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Netanyahu orders crackdown on Arab-Israeli protesters in eastern Jerusalem

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 14:40

(JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for Israeli law enforcement to be more aggressive in combating violent Arab protests in eastern Jerusalem.

On Tuesday, at a special meeting of police and Shin Bet security service chiefs, Netanyahu said that forces should be strengthened in conflict areas and “should act aggressively against rioters,” the French news agency AFP reported, quoting a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Since July, when an Arab teen was murdered by Jewish extremists, Arab youths have been a constant presence on Jerusalem streets and are throwing stones and gas bombs at police and vehicles.

Police said three officers suffered minor injuries Tuesday after being hit by stones and bottles hurled by Arab-Israelis in the Old City. Police say they have arrested more than 700 Arabs in eastern Jerusalem since July, including at least 250 minors.

Gardeners discover bag of ISIS flags in northern Israel

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 14:30

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Gardeners in the Israeli city of Nazareth Illit discovered a bag containing about 25 ISIS flags.

Israel Police have opened an investigation into the discovery of the flags on Tuesday in an industrial area of northern Israeli city. The possession of materials from the jihadist group was outlawed in Israel several weeks ago.

“When something like this is discovered in the heart of a Jewish city, it needs to light up many warning signs,” Nazareth Illit Mayor Alex Gadalkin told Ynet.

In late September, a 24-year-old Arab-Israeli from Kfar Kana who was suspected of being associated with ISIS was arrested and questioned.

Earlier in the month, another Arab-Israeli was arrested for allegedly traveling to Syria and training with ISIS. Contact with the group also was made illegal.

Ancient mikvah, World War II-era graffiti found near Beit Shemesh

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 14:24

The steps of a 1,900-year-old mikvah discovered near Beit Shemesh. (Assaf Peretz/Israel Antiquities Authority)

(JTA) — A highway expansion project in Israel has led to the discovery of a nearly 2,000-year-old mikvah.

The ritual bath was discovered at Ha-Ela Junction, near the city of Beit Shemesh, during archaeological excavations conducted prior to widening Highway 38, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a news release.

In addition to the 1,900-year-old mikvah, archaeologists discovered fragments of pottery vessels and a large 1,700-year-old water cistern whose ceiling bore graffiti engraved by two World War II-era Australian soldiers.

Assaf Peretz, an archaeologist and historian with the Israel Antiquities Authority, said the soldiers left their names — Cpl. Phillip William Scarlett and Patrick Raphael Walsh — serial numbers and the date, May 30, 1940. They belonged to a division that was stationed in prestate Israel during the British Mandate and training for combat in France, but France surrendered before the troops were ready and the soldiers were ultimately sent to Egypt in October 1940.

The Australian unit would fought at the front in the Western Desert, Peretz reported after researching the names in the Australian government archives.

“If the relatives of these people are acquainted with the story, we’ll be happy if they contact us and we’ll share with them the warm greetings left behind by Scarlett and Walsh,” the news release said.

Yoav Tsur, excavation director on behalf of the authority, said in the release, “The finds from this excavation allow us to reconstruct a double story: about the Jewish settlement in the second century CE, probably against the background of the events of the Bar Kokhba revolt, and another story, no less fascinating, about a group of Australian soldiers who visited the site c. 1,700 years later and left their mark there.”

At the authority’s request,the Netivei Israel Company, which is widening Highway 38, has agreed to alter the construction plan in order to preserve the finds there and rehabilitate them.

Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards accepting nominations for 2015

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 10:52

(JTA) — The Helen Diller Family Foundation is accepting nominations for the 2015 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, which recognize Jewish teens for their leadership and innovative social action projects.

Fifteen teens, up to five from California and 10 from communities throughout the United States, each will receive $36,000 for the award, which recognizes the teens’ philanthropic efforts. The deadline for nominations is Dec. 14.

The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards have granted more than $2 million to 55 U.S. Jewish teens. Last year’s recipients came from California, New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Massachusetts, Georgia and Illinois.

Past recipients have made their mark through projects including building soccer fields and water wells to bring people together in war-torn regions of the world; donating textbooks and school supplies to financially strapped schools in California and around the globe; collecting and distributing shoes to homeless children so they can participate in life outside their shelters; and raising awareness and changing attitudes about bullying and autism through peer-to-peer programs.

