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Police complaints filed over anti-Semitic bullying in two French schools

Fri, 02/13/2015 - 07:39

(JTA) — A high school in western France suspended three pupils for anti-Semitic bullying, and similar incidents forced a Jewish girl to leave her school in the country’s South.

The suspension at the Louis-Armand high school in Poitiers, a city located 155 miles north of the city of Bordeaux, was for eight days, according to a report Wednesday in the online edition of the regional Ouest-France daily.

The alleged victim of the three youths spoke out last week after months of being bullied, according to the report, which also said the three are due to appear before a juvenile court in April.

The bullying reportedly began in October when the alleged victim confronted one of the suspended youths about his pencil case, which was emblazoned with the words: “Jew = cremated.” The owner called the alleged victim a Jew and soon the student became the butt of repeated jokes and text messages about Jews and the Nazi death camp Auschwitz.

The report did not say whether the alleged victim, who was not named, was in fact Jewish.

Bernard Soulignac, a local education board inspector, said the eight-day suspension constituted the strictest punishment school can give. “I don’t consider it joking around. It’s a joke at the expense of six million dead,” he told the AFP news agency.

Separately, in the city of Avignon north of Marseille, a Jewish girl was forced to leave the Aubanel high school because of persistent anti-Semitic bullying in person, online and by phone, the online edition of the La Provence daily reported Wednesday.

The girl said the bullying began after she told another girl she was Jewish. That girl rallied others against her.

School faculty told the girl’s parents that off-campus bullying was not their jurisdiction, the girl’s mother, identified only as Lea, told the daily.

The parents filed a police complaint. Faculty and security officers talked to the girls’ classmates to no avail, so she switched to another class last month.

The bullying and threats persisted, leading the parents to pull their daughter of school altogether. She currently remains at home until she can find an alternative school.

Citing election, Netanyahu reverses dismissal of Israel Prize judges

Fri, 02/13/2015 - 07:24

(JTA) — On the advice of Israel’s attorney general, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reversed his decision to remove two judges from a panel that awards a prestigious national prize.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Thursday advised Netanyahu to return Ariel Hirschfeld and Avner Holtzman to the Israel Prize panel of judges. The makeup of the panel is determined by the Ministry of Education.

Netanyahu, who leads the Likud Party, is temporarily heading the ministry until the March 17 general election. In his letter, Weinstein wrote that the government should hold off on appointments and dismissals until after the vote.

The Israel Prize is the country’s most prestigious award for individuals or groups who excelled in their contribution to science, society the arts or the Jewish state.

Netanyahu’s office did not explain the decision to remove Hirschfeld, a literature professor who in the past supported conscientious objection to serving in the Israel army, and Holtzman, a literary scholar who is not known for espousing controversial political views.

Netanyahu did, however, complain on Facebook of elitism and a lack of diversity among the panel’s judges.

“This situation where a small, closed group with extremist views passes the baton around and retains control of who receives the prize must change, because the Israel Prize belongs to the People of Israel, all of them,” he wrote in a Feb. 11 posting.

The intended dismissal triggered widespread criticism against perceived politicization of the Israel Prize and caused the resignation of eight out of 13 panel judges and protests by candidates for this year’s prize, including the internationally acclaimed novelist David Grossman.

In a statement Friday, Shlomit Barnea Farago, the head of the legal department of the Prime Minister’s Office, said Netanyahu will honor the attorney general’s request to refrain from appointments in the period leading up the election. She added that if reelected, Netanyahu would lay down new criteria for appointing Israel Prize judges.

Islamic State holding Jerusalem Palestinian it claims is a spy

Fri, 02/13/2015 - 07:17

(JTA ) — The Islamic State said it is holding an Israeli Arab that it claims is an Israeli spy.

The terrorist group’s online English-language magazine Dabiq reported that it is holding  Muhammad Musallam, 19, of Jerusalem, who it says posed as a foreign fighter for ISIS in order to spy for the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency.

Dabiq reported that Musallam was captured after he called his father, breaking his cover.

