Friday, August 24, 2012



Thursday, August 23, 2012

Opinion: Tolerance at the Kotel

It is precisely at times when the vocal majority attempts to impose its religious sensibilities on an embattled minority that a true democracy is tested.
 Photo: Marc Israel Sellem /The Jerusalem Post
Police arrested four women and grilled them for over two hours before bringing them before the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court. Their crime? Praying at the Western Wall (the Kotel) while wearing prayer shawls.

The court issued restraining orders against the four shawl-wearing supplicants, forbidding them to enter the Western Wall plaza for 50 days. As The Jerusalem Post’s Religious Affairs reporter Jeremy Sharon pointed out, the four women – one aged 62 – were singled out for arrest because they chose to wear a specific type of prayer shawl. -- Jerusalem Post

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French-Jewish mother in custody battle with Saudi prince dies in fall

A Jewish mother from France locked in a custody battle with a Saudi prince fell to her death from an apartment window in Paris.

Candice Cohen-Ahnine died last week, less than a month before she was to see her 11-year-old daughter for the first time in four years.

It is unclear whether Cohen-Ahnine's death was accidental or the result of foul play, according to the Daily Telegraph, which reported that French media have suggested Cohen-Ahnine had slipped and fallen to her death "as if she was escaping something dangerous."

A Paris criminal court ruled in January in favor of Cohen-Ahnine’s plea to have her daughter, Haya, returned to her. Cohen-Ahnine claimed that Haya has been held captive by the girl’s father, Prince Sattam al-Saud, a member of the Saudi royal family, since September 2008. The court also ordered Sattam to pay child support.

Sattam continued to refuse to turn the girl over after the ruling, but had agreed to next month's visit.

Cohen-Ahnine alleged that when she agreed to visit Sattam with her daughter in 2008 after the couple had separated, she was swiftly locked up in a Riyadh palace and separated from Haya. Accused by authorities of being a Muslim who converted to Judaism -- a capital crime in Saudi Arabia -- Cohen-Ahnine was able to escape to the French Embassy and return to France. Haya remained behind and the two reportedly spoke occasionally by phone.

Cohen-Ahnine, 34, met Sattam in London when she was 18. Despite their differences in religion and nationality, the couple continued their relationship, and Haya was born in 2001. But the couple separated in 2006; the prince allegedly said he would have to marry a cousin and could only keep Cohen-Ahnine as a mistress or second wife.

Cohen-Ahnine published a book in French about the ordeal with the literally translated title “Give me back my daughter” (l’Archipel). -- JTA

Opinion: Rabbi condemns Ahmadinejad’s Israel ‘cancer’ remark

Rabbi Wolpe: "When the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
compares Israel to a cancer, I take it personally."
On Monday, you see, I traveled to Israel to co-officiate at a wedding. And I have cancer. -- Rabbi David Wolpe, Washington Post

To read more, click here.

Rabbi Charged with Illegal Circumcision in Germany

Criminal assault charges have been filed against the rabbi of the Jewish community in oberfränkischen Hof, Rabbi David Goldberg, for circumcision for religious reasons. Chief prosecutor Gerhard Schmitt confirmed that the complaint was filed by a doctor from Hessen, which is under the jurisdiction of the Cologne Regional Court, which decided a while ago that non-medical circumcision was a criminal offense.

According to the “Judische Allgemeine,” Rabbi Goldberg, who is also a mohel, or religious circumciser, was informed by journalists about the lawsuit.

Cologne Rabbi Yaron Engelmayer of the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference declared: “I’m shocked.”

It was the first time that a rabbi has been charged with a criminal violation in the Federal Republic of Germany because he performed a religious ritual..

Maram Stern, vice president of the World Jewish Congress, said there was an urgent need to create legal certainty about this matter. “We hope that the prosecutor will show sensitivity regarding this issue and will not initiate an investigation against the mohel.” -- Jewish Press News

Also see article from JTA by clicking here.

