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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Lou Pearlman, who formed Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, dies in prison

(JTA)—Lou Pearlman, who formed and managed the boy bands Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, died while serving a 25-year prison sentence for a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.

Pearlman, who suffered a stroke in prison in 2010, died last Friday in the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana, Texas. He was 62.

He had been projected to be released in 2029 after pleading guilty in 2008 to charges that included conspiracy and money laundering.

In the 1990s, Pearlman started Trans Continental Records and created the Backstreet Boys with five unknown young singers whom he chose in a multimillion-dollar talent search. The Backstreet Boys went on to become the best-selling boy band of all time, with 130 million record sales.

*NSYNC was formed in much the same way. The band, which included Justin Timberlake, sold over 55 million records.

Pearlman produced nearly a dozen other bands and artists, and all but one have sued him for misrepresentation and fraud. Each case has ended with a confidentiality agreement, according to reports.

Pearlman grew up in Flushing, New York, the only child of Hy and Reenie Pearlman. His father ran a dry cleaning business, and his mother was a school lunchroom aide. He was a first cousin of the singer Art Garfunkel.

He ran businesses operating blimps out of college before turning his attention to the entertainment industry.

In a tribute to Pearlman, *NSYNC member Lance Bass tweeted on Saturday: “Word is that #LouPearlman has passed away. He might not have been a stand up businessman, but I wouldn’t be doing what I love today wout his influence. RIP Lou.”

Pearlman went to prison after admitting to a Ponzi scheme of 84 businesses that cheated investors out of at least $300 million.

Dozens respond to Facebook plea by attending funeral of elderly Jewish woman

(JTA)—Some 30 people attended the funeral in New York for a woman they did not know in response to a Facebook plea by a rabbi’s daughter.

Francine Stein, 83, was buried Aug. 17 following a graveside funeral at Temple Israel Cemetery in Blauvelt, in suburban Rockland County.

Ora Weinbach, a New Jersey high school teacher, had made the Facebook request for mourners at the service being conducted by her father, Rabbi Elchanan Weinbach.

The post read: “Huge mitzvah opportunity. A woman is being buried tomorrow who has LITERALLY NO ONE attending her funeral, other than the funeral home director and the rabbi (my father). Who would like to join me at the funeral? I will be leaving Teaneck at 10:45. Free lunch with the rabbi after.”

Weinbach said the post was shared by her friends, and then the shares were shared, which led to the turnout at the funeral less than 24 hours after the original post.

The funeral service included at least 10 men, enough to form a minyan, or a religious quorum, which enabled the rabbi to recite the Kaddish prayer for the dead. The mourners reportedly came from all walks of Jewish life, as well as an atheist. They carried Stein’s casket and shoveled dirt into the grave as proscribed by Jewish tradition.

Stein lived in an assisted living facility for 10 years until 2014, when she was hospitalized while battling cancer, and then entered a nursing home, Gwen Curry, an assistant administrator and case manager at the New Monsey Park assisted living facility, told Inside Edition, which first reported the story. Curry said that while Stein was never married, there were loved ones who would have attended the funeral if they had known she died.

The rabbi learned at the cemetery that Stein had been a musician and teacher at the Juilliard School.

Ora Weinbach later told The Journal News that the fact that “all the people who showed up took time out of their day” was powerful.

“I did nothing. I literally just wrote a Facebook post,” she said. “The people who came out in the middle of a random day, those are the people who did a lot. It was amazing.”

London mayor won’t support Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Party leader

(JTA)—London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim mayor of a European capital city, said he will not support Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party leadership election.

Corbyn, who has called Hezbollah and Hamas “friends,” has been accused of fostering an atmosphere of anti-Semitism in the party.

Khan, a Labour member, did not mention the anti-Semitism in an op-ed published Saturday in The Guardian newspaper. But he did say in the London-based daily that if Corbyn remained party leader, Labour would be unlikely to win the next general election. He also said Corbyn “has already proved that he is unable to organize an effective team, and has failed to win the trust and respect of the British people.”

In a June op-ed in The Jerusalem Post, Kahn pledged to root out anti-Semitism in his city and in Labour.

