Archive for June 23, 2010

In France, thousands call for release of kidnapped Israeli soldier

June 23, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–At a rally in Paris, up to 10,000 people called for the release of Israeli soldier Gild Shalit, held captive in the Gaza Strip by Hamas since June 2006. Several Jewish organizations and France’s Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim had called a rally in support for Shalit, who is also a French citizen, at a square in central Paris. The protestors held up banners reading “Freedom for Gilad Shalit”, “Hamas are terrorist Iran accomplices” and “Defending Israel is defending democracy”.

The protest was organized by the umbrella organization of French Jews, CRIF. Speakers on stage condemned Hamas and urged the release of Shalit, 23, who was captured on 25 June 2006 by Hamas and two smaller armed groups in a deadly cross-border raid. He is believed to be held in a secret location in the Gaza Strip. Speaking at the event, CRIF President Richard Prasquier said: “We urge the French government, which supported the easing of the Gaza blockade, to call for Gilad’s release. De-legitimizing Israel is de-legitimizing part of who we are, and we won’t support that.”

Politicians from across the political spectrum spoke at the event. One of them, Paris Deputy Mayor Anne Hidalgo, said that City Council had decided to grant Shalit honorary citizenship of the city. “This is a symbolic act that will raise awareness and bring results on the ground,” she said.

The rally was also attended by representatives of France’s black citizen federation, Armenian friends of Israel, and about 500 pro-Israel Christians. Other demonstrations took place in cities across the country. In the southern city of Nice, some 340 people took part in a rally, according to police.

Meanwhile, Hamas has denied repeated requests by the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the kidnapped IDF soldier in Gaza. “One of our main achievements is that we have been able to visit nearly everyone detained in connection to this conflict, with the exception of Gilad Shalit,” Pierre Dorbes, deputy head of the ICRC in Israel and the Occupied Territories, told ‘Haaretz’, adding that he felt talks to free Shalit are deadlocked.


Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Children’s song endorsing martyrdom gaining popularity in Arab world

June 23, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–A music video, available on the internet platform ‘YouTube’, with a song sung by a children’s choir endorsing martyrdom in the fight against Israel, is becoming increasingly popular in the Arab world. The children sing: “When we die as martyrs, we will go to heaven” and “Without Palestine, what does childhood mean?” The choir is reportedly becoming one of the most popular children’s groups in the Arab world.

The songs are broadcast over the ‘Birds of Paradise’ TV channel that began operating in the Gulf emirate of Bahrain in January 2008. It was established by the Jordanian-Palestinian businessman Khaled Maqdad, who formed the children’s band in 1994. He has since raised funds to set up the TV station, which specializes in broadcasting the band’s clips. In addition to the children’s songs, there are also an abundance of love songs to the homeland and songs praising “heroes like Ahmad Yassin,” the wheelchair bound founder of Hamas whom Israel killed in March 2004.

“This is a private low-budget project,” Maqdad said in a past interview with the Arab newspaper ‘Al-Shuruq’. “The channel has captured the hearts of millions of children. It succeeds where the educational system has failed, such as multiplication table songs. It helps teachers work on it with the children.”


Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Police to patrol in Amsterdam disguised as religious Jews

June 23, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–The acting mayor of the Dutch capital Amsterdam, Lodewijk Asscher, has reportedly decided to deploy undercover police officers disguised as religious Jews on the streets in order to identify violent anti-Semites. “Jews in at least six Amsterdam neighborhoods often cannot cross the street wearing a skullcap without being insulted, spat at or even attacked,” the British newspaper ‘Daily Telegraph’ quotes Dutch media as reporting. Amsterdam police already disguise officers as decoy prostitutes, gay and old people in operations to deter street muggings and attacks on homosexuals or the city’s red light district.

Secret television recordings by the Jewish broadcasting company ‘Joodse Omroep’, broadcast over the weekend showed young men shouting and making Nazi salutes at a rabbi when he visited different areas of the Dutch capital.

The idea of using police officers in disguise was floated by a Muslim parliamentarian. The Israeli newspaper ‘Haaretz’ quotes Ahmed Marcouch, a Moroccan-born Social Democratic member of parliament who immigrated to the Netherlands at the age  of ten, as saying: “I say, send fake Jews to arrest the attackers. Everything must be done to keep this phenomenon from growing. It seems like small incidents, but this is serious.”


Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Ebay cancels ‘sale’ of Yiddishe Momma in UK

June 23, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–The online auction house Ebay has removed an advert for a ‘Yiddishe Momma’ from its website for being in breach of its “human body parts and remains policy”, the British weekly ‘Jewish Chronicle’ reports. James Doyan, a management consultant, decided to auction his mother, Sandi Firth from Leeds, on Ebay after “having enough of her exploits in trying to find love”.

He placed an ad for the 63-year-old with the title: “My Yiddishe Momma for sale. Beautiful, great cook, educated, articulate, family focused, caring – priceless”.

On Monday, eBay had pulled the page with the explanation that it does not allow “live or dead people or human body parts” to be listed. Prohibited body parts include organs, bones and blood but human hair is allowed. It also said Doyan may be required to take a tutorial before being allowed to sell again.

According to Doyan, about 400 people had looked at the site and the highest bid placed was at GBP 1.60 (US$ 2.36). “I thought it was hilarious that they thought I was trying to traffic my mother,” he said. “I could have put her on eBay and offered the bidder a locket of hair because that’s the only thing you can sell. I’m done with it now. It’s taken up so much of my time. I got quite a few emails, some were perverted but others had lovely messages,” Doyan was quoted by the ‘Jewish Chronicle’ as saying.

StandWithUs calls for June 25 as day of solidarity with Gilad Shalit

June 23, 2010 Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES (Press Release)– Friday, June 25, marks four long years since Staff Sergeant Gilad Shalit was abducted by seven Hamas terrorists who entered Israel from a tunnel under the Israel-Gaza border and ambushed an Israeli tank from behind. They launched a rocket-propelled grenade at the vehicle and killed two Israeli soldiers, Staff Sergeant Pavel Slutzker and Lieutenant Hanan Barak. Five other soldiers, including Gilad Shalit, were wounded.
That day, less than a year after he began his military service, Gilad was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists and taken to the Gaza Strip, where he has remained captive ever since. Gilad was 19 years old at the time of his abduction. An Israeli and French citizen, he is a quiet person who loves math and sports. Gilad enjoyed following different sports leagues and tournaments all over the world. If one wanted to know the results of a competition in any country—Gilad knew the answer. If Gilad were safe at home with his family in Israel today, he would have undoubtedly been following every game of the 2010 soccer World Cup. Instead, he waits at the mercy of his terrorist captors in an undisclosed location in the Gaza Strip.
Gilad always volunteered to help everyone around him. Now he is cared for by no one, because no one is allowed to see him. For four years, Hamas has denied Gilad even one visit by a humanitarian group, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to provide him with proper medical attention. This is in violation of the Third Geneva Convention.
Gilad’s father, Noam, asked flotilla passengers bringing what they claimed to be “humanitarian aid” to Gaza if they could bring his son one letter and one small package. The answer was no. 
In March 2010, Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo, the ICRC’s head of operations for the Middle East and North Africa, admitted that “from the very beginning…we have repeatedly urged those holding him to treat him humanely and to allow him to exchange news with his family. We have emphasized that they have an obligation to do so under international humanitarian law…On more than one occasion, we have publicly demanded that Hamas allow us to visit Mr. Shalit in order to independently assess his condition. None of our appeals has been heard so far.” Hamas has also rejected the ICRC’s discreet, behind-the-scenes requests to visit Gilad Shalit.
On Friday, June 25, Gilad will have been held hostage for  EXACTLY FOUR YEARS, 1,461 DAYS, by a fanatic terrorist group dedicated to annihilating the state of Israel and the Jewish people. His treatment is inhumane and tragic, and we are left to wonder: Why does the world accept this kind of treatment? Where is the support for his release?
What we are asking for is simple:
One conversation.
One doctor.
One visit by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
And, if possible, one hug, on behalf of his brothers and sisters in Israel and those in the United States and from around the world who want to let him know that we have not forgotten his plight and that we stand with him.

Please send a letter to the International Committee of the Red Cross; Amnesty International; and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to urge them to demand the release of Gilad Shalit and, at the very least, demand that Hamas allow Gilad Shalit to receive proper medical attention and contact from his family in Israel.  
Preceding provided by StandWithUs

U.S. State Department designates Chechen rebel Umarov as a terrorist

June 23, 2010 Leave a comment
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 23 (Press Release)–The Secretary of State has designated Caucasus Emirates leader Doku Umarov under Presidential Executive Order 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. This action will help stem the flow of financial and other assistance to Umarov.

