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

Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Posters telling women where to walk removed from haredi London neighborhood

(JTA)—Posters in English and Yiddish telling women which side of the road they can walk on were removed from a haredi Orthodox neighborhood in London.

“Women should please walk along this side of the road only,” read the signs posted in the Stamford Hill area of north London, the Jewish Chronicle reported.

The Hackney Council, the local government body, ordered the signs taken down following complaints from residents. They reportedly were removed last Friday.

The Shomrim organization of volunteer Jewish police told the Independent newspaper that the signs were put up in advance of a Torah procession in order to prevent men and women from coming into physical contact with each other.

“It is of course quite unacceptable to try to restrict women’s movements in a public place and council officers removed these posters as soon as it was reported to them,” Rosemary Sales, a city councilman for Stamford Hill West, told the Independent.

More than 20,000 haredi Orthodox Jews live in Stamford Hill.

New Zealand’s Key handily wins third term as prime minister

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) ­– John Key, the son of a Jewish refugee from Europe, won his third term as New Zealand prime minister.

Key, whose mother Ruth Lazar escaped Europe on the eve of the Holocaust, returned to office with an emphatic victory on Saturday, enabling him to form a government without relying on coalition partners.

His National Party is projected to win 61 seats in the 121-member parliament, crushing the opposition Labor Party in large part thanks to its strong handling of the economy.

“I believe the Jewish community will be pleased with the result of yesterday’s election,” said Alison Dyson, president of the Jewish Federation of New Zealand. “The election centered mainly around economic policy and John Key’s roots would not have been a major factor in the vote amongst Jews or others.”

She added: “John Key’s government has in the past shown greater sympathy to Israel and the Jewish community than the previous [Labor] government, and during the most recent conflict with Gaza the foreign affairs department was not very outspoken and was reasonably balanced in their comments.”

Although the New Zealand Jewish community of 7,000-plus has not been afflicted by anti-Semitism to the same degree as European Jews, Dyson said, “There is an elevated sense of risk and insecurity fueled by some local events here during the Gaza pro-Palestinian protests and further heightened by the awareness of rising anti-Semitism elsewhere.”

During the election campaign in the South Pacific island nation, several billboards were daubed with anti-Semitic graffiti, with one board carrying the words “Lying Jew c***sucker” alongside a defaced image of Key with a black hat and side locks.

Key, who is not a practicing Jew, said at the time he was disappointed for the Jewish community.

“[They] don’t deserve to be brought into some sort of personal campaign that’s directed at me,” he said.

Around the same time, Steve Gibson, a Labor candidate, posted a Facebook message describing Key as “Shonky Jonkey Shylock ... a nasty little creep with a nasty evil and vindictive sneer.”

The post referring to the Shakespeare character, which carries anti-Semitic connotations, was later deleted. Gibson apologized and was censured by the Labor leader.

Key’s victory comes just weeks after Israel rejected Wellington’s proposed non-resident envoy to Israel, Jonathan Curr, in a move met by surprise within the Jewish community. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it could not approve Curr because he is also being credentialed to the Palestinian Authority.

Brooklyn Jewish agency getting nearly $500,000 for Sandy repairs

WASHINGTON (JTA) – A New York Jewish agency was awarded almost $500,000 in federal funding to repair damages from Superstorm Sandy nearly two years ago.

Last Friday, FEMA allocated an additional $482,500 to the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island in Brooklyn. The Federal Emergency Management Agency originally had allotted $1,860 for the council to fix the devastation to its buildings from the October 2012 hurricane.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and the New York Legal Assistance Group worked with the council and FEMA to obtain the funding. Gillibrand in a statement thanked FEMA for “realizing how important this investment is for the Jewish Community Council and the Coney Island community.”

Following Sandy, only the outside structure of the council’s two main facilities was left standing, said the council’s executive director, Rabbi Moshe Wiener. Three to six feet of water flooded the buildings, destroying workstations, computers and kitchen equipment, with an estimated $1.5 million in damage.

Staff members were forced to relocate to six temporary facilities, severely impacting their ability to provide services to the community.

Wiener thanked Gillibrand and her staff for helping to secure the FEMA funding.

Robertson dubs religious rights group founder ‘little Jewish radical’

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Pat Robertson called an activist for religious freedoms in the military a “little Jewish radical” in condemning the U.S. Air Force for making “so help me God” an optional part of its oath.

