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Soccer boss to visit Israel, Ramallah in bid to thwart suspension vote

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 12:35

(JTA) — The world soccer federation’s boss, Sepp Blatter, is preparing to travel to Jerusalem and Ramallah in a bid to resolve a dispute over a Palestinian effort to have Israel banned from the association.

Blatter, president of the Switzerland-based FIFA, told reporters on Friday that he will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas when he arrives in the region next week, the Associated Press reported.

“Netanyahu would not receive the FIFA delegation if he would not be ready to make concessions,” Blatter said, referencing Palestinian conditions for dropping their national soccer federation’s demand that Israel be suspended for allegedly preventing Palestinian soccer players from playing internationally.

The Palestinians have threatened to push for a vote by FIFA’s member nations during an international conference by delegates on May 29. Blatter is on record as opposing the vote and Israel’s potential suspension for reasons he has said are political and unconnected to soccer.

Earlier this week, the president of Brazil’s soccer federation, CBF, which is one of the most prominent bodies on FIFA, also expressed his opposition to the vote.

“The CBF understands that soccer promotes peace and not discord, and should not be utilized for political ends,” CBF President Marco Polo del Nero said during a meeting in Sao Paulo with Eduardo Wurzmann, secretary of the CONIB federation of Jewish communities, CONIB said in a statement published Thursday.

Canadian football player fined for anti-Semitic tweets

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 10:11

MONTREAL (JTA)—Canada’s professional football league has fined a player for posting anti-Semitic material on his Twitter account.

The Canadian Football League (CFL) fined U.S.-born Khalif Mitchell, a defensive lineman for the Montreal Alouettes, an undisclosed amount.

He also received the “maximum allowable” fine from his team, which signed him to a three-year contract in February.

Mitchell, 30, tweeted a link to a 2015 YouTube video called, “The Greatest Lie Ever Told — The Holocaust,” and has posted or retweeted material on ISIS.

The CFL took the action after being alerted by B’nai Brith Canada. In a statement, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs also deplored Mitchell’s “hateful messages.”

Mitchell has since said he believed the Holocaust did happen.

Gutow stepping down as JCPA president

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 07:49

(JTA) — Rabbi Steve Gutow is stepping down after leading the Jewish Council for Public Affairs for 10 years.

Gutow, the JCPA president and CEO, will stay in place while the public policy umbrella searches for a new leader, but will focus on interfaith and environmental projects and will leave day-to-day management to Ethan Felson, the body’s senior vice president, according to a JCPA statement released Thursday.

In addition to the environment and interfaith dialogue, the JCPA has under Gutow focused on advocating for poverty relief in the United States and on protecting minorities in Sudan.

Gutow, a Reconstructionist rabbi, has also sought to address increasing polarization within the Jewish community, reflective of the broader tensions in the U.S. political discourse. He has advocated for a code of civility in political exchanges in the Jewish community.

“During his ten years of dedicated service he has distinguished himself in efforts to promote a secure Israel, to combat poverty and to protect our environment,” Susan Turnbull, the JCPA chairwoman, said in a statement. “The JCPA’s efforts to restore civility to our national discourse have flourished under his leadership, and he has been tireless in his work on interfaith relations.”

Palestinians injured in Nablus clashes over Jewish pilgrimage

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 07:14

(JTA) — At least 21 Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli troops in Nablus, Palestinian media reported.

The clashes erupted early Friday following a visit by Israelis to Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, Palestinian security officials told the Ma’an news agency.

Over 30 Israeli military jeeps entered the city late Thursday and soldiers took up positions on rooftops and around the tomb in preparation for a night visit by hundreds of Israelis for prayers, which ended at 3:30 a.m., according to the report.

The Israeli Arutz 7 reported that this year, close to 4,000 pilgrims came to the prayer marking the Counting of the Omer, a period of 49 days between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot.

Locals threw rocks and other objects at the soldiers, who fired back using crowd-dispersal means.

Twenty-one Palestinians sustained injuries to their lower extremities, locals said. The Ma’an report did not specify the severity of the injuries recorded.

