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

Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


April 20, 2018

Madoff victims to receive $500 million more in relief

(JTA)—The Madoff Victim Fund began distributing $504 million in funds to victims of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

The funds, whose distribution began on Thursday, will be sent to over 21,000 Madoff victims around the world, according to a statement by the Justice Department.

The distribution is the second in a series of payments that will eventually return over $4 billion to Madoff victims.

“In one of the most notorious and unconscionable financial crimes in history, Bernie Madoff robbed tens of thousands of individuals, pension plans, charitable organizations and others, all the while funding a lavish personal lifestyle,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in the statement.

“We cannot undo the damage that Bernie Madoff has done, but today’s distribution will provide significant relief to many of the victims of one of the worst frauds of all time,” Sessions added.

Madoff, a Jewish New Yorker, used his position as the chairman of his investment securities company to swindle billions of dollars from tens of thousands of investors from the early 1970s until his arrest in 2008.

The uncovering of the Ponzi scheme revealed the tens of billions of dollars in fake profit that victims believed they had earned through Madoff Many prominent Jewish nonprofits also suffered big losses, with Yeshiva University taking a $140 million hit, Hadassah $90 million and Elie Wiesel’s foundation losing $15 million.

In 2009, Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal felonies and is serving a 150-year sentence in a federal prison in North Carolina. He was also ordered to forfeit nearly $171 billion.

Quebec legislator criticizes Jewish colleague for wearing kippah in Parliament

MONTREAL (JTA)—A separatist Quebec legislator backtracked after criticizing a fellow parliamentarian for wearing a kippah in the legislative chamber on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

During a raucous session, Opposition leader Jean-François Lisée of the Parti-Québécois criticized David Birnbaum, the only Jewish legislator of the governing Liberal Party, for wearing the skullcap.

Lisée said doing so may have violated a rule forbidding partisan symbols in Parliament. He was responding to Quebec premier Phillippe Couillard, who had criticized Lisée for wearing his own party’s lapel pin in the legislative hall.

Lisée said allowing the kippah while banning his pin constituted a “hierarchy between some convictions and others.”

An angry Birnbaum defended his actions. “I can wear that kippah anywhere,” he said.

“To suggest that a Jewish [parliamentarian] should be forced to hide his religious identity—on Yom Hashoah, no less—is grotesque and unacceptable,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said.

On Thursday, Lisée posted a statement on Facebook conceding that Birnbaum did indeed have the right to wear the kippah, but said religious rights should not supersede others.

Students find 1,400-year-old oil lamp inscribed with menorah

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Students working to build the “Sanhedrin Trail” in Israel’s Galilee unearthed a 1,400-year-old oil lamp bearing the symbol of the Jerusalem Temple’s menorah, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“The discovery of a lamp decorated with a menorah, a symbol of the Jewish people, is without doubt exciting, especially at a site with such a unique heritage in part of the Sanhedrin Trail,” IAA archaeologist Dr. Einat Ambar-Armon, an expert on ancient clay lamps, said in a statement.

Thousands of students have worked for several months on what will be a smart trail, on which dozens of large “smart” stones will transmit relevant, useful information and activities directly to the hikers’ mobile telephones.

The nearly 45-mile long trail running from Beit She’arim to Tiberias across the lower Galilee is divided into five sections and traces the movements of the sages of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish tribunal that met in the ancient Land of Israel.

The trail will be inaugurated on April 22.

In addition to the oil lamp, the student volunteers have uncovered pieces of glass believed to date to the glass industry mentioned in rabbinical texts, and ornamental items dating back 1,800 years.  One student discovered a gold coin on the trail bearing an inscription of the sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, builder of Jerusalem’s city walls. Only two other such coins have been discovered.

Haaretz publisher removes tweet after charges of racism

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The publisher of the left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz deleted a response to a critical reader that many took as racist.

Amos Schocken was responding on Twitter to reader, Ravit Dahan, who tweeted at Schocken that it was because of the ideology of those on the right that he was able “to continue and live here like a king and publish your surreal newspaper without interruption.”

Schocken responded: “Insolent woman. My family led the Zionist movement when you were still swinging from trees. The Schocken family has been here for 83 years, and we got along very well without your ideology, and we will continue to do so.”

Readers suggested that Schocken chose the insult because Dahan is a traditionally Sephardi surname.

