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Ted Cruz’s father: Jews who vote Democrat place Jewishness second

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 16:00

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jews who vote for Democrats place the party before their religion, the father of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz said.

“Unfortunately, in the Northeast, the Jews are Democrats first and Jews second,” Rafael Cruz said at an event over the weekend held by the Palm Beach County, Florida, Tea Party first reported by Talking Points Memo. “This is what has happened to a great many in the Catholic Church. They are Democrats first and Catholics second.”

American Jews tend 2-1 to favor Democrats in elections. Ted Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, is a candidate in a large field of Republicans running for the party’s presidential nod.

The elder Cruz, who his son cites as a major influence, was born in Cuba and is an adamant opponent of its Communist regime. Rafael Cruz, who is a pastor, says religious leaders have an obligation to speak out against government oppression, and blames European Christian leaders in part for not standing up for Jews during the Holocaust era.

In his South Florida talk, he said that Jews and Catholics tend to vote more from reflex than from consideration of the issues.

“We need to put principle above tradition,” he said. “There are people voting Democrat because ‘my father or grandfather voted Democrat.’ ”

An official in the Cruz campaign did not return a request for comment. Rafael Cruz is not an official part of the campaign, although the Palm Beach Tea Party touted his appearance as the senator’s father.

The National Jewish Democratic Council condemned Rafael Cruz.

“Jewish Democrats are not Democrats despite being Jewish – we are Democrats because we are Jewish, because of our Jewish values,” the NJDC said in a statement.

The group said that if Cruz disagrees with his father “he should let us know, but to question our religion, our faith or our identity because of our political views is remarkably offensive.”

Cruz is not the first Republican to suggest that Jewish Democrats devalue their religion. U.S. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa conservative, came under fire from the NJDC earlier this year for making similar remarks.

Rocket fired from Gaza lands near kibbutz

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 15:46

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(JTA) — A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in an open area near a kibbutz in southern Israel not far from the Gaza border. No injuries or damages were reported from the rocket, which landed on Tuesday night, setting off alarms in several Israeli towns near northern Gaza, the Times of Israel reported. The attack follows several similar ones from Gaza in the past month, which are believed to have been fired by Islamic rivals of Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group that governs Gaza. Israel has said it holds Hamas responsible for all attacks originating in Gaza. The rocket comes a day after the United Nations Human Rights Council issued a report accusing both Israel and Hamas of possible war crimes in their Gaza war last summer.

Masorti rips bar mitzvah rite for autistic kids held in Orthodox synagogue

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 14:31

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel slammed a bar mitzvah ceremony held at an Orthodox synagogue for non-Orthodox children with autism.

Sunday’s ceremony in Rehovot was presided over by an Orthodox rabbi that the nine children and their parents did not know, the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel said in a statement.

Masorti professionals who have worked with the children toward their bar mitzvahs were not informed of the ceremony, the statement said. The Torah is not read during services on Sunday by any branch of Judaism.

“What happened, in essence, is that the children, who had all volunteered to be in our program were taken to an unfamiliar synagogue, propped up and posed for a photo-op instead of given a legitimate and respectful bar mitzvah,” said Rabbi Robert Slosberg, the chairman of the Masorti Foundation.

“We were neither invited nor informed of the ceremony. In a situation where all services for children with disabilities are provided by the municipality, Mayor [Rahamim] Malul coerced these parents and their children into participating in a sham bar mitzvah and spat in the face of Masorti Judaism.”

The bar/bat mitzvah ceremony for children with disabilities has been taking place for 20 years in Rehovot under the auspices of the Masorti movement. The celebration was at first to be moved to the president’s residence in Jerusalem after Malul, the central Israeli city’s mayor, canceled the ceremony in April because it would be held at a Conservative synagogue.

The ceremony at the president’s residence was supposed to be co-officiated by one Conservative rabbi, Mike Goldstein, and one Orthodox rabbi, Benny Lau, according to Conservative officials. But an invitation sent out by the President’s Office listed only an Orthodox rabbi.

