Archive for February 18, 2010

Catholic scholars urge Pope Benedict to halt sainthood elevation of Pius XII

February 18, 2010 Leave a comment

(Press Release) WJC–In a letter, Catholic scholars from Australia, Germany and the United States have urged Pope Benedict XVI to delay making the controversial war-time Pope Pius XII a saint, ‘Reuters’ reports. Relations with Judaism could be irreparably harmed if Pius was elevated to sainthood before the historical record of his actions on behalf of Jews during the Holocaust was cleared up, the 18 scholars write, according to the news agency. “Holy Father, we implore you, acting on your wisdom as a renowned scholar, professor and teacher, to be patient with the cause of Pius XII,” the letter reportedly states.

Some critics have accused Pius of having ignored Jewish suffering during the Holocaust. The Vatican and other Pius supporters say the pope had worked behind the scenes to save Jews from the Nazi onslaught.

“Currently, existing research leads us to the view that Pope Pius XII did not issue a clearly worded statement, unconditionally condemning the wholesale slaughter and murder of European Jews,” the scholars write in their letter.

The scholars include John Pawlikowski of the Catholic Theological Union, a leading historian on Judaism and the Holocaust, and Eugene Fisher, the retired expert on Jewish-Catholic relations for the Catholic Bishops Conference in the United States. Copies of the letter were to be sent to Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican official in charge of relations with Jews, and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, a leading figure in Catholic-Jewish dialogue in the United States.


The preceding provided by World JewishCongress


ZOA wants boycott of UC Irvine for failing to rein in Israel-bashing

February 18, 2010 2 comments

 (Press Release)WJC –The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has urged Jewish students not  to apply for a place at the University of California in Irvine (UCI) and called on donors not to give any money to the institution as it had failed to stop anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing on its campus. In a press release, ZOA accused the university of enabling bigotry and violating civil rights “by failing to condemn longstanding anti-Semitic and Israel-bashing speech and conduct on campus, and failing to enforce its own policies against the perpetrators.”

The group also urged donors to stop supporting UCI. The call follows last week’s speech at the university by Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, which  was repeatedly interrupted by anti-Israel activists.

In its statement, ZOA said that “UC Irvine must now pay the price for its inaction. We call on all decent people, both Jews and non-Jews, to stop supporting, with their money and enrollment, a university that has been complicit in promoting bigotry. It is the right and moral thing to do, until the university makes it crystal clear that it will stop tolerating anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism and that the perpetrators will be held to the same standards of conduct as everyone else.”


The preceding provided by the World Jewish Congress

Mossad accused of assassinating Hamas operative in Dubai

February 18, 2010 3 comments


(Press Release) WJC–Officials in Dubai are reportedly blaming the Israeli secret service, Mossad, for the killing of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in an airport hotel of the Gulf emirate last month but said it would be impossible to get hold of the assassins as there were no diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel. “All elements strongly indicate the involvement of the Mossad,” Dubai police general Dahi Khalfan Tamim told the newspaper ‘Gulf News’.

Until now, Dubai police had stopped short of accusing the Mossad. However, with at least seven of the eleven named suspects in the case now revealed to have used the stolen identities of Israelis that hold dual nationalities, officials in the Gulf state believe that the evidence points to Israel’s spy agency. On Wednesday, police in the emirate said they hold retinal scans of the suspected assassins, which they plan to publish through the international police agency Interpol.

In Britain and Ireland, the Israeli ambassadors were called in by the respective governments over the matter. Reportedly, the killers of al-Mabhoub used six fake British and three fake Irish passports to travel to the United Arab Emirates.

Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown has promised a full inquiry. “We have got to carry out a full investigation,” he told a radio station. “The evidence has got to be assembled about what has actually happened and how and why, and it is necessary for us to accumulate that evidence before we can make any statements.” The Foreign Office in London made a statement saying that “Given the links to Israel of a number of the British nationals affected, there will be a meeting between the permanent under-secretary and the ambassador…The defrauding of British passports is a very serious issue.”

