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Rivlin to host rabbis in unity-building study session

Tue, 07/21/2015 - 10:17

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will host a study session with rabbis from various streams of Judaism in a unity-building effort.

Thursday’s event in Jerusalem will mark the upcoming fast of the Ninth of Av.

The Orthodox representative who originally had agreed to participate backed out, Haaretz reported. Rabbi Uri Sherki told Haaretz he would not attend for “technical reasons.” A day earlier, however, Sherki told the same newspaper that he was under pressure from some in the Orthodox community to cancel his appearance. He also was quoted on an Orthodox website as calling Reform Jews “heretics,” Haaretz reported.

Rabbi Benny Lau, the cousin of Rabbi David Lau, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, agreed to appear in Sherki’s place.

Several incidents in recent weeks have caused tension among the Jewish streams and the government.

“At this important time, the Office of the President, together with the Jewish People Policy Institute, has initiated an event to bring together the communities of the Jewish people in an atmosphere of mutual respect, and of learning and studying, to discuss the importance of Jewish unity and the need to work together to build understanding and respect,” said a statement from the President’s Office announcing the event.

The timing of the event, according to the statement, comes during “the Three Weeks, and indeed the Nine Days, and nearing the Ninth of Av, during which time we commemorate the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, among other terrible calamities which have befallen the Jewish people. Tragedies linked throughout Jewish tradition with the erosion of Jewish unity and respect for our fellow man.”

British Jewish leader slams criticism of queen over Nazi salute at 7

Tue, 07/21/2015 - 08:50

(JTA) — A major British organization condemned criticism of Queen Elizabeth II in the wake of the release of a video showing her giving a Nazi salute at the age of 7.

The president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, on Sunday praised the royal family for its close relationship with the Jewish community.

“I don’t think any criticism of a 7-year-old child would be remotely appropriate and I don’t intend to make any,” Arkush said at a meeting of the board, the Jewish Chronicle reported over the weekend, following the publication of the video on the website of The Sun and on the tabloid’s front page.

“It’s really important for us not to judge this event with hindsight. Obviously the Nazi salute now carries horrible memories and bitterness for us, but I do not think for one moment that it would be appropriate for me to suggest that the full horror of Nazi Germany was known at that point.”

Buckingham Palace reportedly has ordered an investigation into the publication of the images, including how The Sun obtained the footage.

In the video, the young princess and her sister Margaret, 3, are shown dancing and smiling as the future British king, Edward VIII, instructs his nieces how to perform the Nazi Heil Hitler salute. Some historians have accused Edward of being sympathetic to Adolf Hitler’s regime; Edward abdicated the throne in 1936 to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson.

Queen Elizabeth, 89, is widely popular in Britain and it is not believed that the images will damage her reputation, according to reports.

Last month, the queen met with survivors and liberators in a visit to Bergen-Belsen, her first to a Nazi concentration camp.

EU foreign ministers call on Israel to halt settlements, ‘transfers’

Tue, 07/21/2015 - 08:10

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The foreign ministers of the European Union called on Israel to halt settlements and policies including “forced transfer.”

Their statement on the Middle East peace process was released Monday at the end of a monthly European Union Council meeting in Brussels.

It reiterates “strong opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and actions taken in this context, such as building the separation barrier beyond the 1967 line, demolitions and confiscation — including of EU funded projects — evictions, forced transfers including of Bedouins, illegal outposts, settler violence and restrictions of movement and access.”

More specifically, the statement “calls on Israeli authorities to halt plans for forced transfer of population and demolition of Palestinian housing and infrastructure in the Sussiya and Abu Nwar communities.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry took umbrage at the use of the term “transfer,” but said it would raise the issue directly with the European Union, Haaretz reported.

Sussiya is located near Hebron, and is next to an Israeli settlement by the same name. It is in Area C of the West Bank, which is solely under Israeli control. Israel plans by the end of the month to demolish the homes in Sussiya — home to about 340 Palestinians — that were built without permission, and relocate the residents to an area controlled by the Palestinian Authority. EU representatives visited the village last month.

