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Alleged Kansas City JCC shooter to represent himself at trial

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 12:52

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

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

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

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

Feingold announces candidacy for his former Senate seat

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 10:31

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

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

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

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

Anti-BDS bill passes Illinois House committee, Senate

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 10:28

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natalie Portman to portray Jackie Kennedy in new film

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 08:36

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 07:02

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shabbat-observant student to pre-record Saturday commencement speech

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 06:28

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belda Lindenbaum, who worked to advance Orthodox women, dies

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 06:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

Palestinian injures four Israelis in West Bank car-ramming attack

Thu, 05/14/2015 - 00:53

Israeli security inspect the vehicle of a Palestinian attacker who drove over Israelis near Alon Shvut, Gush Etzion, on May 14, 2015. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Palestinian from Hebron confessed to intentionally ramming his car into a group of people at a West Bank bus stop on Thursday, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said.

Four Israelis were wounded, one seriously, in the incident, which took place near the Alon Shvut settlement in the Gush Etzion bloc of the West Bank. The Shin Bet identified the driver as Muhammed Arfaaya, 22, of Hebron, and confirmed that the attack was terrorist in nature. The vehicle Arfaaya was driving was a stolen vehicle with Israeli license plates. According to the Shin Bet, Arfaaya was released from prison a year ago after being jailed for throwing stones and carrying a weapon.

The four victims range in age from 16 to 25. Two are reported to be high school students and one a student at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shvut, Ynet reported.

The attack occurred near the junction where last November an Israeli woman, Dalia Lemkus, was stabbed to death and a Palestinian man drove his vehicle into three soldiers waiting for rides. Other vehicular and stabbing attacks have occurred in the area. It also is the same junction where last June three Israeli teens were abducted and later murdered.

There have been a series of vehicular attacks on Israelis by Palestinian drivers in the Jerusalem area in recent months.

Investigation into politician’s suicide finds no anti-Semitic smear campaign

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 16:18

(JTA) — Investigators found no evidence of an anti-Semitic smear campaign against a Missouri gubernatorial candidate who committed suicide.

Tom Schweich, the state auditor, shot himself in the head on Feb. 26 shortly after telling journalists that a fellow party member was leading a whisper campaign saying he was Jewish. Schweich, who attended an Episcopal church, reportedly had a Jewish grandfather.

Police Detective Lt. Don Bass told the St. Louis Dispatch on Wednesday that the case is now closed and that Schweich’s work computers in St. Louis and Jefferson City contained “nothing related to a suicide note, malfeasance in the Auditor’s office, or . . . anything of evidentiary value.”

Missouri GOP Chairman John Hancock has denied Schweich’s charges of anti-Semitism against him.

In March, at a memorial service for Schweich, former U.S. Senator John Danforth called the alleged anti-Semitism “worse than anything in my memory.”

Jewish naval student among 7 dead in Amtrak derailment

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 15:54

Justin Zemser with his mother, Susan, in a photo posted on her Facebook page in November 2014. (Facebook)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Justin Zemser, a Jewish sophomore at the U.S. Naval Academy who aspired to become a Navy SEAL, was one of seven people killed when an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia Tuesday night.

Zemser, 20, who was vice president of the academy’s Jewish Midshipmen Club and a wide receiver of the school’s sprint football team, was on his way home to the Far Rockaway section of Queens when the train derailed.

“I would say to Justin, ‘I hope I live long enough to see you become the first Jewish American president,’ and we would laugh about it,” Zemser’s uncle, Richard Zemser, said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “The more I thought about it, I meant it. This was a kid who was destined for phenomenal things.”

“He was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful,” Zemser’s mother, Susan Zemser, told reporters Wednesday outside her home, NBC News reported. “Everybody looked up to my son and there are just no other words I could say.”

The Amtrak accident was not the first disaster Zemser, an only child, had experienced firsthand. Hurricane Sandy damaged his school in 2012, when he was a high school senior, the Daily News reported.

The family released a statement mourning “a loving son, nephew and cousin who was very community-minded” and saying his death “has shocked us all in the worst way.”

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus called Zemser a “crucial member” of the institution, according to NBC News.

Rachel Jacobs, another Jewish passenger on the New York-bound train, is still missing. Her mother, Gilda Jacobs, is a former Michigan state senator.

Officer who beat Ethiopian-Israeli soldier fired from police force

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 15:16

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli police officer who was caught on video beating an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier was fired.

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino made the announcement Wednesday at Netanya Academic College, the Hebrew-language Ynet news website reported.

