Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

Jewish boxer Dustin Fleischer wins by first-round knockout, moves to 4-0

(JTA)—Jewish boxer Dustin Fleischer, who said his quest is to become the first world champion descended from a Holocaust survivor, stayed unbeaten with a first-round knockout.

Fleischer, nicknamed “The White Tiger,” moved to 4-0 with the defeat of Ira Frank on Saturday night in Beach Haven, New Jersey, near his home, he reported after the fight on his Facebook page. The 26-year-old welterweight has won all his bouts by knockout.

His father, Phillip, himself a former boxer and the son of a Holocaust survivor, served as his trainer and cornerman for the fight.

Fleischer entered the ring wearing a gold Star of David necklace with a red jewel that had been owned by his late survivor grandfather.

“I am his blood, he’s part of me, he gives me strength,” Fleischer told JTA in an interview two days before the bout. “I know the odds he conquered to survive in the Holocaust, and I know I can conquer the odds to become a world champion.”

Jewish fans in North America, Israel and Great Britain regularly show their support, he told JTA.

Pro-Palestinian minister speaks in NY State despite Jewish opposition

(JTA)—A pro-Palestinian minister spoke at an alternative location after an upstate New York divinity school revoked a speaking invitation over death threats and local Jewish opposition.

The Rev. Graylan Hagler, a senior minister of the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, spoke Sept. 24 at the German House in Rochester under the auspices of Jewish Voice for Peace-Rochester and Christians Witnessing for Palestine on “Connecting the Dots: Ferguson to Palestine.”

The Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester had disinvited Hagler, the Democrat & Chronicle reported last week.

“I’m standing here to lift up the dignity and rights of all people in the world,” he told the some 250 audience members, according to the Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that promotes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. “We have to stand up and tell the truth: Black lives matter, Palestinian lives matter, Palestine matters! We need to demand justice!”

According to roc4israel, a local pro-Israel group, Hagler at a Jewish Voice for Peace rally in Washington earlier this year condemned “pimply faced white boys in Israeli uniforms.”

Hagler met with then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2010, roc4israel said, and in 2012 Hagler stated at a panel discussion that he was working to “disengage” Christians from Hebrew Scripture.

Colgate Rochester President Marvin McMickle said in a statement that “after certain concerning facts came to light and after consultation with other members” of the divinity school’s administration, he notified Witnessing for Palestine that “we are no longer prepared to allow this lecture to take place” on campus.

Jeb Bush’s Jewish team includes brother’s backers, staffers

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Jeb Bush named a “Jewish leadership team” for his campaign that includes a number of Jews who were prominent in campaigning and working for his brother, the former President George W. Bush.

Bush said that among his supporters since his days as Florida governor are “members of the Jewish community who have welcomed me into their homes for Passover Seder, taken me as a travel companion to Israel and worked with me on issues of shared concern, such as religious freedom, school choice and economic opportunity,” according to a statement issued last Friday by the campaign.

“Having their support has meant so much, and we are looking to build that team,” Bush said.

A number of the 75 listed supporters are Floridians, but a substantive portion is also associated with the presidency of his brother. They include Joshua Bolten, the former president’s chief of staff; Michael Mukasey, his attorney general; a number of liaisons to the Jewish community during the Bush presidency; and major George W. Bush fundraisers, including Mel Sembler and Fred Zeidman.

Also included is Eric Cantor, the former congressman who until last year was the majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Earlier this year, some conservatives raised concerns when Jeb Bush named as advisers officials in the administration of his father, President George H. W. Bush, who had clashed with Israeli governments in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

His statement last Friday said, “We will defend the institutions of faith and civic engagement, which are this nation’s glory. We will confront anti-Semitism wherever it exists. We will restore our alliances around the world, especially with the brave and democratic State of Israel.”

British Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn: Osama bin Laden was framed for 9/11

(JTA)—Jeremy Corbyn, the newly elected leader of Britain’s Labor Party, claimed more than a decade ago that Osama bin Laden was framed for 9/11.

Corbyn wrote in a 2003 article for the London-based Morning Star newspaper that the United States and Britain made it look like bin Laden, the head of al-Qaida, was responsible for the attacks in order to allow the West to go to war in Afghanistan, the British daily newspaper The Telegraph reported over the weekend.

“Historians will study with interest the news manipulation of the past 18 months,” Corbyn wrote in 2003 in the Morning Star, a Socialist publication. “After September 11, the claims that bin Laden and al-Qaida had committed the atrocity were quickly and loudly made. This was turned into an attack on the Taliban and then, subtly, into regime change in Afghanistan.”

