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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


October 12, 2018

American Jewish University in Los Angeles halts undergraduate admissions

(JTA)—The American Jewish University in Los Angeles is stopping its undergraduate admissions and phasing out its undergraduate curriculum.

The university, which has about 70 undergraduate students, said it is committed to ensuring that the enrolled students are able to complete their degrees.

“Our students come first, and we have notified them of these plans,” said Jeffrey Herbst, the university’s president. “Over the next few days we will be holding open forums to address the questions they have and have appointed an academic affairs liaison to provide ongoing support for these students.”

Herbst, who took over as president in July, said the university has “never been able to grow the undergraduate program to a size where it can provide a deep and broad educational experience.”

No other divisions within the university, including other academic programs such as the Ziegler School for Rabbinic Studies, Graduate Center for Jewish Education or Graduate School of Nonprofit Management, will be affected by the change, the university said in a statement issued Friday.

The university also said there will be no faculty layoffs associated with the decision and that the institution is “financially healthy”

A task force is being created to come up with new programs that may be launched to serve the young adult population, the statement said.

In 2007, the University of Judaism merged with the Brandeis-Bardin Institute to form the American Jewish University, which offers community programming, degree programs and learning experiences. Among its programming is continuing education, arts and cultural events, a rabbinic school, graduate programs, outdoor experiential learning programs and summer camps.

Student population at NYC Jewish schools rises to equal numbers as charters

(JTA)—The number of students attending Jewish day schools and yeshivas in New York City is nearly as large as the entire New York City-based charter school population, according to the New York state Department of Education.

The number K-12 students attending Jewish day schools and yeshivas in the city now exceeds 110,000, an increase of more than 10,000 students in less than two years. There are about 114,000 students in the charter school population, and another 148,345 students are enrolled in other parochial or independent schools.

In total, the number of non-public school students comprises 18 percent of New York City’s total school enrollment. Charter schools are public schools.

Neil Cohen, chairman of Teach NYS, a project of the Orthodox Union that supports Jewish day schools, said the new data show the importance of continuing to push for a more equitable distribution of local and state funds for non-public schools.

“This demonstrates our community’s need to stay focused on one of the top priorities for our families—making non-public school education more affordable,” Cohen said.

Teach NYS has secured an additional $450 million in funding for New York City Jewish day schools, which has been used to increase security, enhance education and defray higher tuition costs. In 2018, it championed a pilot program to begin providing kosher and halal meals to students enrolled in the city’s public and nonpublic schools.

US student denied entry to Israel remains in detention at airport during appeal process

JERUSALEM (JTA)—A U.S. student with Palestinian grandparents was denied entry to Israel despite a valid student visa due to her alleged involvement in the boycott movement against Israel.

Lara Alqasem has remained in detention at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport since Tuesday as she appeals the decision. The Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday was set to schedule a hearing for her appeal.

A graduate of the University of Florida, Alqasem was granted a student visa from the Consulate General of Israel in Miami to study in a master’s program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. While at the University of Florida, in 2016-17, she served as president of Students for Justice in Palestine, which supports the BDS movement against Israel.

She is enrolled as a masters’ student in human rights at the Hebrew University.

Alqasem has an Israeli attorney. On Thursday, the Tel Aviv Court of Appeals determined that border control authorities had properly followed guidelines in ordering her to be sent home.

An official at the U.S. Embassy in Israel told the daily Haaretz on Sunday that the United States was aware of Alqasem’s detention and were providing consular assistance.

Hebrew University has offered its support for Alqasem, calling on the government to allow her to enter to study there and saying the decision to prevent her entry was tantamount to an academic boycott.

Supporters of Alqasem raised nearly $6,500 for her legal fund on a GoFundMe page as of Sunday afternoon.

“By litigating, and therefore challenging the oppressive policies of the Israeli government, Alqasem is acquiring steep court and attorney fees. Alqasem’s case has ramifications beyond Alqasem herself. Please consider making a contribution to Alqasem’s mounting legal fees. Not only will you be helping Lara Alqasem pursue her education, you will be supporting an effort to resist an unjust system—which will impact many more,” the GoFundMe description reads.