The dismissal comes two days after a dismissal hearing with police officials.

“He had a lot of arguments, and we had an in-depth discussion on this issue, along with the legal counsel, the discipline department, the attorney general and head of human resources. After the hearing, everyone decided that he should be dismissed from the police,” Danino said.

It is not known what will happen to a second police officer seen in the video, Ynet reported.

The beating was one of the catalysts for Ethiopian-Israeli protests against police brutality and racism that turned violent in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Ethiopian-Israeli activists had called for the officer’s dismissal. The activists also called for the release without charges of the activists arrested last week in Tel Aviv, a demand that Danino rejected.

Ethiopian-Israeli activists will hold another rally in Tel Aviv against racism and police brutality on Monday afternoon, Ynet reported. On Monday night, several hundred activists held a peaceful rally in Haifa.

“We are a brave generation, members of the Ethiopian community, we are demanding justice for our community and we will not rest until we receive it,” activists wrote on social networks, according to Ynet. The activists called on “every person who believes in equal rights and justice” to attend the Tel Aviv rally.

Northwestern student files complaint over mock West Bank checkpoint demo

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 15:02

(JTA) — A Northwestern University student filed a harassment complaint over a campus demonstration that attempted to simulate Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank.

As part of their “Israeli Apartheid Week,” Northwestern’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter staged an event featuring demonstrators in camouflage mean to represent the Israel Defense Forces scrutinizing students on their knees meant to represent Palestinians, according to the Daily Northwestern.

An unnamed male sophomore undergraduate filed a harassment and verbal assault complaint for the event’s “bias against race and religion,” the Daily Northwestern reported.

The male student videotaped part of the event as an observer. After refusing a pamphlet from one of the event’s participants, he said that he was going to send the video to his friend in the IDF.

In response, one demonstrator said “You’re sending it to killers, great.”

The pro-Palestinian student group collaborated with MECha de Northwestern, the school’s Mexican students organization, to draw what the organizations see as parallels between how Mexican immigrants are treated on the United States’ borders and how Palestinians are treated on Israel’s borders.

“Not only did we intend to show the suffering that occurs, but we also intended to show the intersections of the two struggles,” senior and SJP member Imtisal Khokher told the Daily Northwestern. “Both peoples are subject to the same surveillance, the same racial profiling both here and in the state of Israel.”

Vatican to recognize Palestinian statehood in completed treaty

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 12:40

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Vatican will officially recognize Palestinian statehood in an agreed-upon treaty.

The recognition came Wednesday in an announcement that the Vatican had finalized a treaty with the state of Palestine. Previously, the Vatican conducted its diplomatic relations through the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The treaty must still be approved by officials on both sides and then signed, according to a joint statement posted on the Vatican’s website.

The treaty discusses the Vatican’s interests in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, including churches in the territories, taxes on church charities, and cultural and diplomatic issues, the New York Times reported, citing Hanna Amireh, head of a Palestinian committee on church affairs, and a member of the PLO’s executive committee.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon told the Times of Israel, “We’re disappointed by the decision taken by the Holy See. We believe that such a decision is not conducive to bringing the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.”

“Israel will study the agreement and consider its next steps accordingly,” said a statement issued by the ministry.

During his tenure Pope Francis has indicated his desire for the establishment of a Palestinian state. He visited Israel and Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank in 2014, and later hosted the presidents of Israel and the Palestinian Authority at the Vatican, where they held a prayer for peace.


Belgian groups condemn airing of video featuring anti-Israel guide at Auschwitz

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 11:27

(JTA) — Belgian anti-racism groups condemned a public broadcaster’s airing of a video showing a guide at Auschwitz telling visiting youths that she is pro-Palestinian and anti-Semitic because of Israel.

The video was aired by the Flemish VRT network on May 8 as part of the program Terzake. It was about a trip organized by the “Trein der 1000” nongovernmental group for 1,000 teenagers from Belgium to the former Nazi death camp in Poland. The program is meant to teach adolescents about the Holocaust in order to educate them about the dangers of racism.

At the camp, the group’s Jewish guide, Lydia Chagoll, 84, is seen saying: “I am pro-Palestinian. I’m anti-Semitic.” Chagoll made the statement while talking to 18-year-old Fida’a Temraz, a Belgian high school student of Palestinian descent, and several other students. Referencing Israel, Chagoll added: “I am an anti-Semite, because I think it is a scandal that cannot be permitted. It cannot happen.”

