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Updated: 19 min 44 sec ago

Car Fire Outside Suburban Paris Synagogue Not Tied to Magazine Terror

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 12:20

A car that caught fire outside a synagogue near the site of the deadly attack on the Paris headquarters of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine was not related to the attack, the mayor of a Paris suburb said.

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Morocco Lifts Ban On 'Exodus' After Director Removes 'Offensive Dialogue'

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 10:43

Morocco lifted its ban on the movie “Exodus: Gods and Kings” after Fox Studios and director Ridley Scott took out offensive dialogue.

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Historic Jewish cemetery in northern Greece damaged in storm

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 07:07

ATHENS, Greece (JTA) — A massive winter storm toppled trees and caused significant damage to the historic Jewish cemetery in the northern Greek city of Ioannina.

The storm over the weekend uprooted several trees, crushing about 20 gravestones and destroying the flagstone path that leads into the cemetery, said Allegra Matsa, one of the Ioannina Jewish community leaders.

Three trees also fell on the city’s synagogue, but caused only minor damage, she added.

Ioannina has traditionally been the main center for Greece’s Romaniote Jews, a unique Jewish tradition, whose roots in Greece date back some 2,300 years.

The cemetery was established in the1920’s, but includes gravestones that were transferred there from earlier cemeteries that were destroyed by the Ottomans and the Greeks, some more than 500 years old.

The Jewish community of Ioannina numbered about 4,000 at the start of the 20th century but had dwindled to about 2,000 at the start of World War II.

The Nazis deported the city’s Jews to death camps in 1944 and only 112 survived. Today the Jewish community has fewer than 50 members.

Many of the destroyed gravestones belong to people with no living heirs, requiring the Jewish community to raise funds to repair them, said Matsa.

The Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue in New York, the only Romaniote synagogue in the United States, is raising money to help with the repairs.


Appeals court upholds Westhampton Beach eruv

Tue, 01/06/2015 - 17:18

NEW YORK (JTA) – A federal appeals court upheld the constitutionality of the recently constructed eruv around Westhampton Beach on Long Island.

The 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York ruled that the plastic strips placed on utility poles in the village to designate the eruv do not breach the separation of church and state.

“No reasonable observer who notices the strips on LIPA utility poles would draw the conclusion that a state actor is thereby endorsing religion,” the three judges wrote in their ruling.

An eruv, which allows Orthodox Jews to perform certain activities in the public domain during Shabbat, was erected in August.

Since 2008, community members have held a contentious debate on the concept of an eruv, with some saying the ritual boundary is an unfair intrusion of religion into public space. Jon Stewart addressed the debate on “The Daily Show” in 2011.

The case was brought by the Jewish People for the Betterment of Westhampton Beach — a group of Jews against the eruv — against the Village of Westhampton Beach, the East End Eruv Association, Verizon and the Long Island Lighting Company, or LILCO. Verizon and LILCO were involved in the construction of the eruv.

A lawsuit in connection with the eruv around Westhampton Beach, a tony area approximately 80 miles from Manhattan, was dismissed in 2013.

Fire Started at Paris Synagogue by Hate-Mongers

Tue, 01/06/2015 - 08:03

A fire was set iinside a synagogue near Paris and attackers drew a swastika on its wall.

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Har Nof Victim Gets $100K From Toronto Federation

Tue, 01/06/2015 - 07:50

The UJA Federation of Greater Toronto raised more than $100,000 for the family of a victim of a terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue.

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Toronto Federation gives $100,000 to family of synagogue terror attack victim

Tue, 01/06/2015 - 07:39

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The UJA Federation of Greater Toronto raised more than $100,000 for the family of a victim of a terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue.

Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky presented a check for more than $100,000 to the family of Howie Chaim Rothman on Monday. Rothman’s wife, Risa, and his brother Steven, who is visiting from Toronto, met with Sharansky in Jerusalem.

Howie Rothman immigrated to Israel from Toronto 30 years ago. He and his wife have ten children.

Rothman, who was brought to the hospital without a pulse in the wake of the attack, remains in a coma, although his wife told Israeli media that he is breathing on his own and appears to respond to hearing visitors talking. He will never see again in his right eye, since his optic nerve was severed when he was hit in the head with a meat cleaver.

