World

Riding the French countryside in the Jewish-Muslim friendship bus

The Jewish-Muslim friendship bus team talks to a Muslim activist in the central square of Besancon, France, June 10, 2010. (Sue Fishkoff)

BESANCON, France (JTA) — On a hot afternoon in early June, an unusual looking bus is parked in the central square of this historic city in eastern France. Passers-by cast sidelong glances at the brightly colored portraits on its side accompanied by such slogans as “Jews and Muslims say… Read more »

Gay pride parade used ruse to include anti-Israel group, critics charge

An official with Kulanu, shown here marching in the Toronto Gay Pride Parade in June 2009, says the Jewish LGBT group wants to galvanize a large number of marchers for this year's parade. (Creative Commons/Sweet One)

TORONTO (JTA) – Canadian Jewish organizations are saying they will not back down after an unexpected policy reversal that will allow an anti-Israel group to participate in this year’s Toronto gay pride parade. Organizers of the annual parade, one of the largest events on Canada’s cultural calendar, backtracked this… Read more »

Israelis are key to Central African nations’ development

Cameroonian soliders march in the country’s 50th anniversary parade May 20. Israel provides weapons training to Cameroon as part of the two countries’ expanding bilateral ties.

On a barren, 60-acre tract of land overlooking the Gulf of Guinea, bulldozer operators turn the earth while sweaty construction workers take a lunch break in the shadow of an improvised Zim shipping container. Inside an air-conditioned trailer nearby, Tel Aviv native Zvi Blum sits at his desk under… Read more »

With flotillas, vigils and marches, Jews press for Shalit’s release

Gilad Shalit supporters call for his immediate release on the “True Freedom Flotilla,” a New York event held June 24 that was organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. (Michael Priest/JTA Photo Service)

Some 100 to 200 passengers in all, they came as members of a self-described True Freedom Flotilla intent on promoting a Middle East-related humanitarian mission. Instead of breaking the Israeli blockade of Gaza, however, as was the goal of the flotilla of ships that was intercepted May 31 by… Read more »

In Venice, a Jewish disconnect between locals and visitors

Chabad yeshiva students gather near the Chabad House on the main square of the Venice Ghetto. (Ruth Ellen Gruber)

VENICE, Italy (JTA) — It was a Friday afternoon in the heart of the historic Venice Ghetto, and I was chatting with the city’s chief rabbi, Elia Richetti, when his cellphone beeped. “It’s a text message from Gam-Gam Goodies, the Chabad-run pastry shop around the corner,” said the bespectacled… Read more »

New Zealand Jews plan to fight for shechitah

Chickens being kosher slaughtered on New Zealand's South Island in 2009. A new law banning shechitah is being challenged by the country's Jews.

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – Barring a last-minute policy reversal, Jewish leaders in New Zealand appear certain to launch legal action against the government over its controversial new law banning kosher slaughter. Six Jewish leaders were granted a 30-minute meeting a week ago with Prime Minister John Key, the son… Read more »

In Europe, flotilla protests relatively small but Jews fear tensions with Turks

More than 700 people reportedly attended a rally outside the Israeli Embassy of London supporting Israel in the wake of the flotilla incident, June 2. (Adrian Korsner/JTA Photo Service)

Prague (JTA) — As thousands of protesters condemned Israel’s blockade of Gaza in cities across Europe, reactions within Jewish communities ranged from mild concern to alarm. On Saturday, June 5, 6,000 protesters marched in Germany, 20,000 in France and 2,000 in London against Israel’s actions in the May 31… Read more »

Question in Italy: How do we reach Orthodox Jews?

Rabbi Elia Richetti, the president of the Italian Rabbinical Assembly, mingles with tourists outside the Jewish Museum in Venice (Ruth Ellen Gruber/JTA Photo Service)

ROME (JTA) — The years-long battle that ended recently with the dismissal of the chief rabbi of Turin, Italy, highlights a 21st-century identity crisis afflicting the oldest Jewish community in the Diaspora. Rabbi Alberto Somekh, who like all recognized rabbis in Italy is Orthodox, had served as chief rabbi… Read more »

Exhibit at Schindler factory site recalls Nazi-era Krakow

The factory in which Oskar Schindler used Jewish slave labor during World War II has been turned into a Holocaust museum. (Patti McCracken/JTA Photo Service)

KRAKOW, Poland (JTA) — In January 1994, an American tourist stepped out of a taxi into a cold, drizzling rain and entered the Jarden Jewish Bookshop at the far end of the square in the Jewish quarter of Krakow. On the counter he splayed a weeks-old copy of The… Read more »

Germany’s Oberammergau Passion Play better, but not good

This scene in the Oberamergau Passion Play, showing Jesus' crucifixion, perpetuates the charge against the Jews of deicide, some Jewish critics say. (Passion Play/Obergammergau 2010/JTA Photo Service)

Berlin (JTA) — It’s a tradition that goes back hundreds of years in the Bavarian village of Oberammergau, nestled in the German Alps. After witnessing it in the 1930s, Hitler reportedly proclaimed, “Never has the menace of Jewry been so convincingly portrayed as in this presentation of what happened… Read more »

Volunteers bring some relief to needy Lithuanian, Latvian Jews

MOSCOW (JTA) — It took them five days and nights in four hotels through three countries to deliver two vans from London to the Jews of Latvia and Lithuania. Eight British volunteers went on a “Mission Impossible,” a program of the British charity World Jewish Relief, to aid Jewish… Read more »

Helping Russian Jews build community themselves

MOSCOW (JTA) – After decades of community-building from the top down, often with the aid of donors from overseas, can Russia’s Jewish communities build themselves from the bottom up? That’s the question that a group of, well, donors from overseas are trying to determine with a new educational program… Read more »

U.S. Communities are building ties to Haiti

 PETIT-GOAVE, Haiti (JTA) — Not a single Jew lives among the 170,000 inhabitants of Petit-Goâve, nor among the 20,000 refugees from Port-au-Prince who have crowded into this town since a magnitude-7.0 earthquake leveled Haiti’s capital in January.  But Jews are among those helping bring Petit-Goâve back to life.  “After… Read more »

Israelis maintain presence in Haiti for the long haul

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (JTA) — Amir Kashi, a 34-year-old social worker from Ma’ale Adumim, and Yehonatan Abraham, a 30-year-old medic from Beersheva, knew nothing about Haiti before the earthquake in January.  But both Israelis felt compelled to act after the disaster struck.  “I felt impotent in Israel, sitting in front… Read more »

Mass converts pose dilemma for Latin American Jews

CARTAGENA, Colombia (JTA) -- Luis Alberto Prieto Vargas appears to be a Jew. He wears a kipah, he introduces himself as Jewish and two years ago Vargas, a Christian by birth, underwent a conversion ceremony to Judaism following several years of religious study. But Vargas’ conversion hit a key… Read more »

Poland’s Jewish heritage is about more than just death

BIELSKO-BIALA, Poland (JTA) -- Outside the elegant theater in the city of Bielsko Biala in southern Poland, a billboard advertises an upcoming play. Stark letters spell out the title: "Zyd" -- Jew. The lettering looks almost menacing, like scrawled graffiti, and I am a little taken aback. But then… Read more »