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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


N.Y. Times public editor calls paper’s Iran deal graphic ‘insensitive and inappropriate’

(JTA)—The New York Times’ public editor called a graphic about the Iran nuclear deal that singled out Jewish lawmakers “insensitive and inappropriate.”

Margret Sullivan addressed the issue Friday in her column a day after the graphic titled “Lawmakers against the Iran deal” was posted online and published in the newspaper.

The chart originally included a column with the heading “Jewish?” “Yeses” were highlighted in yellow, while “noes” were not.

Another column showed the estimated Jewish populations in the lawmakers’ districts. Districts with a ratio above the United States average of 2.2 percent Jewish also were colored yellow.

The “Jewish” column was removed by Thursday evening with no comment. On Friday afternoon, an editor’s explanatory note was published on the newspaper’s website.

“A chart published on Thursday about Democrats in Congress who opposed the nuclear agreement with Iran oversimplified a complex aspect of the debate—the views of Jewish members of Congress and the divisions among American Jews over the deal,” the note said.

The chart was the subject of articles in other publications, including in Politico and Slate, as well as JTA. It also received a great deal of attention on social media.

“Under Times standards, the religion or ethnicity of someone in the news can be noted if that fact is relevant and the relevance is clear to readers,” Bernstein wrote. “The positions of Jewish members of Congress, and efforts to influence them one way or another, were a legitimate subject for reporting, since many Jewish Americans on both sides of the debate were particularly concerned about the deal’s impact on Israel’s security. Some members of Congress alluded to their perspective as Jews when they announced their positions on the deal.”

She added: “But the chart did not include this context, or make clear that Jewish voters and lawmakers, like other Americans, were sharply divided on the issue. Its emphasis may have left the impression that their Jewish identity was a decisive factor for Democrats who opposed the deal, an assumption that was not supported by reporting.”

Former French lawmaker: Germany ‘took our Jews and gave us Arabs’

(JTA)—A former French government minister said Germany “took our Jews and gave us Arabs,” then walked back the comment.

Patrick Devedjian, a right-wing politician who served in the governments of presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, made the comments Friday at a news conference as France began taking in Syrian refugees fleeing their war-torn country, the French news agency AFP reported.

Devedjian, who is from an Armenian family, later wrote on his Twitter account, “My humorous jest was misplaced.”

France has said it will take in 24,000 refugees over the next two years. Germany is expected to take in 800,000 asylum seekers this year, far more than any European country.

Report: Obama and Netanyahu to meet Nov. 9 in D.C.

(JTA)—President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly will meet Nov. 9 in Washington, D.C.

The date of the meeting was reported Sunday by the Israeli daily Israel Hayom, citing unnamed political sources in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu is scheduled to arrive in Washington on Nov. 8 to attend the Jewish Federations of North America’s annual conference.

Last Friday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he could not confirm a White House meeting between Obama and Netanyahu.

“We’ve made clear that consultation between U.S. and Israeli officials is something that has been ongoing. And the president reaffirmed in his telephone call with Prime Minister Netanyahu a couple of months ago that the security cooperation between our two countries would continue,” Earnest said.

He continued: “We have not yet received from the Israelis an interest in detailed discussions about deepening that security cooperation relationship, but we stand ready to have it when the Israelis are. But I don’t have any specific meetings to tell you about right now.”

On Sept. 10, in his annual pre-High Holidays call to U.S. rabbis, Obama said that he was ready to meet with Netanyahu during the United Nations’ General Assembly opening session, which starts next week and runs through Oct. 6. Netanyahu until now has rebuffed such overtures because of his disagreement with the U.S. leader over the Iran nuclear deal.

Four New Jersey day schools to cap tuition for a decade

(JTA)—Four northern New Jersey Jewish day schools are promising to cap tuition for middle-income families for 10 years.

A $10 million grant from the Gottesman Foundation will offset the cost of keeping tuition flat at Golda Och Academy, the Gottesman RTW Academy, the Jewish Educational Center and the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School, the New Jersey Jewish News reported.

Each of the four schools has agreed to limit total tuition expenditures to 18 percent or less of a family’s adjusted gross income, regardless of the number of children in the family. The program aims to help middle-income families who may be reluctant to apply for or do not qualify for traditional financial aid.

Scholarships for lower-income families will remain in place at the four schools.

According to the newspaper, that area of New Jersey is among the first nationwide to guarantee tuition breaks across a community in a coordinated effort to make day schools more affordable.

The $10 million grant from the Paula and Jerry Gottesman Family Supporting Foundation of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ will also pay for incentives to attract new families, professional development for teachers and an effort to market the region to prospective day school families.

In an interview that appeared last winter in Hayidion, the journal of RAVSAK, the community day school umbrella organization, Paula Gottesman urged a communal response to high tuition costs.

