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Yisrael Beiteinu campaign slogan calls for Israeli-Arab land swaps

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 08:27

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli political party Yisrael Beiteinu’s new campaign slogan pushes the idea of swapping land on which Arab-Israelis live to a future Palestinian state for West Bank land.

The slogan, “Ariel for Israel, Umm al-Fahm to Palestine,” was unveiled Thursday. The party’s other slogan is “Tachles, Liberman.” Tachles is a Yiddish expression meaning telling it like it is, and Avigdor Liberman is the party chief.

Umm al-Fahm, which is near Haifa in northern Israel, is the largest Arab-Israeli city and has a population of almost 50,000. It is known for its Arab nationalism and sympathy for the Palestinian cause.

Ariel, a city 25 miles east of Tel Aviv, is the largest Jewish settlement in the West Bank with a population of approximately 18,000.

Liberman, Israel’s foreign minister, for many years has called for a transfer of Arab-Israelis as part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. He said at a news conference Thursday that the Yisrael Beiteinu party would emphasize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the campaign.

Arab-Israeli Knesset members should move to the Palestinian Authority and lose their citizenship when the new state is formed, Liberman said at the news conference.

“There is no reason why all those inciters and representatives of terrorist groups in Israel’s Knesset should not move to the Palestinian Authority. Haneen Zoabi, Ahmed Tibi and Raad Salah — there is no reason why they should continue to be Israeli citizens,” he said.

Arab-Israelis who are loyal to Israel can stay, he added.

Liberman told reporters that he and members of his party would not discuss the corruption investigation in which several party leaders and supporters were arrested or questioned last month.

Turkish prime minister compares Netanyahu to Paris terrorists

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 07:00

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Turkey’s prime minister compared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the terrorists in the Paris attacks that left 17 people dead.

“Netanyahu has committed crimes against humanity the same like those terrorists who carried out the Paris massacre,” Ahmet Davutoglu said Thursday in televised responses to reporters’ questions. He noted the Israeli raid in May 2010 on a boat bound for Gaza in an attempt to break Israel’s blockade of the coastal strip that left nine Turkish citizens dead.

Davutoglu made the comments three days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that he did not understand how Netanyahu “dared” to march in the rally against terrorism last weekend in Paris. Davutoglu also attended the march.

Netanyahu responded to Erdogan on Wednesday, telling a group of visiting AIPAC leaders on Wednesday that “I believe his shameful remarks must be repudiated by the international community because the war against terror will only succeed if it’s guided by moral clarity.”

Davutoglu said that Netanyahu’s government “made almost natural the killing of Palestinians at every opportunity.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday called Erdogan an “anti-Semitic neighborhood bully.”

“It’s bad enough that leaders in Europe fail to condemn blatant human rights violations in Turkey itself, he said, “but their ignoring of the hatred and the incitement against Israel that this man cultivates is something that we cannot ignore.”

Davutoglu also called the new cartoon on the cover of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine a “grave provocation.”

“Freedom of the press does not mean freedom to insult,” he said of the cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Actor Michael Douglas awarded $1 million Genesis Prize

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 06:19

(JTA) — Actor and peace activist Michael Douglas is the recipient of the 2015 Genesis Prize.

The decision was announced Wednesday night by the Genesis Prize Foundation. The $1 million prize will be awarded in Jerusalem by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and the prime minister of Israel on June 18.

Douglas said he plans to use the prize money for promoting activities designed to raise awareness of inclusiveness and diversity in Judaism, according to the prize foundation.

“I share this award with my family, who encouraged me in my exploration of the Jewish faith,” Douglas said. “I hope these teachings and values will be part of the legacy in the world that I leave for my children and those who follow.”

Douglas, 70, was not raised Jewish. His father, the actor Kirk Douglas, is Jewish, but his mother is Anglican.

In recent years, however, Douglas has embraced the Jewish faith and said he considers himself a Reform Jew. Last year he took his son, Dylan, to Jerusalem for his bar mitzvah. Because he never converted, Douglas is not considered Jewish according to Conservative or Orthodox Judaism, where patrilineal descent is insufficient to qualify one as Jewish.

“It is an unconventional choice,” said Stan Polovets, co-founder and chairman of the Genesis Prize Foundation, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In a statement, Polovets said Douglas was chosen for “his professional achievements and for his passion for his Jewish heritage and the Jewish state.”

He added, “The Douglas family’s experience of connecting with its heritage and embracing it on their own terms embodies an inclusive approach for Jews of diverse backgrounds. This is particularly important today, when the question of what it means to be Jewish has become more pressing than ever.”

