Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


November 24, 2017

‘Transparent’ star Jeffrey Tambor denies second sexual harassment accusation

(JTA)—Jeffrey Tambor, the star of the Emmy-winning television comedy “Transparent,” denied sexual harassment allegations made by a female member of the show’s cast a week after denying similar charges by his former assistant.

Tambor issued the denial in a statement Friday in response to claims made earlier in the week by Trace Lysette, who has played the recurring character Shea on the Amazon series since its first season, MNE reported.

Lysette wrote on Twitter that Tambor had made “sexual advances and comments” toward her and “one time it got physical.”

Tambor, who is Jewish, plays the transgender head of dysfunctional Jewish family in the series.

He said in his statement: “I know I haven’t always been the easiest person to work with. I can be volatile and ill-tempered, and too often I express my opinions harshly and without tact. But I have never been a predator—ever.”

The claims against Tambor, which are the subject of an internal probe launched by Amazon, are the latest in a string of complaints made against celebrities in the wake of a New York Times article last month about the alleged harassment by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who was fired from the company he founded over the allegations.

Tambor’s former assistant, Van Barnes, a transgender woman, made the allegations in a private Facebook post on Nov. 8 that was not widely circulated in the media. Tambor dismissed them as “baseless” charges coming from a “disgruntled former assistant.”

Lysette said Tambor sexualized her in front of co-star Alexandra Billings during a break on set. The actress said she laughed off the comments because “it was so absurd” and she thought “surely it had to be a joke.” But she claimed the harassment turned physical later that day.

“In between takes, I stood in a corner on the set as the crew reset for a wide shot. My back was against the wall in a corner as Jeffrey approached me,” Lysette tweeted. “He came in close, put his bare feet on top of mine so I could not move, leaned his body against me, and began quick, discreet thrusts back and forth against my body. I felt his penis on my hip through his thin pajamas and I pushed him off of me.”

Amazon launched an investigation into the sexual harassment claims made by Barnes earlier this month, and the company said it is aware of Lysette’s accusation and is now looking into it as well.

According to Deadline, the writers of “Transparent” are contemplating writing Tambor out of the fifth season of the show.

Jared Kushner was contacted about WikiLeaks and Russia ahead of election, senators say

(JTA)—White House senior adviser Jared Kushner exchanged emails about WikiLeaks in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said.

The assertion, which comes amid a probe of alleged Russian intervention in the election, came Thursday in a letter sent by the committee’s chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to Kushner’s lawyer.

Prior to the election, WikiLeaks published emails, widely thought to have been hacked by the Russian government, damaging to Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee.

In the letter, Grassley and Feinstein say Kushner received an email about WikiLeaks in September 2016 and passed it on to an official within Trump’s campaign, along with a message about a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite,” The Hill reported.

The two senators demanded additional documents from Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law, as part of the committee’s ongoing investigation of Russia’s election interference.

There was also evidence that Kushner received copies of communications between unnamed others and Sergei Millian, a Belarusian-American businessman who gave authorities information about alleged Russian intervention in American politics.

Reports about the senators’ letter did not include precise information about the content of the emails they are seeking.

Kushner, who said he would cooperate with authorities probing the affair and has divulged some information, did not provide the emails in question, the senators wrote.

“You also have not produced any phone records that we presume exist and would relate to Mr. Kushner’s communications regarding several requests,” they added in the letter to Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell.

The letter says the documents provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee are “incomplete,” and gives Lowell until Nov. 27 to comply with the request.

“It appears that your search may have overlooked several documents,” the letter says.

Lowell said Thursday that Kushner and his legal representation have replied to all the requests they have received and will continue to cooperate with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“We provided the Judiciary Committee with all relevant documents that had to do with Mr. Kushner’s calls, contacts or meetings with Russians during the campaign and transition, which was the request,” Lowell said in a statement.

The revelation that Kushner received communication about WikiLeaks prior to the November 2016 election comes several days after Donald Trump Jr,. the president’s son, confirmed his correspondence with WikiLeaks leading up to the vote.

