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AJC Fires Boston Staffer for Open Hillel Snooping Offer

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 17:47

The American Jewish Committee fired a staffer who offered to share with Open Hillel activists an off-the-record recording of a conference call with the director of Hillel.

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Police Officer Who Shot Har Nof Attackers Dies of Wounds, Raising Death Toll to 5

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 17:39

The number of victims in the terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue rose to five with the death of a police officer.

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AJC fires Boston staffer for Open Hillel breach

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 17:03

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The American Jewish Committee fired a staffer who offered to share with Open Hillel activists an off-the-record recording of a conference call with the director of Hillel.

Danny Blinderman, who works in AJC’s Boston office, said in an email exchange with members of Open Hillel that he would join the call led by Hillel International CEO Eric Fingerhut on “Israel on Campus,” the Free Beacon reported Tuesday, and offered to share “all things of relevance” with an Open Hillel listserv.

Open Hillel is a small network of Jewish student campus groups that reject Hillel International’s precepts banning events with speakers who advocate boycotting Israel and working with groups that are seen as hypercritical of Israel.

Ken Bandler, the AJC spokesman, said in a statement that the organization learned after the fact that the call “was shared with unauthorized outsiders.”

“This constituted a serious breach of trust,” Bandler said. “Accordingly, the individual who shared the information is no longer employed by AJC.”

Terror victims mourned in Jerusalem — and beyond

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 16:40

Hundreds of Israelis mourning at the funeral of three of the victims killed in the synagogue terror attack on the Bnei Torah Kehilat Yaakov synagogue in western Jerusalem, Nov. 18, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

TEL AVIV (JTA) — They all lived on the same street. They had all moved there from abroad. They were all rabbis. They all prayed at the same synagogue.

And it was at that Jerusalem synagogue that they were all murdered on Tuesday morning.

Mosheh Twersky, 59; Kalman Levine, 55; Aryeh Kupinsky, 43; and Avraham Goldberg, 68, were killed when two cousins from eastern Jerusalem entered Bnei Torah Kehillat Yaakov, in the haredi Orthodox neighborhood of Har Nof, wielding a gun and butcher knives. The attackers, members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, injured seven others before they were killed at the scene by Israeli police.

An Israeli Druze police officer — Zidan Saif, 30, of the Druze village of Kfar Yanouch in the Galilee — died Tuesday night of wounds suffered during the shootout with the assailants.

Twersky, Levine and Kupinsky were Americans. Goldberg was from England. All of the men were laid to rest Tuesday in Jerusalem.

“We are here, standing in front of these three holy men, the best of our community, Torah scholars whose blood flowed like water,” said Rabbi Yitzchak Mordechai Rubin, the chief rabbi of Bnei Torah, according to the Times of Israel.

Twersky, the head of the Toras Moshe Yeshiva, was the eldest grandson of the influential American Orthodox scholar Rabbi Joseph Soleveitchik. Twersky left behind his wife, five children and 10 grandchildren.

Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the Orthodox Union’s Kosher Division and a student of Soleveitchik, knew Twersky for most of his life and told JTA “he was in every respect extraordinary,” noting “his kindness, his stunning brilliance.”

“He was a great scholar. You saw his devotion to his students and their love for him,” Genack said. “He was reserved, very insightful. He came from the most exalted rabbinic family and yet he was just so humble.”

Levine, who is survived by his wife, nine children and five grandchildren, grew up in Kansas City, Mo. He was born Cary Levine and attended the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy there. A friend told the Kansas City Star that he was a “gentle soul with a kind heart.” His son eulogized him Tuesday as a diligent scholar.

“My father would study all day long and would return home at night only to learn some more until he would fall asleep in his chair,” the son said, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry. “Abba, you were in the middle of saying the Shema [prayer] when your soul left your body and the terrorists came and murdered you.”

Kupinsky, who also emigrated from the United States, leaves behind his wife and five children. He lost a daughter, Chaya Chana, who died in her sleep two years ago at 13. According to the Foreign Ministry, he was known to be very generous and was a daily worshipper at the synagogue.

Goldberg, who moved to Israel in 1993, is survived by his wife, six children and grandchildren. His friend from the neighborhood, David Osborne, remembered him as devout and kind.

“He was the most wonderful person you could meet, a pillar of the community,” Osborne told the British Jewish News. “Avraham prayed there most days for the last 10 years or so. He was a devout Jew with no political agenda. All he wanted was to live a peaceful life.”

