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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Boston protestors call on community relations group to retract criticism of Black Lives Matter platform

(JTA)—A group of activists demanded the Boston Jewish Community Relations Council retract its recent statement criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement’s platform.

According to a statement from the Jewish anti-occupation group IfNotNow, some 50 people gathered at the council’s Boston offices on Monday to express their support for Black Lives Matter.

“We refuse to follow leaders that force us to choose between Jewish community and one of the most powerful movements of our time,” said Ally Little, one of the protest organizers, according to the IfNotNow statement. “We recognize the explicit links between Black, Palestinian, and Jewish liberation.”

Last week, the council issued a statement condemning the recently released platform of the Movement for Black Lives coalition, which called Israel an “apartheid state” and accused the United States of complicity in Israel’s “genocide” against the Palestinians.

“JCRC cannot and will not align ourselves with organizations that falsely and maliciously assert that Israel is committing ‘genocide,’” the statement read.

The Anti-Defamation League, the rabbinic human rights group T’ruah and the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center also criticized the platform.

Released on Aug. 1, the document encompasses a broad set of economic and social policy goals aimed at eliminating racism, mass incarceration and police violence. The language on Israel appeared in a section called Invest-Divest and called for an end to U.S. military aid to Israel.

American Nazi leader: Trump victory would be ‘real opportunity’ for white nationalists

(JTA)—The chairman of the American Nazi Party said on his radio program that a Donald Trump victory in November would present a “real opportunity” for white supremacist groups to build political coalitions.

“Now, if Trump does win, okay, it’s going to be a real opportunity for people like white nationalists, acting intelligently to build upon that, and to go and start—you know how you have the black political caucus and whatnot in Congress, and, everything, to start building on something like that, okay,” Rocky Suhayda, said on his program last month. “It doesn’t have to be anti, like the movement’s been for decades, so much as it has to be pro-white. It’s kinda hard to go and call us bigots if we don’t go around and act like a bigot. That’s what the movement should contemplate. All right.”

Suhayda’s comments were reported Saturday by Buzzfeed. Based in Michigan, Suhayda’s group is one of a number of small groups calling themselves the American Nazi Party and claiming to have descended from the organization founded in the 1960s by the late George Lincoln Rockwell.

Trump’s campaign for the White House has drawn support from other white nationalists. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke has praised the Republican nominee, support Trump later disavowed.

Trump also drew fire for retweeting an image of Hillary Clinton, thought by many to be anti-Semitic, which originally had appeared in internet forums of the white supremacist alt-right.

Jewish jeweler sues insurer over diamonds he dumped in trash

(JTA)—A Jewish jeweler in Manhattan’s Diamond District is suing his insurer for its failure to cover a more-than-$800,000 loss after he accidentally threw a bundle of  diamonds into the trash.

Bobby Yashaya, owner of Max Jewelry, located on 47th Street in midtown Manhattan, said he was rushing to get ready attend a trade show in Las Vegas before Shabbat began on a Friday in May 2015.

He said he had a bundle of jewelry and gems, including four 8-to-12-carat diamonds and a pair of diamond earrings, wrapped in white paper and held together with a rubber band.

When building maintenance came to collect the garbage, he pushed the bundle of diamonds into the trash along with papers and food cartons sitting on the counter, he told the New York Post.

He discovered his error five days later, while at the convention, and was unable to recover them.

He said after he filed an insurance claim, the agent with Lloyd’s, the insurance giant, was openly “hostile” and threatened extra requirements including multiple lie-detector tests.

The insurance company has cancelled his policy and has not paid Yashaya’s claim. No other company will insure him in light of the incident.

“I did everything I was supposed to have done,” Yashaya told the Post. “This is an accident. This is why we have insurance, for accidents.”

Stoudemire says he turned down ‘a lot of money’ to play in Israel

(JTA)—Amar’e Stoudemire, the former NBA star whose two-year deal with the Israeli team Hapoel Jerusalem was announced last week, said he could have stayed in the NBA, but elected to play in the Jewish state instead.

“I turned down a lot of money in the NBA to play for Israel, so it’s not about the money at all, it’s about winning championships,” Stoudemire said in an interview published on the Walla website and cited by the Times of Israel.

Stoudemire arrived in Israel on Friday and headed immediately for Dimona, the southern city home to a large community of African Hebrew Israelites, African-American immigrants to Israel who believe they are descendants of the biblical tribe of Judah. The former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks star has long touted a connection to Judaism and his “Hebrew roots.” He has traveled to Israel several times, including a 2013 trip as the assistant coach of the Canadian basketball squad competing in the Maccabiah Games, and has a Star of David tattoo.

Stoudemire told Israeli media he would play for the national team if he received Israeli citizenship.

