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Organizer of anti-Semitic rally in London arrested for abusive tweets

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 15:29

(JTA) — The organizer of a planned far-right protest of the “Jewification of Great Britain” was arrested for posting a series of allegedly abusive tweets aimed at a British Parliament member.

Joshua Bonehill-Paine, 22, was apprehended Friday for allegedly writing anti-Semitic tweets to Luciana Berger of the Labor Party. Berger is a former director of the Labor Friends of Israel parliamentary group.

A Scotland Yard spokesman told the Jewish Chronicle that Bonehill-Paine was arrested for “two visual and written publications on the Internet.” He has since been released on bail.

Berger, who represents a Liverpool district, said in December that she had been the target of 2,500 hateful tweets in three days.

Bonehill-Paine, a self-described “Nationalist, Fascist and supporter of White Rights,” denied the allegations on Monday.

“Whats[sic] funny is that despite agreeing with what was said against that MP, I never made any of the alleged tweets,” he tweeted.

In a blog post about his arrest, Bonehill-Paine wrote that he was banned from traveling on the M25 roadway through London, which could prevent him from attending the Liberate Stamford Hill march planned for March 22, the Independent reported. Stamford Hill is home to the highest concentration of haredi Orthodox Jews in Europe.

Announcements of the march criticize Shomrim, the volunteer Jewish security group.

Bonehill-Paine asserted on Twitter that the protest march will go on as planned without him.

“I have it confirmed with secondary organizers,” he tweeted Monday.

Jewish gravestones desecrated in New Zealand

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 15:11

(JTA) — Three headstones were vandalized in the Jewish section of a cemetery in Dunedin, New Zealand.

A swastika was painted on one headstone and two others were broken, the Otago Daily Times reported. The vandalism was reported to police on Saturday.

“I would prefer to think that it wasn’t [a racially motivated attack], and that it was just a childish act … but it is a fairly nasty incident,” police constable Greg Marsden told the newspaper.

Dunedin is the second largest city on the South Island of New Zealand with a population of over 124,000.

On Sunday, several hundred gravestones were vandalized in a Jewish cemetery in northeastern France and swastikas were drawn on the entrance to a Jewish cemetery in Oldenburg, Germany.

“We find this type of vandalism not only to be ignorant and stupid, but also state that the underlying menace behind it is disturbing and worrying,” said Andrew Spiegel, a member of the Dunedin Jewish Congregation.

Hollande at vandalized cemetery stresses Jews’ place in France

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 13:37

(JTA) — French President Francois Hollande at a visit to a vandalized Jewish cemetery said French Jews still see France as their homeland.

“How do we understand the unnameable, the unjustifiable, the unbearable?” Hollande said Tuesday at the cemetery in Sarre-Union, in northeastern France’s Alsace region, where more than half of the 400 gravestones were pushed over and vandalized. “This is the expression of the evils eating away at the republic.”

A monument to Holocaust victims also was vandalized at the cemetery, which has been desecrated previously.

Five suspects, aged 15 to 17, were detained Monday after the youngest alleged vandal turned himself in.

Hollande vowed to punish the perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts.

He added that he understands that French Jews have a justifiable “feeling of anxiety over the recent attacks,” but knows that they see France as their homeland.

On Monday, Hollande rejected to statements made the previous day by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu encouraging European Jews to move to Israel, calling them “crude electioneering” with elections nearing.

Netanyahu’s statements followed the shooting attack early Sunday on a Copenhagen synagogue that killed a volunteer security guard and injured two policemen. They echoed comments he made last month after two attacks in Paris left 17 dead, including four Jewish men during the siege of a kosher supermarket.

“The comments are not helpful and I think people will ignore them,” Hollande said, adding later, “We’re not prepared to tolerate a situation in this country or in any country in Europe where any Jews feel they have to leave.”

Several French and Danish officials have spoken out against Netanyahu’s call for European Jews to make aliyah.

