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Netanyahu apologizes after mocking chief rival Gantz for stuttering

Haaretz - Wed, 2020-01-22 22:36
'In contrast to the way this was presented by the media, my words did not refer to people with disabilities, and if anyone was offended, I’m very sorry,' premier says

Holocaust Forum and U.S. election give Israel the perfect stage to push Jordan Valley annexation

Haaretz - Wed, 2020-01-22 22:30
Current political situation provides a solid majority for annexing, and even if Netanyahu only initiates such a move, it will be his biggest achievement

Jeff Goldblum decided he wanted to be an actor while studying his bar mitzvah Torah portion

JTA - Wed, 2020-01-22 22:18

(JTA) — Jeff Goldblum learned a lot from Hebrew school: how to fight back against bullies, and that he enjoyed performing in front of a crowd.

As he revealed in Tuesday’s episode of “Finding Your Roots,” the PBS celebrity genealogy show, Goldblum had a rough time at Hebrew school as a kid. He was bullied by a kid named David Schwartz.

So Goldblum’s mother told him, “You have to learn to fight.” She taught him the “element of surprise,” which Goldblum said he eventually used to punch Schwartz in the face.

Later, while preparing for his bar mitzvah, he first felt his “professional calling.” He recalled the time he spent learning his Torah portion fondly and that his mother lauded his performance.

Goldblum decided he liked performing as well, and the rest is Hollywood history.

Read more about the full episode, which delves into Goldblum’s Jewish family history, here.

The post Jeff Goldblum decided he wanted to be an actor while studying his bar mitzvah Torah portion appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

57% of French survey respondents don’t know how many Jews died during the Holocaust

JTA - Wed, 2020-01-22 22:17

(JTA) — In a survey of 1,100 French adults, 57 percent of respondents indicated that they did not know roughly how many Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

In the survey, which the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany commissioned in November and published Wednesday, 30 percent of respondents put the figure at under 2 million.

Misconceptions about the death toll were especially high among respondents younger than 38. Of those, 69 percent did not know that in reality 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, and 44 percent thought it was lower than 2 million.

Of the four countries surveyed by the group in recent years, French respondents displayed the highest level of ignorance on the topic, followed by Austrians (56%), Canadians (54%) and Americans (51%).

In France, 44 percent of respondent said they had never heard about Auschwitz. Only two percent knew about Drancy, the main internment camp for French Jews.

In the United States and Canada, only some states have added the Holocaust as a mandatory curriculum subject. It is mandatory in Austria and France.

“The survey shows that French schools aren’t doing a great job in teaching the Holocaust,” Greg Schneider, Executive Vice President of The Claims Conference, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The post 57% of French survey respondents don’t know how many Jews died during the Holocaust appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

World Zionist Congress election turnout is up — and secured with blockchain

The Forward - Wed, 2020-01-22 22:10
More questions about the World Zionist Congress elections, answered - including a surprising connection to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

As number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, educators assess the impact of living testimony

JTA - Wed, 2020-01-22 22:00

(JTA) — Cancer may have weakened Edward Mosberg’s body, but it has done nothing to dissuade the 94-year-old Holocaust survivor from New Jersey from traveling to his native Poland at least once a year to commemorate the Nazi genocide.

“I wouldn’t wish my medical situation on Hitler,” Mosberg told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last year. “But I’ll keep coming here as long as I’m able.”

Mossberg has since been declared cancer-free, but he will still travel with a medical team when he heads to Auschwitz for the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation by Soviet troops on Jan. 27.

Traveling is also tough on Selma van de Perre, a 97-year-old survivor from Amsterdam who relied on her son and a cane to get around during a recent speaking tour of the Netherlands. Beyond the mobility issue, the speaking part is also taking its toll, she acknowledged.

Nelly Ben-Or, an 86-year-old survivor from Ukraine living in London, has had to cut back recently on the number of talks she gives because of trouble with her hip.