He later deleted the tweet though it was captured in screenshots by several Twitter users.

Schocken later attempted to clarify that his tweet was not meant to be racist.

“When I wrote the tweet, I used an expression that, as far as I’m concerned, has no racial or ethnic connotation, but one that applies to all races,” said Schocken. He said he only meant to point out the tweeter’s “ignorance.”

Schocken is the scion of a German-Jewish family of publishers; his grandfather arrived in Palestine in 1933 and bought Haaretz in 1935.

Amos Schocken was responding to criticism over the cover story for the newspaper’s main weekend supplement, in advance of Israel’s Independence Day. The story asked reporters to choose “the most hated Israeli song.” Leading the list was the country’s national anthem “Hatikvah,” followed closely by Naomi Shemer’s Six-Day War song “Jerusalem of Gold.”

Readers took to social media to criticize the newspaper for making criticism of the national anthem the subject of an article in honor of Yom Haatzmaut.

Filmmaker Milos Forman, director of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ dies at 86

(JTA)—Filmmaker Milos Forman, famous for the Academy Award-winning films “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Amadeaus,” has died.

Forman, who was born in Czechoslovakia and came to the United States at the end of the 1960s, died on Saturday at a hospital near his home in Connecticut at the age of 86.

Forman’s parents, who were Protestant and members of the anti-Nazi underground, were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust; his mother died in Auschwitz and his father died while being interrogated by the Gestapo in the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp. Forman later learned that his biological father was a Jewish man with whom his mother had an affair, who survived the Holocaust and that the filmmaker later found living in Peru. Forman was raised by foster parents in Czechoslovakia and attended film school in Prague.

He moved to the United States after the invasion of communist troops in Czechoslovakia known as the Prague Spring, which squelched artistic freedom. He became a U.S. citizen in 1977.

In his memoir, Forman said the producers of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz, asked him to direct because “I seemed to be in their price range,” the New York Times said in its obituary. The film went on to receive five Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.  “Amadeus” won eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Other Forman films include “Hair,” “Ragtime,” and “Man on the Moon.”

4 Israeli police injured in haredi Orthodox draft riot

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Four police officers were injured during clashes with haredi Orthodox demonstrators protesting in Jerusalem against mandatory conscription.

The police used riot control measures, including stun grenades and water cannons, to break up the violent demonstration on Sunday night.

The demonstration took place in front of the Israel Defense Forces recruitment center in Jerusalem. Demonstrators reportedly also threw objects at police officers and passing cars.

The riot reportedly was sparked by attempts by the military police to arrest a woman, who was at the IDF recruitment office, for refusing to enlist.

Several demonstrators also were reported injured.

Police units in Jerusalem dispersed an ultra religious illegal demonstration with stun grenades after 4 police officers were injured lightly

Argentine Jews honor Europe’s great pre-war Zionist sports clubs

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—Two Jewish sport clubs in Argentina honored their counterparts in Vienna and Warsaw, which were shuttered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

The Buenos Aires-based Hacoaj and Macabi sports clubs, as part of Holocaust Remembrance Day activities, wore authentic uniforms of the Hakoah Vienna and Makabi Warszaw teams during a match on Sunday.

Sunday’s tribute game, titled “The match that didn’t happen,” recreated the atmosphere of a World War II-era game between the two clubs.

In 1909 followers of Zionist Max Nordau founded Austria´s first Jewish sport club, Hakoah (“The Power”) Vienna.  On a tour in 1921, Hakoah became the first continental club to defeat an English team on their home pitch, when they thrashed current Premier League team West Ham United, 5-1. The team also won the Austria championship in 1925 and then visited the U.S. in 1926.

The iconic European Jewish club was formally shut down by the Nazis in 1938. With more than 5,000 members, the club was especially successful in swimming and soccer. It was reopened in 2008.

Makabi Warszaw was founded in 1915 and had 3,000 members who practiced sports such as basketball, soccer, wrestling, fencing, tennis and rowing

The Jewish Argentinean sport organization, Macabi, produced a replica of the same uniform worn during soccer matches during the Holocaust.

The replica T-shirts are included in the current exhibition at one of the Argentina main soccer clubs.

