World

Bard on the run: Iranian-born scholar still at risk in Holland

Afshin Ellian

Among his many talents, Afshin Ellian has a knack for making people want to kill him. It’s a trait he demonstrated as a fugitive in his native Iran after the Islamic Revolution; then as a refugee in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he angered secular Stalinists; and finally in Holland,… Read more »

New Czech Jewish museum to spread exhibits across 10 sites nationwide

Interior of the restored synagogue in Jicin, Czech Republic, one of the 10 Stars locations. (Ruth Ellen Gruber)

PRAGUE (JTA) — A large Jewish museum set to open in the Czech Republic in October will be a far cry from any Jewish museum in Europe. Instead of one building or a complex of exhibition halls in one city, it will be a nationwide museum comprising 10 linked… Read more »

On restitution, a rundown of where they stand in Eastern Europe

PRAGUE (JTA) — The following is a rundown of some Eastern European countries and where they stand on restitution: Poland: Has not enacted any form of private restitution or compensation for an estimated $30.5 billion worth of property confiscated by the Nazis, then the communists. The Jewish share of… Read more »

Three years on, Jewish groups winding down Haiti operations

Schoolchildren from the Haitian town of Zoranje standing outside their middle school that was built by the JDC. (Courtesy American Joint Distribution Committee)

NEW YORK (JTA) — It was the poor construction. There had been many earthquakes more powerful than the one that hit Haiti nearly three years ago, and there have been many more since. But few have been deadlier. When the tremor registering 7.0 on the Richter scale struck on… Read more »

In Europe, big gaps among security precautions at Jewish institutions

BRUSSELS (JTA) — Within hours of Israel’s assassination of a top Hamas commander, the situation room sprang into action, anticipating retaliatory attacks and preparing instructions to keep civilians out of harm’s way. No, the room wasn’t deep in a bunker beneath Jerusalem, but thousands of miles away — and… Read more »

Greek Jews seek to combat neo-Nazi party

Greece’s Golden Dawn party leader Nikolaos G. Michaloliakos speaks in a political commercial in April. (YouTube)

For every Jew who lives in Greece, there are about 100 Greeks who voted for the country’s neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn, this past spring. The party now controls 18 seats in Greece’s 300-member parliament, and its popularity is rising rapidly: A poll taken in October showed that if elections… Read more »

French ‘bulldog’ politician Karsenty doubles down on al-Dura video fight

Phillipe Karsenty delivering a lecture on the al-Dura affair in France in 2011. (Courtesy Phillipe Karsenty)

PARIS (JTA) — To his allies, he’s a bulldog. Enemies call him a conspiracist and a genocide denier. Both sides, however, agree on one thing: One could find a more pleasant adversary than French-Jewish politician and activist Philipe Karsenty. It’s an impression easily reached in even a short conversation with… Read more »

Seeking Kin: Honoring those who assured Nazi loot’s return

Harry Ettlinger, right, and Dale Ford, U.S. soldiers who served in the Monuments Men, are shown in 1945 or 1946 inspecting a Rembrandt self-portrait in a salt mine where the Nazis stored stolen and hidden art. (Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration)

The “Seeking Kin” column aims to help reunite long-lost friends and relatives. BALTIMORE (JTA) — Like many immigrants from Germany who fought in the U.S. military during World War II, Harry Ettlinger served his adopted country by translating captured materials and interpreting during interrogations of enemy prisoners. But within… Read more »

In France, Marseille Jews look to Paris and worry that their calm may be fleeting

Elie Berrebi, director of the Jewish Consistory of Marseille, at the city's Great Synagogue, Oct. 14, 2012. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

MARSEILLE, France (JTA) — At a time when Jewish institutions across France resemble military fortresses for their security, entering the great synagogue and main Jewish center of this picturesque city on the Mediterranean coast is as easy as pushing open the front door. The only obstacles on a recent… Read more »

Medieval Jewish banquet in small Italian town resurrects forgotten menus

Bar-Ilan University historian Ariel Toaff being served a double-roasted goose and baked onion salad by a "medieval" waitress in Bevagna, Italy. (Ruth Ellen Gruber)

BEVAGNA, Italy (JTA) — In a medieval tavern in 21st century Italy, waitresses in archaic costumes served a tepid, chalk-white substance the texture of oatmeal to tables filled with slightly skeptical diners. Sweet yet salty, and flavored with a mix of unexpectedly tangy spices, it turned out to be… Read more »