Nelly Ben-Or, seen in her London home in December 2018, is an 86-year-old survivor from Ukraine. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

As the number of living Holocaust survivors dwindles, and those who remain confront the inevitable limitations of advancing age, Holocaust educators are being forced to confront a fraught question: What will happen to the teaching of the Holocaust when the firsthand witnesses are gone?

Some believe the field of Holocaust education will be forever changed, and they are working overtime to record and disseminate their accounts on the theory that the power of living testimony is unrivaled when it comes to sensitizing society to the dangers of racism and anti-Semitism.

But others are less concerned, pointing to the existence of a critical mass of recorded testimonies and the absence of a direct correlation between the availability of those accounts and society’s interest in the Holocaust.

“There are fears, especially in some Jewish communities, that the Holocaust would be forgotten when survivors aren’t there, or that its lessons will be more difficult to teach,” said Yves Kugelmann, a Swiss Jewish journalist who sits on the board of the Anne Frank Fonds in Switzerland. “I disagree with that view, though I understand it.”

Kugelmann’s organization has had a leading role in introducing millions of people to Frank’s diary, which became famous due to the efforts of Frank’s father, Otto, and has become a powerful tool for educating about the Holocaust. Kugelmann sees the diary’s continuing success as compelling evidence that the testimonies of people who are no longer alive can be as powerful as the voices of the living.

“The main challenge of Holocaust education is to tell the story in ways that evolve to stay relevant to new generations,” said Kugelmann, whose organization has adapted the diary as a play and a graphic novel, and is working on an animated film.

Adaptations, and in some cases fictional works based on the Holocaust, have proliferated in recent years as the survivor population has declined. It’s a phenomenon arguably traced to Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film “Schindler’s List,” a work of fiction based on historical fact that brought the story of Oskar Schindler’s efforts to save Jews from the Nazis to a large global audience.

An analysis of the IMDB film database suggests that in the years 1945-1990, major feature films were made about the Holocaust at a rate of 1.5 productions per year. That figure jumped to four per year in the three decades that followed.

“The popularity of such novels and films has arguably led to the marked increase in both the number of museums dedicated to the Holocaust and in the number of visitors to them,” Sophia Francesca Marshman wrote in her 2005 doctoral thesis for the University of Portsmouth.

But that growth is not an unvarnished success story and often comes at the expense of historical accuracy — a development that to some only underscores the significance of firsthand testimonies.

Films like “Life is Beautiful,” Roberto Benigni’s 1999 Academy Award winner about a father who convinces his son that life in a concentration camp is an elaborate role-playing game, have “generated interest in the Holocaust, but were so wildly unhistorical that they also serve to blur people’s perceptions about it,” said Rabbi Avraham Krieger, the director of Israel’s Shem Olam Holocaust Institute for Education, Documentation and Research.

Other mass market Holocaust productions further illustrate the problem. Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” from 2009 is a revenge fantasy in which the leadership of Nazi Germany is assassinated. “Phoenix,” a fictional German production from 2015, is based on a far-fetched plot about a survivor who returns to her prewar life undercover thanks to face-altering surgery.

Krieger doesn’t like such representations, though he understands their appeal. Organizations that collect Holocaust survivor testimonies typically direct their subjects to stick to the facts and limit their emotions, he says, which is the most interesting part to Hollywood filmmakers, who in turn begin to take liberties with the historical record.

“That’s when the problem of accuracy begins,” said Krieger, whose organization has developed an alternate testimonial format that encourages survivors to “reconstruct [their] emotional world.”

The Claims Conference, a body representing world Jewry in compensation talks with Germany and other countries, has funded artistic projects that it deems sufficiently grounded in historical fact to be educational. One of them, “The Son of Saul,” was based in part on witness testimonies and won an Oscar in 2016.

“With enough attention to historical accuracy, you can make a fictional film with a broad appeal that will still represent truthfully the reality of the Holocaust,” Greg Schneider, the Claims Conference’s executive vice president, told JTA.

