Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Ultra-Orthodox Weekly Blurred Women In Holocaust Picture In English, Too 

The largest circulation ultra-Orthodox weekly magazine blurred out the faces of women in an image they published of prisoners at a Nazi death camp, Haaretz reported.

Last week Mishpacha, which means "family" in Hebrew, published a story about twins operated on by Dr. Josef Mangele, a Nazi officer who conducted cruel and horrifying experiments on prisoners held at Auschwitz.

In a post on Facebook, Mishpacha's editor Yisroel Besser said the photo was censored for the weekly's Hebrew-language version, where restrictions on using images of women are more strict. But the blurred image can be seen on Mishpacha's English-language website.

Women are routinely edited out of pictures in ultra-Orthodox newspapers. In 2016, one newspaper made headlines after it published a picture of Hillary Clinton's hand.

Readers and descendants of Holocaust survivors reacted with outrage on social media.

"If she's a Nazi victim, you've murdered her again, if she's a Holocaust Survivor, you've done what the Nazis didn't, and if she's a liberator you've desecrated her name," Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll, founder of the women's religious group Chochmat Nashim, wrote on Twitter.

In a statement, Mishpacha called the blurred image "a mistake."

"The ultra-Orthodox community treasures the memory of the millions of holy ones that died in sanctification of God's name during the Holocaust, by maintaining our glorious heritage of faith in the Creator and the fulfillment of his commandments," the magazine said. "Like all Haredi media we respect the rules set by Torah sages 70 years ago, by which photographs of women may not be shown in our newspapers."


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Hate crimes unit investigating Crown Heights robberies 

An armed robber targeted at least three Hasidic Jewish men in Crown Heights this month, and the NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force is now investigating, police sources said Monday.

The Brooklyn crook found his first victim at the corner of Carroll Street and Albany Avenue around 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 18, cops said.

"Give me your money!" the knife-wielding goon demanded.

But the victim ran away, leaving him empty-handed, police said.

The next night, a robber fitting the same description approached a 35-year-old man while he was walking in Bedford-Stuyvesant around 8 p.m., police said.

Again, the suspect said, "Give me your money," cops said, but he still didn't get any dough.

A third man was targeted by a robber fitting a similar description four nights later, on Jan. 21, according to sources. The robber fled again empty-handed.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Do you want an EU passport? 

Jeff's four grandparents had all been murdered in 1942 by the Nazis, so he was perhaps an unlikely candidate to apply for German citizenship. His parents had been lucky enough to escape Germany on the Kindertransport and they had met later, in England, where they set up a factory employing other Jewish refugees.

But Jeff is one of many people – among them a large proportion of Jews – who, just before, and definitely since, the Brexit vote, began to look into whether they could get an EU passport. Jeff, and others, are researching if they can reclaim German citizenship from ancestors who left or fled persecution.

But obtaining the documention (birth or marriage certificates) and details from German authorities can be tricky and time consuming, especially if you don't speak German.

Passportia, a company set up in 2013 specialising in citizenship law, can help. It provides legal advice for applications for citizenship of the UK, Germany and Ireland, and is familiar with cases where the applicant has ancestral or family connections.

"Applications for German citizenship now account for more than half Passportia's work," explains founder Bruce Mennell.

AleArest"I did a test case in early 2016 for restoration of German citizenship that had complications, but went very well." The two types of enquiry Passportia mostly deals with is where a person is already eligible, typically through a German parent, grandparent or great grandparent, or where a person would have  been eligible had their  German ancestors not  lost their citizenship  or lives due to Nazi oppression.

The restoration the company applies for is under Article 116 of the German constitution of 1949, which says: 'Former German citizens who between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945 were deprived of their citizenship on political, racial or religious grounds and their descendants shall, on application have their citizenship restored.'

However, this is not always as straightforward as it seems and some people  fall outside of Article 116, the implementation of which was  made more restrictive by court judgements in the 1980s. Others still are unable to source the necessary documents, which are often stored at local level in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic or other Eastern European countries, and have trouble finding proof that their ancestor was in fact a German citizen.

"If we can't locate primary evidence, we'll try to build a case based on secondary evidence," says Mennell. "We have  a comprehensive set of laws, judgements and commentary, so we can work around people in a borderline situation. We prepare the application very thoroughly, and our case workers speak German, so we have a higher chance of success ."

The company carries out pre-screening to ensure the prospective client has a reasonable basis to qualify for German citizenship. If they do, they are invited for a consultation where the strength of their case will be established and after being given the go-ahead to act, they build the case.

The company claims a 90 percent success rate for obtaining citizenship. "So far we've never had a refusal," affirms Mennell. While he and his caseworkers don't usually ask clients their motivations for wanting EU citizenship, sometimes the clients tell them.

"The main reason is to maintain the ability to live, work and travel in the EU. There are benefits of dual passports for business people as some countries don't require a visa if you have a German passport.

"Sometimes they want it for children – to keep their options open – and maybe they have some anxiety as to what the future of Britain holds as there is uncertainty," he says.

"For others, they want to assert their identification with the EU, and sometimes we get people who have some kind of cultural interest in or connection with Germany – they're Jewish, their link is a grandparent, they can speak some German… It's a minority, but it's more people than I was expecting," Mennell admits.

His caseworkers have heard some "extraordinary" stories of escape from clients whose German ancestors were hidden in other countries during the Second World War, while others had unusual migratory patterns after leaving.

"We hear many stories where people experience loss and have escaped or emigrated," Mennell acknowledges. "They have survived trauma and change and demonstrated an incredible capacity to survive and adapt."


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Man reunites with the Jewish family his father protected during Holocaust 


rom Auschwitz during the Holocaust. Several generations later, some relatives are still expressing their gratitude to the European families who took the brave step of protecting Jews from the Nazis.

A simple meeting in a Naples synagogue was more than 70-years in the making.

"I can't help it … Every time I talk about this I break down," Tony D'urso said.

His father helped save Ester Sinigallia's grandfather.

She says she's not good with words, but that "thank you" doesn't seem like it's quite enough. The Sinigallias were among tens of thousands of Jews who hid from Nazi soldiers in Italy.

