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U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter visiting Israel

Sun, 07/19/2015 - 09:22

(JTA) — U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is in Israel on the first leg of a trip to three Middle Eastern nations.

Carter arrived in Israel on Sunday, where he “will work with Israel to further explore ongoing efforts to identify solutions to some of their most critical security challenges — countering Iran’s destabilizing activities and preventing terror attacks,” according to a statement issued Saturday by the U.S. Department of Defense.

He reportedly will meet on Monday with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and the following day with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It is Carter’s first working visit to Israel since he assumed office in February.

Carter also is scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Carter will meet with senior Saudi officials, according to the Defense Department. In Jordan, Carter will meet with multinational commanders and senior Jordanian military officials to discuss the fight against the Islamic State and regional developments.

“Carter will thank Jordan for its leadership in the coalition, and also thank and recognize the work of the international air crew members for their efforts to degrade and destroy ISIL,” the statement said.

Netanyahu: Don’t deal with Iran while it calls for death to U.S., Israel

Sun, 07/19/2015 - 08:40

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, continuing his attack on the Iran nuclear deal, said the agreement has not changed Iran’s policy of calling for armed struggle against Israel and the United States.

“If someone thought that the extraordinary concessions to Iran would lead to a change in its policy, they received an unequivocal answer over the weekend in Iranian ruler [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei’s aggressive and contrary speech,” Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting.

On Saturday, Khamenei in a nationally televised speech praised the people of Iran for calling for death to America and Israel, and said he hoped Allah would answer their prayers. He also called the U.S. government “arrogant.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will not give up support of its friends in the region — the oppressed people of Palestine, of Yemen, the Syrian and Iraqi governments, the oppressed people of Bahrain and sincere resistance fighters in Lebanon and Palestine,” he said, adding: “Our policy will not change with regards to the arrogant U.S. government.”

Netanyahu said, “The Iranians aren’t even trying to hide the fact that they will use the hundreds of billions that they will receive under this agreement in order to arm their terror machine, and they are clearly saying that they will continue their struggle against the U.S. and its allies, first among them being Israel, of course.

“The agreement that was signed paves Iran’s way to arm itself with nuclear weapons within a decade, if Iran decides to honor the agreement, and before then if it decides to violate it, as it is usually does.”

The deal would remove international sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran freezing and storing much of its nuclear infrastructure, ridding much of its stockpile of enriched uranium and converting its nuclear facilities for between 10 and 15 years.

Netanyahu said he believes a better strategy would have been to continue and strengthen sanctions on Iran, and condition any agreement on a change in policy.

“As long as the Iranian leadership is encouraging calls of ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel,'” he said, “there is no reason to make any concessions to them.”

Jewish-Argentine director garners ‘Iberoamerica Oscar’

Sun, 07/19/2015 - 06:02

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — “Wild Tales,” by the Jewish-Argentine director Damian Szifron, won for best movie and Szifron for best director at the Oscars equivalent for Iberoamerica.

“Wild Tales,” which includes Jewish characters and details taken from Szifron’s life, was the most awarded film at the second annual “Premios Platino,” or Platinum Awards, held Saturday in Marbella, Spain. Iberoamerica is made up of Spain, Portugal and Latin America.

The film, which had received the most nominations, was recognized as well for best script, music, art direction and sound effects. Its final segment revolves around a Jewish wedding featuring klezmer music.

Szifron, 40, began studying direction at the ORT High School in Buenos Aires, where he specialized in media studies. “Wild Tales” was nominated in the foreign-language film category at the 2014 Academy Awards.

The Iberoamerica awards were broadcast live on TNT Latin America. Some 13 countries in the region were represented with 30 movies.

Another candidate for best director and best movie was “Mr. Kaplan,” by the Uruguayan director Alvaro Brechner, which tells the story of an elderly Jewish man who tries to kidnap a man that he believes is a Nazi fugitive, with the intention to ship him to Israel for trial.

