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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mila Kunis Wants 'Jewish' Baby With Ashton Kutcher?

Mila Kunis 

Mila Kunis has been subject to pregnancy rumors in recent weeks and a new report claims she and Ashton Kutcher are in fact ready for a baby.

The couple, who began dating in 2012, were thrilled on Tuesday when Kutcher finalized his divorce from actress Demi Moore, two years after they initially separated. Insiders claim that the "Jobs" actor, 35, now feels free to settle down with the "Ted" actress, 29, who is reportedly eager to have his child.

"[Mila] definitely wants children with Ashton and wants to raise them in her Jewish religion," a source told

During Kutcher's six-year marriage to Moore, 51, the actor "dabbled in Kabbalah, the practice of Jewish mysticism. But Mila's family is much more traditional and less Hollywood," the source explained.
In recent months Kunis, who was previously linked to actor Macaulay Culkin, sparked engagement rumors after she was photographed wearing a gold band on her wedding finger. The insider claims that for the couple, having a baby and raising it Jewish is of far greater importance than getting married at this time.

"Think Coney Island style Russian immigrants. They want Jewish babies and Mila wants to give them to her family. Tradition is very important to her," the source explained.
"They want to have a baby now and it's far more important to them than getting married," the source continued. "It's a dream for Mila and Ashton, and even if he doesn't fully convert, he's very much into the idea of having little Jewish babies."

Picture of the Day: Chabad Rabbi & Mitt Romney In Park Citi Utah

U.K. minister vows to end Shabbat discrimination against unemployed Jews

Britain’s employment minister said she would introduce new regulations to make Jews who refuse to work on Shabbat eligible for welfare benefits.

Employment Minister Esther McVey and Jobcentre National Director Neil Couling have told the Jewish employment charity JCom that rules would be “tweaked” to end the practice of denying job seekers’ allowance to observant Jews, The Jewish Chronicle of London reported Friday.

The Department for Work and Pensions confirmed that there had been 50 cases of people from different religions being denied unemployment benefits because the claimants’ religious observance interfered with their ability to work, the Chronicle reported.

At least 15 cases involved Jews, five of whom had won tribunal cases against the department.

Manchester job center staff members were due to receive “training” in dealing with the issue from this week, Couling said.

Ivan Lewis, a British lawmaker who has pushed the department and ministry to come up with solutions to the problem, said that the department “made it very clear that legislation and guidance leading to observant Jews being penalized was wrong. They are willing to put that right, and that’s a very important step.”

“But we will judge it on the facts, and if Jewish claimants are still discriminated against, I will be the first to go back to the minister and say this is not what was promised,” he said.

Bidder will remove Dankner from management if their bid for IDB wins

Ukrainian-Jewish businessman Alexander Granovsky said Thursday that if he and Nochi Dankner get the nod from a court to take control of the IDB group, Granovsky will remove Dankner and his associates from the management team. Dankner is currently the group’s controlling shareholder.

The Granovsky group and a rival consortium led by Argentine-Jewish businessman Eduardo Elsztain are vying to take control of the financially troubled IDB. Granovsky and Danker say they have brought food importer Willi Food into their consortium, although it appears that this commitment will be limited to a loan.

The group led by Elsztain and Israeli businessman Motti Ben-Moshe tried to solidify its position by making a deposit in a trust account that now holds a billion shekels to secure a proposed debt-rescheduling plan. The IDB group includes Israeli fixtures such as the Super-Sol supermarket chain and the Cellcom cellular service provider.

Granovsky and Jossef Schneorson, the chief executive of Granovsky’s investment vehicle Emblaze, said Thursday that Dankner would be removed from his management role at IDB if their bid succeeds.

“From the day we assume control, the management team of IDB, beginning with the position of chairman, currently held by Dankner; the chief executive, Haim Gavrieli; and senior IDB management [will be replaced by] a new team that is not part of the investor group,” Granovsky and Schneorson said in a statement. “They will be professional at the highest possible level that can be found in the Israeli business sector.”

Granovsky and Schneorson said they had been in touch with senior Israeli business figures in an effort to put together a management team.

For their part, Elsztain and Ben-Moshe said Granovsky’s bid was marred by uncertainties. They said the Willi Food loan in Granovsky’s plan was “apparently affected” by a conflict of interest.

On Wednesday Yossi Williger, who with his brother Zvi controls Willi Foods, denied that he would be joining the Granovsky-Dankner group.

But on Thursday the Granovsky group announced that Willi Food had agreed to provide a NIS 65 million loan to a firm controlled by Granovsky and Dankner as part of their bid for IDB. Yossi Williger is said to have the right to convert the loan into shares of two key IDB companies - IDB Development or IDB Holding.

Zvi Williger said no decision had been made on converting the debt to equity. An antitrust expert said Thursday that it was up to the antitrust commissioner to decide if a link-up between Willi Foods and IDB would violate antitrust rules in light of IDB’s control of Super-Sol, the country’s largest supermarket chain.

In related developments late Thursday, IDB Holding, the publicly traded company at the top of the IDB pyramid, said it lost NIS 380 million in the third quarter, compared with a NIS 17 million loss a year earlier. For the first nine months of the year the loss was NIS 358 million, compared with NIS 970 million a year earlier. Third-quarter revenues fell 6%.

Of particular interest in the figures was the cost of Dankner’s fight to retain control of IDB Holding, which owes creditors NIS 2 billion. In the third quarter, the effort at a debt settlement cost the company about NIS 17 million, including legal fees and payments to experts. Subsidiary IDB Development shelled out about another NIS 15 million in the quarter for similar expenses.

For many agunot, halachic prenups won’t break their chains

NEW YORK (JTA) — For years, Rachel Light felt like a hostage, worried she would be forever trapped in her marriage to Eben Light.

Even in April 2012, after Eben was arrested for allegedly threatening her and was slapped with a restraining order, Rachel was unable to get a writ of Jewish divorce, or get.

That made her an agunah — Hebrew for “chained woman” — putting her in the company of hundreds of other Orthodox women who cannot remarry because their husbands refuse to grant them divorces according to Jewish law, or halachah.

Fortunately for Rachel, who was Modern Orthodox, she and her husband had signed a halachic (Jewish ritual) prenuptial agreement. In 2013, hers was the first such prenup to be enforced in a U.S. civil court. Light obtained her get and a substantial financial settlement in Connecticut.

“I’m so thankful that I happened to have signed it, because I don’t know that I’d be remarried today with an awesome, wonderful new family without it,” Light told JTA. “But nevertheless, it’s not going to be able to help everybody in every case, and I would love to see a solution that could.”

First developed in the 1990s in an attempt to protect women from becoming agunot, halachic prenuptial agreements stipulate that the couple in a dissolving marriage must come before a predetermined court of Jewish law. If the man refuses to provide the get, he must provide a financial settlement, typically in the range of $150 per day — an agreement enforceable in civil court.

Yet while halachic prenuptial agreements have been touted as a solution to the agunah problem, they have hardly been a panacea — because many are reluctant to sign them in the first place.

“Those who are most likely to need to use it are least likely to sign it,” said Rabbi Jeremy Stern, director of the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, or ORA, which says it deals with more than 150 cases of agunot per year.