Israeli chief rabbi visits Berlin on circumcision issue

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger. Photo by Itzik Edri
 Israel's chief Ashkenazi rabbi said in Berlin that medical training for mohels, or ritual circumcisers, could resolve concerns in Germany regarding circumcision of male children.

In meetings Tuesday with government officials and Berlin's Jewish community, Rabbi Yonah Metzger noted that mohels could be trained and certified by German doctors. But he emphasized that the Chief Rabbinate in Israel has to make final decision on whether a mohel is up to par. -- JTA

To read more, click here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New money, old habits and a growing brand make Rami Levy Israel’s new grocery store king

Rami Levy, center, hugging his parents at one of his supermarkets.
Courtesy Rami Levy
The corporate offices of Rami Levy, Israel’s nouveau riche supermarket mogul, sit atop one of his grocery stores in southern Jerusalem. It’s not a busy neighborhood, nor is it easily accessible by public transit. But once the building comes into view, there’s no mistaking that it’s his.

Plastered across the side wall in bold letters on a yellow background are the words Rami Levy Hashikma Market. The company name appears at least six more times elsewhere on the building.

Meet the new Israeli mogul – with a net worth about $1 billion, according to Haaretz – whom many Jews outside Israel do not yet recognize, but who is emerging as a champion of the country’s economically struggling families. -- Ben Sales, JTA

To read more, click here.

Women arrested for donning prayer shawls at Western Wall

From Women of the Wall website
Jerusalem police arrested and detained four women for wearing prayer shawls at the Western Wall.

The women, members of Women of the Wall, were arrested Sunday during morning prayers, which included special prayers for the new Hebrew month of Elul.

Women of the Wall holds a special prayer service at the Western Wall each month for Rosh Chodesh, or the beginning of new month. The group has met once a month at the back of the women's section at the Western Wall for the last 20 years. -- JTA

To read more, click here.

Despite hardships, some Bedouins still feel obligation to serve Israel

An IDF soldier training during an exercise of
the Desert Reconnaissance Battalion of the Gaza Division,
which is primarily composed of Bedouins, Nov. 2010.
(IDF Spokesperson))
On an August weekday afternoon, 19-year-old Mohammed Kernowi stands in front of a small store in Israel’s largest Bedouin city, a hot plate in front of him with small pancakes sizzling in preparation for the end of that day’s Ramadan fast.

At his age, many Israeli men have been through basic training and are weathering their first of three years of compulsory military service either on the country’s borders, in the West Bank, in an office or on one of the country’s many bases.

Kernowi, however, prefers baking to bullets.

“No one goes from our family,” he said. “It’s a waste of three years of your life.”

While some Bedouins continue to voluntarily serve in Israel's military, their community -- just as with some in Israel's Jewish community -- debate whether it is worthwhile. Bedouins, separated physically and to some extent culturally from other Israeli Arabs, are exempt from serving in the Israel Defense Forces. -- Ben Sales, JTA

To read more, click here.

Muslim, Jewish women connect during Ramadan

Jewish and Muslim women gather to break the Ramadan fast.
As women lingered and laughed over what had been the appetizer table but was now filled with desserts, Amalie Frankel knew she was part of something special.

"How many other Jewish and Muslim women are getting together during Ramadan?" the Rochester woman wondered aloud on Tuesday night. "I feel this is special."

For the past year and a half, a group of 20 or so women have met every other month for what they call the Muslim-Jewish Dialogue. Half are from the Rochester Muslim Community Circle and half are from the B'nai Israel Synagogue. -- Christina Killion Valdez, The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

To read more, click here.

Demjanjuk estate files new appeal in bid for restored U.S. citizenship

The estate of convicted Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk again has asked an appeals court to help posthumously restore his U.S. citizenship.

In a filing Monday, Demjanjuk's estate asked the full 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to take up the case. In June, a three-judge panel of the court ruled that Demjanjuk’s U.S. citizenship cannot be posthumously restored and that his death made the case moot.

Demjanjuk, a former Ohio autoworker, died in southern Germany on March 17 at the age of 91.

The defense said the American government withheld potentially helpful material and said that the full court must take up the matter.

