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

Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Roseanne sobbed and apologized about racist tweet in unaired interview with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

(JTA)—Roseanne Barr reportedly cried and apologized for her racist tweet in a podcast interview with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

Barr “was sobbing and very apologetic about the whole thing,” according to the Hollywood Reporter, which cited an unnamed source. Boteach did not air the interview.

The call in to the podcast came two days after ABC canceled her show last week over the tweet mocking Valerie Jarrett, a former adviser to President Barack Obama and an African-American. The tweet said the “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.”

The reboot of Barr’s immensely popular late 20th-century sitcom had drawn high ratings.

Barr later deleted the tweet about Jarrett, which drew widespread criticism, and issued an apology, saying she had made “a bad joke about her politics and her looks.”

Barr, who is Jewish, and Boteach, a rabbi to several stars, have been friends for 20 years. She has not given any in-depth interviews on the tweets and her firing.

On Saturday evening, Boteach tweeted about the interview: “I did record a podcast with my friend @therealroseanne & I have decided not to release it out of respect for Roseanne. I want to give her space to reflect on the recent events and releasing the recording is a decision she will make at the appropriate time.”

He also tweeted: “I have known @therealroseanne for 20 years. She has apologized for what she acknowledges is a violation of Torah values & in the spirit of Jewish repentance. It is time America learned to forgive so that we may together affirm the image of God, and equal dignity of all humankind.”

Barr canceled a planned appearance on comedian Joe Rogan’s podcast that had been scheduled for Friday.

Ugandan rabbi: ‘We as a Jewish community need to be treated like any other Jewish community’

(JTA)—A Ugandan rabbi called on Israel to recognize his community after the government ruled against allowing members to move to the Jewish state.

Rabbi Gershom Sizomu confirmed a report in Haaretz last week that the Israeli Interior Ministry had denied a community member’s immigration application. The Interior Ministry, according to Sizomu, said the decision represented its stance on the Ugandan Jewish community, not just the applicant, Kibita Yosef.

Sizomu, who leads the community of approximately 2,000 people, urged Israel to give Ugandan Jews the same rights afforded to Jews worldwide.

“We as a Jewish community need to be treated like any other Jewish community in the Diaspora,” he told JTA from Kampala, where he serves as a member of the Ugandan parliament.

Israel’s Law of Return gives anyone who has at least one Jewish grandparent, is married to a Jew or has converted to Judaism the right to move there. Yosef, who is currently staying at a kibbutz in southern Israel, is the first Ugandan Jew to try to immigrate to Israel, according to Sizomu.

Sizomu emphasized that his community was not looking to immigrate to Israel en masse and that the decision would not change their practices.

“We are not Jewish for purposes of immigration,” he said. “We are Jewish because that is who we are, and we will never change that, whether they recognize us or not.”

The Ugandan community, also called the Abayudaya, traces its roots to the early 20th century, when a former leader read the Bible and embraced Judaism. Most members were converted under the auspices of U.S. Conservative rabbis in the early 2000s and thus are not recognized as Jewish by Israel’s mostly haredi Orthodox Chief Rabbinate

In 2016, the Jewish Agency for Israel recognized the community for the purposes of the Law of Return, seemingly opening a path for its members to immigrate to Israel. However, the Abuyudaya have struggled to obtain government recognition to do so. In December, Israel denied a visa application by another member of the community to study at a yeshiva in Israel, leading to accusations of racism.

Today the community, which is based in the rural town of Mbale, has seven synagogues—including a 7,000-square-foot synagogue center that opened in 2016—a mikvah and two Jewish schools.

“We feel like we have an established Jewish community that deserves to be recognized by Israel,” Sizomu said.

On Friday, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, who leads the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, called the Israeli decision “unlawful.”

“This is completely inconsistent with more than two decades of Israeli practice of Conservative converts—who are by the way halakhically converted to Judaism under our auspices—who had been recognized as Jewish for the purposes of the Law of Return,” she told JTA, using a phrase meaning that something was done in accordance with Jewish law, or halakhah.

Schonfeld said that the movement and its allies were planning “to use all means at our disposal to see that this is reversed.”

Sizomu said that despite the latest decision he remained hopeful about his community gaining status in Israel. In August, 40 young Ugandan Jews will travel to the Jewish state on a trip organized by Birthright, an organization that provides free trips to Israel to young Jews around the world. It is the first time Ugandan Jews will participate in such a trip.

