Friday, March 23, 2012

French teen who tried to save Toulouse victim still hospitalized

Bryan Bijaoui, injured in the Toulouse shooting attack (via Facebook)
As the world stands in shock over the deadly attack on a Jewish school in France, 17-year-old Bryan Bijaoui, who was injured as he tried to shield shooting victim Miriam Monsonego, is still hospitalized in serious condition.

Bijaoui, a student from Nice who was living in the Ozar Hatorah dormitories, is being hailed as a hero by the French Jewish community, which has been holding prayer vigils for his recovery.

“Bryan’s condition is not good,” said Ephraim Teitelbaum, one of the leaders of the Toulouse Jewish community, to Yedioth Ahronoth. “Although his condition is being termed stable, he is not yet out of danger.”

Bijaoui, who has regained consciousness according to media reports, is still in the intensive care unit of Toulouse’s Hopital de Rangueil.

Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, and his two children, Arieh and Gavriel, 5 and 3, were killed in the Monday attack on the Jewish school in Toulouse, along with Miriam Monsenego, 8. The four were buried in Israel on Wednesday.

Rabbi Yehoshua Hecht, who was Bijaoui’s counselor at a Chabad-run camp in Nice a few years ago, told Chabad.org that the boy “always had a smile on his face.” Hecht added: “He’s a very sweet kid who’s always telling jokes.”

Bijaoui’s friends and family also created a Facebook group, Soutenez Bryan Bijaoui (17 ans) grièvement blessé à Toulouse, to provide updates on his condition and to create a forum for people to post notes of support for the teen.

Bijaoui’s mother also posted on Facebook that Bryan tried to rush Miriam into the school after the shooting started, but instead witnessed the young girl’s murder in front of his eyes. She also wrote that when Bijaoui regained consciousness, his first words were to ask about Miriam. -- Hillary Zaken, Times of Israel

Portraits Of Israelis As Young Men: Israel through the eyes of a different kind of Old Master

Ethiopian Jews like Kalkidan Mashasha complicated
artist Kehinde Wiley’s views about race and identity.


The case is sometimes made that when it comes to telling truths about Israel — be they good, bad or ugly — it’s probably best to have a Jew do it. But Kehinde Wiley, a gay black artist from South Central Los Angeles, may be offering the definitive rebuke to that notion.

His new exhibit at The Jewish Museum, which opened this month, features 14 enormous, princely portraits of Israelis — Ethiopian Jews, Ashkenazis and Arabs. Yet what strikes you first is not the subjects’ differences, but what they all share: a defiant self-confidence rooted in hip-hop culture. -- Eric Herschthal, NY Jewish Week

To read more, click here.

Opinion: Toulouse Tragedy Shows Rhetoric's Danger; Scapegoating May Escalate After Al Qaeda Suspect Identified

Hatred Unleashed: Relatives mourn the victims of the Toulouse shootings.
France was grieving, but did officials’ xenophobia lay the groundwork for the murderous rampage?
Now that France’s nightmare seems to be ending, its many interpretations have begun. As I write, a Frenchman of Algerian descent has claimed responsibility for the horrific murders of French soldiers and a teacher and children at a local Sephardic Jewish school. He identified himself as a member of Al Qaeda, reportedly traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and even though he’s only 23, has been under surveillance for years. He justified his systematic killing spree as revenge for the deaths of innocent Palestinian and Afghan children.

These reports seem to contradict the interpretations that followed in the wake of the shootings in Toulouse on March 19, that these murderous acts made sense only when placed in the context of French politics. I still believe that’s the right way to understand this horror. -- Robert Zaretsky, Forward

To read more, click here.

Prominent French Families Battle Over a Missing Monet

Ginette Heilbronn Moulin with her grandson Guillaume Houzé
in her apartment in Paris.
Jerome Sessini for the International Herald Tribune


More than 70 years after it was plundered by the Nazis, a missing painting by Monet that depicts the shimmering blue rapids of the Creuse River has pitted two of the wealthiest and most prominent families in France against each other.
-- Doreen Carajal, NY Times

To read more, click here.