Following the news of Saif’s death late Tuesday, members of the Druze community praised his work as a first responder. “We are proud of our sons who act fearlessly on the front against terrorist attacks,” a Druze leader, Muefek Tarif, said, according to the NRG news site. “This is a dark day for the Israeli public and the State of Israel, a day when its citizens are murdered for their Jewish beliefs.”

The terrorists in Tuesday’s attack were identified as Uday and Ghassan Abu Jamal.

Friends Recall 3 Americans Slain in Jerusalem Synagogue Attack

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 15:07

Family and friends remembered three U.S.-born rabbis slain in a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday, praising one as the scion of his Boston family’s rabbinical dynasty and another as “one of the kindest souls” in his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri.

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New York Boosts Synagogue Security After Attack

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 14:04

New York City increased its police presence at synagogues and other locations in the wake of an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue that left four dead.

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Thousands Mourn Synagogue Terror Victim Rabbi Moshe Twersky

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 12:48

Ultra-Orthodox Jews carry the shrouded body of Rabbi Moshe Twersky, a descendant of two rabbinical dynasties who was killed in the terror attack on a Jerusalem synagogue.

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President Obama Condemns Jerusalem Synagogue Terror Attack

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 11:03


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Moshe Twersky, Grandson of Joseph Soloveichik, Among Jerusalem Synagogue Victims

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 07:58

Rabbi Moshe Twersky has been identified as one of the four people killed in a Jerusalem synagogue during morning services.

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Synagogue terror attack victim identified as Rabbi Moshe Twersky

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 07:02

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Rabbi Moshe Twersky has been identified as one of the four people killed in a Jerusalem synagogue during morning services.

Twersky, 60, a dual citizen of the United States and Israel, was the son of rabbi and author Rabbi Yitzhak Twersky of Boston, grandson of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, a founder of Modern Orthodoxy known as The Rav.

He was the dean of the Torat Moshe Yeshiva, an advanced level English-speaking yeshiva, attended mostly by post-high school students from English-speaking countries.

He was the first victim to be identified in the Tuesday morning attack on the Bnei Torah Kehillat Yaakov synagogue in the western Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof. At least eight worshippers also were injured, some seriously, including two police officers who engaged in a shootout with the assailants, who were killed at the scene.

The other three victims were named early Tuesday afternoon. Aryeh Kupinsky, 43, and Kalman Zeev Levine, 55, residents of Har Nof who were born in the United States, also were killed in the attack. The fourth victim was Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, 68, an immigrant from Britain.


Synagogue Killers' Relatives Were Freed in Gilad Shalit Swap

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 06:50

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the terror attack by Palestinian assailants on a synagogue in Jerusalem.

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Abbas condemns terror attack on Jerusalem synagogue

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 06:42

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the terror attack by Palestinian assailants on a synagogue in Jerusalem.

The condemnation came hours after the Tuesday morning attack with guns, knives and axes on worshippers at the synagogue and rabbinical seminary during morning services.

Shortly after the attack, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, called on Abbas and other Palestinian leaders to condemn the attack, which he called “an act of pure terror and senseless brutality and murder.”

Abbas’ office said in a statement that the presidency always denounces the killing of civilians by any party, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported, and denounced Tuesday’s attack.

“The presidency also denounces all violent acts no matter who their source is, and demands an end to the ongoing incursions into the Al-Aksa Mosque and the provocative acts by Israeli settlers as well as incitement by some Israeli ministers,” the statement added.

The armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror organization in a statement posted on its Facebook page and in other social media claimed responsibility for the attack and called it a “normal reaction to the crimes of the occupation.”

The assailants, identified as cousins Uday and Ghassan Abu Jamal of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber were members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Police reportedly began searching the homes of the assailants after the attack and arrested some family members. Palestinian reports say the assailants are relatives of terrorists released in the exchange to return Gilad Shalit.


4 Hacked and Shot to Death in Jerusalem Synagogue Bloodbath

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 06:25

Two Palestinians armed with a meat cleaver and a gun killed four people in a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday before being shot dead by police, the deadliest such incident in six years in the holy city amid a surge in religious conflict.

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My Double Major in Communications and Jewish Life

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 05:00

by Liza Moskowitz

Five years ago – amidst AP classes, piano lessons, soccer games, and responsibilities as my temple’s youth group president – I began the college search process. My “wish list” was simple: big school in a big city with a large Jewish population. I was undecided about my academic desires, but I knew I needed a sizeable Jewish community on campus to feed my passion for Jewish life.

