Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA
Kitchen employee stabbed by former co-worker at Philly-area day school
(JTA)—A former employee at the Barrack Hebrew Academy stabbed a worker and threw bleach in his face at the suburban Philadelphia day school.
The incident in the kitchen at the nondenominational Jewish high school in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, occurred Monday just before 10 a.m., Philly.com reported, citing the Radnor Township Police.
The victim, who was stabbed in the head and neck, is being treated for non-life-threatening injuries and identified the alleged assailant, a 32-year-old who is in police custody after attempting to flee on a commuter train. The attack followed an argument between the victim and assailant.
Barrack’s head of school, Sharon Levin, said in a statement posted on the school website that the incident took place “while all of our students were in class. As a precautionary measure, our school immediately followed our lock down procedure, and at no time was any student or employee in any danger.”
Four Israelis saved from Mount Everest
(JTA)—An Israeli rescue team saved four Israelis from Mount Everest, where they had been trapped by the earthquake that has devastated Nepal.
A rescue team sent to Nepal by Harel, an Israeli insurance company, brought the Israeli hikers, who are in good health, to safety on Monday, the Times of Israel reported.
Approximately 100 Israelis are still missing, and more than 3,800 people are believed to have died in the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on Saturday morning.
An Israeli army jet bound for Kathmandu carrying 250 medical and rescue personnel and supplies, including a field hospital, departed from Israel on Monday afternoon. Earlier in the day, an army plane brought 90 rescue workers and supplies. A third plane is scheduled to take off on Monday night.
U.S. Jewish hikers in Nepal contact families
(JTA)—Two Jewish-American men who were hiking together in Nepal during the massive earthquake have contacted their families.
Danny Cole, 39, a father of four from Crown Heights, New York, and Mendy Losh, 38, originally from Crown Heights and now living in Los Angeles, reportedly are at the Mount Everest base camp awaiting evacuation. They were hiking in Nepal and believed to be on a trail below the Everest base camp when the earthquake struck, triggering avalanches in the area.
They said it took them two days of moving from village to village in the area to find a way to contact the outside world.
“Our families are in contact with them and we are working towards bringing them home safely,” said Moshe Schreiber, a family spokesman for both men. “We thank the many people and organizations who have worked tirelessly on behalf of Danny and Mendy during this difficult time. We wish them continued blessing and success in their selfless efforts to help the countless others in need of aid.”
The death toll in the 7.8 magnitude temblor topped 4,000 on Monday afternoon.
At least four Americans have been killed in the earthquake and its resulting avalanches and aftershocks, including a Jewish Google executive, Dan Fredinburg. Some 50 Israelis remain unaccounted for, down from 250 immediately following the natural disaster.
A plane carrying an Israeli military field hospital and 260 personnel is en route to Nepal following a day of delays due to weather and the condition of the runway in Kathmandu.
George W. Bush: Sanctions rollbacks with Iran would be a mistake
LAS VEGAS (JTA)—Former President George W. Bush said a deal with Iran should not have sanctions rollbacks.
“It’s ridiculous to think once you end sanctions they’re gone,” Bush said at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual spring forum in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
The session was off the record, but attendees shared parts of the Bush’s question-and-answer session with conference-goers with reporters.
Bush would not directly criticize President Barack Obama, saying it would be unseemly to do so.
Obama has embraced talks between Iran and the major powers that would trade sanctions relief for measures aimed at keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. There have been indications that in a final deal, the sanctions relief would be staggered according to how Iran cooperates with a nuclear inspections regime.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some Republicans have argued that sanctions should only be lifted once Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is dismantled.
Bush also said he would not have removed troops from Iraq, which has collapsed into sectarian warfare since the Obama administration ended its military engagement in the country in 2011.
The National Jewish Democratic Council blasted Bush for “hypocrisy,” noting that the Iraq invasion he initiated proved a failure and hugely unpopular, and that Iran’s nuclear program accelerated on his watch.
