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Thursday, October 31, 2013

New Baruch Lebovits Revelation As Retrial Nears

A “notorious” alleged chasidic sex abuser, who was sentenced to up to 32 years in jail but got that verdict overturned because of a prosecution violation, has all but admitted on tape to sexually abusing the young man who testified against him, The Jewish Week has learned.

The tape, according to police documents, was made under the supervision of NYPD Det. Steve Litwin in September 2008 and captures a secretly recorded conversation between Baruch Lebovits and one of his alleged victims. 

The tape was translated from the Yiddish — both apparently informally and by a certified translator — into English for the prosecution.

It was not, however, introduced at Lebovits’ 2010 trial. (Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has pledged to retry Lebovits and his next court date is scheduled for Nov. 19.)

Multiple e-mails to Hynes’ spokespeople seeking an explanation for why the tape was not used at trial, and whether it will be used in the upcoming retrial, were not answered.

During the recorded conversation, a transcript of which was obtained by The Jewish Week, the victim alerts Lebovits to the fact that others, including someone in Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s office, had heard that something “happened between us.”

(In 2008, Hikind did a series of radio shows on the topic of sexual abuse in the Orthodox community and was inundated with calls from victims seeking his help; Hikind has confirmed to The Jewish Week that the young man on the recording did share his allegations against Lebovits with his office.)

On the tape, the alleged victim asks Lebovits, “You didn’t tell anyone what went on between us?” to which Lebovits replies, “I didn’t say anything.” The alleged victim then goes on to speculate about who may have given this information to Hikind’s office, suggesting it could have been another boy “who was then in the car together with us” and “saw the incident.” (Police records show that Lebovits allegedly often molested boys in the front seat of his car, at times with another boy present in the back seat).

According to the informal translation, written in Litwin’s hand, Lebovits replies that the other boy “wasn’t present,” to which the alleged victim responds, “You don’t remember.

Yes he was present.” At that point, Lebovits instructs the alleged victim to “go ask [the boy] if he gave out [the alleged victim’s] name.” (These comments do not appear in the certified translation, which was done by a non-native chasidic Yiddish speaker and in which a number of lines of dialogue are described as “unintelligible.”)

Later in the conversation, after the alleged victim tells Lebovits that the case may be “given over to the police,” Lebovits tells the young man to “deny it.”

When asked about the recorded conversation, Lebovits’ appellate lawyer, Nathan Dershowitz, confirmed for The Jewish Week that the DA did disclose to the defense a transcript of a September 2008 conversation, which Dershowitz characterized as “innocuous.” From Dershowitz’s response, it is unclear whether the defense made its own translation of the tape, or even received an actual copy of the tape from prosecutors. (Arthur Aidala, Lebovits’ trial attorney, did not respond to an e-mail from The Jewish Week seeking information about the recording).

According to former Manhattan prosecutor and defense attorney Mark Bederow, “There may be reasons why the DA would not introduce the recording [at trial],” but that does not explain why the DA [apparently] did not disclose the recording to the defense.”

“A recording made of the defendant at the behest of the police must be disclosed to the defense irrespective of whether the DA intends to introduce it at trial,” Bederow continued. “I have never heard of a situation in which defense counsel, aware of his client being recorded at the behest of police, simply relied on a transcript prepared by the DA rather than demanding production of the actual recording.”

Bederow added: “As transcribed [by the prosecution’s translators], the recording appears to have significant evidentiary value to the prosecution. Innocent men generally don’t speak in the manner attributed to Lebovits in the recording, and a jury hearing a defendant voluntarily incriminate himself in his own voice in a non-coercive atmosphere is powerful evidence.”

Indeed, the district attorney’s case against Baruch Lebovits has been plagued with problems throughout its five-and-a-half year history. And questions about the office’s handling of it have emerged amid controversy about Hynes’ diligence in prosecuting haredi sex offenders and those who would intimidate and tamper with victims.

Initially, prosecutors had three within-the-statute-of-limitations witnesses against Lebovits, all of whom had sought and obtained rabbinic backing to report their abuse to the police. 

One of those witnesses abruptly dropped out of the case before trial, and there is substantial evidence to indicate that he was intimidated into doing so by Lebovits’ supporters. (Despite this, prosecutors never sought to bring witness-tampering charges against the individuals involved in the intimidation).

Read More At: Thejewishweek

N.J. - Jew Who Converted To Islam Pleads Guilty For Threats To Jewish Groups

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A New Jersey man who co-founded a radical Islamic website has pleaded guilty to using the Internet to make threats against Jewish groups.

Yousef Mohamid al-Khattab, 45, of Atlantic City started the now-defunct Revolution Muslim website in 2007 with partner Jesse Curtis Morton.

Al-Khattab, who converted from Judaism and was previously known as Joseph Cohen, is the third person connected with Revolution Muslim to be convicted in federal court in Alexandria.

Morton and another man, Zachary Chesser, admitted using the site to deliver thinly veiled threats against the creators of the "South Park" television show for perceived insults to the prophet Muhammad.

Al-Khattab's guilty plea, announced today, does not mention the "South Park" threats. In court documents, al-Khattab admits encouraging readers to take unspecified action against Jewish leaders.

In some postings, he provided names and addresses of Jewish leaders and synagogues and urged Muslims angered by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to "deal with them directly at their homes."

In another posting he praised Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan for "13 knockouts," a reference to the 13 people Hasan shot and killed in the 2009 attacks.

Al-Khattab faces up to five years in prison at a sentencing scheduled for Feb. 7. His lawyer, Alan Yamamoto, said it is not yet clear what length of term will be recommended under the federal sentencing guidelines.

NY Federal appeals court blocks judge's ruling on stop-and-frisk, removes her from case

New York -  A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked a judge’s order requiring changes to the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program and removed the judge from the case.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the decisions of Judge Shira Scheindlin will be stayed pending the outcome of an appeal by the city.

The judge had ruled in August the city violated the Constitution in the way it carried out its program of stopping and questioning people.

The city appealed her findings and her remedial orders, including a decision to assign a monitor to help the police department changes its policy and training program associated with it.

The appeals court heard arguments Tuesday on the requested stay.

The appeals court said the judge needed to be removed from the case because she ran afoul of the code of conduct for U.S. judges by compromising the necessity for a judge to avoid the appearance of partiality in part because of a series of media interviews and public statements responding publicly to criticism of the court.

