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Weekly roundup of world briefs


Biden taps LA’s Jewish mayor Eric Garcetti to be US ambassador to India

By Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Joe Biden nominated Los Angeles’ Jewish mayor, Eric Garcetti, to be his ambassador to India.

In announcing the nomination on Friday, the White House emphasized Garcetti’s experience in leading an international city. Garcetti, 50, who was raised Jewish and attended Jewish summer camp, was a co-chairman of Biden’s presidential campaign and helped select his running mate, Kamala Harris.

“As mayor, Garcetti oversees the busiest container port in the Western Hemisphere, the largest municipal utility in the country, and one of the busiest airports in the world,” the announcement said. “Garcetti co-founded Climate Mayors and led more than 400 U.S. mayors to adopt the Paris Climate agreement.”

Garcetti said last December he would not seek a post in the Biden administration, saying he was needed in Los Angeles to lead it through the coronavirus pandemic and the unrest that engulfed American cities after a Minneapolis policeman murdered George Floyd in May 2020.

Garcetti, whose term was due to end in December 2022, told The Los Angeles Times that his skills would be put to good use in India.

“We can’t get our climate goals without India hitting its climate goals,” he told the newspaper. “We can’t see the economy truly reopened to international commerce and tourism until COVID is under control. We’re all very closely connected.”

A network of city mayors Garcetti leads, C40 Cities, has assisted India in addressing two of its most pressing problems — meeting climate change challenges, and a resurgence of the COVID virus.

Garcetti, first elected in 2013, is Los Angeles’ first Jewish mayor since 1878. He has Mexican heritage on his father’s side and Russian Ashkenazi heritage on his mother’s side.

Israel Aerospace Industries signs MOU with Lockheed for alliance on air defense

(JNS) — Israel Aerospace Industries and Lockheed Martin announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Tuesday for joint collaboration in the field of integrated air- and missile-defense systems.

“Under this collaboration, the companies will explore potential joint opportunities in areas such as research and development, production, marketing and other activities,” the American and Israeli defense giants said in a statement.

They added that “both companies will establish an executive steering committee and working groups for the implementation of this MOU and cooperation.”

Boaz Levy, IAI president and CEO, called the development a “strategic agreement for us.”

 “Combining the development capabilities and the vast know-how of Lockheed Martin and IAI experience accumulated over the years in IAMD systems will create win-win opportunities for both sides,” he said.

Tim Cahill, senior vice president and head of global business development for Lockheed Martin, said his company aims “to expand our businesses around the world while delivering unmatched IAMD capabilities to our customers.”

Lockheed Martin employs around 114,000 around the world. IAI is one of Israel’s largest defense technology employers.

(JNS) — Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned on Monday that the Middle East is on the verge of a new arms race, which could begin if “Iran continues to advance towards nuclear weapons and nuclear breakout [status].”

Speaking during the Israel Defense Prize ceremony, Gantz added that “in the face of all of these threats, our eyes our open. Our defense systems, most of which were developed in Israel, are deployed, and intelligence is working overtime to create targets and identify intentions.”

Israel is pursuing a zero-tolerance approach to any harm to Israeli sovereignty, he stated.

“Not arson balloons, not rockets and no other means by Iran and its proxies [will be tolerated by Israel]. We will respond with force, in line with our needs and at a time that is right for us,” said the defense minister.

Gantz praised Israel’s defense industries for record exports—an achievement that was made “specifically over this past complex year.”

“I intend to act so that the state strengthens the defense industries and strengthens itself,” he said. “We must grow stronger militarily, since our enemies are also growing stronger, in precision capabilities, cyber-attack capabilities, and the development of drones and other means that did not threaten us in the past.”

Florida searchers tell families there are no survivors, report says

By Ron Kampeas

(JTA) — Officials heading the search and rescue mission in the Surfside building collapse told families on Wednesday that they have given up hope of finding survivors and are switching to recovery, The New York Times reported.

“Just based on the facts, there’s zero chance of survival,” The Times quoted Ray Jadallah, the assistant chief of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, as telling the families of the missing in a private briefing.

Champlain Tower South in the town of Surfside, Florida, collapsed in the early morning on June 24.

As of Wednesday, the death toll stood at 46, with 94 people unaccounted for. Chabad-Lubavitch has estimated that about 40 of the dead and missing are Jewish.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency has compiled accounts of the lives of the missing and the dead.

