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Updated: 2 hours 13 min ago

Palestinian scientist named to high Israeli gov’t post

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 05:38

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A scientist from eastern Jerusalem became the highest-ranking Palestinian without Israeli citizenship in an official government post.

Tarek Abu-Hamed of the Sur Baher neighborhood was named deputy chief scientist of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space, the ministry announced Sunday. The Times of Israel noted his achievement as a Palestinian in the Israeli government.

Abu-Hamed has an Israeli identification number and permanent residency status, Haaretz reported.

He began working at the Ministry of Science as a scientific manager in engineering two years ago. He did post-doctorate study at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Technology in collaboration with the University of Minnesota.

Cruz, announcing presidential bid, says he’ll stand unapologetically with Israel

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 17:21

(JTA) — Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas criticized President Barack Obama’s relationship with Israel while announcing his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

“Instead of a president who boycotts Prime Minister Netanyahu, imagine a president who stands unapologetically with Israel,” Cruz said during his announcement Monday at Liberty University, an evangelical Christian school in Virginia. He received a long round of applause for the statement.

The first announced candidate for 2016, Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father. He renounced his Canadian citizenship last year, according to reports.

Cruz, whose father is an evangelical pastor, evoked God and conservatives in his announcement at Liberty.

“God’s blessing has been on America from the very beginning of this nation, and I believe God isn’t done with America yet,” he said. “I believe in you. I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to reignite the promise of America, and that is why today, I’m announcing that I’m running for president of the United States.”

In September, Cruz walked out of a conference on Middle East Christians after being booed for saying Christians “have no greater ally than Israel.”

“If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you,” he said at the time.


Gal Gadot is new face of Gucci Fragrances

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 15:53

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli actress Gal Gadot has been selected as the new face of Gucci Fragrances.

Gadot, who plays Wonder Woman in the upcoming DC Entertainment/Warner Bros film “Batman v Superman,” made the announcement on her Facebook page.

Gadot, the 2004 Miss Israel, has been a successful model and a star on Israeli television shows. She also appeared in the “The Fast and the Furious” series of films.

White House: Looking to next Israeli government to recommit to two states

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 15:22

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration said it would look to the new Israeli government to recommit itself to the two-state solution.

“We will look to the next Israeli government to match words with actions and policies that demonstrate a genuine commitment to a two-state solution,” Dennis McDonough, the White House chief of staff, said Monday, addressing the annual conference of J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group.

McDonough’s comment, made to a friendly audience, was the first sign that the White House seemed ready at some point to put behind it Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s preelection comments last week repudiating a two-state solution.

McDonough made clear that Netanyahu’s comments were still an irritant to the relationship between the governments.

“In 2009, Prime Minister Netanyahu publicly endorsed a two-state solution,” he said.

“Over the course of President Obama’s administration, most recently with the tireless efforts of Secretary [John] Kerry, the United States has expended tremendous energy in pursuit of this goal,” McDonough said. “That is why the prime minister’s comments on the eve of the election—in which he first intimated and then made very clear in response to a follow-up question that a Palestinian state will not be established while he is prime minister—were so troubling.”

McDonough noted that Netanyahu, after winning the election, attempted to explain that he was referring to current circumstances when he said two states would not happen, not rejecting two states as an outcome.

“For many in Israel and in the international community, such contradictory comments call into question his commitment to a two-state solution,” he said. “We cannot simply pretend that those comments were never made, or that they don’t raise questions about the prime minister’s commitment to achieving peace through direct negotiations.”

For this reason, McDonough said, Obama was reevaluating “how we pursue the cause of peace.”

Obama administration officials told media, anonymously, that one option they are considering in the absence of a peace process is presenting the parameters of a final deal and, McDonough said, “in the end, we know what a peace agreement should look like.”

“The borders of Israel and an independent Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps,” he said. “Each state needs secure and recognized borders, and there must be robust provisions that safeguard Israel’s security. An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end, and the Palestinian people must have the right to live in and govern themselves in their own sovereign state.”

McDonough said the difference over two states would not affect the security relationship. “Today, our security, military, and intelligence cooperation is stronger than it’s ever been, and that’s not going to change,” he said.

Hitler painting to be auctioned, gallery asking $30K

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 15:00

Hitler’s 1912 floral still life being auctioned by a Los Angeles gallery. (Nate D. Sanders catalog)

(JTA) — A Los Angeles gallery is auctioning a painting by Adolf Hitler, with an initial asking price of $30,000.

