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UK anti-Semitic incidents down 22% from record number, security monitor says

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 18:00

(JTA) — The number of anti-Semitic incidents documented last year in Britain was lower by 22 percent than the record figure in 2014, the Jewish community’s security umbrella said.

The Community Security Trust, or CST, counted 924 anti-Semitic incidents in 2015 compared to the 1,179 incidents recorded the previous year, the group wrote in its annual report published Thursday.

Still, the 2015 figure is the third-highest total ever recorded by CST in the more than three decades it has been monitoring anti-Semitism in Britain. The second-highest annual total was 931 incidents in 2009.

Of the 2015 incidents, 86 were violent assaults, 9.3 percent of the total. In 2014, the 81 violent assaults accounted for 6.8 percent of the total. All other categories, including threats and hate speech, also saw a decline in comparison to 2014, which featured Israel’s war in Gaza over the summer.

Of the 85 cases of violence, four were categorized as extreme because they resulted in grievous bodily harm or a threat to life. In one incident, a 17-year-old Jewish teenager was beaten unconscious at a train stop in Manchester.

CST recorded one incident of extreme violence in 2014 and none in 2013.

The “abusive behavior” category in the 2015 report comprised 685 incidents, including verbal abuse, hate mail, graffiti and hate speech on social media.

Another 686 incidents were reported to CST but were not deemed to be anti-Semitic and therefore were not included in the report.

JTS sells $96 million in real estate, will use proceeds to finance redevelopment

Mon, 02/01/2016 - 08:00

The Jewish Theological Seminary building in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, New York. (Wikimedia Commons)

(JTA) — The Jewish Theological Seminary announced it has sold $96 million worth of real estate assets and will use the proceeds to upgrade its New York facility.

The seminary said Monday that it sold a parcel of land at the eastern end of its campus at 3080 Broadway in Manhattan, limited rights to develop that land and an off-campus residence hall to the New York real estate investment firm Savanna. With the proceeds, the seminary said it plans to build a state-of-the-art library, auditorium and conference facilities, and a new 150-bed residence hall at its main campus.

“Our new campus will facilitate a deeper collaboration with our neighbors, our city, and with individuals and communities around the world,” Chancellor Arnold Eisen said in a statement. 
“It will provide multiple new opportunities for dialogue around the most critical issues of our time. This is the beginning of a new chapter in our long history as a world class educational institution, dedicated to training the leaders of tomorrow.”

The seminary, founded in 1886 and considered the flagship institution of the Conservative movement, first announced plans to sell off some assets a year ago to finance a major redevelopment of its Morningside Heights campus, on the outskirts of Harlem and the Upper West Side. Seminary officials said the process of “reimagining” the campus had been conducted through a broadly based process with extensive input from students, faculty and other stakeholders.

In an interview with JTA, Eisen said the property sale was unrelated to the financial challenges the seminary faced several years ago, when it went through several rounds of layoffs, including the elimination of the position of cantorial school dean. Eisen personally took a 10 percent pay cut.

“I have to say that since then, the position of JTS financially has grown quite strong,” Eisen said. “We are not embarking on this process from a position of financial weakness, but from a position of great strength.”

The announcement comes amid continuing anxiety over the diminished fortunes of the Conservative movement, which has seen a decline in affiliated members over the past three decades. The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the movement’s congregational arm, announced last year it was selling its Manhattan offices for $15.9 million, in part to pay down its debt.

Eisen acknowledged those challenges, but said he doesn’t share the pessimism about the movement’s future. The sale and reinvestment, he said, is a reflection of that.

“This is a bet on the future,” Eisen said.

Human Rights Watch: Stop doing business in settlements

Mon, 01/18/2016 - 23:05

Employees working at the new SodaStream factory built deep in Israel’s Negev Desert next to the city of Rahat, Israel, that replaced the West Bank facility when it shut down, Sept. 2, 2015. (Dan Balilty/AP Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Human Rights Watch said businesses should stop operating in West Bank Jewish settlements because they violate Palestinian rights.

In a 162-page report released Tuesday titled “Occupation, Inc.: How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights,” the human rights group concluded that companies that finance, service or trade with Jewish settlements facilitate the growth of the settlements and violate the rights of Palestinians.