“With this group of children from Rehovot, the shameful saga and game has ended,” said Yizhar Hess, CEO of the Masorti movement in Israel. “We were hoping for a better ending, but at least the children and their parents are not left ‘hanging’ in the air. We can’t do anything more for them.”

The Masorti movement said an emergency mission to Israel is being planned that will include high-level government meetings to discuss the marginalization of the movement.

JNF creates $100 million Israel advocacy center via landmark gift

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 12:48

(JTA) — The Jewish National Fund has created a $100 million center to advocate for and educate about Israel, saying it “is needed now more than ever.”

The JNF Boruchin Israel Education Advocacy Center announced earlier this month aims to strengthen all Americans’ connections to the land and people of Israel, now and in the future, JNF said in a statement.

The center was founded through an estate gift of John and Dora Boruchin of California — the largest estate donation in JNF history. John Boruchin made his fortune in the United States in real estate, becoming one of the largest tract home builders in California. The couple, who met in Russia following World War II, are survived by their son, Isak.

“The Boruchins wanted JNF to undertake bold initiatives connecting Jewish youth to Zionism and advocating for the Jewish state,” said Mike Lederman, the center’s chairman. “The Boruchin Israel Education Advocacy Center is their living legacy, and their gift comes at a critical period in history as Israel and world Jewry face serious challenges with rising anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism. This center is needed now more than ever.”

The center will partner with individuals, foundations and other nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations to match funds on a multi-year basis, according to JNF. It will fund both JNF Zionist advocacy and education programs and non-JNF programs.

John Boruchin, who was born in Poland, lost most of his family in the Holocaust. Dora’s immediate family survived and now live mainly in Canada and the United States.

White House: Tweet by Israeli gov’t minister’s wife ‘revealing’

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 12:29

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A racist tweet mocking President Barack Obama posted by the wife of an Israeli government minister was “revealing,” the White House spokesman said.

“I think if there’s one thing we’ve certainly learned from this incident — it’s not the only time we’ve learned this — but that on Twitter you’re limited to 140 characters, but it still has a capacity to be quite revealing,” Josh Earnest said Monday after Judy Nir-Mozes, an Israeli talk-show host and wife of Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, had apologized for her Twitter post of the day before.

Earnest, speaking at the daily briefing for reporters, did not elaborate on “quite revealing.”

Mozes had tweeted, “Do u know what Obama Coffee is? Black and weak.”

After deleting the tweet, Mozes posted, “I apologize, that was a stupid joke somebody told me.”

A second apology posted a half hour later was directed at the U.S. leader: “President Obama I shouldnt have written the inappropriate joke I heard. I like people no matter about their race and religion.”

Shalom, of the Likud Party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also is a vice prime minister.

The brouhaha comes as tensions between Netanyahu and Obama are again in the headlines because of a tell-all autobiography published this week by Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to Washington from 2009 to 2013 and now a Knesset member in Netanyahu’s ruling coalition.

The book, “Ally,” has come under fire for inaccuracies — known and alleged — and for Oren’s speculation that Obama was trying to appease the Muslim world in part because he had been “abandoned” by his Muslim father and stepfather.

Earnest told reporters that the White House was not concerned about Oren’s book.

“I think in the case of Ambassador Oren, I think it’s pretty clear we’re just talking about another politician trying to sell books,” he said. “So I’m not particularly concerned about that.”

Israeli, Turkish officials hold secret meeting to restore ties

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 12:10

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli and Turkish officials reportedly met in secret in an effort to restore relations between the two countries.

The meeting reportedly was held Monday in Rome between Israel’s Foreign Ministry director-general, Dore Gold, and Feridun Sinirlioglu, a former Turkish ambassador to Israel. The Israeli daily Haaretz was the first to report the meeting.

Turkey downgraded diplomatic ties with Israel and expelled Israel’s ambassador following the deadly flotilla incident in 2010 involving a Turkish ship trying to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. Israeli troops killed nine Turkish nationals in clashes aboard the Mavi Marmara.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call brokered by President Barack Obama in March 2013, after which representatives of the countries met for reconciliation talks.