The awards is one of a number of projects funded by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, and Sonoma Counties, to develop leadership in teens and enhance Jewish education.

“The Foundation believes in the importance of shining a spotlight on exemplary Jewish teens to build future generations of strong Jewish leaders,” said Helen Diller, president of the foundation. “It is our hope that the awards will not only validate the social efforts of a generation of Jewish teens but empower them to continue on their philanthropic journeys to repair the world.”

Israeli gov’t officials meet to discuss Ebola preparedness

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 10:47

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel, aiming to increase its preparedness to deal with the Ebola virus, will increase its efforts to find people who have entered the nation from several west African countries.

That was among the measures agreed to at a meeting on Monday of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with government officials.

The countries named were Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, which have seen the greatest spread of the virus. The Health and Foreign ministries will continue to urge Israelis to avoid traveling to those countries.

Joining Netanyahu at the meeting were Yael German, the health minister; Yisrael Katz, the transportation and road safety minister; and Deputy Interior Minister Fania Kirshenbaum. Also, representatives of the Israel Police, Airports Authority and Foreign Ministry participated in the discussion.

On Sunday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced it would send three mobile emergency clinics to west Africa in an effort to prevent the spread of Ebola.

Last week, the Israeli government reportedly denied a U.S. request to assist in medical relief in Ebola-stricken west African countries.

Meanwhile, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was “very confident” that the city’s hospital system could handle an Ebola outbreak, and that New York has a “much more aggressive and coherent game plan” than other U.S. cities to fight a potential Ebola case, The Associated Press reported.


Norma Spungen, former Spertus archivist, dies

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 10:15

CHICAGO (JTA) — Norma Spungen, the former archivist at the Chicago Jewish Archives at Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, has died.

Spungen died Sunday at the age of  87.

As the archivist at Spertus from 1986 to 1996, Spungen curated and assisted with several major exhibits mounted at the institute dealing with many important themes in Jewish history. She later was named archivist emerita and also served on the board of directors of the Chicago Jewish Historical Society.

Her professional work included an interest in Jewish women who were active in social service and philanthropy. Spungen’s research appeared in articles in the Illinois Library Journal and Jewish Social Studies, and she lectured widely on topics in Jewish history.

“She was a remarkable source of inspiration for scholars doing research at Spertus Institute,” said Tobias Brinkmann, the Malvin and Lea Bank associate professor of Jewish studies and history at Penn State University, who conducted research at the Spertus Institute for his dissertation.

Kathy Bloch, the institute’s director of collections, described Spungen as “an exceptionally lovely person — warm, intelligent, funny and very serious about her work.”

The recollections by Brikmann and Block were included in a statement issued by Spertus.

Spungen’s daughter, Elisa Spungen Bildner, is a past president of JTA. In 2007, she and her husband, Robert, paid tribute to Spungen by making a lead gift in her honor to digitize the JTA Archive.

Spungen is survived by her husband of 61 years, Kenneth; by her children and their spouses, Elisa and her husband, Robert Bildner; Charles and his wife, Amy; Jeffrey and his wife, Joni; and Andrea; and by 11 grandchildren.

Religious observance protects Jewish teens from suicide, study finds

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 10:04

(JTA) — Religious Jewish teens are far less likely to attempt suicide than their secular Jewish counterparts, a new study finds.

The study, led by researchers from Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine and Clalit Health Service’s Geha Mental Health Center, and published last week in the journal European Psychology, bolsters previous research that religious faith may offer some protection against suicide.

Researchers interviewed 620 Jewish-Israelis aged 14-17 and asked them to define their degree of religiosity as “secular,” “observant” or “ultra-Orthodox.” They found that the most religious were 45 percent less likely to exhibit suicidal thoughts and behaviors than the less religious.

Study co-authors Dr. Gal Shoval and Dr. Ben Amit claim that theirs is the first study that examines the relationship between Jewish religiosity and self-injurious thoughts and behaviors in adolescents.

In contrast to similar studies on religious Christian teenagers, who reported feeling less depressed than their secular peers, the religious Jewish teens still reported high levels of depression despite their decreased tendency for suicidal thoughts.

“Using statistical tools, we demonstrated that the protective effect of the practice of Judaism was not associated with a decreased risk of depression,” Amit said. “Instead, it enhanced effective coping mechanisms.”

