Weekly roundup of world briefs
June 19, 2020
Suspect arrested for attack on Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick
(JNS) — A suspect was arrested on Friday in connection with the assault on former Likud Knesset member Yehuda Glick a day earlier, at the mourning tent of an autistic Arab man shot by Jerusalem police on May 30.
The suspect, who is in his 20s, is from the Wadi-al-Joz neighborhood north of the Old City of Jerusalem, denied any involvement and was released to house arrest.
Glick was assaulted and thrown down a flight of stairs while trying to pay condolences in eastern Jerusalem to the family of Iyad Halak, who was killed in Jerusalem’s Old City last weekend by police who mistakenly believed him to have been armed with a gun.
On Friday, Glick, a longtime activist for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount and a vocal interfaith peace advocate, put out a video after being released from the hospital in which he said it was a “miracle” that he was not more seriously harmed in the “murderous lynching.”
“I went [to the Halak funeral tent] in the name of people who want peace, [as] a gesture of goodwill,” Glick said in an interview with Channel 13 News. “When I entered the home and presented myself to the mourners, around 10 people suddenly grabbed me, lifted me up and threw me down a flight-and-a-half of stairs.”
Others then began to hit and kick him before one of Halak’s relatives intervened. That man, identified only as Sami by Israeli reports, said he believed Glick was trying to create a “provocation” by visiting the family.
“I was rescued for a second time from an assassination attempt. It’s too bad people don’t understand that violence only causes damage to all of us,” said Glick, referring to a 2014 attempt on his life outside the Begin Center in Jerusalem, where he was shot four times in the chest by an Arab who called him an “enemy of al-Aqsa.”
Minneapolis mayor booed from rally after refusing to commit to defunding police
By Marcy Oster
(JTA) — Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was booed out of a protest rally after he said he would not defund the city’s police force.
In videos widely shared on social media over the weekend, the Jewish mayor was asked directly at a protest in the city on Saturday whether he would commit to defunding the department. After Frey replied that he did not support “the full abolition” of the force, protesters shouted “shame” and “Jacob, go home” as Frey retreated from the demonstration.
A 38-year-old lawyer elected in 2018, Frey has found himself a target of widespread protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by four of the city’s police officers on May 25. Protesters gathered Saturday outside the mayor’s home. It was there that one speaker pressed him to say whether he would defund the police and threatened him with removal from office if he answered no.
Frey told The New York Times on Sunday that he stayed at the protest for another 45 minutes during which he took questions from reporters.
Calls for defunding police departments have been a recurring feature of protests that have swept the nation in the days since Floyd’s death. Last week, the Jewish mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, said he would cut up to $150 million from a planned increase to his city’s police budget, according to the Times.
Synagogues can reopen on limited scale in most of New York state
By Marcy Oster
(JTA) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that houses of worship in most of the state can reopen on a limited scale.
Cuomo issued an executive order on Saturday permitting the opening of houses of worship in areas designated as phase two of the state reopening plan, which includes all of the state except for New York City. The buildings will be required to operate at 25 percent of their usual capacity and employ appropriate social distancing and disinfecting protocols.
“We’re going to open the valve more than we originally anticipated because the metrics are so good,” Cuomo said during his daily briefing.
On Friday, 35 people in New York died with the COVID-19 virus, down from a high of 800 some eight weeks ago.
Reopening houses of worship had originally been slated for stage four or reopening. Some have called for a quicker reopening, noting that protests now unfolding against racism and police brutality have gathered thousands of demonstrators who are not social distancing.
About two weeks ago, the governor allowed services to resume with 10 worshippers or less, and strongly advised that the services be held out of doors.
Palestinian man pleads guilty to 2019 rape and murder of Israeli teen
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Arafat Irfaiya pleaded guilty to the 2019 rape and murder 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher.
Irfaiya pleaded guilty on Sunday of stabbing Ansbacher in February 2019, in Jerusalem. Irfaiya was arrested two days after the attack and then re-enacted the murder for authorities. He had previously confessed privately to his attorneys but stayed silent during a court hearing.
Irfayia was indicted in March 2019 on charges of terrorism, rape, and unlawful entry to Israel.
Israeli rabbis in Argentina give US kosher meat market a boost too
By JTA Staff
BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — Remember that flight that brought nearly 100 rabbis to Argentina to certify kosher meat that was held up because of the coronavirus pandemic? It wasn’t only a boon to the Israeli market: The visiting rabbis also certified over 420,000 pounds of kosher beef that will be shipped to the United States.
Despite Argentina’s ban on incoming travelers, the country arranged for a special flight for the rabbis last week. The country is one of the world’s top meat producers, and thousands of tons of meat had been held up without kosher certification because of travel restrictions. Normally, rabbis visit the country throughout the year and stay for a few months to certify meat.
On Friday, President Alberto Fernández visited a kosher meat facility in Santa Rosa, the capital city of the La Pampa province, 370 miles west of Buenos Aires.
“The plant located in Santa Rosa is already working to sell to the United States, increasingly interested in buying these meat cuts with added value,” a government statement read.
Israeli woman granted religious divorce after 14 years of trying
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli rabbinical court granted a religious divorce to a woman who was prevented from marrying for 14 years after her husband moved abroad.
