Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Family of ‘The Pianist’ wins suit against book alleging Jewish musician had Nazi ties 

(JTA)—The family of the late Polish-Jewish man whose story inspired the Academy Award-winning 2002 film “The Pianist” has won on appeal a defamation suit over claims that he was a Nazi collaborator.

According to Agence France Press, the widow and son of Wladyslaw Szpilman said Monday they have won their suit against the author and publisher of a 2010 biography of Polish-Jewish singer Wiera Gran. In it, the singer claims Szpilman had worked for the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Gran had also been accused of cooperating with the Nazis.

The Warsaw Appeals Court overturned a 2013 ruling that said the book was protected under author Agata Tuszynska’s right to free speech.

The ruling gives Tuszynska and her publishers 15 days to publicly apologize and to excise the passages from future editions of the work.

“This ruling will allow the ethical standards in Poland to improve and bring into question the poorly interpreted notion of freedom of speech,” said Andrzej Szpilman, the son.

Roman Polanski’s 2002 film about Szpilman, whose music helped him survive the Holocaust, won three Academy Awards. Szpilman died in 2000.

Republican Jewish Coalition ad brands Democrats ‘anti-Israel’

NEW YORK (JTA)—An ad from the Republican Jewish Coalition accuses the Democratic Party of being “stridently anti-Israel,” featuring a string of attendees at last week’s Democratic convention criticizing Israel.

Released Friday and titled “This Isn’t the Old Democrat Party Anymore,” the ad claims that “anti-Israel Democrats are on full display at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia.” The video then goes on to quote Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson comparing the Israeli West Bank settlement movement to termites during an event held at the convention.

The ad shows a clip of protesters burning an Israeli flag outside the convention. It then shows video of two attendees criticizing Israel: One calls Israel an “apartheid state,” and the other says “America is acting as a terrorist” and is “giving way too much money to Israel.”

At the Democratic National Convention, debate over Israel was present but peripheral. Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton pledged to safeguard Israel’s security in her acceptance speech, and her campaign condemned the Israeli flag-burning.

The ad is part of an RJC campaign begun in June that highlights prominent Democrats’ perceived anti-Israel statements. The ads all end with the tagline, “Sadly, this isn’t the old Democratic Party. It’s today’s Democratic Party.”

In a statement responding to the ad, the National Jewish Democratic Council accused the RJC of trying to divert attention from their party’s candidate, Donald Trump.

“We understand why they don’t want to be defending their racist, sexist and bigoted candidate who peddles in anti-Semitic tropes, but notice how they don’t even mention Hillary Clinton’s actual record,” the NJDC said in a statement.

“As they oppose the only consistently pro-Israel nominee in this race, this is going to be a tough year for RJC—all while more and more of their people stand with Israel and strengthening the US-Israel relationship by abandoning Trump.”

Boston-area Moishe House seriously damaged in fire 

(JTA)—The communal home serving the Jewish social justice group Moishe Kavod House in Boston was seriously damaged in a fire.

The three-alarm fire on July 26 left the home unlivable for its residents, four Jewish men and women in their 20s and 30s. The residents also reportedly lost all of their belongings.

It is not known what caused the fire. The cause is currently under investigation.

Several local Jewish organizations have stepped forward to help the residents, they said in a letter to friends and supporters of the group.

“We’ve been overwhelmed with community members, partners, and supporters reaching out to lend their help, which has truly been a testament to our care for one another and commitment to Moishe Kavod House. We have received support from the Red Cross and have been in touch with a number of supportive local Jewish organizations and partners. Thank you,” read the letter.

Moishe Kavod House is affiliated with the Jewish nonprofit Moishe House, which funds 86 such residences in the United States, Israel and major cities around the world. The group provides rent subsidies and a programming budget for the young adults who live at each house and plan Jewish programming for other young Jews. The Boston house focuses on social activism.

Israeli driver on track to make NASCAR history 

(JTA)—Alon Day could make history as the first Israeli to drive in a NASCAR national series race.

Day, a 24-year-old from Ashdod, Israel, is poised to make his debut in the NASCAR Xfinity Series on Aug. 13 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, USA Today reported Saturday.

The Xfinity Series is NASCAR’s second-tier league, behind only the Sprint Cup Series. According to USA Today, Day’s next opportunity to make his Xfinity Series debut would be Aug. 27 at the Road America course in Plymouth, Wisconsin.

USA Today noted that it is not known whether NASCAR has ever featured a Jewish driver in one of its top leagues.

Day, who now lives in Tel Aviv, was one of 11 drivers selected to the NASCAR Next program in May. The program is designed to develop and promote the sport’s upcoming stars.

