World news

Eastern Europe Jews urge antisemitism fight

By Toby Axelrod, January 7, 2010

The World Congress of Russian-speaking Jews urged action to fight Holocaust denial and antisemitism in former Soviet republics in a conference in Berlin last month.

At issue is the alleged glorification of wartime Nazi collaborators, rehabilitated today as nationalist heroes, particularly in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine, charged Boris Shpigel, president of the WCRJ.


Food volunteers deliver Jewish values

By Sue Fishkoff, January 7, 2010

Last year, Karyn Moskowitz of Louisville, Kentucky launched a non-profit company to bring fresh, affordable food to low-income areas.

Every week she drives 100 miles to an Amish produce market to buy organically grown fruit and vegetables. She brings them to a black Baptist Church, where volunteers divide it up into baskets parishioners can buy for $12.

“When we showed up, the people freaked,” Ms Moskowitz said. “They said, ‘Where did you get that food? We can’t buy anything like it here.’”


Gay debate rocks Orthodox university

By Paul Berger, January 7, 2010

A debate at a leading Jewish university about the status of gay people in the Orthodox community has unleashed a fierce backlash.

The panel discussion at New York’s Yeshiva University, titled “Being Gay in the Modern Orthodox World”, attracted about 800 people. Dozens were turned away because the hall was at capacity.


US Holocaust museum shooter dies

By Robyn Rosen, January 7, 2010

The man behind the US Holocaust Museum shooting, which left a guard dead, has died in prison.

James von Brunn shot and killed Stephen Tyrone Johns on June 10 last year during an attempted raid on the museum in Washington.

Von Brunn, 88, died in a prison hospital on Wednesday of natural causes after suffering from chronic heart disease and complications arising from the wounds he incurred in the shooting.

Von Brunn was awaiting trial on possible death penalty charges in the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina.


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.


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, 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,, 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”.


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.


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.


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.


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.”