Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Ruth Bader Ginsburg pens passionate farewell to Antonin Scalia

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote an impassioned tribute to Justice Antonin Scalia, her longtime ideological opposite and close friend who died over the weekend.

Ginsburg, perhaps the Supreme Court’s most liberal justice, and Scalia, who with Clarence Thomas was its most conservative member, often clashed in tart dissents, depending on which side was prevailing in the opinion.

In a statement released to the media on Sunday, a day after Scalia, 79, died of heart attack during a hunting trip in Texas, Ginsburg said his dissents helped sharpen her opinions, dating back to the 1980s when they served together on the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit.

“From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies,” she wrote in her remembrance, which was posted by NBC on its website. “We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation.”

She said Scalia “nailed all the weak spots—the ‘applesauce’ and ‘argle bargle’—and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion.”

Ginsburg, 82, framed her remembrance of Scalia by noting their shared passion for opera.

“Toward the end of the opera Scalia/Ginsburg, tenor Scalia and soprano Ginsburg sing a duet: ‘We are different, we are one,’ different in our interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve,” she said. “He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh.”

Debt-ridden Kanye West pleads to Facebook’s Zuckerberg: Invest $1B in me

(JTA)—Kanye West in a Twitter plea asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to invest $1 billion in his “ideas,” claiming he is tens of millions in debt.

West tweeted early Sunday, minutes before taking the stage to perform on “Saturday Night Live.” The musical artist said he was “53 million dollars in personal debt.”

West released his new album, “The Life of Pablo,” following his “SNL” performance.

In a subsequent tweet, West said Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, should provide the support “after realizing he is the greatest living artist and greatest artist of all time.” The musician also later called on his supporters to reach out to Zuckerberg: “World, please tweet, FaceTime, Facebook, instagram, whatever you gotta do to get Mark to support me...”

“Mark, I am publicly asking you for help...,” West tweeted, adding in another tweet: “one of the coolest things you could ever do is to help me in my time of need.”

West also hedged his bets.

“hey Larry Page I’m down for your help too ...,” he said in a tweet meant for the Jewish co-founder of Google.

Ohio diner owned by Arab-Israeli reopens after machete attack

(JTA)—An Ohio restaurant owned by an Arab-Israeli reopened days after four patrons were injured in a machete attack.

The Nazareth Restaurant and Deli in Columbus reopened Monday with a limited menu, according to local reports, four days after the attack.

Owner Hany Baransi, a Christian originally from Haifa, told WBNS-TV in Columbus that he has no doubt the attack was terrorist in nature.

“I come from the Middle East,” he said. “I come from Israel, and this has been a big thing here. People ask me ‘where are you from?’ [I respond] I’m from Israel. Sometimes it offends people. I don’t know, but I still am. I’m not going to change. I am what I am.”

The FBI reportedly is involved in the investigation to help determine a motive for the attack and whether it was terror-related.

The injured patrons are expected to recover.

Police identified the assailant as Mohamed Bary and said he had come to the restaurant earlier and asked a worker where the owner was from originally. Bary was shot and killed by police about two miles from the restaurant after lunging at officers with the machete and a knife.

On Friday, sources told NBC News that investigators are looking into whether the attacker mistakenly believed the owner was Jewish.

Jewish billionaire David Rubinstein donates $18.5M to repair Lincoln Memorial

(JTA)—Billionaire businessman and philanthropist David Rubenstein has donated $18.5 million to repair and restore the Lincoln Memorial.

The donation from Rubenstein, the co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, to the National Park Foundation’s Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks was announced on Monday, President’s Day. In the past few years, he has given tens of millions of dollars to fix national parks and historical institutions.

His most recent gift will allow the National Park Service to repair damaged brick and marble masonry and clean the memorial; conserve the Jules Guerin murals located above the memorial’s inscriptions; create approximately 15,000 square feet of functional space including exhibit, education and research areas; and add an elevator to improve accessibility, the park service said in a statement.

“These improvements will hopefully enable more people to better understand and appreciate Abraham Lincoln’s remarkable leadership during one of the most trying periods in American history,” Rubenstein said in the statement. “I am humbled to be a part of honoring this great man and preserving this iconic memorial for future generations.”

