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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


March 30, 2018

Slain Paris Holocaust survivor was targeted because she was Jewish, French police say

(JTA)—Prosecutors investigating the slaying of a Holocaust survivor in Paris said the two suspects in custody targeted her because she was Jewish.

The development in the investigation of the March 23 slaying of Mirelle Kanol came with the arrest of two men on Monday, Le Figaro reported, citing a police source.

“The supposed or actual belonging of the victim to a religion was a grounds” for the attack, the source told Le Figaro, in addition to her being “vulnerable.”

One of the suspects in custody, a 29-year-old man, was a neighbor of Kanol and knew her well, Le Figaro reported.

In addition, Kanol’s son told the French news agency AFP that one of the suspects was a regular visitor of his mother whom she treated “like a son.” The son said the suspect had visited her that day.

The prosecutor’s office reportedly has asked that the suspects remain in preventative custody. They will face possible charges of “murder related to the victim’s religion, real or imagined,” as well as aggravated robbery and destruction of property, AFP reported, citing judicial sources.

On Sunday, a spokesperson for SPCJ, the official monitor and security unit of the French Jewish community, told the 7sur7 news website that a preliminary examination of the crime “does not reveal an anti-Semitic characteristic, but this possibility has not been discounted as police investigate further.”

Kanol escaped the Velodrome d’Hiver roundup of Jews by French police for their deportation to death camps and murder by the Nazis.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who is in Israel on an official visit, said Monday afternoon following a meeting in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that France needs to “continue fighting against anti-Semitism.”

“I had a very moving and difficult moment when I had just concluded my visit to Yad Vashem. I heard about the outrageous murder of Mirelle Kanol—a Holocaust survivor—in Paris,” Le Drian said. “We cannot yet say if the motive for the murder was anti-Semitism but it is reasonable to assume, it will not be surprising and, therefore, this only strengthens the fact that this struggle has not ended, and that we will need to continue fighting against anti-Semitism.”

According to the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, the octogenarian’s body was set on fire Friday night. Her charred body also had at least 11 stab wounds.

A forensic examination of the apartment showed that an arsonist started a fire in at least five distinct areas of that space, the report also said.

“The barbarity of this murder sends us back to that of Sarah Halimi just one year ago,” Francis Kalifat, president of the CRIF umbrella of French Jewish communities, said in a statement Monday. CRIF is organizing a memorial march in Kanol’s memory Tuesday.

Prosecutors say Halimi, a 66-year-old Jewish teacher and physician, was murdered by her Muslim neighbor in April partly in connection with her Jewish identity.

Jews can’t dance, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo jokes at a Harlem church

(JTA)—George Gershwin may have written “I Got Rhythm” and Ethel Merman may have popularized the tune, but New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says Jews don’t have it.

Cuomo offered his views on the Jews’ alleged shortcoming during a speech Sunday at a predominately black church in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City

“I want you to know as a matter of full disclosure, I am a Catholic. Catholics basically believe the same teachings that Baptists believe. We just do it without the rhythm. But we try,” Cuomo said at the Mount Neboh Baptist Church, the New York Post reported Monday. “We are not as without rhythm as some of our Jewish brothers and sisters.”

Cuomo singled out Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf, a former campaign adviser who was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi in 2011. Sheinkopf was at the church because he works for its pastor, the Rev. Johnnie Green, and his Mobilizing Preachers and Communities advocacy group.

“I was watching Mr. Sheinkopf here in the front row moving to the music,” Cuomo said. “It was ugly, I’ll tell you the truth.”

Sheinkopf told the Post that not many congregants laughed at the governor’s joke and added that he “didn’t feel humiliated.”

Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever told the newspaper: “He was clearly poking fun at himself and one longtime friend who was in the audience.”

Cuomo, who is being challenged for re-election by “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon, was at the church to promote spending plans in the state budget to be unveiled on Saturday. The budget calls for $550 million to clean up public housing.

Rabbi and labor leader form their own union

(JTA)—Randi Weingarten, who heads the national union for teachers, and Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of New York’s leading synagogue for LGBT Jews were married in New York.

Their union at a downtown Manhattan restaurant, La Marina, was featured in the Weddings section of The New York Times on Sunday, their wedding day.

Weingarten 60, is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, headquartered in Washington, D.C. Kleinbaum, 58, is the senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Simhat Torah in New York, whose membership includes a significant number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender congregants.

The couple first met in the mid-1990s, they told The Times.

“We were two lesbians in New York fighting for different things,” Weingarten said. “We liked each other. We had good banter. It wasn’t as if there were a lot of high-profile gay women who were active in leadership roles. I thought she was fun, witty and smart.”