The problem is unique to the Orthodox world, because non-Orthodox movements have rejected or found ways around traditional rules that give husbands practically all the leverage. And, frustratingly for advocates on behalf of agunot, most Orthodox couples hail from segments of the community that aren’t interested in halachic prenups.

“The problem is in the black-hat and haredi community, where they don’t have prenups or rabbis don’t agree to enforce the idea of having a prenup,” said Stanley Goodman, director of an organization known as GET — Getting Equal Treatment.

Rabbi Avi Shafran, spokesman for the haredi Orthodox Agudath Israel of America, said Aguda does not advocate the use of halachic prenups.

“There is a concern that introducing and focusing on the possible dissolution of a marriage when it is just beginning is not conducive to the health of the marriage,” Shafran said. “I don’t think it is really possible to gauge their efficacy without data, and in any event, it would be impossible to know when the existence of a prenup might have eased the way toward a divorce when a marriage might, with effort and determination, have been saved.”

Even the centrist Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America, which reiterated its support for prenuptial agreements in a statement last week, does not require its member rabbis to request a halachic prenup before performing weddings.

“Rabbinic authorities that are guiding the RCA, with whom we consult, feel it is inappropriate to make an absolute obligation for members,” Rabbi Mark Dratch, executive vice-president of the RCA, told JTA.

The RCA’s public statement on prenups came on the heels of several high-profile cases of get refusal. In October, the FBI announced it had arrested a group of men in New York who were accused of taking money to use violence to compel recalcitrant husbands to give gets. Their methods allegedly included kidnapping and the use of electric cattle prods. Agunot were paying tens of thousands of dollars for the service.

In early November, the New York Post featured on its front page the story of an agunah from Lakewood, N.J., Gital Dodelson, who said her husband’s family had demanded $350,000 and custody of the couple’s son in exchange for a get. A storm of media coverage followed, prompting the husband’s father and uncle to temporarily resign from their positions at Artscroll, a leading Orthodox publishing house.

One of the main problems with the halachic prenup, advocates say, is the lack of enforcement of its financial penalties.

Although the agreements stipulate a daily fine to be paid by the husband to the wife while a get is refused, these fines are nearly always waived in exchange for the get itself, according to Rabbi Joel Weissman, director of the RCA-affiliated Beth Din of America, the religious court that oversees many agunah cases. In current versions of its halachic prenup, the Beth Din of America exercises absolute control over the payments and may waive them at its discretion.

“They’re emasculating their own prenuptial,” Susan Aranoff, co-director of the advocacy organization Agunah International, said of the Beth Din of America. “The way the Beth Din enforces it is a smokescreen that deprives the woman and does not protect her.”

In response, Weissman told JTA: “In a vast majority of cases, the woman will walk home with the get and not push the case for support.”

Rachel Light says it wasn’t until she took her agreement to civil court in New Haven that she was able to receive her get. Her then-husband had avoided multiple summonses to the beit din without any consequences, she said.

In such cases, the beit din, as an extralegal entity, has only one recourse: to issue a seruv, a religious contempt-of-court order akin to excommunication, in which the recalcitrant party is banned from participation in synagogues and other community institutions. In cases where individuals are indifferent to this exclusion, or communities are unwilling to cooperate, the seruv may be ineffective.

While civil courts have more tools at their disposal, that route presents challenges, too. Light’s case took a long time, cost a lot of money and ultimately did not guarantee that her husband would grant her a Jewish divorce — only that he would have to pay if he didn’t.

“I would love to think that our rabbis could come up with a more direct, protective solution, rather than a circuitous thing that maybe some rabbis will use and maybe some couples will sign — which you have to take to civil court anyway,” Light said of halachic prenups. “I would love to see our rabbis take this on full force and say this is something that we won’t allow.”

Judy Heicklen, president of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, which will feature a session on agunot at its Dec. 7-8 conference in New York, says a Jewish legal solution must be found to obviate the need for enforcement in civil court.

“The prenup is not foolproof,” she said. “And on a philosophical level, we would hope that the halachah would be strong enough to find a solution within halachah and not have to rely on secular authorities to solve a human suffering issue that we should be able to solve 

Fire ravages Belarus’ oldest functioning synagogue

One of Europe’s oldest functioning synagogues sustained heavy damage in a fire that broke out in the city of Grodno in Belarus.

The flames erupted Tuesday night as a result of malfunctioning heating system and consumed the dining room and part of the second floor of Grodno’s Great Choral Synagogue, according to a report Wednesday by the Ministry of Emergency Situations. No one was injured.

According to, an official website of the Hasidic movement, Great Choral was built in the 16th century and is believed to be the oldest synagogue still in use in the former Soviet Union.

Thanks to the quick intervention of the local fire brigade, the damage from the fire was limited to 30 square yards and did not spread to the first and third floors.

The synagogue burned down completely in 1899, according to the website of the local Jewish community, but was renovated and fully restored. Last year, the Jewish community of Grodno announced it was preparing for more renovations due to neglect during the Soviet era.

During World War II, Nazi forces rounded up the Jewish population of Grodno in and around the building before sending them to the death camps.

Brooklyn - 76-Year-Old Woman May Be Latest 'Knockout' Assault Victim

Suspect: NYPD want to speak to this man after a 76-year-old woman was knocked to the ground

Police are on the hunt for a man who sucker-punched a 76-year-old New York woman in East New York.

Yvonne Small was attacked from behind at around 11:35 a.m. on Friday while walking on Alabama Avenue, and is believed to be the latest victim in the sometimes deadly "knockout game," police say.

The attack occurred shortly after a nearby rally held by activists condemning the violent "game" ended. A male suspect fled the scene and Small was taken to Brookdale Hospital, where she was treated for a head injury and later released.

According to the New York Police Department, there have been at least nine other attacks in the city linked to the knockout game, in which perpetrators pummel innocent, unsuspecting victims, hoping to render them unconscious with one punch.

On Nov. 22, police charged one man for punching a 24-year-old Jewish man. In response to that attack in Brooklyn, New York City Councilman David Greenfield told ABC station WABC-TV in New York that officials should send a message of "zero tolerance."

"That's why I called on the NYPD and District Attorney's Office to literally throw the book at these individuals and to charge them with many crimes, including hate crimes and gang assault, because that's what it is," Greenfield said.

Police said there have seven other similar attacks in Brooklyn and believe the motive may be related to anti-Semitism. The NYPD's hate crimes task force is investigating the cases. It was not clear whether the latest victim, Small, is Jewish like all of the nine other victims before her.

Republican state Assemblyman Jim Tedisco has proposed a bill that would classify knockout game attacks as gang assaults, and would require that youths who participate in such attacks be tried as adults, facing prison terms of up to 25 years.

"These twisted and cowardly thugs are preying on innocent bystanders and they don't care if the victims are young, old, a man or woman," Tedisco told The Associated Press when he announced the bill. "Life isn't a video game. These are real people whose lives are not only being put in jeopardy but in many cases destroyed."

But despite increased police crackdowns on the alleged perpetrators, the dangerous game appears to be spreading further throughout the country.

One unidentified Denver man told ABC News affiliate KMGH-TV in Denver that he was sucker-punched when leaving a bar, which would make him one of the first people in that city to be a victim of the "knockout" game.

