Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Hundreds of Jewish markings catalogued in Portuguese town

(JTA)—Portuguese researchers have catalogued hundreds of secret markings that Jews left on structures in Seia in the 16th century following their forced conversion to Christianity.

A three-member team said it found 500 markings in Seia, a north Portugal municipality, including coded Hebrew letters and words carved into walls of homes where converted Jews used to live.

Alberto Martinho, Jose Levy Domingos and Luiza Metzker Lyra, the research team, said they also found distinctive indentations in stone door frames where the residents would have placed mezuzahs.

Martinho told Portugal’s Lusa news agency last Friday that the findings “elucidate the Jewish presence” in the region.

According to Jose Oulman Carp, the president of the Jewish Community of Lisbon, Portugal had a Jewish population of about 400,000 Jews in 1536, when the Portuguese Inquisition officially began.

Many of the Jews in Portugal were refugees from neighboring Spain, where the Inquisition—an organized campaign of persecution led by the Catholic Church—began in the late 1400s. Persecution in Portugal forced many Jews into exile. Those who stayed became known as “New Christians,” though many of them continued to practice Judaism in secret and developed special customs to set themselves apart in discrete ways from the rest of the population.

Earlier this month, the Portuguese parliament passed a law entitling the descendants of Jews who left to citizenship. A similar bill is being prepared in Spain.

According to the researchers, who are scheduled to publish their full study within two weeks, they found 42 marked houses in the small village of Santa Marinha alone. They said the town of Trancoso has many more marked houses.

13 EU ministers favor labeling settlements goods

(JTA)—Foreign ministers from 13 European Union member states have asked the union to form guidelines for labeling products made in what they regard as Israeli settlements.

According to a report last Friday in El Pais, the Spanish daily, the request was made to Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, in a letter co-signed by ministers from Spain, Portugal, France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Slovenia, Luxembourg and Malta.

“This is an important step to ensure correct and coherent application of EU consumer protection and labeling legislation, which is in fulfillment of our previous commitments and is fully consistent with long-standing EU policy in relation to Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” they wrote on April 12 to Ashton.

The European Union considers as illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights, and some of its members have said that labeling products from such settlements as “made in Israel” is misleading.

Israel annexed eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, both areas captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, and does not consider the areas as settlements. The final status of the West Bank, also captured during the ‘67 war, has yet to be determined.

Suspected marathon bomber may never speak again

(JTA)—Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may never speak again, according to the expatriate Israeli director of the Boston hospital where Tsarnaev is being treated.

Tsarnaev, 19, was wounded in his throat, Kevin Ilan Tabb of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, told Ynet.

Tabb is a board member of Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem, where he studied medicine and completed his residency.

New York teen charged with hate crime in subway arrest that led to melee

(JTA)—The arrest of a New York teenager for harassing a kippah-clad Jewish man on a subway led to a melee that was shown on YouTube.

Stephan Stowe, 17, was charged on eight counts, including aggravated harassment as a hate crime, in the April 15 incident in Brooklyn.

According to a Daily News report three days after the incident, Stowe and a group of friends approached the Jewish man and greeted him with the traditional Muslim greeting “Assalamu Alaikum.”  When the Jewish man did not respond, Stowe said the two were cousins. The Jewish man said they were not and called on Stowe to leave him alone.

Stowe responded with ethnic slurs; the Jewish man took Stowe’s photo with a cell phone.

“I am going to kill you right now,” Stowe said as he took the phone and deleted the photo.  “They should have killed all of you,” he added, apparently referring to the Holocaust.

Police attempted to detain Stowe at the Eastern Parkway stop when onlookers attempted to intervene. One of the onlookers, Sheniqua Joseph, 22, was arrested for attempting to obstruct the arrest of Stowe.

A bystander filmed the melee on a cell phone and uploaded it to YouTube.

Polish cities mark Warsaw Ghetto uprising with sirens

WARSAW, Poland (JTA)—Sirens wailed in two Polish cities as the country commemorated the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

The sirens in Gdansk and Warsaw were part of a series of commemorative events last Friday in memory of the failed but fierce armed rebellion that Jews led in the Polish capital in 1943 against the Nazi occupation forces.

The main ceremony was held at Warsaw’s monument to the ghetto heroes and was attended by Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Israeli Education Minister Shai Piron. Chawka Folman-Raban and Simcha Rotem, who took part in the uprising, also were in attendance.

In addition to the sirens, churches in Warsaw rang their bells.

Rotem, one of only three living insurgents, said, “People go, but the memory remains. We wanted to choose [our] kind of death. That’s all.”

Heroism, he said, belonged “to the children of the ghetto who took care of the whole family,” though they might have more easily slipped past the ghetto walls.

On Sunday, Warsaw’s main synagogue hosted a series of educational events about the uprising, in which about 200 poorly equipped Jews fought off German troops for about four weeks.

Israeli gymnast Alexander Shatilov takes European gold

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli gymnast Alexander Shatilov won a gold medal in the men’s floor exercise final at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Moscow.

Shatilov shared the first-place podium on Saturday with Max Whitlock of Britain.

It was the first gold medal in international competition for Shatilov, 26, who finished sixth in the floor exercise finals at the London Olympics and 12th in the individual all-around final.

He said he plans to compete at the Rio Olympics in 2016, according to The Jerusalem Post.


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