Joseph’s Tomb is situated in Area A of the West Bank, which is under full Palestinian security control. Israeli troops maintain control of the holy site, which has been targeted in the past by Muslim rioters.

Obama to enhance military assistance to Gulf states in face of Iran deal

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 07:12

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Barack Obama announced plans to enhance military assistance to Arab Gulf states at a meeting where the sides discussed the emerging Iran nuclear deal.

“The United States is prepared to work jointly with GCC member states to deter and confront an external threat to any GCC state’s territorial integrity that is inconsistent with the [United Nations] Charter,” Obama said Thursday after concluding a meeting with members of the Gulf Cooperative Council at the Camp David retreat in Maryland.

“In the event of such aggression or the threat of such aggression, the United States stands ready to work with our GCC partners to urgently determine what actions may be appropriate, using the means at our collective disposal, including the potential use of military force, for the defense of our GCC partners,” he said.

That means “we will increase our already extensive security cooperation,” he said.

Gulf Arab states, like Israel, are wary of the emerging nuclear deal between Iran and the major powers, in part because they fear it will free Iran to expand its backing for Shiite-backed powers in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, and will enable Iran to expand its support for terrorism.

A summary statement said enhancements would be in the areas of “fast-tracking arms transfers, as well as on counter-terrorism, maritime security, cybersecurity, and ballistic missile defense.”

It also said that Obama had briefed the GCC leaders on the Iran talks.

The leaders “emphasized that a comprehensive, verifiable deal that fully addresses the regional and international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program is in the security interests of GCC member states as well as the United States and the international community,” it said.

“The United States and GCC member states oppose and will work together to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and stressed the need for Iran to engage the region according to the principles of good neighborliness, strict non-interference in domestic affairs, and respect for territorial integrity,” the summary statement said.

At the same press conference, Obama said that the prospect of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians “seemed distant” in the wake of the new governing coalition formed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I know that a government has been formed that contains some folks who don’t necessarily believe in that premise,” Obama said. “But that continues to be my premise.”

Netanyahu’s government is the first in at least a decade that does not include parties that embrace the two-state solution. It is considered among the most right-wing governments in Israeli history.

Obama alluded to the 1978 Camp David Accords, struck between Egypt and an Israeli government also led by a right-wing Likud prime minister, Menachem Begin.

“And since we’re up here at Camp David, I think it’s important to remind ourselves of the degree to which a very hard peace deal that required incredible vision and courage and tough choices resulted in what’s now been a lasting peace between countries that used to be sworn enemies,” he said. “That prospect seems distant now. But I think it’s always important for us to keep in mind what’s right and what’s possible.

Also on Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas presented new preconditions to restarting peace talks with the new Israeli cabinet, Israel Radio reported. Abbas called for the halt of all Jewish construction in the West Bank and for the immediate release of Palestinians imprisoned before the Oslo Accords, who were supposed to be released in 2014. He also said that peace talks will not resume unless he is guaranteed that they will last a full year.

Relations between the United States and Israel were strained by Netanyahu’s perceived reluctance to move ahead with peace talks despite an aggressive push in that direction by Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry. Peace talks collapsed a year ago and were followed by a war in the summer between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

Shanghai Reform community’s 1st Torah scroll a gift from Brazil

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 06:33

(JTA) — The newly-established Reform Jewish community of Shanghai, China, will receive its first Torah scroll from a sister congregation in Brazil.

The donation of the scroll by ARI, Rio de Janeiro’s Progressive congregation, to the Kehilat Shanghai community was announced at a ceremony Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro, where 300 delegates are attending at the World Union of Progressive Judaism’s biannual meeting.

The donation “is a big step that gives us the means and the responsibility to promote out active community in all aspects,” Arie Schreier, president of Kehilat Shanghai, said, according to a report on the ceremony on the website of CONIB, the umbrella group representing Brazilian Jewish communities.

Kehilat Shanghai, which has a few dozen members, including Jewish business people living in Shanghai and their families, was established in 2011 and last year accepted into the union, which has 1,200 affiliated communities in 45 countries. Of those, 20 countries were represented at the conference.