Vicky Tzur was granted a Jewish writ of divorce, known as a get, in Netanya on Sunday. Tzur’s husband signed a divorce agreement last week after receiving special permission to leave his house during the coronavirus pandemic in order to do so.
In 2006, Tzur’s husband filed for divorce and left the country but refused to grant her a get. Under Orthodox Jewish law, that rendered Tzur an agunah, literally a “chained woman” unable to remarry.
In 2019, she filed a civil lawsuit against her husband for damages resulting from his refusal to grant her a divorce and was awarded over $200,000.
Tzur was assisted in securing the get by the Jerusalem-based Yad La’isha organization.
After dramatic rise in COVID-19 infections, Israel halts reopening plans
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel is hitting an “emergency brake” on its ongoing reopening of the economy due to a sharp rise in the rate of coronavirus infections in recent days.
Some 800 new COVID-19 cases were identified in the past week, as opposed to a total of about 300 infections of the coronavirus confirmed in the two weeks before that.
Plans to reopen railway transportation have been scrapped but will be revisited next week. The reopening of cultural and sport venues will be pushed back at least a week from June 14. The Education Ministry also said Sunday that 130 schools and kindergartens have closed in the past 10 days due to student and staff coronavirus infections.
One exception is event and wedding halls, which will be allowed to reopen with 250 people, as long as they wear masks and observe social distance protocols.
Israel allowed restaurants, bars, hotels and houses of worship reopen in late May. Earlier last month, schools opened days after the government gave them the green light to do so, prompting debate and confusion.
England is allowing places of worship to reopen for individuals, but synagogues won’t open yet
By Marcy Oster
(JTA) — England reopened places of worship amid the coronavirus pandemic for individual prayer only on June 15, but that won’t mean much for British Jews.
British Jewish leaders say they won’t reopen their synagogues until it is safe enough to host a minyan, or a quorum of 10 congregants.
“Jews prioritize communal prayer rather than individual prayer, and we prioritize the sanctity of life,” said Laura Janner-Klausner, England’s senior Reform movement rabbi, to the Guardian.”Individual prayer doesn’t have the same theological status, and neither do buildings.”
The United Synagogue, representing the Orthodox movement, said it would also wait for reopening until it is possible to have a minyan and for congregants to read from the Torah, the Jewish Chronicle reported.
United Kingdom Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis is reportedly in discussions with Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick about increasing the number of participants who can attend a Jewish wedding ceremony under the current restrictions to at least 13: a minyan, the couple’s mothers and siblings of the couple.
Newark mayor wants to ban white supremacists from the city
By Marcy Oster
(JTA) — The mayor of Newark plans to ask the city council to approve an ordinance declaring white supremacist groups to be terrorists and ban them from the city.
Mayor Ras Baraka announced Friday that he would seek to have the city establish a database of existing American hate groups and outlaw any actions they seek to conduct in the city. Hate groups would be defined as any that “vilify entire groups of people based on immutable characteristics such as race or ethnicity,” and would include Nazi groups, white supremacists and the KKK.
“For this country to heal, we must begin to legally challenge the insidious and dehumanizing tenets of white supremacy, once and for all. We must stand up forcefully against racism and have the courage to take on the legal challenges an ordinance such as this will attract,” Baraka said in a statement.
Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience delays opening in large part due to the coronavirus crisis
By Marcy Oster
(JTA) — The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience has pushed back its scheduled opening date from October until next year, mostly due to the coronavirus crisis.
“Due to delays in construction, interruptions in supply chains, restrictions on travel, and the many uncertainties that lay before us all, our board of directors has made the strategic decision to postpone our opening to the first quarter of 2021,” the museum said in its June newsletter.
New Orleans is facing a “drastically slowed tourism economy from the effects of COVID-19,” New Orleans City Business reported, citing a statement from the museum announcing the pushed-back opening.
A year ago, the museum moved its more than 4,000-artifact collection from Mississippi, where it has been in storage since 2012, to Louisiana to await the completion of the exhibit space in the new museum building.
Interactive exhibits will address topics such as anti-Semitism in the South, how Jews reacted to the civil rights movement, Southern Jews in popular culture and the religious customs of the region’s Jews.
The museum is the only one dedicated entirely to telling the history of Jews in the American South. Museums in other southern states have exhibits dedicated to Southern Jewish history as part of larger collections.
Latin American Holocaust education network launches
By JTA Staff
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — Nine institutions in Latin America devoted to Holocaust studies have launched a network to join experiences and training.
As a first activity, the Red LAES network will offer weekly talks titled “Latin America speaks about the Holocaust” by the Museum of the Jewish Community of Costa Rica to begin on Thursday.
“I am convinced that the LAES network will create a new meeting space for memory, education and human rights,” Marcelo Mindlin, president of the Holocaust Museum of Buenos Aires, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Together we will be able to work for a better future.”
Facing “the new normality” brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the organizers said LAES will develop virtual activities to teach together.
Along with the Buenos Aires and Costa Rican museums, the network members are the Holocaust Museum in Curitiba, Brazil; the Interactive Jewish Museum in Chile; the Anne Frank Center and the Center for Holocaust Studies in Guatemala; the Memory and Tolerance Museum of Mexico; the Emet Foundation of Panama; the Jewish Museum of Peru; and the Shoah Museum of Uruguay.