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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 


Donald Trump praises Israel’s racial profiling, calls for same in U.S.

(JTA)—Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested that the United States use racial profiling like Israel to prevent mass attacks like the one in Orlando.

“Well I think profiling is something that we’re going to have to start thinking about as a country,” Trump told the CBS news show “Face the Nation” on Sunday in a telephone interview. “Other countries do it, you look at Israel and you look at others, they do it and they do it successfully. And I hate the concept of profiling, but we have to start using common sense and we have to use our heads.

“It’s not the worst thing to do,” he added.

In the interview, Trump reiterated his call for observing mosques in the United States.

“If you go to France right now, they’re doing it in France,” he said. “In fact, in some instances they’re closing down mosques.”

Police in France closed some mosques shortly after gunmen aligned with Islamic State terrorists killed 130 people in Paris in a series of attacks on Nov. 13, 2015.

Trump also called for Muslims in America to report other Muslims who are acting suspiciously.

Rhode Island approves anti-boycott legislation

(JTA)—Rhode Island’s General Assembly approved legislation that would prohibit the state from contracting with companies that engage in boycotts of allies of the United States, including Israel.

The Anti-Discrimination in State Contracts Act was passed June 16 by the Rhode Island House in a 63-4 vote and “in concurrence” two days later by the state Senate.

Gov. Gina Raimondo is expected to sign the legislation making it law.

Several states have passed anti-BDS legislation, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and South Carolina. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed an executive order opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. In total, 21 states have taken up anti-BDS legislation.

The Rhode Island legislation states: “A public entity shall not enter into a contract with a business to acquire or dispose of supplies, services, information technology, or construction unless the contract includes a representation that the business is not currently engaged in, and an agreement that the business will not during the duration of in the boycott of any person, firm or entity based in or doing business with a jurisdiction with whom the state can enjoy open trade, and/or the boycott of any public agencies, entities or instrumentalities of the jurisdiction with whom the state can enjoy open trade.”

Rep. Mia Ackerman, a Democrat, introduced the bill in May.

“Today’s interdependent global economy requires that trade policy be developed both at the national and state level,” she said at the time. “One of our greatest trading allies is the State of Israel, the only democratic, non-discriminatory country in the Middle East.”

NY man charged with sexually abusing woman on flight home from Israel

(JTA)—A New York man was charged with sexually abusing a woman on a flight from Israel to Newark, New Jersey.

Yoel Oberlander, 35, was charged last Friday in federal court in Newark. U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Dickson ordered Oberlander, a registered sex offender, detained after the indictment.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

According to the indictment, Oberlander touched the woman sitting next to him inappropriately during the course of the flight and without her consent several times. The woman’s mother was seated next to her daughter.

The alleged incident took place May 29 on an El Al flight from Ben Gurion International Airport in the Tel Aviv area to Newark Liberty International Airport.

Oberlander reportedly was convicted in 2002 in New York for sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl. In 2012, he was charged with trespassing at an upstate New York Jewish camp. Prosecutors determined there was “no allegation of sexual abuse” at the camp near South Fallsburg, in the Catskill Mountains.

Ex-London mayor Ken Livingstone says he may have Jewish roots

(JTA)—Former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who was recently suspended from the Labour Party for saying that Adolf Hitler supported Zionism, said he may have Jewish roots.

Livingstone told the London-based Jewish Chronicle newspaper that his maternal grandmother had what he was told was a Jewish last name.

He also said the late Jewish Labour lawmaker Geville Janner used to drive him home from Parliament at night.

“We would chat away about the Middle East. He would speculate about whether or not I was Jewish because my grandmother’s name was Zona,” Livingstone told the Jewish Chronicle.

“Zona” is the Hebrew word for prostitute.

“I have lots of Jewish friends and I always have. I have had members of the Board of Deputies round for parties,” he told the Jewish Chronicle last week, adding: “When I went to Israel and stopped by a kibbutz, I felt completely at home there. Everyone was a leftie like me.”

Livingstone spoke to the newspaper after testifying before the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee hearing on anti-Semitism. During last week’s hearing he ignored repeated offers from committee members to retract the claim he made in an April radio interview, the Jewish Chronicle reported. Instead he doubled down on the remarks.

In a radio interview with the BBC, Livingstone had said, “Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism.”

He made the remarks in defense of Labour lawmaker Naz Shah, who was suspended a day earlier over a Facebook post in 2014 suggesting that Israelis should be moved en masse to the United States. Days later, Livingstone was suspended from the party for the remark

Livingstone served as mayor twice, from 1981 to 1986 and from 2000 to 2008.

He told the Jewish Chronicle his suspension from Labour is because he supports party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who critics say has not enough to curb anti-Semitism in the party.

