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

Weekly roundup of world briefs


January 3, 2020

Yeshiva University dorm set on fire by man using matches meant for Chanukah candles

By Marcy Oster

(JTA)—A man broke into a Yeshiva University dormitory and set three separate fires using matches intended to light Chanukah candles.

Students were asleep in the building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side when the incident occurred after 3 a.m. Friday, New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro announced on Friday.

Peter Weyand, 33, who works as a software engineer, was arrested the same day for breaking into the university’s Schottenstein Residence in an incident partially captured on security camera. He is charged with arson, burglary with criminal intent, reckless endangerment of property, criminal mischief, criminal trespass and aggravated harassment.

Weyand is believed to have been under the influence of drugs at the time of the incident, The New York Times reported, citing a law enforcement official familiar with the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing. None of the charges raise the level of the incident to a hate crime, despite the fact that the university is a major Jewish institution in the city.

The Fire Department released surveillance video of a man kicking out the bottom of a glass door to the dormitory’s lobby and then crawling through it, finally continuing into the building. The video does not show the fires.

“Attacking any religious institution is a serious crime and we have zero tolerance for acts of arson in this city,” Nigro said. “Thanks to the thorough investigative work of our fire marshals, a dangerous individual has been quickly apprehended.”

Airstrike on Syria that killed 3 leads to Iranian threat against Israel

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Iran has threatened Israel over an airstrike near Damascus, Syria, that killed three Iranians.

The attack on Sunday was attributed to Israel by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It targeted Iranian and Syrian military positions near Damascus, according to the group.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told Russia Today Arabic that Israel will “regret its crimes,” and that “Illegal Israeli attacks in the region cannot pass without a response.”

The airstrikes are believed to have been launched across the coast through Lebanese airspace, Reuters reported, citing a source in the regional alliance supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The Syrian army said it downed one of the missiles.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied the attack.

Israel has launched dozens of airstrikes against Syria in recent years targeting Iranian-backed militias operating in the country and weapons shipments bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Torah scroll set on fire in attack on West Bank synagogue

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Several Torah scrolls were damaged in an attack on a West Bank synagogue.

One of the scrolls was set ablaze and the synagogue’s silver ritual items were stolen in the haredi Orthodox city of Modiin Illit.

The break-in occurred on Sunday night and was discovered early Monday when worshippers arrived for the morning prayer services, Ynet reported.

The vandals also destroyed prayer books and emptied the contents of shelves and cabinets on the floor.

Synagogue leaders told Ynet that they were not in any disputes and had no idea who would have desecrated their sanctuary.

A similar incident took place six months ago in a synagogue in the central Israeli city of Bnei Brak, home to a majority of haredim, or ultra-Orthodox.

All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler retires

By Marcy Oster

(JTA)—Ian Kinsler, a four-time All-Star second baseman who played for several teams, is retiring after a 14-year career in Major League Baseball.

Kinsler, 37, the son of a Jewish father and Catholic mother, played last season with the San Diego Padres. He ends his career one hit away from 2,000, with 257 home runs, 909 RBIs and 243 stolen bases. He announced his retirement on Friday.

He told The Athletic sports news website that a herniated cervical disk that ended his 2019 season on Aug. 12 played a factor in his decision.

“My pride wouldn’t let me go halfway at something that I’ve been doing at 100 percent for my whole baseball life,” he told The Athletic.

Kinsler, a two-time Gold Glove winner, will stay with the Padres as an adviser to baseball operations.

He was a member of the 2018 World Series champion Boston Red Sox. He also played for the Rangers, Tigers and Angels.

Artist Banksy unveils nativity scene in Bethlehem representing Palestinians under occupation

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The elusive street artist Banksy has unveiled his latest piece at his hotel in Bethlehem, a nativity scene representing Palestinians under occupation.

The “Scar of Bethlehem” unveiled on Saturday at the Walled Off Hotel features a nativity scene with Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus, but instead of a star hanging over the creche there is a large bullet hole through a gray wall with scratches around the hole that looks like a star.

The words “Love” and “peace” in both English and France are graffitied on the pieces of the concrete wall.

Banksy opened the Walled Off Hotel just steps from a section of Israel’s West Bank security barrier in 2017 to draw attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The hotel, which is filled with Banksy artwork, is billed as the hotel with the “worst view in the world.” Every room has a view of the security barrier.

