Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Israeli intruder charged with assault for breaking into Arizona home, holding child

(JTA)—An Israeli man has been arrested in Arizona after he broke into a stranger’s apartment and was found holding the family’s 2-year-old child.

The suspect, Oren Aharon Cohen, claimed he did not harm the toddler, whom he had drunkenly thought was “a midget.”

An unnamed man in Tempe, Arizona, woke up to a find a stranger holding his crying daughter early morning last Thursday, The Washington Post reported. Cohen, 34, told the homeowner that he was his friend, tossed the child onto a couch and attempted to run away. The father caught Cohen, and police arrested him for second-degree burglary, aggravated assault and kidnapping.

Police found Cohen’s shoes, coat and passport in the child’s bedroom and discovered that the Israeli had used a bathroom in the apartment and drank orange juice from the refrigerator.

In his court appearance on Friday, Cohen offered an unusual explanation for his actions: He had been drunk and therefore had gone into the wrong apartment, where he had mistaken the child for “a midget.”

“I went to visit a friend. Her name is Carolina. She lives in this complex. We were drinking a lot over there in her house. We went outside—I went outside [to] smoke a cigarette. I guess I got blacked out. I went to the wrong door and that’s why you guys charge me [with] burglary? For going to the wrong apartment.”

He continued: “Now after that I didn’t realize it was dark, I didn’t realize what was happening. And I guess, that’s when I saw this midget. It looks like a midget and I thought it’s [a] midget.”

Cohen alluded to the possibility that he had touched the child inappropriately: “I would never do anything like that. My dad is a sex offender. I would never do anything even close to that.”

Cohen’s explanation was not enough to sway the judge to change his bail, which was set at $250,000. He is being held at a Maricopa County jail and is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.

Website targets Jewish community in white supremacist’s hometown

(JTA)—A white supremacist website has called on its readers to “troll” Jewish residents of Whitefish, Mont., home to white supremacist leader Richard Spencer.

The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist publication, published a call Friday to “take action” against Jews in Whitefish by writing and calling them with anti-Semitic messages. The post included the names, phone numbers and addresses of Jewish Whitefish residents—in addition to the Twitter handle and photo of a child.

The post also included photos of Jewish residents of Whitefish emblazoned with yellow stars. Along with using a number of anti-Semitic slurs, the post warned readers against using “violence or threats of violence or anything close to that.”

The post claimed that Jewish residents were “threatening” Spencer’s mother’s business.

Spencer is president of the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist think tank. Last month, he spoke at a white supremacist event in Washington, D.C. celebrating President-elect Donald Trump’s victory. At the event, Spencer said “Hail Trump!” and was greeted by Nazi salutes.

One of the Jewish residents named by the Daily Stormer, Rabbi Francine Green Roston, is a member of Love Lives Here, a local anti-discrimination group. Roston, who moved to Whitefish with her family from New Jersey in 2014, told CNN last week that “Whitefish is way bigger than Richard Spencer.”

“He’s not powerful,” she said. “He’s just spreading a message of hatred. And we have to keep calling that out, and showing that that is not representative of this country, certainly not representative of this community.”

The local government of Whitefish, which has 6,000 full-time residents, has rejected Spencer’s ideas. Recently, the Whitefish City Council reread an anti-discrimination ordinance passed unanimously in 2014 that supports “the dignity, diversity, and inclusion of all of its inhabitants and visitors, and condemn ideologies, philosophies and movements that deny equality of human rights and opportunities and challenge our Constitutional freedoms granted by the United States and the State of Montana.”

Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines tweeted Sunday that the anti-Semitic post was “repulsive.”

Colleagues of Roston’s from around the country have deluged her Facebook page with expressions of support. “Dear Friends, thank you for your messages of love and support,” she responded Monday. “I’m moved to tears easily these days and I am incredibly moved by our friends standing up to hate.”

Israelis open San Francisco’s latest—and now only—kosher bakery

(JTA)—An Israeli-owned restaurant has opened as the only kosher retail bakery in San Francisco.

Israeli friends Isaac Yosef, Avi Edri and head chef Yanni—who goes by one name—held a soft opening for their bakery Taboon in the city’s SoMa neighborhood last week, the San Francisco Gate reported.

As Oakland’s Grand Bakery gets set to close this week after 55 years of operation, Taboon will become the city’s only true kosher bakery. Izzy’s Brooklyn Bagels, which is kosher-certified, has locations in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto.

Taboon offers challah, pita, bagels, babka, rugelach, bourekas, sufganiyot for Hanukkah and more. The recipes are taken from Yanni’s great-grandfather, an Iraqi Jew who migrated to Israel and owned a bakery in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda Market.