Comptroller’s report: Netanyahu family spent excessively with public funds

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 10:55

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be facing a criminal investigation following a government report that said he and his family spent public funds excessively on personal items.

The report issued Tuesday by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira cited the excessive spending at the official prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem and at the family’s private home in Caesarea. Among the categories of excessive expenditure are food, cleaning and clothing expenses.

Evidence from the report was forwarded to Israel’s attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, for a possible criminal probe.

Among the affairs that could be criminally prosecuted are the so-called bottle and garden furniture affairs.

In the bottle affair, the prime minister’s wife, Sara, is accused of pocketing funds received from recycling state-funded beverage bottles. In the garden furniture affair, the Netanyahus are accused of purchasing new furniture for their private home that was intended for the official residence.

The report also found that cleaning expenses at the Netanyahus’ official and private residences doubled from 2009 to 2011 to about $280,000 at the official residence alone, though after publicity they came down in 2012 and 2013.

Food and hosting costs also nearly doubled between 2009 and 2011 to nearly $106,000, according to the report. The costs dropped to about $58,500 by 2013.

In addition, more than one-quarter of the food costs for 2010 and slightly less for 2011 were for outside meals, despite the fact that there is a paid cook on staff.

The report said that “in light of the noteworthy reduction in costs in 2013, it can be established that the economic costs of the prime minister, his family and their guests in the official residences, and especially during the years 2010-2011, and to a lesser extent even in 2012, were not commensurate with the bedrock principles of proportionality, reasonability, saving and efficiency.”

Shapira also said that finances at the prime minister residence were poorly managed and lacked appropriate budgeting practices.

In response to the report, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement Tuesday that it will work to implement the recommendations “in continuation of the actions that have already been taken and which were noted in the report.”

“The Prime Minister’s Office points out that approximately two years ago Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that steps be taken to reduce expenditures at his residences and that subsequently there was a significant drop in expenditures as noted in the State Comptroller’s report.”

The Likud Party headed by Netanyahu had released a statement earlier in the day.

“To our sincere regret, the ongoing media campaign which has surrounded this issue for weeks in advance of the report’s release was a clear effort to remove the Prime Minister from office and the Likud from leadership through a focus on irrelevant minutia and distract from the real issues at hand,” the statement said.

“Among the items that were investigated in the Comptroller’s report, there is absolutely no indication of any assault on the public’s integrity and certainly no indication of any criminal transgressions,” the statement added, noting that the expenses of the prime minister’s residence have been “reduced significantly” over the past two years.

As 3,000 Jewish teens gather in Atlanta, funders urge more support for programs

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 09:54

ATLANTA (JTA) — Over 3,000 teenagers from multiple Jewish youth groups gathered in Atlanta for a series of events aimed at strengthening Jewish identity among teens and rallying philanthropic support for such programs.

The main attractions were the annual conventions of BBYO and NFTY, which were held for several days in adjoining hotels and featured some joint programming. Prior to the start of the two conventions, dozens of teen leaders from BBYO, NFTY and several other youth groups met to resurrect the Coalition of Jewish Teens.

Also, prior to the conventions, about 250 people took part last week in the Summit on Jewish Teens, a gathering of foundations, federations and individual funders.

Last week, on the eve of the gatherings, four major supporters of BBYO — the Jim Joseph, Schusterman, Marcus and Singer foundations — published an opinion piece explaining their goals for the gathering and calling on other funders to join them in supporting youth groups and other teen initiatives.

“The good news is that study after study proves that when young people are involved in meaningful Jewish experiences during their teenage years, they are much more likely to be active, lifelong members of the Jewish community,” the foundations wrote in their opinion piece, which was published by eJewishphilanthropy. “The bad news is that as far as we have come, we still have a long way to go before we fully address the disturbing fact that in most communities, an estimated 80 percent of Jewish teens drop out of Jewish life after their b’nai mitzvah.”

The four foundations urged funders to work together. Teen leaders, meanwhile, issued their own call for collaboration, playing up their desire to find ways for the various Jewish youth groups to work together on social action projects and other initiatives.

