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ADL calls on Greek government to condemn firebombing attack on Crete synagogue

January 14, 2010 5 comments
NEW YORK (Press Release)– The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Thursday called on the government of Greece to “publicly and forcefully condemn” an anti-Semitic arson attack against a synagogue on the island of Crete.

“It is disappointing that the Greek government has so far failed to condemn the shocking arson attack targeting a synagogue on the island of Crete,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “The prime minister was forceful in condemning the recent firebomb attack aimed at the Greek Parliament, saying that ‘democracy cannot be terrorized,’” said Mr. Foxman.  “We would hope that, in the same spirit, he would publicly and forcefully condemn the firebomb attack on the Etz Chaim synagogue in Hania.”

On January 5, a fire was intentionally set inside the historic Etz Chaim synagogue and a bar of soap left outside, presumably invoking the common Greek anti-Semitic expression, “I’ll make you into a bar of soap.”

ADL has written to Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, urging his government to condemn anti-Semitism and to ensure the safety and security of the Jewish community of Greece.

“The previous government remained silent when synagogues were attacked and Jewish cemeteries desecrated, sending a message of insecurity to the Jewish community and of impunity to those who perpetrated the attacks,” the League’s Mr. Foxman wrote to the prime minister. “We hope your government will change that policy and declare that anti-Semitism has no place in Greece.”

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Preceding provided by Anti-Defamation League 

Alan Rusonik of AJE to address Hatikvah Hadassah Jan. 21

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

LA MESA, California (Press Release)–Hatikvah Hadassah will hold a general meeting at 6 p.m., Thursday, January 21, at Coco’s Family Restaurant, 5550 Lake Murray Blvd., in La Mesa. 
 
Alan Rusonik, Executive Director of the Agency for Jewish Education, will discuss “Hebrew, Lost in Translation.”
 
RSVPs are requested to Rita Hartman at 619 583-0527
 
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Preceding provided by Hatikvah Hadassah

ACLU files Freedom of Information suit on U.S. ‘targeted killings’ overseas

January 14, 2010 1 comment

NEW YORK (Press Release) – In a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union asked the government to disclose the legal basis for its use of predator drones to conduct “targeted killings” overseas. In particular, the ACLU seeks to find out when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how the United States ensures compliance with international laws relating to extrajudicial killings.

“The American public has a right to know whether the drone program is consistent with international law, and that all efforts are made to minimize the loss of innocent lives,” said Jonathan Manes, a legal fellow with the ACLU National Security Project. “The Obama administration has reportedly expanded the drone program, but it has not explained publicly what the legal basis for the program is, what limitations it recognizes on the use of drones outside active theaters of war and what the civilian casualty toll has been thus far. We’re hopeful that the request we’ve filed today will encourage the Obama administration to disclose information about the basis, scope and implementation of the program.”

The administration has used unmanned drones to target and kill individuals not only in Afghanistan and Iraq but also in Pakistan and Yemen. The technology allows U.S. personnel to observe targeted individuals and launch missiles intended to kill them from control centers located thousands of miles away. 

Wednesday’s  FOIA request was filed with the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice (including the Office of Legal Counsel), the Department of State and the CIA.

“The use of drones to conduct targeted killings raises complicated questions – not just legal questions but policy and moral questions as well,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “These are not questions that should be decided behind closed doors. They are questions that should be debated openly, and the public should have access to information that would allow it to participate meaningfully in the debate.”

The ACLU’s request seeks, in addition to information about the legal basis for the drone program, data regarding the number of civilians and non-civilians killed in the strikes. Estimates of civilian casualties from the government and human rights organizations differ dramatically, from the dozens to the hundreds, giving an incomplete and inconsistent picture of the human cost of the program.

The text of the FOIA request can be found here: www.aclu.org/national-security/predator-drone-foia-request

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Preceding provided by American Civil Liberties Union

All military should be required to report Islamist extremists in the ranks –Senate Homeland Security Committee

January 14, 2010 1 comment

 

WASHINGTON, DC (Press Release)—Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman, (Independent, Connecticut)  and Ranking Member Susan Collins, (Repubilcan, Maine) – who are conducting an investigation into the shooting deaths of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, last November – issued preliminary policy recommendations Wednesday to the Department of Defense (DoD).

