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Arab-Israeli soccer team fined for honoring ex-Knesset lawmaker

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 06:01

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Arab-Israeli soccer team was fined for honoring former Knesset lawmaker Azmi Bishara, who fled Israel amid accusations of treason and espionage.

The Bnei Sakhnin club was fined $4,000 on Wednesday by the Israel Football Association’s disciplinary court for its tribute to Bishara, who was accused of providing information to the terrorist group Hezbollah during the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Bishara left Israel in 2007 while under investigation and now lives in Qatar.

The club also was levied a suspended fine of about $10,000. It said it would not appeal the fine.

The Oct. 18 tribute also honored an anonymous Qatari donor who gave $2 million to the team, the only Arab club in Israel’s Premiere League.

The team’s stadium is called Doha Stadium, named for the capital of Qatar. It was built with millions of dollars in donations from Qatar.

Israeli Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat earlier in the week had threatened to remove the Jerusalem-based squad from the league, saying in a statement that penalties and fines “are not sufficient measure.”

During the Oct. 18 match against Hapoel Tel Aviv, Sakhnin fans raised a banner reading “Jerusalem is ours” beneath a picture of the Al-Aksa Mosque in the city.

U.S. condemns Jerusalem terror attack that killed infant

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 05:45

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The United States condemned as “despicable” a terror attack in Jerusalem that claimed the life of a 3-month-old girl.

Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral late Wednesday night in Jerusalem for Chaya Zissel Braun, who is reported to be an American citizen.

Chaya was killed when a driver crashed his car into the light rail stop near Ammunition Hill, in northern Jerusalem, that afternoon as passengers were disembarking. Eight people were injured.

The driver, Abdelrahman al-Shaludi, died early Thursday morning at Jerusalem’s Shaarey Tzedek hospital from gunshot wounds inflicted by Israel Police officers as he fled the scene.

Hours after the attack, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement, “The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem. We express our deepest condolences to the family of the baby, reportedly an American citizen, who was killed in this despicable attack, and extend our prayers for a full recovery to those injured. We urge all sides to maintain calm and avoid escalating tensions in the wake of this incident.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said in a statement that the Jerusalem attack and an attack on the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa are both a result of the rise of radical Islam.

“The terror attacks which took place yesterday almost simultaneously at two sides of the world, Jerusalem and Ottawa, demonstrate again that terrorism is a worldwide epidemic that must be fought strenuously and without compromise,” Liberman said.

“Terror is not the result of building in Jerusalem, Ottawa, New York, Madrid, London or Mombasa, but of the war of radical Islam against the Western world. We stand alongside our friends in Canada, who have demonstrated by their firm stand alongside Israel and again recently in joining the war against ISIS, that they will not give in to terror. Israel, too, will remain firm in the fight against terror and terrorists.”

Family members told the Palestinian Maan news agency that Shaludi, 21, of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, had been released recently from an Israeli prison where he served 14 months. He was the nephew of Mohiyedine Sharif, the former head of Hamas’ armed wing who was killed in 1988.

Shaludi posted messages and video clips in support of Hamas on his Facebook page, the Times of Israel reported.

 

British man gets jail time for sending lawmaker anti-Semitic tweet

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 16:24

(JTA) — A 21-year-old British man was sentenced to four weeks in jail for sending an anti-Semitic tweet to a Jewish member of Parliament.

Garron Helm pleaded guilty Monday to sending the offending message to Labour Party member Luciana Berger. In addition to the jail sentence, Helm was ordered to pay Berger $128.

The tweet, which called Berger a “communist Jewess,” showed a photograph of her with a Holocaust yellow star photoshopped onto her forehead and the words, “You can always count on a Jew to show their true colours eventually.” It had the hashtag “Hitler was right.”

Helm’s home contained Nazi memorabilia and a flag for an extremist right-wing group called National Action.

“This sentence sends a clear message that hate crime is not tolerated in our country,” Berger said in a statement. “I hope this case serves as an encouragement to others to report hate crime whenever it rears its ugly head.”

Poll: Majority of Denmark citizens want circumcision banned

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 16:16

(JTA) — A new poll indicates that 74 percent of Denmark’s citizens believe circumcision should be fully or partially banned.

The survey was released Tuesday, the day before a parliamentary hearing believed to be a potential first step in implementing a circumcision ban. Two Danish parties favor a ban, while others are divided on the issue. Only 10 percent of the 1,000 people surveyed believed the decision should be left to parents.