Hitler’s floral still life, painted in 1912 before he entered politics, will be auctioned on Thursday by the Nate D. Sanders gallery.

As a teenager and young man, Hitler unsuccessfully pursued an art career and was twice rejected from the Vienna Academy of Art.

Some of Hitler’s only artistic successes came at the hands of a Jewish art dealer, Samuel Morgenstern, who purchased several of the future Nazi dictator’s paintings, according to the New York Daily News.

During the Holocaust, Morgenstern’s gallery was seized by the Nazis, and he was deported to the Lodz ghetto, where he died in 1943.

The watercolor painting bears Hitler’s signature at the bottom right and has Morgenstern’s stamp on the back. According to the catalog description, the painting “is indicative of Hitler’s floral work, which isn’t as prolific as the architecture and Vienna street life scenes he did at the time.”

Another Hitler painting sold in 2014 for $161,000.

According to The Express newspaper of London, the Nate D. Sanders gallery has also auctioned off signed copies of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” selling one for $64,850 in 2014.

EU joins Arab delegations in pressing Israel to cooperate with Gaza investigation

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 14:49

(JTA) — The European Union joined Palestinian and Arab delegations in asking Israel to allow a United Nations human rights investigator access to the Gaza Strip.

“We call on Israel to grant access to the special rapporteur without delay,” EU policy officer Jerome Bellion-Jourdan said at a council meeting in Geneva on Monday, Reuters reported.

Israel has declined to allow the investigator, Makarim Wibisono, into Gaza, and Wibisono presented an initial report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva based on interviews with people in Jordan and Egypt, as well as individuals communicating via video call from Gaza.

His report calls on Israel to investigate the killing of more than 1,500 Palestinian civilians, one-third of them children, during last summer’s Gaza war.

Bellion-Jourdan’s remarks to the Human Rights Council marked the first time that the EU has spoken at the council’s annual Item 7 meetings devoted solely to Israel, Reuters said. The United States has refused to participate in the Item 7 meetings since March 2013; neither the United States nor Israel attended the meeting on Monday.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the annual debate “negatively singles out Israel and Israel every year asks its friends on the council not to express themselves.”

Israeli singers Yonatan Geffen, Noa attacked for anti-Netanyahu views

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 13:47

(JTA) — The Israeli singer Yonatan Geffen was physically attacked for public comments he made lamenting Benjamin Netanyahu’s election victory.

The following day, the Israeli musician Noa said she was verbally threatened and abused because of her politics.

Geffen was attacked at his home in a central Israel village on Saturday after posting on Facebook that Netanyahu’s March 17 election victory was the “Nakba” of the Israeli peace movement, Haaretz reported. Nakba, which is Arabic for “catastrophe,” is the word that Arabs use to describe Israel’s victory in 1948 and their displacement.

An unidentified individual tried to hit the musician, pelted his house with eggs and called him a “leftist traitor.” According to Ynet, in addition to the Nakba comment, Geffen also said at a concert prior to the attack that “to everyone who slipped a Likud vote into the ballot box, don’t cry when your children die in the next dumb conflict.”

Noa, whose full name is Achinoam Nini, posted on Facebook Sunday that when she arrived at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport after a trip to Italy that hecklers yelled, “Here’s Achinoam Nini … enemy of Israel. We’ll deal with you like Geffen.”

For many years she has been outspoken about her dovish and left-wing views.

Thessaloniki Jewish leader wants German funding for Holocaust memorial

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 13:30

(JTA) — A Greek Jewish leader is requesting 20 million euros — nearly $22 million — in wartime reparations from Germany to fund the building of a Holocaust memorial.

David Saltiel, president of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, said the requested funds were to compensate for Greek Jews being forced to pay for their own forced train deportation to the death camps, Newsweek reported.

Nearly 60,000 Jews were deported from Greece during World War II, and 50,000 of them perished, Saltiel said.

“We think it’s a big opportunity that if the German government decides they want to help, it would be a very good coincidence that this money goes for this purpose,” Saltiel told Newsweek.

Saltiel said that an earlier application in the 1990s for reparations for the compulsory train fares was rejected.

Netanyahu apologizes to Arab-Israelis for Election Day remarks

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 13:22

(JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Arab-Israelis for his Election Day remark about them voting “in droves.”