The judge had ruled that police officers violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of people by wrongly targeting black and Hispanic men with its stop-and-frisk program. 

She appointed an outside monitor to oversee major changes, including reforms in policies, training and supervision, and she ordered a pilot program to test body-worn cameras in some precincts where most stops occur.

The stop-and-frisk tactic has been criticized by a number of civil rights advocates.

Rob Ford: police unearth Toronto mayor's alleged crack smoking video

Toronto police announced on Thursday that they had recovered a video that is alleged to show the city's mayor, Rob Ford, smoking crack cocaine.

The digital video file was recovered through a forensic examination of a hard drive recovered during an investigation that ensnared Alexander "Sandro" Lisi, a former driver for the mayor, police chief Bill Blair said at a news conference. Police searched Lisi's belongings as part of an investigation into alleged drug trafficking.

In their surveillance operation, police saw Lisi repeatedly meeting Ford. Multiple surveillance images showed a bag or parcel passing between the men with neither acknowledging the other.

Police arrested Lisi on Thursday and charged him with extortion, with the video as supporting evidence, Blair said. He said the video did not appear to be digitally altered or otherwise manipulated. "It appears to be what it is," he said.

Ford has always denied the existence of the video, and Toronto police did not release it on Thursday. It is expected to be played in forthcoming court proceedings.

Blair said the computer technology section at Toronto police made the discovery on Tuesday. H "The file contains video images which appear to be those images which were previously reported in the press," he said. The police chief said Ford appears in the video but he would not describe what the mayor was doing, saying the video was evidence in a court case.

As a result of the police inquiry, Blair said investigators had arrested Lisi and "laid a charge of extortion with respect to the evidence that has been collected".

Blair said that associates of the mayor had been interviewed as part of the police investigation, but the mayor himself had not been questioned or charged. "Everyone has been treated exactly the same," Blair said. "That's the way this works, that's the way it's supposed to work ... no one has been overlooked because of their position."

Ford, who has repeatedly denied smoking crack, engaged in a testy confrontation with reporters who had gathered outside his house Thursday morning in anticipation of the documents' release. He shooed cameramen from his driveway before getting in a vehicle and leaving. He has not commented on the charges against Lisi. Blair said there was never a warrant to search Ford's home.

Police evidence referred to reporting on the story by the Toronto Star and Gawker. Last summer Gawker ran a "crackstarter" campaign to raise money to buy the video, which Gawker editor John Cook had traveled to Toronto to view. Cook reported that it showed Ford smoking from a crack pipe and slurring his words.

The fundraising campaign succeeded but Cook was unable to procure the video and the money went to charity.

At the news conference, Blair said he was "disappointed" by what he saw, although there was not enough evidence to charge Ford. "It's a significant issue, and I think it's a significant issue of public concern," Blair said. "And I think that is a problem for our city."

Head of Gestapo buried in Jewish cemetery

The brutal head of Hitler’s Gestapo who was also one of the evil architects of the Holocaust has been buried since 1945 in a Jewish cemetery in Berlin, according to a German newspaper.

Heinrich Mueller – known as “Gestapo-Mueller” during World War II – was long thought to have survived the war.

But new documents and evidence show he was buried in a common grave in a Jewish cemetery in central Berlin, according to the newspaper Bild.

“Mueller didn’t survive the end of the war,” Johannes Tuchel, head of the Memorial to the German Resistance, told the paper.

“His body was interred in 1945 in the Jewish cemetery in Berlin-Mitte in a mass grave.”

The news infuriated Dieter Graumann, a leader of Germany’s Jewish community.

 “That one of the most brutal Nazi sadists is buried in a Jewish cemetery is a distasteful monstrosity. The memory of the victims is being treated here with contempt,” he told Bild.

Mueller attended the Wannsee Conference near Berlin in January 1942 at which the “Final Solution,” a plan to exterminate Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe, was hatched.

Retired British chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks to teach at NYU, Yeshiva University

The newly retired British chief rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks will teach as a professor at two American universities.

Sacks will spend three months a year teaching in New York, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported.

Sacks has been appointed the Kressel and Efrat Family University Professor of Jewish Thought at Yeshiva University and Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global Distinguished Professor of Judaic Thought at New York University.

Sacks retired last month after 22 years in the chief rabbi position; he was succeeded by Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.

The rabbi also has established the Covenant & Conversation Trust, to support his educational work in Britain and overseas, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

Moscow - Report: Snowden Gets Tech Support Job In Russia

Moscow - Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer for former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden, says his client has found a technical support job at a Russian website.

Kucherena told the RIA Novosti news agency Thursday that Snowden starts his new job on Friday. 

Kucherena declined to name the company that has hired Snowden but says it’s a major Russian website.

Snowden was granted asylum in Russia in August after being stuck at a Moscow airport for more than a month after flying there from Hong Kong. His whereabouts in Russia remain secret.

The 30-year-old faces espionage charges in the U.S for uncovering a mass surveillance scheme at the National Security Agency.

Kucherena was unavailable for comment when contacted by the AP.

Crown Heights - Girl raped at gunpoint

NEW YORK  - The NYPD is on the hunt for two men wanted in the rape of a girl at gunpoint in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

The man who pulled the gun is described as 5’9” tall, approximately 30-35 years old with corn rows. He may have an African accent, added police.

A sketch of the suspect has been released.

The 16-year-old victim was waiting for a bus on East New York Avenue at about 8 a.m. on Friday when the suspects drove up in a dark car.

One of them pulled out a gun and dragged the girl into the back seat where she was assaulted, said police.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the NYPD Crime Stoppers at any of the following:

Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477)

Text your tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577

Jewish center joins activist groups' lawsuit against NSA

The Shalom Center joined 21 activist organizations in a lawsuit against the National Security Agency concerning the government’s collection of telephone records.

Collecting people’s records “is illegal, is destructive, and should be stopped,” said Rabbi Arthur Waskow, founder and director of the Philadelphia center.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco and submitted by Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization working to protect civil rights in the digital world.

The Shalom Center joined such diverse groups as People for the American Way, several pro-gun groups and the Council on American Islamic Relations’ California chapter in filing the lawsuit.

Waskow said the Shalom Center is against the government’s record collection for several reasons, including the “Jewish religious tradition about the privacy of people as members of a free society.” He also pointed to his experiences with the FBI during the 1960s and ’70s, which he said attacked those fighting against racism and the Vietnam War.