The newspaper ‘Haaretz’ has learnt the identities of two Palestinians arrested in Jordan in connection with the assassination. Ahmad Hasnin, a Palestinian intelligence operative, and Anwar Shekhaiber, an employee of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, were arrested in the Jordanian capital Amman and extradited to Dubai. The two were residents of the Gaza Strip until Hamas seized control there in 2007, ‘Haaretz’ reports. A third man is under arrest in Syria on suspicion of having assisted the hit squad, according to the British news paper ‘The Guardian’.

In Israel, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said there was no reason to blame the Mossad for the killings, but added that it was Israel’s policy never to comment on such matters. Meanwhile, Israeli media report that Mossad head Meir Dagan was not planning to resign over the matter.

Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was suspected for being involved in the 1989 abduction and murder of two Israeli soldiers, along with several other attacks against Israel.


The preceding provided by The World Jewish Congress

ADL opposes boycott calls against UC Irvine

February 18, 2010 3 comments

NEW YORK, NY, (Press Release)– Calling academic boycotts “inappropriate, harmful and counterproductive,” the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today voiced opposition to calls by some in the Jewish community to boycott the University of California at Irvine in response to anti-Israel activity on campus.

“We are deeply disturbed by some in the Jewish community who have responded to the University of California Irvine’s handling of anti-Israel activity on campus by encouraging Jewish students and donors to boycott the university,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “We are surprised that those who call for a boycott fail to recognize that it is a double-edged sword that legitimizes a tactic so often used against Jews and Israel, particularly in academic settings. We believe academic boycotts are inappropriate, harmful and counterproductive, and will not work to resolve the situation on campus.”

In a letter to Dr. Michael V. Drake, Chancellor of UC-Irvine, the League called on the university to step up efforts to deal with the problems of anti-Semitic intimidation and speakers on campus.

 “We believe your commitment to maintaining a safe, respectful atmosphere free from intimidation and harassment at UCI is sincere,” wrote Mr. Foxman. “However, as the disruptions of last week’s address by the Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren made clear, your efforts to maintain civility have not succeeded.”

 ADL thanked the chancellor for his “swift, clear and appropriate” response to the disruptions of Ambassador Oren’s speech, which led to the arrests of 11 individuals, and urged him to condemn hateful expressions on campus in the future.

The League also urged the chancellor to make public the findings of a university investigation into allegations that one speaker invited to UCI by the Muslim Student Union last year, British M.P. George Galloway, may have violated the material support provisions of federal anti-terrorism legislation by raising money for the terrorist group Hamas.
Editors Note: The League’s Web site documents anti-Semitic activity and speakers at UCI over the years, including background on the Muslim Student Union, which has been responsible for much of the activity. ADL’s “Anti-Israel Activity on Campus: 2009 in Review,” provides background on recent anti-Israel activity in the university setting.


The preceding provided by the Anti-Defamation League

10,000 youths to honor Holocaust survivors at Auschwitz

February 18, 2010 Leave a comment

JERUSALEM (Press Release) The International March of the Living today announced its annual gathering at Auschwitz will commemorate the 65th anniversary of the infamous death camp’s liberation with a special theme entitled “Lamrot Hakol: Tribute to the Survivor.”  The event will take place on Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 12th, 2010, with over 10,000 youths participating from around the world.  The March of the Living is welcoming nominations of survivors from around the world who have demonstrated a “profound impact on the world” who will be honored at the event.  Nominations are being accepted by sending a relevant application letter to

This year’s program will call attention to survivors of the Nazi period from different professional and social fields to emphasize how the Jewish community has succeeded in rebuilding a new world out of the ashes of the Holocaust.  An international nominating committee has been formed to identify six survivors whose life time accomplishments attained incredible heights in government, business, religion and culture or academia. It was announced that the first survivor to be recognized will be Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, former Israel Chief Rabbi and present Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv who has served “as a beacon of spirituality and leadership on behalf of the survivor community and the Jewish people everywhere.”

“The survivor has been our most important educational link to understand the unspeakable depth of Nazi evil and the unimaginable tragedy of the Holocaust,” said Dr. David Machlis, Vice Chairman of the International March of the Living.  “Yet beyond what these people experienced during the war, their accomplishments after the war years are no less extraordinary and they deserve to be recognized as the true heroes that they are.”

