Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Anne Frank’s copy of ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ sells for $50,000

(JTA)—A Boston museum has acquired Anne Frank’s personal copy of “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” for $50,000 at auction.

The Museum of World War II was the highest bidder last Friday for the 1925 German edition of the book, which features the names of Anne and her sister, Margot, on the title page.

The book, which sold at Swann Auction Galleries in New York City, is accompanied by a 1977 letter from the girls’ father, Otto, giving it provenance.

It marked the first time in more than 20 years that something signed by Anne Frank has been up for sale, the museum said in a statement.

The book was left behind in the Franks’ Amsterdam apartment when the family went into hiding in the attic of another building in the Dutch capital. Eventually it was sold after World War II to a Dutch couple by a secondhand bookstore in Amsterdam.

In 1977, the couple’s children discovered the signature and wrote to Otto Frank to let him know of the discovery. In the letter, included with the purchase of the book, he expressed how deeply the discovery of the book affected him, as well as his wish for the family to keep the book for their own daughter, in memory of Anne Frank, according to the auction house.


“Anne Frank is the human symbol of the Holocaust,” said Kenneth Rendell, the founder and executive director of the Museum of World War II. “Her diary is read by students everywhere throughout the world. Handwriting is the most direct connection we can have with someone, and seeing this book which belonged to her, with her handwriting on the title page, is as direct a personal connection we can have with her.”

The book and letter are set to become a centerpiece of the museum’s collection of more than 7,500 World War II artifacts and a focus of its educational programs, according to the statement.

State Dept .: PA envoy likening Israeli soldiers to Nazis ‘deeply concerning’

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The Palestinian Authority U.N. envoy’s likening of Israeli soldiers confronting stone throwers to Nazis putting down the Warsaw uprising was “deeply concerning,” the State Department spokesman said.

Mark Toner responded May 5 to a JTA query about an April 27 news conference by Riyadh Mansour.

“Obviously we would condemn any anti-Semitic remarks very forcefully,” Toner said, noting that he had not yet examined Mansour’s comments and was basing his assessment on remarks read to him by a JTA reporter. “It’s deeply concerning.”


Mansour, who called the news conference to discuss U.N. actions on Israel and the Palestinians, attacked Israeli diplomats for their terming stone throwers “terrorists.”

“All colonizers, all occupiers, including those who suppressed the Warsaw uprising, labeled those who were resisting them as terrorists,” he said.

Steve Gutow named senior political adviser for J Street arm

(JTA)—Rabbi Steve Gutow, a longtime Jewish communal activist who guided the Jewish Council for Public Affairs for a decade, will serve as a senior political adviser for the political arm of J Street.

In his newly announced position for the 2016 election cycle, Gutow will work with congressional candidates endorsed by JStreetPAC to guide them in outreach to the Jewish community and other like-minded constituencies, J Street announced May 5. He also will help the candidates tap into the  backing that exists within the Jewish community for diplomacy-first policies toward the Middle East.

“This will be an extremely important election cycle in determining the future direction of American foreign policy,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s president and founder, said in a statement. “Bringing decades of experience with progressive politics and the Jewish community, Rabbi Gutow will help JStreetPAC to demonstrate that support for  American diplomatic leadership isn’t just good policy—it’s also a major political asset.”


Gutow served as president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs from 2005 to 2015, during which time his work focused on fostering alliances among the organized Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities. He was appointed recently to the President’s Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Gutow has been chosen as one of the 50 most influential American rabbis three times by Newsweek and the 50 most influential American Jews by The Forward. He was a Democratic Party activist and the founding executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

JStreetPAC has endorsed over 100 candidates for the House and Senate in the November elections and said it plans to raise over $3 million for them.

Mexican lawmaker uses expletive to describe president of Jewish community

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA)—A Mexican congressman reportedly was captured on tape calling the head of the country’s Jewish umbrella organization “a f---ing Jew.”

The slur by Jorge Romero against Salomon Achar, the president of the Jewish Community Central Committee and a human rights activist, was recorded by the Grupo Imagen Multimedia radio news service, The Excelsior newspaper reported late last week.