Bill Clinton says public apology to Monica Lewinsky was enough

(JTA)—Former President Bill Clinton said his public apology for his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky was enough.

NBC’s “Today” show correspondent Craig Melvin asked Clinton in an interview aired Monday if he had ever apologized to Lewinsky, who was 22 and Clinton’s subordinate when they began an affair more than two decades ago.

“I apologized to everybody in the world,” Clinton said of his public apology.

Melvin followed up by asking Clinton if he had ever apologized privately.

“I have never talked to her. But I did say publicly on more than one occasion that I was sorry. That’s very different. The apology was public,” he said.

Clinton made his public apology in 1998 during the National Prayer Breakfast.

“I don’t think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned,” he said there. “It is important to me that everybody who has been hurt know that the sorrow I feel is genuine—first and most important, my family, also my friends, my staff, my Cabinet, Monica Lewinsky and her family, and the American people.”

Clinton told Melvin that at the time the affair became public, “I felt terrible then and I came to grips with it.” He said later in the interview: “I dealt with it 20 years ago plus... I’ve tried to do a good job since then with my life and my work.”

Clinton also said that he did not regret his decision to fight impeachment, and noted that he left the White House $16 million in debt from his defense.

Clinton and author James Patterson appeared on “Today” to promote their jointly authored novel “The President is Missing.”

In an apparent response to the “Today” interview, Lewinsky tweeted Monday that she is “grateful to the myriad people who have helped me evolve + gain perspective in the past 20 years.”

She also tweeted a link to a personal essay she wrote in February for Vanity Fair on the 20th anniversary of the investigation into the affair, in which she admitted that she suffers from PTSD over the fallout from the investigation and publicity, and that the #MeToo movement had changed her perspective on the affair and its aftermath.

Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz to step down

(JTA)—Starbucks’ founder and executive chairman Howard Schultz is stepping down.

Schultz, who previously served as the coffee giant’s CEO, is leaving his position at the end of June, The New York Times reported on Monday.

In an interview with The Times, Schultz, a Democrat who has publicly criticized President Donald Trump, did not deny speculation that he was considering a political career.

“I want to be truthful with you without creating more speculative headlines. For some time now, I have been deeply concerned about our country—the growing division at home and our standing in the world,” said Schultz, 64.

“One of the things I want to do in my next chapter is to figure out if there is a role I can play in giving back,” he added. “I’m not exactly sure what that means yet.”

Under Schultz, Starbucks became a vocal part of the national conversation on issues such as gun violence, gay rights, race relations, veterans rights and student debt. Its advocacy did not always run smoothly. A 2015 campaign, Race Together — which aimed to spark a national conversation about race relations in its shops—was seen as a public relations failure. Recently, the coffee chain came under fire after two African American men were arrested inside a store in Philadelphia in April after they asked to use a restroom without buying anything.

Schultz has written about his hardscrabble Jewish upbringing in New York, and about his transformative encounter in Jerusalem with Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, who headed the Mir Yeshiva.

He received an award from Aish Hatorah, a Jewish Orthodox pro-Israel group, in 1998.

Israel sends aid to Guatemala in wake of deadly volcano eruption

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel has sent emergency aid to Guatemala following the eruption of the Fuego volcano.

The eruption Sunday of the volcano, which is located less than 30 miles from the capital Guatemala City, left at least 25 people dead and dozens injured, according to reports. It is not yet known how many people are missing.

The volcano, whose name means fire in Spanish, erupted twice: just before noon and again after 6 p.m. Some 2 million people were affected by its ash, according to The New York Times.

On Sunday evening, Israel announced that it had sent a delivery of food and medicine to the Central American country. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it also discussed with local authorities how else it could be of assistance.

Last month, Guatemala moved its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in a ceremony attended by President Jimmy Morales. The move came two days after the United States made its transfer.

Man arrested in repeated vandalism of suburban Boston eruv

(JTA)—A local man was arrested a day after police in Sharon, Massachusetts, posted on Facebook that the suburban Boston community’s eruv had been repeatedly vandalized.

Yerachmiel E. Taube 28, was arrested Saturday on charges of malicious destruction of property, destruction to a religious organization, interference with civil rights and disorderly conduct. He was scheduled to be arraigned Monday morning in Stoughton District Court.

