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Lawsuit: Tad Taube used Koret Foundation as ‘personal piggy bank’

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 14:26

(JTA) – The longtime president of the Koret Foundation, Tad Taube, is being sued by the widow of foundation founder Joe Koret for treating the institution as his “personal piggy bank.”

Susan Koret alleges in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court that Taube used the San Francisco-based foundation to promote his own causes and ego rather than serve the foundation’s mission. The foundation responded with a countersuit.

A major supporter of Jewish and nonsectarian Bay Area institutions, the foundation also supports Jewish life in Poland and Israel, academic institutions and conservative groups like the Hoover Institute.

Earlier this year Taube, 83, announced that he would retire as foundation president, a position he has held since 1982. He will be succeeded by Michael Boskin and Anita Friedman.

“Taube, thirty years the Foundation’s president, has autocratically controlled the Koret Foundation as a personal piggy bank to aggrandize his name and funnel millions of dollars annually to favored causes, many of which are politically and socially at odds with the core mission of the Foundation,” Susan Koret charged in the lawsuit. “Taube has created a board structure that gives him ultimate power to make decisions, often without consulting the board in advance.”

Joe Koret would be “turning over in his grave” if he knew what Taube had done with the foundation, the lawsuit charges.

In its countersuit, the foundation charges that Susan Koret is incompetent and seeks to remove her from the foundation’s eight-member board despite her lifetime appointment. The countersuit was brought by the board’s other seven members.

Susan Koret “is an incompetent director who lacks an even basic understanding of the governance of the foundation, the grant-making process and the good work done (and communities served) by the Foundation’s grantees,” the foundation’s countersuit charges.

Koret Foundation spokesman Nathan Ballard noted that Susan Koret voted in favor of many of the grants she now seems to be protesting.

“She’s not following what’s going on in board meetings,” Ballard told JTA. “Her behavior is increasingly confused and erratic, so it’s time for her to go.”

The countersuit also notes that Susan Koret was brought on as a housekeeper in the Koret household when Joe’s wife of more than 50 years, Stephanie, became ill, and that Joe and Susan were married for just four years. The two married in 1978, the year Stephanie died. Joe Koret died in 1982.

Koret’s lawsuit alleges that Taube and others, including his lawyer Richard Greene, have conflated the Koret Foundation and Taube’s own charitable organizations to make a “plethora of donations to Taube’s personal causes that deviate from and confused the Foundation’s core missions.”

In 2012, the most recent year for which records are publicly available, the foundation gave out $26 million and had more than $500 million in assets.

Nearly 60 percent of the $64 million provided by the foundation between 2010 and 2012 went to causes tied to Taube and Koret board members, Koret’s lawsuit alleges. That includes $3.2 million to right-wing political causes, according to the San Francisco Chronicle: $1 million for the American Values Initiative at Hoover, where Taube and Koret’s executive director are on the board; and smaller grants to the Ayn Rand Institute, the Federalist Society and the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

The foundation also has sent millions to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, which is set to open later this month. Taube also has supported the museum with millions from his Taube Family Foundation and the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture.

Jewish leader attacked by pro-Palestinian assailant after Nets-Maccabi game

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 14:23

NEW YORK (JTA) – Leonard Petlakh, the head of a Jewish Y in Brooklyn, was attacked by a pro-Palestinian protester following the exhibition basketball game between the NBA’s Nets and Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Petlakh, the executive director of the Kings Bay Y, said he required eight stitches and his nose was broken after being punched on Tuesday night while exiting the Barclays Center arena following the Nets’ 111-94 victory.

Prior to the game, a reception was held to raise funds for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.

Fans verbally sparred inside the arena as the game was ending when pro-Palestinian protesters began shouting slogans and a pro-Israel fan grabbed a Palestinian flag from one of the protesters, according to Petlakh.

As the crowds spilled out of the arena and onto the street, one of the protesters took a swing at Petlakh, who was with his 14- and 10-year-old sons.

“The last thing I remember is this guy screaming ‘Free Palestine’ and then a really strong punch,” Petlakh told JTA. “To get bloodied in front of your kids, it really crosses all the red lines.”

The assailant ran away and Petlakh sought medical care. He reported the incident to the police, who are investigating the attack as a hate crime.

French city freezes twinning with Safed to pressure Israel

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 11:51

(JTA) – The City Council of Lille froze the French municipality’s twinning agreement with Safed to press the Israeli government to end its conflict with the Palestinians.

The council voted Monday on what was described as a “temporary freeze” on twinning with the northern Israeli city, the Le Figaro daily reported.