D'urso was just five years old but was posted as the "lookout." His father, Giuseppe, hid about a dozen Jewish people from the Nazis, at great risk to his own family.

"He didn't do it out of ideology. He was illiterate. He must've gone to a year, year and a half to school. He did it because he thought, basically, a human being in distress needs help," D'urso said.

D'urso emigrated to the U.S. and became a state legislator in New York. He wanted his father to get recognition but didn't have proof of what had happened until about six months ago, when a Jewish friend discovered a diary that mentioned D'urso's dad. It was written by Mirella Sinigallia's grandfather. For decades she couldn't bring herself to read it.

She told CBS News' Seth Doane about the terror of being singled out for being Jewish and recalls moving from one house to the next – one mountain to the next.

"Thank God for sane people that thought that that's the only thing to do to save these poor souls for not any fault of their own, just because they happen to be of Jewish religion they were condemned to die and that someone helped them to survive," D'urso said.

Six million Jews were killed during World War II, but as these extended families gathered, they were thankful it wasn't twelve more.



Saturday, January 27, 2018


Extremists and neo-Nazis are thriving in Poland because the government is unwilling to crack down on them, the leader of Poland’s Jewish community said just days after an investigation by a Polish television channel showed members of the far-right celebrating Adolf Hitler’s birthday.

Three people from the neo-Nazi group Pride and Modernity were arrested on Tuesday in connection with the video, produced by Poland’s TVN24. That same day, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said his country would not have the “slightest tolerance of Nazi, fascist or communist symbols."

Still, Leslaw Piszewski, president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland, argued that the police could do more to stop the rise of the far-right in Poland.

“What else has to happen for us to look open our eyes, the authorities say that fascism and Nazism are not tolerated in Poland,” Piszewski wrote on his Facebook page. “I want to believe in these words, but let authorities do their job.”

Poland was decimated by the Nazis during World War II, but the country has experienced a resurgence of far-right elements in recent months. In November, around 60,000 people marched to celebrate the 99th anniversary of Polish independence, and extreme nationalists and neo-Nazis were a visible presence at the march. Videos like the one that emerged of neo-Nazis celebrating Hitler only help create the impression the Nazism is being normalized in the country, experts say. 

“Neo-Nazis are not operating with impunity, in this case the Polish authorities acted quickly and have already arrested three people.. But unfortunately the case itself, as shocking as it is, does reflect on a wider phenomenon ongoing in Poland and that is an increased visibility for extremist and hateful ideologies and speech,”  Zselyke Csaky, an expert on Central Europe at Freedom House, told Newsweek.

“The problem is that extremist groups could potentially have a disproportionate effect on public discourse; they spell out and in some way legitimize previous taboos.”

In the video, which was shot as the group celebrated Hitler’s birthday on April 20, the neo-Nazis burned large wooden swastikas and presented a cake with a swastika on it. A large picture of Hitler was hung on a tree with Nazi flags surrounding it. The men could spend up to two years in prison for breaking Polish laws against Nazi symbols.



Friday, January 26, 2018

'We reclaimed what was taken from my Jewish grandparents - German citizenship' 

'We reclaimed what was taken from my Jewish grandparents - German citizenship'

Renata Rowe, a deputy headteacher from Melbourne, Australia, began researching her family's history about three years ago.

"I learnt that my father left Berlin at the age of four in February 1939 with his parents - both secular and very assimilated Jews - and arrived in Australia," the 58-year-old recalls.

Rowe's grandfather, Martin Reich, was one of seven siblings, five of whom left Berlin before the Second World War broke out. Between 1936 and 1939 they emigrated to Colombia, Australia and Palestine.

"After Kristallnacht, my grandfather had to travel around on the U-Bahn and at night to avoid being picked up by the Gestapo. This upset my grandmother and of course they had a three year old, my father, so they began to look for places to go."

"We don't know why my grandfather came to Australia, rather than the many other places Jews went. But he did, and because of this he had four granddaughters and four great grandchildren. It is because of him that I am alive living in Melbourne, Australia!"

Although Rowe's grandparents were able to make a new life for themselves in Australia, two of her grandfather's siblings remained in Berlin. One of the two, Rowe's great aunt, was eventually imprisoned in a concentration camp along with her family.

"My grandfather's sister Ilona was deported from Mitte on December 9th, 1942, with her husband Erwin Cierer and their two children, Michael and Denny. They sadly perished in Auschwitz and there are some 'Stolpersteine' (memorial cobblestones) memorializing them in Keibelstrasse Berlin." 

The other remaining sibling, Siegfried Reich, married a Christian woman, and miraculously managed to avoid the same fate as his sister and the six million other victims of the Holocaust. Protected by his wife's brothers in the Luftwaffe and armed forces, and his nephew in the SS, he managed to live through the war in northern Berlin.

"He had false papers and worked at KaDaWe for most of the war, until he was denounced by a fellow Jew called Johnny Friedlaender and picked up by the Gestapo," she explains.

As Siegfried continued to claim to be 'Aryan' during his interrogation, he was not imprisoned in a concentration camp but instead was sent to do construction work in Poland, from which he managed to escape and return to Berlin.

Siegfried's daughter, Margot, also survived the war and died only recently in 2016.

Although Margot declined contact with her, Rowe was able to meet one of Siegfried's nephews, Gerhard, who is still living in Berlin at the age of 82.

Rowe's extensive research of her family history began in early 2015 and it was also around this time that she, along with her sisters and daughters, decided to reclaim the German citizenship which her grandparents had lost back in 1939.

"We wanted to somehow have returned what was taken from my grandparents and father - their right to German citizenship - as they had arrived in Australia stateless," she explains.

"My grandad, Martin Reich, never wanted to leave Berlin. It was on his wife's insistence that he did, thankfully. I think my grandad always wanted to return but my grandmother felt she had been too humiliated."

She set about gathering the documentation such as birth certificates, evidence that her grandparents were Jews, and evidence that they had arrived as stateless people in Australia.

Although the German consulate in Sydney said it would take about a year to process the application, it actually only took about nine months. In October 2015, she and her family were invited to the embassy to be given their citizenship papers.