According to Jewish law, an eruv is an artificial boundary that allows Jews to push and carry objects outside their homes on the Sabbath and holy days. The eruv is made up of a series of poles and string.

Some 40 volunteers for the Sharon Eruv Society, which helps maintain the eruv on a weekly basis, had offered a reward for information about the vandalism. The eruv was constructed in 1990.

On Friday, Sharon Police in their post reported that the eruv “has been the subject of extensive vandalism over the last few weeks” The post included photos of downed poles and special markers that make up the boundary markers.

According to the police post, the eruv “has served as a critical piece of infrastructure for the Jewish community by creating a sense of togetherness for hundreds of households in the Town of Sharon.”

The ADL New England praised the Sharon Police for investigating the incident and making an arrest. “The eruv is an important religious and communal symbol for the Jewish community in Sharon, with a long history and meaning for the Jewish people. While we do not yet know what motivated this act, we are nevertheless deeply disturbed by the repeated desecration. When one  community’s ability to worship is attacked, our collective religious freedom is threatened.  We are grateful to Sharon Police for investigating the incident and ensuring accountability and justice for violating the community’s right to religious practice, “ Robert Trestan, ADL New England regional director, said in a statement.

German nationalist party co-head apologizes for calling Nazi era ‘speck of bird poop’ in country’s history

(JTA)—The co-head of the nationalist Alternative for Germany party said that he regrets calling the Nazi era a “speck of bird poop’ in German history.

Alexander Gauland, a 76-year-old attorney and journalist, made the statement on Saturday to a meeting of the party’s youth wing. He said in remarks that were widely reported and widely condemned that Germans must take responsibility for 12 years of Nazi rule but that “Hitler and the Nazis are just a speck of bird poop in more than 1,000 years of successful German history.”

A group of party moderates on Sunday condemned Gauland’s remarks and called for a public apology.

Gauland on Monday issued a statement in which he said that he had used the words “bird poop” to express his “deepest contempt for Nazism.”

“It was never my intention to trivialize or deride the victims of this criminal system,” he also said, according to The Associate Press.

Chancellor Angela Merkel through her spokesman on Monday called it “shameful that we have to deal with such comments by a lawmaker in parliament.” The spokesman also said that the government strongly rejects any downplaying of the Nazi era.

In national elections last year, the Alternative for Germany Party, or AfD, which was launched in 2013, finished in third place, securing 94 seats in the national parliament, the Bundestag, which has 709 seats in all

Bjorn Hocke, the AfD party leader in the eastern German state of Thuringia, caused a stir last year when he said that paying too much attention to the Holocaust was making German history “appalling and laughable.” He called the Holocaust memorial in Berlin a “monument of shame” and has recommended a radical departure from “these stupid politics of coming to grips with the past.”

Argentine special prosecutor Aberto Nisman was murdered, appeals court confirms

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—Argentine special prosecutor Alberto Nisman was murdered as a direct consequence of his accusation against former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of a cover-up of Iran’s role in the1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing, a federal court ruled.

The Argentinean Federal Chamber of Appeals on Friday backed the federal judge who is leading the investigation, Julian Ercolini, who ruled last December, more than two years after Nisman death, that it was a murder and not a suicide.

On Jan. 14, 2015 Nisman sued the president at that time, claiming that Kirchner and other officials of the government decided to “not incriminate” former senior officials of the Islamic Republic and tried to “erase” their roles in planning the bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that left 85 dead and hundreds wounded due to an agreement with Iranian officials.

Four days later Nisman’s body was found in his apartment, with one shot in his head, just hours before he was to present evidence to Argentine lawmakers that the government covered up Iran’s role in the bombing.

According to this upper-level court, in the current investigation “there are clues with sufficient importance to sustain as a hypothesis that the destiny of Nisman … was decided as a consequence of the nature, seriousness and scope of the complaint filed a few days before,” wrote judges Martín Irurzún and Leopoldo Bruglia.

The court confirmed the original murder ruling by Ercolini and his indictment of the security officials who were tasked with protecting Nisman at the time of his death. In that December ruling, the judge also charged Diego Lagomarsino, a former IT employee of Nisman’s, as an accessory to murder.

The Federal Chamber of Appeals also urged the judge to continue “with the speed and seriousness that such a grave fact imposes”


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