“As I see it, [circumcision] goes against the [United Nations] Convention on the Rights of the Child to circumcise children. I’m leaning toward a ban until the person is of legal age,” Hans Christian Schmidt, a former health minister and now a Venstre member of parliament, told Metroxpress, the newspaper that conducted the poll, according to Denmark’s The Local.

In 2013, the Danish Health and Medicines Authority determined that there was not enough evidence to merit either banning or encouraging the practice. The authority made its determination following a study on the health risks and benefits of circumcision.

According to Danish health officials, between 1,000 and 2,000 circumcisions are performed in Denmark annually, primarily on Jewish and Muslim boys. Both faiths require the circumcision of boys.

Sweden and Norway also are discussing circumcision bans. Earlier this year, Norway’s association of nurses urged the government to outlaw the procedure.

Palestinian-American student alleges anti-Muslim assault at Brooklyn arena

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 16:10

(JTA) — A Palestinian-American student alleged that she was assaulted by a group of Jewish fans at a Brooklyn arena during an exhibition basketball game between the host Nets and Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Nerdeen Kiswani, 20, said that she was punched in the stomach and had a Palestinian flag taken from her hands during the Oct. 7 game at the Barclays Center by a group that included Leonard Petlakh, the executive director of the Kings Bay YM-YWHA, who was punched outside the arena after the game. Kiswani, who wears a hijab, is a student at Hunter College in Manhattan, where Petlakh also teaches.

In a statement to the New York Daily News, Petlakh’s attorney, former City Councilman Lew Fidler, denied that Kiswani was punched by his client or anybody else.

A video taken of the incident shows a flag being taken from Kiswani by a single individual, but does not indicate that she was struck or attacked by a group. Shawn Schraeder, who is accused of assaulting Petlakh and is awaiting arraignment, is seen in the video.

Kiswani’s attorney, Lamis Deek, said the punch occurred but cannot be seen on the video. Deek also is representing Schraeder in his case.

At a news conference Tuesday, Kiswani said that she was assaulted because she was “the only visibly Muslim women in the arena.” She is the founder and editor of the I Stand with Palestine web magazine and president of Hunter College’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.

Police said Monday that Schraeder would not be charged with a hate crime because they no longer think bias was involved in the punching of Petlakh.

Kiswani said that when she reported the attack to Barclays Center security staff, the alleged assailants were stopped only briefly before being allowed to proceed; they were later escorted from the arena. NYPD officers also did not act, Kiswani said, and threatened to arrest her friends who alerted them to the incident during the game featuring Maccabi Tel Aviv and the NBA team.

This article has been updated and revised.

Netanyahu slams Abbas over deadly rail attack in Jerusalem

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 14:35

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the light rail attack in Jerusalem that killed a 3-month-old girl.

The Prime Minister’s Office spokesman, Ofir Gendelman, on his official Twitter feed identified the driver of the car that crashed Wednesday into the Ammunition Hill station in northern Jerusalem as a Hamas member. Eight people also were injured in the suspected terror act as passengers were disembarking from the train.

Netanyahu in a statement referred to the fact that Abbas’ Fatah party recently formed a unity government with Hamas.

“This is how Abu Mazen’s partners in government act, the same Abu Mazen who — only a few days ago — incited toward a terrorist attack in Jerusalem,” the prime minister said, using Abbas’ nom de guerre.

The driver of the car attempted to flee the scene on foot and was shot by police, who confirmed that he was from the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan and had previously served time in an Israeli prison.

After the attack, which was captured on security camera video, Palestinians and Israeli forces clashed in Silwan, which has been a recent source of Arab-Jewish tension. Israeli security forces also reportedly raided the home of the suspect in the attack, Abdelrahman al-Shaludi, who is the nephew of Mohiyedine Sharif, the former head of Hamas’ armed wing who was killed in 1988.

Netanyahu ordered tightened security in Jerusalem. The city’s mayor, Nir Barkat, called for the reinforcement of police forces in order to “restore peace and security.”

“As I have said for months, the situation in Jerusalem is intolerable and we must act unequivocally against all violence taking place in the city,” he said in a statement. “Today, more than ever, it is clear that we must send police forces into neighborhoods where there are disturbances, placing them strategically and widely in significant numbers.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin condemned the attack. “The atrocious murder of an innocent baby girl, a victim of indiscriminate terrorism, should disgust all those who have a heart,” he said in a statement.

