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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Canadian-Israeli woman fighting with Kurds reportedly captured by ISIS

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A Canadian-Israeli Jewish woman who joined Kurdish forces in their fight against the Islamic State reportedly was taken captive by the jihadist group.

The capture of Gillian Rosenberg, 31, and several other female fighters was reported on blogs and Islamist websites, the Israeli media reported. Rosenberg reportedly was captured by jihadists near the Syrian city of Kobani in recent days.

Israeli intelligence and security services did not verify the reports to Israeli media. Israel’s Foreign Ministry also was looking into the reports.

Speaking from Iraq, Rosenberg told Israel Radio some three weeks ago that she was training with the Kurdish YPG with plans to fight the jihadist group also known as ISIS or ISIL in Syria.

“They [the Kurds] are our brothers. They are good people. They love life, a lot like us, really,” Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg immigrated to Israel from Canada in 2006 and served as an instructor in an Israeli army search-and-rescue unit.

In 2009, Rosenberg was extradited from Israel to the United States for her involvement in what the FBI called a lottery prize scheme that mostly targeted the elderly, the Canadian Jewish News reported. She spent four years in an American prison.

Israeli citizens are barred from visiting enemy states including Syria and Iraq, and the government has been cracking down on Arab-Israelis returning from fighting in those countries.

Blaze at joint Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem suspected as arson

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A joint Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem was torched in what is believed to be an arson attack.

A classroom of the Max Rayne Hand In Hand Jerusalem School was set on fire late Saturday night. “Death to Arabs” and “There is no coexistence with cancer” were among the anti-Arab epithets spray-painted on the school walls.

A preliminary police investigation found that the blaze was intentionally set.

The school opened as usual on Sunday morning as city workers worked to remove the anti-Arab graffiti.

The Hand In Hand Jerusalem School is Israel’s largest joint Arab-Jewish school and the only such primary and high school in the city. Five Hand in Hand schools are located throughout the country.

Jewish-Arab tensions have risen in Jerusalem following a recent spate of violence.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the arson attack in a statement at the beginning of Sunday’s regular Cabinet meeting.

“We are making great efforts to restore calm and tranquility to Jerusalem,” he said. “Of course, we will not tolerate attacks from any quarter and we will not tolerate setting fire to a bilingual school as we saw last night.”

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro in a Facebook post also condemned the act while expressing support for the school, saying it “teaches its students the values of coexistence between Jews and Arabs, tolerance, and loving your neighbor as yourself.”

“They provide an impressive example of those same values to Israeli society,” Shapiro said. “Be strong and of good courage, and continue on you path.”

Tel Aviv synagogue vandalized in reaction to Jewish state bill

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A Tel Aviv synagogue apparently was vandalized in protest of Israel’s nation-state bill.

“In a place where the Jewish State bill will be legislated, books will be burned,” read the graffiti painted Sunday on a wall of the Tel Aviv International Synagogue.

A pile of burned books—none of them religious texts—were left next to the wall.

The vandalism occurred hours after an Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem was set on fire.

“It is ironic and shocking that they targeted a synagogue, where every perspective is respected and welcomed and where Jews are taught to love each other regardless of their political views,” the synagogue’s rabbi, Ariel Konstantyn, originally of New York, said in a statement.

Konstantyn said he believes the attack was perpetrated by left-wing activists and called it a “clear act of anti-Semitism.”

The bill proclaiming Israel as the state of the Jewish people comes before the Knesset for a first reading in early December.

Netanyahu to submit bill to invest in Arab Druze, Circassian communities

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will submit a plan to the Knesset for increased funds for the Arab Druze and Muslim Circassian communities.

The plan will include money for education, infrastructure and employment “in order to reduce the existing disparities,” Netanyahu announced Saturday night on his Facebook page and Sunday in an official announcement from his office. The announcement said the investments would be “significant” but did not provide an amount.

Netanyahu met last week with leaders of the Druze community, where he told them about plans to submit the bill.

During the meeting, Netanyahu also told the leaders that the bill proclaiming Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people would not harm their status and would even entrench their equality in Israeli society. The measure, known as the nation-state law, is set for a vote next week in the Knesset.

About 130,000 Druze and some 4,000 Israeli Circassians live in northern Israel. The latter, who live in two villages, are Sunni Muslims whose ancestors were expelled in the late 1800s by the Russians from the Caucasus Mountains.