Top Israeli, U.S. security officials commit to cybersecurity cooperation

Sun, 07/19/2015 - 05:15

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. deputy secretary of Homeland Security and the top Israeli official handling cybersecurity cosigned a statement committing to U.S-Israel cooperation in the area.

Alejandro Mayorkas and Eviatar Matania, who heads the Israel National Cyber Bureau, “signed a joint statement reaffirming the United States and Israel’s commitment to promote cooperation and information sharing on cybersecurity and cyber research and development,” said a statement by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released Friday, a day after Mayorkas returned from an Israel tour.

The statement said Mayorkas and his Israeli counterparts discussed “a range of homeland security-related issues including cybersecurity, law enforcement cooperation, immigration, and aviation security.”

Mayorkas toured Ben Gurion Airport “to view passenger and cargo security operations and to review the areas of close cooperation between DHS and the Israeli government on aviation and airport security.”

Mayorkas met during his Israel tour with top Israeli military officials handling cybersecurity, as well as Gilad Erdan, the minister of public security; Tzipi Hotovely, the deputy minister of foreign affairs; Interior Minister Silvan Shalom; and Tzachi Hanegbi, the chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Miami, Boston Jewish federations voice opposition to Iran nuclear deal

Sun, 07/19/2015 - 05:06

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two major Jewish federations, in Boston and Miami, are urging local Jews to oppose the Iran nuclear deal.

“We encourage members of the community to reach out to their elected representatives in the House and the Senate to express their deep concern, and to urge them to vote against this deal,” the Combined Jewish Philanthropies in Boston said in a message Friday to Boston-area Jews.

The message the same day from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation appeared to call on community members who might not oppose the deal to suppress their dissents.

“We acknowledge that there are diverse views within our community, but ultimately this issue must remain above politics and reflect our collective determination to ensure moral clarity and absolute resolve in dealing with one of the world’s most dangerous regimes,” the message said.

The nuclear deal reached July 14 between Iran and the major powers swaps sanctions relief for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities. Israel’s government and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the premiere pro-Israel lobby, say it does not go far enough and leaves Iran a nuclear threshold state.

Congress may disapprove the plan, and if a disapproval vote passes and then garners the necessary two-thirds majorities in the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives to survive a presidential veto, it would kill the deal.

Republicans overwhelmingly oppose the deal, leaving Democrats, particularly in states where they are prevalent and where there are large Jewish communities, like Florida and Massachusetts, key targets for lobbying.

Groups that oppose the plan, led by AIPAC, are leading a nationwide campaign against the nuclear deal, countered by a similar campaign from groups that back it, including J Street.

President Barack Obama issued a call to support the deal in his weekly radio address.

“There’s a reason this deal took so long to negotiate,” said Obama, who plans to defend the deal Tuesday in a major speech to U.S. veterans. “Because we refused to accept a bad deal. We held out for a deal that met every one of our bottom lines. And we got it.”

House Republicans introduce bill of disapproval of Iran deal

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 15:41

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. House of Representatives Republicans introduced a resolution voicing disapproval of the Iran nuclear deal, paving the way to a debate on it.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) and another 171 Republicans on Thursday introduced a bill expressing “its firm disapproval” of the deal reached two days earlier by the major powers and Iran, which would trade sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear activities.

It’s not yet clear how the debate will proceed: whether the House or the Senate would consider the deal first, and whether the bill would be one of approval or disapproval.

Should the congressional leadership advance Roskam’s bill, the parameters of the debate over the next two months, and the time allotted to Congress to review the deal, sets up a clear confrontation between Congress and the White House.

The likely failure of a bill of approval would show Congress’ unhappiness with the deal but would not be binding, and the Obama administration would be able to continue implementing the deal.

A bill of disapproval, like Roskam’s, should it pass and then survive a presidential veto, would kill the deal. While Republican majorities in both chambers oppose the deal, a bill of disapproval is believed unlikely to garner the two thirds majorities required to override the veto Obama has pledged to impose.