Report: Traveling zoo set up on Holocaust execution site in Ukraine

(JTA)—A city in northwestern Ukraine authorized the placing of a traveling zoo on the mass grave of thousands of Jewish Holocaust victims, a leader of the country’s Jewish community said.

Eduard Dolinsky, the director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, wrote Monday on Facebook about the traveling zoo that was erected this summer in the town of Kovel, 260 miles from Kiev, the capital.

“This was done with permission of the local authorities,” wrote Dolinsky about the zoo’s construction. “This place is located at the former Jewish cemetery. In August 1942, the last workers of the Jewish ghetto were killed there. A few thousand people, from 2,500 to 6,000 according to various sources.”

Dolinsky added he did not know whether the Kovel zoo, which was reported last week in the Volinska Gazeta local newspaper, was a case of “[idiocy], criminality, cynicism, apathy—or maybe all of the above.” He called it a “blatant act of vandalism and horrific abuse,” adding the local Jewish community had for years lobbied unsuccessfully to have the murder site commemorated with a monument.

Kovel’s deputy architect, Sergey Panasyuk, told Volinska Gazeta the request for a monument is pending consideration and approval.

The report about Kovel comes amid a polarizing debate in Ukraine following Kiev’s naming of streets in July for Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych—Ukrainian militia leaders and one-time collaborators with the Nazis, whose troops are widely believed to be responsible for lethal violence against Jews and Poles during the Holocaust.

In Ukraine, where anti-Russian sentiments exploded following a bloody revolution and annexation in 2014 of Ukrainian land by Russia, many believe these militiamen and others were patriotic heroes for their opposition to the Soviet Union.

“People who allow this must be punished,” Dolinsky wrote of the zoo, “because they know what they’re doing. Although, most likely, nothing will be done to them.”

Dolinsky also expressed concern the Kovel murders and aftermath will not receive widespread attention because of the preparations for the 75th anniversary of the killings at Babi Yar—a ravine in Kiev where the Nazis killed 30,000 Jews.

The preparations at Babi Yar, he wrote, are “because foreign guests will arrive there. But in the city of Kovel, no one is coming” so locals can ignore the events of the Holocaust era.

Last month, JTA reported that a concentration camp in Lithuania had become a popular venue for camping, treasure hunts, graduation events and adult costume parties. The Seventh Fort, where 5,000 are buried in mass graves, was privatized in 2009.

Aly Raisman earns spot in individual all-around finals in Rio

(JTA)—Jewish-American woman’s gymnast Aly Raisman earned a spot in the individual all-around competition at the Olympics in Rio.

Raisman took the second spot for the American women ahead of all-around defending gold medalist Gabby Douglas and behind three-time world all-around champion Simone Biles.

The American women’s gymnastics team came in first place in the qualifying for the team finals with a score of  185.238 points, ahead of second place China with a score of 175.279  and third place Russia with 174.620. The finals will take place on Tuesday.

Raisman also will compete in the individual competition in the floor exercise. Raisman won a gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics in the floor competition, performing a routine to “Hava Nagila.”

Raisman, 22, is the U.S. women gymnasts’ team captain, and is nicknamed “Grandma” by her teammates.

Canada’s Green Party votes to support BDS movement

TORONTO (JTA)—Canada’s Green Party voted to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.

At its convention in Ottawa over the weekend, party members endorsed the BDS movement despite the party leader’s opposition to the measure.

The Green Party “supports a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and we continue to advocate for good-faith negotiations,” party president Ken Melamed said after Sunday’s vote.

“This support is intended to further advocate to that end. Our members, like many Canadians, will continue to search for ways to support both sides while acknowledging the complexity of the various security, economic, and religious concerns,” Melamed added.

Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May said she was “disappointed that the membership has adopted a policy in favor of a movement that I believe to be polarizing, ineffective, and unhelpful in the quest for peace and security for the peoples of the Middle East. As is the right of any member, I will continue to express personal opposition to BDS.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs condemned the party’s decision as “outrageous... [T]he BDS movement, which seeks to censor and blacklist Israelis, is fundamentally discriminatory and utterly at odds with Canadian values.”

Party members also voted to adopt a resolution that calls on the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the charitable status of any organization that violates Canadian or international human rights law.

As originally worded, the resolution asked the party to pursue the revocation of the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund ostensibly because the JNF discriminates by selling and leasing land in Israel only to Jews.

CIJA said it was “pleased” that May was “instrumental” in amending the resolution to remove specific references to the JNF, and said she was right to oppose the “toxic” BDS vote.

International Olympic Committee warns Lebanon over bus incident

(JTA)—The International Olympic Committee reportedly reprimanded the head of the Lebanese delegation over an incident in which he blocked Israeli Olympians from boarding a bus.