The emergence of Umarov as the leader of the Chechen insurgency intensified the split between national separatists and radical jihadists and led to a movement seeking to create an Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus with Umarov as the Emir. Umarov claimed responsibility for masterminding attacks in both Russia and the Caucasus region, most recently acknowledging involvement in the 2009 Nevsky Express train derailment which killed 28 people, and the 2010 Moscow subway bombings, which killed 40.

“The designation of Umarov is in direct response to the threats posed to United States and Russia,” said Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, the Department of State’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism. “The recent attacks perpetrated by Umarov and his operatives illustrate the global nature of the terrorist problem we face today. We stand in solidarity with the Russian people in our condemnation of these deplorable terrorist acts.”

This designation represents just one phase of the United States Government’s response to the threat posed by Doku Umarov. The action taken today against Umarov supports the U.S. effort to degrade Umarov’s ability to exert operational and leadership control over Caucasus Emirates. We are determined to eliminate the group’s ability to direct violent attacks and to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Umarov’s network.

Preceding provided by the U.S. State Department

JINSA applauds Supreme Court decision on preventing aid to terrorists

June 23, 2010 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release) – The Jewish Institute for National Security  Affairs (JINSA) applauds the decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the law that prohibits Americans from providing “material support” to groups designated by the State Department as “foreign terrorist organizations.”

The case, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (HLP), was decided in a 6-3
decision on Monday. JINSA had participated in an amicus brief in  cooperation with the Washington Legal Foundation. Also signing onto the  brief were four retired flag officers and two other organizations, the  National Defense Committee and the Allied Educational Foundation.

The court agreed with the brief and upheld the existing law, which has  its roots in the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of  1996 (AEDPA) and is further expressed in the USA Patriot Act. The  decision was a victory for the signers of the amicus and the American  people. The case, which challenged the constitutionality of the  aforementioned federal law that makes it a crime to provide “material  support” to a group that has been designated as a “foreign terrorist
organization” by the State Department, was brought by the Humanitarian
Law Project and several of its individual supporters.

JINSA Executive Director Tom Neumann said, “The current ban on providing
aid to designated terrorist groups is a cornerstone of U.S. efforts to  defeat terrorist groups and a force for changing the policies of those  states that harbor and support them. The HLP contention that aid to  terrorist organizations could be designated for humanitarian or  political purposes is specious since all moneys are fungible.” The court rejected that argument as well as the argument that the right to support
terrorist is a first amendment right.

The Court’s decision reaffirms the illegality of the HLP’s stated  efforts to provide aid to the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) and the  LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), both designated by the State  Department as foreign terrorist entities.

Neumann noted that groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah are also denied
financial support from the United States by the law. “Had the Court  struck down the law, undeniably America would be less safe. We are  gratified that the Supreme Court of the United States recognized the  imperative need to safeguard American lives.”

Preceding provided by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs

AJCongress criticizes UNRWA Commissioner-General for one-sided assessment of Gaza situation

June 23, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press Release)–Accusing him of departing from his role as a neutral civil servant of the international community, AJCongress today criticized UNRWA Commissioner-General Fillipo Grandi for his failure to acknowledge that Israel has legitimate security reasons to restrict the flow of goods and people in Gaza and the West Bank.

In an address to UNRWA’s Advisory Committee, Commissioner-General Grandi insisted that only a total lifting of Israel’s ban on “the free, two-way flow of people, commercial and humanitarian goods” into Gaza and between Gaza and the West Bank would suffice. Nowhere in Mr. Grandi’s lengthy remarks was there any acknowledgement that Israel had valid security concerns which would be undercut by such a policy.

In a letter to Mr. Grandi, AJCongress wrote: “In the course of criticizing Israel’s agreement to loosen its embargo on Gaza as insufficient, you call for ‘nothing short of the free, two-way flow of people, commercial and humanitarian goods’ and note that ‘nothing less will restore the trust [of Palestinians] in the international community.’ Not a word about Israel’s legitimate security concerns—which Quartet spokesman Tony Blair and many others continue to insist remain valid. Do you really believe that allowing Hamas fighters to cross from Gaza to the West Bank or Iran to arm Hamas and other violent factions in Gaza through open borders is a contribution to peace, let alone consistent with Israeli’s security concerns? United Nations officials ignoring Israel’s security concerns surely do nothing for Israel’s “trust in the international community.” (Click here to read full letter)

AJCongress asked the UNRWA head to “set the formal record straight,” acknowledging that Israel’s valid security concerns may result in restrictions on Palestinian civilians.