Israeli law pushes rabbinical courts on Jewish divorce decrees

Israel's Knesset passed a measure requiring rabbinical courts to follow up on divorce cases to ensure that the husband gives his wife a Jewish writ of divorce.

According to the law enacted Monday, a husband must give his wife a get, a religious divorce, within 45 days of the court ruling. If he does not, a rabbinical court must hold a hearing within another 45 days and discuss leveling sanctions, including seizing his drivers' license and jail. The rabbinical court would reconvene regularly on the case until the get is received.

Jewish law maintains that a woman cannot remarry until she receives a get from her husband. Men have withheld the Jewish divorce in order to receive more favorable child custody agreements or to pay less in spousal or child support.

There are officially hundreds, and anecdotally thousands, of women, called agunot, or chained women, whose husbands have refused to give them a get 

Otniel Schneller of the Kadima Party and Zevulun Orlev of the Habayit Hayehudi Party sponsored the bill. -- JTA

Thursday, March 22, 2012

‘Jewish Life Can Be A Playground’

Karina Zilberman and her puppet crew have built a growing Jewish community.
Photo by Michael Datikas
In just five years, 92Y’s Shababa program has grown into a community for unaffiliated families, and shifted the Y’s thinking about programming. -- Sandee Brawarsky, NY Jewish Week

To read more, click here.

Mad Men--March Madness Hits Israel

Left to right: Ramel Bradley, Jon Scheyer, and Joe Crawford.
Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photo of Jerusalem Shutterstock.com
Trash-talking in the locker room, all-nighters by the TV—March Madness hits Israel, thanks to former NCAA ballers who play in the Israeli League -- Todd Warnick, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Israel passes law banning use of underweight models

An Israeli walks past an advertising displayed
on a main street in Tel Aviv, Israel,
on Monday, March 19, 2012.
Photo by Oded Balilty, Associated Press
The Israeli government has passed a law banning the use of underweight models in advertising and on the catwalk.

The new law requires models to provide medical proof of their weight, and for adverts to state if an image has been altered to make a model appear thinner.

Supporters of the bill believe images of extreme thinness are to blame for eating disorders in young girls....

Around 2% of girls in Israel aged between 14 and 18 have severe eating disorders - a rate similar to other developed countries - anthropologist Sigal Gooldin is quoted by the Associated Press as saying. -- BBC

To read more, click here.

Ready To Combat Sexism in IDF and Beyond

IDF Capt. Maya Nitzan, left, and
Second Lt. Chen Waxman: Training the boys.


Israel’s military, filled as it is with machismo, may have come up with the best idea to motivate its male soldiers to be physically fit — a female instructor.

“Men can’t stand it when there is someone stronger, faster, better than they are,” said Capt. Maya Nitzan, 26, the first female physical training instructor for an all-male paratrooper’s brigade. “Having a woman trainer gives them an impetus to want to do better — even better than they would if a man were in my position because they could say he is just macho. … In front of men with egos it works.”

“I’ve been training them for about a year,” said Nitzan, who noted that she runs faster than most of the men she trains. -- Stewart Ain, New York Jewish Week

To read more, click here.

Breathing Life Into Faded Home for Rich

Stirring of Hope in Bronx Ruins of Millionaire's Odd Dream
Faded Glory: The once-luxurious Andrew Freedman Home in the Bron
has been in decline for decades. It’s finally being reborn.
Photo by Nate Lavey
If a robber baron went bust in New York in the 1930s, there was a place he could go where servants would still make his bed and waiters would still serve his meals. All he needed was a little cigar money.

Endowed by an eccentric and volatile Jewish millionaire named Andrew Freedman, the imposing limestone refuge for the washed-up wealthy opened in 1924 in what was then an upper-class Jewish neighborhood in the Bronx, near Yankee Stadium.