The bakery has been churning out 1,000 pitas a day and selling out of most of its items daily.

“All of my life, I was dreaming to open my own bakery,” Edri, a former diamond merchant, told the Gate. “It’s a dream come true.”

Two other kosher-certified bakers, Irving’s Premium Foods in San Francisco and Vital Vittles in in Berkeley, do not have retail locations but supply baked goods to stores and restaurants.

Actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, Hollywood socialite who was married 9 times, dies at 99

(JTA)—Actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, a Hollywood socialite who had nine marriages, has died at the age of 99.

Gabor, whose given name was Sari and who was known for calling everybody “dah-link” in her Hungarian-accented English, died on Sunday, less than two months shy of her 100th birthday.

Though Gabor was a practicing Catholic, her parents were Jewish, and her family reportedly was once members of the Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest. Her mother, Jolie (Janka Tilleman) Gabor, escaped Hungary after the Nazis occupied Budapest in 1944.

Gabor appeared in more than 30 movies but is best known for her performances in films such as “Moulin Rouge” and “Lovely to Look At,” both in 1952, and “Lili” in 1953.

Gabor was married nine times; seven marriages ended in divorce and one was annulled. At the time of her death she was married for 30 years to Frédéric von Anhalt. Other husbands included hotel mogul Conrad Hilton, and British actor George Sanders, who later married Gabor’s sister Magda. Her sister Eva Gabor started on the TV comedy series “Green Acres.”

In 1989 she was jailed for three days after slapping a Beverly Hills police officer during a traffic stop for an expired license tag.

Gabor reportedly had plans to move to Hungary to live out the rest of her days, with reports saying her husband planned to celebrate her 100th birthday in California and then move to Hungary. Variety reported in its obituary of Gabor that she had been on life support for the last five years, before dying of a heart attack.

Benjamin Gilman, who served more than 30 years in Congress, dies at 94

(JTA)—Benjamin Gilman, who served as a Republican congressman from New York for more than 30 years and who was a pro-Israel voice in Congress, has died.

Gilman died on Saturday at a veterans hospital in New York at the age of 94.

Gilman was first elected to Congress in 1972 and served 15 full terms until 2003, representing the lower Hudson Valley area north of New York City. He announced his retirement after redistricting and reapportionment in the wake of the 2000 census would have forced him to run against a sitting Republican.

Gilman’s parents were German Jewish immigrants. In 1933, Gilman accompanied his father to Berlin to persuade an aunt to come to the United States, where he saw Nazi storm troopers marching in the street, according to the Washington Post. The aunt refused to come and later was killed by the Nazis.

Gilman graduated from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946 and from New York Law School in 1950. He served in U.S. Army Air Forces and flew 35 bombing missions over Japan, for which he was awarded military medals.

Gilman had a private law practice and served in the New York State Assembly before being elected to Congress.

He was a founder of the House Human Rights Caucus and worked behind the scenes to help free political prisoners, including Natan Sharansky.  In 1994 he became chairman of the House International Relations Committee, now the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Gilman voted to increase aid to Israel during his years in Congress. He took a hard-line approach toward the Palestinians, and spearheaded legislation in 2000 that would have cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority if it unilaterally declared a Palestinian state.

At the time of his retirement, Gilman was the oldest sitting representative in the U.S. House.

When Gilman retired in 2002, admirers recalled how he would set aside Fridays to meet with Orthodox and Russian constituents in Monsey, N.Y., to hear their concerns. “He would hold court,” Joseph Halfon, a longtime supporter and friend of Gilman’s from Rockland County, which is part of Gilman’s district, told JTA. “He was an icon in the community.”

Charleston church shooter won’t call mental health experts, calling psychology a ‘Jewish invention’

(JTA)—Dylann Roof, who considers psychology a “Jewish invention,” said he will not ask jurors to consider his mental health when they decide whether or not to sentence him to the death penalty for the murders of nine black worshipers at a Charleston, South Carolina church.

Roof, 22, who is acting as his own attorney during the penalty phase of the trial, said in a handwritten note to the court that he “will not be calling mental health experts or presenting mental health evidence.”

While the note did not specify the reason, his journal, filed with racist and anti-Semitic rants, which was introduced as evidence during the trial, says he considers psychology a “Jewish invention.”

“It is a Jewish invention and does nothing but invent diseases and tell people they have problems when they don’t,” Roof wrote, according to reports including from the Associated Press.

Roof, who is white, was convicted on Thursday of 33 charges of federal hate crimes in the 2015 massacre of African-American worshipers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. A separate trial on state charges in the nine killings in the church shootings is scheduled for next year.