In Washington, two people were randomly punched in separate incidents but suffered only minor injuries and did not lose consciousness, while two similar assaults in Philadelphia also have police on alert.

In September, Ralph Santiago, 46, of Hoboken, N.J., died from injuries resulting from a suspected knockout attack that sent him careering backward into a fence, where his head got lodged. Three teens -- two 13-year-olds and a 14-year-old -- have been charged with murder.

In late May, two teenagers admitted to fatally beating and killing a man in Syracuse, N.Y. They admitted that the attack began with the intention of knocking out the victim, Michael Daniels, with a single blow. Both teens, 16 and 13, were sentenced to 18 months in jail.

And earlier in May, Elex Murphy, now 20, was sentenced to life in prison plus 25 years in St. Louis for killing a Vietnamese immigrant as part the game in 2011.

Surveillance footage has also gone viral of another attack from 2012, in which a 50-year-old Pittsburgh, Pa., English teacher named James Addlespurger is struck and falls limply to the curb.
Experts say the violent acts appear to be driven in part by a pack mentality and peer pressure put on the perpetrators.

"These kids have effectively de-humanized others," Former FBI special agent Brad Garrett told ABC News. "They are being drastically influenced by the groups to commit the acts."

"This I believe is a real economic issue where those who have nothing feel that they have nothing to lose," said Dr. Jeff Gardere, a psychologist and assistant professor at Touro Graduate School of Psychology in New York City.

"Not only do they get a thrill out of doing something so horrific but then they get to watch it," Gardere said. "Then they get the positive reinforcement of people just watching these videos and these videos, no pun intended, getting hit after hit after hit after hit and these kids are finding some sort of immortality by their bad behavior."

Ontario - Gov. Agency Says Not Affiliated With Lev Tahor Wanted Flye

Chatham, Ontario - Children’s Services in Chatham say they are not tied to a wanted flyer directed at the head of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish group Lev Tahor that now live in Chatham.

Blackburn News reports that the flyer distributed in Chatham requests the public to contact children’s services if they see any member of Lev Tahor.

The flyer includes a photo and description of Rabbi Shlomo Helbrens’ alleged actions and copies of it have been left in community members’ mailboxes.

Stephen Doig, Interim Executive Director of children’s services, says the agency is cooperating with Quebec authorities in their investigation.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Rabbi Eliezer Berland Lights Chanukah Candles In Zimbabwe

Rabbi Eliezer Berland lit his first Chanukah candle in his new home, in South Africa. The Shuvu Banim Rosh Yeshiva left Morocco after residing there for about seven months, and he is now residing in Zimbabwe, South Africa.

The rav is reportedly staying with a prominent member of the local Jewish community.

The rabbi fled Israel to avoid arrest and he can only reside in countries that do not have an extradition agreement with the State of Israel has he is alleged to have broken the law in Israel.

Video Recap: Judge Orders ‘Lev Tahor’ Children to Foster Homes

Monticello: Kutscher’s Resort Sold To Lifestyle Company

The last of the iconic Catskills resorts has been sold to a company that plans to turn the property into a healthy living resort.

Sullivan County economic development officials tell the Times Herald-Record of Middletown that the sale of Kutscher’s Country Club was finalized Wednesday.

The buyer, Veria Lifestyle, plans to transform the 1,300-acre property into a $90 million destination offering yoga, golf, tennis and other healthy activities.

During its heyday, the resort located 75 miles northwest of New York City was one of the most famous of the “Borscht Belt” hotels in the Catskills when the region attracted largely Jewish families who headed upstate to escape the summer heat.

Colorado - Rabbi Moving Forward After Hate Crime

Thursday was not just Thanksgiving--it was the first day of Hanukkah.

As many in the community celebrated the dual holiday, one local rabbi also reflected on the vandalism committed against him one year ago.

During Hanukkah in 2012, Rabbi Moshe Liberow was dealing with the aftermath of an awful hate crime.

"There was a very cowardly act of hate where we unfortunately had a swastika sprayed on the menorah over here."

The menorah was in Liberow's front yard, located in a neighborhood at the corner of Rockrimmon and Allegheny in Colorado Springs. Liberow belongs to a synagogue just down the road from his house called the Chabad Jewish Center. Each year they put the menorah up in a different spot in Colorado Springs to spread the hopeful message. Last year was the first time it was ever vandalized.

It's something he hopes will never happen again--and didn't stop him from putting the menorah up again this Hanukkah.

"The message of right over might, the message of positivity overcoming darkness," Liberow said.

And there's a lot for the Liberows to feel good about on the first day of Hanukkah this year: support from the community, a kitchen full of food--and being able to celebrate an once in a lifetime confluence of two major holidays.

Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coming together is as rare an occurrence as you can get.

How rare?

It likely won't happen again for another 79,000 years.

On Saturday, there will be a lighting of the menorah at 410 Allegheny. It starts at 7 p.m., and will be open to the public.

‘Turkey’s ban on Israeli flights could bring down El Al’

More than a month after El Al sent a furious letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu complaining that Turkey was monopolizing the highly lucrative route between Israel and Turkey by banning Israeli airlines, Jerusalem has done nothing to change the outrageous situation, the airline’s CEO told The Times of Israel. Failure to tackle the issue could prove so costly as to bring down El Al, he said.
Since the Prime Minister’s Office and the Transportation Ministry seem unwilling, for political reasons, to challenge the Turks on their refusal to accommodate Israel’s special security requirements, effectively preventing Israeli airlines from landing in their country, El Al is now pinning its hopes on Avigdor Liberman, Elyezer Shkedy said. Israel’s newly returned foreign minister is known not to shy away from controversial issues and has spoken out frequently in the past against the current government in Ankara.

“What’s happening now between Israel and Turkey is unacceptable,” El Al’s CEO and president Shkedy, a former commander of the Israel Air Force, said in an interview. “This is something I can’t understand, honestly. I can’t understand how the leaders of the State of Israel allow this situation to continue.”

Shkedy refused to estimate how much the crisis was costing El Al, but described it as a financial “disaster” that could bring down the company. The government in Jerusalem would surely not want to see “Israeli aviation crash because of this,” he added, but this scenario is “a real possibility.”

Air traffic between Israel and Turkey has soared by over 150 percent since the 2010 Gaza flotilla episode sent bilateral ties hurtling into the abyss. But only Turkey is benefiting from the increase: The total number of Turkish airline flights out of Ben Gurion Airport each week has reached a staggering 112. The total number of Israeli airline flights on the route: zero.

For reasons Jerusalem blames squarely on Ankara, Israeli airlines have been unable to fly to any destination in Turkey since 2007 and are locked out of the market. As first reported by The Times of Israel, Shkedy on October 22 sent a letter to Netanyahu in which he demanded Israel preclude Turkish airlines from flying to Israel as long as Ankara prevents Israeli airlines from competing, or at least halt the expansion of Turkish companies.

“I am asking you to give clear and unequivocal guidelines to the relevant parties to take steps that will enable Israeli airlines to compete,” Shkedy wrote to the prime minister. “It is essential to require a solution to this problem as a prerequisite for continued flights by Turkish airlines to and from Israel, and to immediately halt any increase in frequencies until a suitable solution can be found.”

