National

For lone socialist in Congress, pet issue finds the spotlight

Sen. Bernie Sanders addressing a rally on Capitol Hill in 2013. (Courtesy photo)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont and the only self-described socialist in Congress, has long been an outspoken voice in Washington on issues of economic inequality. But with the vanishing middle class figuring prominently in the campaign for mayor of the country’s largest city, and… Read more »

Menachem Stark, slumlord or saint? Depends who you ask

Menachem Stark, shown with his wife and seven children, was hailed as a loving father and generous giver by his Hasidic community. (Courtesy photo)

 NEW YORK (JTA) — The murder of Menachem Stark has sparked intense media scrutiny of the Brooklyn real estate developer’s troubled business record, prompting the New York Post to ask “Who didn’t want him dead?” on its front page. But while mainstream media outlets scrutinized the Satmar hasid’s relationships… Read more »

NBA’s Tony Parker apologizes for anti-Semitic quenelle salute

(JTA) — NBA star Tony Parker has apologized for performing an anti-Semitic salute after a three-year-old photo was published in the French media. The photo shows Parker, a French national born in Belgium, performing the quenelle salute with its inventor, the French comedian Dieudonne Míbala Míbala. The quenelle is… Read more »

Jet-setting Edgar Bronfman flexed muscles for Jewish causes

(JTA) — In 1992, Edgar Bronfman was preparing to leave North America for Paris for his first meeting with then-French President Francois Mitterand at the Elysee Palace when at the last minute Bronfman decided he wanted to take an unexpected meeting in Geneva instead. So he asked Serge Cwajgenbaum, Bronfman’s right-hand… Read more »

End of Congress’ year brings odd reversal on Jewish priorities

The House Budget Committe chair, Rep. Paul Ryan, and the Senate Budget Committee chair, Sen. Patty Murray, walk past the Senate chamber on their way to a press conference to announce a bipartisan budget deal, Dec. 10, 2013. (T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — For Jewish and pro-Israel groups, the congressional year is ending with an odd reversal: the prospect, however fragile, of bipartisan comity on budget issues coupled with a rare partisan disagreement on Middle Eastern policy. The groups that deal with social welfare and justice issues are heartened,… Read more »

Swarthmore Hillel picks fight over campus group’s Israel guidelines

The board at the Hillel chapter of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania is openly rejecting quidelines on Israel debate adopted by the international umbrella group. (Wikicommons)

NEW YORK (JTA) — With an estimated Jewish population of 275 undergraduates, the Quaker-founded Swarthmore College outside Philadelphia is home to one of the smaller Hillel chapters in the country. But that hasn’t stopped student activists at the small suburban school from picking a fight of potentially epic proportions with… Read more »

Pro-Israel groups backing away from confrontation with Obama over Iran

WASHINGTON (JTA) — When it comes to the deal between Iran and major powers, Israel and the pro-Israel community are retreating from a strategy of confrontation and working instead to influence the contours of a final agreement. In a conference call last week, Howard Kohr, the American Israel Public… Read more »

At American Studies Association, boycotting Israel finds wide favor

WASHINGTON (JTA) — For 90 minutes in a packed hotel conference room in the heart of Washington, Israel was the colonizer, the settler state, the perpetuator of apartheid. As the annual meeting this weekend of the American Studies Association demonstrated, participants who favored boycotting Israeli universities far outnumbered those opposed.… Read more »

Sucker punch: Brooklyn Jews targeted in ‘knockout’ attacks

Crown Heights resident Pinchas Woolstone says the neighborhood is 'light years away" from the era of the riots. (Julie Wiener)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Chava, a student at a Chabad seminary, has lived in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn for six years, but it’s only in the past few days that she started carrying pepper spray in her handbag. Her younger brother gave her the deterrent after news… Read more »

Lapse in launch of nukes deal gives Iran an edge, some say

WASHINGTON (JTA) — There’s the six-month interim deal on Iran’s nuclear program that trades some sanctions relief for a freeze on Iran’s nuclear program. And then there’s the interim before the interim begins. Little noticed in the wake of the historic pact reached last month by Iran and the… Read more »

New initiative seeking to improve Hebrew literacy among American Jews

Campers at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack, N.Y., participating in a pilot Hebrew immersion program. (Ramah Day Camp)

NEW YORK (JTA) — For the first 3 1/2 weeks of the summer, one group of 5-year-olds at Ramah Day Camp in Nyack, N.Y., was “very quiet” as the children went about the typical camp activities, according to Amy Skopp Cooper, the camp’s director. But in the fourth week,… Read more »

Reform biennial opening to outsiders in bid to revitalize movement

The last Reform biennial, held near Washington in December 2011, marked the passing of the torch to Rabbi Rick Jacobs, left, from Rabbi Eric Yoffie, right. (URJ)

NEW YORK (JTA) — First there was the Conservative movement’s October biennial conference, billed as “The conversation of the century” and opened up to presenters from outside the movement. Then came the November General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, which featured a “Global Jewish shuk: a… Read more »

Interim deal on Iran splits Congress on new sanctions bill

Sen. Mark Kirk, shown here with Sen. Kelly Ayotte testifying before a Senate committee on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on Nov. 5, 2013, has been a leader in pushing for Iran sanctions. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

  WASHINGTON (JTA) — They want to brandish a new stick against Iran, but hawks in Congress aren’t going to use it — yet. For all the disappointment they expressed following the deal on Iran’s nuclear program, skeptics in Congress appear to be willing to give the agreement brokered… Read more »

With Iran deal signed, what’s Netanyahu’s next move?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement, in his office in Jerusalem, Nov. 24, 2013 regarding the agreement reached in Geneva a few hours earlier between Iran and six world powers. (Haim Zach/GPO/Flash90)

TEL AVIV (JTA) — With an interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in place, President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu each face formidable challenges ahead. For Obama, the goal will be to move from the interim agreement to a broader and more permanent deal within six… Read more »

For messianic Jews, Bush speech a coup but acceptance elusive

WASHINGTON (JTA) — George W. Bush granted Messianic Jews a brief shining moment in the spotlight last week — and then just as quickly sent them back into the shadows. The Messianic Jewish Bible Institute in Dallas had advertised Bush as the keynote speaker at its annual fundraiser on… Read more »

Why is France taking a harder line on Iran than the United States?

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, left, conferring with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of the 68th United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 26, 2013. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — When reports emerged over the weekend that France’s hard line was responsible for the failure of negotiations over Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program, supporters and critics of the diplomatic push resorted to familiar stereotypes. Conservatives scoffed that even the conflict-averse French had outflanked President Obama. Leftists… Read more »

Federations provide emergency relief for Philippines typhoon

The Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, in partnership with The Jewish Federations of North America, is mobilizing a communal response to the super Typhoon Haiyan, which has wrought widespread destruction in the Philippines. JFNA today opened a mailbox for Federations to support relief efforts by the American Jewish Joint… Read more »