Abu Nwar is an illegally built Bedouin community. Israel plans to move its residents to a planned community in the country’s south.

The 28 EU ministers called for “an increased common international effort” in order to secure “a just and lasting peace.” The statement asks for the creation of an international support group to help move along the peace process, for which the ministers state that there is “no alternative to a negotiated two-state solution.”

The statement also calls for an easing of restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank and for a full opening of Gaza border crossings with Israel. It also “urges all Palestinian factions to find common ground, based on non-violence and reconciliation, and to work together to address the needs of the Palestinian population.”

Israeli lawmakers approve tougher law against rock throwers

Tue, 07/21/2015 - 06:55

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli lawmakers voted to impose longer jail terms on people caught throwing rocks at civilian cars and roads.

The Knesset passed the bill on its second and third readings on Monday night by a vote of 69 to 17.

Under the new law, rock throwers can be sentenced to up to 20 years in jail if it is proven that they intended to cause injury, and 10 years if harmful intent is not proven. Also, a prison sentence of five years can be levied for throwing a rock at a police officer or police car.

“Today justice has been done,” said Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home party after the vote. “For years terrorists have been evading punishment and responsibility. The tolerance shown to terrorists ends today. A stone thrower is a terrorist, and only a proper punishment can be a deterrent.”

The law does not cover the West Bank, which is under Israeli military law, and where Palestinians frequently throw rocks at Israeli civilian cars.

The Arab Joint List party in a statement called the new law a form of “collective punishment” and said it was meant to “oppress the Palestinians’ civilian and popular struggle.”

At least three Israelis, including a baby, have been killed in the West Bank after rocks were thrown at the cars they were riding in, and others have been seriously injured.

Earlier this month, a Palestinian teen was shot in the back and killed after throwing a rock at an army vehicle. Col. Yisrael Shomer said he felt threatened by the teen in the July 3 incident near the West Bank city of Ramallah, but a surveillance camera showed that the teen was shot as he ran away. The vehicle’s windshield was shattered in the attack.

Pilot Louis Lenart, ‘The Man Who Saved Tel Aviv,’ dies at 94

Tue, 07/21/2015 - 05:56

(JTA) — Louis (Lou) Lenart, an American fighter pilot hailed as “The Man Who Saved Tel Aviv” during the opening days of Israel’s War of Independence, has died.

Lenart died Monday at his home in Raanana, Israel, of heart and kidney failure. He was 94.

His funeral will be held Wednesday at the Kefar Nachman Cemetery in Raanana. High-ranking officers of the U.S. Marine Corps and Israeli Air Force are expected to attend, according to Lenart’s wife, Rachel Nir.

Lenart was born Layos Lenovitz, the son of Jewish farmers, in a small Hungarian village near the Czech border.

To escape the prevalent anti-Semitism, the family moved to the United States when Lenart was 10. His parents settled in the Pennsylvania coal-mining town of Wilkes-Barre, where he was the target of anti-Jewish taunts.

At 17, Lenart enlisted in the U.S. Marines and after 18 months of infantry training talked his way into a flight school, where he was almost given up for dead after a midair collision during training.

Lenart saw action in the Battle for Okinawa and other Pacific engagements. Discharged at war’s end with the rank of captain, he learned that 14 relatives in Hungary had been killed in Auschwitz.

It took little additional incentive for the ex-Marine to join the clandestine effort to smuggle war surplus planes into the nascent State of Israel in early 1948.

When Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948, the Israeli Air Force consisted of four bastardized Czech versions of the German Messerschmitt. On May 29 of that year, large Egyptian forces had advanced to within 16 miles of Tel Aviv and Israel decided to gamble its entire air force in an attack on the Egyptian advance columns.

As the most experienced pilot, Lenart led the attack, backed by Ezer Weizman, later president of Israel, as one of the other three pilots.