Since Israel is not a center for motor sports, Day got his start as a teenager in Go Kart racing. For the past two years he has raced in NASCAR’s European circuit, the Whelen Euro Series.

As USA Today reports, Day’s NASCAR hopes were recently given a boost by a Jewish lawyer from Florida. NASCAR fan David Levin, 63, was watching a race in April when “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson gave an invocation and said that he hopes “we put a Jesus man in the White House.”

Levin was offended by the comment, so he reached out to the MBM Motorsports racing team. The Xfinity Series team offered Day a spot.

“Jewish kids want to have a sports role model,” Levin told USA Today. “This is something where the Jewish community should step up to the plate.”

Himmler’s diary discovered in archive in Russia

(JTA)—The diary of Nazi SS leader Heinrich Himmler was discovered filed in an archive in Russia.

The diary, actually a service calendar including dates, meetings and military decisions, was discovered earlier this year in the Russian Military Archive in Podolsk . It was filed under Dnewnik, which is Russian for diary, the Daily Mail reported.

The diary will be serialized in the German newspaper Bild beginning on Tuesday.

An entry in the 1,000-page diary in August 1941 revealed that Himmler, who was known to be squeamish at the sight of blood, almost fainted when the brains of a Jewish mass shooting victim at the edge of a pit outside of Minsk splattered on his coat, according to the Mail.

He writes in 1943 about witnessing the “effectiveness” of the diesel engines used to gas prisoners at the Sobibor death camp. That same day SS men threw a banquet in his honor, he recorded. He also calls for new guard dogs at the Auschwitz complex “capable of ripping apart everyone but their handlers,” according to the Mail.

In 1945, Himmler was captured by British soldiers in northern Germany, carrying falsified papers. He was recognized during his interrogation, which led him to bite down on a cyanide capsule hidden in one of his teeth. He died moments later.

Oskar Schindler letter on sale online for $32,500

(JTA)—A letter written by Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who saved some 1,200 Jews from the Nazis, to his bookkeeper Itzhak Stern is for sale online.

The letter is on sale for $32,500 on the website MomentsinTime.com, which deals in rare original autographs and historical documents. It was put up for sale by a descendant of Stern, who composed the list of Jews that Schindler saved by calling them essential to the running of his factory, Page Six reported.

The two-page letter, which is type-written in German and can be viewed on the website where it is a featured item, is from 1963, and deals with the industrialists’ finances.

“If I think in retrospect, that a year ago I was with you and full of optimism towards the future, and now/today I have to carry the effects of the last year, I sometimes ask myself if it’s even worth living,” Schindler writes in the letter which discusses the “desperate situation” of his finances.

Schindler attempted to start several businesses after World War II, all of which failed, leaving him bankrupt.

Pope Francis becomes newest Krakow JCC member

(JTA)—Pope Francis is the newest member of the Krakow Jewish Community Center.

JCC Executive Director Jonathan Ornstein presented the pontiff with a JCC membership card and an acid-green JCC T-shirt during a reception Sunday at the residence of the archbishop in Krakow.

Francis was concluding a four-day visit to Poland to mark the Roman Catholic Church’s World Youth Day. During his trip, the pontiff visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, the former Nazi death camp that is now a museum and memorial, where he prayed silently and met with Holocaust survivors.

Ornstein told JTA the meeting with the pope was an honor.

“I told him about the rebirth of Jewish life in Krakow and how close our relations are with the church. And I thanked him for giving voice to the oppressed,” he said.

Among the guests at the JCC were the chief rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, and prominent Auschwitz survivors Marian Turski and Roman Kent. Also present were Piotr Wislicki, director of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland, and the presidents of several Polish Jewish communities.

Francis’ JCC membership card features the number V007—V for VIP. The number 007, with the 00 meaning “license to kill,” is the ID number of the fictional British secret agent James Bond. Asked on Facebook whom the pontiff had the license to kill, Ornstein replied: “A license to kill intolerance.”

The Krakow JCC was founded in 2008 and numbers up to 600 members. One Facebook commentator quipped that the pope, 79, would be eligible to join the JCC’s seniors club.

Peres: Trump’s foreign policy proposals would be ‘a very great mistake’

(JTA)—Israel’s former president Shimon Peres said carrying out Donald Trump’s isolationist foreign policy vision would be “a very great mistake.”

In an interview with Bloomberg.com published Monday, Peres—who is 93 and served in numerous roles in Israel’s government since its founding in 1948—did not refer to the Republican presidential nominee by name.