A likely dilemma will be how to account for and mourn the Jewish dead who may never be recovered — a problem that arose in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

In latest Nazi analogy, Marjorie Taylor Greene invokes ‘medical brown shirts’ in decrying vaccination outreach.

By Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Just weeks after touring the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and apologizing for using Nazi analogies, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene likened vaccination outreach to Nazi-era thugs.

“Biden pushing a vaccine that is NOT FDA approved shows covid is a political tool used to control people,” Greene, a Georgia Republican, tweeted on Tuesday. “People have a choice, they don’t need your medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations. You can’t force people to be part of the human experiment.”

Greene attached her tweet to a video of President Joe Biden speaking earlier in the day about accelerated efforts to achieve herd immunity in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. Among other measures, he said, “Now we need to go to the community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and oftentimes, door to door — literally knocking on doors — to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus.”

Biden did not say vaccines would be coerced, and there is no record of federal officials coercing vaccination. All available vaccines have conditional federal Food and Drug Administration approval; it’s not clear what vaccine Greene is referring to in her tweet.

Brownshirts is a collective term for militias prevalent before Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and after he assumed power. They used violence to target Jews, as well as other minorities and Hitler’s political opponents.

Greene apologized last month for likening coronavirus protections to Holocaust-era restrictions on Jews. She had a private tour of the Holocaust museum before issuing her apology.

OU awards $100,000 to 35 synagogues for initiatives to welcome back congregants

(JNS) — The Orthodox Union has awarded $100,000 in grants to 35 synagogues in 15 U.S. states and one Canadian province in an effort to bring communities back to shul as more people are vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The OU received more than 300 submissions across 34 states from a range of synagogues large and small.

The 35 winners chosen by the OU Grant Committee represent out-of-the-box thinking, coupled with opportunities more likely to rebuild and reaffirm the value of synagogue and community, as well as encourage congregants to return for the long term.

Ideas include hosting a communal Kiddush celebration as a “make-up” for missed milestones, a back-to-synagogue fair and a parlor-meeting project to deconstruct the changed needs of congregants.

“The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us all that the shul experience creates a sense of community that is irreplicable,” said OU president Moishe Bane. “Shul leaders across the country are discovering new ways to bring back our communities stronger than ever — our families, our singles, our seniors and our youth.”

OU synagogue initiatives director Rabbi Adir Posy said “in going through all of the submissions, it became abundantly clear that shuls are seizing the opportunity to re-engage our community in the essential experience that shul offers. We’ve collected so many ideas and put together a database so that shuls of all sizes and from all over the world can have access to this great thinking and utilize it for their own shuls.”

“While we wish we could fund many more shuls as they implement their plans to bring people back, our hope is that this repository of ideas can serve as a launching pad for others,” he added.

National Education Association rejects anti-Israel measure at annual assembly

(JNS) — Members of the National Education Association, the largest teacher’s union in the United States, overwhelmingly rejected a motion attacking Israel last week at its annual conference.

New Business Item 29, one of two anti-Israel items on the conference’s agenda, was defeated with 77 percent of the members voting against the item during the NEA Representative Assembly on July 3.

The motion called to support Palestine, for the United States to stop supporting Israel and Saudi Arabia and, in the background section of the item’s description, stated that the Arab population of Palestine “has again risen up in a heroic struggle against military repression and ‘ethnic cleansing’ by the Israeli state and extreme nationalist forces in Israeli society.”

“We applaud the NEA Jewish Affairs Caucus and all members who spoke out and persuaded their union representatives to defeat this harmful motion by such a large margin,” Kate Chavez, national associate director of high school affairs at StandWithUs, said in a news release. “[New Business Item] 29 promoted dehumanizing smears against Israel while ignoring the crimes Hamas has committed against Israelis and Palestinians alike. We applaud the NEA for rejecting an approach that only fuels more division and hate, instead of justice and peace.”

Professor fired from Oregon university after alleging antisemitism sues for $4 million

By Ben Sales

(JTA) — A professor who was fired from an Oregon university after publicly criticizing its president for antisemitism and neglecting sexual harassment allegations has sued the university for $4 million.

Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, a tenured English professor at the Baptist-affiliated Linfield University, had accused President Miles Davis of making multiple antisemitic remarks to him in recent years. The antisemitism, Pollack-Pelzner said, was partly a backlash to his demands that the school do more to address allegations of sexual assault against multiple university trustees, including Davis.

Pollack-Pelzner went public with the allegations of antisemitism in March, prompting statements of concern from the Anti-Defamation League and Oregon Board of Rabbis, the latter of which called on Davis to step down. Davis denied some of the allegations during an independent investigation, though he later admitted making a remark about Jewish noses.

In its own investigation, the local branch of the NAACP found that Davis, who is Linfield’s first Black president, was subjected to racism at the school.

In April, Linfield fired Pollack-Pelzner, citing “serious breaches of the individual’s duty to the institution.” The abrupt termination did not appear to follow the process for firing tenured faculty that is outlined in Linfield’s faculty handbook.

Now Pollack-Pelzner is suing Linfield for whistleblower retaliation, breach of contract and other claims. He is seeking $3.5 million in economic damages and $500,000 in non-economic damages.

“Daniel championed the concerns of students and faculty by repeatedly asking leadership for policy changes and trainings to keep Linfield safe,” Dana Sullivan, Pollack-Pelzner’s lawyer, said in a statement. “He also urged the most powerful people on campus to take accountability for their own conduct. He was demonized for taking a stand and speaking up.”

Israel becomes first country to offer a 3rd COVID vaccine dose

By Ben Sales

(JTA) — Israel has begun inviting immunocompromised adults to receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, as case rates in the country have risen again due to the spread of the Delta variant.

Israel led the world in vaccinating most of its population early this year, and the country fully reopened as COVID cases plummeted to a low of single digits during a few days in late May and early June. But cases have since spiked back up to more than 400 per day.

In response, Israel is the first country in the world to approve a third dose of the vaccine as a booster shot, according to The Times of Israel. Last week, Pfizer asked countries to approve a booster dose for those who have received a vaccine.

On the heels of the approval of the booster shot, the Tel Aviv-area Sheba Medical Center, Israel’s largest hospital, invited recipients of heart transplants to get a booster shot.

A majority of Israelis are vaccinated. In addition to authorizing the booster shot, Israel also brought back an indoor mask mandate in an effort to curb rising infections.

Gantz orders Israeli defense officials to develop Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism

(JNS) — Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the nation’s defense officials on Tuesday to continue work to develop a new Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism designed to supervise materials entering the Gaza Strip and ensure that Hamas does not exploit them for its weapons manufacturing program.

Gantz held a situational evaluation meeting at the headquarters of the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration, near the Erez Border Crossing between Israel and Gaza. The administration is responsible for implementing Israeli civilian policies for the Strip.

The meeting was attended by Deputy Defense Minister Alon Schuster; Col. Iyad Sarhan, head of the Coordination and

At the end of the meeting, Gantz thanked Sarhan, who is due next week to complete more than 30 years of IDF service.

NBA legend Rick Barry visits kids at basketball camp in Jerusalem

(JNS) — Retired National Basketball Association (NBA) player Rick Barry visited children at a basketball camp in Jerusalem last week during his stay in Israel.

The NBA Hall of Famer stopped by the Jerusalem International YMCA to speak with youngsters taking part in the annual Tamir Goodman Basketball Camp about the fundamentals behind the sport.

Barry, who played for the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets, told them: “You can talk about preparation, dedication, determination; you can talk about all these wonderful characteristics to help you be a successful person. What it all boils down to—the one characteristic you have to have if you really want to be good at what you’re doing in life—you have to get confidence in your ability to do what it is you’ve trained to do.”

He also shared on Twitter photos from his visit to the basketball camp.

The camp is run by former American-Israeli basketball player Tamir Goodman, dubbed by Sports Illustrated magazine as the “Jewish Jordan.”

While speaking with StandWithUs, Goodman thanked Barry for taking time to speak at the camp, saying, “You see how much he cares about the kids; he cares about the game. It’s something that the kids will always remember and it definitely enhanced their life, so I’m thankful for it.”

Barry later talked to StandWithUs about enjoying his stay in Israel, which he called “an amazing country.”

“I don’t think people around the world understand how many amazing innovations have come out of Israel,” he added. “The Jewish people are an amazing group of people. Wonderful people. I told Tamir yesterday that I don’t think you can have a better friend than a Jewish friend.”


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