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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA

 

September 1, 2017



Dozens of Houston Jewish community families displaced in ‘catastrophic’ flooding

(JTA)—Dozens of Jewish families in Houston were either evacuated or moved to the second floors of their homes due to flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, the local Jewish Family Service said.

Some 150 neighborhood blocks in the city that are home to members of the Jewish community have been damaged in floods as part of the hurricane, the JFS said in a conference call with community leaders, the Texas Jewish Herald-Voice reported.

Many of the families affected by the floods also were flooded out in 2016 and 2015. Some of the families have flood insurance and others do not, according to the report.

The Evelyn Rubenstein JCC reported suffering flood damage. Prior to the hurricane it had collected emergency supplies and will serve as a distribution center for the community. The Jewish Family Service also reported flood damage, as did at least three Houston synagogues.

More rainfall and flooding are expected in the coming days.

The Jewish Federations of North America opened an emergency relief fund to support communities and individuals in Houston, San Antonio, Galveston, Corpus Christi and other areas in Texas that have been hammered by Hurricane Harvey.

The hurricane first made landfall on Friday evening near Corpus Christi, about 200 miles southwest of Houston.

At least three people have been confirmed dead in the flooding.

On Monday morning, Harvey’s center was entering the Gulf of Mexico, according to the National Hurricane Center.

“Catastrophic and life-threatening flooding continues in southeastern Texas and flash flood emergencies are in effect for portions of this area,” it warned.

The update said that an additional 12 to 25 inches of rain are expected to accumulate through Friday over the upper Texas coast and into southwestern Louisiana, with some isolated areas receiving up to 50 inches of rain, including in the Houston-Galveston metropolitan area. It also warned of possible tornadoes over the next day.

More than two feet of rain fell between late Saturday night and late Sunday night. City residents who were not in a safe place were evacuated from their homes by boats and helicopters. Many were taken to makeshift shelters, since the emergency shelters prepared for the natural disaster proved not to be enough.

Houston’s two main airports reportedly suspended commercial flights and two hospitals evacuated their patients. Freeways throughout the city were under water, with some flood waters nearly reaching the bottom of road signs.

President Donald Trump visited the stricken area on Tuesday.

Netanyahu warns UN secretary-general of Iran’s ‘warfronts’ in Syria, Lebanon

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel warned U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Iran is using Syria and Lebanon “as warfronts against its declared goal to eradicate Israel.”

Iran is “building sites to produce precision-guided missiles towards that end in both Syria and in Lebanon. This is something Israel cannot accept. This is something the U.N. should not accept,” Netanyahu told Guterres Monday prior to their meeting in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu also told Guterres that the United Nations was failing to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining arms, a mandate that was part of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 passed at the end of the Second Lebanon War in 2006. The prime minister charged that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL, has not reported one of the “tens of thousands of weapons smuggling into Lebanon for Hezbollah.”

Guterres, who is making his first visit to Israel and the Palestinian areas since becoming head of the United Nations in January, responded that he will “do everything in my capacity” to ensure UNIFIL fulfills its obligations.

“I understand the security concerns of Israel,” he said, “and I repeat that the idea or the intention or the will to destroy the State of Israel is something totally unacceptable from my perspective.”

Guterres asked Netanyahu that Israel help improve the Palestinian economy as a way to show the Palestinians that making peace with Israel will pay.

Prior to meeting with Netanyahu, the secretary-general also met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at his residence in Jerusalem. Rivlin called on Guterres to work to end the discrimination against Israel in branches of the United Nations.

“This targeting of Israel, this singling out of the world’s only Jewish state—and even actions and statements that threaten to destroy Israel  are unacceptable and should come at a price,” he said.

Rivlin also asked Guterres to help intervene with Hamas to bring home the bodies of two Israeli soldiers and two other Israelis believed held captive in Gaza.

Guterres in his appearance with Rivlin said that calls for the destruction of Israel are “a form of modern anti-Semitism,” then added, “but you also understand that I sometimes disagree with positions with the Government of Israel or any other government, and that is absolutely normal in a society where many of your citizens have exactly the same expressions of opinions.”

Guterres noted that he started his visit Monday morning at Yad Vashem, where he laid a wreath in the memorial hall.

