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In Hungary, a Jewish community political fight taints effort to bury Holocaust victims

Mon, 2019-01-21 21:28

(JTA) — Relations between Hungary’s two Jewish federation groups have recently deteriorated from stony silence to a full blown row.

The fight between the Mazsihisz group, which is critical of the Hungarian government, and the Chabad-affiliated EMIH group, which is an advocate of the government, is essentially over government cooperation and funding.

How to work with the government is an understandably divisive issue in a country whose government is often accused of encouraging anti-Semitic rhetoric.

But late last week, the fight veered away from politics and spilled over into one of the major dilemmas facing Eastern European Jewish populations: How to treat the remains of Holocaust victims.

The new dispute over giving such remains a proper burial marks a new and worrisome low in the internal fight, which now has been extended to include a core issue of the Jewish faith. It raises concerns as to the depths of division among the 100,000 Jews living in Hungary – by far Central Europe’s largest Jewish community.

The burial fight began with a sonar sweep Jan. 15 of the floor of the Danube River. Commissioned by EMIH’s leader, Chabad Rabbi Slomo Koves, the sweep ended without meeting its aim of identifying bones of some of the thousands of people that Nazi collaborators shot and dumped into the river during the Holocaust.

But what started out as an example of innovative technology being used to bring dignity to unburied victims quickly devolved into a vociferous exchange that included even Israel’s interior minister, Aryeh Deri.

The sweep “insults the calm and dignity of Jewish or non-Jewish dead people who may be found during the exploration,” Mazsihisz wrote a day after the scan. “Moreover it breaks halacha,” or Orthodox Jewish law, the federation group said in its statement. Rabbi Zoltan Radnoti, the chairman of the rabbinical council of Mazsihisz, told JTA that any bones found likely would be from one of the thousands of non-Jewish German, Soviet and local troops and civilians who died in fighting along the riverbank.

“Come on,” he told JTA, “the Danube is not a grave. It’a a fast-running river.”

Mazsihisz itself organized in 2016 a Jewish burial for bones that had been found in the Danube in 2011 amid renovations on the foundations of Budapest’s Margaret Bridge. “We had a multifaith burial ceremony, with two priests and rabbis from various denominations,” Radnoti said of the ceremony. “It’s true that these were likely Jews but the truth is there is no way of knowing for certain.”

Koves said that most people killed in the Danube were Jews. He cited DNA testing on the bones found in 2011. Of the 15 people identified from the bones, at least nine had Ashkenazi Jewish DNA, the tests showed.

Both groups can cite principles from halacha, which state that bones should be buried when there is a danger to the dignity of the dead but forbids disturbing Jews’ remains in all but the most extreme circumstances.

EMIH, for its part, described the retrieval mission as fulfilling the “major mitzvah of bringing the victims to burial.”

But the core of EMIH’s dispute with Mazsihisz is not about halacha. Rather, it is a fight over attitudes toward Hungary’s controversial government and its funding for Jewish groups, where EMIH clearly seems favored.

“This fight over the Danube is part of the bigger fight,” Radnoti acknowledged.

The two groups have clashed publicly recently over EMIH’s taking over of a state-funded Holocaust museum. The person tapped to head the museum, Maria Schmidt, is a right-wing historian who has been accused of distorting the Holocaust. In light of this, Mazsihisz criticized EMIH’s decision to head the House of Fates museum, which has not yet opened.

“There is no way this museum will operate independently,” Radnoti said in explaining his group’s objections. But EMIH said they would have total discretion over the museum’s content.

For those seeking unity among Jews, internal fights about the memory of the Holocaust are painful. But in Hungary, politics spilled over to disagreements about one of the fundamentals of being Jewish.

Deri, who heads Israel’s Sephardic Orthodox Shas Party, decided to wade into the fight and turn it into an interdenominational religious conflict with a statement that inaccurately labeled Mazsihisz as a “Reform” community. (Mazsihisz does have many members of the Neolog stream, an endemic movement that is fairly liberal but far closer to modern Orthodox streams than to either Reform or Conservative Judaism.)

