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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 

December 1, 2017



Uber in Israel ordered to shut down ride-sharing service

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Uber must halt its ride-sharing service in Israel, a Tel Aviv judge ordered.

The ruling Monday gave the UberDay and UberNight service until Wednesday morning to shut down because the drivers were not insured properly. The drivers are not licensed to drive a taxi.

The Uber taxi service, which is properly licensed and insured in Israel, can continue to operate, however.

Israeli cab drivers had sued Uber, as did Gett, a taxi service previously known as GetTaxi.

Uber has operated in Israel for about a year. It is available in about 600 cities worldwide.

In another case pending against Uber in Israel, the Transportation Ministry has sued the company in a Tel Aviv court for allegedly charging to take passengers without a taxi license.

Conservative movement launches hotline for reporting sexual impropriety

(JTA)—The Conservative movement has launched a hotline for reporting sexual impropriety in response to an allegation by a former member of its youth movement that he was inappropriately touched by a staff member.

Last week, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism launched an investigation into the allegation made by the former United Synagogue Youth member, who in a Facebook post named a male former senior staff member in the 1980s as the perpetrator.

On Monday, the Conservative umbrella group launched a confidential phone hotline as well as an email address for reporting sexual assault or harassment.

“At this moment we have a very serious allegation, and we thought it was necessary to be public that that allegation has been made and to invite people that may have been victimized to contact us to so we can gather more information and determine next steps,” the United Synagogue’s CEO, Rabbi Steven Wernick, told JTA on Monday.

Wernick said United Synagogue attempted to contact the former USY member several times to learn more about the claim but he did not respond. A public Facebook post did not name the alleged abuser; the accused was named in a closed group.

The alleged abuser was “a long-standing member of our staff for whom we’ve had no previous anything to question his integrity or service,” Wernick said, adding that the man no longer works for USY in a full-time capacity.

Wernick said contract work the man was doing for the organization was suspended upon the investigation’s launch.

In 2011, United Synagogue instituted a series of policies, procedures and training for its staff in regard to sexual harassment and child protective issues.

“This is unfortunately something that does occur within the Jewish community, and we’ve been very persistent in the way in which we’ve responded to it,” said Wernick, who has headed United Synagogue since 2009.

During his tenure, he said, United Synagogue has probed two allegations of inappropriate behavior. They include allegations made against Sheldon Mitchell, a Jewish youth and USY leader in the Bay Area who was accused posthumously of molesting boys in the 1960s and ’70s, and against another USY volunteer who was accused of having acted inappropriately in the ’90s.

United Synagogue was unable to substantiate any allegations against Mitchell in USY programs, but the organization did sever its relationship with the second volunteer after finding the allegation credible.

“We are committed to be a place of Jewish values and a safe space for everybody in our charge, and this response to this allegation is demonstrative of that commitment” Wernick said.

NCSY, the youth group sponsored by the Orthodox Union, put in place a set of policies relating to sexual impropriety in 2001, a year after The New York Jewish Week reported that NCSY’s director of regions, Rabbi Baruch Lanner, had sexually abused more than a dozen youth group participants. Lanner was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2002 and released on parole in 2008.

“Since then we’ve maintained a high level of standards, policies, procedures,” said Keevy Fried, NCSY’s associate international director, adding that “the safety and security of our participants is our No. 1 priority.”

NFTY, the Reform youth movement, handles allegations of sexual harassment or assault on a case-by-case basis, said its managing director, Beth Rodin.

“We don’t have a specific set of policies except that we respond to everything in partnership with the community affected, in partnership with the family affected,” Rodin said. “Every situation is so nuanced, but our bottom line policy is that we don’t allow this to be part of our community.”

The launch of USCJ’s hotline comes amid a flood of allegations that have rattled the worlds of entertainment, politics and the media since last month after dozens of women alleged that Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed and in some cases assaulted them.

To reach the USCJ hotline, call (212) 533-7813, or send an email to confidential@uscj.org.

Al Franken says he is returning to Senate despite feeling ashamed

(JTA)—Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota told the local media he would not resign from the Senate, despite being ashamed of sexual harassment allegations against him.

Franken, a Democrat, said he would return to work in Washington on Monday after the weeklong Thanksgiving recess and pledged to fight the proposed Republican tax bill.

“I’m going to do my job and I’m going to go forward,” he told Minnesota Public Radio. “I’m going to take responsibility. I’m going to be held accountable and I’m going to try to be productive in the way I speak about this.