“Yad Vashem is there to remind us that we need to be in the first line in fighting against anti-Semitism, but first of all fighting against all other forms of bigotry be it racism, xenophobia, even anti-Muslim hatred, to promote understanding and to promote dialogue, and I am very appreciative Mr. President for what has been your commitment to dialogue and understanding,” he said.

On Tuesday, the secretary-general is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The following day he will tour Gaza.

Jewish leaders miffed after French cops warn farmers about animal thefts ahead of Jewish, Muslim holidays

(JTA)—A municipality in suburban Paris warned farmers of an elevated risk of theft of sheep and fowl ahead of the Muslim and Jewish holidays of Eid al-Adha and Yom Kippur, respectively.

The warning, which provoked angry reactions on the part of communal leaders who saw it as discriminatory, came in a letter sent earlier this month by a branch of the police department of Hauts-de-Seine, an area comprising several suburbs east of the French capital, the Le Parisien Weekly reported last week.

The letter instructed farmers to practice “the highest degree of alertness” ahead of Eid al-Adha, which this year falls on Sept. 1, and Yom Kippur 28 days later because followers of those religions perform “unauthorized sacrifices” of sheep and chickens, respectively.

On Eid al-Adha, some Muslims sacrifice sheep and lambs in conditions that animal rights activists find cruel, and which also provoke resistance by opponents of Muslim immigration. In the hours prior to Yom Kippur, in some Jewish communities, roosters and chickens are waved several times in the air and slaughtered as atonement for sins incurred during the previous year. The meat is given to charity. Religious laws forbid the use of a stolen chicken for the rite, known as kapparot.

“Ill-intentioned individuals could try to catch the animals in order to perform clandestine slaughters,” the circular also warned.

Joel Mergui, president of the Consistoire, the organization responsible for providing religious services to Jewish communities, said that after reading about the circular, he was “amazed to discover” that he “suddenly and collectively, with all the coreligionists of the Jewish faith, became a potential chicken thief,” he told the La Croix daily on Friday

Following protests over the circular, a spokesman for the Public Security department of the region told Le Parisien “it was a matter of vigilance” that “was not intended to cause offense.”

According to Le Parisien, sheep have been stolen in the past for sacrifice during Eid al-Adha, but likely not by Muslims. Roma traders sold some 200 stolen sheep in 2013 ahead of the Muslim holiday to worshippers for approximately half their market value. The daily did not offer a report of any theft of chickens ahead of Yom Kippur.

To Francis Kalifat, president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jews, the inclusion of the Jewish holiday in the police circular was one of many cases in which “Jews are equated, compared, amalgamated” with Muslims incorrectly as a tactic for deflecting accusation of Islamophobia.

“This systematic tendency by politicians and in the media, and this time by administrative authorities, has become intolerable and unacceptable,” he was quoted as saying by La Croix.

Swastikas, anti-Semitic graffiti spray-painted on Long Island high school

(JTA)—Swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti were found spray-painted on a Long Island, New York, high school.

The walls, doors and windows in the back of Syosset High were vandalized between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. Sunday, Nassau Police told the local media.

In addition to the anti-Semitic graffiti, “MS13” was painted on the school building. MS-13 is a Salvadoran-based street gang that has been blamed for more than 20 killings on Long Island in the past year and a half. Syosset is at least 15 miles from the nearest towns where the gang is said to be active.

Syosset Board of Education trustee Joshua Lafazan in a statement condemning the graffiti said he would call for increased security patrols at all school district buildings.

Stephen Bannon will speak at ZOA dinner in first scheduled public appearance since firing

(JTA)—Stephen Bannon will speak at the Zionist Organization of America dinner in November in his first official public appearance since he was fired from his post as chief strategist for President Donald Trump.

ZOA President Morton Klein confirmed to The Atlantic on Monday that Bannon will speak at the Justice Louis D. Brandeis Award Dinner on Nov. 12 at the Grand Hyatt in New York.

Among those to be honored that night, according to the ZOA website, are the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Vermont. Billionaire philanthropist Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, are listed as presenters. Bannon may introduce Adelson, ZOA’s top donor, at the dinner, The Atlantic reported.

Bannon was scheduled to attend the ZOA gala last year but was a no-show.

He returned to his position as executive chairman of Breitbart News after leaving the White House earlier this month.

