After nine months of captivity, Jewish doctor returns to hero’s welcome

Dr. Cyril Karabus with his wife, Jennifer, three days after returning home to South Africa from nine months of detention in the United Arab Emirates, May 2013. (Moira Schneider)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (JTA) — Cyril Karabus stepped into the arrivals hall at Cape Town International Airport to a rapturous welcome. A multiracial crowd numbering in the hundreds had turned out to greet him. A minstrel troupe was singing “Hevenu Shalom Aleichem.” And a rabbi stepped forward to… Read more »

Jacob Ostreicher’s wife laments: ‘They will never let him go’

Jacob Ostreicher is despondent, his wife says, after spending nearly two years under house arrest in Bolivia. (Courtesy Miriam Unger)

(Washington Jewish Week) — Jacob Ostreicher, a haredi Orthodox father of five who remains under house arrest in Bolivia, does not believe he will ever be free and often unplugs his home phone because he is too depressed to speak with his family, according to his wife, Miriam Ungar.… Read more »

Germany commits to additional $800 million for home care for Holocaust survivors

German officials laying a wreath at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem as Claims Conference officials look on, May 2103.

NEW YORK (JTA) – The German government agreed to significantly expand its funding of home care for infirm Holocaust survivors and relax eligibility criteria for restitution programs to include Jews who spent time in so-called open ghettos. The agreement, reached after negotiations in Israel with the Claims Conference, will… Read more »

In Senegalese bush, Bani Israel tribe claims Jewish heritage

Dougoutigo Fadiga outside the Bani Israel clinic near the Senegalese village's sacred tree, May 2013. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

BANI ISRAEL, Senegal (JTA) — He will welcome you into his earthen-floor home, introduce you to his three wives, and let you sample their cooking. But Dougoutigo Fadiga does not want foreigners to come near the sacred tree of his village deep in the Senegalese bush. “The tree is… Read more »

As European soccer racism festers, British pros coach Israelis in tolerance

Adam Green with fellow British fans of the English soccer club Chelsea on their way to a match in Amsterdam, May 15, 2013. (Cnaan Liphshiz/JTA)

(JTA) — Itzik Shanan and Abbas Suan watched last week as 100,000 English soccer fans sang along to a live performance by a multiracial quartet at London’s Wembley Stadium. Shanan, who started a campaign to eliminate racism from Israeli soccer, and Suan, a well-known Arab-Israeli player, were in Britain… Read more »

Top Claims Conference officials carried out own botched probe of 2001 fraud

A previously unknown document obtained by JTA shows that concern in 2001 about fraud at the Claims Conference reached the highest levels of the organization. (Claims Conference)

NEW YORK (JTA) — The Claims Conference in recent days has blamed a now-dead regional director for bungling an early warning in 2001 about a massive fraud scheme that wasn’t halted until 2009. But a document obtained by JTA shows top conference officials were sufficiently concerned by the allegations… Read more »

Pressing Poland on restitution poses dilemma for U.S., Jewish groups

President Barack Obama and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk speaking at a news conference in Warsaw, Poland, May 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Poland is a stalwart American ally in Europe, a bulwark against an increasingly belligerent Russia and, with the recent opening of a major new Warsaw museum, is enjoying a flush of accolades for its belated embrace of its Jewish roots. But there’s a thorn in the… Read more »

Making sense of the Claims Conference brouhaha

NEW YORK (JTA) – Who knew what, and when? Those are the questions critics are asking following the disclosure that the Claims Conference received an anonymous letter in 2001 identifying several fraudulent Holocaust-era restitution claims — nearly a decade before the organization halted a massive fraud scheme. By 2009,… Read more »

Amid rising Islamism in Africa, Israel-Senegal ties are still flourishing

Ilan Fluss from Mashav, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s aid agency, helps to implement an advanced irrigation system in Senegal in 2011. (Israel21c)

Struggling to be heard over a flock of bleating sheep, Israel’s ambassador to Senegal invites a crowd of impoverished Muslims to help themselves to about 100 sacrificial animals that the embassy corralled at a dusty community center here. The October distribution, held as French troops battled Islamists in neighboring… Read more »

Moroccan king funding preservation of Cape Verde Jewish heritage — but to what end?

