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Reports: Israel destroys its own drone in Lebanon

Sun, 06/21/2015 - 07:51

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel reportedly destroyed a downed drone in eastern Lebanon with an airstrike.

The attack on Sunday was first reported by Hezbollah’s al-Manar television, according to Reuters. The French news agency AFP also reported the strike on a downed Israeli drone, citing unnamed security sources in Beirut.

“An Israeli airstrike was launched this morning to destroy one of their drones that crashed in the mountains outside Saghbine yesterday,” the anonymous source said, according to AFP.

Israel’s military did not comment on the reports, saying it does not respond to foreign news reports.

Israel fought a war with Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006. Israel has struck several arms convoys in Syria that it said were en route to Hezbollah.

Charleston church gunman Dylann Roof’s manifesto calls to ‘destroy the Jewish identity’

Sun, 06/21/2015 - 07:06

Dylann Roof, suspected of killing nine worshipers at a Charleston, South Carolina, church, appearing at a bond hearing via a video uplink, June 19, 2015. (Grace Beahm/Pool/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Dylann Roof, the alleged Charleston church gunman, said in a racial manifesto that the Jewish “problem” would be solved “if we could somehow destroy the Jewish identity.”

Roof, 21, who has been charged with killing nine worshipers last week in the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in the South Carolina city, published what is believed to be his racial manifesto on a website that is registered in his name. The website and the manifesto came to public attention on Saturday; by Sunday the website was blocked.

The 2,500-word document is rife with racial hatred as well as spelling errors. The website also shows photos of Roof burning a U.S. flag and aiming firearms.

Roof asserts in the manifesto that he was “not raised in a racist home or environment. Living in the South, almost every White person has a small amount of racial awareness, simply because of the numbers of negroes in this part of the country. But it is a superficial awareness.” He said the event that “truly awakened” him was the Trayvon Martin case in Florida, in which neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman fatally shot the unarmed black teen.

Roof devotes most of the manifesto to a discussion of blacks, who he calls “the biggest problem for Americans,” and who he says are “stupid and violent.” He discusses segregation — Roof said it “was not a bad thing. It was a defensive measure” — as well as slavery, the flight to the suburbs and racial mixing.

Roof calls Jews an “enigma,” adding, “I don’t pretend to understand why jews do what they do.” He said he believes that “the majority of American and European jews are White.”

“In my opinion the issues with jews is not their blood, but their identity. I think that if we could somehow destroy the jewish identity, then they wouldnt cause much of a problem. The problem is that Jews look White, and in many cases are White, yet they see themselves as minorities. Just like [the N word], most jews are always thinking about the fact that they are jewish,” Roof wrote.

He added: “The other issue is that they network. If we could somehow turn every jew blue for 24 hours, I think there would be a mass awakening, because people would be able to see plainly what is going on.”

Roof gives what he calls “an explanation” for the attack he is about to pull off at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Episcopal Church in Charleston: “I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”

Roof was arrested in North Carolina on Thursday, the day after the shooting. He is being held on $1 million bond.

Palestinian teen stabs Israeli soldier in Jerusalem

Sun, 06/21/2015 - 06:01

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Palestinian teenager stabbed and seriously wounded an Israeli Border Police officer in Jerusalem.

The officer, who was not identified in reports, was stabbed in the neck and the upper body outside the Damascus Gate in the Old City on Sunday morning. He shot his assailant before collapsing, according to Israeli news reports. Both were taken to Jerusalem hospitals in serious condition.

The alleged attacker was identified as an 18-year-old male from Hebron who had entered Israel from the West Bank illegally.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in a statement commended the officer for his quick action in subduing the attacker and called on Israelis to support the beleaguered city.

“We must continue our daily routines,” Barkat said. “I call on all residents of the State of Israel to continue visiting Jerusalem and strengthen it.”

The stabbing attack comes two days after an Israeli man was killed and a second was injured in a shooting near the West Bank settlement of Dolev.

