World news

Former SS men defend march in Latvia

By Ed Vulliamy, March 18, 2010

Juris Dobelis was one of 350 veterans of the Latvian Legion of the SS and 2,000 supporters marching to the monument for freedom in Riga on Tuesday.

"A soldier is a soldier and all soldiers are equal," insisted Mr Dobelis, a parliamentary deputy for Latvia's Fatherland and Freedom Party, which sponsors the march, and to which the British Conservatives are allied in the European Parliament.


Rabbi denies Holocaust scrolls are fakes

By Paul Berger, March 18, 2010

An American non-profit firm that rescues and restores Torahs lost in the Holocaust has responded to allegations its scrolls are not what they appear.

Rabbi Menachem Youlus had been dubbed "the Indiana Jones of Torah Scribes" for his exploits in Eastern Europe. He has sold hundreds - possibly over 1,000 - scrolls to congregations.


Funds to combat Orthodox community sex abuse

By Paul Berger, March 18, 2010

A New York state agency is to finance a new $1 million programme to combat sexual abuse in the Orthodox community.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents a Brooklyn district with a large Orthodox community, said the scheme, called Shomrei yeladim ("Protectors of children"), will concentrate on educating children and parents about the dangers of abuse. It will also train professionals to deal with abuse in the Orthodox community.

The programme will be announced in coming weeks and would be financed by New York State Office of Children and Family Services.


American Jews turn against Obama as Israel rift deepens

By Nathan Guttman, March 18, 2010

As the row over new building plans in east Jerusalem evolved from a diplomatic embarrassment to a major crisis between Jerusalem and Washington, the American Jewish approach to the conflict shifted as well.


Egypt bans official opening of synagogue

By Jessica Elgot, March 15, 2010

A fortnight before Pesach, Egypt has cancelled the official reopening of a restored synagogue, allegedly because of the celebrations and drinking during the synagogue’s reopening ceremony.

In Cairo’s ancient Jewish quarter, the ruined Ben Maimon synagogue has undergone a seven month restoration.

The synagogue held a dedication ceremony last week, amid a heavy security presence which cleared a 500 metre area around the shul.


Phil Spector to appeal murder conviction

By Jessica Elgot, March 12, 2010

Music producer Phil Spector will appeal against his conviction for the murder of the actress Lana Clarkson, for which he was sentenced to a minimum of 19 years in prison.

Mr Spector, 69, was given 15 years to life for second-degree murder of the actress and cocktail waitress and an additional four for personal use of a gun.

Ms Clarkson, best known for her role in 1985 cult film Barbarian Queen, was found dead from a gunshot wound at Spector's mansion in February 2003.

A retrial took place in Los Angeles in 2005 after a previous jury failed to reach a verdict.


Battle lost to ordain the female ‘Rabbas’

By Paul Berger, March 11, 2010

An Orthodox rabbi has backed down in his fight to give women he ordains the title "Rabba".

Rabbi Avi Weiss founded Yeshivat Maharat in September to train female rabbinic authorities, giving them the title "Maharat", an acronym meaning "leader in Jewish law, spirituality and Torah".

But in January, Rabbi Weiss announced that the term "Maharat" was not widely recognised. So he changed the title of Sara Hurwitz, the first woman he ordained last year, and an employee of his Bronx synagogue, from "Maharat" to "Rabba".

The new name caused a controversy in the Orthodox world.


Father faces jail for taking daughter to mass

By Paul Berger, March 11, 2010

A father faces up to six months in jail for taking his three-year-old Jewish daughter to mass at a Chicago cathedral.

Joseph Reyes, 35, invited a TV crew to watch as he violated a court order barring him from exposing his daughter, Ela, to any religion other than Judaism.

The order was the result of a bitter dispute between Mr Reyes and his soon-to-be former wife Rebecca that has been simmering for almost two years.

Mr Reyes, who has enlisted the services of a PR firm and a high-profile lawyer, says he had no choice but to turn to the media.


Lost Boys' Corey Haim dies

By Jessica Elgot, March 10, 2010

The 80s teen heartthrob Corey Haim, the ex-boyfriend of Victoria Beckham, has died aged 38.

Mr Haim, who was born in Toronto, Canada, had an Israeli mother, Judy, and a Canadian-Jewish father Bernie.

Corey found fame in the cult movie The Lost Boys. He would later star in reality TV show The Two Coreys, alongside Lost Boys co-star Corey Feldman, who is also Jewish.

Mr Haim had been open about his battle with prescription drug addiction, including Valium. He was found dead by his mother in his Los Angeles apartment.


Three Auschwitz sign thieves plead guilty

By Jessica Elgot, March 10, 2010

Three men who stole and vandalised the ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign from Auschwitz may face up to three years in jail after pleading guilty to the theft.

Five Polish men aged in their 20s and 30s were arrested by police when they recovered the 16-foot wrought-iron sign, which had been cut into three pieces.

Three of the men have pleaded guilty, said Boguslawa Marcinkowska, spokesperson of the Prosecutor’s Office in Krakow.

The prosecution have suggested prison terms between 18 months and three years.