Weekly roundup of world briefs
September 13, 2019
Far-right Alternative for Germany party makes large gains in two state elections
By Toby Axelrod
(JTA)—The head of Germany’s Jewish community is urging democratic political parties to clearly distance themselves from the right-populist Alternative for Germany Party, which made large gains in two state elections.
The anti-immigrant party, with some politicians who also have suggested that Germany is too obsessed with the Holocaust, achieved second place in elections Sunday in the former east German states of Brandenburg and Saxony, with 23.5 and 27.5 percent respectively. In Saxony, the Christian Democratic Union of Chancellor Angela Merkel won the largest percentage of votes, while in Brandenburg the Social Democratic Party came out on top.
“It would be devastating to sit back and relax” just because the right-wing party did not gain first place, Josef Schuster, head of the
Central Council of Jews in Germany, told the German-Jewish weekly newspaper Juedische Allgemeine on Monday.
He urged voters not to be complacent, and not to be taken in by AfD leader Alexander Gauland’s recent attempts to whitewash the party by calling it “bourgeois.” Last month, Schuster said in an interview that the AfD is closely interwoven with right-wing extremism, inciting fears and promoting an anti-minority atmosphere. Despite concerns about anti-Semitism among the many Muslims in Germany, the far right remains the greatest threat to Jews, he said.
Speaking to the Jewish weekly in the hours following the weekend’s election, Schuster said he was relieved that the worst-case scenario—a bigger win for the AfD—had not come to pass.
Rivlin remembers killed yeshiva student Dvir Sorek at start of school year
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin opened Israel’s school year at the Robert M. Beren Machanaim Hesder Yeshiva, where he memorialized murdered student Dvir Sorek.
“The radiance of Dvir’s personality captured the hearts of everyone,” Rivlin said Sunday in an address to Sorek’s classmates and teachers. “One of the finest young men of this good land, whose grandfather Rabbi Binyamin Herling was murdered by terrorists in Samaria, and who was active in bringing together Arab and Jewish youth in this area. Dvir was truly a symbol of hope and faith and breadth of opinion.”
Sorek, who would have turned 19 in the days following his murder, went missing on August 7 while returning from a trip to Jerusalem to buy gifts for his teachers. His body was found at about 3 a.m. the following day on a road leading to the Migdal Oz settlement where the yeshiva, part of the Ohr Torah Stone network, is located. His murderers were arrested several days later.
The Hesder program combines yeshiva studies and army service.
Rivlin added: “Dvir gave us with another responsibility, left us another will. A commitment to discourse and contact between the various tribes and streams within Israeli society. As the elections approach, when passions are raised and the discourse coarsens, I implore you not to believe the incitement and the personal attacks. Do not listen to the voices that are eager to radicalize the discourse, to the right or to the left. Take responsibility for our ‘together’ because this ‘together’ is our only guarantee of our strength and is the best guarantee for our safety.”
Sanders calls for Americans to stand together in appearance at largest Muslim convention
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Sen. Bernie Sanders got a standing ovation at the Islamic Society of North America annual convention in Houston.
Sanders spoke on Saturday to the conventions some 6,000 attendees, the first presidential candidate, along with Julian Castro, to address the gathering, the largest meeting of American Muslims.
“I am here today because I believe in the concept of solidarity, and the need for all of us, no matter where we come from or what our background is, to stand together in the struggle for justice and human rights,” Sanders said.
“We must speak out at hate crimes and violence targeted at the Muslim community and call it what it is: Domestic Terrorism,” he also said.
He brought up his personal history, as the “proud son of Jewish immigrants.”
“As some of you may know, the issue of hatred and prejudice is very personal for me,” he said. He noted that those in his family who remained in Poland after Hitler came to power were murdered by the Nazis.
“And the lesson I learned from that experience is how important it is for all of us to speak out forcefully whenever we see prejudice and discrimination,” he said.
He reminded his audience that “in the wake of Trump’s Muslim ban, thousands of non-Muslims from all walks of life rushed to airports all across this country to stand in solidarity with Muslims.”
Sanders was introduced by his campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, the first Muslim to manage a major presidential campaign.
Hasidic Jewish couple harassed about Israel’s treatment of Gaza on Manchester train ride
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—An identifiably Jewish couple was harassed about Israel’s treatment of Gaza during a train ride in Manchester, England.
The anti-Semitic rant against the couple, dressed in Hasidic garb, was filmed by another passenger in the Metrolink on Thursday night, the Manchester Evening News reported.
