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

Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


February 9, 2018

Republican Party in Illinois rejects Holocaust denier nominee for Congress

(JTA)—A Holocaust denier, anti-Semite and white supremacist is about to become the Republican nominee for an Illinois congressional seat.

Arthur Jones, a perennial candidate since the 1990s for the 3rd Congressional District representing parts of Chicago and its southwestern suburbs, in a political fluke is the only Republican candidate on the ballot, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Sunday. The primary will be held on March 20.

Jones, 70, is a retired insurance salesman. His website for this congressional run, Art Jones for Congressman, says by way of introduction: “I am not now, nor have I ever been a follower of any political party, though I am a registered Republican.”

A section of the site headed “Holocaust?” says that “The idea that ‘Six Million Jews’ were killed by the Nationalist Socialist government of Germany in World War II is the biggest blackest lie in history.” It also calls the Holocaust a “racket” designed to “bleed, blackmail, extort and terrorize the enemies of organized world Jewry into silence or submissiveness to Zionism and communism – both movements founded, financed and led by Jews. “

Jones is a former leader of the American Nazi Party and now heads a group called the America First Committee, which he told the Sun-Times is “open to any white American citizen of European, non-Jewish descent.”

Tim Schneider, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, said in a statement to the Sun-Times: “The Illinois Republican Party and our country have no place for Nazis like Arthur Jones. We strongly oppose his racist views and his candidacy for any public office, including the 3rd Congressional District.”

In 2016, Jones was removed from the district’s GOP ballot in legal actions engineered by the Illinois Republican Party, which determined that his nominating petitions had too many faulty signatures, according to the Sun-Times. This time, Jones was more careful to have valid signatures and could not be thrown off the ballot.

The district is one of the most heavily Democratic in the state, and Jones will most likely be defeated in the November race. The Republican Party does not invest heavily in fielding a candidate for the district since he or she likely will lose, which is how Jones came to be the only candidate.

Jones said last spring in a speech to a National Socialist Movement gathering that he was sorry he voted for President Donald Trump, who has “surrounded himself with hordes of Jews,” including his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner, the Sun-Times reported, citing a YouTube recording of the speech.

Blaze Bernstein’s high school classmate pleads not guilty to murder

(JTA)—A former high school classmate of Blaze Bernstein, 19, the Jewish college student found dead in a park near his parents’ Southern California home, pleaded not guilty to murder charges.

Samuel Woodward, 20, of Newport Beach, California, was ordered held on $5 million bail, after he issued his plea on Friday in Orange County Superior Court. It was raised from $2 million after the judge determined that the teen was a flight risk. If he makes bail he will be under several restrictions, including GPS monitoring, a curfew and a protective order for the Bernstein family.

He will return to court on March 2, according to reports.

Woodward was charged last month with murder. The felony murder charge included a sentence enhancement for using a knife.

The Orange County Register, citing a search warrant affidavit obtained by the newspaper, reported that Bernstein had been stabbed more than 20 times, leading authorities to investigate whether the teen was killed in an act of rage. Bernstein was gay and is believed to have been pursuing a romantic relationship with Woodward.

Woodward was arrested after crime lab technicians determined that blood found on a sleeping bag in his possession belonged to Bernstein, the Register reported. The murder weapon reportedly has not been found. Woodward could face a maximum sentence of 26 years to life in state prison.

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

There was no evidence that the two were friends at the Orange County School of the Arts, where they attended high school.

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. Hundreds attended a candlelight vigil in his memory after the discovery was announced.

The family announced on a website established in Blazes’ memory that it will hold later this month “#BlazeItForward: A Tribute to Blaze Bernstein and a Communal Call for Kindness.” The event scheduled for Feb. 25 in Costa Mesa, California, will include recognition of police and volunteers who helped in the search for the teen; and readings of selected writings by Blaze.

Blaze’s mother Jeanne Pepper wrote in a first-person article last week that in the face of Blaze’s murder, she and her husband “realized that we had an opportunity to set an example for people everywhere. To show them how even in the face of tragedy and loss, there is something better to concentrate on rather than bitterness, revenge, self-pity, and regret. We wanted people to embrace love, tolerance, and kindness; to do good. Our goal was to repair our broken world one child at time, one kind act at a time, one day at time. For us specifically, we decided to use the platform we were given as Blaze’s parents to fulfill his destiny to make the world a better place.”

Janet Yellen: I would have liked to serve another term as head of Federal Reserve

(JTA)—Janet Yellen said she was disappointed that President Donald Trump did not keep her on for a second term as Federal Reserve chairwoman.

“I would have liked to serve an additional term and I did make that clear, so I will say I was disappointed not to be reappointed,” Yellen told “PBS NewsHour” on Friday.

Yellen officially ended her four-year term on Saturday. She had submitted her resignation from the board of governors of the Federal Reserve in November after Trump, in a break with tradition, did not reappoint her. Trump instead nominated current Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell to take over as head of the central bank.

