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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Ohio State Hillel drops Jewish LGBT group for co-sponsoring event by pro-BDS group

(JTA)—Ohio State University’s Hillel cut ties with a Jewish LGBTQ student group for co-sponsoring an event organized by Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization that supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

The divorce is the latest flare-up in an ongoing dispute among campus Jewish groups over Hillel International guidelines rejecting partnerships with groups deemed hostile toward Israel.

Ohio State Hillel ended its affiliation with the LGBTQ group B’nai Keshet after it decided to co-sponsor a Purim drag show, which took place on March 3 and raised money for a Columbus-based initiative to aid LGBTQ refugees.

In its standards on partnership, Hillel International bans partnerships between its affiliates and groups that deny Israel›s right to exist, delegitimize the Jewish state or support the BDS movement.

B’nai Keshet Vice President Elaine Cleary told JTA on Monday that Hillel dropped funding and support of the group at the end of February, when B’nai Keshet refused to withdraw its co-sponsorship of the JVP event following an overwhelming vote by its 12 members. The event was co-sponsored by 15 student and local groups.

Cleary, a fourth-year student, said the group was upset by the fact that LGBTQ students would no longer have representation in Ohio State Hillel, which includes a range of Jewish groups under its umbrella.

“[N]ot only are we not going to be able to be a visible proud part of the Hillel Jewish community, we’re also not going to be able to reach LGBT Jewish people who go to Hillel anymore,” she said. “If you’re a freshman coming to Shabbos for the first time, you’re not going to see our fliers.”

She added: “I feel now that I have to choose whether I’m going to be going to Hillel or whether I’m going to be going to the [LGBTQ] Pride [events], and I hate feeling that way. It just feels really unnatural.”

Hillel International and Ohio State Hillel emphasized its support for the LGBTQ community in a joint statement to JTA.

“In keeping with the mission and values of Ohio State Hillel and Hillel International, our affiliation with B’nai Keshet (formally Jewish Queers & Allies) has unfortunately ended, as B’nai Keshet has chosen to act outside of our programming guidelines,” the Monday statement said.

“Ohio State Hillel and Hillel International have consistently and proudly supported its LGBTQ community for more than 20 years. We regularly program and co-sponsor events that showcase the experiences of lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and queer people on campus, in our country and in Israel, and partner with other LGBTQ groups.”

The Hillel statement said that B’nai Keshet had declined efforts by the OSU Hillel “to seek alternative ways to engage with B’nai Keshet on the LGBTQ refugee issue,” and that it “is actively exploring new ways to engage our active LGBTQ community members.”

Cleary said B’nai Keshet was hoping to rejoin the OSU Hillel, but only if it nixed its standards of partnership. She said the guidelines had made it impossible for B’nai Keshet to partner with many LGBTQ groups on campus, since the majority of those groups had endorsed calls to divest from Israel.

On Monday, B’nai Keshet released a joint statement with Open Hillel—a grassroots movement that promotes open campus dialogue about Israel—calling on Hillel to end the standards of partnership.

Eric Fingerhut, the president and chief executive of Hillel International, has defended the organizations’s Israel guidelines in the past by saying “all Jewish students have a place at Hillel.”

“Hillel’s guidelines on Israel refer explicitly to rejecting partnerships with organizations and speakers who seek to harm or destroy Israel,” he said.

Over 100 leaflets with hand-drawn swastikas left at Virginia Tech Chabad

(JTA)—More than 100 leaflets with hand-drawn swastikas were found dropped on the front yard of the Chabad Jewish student center at Virginia Tech.

The leaflets were discovered at the student center located across the street from the Blacksburg university on Saturday afternoon by the Chabad’s center co-director, Rabbi Zvi Yaakov Zwiebel.

The incident occurred a day after the Jewish student center announced that Chabad was hosting the renowned Holocaust survivor Rabbi Nissen Mangel for a lecture at Virginia Tech in April. Zwiebel told local media he believes the two are related.

The lecture program is to honor Professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor who was among the 32 people killed in the 2007 shootings on campus. Librescu blocked the door of his classroom so students could escape through the windows.

In a statement issued after the incident, Zwiebel called the appearance of the leaflets a “disgusting act of hate.” The rabbi said he filed an incident report with the Blacksburg Police Department, which he said was “extremely helpful and professional in their response.”

“This incident is all the more surprising seeing as it is the first such act since Chabad on Campus at Virginia Tech was opened more than eight years ago,” Zwiebel said in the statement. “We appreciate Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands, who quickly tweeted his support for the Jewish community, and we are in touch with the administration as they proactively respond to this incident.”