The researchers attributed their results in part to Judaism’s spiritual and communal support, as well as its prohibition against suicide. They see their findings as having important clinical implications regarding risk assessment and suicide prevention.

An online version of the Israeli study was published by European Psychiatry in June. It is scheduled to be published in an upcoming issue of the print journal.

Pollard’s release listing changed back to November 2015 from life

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 08:01

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. Bureau of Prisons reverted to a 2015 release date in its listing for Jonathan Pollard from life.

The listing had appeared for several days as life on the bureau’s “find an inmate” search engine, but on Monday it returned to Nov. 21, 2015, when Pollard is first eligible for parole under sentencing guidelines in 1987. The former U.S. Navy analyst was sentenced to life for spying for Israel.

Ed Ross, a prisons bureau spokesman, told JTA that both decisions were “administrative” in the sense that Pollard’s status had not changed, but added that he did not know if either decision — to change the listing to life and back again — was in error.

Being eligible for parole does not mean Pollard will be released. His advocates say that parole is unlikely because the U.S. government continues to deny Pollard access to classified documents that could make his case.

Pollard’s wife, Esther, said she and her husband preferred the life listing because the 2015 date gave a false impression that mitigated against public pressure on President Obama to commute Pollard’s sentence.


Planted bomb wounds 2 Israeli soldiers near Lebanese border

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 07:55

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two Israeli soldiers were injured by a bomb planted near the border with Lebanon.

The soldiers were taken to an Israeli hospital for treatment. A Hezbollah cell called the Ali Hassan Martyr Unit took responsibility for the attack, Haaretz reported.

The Israeli military returned fire with tank shells into southern Lebanon following the attack, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed.

The bomb was “planted with the intention of attacking IDF soldiers,” the Israel Defense Forces said.

The incident comes two days after the Israeli military said its troops fired on two suspects infiltrating into Israeli territory from Lebanon. The suspects escaped and returned to Lebanon.

Lebanese security sources told the Daily Star that Israeli soldiers fired on a Lebanese army patrol in the Sheba Farms area near the border with Israel, wounding one soldier.


Gabrielle Birkner tapped as managing editor of JTA

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 06:22

NEW YORK (JTA) — Gabrielle Birkner is the new managing editor of JTA.

Birkner is heading JTA’s editorial team and leading efforts to expand and improve the 97-year-old Jewish news agency’s digital offerings.

“We are so proud and excited to have Gabi assuming this role,” said Ami Eden, JTA’s CEO and editor in chief. “She is a top-rate journalist, a great digital strategist and a superb mentor and manager. She is the perfect person to uphold our century-long tradition of  journalistic excellence while helping us continue to implement a digital strategy for the future.”

Birkner is the former director of digital media at the Forward, where she founded and edited the women’s issues blog, The Sisterhood. She also served as a religion reporter and features editor at The New York Sun, and as a staff writer at The New York Jewish Week. She co-founded and serves as executive editor of Modern Loss, an online magazine about grief and loss, geared toward 20- and 30-somethings.

“I’m thrilled to join JTA’s talented team at this pivotal moment for the news organization,” Birkner said. “I look forward to working with our staff writers and correspondents around the world to deliver exceptional journalism to our online readers and client newspapers.”

Founded in 1917 and known for decades as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, JTA reports on developments impacting Jews and Jewish communities in the United States, Israel and around the world. JTA serves 3 million users per year via its website and e-newsletters, and distributes content to 75 syndication clients around the world.

JTA is in the process of merging with MyJewishLearning. Eden and board leaders of both organizations have said that even after the merger, JTA will continue to operate as a standalone news brand.


Polish prosecutor acquitted for not trying swastika case

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 05:19

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — A Polish prosecutor who opted not to launch legal proceedings against a vandal who painted a swastika was acquitted by a disciplinary court.

The Bialystok prosecutor, who said he refused to take action in the June 2013 vandalism because the swastika is “a symbol of Asian happiness and prosperity,” was acquitted last week following secret proceedings.

The graffiti found in Bialystok was reported to the prosecutor’s office by the local theater Trzyrzecze. Promotion of fascism in Poland is illegal and punishable by up to two years in prison.

“There are places in the world where this symbol can be associated with happiness,” Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, told JTA. “For people born in Poland, where in each family there is a memory of the tortured, executed or starved by the people under this sign, the prosecutor’s amnesia must be a shock.”




