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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


December 15, 2017

Roy Moore’s wife on anti-Semitism charge: ‘One of our attorneys is a Jew’

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Roy Moore’s wife said she and her husband, the controversial Senate candidate in Alabama, could not be anti-Semitic because they employ a Jewish lawyer.

“Fake news will tell you that we don’t care for Jews,” Kayla Moore, her husband, Roy, standing behind her, said Monday night at Moore’s final campaign rally in Midland City, Alabama.

“I tell you all this because I’ve seen it all, so I just want to set the record straight while they’re here,” she said, waving at the media and grinning. “One of our attorneys is a Jew.”

Kayla Moore, wife of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, accuses media of painting couple as anti-Semitic. pic.twitter.com/Vcczj6pNPv

— NBC News (@NBCNews) December 12, 2017

Kayla Moore did not name the attorney.

“We have very close friends that are Jewish and are rabbis and we also fellowship with them,” she said.

“Fellowship” used as a verb generally refers to Christians joining together. It’s not clear what Kayla Moore, who is a Baptist, meant in applying the term to encounters with Jews.

Kayla Moore also did not make clear what she was referring to when she said the media portrayed her and her husband as not caring for Jews, but the candidate came under fire last week for attacking the liberal billionaire philanthropist and hedge fund manager George Soros, suggesting that he was headed for hell because he did not accept God’s salvation. Soros is Jewish.

Moore, the Republican candidate in the Alabama Senate race who is favored by President Donald Trump, is in an unexpectedly tight race with Doug Jones, a former prosecutor and the Democratic candidate, in the special election Tuesday.

A former Alabama chief justice twice removed from the bench for defying federal rulings that countered his religious beliefs, Moore has been beset during this campaign by allegations that he wooed teenage girls when he was in his 30s. Two of his accusers have alleged that he sexually assaulted them, one of them describing an encounter she said took place when she was 14.

Moore’s candidacy is backed by Steve Bannon, a former top adviser to Trump who helms the Breitbart News website. Bannon, who remains close to Trump, spoke at the Moore rally Monday night and appeared to take a shot at Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who said recently that she does not doubt Moore’s accusers, adding that there’s a “special place in hell” for child predators.

“There’s a special place in hell for Republicans who should know better,” said Bannon, who feuded during his White House tenure with Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, who are both top aides to the president.

NY Port Authority suspect charged with supporting terrorism

(JTA)—The suspect in a pipe bomb attack on the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City has been charged with supporting an act of terrorism and making terrorist threats.

Akayed Ullah, 27, of Brooklyn, also was charged with criminal possession of a weapon, the New York Police Department said Tuesday morning. Federal terrorism charges are expected next week, according to reports.

Ullah, who is said to be of Bangladeshi origin and reportedly worked as a cab driver, spoke with authorities at Bellevue Hospital after suffering injuries when the homemade pipe bomb strapped to his body detonated early during Monday’s morning rush hour. The bomb exploded in a tunnel connecting the Times Square subway station with the Midtown Manhattan transit hub.

CNN cited an unnamed law enforcement source who said Ullah said he was upset with an unspecified “incursion into Gaza.” The New York Times reported that he told investigators that he set off the bomb in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria and elsewhere, while NBC cited law enforcement officials as saying he did it in the name of ISIS to avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world.

The Washington Post reported that a pro-Islamic State media group, Maqdisi Media, publicized that the attack was carried out in response to President Donald Trump’s announcement last week that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, citing the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity.

Ullah has lived in the United States for seven years after entering as part of a visa program available to those with relatives who are U.S. citizens. He reportedly has never appeared on a terror watchlist in Bangladesh.

Police on Monday raided the family home and questioned Ullah’s wife, Jannatul Ferdous Piya, 25, and her father. Investigators believe he acted alone, however.

At a news conference Monday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the attack on the subway system “incredibly upsetting.”

“And let’s also be clear,” he said, “this was an attempted terrorist attack. Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals.”

Trump delivers Chanukah wishes to ‘Jewish brothers and sisters’

WASHINGTON (JTA)—President Donald Trump said he was “proud to stand with the Jewish people” on Chanukah.

“Melania and I wish all of our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrating this meaningful holiday a happy and healthy eight nights in the company of those they love,” Trump said in a message Tuesday evening, the first night of the eight-day holiday, and naming the first lady.

“On this holiday, we are proud to stand with the Jewish people who shine as a light to all nations. We also stand with the people of Israel, the Jewish State, which has itself a miraculous history of overcoming the tallest of odds,” the statement said.

Trump’s director of the National Economic Council, Gary Cohn, lit the “national menorah” on the National Mall, an event organized by American Friends of Lubavitch. He noted that Trump last week recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, breaking with predecessors who held back from full recognition.

“President Trump delivered on a promise to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” said Cohn, who clashed with Trump this summer over Trump’s equivocal remarks after white supremacists and anti-Semites marched in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“The president made the right decision and it makes these year’s celebration of Chanukah particularly meaningful,” he said. There were strong winds in Washington, and Cohn’s kippah flew off his head at least once.

