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

Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


February 2, 2018

Western Wall rabbi apologizes to female reporter for discriminatory treatment during Pence visit

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The rabbi of the Western Wall sent a letter of apology to the editor of the Israeli business daily Globes for the discriminatory treatment of one of its reporters during Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the site last week.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, writing to Globes editor-in-chief Naama Sikuler, said “I want to express my regret for the anguish suffered by your newspaper’s diplomatic correspondent,” Tal Schneider.

He also said he would “be very happy to set a meeting and visit to the Western Wall soon. The invitation is for you and whoever else you want to bring with you.”

Sikuler received the letter on Monday.

Schneider had threatened to file a lawsuit against Rabinovich over the segregation of female reporters and photographers from their male counterparts during Pence’s visit. On a podium erected for the journalists in the Western Wall plaza, the women were required to stand behind the men.

The women finally removed a tarp and stood on chairs so they could see over their male colleagues. The site had been closed to worshippers during the visit.

Following the incident, which was widely covered in the media, Globes sent a letter of protest to Rabinovich, requesting different arrangements for future events.

Rabinovitch sent copies of the letter to the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman; the director general of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, Solly Eliav; and the Western Wall media director, Yohanna Bisraor.

Globes also sent a letter to Friedman on the issue but has yet to receive a response.

During President Donald Trump’s visit in May, male and female journalists stood separately but had equal access.

while I am waiting for @globes to translate the article to E – let me update that my chief executive editor @naamasik received the following “sorrow for the aggravation from Kotel Chief Rabbi Rabinovitch

cc: @jacobkornbluh @JakeTurx @kampeas @reglash https://t.co/7dR6iKJkPB pic.twitter.com/4Yl5t8TgUt

Leonard Cohen and Carrie Fisher win posthumous Grammy Awards

(JTA)—After more than a dozen albums and a little more than a year after his death, singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen won his first Grammy.

Cohen posthumously won the award for best rock performance at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards in New York City.

The winning tune is the title track from his final album, “You Want It Darker,” which was released 19 days before his death in the fall of 2016. The song also happens to be one of Cohen’s most Jewish performances, including Hebrew phrases (“Hineni, hineni,” or “Here I am”) and chants from the choir of the Shaar Hashomayim synagogue in Montreal, Cohen’s hometown.

Cohen was not the only Jewish performer to earn a posthumous Grammy: Actress Carrie Fisher won best spoken word album for “The Princess Diarist,” the audiobook version of her memoir released just weeks before her sudden death at 60 in December 2016. Fisher portrayed Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” series.

There were other Jewish moments, too. Singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb won best children’s album for “Feel What U Feel,” her fourth record of children’s music, and Jewish composer Justin Hurwitz won best soundtrack for visual media for his work on the Oscar-winning film “La La Land.”

During the show, the Jewish actor and singer Ben Platt performed a touching tribute to 21-time Grammy winner Leonard Bernstein. Platt, who originated the role of the title character in the Broadway hit “Dear Evan Hansen,” performed “Somewhere” from Bernstein’s “West Side Story.” The album “Leonard Bernstein—The Composer,” won a Grammy for best historical album.

Blaze Bernstein’s alleged killer belonged to violent neo-Nazi group

(JTA)—The 20-year-old former classmate of Jewish college student Blaze Bernstein, charged in his murder, belonged to an extremist neo-Nazi group.

Samuel Woodward is an “avowed Nazi” and a member of Atomwaffen Division, an extremist neo-Nazi group, the ProPublica news website reported.

Woodward was charged with murder in a complaint filed earlier this month in Orange County Superior Court. He is being held in the county jail in lieu of a $2 million bail. The felony murder charge includes a sentence enhancement for using a knife. He will be arraigned on Friday and has not yet entered a plea.

Woodward was arrested after crime lab technicians determined that blood found on a sleeping bag in his possession belonged to Bernstein. The murder weapon reportedly has not been found.

It is believed that Bernstein was pursuing a romantic relationship with Woodward, and that Bernstein kissed Woodward in the hours before the murder, which Woodward rebuffed, the affidavit said. Bernstein had been visiting his parents’ home in Lake Forest while on winter break from the University of Pennsylvania. His body was discovered in a shallow grave in Borrego Park on Jan. 9, a week after he went missing from there.

ProPublica, a non-profit investigative news website, cited three people with “detailed knowledge” of Woodward’s recent past who said Woodward was a member of the Atomwaffen Division, an armed Fascist group with the ultimate aim of overthrowing the U.S. government through the use of terrorism and guerrilla warfare. Two of the sources are Woodward’s friends, the third is a former member of the group.

