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

Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


March 16, 2018

Trump administration ready to make Mideast peace plan public

(JTA)—The Trump administration is finishing up its Middle East peace plan and intends to make it public soon, The New York Times reported.

The White House must now figure out how to present the plan so that it is not immediately rejected by the Palestinians, the newspaper reported, citing three unnamed senior administration officials.

An unnamed senior aide to President Donald Trump compared the plan to Waze, the Israeli-developed traffic navigation software.

According to the report, the officials said the plan does not have a set of guiding principles. Also, they said, the plan also does not prescribe whether the outcome should be one state or two states, nor does it call a “fair and just solution” for Palestinian refugees, though it will offer suggestions on both points.

The aides told The Times that the document proposes solutions to all the key disputes: borders, security, refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

The Palestinians have said they will not consider a U.S.-proposed peace plan due to their anger over Trump’s announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his intent to move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv in May. Netanyahu is less likely to be willing to make compromises, as he faces early elections due to coalition disputes and fears fallout from possible corruption charges. The plan also comes as Trump has begun the process of dealing with North Korea.

The report points out that no one outside of the Trump administration has seen the plan document, and that the people who wrote it—Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman – had no previous experience in diplomacy. But the three men reportedly met last week with Netanyahu for several hours while he was in Washington, D.C., to address the annual AIPAC policy conference and meet with Trump.

The report comes a day before the White House convenes a meeting to address a crisis in Gaza.

“Solving the situation in Gaza is vital for humanitarian reasons, important for the security of Egypt and Israel and is a necessary step toward reaching a comprehensive peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, including Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank,” Jason Greenblatt, the White House’s top Middle East negotiator said in a statement.

The Palestinian Authority has refused to attend the session because it is still smarting from Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. UNRWA, the U.N. relief agency charged with delivering aid to Palestinian refugees and their descendants, and which is the preeminent relief provider in Gaza, was not invited. Gaza is controlled by Hamas, a terrorist group.

U.S. officials participating include Kushner, Greenblatt and staff from the National Security Council and the State Department. A White House official said the names of non-U.S. participants would be published on Tuesday.

“We are pleased with the committed list of attendees which includes many of the relevant parties and anticipate a robust dialogue,” Greenblatt said in his statement. “The challenge will be determining which ideas can be realistically implemented in light of the fact that the Palestinians of Gaza continue to suffer under the authoritarian rule of Hamas.”

Honduras and Paraguay ‘ready in principle’ to move embassies to Jerusalem

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA)—Honduras and Paraguay reportedly may join Guatemala in relocating their embassies soon to Jerusalem.

The two Latin American nations said they are both ready “in principle” to proceed with the move on the condition that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes an official visit to each of their countries, Israel’s Army Radio reported, citing a “senior Israeli diplomatic source.”

Last week, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales announced during the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C., that his country’s embassy would move to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv on May 16, two days after the United States moves its own.

In December, about two weeks after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and said he instructed the State Department to begin planning the embassy move, Morales said he would follow suit.

The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to condemn the U.S. recognition, but Honduras and Guatemala were among the eight countries to side with the United States. Although Paraguay has expressed pro-Israeli sentiment on a number of occasions, it abstained from the U.N. vote

In September, Netanyahu made the first visit to Latin America by a sitting Israeli prime minister, but he did not stop in Paraguay or Honduras. In Argentina, he met Paraguay’s former president, Horacio Cartes, who in 2016 had been the first Paraguayan head of state to visit Israel.

Paraguay has distinguished itself among South American countries by supporting Israel in the United Nations and other international forums.

Albert Einstein’s violin sells for over $500,000

(JTA)—The quirky Jewish physicist would have been proud.

A violin once owned by Albert Einstein sold for $516,500 at the New York-based Bonhams auction house on Friday.

The instrument, which eportedly was gifted to the scientist in 1933 by Oscar Steger, a member of the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, went for over three times its estimated price. Steger made the violin himself and inscribed it with the words “Made for the Worlds[sic] Greatest Scientist Profesior[sic] Albert Einstein By Oscar H. Steger, Feb 1933 / Harrisburg, PA.”