In 2006, Kleinbaum asked Weingarten to speak at her congregation’s Gay Pride Shabbat service, which Weingarten called a turning point in how she saw herself as a lesbian.

Kleinbaum divorced in 2012 after an 18-year relationship and two daughters. The women soon began dating and later moved in together.

“We’re not spring chickens,” Kleinbaum told The Times. “We didn’t believe we would get this kind of love this late in our lives.”

Judge Michelle Schreiber of the New York City Housing Court officiated, with the religious ceremony led by Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, the president of Hebrew College in suburban Boston.

Thousands in London protest anti-Semitism in UK Labour Party

(JTA)—Approximately 2,000 people gathered outside the houses of Parliament in London to protest anti-Semitism in the British Labour Party.

The protest Monday also criticized Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whom British Jewish leaders have charged with enabling anti-Semitism in the party. Corbyn published a written apology ahead of the protest.

Organized by Britain’s Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the protest attracted a few members of Parliament from Corbyn’s party. One was Luciana Berger, who is Jewish and told the crowd that “the anti-Semitism issue is real,” according to Haaretz.

She added: “I want to be able to address Jewish audiences with my head held high.”

Labour lawmaker John Mann, according to the BBC, said “The very existence of my Labour Party is at stake. It is time for Jeremy Corbyn to act.”

The protest came one day after British Jewish leaders sent an open letter condemning Corbyn for associating with anti-Semites and not doing enough to combat anti-Jewish discrimination in his party’s ranks.

Corbyn, long a virulent critic of Israel, was elected party leader in 2015. Since then, his critics say, Labour has tolerated anti-Semitism among its members. Labour officials have been expelled from the party for anti-Semitic statements, and a 2016 inquiry into Labour anti-Semitism said there was an “occasionally toxic atmosphere” in the party

Corbyn has also faced criticism for associating with anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers, and for some statements he has made. In 2009, he described the terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends,” and was also a member of Facebook groups that included anti-Semitic statements. The issue flared anew this week when a 2012 Facebook post by Corbyn resurfaced in which he supported the creator of an anti-Semitic mural.

“Today, leaders of British Jewry tell Jeremy Corbyn that enough is enough,” said the letter sent Monday to John Cryer, the chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party. “He is repeatedly found alongside people with blatantly anti-Semitic views, but claims never to hear or read them... He issues empty statements about opposing anti-Semitism, but does nothing to understand or address it. We conclude that he cannot seriously contemplate anti-Semitism, because he is so ideologically fixed within a far left worldview that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities.”

Corbyn condemned anti-Semitism in a statement Sunday, and sent a letter apologizing to the Jewish community ahead of the protest. He called for an “urgent meeting” with British Jewish leadership. He also has apologized separately for the 2012 Facebook post, as well as for his 2009 comments about Hamas and Hezbollah.

“I recognise that anti-Semitism has surfaced within the Labour Party, and has too often been dismissed as simply a matter of a few bad apples,” the Monday letter said. “This has caused pain and hurt to Jewish members of our party and to the wider Jewish community in Britain. I am sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused, and pledge to redouble my efforts to bring this anxiety to an end.”

While condemning Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, Corbyn also acknowledged that some criticism of Israel veers into anti-Semitism.

“Comparing Israel or the actions of Israeli governments to the Nazis, attributing criticisms of Israel to Jewish characteristics or to Jewish people in general and using abusive phraseology about supporters of Israel such as ‘Zio’ all constitute aspects of contemporary anti-Semitism,” Corbyn wrote.

A pro-Corbyn group, Jewish Voice for Labour, held a small counterprotest next to Monday’s demonstration.

Over 20,000 protest coming deportation of African asylum seekers

JERUSALEM (JTA)—More than 20,000 protested against a government plan to deport African asylum seekers from Eritrea and Sudan to a third country in Africa during a rally in Tel Aviv.

The rally in Rabin Square was organized by NGOs and Sudanese and Eritrean groups, as well as the Stop the Deportation movement and the South Tel Aviv against the Deportation group, the Jerusalem Post reported. Several asylum seekers spoke at the rally, and spoke of the persecution they faced in Eritrea and Sudan.

Signs read: “Stop the deportations!” “South Tel Aviv is against the deportations,” and “We shall neither expel nor kill the stranger and refugee.”

The deportations were scheduled to begin on April 1, during the Passover holiday. But Israel’s Supreme Court has halted the deportations until it reviews a petition filed against the practice. The government has until March 26 to respond to the petition against deportations.

Israel’s Cabinet in January approved a plan and the budget to deport thousands of migrants from Sudan and Eritrea.

