Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


200 gather at Paris synagogue, under tight security, to pray for terror victims

PARIS (JTA)—Some 200 people gathered under heavy guard at a Paris synagogue to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks in the French capital on Friday night.

Led by the chief rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, leaders of French Jewry and Israel’s ambassador to France were among those who assembled at the Synagogue de la Victoire on Sunday evening.

“Our people, which has been tested more than others, knows the healing power of solidarity and unity in the face of the pain of torn families, broken couples and orphaned children,” said Michel Gugenheim, the chief rabbi of Paris, of the 132 fatalities and more than 350 wounded in multiple attacks.

The event included a prayer for the souls of the dead and a separate prayer, led by Rabbi Moche Lewin, director of the Conference of European Rabbis, for the speedy recovery of the wounded.

Korsia said that French Jews “feel with all intensity the pain of the families touched by the tragedy and the pain of the nation in general.” He added that “the act of gathering here is perhaps more significant than the speeches.”  French society, he said, “will rise up from its grief like American society rose up from the tragedy of 9/11 and like Israeli society, which never lay down for attacks.”


Streets around the synagogue were cordoned off by police and army for the duration of the ceremony, where congregants underwent pat-downs and bag inspections.

The ceremony was held as many other activities ofJewish institutions in France were suspended for security reasons and out of respect for the victims of the attacks that rocked Paris in what French President Francois Hollande said was an “act of war” by the Islamic State terror group.

“Now ordinary French people are beginning to understand how us Jews have been living in recent years, and the reality in Israel,” Samuel Sandler, the father of Jonathan Sandler, who was killed in 2012 with two of his sons and another child during an Islamist attack at a Jewish school in Toulouse, told JTA at the gathering.

On hand for the ceremony were the president of the CRIF umbrella group, Roger Cukierman, and Sacha Reingewirtz, head of the Union of Jewish Students of France, as well as the ambassador, Aliza Bin-Nun.

Jewish institutional activities grind to halt in grieving Paris

PARIS (JTA)—Institutional Jewish activities ground to halt in Paris for safety reasons and out of respect for the victims of multiple terrorist attacks that rocked the French capital on Friday.

Among the events canceled was a protest rally that CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, had planned for Sunday against the arrival to France of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani—who also postponed his visit, the Actualite Juive weekly reported.


The cancellation of these events was announced as French and Belgian authorities were conducting arrests and searches for suspects tied to the attacks, which French President Francois Hollande said were an act of war against France by the Islamic State terrorist group.

As of Sunday, the death toll was 132.

Earlier this year, a deadly attack on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine was followed two days later by the slaying of four Jews at a kosher supermarket.

The Jewish Federation of France, or FSJU, postponed the launch of its National Appeal for Tzedakah, an initiative that brings in some $3.5 million for charitable causes each November. Due to kick off Sunday, the tzedakah telethon, in which Jewish and non-Jewish celebrities sing in a special radio appeal, was postponed to Nov. 29 because Sunday was declared a national day of mourning in France.

The Maccabi Center in Paris’ 10th arrondissement, or district, canceled a martial arts program due to take place today. A soccer match and a dancing contest were also scrapped. Synagogues remained open throughout Paris on Sunday.

On Sunday, the office of the chief rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, announced a memorial ceremony for the victims will take place that evening at the Synagogue de la Victoire.

The Cultural and University Jewish Space of Europe, or ECUJE, however, suspended all activities until further notice, including Hebrew-language courses, synagogue services and an event honoring Jewish veterans of France’s war in Algeria.

“In full solidarity with the grieving families and in accordance with the state of emergency declared by the government, we hereby inform you of the suspension of all of our activities,” the center’s administrative office wrote in a letter to its members.

Stopping short of announcing a lockdown, SPCJ, the French Jewish community’s security service, urged community leaders to make sure all their congregants were aware of any suspension of activities at synagogues and other centers.

Otherwise, SPCJ wrote in a public security notice that is unusual for its level of detail, congregants might stand together in front of closed synagogues or walk together to open ones—a behavior SPCJ wrote may be more dangerous than holding activities as planned. SPCJ asked the community leaders to “break up routines.”

Some 350,000 Jews live in Paris.

French Jews call for ‘merciless war’ on jihadists

(JTA)—France’s umbrella group of French Jewish communities, CRIF, called for a “merciless war” against radical Islam.