Speaking to The Times of Israel in his office at Ben Gurion Airport last week, Shkedy said that Jerusalem’s first step “should be loud and clear: [To tell Ankara that] if you don’t let us fly to Turkey, you are not flying to Israel. It’s as simple as that. Then, if the [government is] not brave enough, then at least do not increase the number of flights from Turkey that can come to Israel.”

Turkish Airlines now operates more flights out of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport than any other airline except for El Al. The Turkish state-owned company currently operates no fewer than 53 weekly flights from Tel Aviv to Istanbul. Pegasus Airlines and other Turkish charter companies together offer an additional 59 weekly flights connecting the two countries, bringing the total number of Turkish flights out of Ben Gurion to a staggering 112. This constitutes a 166% increase since 2010, when the total weekly number of Turkish airline flights from Tel Aviv stood at 42.
Israel’s unwillingness to confront Turkey has nothing to do with security or any other practicalities, Shkedy asserted. “It’s a political issue. It’s a big political issue,” he said.

Perhaps now that Israel has a foreign minister again, things will change for the better, he said. Given the delicate nature of bilateral ties — which dramatically deteriorated after the 2010 flotilla incident and were exacerbated even more by Ankara reportedly blowing the cover of Iranian intelligence assets who had secretly been meeting with Mossad handlers in Turkey in early 2012 — fixing the unfair aviation arrangement is not something can be solved on the professional level. Rather, Shkedy insisted, it must be tackled by the country’s political leaders.

“This is not an issue that bureaucrats can take care of,” Shkedy said. “I personally believe that the Civil Aviation Authority officials would like to fulfill their promises to take care of this problem, and do the right thing. But the government told them not to do it.”

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to respond to a Times of Israel query on the matter.

Liberman, who became foreign minister again on November 11 after being acquitted in a breach of trust case, “at least has the courage to say things and to do things that he thinks are right,” Shkedy said.

On March 22 this year, at the personal behest of US President Barack Obama, Netanyahu spoke to his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, apologizing for “operational mistakes” during the flotilla incident, and pledging to compensate the families of those killed. In turn, Erdoğan agreed to restore warm diplomatic ties with Israel, but so far, a genuine détente between the formerly close allies remains elusive.

Liberman has said he considers Netanyahu’s apology to have been a “serious mistake.”

On paper, the status quo — Turkish airlines expanding in Israel while Israeli companies are locked out of the market — has nothing to do with the tense diplomatic atmosphere between Jerusalem and Ankara but is based on Israel’s tight security requirements.
Until 2007, Israeli companies operated about 30 weekly flights to and from Turkey. But starting that year, Turkish authorities ceased accommodating Israel’s security requirements, thus preventing Israeli companies from landing in Turkey. Israel’s security agencies have higher security requirements than other countries’ regarding the operation of flights. Officials in Jerusalem refuse to specify Israel’s security demands on record, but in private conversations say accommodations could certainly be found if there was a desire to do so, and squarely blame Turkish authorities for deliberately making the Israelis’ lives more difficult.

“Everywhere we fly to — China, India, Ukraine, France, Belgium, England — everywhere we found a solution,” El Al’s deputy director for international affairs, Stanley Morais, told The Times of Israel. “There are all these countries that have all these requirements and demands. How come in Turkey we can’t find a solution? It doesn’t make sense.”

Other countries, most recently Russia, have also sometimes objected to Israel’s special security procedures, but a crisis was averted at the last minute with Moscow when Jerusalem threatened to bar Russian planes from landing in Israel, according to Shkedy. “We told them that until they let us fly there, you won’t be able to fly here to Israel,” he said. “They found a solution [on the security arrangements]. A solution that both Russia and Israel were satisfied with.”

Shkedy said he personally likes Turkey very much and that relations between the IAF and its Turkish counterpart used to be excellent. When the owners of El Al called him to offer him the job as the company’s CEO and president in early 2010, he was actually in Turkey, he recalled. “Not with El Al, of 

עד המדינה בפרשת הרב מצגר

בשעות הבוקר המאוחרות של יום שני השבוע, כשהשכנים היו בעבודה או בכולל, והילדים בגן, רגע לפני חופשת החנוכה, עד המדינה בפרשת הרב יונה מצגר מצא זמן להתחמק מעיני שכניו.

הוא הוריד במעלית הרעועה עוד שתי מזוודות גדולות, עמוסות בבגדים שונים. המזוודות, הדברים הישנים שארוזים בשקיות אשפה מחוץ לדירתו והדואר הרב שהצטבר, מלמדים שהעד עוזב את דירתו.

נראה בבירור שמשהו רע עובר עליו. האיש הגבוה והמרשים - שהסתובב במשך כ־20 שנה עם הרב הראשי לשעבר ולא פעם שהה בחברת עשירי תבל - נראה תשוש. עיניו נפוחות, פניו אינם מגולחים כרגיל, חולצתו הלבנה אינה מסודרת בתוך מכנסיו, הוא נבהל מעצם נוכחות תקשורתית סביבו. "מעולם לא דיברתי עם תקשורת וגם עכשיו לא אדבר", הוא חוזר ואומר, "אני לא יכול לומר מילה". השמועות ברחוב החרדי מספרות על שהות בבית מלון בתל אביב במסגרת התוכנית להגנת עדים, שאחריה ייאלץ לעזוב לחו"ל. לא מפחד מהרב מצגר, אלא ממעמדו הפגוע ברחוב החרדי, כך אומרים מקורבים.

עורך דינו של העד וגם המשטרה מסרבים לומר דבר בעניין, אבל עדי ראייה מספרים שהוא עבר להתגורר בעיר חרדית באזור המרכז. האיש שהיה הקרוב ביותר לרב מצגר, הפך לעד מדינה בפרשה החמורה ועלול להיות האיש שיביא את מדינת ישראל לעוד מבוכה - רב ראשי לישראל לשעבר מאחורי סורג ובריח. בקרב הציבור החרדי ובחלק מהמגזר החילוני יכולים לנחש מי הוא מקורבו של הרב מצגר שהפך לעד המדינה המרכזי בפרשה. דמותו וסיפורו של העד וכך גם הקשר שקיים עם הרב מצגר לא פחות חמורים ומסקרנים מהפרשה עצמה.

צו איסור הפרסום שהטילה המשטרה על שני עדי המדינה בפרשה מורה שלא לחשוף כל פרט על זהותם ומשלח ידם של העדים, אך יש דברים שאפשר לומר. הוא גדל בעיר חרדית, בן למשפחה חרדית ממוצעת. חבריו מספרים בנימוס כי לא היה מהתלמידים החזקים בישיבה וכבר בגיל 17 הוציא רישיון נהיגה, דבר שנחשב חריג בנוף החרדי, ומצביע על הרצון לחפש כיוון אחר ולא לדבוק בגמרא.

ההיכרות עם הרב יונה מצגר נערכה לפני כ־20 שנים. "הוא (העד) ניגש לרב מצגר ואמר לו שהוא מחפש עבודה, והרב מצגר הציע לו תפקיד מסוים", מספר אחד ממכריו של העד, "בבוקר הוא עבד עם עסקן מוכר, ובערב היה עובד עם הרב. אפשר לומר שהמפגש ביניהם היה מקרי מאוד".
"אכל קש למען הפרנסה"

לדברי המכר, רבים מייחסים לאחד מבני משפחתו של העד את הזכייה של הרב מצגר בתפקיד הרב הראשי לישראל, בזכות עבודת לובינג אינטנסיבית שקיים אצל הרבנים החרדים.

