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Moses Farrow defends his father Woody Allen against sexual assault allegations

3 hours 2 min ago

Woody Allen at the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France on May 15, 2015 (Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Woody Allen’s son Moses Farrow defended him against sexual assault allegations made by his sister.

“I’m a very private person and not at all interested in public attention. But, given the incredibly inaccurate and misleading attacks on my father, Woody Allen, I feel that I can no longer stay silent as he continues to be condemned for a crime he did not commit,” Farrow wrote in a nearly 5,000-word post on his personal blog on Wednesday.

Farrow said he was age 14 and was present, as were three other adults, when the alleged molestation is said to have taken place, and that no such assault occurred.

In the wake of accusations by dozens of women against movie producer Harvey Weinstein and the start of the #MeToo movement, Allen’s adopted daughter Dylan Farrow revived her accusation that the acclaimed director had molested her in her mother Mia Farrow’s home when she was 7 years old in 1992.

In an interview in January, Dylan Farrow told CBS This Morning that she was inspired after hearing the stories of so many other “brave” individuals who have told of their own assaults by powerful men. She had previously discussed the alleged incident in a New York Times article in 2014.

Moses Farrow wrote in his blogpost that Allen was in the house while Mia Farrow was out shopping, despite the fact that the couple was in a custody battle for the children they had adopted together and that Mia Farrow had told all of the children to be careful when Allen was around because he was a “monster.”

“As the ‘man of the house’ that day, I had promised to keep an eye out for any trouble, and I was doing just that. I remember where Woody sat in the TV room, and I can picture where Dylan and Satchel were. Not that everybody stayed glued to the same spot, but I deliberately made sure to note everyone’s coming and going,” Moses Farrow wrote. “Along with five kids, there were three adults in the house, all of whom had been told for months what a monster Woody was. None of us would have allowed Dylan to step away with Woody, even if he tried,” he added.

Satchel, who is Allen’s biological son, later changed his name to Ronan. He ultimately broke the story of the accusations against Weinstein for The New Yorker.

Moses Farrow also wrote that Mia Farrow had been abusive to her adoptive and biological children, especially to Soon-Yi Previn, who later began a relationship with and ultimately married Allen.

In response to the blogpost, Dylan Farrow wrote on Twitter: “As I said when he last made these claims, this is an attempt to deflect from a credible allegation made by an adult woman, by trying to impugn my mother who has only ever been supportive of me and my siblings, It’s easily disproven, contradicts years of his own statements, is beyond hurtful to me personally, and is part of a larger effort to discredit and distract from my assault. My brother is a troubled person. I’m so sorry he’s doing this.”

Allen has denied that he ever molested his adopted daughter, and an investigation determined that Dylan Farrow was coached to make the accusation, which she denies.

Moses Farrow is married and has a family, and works as a licensed family therapist.

All I have to say with regard to the latest regarding my brother. pic.twitter.com/8WVAXOMKZV

— Dylan Farrow (@RealDylanFarrow) May 23, 2018

The post Moses Farrow defends his father Woody Allen against sexual assault allegations appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Jews targeted in 41% of all xenophobia trials in the Netherlands

4 hours 7 min ago

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — The prevalence of illegal discrimination against Jews in the Netherlands nearly doubled in 2017, reaching a five-year high that accounts for 41 percent of all xenophobic incidents recorded.

The data appeared in a report published last month by the Dutch Public Prosecution Service of 144 confirmed criminal offenses involving xenophobia handled in 2017 by the judiciary. The cases surveyed include intimidation, vandalism, assault and incitement to hate or violence.

Of the 144 cases surveyed, 42 percent were directed against victims for their “skin color, ethnicity and national or ethnic origins,” the report said. Another 41 percent of incidents were “directed against Jews” — whose proportion of the Dutch population is 0.2 percent. Another seven percent of the 144 incidents were against victims for their “religion or way of life,” including Muslims. Criminal discrimination against homosexuals accounted for eight percent of the 144 cases.

In 2016, discrimination against Jews accounted for 22 percent of the 163 cases upheld by the Dutch judiciary.

In addition to cases of 144 clear-cut criminal discrimination, the report lists 187 cases involving convictions for other offenses where xenophobia was not the main motive, but where it nonetheless featured as an aggravating circumstance. Of those, nine percent involved anti-Semitism and in another nine percent Muslims were targeted for their faith.

Of the more than 60 cases involving direct criminal discrimination against Jews in 2017, more than three quarters were related to soccer. In the Netherlands, anti-Semitic rhetoric is common during soccer matches, in which both supporters of the Ajax team from Amsterdam and the supporters of rival teams refer to Ajax as “Jews.”

In March, the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, the Dutch Jewish community’s watchdog on anti-Semitism, published a report listing 117 anti-Semitic incidents in 2017. The figure recorded in 2016 was 109.

Of the 117 cases recorded by CIDI in 2017, 28 incidents involved anti-Semitic vandalism – a 10-year high in that category following a 40-percent increase  over 2016.

The post Jews targeted in 41% of all xenophobia trials in the Netherlands appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Hate crime charges for man who attacked Jewish father of 9 in Crown Heights

4 hours 12 min ago

(JTA) — The man accused of attacking an identifiably Jewish man walking home from Shabbat services in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn was indicted on several charges including committing a hate crime.

James Vincent, 40, was arraigned on Wednesday in Brooklyn Supreme Court on a 17-count indictment. He is charged among other things, with first-degree strangulation as a hate crime, and second-degree assault as a hate crime . He also is charged with illegal possession of marijuana. He was arrested last month.