The defense claimed that U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland violated basic fairness by ruling against Demjanjuk's citizenship appeal without holding a hearing on a 1985 secret FBI report uncovered by The Associated Press. The document indicates that the FBI believed a Nazi ID card purportedly showing that Demjanjuk served as a death camp guard was a Soviet-made fake.

“Fraud is fraud. It does not die” with the death of parties involved, the defense said in its latest filing, reported The Associated Press.

The government argued that the earlier defense filings contained no new information in the matter.

"Over three decades, we have repeatedly rejected Demjanjuk's challenges to the authenticity of the Trawniki card and fraud on the court," the court said last June.

Restoration of his citizenship would have enabled his widow to seek Social Security benefits.

A Munich court convicted Demjanjuk last year on 28,060 counts of being an accessory to murder at the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland. Demjanjuk, who maintained that he had been mistaken for someone else, died while his conviction was under appeal. -- JTA

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Reform and Conservative rabbis: Step up gun control

Reform and Conservative rabbinical leaders called for increased gun controls in the wake of a spate of shootings.

"Our tradition teaches: 'Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor' (Leviticus 19:16)," said a statement Thursday issued by Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the executive vice president of the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly. "As people of faith, the Rabbinical Assembly unequivocally calls upon lawmakers to take all available measures, to ensure the safety of the public to limit the availability of guns and the permissibility of their concealment."

A statement the same day by Rabbi David Saperstein, the director of Reform's Religious Action Center, noted the shooting attack Wednesday by a man on the Family Research Council, in which a guard was injured, and alluded to shootings this summer at a cinema in Colorado and a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin that have claimed 18 lives.

"Guns are too pervasive in our society and too easily obtained by those with mental illness, nefarious goals – or both," Saperstein said. "Abiding by the principles of the Constitution need not be incompatible with sensible gun control."

Saperstein's statement also noted increasingly vicious political rhetoric as an element; the FRC attacker reportedly opposed the group's opposition to gay marriage, and the Wisconsin shooter was a white supremacist.

"This trend of violence threatens us all and violates the values of respect for others that must be paramount in American civic and political life," he said. -- JTA

Elvis Presley: Jewish King of Rock

On the 35th anniversary of his death, it’s time we claim him
Elvis with Star of David
Elvis News
As unfathomable as it might seem, a little known fact is that Elvis Presley, by matrilineal descent, was halakhically Jewish. -- Adam Chandler, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Saudi Cleric: Jews Use Human Blood for Passover Matzos (MEMRI)

Saudi cleric Salman Al-Odeh told Rotana Khalijiya TV on August 13, 2012: "It is well-known that the Jews celebrate several holidays, one of which is the Passover, or the Matzos Holiday."
"Naguib Al-Kilani wrote a book titled Blood for the Matzos of Zion. This is the best story he ever wrote. It discusses what would go on in the Jewish neighborhood of Damascus or elsewhere. They would lure a child in order to sacrifice him in the religious rite that they perform during that holiday."  -- Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)

To read more, click here.

Click on the link to see the video of the interview.

Swedish solidarity ‘kipah walk’ unites Jews, non-Jews

Several hundred kipah-wearing Jews and non-Jews marched in Sweden as a sign of solidarity with Malmo’s Jews.

Some 400 marchers gathered Saturday outside the synagogue in Malmo and walked to Mollevangs Square, a part of the city with many Muslim immigrants from the Middle East....

“The idea is to show ourselves and others that we refuse to be afraid or hide our Jewish affiliation,” Fredrik Sieradzki, director of communications for the Jewish community of Malmo, told JTA before the march.

Earlier this year, a rabbi from Malmo was physically assaulted....

Anti-Semitism in Malmo first drew international attention in 2009, when riots broke out due to the presence of Israeli tennis players in the city, which was hosting the Davis Cup. -- JTA

To read more, click here.