"לרב ולעד המדינה היה קשר הדוק בצורה שאי אפשר בכלל לתאר", מעיד גם אחד מעובדי הרבנות הראשית, "העד הכיר את הרב מצגר והיה קרוב אליו אפילו יותר מאשר למשפחתו. היו שם נאמנות ומסירות יוצאות דופן". עם זאת, טוען המקורב, מדובר בנאמנות ובמסירות שבבסיסן אינטרסים, דבר שבהחלט היה אפשר להרגיש.

"הוא (העד) העריך את הרב מצגר כמו שכולם העריכו אותו", אומר אדם שהכיר את השניים במשך שנים ומסביר, "הרבה אנשים חשבו גם דברים פחות טובים על הרב מצגר, על התאמתו למשרה ועל הדברים שהיו חשובים לו. בבר המצווה של בנו העד קם מהכיסא וביקש לכבד את מי שכינה 'מורי ורבי', הרב יונה מצגר. כל העיניים הסתובבו והאוזניים נפתחו", הוא משחזר. "כמעט מעולם לא קראו לרב יונה מצגר 'מורי ורבי', אף אחד לא הרגיש את זה באמת כדי להגיד דבר כזה, ואחרי האירוע שאלו אותו למה הוא קרא לו כך, והוא הסביר שבסך הכל היה צריך לכבד אותו בשל המעמד, והאמת שגם קצת התפלק לו. הוא לא באמת תפס ממנו 'מורו ורבו', הוא חשב כמו כולם וגם אכל לא מעט קש, אבל אכל אותו בשקט למען הפרנסה".

עד המדינה הוא תעלומה. אין כמעט רב, עסקן, איש תקשורת או פרסום שלא נתקל בו, עבד עימו, או יצר באמצעותו קשר עם הרב מצגר. הוא מוכר בעולם החרדי כיד ימינו של הרב, אך רק מעטים הכירו אותו לעומק. חבריו ומכריו של עד המדינה מספרים על אדם מופנם. "זה לא מאכער כוחני. הוא אדם שאף פעם לא מרים את הקול. לא מעליב, לא אומר מילה רעה, אדם טוב וחיובי שנעים להיות במחיצתו, הוא לא טיפוס מוחצן, או איש ש'מערבב', תאב כוח ושליטה. מדובר באדם שקט, לא מדבר, לא נראה, תמיד מאחורי הקלעים בשקט ובמיוחד מאוד מאוד דיסקרטי", מספר אדם נוסף שעבד עימו ברבנות הראשית.

רבים ממכריו מעידים כי דווקא הדיסקרטיות שכל כך אפיינה אותו היא זו שככל הנראה סיבכה אותו, "עכשיו אנחנו מבינים למה כל נושא הקשר עם הקהילות בחו"ל היה בטיפולו הבלעדי", אומר אחד האנשים שעבדו עימו, "כל נסיעה לחו"ל, כל פנייה מאיזה אוליגרך, שום דבר לא היה מגיע בכלל ללשכת הרב הראשי; אם הרב היה מקבל פנייה בפקס, הוא היה אומר 'תעבירו את הכל אליו'. כשהרב חיתן את בתו הגיעו לארץ 40 גבירים, הוא היה אחראי לטפל במלונות, במכוניות ובשהות שלהם".

"אני לא יכול להאמין שבכל נסיעה היתה 'מכה'", אמר לנו השבוע אחד ממכריו, "היו הרבה נסיעות וביקורים תמימים, אבל כנראה היו גם כאלה שלא", הוא מודה.

הקלטות המפלילות

גם גורם ממשרד הדתות מסביר שסוגיית הנסיעות היתה משמעותית מאוד עבור הרב מצגר. "הוא נלחם על הנסיעות לחו"ל, ממש התאבד עליהן", הוא מספר ומוסיף: "הוא נהג להתלונן על הכללים המחמירים שהוטלו על נסיעות של רב ראשי ועל כך שהוא לא יכול לנסוע במחלקת עסקים ובמחלקה ראשונה במקרים מסוימים. זה היה ממש חשוב לו".

גם לאיש סודו של הרב מצגר, עד המדינה המדובר, היה אינטרס שהרב ייסע לחו"ל. "כשהרב היה בחו"ל היה לו שקט. צריך להבין, האיש הזה היה עם הרב מצאת החמה עד צאת הנשמה ממש. מבוקר ועד לילה", אומר חברו לעבודה.

עוד מספרים חבריו כי בתחילת דרכו עוד הצטרף לנסיעות עם הרב מצגר, אך בשלב מסוים אשתו הטילה וטו על הנסיעות בטענה כי לפחות בזמנו הפנוי, היא מצפה שהוא יהיה קצת בבית, "היא (אשתו של העד) בכלל לא אהבה את הקשר ביניהם. לא אהבה את ההתנהגות של הרב. היתה הרגשה שיש איזה סכסוך, אבל לא ידענו דבר מעבר לזה. הם אנשים דיסקרטיים".

למרות כל זאת, על פי חשדות המשטרה ולדברי חבריו, הוא חי ברמת חיים גבוהה במיוחד. "הוא טס לחופשות משפחתיות בחו"ל במחלקות יוקרתיות, בנה בית מפואר, ותמיד לבוש בקפידה", הם אומרים.הוא עצמו טוען שקיבל את הכסף מקרוב משפחה.

ניתן להרגיש שהדיונים סביב מעצרו של הרב יונה מצגר וחומרת מעשיו נדחקו מעט מהכותרות. לא רבים בציבור החרדי הופתעו כשנחשפו החשדות למעשים פליליים שבוצעו על ידי הרב מצגר לכאורה. רבים התפלאו על כך שמצגר ביצע את המעשים המיוחסים לו לכאורה בצורה בוטה, שיטתית, מתמשכת, בלי להביא בחשבון שהוא עלול להיתפס, ובעיקר על העובדה שנכשל בתרגילי החקירה של המשטרה.

כך, למשל, פורסם בשבוע שעבר כי בידי חוקרי המשטרה הקלטה שבה נשמע הרב מצגר כשהוא מבקש מעד המדינה לקחת עליו את התיק הפלילי שבו הוא חשוד, ובתמורה הבטיח לו כסף רב ודירה. על פי הדיווח, ביקש הרב מצגר ממקורבו לשכב עבורו על הגדר "כפי שעשתה שולה זקן בעבור אהוד אולמרט".

בנוסף, בין הדברים שהושמעו לעד המדינה היו הקלטות שבהן נשמע הרב מצגר מפנה את החוקרים ואת ההאשמות שהוטחו בו לעבר מקורבו, וטוען שהוא כלל לא ידע על הדברים שנעשו ומי ש"סגר" הכל מאחורי גבו היה עד המדינה. החוקרים השמיעו לעד המדינה את הדברים, מה שככל הנראה חיזק אצלו את ההחלטה לעבור צד. כמו כן, ל"ישראל היום" נודע כי חוקרי המשטרה הציגו בפני העד לא רק את דבריו של הרב מצגר, אלא גם הקלטות שלו בשיחות עם מקורביו בתקופה ארוכה של יותר משנתיים, שבה המשטרה חוקרת את הפרשה.