The winner of two Academy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards and an Emmy Award, Douglas serves as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, focusing on human rights, gun violence prevention and nuclear anti-proliferation work.

The first Genesis Prize, an annual award, was given to Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire businessman and former mayor of New York. It is meant to recognize an accomplished, internationally renowned professional who is a role model in his or her community and whose actions and achievements express a commitment to Jewish values, the Jewish community and Israel, and who can inspire the younger generation of Jews worldwide.

The foundation was endowed by the Genesis Philanthropy Group, a consortium of wealthy philanthropists and businessmen from the former Soviet Union that includes Mikhail Fridman, Pyotr Aven and German Khan.

Austria may seize Hitler’s childhood home

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 05:51

(JTA) — The Austrian government is looking into expropriating Adolf Hitler’s childhood home.

Trying to ensure the house is not turned into a neo-Nazi shrine, the Interior Ministry may seize the home if its owner refuses to sell it to the government, The Associated Press reported Wednesday. The owner, who has not publicly been identified, reportedly has turned down past offers to sell.

The ministry has rented the home in the German border town of Braunau for several years and sublet it to charitable organizations. The house, which draws neo-Nazi visitors, has stood empty for the past three years after the owner refused to authorize needed renovations, AP reported.

The building is listed as a historical landmark and cannot be razed.

 

Yale’s ‘Jewish Lives’ series wins National Jewish Book Award

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 17:02

(JTA) — The “Jewish Lives” series, a set of short biographies, was named the Jewish Book of the Year by the Jewish Book Council.

The series, which has been issued for the past four years by Yale University Press, was among the 2014 National Jewish Book Awards winners announced Wednesday.

It marked the first time that the Book of the Year award went to a series.

Among the other winners:

* “The Betrayers,” by David Bezmogis, the JJ Greenberg Memorial Award for fiction.

* “The Mathemetician’s Shiva,” by Stuart Rojstaczer, Outstanding Debut Fiction.

* “Spinoza: The Outcast Thinker,” by Devra Lehmann, for Children’s and Young Adult Literature.

* “The Patchwork Torah,” written by Allison Ofanansky and illustrated by Elsa Oriol, for Illustrated Children’s Book.

* “The Golden Age Shtetl,” by Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, in the History category.

* “The Koren Ani Tefillah Siddur,” by Jay Goldmintz and Jonathan Sacks, for Modern Jewish Thought and Experience.

* “A Question of Tradition: Women Poets in Yiddish, 1586-1987,” by Kathryn Hellerstein, for Women’s Studies.

* “Outside the Bible, 3-Volume Set: Ancient Jewish Writings Related to Scripture,” edited by Louis H. Feldman, James L. Kugel and Lawrence H. Schiffman, for Scholarship.

The awards will be presented March 11 in New York. A complete list of the winners can be seen on the Jewish Book Council’s website.

The council has given out the annual awards recognizing outstanding books of Jewish interest since 1948.

Ruderman foundation partners with Chabad in $1 million inclusion initiative

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 16:41

(JTA) — The Ruderman Family Foundation has established a $1 million partnership with Chabad-Lubavitch to promote a culture of inclusion for people with disabilities.

The grant is the largest made by the foundation to a religious organization, the foundation said in a statement Tuesday.

“With emissaries in virtually every Jewish community across the globe, Chabad represents one of the most extensive and influential outreach efforts in the Jewish world,” Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, said in a statement.

The grant will be used to develop programming introducing strategic initiatives for the inclusion of people with disabilities from early childhood to adult. The initiative will offer internships to train post-seminary students and camp counselors on best practices on inclusion and will be tried out in 25 select Jewish communities, according to the foundation.

Ruderman said the new partnership “will bring the message of disability inclusion to Jews everywhere.” He noted that the Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, “taught that every Jew is equal and every Jew is a valued member of our community regardless of their abilities. Our partnership with Chabad will ensure that his message is embraced by all Jews.”

The program’s director, Dr. Sarah Kranz-Ciment, said in the statement that the initiative “will change mindsets across the globe and help shape communities where everyone is welcome.”

Hamas: New Charlie Hedbo cover is ‘Zionist lobby’ plot

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 16:28

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Hamas said the Charlie Hebdo cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on the satirical magazine’s latest cover was part of a plot by the “Zionist lobby.”