Atomwaffen started in 2015 and is estimated to have about 80 members scattered around the country in small cells.

Woodward joined the organization in early 2016 and later traveled to Texas to attend Atomwaffen meetings and a three-day training camp, which involved instruction in firearms, hand-to-hand combat, camping and survival skills, ProPublica reported citing the former member.

Social media posts and chats shared with ProPublica by Woodward’s friends show that he openly described himself as a “National Socialist” or Nazi. He “was as anti-Semitic as you can get,” one of the sources told ProPublica.

Atomwaffen was connected to a double homicide in December in Virginia when a 17-year-old boy allegedly shot and killed his girlfriend’s parents after they convinced her not to see him anymore calling him an “outspoken neo Nazi.”

The teen killed Buckley Kuhn-Fricker and Scott Fricker, and shot himself, but survived. He reportedly was an avid fan of Atomwaffen, the Huffington Post reported.

Pence’s Holocaust remembrance tweet angers some with ‘Christ imagery’

(JTA)—Vice President Mike Pence’s tweet to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day has angered some Jews who have accused him of using the terms of his evangelical Christian faith to honor the victims.

The tweet posted Saturday included a short video clip showing Pence and his wife, Karen, laying a memorial wreath in Yad Vashem’s Hall of Remembrance.

“A few days ago, Karen & I paid our respects at Yad Vashem to honor the 6 million Jewish martyrs of the Holocaust who 3 years after walking beneath the shadow of death, rose up from the ashes to resurrect themselves to reclaim a Jewish future,” the vice president’s tweet said.

A few days ago, Karen & I paid our respects at Yad Vashem to honor the 6 million Jewish martyrs of the Holocaust who 3 years after walking beneath the shadow of death, rose up from the ashes to resurrect themselves to reclaim a Jewish future. #HolocaustRemembranceDay #NeverAgain pic.twitter.com/67UuC1cYI2

Critics pointed to the use of the terms “martyrs” and “resurrect,” calling them “Christ imagery” and a “Jesus analogy.”

“Resurrect themselves”? Pence dishonors the memories of the 6 million by coopting them for the political agenda of his evangelical base,” Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe tweeted.

Journalist Matthew Yglesias, who is Jewish, tweeted, “I really thought last year’s thing where they left out the Jews was a Holocaust Remembrance Day low point but Pence has taken this to new places in an amazing way.”

Central to Christian theology is the belief that Jesus was resurrected three days after his martyrdom by the Romans. But Israeli leaders have also used “resurrection” and “martyr” imagery in their statements about the Holocaust, Haaretz pointed out. In 2017, speaking with Holocaust survivors, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to “the story of our people climbing back from the pit of death—this is our story of rebirth.”

Pence returned last week from a visit to Jordan, Egypt and Israel.

Israel and Poland to open ‘immediate dialogue’ over Polish death camps legislation

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel and Poland will open an “immediate dialogue” over legislation that would criminalize the use of the term “Polish death camps.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, spoke on Sunday evening by phone and “agreed that teams from the two countries would open an immediate dialogue in order to try to reach understandings regarding the legislation,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

The Israeli team will be headed by Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem, according to Haaretz.

Hours after the Prime Minister’s Office released its statement, Polish government spokeswoman Joanna Kopciska said in a tweet that it “was agreed that there will be a dialogue between the teams of both countries. However the conversation will not concern sovereign decisions of the Polish parliament.”

The legislation passed on Friday by the Polish parliament’s lower house, or Sejm, now will be taken up by the Senate. It must also be approved by the president. It is designed to make it clear that Nazi Germany is responsible for the crimes against humanity that took place in the camps.

On Sunday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry summoned Poland’s deputy ambassador for a “clarification discussion” about the Polish legislation. Ministry officials expressed Israel’s opposition to the bill at the meeting.

Netanyahu on Sunday said that Israel’s ambassador in Warsaw spoke with the Polish prime minister about the legislation on Saturday night during a memorial ceremony at Auschwitz.

Also Sunday, Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, said in a statement that he would carefully review the legislation.

“Everyone whose personal memory or historical research speaks the truth about the crimes and shameful behavior that occurred in the past with the participation of Poles has full right to this truth,” he said.

Several Israeli lawmakers and Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial came out against the legislation.

The legislation calls for prison sentences of up to three years. It contains a provision excluding scholarly or academic works.