The Rio Connections 2015 event, a four-day conference that opened Wednesday, is the first WUPJ biennial in Latin America and the first time the biennial is including the Shanghai community, according to Miriam Kramer of Britain, who is a WUPJ board member and the chairwoman of the union’s European branch.

“They may not be in Europe or North America, but the progressive communities of Latin America, Asia and elsewhere are by no means out of the way,” she said.

Brazil’s Reform congregations were established in the 1930s and ’40s by German and other European Reform Jews who fled from Europe. Currently, Brazil has eight communities affiliated with WUPJ.

Ahead of Olympics, 2 synagogues to open in Rio de Janeiro

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 06:28

(JTA) — Rio de Janeiro is set to open two new Orthodox synagogues ahead of the Brazilian city’s hosting of the 2016 Olympic Games.

One of the new synagogues will open in August in the neighborhood of Ipanema, the famed tourist destination known for its beach scene. The opening was announced Wednesday on the website of CONIB, the umbrella group representing Brazil’s Jewish communities.

Additionally, the Chabad Lubavitch movement is preparing to open a kosher hotel with a synagogue ahead of the games.

Rio de Janeiro has approximately 20 synagogues serving 40,000 people, but receives many Jewish tourists. Many more are expected when Rio hosts the Olympic Games next year.

In Ipanema, the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue and community center will have 20,000 square feet of space, featuring study rooms, event halls and libraries in addition to the Sephardic-style shul, the institution’s rabbi, Gabriel Aboutboul, told JTA on Thursday.

Ipanema, Aboutboul said, currently has one small synagogue serving about 1,000 Jewish families who reside in the area. That building, he added, “no longer has the capacity to cater to everyone, forcing some to go out of the neighborhood for religious and community services.”

The new building, he said, “is meant to fix that for the new generation.”

“Naturally, the new synagogue will service tourists, though its prime function is for the community,” Aboutboul said.

Last year, Ipanema and the adjacent coastal neighborhood of Copacabana received a new eruv, a demarcation of an area that permits observant Jews to carry objects on Shabbat.

Vandals target French Jewish cemetery, Vienna’s Freud museum  

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 06:17

(JTA) — Vienna’s Sigmund Freud Museum, a Jewish French cemetery and a Polish watchdog on anti-Semitism all were hit by vandalism in recent days.

In France on Sunday night at least six tombstones were smashed at a Jewish cemetery in Lille, northern France’s largest city, according to a report sent out Thursday by France’s National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA. Vandals also poured paint on the gravestones.

In Vienna, vandals earlier this month smashed three of the Freud museum’s display windows, the Israel-based Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism reported on Tuesday.

The works targeted are by the Austrian sculptor Peter Kogler, whose creations, fine wire nets with illumination fittings, were inspired by Freud’s discoveries about the unconscious.

Near one of the vandalized displays, an expletive directed at “Lamech Sigi” and the word “sect” were scrawled in blue marker. The combination of the name of a biblical figure, Lamech, Noah’s father; the diminutive of “Sigmund”; and the reference to a sect suggested that the vandalism was an anti-Semitic act, the forum said.

In the Polish town of in Tarnow near Krakow, vandals broke an ornate mezuzah off the doorframe of the newly-opened office of the Antyschematy 2 nonprofit group, which combats anti-Semitism and other forms of racism.

Tomasz Malec, the foundation’s president, told Gazeta Krakowska he believed the attack was a hate crime.

Toulouse sued for banning BDS conference

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 06:07

(JTA) — The City of Toulouse is preparing to defend in court its decision to prevent activists from meeting to promote a boycott of Israel and protest “Israeli apartheid.”

The activists of the New Anticapitalist Party, or NPA, in the Haute-Garonne region sued the southwestern French municipality last week over a decision in March by Mayor Jean-Luc Moudenc to bar the activists from convening at the city-owned Barcelone Event Hall as part of the “Israel Apartheid Week,” a series of anti-Israel events held annually in dozens of cities.