The attack on Menachem Moskowitz, a 52-year-old father of 9, occurred on April 21. He told the CrownHights.info news website following the attack that he said “good afternoon” to the man who was smoking a cigar on a street corner.

“As soon as [I greeted] him he began yelling at me ‘you fake Jews, who are you saying hello to? Your fake Jews and you stole all my money and robbed me, and stole my mortgage and my house. I want to kill you!’” the news website quoted him as saying.

Moskowitz said he walked away from the man quickly but that the assailant caught up with the Jewish man and put him in a chokehold and threatened to kill him. Two women passersby separated the men and called on Moskowitz to run away.

Moskowitz had several rib fractures and a black right eye from the attack. He also had swelling, bruises and scratching all over his body.

It was the second in a series of at least three attacks on identifiably Jewish men in Crown Heights. Vincent has not been connected to other such attacks.

The post Hate crime charges for man who attacked Jewish father of 9 in Crown Heights appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Israeli soldier critically injured by ‘heavy object’ thrown by Palestinian

4 hours 53 min ago

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli soldier was critically injured when a heavy object was thrown at him and hit his head during an operation in the West Bank.

The soldier was involved in an operation early Thursday morning to arrest wanted Palestinian terrorists in the Al Amri refugee camp near Ramallah, the IDF said in a statement.

During the operation, a heavy object, reported to be a large rock or cinder block, was thrown at the troops, hitting the soldier in the head.

He was taken to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem in critical condition. The soldier’s family was notified before the incident was made public several hours later.

Late on Wednesday night, a Palestinian opened fire on Border Police at a checkpoint near Jerusalem. The gunman, identified as in his 20s from a village near Bethlehem, was captured and arrested after a chase. He was carrying a handgun and a knife.

Early this morning, an IDF soldier was severely injured when a heavy object was thrown at him & struck his head during operational activity in Judea & Samaria. He was evacuated to the hospital for medical treatment. The incident is being reviewed and his family has been notified

— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) May 24, 2018

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Louisiana order makes it illegal for state to contract with companies that boycott Israel

6 hours 15 min ago

(JTA) — Louisiana has become the 25 state to make it illegal to do business with companies that boycott Israel.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday signed an Executive Order that prohibits the state of Louisiana from contracting with any company that participates in a boycott of Israel. The order specifically names the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

Under the order a vendor must certify in writing, when a bid is submitted or when a procurement contract is awarded, that: it is not engaging in a boycott of Israel; and it will, for the duration of its contractual obligations, refrain from a boycott of Israel. The order also calls on the state commissioner of administration to terminate existing state contracts with companies if they currently are boycotting Israel or supporting those who do.

“Israel is America’s closest ally in the Middle East and a beacon of democracy in the region,” Edwards said in a statement. “The United States, and by affiliation Louisiana, have benefited in innumerable ways from our deep friendship with Israel. Any effort to boycott Israel is an affront to this longstanding relationship. I am pleased that Louisiana will join what is now a critical mass of states in supporting our closest ally.”

Earlier this year, the city council of New Orleans passed and then rescinded a resolution, drafted by anti-Israel activists, that would have prohibited investment with human rights violators.

The post Louisiana order makes it illegal for state to contract with companies that boycott Israel appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Jared Kushner gets permanent security clearance after earlier downgrade

13 hours 6 min ago

Jared Kushner, left, shown with U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and his fellow Middle East peace negotiator Jason Greenblatt at a United Nations conference in New York, Feb. 20, 2018. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a top adviser, received permanent security clearance, various media reported.

In February, his clearance was downgraded from top secret to secret following a temporary clearance.

The reason for the downgrade was not clear but reports at the time mentioned the fact that his family real estate busuness is in debt and his widespread global investments would make a businessman like him vulnerable to foreign influence.

Kushner, who is an Orthodox Jew and is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, advises the president on issues including the Middle East.

Middle East peace negotiators have traditionally had top-secret clearance, considered critical in understanding the myriad pressures facing the parties as they consider talks.

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Philip Roth showed me how to be an American Jew

Wed, 2018-05-23 21:10

Richard Benjamin, right, as Alexander Portnoy in a 1972 film adaptation of “Portnoy’s Complaint.” Lee Grant, on left, played Portnoy’s mother. (Warner Brothers/Getty Images)

(JTA) — I never did anything like that with liver, but when I read “Portnoy’s Complaint,” I knew it was about me.

Not the actual me, because I would never do any of the things that Alexander Portnoy confesses in the 274-page rant — about lust, parental guilt, lust, neurosis, non-Jewish women and lust — by Philip Roth, who died Tuesday at 85. The misogyny threaded throughout the book — and its constant, universal treatment of women as either sex objects or domineering authorities, or both — aimed to shock in 1969 and is reprehensible.

But the deeper currents that ran through the book — of inadequacy, anxiety, hypercritical thinking and guilt — struck a chord with part of my psyche that I had always sidelined. Growing up in a religious, affluent and confident Jewish community, we had been taught to reject the stereotype of the weak, nebbish Jew. This, we were told, was an example of self-hatred.

And yet, here it was, my American Jewish id — unapologetic, exuberant and glorious. Even the tone of the book — a stream of consciousness mixing academic descriptions of the primordial earth with an extended soliloquy about ass-wiping — spoke to my inner monologue at its worst. On one break from college, my brother and I took turns reading the book in our best impersonation of Portnoy. I chose the voice of an exasperated loudmouth. My brother — more appropriately — channeled something like Woody Allen.