הלשנה או לא?

המהפך שעשה עד המדינה מאיש סוד לאדם שעשוי להכניס לכלא את הרב הראשי עורר סערה בציבור החרדי, והעלה שוב את הדיון סביב סוגיית "המלשינים".

מהבחינה הזו עובר עד המדינה ימים קשים מאוד. כתובות גרפיטי בגנות מלשינים רוססו מול ביתו. בציבור החרדי לא מדובר רק בסוגיה מוסרית, אלא גם באיסור שמוצג כהלכתי, המוכר כ"דין מוסר" או בעגה היידית המוכרת "מויסר". על פי ההלכה, "מויסר" הוא אדם שמלשין לשלטונות גויים על פשעיו של חברו, וברבות השנים הפך לכינוי גנאי בקרב אלה בציבור החרדי, החשים זרות כלפי המדינה.

"יש אנשים שקרובים לסיפור הזה, שכועסים עליו מאוד ומסוגלים לחנוק אותו בעשר אצבעות, אנשים שיראו אותו ברחוב ויעברו לצד השני, כי מבחינתם הוא עשה מעשה נבלה, מעשה נבזי. עד מדינה ככלל זה מעשה נבזי, יש אנשים שלא מסוגלים להכיל בכלל את המושג 'עד מדינה', בפרט בצורה שבה עשה זאת - הפללת רב. זאת נבזות שלא מתקבלת בעין יפה", אומר גורם המכיר את הצדדים.

"בפרשת המלונות היה את ראש הלשכה מאיר רוזנטל שהיה פחות קרוב לרב מצגר מעד המדינה, והוא עדיין לקח על עצמו את כל התיק. יש תחושה של אכזבה", ממשיך המכר.

שכניו של הרב מבינים כמובן את הסיטואציה הקשה, אך אחד מהם אומר: "לא יודע מה הייתי עושה במקומו אבל קשה לחשוב על מויסר כחלק מהקהילה, מהמניין, אני בטח לא הייתי משתדך איתו".

לעומתם, מקורביו של העד דוחים את הדברים בבוז, וטוענים כי העד אף התייעץ עם שני רבנים שהתירו לו להפוך לעד מדינה. הם לא מוכנים למסור את שמות הרבנים, אך תוקפים את הרב מצגר: "לפי דברים שפורסמו, הרב מצגר בעצמו הוא מויסר, הוא ציפה שמישהו ישכב על הגדר וייקח על עצמו דברים שהוא לא אחראי להם. מויסר זה כשיהודי הולך להלשין לגוי, וגם אז מדובר על לפני 100 שנה כשהיהודים היו תחת שלטון גויים.

"הוא (העד) היה צריך לבחור בין שתי רעות, הוא עמד בפרונט, הרב אמר שנעשו דברים מאחורי גבו והשאיר אותו לבד במערכה. לא היתה לו ברירה אלא למסור את כל האמת, וכך הוא עושה".

חברו של עד המדינה מחזק את הדברים ואומר כי "הוא נקלע לסיטואציה בלתי אפשרית, אני רק מתאר לעצמי מה הייתי עושה. יש לו משפחה, אישה וילדים; נניח שהשוטרים אמרו לו שהוא הולך לכלא לעשר שנים וישלם קנסות מפה עד הודעה חדשה וכל המשפחה שלו תיהרס. אני לא מכיר מישהו שהיה יכול לקבל החלטה אחרת".

Esther Cohen, 33, Died from an undiagnosed stomach ulcer just five weeks after giving birth

Esther Cohen (pictured with her husband, Rabbi Cohen, and four of their children), 33, died five weeks after having her sixth child. She suffered a perforated stomach ulcer which led to septicaemia and organ failure

The young wife of a Jewish rabbi died in hospital from an undiagnosed stomach ulcer - just weeks after giving birth to their sixth child.

Esther Cohen, 33, had complained of sickness in the weeks before and after the delivery of baby Avraham Tzvi.

After being sent home from hospital following the birth, she was readmitted only to be discharged again despite her husband Rabbi Mendel Cohen fearing his wife, ‘wasn’t the complaining type’ and was still very poorly.

Mrs Cohen, whose grandparents helped found Jewish outreach activities in America and Canada, was sent back to North Manchester General Hospital after her sickness continued and she lost weight. She died a month later.

Tests showed Mrs Cohen had a perforated ulcer which had not been detected by doctors but which caused septicaemia and led to multiple organ failure.

At an inquest in Manchester, Rabbi Cohen wept as the hearing was told there is an ‘inherent’ difficulty in detecting diseases in the stomach or intestine when a patient has recently given birth - as symptoms can be attributed to the after-effects of delivering a baby. Doctors could not have detected the symptoms any sooner.

Mrs Cohen - known as Esty and described as ‘very well liked and very well respected’ - was originally from Albany in New York State but moved to the UK in 2005 with her Manchester born husband.

He headed a synagogue in Broughton Park, Salford, and ran the 60 pupil Lubavitch Jewish Boys’ School.

During her lifetime Mrs Cohen was said to be dedicated to promoting Jewish life and the mission of Chabad-Lubavitch – an organisation which helps promote Judaism and provides Torah lectures.

After marrying her husband she had given birth to her first five children Moishe, now 13, Mushka, 12, Rivka, 10, Chana, seven, and Yechiel, two. But problems arose after the delivery of Avraham Tzvi in August 2010.

Following the birth tests performed on Mrs Cohen at the hospital’s emergency unit on August 29 showed everything appeared normal and despite her vomiting, she was discharged on August 31.

Dr Tamer Al-Sayed said: ‘She spent the weekend in the emergency unit and according to nurses notes she was stable throughout. There was intermittent vomiting through the night and day but it stalled.

‘On August 31, I was asked to review the patient to see what the plan was. Her blood pressure was normal and she had been able to eat.

‘I thought maybe the best the best place for her was home given that there had been no changes throughout the weekend. She was stable and ambient.’

During the hearing Rabbi Cohen’s lawyer Ian Cohen said he was concerned that his wife had no energy and was very listless.

But Dr Al-Sayed added: ‘The sheer effect of reduction in nutrition would have accounted for her lack of energy. If a patient was presented in the same circumstances today I would follow exactly the same procedures.

‘Over and above being a doctor, I am a human being, and I would like to offer my sincere condolences.’
Dr Martin Patrick, a consultant physician in acute medication said it was not necessary to carry out an abdominal examination.

‘Because vomiting had stalled and she was eating she should go home,’ he said. ‘I saw Mr Cohen and explained this. She seemed well when I saw her and she was mobile.

‘If she wasn’t keeping down food I would have kept her in, but the notes I have are that she was eating. I know she wasn’t an “in your face” type person but that’s why I arranged to see Mr Cohen. If there had been no improvement I wouldn’t have sent her home.’

Mrs Cohen was discharged at around midday on August 31 but readmitted on September 3 where she was described as suffering ‘profound septic shock’.