Rowe now has dual Australian and German citizenship, one of her daughters has in fact got four passports.

"My youngest daughter has Australian, Fijian as she was adopted from there, New Zealand as her Dad is a Kiwi, and now German," she says. "We were told however that if any of us were to add another citizenship after achieving German citizenship, but not before, that we would have to relinquish the German citizenship."

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Rowe was glad to be able to reclaim what was taken from her late grandparents all those years ago. "It was a good feeling to be able to get back what was rightfully theirs, even though it was 76 years later!"

"We felt very grateful that the German government had made this restitution possible and that they included all the descendants of my grandparents. I think now all four of my sisters have citizenship, and the children of myself and one other sister."

For Rowe and her sisters, researching their family history and gaining German citizenship helped them to reflect on what their grandparents went through.

"We thought about how brave they were to leave everything they knew and set out for the unknown to save their family, how generous Australia was to them at the time to let them in and how all of us would not be here if they hadn't left."

She and her husband are considering moving to Germany for a short time in the future, to explore the country more.

"One day, when we retire, we would like to live for a year perhaps in Germany, to learn German and get to know the place on a deeper level. We somehow feel that we belong there despite the reasons why my family was forced to leave."


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Beefed Up at City Council, ultra-Orthodox Parties Strive to Change Jerusalem 

Two and a half months after the largest pluralist party in the Jerusalem City Council quit the mayor's coalition, the ultra-Orthodox parties are using their majority to try to push through prize programs.

The ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, parties make up more than half the city's governing coalition and in committees are cutting funding for secular cultural initiatives. In one high-profile case, a rental housing project was rejected because the apartments would not have had balconies with room for kosher sukkahs for the Sukkot holiday in the fall.

"It's sad and outrageous to see that the Haredim have become drunk with power because they're now a majority in the city council coalition," said Yehuda Greenfield-Gilat, a city council member for the pluralist Yerushalmim party. He said the Haredim were trying to take apart every understanding targeting coexistence in Jerusalem.

Sources at city hall say they expect the city council to reverse most of the Haredi efforts when Likud Mayor Nir Barkat imposes coalition discipline, amid a possible worsening of relations in Jerusalem between the ultra-Orthodox and nonreligious in the run-up to Israel's local elections in October.

The Hitorerut party, comprised of both nonreligious Jews and religious Zionists, quit Barkat's coalition in November after a long conflict with the mayor. A main cause was an agreement between Barkat and the non-Hasidic Haredi leaders over management of the city's neighborhoods that are home to both Haredi and secular Jews. As a result, 14 of the 22 members of Barkat's coalition now come from the ultra-Orthodox parties.

A month ago, the Haredim blocked an attempt by Barkat to expand the coalition by bringing in Yerushalmim. The party was founded in 2008 by Rachel Azaria, now a Knesset member for the center-right Kulanu party.

The Haredi parties objected to a section of the coalition agreement with Yerushalmim that would have allowed the expansion of cultural activities in community centers on Shabbat. Since then a number of decisions have been made in the city council and its committees favoring the ultra-Orthodox.

This week the city council's finance committee approved hundreds of thousands of shekels for seven cultural events of a Haredi or religious nature, including conferences for religious media outlets. But when city support for a cultural festival at the Jerusalem Theater was discussed, Haredi council members spoke out against the "immodest" performances and refused to approve funds for the event.

A week earlier, the city's planning committee canceled the rental-housing plan without the balconies for sukkahs. Two weeks ago, the finance committee canceled funding for the Hansen House cultural center after Haredim demanded that the building's café be closed on Shabbat. Funding for a pluralist Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony was also held up.

Hitorerut chief Ofer Berkovitch said there was no sense of responsibility or proper management in the coalition and the situation was worsening. "The mayor isn't focused on the city and doesn't stop or control it," he said. "Where is all his commitment to the things Barkat was elected for?"

Eliezer Rochvarger, a city council member for United Torah Judaism, rejected the claims. "We have no interest in harming the nonreligious community and we're sticking to the status quo," he said, adding that at the meeting on Hansen House, the committee approved twice the budget for secular matters than for the Haredim.

"As for the event at the [Jerusalem] theater, a female non-Haredi city council member said she felt there were messages offensive to women there. Because Haredi representatives raise their hands in favor of respecting women they attack us?"

The mayor's office harshly criticized Hitorerut. "The people who betrayed their voters, left the coalition and abandoned Jerusalem for political dealing and public relations now dare to complain," city hall said.

The mayor's office said the various examples cited were untrue. It said the city does not fund Hansen House, the plan for rental housing was not canceled but only revised, and the funding for the Jerusalem Theater was not canceled but would be passed in the city council.

It said funding was provided for a pluralist Hanukkah ceremony, adding that the city funds activities for all residents.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Menacing voicemails left at Jewish community centers in University Heights, Mayfield Heights 

Detectives in University Heights and Mayfield Heights are investigating harassing voicemails left at two local Jewish community centers.

The voicemails were left Friday afternoon at the Heights Jewish Center Synagogue in University Heights and Temple Israel Ner Tamid in Mayfield Heights, police said.

No arrests have been made, but investigators believe the incidents are related, Mayfield Heights Capt. Doug Suydam said Wednesday morning.

Two phone messages left at the HJCS were "disturbing and anti-Semitic," Rabbi Raphael Davidovich and President Rob Altshuler said in a statement.

"The appropriate authorities and community partners have been made aware of what happened," Davidovich and Altshuler said in the statement. "Proper follow-up steps are being pursued."

Temple Israel did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday morning.

Investigators did not disclose the content of the voicemails, but Suydam described them as harassing and threatening.

A University Heights police spokesman was not immediately available for comment Wednesday morning.

Last year, the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood was the target of two non-credible bomb threats. The center adopted new security protocols in response to those threats.

The threats were among more than 100 threats to Jewish Community Centers that occurred over several weeks. Federal officials accused a 31-year-old man of making at least eight of the threats to harass his ex-girlfriend. The Mandel JCC was not listed in the federal complaint against the man.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Hikind Announces Increased Pool Hours For Women 

Assembly member Dov Hikind (D-Borough Park) announced yesterday that women will now receive additional swim time at the Metropolitan Pool Recreation Center in Williamsburg.