In a statement, the Flemish Forum of Jewish Organizations wrote that Chagoll’s statement about being anti-Semitic was probably sarcastic, but that because of her actions, “an activity meant to be educational turned into a disgusting and historically incorrect statement.”

Termaz said in an interview for VRT: “The situation now in Palestine, the occupation and the Holocaust, and Jewry, all is interconnected.”  She added: “Hadn’t they [Jews] experienced it, I would have never come to Belgium, I would have been born and raised in Palestine.”

Chagoll, an artist and writer, spent World War II in the Far East, in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, after her Dutch parents fled Nazi-occupied Holland to what is today Indonesia, according to a biography of Chagoll offered by a publisher of one of her books.

But in Auschwitz, she described to the group how the smell of burning flesh at Auschwitz “penetrated everything, the wood and the walls, it’s something you can’t forget.” She also told the group that Jews were stripped naked and gunned down en masse at the camp – a claim disputed by Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who told JTA there were only sporadic shootings at Auschwitz.

Joel Rubinfeld, president of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, told JTA “the trip meant to inoculate teens against anti-Semitism ended up possibly infecting them with it.” He added that his group was looking into initiating legal or disciplinary action against VRT for airing the item.

Neither VRT nor the trip organizers were available for comment.

U.S. citizens in Israel warned ahead of Nakba Day

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 11:01

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The United States’ diplomatic missions in Israel have called on U.S. citizens to exercise caution due to demonstrations and violence associated with Nakba Day.

Nakba Day is observed on May 15, the Gregorian anniversary of Israel’s Independence Day in 1948. The Palestinians, and Arabs throughout the Middle East, observe the Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe,” with marches and protests.

The warnings issued on Wednesday by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem call on U.S. citizens to be cautious on May 15, and the days preceding that date, It also warns of traffic congestion and road closures in Jerusalem for the Muslim holiday of the Isra and Miraj on May 16 and for Jerusalem Day on May 17.

According to the warning, on Nakba Day there “may be a significantly higher level of Israeli National Police patrolling around Jerusalem, especially following afternoon prayers. In the past, demonstrations or clashes have occurred in multiple areas such as the Qalandiya Checkpoint, Damascus Gate, Bethlehem, and Ramallah City Center, as well as other checkpoints and refugee camps.”

The warning reminds U.S. citizens in Israel to “be aware of your surroundings at all times, monitor the media, and avoid demonstrations and other crowds as events can turn violent without warning. We further advise you to follow police instructions and avoid areas of heavy police presence.”

Canadian government denies it will criminalize boycotts of Israel

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 08:59

TORONTO (JTA) — The Canadian government has denied a report that it is considering criminalizing boycotts of Israel.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp’s website earlier this week posted a story saying Ottawa “is signaling its intention to use hate crime laws against Canadian advocacy groups that encourage boycotts of Israel,” saying such a move “could target a range of civil society organizations.”

The report came after CBC reporter Neil Macdonald asked the government what it meant by earlier statements that it would show “zero tolerance” for those who promote boycotts of Israel.

In a speech at the United Nations in January, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney stated Canada has a “zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination, including in rhetoric towards Israel, and attempts to delegitimize Israel such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”

Macdonald received a reply from Blaney’s office saying Canada “has the most comprehensive sets of laws against hate crime anywhere in the world,” and that the country “will not allow hate crimes to undermine our way of life, which is based on diversity and inclusion.”

Macdonald claimed the response implied that the government could launch criminal actions under its hate crimes provisions against pro-BDS religious groups such as the United Church of Canada and the Canadian Quakers, as well as campus and community organizations, labor unions, and others who promote BDS.

Blaney’s office denounced the story as “inaccurate and ridiculous,” adding, “these laws have been on the books for many years and have not changed. We won’t dignify this bizarre conspiracy theory with further comment.”

Honest Reporting, a media monitoring group, wrote that Macdonald’s “animus against Israel is well-known.”

European leaders call on E.U. to broker Israel-Palestinian negotiations

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 08:48

(JTA) — A group of former European diplomats and political leaders has called on the European Union to “construct a coherent and effective policy on the question of Palestine.”

The call by the group, which calls itself the European Eminent Persons Group, came in a letter sent this week to E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, London’s The Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday. The newspaper also published the letter.

The European Eminent Persons Group is made up of former prime ministers, foreign ministers and ambassadors, many of whom signed the letter.

According to the letter, the call was spurred by the reelection of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his formation of a new, right-wing government.

