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EU gives $1.1 million toward preserving Jewish burial sites

Fri, 2020-01-10 14:54

(JTA) — The European Union has allocated $1.1 million toward mapping and preserving Jewish burial grounds.

The European Commission, the executive branch of the union, announced last week its decision to extend the funding to the European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative, or ESJF.

The group uses innovative tools, ranging from mapping drones to Nazi aerial photography archives, to preserve what the Council of Europe said in 2012 were “vulnerable” sites.

Since the group’s establishment in 2015 with a German government grant, it has helped protect dozens of Jewish cemeteries in seven Central and Eastern European countries.

ESJF also surveyed 1,500 cemeteries and mass graves in Greece, Lithuania, Moldova, Ukraine and Slovakia during 2019. The new funding will allow it to survey and demarcate a further 1,500 such sites in Croatia, Georgia, Hungary, and Poland, among other countries over the coming 18 months.

The project will be carried out with help from two Jewish groups, Centropa and the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, helping to “enhance local engagement in our collective goal to protect this vital heritage,” ESJF Chief Executive Officer Philip Carmel said in a statement.

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Brazilian septuagenarian attends Jewish summer camp

Fri, 2020-01-10 14:51

(JTA) — A Jewish summer camp in Brazil says it has welcomed its oldest participant ever: A 79-year-old man who converted to Judaism in 2016.

Benedito Araujo de Souza, also known as Seu Baruch, traveled about 800 miles from his home in Belo Jardim to attend the 6th year of Yeshiva Camp, which is taking place in the coastal town of Aquiraz near Fortaleza.

The summer camp, intended for children whose families for centuries had concealed their Jewish ancestry, opened last week to coincide with the summer vacation season in Brazil.

The camp is intended for Bnei Anusim, a Hebrew term for people descended from Jewish families that had been forcibly converted. Each year the camp hosts several dozen participants, mostly teenagers. Baruch’s age is unusual but otherwise he fits the bill – his family immigrated to Brazil from Portugal in the Middle Ages.

Baruch and his partner, Luzia Francisca de Souza, drove for 14 hours to get there. “There aren’t many opportunities to share one’s Jewish identity, so we came,” said Baruch, who will turn 80 in September.

Each participant pays about $30 for a stay of more than a week at Yeshiva Camp. It’s a significant sacrifice for the participants, who often come from poor families, but it covers only a fraction of the cost of the running the camp, said Gilberto Ventura, the rabbi of the Synagoga Sem Fronteiras congregation, who established the camp with his wife Jaqueline.

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Spanish politician who called Israel ‘illegal state’ named deputy prime minister

Fri, 2020-01-10 14:46

(JTA) — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez appointed as his deputy a politician who has called Israel an “illegal country” and hosted a talk show with allegedly anti-Semitic content that aired on an Iranian-funded TV station.

The appointment Thursday of Pablo Iglesias Turrión, leader of the far-left Podemos party, follows an election in November that forced the Socialist party to partner with far-left movements to create the first coalition government in Spanish history. The government will have four deputy prime ministers.

Podemos, which won 20 percent of votes in the Spanish general election in 2015 just a year after its creation, has called for a blanket boycott of Israel and has repeatedly accused its government of pursuing apartheid-like policies.

In an interview in 2018, Iglesias said: “We need to act more firmly on an illegal country like Israel.”

Iglesias was also host of the talk show “Fort Apache,” which aired on HispanTV, a station funded by Iran.

In one discussion from 2018, journalist Teresa Aranguren said during a discussion hosted by Iglesias that “The pro-Israel lobby has the power to determine American policies from within, raising questions whether it directs that policy.”

Carlos Enrique Bayo, a journalist for the Público news site, said in the same program: “This lobby clearly wields huge media and communications power but also possesses tremendous economic clout … big financial institutions on Wall Street are basically in the hands of Jews.”

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Spotify to remove playlist titles about Jews and the Holocaust

Fri, 2020-01-10 14:36

(JTA) — The music streaming service Spotify said it would remove playlist titles deemed to contain anti-Semitic hate speech.