Yesterday, Hikind thanked Mayor Bill de Blasio for the extra time allotted to women and said the pool at 261 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn will be adding an additional hour of women's only swim at 6pm on Thursday evenings, beginning February 8.

In 2016, the Parks Department announced a reduction in women's-only swim hours at the local pools from four days a week to two while also cutting hours from 8 to four. The issue came to a head last May, when a local Hasidic women confronted the Mayor on the issue during a town hall. Women who use the Metropolitan Pool, most of whom are the neighborhoods Hasidic women, don't swim with men because they adhere to strict rules of modesty. 

"Numerous women called my office when the hours were cut. For Observant Jewish women, there is no choice: If they aren't permitted to swim separately from men, they are not permitted to swim. The Constitution permits reasonable accommodation and that's all we asked for from the very start," said Hikind.

This accommodation does not take away from the general public. On the contrary: It is victory for women and human rights, allowing religious women equal access to public services. While I'm pleased with this victory, I fully intend to fight for additional hours for these women," added Hikind. 

The Metropolitan Pool Recreation Center hours for women are Sundays 2:45pm-4:45pm (women and girls), Wednesdays 9am-11am (women only) and, beginning February 8, Thursdays 6pm-7pm (women only).


Monday, January 22, 2018

Whos Responsible for Neglected Jewish Cemeteries in Poland? It's Complicated 

Human remains were removed from a Jewish cemetery in the town of Siemiatycze in eastern Poland last month as part of a project by the Polish Automobile and Motorcycle Association, the lands owners, to build a parking lot on the site.

A few months ago, trees fell on gravestones in the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw, burying a large number of graves, while a year and a half earlier, human remains were unearthed during infrastructure work at the site of Plaszow concentration camp, which was built on the ruins of the Jewish cemetery outside of Krakow.

In Plonsk, the Polish city where Israels first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion was born, a private company has been trying to build a shopping mall on the local Jewish cemetery.

These four cases received widespread media coverage. In the end they were dealt with by the Jewish community and Polish authorities, but dozens of examples of neglect and improper care of Jewish cemeteries in Poland exist – and most have never made the headlines.

The situation is terrible, says Lili Haber, the chairwoman of the Association of Polish Jews in Israel. If there was a level below shame and disgust, then I would use that. On the Israelis of Polish Origin Facebook page that Haber runs, she posts pictures and video clips showing the condition of Jewish cemeteries in the country. It makes you want to cry when you see some of the places. Dogs and cats are urinating on our ancestors, she says.

Between 1,200 and 1,500 Jewish cemeteries are spread out all over Poland. The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, commonly known by its Polish acronym FODZ, says most of the cemeteries are in an advanced state of neglect, without any marking, without fences and even without gravestones. The group, which was established 15 years ago by the Jewish communities in Poland, says the sites are unprotected, not maintained and inaccessible to visitors.

Trying to understand who is responsible for this situation turns out to be a very complicated mission. The answer is hidden in the gap between the historical, legal, political and economic aspects of the problem. The two major occupations that Poland suffered in the last century – Nazi and Soviet – led to serious damage to the Jewish cemeteries. Alongside the physical damage, the Nazis also destroyed archival documentation such as lists of burials and records of the Hevra Kadisha, the Jewish burial society.

In a few places, such as the ancient graveyards in the cities of Kalisz and Slubice, the Soviets destroyed what the Nazis didnt have time to dismantle. They also nationalized Jewish property, including the cemeteries, and used them for a wide range of purposes. Gravestones from the Jewish cemetery in the city of Ostrowiec were used as building materials for private and public buildings, as well as the wall that encircles the Christian graveyard in the city.

The question of the legal ownership of the cemeteries contributes to the complexity of the matter and the answer varies from place to place. Sometimes they belong to one of the nine Jewish communities in Poland. In other places, the owner is an organization or a private individual, and sometimes it is a local government or even the state, which took over the property after it was nationalized..

This explains how in the 1970s, the Jewish cemetery in Torun, the city where Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer – one of the earliest and most important Zionist thinkers of the 19th century – is buried, was made into a city park.

Some say it is difficult if not impossible to place the responsibility for preserving the Jewish cemeteries on the small local Jewish community living in Poland today. Estimates put the communitys population anywhere from a few thousand to the low tens of thousands.

The tragedy of the Jewish cemeteries in Poland is that these shrunken Jewish communities that live there today need to maintain cemeteries that served a community tens of times larger, says Matan Shefi of the genealogy department of the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.

It will be a very difficult task to place on the 4,000 Jews living in Poland today to take care of the cemeteries that belonged to a community of 3.5 million people before the Holocaust, states a report published by FODZ.

So far, the nonprofit organization has attended to some 200 Jewish cemeteries. The pace is slow: Over the past two years, they have fixed up only 10 of them. A drop in the ocean, as the report states. FODZ estimates that it needs about 20,000 euros to restore the average Jewish cemetery in Poland.

FODZ director Monika Krawczyk places the responsibility for preserving the Jewish cemeteries on a number of groups. The current situation is the result of a number of factors, so many groups are responsible for helping us protect the Jewish cemeteries and maintain them, she says. The list includes the German and Polish governments and local governments, along with the Jewish community.

Haber adds another group to the list: The descendants of Polish Jewry who now live in Israel and all over the world. I want to organize a special project, in which we will bring together [the descendants of] Polish Jews, explain the situation to them and collect 50 shekels ($15) from each of them, she says.

The Polish government is the one putting the largest amount of money into rehabilitating the cemeteries. Last month, the Polish parliament approved allocating 100 million Polish zlotys (about 100 million shekels) to restore the Warsaw Jewish Cemetery. This cemetery, first used in the 19th century, is spread out over an area of over 300 dunams (75 acres) and about 250,000 Jews – many of them unknown today – are buried there.

This is the largest contribution of Polish government funds to preserving the physical Jewish heritage, says Anna Chipczynska, the president of the Warsaw Jewish community. Even the nonprofit organization of the memorial site at Auschwitz – Birkenau did not receive as much money from the government, she notes proudly. This money has enabled real change and we wont see trees falling on gravestones anymore, broken gravestones or those that are unreadable, she says.