Other organizations have focused on upgrading the experience of viewing archived testimonies. The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum has produced 3-D recordings of interviews that permit audiences to engage in limited interaction with holograms of survivors who may no longer be alive.

Still, it’s hard to underestimate the power of personal encounters with Holocaust survivors.

Tessa Roy’s encounter with Rae Gawendo, a survivor from Lithuania who died in 2018 at the age of 103, “changed my life,” Roy told the Hartford Courant in 2017. Roy, who heard Gawendo speak as a junior high school student, was inspired to become a journalist. She now reports for WPRO Radio in Connecticut, focusing on education and human rights.

“Losing survivors is a tremendous challenge for Holocaust education,” Schneider said. “Nothing is more impactful than sitting with a person, eye to eye, holding their hand and hearing their story.”

The post As number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, educators assess the impact of living testimony appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Holocaust education at my high school is atrocious. No wonder anti-Semitism is surging.

The Forward - Wed, 2020-01-22 21:56
The pattern is quite clear: The younger a person is, the less they know about the Holocaust.

Jeff Goldblum, Terry Gross and Marc Maron get emotional tracing their Jewish heritage on ‘Finding Your Roots’

JTA - Wed, 2020-01-22 21:53

(JTA) — The latest episode of PBS’ celebrity genealogy show “Finding Your Roots” was a lesson in Jewish history.

Titled “Beyond the Pale” — a reference to the Pale of Settlement, the region of what was then Imperial Russia where many Ashkenazi Jews have roots — the episode that aired Tuesday night explored the family trees of actor Jeff Goldblum, NPR host Terry Gross and comedian Marc Maron.

As host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explained, each of them has “deep Jewish roots,” but they all knew next to nothing about their ancestors. Here’s a quick breakdown of their individual Jewish histories.

Jeff Goldblum

On Goldblum’s mother’s side, his great grandfather Abraham Temeles left his hometown of Zloczow, a town in the Austrio-Hungarian empire, in the early 1900s because of the rampant anti-Semitism. Historians on Gates’ team believe that like many Jewish migrants at the time, he likely traveled 1,000 miles across Europe by train to the Dutch port of Rotterdam, where he boarded a ship for Halifax, Novia Scotia.

The trip wasn’t easy. Temeles, who was 50 at the time, likely stayed in steerage for several days during the journey. He traveled on the SS Vulturno, which sunk two years later, killing over 100 Jewish migrants.

“It’s just a random piece of luck that I’m here at all I guess,” Goldblum said.

On his father’s side, great-great-grandfather Zelik Povartzik left his hometown of Starobin, Russia, in 1911, just a year before it was overcome by anti-Semitic violence. In 1941, when the Nazis invaded Russia, they killed most of the remaining Jews in Starobin, wiping a large chunk of Goldblum’s family out of the historical record.

The only descendant Gates’ team could track down was a second cousin once removed who died fighting for the Soviet army against the Nazis.

“It’s moving, it’s very moving,” Goldblum said as he held back tears at the end of the episode.

Terry Gross

All Terry Gross knew about her grandparents’ Jewish history was that they all hailed from what they called the “old country.”

When she and her parents visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., when she was a kid, her father teared up seeing part of a fence from a Jewish cemetery in Tarnow, Poland.

As Gates’ researcher discovered, both of her paternal grandparents were born there in the 1880s and immigrated to the U.S. in early 1900s. Each had family that chose to stay, despite the rising anti-Semitism around them.

When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, Tarnow’s Jewish population of about 25,000 quickly found itself cloistered in a ghetto. In 1942, Nazis began slaughtering them — a firsthand account said that the Nazis knocked children’s heads against cobblestones and bayoneted adults, killing 7,000 people in days. Most of Gross’ relatives from Tarnow disappeared from the record at that point — except for one survivor named Nathan Zeller, who only lived a few more years until his death at the Flossenburg concentration camp in Bavaria.