The recommendations, which came in a letter to DoD Secretary Robert Gates, focus on explicitly prohibiting violent Islamist extremism in the military and training servicemembers to recognize, address, and report such extremism.

The Committee held a November 19 hearing on the Fort Hood shootings and has been investigating violent Islamist extremism and homegrown radicalization for over three years.

Lieberman and Collins’ letter to Secretary Gates follows:

 Dear Secretary Gates:

The Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has initiated an investigation into the events surrounding the November 5, 2009, shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, pursuant to the Committee’s authority under Rule XXV(K)(1) of the Standing Rules of the Senate, Section 101 of S. Res. 445 (108th Congress), and Section 12 of S. Res. 73 (111th Congress).  The purpose of our investigation is to assess the information the U.S. Government had prior to the shootings and the actions it took in response to that information.  Ultimately, the investigation will identify the steps necessary to protect the United States against future acts of terrorism by homegrown violent Islamist extremists.

 We are committed to completing a comprehensive fact-finding investigation concerning the U.S. Government’s failure to identify Major Nidal Malik Hasan as a possible threat and to take action that may have prevented the attacks.  Even at this stage of our investigation, however, it has become apparent to us that DoD’s approach to the threat of servicemembers who adopt a violent Islamist extremist ideology needs to be revised.  Updating that approach will protect from suspicion the thousands of Muslim-Americans who serve honorably in the U.S. military and maintain the bonds of trust among servicemembers of all religions which is so essential to our military’s effectiveness.

I.                DoD Should Update Its Approach to Extremism in the Ranks Given the Threat of   Homegrown Terrorism Inspired by Violent Islamist Extremism.

During the past four years, our Committee has conducted an extensive investigation of the threat facing the United States from homegrown terrorism inspired by violent Islamist extremism.  The Committee’s work makes clear – particularly in light of the increased number of attacks, plots, and arrests during 2009 – that the threat of homegrown terrorism inspired by violent Islamist extremism has evolved and is expanding.  In over a dozen incidents in 2009, U.S. citizens or residents sought to mount an attack within the United States, including one who shot two Army recruiters in Arkansas, a number who apparently fought for al-Shaabab in Somalia, seven men in North Carolina who allegedly planned to attack the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia, and several who plotted to bomb a synagogue in New York City.  The violent Islamist terrorist threat includes individuals who self-radicalize by visiting Internet websites or reading other propaganda that promotes terrorist causes, i.e., without any connection to or affiliation with an established or recognized group.  Efforts to detect and disrupt terrorist activity are complicated when these self-radicalized terrorists operate as “lone wolves.”  

This Committee and senior Executive Branch officials have identified domestic violent Islamist extremism as a rising threat.  As Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano recently stated, “We’ve seen an increased number of arrests here in the U.S. of individuals suspected of plotting terrorist attacks, or supporting terror groups abroad such as al Qaeda.  Homegrown terrorism is here.  And, like violent extremism abroad, it will be part of the threat picture that we must now confront.”

The Department has previously adopted policies to address servicemembers engaged in certain violent extremist activities.  Policies exist that address servicemembers who become involved in both racist activities and criminal gangs.  However, there have been cases of servicemembers becoming radicalized to violent Islamist extremism, including Sergeant Hasan Akbar, who murdered fellow servicemembers at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait in 2003.  Given these events, and the increasing incidence of violent Islamist extremism in the United States, the Department must revisit its policies and procedures to ensure that violent radicalization, whether based on violent Islamist extremist doctrine or other causes, can be identified and action taken to prevent attacks before they occur.

