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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


August 31, 2018

Israeli equestrian rider withdraws from world championships due to conflict with Yom Kippur

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An Israeli equestrian rider has withdrawn from next month’s world championships because the competition will take place on Yom Kippur.

The International Equestrian Federation event, which will take place this year in North Carolina, is a prelude to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, where Israel’s equestrian federation hopes to compete for the first time.

Israeli rider Dan Kramer sent a letter earlier this month to the international federation saying that he would not compete due to the conflict with the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, Ynet reported last week.

“I decided not to join the other members of the Israeli national team and not to participate in the upcoming world championships in the United States, because the competition is taking place on Yom Kippur and I want to honor this day as well as the Israeli public and Jewish Diaspora,” Kramer wrote in a letter to the Israel equestrian federation’s chairman Kenny Lalo, Ynet reported.

Kramer, who is living in Belgium, grew up on Moshav Hayogev in northern Israel, where his family owned a horse and he dreamed of competing in the Olympics. He suffered a leg injury while serving in the Israel Defense Forces, and returned to riding as part of a physical therapy regimen. He qualified for next month’s world championship last year.

Other members of the team were divided over the decision by Kramer, whose absence could cost the Israeli team an Olympic berth.

Charles Schumer wants to name Senate building for John McCain

WASHINGTON (JTA)—Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has garnered backing from a key GOP senator in his bid to rename a Senate building for John McCain.

The building currently is named for Richard Russell, a Georgia Democrat who served from 1933 until 1971 and who was notorious for leading opposition to civil rights reforms advanced by President Lyndon Johnson and for upholding racial segregation.

Schumer and McCain, the Arizona Republican who died this weekend, were both members of the Senate’s bipartisan Gang of Eight, which sought in vain to reach agreement on a comprehensive immigration bill.

“The Senate, the United States, and the world are lesser places without John McCain,” Schumer, who is the minority leader in the Senate and who is Jewish, said Saturday on Twitter.

“Nothing will overcome the loss of Senator McCain, but so that generations remember him I will be introducing a resolution to rename the Russell building after him,” Schumer said.

Sen. Jeff Flake, like McCain, an Arizona Republican, said he would cosponsor such resolution. “There are many other things we need to do but that’s a good one,” Flake said on Sunday on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “John McCain had his office just right near mine in the Russell building. That’s where he was his entire time. I think that’s a fitting tribute.”

Flake’s status as McCain’s fellow Republican and Arizonan lends the proposal heft.

Because the proposal involves congressional property, it would not need the signature of President Donald Trump.

Arab-Israeli lawmakers ask UN to condemn nation-state law

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Arab-Israeli lawmakers and the Palestinian Authority want the United Nations to condemn Israel’s nation-state law.

Several lawmakers from the Joint List, an Arab-Israeli political party, are involved in an effort to get the U.N. General Assembly to officially condemn the law, along with Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the U.N., Hadashot news reported Sunday.

The move comes less than a month before the U.N. General Assembly, scheduled to open on Sept. 18. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to join other world leaders in speaking at the General Assembly.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, was asked by Rosemary DiCarlo, United Nations under-secretary-general for political affairs, to respond to the charges. In a message to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Danon accused the Arab lawmakers of having a “close partnership” with Palestinian representatives in the U.N. “with the goal of inciting against and defaming the State of Israel and the IDF on the UN stage.”

“The Palestinian representatives, along with the MKs from the Arab parties are planning steps which are intended to sully Israel and damage its image through incitement and lies,” he also wrote.

On Monday, Israel’s Tourism Minister Yariv Levin accused the Arab lawmakers of “treason” and said that he hoped they would be prosecuted on the charge in Israel.

Joint List lawmaker Dov Khenin responded to the criticism saying it was “anti-Democratic and hypocritical, certainly when it comes from close associates of Netanyahu, who met and befriended anti-Semites around the world,” Hadashot reported.

Loophole allows expansion of Western Wall egalitarian prayer section

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A plan to expand the Western Wall’s egalitarian prayer section received final approval, using a loophole that applies to handicapped-accessible sites.

The approval was first reported late Sunday in Haaretz, which did not say when the meeting to approve the work took place.

Approval of the work under the special regulation cut months off the time it would take to begin the work, since it need only be approved by the municipal engineer and not also by both the regional and local planning committees.

The scheme to approve the fast-track process for the work was supported by the Prime Minister’s Office, according to the report.

The attorney general’s office reportedly was against using the loophole of as a way to approve a major and controversial project. The plan was approved by the Jerusalem municipality’s legal counsel, however.

Plans to renovate the site, with a budget of more than $7 million, have continued, despite the suspension of a comprehensive plan approved in 2016.

In June 2017, the Cabinet suspended the deal that came about as a result of negotiations between the Reform and Conservative movements, the Women of the Wall, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government. The suspension came after the government’s haredi Orthodox coalition partners pressured Netanyahu to scrap the agreement, including threatening to bring down the government.