A spokesperson for Spotify said this Thursday in a statement to the New York Post that the content in question violates company policy.

The statement followed a report by The Times of Israel that found that users interested in circumventing Spotify’s ban on hateful lyrics introduce them in the titles of playlists they generate.

One such playlist was titled “Gas the Jews music.” Another was named “The Holocaust was exaggerated game of hide and seek.”

Several playlists contained titles that justified Hitler’s actions, such as “Hitler did nothing wrong,” the report said.

After the Times of Israel story was published, Spotify vowed to remove the content flagged in the article, The Post reported.

“The user-generated content in question violates our policy and is in the process of being removed. Spotify prohibits any user content that is offensive, abusive, defamatory, pornographic, threatening, or obscene,” a spokesperson said.

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French Jews commemorate 5th anniversary of Hyper Cacher murders

Fri, 2020-01-10 14:32

(JTA) — Several hundred people attended a ceremony commemorating the fifth anniversary of the murder of four Jews at a Paris kosher supermarket by a jihadist.

At the event Thursday outside HyperCacher in the Porte de Vincennes area in eastern Paris, candles were lit for each victim and the crowd sang the French national anthem. It was attended by Interior Minister Cristophe Castaner.

Francis Kalifat, the president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities, said that the memory of the four victims will “forever be treasured” by French Jewry.

Kalifat devoted a significant part of his speech to criticizing the handling of another killing from 2017, in which a Muslim man beat his Jewish neighbor, Sarah Halimi, and threw her to her death from the third-story window of her apartment. In November, an appeals court ruled that the killer was found unfit to stand trial because he was high on marijuana.

“The work of commemorating her cannot properly take place,” Kalifat said, until her killer is “brought to justice.”

“This ruling is a stain on our society because it prevents the wounds from healing,” he added.

The 2015 attack at Hyper Cacher was one of the most traumatic events to befall the French Jewish community in recent years. Four people died in the attack — Philippe Braham, Yohan Cohen, Yoav Hattab and Francois-Michel Saada — which came in the wake of a shooting at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, which killed 12 people and injured 11 others.


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Fieldston School fires teacher who posted anti-Zionist tweets

Fri, 2020-01-10 01:25

This is a developing story. 

NEW YORK (JTA) — The Ethical Culture Fieldston School, an elite New York City prep school, has fired a teacher who posted tweets opposing Zionism.

JB Brager, who taught history at Fieldston, was fired Thursday, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency has learned. The termination comes after Brager, who is Jewish, posted multiple tweets disparaging Zionism amid a controversy over anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism at the school.

“ECFS does not comment on personnel matters,” the school said in a statement to JTA Thursday evening. “We can reaffirm, however, that the school does not tolerate hurtful, offensive, or exclusionary content or comments from any member of the community. Students, parents, employees and other members of our community all face consequences for misbehavior of this nature.”

JTA reached out to Brager via email and their website for comment, but did not immediately hear back.

The controversy began in November when a speaker at the school, Kayum Ahmed, a lecturer at Columbia University Law School and a director at the Open Society Foundations, said that the Holocaust and Israel are examples of “victims becoming perpetrators,” according to a video obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. Tablet magazine reported that parents were “shaken and outraged” by the remark. “Xenophobic attacks are a shameful part of South African history, but in some ways it reflects the fluidity between those who are victims becoming perpetrators,” Ahmed said. “I use the same example in talking about the Holocaust. That Jews who suffered in the Holocaust and established the State of Israel today—they perpetuate violences against Palestinians that are unthinkable. So again, the victims of the Holocaust and the violence have become the perpetrators of injustice against the Palestinians.” According to Tablet and the Washington Free Beacon, sometime following Ahmed’s remarks, Brager tweeted, “I refuse to ‘reaffirm the value’ of ethno-nationalist settler colonialism.”

On Dec. 17, the principal of Fieldston’s upper school, Nigel Furlonge, wrote in an email obtained by JTA that the school had “engaged in a meaningful internal dialogue about what the experiences have been, both historically and currently, for Jewish faculty and students at ECFS.” He announced that on Jan. 9, two rabbis of large New York City Reform congregations, Ammiel Hirsch from Stephen Wise Free Synagogue and Joshua Davidson from Temple Emanu-El, would address a school assembly.