Israel reportedly presented a compensation deal to Turkey a year ago, but no agreement was reached. Full diplomatic relations, including an exchange of ambassadors, still has not occurred.

The meeting comes two weeks after the AKP Party of anti-Israel Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lost its majority in parliamentary elections, forcing it to seek a coalition.

A new flotilla sponsored by Ship to Gaza Sweden and Ship to Gaza Norway has set sail to break the maritime blockade on Gaza.

Did Miami Beach rabbi accused of molesting girl try to pay off alleged victim’s mother?

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 10:09

(JTA) — Newly released surveillance video shows a Miami Beach rabbi accused of molesting an 11-year-old girl giving the girl’s mother an envelope that is believed to contain money.

The mother turned the envelope from Rabbi Steve Karro over to Miami Beach police, Miami’s Local10 reported Monday. The envelope contained at least $500 in cash, the television station said, citing sources. The mother claimed the rabbi was trying to buy her silence.

The video is dated May 19, a week before Karro was arrested. The alleged molestation at an art gallery owned by Karro took place in April.

Karro, 55, was arrested in May and earlier this month was released to house arrest. He is not allowed to come into contact with children and is required to wear a GPS monitor.

The Russia-born Karro, who was raised in Jerusalem, is a substitute rabbi at the Shaare Ezra Sephardic Synagogue Congregation on Miami Beach.

The family’s attorney, Jeff Herman, told the local media that the family has been kicked out of the synagogue since the rabbi was accused of molesting the girl. Members of the Jewish community have tried to convince the family to drop the charges, Herman said.

Karro is accused of placing the girl on his lap and kissing her on the neck, then touching her bottom. He has said that there was nothing improper in how he kissed and hugged the girl, whom he reportedly asked not to tell about the encounter.

Poll: Most Israelis object to removal of Conservative rabbi from ceremony

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 06:57

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Nearly three-quarters of Israelis object to the removal of a Conservative rabbi from a bar mitzvah ceremony for disabled children intended to take place at the Israeli president’s residence.

The ceremony has been run for 20 years by the Conservative movement and was scheduled to take place at the end of June. It was supposed to be co-officiated by one Conservative rabbi, Mike Goldstein, and one Orthodox rabbi, Benny Lau. But the Conservative officials said two weeks ago that Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, sent them the official ceremony program without Goldstein’s name.

A poll released Monday by Hiddush, an Israeli religious pluralism organization, found that 71 percent of Israelis object to the president’s decision to remove Goldstein as a co-officiator.

In its description of the incident in the poll, Hiddush wrote, “The President’s residence canceled a Bar Mitzvah ceremony for disabled children because a Conservative rabbi was supposed to lead the ceremony along with an Orthodox rabbi.” While the Conservative movement was the party that backed out of the ceremony, Hiddush wrote to JTA that the president is to blame for the cancellation.

Rivlin’s spokesman, Jason Pearlman, told JTA earlier this month that the event program had yet to be finalized. He said a number of possible options for the ceremony are still on the table.

The Hiddush poll also found that 59 percent of Israelis believe Israel should recognize Conservative, Reform and Orthodox rabbis equally.

The survey of 507 adult Jewish-Israelis was conducted by the Rafi Smith Polling Institute on June 15.

German court cancels trial for Auschwitz medic, 94

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 06:21

BERLIN (JTA) – A German court will not put on trial a 94-year-old man who was charged as an accomplice in thousands of murders at Auschwitz,  saying he was mentally unfit to stand trial.

The district court of Neubrandenburg on Monday announced the decision in the case of Hubert Z., a medic at the concentration camp. The defendant suffers from dementia, the court found, and his mental state is worsening with no chance of improvement.

The state prosecutor in Schwerin is considering an appeal, the SVZ online newspaper reported.

Hubert Z. had been charged as an accomplice in the murders of 3,681 people in the Auschwitz gas chambers from Aug. 15, 1944-Sept. 14, 1944. He reportedly was a member of an SS paramilitary unit at the time.

A spokesman for the prosecution, Stefan Urbanek, told SVZ that there also is “evidence that the defendant could stand trial.”

