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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Trump says he may attend Jerusalem embassy opening

WASHINGTON (JTA)—President Donald Trump said he may be present in Jerusalem when the U.S. Embassy opens in May.

“We’re looking at coming,” Trump said Monday in opening his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, D.C. “If I can, I will”

Trump said last month that the embassy move from Tel Aviv would take place in May, timed with Israel’s 70th anniversary, following his recognition in December that Jerusalem is the capital. He is also planning to build a new embassy in Jerusalem, which could take up to nine years. In the meantime, the embassy will be housed in a consular building.

“This will be remembered by our people through the ages,” Netanyahu said. “Others talked about it. You did it.”

The two leaders met in the Oval Office in a closed-door session said to have been scheduled to coincide with Netanyahu’s visit here this week for the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. A photograph of the visit showed Trump and Netanyahu flanked by their wives, Melania Trump and Sara Netanyahu.

Netanyahu was effusive in his opening remarks.

“I’ve been here for nearly four decades with, talking, seeking to build the American-Israel alliance. Under your leadership, it’s never been stronger,” he said to Trump. “And the people of Israel see your position on Jerusalem. They see your position on Iran. They see your magnificent defense of Israel and the truth in the United Nations.”

Netanyahu and Trump were to discuss a range of issues, White House spokesman Josh Raffel said.

“The President and the Prime Minister share a great relationship and make an effort to meet whenever the opportunity arises,” Raffel said in an email ahead of the meeting. “The Prime Minister will be in Washington for AIPAC and the two leaders look forward to discussing a variety of issues, including the Iran nuclear deal, the Syrian Civil War, efforts to thwart Iran’s attempt to establish a permanent presence in Syria from which to threaten Israel, and the Administration’s ongoing peace efforts.”

Father of Parkland victim calls students’ efforts against assault rifles misdirected

(JTA)—The father of a teenager killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, said the students’ gun control efforts are misdirected.

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was slain in the Feb. 14 attack, told CNN’s “New Day” on Monday that now may not be the time for the students to work toward a ban on assault weapons.

“I want them to focus their energy on something that is achievable right now,” Pollack said.

“Be productive in the country. Work with us. Let’s make these schools safe and once every school is safe in America, do what you have to with the gun laws.”

Pollack appeared on CNN to support a Florida Senate bill to raise the age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21, and also provide funding for armed school resource officers and for mental health services. Over the weekend, the state Senate rejected a ban on assault weapons.

The teen leaders tweeted their anger over the rejection of the ban on AR-15 rifles, the weapon used in the attack on their school.

“I understand their pain, the children,” Pollack said. “My kid was murdered in that school, so there’s no one that could feel the way I do.”

Pollack gained notice in the days after the shooting by attending what was billed as a listening session at the White House with President Donald Trump.

“How many schools, how many children have to get shot?” he asked Trump. “It stops here, with this administration and me.”

Former Netanyahu media adviser turns state’s witness in corruption investigation

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A former media adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu and his family has turned state’s witness in a corruption investigation, which could strengthen the case against the prime minister.

Nir Hefetz signed the state’s witness agreement on Sunday night, the Israel Police said in a statement Monday afternoon. Hefetz was released from police detention on Sunday after two weeks in jail. He will remain under house arrest until March 13.

Hefetz is a suspect in the investigation dubbed Case 4000, or the Bezeq corruption probe, according to reports. Both Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, were questioned separately in relation to the case, each for about five hours on Friday.

Shlomo Filber, the suspended director general of the Ministry of Communications, turned state’s witness last month in the same investigation. In exchange for a lighter sentence, Filber agreed to provide police with information about Netanyahu’s part in the case, which alleges that Shaul Elovitch, the majority shareholder of Bezeq, received political favors for the Israeli telecommunications giant in return for favorable coverage of Netanyahu on the Walla! news website owned by the company.

Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in the case and others against him.

Last month, the Israel Police recommended that Netanyahu be indicted on bribery and breach of trust charges in two other corruption cases. State prosecutors must decide whether or not to file indictments.

Netanyahu currently is in the United States, where he is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump and address the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C.

Actress Amber Tamblyn says ‘Hasidic man’ tried to run her over

(JTA)—Actress Amber Tamblyn claims a “Hasidic man” tried to run her and her baby over in Brooklyn.

The accusation, made in a tweet asking if there were any witnesses to Sunday’s incident, led to some angry responses against Tamblyn and condemnations of the Hasidic community.

“If anyone in Brooklyn near the intersection of Washington Ave and Atlantic Ave just saw a Hasidic man in a grey van try to hit a woman and her baby in a stroller as she crossed a crosswalk, honking and touching the stroller with the car’s bumper, please DM me. That woman was me,” Tamblyn, who was unhurt, tweeted Sunday morning.

Tamblyn described herself as “shaken” but “okay” after the incident, in response to followers who asked how she was doing.