Exhibiting signs of violent extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations, including those associated with violent Islamist extremism, is incompatible with military service and access to classified or sensitive information.  An April 2005 report by DoD’s Defense Personnel Security Research Center, Screening for Potential Terrorists in the Enlisted Military Accessions Process, concluded that “the allegiance to the U.S. and the willingness to defend its Constitution must be questioned of anyone who materially supports or ideologically advocates the legitimacy of Militant Jihadism” and that “determination of participation in or support or advocacy of Militant Jihadist groups and their ideologies should be grounds for denial of acceptance into the Armed Forces of the U.S. and denial of access to classified or sensitive information.”  As seen in the cases of Major Hasan and Sergeant Akbar, the adoption of violent Islamist extremism has been associated with violence against military personnel and other Americans. 

We believe that DoD’s approach to countering the threat of violent extremism by servicemembers needs to be updated to reflect the current threat of homegrown violent Islamist extremism faced by the United States.  Even though we have not completed our investigation of Major Hasan’s conduct and his colleagues’ and commanders’ response to him specifically, we make the following recommendations based on our knowledge of the overall threat of homegrown violent Islamist extremism, our careful review of relevant DoD and Army policies, and interviews and testimony of former high-ranking DoD personnel, intelligence, and military officials and briefings by current officials.  We may supplement these recommendations based on the specific facts of Major Hasan’s case and on additional information. 

II.        DoD Should Increase Training of DoD Personnel Concerning Violent Islamist Extremism.

Increased training of servicemembers at all levels – from enlisted personnel to commanders – is needed to ensure that they can understand the warning signs of violent Islamist extremism.  Such training will need to be crafted carefully and will likely need to vary by rank.  Training should include:

•           Why exhibiting violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations is incompatible with military service and access to classified or sensitive information.

•           The process of violent radicalization, including the warning signs of violent Islamist extremism. 

•           Servicemembers who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations are not necessarily members of any established or recognized group.  Instead, the servicemember could be a “lone wolf,” having undergone a process of self-radicalization via Internet sites, literature, or videos.

•           What violent Islamist extremism is, and how terrorists distort the Islamic faith to promote violence.

Existing DoD policies provide some authority for commanders and other appropriate officials to respond to servicemembers that exhibit signs of violent extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations.  However, commanders should be trained to apply such policies to servicemembers who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremism and to recognize those signs in a specific servicemember.  Relevant policies include but are not limited to:

•  Army Regulation 600-20, Army Command Policy:  This policy gives every commander broad discretion to prohibit activities by servicemembers in order to preserve good order, discipline, and morale.  Training should ensure that commanders are aware that exhibiting signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations by a servicemember would constitute a threat to good order, discipline, and morale.  The training should explain the difference between religious faith and observance, on the one hand, and violent extremist views, behaviors, and affiliations on the other – albeit recognizing that warning signs of extremist views, behaviors, and affiliations should not be ignored just because they are comingled with religious faith or observance.

•           DoD Directive 1332.30, Separation of Regular and Reserve Commissioned Officers:  Training of DoD personnel should clarify that exhibiting violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations by an officer would constitute substandard “attitude or character” for which separation from military service may result.

III.       DoD Should Revise its Policies to Address Violent Extremism Generally and Violent Islamist Extremism in Particular.

Other DoD policies should be revised to address servicemembers who exhibit violent extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations, including those associated with violent Islamist extremism. 

The Department should update DoD Instruction 1325.06, Guidelines for Handling Dissident and Protest Activities Among Members of the Armed Forces.  The Department originally issued the Instruction in response to Vietnam-era anti-war activities by servicemembers and has updated the Instruction to address servicemembers involved in supremacist activities and criminal gangs.  The most recent version of the Instruction prohibits not only servicemember participation in certain organizations but also prohibits “actively advocat[ing] supremacist doctrine, ideology, or causes.”  The inclusion of active advocacy broadens the instruction to cover situations in which a servicemember acts alone without involvement with a group.  However, the history of the Instruction, combined with the common understanding of the term “supremacist,” suggests that the prohibition is limited to racial extremism.  Accordingly, the Instruction should be broadened so that it clearly applies to other types of violent extremism, including violent Islamist extremism. 

