World

No surprises in Putin victory, but question for Russian Jews is what comes next

Demonstrators in Moscow protest Vladimir Putin's re-election, including one carrying a sign reading "We are not an opposition, we are your employers!" with the word "fired" over a drawing of Putin's face, March 5, 2012. (Freedom House via CC)

(JTA) — With Vladimir Putin’s re-election as president of Russia pretty much a foregone conclusion, the question facing Russia was never what would result from last weekend’s election but what would happen after the vote. Thousands of protesters turned out Monday in a Moscow saturated with police and soldiers… Read more »

In face of desperate African poverty, Jewish woman provides a beacon of hope

Ruth Feigenbaum, founder of the Support Group of Families of the Terminally Ill in Zumbabwe, with AIDS orphan Ruth Thabini Dube. (Courtesy SGOFOTI)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (JTA) — Two years after moving to Zimbabwe from South Africa 20 years ago, Ruth Feigenbaum noticed that her gardener, James Phiri, was losing weight and looking ill. With the help of a physician friend, Phiri was diagnosed: Like nearly one in seven Zimbabweans, he was… Read more »

Seeking Kin: Restoring the lost legacies of European Jewish composers

BALTIMORE (JTA) — Do the names Pavel Haas, Gideon Klein, Erwin Schulhoff and Viktor Ullman ring a bell? How about Ferdinand Hiller, Ignaz Moscheles, Henry Herz, Giacomo Meyerbeer and Karl Goldmark? They mean everything to Michael Wolpe, an Israeli pianist who considers himself first and foremost a composer —… Read more »

As Syria crackdown intensifies, debate in U.S. rages

Syrians demonstrate in the coastal city of Banias against the regime of hard-line leader Bashar Assad in the spring of 2011. (Syrian Freedom via Creative Commons)

As the Syrian government intensifies its assault on opposition strongholds, the debate is heating up in Washington over how to end the bloody crackdown and bring about regime change. The Obama administration has tried to ratchet up pressure on the Syrian regime through international diplomacy and strong economic sanctions.… Read more »

In a Ukrainian Jewish orphanage, Tikva, economic downturn hits home

ODESSA, Ukraine (JTA) — In a colorful room at the Tikva Children’s Home here, 30 young boys stand in two straight lines and wait for the cue signaling that they are to start singing. The children, students in a music class, are performing “Mind Your Manners” by the Philadelphia-based… Read more »

Ahead of French elections, Sarkozy makes pitch to Jews

French President Nicholas Sarkozy addressing guests at the CRIF dinner, Feb. 8, 2012. (Erez Lichtfeld courtesy of CRIF)

PARIS (JTA) – Trailing in the polls and with elections just 10 weeks away, French President Nicolas Sarkozy went to one of his most reliable bases of support — French Jews — to drum up enthusiasm. On the morning of Feb. 8, Sarkozy met at Elysees Palace with released… Read more »

Great-grandson of Auschwitz victims taking the ice for Germany

Evan Kaufmann, a U.S.-born hockey player whose great-grandparents were killed in the Holocaust, is now representing the German national team. (Courtesy Eishockey Magazin)

WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. (JTA) — More than 65 years ago, Evan Kaufmann’s great-grandparents were murdered in the Auschwitz death camp. Now he is taking the ice for the German national hockey team. Following a successful hockey career at the University of Minnesota, Kaufmann tried out for several professional clubs in… Read more »

New technology points to missing Holocaust-era mass graves at Treblinka

Each stone at the Treblinka memorial represents a Jewish town or city that had its people exterminated at the camp. (Little Savage via CC)

(JTA) — Scientists using ground-probing electronics may have discovered the missing mass graves at the site of Treblinka, one of the Nazis’ most notorious death camps. No actual bodies were found and the graves were not excavated, in keeping with Jewish law, but bones and bone fragments were discovered… Read more »

For some schoolkids in southern Italy, meeting their first Jew on Holocaust Day

Amendolara Mayor Salvatore Antonio Ciminelli, left, standing next to JTA's Ruth Ellen Gruber, after presenting award certificates to some of the 100 schoolchildren who attended a Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony in the town hall, Jan. 27, 2012. The children received awards for art or writing projects about the Shoah. (Photo courtesy Amendolara Town Hall)

AMENDOLARA, Italy (JTA) — It was International Holocaust Memorial Day, and when I told my audience that I was a Jew, they burst into applause. I was speaking at the City Hall in this ancient seacoast town in Calabria, deep in southern Italy on the instep of the Italian… Read more »

