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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Obama administration not appeased by Yaalon clarification

WASHINGTON (JTA)—A statement from Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon clarifying his attack on U.S. foreign policy did not appease the Obama administration.

“We are disappointed with the lack of an apology from Defense Minister Yaalon’s comments,” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said last Friday. “His comments, as we’ve stated a couple times, don’t reflect the true nature of our relationship with Israel.”

Psaki’s remarks to reporters came a day after Yaalon in a statement said that his earlier comments “had no defiance or criticism or intention to hurt the United States or its relations with Israel.”

Yaalon earlier in the week had charged the Obama administration with conveying “weakness” overall in its foreign policies and said he did not have confidence in U.S.-led nuclear talks with Iran.

“At some stage the United States entered into negotiations with them, and unhappily, when it comes to negotiating at a Persian bazaar, the Iranians were better,” Yaalon was quoted as telling a Tel Aviv University symposium that was closed to the media.

Psaki made it clear last Friday that the matter was still open.

Speaking of John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, and Chuck Hagel, the secretary of defense, she said, “They very clearly expressed their displeasure with the comments, and an apology would be a natural next step in response to that.”

Baltimore Jews turn out to protest murderer’s bid for new trial

(JTA)—Some 200 Baltimore Jews attended a hearing to protest the possible release of a man who was convicted of murdering an 11-year-old Jewish girl in 1969.

Attorneys for Wayne Stephen Young, 68, are requesting a new trial based on a 2012 ruling by the Court of Appeals of Maryland, the state’s highest court, which found that many convictions before 1980 are invalid because jurors were given unconstitutional instructions, the Baltimore Sun reported. Dozens of people convicted prior to 1980 have been set free due to the ruling.

Young was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Esther Lebowitz and has been denied parole 12 times. He claimed during his trial that he was temporarily insane.

Esther was missing for two days before her body was found about a half a mile from her home. She died from 17 blows to the head.

“It would be a travesty of justice to allow a murderer that confessed to doing such horrible things to be freed,” Frank Storch, a co-founder of the Northwest Citizens Patrol, told the Sun.

Storch organized buses to shuttle the Baltimore Jewish community members to the courthouse for the March 20 hearing. He said he was 12 when Esther was killed and recalls well the search for her, the Sun reported.

Her family, which has since moved to Israel, did not attend the hearing, though they reportedly were aware of it.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Edward Hargadon said he would issue a written opinion in the coming weeks. Young did not speak at the hearing.

Urged sanctions on Russia would send Israel to World Cup

(JTA)—Israel would participate in the 2014 World Cup if the head of international soccer’s governing body heeds the suggestion of two U.S. senators to sanction Russia over its Crimea actions.

Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Dan Coates (R-Ind.) in their letter last week urged FIFA Chairman Sepp Blatter to suspend Russia from the World Cup in Brazil as punishment for its takeover of Crimea.

If Russia is banned from participation, its place would be assigned to Israel, which finished third in Group F at the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification, trailing Russia and Portugal.

“In light of Russia’s military occupation of a sovereign Ukraine, we respectfully ask that you urgently convene an emergency session of FIFA to consider suspending Russia’s membership in FIFA, stripping Russia of the right to host the 2018 World Cup, and denying the Russian National Team the right to participate in the upcoming 2014 World Cup in Brazil,” the senators’ letter said.

Russia, the letter said, “does not deserve the honor of either hosting the World Cup or participating in one.”

According to Article 3 of the FIFA statutes, the letter said, “discrimination of any kind against a country, private person or group of people on account of ethnic origin, gender, language, religion, politics or any other reason is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”

On Friday, Blatter reiterated that Russia will host the 2018 World Cup, but did not comment on participation in the upcoming World Cup.

During the Balkan crisis, Yugoslavia was banned from playing in both the 1992 European Championship and the 1994 World Cup.

The United States and the European Union already have imposed economic sanctions against Russia following its occupation of Ukrainian military bases and other facilities.

USC Shoah Foundation to honor Obama

(JTA)—The USC Shoah Foundation will recognize President Obama with its highest honor.

Film producer Steven Spielberg, the institute’s founder and a trustee at the University of Southern California, will present Obama with the Ambassador for Humanity Award “for his global efforts to protect human rights, his commitment to education and expanding educational technology, and his work advancing opportunities for all people,” the foundation announced last Friday in a statement.

Obama will serve as the featured speaker at the foundation’s 20th anniversary gala on May 7.

In the statement, Spielberg noted the president’s recent appointment of the first special envoy for Holocaust survivor services in the United States and said it “demonstrates his staunch commitment to honoring the past while building a better future.”

Spielberg established the Shoah Foundation-The Institute for Visual History and Education after completing the Academy Award-winning film “Schindler’s List” to collect and preserve the video testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust. The nearly 52,000 eyewitness testimonies in 34 languages and from 58 countries make the foundation’s archive one of the largest digital collections of its kind in the world.