Settler who killed Palestinian nabbed in Brazil

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 16:37

(JTA) — Brazilian police arrested an Israeli fugitive who was convicted of killing a Palestinian man in the West Bank in 2004.

The convict was identified in a report Thursday by the Estado news agency as Y.E. — initials that match those of Yehosha Elitzur, 44, who in 2005 disappeared from his home in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, shortly before an Israeli district court sentenced him to 20 years in prison for manslaughter.

Elitzur was released to house arrest until his sentencing and required to post a bail sum equivalent to $7,000.

Eliztur killed a Palestinian taxi driver, Sa’al Eastiyah, near the Elon Moreh settlement with an M-16 assault rifle. A judge ruled he threatened the driver with the weapon before he fired multiple shots. The court issued an international warrant for Elitzur’s arrest with Interpol, which cooperated in Elitzur’s capture in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Thursday night, Brazil, Estado reported.

According to the report, Brazil’s federal police located Elitzur in the Sao Paolo of Higienopolis, where many members of the city’s Jewish community are concentrated. The report said he entered Brazil on a false passport, complicating investigators’ attempt to ascertain how long he has resided in Brazil.

Israel and Brazil signed a mutual extradition agreement in 2009.

U.S.: Iranian sponsorship of terrorism ‘undiminished’ in 2014

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 14:25

(JTA) — A new U.S. government report says Iran’s funding of terrorism “remained undiminished” in 2014.

Country Reports on Terrorism 2014, released by the U.S. State Department on Friday, said Iran continued its “terrorist-related” activity through its support for Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and various groups in Iraq and elsewhere. The report also said Iran increased its assistance to Shia militias in Iraq in response to the rise of ISIS.

According to the report, Iran attempted to smuggle weapons to Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, which the United States regards as a terrorist group.

The report comes as Iran and the major world powers enter the final stages of negotiating a complex accord to address the country’s nuclear program.

Vandals paint swastika on Ukrainian Holocaust monument

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 09:44

(JTA) — A Holocaust monument in Ukraine was vandalized with a red swastika that the perpetrators painted over a Star of David symbol.

The vandalism in Nikopol, an eastern Ukrainian city located 60 miles from Dnepropetrovsk, occurred on June 16, according to a report Tuesday by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine.

Alexander Taratuta, who heads Nikopol’s small Jewish community, said he filed a complaint with police about the act of vandalism, the perpetrators of which are unidentified.

In April, the monument commemorating Jewish victims of the Babi Yar massacre in Kiev was desecrated for the fourth time in recent months, possibly on Adolf Hitler’s birthday.

A total of about 20,000 Jews were murdered in Dnepropetrovsk alone during the German occupation of the area,  according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.

Most of the bodies of the murdered Jews were burned in October 1943 by Sonderkommando 1005 – a unit made up of Nazi prisoners, including Jews, whose task was to eliminate the traces of the Nazi crimes.

Most of the Jews of Dnepropetrovsk were evacuated ahead of the German invasion.

Today, Dnepropetrovsk’s Menorah Jewish community center and office building houses the country’s largest museum about the genocide, the Tkuma Ukrainian Institute For Holocaust Studies.

2 Palestinians injured at riot against Jewish pilgrims

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 07:52

(JTA) — Israeli soldiers shot two Palestinian men during a riot near Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, Palestinian security officials said.

The riot was directed at Israeli pilgrims who arrived at the holy site on Thursday night to pray. Approximately 1,500 worshipers came to the tomb in busses, which Palestinian rioters pelted with stones and one firebomb, according to the religious news site hageula.com.

No Israeli was wounded in the riots but soldiers guarding the pilgrims engaged the rioters. Iyad Muin Muhammad Kalbuna, 23, was shot in his left foot while Muhammad Ghassan Hammad Hashash, 24, from Balata refugee camp, was shot in the thigh, the Ma’an news agency reported. They were both taken to Rafidia hospital for treatment.

Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, the site was to remain under Israeli control. The Israel Defense Forces evacuated the premises in October 2000 during the Second Intifada, and it was burnt down by Palestinians.

Jewish worshipers make monthly nocturnal pilgrimages to the site, which has been renovated and restored.

Buenos Aires remembers AMIA attack in subway station display

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 07:51

BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — The Argentine capital opened up a permanent display at a subway station that it intends to rename in memory of victims of the 1994 AMIA terrorist attack on local Jews.

The commemorative display at the Pasteur subway station was unveiled Friday by the municipality and the SBASE metro company. City delegates will vote next month in a second reading of a bill to rename the station Pasteur/AMIA Memorial Station.

The station is located approximately 200 yards from the AMIA Jewish Community Center, where terrorists in 1994 set off explosives that killed 85 people and injured hundreds.

The display features drawings, paintings and photos by 25 artists and a clock that permanently indicates the exact moment of the explosion: July 18, 9:53 AM.

Municipal delegates voted in May unanimously in favor of renaming the station for the AMIA building. A second reading is scheduled for July 13.

“We [at] AMIA are very grateful to the artists that contribute with their talent and creativity to reshape Pasteur station [into] a place of a collective memory for thousands of people who will remember every day the AMIA attack,” AMIA president Leonardo Jmelnitzky told JTA.

The B Line, which stops at Pasteur station, transports approximately seven million passengers monthly. It is the most heavily-used line in the subway system of Buenos Aires.

Palestinian negotiator calls on PLO to retract recognition of Israel

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 07:51

(JTA) — Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat urged his government to retract its recognition of Israel until the Jewish state recognizes a Palestinian one.

Erekat, a Palestinian lawmaker and former chief of the steering and monitoring committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, made the recommendation in a report he submitted to government officials on Thursday about Palestinian-Israeli relations, calling for a comprehensive review of the current status quo.

Titled “Determining Palestinian-Israeli relations: Changing, not merely improving, the situation,” Erekat recommended that the Palestinian leadership “consider retracting its recognition of Israel until the Israeli government issues a reciprocal recognition of a Palestinian state,” the Ma’an news agency reported.

The PLO’s recognition of Israel paved the way to the signing of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, which form the basis for security cooperation between Ramallah and Jerusalem and various initiatives to reach a permanent agreement.

The study recommended that Ramallah reject any international call for recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and oppose the deployment of Israeli forces along the Jordan Valley as part of any peace agreement.

Israeli governments have conditioned a permanent agreement on the presence of Israeli troops in the valley. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called repeatedly for the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

The PLO must also reject any concessions to its sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem, Erekat’s report added.

Erekat also suggested that efforts be made for Hamas and Islamic Jihad to join the PLO’s Executive Committee and urged the PLO and Palestinian factions to support popular resistance and the boycott of Israeli settlement products, according to the Ma’an report.

U.N. hypocrisy has no limits, Netanyahu says after Ban Ki-moon rebuke

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 07:48

(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the United Nations of limitless hypocrisy after its secretary general singled out Israel at a meeting on children in war zones.

“This is a black day for the UN,” Netanyahu said in a late-night statement Thursday on the remarks of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon concerning last year’s war in Gaza. “The Hamas terror organization is awarded immunity by the United Nations, even though it has been proven beyond any doubt that it committed war crimes by firing from hospitals, mosques and from within U.N. facilities,” he said. “It turns out there is no limit to hypocrisy.”

Instead of focusing on how Hamas “made hostages of Gaza’s children when it fired at Israel from preschools and dug tunnels towards Israeli preschools, the United Nations has again chosen to reproach Israel,” Netanyahu said.

While Ban on Thursday mentioned war zones such as Iraq, Syria and South Sudan, Israel was the only country he called on to take action to protect children in war zones. “Last year was one of the worst in recent memory for children in countries affected by conflict,” the U.N. leader said, adding he is “deeply alarmed at the suffering of so many children as a result of Israeli military operations in Gaza last year.”

