Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Air Supply gives free concert tickets to wives of Israeli firefighters

JERUSALEM (JTA)—After postponing a concert in Haifa last week due to massive fires there, the band Air Supply gave away 200 tickets to the wives of Israeli firefighters.

The concert was rescheduled for Sunday after being canceled last Friday.

“This is a gesture to wives of firefighters, who went through incredibly difficult days and nights,” concert producer Dudi Berkowitz said, according to Ynet. “We decided to give them an evening away from it all with some good music. I invite firemen’s wives to come enjoy with us.”

Air Supply performed before thousands of fans last week in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The soft rock band is playing Israel for the fourth time in eight years.

3 lawmakers lift objections over nominee for Israeli army’s chief rabbi

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Three Meretz lawmakers have withdrawn their objection to the appointment of Rabbi Col. Eyal Karim as chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces over controversial statements published more than a decade ago.

The lawmakers from the left-wing party had filed a petition with the Supreme Court questioning the appointment, and the court froze Karim’s induction pending his filing of a deposition clarifying his position on the topics addressed in his writings.

In a statement issued Sunday, Zehava Galon, Michal Rozin and Tamar Zandberg thanked Karim for “the clear words that were written and for the important ethical message for the male and female IDF soldiers.”

“It is good and important that the petition brought [Karim] to repudiate the dark positions that he has taken in the past and we accept his response to the petition,” they also wrote.

Karim was named IDF chief rabbi in July and reportedly has been training since he was nominated. His induction ceremony had been scheduled for Nov. 23, but it was postponed pending the court’s response to his deposition.

His appointment was called into question over comments published over a decade ago on the religious news website Kipa. Responding to a reader’s question, Karim said that the Torah permits intercourse with a non-Jewish woman during wartime under certain conditions.

In 2012, Karim clarified his position, saying that “obviously the Torah never permitted the rape of women.” The Jerusalem Post reported Karim as saying that the biblical verse in Deuteronomy about female captives during wartime was meant to prevent such rape from occurring.

In his deposition, Karim said that his mistake in answering the question was in glossing over a complex subject and not wording his response more precisely. He pointed out that he has previously apologized for his error.

On the Kipa website, Karim had also said that women should not be conscripted due to concerns over modesty and that under Jewish law female singers should not perform at military events. He also compared homosexuals to sick or disabled people and said they should fight against their homosexuality.

In his deposition, Karim told the court that he had meant to show that there is an obligation to love and help homosexuals, but understands why it was offensive. Karim said that he now does not believe that gay people should fight their sexual orientation.

Israeli lawmaker: Israelis should ‘think twice’ before purchasing French products

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli lawmaker Michael Oren said Israelis should “think twice” before purchasing French products after a French government agency reiterated the requirement that products from the West Bank be marked as from “settlements.”

“France is labeling Israeli products from Judea, Samaria and the Golan. Israelis should think twice before buying French products,” Oren, of the Kulanu party, wrote in a Twitter post on Saturday night.

Two days earlier, the French Economy Ministry’s General Directorate for Competition, Consumption and Fraud Prevention said in the government’s Official Journal that it requires vendors to use the word “colonies,” French for “settlements,” to specify goods originating in Israeli settlements in the Golan Heights, the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967.

The requirement, according to the ministry, is based on binding regulations adopted last year by the European Commission on labeling settlement goods.

In a tweet responding to Oren, the European Union’s office in Israel said: “This is application of EU consumer information regulations.”

On Monday, the newly appointed French ambassador to Israel, Helene LeGal, tweeted in response: “so you are calling for boycotting French products when in France boycotting Israel is punished by law?”

Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, serves as deputy minister for diplomacy in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Nov. 24 condemned the policy.

Israel to purchase additional F-35 fighter jets from US

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Security Cabinet has approved the purchase of 17 more F-35 fighter jets from the United States.

The purchase of the stealth jet, announced by the Prime Minister’s Office following a unanimous vote, will bring the number of next-generation planes in the Israeli Air Force to 50.

Each plane costs about $100 million. The purchase falls under the 10-year, $38 billion U.S. military aid package for Israel signed by President Barack Obama in September. Most of the aid must be spent in the United States. The F-35 is built by Lockheed-Martin.

The first such plane is scheduled to arrive in the coming weeks, with two planes delivered by the end of the year. Six to seven will arrive in subsequent years, according to reports.

