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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

ADL: Anti-Semitic incidents in U.S. up by 21 percent

NEW YORK (JTA)—Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States rose by 21 percent in 2014, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual audit of anti-Semitism.

The organization counted 912 anti-Semitic incidents last year, up from 751 in 2013, with the period surrounding last summer’s Gaza war seeing a surge of incidents. The tally included 36 cases of assault or other violence, 363 incidents of vandalism, and 513 cases of harassment, threats and events.

“2014 was a particularly violent year for Jews both overseas and in the United States,” Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director, said in a statement. “Lethal anti-Semitism continues to pose a threat to American Jews and larger society as well.”

The count includes a wide variety of incidents, ranging from the shooting spree last April at a pair of Jewish institutions in Kansas that left three people dead to swastika graffiti, vandalized menorahs, personal spats involving anti-Semitic rants, offensive postings on social media and anti-Semitic letters to the editor.

“Anti-Jewish sentiment is increasing globally because of the oppressive behavior of Jews in power and their crimes against humanity,” read one letter printed in the Riverdale Press in New York that was included in the ADL audit.

In the annual tally, which is compiled using information provided by victims, law enforcement and community leaders, the states with the most anti-Semitic incidents correlated, as usual, with the states with the largest Jewish populations. New York led with 231 incidents, followed by California (184 incidents), New Jersey (107), Florida (70) and Pennsylvania (48). Massachusetts, which placed sixth, counted 47 incidents, one more than in 2013.

“Every act of anti-Semitism is one too many,” Evan Bernstein, ADL’s New York regional director, said in a statement. “We need to raise awareness of this troubling phenomenon, which is happening right here in our neighborhoods across the city and state.”

Despite the year-over-year rise, the number of U.S. anti-Semitic incidents in 2014 was still one of the lowest totals recorded since the ADL began keeping records of them in 1979, the organization said. Certain kinds of attacks, however, are on the rise—notably attacks by hackers on community and synagogue websites.

During the war last summer between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, anti-Semitic incidents more than doubled compared to the same period in 2013. The ADL said it does not count criticism of Israel or Zionism as anti-Semitic except when it crosses the line “from legitimate criticism to anti-Semitism by invoking classic anti-Jewish stereotypes or inappropriate Nazi imagery and/or analogies.”

Among the incidents that fell into that category was the defacing of a Lowell, Mass., synagogue with the slogans “Free Palestine” and “God Bless Gaza”; the scrawling of “Jews=Killers” and “Jews are Killing Innocent Children” near the entrance to a Jewish summer camp in Malibu, Calif.; and a conversation between a doctor and a Jewish patient in Boca Raton, Fla., in which the doctor said that the Jews killed Jesus and that current events were attributable to that crime.

‘The Daily Show’ chooses Jon Stewart’s successor

NEW YORK (JTA)—Trevor Noah, a biracial comedian from South Africa, will succeed Jon Stewart as host of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central.

Noah, 31, joined the show as recently as September, and has had only three appearances on the program, according to The New York Times. In one, Noah lampooned the dearth of attention that the Western world devotes to Africa, particularly the misdeeds of the Nigerian Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram.

Stewart, 52, announced last month that he’d be retiring this year from “The Daily Show,” which he has hosted since 1999 and has become a cultural touchstone in some ways more influential in U.S. politics than serious-minded evening news programs. Stewart, who was born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz and is from New Jersey, often references his Jewish background on the show.

The winner of several Emmy and Peabody awards during Stewart’s tenure, “The Daily Show” also has become a launching ground for myriad successful comedians, including Steve Carell, star of the groundbreaking NBC comedy “The Office”; Stephen Colbert, who is slated to take over CBS’s “Late Show” from David Letterman; John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”; and Larry Wilmore, host of “The Nightly Show” on Comedy Central.

Noah made his U.S. television debut in 2012 on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno and also has appeared on Letterman; on both shows he was the first-ever South African stand-up comedian, according to Comedy Central. In his native South Africa, Noah hosted his own late-night program, “Tonight with Trevor Noah.”

Clinton: U.S.-Israel relationship should return to ‘constructive footing’

(JTA)—Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the relationship between the United States and Israel should return to a “constructive footing.”

Clinton, who is expected to announce her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the 2016 presidential election, made the comments in a telephone conversation with Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Presidents Conference said in a statement issued Sunday.

“Secretary Clinton thinks we need to all work together to return the special US-Israel relationship to constructive footing, to get back to basic shared concerns and interests, including a two-state solution pursued through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,” Hoenlein said in the statement regarding the conversation.