Corbyn, who has been accused of being anti-Israel, was criticized in the days before winning the Labor leadership on Sept. 12 after saying it was a “tragedy” that bin Laden was killed before he could be put on trial for the 9/11 attacks.

He has called Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah “friends,” and recently defended an Anglican minister who posted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories online. Corbyn also has publicly endorsed a blanket arms embargo on Israel and the boycott of Israeli universities involved in weapons research.

The publication of Corbyn’s comments came as the Labor Party was preparing for its annual conference, which runs Sunday to Wednesday. A number of Labor Party lawmakers are expected to use the conference to publicly state that the party is unelectable under Corbyn, according to the Telegraph.

Corbyn succeeded Ed Miliband, who is Jewish, as the opposition party’s leader.

Kerry and Iranian counterpart meet on nuclear deal, Mideast issues

WASHINGTON (JTA)—U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in his first meeting with his Iranian counterpart since reaching a nuclear deal, said achieving regional peace was on the agenda.

“We have a lot of issues to talk about,” Kerry said Saturday before his meeting with Javad Zarif in New York during the annual United Nations General Assembly opening.

“I view this week as a major opportunity for any number of countries to play an important role in trying to resolve some of the very difficult issues of the Middle East. We need to achieve peace and a way forward in Syria, in Yemen, in the region itself.”

One of the principal fears of opponents of the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached in July between Iran and six major powers was that it would pave the way toward legitimating Iranian influence in the region, particularly in Syria, where it has backed the Assad regime in its repression of an uprising.

Zarif emphasized that the major item on the agenda was implementing the nuclear deal, due to formally kick in on Oct. 18.

“We are going to concentrate in this meeting on the full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” he said, using the deal’s formal title. “That is the project that we started together, and we hope that by its full implementation—its good-faith implementation—we can vent some of the mistrust that has existed over the past many decades.”

Former Israeli military chief praises Iran nuclear deal

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Israel’s most recent military chief of staff called the Iran nuclear deal an “achievement.”

“I do agree a better deal could have been reached,” one that more extensively restricted uranium enrichment, Benny Gantz said Friday of the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached in July between Iran and six major powers.

“But I see the half-full part of the glass,” he said. “I see the achievement of keeping the Iranians, 10-15 years into the future, postponing their having a nuclear capability at the right price.”

Gantz, a retired lieutenant general whose five years as military chief of staff ended in February, spoke at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank with close ties to the U.S. and Israeli governments.

Gantz is the latest—and perhaps most significant—retired Israeli security official who has suggested the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has overstated the dangers of the deal.

“I am not worried, as far as Israel’s security situation,” he said. “We know how to take care of ourselves.”

The ex-chief of staff hinted that relations with the United States, frazzled this year by open hostility between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations, needed repair. The U.S. commitment to maintaining Israeli’s qualitative military edge in the region is “unheard of, it needs to be appreciated.”

Gantz, who recently joined an Israeli technology start-up, flatly said he had no political ambitions.

Bill O’Reilly: DNC’s Wasserman Schultz should resign after using Holocaust to smear Rubio

(JTA)—Political commentator Bill O’Reilly called for Democratic National Committee head Debbie Wasserman Schultz to resign for criticizing a Marco Rubio fundraiser held at the home of a donor who collects Nazi memorabilia.

Wasserman Schultz, a congresswoman from Florida, said on Sept. 22 that Rubio should cancel a fundraiser that was held at the Texas home of Harlan Crow, a multimillionaire real estate developer whose collection includes paintings by Adolf Hitler, a signed copy of “Mein Kampf” and other historical objects. The event was held on Sept. 22, the eve of Yom Kippur.

On Sept. 24, in a closing segment of his show “The O’Reilly Factor,” O’Reilly called Wasserman Schultz’s critique “insane” and said that she should subsequently resign immediately.

“I have been to Harlan Crow’s home and I have seen his collection of history,” O’Reilly said. “It is amazing, and any museum would be proud to display what he has. Both good and evil are represented in an educational way.

“By attacking Rubio using the Holocaust, the head of the DNC has shamed herself and her party. She should immediately resign.”

Wasserman Schultz had called Rubio’s decision to hold the fundraiser in Crow’s house “the height of insensitivity and indifference.”

“There’s really no need for such a gross act of disrespect,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

On “The O’Reilly Factor,” Rubio called Wasserman Schultz’s claims a “despicable attack” and pointed out that Crow’s mother, Margaret, survived an attack in England from a German U-boat during World War II.

Jewish coalition for Syrian refugees awards $148K to groups working in Hungary, Turkey

(JTA)—The Jewish Coalition for Syrian Refugees has awarded $148,000 in new grants to address the welfare of refugee women and children and to ensure psychosocial support for first responders.

