World news

Rabbi finance arrests may be 'down to ignorance'

By Ellen Tumposky, March 4, 2010

A string of arrests of Orthodox rabbis and leaders in the US, accused of financial crimes, has raised concerns in the community and sparked debate about whether a spirit of corruption or an other-worldy naivete about money underlies the apparent crime spree.

The arrests include that of Jewish school director Rabbi Milton Balkany, a prominent director of a Jewish school who is accused of trying to extort a hedge fund; the Spinka Grand Rebbe, who got two years for tax fraud; and five rabbis arrested in a New Jersey money-laundering scandal.


Secular Judaism bounces back in US

By Sue Fishkoff, March 4, 2010

When Mark Neuman of Vancouver celebrated his barmitzvah seven years ago at the Peretz Centre for Secular Jewish Culture, he did not read from Torah, wear a kippah or say Hebrew blessings - he gave a talk on the psychology of Jewish humour.

That's how bar- and batmitzvahs are marked in the Congress of Secular Jewish Organisations, a loose-knit association of about two dozen North American communities that celebrate Jewish history and culture while disavowing Jewish ritual and belief in God.


Turkish authorities stall rabbi election

By Sami Kohen, March 4, 2010

The Turkish Chief Rabbi, Isak Haleva, has complained to the government after it stalled for months on authorising elections for a new holder of the office.

Rabbi Haleva's seven-year term of office expired last autumn, but elections could not be held because of a row between the Turkish authorities and the community over the official title of the post.

The authorities refused, for reasons that were never explained, to allow the next holder of the post to be called "Chief rabbi of Turkey", and insisted instead on simply "Chief rabbi".


Rabbi faces expulsion for ordaining woman

By Paul Berger, March 4, 2010

A rabbi faces possible expulsion from the world's largest Orthodox rabbinical organisation for ordaining a female Orthodox rabbi.

Rabbi Avi Weiss, of New York, conferred the title "Rabbah" on Sara Hurwitz last month.

One of Rabbi Weiss's employees told NY Jewish Week that the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) may now convene an ethics committee to decide how to respond.

The committee has the power to expel Rabbi Weiss from the RCA.


Sacha Baron Cohen dropped by Oscars

By Jessica Elgot, March 4, 2010

Bruno star Sacha Baron Cohen has had his Oscar skit, in which he parodies Avatar, pulled from the Academy Awards ceremony.

Reports said that the Oscars’ producer Bill Mechanic had refused the go-ahead for the skit, in order to protect the feelings of Avatar director James Cameron.

Mr Baron Cohen, who co-wrote the sketch with fellow Jewish actor and comedian Ben Stiller, was to have dressed up as a female Na’vi, a blue-skinned alien from the Oscar-nominated film.


Dubai seeks Netanyahu arrest

By Jessica Elgot, March 3, 2010

Dubai’s police chief says he will seek an arrest warrant for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in connection with the murder of a senior Hamas figure in Dubai.

Dahi Khalfan Tamim told the Al Jazeera tv station that he will ask the Dubai prosecutor for an arrest warrant for Mr Netanyahu, and for the head of Mossad, Meir Dagan.

Mr Tamim has previously said that he is “99 per cent certain” that Mossad is behind the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who died in his luxury hotel room in Dubai in January.


Cologne refuses action against artist 'blood libel'

By Jessica Elgot, March 2, 2010

An anti-Israel display in Cologne, which features a cartoon of an Israeli eating a Palestinian child, does not incite racial hatred, the public prosecutor has ruled.

The image is part of a longstanding display put up in Cologne’s Cathedral Square by Walter Herrmann, named the “Wailing Wall”.

The display has now been removed from the square but Mr Herrmann has posted a sign that he plans to remount the “Wailing Wall” in June.

Many of the town’s councillors have appealed for the exhibition to be taken down.


Irish minister 'regrets' protest at Israel envoy

By Marcus Dysch, March 2, 2010

Ireland’s foreign minister has said he regrets a town council’s decision to remove a page, signed by the Israeli ambassador, from its visitors’ book.

Zion Evrony, Israel’s envoy to Ireland, visited Carrickmacross at the end of January but was met by a political row and protests from angry Sinn Féin councillors.

They proposed that the council should “remove” the page signed by Dr Evrony from the visitors’ book.

Foreign Minister Micheál Martin said he “regrets” the incident and believes states should treat each other with respect.


Police interview Dubai murder passport holders

By Jessica Elgot, March 1, 2010

British police have arrived in Israel to interview the British citizens whose passports were used in the assassination of a senior Hamas militant in Dubai.

Two senior police officers are set to meet the six British citizens, all of whom made hold dual British and Israeli nationality, whose passports were used by the assassins who killed Hamas’s Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told European foreign ministers in Brussels last week that there was no evidence that Israel was involved in the murder.


UK: Extra time for UN Israel war crimes probe

By Jessica Elgot, February 26, 2010

Britain has endorsed a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly which gives both Israel and the Palestinians a further five months to launch independent investigations of alleged war crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead.

The resolution was adopted Friday by a vote of 98-7 with 31 abstentions. Fifty-six countries did not vote.

There were fewer votes than expected because some countries were hampered reaching the UN due to snow in New York.