His donations over the past several years for parks and institutions total over $35 million. They went to the Washington Monument, George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon, the Robert E. Lee Memorial and the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial.

Rubenstein, 66, of Bethesda, Maryland, is worth $2.3 billion, according to Forbes magazine. The Carlyle Group is a global alternative asset manager based in Washington, D.C.

Debut German film on Anne Frank premiering at Berlin festival

BERLIN  (JTA)— A German feature film about Anne Frank will have its world premiere at the Berlin International Film festival.

“Das Tagebuch der Anne Frank, or the “Diary of Anne Frank,” directed by Hans Steinbichler, will be presented Tuesday in a special screening for youth at the festival, called the Berlinale, which runs through Feb. 21. It will reach German cinemas on March 3.

The head of the Basel-based Anne Frank Fond, Yves Kugelmann, said the film is Germany’s first cinematic production of the Anne Frank story. In 2015, the foundation initiated the first TV docudrama in Germany, “Meine Tochter Anne Frank.” The production, which won the 2015 TV Film Prize from the German Academy of Performing Arts, has been nominated for a prestigious Grimme Prize in 2016. The winners are to be announced in March.

The new movie is not without controversy. Steinbichler is also in the running to make a biopic about Hitler’s favorite film director, Leni Riefenstahl. Kugelmann called Steinbichler’s new opportunity an “unseemly overlapping” in a private letter to Steinbichler that Kugelmann said was leaked to the media.

In the letter Kugelmann, whose foundation holds the rights to the Frank family archive, criticized Steinbichler for using his Anne Frank film credentials to boost his chances to make the Riefenstahl film. According to Spiegel magazine, Kugelmann also criticized Steinbichler’s attitude toward the historical subject. Kugelmann declined to discuss the accusation with JTA.

Kugelmann reportedly told Steinbichler in the letter that he doesn’t want to have any part in an “Anne-Leni” marriage and asked the director to postpone or give up any such plans.

Steinbichler confirmed to the German media that he has been asked to make a film about Riefenstahl, whose well-known Nazi-era propaganda documentaries include “Triumph of the Will” and “Olympia.” Steinbichler said he had not yet signed a contract.

Hipster care package startup sets Jewish Kickstarter record at over $70K

(JTA)—A hip Jewish care-package project says it has become the most successful Jewish campaign ever on the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform.

After Hello Mazel reached $70,000, it became “the most-funded Jewish campaign in Kickstarter history,” according to the Kickstarter campaign page launched Friday. The project, which said it plans to send out four packages a year with “the best Jewish stuff,” raised nearly $45,000 in less than one day.

The Day 1 goal for the project, whose leaders include Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, was to raise $18,000.

As of Sunday afternoon, more than 700 people had pledged at least $40 to receive a box whose precise contents are unknown. The campaign, which is slated to continue for 21 days, as of Sunday had 707 backers at levels ranging from “$1 or more” to “$1,000 or more” and has raised $69,503. No one had signed up for the “$5,000 or more” level. Backers must give at least $40 to receive a box.

According to Hello Mazel’s Kickstarter description, the idea was born two years ago at The Kitchen, a “start-up” alternative congregation in San Francisco.

“We thought to ourselves, ‘There’s got to be a way to get more Jewish to more people,’” the description says.

“Why do you need this?” it continues. “Because we believe there is a better, more chic, well-designed, super meaningful way into Jew-Land. And, for once, we’ve got directions.”

While the contents of the boxes remain secret (“Oh, but if we told you, that would totally ruin the whole point, wouldn’t it?”), Hello Mazel promises “plenty of delightfully fun, surprising bits of Jewishness” with “a visual and culinary aesthetic from 2016, not 1974.”

“Hints” about the first box, promised to arrive in time for Passover, will include “3 twists on the tastes of Passover; A Haggadah like none you’ve ever used” and “A seder plate that is not a seder plate.”

The Kitchen’s Rabbi Noa Kushner is also involved in the project, as is the former executive director of Reboot, a network of sorts for Jewish innovators.