“Just as people pay taxes for public schools—and no one would say we shouldn’t do that—the Jewish community should tax itself for the education of our children,” she said. “Our collective future should be the responsibility of the collective community.”

AJC poll: U.S. Jews split on Iran deal, Clinton the preferred presidential candidate

WASHINGTON (JTA)—An American Jewish Committee poll found U.S. Jews virtually split on the Iran nuclear deal and showed Hillary Rodham Clinton well ahead of the pack among preferred presidential candidates.

The annual AJC poll published Friday showed 50.6 percent of respondents approved of the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached in July between Iran and six major powers, and 47.2 percent disagreed with it.

That’s a virtual tie, based on the 4.7 percent margin of error. The poll of 1,035 Jews was conducted Aug. 7-22 by GfK. Recent general population polling has showed support for the deal plummeting to the 20s.

Asked about presidential candidates, 39.7 percent of respondents listed Clinton as their first choice, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who is vying with Clinton for the nod among Democrats, came in as a second choice at 17.8 percent. Among Republicans, billionaire Donald Trump was in the lead with 10.2 percent, followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 8.7 percent.

The poll suggested gains for Republicans, who have struggled for years to top 30 percent among Jewish voters: Overall, Democratic candidates garnered 58.5 percent of support while Republicans added up to 37.4 percent.

On the Iran deal, the AJC pollsters went for a straightforward question: “Recently, the U.S., along with five other countries, reached a deal on Iran’s nuclear program. Do you approve or disapprove of this agreement?”

A range of other polls of U.S. Jews on the Iran issue have been accused of bias because of questions that attempted to contextualize or explain the deal.

In a follow-up question, the AJC respondents showed a lack of confidence in the ability of the deal to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Those who replied “very confident” numbered just 4.9 percent, while “somewhat confident” were at 30.7 percent; The “not so confident” came in at 30.1 percent and the “not at all confident” were at 33.2 percent. Overall, that showed 35.6 percent expressing confidence in the deal and 64.3 percent expressing a lack of confidence.

The White House and other backers of the deal have lobbied the Jewish community hard for its support, as have the deal’s opponents, including congressional Republicans, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Respondents were slightly likelier than not to believe that ties between the United States and Israel were strained. Asked if U.S.-Israel ties were getting better or worse, 4.7 percent said “better” and 42.2 percent said they were the same, while 51.9 percent said they were worse.

Respondents were culled from a pool of 55,000 people who had been asked through a system of random selection to participate in such surveys. They responded via email.

Traditional pollsters prefer cold-calling, saying that self-selection—in this case, by agreeing to be part of a survey pool—inevitably skews results, leaving out respondents who might otherwise not have prepared themselves for polling. However, with the advent of cell phones, cold-call surveys have become for some groups prohibitively expensive, and an increasing number of polls are conducted through email among respondents who have expressed a willingness to be surveyed.

Florida Jewish man arrested for posing online as Australian jihadist

(JTA)—The FBI arrested a 20-year-old Jewish-American who is accused of causing a terrorist scare by pretending to be a jihadist terrorist based in Australia.

Joshua Ryne Goldberg, who lives in his parents’ home in Florida, was apprehended Sept. 10 following a joint FBI investigation with Australian police, the AFP news agency reported Friday based on information obtained by Fairfax Media.

Goldberg is accused of posing online as “Australi Witness,” a supporter of the Islamic State terrorist group who publicly called for a series of attacks against individuals and groups in Western countries.

In recent days Australi Witness has claimed online that he is working with other jihadists to plan attacks in Australia and the United States. He distributed pictures of a bomb that he was working on with “2 lbs of explosives inside” and allegedly instructed others on how to build bombs.

After his arrest, AFP reported, Goldberg claimed that he meant for a person he was communicating with to either kill himself creating the bomb or to warn authorities as to the individual’s plans and receive credit for stopping the attack.

Goldberg, who is not Muslim and has no real-world links with extremism, was arrested at his home by Florida police for “distribution of information relating to explosives, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction,” AFP reported.

The Federal Police of Australia—which has strict laws against the dissemination of extremist threats and propaganda inciting violence—do not intend to apply for Goldberg’s extradition, according to the AFP report.

“When investigations determined it was likely the person responsible for these threats was based in the United States, the investigation became the jurisdiction of the FBI,” a police spokesperson told the Sydney Morning Herald.

According to William Berry, a special agent of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Goldberg had initially denied to officers that he had any involvement with distributing information on how to make a bomb, but then later admitted it.

French Jewish groups form task force on refugee relief

(JTA)—French Jewish groups, including Western Europe’s largest charity for Jews, signed a declaration of principles for coordinated efforts to provide relief for Syrian refugees.