“My legislation sets the stage for the 60-day lead up to a vote on this agreement by allowing Members to express their disapproval of the accord,” Roskam said in a statement Friday. “The unprecedented outpouring of support for this resolution proves that Congress will not rubber-stamp a deal that severely threatens the United States and our allies by paving Iran’s path to a bomb.”

Bill that would grant disaster relief to houses of worship reintroduced

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 15:06

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A bipartisan trio of northeastern members of the U.S. House of Representatives reintroduced legislation that would provide direct relief to synagogues and churches damaged by natural disaster.

Reps. Chris Smith, (R-N.J.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.), this week introduced the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act, which would override existing Federal Emergency Management Agency rules that exclude houses of worship from recovery funds.

A similar bill introduced by Meng and Smith in the last Congress, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, passed overwhelmingly in February 2013, but never made it through the Senate.

The Orthodox Union, which lobbied for the bill, praised the lawmakers.

““The recent flooding in Houston reminds us that houses of worship are equally affected by severe flooding and natural disasters,” Nathan Diament, the O.U.’s Washington director, said in a statement Thursday. “When a natural disaster occurs, most often it is the churches and synagogues that offer comfort and a place to gather for members of the community. “

Netanyahu plans inquiry of Beitar soccer fans who rioted in Belgium

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 14:45

(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he plans to conduct an inquiry into “possible action” against Israeli soccer fans who rioted in Belgium.

In a statement released Friday, Netanyahu condemned “a small group of Beitar Jerusalem fans” who the previous day “besmirched an entire fan base and harmed the country’s image,” the Jerusalem Post reported.

A number of the team’s fans, who are known for being right wing and anti-Arab, threw smoke bombs, flares and firecrackers at a Europa League qualifying round match in the Belgian city.

READ: Racism in Israeli soccer? Join the (reprehensible club) 

Fans from the opposing team chanted anti-Semitic slogans at the Israelis, Belgian media reported.

Beitar lost the match, in which Charleroi goalie Nicolas Penneteau was hit by a hard object thrown from the crowd, which forced a delay. Beitar can expect severe punishment from European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Beitar’s owner announced Friday that he intended to sell the team, because he is ashamed of its behavior.

Netanyahu said he and Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan would conduct an inquiry. In addition, the acting police commissioner announced Friday that the Jerusalem District Police will handle the investigation together with Belgian authorities. Police said that a number of fans were questioned upon landing at Ben-Gurion Airport from various flights, but no more details were provided according to the Jerusalem Post.

“It is good that the decisive majority of Beitar fans immediately condemned the behavior of that same small group,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

The two teams are scheduled to play again next week in Jerusalem.

Hamas, Saudi leaders reportedly meet for first time in years

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 14:10

(JTA) — Top Hamas officials reportedly met with senior Saudi leaders Friday, the first such meeting in years.

The meeting on Friday included Khaled Meshaal, the political head of the Palestinian Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed Hamas source. The article did not say where the meeting took place.

Reuters described the meeting as indicating a potential rapprochement between the U.S.-allied kingdom and the Palestinian group, which seeks to eliminate the State of Israel and has been responsible for hundreds of terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens.

“The delegation discussed Palestinian unity and the political situation in the region. This meeting will hopefully develop relations between Hamas and Saudi Arabia,” the Hamas source told Reuters.

Prosecutor Nisman honored 21 years after Jewish center bombing

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 13:43

BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — The eldest daughter of Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor who died mysteriously in January, helped mark the 21st anniversary of the Argentinian Jewish center bombing he was investigating.

Iara Nisman, 15, appeared on stage and lit a candle Friday at the ceremony in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The organizer was the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina, the Jewish organization whose headquarters in the Argentinian capital were bombed in 1994, killing 85 people and wounding 300.

“My sister Kala and I ask for help finding the truth about what happened to my dad, because he cannot defend himself and there are some detractors of his work,” Iara Nisman said in a written message read aloud on stage by a journalist.

READ: U.S. forensic pathologist says Nisman case more likely a homicide 

“We invited Iara to join the ceremony, and she accepted with bravery and honor. It’s not easy for a kid; she shows maturity,” Luis Czyzewski, whose 21-year-old daughter Paola was killed in the bombing, told JTA.