“The Ethics Committee is looking into all of this and I will cooperate fully with it. I know I have a lot of work to do to regain the trust of people I’ve let down.”

Franken has apologized to the women who have accused him. He told the local media that he wants to be a “better man.”

Last week, a 33-year-old woman, Lindsay Menz, accused Franken of grabbing her buttocks while they took a photo together at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. In a statement to CNN, Franken said he did not remember taking the photo with Menz and that he felt “badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected.”

Earlier, a Los Angeles-based news anchor and former model, Leann Tweeden, said that Franken groped her during a 2006 tour to entertain U.S. troops in the Middle East and forcibly kissed her. Franken was a comedian and a writer at the time; he has served as a senator since 2009. Franken apologized to Tweeden.

On Thursday, two other women accused Franken of touching their buttocks while taking photos during campaign events in Minneapolis in 2007 and 2008, the lawmaker’s first campaign for the Senate. Franken told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he has posed for tens of thousands of photos over the years and does not remember intentionally touching women inappropriately while taking the photos.

He told the newspaper that has spent the past week “thinking about how that could happen and I just recognize that I need to be more careful and a lot more sensitive in these situations.”

Chabad sued for allegedly infiltrating Conservative synagogue

(JTA)—Congregants at a Conservative synagogue in suburban Boston are suing the local Chabad, alleging that its members infiltrated their leadership in a bid to take control of the synagogue and its assets.

The case filed by members of Temple Adath Sharon in Sharon, Massachusetts, will be heard Monday in Norfolk County Superior Court, The Jewish Advocate weekly in Boston reported.

The lawsuit, which was filed in November 2015, accuses Chabad of Sharon of “encouraging its members” and “actively participating” to “take over Adath Sharon’s board and to transfer Adath Sharon’s assets to Chabad,” according to The Advocate. The plaintiffs claim the local Chabad “is experiencing serious financial troubles and seeks to convert Adath Sharon’s assets to rectify its financial situation.”

Chabad of Sharon has denied the allegations, The Advocate reported.

According to the lawsuit, nine of the Conservative synagogue’s board members and officials were elected illegitimately at an April 2015 membership meeting. The plaintiffs say the members are affiliated with Chabad and “ran for office for the purpose of depriving Adath Sharon’s true members of their voting rights and transferring control and the assets of Adath Sharon to Chabad.”

They also claim the meeting was not properly announced to the membership and proxy voting was not made available to all the members.

Among the officers the lawsuit says are illegitimate are Chabad Rabbi Chaim Wolosow, who was elected vice president; his daughter, Chana Minkowitz, who was elected secretary and treasurer; and his son-in-law, Rabbi Naftoli Minkowitz, who was elected president.

Wolosow resigned as head of the congregation after the lawsuit was filed, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also says that Dr. Jordan Leff was elected illegitimately as Adath Sharon president in 2008, and that in a November 2014 membership meeting, he and another synagogue officer “announced that the purported board of directors had voted to donate Adath Sharon, its building and all of its assets to Chabad.”

The plaintiffs value the synagogue building at $1 million. They are asking the court to order a membership meeting and the repayment of their legal fees by Chabad, and to prevent the defendants from giving away Adath Sharon’s assets.

Chabad-Lubavitch is a Hasidic Orthodox Jewish movement with outposts around the world, including remote towns, college campuses and major metropolitan areas. Its followers in those congregations are not necessarily Hasidic or Orthodox.

Jewish wrestler calls out colleague for dressing as Hasid

(JTA)—A Jewish professional wrestler has called out a non-Jewish colleague who dresses as a Hasidic Jew for his matches, saying it is “the equivalent of black face.”

David Starr, whose given name is Max Barsky, in a post on Facebook complained about Mathias Glass, who calls himself “The Most Jewish Man Alive.”

Glass dresses in an oversized fur hat called a shtreiml and a black suit with the fringes of his tzitzit hanging out. He has sidecurls, or payos, and often breaks into Hasidic dancing.

“I want everyone to know that Mathias Glass is not Jewish,” Starr wrote Thursday on Facebook. “The stereotype driven character he portrays is offensive and distasteful. It is the equivalent of black face. Imagine me painting my face black and acting as a black character that was completely stereotypically driven. How would you react? How would the public react?”

Starr, 26, said he has messaged Glass previously about his gimmick, and knows other Jews in wrestling who have urged him to stop.