After a half-century run, the foundation that managed it went belly-up in the early 1980s. The building has sat half-empty ever since.

Jumbles of battered chairs and torn mattresses crowd abandoned apartments on the upper floors. Pigeon droppings pile beneath doorknobs. Stacks of files and photographs sit forgotten.

All this is set to change — and soon. A major transformation is under way at the Andrew Freedman Home. The building’s not-for-profit owners have started a multiyear project that they say will fill the home with cultural and social service programs, beginning with an art exhibition set to open on April 4. -- Josh Nathan-Kazis, Forward

Read more and see the accompanying video, click here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

For Women's History Month: 10 Jewish Women Every Person Should Know

One of Rabbi Geller's 10 Jewish Women
MediaWiki
The Talmud tells us: "We were redeemed from Egypt because of the righteousness of the women of that generation." But it doesn't tell us which women. Which women would it be? Who are the women in the story? The first to be mentioned are Shifra and Puah, the midwives to the Hebrews. These were brave women who defied Pharaoh's orders to kill the Hebrew baby boys. They committed the first recorded act of civil disobedience in human history, risking their own lives to save innocent children. Who were they? The text isn't clear. Were they Hebrew midwives, or midwives to the Hebrews? Maybe they were Egyptian women, defying their king to save human lives.

And then there are other women….

In the spirit of Women's History Month, here is my list of 10 of the most important Jewish women who changed history. The list could be much longer. I stand on the shoulders of these and so many other extraordinary women. Because of their courage and vision, we have all been both redeemed and liberated! To find out more about these women and to discover the rich legacy of Jewish women go to the Jewish Women's Archives.
-- Rabbi Laura Geller, Huffington Post

To read more and to see the accompanying slide show, click here.

Israeli starts a stem-cell zoo

Her dream is to create a stem cell zoo in Israel one day:
Israeli researcher Inbal Friedrich Ben-Nun



Working with American scientists, Inbal Friedrich Ben-Nun has found a way to generate stem cells from preserved tissue of dead endangered animals. -- Rivka Borochov, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs


To read more, click here.

‘Hey Jer-REE!’

At his 86th birthday party, a question arises: Is there a needier, more agonizingly ambitious figure in American popular culture than Jerry Lewis?
Jerry Lewis at the Cannes Film Festival in 1965
AFP/Getty Images
Clown prince of arrested development, maestro of coercive sentimentality: Is there a needier, more agonizingly ambitious figure in American popular culture than Jerry Lewis? The man doesn’t just want to make you laugh until you choke on your cookies and milk flows through your nose; he wants you to appreciate that he’s the greatest humanitarian who ever lived, and the “total filmmaker” besides. -- J. Hoberman, Tablet

To read more, click here.

‘Standing Silent’ follows uncovering of sexual abuse in Baltimore’s Orthodox Jewish community

 A new documentary, “Standing Silent,” follows journalist Phil Jacobs
in his effort to document sexual abuse in Baltimore’s Orthodox Jewish community.
Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST
A new documentary, “Standing Silent,” follows journalist Phil Jacobs on his quest to uncover sexual abuse survivors’ stories. -- Emily Wax, Washington Post
 Murray Levin, center, hugs Yacov Margolese, right,
follwoing a discussion group for sexual abuse survivors at
the Chana Counseling Helpline and Aid Network for Abused Women
and the Shofar Coalition in Baltimore in February.
Levin says he was molested by a rabbi and
Margolese was molested by that rabbi's son, a Bar Mitzvah teacher.
Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST
 
To read more and to view accompanying slide show, click here.

Israel to phase out civilian nuclear reactor

Israel's civilian nuclear reactor will be phased out in the coming years, Reuters reported, citing Israeli officials.

The reactor at Soreq, located near Tel Aviv, has been inspected by international nuclear inspectors. The reactor began operations in 1960 with uranium fuel from the United States.