“It’s made everything I know about the Holocaust very specific and concrete,” she said. “I always ask myself if it was time to flee, would I know, would I have the courage to leave?”

Marc Maron

Maron spent most of his segment expressing shock at the details revealed about his family, such as the fact that his maternal grandmother spent 13 days in steerage on a ship to migrate to the United States before World War I.

“I don’t know how they did it … just the idea that you’re gonna leave your country, you’re gonna pack up, everybody’s gonna go … and get on a boat? Are you kidding?” he said at one point. “A boat? I can’t be on a boat for an hour without getting sick.”

Maron’s maternal great-great-grandfather worked in a petroleum factory in Drohobycz, in what was then part of the newly formed republic of Poland. In 1914, at the outset of World War I, Russia invaded the Galicia region of which Drohobycz was a part of. Russian soldiers beat, raped and killed many of its Jews.

Gates traced Maron’s father’s side back to a great-great-grandfather named Morris Mostowitz, who owned a chain of grocery stores in the Charleston area in the late 19th century. Mostowitz had moved there with a wave of other Jews looking to fill needs for merchants and tradesmen in the wake of the Civil War.

But Morris was no saint — he was involved in at least a dozen crimes, including horse theft and illegal liquor sales, and wound up getting sued by his son Barney over a loan he never paid back.

Maron comically found some similarities in personality between himself and Morris, before ending his segment on a self-reflective note.

“It does resonate, the fact that no matter how religious you are or what makes you a Jew in your particular life, the fact that you are defined on some level in a very real way by the reality of anti Semitism … there’s something about that awareness that is still and currently tremendously important,” he said.

The post Jeff Goldblum, Terry Gross and Marc Maron get emotional tracing their Jewish heritage on ‘Finding Your Roots’ appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The dispute over World War II that is causing a major rift between Poland and Russia

Haaretz - Wed, 2020-01-22 21:43
Haaretz explains the controversy over who holds responsibility for collaboration with Nazi Germany, and the contradictory position of Israel and Yad Vashem

How to retire to Israel

JTA - Wed, 2020-01-22 21:28

JERUSALEM – For a growing number of Jews in the Diaspora, turning retirement dreams into reality also means realizing a lifelong dream of living in Israel.

Over the past decade, more than 6,000 Jews from North America and Britain have retired to Israel. In 2019, some 500 of 3,500 immigrants to Israel from North America were retirees. For some of these new “olim” it was the culmination of a lifelong Zionist dream. For others it was a practical move to be closer to children and grandchildren, or to enjoy their golden years in a warmer climate.

Regardless of motivation, the key to a successful retirement in Israel is careful advance planning, as well as an open attitude toward the challenges of entering a new stage of life in a new country.

“We have an amazing life here and are very happy, generally speaking,” said Sydney Faber, who retired to Jerusalem from London with his wife, Rose, 11 years ago. The couple have two children in Israel and two others living in New Jersey.

The Fabers credit their contentment in large part to their having made good decisions about important elements like housing, learning Hebrew and becoming involved in their community. Those choices, they said, made all the difference in building a happy retirement 2,000 miles away from where they had lived most of their lives.

While retiring to Israel may seem like a bigger step than retiring to Florida, many of the same considerations come into play. Here are some of the main issues to consider.

Financial planning

“Retiree olim need to think about how their lifestyle will or will not translate to Israel,” said Marc Rosenberg, vice president of Diaspora Partnerships at Nefesh B’Nefesh, the organization that assists with immigration to Israel from North America and the United Kingdom.

Rosenberg advises retirees to be realistic about the kind of life they’ll be able to afford in Israel on passive income like pensions, Social Security and investments. (A sample budget on Nefesh B’Nefesh’s website can help retirees figure out their likely monthly costs.) For those with children or parents living outside Israel, retirees should remember to plan for the costs of flying back and forth to see them.