The state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania reportedly has investigated an additional 15 cases over the past two decades, but never brought any of them to trial due to a lack of evidence of personal involvement in crimes, according to reports.

Former Spanish PM calls Israel ‘centerpiece’ of Western civilization

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 05:59

(JTA) — Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said that in view of threats from Iran and Sunni jihadists, “Israel happens to be a centerpiece of Western civilization.”

Aznar, a center-right politician for the People’s Party who presided as prime minister for eight years until 2004, made the assertion in a foreword he wrote for a newly released book by the Jerusalem-based researcher Manfred Gerstenfeld on the delegitimization of Israel and the Jews.

Israel’s significance to Western culture “is why it is under constant attack, and why we should do everything in our power to allow Israel to remain strong, free, and prosperous,” Aznar wrote in “The War of a Million Cuts.” The book was launched Monday during a panel discussion at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, which Gerstenfeld formerly served as chairman.

Earlier this week, Aznar told the Maariv daily that while the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel declares “its aim to put pressure on the Israeli government,” in reality “BDS does not only want to change the government’s policy, it wants to empty the country of Jews.”

But speaking at the book launching at a panel with The Jerusalem Post’s editor-in-chief, Steve Linde, and columnists Isi Leibler and Amnon Lord, Gerstenfeld said that pro-Israel individuals working to counter BDS are “focusing on an important yet nonetheless secondary problem” instead of delegitimization in general and Holocaust inversion as its main single item.

Gerstenfeld, the author of several books on anti-Semitism in Europe and around the world, argued for the formation of an Israeli government entity to counter the delegitimization. He cited the publication in 2011 of a study by the University of Bielefeld, Germany, in which over 40 percent of 7,000 respondents from seven European countries said they believed that Israel was carrying out a “war of extermination” against the Palestinians.

British teens arrested in theft of Auschwitz artifacts

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 05:55

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — Two British teenagers were arrested in Poland after police found in their backpacks items believed to be stolen from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum.

On Monday, museum security guards notified Polish police of the suspected theft of buttons, a fragment of a hair clipper and a piece of a spoon that belonged to prisoners of Birkenau. Police questioned the teens, 17 and 18, with the assistance of a translator.

The teens maintained their innocence, according to Deputy Inspector Mariusz Ciarka of the Malopolska police, but remain in police custody. They are charged with “misappropriation of objects that are artifacts of special cultural significance,” the Krakow Gazette reported.

Ciarka told the local media that the teens do not appear to realize the gravity of their alleged crime and are unfamiliar with “the dramatic history associated with Auschwitz. In contrast, museum staff are particularly sensitive to these types of incidents.”

If found guilty, the teens could be jailed for one to 10 years, though a fine and probation are the more likely punishment.

Druze mob attacks Israeli ambulance, beats Syrian fighter to death

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 05:32

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A mob of Druze-Israeli protesters killed a wounded Syrian fighter and seriously injured another in an attack on an Israeli ambulance.

The Druze protesters stopped the ambulance on Monday night near Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights as it was transporting the injured Syrians to an Israeli hospital. They dragged the men from the ambulance, beating one to death and seriously injuring the second. One of the soldiers escorting the ambulance also was injured.

The protesters believed the men were members of Syrian rebel groups, who have been targeting Druze-Syrians living near the border with Israel as part of the country’s four-year civil war.

“This is a very grave incident,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday. “We will not permit anybody to take the law into their own hands, and we will not allow anyone to hamper Israeli soldiers in the course of their duty.

“I call on the leaders of the Druze community, which is a magnificent community with which we have brotherhood, I call on them to calm things down and say to every Druze citizen in Israel, respect the law, respect the soldiers, do not take the law into their own hands.”

It was the second time on Monday that Druze protesters stopped an Israeli ambulance ferrying injured Syrians to the hospital. Earlier in the day, as an ambulance was driving by the Druze village of Hurfish, residents blocked the path of the ambulance and threw stones at it.