NYU says students’ pledge to boycott pro-Israel groups ‘is at odds with our values’

NEW YORK (JTA)—New York University said it opposes boycotts of student groups after 51 campus organizations pledged to boycott pro-Israel groups.

“The University opposes any kind of boycott or official refusal by some student groups to interact with other student groups because of differing points of view. It is at odds with our traditions and values, especially our core belief in the free exchange of ideas,” university spokesman John Beckman said in a statement on Monday.

Last week, 51 student organizations signed a resolution in which they pledged not to co-sponsor any events with two Israel advocacy campus groups—Realize Israel and TorchPAC—as well as eight off-campus groups, including Birthright-Taglit, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. The groups also promised to boycott Israel and expressed support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the Jewish state.

NYU’s chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine organized the resolution, and its signatories included groups such as the African Student Union, the Black Students Union, College Libertarians, the Mexican Student Association and the Muslim Students Association.

In its Monday statement, Beckman said NYU encourages conversations between groups with opposing opinions.

“We would suggest that student groups proposing the boycott to find a pathway forward to engage in constructive dialogue. The University, as always, stands ready to facilitate this,” he said.

On Friday, leaders of the two pro-Israel groups singled out in the resolution told JTA  that they were surprised by the momentum it had gained.

Realize Israel President Adela Cojab, 21, described the climate surrounding Israel at NYU as “one of animosity.”

Auction house offers antique Jewish Bible stolen by Göering

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An antique Bible, or Tanach, that was stolen from the library of a wealthy French Jewish doctor by Nazi leader Hermann Göering, will be sold at public auction.

Göering, who stole many valuable items of Judaica, was interested in Jewish treasures. According to its bookplate, the book was stolen from the home library of a Jewish doctor by the name of J.N. Pellieux of Beaugency, France sometime after the Nazi conquest of France in 1945.

According to a second bookplate, glued opposite the front page, the book was “taken from Göering’s private collection in Berghof in the Berchtesgaden region.” A stamp of the French Division of the Red Cross, whose soldiers captured the compound on May 4, 1945, appears on the bookplate.

The Kedem Auction House in Jerusalem said in a statement that the Bible was printed by Menasseh Ben Israel in Amsterdam in the 17th century, “one of a few bibles printed by a Jew at the time.”

After World War II, Göering was captured and convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg trials. He committed suicide by taking cyanide the night before he was to be hanged. The book was one of hundreds of items that he stole to enhance his own private collections.

In 2005, the stolen book was bequeathed as a gift to a Mr. Rosenfeld of London by a chaplain of the French division that stormed Göering’s house at the end of the war, according to Kedem.

“This item, which was recently presented to us, is one of supreme historic value. We are hopeful that it will end up in one of the prominent Holocaust museums around the world, l” said Maron Eran, a Kedem owner.

Birthright founder gives middle finger to protesters outside gala dinner

(JTA)—Michael Steinhardt, the co-founder and major funder of Birthright Israel, flashed his middle finger at protesters outside a gala dinner in honor of the 18th anniversary of the free trip to Israel for young Jewish men and women.

More than 150 students from colleges in the New York and New England areas protested in front of the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York, where the annual gala was held on Sunday evening. The students represented groups including Jewish Voice for Peace, Students for Justice in Palestine, the Palestine Solidarity Alliance and the Democratic Socialists of America, all of which support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

The protest was led by Return the Birthright, a campaign supported by Jewish Voice for Peace and Independent Jewish Voices. It calls on young Jews to boycott Birthright and to support the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in Israel. During the event, the anti-occupation group IfNotNow, which does not take a stance on the BDS movement, projected on the ballroom building an image with the words “Birthright Lied To Us,” and “Jewish Youth Demand the Truth.”

A quote attributed to the evening’s honoree, billionaire philanthropist Sheldon Adelson—“Israel Isn’t Going to Be a Democratic State—So What”—also was projected on the wall.

Adelson, a major Birthright funder, was presented with the “Guardian of the Jewish Future” award at the event.

The student protesters wrapped themselves in personalized Jewish prayer shawls and demonstrated by returning symbolic Birthright plane tickets. They also read out the names of Palestinian villages destroyed 70 years ago, and the names of the 32 protesters in Gaza killed in the past three weeks during the Great Return March protests.

A photo of Steinhardt and protesters was posted on Instagram by a photographer for Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.


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