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23 Dems urge Boehner to delay Netanyahu speech

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 06:18

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Twenty-three Democrats wrote John Boehner, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, urging him to delay Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.

The letter, sent to Rep. Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday, was spearheaded by Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).

It said the March 3 speech was inappropriate coming just two weeks before Israeli elections and three weeks before a deadline for the outline of an Iran nuclear agreement.

“We strongly urge you to postpone this invitation until Israelis have cast their ballots and the deadline for diplomatic negotiations with Iran has passed,” it said. “When the Israeli prime minister visits us outside the specter of partisan politics, we will be delighted and honored to greet him or her on the Floor of the House.”

Netanyahu’s speech will focus on the putative agreement, which he says is a bad deal that will leave Iran a threshold nuclear weapons state. The Obama administration backs the talks.

Boehner and Netanyahu arranged the speech without informing the White House or congressional Democrats. They insist it will go ahead on time.

The number of signatories to the letter is small, but includes some of the U.S. House of Representatives’ most prominent black and Hispanic lawmakers. In addition to Cohen, there is one other Jewish member, Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.).

The letter has been circulating for three weeks; its release Thursday was first reported by the Washington Post.

A non-binding resolution in the Senate backing the speech and its timing has garnered more than 50 co=sponsors, virtually the entire Republican caucus.

Separately, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a senior Democrat in the Senate, said Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu to speak was mishandled, but urged Democrats to attend the speech in any case.

“Democrats and Republicans have always worked together on it, we ought to keep it that way,’ Schumer was quoted in the Jerusalem Post as telling WAMC Northeast Public Radio.

Netanyahu, Schumer said, had “every right to come here and speak, but he ought to do it in a bipartisan manner.”

UC Davis student court overturns divestment resolution

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 18:01

(j. VIA JTA) — An Israel divestment resolution passed at the University of California Davis last month by the student senate was overturned on Feb. 19 by the university’s Court of Associated Students.

The court ruled 5-0 with one abstention in favor of Jonathan Mitchell, who had filed a case with the court contending that the Associated Students U.C. Davis had failed to adhere to its own constitution in passing the Israel divestment resolution 8-2 with two abstentions on Jan. 29.

The court ruling found that any legislation passed by the senate, even those on politically related issues, “can and must be primarily concerning student welfare.” The court found the divestment resolution “to be PRIMARILY a political document and did not deal with student welfare to the extent that allowed the ASUCD Senate jurisdiction to pass.”

Herman Rosenblat, Holocaust memoir fabricator, dies at 85

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 16:57

(JTA) — Herman Rosenblat, a Holocaust survivor who created a scandal by writing a memoir filled with untrue details, has died.

Rosenblat died on Feb. 5 and was buried three days later in Hollywood, Fla., The Associated Press reported. He was 85.

He created an uproar with his 2008 memoir “Angel at the Fence” with the claim that he and his wife, Roma, had first met when she sneaked food to him at a Buchenwald subcamp and reconnected more than a decade later on a blind date in the United States. Research by scholars and interviews with family members subsequently proved the story to be false, and publisher Berkley Books canceled the memoir.

Rosenblat had indeed survived a harrowing series of experiences in the concentration camps, and his wife, born Roma Radzicki, had indeed survived the war living under a false identity. However, she had been living far away in Germany with her family. They had never met until the blind date in 1957. They were married a year later.

New State Dept. travel warning for Israel cites deaths of U.S. citizens

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 14:22

(JTA) — A new U.S. State Department travel warning for Israel cites recent injuries to and deaths of U.S. citizens.

The warning, updated Wednesday on the department’s website, states, “A rise in political tensions and violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank has resulted in injuries to and deaths of U.S. citizens.”

“We have no indication that U.S. citizens have been specifically targeted based on their nationality, however U.S. citizens have been directly affected. Six U.S. citizen residents of Israel and the West Bank were killed and others injured in multiple attacks in 2014,” according to the warning.

Among the U.S. citizens killed in recent months were Naftali Fraenkel, one of three teens kidnapped and killed by Palestinian terrorists in June; Chaya Zissel Braun, a 3-month-old killed in October when a Palestinian driver plowed into a crowd at a light rail station on Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem; and three rabbis killed in the terror attack in November on a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood.