“I was deeply shocked by the [Mazsihisz] statement, in which it used false pretenses to oppose, in violation of the Jewish conscience, bringing to burial the remains of the martyrs,” Deri wrote. “It is shocking and appalling that some are carrying out political score settling on the backs of those murdered in the Holocaust,” he added.

Radnoti said that Deri’s characterization of Mazsihisz was “a disgusting form of character assassination.”

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2 American Jews suspected of vandalizing crucifix in Uman, Ukraine

Mon, 2019-01-21 21:14

(JTA) — Two Jewish U.S. citizens have been detained in Ukraine on suspicion that they vandalized a crucifix while inebriated, prosecutors said.

The incident, which occurred last month, is the latest in a series of hostilities in Uman, a pilgrimage site for Jews where friction with the local population often results in cycles of hate crimes.

The Prosecutor’s Office of the Uman Region in central Ukraine on Monday announced the detention of the men, ages 19 and 20, in connection with an act of vandalism that happened last week. In it, two men who appeared to be dressed like Orthodox Jews broke parts of a crucifix that locals erected near a lake where Jews immerse themselves in a river as part of a religious ritual.

The men were filmed vandalizing the crucifix by a security camera.

The crucifix stands near the grave of the 18th-century founder of the Breslav Hasidic movement. Since it was placed there in 2013, the crucifix has suffered multiple acts of vandalism.

In 2016, a synagogue in Uman was broken into and sprayed with red paint. A pig’s head with a swastika carved into its forehead was left at the scene.

Brawls between locals and pilgrims are common in Uman, where about 30,000 Jews gather each year on Rosh Hashanah.

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Anti-Israel protesters join Netta Barzilai on stage at Paris Eurovision qualifier

Mon, 2019-01-21 19:51

(JTA) — A group of anti-Israel protesters jumped on stage during a Eurovision qualifying competition in Paris.

Israeli Eurovision 2018 winner Netta Barzilai was on stage Saturday night when the protesters appeared holding signs reading “No to the Eurovision 2019 in Israel.” Barzilai had just finished performing her Eurovision-winning entry “Toy” for the live broadcast.

BDS France took credit for the incident, using the hashtags “#DestinationApartheid” and “#BoycottEurovision2019″ in a Twitter post showing a video of their interruption.

The protesters were immediately removed from the stage by security officials.

“Five people who came to spread darkness and not to talk about music and love, couldn’t ruin an evening like this,” Barzilai said in a statement.

Musicians and other artists from at least 14 countries have called for a boycott of Eurovision because it is being held in Israel.

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Texas congressman trying to stop freshman lawmaker trip to West Bank

Mon, 2019-01-21 19:30

(JTA) — A Republican lawmaker from Texas is trying to prevent freshman congresswoman Rashida Tlaib from leading a delegation of freshman lawmakers to the West Bank.

The trip led by Tlaib, who is Palestinian American, would be held at the same time as the traditional Israel mission for first-term lawmakers sponsored by the education arm of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, which includes touring and meetings with leading Israeli figures in business, government and the military.

Rep. Brian Babin said in a letter dated Jan. 17 to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and circulated to fellow congressmen that the taxpayer-funded trip led by “an outspoken supporter of the ‘BDS’ Israeli boycott movement and whose personal vitriol led her to publicly brag about calling our President a “mother****er” to her young son, is both ill-conceived and inconsistent with our national values.”

He said that Israel is “of vital importance to U.S. interests in the Middle East,” and that a trip of lawmakers exclusively to the West Bank “threatens that relationship. To signal to our most threatened ally in the region that the United States Congress sanctions an official trip to visit Israel’s nemesis would be an exceedingly dangerous path forward.”

“Please consider the damage that a yet unexperienced and overly caustic Member of Congress may cause to Israeli relations, or the perceptions of our own Jewish-American citizens,” he also wrote.

Tlaib has called the AIPAC-sponsored trip “one-sided.” She said she would take lawmakers to the northern West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Foqa, where her grandmother lives.

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Minnesota school district will add more Holocaust education after students’ Nazi-themed post

Mon, 2019-01-21 19:08

(JTA) — The superintendent of a school district in Minnesota said the posting by of a photo on social media of two students doing a Nazi salute will lead to more in the curriculum about Hitler and the Holocaust.