The coalition of Jewish organizations, which two weeks ago expanded to address the needs of refugees and migrants in Europe (including Turkey), as well as in Jordan, announced grants on Sept. 24 to World Jewish Relief, working in partnership with the International Blue Crescent, and to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, working in partnership with the Turkish Jewish Community and IBC as well as with two local Hungarian NGOs, Menedek and the Student Counseling Center of Szeged University.

Since expanding its efforts, the coalition, a subgroup of the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, has raised more than $200,000, on top of the more than $500,00 it had raised for its work in Jordan since 2013.

“While the Jewish humanitarian response to this crisis emerges from the Jewish people’s historic experience of displacement, our focus on vulnerable refugee women and children and the care of first responders represents our desire to provide immediate relief for those whose burdens are be disproportionately felt in a situation of this magnitude,” Will Recant, who coordinates the coalition, said in a news release issued by the coalition.

Recant is also JDC’s assistant executive vice president.

Among the services the grants will cover are providing winter clothing and sleeping bags to refugee children, a mother-child health care unit at a refugee camp and psychosocial support for hundreds of humanitarian first responders working with refugees in Hungary.

The Jewish Coalition for Syrian Refugees previously aided thousands of Syrian refugees through more than $500,000 in grants for humanitarian aid in Jordan, helping spur the founding of an interfaith movement advocating for the needs of the Syrian refugee populations.

Coalition member organizations include North American groups like the American Jewish Committee, the JDC and the Anti-Defamation League, as well as the umbrella groups for the Reform and Conservative movements, and international groups like the World Jewish Congress.

For a full list of members or to make a contribution, visit: http://www.jcdr.org.

Michael Douglas gives surprise Yom Kippur speech at Reform temple

NEW YORK (JTA)—Film star Michael Douglas delivered a speech at a temple in a New York City suburb on Yom Kippur.

Douglas, who this summer received the Genesis Prize, informally known as the “Jewish Nobel,” spoke to more than 1,000 worshippers on Tuesday night at Temple Shaaray Tefila in Bedford, the New York Post reported.

In his 20-minute unannounced speech at the Reform congregation, Douglas described how he was “reconnecting” with Judaism and recalled how his famous father, Kirk Douglas, experienced anti-­Semitism when he first began working in Hollywood.

Much of the speech was about the need for the Jewish community to be inclusive, according to the Post.

Douglas’ wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and their children, Dylan and Carys, also were on hand. Dylan Douglas celebrated his bar mitzvah at the temple in May 2014, and Carys is preparing for her bat mitzvah. (Douglas reportedly joked that he hopes his latest film performs well at the box office because he is in the midst of party planning for the bat mitzvah.)

Shaaray Tefila’s senior rabbi, David Greenberg, invited Douglas.

Boehner to resign as House speaker, leave US-Israel crisis behind

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Rep. John Boehner, the House speaker who played a key role in this year’s crisis in U.S.-Israel ties, is stepping down.

Boehner’s resignation, confirmed by colleagues last Friday, comes as the Ohio Republican is under increasing pressure within his party’s caucus to reconcile moderates, who are ready to compromise with the Obama administration on spending, and conservatives, who favor shutting down the government.

Boehner will step down by the end of October, news reports said.

Boehner helped organize Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress in March against the emerging Iran nuclear deal favored by the Obama administration. Netanyahu and Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, agreed to Boehner’s request to keep planning for the speech secret, catapulting the prime minister’s already tense relationship with President Barack Obama into one of open hostility. Democrats in the White House and in Congress treated Netanyahu as a GOP partisan ready to collude with Obama’s political enemies.

Obama and Netanyahu will meet in November in a bid to tamp down tensions now that the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached between Iran and six major powers is ready to move forward.

The likeliest replacement for Boehner is Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. McCarthy, who is more conservative than Boehner, has close ties to pro-Israel Republicans; he spoke earlier this year at the Republican Jewish Coalition forum in Las Vegas.

Boehner has longstanding ties to the Jewish community, dating to the launch of his career as a local politician in southern Ohio.

“Speaker Boehner has always been attuned to the interests of the Jewish community,” said William Daroff, the Washington director of the Jewish Federations of North America, who launched his own career as a page to Boehner in the Ohio House of Representatives.

Daroff said Boehner worked with Jewish groups “closely to help those served by our social service agencies, to bolster the philanthropic sector and to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship. His steadfast leadership will be missed.”

Lithuania’s first street honoring Holocaust Righteous unveiled in Vilnius

(JTA)—Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Simasius unveiled the sign of the first street in Lithuania named for a non-Jew who risked her life to save Jews from the Holocaust.

