World news

Schools struggle to stay open in US

By Paul Berger, September 3, 2009

Ray Levi, head of the Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School, has had to increase aid for struggling parents, freeze teachers’ pay, reduce benefits and cut support staff.

So it is perhaps a sign of how fragility has become a fact of life for American Jewish day schools that Mr Levi is upbeat. “Despite all the problems we face, I think there is a lot of promise for day schools in America,” he says.

Enrolment remains high and his primary school has strong communal support. But others are not so fortunate.

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This shul may become a music hall

By Chloe Markowicz, September 3, 2009

A strictly Orthodox rabbi has started a campaign to stop part of a historic synagogue in Transylvania being turned into a concert hall. However, the owners of the Great Synagogue of Dej say that no such plans exist.

Rabbi Eliahu Caufman alleges that part of the women’s section in the shul, which was built in 1865, will be transformed by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia.

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Vilnius cemetery is saved

By Leon Symons, September 3, 2009

A long-running international row over the future of a 700-year-old cemetery in Lithuania has been settled.

The disused Snipiskes cemetery in Vilnius was found when developers began setting the foundations of an office block in 2007 and uncovered the remains of graves.

Protests were lodged by the London-based Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe (CPJCE), the American and British ambassadors in Vilnius and the Board of Deputies, who demanded that building stop until the exact boundaries of the cemetery were determined.

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French anti-Muslim backlash hurts Jews

By Shirli Sitbon, September 3, 2009

The backlash against Muslims in France demanding religious rights in the public sphere has also hit Jews, who feel that their own, similar requests are being treated increasingly negatively.

“Things have got worse since more and more Muslims started pushing demands, sometimes with political motives. Now we’re compared to assertive pushy militants and our own requests are denied outright,” said Marc Djebali, vice president of the Jewish community of Sarcelles, a suburb north of Paris. “Now officials tell me: ‘we can’t accept this, this is a secular state’.”

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Google now translates Yiddish

By Marcus Dysch, September 3, 2009

Do you find yourself sitting in front of the computer desperately trying to remember whether you mean khaver or khazer in the email you are sending your bubbeh?

Well, platz no more. Google has launched a tool which translates English words and phrases into Yiddish, and vice versa, in seconds, eliminating unfortunate misunderstandings and leaving you ongeshtopt with new phrases.

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Nazis used man in women's Olympics

September 3, 2009

A new film reveals how the Nazis replaced a female Jewish athlete with a man in drag during the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

The feature film Berlin 36, which opens in Germany next week, tells the story of star high-jumper Gretel Bergmann. Ms Bergmann was banned from competing in the Olympics to shield Hitler from the embarrassment of a Jewish athlete winning.

Bergmann’s replacement was her roommate Horst Ratjen, who posed as “Dora”. He kept his gender secret from his teammates by shaving his legs several times a day and showering alone.

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South Africa calls for expat Jews to return

By Leon Symons, September 3, 2009

A call by new South African president Jacob Zuma for expatriate Jews to return home has received a lukewarm response in the UK.

President Zuma made his plea to an 800-strong audience at the national conference of the South African Board of Deputies in Johannesburg on Saturday night.

“This country has a massive skills shortage as a result of decades of neglect and deliberate under-investment,” he said. “This problem is exacerbated by the emigration of skilled people. We must reverse the trend.

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Shul security and the rabbis with guns

By Paul Berger, September 3, 2009

They call themselves The International Security Coalition of Clergy.

But you can think of them as The God Squad — armed rabbis and priests ready to leap from the bimah, or the pulpit, to tackle and kill terrorists.

The coalition is led by Rabbi Gary Moscowitz, 52, a fast-talking martial arts instructor and former New York police officer, who says he can transform the average synagoguegoer into a fighting machine, trained in unarmed combat and weapons.

“Jews are not like Christians,” he says. “If we turn our cheek, we are spinning around to make a kick.”

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Colonel Gaddafi? He ruined my fence

By Paul Berger, September 3, 2009

Nothing can stop Colonel Gaddafi from visiting New York in a couple of weeks’ time to address the United Nations General Assembly.

But the Libyan leader is having one heck of a time trying to find somewhere to stay.

Mr Gaddafi often travels with an air-conditioned tent on foreign trips. His first reported request, to camp in Central Park, was turned down. Now, an apparent attempt to stay in the garden of a mansion owned by the Libyan government, in Englewood, New Jersey, has also been blocked.

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Dutch cartoon mocks the Holocaust

September 2, 2009

An Arab group which published a cartoon denying the Holocaust may be prosecuted in the Netherlands.

The Dutch public prosecutor’s office said the cartoon insults Jews and is an illegal form of discrimination. It plans to bring charges, one of which may be for "insulting a group and distributing an insulting image".

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