“I say to all those who want to spy on the Islamic State, don’t think that you’re so smart and that you can deceive the Islamic State. You won’t succeed at all,” Dabiq quoted Musallam as saying.

Musallam traveled to Turkey on Oct. 24 in order to fight for Islamic State in Syria, an Israeli official told Reuters, and affirmed that he was not a Mossad operative.

His family, denying he was a Mossad spy, confirmed in an interview with Haaretz that he was captured in Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria, according to the Times of Israel.

The Islamic State magazine quoted Musallam as saying he was recruited for the Mossad by a Jewish neighbor, and that he accepted the job due to the attractive salary and incentives.

It is not known if the interview is authentic.

Wiesel pleads with Obama, Congress, settle differences, let Netanyahu speak

Fri, 02/13/2015 - 07:03

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Elie Wiesel urged President Barack Obama and Congress to put aside their differences over Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the body next month, saying the Israeli prime minister’s message on Iran was too important.

“I plead with you to put aside the politics that have obscured the critical decisions to be made,” the Holocaust memoirist and Nobel Peace laureate said in an ad promoted Thursday by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a onetime Republican candidate for Congress who has sharply criticized the pushback against the planned speech.

“Surely it is within your power to find a solution that will permit Israel’s prime minister to deliver his urgent message,” Wiesel says in the ad. It is not clear when the ad will appear, although Boteach said on Twitter it would be published in the New York Times.

Washington has been roiled by the invitation to Netanyahu to address Congress on March 3, issued by Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives without consulting congressional Democrats or Obama.

Obama and other top administration officials will not meet with Netanyahu during the visit, citing its proximity to Israeli elections March 17, and some Democratic lawmakers say they will not attend the speech as the invitation violates protocol.

Boehner invited Netanyahu in part so the Israeli leader could rebut Obama’s support for nuclear talks with Iran, which Obama says is constructive and Netanyahu and Republicans believe will leave Iran on the threshold of attaining  nuclear weapons.

Wiesel likened the modern Iranian leaders to the biblical Haman, noting the speech will take place on the eve of Purim.

“As Queen Esther said when addressing her king: ‘How can I behold the destruction of my people?’” he says in the ad.

Separately, three top Jewish Democrats in Congress asked Boehner to address allegations by Israeli officials that he failed to inform them that he had not properly cleared the speech.

The letter from Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who ran the last two House elections for Democrats, and Ted Deutch, the top Democrat on the House Middle East subcommittee, quoted Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, and Tzachi Hanegbi, the deputy foreign minister.

Dermer and Boehner began organizing the invitation on Jan. 8, and Dermer has said that Boehner told him that informing others of the invitation was the speaker’s prerogative, an account Boehner has confirmed. Hanegbi has said that Boehner implied that it was a bipartisan invitation and that Israeli officials were not aware Democrats were kept in the dark.

“Why didn’t you notify and coordinate ahead of time with the administration?” ask the lawmakers, who say they will nonetheless attend the speech, in the letter. The letter also asks if Hanegbi “ was right in saying you engaged in a one-sided move instead of a move approved by both sides?”

Boehner has said that his office informed the White House of the planned invitation the morning of Jan. 21, before making the invitation public. It is not clear how much notice Boehner gave the White House, and his office did not respond to a query from  JTA about this, but Boehner posted the invitation on Twitter that morning at 9:35 a.m.

CEO Tim Cook to open Apple Israel’s new headquarters

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 16:57

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Apple CEO Tim Cook will inaugurate Apple Israel’s new headquarters.

During his visit to Israel next week, Cook will meet with former President Shimon Peres and senior figures in the nation’s high-tech industry, the Israeli business daily Globes reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources.

Apple Israel headquarters in Herzliya Pituach, a wealthy beachfront district in central Israel, will house 800 employees.

Cook met last year with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Apple’s international headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

Jewish groups join call on Obama to stop marginalizing American Muslims

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 16:38

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Three Jewish organizations joined 15 other interfaith groups to express concern that the White House is marginalizing American Muslims.