The man called across the train car to the couple, asking them: “Does he know about the situation in Gaza?”
The man, who said he was from “Palestine,” was challenged by other passengers but continued his tirade. “I’m just asking one single question,” he said. “How is that an inflammatory question?”
The woman, 27, who filmed the incident told the Manchester newspaper that she reported it to the Community Support Trust, an organization for reporting anti-Semitic hate crime.
Playground at Queens private beach club targeted with anti-Semitic graffiti
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—A playground at a private beach club in Queens was targeted with anti-Semitic and racist graffiti.
The playground at the Silver Gull was closed, the club announced on Friday, “due to the recent and increasing vandalism from within the club,” the New York Times reported Sunday.
Among the graffiti, according to the report, was “Heil Hitler,” swastikas, and the words “gas chamber” painted on a door. Racial slurs targeting black people also were discovered.
Club management called police over the incident, and also painted over the graffiti.
It is being investigated as a bias crime, Sgt. Richard Firrito, a spokesman for the United States Park Police in New York, told the newspaper.
The incident reportedly took place while the club was open. In addition to the graffiti, the shed used for arts programs was broken into and the equipment and supplies damaged.
NJ rabbi sentenced to 18 months in prison for human trafficking of 17-year-old girl
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—A New Jersey rabbi was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his involvement in the human trafficking and prostitution of a 17-year old girl.
Rabbi Aryeh Goodman, 37, of East Brunswick, New Jersey, also will have to undergo a year of supervised release. The sentence was announced on Wednesday.
Goodman had pleaded guilty to a charge of interstate travel in aid of a racketeering enterprise, CBS New York reported Friday.
Goodman met the teen at the hotel on Feb. 1, 2018 and paid to have sex with her after answering an online advertisement for the girl, according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. He turned himself in nearly a week later to the East Brunswick Police Department while accompanied by his attorney.
At the time of his arrest, he was running a religious learning center out of his home.
Goodman is registered as a Tier 3, or high-risk sex offender, after being arrested in 2013 for molesting a youth while serving as a camp counselor in 2001. He accepted a plea deal and served prison time for that incident.
Cleveland Browns cut Jewish placekicker Greg Joseph
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—The Cleveland Browns have cut Jewish placekicker Greg Joseph.
Joseph was cut on Saturday after spending a year with the team. He was released on waivers, which means another National Football League team has the opportunity to pick him up.
The team had to trim its roster ahead of its first regular season game against the Tennessee Titans on September 8.
Joseph, 25, was picked up by the Browns last summer when he was cut by the Miami Dolphins after signing with the club as an undrafted free agent out of Florida Atlantic University. He played football and soccer at the Donna Klein Jewish Academy in Boca Raton, Florida.
Poway rabbi who lost finger in synagogue shooting gets lifelike prosthetic
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—The rabbi who lost his finger in the April shooting attack on the Chabad of Poway in California has received a lifelike prosthetic finger.
The silicone prosthetic is meant to help his hand function properly and is removed for sleep.
Sam Heifetz, a third-generation prosthetist at Orthocraft Prosthetic and Orthotic Services in Brooklyn, created the High Definition Silicone Restoration or lifelike prosthesis for Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, COlLive reported.
He lost one index finger in the attack by alleged gunman, John Earnest, who shot with an assault rifle at close range.
“His lost finger during the horrific attack in his synagogue is a physical reminder of hate but his counterattack of inner strength, trust in God and bringing good to the world sheds light over and over,” Heifetz said, according to the news website.
After being shot, Goldstein ran to the social hall where congregants had gathered—as had several children, including his granddaughter—and he began waving them out of the building to safety.
“I just ran, not even knowing my fingers were blown off,” he said.
Photos of thousands of Yeshiva University students appear on white nationalist website
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—The photos of thousands of students and faculty of Yeshiva University appear on a white nationalist and anti-Semitic website.
The photos were posted on the Vanguard News Network Forum, in a thread that mocked Jews’ for their appearance. The thread first appeared on June 3rd, 2018, and on June 27th, 2018, the first Yeshiva University students are posted, according to the YU Observer student newspaper. The most recent post of YU students was on Aug. 29.
The photos include images of YU high school students as well. They came from YU website and publications and albums, according to the report.
Some students have filed a report with the New York Police Department.
