Weekly roundup of world news briefs
January 4, 2019
Chabad House in Maryland files federal lawsuit
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—A Chabad House serving Towson University in Maryland filed a federal lawsuit against Baltimore County alleging religious discrimination and defamation after a judge affirmed an order to demolish an over 4,000 square-foot addition.
Chabad of Towson filed the $10 million lawsuit on Thursday in U.S. District Court. It charges that the order to demolish the significant addition following decisions by the county government, its Board of Appeals and the Circuit Court all violate Chabad’s constitutional right to free exercise of religion.
The lawsuit is filed under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, designed to prevent discrimination against religious groups in land use and zoning, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Four other congregations in Baltimore County—three churches and the ARIEL Russian Community Synagogue—have filed similar lawsuits, according to the newspaper.
Chabad of Towson opened in 2008 in a residential neighborhood. In 2015 the outreach center applied for a permit to build a parsonage on the property. After that was denied, the directors, who live on-site, applied to expand the house, and received a county building permit. The addition was completed in 2016.
Neighbors filed legal challenges and in 2017, a judge ordered Chabad to tear down the addition. Chabad appealed, but in November a Maryland Circuit Court judge affirmed the demolition order.
“Baltimore County has sought by various illegal means to burden, obstruct and suppress Jewish religious observance in Towson by delaying and now demolishing the premises where such religious exercise is made possible,” the attorney representing Chabad of Towson, Nathan Lewin, said in a statement.
Hideout for Jewish tailor discovered on farm in central Poland
By Katarzyna Markusz
WARSAW, Poland (JTA)—In an old barn in Otwock, near Warsaw, an underground hiding-place was discovered, in which during World War II the owners of the farm hid their neighbor, a Jewish tailor.
The hideout probably will be moved to the Polish History Museum, according to local reports.
The hideout is located under the barn floor. It is 6 feet and 6 inches long and 4 feet 9 inches wide. It was discovered when the area was being cleared for the construction of a new road.
The owners of the farm were Sabina and Aleksander Smolarek, who during World War II hid Moshe Bajtel from the Nazis at their home. Bajtel escaped from the Nazi camp Treblinka and went to the home of his friends the Smolareks. He hid there until the end of the war, though it was originally believed that he hid only in their attic. The Smolareks were named Righteous Among the Nations from Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in 2004, one of some 7,000 Poles to have received this designation.
Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance has shown an interest in the hideout. Its film crew documented its uncovering before its disassembly. Information about the find already has been sent to the Polish History Museum, which collects artifacts for the emerging permanent exhibitions in its new building.
4 Palestinians killed in weekly protests at Gaza border
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—At least four Palestinians were reported killed in weekly protests at the border with Gaza.
Terrorist organizations in Gaza said they are weighing a response to the deaths, according to reports.
At least 25 others were wounded in the clashes Friday between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces. The protests at the border, which began in March, are referred to as the “Great March of Return.”
The some 8,000 protesters threw rocks and firebombs at the Israeli troops guarding the border.
“Troops responded with riot dispersal means and fired in accordance with standard operating procedures,” according to an Israeli military spokeswoman.
“Following Israel’s crimes yesterday against non-violent protesters in the March of Return that led to the death of four demonstrators and injuries to dozens, the joint command center is in ongoing consultations,” the military wings of the Gaza terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the anti-Zionist Israeli group Return, which works in solidarity with Palestinians in support of the protests, said in a statement that Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition in the air at over 30 of its members as they marched on Friday through the Israeli military buffer zone on the eastern Gaza border toward a protest camp. The live fire was an attempt to halt and disperse the protesters.
The group met in a public manner with the mother of Palestinian medic Razan Najjar, who was killed at a June 1 protest while working as a medic.
Jewish groups offer assistance after Indonesian tsunami
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Jewish groups are offering assistance in the wake of a tsunami in Indonesia that has left more than 400 dead and thousands homeless.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is providing emergency relief and assessing emerging needs in the Kalianda and Rajabasa subdistricts of Lampung, a province on the southern tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, which was hard hit by the tsunami. Some 14,000 people also were injured in the natural disaster.
The aid provided so far includes health services, clean water and supplies for survivors.
JDC has had a presence in Indonesia since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. More recently, JDC has provided aid after an earthquake and tsunami in September stuck Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island, and an earthquake that in July hit Lombok.