In an article on his organization’s website, Waskow wrote that because the Shalom Center is active in its opposition to the U.S. government’s actions in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, it may have been recorded by the government.

Government officials have said the NSA tracks phone records to see which calls are made, which they say is legal, but does not listen in on Americans’ calls without a warrant.

BEVERLY HILLS - Jewish Community Center Shaken After Rabbi’s Arrest On Sex Abuse Charges

The arrest of a rabbi on sex abuse charges in a New York case has shaken those at the Jewish community center where he worked.

KNX 1070′s Ed Mertz reported that Menachem Tewel will go back to New York following his arrest at the JEM Community Center on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Tewel, 30, was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon on an arrest warrant charging sexual abuse against four boys between 1995 and 2004.

“He will waive extradition and try to get back to New York as swiftly as possible,” attorney Dana Cole said.

JEM Community Center founder and director Rabbi Hertzel Illulian, who is also Tewel’s father-in-law, said the allegations were false.

“Everybody knows he’s innocent and a fantastic person,” Illulian said. “We have thousands of families and people who know him and know what he does, and nobody believes any of these things are true.”

Members of the Jewish Community Watch, a group whose mission is to make sure children stay safe from predators, said they found out Tewel had been accused of child molestation in New York and had warned Illulian about his son-in-law’s history.

“He was living in New York, people in New York were aware of the fact that he had molested children, people in Los Angeles did not know this. He came out here, I guess, thinking he could just start over,” said Ilanit Gluckowsky.

The indictment remains sealed until after Tewel is extradited, officials with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office said. All of the boys Tewel is accused of abusing are now adults, according to the Jewish Journal.

Beverly Hills police Lt. Lincoln Hoshino said there were no other charges pending in California.

“We conducted an investigation back in August and September of this year; we were unable to locate any victims,” Hoshino said. “We did a site inspection, and did not find any criminal activity.”

Monsey - Yeshiva loses state reps' support

MONSEY - Two state legislators from Rockland said Wednesday they will urge the governor to reject their bill offering a retroactive tax exemption to a congregation that illegally converted a single-family house into a school on Highview Road.

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, and state Sen. David Carlucci, D-New City, said they backed off support for the 2011 exemption for the Talmud Torah Ohr Yochanan because it had zoning violations and no certificate of occupancy. Jaffee also said there were other issues. The students are being taught in the four-bedroom house, including on the second floor in violation of zoning, and in two classroom trailers.

The Assembly and Senate approved the bill for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature.

The lawmakers said the tax exemption requests are reviewed and considered routine.

“The more I’ve learned about what’s going on I was quite shocked and uncomfortable by the situation,” Jaffee said. “I asked that the bill be held until I am able to get further information.”

Calling it a “breach of trust,” Carlucci said the town issued incomplete information on the status of the school. Jaffee said the Assembly Real Property Tax Committee had reviewed and recommended the request based upon the documentation provided by the town.

“Until we have complete confidence there are no violations on any of the buildings, we are recommending the governor veto the bill we proposed,” Carlucci said.

An exemption for 2011 would have saved the congregation close to $19,000 for the school, and $11,000 on the caretaker’s house.

The school’s neighbors, Bob and Annette Doerr, wrote Cuomo last week asking him to not sign the tax exemption. They argued the school was started illegally in October 2009 without any town approvals and still lacks a certificate of occupancy and approved site plans.

The Doerrs told the governor that signing the exemption would be “rewarding an organization that has knowingly and repeatedly failed to abide by the laws of the state.”
The school is operating on a temporary certificate of occupancy, an approval given in 2010 that the Ramapo attorney had called potentially illegal.

Jaffee said she wants the Assembly rules changed to require a property have a certificate of occupancy before it becomes eligible for a retroactive tax exemption. She said a temporary certificate of occupancy or use is not sufficient.

The Ramapo tax assessor denied the tax exemption because of the violations and the lack of a certificate of occupancy. The Ramapo Board of Assessment Review overruled and the Town Attorney’s Office signed off on the exemption.

A fire to the caretaker’s house last week brought the school back into the spotlight.

The Doerrs have video surveillance on their property and estimated 190 to 200 students attend the school, as large yellow buses drop off and pick up the children daily. They also say parents drop off children by car.

They noted that the town attorney Michael Klein found the temporary certificate of occupancy issued by the then-zoning and building administrator — Judge Alan Simon — a few years ago was illegal.

They said Building Inspector Anthony Mallia approved two classrooms trailers, allowing the congregation to increase its enrollment. They said the school charges several thousand dollars per student.

Bob Doerr said they are pleased Jaffee and Carlucci are reconsidering.

“We are happy they are at least addressing it now,” Bob Doerr said. “Jaffee called me. She said she would ask the governor to veto if there are problems.”

The Rockland Illegal Housing Task Force has named the 95-97 Highview Road school on a list of several dozen properties for review by the state Codes Divisions, which is under Cuomo’s control. The task force argues the town and its courts have not moved adequately to stop the illegal subdivisions and schools and, months ago, asked for state intervention.

“If the town is going to continue with its policy of granting permissions after the fact and ignoring violations, it’s time for a higher authority to step in,” Task Force Chairman John Kryger said.

The Cape Cod-style house built in 1988 and converted into a school at 97 Highview Road is assessed at $77,300, with a market value of $502,274, according to the Ramapo Tax Assessor’s website. The split-level house at 95 Highview Road was built in 1952 and is assessed at $51,600, with a market value of $335,283.

In a similar case Wednesday, a state Supreme Court justice maintained a closure order against a religious school operating out of the former Singer’s Hotel and Caterers in Nanuet. Justice Margaret Garvey kept the school, operated by the Congregation Lizensk, closed. Clarkstown fire inspectors had found numerous violations at the school.

By Steve Lieberman -

Landmark US program graduates first female halachic advisers

NEW YORK — In a historic move giving Orthodox women in the United States more authority to answer halachic questions on family purity, the first class of women advisers in Jewish Law graduated on Sunday.

Five women graduated from the North American branch of Nishmat’s yoetzet halacha program in a ceremony at Congregation Sheartith Israel, Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in Manhattan.

The five women, Dena Block, Nechama Price, Lisa Septimus, Tova Warburg Sinensky, and Avital Weissman, received certification as yoatzot halacha after completing two years of comprehensive study and examinations from Nishmat’s Miriam Glaubach Center for Advanced Torah Study.