Banksy’s true identity remains a mystery and he was not present during the revealing of his latest work, according to The Guardian.

Chanukah candles lit at Jersey City kosher market where 3 were killed

By Marcy Oster

(JTA)—Family members of the three people killed in the shooting at a Jersey City kosher market were among those who gathered to light the first Chanukah candle there.

Joseph Seals, a police detective who was killed after confronting the two gunmen in a nearby cemetery before they drove to the store, was remembered at the ceremony on Sunday, while Jersey City police officers who were injured in the shootout at the JC Kosher Supermarket were honored there.

Supermarket owner Mindy Ferencz; a shopper, Moshe Deutsch; and an employee, Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, were killed in the shootout between police and the gunmen.

The market remains boarded up, spray-painted with a mural of a blue heart and the Pulaski Skyway bridge.

On Sunday evening, a small silver menorah and boxes of doughnuts sat on a folding table in front of the market, The New York Times reported.

Ferencz’s brother Yoely Greenfeld recited the blessings and lit the candle as residents of Jersey City and their supporters looked on.

“As we celebrate Chanukah, may the lives of our candles shine away the darkness, easing the pains of all those who have suffered,” he said.

David Blatt hired as consultant for New York Knicks

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA)—David Blatt, the former NBA and Israeli basketball coach, has been hired as a basketball operations consultant for the New York Knicks.

“I look forward to my next step in my career as I officially retire from coaching and pursue other opportunities in basketball,” Blatt, 60, said in a statement released by the Knicks last week.

Blatt, who once coached the Cleveland Cavaliers, stepped down in October as head coach of the Greek Olympiacos team.

In August, Blatt announced that he has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Blatt and Knicks President Steve Mills played basketball together at Princeton University and have remained friends through the years, according to NBA.com. The Knicks have failed to reach the playoffs since the 2012-13 season and are suffering through a 7-23 season that has seen them fire their coach.

Blatt was fired in 2016 by the Cavaliers after leading the club, powered by the return of superstar LeBron James, to the 2015 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games. He was hired by the Cavaliers because of his success coaching Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv to the EuroLeague championship and a number of European teams.

‘Prisoners of War,’ the Israeli show that became ‘Homeland,’ is the NY Times’ favorite international series of the decade

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Israeli television series that was remade in the United States as “Homeland” took the No. 1 spot on The New York Times list of the 30 best international television shows of the decade.

“Prisoners of War,” or “Hatufim,” was described as “tense but in a quiet, leisurely, realistic style; a taut and intelligent political thriller that was above all a melancholy, at times heartbreaking character study of soldiers and families damaged by war.”

The show began airing in Israel in March 2010 and is available with English subtitles on Hulu. It was remade in 2011 as “Homeland.”

The popular Israeli television series “Fauda” also made the list at No. 8. It launched in 2015 and is entering its third season in Israel. The first two seasons featuring English subtitles is available on Netflix.

The Israeli series “Our Boys” and “Shtisel” received honorable mentions.

Other international series that made the top 30 include “The Crown,” “Sherlock,” “Killing Eve” and “Fleabag.”

Poway street renamed Lori Lynn Lane in memory of synagogue shooting victim

By Marcy Oster

(JTA)—Lori Lynn Lane was dedicated in memory of Lori Lynn Gilbert-Kaye, who was killed in the shooting attack on the Chabad of Poway in April.

Eva Drive, a short street in northern Poway, near San Diego, was changed during a ceremony on Friday. The change came at the request of family and friends and with the blessing of the city, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The street is located about one mile from the Chabad of Poway, where Gilbert-Kaye, 60, was killed in the April 27 shooting. Three others were injured, including an 8-year-old girl and the synagogue’s rabbi, who lost a finger.

“It’s somehow appropriate that we gather here just before Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, because Lori was a bright and shining light,” Poway Mayor Steve Vaus said at the ceremony. “The name of the holiday comes from the Hebrew word for dedication. So it’s fitting that we gather here to dedicate this street in memory of Lori, her life and truly her light.”

The accused gunman, John Earnest, 20, has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and attempted murder. The murder charge has been classified as a hate crime, making Earnest eligible for the death penalty.

Earnest told a 911 operator in the moments after the attack that he did it to save white people from Jews.

More than a quarter of a million new immigrants moved to Israel in the 2010s

By Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA)—More than a quarter of a million new immigrants from 150 countries moved to Israel in the past decade.

