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Weekly roundup of new briefs from JTA

 


Penn State students sentenced for vandalizing Jewish frat

(JTA)—Two Penn State students who pleaded guilty to spray-painting anti-Semitic graffiti on a mostly Jewish fraternity house were sentenced to community service and probation.

Eric Hyland, 20, was sentenced last week in Centre County Court to 200 hours of community service and two years probation, and ordered to pay $6,000 restitution.

Last month, Hayden Grom was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and two years probation.

Last November, Hyland and Grom spray-painted swastikas and anti-Semitic words and images on the Beta Sigma Beta fraternity building, on cars parked outside the house and on a dumpster. Their actions were captured on security cameras.

The students were charged with ethnic intimidation, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct.

They were kicked out of their own fraternity, Acacia, which reportedly condemned their actions.

Report: French Jewish girl joined ISIS

(JTA)—A Jewish girl was among the some 100 girls and young women who have left France in recent weeks to join ISIS in Syria, according to a French security official.

The French security official, who spoke anonymously to the Daily Mail, did not provide any other details on the Jewish girl, such as her age and how she made her way to Syria.

The girls’ decision to join ISIS and their actual departure came after months of recruitment, mostly online, targeting adolescents, the British newspaper reported. They are serving as wives, babysitters and housekeepers for jihadists.

Between 20 and 50 young girls have also come to Syria to join ISIS from Britain, according to the newspaper.

Historic Buffalo synagogue demolished despite demonstrators

(JTA)—The oldest synagogue in Buffalo, N.Y., was demolished despite the efforts of two demonstrators who chained themselves to a pillar in the building.

The Jefferson Avenue building was demolished on Saturday after the demonstrators, identified as David Torke and Rabbi Drorah Setel, were peacefully removed and detained by police, the Buffalo News reported.

Police said the building posed a safety hazard and thus was condemned. Preservationists said it should have been listed as a historical landmark.

The building, which was designed in 1903 by A.E. Mink, once was the home of Congregation Ahavath Sholem, also known as the Jefferson Avenue Shul. It was sold in 1960 to Saints Home Church of God and later to Greater New Hope Church of God in Christ, which owned it for about 30 years. The building has been empty since 2005.

At first the demolition crew did not realize there were people in the building. Eight other demonstrators remained outside the structure.

Rome’s mayor slams Priebke tribute as ‘vulgar’

ROME (JTA)—The mayor of Rome condemned a public commemoration in the city for the late Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke.

Ignazio Marino called Saturday’s event downtown a “vulgar provocation” that “wounds the entire civic community and represents a real slap in the face to the city of Rome, which played a fundamental role in the Italian Resistance.”

Renzo Gattegna, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, thanked the mayor and called on all civic authorities to be vigilant against any similar episodes.

At the commemoration, which was organized by Priebke’s lawyer to mark the first anniversary of Priebke’s death at the age of 100, an improvised Mass was celebrated at a makeshift altar made of flowers and placards set up against a lamppost on the Sant’Angelo Bridge.

Posters reading “Ciao Captain”—Priebke was a Nazi SS captain—were plastered on some walls in Rome.

Priebke died on Oct. 11, 2013 while serving a life sentence under house arrest for his role in the 1944 massacre of 335 Romans, about 75 of them Jews, in the Ardeatine Caves south of Rome.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg letters available online

BOSTON (JTA)—A new website on convicted Soviet spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg provides access to a collection of more than 500 letters between the couple while they were imprisoned.

The website was launched last week by the Howard Gotlieb Archival Center at Boston University.

Maintaining their innocence until the end, the Rosenbergs were executed on conspiracy charges for passing along secret information to the Soviet Union.

The controversial Cold War-era trial of the Jewish couple, and their execution in 1953, sparked worldwide protests and continues to capture the attention of students and scholars of law, history and politics as well as artists, musicians, filmmakers and the general public.

The extensive collection of letters, acquired from the Rosenbergs’ sons, Michael and Robert Meeropol, includes more than three dozen letters between the Rosenbergs and their lawyer, Emanuel Bloch, that have never been available to researchers or the public, as well as more contemporary publications from the National Committee to Reopen the Rosenberg Case.

Additional material includes pamphlets, newspaper clippings, sheet music of songs about the Rosenbergs and the Rosenbergs’ wills. The letters between the couple are high resolution digitized images.

In the last letter Ethel wrote to her children, on June 19, 1953, she says she is innocent and goes to her death unafraid because she knows she is doing it for a greater cause.

“Eventually, too, you must come to believe that life is worth the living,” Ethel wrote.

Email from Lewinsky scandal: Clinton didn’t commit adultery under Talmudic approach

(JTA)—President Bill Clinton was not guilty of adultery with White House intern Monica Lewinsky by using a Talmudic approach, according to an email released by the Clinton Presidential Library.

The email, proposing a potential defense to the White House, is one of about 10,000 previously unreleased records that went public on Friday.

“According to classical Jewish law, President Clinton did not commit adultery; adultery is defined as a married man having intercourse with a married woman, and Monica Lewinsky is single,” said the email from Jan. 27, 1999, the New York Post first reported.

The argument was made by Susannah Heschel, a professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth and the daughter of theologian Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. The email was sent to Hillary Clinton’s domestic policy adviser, Ruby Shamir, by Linda Commodore of Long Island.

The email ended up with White House adviser Sidney Blumenthal, according to the Post.

“From the perspective of Jewish history, we have to ask how Jews can condemn President Clinton’s behavior as immoral, when we exalt King David?” Susannah Heschel wrote. “King David had Batsheva’s husband, Uriah, murdered.

“While David was condemned and punished, he was never thrown off the throne of Israel. On the contrary, he is exalted in our Jewish memory as the unifier of Israel.”

