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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Key Democrat Adam Schiff, ex-Rep. Barney Frank back Iran nuclear deal

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Rep. Adam Schiff, a key Democrat in the political battle over the Iran nuclear deal, is backing the agreement, as is a former senior Jewish lawmaker, Rep. Barney Frank.

In a statement Monday, Schiff, of California, outlined what he saw as the pluses of the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal, including intrusive inspections and the ability to reimpose sanctions should Iran violate the deal, and its drawbacks, including limited access to military sites and aspects of the deal expiring after 15 years.

“In the absence of a credible alternative, Congress should accept the deal and work with the Administration to strengthen its impact, while joining forces with our allies to better contain Iran’s conventional capabilities and nefarious conduct in the region and beyond,” he said.

His opinion has weight: Schiff is the senior Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, privy to and knowledgeable about the intelligence dimensions of the deal reached July 14 between Iran and six major powers.

Schiff was among some 10 of the 27 Jewish Democrats in Congress under the closest scrutiny in the battle over the deal waged between the Obama administration, which backs the deal, and Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which oppose it.

In supporting the agreement, Schiff joins other Jews in the Democratic leadership, including Reps. Sander Levin, D-Mich., and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, as well as a number of others. Congress has until mid- to late September to decide on the deal. Obama has pledged to veto disapproval of the deal, and the House and Senate each would need a two-thirds majority to override.

Frank, who for decades represented Massachusetts in the House and was chairman of its Banking Committee, writing in the Press Herald of Portland, Maine, noted that he was among those who had led passage of the sanctions that helped bring Iran to the table. He argued that retreating from the deal would collapse the international sanctions regime and leave Iran free to pursue a nuclear weapon.

“Compared with the no-deal result, with Iran free to pursue nuclear weapons constrained only by unilateral sanctions from America and a few of our allies, what Obama and Kerry have done deserves support,” he said, pointing out the efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry.

Also announcing support for the deal Monday were Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., who represents a Bay Area District, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Both lawmakers have considerable Jewish constituencies.

Democrats opposed to the deal include Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Calif., who represents a San Diego-area district, and Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., whose New York City area district has a substantial Jewish population. Meng’s predecessor, Gary Ackerman, like Frank, a decades-long Jewish leader in the House, also opposes the deal.

Republicans mostly oppose the deal, so much of the focus on garnering the necessary numbers to defeat it has been on Democrats.

Obama to speak to Jewish leaders in first post-Iran deal meeting

WASHINGTON (JTA)—President Barack Obama will meet with Jewish leaders for the first time since world powers reached a deal with Iran on its nuclear program.

Leaders from an array of Jewish groups will visit the White House on Tuesday afternoon, according to representatives for some of the groups. The meeting will include groups that support and reject the deal, as well as some that have yet to decide.

Obama will be speaking with the Jewish leaders just after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses American Jews through a webcast convened by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Israel’s government opposes the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached July 14 between Iran and six major powers led by the United States. Both sides are targeting Democrats in Congress, who are key to whether Congress disapproves of the deal in the next month-and-a-half. Should Congress disapprove, and should such a law survive Obama’s promised veto, it would kill the deal.

Vice President Joe Biden spoke in a conference call with Jewish leaders shortly after the deal was reached, and Obama spoke last week in a conference call with liberal groups backing the deal, including a number of Jewish groups.

Several senior administration officials also have addressed Jewish groups since the Iran deal was reached. They include Ernest Moniz, the secretary of energy; Wendy Sherman, the undersecretary of state who led the U.S. team in the Iran talks; and Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff.

U.S. Jewish groups call on Israel to rein in its Jewish extremists

(JTA)—Jewish groups in the United States called on Israel to more forcefully rein in its Jewish extremists.

The call came in messages condemning two attacks: the firebombing of a Palestinian home in the West Bank, which led to the death of a sleeping 18-month-old baby; and the stabbing of six people at the Jerusalem gay pride parade, which led to the death of a 16-year-old girl.