CRIF’s unusually harsh-worded statement Saturday followed news that at least 127 people were killed in a series of terrorist attacks in Paris and its northern suburb of Saint-Denis, which French President Francois Hollande said were an “act of war” committed by the Islamic State.

“The global war against the monstrosity of jihadist fanaticism must become an absolute priority of democratic nations,” CRIF wrote in a series of messages on Twitter. “We must fight it without mercy, without relenting, in order to vanquish it.”

In another statement, CRIF said it shared the “extreme mourning of the nation” and offered “its most saddened condolences” to the families of the casualties.

CRIF President Roger Cukierman told JTA he was not aware of any plan to target Jews specifically in the attacks committed on Friday. But SPCJ, the French Jewish community’s security service, wrote in a statement Saturday that the attacks raised “very serious concerns” among French Jews.

In another unusual move, SPCJ posted on its Facebook page specific instructions to community leaders, including one to “make sure all congregants are aware of any cancellation” of synagogue services, lest they linger at the entrance of closed houses of worship or walk together to open ones, “thereby putting them at even greater risk” than holding services as planned.

The authors of the SPCJ notice also wrote that the attacks suggested detailed research work by the terrorists, which requires “breaking up the routine” at Jewish organizations and synagogues.

The Anti-Defamation League in a statement Saturday expressed “shock and horror” at the attacks, as well as “deep concern” at reports that one of the venues targeted, the Le Bataclan concert venue, had been in the past the subject of threats over its hosting of pro-Israel events and of a reported Al Qaeda plot in 2010 to attack it over France’s perceived role in the blockade over Gaza, or over the supposed Jewish affiliation of its owners.

“We hope the French authorities will investigate the possibility that virulent anti-Semitism was a motive in the attack,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the CEO of the ADL, wrote.

Democratic candidates pledge robust ISIS fight, implicitly chiding Obama

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The three Democratic presidential candidates pledged during their debate to lead the United States in the fight to crush the Islamic State terrorist group, with each suggesting that the Obama administration has come up short.

The candidates in the debate from Iowa broadcast Saturday night by CBS eagerly embraced increasing U.S. engagement and called for the absolute defeat of the terrorist group in the wake of its massive terrorist attack in Paris the previous night.

Implicit in the pledges were critiques of Obama administration policy in the face of the rise of ISIS, which critics have said has been, at least until recent weeks, feckless and deferential to other world powers fighting the group.

“We have to look at ISIS as the leading threat of an international terror network,” said the campaign front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton, a former secretary of state.

“It cannot be contained, it must be defeated,” she said. “There is no question in my mind that if we summon our resources, both our leadership resources and all of the tools at our disposal, not just military force which should be used as a last resort, but our diplomacy, our development aid, law enforcement, sharing of intelligence in a much more—open and cooperative way—that we can bring people together.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who trails Clinton but has launched a stronger campaign than many observers anticipated, agreed that the United States must lead the fight against ISIS. But he also launched a broadside against moderate Muslims, saying they must step up in the battle.

“We have to understand that the Muslim nations in the region—Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, all of these nations—they’re going to just have to get their hands dirty, their boots on the ground,” Sanders said at the event at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, the first caucus state in the primary season. “They are going to have to take on ISIS. This is a war for the soul of Islam.”

The hawkish posture embraced by Sanders, who is Jewish, was unusual in a race in which he has mostly targeted Clinton from the left, most pronouncedly on income gap and banking reforms.

Clinton chided Sanders for including Jordan in the list, saying it was “very unfair” to include the kingdom—one of only two Arab states with a peace treaty with Israel—because it has suffered for the lead it has taken against extremist Islamist groups.

Sanders and the third candidate on the stage, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, took shots at Clinton for her involvement in policies, both under the Obama administration and during the presidency of President George W. Bush, which led to the unraveling of the Middle East. Clinton was Obama’s secretary of state in his first term, and as the U.S. senator from New York she voted for the 2003 Iraq War.

“It was not just the invasion of Iraq which Secretary Clinton voted for and has since said was a big mistake, and indeed it was,” O’Malley said. “But it was also the cascading effects that followed that. It was also the disbanding of many elements of the Iraqi army that are now showing up as part of ISIS. It was—country after country—without making the investment in human intelligence to understand who the new leaders were and the new forces that were coming up.”

Clinton, who has acknowledged that her Iraq War vote was a mistake, said that factors in place before the war as well as decisions taken afterward also contributed to the crisis.