The vote is one of several “initiatives taken notably by the European Parliament to call for a freezing of the privileged agreements with Israel in order to pressure the government and accelerate the resolution of the conflict,” said council member Marie-Pierre Bresson of the Green Party.

Lille Mayor Martine Aubry, of the ruling Socialist Party, told the AFP news agency that the twinning agreement with Safed has not been canceled, but she did not say when the freeze would be lifted. Lille also is twinned with the Palestinian city of Nablus.

Roger Cukierman, president of the CRIF umbrella of French Jewish communities and associations, in a letter to Aubry wrote that the move was shocking to the Jewish community of France, CRIF said Wednesday on its website.

“This decision corresponds with hateful attitudes to the Israeli people,” he wrote.

19th-century synagogue complex restored in Lithuania

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 10:25

(JTA) — After seven years of renovations, a unique complex made up of two 19th-century synagogues opened to the public in the Lithuanian town of Joniskis.

The Joniskis Synagogue Complex made its official debut earlier this month, the Russian Jewish news agency AEN reported Wednesday.

The complex in northern Lithuania comprises the Red Synagogue, which dates to 1865, and the White Synagogue, from 1823, according to the World Monuments Fund, which participated in the restoration.

“The unique complex of Joniskis synagogues is an important cultural, historic, architectural, and social landmark, not only in the district of Joniskis, but within Lithuania and Eastern Europe as a whole,” the fund wrote on its website.

It noted that in1970, the complex was declared a Cultural Heritage Object by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage in Lithuania.

Countless Lithuanian synagogues were destroyed by the Nazis and later by the Soviet government. The Joniskis complex, with the Star of David decorating one of its facades, escaped a similar fate because it is surrounded by residential buildings, meaning that “would-be vandals passed right by them without realizing they were there,“ the fund wrote.

After the war, the buildings were abandoned and reused for various purposes, according to the fund.

The synagogues were in a “serious state of serious disrepair” when restoration efforts began in 2007, it said.

The roof of the White Synagogue was replaced and the false upper-level facades on the sides of the building have been restored to their original configuration, the fund reported. In addition, the Red Synagogue’s foundations were repaired and made waterproof.

Knife-wielding biker near Vienna synagogue is arrested

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 10:16

(JTA) — A biker brandishing a knife and shouting anti-Semitic slogans in front of Vienna’s main synagogue was arrested.

The biker, identified as Markus G., 51, was taken into custody by Austrian police on Oct. 4, the news site oe24.at reported.

According to the report, the man assaulted police when they approached him but he did not hurt anyone prior to his arrest. His demeanor suggested he was inebriated but he refused to undergo an alcohol test.

In 1981, two people who had attended a bar mitzvah ceremony at the synagogue were murdered and 30 were injured in an armed attack by Palestinian terrorists.

Preserved Polish Jewish cemetery hit by vandals

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 10:07

(JTA) — Several tombstones were damaged as a result of vandalism at a Jewish cemetery in Poland.

The attack on the headstones at the cemetery of Klodzko in western Poland took place late last month, according to a statement posted last week on the website of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, which has worked with local volunteers to preserve the site.

In a separate action, the foundation last month unveiled a monument at a site that once was a Jewish cemetery in Rajgrod, in northern Poland, before it was destroyed during the Holocaust.

The monument, which was built in Israel and shipped to Poland ahead of a ceremony attended by several dozen people, was the initiative of Avi Tzur, an Israeli whose family lived in Rajgrod before immigrating to Brazil.

The project took two years to complete, according to foundation director Monika Krawczyk.

“This forgotten and very tiny community produced sons and daughters who never forgot, and did everything to save the memory of those who perished,” she told JTA.

Another project connected to Jewish cemeteries in Poland moved forward on Tuesday when the city of Warsaw dismantled a structure that was made out of some 1,000 Jewish headstones and began the process of moving the headstones to the Jewish cemetery from which they were collected decades ago to serve as building material.

Last month, the city pledged approximately $180,000 for the project in negotiations with Jonny Daniels, the Israel-based founder of From the Depths, an international Holocaust-commemoration organization.

Jewish youth soccer club quits game in response to anti-Semitic taunts

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 10:03

(JTA) — The coach of a Jewish youth soccer team in England took his players off the field after claiming they had been bombarded with “anti-Semitic abuse.”

Members of the Manchester Maccabi team said they had endured anti-Jewish taunts and jibes about Palestine in a game with the Curzon Ashton team on Sunday, the U.K.’s Mirror reported.

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

“We’re used to anti-Semitism, we play with the Star of David on our shirts, we wear the kippah, but in the past we’ve had managers apologize profusely and have a word with their players,” Dennison told the Manchester Evening News.