“His instincts have ultimately proven to be far out of touch with the American people,” the group said in a statement.
Bush also speculated that his brother Jeb, the former Florida governor likely to run for president, would face some resistance because Americans do not favor dynasties. The brothers’ father, George H. W. Bush, was also president.
Chief Iran talks negotiator: Defending Israel ‘tougher’ without 2 states
ARLINGTON, Va. (JTA)—A new Israeli government that does not back a two-state solution will make the U.S. job of defending Israel “a lot tougher,” according to a top State Department official.
Wendy Sherman, the undersecretary of state leading Iran talks, on Monday addressed the biennial of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center.
“We have always had Israel’s back in the international arena,” Sherman said, but noted caveats about a two-state solution expressed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during March elections.
“We will be watching very closely to see what happens after a government is formed on this issue,” she said. “If a new Israeli government is seen as stepping back from its commitment to a two-state solution—something all of you and vast majority American Jews support—that makes our job in the international community a lot tougher.”
Sherman also strongly defended the nuclear talks between Iran and major powers.
“We will have eyes into every part of Iran’s nuclear program from cradle to grave,” she said of a nuclear agreement with a June 30 deadline. “If we detect Iran is trying to break its commitments or violate the agreement, we will have every single option on the table.”
Sherman cast her work on the agreement, which has drawn sharp objections from Netanyahu and Republicans, as in line with her upbringing in Baltimore’s Reform Jewish community.
“Every time I hear President Obama talk, I’m always struck about how personally he feels about those issues,” she said, referring to issues of concern to Jews and Israel.
“This deep-seated feeling is what drives his unwavering commitment to Israel’s security. It’s also what drives this administration’s approach to the Iranian nuclear threat. We understand Israel is in a tough neighborhood. That’s why we’ve given Israel more security assistance than any other admin in history.”
Stanford fraternity house vandalized with swastikas
(JTA)—Swastikas along with personal slurs and epithets were painted on a fraternity house on the Stanford University campus.
The graffiti was discovered on the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house on Saturday night by fraternity members, the Stanford Daily reported on its website Sunday.
“I am deeply troubled by the act of vandalism, including symbols of hate, that has marred our campus,” Stanford President John Hennessy said in a statement to the student newspaper. “The University will not tolerate hate crimes and this incident will be fully investigated, both by campus police and by the University under our Acts of Intolerance Protocol. This level of incivility has no place at Stanford.”
“I ask everyone in the University community to stand together against intolerance and hate, and to affirm our commitment to a campus community where discourse is civil, where we value differences and where every individual is respected,” Hennessy said.
The incident at the Palo Alto, California, school comes three weeks after accusations by student government candidate Molly Horwitz that she was singled out for her Jewishness during an endorsement interview by the Students of Color Coalition.
The president of the Stanford Israel Association, senior Liana Kadisha, told the campus newspaper that there has been a rise in hostility toward Jewish groups since the Stanford Undergraduate Senate passed a controversial divestment resolution in February. She said that many student groups have refused to co-sponsor events with her group.
Jewish student groups are planning to present a pledge against anti-Semitism response to the swastika attack, Kadisha told the Stanford Daily.
“The display of this loaded symbol of the Holocaust casts a shadow over our university community,” the Stanford Hillel’s executive director, Rabbi Serena Eisenberg, and president, Susan Wolfe, said in a statement. “We appreciate the University’s investigation of this serious incident in the wake of recent campus discord. Hate crimes have no place on a college campus or anywhere.”
Jewish man attacked in Paris suburb after leaving synagogue
(JTA)—A French Jewish man from suburban Paris area told police he was assaulted by younger Arabs outside his synagogue.
The complainant, identified as Salomon Z., 53, in a report about the incident by the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, said he was assaulted on Saturday after attending Sabbath morning services at the synagogue in the Saint-Ouen municipality, the bureau reported.