The mayor cancelled the event, claiming the city had not been made aware in advance of the plan to promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The members of the BDS movement, Moudenc wrote, “have incurred convictions for discrimination and incitement to racial hatred.”

Several BDS promoters have been convicted in France under the Lellouche law, named for the Jewish parliamentarian who introduced it in 2003. The law extends bans on discrimination over race, gender and sexual orientation to the targeting of individuals or institutions over their national affiliations.

The NPA petitioned the Administrative Court of Toulouse to issue an injunction against the mayor’s decision, citing alleged infringement on the right to protest, according to a report Tuesday by the cotetoulouse.fr news site.

Its appeal was endorsed by France’s Human Rights League, a nonprofit founded in 1898 to protest the racially motivated conviction for espionage of the French Jewish army captain Alfred Dreyfus.

Sammy Ghozlan, the president of the anti-Semitism watchdog BNVCA, condemned the NPA’s lawsuit, citing French anti-boycott laws and the sensitivity of organizing such an event in Toulouse.

The city, he wrote, “still bears open  scars” from the 2012 slaying of four Jews at a Jewish school by an Islamist radical who said he perpetrated the attacks to “avenge the death of Palestinian children.”

House overwhelmingly passes Iran review act

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 06:05

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill requiring congressional review of any nuclear deal with Iran.

The bill approved Thursday 400-25 allows Congress up to 52 days to reject any sanctions relief for the nuclear activity rollback deal between Iran and the major powers. Congress could scuttle such a deal by keeping sanctions in place.

The House leadership would not allow amendments to the bill that would have set in place requirements for such a deal.

Some Republicans, heeding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wanted to stipulate that any deal approved by Congress must include an Iranian agreement to end support for terrorism as well as an Iranian recognition of Israel, among other measures.

Instead, like a similar bill passed last week by the Senate, 98-1, the bill allows for a simple up or down vote on a deal. Iran and the major powers are due to arrive at a deal by June 30.

President Barack Obama, who had opposed what he termed the “poison pill” requirements, has said he will enact the bill as it is now configured.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee praised the bill’s passage but said it still had concerns about the emerging deal.

“These concerns include the issues of infrastructure dismantlement, pace of sanctions relief, disclosure of prior weaponization efforts, inspections procedures and the duration of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program,” AIPAC said in a statement.

“The Iran review legislation assures Congress a means to scrutinize and evaluate how these issues are addressed in any nuclear weapons agreement,” it said.

Separately, the House also passed a bill that would punish foreign financial institutions that deal with Hezbollah, the Iranian-allied militia in Lebanon that is deemed by the United and Israel to be a terrorist group.

“The Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015 will force financial institutions around the world to choose between facilitating Hezbollah’s terror or accessing the American banking system,” Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), the ranking Democrat on the House Middle East subcommittee, said after its passage.

Hezbollah and its affiliate entities already face sanctions under U.S. law.

Also sponsoring the legislation were Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), its top-ranking Democrat.

The Senate has yet to take up a similar bill. Attempts in previous Congresses to pass similar bills did not make it through the system.

New Israeli government ministers approved and sworn in

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 16:12

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new coalition government was approved and sworn in.

Netanyahu was continuously heckled as he introduced his new Cabinet to a Thursday night session of Knesset. Several Knesset members were removed from the chamber due to their disruptions.

The vote on the new Cabinet passed 61-59, the exact numerical breakdown of the coalition and the opposition.

The session started two hours late as Netanyahu worked to distribute the ministerial positions to members of his Likud Party. He kept four portfolios for himself, including foreign minister, saying in his inaugural address: “I am leaving the door open for broadening the government. The country needs this.” He added, to opposition leader Isaac Herzog, “I assume that the leader of the opposition won’t enter the government, but we must come together to change the system.”

Herzog rebuffed Netanyahu’s overtures, saying: “No decent leader would join the ‘Netanyahu circus’ that you put together at the last minute, on the strength of one seat, only to extend your rule.”