“Based on the findings of this report, it is Human Rights Watch’s view that any adequate due diligence would show that business activities taking place in or in contract with Israeli settlements or settlement businesses contribute to rights abuses, and that businesses cannot mitigate or avoid contributing to these abuses so long as they engage in such activities,” the report says.

The report said businesses “should cease carrying out activities inside or for the benefit of settlements, such as building housing units or infrastructure, or providing waste removal and landfill services. They should also stop financing, administering, trading with or otherwise supporting settlements or settlement-related activities and infrastructure.”

Human Rights Watch said it was not calling for a consumer boycott of settlement companies, “but rather for businesses to comply with their own human rights responsibilities by ceasing settlement-related activities. Moreover, consumers should have the information they need, such as where products are from, to make informed decisions.”

Settlement businesses depend on and contribute to the Israeli authorities’ unlawful confiscation of Palestinian land and other resources, according to the group. They also benefit from such violations, as well as from Israeli policies that provide privileges to settlements at the expense of Palestinians, such as access to land and water, government subsidies, and permits for developing land.

Some settlement businesses operate in residential settlements, or provide services to them, while others operate in industrial zones specially built for the businesses.

Some settlement businesses are directly engaged in managing the practical demands of settlements, such as banks and waste management businesses, and other businesses are drawn to the settlements for lower rents or cheap Palestinian labor, according to the report.

“Settlement businesses help entrench discriminatory Israeli policies that favor settlers over Palestinians in Area C (under Israeli civilian and military control), even though the settlers should not be there in the first place,” said Arvind Ganesan, director of the business and human rights division at Human Rights Watch. “Businesses that claim they are helping Palestinians by offering trapped Palestinians minimum-wage jobs with few labor rights protections add insult to injury.”

More than half a million Jewish settlers live in 237 settlements throughout the West Bank, including eastern Jerusalem, according to the report. Israel administers approximately 20 industrial zones covering 13,650 dunams , or 1,365 hectares, in the West Bank. Israeli settlers oversee the cultivation of 93,000 dunams, or 9,300 hectares, of agricultural land, and settlement businesses operate 187 shopping centers inside settlements as well as 11 quarries that supply around 25 percent of Israel’s gravel market.

Palestinian apprehended after failed stabbing at Jerusalem bus stop

Sun, 01/03/2016 - 09:48

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Palestinian youth attempted to stab an Israeli man at a bus stop in eastern Jerusalem.

The failed attack occurred Sunday afternoon in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood. The would-be attacker fled but was caught by Israeli security forces, Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said on Twitter.

Hours earlier, a female Israeli soldier was shot and moderately injured by a sniper at the Cave of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The Armon Hanatziv neighborhood was the site of a Rosh Hashanah eve rock attack on a car that left a Jewish-Israeli dead. The attack spurred the recent wave of Palestinian violence on Israelis.

The neighborhood, also known as East Talpiot, also was the site of a shooting attack that left three dead, including a dual American-Israeli citizen, Richard Lakin.

Jewish mom out in the cold after complaints spur school to cancel Santa visit

Sun, 12/20/2015 - 16:27

(JTA) — The Jewish mother of a kindergarten student in California is under fire after her child’s school canceled a class trip to visit Santa following her complaints.

Students from the Sartorette Elementary School in San Jose had been scheduled to visit a cafe to write letters to Santa and sit on Santa’s lap in what has been an annual tradition, according to local reports.

But last week’s field trip was canceled after complaints from the Jewish mother, identified by local media as Talia. The mother wrote letters, voiced her concern at a school board meeting and met with the school superintendent, the Los Angeles NBC affiliate reported.

Talia, a certified California teacher, complained about the focus on one religion during the December holidays, according to the report.

Since the cancellation, fellow parents reportedly have unfriended Talia on Facebook and yelled at her in the schoolyard.

Talia called it an “inclusion issue,” not a Jewish one. She told reporters her daughter is the only Jewish student in the class, but said that several cultures are represented in the class, not just Jewish and Christian.

About 30 parents reportedly kept their children home from school on Friday and took them to visit Santa, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.