The stunned Egyptian troops, who had been assured that the Israelis had no aircraft, stopped their advance and retreated. Subsequent news reports hailed Lenart as “The Man Who Saved Tel Aviv.”

After the war, Lenart participated in the airlift of Iraqi Jews to Israel, was a pilot for El Al Airlines and produced six feature films, including “Iron Eagle” and “Iron Eagle II.”

One of his collaborators was Hollywood screenwriter Dan Gordon, who emphasized that the headline was no exaggeration.

“In many ways, Lou was what Lafayette and Nathan Hale were to the American Revolution,” Gordon said. “If it hadn’t been for Lou and his three comrades, Tel Avivians would be speaking Arabic today.”

Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador the United States and now a Knesset member, described his friend some years ago as “a loving father, loyal friend, champion of Israel. Lou Lenart is an inspiration not only for Jews, but for all people who have suffered oppression and have had to struggle for their liberty and defense.”

Along with his wife, Lenart is survived by a daughter, Michal, and a grandson.



Biden defends Iran deal in call with Jewish leaders

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 18:07

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Vice President Joseph Biden defended the Iran nuclear deal in a call with the organized Jewish community that drew a thousand listeners.

Biden, considered the closest Obama administration official to the Jewish community, said Monday that he has fielded much skepticism among Jews since the major powers and Iran reached a sanctions relief-for nuclear restrictions deal last week.

“What’s the deal here, Joe?” has been a repeated question, Biden said.

Biden noted his long history of closeness to Israel and the Jewish community.

“Please do not doubt my commitment to Israel,” he said.

Congress has two months to consider whether it should disapprove of the deal, which would kill it. Opponents and backers of the deal have launched major campaigns for Jewish public opinion, cognizant of its influence on how lawmakers may vote in a case that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cast as an existential one for Israel.

Biden launched into a detailed, hourlong rebuttal to some of the objections he’s encountered, saying, for instance, that the mechanism that would snap back sanctions should Iran violate the agreement would be immediate for the first 10 years and would not require months of work.

He also downplayed concerns about delays of up to 24 days in inspectors’ access to suspect sites, noting that the detectable half-life following nuclear activity lasts for centuries.

“The idea that they can evade verification is not possible,” the vice president said.

The White House endeavored to get as many community lay leaders and professionals to call in, urging Jewish organizations to spread word of the call.

Because of the length of Biden’s talk, he did not take questions. Colin Kahl, Biden’s national security adviser, who is in Israel accompanying Defense Secretary Ash Carter, did field some questions after Biden left the call.

Micro-CT scanner facilitates groundbreaking discovery of ancient Torah scrap

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 16:05

(JTA) — A previously unreadable fire-damaged ancient scroll discovered in 1970 has been found to contain the first eight verses of Leviticus, one of the five books of the Torah.

Using a micro-CT scanner, researchers at the Israel Antiquities Authority were able to determine the contents of the sixth-century scrap of parchment found in the ark of an ancient synagogue at Ein Gedi, near the Dead Sea. The new finding was announced Monday at a conference in Jerusalem under the auspices of the authority and Israel’s Ministry of Sports and Culture.

“After the Dead Sea Scrolls, this is the most significant find of a written Bible,” Pnina Shor, head of the authority’s Dead Sea Scrolls Project, told journalists Monday, according to the French news agency AFP.

Until the Israeli company Merkel Technologies offered its micro-CT scanner, which created high-resolution 3-D scans, the piece of parchment, which is 2 3/4 inches long and resembles a piece of charcoal, had been impossible to read. Researchers from the computer science department at the University of Kentucky helped decipher the scans.

“The deciphering of the scroll, which was a puzzle for us for 45 years, is very exciting,” Sefi Porath, who led the Ein Gedi excavations in which the scroll was found, said at the Monday conference, according to The Jerusalem Post. The parchment was discovered inside the ruins of a synagogue that had been burnt down 1,500 years earlier.