While the bombing has never been resolved, Iran is widely believed to be responsible for it, along with the bombing two years earlier of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires.

Because the anniversary of the bombing falls on Saturday, which is Shabbat, the ceremony was held a day earlier, on Friday, in front of the rebuilt Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina headquarters. Approximately 5,000 people attended.

“The AMIA cause is not an issue for the judicial community, the government or the opposition. The resolution must become a national question that takes us from the shame in which we Argentineans have been living in for the past 21 years, ” the organization’s treasurer, Ariel Cohen Sabban, said at the ceremony.

World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer, who participated in the ceremony, said in a statement: “After the tragic and mysterious death of Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman last January, a man who did so much to advance this investigation and who is sadly missed, we are now faced with a crucial question: Will we ever see justice in the AMIA case? Will the Argentine government continue to have the worst terror attack in this country’s history investigated, or will it try to close this chapter?”

Mario Averbuj, who lost his 20-year-old daughter, Yanina, in the bombing, said, “We want to mention the human tragedy involved in Nisman’s death. It prevented his daughters from enjoying their dad. Iara and Kala, you should feel proud of your father,” he said, interrupted by applause from the crowd. “We want to tell you that every time we met him, the first thing he talked to us about was about you, about how well you were doing in school and how happy he was to see you grow.”

In addition to being the 21-year anniversary of the bombing of the Jewish center, Saturday will be the six-month anniversary of Nisman’s death. The prosecutor was found dead of a gunshot wound in his apartment.

Prosecutor Viviana Fein has not yet released a final ruling on the cause. “I cannot determine for the moment whether it was a suicide or a homicide,” she said on March 6, when she convened the authors of an independent forensic report to examine the evidence.

While the banner appearing onstage at previous Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina ceremonies honored “justice” and “memory,” this year’s banner bore the words “Victims of Impunity” and “Victims of Terrorism.”

Netanyahu and Abbas speak for first time in 13 months

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 13:35

(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the phone, marking the first time the two have spoken in over a year.

Netanyahu phoned Abbas on Friday to wish him a happy Eid al-Fitr, Haaretz reported. Eid al-Fitr is the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the month of Ramadan.

During the call, Netanyahu said Israel’s citizens want peace and Israel will continue to act to ensure stability in the region, according to a press release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Abbas said it was important to reach a peace deal in the coming year, Haaretz reported, citing a Palestinian news agency. The two leaders have not spoken directly since June 2014, when Abbas called Netanyahu to say he condemned the kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers in the West Bank.


Israeli daily poll: 47% back Iran strike following nuke deal

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 12:21

(JTA) — Seventy-one percent of Israelis say they believe accord brings Iran closer to bomb, and 51 percent support bypassing Obama in effort to nix it.

Forty-seven percent of respondents in a survey conducted by Maariv, an Israeli daily, supported a military strike to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms.

The poll was published Friday after Tuesday’s nuclear deal between Tehran and major world powers, which agreed on the details of an unsigned accord that would offer Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for a scaling back of the Iranian nuclear program.

The paper did not give a sample size or margin of error for the poll carried out by Panels Politics Polling Institute. It did not provide information on respondents’ age, gender or religion.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents in the poll said they thought the agreement would accelerate Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon, not prevent it as claimed by the powers.

Asked “Do you support independent military action by Israel against Iran if such action is needed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon?” 47 percent said yes, 35 percent said no and 18 percent expressed no opinion.

A majority of respondents believed Jerusalem should use whatever means necessary to convince  Congress to reject the deal, while only 38 percent said it was now time to engage with President Barack Obama on the execution of the deal in order to achieve conditions preferable to Israel. Eleven percent said they did not know what the best course of action was.

AIPAC backing group that plans to press Dems on Iran deal through TV ads

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 12:11

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is backing an action committee that plans to run TV ads across the country pressing Democrats to oppose the Iran nuclear deal.

Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran is a 501 (c) (4), a tax designation that includes groups that advance political causes, and it launched its website on Friday.