The declaration, initiated by French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia and published Sept. 10, states each of the six co-signatory groups will “act to accompany the refugees, each according to its competences and abilities and with its traditional partners,” but “especially in administrative and medical matters.”

In recent weeks, tens of thousands of migrants, including refugees, have entered the European Union, where a strong public reaction has followed the publication of images of the migrants’ plight and the loss of life among refugees who drowned or suffocated while trying to make it across the border.

Many are refugees from the civil war in Syria. Others come from unstable or impoverished countries in the Middle East and Africa.

The signatories to Korsia’s declaration—including the Fonds Social Juif Unifie, which has an annual budget of roughly $10 million and the Union of Jewish Students of France, or UEJF—wrote that their initiative was “guided by the notion of tikkun olam—repairing the world—in Jewish philosophy and out of awareness of a moral struggle occurring in a society too characterized, at times, by individualism.”

CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, did not sign Korsia’s declaration but has nonetheless given it its blessing, according to Korsia’s office.

The coalition of organizations will soon begin collecting and distributing clothes for migrant children, read the statement, which also praised France’s decision to take in 24,000 refugees.

In neighboring Belgium, the left-leaning CCLJ Jewish cultural group last month also called on European governments to act “generously,” but warned against a possible increase in anti-Semitic violence because of the arrival of migrants from the Middle East, who today across Western Europe are believed to be responsible for most anti-Semitic violence.

The Central Jewish Organization of Dutch Jews made a similar statement.

Moscow’s Reform rabbinic institute welcomes first class

MOSCOW (JTA)—A newly established rabbinical seminary in Moscow for Reform Jews received its first class, made up of seven students.

The seven—four women and three men—began attending the Moscow Rabbinic Leadership Institute, also known as Machon, earlier this month, the World Union for Progressive Judaism said in a statement Sept. 10.

Operating at Moscow’s Russian State University for the Humanities—which helped set up Machon in partnership with the union and the Abraham Geiger College—the institute is designed to address the current lack in Reform rabbis in the former Soviet Union, the union’s president, Daniel Freelander, said.

Currently, only six Russian-speaking Reform rabbis serve the entire region, where more than half a million Jews live, according to Freelander.

“We need so many more, and some are approaching retirement age,” he wrote. Machon, he added, may allow for the ordination of three to four Russian-speaking Reform rabbis annually and “grow the professional leadership of all our congregations in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.”

After four years, students will receive a bachelor’s degree in Jewish studies, facilitated by the Geiger College in Potsdam. But those ordained as rabbis will be the students who will opt to continue to study for a master’s degree in Jewish theology from the University of Potsdam in Germany, the World Union said.

Some expenses, including tuition and housing costs, will be covered for participants by the union, though a third of the program’s cost will be paid by the students.

In Ukraine, which, according to the European Jewish Congress, has 380,000 Jews—the largest Jewish population in the former Soviet space—the Reform movement’s membership of several hundred Jews is significantly smaller than that of Orthodox communities run by Chabad and other rabbis.

Palestinian flag to be raised at U.N. headquarters

(JTA)—The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution allowing what it officially recognizes as the “State of Palestine” and the Vatican to raise their flags outside the organization’s facilities.

In a 119-8 vote on Sept. 10, with 45 abstentions, the General Assembly approved the move allowing the two entities, both nonmember observer states, to raise their flags following the flags of member states.

The resolution calls on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to implement it within 20 days, in time for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Sept. 30 arrival at the U.N. headquarters in New York, CNN reported.

Last Friday, the Wafa news agency quoted Abbas as saying, “The struggle will continue until the Palestinian flag flies over our eternal capital, occupied Jerusalem.”

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian permanent observer at the United Nations, has previously said the action would be another step in solidifying the Palestinian government’s presence in the international arena.

The Palestinian Authority gained nonmember observer state status at the United Nations in November 2012.

Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the General Assembly before the vote that the United States is committed to achieving peace between Palestinians and Israelis, but “raising the Palestinian flag outside the U.N. headquarters is not an alternative to negotiations and will not bring the parties closer to peace.”

Israel, the United States, Canada and Australia voted against the resolution, along with four Pacific island nations. Britain abstained, along with at least 10 European Union members states including Germany and the Netherlands. France, Poland, Italy and Spain were among the EU states that voted in favor of the resolution.

According to Mansour, there are at least two open spots for flags to be posted outside U.N. headquarters in New York.

Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said in a speech before the General Assembly that allowing the flag to fly would be part and parcel of “Palestinians’ use and abuse [of] the United Nations.” He accused the Assembly of allowing the Palestinians “to get away with it.”

Obama tells rabbis he plans to meet soon with Netanyahu

WASHINGTON (JTA)—President Barack Obama told rabbis in a pre-Rosh Hashanah phone call that security talks with Israel had resumed and he hoped to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by early next month.