It's Not (Just) the Culture, Stupid: 4 Reasons Why Israel's Economy Is So Strong


The government has learned from economic disaster, embraced high-skilled immigrants, played venture capitalist, and imported one heck of a good central banker. -- Jordan Weissmann, The Atlantic

To read more, click here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Zurich children's hospital lifts ban on circumcision

A Swiss hospital announced Friday that it has lifted a moratorium on religiously-motivated circumcisions imposed in July in the wake of a court ruling in neighbouring Germany. -- AFP

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The New American Mikveh

Once a bastion for strictly observant women, Jewish ritual baths are reaching out beyond the Orthodox
Mayyim Hayyim, 2009. (Tom Kates)
Leah Chanin was raised in a traditionally observant home in Galveston, Texas, but it wasn’t until she was in her sixties and living in Washington, D.C., that she first performed one of the most ancient Jewish ceremonies: ritual immersion in a mikveh. “When I was growing up, no one went to the mikveh except the very Orthodox,” Chanin told me. “If someone said they were going, people would say, ‘That’s what my bubbe did—not me!’ ”

Now 82, Chanin is so enthusiastic about introducing younger Jews, women and men alike, to the practice that she volunteers as a mikveh guide at Adas Israel, a large Conservative synagogue in Washington. A retired lawyer, Chanin arrives in pantsuits and high heels, perfectly coiffed and turned out with bright red nails and matching lipstick, and patiently leads her charges through the small pool and adjacent shower area. It’s hardly glamorous—the dim, windowless mikveh, added in a 1989 synagogue renovation, is hidden on a lower floor beneath the main sanctuary, tiled in shades of beige under a yellowing plastic light fixture—but more than 400 people, many of them not synagogue members, venture in each year. -- Allison Hoffman, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Crohn's Is on the Rise Among Children; Study To Determine Which Kids Will Benefit From New Drugs

Kate Goldbaum (center left) weighed only 85 pounds as a 14-year-old; she put off taking ‘biologics.’
Courtesy of Kate Goldbaum
Last February, on a warm day in North Carolina, Dr. David Wohl entered the playground and saw his eight-year-old son, Zac, sitting motionless in the sandbox. “He looked like a 90-year-old guy who had fallen and couldn’t get up,” said Wohl, an AIDS expert and associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

A few days later, after Zac was gripped by multiple intensive stomachaches, he was rushed to the hospital. “He was having 15 to 20 bellyaches a day. His grandmother could tell something was wrong by just looking at him,” Wohl said.

Zac was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a lifelong inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects about 1.4 million Americans, most often Caucasians — and, even more often, Ashkenazi Jews. Studies have shown that as many as 317 of every 100,000 North Americans have Crohn’s disease, but among the Ashkenazi Jewish population, it is two to four times more prevalent. And for unknown reasons, it’s on the rise, among children in particular.

“Children under 18 [are] the fastest-growing patient population,” said Dr. Ted Densen, medical director of Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center. “One in five children that are diagnosed with IBD present it with severe disease.” Symptoms can range from mild stomach pain and constipation to more severe aches, fatigue, diarrhea, bleeding and infection. -- Hannah Rubin, Forward

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People Claim To 'Belong' to Congregations But Aren't Members

They ‘Belong’ Without Belonging: Many more Jews say they belong
o synagogues than actually pay dues to any congregation, surveys suggest.
Roughly twice as many people consider themselves members of synagogues as the number of people that actually pay dues to those congregations.

That’s one intriguing interpretation of a discrepancy that surfaced within the data collected in UJA-Federation of New York’s recent survey of Jews in the New York area.

Members of slightly more than 60,000 Reform Jewish households in New York say they belong to synagogues, according to the survey. But fewer than 30,000 New York households actually paid dues to Reform congregations last year, according to the Union for Reform Judaism.

The same discrepancy also appears to exist among Conservative Jews… -- Josh Nathan-Kazis, Forward

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Jerusalem skyline to undergo massive transformation with 12 new skyscrapers

Jerusalem’s light rail
Photo by Emil Salman
The capital city's skyline is going to change beyond recognition after the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee on Monday approved a plan to build 12 skyscrapers at the city's entrance. The goal is to turn the area around the Binyanei Hauma convention center and central bus station into the capital's main business quarter.

