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Suspect arrested in Berlin murder of Israeli man

Sun, 04/12/2015 - 09:39

(JTA) — An Albanian man was arrested in connection with the murder of an Israeli in Berlin.

The suspect was taken into custody late Friday in the Czech Republic near the German border. Germany will seek to extradite him, The Associated Press reported.

The victim, who was identified as Yossi Damari days after his body was found on April 5 amid the rubble of construction being done at a church, reportedly checked into a hostel the day before he was murdered.

Damari, 22, reportedly had visited Israel’s embassy in Berlin in the days prior to his murder requesting financial help in order to return to Israel. He also reportedly had asked the Jewish community for food and a place to sleep.

The Chabad rabbi in Berlin, Yehuda Teichtal, told the NRG news website that Damari was supposed to have attended a seder at the local Chabad house but never showed up.

Damari’s body, discovered with his passport, was so badly beaten that it was difficult to make a positive identification.

Berlin Prosecutor Martin Steltner told the German media that neither robbery nor nationalism appear to be motives in the killing.

Netanyahu offers alternatives to Iran deal following latest Obama criticism

Sun, 04/12/2015 - 09:08

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel offered alternatives on the nuclear framework agreement with Iran.

Netanyahu released a statement on Sunday with the changes to the deal signed earlier this month, a day after President Barack Obama told reporters that Netanyahu had not provided any alternatives.

The Israeli leader called on the international community to negotiate a better agreement.

In his statement, Netanyahu criticized Iran for insisting in the wake of the agreement on maintaining its nuclear capabilities and refusing to allow nuclear inspections, as well as its continuing aggression in the region.

“Let me reiterate again the two main components of the alternative to this bad deal: First, instead of allowing Iran to preserve and develop its nuclear capabilities, a better deal would significantly roll back these capabilities – for example, by shutting down the illicit underground facilities that Iran concealed for years from the international community,” he said. “Second, instead of lifting the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear facilities and program at a fixed date, a better deal would link the lifting of these restrictions to an end of Iran’s aggression in the region, its worldwide terrorism and its threats to annihilate Israel.”

On Saturday, Obama spoke at a news conference at the Americas Summit in Panama City, Panama, on Netanyahu’s failure to come up with alternatives.

“The prime minister of Israel is deeply opposed to it, I think he’s made that very clear,” Obama said. “I have repeatedly asked, what is the alternative that you present that you think makes it less likely for Iran to get a nuclear weapon? And I have yet to obtain a good answer on that.”

The Netanyahu statement came the same day that Haaretz reported, citing two unnamed Israeli officials, that Netanyahu said at an April 3 meeting of the security Cabinet that if a final agreement is signed between Iran and the world powers, the greatest concern is that Tehran will fully implement it without violations.

Netanyahu reportedly said at the meeting — hours before the start of the Passover seder and a day after the framework agreement was signed — that he was concerned that Iran will not break the agreement, waiting until it expires in 10-15 years and the country is not considered a threat to restart its nuclear program without the threat of international monitors or sanctions.

The security Cabinet decided at the meeting to try to persuade the Obama administration to improve the agreement. Most ministers, however, reportedly believe the best way to halt or alter the agreement is through Congress, which is where the most effort will be spent.

Vandalism strikes Jewish deli in Copenhagen

Sun, 04/12/2015 - 07:58

(JTA) — A Jewish deli and kosher supermarket in Copenhagen was vandalized.

A window of the store was smashed and anti-Semitic epithets were scrawled on the wall, including “Jewish pigs,” The Local reported, citing the Berlingske Tidende newspaper.

The attack, which was discovered on Thursday at Slagter & Delikatesse, comes less than two months after a terror attack outside a Copenhagen synagogue left a Jewish volunteer security guard dead.

In the wake of the synagogue attack, a guard protects the deli during business hours, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“All vandalism is serious, but it is obvious that when it comes to this particular location, there will be an extra focus on it,” police investigator Kenneth Jensen told Berlingske.

Also Thursday, Denmark marked the 75th anniversary of the German invasion of the country, flying its flag at half-mast in front of the Danish Parliament.

Arrested Islamist terror cell plotted bombing at Barcelona Jewish bookstore

Sun, 04/12/2015 - 07:16

(JTA) — Seven suspected members of an Islamist terror cell were arrested for plotting to bomb a Jewish bookstore in Barcelona.

The cell also was planning attacks on local synagogues, as well as other public buildings in the Catalonia region, according to reports.

Eleven people were arrested in total in northeastern Catalonia on April 8, and seven are under formal investigation, Reuters reported. They called themselves Islamic Brotherhood for Jihad Predication.