Abdellah Boutadghart, right, of the Moroccan embassy in Senegal, and Rabbi Eliezer Di Martino of Lisbon at the main cemetery in Praia for the burial of a Cape Verde resident, May 2, 2013. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

PRAIA, Cape Verde (JTA) — A Portuguese rabbi and a Moroccan diplomat stood shoulder to shoulder in a Catholic cemetery here while 200 mourners howled in grief as they buried a resident of this island off the western coast of Africa. The foreigners had come to Cape Verde’s main… Read more »

Across Warsaw, remembering Warsaw Ghetto heroes with yellow daffodils

People laying flowers at Umschlagplatz at the Warsaw Ghetto, the monument at the site from which Jews were deported to Treblinka. (Ruth Ellen Gruber)

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — In Warsaw, sirens wailed and church bells rang to mark the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, a valiant but failed revolt by Jewish fighters against the Nazi occupiers who already had deported hundreds of thousands of Jews to the Treblinka extermination camp. An… Read more »

Ukrainian Jews worry that rise of Svoboda party will bring anti-Semitism back into vogue

Svoboda supporters attending a party rally in western Ukraine, 2012. (

KIEV, Ukraine (JTA) — Marching in formation, six young men in dark jackets approach an anti-government rally in Cherkasy, a city some 125 miles southeast of Kiev. At the appointed moment, they remove their windbreakers to reveal white T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Beat the kikes.” Their jackets carry… Read more »

Rabbi David Lazar, too brash for Stockholm?

Rabbi David Lazar, left, showing a Torah scroll to Swedish government minister Stefan Attefall at the Great Synagogue of Stockholm, November 2011. (Regeringskansliet, The government of Sweden)

(JTA) — Having grown up in a devoutly Christian home, Irene Lopez would probably not be raising her daughter Jewish if not for David Lazar, the charismatic rabbi of the Great Synagogue of Stockholm. Lopez and her Jewish husband, Samuel Sjoblom, are among the Swedes who were drawn to… Read more »

At last, Warsaw’s Museum of the History of Polish Jews is dedicated

Exterior of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw showing the "gap." (Ruth Ellen Gruber)

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — Krzysztof Sliwinski, a longtime Catholic activist in Jewish-Polish relations, gazed wide-eyed at the swooping interior of this city’s Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Nearly two decades in the making, the more than $100 million institution officially opened to the public last month amid… Read more »

Budapest bistro Matzah Soldier drawing trendy clientele with a fresh take on grandma’s cooking

David Popovits, owner of the Matzah Soldier, sits down for a meal at his upscale restaurant in Budapest, March 2013. (Canaan Liphshiz/JTA)

BUDAPEST, Hungary (JTA) — On a corner in the heart of the former Jewish ghetto here, David Popovits sits down for some matzah ball soup and super-sized dumplings at his newly opened kosher-style restaurant. A burly, 40-year-old Hungarian Jewish businessman, Popovits used to eat in the restaurant as a… Read more »

Plagiarism scandal finally fells France’s celebrity chief rabbi, who resigns

Gilles Bernheim, the chief rabbi of France, leaving the Elysee Palace in Paris after meeting with then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, March 21, 2012. (Frank Prevel/Getty)

(JTA) — “When Gilles Bernheim speaks, France listens.” That’s how Avraham Weill, the chief rabbi of Toulouse, describes what he believes was the main appeal of his charismatic mentor, who on Thursday resigned as chief rabbi of France after admitting to several instances of plagiarism and falsely using an… Read more »

In Iran talks, North Korea parallel goes only so far

Iran watchers are worried that the reckless gamesmanship of North Korea's Kim Jong-un, shown in an Oct. 9, 2010 photo, will provide a model for the Islamic Republic. (Creative Commons)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — If you have nuclear weapons, all sorts of bad behavior will be tolerated. That’s the lesson some are worried Iran may be learning from North Korea’s increasingly confrontational stance against South Korea and the United States. Pyongyang has stepped up its belligerent rhetoric in recent days,… Read more »

Thatcher remembered for her affection for Britain’s Jews

British Prime Minister Margaret thatcher visiting Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in Jerusalem, May 25, 1986. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90.JTA)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — History will remember former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for relentlessly facing down communism and helping to turn back more than three decades of socialist advance in her country. But it was Thatcher’s embrace of British Jews and insistent promotion of Jews in her Conservative Party… Read more »

Seeking Kin: In two cases, the lost are found

Phyllis Fields, second from right, during a 1989 family trip to Hawaii. (Courtesy Fields family)

The Seeking Kin column aims to help reunite long-lost relatives and friends. BALTIMORE (JTA) – Earlier this month, a “Seeking Kin” column concluded with Rozanne Dittersdorf of New York expressing hope that Phyllis Garfunkel, a childhood friend with whom she lost contact in the late 1940s, “found happiness over… Read more »