Organizers of the various events stressed the idea that the most effective way to attract teens is to offer them opportunities to design and run their own programs.

Several organizers also said that there was a strong need to instill teens with a deeper appreciation and understanding of Israel before they head to college and find themselves in the middle of highly charged debates about the Middle East.

Jewish radio station in Copenhagen taking break for security reasons

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 09:10

(JTA) — A Jewish radio station based in Copenhagen canceled its daily broadcast for security reasons following the deadly synagogue shooting in the Danish capital.

The Danish Security and Intelligence Service, whose acronym in Danish is PET, shut down Monday after being told that broadcasting from its basement studio in the Norrebo neighborhood of Copenhagen was too dangerous, Radio Shalom host Abraham Kopenhagen told the Danish-language newspaper DR Nyheder, according to Tuesday’s Copenhagen Post.

Kopenhagen said the station would be back on the air when PET tells them that it is safe.

“We do not feel that it is too dangerous, but we respect the information we are given,” Kopenhagen told DR Nyheder.

Kopenhagen said that PET offered to protect the station while it was broadcasting, but Radio Shalom rejected the offer.

“We must do as instructed, but we will not have police standing outside the door,” he said. “We would rather close down until it is quiet again. I do not know how long that will take.”

The station’s programming includes local, international and Israel news, as well as cultural shows and interviews with prominent local and international figures.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Jewish school in Copenhagen opened under police protection. Carolineskolen has 200 students.

Two policemen and a volunteer civilian guard were shot outside Copenhagen’s central synagogue after midnight Sunday while they provided security for a nearby  building where a bat mitzvah party was taking place. The guard, Dan Uzan, 37, died later from his injuries.

The attack in Krystalgade followed a shooting the previous afternoon at a free speech event at a cultural center featuring the Danish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who is under police protection because of his cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad. One person was killed.

Speaking to American Jewish leaders, Netanyahu holds firm on Congress speech

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 08:24

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Speaking to a group of American Jewish leaders, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his intention to address Congress next month, despite calls for him to cancel the speech.

On Monday night, Netanyahu told a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that the March 3 address to a joint session of Congress was a crucial opportunity in the effort to halt Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

“I’m going to Washington because as prime minister of Israel, it’s my obligation to do everything in my power to prevent the conclusion of a bad deal that could threaten the survival of the State of Israel,” he said of the speech, which has engendered controversy. “The current proposal to Iran would endanger Israel.”

Netanyahu opposes the agreement being worked out between the world powers, including the United States, and Iran, saying it will not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The speech also comes two weeks before Israeli elections. Also, the invitation to speak from House Speaker John Boehner was kept secret from the White House and Democratic leaders.

On Monday, Netanyahu called Congress the “world’s most important parliament” and said a speech could influence the body, which may be able to block any agreement with Iran. The Israeli leader added that he was making the speech March 3 because the deadline set by the negotiating parties comes three weeks later, on March 24.

“Now, can I guarantee that my speech in Congress will prevent a dangerous deal with Iran from being signed?” he asked. “Honestly, I don’t know. No one knows. But I do know this – it’s my sacred duty as prime minister of Israel to make Israel’s case.”

Earlier Monday, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, chairman of the religious Zionist Jewish Home party, received loud applause from the delegation when he vowed to oppose territorial compromise.

“We don’t want war, but the only way to prevent war is to be overwhelmingly strong and to use that power when necessary,” he said. “Never, ever again will we hand over one centimeter of land to our enemies, period.”

The delegation of U.S. leaders is in Israel until Thursday and will also hear from other Israeli politicians, such as the left-wing Zionist Camp’s Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni.

German man, 93, charged as accessory to murder of 170,000 at Auschwitz

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 07:48

BERLIN (JTA) — A former SS member, now 93, was charged in Germany as an accessory to the murder of 170,000 people, mostly Jews, at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

The district court of Detmold must now decide whether to allow the prosecution to proceed after charges were filed Monday. The man, one of several former guards who have been investigated and charged in recent months, has not been named.