“It’s not really about anti-Semitism; it’s just about undermining Jeremy because I am one of Jeremy’s key supporters. All I want to focus on is Jeremy’s economic policies. Jeremy and I have been campaigning side by side for 45 years,” he said.

Corbyn, a harsh critic of Israel who in 2009 called Hezbollah and Hamas activists “friends” after inviting representatives from both terrorist groups to visit the British Parliament as his guests, is also accused of encouraging vitriol against Israel and Jews by not distancing himself from groups such as Hamas.

Chelsea Clinton and Jewish husband welcome son

(JTA)—Chelsea Clinton gave birth to her second child with Jewish husband Marc Mezvinsky.

She announced the birth of their son on Saturday in a post on Twitter.

“Marc and I are overwhelmed with gratitude and love as we celebrate the birth of our son, Aidan Clinton Mezvinsky,” the post said.

Chelsea Clinton is the daughter of presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton. The grandparents also issued a statement, saying “We are all over the moon as Chelsea and Marc welcome Charlotte’s little brother to the world and grateful for our many blessings. Chelsea and Aidan are both doing well and enjoying this very special time together.”

The couple’s older child, Charlotte, was born in September 2014.

Chelsea Clinton announced that she was pregnant in December in a Twitter post that showed a photo of Charlotte looking at a book titled “Big Sisters are the Best.”

Mezvinsky is the banker son of two ex-Congress members. Clinton serves as the vice chairwoman of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

Clinton and Mezvinsky were married in late July 2010 under a traditional huppah, or wedding canopy, and recited the traditional sheva brachot, or seven wedding blessings. A rabbi and a Methodist minister officiated at the wedding. The couple signed a ketubah, or Jewish marriage contract.

Ivanka Trump, the daughter of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, gave birth to a son in March—her third child with husband  Jared Kushner, who is Jewish. Ivanka Trump converted to Orthodox Judaism in 2009 before the couple married.

Man identified as Jewish held in sexual assault of teen ‘gifted’ to him

(JTA)—A Pennsylvania man identified as Jewish in a federal lawsuit against the Amish church has been charged with the sexual assault of a teen who was “gifted” to him by her parents, who were suing their former church.

Police found 12 girls aged 18 years to 6 months in the Lower Southampton home of Lee Kaplan, 51, when it was raided June 16 based on a tip from a neighbor, according to philly.com.

The 18-year-old had been given to Kaplan by her parents, Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus, when she was 14 and reportedly is the mother with Kaplan of two of the girls: the 6-month-old and a 3-year-old. The other girls living with Kaplan in the home some 20 miles from Philadelphia are believed to be the oldest girl’s sisters, the website reported.

Last Friday, Bucks County officials still were trying to determine how the other nine children came to be living with Kaplan.

Kaplan is being held on $1 million bail and is charged with sexually assaulting the teen. It is not known if he had sexual relations with any of the other girls.

The girl’s father told police he gave his daughter to Kaplan in gratitude after Kaplan helped the family financially. He said he thought it was legal, The Associated Press reported.

The Stoltzfuses also are being held on $1 million bail. He is charged with conspiracy of statutory sexual assault and children endangerment; she is charged with endangering the welfare of a child.

The couple were Amish, but renounced it amid a years-long fight with community elders, according to a federal lawsuit they filed in 2009 against the church. They said they were shunned after Kaplan helped them keep their metalworking business and the property on which their home was located because he was Jewish. The lawsuit was dismissed several months later.

The children found in Kaplan’s home reportedly are together in protective custody.

Guatemalan ex-mayor charged in expulsion of Jewish sect

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA)—A court in Guatemala indicted the ex-mayor of a small town in the Central American nation for “participating in the expulsion of a religious community.”

Antonio Adolfo Perez y Perez of San Juan La Laguna was charged with abuse of authority and discrimination and sentenced to house arrest, the local newspaper Prensa Libre reported last week. He had lost his political immunity on Jan. 14 after he was not re-elected.

In 2014, some 230 members of the controversial haredi Orthodox sect Lev Tahor were forced out of the village following religiously tainted disputes with its Mayan residents, who are Roman Catholic. The local elders’ council voted against the Jewish group, which practices an austere form of Judaism. For example, members of the sect refused to greet or have physical contact with anyone outside their community.

“We felt intimidated by them in the streets. We thought they wanted to change our religion and customs,” a member of the elders’ council, Miguel Vasquez Cholotio, told Agence France Presse. “We need to conserve and preserve our culture.”

Rabbi Shalom Pelman, a leader of Guatemala’s small Chabad community, condemned the expulsion.

“This is not typical in the world I live in. Even in Iran, Jews are not expelled,” he told the media.