The photo posted late last week on a private Instagram account but circulated on social media showed two high school students doing a Nazi salute and holding a sign with references to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. The sign was an invitation to the Minnetonka High School’s annual Valentine’s Day dance, called Sweethearts, the Star Tribune reported.

“Sweethearts would be a Hit(ler) w/you, and I could Nazi myself going w/anybody else. Be Mein? Yes or Nein,” said the sign.

Superintendent Dennis Peterson said in an email to district parents on Friday, a day after the photo was made public, that the students will be disciplined.

“The larger issue is that we, as a community, must do an even better job of educating students about Hitler and the Holocaust,” he wrote. “While we do units on this in middle school, and we have had several Holocaust survivors speak at MHS, it has apparently not been enough to prevent yesterday’s incident.”

Rabbi Tzvi Kupfer, adviser to the school’s Jewish Student Union, told the newspaper that some of his students said they no longer feel safe going to school.

On Friday, the female student issued an apology on a new, private Instagram page, according to the newspaper.


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Minnesota rabbi sentenced to probation after arrest in child sex sting operation

Mon, 2019-01-21 18:32

(JTA) — A Minnesota rabbi who worked in student outreach was sentenced to probation after being arrested in a child sex sting operation last year.

Rabbi Aryeh Cohen last week received from a judge in Ramsey County district court a stayed 30-day sentence, was ordered to serve 150 hours of community service, undergo mental health counseling and register as a sex offender, the Pioneer Press reported. He will be on probation for three years.

He is currently registered under Minnesota’s Predatory Offender Act.

Cohen pleaded guilty late last year to one count of engaging in electronic communication relating or describing sexual conduct with a child after reaching a plea deal with the state. A count related to the online solicitation of a child for sex was dropped under the plea deal. He had faced up to six years in prison.

Cohen and dozens of others were arrested and charged in the undercover operation days before the Feb. 4, 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis. He was arrested outside an apartment in North St. Paul, where a federal agent posing as a 15-year-old suggested they meet after a week of communicating through a hook-up site.

Cohen was the director of outreach for the Minneapolis Community Kollel, an Orthodox community center that offers seminars and classes on Jewish texts and religious life. He ran the Kollel’s JWAY program for college students and recent graduates. He was subsequently fired from the Kollel. He and his wife, Adina, also led private text studies with male and female students at the Hillel on the University of Minnesota campus, though he was not employed by Hillel.

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Fox News apologizes for airing obituary graphic for Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Mon, 2019-01-21 18:00

(JTA) — Fox News apologized after airing a graphic implying that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died.

The graphic appeared on screen on Monday morning showed a portrait of Ginsburg in front of the Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. with the words “Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg 1933-2019. It flashed on the screen for about two seconds.

“This was a technical error that emanated from the graphics team,” a Fox News spokesperson told several news outlets.

We need to apologize,” said Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy. “A technical error in the control room triggered a graphic of Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a date on it. We don’t want to make it seem anything other than ? that was a mistake. That was an accident. We believe she is still at home recovering from surgery. Big mistake.”

Ginsburg is working from home after missing oral arguments for the first time in her 25 years on the bench following a Dec. 21 operation to remove cancer from her lungs.

Ginsburg, 85, has had two other bouts of cancer. Following the surgery last month, she was declared cancer-free.

She leads the court’s liberal minority and in 2018 vowed to serve another five years, past a second term for President Donald Trump if he is re-elected.

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Jewish community needs to be protected, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says at Women’s March

Mon, 2019-01-21 17:20

(JTA) — New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the Jewish community needs to be protected against its concerns about anti-Semitism coming from the White House.

In an interview with CNN’s Jason Carroll on Saturday from the march sponsored by the Women’s March Alliance Ocasio-Cortez responded to a question about what she would say to those who have concerns about anti-Semitism within the national Women’s March group.