Among the injured were Tariq Abu Khdeir, a Muslim teenager beaten by Israeli border police in July following the funeral of his cousin who was burned to death by Jewish extremists, and Rabbi Yehuda Glick, a Temple Mount activist who survived an assassination attempt in Jerusalem.

The warning recommends that U.S. citizens stay away from all demonstrations and reminds them that there is potential for military conflict between Hamas and Israel.

The warning reiterates that “U.S. government employees are prohibited from using public buses throughout Israel and the West Bank.”

The warning adds, however, “In view of the ongoing security situation, the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority make considerable efforts to police major tourist attractions and ensure security in areas where foreigners frequently travel. Although threat mitigation efforts by authorities are not 100 percent effective, hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Israel and the West Bank each year for study, tourism, and business. “

Freundel pleads guilty to 52 voyeurism charges

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 13:12

Rabbi Barry Freundel, left, with his lawyer, Jeffrey Harris, outside the courthouse where he pleaded guilty to 52 misdemeanor counts of voyeurism for spying on women at his Orthodox synagogue’s mikvah, Feb. 19, 2015. (Dmitriy Shapiro/Washington Jewish Week)

WASHINGTON (JTA/Washington Jewish Week) — Rabbi Barry Freundel, the former spiritual leader at a prominent Washington synagogue, pleaded guilty to 52 counts of misdemeanor voyeurism.

The plea Thursday means that Freundel could be sentenced to a maximum penalty of 52 years in prison and ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Sentencing was postponed until May 15.

The afternoon hearing was moved to a larger courtroom that could accommodate the number of victims.

During the hearing, Freundel appeared red-faced, kept his head bowed low and made no eye contact with the more than a dozen victims who packed the second-floor courtroom. He wore a black fur hat, a black rumpled and dirty suit, a black-and-gray tie and a black-and-gray kippah.

Freundel, 63, was arrested last October on six charges of voyeurism after investigators discovered secret cameras installed in the mikvah shower room and additional recording devices in his home. His Orthodox synagogue, Kesher Israel, immediately suspended him and later fired him, ordering the rabbi to vacate the shul’s rabbinic residence.

The government requested that Freundel wear an electronic ankle bracelet.

Judge Geoffrey Alprin asked Freundel, “Are you going to make me look stupid and flee the jurisdiction prior to sentencing?” In a loud voice, Freundel responded, “Absolutely not, your honor.”

The judge took him at his word, addressing him as Rabbi Freundel, and released him on his own recognizance until his May sentencing.

Lawyers and court officials considered when Shabbat begins on May 15. The court was satisfied that the 1 p.m. hearing would be concluded prior to sundown.

The plea deal was announced in a letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia to Freundel’s victims that was obtained by the Washington Jewish Week.

An oral agreement was reached on a plea offer, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The plea offer included one count for every victim recorded during the statute of limitations and identified by a photograph submitted to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“We also did not restrict our ability to seek incarceration or restitution for those victims identified during the statute of limitations in any way,” the letter said.

Prosecutors have told alleged victims that Freundel secretly recorded more than 150 women undressing at the mikvah.

Women who were videotaped as they used The National Capital Mikvah in the Georgetown section may submit a victim impact statement “expressing how this crime has impacted you,” the letter said. They also can give an oral impact hearing during sentencing.

“I didn’t expect it to be over. I am glad it is,” said Jeffrey Shulevitz, the husband of Emma Shulevitz, one of Freundel’s victims. “The rabbi was a brilliant man, and he used it to harm people instead of making the world a better place.”

Civil suits have been filed against Freundel, the synagogue, the mikvah and the Rabbinical Council of America.

“Rabbi Freundel’s plea today in Superior Court is the first step in achieving justice for his victims,” said David Haynes, the managing attorney at the Cochran Firm in Washington, one of the firms handling civil litigation.

The plea “will also be an important element in establishing liability in the related civil cases, which will focus on why the synagogue and the other defendants did not prevent or stop Freundel from using their facilities for his illicit purposes for such an extended period of time despite his strange conduct and the many prior complaints about him,” Haynes said in a statement.

Freundel, who reportedly separated from his wife after his arrest, had refused to leave his synagogue-owned residence, and the congregation has taken the case to the Beth Din of America. WTOP, a local news radio station, reported that he is now planning to vacate the house within two weeks.