Lev Tahor had maintained a small presence in San Juan La Laguna, a village about 90 miles west of Guatemala City, for about six years, but it expanded considerably after a contingent arrived complaining of persecution by Canadian authorities. Tensions appear to have flared after the newcomers sought to impose its practices on the indigenous people.

Lev Tahor shuns technology and its female members wear black robes from head to toe, leaving only their faces exposed. The group was founded by an Israeli, Shlomo Helbrans, in the 1980s and rejects the State of Israel, saying the Jewish Promised Land can only be established by God, not men.

Guatemala is home to some 1,200 Jews in a population of 15 million.

NY lawmakers approve more oversight, funding for Orthodox-controlled school district

NEW YORK (JTA)—New York’s state legislature approved a bill that would provide greater oversight of an Orthodox-controlled school district along with $3 million in aid.

The bill concerning the embattled and financially troubled East Ramapo School District in New York’s Rockland County, passed both houses of the legislature on June 16 and will now go to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk for signature, the Journal News reported.

Introduced earlier this week, the bill represents a compromise between lawmakers and activists who wanted stricter oversight, including state veto power over the district’s operations, and those who opposed the oversight. The bill does not give veto power, but it empowers the state education commissioner to keep a team of state monitors in the district and requires the school board to submit its entire budget to the commissioner, who has the authority to demand changes.

Two state reports in recent years have called for greater state intervention in the district, whose Orthodox-majority board has been accused of financial mismanagement and of diverting funds from public schools to area yeshivas.

According to the Journal News, only 25 percent of the district’s 32,000 students attend public schools; the majority of children are enrolled in Orthodox yeshivas. The public school students are predominantly black and Hispanic.

“This is a very positive outcome indeed. We will now be able to make a series of investments in academic programs and services. Our students will benefit greatly,” Yehuda Weissmandl, the school board president, said in a statement, according to the Journal News.

Assault rifles and Nazi paraphernalia found in New York home

(JTA)—A man with a stash of assault rifles, bomb-making instructions and Nazi paraphernalia in his suburban New York home was arrested on weapons charges.

Edward Perkowski, 29, was arrested June 16 at the house in the Long Island hamlet of Mount Sinai. His brother, Sean Perkowski, 25, who also lives in the house, was arrested on an unrelated outstanding bench warrant.

Police found multiple rifles and magazines of ammunition, photographs of Adolf Hitler, flags with swastikas and a binder full of instructions on how to construct a bomb, along with marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms.

“Today’s search warrant might have prevented a deadly, violent incident, like the one we recently saw in Orlando,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini.

A friend of the brothers told CBS New York that they are not neo-Nazis.

“They are not Nazis. They are not neo-Nazis,” said the man, who was identified only as Bob. “His brother sells merchandise, Army surplus stuff.”

Others expressed relief that the brothers were arrested.

“Cops must have been called here at least 15, 20 times,” neighbor Larry Bilello said. “We never had any problem until those people moved in.”

House passes funding boost for Israeli missile defense despite Obama’s opposition

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Despite President Barack Obama’s veto threat, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $576 billion defense appropriations bill, including an allocation of $635 million for Israel’s missile defense program.

The June 16vote on the bill in the Republican-controlled house passed 282-138, according to Defense News.

Congress routinely adds more funds to Israel’s missile defense programs than Republican and Democratic presidents request, but this is the first time an administration has objected.

The massive $576 billion defense appropriations bill for the upcoming fiscal year included $268.7 million in research and development funding for U.S.-Israel cooperative missile and rocket defense programs; $25 million in research and development funding for U.S.-Israel energy activities to combat missiles and rockets, including toward producing lasers; $72 million for procurement of the Iron Dome rocket defense system; $150 million for procurement of the David’s Sling missile defense system, and $120 million for procurement of the Arrow-3 missile defense system.

Also included is $42.7 million for U.S.-Israel anti-tunnel cooperation.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee praised passage of the bill. “As Israel faces dramatically rising security challenges, AIPAC urges inclusion of these vital funds in the final versions of the Fiscal Year 2017 defense authorization and appropriations bills,” the Israel lobby group said in a statement.

On June 14, the White House released a six-page statement detailing over a dozen points of opposition to the appropriations measure, including the expanded funding for Israel’s missile defense system, to the tune of $455 million more than requested by the White House.

The Obama administration complained in the statement that the legislation “fails to provide our troops with the resources needed to keep our nation safe.” The statement threatened a veto if the bill survives the reconciliation process with the Senate unaltered, but administration officials would not say if that would apply should some of its objections be resolved, or if it was a blanket veto threat applying to every objection.

The administration “opposes the addition of $455 million” for Israeli missile defense procurement and cooperative development programs, the statement said, while noting that the bill cuts $324 million from non-Israel related defense systems.

On June 15, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the administration opposed the funding increase because it “would consume a growing share of a shrinking U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s budget.”