A bill was passed by Knesset on Wednesday to allow Netanyahu to increase the number of government ministers from its current limit of 18. There are 20 ministers and four deputy ministers in the new Cabinet.

 

Veteran Jewish professional among Amtrak’s seriously wounded

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 15:54

Joyce Dubensky, CEO of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, was seriously injured in the May 12 Amtrak derailment. (Tanenbaum Center website)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Joyce Dubensky, a veteran Jewish community professional and now CEO of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, was among those seriously injured in an Amtrak crash Tuesday night in Philadelphia.

Officials at Tanenbaum confirmed to JTA that Dubensky was among the wounded but declined to provide any information about her condition. A friend, Marc Gopin, said in a Facebook post that Dubensky is in the intensive care unit of Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia.

The Amtrak accident, on a New York-bound train Tuesday night killed eight people,  two of them Jewish, and injured more than 200. While the causes of the derailment are still being investigated, the train was traveling over 100 miles per hour, double the recommended speed, as it rounded a sharp curve.

Dubensky worked at the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York and helped coordinate its merger in 1986 with United Jewish Appeal of New York, turning it into UJA-Federation of New York. An attorney, she served as the general counsel to UJA-Federation of New York for 10 years.

She went to work at Tanenbaum in 2002 and helped direct its dramatic expansion, according to her biography on the organization’s website, helping develop the first toolkit on religious diversity for workplace managers and the first comprehensive guide on the intersections of religion and health care. Dubensky also leads workshops and offers training on managing issues of religion in the workplace, in schools and in health care settings.

In a 2010 interview with Georgetown University’s Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, Dubensky said her work leading Tanenbaum has inspired her spiritual life.

“Before, I would have described myself as a Reform but not a religious Jew, in that being Jewish was part of my culture and identity,” she said. “Now, I continue to be a Reform Jewish person, but my spiritual life has changed dramatically, and it inspires me to do things that I have never done before in my life.”

 

Cyberhate, anti-Semitism discussed at Jerusalem forum

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 13:05

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The biennial Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism issued statements recommending steps for governments and websites to reduce cyber hate, and for European governments to reduce anti-Semitism.

“Given the pervasive, expansive and transnational nature of the internet and the viral nature of hate materials, counter-speech alone is not a sufficient response to cyber hate. The right to free expression does not require or obligate the internet industry to disseminate hate materials. They too are moral actors, free to pursue internet commerce in line with ethics, social responsibility, and a mutually agreed code of conduct,” read a statement issued Thursday night in Jerusalem by the Forum.

Among the recommendations to Internet providers: to adopt a clear industry standard for defining hate speech and anti-Semitism; adopt global terms of service prohibiting the posting of such materials; provide an effective complaint process and maintain a timely and professional response capacity; and ban Holocaust denial sites from the Web as a form of egregious hate speech.

Recommendations to governments include: establishing a national legal unit responsible for combating cyber hate; making stronger use of existing laws to prosecute cyber hate and online anti-Semitism, and enhancing the legal basis for prosecution where such laws are absent; and adopting stronger laws and penalties for the prohibition of Internet materials promoting terrorism and supporting recruitment to terrorist groups.

The forum also addressed the upsurge of anti-Semitism in Europe.

“European institutions and governments need to take strong proactive steps to address the current outbreak of anti-Semitism in order to assure the continued vibrancy of Jewish communal life in Europe,” read a statement issued Thursday.

Among the recommendations for combating anti-Semitism: adopt a formal definition of anti-Semitism applicable throughout the European Union and its member states under law including reference to attacks on the legitimacy of the State of Israel and its right to exist, and Holocaust denial as forms of anti-Semitism;  applying agreed standardized mechanisms for monitoring and recording incidents of anti-Semitism in all E.U. countries; taking urgent and sustained steps to assure the physical security of Jewish communities, their members and institutions; and directing education ministries to increase teacher training and adopt pedagogic curricula against anti-Semitism, and towards religious tolerance and Holocaust remembrance.

The three-day conference hosted a panel of prominent Muslim leaders and imams from Europe who came to speak out about anti-Semitism in Europe. The opening of the conference featured addresses by the mayor of Paris and the German justice minister.

