Antonio, Texas, Levine made aliyah in 1978 and served as a captain in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

He was a graduate of New York University and received a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin.


Canadian prof extradited to Paris, charged in 1980 synagogue bombing

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 06:40

(JTA) — A Canadian university professor was charged in a deadly 1980 synagogue bombing in Paris hours after being extradited to the French capital.

Hassan Diab, 60, was charged in Paris on Saturday in the bombing of the Rue Copernic synagogue that killed four and injured more than 40.

Diab had fought his extradition from Canada for six years. Canada’s Supreme Court last week declined to hear his appeal without explanation.

French authorities allege that Diab was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and took part in the synagogue bombing. Diab, a dual Lebanese and Canadian citizen, has repeatedly denied the allegations.


Daughter of Polish interwar leader Jozef Pilsudski dies

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 06:13

WARSAW (JTA) – The last surviving daughter of Poland’s iconic interwar leader Marshal Jozef Pilsudski has died.

Jadwiga Pilsudska Jaraczewska, who met several months ago with Poland’s chief rabbi, died Sunday in Warsaw. She was 94.

Pilsudski was widely supported by Polish Jews as an opponent of extreme nationalism and anti-Semitism. He died in 1935. Jaraczewska was one of Pilsudski’s two daughters.

In June, at her and her family’s invitation, Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, met with Jaraczewska along with her children and grandchildren. Jaraczewska showed Schudrich a famous photograph of Jewish leaders in the town of Deblin greeting her father with bread and salt after the Polish army under his leadership captured the town from the Bolsheviks in August 1920.

Jaraczewska was a pilot in Britain’s Royal Air Force during World War II. With the collapse of communism in Poland in 1990 she returned to Warsaw.


Mervyn Smith, South African Jewish leader, dies

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 16:16

(JTA) — Mervyn Smith, president of the African Jewish Congress and a major anti-apartheid activist in the Jewish community, has died.

Smith died Saturday after a long illness. He was 77.

“If there was a Jewish organization, I belonged to it – with my heart and soul,” Smith said frequently, according to the African Jewish Congress.

Smith also was a vice president of the World Jewish Congress and an honorary life vice president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. He served as the board’s national chairman.

At the Board of Deputies’ national conference in 1985, Smith was the prime protagonist in the passing of the historic resolution condemning apartheid.

Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, CEO of the African Jewish Congress, said in a statement that the South African Jewish community “has suffered a grievous loss.”

“Mervyn, an attorney by profession, was a leader of stature, not only in many spheres of Jewish communal life but also as a respected representative of the community  in South African national affairs,” Silberhaft wrote. “His presence, his wisdom and his experience will be sorely missed not only by his family, but by all his friends and colleagues.”

Smith, a practicing attorney, received the Lexus Lifetime Achiever Award at the Jewish Achiever Awards ceremony for his contributions to reconciliation, change and empowerment in South Africa in the fields of business and/or art, science, sport or philanthropy.

He was an expert on anti-Semitism and advised the board on legal matters, particularly regarding anti-Semitism. Active in Holocaust studies, Smith served as board chairman of the South African Holocaust Foundation.

He also served as president of the Law Societies of South Africa, chairman of the Performing Arts Council of South Africa and Cape Performing Arts Board, as well as chairman of the Cape Town City Ballet.

A cricket player for 25 years, he was life president of the Bellville Cricket Club.


British Jewry umbrella votes to include ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ group

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 16:01

(JTA) — The umbrella organization for British Jewry accepted for membership a group that backed the recent nonbinding parliamentary vote recognizing a Palestinian state.

On Sunday, the Board of Deputies of British Jewry voted 135 to 61 to accept Yachad UK, which calls itself “pro-Israel, pro-peace.” The group supports a two-state solution and takes British Jews on fact-finding tours of the West Bank.

The group needed a two-thirds majority for acceptance, and the vote had been delayed twice before, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported.

Several speakers during Sunday’s debate said they did not agree with the policies of Yachad UK but felt it should be included as a member of the umbrella organization.

Yachad UK has also called for support of the Arab peace initiative offering Israel normalized relations with the Arab world in exchange for a return to the pre-1967 borders, as well as a “just solution” to the Palestinian refugee issue that would be “agreed upon” by the parties.

Israel orders razing of Palestinian car attacker’s family home

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 15:54

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The family home of the Palestinian man who killed two people when he drove into a crowd of commuters at a Jerusalem Light Rail stop was ordered to be demolished.

Israel sent the family of Abdelrahman al-Shaludi the demolition order on Friday; the family had 48 hours to appeal. The home is on the fourth floor of an apartment building in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.