Following Furlonge’s announcement, Brager tweeted, “for a school assembly on anti-Semitism, SURE GO AHEAD and invite two white men who run Reform congregations, both of whom are Zionists, one that wrote that the ‘most insidious strain [of American anti-Semitism] is that of anti-Zionist intersectionality [on the far-left].'” Brager ended the tweet with three angry-face emojis. JTA has obtained a screenshot of the tweet.

Brager was quoting in their tweet a modified sentence from an op-ed by Davidson in The Jewish Week.

Hirsch and Davison spoke at the school on Thursday. In his speech, Hirsch defended Zionism and challenged the arguments of anti-Zionists.

“Understand what they mean when they say they are not anti-Jewish, just anti-Zionist,” Hirsch said, regarding anti-Zionist activists. “They mean that, from their perspective, justice requires extinguishing the one and only Jewish state — the size of New Jersey — in favor of a 23rd state of the Arab world that collectively has a greater land mass than the entire United States.”

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I’m still trying to figure out my Jewishness. Rising anti-Semitism doesn’t help.

Thu, 2020-01-09 21:59

NEW YORK (JTA) — I never had a bat mitzvah. I’ve been to temple maybe 10 times in my life. I can’t speak Hebrew. If you ask me about certain Jewish traditions, I’d be unable to answer.

The idea of being Jew-ish has only recently entered mainstream language. For one person, it may mean they are ethnically Jewish but never attend services. Another might explain it as being bar or bat mitzvahed and then only going to temple for holidays — or not at all. 

With the uptick in anti-Semitism across America, I feel more of a need to identify with my background than ever before. Yet sometimes I can’t help but feel like an imposter because my faith is more cultural than religious. In many ways, I am Jew-ish.

I’ve often felt out of place within my own religion — “not Jewish enough” to be a part of the community and “too Jewish” for many others, a dichotomy that has reinforced a peculiar feeling of “Where do I belong?” Growing up in a town with four other Jewish people in my graduating class, I was singled out for being Jewish. Crass “jokes” were told at my expense, using every stereotype about Judaism. These would range from comments about picking up change to full blown Holocaust focused remarks.

Being in this “-ish” zone made me feel like I couldn’t even defend my heritage and who I was since I didn’t, and still don’t, fully understand it. I felt embarrassed for not connecting with my background more, while also feeling a need to hide it as I faced cruelty from others towards that part of myself. It felt like either way I leaned, I lost. 

In 2019, across the cities of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, Jews were the most common target of hate crimes. In New York alone, the year brought the most anti-Jewish hate crimes since 1992. In 2020, we’ve already seen a spate of violent attacks against primarily haredi Jews in Brooklyn.

I happen to live on the border of one such Orthodox community in Brooklyn and, if I’m being honest, I’m scared. I’m scared for me, I’m scared for my neighbors and I’m scared that this cycle of hatred against the Jewish community will never stop. 

I feel helpless to take action, but also feel inspired when I see groups mobilize to take a stand, such as last week’s march across the Brooklyn Bridge in which thousands of people came together to stand against the hatred perpetrated towards our community.

Across America, Jews of all denominations are trying to find their place in a country that is increasingly hostile toward them and their heritage. Anti-Semitism brings many Jewish Americans — and especially Holocaust survivors and their children and grandchildren — a strange sense of déjà vu. Yet Jew-ish people often still feel like imposters if they speak out. 

As Rabbi Sandra Lawson, who serves as associate chaplain for Jewish life at Elon University, told me, part of unlearning that imposter syndrome means remembering that in Judaism, having a Jewish parent or converting makes you Jewish, regardless of how you practice.

“I’ve been hearing that phrase [Jew-ish] for so long and what I actually try to do, especially with the students I work with, is sort of explain that there’s no difference. You’re still Jewish, you just have a different way of practicing your Judaism,” she says. 

Historically, many Jews have been told from a young age to refrain from sharing their religious affiliation with others out of fear, and speaking out can feel downright terrifying. (Minorities are taught self-preservation in a way white Christians often never need to think about.) 