Sands said in his tweet, “The propagators of hate may be among us, but they are not welcome in our community.”

A rally on campus in support of the Virginia Tech Jewish community is scheduled for Monday evening.

‘Piece of crap’ Hitler painting featured in Italian exhibit on madness

ROME (JTA)—A painting by Adolf Hitler described as a “piece of crap” is on display at an exhibition in Italy on the theme of madness.

Hitler’s signature is in the lower right corner of the small, untitled oil painting, which is on loan from a private German collector and has never been exhibited. The artwork shows two men—one seated man and one standing—at the front of a long, shadowy corridor.

The exhibit, titled “Museum of Madness: from Goya to Bacon,” runs through Nov. 16 at the State Museum in Salo, a town in northern Italy on Lake Garda that was closely associated with the World War II fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

The Hitler painting is one of more than 200 artworks, objects, installations, photographs and multimedia pieces in the exhibit,  which explores the links between art and mental illness, instability and madness. It is included in the section on “political madness.”

Speaking ahead of the exhibit’s opening earlier this month, politician and art historian Vittorio Sgarbi, who curated the show, described the painting artistically as a “piece of crap, the painting of a desperate man.”

Sgarbi added that “it could have been done by Kafka; it says a lot about his psyche. Here you don’t see grandeur, you see misery It’s not the work of a dictator but that of a wretch.”

From 1943 to 1945, Salo was the headquarters of Mussolini’s Nazi-backed puppet state, the Italian Social Republic, or RSI, which capitulated after partisans captured and executed Mussolini and other RSI officials as they attempted to flee.

Florida girl, 6, sends painted rocks for vandalized headstones in Jewish cemeteries

(JTA)—A 6-year-old Florida girl has sent hundreds of rocks that she painted to place on headstones vandalized in Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia.

Ayel Morgenstern of Parkland took up the project after seeing a news report about the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in St. Louis and that one of the toppled headstones was that of her great-great-grandmother, Rebecca Pearl.

She reportedly sent more than 100 colorfully painted rocks to the cemetery in St. Louis, where Jewish day school students placed them on the gravestones. Another 150 rocks were sent to the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Ayel said she painted rocks with ladybugs for good luck and hearts for more love, the Sun-Sentinel newspaper reported. She is aware of the Jewish tradition of putting a small rock or stone on a gravestone that one visits to honor the deceased.

She also was planning to send rocks to the Waad Hakolel Cemetery, also known as the Stone Road Cemetery, in Rochester, New York, where several headstones were toppled.

Ayel’s mother, Lauren Morgenstern, told JTA that the family also sent approximately 100 rocks to the family of Adam Krief, whose struggle with a rare form of blood cancer captured the attention of multiple celebrities. Krief died last week at 32.

Muslim soldier’s mother skips memorial for terror victims at Toulouse Jewish school

(JTA)—The mother of a French Muslim soldier killed by the same jihadist who murdered four at a Jewish school in Toulouse skipped a commemoration for all the victims at the school, insisting on a separate memorial service for her son.

Latifa Ibn Ziaten, who has campaigned with French Jews against radicalism, told the news agency AFP that she stayed away from the main official ceremony Sunday in memory of the seven people killed by Mohammed Merah in 2012 because her son and two other soldiers were not given a separate military service on the five-year anniversary of their murder.

Merah on March 19 of that year killed a rabbi and two of his sons, as well as another child, at the Otzar Hatorah school. The killings followed his slaying on March 11 of Imad Ibn Ziaten near the city and two other French-Muslim soldiers on March 15. Police killed Merah in a shootout on March 22.

“My son died because he was military, but no one pays him homage on March 11,” Ibn Ziaten said. “Nobody thinks of the soldiers.”

Toulouse Mayor Jean-Luc Moudenc and Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux attended the ceremony.

“Like you, the republic will never forget. She will remember her children lost in the night of terror in Toulouse and Montobaun,” Le Roux said, naming the suburb where Merah killed the soldiers.

Pinchas Goldschmidt, the chief rabbi of Moscow and the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, has said the attack in Toulouse was the onset of a “new wave of terrorism designed to intimidate Europe and its Jews.”

Hundreds of people have died in France and Belgium in several jihadist attacks since 2012. Of those, at least three were designed to kill Jews or Israelis.

Mexican Jewish teen challenged to cook non-kosher food on TV reality show

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA)—A 13-year-old Jewish girl who cooked pork during a primetime reality show on Mexican TV said “my grandfather is going to kill me.”