“On this occasion everyone was clapping and laughing at these racist insults and it was only one or two of their boys who seemed quite embarrassed and apologized to my players.”

The soccer league is waiting for each team and the referee to file official reports before deciding what, if any, action to take. The Curzon Ashton team has officially denied the claims.

Hezbollah says bomb that wounded Israeli soldiers was a ‘message’

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 09:54

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Hezbollah said an attack on Lebanon’s border with Israel that left two Israeli soldiers injured was a “message” for Israel.

“This is a message. Even though we are busy in Syria and on the eastern front in Lebanon, our eyes remain open and our resistance is ready to confront the Israeli enemy,” Sheik Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s deputy secretary-general, told Lebanese OTV television late Tuesday, Reuters reported.

The soldiers were injured Tuesday by a bomb planted near the border with Lebanon. A Hezbollah cell called the Ali Hassan Martyr Unit took responsibility for the attack.

The Israeli military returned fire with tank shells into southern Lebanon following the attack, the Israeli army confirmed.

Hezbollah members have been fighting with the Syrian army in the country’s civil war.

Israel and Lebanon have been in a technical state of war since the end of the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Police thwart attack on Jewish site in Buenos Aires

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 09:30

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — Argentine police arrested a man suspected of planning to attack a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

Argentina’s national security secretary, Sergio Berni, said Wednesday that police received an alert a week ago from Interpol of a possible plot to attack the Sociedad Hebraica.

The suspect, 57, was arrested Tuesday at an Internet cafe in Buenos Aires by the Anti-Terrorist Division of the Federal Police.

Berni declined to provide additional details other than to say that 1,500 security personnel had been deployed to 99 sites in the last week, which coincided with the Jewish High Holidays season. After a threat posted on Facebook last week, the Sociedad Hebraica was evacuated on the night of Oct. 2 and was closed the following day for security reasons.

“We are very satisfied by the actions of the police and the Justice Ministry in this case,” Julio Schlosser, the president of Argentina’s political umbrella group, DAIA, told Argentine media.

Buenos Aires was the site of two major attacks on Jewish sites in the 1990s. A 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy killed 29. The 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center left 85 dead.

French security official: If I were Jewish, I’d leave and join IDF

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 08:34

(JTA) — A senior police officer in the French city of Marseille said that if he were a Jew who cared about his country, he would leave for Israel and join its army.

Gilles Gray, secretary of the city’s prefect of police, made the statement last week at the prefecture during a conversation with Kurdish activists protesting what they describe as insufficient action to save Kurds in Syria and Iraq from assaults by the ISIS jihadist group.

“Your brethren are there, but you are here, causing trouble in Marseille,” Gray told the activists in the conversation, whose recording was obtained by the Marseillaise daily and published online Tuesday. “It’s like with the Jewish community. Me, if I were a Jew in Marseille who cared about my people and country, I would be in the Israeli army, not in Marseille.”

Marseille, in southern France, is home to the country’s second-largest Jewish community with approximately 60,000 people.

Gray added that demonstrations by Kurdish activists distract police from preventing terrorist activities on French soil.

“When we’re busy with you, we don’t protect the schools,” he is heard saying.

One of the delegates said he hoped Gray was telling the truth, to which he replied: “I never lie. I’m a Protestant. It’s a flaw of mine; I tell it like it is.”

Haredi girls’ school in Beit Shemesh ordered out of secular school building

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 06:09

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A haredi Orthodox girls’ school that began operating on one floor of a secular school in Beit Shemesh must vacate the building.

Under an agreement struck with the Jerusalem District Court, the Mishekenot Da’at school will move out of the second floor of the Safot VeTarbuyot school and operate out of mobile classrooms placed in the schoolyard.

The 110 haredi students must leave the building by Nov. 10, and all barriers and dividers must be taken down, The Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday.

The court called on the Ministry of Education and the city of Beit Shemesh to “conduct negotiations in order to reach a comprehensive, long-term solution for the housing of all educational institutions in the city as soon as the coming academic year, including Mishekenot Da’at and Safot Ve’tarbuyot.”

The presence of the haredi school and the erection of barriers between students of the two schools in both the schoolyard and building sparked protests by the secular school’s parents and secular city lawmakers.

Beit Shemesh, which is about 19 miles from Jerusalem, has been a flashpoint for conflicts between haredi and secular residents over the role of religion in the public sphere.

Syrian rebels discover Russian spy post near Israeli border

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 05:46

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Syrian rebels discovered a joint Russian-Syrian secret spy post in a town on the Golan Heights near the border with Israel.