At a hearing Sunday, the IOC committee warned Salim al-Haj Nakoula that it would not accept a similar incident, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The incident in question occurred Friday, when Nakoula blocked Israeli athletes from boarding a bus to transport them to the opening ceremony of the Rio games. The encounter drew attention when Israeli sailing coach Udi Gal reported it on Facebook.

Nakoula told Lebanese media that the Israelis were “looking for trouble” by insisting on boarding the same bus when they had their own transportation. He reportedly told the IOC that the incident had been a misunderstanding.

Report: Israeli combat soldiers to receive full college scholarships

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli combat soldiers will receive full scholarships from the military to pursue a university degree or professional certification.

The scholarships will be funded by the Israel Defense Forces, as well as the Friends of the IDF and the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers, the Israeli Hebrew daily Yediot Acharonot reported.

In a recent meeting, IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Gadi Eisenkot asked Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to help him find the funds to offer such scholarships to only to combat soldiers, but to all soldiers after their service, according to Ynet, the English-language sister publication of Yediot.

Soldiers who are new immigrants, minorities or from disadvantaged families also will receive scholarships for higher education, according to the report.

The scholarships for combat soldiers are expected to cost about $60 million a year, and an additional $130 million a year if all released soldiers are included, according to the report.

Chief Rabbi David Lau asks educators to deal seriously with every child abuse report

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli chief rabbi David Lau published an open letter calling on educators to deal seriously with every report of child abuse of any kind.

The rabbi released the letter Sunday evening at a conference of haredi Orthodox rabbis.  It was first reported on the haredi Orthodox Kipa news website.

“To my great pain we’ve recently witnessed horrific cases of abuse in our midst; cases in which children were hurt in their houses and their schools. How painful it is to hear that the very places which are supposed to provide a security and strength for our children, have become places of fear,” the letter read.

“At this time, parents, teachers, relatives and all those engaged in the holy work of education must keep their eyes open and assist those who need it in any way possible. Burying our heads in the sand is not the answer to these difficult and painful issues, and everyone must take responsibility, even if these things do not affect him directly,” Lau wrote.

The letter comes amid several new investigations and indictments of child sex abuse in the haredi Orthodox community.

The rabbi also wrote that “under no circumstances should these things be swept under the rug.”

His solution, according to the letter, is to “raise awareness and continue educating our children in the ways of modesty, in the ways of the Torah, and in the deep-rooted values of Jewish tradition.”

Unilever under fire for salmonella-tainted Israeli cornflakes

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Health Ministry has suspended a manufacturing permit of the Unilever corporation over cornflakes contaminated with salmonella.

The ministry announced the suspension on Sunday, more than a month after some of the boxes containing the tainted breakfast cereal were shipped from the factory.

An internal investigation revealed that the contaminated products had been shipped from the factory June 30, some five weeks earlier, but that management had not realized it.

The contamination originated at the Telma factory in Arad in southern Israel. The source of the contamination has not yet been found.

The ministry inspected the factory on Sunday and has hired an external investigator to assist in finding the source of the contamination, it said in the statement.

“The company cooperated fully with the inspection. The Health Ministry team believes that the incident was a series of negligent errors and not a case of anything intentional on the part of the company’s management and quality-control system,” the ministry said in its statement. The ministry said it would carry out daily inspections of the factory until it is satisfied that no contamination remains.

Unilever reportedly initially attempted to hide the contamination, since it believed that it had caught it before any of the product was shipped out of the factory, according to the Haaretz business daily The Marker.  However, it came to light on Thursday that a pallet containing 240 boxes of the tainted Telma cereals had been shipped to stores.

A total of 154,000 boxes of cereal were discovered to be contaminated. Unilever said it let the boxes sit in the factory for more than three weeks while it figured out the logistics of destroying such a large quantity of product, according to the Marker.

The revoked Good Manufacturing practice permit does not stop production, but removes the company’s exemption from frequent health inspection.

Israelis barred from entering Jordan over kippot

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A group of Israeli tourists were prevented from entering Jordan because members of the group were wearing yarmulkes.

The incident occurred more than a week ago, but was first reported by Israel’s Channel 2 on Sunday.

The group was planning to travel to the Tomb of Aaron near Petra. The tomb is believed to be the burial place of the first High Priest, Aaron, the brother of Moses.

In December, an Israeli family was denied entry to Jordan at a crossing near Eilat because the husband and the couple’s sons wore kippot; they were told they could not enter Jordan with “Jewish items.”   After that incident, Jordan told Israeli authorities it was a one-time error, according to Channel 2.

A Foreign Ministry official told Channel 2 that not allowing tourists carrying Jewish religious items in their bags to enter Jordan appears to be official policy. The ministry reportedly has sought clarification of the issue from Jordan.


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