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UN passes anti-settlement resolution, US abstains

JTA—The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution condemning Israeli settlements, with the United States abstaining.

The resolution was adopted Friday afternoon with 14 votes in favor and only the U.S. abstention. It called Israeli settlements “a flagrant violation of international law” that damage the prospects of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Sustained applause greeted the passage of the resolution.

American presidents have long protected Israel from extreme censure at the United Nations. As recently as 2011, Obama vetoed a similar resolution on settlements that like this one was adamantly opposed by Israel.

Samantha Power, the American U.N. envoy, in a lengthy explanation of the American vote, said the resolution is consistent with longstanding U.S. policy opposing Israeli settlements and accurately reflects the facts on the ground.

“The United States has been sending a message that the settlements must stop privately and publicly for decades,” Power said. “Our vote today is fully in line with the bipartisan history of how presidents have approached this issue.”

Power said the United States could not support the resolution outright because it ignores other relevant issues and because Israel is often mistreated at the United Nations. She talked at length about the latter sentiment.

“The simple truth is for as long as Israel has been a member of this institution, Israel has been treated differently from other members of the United Nations,” the ambassador said.

Power emphasized that the abstention did not reflect any change in the American commitment to Israeli security.

“Our commitment to that security has never wavered and never will,” she said.

In a defiant speech to the Security Council, Israel’s U.N. envoy, Danny Danon, described the resolution as “evil” and likened it to condemning Americans for building in Washington or the French for building in Paris.

“This resolution today will be added to the long and shameful list of anti-Israel U.N. resolutions,” Danon said. “Instead of charting a course forward, you are sending a message to the Palestinians that they should continue on the path of terrorism and incitement, that they should continue to hold people hostage, that they should continue to seek meaningless statements from the international community.”

The resolution was introduced by New Zealand, Venezuela, Malaysia and Senegal after a similar resolution, introduced by Egypt in coordination with the Palestinians, was withdrawn on Thursday amid intense pressure from Israel and President-elect Donald Trump.

On Facebook, Trump wrote that the resolution was “extremely unfair.”

“As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations. This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis,” he wrote.

Several U.S. lawmakers also criticized the American abstention. Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Nita Lowey, both New York Democrats, and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., all issued statements criticizing the Obama administration.

“It is extremely frustrating, disappointing and confounding that the Administration has failed to veto this resolution,” said Schumer, the incoming Senate minority leader. “Whatever one’s views are on settlements, the U.N. is the wrong forum to settle these issues.”

The resolution and the U.S. vote drew differing reactions from American Jewish groups.

The American Jewish Committee in a statement said it was “deeply disappointed that the United States chose to abstain on a U.N. Security Council resolution today which singled out Israel for condemnation.”

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Jewish community’s foreign policy umbrella group, issued a scathing denunciation of the resolution and the American vote.

“There is no justification or explanation that validates the United States failure to veto the one-sided, offensive resolution adopted by the Security Council today,” said a statement attributed from the Presidents Conference chairman, Stephen Greenberg, and its executive vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein. “The United States vote will be seen as a betrayal of the fundamentals of the special relationship that will nevertheless continue to mark the close ties between the peoples of the two countries.”

Liberal Jewish groups issued statements supporting the vote and the American acquiescence in its passage. J Street, the dovish pro-Israel lobby, welcomed the resolution, as did the New Israel Fund. The progressive Zionist group Ameinu called it a “reasonable response” to the situation on the ground.

“The resolution is consistent with longstanding bipartisan American policy, which includes strong support for the two-state solution, and clear opposition to irresponsible and damaging actions, including Palestinian incitement and terror and Israeli settlement expansion and home demolitions,” J Street said.

Main suspect in Berlin Christmas market attack killed in Italy

(JTA)—Italian police shot dead the main suspect in a terrorist attack that killed 12 people in Berlin, including an Israeli tourist.

Police stopped the suspect, 24-year-old Anis Amri of Tunisia, for a random inspection in a Milan suburb in the early hours of Friday morning, Reuters reported. He took out a pistol and opened fire, hitting one of the police officers in the shoulder. The officer is recovering.

