Weekly roundup of world briefs
May 3, 2019
Florida Passover guests left in the lurch when program organizer fails to pay resort or vendors
By Josefin Dolsten
(JTA)—Guests at a Passover program in Florida faced eviction after it emerged the organizer owed at least $75,000 to the resort, vendors and staff.
The A Different Pesach program had promised guests would stay in private villas in Orlando with shared communal spaces, including a synagogue tent, and kosher food for the eight days of Passover.
But after hundreds of guests arrived, it emerged that program owner Ben Atkin had not paid for all the expenses, and on Sunday some guests received eviction notices on the villas in which they were staying, The New York Jewish Week reported. The following day, resort told those guests that they could not use some of the common areas since Atkin owed money.
Meanwhile, Atkin had left the premises and his whereabouts were unknown.
On Tuesday, operations managers for A Different Pesach, Brian Goldberg and Dennis Ratzker, told The Jewish Week that they have paid more than $15,000 of their own money to cover costs. Some guests also offered to pitch in.
This wasn’t Atkin’s first failed Passover program. In 2003, more than 450 guests at a program he organized at a hotel were evicted due to a payment dispute, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Israel will participate in 2020 World Expo in Dubai
By Josefin Dolsten
(JTA)—Israel said it is participating in the 2020 World Expo being held in the United Arab Emirates.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry made the announcement Thursday. Countries from around the world will showcase their cultures and innovation at the event.
A representative for Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement that the country would be “sharing our innovative spirit and the advances our entrepreneurs and innovators are making in the various fields such as water, information and medical technologies.”
On Twitter, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country’s participation represented its “rising status in the world and the region.”
The Gulf States do not have formal ties with Israel, but they have been growing closer in recent years. The countries share a goal of countering Iranian influence in the Middle East.
Jason Greenblatt, the White House’s top Middle East negotiator, praised the United Arab Emirates in a tweet about Israel’s participation in the event.
“UAE continues to welcome & include all. Thank you to our great friend and ally #UAE for this continued momentum,” he wrote.
Congress members call for Israeli visitors to have easier entry into US
By Josefin Dolsten
NEW YORK (JTA)—Two Congress members called on the Department of Homeland Security to admit Israel into a program that allows some of its visitors expedited entry into the United States.
Reps. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., and Brian Mast, R-Fla., sent a letter Wednesday to the acting Homeland Security secretary, Kevin McAleenan, urging him to admit the Jewish state into the Global Entry program for “pre-approved, low-risk travelers.”
“Israel’s full participation in this program would grow the U.S. economy, strengthen national security at each of our borders, and increase opportunities for people-to-people exchange, which bolsters our already unique bilateral relationship,” the letter reads.
Israel has been participating in a limited pilot version of the program since 2012. In March, all 100 members of the Senate signed a letter urging the Department of Homeland Security to expedite Israel’s full membership into the program.
Thirteen countries participate in the program: Australia, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, the Netherlands, Panama, Germany, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Colombia, Switzerland, Argentina and India.
One of Manhattan’s 3 remaining Judaica stores is closing
By Josefin Dolsten
NEW YORK (JTA)—Locals and visitors looking for a Judaica store here will soon only have two options.
J. Levine Books and Judaica, a longtime seller of Jewish books, gifts and ritual objects, will close at the end of May, owner Daniel Levine told The New York Jewish Week.
Levine, the Midtown Manhattan shop’s fourth-generation owner, said his business was hurt by the rising popularity of online shopping.
“The next generation doesn’t shop in stores,” he told The Jewish Week. “That’s the nature of the world.”
Levine said he would continue to operate an online store, but it would be smaller than it is now.
A city that once was home to dozens of Jewish bookstores will now have only two independent ones in Manhattan—West Side Judaica on the Upper West Side and Judaica Classics on the Upper East Side. In 2017, the former announced it would be closing. But following the news customers flocked there, allowing West Side Judaica to stay afloat, according to The Jewish Week. In addition, several boutique Judaica stores remain in Manhattan, mostly connected to museums or synagogues.
The shrinking number of Jewish bookstores shouldn’t be seen as a decrease in interest in Judaism, historian Jonathan Sarna told The Jewish Week.
Instead it is “a message to others who are thinking of opening Jewish bookstores,” said Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University. “It’s cheaper and easier to shop at Amazon.”