But the Jewish community, which owns the cemetery, did not receive the money from the government. Instead, it went to a relatively new and anonymous non-Jewish Polish nonprofit called the Cultural Heritage Foundation. Among the projects the organization, which was founded in 2012, is preserving and restoring historical sites of the Polish people, including the graves of Poles and Polish churches outside the country. Over the last three years, the organization has also undertaken the Warsaw Jewish Cemetery project, cleaning up a large part of the cemetery and restoring 55 gravestones.



Sunday, January 21, 2018


The largest newspaper in Puerto Rico has apologized for running an opinion column that said Jewish people control the U.S. Congress and want to punish the storm-ravaged island for its debt because they care so much about money.

In the Spanish op-ed last week from El Nuevo Día, whose title translates to “What Does ‘the Jew’ Want With the Colony?,” columnist Wilda Rodriguez justified her assertion that Jews run the government by pointing to an alleged Israeli article published in Hebrew 20 years ago that recognized Jewish power in Washington. “For Israelis,” she wrote, “recognizing Jewish power over the United States is no offense. It is the victory of their diaspora.”

She said the “Jewish itinerary is so loaded with wars and profits that they rarely think about Puerto.”

“When it does come to mind, they think: What the hell are we still doing there? How do we get out of this trap?” she said.

The editorial sparked immediate backlash, with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) calling it “a collection of classic anti-Semitic assertions.”

"The column falsely charges that the future of Puerto Rico is in the hands of the Jews who control power and wealth from the centers of power in Washington and Wall Street," the ADL's Latino community relations coordinator, Monica Bauer, wrote in a statement. “[Rodriguez] alleges that Congress will do what the Jews say, since it is the Jews who control Congress and that their itinerary is ‘loaded with wars and profits.’”

The newspaper responded to allegations of anti-Semitism by adding a statement to the story apologizing to the Jewish community and others who may have been offended. “We do not promote content that can be promoted as anti-Semitic,” it said.

Rodriguez added a statement saying that she regretted that her writing was seen as anti-Semitic and that she “can understand the psychic reaction of some to the mere use of the Jewish word. But the intention is not to provoke offense, but to contribute to public discussion.”

On Monday, Rodriguez took to Facebook to further defend her views. She claimed she worked on Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, where there were “an overwhelming number of Jewish surnames.”

“That phenomenon of Jews in positions of power has grown in an impressive way since Reagan,” she wrote. “What began as an intentional campaign to influence U.S. foreign policy in favor of Israel (Israel Lobby) had expanded to all spheres of power in Washington. Newspapers in Tel Aviv received the news of their influence in Washington with pleasure. Many rabbis discussed it in their synagogues.”

Nearly 91 percent of Congress identifies as Christian and only 6 percent as Jewish. Senator Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, has led efforts to dedicate $146 billion of the federal budget to Puerto Rico recovery efforts. “More than two months after Hurricane Maria, in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, most of the homes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are still without electricity. This is beyond belief,” Sanders said in a November press conference.

The largest pro-Israel lobbying group in the United States is Christians United for Israel, which has a large evangelical base and more than 1 million members overall. Opinion polls show the majority of Americans hold favorable views of Israel.

Newsweek made multiple attempts to reach El Nuevo Dia. Wilda Rodriguez did not immediately respond to requests for comment.



Saturday, January 20, 2018

Jewish teenage girl left “bleeding and shocked” after ‘antisemitic’ attack 

A French-Jewish teenager  has been violently assaulted in what has been described as  “a heinous antisemitic attack.”

The 15-year-old girl  had been wearing her Jewish school uniform when she was set upon in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles last week, and slashed across the face.

She was able to walk home arriving, “bleeding and shocked” according to reports, before reporting the incident to the police.

In a statement François Pupponi, a lawmaker in the lower house of France’s parliament and a former mayor of Sarcelles, labelled the incident “heinous”.

He wrote: ““I have no doubt the perpetrators of this attack had antisemitic motives.

“Faced with these acts, we need to abandon pretence and naivety. In Sarcelles, everybody knows who is a practising Jew according to the way they dress.

“Delinquents know it too. When someone slashes a young girl’s face with a utility knife, when she is wearing clothes favoured by many women from the Jewish community, then there is no room for doubt.”

The girl claimed her attacker had run away immediately after the assault. She claimed she did not see the attacker’s face and did not hear anything said during the attack, which happened last Wednesday.

Two kosher shops in Creteil, another suburb of Paris, were torched in separate incidents last week.



Friday, January 19, 2018

Son of hasidic rebbe gets divorced and engaged - on the same day 

Hasidim (illustrative)

Last year, the son of a well-known hasidic rebbe (sect leader) married the daughter of another well-known hasidic rebbe in an impressive wedding ceremony.

On Thursday afternoon at 12:00p.m., the couple divorced in the Eida Haharedit's rabbinical court, Kikar Hashabbat reported.

A few hours later, the husband announced his engagement to the daughter of another hasidic community leader.

According to Kikar Hashabbat, the new bride-to-be is also divorced, and members of the three hasidic sects are in shock at how soon after divorcing the ex-husband became engaged again.

The site noted that the new engagement had been done with the blessing of the groom's father, the sect's rebbe.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Monsey: How to cut down fire risks in the Jewish community 

The Jewish community in Rockland County faces unique fire risks due to religious observances, which can be mitigated with proper safety and prevention.

Many of the risks come from laws concerning the sabbath and holidays, and it's important to not only know what to do in those situations, but also to know whom to call, Monsey Fire Department President Raphael Ziegler said.

Sabbath and holiday fire safety tips include proper placement of candles, how to handle oven and cooking fires, why calling 911 is critical in fire situations and why carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are so important.

Lighting Shabbat candles 
Candles are used to usher in the sabbath and Jewish holidays.

Women traditionally light multiple candles — one for her, her husband and one for each child in the household. Additionally, any female child over the age of 3 lights her own candle in many households.