Only a limited number of U.S. allies have been allowed to purchase the plane. Washington has asserted that it would continue to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge, especially in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal signed last year.

Israeli government convenes in scorched Haifa as wildfires controlled

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Cabinet held its weekly meeting in Haifa to show support for the thousands of people displaced by the wildfires that ravaged Israel in recent days.

“This is our message to all Israeli citizens whose homes and property were damaged in the fire: We will help you rebuild your homes and your lives as soon as possible and this is the main purpose of the special Cabinet session today in Haifa,” Netanyahu said at the beginning of the meeting on Sunday, adding that the government plans to “cut through the cruelty of bureaucracy” to help people get on their feet again.

Most of the fires that swept across the country in recent days have been extinguished, according to reports, though several small fires cropped up on Sunday and more could be expected.

Netanyahu said at the meeting that the fires, many of which officials blame on Arab arson attacks, are worse than “other terror attacks.”

During the meeting, Netanyahu announced that he was working to establish a multinational firefighting force, which also would make group purchases of expensive firefighting equipment. He said he had spoken to officials in several countries and had found “a great interest” in the idea.

Netanyahu thanked the countries that sent aid and aircraft, pilots and firefighters to help halt the progress of the fires. He thanked the Israeli firefighters, as well as the Israel Police, the Magen David Adom rescue service, the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command and the rest of the rescue forces, and saluted their courage. He acknowledged the swift response of local authorities and average Israeli citizens who opened their homes to the evacuees.

He added that the conditions of these fires were much more complicated than the Carmel forest fire in 2010, in which 44 people, including many police officers, were killed.

Netanyahu thanks Abbas for sending firefighting crews

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for sending firefighters to assist in putting out massive fires throughout Israel.

Netanyahu called Abbas on Saturday night, according to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Palestinian Authority sent eight fire trucks and about 40 firefighters.

The Palestinian firefighters worked to tamp down fires in Haifa and along Route 1, the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway. They also helped extinguish fires in the West Bank settlement of Halamish, where dozens of homes were damaged or burned to the ground.

Twelve countries sent planes and firefighters to assist in putting out the fires.

Most of the fires were doused by Saturday night.

Israeli airstrikes kill 4 from Islamic State cell following border clash

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Israeli Air Force struck an Islamic State-affiliated group in Syria, killing four of its members, hours after the group fired on Israeli soldiers across the border, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The IDF confirmed that its soldiers were conducting an operation in the Golan Heights in which they passed the security fence with Syria while remaining in Israeli territory. They then came under attack with machine gun fire. The soldiers returned fire.

No injuries to Israeli soldiers were reported.

It is not known if the mortar shells landed in Israeli or Syrian territory.

The Air Force launched a retaliatory attack within minutes of the gunfire. Pilots reported the death of the four ISIS cell members.

It is reportedly the first clash between Israel and the Islamic State. Most previous attacks on Israel from Syria have been accidental spillover from the internal fighting. The IDF has responded to those with return fire.

“The army will not tolerate any attack on its sovereignty and will respond severely to any attempt to violate it,” the army said in a statement.

The mortar and gunfire toward Israel comes amid renewed fighting in the area between rebel forces and the army of Syrian President Bashar Assad in a more than five-year civil war.

Arizona teens decorate cupcakes with swastikas at Jewish friend’s party

(JTA)—Teens at a Jewish girl’s birthday party in Arizona reportedly decorated cupcakes with swastika symbols, saying they did it to “be funny.”

The birthday teen’s mother posted a photo of one of the cupcakes on Facebook and called for it to be a teaching moment for parents, the Arizona NBC affiliate 12 News reported late Sunday. She reportedly removed the post, but the photo has spread on social media.

The teens had recently learned about the Holocaust and therefore knew what the swastika symbolized, the mother reportedly said in her post. She later posted that the girls had apologized, according to 12 News.

Carlos Galindo-Elvira, director of the Anti-Defamation League in Arizona, in an interview with 12 News called on parents to talk to their children about hate symbols such as the swastika.

“When you joke with symbols like the swastika, you begin to normalize them and make it very casual within our society,” Galindo Elvira said.

German court upholds conviction, prison sentence of former Auschwitz guard, 95

(JTA)—Germany’s highest federal court upheld the conviction and prison term of a 95-year-old former Auschwitz guard for being an accessory to murder.