“I urge Israel to take concrete and immediate steps, including by reviewing existing policies and practices, to protect and prevent the killing and maiming of children, and to respect the special protections afforded to schools and hospitals,” he added.

Earlier this month, Ban took both Israel and Hamas off of a blacklist submitted to him by U.N. investigators of violators of children’s rights in conflict zones. Still, Ban charged that Israel had used excessive force during its 2014 war with Hamas in Gaza.

Last year, Ban also condemned Hamas’ use of at least three U.N. schools for storing weapons.

The Jewish state, Netanyahu said, holds itself to the highest moral standards in combat “as was determined just this past week by a group of senior American and European generals.”

Israeli wins British portrait photography top award

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 07:46

LONDON (JTA) — Matan Ben-Cnaan became the first artist from Israel to win the British Petroleum Portrait Award – a prestigious distinction for photographers.

The art prize, which includes a $47,500 cash stipend, was presented to Ben-Cnaan at London’s National Portrait Gallery during a ceremony on Tuesday in which Ben-Cnaan was recognized for his neorealist allegorical picture, Annabelle and Guy, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The portrait is influenced by the biblical story of Jephthah, who is forced to sacrifice his daughter instead of his dog after making an unfortunate vow, and depicts the artist’s friend and stepdaughter in present-day Israel posing with a dog.

Judges applauded Ben-Cnaan’s portrait for its “unnerving atmosphere” and “engaging filmic narrative”, adding that its “setting and treatment of intense light and deep shadow was much admired.”

Telegraph art critic Alastair Smart wrote that with the “image of a swarthy man, his stepdaughter and their dog in the Jezreel Valley, he [Ben-Cnaan] hints at parallels between a tale of Old Testament cruelty and continued conflict in the Middle East today.”

But Smart added that “with its looming shadows, blistering sunlight, rigid poses and would-be penetrating gazes,” the picture “looks less like a portrait than the billboard for a third-rate TV gangster series.”

British Petroleum, BP, has awarded the portrait prize for 26 years straight in cooperation with Britain’s National Portrait Gallery.

Michael Douglas salutes son, famous dad in accepting Genesis Prize for Jewish commitment

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 17:00

Michael Douglas, third from right, accepting the Genesis Prize in Jerusalem, June 18, 2015. From left, host Jay Leno; Stan Polovets, co-founder and CEO of the Genesis Prize Foundation; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky; and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein share the stage with Douglas. (Flash90 via Marc Israel Sellem/POOL).

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Actor Michael Douglas credited his son and celebrity father for helping him reconnect to Judaism as he accepted the Genesis Prize, “the Jewish Nobel,” in Jerusalem.

Douglas, an Academy Award winner, accepted the $1 million award on Thursday night for his commitment to Jewish values and the Jewish people. His wife, the actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, and children, Dylan and Carys, were on hand for the ceremony.

In his address, Douglas noted his new ties to Judaism at age 70.

He said his son’s decision to have a bar mitzvah “made me think and it made me strong. And for that I will always be grateful.” His voice broke as he thanked Dylan, who had his bar mitzvah last June, and later his whole family for their support.

“My journey to this stage was a long time in the making,” Douglas said, adding that it led him “to be able to say those four words with great pride: I am a Jew.”

Douglas criticized those who “insist that to say those words” one has to be Jewish through his mother. His mother, Diana Dill, is not Jewish. Douglas said that choosing him to be the Genesis laureate “sends a message around the world.”

He said his father, the actor Kirk Douglas, also inspired him, having also reconnected to Judaism at 70. Kirk Douglas had a second bar mitzvah at 83.

“There was no contradiction between his Jewishness and his universality,” Douglas said of his father, who offered a videotaped greeting for the ceremony.