The reactor will be replaced in 2017 or 2018 by a particle accelerator being built nearby, according to the report.

An undisclosed reactor in Dimona in Israel's South is believed to have produced nuclear weapons. Israel is not a signatory to the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Israel is believed to be the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, although as part of a deterrence policy it has not said so outright. -- JTA


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Flying Two Flags

(Margarita Korol)
American veterans of the Israeli army face alienation from their peers in both countries. A group called Aluf Stone gives them a place to belong. -- Adam Chandler, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Jewish group rips Canadian party’s questioning of ritual slaughter

Canada's Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs accused a Quebec legislator of raising "a false issue" when he questioned ritual slaughter practices in the province.

Parti Quebecois lawmaker Andre Simard on March 14 expressed his party's concern that halal meat, which is derived from slaughtering animals according to Islamic rites, is being sold by mainstream meat companies without proper labeling to unsuspecting consumers.

He said ritual slaughter, implying both Muslim practice and Jewish laws of kashrut, is at odds with Quebec "values" and could be dangerous for human health.

At the time, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said it would wait for a statement clarifying the Parti Quebecois position that kosher slaughter does not run counter to Quebec values. But the party issued no follow-up statement.

In a statement issued March 16, the group took Simard to task, saying he had "raised a false issue of transparency [in the] slaughter and marketing of kosher meat."

The group said kosher meat has been "clearly identified and marketed as such for nearly a century in Quebec. To argue that it threatens to establish itself as the norm is strictly unfounded," said Luciano Del Negro, vice president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs  in Quebec.

"Our community is outraged that Mr. Simard has insinuated that traditional Jewish food practices can be at odds with Quebec values," the group's statement said.

It also is "unacceptable" to suggest that kosher meat can represent a public health risk, the statement also said, noting that Jewish ritual slaughter meets the same health standards as other methods of killing.

Last week, a newer political party, the Coalition for Quebec's Future, agreed that halal products must be clearly labeled as such in Quebec.

In a letter to CIJA, a Coalition for Quebec's Future legislator clarified the party's criticism of  halal meat, saying that "it is indeed known that the identification of kosher products is an established standard for many years, that the slaughter of animals according to this ritual is done according to Canadian standards, and that this practice
is closely supervised. To claim that these practices lack transparency is therefore false." -- JTA

Muslim Gangs Terrorize Denmark


More than 140 Muslim gang members were arrested in Denmark after they tried to raid a courthouse where two fellow Muslims are being tried for attempted murder.

The Muslims -- all members of criminal street gangs that have taken over large parts of Danish towns and cities -- were wearing masks and bullet-proof vests and throwing rocks and bottles as they tried to force their way into the district courthouse in Glostrup, a heavily Islamized suburb of Copenhagen, on March 6. -- Soeren Kern, Stonegate Institute

To read more, click here.

Ackerman won’t run again for House

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), right, greets Ilan Grapel, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen
who had been a former Ackerman intern, on Oct. 27, 2011,
following the latter's release from imprisonment in Egypt.
(U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv)
 Gary Ackerman, one of the veteran Jewish members of the U.S. House of Representatives, announced he would not run again.

Ackerman, a New York Democrat who has represented a district in Queens and Long Island for 29 years, said he was stepping down at a time that his re-election was reassured. -- Ron Kampeas, JTA

To read more, click here.

Bills to relax marriage registration rules pass Knesset committee

Two bills that would allow Jewish couples in Israel to be married by Modern Orthodox rabbis in the city of their choice were approved by a Knesset committee.

The so-called "Tzohar laws," named for the organization of Modern Orthodox rabbis that performs alternative religious wedding ceremonies for non-religious couples, would remove jurisdictional hurdles that prevent the organization's rabbis from performing wedding ceremonies recognized by the office of the Chief Rabbinate.

The bills, one proposed by Faina Kirshenbaum of the Yisrael Beiteinu party and the other initiated by Otniel Schneller of the Kadima Party, passed the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Sunday by a vote of 4-3, The Jerusalem Post reported. They now move to the full Knesset for a first reading. Members of religious parties voted against the bills.