The terror cell is similar to the Islamic State movement.

Eric Lynn, one-time Obama campaign Jewish liaison, launches bid for Congress

Sun, 04/12/2015 - 05:40

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Eric Lynn, a former liaison between the Obama presidential campaign and the Jewish community, is running for Congress in Florida.

Lynn, a 36-year-old Democrat, launched a challenge last week against the Republican incumbent, Rep. David Jolly, in the Tampa-area district. Lynn, who graduated from high school in St. Petersburg, now works in the district as a defense industry consultant.

Jolly is considered vulnerable. He won the district in 2014 following the death of longtime incumbent Republican Rep. C.W. Bill Young, but the district favored Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Lynn parlayed his role in 2008 getting out the Jewish vote for Obama into senior advisory jobs in government, first at the State Department and then at the Pentagon.

His pitch to voters will emphasize the heavy presence in the district of military bases and families.

“I have been profoundly humbled by our brave soldiers, their selflessness and sense of duty,” Lynn said in his first fundraising letter. “I could never match them, but I’d like to bring a dose of ‘country first’ to Congress.”

Lynn once served as an intern at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Kerry and top negotiator meet Jewish leaders to discuss Iran deal

Sun, 04/12/2015 - 05:12

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Top Obama administration officials met for two hours with U.S. Jewish community leaders to discuss the emerging Iran nuclear deal.

Represented at the April 8 meeting were Secretary of State John Kerry and his undersecretary, Wendy Sherman, who is leading the U.S. side in the nuclear talks.

On the Jewish organizational side, representatives of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federations of North America, and the Orthodox, Reform and Conservative streams were present.

A State Department official said the meeting was part of the administration’s regular outreach to various civil society groups in the United States.

Kerry, the official told JTA, discussed “the U.S.-Israel relationship and the latest developments in our negotiations with the EU, P5+1 and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program.” P5+1 refers to the countries negotiating with Iran, including the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany.

Kerry stayed for an hour in the room, which was cleared of leavened goods in honor of Passover week, and Sherman remained for an additional hour.

The Jewish officials present would not describe the content of the off-the-record meeting, but they did say that they raised concerns about the deal.

“Both the secretary and the undersecretary articulated with depth, rigor and passion the deal and explained it,” one Jewish official said. “There was an opportunity for real engagement. Secretary Kerry was reaching out to those who need more engagement and convincing.”

The deal outline presented earlier this month by Iran and the major powers exchanges sanctions relief for restrictions aimed at keeping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Israel and a number of Jewish groups have expressed concerns about the degree of the sanctions relief and whether the structures in place go far enough to keep Iran from achieving nuclear capability.

Heirs of Nazi victim to get compensation from sale of looted Monet

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 14:20

(JTA) – The heirs of a French Jewish art dealer killed in a Nazi concentration camp will get a piece of the upcoming sale at Christie’s of a Monet painting looted by the Nazis and acquired after the war by a Swiss collector.

The painting, “Haystacks at Giverny,” was painted by Claude Monet in 1885 and is estimated to be worth $12 million to $18 million. “Haystacks,” one of several similar paintings of a pasture near the artist’s French home, was acquired by Rene Gimpel, a French art dealer associated with the intellectual elite of his time and a frequent visitor to Monet’s home, according to The New York Times.

After the outbreak of World War II, Gimpel was detained by the Nazi-allied Vichy government in France and shipped off to the Neuengamme concentration camp, where he died. Gimpel’s grandson, who also is named Rene Gimpel and is an art dealer, believes his grandfather was forced to sell the Monet under duress, according to the Times. The artwork surfaced in Geneva during the war and eventually ended up in the hands of a private Swiss collector.

Under the terms of a restitution agreement, the elder Gimpel’s heirs will receive an undisclosed amount from the auction house sale, which is to take place in May.

Gimpel told the Times that his family has reached restitution agreements on two other artworks that had belonged to his grandfather.

Israeli, 24, dies in Peru zip-line accident

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 09:16

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli hiker was killed when a zip-line platform collapsed in Peru.

Max Sela, 24, of Shoham in central Israel, died at the scene of the accident at the Cola de Mono zip-lining site in the Machu Picchu region. The zip-line is a major tourist attraction.

Sela was climbing the ramp to the platform, which was suspended about 260 feet in the air, when it collapsed. The two friends with whom he was traveling were not hurt.

He was on a trip to South America after being released from army service, a typical Israeli rite of passage. Sela had visited Brazil and Argentina over the past three months.