I sometimes wonder if I’ve personally only moved closer to Judaism as a way to look strong and courageous as I watch hate rear its ugly head across our country. In the face of so much hatred in our country, have I used Judaism as a way to finally integrate myself into a cause I can relate to? Should I be the one to speak up for the Jewish people when so many others are far more connected to our religion than I may ever be? 

The line between being in the group and being an ally feels blurry. Then I think about each and every person, including myself, who has been on the receiving end of Jewish slurs, sat through crass jokes at their expense and who have been scared to tell someone they’re Jewish, fearful that their opinion will change. 

Part of me wants to run away from any sign of being Jewish as a means of protection, but all that would do is give these hate-filled people what they want. I see no other option but to continue figuring out what being Jewish means for me and to support my entire community in any way I can. There’s no excuse for hating people simply for being who they are. 

When you spend your whole life in the “-ish,” suddenly embracing that part of you and speaking out can take some time getting used to. But even when people feel like imposters, or that they don’t know what to say, taking their time to collect their thoughts and speak out can be incredibly powerful. Hearing people share their experiences of anti-Semitism puts a face to what’s happening in this country and encourages those around them to become more active as well. 

To finally get answers to some of the questions I have about being a Jew and what it means in today’s world, especially when you’re not very religious, I recently went on Birthright. It was the first time in my life that I was completely surrounded by Jews — American and Israeli — and had the opportunity to hear from so many others about what it was like for them to grow up Jewish, how they feel about the rise in anti-Semitism and how so many others also identify as Jew-ish. It helped me realize that there’s no one right way to be Jewish, but that telling these stories and unabashedly celebrating the culture is an act of resistance in and of itself when it comes to standing against the rise in anti-Semitism.

I don’t know why people, across time, have this ingrained hatred of Jews inside them and insist on perpetrating violence against us. I wish they too could hear the stories I did and see that each and every one of us has a unique life, tales to tell and our own definition of what being Jewish means.

“People are doing the best that they can and making the best decisions that they can,” Rabbi Lawson adds. “I would hope that people aren’t so fearful that they’re paralyzed. I guess one step at a time.”

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NAACP and ADL announce partnership to educate public officials against hate in New Jersey

Thu, 2020-01-09 21:05

(JTA) — The most prominent anti-discrimination organizations in the African-American and Jewish communities are partnering to combat hate in New Jersey.

The Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism and bigotry, and the NAACP, which fights racism and discrimination, announced the partnership Thursday. It comes about a month after a shooting in a kosher supermarket in Jersey City that killed four.

The neighborhood where the shooting took place, Greenville, is a largely African-American neighborhood with a growing Jewish community. One of the shooters, who also died in the attack, was once a member of the Black Hebrew Israelites, a movement with certain sects that the ADL defines as hate groups.

There have also been two recent stabbing attacks against Jews in Rockland County, which is adjacent to New Jersey. Overall, according to a press release,  both race-based and anti-Semitic hate crimes in New Jersey have more than doubled since 2016.

“The last few months have been some of the most difficult for the Jewish community in our region in recent memory,” Evan Bernstein, the ADL’s New York/New Jersey regional director, said in a statement. “We are hopeful and confident that our renewed partnership with NAACP will allow our communities to lock arms and stand together against bigotry and those who seek to distract and divide us from the critical work ahead.”

The New Jersey partnership between the ADL and NAACP has three prongs: collaborating to educate elected officials against hate, hosting a series of listening sessions with constituents of both groups and responding jointly to incidents of hate in the state. The groups have worked together in the past on civil rights, voting rights, criminal justice reform and related issues.

Following the Jersey City shooting, a local school board official, Joan Terrell-Paige, wrote a Facebook comment calling Jews “brutes” and expressing understanding for the shooters. Despite calls for her resignation from local politicians and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, she has remained a member of the city Board of Education after receiving support from Greenville residents and other local officials.