IsraAID has had an Emergency Response Team in Indonesia since the Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami in September, it noted.
In a post on Facebook, the Israeli-based international humanitarian aid agency wrote: “IsraAID’s team currently in Indonesia has been monitoring the situation following the deadly tsunami and volcanic eruption. At the moment, we are assessing needs on the ground, in conversation with local partners.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry in a tweet offered “profound sympathies” for all those affected by the natural disaster, but did not offer concrete aid.
Indonesia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel and has rejected previous offers of aid.
The tsunami hit on Saturday night without warning, and may have been caused by a volcanic eruption on Anak Krakatau, a volcanic island. Over 100 people are still reported missing.
Rapper apologizes for lyrics deemed anti-Semitic
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—A rapper whose song lyrics deemed anti-Semitic got NBA superstar LeBron James into hot water when he posted them on Instagram has apologized to the Jewish community.
The rapper who goes by the name 21 Savage in a tweet on Monday said he never thought that anyone would be offended by the lyrics in his new song “asmr.” In it, the rapper sings “We been gettin’ that Jewish money, everything is Kosher (On God)” and then boasts about buying Lamborghini and Tesla cars.
21 Savage said in his tweet: “The Jewish people I know are very wise with there [sic] money so that’s why I said we been gettin Jewish money I never thought anyone would take offense I’m sorry if I offended everybody never my intention I love all people.”
His tweet follows an apology by James, who removed the post on Monday. The NBA has accepted James’ apology and will not take further action, ESPN reported.
Responses to the tweet ranged from people identifying themselves as Jews who thought the lyrics were funny or a compliment to those that called critics too sensitive.
Gal Gadot posts thank yous as next ‘Wonder Woman’ wraps up
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Israeli actress Gal Gadot thanked the crew and cast of her latest film as shooting on “Wonder-Woman 1984” wrapped up.
“We did it. Again!! And as much as the first time shooting Wonder Woman was amazing, this time was even more unique and special. We shot in 4 very different locations in 3 countries, and I’m so soooo proud of the almost 1000 crew members who came to set every day, giving everything they have into our movie,” she wrote in a post on Instagram.
She also praised director Patty Jenkins and the “amazingly talented cast who made every day enjoyable and fun.”
She also wrote: “This journey was so demanding and challenging but we all came and did our very best every take, every day, putting our all out there and I’m so proud... Thank you universe for this opportunity. I love this character. And thank you to all of you for being the best fans in the world. It was you that made me push myself every day.”
The first “Wonder Woman” film was the highest-grossing movie of summer 2017 with $412.5 million in the U.S., and $821.8 million worldwide. “Wonder-Woman 1984” is set to be released on June 5, 2020.
Knesset committee approves $185.5 million grant to Intel Company
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Knesset Finance Committee approved a $185.5 million grant to the Intel Company to expand a production plant in southern Israel.
The grant is part of a planned $5 billion investment by Intel in its plant in Kiryat Gat, which the company announced in May, the Israeli business daily Globes reported. The company also committed to hire 250 new employees, and use local vendors and retailers for some deals.
The Fab 28 plant manufactures chips for servers, workstations, mobile computers, and desktops, according to the Israeli business publication Calcalist.
Intel is Israel’s largest private employer and biggest exporter, with Intel Israel exporting $3.6 billion worth of goods in 2017, according to Globes.
In wake of Hamas fires, Gaza border wheat farmers will make beer
By Sam Sokol
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Farmers on the Gaza border who lost much of their wheat crop in Hamas fires are teaming with a local brewery to make beer.
They will use their remaining wheat to produce Gaza Border Beer, whose profits will go toward helping make up the shortfall caused by months of arson, Ynet reported.
Since April, some 1,729 acres of wheat fields have been burned by Gaza Palestinians sending incendiary kites and balloons over the security fence, causing millions of shekels in damage to the local agricultural sector. Despite the risk of fire, local residents have largely refrained from fleeing, telling JTA that they are determined to stay put.
“I cannot be indifferent to the heartwrenching scenes of burning fields. My heart goes out to the farmers,” Ori Sagi, the founder of Alexander Brewery, which is making the limited-run beer, told Ynet.
Sagi called the beer “excellent” and said it “showcases the quality wheat grown by our dear friends.”