The facility was used as a cover intelligence collection base, the rebels said, the Daily Beast reported Tuesday. It collected information from rebel groups in Syria and of Israeli military forces, according to reports.

Footage of the base taken by the Free Syrian Army and posted on YouTube showed a map detailing locations of Israeli army positions in Israel’s North. It also uncovered photos of senior Russian intelligence and military officials visiting the facility.

The rebels captured the base in Tel Al-Hara, south of the Quneitra border crossing with Israel, over the weekend, according to reports.

The facility may also have been used to spy on Saudi Arabia and Jordan, according to the Daily Beast.

Israel has not officially commented on the discovery.

Spanish city reconnects to Jewish past with Sukkot cultural festival

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 05:20

(JTA) — The city of Toledo in central Spain is launching a two-day cultural festival themed around the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

The festival, which ends on Oct. 12, will feature Sephardic music; workshops on how to build a sukkah – a flimsy hut where Jews eat during the holiday in memory of their ancestors’ nomadic existence in the Sinai Desert; and Sephardic cuisine.

“It’s a way for this city to reconnect to a Jewish past that was so rich, it was a second Jerusalem,” said Hugo dos Santos, a Portuguese man whose tourism firm, Meet Spain, is helping the municipality set up the Sukkot festival for the second year.

In 1391, there were five Talmudic schools and 10 synagogues in Toledo — once home to one of the Iberian Peninsula’s largest Jewish populations. The city’s Jewish population was converted to Christianity or exiled in the following years as part of the Spanish Inquisition – a campaign of religious persecution against Jews and other non-Christians led by the Spanish royal house and church. Today, fewer than 100 Jews live in Toledo.

Lawmakers in Spain and Portugal recently advanced legislation which would offer Spanish nationality to any proved descendants of Iberian Jews, or Sephardim. In parallel, dozens of municipalities that are rich with Jewish patrimonial sites in both countries have formed a network designed to promote the preservation and celebration of Sephardic heritage sites and culture.

Last year, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain asked the Spanish Catholic Church to hand over a museum which used to be synagogue and later a church.

Built 834 years ago, the Ibn Shushan Synagogue – or Santa Maria la Blanca church – is one of Spain’s most popular museums. It drew approximately 300,000 visitors in 2010, half of them locals.

Masked Palestinians riot on Temple Mount on eve of Sukkot

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 04:57

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Masked Palestinians rioted on the Temple Mount after it was opened to visitors on the eve of Sukkot.

The rioters threw rocks, concrete blocks and firebombs at police at the Mughrabi gate entrance to the Temple Mount on Wednesday morning. Four policemen were injured during the violence. Five protesters were arrested, according to Israel Police.

Police said they dispersed the rioters. The Palestinian Maan news service said that several of the protesters holed up in the Al Aksa Mosque, and said that police then locked them inside the mosque. Visits to the Temple Mount continued undisturbed.

There are more visitors to the Temple Mount this week due to the influx of travelers for the Sukkot holiday, leading to more tension at the site that is holy to both Jews and Palestinians.

The riots come after weeks of rioting and unrest at the Temple Mount and in eastern Jerusalem.

The police announced Tuesday that it would increase security at the Temple Mount and throughout Jerusalem for the Succot holiday.

The unrest also comes after Israeli news reports that The Ministry of Tourism is looking into a plan to open a second gate for Jews and other non-Muslims to enter the Temple Mount.

They currently use the Mughrabi Gate, whose entrance originates from the Western Wall plaza.

Palestinian leader and PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said the plan would end the possibility for peace.

“Israel is creating a new reality at the expense of Palestinians, their religious rights, sites, and historical identity,” Ashrawi said, according to Maan. “They are violating the sanctity of religious sites without consequences, which completely terminates possibilities for peace and will ultimately drag the whole region into disastrous clashes.”

Ashrawi is a Palestinian Christian.

Orthodox, Reform have opposite takes on Supreme Court gay marriage move

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 04:34

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Reform and Orthodox groups had opposite takes on the Supreme Court decision not to hear gay marriage cases, effectively extending the right to a majority of the states.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to leave in place lower court rulings that have the potential to bring marriage equality to more than half of the states is cause for celebration for those Americans who will now be able to marry the person they love, no matter their gender,” the Religious Action Center of the Reform Jewish movement said in a statement Tuesday after the court turned away five appeals of lower court rulings permitting gay marriage.

The effect of the denial was to increase from 19 to 30 the number of states where same-sex marriage is legal.

Agudath Israel of America said it remained committed to the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

“Agudath Israel of America remains committed to defending marriage as it has been understood since time immemorial: the sanctioned union of a man and a woman,” the group said in a statement. “We do not believe that the constitution demands an abandonment of history.”