Some Twitter followers accused her of being anti-Semitic and stereotyping Hasidic Jews.“What kind of anti-semitic BS is this?” tweeted Mordechai Lightstone, the social media manager for Chabad.org. “It’s awful for any pedestrian, let alone a mother, to be threatened by an aggressive driver … But bad drivers are bad drivers. I’m sorry but this is an incredibly troubling generalization.”

Others criticized the Hasidic community.

“They really don’t follow our laws or really care. It’s scary,” one of Tamblyn’s followers wrote.

Tamblyn responded to the criticism of her tweets as being anti-Semitic by pointing out that she is married to a Jewish man, comedian David Cross.

Tamblyn starred in “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and “127 Hours,” and had a recurring role in the CBS sitcom “Two and a Half Men.” Her father, dancer and actor Russ Tamblyn, starred in “West Side Story” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”

Guatemala will move its Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem in May

WASHINGTON, D.C. (JTA)—President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala said his country will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in May.

Speaking at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C., Morales said Guatemala will make the move on May 16, two days after the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence, when the United States will also move its embassy from Tel Aviv. The United States and Guatemala recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December.

“In May of this year, we will celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary, and under my instruction, two days after the United States, Guatemala will move its embassy permanently to Jerusalem,” Morales said to raucous applause. “We are sure that many other countries will follow in our footsteps.”

President Donald Trump’s decision last year to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital departed from decades of U.S. policy. At the AIPAC conference, cheers have greeted every mention of the recognition. The embassies of most countries are located in Tel Aviv.

Morales noted that Guatemala was among the first nations to recognize Israel after it declared independence in 1948, and was the first country to establish an embassy in Jerusalem in 1959, before subsequently moving it. He said Israel and Guatemala share common goals, from fighting terrorism to combating the spread of drugs and protecting human rights.

Guatemala “maintains the highest level of political dialogue with Israel, and has a very strong relationship,” Morales said. “This is why we must stand together and support each other.”

The AIPAC conference that opened Sunday also featured a speech by the chairman of Israel’s Labor Party, Avi Gabbay. Vice President Mike Pence will address the conference on Monday night, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak on Tuesday morning.

Former Trump Jewish aide Sam Nunberg says he won’t appear before grand jury on Russia investigation

(JTA)—Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg said he will ignore a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Nunberg, who was fired by the Trump campaign in the summer of 2015 over racist Facebook posts, told The Washington Post on Monday that he was asked to appear Friday before the grand jury. According to the newspaper, he also sent an email list from the office of special counsel Robert Mueller requesting his appearance.

The subpoena seeks correspondence and “records of any kind” related to President Donald Trump and nine others, notably two former top advisers to Trump, Steve Bannon and Roger Stone.

Nunberg said he would provide neither testimony nor documents.

“Let him arrest me,” Nunberg told The Washington Post in an interview. “Mr. Mueller should understand I am not going in on Friday.”

He added: “The Russians and Trump did not collude. Putin is too smart to collude with Donald Trump.”

It is not known what actions Mueller would take if Nunberg, who is Jewish, follows through on his vow not to appear.

“Donald Trump won this election on his own,” Nunberg told The Post. “He campaigned his ass off. And there is nobody who hates him more than me.”

Later Monday, Nunberg in an interview on MSNBC again said he would not appear before the grand jury. He also suggested that Mueller may have evidence against Trump.

“I think they may,” Nunberg said, according to The Washington Post. “I think that he may have done something during the election.”

In response, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters, “There was no collusion with the Trump campaign.”

Nunberg was a consultant to the Trump campaign before he was dismissed for his racist and incendiary posts, which included calling the daughter of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s daughter “N—!” The posts had been made in 2007, before he went to work for Trump.

In a 2017 interview with Newsmax, Nunberg said his grandfather Simon survived Auschwitz but that the rest of Simon’s family, including his parents, were murdered. Asked where he might move if he had to live in another country, Nunberg replied, “Easy question—the Jewish State of Israel.”

Florida public school investigating teacher who reportedly hosted white supremacist podcast

(JTA)—A Florida public school has launched an investigation into a teacher who reportedly hosted a white supremacist podcast and shared anti-Semitic and Islamophobic content on social media.

Dayanna Volitich, a teacher at Crystal River Middle School in the western part of the state, has been removed from her classroom as the Citrus County School District looks into the podcast she hosted under a pseudonym.

The probe started Friday, after HuffPost reported that using the name Tiana Dalichov, the teacher bragged about secretly injecting her beliefs into the classroom. She reportedly bashed diversity, said Muslims should be eradicated “from the face of the Earth” and praised the work of Kevin MacDonald, a retired psychology professor who holds anti-Semitic views. MacDonald has said Jews are genetically programmed to destroy Western societies, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The district said Volitich would not be teaching until its investigation was complete, HuffPost reported.

Volitich denied subscribing to racist views and said in a Sunday statement to WFLA News Channel 8 that her podcast was satire.

