World

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 »

In Mallorca, a year of breakthrough for descendants of Jews

PALMA, Spain (JTA) — A stone’s throw from the majestic Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, commonly referred to as La Seu, is a dusty cobblestoned alleyway that serves as a hidden reminder of Mallorca’s complex Jewish past. Carrer de Monti-Sion, or Mount Zion Street, has borne witness to… Read more »

Shoah Foundation gathers stories of Rwandan genocide

LOS ANGELES (The Jewish Journal) — The USC Shoah Foundation Institute is home to more than 52,000 videotaped testimonies about the Holocaust, and people searching the archive’s index enter a single keyword into their queries more than any other: “Auschwitz.” “Auschwitz seems to be the one that people go… Read more »

In tiny Gibraltar, an outsized Jewish infrastructure

Members of Gibraltar's largely Sephardic, largely Orthodox community pick up children from the communiyt's primary school, which is seeing record enrollment. (Alex Weisler)

GIBRALTAR (JTA) — Four synagogues, a mikvah, a kosher coffeehouse and separate boys and girls religious high schools. Combined, they suggest a community far larger than just 750 Jews. But Gibraltar — the tiny British overseas territory of 30,000 that sits at the foot of Spain and at the… Read more »

As Berlusconi exits, a new report shows rising anti-Semitism in Italy

Silvio Berlusconi (left) toasts with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem in February 2010. (Photo: Miriam Alster/FLASH90/JTA)

Crowds on the streets of Rome jeered and cheered when their long-serving, scandal-plagued prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, stepped down earlier this month. A choir even sang Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” in front of the presidential palace as he handed in his resignation. Italian Jews don’t expect Berlusconi’s ouster to have… Read more »

How to succeed in picking a chief rabbi successor in Britain

Jewish leaders in Britain have outlined the process they will follow in seeking to identify a successor to the current chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks. (Office of the Chief Rabbi)

LONDON (JTA) — Increased transparency and the inclusion of women’s voices will be cornerstones of the process that Orthodox leaders in Britain have devised to find a replacement for the country’s longtime chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, who will step down in September 2013. Stephen Pack, the president of… Read more »

Argentine Jewish boxer defends her title

Carolina Duer, known as "The Turk," defended her boxing title Nov. 12 in Buenos Aires. (Facebook)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — In many ways, Carolina Raquel Duer is a typical middle-class Jewish kid from Buenos Aires. She attended a Jewish day school, spent time working and traveling in Israel and celebrated her Bat Mitzvah at a Conservative synagogue. But when she stepped into the ring… Read more »

­AJWS Reverse Hunger campaign targets U.S. global food aid policy

(New York) — American Jewish World Service (AJWS), an international development and human rights organization, unveiled its new Reverse Hunger campaign last month. The campaign seeks to rally the American Jewish community to challenge and change a critical factor contributing to global hunger — U.S. food aid policy. Developing… Read more »

In world of 7 billion, demographers struggle to ascertain the number of Jews

Ava Sarah Keyrallah was born in Paris on Oct. 31, 2011, the day the United Nations celebrated the 7 billionth child being born. (Courtesy Celine Abisror)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Could the 7 billionth person on the planet be Jewish? According to the United Nations Population Fund, the Earth welcomed its 7 billionth resident on Oct. 31. Statistically, the newborn was most likely a boy in India or China. The symbolic title was given to Danica… Read more »

From the beginning, it was clear Kristallnacht was different

A destroyed Jewish clothing store in Magdeburg, Germany, after Kristallnacht, Nov. 11, 1938. (H. Frederick, Hanover)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Before it was called Kristallnacht, it was known simply as “the pogrom.” Designated “the night of broken glass,” the 14-hour wave of Nazi violence on Nov. 9-10, 1938 left hundreds of Jewish storefronts and synagogues across Germany and parts of Austria in shards and splinters,… Read more »

In South Africa, apartheid-era divisions linger in Jewish community

The late philanthropist Mendel Kaplan showing former South Africa President Nelson Mandela around the South African Jewish Museum, which was opened by Mandela in 2000. (Shawn Benjamin/Ark Images)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (JTA) – When anti-apartheid activist Lorna Levy first became involved in politics as a student in the late 1950s, she remembers being the target of hostility from the Jewish community in her native South Africa. In the 1960s, she and her husband, Leon, made their… Read more »