Later, while working at Princeton University, Einstein gave the instrument to the son of Sylas Hibbs, who worked as a janitor at the school. It had remained in Hibbs’ family ever since.

‘Bookkeeper of Auschwitz’ Oskar Groening dies while prison sentence under appeal

(JTA)—Oskar Groening, the former Auschwitz guard convicted in his 90s for his role in the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews at the concentration camp, has died in Germany.

Reports of his death surfaced on Monday, though the German publication der Spiegel reported that he died Friday and authorities had not yet received his death certificate. He was 96.

Groening, who was sentenced to four years in prison for his crimes, died without spending a day serving his term. The man known as the “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz” was convicted in July 2015.

He had been expected to enter prison at the end of January, but the continued wrangling over the state of his health kept him from beginning to serve his sentence.

“The death of Oskar Groening just before he was scheduled to begin to serve his sentence in a German jail following his conviction three years ago for accessory to murder is quite unfortunate, at least on a symbolic level,” Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and an expert in Nazi war criminals, said in a statement issued Monday.

Zuroff pointed out that two other Nazi war criminals—John Demjanjuk, who was convicted in 2011, and Reinhold Hanning, who was convicted in 2016—also died while awaiting decisions on their appeals.

“As fate would have it, [Groening] too has now escaped justice, casting a shadow of sorts on the judicial processes,” he said. “Without at least symbolic justice these trials, as important as they are, lose an important part of their significance. Their victims never had any appeals, nor did their tormentors have any mercy, consequently these perpetrators don’t deserve either.”

A clemency plea filed by Groening’s attorney with German prosecutors was rejected in January, and earlier this month he asked the justice minister of Lower Saxony, the northern German state where his 2015 trial took place, to pardon him so that he did not have to go to prison. A federal appeals court had rejected his appeal a year ago.

Groening had admitted to being tasked with gathering the money and valuables found in the baggage of murdered Jews and handing it over to his superiors for transfer to Berlin. He said he had guarded luggage on the Auschwitz arrival and selection ramp two or three times in the summer of 1944.

During the trial, Groening asked for forgiveness while acknowledging that only the courts could decide when it came to criminal guilt.

Same-sex Jewish wedding takes the spotlight in Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA)—A same-sex Jewish wedding ceremony held in the iconic Brazilian hotel frequented by kings and queens has made headlines in Latin America’s largest nation.

It is the first Jewish same-sex wedding to go so public and is believed to be the first Jewish ceremony between two women in Brazil.

Some 200 guests attended the lavish nuptials held Saturday at the luxurious Copacabana Palace Hotel, where pharmacist Roberta Gradel and economist Priscila Raab were married under a huppah. Gradel is Jewish and Raab is not.

“And they said ‘I do’” read the headline of the Monday edition of Rio’s most influential newspaper, O Globo, next to a large photo of the brides kissing under the canopy. Social media in the country were flooded with photos and videos of the couple during the ceremony.

“I am very happy to be able to participate in the overthrow of the wall of prejudice and false moralism that prevented same-sex unions,” party planner Ricardo Stambowsky, who was organizing his first gay wedding ceremony, told the local media.

It was the first time in 95 years that a same-sex wedding took place at the Copacabana Palace—the first choice for kings and queens visiting Rio. It’s an iconic art deco masterpiece standing opposite the white sandy Copacabana beach.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Brazil since 2013 following a National Justice Council decision, which orders notaries of every Brazilian state to perform same-sex marriages. In four years, 15,000 same-sex couples have officially registered to be married, according to the agency. Same-sex unions had already been legally recognized since 2004.

Gradel and Raab followed strict Jewish wedding traditions, including not seeing each other during the week prior to the wedding and walking in seven circles around one another as a symbol of each one becoming the epicenter of the other’s life. Both women also broke a glass under the huppah.

David Alhadeff, a longtime cantor at Orthodox, Conservative and Reform synagogues, performed the ceremony.

“It was not a Jewish marriage because one of the brides is not Jewish, it was a spiritual marriage with a Jewish symbology,” he told JTA. “It is very important to welcome the union of two people who love each other, regardless of faith, gender or anything else. I feel very happy and honored to be able to bless a union where love, which should have no boundaries or limits, is sovereign.”