The Army also should update its Pamphlet 600-15, Extremist Activities.  This pamphlet, issued in response to the racially-motivated murders committed by servicemembers at Fort Bragg in 1995 and DoD’s subsequent revision of Instruction 1325.06 in 1996, is heavily oriented toward supremacist activities and other racial extremism.  The pamphlet should be expanded to address servicemembers who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations.  Accordingly, the Army should revise the pamphlet to discuss signs of such views, behaviors, or affiliations.  In doing so, the Army should specify that servicemembers who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations, may do so as the result of self-radicalization or as “lone wolves.”  The Army should also consider how the Instruction should be revised to prospectively address future threats from other violent extremist ideologies.  The other Services should make corresponding changes to their policies and procedures. 

IV.       DoD Should Ensure that Servicemembers Report Signs of Violent Islamist Extremism.

The Department and the Services should also revise their policies to ensure that servicemembers have a clear obligation to report servicemembers who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations.  As General Keane testified before our Committee, “It should not be an act of moral courage for a soldier to identify a fellow soldier who is displaying extremist behavior.  It should be an obligation.”

DoD’s policies do not clearly require that servicemembers report other personnel who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations.  Neither the version of DoD Instruction 1325.06 on extremism, Guidelines for Handling Dissident and Protest Activities Among Members of the Armed Forces, in effect before the Fort Hood shootings nor the revised directive issued in November 2009 contains a reporting obligation by servicemembers with respect to the types of activities covered by that Instruction.  In addition, DoD Instruction 5240.6, entitled Counterintelligence (CI) Awareness, Briefing, and Reporting Programs, includes a requirement that servicemembers report “circumstances that could pose a threat to security of U.S. personnel, DoD resources, and classified national security information.”  This Instruction could be read to require reporting of violent Islamist extremist activities by servicemembers.  However, the reporting requirements within this policy focus primarily on threats from foreign intelligence services and terrorist organizations.  As such, the policy’s main requirement is that DoD personnel report contacts with such organizations, not that they report personnel who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations.  The Department should revise its policies to ensure that servicemembers understand they have an obligation to report personnel who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations. 

Likewise, Army policies are vague regarding the extent of any obligation that Army personnel have to report other personnel who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations.  Army Pamphlet 600-15 contains a brief reference to servicemembers needing to “report specific indicators [of extremism] to the chain of command.”  But the Pamphlet does not detail an individual servicemembers’ reporting obligations or sanctions for noncompliance, and thus contrasts to the highly structured reporting obligation for subversion and espionage under Army Regulation 381-12, Subversion and Espionage Directed Against the U.S. Army (SAEDA).  However, even Army Regulation 381-12 does not appear to require that Army personnel report other personnel who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations.  For example:

•           Army Regulation 381-12’s requirements for reporting “contacts by [Army] personnel with persons whom they know or suspect to be members of or associated with…terrorist organizations” and “active attempts to encourage military or civilian employees to violate laws, disobey lawful orders or regulations, or disrupt military activities” do not seem to address servicemembers who merely exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations and do not encourage other servicemembers to take any specific actions. 

•           Army Regulation 381-12 also requires reporting of “information concerning any international or domestic terrorist activity or sabotage that poses an actual or potential threat to Army or other U.S. facilities, activities, personnel, or resources.”  However, signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations prior to any indication of terrorist activity or sabotage would not appear to trigger this reporting requirement.

Accordingly, the Army needs to revise its policies to clearly and unequivocally require that servicemembers report fellow servicemembers who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations.  Concomitantly, the Army needs to ensure that its personnel receive training that clearly outlines their obligation to report indicators of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliation.  The training should explain how such activities differ from the exercise of religious faith, including the practice of Islam.  The other Services also should clearly require that their servicemembers report signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations and provide training. 