Bend the Arc: a Jewish Partnership for Justice, the National Council of Jewish Women and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call to Justice signed a Feb. 12 letter to President Barack Obama ahead of the upcoming White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, which criticized the publicity for the upcoming summit as focusing only on Islamic extremists.

“As you know, studies by the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center have shown that the overwhelming majority of terrorist incidents in the United States were committed by non-Muslims,” the letter said. The groups said that they were concerned about “focusing exclusively on Islamic extremists, which risks contributing to the marginalization of American Muslims.”

The letter was spearheaded by the Interfaith Alliance, whose executive director is Rabbi Jack Moline, the former head of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

“Unfortunately, no single religion has a monopoly on extremist violence,” Moline said. “The White House must make sure not to unfairly single out American Muslims as it seeks to confront violent extremism perpetrated in the name of any faith or ideology.”

Poll: Americans want Obama-Netanyahu meeting, half say invite ‘inappropriate’

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 15:45

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Nearly half of Americans think the invitation to Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress was inappropriate, but more believe President Barack Obama should meet the Israeli prime minister in Washington.

The YouGov poll posted Wednesday showed that 47 percent of respondents said it was “inappropriate” for Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House speaker, to invite Netanyahu to speak March 3 without first consulting with the White House. Thirty percent of respondents found it appropriate.

Still, 58 percent said Obama should meet with Netanyahu and 46 percent said their Congress member should attend.

Obama has said he will not meet with Netanyahu because of the proximity of Israeli elections, and a number of congressional Democrats, who also were not consulted, have said they will not attend the speech. Nineteen percent of respondents were opposed to an Obama-Netanyahu meeting and 24 percent said their representative should not attend the speech.

The survey of 1,000 adults was taken Feb. 4-8 and had a margin of error of 4.1 percent.

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) on Thursday became the third Jewish member of Congress to say he would not attend. Among the 28 Jewish members in Congress, 15 have said they will attend, although many of them regret the circumstances of the invitation.

A Times of Israel poll published this week showed 59 percent of Israelis registered an unfavorable opinion of Obama, while 33 percent were favorable to the president. Netanyahu registered 41 percent favorable and 54 percent unfavorable in the same poll.

Asked whether they trust “Obama to ensure that Iran does NOT receive a nuclear weapon,” 72 percent said no and 21 said yes. Boehner wants Netanyahu to speak to Congress in part to rebut Obama’s claims that nuclear talks now underway with Iran are the best path to keeping it from obtaining a weapon, and Netanyahu says that is his main mission in Washington, otherwise praising Obama for preserving a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.

Only 10 percent of Israeli respondents, however, said Iran was their main concern heading into the March 17 election. Economic issues was the main concern, with 48 percent of respondents listing it as a top concern.

The Feb. 1-3 Times of Israel survey reached 824 Israeli voters and had a margin of error of 3.4 percent.

Jewish GOPers: Include Jews as threatened group in ISIS bill

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 15:33

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish Republicans want Jews added to a military force authorization bill as one of the minorities threatened by ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), the sole Jewish Republican in Congress, told CNN on Thursday that in the wake of the apparent ISIS affiliation of a terrorist who last month attacked a kosher supermarket in Paris and killed four Jews – whom the terrorist said he targeted because they were Jewish – Jews should be added to the authorization for use of military force under consideration.

Backing his call was the Republican Jewish Coalition.

The White House, submitting the language this week, mimicked language in a proposed bill in the last Congress that named as threatened by Islamic State Iraqi Christians, Yezidis and Turkmens, as well as Muslims who do not follow its extremist precepts.

The bill, however, was drafted before the killings in Paris.

“I strongly believe we were reminded in Paris that these radical Islamic extremists, they want to wipe Israel off the map,” Zeldin told CNN.

“They target not only Jews but our freedom and our exceptionalism as Americans — the whole Western world,” he said. “The pursuit of ISIS includes a threat not just to Muslims, not just to Jews, not just to Christians, but everyone and it all should be recognized in the resolution.”

Report: Widow of Paris kosher supermarket terrorist with ISIS

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 12:45

(JTA) — The widow of the terrorist who killed four Jewish men at a kosher supermarket siege in Paris apparently is in Islamic State territory.