Alleged Kansas City JCC shooter to represent himself at trial

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 12:52

(JTA) — The Missouri man charged with murdering three people at two Jewish sites in a suburb of Kansas City a year ago has fired his lawyers and will represent himself at his trial.

Frazier Glenn Miller said last month that he plans to plead guilty in the case but wants to use his sentencing hearing to voice his anti-Semitic beliefs without being impeded, the Associated Press reported. He has fired his lawyers.

Miller is charged with capital murder in the April 13, 2014 shootings, which killed two people at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas, and one person outside Village Shalom, a Jewish assisted-living facility a few blocks away. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case.

The victims were William Lewis Corporon, a retired physician, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, and Terri LaManno, a mother of two. None of the victims was Jewish.

Feingold announces candidacy for his former Senate seat

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 10:31

(JTA) — Former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold announced he will run for his former Senate seat in 2016.

The former three-term Democratic senator, who is Jewish, made the announcement Thursday in a videotaped statement posted on social media.

The race would pit him against current Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who defeated Feingold in 2010 with the backing of the Tea Party movement.

Feingold, 62, served three terms in the Senate between 1993 and 2011. Most recently, from July 2013 until March 2015, Feingold served as the State Department’s special envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

Anti-BDS bill passes Illinois House committee, Senate

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 10:28

(JTA) — A bill that would bar state pension funds from including companies that participate in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel  passed an Illinois State House of Representatives committee.

The bill on Wednesday was unanimously approved by the Illinois State House of Representatives Executive Committee by a vote of 10-0 and will now move forward for a vote by the full chamber. It previously passed the Illinois State Senate unanimously, 49-0.

The bill requires the state’s pension system to remove companies that boycott Israel from their portfolios. The bill, an amendment, is based on existing legislation that the Illinois Investment Policy Board currently enforces, mandating that state pension funds be divested from foreign firms doing business in Iran, Sudan or other countries with known human rights violations.

In a statement, B’nai B’rith International said it “applauds Illinois citizens and their representatives for taking such a strong stance against a movement rooted in anti-Semitism that ultimately impedes the peace process by opposing constructive dialogue between Israel and Palestinians.”

The Illinois Coalition to Protect Academic Freedom and Free Speech is opposing the bill. Among the groups participating in the coalition are: CAIR-Chicago, Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine, and Arab-Jewish Partnership for Peace and Justice in the Middle East.

The Indiana and Tennessee state legislatures have both passed nonbinding resolutions opposing boycotts of Israel.

Natalie Portman to portray Jackie Kennedy in new film

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 08:36

(JTA) — Oscar Award-winning actress Natalie Portman will portray Jackie Kennedy in a movie about the first four days in the life of the former first lady after the assassination of her husband President John F. Kennedy.

Variety reported on the new role for Portman, who is Jewish and a native of Israel, on Wednesday.

The film goes into production at the end of 2015, according to Variety. The movie will be produced by Darren Aronofsky, who directed Portman in “Black Swan,” for which she won her Academy Award for best actress in 2010.

The announcement comes several days after Deadline Hollywood reported that Portman will star as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in “On the Basis of Sex,” which will follow Ginsburg’s obstacles-filled career on the road to becoming the second female justice and the first Jewish female justice on the high court. That film also is expected to start filming by the end of the year.

Portman is making her directorial debut with “A Tale Of Love And Darkness,” which premieres this week at Cannes. The film is based on the memoir by Israeli author Amos Oz and is largely in Hebrew.

Rubio: Conditions do not exist today for two-state solution

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 07:02

(JTA) — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a candidate for the Republican nomination for president, said he would not pursue a two-state solution for the Israel-Palestinian conflict right now.

“I don’t think the conditions exist for that today,” Rubio said Wednesday during a question-and-answer session hosted by PBS’s Charlie Rose at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “That’s the ideal outcome, but the conditions for a two-state solution at this moment do not exist.”