Her condition again deteriorated on September 9 and by this time, surgeon Professor Derek Alderson said there was evidence of organ damage where the septic state had begun to impact on the function of her organs.

Professor Alderson said: ‘The examination of the abdomen in women who have recently given birth is one of the old chestnuts in surgery as you can miss small diagnoses like acute appendicitis when they have not long given birth.

‘We don’t understand why that is but most expert doctors have seen something like that.

‘Even if there had been something subtle there, the chances of you identifying something with a single abdominal examination are really small. You would have passed it as being normal and there is a risk you would have missed perforation.’

Rabbi Cohen’s lawyer Ian Cohen said: ‘There has been significant concern from the family that she wasn’t eating and wasn’t holding down food.

‘You have a lady who was quite passive and didn’t complain. We think that may have been interpreted as she was OK and improving.’

But recording a verdict of death by natural causes, Manchester Coroner Nigel Meadows said: ‘It is obviously a complete tragedy that you have a woman of 33 years old who is a mother of six and it deserved the fullest investigation and that is why I have gone to the trouble of consulting medical experts at public expense.

‘At the end of the day, I would hope you understand you have had a full enquiry and matters have been looked at carefully. My deepest sympathies are passed on and I know this brings back terrible memories.’

Speaking after the inquest, Rabbi Cohen said: ‘I did think that the medical care was not perhaps up to par at the time but everything has been followed up and today has clarified the care was up to the correct standard. I want to thank the coroner and the medical staff for their incredible work.’

A collection of memories of Mrs Cohen by family and friends, as well as her own childhood journal entries, have been posted on a blog

Family friend Rabbi Yossi Chazan, of Prestwich’s Holy Law Synagogue, said: ‘Esther was reserved, gracious and very God-fearing and built a beautiful family.

‘She was an aristocrat of the spirit, but at the same time very devoted and always behind her husband in the running of the shul and the school. She sacrificed a tremendous amount for these communal organisations.’

Report: Pope Francis to visit Israel in May

Pope Francis will visit Israel on May 25-26, Italian news agency ANSA reported on Thursday. The report cited CNN's Jake Tapper, who posted the news on Twitter.

ANSA said the Vatican would not confirm the dates.

The report comes after the release this week of "Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), a 224-page document outlining the pope' vision of the church and its mission.

“Dialogue and friendship with the children of Israel are part of the life of Jesus’ disciples,” Francis wrote in the document. “The friendship which has grown between us makes us bitterly and sincerely regret the terrible persecutions which they have endured, and continue to endure, especially those that have involved Christians.”

The Catholic Church, Francis wrote, holds “the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked.”

Francis is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week, during an official visit by Netanyahu to Italy. During the visit, Netanyahu is expected to take part in a Hanukkah menorah lighting on Sunday in Rome’s main synagogue, along with Italy’s prime minister, Jewish community leaders and other.

Rabbis condemn Golders Green Synagogue after women hold Torah scroll

A United Synagogue congregation which allows women to hold a Sefer Torah has defended itself following an attack from the Orthodox right.

Rabbi Ephraim Padwa, head of the rabbinate of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, had condemned the practice as “Reform-influenced”.

But Professor Benny Chain, chairman of Golders Green United Synagogue, said he had been amazed at the warm reaction to the shul’s efforts to involve women more in the service.

Under the new practice, introduced earlier this year on Shabbat mornings and festivals, the Torah is taken out of the ark by a man and handed to a woman, who takes it around the women’s section before returning it to the men.

In a statement, Rabbi Padwa described women handling the Torah as “breaches of this nature” that came “from the influence of the Reform”.

But Professor Chain said that it had been a “successful” experiment.

“People have said what an emotional experience it is and that they feel much more involved in the service.”

Thursday, November 28, 2013


This week, rapper Kanye West told a local radio show that President Obama was having trouble succeeding because he didn’t have “connections” like those of “Jewish people.” West, who has been criticized by President Obama in the past for his celebrity marriage to Kim Kardashian (Obama also called Kanye a “jackass” after Kanye confronted Taylor Swift during the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009), defended Obama’s incompetence in anti-Semiticfashion:

Man, let me tell you something about George Bush and oil money and Obama and no money. People want to say Obama can't make these moves or he's not executing. That's because he ain't got those connections. Black people don't have the same level of connections as Jewish people. Black people don't have the same connection as oil people.

There is no question that President Obama has high-level connections regardless of race – and there is also no question that Obama has high-level connections within the black community. For West to suggest that Jews have some sort of connection advantage is purely insane.

Jewelry designer James de Givenchy punched NYPD cop

A famous jewelry designer and his wife were arrested this past weekend for punching a police sergeant in the face after refusing to get out of his Mercedes, which was in the process of being towed, authorities said.

James de Givenchy, 50, was with his wife Gina in the Meatpacking District when he spotted his black Mercedes Benz being hauled onto the back of an NYPD tow truck at around 2 a.m. Saturday morning, cops said.
The tipsy Taffin jewelry designer then climbed onto the back of the truck and got in the driver’s seat of the luxury ride, which had been sitting in front of an Italian restaurant on 13th Street, and refused to come out after several requests by a police sergeant.

De Givenchy was then dragged forcibly out of the car before putting up his fists to fight the cops. The sergeant then tried to hit him with a Taser, but failed to connect.

That’s when jeweler punched the cop in the face before being maced by a second sergeant who then dragged the wild man to the ground.

Police also arrested de Givenchy’s 46-year-old wife Gina when she tried to pull on of the officers off of her husband.

de Givenchy was charged with a felony for assaulting a police officer, as well asd DWI, and obstruction of governmental administration. His wife was slapped with obstruction of governmental administration, cops said.

Jon Voight: Nuclear agreement with Iran is ‘a rotten deal’

NEW YORK – Jon Voight, a longtime vocal Hollywood Republican, said he has some concerns about the Obama administration’s recent nuclear deal with Iran.

“We had a socialist president—a socialist representative in France—say it was a rotten deal, so, you know, you figure it out. Who do I believe? Who do you believe?” he told FOX411, adding that the deal was particularly concerning for Israel advocates.

“Right now in the news, there is stuff that makes us very fearful about the fate of Israel,” he said.

“Those of us who love Israel, as I do… we know a little bit about nuclear disasters so we’re very, very concerned.”

Voight spoke about the President and his latest headline-making decision at a gala event for the Chabad Children of Chernobyl, an organization which takes children out of the radiation-ridden environment site of the April 1986 nuclear accident and permanently relocates them to Israel.

“This organization is an amazing organization because it started many years ago with the Chernobyl disaster,” Voight raved. “[Chabad Children of Chernobyl] has taken young children out of the Chernobyl area from the pollution that was making them all very, very sick—all sorts of different diseases and things were created by this radiation—and gotten them help [by moving them] to Israel.”

Voight said he got involved with the organization after a trip to Russia in the early ‘90s. His connection to the Jewish non-profit isn’t surprising, as he has long been a supporter of Israel and the Jewish cause.

Canadian court orders Haredi cult's children be put in foster care

A Quebec youth court has ordered 14 children from the ultra-orthodox Jewish cult Lev Tahor be placed temporarily in foster care, undergo medical examinations and receive psychological support, CBC News reported Wednesday.