Robertson in a Sept. 18 commentary on his Christian Broadcasting Network was referring to Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. He also misidentified the foundation as “People Against Religion.”

“You got one little Jewish radical scaring the pants off you,” Robertson said. “What is wrong with the Air Force, how can they fly the bombers to defend us if they cave to one little guy?”

Weinstein, a former officer in the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General, founded his foundation in 2006 to advocate against proselytizing in the military.

It was not Weinstein’s group but the American Humanist Association that had led advocacy on behalf of the airman who had sought to remove the oath in the news item cited by Robertson, Raw Story said in a report.

Weinstein in a response to Robertson on The Friendly Atheist website wrote, “Pat Robertson is to human dignity and sanity and integrity and character what dog s*** is to a fine French restaurant on the menu.”

Dozens of Jewish groups join People’s Climate March in NYC

(JTA)—More than 100 Jewish organizations participated in the People’s Climate March in New York as part of the Jewish Climate Campaign.

The Jewish participants in Sunday’s march were encouraged to bring and blow shofars to provide a wake-up call to governments and organizations to work to fight climate change.

Among the participating Jewish organizations were Columbia University/Barnard Hillel, Hazon, Green Zionist Alliance, Institute for Jewish Spirituality, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Riverdale Jewish Center, Union of Reform Judaism, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and Young Judaea.

Some 100,000 people—including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and actor Leonardo DiCaprio—participated in the march through the streets of New York. DiCaprio last week was named a U.N. messenger of peace focusing on climate change issues. Politicians and elected officials, United Nations officials and other celebrities joined the parade, which was held two days before the U.N. summit on climate change.

More than 1,000 organizations around the world supported the march; over 2,000 coordinated events taking place in 150 countries.

Vienna Jewish Museum restitutes Nazi-looted painting

(JTA)—The Vienna Jewish Museum restituted a Nazi-looted painting to the artist’s grandnieces.

The 1922 painting “The coffee hour. Fanny, the sister of the artist” by Jewish artist Jehudo Epstein, was handed over last Friday to Anne Starkey, one of Epstein’s grandnieces and the granddaughter of the woman in the painting.

Starkey traveled from Britain to the museum to recover the painting, according to reports.

The museum, which obtained the artwork in 2010, discovered that the heirs were seeking to recover the painting.

Epstein left Austria for South Africa in 1934. The painting later was confiscated by the Nazis after they annexed Austria. Epstein died in South Africa in 1945.

Polly Bergen, actress and singer, dies at 84

(JTA)—Polly Bergen, who won accolades as a film, television and stage actress as well as a singer, has died.

Bergen, who starred in the 1962 film “Cape Fear, died Saturday at her home in Southbury, Conn., from natural causes, publicist Judy Katz told media outlets. She was 84. Katz said she was surrounded by family and close friends.

Born Nellie Paulina Burgin, Bergen converted to Judaism in 1956 after marrying the Hollywood talent agent Freddie Fields. The couple adopted two children.

In “Cape Fear,” she played the wife of a lawyer (portrayed by Gregory Peck) who is stalked by a psychopath (Robert Mitchum).

She won an Emmy Award in 1957 for Best Single Performance playing the title role of “The Helen Morgan Story,” part of the anthology series “Playhouse 90.” She also performed on Broadway and sang on the radio and in nightclubs.

Later in her career, Bergen received a Tony Award nomination for her role in the 2001 Broadway revival of “Follies.” She also appeared on the popular television dramas “Desperate Housewives” and “The Sopranos.”

Bergen succeeded on the business side: In the mid-1960s, she began selling a line of Polly Bergen Cosmetics that she later sold to Faberge.

She also published three advice books.

South African president vows to fight anti-Semitism

(JTA)—Representatives of South Africa’s Jewish community commended President Jacob Zuma’s pledge to combat anti-Semitism.

Zuma of the African National Congress party made the pledge during a Sept. 18 meeting with the leadership of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, or SAJBD, the board said in a statement a day after the meeting.

“In the course of the meeting, President Zuma rejected unequivocally all forms of antisemitism and intolerance, and stressed that his government remained committed to combating such prejudice,” read the statement.

During the meeting, the Jewish representatives spoke with Zuma and members of his cabinet “on the sharp rise in anti-Semitic activity in South Africa, including threats and intimidation against the Jewish community and its leadership,” according to the statement.