Yellen, 71, could have chosen to remain a governor, since she was appointed to the board by President Barack Obama for an unexpired term ending in 2024. However, The Wall Street Journal reported that she chose to leave for a position at a fiscal think tank. Starting Monday, Yellen will become a distinguished fellow in residence in economic studies at the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution.

Ben Bernanke, Yellen’s predecessor, also is a fellow at the Washington, D.C., center.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump alleged that Yellen kept interest rates low for political reasons to benefit Obama.

Yellen was the first woman and the fourth Jew to serve as Fed chair. She and her husband, George Akerlof, a 2001 Nobel economics laureate, were active in the Bay Area Jewish community when Akerlof taught at the University of California, Berkeley.

Israel begins distributing deportation notices to African migrants

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel began the process of serving deportation notices to African refugees from Eritrea and Sudan.

The notices started being distributed on Sunday, according to reports.

The first notices will be issued to single men without children, a total of about 20,000 men. The men, who have to renew their residence visas every two months, are receiving the deportation notices with their visa renewal. They have been threatened with indefinite incarceration if they do not leave.

Israel’s Cabinet last 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 jail 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.

For now, deportation notices will not be issued to women, children, fathers of children, anyone recognized as a victim of slavery or human trafficking, and those who had requested asylum by the end of 2017 but haven’t gotten a response, Haaretz reported.

There currently are up to 40,000 Eritreans and Sudanese living in Israel, including 5,000 children.

Human rights activists in Israel and major U.S. Jewish organizations have urged the government not to go ahead with the plan to force the migrants to choose between jail and deportation.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reportedly told government ministers from his party that Jewish billionaire George Soros is funding a protest campaign against Israel’s deportation plan.

“George Soros is also funding the protests. Obama deported two million infiltrators and they didn’t say anything,” Haaretz reported.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban last year ran a government campaign against Soros, accusing him of lobbying to settle millions of migrants in Hungary and other European countries.

Israel woos Walmart with a promise of eased ‘regulatory burdens’

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel appears to be wooing Walmart.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to senior Walmart Inc. executive John Furner at a meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum last month in Davos, Switzerland, Bloomberg reported, citing Netanyahu’s economic adviser Avi Simhon.

Netanyahu and Furner reportedly discussed the idea of Walmart opening a retail branch in Israel and also of the company investing in Israeli technologies, Simhon told Bloomberg.

Simhon, who was present at the meeting, said Netanyahu offered to “ease regulatory burdens wherever possible to make the market more accessible to them.”

In November, reports surfaced that Amazon was in talks to lease at least 270,000 square feet of warehouses to set up a retail shipping center in Israel, and also had plans to launch a targeted website for Israeli consumers.

Otto Warmbier’s father will attend Olympics opening with Vice President Mike Pence

(JTA)—The father of Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student imprisoned by North Korea who died after being sent back comatose to the United States, will attend the Winter Olympics opening ceremonies in South Korea as a guest of Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence will lead the U.S. delegation at the ceremonies on Friday in Pyeongchang following his five-day trip to Japan and South Korea. The Washington Post first reported that Warmbier will accompany the vice president at the Olympics.

The vice president’s trip is part of a U.S. pressure campaign on North Korea against its nuclear ambitions, according to the newspaper.

Warmbier, 22, a Cincinnati native, was traveling on a student tour of North Korea in early 2016 when he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a propaganda poster. After international outrage and over a year of imprisonment, North Korea released Warmbier in June, saying his health had deteriorated after a bout of botulism. Warmbier’s doctors said he suffered extensive brain damage. He died on June 19, 2017, in Cincinnati.

The family had hidden Warmbier’s Jewishness during negotiations for his return. Warmbier, whose mother is Jewish, became active at the University of Virginia campus Hillel following a 2014 Birthright trip to Israel.

Fred and Cindy Warmbier attended President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last week as guests of the president and first lady Melania Trump, where they received a standing ovation during the speech

Palestinian stabs Israeli father of 4 to death in West Bank

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Israeli father of four was fatally stabbed in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

Israeli security forces are searching the area for the Palestinian assailant in the Monday afternoon attack, the Israel Defense Forces spokesman said. An IDF officer who identified the attacker began to pursue him in his vehicle and hit him, but the attacker still was able to flee, according to the IDF.

The attacker’s backpack was found on the scene containing a change of clothes and his identification card, as well as personal items. Hebrew-language media later reported that the attacker, Ais Abed El-Hakim, 19, is an Israeli citizen and resident of Jaffa, the son of an Israeli mother from Haifa and a Palestinian father from Nablus.

The victim, identified as Rabbi Itamar Ben Gal, 29, from the nearby settlement of Har Bracha, was stabbed multiple times on his upper body at a bus stop near the entrance to Ariel. Paramedics worked to resuscitate him on the way to a hospital in central Israel, where he was pronounced dead.