The synagogue and the mikvah issued statements following the plea hearing.

“Despite this great betrayal by Rabbi Freundel and our communal pain, we have seen a community that has come together and whose members have leaned on one another for support,” Kesher Israel said. “As we move forward, we will continue to grow stronger and are committed to ensuring that our community remains a warm, welcoming, and safe place to gather, worship, and learn.”

The National Capital Mikvah noted in its statement that its staff was the first to alert police to Freundel’s crimes.

“We are grateful that we were able to detect and stop such despicable illegal activity,” it said. “We are saddened to see a Torah scholar cause his own downfall.”

(With reporting by JTA Washington Bureau chief Ron Kampeas.)

NYC changes pre-K rules to accommodate Orthodox schools

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 11:01

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio visits a pre-K class at Sacred Heart School in Staten Island, Sept. 4, 2014. (Susan Watts/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (JTA) — New York City is changing the rules of its universal prekindergarten program to allow for prayer and the scheduling preferences of Orthodox Jews.

But the Orthodox Union says the changes don’t go far enough.

The current rules require pre-K programs to provide at least six hours, 20 minutes of uninterrupted secular instruction per day to be eligible for public funding. Orthodox groups have complained that the amount of time does not leave enough for prayer or religious instruction. Additionally, closures for religious holidays made it difficult to reach the threshold of 180 days per year mandated by the city program.

Under the new rules, which will start in September, schools will be subject to a weekly minimum of 31 hours, 40 minutes of secular program instruction rather than a daily minimum. Also, sessions may be held on weekends or federal holidays, which will allow Jewish religious programs to make up for missed holiday days.

The new rules also allow the scheduling of a short break in the middle of the day for “non-program activities” — i.e. prayer — as long as students are able to opt out and instead participate in an alternate activity.

“To be truly successful, Pre-k for All must reach all communities and reflect the incredible diversity of our city,” Deputy Mayor Richard Buery Jr. wrote in a Feb. 18 letter to pre-K providers. “We have been working hard to find further ways to make the program even more inclusive.”

The new rules were a result of a compromise by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration that is intended to increase participation by Orthodox Jewish and other private schools in the initiative, according to The New York Times.

However, the Orthodox Union expressed disappointment, saying the changes are largely cosmetic. Too many hours of secular instruction are required — more than the state-mandated five-hour day — to allow for meaningful religious instruction, according to the O.U., which also wants more half-day slots.

“Practically, these changes would force four-year-olds into an almost unending school attendance that would include Sundays and Federal holidays,” Maury Litwack, O.U. Advocacy’s director of state political affairs, said in a statement.

“The Mayor’s insistence upon an uninterrupted 6-hour and 20-minute secular instruction day — an hour and twenty minutes longer than that required by New York State — has made it impossible for more than 11 percent of New York’s Jewish day school children to participate in the UPK program,” the O.U. statement said.

De Blasio wants to reach a goal of 70,000 children in full-day pre-K by the fall; currently there are about 53,000 children enrolled. The city’s preliminary 2016 budget sets aside $340 million for the initiative.

City estimates show that 8,000 to 10,000 Orthodox toddlers are eligible to attend prekindergarten, according to Hamodia, the Jewish newspaper that first reported the new guidelines.

Current regulations allow prekindergartens at religious schools to give hiring preference to applicants of the same religion or denomination, and to use religious texts as part of secular lessons, according to the Times.

Hundreds of thousands march in memory of AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 10:56

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — More than 400,000 people in Buenos Aires braved a heavy rain to pay tribute to the late AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman in a “silent march.”

Other marches remembering Nisman on the one-month anniversary of his death were held Wednesday throughout Argentina and in cities throughout the world.

The Metropolitan Police in Buenos Aires pegged the number of marchers in the city’s downtown at some 400,000. The event was  held without speeches.

Nisman, 51, was found dead in his Buenos Aires home on Jan. 18, hours before he was to present evidence to Argentine lawmakers that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and other government officials  covered up Iran’s role in the 1994 attack on the Buenos Aires Jewish center that killed 85 and injured hundreds.