Other officers returned fire, killing Amri, who German authorities believe plowed a stolen truck on Monday through a Christmas market in Berlin. Among the dead was Dalia Elyakim, who was buried Friday in Israel.

Rami Elyakim, her husband, was among 50 wounded in the attack, which the Islamic State in a statement claimed was the work of one of its “soldiers.” He did not attend his wife’s funeral in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv, as he is undergoing treatment in Germany for serious, though not life-threatening injuries, Army Radio reported.

Amri was caught on camera by police on a regular stakeout at a mosque in Berlin’s Moabit district early Tuesday, a few hours after the attack, Germany’s RBB public broadcaster reported. He was not a suspect at that time, and when police raided the mosque Thursday morning they could not find him, RBB said.

German investigators had said they believed Amri was still lying low in Berlin because he is probably wounded and would not want to attract attention, Der Tagesspiegel reported, citing security sources.

In the early hours of Friday morning, special forces arrested two brothers from Kosovo suspected of planning an attack on a shopping mall in the city of Oberhausen, in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, police said in a statement.

The brothers, aged 28 and 31, were arrested in the city of Duisburg on information from security sources, the statement said.

NY’s 1st Hasidic female judge sworn in at ceremony featuring Yiddish ‘God Bless America’

(JTA)—Rachel Freier of Brooklyn officially became the first Hasidic woman to be sworn in as a judge in New York state.

Freier, a mother of six and former lawyer who practiced commercial and residential estate law, was sworn in Thursday as the Civil Court judge in Kings County’s 5th judicial district, CBS reported.

She won the post in a September election. Her district encompasses the Brooklyn communities of Kensington, Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace, among others.

At the swearing-in ceremony, the Hasidic performer Lipa Schmeltzer performed the song “God Bless America” in Yiddish while wearing a white suit with colorful doodles, the vosizneias website reported.

Freier, 51, who is also known as Ruchie, worked as a legal secretary and paralegal to support her husband’s Talmudic studies. She is a graduate of Touro College and Brooklyn Law School, and founded the all-female EMT agency Ezras Nashim.

Orthodox Union wants nonpartisan response to Trump interfaith inaugural event

(JTA)—Amid preparations for an interfaith prayer during Donald Trump’s inaugural weekend, the Orthodox Union called on faith leaders to demonstrate a nonpartisan approach to the event.

The plea by Nathan Diament, head of the public policy arm of the Orthodox Union, the main communal association for Orthodox Judaism, which The Associated Press quoted Wednesday, came amid speculation that some imams and Latino Catholics may boycott the event announced by the Trump campaign Wednesday over his remarks in recent months over those minorities and other groups.

The event planned for Jan. 21 at Washington’s National Cathedral, Diament said, “should not be looked at in a partisan way.” It is “meant to be a unifying event” and “to focus on praying for the success, not only of the president, but also his entire administration and the new Congress, which is something everyone should hope for.”

The O.U. will not be participating, Diament told JTA, adding that it will be “hard to get an Orthodox rabbi to participate, particularly because it’s on Shabbat.”

The cathedral service will be held on a Saturday morning, during the Jewish Sabbath, when observant Jews are forbidden to drive or use electricity, potentially complicating their attendance. Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, are Orthodox Jews and would face the same Shabbat limits. The inaugural is constitutionally mandated to be held on Jan. 20, and the National Cathedral service is usually held the next day.

In its announcement about the event, the presidential inaugural committee provided no details on the ceremony or participants. A similar 2013 event for President Barack Obama’s second-term inaugural included about two dozen religious leaders, including three Muslims, along with representatives of Judaism, evangelical Christianity, mainline Protestantism, Orthodox Christianity and Sikhism.

Trump won 81 percent of white evangelical voters and 52 percent of the overall Catholic vote. Conservative Christians and others have been deeply heartened by Trump’s promise to appoint conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices, among other pledges.

But Trump lost Latino Catholics and attracted only 24 percent of Jewish voters. He has drawn condemnations from an array of religious leaders for calling Mexicans rapists, while pledging to deport large numbers of immigrants in the country illegally and promising during the campaign to temporarily ban immigrants from Muslim nations.

