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Invading London’s Jewish heart

Planned neo-Nazi rally provokes outrage

WorldPublished: 26 June 2015

LONDON — Like many European Jews, Stephen Lever has mostly stopped wearing his kippah on the street in recent years.

A Londoner, Lever said he fears joining the hundreds of Jews accosted annually in his native United Kingdom, often by Muslim or Arab extremists seeking to exact retribution for Israel’s actions. More than 1,000 anti-Semitic attacks were recorded in Great Britain last year. That’s an all-time high, and it’s even more attacks than reported in France, which has roughly double the Jewish population.

The exception, however, is in Golders Green, the heavily Jewish neighborhood in northwest London that is considered the epicenter of British Jewry. Approximately one-fifth of Britain’s 250,000 Jews live in the surrounding northern borough of Barnet.

Along the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare, Golders Green Road, dozens of shops feature signs in Hebrew.

 
 

Orange pulls out

WorldPublished: 12 June 2015

To Israel’s supporters, the decision by the French telecommunications giant Orange to dump its Israeli affiliate is not only a politically motivated divestment by a major multinational corporation, but a sign that European policymakers are being impacted by efforts to boycott the Jewish state.

Citing the French government’s ownership of a quarter of Orange’s shares, European pro-Israel groups said the move reflected the rising influence of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, and France’s growing impatience with Israeli reluctance to make concessions to the Palestinians.

“Orange’s pullout is part of the French government’s attempt to bring Israel to its knees and accept the Pax Europeana,” said Sammy Ghozlan, founder of the National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, which has taken legal action against many BDS promoters.

 
 

A Russian chief rabbi stands by his strongman, Vladimir Putin

WorldPublished: 12 June 2015

MOSCOW — Rabbi Berel Lazar’s mother was eager for grandchildren. So she gave her 25-year-old son an ultimatum: He could return to his beloved Jewish outreach work in Russia if — and only if — he got married.

His yeshiva classmates jokingly said he was already wed, “to the idea of going to Russia,” said Lazar, the son of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries in Milan, Italy.

A few months after his mother put her foot down in 1989, Lazar married his American-born wife, Channa, and the couple settled in Moscow, where they raised 14 children.

An emissary for Chabad, Lazar, 51, would go on to become one of Russia’s two chief rabbis, a major and controversial force in the dramatic revival of Russian Jewry following decades of Communist oppression and mass immigration to Israel, the United States, Germany, and elsewhere.

 
 

Jews in Turkey stay put for now

Who are Turkey’s Jews?

WorldPublished: 05 June 2015

ISTANBUL — For centuries, Turkey served as a safe haven for Jews fleeing anti-Semitism.

The earliest records of Jews in Turkey date back to 220 BCE, but the area saw a major Jewish influx in the early 14th century, when Jews expelled from Hungary, France, Sicily, and elsewhere migrated here. Their positive impact on trade convinced the land’s Ottoman rulers to welcome more Jews.

When Spain and Portugal expelled their Jews during the 15th and 16th centuries, tens of thousands of Sephardic refugees landed on Turkey’s turquoise shores. This displaced elite boosted Ottoman diplomacy, finance, and literature. The Ottoman Empire’s first printing shop was established in 1493 by David and Samuel ibn Nahmias of Spain.

 
 

Jews in Turkey stay put for now

But they are eyeing exit strategies as hostile rhetoric increases

WorldPublished: 05 June 2015

ISTANBUL — In the backyard of the Etz Ahayim synagogue in Turkey’s largest city, congregant Yusuf Arslan hollers pleasantries as he mingles with other members of the small congregation.

He needs to shout to be heard over the deafening sound of a sudden downpour hitting the blast-proof glass ceiling that stretches over the synagogue’s spacious yard. Installed after Istanbul’s deadly 2003 synagogue bombings, the shield is meant to prevent grenades from exploding in the complex should anyone hurl them over its formidable walls and past the guard post, where several armed men stand watch under a Turkish flag.

Arslan, a real estate developer, says the tight security “neither poses a real obstacle for communal life nor differs greatly from other at-risk communities — say in France or Britain.”

 
 

How do you say Limmud in Armenian?

WorldPublished: 05 June 2015

MOSCOW — As soon as she entered the lobby of the Vinogradovo Holiday Inn in Moscow on May 22, Tatiana Pashaeva was sure that she was in her element.