“Since 2003, our country has a law to prevent and stop discrimination, including anti-Semitism,” the central committee said in a statement, which was distributed by the Israelite Tribune. “It’s unacceptable that in a pluralistic and democratic society, people keep on using demeaning expressions like the one congressman Romero did.”

Romero has denied using the slur during the confirmation of Achar as an honorary adviser to the Human Rights Commission in Mexico’s Congress, whose session rules Romero’s PAN and other political parties attempted to change at the last minute. The commission’s president, Jimeno Huanosta, confirmed the expletive used to describe Achar, according to the Excelsior.

In 2014, Romero was nicknamed “El Fuhrer” among senior officials at the Benito Juarez province, where he was a delegate, the news portal Libre en el Sur reported. Fuhrer, which means “leader” in German, is most associated with Adolf Hitler.

With a Jewish population of some 50,000, Mexico is Latin America’s third largest Jewish community after Argentina and Brazil.

London’s first Muslim mayor attends Yom Hashoah commemoration as initial public act

(JTA)—The newly elected mayor of London, the first Muslim to hold the position, attended a community program commemorating the Holocaust as his first official public engagement.

Sadiq Khan of the Labour Party joined thousands of members of the Jewish community and its supporters for the Yom Hashoah program on Sunday in a local stadium three days after his election.

The Yom HaShoah UK event included 120 sponsoring religious and political organizations under a banner of “Remember Together: We are one.” Some 5,000 people reportedly attended the community event, the Jewish News website reported.

Speakers included Britain’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, and Israel’s ambassador to Britain, Mark Regev.

Khan said he was “honored that my first public engagement will be such a poignant one, where I will meet and hear from Jewish survivors and refugees who went through unimaginable horrors in the Holocaust,” the Guardian reported.

Khan defeated the Conservative candidate, Zac Goldsmith, winning 44 percent of the vote to 35 percent for his opponent, according to The Guardian.

A self-described moderate Muslim, Khan—the son of a Pakistan-born bus driver—is the city’s first Labour mayor in eight years. Accusations of anti-Semitism have roiled his party in recent months.

Khan, who campaigned hard in the Jewish community and has said he will be the “Muslim mayor who will be tough on extremism,” according to the Standard, has criticized his party for not doing enough to fight anti-Semitism.

Canadian Jewish groups mount effort to help Alberta fire evacuees

(JTA)—Jewish groups in Canada’s Alberta province have joined the efforts to support victims of the wildfires that have been raging in the area for a week and forced the evacuation of an entire city.

The Calgary Jewish Federation announced it will donate $25,000 from its emergency relief fund to assist the citizens of Fort McMurray, who were forced to flee their homes on May 4 after the Alberta provincial government declared a state of emergency. Some 90,000 people in the city were displaced in the wake of the fires, which have been burning and spreading for the past week.

The Jewish Federation of Edmonton also opened a PayPal account in order to collect donations for those affected by the fires.

Ve’ahavta, a Toronto-based social service organization whose programs include international crisis response, also launched a Fort McMurray relief fund last week, according to the Canadian Jewish News. The group said it would funnel the donations to established groups in the area such as the Red Cross and United Way in keeping with its mandate, the Jewish News reported.

The Israeli humanitarian aid charity IsraAid told the Jewish News that it already had a volunteer on the ground in Alberta to assess evacuees’ needs and would be sending a team to Canada for the first time.

Local synagogues also reportedly are raising money to help assist the evacuees.

The fire continued to burn on Sunday, a week after it started near Fort McMurray in northeast Alberta a week earlier. The blaze reportedly is moving southeast toward the nearby province of Saskatchewan to an area that is less populated.

Fort McMurray is the center of Canada’s oil sands region, which manufactures about 1 million barrels of crude oil a day. The production was taken offline as of Friday, according to Reuters.

The Alberta government estimated on Saturday night that the fire had so far consumed 500,000 acres, an area the size of Mexico City.

Insurance losses could go higher than $7 billion, Reuters reported.

Chabad rabbi building ‘1st mikvah in West Africa’ in Nigeria

(JTA)—An Israeli firm and a Chabad rabbi working in Nigeria are preparing to open the first known Jewish ritual bath, or mikvah, in West Africa.

Yisroel Ozen, a prominent Chabad emissary based in Nigeria, is supervising the construction of a mikvah for women in the Nigerian capital of Abuja on land purchased for him by an Israeli firm operating in the country, the Israeli daily Maariv reported last week.