Jewish couples now must register with the rabbinate in the city or region of residence of one member of the couple.

The legislation comes after Tzohar was given approval to register couples in the community of Shoham, where the head of the organization serves as chief rabbi, following a threat by the Religious Services Ministry to limit the number of marriages that the community would be allowed to register. The threat led to Tzohar briefly canceling its services. 

A Jewish couple must have a religious ceremony in Israel in order to be recognized as married. Many travel abroad to marry in secular ceremonies. -- JTA

Monday, March 19, 2012

Security group asks U.S. Jewish groups to be on alert

Victims of the Toulouse shooting.
Top, from left: Arieh and Gabriel Sandler.
Bottom, from left: Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, father of Arieh and Gabriel, and Miriam Monsonego
The security arm of the U.S. Jewish federations asked Jewish officials to remain vigilant in the wake of a deadly attack on a French Jewish school, citing the possibility of copycat attacks.

"While this event initially appears to be localized, we are always concerned about the possibility of copycat attacks," a spokesman for the Secure Community Network, the Jewish Federations of North America's security initiative, told JTA. "We've been in contact with our European partners and are continuing to monitor the situation."

Four people -- a teacher and three students -- were shot dead Monday outside a Jewish school in Toulouse. A man riding a motorbike reportedly opened fire outside the Ozar Hatorah School, where students were waiting to enter the building at the start of the school day.

The shooter then entered the building shooting at students and teachers before fleeing on his motorbike. -- JTA

Four reported dead in shooting at Jewish school in France

Four people -  a teacher and three students – reportedly were shot dead outside a Jewish school in Toulouse, France.

A man riding a motorbike reportedly opened fire outside the Ozar Hatorah School, where students were waiting to enter the building at the start of the school day. The shooter then entered the building shooting at students and teachers. He then fled on his motorbike.

Several students also were injured inside the building, according to reports. The dead adult is reported to be the rabbi of the school, according to Haaretz.

Some 200 students attend the school, according to Israel Radio.

French Interior Minister Claude Gueant ordered security to be tightened around all Jewish schools in France after the attack, the French news agency AFP reported.

Gueant and French President Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly are on their way to Toulouse.

"We are horrified by this attack and we trust the French authorities to shed full light on this tragedy and bring the perpetrators of these murders to justice," Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP.

The attack followed the fatal shootings of three off-duty soldiers in and near Toulouse by a gunman on a motorbike over the past week. It was not known if the attacks were connected. -- JTA


ALSO SEE ARTICLE from CNN by Saskya Vandoorne

To read article and see accompanying video, click here.

French university ordered closed to avoid 'Israel apartheid week'

The Sorbonne
... 'Israel apartheid week' will be taking place on many college campuses in the US and Europe this week, but one French university - Paris Sorbonne No. 8 - will be closed and its gates locked for two days so as to prevent the event from taking place.

Israel Radio is reporting that the Sorbonne's President has forbidden Israel apartheid week from taking place on its campus, and that prohibition has the backing of the French courts. However, the pro-'Palestinian' 'activists' have said that they will hold the event by force. As a result, the university's President has ordered the university closed on Monday and Tuesday to prevent the event from taking place. In response to charges by the 'activists' that not allowing the event will impair 'academic freedom,' the university has said that there is no academic freedom at an event where the other side cannot respond. -- israelmatza blog

To read more, click here.

Energy bonanza found offshore

A deep-sea oil-drilling rig
Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90
Large quantities of oil and natural gas were discovered off the coast of Tel Aviv, Modiin Energy and Adira Energy Corporation announced on Tuesday.

The find, called the Gabriella field, is 24 kilometers off shore in shallow water. “At a time of soaring oil prices, this is good news… for the Israeli economy, which is trying to diversify its energy sources,” Haim Gavrieli, CEO of IDB Holding Corp. Ltd., the parent company of Modiin, told Globes.

