Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA
Uri Geller was CIA spy, documentary claims
JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Israeli magician and psychic Uri Geller worked as a CIA spy, according to a new documentary.
“The Secret Life of Uri Geller-Psychic Spy,” by Vikram Jayanti, says Geller used his powers against Russia, including erasing Soviet floppy discs and changing the mind of an unnamed Russian leader in order to convince him to sign a nuclear arms reduction treaty, The Independent reported.
Geller admits in the film that his CIA handlers asked him to use telepathy to stop a pig’s heart from beating, but he refused out of concern that he would be asked to do the same to a human, according to reports.
“When Jimmy Carter was elected President, one of the first things he did was to have Uri Geller give him a four-hour briefing on the Soviet psychic threat,” Jayanti told the Independent. “America didn’t want a psychic gap, and Uri was the go-to guy about these things.
“Sometimes you wonder whether Uri’s entire public career has actually been a front for his shadow world activities.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears in the film talking about his many years of friendship with Geller, who served in the Six-Day War and says he killed a Jordanian soldier to save his own life.
Geller said he used his psychic powers to help Moshe Dayan search for archeological artifacts to add to his collection.
The film was screened at the Sheffield DocFest last week and will appear on BBC2 this summer.
Tel Aviv gay activist suspected of molestation that triggered 2009 homicides
(JTA)—A Tel Aviv court placed a gay rights activist under house arrest on suspicion that he molested a minor—an act that is believed to have triggered a 2009 double homicide at a gay community center.
According to Maariv, gay rights activist Shaul Ganon, 49, was released from jail last Friday and confined to his home. The transfer took place just over a week after police placed him in custody on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor.
Police believe that a relative of the minor, Haggai Felician, killed two people and wounded another in 2009 at the Bar Noar gay community center in Tel Aviv founded by Ganon as revenge for the alleged molestation. Felician was arrested, along with two alleged accomplices, on June 5.
In statements to Israeli media, Ganon has denied the molestation charges. But according to Israel Radio, he admitted to having sexual contact with a 15-year-old in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
Tel Aviv police are investigating another sex crime allegation against Ganon by a woman who said the activist tried to rape her 10 years ago, before she underwent gender reassignment surgery.
Kozak, world’s oldest Jewish person, dies at 113
(JTA)—Evelyn Kozak, the world’s oldest Jewish person, died in New York at the age of 113.
Kozak, who was also the world’s seventh oldest person, died last week, a day after having a heart attack. She would have been 114 in August.
She was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City in 1899, one of nine children in a family that had left Russia in the 1880s to escape the anti-Semitic pogroms. Kozak was Sabbath observant and kept kosher.
A widow since 1957, Kozak outlived two husbands. She had five children, 10 grandchildren, 28 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild, according to The Associated Press.
Italian Righteous Gentile killed for saving Jews is beatified
ROME (JTA)—An Italian Catholic activist and journalist who was declared a Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem was put on the road to sainthood.
Odoardo Focherini was beatified—the step before sainthood—at a ceremony Saturday in his hometown of Carpi, near Modena, in northern Italy.
Declared a martyr by the Roman Catholic Church, Focherini is believed to be the first Righteous Gentile, and the first person to be killed for saving Jews, to be beatified.
Focherini saved about 100 Jews during World War II by establishing a rescue network and arranging false papers to help them flee to Switzerland. He was arrested in March 1944 and sent to a series of Nazi camps. He died at the camp at Hersbruck, Germany, in December 1944 at the age of 37.
Yad Vashem recognized him and a parish priest who helped him as Righteous Among the Nations in 1969.
Despite condemnation, Milan hosts neo-Nazi bands
ROME (JTA)—Hundreds of far-right extremists from several countries converged on Milan for a concert by skinhead and neo-Nazi bands.
Milan’s mayor and other political figures in the city and in Italy had condemned the event, which was held Saturday night.
Video and photos on the website of the La Repubblica newspaper showed youths with tattoos and shaven heads and wearing black T-shirts with skinhead and neo-Nazi slogans and logos gathered on the street.
Police patrolled the neighborhood, but reporters and photographers were barred from the venue in an outlying district of the city.
European Parliament honors Polish Jewish leader
WARSAW, Poland (JTA)—Alicja Kobus, the president of the Jewish Community of Poznan, was recognized by the European Parliament with its annual European Citizens’ Prize.
The prize has been given out since 2008 for promoting mutual understanding and closer cooperation of European citizens.