Anti-Semitic incidents proliferated in South Africa during Israel’s was on Hamas in Gaza this summer.

Earlier this month, African National Congress Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe cosigned a letter that called Israel’s establishment a “crime against humanity.”

Lady Gaga: White House provided assurances on Tel Aviv’s safety

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Lady Gaga said the White House assured her it would be safe in Tel Aviv when the American singer played there earlier this month.

The American singer, who performed Sept. 13 before a crowd of 25,000 at Yarkon Park, told The Associated Press in a weekend interview that the White House “let us know it would be very safe while we were there, and I hope to share that with the world so that they know it is safe to be in Tel Aviv right now.”

She called Tel Aviv her “home while I was there” and said she she “felt a beautiful energy” in the city.

Several musical acts canceled their concerts due to Israel’s conflict with Gaza, including Neil Young, The Backstreet Boys, America and Lana Del Rey.

Lady Gaga performed in Tel Aviv in August 2009, ignoring attempts by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to have her cancel.

Ex-Calif. synagogue director sentenced to jail for embezzlement

(JTA)—The former executive director of a synagogue in La Jolla, Calif., was sentenced to 18 months in prison for embezzlement.

Eric Levine, 37, was sentenced last Friday in U.S. District Court in San Diego after pleading guilty in April to embezzling more than $540,000 from Congregation Beth El over five years. He also was ordered to provide restitution to the synagogue and given three years of supervised release following his prison stint.

Levine was in charge of the Conservative synagogue’s bank account and credit card from 2008 to 2013, according to the Los Angeles Times. The synagogue has an annual budget of nearly $2 million.

According to federal documents, he used the money for trips to Las Vegas, Mexico, Hawaii, Canada and the La Costa Resort and Spa; bought expensive furniture and jewelry; and paid to send his children to private school. Levine hid the expenses under such headings as Ritual Fund, Rabbi Emeritus, High Holidays and Purim Baskets.

The Southern California congregation reportedly laid off employees during the time period due to a lack of funds.

“Our diminished staff spends much more time on accounting than on our mission of creating a lively Jewish community in San Diego,” Rabbi Philip Graubart told the judge, according to the Los Angeles Times. “It’s hard to know if we’ll ever be the same.”

In December, before the embezzlement was found, Levine left Beth El for another executive director’s job at a congregation in the Washington, D.C., area. He was later fired by that congregation.

House unanimously approves anti-Semitism condemnation

WASHINGTON (JTA)—A bipartisan congressional resolution urging increased action by the United States and other countries to address resurgent anti-Semitism passed unanimously.

The non-binding resolution passed Sept. 18 condemns anti-Semitism particularly when it is used “as an acceptable expression of disapproval or frustration over political events in the Middle East or elsewhere.”

It also “decries and condemns the comparison of Israel to Nazis perpetrating a Holocaust or genocide as an insult to the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust.”

Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Kay Granger (R-Texas) initiated the resolution, which was introduced on July 31.

A wall-to-wall array of Jewish groups backed the resolution.

“This resolution sends a resounding message to the world about what is best in America and America’s resolve to confront this ugly and dangerous hatred,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement. “We deeply appreciate the House’s leadership in providing a moral voice and standing up for the safety and security of those Jewish communities around the world who are once again being threatened by anti-Semitic violence and intimidation.”

Senate approves enhanced U.S.-Israel cooperation bill

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a bill that would further enhance U.S.-Israel ties.

The bill approved Sept. 18, which was initiated by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), enhances Israel’s status as entitled to license-free defense technology; adds items to the weapons stockpile the United States maintains in Israel and which is available for Israeli use; requires increased congressional oversight to ensure that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge; encourages U.S.-Israel cooperation on developing energy technologies; and encourages Israel’s entry into the visa waiver program, which would allow Israelis visa-free travel to the United States.

The latter provision had in earlier versions of the bill mandated such an entry, a central factor in holding up the bill over the last 18 months. The State Department had objected to Israel’s entry for a number of reasons, including a spike in illegal Israeli travel to the United States and discrimination faced by Arab- and Muslim-Americans entering Israel.

A similar bill passed the House in March. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which had made the bill must-pass legislation, encouraged both chambers to reconcile their bills and get it to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

“This bill will dramatically strengthen and expand the U.S.-Israel alliance as a way to confront new threats and challenges in the Middle East,” AIPAC said in a statement.


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