Nisman’s mother Sara Garfunkel, his ex-wife Sandra Arroyo Salgado, and the couple’s oldest daughter, Iara, 15, led the Buenos Aires march ahead of the prosecutors and judges who called for the demonstration. It started at the Congress building and ended in downtown Buenos Aires at the Government’s House.

Members of the DAIA, the Jewish political umbrella in Argentina; FACCMA, the Argentine Federation of Maccabean Community Centers; and AMIA gathered before the rally in front of the AMIA building in order to march together. The prosecutors also gathered before the march in front of Nisman’s office.

“I returned to my house shocked and touched by this enormous civic demonstration,” Waldo Wolff, DAIA’s vice president, told JTA. “There are a lot of good people in Argentina that are asking for justice and truth.”

Judiciary union leader Julio Piumato said from the stage, “We want to express our condolences to his family,” before asking the crowd to be silent for a minute to pay tribute to Nisman.

Arroyo Salgado in an interview Thursday with Voerterix radio said of the march, “It was very exciting and very difficult for me and my daughter. The people sent me words of support, strength and confidence in what I could do.”

Arroyo Salgado repeated her belief that Nisman did not commit suicide.

“I cannot accept Alberto Nisman’s suicide because of his personality, even less with a gun involved,” she said. “He had no reason to do that.”

Iranian American Council slams planned Netanyahu speech

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 10:25

NEW YORK (JTA) — The National Iranian American Council took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times slamming the planned speech to Congress by Israel’s prime minister.

“Will Congress side with our president or a foreign leader?” reads the ad in Thursday’s edition. “President Obama is on the verge of a diplomatic victory that will prevent war and prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. But Congressional hawks are bringing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to Capitol Hill to push for new sanctions that could kill the talks and start a war.”

In the ad, a figure identified as House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner fills out a mock multiple-choice quiz, choosing Benjamin Netanyahu over Obama on the question “Who is our Commander in Chief?”

The ad’s publication comes amid reports that the White House has been keeping Jerusalem in the dark about certain details of U.S.-Iranian negotiations in order to avoid giving the Israelis fodder with which to inveigh against a potential nuclear deal.

“There’s no question that some of the things that the Israelis have said in characterizing our negotiating position have not been accurate,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday. “We see that there is a continued practice of cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States.”

Netanyahu has warned against the perils of dealmaking with Iran and plans to visit Washington to make his argument in a speech to Congress on March 3, two weeks before Israeli elections. The speech has been the subject of much controversy. It was planned by Netanyahu administration officials and Boehner without the White House’s knowledge, and Obama was informed about it only hours before it was publicly announced.

Several prominent Democrats have announced that they will not attend the speech, Obama has said he will not meet with Netanyahu during his visit because of the proximity to Israeli elections, and some prominent American Jews and Jewish groups have urged the prime minister to cancel. In Israel, Netanyahu has come under fire for what critics say is his antagonizing of the U.S. administration.

Northwestern student government passes divestment resolution

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 08:53

(JTA) — The Northwestern University student government passed a resolution calling on the university to divest from six companies that are being used by Israel to violate Palestinians’ human rights.

Following five hours of debate, the vote by the Associated Student Government Senate early Thursday morning was 24 votes in favor and 22 against, with three abstentions, the Daily Northwestern student newspaper reported.

The vote was by secret ballot, per the Senate speaker, so the senators could feel comfortable casting their vote, the newspaper reported.

The resolution, which was sponsored by the campus student organization Northwestern Divest, asks the university to divest from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Hewlett-Packard, G4S, Caterpillar and Elbit Systems.

It is not known if the university is invested in any of the companies named since it does not make its investments public. The resolution also asks the student government to form an “investment transparency task force.”

Oslo closes traffic on street leading to city’s main synagogue

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 06:48

(JTA) — The city of Oslo has closed traffic permanently on the street leading to the Norwegian capital’s main synagogue.

Ervin Kohn, president of the Jewish community in Oslo and the deputy director of the Norwegian Center Against Racism, told JTA on Thursday that the decision was made following the slaying on Feb. 15 of a guard at the main synagogue of Copenhagen in Denmark.

The Jewish community of Norway, which has seen a number of threats in recent years, has long lobbied for the closure, which city officials had resisted and termed excessive.

“With this change, the security needs of the community are more or less satisfied,” Kohn said.