The passages that stick out in most people’s minds are the sex scenes: Portnoy masturbating into a piece of liver, Portnoy masturbating into a baseball glove, Portnoy cajoling one girlfriend — who he refers to primarily as the “Monkey” — into a threesome with an Italian woman.

But to me, the most vivid scene remains the one where a young Portnoy and his father visit the shvitz, entering a place of primal American Jewish manhood. They walk past naked men getting massages (“The sounds are of a tiny, unenthusiastic audience applauding the death scene in some tragedy”) and to the steam room itself:

The moment he pushes open the door the place speaks to me of prehistoric times … It is as though all the Jewish men ducking beneath the cold dribble of shower off in the corner of the steam room, then lumbering back for more of the thick, dense, suffocating vapors, it is as though they have ridden the time machine back to an age when they existed as some herd of Jewish animals, whose only utterance is oy, oy … They appear, at long last, my father and his fellow sufferers, to have returned to the habitat in which they can be natural.

When I read the book, I had been to a proper sauna only once in my life, and it was on vacation — as an exotic experience. But in this urban shvitz, anxious Jewish men could become themselves, away from the gaze of a disapproving Other. It’s a haven from what Roth called a “perpetual fear” in “The Plot Against America,” an alternate history where a pro-Nazi Charles Lindbergh beats Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940 election.

That paradoxical American Jewish sense of confidence and fear, of belonging and foreignness, was what Roth captured in his dozens of books. He satirized it in “Portnoy” and gave it a historical dimension in “The Plot.” It’s the common thread running through the short stories in “Goodbye, Columbus,” Roth’s first book. In one of the stories, “Eli, The Fanatic,” a secular Jewish man in the suburbs tries to shut down a neighboring Orthodox yeshiva for Holocaust survivors. In another, “Defender of the Faith,” a Jewish soldier tries to finagle a Jewish officer to get him out of combat duty.

But the tension was at its best in his masterpiece, “American Pastoral,” the story of an all-American Jewish boy, Swede Levov, who marries a former Miss New Jersey, settles down in a nice, WASP-y, Republican 1950s suburb — and watches his life fall apart. The question at the core of the story is whether this was a matter of random chance, or whether Swede was an imposter all along, never meant to enjoy the American dream he thought he had achieved.

There is plenty to criticize about Roth’s writing. As many feminist critiques have noted, the misogyny present in “Portnoy” extended throughout his work, which focused on masculine desires and complexes. Women, when they appeared, were objects to pursue or threats to avoid. A woman is the protagonist in only one of his books, 1967’s “When She Was Good.” In a later book, “The Human Stain,” two of the main character’s foes are political correctness and a female colleague.

The picture he paints of the American Jewish experience, though, still rings true today. I see it in the endless debates over anti-Semitism, racism and Jewish privilege, in the discussion about whether Ashkenazi Jews should be called white. Do we belong in America, or don’t we? What is our responsibility, as American Jews, to the country, the community and ourselves?

Even as I grew up in a confident and secure Jewish community, and wasn’t witness to the anti-Semitism Roth and his parents’ experienced, those questions were always present somewhere in my mind. I too felt a little different for being Jewish, even as I have lived in America for almost my entire life. Roth’s books brought that to life for me, and they helped me make sense of American Jews’ shared history and collective identity.

The post Philip Roth showed me how to be an American Jew appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Banned from marrying interfaith couples, Conservative rabbis are finding other ways to celebrate them

Wed, 2018-05-23 21:07

Some Conservative synagogues allow interfaith couples to celebrate their unions by taking part in an aufruf. (Lior Zaltzman)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Emily Schorr Lesnick and Jamila Humphrie always knew that Judaism would play a part in the life they wanted to build together. But experiences with Conservative Jewish institutions had made the couple feel less than welcome.

Schorr Lesnick, 28, remembers encountering homophobia at her Jewish Conservative summer camp. Humphrie, 29, who was raised Christian but does not identify with a religion, felt singled out as a non-Jewish and biracial person when she accompanied Schorr Lesnick to synagogue.

The experiences “made us feel very unwelcomed and very uninterested in participating in anything in Conservative Jewish spaces, specifically,” Humphrie told JTA.

The two women, who live in Harlem, got married in a civil ceremony on New Years Eve in 2016. At the time they did not consider having a religious ceremony.

But at the insistence of Schorr Lesnick’s father, they agreed last year to meet with the rabbi of her family’s longtime synagogue, Shaarei Tikvah, a Conservative congregation in Scarsdale, New York.

The Conservative movement bans its rabbis from performing interfaith marriages, so Rabbi Adam Baldachin suggested performing an aufruf for the couple, a ceremony usually done ahead of a Jewish wedding in which the couple is called up to the Torah for a blessing. Baldachin and his synagogue’s ritual committee had recently decided to offer aufruf ceremonies to interfaith couples as an alternative way to celebrate their unions.

Schorr Lesnick and Humphrie say that planning the aufruf, which will take place in June, has made them more open to exploring Jewish rituals and religious practices.

“I do think that it turned on a light switch that ‘it’s not all the same, and we can make our own spaces, we can make a choice about this,’” Humphrie said.

Jamila Humphrie, left, and Emily Schorr Lesnick are an interfaith couple that is taking part in an aufruf ceremony in a Conservative synagogue. (Courtesy of Humphrie and Schorr Lesnick)

The Conservative movement has long urged outreach to interfaith families, on the theory that a welcoming atmosphere will encourage them to engage with Jewish life and raise their children with a Jewish identity. But many rabbis say the intermarriage ban presents a hurdle.