The estimated cost of the plan is NIS 8.5 billion. Officials say it will add one million square meters of office space to the city, as well as some 40,000 new jobs. --  Nir Hasson, Haaretz

To read more, click here.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

3 Israeli universities ranked in top 100, study says

Authoritative academic study ranks Hebrew University of Jerusalem 53rd-best in world; six Israeli schools in top 500.
Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski
For the first time, three Israeli universities have been ranked among the world’s top 100 academic institutions, according to the authoritative 2012 Academic Ranking of World Universities released today. The ranking is conducted annually by researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China and is called the Shanghai Ranking.

It is considered the most reliable of all world university rankings. -- Judy Siegel-Itzovich

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Opinion: Preserving Israel's Uncertain Status Quo

If someone asked me to sum up in a sentence where Israel will be a decade from now, I’d paraphrase Dickens: It will be neither the best nor worst of times. The Israelis will prosper and keep their state, but the Arabs and Iranians will never let them completely enjoy it.  -- Aaron David Miller, NY Times

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WJC and Canadian Jewish community condemn church's decision to boycott Israel

Canadian Jews, as well as the World Jewish Congress, have strongly condemned a vote by United Church of Canada's General Council which backs for a boycott of Israeli goods produced beyond the 1949 Armistice Line. Shimon Fogel (pictured left), CEO of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the Jewish umbrella body in Canada, said: “The reaction of the Jewish community is one of unbridled outrage. It is beyond comprehension that [the church] would choose to so skew a commentary on the conflict and come out with so one-sided an approach.” CIJA Chairman David Koschitzky added: “In choosing this morally reckless path, the United Church has equally dismissed the concerns of the overwhelming majority of the Canadian Jewish community, ...rejected the path of balance, and has chosen to explicitly ally itself with those who formally reject the two-State solution and who deny the historical right of the Jewish people to a homeland." -- Wolrd Jewish Congress

To read more, click here.

Leading figure of Hungarian anti-Semitic party discovers he is Jewish, his mother was an Auschwitz survivor and his father a veteran of forced labour camps

Anti-Semite finds out he's Jewish: Ultra nationalist Csanad Szegedi,
was a leading member of a far-right political party until he was forced to resign
after it was revealed that he is actually Jewish.
Ultra nationalist Csanad Szegedi's political career is in ruins after he was forced to resign from far-right Jobbik Party.

The party is also asking him to resign from his EU lawmaking role Szegedi has publicly made anti-Semitic comments.

He acknowledged his Jewish heritage and apologised for offensive comments and vowed to visit Auschwitz.

The Holocaust was a taboo subject in Hungary until 1990.

Many survivors kept their ordeals to themselves during the communist rule.

To read more, click here.

Iranian Jewry Today

In late June 2012, Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, the Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, addressed an international conference on the proliferation of illicit drugs.  In describing Iran’s narcotics problem, Rahimi acknowledged his country’s extensive border with Afghanistan, the largest producer of illegal opium in the world.  But he also blamed the crisis on the Babylonian Talmud.

Rahimi parroted old anti-Semitic screeds about the Talmud preaching Jewish superiority and claimed that it “teaches [Jews] how to destroy non-Jews.” Given the alleged absence of “Zionist” addicts from the world—apparently Rahimi is unaware of Israel’s documented heroin problem—the Vice-President took the presence of Jews in the international drug trade as an indication of the Talmud’s evil influence.

The New York Times and several major Western media outlets published Rahimi’s anti-Semitic remarks and suggested that the affair further increased Iran’s growing isolation and intensified the nuclear crisis unfolding between Israel, Iran, and the United States.  But the media largely neglected to consider how such remarks affected, and were received by, Iran’s own Jewish community.  Indeed, the broader discourse concerning the current Iranian nuclear crisis has focused solely on Jews living in Israel.  Iranian Jews are simply not mentioned. -- Shai Secunda, Jewish Ideas Daily

To read more, click here.