“I know that what I said a few days ago offended some of Israel’s citizens, offended Israeli Arabs,” Netanyahu told representatives of the Arab community during a meeting at his Jerusalem home on Monday. “I had no intention of doing so. I am sorry for this.”

In a video posted on his Facebook page on Election Day, Netanyahu urged his right-wing supporters to vote to counteract the Arab-Israelis who he claimed were voting “in droves” with assistance from foreign groups. The statement was widely criticized, and President Barack Obama told reporters he had expressed concern about it in a Thursday phone conversation with Netanyahu. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin also condemned the statement.

While the Arab-Israeli leaders at the meeting Monday applauded the apology, Israel’s Joint Arab List, which won the third most Knesset seats in last week’s election, rejected it, according to Israel’s Channel 2.

“The racism of Netanyahu and his government will not end with the inciting statement that he distributed during the elections,” the Joint Arab List said in a statement. “Racist legislation and exclusionary, discriminatory policies are Netanyahu’s working plan also for the coming Knesset, so we can only reject his apology and continue our struggle for equality for the Arab population.”

Speaking to the Arab-Israeli leaders on Monday, Netanyahu emphasized his record of “tremendous investment in minority communities” and noted that he regards himself “as the prime minister of each and every one of you, all the citizens of Israel, regardless of faith, ethnicity or gender.”

Arab Knesset members had demanded that Rivlin force an apology from Netanyahu for his remarks and said they would ask Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to recommend that the prime minister be tried for his comments, according to the Times of Israel.

U.N. council holds annual human rights session without U.S., Israel

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 11:31

(JTA) — The United States for a second straight year did not send a representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council’s annual discussion.

The U.S. no-show at Monday’s session on Item 7, a discussion by the council of Israel’s alleged human rights violations against the Palestinians, was portrayed by some as being a part of a rift with Israel. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it asked the United States not to attend. Israel also did not send a delegation.

The item appears each year on the agenda of the Human Rights Council’s debate in Geneva.

At the session, dozens of countries and NGOs spoke against Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians.

Keith Harper, the U.S. ambassador to the Human Rights Council, said in a statement issued Monday that the U.S., “in support of Israel, made no statement” at the debate.

“Our non-participation in this debate underscores our position that Item 7 lacks legitimacy, as it did last year when we also refrained from speaking,” the statement said. “The United States strongly and unequivocally opposes the very existence of Agenda Item 7 and any HRC resolutions that come from it.”

Harper added that the United States remains “deeply troubled” by the item directed against Israel “and by the many repetitive and one-sided resolutions under that agenda item. No other nation has an entire agenda item set aside to deal with it.”

Monday’s session had been scheduled to deal with the report of the Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict. However, the panel earlier this month received a three-month extension to present its report.

The delay was due in part to the resignation last month of the former head of the commission, William Schabas, after Israel provided evidence to the Human Rights Council that he had authored a seven-page legal opinion on behalf of the PLO for which he was paid.

Hundreds attend funeral rites in Israel for 7 Brooklyn kids

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 10:41

Mourners attend the funeral of the seven children from the Sassoon family in Jerusalem, March 23, 2015. The seven children died early on Saturday after flames ripped through their Brooklyn home. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral and burial in Israel of seven children who died in a house fire in Brooklyn.

“God Almighty took seven roses,” said their father, Gabriel Sassoon, in a eulogy at a Jerusalem cemetery on Monday afternoon, according to Ynet. “He took my children and my future grandchildren, maybe 70 or 80 of them, their smiles. To you, my God, I give my all. My soul, my all. That is how I feel.”

The mourners at the Givat Shaul Cemetery included close friends of the family, who had lived in Israel until two years ago, and strangers moved by the tragedy.

David Lau, Israel’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi, called the fire an unspeakable tragedy and urged the family to remain strong, Haaretz reported.

“Each one is a flower in God’s garden,” he said.

Gabriel Sassoon was out of town at a religious conference when the fire consumed his home shortly after midnight Saturday. Officials have blamed an unattended hot plate warming Shabbat meals as the cause.

His wife, Gayle, and one of his daughters, Tziporah, 15, both escaped the blaze by leaping from the house but are fighting for their lives in the hospital. They are unaware of the seven deaths of the children, who were ages 5 to 16.

Gayle Sassoon reportedly had planned to take the children out of town for the weekend — to her parents’ home in southern New Jersey — but stayed home because of a snowstorm that hit the New York area.