The Sept. 22 ceremony was at Simaites Street, where a heavily Jewish crowd of several dozen people convened to honor Ona Šimait, a Vilnius University librarian whose actions helped rescue numerous Jews from the Vilna ghetto.

Simaites, who was recognized in 1966 as a Righteous Among the Nations—a title conferred by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum on behalf of the State of Israel—arranged for the rescue of Jews, including children, by other righteous gentiles.

She was also responsible for the forging of identity documents, and helped smuggle provisions into the Vilna ghetto as well as carrying letters between ghetto inmates and residents of the city outside the ghetto gates, according to the defendinghistory.com site on Jewish news from Lithuania.

Separately, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite posthumously stripped a Lithuanian anti-communist fighter, Pranas Koncius, of a state honor because of his complicity in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust, when many Lithuanians volunteered to serve the Nazi army and occupation government.

“He was never worthy of this award,” the Baltic News Service quoted Grybauskaite as saying on Sept. 21.

On Sept. 22, a commemoration ceremony for the victims of the genocide of Lithuanian Jews was held at the Paneriai Memorial.

Parliament Speaker Loreta Grauziniene and several hundred others paid tribute there to thousands of people killed at the site during the Second World War.

After Iran deal battle, 53 Jewish groups declare their unity

WASHINGTON (JTA)—More than 50 Jewish groups signed a statement saying that despite differences over the Iran nuclear deal, the community was united about the dangers posed by Iran.

“Deliberations over this agreement have evoked deep passions and differences befitting such a critical and complex matter,” said the statement signed by 53 groups under the aegis of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“There were those who saw the agreement as deeply flawed, while others endorsed it as the best among limited alternatives,” said the statement released Sept. 21, noting that it came out on the eve of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.

“Across the spectrum of support or opposition to the deal, it was recognized that our community shares serious concerns for the security of the United States and the world posed by Iran’s nuclear program,” it said. “The safety of Israel and its citizens is of special concern, as Iranian leaders continue to threaten the annihilation of the Jewish State as they do the United States.”

The community, the statement said, was united going forward.

“As we celebrate the High Holy Days, inspired by the spirit and message of our prayers, we rededicate ourselves to our shared commitments to our country, to our community, and to the security and well-being of Israel,” it said.

The two-month battle over whether Congress should reject the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached in July between six major powers and Iran led to tough debates in Jewish communities across the country and anguished statements by Jewish lawmakers.

The battle ended Sept. 17, the last day for Congress to reject the deal; it did not.

At times, the rhetoric in the Jewish community was heated, with accusations of being anti-Israel directed at those who backed the deal, and insinuations of dual loyalty directed at its opponents.

“It is regrettable that, at times, the debate was marked by irresponsible assertions, including ad hominem attacks and insinuations of dual loyalty, maligning the intentions of the opposing side,” the statement said.

A handful of Presidents Conference constituents did not sign on, among them Americans for Peace Now, which backed the deal. Ameinu, a liberal group also backing the deal, did sign the statement. J Street, which backed the deal, was rejected last year for membership in the Conference of Presidents and so was not involved in the statement.

Many of the signatories opposed the deal, or expressed skepticism about it, although some major groups, chief among them the Reform movement, were agnostic.

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, which at one time was an adjunct to the Presidents’ Conference, was not included. A spokeswoman for the college said it was not asked to join the statement. Malcolm Hoenlein, the President’s Conference executive vice chairman, said the Reconstructionists are no longer affiliated with the conference. The other three major streams, the Orthodox, Reform and Conservative movements, all were represented.

The Obama administration said the deal was the best means of keeping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the deal leaves Iran a nuclear threshold state.

Netanyahu, Rivlin meet after more than 2-month hiatus

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin met in Jerusalem for the first time in more than two months.

The meeting last Friday, which was reported two days later, was considered routine, and covered the regional diplomatic situation, recent news developments, the fight against terror and the security situation in Jerusalem, according to reports.

The meeting at the president’s residence in Jerusalem came after reports surfaced that the monthly meetings between the two leaders had been suspended over differences in foreign policy. Netanyahu and Rivlin had met at least once a month since Rivlin became president a year ago, but their last meeting was on July 17.

“I think we’ve exhausted our differences vis-à-vis our relations with the different international systems,” Rivlin said in an interview with Army Radio earlier this month. “Until these things are off the agenda, it seems we don’t need to meet because it seems each one is busy with the same issues.”

In interviews with the Israeli media in early August, Rivlin publicly criticized Netanyahu’s handling of relations with the United States and President Barack Obama.

Rivlin was not the prime minister’s choice for president, and Netanyahu actively worked against Rivlin’s election.


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