Ozen said the mikvah is the only known one in West Africa, a claim that is also stated on a Hebrew- and English-language sign announcing the project in front of the construction site.

Ozen said Nigeria has “a thriving Israeli community that nonetheless lacks basic amenities.” He said that from the point of view of the halacha, Jewish religious law, “a community cannot exist without a mikvah because it’s the key to the continuity of the Jewish people.” Some 1,200 Israelis live in Nigeria, according to the Maariv article.

Jewish law states that women should immerse themselves in the mikvah before marriage and at least once a month in a ceremony meant to purify them after menstruation.

Another mikvah is planned at a later stage for men, Maariv reported, and may be broadened after the opening this year to include a community center.

EMI Systems LTD, a security firm that is based in Abuja and is owned by the Israel-born businessman Eyal Mesika, ordered materials from Europe and the United States to build the mikvah. The article did not specify the cost of construction.

Sheldon Adelson backs Donald Trump, says he’s good for Israel

(JTA)—Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson said he will back Donald Trump now that Trump has locked up the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

“I think that Donald Trump will be good for Israel,” Adelson, who is Jewish, told the BBC on May 5, appearing at a gala in New York for the World Values Network.

What was unclear is if Adelson, one of the world’s richest men and a major pro-Israel giver, meant he would help fund Trump’s campaign, and to what extent. Trump, a real estate magnate and reality TV star, is himself a billionaire and has mostly-self funded throughout the primaries. However, he has said he would reach out to major donors now that he is heading into a heated general election likely to cost billions of dollars.

Adelson, who donated more than $90 million to federal political races in 2012, is among the Republican Party’s most heavily courted contributors.

Pressed if his thinking that Trump would be good for Israel meant Trump would receive his support, Adelson said, “I plan to, yes I do. Yes, I’m a Republican, he’s a Republican. He’s our nominee.” He was not asked whether that meant financial support.

In a departure from the 2012 race, when he spent heavily to boost Newt Gingrich’s unsuccessful primary bid and then gave generously to nominee Mitt Romney, Adelson had until now remained neutral in the 2016 nomination battle. This time around, Adelson did not want to handicap the eventual nominee. The perception among Republicans in 2012 was that the money Romney spent to defeat Gingrich early in the campaign had hobbled his campaign against President Barack Obama’s reelection.

Adelson nonetheless had hinted that he backed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and the Israeli newspaper he owns, Israel Hayom, provided Rubio with favorable coverage. Adelson’s wife, Miriam, favored Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Both candidates ultimately dropped out.

The question of whether Trump would be “good for Israel” surfaced in December, when Trump, addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition—another major Adelson beneficiary—said he would not pander to the group or ask for its members’ money. He also said he would remain neutral on Israeli-Palestinian talks and would not before being elected say whether he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He has since walked back those remarks, most prominently in an appearance in March at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Adelson, quoted separately at the same event by The New York Times, suggested that supporting Trump was the right thing to do because he had bested his rivals.

“Whoever the nominee would turn out to be, any one of the 17—he was one of the 17. He won fair and square,” said Adelson.

Polish town names square after Knesset deputy speaker’s family

(JTA)—The deputy speaker of the Knesset, Hilik Bar, attended a ceremony in a Polish town that renamed its main square for his great-grandfather, who was murdered in the Holocaust.

The renaming ceremony held recently in Skulsk, 120 miles west of Warsaw, was in memory of Yitzhak Kotowski, a head of the local Jewish community who was murdered in the Majdanek concentration camp in 1942, the Israeli daily Maariv reported Wednesday.

The main square of Skulsk was renamed in the memory of Bar’s great-grandfather to “the Kotowski Family Square” a ceremony attended by Bar, a member of Israel’s Labor party, and 17 members of his family.

Bar, the head of the Israel-Poland Friendship parliamentary caucus, was received at a municipality building last year on land that he said his family had owned; it was built over their home, which had been destroyed.

The ceremony took place ahead of Yom Hashoah, the Jewish day of mourning for the victims of the Holocaust, which this year fell on May 5.