Modiin intends to start drilling by late 2012 and will produce and market the oil in Israel.

Three-dimensional seismic surveys proved the Gabriella site and the nearby Yitzhak area could potentially yield as much as 232.2 million barrels of oil, 128.4 million barrels from Gabriella alone, Globes reported. The Gabriella and Yitzhak licenses could also yield up to 1.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Since 2010, an estimated 25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves have been discovered in two other fields, the Tamar and the Leviathan, off the coast. Despite years of searching and drilling, however, no commercially viable quantities of oil have been found until now. -- Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel

Borgen, schmorgen: TV turns to Israel

Forget Denmark, the sexiest new television drama is coming out of the Promised Land, says Nick Curtis
Gritty reality: Hatufim, the Israeli drama which inspired the new Channel 4 series Homeland
The latest must-see chunk of foreign TV for the London chatterati comes not from Denmark, which gave us Borgen and The Killing. Or Italy (Romanzo Criminale, Inspector Montalbano). Or France (Spiral). It’s from Israel.

Sky Arts has just started screening BeTipul, a mesmerising drama series about the sessions between a shrink and his patients. In May, the channel broadcasts Hatufim, aka Prisoners of War, about the reverberations that follow the release of two Israeli Defence Force reservists after 17 years of captivity and torture by Arab terrorists. Both series originally appeared on Israel’s Keshet channel in 2009.

Of course, watching BeTipul may induce a sense of déjà vu if you are a devotee of HBO’s In Treatment, which is a straight lift from the Israeli series and with Gabriel Byrne replacing the baggier Assi Dyan as the psychiatrist. “I was aware that I was choosing universal, almost archetypal situations,” says BeTipul’s creator, Hagai Levi. “That made it easily translatable and adaptable.” The show has been sold to 12 countries.

British viewers who have been enthralled by Homeland, the Showtime thriller currently screening on Channel 4, meanwhile, may catch an echo of Hatufim, on which it is based. The US version ramps up the paranoia, modifying Hatufim’s premise into the tale of one freed, damaged soldier (Damian Lewis) and the CIA agent (Claire Danes) who believes he has been “turned” by his Islamist captors. Despite the stellar cast and high production values of the US series, the Hebrew original is subtler.

British and American TV have woken up to the potential of Israel’s unplundered televisual riches. In America, NBC is remaking Pillars of Smoke, a mystery series set in the Golan Heights and described by one commentator as a combination of “Twin Peaks, Northern Exposure and Lost”. CBS will broadcast a domestic version of the sitcom Tall and Greenbaum later this year. You can bet UK schedulers will be avidly studying these shows’ viewing figures, and their own purchasing budgets….

What is it about drama from the Promised Land that’s catching the imagination on both sides of the Atlantic? “Our culture is closer than most people know, or like to admit, to American culture,” says Hagai Levi. “Also, because we are a new society, with no tradition, unlike Europe, part of our culture is to invent things, to make up stories.” He adds that, given the dearth of production money in Israel, projects are refined to a high level before anything is shot. -- Nick Curtis, ondon Evening Standard

To read more, click here.

Israel passes US, Europe in bottle recycling

New bottle collection bin feature blossoming trees.
Photo by Yael Kaplan
In total, Israel collected about 77% of all beverage containers in 2011, exceeding the government’s target of 73%. -- Sharon Udasin, Jerusalem Post
To read more, click here.



Controversial Israeli ad geared to expats resurfaces

An Israeli ad aimed at expatriates living in the U.S. that had come in for criticism by the American Jewish community has reappeared online and in an Israeli magazine.

The ad, calling on Israelis living in the United States to return to Israel, appeared in Atmosphera, the magazine of El Al Airlines. The ad was in Hebrew, the Washington Jewish Week reported.