Trump’s re-election campaign also sent out Chanukah greetings, as did the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, Ronna Romney McDaniel. So did Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Trump continued the tradition established by President George W. Bush and carried on by President Barack Obama, and had a Chanukah party at the White House last week, where he noted his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Later this week, Jewish members of Congress will host a Chanukah party at the Library of Congress. In previous years, the congressional party has been hosted only by Democrats, led by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. This year for the first time, Wasserman Schultz is co-hosting the party with a Jewish Republican, Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y.

The Conservative movement supported Trump’s Jerusalem recognition. Hundreds of its members disagree.

(JTA)—Hundreds of Conservative Jews have signed an open letter opposing their movement’s support for U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The letter, first published Sunday night, has garnered some 250 signatures in its first 36 hours online. All of the signatories are affiliates or alumni of the Jewish Theological Seminary, the movement’s leading educational institution, or the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the movement’s umbrella organization. Dozens of the signatories are rabbis.

After President Donald Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week, the Conservative movement’s institutions released at least three statements, all of which supported the move. The JTS statement said it was “heartened” by the recognition A movement-wide statement, signed by those institutions and 11 more, said the movement was “pleased” with the decision.

“The status of Jerusalem is a matter to be settled in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians,” the movement-wide statement said. “But in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and planning to move the American embassy to a location under uncontested Israeli sovereignty, the U.S. government acknowledges the age-old connection that Israel and the Jewish people maintain with the holy city.”

The only note of criticism appeared in the USCJ’s statement. While saying “Israel, like all nations, must be free to determine its capital,” it added, “we question the purpose of the recognition at this time.” All three Conservative statements make extended reference to the need for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“What’s to be gained by doing it now at this moment?” USCJ CEO Rabbi Steve Wernick told JTA on Tuesday, adding that recognizing Jerusalem was “always viewed as something the U.S. could do to leverage the parties to move toward peace. That’s the context that’s missing.”

But, he continued, “how can we as a people who understand that Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years, and of the State of Israel for 70 years, not welcome the decision?”

The letter from dissenters opposes U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which was signed Dec. 6, on the grounds that it will inflame tensions in the city, risking lives, and will reduce prospects for peace.

“We believe that support for President Trump’s announcement is both politically shortsighted and morally unsound,” the letter reads. “It has already cost the lives of several Palestinians and will surely cost more. As institutions committed to Kevod HaBriyot, human dignity for all peoples, JTS and USCJ should neither be ‘heartened’ by nor ‘applaud’ a decision that will lead to violence, further entrench the occupation, and damage prospects for peace.”

The Reform movement called the decision “ill-timed” and said it could not support the decision absent a comprehensive plan for a peace process, while Orthodox organizations enthusiastically supported it.

Senate unanimously passes bill to help Holocaust survivors obtain restitution, seized assets

(JTA)—The Senate unanimously passed a bill to help Holocaust survivors and the families of victims obtain restitution or the return of Holocaust-era assets.

The Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today, or JUST Act, which was introduced in February by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., received unanimous approval on Tuesday.

The measure requires the State Department to report on the progress of certain European countries toward the return of or restitution for wrongfully confiscated or transferred Holocaust-era assets, including property, art and other movable property. It also requires a report specifically on progress on the resolution of claims for U.S. citizen Holocaust survivors and family members.

The World Jewish Restitution Organization praised the bill’s passage, urging that it be signed into law this year.

“Through this legislation, the United States will help survivors achieve a small measure of justice for the wrongful seizure of their property during the Holocaust,” the organization’s chair of operations, Gideon Taylor, said Tuesday in a statement. “Now is the time—while the remaining survivors are alive—for countries to provide restitution.”

The JUST Act is designed to build on the international Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues of 2009, which affirms the protection of property rights and recognizes the importance of restituting or compensating Holocaust-related confiscations.

Several nations that endorsed the Terezin Declaration have not fully addressed the restitution of Jewish communal, private and heirless property, co-sponsors Baldwin and Rubio have said.

A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in February by Reps. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., and Christopher Smith, R-N.J.

House passes bill to protect religious institutions sparked by wave of JCC threats

(JTA)—The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill that increases the federal penalties for bomb threats and other credible threats of violence against religious institutions.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. David Kustoff, R-Tenn., and Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., passed Monday by a vote of 402 to 2. It was co-sponsored by more than 40 other lawmakers.

The Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act was sparked by a wave of threats against JCCs and other Jewish institutions earlier this year.

It would prosecute threats of violence against religious institutions as hate crimes and increase the penalty for destruction of the institutions’ property caused by fire or explosives from one year to three years. It amends the Church Arson Prevention Act to include community religious centers such as Jewish community centers.

In 2017, more than 160 bomb threats and other threats of violence have been made against Jewish community centers across the United States. Most of them came from a young Israeli man.

“The dramatic rise in threats against religious institutions is deeply disturbing and makes it clear that existing federal laws do not suitably deter these acts of hate,” Kustoff said in a statement. “We must stand united against acts of hate and protect the rights of all Americans to worship freely and without fear.”

The Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council praised the House’s passage of the bill.

