Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA
Virginia Beach students to make up school on Saturdays
(JTA)-Virginia Beach City public schools will have classes on three Saturdays to make up for days lost from a major snowstorm last month.
"We hope our community could be reassured that our religious needs can be met," Rabbi Israel Zoberman of Beth Chaverim, a Reform congregation in Virginia Beach, told the local media. "We don't want anyone to pay a price for the snow that came upon us."
Zoberman told WAVY-TV, "I would like to believe that someone overlooked the fact that on Saturday Jews meet at worship. We also have pre-arranged special events such as bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs."
At least one seventh-grader's bar mitzvah is scheduled for one of the makeup days. Phillip Goldstein is worried that none of his friends will be able to attend the morning service on April 26, according to The Virginian-Pilot columnist Kerry Dougherty.
Along with April 26, the other makeup days are Feb. 15 and March 29.
"Designating makeup days for time lost due to inclement weather is one of the most unpopular decisions a superintendent makes," Sheila Magula, the superintendent of Virginia Beach Schools, said in a statement. "There is never a day that is convenient for all of our students, staff and families."
School board member Leonard Tengco told the local ABC affiliate WVEC that the school district's online calendar has stated "for years" that Saturdays are an option for makeup days.
Woody Allen, Dylan Farrow exchange public barbs over sexual assault accusations
(JTA)-Woody Allen and his estranged adopted daughter Dylan Farrow sparred anew in the media over claims that Allen sexually assaulted her when she was 7.
Allen wrote an Op-Ed that appeared last Friday in the online edition of The New York Times and in the print edition on Sunday. Dylan Farrow responded last Friday in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
In his Op-Ed, Allen wrote, "Twenty-one years ago, when I first heard Mia Farrow had accused me of child molestation, I found the idea so ludicrous I didn't give it a second thought."
The prominent director-actor was responding to an open letter written by Dylan Farrow and published in the Times on Feb. 1 in which she reasserted her accusations against Allen.
Allen said Dylan Farrow had been coached by her mother, actress Mia Farrow, and reiterated that experts from the Child Sexual Abuse Clinic of the Yale-New Haven Hospital found that no sexual abuse had taken place.
He was not prosecuted for sexually molesting his adopted daughter and was later able to adopt two children of his own with his wife, Soon-Yi Previn, an adopted daughter of Mia Farrow.
Allen said he will not address the accusations again.
"This piece will be my final word on this entire matter," he wrote, "and no one will be responding on my behalf to any further comments on it by any party."
In the Hollywood Reporter, Dylan Farrow said, "His op-ed is the latest rehash of the same legalese, distortions, and outright lies he has leveled at me for the past 20 years," she wrote.
Dylan Farrow cited findings of a decision by the New York Supreme Court in 1992 that denied Allan access to her, citing the sexual abuse allegations.
"Woody Allen has an arsenal of lawyers and publicists but the one thing he does not have on his side is the truth," she said. "I hope this is the end of his vicious attacks and of the media campaign by his lawyers and publicists, as he's promised. I won't let the truth be buried and I won't be silenced."
Hungary's main Jewish umbrella votes to boycott state Holocaust commemorations
(JTA)-The main Jewish umbrella group in Hungary voted to boycott the state-sponsored Holocaust memorial program unless the government makes changes to redress distortions of history.
Representatives of Mazsihisz, the Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities, at a special assembly on Sunday voted 76-2 to "distance" the organization from the government's program marking the 70th anniversary of the mass deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz "under the present circumstances."
Its resolution said the government plans "do not take into consideration the sensitiveness of those who went though the horror of the Holocaust."
Mazsihisz, the resolution said, can take part in the Holocaust 2014 program and will use the grants it received from the government's Civil Fund for memorial events "only if the Hungarian Government changes its attitude toward the memory and research of the Holocaust."
Prime Minister Viktor Orban must take action on three specific issues, the resolution said: halt the erection of a memorial in downtown Budapest to the German occupation of Hungary; dismiss Sandor Szakaly as the director of a new government historical institute; and suspend the creation of a Holocaust memorial museum in a former Budapest train station.
The resolution said the monument's "symbolic message promotes the shifting away of national responsibility" in the Holocaust. It also noted that Szakaly recently characterized as "a police action against aliens" the 1941 roundup and deportation of about 18,000 foreign-born Jews to Kamenets-Podolsk, Ukraine, where they were massacred.
As to the museum, Mazsihisz experts still do not know what the museum's "take on history" will be, the resolution said, and the head of the museum project, Maria Schmidt, "does not cooperate with Mazsihisz."