In addition, a video advertisement promoting the same message that was the subject of controversy in December continues to appear on the website of the Israeli Ministry of Absorption. The website displays the ad showing an American child failing to receive a response from his father when calling him "daddy." Once the child calls his father "abba," Hebrew for dad, the father responds to the child. The conclusion of the ad comes with a message in Hebrew stating that the parents "will always remain Israelis; their children will not. Help them return to Israel."

Israeli Embassy spokesman Lior Weintraub told the Washington Jewish Week that the embassy was unaware of the particular ad until it was brought to its attention by the newspaper.

Weintraub emphasized that "this particular ad is addressed exclusively to an Israeli audience and it's in Hebrew. It should not be offensive to American Jewry. Because we are a small state, every citizen is precious to us, and we would like them all to come home."

The ad in question was similar to a previous ad that was circulated in a wider campaign that was the subject of controversy in December. The campaign consisted of billboards in at least five American cities and three television commercials that ran on satellite TV channels with Israeli content.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately ordered the controversial ad campaign removed from the Internet and television after American Jews argued that the campaign demeaned American Jewish life.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

John Demjanjuk, alleged Nazi camp guard, dies at 91

The US says Mr Demjanjuk's wartime
D proves he was a death camp guard

John Demjanjuk was convicted of being a low-ranking guard at the Sobibor death camp, but his 35-year fight on three continents to clear his name — a legal battle that had not yet ended when he died Saturday at age 91 — made him one of the best-known faces of Nazi prosecutions.

The conviction of the retired Ohio autoworker in a Munich court in May on 28,060 counts of being an accessory to murder, which was still being appealed, broke new legal ground in Germany as the first time someone was convicted solely on the basis of serving as a camp guard, with no evidence of involvement in a specific killing.

It has opened the floodgates to hundreds of new investigations in Germany, though his death serves as a reminder that time is running out for prosecutors. --Associated Press via Washington Post

To read more, click here.

Op-Ed: In Japan, pride in the Jewish response to tsunami

Rabbi Antonio Di Gesu
As I sit here in Tokyo with the first anniversary of the tsunami fast approaching, I recall my surprise the first time a Japanese person thanked me, as a Jew, for Israel’s immediate response to the disaster. It was certainly not the time to instruct that well-meaning person that not all Jews are from Israel -- the average Japanese does not make a distinction between them -- so instead I proudly basked in the thought of Israel being the first country to come to Japan’s aid with its emergency field hospital.

The second time, however, I was not caught off guard: I had prepared a little speech in which I told of what the the Jewish Community of Japan, of which I am the rabbi, was doing together with the global Jewish community to help people in the face of crisis. I was able to report on stories of individual members of our community -- mostly made up of American, European and Israeli Jews -- who in the first hours after the disaster purchased tons of flour and food, and managed to deliver it to the displaced. I also told them about the many local Jews who organized food drives, raised money and took time from work to volunteer with the cleanup.

Most especially, I told them the tale of the 11-year-old girl from our thriving Hebrew school who singlehandedly organized the first bicycle drive through which she collected nearly 100 pairs of shoes to distribute in a destitute town in the north of Japan. -- Antonio Di Gesu,* JTA

*Antonio Di Gesu, a native of Italy and graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary, is the rabbi of the Jewish Community of Japan.

To read more, click here.

Camp foundation grant to fund new specialty camps

Four new specialty overnight camps will be created in the second stage of an $8.6 million grant to the Foundation for Jewish Camp.

The foundation's new grant cycle represents the second stage of the multimillion dollar grant jointly funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Avi Chai Foundation. The latest grant was announced this week during the Foundation for Jewish Camp's Leaders Assembly in New Brunswick, N.J.  The foundation is seeking proposals for the specialty camps.

The new camps are intended to engage the 90 percent of Jewish youth in grades 6-12 who, according to the Cohen Center at Brandeis University, do not report memorable summer overnight camp experiences.