Israel’s Cabinet approves plan to reunite 1,000 Ethiopian Falash Mura with family in Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Cabinet approved a plan to bring some 1,000 Ethiopian Falash Mura who have children living in Israel to the country.

The plan approved on Sunday was put forward by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.

Under the plan, the Interior Minister will evaluate and approve the entry of candidates who meet the criterion of having children who entered Israel under previous government decisions regarding the Falash Mura community. The parents will be able to bring with them their partners and their unmarried children who do not have children.

The Aliyah and Integration Ministry will provide those entering Israel with the rights due to Ethiopian immigrants. The Conversion Division will provide conversion services, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office.

There are some 8,000 Falash Mura in Ethiopia awaiting permission to immigrate to Israel, most of whom have some family members in Israel.

The Falash Mura claim links to descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity generations ago under duress but now seek to return to Judaism. They must get special permission to immigrate to Israel due to their uncertain Jewish status.

In 2013, Israel’s Interior Ministry approved the immigration of the remaining Falash Mura, and the Knesset in November 2015 unanimously approved a plan to bring some of them to Israel following a public campaign launched by the nation’s Ethiopian community and volunteer organizations. But the plan did not deal with the finances, which include the long-term costs of acclimating the immigrants.

An agreement to find money in the budget for the aliyah of the Falash Mura was signed in April 2016, and in 2017 some 1.300 Falash Mura arrived in Israel. The 2019 state budget, which was approved by the Knesset in March, does not include funds for Ethiopian immigration.

“While we are glad to see the end of suffering for 1,000 members of the remaining Jewish community in Ethiopia and their loved ones in Israel, we are far from satisfied with the partial and highly limited implementation of the decision that was passed under PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership in 2015, to bring the entire remaining Jewish community of Ethiopia to Israel,” the Struggle for Ethiopian Aliyah organization said in a statement.

“During immigration waves to Israel, families were separated with promises from the Israeli government that siblings, children and parents who were left behind in Ethiopia would be brought to Israel in just a few weeks’ time.  In some cases, 20 years have passed since these promises were made, while families still long to reunite with their loved ones. Today’s decision allows parents to immigrate only with their unmarried children, forcing them to leave behind their married children and grandchildren, causing more family separation.”

Thousands of Palestinians riot on Gaza border as boats attempt to break Israel’s naval blockade

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated on Gaza’s border with Israel as dozens of boats from Gaza attempted to break Israel’s naval blockade.

The Israeli Navy intercepted the boats on Monday, according to reports

About 7,000 Palestinian protesters threw firebombs and rocks at Israeli soldiers near the security fence in northern Gaza. They also rolled burning tires at the troops. Some reportedly broke through the border fence before turning back.

About 29 Palestinians involved in the riots were reported injured, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, the Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.

Why won’t Israel allow women to use sperm from serial donor Ari Nagel?

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the country’s Health Ministry to explain why it will not allow an Israeli woman to undergo in vitro fertilization using the sperm of a Jewish Brooklyn mathematics professor.

Ari Nagel has fathered at least 33 children in the last decade with sperm he donates free of charge. The married father of three has previously donated his sperm to six Israeli women, but they have not been allowed to use it.

In December, a seventh Israeli woman, 43, asked a private clinic to allow her to use frozen sperm sent to Israel from Nagel. The clinic said it could neither store nor use his sperm because it would violate Health Ministry requirements and Israeli law.

The woman and Nagel challenged the refusal in the Supreme Court.

Sperm donation in Israel is anonymous unless the male donor signs documents saying he will co-parent with the mother. The Ministry of Health has said “the claim of an intention to perform true joint parenthood with Mr. Nagel is not sincere or reasonable” based on the sheer number of children he has sired with his donated sperm.

