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

Weekly roundup of world briefs


FBI got tip about Poway shooter 5 minutes before synagogue attack

By Marcy Oster

(JTA)—The FBI was tipped off to a threat about five minutes before the deadly shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, but it was too late to stop the attack.

The agency said in a statement first provided to The Associated Press that information came through its tip website and phone line about the threatening message posted by the alleged shooter to social media. The tip included a link to the message, but no specific information about the post’s author or where he was located.

The FBI said it immediately began trying to locate the author of the post but that the shooting took place before he could be identified.

AP spoke to one of the tipsters, who said he called the FBI at 11:15 a.m. Saturday after seeing a post containing a link to a manifesto in which the author said he had set fire to a mosque in nearby Escondido weeks earlier. The tipster said that when he saw articles online confirming that the mosque attack had occurred, he called the FBI because he thought the new threat was real.

The FBI statement thanked the “alert citizens” who reported the post, according to The New York Times.

John Earnest, 19, of San Diego was charged Sunday with one count of first degree murder and three counts of attempted murder in the synagogue shooting.

Trump calls rabbi at synagogue where fatal shooting attack took place

By Gabrielle Birkner

POWAY, Calif. (JTA)—President Donald Trump placed a condolence call to the spiritual leader of the Chabad of Poway, the San Diego-area synagogue where a shooting Saturday killed one and injured three others.

“He spoke about his love of peace and Judaism and Israel,” Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein told the media Sunday afternoon in front of the synagogue building.

The rabbi said the call lasted 10 to 15 minutes and he was “amazed” to hear from an American president.

“He was so comforting,” the rabbi said.

The incident is being treated as a hate crime, and the alleged gunman, John Earnest, 19, was charged Sunday with one count of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder.

A Chabad congregant, Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, died in the shooting.

Elected officials across the political spectrum have condemned the violence, which coincided with the final day of Passover and came six months after a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue killed 11 worshippers at Shabbat services.

Measles outbreak tops 700, the highest since its declared eradication

By Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA)—The U.S. measles outbreak, especially prevalent among haredi Orthodox Jews, has topped 700 cases—the most in one year since the Center for Disease Control declared the disease eliminated in the United States in 2000.

The record outbreak of 704 cases reported last week by the CDC includes 400 cases in New York and its suburbs, where it has mainly affected the haredim, topping the 667 cases in 2014. Before the disease was declared eradicated, the previous high was 963 cases in 1994.

The CDC pinned the resurgence on the unvaccinated and those who brought back measles from other countries. The outbreaks in Orthodox Jewish communities were associated with travelers who carried the disease back from Israel and Ukraine, according to the CDC.

Despite institutional pressure, a strain of opposition to vaccines has persisted in haredi communities based on false claims that vaccines are ineffective at best and harmful at worst. Large families, close-knit communities and the complexity of timing immunizations for a family’s many young children also have contributed to the outbreak.

The majority of Orthodox Jewish children are vaccinated, according to statistics issued by the New York state and New York City health departments. There is no religious reason not to be vaccinated. Prominent rabbis in New York have called on their followers to vaccinate their children.

El Al plane makes emergency landing at Ben-Gurion Airport

(JNS)—An El Al flight from Israel to Warsaw was forced to make an emergency landing Monday morning at Ben-Gurion International Airport after experiencing a technical problem.

The pilot alerted air-traffic controllers that he needed to return to the airport and safely landed the plane. Ambulances and emergency vehicles were rushed to the site, and the airport declared a state of emergency, delaying all arrivals and departures.

No injuries were reported among the airplane’s 138 passengers.

Federal judge rules anti-BDS law in Texas unconstitutional

By Jackson Richman

(JNS)—A federal judge ruled last week that the Texas law prohibiting government contractors from boycotting Israel is unconstitutional.

“At the heart of the First Amendment lies the principle that each person should decide for him or herself the ideas and beliefs deserving of expression, consideration and adherence,” said U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman.

“Our political system and cultural life rest upon this ideal,” Pitman said in his opinion.