He also said the community planned to hold its services on the street on Saturday as hundreds of non-Jews, including many Muslims, are expected to encircle the synagogue as a gesture expressing their outrage at the shooting at the Danish synagogue by a Muslim fanatic.

The initiative, titled “Peace Ring,” was organized on Facebook and “has a chance of changing the dynamic in Scandinavia because it is grassroots and much more powerful than statements by Muslim community leaders, who have also been outspoken in condemning this violence,” Kohn said.

Police in Norway and Sweden have beefed up security around synagogues. In Sweden, police also received protective gear for their security.

Hours before the synagogue shooting in Copenhagen, the same gunman killed one person at a cafe hosting a debate featuring a cartoonist who drew cartoons lampooning Islam. The gunman was killed in a shootout with police.

Poll: Two-thirds of Americans believe Boehner mishandled Netanyahu invitation

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 06:20

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A CNN poll found that 63 percent of Americans believe it was wrong of congressional Republican leaders to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak without first notifying the president.

The results of the phone poll, which was conducted Feb. 12-15 by ORC International, were released Tuesday. The poll of 1,027 adults from across the country had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Netanyahu is scheduled to speak March 3 to Congress about his opposition to the current nuclear talks between Iran and the world powers.

Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, invited Netanyahu without consulting with the White House or congressional Democrats.

Foundation for Defense of Democracies names award for Nisman

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 06:11

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Foundation for Defense of Democracies named an honor for Alberto Nisman, the late Argentine prosecutor who investigated the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing.

“This award is intended to recognize men and women who — like Alberto Nisman — relentlessly pursue justice for the victims of terrorism, and who risk their own lives protecting the innocent from the forces of hatred and intolerance,” Clifford May, the foundation’s president, said in a statement. “It is our honor and privilege to help preserve Alberto’s legacy and keep his memory alive.”

Nisman, 51, the special prosecutor in the AMIA bombing, was found dead in his Buenos Aires home on Jan. 18, hours before he was to present evidence to Argentine lawmakers that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and other government officials covered up Iran’s role in the attack.

The bombing of the Buenos Aires center killed 85 and left hundreds injured. Hezbollah is believed to have carried out the attack. Iran denies helping the terrorist group in the planning.

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank that has consulted closely with the U.S. administration and Congress on Iran issues, noted Nisman’s work in exposing Iran’s activities in Latin America.

The Nisman award’s first recipient is Robert Morgenthau, 95, who from 1974 to 2009 was the district attorney in Manhattan. In that capacity he prosecuted national security cases and helped enforce Iran sanctions. He will receive the award on April 15 at the foundation’s annual Washington forum.

Graham to host fundraiser around Netanyahu speech

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 05:27

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is considering a Republican presidential run, will host a fundraiser around Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.

Graham (R-S.C.) will attend the March 3 speech while donors watch the address at the Capitol Club, the Republican-focused building a short walk from the Capitol. Afterwards he will join them.

The list of co-chairs is a who’s who of prominent pro-Israel and Republican Jewish donors, including casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, telecommunications entrepreneur Howard Jonas and financier Roger Hertog.

Co-chairing the event costs $2,700; attending is $1,000. The money goes to Graham’s Security Through Strength political action committee.

“The committee will fund the infrastructure and operations allowing Graham to travel the country, listen to Americans, and gauge support for a potential presidential candidacy,” according to the invitation. The event was first reported by Politico.

Graham, a relative moderate on social issues, is considered a long-shot for the nomination. His pronounced pro-Israel and interventionist outlook in the Senate has earned him close relationships with Republican Jews. He is the chairman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

A panel moderated by Matt Brooks, the director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, will include similar prominent interventionist Republicans, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the party’s 2008 presidential candidate, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), and Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

Netanyahu’s speech, arranged with the congressional GOP leadership without consulting congressional Democrats or the White House, has stirred controversy in Washington and in Israel.

Gaza hackers use porn in cyberattack on Israeli institutions

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 17:26

(JTA) — A group of hackers from Gaza used pornographic videos in a wide-scale cyberattack on several Israeli institutions and individuals.

A report titled Operation Arid Viper: Bypassing the Iron Dome released Monday by the cyber security company Trend Micro detailed the hacking campaign carried out by tech workers from Gaza. The report called the strategy of using pornographic videos “distinct” and “previously unseen.”