20 years on, El Al crash in Amsterdam still spawns conspiracy theories

Rabbi Raphael Evers speaking with spectators at the commemoration ceremony on the 20th anniversary of the crash of an El Al plane in Amsterdam, Oct. 4, 2012. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Chemical weapons, nuclear debris and Mossad agents in biohazard suits all have played prominent roles in the dozens of conspiracy theories surrounding the crash of an El Al airplane here 20 years ago this month. But Rob Oudkerk, vice chairman of the Dutch parliament’s inquiry into… Read more »

In Ukraine, new funds for survivors brings high — some say unrealistic — expectations

Holocaust survivor Larisa Rakovskaya in her Odessa apartment, Sept. 14, 2012. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

ODESSA, Ukraine (JTA) — In her dilapidated apartment, Larisa Rakovskaya examines a stack of unpaid heating bills. Sick and alone, the 86-year-old Holocaust survivor and widow is preparing for another encounter with the cold, her “worst and only fear.” Rakovskaya says her hope of staying warm this winter lies… Read more »

Man with a mission: Italian pianist revives music created in concentration camps

Dancers outside the 13th century Scolanova synagogues in Trani, during the Lech Lecha Jewish culture festival, September 2012. (Ruth Ellen Gruber)

TRANI, Italy (JTA) — Francesco Lotoro resurrects the music of the dead. Since 1991 the Italian pianist has traveled the globe to seek out and bring to light symphonies, songs, sonatas, operas, lullabies and even jazz riffs that were composed and often performed in Nazi-era concentration camps. “This music… Read more »

In Scandinavia, kipah becomes a symbol of defiance for Malmo’s Jews

Jews from Copenhagen and Malmo attending a Holocaust commermoration ceremony in Malmo's Jewish cemetary, Sept. 23, 2012. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

MALMO, Sweden (JTA) — Across Scandinavia, the kipah is becoming a symbol of Jewish defiance. On Sunday, about 70 Danish Jews took a double-decker bus from Copenhagen on a 10-mile bridge across the Strait of Øresund, on the Baltic Sea, to go to Malmo in a show of solidarity… Read more »

Rabbinic ordination highlights contrasts for today’s German Jews

Left to right, Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu and newly ordained Rabbis Dani Fabian, Reuven Konnik, Naftoly Surovtsev and Jonathan Konits, following their ordination ceremony at the Synagogue Community Center in Cologne, Germany, Sept. 13, 2012. (Photo by Uri Strauss)

(JTA) — For four men in Germany, this Jewish New Year will be like no other. It will be their first year as ordained rabbis, working to help build Jewish life in the very country that nearly succeeded in wiping out European Jewry. In ceremonies held Thursday at the… Read more »

Poland’s reviving Jewish communities come (way, way) out

Right to left: Jakob Staszevski, Tyson Herberger and Rebecca Herberger at Kalatowki Lodge in southern Poland, Sept. 6, 2012. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

ZAKOPANE, Poland (JTA) — In southern Polish woods, an unfamiliar blast alarms hikers and wildlife as it pierces the still of a misty morning. It has been a long time since a shofar echoed in these mountains. At the narrow end of the traditional Jewish horn are the puckered… Read more »

Latin America’s Jewish communities grow, confront challenges

Participants celebrating during services at the World Union for Progressive Judaism Conference of Jewish Communities in Buenos Aires, Argentina, August, 2012. (Diego Melamed)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — When the Sao Paulo Hebraica Sports Club and Community Center in Brazil opened the Aleph School earlier this month, it welcomed 450 students and had 120 more on the waiting list for next year. Hebraica, which is similar to an American Jewish community center,… Read more »

From under police protection, Europe’s Jewish gems try to shine

Martin Schultz, president of the European Parliament, speaking at the Great Synagogue of Europe in Brussels, March 2012. (Courtesy European Parliament)

BRUSSELS (JTA) — Under the gaze of a dozen police officers, a single file of Belgians forms outside the Great Synagogue of Europe. Waiting to enter the shul on its annual “open day” — when the synagogue throws open its doors to the public — many on this Sunday… Read more »

Europe’s Jewish and pro-Israel groups pushing EU to classify Hezbollah a terrorist group

Wim Kortenoeve, a pro-Israel Dutch lawmaker, in his office at the Dutch Parliament in The Hague. (Courtesy Wim Kortenoeve)

THE HAGUE (JTA) — With little time to prepare his next move in trying to get the European Union to declare Hezbollah a terrorist group, Dutch lawmaker Wim Kortenoeven studies a copy of Lebanon’s trade agreement with Europe over a late-night dinner of Italian salad and German beer. The… Read more »