The prize is endowed by the Genesis Prize Foundation, a group of Russian-Jewish businessmen who fund identity-building programs for Russian Jewry.

Douglas said he will use the prize money to reach out to other Jews from intermarried families seeking a connection to the Jewish community. He announced grants to Hillel and the Jewish Funders Network for programs that reach out to intermarried children and couples.

At the end of the program, host Jay Leno announced that an anonymous philanthropist was donating another $1 million for inclusiveness programs for intermarried families. Coupled with matching grant programs from Genesis and the Jewish Funders Network, some $3.5 million would be available for such programs as a result of Douglas’ prize.

The co-founder of the Genesis Prize Foundation, Mikhail Fridman, said the prize was established in order to inspire people “to reflect on their Jewishness and not take it for granted.” He described Douglas as “not a perfect Jew, yet he is someone who put his energy into being Jewish.” Fridman called on the Jewish community to welcome intermarried families and not turn them away.

A video presentation about Douglas was narrated by his wife and included praise from Jewish actors and directors. In his congratulatory remarks to Douglas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded Douglas for having “pride in the Jewish people and pride in the Jewish state.”

Netanyahu presented the prize to Douglas along with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, chairman of the prize committee; Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, chairman of the selection committee; and Stan Polovets, co-founder and chairman of the Genesis Prize Foundation.

Leno, who hosted the inaugural Genesis Prize ceremony last year, told the audience that he considers himself “Israel’s Shabbos goy,” and remarked that Albert Einstein was smart for turning down an offer to become the first president of Israel.

“Einstein knew it was easier to figure out the mysteries of the universe than to keep Israeli voters happy,” he quipped.

U.N. leader singles out Israel, says state must do more to protect Palestinian children

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 14:27

(JTA) — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Israel to “take concrete and immediate steps” to “protect and prevent the killing and maiming of children, and to respect the special protections afforded to schools and hospitals.”

In a Security Council discussion Thursday on how wars around the world are affecting children, Ban mentioned other war zones besides Gaza, but did not call on any country other than Israel to do anything, the Times of Israel reported.

“Last year was one of the worst in recent memory for children in countries affected by conflict,” the U.N. leader said, adding that he is “deeply alarmed at the suffering of so many children as a result of Israeli military operations in Gaza last year.”

According to the United Nations, at least 561 children were killed during Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza last summer, the third-highest child death toll of any conflict in 2014. In Afghanistan, 710 children were killed, and in Iraq 679 were killed.

At the meeting, Ban did not discuss his decision last week to exclude Israel from a list of entities that kill or injure youth in war.

Palestinians set to file first ICC complaint against Israel

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 13:29

(JTA) — Palestinian leaders plan to submit their first file against Israel to the International Criminal Court next week.

The file, which which will list Israel’s alleged violations of international law, will be delivered on June 25, a Palestinian Foreign Ministry official, Ammar Hijazi, said Thursday in Ramallah, I24 News reported.

The file to be submitted to ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is “only general, it’s only statistical,” Hijazi said. “But it certainly draws a grim picture of what Israel is doing and why we think that there are reasonable grounds … for the prosecutor to start [her] investigations.”

Also Thursday, according to the Palestinian Maan news service, another top Palestinian official, Saeb Erekat, urged the Palestinian Authority to revoke its recognition of Israel until Israel recognizes a Palestinian state. Erekat also called on the P.A. to refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and not allow Israel to maintain troops in the Jordan Valley as part of a peace deal.

According to Maan, Erekat also said that Hamas and Islamic Jihad should be allowed to join the PLO’s Executive Committee and that Palestinian leaders should do more to help Palestinians living in Lebanon and Syria.

In January, ICC prosecutors opened a preliminary inquiry into possible war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank dating to the end of June 2014, just before the start of Israel’s military operation in Gaza. The prosecutors will determine whether preliminary findings merit a full investigation into alleged atrocities and possible charges against Israeli and/or Palestinian officials.