Jewish groups hail guilty verdict in Boston Marathon bombing case

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 08:12

(JTA) — Jewish groups praised the guilty verdict in the Boston Marathon bombing case.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, was convicted on all 30 charges Wednesday in a federal courtroom in Boston. The explosions at the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon set by Tsarnaev and his brother killed three, including an 8-year-old boy, and also injured more than 240, including 17 who lost limbs.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 24, was killed four days after the bombing in a shootout with police. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer also was gunned down in the aftermath of the attack.

At least 17 of the charges on which Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty can carry a death sentence. The sentencing phase could begin as early as next week.

“The jury’s guilty verdict against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev sends a resounding message that those who engage in such acts of terrorism will be held accountable and pay a hefty price,” Robert Trestan, the Anti-Defamation League’s New England regional director, said in a statement. “It is clear the jury agreed with the prosecution’s assessment that Tsarnaev and his brother worked together in plotting a coldblooded, intentional, calculated terrorist act and he therefore should be held to account for his actions.”

Trestan also said that the brothers were radicalized in part by “online terrorist propaganda geared toward young American audiences,” which shows “the seriousness of the threat from Islamic extremists.”

The American Jewish Committee in a statement hailed the jury for convicting Tsarnaev.

“The horror carried out by the Tsarnaev brothers was a wake-up call that Americans must be vigilant and united in confronting the ongoing threat of jihadist terrorism that  continues to challenge our country and the larger world,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“While the guilty verdict is very important in bringing some justice, we will forever remember the victims — Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, and Lu Lingzi who perished in the bombings, as well as Sean Collier, the MIT campus officer shot dead, and the more than 240 who were wounded, many with significant injuries.”

The verdict came after 11 hours of deliberations over two days.

Armed Palestinian police expand security control

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 07:29

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Armed Palestinian police have expanded security control to Palestinian towns bordering Jerusalem.

Under a deal with Israel, the patrols began working in Abu Dis, A-Ram and Biddu, Reuters reported. The patrols include 90 officers.

The towns have been under Israeli security control since the peace process began with the Oslo Accords in 1993.

The Palestinians have threatened to halt security cooperation with Israel since it withheld tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority beginning in January. P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas refused the revenues earlier this month when Israel held back some of the money for utilities payments.

Israel withheld the money as a punitive measure for Abbas signing requests in late December to join the International Criminal Court and other international conventions as a result of the failure of the United Nations Security Council to pass a Palestinian statehood proposal.

Rouhani: Iran will sign nuclear deal only if sanctions immediately lifted

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 06:40

(JTA) — President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said his country will sign a final deal on its nuclear program only if sanctions are immediately lifted.

Rouhani made the demand Thursday in a nationally televised speech on Nuclear Technology Day in Iran.

“We will not sign any agreement unless all economic sanctions are totally lifted on the first day of the implementation of the deal,” Rouhani said.

The framework agreement signed last week says sanctions will be lifted only once international inspectors verify that Iran is in compliance with the final agreement. If Iran is found to be in violation of the agreement, the sanctions would be reinstated.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Thursday in a tweet from his official Twitter account, “All #sanctions should be removed just when the deal is reached. If sanctions removal depends on another process then why we started to talk?

June 30 has been set as the deadline for a final agreement between Iran and the six world powers, including the United States.

Argentina to declassify intelligence on Israeli Embassy bombing

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 06:07

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — The Argentine government will declassify all the intelligence documents about the deadly 1992 bombing on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires.

The measure was announced Thursday on the government’s website for records of public proceedings, the Official Gazette. It followed a request made the previous day by the National Supreme Court of Justice in a document signed by all four justices.

The high court is leading the investigation because the attack occurred on a diplomatic mission. Its investigation has found that the March 17, 1992 attack, which killed 29 and wounded hundreds, was perpetrated by Hezbollah.

Interest in the investigation has picked up since last month, when Argentina’s president, Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, rebuked Israel for not working to bring the perpetrators of the bombing to justice. Israel responded that it was Argentina’s responsibility.

In 1999, the court ordered the arrest of top Hezbollah operations officer Imad Mughniyah, who was assassinated in 2008, in connection with the embassy attack.

Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel noted the two bombings in Buenos Aires — the other was the AMIA Jewish center attack in 1994 — during his address to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress. Iran, he said, “blew up the Jewish community center and the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires.”

British Reform rabbis propose online service to make same-sex shidduchs

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 05:21

(JTA) — Reform rabbis in Great Britain are launching an online matchmaking service aiming to make it easier for gay and lesbian Jews to find Jewish partners.