Bernie Sanders gets endorsement from first Muslim US congressman

(JTA)—Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, has endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“This is not a ‘no you can’t’ campaign. This is not a diminish your dreams kind of campaign. This is a ‘believe in the possibilities we can do together’ kind of campaign,” Ellison, D-Minn., said of the Sanders bid for presidency in introducing the candidate Sunday at the Black America Forum in Minneapolis.

“This is the right campaign if you believe this country can be better than it was,” he added while also praising Barack Obama as “a great president.”  He called Sanders, I-Vt., his “dear friend.”

Ellison asserted that Sanders “believes in true racial justice and equality.”

In endorsing Sanders over Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and senator, for the 2016 Democratic nomination, Ellison went against the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus.

2 Jewish profs sue Boston-area college claiming anti-Semitic discrimination

(JTA)—Two Jewish professors have filed federal complaints against their Boston-area college alleging anti-Semitic discrimination.

The educators from Wheelock College, a small liberal arts school, filed the complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last week, the Boston Globe reported Sunday.

Eric Silverman and Gail Dines allege in the complaint that Wheelock’s president, Jackie Jenkins-Scott, and other administrators made their work lives miserable after they and four other professors spoke out in a 2014 letter about a lack of Jewish perspective on campus, the newspaper reported. The complaint seeks unspecified damages and attorney’s fees.

Silverman is a professor of American studies and psychology and human development who has taught at Wheelock since 2006. Dines is a professor of sociology and women’s studies professor and chairwoman of American studies at the college since 1986. Both have tenure.

Wheelock denies the claims, calling them “without merit,” according to the Globe.

The college, with an undergraduate student population of 811, has been struggling financially. Jenkins-Scott is scheduled to leave at the end of the academic semester in May; the university is conducting a search for her successor.

British gov’t to prevent publicly funded bodies from boycotting Israeli goods

(JTA)—Publicly funded authorities in Britain will be prevented from boycotting Israeli goods under new government procurement guidelines.

The new regulations will be announced by Cabinet Office minister Matthew Hancock during an upcoming visit to Israel, the Guardian reported Monday.

According to the guidelines, such boycotts are considered by the government ministers to be “inappropriate, outside where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the government,” the Guardian reported.

Plans for the guidelines were first announced in October.

A spokesman for Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn told the Jewish Chronicle that the guideline plan is “an attack on local democracy.”

“People have the right to elect local representatives able to make decisions free of central government political control,” the spokesman said. “That includes withdrawal of investments or procurement on ethical and human rights grounds.”

The spokesman added: “This government’s ban would have outlawed council action against apartheid South Africa.”

Corbyn has been accused of being anti-Israel. He has publicly endorsed a blanket arms embargo on Israel and the boycott of its universities involved in weapons research.

Among the publicly funded bodies affected by the guidelines are councils, universities and National Health Service trusts.

Car threatens to run down 6 Jewish worshippers in Johannesburg

CAPE TOWN (JTA)—A vehicle threatened to run down six identifiably Jewish men in suburban Johannesburg minutes after its driver shouted an anti-Semitic epithet at them.

The men were walking home from the Ohr Somayach Jewish center in Glenhazel when the vehicle, which had four occupants, drove past them. The driver made offensive hand gestures and shouted “f---ing Jews.”

A few minutes later, the vehicle returned and veered toward the men.

The incident was reported initially on Feb. 10 on the website of the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism, or CFCA, though it occurred last month. It was later confirmed to JTA by David Saks, associate director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, the community’s umbrella body.

“Anti-Semitic verbal abuse in South Africa commonly takes the form of people shouting obscenities from passing vehicles at community members walking to or from shul,” Saks told JTA, noting that there were on average 10 such incidents per year. “It is unusual, however, for the perpetrators to combine verbal abuse with acts of intimidation against the people they are targeting, in this case by making as if to drive into them.”

Saks said there were no details on the car registration.

Rabbi ejected from Arizona council meeting after protesting invocation

(JTA)—A rabbi was removed from a city council meeting in Arizona after protesting a Christian invocation read by the mayor.

Two police officers escorted Rabbi Adele Plotkin out of the Feb. 9 Chino Valley Town Council meeting at the request of Mayor Chris Marley, who ended his prayer “in the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” the Daily Courier reported.