The attacks “must be met with determined action to prevent violence, apprehend perpetrators, and hold to account those who engage in incitement,” Stephen Greenberg and Malcolm Hoenlein, the chairman and executive vice chairman, respectively, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said in a statement.

The statement also “expressed their profound sorrow to the Dawabsha family on the death of their child, Ali Saad Dawabsha.”

AIPAC in a statement also expressed condolences to the family and condemned the attack.

“Terror—whatever the source—must be given no quarter,” said the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbyist. “The deliberate and heinous targeting and murder of innocents cannot be tolerated.”

David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, wrote in a statement, “Setting ablaze the home of an innocent Palestinian family, of any such family, is frightening in its pure evil. Whoever carried out this appalling deed must be apprehended and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and additional steps must be taken in an effort to prevent any future such attacks.”

The Anti-Defamation League condemned what it called the “shocking terror attack” and called for the perpetrators to face more stringent penalties.

“For seven years, extremists have perpetrated acts of violence and hate, targeting mosques, churches, and private property,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s national director, and Carole Nuriel, director of the group’s Israel Office, said in a statement. “Now these unacceptable acts of hatred and unbridled zealotry have resulted in the murder of an innocent child.

“Expressions of outrage are no longer enough. The perpetrators of these crimes need to face specific, enhanced consequences for these despicable acts of hate and terrorism. Community and religious leaders must make unquestionably clear that any act of hate and violence is unacceptable, un-Jewish, and that anyone involved in such incidents will be shunned by the community, let alone prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

The Orthodox Union said in a statement: “Such a heinous act offends all people of good will and violates basic Jewish values. We commend Prime Minister Netanyahu for his unequivocal repudiation of this act and his commitment to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Interpol arrest warrant for Iranian AMIA bombing suspect still in place

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—An international arrest warrant for Iran’s former defense minister in the AMIA Jewish center bombing will not be lifted under the Iran nuclear deal, U.S. officials said.

Ahmad Vahidi is still being sought in connection with the deadly 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires center and nothing will change under the agreement between Iran and the world powers reached last month, according to the State Department.

“Nothing in the recently concluded Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action, or JCPOA, on Iran’s nuclear program has an impact on or removes the Red Notice for General Vahidi issued by Interpol, in relation to the 1994 bombing in Argentina,” the State Department said in a statement Friday, two days after Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman asked Secretary of State John Kerry about Vahidi’s status in a letter. “And we continue to urge the international community and Argentine authorities to do whatever is necessary to hold the AMIA bombers accountable for that atrocity.

Along with Vahidi, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and its officials remain sanctioned in the United States because they were listed for reasons outside the scope of the agreement, the statement said.

Timerman’s letter also was sent to European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that “the E.U.’s planned delisting of Tehran’s former minister of defense, retired Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, is among a group of Iranian military officers, nuclear scientists and defense institutions set to be rehabilitated internationally in the wake of the nuclear accord.”

The State Department added in its response that “our secondary sanctions will also stay in force, which means that foreign banks and companies could be exposed to sanctions if they engage in transactions with these listed individuals.”

Since Vahidi is not listed under any nuclear-related activities, the State Department said, he will remain on the Interpol list for eight more years.

Timerman, who is Jewish, in February asked Kerry to include the AMIA attack in the negotiations with Iran, but the attack was not part of the talks.

Jewish uprising at Treblinka commemorated

TREBLINKA, Poland (JTA)—The last surviving prisoner of Treblinka was among those in attendance for a commemoration of the Jewish uprising at the Nazi extermination camp in Poland.

“We burned in hell,” said Samuel Willenberg said at Sunday’s ceremony on the 72nd anniversary of the outbreak of the uprising. Some 200 prisoners escaped, but hundreds were killed while trying to flee.

Among those joining Willenberg at the ceremony organized by Poland’s Jewish Historical Institute was the newly appointed spokesman for the Polish Bishops’ Conference, Father Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, who read Psalm 23 in Polish and Hebrew. Rytel-Andrianik was born in Sokolow Podlaski, near Treblinka. He studied in Jerusalem for several years and speaks 16 languages.

Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich read the El Maleh Rachamim prayer and Rabbi Stas Wojciechowicz said the Mourners’ Kaddish.

In conjunction with the ceremony, an exhibition was opened displaying photos taken since 2007 that document the exhumation of mass graves in Treblinka. Pieces of jewelry and a shoe found in the mass grave also were on display.

As a result of the revolt by Treblinka prisoners, the Germans started to close down the camp, which stopped functioning in November 1943.

Mural on remnants of Berlin Wall hit with anti-Semitic graffiti

BERLIN (JTA)—A famous mural on remnants of the Berlin Wall was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti.

The attack comes during a week when several thousand Jewish visitors are participating in the first-ever European Maccabi Games to be held in Germany.

Police quickly covered the graffiti with a scaffold after the vandalism was spotted on Friday, and the artist restored his work on Sunday, according to German news reports.

The mural, which features an Israeli flag superimposed on a German one, was painted in 1988 as a reminder of the 40th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom in Nazi Germany.

The artist, Gunther Schaefer, most recently restored the outdoor artwork last March. It reportedly has been defaced at least 51 times over the years—usually by neo-Nazis, extreme left-wingers, racists and Islamic extremists, but also by apolitical vandals, the artist told reporters. He has

documented many of the defacements on his website.

Schaefer said in a Facebook post that the police reaction—to secure the mural with chain and lock—took him by surprise. He invited followers to join him on Sunday and help touch up his mural.

The German media have speculated that the incident is related to the visit to Berlin by some 3,000 Jews from around the world—athletes and spectators—for the 14th European Maccabi Games.

According to an online report by the rbb broadcasting company, a group of young Jews was subjected to a verbal anti-Semitic attack near one of the sports venues, and in another incident police arrested a man of Arab background who hurled anti-Semitic insults at two guards outside the hotel where most of the athletes are staying. Security, which already was heavy, was further tightened, rbb reported.

Study: N.Y., Boston and Miami are America’s 3 most Jewish cities

NEW YORK (JTA)—New York, Boston and Miami are the three most Jewish cities per capita in the country, according to a new analysis of data gathered last year by the Public Religion Research Institute.

Eight percent of New York City residents are Jewish, followed by Boston at 6 percent and Miami at 5 percent, according to the data. Philadelphia and San Francisco each are 4 percent Jewish, and Chicago and Washington are 3 percent Jewish.

Nationally, 2 percent of all Americans are Jewish, according to the study. Los Angeles, which by raw numbers is believed to house the country’s second-largest urban Jewish population, is just 2 percent Jewish, the analysis found.

Ranked by state, New York and New Jersey tie as the most Jewish, with 6 percent of residents in both counted as Jews. Next are Massachusetts (5 percent) and Maryland (3 percent), followed by California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Vermont each with 2 percent.

Ranked by region, the Northeast is 4 percent Jewish; the Midwest, South and West each are 1 percent Jewish.

The analysis is based on data collected in some 52,741 telephone interviews conducted in 2014 as part of the Public Religion Research Institute’s American Values Atlas.

Overall, the largest urban religious group is Catholics, who are No. 1 or tied for the top spot in 15 of America’s top 30 metropolitan areas. Religiously unaffiliated make up the top “religious group” in 10 of those metro areas, and white evangelical Protestants are the plurality in six of the major metro areas. Atlanta is the only major metro area with a different group at the top: black Protestants.

Nationwide, Nashville, Tennessee, has the largest percentage of a single religious group, with 38 percent of all residents identifying as white evangelical Protestant.

The least religious city appears to be Portland, Oregon, where 42 percent of respondents identified as religiously unaffiliated. Two percent of the city’s residents are Jews.

International Jewish gay conference to honor Jerusalem parade victim

(JTA)—Gay Jewish community builders from across the world are set to convene in Austria for the inauguration of an international think tank on their communities’ needs.