Seeking Kin: Tracing a group of refugees, from Europe to Cyprus to Palestine to East Africa

Peter Keeda, an Australian retiree, stumbled upon the story of a group of Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe who were sent by the British from Cyprus to Palestine and later to East Africa. (Courtesy Peter Keeda)

The “Seeking Kin” column aims to help reunite long-lost friends and relatives. BALTIMORE (JTA) — A virtually unknown episode in prestate Israel grabbed Peter Keeda last year and won’t let go: the British government’s June 1941 shipment of 384 European Jews from Cyprus to Palestine. They and 39 others… Read more »

Seeking Kin: Man hidden as baby hopes to honor rescuer-father

JTA’s new “Seeking Kin” column aims to help reunite long-lost friends and relatives. BALTIMORE (JTA) — Even after seven decades, Peter Nurnberger’s most basic biographical facts remain elusive. The Slovakian doesn’t know his birth date, his natural parents’ fate or whether they had any other children. Peter’s adoptive parents… Read more »

Ukrainian historian makes career in Jewish heritage travel

Alex Dunai, second from right, has become a leading purveyor of Jewish heritage tourism in Ukraine. (Alex Weisler)

LVIV, Ukraine (JTA) — Alex Dunai is not Jewish. But over 15 years of leading Jewish tourists searching for their roots in Ukraine, he’s built up a serviceable knowledge of Yiddish — though sometimes he has to make things up. “I make up sayings — you have highway roads, we… Read more »

In Budapest, corruption probe amplifies calls for reform of communal institutions

Gustav Zoltay, left, the director of the Federation o Hungarian Jewish communities, and Peter Feldmajor, its president, at the founding of the new Hungarian Jewish Congress. (Szabolcs Panyi)

BUDAPEST (JTA) — A whistle-blowing rabbi and a reform-minded lay leader are at the forefront of new efforts to shake up Hungary’s entrenched Jewish establishment. Late last year, Rabbi Zoltan Radnoti reportedly alerted authorities to complaints of embezzlement and tax fraud in the operation of Budapest’s main Jewish cemetery on Kozma… Read more »

Reporter’s Notebook: Return to shtetl gives texture to reporter’s family history

Reporter Alex Weisler, second from right, and his mother, second from left, unite with lost relatives in Ukraine. (Alex Weisler)

LVIV, Ukraine (JTA) — The more I thought about it, the more it began to seem like a reasonable choice: I would roam around Europe for six months, visiting Jewish museums, talking to youth groups and covering various community happenings. I would travel from vibrant London to the post-Communist… Read more »

In Burmese Chanukah celebration, signs of Myanmar’s openness to West

U Tin Oo, a former commander-in-chief of Myanmar's army, lights a candle at the Chanukah celebration in Yangon, Myanmar, Dec. 27, 2011. (Sammy Samuels)

(JTA) – In almost any other community from Moscow to Washington, it would have been just another public Chanukah menorah-lighting ceremony providing an opportunity for the local government and Jewish community to showcase their strong ties. But in Myanmar, where the government has been run by a military junta… Read more »

With Samoa calendar change, question for Jews: When is Shabbat?

NEW YORK (JTA) — The Pacific island nation of Samoa is taking 186,000 citizens through a national time warp by moving west of the international dateline, forfeiting the last Friday of 2011 and jumping straight from Thursday into Saturday. For Samoans, this solves a practical question: Why remain 18… Read more »

When the Jews went to North Korea

Jack Rosen, second from left, the chairman of the American Council for World Jewry, in Pyongyang with a top North Korean official and other members of an ACWJ delegation in this undated 2009 photo. (Courtesy ACWJ)

  WASHINGTON (JTA) – When a delegation from the American Council for World Jewry went to North Korea, its agenda was typical of visits by Jewish organizations to developing nations: promote outreach to Israel, offer to broker assistance and training, gently raise problematic defense relations with Israel’s enemies. Pyongyang’s… Read more »

For Jews, Vaclav Havel wasn’t just a friend but a champion of freedom

Memorial candles in Prague for Vaclav Havel, who died this week. Jewish groups and leaders said the former Czech president was a symbol of freedom, Dec. 18, 2011. (David Short via Creative Commons)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Vaclav Havel was a friend of the Jews and of Israel, but prominent Jews who mourned his passing this week said the Czech leader’s greatest legacy was his universal message of freedom. “Vaclav Havel was one of the few islands of intellectual freedom in the sea… Read more »