“None of the statements released about my being a white nationalist or white supremacist have any truth to them, nor are my political beliefs injected into my teaching of social studies curriculum,” Volitich said in the statement. “While operating under the Russian pseudonym ‘Tiana Dalichov’ on social media and the Unapologetic Podcast, I employed political satire and exaggeration, mainly to the end of attracting listeners and followers, and generating conversation about the content discussed between myself and my guests.”

Brooklyn residents demonstrate against matzah factory

(JTA)—The residents of a Brooklyn neighborhood demonstrated against the smoke coming from a local matzah factory.

Dozens of members of the South 5th Street Block Association in Williamsburg protested Sunday against the Congregation Satmar’s factory.

The residents told WPIX-TV that the factory spews what they described as toxic coal smoke, which is so bad in the early morning that some residents say they have to wear masks in order to get to the subway. They added that they have been complaining to the city for seven years to no avail.

The factory burns coal and wood during the baking of the matzah.

One neighborhood resident, Rosa Ortiz, told WPIX that the smoke is irritating her 9-year-old child’s asthma. She said the smoke wakes them up in the middle of the night.

Factory officials refused to speak with WPIX reporters.

A year ago, the bakery was heavily damaged in a fire caused by a new wood-burning oven that had been used for the first time

Its specialty is handmade shmura matzah, the artisanal, disc-shaped type considered extra special because the ingredients are “guarded” against leavening before the wheat is harvested.

George W. Bush to attend launch of Jewish Agency institute in NY

(JTA)—The Jewish Agency is launching an institute in New York to prepare Israeli emissaries for their service.

The Shlichut Institute, which will be launched Wednesday, will provide the emissaries, or shlichim, with training, tools and technology before they serve, as well during and after.

Natan Sharansky, the outgoing chairman of the Jewish Agency, will serve as the founding chair of the institute. The launch will be part of a special event in New York celebrating the end of Sharansky’s nine-year tenure as chairman of the Executive Committee.

President George W Bush will be among those on hand for the launch, along with 43 emissaries working in North American communities.

Some 2,000 Israelis currently serve in the Jewish Agency’s shlichut program, living in countries around the world and working as camp counselors, representatives on college and university campuses, or staff in Jewish schools and community organizations. The emissaries connect Jews around the world to Israel, including promoting aliyah. They return with insights into Jewish life outside of Israel, as well.

The Shlichut Institute will create an online community in which emissaries are always connected and training no matter where they live.

“On the one hand, it is essential for Jews around the world to get to know Israelis to strengthen their connection to Israel. And on the other, there is no better way to strengthen the Jewish identities of Israelis than by encountering world Jewry,” Sharansky said in a statement. “Shlichim go to Jewish communities around the globe and represent Israeli society. But when they come back to Israel, they are unique ambassadors for Diaspora Jewry in Israel.”

Russian-Jewish billionaire Roman Abramovich donates $20 million to fund nuclear medicine research

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Russian-Jewish billionaire businessman Roman Abramovich donated $20 million to fund a research center for nuclear medicine at an Israeli hospital.

Abramovich, who owns Britain’s Chelsea soccer club, made the donation to Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, located near Tel Aviv to fund the cutting-edge research center.

Nuclear medicine can be used for the diagnosis and treatment of a range of diseases including heart disease, cancers, strokes and Alzheimer’s.

Sheba has submitted its permit application to build a new 21,500-square-foot, three-floor, diagnostic and research center for nuclear medicine and molecular imaging.

The entire basement floor will be dedicated to housing a cyclotron, a special nuclear reactor, which will produce small quantities of nuclear isotopes for use in molecular imaging, the medical center said in its announcement.

Abramovich has donated a total of $57 million to projects at Sheba, including to the Sheba Cancer and Cancer Research Centers, the Pediatric Middle East Congenital Heart Center and the Sheba Heart Center.

In 2017, Forbes estimated Abramovich’s net worth at $9.1 billion, making him the 139th richest person in the world. He is Russia’s 12th richest person.

Jewish mayor of Oakland defends decision to tip off community to immigration raid

(JTA)—The Jewish mayor of Oakland defended her decision to warn the community in advance of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid in Northern California.

Mayor Libby Schaaf said Friday that she felt it was her duty to warn local residents of the impending raid, which ended two days earlier. Schaaf posted the warning on Twitter the previous weekend.

The tipoff allowed some 800 illegal immigrants to escape arrest, Thomas Homan, ICE’s acting director, told “Fox & Friends.” Homan said the Justice Department is looking into whether Schaaf obstructed justice.

The four days of raids last week in Northern California resulted in the arrest of about 230 people.

“I remain confident that my actions were both legal and moral,” Schaaf said Friday, the Bay City News reported. “I find it difficult to believe even in today’s America that informing people of their legal rights could be considered illegal.”

The mayor’s actions have escalated tensions between California officials and the Trump administration, The Associated Press reported. Oakland has declared itself a sanctuary city for illegal migrants.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a news conference Thursday called the action “outrageous.”

“I think it’s outrageous that a mayor would circumvent federal authorities and certainly put them in danger by making a move such as that,” Sanders told reporters. She said Schaaf’s action was “under review,” without offering any other details.


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