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‘The Libyan flag is flying in Englewood’

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Libya’s ambassador to the United Nations, Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, recently moved into this Palisade Avenue mansion in Englewood. Josh Lipowsky

Libya’s ambassador to the United Nations, Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, has moved, at least temporarily, to an Englewood mansion owned by the Arab country.

The move drew criticism from the city’s mayor, as well as from the Libyan’s neighbor, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

“The Libyan flag is flying in Englewood and I am not happy about this, nor is the rabbi who lives next door,” Mayor Michael Wildes told The Jewish Standard.

Shalgham’s New York residence is undergoing renovations. Boteach, a columnist for this paper, led a protest this summer when Libyan leader Col. Muammar Kaddafi was reportedly planning to stay at the house during the opening session of the United Nations. He filed a suit against Libya for damage allegedly caused by the renovations.

The Libyan mission in New York did not respond to the Standard’s requests for comments.

“The placement of the Libyan mission as the next door neighbor of a rabbi as well as a Jewish day school [The Moriah School] is unconscionable and must be vociferously opposed by our elected leaders,” Boteach told the Standard. “I am gravely disappointed that the city of Englewood is allowing the Libyan mission to refuse payment of a single tax dollar over 25 years, even as it enjoys all the resources of our city, including heightened security and protection that is being funded by law abiding New Jersey residents.”

Libya has owned the property since 1982, and Boteach was aware of this when he moved next door in 1999. When he moved in, Boteach said, the mansion was in disrepair and empty.

“It was a derelict property,” he said. “It was completely overgrown. It was a communal eyesore. It sprung to life only when Kaddafi had no place to stay in New York. That’s when they invested so much money into it.”

Boteach argued that the residence’s zoning is at the heart of the dispute. The rabbi said city officials told him that they could not stop the ambassador from moving in because the house is zoned as a single-family residence. On the other hand, he continued, the Libyan mission has not paid any property taxes because of diplomatic immunity.

“The two are, of course, contradictory,” Boteach said. “Is the house zoned as a mission? If it’s zoned as a mission, then how could a family live there? And if it’s zoned as a single-family residence, then why aren’t they paying taxes?”

In a July 2 notice in the Federal Register, Jacob J. Lew, deputy secretary of state for management and resources in the Department of State, wrote, “I hereby designate exemption from real property taxes on property owned by foreign governments and used to house staff of permanent missions to the United Nations or the Organization of American States or of consular posts as a benefit for purposes of the Foreign Missions Act.”

The notice went on to cite a 1986 regulation that exempted property owned by diplomatic missions and used to house staffs of those missions from general property taxes.

A 1983 agreement between the United States and Libya limits use of the Englewood property to the Libyan ambassador and his family. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) said the Libyan and American governments acknowledged that agreement when Kaddafi decided not to stay in New Jersey. The amount of time the ambassador may spend at the property is unclear under the agreement, according to Rothman, who was mayor of Englewood at the time it was drafted, but he is permitted to stay there.

“The George W. Bush administration re-established diplomatic relations with the Libyan government and removed Libya from the list of state sponsors of terrorism,” Rothman previously told the Standard when news first broke of the ambassador’s impending stay. “And up until this moment the Englewood police chief has advised me he sees no problem in allowing the ambassador and his wife and children to occupy the residence. And so, I hope everyone will be appropriately good neighbors.”

Wildes has taken issue with the State Department’s reaction to the situation. He believes that despite the security arrangements made, the ambassador’s presence could be dangerous for the city.

“The most disappointing experience out of this whole saga is learning that our State Department is primarily interested in safeguarding their relationship with this rogue state rather than protecting U.S. taxpayers,” he said. “And I expect that Englewood will be facing challenges in the years to come as the true colors of Libya reveal themselves again. History repeats itself and we will be ground zero for everything from criminal mischief to anyone who has a beef with these financiers of terrorism.”

Englewood’s police department increased its patrols around the mansion before the ambassador moved in. Deputy Police Chief Lawrence Suffren said Tuesday that the department has since resumed its normal patrol schedule of the area. There is no concern about anti-Libyan activity in the area, he added.

“At this time there is no reason [for additional patrols],” he said. “Everything moved well with the ambassador moving in, so there is no reason for us to continue our presence at the current time.”

The police reached an agreement with the Libyan mission that it would not have any firearms on the property, addressing one of Boteach’s major concerns. The rabbi, however, found the agreement hard to believe.

“I wonder how the city can even enforce that,” he said. “The city has no leverage over the Libyans. It is for our elected leaders to oppose the existence of a diplomatic mission in a residential community.”

NEW UPDATE:

On Friday, the Libyan mission to the United Nations responded by fax to a request for comment from The Jewish Standard on the reason behind and the length of the ambassador’s stay in Englewood.

His Excellency, the Permanent representative of Libya, is moving to live in a property owned by Libya. It is indeed absurd to ask anyone: Why are you moving to live in your own house? Using this preposterous logic, we can ask you: Why do you live in your own house and for how long?