Bannon had been feuding for months with other members of the Trump administration, including senior adviser Jared Kushner and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

ZOA in attempts to depose McMaster issued a report earlier this month alleging that he is anti-Israel. The report also charged that McMaster was undermining Trump’s Middle East agenda and the U.S.-Israel relationship by firing officials supportive of the Jewish state and critical of the Iran nuclear deal.

Bannon had been under fire since he began working for the Trump campaign last year. He was criticized for calling Breitbart a platform for the “alt-right,” a far-right and white nationalist movement that includes anti-Semitic figures and followers.

Netanyahu and Trump to meet in New York area on Sept. 17

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump will meet Sept. 17 in New Jersey, an Israeli newspaper reported.

The meeting will take place while Netanyahu is in New York for the opening of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, Israel Hayom reported Sunday. Neither the Prime Minister’s Office nor the White House have officially announced the meeting.

The Israeli paper did not provide a site for the meeting.

Afterward, Netanyahu will return to Israel in time for the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

The two leaders met at the White House in mid-February, and again in May when Trump visited Israel as part of his first overseas visit as president.

Prior to attending the General Assembly, Netanyahu reportedly will visit Argentina and Mexico—the first visits to those countries by a sitting Israeli prime minister.

1,500 protest handling of Netanyahu corruption investigations

JERUSALEM (JTA)—About 1,500 people protested against the handling of corruption investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The protest on Saturday night near the Petach Tikvah home of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit was also held simultaneously in 17 other Israeli cities.

It is the 40th consecutive week that such protests have been held.

On Thursday, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the main demonstration held in Goren Square in Petach Tikvah should be restricted to 500 people. The other protesters gathered nearby, Haaretz reported.

The two main corruption scandals involving Netanyahu both concern allegations of illicit dealings with rich and powerful men. In the first, called “Case 1000,” Netanyahu is accused of receiving expensive gifts from billionaires and then taking action on their behalf. In the second, called “Case 2000,” he is accused of striking an illicit deal with a newspaper publisher.

San Francisco rabbis gather against bigotry after far-right rallies canceled

(JTA)—Rabbis from the San Francisco Bay area joined other faith leaders in gatherings against bigotry and racism a day after a two planned far-right rallies were canceled.

A planned Patriot Prayer gathering at San Francisco’s Crissy Field and a “No to Marxism” rally in nearby Berkeley were canceled by their organizers late Friday afternoon, but the Jewish community’s determination to come together in the face of divisive and hate-based ideologies also swelled attendance at many Shabbat services in the evening, J. The Jewish News of Northern California reported.

On Friday afternoon, the shofar was sounded on the steps of San Francisco City Hall when Sherith Israel Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf gave an invocation at the United Against Hate rally attended by civic and faith leaders, including Rabbi Noa Kushner of The Kitchen and Rabbi Jonathan Singer of Congregation Emanu-El, J. reported.

More than 1,000 people filled nearly every seat at Congregation Emanu-El, with people from other synagogues and faith communities joining the Interfaith Gathering Against Hate on Friday evening. About 200 attended a similar event at Sherith Israel a half-mile away. Across the Golden Gate Bridge, 350 people gathered at Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon for an interfaith prayer service, co-sponsored by the Marin Interfaith Council. Many other congregations around the Bay, from Sonoma to Oakland to San Mateo, also met to raise their voices against the planned rallies and everything they represented, according to the report.

The Oregon-based pro-Trump group Patriot Prayer canceled its “Freedom Rally” for Saturday at Chrissy Field,  a recreational area near the Golden Gate Bridge, announcing instead a news conference which was later cancelled because the group lacked a permit for the venue, the Alamo Square Park, which the city also blocked.

Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson said he cancelled the rally so that no innocent people would get hurt, but he blamed the left wing for the cancellation and accused counterdemonstrators of dogging the group all day so that they could not meet anywhere in or around the city. Gibson appeared late Saturday afternoon at Chrissy Field where he greeted supporters who arrived there and spoke to reporters.

Hundreds of counterprotesters began marching Saturday morning in Alamo Square Park, continuing until the afternoon, according to reports.

While Patriot Prayer has been described by the Anti-Defamation League as “alt-lite” and not “alt-right,” its rallies have attracted white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

An anti-Marxism rally scheduled for Sunday at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley also was canceled after the event was not granted a permit.

 

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