“We condemn the latest publication of ‘Charlie Hebdo,’ which has caricatures offending the Prophet Muhammad,” spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Wednesday, according to reports. “The way the Israeli newspapers have dealt with the issue, with the blessing of the U.S. secretary of state, is clear evidence that there is a plot, directed by the Zionist lobby, targeting Muslims, their culture, and the tolerance toward them by Western countries.”

In the cartoon, Muhammad is holding a sign with the ubiquitous show of support “I am Charlie” and a headline in French reading “All Is Forgiven.”

The issue, which debuted Wednesday with a run of 3 million copies, was the magazine’s first since a terrorist attack on its Paris headquarters killed 12. Its publisher said it will print up to 5 million copies in five languages; the magazine usually prints about 60,000 copies.

The two Islamic extremist brothers who stormed the editorial offices of the newspaper on Jan. 7 said they perpetrated the attack in response to what they deemed offensive cartoons featuring Muhammad. Cherif and Said Kouachi were killed two days later.

Four days after the killings, Hamas said in a statement that it “condemns the attacks against the Charlie Hebdo magazine and insists that the difference of opinions and thoughts cannot justify murder.”

AMIA prosecutor sues Argentine president over ’94 bombing

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 15:31

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — The special prosecutor in the deadly 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing is suing Argentina’s president and the government, alleging a cover-up of Iran’s role.

Alberto Nisman, who is heading the investigation, in the 300-page federal lawsuit filed Wednesday claimed that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner covered up for former Iranian officials accused of being involved in the attack. Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, who is Jewish, also was named in the suit, which seeks a freeze on Kirchner’s assets.

The suit claimed that Kirchner decided to “not incriminate” former senior officials of the Islamic Republic and tried to “erase” their roles in planning the bombing.

Interpol has issued arrest warrants for six Iranians in connection with the bombing, including the defense minister at the time of the attack.

The lawsuit accused the government of establishing a “parallel communication channel” with Iran in order to “transmit and implement the orders ruled by the President (Kirchner) and, in that way, reach the illicit objectives,” including establishing trade relations.

“This clandestine channel that operated as a parallel diplomacy was shaped by officials, ex-officials and other subjects that had no ties with the diplomatic function, but who were closely tied with the center of power from where the most transcendental decisions of Argentine politics emanated,” it said.

The suit also named other government figures and leftist political leaders Luis D’Elia and Fernando Esteche, who was sentenced to prison recently for threatening a Jewish rally.

According to the suit, Kirchner decided to bring Argentina closer to Iran, “establishing trade relations to mitigate Argentina’s severe energy crisis through an exchange of oil for grain.”

The agreement, the suit said, was considered “unfeasible” as long as the accusations against Iranian officials remained. To clear the obstacle, Kirchner “ordered a diverting of the investigation, abandoning years of a legitimate demand of justice, and sought to free the Iranians  accused in the case from all suspicions, contradicting their proven ties with the attack. She decided to fabricate the innocence of Iran.”

In November 2013, Nisman asked a federal judge to declare unconstitutional his country’s memorandum of understanding with Iran to jointly investigate the AMIA bombing. That same year, in July, he told Jewish leaders from Latin America that Iran had infiltrated several South American countries through the installation of intelligence cells.

GOP bill would kill presidential mandate on waiving Jerusalem law

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 14:02

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two Republican senators introduced legislation that would deny the president the right to waive a law mandating a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act, which was introduced Tuesday by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), would withhold at least half the funding for building of overseas embassies until the United States moves its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and strikes the president’s right to waive the 1995 law mandating the transfer of the embassy.

Successive presidents have waived the law, citing U.S. national security interests.

“It is long past due for our government to finally and unequivocally recognize Israel’s historical capital both in word and deed,” Cruz said in a statement issued Tuesday.

The Orthodox Union welcomed the proposal.

“The holy city of Jerusalem has always been, and must remain, the indivisible capital of Israel,” it said in a statement.

U.S. designates a leader of Gaza group as terrorist

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 12:14

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. State Department designated as a terrorist a leader of a Gaza Strip-based group that has targeted Israel.

Abdallah al-Ashqar is “reported” to be a leader of Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem, a group that since August has been designated as terrorist, the State Department said Wednesday in a release.

“Al-Ashqar also serves as a foreign relations official for the group,” the release said. “In addition to his leadership activity, al-Ashqar has sought missiles and other materials with which to attack Israel.”

The group, reportedly linked to al-Qaida, has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on Israel, including a rocket attack on Eilat.

