Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Weekly roundup of world briefs

Catholic school soccer team that brawled with Miami Jewish school forfeits state semifinal

By Andrew Lapin

(JTA) – A Catholic high school in Miami forfeited its semifinal game in a state soccer tournament over the weekend, days after players fought in an on-field brawl with a Jewish school’s team.

The Catholic school, however, did not offer additional comment on eyewitness accounts claiming that the fight was fueled by antisemitism.

Archbishop Coleman Carroll High School was set to play in the semifinals on Saturday after beating Scheck Hillel Community School in their regional final on Wednesday. But the school’s players came under scrutiny after video emerged of students and spectators fighting following the game. Some Scheck Hillel parents told local news outlets that students had uttered antisemitic slurs, including “Hitler was right.” Those accounts have not yet been confirmed by either school, by video or by law enforcement.

The athletic director of Archbishop Carroll’s slated opponent in Saturday’s semifinal told local news outlets that the school had forfeited following its role in the brawl, but did not provide further details.

Both Sheck Hillel and Archbishop Carroll are still completing their investigations of Wednesday’s fight, a representative for the Catholic school told the Miami Herald. The schools had previously acknowledged the “altercation” and said they had been made aware of reports of antisemitic language. At least one spectator was injured and required medical attention.

Jewish abortion supporters nationwide gather in person and online to observe ‘Repro Shabbat’

By Jackie Hajdenberg

(JTA) — Assembling abortion aftercare kits. A Havdalah ceremony combined with an update on state reproductive rights legislation. Sermons on abortion and Jewish law.

Those are some of the many ways more than 1500 synagogues and Jewish communities nationwide are observing the third annual “Repro Shabbat,” which begins tonight. It’s the first time the Shabbat initiative is happening since the Supreme Court overturned federal abortion protections in June. 

The initiative, which is organized by the National Council of Jewish Women, is a local counterpart to the high-profile rally for reproductive rights the group held last May in Washington, D.C. Instead of a national action, NCJW’s aim this weekend is for local communities and people at home to engage with the issue more intimately. 

“There’s a lot of things happening that are not big and flashy,” said Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, the group’s scholar in residence. “If we have rabbis saying the word abortion from the [pulpit], if we have shuls being able to be spaces where people feel more comfortable telling their abortion story, and not feeling stigmatized, if we have people who understand deeply that abortion justice is a Jewish value, that’s already a huge culture shift.”

In the months since the Supreme Court decision, Jewish leaders have filed lawsuits challenging abortion restrictions in Kentucky, Florida, Indiana and Missouri on religious freedom grounds. Polls show that Jewish Americans, more than any other religious group, believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases. 

Rabbis’ views on Jewish law and abortion differ. There is widespread consensus that Jewish law permits and even requires abortion in cases where the pregnant person’s life is at risk, and some non-Orthodox rabbis say that imperative includes risks to mental health. Some Orthodox groups, meanwhile, have argued that abortion should be permitted only in narrow circumstances.

As part of Repro Shabbat, students at the University of Nevada, Reno Hillel will be assembling abortion aftercare kits. In Massachusetts — where 28 organizations have signed up for Repro Shabbat — after a day of reproductive justice-themed educational programming, participants will gather online for a statewide Havdalah on Zoom.

NCJW has also created source sheets, a Spotify playlist and even a challah recipe with instructions to shape the braided dough into a uterus.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision, Ruttenberg said, “People understand that it’s not just an interesting and important thing to learn about. They understand that this matters in a different way.”

Netanyahu confirms partial freeze on Israeli activity in Judea and Samaria

(JNS) — Israel will not advance plans to legalize outposts in Judea and Samaria for the next few months, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced, without specifying a precise timeframe.

The move does not apply to the decision earlier this month to authorize nine such communities made in response to a series of deadly terrorist attacks in Jerusalem.

The announcement partially confirms a report that Israel has made a series of concessions as part of an informal U.S.-mediated deal with the Palestinians to reduce tensions ahead of Ramadan, which will begin on March 22 or 23.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with both Netanyahu and P.A. head Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday.

Blinken reaffirmed to both leaders Washington’s “commitment to a negotiated two-state solution and opposition to policies that endanger its viability,” according to the State Department. Blinken also “underscored the urgent need for Israelis and Palestinians to take steps that restore calm, and [the Biden administration’s] strong opposition to unilateral measures that would further escalate tensions.”