Shor said the discovery of the parchment’s contents, which she said “astonished us,” offers a missing link of sorts between the more than 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls and the 10th-century Aleppo Codex.

“Now, not only can we bequeath the Dead Sea Scrolls to future generations, but also a part of the Bible from a Holy Ark of a 1,500-year old synagogue,” she added.

Ramah to open camp in northern California

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 15:59

(JTA) — The Conservative movement’s Ramah camp network is opening a new overnight camp in northern California.

Camp Ramah in Northern California will open in summer 2016, the National Ramah Commission announced in a news release. In addition to offering standard Jewish camp activities, the new camp will offer specialties in performing arts, outdoor adventure and marine biology.

READ: JDate partnership to help Ramah alumni kindle campfires of romance 

The camp will be the ninth Ramah overnight camp in North America and the second in California. Ramah says its programs serve more than 10,000 children, teens and young adults annually.

Approximately 70,000 young people participated in nonprofit Jewish summer camps in North America last year, according to JData, a Brandeis University program that tracks data from Jewish educational institutions.

READ: Jewish camps: From affordability to romance to special-needs job training 

Germany honors Nazi-hunting couple who found Klaus Barbie

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 14:37

(JTA) — Germany awarded its highest medal of honor to a French couple for their work bringing Nazi war criminals to justice.

Serge and Beate Klarsfeld accepted the Order of Merit at the home of the German ambassador to France on Monday, The Associated Press reported.

The Klarsfelds, who met in 1960, spent four decades tracking down Nazi war criminals who had resettled around the world, among them Klaus Barbie, who was known as the “Butcher of Lyon.” Barbie was extradited from Bolivia in 1983, several years after the Klarsfelds found him.

READ: France to ask for Barbie’s extradition

The Klarsfelds also created a database of deported Jewish children, according to Reuters. Beate Klarsfeld in 1968 received a one-year prison sentence, later reduced, for slapping Kurt Kiesinger, then chancellor of Germany, in a discussion about his wartime work for the Nazis.

Earlier this year, the couple won France’s Legion of Honor award.

READ: Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld eyes German presidency

“This recognition by Germany is gratifying,” Beate Klarsfeld, a native of the country, told Reuters after the Paris award ceremony.

Serge Klarfeld, a Romanian Jew whose father was killed in Auschwitz, said at the ceremony that the couple’s work had been “in search of justice for the victims and never out of revenge.”

At the ceremony Susanne Wasum-Rainer, the German ambassador to France, thanked the couple for their contribution to “rehabilitating the image of Germany.”

Poll: Half of Israeli Jews want to rebuild Gaza settlements

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 14:06

(JTA) — Fifty-one percent of Israeli Jews believe Jewish settlements in Gaza that Israel evacuated a decade ago should be rebuilt, according to a new survey.

The poll released Monday by the Begin-Sadat Center of Strategic Studies also found that 47 percent oppose evacuating West Bank Jewish settlements, the Times of Israel reported.

Although polls conducted in 2005 showed the majority of Israelis supported the Gaza withdrawal at the time, 63 percent of respondents in the new poll claimed they opposed the settlement evacuation when it happened.

In August 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, which it had occupied since 1967, and evacuated more than 8,000 Israelis from 21 settlements there. Israel maintained control over border crossings and Gaza’s imports, however, imposing a naval blockade in 2007 after the terrorist group Hamas took control of Gaza.

The survey of 587 Israelis took place in the second week of July.

6 Israelis killed in attacks planned by terrorists freed in Shalit exchange

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 11:48

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Six Israelis have been killed in attacks carried out or planned by Palestinian terrorists released in the 2011 prisoner swap for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

A member of the Hamas terror cell arrested on Sunday in the killing of Malachi Rosenfeld, 25, on June 29 was freed in the prisoner exchange, according to the Shin Bet security service. Ahmad Najar, now a resident of Jordan, was the alleged mastermind of the attack.