Earlier this month, more than 300 American Muslim leaders sent a letter to Trump expressing concern about his incoming administration, including appointees who some Muslims see as biased.

Protesting Trump’s ‘racism,’ artists want Ivanka not to display their work

(JTA)—Some artists whose works are on display at Ivanka Trump’s home are asking her to remove them to protest what they called the “racism” of her father, President-elect Donald Trump.

Visual artists Jonathan Horowitz and Alex Da Corte joined with curator Alison Gingeras, dealer Bill Powers and several others on the art scene in forming a group they call Halt Action. Some of the members saw their works on display in photographs of the New York home of Ivanka Trump, who underwent an Orthodox conversion to Judaism six years ago.

“Dear @Ivankatrump please get my work off of your walls. I am embarrassed to be seen with you,” Da Corte, of Philadelphia, wrote on Instagram. Breitbart, the right-leaning news and opinion site, reported on the initiative Thursday.

Members of Halt Action started an Instagram campaign called “Dear Ivanka” to protest President-elect Donald Trump through his daughter, Fox News reported.

The group’s website includes a statement that mentions Ivanka Trump and the president-elect’s staffers by name.

“Dear Ivanka, we need to talk about your dad. Racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and homophobia are not acceptable anywhere—least of all in the White House,” the message begins.

Donald Trump, who during the presidential campaign suggested that Mexico is sending rapists and criminals to the United States and called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, has rejected accusations of racism.

Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump’s husband, dismissed claims that Donald Trump is anti-Semitic or that he endorsed anti-Semites. Kushner grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family.

Such claims were directed at Trump especially following the publication of a slogan slamming Hillary Clinton’s alleged corruption on an online banner that Donald Trump shared on social networks earlier this year during the campaign. The slogan was framed inside the shape of a Star of David.

“Through her collecting and social appearances, Ivanka Trump belonged to a certain degree to our world,” Gingeras told Bloomberg.

Powers told the news agency: “I think there are a lot of artists that are uncomfortable now being incorporated, or leveraged, as part of the Ivanka Trump brand.”

2 Boston-area schools scrap hockey season over players’ anti-Semitism

    (JTA)—Two Boston-area high schools canceled the hockey season for their joint boys team over what faculty said was anti-Semitic comments and actions by players against a teammate.

Officials at Keefe Regional Technical School and Marian High School in Framingham, a suburb of Boston situated 25 miles east of the city, declined to give details about the behavior, the Boston Globe reported Wednesday. A letter to players from Marian High, which is a Catholic school, and their parents said an investigation found “a pattern of locker room activity” by players who admitted to participating in it.

Robert Trestan, who directs the New England branch of the Anti-Defamation League, applauded Marian High for reaching out and said the team is not the only one confronting incidents of bias, the Globe reported.

According to Trestan, 2016 is on track to be a record year in Massachusetts for bias incidents, particularly in schools. The conduct, he said, has been fueled by a divisive election campaign and the spread of hate speech through social media channels that reach adults and children.

“They are seeing everything that adults see and are responding in similar ways,” he said.

In March, students from the all-boys Catholic Memorial School in West Roxbury shouted, “You killed Jesus!” as its basketball team played Newton North High. The taunt stunned the Newton North crowd, many of whom are Jewish.

Three incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti were reported at Newton North after the basketball game and another episode was reported in December 2015.

Last month, anti-Semitic symbols, profanities and the words “Trump 2016” appeared on a prominent rock on the campus of The Bromfield School in Harvard. Earlier this month, a swastika and the word “Trump” were found written on a blackboard at the William H. Lincoln School in Brookline.

Robert Leikind, director of the American Jewish Committee’s New England Office, said incidents of bias are on the rise.

“Anybody who cares about the health of our country needs to care about this,” he said. “It is encouraging to know that educational leaders take this problem seriously.”

Barcelona court scraps suburb’s BDS resolution

(JTA)—A Barcelona court nullified a resolution endorsing a boycott of Israel that a suburb of that Spanish city had passed illegally earlier this year.