Hundreds protest in Jerusalem against nation-state bill

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Hundreds of Israelis protested in Jerusalem against the nation-state bill enshrining Israel’s status as a Jewish state.

The protesters gathered Saturday night in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a softened version of the measure to the Cabinet on Sunday. The bill will go to the Knesset for a first reading in early December.

The original version had been scheduled to go to the Knesset floor this week for a first reading before Netanyahu decided to delay the action.

On Sunday, in protest of the bill, photos of Israeli politicians in Nazi SS uniforms were uploaded to Facebook by someone using the pseudonym Natan Zoabi.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to open an investigation into the action.

3 Palestinians charged with plotting to attack Glick, Feiglin on Temple Mount

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Three Palestinian men were indicted for planning to attack activist Yehuda Glick and right-wing lawmaker Moshe Feiglin during a visit to the Temple Mount.

The men, ages 18 to 21 from eastern Jerusalem, were charged over the weekend with conspiracy to injure a person using weapons and with nationalistic motivation.

The attack was to occur on Oct. 30, the day after Glick was shot four times outside the Menachem Begin Center in Jerusalem after taking part in a conference in which he spoke about the Jewish right to pray on the Temple Mount. Feiglin attended the conference.

According to the indictment, the men planned to attack Feiglin and Glick, who were scheduled to bring a group to the site, with firecrackers and stones, which would serve to intimidate and possibly injure them. They planned to escape by running into the Al-Aksa Mosque and blending in with worshippers at morning services.

Peres: Nation-state bill risks religious conflagration

(JTA)—Former Israeli president Shimon Peres criticized a bill proclaiming Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.

Peres, a dovish former prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize laureate whose presidential term ended this summer, said the bill could spark a “religious upheaval.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports the measure.

“The controversy  surrounding what’s now called the nation-state law seems to many as an unnecessary addendum that could compromise the people’s uniting values,” Peres said in a speech at Kibbutz Sde Boker at an annual memorial ceremony honoring David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister.

Peres labeled the bill “an unnecessary religious argument instead of a broad national agreement, which could turn a political conflict into a religious upheaval that would be difficult to stop.”

Peres is among several leading Israeli figures who have said the bill would compromise the equal status of Israel’s non-Jewish citizens.

On Nov. 26, Netanyahu presented for the first time what he said would be the four key elements of the bill, whose final draft has not yet been made available.

The bill will state that Israel “is the historic homeland of the Jewish People and the place of the establishment of the State of Israel” and that Israel “is the national home of the Jewish People and its place for realizing its historic right for self-determination as per its cultural and historic heritage,” Netanyahu said.

Additionally, the bill envisioned by Netanyahu would say that “the right to realize national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish People” and that Israel “is a democratic state founded on the principles of freedom, justice and peace in light of the vision of Israel’s prophets and upholds the individual rights of its citizens according to any legal standard,” Netanyahu said.

Australia’s capital gets first official rabbi to lead Jewish community

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA)—The Jewish community in Australia’s capital inaugurated its first official full-time rabbi.

Rabbi Alon Meltzer, 26, of New Zealand will lead the Australian Capital Territory’s National Jewish Memorial Center in Canberra.

Meltzer was inaugurated last week by Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, and becomes the first rabbi in the community’s 63-year history. The Jewish center houses Orthodox and Reform services.

“I realize that this is an appointment of national significance,” Meltzer said.

Canberra has about 1,000 Jews live—some 300 are affiliated with the Jewish center.

Peter Wertheim of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry called Meltzer’s inauguration “a watershed for the community and also a wonderful positive development for the whole of Australian Jewry.”

Rabbi Shmuel Feldman runs the Chabad community in Canberra.

Mirvis, on his first official visit to Australia as chief rabbi, also broke ground on land earmarked for an extension to the Jewish center.

The center also serves as a memorial to Jews who lost their lives fighting for Australia.

Far-right rally, concert held in Milan despite protests

ROME (JTA) – A far-right rally and concert went ahead in Milan despite protests by the Milan Jewish community and other groups.

Reports said the event Saturday drew far fewer participants than anticipated. No incidents were reported.

The Italian media said about 300 skinheads and other far-right militants attended Hammerfest 2014, which was held in a privately owned outbuilding in an outlying district of Milan. According to reports before the event, some 1,000 participants had been expected.