The hackers sent individuals a “phishing” email with a “pornographic movie” meant to embarrass targets into ignoring the cyber infiltration, the report said.

Trend Micro described the process through an actual example:

“[A]n employee in an Israeli government receives and opens a highly targeted phishing email. A pornographic movie starts to play on his screen, which he hurriedly closes before any of his colleagues notice. … Minutes later, an attacker from somewhere in the Gaza Strip in Palestine gets notified that a new victim’s system has been successfully infected.”

According to Trend Micro, Operation Arid Viper targeted a government office, transportation service providers, a military organization and an academic institution in Israel, as well as an academic institution in Kuwait and several unidentified Israeli individuals.

Trend Micro identified three men with “some apparent connection” to Operation Arid Viper: Khalid Samra, Ahmed Jmal and Mahmoud Hashem. One of the reasons for their success, the report said, was that they launched their attacks from outside Gaza. The attacks originated in Germany, which is not on an Israeli Internet service provider “ban list.”

The report followed a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the National Cyber Bureau, Israel’s cyber protection agency, will be “upgraded” to the National Cyber Authority. As an authority, the organization will receive more funding and be given more influence over public policy, The Times of Israel reported.

Obama administration: Israel must quit distorting details of Iran talks

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 17:10

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel is distorting the U.S. negotiating position in nuclear talks with Iran and must stop, Obama administration officials said.

“The United States is mindful of the need to not negotiate in public and to ensure that information that is discussed at the negotiating table is not taken out of context and publicized in a way that does not distort the negotiating position of the United States and our allies,” Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said Wednesday when asked to comment on reports that the Obama administration was withholding details of the talks from Israel.

“There’s no question that some of the things the Israelis have said in characterizing our negotiating position have not been accurate, there’s no question about that.”

Neither Earnest, who was addressing the daily media briefing, nor Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, would give details of which details they think the Israelis are distorting. But a New York Times report on Wednesday said U.S. officials are angered that the Israelis seem to be leaking the number of centrifuges that the Iranians would be permitted to operate under an agreement while omitting details of other means of keeping at a minimum Iran’s uranium enrichment.

“Its safe to say that not everything you’re hearing from the Israeli government is an accurate reflection of the details of the talks,” Psaki said at her own daily briefing. “There’s a selective sharing of information.”

Psaki and Earnest each emphasized that U.S. negotiators continue to brief their Israeli counterparts.

“There is no country that is not participating in the negotiations that has greater insight into what’s going on at that negotiating table,” Earnest said.

Netanyahu, meeting Wednesday in Jerusalem with Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), said he was aware of the details of the proposal.

“The Iranians of course know the details of that proposal and Israel does too,” the Times of Israel quoted him as saying. “So when we say that the current proposal would lead to a bad deal, a dangerous deal, we know what we’re talking about, senator.”

Buscemi, Michael Sheen joining Gere in new Joseph Cedar film

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 16:43

(JTA) — Israeli director Joseph Cedar’s English-language debut film has added top Hollywood figures Steve Buscemi and Michael Sheen to a cast that included Richard Gere.

“Oppenheimer Strategies,” which began production on Sunday and will shoot in New York and Israel, also will feature Josh Charles and Charlotte Gainsbourg, as well as the Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi, according to a recent report by Deadline Hollywood.

Gere stars as the title figure, Norman Oppenheimer, a small-time operator who befriends a young, down-and-out politician. Oppenheimer’s life is transformed when the politician rises to international prominence.

Along with directing, Cedar, 46, also wrote the script. His last two films, “Beaufort” (2007) and “Footnote” (2011) were each nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

One of the producers of “Oppenheimer Strategies” is Oren Moverman, also a native of Israel, who co-wrote and directed “The Messenger” (2009), which was also nominated for an Academy Award, for Best Original Screenplay.

NYU Langone-Technion to share $9 million cancer research grant

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 14:14

(JTA) — The NYU Langone Medical Center and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Israel will participate in joint cancer research projects funded by a $9 million grant.

The grant, announced Wednesday, is a gift from philanthropists Laura and Isaac Perlmutter.

