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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Israel’s defense minister: Israel tweaked intel sharing after Trump revelations to Russians

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Israel’s defense minister said Israel made changes to how it shares intelligence with the United States in the wake of President Donald Trump’s revelation of highly classified information to Russian officials.

Avigdor Liberman told Army Radio on Wednesday that the change would not affect the close intelligence-sharing relationship between Israel and the United States.

“I can confirm that we did a spot repair and that there’s unprecedented intelligence cooperation with the United States,” Liberman said, according to a Voice of America report.

“What we had to clarify with our friends in the United States, we did,” he said without elaborating. “We did our checks.”

Trump in a meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador to the United States earlier this month described in detail information that led the United States to conclude that the Islamic State terrorist group was planning to attack an aircraft with a laptop bomb.

He did not describe sources, but the detail could lead the Russians to learn who had provided the information and could identify the spy who infiltrated the group, according to reports.

Some reports said Israel had shared the information with Trump.

Britain also reassessed its intelligence sharing after the U.S. media published details about this week’s deadly bombing attack on a pop concert in Manchester. Trump ordered an investigation into those leaks.

Republican candidate charged with assault on reporter wins special Montana election

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Greg Gianforte, the Republican who allegedly body slammed a reporter on the eve of a special election in Montana, appears to have won the election.

Gianforte, a tech millionaire backed by President Donald Trump, defeated folk singer Rob Quist, 50-44, early Friday morning in the race for the at-large—or statewide—U.S. House of Representatives district.

On Wednesday, the eve of the election, Gianforte allegedly body slammed Ben Jacobs, a Jewish reporter for the British Guardian newspaper, after Jacobs asked a question about health care reform, a key issue in the campaign. Jacobs posted audio of the encounter, and Fox News Channel journalists who were present verified the account.

At his victory celebration, Gianforte apologized to Jacobs by name.

“I should not have treated that reporter that way, and for that I’m sorry Mr. Ben Jacobs,” he said.

Democrats invested heavily in the race hoping for a win in order to wound Trump, who won the district by more than 20 points. Ryan Zinke, the previous congressman who left office to become Trump’s Interior secretary, won the district by 16 points.

Three Montana newspapers withdrew support for Gianforte on the day of the election because of the incident, but it’s not clear what effect the incident had on the vote. Nearly 260,000 voters had cast their ballots in early voting before the incident took place.

There was no indication that Gianforte knew or cared that Jacobs was Jewish when he allegedly threw the reporter to the ground and broke his glasses, leading to misdemeanor assault charges.

On far-right websites and social media, anti-Semitic posters noted Jacobs’ Jewishness and praised Gianforte.

Appeals court upholds HIAS suit against Trump travel ban

WASHINGTON (JTA)—HIAS hailed a federal appellate court’s decision upholding its appeal against President Donald Trump’s travel bans.

“The groundswell of public protest against the bans has been inspiring and unrelenting,” the lead Jewish group advocating for immigrants rights said in a statement Thursday after the decision by the 4th Circuit Court in Richmond, Virginia. “The people have spoken, as has the judicial branch.”

HIAS was one of three organizations and six individuals who spearheaded the litigation against Trump’s executive orders temporarily banning refugees and travelers from six Muslim-majority countries. The orders, one in January and an amended one in March, triggered large protests, some organized by HIAS and other immigration advocacy groups.

The Trump administration said following Thursday’s decision that it would take the matter to the Supreme Court. Separate federal court decisions staying Trump’s ban are also under consideration by the California-based 9th Circuit.

An array of Jewish groups filed amicus briefs against the travel ban, including Bend the Arc, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the American Jewish Committee and some Reform Jewish groups.

The 10-3 majority in its decision cited Trump’s campaign promises extensively to counter arguments by the government that the bans were not discriminatory but based on national security considerations.

“Plaintiffs point to ample evidence that national security is not the true reason for” Trump’s executive order, “including, among other things, then-candidate Trump’s numerous campaign statements expressing animus towards the Islamic faith; his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States; his subsequent explanation that he would effectuate this ban by targeting ‘territories’ instead of Muslims directly.”