Hayat Boumeddiene, the wife of slain Hyper Cacher gunman Amedy Coulibaly, was interviewed by a magazine run by ISIS, Reuters reported. It was the first evidence that she fled to Syria following the Jan. 8 attack on the kosher market. French authorities began searching for her following the attack.

The ISIS-supported, online French-language magazine Dar al-Islam published an interview with an unnamed woman it said was Coulibaly’s widow. Police killed Coulibaly at the kosher market.

Boumeddiene in the interview confirmed that her husband had been a supporter of the  Islamic State.

She has been shown in photos published in French media wearing a full veil.

Miami Jewish day schooler to play Division I soccer

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 12:28

(JTA) — A Jewish day school soccer player from Florida has accepted a scholarship to play Division I soccer.

Aaron Franco of the Samuel Scheck Hillel Community School in Miami signed this week to play at the University of Maryland. Franco, the team’s co-captain, led the Lions to the Florida state finals last year.

Franco will be the school’s first athlete to play Division I, the top level in college sports.

Scheck Hillel is one of the largest Jewish day schools in the country, with an enrollment of over 1,000 students.

Dutch court: Israeli rabbi suspected of sex crimes can be extradited

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 12:17

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — An Israeli rabbi who fought his extradition from the Netherlands for alleged sex crimes may be turned over to Israeli authorities, a Dutch court ruled.

The ruling on Eliezer Berland, the founder of the Shuvu Bonim seminary, was made by a Haarlem tribunal on Thursday at the request of Dutch justice officials who support extraditing Berland as per the request of Israeli prosecutors, the NRC Handelsblad reported in its online edition. The final decision on whether to send him to Israel will be made by the justice minister of the Netherlands, Ivo Opstelten, in the coming weeks.

Berland, a Braslav rabbi who is suspected of sexually assaulting several of his female followers, including one minor, denies the allegations. He was apprehended in Amsterdam in September during a layover at Schiphol Airport on his way from South Africa to Ukraine. Since fleeing Israel in 2012, he has lived in Morocco, Zimbabwe and Switzerland.

The court dismissed all of the objections raised by Berland’s attorney, who cited the rabbi’s poor health and that Israel does not have jurisdiction to prosecute his actions.

In an interview last month for a Dutch daily, Berland, who was born in prestate Israel in 1937, claimed he was persecuted in Israel for what he defined as his love of Palestinians and that he survived the Holocaust in the Buchenwald death camp, though no such record exists.

Several dozen devout followers from Israel followed Berland and settled in the Netherlands to be near their spiritual leader.


Zoabi, Marzel disqualified from upcoming elections

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 11:33

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Arab-Israeli lawmaker Hanin Zoabi and far-right Jewish activist Baruch Marzel were disqualified from running in Israel’s March 3 elections.

At hearings Thursday, the Central Elections Committee voted 27-6 to ban Zoabi, a Knesset member from the Arab-Israeli Balad party since 2009. The vote on Marzel, of the Yachad party, was 17-16.

Both bans will be automatically appealed to the Supreme Court.

Zoabi and Marzel previously have been banned from running in elections, most recently Zoabi in January 2013. The Supreme Court overturned those decisions.

Zoabi, who participated in the 2010 flotilla sail to Gaza to bust Israel’s blockade organized by the Islamic IHH group in Turkey, has been censured before for anti-Israel statements. Most recently she was suspended from the Knesset for statements she made encouraging Palestinian “popular resistance” and saying that the kidnappers of three Israeli teens, who later were murdered, were not terrorists.

Marzel, who headed the outlawed Kach movement after the death of Rabbi Meir Kahane, has previously run for Knesset.

Canadian Jewish leaders question, pan legalization of assisted suicide

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 11:27

TORONTO (JTA) — Jewish leaders in Canada reacted with caution and disappointment to a decision by the country’s Supreme Court legalizing assisted suicide.