Some 39 of the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners released in the Shalit deal were rearrested last summer during the Gaza conflict and returned to Israeli jails, Ynet reported.

Safed rabbi accused of assaulting women identified

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 11:02

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Safed rabbi accused of sexually assaulting 10 women has been identified as Rabbi Ezra Sheinberg, the founder of a yeshiva there.

Sheinberg, 46, who headed the Orot HaAri yeshiva he founded in 1999, is married with eight children. The 10 women who have filed complaints against Sheinberg, who is known as a mystic, had come to him with religious questions.

He was arrested at Ben Gurion Airport on July 2 as he reportedly waited to catch a flight to Brazil.

Prior to his arrest, Sheinberg had resigned from the yeshiva and left Safed on the demands of a committee of local rabbis. In mid-June, the committee and Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu had launched an investigation into the accusations.

Herzog quashes rumors he will join gov’t in wake of Iran deal

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 10:11

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog quashed rumors that he would join the government in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal.

“Benjamin Netanyahu must be replaced. He needs to be sent home. I’m saying no to crawling into Netanyahu’s extremist right government,” Herzog said Sunday at a Labor Party meeting.

Herzog is head of the Zionist Union, made up of his Labor Party and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah.

“We must not give [the government] a lifeline. We must replace it, today, tomorrow, as soon as possible,” he said.

Herzog also criticized the Netanyahu government for failing to prevent the deal over Iran’s nuclear program.

“I say no to bolstering the Iranian reign of terror. No to the failed Netanyahu government that failed to prevent this bad agreement. Yes to rehabilitating our relationship with the United States, which Bibi destroyed,” he said.

In a meeting last week with Netanyahu, Herzog  said he was in agreement with the prime minister against the deal and said he would “do all I can for the sake of Israel’s security.”

Herzog said in a video posted on his Facebook page following the meeting that he would travel soon to the United States to discuss the deal and how the U.S. can provide Israel with a “security umbrella” to maintain its strategic advantage in the region.

Also Monday, opposition Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid slammed Netanyahu.

“The U.N. will approve the Iran deal today because Israel had no influence,” Lapid said. “This is the nadir in Israeli diplomacy since the founding of the State and Netanyahu refuses to take any responsibility. Has he really not made any mistakes at all?”

Lapid called for a public commission of inquiry into the government’s failure to halt the deal.

U.N. Security Council, EU approve Iran nuclear deal

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 08:48

The United Nations Security Council meeting in New York, Dec. 22, 2014. (Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

(JTA) — The United Nations Security Council and the European Union both approved the Iran nuclear deal.

The 15 members of the Security Council in New York unanimously adopted a resolution on Monday to approve the agreement reached in Vienna last week between Iran and the world powers.

Under the resolution, the United Nations will lift its sanctions against Iran after a report is submitted by its nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, verifying Iranian steps curbing its nuclear program as agreed to in the Austrian capital.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a staunch opponent of the agreement, called the resolution hypocritical.

“On the day on which the ruler of Iran has reiterated his intention to destroy the State of Israel, the U.N. Security Council is giving its approval to that same country, which has systematically violated the UNSC’s decisions and which calls for the destruction of Israel, a member of the U.N.,” Netanyahu said Monday in the Knesset. “The hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Netanyahu called on Congress to keep sanctions in place.

“They also say that a U.N. decision is the end of the story. This is not true, because as long as U.S. congressional sanctions are in place – and I remind you that the American economy is 40 times as large as the Iranian economy – Iran will be compelled in the end to make concessions, and not just receive them,” he said.

On Sunday, the Israeli leader voiced his opposition to the deal on American television in interviews on the ABC and CBS networks.

The European Union also approved the deal on Monday in a vote in Brussels. The EU also will gradually lift sanctions on Iran.

“It is a balanced deal that means Iran won’t get an atomic bomb,” said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, according to Reuters. “It is a major political deal.”