Jordan may not extradite alleged mastermind of ’82 terror attack on Jewish restaurant

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 13:24

(JTA) — France reportedly could have a difficult time extraditing the alleged organizer of a deadly 1982 terrorist attack who was arrested in Jordan earlier this month.

An unidentified Jordanian source “close to the case” told the French news agency AFP on Thursday that his country rarely extradites its citizens, choosing instead to try them in “specialized Jordanian courts.”

Zuhair Mohamad Hassan Khalid al-Abassi, aka “Amjad Atta,” one of three suspects in the attack for whom France issued an international arrest warrant earlier this year, was arrested on June 1. The attack was under the auspices of the Abu Nidal Organization, a Palestinian terrorist group.

Abassi, 62 and of Palestinian origin, is today “an aging man who works in the construction sector,” the Jordanian source told AFP.  The source added that al-Abassi appeared in court without a lawyer and was ordered to surrender his passport before being released on bail.

According to AFP, Abassi was detained in the city of Zarqa, 18 miles northeast of Amman, the capital.

France, which also issued international arrest warrants for two other suspects in the attack, has requested that he be extradited. A total of six people are believed to have participated in the attack on the Chez Jo Goldenberg eatery in the heavily Jewish Marais neighborhood of Paris.

Six people were killed in the shootings by two gunmen who stormed the restaurant in the middle of the day and fired on customers. In addition to the six fatalities, 22 people were injured. Chez Jo Goldenberg closed in 2006.

The other two suspects are living on the West Bank and in Norway.

Reversing course, German city will host exhibit critical of IDF

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 11:20

(JTA) — The German city of Cologne has reversed course and said it will host an exhibit by an Israeli organization that accuses Israeli soldiers of mistreating Palestinians.

The city had planned to show the Breaking the Silence exhibit this fall during a week of events marking 50 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany. But the Israeli Embassy in Germany convinced Cologne last week to cancel the exhibit offering testimonies critical of Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza.

In a statement Tuesday, however, Cologne said it will show the exhibit after all as a standalone presentation in the spring. The statement said the exhibit will be presented “in an appropriate context.”

In reference to the cancellation, the statement said, “There were rising voices that warned the city of Cologne of adverse effects, especially in terms of propagating anti-Israel and anti-Semitic resentment, which looked misplaced in the anniversary year and during the celebrations.”

Israel’s ambassador to Berlin, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, told The Times of Israel on Thursday that his objections were not about the content of the exhibit but that it had “nothing to do with the 50-year anniversary of diplomatic relations.”

In an interview with a Cologne newspaper, the ambassador said he would have reacted similarly in any other country.

“Of course, especially in Germany, they could have been a bit more sensitive,” Hadas-Handelsman said.

Michael Bloomberg donates $100 million to Cornell-Technion NYC campus

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 10:13

(JTA) — Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has donated $100 million to Cornell University’s new high-tech campus co-founded with Israel’s Technion Institute in New York City.

The donation, made through Bloomberg Philanthropies, will go toward construction of the Bloomberg Center, which will house graduate academic programs in the applied sciences, according to the Cornell Daily Sun. The goal of the center on Roosevelt Island will be for students to launch companies or products.

Cornell broke ground on the building in a ceremony Tuesday. It is slated to open in 2017 and was dedicated in honor of Bloomberg’s daughters.

“New York City became the greatest city in the world because we dared to dream bigger than everyone else, and this project … is part of the tradition,” said Bloomberg, according to the Sun.

Bloomberg, who is Jewish, served as New York’s mayor from 2002 through 2013. He is the founder of Bloomberg L.P., a media and financial software company, and the 10th richest person in the United States, according to Forbes magazine.

Limmud program debuts in Chile

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 09:32

(JTA) — Some 500 people participated in the first Limmud educational experience in Chile.

Limud Chile was held in the capital of Santiago on Sunday at the Chaim Weizmann Hebrew Institute with more than 30 sessions, panels and workshops. Some 60 children also participated in programs designed for them at the daylong Jewish learning festival.