A man with an Arab appearance, whom the victim estimated was 25 years old, followed him into an alley, yelled “dirty Jew” and hit him in the face, according to the BNVCA report. Two other men, whom the victim also described as Arabs, joined the alleged aggressor and also hit the Jewish man.
Salomon Z. said the attackers wrestled him to the ground and produced a knife, telling him they were going to stab him, but fled as onlookers began to approach.
The victim suffered minor injuries to the face. “Shocked and traumatized he returned to his home,” BNVCA wrote. Salomon Z. filed a complaint with police on Sunday.
“Even as synagogues, schools and other Jewish community institutions are watched over by police and troops, Jews remains vulnerable targets on the street or in their place of business,” BNVCA wrote in a statement about the incident.
Some 851 anti-Semitic acts were registered in 2014, compared with 423 the previous year, with acts of physical violence jumping to 241 from 105, according to the SPCJ security unit of French Jewish communities.
Holocaust survivor criticized for urging end to prosecution of SS officers
(JTA)—A Holocaust survivor who publicly forgave and embraced a 93-year-old former Nazi officer on trial has angered plaintiffs in the case after saying the government should stop the prosecution.
Eva Mozes Kor, who had been one of 50 Auschwitz survivors bringing charges against Oskar Groening, a concentration camp guard who has been described as the “accountant of Auschwitz,” said on German television Sunday night that the government should stop prosecuting former SS officers and instead urge them to come forward and publicly share their stories, The Guardian reported.
Kor, 81, said stopping prosecutions would help in the fight against neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers in Germany.
Her co-plaintiffs issued a statement criticizing Kor’s remarks, saying she should not have become a plaintiff if she did not believe in such prosecutions.
Kor, who has published two books about her experiences at Auschwitz, posted a photo on Twitter of her embracing Groening shortly after she testified about how she and her twin sister, Miriam, had been subjects of Joseph Mengele’s experiments there.
“I am sharing with you my face to face meeting with Oskar Groening the former Nazi guard. Two old people reaching out pic.twitter.com/XlooNvPpQ1
—Eva Mozes Kor (@EvaMozesKor) April 23, 2015”
Kor also wrote about the encounter on her Facebook page:
“... As I was talking to him, he grabbed me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Well I probably wouldn’t have gone that far, but I guess it is better than what he would have done to me 70 years ago.
“Everything he is accused of—I am saying he did all that. I told him that my forgiveness did not prevent me from accusing him nor from him taking responsibility for his actions. And I told the media that he was a small screw in a big killing machine, and the machine cannot function without the small screws. But obviously he is a human being. His response to me is exactly what I was talking about when I said you cannot predict what will happen when someone from the victims’ side and someone from the perpetrators’ side meet in a spirit of humanity.
“I know many people will criticize me for this photo, but so be it. It was two human beings seventy years after it happened. For the life of me I will never understand why anger is preferable to a goodwill gesture. Nothing good ever comes from anger. Any goodwill gesture in my book will win over anger any time. The energy that anger creates is a violent energy ...”
Haredi Orthodox neighborhood has NYC’s highest birth rate
NEW YORK (JTA)—A heavily haredi Orthodox neighborhood in Brooklyn boasts New York City’s highest birth rate.
Borough Park, which is known for its sizable Orthodox Jewish population, has 27.9 births per 1,000 residents, making it “easily the city’s baby capital,” according to the New York Post.
Citing 2013 data, the Post reported that the city’s overall birth rate is at its lowest level since 1936 and has declined steadily in the past 10 years.
Half the new births in the city are to foreign-born women, with Asians boasting the highest rate among the city’s immigrants. Forty percent of births were out of wedlock, and nearly 60 percent were to women receiving Medicaid or other government-subsidized health insurance. African-Americans had the lowest birth rate citywide.
In Borough Park, which has sizable Asian and Latino populations in addition to haredi Orthodox, 40.4 percent of residents are foreign-born, according to City-Data.com.