The decision also cited former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s claim that Trump “had asked him to find a way to ban Muslims in a legal way.”

In making the case that the individuals had standing to bring the case, the majority cited a precedent involving Jewish litigants. In that case, a court held that a Jewish father and daughter who discovered that a public school awarded credit for Christian religious instruction “were made to feel like ‘outsiders in their own community.’”

Scuffle erupts at rally against CUNY’s hosting of BDS promoter Linda Sarsour

(JTA)—A scuffle broke out between supporters and critics of the City University of New York’s plan to host Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour, an opponent of President Donald Trump’s agenda and a supporter of attempts to boycott Israel.

The incident occurred Thursday night outside the CUNY building in Manhattan, where activists against radical Islam, including Pamela Geller and Milo Yiannopoulos, had rallied in protest of the decision by the institution’s School of Public Health to host Sarsour on Friday as a commencement speaker, the New York Daily News reported.

One 19-year-old student who supports the invitation to Sarsour, an organizer of the anti-Trump Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 20, was pushed around by a small group of demonstrators chanting “Make America great again,” according to the report. No arrests were made.

Geller, president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, and Yiannopoulos, who on Wednesday criticized singer Ariana Grande for being “pro-Islam” less than a day after a terror attack at her Manchester concert, were joined by Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn Democrat who like Geller is Jewish.

Geller, a firebrand conservative blogger, said the invitation extended to Sarsour was “obscene,” describing her as a “pro-terror vicious anti-Semite” and punctuating her remarks with “Surely CUNY can do better!”

Earlier this year, Sarsour raised more than $100,000 to repair a vandalized Jewish cemetery in Missouri. But Sarsour also has been criticized for denouncing Zionism and tweeting a photo of a young boy with rocks in each hand facing Israeli police along with the words “the definition of courage.”

“Why would CUNY have a commencement speaker who supports terrorism and believes in throwing rocks?” Hikind said at the rally.

Sarsour said this year that uncritical supporters of Israel cannot be feminists. She favors a one-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a formula that many Jews believe would lead to the demise of Israel. In 2012, she tweeted “Nothing is creepier than Zionism.”

Some liberal Jewish groups, including Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, defended Sarsour against accusations of radicalism or anti-Semitism.

“She has stood with us against anti-Semitism, both in words and actions,” the group said in a statement last month.

Amid criticism, Texas theater doubles down on female-only ‘Wonder Woman’ showing

(JTA)—Management at a Texas movie theater laughed off criticism over alleged sexism in its decision to hold a women’s-only premiere of the film “Wonder Woman” starring the Israeli actress Gal Gadot.

The backlash against the Austin franchise of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain took place on Facebook following its announcement on social media that it would be hosting the women’s-only screening on Wednesday. It prompted the chain to expand its women’s-only program to other franchises.

Alamo Drafthouse creative manager Morgan Hendrix told Mashable that his company is “very excited” that it is “providing an experience where women truly reign supreme has incurred the wrath of trolls,” saying it “only serves to deepen our belief that we’re doing something right.”

Tony Lee, who was among the several hundreds who criticized the plan, wrote on the Austin theater’s page: “Imagine the xxxtstorm if there was any male-only showing or a private showing of any race or sexual orientation ... ah, it’s SJW approved,” the user added, using the acronym for “social justice warrior.”

The theater’s management replied on Facebook: “We’re actually still waiting on our SJW certification of this event but crossing our fingers.”

Another critic wrote: “Have you ever had a men’s only showing of any film?”

The theater replied: “We’ve never done showing where you had to be a man to get in but we did show the “Entourage” movie a few years ago.”

Following the criticism, Hendrix said the chain will be “expanding this program across the country and inviting women everywhere to join us as we celebrate this iconic superheroine in our theaters.”

Activists for gender equality have praised the Warner Bros. Pictures production starring Gadot. Whereas film studios have released dozens of major feature film productions centered on male superheroes, only a few titles have done the same with female characters.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump reportedly failed to disclose multimillion-dollar art collection

(JTA)—Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump failed to disclose to tax authorities a multimillion-dollar art collection they have amassed since they were married in 2009, a news site on the arts sector reported.