A project manager for Limmud FSU, a nonprofit that organizes Jewish learning events across the former Soviet Union, Pashaeva is used to engaging with large numbers of conference participants, who are struggling to conduct conversations over the noise of their scampering children.

As at every Limmud event, Pashaeva was met with a range of choices presented by a multitrack program whose trademark diversity and high intellectual caliber have helped spread the Limmud format to Jewish communities from Melbourne to Malmo.

But Pashaeva was not at a Limmud conference. She was at Lsaran, a Limmud-inspired spinoff aimed at Moscow’s community of ethnic Armenians. Limmud officials say the Lsaran is the first adaptation of their formula by a non-Jewish community outside of Britain, where Limmud started more than 30 years ago.

 
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Russia jolts Israel with Iran missile deal

‘Silent’ strategy on Ukraine backfires

WorldPublished: 24 April 2015

After Russia invaded Ukraine in March 2014, Israel resisted pressure to join the United States and its European allies in condemning the move, citing in particular its concern not to antagonize Russia for fear it could provide Syria with a powerful anti-aircraft missile called the S-300.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman was eager to mollify the Obama administration’s anger over Israel’s refusal to endorse sanctions on Russia or support a U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s annexation of Crimea, according to an op ed published last year by Israel’s former U.S. ambassador, Itamar Rabinovich, and noted concerns about the possible missile sales in a meeting with U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice.

But if Israeli silence indeed was designed to keep S-300s from its doorstep, then that policy clearly has failed.

 
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Politics, Putin cast shadow over Auschwitz liberation anniversary

WorldPublished: 30 January 2015

PRAGUE — When they announced the ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Polish officials insisted that at this year’s event, “the eyes of the world will be focused” on about 300 Holocaust survivors whose presence Tuesday at the former Nazi death camp near Krakow may be the last gathering of its sort.

The generation of Holocaust survivors, after all, is dying out.

Yet critics are charging that politics and tensions between Russia and its neighbors nonetheless are eclipsing the focus on the survivors, and even muddling the historical record. Many believe that behind the main event, at Auschwitz, was an organized effort to discourage Russian President Vladimir Putin from attending — a reprisal of sorts for Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory last year.

In 2005, during his earlier stint as president, Putin attended the 60th anniversary ceremony. This time, a tentative invitation was extended to the Russian Embassy but not to Putin directly.

 
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Slaughter in Paris

Among some Jews, little faith in French authorities

Cover Story Published: 16 January 2015

PARIS — When he heard that four Jews had died in an attack on a kosher supermarket near his home, 16-year-old Natan Kalifa was overcome with grief, anger, and a feeling of exclusion from French society.

He even contemplated staging an act of violence — possibly against Islamists who support the murders — he recalled on Saturday at a vigil outside Hyper Cacher, the supermarket where a 32-year-old jihadist took 21 people hostage and murdered four of them on Friday, before he was killed by police.

Kalifa’s distress was somewhat diminished after hearing French Prime Minister Manuel Valls reiterate his commitment to French Jews in a speech at the vigil. But Kalifa said he still plans to leave France for Israel as soon as he graduates from high school.

“For France and the Jews who stay here, I hope Valls becomes president,” Kalifa said. “For me, I hope to be gone before the next elections.”

In the wake of an unprecedented spree of terror attacks in France last week that claimed 17 lives, many French Jews expressed appreciation for their government’s resolute stance against anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, they felt the response to be insufficient at a time when anti-Semitic violence is a daily reality that is already driving out record numbers of Jews.

 
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After decades of distance, Japan and Israel establish closer ties

WorldPublished: 09 January 2015

TOKYO — Reading his Japanese-language newspaper over breakfast, Rabbi Mendy Sudakevich spotted an ad for a self-help DVD. The headline was “Get rich like the Jews.”

“Almost anywhere else in the world, such an ad” — published in several widely read Japanese dailies — “would have been deemed anti-Semitic incitement,” noted Sudakevich, an Israel-born Chabad emissary who settled in Tokyo in 2000.

But in Japan, he and others said, it’s something akin to a compliment.

“The takeaway is that Jews, and Israel by extension, should be emulated and embraced,” said Ben-Ami Shillony, a historian and lecturer on the Far East at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

 
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