Netanyahu, Putin to discuss Iran after Moscow Holocaust commemoration event

MOSCOW (JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made firm statements about Iran before leaving for Russia to discuss the Islamic Republic with one of its key allies, President Vladimir Putin.

In Russia, Netanyahu said in a statement published Monday morning that he will discuss with Putin “Iran’s effort to turn Lebanon into one giant missile site, a site for precision missiles against the State of Israel, which we will not tolerate.”

Netanyahu, who has traveled to Russia to meet with Putin six times in the past two years, said he and Putin “meet periodically in order to ensure the military coordination between the Israel Defense Forces and the Russian forces in Syria; as of today this has succeeded and it is important that it continue to succeed.”

Also on the agenda, Netanyahu said, is “Iran’s relentless efforts to establish a military presence in Syria, which we strongly oppose and are also taking action against.”

Russia is a military ally of Bashar Assad, Syria’s president, and of the Iranian regime, with which it conducts major arms deals. Russia is also an important trading partner of Israel and maintains good relations with the Jewish state.

In Moscow, Netanyahu is scheduled to visit the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center with Putin. The museum is hosting an event in memory of the Sobibor Uprising ahead of its 75th anniversary.

Last month, Netanyahu in a speech drew parallels between Nazi Germany and Iran.

Noting “some important differences” between the two entities, Netanyahu said that “both regimes do have two important things in common. One, a ruthless commitment to impose tyranny and terror. And second, a ruthless commitment to murder Jews.”

One of the most famous acts of resistance by Jews against the Nazis during the Holocaust, the Sobibor Uprising was launched after the arrival to the death camp in northeastern Poland of several Red Army veterans with combat experience. The prisoners killed 11 SS officers and freed 300 inmates, though only a few dozen escaped without being caught immediately after the uprising.

Descendants of survivors from Sobibor, Red Army veterans and Russian Jewish leaders are expected to attend the event at the Jewish museum, an award-winning institution that was established in 2012.

NJ man gets transplant after photo of ‘In Need of Kidney’ T-shirt goes viral

(JTA)—A New Jersey man who sought a kidney by wearing a T-shirt at Disney World with the request and his cell phone number received a donation from a stranger.

He wore a T-shirt every day during a week-long vacation at Disney World last summer that read: “In Need of Kidney. O Positive,” which also provided his cell phone number.

A woman took a photograph of Leibowitz’s shirt and posted it on Facebook, where it reportedly went viral.

Leibowitz, who had been on a list for a donor kidney for four years and was told that there would be a seven- to 10-year wait, said the Facebook photo lead to calls, voicemails and text messages from dozens of strangers.

“I got my doubts sometimes about humanity, but the fact that I got so many calls, it brought tears to my eyes,” he told the Associated Press.

Four potential donors came to New York for additional testing, which led to one match, which was a perfect match.

Richie Sully of Indiana told the New York Daily News the day after his donor surgery on Thursday that what he did “is really not a big deal,” and that he would do it again if he could. He has visited Leibowitz every day since he was discharged on Friday, according to People magazine. Leibowitz is scheduled to be discharged on Monday.

“I just saw a father that wanted to spend more time with his kids,” Sully told the AP. He said the voicemail he left after seeing Leibowitz’s T-shirt was “Hi, my name is Richie. I saw your post and I’m O positive. I have an extra kidney and you are more than welcome to it.”

The two men became fast friends on Sully’s several visits to New York ahead of the surgery. The men and their families plan to visit Disney World together after Leibowitz is fully healed.

Ex-London mayor Ken Livingstone on Iran TV repeats claim that Hitler backed Zionism

(JTA)—Former London mayor Ken Livingstone, appearing on Iranian state television to discuss the topic “Has the Holocaust been exploited to oppress others?,” repeated his claim that Hitler worked with the Zionist movement to convince Jews to move to Israel.

Livingstone appeared on the Press TV show on Saturday, which was observed as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The show, which was aired on Press TV’s YouTube channel, invited callers to offer their opinions. Several repeated anti-Semitic rhetoric and praised Hitler. One caller asserted that Hitler was “fantastic” for Israel, since “If it wasn’t for Hitler, there would be no Israel.”

At the same time, host Roshan Muhammed Salih talked about how the Holocaust has become an “industry.” He also said, “I don’t know if 6 million died or 4 million or 2 million died … no point arguing over figures is there Ken?” Livingstone responded that there is “no credible alternative” to the 6 million figure.

