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News: World

Turkish newspaper tries to save a dying language

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ISTANBUL — Every time she prepares her newspaper for print, Karen Sarhon has her pick from dozens of submissions she receives daily from writers around the world.

This would be a desirable situation for any editor-in-chief. Sarhon says it is nothing short of unbelievable for her monthly, El Amaneser, which is the world’s only newspaper in Ladino — a Jewish-Spanish language teetering on the brink of extinction.

“In the 1970s, Ladino was truly a dying language, but El Amaneser is among the relatively new initiatives giving Ladino a new lease on life,” said Sarhon, a Turkish-Jewish linguist who launched the Ladino publication 10 years ago as part of her work at the Turkish Jewish community’s Ottoman-Turkish Sephardic Culture Research Center.


Ruling on Jerusalem passport limited

Met with relief from pro-Israel community

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WASHINGTON — Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in the Supreme Court decision that will keep “Israel” off the passports of Jerusalem-born Americans, begins by calling Jerusalem a “delicate subject.”

Competing claims to the Holy City were not the only timeworn and sensitive issue the justices contended with in their 6-3 decision on Monday, which upheld the State Department’s policy of not allowing Americans born in Jerusalem to list “Israel” as their birthplace. The Supreme Court in Zivotofsky v. Kerry waded into tensions dating to the founding of the United States over whether the executive or the legislative branch determines foreign policy.

The ruling effectively nullified a law passed by Congress in 2002 requiring the State Department to list “Israel” as a birth country for Jerusalem-born Americans, should the citizens request it. Like its predecessor, the administration of President George W. Bush, the Obama administration said recognition of another nation’s sovereignty over territory was a matter strictly for the executive branch.


Orange pulls out

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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

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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?

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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

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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.”


Where did it go wrong?

Looking at the shattered Obama-Netanyahu relationship

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WASHINGTON — When David Axelrod, then a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, first learned that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly had referred to him and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as “self-hating Jews,” he remembers feeling stung.

“For people to suggest that I would be anti-Israel or worse, anti-Semitic — it hurts,” Axelrod recalled of the 2009 episode.

Robert Wexler, the former Florida congressman who was Obama’s Jewish community liaison in the 2008 and 2012 elections, remembers his own oh-no moment with Netanyahu.

It was in May 2011, when Netanyahu, irritated by Obama’s call for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal based on the 1967 lines, decided to use an Oval Office photo opportunity to lecture Obama publicly on Middle East history.


Modern Orthodox rabbi summoned to hearing

Riskin, a liberal on conversion practice, to face rabbinate council scrutiny

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TEL AVIV — There’s no shortage of Israelis who want to reform the office of the chief rabbinate.

Ranging from advocates of religion-state separation to leaders of Israel’s non-Orthodox movements to newspaper columnists, some want to end the rabbinate’s monopoly over the country’s religious services. Others want to dissolve it entirely.

But last week, the rabbinate appears to have targeted a leader whose critique of Israel’s religious status quo is subtler. Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Efrat, has been summoned to a hearing before the rabbinate next month, where he believes his job will be challenged.

Unlike many of the rabbinate’s critics, Riskin is Orthodox, supports the rabbinate in its current form, and operates within the bounds of Orthodox Jewish law, or halachah. But he has called on the rabbinate to condone his relatively progressive policies, especially regarding conversion and the ordination of women.

“I’m very much in favor of the chief rabbinate, but there has to be a certain degree of pluralism for the rabbis,” Riskin, who draws a salary from the rabbinate, said. “It’s important for the chief rabbinate to contain within itself a number of different halachic ways.”

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