Weekly roundup of world briefs
February 21, 2020
Independent Jewish day school in Connecticut to close, cites finances and enrollment
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Carmel Academy, an independent Jewish day school in Greenwich, Connecticut, will close at the end of this school term, citing the “current realities of finances and enrollment.”
The school announced on Tuesday that it would join the Leffell School, a Jewish independent school serving about 740 students on two campuses in Westchester County, New York, at the start of the next academic year, according to a Carmel statement.
Carmel was founded 22 years ago by 20 families seeking to create a Jewish day school for Jewish students from all backgrounds. It now has about 150 students. It is known for its PALS (Providing Alternative Learning Strategies) program for students with special needs. The PALS program will continue under the auspices of Leffell.
In its announcement, the academy said that an anonymous Leffell School donor will allow the merged school to provide free transportation to families coming from Connecticut for the 2020-21 academic year. Tuition assistance also will remain the same for the new term.
“We do not want cost—either tuition or transportation—to be an obstacle to enrollment for any family,” the statement said.
Alexander Vindman’s synagogue is accepting letters of support following his NSC ouster
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Alexander Vindman’s synagogue in Springfield, Virginia, is accepting letters of support in his behalf.
Vindman, the Jewish staffer who was among the first to raise flags about President Donald Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate a political rival, was removed from his position as an expert on U.S. policy in Ukraine at the National Security Council on Friday.
“The Vindman family is a valued member of Congregation Adat Reyim’s community of friends. We are proud to support Lt Colonel Alex Vindman during this challenging time,” Rebecca Geller, co-president of Congregation Adat Reyim, told JTA.
In addition, for those seeking ways to show support, the Vindman family has requested donations be made to the synagogue via http://www.adatreyim.org in Alexander Vindman’s honor.
Trump also recalled Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Both Vindman and Sondland testified against Trump in the U.S. House of Representatives, providing damaging testimony that led to Trump’s impeachment. Their removal comes just days after Trump was acquitted by the Republican-led U.S. Senate in an impeachment trial.
Also Friday, Vindman’s twin brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, was asked to leave his job as a White House lawyer. Both Vindmans, Jews who immigrated with their father from Ukraine in 1979, were reassigned to the Army.
Vindman said during his testimony that his father feared that his speaking out would bring retaliation.
Joe Biden rejects pressure to boycott AIPAC conference
By Ron Kampeas
WASHINGTON (JTA)—Joe Biden rejected pressure from a coalition of left-wing groups to have presidential candidates boycott the Israel lobby AIPAC’s policy conference.
An activist with IfNotNow, the anti-occupation group that is leading the initiative, confronted the former vice president in New Hampshire and cast her question in the context of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The activist noted that Biden led the effort to get Congress not to reject the agreement while the American Israel Public Affairs Committee endeavored to scuttle it.
“No, because I’m there to convince,” Biden said in a video of the encounter posted Sunday by IfNotNow on Twitter, “convince them to change their position.”
Among the Democratic presidential candidates, only Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has committed to skipping the policy conference, which takes place at the beginning of March. Of those who have been asked by IfNotNow, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said he would not object to attending and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said he would have to check his schedule.
The conference takes place in the days leading up to Super Tuesday, the sweep of 15 or so primaries, but in the past candidates busy on the campaign trail have made time to address the conference via video link.
Belarus Jewish community holds memorial for Kirk Douglas, its most famous descendant
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—The Jewish community of Belarus held a memorial service to honor film actor Kirk Douglas, the Belarusian Jewish community’s most famous descendant.
The memorial was held in Minsk on Sunday, during a joint Limmud FSU/Regional Nahum Goldmann Fellowship meeting. It included a remembrance prayer and a moment of silence conducted by the the capital city’s chief rabbi, Rabbi Shneur Deutsch, and the chief rabbi of the nation’s Progressive Jewish community, Grisha Abramovich.
Douglas, who died last week in Los Angeles at the age of 103, was born Issur Danielovitch in Amsterdam, New York, to Yiddish-speaking Jewish parents Bryna and Herschel Danielovitch from the Mogilev region of Belarus.