During Hanukkah, every male over the age of 3 lights his own menorah, with a candle being added each night of the holiday.

Ziegler said situational awareness with candles can make all the difference. Candles placed next to windows could ignite curtains and blinds and the heat produced from multiple candles can cause walls to ignite from a distance.

"Be mindful where the flame is," Ziegler said, adding that noting where children play and planning accordingly is a significant factor in preventing accidents, because a single thrown toy could knock over a candle.

Other things to be aware of is the sturdiness of the table the candles sit on and the candelabra, he said. 

Experts say another big fire risk is candles left unattended.

Rockland Fire and Emergency Services Coordinator Gordon Wren Jr. said families often go to synagogue or sleep and leave the candles burning, and this could have grave consequences.

"We've had some terrible tragedies by candles left unattended," he said.

'Oven fire capital'
Ziegler called Monsey the "oven fire capital of Rockland."

Kitchen and oven fires are extremely common in Rockland, especially around Jewish holidays, he said.

"It happens so often, and what we see is that people don't clean their ovens properly," Ziegler said.

Many people self-clean their ovens, but Ziegler said physically cleaning out grease accumulation in the oven is the best way to prevent these kind of fires, especially when doing a high volume of cooking.

Fire officials advise not to put water on grease fires and in the case of an oven fire, to keep the door closed, turn off the gas or electricity and call 911.

Experts also say to never leave the stove or oven on and unattended. Not even to pick up children off the bus or run quick errands, Ziegler said. 

Another unique fire risk is the burning of challah, a traditional braided bread eaten on the sabbath, according to Ziegler. Many families bake challah every week, and as tribute to the Jewish temple, they burn a small portion of it.

Burning challah was the cause of a fire on Blauvelt Road in Monsey last November. Ziegler said when burning challah, the challah must be completely doused before it is put near anything flammable.

"When you burn it, extinguish it," Ziegler said. "Just because you don't see a flame on something, doesn't mean it's not still on fire."

He said the highest volume of calls in Monsey are the day before Passover and a Jewish holiday called Lag B'Omer, which takes place almost two months after Passover and often involves bonfires.

He said that the call volume for Passover has decreased, but firefighters still get called out a lot for fires on Lag B'Omer. Ziegler said it is often children and teenagers who go out and start fires on this day, and urged parents to talk about fire safety with their children.

'Call 911 and only 911'
"It is extremely important to call 911 and only 911 when there is a fire," Ziegler said. "That's the only way the fire department will know when you have an emergency."

He emphasized that while Hatzolah, Chaverim or other volunteer assistance groups are good community resources, calling those organizations instead of or before 911 will delay the fire response, sometimes with severe consequences. 

"There are many wonderful organizations in this community ... they all serve a distinct and important purpose," Ziegler said. "However, people have to understand when to call the correct number to the correct emergency service. We don't know to come to an emergency unless we are called."

Detection is key
Many ultra-Orthodox families use something called a "blech" on the sabbath. A blech is often a metal plate put over the stove to keep food warm without violating the no cooking on Shabbat law.

But experts say this plate could cause a silent killer to build up in the home: Carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas.

"We go to a lot of carbon monoxide emergencies," Ziegler said. "Carbon monoxide is produced mainly when fuel is not burnt completely. People don't realize how dangerous that becomes."

He said that carbon monoxide calls often come over the Jewish sabbath and holidays, when the blech covers the stove and suffocates the fire.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, nausea, dizziness and fatigue. 

Ziegler emphasized the importance of having a carbon monoxide and smoke detectors on every floor of the house, and in hallways near bedrooms.

He said firefighters often see a lack of smoke detectors, incorrectly placed detectors that create nuisance alarms and detectors with dead batteries, which can be avoided by changing the batteries when the clocks change.

He added that if the alarm is placed near a kitchen or a place that causes it to go off a lot, it is important to move the detector, not remove the batteries.

Fire officials stress that smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are inexpensive, and they can save lives.

"It's such a minuscule amount of money for such a life-saving device," Ziegler said.

Preparedness and prevention
Fire experts urge every family, large or small, to have an emergency plan.

The plan should include every exit, meetup spots, an accountability system, ways to call for help and multiple evacuation routes, including from upper floors of a house.

"Muscle memory is a very important thing," Ziegler said. "When you practice something over and over it becomes second nature. These things need to be planned out beforehand and practiced."

Situational awareness, especially in densely populated areas and multi-family homes, can also save lives, he said.

"The dangers are multiplied so many times, that it's not just for yourself and your family, you have to remember the other people that are living in that building you are in," Ziegler said.

This includes knowing how long it would take to notify everyone in the building and area, and how long it takes to evacuate everyone, including children, the elderly and anyone sleeping, according to fire officials.

"A house can go up in flames in literally minutes," Ziegler said. "They say a fire doubles in size every minute. If you calculate how fast a fire can spread, your entire house or building can be consumed within a few minutes."


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ultra-Orthodox women fuel change in traditional communities 

Reuven K., who is about 30 years old, is an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic man who lives in Betar Illit, one of Israel's most prominent ultra-Orthodox localities. Reuven studies in a yeshiva, a Jewish school for Talmudic learning, but works half of each day as a wholesale merchant selling religious ritual supplies. His wife, Bracha, works as a bookkeeper in a governmental institution.

Many of Reuven and Bracha's contemporaries are already raising five, six or even 10 children. Reuven and Bracha have only three — two girls and a boy. Work is important to them not only because they have to make a living. As Reuven said, even though they are not a large family (in ultra-Orthodox terms), their three children fill their home and their hearts.

"Don't you feel different from your friends in the yeshiva? The neighbors?" I asked. Reuven, who asked that his full name not be divulged, answered, "I'm not the only one anymore. About a third of my yeshiva friends have two to three children, and many others haven't even married yet. It's no longer so strange or different."

At 3.1 children per woman, the fertility rate in Israel is the highest among the developed nations, much of it due to Israel's ultra-Orthodox population. According to the Yearbook of Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel 2017, the ultra-Orthodox growth rate leads in Israel with 6.9 children per woman. The average in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries is only 1.6. The ultra-Orthodox community follows the religious commandment of "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28), as well as other Jewish traditions and culture. Add to the mix modern medicine, including fertility treatments, and we understand why Israel's fertility numbers have skyrocketed to more than four times the average of developed nations.