“We stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters in strong condemnation of the acts of hate perpetuated against the Jewish community in our state and in the tri-state area over the last month,” Richard T. Smith, president of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, said in a statement. “To the Jewish community in New Jersey I want you to know: the NAACP stands with you in this challenging time and in all times.”

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Teens at a mostly African-American school in Brooklyn have questions about Jews. A Holocaust class provides some answers.

Thu, 2020-01-09 20:54

BROOKLYN (JTA) — Though Naisha Couamin walks through a heavily Jewish neighborhood near her home in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn most days, she had never actually talked to a Jewish person until recently.

The 17-year-old had plenty of questions about the Hasidic Jews who were her neighbors. She wondered why they wore distinctive clothing and why the men kept their side locks long. But a sense that the community was insular and concern about the language barrier — many Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn speak Yiddish better than English — kept her from inquiring.

“You always see Jewish people, they always had a secluded area, they were never with other people,” said Couamin. “You see they have their own school bus, their own ambulance, and I always wondered why.”

Couamin began to get some answers after enrolling in a Holocaust class at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School, a majority African-American Catholic school in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. The class exposed her to lessons about the history of the Holocaust, including hours of recorded testimony from survivors. But it also gave her a chance to ask questions about Judaism she had never had a chance to before.

“A lot of our students live in Crown Heights and Williamsburg, on the borders of Orthodox Jewish communities, and they notice the friction between the two groups and they don’t understand why,” said William Mason, a social studies teacher who started the Holocaust class five years ago. “So they’ll have a lot of questions about Jewish culture and Jewish ideas.”

The class is a popular one — Mason says it fills up every semester and has a waiting list — and is based on curriculum provided by the Anti-Defamation League and Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. In the spring, students in the class meet a Holocaust survivor in person during a visit to the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, in Manhattan.

On Wednesday, the 14 students in the class listened respectfully as Amy Goldberg, the wife of the late Holocaust survivor Ernest Michel, related her husband’s harrowing story of surviving Auschwitz and two death marches. Students heard excerpts from a speech Michel had given in 2012 about witnessing the Kristallnacht riots in his hometown and how his talent with calligraphy helped him survive. Goldberg offered personal anecdotes about what it was like for her husband to cover the Nazi trials at Nuremberg as a journalist and why he refused to cover up his Auschwitz tattoo.

From left to right, Jermeria Pantoon-Whitehead, Naisha Couamin and Nah’eema Walker chose to take a semester-long elective on the Holocaust taught by William Mason, right. (Josefin Dolsten)

“I used to think that it was really a long time ago and then when I got into this class I was like ‘Oh, there’s people still alive that this happened to,’” said Jermeria Pantoon-Whitehead, 17. “And it made it different for me when I was learning about it.”

Mason doesn’t steer away from discussing recent instances of anti-Semitism, including the attacks on Jews in Brooklyn, Monsey and Jersey City in the last month. Learning about anti-Semitism in the past also helps students feel closer to the Jewish community today, Mason said.

“They relate to that because they’re also subject to all this nonsense that goes on, and you’re no longer at odds. You’re now allies,” he said. “And we talk about the concept of ally, and remind the students during the Civil Rights era, who was the biggest supporter of the African-Americans? The Jews. It was like this from day one, and the kids understand that now.”

Goldberg’s visit was organized by Lindsay Bressman, the director of Civic Spirit, which supports civic education in Jewish and Catholic schools. Bressman believes teaching students about the Holocaust is especially important today.

“This is part of a bigger story,” Bressman said. “And I think it’s important for these students who never learn about that to understand that when Jews see in the news these targeted killings, they think about the Holocaust, they think about the Spanish Inquisition and the many times that thousands of Jews were killed.”

Lessons about the Holocaust also have a personal impact on many students. Nah’eema Walker, 17, says she was inspired by Goldberg’s description of her husband’s ability to enjoy life despite the suffering he endured and having lost most of his family.

“For him to be able to live a life not angry shows a lot of courage and strength,” Walker said. “Because me being African-American and I see what goes on today — it’s not physically happening to me, but sometimes I get angry and I hold on to that anger, and I may judge a random police officer or regular Caucasian people. So for him to be able to live his life with no hatred is amazing.”