“The increasing incitement on the Arab streets and the streets of Jerusalem, which unfortunately receives the backing of leaders in the Arab world, has the ability to destroy the delicate balance of life in Jerusalem, and carry us all into a maelstrom of destruction and pain.”

 

 

Infant killed, 8 hurt in suspected terror attack on Jerusalem light rail

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 11:07

The car that crashed into a Jerusalem train station, killing an infant and injuring eight, in what is being probed as a terrorist attack. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A 3-month-old girl was killed and eight people were injured when a car crashed into a light rail station in Jerusalem.

The suspected terror attack, captured on security camera video, occurred Wednesday afternoon at the Ammunition Hill station in northern Jerusalem as passengers were disembarking from the train. Several of the injured passengers reportedly are American citizens.

The driver of the car attempted to flee the scene on foot and was shot by police. Israeli media have published unconfirmed reports naming the driver as a former Palestinian prisoner from the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, which has been a recent source of Arab-Jewish tension.

The infant girl, identified as Chaya Zissel Braun, died at the Hadassah hospital on Mount Scopus of her wounds. The driver reportedly was hospitalized with serious wounds.

The infant’s grandfather, Shimshon Halperin of Israel, told reporters later that the baby was born after her parents had tried for years to conceive with no success. The family was returning from the Western Wall when they attack occurred, he said.

The light rail has come under attack in recent weeks by stone-throwing Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem.

Hagel, meeting with Yaalon, reaffirms U.S. commitment to Israeli security

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 08:59

(JTA) — U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reaffirmed the “deep commitment” of the United States to Israel’s security at a meeting with his Israeli counterpart.

Hagel in his meeting Tuesday with Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon at the Pentagon in Washington also noted the importance of the U.S.-Israel defense relationship.

The defense chiefs discussed the coalition efforts to counter ISIS, Iran and other regional issues. They also agreed to continue to work together to maintain the strength of the U.S.-Israel security relationship, according to a Pentagon statement.

Israel and the United States have disagreed on what could be the terms of a nuclear agreement between the world powers and Iran. Israel wants all of Iran’s centrifuges to be dismantled, while the United States is willing to consider leaving a limited civilian nuclear program in place with strict international monitoring.

“We must not forget that the United States is really the State of Israel’s most important strategic ally,” Yaalon said in Washington following the meeting, according to the Times of Israel. “In every aspect they are the leading power in the world, whether it is economically or militarily or diplomatically, and it is good that we have the opportunity to share our opinions.”

Haredim’s refusal to sit next to opposite sex delays Delta flight

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 08:41

(JTA) — A Delta Airlines flight to Israel was delayed after haredi Orthodox men and women deplaned rather than sit next to members of the opposite sex.

The flight Monday night from New York’s Kennedy Airport arrived more than an hour late on Tuesday afternoon due to the incident, Haaretz reported.

After the haredi passengers decided to leave the plane, their baggage had to be removed, causing the delay.

It is not known if the passengers’ fares were refunded.

In September, an El Al flight that landed in Israel on the morning of Rosh Hashanah eve was delayed in New York after haredi Orthodox men assigned to sit next to women attempted to switch their seats.

The haredi passengers who could not switch their seats stood up immediately upon takeoff and remained in place throughout the flight, crowding the aisles and inconveniencing fellow passengers and flight attendants, Ynet reported at the time.

 

NBC photographer with Jewish roots recovers from Ebola

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 08:16

(JTA) — NBC photographer Ashoka Mukpo is free of the Ebola virus and will leave the hospital.

Mukpo, whose biological father is Jewish, is expected to leave the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha on Wednesday, Reuters reported. He arrived there from Liberia on Oct. 6.

He was the first U.S. journalist known to have contracted Ebola and the fifth patient with the disease treated in the United States to fully recover, according to Reuters.

Mukpo was raised in Colorado by the late Tibetan Buddhist leader Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche; his mother was one of his several wives. His biological father, Mitchell Levy, one of Trungpa’s followers, is Jewish, The Associated Press reported. Mukpo’s mother and Levy married after Trungpa’s death.

Levy told the AP that his son was filming inside and around clinics and high-risk areas in Liberia but didn’t know how he became infected.