Canada’s high court struck down the country’s laws against physician-assisted suicide, meaning it will no longer be illegal for a doctor to help someone who is ill and suffering to end his life. But the ban struck down last week won’t be lifted for another year and assisted suicide will have conditions attached.

The Toronto Board of Rabbis, the country’s largest rabbinic group, has scheduled “a study day” for later this month to explore differing perspectives on the issue, board president Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl said this week, and later will issue a statement.

But in an email to JTA, Frydman-Kohl, of Toronto’s Beth Tzedec Congregation, the largest in Canada, said he was concerned the ruling “will blur the distinctive protection that we give to human life and diminish the desire to care with dedication and devotion for the weakest and most vulnerable of our society.”

Frydman-Kohl called for more support and comfort “to those who are dying, so that no one, because of loneliness, vulnerability, loss of decision-making ability or fear of pain and suffering, will feel a need to actively end life.”

The rabbi called on officials to view the judgment “in narrow terms and allow for freedom of conscience for health care workers who do not accept assisted dying as a medical response to pain and suffering.”

Frydman-Kohl also called for adequate funding for palliative and hospice care, “and excellent social support for the weak, the ill, the elderly, the disabled and those who are socially isolated.”

Toronto’s Vaad Harabanim, which represents Orthodox rabbis in the city, said it was “disappointed and distressed” by the court’s decision.

“For over three millennia, Judaism has taught the infinite value and sanctity of all human life and that we must seek to preserve it, while at the same time taking all responsible measures to comfort the ill,” the Vaad said in a statement Thursday. “To deliberately shorten a life by even one second is an act of murder that is interfering with G-d’s will.”

The court’s decision “reflects a dangerous trend away from the recognition of life’s inherent sanctity and presents a stark challenge to our nation’s morals,” the statement said.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, or CIJA, in a statement this week called the issue “complex” and said it will work to inform the community of “the implications of the decision and the ensuing legislation so they have greater understanding of an issue that touches many families.”

CIJA said it was “committed to ensuring the legislation gives Canadians full freedom to make decisions according to their unique personal circumstances, their conscience, and their religious beliefs.”

Rachel Corrie’s family loses appeal in Israel’s Supreme Court seeking damages

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 10:43

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision on civil damages in the case of U.S. peace activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed in the West Bank in 2003 by a military bulldozer.

The high court on Thursday upheld a ruling by the Haifa District Court exempting Israel from paying civil damages for wrongful death to Corrie’s family since the incident occurred in a war zone.

Corrie, 23, a pro-Palestinian activist from Olympia, Wash., was wearing an orange vest and attempting to stop a bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian home in Rafah in the West Bank when she was killed. The army said that the area where the incident occurred was named a closed military zone; the claim has been disputed.

An Israeli army investigation following Corrie’s death found that the driver of the bulldozer could not see Corrie and did not intentionally run over her. The report accused Corrie and the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement of “illegal, irresponsible and dangerous” behavior.

Witnesses say that Corrie was clearly visible and that activists shouted for the bulldozer to stop before it hit the college student.

The Supreme Court on Thursday reversed a separate lower court decision, however, on the possible mishandling of the autopsy on Corrie’s body, which will require further investigation by the court into the autopsy and the possible misplacement of some of Corrie’s remains.

The Corries lost a lawsuit against Caterpillar Inc., the U.S. company that manufactured the bulldozer that killed their daughter.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported Wednesday that the one-woman play “My Name is Rachel Corrie,” based on the activist’s journal writings, will be staged Off-Broadway  in April at the Culture Project’s Lynn Redgrave Theater in the East Village. The play was last performed in New York a decade ago amid great controversy in the theater and Jewish communities.

CBS News reporter Bob Simon killed in N.Y. car crash

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 08:51

(JTA) — Bob Simon, the Emmy Award-winning CBS News and “60 Minutes” correspondent, was killed in a car accident in New York City.

Simon, who covered nearly every major overseas conflict and news story since the late 1960s, reportedly was a passenger in a hired car on Wednesday evening that hit another car on Manhattan’s West Side. He was 73.

He was pronounced dead upon arrival at Saint Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, Reuters reported, citing police.