Roseanne Barr to speak at Knesset
By Sam Sokol
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Roseanne Barr will speak at the Knesset in January, saying she has “important work to do as a voice against the insidious and anti-Semitic BDS movement.”
The American comedian’s address will come during a tour organized by celebrity Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s World Values Network, the organization announced Monday.
In a news release, Barr said that she was looking forward to the trip as “a lover of Israel” and said the country is an “oasis of openness, freedom, democracy and tolerance amidst a desert of brutality from an age gone by.”
Earlier this year, Barr’s rebooted sitcom “Roseanne” was canceled after she retweeted a statement that accused former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett of having evil intent toward Jews and Israelis. Barr had previously come under fire for a racist tweet that mocked Jarrett, who is African-American, saying that “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.”
She later released a video in which she ranted about the tweet, yelling “I thought the b*tch was white!”
Israeli lawmakers legalize export of medical marijuana
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel is going into the medical marijuana export business—if its Cabinet agrees.
The Knesset has passed legislation that would have Israel join the Netherlands and Canada as nations allowing the legal export of medical cannabis.
Among the countries reportedly eager to trade with Israel include Australia, Germany, Austria and Mexico, according to Forbes.
“Israel is perfectly positioned to enter and disrupt the medical cannabis market that is expected to soar to $33 billion worldwide in the next 5 years,” Saul Kaye, CEO of iCAN, an Israeli medical cannabis company, said in a statement. “In Israel alone, we quickly expect over $1 billion in sales to countries interested in our products.”
The Cabinet still must approve the legislation. Exports would not begin for at least six months.
The Knesset rushed to vote Tuesday on the measure a day before the parliament dissolved itself. Only 21 of the 120 members in the body voted, Globes reported.
The legislation, which regulates export procedures, had the support of several key ministries.
There are eight cannabis growing companies operating in Israel and several others involved in production, marketing and distribution. Dozens of other farmers hold licenses to grow cannabis, but have delayed planting as the export legislation has been considered.
Organizers cancel Chicago Women’s March
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Local organizers canceled the 2019 Chicago Women’s March, citing the high cost and overextended volunteers.
The announcement was made at the end of November, but local media reported it this week. The Chicago groups said in the announcement that it would hold a Women’s March “anniversary action” on Jan. 19, the day the third annual Women’s March is scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C., and cities across the country.
In October, the Chicago group held a March to the Polls to empower women prior to last month’s midterm elections. The event drew some 100,000 people.
The cancellation announcement came two weeks after the Women’s March Chicago said in a Facebook post—in response to questions about whether the Women’s March organization is “anti-Semitic”—that “we have ZERO affiliation with Women’s March Inc. We are an independent organization that decries hate in any form.”
Top leaders of the main organization have been accused of engaging in or condoning anti-Semitism, of not cutting ties with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and of failing to heed the concerns of its thousands of Jewish backers.
Knesset passes law to prevent early release of terrorists
(JNS)—The Knesset passed a law on Tuesday night that will prevent the early release of convicted terrorists serving sentences in prison.
The legislation, proposed by Knesset members Anat Berko (Likud) and Oded Forer (Yisrael Beiteinu), will deny terrorists the ability to be released after two-thirds of their sentences, as can occur with other prisoners who show remorse and demonstrate their rehabilitation.
The law was submitted following an exposé in the Yediot Achronotnewspaper in which the Zionist organization Im Tirtzu exposed the plans of the Defense Ministry to reduce the sentences of terrorists by one-third for good behavior.
“A reduced sentence is a privilege that terrorists are not worthy of receiving,” said Berko. “Terrorists are proud of their actions and therefore must bear the full consequences. We won’t stop working for our citizens’ security.”
Forer said: “This is an important precedent in the fight against terror and the effort to increase deterrence. Now every terrorist knows that he has no hope of being released early.”
He added that “I am happy that moments before the Knesset is dissolved. We succeeded in doing justice to all those families who lost their loved ones in terrorist attacks.”
Im Tirtzu CEO, Matan Peleg, called the law “a victory for justice and sanity.”
“It is a shame that we are in a situation in which a law is needed to prevent terrorists from receiving early parole,” said Peleg. “We need to continue promoting a strong deterrence package against terrorism that will prevent the next attack from occurring.”