In a 2,500-word racial manifesto published on a website that was registered in his name, Roof said that the Jewish “problem” would be solved “if we could somehow destroy the Jewish identity.” The website was blocked shortly after the shootings.

Roof devotes most of the manifesto to a discussion of blacks, who he calls “the biggest problem for Americans,” and who he says are “stupid and violent.” He discusses segregation—Roof said it “was not a bad thing. It was a defensive measure”—as well as slavery, the flight to the suburbs and racial mixing.

Roof calls Jews an “enigma,” adding, “I don’t pretend to understand why jews [sic] do what they do.” He said he believes that “the majority of American and European jews are White.”

“In my opinion the issues with jews is not their blood, but their identity. I think that if we could somehow destroy the jewish identity, then they wouldnt cause much of a problem. The problem is that Jews look White, and in many cases are White, yet they see themselves as minorities. Just like [the N word], most jews are always thinking about the fact that they are jewish,” Roof wrote.

He added: “The other issue is that they network. If we could somehow turn every jew blue for 24 hours, I think there would be a mass awakening, because people would be able to see plainly what is going on.”

French chief rabbi offers condolences, prayers after deadly Berlin Christmas attack

(JTA)—The chief rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, offered condolences to the people of Germany following an apparent terrorist attack in Berlin.

At least nine people died and dozens were wounded in the incident Monday evening, which police representatives in Berlin said was likely a “deliberate attack.” It involved a truck that hit pedestrians at a Christmas market at the Berlin square of Breitscheidplatz outside Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, the Associated Press reported.

In July, more than 80 people died and hundreds were wounded in similar circumstances in Nice, France, where an Islamist drove a truck through a crowd of people on a busy promenade.

“With all my heart with the people of Berlin and all the people of Germany,” French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia wrote on Twitter. “My prayers accompany you,” he wrote, adding the hashtags #Berlin, #Breitscheidplatz and  “#ichbineinBerliner”— a quote which means “I am a Berliner” from  a 1963 speech by U.S. President John F. Kennedy in West Berlin.

Police in Germany said the driver of the truck initially fled the scene, according to the BBC and other European news outlets. A man suspected as the driver was later arrested near the site of the attack. A second man who was in the driver’s cabin died during the incident, according to the Bild newspaper.

After the July 14 incident in Nice, the Islamic State terror group claimed that the attacker, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, was one of its “soldiers.”

Footage from the scene of the incident in Berlin showed the black truck with its front end wedged between the market stalls amid upturned boxes and crates.

Last month the U.S. Department of State warned travelers that there is a heightened risk of terrorist attacks throughout Europe during the holiday season.

The Department of State wrote on their website: “U.S. citizens should exercise caution at holiday festivals, events and outdoor markets.”

In recent months, Western European intelligence agencies added some churches to list of at-risk locales which for years have included synagogues and other Jewish institutions.

In July, two assailants who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State killed a priest during an attack in a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, a suburb of Rouen about 65 miles northwest of Paris. They shouted “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic, before slitting the priest’s throat, according to reports.

In 2012, a jihadist killed four Jews, a rabbi and three children, at a Jewish school in Toulouse. In 2014, four people were murdered at the Jewish Museum of Belgium, in what Belgian prosecutors said was a terrorist attack perpetrated by the French Islamist Mehdi Nemmouche. He has denied the charges and is standing trial in Belgium. And last year, four Jews were killed in a jihadist’s attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris.

Bulgarian Jews raising money for Muslim victims of train explosion

(JTA)—Bulgarian Jews donated some $6,000 to victims of an explosion inside a heavily populated Muslim village, in one of the most successful fundraisers in the history of their impoverished community.

The fundraiser organized by the Shalom Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria was for victims of the Dec. 10 accident in Hitrino, in northeastern Bulgaria. Seven people were killed and more than 20 injured in a fire that raged through the village as a result of the explosion of a derailed tanker train.

“The donations are still coming in, and we have extended the fundraiser by one more week,” Alexander Oscar, the president of Shalom, told JTA Monday. He noted that $6,000 “is a lot for Bulgaria,” where the average monthly salary is $500. “I think the response has been amazing,” said Oscar.

“We have pensioners, who donate 10 percent to 15 percent of their monthly stipend,” he said. “We have children giving up their Hanukkah pocket money and it’s just an uplifting experience to see this spirit of giving and mutual assistance, crossing faiths and ethnicities, communities.”

Bulgaria is home to approximately 2,000 Jews, according to the World Jewish Congress.

The donations raised in Shalom’s fundraiser came from private individuals, not organizations, Oscar added, “which is remarkable considering that the culture of philanthropy is not well-developed here.”

The Bulgarian Red Cross has collected close to $1 million in its campaign for Hitrino, the Sofia Globe reported.


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