Representatives of Jewish organizations raised their concerns at a Feb. 6 meeting with Orban's chief of staff, Janos Lazar, who heads the state's Holocaust memorial year program. At the meeting, Lazar said Orban would address the concerns this week.
Orban already wrote to Jewish leaders last month defending the German occupation monument, saying it would commemorate all Nazi victims.
Meanwhile, several synagogues and other Jewish institutions have unilaterally announced that they will decline funding from the Holocaust memorial year Civil Fund.
"We are sad to have witnessed how in recent weeks the remembrance initiatives have become unworthy pawns in governmental political games as Hungary approaches its parliamentary elections," a statement from the Bet Orim Reform congregation said Sunday announcing that it would not accept the Civil Fund grant. "Bet Orim does not wish to be part of this kind of political strategy."
British lawmaker apologizes for equating Palestinian suffering with Shoah
(JTA)-A British lawmaker apologized for remarks comparing Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to Jewish suffering during the Holocaust.
Yasmin Qureshi of the Labor Party made her apology in a statement last Friday for remarks she made two days earlier to the Parliament.
"The debate was about the plight of the Palestinian people and in no way did I mean to equate events in Gaza with the Holocaust. I apologize for any offense caused," she said. "I am also personally hurt if people thought I meant this.
"As someone who has visited the crematoria and gas chambers of Auschwitz, I know the Holocaust was the most brutal act of genocide of the 20th century and no one should seek to underestimate its impact."
Qureshi had said on Feb. 5, "Israel was founded because of what happened to the millions and millions of Jews who suffered genocide. Their properties, homes and land, everything, were taken away, and they were deprived of rights. Of course, many millions perished.
"It is quite strange that some of the people who are running the state of Israel seem to be quite complacent and happy to allow the same to happen in Gaza."
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, condemned the remarks.
"We expect our politicians to speak responsibly and sensitively about the past and about events today," she said, the Jewish Chronicle reported. "These lazy and deliberate distortions have no place in British politics."
Labor Friends of Israel had called on Qureshi to apologize following the remarks.
ADL honors George W. Bush
(JTA)-The Anti-Defamation League awarded its highest honor to former President George W. Bush.
The ADL presented its America's Democratic Legacy Award to Bush during a Feb. 6 gala that opened its national executive committee meeting in Palm Beach, Fla.
"We will never forget, Mr. President, how the vision you laid out of 'two states, living side by side, in peace and security' still informs our consciousness and our parlance today," said the ADL's national director, Abraham Foxman. "You solidified an unbreakable affinity between two democracies challenged by extremists and terrorists-and an ironclad shared understanding-that security is one of the most important foundations for peace."
Foxman also hailed Bush's support for immigration reform and his leadership after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"When you were called on to respond to unspeakable terror, hate and violence, you refused to let America give into stereotypes," Foxman said. "You answered calls for anti-Muslim revenge with calls for respect and understanding."
Bush spoke at the dinner, which was held at The Breakers resort and was reportedly closed to the media.
Previous recipients of the award, which the ADL has been giving out for more than half a century, have included American presidents as well as other government, business, literary and religious figures.
Senate urges State Dept. to renegotiate terms for return of Iraqi Jewish archive
WASHINGTON (JTA)-The Senate unanimously urged the State Department to renegotiate the terms for the return to Iraq of an archive of Iraqi Jewish texts.
The resolution passed Feb. 6 "strongly urges" the department to renegotiate the agreement with the Iraqi government "in order to ensure that the Iraqi Jewish Archive be kept in a place where its long-term preservation and care can be guaranteed."
The nonbinding resolution also "recognizes that the Iraqi Jewish Archive should be housed in a location that is accessible to scholars and to Iraqi Jews and their descendants who have a personal interest in it."
The resolution was initiated by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.).
U.S. troops uncovered the archive in the Iraqi secret service headquarters in Baghdad in 2003, much of it waterlogged.
Iraqi agents under Saddam Hussein had looted many of the articles after the dictator had driven the remnants of the Jewish community out of the country in a terror campaign.
Under an agreement with the Coalition Provisional Authority that had governed Iraq, the materials were sent to the United States where experts, led by a National Archives team, restored them.
Iraqi Jews in Israel, the United States, Britain and elsewhere oppose its return to Iraq under the agreement, saying the government now in place is not sympathetic to Jewish interests and would not make it available.
The archive, now on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., is due to be returned in June.