The man reportedly has admitted to being stationed at the camp from early 1942, but he denies having any involvement in murder, according to the state prosecutor of Dortmund.

Investigators say the accused was involved in murders from January 1943 to June 1944 involving Jews deported from Hungary, mass shooting operations and the “selection” of ill and weak deportees on the arrival ramp for extermination, the German broadcasting agency WDR reported. He also allegedly knew that the systematic murder could not have taken place without assistants like him, according to the charge.

It is possible that the accused will not be tried due to his age. Similar cases were dropped in 2014 for that reason, WDR reported.

An investigation was opened recently against a 93-year-old woman in Hamburg, Hilde Michnia, for her role as an SS guard during a death march. She has denied participating in any atrocities.

In the city of Luneburg, former Waffen SS member Oskar Groening, also 93, has admitted to being a guard at Auschwitz and expressed shame for having been “a cog in the killing machine that eliminated millions of innocent people.” He allegedly was involved with removing luggage from the arrival platform, so that new arrivals would not see evidence of the murder of those who had preceded them.

Clues leading to about 30 suspects in late 2013 came from the Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes in Ludwigsburg, which made a major push to identify former death camp guards after the conviction of John Demjanjuk in 2011 for his role in the murders of nearly 30,000 Jews in the Sobibor concentration camp in Poland.

The case set the precedent that being a guard at a death camp was sufficient to prove complicity in murder.

French PM slams ex-foreign minister who said he was controlled by Jewish wife

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 06:58

(JTA) — French Prime Minister Manuel Valls excoriated a former minister from his party for suggesting that Valls was under Jewish “influence” because his wife is Jewish.

The statements made Monday about Valls and his wife by Roland Dumas, a Socialist former foreign minister, “do nothing to honor the republic,” Valls said the same day during a meeting with regional lawmakers of the Paris region.

In an interview aired on BFMTV, Dumas said about Valls, “He has personal alliances, everyone knows he is married to someone – a distinguished person – who has influence over him.”

Valls is married to Jewish violinist Anne Gravoin, and in 2011 he said during a public appearance that his marriage connected him “in an eternal way” to Israel and the Jewish people. Many French Jews admire Valls for his outspoken opposition to anti-Semitism and executive actions to prevent it.

During the interview about Valls aired Monday, Dumas was asked whether Valls “was under Jewish influence,” to which Dumas replied, “Probably, I would think so.”

The interviewer, Jacques Bourdin, then asked, “Under his wife’s influence?” Dumas replied, “Of course. Why not? Why not say so?”

Dumas’ statement drew condemnations from across the political spectrum in France, many of them accusing him of anti-Semitism.

“Considering Dumas’ openly pro-Palestinian views and hostility to Israel, it is easy to understand how anti-Semitism developed so considerably in our country under the guise of anti-Zionism,” the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism wrote in a statement.

Last year, the disgraced soccer player Nicolas Anelka also said Valls was controlled by his Jewish wife.

Dumas, a close confidant of the late President Francois Mitterrand, in 2013 suggested that Israel was behind the British government’s readiness to strike in Syria and has accused Israelis of controlling French intelligence services.

In 2001, he was found guilty of illegally receiving funds from the oil giant Elf Aquitaine between 1989 and 1992 while serving as foreign minister.

Israeli producers vying to bring Taylor Swift to Tel Aviv

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 06:11

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Taylor Swift reportedly has been offered as much as $2.5 million to perform in Tel Aviv.

Ynet reported the figure this week, citing unnamed sources in the Israeli  music industry, for a Yarkon Park performance likely in June, when the American pop singer’s new concert tour arrives in Europe. No contracts have been offered.

Swift’s representatives have been holding talks in recent weeks with four producers and agents to have the Grammy Award winner play Tel Aviv.

Swift, 25, has sold more than 30 million albums and 80 million digital single downloads.