The threat posed by servicemembers who exhibit signs of violent Islamist extremist views, behaviors, or affiliations raises both personnel and counterintelligence / subversion concerns.  The extremism policies referenced above are promulgated by the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army for Personnel while the counterintelligence/subversion policies referenced above are promulgated by the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army for Intelligence.  Senior Department and Service officials should ensure sufficient coordination between the personnel and the counterintelligence/ subversion components of their organizations to ensure that violent Islamist extremism among servicemembers is handled appropriately.

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Clearly, violent Islamist extremism is highly distinct from Islam, and thousands of Muslim-Americans serve honorably in the military.  We believe that the changes recommended above will not serve to increase scrutiny of these servicemembers’ religious beliefs or practices or to cause tension with their colleagues.  To the contrary: we believe that the opposite will occur.  Efforts by DoD to educate its personnel concerning what violent Islamist extremism is and what the warning signs of such extremism are – as distinguished from the practice of the Islamic faith – will increase trust between the thousands of Muslim-Americans serving honorably and their colleagues.  Clear policies and training should foster greater respect for Muslim-Americans who serve in the military.  We trust that, given the sensitivity of this issue, DoD will proceed to make the revisions and changes outlined in this letter in a manner that seeks to avoid unintended consequences and interpretations of its new policies and training.

We understand that the Department’s initial review concerning the Fort Hood shooting is scheduled to conclude on January 15, 2010.  We understand that the initial review will focus on the military’s personnel evaluation system; we plan to review that system in the course of our full investigation.  We assume that the Department’s overall review will assess the adequacy of the Department’s approach to violent Islamist extremism among DoD personnel and hope that our recommendations as outlined above will be helpful to your review.  As mentioned above, we will continue our investigation and may make further recommendations in this area based on the specific facts concerning Major Hasan and any *
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Preceding provided by Senators Lieberman and Collins

U.S. Sentencing Commission recommends broadening hate crimes categories

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release) — At its January 12 public meeting, the United States Sentencing Commission voted to publish for public comment proposed guideline amendments and issues for comment on a wide range of topics that include alternatives to incarceration, the relevance of specific offender characteristics to sentencing, and penalties for hate crimes. The 60-day public comment period runs through mid-March 2010, and a public hearing on the proposed amendments is scheduled in Washington, D.C., for March 18, 2010.

Judge William K. Sessions III, the Sentencing Commission chair, said, “The series of seven regional public hearings that will conclude in Phoenix this month has given us the benefit of the knowledge and experience of all parts of the criminal justice system: judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, law enforcement officials, representatives of public interest groups, and academics. We have listened to them and have listened well. We are seeking as much input and as broad a knowledge-base as possible and are moving towards the next step in this listening process, which is the publication for comment of these proposed amendments and issues for comment.”

The Commission voted to issue for comment a proposed amendment expanding the court’s authority to impose an alternative to incarceration for drug offenders who need treatment for drug addiction and who meet certain criteria. The proposed amendment creates a new guideline that gives the court the authority to impose a sentence of probation with a requirement that the offender participate in a substance abuse treatment program. The defendant receiving such a sentence must be a willing participant in the program and must have committed the offense while addicted to a controlled substance. In addition, the offender must have committed a lower-level offense, and the offender must meet the “safety valve” criteria as specified in the sentencing guidelines.

The proposed amendment also would expand by one offense level Zones B and C in the guidelines’ sentencing table, making additional defendants eligible for the sentencing alternatives provided in the guidelines. Currently, the sentencing guidelines give the court the authority to sentence eligible defendants to community confinement, intermittent confinement, or home detention. The Commission also provided a number of issues for comment regarding alternative sentencing that includes a request for comment on defendants suffering from other conditions (e.g., mental conditions) and whether they, too, should be eligible for a treatment program as an alternative to incarceration.

The Commission issued for comment a proposed amendment responding to the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The proposed amendment would broaden the sentencing guideline for offenses involving individual rights to now specifically include the new hate crime offense, which makes it unlawful to willfully cause bodily injury to a person because of the person’s race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The Act also created a second new offense, relating to attacking a United States serviceman on account of his or her service, and the Commission proposed an amendment incorporating into the guidelines this new offense. The Commission also proposed an expansion of the definition of a hate crime in its penalty enhancement for hate crimes to now include victims who were targeted because of their “gender identity.”