The court also ordered that the children's parents hand in their passports, CBC said, amid reports that the sect was planning to flee Quebec.

The court order was prompted by a request filed by Quebec's youth protection services that the children be removed from their families and put in foster homes, CBC said.

Authorities alleged that the 14 children from two families in Lev Tahor, a Haredi sect that was classified a cult by an Israeli NGO specializing in cults, were living in dirty houses littered with garbage and that the children, who were home-schooled, were unable to do basic math and many could neither speak French nor English, CBC News reported.

The group Lev Tahor, or "Pure Heart", with its 200 members of which more than 130 are children, left their homes in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec, early last week, reportedly out of fear that welfare authorities would take their children. It was suspected that their fears arose after a dispute with Quebec education authorities over the contents of the children's homeschool education.

The group was planning to make its home in Chatham-Kent, a southwestern Ontario town of 108,000, Canadian media reported over the weekend. Many of the families have already leased homes in the community, the Toronto Star reported.

The evidence about the cult, headed by Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, a newly religious Israeli who left Israel with a group of followers in 1990, began to accumulate over the past 18 months, following a feature in Haaretz’s weekend supplement.

During this time, families of community members filed complaints with the police of child abuse and misuse of psychiatric drugs to control cult members, as well as the kidnapping of children from their families in Israel and the forced marriages of 14-year-old girls with adult men.

On Tuesday the Knesset’s Committee on the Rights of the Child held a hearing on Lev Tahor, and families of the cult members as well as MKs slammed the State Prosecutor’s Office for dragging its feet in the case.

Police and prosecutors say that since early last year they have been examining complaints and testimonies about Lev Tahor, made up mostly of those filed by Israelis, but that there are legal obstacles to any action being taken in Canada.

Holocaust survivor reunites with man whose family provided shelter

A New York psychologist shared an emotional reunion Wednesday with the man whose family hid him for more than two years in a cramped attic in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Leon Gersten, 79, met with Czeslaw Polziec, a retired Polish factory worker, for the first time in nearly 70 years at John F. Kennedy International Airport, the New York Post reported.

Gersten, then 8, hid with his mother and three relatives in the southeastern Poland home of Polziec's Catholic family and remained there for the duration of the war, relying on food delivered by a 10-year-old Czeslaw.

"The last time I saw him was when I was around 10 ½," Gersten told the New York Post before the reunion. “After all these years, it’s wonderful to be able to re-establish a personal touch, and to see someone who went through a lot of these experiences together."

Gersten said Polziec and his family showed incredible resolve in keeping their presence a secret. The family even built an underground bunker that they could cover with a grain storage bin in the event of a Nazi raid, according to the report.

“They kept it a secret. Just a mention that there were Jews hiding in their house would have been catastrophic,” Gersten told the Post. “Even though they were kids, they certainly were part of it in terms of protecting us and keeping out survival a secret."

In a close call, Nazi collaborators raided the farm and beat Polziec's father after suspecting the family of hiding Jews. Still, the family did not give up Gersten and his relatives.

"They were told nobody was to say anything to anyone," Polziec told Newsday through a translator. "We knew what we had to do. There was no discussion."

Polziec and Gersten said they look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving together and lighting the menorah on the first night of Hanukkah during the week-long reunion sponsored by the New York City-based Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, Newsday reported.

Gersten's grandson Mark Gersten told the newspaper that the reunion, which coincided with the Thanksgiving holiday and start of Hanukkah, could not have been timed better. Several members of Gersten's family attended Wednesday's event.

"We are giving thanks for being able to be here and being able to practice our own religion and be safe," he said. "For us, our way to give thanks is to show how many people there are and what we are doing with our lives."

Iran deal a failure, says ex-national security chief, Yaakov Amidror

 Yaakov Amidror

The former head of the Israeli National Security Council took to the pages of The New York Times to rail against the nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, calling the accord a diplomatic failure that missed the mark in diverting Tehran’s nuclear weapons program.
In an opinion piece published Thursday, Yaakov Amidror listed the reasons the agreement, signed in Geneva at the beginning of the week, had failed to achieve anything significant.

“Iran made only cosmetic concessions to preserve its primary goal, which is to continue enriching uranium,” he wrote. “The agreement represents a failure, not a triumph, of diplomacy.”

According to the terms of the agreement, some of the international sanctions currently imposed on Iran are to be eased, a move Amidror said would bring a rush of foreign business to Iran leading to the collapse of all the economic restrictions against the Islamic Republic.

“Might economic relief, reduced isolation and new goodwill lead to greater pressure on the Iranian regime to reach a fuller agreement later?” he asked. “I doubt it… Anyone who has conducted business or diplomatic negotiations knows that you don’t reduce the pressure on your opponent on the eve of negotiations. Yet that is essentially what happened in Geneva.”

Amidror’s remarks in The New York Times came amid heightened tension between the US and Israel over how to thwart Iran’s nuclear program. Netanyahu voiced staunch opposition to compromising with Iran in the run-up to the Geneva talks, and called the deal world powers signed earlier this week a “historic mistake.” Obama, without naming Netanyahu, then criticized the “tough talk and bluster” from critics of the deal.

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote Thursday that as negotiations move forward to solidify the interim agreement with Iran, Israel remains a “wild card,” and called Netanyahu’s outspoken dismissal of the agreement “clamorous criticism.”

“Obama has asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take a breather from his clamorous criticism and send to Washington a team that can explore with US officials a sound end-state strategy,” Ignatius wrote. “Perhaps the United States and Israel need a back channel, outside the bombastic pressure campaign by Israeli advocates.”

The prime minister’s former national security adviser, who stepped down earlier this month, claimed that under the terms of the deal Iran will be able to maintain its thousands of centrifuges and even work on upgrading them just so long at they are not installed in uranium enrichment plants. In practice, that means Iran’s uranium enrichment capability will remain at its current level, meaning it would be available for use whenever Tehran needs it.

Israeli sources quoted in a Maariv report Thursday morning contended that the measures Tehran agreed to would only set its back by two weeks should it attempt to manufacture a nuclear weapon. “Should the Iranians decide to ignore the understandings reached with world powers in Geneva, they can enrich the low-enriched uranium they have to military levels and acquire the fissile material necessary for a bomb within just over a month,” the paper reported.

To compound the problem further, the agreement signed between Iran and the US, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany does not require Tehran to reduce its stockpiles of 3.5% enriched uranium which, Amidror assessed, is already two-thirds of the way to bomb-making material.

“Given the thousands of centrifuges Iran has, the regime can enrich its stock of low-level uranium to weapons-grade quality in a matter of months,” Amidror wrote. “Iran already has enough of this material to make four bombs.”

Although the US has the weapons needed to take out Iran’s nuclear program, Western allies find the idea of using them abhorrent, Amidror argued.

“While the Obama administration maintains that the military option is still on the table in case Iran does not comply with the new agreement, that threat is becoming less and less credible,” he said.

However, without the pressure that sanctions offered, that theoretical military option may become all that stands in the way of nuclear-equipped Iran, he speculated.

“The West has surrendered its most effective diplomatic tool in exchange for baseless promises of goodwill. I pray its gamble pays off, for if it does not there will be only one tool left to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”