Genesis Prize co-founder denies report that award to Ruth Bader Ginsburg was ‘consolation prize’

(JTA)—The co-founder of the foundation that awards the Genesis Prize, known as the “Jewish Nobel,” denied a report that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was intended to be the award’s 2018 laureate but instead was given a lifetime achievement award as “a consolation prize.”

Stan Polovets denied the veracity of an article published Friday in Haaretz, which quoted unnamed sources saying that the $1 million award given last week to actress Natalie Portman was originally going to the Jewish Supreme Court justice.

The foundation then created a new prize, a lifetime achievement award, to give Ginsburg as “a consolation prize,” the article said. The awards were announced a week apart.

The unnamed sources gave Haaretz varying reasons for the alleged change of plans, including that Ginsburg had been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump and that the Supreme Court does not allow its justices to accept such monetary awards.

Polovets, who also serves as the Genesis Prize Foundation’s chairman and CEO, told JTA on Friday that Ginsburg was never on the final shortlist for the award. She had been among a group of 15 people who were told that they were being considered for the award, so she contacted a women’s rights group in Israel to which she was considering giving the money if she were to win. However, the foundation was told by a Supreme Court legal counsel that justices are barred from accepting monetary awards, so Ginsburg was not on the final shortlist, Polovets said.

He denied claims made by Haaretz that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office had been involved in the decision making. The Genesis Prize was established as a partnership between Russian-Jewish philanthropists and the Israeli government.

“The prime minister in the five years of the Genesis Prize has never interfered or injected himself,” Polovets said. “He’s not even aware of the laureate’s name until the press release is issued.”

Polovets said the lifetime award was created to honor worthy individuals who could not accept the prize due to work or time limitations.

“This year when we began discussions with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and it turned out that she would not be able to accept the award, we thought it would be very important to honor her,” he said. “We consulted with the first five laureates and came up with idea for the lifetime achievement award, which they unanimously agreed should go to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

The foundation is considering awarding the lifetime award on a yearly basis, Polovets said.

The Genesis Prize was founded in 2012. Along with Portman, the other laureates are former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, actor Michael Douglas, violinist Itzhak Perlman and sculptor Anish Kapoor.

House passes tax reform that critics warn could politicize houses of worship

(JTA)—The U.S. House of Representatives passed major tax reform legislation along party lines that critics said effectively repeals an amendment designed to keep houses of worship nonpartisan.

The vote Thursday was 227-205, with 13 House Republicans joining all Democrats to oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Its passage represents the advancement of a key agenda item for President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans, CNN reported.

The Anti-Defamation League said the bill constitutes a repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which bars tax-exempt nonprofits from endorsing or opposing candidates. For decades, the ADL said, the amendment “has protected the integrity of houses of worship and other non-profit organizations by prohibiting them from endorsing or opposing political candidates.”

ADL’s national director, Jonathan Greenblatt, warned that “undermining the Johnson Amendment’s critical protections will politicize the pews and foster inappropriate religious entanglement with politics.” ADL “is deeply troubled and disappointed” by the development, the group said in a statement.

Noting that the Senate’s current version of the tax bill does not contain a similar repeal, ADL added that the Senate “must be resolute on this issue by taking a stand to keep divisive politics out of our houses of worship.”

While the bill’s passage in the Republican-controlled House was largely drama free, the prospects for the measure are more unclear in the Senate, where Republicans hold only a two-seat majority, CNN noted.

The House Republican tax plan, released Nov. 2, condenses the current seven tax brackets to three, nearly doubles the standard deduction and caps the amount taxpayers can write off in state taxes at $10,000. The Senate Republican plan, released Nov. 8, eliminates the state and local tax deduction and keeps the current seven brackets but lowers rates.

The Senate Finance Committee is expected to vote its version out of committee on Friday, according to The New York Times, with a full Senate vote expected after Thanksgiving.