Berlin police apologize for making soccer fans put away Israeli flag
BERLIN (JTA)—Police in Berlin have apologized to German fans of the Ingolstadt Soccer Club for making them roll up the Israeli flag they were displaying during a match in the city.
Almog Cohen, an Israeli who plays for Ingolstadt, reportedly tweeted in Hebrew after Sunday’s incident in the game against Union Berlin that a stadium marshal told the fans “no Jew-flags” were allowed.
“I apologize to all those affected” by the decision, Berlin’s police president, Klaus Kandt, said in a statement to Spiegel Online magazine.
The Bild Zeitung newspaper said the police were concerned with the flag’s political implications, given the large Palestinian community in Berlin—by some estimates about 30,000 people, including those with German citizenship.
Kandt said that police should rather be concerned with protecting freedom of opinion.
A team spokesperson said they would not interfere with police decisions, since they would then bear responsibility should problems ensue.
Berlin’s interior minister, Frank Henkel, currently visiting Israel, told the Bild that he was sure the police meant well but that they had made the wrong decision.
“This is not the first time that an Israeli flag has been removed for supposed security reasons,” Sacha Stawski, the founder of Germany’s pro-Israel media watchdog Honestly Concerned, told JTA.
In January 2009, police removed Israeli flags from an apartment window overlooking a massive anti-Israel demonstration in Duisburg. The police chief later apologized, saying that the officers only wanted to prevent the anti-Israel demonstrators from rampaging in response to seeing the Israeli flags.
“In my mind, nobody should ever come up with the idea of removing an Israeli flag in order not to incite a certain group of the population,” Stawski said.
Moscow has world’s second-largest Limmud
MOSCOW (JTA)—The Limmud Jewish learning conference in Moscow attracted nearly 1,500 participants, making it the second-largest event of its kind worldwide.
The three-day event, which closed Sunday at a resort just outside the Russian capital, was the largest Limmud event ever held outside Britain, Limmud International confirmed.
“It’s an amazing achievement considering that nine years ago nobody heard about Limmud here, and that 30 years ago Jewish life was completely underground,” Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler said.
A third of Limmud FSU Moscow’s participants this year were first-timers, according to Alexander Piatigorsky, co-founder of the first Moscow event in 2006 and senior executive at one of Russia’s largest cellular providers.
Among the speakers were Alexander Boroda, a senior Chabad rabbi, and Andrey Makarevich, a rock star.
“I came to Limmud FSU this year for the first time after a Jewish friend of mine, who is more religious than me, told me it has great content that broadens your horizons,” said Dennis Sher, who also volunteered at the event.
The conference featured a panel discussion by Jewish war veterans who participated in the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp 70 years ago and the inauguration of a photo exhibition celebrating their actions.
The Limmud model began in Britain in 1976 for and by Jewish educators and has since been adapted by Jewish communities from Australia to California. Limmud UK remains the largest, with 2,600 participants this year.
In former Soviet countries and countries with many Russian-speaking Jews, the conferences are organized by local volunteers with help from the Limmud FSU nonprofit, which was founded in 2006.
Kiev Jews get $100K from European Jewish Congress for security needs
(JTA)—The European Jewish Congress has given $100,000 to the Jewish community of Kiev in order to strengthen security.
The money will allow for around-the clock security at Jewish institutions and sites in the Ukrainian capital, said Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, a Ukraine chief rabbi, according to The Jerusalem Post.
“As an integral part of the European Jewish Congress’ policy to always assist Jewish communities – most particularly those that are not so well resourced – in meeting their security needs, the EJC donated $100,000 to the Jewish community in Ukraine at the height of tension in the country and when, according to official community representatives and our own security experts, the community was most at threat,” an EJC spokesman told JTA in a statement.
A Kiev Jewish leader told the newspaper that the doors of the local Jewish day school have often been painted with swastikas, and that youth often gather around the local synagogue shouting anti-Semitic slogans. He said the money was used in part to install surveillance cameras, a high perimeter fence, shatter-proof windows and to place a professional security guard at the day school, and to install a video surveillance system at the synagogue.