Shaludi crashed his car on Oct. 22 into the Ammunition Hill light rail station in northern. A 3-month-old girl died at the scene and a 22-year-old visitor from Ecuador, who was in the process of converting to Judaism, died four days later. Eight people also were injured in the attack as passengers were disembarking from the train.

Shaludi attempted to flee on foot and was shot and killed by police, who confirmed that he had previously served time in an Israeli prison.

The family has denied that Shaludi executed a terror attack, saying he lost control of his car.

The B’Tselem human rights organization in a statement issued Sunday called the demolition order “collective punishment that is both unlawful and immoral.” The group called upon the authorities to reverse the demolition order.


Debate tabled on bill naming Israel national homeland for Jews

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 13:58

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Knesset committee vote on a law to officially make Israel the nation-state of all Jews was postponed.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, head of the centrist Hatnua party, on Sunday postponed her ministerial committee for legislation’s vote on the bill known as the Nationality Law.

“The explosive situation that exists in the Arab sector at the moment has already led to violent clashes and casualties. A discussion on the Nationality Law at this time is irresponsible,” Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri said in requesting the delay of the vote during the committee meeting.

The bill calls Israel the national homeland of the Jewish people and would make Hebrew the official language, with Arabic having “special status.” It also calls Jewish law a basis for new legislation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who supports the bill, said after the committee meeting that he would submit the bill directly to the full Cabinet for discussion.

“The State of Israel is the national state of the Jewish People,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “This is a central issue which is important for the future of the Jewish People in the State of Israel.”

The statement came hours after Netanyahu had opened the Cabinet meeting by saying he would move forward on the bill, which was proposed by Zeev Elkin, a member of his Likud party.

Netanyahu acknowledged, however, that the bill “will yet undergo many changes and discussions, but we will make it clear that the State of Israel is the national state of the Jewish People, while providing for equal rights – and ensuring equal rights – for all its citizens.”


Jewish man stabbed with screwdriver in Jerusalem

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 13:51

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Jewish man was stabbed with a screwdriver in central Jerusalem.

The victim, 32, was treated on the scene for stab wounds to his upper body before being taken to Shaarey Zedek Medical Center in the city.

The assailant reportedly was a Palestinian youth who was seen fleeing toward the Damascus Gate on the northwest side of Jerusalem.

Police said they set up roadblocks in their search for the attacker.

The attack comes on the heels of Arab unrest in Jerusalem and several attacks using cars and stabbing in the past two weeks.

Appeals court upholds dismissal of Alan Gross lawsuit against U.S.

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 13:42

(JTA) — A federal appeals court upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against the U.S. government by Alan Gross, the American-Jewish contractor imprisoned in Cuba since 2009.

In a 3-0 decision Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the government cannot be sued for injuries that occurred in another country.

The ruling affirmed a lower court judge’s dismissal of the $60 million lawsuit in May 2013.

Gross and his wife, Judy, filed the suit in November 2012 against the U.S. government and a government contractor charging that Gross should have been better trained and informed of the risks before going to Cuba to set up Internet access for the Jewish community there.

The Grosses settled in mid-May with Development Alternatives Inc., a Maryland-based contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, for an undisclosed amount. Gross was working for the USIA.

Gross, 65, of Potomac, Md., was leaving Cuba when he was arrested in December 2009 for “crimes against the state.” He spoke virtually no Spanish and traveled to Cuba five times under his own name before his arrest. He is serving a 15-year sentence.

Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) met last week with Gross for two hours.

The senators told The Associated Press that there was no indication that a development in releasing Gross was imminent. Cuba has expressed an interest in negotiating a trade of Gross for three Cubans who are jailed in the United States on espionage charges.

In August, Gross said he could no longer take life in prison and reportedly said goodbye to his family.

Netanyahu accuses Abbas of incitement in Jerusalem

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 11:25

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of incitement as the P.A.’s official media called for a day of rage in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu pointed out the call at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday.

On Thursday, Netanyahu, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordan’s King Abdullah II agreed after meeting in Amman to de-escalate the situation on the Temple Mount and make it clear that the status quo will be upheld.

“Abu Mazen must halt the incitement that leads to acts of violence,” Netanyahu said Sunday, using Abbas’ nom de guerre. “This is one of the roots of the inflamed moods that are fueled by Islamist extremist propaganda and propaganda by the Palestinian Authority.”

Netanyahu also called rumors that Israel intends to change the status quo on the Temple Mount  “a gross lie.”

Since capturing the holy site during the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel has severely restricted access for Jewish worshippers, in part not to inflame tensions. The status quo continues to restrict Jewish worship on the mount.

The day after the Jordan meeting, Israel removed its age limitation on entrance to the Temple Mount, for the first time in two weeks allowing Muslim men under the age of 50 to enter the compound that contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Army Radio reported.