On Sept. 10, in his annual pre-High Holidays call to the rabbis, Obama said that he was ready to meet with Netanyahu during the United Nations’ General Assembly opening session, which starts next week and runs through Oct. 6. Netanyahu until now has rebuffed such overtures because of his disagreement with the U.S. leader over the Iran nuclear deal.

“Our consultations have already begun with Israeli military and intelligence officials,” Obama said.

“My hope is to have a long discussion with Mr. Netanyahu about these issues when he comes to the United Nations during the General Assembly of the United Nations, or immediately after that,” he said.

Netanyahu, who adamantly opposes the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached in July between Iran and six major powers, has suspended U.S.-Israel discussions on security cooperation until he was certain that opponents of the deal in the U.S. Congress could not defeat it.

Congress has yet to vote on the deal, but it became clear late last week that Obama had garnered enough voters to head off any bid to kill the deal, and on Sept. 10, Senate Democrats successfully killed the legislation that would have rejected the agreement.

The Iran deal was the main focus of the call, which rabbis use to help plan their High Holidays sermons.

“Acknowledging the vigorous debate that has occurred within the American Jewish community and in Israel, the president explained that the deal is consistent with his unwavering commitment to Israel’s security, and he expressed his willingness to discuss additional ways to enhance Israel’s security and further strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship as the deal is implemented,” the White House said in its readout of the phone call, which drew 500 rabbis from across the denominational spectrum.

Obama fielded questions after his opening statement and addressed issues including the Voting Rights Act, combating anti-Semitism worldwide, climate change and Israeli-Palestinian peace. He praised the Jewish community for its work in advancing civil rights.

“There’s a long recognition based on religious traditions and the memory of what it’s like to be a stranger,” he said.

The president also said that he was still dedicated to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace despite the collapse last year of U.S.-brokered talks.

“Israel’s long-term security does depend on somehow resolving the Palestinian issue,” Obama said. “We’re going to have to work on these issues, and they’re going to be messy and challenging in the years to come.”

Obama said he would stand by Israel on matters of security, but called on U.S. Jews as well as Israel to closely consider the Palestinian question.

“There’s going to have to be some soul searching in Israel and the American Jewish community because they’re tough questions,” he said.

Final tally: 19 of 28 Jewish lawmakers back the Iran nuclear dVeal

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Two-thirds of the Jewish lawmakers in Congress back the Iran nuclear deal in a tally finalized when Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida announced his backing.

The announcement by Grayson, a Democrat, came late Sept. 9, the day deliberations began in Congress. His endorsement brings the number of backers among the 28 Jews in Congress to 19, with nine opposed.

Grayson, a candidate for the Senate, had had strong reservations about the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached in July between Iran and six major powers. He signed off on his statement with a Yiddish proverb: “A shlekhter sholem iz beser vi a guter krig—A bad peace is better than a good war.”

“I wish that these negotiations had been used as a vehicle to bring peace to the region,” he wrote.

“But it’s too late for that now. The immediate question is a simple one: Is it more dangerous to have an agreement, or to have no agreement? On the evidence I see, it’s more dangerous to have no agreement. So I will be voting in favor of the Iran nuclear agreement.”

Republicans are united in their opposition to the deal, and so the focus of opponents of the deal, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has been on Democrats, particularly Jewish Democrats in Congress. The Obama administration has similarly lobbied Jewish lawmakers and the Jewish community fiercely for the deal.

Congress has until Sept. 17 to reject the deal; Obama has already garnered enough support in both chambers to resist an override to the veto he has pledged to impose should Congress reject the deal, and he may even have enough backers on the Senate to shut down any such bill through a filibuster.

All but one of the 28 Jewish lawmakers—19 in the house and nine in the Senate—are Democrats or caucus with Democrats.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., one of the first Jewish lawmakers to announce backing for the deal, excoriated deal opponents in her floor speech as debate began Sept. 9 on the deal. Boxer accused opponents of “dreaming or scheming—dreaming of a successful go-it-alone strategy or scheming for another war in the Middle East. Those options are self-inflicted wounds we can ill afford.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., the sole Jewish Republican in Congress, meanwhile joined Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., in introducing a resolution that would declare the deal undelivered to Congress—effectively extending Congress’ period to review the deal by at least 30 days.

The resolution says that the Obama administration did not fully comply with the law that starts the review clock ticking the moment Congress receives the deal. Lee and Pompeo, and a number of other Republicans in both chambers, say that Congress needs the text of a side agreement between Iran and the U.N. nuclear inspection agency on the terms of inspections before the review clock starts.

Obama administration officials say the agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency is not subject to U.S. control and is separate from the deal. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the majority leader in the Senate, suggested on Wednesday that he agreed with the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law.

 

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