Some $3 million will finance six cancer-focused research projects that will be conducted by teams of co-investigators from both NYU Langone and the Technion. The remaining $6 million will be used to establish a state-of-the-art research facility on Technion’s campus in Haifa that will support these and other research projects, according to a statement issued by the two facilities.

In January 2014, the Perlmutters  donated more than $50 million to advance cancer research and treatment at NYU Langone. As part of that gift, the New York hospital was renamed from the NYU Cancer Institute, a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, to the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone. The Perlmutters both serve as members of the NYU Langone board of trustees.

Two new appointments at NYU Langone and the Technion will assist in the new partnership. Dr. Benjamin Neel, a cancer biologist and an expert in the field of cell signal transduction, recently joined the NYU Langone faculty as director of the Perlmutter Cancer Center. Eyal Gottlieb, who studies cancer metabolism, will lead the new research facility at the Technion funded by the Perlmutter gift.

Death threats made against Brussels Jewish lobby group’s leader

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 11:57

(JTA) — A Brussels-based rabbi who has lobbied for improved security for European Jews filed a police complaint over death threats made against him.

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the Israel-born head of the European Jewish Association lobby group, was threatened on his personal Facebook page shortly after the murder of a volunteer Jewish security guard outside the main synagogue of Copenhagen, according to a Feb. 12 report on the website of the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism.

According to the news site kikar.col.il, the threat came amid many anti-Semitic slurs posted on Margolin’s Facebook page.

Margolin attracted international attention recently by calling on Europe’s interior ministers to create regulations that would allow some Jews to carry weapons that would allow them to fend off violent anti-Semitic attacks.

“Menachem Margolin will be a dead man unless he stops,” kikar.co.il quoted the unnamed person who issued the threat as writing. “We will put a bullet in his head.”

Margolin, who also served as director of the Rabbinical Center of Europe, confirmed the report and added that he filed a complaint with police.

“We cannot afford to be intimidated by threats,” he said in an interview with kikar. “We will continue working with all-out might to ensure that every last Jew in Europe can live safely and with the freedom to practice their faith.”

Slain Copenhagen guard memorialized as fine example to community

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 11:46

(JTA) — Dan Uzan, the Jewish volunteer guard killed in a shooting outside Copenhagen’s central synagogue, was remembered at his funeral as one “who was always ready to do his part.”

“Everybody in our community knew Dan,” said Dan Rosenberg, head of the Danish Jewish community, on Wednesday at the Mosaiske Vestre Jewish cemetery in Copenhagen. “He was always ready to do his part; he was a very fine example for the whole community.”

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt was among the hundreds of mourners who attended the funeral, which was held under tight security, the French news agency AFP reported.

“The Jewish world embraces you at this difficult time,” Natan Sharansky, the Jewish Agency’s chairman, told Uzan’s family at the funeral.

Uzan, who had an Israeli father and a Danish mother, died early Sunday morning from injuries sustained in the attack on the Danish capital’s central synagogue in Krystalgade. He was 37.

Uzan was standing guard outside the synagogue at an event held at an adjacent building for approximately 80 people who had gathered for a bat mitzvah. The attack occurred hours after a fatal shooting Saturday afternoon at a free speech event at a cultural center featuring the Danish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who is under police protection because of his cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad.

Danish police in a shootout Sunday killed the suspected gunman in both attacks.

Muslims in Norway to form ‘peace ring’ around Oslo synagogue

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 10:52

(JTA) — Muslims in Norway plan to form what they are calling a “peace ring” around an Oslo synagogue following Sabbath services.

More than 800 people have signed up on a Facebook page called Frendens Ring, or Friendship Ring, to participate in the gesture on Saturday. The human ring is being undertaken in the wake of the deadly attack on a synagogue in neighboring Denmark.

“We think that after the terrorist attacks in Copenhagen, it is the perfect time for us Muslims to distance ourselves from the harassment of Jews that is happening,” organizer Hajrad Arshad, 17, told Norway’s state broadcaster NRK, The Local Norway reported.

Oslo’s Jewish community welcomed the initiative, but said it wanted at least 30 Muslims participating so that it would not be “counterproductive.”

“Islam is about protecting our brothers and sisters, regardless of which religion they belong to,” the Friendship Ring Facebook page said. “Islam is about rising above hate and never sinking to the same level as the haters. Islam is about defending each other.”