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

Weekly roundup of world briefs


September 18, 2020

Danish parliament to debate bill that would ban non-medical circumcision

By Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — The Danish parliament is scheduled to consider a bill proposing a ban on non-medical circumcisions.

Henri Goldstein, the president of the Jewish Community in Denmark, says the measure represents “the worst threat since World War II” to the country’s Jews, who traditionally circumcise baby boys on their eighth day of life, a ritual known as brit milah.

The Danish parliament is set to vote sometime during its next session on the bill filed last month by Simon Emil Ammitzboll-Bille, a former interior minister and leader of the left-leaning Forward party.

“I don’t think cutting little boys should be legal in connection with an old, religious ritual,” Ammitzboll-Bille wrote on Facebook. “That’s my principled stance. That a person’s body belongs to them and that young men should get to decide whether they want to be circumcised. That’s why I am in favor of introducing an age limit of 18 years for non-medical circumcision.”

Jewish, Muslim, Christian and other groups regard circumcising boys as a basic religious freedom. But there have been various efforts to ban the practice in Europe by a mix of liberals, citing individual freedoms, and right-wingers, who say they are defending local culture.

Rabbi Yitzi Loewenthal, the emissary of the Chabad Hasidic movement in Denmark, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the ruling Social Democrat party has not said how it will vote on the bill, “but there’s a risk it will be passed, so this is quite serious.”

In 2018, a bill to ban non-medical circumcision was introduced in Iceland, but it was scrapped amid an international outcry. Currently, circumcision remains legal throughout Europe.

Benny Gantz, Israel’s prime minister in waiting, asks to convene committee to approve new West Bank housing

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Benny Gantz, Israel’s prime minister in waiting, has become much friendlier with the settler community in recent weeks following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to declare sovereignty over all or part of the West Bank. That vow has been put on indefinite hold following the normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Now Gantz wants to convene a planning committee to approve 5,000 housing units in the West Bank. The Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria has not met since February, thus causing a six-month freeze on the planning of housing in Jewish settlements.

Convening the committee requires the prime minister’s approval, and Gantz sent a letter on Sunday to Netanyahu asking for permission.

Gantz, currently the defense minister, will take over as prime minister next year under the government coalition agreement. He heads the center-left Blue and White party, which makes up part of the current coalition.

The committee would meet to consider the final approval of building plans for some 2,000 apartments and the initial plans for another 3,000. The units are located in settlement blocs and isolated settlements, Israel’s Channel 12 reported.

Norway police arrest suspect in 1982 bombing of Jewish restaurant in Paris that killed 6

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Police in Norway have arrested a man living there who is a suspect in the 1982 bombing of a Jewish-owned restaurant in Paris that killed six.

The attack on the Chez Jo Goldenberg restaurant in the heavily Jewish Marais district also left 22 wounded. The restaurant closed in 2006.

Norwegian police did not disclose the identity of the suspect arrested Wednesday, according to the French newspaper Le Figaro, but Walid Abdulrahman Abu Zayed has lived in a small town south of Oslo since 1991. Abu Zayed is believed to have been a part of the Palestinian terror cell associated with the Abu Nidal organization that carried out the attack.

Police told the French news agency AFP that they were studying an extradition request from France for the suspect.

Five attackers threw a grenade into the restaurant in August 1982 before opening fire on some 30 diners and passersby.

US to withdraw 2,200 troops from Iraq by end of month

Troop presence will decrease from 5,200 troops to 3,000, according to Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command.

(JNS) — The United States announced on Wednesday that it will withdraw 2,200 troops from Iraq by end of September, according to the top U.S. commander in the Middle East.

Troop presence will decrease from 5,200 troops to 3,000, said Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command.

“This reduced footprint allows us to continue advising and assisting our Iraqi partners in rooting out the final remnants of ISIS in Iraq and ensuring its enduring defeat,” he stated.

McKenzie said the withdrawal is because of U.S. “confidence in the Iraqi Security Forces’ increased ability to operate independently.”

He also noted that troop levels in Afghanistan would drop to 4,500 by November. The United States had already reduced its presence in Afghanistan to 8,600 in June.

Serbia won’t move embassy to Jerusalem if Israel recognizes Kosovo

A source close to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said “many have argued that Israel recognizing Kosovo would be akin to countries unilaterally recognizing ‘Palestine.’ ”

(JNS) — Serbia has stated that it will not move its embassy to Jerusalem if Israel recognizes Kosovo, according to reports from The Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel on Wednesday, each citing an anonymous source.

“Serbia will not move its embassy to Jerusalem if Israel recognizes Kosovo as an independent country,” a source close to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told The Jerusalem Post. “Moreover, this move by Israel would harm the otherwise intimate relationship between Israel and Serbia, and it will never be the same. It’s that simple.”

The source added that “many have argued that Israel recognizing Kosovo would be akin to countries unilaterally recognizing ‘Palestine.’ ”

A source close to the Serbian government told The Times of Israel that Israeli recognition of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia in 2008 “could end up being a real mess unless there is a compromise on what sort of relationship Israel will end up having with Kosovo.”

“Diplomatic relations with Kosovo are one thing; recognition as an independent country is another thing entirely,” the source told the outlet. “This would destroy the Israel-Serbia relationship.”