And yet, analysis of the yearbook's data shows us that the fertility rate of ultra-Orthodox women has been dropping moderately but consistently. In 2004, there were almost 7.5 children per women. A host of additional statistics in the publication clearly show where the ultra-Orthodox population is heading: integration in the general Israeli public. The proportion of unmarried men in ultra-Orthodox society rose from 11% in 2004 to 13% in 2017. The rate of married ultra-Orthodox youths in the 20-24 age bracket fell from 61% in 2004 to only 44% in 2017.

The ultra-Orthodox population today numbers more than 1 million souls, versus 750,000 in 2009. Its growth rate is currently 4.4%, in contrast to the yearly growth of the general population at slightly less than 2%. We can predict that the fertility rate among the ultra-Orthodox will continue to fall in the coming years as well, due to the rise in the percentage of bachelors, the rise in the age of marriage, modernization processes and increasing influence of Western culture. In addition, quite a number of youths in ultra-Orthodox families are distancing themselves from the pious ultra-Orthodox lifestyle.

Fewer youths are learning in ultra-Orthodox institutions, as more parents are sending their children — mainly their daughters — to schools outside the community. Girls are encouraged to take courses that will help them enter the labor market in fields such as mathematics and English, while the boys study in yeshivot. The rate of ultra-Orthodox girls who took graduation exams jumped from 23% in 2009 to 51% in 2015.

The number of ultra-Orthodox people who work, especially the women, is rising. The increasing employment rates among men leveled off only in the last year, when the stipends given to yeshiva students rose and additional funds were directed to the yeshivas by the demand of the ultra-Orthodox members of the coalition.

In the last seven years, the number of ultra-Orthodox students studying in universities rose by 147%. Most of them are women.

Ultra-Orthodox women have been undergoing several connected social changes, such as falling fertility rates, a rise in the age of marriage, sharp improvements in education, increased participation in the labor market and increased contact with general Israeli society. Women are bringing the outside world ­— information, innovations — into the ultra-Orthodox family, while strengthening their position in the family unit. It is a slow process. In some of the ultra-Orthodox communities, the community heads impose limitations on women working, such as forbidding women to work outside the home or outside the specific locality. Several companies have built production facilities and projects in the ultra-Orthodox localities to overcome this obstacle, but they still pay ultra-Orthodox women less than other women. And they aren't the only ones: According to the Yearbook of Ultra-Orthodox Society in Israel, the average salary of ultra-Orthodox women (about 6,000 shekels or about $1,700 a month) was 32% less than the average salary of a woman in Israel.

In a Knesset committee discussion in August 2016, ultra-Orthodox Knesset member Yakov Asher said that the reason for this disparity is that the women want to preserve the ultra-Orthodox way of life. Perhaps this is the main stumbling block facing ultra-Orthodox women: The community expects them to support their husbands who study in yeshiva, while simultaneously raising the children and coping with numerous religious restrictions.

Speaking at a 2012 legal convention, Moshe Gafni, the ultra-Orthodox chairman of the Knesset's financial committee, said, "The contemporary ultra-Orthodox woman is more precocious and intelligent than the ultra-Orthodox man." It was his response to a question regarding the exclusion of women in ultra-Orthodox society. Coming from the mouth of one of the two most senior ultra-Orthodox Israeli politicians, who are careful not to be too encouraging of women to work, the comment is very significant.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Major Hasidic sect bans volunteering in paramedics, police 

Rescue and medic personnel, including ultra-Orthodox paramedics, carrying a wounded woman at the scene of where the top floor of a building collapsed after a gas tank exploded in the Gilo neighborhood, Jerusalem, January 20, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The ultra-Orthodox Gur Hasidic sect has issued a prohibition preventing some of its members from volunteering in paramedic organizations or the police, and has reportedly threatened to expel from its educational institutions the children of those who doesn't abide by the ruling.

A recent edict banned Gur Hasidim from volunteering with Israel's largest ambulance service, Magen David Adom, the United Hatzalah emergency medical service, or the police, ultra-Orthodox media reported Tuesday.

The orders, directed at men below the age of 30, refreshed a previous ban against such volunteer work, according to the Hadrei Haredim news site.

In the coming days sect members who have volunteered in the past will be required to sign a declaration that they are leaving the banned organizations — or face the possible expulsion of their children from Gur schools.

The reason given for the ban was exposure to lifestyles that are "inappropriate" for the conduct of Gur Hasidim, the Israel National News site reported. The instructions also noted that over the years some of those who have volunteered for the organizations have experienced a "spiritual descent," the report said.

MDA and Hatzalah are generally among the first to arrive at the scene of serious car accidents, terror attacks and other incidents.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews adhere to strict modesty codes as well as restrictions against extramarital contact with members of the opposite sex, other than in extreme circumstances. The Gur sect is known for observing the "Takanot" — a set of strict guidelines that define how Gur married couples should conduct themselves, from the mundane to the intimate.

Many members of ultra-Orthodox community — including Gur Hasidim — serve in paramedic groups. Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who has full ministerial powers, is a Gur Hasid.

Despite the media reports, Magen David Adom and United Hatzalah had not received any official notification from Gur about the ban as of Tuesday morning.


Monday, January 15, 2018

‘BBC ignored warning over tension from film’ 

Canvey: The Promised Island

A leading member of Canvey’s Jewish community has claimed the BBC refused to edit parts of a documentary he feared would cause tension and misunderstanding.

Canvey: The Promised Island followed Chris Fenwick, islander and manager of rock band Dr Feelgood, as he organises a joint dinner party for both communities, aiming to fully integrate the Jewish community into the island.

Joel Friedman took centre stage for parts of the documentary and viewed the documentary with producers before the final cut.

He claimed several parts were inaccurate and asked for the mention of the number of working men in the community, as well as claims the community were late to the meal, to be removed. These specific points were subject to some criticism from residents on social media after the documentary aired.

