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Ruth Ellen Gruber
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Swiss anti-Islam vote draws protests from Jews and Christians

WorldPublished: 11 December 2009

Swiss voters may have been taking aim at Islam, but Jewish and Catholic leaders are among those crying foul.

Jewish organizations have joined Muslims, the Vatican, and other groups in warning that a Swiss referendum banning the construction of mosque minarets could fuel hatred, jeopardize religious freedom, and further polarize an already divided society.

“Discriminatory laws like a ban on minarets are likely to alienate rather than ease integration,” the Board of Deputies of British Jews said in a statement following the Nov. 29 vote. “They also give succor to the unacceptable politics of unlimited hate being peddled around Europe by right-wing extremists.”


Europe reckons with its past

Holocaust memorials go up in Eastern Europe, with some flaws

WorldPublished: 27 November 2009

Under communism, Jewish suffering in World War II generally was treated as a footnote to the overall losses in what the Soviets called the “Great Patriotic War.”

Public monuments existed at some Holocaust sites in Eastern Europe, such as Auschwitz, the Paneriai forest near Vilnius where at least 70,000 Jews were killed, and Babi Yar, where tens of thousands of Jews were killed in ravines outside Kiev. But these usually commemorated generic “victims of fascism” and did not acknowledge the involvement of local collaborators.

Since the fall of communism 20 years ago, however, a host of new Holocaust memorials have gone up in post-communist states while Communist-era monuments have been revamped by state authorities, local civic groups, and Jewish organizations, giving the Jewish tragedy of World War II more prominence.


Italian Jews launch new Jewish newspaper — for non-Jews

WorldPublished: 16 October 2009

When Italy’s first national Jewish newspaper launches this month, Italy will get what few Jewish communities around the world offer: a Jewish newspaper geared toward non-Jews.

Sponsored by the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, or UCEI, the umbrella organization that links Italy’s 21 established Jewish communities, the newspaper and an online Jewish information portal launched last year are part of a multi-dimensional media offensive aimed at bolstering the Jewish voice in Italy and creating a constructive dialogue between Jews and non-Jewish Italians.

“Italian Jews are very representative of Italian society in general,” said journalist Guido Vitale, who directs the newspaper, Pagine Ebraiche (Jewish Pages), and the Website, “I want to construct a piazza, an agora, where they can interact with each other and with Italian society.”


Pope’s visit to Israel fraught with potential minefields

WorldPublished: 08 May 2009

ROME – The official Israeli government Web site for Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming trip to Israel and the west bank promotes the May 11 to 15 visit as a “Bridge for Peace.”

Others, however, describe it as a potential minefield where various factions may try to exploit the pope’s presence for political gain.

“Both Jewish and Muslim ideologues are determined to stop the pope crossing that bridge,” wrote Catholic religion journalist Damian Thompson in his blog for the U.K. Telegraph, “either by smearing him as an anti-Semite or by making his visit to a Palestinian refugee camp look like a politically motivated reproach to Israel.”


Is Pope Benedict good for the Jews?

WorldPublished: 20 February 2009

ROME – Always uneasy, the relationship between the Vatican and the Jewish community took another sour turn recently when Pope Benedict XVI announced he was rescinding the excommunication of a bishop who denies the Holocaust.

While the pope managed to smooth things over somewhat by distancing himself from Bishop Richard Williamson’s Holocaust denial and, at a meeting last week at the Vatican with Jewish representatives, announcing plans to visit Israel in May, the uproar of the past few weeks raises significant questions about the goals of Benedict’s papacy.


Just being (Jewish)

generalPublished: 26 December 2008
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Haider’s death removes a key player in Austria

WorldPublished: 17 October 2008

VIENNA – The death of Jörg Haider, a controversial and charismatic right-wing politician in Austria, has removed one of the country’s key players at a time of political turmoil following unprecedented far-right gains in last month’s general elections.

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The past visits the present

generalPublished: 26 May 2006

Ruth Ellen Gruber with her uncle, Pinkas Gruber, in Bucharest, Romania, in 1978. Photo courtesy Ruth Ellen Gruber

What I remember most about my great-uncle Pinkas is his age — and his hat.

I only met him once or twice, when I visited Bucharest on journalistic assignments in 1978 and 1979.

Pinkas, my grandfather's brother, was then in his mid-90s. His wife had recently died, and he was staying with friends in a small apartment while arrangements were being made for him to enter a newly opened old-age home run by the Federation of Romanian Jewish Communities and named after the then-Chief Rabbi Moses Rosen and his wife.

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