State Dept. brings over Israeli, Palestinian hoops coaches

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 04:27

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. State Department is bringing 30 Israeli and Palestinian youth basketball coaches to the United States to promote understanding.

“This exchange program is part of the U.S. Government’s efforts to assist those who believe people of different nationalities, ethnicities, and creeds can live alongside one another constructively and peacefully,” the department said in an Oct. 7 statement.

The Oct. 5-19 program in New York, Washington D.C. and Stamford, Conn., will emphasize “conflict resolution, sports management, and leadership,” the statement said.

The tour culminates a two-year program and participants will be expected to continue to participate in follow-up upon their return.

Facebook completes purchase of WhatsApp

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 03:50

(JTA) — Facebook completed its purchase of the the mobile messaging service WhatsApp for nearly $22  billion in cash and stock.

The transaction was completed on Monday, Facebook paid about $ 2 billion more than when the deal was announced in February due to a rise in the price of Facebook shares.

Facebook named WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum to its board Monday. Koum, 38, grew up a Jewish and “a rebellious little kid” in a poor village outside of Kiev, Wired reported in February. Koum and his mother immigrated to the United States when he was 16 to escape the “troubling political and anti-Semitic environment,” according to Forbes.

“I’ve also known Jan for a long time, and I know that we both share the vision of making the world more open and connected,” Zuckerberg, who also is Jewish, wrote on his Facebook page when the deal was first announced.

WhatsApp, a free mobile messaging service similar to texting, has more than 450 million users, with an additional million joining every day, according to reports. Users pay a $1 yearly fee to use the WhatsApp app; the first year is free.

Facebook said at the time that the purchase was announced that WhatsApp will continue to operate independently after the purchase.

The merger was approved by U.S. antitrust authorities in April, and by the European Union on Friday.

Brooklyn coffee shop owner apologizes for calling Jews ‘greedy infiltrators’

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 17:12

(JTA) — A Brooklyn coffee shop owner who called Jews “greedy infiltrators” on social media has apologized.

Michael Avila, owner of The Coffee Shop in the Bushwick neighborhood, offered “deep and sincere apologies” on Monday to anybody he may have hurt with his rant published last week on his sites. The rant reportedly went viral.

He told DNAinfo New York that his mother’s best friend, who is Jewish, and other friends showed him how he could better choose words to make his point and not offend.

In the rant, Avila said that he wanted his neighbor to sell his building, “BUT NOT be bought out by Jews.” He said Jews “function via greed and dominance.”

He said in his statement to DNAinfo New York, “If I could go back in time, out of my love for Bushwick (as it always was) my post would have looked more like the following — ‘I believe it is wrong for any persons to buy real estate and then dislocate people from their homes for the purpose of self-service.’ ”

Avila also removed his social media sites on Monday.

Four species cleared for air travel

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 17:08

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection once again will allow the carrying of the four plants used during Sukkot.

However, travelers may be asked to open containers so that their religious items can be checked for invasive pests, according to the notice posted this week on the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol website.

The Transportation Security Administration, as in previous years, said the containers would be inspected for security purposes.

The four species permitted in airports, security checkpoints and on airplanes are a palm branches, myrtle twigs, willow twigs and a citron. Willow twigs from Europe are not allowed entry.

The Orthodox Union has published a succot guide for travelers online.

“We are gratified by the ongoing sensitivity of these agencies to the religious concerns of our community,” said Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel of America’s vice president for federal affairs and its Washington director, who has been working with the relevant federal agencies on these issues for more than two decades. “They are taking meaningful and appropriate steps to accommodate our religious needs.”

Succot begins on Wednesday night.

Designer Galliano back in fashion world two years after anti-Semitic rant

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 17:04

(JTA) — British fashion designer John Galliano is returning to work in the fashion industry two years after he was fired from Christian Dior for an anti-Semitic rant caught on video.

Galliano has been hired as the creative director of the Paris-based fashion house Maison Martin Margiela, the company announced Monday.

Dior fired Galliano in March 2011 after he was filmed making anti-Semitic statements at a Paris bar. Galliano stated his love for Adolf Hitler and told people he believed were Jewish that their mothers should have been gassed. He later blamed his outbursts on addictions to drugs and alcohol.

A French court ruled in September 2011 that Galliano in several incidents had made “public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity.” He was sentenced to a suspended fine and no jail time.

Following the anti-Semitic tirade, actress Natalie Portman, who was serving as a spokeswoman for Dior, issued a statement condemning Galliano and saying “I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way.”