The mayor of Ariel, Eli Shaviro, called on the  Israeli government to impose  sovereignty over Jewish settlements in the West Bank, calling it the “answer to Palestinian terrorism.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, calls on the Security Council to “unequivocally condemn” the attack. “Instead of inviting Mahmoud Abbas to address the Security Council to disseminate lies and hate, the Council should unequivocally condemn this attack and demand that he stop paying stipends to terrorists,” he said in a statement. Abbas, the president of the Paslestinian Authority, is scheduled to deliver a speech to the council later this month, addressing the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Hamas reportedly praised the deadly stabbing attack, calling it “proof that the al-Quds intifada continues.”

Colombia extradites Israeli for drug and human trafficking

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA)—An Israeli citizen accused of belonging to an international crime organization was captured and extradited from Colombia.

Binyamin Cohen, 35, was extradited on Sunday and will face trial in Israel on drug trafficking charges. He had been arrested in Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city, on crimes including arms trafficking, car robbery, home burglary, human trafficking and smuggling cocaine from the South American country to the Jewish state, the local news website El Caracol reported.

In 2013, Cohen was sentenced to 392 days in prison for attempted homicide but he reportedly did not serve the term.

In November, another Israeli was expelled from Colombia accused of running illegal sex tourism. Assi Ben-Mosh, 43, allegedly led a network that offered trips with drugs and underage prostitutes. He is banned from returning to Colombia for 10 years.

Colombia is home to some 3,500 Jews in a population of about 49 million.

Sam Bloch, a leader of the Holocaust survivor community, dies at 94

(JTA)—Sam Bloch, a Holocaust survivor who committed much of his life to ensuring that the murder of millions of Jews would not be denied and the lives they led would not be forgotten, has died.

Bloch, who was an executive of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency for 50 years, died Sunday. He was 94.

He was one of the principal organizers of historic survivor gatherings in Jerusalem, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York. The New York Times published a lengthy article about Bloch and his family in 1981 as they prepared to attend the World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors in Jerusalem.

”Memory strengthens our humanity, makes us better persons to one another, to our children,” Bloch told The Times. “Maybe we don’t smile or laugh as others do, but we cherish our lives; they were so hard won.”

Bloch was a founder of Beit Hatfutsot: The Museum of the Jewish People (then known as the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora) and served as chairman of the American Friends of Beit Hatfutsot and a member of its Board of Governors. For many years he was also a member of the board of directors of the American Section of the World Jewish Congress.

In addition, Bloch was a founding member of the International Society for Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust remembrance authority, and a founder of the American Friends of the IDF.

Bloch was born in Ivie, Poland, in what today is Belarus. He attended high school in Vilna, and was home on a school break when World War II broke out, according to information provided by his family. His father was murdered by the Einsatzgruppen Nazi mobile killing unit, and Bloch, his mother and brother escaped from the Jewish ghetto and hid first with Christian farmers and then in the woods. They later joined the Bielski partisan brigade and were able to survive the war.

He was the youngest leader of the Jewish Committee that governed the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp, the largest Jewish DP camp in Germany and a major center for the rehabilitation of 50,000 survivors of the Holocaust, as well as the flight and rescue operations in Europe that brought survivors to then-Palestine.

He met and married his wife of 69 years, Lilly Czaban, in the DP camp, from where they immigrated to the United States.

Bloch served as president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants; president of the World Federation of Bergen-Belsen Survivors Associations; chairman of the Advisory Council of the Foundation for World War II Memorial Sites in Lower Saxony, Germany, and served as a member of its board.

In 1981, Elie Wiesel, then-chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, appointed him as chairman of the council’s Board of Advisers as well as a member of its Development, Days of Remembrance, and Content committees.

Bloch was appointed by then-New York Mayor Ed Koch to the commission that created the Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. As chair of the Jewish section of the Swiss Humanitarian Fund, he assisted in distributing $180 million to needy survivors. He continued to serve on the board of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany until his death.

He published 30 volumes of Holocaust memoirs, history and poetry, in English, Hebrew and Yiddish editions, as editor of the Bergen-Belsen Memorial Press, and edited numerous significant documentary volumes.

“Sam was a giant, one of the last of what was truly the ‘Greatest Generation’ who emerged from the devastation of the Shoah not with bitterness and hatred, but with a determination to create new families, and rebuild Jewish life, all the while devoting his energies to perpetuating Holocaust memory and strengthening Jewish identity,” said Menachem Rosensaft, Bloch’s son-in-law, who himself was born in the Bergen-Belsen DP camp and was the founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. “He was a lifelong Zionist who dedicated himself to the unity of the Jewish people with the State of Israel at its core.”

He is survived by his wife, two daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren.


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