“We must ensure that Israel never becomes a partisan issue,” he also said, citing Clinton.

Hoenlein initiated the conversation, according to the Presidents Conference.

It was Clinton’s first comments on the U.S.-Israel relationship since Israeli national elections earlier this month returned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to office.

“Secretary Clinton’s views are of special importance and timeliness given recent issues in the US-Israel relationship. We note her call for direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, which, we believe, is the only possible route to a true peace,” Hoenlein said in the statement.

The relationship between Israel and the United States hit a nadir in the wake of Netanyahu’s pre-election rhetoric about not reaching an agreement on a two-state solution during his tenure, and sounding the alarm over the large number of Arab-Israelis who went to the polls on Election Day, as well as ongoing disagreements with the Obama administration over a potential deal with Iran concerning its nuclear program reflected in Netanyahu’s controversial speech before Congress.

Loyola U. student government passes Israel divestment resolution

(JTA)—The Student Government of Loyola University in Chicago narrowly passed a resolution to divest from companies that do business with Israel.

The vote on March 26 was 15 to 15, with two abstentions. The speaker of the student senate broke the tie with a vote in favor of the resolution.

More than an hour of public debate and three hours of debate by student senators preceded the vote, according to the university’s student newspaper, the Loyola Phoenix. The voting was anonymous due to fear of reprisals.

The companies named in the resolution are Caterpillar, United Technologies Co., Raytheon, and Valero.

The tie-breaking vote came from an intern for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, the College Fix news website reported. The CAIR Chicago chapter assisted the Loyola Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, which sponsored the resolution, after it was temporarily suspended from holding campus activities following the harassment of a Jewish group on campus.

The Loyola Student Government passed a divestment resolution in March 2014, but the resolution was vetoed by the student body president. The university also issued a statement at the time that it would not adopt the student’s divestment proposal if passed.

Changed date of death shows Janusz Korczak was killed in Treblinka

WARSAW, Poland (JTA)—A Polish court changed the date of death of the martyred Polish-Jewish humanitarian Janusz Korczak to reflect he was killed in the Treblinka concentration camp.

The Lublin District Court on Friday confirmed that Korczak died on Aug. 7, 1942, not May 9, 1946, as a postwar court had ruled.

The date of death was changed at the request of the Modern Poland Foundation in a case that has been ongoing since 2012.

Janusz Korczak, the pseudonym of Henryk Goldszmit, was a doctor, teacher, writer and humanitarian. During the Holocaust he ran an orphanage for Jewish children in the Warsaw Ghetto. Though he was offered sanctuary by the Polish underground, he chose to go with his more than 190 orphaned children when they were transported to Treblinka. He was killed together with the children when they arrived at the Nazi camp on Aug. 7, 1942.

Postwar Polish courts set the dates of those who died during the war, but whose deaths were not officially documented, as one year after the end of the war.

“Leaving the recognition of Henryk Goldszmit’s death as May 9, 1946 distorts the historical reality,” said Judge Katarzyna Makarzec of the Lublin court.

The Modern Poland Foundation brought the case to court because it wants to publish the works of Korczak on the Internet. According to Polish law, copyrights expire 70 years after the author’s death.

Protesting Hillel’s restrictions, Muhlenberg’s Hillel president resigns

(JTA)—Caroline Dorn resigned as the student president of the Hillel chapter at Muhlenberg College to protest Hillel International’s restrictions against hosting anti-Israel speakers.

Dorn said she stepped down because the Hillel at the Allentown, Pa., college was barred by Hillel International rules from hosting four Jewish civil rights veterans currently on a speaking tour of U.S. colleges called “From Mississippi to Jerusalem: In Conversation with Jewish Civil Rights Veterans.”

Hillel International’s rules prohibit college Hillel chapters from partnering with or hosting groups or speakers who deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish or democratic state; delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel; or support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.

The Jewish civil rights activists on the tour—Dorothy Zellner, Larry Rubin, Mark Levy and Ira Grupper—are supportive of BDS tactics against Israel. Their tour is being sponsored by Open Hillel, which aims to challenge Hillel International’s rules on Israel issues.

The four were featured at a March 26 event at Muhlenberg’s Moyer Hall that drew some 100 students and faculty members, according to organizers. Three of the veteran activists shared their experiences fighting for civil rights in the 1960s as part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and “their perspectives on the situation in Israel/Palestine,” organizers said.

“The vets opened the floor to questions, and we had a great group conversation,” Dorn said in a statement. “It’s too bad the event could not be hosted within Hillel, as the center for Jewish life on campus, and where these conversations should be happening.”