“Those photos are part of a much larger collection of images and commentary that includes anti-Semitic and racist language,” Josh Joseph, senior vice president of YU said in a statement on Friday. “The content of the online forum targeting members of our community is appalling and offensive. Targeting individuals on the basis of their religion, ethnicity or race is inexcusable. While this situation is obviously disturbing, our Security team has investigated and found no direct threat to the individuals appearing in the photos or to Yeshiva University.”
Brandeis University, which has Jewish roots, informed its students and staff last week that photos of some of its students and faculty members are posted to the same thread. The university said in a letter addressed to the campus community that it does not believe that there is a threat to campus safety or to the people in the photos.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s account sends out inflammatory tweets after being hacked
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s account sent out racist and inflammatory tweets including “Hitler is innocent” after it was hacked.
His account also tweeted that Twitter’s headquarters is “blowing up” as well as re-tweeting a tweet saying “Nazi Germany did nothing wrong.”
The tweets were up for about a half hour before they were removed.
Dorsey has 4.2 million followers.
“We’re aware that @jack was compromised and investigating what happened,” Twitter’s communications department tweeted on Friday night. It later tweeted that the account was “now secure.”
Twitter has been accused of being unable to control hate speech and harassment on its platform. It is not the first time that Dorsey has been hacked either.
Ex-imam removed from running in Canadian elections over alleged anti-Semitic comments
By David Lazarus
MONTREAL (JTA)—The Liberal Party of Canada ousted a candidate for upcoming national election after B’nai Brith Canada revealed past allegedly anti-Semitic comments.
Hassan Guillet, a former imam running for election in a Montreal district, was removed on Friday from contention for the Oct. 21 election. Gulliet gained international attention when he spoke out following a 2017 mosque attack in Quebec City.
But according to B’nai Brith, Guillet’s past has included celebrating the release of a pro-Hamas activist Raed Salah, who said Jews were behind the 9/11 attacks; accusing “Zionists” of controlling U.S. politics; and describing Israel as an “apartheid” state.
B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn welcomed Guillet’s turfing and said, “the anti-Semitic tropes of ‘Zionists controlling governments’ and of ‘dual loyalty’ are two of the more abhorrent expressions of paranoid anti- Jewish conspiracy theories.”
The Liberal Party of Canada said in a statement that Guillet’s past comments “do not correspond to the party’s values.”
Netanyahu calls for boycott of HBO’s ‘Our Boys’
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the boycott of an Israeli television channel for producing and screening the controversial HBO series “Our Boys.”
Netanyahu made the charge in a post Friday on Facebook, calling the show “anti-Semitic” and asserting that it “gives a bad and false name to Israel.”
The post included a graphic sporting the logos of Channel 12 and its news division, under the words “fake news.”
The first moments of the 10-episode series focuses on the kidnapping in June 2014 of three teenage Israeli boys who were found dead two weeks later, and then focuses for the rest of the series on the retaliatory murder of a Palestinian teen by Jewish extremists.
“They took but a few minutes to show what happened to the three, and then the plot moves away from their heinous murder, and instead focuses on the horrible, but unique case of the murder of a single Arab child,” Netanyahu said.
“I’m not surprised that Channel 12 slanders Israel, as I am used to them slandering me on a daily basis,” he said.
Netanyahu has regularly criticized Keshet for its coverage of corruption charged against him, including on Saturday night when he accused the station on social media of “committing a terror attack against democracy” and of attempting to influence the outcome of the upcoming national elections.
Jeffrey Epstein criminal case is closed
By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA)—A federal judge in New York formally ended the criminal case against Jeffrey Epstein, the Jewish financier who authorities say killed himself while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.
Judge Richard Berman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York shelved the indictment on Thursday charging Epstein, 66, with sex crimes in the early 2000s in Florida and New York.
During the session, Berman included a reference to a court hearing two days earlier at which 16 women spoke about their claims against Epstein of sexual abuse, some allegedly committed when they were under the age of consent. Statements by several other women were read by their lawyers.
The judge said he was incorporating by reference the hearing’s transcript while he “underscores the significance of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.” Among other things, the victims’ law ensures crime victims have the right to be heard at public court proceedings regarding the accused.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr has promised the Justice Department will pursue those who enabled Epstein to carry out the sexual assaults.
Epstein was arrested last month. He had pleaded not guilty.
In requesting the shelving of the indictment 10 days earlier, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, who is not related to the judge, said the law required the dismissal after Epstein killed himself in jail on Aug. 10, The Associated Press reported.