Prior to that, the Population and Immigration Authority notified the migrants 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 have not received a response, Haaretz reported.

There 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 Israeli government not to go ahead with the plan to force the migrants to choose between jail and deportation.

West Bank construction starts rose about 17 percent for 2017, Peace Now reports

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Construction starts in West Bank settlements rose by 17 percent during 2017, with most of the new housing in isolated spots, according to Peace Now.

In its annual settlement construction report released Sunday, Peace Now said that 2,783 new housing units began construction in the West Bank in 2017, approximately 17 percent higher than the yearly average rate since 2009. The report does not include housing construction in eastern Jerusalem.

Peace Now also found that 78 percent of the new construction, or 2,168 housing units, was in settlements east of the proposed Geneva Initiative border—settlements that are likely to be evicted in a two-state agreement.

At least 282 of the new housing units were constructed illegally, the majority in illegal outposts, according to the left-wing group’s report.

In addition, construction was started on at least 68 new public buildings such as schools and synagogues.

In addition to the new housing starts, 6,742 housing units were advanced trough promotions for plans in 59 settlements in 2017, compared to 2,657 units in 2016, according to the report. Two-thirds of those housing units, or 4,471, were east of the Geneva Initiative border.

Three new settlement outposts were established in 2017, as well as the new settlement of Amichai, being built south of Nablus, to house the families evicted from the Amona outpost.

The Israeli government had not responded to the report by Monday night.

Actor Anton Yelchin’s parents reach settlement with carmaker over fatal accident

(JTA)—The parents of actor Anton Yelchin reached a confidential settlement with the makers of the car that crushed him to death in his driveway two years ago.

The settlement was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court late last week, People magazine first reported. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the company that manufactures the Jeep Grand Cherokee, confirmed the settlement in a statement.

“The settlement will go to the Anton Yelchin Foundation and to the filming of a documentary on Anton’s life,” Yelchin’s publicist, Jennifer Allen, said in a statement to People. The foundation assists young people in the arts who face career challenges due to debilitating disease or disability.

Yelchin, 27, who starred in the rebooted “Star Trek” movies, was found dead at his home in Studio City, California, on June 19, 2016, after being crushed by his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Friends found Yelchin pinned between his car and a brick pillar; the vehicle was in neutral and running. Yelchin was presumed to have returned to his house to get something, which is why he was outside of the car while it was running.

The Jeep was part of a global recall of 1.1 million vehicles announced by Fiat Chrysler in April 2016. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urged the recall because of complaints from drivers that a problem with the gear shift made it difficult to tell whether the car was in park. When not in park, the vehicle could roll away. A class-action lawsuit was filed in that case.

Yelchin starred as Chekov in the 2009 and 2013 “Star Trek” movies, and is seen in the third film in the series, “Star Trek Beyond,” which was released last month. He also appeared in films including “Like Crazy,” “Alpha Dog,” “Terminator Salvation” and “Fright Night.” His final film, “Thoroughbreds,” began playing in theaters earlier this month.

Yelchin, a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, immigrated to the United States with his family as an infant. He was the son of figure skaters Irina Korina and Viktor Yelchin, who reportedly were persecuted for being Jewish.

Pro-Israel charity sues businessman for not paying for paintings of the Trumps he won at auction

(JTA)—A pro-Israel non-profit organization is suing a Florida businessman for failing to pay for two 6-foot tall paintings of President Donald Trump and his wife Melania that he won at a charity auction.

Timothy Lane, of the Hong Kong-based Everest Advisors, agreed to pay $21,530 for the paintings at the auction last month at the Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, the Palm Beach Post reported. The paintings were created by “speed artist” Michael Israel, who creates the large images in about 6 minutes.

Some 500 people attended the Feb. 25 benefit for The Truth About Israel organization.

The group says on its website that The Truth About Israel is a not-for-profit company formed “to educate and train the public about the facts of Israel in today’s world. Our mission is to advocate for Israel, covering the core values of the state of Israel, and the fundamental rights and justice for the Jewish people.”

The lawsuit was filed earlier this month in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.

Lane, 70, reportedly has not allowed the purchase to go through on his credit card because the charity did not give him its federal tax identification number so he could write off the purchase as a charitable deduction.

Boca Raton businessman Steven Alembik, who organized the benefit, told the newspaper that the charity was issued a federal identification number on March 8 after the Internal Revenue Service approved the organization’s tax-exempt status. He said he provided the number to Lane.

“The tax ID has been provided to him,” Alembik told the Palm Beach Post. “He can come up with all the excuses he wants. At the end of the day, he’s going to pay. He’s going to court and he’s going to lose.”


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