Block, Price, Septimus, Warburg-Sinensky, and Weissman are pioneers in the field, the first women in America to have been trained to be yoatzot halacha, women advisers in Jewish Law, including but not necessarily limited to family purity law.

Housed at Maayanot Yeshiva High School in Teaneck under the auspices of Rabbi Kenneth Auman, dean of the US Yoatzot Halacha Fellows Program, the five women studied hilchot niddah, as outlined by the Israeli rabbinic curriculum, combined with an overlook of women’s health issues such as contraception, fertility, sexuality, and psychology.

The graduates have all accepted positions in synagogues and institutions in and around the New York area.

Rabbi Yonah Reis, Av Beit Din of the Chicago Rabbinical council and a Yale Law graduate, delivered the keynote address, praising both the program’s depth of study dedication, and its dedication to create strong female leaders in the Jewish community.

Graduate Nechama Price recognized her and her classmate’s innovative accomplishment. “We’re the first women trained in America specifically for an American tzibur [community].”

Price was initially reluctant to join the program when she was approached two years ago as she has taught at a collegiate level for seven years. “I wasn’t sure how much I would gain,” said Price, who continued that the course “added facets to my knowledge that I could not have envisioned.”

The phenomena of yoatzot halacha first evolved in Israel 16 years ago because many women feel uncomfortable asking male rabbis certain family purity questions. “It’s just like I would feel more comfortable with a female gynecologist. It’s private,” said Adira Botwinick, a newly married professional.

According to Rabbi Auman, the yoatzot “get questions that I was never asked. The bottom line is: women still feel more comfortable speaking to women.”

Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schachter, Yeshiva University professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought, said “thousands of women who never before asked questions now feel comfortable doing so, knowing that they will get answers informed by deep halachic wisdom and sensitivity.”

In his keynote address, Reis notes that there was a time when women either were not educated or did not feel comfortable enough to ask their local Orthodox rabbis their family purity questions. Reis acknowledged that this behavior “lead to leniencies and unnecessary stringencies,” because women wouldn’t ask.

“The yoetzet halacha program created a resource for many such women,” Reis said. The program “preserves the values of tziniut [modesty] for the larger Jewish community.”

Made possibly by Felix and Miriam Glaubach, this is an American version of Nishmat’s yoetzet halacha program which was founded in Israel by Rabbanit Chana Henkin in 1997. Nishmat has certified 85 yoatzot to date.

Nishmat’s pilot US program was launched in 2011, and it offers one of the highest levels of female Torah study in the United States.

Although there was significant backlash when the Israeli program launched, the opposition noting that it was untraditional and immodest for women to learn these subjects and advise on such matters, it is now endorsed by fifty influential rabbis.

Among them, Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, third president of Yeshiva University, who was, according to Dr. Giti Bendheim, Yoatzot Halacha Chair of the American Friends of Nishmat, “the first internationally acclaimed Jewish leader to speak out supporting [the program].” Lamm’s granddaughter, Tova Warburg Sinensky, is one of the program graduates.

While the future of the program remains unclear, Henkin remains confident. “I don’t know what the future holds for us,” but the program has created “women with skills to deal with what the future brings, and we hope to continue to do so.”

MK Claims Anti-Hareidi Bias Over Calls for Election Recount

While secular and Religious Zionist activists railed against the results of the municipal elections in Beit Shemesh, in which incumbent Mayor Moshe Abutbul was reelected, beating out challenger Eli Cohen by less than 1,000 votes, MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Jewry) said that the pressure for a recount or repeat of the elections by those opposed to Abutbul was “anti-democratic.”

Amid accusations of fraud, Abutbul was named the winner in the municipal elections last week. Until proven otherwise, said Gafni, it should be assumed that the victory was legitimate – and attempts to use public pressure to overturn the results or institute a new vote were unfair.

“These were democratic elections, in which all Beit Shemesh residents participated equally,” Gafni said. “Moshe Abutbul won. Any protests disputing this, or demands to repeat the election, should be considered extremely anti-democratic moves. We cannot have a situation where those who are dissatisfied with the results of an election will ask for a 'do-over,' using protests and petitions.”

The contentious campaign in Beit Shemesh, in which Abutbul, the Shas mayor who is supported by hareidi elements in the town, barely defeated Cohen, the candidate of most of the secular and Religious Zionist communities in Beit Shemesh, has extended long beyond the election results were counted. Earlier this week, some 2,000 people held a major protest demanding a recount or repeat of the election in light of the reports of fraud in the election. Petitions are also being circulated advocating “spinning off” Ramat Beit Shemesh, making it a separate town, where Abutbul would presumably remain mayor.

Opponents of Abutbul contend that he was illegitimately elected, citing multiple cases of fraud, which they said they had many accounts of.

For example, on the day of the elections, police raided a local apartment and found approximately 200 fake ID cards. The cards were found to bear the names of Beit Shemesh residents who would have been eligible to vote in the elections, but who were overseas on elections day. Police arrested eight hareidi-religious men who are suspected of having created the ID cards with the intention of using them to cast illegal votes, presumably for Abutbul. One of the men who has been questioned in the affair is the son of a hareidi-religious Member of Knesset.

Gafni said that if there had indeed been fraud in the election, the place to address those issues was court, not the street. “The law is clear, and the place to deal with fraud is in court, not in protests demanding a new election,” he said.

According to Gafni, contentious municipal elections take place on a regular basis, but no one ever demands a repeat election. “If the elected mayor had not been a hareidi member of Shas, no one would dare demand a recount,” said Gafni. “The fact is that Beit Shemesh has chosen Moshe Abutbul to lead it again. Any attempts to change this must be seen as anti-democratic,” he added.

His statement comes as opponents of Abutbul are voicing increased confidence over the prospect of a re-count or even rerun of the hotly-disputed elections.

Wiretapping game: American paranoia

Experts in Israel and the world were not shocked when the Snowden documents began to be revealed. Senior intelligence officials in the West, as well as in Russia and China, know that over a decade ago the American intelligence agencies became devouring monsters that deal in all kinds of espionage, the scope of which is unmatched by any other country.

The size and capabilities of the systems used by China and Russia to gather political, economic, military and industrial intelligence do not come close to the electronic and cyber espionage systems operated by the National Security Agency in cooperation with Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Since the terror attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001, the Americans have developed the ability to deal with masses of information all over the world (they began this process a few years prior to the attack, but the disaster made the Americans realize they were facing a third world war in which the enemy is global jihad).