The group is “dedicated to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability,” said Patrick Dorton, a Washington spokesman who frequently speaks for AIPAC, the preeminent pro-Israel lobby, which opposes the deal. “It is financially supported by AIPAC and other individuals and organizations.”

READ: Christian Zionist group launches partisan lobbying fund to oppose Iran pact

Dorton said the group’s reach and ethos is bipartisan.

“Democrats should be especially concerned, because this deal increases the chances of war, will spur a nuclear arms race and rewards an Iran with a horrific human rights record,” he said.

Democrats have become the battleground in the fight between the Obama administration, which backs the deal, and Republicans, who are sworn to kill it in Congress in the next two months.

Some leading Democrats, among them Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the U.S. House of Representatives minority leader, back the deal, while others have yet to announce how they will vote now that the deal has been reached and Congress has two months to review it.

The National Jewish Democratic Council on Friday strongly endorsed the deal. “This was a deal aimed at halting Iran’s march towards a nuclear weapon, and we find it will do exactly that,” it said in a statement.

The Sunlight Foundation, a group that advances political transparency, first reported on the new group on Thursday, linking to filings that showed it plans on running a TV ad in at least 18 states.

A source close to the new group said the ads would eventually run nationwide and that the group had millions of dollars at its disposal.

The advisory board is made up of five former Democrats who have close ties to the pro-Israel community: Former U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), former U.S. Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and former Sen. Joseph Lieberman, of Connecticut who ended his career in 2012 as an independent but who was the Democratic vice presidential pick in the 2000 election.

Notably, the team’s media adviser, Mark Putnam, and pollster, Mark Mellman, are also Democrats.

Charlie Schiffman, longtime head of Portland Jewish federation, dies

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 10:39

(JTA) – Charlie Schiffman, who served as the head of the Jewish federation in Portland, Oregon, for nearly a quarter of a century, died suddenly at age 69.

The cause was a heart attack, his family said. He was buried Wednesday in Jerusalem.

A native of New York, Schiffman served as executive vice-president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland from 1987 to 2010. Before that he directed the Jewish federation in Columbus, Ohio, and earlier was the assistant director of the federation in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Schiffman had a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, where his family moved when he was 10, and a law degree from the University of Memphis.

A staunch Zionist, Schiffman traveled to Israel more than 40 times and lived there twice, from 1983 to 1987 and from 2013 until his death. He made his home in Pisgat Ze’ev, near Jerusalem.

In his retirement, Schiffman hosted a radio show called “The Teacher and the Preacher,” which brought Jews and Christians together to discuss issues of the day.

“It is rare that a community is fortunate enough to have a leader who defines what leadership is all about, who reflects the best of Jewish values, who inspires those around him, who stands tall as a moral compass,” the Portland federation said in a statement.

Schiffman is survived by his wife, Marsha Weil Schiffman; his mother, Ethel Schiffman; his daughter, Nili Isenberg; a sister, Celia Goldstein Fried; and two grandchildren.

Top Senate foreign policy Democrat and Republican urge Obama to delay U.N. vote

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 10:34

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged President Obama to postpone a U.N. Security Council vote on the Iran deal, saying it usurps the role of Congress.

Under the Iran nuclear deal reached this week in Vienna between the major powers and Iran, the U.N. Security Council must endorse its terms.

Foreign Policy reported Wednesday that Samantha Power, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, is circulating a draft resolution on the council that would endorse the deal. Such an endorsement would be legally binding and could inhibit any bid by Congress to reject the deal.

“The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, a bill which 98 Senators and 400 Representatives supported and you signed, established a 60-day period for Congress to consider the nuclear agreement,” said the letter to Obama Thursday by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), respectively the chairman and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, which will be among the first bodies to review the Iran deal.

“We are deeply concerned that your administration plans to enable the United Nations Security Council to vote on the agreement before the United States Congress can do the same,” the letter said.