These days, many retiree immigrants split their time between Israel and their countries of origin in “snowbird” fashion, allowing for all kinds of creative financial arrangements. Prospective immigrants should seek the advice of an Israeli accountant who specializes in U.S. taxes about the implications of dual citizenship and dual residency. A financial adviser can help with financial planning and offer guidance for living within a budget.

Health care

Israel has universal health care. Retirees must pay into its National Insurance system, but the sum is minor compared to what most Americans are used to paying for insurance premiums and copays.

All Israelis must join one of Israel’s four HMOs, known as “kupot holim,” in order to receive medical services. While membership is covered by one’s National Insurance payments, the kupot offer optional higher levels of coverage for relatively modest additional fees. Many retirees also choose to buy supplemental private health insurance, which covers drugs not included in the medications made available by the Health Ministry as well as private surgeries, transplants performed abroad and other benefits.

Dorraine Gilbert Weiss, who moved to Jerusalem from Los Angeles with her husband, Barry, recently underwent chemotherapy for breast cancer at Hadassah Medical Center.

“I couldn’t have asked for better or more personalized care,” Weiss said.

In addition to hospitals, Israel also a network of urgent care clinics in most cities, many of which are open 24/7.

Norman and Doris Levitz made aliyah in their 90s, moving from the United States to Jerusalem in 2018. (Tomer Malichi)


Choosing your new home wisely is a key component of successful aliyah. Experts advise new immigrants to rent for at least a year or two before buying, mainly to make sure they choose the right location.

Many retirees automatically assume they will want to be near their children, but some find that living in suburban communities geared toward young families is not the right fit.

“They realize that living in Israel is different than visiting,” Rosenberg said. “When you are here for 10 days over a holiday, the grandchildren will be off from school and have lots of time for the grandparents. It’s a different story when they are in their usual routines.”

Older olim tend to gravitate toward cities with large “Anglo” communities and a plethora of social and cultural opportunities for English-speaking retirees, such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Raanana and Netanya. Many haredi Orthodox immigrants favor Beit Shemesh.

Housing will comprise the largest chunk of a retiree’s monthly budget. As with real estate anywhere, location determines price. Those moving from low-cost U.S. locales to expensive cities like Jerusalem might have to downsize homes or number of cars. It’s generally cheaper to rent in Israel than in the United States but more expensive to buy.

Those seeking to move into a senior residence or assisted-living facility will find many options throughout the country offering accommodations, amenities and services comparable to North American standards.

A common question retirees have is whether to sell the U.S. residence they are leaving behind or rent it. That’s less an immigration question than a financial one best addressed to a financial planner.


The upside of transportation in Israel is that the public transit system is very inexpensive and well developed. Buses inside and between cities run frequently, reliably and inexpensively, and seniors pay half fare. The train network is growing, including new high-speed rail service between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that has reduced travel time to 32 minutes. Taxis also are relatively inexpensive and can be summoned like an Uber using the Gett mobile phone app.

The downside is that private transportation is expensive: Owning and maintaining a car costs roughly double what it is in the States.

“If you can do without a car, you should try it,” said Hezy BenTzur, founder and owner of the iAnglo Auto Association, which assists English speakers in Israel with the leasing, importing and purchasing of new and used cars. “Retirees don’t have the burden of having to commute for work, so I would recommend not taking the expense on if you don’t have to. It’s more cost effective to occasionally rent a car.”

Another thing to keep in mind is that cars are generally smaller in Israel, and that the Israeli car market includes makes and models unfamiliar to Americans. Best to do your research and choose appropriately.

Recreation, volunteering and learning Hebrew

There’s no end to the opportunities for retirees to get involved in their communities. Local community centers offer cultural events, educational classes and fitness activities for free or at a low cost for seniors. There are also private sports and country clubs, and golfing is available near Caesarea.