“This evening, this community honored the memory of one of its greatest descendants, who in addition to being a world-renowned movie star was first of all a proud Jew,” Chaim Chesler, founder of Limmud FSU, said at the service. “Even the young members of the Jewish community of Belarus know about and honor Kirk Douglas, and that is evidence, more than anything else, of the special connection that existed between the star, his Judaism in general and Jewish history in particular.”
Major League Baseball says it will stop promoting ads for musician Roger Waters
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Major League Baseball will not schedule any more advertisements promoting Roger Waters, the former frontman for Pink Floyd who has become a leading advocate of boycotting Israel.
MLB.com was among several organizations promoting ticket sales for Waters’ “This is Not a Drill” tour.
In a letter sent late last month to baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, B’nai B’rith International asked the organization to stop providing a platform for Waters’ ads.
“Roger Waters has performed while displaying a large inflatable pig prominently marked with a Star of David,” the letter said. “He participates in the discriminatory, anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement and castigates other musicians for performing in Israel. He has blamed ‘the Jewish Lobby’ for intimidating anti-Israel critics like him. And he has falsely labeled the Jewish state a ‘racist apartheid regime’ and claimed Israel is guilty of ‘ethnic cleansing.’”
B’nai B’rith said Friday that MLB responded that the ads promoting Waters have run their course and there are no plans to schedule any more on the MLB platforms. MLB also told B’nai B’rith that it had no anti-Semitic intentions by running the ads.
Orthodox mother of 5 from Israel wins Miami half-marathon race
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—A haredi Orthodox mother of five won the half-marathon at the 18th annual Life Time Miami Marathon and Half Marathon event.
Beatie Deutsch, 30, finished in a time of 1:16:4 to win in the women’s category on Sunday, the Miami Herald reported.
It was Deutsch’s first race in the United States. She is working to qualify to represent Israel in the marathon at the Tokyo Olympics this summer. That race currently is scheduled for a Saturday, however, and the Sabbath-observing Deutsch would be unable to compete even if she can reach the Olympic qualifying time.
Deutsch, who moved to Israel from New Jersey in 2009, is known for running in a skirt, sleeves that fall below her elbow and a headscarf.
In May, Deutsch was the top female finisher in a 13-mile half-marathon race in Riga, Latvia, reportedly becoming the first haredi woman to win an international athletic competition.
This year, for the first time, the Miami Marathon offered kosher-certified meals for athletes at the finish line, the Miami Herald reported.
Man shouts anti-Semitic epithets in Philadelphia kosher market
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—A man shouted anti-Semitic comments inside a kosher supermarket in northeast Philadelphia.
The man later fled in a tractor-trailer he had parked in the parking lot of House of Kosher for an extended period of time, Fox 29 Philadelphia reported Thursday. A nationwide search is ongoing, the report said.
Surveillance cameras caught images of the man as he left the store, got into the 18-wheeler and drove off. A witness saw the license number, Fox reported.
The incident comes less than two months after an attack on a kosher supermarket in Jersey City that left one of the shop’s owners, a customer and an employee dead. Security at area synagogues was increased in the wake of the Jersey City market attack, Fox 29 reported.
Shira Goodman, regional director of ADL of Philadelphia, told the Jewish Exponent that while such threats must be taken “extremely seriously, (w)e believe the police are on top of this, that there is not an imminent threat.”
It is not clear in the Fox account when the incident occurred, nor were details of what the man said reported.
The Jewish Exponent reported that the incident took place late in January.
US government settles lawsuit brought by Jewish groups against refugee ban
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—The U.S. government must expedite the resettlement applications of over 300 refugees affected by the Trump administration’s 2017 ban as part of an agreement settling a lawsuit by Jewish groups and others.
HIAS, the Jewish immigration advocacy group, had brought the suit on behalf of its partners, Jewish Family Service of Seattle and Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley. Others plaintiffs included the International Refugee Assistance Project and the National Immigration Law Center, as well as nine individuals.
The suit, Jewish Family Service v. Trump, had challenged the administration’s refugee ban enacted through an executive order.
Under terms of the settlement announced Monday, the nine individuals will be included among the 300 refugees who had reached the final stages of processing prior to the ban and still have pending applications.
The ban included a minimum 90-day suspension of admission of refugees from 11 countries, nine of which are predominantly Muslim, and a suspension of the so-called follow-to-join process, which reunites family members with refugees already in the United States.