“Additional support for Israel means fewer resources that are available for critical U.S. programs at a time when the missile threat from North Korea, in particular, is increasing,” Kirby said.

AIPAC was first to protest the administration’s statement of opposition. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations called the White House’s opposition to the increased funding for Israel “a disturbing departure from the prior practice of this and previous administrations.”

In a time of “escalating threats to Israel from the arsenal of more 150,000 missiles and rockets supplied by Iran and stockpiled by Hezbollah,” Conference of Presidents Chairman Stephen Greenberg and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein wrote in a statement June 15, “the decision by the Obama Administration to oppose the overwhelming bipartisan Congressional support for increasing Israel’s ability to defend its people is very troubling.”

Another reason the Obama administration is objecting to the additional funds is that the United States and Israel are considering including missile defense funding in the annual defense assistance package to Israel. Missile defense has until now been funded separately.

The current defense assistance package is $3 billion per year. It stands to reach between $4 and $5 billion, depending on whether missile defense assistance is incorporated.

Swastika posters left in London playground 4 consecutive days

(JTA)—Police are stepping up their presence in a haredi Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of London after swastika posters were placed in a playground there four days in a row.

London’s Jewish Chronicle reported last Friday that local police have increased patrols in Stamford Hill and are investigating the matter.

The local branch of Shomrim, the Jewish volunteer security group, first reported the posters to police on June 13, and since then they have appeared every day. The playground is next to a Jewish senior home, many of whose residents are Holocaust survivors.

Stamford Hill Shomrim’s Shulem Stern told the Chronicle the posters have sparked “a sense of anxiety and fear amongst local parents.”

“The daubing of Nazi symbols in a place where Jewish children study and play is an act of racism intended to spread fear and alarm,” Marie van der Zyl, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told the Chronicle.

The northeast London neighborhood is home the largest haredi Orthodox community in Europe, according to the Chronicle.

Suspected killer of British lawmaker had history with US neo-Nazi group

(JTA)—The man whom authorities believe killed British lawmaker Jo Cox is said to have a history of involvement with an American neo-Nazi organization.

The New York Times reported last Friday that the Southern Poverty Law Center, a hate watchdog group, said Thomas Mair purchased $620 worth of materials in 1999 from a publishing imprint of the then-leading neo-Nazi group the National Alliance.

Mair, 52, has been identified by neighbors and family members as the person who shot and stabbed Cox several times on the street in the northern English town of Birstall on June 16.

Cox, 41, was a vocal advocate for Britain remaining in the European Union and openly criticized her Labour Party’s leadership for not doing enough to fight anti-Semitism within the party.

She was the first sitting member of Parliament to be killed since 1990, according to the Times.

What would have motivated her suspected murderer is still unclear.

In addition to his ties to the National Alliance, Mair also was on a 10-year-old list of subscribers to a South African magazine published by a pro-apartheid group, according to the UK’s Telegraph.

Mair also is believed to have a history of mental illness. He was quoted in a 2010 article in The Huddersfield Daily Examiner that identified him as a client at a program for adults with mental health problems.

Body of missing Jewish paddleboarder found 30 miles off Long Island

NEW YORK (JTA)—The body of a Long Island Jewish man who went missing while paddleboarding off the coast of Long Island was found.

A tugboat crew found the body of Gary Turkel last Friday morning in the Atlantic Ocean about 30 miles off the shore, the Long Island Herald reported. He had gone missing five days earlier.

In a statement posted on Facebook, the Rockaway Nassau Safety Patrol, a volunteer group that led the search after the U.S. Coast Guard suspended its extensive search on June 14, said, “It is with profound sadness that we confirm Mr. Turkel has passed away.”

“We are pleased that his grieving family is at least able to find some sense of closure now that his body has been recovered,” the statement, signed by the group’s coordinators and search-and-rescue supervisors, continued. “We implore the public to treat this with an appropriate level of respect. We wish our deepest condolences to his grieving family.”

Turkel, 41, was a father of three and global manager of the market specialist team at Bloomberg, the financial data provider. He was a member of the Jewish Center of Atlantic Beach, an Orthodox congregation in Atlantic Beach, New York.

Turkel was last seen alive on June 12 paddleboarding without a life jacket. He was reported missing that evening.

In a Facebook post, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Sholom-The National Synagogue recalled how Turkel “walked down the aisle at my wedding” and was with him when he met his wife at Yeshiva University’s Stern College.

“Gary is the one who played foosball with me all through High School and college,” Herzfeld said. “Gary is still the one who made me laugh more than anyone else I know. He was always a great friend to me and I know that I owe so much to the friendship and support he always gave me. I will always be eternally grateful for all the love he gave me. My heart breaks for his family. Baruch Dayan Emes.”

 

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