Batia Bresca was clearly uncomfortable cooking non-kosher food during the premiere of the Mexican edition of “MasterChef Junior 2017” last week and invoked Jewish law when a referee asked why she did not eat pork, the Diario Judio news website reported Saturday. But her dish received good reviews and she advanced to the next phase of the show.

“I’m going to have to try it and my grandfather is going to kill me. That’s the end for me,” Batia said on the show.

The Mexico City teen is one of 18 contenders on the 13-week reality show. Bhatia has been learning to cook with her grandmother since she was 4. Oriental dishes are her favorite to prepare.

She may be expecting further wrath going forward: Batia will be expected to cook seafood and other foods prohibited by Jewish law.

Batia has traveled to Israel, the United States and across Europe, according to Azteca TV.

Mexico is home to some 50,000 Jews, Latin America’s third largest Jewish community after Argentina and Brazil.

Baltimore solidarity event protests swastika incident at Jewish museum

(JTA)—Baltimore Jewish leaders and local political officials came together for a solidarity event days after a swastika was painted on a sign for The Jewish Museum of Maryland.

The sign is located outside of B’Nai Israel: The Downtown Synagogue, where Sunday’s solidarity rally took place, the Baltimore Sun reported.

The swastika with the word “shalom” written in black marker below appeared March 16 on the sign acknowledging the museum’s status as an agency of the The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Days earlier, the museum opened an exhibit titled “Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust, Humanity.”

At the solidarity event, several City Council members and state delegates joined local rabbis, members of the synagogue and museum supporters.

“While it’s only a small piece of defamation, we felt as a community that it was important to come out and to raise a voice and to say that love will overcome hate,” Rabbi Etan Mintz said at the event, the Baltimore Sun reported. “Words are words, whether they’re written, whether they’re spoken. But ultimately they lead to deeds. We have to make sure voices are heard saying this is not OK.”

City Council member Zeke Cohen, who said many of his family members were killed during the Holocaust, said in the wake of the incident he would introduce a City Council resolution to reaffim that Baltimore is a welcoming city.

The museum posted a statement about the swastika on its Facebook page.

“We have no idea who perpetrated this anti-Semitic act. However, we do know that this is part of a larger picture in which expressions of hate against the ‘other’ are on the rise,” the statement said. “The image is not a real threat to the Museum and its visitors. But the hate, and even more importantly the normalization of hate, is a very real danger to our whole society.”

A Baltimore-area JCC and a Jewish day school in Annapolis have received several bomb threats in recent weeks, some of the more than 150 Jewish institutions that have been threatened since the beginning of the year.

Toronto hate crimes increase, with Jews targeted the most

(JTA)—Reports of hate crimes in Toronto increased by 8 percent, with the city’s Jewish community targeted the most, according to a police report compiling last year’s data.

Hate crimes in the city increased to 145 in 2016 from 134 the previous year, the Toronto Police reported. Forty-three of the reported attacks, or 30 percent, were against Jews, followed by LGBTQ, blacks and Muslims.

Crimes motivated by religion accounted for 46 percent of the incidents, the highest number in the past 10 years.

Police said suspects in hate crimes are predominantly male and aged 18 to 40.

The three most reported criminal offenses motivated by hate were mischief to property, assault and criminal harassment. The Jewish community saw the most cases of vandalism.

Only 11 arrests were made in 2016, down from 19 the previous year.

David Stern becomes third-generation president of Reform rabbinical group

(JTA)—Rabbi David Stern of Dallas has been installed as president of the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis, the third generation in his family to hold the title.

Stern, 55, the senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El, was installed by the rabbinical group as its 61st president on Monday during its annual convention in Atlanta. He succeeds Rabbi Denise Eger, who served as CCAR president from 2015 to 2017 and was the first openly gay person to lead the organization.

CCAR is composed of more than 2,000 rabbis affiliated with America’s largest Jewish denomination.

Stern is the first third-generation president of the organization. His father, Rabbi Jack Stern, served from 1985 to 1987, and his grandfather, Rabbi Jacob Philip Ruden, held the position from 1957 to 1959.

“As I consider the service of my father and my grandfather, it is clear that each generation’s challenges are unique, and the CCAR’s mission and promise remain the same—to foster excellence in Reform rabbis so that they can be transformational leaders in their communities; to lift up the rabbinic voice for compassion and justice; and to bring rabbis together in mutual support and growth,” Stern said.

Stern also is the fourth Temple Emanu-El rabbi to serve as president. He has been with the Dallas congregation for 28 years, including 21 as senior rabbi.

He also has served in numerous capacities within the Union of Reform Judaism and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.


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