The Trump administration will allow some 18,000 refugees to be resettled in the United States in fiscal year 2020, which is the lowest admissions goal that any president has ever set since the establishment of the Refugee Act in 1980, HIAS said in a statement.
Refugees benefiting from the settlement will be included in the total count of refugees admitted to the United States in fiscal year 2018, when the admissions goal was 45,000 but only 22,491 refugees were resettled.
Documentary filmmaker files federal lawsuit against Georgia’s anti-BDS law
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—A documentary filmmaker is suing the state of Georgia over its law against boycotting Israel, saying it violates the Constitution.
Announcing her federal suit on Monday, Abby Martin said that after she refused to sign the required oath from the 2016 law pledging not to boycott Israel, her scheduled appearance at a media conference at Georgia Southern University was canceled. The conference ultimately was nixded.
Steve Wrigley, chancellor of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, and Kyle Marrero, president of Georgia Southern University, are named as the defendants in the lawsuit.
The state law targets the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, and includes West Bank settlements as protected from boycott. Under the measure, the government is forbidden from contracting with individuals or companies that fail to certify for the pact’s duration that they are not boycotting Israel or businesses in Israeli-controlled territories.
Martin, a supporter of the BDS movement, released her documentary “Gaza Fights for Freedom” in August. The film is about the Great March of Return protests in Gaza, during which she calls on viewers to support BDS.
The Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, and its legal defense fund are assisting Martin in her suit.
Some 28 states have enacted anti-BDS laws or executive orders.
Tel Aviv prof Vered Noam is first woman to receive Israel Prize in Talmudic Studies
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Vered Noam of Tel Aviv University has been awarded the Israel Prize in Talmudic Studies—the first time that a woman has received the award.
Noam, current chair of the university’s Chaim Rosenberg School of Jewish Studies and Archaeology and a full professor in the Department of Jewish Philosophy and Talmud, is recognized internationally for her research.
Education Minister Rafi Peretz, making the announcement on Monday evening, called Noam “a source of inspiration for a whole generation of women studying Torah.”
“Her work, her research, and her efforts to make Talmud studies accessible to many populations have been a breakthrough,” he said.
The Israel Prize will be presented on April 29, Israel Independence Day.
TikTok removes animated video depicting deadly attacks against Israelis
(JNS)—The popular video-sharing app TikTok deleted from its platform an animated video that glorifies Palestinian terror and features four real-life deadly attacks against Israelis.
Palestinian Media Watch drew attention to the clip last week. It reported on Monday that TikTok “responded immediately and removed the terror glorifying video,” while i24News added that the app also suspended the account the video was posted on.
The video, created as a computer animation, depicts four Palestinian acts of violence against Israeli citizens and soldiers: a 2014 car-ramming attack; a 2015 stabbing and 2016 drive-by attack in Jerusalem that each left two victims dead; and another 2015 stabbing in Jerusalem that resulted in injuries to three police officers.
The Arab attackers in the clip are compared to birds of prey descending on their targets as a heroic tune plays in the background.
The video was accompanied by a text in Arabic that said, “Jerusalem is the dread of the Jews,” followed by a red heart.
Iranians take to streets to mark anniversary of 1979 Islamic Revolution
(JNS)—Tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets in cities across the country on Tuesday to commemorate the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.
State TV showed rallies in at least half a dozen cities outside the capital, with people holding signs that read, “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” according to a Reuters report.
Tensions between Iran and the United States are currently high following the U.S. assassination of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in January and the subsequent firing of missiles by Iran at a military base in Iraq hosting U.S. troops.
Also on Tuesday, Iran dismissed Canada’s complaint regarding the Ukrainian airliner shot down by the Iranian military in January, killing all 176 on board, including 57 Canadians, Reutersreported.
Tehran rejected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s request to have the black box flight recorders from the downed plane sent abroad for examination and claimed that there was no legal basis for Canada’s complaint.
“Iran’s actions are based on international rules,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, according to the report.
Canadian lawyers are pursuing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the victims for at least $1.1 billion in compensation, according to Reuters.
Separately, Ynet reported on Monday that two Iranians using fake Israeli passports had been caught while attempting to leave Ecuador last month for Spain. The Iranians, a man and woman in their 20s, were caught with the forged documents by Ecuador’s passport control after successfully entering the country with them, according to the report.