About 1,000 people attended a funeral for the children in Brooklyn on Sunday before the bodies were flown to Israel for burial.

“They were a burnt offering,” Sassoon said of his children at Sunday’s funeral, referring to the seven “unblemished” lambs that were to be brought to the Temple in Jerusalem on the first of the month; the children died on the first day of the Jewish month of Nissan. “I lost everything in the fire. Seven pure sheep. Those are my seven children.”

Sydney theater apologizes for rejecting Jewish group due to ‘occupation of Palestine’

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 09:50

(JTA) — The community board of a suburban Sydney theater apologized for telling a Jewish group it could not rent the venue because it does “not host groups that support the colonization and occupation of Palestine.”

The unsigned email from the Red Rattler Theater in Marrickville came in response to a request from the Hillel at Sydney’s Shalom Institute to rent the premises for a series of performances dealing with the Holocaust.

“Hi. Our policy does not support ­colonialism/Zionism. Therefore we do not host groups that support the colonization and occu­pation of Palestine,” read the email signed by the Red Rattler Team, the Australian Jewish News reported.

Prior to the apology, New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff wrote to the manager of the Red Rattler, explaining that Hillel is an “apolitical body which provides educational, cultural and social activities for Jewish students and young adults.”

Alhadeff asked for a meeting with theater leaders to discuss the Jewish community and Israel, according to the Jewish News.

“To categorically reject an approach by a Jewish organization to hire your premises because of a political position that your team holds in relation to an overseas conflict is at best ill-informed and at worst racist and discriminatory,” he wrote.

The apology email sent to the Jewish News on Monday said that the original response “does not reflect the values of the Community Board of the Red Rattler Theatre” and “The Red Rattler condemns racism of any kind.” The apology was signed by the entire board of directors of the theater.

“We welcome organizations from all cultures and walks of life and actively encourage cultural diversity,” the apology read.

The Marrick­ville Council in December 2010 voted to support a ban on any government, academic, trade, sporting or cultural ties with Israel in support of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Jewish cemetery in northern Hungary vandalized

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 08:11

(JTA) — Gravestones were vandalized in a Jewish cemetery in northern Hungary.

Up to 20 gravestones, including two crypts, were vandalized over the weekend in Gyongyos, the MTI-Hungarian News Agency Corp. reported Sunday, citing Peter Weisz, the leader of the local Jewish community. Tombstones were toppled and smashed, and human remains were removed from the crypts, according to reports.

The fence around the cemetery also was vandalized, Weisz told the Hungarian media.

On Sunday, one of the city’s deputy mayors visited the site and offered the city’s help to repair the damage, as did the Catholic Church, according to MTI.

The cemetery was similarly damaged in 2013.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary called the attack a “barbaric act.”

The Jewish community of Gyongyos is comprised of about 80 people in a total city population of about 30,000.

Swarthmore’s former Hillel votes to rename itself Kehilah

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 06:58

(JTA) — Swarthmore College’s former Hillel voted to rename itself the Swarthmore Kehilah.

The name change announced Sunday follows the decision by the campus Jewish organization to drop its affiliation with Hillel International over restrictions on Israel issues.

The decision was made through an open submission process for new names and two rounds of voting in less than a week. The initial ballots resulted in a tie between Kehilah, which means community, and Ruach, or spirit, the former name of the campus Jewish community organization before it affiliated with Hillel. A tie-breaking vote was held Sunday.

In December 2013, the Hillel of Swarthmore College, located in Swarthmore, Pa., declared itself an Open Hillel, saying it would not abide by Hillel International’s rules prohibiting partnering with or hosting groups or speakers who deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish or democratic state; delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel; or support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.

On March 16, Hillel International emailed a letter to Swarthmore deans threatening legal action if students at the college’s Hillel chapter hosted an upcoming program with speakers espousing anti-Israel or pro-BDS viewpoints. The campus Jewish group voted the same day to disaffiliate with Hillel International and to change its name.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am to be writing with the new name of Swarthmore’s Jewish community – a name that together, we all chose for ourselves,” Kehilah President Sarah Revesz, a Swarthmore senior, wrote in the announcement email to Jewish students on campus. “It’s been wonderful to see how many people have gotten involved in this process over the past week. We had a strong voter turnout and it makes me glad to see so many people taking the steps to make this community your own.”