Wife of chief Chabad rabbi in Sydney regrets nasty email to child sex abuse victim

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 05:05

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – The wife of the chief Chabad rabbi in Sydney apologized for offending a child sex abuse victim on the eve of Yom Kippur.

On Monday, Pnina Feldman said she regretted the email she had sent three days earlier to Manny Waks, who went public with his story of child sex abuse in the Jewish community, stressing she had written a “private” email to Waks.

Waks, an advocate for child sex abuse victims, released Feldman’s email to the media.

Feldman sent the email after receiving a request to support a petition calling on two senior Chabad leaders in Melbourne to resign from their positions over the child sex abuse scandal that embroiled Chabad’s Yeshivah College in the 1980s and 1990s.

“In my robust and emotional email I employed offensive language which I remorsefully regret and unreservedly apologize for,” she wrote. “I agree with all efforts to prosecute pedophiles but take issue with some aspects of Manny’s crusade against Melbourne Yeshivah.”

Feldman added, “I also want to apologize for any perceived trivialization of the impact of child abuse on victims.”

In her email, Feldman wrote of Waks, “I haven’t met a person yet with one nice word to say about you. Most people consider you a lowlife.”

Feldman, whose Brooklyn-born husband, Pinchus, was sent as an emissary to Sydney by the Lubavitcher rebbe in the 1960s, also accused Waks in the email of waging a “malicious blame game” against Yeshivah that is “unjust, unwarranted, undeserved and wicked.”

Last year, former Yeshivah College security guard David Cyprys was convicted and jailed for molesting Waks and eight other boys. David Kramer, an American and a former teacher at the college, also was jailed for molesting four boys.

In response to Feldman’s email, Waks wrote, “I’m truly shocked and horrified that Rebbetzin Feldman has deliberately chosen the eve of Yom Kippur … to launch an unprovoked, vile and offensive tirade against me.”.

In 2012, Yeshivah in Melbourne apologized “unreservedly” to victims of child sexual abuse, but the scandal continues to smolder within the Jewish community.

Senior rabbis will be called to testify before the ongoing Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, the Melbourne Age newspaper recently revealed.

Israel’s health ministry warns against gay conversion therapy

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 04:47

(JTA) — Israel’s health ministry issued a warning declaring that therapies aimed at changing patients from gay to straight are not supported by medical evidence and could be harmful.

Signed by Health Minister Yael German, Sunday’s decision adopts the position of the Council of Psychologists and the Israel Psychological Association. The health ministry statement warns that gay conversion therapies are neither professionally nor ethically acceptable, citing numerous medical studies which show that such therapies do not work, the Israeli daily  Haaretz reported.

“Sexual inclination is part of a person’s identity and requires no treatment or conversion,”  German said, according to Ynet.

Israeli gay rights groups hailed the health ministry’s position.

“The Health Ministry warning comes after numerous studies and testimonies regarding the serious emotional harm suffered by LGBTs who underwent conversion attempts, including attempted suicides,” said Shai Deutsch, chairman of the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transsexual Task Force, according to Haaretz.

However, those who advocate for gay conversion therapies remain undaunted.

“I know many, many people who have been treated,” Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, founder of Atzat Nefesh, an Orthodox organization that encourages gay conversion therapy, told Haaretz. “What, they don’t exist?”

Sinai militants execute four accused informants

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 04:25

(JTA) — A violent Egyptian Islamist group released a video of four Egyptians accused of being  informants for Israeli intelligence being executed, three via beheading.

The Sinai-based terrorist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, posted a video on YouTube of the executions, Reuters reported. Ansar, which has carried on a violent military campaign in the Sinai against the Egyptian army, reportedly accused Egypt of collaborating with Israel and vowed to hunt down and kill informants who provide intelligence to the army, promising to continue to “harvest the spies of the Jews.”

In the video, three men reportedly confess to being informants and are then decapitated by masked men, who then place the severed heads upon the corpses’ backs. A fourth man likewise confesses and is then riddled with bullets.

The video is reminiscent of recent gruesome beheading videos issued by the militant group Islamic State, which has operated in Iraq and Syria. Reuters had previously reported that the Islamic State has been advising Ansar via the internet.