Best regards

The Permanent Mission Of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

 
 

Changing Englewood’s house of terror into a home of Jewish values

 

Local groups find ways to help Haiti

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Medical supplies are being collected at the Fair Lawn Jewish Center.
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Ramaz students with the “Hearts 4 Haiti” T- shirts. Courtesy of Ramaz

As the need for aid in Haiti persists, local individuals and groups continue to mobilize.

UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey is still accepting donations for The Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund. All monies are sent directly to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. As of Tuesday, the group had raised $123,676. Send donations through the UJA-NNJ Website, www.ujannj.org/Haiti, or by mail.

Teaneck resident and Judaic artist Deborah Ugoretz reports that her studio-mates have organized a fund-raising event entitled Small Works for a Big Cause: Artists Unite to Help Haiti. Organizers are asking people not only to attend the exhibit/sale but, if possible, to contribute a small piece of art. The event will take place on Jan. 31 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at BrassWorks, 105 Grove St. in Montclair. According to Ugoretz, the group seeks 2-D works, no larger than 12” on any side, and works will be sold for a suggested $50 minimum donation. All proceeds will go to Haiti earthquake relief organizations. Those interested in donating their artwork should send an e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Combine the opportunity to raise money for Haiti with Zumba, the Latin-inspired dance fitness phenomenon, at “Zumba for Haiti” at the Bergen County YJCC on Feb. 21 from 12 noon to 1:15 p.m. Minimum donation is $18, payable to UJA-NNJ and designated for its earthquake relief fund. Zumba will be led by Missy Avalo, with guest instructors Shelley Capener and Anna Alon. The YJCC is at 605 Pascack Road, Township of Washington. For more information, call (201) 666-6610, ext. 291.

Northeast Podiatry Group and the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Congregation Bnai Israel are collecting emergency medical supplies for Haiti’s burn and orthopedic trauma victims. Their goal is to fill a tractor-trailer with donations of medical supplies or used orthopedic equipment. The nearest drop-off point is the Jewish Center, at 10-10 Norma Ave. in Fair Lawn. For more information, send an e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or visit www.burnadvocates.org. Donors can also choose to contribute money to help defray shipping and distribution.

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From left, Maria Pineda, Damary Collado, Eve Domercant, and Carlos Sanchez.

Former Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes has asked that those who want to donate material goods to the people of Haiti bring new or gently used clothing and baby supplies in plastic bags to his home at 250 Allison Court in Englewood. Wildes also urges people to contribute to the American Red Cross International Response Fund for Haitian Relief (www.redcross.org).

Twin brothers Seth and Philip Aronson will perform at Hamsa restaurant, 7 West Railroad Ave., in Tenafly on Wednesday, Feb. 3 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is $10 at the door. All proceeds will be donated toward Haitian relief efforts. The duo, dubbed the Aronson Twins, grew up in Tenafly and now live in Closter with their families. In addition to writing and arranging their own songs, they frequently perform in the New York area.

Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), a member of the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, met with the new administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Dr. Rajiv Shah, and Ambassador Craig Kelly, principal deputy assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, to discuss the current situation on the ground in Haiti. Said Rothman, “The international response to this crisis is a promising start, but there is still much more work to be done. USAID has set up a Website at haiti.usaid.gov where the latest information can be found on the situation in Haiti. Also, in order to help family members affected by this tragedy, my offices in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. remain available to help in any way we can at (201) 646-0808 and (202) 225-5061 respectively.”

The Ramaz school in Manhattan reports that the school is collecting money to distribute to both the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the American Jewish World Service. In addition, some classes set aside time to recite tehillim, psalms, on behalf of the victims. The school held a special assembly during which students were educated about the tragedy and suggestions were made as to how students might help. Subsequently, a middle school student produced T-shirts reading “Hearts 4 Haiti” and will donate proceeds from sales to the JDC. An upper school program included the reading of a prayer specially composed by British Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks to mark the tragedy. The school is also organizing relief efforts including food and clothing collections.

Palisades Medical Center staff members helped organize a medical mission and donation of medical supplies that will be delivered to Jimani on the Dominican Republic/Haitian border, to aid the victims of the earthquake. The donation will be brought to Jimani by representatives from Guardians of Healing and the Haitian-American Charitable Alliance, which scheduled medical missions for Jan. 31 through Feb. 7, and later in March. The Palisades Medical Center donation includes splints, bandages, surgical gowns, and other medical supplies and equipment.

 
 

Local congressmen stress concern for Israel

WASHINGTON – Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9), a member of the House Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee, said in a statement on Monday that “[t]he United States and our allies are all monitoring the situation on a minute by minute basis and encourage a peaceful and democratic resolution to the current Egyptian unrest. My heart goes out to all of those who have been killed or injured during the mass demonstrations in the Egyptian streets.