Jewish groups, including the Orthodox Union, the World Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, praised the Senate for passing the resolution.
Rabbi Michael Broyde resigns from RCA
NEW YORK (JTA)-Rabbi Michael Broyde, a prominent Modern Orthodox figure, resigned from the Rabbinical Council of America as a result of the scandal over his use of an online pseudonym.
Broyde's resignation was first reported Feb. 6 by The Jewish Channel, which also uncovered Broyde's online activities last year.
"I deeply regret my wrongdoing and understand how disappointing it has been," Broyde wrote in his resignation letter, which was obtained by JTA.
Broyde declined to comment to JTA.
The Jewish Channel's April 2013 report on Broyde's online activities revealed that he had posted online using the pseudonym "Rabbi Herschel Goldwasser" for years. The alter-ego commented favorably on Broyde's scholarly works. The Jewish Channel also found that Broyde had used the pseudonym to gain access to the members-only online communications of the International Rabbinic Fellowship, an RCA rival.
Following The Jewish Channel's report, Broyde admitted to the use of the "Goldwasser" pseudonym and his infiltration of the rabbinic fellowship's online communications.
In a follow-up report, The Jewish Channel reported on the existence of a second mysterious identity. A letter was sent to a scholarly journal under this second name that Broyde later cited in support of his own academic work. Broyde, however, has denied being behind the second identity.
Following The Jewish Channel's investigations, Broyde had been placed on an indefinite leave of absence from the RCA. The RCA created an inquiry board to look into the issue.
In his resignation letter, Broyde thanked the RCA for waiting to initiate its investigation into the matter until Emory University, where Broyde works as a law professor, had completed its own, separate investigation into the matter. "Emory reported that there is no evidence to support the allegations that I had denied, and the only allegations that are supported are the ones that I promptly admitted," Broyde wrote in his resignation letter.
Broyde remains on an indefinite leave of absence from his role as a judge for the Beth Din of America, Rabbi Shlomo Weissman, the Beth Din's director, told JTA.
RCA, O.U. condemn 'venom' of Israeli anti-Kerry rabbis
WASHINGTON (JTA)-Two leading American Orthodox bodies rebuked a group of Israeli rabbis who warned of divine retribution against Secretary of State John Kerry.
"While the people of Israel and Jews around the world may properly possess serious concerns about proposals Secretary Kerry is putting forth, such concerns must only be expressed with civility and on the substance of the issues, not degenerating into personal venom and threats," said a statement posted Feb. 5 by the Rabbinical Council of America and the Orthodox Union.
The two Orthodox groups were responding to a letter put out by the Committee to Save the Land and People of Israel likening Kerry to Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king who destroyed the First Temple.
The letter warned Kerry to "immediately halt this process of destruction," referring to his peace push, in order to "prevent heavy divine retribution, God forbid, on all those associated with you."
A statement on the committee's website said "dozens" of rabbis signed a letter to Kerry but named only five, who are affiliated with Israeli municipalities.
"The letter of the 'Committee to Save the Land and People of Israel' may represent the views of its signators," the RCA and O.U. statement said. "It does not represent ours."
White House briefs students on Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts
WASHINGTON (JTA)-Obama administration officials briefed Jewish and Arab-American student leaders on the peace process.
Among the participants in the three-hour White House briefing on Feb. 6 were students affiliated with Hillel, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the American Jewish Committee, J Street and Americans for Peace Now.
"As part of our ongoing efforts of working with key stakeholders throughout the process of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, yesterday a group of U.S. officials met with a diverse group of youth leaders who are involved in various ways with the Israeli-Palestinian issue," an administration official told JTA the day after the briefing. "This meeting was an opportunity to update the leaders on the status of the negotiations as well as to solicit their views and have them contribute their thoughts to the policy process."
Shaina Lowe, the U.S. outreach director for OneVoice, a group that promotes grass-roots peace activism among Israelis and Palestinians, attended the briefing.
"It was an opportunity for her to discuss OneVoice's parallel campaigns underway in Israel and Palestine to mobilize a political center on each side to support the negotiations and the ultimate goal of a two state solution," said a spokesman for the group.
Additionally, there was a representative of the Peres Center in Israel.
According to officials who attended the off-the-record briefing, government representatives at the meeting included Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, and Ilan Goldenberg and Laura Blumenfeld, advisers to Martin Indyk, the top U.S. Middle East negotiator.
The officials said the meeting appeared to be part of a broader effort by the administration to prepare public opinion for Secretary of State John Kerry's planned unveiling of a framework peace agreement.