Smotrich also serves as a minister in the Defense Ministry and has been tasked by Netanyahu with overseeing the Civil Administration, the ministry body responsible for approving construction and handling other bureaucratic matters in Area C of Judea and Samaria.

Smotrich, the leader of the Religious Zionism Party, sent a letter to Netanyahu on Wednesday warning him that further delays in transferring to him full authority could threaten the stability of the government.

The same day, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who heads the Otzma Yehudit Party, also appeared to issue a threat to Netanyahu, saying that he “joined the government on the basis of a commitment that it would be completely right-wing, and this policy cannot continue.”

March of Living raises $500,000 to conserve 8,000 shoes at Auschwitz museum

(JNS) — The International March of the Living announced meeting the first “Soul to Sole” crowdfunding goal to conserve 8,000 shoes belonging to Jewish children who perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The group is partnering in the endeavor with the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland. The Nazis murdered more than 1.1 million people, including more than 200,000 Jewish children, at the concentration camp and death camp.

“With the passage of time, these shoes have sadly deteriorated, threatening the last testament of the Jewish children who were deported to the camp and murdered there by Nazi Germany,” per an announcement.

It costs about $50 per shoe for restoration, and the group aimed to raise $500,000 in the campaign. “The conservation process will begin soon and will last for about two years,” Revital Yakin Krakovsky, deputy CEO of March of the Living, told JNS.

“The shoes are a symbol of a life lost, and every shoe represents a story that is the whole world,” said Eitan Neishlos, founder and president of an eponymous foundation, who donated to the campaign. “As the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, I will continue to do everything to make sure that the memory of the Holocaust will stay alive.”

Supporter Mati Kochavi, the creator of the Eva’s Story Instagram project, said “the heart aches at the sight of the shoes of the 2-year-old child, who was proud of his first shoes; the mischievous 4-year-old, who climbs on the slippery slide; and the 10-year-old boy, who kept his shoes for a football match.” 

“We are left only with the great sadness of the Shoah and honored to participate in the preservation of the shoes of innocent children who perished,” he added.

At Auschwitz-Birkenau, shoes are displayed behind glass, but in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, where they are out in the open, a powerful smell confronts visitors, making the objects even more poignant. In both displays, the shoes have mostly blackened.

Over 15,000 Ukrainians made aliyah in the past year

(JNS) — More than 15,000 Ukrainians have immigrated to Israel since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine a year ago, according to government figures released Sunday.

The immigration statistics put out by the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ministry of Aliya and Integration come five days ahead of the first anniversary of the war, which shows no signs of ending.

“This is one of the largest rescue operations in history,” said Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, chairman of the Jewish Agency. “It is the epitome of the notion of all of Israel being responsible for one another. Our sense of mutual responsibility serves as a moral compass which has guided us through history and will continue to do so.”

The new immigrants arrived in Israel with the help of the Jewish Agency and the cooperation of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which established 18 emergency aliyah centers in countries bordering Ukraine immediately after the Russian invasion.

At these centers, the refugees found safe haven. Once they arrived in the Jewish state, they were placed in hotels across the country as part of the government’s “Operation Coming Home,” which was led by the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration.

The Ukrainian immigrants include many young people who enrolled in special absorption programs, mothers with young children and senior citizens including hundreds of Holocaust survivors.

World Jewry, led by the Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod, immediately came to the support of the Ukrainian Jewish community, along with help from Christian Friends of Israel (CFI). Tens of millions of dollars were raised in an unprecedented effort to assist the rescue and immigration process.

“When the war broke out in Ukraine, I traveled as a member of Knesset to the refugee centers in Moldova to observe the aliyah process of those who fled the conflict zones first-hand, said lawmaker Ofir Sofer. “As the minister of aliyah and integration, I saw the importance of welcoming the olim upon their arrival in Israel and assisting in their integration into Israeli society.”

UN resolution demands end to Israeli ‘settlements’

(JNS) — A draft U.N. resolution that the Associated Press obtained demands an immediate halt to all Israeli settlement activities, condemning Israeli attempts to annex settlements and outposts and calling for their reversal. The Palestinian-backed resolution could be put to a vote as early as next week.