“The core volunteer team succeeded in creating a pluralistic framework which included even Jews who until now were only tenuously affiliated,” said Viviana Kremer, a Limud Buenos Aires volunteer who imported the Limmud model when she moved with her family to Santiago two years ago.

Some 85 percent of Chile’s 15,000 Jews live in Santiago. The community can trace its roots to Conversos, Jews forcibly converted to Catholicism who secretly continued to practice Judaism who accompanied the earliest explorers from Spain. The persecution of Conversos ceased when the country gained formal independence from Spain in 1818, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.

Limmud, which means learning in Hebrew, has held events in over 40 countries on six continents since its founding in Britain in 1980.

The last year has seen inaugural Limmud events in Haifa and Tel Aviv, Israel; Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Uruguay; Mar del Plata in Argentina; and Phoenix, Arizona.

Helmsley Trust gives $5.5 million to strengthen Israeli health care

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 09:24

(JTA) — The U.S.-based Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust is donating more than $5.5 million to strengthen health care in Israel.

The grants announced Thursday focus on southern Israeli communities hit hard by last summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and ongoing rocket fire.

The grants will complete a medical rehabilitation center under construction in Sderot; help build a regional medical center for the growing Halutza community in Israel’s northwest Negev region; and build an expanded, centralized national dispatch center for United Hatzalah.

“Like so many of our grants, those announced today reinforce the Trust’s commitment to helping all Israeli residents living in Israel’s periphery and in the center lead healthy lives in very challenging circumstances,” Helmsley trustee Sandor Frankel said.

Since 2009, the Helmsley Trust has committed $150 million to an array of charitable organizations for Israel-related projects including scientific research, trips to Israel and communications.

Antwerp school warns pupil’s mother to dress modestly

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 07:07

(JTA) — Management at a Belgian Jewish Orthodox school threatened to take “unpleasant steps” against a pupils’ mother because she did not dress modestly enough.

The threat came in a letter that management of the Jesode Hatora — Beth Jacob School in Antwerp recently addressed to the mother of the pupil, the Belgian Jewish weekly Joods Actueel reported. Fons Duchateau, Antwerp’s alderman in charge of diversity, criticized the state-funded school and summoned its management to provide explanations for the letter, the Gazet van Antwerpen daily reported.

“Unfortunately, there has been a weakness on your behalf in adhering to some of the above rules,” management wrote in an English-language printed letter addressed to the mother, who was not named. The letter included a dress code to which mothers of pupils attending the school were required to adhere “at all times and especially at all school activities, i.e. bringing/fetching school parties and parent-teacher meetings.”

“Further non-compliance with the school will result in unpleasant steps being taken which we want to avoid if at all possible,” management wrote to the mother in the letter, which appeared on a Facebook forum called Jesode Hatorah – Beth Jacob Watch.

Alderman Duchateau told the Gazet that she supports freedom of religion for faith communities but “tying school choices to wardrobe choices is beyond going too far.” Hilde Crevits, education minister for Flanders – the autonomous Belgian region whose capital in Antwerp – called for a review of the dress code issue in schools following the publications about the letter.

Mothers of pupils must cover their heads at all times, wear skirts or dresses that cover the knee and refrain from coming to the school without stockings, with uncovered elbows or an open-neckline blouse, management wrote in the letter.

On Monday, Jesode Hatora Principal Isi Morsel wrote another letter to parents in which he defended the earlier warning letter to the mother. Management sent it out following a petition co-signed by 180 parents who asked the school to act against a handful of parents who did not adhere to the dress code, he said.

However, the instructions on modesty only applied to school premises or activities. He also apologized to anyone offended by the manner in which the school’s request to the mother was handled.

In London, two haredi Orthodox Jewish schools are facing a government investigation because they threatened this month to expel pupils whose mothers drove them to school.