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

On Sunday, the U.S. State Department officially sent the agreement to Congress, which has 60 days to review it.

Samsung merger that sparked anti-Semitic expressions approved

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 07:46

(JTA) — Shareholders approved a merger of two Samsung affiliates in South Korea that sparked anti-Semitic expression in the local media.

The merger of the construction company Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries was approved Friday at a meeting of general shareholders. The New York-based hedge fund Elliott Associates, which is owned and managed by Paul Singer, who is Jewish, had fought the merger. Elliott Associates was C&T’s second largest shareholder.

The companies are both part of the Samsung Group, the country’s largest family-controlled conglomerate.

In reporting on the proposed merger, at least two South Korean media outlets blamed Jews for attempting to block the deal. One publication wrote that Jewish power on Wall Street “has long been known to be ruthless and merciless.” A columnist wrote that “Jews are known to wield enormous power on Wall Street and in global financial circles” and “It is a well-known fact that the U.S. government is swayed by Jewish capital.”

In a letter to the Anti-Defamation League last week, both companies condemned anti-Semitism.

The day before the vote, Samsung C &T removed from its website cartoons attacking Singer, including one depicting him as a vulture and another showing him hiding an axe behind his back while taking money from a man in ragged clothes.

U.S. defense chief: Military option in play despite Iran nuclear deal

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 07:34

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration is maintaining and improving the option of a military strike as a means of preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon even as a nuclear deal goes ahead, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said.

“One of the reasons why this deal is a good one is that it does nothing to prevent the military option — the U.S. military option, which I’m responsible for, President Obama charges us with doing, and which we are preserving and continually improving,” Carter said Sunday in a meeting with reporters aboard the plane heading to Israel for an official visit.

Carter began meeting on Monday with Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He also toured Israel’s border with Lebanon.

Israel adamantly opposes the nuclear deal reached last week by the major powers and Iran, saying it leaves Iran a nuclear weapons threshold state, and Netanyahu has said he reserves “all options” to keep Iran from going nuclear.

President Barack Obama says the deal, which swaps sanctions relief for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, is the best way to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Carter said his trip to the region, which also includes a stop in Saudi Arabia, another deal skeptic, is not aimed at persuading skeptical allies but of reassuring them of continued U.S. military support in the deal’s wake.

“The deal doesn’t limit the United States in any way,” he said. “It doesn’t limit what we do to carry out our strategy in the region. It doesn’t limit what we can and will do in defense of our good and staunch friend Israel.”

Carter said he would instead focus in his meetings with Netanyahu and Yaalon on “ways that we can strengthen an alliance and partnership that is now some 80 years strong, bedrock of American strategy in the region, a critical friend, critical ally, and ensuring their QME, helping them to deter and defend from aggression and terrorism, malign influence.”

QME refers to the qualitative military edge Israel seeks to maintain in the region.

Carter met Yaalon in Jerusalem, where the Israeli defense minister expressed appreciation for close U.S.-Israel ties. They toured Israel’s north where, Carter said before the visit, “we’ll have an opportunity to review firsthand what’s occurring across the border there, including the threat that Israel faces from Hezbollah.”

Hezbollah, a Lebanese Iranian-armed and allied militia that in 2006 launched a war against Israel, in recent years has massively built its missile holdings in Lebanon.

Netanyahu took his case against the Iran nuclear deal to the American public on Sunday, in interviews with ABS and CBS.

Teens arrested in N.Y. paintball attacks

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 07:13

(JTA) — Two Staten Island teenagers were arrested in connection with a string of local paintball attacks, including one on an Orthodox Jewish man.

Andrew Larstanna, 17, and Nicholas Barranco, 18, were accused of carrying out four separate paintball attacks in the New York City borough on July 10 and 11, local media reported.

On July 10, a 67-year-old Orthodox man was hit in the shoulder by a paintball while walking with his wife and son. The incident was investigated as a possible hate crime by the New York Police Department.