So, now the Americans have digital capabilities (super computers, for instance) and scientific-technological abilities that allow them to not only intercept and record the phone conversations and Internet chats of tens of millions of people, but also to extract from these recordings the specific details they are interested in. 

In addition, the Americans also have speedy and direct access to the server farms of key elements in the communications and Internet fields, such as Google. But most importantly, they have a large appetite for gathering information through technological means to make up for the difficulties American intelligence agencies have traditionally faced in their efforts to recruit and activate quality human intelligence sources.

Seeds of paranoia

Another reason for this appetite for technological intelligence is what can be referred to as diplomatic- intelligential paranoia. Its roots are in the Cold War era, when often times the CIA could not deliver the goods and the US was repeatedly caught by surprise. There were also a number of incidents at the time which justified Uncle Sam's fear that its allies were transferring to the Soviets sensitive information and secretly cooperated with them. 

One example of this is the spy Günter Guillaume, who in the 1970s operated as a mole in the office of West Germany's chancellor. Guillaume disclosed NATO's military and diplomatic secrets to his handlers in East Germany, which passed on the information to the KGB in Moscow. When the affair was exposed in 1974, Chancellor Willy Brandt was forced to resign.

But the Cold War ended long ago, and today there does not seem to be any legal, moral or practical justification for eavesdropping on the phone conversations of the West's leaders, America's allies. 

But the paranoia and the sense that 'we, the Americans, can eavesdrop without getting caught,' led former President George W. Bush to authorize the wiretapping, and it has continued since then without supervision. The absurd part is that the NSA apparently never made use of the information it gathered from the monitoring of the phone conversations of friendly leaders.

President Obama was not even aware he had at his disposal such a goldmine of information. It is important to note that American intelligence officials do not excel in analyzing the information they gather and therefore do not produce intelligence of the necessary quality and accuracy. But that's another story.

They spy on Israel, too

State Department documents leaked by Private Bradley Manning to WikiLeaks indicate that American diplomats also take part in the wiretapping game. Condoleezza Rice, who served as secretary of state in the Bush Administration, instructed her people around the world to ask for the phone numbers of senior officials in their host countries. It is safe to assume that these and other phone numbers obtained since then ended up on the desk of the NSA director and were used until recently by technical teams operating out of US embassies in friendly European or Middle Eastern countries.

Despite the strong alliance and tight intelligence relations between the US and Israel, which are based on mutual trust, the Americans conduct intelligence-gathering operations in Israel which can sometimes be defined as espionage.

But what's really surprising, and even irritating, is that on a number of occasions in recent years the US complained to Israeli security elements that Israel was spying on American diplomats serving in the Jewish state and in the Palestinian Authority. 

The Americans further claimed that Israeli intelligence personnel were breaking into the homes of American diplomats to install wiretapping equipment or copy information from their computers. The Americans did not have sufficient evidence to prove their claims, while Israeli intelligence and security officials dismissed them as "ridiculous." There are good reasons to believe the Israelis.

Discin in America

The suspicion of American government officials, which motivates them to invade the privacy of foreign leaders, is not limited to wiretapping and intelligence. In another expression of what can only be defined as paranoia on the part of the Americans when it comes to Israel, in 2011 the consular department at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv delayed the issuing of an entry visa for then-Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin, who was invited to speak at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington.

Diskin asked for a 10-year visa and declared that he wished to visit the US for business and travel. He was told that he would be notified as soon as the visa would be issued, but the notification did not come. Instead Diskin was asked to answer various questions sent to him via email. 

A few weeks later Diskin, who had just completed his tenure as the head of Israel's internal security agency, was informed that he would be given a three-month visa. Uncle Sam's representatives did not bother to explain to Diskin why his request for a 10-year visa was denied, but the refusal was clearly connected to the fact that Diskin was a top-notch security official and apparently to his plans to enter the high-tech field as a second career.

Perhaps the US Embassy employees thought Diskin was planning to work for a hostile element in Washington. But the real reason most likely had to do with the stubborn and arrogant adherence of American bureaucrats to irrelevant rules, particularly when "natives" are involved.

In response to the insult, Diskin told the embassy he was withdrawing his request for a visa and would not be travelling to the US. The embassy eventually decided to grant Diskin a 12-month visa, instead of the 10-year visa most Israeli citizens receive. Diskin, who wanted to put an end to the farce, demanded that the US Embassy return his passport without issuing a visa.

American Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, who respects Diskin, learned of the affair at a social event. Shapiro, who was apparently embarrassed and also realized that the affair could become an unnecessary scandal in the press at a time when the Obama Administration was going out of its way to convince the Israelis that the relations between the US and Israel were strong, acted fast, and within a few days Diskin was given a 10-year visa.

Former IDF Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz also had a hard time getting a visa to the US because he was born in Iran, this despite the fact that the Americans new exactly who he was.

You don’t have to be a psychologist to notice the state of mind that connects the claim that Israeli intelligence personnel break into the homes of American diplomats with the restrictions placed on the entry of a Shin Bet director to the US and the monitoring of the phone conversations of leaders and senior officials in countries that are America's allies.

Report: Missile launched from sea hits Syrian base

A Syrian news website on Thursday reported that a missile fired from the Mediterranean hit a Syrian missile base in Latakia. quoted eye witnesses who said none were injured but that damage was caused to a base near an agricultural center. 

On Wednesday, Lebanese press reported that Israeli Air Force jets circled over south Lebanon.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported of a blast in one of Syria's air defense bases but provided no details on casualties.

Last week, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported that the IAF bombed an arms shipment destined for Hezbollah . The paper quoted an Israeli state official. He did not disclose whether the strike was in Lebanon or Syria. The IDF did not comment.

Last May, it was reported that Israel conducted an airstrike in Syria.

CNN quoted two unnamed US officials as saying that Israel's warplanes did not enter Syrian airspace. A security source in the region said that the target was not a Syrian chemical weapons facility but rather a building.

An Israeli official said that Israeli warplanes had targeted a shipment of missiles in Syria believed to be en route to Hezbollah guerrillas in neighboring Lebanon.

The air strike took place on Friday after it was approved in a secret meeting of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet on Thursday night, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Within 48 hours, Syrian state television reported of powerful explosions in the outskirts of Damascus claiming Israeli rockets had struck a military facility just north of the capital.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NSA secretly tapped Google, Yahoo data centers worldwide

Massive cloud networks from companies like Google and Yahoo cache and serve up much of the data on the Internet -- and the NSA has secretly tapped into the unencrypted links behind those company’s enormous servers, according to a new report from the Washington Post.