"Many camp-aged children were missing out on the transformative summers at Jewish camp because they wanted to spend their vacation honing a skill or developing a hobby," explained Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of the camp foundation, in a statement. "The Specialty Camps Incubator allows for these kids to have both experiences in one setting." -- JTA

Greatest archeological finds in Israel

Every day, the Israel Antiquities Authority has 30 active digs. In a country rich with history, exciting major discoveries are unearthed all the time

An underground eighth-century reservoir at Ramla.  Photo courtesy of Israel Tourism Ministry
As countries go, Israel is quite tiny. But as archeological sites go, it’s vast.

Archeologists in search of biblical evidence have been digging up ancient treasures here since the mid-19th century,In December 2011 alone, a rare 2,000-year-old clay seal found near Jerusalem's Western Wall was one of the few Second Temple artifacts ever unearthed; and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) found the remains of a Byzantine bathhouse when a new water supply system in the Judean coastal hills was under construction. but shovels really started flying after Israel achieved statehood in 1948.

Fascinating discoveries often make the news

Also during December, researchers from Tel Aviv University published a paper on their newsworthy find from the previous year: Modern human teeth in a cave near Tel Aviv that predate by 200,000 years the African Homo sapiens. The discovery has put into place a new piece of the puzzle of human evolution.

The IAA had a field day during the building of Jerusalem’s recently completed light rail. Among the discoveries were part of a Jewish village dating from around 135 CE (65 years after the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and exiled many Jews), 264 identical gold coins of the last Byzantine emperor who ruled in Jerusalem; a Roman Legion camp from the second century; a 12th-century village; and Byzantine monasteries.

And in 2009, Israeli archaeologists in Migdal (near Tiberius) found the most ancient depiction of the menorah, a carving dating from the Second Temple period 2,000 years ago. -- Avigayil Kadesh, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read more, click here.

Analyst warns Knesset of mass ‘Muslim aliya’

Sinai Border Fence
Photo by Reuters/Baz Ratner
Syrians, Egyptians and Yemenites facing persecution at home might try to migrate to Israel en masse, political commentator Daniel Pipes says. -- Gil Shefler, Jerusalem Post

To read more, click here.

The Influence of Bauhaus on Architecture in Early Palestine and Israel

A dining hall in the kibbutz Heftziba that was designed in the 1930s
by Richard Kauffmann, using classic Bauhaus concepts of
simplicity and of harmony between form and function.
"Kibbutz: Architecture Without Precedents,"
exhibition in the Israeli pavilion for the 12th Venice Architecture Biennial 2010
When he arrived in Palestine in 1920, the architect Richard Kauffmann must have wondered whether he had really reached the “Promised Land,” the hoped-for haven for Jewish exiles fleeing Europe’s ghettos and pogroms.

Upon arrival from Germany, he encountered swamps, desert, and the constant threat of malaria and yellow fever. Worse, the makeshift housing, mostly within abandoned barns, was, he reflected in an article in 1937 in the German-Jewish newspaper Jüdische Rundschau, “almost a textbook example of bad planning.” Wind blew dung-heap odors through the dining halls and living quarters of the newly arrived immigrants, most of whom were idealistic and well-educated, unused to such conditions….
 It was a fortunate time for Mr. Kauffmann, whose training had included an emphasis on city and landscape design. A year earlier, the British mandate had commissioned the Scottish town planner Sir Patrick Geddes to design the city of Jerusalem and, later, Tel Aviv. Architects and planners were needed. Mr. Kauffmann, along with other young architects and designers, would eventually spearhead and champion an archipelago of collective farms and settlements, or kibbutzim, in essence laying the groundwork for the nascent state of Israel.

His story, and that of six other prominent designers and architects, is the focus of an exhibition at the Bauhaus Museum in Dessau, Germany, running through May 28. “Kibbutz and Bauhaus: Pioneers of the Collective, ” which includes photographs, blueprints and furniture compositions, marks 100 years of the movement to establish kibbutzim in Israel.
-- Elizabeth Zach, NY Times

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