Lithuania bans Holocaust denier David Irving for next 5 years
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—British Holocaust denier David Irving has been barred from entering Lithuania for the next five years.
The ban, announced on Wednesday, was requested by the country’s Foreign Ministry, according to reports.
“Irving’s views and his efforts to trivialize the Holocaust are unacceptable and constitute a crime in Lithuania,” ministry spokeswoman Rasa Jakilaitiene told reporters.
The announcement comes more than a month after Irving advertised that he will lead a tour of Nazi death camps in Poland, including Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec and Majdanek, as well as other Nazi historical sites.
Earlier this month, a Warsaw-based Holocaust commemoration group petitioned the Polish border police to block Irving’s entry to the country.
Lithuania is concerned that Irving might try to bring the tour into Lithuania, which borders Poland, and Latvia. The head of the Lithuanian Jewish community Faina Kukliansky told reporters that the community welcomes the ban.
4 children of couple murdered in West Bank sue Syria and Iran in federal court
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—The four children of a couple who were killed by a Palestinian Hamas terror cell while driving in the West Bank have filled a $360 million civil damages wrongful death lawsuit against Iran and Syria in federal court in Washington.
Eitam and Naama Henkin were killed on Oct. 1, 2015, when the Palestinian attackers, who originally had intended to kidnap the couple, instead shot them at close range in their car. The children, then ages 9, 7, 4, and 10 months, witnessed the murder from the back seat of the car and were uninjured. Eitam Henkin held both Israeli and American citizenship.
The terrorists were sentenced to life in prison by a military court in the West Bank in June 2016.
The lawsuit explains that Hamas receives material support from Syria and Iran, including financing, training and weapons procurement.
The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday by the Washington-based international law firm Stein Mitchell Beato & Missner, and MM LAW.
“If these despotic regimes think they can get away with murdering American citizens, then they are wrong,” Jonathan Missner, the Henkin children’s’ lead attorney said in a statement. “This lawsuit sends a clear warning that those who finance, support and encourage terrorism must be held accountable and forced to answer for their actions.”
Eitam Henkin was an American citizen and the son of Rabbi Yehuda and Chana Henkin, the founders in 1990 of Nishmat, an institute for advanced Torah study for women in Jerusalem. The parents moved to Israel from the United States in the 1970s.
Israel issues strong warning against travel to Sri Lanka
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israel issued a travel warning of a “high and concrete (terror) threat” in Sri Lanka.
The warning issued by the Israel National Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau on Thursday, four days after a terror attack at eight churches and hotels in three cities in Sri Lanka killed at least 359 people and injured hundreds, called on Israelis already in Sri Lanka to leave as soon as possible and for those planning trips to cancel or delay those plans.
It is the bureau’s second highest warning.
The decision to issue the warning came in consultation with representatives of Israeli security organizations and the Foreign Ministry, according to the Counter-Terrorism Bureau.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Easter Sunday attack.
Two Jewish teenage siblings from London, who were dual citizens of the United States, were among those killed in the attack.
Paris conference featuring Jewish philosopher held under security amid threat of protests
By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA)—Amid threats of protests against Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, organizers of a conference at a Paris university where he was scheduled to speak announced the event’s cancellation, and then relocation before holding it as planned under heavy security.
The organizers of the event Tuesday on Europe’s future at Sciences Po wrote it had been cancelled because “Security is our top priority and it’s preferable to take no risks.” Then, in what the Valeurs Actuelles website described as a confusing cat-and-mouse game between the university and protesters, it was reported to have moved to the IPAG Business School near Sciences Po university, but was eventually held as Sciences Po.
Protesters tried to block access to IPAG and Sciences Po but were held at bay by police.
The event included other speakers, but they were not named in the letter threatening protests. Finkielkraut was accosted recently on a Paris street for being a “Zionist.”
In their statement, the authors of the call to demonstrate outside Sciences Po wrote: “We cannot accept Finkielkraut’s ‘modern Europe’ and his Islamophobic, racist, sexist and homophobic rhetoric.” A Sciences Po spokesperson called the group “far-left.”
The university recently canceled an event on “Israeli apartheid,” which the protesters alleged as showing a pro-Israeli bias by faculty.
Finkielkraut is a centrist thinker who has criticized the far right, as well as Muslim communities and far-left activists, for failing to integrate. A best-selling author, Finkielkraut entered the pantheon of French academia in 2016 when he was admitted into the Academie Francaise, a council of 40 greats elected for life.