The proposed website, which will cater to gay and straight Jews, is the initiative of Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, senior rabbi of England’s Movement for Reform Judaism, and other Reform rabbis acting at the behest of English same-sex couples, according to the Religion News Service.

Unlike in the United States, where many Reform rabbis perform interfaith marriages, British Reform rabbis will only marry couples if both partners are Jewish.

Janner-Klausner told RNS that a large part of her motivation boiled down to the simple difficulty of gay Jews in Britain meeting each other.

“At the bottom of it all is the question of numbers,” she told RNS. “Jewish gays live in a niche religious community. They are a minority within a minority. If they want to remain Jewish, it’s even harder for them than other gay people.”

The Reform movement does not yet know when the service will launch, RNS reported.

Poll: Israel concerns push UK Jewish voters to heavily favor Conservatives

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 13:40

(JTA) — Concerns over Israel loom large as Jewish voters in Britain intend to cast their ballots overwhelmingly for the Conservative Party in the upcoming parliamentary elections, according to a new poll.

The poll, conducted by The Jewish Chronicle newspaper and released Tuesday, found that Jewish voters intend to support the party of incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron by a margin of 56 percent to 18 percent for Labor, with 12.5 percent undecided and roughly 2 percent each going to the Liberal Democrats and the UK Independence Party. The margin climbed to 69 percent Conservative to 23 percent Labor when those who refused the survey or were undecided were eliminated from the results.

Some 73 percent of the 566 respondents said that the parties’ attitudes toward Israel were “very important” or “quite important” in influencing their votes. The Israel concerns paid off for the Conservatives, with 61 percent of respondents favoring their policies on Israel and the Middle East, while 8 percent favored the policies of Labor, which in recent months has been sharply critical of Israel’s conduct.

By a wide margin, respondents also saw Cameron as having a better attitude as prime minister to the UK’s Jewish population than Labor leader Ed Miliband — 64 percent to 13 percent — even though Miliband is Jewish.

Respondents said that in the previous election, in 2010, they favored the Conservative Party by 51 percent to 17 percent, with 7 percent for the Liberal Democrats, who have been a junior partner with the Conservatives in the current coalition government.

A 2014 report by the Christian think tank Theos, using data from the 2010 British Election Survey, found that in the same election, Jews voted 58 percent for Conservatives, 21 percent for Labor and 16 percent for Liberal Democrats, although the authors warned of a small sample size.

The Jewish Chronicle poll released this week was conducted by Survation, a British market research firm. Jews make up approximately 0.5 percent of the British population.

Israeli girl, 12, dies in Thailand ferry fire

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 11:56

(JTA) — A 12-year-old girl from Israel was the lone fatality in a fire aboard a ferry in Thailand, where her family took her as a bat mitzvah present.

The remaining 116 passengers, including the girl’s parents and brother, were rescued from the fire that erupted aboard the Ao Nang Princess 5 tourist ferry on Wednesday, according to Ynet. The girl, who was not immediately named, was locked behind in one of the bathrooms, which was engulfed by flames.

“The fire erupted in the engine room, situated in the back of the ship, just as the girl was in the bathroom,” said Nati Hadad, who participated in the rescue operation. “She must have suffocated to death as the fire neared.”

The ferry was about seven miles off the coast of Ao Nang in the southwestern Krabi province when the blaze erupted, the news site phuketwan.com reported. Local fishermen rushed to the burning ferry to help bring survivors to safety, Ynet reported.

Staff from Israel’s embassy in Thailand reached out to assist the family, according to Ynet.

Disfigured body with Israeli passport found in Berlin

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 06:42

(JTA) — Police in Berlin found the disfigured body of a man carrying an Israeli passport.

The body was found Sunday amid the rubble of construction being done at a local church, Army Radio reported Wednesday. The body was so badly bruised that it was unrecognizable, raising suspicion that the man was murdered.

The passport was registered to a 22-year-old man, but officials could not immediately determine whether the deceased was its owner. The passport’s owner was not named.

The Chabad rabbi in Berlin, Yehuda Teichtal, told the NRG news site that the Israeli man to whom the passport belonged was supposed to celebrate the Passover seder at the local Chabad house on Friday night but never arrived.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in contact with German authorities about the case, the Army Radio report said.

2 Israeli soldiers stabbed in West Bank, attacker killed

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 06:18

(JTA) — Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian man in the West Bank after he stabbed and injured two soldiers, one of them critically.