“For the past 30 years,” Rothman pointed out, “as the most populous of the Arab states, with the largest standing army in the region, Egypt has played a critically important role in protecting America’s interests in North Africa and the Middle East. This includes Egypt’s cooperation in military, intelligence, and economic matters with our country and its continuing to preserve the peace with America’s most important friend and strategic ally in the region, the Jewish state of Israel. Egypt has also partnered with the U.S., Israel, and our other allies in fighting terrorism.

“In the end,” he said, “we seek an Egypt that remains a strong ally, working with the U.S. in our common fight against terrorism, living at peace with Israel, and creating an increasingly open society to meet the needs of its young and growing population.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-8) noted, in a statement, that “the demonstrations in Egypt of the past few days clearly indicate that the nation is on the verge of great change. It is my hope that they lead to a peaceful transition towards a democratically elected, transparent, and accountable government that responds to the will of the people. Any new government must continue to uphold Egypt’s commitments to peace and security in the region and with Israel.”

A request for a statement from Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5) was not returned by press time.

Jewish Standard Staff

 
 

Rothman slams incitement, meets with missile defense machers

A congressional letter by Reps. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) and Steve Austria (R-Ohio) went out to President Obama last week urging him to press the Palestinian Authority to end “all … incitement” against Israelis and to return to the negotiating table for peace talks. A similar letter, to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was signed by 27 senators, including Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).Rothman also met last week with the directors of missile defense programs for both the United States and Israel.

Forty-six members of Congress signed on to the Rothman/Austria letter, a draft of which was circulated (and reported on in this newspaper) two weeks ago. The letter cited a report recently released by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, called “Culture of Peace and Incitement Index,” that describes anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian schools and on Palestinian Authority television.

The letter was distributed to two panels that play a key role in Israeli-Palestinian affairs: the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Appropriations foreign operations subcommittee. Large majorities of both groups signed on to the letter.

“I was delighted the majority of the two committees we sought signatures from and who have the primary jurisdiction over U.S. foreign aid and foreign policy in the house signed on to our letter,” Rothman told The Jewish Standard in a telephone interview Tuesday. “Getting the majority of those two committees to sign on to a letter of this type is highly unusual and certainly should get the attention of the Palestinians.”

Regarding the letter, Rep. Austria issued the following statement: “The United States plays a vital role of encouraging direct peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Our letter insists that President Obama urge President Abbas to reenter peace talks, without preconditions, in an effort to accomplish our shared goal: a peaceful and secure Jewish State of Israel.”

Signatories to Rothman and Austria’s letter included an equal number of Democrats and Republicans on the House Appropriations foreign operations subcommittee (five of each) as well as 18 Republicans and 12 Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Some members of Congress considered to be on the liberal side of the Democratic spectrum, such as Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), signed on.

“It’s not a liberal or conservative issue — everyone is against Palestinian incitement,” said an aide familiar with efforts to enlist signatories, adding that Rothman and Austria’s effort pinpointed the two committees “that oversee the policy and money the PA cares about.”

“The majority was composed of both Democrats and Republicans and I was very pleased and proud of that fact but not surprised,” said Rothman. “Level-headed pro-Israel support comes from members of both parties.”

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who also signed on to the letter, shared his assessment with the Standard. “Too often it seems the thrust of everything is blaming Israel for settlements, and I think that’s absurd….If you want peace you don’t perpetuate lies and incitement and that’s what they keep doing.… We need to be firm with the Palestinians about it.”

The senators’ letter, which chronicled anti-Israel incitement on the part of the Palestinian Authority, said, “The Itamar massacre was a sobering reminder that words matter, and that Palestinian incitement against Jews and Israel can lead to violence and terror. We urge you to redouble your efforts to impress upon the Palestinian leadership that continuing to condone incitement is not tolerable. We also urge you to consider focusing adequate training and educational programs in the west bank and Gaza that promote peaceful coexistence with Israel.”

Specific examples of incitement mentioned in the senators’ letter include a March 9 speech by an adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas that called for Palestinian weapons to be turned toward Israel and a Feb. 9 broadcast on the official Palestinian television station extolling Dalal Mughrabi, a woman who along with several other Palestinians perpetrated a coastal highway massacre of Israeli civilians, including children. The letter also mentioned that “in the summer of 2010, several summer camps were named after her.”

Also on the Israel front, Rothman met separately last week with U.S. Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly and with Arieh Herzog, director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, to discuss joint U.S.-Israel defense projects.

“I have worked with these distinguished gentlemen for several years now both individually and jointly,” he told the Standard, “in order to increase levels of funding for Israel-U.S. missile defense projects which should greatly benefit the national security of both the U.S. and the State of Israel.” He added that subjects discussed included “the status of various missile defense projects of each country.”

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U.S. Missile Defense Agency Director Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly and Arieh Herzog, director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, met with Congressman Steve Rothman to discuss anti-missile system development programs. courtesy of Rep. Rothman’s office
 
 
 
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