Lithuanian fascists march near execution site of 10,000 Jews

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 06:00

KAUNAS, Lithuania (JTA) — Approximately 500 ultranationalists, some bearing Nazi swastikas, marched through a Lithuanian city that during the Holocaust saw the region’s most effective massacre of Jews.

Monday’s march through Kaunas, Lithuania’s second-largest city and 60 miles from the capital of Vilnius, was the eighth annual event organized by the Lithuanian Nationalist Youth Union on Feb. 16 — one of their Baltic state’s two independence days.

As the marchers assembled at a local park, they were confronted by approximatley 20 protesters from the local Jewish community and anti-fascist groups who shadowed the marchers in a silent counterdemonstration.

“This march is particularly offensive because it is taking place where locals and Nazis murdered more than 10,000 Jews in one day,” said Dovid Katz, a U.S.-born Jewish scholar of Yiddish who settled in Vilnius 16 years ago and has led protests against the veneration of Nazis in the Baltic states.

Katz, editor of the website DefendingHistory.com, was referring to the Kaunas massacre in October 1941, in which more Jews were killed in a single day than any other killing spree against Jews in the Baltic region.

During the march, locals chanted “out with Katz” and made obscene gestures at him and Efraim Zuroff, a Nazi hunter and the Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Three activists from the nationalist youth movement posed for pictures next to Zuroff while holding signs that accused Israel of being a racist state and showed a picture of African refugees on the march.

Tomas Skorupsis, an organizer of the march from the youth movement, said the event was not anti-Semitic. Repeating a popular view in far-right circles in the Baltic nations, he added, “There are many Lithuanians who find it hard to forgive Jews who, during communism, killed nationalist freedom fighters. But I think we should leave it in the past and look ahead.”

Many in the Baltic nations, where Jewish communities hundreds of thousands strong were wiped out by the Nazis and their local helpers, regard local fascists as heroes because they fought the communist occupation, which is often equated with the Nazi one.

“This comparison is not only false, it also serves to whitewash the stain in these countries’ histories instead of confronting it, as other European nations have done,” Zuroff said.

Lesley Gore, singer of ‘It’s My Party’ fame, dies

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 18:11

(JTA) — Singer-songwriter Lesley Gore, whose hit “It’s My Party” topped the charts in 1963 when she was 17, has died.

Gore died Monday of cancer at a New York hospital. She was 68.

“It’s My Party” was nominated for a Grammy Award and sold over 1 million copies. Other Gore hits included “Judy’s Turn to Cry” and “You Don’t Own Me.”

Gore, born Lesley Sue Goldstein in Brooklyn and raised in Tenafly, N.J., was discovered by producer Quincy Jones as a teen and signed with Mercury Records.

She was nominated for an Oscar, with her brother Michael, for co-writing “Out Here on My Own” from the popular 1980s movie “Fame.”

She came out as a lesbian during a 2005 interview.

Gore is survived by her partner of 33 years, Lois Sasson; her mother, Ronnie; and her brother.

5 teens detained in vandalism of Jewish cemetery in France

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 17:59

(JTA) — Five French teens were detained in the vandalism of some 300 graves in a Jewish cemetery in northeastern France.

The vandalism at the Jewish cemetery in Sarre-Union, located in the Alsace region, was discovered over the weekend.

The five suspects, aged 15 to 17, were detained Monday after the youngest alleged vandal turned himself in. The teen was shocked by the nationwide reaction to the attack, French prosecutor Philippe Vannier told the French news agency AFP. The teen has denied that there was an anti-Semitic motive, according to the report.

In addition to knocking over the tombstones, a monument to Holocaust victims also was vandalized.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Twitter last week called the vandalism “a vile, anti-Semitic act, an insult to the memory” of the dead.

The Jewish cemetery in Sarre-Union has been attacked in the past. In 1988, 60 Jewish headstones were overturned, and in 2001, 54 graves were vandalized.

Jewish cemetery in Germany vandalized

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 13:55

BERLIN (JTA) — A Jewish cemetery in the northern German city of Oldenburg was desecrated.