Khan threw his support behind Owen Smith, who has been a Parliament member since 2010, and prior to that worked as a radio and television producer for the BBC. He is Corbyn’s only challenger for the party leadership.

Some 500,000 ballots for the leadership race will be sent out to party members on Monday; the results will be announced next month. Corbyn reportedly remains the favorite with rank-and-file members and is likely to retain the leadership post, according to reports.

The Jewish Labour Movement nominated Smith to lead the party with 92 percent of its members supporting him and 4 percent backing Corbyn.

1 killed, 1 critically injured in fire that destroyed home of Orthodox Jewish couple

(JTA)—A fire that destroyed the house of an Orthodox Jewish couple in Houston left one dead and one in critical condition in the hospital.

Firefighters were called to the house of Eva Lou and Julius Chapman by neighbors at about 7:45 p.m. last Friday, and found it engulfed in flames.

The badly burned body of Eva Lou Chapman was found in the back of the house, according to KPRC Houston. Julius Chapman was still breathing when he was pulled from the front of the house. He remains hospitalized with burns and smoke inhalation.

The couple, both in their 70s, were described as pillars of the Houston Orthodox Jewish community, according to the Vos Iz Neis website.

“When they first moved here and were raising their family, it wasn’t so simple to be shomer mitzvot and Shabbos,” Rabbi Barry Gelman of the United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston told the website. “They stuck with our shul when Orthodoxy wasn’t fashionable, maintaining their lifestyle and modeling it for others. To a large measure our community is an Orthodox community because of what they did.”

The couple has six children and about 50 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, according to reports.

Firefighters reported having a difficult time entering the home, saying they faced “hoarder-like conditions,” according to KPRC.

Mark Zuckerberg and wife sell $95 million in Facebook shares to fund philanthropy

(JTA)—Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, sold company shares valued at nearly $95 million to fund their charitable efforts.

The funds reportedly were sold by the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation and CZI Holdings LLC, both owned by the couple, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission last Friday.

The price of the shares ranged from $122.85 to $124.31. The sale reportedly was scheduled months ago to avoid insider trading issues.

Late last year Zuckerberg and Chan pledged to give away 99 percent of their shares in the company “during our lives” to charity. The pledge, then worth approximately $45 billion, came in a Facebook post on Dec. 1, 2015, announcing the birth of their daughter, Max.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was formed to fund charities, companies and policies for “advancing human potential and promoting equality,” according to its website.

“We will make long-term investments over 25, 50 or even 100 years because our greatest challenges require time to solve,” the site said.

The initiative is a limited liability corporation instead of a foundation, which allows it to participate in public advocacy and invest in businesses or other entities whose profits will be used to support the initiative’s work, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

German university students condemn BDS movement

BERLIN (JTA)—Students at Leipzig University have passed a resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel as anti-Semitic.

Passed earlier this month, the groundbreaking student council resolution, first reported in The Jerusalem Post, was a response to efforts by University of London anthropology professor Lori Allen, an anti-Israel activist, to foment support for BDS during a visit to the Leipzig University in June.

In its statement, translated on the Legal Insurrection blog, the student council condemned such “anti-Semitic boycott campaigns” and said it would stand up “against the execution, participation in, and promotion of such campaigns and events at the University of Leipzig.” This includes a rejection of BDS-related “events, exhibitions, demonstrations, etc.”

The resolution also called the BDS campaign “an existential threat to the Jews,” given the openly stated threats by Hamas, Hezbollah and the Iranian regime against Israel and Jews worldwide.

Peru’s president, whose Jewish father fled Nazis in ‘33, conducts Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

(JTA)—The president of Peru, whose father was a Jewish refugee, conducted Israel’s Philharmonic Orchestra during the playing of the Peruvian national anthem at a concert in Lima.

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski took his turn with the baton at an Aug. 15 performance at the National Grand Theater during celebrations of the 109th anniversary of the Lima Philharmonic Society, El Comercio newspaper reported.

“More than 1,400 people who attended the concert celebrated the pleasant surprise and revelation of our president as a conductor,” read a note from the Lima Philharmonic Society, which noted that Zubin Mehta, the philharmonic’s conductor, did the same with the Israeli anthem, “Hatikvah.”