The Federal Court rejected the appeal by Oskar Groening,  his attorneys said Monday, according to the German news agency dpa. Groening, an SS member during World War II, was sentenced in July 2015 to four years in prison for his role in the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews at the camp in Poland.

Reuters reported that the court had made the decision in September but only publicized it Monday. It is not known if Groening is well enough to be put in jail.

Groening had admitted to being tasked with gathering the money and valuables found in the baggage of murdered Jews and handing it over to his superiors for transfer to Berlin. He said he had guarded luggage on the Auschwitz arrival and selection ramp two or three times in the summer of 1944.

During the trial, Groening asked for forgiveness while acknowledging that only the courts could decide when it came to criminal guilt.

Groening was held in a British prison until 1948. He eventually found work as a payroll clerk in a factory.

The first investigations of Groening took place in 1977, but it was only after the successful trial against convicted Sobibor guard John Demjanjuk in 2011 that the courts were emboldened to try camp guards on charges of complicity in murder.

Jewish students at Cambridge allege anti-Semitic attack, cover-up

(JTA)—Three Jewish students at Cambridge University in Britain say they were violently attacked by members of a university drinking club and that the university covered up the results of an investigation into the incident.

The incident that occurred late last month was first reported Saturday by the British daily newspaper The Telegraph.

The students said they walked into a graduate student union bar but discovered that it had been rented out by the sporting societies of Christ’s College.

One of the students, identified as Shlomo Roiter-Jesner, 25, said that when the students at the bar noticed their kippot, they became “more physical and more vocal.”

“All of a sudden they were shouting: ‘Jew, get f****** out of here.’ We tried to leave but they were yelling at us,” Roiter-Jesner told the Telegraph.

A second unnamed student told the newspaper that the “vicious anti-Semitic slurs” included  “’f****** Jew, you don’t belong here’, ‘dirty Jew,’ ‘f*** off, darkie.’” He added that they then tried to choke one of his friends with his own scarf and threatened physical harm to all three of them.

There were witnesses to the incident and a closed circuit security video of the incident, which did not include a sound recording, according to the Telegraph.

Following a university inquiry, Roiter-Jesner last week received a response from Jane Stapleton, master of Christ’s College at Cambridge.

“The internal disciplinary process of the tutors is now concluded and two students have been disciplined,” the response said. “Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.”

The students were not found to have acted out of anti-Semitism.

Stapleton said in a statement to the Telegraph: “The internal investigation did succeed in identifying two Christ’s students who admitted using foul language and participating in a scuffle, but they denied initiating the physical hostility and denied using any anti-Semitic or racist language. In relation to the former they were disciplined.”

She added: “I reject categorically that Christ’s has engaged in a cover-up on this matter.”

In a statement to the Jewish Chronicle, the Union of Jewish Students said: “No Jewish student should have to experience what these students have described, and the fact that this disgraceful incident happened at the University of Cambridge only proves that anti-Semitism can rear its ugly head on any campus.

“There should be zero tolerance towards the vile abuse that these three Jewish students received, but once again this is another example of anti-Semitism not being taken as seriously as it should be.

“Although we welcome Christ College’s decision to discipline two of the perpetrators, it is vital that the college is transparent in its processes.”

British soccer fans repeat anti-Semitic chant on London subway

(JTA)—Fans of a British soccer team were filmed singing an anti-Semitic chant on a London subway.

The chant by backers of the Chelsea club followed the team’s victory on Saturday night against the rival Tottenham Hotspur, which has many Jewish and pro-Jewish fans.

“I’ve got foreskin, how about you? F****** Jew,” they reportedly chanted.

One Spurs fan said the Chelsea supporters were “goading any Spurs fans they could” on the subway car and at two stations,  the Daily Mirror reported.

Ahead of the match, Chelsea had warned fans in the match’s program and on its website that the club will not tolerate such actions, the London-based Daily Mail reported.

In March, Chelsea fans chanted anti-Semitic abuse at a Jewish subway passenger following a championship match.

Other teams’ fans have chanted the same derogatory line at Spurs fans. In February 2015, supporters of the West Ham United club used the chant while passing through the Stamford Hill neighborhood, which has a high population of haredi Orthodox Jews.