Dozens of Jewish nonprofits, charitable organizations and religious institutions last week urged Congress to refrain from passing legislation that compromises the Johnson Amendment.

A letter signed by 55 Jewish groups was sent last week to the chairman and ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

“Charitable nonprofits and houses of worship can only be successful if we maintain public trust in our integrity and commitment to mission,” the letter reads. “Politicizing them for the benefit of politicians and partisan donors would destroy that trust. Every charitable dollar spent on partisan campaign politics is one less dollar spent on the public good.”

In addition to ADL, groups representing all streams of Judaism except the Orthodox community signed the letter, as did Jewish community relations councils and the Jewish federations of several cities. The Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs also signed the letter, as did the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International.

2 Israelis wounded, one severely, in West Bank car-ramming attack

(JTA)—Two Israelis were wounded, one seriously, in a West Bank car-ramming attack allegedly by a Palestinian teenager who later was shot.

Even Ezer Holaring, a 35-year-old father of five, suffered a serious head injury Friday in what police are calling a terrorist attack. David Ramati, 70, was moderately wounded in the attack at the Efrat South junction near Jerusalem. Both live in the Kiryat Arba settlement outside Hebron.

The driver—Izz al-Din Ali Abu Rmeishan Karajeh, 17, from the Hebron area—was shot while attempting to stab soldiers near the scene of the initial attack, Army Radio reported.

“The assailant was severely injured and treated at the scene by Israeli forces” before being evacuated along with the victims for further treatment in Jerusalem, an Israeli army spokesman told the Maan news agency.

Holaring immigrated to Israel in 2006 from India and is a member of the Bnei Menashe community.

Jewish family’s adopted son accused of scrawling Hitler slur on Chabad preschool

(JTA)—A Florida teenager who was adopted by a Jewish family is accused of trashing a Jewish preschool and scrawling a statement mentioning Hitler.

Michael Dami, 19, is accused of breaking in the Naples Preschool of the Arts, part of the Chabad Jewish Center, on Oct. 18, causing thousands of dollars’ worth of damage and writing with a red lipstick on a wall inside: “! YOU JEWS NEVER! LEARN!! HEIL HITLER!” CNBC-2 reported Friday. Police said he was caught on surveillance video.

“Once inside, it appears that he used a fire extinguisher to start smashing televisions and bookshelves and other equipment,” according to Lt. Seth Finman of the Naples Police Department.

Dami struggles with drugs and mental health, his adopted father said.

On Wednesday, detectives arresting Dami on a separate warrant found several credit cards and checks that were stolen from the preschool, according to CNBC. In court the following day, Dami was not allowed to post bond for two of his charges, which are both first-degree felonies.

Police said the State Attorney’s Office could increase Dami’s charges because the incident could potentially be treated as a hate crime.

British Labour Party readmits member accused of Holocaust revisionism, bars another

(JTA)—The British Labour Party punished an activist for making an anti-Semitic remark about Adolf Hitler after reinstating a member accused of Holocaust revisionism.

Labour activist Nasreen Khan was passed over this week from representing Labour at a municipal election over her 2012 Facebook post about Jews in which she said teachers are “brainwashing us and our children into thinking the bad guy was Hitler,” according to the Jewish News Khan said she regretted the text, which also read, “What have the Jews done good in this world?”

Separately, philosopher Moshe Machover was readmitted after writing that Nazism and Zionism had a “basic agreement.”

The developments are the latest in a two-year saga involving anti-Semitism in Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, who was elected party leader in 2015 and this year led his opposition movement to a major electoral feat despite accusations by British Jewish groups that he is responsible for whitewashing and tolerating the hatred of Jews.

Earlier this month Corbyn, who last year said he regretted in 2009 calling Hezbollah and Hamas his “friends,” said he was “glad” about the reinstatement of Machover, an Israel-born anti-Zionist Jew who in September published an article alleging that the Nazis had been supporters of Zionism before they began murdering Jews in Europe and the Middle East.