Members of the Druze community threatened Tuesday morning to continue to prevent ambulances transporting wounded Syrian rebels to travel to Israeli hospitals, Ynet reported. The spiritual leader of the community in Israel, Sheikh Moafaq Tarif, condemned the incident and called a meeting of Druze leadership in Israel to address the issue.

The IDF said it would increase security for wounded Syrians in Israeli hospitals.

Israel treats wounded from the civil war in the field and at local hospitals regardless of what side they are fighting for. More than 1,600 wounded Syrians have been treated in Israeli hospitals during the civil war, according to the IDF.

Last week, thousands of Druze-Israelis demonstrated on behalf of their Syrian counterparts, 20 of whom were murdered by ISIS the previous week. The Druze-Israeli community announced that it had collected $2.6 million for the Druze-Syrians to purchase weapons and urged the Israeli government to offer additional assistance.

Irma Schwager, Austrian-Jewish activist in French resistance, dies at 95

Mon, 06/22/2015 - 15:25

(JTA) — Irma Schwager, an Austrian-Jewish refugee who lost most of her family in the Holocaust and worked with the French resistance, has died.

Her death at 95 was announced on Monday by Austria’s Communist Party, for whom she was honorary chairwoman.

During World War II, Schwager, nee Wieselberg, lived in occupied France, where she recruited German soldiers stationed there to work against the Nazis, the French news agency AFP reported. She had fled Austria in 1938, managing to elude the Nazis, although the Gestapo raided her Paris apartment at one point, according to AFP.

After the war, Schwager returned to Austria, where she was active in the Communist Party, championed feminist causes and lobbied for nuclear disarmament.

Schwager remained active until shortly before her death. In January, she delivered a speech in Vienna to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Ex-head of Reform seminary to run Israel studies center at Brandeis

Mon, 06/22/2015 - 15:18

(JTA) — Rabbi David Ellenson, the former president of the Reform movement’s seminary, has been tapped to lead Brandeis University’s Schusterman Center for Israel Studies.

Ellenson, a scholar of Judaic studies, will start at the Boston-area university on July 1. He succeeds Ilan Troen, who served as director of the center since it was founded in 2007.

“David Ellenson is a distinguished scholar of Jewish religious thought, ethics, and modern Jewish history whose research on modern Judaism has focused on the complexity of the permeable boundary between tradition and modernity,” Lisa Lynch, Brandeis’ provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said in a Brandeis news release.

Ellenson served as the president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York from 2001 to 2013 and is now chancellor emeritus.

He is the author of six books and hundreds of articles. Ellenson, who has a doctorate from Columbia University, won the 2005 National Jewish Book Council’s Award for most outstanding book in Jewish thought. His most recent book is “Jewish Meaning in a World of Choice,” published in 2014.

Poll: Americans more apt to back Jewish candidates than evangelicals, Muslims or atheists

Mon, 06/22/2015 - 15:09

(JTA) — Ninety-one percent of Americans said they would vote for a presidential candidate who is Jewish, according to a new poll.

The Gallup poll of recent voting preferences released Monday showed that 73 percent of Americans would support an evangelical Christian for president, while 60 percent would back a Muslim and 58 percent an atheist.

The latest results on voting for a Jewish candidate matched those from June 2012. When the question about religion was first asked in 1937, less than half of Americans said they would vote for a Jewish candidate.

In addition to asking about religions, the poll, which was conducted via telephone interviews from June 2 to 7, asked the 1,527 participants aged 18 and older about their willingness to vote for gay or lesbian, African-American, Latino, female and socialist presidential candidates. Ninety-two percent said they would vote for an African-American and/or a woman and 74 percent a gay or lesbian. Forty-seven percent said they would consider voting for a socialist.

Both Democrats (92 percent) and Republicans (95 percent) expressed willingness to vote for a Jewish candidate, but they differed in their willingness to vote for candidates of various other faiths. Among Republicans, 84 percent said they would vote for an evangelical, compared to 66 percent of Democrats, and more Democrats were willing to vote for a Muslim (73 percent) than Republicans (45 percent). Some 64 percent of Democrats would vote for an atheist, compared to 45 percent of Republicans.