Rubio, a hawk on Israel-related issues, blamed the Palestinian Authority, the official government of the Palestinians, for the current situation, as well as the lack of unity among the Palestinians. He also pointed out that the Palestinians had rejected two previous peace offers from Israel.

“I think the most we can hope for in the short term is that the Palestinian Authority will be able to provide a level of stability in that territory. And ultimately, the conditions will rise up with new leadership that will allow something like that to happen,” he said, according to Haaretz.

Rubio said that that there was little difference of opinion between him and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the threat posed by Iran except that Netanyahu “lives a lot closer to them than I do,” according to the New York Times.

He heavily criticized President Barack Obama’s foreign policy and said that lifting sanctions on Iran under a proposed deal agreed to by the Islamic Republic and the world powers would lead to a “cascade of nuclear proliferation” that could force Israel to “take bold action” and foment a war in the region.

Earlier this month Rubio tried to amend congressional legislation to require that Iran recognize Israel as a precondition to any nuclear deal.

During his speech Rubio asserted that: “Today, like never before, foreign policy is domestic policy.”

Rubio is expected to have the support of Jewish billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Shabbat-observant student to pre-record Saturday commencement speech

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 06:28

(JTA) — A graduating senior at Binghamton University in New York will deliver the commencement speech via a pre-recorded video since it falls on the Jewish Sabbath.

Don Greenberg, of Teaneck, New Jersey, will stand at the podium on stage during the Binghamton University’s Watson School of Engineering commencement on May 16, but will not speak live.

Orthodox Jews such as Greenberg do not use electricity on Shabbat, which begins at sundown on Friday night and ends after sundown on Saturday night.

Greenberg’s message was chosen several weeks ago to represent his fellow classmates at the graduation. It was recorded on Wednesday in full, along with an explanation why the audience is watching it on a jumbo screen.

“I’m reminded of when Sandy Koufax refused to pitch during the first game of the ’65 World Series which coincided with Yom Kippur eve. His courage gave many Jews the strength to be unabashed of their Judaism,”  said Rabbi Aaron Slonim, executive director of The Rohr Chabad Center for Jewish Student Life at Binghamton University, a Jewish campus organization where Greenberg is an active member.

Greenberg is graduating with a triple major in computer science, math and management.

Belda Lindenbaum, who worked to advance Orthodox women, dies

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 06:00

(JTA) — Belda Lindenbaum, the co-founder of the Midreshet Lindenbaum women’s seminary program in Israel combining religious studies and army service, and other programs to advance Orthodox women, has died.

Lindenbaum, who according to the Jewish Women’s Archive “was driven by the birth of her daughters to create new opportunities for Jewish women and girls,” died on Tuesday in her Manhattan home. She was 76.

Lindenbaum was a vice president and founding board member of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance and a founding board member of the New York-based Yeshivat Maharat, which ordains Orthodox Jewish woman. She joined her husband Marcel Lindenbaum and Rabbi Shlomo Riskin in founding Midreshet Lindenbaum, a women’s program of rigorous religious studies in Jerusalem. She also served as president of the board of the Drisha Institute for women, president of the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University and a board member of Ramaz Day School, all based in New York.

“Belda devoted her life, in addition to her wholehearted commitment to Marcel and her family, to being an indefatigable advocate for women’s rights to leadership roles in the broader Jewish community and for women’s right to divorce in Jewish law. She was deeply religious, and insisted that her God of love and compassion would not and could not allow women to be held captive to their husbands, or aspire to be less than worthy scholars in the classical literature of our tradition,” Riskin, who is chief rabbi of the West Bank settlement Efrat, said in a statement.

“Belda, together with Marcel, changed the course of the modern Orthodox community by building Jewish institutions where women’s Torah scholarship, authority and leadership have become part of the fabric of the Jewish communal landscape. Her vision and tireless efforts on behalf of the Jewish people were driven by a love for Torah that is fair and just,” said Rabba Sara Hurwitz, dean of Yeshivat Maharat in a statement.

Lindenbaum is survived by her husband, five children, 21 grandchildren, and two siblings.