Machover was briefly suspended from Labour over the article, in which he quotes a document by Reinhard Heydrich, an architect of the Holocaust, making “a friendly mention of Zionism, indicating an area of basic agreement it shared with Nazism,” as Machover described it.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism accused Machover of Holocaust revisionism for the article, in which the author quoted a 1935 essay by Heydrich saying that the Nazi government “finds itself in complete agreement with the great spiritual movement within Jewry itself, so-called Zionism.”

Ken Livingstone, a former mayor of London, was suspended for one year earlier this year from Labour over similar claims.

David Hirsh, a senior lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, accused Machover of disingenuously “monstering of Jews and of Israel” with the Heydrich quote. Hirsh said this is evident from a passage demonizing Zionism in “Mein Kampf,” written by Adolf Hitler.

“There should be no place in democratic Labour politics” for Machover’s misrepresentation of history, Hirsh wrote last month.

Corbyn has vowed to kick out members caught making statements that Labour deems to be hateful, and has sanctioned dozens of them. But Labour has not defined what it deems hateful language, ignoring or condoning rhetoric considered racist and offensive by the main representative organs of British Jewry.

French courts punish promoters of anti-Semitic hate speech

(JTA)—Amid vocal protests by leaders of French Jewry on the judiciary’s handling of anti-Semitic crimes, French courts made a series of tough rulings on inciters to hatred of Jews.

In three separate rulings last week, French judges rejected the appeal of the far-right Holocaust denier Alain Soral against his prison sentence, affirmed the eviction of his associate and career anti-Semite Dieudonne M’bala M’bala from his Paris headquarters and slapped a $1,700 fine on a teacher who inveighed against Israel and the Jews.

The rulings came amid unprecedented criticism by CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, and other French Jewish groups on judicial actions and decision that it said were too soft on anti-Semites, encouraged terrorism or amounted to a cover-up of hate crimes against Jews.

The National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, which earlier this month heavily criticized the acquittal from murder charges of an accomplice of the killer of four Jews in Toulosue in 2012, applauded the Nov. 9 verdict against Soral, who in 2012 co-founded the Anti-Zionist Party with Dieudonne, a comedian with multiple convictions for inciting hatred against Jews whom former Prime Minister Manuel Valls called “a professional anti-Semite.”

Soral, who also has multiple convictions—including for saying Adolf Hitler “should have finished the job”—was sentenced to three months in jail in March. He also was fined approximately $16,000. French courts rarely impose heavy fines for hate speech and seldom send individuals found guilty of this offense to prison.

Earlier this year, CRIF and the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism mounted a vocal protest campaign over the absence of hate crime charges from an initial indictment against Kobili Traore, who confessed to killing his Jewish neighbor, Sarah Halimi. Traore, who reportedly had called Halimi’s daughter a “dirty Jew,” screamed about Allah and killing Satan while he pummeled Halimi in her Paris apartment in April.

In September, prosecutors included the hate crime charges in a revised indictment that followed intense lobbying and vocal protests by CRIF, including to President Emmanuel Macron.

The Nov. 8 sentence against Dieudonne comes two years after a lower court ordered him to leave the building that has housed his Main D’Or theater since 2002. The eviction order follows failed safety inspections and a motion to nullify the rental contract for the theater by the owners.

Dieudonne, whom tax authorities say is deliberately insolvent to avoid paying fines for his multiple hate speech convictions, on Nov. 8 also was ordered to pay nearly $6,000 to anti-racism groups that sued him for comparing on stage in 2014 the treatment of blacks by Jewish slave owners to how the Nazis treated Jews.

Separately, the Correctional Tribunal of Paris fined a former English teacher at the prestigious Janson-de-Sailly High School some $1,500 on Nov. 9, Le Parisien reported, over her posting on Facebook last year that “the American Jewish lobby” supports Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and that then-French President Francois Hollande “is a Jew who benefited from his belonging to that community to ascend in politics and who now denies this.”


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