Two Palestinian assailants entered the Bnei Torah Kehillat Yaakov synagogue and rabbinical seminary in the Har Nof neighborhood of western Jerusalem on Nov. 18 and attacked worshippers with a gun, axes, meat cleavers, and knives. Four worshippers and a Druze police officer were killed in the attack. Police killed both assailants, who were identified as residents of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber.

Fire started in synagogue near Paris

Tue, 01/06/2015 - 07:19

(JTA) — Unidentified individuals started a fire inside a synagogue near Paris and drew a swastika on its wall.

The fire was started at the synagogue of the suburb of Garges on Jan. 1, according to the National Bureau for Vigilance against anti-Semitism, or BNVCA.

Police were looking into the case, the report said.

Last month, a young Jewish man was attacked by several assailants at a public park in Garges while he was walking his dog. During the Dec. 16 attack, one of the man’s three assailants said they would kill him like Ilan Halimi was killed after beating him.

Halimi, a 26-year-old phone salesman from the Paris area, was abducted and tortured to death for over three weeks by a gang of criminals who targeted him because he was Jewish.

Police arrested one of the suspected assailants in the Dec. 16 assault, Le Parisien reported.


A Leader Looks Back

Tue, 01/06/2015 - 06:00

By Rabbi Allan Smith

Rabbi Allan Smith, affectionately known as “Smitty” by NFTYites, is a great figure in the history of NFTY. He created the NFTY Leadership Academy at Kutz Camp in 1972, expanded the number of URJ Camps during his tenure, raised millions of dollars for the purchase of new camps and the improvement of others, and overall expanded the population capacity of URJ camps by 300%. Smitty is known for his total commitment to young people, and his insistence that all people, especially young people, be treated with dignity and respect.

I am not sure if NFTY, the North American youth movement, had another name at the start. After all, National Federation of Temple Youth does not seem to reflect the fact that the first members of the organization were college students or individuals preparing to go to war.

It is the fact of World War II that stole the youth from so many of our young people. In fact, so many were off to war that in order for the organization to have a significant number of members, the age requirements were lowered, first opened to high schoolers and then to post-confirmation kids.

We were a national organization at the start. During my time with the Youth Division (1971- 2001) the contribution made by the Canadian affiliates, which had been attached to what was then NELFTY (Northeast Lakes), centered around metropolitan Toronto. Eventually, members came from the Montreal area, Vancouver, and Calgary as well. Thus, the new acronym expanded its meaning to include Canada, redefining the “N” in NFTY from National to North American.

The program of NFTY throughout its 75 years was a function of the political realities of America and Judaism as a whole. NFTY flourished in the days of the Civil Rights Movement. We were social action-based; raising the awareness of the social issues of a particular moment in history. NFTY focused on the rights of minorities, the fight for women’s rights, the question of justice for all. NFTYites raised money, marched, carried banners, and sang freedom’s songs when the issues of the day were protesting the Viet Nam War, fighting for Affirmative Action, and today, fighting for immigration reform. The young people of NFTY were the voices of conscience led by the spokespersons of the Movement, Rabbis Maurice Eisendrath and Alexander Schindler, Al Vorspan, Rabbi Balfour Brickner, and many others. The torch was passed to notable rabbinic leaders like Rabbis Eric Yoffie and David Saperstein who had both grown up in the NFTY movement. NFTY’s leaders had an enthusiastic and loyal following in their membership, but it was always the voice of NFTY’s young people that dictated the character of the movement as a whole.

Another revolution began to form when the Reform Movement began to look more closely at the question of spirituality. Creativity became the rule of the day and the Hebrew language took on a special meaning. When NFTY’s influence began to spread through the URJ’s camping movement, worship services began to change. When I began my tenure at the URJ we didn’t sing in Hebrew. But along came personalities like Debbie Friedman and a whole generation of song leaders and liturgists who led NFTY’s revolution in Reform liturgy. Hebrew became more and more the language of our prayer and the expression of the mystery of spirituality.

As we have done since NFTY’s beginning, may we continue to hear the voices of our young people who step up to lead NFTY into the future, walking in the footsteps of the dedicated NFTY leaders of the past.

Rabbi Allan Smith was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 1967, and served as rabbi in Gastonia, North Carolina, from 1967 until 1971. He served as director of the URJ Camping Program beginning in 1971, and then as director of the URJ Youth Division from 1985 – 2001.