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 »

Exhibit recalls Jewish refugees and Nazi prisoners held together in Canadian prisons

A scene from internment by Wolfgang Gerson, watercolor on toilet paper, from Camp N in Sherbrooke, Quebec, circa 1940-1942. Gerson painted on whatever he could due to the scarcity of paper. (Courtesy the Gerson family/Photo by Jessica Bushey)

VANCOUVER, Canada (JTA) — When Austrian and German Jews escaped Nazism by fleeing to Britain during the 1930s, the last thing they expected was to find themselves prisoners in Canada, interned in camps with some of the same Nazis they had tried to escape back home. But that’s what… Read more »

In Florida, Venezuelan Jewish expats set down new roots

SUNNY ISLES BEACH, Fla. (JTA) — Sitting outside a Starbucks coffee shop in this small city north of Miami Beach, Paul Hariton recalls the dramatic night in 2002 when he and his wife decided to leave their native Venezuela. Leftist leader Hugo Chavez had just returned to power following… Read more »

Holocaust commemoration marks shift for Greek Jews in fight against neo-Nazis

Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, third from left, leading the march in his city from Liberty Square to the Old Railway Station, March 2013. (Michael Thaidigsmann/WJC)

THESSALONIKI, Greece (JTA) — Antonis Samaras stood in the pale morning light coming through the stained glass windows of the only Thessaloniki synagogue to survive World War II and vowed, “Never again.” For Greek Jews marking the 70th anniversary of the destruction of this city’s historic Jewish community, the… Read more »

Cyprus verdict could inhibit Hezbollah operations in Europe

Israeli ZAKA emergency rescue team carrying a body bag with one of the victims of the Hezbollah terrorist attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, July 19, 2012. (Dano Monkotovic/FLASH90/JTA)

WASHINGTON (JTA) – The conviction in Cyprus of a Hezbollah operative plotting to attack Israelis could undercut efforts by the terrorist group to carry out additional attacks outside the Middle East. Last week’s conviction was the second confirmation in recent months that Hezbollah is active on European soil. The… Read more »

Film suggests Toulouse killer was disturbed, not hateful

In the documentary, "The Mereh Affair -- The Itinerary of a Killer," Mohammed Mereh is shown skiing four weeks prior to his killing spree in Toulouse in March 2011. (France 3/You Tube)

(JTA) — Four weeks before he murdered seven people in Toulouse, a cheerful Mohammed Merah was filmed laughing and showing off his skiing skills to friends at a popular Alpine resort. The footage, televised on March 6, formed the opening sequence in a controversial documentary about the 23-year-old, French-born… Read more »

Stumbling Stones ceremony in Germany is link not only to past but to future

Stumbling stones honoring Jill Ranucci's great-grandparents, Rudolf and Laura Lowenthal, who died in the Sobibor death camp. (Courtesy Jill Ranucci)

In October, I attended a Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) ceremony in Magdeburg, in the former East Germany, to honor my great-grandparents, Rudolph and Laura Lowenthal, who died in the Holocaust. My sister and two cousins, the other surviving family members, accompanied me. The first Stolpersteine were created by German artist… Read more »

Long the bane of Venezuelan Jews, Chavez is gone. Now what?

The Torah ark at the newly built Tiferet Israel Este synagogue in Caracus, Venezuela, March 17, 2013. (Association Israelita de Venezuela)

(JTA) — For more than a decade, Venezuelan Jews have been holding their breath, subject to the whims of a mercurial president who used his bully pulpit to intimidate, rail against Israel and embrace Iran   There was the police raid of a Caracas school in 2004, allegedly to search… Read more »

Jews find early signs from Pope Francis encouraging

Pope Francis, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, speaking at a B'nai B'rith Argentina event commemorating Kristallnacht, Nov. 12, 2012. (Courtesy B'nai B'rith Argentina)

ROME (JTA) — When the white smoke rose last week at the Vatican, signaling to the world that the College of Cardinals had chosen a new pope, Catholics weren’t the only ones waiting with bated breath. Jews, too, were eager to see whether the new pontiff would be someone… Read more »

Lautenberg Amendment, Soviet-era law now helping Iranians, gets lifeline

The Lautenberg Amendment paved the way for these Iranian Jews shown arriving at Kennedy Airport in New York in 1995 to come to the United States. (Courtesy HIAS)

WASHINGTON (JTA) – When the Lautenberg Amendment was introduced in 1990, it provided a mechanism for hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews to exit their crumbling country and immigrate to freedom in the United States. Since 2004, it has served as a lifeline for religious minorities fleeing the Islamic… Read more »

Long the bane of Venezuelan Jews, Chavez is gone. Now what?

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, right, shaking hands with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Venezuelan capital of Caracus, Nov. 27, 2009. (Omar Rashidi/PPO via Getty Images)

(JTA) — For more than a decade, Venezuelan Jews have been holding their breath, subject to the whims of a mercurial president who used his bully pulpit to intimidate, rail against Israel and embrace Iran. There was the police raid of a Caracas school in 2004, allegedly to search… Read more »

Austria beckons as recession, xenophobia prompt Jews to ditch Hungary

Demonstrators protesting racism in Hungary in Budapest, December 2012. (Bela B. Molnar)

BUDAPEST (JTA) — Three years ago, Fanni moved to Vienna from her native Hungary with her husband. Now she is pregnant. Though the couple would prefer to raise their child near their Jewish families in Budapest, rising nationalism and an economic recession are leading them to stay in Austria.… Read more »

Tucson MD met pope, spoke at Vatican on healing spaces

Pope Benedict XVI greets Esther Sternberg, M.D., of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, at the 27th International Conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers in November 2012. (Photo courtesy of Fotografia Felici)

When Tucsonan Esther Sternberg, M.D., gave a talk on healing spaces in Lourdes, France, in June, little did she suspect it would lead to a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI or the opportunity to speak at the Vatican. Sternberg, director of research for the University of Arizona Center for… Read more »

Prisoner X affair raises charges of dual loyalty for Australian Jews

The grave of Ben Zygier in the main Jewish cemetery in Melbourne, where he was buried on Dec. 22, 2010 -- one week after he apparently hanged himself in Yigal Amir's cell at Ayalon Prison in Ramle. (Steve Yarrow)

SYDNEY (JTA) – As more details have seeped out about the mysterious life and death of Israel’s Prisoner X — identified last week by an Australian TV program as Ben Zygier — the wall of silence surrounding those who knew him has begun to show some cracks. On Tuesday,… Read more »

Jews vocal on both sides of France’s gay marriage debate

Eran, a gay Israeli-Frenchman, left, with son Elai-Gabriel and partner Jean-Louis at their Paris home, January 2013. (Courtesy Eran)

(JTA) — Wide-eyed and smiley, Elay-Gabriel seems utterly unaffected by the French media’s sudden interest in him. A dozen French journalists have visited the 18-month-old in recent months because he is trapped in a sort of legal limbo: He cannot obtain citizenship because the state does not recognize children… Read more »