United States

Roger Cohen - new target of New York Jews' fury

By Paul Berger, December 17, 2009

It’s been quite a year for Roger Cohen. The British-born New York Times columnist has been called a “self-hating Jew” and accused of attempting to “undermine American solidarity with Israel”. The editor of America’s largest Jewish paper, the New York Jewish Week, even wondered whether his heart had “become brutal”.

Mr Cohen’s crime: a succession of columns sharply criticising Israel and presenting an alternative view of Iran.

“I don’t set out to be provocative,” Mr Cohen says, from his home in Brooklyn. “I set out to write what I believe.”

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New York 'tight conversions' rabbi resigns

By Paul Berger, December 17, 2009

The founder of a powerful American group that seeks to enforce a tough stance on conversions has abruptly resigned.

Leib Tropper, a strictly Orthodox rabbi who founded the New York-based Eternal Jewish Family, said he was stepping down last weekend to “pursue a variety of other interests”.

In the past week, images appeared on several Jewish blogs showing posters on display in Orthodox neighbourhoods of Jerusalem accusing him of indiscretions.

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Seeking tales of Jews fleeing from Arab countries

By Sue Fishkoff in San Francisco, December 3, 2009

Joseph Samuels, born Yosef Sasson in Baghdad, was 18 years old when he fled Iraq for the new state of Israel.

It was 1949, and life was becoming increasingly difficult for Jews in Iraq, as it was throughout the Arab world. Yosef’s parents urged him to leave, promising they would follow.

He took a train to the coast with his younger brother, where they crammed into a smuggler’s boat with 16 other Jewish youths. They rowed secretly to Iran, where the Sasson boys were airlifted to Israel.

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Lawyer charged in $1.2b Ponzi scheme

By Ellen Tumposky, December 3, 2009

A prominent Florida lawyer who was a major donor to US politicians and to Chabad has been charged with running a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme.

Scott Rothstein, 47, was arrested on five racketeering and fraud charges and could face up to 100 years in prison. He pleaded not guilty to the charges, which included conspiracy to commit money laundering, mail fraud and wire fraud, and was being held without bail.

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US 'antisemitism ambassador' is critical of pro-Israel right

By Paul Berger, New York, November 26, 2009

The US State Department has appointed a new special envoy to monitor and combat global antisemitism.

Hannah Rosenthal, 58, a former director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, will assume the post, which was created by Congress in 2004.

Ms Rosenthal’s appointment has already been met with some scepticism by conservative Jews because of her past criticism of the “narrow, ultra-conservative views” that dominate American pro-Israel groups.

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'Ethical' food, not kosher, is priority for US Reform

By Sue Fishkoff, November 26, 2009

For the past few years, the American Reform movement has been edging toward a re-examination of kashrut. Those tentative steps were diverted somewhat at the movement’s biennial convention in Toronto earlier this month.

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Guilty: kosher abattoir owner faces 1,255 years in prison after giant fraud

November 19, 2009

The former CEO of America’s largest kosher slaughterhouse has been convicted on 86 charges of fraud.

A South Dakota jury declared Sholom Rubashkin, formerly of the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant in Iowa, guilty of bank, mail and wire fraud; making false statements to a bank; money laundering; and ignoring an order to pay livestock providers. He was acquitted on five counts.

A date for sentencing has yet to be announced but Rubashkin, 50, could face up to 1,255 years in jail.

He still faces trial on 72 charges relating to immigration violations.

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Mixed-race Jewish children locate their communal comfort zone

By Sue Fishkoff, November 12, 2009

Dafna Wu, a 48-year-old San Francisco nurse, was born to a Jewish mother and Chinese father. She was raised Jewish but looks Asian, as does her daughter, nine-year-old Amalia, whose father was also Chinese.

The Hebrew School Amalia attends is filled with mixed-race children, but the parents in the congregation are all white, as is the majority of American Jewry. That concerns her mother.

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Los Angeles synagogue gunman evades capture

By Tom Tugend, November 5, 2009

The Los Angeles Jewish community remained on alert this week as police continued their hunt for a gunman who shot and wounded two congregants at a Sephardic synagogue.

The shooting occurred last week in the underground garage of the Adat Yeshurun Valley Sephardic Synagogue in suburban north Hollywood.

A young man, described as dark-skinned and wearing a dark, hooded sweat shirt, approached one worshipper arriving for early morning services and tried to shoot him, but the gun jammed.

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Families flee Yemen for US

By Paul Berger, November 5, 2009

Dozens of Jews have been evacuated from Yemen in a clandestine operation by the US government.

Yemen’s Jewish population is thought to date back about 2,500 years. The majority of its Jews, about 49,000 people, were airlifted to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet during 1949 and 1950. By the beginning of this year, about 300 remained.

Yemen has become increasingly unstable and growing Islamic militancy has brought a rise in antisemitism.

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