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Buck Henry, screenwriter of ‘The Graduate’ and ‘Get Smart,’ dies at 89

Thu, 2020-01-09 19:43

(JTA) — Buck Henry, the screenwriter and director who earned an Oscar-nomination for his script for the 1967 film “The Graduate,” has died at 89.

Henry, born Henry Zuckerman in 1930, died Wednesday in Los Angeles, according to reports.

“The Graduate,” starring Dustin Hoffman and directed by Mike Nichols, won Nichols an Oscar for best director and became an icon of American film.

Henry was nominated for an Oscar again in 1979 for co-directing “Heaven Can Wait” with Warren Beatty.

Prior to his work in film, Henry worked on a number of television shows in the 1960s, including co-creating the parody series “Get Smart” with Mel Brooks. Henry also hosted “Saturday Night Live” several times in the late 1970s.

Henry was born to a Jewish family in New York. His mother Ruth was a silent film star and his father an Air Force officer. Henry attended Dartmouth College and served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He changed his name to Buck Henry in the 1970s.

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Jewish student sues Pennsylvania university for lack of action on anti-Semitism

Thu, 2020-01-09 19:19

(JTA) — A federal lawsuit alleges that a Pennsylvania university failed to respond to complaints about anti-Semitic harassment, forcing a student to leave the school.

Cassidy Pyser, in a lawsuit filed last week in federal court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, claims that her former roommate at Kutztown University sent her text messages about the Holocaust and eventually smashed her mezuzah, the scroll of biblical verses some Jews hang on their doorposts. After the university failed to intervene, Pyser says she was forced to withdraw in 2017, following her sophomore year.

The Morning Call first reported on the lawsuit on Tuesday.

The lawsuit charges that the defendants “individually and collectively directly created the danger that allowed plaintiff to be the victim of outrageous and uncorrected anti-Semitic acts and behaviors that caused her great emotional harm and required her to leave her studies.”

The lawsuit claims that the university induced Pyser to enroll under false pretenses, claiming it had promised to ensure a safe learning environment. It also charges that the school violated the Clery Act, a federal law requiring universities receiving federal financing to report crime near their campuses.

In 2017, the school was the site of white supremacist activity, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Also named as defendants in the suit are Aramark Food and Support Service Group, the university’s food service provider, as well as several Aramark and university employees. Pyser’s former roommate reportedly worked at the campus dining hall and refused to serve her. The former roommate is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Kutztown declined media requests for comment, citing pending litigation.

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Robert Caro’s papers to get permanent installation in New-York Historical Society galleries

Thu, 2020-01-09 18:54

NEW YORK (JTA) — The assorted writings of famed biographer Robert Caro will now have a permanent place at the New-York Historical Society.

NYHS has acquired some 200 linear feet of Caro’s notes, interview transcripts, drafts, correspondence, once-classified documents and writings that will be open to researchers. The society will also create a permanent installation in its museum galleries dedicated to showing the art of Caro’s craft, according to the New York Times.

“It’s like a true weight has been lifted from my shoulders,” Caro told the Times in his office off Central Park West, “where he was surrounded by hulking filing cabinets, piles of heavily scribbled-on legal pads and — tantalizingly — a wooden box holding typed pages of the eagerly awaited final Johnson volume.”

Caro is known for his exhaustively researched biographies, including “The Power Broker,” about the controversial public works official Robert Moses, and the still-in-progress “The Year of Lyndon B. Johnson,” Louise Mirrer, the president and chief executive of the historical society, called the richness and scope of Caro’s papers “astonishing.”

Caro, 84, was born in New York City to Celia (nee Mendelsohn) and Benjamin Caro, a Yiddish-speaking Jew from Warsaw.

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Annual survey finds growing numbers of Israelis believe the country’s leaders are corrupt

Thu, 2020-01-09 16:15

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Some 58 percent of Israelis believe that the country’s leadership is corrupt, up from 43 percent in 2014, a survey found.

The Israel Democracy Index, conducted for the 17th year, also found that 60 percent of the Jewish Israeli public believe the Israeli government should not take into account the views of Diaspora Jews when making important decisions. Fifty-one percent of Israeli Jewish respondents said they believe that Jews the world over share a common destiny.