By tapping into that link, the NSA can collect data at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts, the Post reported -- including not just foreign citizens and “metadata” but emails, videos and audio from American citizens.

Operation MUSCULAR, a joint program of the NSA and its British equivalent GCHQ, relies on an unnamed telecommunications provider outside of the U.S. to offer secret access to a cable or switch through with Google and Yahoo pass unencrypted traffic between their servers. 

The massive servers run by the company are carefully guarded and strictly audited, the companies say; according to Google, buildings housing its servers are guarded around the clock by trained personnel, and secured with heat-sensitive cameras, biometric verification, and more.

Two engineers with close ties to Google exploded in profanity when they saw a drawing of the NSA’s hack revealed by Edward Snowden; the drawing includes a smiley face next to the point at which the agency apparently was able to tap into the world’s data.

“I hope you publish this,” one of them said.

White House officials and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA, declined to confirm, deny or explain why the agency infiltrates Google and Yahoo networks overseas.

However, NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander said Wednesday his agency doesn't access such networks servers without a court order, according to Politco.

In a statement, Google said it was “troubled by allegations of the government intercepting traffic between our data centers, and we are not aware of this activity.”

“We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we continue to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links,” the company said.

At Yahoo, a spokeswoman said: “We have strict controls in place to protect the security of our data centers, and we have not given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency.”

Obama said in an interview in June "unequivocally" that the NSA cannot and has not listened to the telephone calls nor target the e-mails of a U.S. person

Forbes names Putin world’s ‘most powerful person’

The White House should be cancelling its subscription to Forbes right about now.

The magazine name Russian President Vladimir Putin as theworld’ most powerful person on Wednesday — displacing the previous top dog, President Obama who came in second.

Forbes gave Putin an edge based on his role in getting Syria to surrender its chemical weapons and the diplomatic blow suffered by Obama when Russia offered asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Pope Francis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel followed in the third, fourth and fifth spots, respectively.

Pope Francis, spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics across the planet, was the top newcomer to Forbes’ annual list of 75 power brokers.

Philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke, Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, European Central Bank president Mario Draghi and Wal-Mart CEO Michael Duke rounded out the top 10.

The magazine measured the power players based on the number of people they had authority to oversee, financial resources under their control, influence on multiple populations and how they used this total clout in the past year.

This year marks the first time Putin has led the Forbes power list.

Obama had been No. 1 every year in office, except for now and in 2010 when Chinese leader Hu Jintao was tops.

Women made steady gains in Forbes rankings, though females still accounted for just 12 percent of the rankings. The 2011 and 2012 lists had just six women, while there are nine this year.

Man pays $1,000 so atheist ex-Hasid will keep Sabbath

What’s the going rate for an ex-Hasidic, atheist US army veteran to religiously observe a single Sabbath?
One thousand dollars, it turns out.

It also turns out that, like many good stories, this one begins with a single tweet.

Ari Mandel, who grew up in Monsey, New York, has been trying to raise money for Chai Lifeline by running in the Jerusalem marathon next March. He was having trouble reaching the $4,500 minimum when someone tweeted to him that we would contribute $10 if Mandel would keep just one Sabbath.
“I said, are you crazy? Ten dollars?” Mandel told The Timesof Israel in an interview this week. “I’m a social media addict, you’re going to give me ten dollars to stay away from Facebook and Twitter?!”

Mandel maintains an active social media presence, and he blogs at “Confessions of a Koifer: The (humble) opinions of a recovering Hassid.”

Koifer is a Yiddish term for heretic.

As luck/fate/divine providence (take your pick) would have it, when Mandel posted about the proposal on Facebook — he goes by the name Rachmuna Litzlon, or “God help us” in Aramaic — he was met with a more serious offer.

“What’s your price?” a Facebook user by the name of Isaac Mavorah asked Mandel, noting that participation in synagogue services would have to be part of the deal.

“I’ll wear a shtreimel [a Hassidic fur hat] and go to the mikvah for the right price,” Mandel replied.

It wouldn’t be Mandel’s first time selling spiritual assets for cash. He once tried to sell his “portion in Olam Habah (Heaven)” on eBay, with the bidding reaching $100,000 before the site canceled the bid.

Although at first, Mandel didn’t think Mavorah was in earnest, it turned out that he wasn’t playing around. Still, Mavorah was insistent on verifying that Mandel would truly observe this upcoming Shabbat, so Mandel offered to have his friend, who has assumed the online persona Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein, serve as his witness.

Schmeckelstein, the author of a satirical blog, takes on serious issues through frequently off-color fake homilies.

The two have known each other for about a year, Schmeckelstein told The Times of Israel. “We in particular have collaborated on anti-sexual abuse issues in the Jewish community,” he explained.

“Rachmuna will be with me from after Friday night dinner (I will see if I can bring him as a guest for dinner as well),” Schmeckelstein wrote on Facebook. “He will sleep in my MO [Modern Orthodox] house. 

I will bring him to davening [prayers] with me at my MO Shul. He will eat Shabbos lunch with me. Short of joining me and my Bashert [spouse] in bed, I will certify his activities through Shabbat.”

“I’ve been following his Facebook for a while,” Mavorah told the Times of Israel, “never commenting much then one day he posted about his Chai Lifeline fundraising campaign. Seemingly he was well behind his goal because he said someone was offering a donation if he kept Shabbat, but no one came forward with a significant amount. 

So I asked him what’s your price? He said make me an offer. So like any negotiation I started low at $260, he went high at $2600. We eventually agreed somewhere in the middle at $1,000.”

“To me, the sum is insignificant,” said Marovah. “One thousand dollars to get a Jewish atheist to keep Shabbat, Mikvah, and praying with a Minyan AND help sick children?”

“Truth is I would have paid double.”

Schmeckelstein also offered to have Mandel prepare a Talmud class if Mavorah got another friend to match his pledge. As it turned out, an anonymous donor gave $500, and Mandel will be giving a class on the origins of Hasidism at Schmeckelstein’s synagogue as well.

Mandel said it would be his first time keeping Shabbat in its entirety since leaving the Orthodox fold.

Mandel, who grew up in the Nikolsburg Hasidic sect, said he had an insular childhood and received no secular education alongside his Torah studies. “It was a very restrictive lifestyle,” Mandel recalled. “But it was a fine upbringing.”