Netanyahu receives enough support to form next Israeli government

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 06:38

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has received a majority of 67 Knesset members supporting his right to form the next Israeli government.

On Monday morning, Moshe Kahlon, head of the new socially oriented Kulanu, which garnered 10 Knesset seats in last week’s elections won by Netanyahu’s Likud Party, announced following much speculation that he would give his party’s support to Netanyahu. That gave the incumbent prime minister a majority of the 120 Knesset seats.

“In order to quell the suspense, we will honor the people’s wishes,” Kahlon, a former Likudnik, told President Reuven Rivlin. “The people decided that Netanyahu should form the government, and I recommend Netanyahu.”

Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, which partnered with Likud in the 2013 elections, later in the day added his party’s six seats to Netanyahu’s total.

Rivlin on Monday was continuing the process of consulting with representatives of each party elected to serve in the 20th Knesset. On Sunday, Netanyahu had received 51 mandates in support of his premiership and Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog 24, with 24 abstentions.

Yesh Atid, the centrist party led by former television journalist Yair Lapid, which garnered 11 Knesset seats, said it would not recommend anyone as prime minister and would sit in the opposition.

Rivlin will announce his decision, which is expected to be Netanyahu, on Wednesday after he receives the official election results from the Central Elections Committee.

The lawmaker chosen to form the government, Israel’s 34th, has 28 days to fulfill the task; the president can grant a 14-day extension. If a government is not formed, the president may ask another lawmaker to form a coalition.

Nazi refuge discovered in Argentine jungle, archaeologist says

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 04:41

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — A team of archaeologists and researchers discovered what they believe was a refuge for Nazis in an Argentine forest near the border with Paraguay.

It is believed that the Nazis prepared the hideout in the first half of the 1940s as a place to flee should World War II not go in their favor, but they did not use the refuge.

The director of the Urban Archaeology Center of the Buenos Aires University, Daniel Schavelzon, is leading the investigative team that is working at Misiones National Park in Teyu Cuare, a province in the northeastern cone of Argentina.

His team discovered German coins minted between 1938 and 1941, and porcelain dishes made by the German Meissen Company between 1890 and 1949.

“We found here an extraordinary type of construction, rare,” Schavelzon told Argentina’s Clarin newspaper. “We have not yet reached a final conclusion, but our first explanation, or idea, is that we have found a refuge for the Nazi hierarchy. The building is very exceptional, with objects and characteristics of building that are not from the region.”

Supporting the theory, he said, is the fact that the walls of the hideout were 10 feet thick and it was located in an inaccessible location.

In a video interview from the excavations, Schavelzon said he rejects the theory that Nazi official Martin Borman, who served as Adolf Hitler’s private secretary, had lived there.

When the Nazis did enter Argentina, they reportedly did so with the blessing of Argentine President Juan Peron and thus did not need the hiding places and the plans to spirit them there.

“We think that we found a huge refuge that ultimately they didn’t use,” said Schavelzon, who also is a researcher on the National Scientific and Technical Research Council, or CONICET.

Misiones province is located on the frontier between Argentina and Paraguay, which is populated by a large number of European immigrants. In 1940, Misiones had a population of 190,000, including 80,000 immigrants — 14,000 from Germany,

“It is very interesting scientific research and we believe that full transparency is crucial to understanding the scope of the Nazi presence in Argentina and South America,” Sergio Widder, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director for Latin America, told JTA. “I believe that the enthusiasm should be balanced with a professional approach, which seems to be the case. It is important to note that Schavelzon makes clear that no secret hiding plans were needed in Argentina, since the protection of the Nazis was out in the open.”

Israeli NGO sends relief workers to Pacific island in wake of cyclone

Sun, 03/22/2015 - 23:48

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli NGO IsraAID has sent a team of relief workers to the small Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, which suffered extensive damage from Cyclone Pam.

A team reportedly arrived Sunday in the resort town of Eratap to see the damage and meet with local leaders, including the island’s chief. Another team visited the capital of Port Villa to coordinate with other agencies and the island’s government.

Vanuatu was struck by a category 5 tropical cyclone, called Pam, on March 13.

IsraAid reportedly sent its first team of relief workers two days after the cyclone hit. Relief efforts are being funded in part by the American Jewish Committee.

Last December, IsraAID provided relief in the Philippines in the wake of a deadly typhoon, which left at least 21 people dead and displaced more than 1.6 million Filipinos.