The Commission also is seeking public comment on the extent to which specific offender characteristics should be relevant at sentencing. In particular, the Commission asks for comment on five particular offender characteristics: age; mental and emotional condition; physical condition, including drug dependence; lack of guidance as a youth; and military, civic, charitable, or public service, employment-related contributions, and prior good works.

Other proposed guideline amendments refer to guideline issues that include the calculation of criminal history points; the procedure to follow when arriving at a sentence, a departure, or a variance; and defacing a paleontological resource on federal land.

The full text of the proposed changes to the sentencing guidelines and issues for comment will soon be available on the Commission’s web site at www.ussc.gov.

The United States Sentencing Commission, an independent agency in the judicial branch of the federal government, was organized in 1985 to develop a national sentencing policy for the federal courts. The resulting sentencing guidelines structure the courts’ sentencing discretion to help ensure that similar offenders who commit similar offenses receive similar sentences.

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Preceding provided by U.S. Sentencing Commission

Yad Vashem chairman asks Pope Benedict XVI not beatify Pius XII

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

ROME (WJC)—Israel’s former chief rabbi and current chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel Meir Lau, has said in an interview with Italian television that Pope Benedict XVI should be welcomed when he visits Rome’s main synagogue on Sunday, but that he should halt moves to beatify his controversial wartime predecessor Pius XII.

Lau, a Holocaust survivor and currently chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, said Benedict’s synagogue visit would be ”appreciated and blessed.” In an interview with Italy’s Sky TG24 television, Lau said he was ”surprised” by Benedict’s decision last month to move the controversial World War II-era pope closer to sainthood.

In December, the Catholic pontiff had signed a decree on Pius’ heroic virtues, paving the way for him to be beatified once a miracle attributed to his intercession is confirmed. Some historians have argued that Pius, who was pope from 1939 to 1958, was largely silent during the Holocaust and should have done more to assist Jews.

The Vatican has repeatedly stated that Pius used quiet diplomacy to try to save Jews and that speaking out more forcefully would have resulted in more deaths.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Czech trial begins to ban Workers Party as a neo-Nazi organization

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

PRAGUE (WJC)–The Supreme Court of the Czech Republic is hearing a case brought by the Czech government which wants to ban the extreme-right Workers’ Party (DS). Different governments have asserted that the party is a political wing of the neo-Nazi movement, but a previous attempt to have the party banned was dismissed by the court for lack of evidence in early 2009.

In his opening speech the lawyer acting for the government said the DS had organized street marches reminiscent of “attempted pogroms,” that the party’s goal was to establish a “totalitarian state”, and that it showed admiration for the policies of the Nazis.

In the past, members of the Workers’ Party were repeatedly involved in attacks against Roma, and made anti-Semitic statements.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Israel, worldwide Jewry mobilize to help Haiti

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press Release)–Israeli and Jewish aid organizations are mounting emergency relief efforts and are calling for donations to help the victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, where more than 100,000 people are feared dead and millions affected by the widespread destruction. The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid (IsraAID) dispatched a search-and-rescue team to Haiti. The coordinating body of Israeli and Jewish organizations, IsraAID was also considering sending a field hospital, including doctors and medical equipment, as well as humanitarian aid.

IsraAID and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) are funneling support into Haiti. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti in the wake of this overwhelming disaster, and as we did following Hurricane Gustav in 2008, JDC will leverage its strong partnerships in the region to respond quickly and compassionately to the needs of those affected,” Steven Schwager, JDC’s chief executive officer, told JTA. “Now and in the months to come, JDC will provide both immediate relief as well as long-term assistance to help the Haitian people rebuild their lives.” Money can be donated to that effort through www.jdc.org.