As a result, some are trying to find creative ways to honor and welcome couples, who might otherwise steer clear of their synagogues and perhaps find spiritual homes elsewhere.

“The Conservative movement in some ways has created a barrier for many rabbis with the policies that are constantly reinforced and talked about,” said Rabbi Jesse Olitzky of Congregation Beth El in South Orange, New Jersey. “Families are making the assumption that because of said policies there is no place to ritually welcome an interfaith couple or an interfaith family.”

In October, the movement doubled down on its intermarriage ban, after a number of rabbis performed or said they would perform marriages between a Jew and a non-Jew. Marrying a non-Jewish partner is common among non-Orthodox Jews: A 2013 study by the Pew Research Center’s 2013 study of American Jewry found that more than 70 percent have done so since 2000. While the Reform movement allows its rabbis to perform intermarriages, the Conservative movement, like the Orthodox, prohibits them.

Olitzky has performed aufruf ceremonies for a handful of interfaith couples.

“My job and my goal is to make sure that all members of the Jewish home feel a part of every life cycle event,” he said. “I think the aufruf is a good example of how we can do that in welcoming the couple’s commitment to building that home.”

Rabbi Steven Abraham of Beth El Synagogue in Omaha, Nebraska, observes but does not support his movement’s ban on intermarriage.

“The irony of the aufruf for an interfaith couple is that most likely, unless the rabbi made some decision on his or her own, they’re not going to be performing the wedding,” he said. “So this is as close as you’re going to get to a public ritual where you’re pronouncing fact that they’re going to be married.”

In performing an aufruf for an interfaith couple, Abraham wants to send the message to others that interfaith marriage “isn’t a capital crime.”

“I would be able to very easily tell that young person who’s sitting in the service, ‘Listen, I would much prefer that you probably marry a Jew, but if you don’t marry a Jew I don’t want you to think that you don’t belong here,’” he said.

Rabbi Dahlia Bernstein at Congregation Beth Or in Bellmore, New York, said that many interfaith couples think they are not welcome in her community.

“A lot of people assume that just because you’re a Conservative congregation you will not be welcoming of interfaith families, and my synagogue is not like that, it is radically welcoming,” she said.

Though the issue of interfaith aufruf has not come up in her community, Bernstein said she is happy to offer her congratulations to interfaith couples on their marriage.

“I generally personally reach out and say mazal tov, and check in with them, and give them space to talk and kvell if they want to and listen,” Bernstein said. “I think that a lot of Jewish communities try to use shame as a way of ‘maybe if we are secretive about it then no one will know, and it’s not going to promote intermarriage,’ and it’s not the right approach.”

Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky of Ansche Chesed in New York City supports the Conservative movement’s ban on intermarriage, but says he is open to performing an aufruf for an interfaith couple.

“We want to say that it’s possible to have a welcoming face to community and still have in-marriage norm,” he said. “We want to say it’s possible to say to intermarried couple and the children of that intermarried couple, ‘we still value your relationship, we still value your lives, we want to support you in your journeys and your lives.’

“I don’t think there’s a reason to say ‘tsk-tsk’ and not have the Jewish spouse have a celebratory aufruf before the wedding,” he added.

In 2017, the umbrella body for Conservative synagogues approved a resolution to allow individual congregations to decide whether to grant membership to non-Jews. Some Conservative Jews have qualms about allowing non-Jews to participate in certain Jewish rituals.

Glen Rock Jewish Center in Glen Rock, New Jersey, allows non-Jewish partners to accompany their spouses on the bimah, or ritual stage, for an aliyah honor on their child’s bar or bat mitzvah, participate when a child is given his or her first prayer shawl, and read certain prayers in English. Still, some members remain skeptical about non-Jews’ ritual participation, said Rabbi Jennifer Schlosberg.

“There are community members for one reason or another who feel uncomfortable with their involvement, even if it is permissible. One of the challenges for me is trying to educate the other community members to help them become more comfortable with these things while also recognizing their own voice,” Schlosberg said.

During their aufruf at Shaarei Tikvah in Scarsdale, Humphrie and Schorr Lesnick will go up together to the bimah. Schorr Lesnick will recite the blessings before and after a portion is read from the Torah. Rabbi Baldachin and the synagogue’s cantor, Gerald Cohen, will recite a blessing for the couple in Hebrew and English.

It will be Baldachin’s first time performing an aufruf for an interfaith couple.

“This just seemed an easy way for me to be in relationship with interfaith families without the ability to perform their wedding,” Baldachin said.

Prior to allowing aufrufs for interfaith couples, Shaarei Tikvah’s ritual committee spent time studying the issue. The synagogue already allowed non-Jewish partners to participate in other ways in the service, such as being invited on the bimah during their child’s bar or bat mitzvah ceremony and opening the Torah ark. Before allowing an interfaith couple to take part in an aufruf, Baldachin will ask how they plan to maintain a Jewish home.

For Baldachin the difference between marriage and an aufruf comes down to Jewish law.

The blessing “for an aufruf in general is not a ritual that changes anyone’s status,” he said. By contrast, a ritual that changes a couple’s status from single to married is seen as binding.

For Schorr Lesnick being able to celebrate her marriage in her childhood synagogue holds a large significance.

“It’s exciting to think about being able to have an opportunity where we can imagine what Jewishness could mean for us,” she said.