Some community theater companies put on English-language productions, and many plays and operas performed at major arts venues like the Charles Bronfman Auditorium in Tel Aviv and The Jerusalem Theater offer English supertitles.

Volunteer opportunities abound; the key is matching your interests to one of Israel’s countless nonprofit organizations. Popular choices include working with people with disabilities at Yad Sarah, mentoring children and teens affected by terror with One Family, or preparing care packages and holiday meals at the Lone Soldier Center.

Some volunteer opportunities are geared toward English speakers, like English tutoring or working as museum docents. Most, however, require a working knowledge of Hebrew. Taking advantage of the free Hebrew lessons (called ulpan) provided by the government to new immigrants is a good idea.

Ricki Lieberman, who retired to Jaffa from New York in 2009, raises money for an Arab-Jewish women’s choir in Jaffa, volunteers with children of African refugees in South Tel Aviv and does political organizing.

“I grew up believing in democracy and Jewish values, so I am compelled to do what I can,” Lieberman said. “For me, my retirement is not a time to turn away.”

The post How to retire to Israel appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Researchers reveal secrets of 2,800-year-old Hebrew texts using artificial intelligence

Haaretz - Wed, 2020-01-22 21:13
Analysis of inscriptions found at ancient Samaria suggests literacy was not particularly widespread in the heyday of the Kingdom of Israel

Bloomberg: I opposed the Iran deal, but the way Trump left it was wrong

JTA - Wed, 2020-01-22 21:12

WASHINGTON (JTA) — We ran a story last week on where the top seven Democrats running for president stood on Iran policy.

Try as we could, we could not pin down a position for Mike Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who was not included in the last debate, where he might be forced to elaborate a position on one of the burning issues of the day. (He has high enough polling numbers to qualify for a debate, but has not crossed the outside contribution threshold set by the Democratic National Committee because he is bankrolling his own campaign.)

The story noted that in 2015, Bloomberg was skeptical of the emerging nuclear deal that traded sanctions relief for Iran for a rollback in its nuclear program. And he was peeved by the way President Barack Obama sold it to the public, which Bloomberg decried as divisive.

After the Jewish Telegraphic Agency published the story, a spokesman for the candidate got in touch to clarify where Bloomberg stands today.

“Mike was initially against the Iran deal but thinks it was a mistake for President Trump to unilaterally walk away from it,” the spokesman said.

Trump abandoned the agreement in May 2018 over the objections of the other parties: Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

“While the agreement was not perfect — it did not address Iran’s ballistic missile program, and it gave the regime political cover to step up its aggression in the region — the U.S. had an obligation to keep its word once the agreement was in place,” the spokesman said. “The U.S. withdrawal has allowed Iran to abandon its own obligations under the deal and has left the world with few tools to stop it.”

The spokesman also said what Bloomberg would do to redress Trump’s withdrawal from the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, going into more detail than most of the other candidates.

“The first thing to do is re-establish the coalition that realized the danger of Iran marching toward a nuclear weapon. Collective pressure will be needed to change Iran’s behavior,” the spokesman said. “This should be the starting point for the use of diplomacy. We should also be prepared to employ the leverage that sanctions have provided.

“Next, Iran must come back into compliance with the JCPOA requirements. That will require addressing the advances it is likely to make between now and next year — advances that could shrink its breakout time. After rejoining, in order for any new arrangement to be sustainable, we must also be ready to address other inadequacies in the deal, which include the need to extend fast-approaching sunset clauses, curtail Iran’s ballistic missiles, end its destabilizing regional activities and institute more intrusive monitoring.”

The post Bloomberg: I opposed the Iran deal, but the way Trump left it was wrong appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Then, on the 9th hole, Trump called Netanyahu: Erdogan wants something

Haaretz - Wed, 2020-01-22 21:10
New book details how the U.S. president pressed Israel to release Turkish woman charged with aiding Hamas
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