The Administrative Appeals Court No. 3 last month scrapped the motion passed in March by the municipality of Sant Adrià de Besòs on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, according to a statement published Friday by ACOM, the pro-Israel group that initiated the judicial review.

In the ruling, which was made public this week, the court said that the municipality’s adoption of a resolution that declared it “an Israeli apartheid-free space” and part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel was discriminatory and “establishes unconstitutional limitations of academic liberty,” free speech and commerce, ACOM said.

Over the past year, Spanish tribunals have issued several rulings against BDS initiatives in Spain, where in recent years about 50 municipalities endorsed BDS—the highest number of any European country. Promoting BDS is illegal in France, where doing so is considered a form of incitement. Britain’s government said it was considering similar legislation.

In an interview Friday, Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, who earlier this month met with Spain’s King Felipe VI in Madrid, said he believed that the popularity of anti-Israel sentiments in Spain and elsewhere in Europe was diminishing amid the rise of Islamist terrorism.

“Anti-Israel sentiment in Europe is a problem that I believe is diminishing with the changes we see unfolding, as Islamist terrorism is gaining strength, as every capital in Europe becomes a potential target for terrorism. I think European leaders are increasingly seeing eye to eye with Israeli leaders,” Goldschmidt said.

Goldschmidt visited Spain on Dec. 13 to present the king with his organization’s Lord Jakobovits Prize for European Jewry in recognition of Spain’s outreach to Jews in recent years.

Approximately 5,000 people have become citizens of Spain or Portugal following the passing of laws in both countries on the naturalization of descendants of Sephardic Jews.

Spain has naturalized more than 4,500 applicants for citizenship by Sephardim since its law went into effect last year, shortly after the going into effect of the Portuguese one.

In both countries, the passing of the laws of return for Sephardim was described as an attempt to atone for the state and church-led mass expulsion, dispossession, torture and forced conversion into Christianity of Jews during the Inquisition—a period that began in the 15th century and ended with the disappearance and dispersion of what used to be one of the world’s largest Jewish communities.

On Monday, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa of Portugal visited Lisbon’s Shaare Tikva synagogue, the Lusa news agency reported.

“One cannot express enough gratitude to this heritage, which has enriched us in the past and had a major role in shaping our identity,” the president said in reference to Judaism.

Russian Jews celebrate 25 years of community events at Kremlin

(JTA)—Twenty-five years after the Kremlin hosted its first-ever Jewish event, thousands of Russian Jews gathered at the government compound in Moscow to celebrate Hanukkah.

About 6,000 people, wearing their best clothes, arrived Wednesday to the State Kremlin Palace, a 1961 building that once hosted the congresses of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, for the annual Fiddler on the Roof awards ceremony, the L’Chaim Jewish weekly reported.

The event was keynoted by Rabbi Berel Lazar, a chief rabbi of Russia whose Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia—the country’s largest Jewish group—honors several individuals for their exceptional contributions to Russian Jewry.

It was the 14th Fiddler on the Roof ceremony, thought it happened 25 years after the first Jewish event at the Kremlin, which prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 housed some of its most rabidly anti-Semitic governments.

“It is very symbolic, but not only for us, I think,” Lazar said at the ceremony. “Everyone realizes that a new era is upon Russia, in which the state not only merely permits religious holidays, but supports them, congratulates believers, provides them with the most prestigious buildings, halls and squares.”

While Russia under President Vladimir Putin has been widely criticized internally and abroad for human rights abuses and anti-gay legislation, his government has prosecuted cases of anti-Semitic hate speech and violence with relative severity.

Among the laureates was PJ Library, a program providing free Jewish children’s books to families, which last year expanded to Russia.

Founded in 2005 by American Jewish philanthropist Harold Grinspoon, the PJ Library says it sends more than 150,000 Jewish children’s books each month to Jewish children and families in North America and to more than 400,000 Jewish children globally. The glossy books, with a commercial value of well over $10 in Russia, are sent free of charge.

Others honored included Arkady Kovelman, who received the award in education for his work as the head of the Department of Jewish Studies of the Institute of Asia and Africa of the Moscow State University. In the cultural event of the year category, the honorees were those responsible for an ongoing translation of the Talmud into Russian.

 

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