In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, a 147-member medical and humanitarian mission from the Israel Defense Forces spent nearly two weeks running a field hospital in Bogo City. Israel also delivered more 100 tons of humanitarian and medical supplies for typhoon victims.

Ex-Justin Bieber neighbor suing over bodyguard’s ‘little Jew boy’ slur

Sun, 03/22/2015 - 23:14

(JTA) — A former neighbor of Justin Bieber is suing the American pop star, claiming that the singer’s bodyguard called him a “little Jew boy.”

Jeff Schwartz is seeking damages for emotional distress in his lawsuit filed last last week, according to the entertainment website TMZ.

According to the suit, Schwartz warned Bieber over Memorial Day weekend in 2013 to stop speeding around their Calabasas, Calif., neighborhood in his sports car because it put lives at risk, TMZ reported.

Next, the suit claims, Bieber’s bodyguards came out and one of them called Schwartz a “little Jew boy” before repeating, “What are you going to do about it, Jew boy?”

The slur allegedly was used months before Bieber egged Schwartz’s house. The singer pleaded no contest to a vandalism charge in the incident, was placed on probation and paid $80,000 to make repairs.

Bieber moved out of the Southern California neighborhood last year.

Grief-stricken Brooklyn father: My children ‘had faces of angels’

Sun, 03/22/2015 - 16:47

The funeral procession for seven children who died in a house fire departing a funeral home in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn on the way to the airport for burial in Israel, March 22, 2015. (Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

(JTA) — The Brooklyn father who lost seven of his eight children in a home fire called his kids “a sacrifice” to the community.

Gabriel Sassoon sobbed as he tried to recite the names of his late children — saying they were “angels” — during a eulogy Sunday at a Jewish funeral home in the heavily Orthodox Jewish Borough Park section of Brooklyn, the New York Post reported.

“They all had faces of angels. Hashem [God] knows how much I love them,” Sassoon said, according to the Post.

He was out of town at a religious conference when the fire consumed his home shortly after midnight Saturday. Officials have blamed an unattended hot plate warming Shabbat meals as the cause.

His wife, Gayle, and one of his daughters, Tziporah, 15, both escaped the blaze by leaping from the house but are fighting for their lives in the hospital. They are unaware of the seven deaths.

About 1,000 people lined the street outside the Shomrei Hadas funeral home for the service, according to the Post. Inside, an overflowing crowd of mourners wailed for the lost children, who ranged in age from 5 to 16.

The bodies were expected to be flown to Israel for burial in Jerusalem.

“They were a burnt offering,” Sassoon said of his children. “I lost everything in the fire. Seven pure sheep. Those are my seven children.”

Gayle Sassoon reportedly had planned to take the children out of town for the weekend — to her parents’ home in southern New Jersey — but stayed home because of a snowstorm that hit the New York area.

Jewish Dems slam Iowa’s Steve King for questioning their faith

Sun, 03/22/2015 - 10:09

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Some Jewish Democrats demanded an apology from U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa for saying that American Jews “can be Democrats first and Jews second.”

King, a conservative Republican who is important to his party’s potential presidential candidates in part because of his influence in Iowa, the first caucus state, was asked Friday by Boston Herald Radio about Democrats who had boycotted the speech to Congress in early March by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

“I don’t understand how Jews in America can be Democrats first and Jewish second and support Israel along the line of just following their president,” he said.

The National Jewish Democratic Council “condemned” the remarks in a statement.

“For anyone, let alone an elected official, to actively belittle the hundreds of thousands of American Jews who vote for Democratic candidates is beyond the pale,” the council’s chairman, Greg Rosenbaum, said. “Rep. King is essentially stating that we aren’t Jewish enough for him. How dare he. We demand and deserve an apology at once.”

Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), the highest-ranking Jewish Democrat in the House of Representatives, berated King in Twitter post.

“I don’t need Congressman Steve King questioning my religion or my politics,” wrote Israel, who has headed fundraising for congressional Democrats in the last two elections. “I demand an apology from him and repudiation from GOP.”

King replied, also on Twitter, that “real men make such requests face to face,” which prompted Israel to call King “mashugana,” or crazy.

Netanyahu’s speech, which lambasted President Barack Obama’s Iran policy, came in for criticism by Democrats in part because it was arranged by Netanyahu and congressional Republicans without consulting the White House or congressional Democrats.