Preceding provided by American Jewish Congress

Holocaust anthology provides insight for readers, therapy for writers

June 23, 2010 Leave a comment

 Marking Humanity: Stories, Poems & Essays by Holocaust Survivors, Toronto,, 2010, 312 pages, ISBN 978-0-9864770-0-3.

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO –Canadian journalist Shlomit Kriger has brought together the reflections, stories and poems of nearly 50 Holocaust Survivors in an anthology that covers many aspects—and emotions—of the Shoah.  Marking Humanity could serve as an excellent secondary textbook in either a college class or in an advanced high school history class.

I suspect the reason that I received this volume for review is that an excerpt from a book written by Garry Fabian, Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World, is included in this work.  Fabian had been one of approximately 150 children to survive Theresienstadt at the end of World War II, with an estimated 150,000 juveniles having been through that so-called “model” ghetto before being transferred to the death camps.  He went on to become chairman of the very active B’nai B’rith in the Australian state of Victoria.

Fabian makes a point about memoirs that “outlines become blurred, facts recede into the distance and it is difficult to recall events with any degree of accuracy.”  Nevertheless, he says, it’s important to set down an account as accurately as possible so that future generations can “know about the events that took place during a time of global upheaval, on a scale never before witnessed in human history.”

One should recall Fabian’s caveat when reading the various memoirs. An event may have occurred in a plaza that a writer remembers as having been at a train station.  Another event that someone might have associated with Passover really might have occurred around Shavuot.  When movie producer/ director Steven Spielberg agreed to finance the filming of thousands of interviews of Holocaust survivors, these kinds of little inaccuracies were anticipated.  The thought was that from many interviews with Survivors, events down to the level of towns and neighborhoods, can be cross referenced and a consensus developed.

More so than to the familiar accounts of Nazi Germany’s mechanized program to destroy our people, I found myself drawn to those works in the book that spoke to the adjustments that Survivors made to life after their liberation.

“The Brownshirts Are Coming” by Fred M.B. Amram is an electrifying nightmare story melding the experiences of living in a post-war, roach-filled tenement with the experiences of being hustled by Nazi soldiers from his home and onto trucks.  

“The Table” by Louise Lawrence-Israels recounts the pleasure the author felt obtaining the dining room table around which her parents had so often hosted Shabbat dinners before the Holocaust.   Being able to serve her own Shabbat dinners at the same table—to have a family dining together again in a Jewish context—was a source of great comfort to her. 

“The Invitation” by Pete Philipps is a hopeful story of a Jewish family and a German family bridging their memories and forming a friendship. 

“A Headstone in the Air” by Manya Friedman tells the writer’s feelings when seeing in Georgia a headstone under which had been transported a third of the ashes of the remains of Jews of Alem, Hanover.   Her own family had gone up in smoke in a crematorium.  Unlike the families of those people whose ashes were now in Georgia, their only cemetery was in the air.

“Belonging” by Susan Warsinger told of the time because of her advanced pregnancy she decided to take the elevator, instead of going up the stairs, at the Executive Office Building in Washington.  To her surprise—and that of his guards—inside was  President Harry Truman, who greeted her in friendly fashion and wished her good luck with her baby.  After coming through the Holocaust when she and her fellow Jews were treated as non-humans, having the President himself treat her so nicely convinced her she had found a home in America.

“Memories for Our Hearts: Farewell Thoughts on the Occasion of Joe Brenig’s Death” by Gunther B. Katz is the kind of story of faith that our columnist colleague, Rabbi Baruch Lederman of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego, so enjoys retelling in his column:   Two survivors met and started talking. One told the other he had been saved by a French organization that placed children in the homes of Christians.  The last time he saw his father, he recalled, was when his father was putting him on a bus.  The father momentarily held his son back, held his hands over his head, and gave him a blessing.  This so affected the guard that he momentarily left his post to weep against a wall.   “That was you!” said the other man excitedly.   He explained that when the guard turned away, he himself had sneaked onto the bus—and to life!

These stories, and the others,  all have intrinsic value. In addition, Kriger who combines her journalistic enterprises with social work, instructs that they also have a therapeutic value for the writers.  Even as she has brought together homeless people in a writing project portraying their inner and outer worlds, so too has Kriger by means of this volume provided our Survivors with an opportunity  to “achieve some level of release and healing through the creative process.”