The 70 participants coming to Salzburg next week for the think tank, which is called Eighteen:22, also will commemorate Shira Benki, the Jerusalem 16-year-old who died from injuries suffered in last week’s stabbing at her city’s gay pride parade.

Eighteen:22 is a reference to Leviticus 18:22, a biblical verse that forbids men from having “sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman.”

“Despite major advances in gay rights issues, we really have a lot of work to do inside the LGBTQ community and out,” said Robert Saferstein, who  initiated the think tank, which is part of the Connection Points program of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

While many Orthodox rabbis have spoken out against the murder, “we also see some rabbis who are more interested in promoting hate than condemning the loss of life, which is the most sacred principle in Judaism,” Saferstein said.

LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.

Among the conference participants will be Zehorit Sorek, an Orthodox lesbian woman from Jerusalem who is a co-founder of Bat Kol, Israel’s organization for religious lesbians, and head of the gay rights caucus of the centrist Yesh Atid party. Sorek attended the Jerusalem parade where Yishai Schlissel, a haredi Orthodox man from the West Bank, allegedly stabbed Benki and five others. Schlissel had recently been released from prison for a similar attack at the 2005 Jerusalem gay pride parade.

Other participants are expected to include Mordechai Levovitz, a social worker and a director of Jewish Queer Youth, a U.S. nonprofit that assists Orthodox and Hasidic young gays and their families, and Eli Nassau, founder of Guimel, the first LGBT Jewish initiative in Mexico.

Bulgarian soccer fans attack Israeli players during match

(JTA)—Soccer fans in Bulgaria attacked Israeli players and coaches during an exhibition match in Sofia.

Players from the Ashdod team fled to empty stands and then out of the stadium after the fans ran on the field throwing bottles and physically attacking players during the match on Sunday, according to reports. The attack in the Bulgarian capital followed a rough foul against a player from CSKA Sofia near the end of the game.

Ashdod coach Eyal Lahman was hit in the face with a broken bottle. Other players reportedly received light injuries as well.

The Israeli team was leading 1-0 when the game was stopped.

Some Bulgarian fans reportedly were shouting anti-Semitic epithets at Israeli players during the game. They also cheered when the Israelis were driven out of the stadium; security guards blocked fans from pursuing the players.

Sofia police reportedly believe that some fans had been planning to cause a disturbance during the match.

Trump campaign fires Jewish adviser over racist Facebook posts

(JTA)—A Jewish adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was fired over racist and incendiary Facebook posts.

On Sunday, the campaign acknowledged the dismissal of Sam Nunberg two days after reports, first reported by Business Insider, that he has been making such posts on his personal Facebook page since 2007.

Nunberg told Business Insider that he does not recall making the offensive posts, and that he was not employed by the Trump campaign when they were posted.

He was one of eight paid political advisers on the Trump campaign as of April, and was paid more than $15,000, Business Insider reported, citing Trump campaign finance reports.

“Sam Nunberg is just a short-term consultant with the campaign along with many others. If he did make these statements he will be terminated immediately,” a campaign spokesman told Business Insider on Friday. “Mr. Trump would never condone such statements from anybody in his campaign... even if that person had a low-level campaign position.”

In an August 2007 post, Nunberg wrote about calling the Rev. Al Sharpton’s daughter “N---!” He also saved some of his most incendiary remarks for posts about President Barack Obama, calling him a “Socialist Marxist Islamo Fascist Nazi Appeaser,” according to Business Insider. He also spoke about the president as a “Kenyan” and “Muslim.”

Trump’s special counsel, Michael Cohen, apologized last week after saying there is no such thing as marital rape. Cohen also said that Trump supported fellow candidate Mike Huckabee’s characterization of Obama marching Israelis “to the door of the oven” as part of the Iran nuclear deal and bolstered the argument by saying he was not offended by the statement despite losing family members during the Holocaust.


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