The court has asked Nagel to submit a detailed affidavit within 30 days showing with supporting documents that he has satisfied the Health Ministry requirements. He must provide details on “his status and that of his wife from his marriage and his children with her,” as well as information regarding his “parental commitment,” Haaretz reported.

In an interview two years ago with the New York Post, Nagel said he typically produced the sperm in a men’s restroom and gave it to the woman in a cup to insert in the women’s restroom. He also told the newspaper that his relationship with his wife has not been romantic in years and that they sleep in separate bedrooms.

Israeli girl wins swimming gold at Youth Olympic Games

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA)—Israel started the first day of the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires with a gold medal in swimming.

Anastasia Gorbenko, 15, won the women’s 200m individual medley on Sunday while setting an Israeli record of 2:12.88.

Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah,” was heard poolside during the medal ceremony with Gorbenko on the podium with silver medalist Anja Crevar of Serbia, who finished one second, and bronze medalist Cyrielle Duhamel of France.

The Israeli is competing with swimmers who are up to three years older than her in the 18-and-under competition. She will participate in another three races.

The 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games, known as the III Summer Youth Olympic Games, are being held in Buenos Aires through Oct. 18.

Israel’s 19 athletes in the competition—12 males and seven females —  are scheduled to meet with local Jewish youth and visit the sites of terror attacks against the Jewish community in the Argentine capital They are participating in gymnastics, athletics, acrobatic gym, athletic gym, rhythmic gym, judo, taekwondo, swimming, triathlon and sailing.

After the first week of competition, the Israelis will share a day of activities at Hacoaj JCC and sport club being sponsored by the Jewish Argentine federation for sports and social community centers, or FACCMA. Hacoaj was founded in 1935 as the first Jewish rowing club in the country.

The Israeli will remain in Argentina following the games to visit the rebuilt headquarters of the AMIA Buenos Aires Jewish community center that was bombed in 1994, killing 85 and injuring hundreds. The team also will join Israeli Ambassador Ilan Sztulman in a visit to the site of the Israeli Embassy attacked in 1992 that killed 29.

US economist with Jewish roots shares Nobel Prize

(JTA)—William Nordhaus, a Yale University professor with Jewish roots, will share the 2018 Nobel Prize for Economics.

Paul Romer, a former World Bank chief economist who is now at New York University’s Stern School of Business, also won the prize. The winners, who will split the $1.1 million award equally, were recognized for integrating innovation and climate with economic growth.

Nordhaus and Romer have “significantly broadened the scope of economic analysis by constructing models that explain how the market economy interacts with nature and knowledge,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in announcing the prize.

“The contributions of Paul Romer and William Nordhaus are methodological, providing us with fundamental insights into the causes and consequences of technological innovation and climate change. This year’s Laureates do not deliver conclusive answers, but their findings have brought us considerably closer to answering the question of how we can achieve sustained and sustainable global economic growth,” the statement said.

Nordhaus was born in 1941 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and earned his doctorate in 1967 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His family “had deep roots in the Southwest, with beginnings in the German-Jewish immigrant wave after the Santa Fe Trail opened in 1821,” according to a profile of Nordhaus on the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Romer was born in 1955 in Denver, Colorado, and earned his doctorate in 1983 from the University of Chicago.

Jewish community, Malmo officials working to resume kosher meat sales in Swedish city

(JTA)—The City of Malmo in Sweden is working with the local Jewish community to resume the sale of kosher meat there following its suspension for technical and food safety reasons, municipal officials said.

The suspension was ordered Sept. 20 during a municipal inspection at the ICA Kvantum Malmborgs Limhamn shop, which had sold frozen kosher meat per an agreement with the leaders of Malmo’s Jewish community of several hundred people.

“We had to issue an immediate ban against letting the products out on the market,” municipal spokeswoman Linn Johansson told JTA.

Johansson said the inspection revealed that the company Kosher Delikatesser Malmö AB, which according to the city is owned by the Jewish Community of Malmo, “has for several years been selling their meat via” ICA Kvantum despite not being “registered as a food business, which is against food regulations.”