Alan Pollack, activist for Israel, dies at 77
(JTA)—Alan Pollack, a leading activist for Israel, has died.
Pollack died of a heart attack in his Manhattan apartment on April 18. He was 77.
He was a leading Zionist activist from the 1960s to the 1980s, serving as president of the Labor Zionist Alliance and as a member of the World Zionist Organization Executive and the Jewish Agency Board of Governors. Pollack lived in Israel during part of the 1970s and ‘80s.
He also supported the Jewish National Fund, Israel Bonds and the Soviet Jewry movement, according to The New York Jewish Week.
Pollack joined the JTA board in 1979.
Pollack, who was an art collector, taught Russian history at Columbia University, retiring a decade ago.
In 1967 he helped found American Professors for Peace in the Middle East, an organization that is no longer in existence.
Reports: Syrian rebels, not Israel, behind border attack
JERUSALEM (JTA)—An attack on the Syria-Lebanon border blamed on Israel was the work of Syrian rebels, the Israeli media reported, citing unnamed Israeli defense sources.
The early Monday attack, which mimicked a Saturday-night attack alleged to have been carried out by Israel, was blamed on Israel in Arab media reports on Monday morning, including by Al Jazeera.
The second attack came several hours after four terrorists placing a bomb on Israel’s border with Syria in the Golan Heights were killed in an Israeli airstrike.
Arab media had reported over the weekend that Israel was responsible for bombing a convoy of long-range missiles on Saturday night that were intended for Hezbollah in northern Lebanon.
The Israeli military has neither confirmed nor denied any of the reports, saying it does not comment on foreign media reports.
Syria is in the midst of a more than four-year civil between armed rebels and government forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.
Israel approves construction of 77 Jewish homes in eastern Jerusalem
(JTA)—Israel invited tenders for construction of 77 new homes in Jewish sections of eastern Jerusalem.
Citing Peace Now, an Israeli group opposed to settlements in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, i24 News reported that the tenders for Pisgat Zeev and Neve Yaakov on Monday were the first issued since the March 17 election.
The government last month also approved construction of 2,200 homes and authorized hundreds of previously illegal dwellings for Palestinians in Arab sections of eastern Jerusalem, according to Yediot Acharonot. Right-wing activists opposed the decision.
“Publication of the tenders for Jewish homes in east Jerusalem is liable to be an indicator from Netanyahu’s transitional government of what can perhaps be expected—God forbid—when the new government is formed,” Peace Now said in a statement. “Instead of changing direction and showing that Israel is ready for peace, Netanyahu is sticking to the line he held during his election campaign and seeking to prevent the chance of peace.”
U.N. inquiry finds Israel fired on its schools, Hamas hid weapons in its buildings
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel fired on seven United Nations schools and Hamas hid weapons in at least three empty U.N. buildings during Israel’s operation in Gaza in 2014, according to an inquiry.
Some 44 Palestinians sheltering in the U.N. schools bombed by the Israelis were killed and Hamas also fired at Israel from United Nations buildings, the U.N. inquiry found, according to a summary released Monday.
More than 200 pages, the full report on the incidents during last summer’s 50-day operation, dubbed Protective Edge, is considered top secret and will not be released.
Israel has investigated all seven incidents in which it was cited in the report and cooperated in the investigation, Haaretz reported. The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it would study the report’s findings and work with the United Nations to improve the security of U.N. buildings in Gaza.
The inquiry led by Patrick Cammaert, a retired Dutch general and former force commander of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, looked at 10 incidents involving U.N. property. The investigation was ordered in November by the world body’s secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon.
“United Nations premises are inviolable and should be places of safety, particularly in a situation of armed conflict,” Ban wrote in a cover letter accompanying the summary, according to reports. “I will work with all concerned and spare no effort to ensure that such incidents will never be repeated.”
The inquiry’s recommendations will be explored, he said.