World news

The New Jersey scandal could hurt Israel's Shas party

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 30, 2009

The arrest of leaders of the Halebi community in New York and New Jersey sent shockwaves through the Sephardi Orthodox party, Shas, in Israel.

While numerically the Halebis are one of the smaller Sephardi groups, their financial clout is inordinate.
Rabbi Ovadia Yossef and other Shas leaders have regularly visited the Halebi communities in New York, Sao Paolo and Mexico City to give sermons and fundraise.

Rabbi Ovadia has been close to the community for over six decades. While he was born in Baghdad, his late wife, Margalit, was the daughter of a respected Halebi family.


Syrian Jews in shock after rabbis' arrest

By Elicia Brown, July 30, 2009

America’s Syrian-Jewish community is reeling from a double blow.

Three of its rabbis have been arrested for money laundering in a wide-ranging sweep which netted 44 people, including three New Jersey mayors, several local politicians and two other rabbis of Ashkenazi background.
The alleged fraudulent activity was exposed by a fourth Syrian Jew, Solomon Dwek, who was accused of being a traitor by his community.

The property developer had been charged in 2006 with bank fraud and became an informant for the FBI.


Conservative Jewry fights to survive in US

By Elicia Brown, July 30, 2009

Elie Kaunfer, 35, is exactly the type of Jew the Conservative movement would love to claim. Passionate about Jewish tradition and ordained as a rabbi by the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary, he feels most at home with the egalitarian services which are popular in the centrist stream.

Yet Rabbi Kaunfer will not say he belongs to the Conservative movement — indeed, he will not put any label on his Jewish identity. As co-founder of the wildly popular Hadar, an independent minyan in New York, he knows many young Jews who feel the same.


Three arrested in Iran for 'devil worship'

By Jessica Elgot, July 30, 2009

An Iranian news agency has claimed that police in the north west Iranian province of Ardabil arrested three people, including a Jewish woman, for devil worship.

The Fars news agency, a governmental news body, said: “Two men and a Jewish woman, who were promoting the cult of Satan worship among the youth of Parsabad town, have been arrested,”

It also claimed more than 100 items, including jewellery made from human skulls, have been seized from the arrested people.


This is Madonna, reporting from Israel

By Jessica Elgot, July 29, 2009

The Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot has a new face on its pages - Madonna.

The paper is publishing Madonna's article "How My Life Changed" on Friday, translated into Hebrew.

The recently divorced star, 50, is devoted to Kabbalah and has adopted a Hebrew name, Esther.

She will perform in Israel for the final leg of her Sticky and Sweet tour in September.

The article is said to be about her “religious awakening” which she claims happened 14 years ago, a report from the Associated Press claimed.


Palestinian militant's threat to Bruno

By Jessica Elgot, July 28, 2009

Bruno actor Sacha Baron Cohen has stepped up his security after a threat from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.
He ridiculed the group in the film when he visited the Palestinian militia’s leader Ayman Abu Aita.

Mr Baron Cohen’s character, a gay Austrian fashionista told Mr Aita: “Your King Osama looks like a kind of a dirty wizard or a homeless Santa.”

The group said the British comedian made "dirty use" of Mr Aita and said the film’s producers had misled them as to the real context of the film.


Interfaith group bond on trip to US

By Jessica Elgot, July 28, 2009

A delegation of European imams and rabbis met at the White House last week to discuss how to combat rising Islamophobia and antisemitism.

The group was made up of leading clerics from from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom

More.. sued over Holocaust denial books

By Jessica Elgot, July 27, 2009

The American Jewish Committee is to sue the German arm of online books giant Amazon for selling more than 50 Holocaust denial books or books which "trivialise" the Nazis.

Deidre Berger, AJC's German director said: "It is unacceptable that books are for sale on that normally are only available under the counter in far-right extremist shops.

"We cannot let the spread of internet sales erode laws that ban Holocaust denial and incitement to hatred of minorities in Germany."

The organisation has filed a lawsuit with the state prosecutor in Munich to remove the books


Rabbis charged in New Jersey fraud swoop

By Jessica Elgot, July 24, 2009

Five rabbis are among those arrested for their alleged involvement in a huge money-laundering scheme, including the trafficking of human body parts, as a result of a 10-year investigation by the FBI in New Jersey.

FBI officials said they had arrested 44 people including two mayors, major political figures and rabbis, part of the Syrian-Jewish community who are said to have laundered the money through their personal charities.

The rabbis who have been charged include Saul Kassin, Grand Rabbi of the US Syrian-Jewish community.


NGO funding base exposed

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 23, 2009

Israeli and international human rights organisations are coming under increasing scrutiny as to the identity of their donors.

In many cases, Israeli NGOs which have been critical of the government’s policy have been financed by EU governments, including Britain.

Most of the NGOs have a similar agenda. They are dedicated to monitoring human rights in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, preventing torture in Israeli prisons, advancing the demands of Israeli Arabs for equal civil rights and exposing Jewish settlement activity.