But asked about Trump’s statements on foreign policy, the Nobel Peace Prize winner said, “To suggest that America will disconnect her relations with NATO, that America will leave the whole field open to other countries—in my judgment it’s a mistake. A very great mistake.”

Last month Trump suggested in an interview with The New York Times that U.S. military support for NATO member states might be conditional on whether those members’ fulfill their obligations to the bloc.

During the interview, Peres, who turns 93 on Tuesday, also addressed other topics, such as a project he’s working on that seeks to bring together Israeli and Arab tech entrepreneurs.

“We want to make not just a Startup Nation, but a Startup Region,” Peres said of his project, the Israeli Innovation Center. “Science doesn’t have flags. Science doesn’t have borders.”

Asked about the Palestinian Authority ’s threats to sue Great Britain over the 1917 Balfour Declaration, Peres compared the move to refighting the Crusades, the medieval battles for control of the Holy Land.

“The past is dead,” he said. “The future is the agenda.”

Amar’e Stoudemire signs two-year deal with Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Amar’e Stoudemire, who retired from the NBA last week, has signed a two-year deal with the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team.

The team announced the deal on its website on Monday. It did not disclose terms of the deal.

Stoudemire has been a minority owner of Hapoel Jerusalem since 2013.  As part of his contract with Hapoel Jerusalem, Stoudemire will sell his shares in the club to Dr. Ori Allon, president and majority owner of the team.

“I am looking forward to playing for Hapoel Jerusalem and helping the team compete for titles,” said Stoudemire. “My family and I are excited to start a new journey in Israel, a country I have grown to love.”

Currently led by coach Simone Pianigiani, Hapoel Jerusalem is one of the oldest and most successful teams in the Israeli Basketball League, according to its website. The club has won numerous Israeli State and League Cups, as well as one Israeli Championship and one EuroCup title.

“We are thrilled to have a player of Amar’e’s caliber join our team, solidifying our place among the top echelon of Israeli and European basketball,” Allon said in a statement. “More importantly, bringing Amar’e to Jerusalem raises the profile of the entire Israeli Basketball League, and we hope that his joining our team will lead to increased interest in our league from basketball fans around the world as well as talented international players.”

Stoudemire is scheduled to travel to Israel next week as part of a charity project of NBA Cares. The project is organized by the foundation of Omri Casspi of the Sacramento Kings, the first Israeli to play in the NBA.

In 2010, after joining the New York Knicks, Stoudemire told the New York Post that he had become “spiritually and culturally Jewish.” The All-Star said he was keeping kosher and would celebrate the High Holy Days. He traveled to Israel that year after discovering that his mother appeared to have Jewish ancestry.

Stoudemire, 33, is a six-time NBA All-Star who played in the league for 14 years, retiring last week as a Knick. His first eight seasons were with the Phoenix Suns. Stoudemire closed out his career playing a season each in Dallas and Miami.

3 Waqf officials likely to stand trial for attacking archeologists on Temple Mount

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Three members of the Islamic Waqf, the Jordanian body that oversees the Temple Mount, will likely stand trial for allegedly attacking a group of archeologists at the site.

The Israel Police have gathered enough evidence to bring the men to trial for a confrontation that took place on July 27, when the archaeologists were touring the site, Ynet reported.

“This looked liked the beginning of a lynch. They punched and they kicked,” one of the archeologists told police, according to Ynet. Other members of the group of six archeologists also are expected to testify against the Waqf officials before an indictment is filed, Ynet reported.

The suspects are all residents of eastern Jerusalem, and deny the charges, according to the report.

The archaeologists’ group included Zachi Dvira, who heads a Temple Mount project in which volunteers sift through hundreds of tons of earth moved from the site by the Waqf and dumped without trying to salvage artifacts.

The group reportedly was asked to leave after one of the archeologists bent down to retrieve a stone that Waqf officials said was an olive and asserted he was not allowed to pick up. Eight Waqf members reportedly surrounded the group and verbally and physically attacked the archaeologists.

Dvira said in a post on Facebook that he filmed part of the attack on his cell phone, but Waqf officials took the phone and deleted the video. According to the Facebook post, Zachi was beaten and kicked in the stomach.

The officials were arrested following the incident.

Jewish visitors can only ascend the Temple Mount the mount—revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary—during limited visiting hours and are forbidden from doing anything resembling worship such as kneeling, singing, dancing or rending their clothes.

“We are unhurt but shaken. This incident has only strengthened our resolve to study the Temple Mount—all periods of the Temple Mount—and share the archaeological truths about its history in an attempt to encourage educated discussion about this most holy and also contested site,” the archeologists wrote in their Temple Mount Sifting Project blog post.


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