Considerably higher percentages of Democrats than Republicans — 85 percent compared to 61 percent — would vote for a gay or lesbian.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is the only announced Jewish candidate in the 2016 presidential race. Although Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, is independent, he has described himself as a democratic socialist and speaks out frequently against income inequality.

The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Respondents came from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

3 teens charged for allegedly throwing rock at kippah wearer in N.Y.

Mon, 06/22/2015 - 14:05

NEW YORK (JTA) — Three teens are being charged with hate crimes after allegedly throwing a rock at a kippah-wearing Jewish man in New York and threatening to kill him.

The teens threw the rock at the Staten Island man a few blocks from an Orthodox synagogue in the borough on Sunday evening, then surrounded and threatened to beat and kill him, the Staten Island Advance reported. They also made derogatory references to his yarmulke, a head covering worn by observant Jewish men.

The man, a doctor, escaped unharmed and the called the police.

Among those arrested was Kareen Cook, 17, of Staten Island, who was charged with aggravated harassment as a hate crime, menacing as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon, according to the Advance. Police said he was carrying a knife.

The two others arrested, both 15, are being tried as juveniles; their names were not released.

Polish non-Jews honored for Jewish heritage efforts

Mon, 06/22/2015 - 11:24

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — Four Polish non-Jews and a group of students were recognized with a new award for their involvement in saving Jewish heritage.

The Laurel of Memory was presented Sunday by the Embassy of Israel, the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland and the Ministry of Culture. The award was established this year on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Poland and Israel.

“Whoever saves one life saves the entire world,” Anna Azari, Israel’s ambassador to Poland, said at the ceremony. “Today we reward people who are doing something that saves our world and helps the relations between our nations.”

The award winners are:

* Eugeniusz Gradek, pastor of the Pentecostal Church in Zywiec, who takes care of the Jewish cemetery in the south-central Polish town.

* Professor Jerzy Mizgalski of Czestochowa, who works with the descendants of the southern Polish city’s Jews in Israel, organizes conferences and writes about the Jewish history of Czestochowa.

* Malgorzata Motor of Lezajsk, a journalist who publishes articles on the Jewish heritage of the Podkarpackie region.

* Major Marek Wrona of Wadowice, the director of a prison whose inmates clean up Jewish cemeteries in Wadowice and Andrychow, both in southern Poland.

* A group of students from a school in Strzegom, in southwestern Poland, who tend to the town’s Jewish cemetery.

The Laurel of Memory is derived from a program initiated in 1998 by Michael Traison, a Jewish-American attorney whose firm has offices in Poland, under the name of Preserving Memory.

“Now the number of people who are involved in protection of Jewish heritage is growing, so we thought about creating a new project,” said Monika Krawczyk, director of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland.

On June 28, Krakow will host an awards ceremony recognizing Poles involved in preserving Jewish heritage.

Disputed Greek Holocaust memorial vandalized 2 weeks after its dedication

Mon, 06/22/2015 - 10:39

ATHENS, Greece (JTA) — A disputed Holocaust memorial in Greece was desecrated two weeks after its dedication.

The black marble monument, which commemorates the 1,484 Jews from the northern port city of Kavala who were murdered by the Nazis, was discovered Monday to be covered in blue paint, according to The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece.

“It is with sadness that we learned of the desecration of the Holocaust Memorial of Kavala, just two weeks after it was inaugurated … at the site where in 1943 the Jews of Kavala were arrested and detained before being deported to the death camps,” said a statement from the board.

The monument became a source of contention after Kavala city officials postponed its original dedication, saying they opposed the Star of David on the memorial. The ceremony was held on June 7 following pressure from the Greek Jewish community, the Greek government and international groups on Kavala’s mayor.

On Monday, the Jewish community expressed its satisfaction with the Kavala municipality for its “immediate intervention to clean and restore the monument.” The  community called on Greek authorities to apprehend the vandals.

Jewish cemeteries and Holocaust memorials in Greece have seen a spate of vandalism incidents in the past year.