Clinton leading Sanders by nearly 20 percent, poll finds

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Hillary Rodham Clinton is maintaining a substantial lead over Bernie Sanders among Democrats likely to vote in primaries, a poll found.

The New York Times/CBS News poll released Nov. 12 showed Clinton, the former U.S. secretary of state, leading Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, 52 percent to 33 percent.

The candidates have essentially not budged since a CBS News poll in early October showed Clinton leading Sanders 56 percent to 32 percent, within the latest poll’s margin of error, 6 points.

Trailing both was former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley with 5 percent.

The phone poll canvassed 418 Democratic primary voters across the country from Nov. 6 to 10.

Hillel chapter joins Amherst protest against alleged bias on campus

(JTA)—The Amherst College chapter of Hillel joined over 50 campus groups in a coalition demanding changes to create a more “inclusive environment” on campus.

“Amherst Uprising” is one of a spate of collectives on campuses across the country seeking to address what members see as campus environments hostile to minorities.

The manifesto posted last week demands an apology from the elite college in Amherst, Massachusetts, and from its president, Carolyn “Biddy” Martin, for an “institutional legacy” of a number of bigotries, among them anti-Semitism.

The statement also seeks the disciplining and “extensive training for racial and cultural competency” of students behind posters on campus declaring “All Lives Matters” and “in memoriam of the true victim of the Missouri Protests: Free Speech.”

“All Lives Matter” is a slogan that has emerged as a retort to the “Black Lives Matter” movement that started as a response to the killing of blacks by law enforcement. The University of Missouri has been the scene in recent weeks of tensions arising from racist online harassment of blacks and racist graffiti, as well as a counter-movement that has sought to silence some media coverage of its protests. The school’s president and chancellor have resigned.

El Al plane bound for LA makes emergency landing in Montana with 300 aboard

(JTA)—An El Al flight with nearly 300 people on board made an emergency landing in Billings, Montana.

Warning lights showed that there was a fire in the right engine, the Billings Gazette reported Sunday. The passengers had to exit using a landing ladder, according to the newspaper, as the Boeing 777 was too large to park at the terminal.

A spare plane was being sent from New Jersey to allow the passengers to finish their journey, which started in Tel Aviv.

With no U.S. Customs agents stationed at the Billings airport, Customs officials were sent from Great Falls to handle the passengers, the Gazette reported.

Sculptor removes work for renovations following allegations of slurs

(JTA)—A Milwaukee suburb is removing a statue for changes after a Jewish blogger said it included anti-Semitic messages.

Matt Sweetwood, who is based in New Jersey, was visiting his daughter and son-in-law in Milwaukee earlier this month when he toured the Village of Shorewood, known for its lakeside views.

Shorewood is also the site of Spillover II, a sculpture by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa, who uses combinations of metal capital letters as his material. Spillover II, which was paid for by a private donor, depicts a crouching man gazing at Lake Michigan.

Sweetwood said on his blog that he discerned the following phrases in the statue: “FRY BAD JEW,” “DEAD JEW” and “CHEAP JEW.”

The post went viral and led to calls from residents to remove the sculpture. Plensa will pay to have the work done, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Friday.

U.S. gallery owners who feature his work, speaking on his behalf, said Plensa never intended the messages discerned by Sweetwood.

“Plensa uses alphabets as conceptual metaphors for cultures; the letters from each alphabet are utilized to create a skin of an anonymous figure with each letter’s placement entirely at random,” Paul Gray of the Richard Gray Gallery in Chicago and Mary Sabbatino of Galerie Lelong in New York told the Journal Sentinel. “Plensa is deeply saddened that his sculpture has been so egregiously misinterpreted. Plensa’s works and beliefs are the antithesis of anti-Semitism.”

The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Milwaukee welcomed the change, saying that Shorewood and Plensa “responded quickly and with great sensitivity.”

“We’re grateful for their sensitive handling of this situation,” director Elena Kahn said in a statement sent to JTA. “We look forward to celebrating with Shorewood when the sculpture returns to Atwater Park.”

Local media covering the issue questioned whether the messages were intended, noting the jagged placement of the letters and how multiple combinations could be read.

The Milwaukee Record also noted that reading the “BAD” in “FRY BAD JEW” required overlooking a Z between the B and A. The P in CHEAP is only discernible if one combines the line connecting an N, below and a D, above.

 

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