United States

Profile: Arlen Specter

By Nathan Guttman, April 30, 2009

At 79, Arlen Specter was a rare Republican voice. The Jewish lawmaker from Pennsylvania started as a Democrat but joined the Republicans at a time when party leaders promoted the idea of a “big tent” which could accommodate moderates and conservatives.

But during the Bush era, moderates had been consistently sidelined in favour of conservative voices.

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‘Shylock’ off statute book

April 29, 2009

The offensive term “shylock”, referring to illegal money-lending, will be dropped from Florida’s statutes.

State governor Charlie Crist signed a bill this week removing the term from some provisions of state law after a campaign.

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Bugged US lawmaker ‘spoke to Israeli spy’

By Nathan Guttman, April 23, 2009

A row has broken out in Washington over a Jewish congresswoman’s links to pro-Israel lobbyists after her phone calls were wiretapped by the National Security Agency.

Rep Jane Harman, a California Democrat known for her strong ties with pro-Israel groups, was heard conducting a conversation with a “suspected Israeli agent”.

In the call, Ms Harman was asked to use her influence with the administration to help two former staffers of the pro-Israel lobby Aipac who are facing espionage-related charges.

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Russian leadership plan

April 22, 2009

A $2.7 initiative to promote leadership among Russian-speaking Jews living in the US has been announced in New York.

The money will go to training lay leadership in the community and supporting professional development.

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Prince Charles stars in The Rescuers: Heroes of the Holocaust

By Tom Tugend, April 22, 2009

The Prince of Wales is to appear in a new film telling the stories of 12 non-Jewish diplomats who helped save an estimated 200,000 European Jews during the Second World War.

The film also highlights others who helped Jews survive, including Princess Alice of Greece, Prince Charles’s grandmother, who hid Jews in the royal palace in Athens during the German occupation and withstood interrogations by Nazi officials. The Prince pays tribute to his “very remarkable” ancestor in the film.

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Web racists are refused asylum in US

By Leon Symons, April 22, 2009

Two men convicted of publishing racially inflammatory material on the internet have been refused asylum in America and will be returned to Britain to serve their sentences.

Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle fled to the United States during a trial at Leeds Crown Court last year. The jury had returned 11 verdicts of guilty out of 18 counts when the men jumped bail, travelled to Ireland and then flew to Los Angeles, where they claimed political asylum. It was the first prosecution of race hate on the internet.

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Rabbi is jailed for £5m fraud

By Tom Tugend, April 7, 2009

A Brooklyn rabbi has been jailed for two years after pleading guilty to a tax fraud and money laundering scheme.

Rabbi Moshe Zigelman was key to a conspiracy which used five charities of the ultra-Orthodox Spinka group as fronts. Contributors received receipts for large sums which they wrote off on their tax returns. Then they were secretly repaid most of the cash.

In 2006 alone, Zigelman helped solicit more than $8.5 million (£5.3m), of which just $750,000 (£500,000) was kept by charities.

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Gefilte fish flown out to troops

April 6, 2009

Gefilte fish are being shipped to Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf to ensure that no American Jewish serviceman is without home comforts for Pesach.

Six hundred Pesach kits have been sent to US military units, including festival essentials such as a box of regular matzah and one of chocolate-coated matzah, a large jar of gefilte fish, macaroons, sweets, a yarmulke, a Haggadah and a booklet explaining the essence and traditions of Passover.

The kits are designed to enable Jewish servicemen to have "a taste of Pesach" when they are unable to attend family or communal services.

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Donors aid Madoff-hit Elie Wiesel

By Tom Tugend, April 2, 2009

After Elie Wiesel lost more than $7 million of his personal fortune in the Bernard Madoff scandal, and his foundation took a $15.2 million hit, the Nobel Prize winner has been flooded by money from sympathetic members of the public.

Following publicity for Wiesel’s losses, donations totalling $400,000 have flowed into his Foundation for Humanity. Some of the money was given directly to Wiesel and his wife Marion, but the couple have turned everything over to the foundation.

Marion Wiesel described it as “an amazing outpouring of generosity”.

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US backlash as Churchill play is staged

By Nathan Guttman, April 2, 2009

The US debut of Seven Jewish Children arrived to mild controversy — and two new plays written in response.

Performed at the Washington DC Jewish Community Centre’s Theatre J, Caryl Churchill’s play was accompanied by two short theatrical responses and an open discussion.

A small group of protestors reminded the audience of the stormy reaction to the play when it was first presented — in the aftermath of the Israeli military assault on Gaza earlier this year.

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