Mukpo returned to the West African nation in August to cover the epidemic.

“I don’t regret going to Liberia to cover the crisis,” he said in a statement. “That country was a second home to me and I had to help raise the alarm.”

 

 

 

Iran claims to arrest spies near nuclear plant

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 08:06

(JTA) — Iran arrested what it claimed were several suspected foreign spies in the southern province of Bushehr, home to the country’s first nuclear power plant.

Fars News Service, the country’s semi-official news agency, reported Tuesday on the arrests but did not provide further details.

Iranian media reported that the country’s intelligence minister, Seyed Mahmoud Alawi, said that the suspects were agents of foreign intelligence services who had been engaged in surveillance and intelligence gathering, the Times of Israel reported.

Alawi said Bushehr province is Iran’s nuclear hub and therefore “has a special position at the national level,” according to Reuters. The Bushehr plant went live in 2011 and is not widely regarded as a proliferation threat as part of the country’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

Last month, the Hamshari daily reported that Iranian authorities had arrested a Ukrainian “expert” for suspected sabotage at the plant, according to the Times of Israel. Hamshari reported that the Ukrainian worked with the Russian contractor who helps run the plant.

2 Israeli soldiers wounded by drug smugglers firing from Egypt

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 06:37

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two Israeli soldiers were injured when troops came under fire by Egyptian drug smugglers on the border with Egypt.

The soldiers, one female and one male, were evacuated to the hospital, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement Wednesday.

The drug smugglers fired on an IDF jeep patrolling the border halfway between Eilat and Gaza. The Israeli soldiers returned fire, wounding three of the smugglers, according to the IDF.

More Israeli troops have been dispatched to the area, Israeli media reported.

Islamic groups are active in the Sinai Peninsula and in the past have launched attacks on Israel from the area.

British youth soccer player facing suspension for anti-Semitic taunts

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 05:59

(JTA) — A player in a British youth soccer league is facing a possible five-match suspension for anti-Semitic taunting in a game.

The Curzon Ashton player in the under-16 league was charged this week with “discrimination on the grounds of religion” by the Football Association, the governing body for soccer in Britain.

Players from Manchester Maccabi said they had endured anti-Jewish taunts and jibes about Palestine in a game against Curzon Ashton earlier this month.

With 10 minutes left in the game and his team losing 9-2, Manchester Maccabi coach Anthony Dennison led the players off the field after an argument between two players drew in other players, coaches and spectators.

Along with charging the player, the Football Association also charged the Curzon Ashton team with a “failure to ensure players/spectators and/or club officials conducted themselves in an orderly fashion (aggravated by discrimination),” the Jewish Chronicle reported.

A Manchester Maccabi player was charged as well with discrimination on the grounds of color or race and is facing immediate suspension of at least five matches if found guilty.

The players and team have until Oct. 31 to respond to the charges.

“We’re used to anti-Semitism, we play with the Star of David on our shirts, we wear the kippah, but in the past we’ve had managers apologize profusely and have a word with their players,” Dennison told the Manchester Evening News at the time of the incident. “On this occasion everyone was clapping and laughing at these racist insults, and it was only one or two of their boys who seemed quite embarrassed and apologized to my players.”

Ban says U.N. will investigate weaponry in its Gaza agencies

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 05:56

JERUSALEM (JTA) — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said an independent board will look into the shelling of U.N. agencies during the Gaza conflict as well as instances in which weaponry was found on U.N. premises.

Ban, briefing the Security Council on Tuesday about his recent visit to Gaza in the wake of this summer’s 50-day conflict there, also questioned the “proportionality” of Israel’s response to rockets fired from the coastal strip.

“Nothing could have prepared me for what I witnessed in Gaza,” he told the council. “I saw mile after mile of wholesale destruction.”

More than 100,000 residents of Gaza remain homeless with over 50,000 sheltering in U.N.-run school buildings, according to the United Nations.

Ban also visited the family of a 4-year-old Israeli boy killed by a Hamas rocket, as well as a tunnel dug by Hamas from Gaza to southern Israel.

During the Gaza operation, weapons stockpiles were found in three U.N. schools in Gaza.

“I fully understand the security threat to Israel from rockets above and tunnels below,” he said. “At the same time, the scale of the destruction in Gaza has left deep questions about proportionality.”