The Palestinian Maan news agency reported Sunday that Netanyahu will meet again with Abdullah in the coming days to continue discussions over tensions surrounding the Temple Mount, citing  Jordanian parliament member Mohammed al-Katatshe.

French Muslims see Jews controlling nation’s economy, media

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 10:15

(JTA) — New surveys conducted in France suggested that Frenchmen of Muslim origin were far likelier to espouse anti-Semitic views than the general population.

In the two surveys, which were conducted in recent months, 74 percent of respondents who self-identified as observant Muslims agreed with the statement that Jews have too much influence on French economics, compared to 25 percent in the general population.

The assertion that Jews control the media received an approval rating of 23 percent in the general population group and 70 percent among practicing Muslims.

The surveys were released Sunday at the fifth annual national convention in Paris of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities and organizations. A total of 1,580 people older than 16 were polled after Sept. 25 by the IFOP polling company and the Foundation for Political Innovation.

In the first survey, 1,005 respondents from the general population answered a series of questions about their attitudes toward Jews. Their answers were compared with responses several days later to the same questions by 575 people who said they were either Muslim or were born to a Muslim family.

Among the general population, 32 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that “Jews use to their own benefit their status as victims of the Nazi genocide” compared to 56 percent of respondents from the Muslim group and among those who voted for the far-right National Front party in 2012. Among voters for the Front de Gauche far-left party, the assertion had a 51 percent approval rating.

The existence of “an international Zionist conspiracy” was endorsed by 16 percent of the general population and by 44 percent of Muslim respondents. The same figure among Front de Gauche voters called Zionism “a racist ideology” compared to 23 percent in the general population.

In the general population group, 46 percent of respondents endorsed the description of Zionism as “an ideology that proclaims the right of the Jews to have their own country on their ancestors’ land.”

Israel bans Norwegian doctor, co-author of Lancet letter, from Gaza

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 08:37

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Norwegian doctor who was among the authors of a letter slamming Israel published in The Lancet was banned permanently from the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli government said the ban on Dr. Mads Gilbert was for security reasons, according to an email from the Norwegian embassy in Tel Aviv to The Local, a Norwegian daily.

Gilbert, 67, told The Local he believes he is being excluded because he has made critical comments against Israel.

The doctor said he has spent over 30 years working in international conflict areas, especially Gaza, The Local reported. He spent more than a month this summer working at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital helping to treat some of the thousands injured in Israel’s operation in Gaza.

Gilbert reportedly was traveling to Gaza late last month and was prevented from crossing from Israel into Gaza.

Norwegian government officials reportedly have asked Israel to change its decision.

In “An open letter for the people of Gaza” published this summer in The Lancet, a British medical journal, Gilbert and his co-authors accused Israel of committing a “massacre” in Gaza, among other things.

“This is not about me. This is about Israel denying the Palestinian people in Gaza international support,” Gilbert told the British daily The Independent on Saturday.

“To deny professionals from the medical field the right to go to Gaza is another aspect of the collective punishment. They’re exercising the siege in an increasingly harsh and brutal way.”

Suspected Kansas City JCC shooter says he targeted Jews

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 07:52

(JTA) — The white supremacist suspect in the shootings of three people at two Jewish institutions in suburban Kansas City said he wanted to “be sure I killed some Jews before I died.”

Frazier Glenn Miller, who also goes by the name Frazier Glenn Cross, told the Kansas City Star in an interview published Sunday that he decided in March to carry out the April attacks on two Jewish sites in the city after he became so sick with emphysema that he thought he would soon die.

“I was convinced I was dying then,” Miller, of Aurora, Mo., told the newspaper in his first published interview since the April 13 attacks.

He went on to say, “I wanted to make damned sure I killed some Jews or attacked the Jews before I died.”

Miller is suspected of killing William Lewis Corporon, a retired physician, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, in the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kan., and then shooting to death Terri LaManno, a Catholic mother of two, in the parking lot at Village Shalom, a Jewish assisted-living facility a few blocks away, where she was visiting her mother.

None of the three victims were Jewish.

Miller, a former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon, told the newspaper that he conducted reconnaissance missions of the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom in the days before the shootings.

“Because of what I did, Jews feel less secure,” he said. “Every Jew in the world knows my name now and what I did. As for these … white people who are accomplices of the Jews, who attend their meetings and contribute to their fundraising efforts and who empower the Jews, they are my enemy, too. A lot of white people who associate with Jews, go to Jewish events and support them know that they’re not safe either, thanks to me.”

He told the newspaper that he regretted killing “the young white boy.”

Miller was charged in April with capital murder and first-degree premeditated murder. The capital charge carries a death sentence; the premeditated murder charge could result in life in prison.

He had served three years in prison on weapons charges and for plotting the assassination of Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.