Alhadeff is not employed by any synagogue and therefore declared himself to be free to perform any type of wedding, including interfaith and same-sex marriages.

“I follow my perception of what I consider to be the needs of Judaism these days,” he said. “The Jewish bride is very tied to the traditions and asked me to reproduce the symbolism of a Jewish marriage because of the importance it had for her.”

The first Jewish same-sex wedding ceremony in Latin America was celebrated at a Buenos Aires synagogue, where some 300 guests watched Victoria Escobar and Romina Charur exchange rings at a rite conducted by Rabbi Karina Finkielstein.

Hundreds of prospective immigrants to Israel learn what it takes to make the move

(JTA)—Nearly 1,500 prospective immigrants to Israel attended a mega-event to learn about what it takes to make aliyah.

The Mega Aliyah Fair held in New York City at John Jay College drew singles, families and retirees looking to prepare themselves for such a big move.

The event, which grew out of much smaller aliyah fairs originated by the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization, provided information and workshops on subjects such as financial planning and budgeting, choosing a community, building a strategic job search plan, navigating the Israeli health care system, and buying or renting a home in Israel.

There also was programming for children, visits by Israeli vendors and service providers, and an Israeli-style market.

Some attendees were in the beginning stages of planning their moves, while others were gathering information to help them decide whether to make the move.

Additional aliyah fairs are planned this month in Los Angeles, Montreal and Toronto.

Nefesh B’Nefesh, Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and JNF-USA co-hosted the event.

What will the future of medicine look like? Haifa and Stanford hospitals will explore together.

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa and Stanford Medicine established a cooperation agreement to work together on the future of medicine.

The institutions announced Friday that they will cooperate in areas including medical innovation; research in collaboration with Big Data and Machine Learning; cutting-edge drug development; and trauma and emergency preparedness.

The announcement came in California during the Stanford Medicine-Rambam Symposium on Planning for the Next Generation, an event where the two institutions explored ways to share resources and collaborate.

Rambam is a regional hospital with 1,000 beds and 130,000 visits to the emergency room annually, and an annual budget of $400 million. Stanford is a 600-bed hospital with 60,000 visits to its emergency room annually and a budget of $7 billion a year.

“During the conference we discussed precise, personalized health issues and the issue of health in Israel, including the complex relations in Israel between its local diverse population and with its neighbors,” Rafi Beyar, the director of Rambam, said in a statement.

Argentina’s Jewish community honors country’s first female submarine officer, who remains missing at sea

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—The first female submarine officer in Argentina, who remains missing in the Atlantic Ocean, was honored by the country’s Jewish community on International Women’s Day.

Eliana María Krawczyk, 35, who is Jewish, is one of 44 crew members of the Argentine submarine ARA San Juan, which remains missing in the Atlantic four months after it fell off the radar with a one week supply of oxygen on board.

Some 500 guests attended the event Friday honoring Krawczyk at a Buenos Aires hotel to hear the stories of struggle and success by Argentine women in politics and business. The Argentine Jewish political umbrella organization, DAIA, organized the tribute.

“Any woman’s value is far more valuable than the best gemstones. Eliana Krawczyk is our gemstone from the sea,” Rabbi Alejandro Avruj told the crowd as a friend of Krawczyk accepted the tribute from DAIA President Ariel Cohen Sabban.

Krawczyk was born in the northeastern province of Misiones and joined the Navy in 2004,after responding to an advertisement online. In 2012 she graduated from dive and submarine school as the first female submarine officer not only in Argentina but, at that time, also in South America.

With a grade of lieutenant, she was the third in command of the lost submarine. Argentina’s Navy lost contact with the ARA San Juan on Nov. 15, shortly after its captain reported a failure in the electric system.

The search began the next day, following the last contact. The vessel was on a mission to combat illegal fishing near Patagonia, in the southern part of the country. Governments from around the world and from NATO sent ships, airplanes and submarines to provide logistical support and information exchange during the search.

One week after the Navy reported the submarine lost, Jewish institutions held a prayer service for the return of its crew.

Government officials and others also spoke at the DAIA tribute.


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