Terrorist designation means a ban on all financial transactions with the named individual or group and a freeze on the designated entity’s U.S. assets.

White House vows fight against ‘scourge’ of anti-Semitism

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 12:06

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Obama administration is pledged to stem the “rising tide” of anti-Semitism, the White House chief of staff said.

“We will not waver in our commitment to defeat the scourge of anti-Semitism,” Denis McDonough said at an event Tuesday evening convened by the American Jewish Committee and Washington-area Jewish groups to show solidarity with France and its Jews after deadly attacks last week by Islamists.

“This is not an issue for any single community or nation to deal with by itself,” McDonough said at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington. “From the president on down, you have my commitment that we will wage this fight together.”

The White House has come under fire for not sending a senior official to the solidarity march in Paris over the weekend.

In separate attacks last week, three jihadists killed 17 people at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and at a kosher supermarket in Paris, as well as a police officer.

Also speaking at the Washington event, which drew 700 people, was the French ambassador to Washington, Gerard Araud.

“We are at war against terrorism, against radical Islam,” he said. “Journalists and Jews are on the front line of democracy.”

He also said that France was committed to protecting its Jewish population.

“We want the Jews of France to remain in France,” he said.

Some Israeli leaders in the wake of the attacks have urged French Jews to leave.

Limmud Colorado shutting down

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 11:57

(JTA) – Limmud Colorado, after several years of conferences, is shutting down.

The announcement appeared last week in the Boulder Jewish News.

“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to inspire a large enough and stable enough core community of volunteers to plan and run our annual conference, and each year we ended up with a small, passionate group of individuals doing the work of many,” said the item, which was signed by Gregg Drinkwater, David Shneer, Ed Sitver and Cynthia Weinger. “That model was not sustainable, and more important, it didn’t fit with the vision of Limmud as a community-led experience with content inspired by the entire community.”

They said the decision to shutter the annual confab was made last summer, though they didn’t share the news with the public until recently.

The volunteer-based Jewish learning festival debuted in England more than 25 years ago and has spread to dozens of cities around the world.

In Colorado, the last full Limmud conference took place in February 2013 in Englewood, a Denver suburb. The state’s first Limmud conference was held in 2008 in Keystone, about an hour and a half west of Denver.

The assets left in Limmud Colorado’s control were distributed to a small group of people who had received Limmud-inspired Jewish learning grants via the Rose Community Foundation or “shown their ability to transform Jewish life in the region, and to foster volunteerism and community engagement,” the announcement said.

Hundreds of people had participated in the state’s Limmud conferences, which were meant to foster “cross-communal conversation, Jewish engagement and Jewish learning,” according to organizers.

“We know so many of you have loved participating in Limmud and learning at Limmud events,” the group of four wrote in their announcement. “But without the year-round commitment of a solid group of dedicated volunteers, the annual conferences were becoming too stressful for those intimately involved in planning them and were not reflecting the Limmud commitment to grassroots leadership.”

Dutch university cancels talk on Israel boycott, cites Paris attacks

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 10:47

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — A Dutch university canceled a panel discussion on boycotting Israel following the terrorist attacks in France.

VU University Amsterdam nixed Tuesday’s debate a day before it was scheduled to take place. The debate, which was organized by a group called Students for Justice in Palestine, featured three speakers who are known for positions widely seen as being anti-Israel.

“We observed today that, in light of social unrest tied to the events of last week, the debate is causing feelings of exclusion and lack of safety within the university community,” Jaap Winter said in a statement published Monday on the university’s website.

The group said the university’s decision violated academic freedom and free thought. It held the debate off campus.

On Monday, the Joodse Omroep, a Dutch-Jewish broadcaster, published an interview with a Jewish student identified only as Sonja who said that she was afraid to return to the university when her internship outside the Netherlands ends.

“I don’t want to come back, and in fact I think it’s a bit scary,” she said, citing harassment of pro-Israel students and Jews.

On Jan. 5, a Facebook user using the handle Muhammad Seher wrote on the Facebook page of Students for Justice in Palestine, “Free Palestine, Vrije Univesiteit Jew-free!”

He was responding to the group’s post that read “Free Palestine, Vrije Univesiteit Israel-free!”

Survey: One quarter of British Jews have considered leaving due to anti-Semitism

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 09:30

(JTA) — Nearly half of Britons hold an anti-Semitic view and one quarter of British Jews have considered leaving because of rising anti-Semitism, two new surveys found.