Ban called for “long-term stability in Gaza,” which he said requires “addressing the underlying causes of the conflict: an end to the occupation that has grinded on for nearly half a century, a full lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip and effectively addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns.”

French Jewish leader indicted for calling Dieudonne ‘professional anti-Semite’

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 05:38

(JTA) — Roger Cukierman, the president of France’s largest Jewish group, was indicted for calling the comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala a “professional anti-Semite.”

Cukierman announced the indictment on Monday in a video that appeared on his umbrella group’s website.

“So I am being indicted for having stated on Europe 1 that Dieudonne is a professional anti-Semite. Isn’t that funny? For once, Dieudonne is actually comical,” Cukierman said.

Indictments are “quasi-automatic” in France when police receive complaints of defamation, according to the L’Express news website.

Responding to the indictment, the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, extended its support for Cukierman.

“No one in France knows anti-Semitism better than Roger Cukierman, who survived the Holocaust at the age of nine because nuns hid him while his family was deported to Auschwitz and gassed there,” the Drancy-based watchdog wrote in a statement Tuesday.

Dieudonne has 10 convictions for inciting racial hatred against Jews, according to CRIF. He also invented the quenelle, a Nazi-like gesture that many have deemed anti-Semitic, and the term “shoananas,” a mash-up of the Hebrew word for the Holocaust and the French word for pineapple that is used to suggest that the genocide never happened without explicitly violating French laws.

Earlier this year, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls — then the interior minister — advised mayors to ban Dieudonne’s shows, leading to their cancellation. The comedian’s replacement routine featured less anti-Semitic material.

Dieudonne and the far-right Holocaust denier Alain Soral recently decided to form a political party, the news site Mediapart.fe reported Tuesday.

Last week, Dieudonne was indicted for fraud, money laundering and abuse of public funds, Le Monde reported. It is believed that Dieudonne, who declared he had no money to pay fines he received for his hate speech, transferred more than $500,000 to Cameroon while he declared himself to be insolvent.

Netanyahu reportedly withdraws support for conversion bill

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 16:09

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly has withdrawn his support for a bill that would allow local rabbis to oversee conversions.

The bill, sponsored by the Hatnua party led by Tzipi Livni, passed one reading in the Knesset plenum in the summer.

The Orthodox Chief Rabbinate, which oversees all conversions in Israel, opposes the measure. Haredi Orthodox parties and the modern Orthodox Jewish Home party also are in opposition.

According to Hatnua lawmaker Elazar Stern, the bill’s sponsor, Netanyahu said he would support the measure but asked for a delay in bringing it to a vote more than once due to opposition from coalition partner Jewish Home, as well as following the summer’s military operation in Gaza and then because of the vote on the 2015 state budget.

The reports have fueled speculation in the Israeli media that Netanyahu will call early elections.

Channel 2 reported that Netanyahu withdrew his backing to shore up his coalition base and not upset the haredi Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, who he might need to form an alliance in future governments.

“We will continue to push through the Conversion Bill,” Livni wrote in a post on Facebook. “If it is not advanced in the Cabinet, we will advance it in the Knesset with liberal partners, those who are not afraid of the ultra-Orthodox and want to enable young people that live here and serve in the army to realize their strong desire to convert, marry and live here with dignity.”

 

Jerusalem elects two chief rabbis

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 15:23

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Jerusalem City Council elected two new chief rabbis, including Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the former chief rabbi of Israel.

Amar was tapped as the city’s Sephardi chief rabbi on Tuesday evening. Rabbi Aryeh Stern was picked as the Ashkenazi chief rabbi. Both had the support of Mayor Nir Barkat.

Stern is a modern Orthodox rabbi and was backed by the Jewish Home party. Amar had the backing of the Shas party.

The city has not had a chief rabbi since 2003.

“It is in my intention to serve as the rabbi of all Jerusalemites: secular, modern Orthodox and haredi alike,” Stern said in a statement following the announcement of his election. “The Jerusalem Rabbinate is a great merit, but it also comprises a hefty responsibility. I will make sure that the religious services will become accessible and friendly, and will serve as an outstanding model for all of the other rabbinates in Israel.”

Assertion by Austrian official voids conviction on restitution fraud, Jewish author says

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 14:26

(JTA) — Austria has no claims against a Jewish author who was convicted of defrauding the republic out of Holocaust restitution funds, a government official said.