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Beneficiary of charity led by David Friedman is not on terrorist list, State Department says

Wed, 2018-05-23 20:32

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., March 6, 2018. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A group that got money from a charity led at the time by David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, is not the same as a group of the same name that appears on the State Department terrorist list, a U.S. official said.

“Based on our research, the movement that exists by this name isn’t designated,” a State Department official said, referring to Qomemiut, which appears on the most recent State Department designated terrorist list from 2016. “It is the old movement that was.”

The pro-settlement charity Friedman led from 2011 until 2017 when he became ambassador, American Friends of Bet El Yeshiva Center, donated about $12,000 to a group named Qomemiut in 2013.

That group was founded in 2006 by a group of rabbis and far-right activists unhappy with Israel’s pullout in 2005 from the Gaza Strip. Its mission was to prevent any further evacuations of settlements. It also embraced some positions associated with the far right, including pressuring Jewish landlords not to rent to Arab tenants, and defending settlements considered illegal by Israel’s government.

The group of the same name appearing on the State Department list since 1999 was set up in the mid 1990s by activists associated with Kach, the extremist group founded by Meir Kahane, as a way to get around a 1994 ban on Kach and its offshoot, Kahane Chai. Qomemiut has been listed on the State Department terrorist list as an alias of Kach and Kahane Chai, although the founders of the earlier group say it has been dormant since around 2000.

The State Department has designated Kach and its offshoots as terrorist since 1997. The official told JTA that he could not say whether Qomemiut would be removed from the next list.

JTA reported earlier this month that Friedman had donated to Qomemiut. The current director of Qomemiut, Mussa Cohen, told JTA that the current group was the same as the one that existed in the 1990s. He later said he had misunderstood the question, and JTA ran a correction.

Cohen on Wednesday told JTA he was glad that the State Department had clarified that the two groups are separate.

“Inexactness like this raises questions about the reliability of the work of the (State) Department,” he said in an email.

Canada has also listed Qomemiut on its designated terrorist list as an alias for Kach and Kahane Chai since 2005 and most recently in 2016. A spokesman for Public Safety Canada would not say if Qomemiut would be removed from the next list, but noted that the list is under constant review.

“While the Government of Canada cannot disclose what entities are being considered for listing under the Criminal Code terrorist listing regime, we can tell you that the assessment of entities that support or engage in terrorism is an on-going process,” Jean-Philippe Levert told JTA in an email. “This process includes addition or removal of entities, and updates to accurately reflect aliases, name changes and mergers with other listed entities.”

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Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano threatening crucial Israeli-owned power plant

Wed, 2018-05-23 18:22

A steam plume rising from a Kilauea volcano fissure near Pahoa, Hawaii, May 22, 2018. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Lava from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii is threatening a geothermal power plant owned by an Israeli company.

The Puna power plant supplies 25 percent of the island’s electricity, the daily business website Calcalist reported.

Eruptions from the volcano began on May 3.

On Wednesday, molten lava from the volcano had reached within 200 meters of one of Puna’s 11 geothermal energy well pads, and burned down a disused building, Haaretz reported.

Ormat Technologies, which owns a 63 percent stake in the plant, announced it had taken several precautionary measures to protect the plant, including shutting down the geothermal wells, and that it so far has escaped serious physical damage.

The company was founded in Israel in 1965 and is headquartered in Reno, Nevada. Ormat operates other geothermal power plants in the U.S., Kenya, Guadalupe, Guatemala and Honduras. It is listed on both the New York Stock Exchange and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

Puna carries a $100 million insurance policy against volcano and earthquake damage, according to Haaretz.

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University of California cancels event celebrating 50 years of studying abroad in Israel

Wed, 2018-05-23 17:41

A view of the Powell Library at UCLA. (Wikimedia Commons)

(JTA) — An event celebrating 50 years of study in Israel through the University of California Education Abroad Program was cancelled after alumni questioned holding the event as violence raged on the Gaza border.

A new event celebrating 50 years of educational partnership with Hebrew University was scheduled in its place on the same date, June 2.

The cancellation on May 16 of the original event was linked to the deaths of Palestinian protesters at the border fence between Israel and Gaza, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal reported. The event was set to take place at UCLA’s Hillel.

The original post on the UCEAP alumni page read: “Like many of you, we have observed the increasing tension on the Gaza-Israel border with sadness and deep concern. After careful consideration, UCEAP has decided to cancel the event recognizing 50 years of study abroad in Israel that was scheduled for Saturday, June 2. While we fully understand the value and impact that study abroad in Israel has had on the lives of UC students since 1968, we feel it would be inappropriate to host a celebratory event at this time. Thank you for understanding.”

The page now displays the new event with Hebrew University and notes: “Please excuse any confusion about the occurrence or timing of this event.”

The Jewish Journal published the message that the program has sent to people questioning the decision to cancel the original event.

“We had been hoping for a large turnout to the reception but there had been a low response to our initial invitation, which prompted us to send a reminder email. In response to that email, the UCEAP Alumni Relations Department began receiving messages from alumni questioning the decision to hold the reception in light of recent events in Gaza and elsewhere in Israel,” the message said.

“In addition to considering these alumni messages, we reassessed other aspects including the time and day, whether the low attendance would have a negative impact on our partners in Israel, whether we were competing with other personal events that some of our alumni may have already scheduled, and the financial costs of continuing as scheduled with a low turnout vs. rescheduling. All of these factors contributed to our decision to reschedule the June 2 event,” it also said.