Kushner, a senior adviser and son-in-law to President Donald Trump, and Ivanka Trump have acquired works by blue-chip and emerging artists, including Alex Israel, Dan Colen, Nate Lowman, Alex Da Corte, and David Ostrowski, according to the report Thursday on Artnet News.

In the required financial disclosures, however, Kushner failed to report the couple’s art collection, according to the report.

In recent months, Trump’s top Cabinet picks have revealed considerable art holdings as part of required financial disclosures. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross disclosed an art collection worth at least $50 million. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin revealed his stake in a $14.7 million Willem de Kooning painting, plus other artworks, according to Artnet.

Responding to an inquiry about the collection’s exclusion from Kushner’s financial disclosures, a lawyer advising Kushner told Artnet News that the art holdings would be added to a new version of his disclosure form.

“Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump display their art for decorative purposes and have made only a single sale,” the lawyer said in a statement issued by the White House. “To avoid any doubt, however, they will report their art collection.”

Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal wrote that Kushner did not report his stake in Cadre, a real estate finance startup co-founded with his brother Joshua. The real estate scion turned White House adviser also failed to report loans totaling at least $1 billion from more than 20 lenders to properties and companies he co-owns, according to the Journal.

Ethics experts say it is not uncommon for administration officials to update financial disclosures with more information. The White House did not indicate when the new disclosure would be released.

The disclosure rules for federal employees on art are complicated, hinging on the distinction between works purchased for investment or for personal enjoyment. Federal employees such as Kushner are required to disclose artwork if it is held for investment purposes and is worth more than $1,000, according to the Office of Government Ethics.

The ethics office’s website says that artwork displayed for “decorative or artistic purposes” is “not normally” considered an investment. According to the OGE, “periodic sales from a collection of artwork” are the most relevant indicator of whether a collection is held for investment purposes.

Hungarian state TV airs Iranian leader calling George Soros ‘evil Zionist-American’

(JTA)—A public broadcaster in Hungary broadcast an Iranian leader attacking George Soros as “an evil Zionist-American multi-billionaire,”  spurring condemnation from Hungarian Jewry.

On Wednesday “Hirado,” the main news show of the state MTVA channel, also included quotes from Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei, the supreme spiritual leader in Iran, saying that Soros was responsible for destabilizing and defeating former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s regime.

Critics of the broadcast, including Mazsihisz, the umbrella group of Hungarian Jewish communities, said it risks stoking anti-Semitic sentiment.

Soros, a Hungary native whose pro-democracy philanthropies have funded groups opposed to the policies of the right-wing Hungarian government, recently became the subject of hostile statements by top Hungarian politicians. The Jewish-American billionaire also funds various Israeli NGOs, many with a critical attitude toward the Israeli government’s policies.

Mazsihisz condemned the inclusion of the quote by Khamenei, saying in a statement Friday that it echoes the purest and most common form “of anti-Jewish sentiments in the Hungarian extreme-right media.” The umbrella group also noted that the MTI state news agency declined to quote or report on its statement because of what Mazsihisz said were concerns it might “damage the credibility of the state media and its business interests.”

Zoltan Radnoti, the chairman of the rabbinical council of Mazsihisz, labeled the broadcast as “anti-Semitic incitement during prime time.”

Even before the broadcast, the campaign against Soros was “not free of anti-Semitism and should be stopped in order to prevent hatred,” Radnoti said in a statement. “The hatred which is now spread with taxpayer money.”

Others, including the leader of Hungary’s Chabad-affiliated EMIH Jewish group, have said the government has not displayed any anti-Semitic tendencies in its fight with Soros

Pope, Reform leader in Vatican meeting share concerns over Trump immigration policies

(JTA)—Pope Francis told the president of the Union for Reform Judaism that he has “concerns” about the approach to immigration by the Trump administration, the group said.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs met with the pope privately for 20 minutes on Friday at the Vatican as part of Jacobs’ involvement in helping immigrants and refugees in the framework of the Religions for Peace interfaith organization, the Union for Reform Judaism wrote in a statement.