The final report on the survey was presented Tuesday to President Reuven Rivlin.

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • The Israel Defense Forces remains the most trusted Israeli institution by 90 percent of Jewish Israelis, followed by the presidency (71 percent) and the Supreme Court (55 percent).
  • Less than half of Jewish Israelis trust the police, at 44 percent. The figure for Arab Israelis was 38 percent.
  • Among the least trusted institutions are the media (36 percent for both Jews and Arabs), the government and Knesset (30 percent) and political parties (14 percent).

The IDI survey was conducted by its Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research in May 2019, before two failed attempts to form a government following national elections and before corruption charges were announced against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The survey interviewed 1,041 people, 852 identified as Jews and others and 162 identified as Arabs. The maximum sampling error was plus or minus 3.1 percent.

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New Jersey teen says his boss sent anti-Semitic messages after he asked off for Rosh Hashanah

Thu, 2020-01-09 16:07

(JTA) — A New Jersey teen accused the manager of a local pizzeria of sending anti-Semitic text messages after he asked to take off for a Jewish holiday.

Nicholas Bogan, 17, had been working for a short time at Maurizio’s Pizzeria & Italian Ristorante in Eatontown, New Jersey, when he asked to take off the first night of Rosh Hashanah.

A lawsuit filed by Bogan and his parents in late November alleges that the store manager, Francesco Scotto Di Rinaldi, then sent a series of offensive messages.

“F–k the Jewish,” Di Rinaldi responded. “Put them on fire (fire emoji)/Like hitler was trying to do/He had a point.”

Di Rinaldi later continued, in part, “Why would you celebrate some [sic] that you don’t belong/You wrong [sic] born in america so you don’t belong to them.”

A screenshot of the messages is included with the lawsuit, the New York Post reported Tuesday.

The lawsuit says Bogan never returned to work at the pizzeria because he was “deeply shaken and did not feel safe returning.”

“I thought [Di Rinaldi] was kidding and after he told me he was serious it actually hurt me,” Bogan told the Post.

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Agnes Keleti, world’s oldest living Olympic champion, marks 99th birthday

Thu, 2020-01-09 15:57

(JTA) — Agnes Keleti, the world’s oldest living Olympic champion and a Holocaust survivor, marked her 99th birthday.

Keleti, whose celebrated her birthday on Thursday, told the Associated Press in an interview in her Budapest apartment that she did not want to talk about the past. “Let’s talk about the future,” Keleti said. “That’s what should be beautiful. The past is past but there is still a future.”

Of her 10 Olympic medals, she said: “It’s not the medals that are significant but the experiences that came with them.”

Keleti, who left Hungary in 1957 and lived in Israel, is celebrated as a national hero in Hungary, where she returned four years ago to be with one of her two sons.

The outbreak of World War II, when Keleti was 18, halted her athletic progress.

She survived the Holocaust thanks to falsified identity papers, pretending to be from the countryside and having little education.

Keleti resumed her training as a gymnast in 1946. She was prevented from competing at the London Olympics in 1948 because she broke her collarbone in training.

Four years later she won her first Olympic gold medal, in the floor exercise, at the 1952 Helsinki Games, at the age of 31. She also won a silver medal and two bronze medals in other events.  At the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, when she was 35, she earned four gold medals and two silvers.


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British chief rabbi disinvited from London event marking completion of Talmud study cycle

Thu, 2020-01-09 15:36

(JTA) — British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis was disinvited from a major event marking the completion of the Daf Yomi cycle, the 7.5-year project of studying a page of the Talmud every day.

The event, held Tuesday at Wembley Arena in London, was sponsored by the haredi Orthodox group Agudath Yisroel of the United Kingdom.

Mirvis was originally invited to sit on the dais with other prominent rabbis, but the invitation was withdrawn on Monday, the UK Jewish News reported.

Mirvis angered some segments of the Orthodox Jewish community in 2018 when he released a guide for Jewish day schools on how to support their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. The guide, produced in partnership with the Jewish LGBT group KeshetUK, urged tolerance for students struggling with sexual orientation and gender identity.