Armed with a naturally curious mind, Mandel started exploring the outside world on his own. “I had been researching and doing homework and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “The more I read, the more the curtains around my eyes began to be pulled back. I kept following my curiosity. It broke apart the foundation on which my entire world was based.”

At the age of 24, Mandel made up his mind.

“It finally came to a point where I didn’t want to be part of that life anymore. So I left,” he said.

Not surprisingly, Mandel’s parents didn’t take it well at first. “We’ve since reconciled,” said Mandel. “We get along wonderfully now…they’ve accepted me, we get along now.”

After leaving the insular world he had known his whole life, the next step was the US Army. Surprisingly, the military proved to be a relatively soft landing for a newly secular young man.

“The nice thing about being in the army, especially in basic training, is that everyone is out of their element, so I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb more than anyone else did,” Mandel reflected.

Still, he had to smile and nod as if he was in the know when conversation turned to pop culture.

He didn’t tell people about his background, or that he was Jewish at all, until they got to know him. “I made it a point of not telling people until they got close. I wanted to break stereotypes with the people I got to know.”

Serving almost five years in the 82nd Airborne Division, Mandel was deployed to South Korea and Haiti. When Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake in 2010, Mandel arrived there with his unit that very night.

His foray into the secular world continued when he entered the media arena.

“I was slightly known before I got out within the small ‘OTD [off the derech, literally, 'off the path'] community’ (if there is such a thing),” he said, adding that he became “really well known” after organizing a protest against the “asifa,” the Hasidic rally in New York against the evils of the Internet.

“It got international press attention,” Mandel said. “Then my eBay shtick just took it to a whole other level.”

Nowadays, Mandel’s social media presence has proven to be surprisingly profitable, with the attention the Sabbath deal has brought leading to more donations pouring in.

“Make this one Shabbos as Jewy and holy as you possibly can, I’m game, as long you dish out the shekels,” he posted on Monday, just hours before hitting his minimum goal.

But the exercise is not likely to lead Mandel back to the world he turned his back on.

“I know Orthodox people who have been following the story would love for this to be the case, but I don’t have high hopes. It’s not like I left Orthodoxy because I hated Shabbos,” he said.

“Staying away from the Internet is what’s going to be the hardest,” he added.

Jerusalem - Owner of popular Gutnick Hall receives death threats, car burned by vandals

Police are investigating violence and death threats against the owner of the popular Gutnick Hall in Jerusalem.

The latest incident occurred on Wednesday night, after the hall owner parked his car on Sorotzkin Street in Jerusalem.

People in the area awoke to the sound of an explosion, and were surprised to see that the car belonging to the hall owner was set on fire.

Firefighters who arrived at the scene found a Ford Mondeo on fire. The vehicle was totally burned and the vehicle parked next to it was slightly damaged.

Fire investigators who collected evidence from the scene determined that it was arson. 

The owner of the vehicle filed a police complaint, and police said that they are currently looking for suspects.

This was not the first vandalism incident to strike the family. On Monday, the victim’s son-in-law, who lives in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of Jerusalem, reported that his car was set on fire. Police believe that the two cases are related.

Two months ago, the son-in-law also received a death threat in the mail along with a bullet, according to police.

Police said that it is possible that recently fired employees of the Gutnick hall might be behind the death threats and the vandalism.

Lakewood: Twin Sisters Burned By Hot Soup; One Flown By Medivac

On Tuesday evening, Lakewood Hatzolah was dispatched to a Powderhorn Drive home for two children seriously burned.

Upon arrival, Hatzolah members found two twin girls with burns. Lakewood Police tell YWN that the injuries occurred as the result of the stove, which was heating up some soup, toppled over on them. 

The girls mother, who was nearby in an adjoining room, ran to their aid.

Evidence at the scene suggests that the children may have opened the oven door and then stood on it causing the pot of soup to topple over on them.

One of the girls was treated at the scene for minor burns, however, her sister was flown to St. Barnabas Burn Center by Medivac.

Please be Mispallel for Malka has Shaindel.

Australian Rabbi Chaim Herzog Stripped of Chabad Leadership Role

Rabbi Chaim Herzog

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — A controversial Chabad rabbi in Melbourne has been stripped of his official endorsement following a long-running turf war that involved police and threatened legal action.

Rabbi Chaim Herzog, who has run the Chabad House of Melbourne CBD in the city’s downtown since 1998, was officially removed from his position last week by Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Groner, the head shaliach of Chabad Houses in Australia.

“The endorsement of Rabbi Chaim Herzog as a shaliach of Chabad has been withdrawn,” Groner wrote in a statement on Oct. 18.

“As such, he is no longer able to conduct activities in the name of Chabad, including but not limited to Chabad of CBD (Melbourne).”

But Herzog issued a counter-statement, alleging his loss of the rabbi’s endorsement was part of a “smear campaign” and that Groner did not have the authority to remove him.

Herzog claimed it required the agreement of the three chief Chabad rabbis appointed by Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn to run Melbourne following the 2008 death of Groner’s father, who was Chabad’s chief rabbi here.

“Chabad of Melbourne CBD and its duly appointed shaliach, Rabbi Chaim Herzog, call upon Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Groner to immediately cease and desist from these slanderous actions of rabbinical overreaching,” Herzog said in his statement.

The withdrawn endorsement by Groner follows a long-running turf war between Herzog’s Chabad of Melbourne and another organization in the city center, Jews of the CBD, which stands for central business district, or downtown.

It is run by David Werdiger, a grandson of one of the pioneers of Chabad in Australia, who has been at loggerheads with Herzog since 2008, with Werdiger claiming he had been harassed by Herzog for hosting a weekly study session and other events perceived to be in competition with Herzog’s organization.

Jews of the CBD “does not and has never purported to be a Chabad organization, and does not need and has never sought formal endorsement from Chabad rabbis,” Werdiger said.

“Our policy and practice is to collaborate with other organizations, and we do not lay claim to any regional exclusivity,” he said.

Kuwaiti report: Deal between Iran, Western agency to expose details on missing pilot Ron Arad

A Kuwaiti newspaper reported on Wednesday that Israel will soon receive new details regarding missing Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad as part of a deal between Iran and a Western intelligence agency.

The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siasa quoted Western intelligence officials as saying that the deal includes the release of information regarding Arad, who's been missing in action since 1986, in exchange for details on four Iranian diplomats who vanished in Lebanon in the 1980s.