Before Kotowski, who is Bar’s maternal great-grandfather, was sent to Majdanek, his wife, Gitel, was killed with a group of Jews in a nearby forest  by Nazi soldiers, who wiped out the local Jewish community of several hundred.

Bar said local authorities at first resisted his efforts to commemorate the Holocaust in town, but came around with help from Polish lawmakers and Jonny Daniels, founder of the From the Depths commemoration organization.

Bar said the ceremony on April 28 was a moving experience, in which several of his family members cried and sang Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah.

Jewish philanthropist buys Argentine oil company for $900M

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—Argentine Jewish businessman and philanthropist Marcelo Marcos Mindlin purchased a 67.2 percent stake of Petrobras Argentina for $892 million.

Mindlin, 52, is the head of Pampa Energia, the largest fully integrated electricity company in Argentina. Following the purchase of the stake of the company, which is part of the Brazilian state-run oil giant Petrobras, Mindlin will control a network of 100 fuel stations nationwide and will became one of the main players in the oil and gas market in Argentina.

Mindlin is member of the board of the Jewish Tzedaka Foundation, one of the largest philanthropic institutions in Argentina. Through its diverse programs, the foundation provides direct assistance to 11,000 people in Argentina.

He was the president of the foundation between 2005 and 2007, a position that is now held by his brother Damian, who also is part of Pampa Energia company.

Dallas Holocaust Museum gets ‘Monuments Men’ menorah

(JTA)—A seven-branch menorah that a World War II veteran brought to the United States from Europe as a souvenir was donated to the Dallas Holocaust Museum.

The museum and education center made the announcement May 4 about the menorah and another item it received from the Monuments Men Foundation.

In having only seven branches, it resembles the one lit by kohanim (priests) at the Holy Temple during biblical times in Jerusalem. It is a symbol of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

The Dallas-based Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art was established in 2007 to honor the hundreds of “Monuments Men” who saved more than 5 million artworks stolen by the Nazis.  A 2009 book by foundation founder Robert Edsel about the Monuments Men was made into a 2014 movie starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett.

The other artifact donated to the museum is a handmade album containing 46 tipped-in photographs showing daily work activities of the Monuments Men at the Offenbach Archival Depot, one of three principal collecting points for cultural treasures and works of art looted by the Nazis during World War II.

“The Monuments Men Foundation is pleased that after some 70 years, this menorah will now have a permanent and appropriate home at one of our city’s most important cultural institutions, the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance,” Edsel, who is chairman of the foundation, said in a statement.

“Now, after a very long journey, it will serve future generations as an ever present reminder of the horrors inflicted on humanity by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.”

The foundation continues to receive leads through its toll free tip line—(866) WWII-ART—about works of art and other cultural items, including objects that veterans may have brought home as souvenirs.

Spanish archaeologists unearth rare 13th-century portrait of a Jew

(JTA)—Archaeologists in Spain identified a rare depiction of a Jewish man on a piece of pottery from the 13th century.

The fragment was unearthed in Teruel, 140 miles east of Madrid, in 2004 but catalogued only in 2011 and identified this year by the archaeologist Antonio Hernandez Pardos, who wrote about in this month’s edition of the Sefarad periodical on the history of Sephardic Jews, the Spanish news agency EFE reported last week.

Unusual for pottery decorations from that period, which mostly featured geometric shapes or depiction of flowers, the Teruel fragment shows the lower part of the face of a bearded man wearing a frilled gown that Pardos was able to trace back to Jewish iconography from the period.

The find is particularly noteworthy because researchers have very few depictions of Spanish Jews from the period, with the majority of illustrations being miniature sketches on prayer books, including ones used by Christians.

Tens of thousands Jews were expelled from Spain in the 15th century, when it was still a major hub for world Jewry, as part of the Spanish Inquisition campaign of persecution led by the Catholic Church and the Spanish royal house.

The research by Pardos suggests the fragment was part of a work performed by the earliest known potters of Teruel, who were possibly commissioned by a Jewish resident of the area.

Pardos said that the archaeological museum of Teruel contains many more boxes of unstudied ruins that were unearthed along with the fragment in rescue excavations that closely predated a massive plan of urban renovation in Teruel in the early 2000s.

“There may be many more surprises” in those boxes, he told EFE.

 

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