“Doing so would be contrary to your statement that ‘it’s important for the American people and Congress to get a full opportunity to review this deal…our national security policies are stronger and more effective when they are subject to the scrutiny and transparency that democracy demands,’” it said. “We urge you to postpone the vote at the United Nations until after Congress considers this agreement.”

Cardin has until now backed Obama’s Iran policy procedures, although he has yet to say whether he favors a deal.

A number of Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Mark-Kirk (R-Ill.), and Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives, have said they see the Security Council vote as an end-run around Congress.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) warned Obama in a letter that he would use his prerogative to block State Department funds and nominees until he receives an assurance from the president that the Security Council vote would be delayed until after congressional review of the deal.

Jerusalem rabbinical court clerk accused of taking bribes

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 09:53

(JTA) — Police in Jerusalem arrested a rabbinical court clerk and his alleged partner on suspicion that they took bribes to interfere with rulings.

Moshe Sabag, a secretary of the registrar of the Rabbinical Court of Jerusalem, was arrested Wednesday and his remand was extended by another four days, the Israeli news site kikar.co.il reported.

Police also arrested another person, who was not named, who is suspected of acting as a middleman between Sabag, 30, and individuals allegedly seeking Sabag’s help with matters being reviewed by the court.

In Israel, rabbinical courts act as family courts for Jewish citizens and their judges, or dayanim, are delegated by the justice ministry to make binding rulings, including awarding damages, custody and issuing arrest warrants. They often detain individuals from leaving the country for the duration of legal proceedings.

Sabag’s lawyer, Elimelech Kurtzweil, said his client was innocent.

“The investigation is ongoing, and I don’t have the body of evidence and am therefore unable to respond to the meat of the allegations, yet I can already say that the claim regarding interference with proceedings is unfounded, and is denied outright,” Kikar.co.il quoted Kurtzweil as saying.

Yet according to the police, who arrested Sabag and his alleged partner at the end of a weeklong undercover sting operation, the two used to split cash payments that interested parties gave the alleged partner for services rendered.

Women of the Wall member detained at holy site with Torah

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 06:27

(JTA) – Israel Police officers detained a women’s rights activist at the Western Wall and confiscated her Torah scroll.

Rachel Cohen Yeshurun, a Women of the Wall board member, was taken into police custody prior to a service Friday and released shortly afterwards, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Women of the Wall runs gender egalitarian services at the holy site in defiance of the state-imposed regulations.

READ: Report: Woman denied entrance to Western Wall for wearing kippa 

Yeshurun and other Women of the Wall members came to the site for their monthly Rosh Hodesh service with a scroll she placed in her bag. In Orthodox Judaism, only men carry Torah scrolls.

Upon going through security in the early hours of the morning, Yeshurun was confronted by officials of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which operates the site, demanding she open her bag. She refused.

READ: Western Wall barriers locked to prevent women from getting Torah scroll

“The police came over and said they were going to take me to the police station and detain me,” Yeshurun told The Jerusalem Post. “When I told them I didn’t want to go, they told me they would take me by force.”

Rules established by Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall, permit women to wear prayer shawls, but bringing a Torah to the Wall is strictly forbidden.

Mickey Rosenfeld, the foreign press spokesperson for the Israeli Police, said Yeshurun’s detention was a direct consequence of breaking this rule.

Yeshurun was not charged with any crime or other violation.

Netanyahu offers solidarity in Chattanooga shooting’s aftermath

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 06:20

(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel “stands in solidarity with the United States” after the attack on army personnel in Tennessee.

“On behalf of the people and government of Israel, I extend our deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and wish a speedy and full recovery to the wounded,” he said Friday in a statement.

A gunman on Thursday killed four Marines and injured three other people in Chattanooga.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Ed Reinhold told local media Thursday that there was nothing yet tying suspected shooter Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who died in a fire exchange during the attack, to a terrorist organization, but he emphasized it’s still very early in the investigation.

Media reports described Abdulazeez, who, according to the SITE Intelligence Group was born in Kuwait to a Palestinian father from Nablus, as having had a traditional American upbringing, including participation on school sports teams.