Many of the crowd had “shaven heads, swastikas, and all the repertoire of the ‘Nazi look,’ ” the Italian news agency Ansa wrote.

The Milan Jewish community was among the organizations that had called on authorities to bar the concert, which Milan’s mayor criticized as “unacceptable.”  A similar concert was held in 2013.

Anti-Semitism watchdog sues Romanian mayor over Hitler haircut

(JTA)—A Jewish watchdog group in Romania sued a mayor for allegedly inciting hatred by celebrating his Hitler-style hairdo.

The Center for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism, or MCA Romania, filed a criminal complaint last week against Radu Mazare, who leads the seaside resort town of Constanta, after he spoke to the media about his haircut, which resembles that of the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Mazare in 2009 was photographed wearing a Nazi uniform.

MCA Romania’s complaint to the prosecutor’s office of the High Court of Cassation and Justice accused Mazare of inspiring pro-Nazi sentiment by celebrating the haircut. The complaint qualifies the mayor’s actions as an “outrageous, provocative and defiant” show of Nazi sympathies.

Five years ago, Mazare attended a fashion show with his son while wearing a fake Nazi uniform, which he said he bought because he liked how it looked. Mazare said he did not see the swastikas on the uniform. Critics disputed the assertion, as he climbed the stage with his son while marching in a military style typical of German soldiers.

In an interview published in the Adevarul daily newspaper, Mazare said he was surprised to learn of the criminal complaint filed against him and claimed his new haircut—which he adopted shortly before the first round of Romania’s presidential elections—owed to his desire to keep up with current trends.

“I got the haircut to fit in to the hairstyles I see people wearing on the street,” he said.

New Dutch app offers original writings of Anne Frank

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA)—A publisher in Amsterdam released the first smartphone application to contain Anne Frank’s diary in its original language.

Uitgeverij Prometheus unveiled the Dutch-language app earlier this month at the Theater Amsterdam, a 1,100-seat auditorium that was built in the Dutch capital earlier this year for the show “Anne,” about the Jewish teenage diarist’s life.

The app, which costs approximately $8.50 to download, contains the international bestseller “The Diary of a Young Girl”—a version of Anne’s writings edited and brought to print by her father, Otto. It tells the story of the Frank family’s two years in hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam until their deportation to German concentration camps, where only Otto Frank survived.

But the app also contains several unedited versions written by Anne Frank, Uitgeverij Prometheus said in a news release.

The app also features two interactive timelines with photographs from World War II and the secret annex where the Franks hid. It also has video interviews with Miep Gies, who helped the Franks in hiding. It further contains the audio book of “The Diary of a Young Girl” read by Carice van Houten, the Dutch actress who portrays The Red Woman in the hit HBO series “Game of Thrones.”

The Dutch-language app is the second app containing the diary, which is the intellectual property of the Anne Frank Fonds in Basel, Switzerland – a nonprofit foundation founded by Otto Frank in 1963. The first Anne Frank app appeared in English last year.

A team of 15 people made production of the second app possible, according to Yves Kugelmann, a board member of the Anne Frank Fonds. Kugelmann said the app “aims to make the Anne Frank story and its context accessible to a new generation of readers.”

Wurzburg doctor Josef Schuster elected head of German Jewry

(JTA) – Dr. Josef Schuster, a native of Israel and the son of Holocaust survivor parents, will serve as the new head of German Jewry.

Schuster, 60, of Wurzburg, was elected board president on Sunday of the Central Council of Jews in Germany; he ran unopposed.

The group’s vice president for the past four years, Schuster succeeds Dieter Graumann, 64, who announced in October that he would not run for another term. Graumann was the first board president who was born after the Holocaust.

In a statement after his election by the presidium members, Schuster described the council as “a good roof” over the 108 Jewish communities in Germany, but “not the kind of roof that’s way above... These communities are our foundation.”

His parents had met in a DP camp after World War II and returned with their son to Germany in 1956, two years after Schuster was born in Israel. The family traces its roots back more than 450 years to the region of Lower Franconia.

Schuster has been president of the Jewish community of Wurzburg and Lower Franconia since 1998.

Two new vice presidents also were elected Sunday: Mark Dainow of Offenbach and Abraham Lehrer of Cologne.

The council elects its six-member board, which then elects a president and two vice presidents.


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