World

A Jewish leader who can’t be called to the Torah?

Alexander Oscar, 32, the president of Sofia’s Jewish community, speaks at a Holocaust day ceremony in the Bulgarian capital, March 10. (Ben Harris)

Under a cloudless blue sky, in a square wedged between the National Assembly and the Rectorate of the University of Sofia, Alexander Oscar, the young president of Sofia’s Jewish community, issued a blunt message to his countrymen. The occasion was Bulgaria’s Holocaust remembrance ceremony on March 10, a day… Read more »

Rise of French anti-Semite Le Pen’s daughter poses dilemma for Jews

Marine Le Pen says she has made clear there is no room in the National Front for “extremist subgroups,” anti-Semitic or otherwise. (Ben Harris)

On the second floor of the town hall in Paris’ third Arrondissement, leaders of France’s major Jewish institutions gathered to denounce the leader of the far-right National Front party and to assert that she remains unworthy of dialogue with the Jewish community. Last week’s gathering was precipitated by two… Read more »

Expanding its presence in heart of Africa, Chabad faces unique challenges

Rabbi Shlomo Bentolila, right, dances with Congolese officials at a gala dinner celebrating 20 years of the Chabad of Central Africa in Kinshasa, March 1. (Israel Bardugo/lubavitch.com)

Congolese President Joseph Kabila probably had other things on his mind last week besides the celebration in his capital city of Kinshasa marking the 20th anniversary of the city’s Chabad center. On Feb. 27, about 100 fighters armed with assault rifles and rocket launchers staged two simultaneous attacks in… Read more »

FSU Jewish women take women’s case to U.N., D.C.

Project Kesher activists Elena Kalnitskaya, Svetlana Yakimenko, Olga Krasko and Vlada Bystrova pose outside a U.N. workshop in New York on Feb. 25, 2011. (Project Kesher)

(JTA) — When Elena Kalnitskaya of Ukraine talked about her organization’s women’s empowerment projects at a United Nations conference last month, she was presenting the face of social progress in her country. And she was doing it as a Jewish woman — not unusual, perhaps, for an American participant… Read more »

New Zealand quake kills Israeli, destroys Chabad house

The Chabad House in Christchurch, New Zealand, before it was devastated by an earthquake on Feb. 21, 2011, had the city's only kosher cafe.

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — For the Jewish community, the devastating earthquake that hit New Zealand struck close to home. An Israeli backpacker is believed to be among the 65 people killed in Tuesday’s quake, and the destruction in Christchurch on the country’s South Island included the city’s Chabad house.… Read more »

The new German anti-Semitism

BERLIN (Forward) — Muslim teenagers in Hanover attack an Israeli dance troupe, reportedly yelling “Juden raus” as they hurl stones. German leftists march in Berlin with Muslims to protest the 2008–2009 Gaza military conflict. “Death to the Jews!” the marchers chant. At a soccer game between teams from the… Read more »

Amid crisis and violence, Tunisian Jews safe but guarded

Crowds of Jews celebrating the annual hillulah at La Ghriba synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia, May 2007. (Larry Luxner)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The violence roiling Tunisia hasn’t put the country’s 1,500 or so Jews in serious jeopardy, but Jewish organizations are increasingly concerned about their fate as massive anti-government protests continue. No Jews have been targeted by the protesters, according to Roger Bismuth, a Jewish businessman and member… Read more »

Venezuelan Jews report shift in tone from Chavez government

Venezuelan Jews celebrate the opening of a new synagogue in Caracas, December 2010. (Jasmina Kelemen)

CARACAS, Venezuela (JTA) — On a balmy tropical evening in early December, a few hundred families, mostly of Moroccan descent, gathered to inaugurate the first phase of what eventually will be a grand, two-story marble shul located in a wealthy Caracas neighborhood. Among them, Claudio Benaim’s family beamed as… Read more »

Greece-Israel relations soar as ties with Turkey fade

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara (center), on a Greek Navy boat with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and his wife, Ada, August 2010. (Amos BenGershom/Government Press Office/FLASH 90/JTA)

Israel’s ambassador to Greece, Arye Mekel, was on the phone with a journalist earlier this month when the call came in that Israel’s Carmel region was up in flames. The Israeli prime minister needed to speak urgently with his Greek counterpart. Mekel quickly located Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou… Read more »

Could Hungarian anti-Semitism get out of control?

BUDAPEST (JTA) — The rise of Hungary’s far-right Jobbik Party has ratcheted up debate about anti-Semitism in this country and focused attention on the seeming paradoxes of Jewish life here. On the one hand, a recent article in Germany’s Der Spiegel described Budapest as “Europe’s capital of anti-Semitism,” where… Read more »

In saving Jewish remnants in Galicia, an effort to enlist Ukrainians

The remains of a Jewish cemetary dating back to the 16th century in the Ukrainian village of Solotyvn. Dina Kraft

SOLOTVYN, Ukraine (JTA) — On a sloping green hill tucked between small farmsteads, the mottled graves of Jews buried here since the 1600s rise up like a forgotten forest. Trudging through the mud between the tilted stones, their chiseled Hebrew lettering and renderings of menorahs sometimes barely visible, Vladimer… Read more »

At site of Nazi power, a chanukah menorah at Brandenberg Gate

A costumed Maccabee stands at a Chanukah menorah-lighting ceremony at Berlin's Brandenberg Gate, Dec. 1, 2010. (Toby Axelrod)

BERLIN (JTA) — Icicles formed on Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal’s beard as he helped set up the towering menorah in the center of Berlin. It wasn’t just any menorah among the thousands that the Chabad-Lubavitch movement erects every Chanukah in public locations around the world. Teichtal, the Chabad rabbi in the… Read more »

Populists’ anti-Islam message has European Jewish leaders worried

Geert Wilders, the rock star of European politics, is riding the crest of a populist tsunami. As the pro-Israel founder of Holland’s Party of Freedom let loose recently in Berlin, shouting that Islam is a threat to Germany’s identity, democracy and prosperity, his audience of 500 reacted with an… Read more »

Draft of anti-Jewish measure changing views of Vichy head

PARIS (JTA) — Nearly 70 years to the day since the passage of a pivotal anti-Semitic law in Vichy-occupied France, new evidence about who drafted the law is transforming some historians’ views of France’s wartime head of state, Philippe Petain. Until now the Oct. 3, 1940 law — dubbed… Read more »

South African museum to juxtapose Holocaust with Rwandan genocide

This architectural rendering shows the interior of the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre. "Khumbula" is the Zulu word for remember. (Lewis Levin)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (JTA) — At a South African Holocaust museum that plans to open late next year in Johannesburg, the Holocaust will be featured beside a more local genocide: the Rwandan violence of 1994. The inclusion of the African mass murder is not a mere gesture toward… Read more »

European Conservatives, the new kids on the block, making strides

A recent survey of British Jewry showed a decline in every Jewish denomination since 1990 except for two groups: the strictly Orthodox haredi and the Masorti, or Conservative movement. Over those 20 years, both have nearly doubled. Researchers behind the report, published in May by the Board of Deputies… Read more »