Since the March of the Living was launched in 1988, hundreds of Holocaust survivors have been part of the annual missions to Poland and Israel to educate youth about the history of that period and the continuing dangers posed by hatred and intolerance.  “We know that we face a desperate race against time to ensure that these survivors receive some small share of the recognition they so deserve and this event is designed to offer a compelling public salute to this invaluable community of leaders and educators,” Phyllis Heideman, Chair of the International March of the Living said. “Without them, the world would have never really understood the true scope of the horror of Nazism.”

The program will be entitled “Lamrot Hakol” in Hebrew (Despite It All) and will highlight the achievements of six extraordinary survivors whose lives had a profoundly positive impact on the world.  “Every survivor has taught the world a lesson just by the fact that he or she remained alive to tell their stories,” stated Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, Chairman of International March of the Living.  “But these six people have stood out because had they perished at Hitler planned, the world would be a very different, lesser place.”

The International March of the Living is working with Jewish communal leaders around the globe to identify the “Lamrot Hakol Fellows” who will be accompanied by family and friends to the program in April.  “The world is left with so few opportunities to give thanks to the survivors that it would be a huge disservice to miss out on this occasion to do so,” Dr. Rosenman added.

For more information, interviews or to suggest a nominee for consideration please contact 


Preceding provided by Jeremy Wimpfheimer for the International March of the Living.

Since 1988, the March of the Living has brought over 120,000 students to Poland to participate in educational missions aimed at better understanding the horrors of the Holocaust.  Attracting the participation of youth from over 40 nations around the world, the organization has been recognized as an international leader in furthering Holocaust education. The program works to ensure that the lessons gained while on the March are then channeled towards strongly combating acts of anti-Semitism and intolerance and promoting a heightened sense of communal responsibility and Jewish identity.

Hamas murder: did we or didn’t we

February 18, 2010 2 comments


By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–The speculation appears widely in the international press. We have seen the films from security cameras placed throughout Dubai, and blow-ups of facial shots of 11 of 17 agents said to be involved in the murder of Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. We have also seen photos of three British immigrants to Israel whose identities may have been stolen. They look passably similar to three of the operatives identified with the deed. The immigrants claim they never left Israel and that they have not lost their British passports.

Israeli officials have neither affirmed nor denied involvement in the assassination.

The British Foreign Office has expressed concern that its passports were compromised. It called in the Israeli ambassador for clarification. The ambassador said he had nothing to provide the British, and that diplomatic conversations are confidential. The British Foreign Minister asserted that he was serious, and not just going through the motions. Which may mean that he is going through the motions.

Critics claim it was a botched job, with the operatives caught by the cameras. Perhaps it was too amateurish to have been done by the Mossad. Yet this is difficult work. There is a long record of failed attempts, including exploding cigars supplied by the CIA that did not kill Fidel Castro, and an innocent waiter in Norway killed by Israelis who thought he had been involved in the murder of the Olympic team in Munich. Dubai may have more closed circuit TV cameras per square kilometer than any other place on earth. Being photographed is inevitable. The operatives knew it, and changed disguises several times. Dubai may have other traits that attract this kind of work. The team got in and out without being stopped, and the target is dead.

al-Mabhouh deserved a place on Israel’s list. The Dubai police chief said he was 99 percent sure that the Mossad was responsible, but there are some odd indications that complicate the story, or at least make it interesting. Jordan has extradited two Palestinians to Dubai, who used forged European passports to reach Jordan after the murder. Syria has arrested a Palestinian identified as a member, or defector from Hamas, also suspected of being involved. Fatah and Hamas are trading accusations, with each saying that the other cooperated with the Israelis.