Marley is a minister and six of the seven council members in Chino Valley, in northern Arizona, have identified themselves as Christians, while one is identified a non-Christian. Under council regulations, a council member may give the invocation but is not required. The council member identified as non-Christian has declined to give an invocation, according to the newspaper.

At the meeting last week, the council voted to make no changes to the invocation tradition.

Marley reportedly had announced at the Jan. 26 council meeting that there would be no invocations at meetings until the council had discussed the current system following a complaint from a different rabbi. Plotkin, of the Beit Torah congregation, told the Daily Courier that she attended the meeting based on that announcement.

Explaining her protest, Plotkin told the newspaper, “Sitting there is giving the impression of acquiescence, so what was I to do?”

The mayor argued at the meeting that ending the invocations would harm the council members’ right to freely worship as enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

The rabbi said she has been in contact with the American Civil Liberties Union about the invocations.

Jake Bennett, the Anti-Defamation League’s Arizona regional director, said in a statement: “We believe it is inappropriate and insensitive for a mayor or town council member elected to represent all of the people in his community to offer a sectarian invocation at a public town council meeting. When a civic leader prays in Jesus’ name in such a setting, the message inevitably conveyed to non-Christians is one of exclusion.”

Bennett added that Plotkin acted “inappropriately” in disrupting the council meeting and the mayor was “within his rights” to have her removed.

“But there is a larger point to be made here,” the statement concluded. “This incident graphically illustrates how divisive sectarian prayer practices before local legislative bodies can be in our pluralistic society, and why they are ill-advised.”

Ex-Israeli PM Ehud Olmert enters prison to serve sentence for corruption

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Ehud Olmert entered an Israeli prison to begin his 19-month sentence on a corruption conviction, becoming the first Israeli prime minister to serve jail time.

Prior to arriving at the prison in central Israel on Sunday morning, Olmert released a video statement in which the former leader proclaimed his innocence.

“As prime minister, I was entrusted with the supreme responsibility of protecting the citizens of Israel, and today it is I who is about to be closed behind bars,” Olmert said.

“It’s important to me at this point to say again, as I have said in the court and outside of it, that I reject outright the charges related to bribery. It is also important to emphasize that none of the charges of which I was convicted was related to my activity during the period in which I served as prime minister.”

During his service as prime minister, Olmert said, “I also made mistakes, even though in my opinion they were not of a criminal nature. Today I am paying a high price for some of them, perhaps too high. I accept the sentence with a very heavy heart, but no one stands above the law.”

He suggested, however, that perhaps “the legal snowball of my affairs went on and grew for a variety of additional reasons that were not just legal.”

In December, Israel’s Supreme Court cut Olmert’s prison term in the Holyland corruption case to 18 months from six years after acquitting him of receiving the larger of the two bribes for which he was convicted. Last week, the Jerusalem District court extended the sentence by a month.

The Holyland affair, what is being called the largest corruption scandal in Israel, involved the payment of bribes to government officials by the developers of a luxury high-rise apartment complex in Jerusalem.

Olmert resigned as prime minister in September 2008 after police investigators recommended that he be indicted in multiple corruption scandals.

In May, Olmert was sentenced to eight months in prison after being convicted for accepting cash-filled envelopes from an American-Jewish businessman, Morris Talansky, and using it for personal and not political expenses. The case is under appeal to the Supreme Court.

2 Palestinian gunmen shot and killed by Israel Police

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Police shot and killed two Palestinians, including a policeman, in the same spot after they allegedly fired on the officers.

Sunday night’s attack at the Damascus Gate outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem was the fourth by Palestinian assailants on Israeli officers in one day, according to reports.

The men, in their 20s, were identified as residents of the West Bank. They shot at the officers with homemade automatic weapons, police said.

One of the attackers was identified on Monday morning as being a Palestinian policeman, reported the Times of Israel, which named him as Omar Ahmed Amru.

On Monday afternoon at the Damascus Gate, Israeli police arrested a female Palestinian teen who allegedly pulled a knife from her pocket when approached by officers there. Police said they approached the the 15-year-old girl, reportedly a resident of eastern Jerusalem, because she was acting suspiciously. They searched her bag and allegedly found another knife.

Earlier this month, a newly trained Border Police officer, 19, was killed in a Palestinian shooting and stabbing attack at the Damascus Gate.


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