He added that “the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular[,]” is “to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation—and their ideas from suppression—at the hands of an intolerant society.”

The judge rejected the state’s motion to dismiss several lawsuits and tentatively halted the state from enforcing the 2017 law.

“The opinion ignored directly binding Supreme Court precedent which ruled the ideologically motivated boycotts are not speech at all,” Eugene Kontorovich, director of international law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, told JNS. “It distinguished that precedent, which involved a boycott of military recruiters by laws schools, on ground that the court did not use the word ‘boycott’ in its opinion.

“But the law schools described their own conduct as being a boycott, and the Court of Appeals will not likely be convinced by the district judge’s word games,” he added.

The Texas legislature passed legislation a few weeks ago to modify the anti-BDS law that, if enacted, would exempt individuals and smaller companies, specifically those with less than 10 full-time employees or valued under $100,000.

Sharon Osbourne and Gene Simmons are among 100-plus artists who slam calls to boycott Eurovision in Israel

By Josefin Dolsten

(JTA)—More than 100 artists and prominent people in the entertainment industry have denounced calls to boycott next month’s Eurovision Song Contest in Israel.

Sharon Osbourne, Stephen Fry and Gene Simmons are among the signatories of an open letter released Tuesday.

The signatories said the “spirit of togetherness” embodied by the Eurovision “is under attack by those calling to boycott Eurovision 2019 because it is being held in Israel, subverting the spirit of the contest and turning it from a tool of unity into a weapon of division.”

“We believe the cultural boycott movement is an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition,” it continued.

The letter was organized by Creative Community For Peace, a nonprofit organization that aims to counter cultural boycotts of Israel.

On Monday, Netta Barzilai, the Israeli singer who won the 2018 contest with her pop hit “Toy”—giving her nation the right to host this year’s competition—criticized calls for boycotting the event.

Calls to boycott the contest taking place in Israel have come from supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, including musicians such as Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and British singer Peter Gabriel.

The Eurovision semifinals will be held in Tel Aviv on May 14 and 16, followed by the grand final on May 18.

Parents of alleged Poway synagogue shooter issue sharp statement condemning their son

By Gabe Friedman

(JTA)—The parents of the alleged Poway synagogue shooter issued a statement condemning their son and the “darkness” that led to “this evil and despicable act.”

“Our son’s actions were informed by people we do not know, and ideas we do not hold,” the mother and father of John Earnest wrote Monday. “Like our other five children, he was raised in a family, a faith and a community that all rejected hate and taught that love must be the motive for everything we do. How our son was attracted to such darkness is a terrifying mystery to us.”

Earnest, 19, was charged with murder Sunday afternoon in the attack of the previous morning at Chabad of Poway. Before the shooting, on the last day of Passover, someone identifying himself as John Earnest posted a link to a hate-filled “manifesto” filled with anti-Semitic and white nationalist sentiment.

His father, John, is a longtime science teacher at Mt. Carmel High School in San Diego, from which the younger Earnest graduated in 2017.

Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, was killed in the Shabbat morning attack and three people, including the synagogue’s rabbi and an 8-year-old girl, were injured.

The family said they will likely not comment further “until after the criminal case is resolved.”

Trump administration plans to name Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization

(JNS)—The Trump administration is in the stages of officially designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, announced White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Tuesday.

Sanders confirmed a New York Times report citing officials familiar with the matter, that the United States was in the process of making the designation, which would enact “wide-ranging economic and travel sanctions” on anyone doing business with the organization.

Visiting the White House earlier this month, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi asked U.S. President Donald Trump to make the move, which the president “responded affirmatively,” saying “it would make sense.”

The Brotherhood is a Sunni Islamist group that was founded in Egypt in 1928 and has ties to other radical groups, including Hamas. It is Egypt’s oldest Islamist organization with branches worldwide.

In 2012, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi won the Egyptian elections only to be ousted in the coup by El-Sisi a year later.

Russia, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the United Arab Emirates consider the Brotherhood as a terrorist group.


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