“Crimes against religious institutions are intended to create an atmosphere of fear that deters community members from attending worship services and social involvement,” Stanley Bergman, the council’s co-chair, said in a statement. “These hate crimes pose a danger to the religious freedom and security of all Americans.”

Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., have sponsored an identical bill being considered in the Senate.

Federation of Argentine Jewish centers elects its first female president

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—The Jewish Argentine federation for sports and social community centers, or FACCMA, for the first time has elected a female president.

Monica Sucari of Hacoaj, a sports and cultural club with 7,800 members north of Buenos Aires, was elected Monday to lead FACCMA, a Spanish acronym that stands for Argentine Federation of Maccabiah Community Centers. She is vice president of the umbrella group for Argentine-style Jewish community centers, one of the main umbrella organizations in the country.

FACCMA, the largest member of the Latin American branch of the Maccabi World Union, has 55 affiliates and a network of 50,000 members.

“It was a huge honor that my institution, Hacoaj, nominated me as the candidate for the presidency,” Sucari told JTA just after the assembly. “I hope that more women will be increasingly encouraged to participate in major roles” such as this one.

Sucari, who has 10 years of experience with FACCMA, will serve until 2019 while reinforcing the role of Hacoaj at the Global JCC network to raise other women to leadership positions. Hacoaj has 7,800 members.

Last month, the female presence in JCC leadership positions was discussed at the JCC Global World Conference in Tarrytown, New York.

“Although the objective of each of the JCCs was to meet other JCCs and associate in projects of social impact, each and every one of them was surprisingly interested in the topic of female leadership in the organizations of the Jewish community” Patricia Manusovich, who attended the global event representing Hacoaj, told JTA.

Manusovich is a member of a network of JCCs worldwide that will begin to raise the issue of female leadership in Jewish organizations.

The issue of female leadership is under debate with no women on the shortlist to replace the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

“In an age in which the #metoo campaign is radically changing old concepts of male-female power relations, how could the American heads of the agency and its associated institutions fail to include at least one female among the six candidates they deem worthy to succeed [Natan] Sharansky,” asked an editorial appearing in The Jerusalem Post on Nov 28.

NY Jewish Museum suspends projects with senior curator in wake of sexual harassment allegations

(JTA)—New York’s Jewish Museum has suspended all current projects with senior curator Jens Hoffman following sexual harassment allegations by several museum staff members.

Hoffman was suspended on Dec. 4, less than a week after the staffers came forward, the ARTnews website reported, citing a statement sent to the publication by the museum. The museum said it is reviewing the allegations

Hoffmann served four years as the Jewish Museum’s deputy director for exhibitions and programs beginning in 2012, and then as director of special exhibitions and public programs.

His suspension comes after the announcement late last month that Hoffmann was leaving his position as co-artistic director of Front International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art.

Since his suspension from the Jewish Museum, several other institutions also have suspended or fired Hoffmann, including the Honolulu Biennial, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit, Kadist, an international foundation, and the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary of Art’s upcoming People’s Biennial.

He also was suspended as editor-at-large by the Milan-based Mousse Magazine art publication and from his position as artistic director of Fundación Arte, a Buenos Aires-based foundation, ARTnews reported.

Meanwhile, three editors of the Exhibitionist, a journal about curatorial practices that Hoffmann founded in 2009, have resigned.

Hoffmann’s attorney, Lance Gotko, told ARTnews in response to the allegations, “He can firmly say he has never subjected anyone at the museum to sexual harassment.”

Gotko said he has not heard from the Jewish Museum since the suspension and that he regretted that other institutions also cut ties with Hoffmann.

“He’s obviously very disappointed with the actions taken by those institutions,” the attorney said.

Most Jewish institutions resume operations after Skirball Fire

(JTA)—Most of the Jewish institutions that had been threatened by the so-called Skirball Fire in Los Angeles have resumed normal operations.

All evacuation orders, road closures and restrictions due to the fire in the Bel Air area were lifted Sunday afternoon, the Los Angeles Daily News reported. The fire remained at 85 percent containment on Tuesday following the calming of the Santa Ana winds beginning Sunday.

The Valley Beth Shalom Synagogue in Encino, California, which took in about 25 Torah scrolls from area synagogues and schools for safekeeping, announced Friday that it would resume normal operations. The same day, the Stephen Wise Temple was cleared to hold Shabbat services and brought its Torah scrolls back from Valley Beth Shalom in time for the services.

The Leo Baeck Temple announced Monday that while its buildings and grounds were not burned, they suffered significant smoke damage and the temple would not be able to reopen its facilities right away. Many of the Leo Baeck events were moved to Stephen Wise, which also invited the members of the smoke-damaged temple to join it for Shabbat services.

The Milken Community Schools reopened Monday for regular classes. The Los Angeles eruv remained undamaged by the fire and was available for Shabbat.

The Skirball Cultural Center reopened Friday and held a Chanukah festival two days later that was moved indoors due to air quality concerns.

The Skirball Fire broke out on Dec. 6, one of several wildfires blanketing the area. It destroyed six homes and damaged 12 others, and required the evacuation of about 700 homes as well as an apartment building. It damaged 475 acres.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Fire Department said the blaze was caused by an illegal cooking fire at an area encampment.


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