“Prior to finding out that he wasn’t Jewish, I thought the schtick was entertaining,” Starr also wrote. “I don’t necessarily like stereotype driven gimmicks in general, but this was clearly a self deprecating (at least I thought it self deprecating) comedic style. I am not a no fun sensitive snowflake type. I can make fun of myself and my people, but someone from outside the community has no right.”

Reaction to Starr’s post was mixed, with some agreeing that it is offensive and others calling on the wrestler to lighten up. Others pointed out that wrestling has always been about exaggerated and offensive stereotypes.

On Friday, Starr posted: “I guess black face in wrestling would be ok. Good to know. Sad state of affairs we are in. My faith in humanity has been pretty much torn to bits.”

He later posted a photo of himself flashing his middle finger with the message “hashtagUnapologetic.”

Glass on Friday said in a tweet: “Wrestling is real and I’m Jewish. Oy.”

Wrestling is real and I’m Jewish.

Oy.

— Mathias Glass (@HasidicOutlaw) November 24, 2017

He also retweeted many messages of support from both fans and competitors.

“I find myself pulling back on some of the stereotypical stuff... but to the chagrin of many many Jewish fans, friends, and fellow wrestlers. I’m constantly evolving, constantly learning, and always willing to listen to constructive criticism,” he tweeted Sunday.

On Monday, Starr tweeted that he stood by his statements.

Colombia expels Israeli accused of running illegal sex tourism

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA)—Colombia has expelled an Israeli national accused of running an illegal tourism network that offered trips with drugs and underage prostitutes.

Assi Ben-Mosh, 43, was put on a plane Sunday that was scheduled to stop in Spain on its way to Israel. He is banned from returning to Colombia for 10 years.

The drugs and prostitutes were among other alleged criminal activities, the Colombian TV news channel Caracol reported Saturday.

Ben-Mosh, who has lived in the fishing village of Taganga for a decade, was known for throwing wild parties, many of which were raided by police for disrupting public order. He moved to the South American country after finishing his mandatory military service in Israel.

His arrest and expulsion was “a relief” because “authorities were for many years complacent,” an unnamed witnesses told El Heraldo newspaper. The newspaper could not find anyone willing to be named for the article, saying they feared for their lives

According to El Heraldo, locals called Ben-Mosh’s Hotel Benjamin resort in Taganga a “bunker” that allowed only Israelis.

In 2010, police recovered 715 pounds of cocaine that had been hidden in a cove near Taganga. The drugs, which were believed to have been the property of Ben Mosh’s gang, were valued at $8 million, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Ben-Mosh also has been arrested in The Netherlands for international drug smuggling and been connected to the imprisonment of other Israelis worldwide. He is alleged to have started his illegal enterprise on the streets of Tokyo, where he sold jewelry and other goods stolen from tourists, according to the Post.

Palestinians’ Washington office can remain open, but only for peace activities

(JTA)—The Trump administration will allow the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, D.C., to remain open but will require it to “limit its activities to those related to achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

The State Department announced the decision Friday, saying the restrictions could be lifted after 90 days if the United States determines the Israelis and Palestinians are engaged in “meaningful” peace negotiations.

“We therefore are optimistic that at the end of this 90-day period, the political process may be sufficiently advanced that the president will be in a position to allow the PLO office to resume full operations,” State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said.

Earlier this month, the administration announced that the PLO cannot operate a Washington office because it tried to convince the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israelis for crimes against Palestinians. It was the first time since the 1980s that the the State Department refused to renew certification of the PLO’s office in the U.S. capital, which must be done every since months.

The Trump administration is working on a U.S. plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace in an effort led by the president’s Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner, a senior White House advisor, and special negotiator Jason Greenblatt.

Landowner asks Polish town to remove monument to Jews killed by Nazis

WARSAW, Poland (JTA)—A landowner has asked officials of a small town in southern Poland to remove a monument commemorating seven Jews murdered at the site during World War II.

The mayor of Chrzanow informed the Jewish community in nearby Katowice about the request. It is believed the owner wants to sell or lease the land.

Members of the Chrzanow Town Council are discussing how to commemorate the murders should the monument be removed, including asking whoever builds on the land to include a memorial plaque on any new structure.

“Poles also have their memorial places abroad and are fighting for them like lions,” Councilman Kamil Bogusz said in an interview with the weekly Przełom weekly. “Therefore, we should respect such places in our area. People who died there were also Polish people”

Bogusz, 29, has researched Chrzanow’s former Jewish community.

In 1942, the Germans killed the Jews at the memorial site as punishment for illegal bread baking.

 

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