The surveys were released together on Wednesday by Britain’s Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, or CAA. The reports came out less than a week after four Jewish men were killed in a Paris kosher supermarket by an Islamic extremist.

One CAA survey found that 58 percent of British Jews believe that Jews may have no long-term future in Europe and that over half of British Jews say that they have witnessed more anti-Semitism in the past two years than ever. The CAA survey also found that 45 percent of the British Jews surveyed feel their family is threatened by Islamist extremism.

Some 2,230 British Jews were given a link to complete the online survey. Several methods were used to ensure a wide and varied sample, according to the CAA.

“The results of our survey are a shocking wakeup call straight after the atrocities in Paris,” Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, said in a statement. “Britain is at a tipping point: unless anti-Semitism is met with zero tolerance, it will grow and British Jews will increasingly question their place in their own country.”

Along with showing that nearly half of Britons hold an anti-Semitic view, the other survey carried out by YouGov for the CAA also found that one in four Britons believe that “Jews chase money more than other British people” and one in five believes that “Jews’ loyalty to Israel makes them less loyal to Britain than other British people.”

YouGov polled a nationally representative sample of 3,411 British adults between Dec. 21 and Jan. 6.

Some 269,000 Jews live in Britain and equal 0.4 percent of the population.

Israel to cover burial costs of Paris victims in Jerusalem

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 09:03

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Ministry of Religious Services said it will cover the costs of the burial and funeral for the Paris kosher supermarket victims.

The announcement late Tuesday night followed reports that the families had been asked to pay some $13,000 for the plots and funeral.

Israeli lawmaker Limor Livnat, the minister of culture and sport, who made the arrangements in conjunction with the families, told Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett that charging for the services went against the commitments she had been given by ministry representatives, Ynet reported.

Late Tuesday night, Bennett said his ministry would cover the costs.

Thousands attended Tuesday’s funeral for the four men at the Har HaMenuchot cemetery in Givat Shaul, Jerusalem’s largest burial ground. The funeral also was nationally televised, and both the president and prime minister of Israel spoke to the mourners.

The charges were levied by the Chevra Kadisha, part of the Religious Services Ministry, after the families rejected burial in multi-story tombs, which would have been free, Ynet reported. The families initially had been offered burials in the historic Mount of Olives cemetery but declined because of security considerations, Ynet reported.

Lapid: Israel must attend Arab League meeting, push for regional accord

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 06:57

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid promised on Facebook to advance civil unions and push for a regional peace accord should he serve in Israel’s next government.

Answering questions from English speakers, Lapid on Tuesday called for an Israeli delegation to attend the Arab League summit in March. He wrote that his centrist party supports a regional peace agreement that guarantees Israel’s security and includes major West Bank settlement blocs in Israel’s borders.

He noted that the Arab League meeting will be the first chaired by Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is chairing.

“Israel should be there to make the case for a regional agreement which guarantees our security,” Lapid wrote.

Yesh Atid served in the governing coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that was dissoved last month in acrimony. While Lapid did not rule out joining a left- or right-wing coalition, he said he hopes Netanyahu does not win another term.

“We will do all we can to make sure Netanyahu isn’t prime minister after these elections,” he wrote. “The process of building a coalition should take place after the elections and depends on the choices the Israeli voters make. Governing isn’t about personality, it’s about serving the best interests of the Israeli public.”

Lapid stressed the importance of maintaining strong relations with the United States, saying “Israel has no more important strategic ally.” He added that any disagreements between the countries should not be made public.

He said Yesh Atid would continue to try to advance a bill instituting civil unions in Israel, which currently allows only Orthodox marriage for Jews. Lapid wrote that his previous attempts at the civil unions bill were blocked by the modern Orthodox Jewish Home party, which also served in the governing coalition.

“We were in the process of putting forward legislation for civil unions for all couples,” he wrote. “We plan to work hard on this issue in the next Knesset because it’s something we as a party care deeply about.”

French comedian Dieudonne arrested over Charlie Facebook post

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 06:52

(JTA) — French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala was arrested for making a Facebook comment in sympathy with the Paris kosher supermarket gunman.

Dieudonne, who has multiple convictions for inciting racial hatred against Jews, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion that he incited to terrorist acts, the French news agency AFP reported.

His statement appeared following the killing of 17 people in three attacks last week in Paris.

“Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly,” Dieudonne wrote in a takeoff on the French expression for “I am Charlie.” The expression is being used in support of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, where 12 people were killed on Jan. 7 by two Islamist gunmen.