None of the other victims were Jewish. No hate crime charges have been filed against the teens.

There have been no arrests in paintball shootings that occurred earlier this month and in March in Brooklyn.

French university hands over Holocaust victims’ remains

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 05:21

(JTA) — The University of Strasbourg decided to hand over to the French city’s Jewish community the remains of Holocaust victims that were preserved as anatomy specimens.

The remains, preserved in several glass containers, were discovered on July 9 at the university’s Institute of Forensic Medicine by historian Raphael Toledano after years of research and denials of their existence there by the university’s administration, metronews.fr reported Saturday.

One container had skin fragments that were removed from the body of a female Holocaust survivor after she had been murdered in a gas chamber. Another contained the intestines and stomach of another female victim, according to a statement by the Strasbourg municipality.

The remains were found to be part of a collection of skeletons and other body parts managed by August Hirt, an SS captain who served as chairman of the Reich University in Strasbourg – the institution’s name under Nazi occupation – until his suicide in 1945.

He tasked two researchers in 1943 with selecting 109 prisoners for the collection at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland, to be transported and gassed at the Natzweiler-Struthof camp near Strasbourg. When allied forces liberated Strasbourg, they found 86 skeletons in Hirt’s collection and transferred them for burial at a local Jewish cemetery.

But testimonies suggested some human remains of Hirt’s victims remained in the university’s possession. Some of these testimonies appeared in a book published in January by historian Michel Cymes, whose French title translates as “Hypocrites in Hell – The Death Camps’ Physicians.”

The university’s president, Alain Beretz, denied the claims and said the book unjustly harmed the present-day university’s name by not clearly distinguishing it from the Nazi-led institution that occupation forces briefly installed in the university’s stead.

The remains discovered this month are to be buried at the Cronenbourg Jewish cemetery.

Spielberg sells Malibu property for $26 million

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 05:18

LOS ANGELES (JTA) – The award-winning filmmaker Steven Spielberg sold his housing compound in Malibu, bordering the Pacific Ocean, for $26 million.

The Los Angeles Times over the weekend headlined the sale by the creator of “Jaws,” “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List” as “Spielberg’s latest blockbuster.”

The compound’s two-story main house features seven bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, formal living and dining rooms, a massage room and a home theater. Outside the house is the swimming pool and spa, and a two-bedroom guesthouse.

Spielberg bought the property in two separate transactions in 1989 and 2000, paying a total of $6.575 million. In past years, when Spielberg and his family were not at home, he rented the property during the summer for $125,000 a month.

Not to be outdone by Los Angeles, a New York City penthouse owned by the recently deceased comedian and talk show host Joan Rivers sold for its asking price of $28 million last week.

Located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, near Fifth Avenue, the property encompasses the top three floors of a 1903 mansion converted to condos in the 1930s.

Among its attractions is a ballroom and music room with Louis XIV-inspired decor featuring 23-foot ceilings, crystal chandeliers, antique paneling and columns, tall windows and two fireplaces.

New Jersey doubles state allocation for Holocaust survivors

Sun, 07/19/2015 - 15:51

(JTA) — New Jersey has doubled the allocation in its state budget for Holocaust survivors.

The state’s Jewish Family Service agencies will receive $400,000 in the new fiscal year to serve Holocaust survivors as part of a “Grants in Aid” allocation, the New Jersey Jewish News reported.

The allocation announced earlier this month brings the three-year total to $1 million in state funding for services to New Jersey’s 4,700 Holocaust survivors, according to the newspaper.

The additional funding will provide survivors with 11,000 hours of home care service, 3,000 meals, and 1,500 hours of case work and social service needs management, according to the New Jersey Jewish News.

“We are grateful to Gov. Chris Christie and the legislature for once more recognizing, in a bipartisan way, that the concerns of Holocaust survivors are unique because of what they have been through, and because their vulnerabilities at this age are increasing and are real,” Mark Levenson, president of the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, said in a statement.