Kuczynski, who has studied music and plays the flute, was elected president of the South American country in June. He was born in Lima to a French Protestant mother and a German Jewish father who fled the Nazis in 1933.

The society reported that tickets were sold out three weeks before the concert and that it “was undoubtedly one of the most important cultural events of the year” in Peru.

Arthur Hiller, Jewish director of ‘Love Story,’ dies at 92

(JTA)—Arthur Hiller, the Canadian-born Jewish director most famous for the hit movie “Love Story,” has died.

Hiller, had been in failing health for some time, died Aug. 17. He was 92.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved friend Arthur Hiller,” the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said in a statement. Hiller had served as the academy’s president from 1993 to 1997 and of the Directors Guild of America from 1989 to 1993.

The Directors Guild in a statement called Hiller “a tireless crusader in the fight for creative rights and a passionate film preservation advocate.”

The academy presented him with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Academy Awards ceremony in 2002.

During a career that spanned more than half a century, Hiller directed numerous television episodes and more than 30 feature films.

“Love Story,” released in 1970 and based on an Erich Segal novel about a doomed romance, was his biggest hit. He was nominated for an Academy Award as best director and won a Golden Globe.

Other films included “Silver Streak,”  “The Americanization of Emily,” “Tobruk” and “The Hospital.”

A native of Edmonton, Hiller was the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland. As a child, he recalled in the book “Matzo Balls for Breakfast and Other Stories of Growing Up Jewish,” that he helped out building sets and acting “with the long beard and the payes” at a Yiddish theater run by his parents.

They were not, he wrote, “professionals in theater, they wanted to do a play once or twice a year for the community of 450 to keep in touch with their heritage.”

Hiller tried to volunteer to fight for Israel after the outbreak of the 1948 War of Independence but was rejected because he had recently married his childhood sweetheart, Gwen Pechet. Their marriage lasted 68 years, until his wife died in June.

Nazi propagandist Goebbels’ wife had Jewish father, new document shows

(JTA)—The wife of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels had a Jewish father, according to a new document discovered in the Berlin archives.

The document was published in the German newspaper Bild, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported last week.

It shows that the father of Magda Goebbels was a Jewish businessman named Richard Friedlander, who married Magda’s mother, Auguste Behrend, when Magda was about 7 years old. Friedlander had an affair in 1901 with Behrend before she married German engineer Oskar Ritshel, who had been blamed for impregnating Behrend before their wedding.

Friedlander’s residency card, the document found in the archives, states that Magda is his biological daughter, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

Friedlander died in the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1939; his daughter did not attempt to help him.

The Goebbels had been portrayed by the Nazis as the ideal Aryan family.

Joseph and Magda Goebbels and their six children committed suicide on April 30, 1945, a day after Adolf Hitler took his life.

Official at Islamic university in Italy calls for ‘final solution’ for Zionists

ROME (JTA)—A Facebook post by an administrator at an Islamic university in Italy calling for the “final solution” and “complete extermination” of Zionists was taken down after the Italian Jewish community and the Israeli Embassy in Rome protested to authorities.

The post was published in early August by Raffello Villani, the administrative secretary of the Islamic University Foundation of Lecce, in southern Italy.

Villani wrote on his Facebook page: “another final solution ... but this time done well ... that’s what should happen. but for the zionists .... just for them. complete extermination. The real Jews are the victims.”

The post was flagged on Aug. 4 by Osservatorio Antisemitismo, an anti-Semitism monitor supported by the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, or UCEI.

On Sunday, the UCEI said in a statement that the post was taken down “immediately” after the UCEI and the Israeli Embassy in Rome made a joint protest to authorities. The protest was not made public at the time.

The Osservatorio had noted that “anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist posts appear often” on Villani’s Facebook page, which is public.

After the offending post was taken down, Villani posted a defense of his opinions.

“Once again I have to give a lesson in Italian [...] Anti-zionist does not mean being anti-Semitic,” he wrote. “They are 2 completely different things. Now to those who insist on confusing them, I say grab a dictionary and read it. Maybe they would understand more. Thus, to you who choose to not understand I say: I defend the Jews who suffer the persecutions of stupid racists and their Zionist fellow countrymen. I will never defend, in fact I will fight against, the zionists who impinge on the freedom of the peoples of the world including their [fellow] Jews.”