The Jewish Federations of North America is coordinating with the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief to assist victims of natural or man-made disasters on a nonsectarian basis. The coalition is managed by the JDC, which is the Jewish Federations’ foreign aid agency, and consists of organizations including the Union for Reform Judaism, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, World ORT, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, AJWS and American Jewish Committee, among others.

The American Jewish World Service is also collecting donations for its Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund at www.ajws.org/haitiearthquake.”We are assessing where the gaps in service are and putting a process in place to help specific communities that might not be immediately served otherwise,” the group’s vice president for programs, Aaron Dorfman, told ‘Haaretz’, adding: “Because of the economic and political situation in Haiti, disasters like this have devastating consequences throughout the country. Our long-standing partnerships with grassroots organizations in Haiti allow us to reach the poorest and most remote populations with the speed necessary to save lives.”

Canadian Jewish Congress President Mark J. Freiman and CEO Bernie M. Farber communicated the following message in a letter to the Haitian chargé d’affaires in Ottawa: “On behalf of the Jewish community of Canada, we express our deep sorrow on the tremendous loss of life and damage from the earthquake in Haiti. We grieve with you and our fellow Canadians of Haitian origin at this sad time and we extend our condolences to the families of the victims. We pray for a complete recovery of those hurt or ill as a result of this terrible natural disaster and for the expeditious rebuilding of the devastated lands.”

“You will be interested to know that in response to the crisis, United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Greater Toronto and Combined Jewish Appeal of Montreal have established funds for humanitarian relief aid to the afflicted areas… We sincerely hope that this will assist in relieving the human suffering experienced in Haiti.” The UJA Federation of Greater Toronto set up a special site for donations to IsraAID at https://www.ujadonations.com/login.asp?destinationsite=donations&destinationid=33. Alternatively, donors can call (+1) 416 635 2883.

B’nai B’rith International is also funneling money to Haiti through IsraAID at https://secure.ga1.org/05/web_relief_donations.

With an average per capita income of US$ 3.60 per day, Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Thus, its population is especially vulnerable to natural disasters, such as this massive earthquake. Haiti has a tiny Jewish population of around 25, most of which live in the capital Port-au-Prince. Israel’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic, who also serves Haiti, said on Wednesday morning that the Embassy had not been able to reach Jewish families in Haiti as the telephone network had broken down.

Meanwhile, the actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie said they would donate US$ 1 mililon through their foundation to help the victims.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

‘Expecting Isabel’ delivers

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Amanda Cooley Davis, Stephen Elton and Rhona Gold in
Expecting Isabel
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By Carol Davis

SAN DIEGO–Lisa Loomer’s Expecting Isabel couldn’t be timelier for director Jennifer Eve Thorn.

Thorn, founding mother along with Delicia Turner-Sonnenberg and Jo Anne Glover and mother of one,  is expecting her second child any second now!

Loomer’s modern day answer to infertility, Expecting Isabel, is on target bringing to light the plight of any and all couples experiencing the need to have a biological child in their lives who cannot for various and sundry reasons cannot  conceive the good old fashioned way.  (Often one partner’s sperm just can’t seem to make its way to the other partner’s egg.)

Throughout the evening we are taken on a rollercoaster ride as we follow the story of Miranda and Nick in their efforts to conceive. What is in some cases doing what comes naturally, for these two becomes a thing of angst that almost ruins a good old-fashioned marriage.

Miranda (Jo Anne Glover) and Nick (Stephen Elton) have been married for ten years. He is an artist, a sculptor and painter.  She works for a greeting card company making up sayings that appear on sympathy cards. He comes from an average middle class Italian family from the Bronx and her roots are (not that she’s a believer) Episcopalian.

They own their own place in an upscale area of New York and for all intents and purposes, are happy together. Out of the blue, Nick suggests they have a baby to complete their lives.

At first Miranda is skittish about the idea signaling that she is perfectly happy with their lives, as they know it. She worries about genetics, overpopulation and life changes. He’s convinced it’s the right thing to do. Nick prevails by persuading her that their biological clock is winding down;  he’s close to forty and he thinks now would be as good a time as any to begin a family. The odyssey of their trying to conceive begins.