The London-based Jewish Chronicle reported that there had been rumors some haredi Orthodox rabbis would boycott the event if Mirvis attended.

A spokesman for the chief rabbi confirmed to both newspapers that the invitation had been rescinded. “How sad that the petty politics of a small minority should distract from what should be a wonderful celebration of Torah,” the spokesman said.

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she is ‘cancer free’

Thu, 2020-01-09 15:14

(JTA) — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that she is cancer free.

Ginsburg told CNN Tuesday during a wide-ranging interview that treatment for a localized malignant tumor on her pancreas, discovered in July, was successful.

“I’m cancer free. That’s good,” she said in the interview in her chambers.

Ginsburg, 86, has been treated for cancer four times. She had surgery in 2018 to remove a cancerous growth from her left lung. In 2009, she had surgery for early-stage pancreatic cancer. And in 1999, she was treated for colon cancer.

She is one of three Jewish justices on the high court and leads its liberal minority. She is also the court’s oldest justice. She says she plans to remain on the bench until she turns 90.

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Swastika reportedly drawn on head of Toronto man with Alzheimer’s

Thu, 2020-01-09 15:12

(JTA) — A swastika was drawn on the bald head of a 65-year-old Alzheimer’s patient in Toronto.

The swastika drawn in black marker was discovered this week at the Glendale Care Centre by the man’s nephew, Shane Morrow, Toronto.com reported Wednesday.

A smiley face also was drawn inside a wing of the swastika.

The man, a resident at Glendale, also suffers from Parkinson’s disease and diabetes, according to the report.

Morrow said that a staff member told him that a second swastika also had been drawn on the body of his uncle, who was identified by Toronto.com as Larry.  The second swastika reportedly had been drawn on his back and had been washed off.

The staff member said the person who drew the swastikas had been arrested, according to Morrow. But a police spokesman told Toronto.com that no report had been filed for Glendale’s address.

A staff member told Toronto.com that the incident is “a private matter” and that they “cannot divulge any information at this time.”

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Larry David got a dog and named it Bernie

Thu, 2020-01-09 14:56

(JTA) — Larry David named his dog after his cousin: presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

In a cover story interview with GQ published on Wednesday, the comedian revealed — “eyes twinkling” — that he and his girlfriend Ashley Underwood recently adopted an Australian shepherd puppy and named it Bernie.

In 2017, David learned that that he is related to the Vermont senator. While filming “Finding Your Roots,” the PBS show that documents celebrities’ family trees, he found out that Sanders was “a third cousin or something.”

The two men have plenty of similarities. Both are Jewish, close in age (David is 72 and Sanders is 78) and have distinctive Brooklyn accents. David has been playing Sanders on “Saturday Night Live” since 2016.

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Trump and Netanyahu speak about ‘critical regional issues’ after Iran targets US bases in Iraq

Thu, 2020-01-09 13:55

JERUSALEM (JTA) — President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone about “critical bilateral and regional issues,” the White House announced.

The conversation took place Wednesday, a day after Iran targeted U.S. bases in Iraq with dozens of ballistic missiles in retaliation for the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Quds Force, which operates a number of regional militias and is allied with terrorist groups targeting Israel, including Hezbollah and Hamas.

The White House did not offer any details about the conversation in its brief statement.

After the missile attack on U.S. bases, Iran said a further escalation would lead to attacks on U.S. allies in the region, including Israel.

Hours before the conversation on Wednesday, Netanyahu, in a speech in Jerusalem, praised the killing.

“Qassem Soleimani was responsible for the death of countless innocent people. He destabilized many countries. For decades, he sowed fear and misery and anguish and he was planning much worse,” Netanyahu said. “President Trump should be congratulated for acting swiftly, boldly and resolutely against this terrorist-in-chief who was the architect and driver of Iran’s campaign of carnage and terror throughout the Middle East and throughout the world.”

Netanyahu added that Israel will “stand steadfast against those who seek our lives. We stand determined and strong. Whoever tries to attack us will receive a crushing blow in return.”


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