Kobus is a social activist who works for dialogue, tolerance and cooperation among ethnic and religious groups. She also promotes Jewish culture in Poland, as well as Polish and European culture in Israel, and each year organizes a Jewish festival in Poznan.
House passes bill making it U.S. policy to help Israel ‘remove threats’
WASHINGTON (JTA) – The U.S. House of Representatives passed a defense authorization bill that would make it U.S. policy to take “all necessary steps” to ensure Israel is able to “remove existential threats,” among them nuclear facilities in Iran.
“It is the policy of the United States to take all necessary steps to ensure that Israel possesses and maintains an independent capability to remove existential threats to its security and defend its vital national interests,” said the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act passed last Friday.
The amendment, initiated by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) and first reported by Americans for Peace Now weekly legislative roundup, would require the president to report every 90 days on how the policy is being implemented.
That report would identify “all aerial refueling platforms, bunker-buster munitions, and other capabilities and maintenance by Israel of a robust independent capability to remove existential security threats, including nuclear and ballistic missile facilities in Iran, and defend its vital national interests.”
The language must survive the reconciliation process with the Senate and then be signed by the president in order to become law.
The amendment is similar to a non-binding resolution passed last month in the Senate that urged the president to provide “diplomatic, military, and economic support” to Israel should it be “compelled” to strike Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.
The House version of the defense authorization act already included a number of Israel-related measures, including tripling Obama’s request for missile defense cooperation funding from $96 million to $284 million.
The entire act passed last Friday in a 315-108 vote. Roskam’s amendment passed by voice vote.
Canadian Jewish News to keep printing, board says
TORONTO (JTA)—The Canadian Jewish News will keep publishing in print, the paper’s board announced.
The paper’s president, Donald Carr, announced last Friday that the board of directors “is happy to confirm that the print newspaper will continue.”
In late April, Canadian Jewry’s flagship paper announced that it would cease publication after 53 years, citing revenue shortfalls. The June 20 issue was to have been its last.
The paper’s offices will move to a new location in Toronto this summer, Carr said. “That, combined with other adjustments we need to make to our operations, dictate that we pause after the current issue and resume publishing with the Aug. 1 edition,” he said.
Suspected SS officer found in Minnesota
(JTA)—A man suspected of being a Ukrainian Nazi with links to murders during the Warsaw Uprising has been living in Minnesota for more than 50 years.
The Associated Press reported last Friday that Michael Karkoc, 94, entered the United States in 1949 after lying to immigration authorities that he had performed no military service during World War II. Karkoc was seeking to conceal his role as an officer and founding member of the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defence Legion and later as an officer in the SS Galician Division.
Nazi SS files say he and his unit were involved in suppressing the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, in which the Nazis brutally suppressed a rebellion against the German occupation, AP reported. The 1944 uprising is distinct from the 1943 ghetto uprising in the same city, which was mostly Jewish.
AP said Karcok’s Nazi past was documented in records it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request and that Karkoc now lives in a modest house in northeast Minneapolis. Even at his advanced age, he came to the door without help of a cane or a walker. He would not comment on his wartime service for Nazi Germany.
Statements from men in his unit and other documentation confirm the Ukrainian company he commanded massacred civilians in Ukraine, AP reported, and suggest that Karkoc was at the scene of these atrocities as the company leader.
Florida inmate makes second request for prison brit
(JTA)—An inmate in a Florida prison made a second request to be ritually circumcised.
Pablo Manuel Diaz, 37, in a letter to the Florida Department of Corrections asked for permission to have a brit in the infirmary of the Blackwater Correctional Facility in Milton performed by a mohel, or ritual circumciser, the Florida Sun Sentinel reported June 12.
Diaz, who is serving a life sentence, has a Jewish mother and has been active in the Jewish prison ministry, according to the newspaper.
Following complaints from Jewish students, FAU launches diversity website
WASHINGTON (JTA)—Florida Atlantic University launched a website promoting diversity following complaints from Jewish groups about activities on campus by a pro-Palestinian group.
The website features a video on which faculty and students describe the Boca Raton school as diverse and open to students of all faiths.
According to the Sun Sentinel newspaper, the video was created after meetings between the university leadership and the Florida chapter of the Anti-Defamation League.
Students for Justice in Palestine last year sent 200 students eviction notices bearing the university’s official stamp as a means of calling attention to what it said are Israel’s policies toward Palestinians.