The new resolution comes as Israel’s government reaffirmed its commitment to legalize nine communities in Judea and Samaria in the wake of last week’s deadly terrorist attack in Jerusalem. The victims were identified as Yaakov Israel Paley, 6; his brother Asher Menachem, 8; and Alter Shlomo Lederman, 20.

At the same time, Israel’s government has announced plans to advance nearly 10,000 housing units in Judea and Samaria following a string of terrorist attacks, which claimed 10 Israeli lives in the past several weeks.

“The introduction of this resolution is unhelpful in supporting the conditions necessary to advance negotiations for a two-state solution,” Vedant Patel, deputy U.S. State Department spokesman, told reporters in Washington on Thursday. Patel added that Israel’s decision to expand settlements and legalize those communities was also “unhelpful.”

Supporters of the resolution want a vote on Monday ahead of the year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. Starting on Wednesday, this period will be marked by several days of high-level activities.

The resolution was introduced and supported by the United Arab Emirates, which normalized relations with Israel more than two years ago and has taken a tepid stance on opposing Russia’s war with Ukraine.

The United States will look to the United Arab Emirates and other council members to vote in favor of a U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning Russia for invading Ukraine and calling for an immediate withdrawal of all Russian forces.

Iran in talks to sell advanced weapons to 50-plus countries

(JNS) — Iran is currently engaged in negotiations to sell dozens of countries advanced weapons ahead of the upcoming expiration of a U.N. arms embargo on the Islamic Republic, Israel’s  Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant said on Friday at the annual Munich Security Conference.

“Iran is no longer a ‘local supplier’ serving proxies in the Middle East. It is a ‘multinational corporation,’ a global exporter of advanced weapons,” said Gallant. “From Belarus in Eastern Europe to Venezuela in South America—we have seen Iran delivering UAVs with a range of up to 1,000 kilometers. In fact, Iran is currently holding discussions to sell advanced weapons … to no less than 50 different countries.”

Gallant called on world powers to take concrete steps to prevent the proliferation of Iranian arms once the U.N. arms embargo expires on Oct. 18 in accordance with the terms of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action from which the United States withdrew in May 2018.

The embargo was established by U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which formally codified the nuclear pact. It bans Tehran from exporting ballistic missiles and drones with a range of more than 300 kilometers and a payload of more than 500 kilograms until October 2023.

“Time is running out while an evil regime traffics weapons. The international community must create an effective alternative to the dying embargo, a practical mechanism of deterrence and consequences,” said the defense minister.

Gallant also reiterated Israel’s call to curb Tehran’s nuclear program by keeping “all the possible means—I repeat—all possible means on the table.”

Finally, he noted that as a result of the Trump administration-brokered Abraham Accords, which normalized Israel’s relations with four Arab states, more than 100 regional defense meetings had been held since the fall of 2020, when the accords were signed.

Miami Jewish, Catholic schools release joint statement on ‘physical altercation’

(JNS) — A Jewish teen was injured after a fight broke out following a soccer game between students from a Miami Jewish day school and a local Catholic school. There are allegations that some of the Catholic students made antisemitic statements.

Miami’s archdiocese, which sponsors Archbishop Coleman Carroll High School, and the Scheck Hillel Community School issued a joint statement about the “physical altercation” on Wednesday evening, stating that there was an allegation of “racially insensitive comments or gestures” and that “both schools are completing their investigation.”

Both have “zero tolerance for any kind of aggressive language and behavior, antisemitism or hate of any kind,” per the statement, and will take “appropriate action with the students involved.”

News of the fight, which took place at the Scheck Hillel school, first garnered attention on Thursday when a video went viral. It seemed to show players and spectators fighting on the field, with yelling in the background. Some reported that Catholic students were yelling antisemitic, profanity-laden words.

“Antisemitism is seeping into young and impressionable minds, and it is completely unacceptable for a Jewish teen to be referred to as a ‘dirty Jew,’” Liora Rez, executive director of StopAntisemitism, told JNS.

Rez applauded the joint statement, saying “this clearly points to a bigger problem that needs to be addressed.”

The Greater Miami Jewish Federation praised the school’s handling of the situation.

“The rising tide of antisemitism in South Florida and around the world is a serious issue, and we deplore any and all expressions of antisemitism and hatred,” it stated. “It is never acceptable.”

 

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