Simon earned 27 Emmy Awards and was awarded the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for a “60 Minutes II” report on genocide during the Bosnian War.

His career in war reporting began in Vietnam, according to The Associated Press. Simon was held captive in Iraq for 40 days in January 1991 after being captured with a CBS News team while reporting on the Gulf War. He wrote about the experience in his book “Forty Days.”

As a prisoner of the Iraqis, Simon told JTA in 1991, he worried that “his Jewishness might cost him his life.”

“I thought my number was up when they started accusing me of being a member of Mossad,” he told JTA.

Simon returned to Iraq in 1993 to report on the American bombing of the country.

In April 2012, Simon faced the wrath of the pro-Israel community following his report on the plight of Christians in the West Bank and Jerusalem that focused on Israeli policies as a cause of the decline of the area’s Arab Christian population, as well as its reliance on an anti-Israel Palestinian Lutheran pastor as a key source.

He had worked in the CBS Tel Aviv bureau from 1977 to 1981.

Romney, Boehner and Bush to address Republican Jewish leaders

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 07:44

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Mitt Romney, House Speaker John Boehner and former President George W. Bush will be among the speakers at the Republican Jewish Coalition leadership meeting.

Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 who briefly considered a run this year, was announced as a speaker Wednesday by the RJC. The conference will be held April 24-26 in Las Vegas.

Boehner (R-Ohio) roiled some in Washington with his invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress next month. The RJC is running an online petition drive supporting Netanyahu’s speech in the face of complaints from Democrats and the White House that Boehner did not consult them before issuing the invitation.

The Bush and Romney talks will be closed to the media.

The Washington Examiner reported that a number of likely presidential candidates will attend, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

Ukrainian Jews cautiously optimistic on Russia-brokered cease-fire

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 07:35

(JTA) — Leaders of Ukrainian Jewry reacted with cautious optimism to news that Russia and Ukraine worked out an agreement designed to bring about a cease-fire along their border.

Yaakov Dov Bleich, a chief rabbi of Ukraine, said he was “hoping for the best while remaining prepared for the worst” following statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday morning that he and his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, had worked out an agreement for ending hostilities between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists in enclaves along the border.

According to Putin’s statement following 16 hours of talks in Minsk with Poroshenko and his delegation to peace talks in the Belarussian capital, the cease-fire would become effective on Sunday and entail the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the conflict areas, where 5,000 people have been killed in fighting that erupted last year.

But Bleich said that “the most effective way to end this war is to shut down the border to Russia because then all parties would come to the table and work out terms for a lasting peace,” an element absent from a cease-fire draft presented by the delegations. Bleich added that separatists, whom he called terrorists, were feeling emboldened by “the flow of arms and personnel from Russia.” As long as the border remains open, he said, conflagrations of violence are likely to recur.

Several attempts at reaching a negotiated cease-fire between rebels and government forces have failed in recent months.

Bleich, a harsh critic of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, also warned against “trying to appease those terrorists because this has been proven to be a failed strategy.”

Vadim Rabinovich, a Jewish Ukrainian lawmaker who chairs the Ukrainian parliament’s subcommittee on human rights and founded the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress, struck a more optimistic note. In a Facebook post on Thursday about the agreement, he wrote, “I spoke with the guys in Minsk. People, there is hope for the world. Today, the main thing is to stop the war.”

Controversial Jewish Defense League being revived in Montreal

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 06:57

MONTREAL (JTA) — The long-dormant Jewish Defense League said it was setting up shop outside Montreal despite opposition by local Jewish and Muslim groups.

JDL leader Meir Weinstein of Toronto said he was establishing the country’s second branch of the self-defense group on Feb. 16 to stem the rise of “radical Islam” in Quebec and to help the pro-Israel Conservative Party government return to power in a national election slated for the fall.

Weinstein, 56, said he planned to have local JDL members aggressively monitor and “infiltrate” radical Islamic groups.

In the United States, the FBI in 2001 labeled the JDL, founded by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, a violent “right-wing terrorist group.” The group has been inactive in the U.S. for years.