In heavily Muslim Dutch neighborhood, a sukkah stirs controversy

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 18:49

Fabrice Schomberg outside his home in The Hague. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — For the tour guides that lead visitors through the Van Ostade Housing Project, Fabrice Schomberg’s sukkah is one of the few signs of the neighborhood’s Jewish roots.

Built in the 19th century for impoverished Jews, the enclave today is surrounded by the largely Muslim neighborhood of Schilderswijk, an area that the Dutch media have taken to calling the “Sharia Triangle,” referring to Islamic religious law. Fewer than 10 Jewish residents remain and, aside from Schomberg’s sukkah, there are virtually no markers of the area’s Jewish past.

Now even the sukkah’s fate is in doubt.

After weeks of negotiation with the city, Schomberg was informed that he could build his sukkah only on condition that he dismantle it by 9 o’clock each night. According to Schomberg, the police had advised the city against allowing a sukkah at all, since it might invite Muslim vandalism.

To Schomberg and his supporters, the city’s reluctance to allow a sukkah in Van Ostade is emblematic of the Dutch approach to the rise of Muslim fundamentalism — urging targeted communities to keep a low profile rather than standing up for individual freedoms. But others fault Schomberg, alleging that he has used religion to stir conflict at the community’s expense.

“Resistance to my sukkah is not just about building permits,” said Schomberg, a British-born artist who has erected a sukkah outside his door for the past three years. “There’s a wider context.”

That context includes three demonstrations this summer, all featuring flags of the ISIS jihadist group; two included calls to murder Jews. A few dozen people attended each of the rallies. The city has since banned all demonstrations in Schilderswijk.

Schomberg was himself verbally assaulted in Schilderswijk while in the presence of a film crew that he had invited to see what happens when he wears his yarmulke in public.

“Advertising one’s Judaism is dangerous here,” said one Jewish resident who asked to remain anonymous to protect her safety. “I don’t wear any Jewish symbol on the street and I installed my mezuzah on the inside.”

Despite these concerns, she supports Schomberg’s fight to build a sukkah and said she plans to visit the sukkah over the Sukkot holiday, which begins Wednesday at sundown.

“Banning sukkot is like banning Judaism,” she said.

Police and city officials would neither confirm nor deny Schomberg’s claim that police had advised the city to deny the sukkah permit, nor would they answer questions about the level of risk facing Jews in Schilderswijk. The city also would not say why Schomberg must dismantle the temporary holiday dwelling at night.

Schomberg, who has appeared several times in Dutch media this summer because of the “kippah walks” against anti-Semitism that he organized in Schilderswijk, says his sukkah helps build bridges to non-Jews whom he invites as guests.

But some Jews who know Schomberg describe him as a troublemaker who is endangering the community, citing the invitation he extended to the stridently anti-Muslim Dutch politician Geert Wilders to visit his sukkah.

In September, the board of the Jewish Community of The Hague informed Schomberg that he was banned from entering any of the city’s Orthodox synagogues until 2016 because “his behavior has endangered the community.” Schomberg said he was told by the Reform community that he was not welcome there either.

In an attempt to reverse the ban, Schomberg launched an online petition that has collected 31 signatures, but it also drew criticism from some of his detractors.

“Mr. Schomberg’s actions, past and present, as well as his constant media-seeking behavior do not reflect any concern for the safety of any [Jewish] groups,” a member of the Orthodox community, Stephanie Baumgarten-Kustner, wrote on his petition last week. “In fact his behavior puts the entire Jewish community in the Hague (and the Netherlands) at risk.”

Other critics say they fear Schomberg will use the sukkah to advance a political agenda, though Schomberg denies having one. He insists that his pariah status is born of the fact that he suffers from bipolar disorder and is intent on countering the community’s desire to keep a low profile.

U.S. officials score Netanyahu on ‘American values’ comment

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 17:49

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s questioning of “American values” in pushing back against Obama administration criticism of Jerusalem building was “odd,” U.S. officials said.

“American policy has been clear and unchanged under several administrations, both Democratic and Republican: We oppose any unilateral actions that attempt to prejudge final status issues, including the status of Jerusalem,” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said Monday in her daily briefing for reporters.

“So I have to say it was a bit odd to use ‘American values’ when clearly we’ve had a consistent view and a consistent position on this particular issue,” she said.