The report, which is based on Western intelligence sources, has not been confirmed.

The newspaper said that the deal has been enabled in light of recent improvement in ties between Iran and the West. According to the report, Hossein Mousavi, the brother of one of the Iranian diplomats that served in Lebanon and disappeared in 1982, was the one who transferred the information on the fate of Arad to the Western agency.

Arad's planewas shot down over Lebanon in 1986 and since then he was missing in action. During that time, Mousavi served as an adviser to the foreign minister on the Middle East and the Arab world.

‘US has spying unit on roof of its Tel Aviv embassy’

The United States maintains hidden rooftop spying units at several embassies around the world, including Tel Aviv, Israeli intelligence analyst Ronen Solomon told the Maariv daily Tuesday.

The paper quoted unnamed Israeli security officials saying this did not surprise them.

Solomon said he had discovered such structures in photographs of US embassies in Beijing, Dubai, Moscow, Madrid and Tel Aviv.

The report followed a story in Germany’s Der Spiegel on Sunday claiming that the US embassy in Berlin is a “nest of espionage,” with spy equipment installed on upper floors and rooftops covered by “screens or Potemkin-like structures.”

The unnamed Israeli officials were quoted by Maariv saying that the working assumption in Israeli security is that the US monitors all calls in the Middle East, just as in Europe, especially if they are not encrypted.

On Friday, former Mossad chief Danny Yatom told the same paper that he was “certain” the US “has been listening in on its allies, including Israel… When the Americans think they need to listen in on someone, they’ll do just that.”

Yatom explained that there are two issues around which the Americans are likely spying on Israel — negotiations with Palestinians and the Iranian nuclear program. “It is important for them to know what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu really thinks… They have interests here because they want to be able to contend with Israeli claims that arise when talking about these issues,” the ex-Mossad chief said.

Obama spokesman evades question on NSA monitoring Netanyahu's phone

U.S. President Barack Obama's spokesman Jay Carney evaded answering a question on whether the National Security Agency listened to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's calls.

According to the Washington Examiner, Carney refused to speak of "specific assurances" regarding Netanyahu.

"I just don't have anything more specific about specific alleged [NSA operations]," the Washington Examiner quoted Carney as saying.

On Sunday, Obama reportedly apologized to German Chancellor Angela Merkel after it was discovered that the NSA was tapping her phone.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the National Security Agency has terminated several programs used to spy on world leaders after the Obama administration became aware of the eavesdropping.

An internal review conducted by the Obama administration revealed that the NSA was monitoring "some 35 world leaders," which has drawn international outrage in recent days following the news that the NSA was tapping Merkel's phone and calls in France.

Teva CEO Jeremy Levin resigns

The drama in Israel-based pharmaceutical giant Teva continues: A day after he denied his plan to resign, the company announced Wednesday that Dr. Jeremy Levin would step down from his position as president and chief executive officer instantaneously.

The board of directors has appointed Vice President and CFO Eyal Desheh as his interim replacement, effective immediately, and has set up a search committee to seek a permanent successor.

Teva is scheduled to release its financial results for the third quarter of 2013 on Thursday. Trading of its share on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange has been suspended.

On Tuesday, Levin denied a media report that he was considering resigning due to a rift with Teva Chairman Phillip Frost over the expected cuts in the company.
In a letter leaked to the media on Sunday, the company's management criticizes the board of directors for intervening in the daily course of business, which is "preventing the management from being able to manage Teva effectively."

In the letter, Levin asserted that there was no room for the board's intervention in the company's restructuring plan, as part of which it is expected to cut about 10% of its workforce worldwide and fire some 5,000 workers. The letter points to alleged differences of opinion between the board and the management over the plan to dismiss 700 to 800 employees in Israel.

'I look forward to pursuing new opportunities'

Levin took the helm of Teva in May 2012 after the company had grown rapidly through acquisitions. He promised to reshape the company by developing its own medicines, amid increasing competition in the generics market, and to divest businesses in non-core areas.

"Since I joined Teva, we have made tremendous progress in setting a new course for the company," Levin said Wednesday. "I wish the company and its people, who I respect greatly, every success. I look forward to pursuing new opportunities where I can continue to apply my experience and contribute to the evolution of the global pharmaceutical industry."

Following the announcement on Levin's resignation, Frost issued a statement saying, "On behalf of the entire board of directors, I would like to thank Dr. Jeremy Levin for his meaningful contribution to Teva during the last two years. The board and management team are fully committed to the implementation of Teva's strategy, including the development of new compounds, making strategic acquisitions, forming joint ventures and the planned acceleration of the company’s cost reduction programs."

Interim CEO Deshe said, "I have full confidence in the ability of Teva's management and employees to achieve our goals and execute the strategy laid out for the company. My colleagues in Teva's management and I will continue to drive execution and results in full collaboration with our board of directors, for the benefit of our patients, shareholders, customers and employees."

Mistrust in capital market

Teva is one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world, the leading company in the genetic field and the largest commercial company in Israel. The company has production, research and marketing facilities in Israel, North America and Europe.

The company's greatest achievement was receiving the Food and Drug Administration's approval for its Copaxone drug in 1996. The medication was developed by a team of researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science to treat to treat multiple sclerosis. That was when Teva went from being a company producing generic drugs to a company making drugs of its own.

The company's market value in January 2011 was NIS 186 billion (about $52 billion). By the end of 2012 Teva had 45,948 workers, 7,397 of them in Israel. Most of the company's employees are located in Europe – 19,749 workers. In North America the company employs 9,483 workers, in Latin America 4,374 workers, in Asia 4,893 workers, and in other countries – 52 workers.

In the past two years, the company's share has been suffering mistrust in the capital market amid concerns of an erosion in Teva's profitability and growth after losing exclusivity for Copaxone, which was a key component of the company's profits. Teva's share has lost 12% of its value since Levin took office.

Washington - White House Meets With Jewish Groups On Iran

Washington - The White House has updated Jewish and pro-Israel groups about its talks with Iran amid concerns by some of the groups about the U.S. easing sanctions pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, attended the meeting along with the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee.

The White House’s National Security Council says senior officials told Jewish leaders that the U.S. will not let Iran obtain a nuclear weapon but wants to resolve the nuclear issue through diplomacy.

The Obama administration is asking Congress to hold off on new sanctions while it pursues diplomacy. But Israel and AIPAC are pressing the administration to retain harsh economic sanctions.

AIPAC declined to comment on the meeting.