The Islamic University in Italy, on the tip of the country’s heel, is a small, newly established institution founded mainly by Italian converts to Islam. News of its development prompted controversy last year in Lecce. It is not clear whether it is fully functioning now.

Macedonia’s tiny Jewish community, JDC help flood victims

(JTA)—Members of the tiny Jewish community of Macedonia and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee distributed hundreds of aid packages to victims of deadly floods that forced thousands from their homes in the Balkan nation.

The JDC, along with the Jewish Community of the Republic of Macedonia and the Holocaust Fund of the Jews from Macedonia, created and distributed 1,000 hygiene relief kits throughout the hardest-hit areas, JDC said in a statement recently.

Macedonia has a Jewish population of about 250, according to JDC and European Jewish Congress, from more than 10,000 before the Holocaust.

The packages, created at a Jewish community volunteer event on Aug. 14, will help address personal and household hygiene needs, a critical component in flood recovery zones.

Torrential rain and floods in the Macedonian capital have left at least 17 people dead and 60 others hospitalized, authorities said earlier this month. Six others are missing.

Koce Trajanovski, mayor of the Macedonian capital, Skopje, described the damage as “the worst Skopje has ever seen,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

“Our response puts into action the Jewish teaching that every individual life has value and it is our duty to offer care and relief in in times of disaster, no matter a person’s background or faith,” Alan Gill, CEO of the JDC, said in a statement last week.

The hygiene relief kits distributed included medical soap, disinfection solutions and cleaning supplies to sanitize homes filled with flood debris. They reached approximately 5,000 people in Stajkovci, Smiljkovci, Brnjarci, Indzikovo and Chento, JDC said.

Obama administration acknowledges link between $400 million and prisoner release

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The Obama administration acknowledged that the release of $400 million in cash to Iran in January was linked to Iran’s release of American prisoners, but rejected notions it was a ransom payment.

“With concerns that Iran may renege on the prisoner release given unnecessary delays regarding persons in Iran who could not be located as well as, to be quite honest, mutual mistrust between Iran and the United States, we, of course, sought to retain maximum leverage until after American citizens were released,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said Aug. 18 at the daily media briefing.

It was the first time that the administration acknowledged linkage between the payment and the prisoner release. On Aug. 4, Mark Toner, another State Department spokesman, said there was no linkage between the prisoner exchange and the payment. “It’s just not true that there’s any linkage,” Toner said at the time.

Kirby’s acknowledgment came after The Wall Street Journal published a timetable the day before showing that American officials linked the release of the funds to the release of the prisoners.

Republicans, including Donald Trump, the presidential nominee, have described the payment as a ransom for the release of five American prisoners freed at the same time in exchange for Iranian prisoners in the United States.

“We now know from the State Department announcement that President Obama lied about the $400 million in cash that was flown to Iran,” Trump said in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Aug. 18 at a campaign event. “He denied it was for the hostages, but it was. He said we don’t pay ransom, but he did.”

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., called for hearings on whether the payment was a ransom and whether it endangered American lives.

“The administration’s policy of appeasement gave Tehran a green light to kidnap and wrongly imprison more foreign hostages after the this ransom payment,” he said in a statement.

The Obama administration adamantly denies a quid pro quo, saying that the $400 million was part of the sanctions relief for nuclear rollback deal, and settled outstanding Iranian claims against the U.S. government. The implementation of the deal and the prisoner exchange were all carried out at the same time, in part to clear the slate as the deal went into effect.

Administration officials noted that Obama and other officials never hid the $400 million payment and spoke about it at the time.

“The president himself talked about the timing,” Kirby said on Aug. 18. “We were able to conclude multiple strands of diplomacy within a 24-hour period, including implementation of the nuclear deal, the prisoner talks, and the settlement of an outstanding Hague Tribunal claim which saved American taxpayers potentially billions of dollars.”

Suspicions that the payment was a ransom were stoked this summer when it was revealed it was delivered in cash, but Obama administration officials have said this was necessary because sanctions in place at the time precluded a bank transfer.


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