Swastikas were daubed on the entrance columns, a wall and two cars parked near the cemetery over the weekend, the Oldenburger Online newspaper reported. Police are investigating.

Over the past few years, the cemetery has been targeted by right-wing extremists, one of whom was sentenced to two years’ probation for throwing paint balls on the gravestones.

Palestinian Authority seeks role in FBI probe of N.C. shootings

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 13:01

(JTA) — Palestinian Authority officials asked to be involved in the FBI inquiry into the shootings of three Muslims in Chapel Hill, N.C.,

The three murder victims — sisters Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, and Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Yusor’s husband, Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23 — were of Palestinian descent.

The P.A.’s Foreign Ministry called for a serious investigation and the involvement of Palestinian investigators.

“We consider it a serious indication of the growth of racism and religious extremism which is a direct threat to the lives of hundreds of thousands of American citizens who follow the Islamic faith,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement that called accused shooter Craig Hicks “an American extremist and hateful racist.”

The ministry also called the murder “terrorism, which targets civilians based on their religion.” Demonstrations against the murders were held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The inquiry announced Thursday into the murders near the University of North Carolina campus is not a full investigation, according to the Washington Post, but a review that could turn into an investigation. The FBI, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina are involved in the probe.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in a statement Friday that the inquiry will deduce if “any federal laws, including hate crime laws, were violated” in the shooting, according to the Washington Post.

Netanyahu’s Congress speech to be aired in Israel with delay

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 09:09

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of the U.S. Congress will be broadcast in Israel on a five-minute delay.

The delay ordered Monday by Israel’s Central Election Committee Chairman Justice Salim Joubran will allow news editors to remove campaign propaganda before it is aired.

A petition filed by the left-wing Meretz party had asked the committee to prevent media outlets from broadcasting the March 3 speech, saying it was illegal campaigning.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ruled last week that the speech could be broadcast in Israel without violating election propaganda laws because it is newsworthy and a current event.

Israel’s national elections are scheduled for two weeks after the speech, on March 17.

The speech has caused controversy both in the United States and at home for Netanyahu. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have said they will not meet with the prime minister, citing the Israeli elections so soon after as making such a meeting inappropriate.

Israeli government minister Uri Orbach dies at 54

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 08:33

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli government minister Uri Orbach died a month after announcing that he was taking a break from politics to be treated for an unspecified blood illness.

Orbach, a member of the Jewish Home party and the pensioner affairs minister, died Monday at Shaare Tzedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. He was 54. Before entering politics, he was an author of children’s books and a journalist.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement mourning Orbach’s passing called him “a spiritual man and a Jewish patriot.”

“Uri won over all who listened to him with his charm, knowledge and deep wisdom which stemmed from the depths of his soul,” Netanyahu said. “He had a deep sensitivity for every human being, a sensitivity that he brought with him as Senior Citizens Minister and to all his endeavors.”

Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin visited Orbach in the hospital on Sunday night.

Orbach, who was first elected to Knesset in 2009, brought Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett into politics. On Monday, Bennett eulogized Orbach at the annual meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations being held in Jerusalem.

“He had civil courage to stand up even when there were 20 people in the room who thought otherwise,” Bennett said. “I’m going to miss Uri, my older brother. May he rest in peace.”

A special Knesset session was held Monday to memorialize Orbach. His funeral was to be held later in the day.

Orbach is survived by his wife and four children.

France’s prime minister appeals to Jews to stay

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 07:50

(JTA) — Prime Minister Manuel Valls of France appealed to his country’s Jews to stay in the wake of a call by his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu for European Jews to move to Israel.

“My message to French Jews is the following: France is wounded with you and France does not want you to leave,” Valls said Monday following a weekend that saw two deadly shootings in Copenhagen that mirrored two attacks in Paris last month, the French news agency AFP reported.

In the wake of the Copenhagen attacks, including one outside a synagogue that left a Jewish volunteer security guard dead, Netanyahu said Sunday in a statement, “To the Jews of Europe and to the Jews of the world, I say that Israel is waiting for you with open arms.”