The costs to Israel, if indeed it was responsible:
• The operatives may have burned themselves with respect to international operations. They will retire to something duller, or remain in the organization training others to do similar work at least as well.
• Something is owed to the immigrants whose identities were stolen. It is not beyond imagining that they agreed to the theft (perhaps for the good of Zion) and are playing the role of offended individuals. They might not be able to travel internationally without being picked up on a Dubai warrant. One said that he would like to visit Mom, but he does not dare. Israel might get Dubai to wave its international arrest order in the interest of the war against terrorism. A number of Arab countries have expressed concern, not always in public, for Islamic extremism, and on this occasion they may have done more than speak quietly. The blaming of Israel by Dubai, Britain, and other countries whose passports were forged may be nothing more than a slap at a credible target. Israel is familiar with blame. Add this to the file that also includes the Goldstone report.
• It is not unusual for individuals to change their names when coming to Israel. Israel may provide these immigrants with new identities and passports, and maybe something else for their trouble.
• Hamas is threatening to retaliate in kind, saying that its targets will be quality, and not ordinary Israelis. This is the nth threat of retaliation from Hamas, and together with numerous outstanding threats from Hizbollah and other Palestinian groups may not add much incrementally to concern for the safety of Israeli individuals and institutions, both at home and overseas. Overseas Jewish institutions may also take note, but they, too, have been threatened and cautioned on numerous occasions.

In case you haven’t noticed, this is an interesting little country.

The tragedy of Mordechai Elon

February 18, 2010 2 comments


By Rabbi Dow Marmur

JERUSALEM–The publication in 1957 in the UK of the Wolfenden Report on “homosexual offences and prostitution” opened up in Britain the hitherto taboo subject of homosexuality. It was followed by a decade-long debate that culminated in the Sexual Offences Act of 1967.

Soon after I was ordained in 1962, the Assembly of Rabbis of the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain of which I had become a member decided to publish a response of its own. I was asked to draft it. In preparation I went to see my Rabbinics teacher at the Leo Baeck College where I had studied to seek help with sources. He told me more or less not to waste my time because homosexuality doesn’t exist in Judaism.

Most Jewish religious movements now find such denial totally unacceptable. But many Orthodox circles still naively believe that the behaviorism that Jewish law imposes can “save” individuals from practicing homosexuality if they marry early and learn to live with their propensity without in any way being sexually involved with members of the same sex. Each time that myth is exploded, they’re devastated.

That’s behind the current upheaval in Israeli non-haredi Orthodoxy. One of its shining stars, Rabbi Mordechai Elon– at one time the head of a very important yeshiva, a media personality, a scion of one of Israel’s most distinguished families, and of course “charismatic”– has been accused by a committee in his movement, entrusted with the task of dealing with such matters, of homosexual behavior with young men in his care.

Despite the not unexpected preoccupation by the Israeli media with the story, the actual circumstances are still unclear. What seems certain, however, is that a few years ago Rabbi Elon was “advised” to leave the leadership of the yeshiva and his public activities and to move from Jerusalem. He was probably also “advised” not to teach young men, perhaps not to teach at all. The official reason for the move was cited as health problems, which indeed he did have.
The committee has now gone public because, it seems, Elon has broken the agreement. After it reached the media, television cameras showed him surrounded by many young men sitting around a study table. They expressed support for him and were dismayed at the news. There was much hugging and weeping.

The reason for going public may have been the need to chastise the rabbi but it may also have arisen out of fear that the committee, indeed the whole rabbinic establishment, may be accused of collusion, in the way bishops in many countries had been accused of turning a blind eye and re-assigning offending clergy. For there’s now a vocal feminist Orthodox lobby in the land which tries to make sure that the men are prevented from white-washing offenders and sweeping criminal acts under the carpet.

The only good news out of all this is that perhaps even Orthodox authorities will now have to face reality and be inhibited in accusing Reform and Conservative Jews as renegades when, being good and caring Jews, they reach out to gays and lesbians.

The bad news is, of course, that this is a personal tragedy of a man for whom neither Torah erudition nor commitment to its teachings as he understood them were sufficient to deal with the way God had made him and which God’s self-appointed interpreters, perhaps even he himself,  try to deny and suppress.     

If I have given the false impression that in expressing sympathy for homosexuals I’m condoning pedophilia,  that was not my intention. Nor is it clear that the committee that took Elon to task had pedophilia in mind. My point is that by suppressing the whole issue, Jewish Orthodoxy, like all religious hierarchies, gets itself into difficulties which it covers up in different ways. One of them is to point accusing fingers at the non-Orthodox.

 It seems that one of Rabbi Elon’s specialties was to help young men overcome their attraction to people of the same sex. I believe he fought valiantly against his own propensity and, apparently, lost.

Rabbi Marmur is spiritual leader emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto.  He now divides his time between Canada and Israel