The letter says that the group believes that Netanyahu has “little intention of negotiating seriously for a two-state solution” during his new government’s term, and that the group has “low confidence” in the United States government “to take a lead on fresh negotiations with the vigor and the impartiality that a two-state outcome demands.”

The group remains committed to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, according to the letter.

“The absence of any credible negotiation process, combined with the desperate condition of the Occupied Territories, the eroding international legitimacy of the Israeli approach and the instability of the wider region, requires a fresh examination of E.U. policy,” the letter said, citing the reluctance of the E.U. and its member states’  “to get out in front of the United States in an area where Washington has always insisted on prime ownership.”

The letter calls on the E.U. to support a United Nations Security Council resolution recognizing a Palestinian state; preparing a new approach to negotiations such as the Arab Peace Initiative; encouraging Palestinian reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, and other Islamic groups; calling for an end to end to West Bank settlement expansion; and labeling goods for sale in E.U. countries that were produced in Jewish settlements.


Bill to add government ministers narrowly passed by Israel’s Knesset

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 08:16

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Knesset bill to expand the number of Israeli government ministers from its current limit of 18 was approved by lawmakers on its third reading.

The second and third readings were held Wednesday afternoon in the Knesset plenum. The bill passed by a vote of 61-59, with all 61 members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new coalition voting in favor and all members of the opposition voting against.

The proposal, an amendment to the Basic Law, overturns a law passed during the last Knesset term limiting the number of Cabinet ministers and deputy ministers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly plans to increase the cabinet by two ministers and four deputy ministers, in order to satisfy his coalition partners and members of his own Likud Party.

Netanyahu reportedly plans to swear in the new government on Thursday, after parceling out the ministerial positions in meetings over Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.


Boston rabbi indicted for embezzling funds to pay blackmailer

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 07:00

(JTA) — A prominent Boston rabbi was indicted for embezzlement and larceny for stealing money from his temple to pay off a man who was blackmailing him for his affair with a teenage male.

The indictment of Rabbi Barry Starr, who resigned a year ago from Temple Israel, a Conservative synagogue in Sharon, Massachusetts, was unsealed on Tuesday in Norfolk Superior Court, the Boston Globe reported.

Starr was not in the courtroom to hear the indictment and reportedly no longer lives in the Boston area. He will be summoned to the court for an arraignment, according to the newspaper.

Also on Tuesday in the same court, Nicholas Zemeitus, 30, pleaded not guilty to seven counts of larceny over $250, two counts of receiving stolen property over $250, one count of larceny under $250, and one count of extortion, the Boston Globe reported, citing the office of Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey.

Zemeitus, of suburban Boston, was arrested and charged on Monday, the Boston Globe reported. He had threatened to expose the affair between Starr and the teen unless he was paid by Starr.

Starr, 65, allegedly paid nearly half a million dollars — taken from synagogue funds and borrowed from his congregants — to hide his two-year affair with the 16-year-old. Much of the money came from the rabbi’s discretionary fund, including checks altered by the rabbi. Starr also borrowed thousands of dollars from an elderly congregant, a Holocaust survivor.

Zemeitus claimed to be the older brother of the teen, who was 18 when the affair ended.

No evidence has been presented that Starr had a relationship with a teenage boy, the Globe reported, citing court documents made available Tuesday.

Zemeitus said he met the rabbi on Craigslist, according to the Globe, citing court documents. He met Starr at his home after an exchange of emails.

It is still unclear if Zemeitus is related to the teen, though he claimed to have copies of emails exchanged between the rabbi and the teen, as well as photographs of them together. The affair started three years ago and ended about a year ago.

Starr, a married father of two, is credited with expanding the congregation he served for 28 years to over 600 families. He has served on the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Theological Seminary and as president of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, as well as the region’s Rabbinical Assembly.


ICC prosecutor: Waiting for Israel to provide information on Gaza operation

Wed, 05/13/2015 - 05:28

JERUSALEM (JTA) — If Israel does not provide information on last summer’s Gaza operation, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court will base her decision to launch a full investigation solely on Palestinian claims.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told The Associated Press Tuesday that she has not yet received information from either side, but expects to receive data from the Palestinians.

Israel has said it will not cooperate with an investigation by the ICC of its Operation Protective Edge. The Palestinians officially joined the ICC in April, with plans to ask the court to prosecute Israel for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In January, ICC prosecutors opened a preliminary inquiry into possible war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank dating to the end of June, just before the start of Israel’s 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.

The preliminary investigation could take months or years.