Also Sunday, Netanyahu at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting said that a 180 million shekel (about $45 million) plan will be submitted to the Cabinet encouraging the absorption of immigrants from France, Belgium and Ukraine.

On Monday, Valls said, “The place for French Jews is France. I regret Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks. Being in the middle of an election campaign doesn’t mean you authorize yourself to make just any type of statement.”

Israeli national elections are scheduled for March 17.

Valls also said that the threat of terror attacks remains high in France and that security measures would remain stringent for as long as necessary. France deployed 10,000 troops to protect Jewish buildings and other public sites in the wake of the two Paris attacks by Islamists last month that left 17 dead, including four Jewish men at a kosher supermarket.

On Sunday, it was reported that several hundred graves were vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in northeastern France. Valls on Twitter called the vandalism “a vile, anti-Semitic act, an insult to the memory” of the dead and vowed to find those responsible.

Two in custody for allegedly aiding Copenhagen gunman

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 07:10

(JTA) — Copenhagen police are holding two men suspected of aiding the gunman in separate deadly shootings in the Dutch capital, including on a synagogue.

In a statement Monday, police said that the men are “suspected of aiding and abetting the perpetrator in connection with the shooting attacks” at a cultural center and at Copenhagen’s central synagogue, the French news agency APF reported.

The statement did not indicate if the detained men are the same two who were arrested Sunday at an Internet cafe in the Norrebro neighborhood of Copenhagen where the gunman was killed in a shootout with police.

Two policemen and a volunteer civilian guard were shot in the synagogue attack while they provided security outside the building in which a bat mitzvah party was taking place. The civilian guard, Dan Uzan, 37, died later from his injuries.

The shooting after midnight Sunday at the central synagogue in Krystalgade followed a shooting the previous afternoon at a free speech event at a cultural center featuring the Danish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who is under police protection because of his cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad. One person was killed.

The gunman was identified as Omar El-Hussein, 22, a Denmark native who was recently released from jail after serving a sentence for aggravated assault.

A former classmate of El-Hussein on Monday told the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet that the alleged gunman was consumed with Islam and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was anti-Semitic, The Associated Press reported.

Copenhagen police said Sunday that the shooter may have been influenced by the Paris terror attacks last month at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket.

Senior Orthodox rabbis resign in wake of Australia’s sex abuse probe

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 06:21

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – Three senior Orthodox rabbis have resigned in the wake of Australia’s Royal Commission into the child sex abuse scandal at two Chabad institutions.

On Monday, Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant, president of the Organization of Rabbis of Australasia, stepped down from several posts after a text message was revealed during the commission’s hearings last week in which he accused one of the whistleblowers of being a “lunatic” who is “killing us.”

Rabbi Avrohom Glick, the principal of Yeshivah College in Melbourne when two convicted pedophiles were perpetrating their attacks in the 1980s and 1990s, resigned from his college duties last week. However, he remains on the spiritual committee of the Yeshiva Center.

Rabbi Yosef Feldman, a director of Sydney’s Yeshivah, also resigned from several posts last week following a slew of controversial comments he made at the Royal Commission, including an admission that he did not know in 2002 that it was illegal for an adult to touch a child’s genitals. His position as rabbi of a synagogue in Sydney remains under scrutiny.

The Royal Commission spent the last two weeks probing how rabbis and senior officials responded to the child sex abuse scandal at both Chabad institutions. Three Orthodox men were convicted of crimes, with two receiving jail terms. The third, who now lives in the United States, received a suspended sentence.

“We are appalled and deeply pained to learn of the allegations against individuals associated with some of the Chabad institutions in Australia,” said a statement Monday from the educational arm of Chabad in New York.

“The information that has emerged is utterly disturbing, a profound violation of the non-negotiable principles implicit – and explicit – in any and every situation where the wellbeing of a child is entrusted to the care of an educational institution.”