Rabbi Melissa Simon, the professional director of Muhlenberg’s Hillel chapter, stood behind the decision not to host the civil rights speakers.

“’Freedom Summer Veterans Tour’ is a project of Open Hillel, which has committed itself to abolishing Hillel International’s Standards of Partnership,” Simon wrote in an Op-Ed in The Muhlenberg Weekly. “The Tour’s campus campaign focuses on promoting an anti-Israel and pro-BDS agenda. Hillel supports free speech, but that doesn’t mean we are required to invite every proposed speaker. ... Students are welcome to bring a speaker to campus and find co-sponsors—it just doesn’t have to be Hillel.”

Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein accused of sexual assault

NEW YORK (JTA)—Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexually assaulting a young woman in a Manhattan movie theater.

New York police questioned Weinstein, 63, over the weekend after a 22-year-old Italian woman said he had touched her breasts and genitals during a Friday night screening at the Tribeca Film Center, the New York Daily News reported.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has not yet decided whether or not to file charges, according to the Daily News.

Weinstein is co-founder of Miramax. At a Simon Wiesenthal Center dinner on March 24, he urged Jews in the fight against anti-Semitism to “stand up and kick these guys in the ass.”

Weinstein has produced a litany of hit films, including the Holocaust action movie “Inglorious Basterds” and “Pulp Fiction.”

Jewish House Dems call on Obama to cool rhetoric against Netanyahu

(JTA)—Some Jewish House Democrats called on President Barack Obama to tamp down the rhetoric against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

The Congress members issued the demand last week at a meeting with deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, Politico reported Sunday. The meeting was the latest in a series of regular briefings that Rhodes has been holding with Jewish members of Congress about the Iran nuclear negotiations.

Among the lawmakers at the meeting were Reps. Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida; Jerry Nadler and Nita Lowey of New York; Adam Schiff and Brad Sherman of California; Jan Schakowsky of Illinois; and Sander Levin of Michigan.

Rhodes declined comment to Politico on the meeting but reportedly left agreeing to relay the lawmakers’ message on the rhetoric.

The House members told Rhodes that they are as upset as the Obama administration about remarks Netanyahu made in the hours before Israelis went to the polls earlier this month in which he ruled out the creation of a Palestinian state, but that Obama needed to stop harping on the issue, Politico reported.

“Obama and his aides, they said, had to stop acting as if the Israeli prime minister’s comments are the only thing holding up a peace process that’s been abandoned for a year while not expressing a word of disappointment about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas—and openly toying with allowing the Palestinians their provocative recognition bid at the United Nations. The swipes at Netanyahu felt vindictive and gratuitous,” according to Politico.

Obama and his aides believe it is now up to Netanyahu to repair a rift that they stress is only about the peace process, not the larger commitment to Israel, according to Politico.

“We’ve made our point. The message has clearly been received,” a White House official told Politico. “The next move is theirs, presumably after the new government has been formed.”

Gene Saks, award-winning director who worked with Neil Simon, dies at 93

NEW YORK (JTA)—Gene Saks, a Tony Award-winning director best known for his work with playwright Neil Simon, has died at 93.

Saks died of pneumonia Saturday at his home in East Hampton, N.Y., The Associated Press reported.

Saks, who directed for stage and film and also was an actor, began working with Simon in 1966, when the playwright asked him to direct the film version of “Barefoot in the Park.”

Over the next two decades they collaborated on film versions of “The Odd Couple,” “Last of the Red Hot Lovers,” “The Prisoner of Second Avenue” and “Brighton Beach Memoirs.” Their work together on Broadway included “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “California Suite” and “Lost in Yonkers.”

In 1987, Saks told The New York Times that his and Simon’s shared Jewish background was a factor in the compatibility.

“We both come from middle-class, first-generation Jewish families,” he said, “and our humor springs from the same roots.”

Saks grew up in Hackensack, N.J., where his father ran a women’s wholesale shoe business. After graduating from Cornell University in 1943, he served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, participating in the D-Day invasion.

In 1963, Saks made his Broadway directing debut with “Enter Laughing,” a coming-of-age comedy based on a novel by Carl Reiner.

Saks is survived by his wife, Keren, whom he married in 1980, as well as three children and three grandchildren. For nearly three decades he was married to actress Bea Arthur, best known for her roles in the TV comedies “Maude” and “The Golden Girls.” Arthur and Saks divorced in 1980. Arthur died of cancer in 2009.


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