In Act I Miranda narrates the story telling us, the audience, in an often moving, cute, funny and descriptive account of their efforts  to get pregnant. We watch the two begin in earnest working together to make this baby thing happen. Glover is most convincing as in one short scene after another she describes sometimes very emotionally the rollercoaster ride they experience by trying everything possible to get pregnant.

Elton’s Nick is helpful, sympathetic, kind and lends support by going along with every suggestion from collecting sperm to counting active sperm to Miranda’s injections as well as being with Miranda at every doctor visit she makes in their effort to conceive.

As the mounting frustration and disappointment of not getting pregnant begins to take its toll on the pair they decide to separate, take a break from each other and go back to living with their respective families. It is at this juncture that we get a true glimpse into what these two have either run away from or might be looking at, if and when they ever have a child of their own.

Her mom Lila (Robin Christ) is an alcoholic and before she moved back home Miranda worried that it will be a genetic minus for their child. She is even more convinced as she sees her mother on a daily basis. Christ, a regular face at New Village Arts Theatre, is making her Moxie debut in Loomer’s comedy/drama and she is terrific. She takes advantage of every opportunity to look and sound like an drunken  airhead with a martini glass permanently fixed in her hand.

His family, Mom, Yolanda (Rhona Gold is so damned funny as the Italian Mom that one might dismiss the fact that her last name is Gold.) But that’s the glory of Gold, who has been part of the San Diego acting landscape for as long as I can remember. Aside from her too many to name roles in San Diego she has also appeared in staged readings of a number of plays by Allan Havis.

She, along with the rest of the support cast, play no less that twenty-four different characters. They are all excellent and each and every one of them makes this play rock.  As the parents (Mark Petrich is Sal his cigar smoking father) and family of Nick, each of the siblings is beyond funny.

They typically pull the stereotypical race card in their objections to what Nick is doing and one can almost forget (for a short while) the sad plight of these two struggling young people while we get absorbed in their families day to day objections.

Along with Petrich, brother Dominic (Justin Lang), sister and sister in law (Sandra Ruiz) and (Amanda Cooley Davis) are a force to be reckoned with but Nick persuades himself that they are ‘normal’ with no genetic defects except for a few prejudices which he’s convinced he can overcome.  Their Thanksgiving dinner is one of the highlights of a family ‘gathering’ and one funny shtick skit.

Loomer uses broad strokes to characterize the family and the rest of the support groups and workers the couple needs to make this thing work. Doctors, nurses, social services and eventually possible surrogate mothers are paraded in and out as the young folks make their way toward their eventual goal.  

Both Glover and Elton are most engaging and on target while their story moves from hope to hopelessness as their modest plan takes on a life of its own, one they never dreamed of. According to Thorn, the play is more about what life has planned for us rather than what our plan for our life is about.

By the end of Act I they are now on a different path and that is one of adoption. At this point Nick has intervened in the story telling to let us know that Miranda has wandered a bit in her telling of the events and in Act II he narrates the plight of adoption and a whole new set of standards applies. The story goes on a bit too long, there are the same set of obstacles, different support groups and different politics involved with a politically different set of standards but Expecting Isabel delivers.

Mia Bane Jacobs all in one set design in the old Cygnet space is simple. In the center of the stage is a huge cabinet which when opened acts as a vertical bed where Nick and Miranda begin their journey of baby making. Four sets of curtains on the diagonal are used for wheeling stools, tables, chairs and some equipment on and off the stage as the scene changes fast and furiously from Dr’s offices to Nick’s parents’ home to Miranda’s Mom’s place to their own surroundings. Corey Johnston’s costumes are pretty much your average every day attire and Ashley Jenks lighting and Matt Lescault-Wood’s sound design round off the excellent technical support of Moxie’s first new play in their new digs.

Expecting Isabel continues through Feb 2nd at the Roland Theatre at 6663 El Cajon Blvd. More information is available on the Moxie Website, www.moxietheatre.com

See you at the theatre!