The author, Stephan Templ, said the assertion in a letter last month by Martin Windisch, a representative of a federal financial agency, to Templ’s lawyer voids his conviction, which garnered headlines in the international media.

In January, the Supreme Court in Austria upheld Templ’s conviction for fraud and sentenced him to one year in jail. Austria was the victim of the fraud, the court ruled.

In his Sept. 9 statement to Templ’s lawyer, Windisch confirmed that the republic does not regard itself as a victim of any action by Templ.

The conviction was over Templ’s failure to include any mention of his aunt in a claim for restitution that he had filed in 2005 on behalf of the aunt’s estranged sister, who is Templ’s mother. His mother received $1.1 million from the claim.

“The Republic makes no claims against your client,” Windisch wrote in the letter, which was obtained by JTA. “The Republic and the Federal Real Estate Agency further assume that a claim for civil damages has not arisen on the part of the Federal Real Estate Agency as a result of his conduct.”

Templ claims the conviction is wrongful because the Austrian state never lawfully owned the asset it restituted to his mother and therefore cannot be regarded as the victim.

The statement “makes the verdict against me null and void,” Templ told JTA on Tuesday, adding that he will motion prosecutors to reopen his case based on the statement.

In 2001, Templ wrote a book that critically examined Austria’s restitution practices and confiscation of billions of dollars that belonged to Jewish Holocaust victims.

The New York Times published an article that featured criticism about the verdict by Stuart Eizenstat, a former deputy U.S. Treasury secretary and special adviser to President Bill Clinton for Holocaust issues in the 1990s.

 

 

White House: Nazi war criminals should not be receiving Social Security

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 11:29

(JTA) — Nazi war criminals should not be receiving Social Security benefits, a White House spokesman said.

Deputy press secretary Eric Schultz made his comments Monday in response to an investigation by The Associated Press that found that dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals and SS guards collected millions of dollars after being forced out of the United States.

“Our position is we don’t believe these individuals should be getting these benefits,” Schultz said at an informal news briefing at the White House. “As the Justice Department has said, they have worked aggressively to pursue Nazi criminals with the aim of ensuring they’re brought to justice. The Social Security Administration and the Department of Justice have to work together within the confines of the law to cut off these benefits for these criminals.”

Schultz also said that the Justice Department has brought more than 100 Nazi criminals to justice.

The Social Security payments were made possible by a legal loophole that gave the Justice Department leverage to persuade Nazi suspects to leave the U.S. If they agreed to go, or fled before deportation, they could keep their Social Security benefits, according to interviews and internal U.S. government records, AP reported Monday following a two-year probe.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) on Monday sent letters to the Inspectors General of the Social Security Administration and the Department of Justice demanding that the agencies initiate investigations into the receipt of Social Security benefits by suspected Nazi war criminals.

“It is deeply concerning that these individuals continued to receive Social Security benefits even after the Justice Department identified them as Nazi war criminals,” said Maloney, a co-author of the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act. “The Office of Special Investigations had a mandate to remove these individuals from the United States, and the law is very explicit in saying that those who participated in the Nazi persecutions or genocide should have their benefits terminated upon their removal. In some cases that did not happen.”

There are at least four living beneficiaries, including Jakob Denzinger, a former guard at Auschwitz. Denzinger, 90, lives in Croatia, where he receives approximately $1,500 a month in Social Security payments.

The AP investigation featured interviews, research and analysis of records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and other sources.

Israeli Chief Rabbinate: Freundel’s conversions are valid

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 09:40

(JTA) — The Israeli Chief Rabbinate said it will recognize all past conversions performed by Rabbi Barry Freundel, the Washington rabbi charged with voyeurism.

On Tuesday, the Rabbinate clarified that it was joining the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America in affirming the validity of the conversions, a day after the Rabbinate said it would be examining their validity.

“The Chief Rabbinate of Israel clarifies that the Rabbi Freundel affair has no effect on the policy of recognizing conversions performed by him in the past,” Rabbinate spokesman Ziv Maor wrote to JTA in a text message.

Maor also wrote that until further notice, the Rabbinate will not recognize future conversions performed by Freundel.

“I’m pleased to see that the Rabbinate clarified the matter and acted relatively quickly in order to alleviate any further suffering on the part of Rabbi Freundel’s victims,” said Rabbi Seth Farber, director of the ITIM Jewish Life Advocacy Center, which pushed the Rabbinate to recognize the conversions.