The page includes an announcement of a 50th Anniversary Alumni Reunion Tour to Israel and a list of 50th anniversary events to be held in Israel.

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Brussels police officers say ex-boss denied Holocaust and insulted Jews

Wed, 2018-05-23 17:22

(JTA) — A senior police officer in Belgium was transferred from his post for the duration of an investigation into claims that he abused Jewish subordinates and denied the Holocaust.

So far, five of the 15 officers who had served under Commissioner Geert Verhoeyen at the canine police unit of Brussels Midi complained about his alleged hate speech in recent years against gays, foreigners and Jews, the Het Laatste Nieuws daily reported. The report was a follow-up to a story published earlier Wednesday about Verhoeyen  by the BX1 television station.

One complainant, who has Jewish roots, said that Verhoeyen called him to his office in 2015 and played music that was played at Nazi death camps, according to Joel Rubinfeld, president of the Belgian League Against Antisemitism, or LBCA. A similar incident happened to another officer with Jewish roots in 2016, Rubinfeld said. One of the complainants’ grandparents died at a concentration camp.

The commissioner said the songs were “for real men.”

“Paradoxically, he also denied the Holocaust during these two conversations,” Rubinfeld said, based on the complaints against Verhoeyen, who allegedly called the genocide “nonsense, lies.” He also is accused of calling one officer with Jewish roots “cheap,” BX1 reported.

Belgian media reporting on the internal probe of Verhoeyen’s behavior did not feature his reaction to the allegations, but Charles Picque, chief of regional police, warned against “premature judgment” of Verhoeyen before the investigation’s conclusion.

“We know there are conflicts among service personnel, but they are not necessarily as presented” in the complaints, Picque said.

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‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ renewed for third season before second season premieres

Wed, 2018-05-23 16:00

Rachel Brosnahan stars as Miriam “Midge” Maisel, the titular character in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. (Amazon Studios)

(JTA) — The second season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” will not air until later this year, but the show has already been given the green light for a third season.

Variety reported that the show’s creator appealed to Amazon Studios executives on Saturday night while accepting a Peabody Award at the awards show in New York City.

“You’re going to give it to us because we’re bringing home the fancy thing, right?” Amy Sherman-Palladino said.

Amazon then confirmed to Variety on Sunday that the show would get a third season.

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” tells the story of a Jewish housewife in 1950s New York who becomes a standup comedian. It is set in the very Jewish milieu of Manhattan’s Upper West Side and is full of Jewish references.

The show, which stars Rachel Brosnahan, garnered acclaim last year and won two Golden Globes in January for best comedy series and best lead comedy actress. It seen as a prime contender at the upcoming Emmy Awards in the fall.

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Court freezes deportation of Human Rights Watch Israel director

Wed, 2018-05-23 14:59

Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 9, 2018. Israel has given him two weeks to leave the country. (Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli court has frozen the expulsion order against the local director of Human Rights Watch, who was ordered deported over his past involvement in the BDS movement.

The Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday issued an interim injunction ordering the Interior Ministry to allow Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director, to remain in the country until the end of legal proceedings.

The court reasoned that the revocation decision was based on “old facts” that predated the grant of the work permit and that “the status quo must be preserved” by way of the interim injunction against deportation, the NGO said in a statement.

The ministry had denied Shakir a new work visa and ordered him to leave the country this week.

The Interior Ministry had compiled a seven-page dossier to support its deportation order against Shakir. Much of the dossier covers a time period before Shakir assumed his position at Human Rights Watch, including a great deal of his time at Stanford University.

According to the organization, the lawsuit is the first legal challenge to a 2017 law that bans from Israel those who publicly call for boycotts of the country.

When Shakir, a native of California, was first appointed to his position in February 2017, he was denied both a work visa and a tourist visa. A month later, he was allowed entry to Israel, the same day the Knesset passed a law banning entry to foreigners who publicly call for boycotting the Jewish state or its settlements. The following month he was granted a work visa.

 

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2 historically Jewish fraternities at Ohio State suspended over hazing

Wed, 2018-05-23 14:43

(JTA) — Two historically Jewish fraternities at Ohio State University have been suspended over hazing activities that violate the Code of Student Conduct.

Alpha Epsilon Pi and Sigma Alpha Mu will not be able to apply to be reinstated  until 2023, the university’s student newspaper The Lantern reported.

The fraternities violated the Code of Student Conduct, according to the newspaper.

AEPi has been the subject of five hearings before the Office of Student Life in 2017-2018, four of which led to findings of violations, according to the Office of Student Life. The fraternity has been on probation and educational sanctions since January.

Sigma Alpha Mu, which was the subject of two conduct cases this academic year, was suspended for two years in 2013.

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Jared Kushner’s fellow Jewish Harvard alumni attack him in notes ahead of their reunion

Wed, 2018-05-23 14:39

Jared Kushner speaking in New York City, Nov. 18, 2010. (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for FINCA)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jared Kushner is skipping the 15th anniversary of his graduating class at Harvard, and that may be a good thing — considering what some fellow Harvard alumni are writing about him ahead of the reunion.

Ben Wikler, the Washington director of MoveOn.Org, the liberal social action group (and like Kushner a Harvard class of 2003 grad), recently shared some of the entries from Harvard’s “Red Book” — it’s a Harvard tradition for alumni to submit notes about themselves ahead of reunions, Wikler noted on his Twitter feed.

The upcoming reunion starts this Thursday, and some of the Red Book notes weren’t kind to the president’s son-in-law and adviser.