When the company “is not registered, the products are not traceable, which is an absolute demand according to food regulations in Sweden and the whole of EU,” added Johansson, who attributed this need to “food safety regulations.” Subsequently, the city’s departments division of food safety and hygiene suspended the sale of kosher meat at ICA Kvantum, she said.

The meat “is still in the store freezers and nothing has been confiscated or thrown away. We hope they can have their products back in the market soon. The collaboration between us has been good and constructive,” Johansson also said.

In an interview with JTA, a community spokesman confirmed that constructive talks are taking place for a speedy resolution of the issue.

“There was never a food hygiene concern,” he said. “This is a bureaucratic issue that will soon be resolved.”

Israeli TV could lose rights to show World Cup soccer games if they are broadcast in ‘Palestinian territories’

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel’s national broadcaster could lose the rights to broadcast the preliminary games of the World Cup and Euro 2020 soccer tournaments because the Union of European Football Associations will not allow it to show the games in what it calls “Palestinian territories.”

Kan, Israel’s national broadcaster, won the rights to the games with a bid of about $5.8 million, but has not been able to sign the contract due to the requirement that it only show the games within the country’s 1967 borders, which exclude the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, Yediot Acharonot first reported.

Another company, located in Qatar, reportedly won the rights to broadcast the games to the Palestinians.

Kan reportedly has offered to broadcast the games only on Israeli cable and satellite channels, which would make them available just to Israeli citizens and residents. It shows the games on two channels—one with Hebrew commentary and the other with Arabic.

“The broadcasting authority will only sign a contract that allows it to broadcast to all Israeli citizens whether in Hebrew or in Arabic, regardless of where they live,” Kan told Yediot.

German Jewish groups condemn Jewish support for far-right AfD party

(JTA)—Germany’s Jewish umbrella organization and a host of other Jewish groups have joined to condemn the right-wing party Alternative for Germany—and to decry a new group that purports to represent Jews in the party.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany in a statement issued Sunday said the AfD, which opinion polls show is gaining popularity, is racist and anti-democratic and “not an alternative for Jews.”

At least 17 other international and German Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, the Claims Conference, WIZO

and Germany’s rabbinical programs, co-signed the statement, which was released the same day that the controversial group calling itself

Jews for the AfD was launched in Wiesbaden.

Central Council head Josef Schuster claimed in the statement that the party, which alleges friendship for Israel and concern for the welfare of Jews in Germany, actually “supports anti-Jewish hate and Holocaust relativizing or even denial.”

Noting that AfD leaders recently marched alongside neo-Nazis and hooligans in an anti-migrant demonstration in the city of Chemnitz,

during which refugees and a Jewish restaurant owner were attacked, Schuster called the party inhumane and “in large parts right-wing


Jews for the AfD, which currently has 19 members, reportedly was founded by Dimitri Schulz, who was born in the former Soviet Union in 1987 and reportedly has described himself as having grown up in a “Christian-Jewish family.” He does not belong to the Jewish community of Wiesbaden, his home city, according to news reports.

The new group is chaired by Vera Kosova, who immigrated to Germany from Uzbekistan. According to the Deutsche Welle news agency, the group will be based in Berlin. Kosova told reporters Sunday that the party has distanced itself from anti-Semitism.

Meron Mendel, head of Frankfurt’s Anne Frank anti-racism education center, called the new group an unfortunate “PR coup” for AfD,

which claims to be the only party that deals directly with anti-Semitism from Muslims. Germany has seen an influx of more than 1

million refugees of Muslim background since mid-2015. AfD has made political hay out of its anti-Muslim stance, capitalizing on fears in the general population.

Germany’s Jewish student union, JSUD, also condemned the Jews for the AfD and the party it backs. Some 250 Jewish students demonstrated

against the new group in Frankfurt on Sunday.

Dalia Grinfield, president of the student organization, told reporters that the AfD would “not get a kosher label from us.”


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