“I think that concerns of anti-Semitism with the current administration in the White House are absolutely valid and we need to make sure that we are protecting the Jewish community and all those that feel vulnerable in this moment,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

She noted that the reason women were coming together for marches across the country “is to make sure that the rights of women are protected in advance. “

“And so I know in my heart that all of the New Yorkers that are coming down here and downtown are coming in that spirit and not in the other spirit” (of anti-Semitism), she said.

Ocasio-Cortez spoke at both the alliance march and at the march in New York City affiliated with the national organization.

About a month after her election, Ocasio-Cortez announced at a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony that she is descended from Sephardic Jews who fled to Puerto Rico during the Spanish Inquisition.

“I think what it goes to show is that so many of our destinies are tied beyond our understanding, beyond even what we know,” she said at the event.

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Rio mayor raises Holocaust awareness

Mon, 2019-01-21 16:25

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) – The mayor of Brazil’s second largest city joined a global Jewish initiative to raise awareness about the Holocaust and the dangers of anti-Semitism.

Marcelo Crivella, who is not Jewish, gathered his entire municipal staff to take a group picture holding a poster with the hashtag #WeRemember.

“We are all putting on the #WeRemember T-shirt, in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. This tragic episode in the history of humankind will never be forgotten. Two million innocent children, four million fathers and mothers, innocent citizens, were killed, coldly murdered in concentration camps,” Crivella said, the Rio City Hall website reported.

“The campaign intends to combat anti-Semitism and all forms of hate, genocide and xenophobia. The aim of the campaign is to disseminate knowledge of the Holocaust in World War II through digital media, when about six million Jews were killed in Nazi concentration camps,” read the message about the World Jewish Congress-led campaign.

Last week, one of Brazil’s most popular soccer teams published a similar photo on social media. The Corinthians team was followed by the Santos and Fluminense teams.

“We need to make a strong statement because anti-Semitism today is strong again,” Fernando Lottenberg, president of the Brazilian Israelite Confederation, told JTA. “We must reach out to those who know little about the Holocaust and those who deny its occurrence.”

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is on Jan. 27.

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Brazilian Jews sue cartoonist over ‘Nazi hug’ drawing

Mon, 2019-01-21 16:11

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Brazilian Jews have filed a lawsuit against an iconic cartoonist over a drawing that was considered anti-Semitic.

The Rio Jewish federation sued cartoonist Aroeira for his image featuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, in a hug with their arms held in the shape of a swastika. The cartoon was published by O Dia newspaper and circulated on social media.

“Art can never be used to offend the memory of millions of people who died in World War II. The issue will be viewed with severity. We can’t tolerate the offense to Jews and other minorities,” Jewish federation President Arnon Velmovitsky told the weekly television show Comunidade na TV on Sunday.

The lawsuit made headlines after Rio’s largest newspaper, O Globo, highlighted the fact that the Jewish federation’s legal department is led by Rodrigo Fux, who is son of Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Luix Fux.

Netanyahu attended Bolsonaro’s inauguration on January 1 in Brasilia, the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Latin America’s largest nation. They called each other brothers and promised a new era of friendly ties between both countries.

Netanyahu invited Bolsonaro, who reiterated his commitment to transfer the Brazilian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to visit the Jewish state soon.

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Robert Kraft’s New England Patriots advance to Super Bowl LIII

Mon, 2019-01-21 15:10

(JTA) — Jewish National Football League team owner Robert Kraft will see his New England Patriots in their ninth Super Bowl since 2000.

The Patriots, led by quarterback Tom Brady, on Sunday defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, 37-31, in overtime in the AFC Championship Game in Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

It is the team’s 11th Super Bowl appearance overall. It has won the big game five times under Kraft’s stewardship.

The Patriots will face the Los Angeles Rams, who defeated the New Orleans Saints on Sunday 26-23 in overtime.

Kraft bought the team 25 years ago in 1994.

The Kraft family over recent decades has donated more than $100 million to an array of causes, including health care, education, the Jewish community, Christian organizations and local needs.

Kraft, 77, is a prominent supporter of American football in Israel, including the Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem and the Kraft Family Israel Football League.

Earlier this month, Kraft was named the winner of the $1 million Genesis Prize, the so-called Jewish Nobel.