Mr Friedman said: “I was quite satisfied with the outcome of the recent BBC documentary – and I think it’s done more good than harm.

“I’m upset with the BBC because they deliberately put in these lines in order they have some story - to ‘spice things up a little’ – or in their own words - ‘so it’s a little more balanced’. In fact, I had the chance to preview the film before the final edit and I highlighted all these points.

“However, the BBC would not budge and simply refused to edit it even though I warned them that this could cause tension and misunderstanding. It is sad because they promised that they’ll be sensitive to both the Canvey general community and to the Jewish community’s feelings.”

Mr Friedman branded some points of the show “downright unfair and scandalous”.

He said: “I challenged them about the claim that only 15 per cent of Jewish men work - and I pointed out that even if they do find proof of that, I doubt it, but this is not true in Canvey’s case – I personally know all the Jewish families and over 85 per cent of them are in full or part-time work.

“To give the impression that only 15 per cent of those in Canvey work is downright unfair and scandalous.

“The documentary also claimed we were one and a half hours late. This is the most unfair piece of filming I’ve witnessed. We arrived on time. Even after pointing this out when I watched the preview – they didn’t want this part taken out. They said ‘its just a good joke’.”

A spokesman for the BBC said: “Canvey - The Promised Island is an observational documentary following the integration of the Hasidic community and Canvey Islanders.

"The BBC is obliged to present footage captured during filming fairly and accurately, and we are satisfied this film adheres to the BBC's strict Editorial Guidelines."



Sunday, January 14, 2018

Tunisia: Jewish population determined to stay despite anti-Semitic violence 

Jewish pilgrims face a wall in prayer

Tunisia has declared itself a multi-faith state. But the attack on the Jewish school in Djerba shows that radical anti-Semitism has its adherents in Tunisia, too – primarily in jihadist circles.

"It's part of the protest against rising prices." The laconic words of Elie Trabelsi, the head of the Jewish community on the Tunisian island of Djerba, commenting on his Facebook page about the attack on the community's school late on Tuesday evening. Persons unknown threw incendiary material from a moving car into the reception hall of the building. Nobody was hurt; the bombs caused only a small amount of damage.

The perpetrators were clearly taking advantage of the temporary reduction in Tunisian security forces on the island. They were withdrawn from Djerba, and many other provinces, because of the protests in a number of Tunisian cities. Tunisians have been protesting for days against tax increases and price hikes.

In recent weeks, incitements to violence against Jews in Tunisia were published on social media networks. "We must harass the Djerba synagogue until it is gone," said one post. "We must drive the Jews out of Tunisia and set fire to the synagogue in Djerba," said another.

Trabelsi had already voiced his opposition to pronouncements of this kind in early December last year. "These people always find a reason to incite others, using the pretext of a revolutionary cause," he wrote on Facebook. "I feel sorry for you," he said, addressing the perpetrators.

'A basically good relationship'

However, Jews and Muslims in Tunisia basically have a good relationship, Trabelsi told DW. "We live together like brothers. We visit and help each other." He says there's no difference between Arab and Jewish citizens: "We are all Tunisians – and nothing else."

Trabelsi suspects that the people behind the attacks are extremists. "The ones who threw the Molotov cocktails aren't real Muslims. They're malicious people who want to divide Arabs and Jews in Tunisia." He says there have been no comparable incidents in recent times: "Real Tunisians have never done anything like that." He suspects that last night's criminals were acting on the orders of a radical extremist movement.

The institutions of the Jewish community on Djerba have been targeted before. On April 11, 2002 an attacker drove a truck loaded with 5,000 liters of liquid gas into the al-Ghriba synagogue near the village of Er-Riadh. Nineteen tourists died in the explosion, most of them Germans.

Rapidly shrinking community

After that attack, many Tunisian Jews considered leaving the country, but only a few have actually done so.

So far, the majority have decided to remain in Tunisia – for the sake of the congregation, too, where every single member counts. Over the past few decades the Jewish community has seen a massive reduction in the number of its members. This dates back to World War Two when German troops occupied Tunisia: Many of the country's Jews were arrested and deported to German concentration camps. Thousands of them were killed.

The real decline began after the war had finished. In 1948 there were still more than 105,000 Jews living in Tunisia. In 2017 there were only about 1,500.

Repercussions of the Middle East conflict

In 1956, the year the country gained its independence, Tunisia's president, Habib Bourguiba, declared: "The Tunisian nation is not only Muslim."

"We must give guarantees, and declare before the whole world that the Tunisian state respects religions, and guarantees that people will be able to exercise freedom of religious belief as long as this does not interfere with public order."

But even Bourguiba could not prevent the Arab-Israeli conflict affecting the mood in Tunisia as well. Under the French Protectorate, Jews enjoyed more rights than Muslims. Their passports, for example, did not say "Tunisian" but "Ward of France," a status the French refused to give to Muslim Tunisians. This also helped to poison the atmosphere, with the result that more and more Jews left the country for Europe or Israel.

The rhythm of the emigrations corresponds to the climaxes of the Middle East conflict. A much larger number of Jews than usual emigrated after the Six Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973).

Multiculturalism requires tolerance

The Muslim theologian Abdelfattah Mourou, vice-president of Tunisia's Assembly of the Representatives of the People, is convinced that the Jewish presence is good for the country as a whole. "A unified culture leads to radicalism," he said in an interview with the media in 2017. "A multicultural society, by contrast, allows us to accept each other."

But the Tunisian state and its citizens – both Muslim and Jewish – now face a new challenge: militant jihadism. Several thousand Tunisians joined the terrorist organization calling itself "Islamic State" in Iraq and Syria. A large number of these militiamen have now returned to Tunisia. The terrorists have adequately demonstrated their willingness to use violence, as for example in the attack on the Bardo National Museum in 2015, and another on tourists on a beach near the city of Sousse that same year. Many people died in both incidents. Attacks like these are potentially directed at all Tunisians – and thus also against the Jews.

To protect them, the Tunisian government has stationed police guards outside many Jewish institutions, to watch them around the clock. Elie Trabelsi believes they will now increase security around his congregation's institutions on Djerba. "We trust that an event like this will not be repeated," he says.



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