“I never imagined a resurgence of Nazism as I grew up, the secure granddaughter of Holocaust-fleeing German immigrants,” one said. “Mostly, I feel a low-grade, constant horror as I watch attacks on refugees, minorities, my most at-risk patients, women’s rights and the environment, and new threats of nuclear war. Our classmate Jared Kushner surely knows that climate change is real and yet he watches as regulations are dismantled daily. Shame on you, Jared Kushner.”

Jared Kushner didn’t send in a note for Harvard’s 15th Anniversary Report. But flip to the page where his entry would go and you’ll find this, the end of a note from an alphabetically adjacent classmate. pic.twitter.com/HgN7wbPl9p

— Ben Wikler (@benwikler) May 19, 2018

Wikler posted another five with pretty much the same message and only slight variations in tone, ranging from the outraged to the sarcastic.

“I, for one, am actually relieved that our class of ’03 has a real, live fascist among us,” said Jon Sherman, also the descendant of Holocaust survivors. “Who says Harvard isn’t diverse!”

Kushner, who used to be a Democrat, was vice president of the campus Friends of Chabad and played Junior Varsity Squash. He is now best known for fathering the grandchildren of the man liberal America loves to hate.

The Boston Globe obtained a copy of the Red Book and found some more Jared jibes, although it noted that out of 1,600 members, the number of such protests was relatively small.

Still, among those who did register protests, many appeared to be Jewish. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, who also wrote “Shame on you” in her entry, was prompted in part by Kushner’s appearance last week at the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem while Israeli troops killed some 60 Palestinians attempting to breach the fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

“He was in Jerusalem with his wife while people were being massacred,” she told the Globe. “I feel so emotional about that. People were being massacred. He’s a person who is doing horrible things. As a black woman and a Jewish woman, I think it’s disgusting.”

Don’t look out for the Kushner entry — the first son-in-law did not submit one.

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Legendary Brazilian musician cancels concert in Israel over ‘sensitive moment’

Wed, 2018-05-23 13:43

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — One of Brazil’s most acclaimed singers and songwriters has called off an upcoming show in Israel due to “apprehension” over the current conflict.

Gilberto Gil, a multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy Award winner, announced on Tuesday his decision to cancel his performance scheduled for July 4 in Ra’anana, home to the largest concentration of Brazilian immigrants in Israel.

“We are very sorry but after careful consideration with our artists and band we will not be able to perform in Israel this year. The general sentiment of all is one of apprehension as Israel is going through this sensitive moment,” Gil wrote.

Although he didn’t mention Gaza, the “sensitive moment” has been interpreted as a reference to the recent violent clashes along the border, where more than 100 Palestinians – many members of the terrorist group Hamas – were killed during seven weeks of riots. Supporters of the BDS, or Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement celebrated Gil’s decision.

The first news about the cancellation was published Monday in O Globo newspaper, one of Brazil’s most influential publications, which made a clear reference to Gaza.

“Because of this conflict in the Gaza Strip, Gilberto Gil canceled his concert in Israel on July 4. In 2015 Gil and Caetano were in the middle of a controversy. The pair refused Roger Waters’ call to boycott Israel. They went there but criticized the occupation of the Palestinian territories,” wrote columnist Anselmo Gois, who specializes in variety news and gossip.

The screenshot of the paper’s print version was widely shared in social media and surprised the 12,000-strong Brazilian community in Israel, many holding tickets for the concert. It took some 24 hours for the show producers to confirm the cancellation.

“We expect your understanding as this matter is also delicate for us. We love Israel and have always felt warmly welcomed. There will surely be other opportunities and we will be hoping for better times,” Gil’s statement also said.

According to the producers, the show tickets for the July 4 show will be fully refunded.

Gil, a 75-year-old singer, songwriter, guitarist and Brazil’s former culture minister, was last in Israel in 2015. Before that concert, he and fellow musician Caetano Veloso faced strong calls from the BDS movement to cancel.

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Newscaster in Argentina fired for spewing anti-Semitic canards on air

Wed, 2018-05-23 13:26

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — Argentina’s Jewish political umbrella organization is taking legal action against a national television newscaster who used anti-Semitic canards during recent broadcasts.

Santiago Cuneo said last week in several episodes of his daily TV show “1+1=3” on cable news channel Cronica TV that Israel sends its soldiers to search the south of the country; made reference to the “Andinia plan” which claimed a Jewish plot to break off and form a Jewish province in the country; and questioned the loyalty of the country’s Jewish leadership to Argentina.

Late last week, Argentina’s Jewish political umbrella, the DAIA, accused Cuneo of anti-Semitism and announced that it planned to file a lawsuit against him. The DAIA said Cuneo’s views “highlights the most execrable and classic anti-Semitic typology of international conspiracy theories, associations of Jews with money and imperialist intentions, the reinstatement of the Andinia plan, the demonization of the State of Israel, the foreignization, the accusation of double loyalty and the impairment of dignity of an entire community.”

Cueno responded to the DAIA statement saying: “Israel sends soldiers here after the army to search the Patagonia region and escape through Chile. When Israel stops sending soldiers here after the army, then we can talk. Ok? And I’m denouncing the Andinia Plan? Yes, and so what. DAIA, what are you, Jewish Argentinean or Israelite? Because If I talk with an Argentinean of the Jewish religion or Muslim or Catholic like me, I’m talking to an Argentinean. But if I’m talking with an Israeli citizen, it’s another conversation.”