A recent Anti-Defamation League survey showed that Greece has Europe’s highest rate of anti-Semitic attitudes, with 69 percent of Greeks espousing anti-Semitic views. That is nearly twice the rate of the next highest country, France, with 37 percent.

Name change for ‘kill Jews town’ in Spain becomes official

Mon, 06/22/2015 - 10:30

(JTA) — A town in northern Spain has officially changed its name from “kill Jews town.”

On Monday, the town formerly known as Castrillo Matajudíos published its new name — Castrillo Mota de Judios, or Castrillo Jews’ Hill — in the official state gazette.

The official renaming comes a year after the some 50 residents of the town voted to change its name at the suggestion of Mayor Lorenzo Rodriguez, who submitted the proposal to change the name back to the original Castrillo Mota de Judios. He said the name was changed during the Spanish Inquisition.

The name change was approved by the regional government of Castilla y Leon.

In parts of Spain, especially in the north, locals use the Spanish term for “killing Jews” to describe the traditional drinking of lemonade spiked with alcohol at festivals held in city squares at Easter, or drinking in general.

U.N. report finds Israel, Palestinians may have committed war crimes

Mon, 06/22/2015 - 07:05

Bomb-damaged homes still scar the landscape in Gaza City, June 15, 2015. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s military and Palestinian armed groups committed “serious violations” of international human rights law during their conflict last summer that in some cases may amount to war crimes, according to a United Nations report.

The report of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict was released Monday. While the report accused both sides of possible war crimes, its findings focused more on what it considers Israeli wrongdoing in its operation known as Protective Edge.

“The commission was deeply moved by the immense suffering of Palestinian and Israeli victims, who have been subjected to repeated rounds of violence,” reads the conclusions section of the 183-page report.

The writing of the report was directed by Mary McGowan Davis, a former justice of the Supreme Court of New York. Davis replaced the original head, William Schabas, who resigned in April. Israel provided evidence to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva that Schabas, a Canadian international law professor, had authored a seven-page legal opinion on behalf of the PLO for which he was paid.

The only other panel member was Doudou Dienne of Senegal, a former U.N. watchdog on racism and on post-conflict in the Ivory Coast.

Israel refused to cooperate with the investigation, including denying entry to commission members, though some Israelis did testify.

The report called on Israel to “provide sufficient details on its targeting decisions to allow an independent assessment of the legality of the attacks conducted by the Israel Defense Forces and to assist victims in their quest for the truth.” It acknowledged that in order to do so could be a security risk for Israel that could “jeopardize intelligence sources,” but said that did not excuse Israel from doing so.

The report called on Israel to hold its soldiers and officers accountable for the breaches of international law during the conflict in Gaza.

On the Palestinian side, the report said that “the commission has serious concerns with regard to the inherently indiscriminate nature of most of the projectiles directed towards Israel by these groups and to the targeting of civilians, which violate international humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime. The increased level of fear among Israeli civilians resulting from the use of tunnels was palpable. The commission also condemns the extrajudicial executions of alleged ‘collaborators,’ which amount to a war crime.”

The report said that a “persistent lack of implementation” of recommendations by previous commissions of inquiry, fact-finding missions, U.N. treaty bodies, special procedures and other United Nations bodies “lies at the heart of the systematic recurrence of violations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly has ordered his government ministers to refrain from commenting on the report until it can be studied and a response formulated.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry criticized the U.N. report.

“It is regrettable that the report fails to recognize the profound difference between Israel’s moral behavior during Operation Protective Edge and the terror organizations it confronted,” the Foreign Ministry said.

“This report was commissioned by a notoriously biased institution, given an obviously biased mandate, and initially headed by a grossly biased chairperson, William Schabas,” the statement said. “Israel will continue to uphold its commitment to the law of armed conflict despite the brutal tactics of its enemies. Israel will continue to investigate alleged wrongdoing in accordance with international standards and to cooperate with those UN bodies that conduct themselves in an objective, fair and professional manner.”

Last week, Israel released its own report that said the escalation of attacks on Israel by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip justified its broader military operation under international law.