In August, Weinstein, in the wake of some incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism in Montreal, organized a local meeting to gauge interest in reviving the JDL after decades of inactivity. About 50 people reportedly attended the meeting.

Rabbi Reuben Poupko of the Jewish community’s main advocacy group, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, or CIJA, said there was no need for a Jewish self-defense group in Montreal.

Poupko said that anti-Semitic incidents have been successfully dealt with by local authorities and has called JDL “marginal” and “superfluous.”




Senior rabbi of Sydney yeshiva resigns over testimony on sexual abuse

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 06:43

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – A senior rabbi resigned as a director of Chabad’s Yeshiva Center in Sydney following comments he made at the Royal Commission into the child sexual abuse scandal inside two Chabad institutions in Australia.

Rabbi Yossi Feldman, a son of the chief rabbi of Chabad in Sydney, stood down from the board of management of the Yeshiva Center on Wednesday in the wake of a torrent of criticism from the rabbinate and mainstream Jewish leaders, who labeled his testimony as “repugnant to Jewish values and to Judaism.”

Feldman told the commission, which is investigating how rabbis responded to the abuse in Sydney and Melbourne in the 1980s and ’90s, that he did not believe it appropriate for victims to go to the police if offenses took place decades prior. He also claimed that the law should be lenient on pedophiles who had not offended for two decades and had repented.

“As of today I am resigning from my position as a director on the board of management of The Yeshiva Centre, which includes my administrative responsibilities,” Feldman said in a statement. “I apologize to anyone in the rabbinate, the Jewish community and the wider Australian community who have been embarrassed or ashamed by my views, words, understandings, recordings or emails about child sexual abuse or any other matter.”

Feldman’s views “shocked and appalled his fellow rabbis, the Australian Jewish community and the wider community,” the Executive Council of Australian Jewry said in a statement Tuesday.

“Yossi Feldman’s statements are repugnant to Jewish values and to Judaism, which is centered on the sanctity and dignity of individual life, especially the life of a child,” the statement added. “We believe his position as a religious leader has become untenable.”

Netanyahu, Israel Prize judges clash over alleged politicization

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 06:25

(JTA) — Several judges from Israel’s prestigious Israel Prize resigned, accusing the Prime Minister’s Office of political meddling.

Six judges resigned from the literary panel after the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vetoed nominations for two other judges, apparently due to political objections, and attempted to name a replacement, according to reports. Netanyahu’s office also dismissed a member of the Israel Prize’s film panel and attempted to name a replacement, causing another member of the film panel to drop out in solidarity.

On the literary panel, Ariel Hirschfeld and Avner Holtzman were nominated by the staff of the Education Ministry, which administers the annual prize, in November or December. However, Netanyahu assumed the post of education minister in early December with the resignation of Shai Piron and the dissolution of the coalition government.

Netanyahu’s office released a statement Tuesday saying that it “decided to review the panel’s composition” upon learning that Hirschfeld had supported the practice of boycotting army service as a form of protest. This was confirmed obliquely by a statement posted on Netanyahu’s Facebook page that did not mention Hirschfeld by name but stated that the Israel Prize panels had come to be dominated by “extremists” who support “anti-Zionist causes,” including “refusal to serve in the IDF.”

No reason was offered for the veto on Holtzman. Netanyahu’s office also reportedly attempted to appoint another judge of the prime minister’s choosing.

The Prime Minister’s Office also reportedly ordered the dismissal of film jury member Chaim Sharir in favor of another appointee who subsequently refused upon learning of Sharir’s dismissal. Fellow jury member Ram Loevy resigned in protest of Sharir’s dismissal.

Literary prize jurors Nurith Gertz, Ziva Ben-Porat, Ephraim Hazan and Uri Hollander resigned en masse to protest the dismissal of Hirschfeld and Holtzman, and author Gail Hareven also resigned separately over the same issue.

In addition, Yigal Schwartz withdrew his candidacy on Tuesday for a prize in the field of literary research to protest Netanyahu’s involvement with the jury, which Schwartz described to Haaretz as “sabotage.”