The knife-wielding attacker stabbed the seriously hurt soldier in the neck on Wednesday morning near the settlements of Shiloh and Ofra, Army Radio reported. The soldier, 20, received medical treatment on site and was airlifted to a Jerusalem hospital, a Magen David Adom paramedic said.

The lightly injured soldier received treatment on site.

None of the individuals involved was named in the Army Radio report. Troops killed the attacker.

Overnight Wednesday, Israeli security forces arrested nine Palestinians suspected of involvement in riots and terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and security personnel in the West Bank.

Budapest street exhibition on Holocaust survivors defaced

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 02:54

(JTA) — An exhibition about Holocaust survivors was defaced in Budapest.

The incident was reported Sunday by the Hungarian Jewish community’s watchdog on anti-Semitism, the Action and Protection Foundation, or TEV.

According to the report on TEV’s Facebook page, unknown individuals on Saturday splashed red paint on 14 portraits showing Holocaust survivors with the youngest members of their families.

The Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation, or EMIH, set up the exhibition of 24 portraits near the Madach Theater in central Budapest to celebrate Hungarian Jewry’s continuity after the genocide that nearly wiped out the community.

In a separate incident, TEV reported that unknown individuals painted a swastika in front of a Budapest synagogue on Wesselenyi Street, located five miles northeast of the Madach Theater, shortly before April 3. The Nazi symbol was removed shortly after its discovery, TEV wrote.

Both reports followed the April 1 release of TEV’s second annual monitor of anti-Semitic attitudes in Hungary, which showed a decrease in the prevalence of such beliefs.

In the survey, conducted late last year by the Median polling company, 31 percent of the 1,200 respondents displayed what TEV defined as anti-Semitic views, compared to 38 percent in a similar survey conducted last year. The survey has a 3 percent margin of error.

Bnei Brak funeral trampling claims second fatality

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 02:19

(JTA) – A teenager became the second person to die in the trampling at the mass funeral of a prominent haredi Orthodox rabbi near Tel Aviv.

On Wednesday, Yitzhak Samet, 18, of Jerusalem, succumbed to injuries he suffered on April 5 while attending the funeral in Bnei Brak of Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Wosner, the Ynet news site reported. Samet, a member of the Toldos Aharon Hasidic sect who was engaged to be married, according to the Times of Israel, will be buried on Wednesday afternoon.

Nearly 100,000 mourners came to Bnei Brak for the funeral of Wosner, who died on April 3, shortly before the start of the Passover holiday. He was 101.

The first fatality from the funeral was Mordechai Moti Gerber, 27, of Elad, who died shortly after being trampled. Gerber, a former student of the rabbi, is survived by his wife and young son.

The procession began from the offices of the Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva headed by Wosner and snaked through the heavily Orthodox Bnei Brak to the Zichron Meir cemetery.

Among the three critically injured at the event was a 14-year-old boy. The police have opened an investigation into possible negligence.

Wosner immigrated to Mandatory Palestine before the outbreak of World War II and later established the Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. He is the author of the Shevet Halevi commentary on Jewish law. He had been hospitalized since March.

Report: Paris kosher shop killer planned to strike Jewish school

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 01:59

(JTA) — The Islamist who killed four Jews at a kosher supermarket near Paris may have attempted to murder children at a Jewish school shortly before, the French media reported.

The report Tuesday on BFMTV was based on an interview with a woman who witnessed Amedy Coulibaly cause a traffic accident and then kill a police officer south of Paris after the officer approached the scene of the accident in Montrouge, south of Paris. Coulibaly fled the scene.

One day later, on Jan. 9, Coulibaly killed his Jewish victims at the Hyper Cacher market on the eastern edge of Paris. He was killed by police hours after a siege at the market.

“Police told me that this man was armed and following a plan,” said the witness, who was also involved in the accident and was only identified as Anne. “That he had a Jewish school right next to where I had my accident and that the accident messed up his plans, so instead of killing children at a Jewish school, he killed a police officer.”

Chlomik Zenouda, vice president of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, told JTA shortly after the Hyper Cacher shooting that there were “strong indications” that Coulibaly was planning to attack a Jewish school before shooting and killing officer Clarissa Jean-Philippe.

In March 2012, Islamist Mohammed Merah killed four children at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

On Monday, French President Francois Hollande warned about rising religious extremism during a ceremony for Holocaust victims.

“Evil did not stop at the doors of this house, but returns whenever totalitarian or fundamentalist religious ideologies grasp ahold of passions and fears,” Hollande said at the Maison d’Izieu, an orphanage turned memorial where 44 Jewish children were deported to concentration camps on April 6, 1944.