Livingstone, 71, was suspended for a year from Britain’s Labour Party in April for an April 2016 interview with BBC radio in which he said, “Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism.”

CST condemns Ken Livingstone appearing on Iranian Press TV’s sick #HMD2018 programme, disgusting tone epitomised by presenter, “I don’t know if 6 million died or four million or two million died... no point arguing over figures is there Ken?” (Ken, “no credible alternative” to 6).

In UN debate over 1994 genocide, Israel backs Rwanda despite US objections

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel supported a U.N. resolution, opposed by the United States and the European Union, that changes the name of the international remembrance day for the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

The April 7 remembrance day, previously known as the Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda, will focus solely on the murder of some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis by members of the Hutu-majority government. The amendment was approved on Friday in the General Assembly by consensus. It will be known now as the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

Rwanda’s ambassador to the United Nations, Valentine Rugwabiza, told the General Assembly that the new name clarifies that the genocide was carried out “against the Tutsi.” But the United States and the EU objected that, in the words of Kelley Currie, the U.S. representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, the new name “does not fully capture the magnitude of the genocide and of the violence committed against other groups.”

In addition to the Tutsis slaughtered, another 50,000 or more Hutu who tried to help the Tutsi also were killed during the massacres that year in a 100-day period from April to July.

Israel was the only Western-allied country to co-sponsor the resolution. The United States expressed its objections but did not intervene.

Israeli reporter Barak Ravid, citing unnamed senior officials in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, reported that Israel supported the resolution over U.S. objections as part of an understanding with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, whose cooperation Jerusalem is seeking in deporting African asylum seekers from Israel to Rwanda. Kagame, a Tutsi, fought in the rebellion against the Hutu government that precipitated the massacres.

Kagame and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Thursday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and discussed a range of issues, including expanding cooperation between Israel and Rwanda, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Regarding the migrant issue, Netanyahu “agreed with President Kagame, who made clear that he would only accept a process that fully complies with international law,” the statement said.

Israel’s support of the resolution, which downplays the number of Hutu deaths in the Rwandan massacre, comes as Israel has raised objections to legislation in Poland making it illegal to refer to “Polish death camps.” Israeli government officials, while agreeing that the death camps in Poland were created and run by the Nazis, have warned that the law could lead to “whitewashing” the history of the Holocaust and the complicity of some Poles in the genocide against Jews.

Israeli interior minister says a third country has agreed to take African migrants

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s interior minister told a Knesset committee that there is a third country that has agreed to take African migrants who will be expelled from Israel.

On Monday, Aryeh Deri told the Internal Affairs and Environmental Protection Committee that there was “unequivocal assent with a third country over forced expulsion,” though he did not name the country, Ynet reported.

It is widely believed to be Rwanda or Uganda, despite denials by those governments.

“I take responsibility for saying this, despite the news from the last few days, that everything is being done with full agreement of the third-party country, which knows everything to the last detail,” Deri said.

The committee meeting was called to discuss the public outcry against the plan to deport thousands of African migrants who entered the country illegally, according to Ynet.

Israeli rabbis, doctors, pilots and Holocaust survivors have come out against the deportations.

Deri said his office will draw a distinction between Africans who came to Israel seeking work and refugees who came from war zones seeking sanctuary. He said anyone who submitted requests for asylum by Dec. 31, 2017, and whose request has not yet been processed, will not be deported, including mothers, children and families.

Most young African migrants who did not arrive with children did not submit requests for asylum, Deri said. Israel has begun to deport them to a third country.

A total of 14,700 asylum requests were submitted in 2017, Deri told the committee—7,700 from Ukrainians, 906 from Sudanese and the rest from other countries.

Several lawmakers were ejected from the committee meeting as the debate on the expulsions became heated. As she was being ejected, Tamar Zandberg of the liberal Meretz party shouted at members of the right-wing Likud, “You’re friends with Nazis.”

Later she told reporters, “I stand by my assertion that the ruling party’s ties to anti-Semitic and Nazi parties in Europe are a disgrace to the State of Israel and to its government.”

Israel’s Cabinet earlier this month approved a plan and the budget to deport thousands of migrants from Sudan and Eritrea.

Prior to that, the Population and Immigration Authority notified migrants from Sudan and Eritrea that as of Jan. 1, they must return to their own countries or to a third nation or be sent to Holot Prison until they are deported. According to the government plan, migrants who choose to leave by March 31 will receive a payment of $3,500 as well as free airfare and other incentives, according to reports.


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