One of the casualties of the attack was a Chattanooga police officer identified as Dennis Pedigo. He suffered a gunshot wound to the foot and was recovering at a Chattanooga Hospital, wbir.com reported.

Beitar owner to sell Jerusalem soccer club after fans’ rioting in Belgium

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 06:11

(JTA) — The owner of Beitar Jerusalem said he was putting the Israeli soccer club up for sale because he felt ashamed of supporters’ hooliganism in Belgium.

Eli Tabib’s statement Friday followed rioting by fans during a match Thursday in Charleroi. A number of fans threw smoke bombs, flares and firecrackers at a Europa League qualifying round match in the Belgian city.

Fans from the opposite team chanted anti-Semitic slogans at the Israelis, Belgian media reported.

Beitar lost the match, in which Charleroi goalkeeper Nicolas Penneteau was hit by a hard object thrown from the crowd, which forced a delay. Beitar can expect severe punishment from European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“I am ashamed … I have decided to end my involvement with Israeli soccer and am returning to the United States … I will appoint a trustee to run the club until somebody is willing to buy it,” Tabib said in a statement.

Beitar’s fan base is a bastion of Israel’s political right wing. A group of supporters known as “La Familia” that the club has been unable to control has been openly abusive to Israel’s Arab minority.

Beitar coach Slobodan Drapic said Beitar’s fans had been provoked, although he did not explain why some had come to the match with the flares and smoke bombs. It was unclear how so many devices were smuggled into the stadium.

Beitar fans have by far the worst disciplinary record in Israel’s Premier League and over the past decade the team has faced about two dozen hearings and received various punishments, including points deductions, fines and matches without audiences.

READ: Racism in Israeli soccer? Join the (reprehensible club) 

Israeli Sports Minister Miri Regev condemned the action of the fans, saying on her Facebook page a “small group of thugs” had defamed Israeli soccer and called on Israeli police to cooperate with their Belgian counterparts.

Israel Radio quoted Belgian police officials as saying that Israeli police had not adequately forewarned them of possible troublemaking.

Beitar is due to host Charleroi in the return leg at Jerusalem’s Teddy Kollek Stadium next week. Regev said security, which is always heavy at Beitar matches, would be tightened further.

Regev said Beitar fans should be banned from attending.

French Jewish schools shine on matriculation exams

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 05:57

(JTA) — At least five of France’s Jewish high schools achieved a 100-percent pass rate in this year’s matriculation exam.

The data appeared Thursday in an article by the Jewish Actualite Juive weekly.

The schools, in which every pupil who took the matriculation exam passed and received a high school diploma, belong to the ORT Jewish educational network of schools, Chabad Lubavitch and Alliance.

The national passing rate among the 250,000-odd pupils who took the general matriculation exam this summer in France was 91.5 percent.

As a whole, the ORT network, which has six schools across France, had a passing rate of 92 percent, according to Marc Timsit, the director of the network. Its two schools with a perfect score are in Villiers-le-Bel near Paris and in Toulouse.

Of the five Jewish schools listed as achieving a perfect score, ORT Toulouse was the only one outside the Paris region. Each school had several dozen graduates.

The Chabad-affiliated Ozar Hatorah network, which has six schools in the Paris region, had a 98-percent passing rate. Half of that network’s matriculation exam candidates graduated with distinction.

Andre Touboul, director of the Beth Hanna high school of the Chabad Lubavitch-affiliated Haya Mouchka educational complex, said his school’s perfect score may be attributable to less demanding tests in comparison with standards applied 10 years ago.

Earlier this year, Beth Hanna topped the Le Parisien daily’s annual list of best high school in France. Another list compiled by the France Televisions public broadcaster was topped by the Lycee Alliance, a Jewish school in the Paris suburb of Seine Saint-Denis.

Rabbi Yossef Itshak Pevzner, head of the Sinai educational network, whose high school division also achieved a perfect score this summer, downplayed the statistics’ significance.

“My father used to say a Jewish school shouldn’t be a grade factory,” he told Actualite Juive. “We believe everyone has the means to succeed, and we work hard to help them achieve it.”