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Ramon International Airport inaugurated in southern Israel

Mon, 2019-01-21 14:36

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Ramon International Airport in southern Israel was officially inaugurated.

The airport, named for Ilan and Asaf Ramon, was dedicated on Monday. The first flights, domestic and charter only, will begin arriving at the airport early next month. International flights will begin in September or October of this year.

The airport, in the Timna Valley in southern Israel about 10 miles north of Eilat, will replace the old Eilat City Airport. A rail line is planned to carry travelers from the resort town to the airport. Until it is built shuttles will ferry them.

Shuttle connections also are planned for tourists heading to the Jordanian resort of Aqaba, and areas of Wadi Rum and Petra in Jordan, as well as the Taba area of Sinai in Egypt. Shuttles are also eventually expected to Egypt and Jordan, according to the airport’s website.
The Ramon Airport is set to handle up to 2 million passengers a year upon opening, with expansion allowing a capacity of up to 4.2 million passengers by the year 2030, according to the airport’s website.

Among the airlines that will begin using the airport are Ryanair, WizzAir, easyJet, Transavia, SAS, Finnair, Edelweiss, and Ural Airlines.

Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut, died in the 2003 Columbia Space Shuttle disaster. His son, Asaf, died six years later in an F-16 fighter jet during training exercises for Israel’s Air Force.

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Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria

Mon, 2019-01-21 13:33

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel struck Iranian targets in Syria, hours after an Iranian-made ground-to-ground missile was fired by an Iranian force in Syria at northern Israel.

The targets struck by Israel Defense Forces warplanes late on Sunday night include munitions storage sites, an Iranian intelligence site, an Iranian military training camp, and a military site located in the Damascus International Airport, the IDF said.

Russia’s defense control center in Syria said that four Syrian soldiers were killed and six wounded in the attacks. Syrian military air defenses destroyed more than 30 cruise missiles and guided bombs during the air strikes, according to Russia.

The IDF warned Syria ahead of the strikes on the Iranian targets, and warned the Syrians not to fire anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli planes during the attack. However, dozens of Syrian surface-to-air missiles were launched during the attack, causing the Israeli warplanes to target several of the Syrian Armed Forces’ aerial defense batteries, according to the IDF.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in London, reported that 11 people were killed, of which two were Syrian nationals. It said that the death toll is expected to rise.

IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said the missile attack Sunday afternoon on the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights in northern Israel was pre-planned.  “By firing towards Israeli civilians, Iran once again proved that it is attempting to entrench itself in Syria, endangering the State of Israel and regional stability,” according to the IDF. “The IDF will continue to act decisively and firmly against the Iranian establishment in Syria.”

The missile attack came after Israel on Sunday morning targeted a munitions depot at the Damascus International Airport. The daylight attack was a departure from previous airstrikes.

Israel has been more direct in recent weeks about acknowledging airstrikes on Syria. Outgoing Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot told the New York Times earlier this month that Israel launched thousands of attacks on Syria during his four years in the position.

The Mount Hermon ski slopes and winter activities site was closed on Monday due to security concerns.

The commander of the Iranian Air Force on Monday said that his country was prepared for a decisive war with Israel, “which will bring an end to the IDF’s attacks on Syria.”

“Our armed forces are prepared for a war that will bring the destruction of Israel,” he said, according to  reports. “We are ready for the day when we will see the end of Israel.”

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Chadian peacekeepers killed in Mali over restoration of diplomatic relations with Israel

Mon, 2019-01-21 12:12

(JTA) — An attack in the west African nation of Mali that left 10 Chadian U.N.  peacekeepers dead was in reaction to the visit to Chad by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

An Al Qaeda-linked Islamist group in Mali, called Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, claimed responsibility for the attack on a United Nations camp in northern Mali on Sunday, shortly after Netanyahu and Chad’s president, Idriss Deby, announced that the two countries would reestablish diplomatic ties.

The claim for the attack and the reason for it was relayed by the Mauritanian Al-Akhbar news agency, which receives statements from the group, the French news agency AFP reported.

In addition to the 10 killed peacekeepers, another 25 were injured.

Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the UN envoy for Mali, in a statement called the attack “vile and criminal.” He said the terrorists “arrived on several armed vehicles.”

“It demands a robust, immediate and concerted response from all forces to annihilate the peril of terrorism in the Sahel” region of Africa, the statement said.

The U.N. Security Council later on Sunday condemned the attack and paid homage to the peacekeepers.

There are about 13,000 UN peacekeepers deployed in Mali, to protect against violence by Islamist militias.

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2 Israeli women missing in Argentina

Mon, 2019-01-21 11:49

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) – Two Israeli women who were traveling in Argentina have been missing for more than a week.

Dr. Lily Pereg, 54, an associate professor of microbiology at the University of New England in Australia, and her sister, Pyrhia Sarusi, 63, were last seen on Jan. 12 in the Argentine city of Mendoza visiting Sarusi’s son, Gil Pereg, 36, in Mendoza province, in the north west of the country.

The women last communicated with family members in Israel and Australia at 2.30 am on Friday, Jan. 11, but have not been heard from since.

The next day they visited Sarusi’s son, who is the local chairman of five companies established by his mother, and who is under investigation on suspicion of involvement in the disappearance.

Police found four guns in his home, money in euro, dollars and pesos totaling $80,000, and dozens of cats and dogs.

Gil Pereg told investigators he saw the pair get on board a public bus in the hours prior to their suspected disappearance to return to the downtown area of Mendoza, where they were staying in a rented apartment.

Israel Police investigators were scheduled to arrive in Mendoza to help in the investigation.

A GoFundMe campaign was established to raise funds help pay a private investigator to locate the women. “The family has hired a retired police officer who knows the two personally, and speaks Spanish, English, and Hebrew.  He is currently in Argentina helping with the investigation as he knows them and can identify them,” a message on the crowdfunding page from the family.

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Urban sociologist Nathan Glazer, a founder of neo-conservatism, dies at 95

Sun, 2019-01-20 20:38

(JTA) — Urban sociologist Nathan Glazer, considered a founder of neo-conservatism, has died.

 Glazer died on Saturday at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the age of 95.

A long-time professor at Harvard University, Glazer was the author of “The Lonely Crowd,” and the seminal “Beyond the Melting Pot,” with Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a study of five racial and ethnic groups in New York.

Glazer was a writer and editor for Commentary and The New Republic, beginning in the 1940s. In 1965 he began writing for the new journal founded by his friends Daniel Bell and Irving Kristol, “The Public Interest.” He became co-editor with Kristol in 1973, a position he held until 2003.

Glazer was not a complete neoconservative, however. According to the New York Times, he wasn’t comfortable with the label, and on foreign policy he continued to describe himself as “somewhat left.”

The son of Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrants from Russia, Glazer attended the City College of New York, where he met Bell, Kristol and Irving Howe, who frequently gathered to discuss Marxist philosophy, communism and socialism.

He worked in the editorial divisions of Random House and Anchor Books in the 1950s, and served during the Kennedy administration in what is now the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. He taught at the University of California at Berkeley for five years beginning in 1963. He began teaching at Harvard in 1969 and was a professor emeritus of sociology and education there at the time of his death.

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Stones hurled into central synagogue in Sofia, Bulgaria

Sun, 2019-01-20 20:21

(JTA) – An unidentified man hurled stones through the window of a synagogue in Bulgaria on Saturday afternoon as passersby looked on, local Jews said.

The culprit in the incident at the Central Synagogue of Sofia left the scene without intervention from witnesses, according to Alexander Oscar, president of the Shalom Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria. The sanctuary sustained light damage from the attack and no one was hurt.

Their inaction was one of the most worrisome aspects of the incident, he told the News.bg site. “The language of hatred in Bulgaria already manifests itself in physical incidents with direct attacks on Jewish communal property,” he added.

Bulgaria is one of several Eastern European countries where collaborators with the Nazis are celebrated as heroes for their fighting against the Soviet Union in World War II.

The executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress, Robert Singer, said in a statement: “We trust that the police and government will treat this incident with the severity it deserves, and do everything in their power to prevent such acts of hatred from happening again, including around-the-clock protection of Jewish communal property.”

