World news

Natalie Portman: "I hate doing Holocaust films"

By Robyn Rosen, January 5, 2010

Natalie Portman has said she tries to “stay away from playing Jews” after her latest role as a Chasidic wife.

The 28-year-old actress told Elle magazine: “I get like 20 Holocaust scripts a month but I hate the genre”.

In her new film New York, I Love You, out later this year, she plays strictly Orthodox diamond buyer, Rifka Malone.

The film has already caused some controversy after Abe Karpen, a Chassidic actor from Brooklyn who was to partner Ms Portman in the film, dropped out of shooting after being pressured by an outraged response from the New York community.

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Rabbi’s Skype exorcism

December 30, 2009

A renowned Israeli master of kabbalah, Rabbi Dovid Batzri, has attempted to remove a dybbuk, or disembodied spirit, from a Brazilian man via the internet.

A video posted on Charedi website ladaat.net, shows Rabbi Batzri, surrounded by dozens of supporters, reciting kabbalistic verses and praying for the exorcism of the dybbuk. He connected with the possessed man via Skype.

According to another Charedi site, kikar.net, the story began when a Brazilian yeshivah student started shouting in shul that he could “smell many sins” and that “the end is very near”.

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Charedi poverty, New York-style

By Paul Berger in New York, December 30, 2009

The shop windows that line Lee Avenue in the Charedi neighbourhood of Williamsburg advertise every aspect of Orthodox life — long black coats, ornate silver menorahs, challahs, prayer books, Jewish-themed toys.

So the gleaming white storefront at number 65 is striking for the fact that it advertises nothing; just a neat row of white blinds.

Behind the blinds is Williamsburg’s first kosher soup kitchen, the Orenstein-Met Council Masbia Kitchen, which opened last month.

“It’s quoted in halachah that the best way to do charity is to go all out,” said Alexander Rapaport.

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Hamas weighs up 'last offer' for Shalit

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 30, 2009

The main obstacle remaining to the Gilad Shalit prisoner deal is the number of Palestinian prisoners who will not be allowed to return to their homes in the West Bank.

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Replica Auschwitz sign on eBay

By Robyn Rosen, December 24, 2009

A replica “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign, described as “similar to the one at Auschwitz” is being auctioned on eBay just days after the real sign was stolen.

The sign is being sold by “ss panzergrenadier” who describes himself as an “artist”. Six people have so far bid in the auction, which closes tomorrow, with the highest bid at $132.50 (£83).

It measures about seven feet long and is made from round bar steel with steel lettering.

Last week, the genuine wrought-iron sign was wrenched off from above the entrance to the death camp.

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Irish girl gets vital surgery in Israel

By Ruth Eglash, December 23, 2009

The prognosis was grim last year for Rachel Casey, an Irish two-year-old with Downs Syndrome who was born with hundreds of holes in her heart. Her local physician had not managed to operate successfully, and her options were running out.

“She had been very sick,” recalled her father, Gerry, 40.

“Her heart was described as being like ‘Swiss Cheese’, and her doctor said that if she was not operated on quickly, the chance to close the holes would pass.”

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Outrage as Pope nudges Pius towards sainthood

By Ruth Ellen Gruber, December 23, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to move controversial wartime Pope Pius XII closer to sainthood has provoked outrage in the Jewish world.

On Saturday, the pope signed a decree certifying Pius’s religiously defined “heroic virtues”, a move that paved the way for his beatification. Critics have long accused Pius of having turned a blind eye to Jewish suffering in the Shoah and have asked the Vatican to open its WWII archives to clarify the issue.

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Sex tapes rock the Orthodox

By Paul Berger, December 23, 2009

Recordings of sexually explicit conversations, apparently between a strictly Orthodox rabbi and a woman he was helping convert to Judaism, are rocking the entire Orthodox world.

New York Rabbi Leib Tropper resigned earlier this month from the organisation he founded, Eternal Jewish Family (EJF), after posters appeared in Orthodox neighbourhoods of Jerusalem insinuating that he had committed sexual indiscretions.

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Demjanjuk 'not fragile', say experts

By Toby Axelrod, December 23, 2009

The war crimes trial of John Demjanjuk has resumed and is no less bizarre than when it started three weeks ago.

Demjanjuk, 89, is charged with being an accessory to the murder of 27,900 Jews, as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in 1943. Each day he is rolled into the Munich District courtroom in a wheelchair or on a gurney, wrapped in a blanket. But medical expert witnesses have assured the court he is neither frail nor senile, but simply old.

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Jimmy Carter: 'Sorry for stigmatising Israel'

December 23, 2009

Former American President Jimmy Carter has offered an apology for “any words or deeds” of his that have stigmatised Israel.

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