France returns painting to family of Jewish couple who fled Nazis

(JTA)—France returned a 16th-century painting to the grandchildren of a German-Jewish couple who were forced to sell the work in Paris as they fled the Nazis.

The portrait, attributed by the French Culture Ministry either to the Dutch artist Joos van Cleve or his son, was returned Monday to Christopher Bromberg and Henrietta Schubert in a Paris ceremony. Their grandparents, Henry and Hertha Bromberg, sold the painting in 1938 as they were heading for the United States, The New York Times reported.

After the couple left France, the painting, which shows a man dressed in black clothing and wearing a fur, was held temporarily by various art dealers and collectors. Eventually it was sold in 1941 to the German government, which planned to display it in a museum in Hitler’s hometown.

Allied forces found the painting in 1945 and brought it back to France.

The painting reportedly was one of over 2,000 artworks taken from France to Germany during World War II whose owners have yet to be identified. Among those works, only 107 have been returned to the descendants of the original owners, according to The New York Times.

France’s culture minister, Audrey Azoulay, acknowledged that the return period had been “quite belated,” adding that the country was now being more “proactive” in trying to return the artworks.

London cafe apologizes for smoothie with swastika on the label

(JTA)—A London café has come under fire for selling a smoothie with a swastika drawn on the label of the bottle.

Called the “Nutzy,” the smoothie was being sold at the Nin Com Soup café in north London, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported. The cafe’s founder later apologized.

A Holocaust survivor reported the smoothie and its label to the Campaign Against Antisemitism, a British watchdog charity.

“I left the shop almost in tears and shivering as it proved to me how much anti-Semitism and fascism is still utterly present,” the survivor said.

Speaking of the shop’s manager, the survivor said, “That man had no shame whatsoever to tell me that I should not be offended by what I saw when the use of the swastika and the name of that drink is clearly not a coincidence.”

According to the survivor, a man, the manager said the name of the drink was a play on “having the nuts,” or courage, and was a pun because the drink contains nuts. The survivor said he told the manager that the name of the drink and the symbol were offensive to someone who lost his whole family in the Holocaust, and the manager responded that London “is a free city.”

The café’s founder, Ben Page-Phillips, said Sunday in an apology posted online that the swastika on the bottle was “unsanctioned,” and that the bottles were removed immediately after the manager was alerted.

“This was incomprehensible, extremely insensitive, and upsetting to all of us. We unreservedly apologize,” the statement said.

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, told the Chronicle: “This ‘branding’ attached to this soft drink is offensive—it demonstrates, at best, a lack of sensitivity and, at worst, complete disrespect for the millions murdered during the Holocaust.”

Chabad to open Jewish center in South Dakota, its 50th state

(JTA)—Chabad will open a Jewish center in South Dakota, meaning it will now have a presence in all 50 states.

The announcement of the center in Sioux Falls was made Sunday night at the final banquet of the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries in New York City to a crowd of 5,600 rabbis and guests from 90 countries.

The center is set to open this winter under the direction of Rabbi Mendel and Mussie Alperowitz, currently of Brooklyn, New York, according to Chabad.org.

The appointment comes as the organization marks 75 years since the last Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, and his wife, Chaya Mushka, arrived in the United States from war-torn Europe in 1941.

Chabad-Lubavitch has been serving Jews in South Dakota for more than half a century, since the establishment of the Merkos Shlichus, or Roving Rabbis, program, which dispatches young rabbis and their wives to small and isolated communities in the United States and around the world.

The number of Jews residing in South Dakota is estimated to be about 400, but Mendel Alperowitz estimates it may be as high as 1,000, with many arriving in recent years to work in the state’s growing financial and health care industries, according to Chabad.org.

The couple visited Sioux Falls last year for a week, including during the Purim holiday, and then returned twice, most recently for Sukkot in October.

“It was inspiring for us to see people who really gave their all to maintain communal infrastructure for decades,” Mussie Alperowitz told Chabad.org. “We felt an instant connection with the people we met, and people asked us if we would consider opening up a permanent center.”

Though they will be based in Sioux Falls, the couple plan to travel to other Jewish communities in South Dakota and visit Jewish individuals throughout the state, including prisoners.

There are two active Reform synagogues in the state, Mt. Zion in Sioux Falls and the Synagogue of the Hills in Rapid City. Neither has a full-time rabbi.


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