World news

Kagan hearings start in Washington

By Jennifer Lipman, June 29, 2010

Hearings have begun in Washington to confirm a Jewish woman as a judge on America’s highest court.

US President Barack Obama nominated his solicitor-general Elena Kagan for a position on the Supreme Court in May 2010. She faces at least two days of questions from a panel of 19 Democrats and Republicans.

If she is confirmed - and Republican critics have promised she will face tough questioning – a third of the nine Supreme Court justices would be Jewish. The other six members are Catholic.

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Spielberg slips down celebrity list

By Jennifer Lipman, June 29, 2010

Film director Steven Spielberg has seen his star power plummet in the last year according to the Forbes Celebrity 100 list.

Mr Spielberg, who directed the Oscar winning film version of Schindler’s List, was ranked 22nd on the annual list which ranks stars according to their earnings, web hits and media coverage, falling from the seventh spot in 2009.

However the 63-year-old director, one of several Jewish names who made the list, still commanded an impressive $100 million pay (£66 million) in the past year between June 2009 and 2010.

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Elie Wiesel campaigns for Russian prisoner

By Jennifer Lipman, June 29, 2010

Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has launched a campaign in support of a Russian Jewish businessman facing embezzlement charges.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former head of the Yukos oil company and once known as Russia's richest man, is already serving an eight year prison sentence and could face another 22 years behind bars if he is convicted in a related theft case.

But Mr Wiesel, a prominent human rights campaigner, said he considers Mr Khodorkovsky a political prisoner and believed that the case was political.

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Tourists detained for stealing from Auschwitz

By Jennifer Lipman, June 28, 2010

Polish police have questioned two Canadian teachers who allegedly stole parts from the Auschwitz-Birkenau train tracks.

The pair, both said to be men in their 20s, were detained after security guards found them in possession of spikes from the railway which carried Jews and other Nazi victims to the concentration camp.

They have been released and police have not said whether they will face charges. A Polish radio station reported that the men were looking for a memento of their visit.

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New Zealand DJ suspended for Nazi joke

By Jennifer Lipman, June 28, 2010

A New Zealand radio presenter has been suspended after he said that “Jews were expendable” and made another Nazi jibe.

Breakfast show DJ and television personality David Fane also told audiences at a media event that "Hitler had a right" and that HIV sufferers deserved to be "roasted".

His words have caused outrage amongst members of the Jewish and gay communities in New Zealand.

Stephen Goodman, president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, called the comments “very antisemitic”.

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Analysis: Kosher meat ban can affect all of us

By Henry Grunwald, June 24, 2010

I suppose Neville Chamberlain might have described New Zealand as "a small, far-away country" but New Zealand's new animal welfare code could have a major effect on this side of the world.

The code requires animals slaughtered for commercial consumption to be stunned prior to slaughter to ensure they are treated "humanely and in accordance with good practice and scientific knowledge". Stunning disqualifies animals from being kosher and the code is an insult to shechitah, which is at least as humane as any other method of slaughter.

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Legal challenge to kosher meat ban

By Dan Goldberg, June 24, 2010

New Zealand's Prime Minister appears to be heading for a legal showdown with the Jewish community over a new law that bans the kosher slaughtering of animals.

The crisis, triggered by the May 27 decision to outlaw shechitah, prompted Jewish leaders to request an urgent meeting with Jewish-born John Key in an attempt to resolve the crisis. But the 30-minute meeting in Auckland last Friday concluded with the six-person delegation informing Mr Key that the small community would be left with "no option" but to take legal action "if there was no solution forthcoming".

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NY synagogue bomb plot 'a setup'

By Paul Berger, June 24, 2010

Four Muslim converts accused of plotting to blow up New York synagogues and shoot down US military planes could be freed in a matter of weeks.

The trial of the men, from Newburgh, New York, stalled last week after prosecutors released a report by a federal agent saying that the men never posed a threat.

Judge Colleen McMahon berated prosecutors for not releasing the information earlier and ordered federal lawyers to scour records for similar documents, a process prosecutors say could take months.

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Young people don't want to affiliate, laments Reform head

By Paul Berger, June 24, 2010

The chief threat to the Reform movement in America is the reluctance of young Jews to join community institutions, says its outgoing head.

There is a "general process of non-affiliation" rooted in an "anti-institutional era in American life", according to Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

"We have to cope with a tide of modernity that has swept over our community. Young people don't tend to be joiners, much less have a tendency to affiliate with an institution. So we need to work hard to overcome those demographic and sociological realities."

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Asian Jewry undergoing renaissance

By Jeremy Gillick, June 24, 2010

Erica Lyons runs Asia's brand-new Jewish magazine, Asian Jewish Life, from a small office in central Hong Kong. It is the region's "Jewish cultural headquarters", she jokes with her office mate, a journalist who presides over Hong Kong's Jewish Film Festival.

But while they may poke fun at their fledgling project, the magazine's launch this January is a symptom of real change in Asian Jewry. Whereas far-flung communities in places like India and China are often regarded as exotic relics of the past, Jewish life in the region is undergoing a renaissance.

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