World news

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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How Iran's secret A-plant was exposed

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 17, 2009

Israel’s military intelligence chief, Major General Amos Yadlin, has confirmed that Iran owned up to its secret nuclear facility in Qom only because it discovered that Western intelligence services were already aware of its existence.

According to other intelligence sources, several months ago, Iran captured a spy operated by MI6 and discovered that Western intelligence services knew about Qom.

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Roman Abramovich names son after late father

By Simon Griver, December 11, 2009

Roman Abramovich has named his new son Aaron Alexander Abramovich after his late father Arkady, whose Jewish name was Aaron.

Mr Abramovich's father was killed in a construction site accident in Russia when the billionaire Chelsea owner was just four years old.

Daria Zhukova gave birth at Los Angeles’ Cedar-Sinai Medical Center last Thursday. The hospital is close to where the former model grew up and her Jewish mother Elena’s home. Ms Zhukova attended a Jewish school in California as a teenager.

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Rabbis join gay marriage debate in US

By Paul Berger, December 10, 2009

Rabbis and Jewish politicians have waded into America’s debate on gay marriage, wielding Judaism in their arguments for and against same-sex unions.

In Lakewood, New Jersey, home to a strictly Orthodox community of about 10,000 families, Jewish leaders committed the hitherto unthinkable act of discussing their opposition to gay marriage with a secular journalist.

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Analysis: You can be mad and still fit to stand trial

By Jean-Yves Camus, December 10, 2009

The Selam case has been re-opened, but the murderer will most probably be declared insane again, and despite the quite obvious antisemitic intent of his action, it is dubious that he will ever be jailed.

This is because there is a loophole in the French judicial system. Despite the Dati Law of 2008, which allows the family of a victim to appeal a judge’s ruling that a criminal is insane, most judges think that being mentally disturbed means being unfit to stand trial.

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DJ murder may finally reach court

By Natasha Lehrer, December 10, 2009

Was the murder of Sebastien Selam, killed with a knife and fork in the car park of his apartment building, the act of a madman — or an antisemitic crime?

This is the question a Parisian court of appeal is currently considering, and which is agitating the French community, less than six months after the conviction of Youssef Fofana and members of his “Gang of barbarians” for the kidnap and brutal murder of Ilan Halimi.

Just before midnight on December 18, 2003, Mr Selam, 23, was on his way back to the Parisian flat where he lived with his mother.

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Australia renews its love affair with Israel

By Dan Goldberg, December 10, 2009

It was known as the “golden era” between Israel, Australia and the Jewish community.

The 11-year period of Conservative government under John Howard was arguably the zenith in bilateral relations between the two far-flung friends.

Between 1996 and 2007, Mr Howard — alongside Treasurer Peter Costello and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer — narrowed the distance between Canberra and Jerusalem, diplomatically if not geographically.

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How I avoided becoming a Madoff victim

By Paul Berger, December 10, 2009

Like many of his peers, philanthropist Charles Bronfman, an heir to the Seagram’s whisky fortune, was offered a chance to invest with Bernard Madoff.

“I’m no maven on financial stuff,” says Mr Bronfman, explaining that he referred the opportunity to his financial advisor.

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How I avoided becoming a Madoff victim

By Paul Berger, December 10, 2009

Like many of his peers, philanthropist Charles Bronfman, an heir to the Seagram’s whisky fortune, was offered a chance to invest with Bernard Madoff.

“I’m no maven on financial stuff,” says Mr Bronfman, explaining that he referred the opportunity to his
financial advisor.

“He came back and said, ‘Look, we asked [Madoff] certain questions. This guy could be the best guy in the world but we didn’t cotton on to his answers. So we have to advise against. Maybe you’re missing a big bet.”

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Chasidim stop bike lanes

By Paul Berger, December 10, 2009

For some New Yorkers, cycling is a religion.

So, when the city’s department of transport removed a bike lane that cut through the Chasidic area of Williamsburg last week, it was seen as a sacrilege.

“They illegally sold out the citizens of New York,” said Baruch Herzfeld, a modern Orthodox Jew who owns the Traif Bike Geschaft repair and rental shop on the southern edge of “hipster”, or bohemian, Williamsburg.

Mr Herzfeld and other bikers are enraged because, it appears, New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg struck a back-room deal with Williamsburg’s Satmar community.

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