Most of the 255,000 new immigrants came from countries including Russia, Ukraine, France, the United States and Ethiopia, according to figures released Sunday by the Jewish Agency for Israel.

More than half the immigrants, or about 130,000 people, originated from the countries of the former Soviet Union. Another 55,000-plus hailed from Europe, including more than 38,000 from France. Of the 36,000 from North America, over 32,000 were from the United States and most of the rest from Canada. Some 13,420 of the immigrants came from Latin America and nearly 10,500 from Ethiopia.

The report also shows that over 3,040 new immigrants moved from other Middle Eastern states and other countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations.

Some of the other countries represented include South Africa, 2,560; Oceania, 1,950, the majority from Australia; and about 1,700 from the rest of Africa and Asia, including 1,180 from India and more than 190 from Hong Kong and China.

The year 2019 will conclude with approximately 34,000 immigrants—the peak number per year for the decade, according to the Jewish Agency.

Astronaut Jessica Meir tweets Chanukah message from space

By Marcy Oster

(JTA)—Jewish astronaut Jessica Meir tweeted a Chanukah greeting that included a photo of her holiday-themed socks with earth seen through the window in the background.

“Happy Chanukah to all those who celebrate it on Earth!” Meir tweeted from the International Space Station.

Meir joined the crew of the space station in September and the following month participated in the first all-female spacewalk.

Last month Meir posted photos of Israel as seen from space, in which she honored her father.

“My father’s globe spanning journey as a surgeon from the Middle East, to Europe, and eventually to the U.S. was an inspiration to many in my immediate and extended family. #TheJourney,” Meir tweeted in November.

She brought an Israeli flag to the space station as one of her allowed personal items. And the Chanukah socks.

German youth strangled by 3 classmates in attack apparently motivated by anti-Semitism

By Toby Axelrod

(JTA)—A 14-year-old German boy was allegedly tied up and strangled at a Berlin high school by three classmates who hurled anti-Semitic insults at him.

The State Security Agency is investigating the Dec. 19 incident in gym class as politically motivated. The alleged assailants reportedly released their victim only after the gym teacher interceded immediately upon witnessing the attack.

The police report does not describe the attackers, nor does it note whether the victim was actually Jewish. He was slightly injured.

The school is on Alt-Marienfelde Street, in the former West Berlin.

In response to the incident, Lorenz Korgel, the Berlin city official assigned to combat anti-Semitism, told the German press agency dpa that every school in Germany’s capital should be teaching students about Jewish life and taking a clear stand against anti-Semitism.

Korgel cited the “Du Jude! #sowhat?” poster campaign of the Amadeu-Antonio Foundation as exemplary. Launched in November, the campaign seeks to spark discussion about the common schoolyard use of the word “Jew” as an insult, in part by pointing out that there is simply nothing insulting about being called a Jew.

In Chanukah greeting, Trump says he will ‘stand with the Jewish people’

By Marcy Oster

(JTA)—President Donald Trump issued Chanukah greetings saying “We will continue to stand with the Jewish people in defending the God-given right to worship freely and openly.”

“As the Jewish community gathers together to celebrate this special and sacred time of year, we are reminded of God’s message of hope, mercy, and love,” Trump said in the message dated Dec. 22, the first night of Chanukah. “Throughout the coming eight days, each candle to be lit on the menorah will signal to the world that freedom and justice will always shine brighter than hate and oppression.”

The message from Trump and first lady Melania went out to Jewish people in the United States, Israel and across the world.

“Today, the relationship between the United States and Israel, one of our most cherished allies and friends, is stronger than ever,” he also said before speaking out standing with the Jewish people and free worship.

London-area yeshiva burns down on first night of Chanukah

By Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA)—A yeshiva near London was heavily damaged in a fire that consumed parts of the building but ended without causing injury.

The fire at Canvey Island, a fishing village south of London where about 60 haredi Orthodox Jewish families moved in 2015, broke out Sunday night, Essex Live reported.

It was the first night of Chanukah. The community members who use the yeshiva structure were not in the building when the fire broke out because they were celebrating Chanukah at a rabbi’s home.

The 10,000-square-foot compound, which housed a convenience store, an events hall and multiple classrooms, had polystyrene ceiling tiles that are widely considered a fire hazard.

Authorities are investigating the source of the fire.

Since moving there, the community has seen a number of minor, nonviolent cases of anti-Semitism but the local Jews’ relations with the non-Jewish population is mostly cordial.


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