World news

Glee star Idina Menzel to play wedding singer

By Jennifer Lipman, December 1, 2010

Jewish Broadway favourite Idina Menzel is to star as a Barmitzvah singer in a new television series.

The actress, recently on screen as Rachel Berry’s estranged mother in Glee, is to start filming the as-yet untitled series next year, for it to air in autumn.

Ms Menzel will play a single mother and the show will look at her relationship with her daughter as well as her professional life as a waitress and part-time wedding singer.

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World Jewish Congress leadership role for foreign policy expert

By Jennifer Lipman, November 30, 2010

An American commentator with expertise on the Iranian nuclear threat and Israeli security issues is to take charge of the World Jewish Congress (WJC).

Foreign policy and media expert Daniel Diker has been appointed to succeed Michael Schneider as secretary general of the 74-year-old organisation, which represents Jews in nearly 100 countries.

The outgoing secretary general will officially step down next June after four decades of involvement in the WJC and four years in charge, although Mr Diker will take on the role immediately.

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Payout for fake Holocaust memoir

By Jessica Elgot, November 30, 2010

The publishers of a fraudulent Holocaust memoir must pay its ghost writer $10m because she did not realise Misha Defonseca’s story was a fake.

US author Ms Defonseca published “Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years” in 1997, telling a story of her survival from the Holocaust, roaming through Europe on foot, receiving food from a pack of wolves. It was a bestseller and the film rights were sold to Disney. Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel wrote the foreword for the book.

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New Zealand kosher poultry ban overturned

By Robyn Rosen, November 26, 2010

The Jewish community in New Zealand is celebrating after the country’s ban on kosher poultry was overturned.

An agreement has been reached with the minister of agriculture which will enable the shechitah of poultry to continue, but the community is still negotiating over the slaughter of lamb .

In May, Agriculture Minister David Carter rejected a recommendation that shechitah be exempt from the new animal welfare code, which mandates that all commercially slaughtered animals must first be stunned, making shechitah illegal.

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On the fifth floor is our Sefer Torah, and a goat

By Paul Berger, November 26, 2010

The fifth floor of a yeshivah in Queens is about the last place you would expect to find a typical Samarkand courtyard with Persian rugs, clay urns and a goat staring out from behind a chicken wire fence.

"When I look at it, I am surprised myself how one man did it," says Aron Aronov, the 72-year-old founder and curator of the Bukharian Jewish
Museum.

Mr Aronov's collection, which includes handwritten prayerbooks, a 400-year-old Sefer Torah, and hundreds of colourful shawls and robes, spills out over three rooms and a hallway.

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In heart of Brooklyn, a slice of living history

By Paul Berger, November 26, 2010

On a recent sunlit morning in Brooklyn, Leonard Petlakh drove me on a tour of the synagogues that pepper the heavily Russian-speaking neighbourhoods of south Brooklyn.

"Another congregation, happily dying," Mr Petlakh said, pulling up outside the Conservative Congregation Beth Shalom, where he was married 11 years ago.

"If you go down any street around here most of the homes are Russian," he continued. "But the synagogue's boards aren't interested in outreach to Russians."

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Uganda rabbi hopes to be first Jew in parliament

By Jennifer Lipman, November 26, 2010

A Ugandan Jew who grew up under Idi Amin is aiming to become the first member of his community to be elected to the country's parliament.

When Ugandans go to the polls in February Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, 41, hopes to be chosen to represent the mostly Muslim area of Bungonkho North, in the city of Mbale.

Rabbi Sizomu, whose brother served two terms in regional office, has already been endorsed by Uganda's main opposition party and has the support of several leading politicians.

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Three charged over Auschwitz sign theft

By Jessica Elgot, November 26, 2010

A Swedish man with alleged neo-Nazi ties has been charged with stealing the ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign from Auschwitz.

Anders Hogstrom was extradited to Poland in April. He has been charged alongside two Poles, who have been identified as Andrzej S. and Marcin A.

Prosecutors in Krakow said all three men had already confessed and agreed to serve sentences of around two-and-a-half years. If the court accepts their plea bargins, they could be sentenced immediately without trial.

Hogstrom is expected to serve in a Swedish jail if convicted.

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US blasts Israel on religious freedom

By Paul Berger, November 25, 2010

The State of Israel discriminates against non-Orthodox Jews and non-Jews, according to a US State Department report.

The critical assessment is included in the department's Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, released last week.

Among the many criticisms, the report found that Israeli state funding favours the Orthodox and that the government puts greater resources into Jewish holy places than other religious sites.

Eight countries - Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan - gave the US most cause for concern.

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Doughnut eater scores Facebook hole-in-one

November 25, 2010

There is a new cult activity on the internet - watching how many doughnuts a Chanucah-obsessed Israeli can eat.

Elie Klein, a 30-year-old father-of-two from Beit Shemesh, has Facebook users from all over the world following his doughnut consumption, and pledging big money to charities for each fried 500-calorie snack he eats.

On Wednesday, after around a week of doughnut-eating and with six full days to go before the first Chanucah light, he had already eaten 30 doughnuts and was raising 322 shekels - more than £50 - for each.

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