“We shared our respective concerns about the US Administration’s approach to immigration in particular,” the statement read. “Pope Francis is one of humanity’s most compelling moral voices. I told him that I hoped that his meeting with President Trump would have an impact on that and other issues.”

Trump visited the Vatican on Wednesday during his first visit overseas since he assumed the presidency in January.

Jacobs also wrote that he informed the pope “about the Reform Jewish Movement’s work opposing the Administration’s current efforts to close the gates to refugees, including our endorsing yesterday’s circuit court decision against the discriminatory ban, and that we will join with others to continue to oppose the presidential ban all the way to the Supreme Court.”

On Friday, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to keep in place a hold imposed by a lower court against the White House executive order from March prohibiting the entry of people from six Muslim-majority countries for 90 days. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs was among the social action groups that hailed the ruling.

Prior to their meeting Wednesday, Trump and the pope had exchanged critical remarks.

The pope said last year that a man who thinks about building walls and not bridges is “not Christian,” a sharp reprimand for Trump’s vow to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Trump said it was “disgraceful” of the Argentine-born pope, who represents just over half of the world’s 2 billion Christians, to question his faith.

“If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’ ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president,” Trump said during the campaign.

On Catholic-Jewish relations, Jacobs told the pope that “there were painful chapters in the history of the Church and the Jewish people, but that today’s chapter has moved from fear to love.”

“At the end he asked that we pray together. We stood, we held hands—he blessed me in Italian, then I blessed him in Hebrew with the ancient words of the Priestly Benediction. It will remain one of the most profoundly spiritual and memorable moments of my life,” the Reform leader said.

Separately, Israel’s Channel 10 reported Thursday that Israeli and Vatican officials have launched talks to discuss the possibility of Pope Francis paying a visit to Israel and the wider region in a bid to push peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

A Vatican delegation is expected in Israel next month and is looking at three possible dates for a potential visit this fall, Channel 10 reported, citing unnamed Vatican sources.

Estonian Jewry celebrates revival 75 years after Nazis declared it extinct

(JTA)—Seventy-five years after the Nazis declared that Estonia was “Jew free,” the Baltic country’s president celebrated the return of Jewish life there at an event attended by Israeli politicians and rabbis.

President Kersti Kaljulaid received the guests, including Israel’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi, David Lau, at a ceremony Thursday in Tallinn, the capital, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the first Jewish community in Estonia after the Holocaust.

“The story of the Synagogue of Tallinn tells us about the fate of the Jewish community,” Kaljulaid said at the event.

It was a reference to the fact that the Nazis destroyed all Jewish houses of worship in Estonia, where Soviet authorities who took over from the Nazis refused to allow the country’s few Jews who returned from death camps to build any synagogues. The Beit Bella Synagogue was inaugurated in 2007.

The chief rabbi of Estonia, Shmuel Kot, and the Jewish businessman and philanthropist Alexander Bronstein, who funded the building of the synagogue and community center named after his mother, at the event also hosted Israel’s minister for social equality, Gila Gamliel, and Israel’s ambassador to Estonia, Dov Segev-Steinberg, as well as local and foreign dignitaries.

“The history of the local community as the history of the country itself has experienced tragedies and revivals,” Kaljulaid said. “From the years of the Holocaust, which tell us the tragedy and the difficulty of occupation, to the flourishing recent years of free, democratic and independent Estonia. Today the synagogue is a beautiful and clear indications of the importance of freedom.”

In 2012 Estonia, which has a Jewish community of 2,500, joined a handful of European countries with special limitations on ritual slaughter of animals. The regulations restricted such activity to slaughterhouses.

Even before the amendments, Estonia’s policy on ritual slaughter was among the European Union’s strictest. Authorities must be notified 10 work days ahead of each planned slaughter and a government inspector oversees each procedure. The animals are stunned after their throats are cut—a procedure known as post-cut stunning, which not all rabbis permit.

Seventy-five years ago, at the Wannsee Conference about the Nazi extermination of Europe’s Jews, Estonia was the first country to be declared “Juden-Frei.”

Until a decade ago, Estonia was one of the only countries in Europe without a synagogue. On the 40th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification, the synagogue and the new Jewish center were opened.

This year, Estonia and Israel marked 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the countries.


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