Israel to screen arrivals from W. African lands for Ebola

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel will screen travelers arriving from West African countries in an effort to prevent the Ebola virus from entering the country.

Travelers arriving from  Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the countries currently most affected by the virus, will be questioned at all border crossings—land, sea and air—according to a statement issued Sunday by the Prime Minister’s Office.

The statement was released after a Sunday morning meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office on the Ebola crisis of officials from the health, transportation, interior and justice ministries, as well as officials from the military, police and airport authority.

“This is a global epidemic and we are cooperating with other countries and, in addition to protecting our borders, we are taking a series of steps to isolate patients, if they come, and of course to treat them in our healthcare systems,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “We hope there will be no need for it, but we are prepared for all scenarios.”

Israeli and Palestinian Authority representatives met on Saturday night to discuss cooperation on preventing Ebola from spreading to the area as well as what to do should the disease hit either population. Future meetings reportedly are scheduled.

The new screening guidelines came as a second Ebola victim was identified in the United States—a health-care worker at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas who cared for an Ebola patient who died at the hospital last week.

Arab-Israeli man fighting for ISIS killed in Iraq

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Arab-Israeli man who joined the jihadist group ISIS was killed in fighting in Iraq.

The parents of Ahmed Habashi, 23, were notified of his death over the weekend, according to Israeli media reports.

Habashi, who is from the Galilee in northern Israel, traveled with four friends in January to Turkey and from there to Syria, where he joined ISIS.

He reportedly was killed near Ramadi in western Iraq. The family was notified of his death in a phone call from another Arab-Israeli friend who also joined the rebel group.

Earlier this month, gardeners in the Israeli city of Nazareth Illit discovered a bag containing about 25 ISIS flags.

In late September, a 24-year-old Arab-Israeli from Kfar Kana who was suspected of being associated with ISIS was arrested and questioned. Earlier last month, another Arab-Israeli was arrested for allegedly traveling to Syria and training with ISIS. Israel has made contact with the group illegal.

Lancet editor in editorial regrets, but does not retract, Gaza letter

(JTA)—The editor of The Lancet wrote in the British medical journal that he regrets the polarization caused by the publication of an open letter accusing Israel of a “massacre” in Gaza, but did not retract it.

“At a moment of unbearable human destruction in Gaza, the unintended outcome of the Manduca et al letter was an extreme polarization of already divided positions,” Dr. Richard Horton wrote in an editorial in the latest issue of The Lancet following a visit to Israel and Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa. “This schism helped no-one and I certainly regret that result. I have seen for myself that what was written in the Manduca et al letter does not describe the full reality.”

Horton said that the journal has proposed new guidelines to deal with “submissions that lie at the difficult intersection of medicine and politics.” Under the guidelines, “editors should always pause, reflect, and consult before publishing any manuscript that might unnecessarily polarize, or foster or worsen political division.”

He also announced that the journal would publish a series on Israel’s health and medical research system.

NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute that monitors nongovernmental organizations, in a statement called Horton’s editorial “another step towards ending the exploitation of this journal for demonizing Israel,” but said it did not go far enough since it failed to retract or apologize for the publication of the open letter.

The group called on Horton to issue a formal retraction and apology and to remove the letter from The Lancet’s website.

The open letter to the people of Gaza was published during this summer’s conflict in the coastal strip between Israel and Hamas. Several dozen physicians from the West signed the letter, which also accused Israel of “cruel” and “vicious war crimes.” Physicians, researchers and Israeli officials decried the letter.

NGO Monitor unearthed evidence tying two of the letters’ authors to support for David Duke, who circulated a video supporting the white supremacist.

Following the publication of the letter, Horton was invited to visit Israel to see Jewish-Arab medical cooperation firsthand.

“At Rambam I saw an inspiring model of partnership between Jews and Arabs in a part of Israel where 40 percent of the population is Arab,” he wrote in Lancet. “I saw Rambam offering an open hand, gladly grasped by families from Gaza, the West Bank, and Syria, who were living with life-threatening health-care needs. I saw Rambam as one example of a vision for a peaceful and productive future between peoples, which I learned exists throughout Israel’s hospitals.”

Gaza donors’ confab brings $5.4B in pledges

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The international community reportedly pledged about $5.4 billion in reconstruction aid for Gaza at a donors’ conference in Cairo.

The French news agency AFP cited the foreign minister of Norway, co-host of Sunday’s conference, in reporting the figure.

Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States would contribute $212 million to be delivered through U.S. Agency for International Development to rebuild Gaza in the aftermath of this summer’s 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The U.S. has provided more than $400 million in assistance to the Palestinians over the last year, with $330 million donated since the start of the conflict.

Israeli representatives did not attend the conference, reportedly based on a tacit understanding between Israel and Egypt, which feared that Arab countries would not send representatives if the Israelis were there.

Israel and the Palestinians must return to the peace table, Kerry said. Nine months of U.S.-led negotiations ended in April.

“A cease-fire is not peace, and we’ve got to find a way to get back to the table and help people make tough choices, real choices—choices that everybody in this room and outside of it understands have been on the table for too long. Choices about more than just a cease-fire, “ Kerry said.

Israel and Gaza have engaged in conflict three times in the last six years, each conflict requiring major rebuilding efforts.

“The United States remains fully, totally committed to returning to the negotiations not for the sake of it, but because the goal of this conference and the future of this region demand it,” Kerry said. “There is nothing sustainable about the status quo.”

In his address to the conference, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also called on Israel to return to talks.

At the opening, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi promoted the Arab peace initiative proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002 in which the countries of the Arab League offer Israel full recognition in return for all land won by Israel in 1967 as well as a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees.

 

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