I congratulate editor Kriger, my colleague Garry Fabian, and all the others who participated in this worthwhile project.  I’m pleased to relay the promise that some proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to Holocaust museums

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World

African American describes her journey into Orthodox Judaism

June 23, 2010 1 comment

The Journey to the Land of My Soul by Ahuvah Gray. Duelkus Press, 2010, 251pages.

By David Strom

David Strom

SAN DIEGO — Ahuvah Gray is an African American woman who converted to Judaism, Orthodox Judaism. She did not convert to Judaism to marry someone Jewish as some do today. No, she became Jewish in her own words, to be completed; to be made whole.
|Delores (Ahuvah) Gray was born in Chicago. She was the granddaughter of sharecroppers from Mississippi. Her grandparents were deeply religious Christians, well known in the community. Her paternal grandparents lived in a town where the “entire municipality, hospitals, schools, police and fire apartments, town hall, houses of worship, and businesses were all owned and operated by Blacks.”

Ahuvah experienced great love and respect in the Gray home. More importantly, she “was always in awe of my Grandparents’ spirituality.” Her grandmother’s main teaching to her children and grandchildren “…was about obedience to God. Her close relationship with Him grew and flourished, nourished by her prayers and complete trust in her Creator.”

Ahuvah started college but did not graduate. She went off to the world of work. Ahuvah traveled as a flight attendant for Continental Airlines. Eventually she trained other flight attendants and headed a divisional office for the airline. As Ahuvah grew older she maintained her spirituality and love of prayer. She became dedicated to her place of worship, King David House of Worship in Chicago. Ahuvah was spiritually inquisitive. When she wanted to clarify or verify her Christian beliefs and ideologies, she would go to the “Tanach as an authoritative cross-reference.”

She understood that Christianity grew out of Judaism. She wanted to know how her “spiritual ancestors prayed, how they worshiped, and how they lived.”

A friend of Ahuvah knew that she was seeking more. She introduced Ahuvah to the spiritual leader, Dr. Charles C. Queen, of the Strait-Way Church. He taught the Jewish Bible in Hebrew. This captivated Ahuvah and seemed to satisfy her spiritual longings. Studying Hebrew and celebrating a Passover Seder with Pastor Queen and his congregation drew Ahuvah closer to Judaism.
After retiring from her Continental Airline position, Ahuvah opened a travel agency targeting African-American travelers who wanted to travel to Egypt, Israel and Greece. The first time Ahuvah voyaged to Israel, she felt at home. Within her heart she felt at peace and contented. Ahuvah felt spiritually closer to God there than anywhere else she had lived!

Over the next few years Ahuvah traveled 14 times to Israel. She led tours during Passover, meeting people, and getting a feeling for the land and its people. Eventually, after serving as a Christian minister for thirteen years, Ahuvah felt the need to become a Jew. Many who worked with her and were friends with her wondered what took her so long. They knew that her life force had been heading in this direction for many years, even though she had not made a definitive decision to convert.
The difficult decision to become a Jew was made easier by her family when her mother and father accepted her pronouncement as the will of God. They were happy that she had found a place where she could be spiritually at peace. Her siblings also supported her choice.

In May of 1993, Ahuvah went to Shavuot service in the United States. Shavuot celebrates the receiving of the Ten Commandments and Torah at Sinai. Ahuvah told her friend, “I was at Sinai when the Law was given.” She now understood her “…identification with the Law of Moses and the Jewish people…the missing link.” She understood finally the feeling of peace she felt that first time at Sinai.

Prayer and fasting have been an important part of Ahuvah’s life. Living among the “Black Hatters” in Jerusalem has helped her understand her Judaism more deeply.  Her many friends invited her to Shabbat cholent meals at celebrations where the entire religious community had warmly accepted this devoted African-American Orthodox Jewish woman into their hearts.

The Journey to the Land of My Soul is Ahuvah Gray’s description of her spiritual journey from Christianity to Judaism via Chicago to Los Angeles and finally, reaching its final destination in the holy city of Jerusalem. Because of its uniqueness, her story is worth reading. A fault can be found in the book in that it is too long and repetitious. Paring the story down by a half would help make this a more readable book by giving the reader the essence of the story without so much detail. However, the essence of Ahuvah Gray’s story of her journey into Judaism is worthwhile and enlightening to readers as to the beliefs, practices and sense of community that attract a convert to the Jewish faith.

Strom is professor emeritus of education at San Diego State University