Two days later, four Jewish men were killed at a kosher supermarket in Paris by Amedy Coulibaly, who had killed a policewoman the previous day. Coulibaly reportedly had maps in his car marking the locations of Paris Jewish schools..

Dieudonne later removed the comment from his Facebook page.

He has been convicted seven times for inciting racial hatred against Jews and is facing an eighth trial for suggesting during a show that the French Jewish journalist Patrick Cohen belonged in a gas chamber. Dieudonne also is the originator of the quenelle, the increasingly popular gesture in France and Europe that has been called anti-Semitic and a quasi-Nazi salute.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Monday called Dieudonne’s remark “contemptible,” according to AFP. Dieudonne retorted by saying in a statement, “The government is ruining my life for making people laugh.”

Dieudonne reportedly participated in the Paris unity march on Sunday to express his support for free speech.

Study links synagogue affiliation to better health

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 06:50

(JTA) — Regular synagogue attendance may make you healthier, a new study indicates.

A study of four large American Jewish urban communities by Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion found that “adults who affiliate with a Jewish religious denomination and attend synagogue report significantly better health than secular or non-practicing Jews,” Jeff Levin, director of the institute’s Program on Religion and Population Health, said in a statement issued Tuesday by the Texas university.

“People with a strong sense of religious identity and who participate in their faith seem to do better, on average, than people without an active spiritual life,” added Levin, a professor of epidemiology and population health, who conducted the study.

The study, based on data collected throughout the 2000s as part of Jewish community surveys from Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and New York, was published in January’s Journal of Religion and Health.

“While there have been hundreds of studies of physical and mental health among Christians and members of other faiths, Jewish studies have been limited mostly to Israelis and to smaller clinical samples in the U.S. or the United Kingdom,” Levin said.

The results were consistent across denominations. Whether Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist or Reform, affiliated Jews reported better health than secular, non-affiliated Jews. Likewise, Jews who attended synagogue, whether regularly or less frequently, reported better health than those who never went.

Levin suggested following up with a national health survey of the Jewish population.

“This would provide an opportunity to dig a lot deeper than what’s possible using data from existing community surveys, which weren’t really designed to assess health,” he said. “It’s fortunate that a question or two on health was included in these surveys, but we can do a lot better.”

A sophisticated national survey also could serve as a needs assessment that would provide valuable information for Jewish organizations seeking to address the health and life needs of American Jews, Levin said.

Established in August 2004, the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion initiates, supports and conducts research on religion.

Terrorism charges added in torching of Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 06:46

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Supporting a terrorist organization was among the additional charges filed against the suspects in the arson attack on a joint Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem.

The new charges announced Tuesday against the three suspects also include incitement to violence and incitement to racism.

Last month, the suspects were charged with arson, breaking and entering, and destroying property in the fire and vandalism at the Max Rayne Hand In Hand Jerusalem School.

Yitzhak Gabai, 22, of Jerusalem, and brothers Shlomo Rachamim Twitto, 20, and Nachman Twitto, 18, both of Beitar Illit, are members of Lehava, a group that opposes Arab-Israeli coexistence and assimilation.

Along with setting a classroom on fire, the three are accused of spray-painting anti-Arab epithets on the school’s walls.

The Hand In Hand Jerusalem School is Israel’s largest joint Arab-Jewish school and the only such primary and high school in the city. Five Hand in Hand schools are located throughout the country.

 

Noah Pozner’s parents suing over Sandy Hook massacre

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 16:53

(JTA) — The family of a Jewish boy killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre is one of two families suing Newtown, Conn., and its school board for alleged lax security.

The parents of Noah Pozner, as well as Jesse Lewis, filed the lawsuit last month, the Hartford Courant reported Monday. It reportedly is seeking more than $15,000 in damages, as is standard.

According to the suit, the school board and the town were negligent in not having classroom doors that could be locked from the inside and because the school did not have a more secure entranceway, including bulletproof glass on the front windows. The lawsuit also alleges a lack of security in the parking lot.

Noah Pozner, 6, was the youngest victim of the December 2012 massacre. Twenty children and six school employees were killed when Adam Lanza, 20, forced his way into the school building and opened fire. Lanza killed himself at the school.

Prior to the school shootings Lanza, who had attended the Sandy Hook school, killed his mother, Nancy, in the Newtown home they shared.

Ten of the families, including the Pozners and Lewises, also are involved in a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the gun used in the attack, according to the Courant. The families claim that the Bushmaster AR-15 should not be sold to the public because it is a military assault weapon designed for war.