As part of a U.S.-brokered agreement on Sept. 4 to normalize economic relations between Kosovo and Serbia, Kosovo has agreed to formally recognize the State of Israel and open an embassy in Jerusalem, and Serbia has agreed to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Setting new one-day COVID records, Israel gears up for extended lockdown starting on Rosh Hashanah

By Philissa Cramer

(JTA) — Israel appears poised to return all of its citizens to lockdown just before Rosh Hashanah next week, in a decisive action that comes as the country’s coronavirus outbreak spirals out of control.

The country recorded more than 4,000 new cases Thursday and 22 new deaths, both records. Israel hurtled past the grim 1,000-death threshold last weekend, and it has the highest per-capita new infection rate in the world. The daily case total would be the equivalent of nearly 150,000 new cases in the United States.

The move to lock the entire country down starting in one week comes after days of political jockeying over how to rein in an increasingly desperate health crisis. Leaders in the country’s haredi Orthodox sector resisted any restrictions that would target their communities specifically.

Now, according to Israeli media reports, the government is on the verge of approving draconian restrictions that would shutter most businesses and public institutions and require Israelis to stay within 500 meters (about a quarter-mile) from their homes.

The lockdown would prevent prayer services from taking place during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, two of the biggest holidays in the Jewish calendar.

After a two-week period, some restrictions would be lifted, but schools would remain closed for another two weeks under the terms of the plan reportedly under consideration. Israeli schools, which some public health experts blamed for the virus’ rebound in the country after it initially seemed to curb its outbreak this spring, opened Sept. 1 for the school year.

Film about Nicholas Winton, rescuer of children from the Nazis, stars Anthony Hopkins

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — A feature film about the life of Nicholas Winton, who saved 669 children from the Nazis, is in production with Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins in the lead role.

“One Life” has Hopkins playing an older Winton, Deadline Hollywood reported. British actor Johnny Flynn portrays the young Winton.

Winton, who is nicknamed “the British Schindler,” died in 2015 at the age of 106.

The baptized son of Jewish parents, Winton was a 29-year-old stockbroker when he arrived in Prague in December 1938. He was planning to go on a skiing holiday in Switzerland, but changed his plans when he heard about the refugee crisis in Czechoslovakia, which had just been occupied by the Nazis. In the following nine months, he organized eight trains that carried children, the vast majority of them Jewish, from Czechoslovakia to safety in Britain.

Winton’s heroism was unremarked until the 1980s, when his wife found evidence of the rescues. The discovery led to a surprise reunion with some of the children and a documentary. Winton received many honors in his later years, including a knighthood.

The “Schindler” reference is to the German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who is credited with saving some 1,200 Jews in the Holocaust. His story was made into the Academy Award-winning film “Schindler’s List” by Steven Spielberg.

Aisling Walsh is directing “One Life,” which was developed by BBC Films with See-Saw Films.

Ronald Harwood, Oscar-winning screenwriter of ‘The Pianist,’ dies at 85

By Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Screenwriter Ronald Harwood, who won an Academy Award in 2003 for “The Pianist,” has died.

Harwood died Tuesday of natural causes at his home in Sussex, England. He was 85.

He also was nominated for Oscars for his screenplays for “The Dresser” and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” The South Africa native received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth in 2010.

“The Pianist” was based on a Holocaust memoir by the Polish-Jewish pianist and composer Wladyslaw Szpilman, a survivor. The critically acclaimed film also won Oscars for Adrien Brody for best actor and Roman Polanski for best director.

Harwood, who was born Ronald Horwitz, moved from Cape Town to London in 1951 to pursue a stage career. He changed his surname after moving to Britain, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

He worked in the theater for several years before turning to writing. He is the author of a novel, as well as several plays including “The Dresser,” which was performed on Broadway and then adapted as a film. His play “Quartet” also was adapted for the screen.

His wife, Natasha, died in 2013. He is survived by three children.

Kosher deli chef will compete on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’

By Shira Hanau

(JTA) – Jewish deli food has been experiencing a resurgence over the past several years.

Now it’ll have its reality television moment.

Kosher-keeping chef Shalom Yehudiel of The Humble Toast in Teaneck, New Jersey, will be a contestant on “Chopped,” a competition cooking show on the Food Network. The restaurant’s menu features traditional Jewish deli foods like potato knishes and a pastrami sandwich on rye alongside more modern additions like a truffle burger or a cheeseburger (with vegan cheese, of course).

“When they approached me, I called my rabbi to consult,” Yehudiel told NorthJersey.com. “I run a kosher restaurant, so I just don’t want to say yes if I can’t cook kosher.”

“Chopped” contestants prepare a three-course meal but must use a selection of specific ingredients in each course. The mystery ingredients can pose problems for kosher-keeping contestants who will not eat certain ingredients or combine meat and milk.

Yehudiel will be the latest contestant on the show to have a mashgiach, a kosher supervisor, certifying that his ingredients are kosher. Rachel Goldzal of Staten Island, New York, won the competition in 2018 at just 12 years old. Producers worked with Rachel to ensure all the ingredients would be kosher and provided her with all new kitchen utensils, according to the Orthodox news site Vos Iz Neias.

In 2014, then 12-year-old Eitan Bernath competed on the show, though he was unable to taste the food due to the nonkosher kitchen utensils.

The episode featuring Yehudiel will air at 9 p.m. Sept. 22.


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