On Sunday, Netanyahu had told CBS in an interview that the criticism of expanding Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem was “against American values.”

Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, also called the locution “odd” in the White House briefing with reporters, but he went further, noting U.S. assistance to Israel.

“The fact is, when it comes to American values, it’s American values that lend this country’s unwavering support to Israel,” he said. “It’s American values that have led us to fight for and secure funding to strengthen Israel’s security in tangible ways.”

Bureau of prisons changes Pollard status to ‘life’

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 16:49

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. Bureau of Prisons changed Jonathan Pollard’s release date on its website from “Nov. 15 2015” to “Life.”

A spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons was unable Monday to explain the change on the bureau’s “inmate locator,” which he confirmed occurred recently.

Under sentencing guidelines in place in 1987 when Pollard, a former U.S. Navy analyst, got his life sentence for spying for Israel, he is eligible for automatic parole consideration on Nov. 21 of next year, but that does not guarantee a release, said Ed Ross, the spokesman.

“There has been no status change,” Ross said, describing the change as “administrative.”

Pollard’s wife, Esther, told the Jerusalem Post she was gratified at the change, saying the earlier status lent credence to the erroneous argument that he was likely to be released next year, and undercut efforts to get President Obama to commute Pollard’s sentence.

Brazil’s Rousseff in runoff to keep presidency

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 14:34

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who called Israel’s conflict this summer with Hamas “a massacre,” will face a runoff to stay in office.

Rousseff of the left-wing Workers’ Party will face Aecio Neves of the center-right Social Democracy Party in the Oct. 26 runoff after failing to win an outright victory Sunday in her bid to gain a second four-year term.

The incumbent was the top vote-getter with 41.6 percent to 33.6 percent for Aecio, a senator. Marina Silva, a prominent environmentalist, finished third with 21.3 percent of the vote.

In late July, speaking about the Israel-Hamas conflict, Rousseff said, “I think what’s happening in the Gaza Strip is dangerous. I don’t think it’s genocide, but I think it’s a massacre.”

Brazil, a country of some 110,000 Jews, pulled its ambassador from Israel amid the conflict.

In Israel, Neves was the winner among the Brazilian Jews with 145 votes, followed by Silva with 35 and Rousseff with 9.

Explosion viewed in vicinity of Tehran site linked to nukes

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 14:09

(JTA) — An explosion at or near an Iranian military complex believed to be a site for nuclear testing created a large orange flash over Tehran.

The New York Times reported that the explosion on Sunday night came from the direction of the Parchin complex, where Iran has been accused of testing nuclear weapons.

Iranian officials denied the explosion originated there.

Iran’s Defense Industries Organization said that two people were missing after “an ordinary fire” caused by “chemical reactions of flammable material” at an unspecified location, the Times reported.

Witnesses near the site said that windows had been shattered in the vicinity and that all trees in a hundred-yard radius of two villages on the outskirt of the military facility were burned.

The United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors visited Parchin in 2005, but since then have not been allowed to return, despite repeated requests.

Philadelphia cantor’s former house guest charged in his murder

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 13:58

NEW YORK (JTA) — A former house guest was charged in the fatal stabbing of Ronald Fischman, an ordained cantor, in Fischman’s Philadelphia home.

Jonathan Williams, 33, was arrested Thursday — two days after the stabbing — and charged with murder, burglary and other offenses, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Williams had been a house guest at Fischman’s northwest Philadelphia home but had been asked to leave, according to police reports obtained by the Inquirer. He broke into the house after 11 p.m. on Sept. 30, according to police, and was confronted inside by Fischman, then stabbed him multiple times in the neck, shoulder and knee.

Fischman, 54, a Pittsburgh native, was an author and editor at GGIS Publishing & Media in Philadelphia. He had published two original books and ghostwritten eight biographies and memoirs, according to his website.

A graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary’s H. L. Miller Cantorial School in New York, Fischman had served as the cantor at Temple Beth Sholom, a Conservative synagogue on Long Island.

He was a member of the Mishkan Shalom synagogue in northwest Philadelphia, where he had blown the shofar and read from the Torah at Rosh Hashanah services this year, Rabbi Shawn Zevit told the Inquirer.

“It is a terrible loss,” Zevit told NewsWorks Philadelphia. “There is a lot of shock and grief. He was a very beloved member of our community.”