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Vigils for slain Arab-Israeli student held in Mebourne and northern Israel

Sun, 2019-01-20 19:46

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Hundreds of people gathered in the Arab city of Baqa al-Gharbiya in northern Israel to call for the timely return of the body of a hometown woman murdered in Australia.

Aiia Maasarwe, 21, was killed early Wednesday morning in Melbourne, and her body was discovered hours later.

Demonstrators at the rally in Israel on Saturday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the government of not doing enough to return the woman’s body.

Maasarwe, an exchange student at La Trobe University in Melbourne for the past five months from Shanghai University in China, had been on a Facetime video call with her sister late on Tuesday evening, when it was interrupted. The phone was knocked from Maasarwe’s hand and her sister heard screaming, according to reports.

Codey Herrmann, 20, a rapper who performs as MC Codez, was arrested on Friday and charged on Saturday in Melbourne Magistrates Court with murder and rape.

Several vigils have been held in Melbourne for the murdered Israeli woman.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his family visited a memorial set up in Melbourne where Maasarwe’s body was found. He later met with the woman’s father, who is in Australia to identify her body and bring it home.

Demonstrators on Saturday in Israel criticized Netanyahu for not meeting with Maasarwe’s family. The Foreign Ministry has said that it is working to return of the body as soon as the Victorian Coroner and Australian police release it. The Australian Broadcast Corporation reported that the body would be released Monday afternoon.

In Islam, a body must be buried as soon as possible after death.

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Netanyahu hints at daytime strike against Syria

Sun, 2019-01-20 18:54

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted that Israel carried out a daytime airstrike against Syria, hours after a response from Syria that triggered the Iron Dome Missile defense system.

“We have a permanent policy: To strike at the Iranian entrenchment in Syria and hurt whoever tries to hurt us. This policy does not change whether I am in Israel or on an historic visit to Chad. This policy is permanent,” Netanyahu said in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, on Sunday as he was about to board and airplane back to Israel.

Syrian state media reported Sunday that Syrian military air defenses thwarted an Israeli airstrike of some 10 missiles fired the Damascus International Airport. Israel targeted the airport less than two weeks ago, striking an Iranian weapons way station.

Israel has been more direct in recent weeks about acknowledging airstrikes on Syria. Outgoing Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot told the New York Times earlier this month that Israel launched thousands of attacks on Syria during his four years in the position.

Following the attempted airstrike on Syria, Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted a rocket fired from Syria toward the Northern Golan Heights.

The rockets were ground-to-ground missiles and not anti-aircraft missiles, meaning they were fired at Israel on purpose, according to Haaretz.

A short while ago, a rocket was fired at the northern Golan Heights and was intercepted by the Iron Dome Aerial Defense System. pic.twitter.com/RXM7OvdeyJ

— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) January 20, 2019

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Former Nazi camp in Holland to host event for refugees

Sun, 2019-01-20 18:37

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — A Dutch museum commemorating a Nazi concentration camp defended its plan to host there an event about the plight of modern-day refugees.

The plan by Memorial Center Camp Westerbork, which was announced last week, prompted an outcry by local Jews, who saw it as bordering on abuse of the memory of the Holocaust in a country where their community has never fully recovered from the genocide.

The museum advertised its hosting in June of an event titled “Night of the Refugee.” The event will feature a nocturnal walk of more than 100 miles to the northern city of Groningen from Westerbork, where most Dutch Jews murdered in the Holocaust were kept before they were sent to death camps in Eastern Europe.

The vice-chairman of the Dutch Central Jewish Board, CJO, Ronny Naftaniel said holding the event in Westerbork is inappropriate because it implies a comparison between refugeedom and the systemic annihilation of European Jewry.

But Museum director Dirk Mulder said it is appropriate for Westerbork because the camp began in 1939 as a refugee facility set up for German Jews by the Dutch government. Only later, he noted, did the invading Nazis turn Westerbork into part of their so-called final solution.

Naftaniel rejected this explanation. The terror of being on a train departing from Westerbork and being on one arriving to it, he wrote on Twitter, “is incomparable.”

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