A Zionist supporter of Israel, he is a member of the dovish J Call group styled after the J Street lobby in the United States.
In February, police extracted Finkielkraut from a hostile crowd after he was recognized on the street by participants of so-called yellow vests demonstrations over the cost of living. His assailants called him a “dirty Zionist” and told him to “go back to Tel Aviv.”
Netanyahu says he wants to name a new community on Golan Heights after Donald Trump
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants a new community on the Golan Heights named for Donald Trump.
The announcement Tuesday comes a month after the U.S. president signed a proclamation recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the strategic heights, which Israel captured from Syria during the Six-Day War in 1967 and annexed in 1981. The United States is the first country to recognize the Golan as part of Israel.
In a video message posted to YouTube Netanyahu said: “I’m here on the beautiful Golan Heights. All Israelis were deeply moved when President Trump made his historic decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Therefore, after the Passover holiday, I intend to bring to the government a resolution calling for a new community on the Golan Heights named after President Donald J. Trump.”
Netanyahu, his wife, Sara, and their two sons spent Tuesday touring the Golan Heights, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
Israeli teen who fell to death in Yosemite was re-enacting iconic social media post
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—An Israeli teen who fell to his death last year while hiking in Yosemite National Park in California was trying to re-enact another iconic social media photograph when he fell.
Tomer Frankfurter, 18, of Jerusalem, asked a woman to take his photo while he was hanging over the edge of the top of Nevada Fall when he fell 600 feet to his death, The Associated Press reported. The teen was on a two-month trip to the United States prior to entering the Israeli army.
Reports originally said that Frankfurter died while taking a selfie. AP obtained the new information after filing a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Israeli was imitating a photo taken by tourists at Telegraph Rock in Rio de Janiero. An unnamed woman took the photos for Frankfurter, who then asked for help climbing back up.
He slipped from the hands of three other hikers as they tried to haul him back over the edge and fell to his death, AP reported.
Yad Vashem posthumously recognizes a Dutch couple for hiding 2 Jewish boys during the Holocaust
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Yad Vashem posthumously recognized a Dutch couple as Righteous Among the Nations for hiding two Jewish boys during the Holocaust.
A ceremony was held Monday at the Holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem for Jantje and Johannes Krijl.
One of the boys saved, Gershon Eisenmann, was on hand along with his family. The late Mechel Jamenfeld, the other boy saved, was represented by his wife.
The award was presented to Sandra Krijl, a granddaughter of the rescuers.
Jamenfeld and Eisenmann became very attached to each other while in hiding at the Krijls, according to Yad Vashem. Jamenfeld’s parents were killed in the Holocaust. Eisenmann’s parents survived and took in Jamenfeld after World War II. The Krijls had given Jamenfeld the choice to remain with them permanently, but also told him it was OK to live with his “own people.”
Jamenfeld’s sister, Miriam, who also survived in hiding in the Netherlands, stayed with her rescuers after the Holocaust.
Jamenfeld moved to Israel in 1952. Eisenmann remained in Holland.
The Krijls were officially recognized as Righteous Among the Nations in October. Their names will be added to the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem.
An Australian comedian joked about Nazi gas chambers. A Jewish audience member was not amused.
By Henry Benjamin
SYDNEY, Australia (JTA)—Here’s a stand-up comedian’s email response to an email complaint about his material involving Nazi gas chambers: “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the oven.”
Isaac Butterfield had asked his audience at the Melbourne Comedy Festival in Australia to “imagine the joy of people when they heard the Jews were sent to the gas chambers,” the city’s Herald Sun newspaper reported.
A Jewish woman who was in the audience wrote to the comedian.
“Sitting there hearing about Jews being gassed, eight million perished including children, watching family members being gassed or tortured or shot, is not remotely funny,” her email said.
Anti-Defamation Commission Chairman Dvir Abramovich said in a statement that “It’s never OK to spew such hate rhetoric, and Isaac Butterfield should be ashamed for his hideous remarks that crossed all lines and which trampled on the memory of the dead.
“It is beyond shocking to exploit the extermination of six million Jews in the Holocaust to generate despicable jokes. When you consider that the corpses of those killed with the poison gas were often cremated in ovens, Mr. Butterfield’s email response of ‘get out of the oven’ is disturbing and vicious,” Abramovich also said.
He called on Butterfield to apologize and to meet with Holocaust survivors to hear their stories.