Netanyahu had promised to expand the area following the suspension of the comprehensive deal, though the expansion has been appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court over concern that it would damage an important archeological site.

Last month, the three members of the Knesset ministerial committee charged with deciding whether to approve the plan to upgrade the Western Wall’s egalitarian section resigned over political pressure from the haredi Orthodox parties. Netanyahu placed himself as head of the committee.

The comprehensive plan would have included a common entrance to the Western Wall plaza for all three sections and a public board to oversee the egalitarian prayer space and would include representatives of the non-Orthodox movements and Women of the Wall.

Jewish video gamer kills 2 and himself

(JTA)—A video gamer opened fire during a tournament in Jacksonville, Florida, killing two and then fatally shooting himself.

The gunman was identified as David Katz, 24, of Baltimore, Maryland. The Forward reported that Katz is Jewish.

Nine other people were wounded in the shooting Sunday at the Madden NFL 19 eSports video game tournament. It was held in a gaming bar that shares space with a pizzeria at the Jacksonville Landing, a collection of restaurants and shops along the St. Johns River. The bar was live-streaming the competition when the gunfire started.

It is the third major mass shooting in Florida in the last two years.

Katz was competing in the eSports tournament and used “at least one handgun” to carry out the shooting, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams told reporters. The tournament was a regional qualifier for finals in Las Vegas with a $25,000 prize.

On Sunday evening FBI agents searched the home of Katz’s father in an upscale townhouse complex near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

Katz competed in several video game tournaments under the monikers Bread or MrSlicedBread, and reportedly won a similar tournament in 2017.

Suspect identified in anti-Semitic graffiti attack on Jewish center in Russian village

(JTA)—Russian authorities identified a suspect in the  anti-Semitic graffiti attack on a Jewish center in the Russian village of Lyubavichi, the cradle of the Chabad Hasidic movement.

The suspect was a man from Murmansk, a city located hundreds of miles north of Lyubavichi, according to Yuri Ivashkin, the mayor of the village in western Russia.

“We knew immediately this was not the work of a local,” Ivashkin told JTA. “Police are still working on identifying an accomplice.”

The inscriptions, reading “Jews out of Russia, our land” and featuring the Baltic variant of the swastika, were spray-painted on the wall of the Hatzer Raboteinu Nesieinu Belubavitch earlier this month.

Ivashkin’s statement followed attended the dedication of a perimeter fence around one of the Jewish cemeteries in and around Lyubavichi

Attendees traveled Sunday from Moscow to the village of 200 people to celebrate the completion there of a preservation project headed by the European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative, or ESJF. The nonprofit organization has completed similar projects in 102 cemeteries across Eastern Europe with funding from the German government.

“Initiatives like these are vital because of neglect, economic and agricultural development, and vandalism,” said Rabbi Isaac Schapira, the founder and chairman of the ESJF board. The project in Lyubavichi was his organization’s first in Russia since its founding in 2015.

Joseph Popack, a Jewish-American donor, funded the new fencing at a cost of $100,000.

Located near Smolensk and the border with Belarus, Lyubavichi became a major Jewish hub following the settling there in 1813 of Rabbi Dovber Schneuri, a leader of the Chabad movement of Hasidic Orthodox Jews.

The movement, perhaps best known for its outreach to non-Hasidic Jews, also refers to itself as Chabad-Lubavitch in reference to how the town’s name is pronounced in Yiddish.

Chabad established in Lyubavichi an information center and museum, which Ivashkin says attracts 500 visitors monthly to the impoverished village, which is comprised of many dilapidated houses.

Los Angeles synagogue sues city and county over destuctive Skirball fire

(JTA)—The Leo Baeck Temple in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Bel Air has filed a lawsuit against the city and county over last year’s Skirball Fire.

The fire, which broke out on Dec. 6, 2017, destroyed six homes and damaged 12 others, and required the evacuation of about 700 homes as well as an apartment building. It damaged 475 acres.

It was sparked by an illegal cooking fire at an area homeless encampment.

The Temple suffered significant smoke damage and was not be able to reopen its facilities right away following containment of the fire.

The Stephen Wise Temple, American Jewish University’s Familian Campus and the Skirball Cultural Center all were closed due to the fire and the institutions’ Torah scrolls were removed for safekeeping.

The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday against the city and county of Los Angeles by the Leo Baeck Temple alleges that the city and county could have helped to prevent the fire had they not ignored the complaints of residents, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal reported.

The city and county “knew or should have known that this presented a fire hazard, as the area is prone to wildfires because of the trees, bushes and other vegetation and foliage,” according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit also argues that the city and county should have removed the encampment, or at least provided the public with a warning about it.

The temple lists four causes of action, including claims that the city and county maintained a dangerous condition on public property and allowed a public nuisance. It is asking for more than $25,000 in damages.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a local state of emergency in response to the Skirball Fire, requesting state and federal assistance. It was one of several fires burning in southern California. The other fires were known as the Thomas, Rye and Creek fires burning in Ventura County, Santa Clarita and Sylmar. California Gov. Jerry Brown also declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.


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