“So when you DAIA sign a document explain what the f**k are you. An Argentinean who professes a religion. Or an Israeli citizen who defends the interest of another nation but not Argentina.” he added.

Cuneo, who opposes current President Mauricio Macri, criticized him for a planned visit to Israel, describing the Argentine government as a “political associate of international Zionism” and alleging Macri will “hand over the Patagonia” to the Israelis.

On Friday, the Simon Wiesenthal Center asked Cronica TV to fire Cuneo. That evening the broadcaster announced that it would be his final broadcast.

The channel issued a statement saying that “according to the sequence of unnecessary insults by Santiago Cúneo to journalists, politicians, communities and institutions, the decision was made that he will no longer appear on Crónica.  Is it censorship? No. What he did is to distort information, bastardize journalism, not take care to check his sources and not respect the editorial view of the channel.”

In his program Cuneo also said “We are building a gigantic majority to terminate these miserable rats, this pro-American and Israeli government.” He also said: “My greatest contempt is for you Mauricio Macri, and absolute contempt for the band of delinquents that surround you, including the (Jewish) leaders of DAIA.”

A  federal prosecutor on Tuesday filed a petition against him which calls for the federal judiciary to investigate whether he violated the country’s anti-discrimination law, which has been on the books since 1998.

“For the last week, Argentine News Channel Crónica granted prime time to Santiago Cúneo, a ‘journalist’ who dedicated his program to defaming the Jewish community and its leaders, the State of Israel, women and the current government,” Dr. Shimon Samuels, director for International Relations for Wiesenthal Center, said in a statement. Samuels praised the cable channel for firing him.

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New Jewish educational center to be built in Berlin

Wed, 2018-05-23 12:30

BERLIN (JTA) — Amid signs of growing anti-Semitism in Germany, a new Jewish educational center aimed at reaching Jews of all stripes, as well as their non-Jewish neighbors, is being built in Berlin.

“Much has been said about fighting anti-Semitism in Germany, and this is something tachles, this is something concrete,” Yehuda Teichtal, a rabbi in Berlin’s Jewish community and executive director of Chabad Lubavitch Berlin, said Tuesday announcing the June 10 groundbreaking ceremony for the Jewish center, which German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is expected to attend.

When construction is completed in about two years, the Pears Jewish Campus – adjacent to the Chabad Jewish Education Center – will house a school for up to 500 pupils ages 5 to 20; a gym, a library and event spaces. It is expected to cost about 18 million euro, or about $21 million, of which 2/3 has been secured, Teichtal said. The main donors so far are the British-based Pears Foundation, the German federal and state governments, and other private and public foundations.

The project, in the works for several years, is one of several planned expansions of Jewish infrastructure in Berlin. The Masorti (Conservative) movement will open a Jewish elementary school this fall, and Berlin’s traditional Frankeluefer Synagogue recently announced plans for a new Jewish community center on the site of its historical building, which was destroyed in the pogrom of Nov. 9, 1938.

Berlin has some 10,000 affiliated Jews. Anecdotally, there are at least twice as many more who are not affiliated, including about 10,000 Israelis.

In all, Germany’s Jewish population is about 200,000, of whom about half are affiliated with Jewish communities. Most came from the former Soviet Union since 1990, and not all are Jewish according to halacha, or religious law; the latter are not able to join communities under the umbrella of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Teichtal said the Pears Jewish Campus is designed to serve Jews across the country, and he said it will be open to all. Boarding facilities will accommodate students from outside Berlin. There will also be adult education programs.

Architect Sergei Tchoban, of Russian-Jewish background, donated his design of a “bean-shaped” structure with a footprint of 7,000 square meters and a height of some six stories. Its partially blue surface will symbolize Jewish themes, from the Israeli flag to the colors of the tallit, or prayer shawl.

Setting a public sign of pride in Jewish identity is important to Teichtal, who has experienced anti-Semitism personally. Recently, he was cursed at by unknown perpetrators while out walking with one of his daughters.

“I am used to it, but I just wish my daughter did not have to experience that,” Teichtal told JTA, adding that he reported the incident.

With the new center “we want to set a signal: If you build, you are showing trust,” Teichtal said. “We know that trust has to be nurtured, nourished and supported… We are opening our hands and saying that there is a future here for Jewish people, too.”

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Israeli jets hit Gaza targets in response to attack on military outpost

Wed, 2018-05-23 12:04

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli jets attacked a Hamas terror tunnel in northern Gaza and two boats belonging to the Gazan Navy.

The airstrikes early Wednesday morning were in response to the setting alight the previous day of an Israeli military outpost near the border with Gaza by a group of Gazan Palestinians who cut through the border fence and infiltrated into Israel, the IDF said in a statement. The attacks also were in retaliation for ongoing attempts to harm Israel using drones and kites carrying explosive material.

The targeted boats were due to depart from the Gaza port to meet other vessels in an attempt to break the naval blockade on Gaza, Haaretz reported citing Palestinian reports.

The IDF “views these continued attacks with great severity, specifically Hamas’ daily attempts to damage Israeli security infrastructure and threats to the safety of Israeli civilians. The IDF is determined to fulfill its mission to protect Israeli civilians,” it said in the statement.

“The Hamas terror organization is accountable for all threats originating from the Gaza Strip, above and below ground, and will bear the consequences for its actions against Israeli civilians and Israeli sovereignty,” it reiterated.

A short while ago, IAF aircraft struck underground Hamas terror infrastructure in northern Gaza, as well as 2 additional military targets that belong to the terror organization's naval force

— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) May 23, 2018

 

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