Jewish heirs won’t get back art treasures, German panel rules

(JTA)—A collection of medieval religious art worth an estimated $275 million will not be returned to the heirs of four German-Jewish art dealers.

The descendants of another heir said, however, that they will not give up the fight for the Guelph Collection now held by the Berlin-based Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.

In its ruling last week, the Limbach Commission—a German advisory board for Holocaust-related claims—said the collection sold in 1935 was not bought from the German-Jewish art dealers under duress and thus did not have to be returned to the heirs.

The collectors—Zacharias Max Hackenbroch, Isaac Rosenbaum, Saemy Rosenberg and Julius Falk Goldschmidt—had purchased the treasures in the 1920s.

The claimants and their attorneys, as well as other advocates, have argued since 2008 that virtually all purchases of valuable property from Jews under the Nazis were made under duress. They noted that the sale was orchestrated by Hitler’s chief deputy, Hermann Goering.

In its argument, the foundation, which oversees the museums of Berlin, pointed out that the collection was not even in Germany at the time of its sale, the Times of Israel reported.

Meanwhile, an additional claimant—the heirs of the Jewish jeweler Hermann Netter, who reportedly owned 25 percent of the treasure at the time of its sale—said they would continue their fight for restitution of the treasure. Dresden-based attorney Sabine Rudolph told the German news agency dpa that since the Netter heirs had been excluded from the previous deliberation, they would not recognize the commission’s decision.

A spokesperson for the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation told the online Sudkurier newspaper that Netter’s descendants had declined to make a claim together with the other heirs, and noted that the Limbach Commission’s rejection of the claim expressly included the descendants of other previous owners. But Rudolph said her clients had only just learned about the case in December.

Speaking to the Times of Israel, Markus Stoetzel and Mel Urbach, attorneys for the original claimants, said they were analyzing the recommendations and would discuss them with their clients. They said they were shocked and disappointed by the findings.

Norway museum returning Nazi-looted Matisse painting to heirs

(JTA)—A Norway musuem said it would return a Nazi-looted painting by Henri Matisse to the heirs of its former Jewish owner.

The Henie Onstad Art Center near Oslo, or HOK, announced last Friday that it would return the 1937 painting “Woman in Blue in Front of a Fireplace,” which has been part of the museum’s collection since the HOK was established in 1961 by shipping magnate Niels Onstad and his wife, Olympic figure-skating champion Sonja Henie. Onstad acquired the artwork from Galerie Henri Benezit in Paris around 1950.

The painting is worth about $40 million, according to reports.

“Although it is HOK’s unwavering position that both Niels Onstad, and subsequently HOK, acquired the painting in good faith, HOK has chosen to adhere to international conventions and return the painting to Rosenberg’s heirs,” the museum said in a statement.

In June 2012, the heirs of the late art dealer Paul Rosenberg contacted the museum, which the statement said led to an “extensive investigation” to determine the artwork’s provenance. Norwegian law would have allowed the museum to keep the portrait.

The painting, which has been a centerpiece of the museum’s collection, was removed from display after the claim was made.

Rosenberg fled the Nazis to New York with his family in 1940. The Nazis confiscated 162 pieces of artwork he owned on Sept. 5. 1941, according to the museum.

Prior to including the painting in the museum’s collection, Onstad requested detailed provenance information but did not discover the Rosenberg claim, according to the museum.

It was the first case of Nazi-looted art discovered in Norway, the museum said in its statement, acknowledging that its decision will have an impact on other Norwegian institutions. The museum has called for the formation of a national committee to examine public collections for Nazi-looted art.

Germany to receive first new Torah for kids edition in 50 years

(JTA)—A publisher from Berlin is preparing to launch the first German-language children’s edition of the Torah since 1964.

The first volume of “Tell your Children-The Torah in Five Volumes” is scheduled to be offered for sale next month by Ariella Books, a German Jewish children’s publisher.

The previous edition was released half a century ago by Abrascha Stutschinsky.

The new volume is edited and written by Bruno Landthaler and Hanna Liss and illustrated by Darius Gilmont.

The celebrated Stutschinsky work is out of print—he died in 1978—and there were not enough old volumes for all the children in Germany’s Jewish communities.

The lack of books “had been felt more painfully in the last few years ever since the German Jewish communities have begun to flourish again and Jewish life has experienced a strong renaissance here after the Shoah,” publisher Myriam Halberstam said in a statement from Berlin.

According to the statement, the new book grew out of a Bible website called Parascha that Landthaler and Liss have been running for several years.

The volume retells the Bible in what is described as child-appropriate language, and includes introductions and commentaries addressed toward parents and other adult readers.

The remaining volumes are due to come out over the coming two years.

 

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