In the fall of 2011, I was a first-year student at a big school in a big city with a large Jewish population. This setting was my playground for academic adventure and professional development, as well as the reason for a whole new wardrobe. This Texas girl was not yet properly outfitted for the impending New England winter. Although the winter was not as harsh as had been anticipated, I was blindsided by my lack of connection to the Jewish community.

There wasn’t anything wrong with the community, and there wasn’t anything wrong with me. Rather, I needed to figure out the answer to this question: “How am I going to be Jewish for the next four years?”

As a Reform Jewish teen who had been involved with my synagogue, URJ Camps, and NFTY, the Reform Jewish Youth Movement, for my entire life, I liked identifying the common threads that link modern Jewish life to our past and vice versa, and I knew how to grapple with Jewish values. Although these values never defined for me how to be Jewish, they did help me to live an intentionally Jewish life.

And there was my answer: I did not want simply to be Jewish on campus; I wanted to live a Jewish life on campus, molding my actions – both inside and outside the classroom – on my belief in the importance of kehillah (community), nilmad v’na’aseh (choice through knowledge), and tikkun olam (repairing the world).

I have always strived to build an inclusive community in any setting in which I find myself, and I have continued this practice in college. Whether participating in a small discussion section as part of a political science lecture, spending time with my sorority sisters, or leading a campus tour for 20 prospective students (while walking backwards), I believe it is my duty not to repeat behaviors of the past, when we were strangers in the land of Egypt and ostracized by others countless times. Making people feel included is an essential Jewish value, and I try to ensure that I welcome everyone I meet with open arms.

Until college, I had only heard of nilmad v’na’aseh in the Reform Jewish context of creating holy experiences for myself by choosing Jewish practices that are meaningful to me. When I entered the classroom, I realized immediately that this value could be applied to my academic exploration as well. With this realization as a backdrop, I have been able to debate and learn from my professors and peers, melding scholarly readings together with diverse opinions to tease out my own views. The Jewish value of nilmad v’na’aseh has helped me soak up as much knowledge as possible and make the most of my undergraduate career.

Because community service is now commonplace on college campuses across the country, I have been able to continue the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam seamlessly as an undergraduate.

This past August, I served as an upperclassman mentor during the First Year Student Outreach Project (FYSOP), welcoming the first-years to campus and working with a group that tackled environmental issues in Boston with hands-on social action projects. We explored the Boston Nature Center and Higher Ground Farm, an urban farm on the roof of the Boston Design Center located in the Seaport District. Our small acts to repair the world helped supply food to hundreds of Boston families each season.

My college years have been a time for me to define who I am as a student, a leader, a friend, and a Jew. Even though my time of living a Jewish life on campus will come to an end in May, the lessons I have learned will help me transition into my unknown post-graduate life with a strong sense of stability and self-identity, as well as a whole lot of chutzpah.


Liza Moskowitz, a senior at Boston University, will graduate this spring with a B.S. in Mass Communication. She grew up at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, TX, and is a proud alumnae of URJ Greene Family Camp, URJ Kutz Camp, and NFTY, having traveled with NFTY in Israel and served as NFTY-TOR Regional President and NFTY North American Programming Vice President. Liza is the Kutz@50 Event Coordinator, planning the 50th summer celebration that will be held on July 4, 2015.

Four Israelis killed in terror attack on Jerusalem synagogue

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 03:18

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Four Israelis were killed in a terror attack during morning prayers at a Jerusalem synagogue.

Two Palestinian assailants entered a synagogue and rabbinical seminary in the Har Nof neighborhood of western Jerusalem and attacked worshippers at the morning prayer service with a gun, axes and knives.

At least eight worshippers also were injured, some seriously, in the Tuesday morning attack on the Bnei Torah Kehillat Yaakov synagogue. Three of those killed are dual American and Israeli citizens.

Police killed both of the assailants, who have been identified as residents of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber.  Police reportedly began searching the homes of the assailants after the attack. Palestinian reports say the assailants, who are cousins, are relatives of terrorists released in the exchange to return Gilad Shalit.

The Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror organizations praised the attack, and said it was in retaliation for the death of a Palestinian bus driver who was found late Sunday night hanged in his bus at a terminal in Jerusalem.

An autopsy Monday at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv found that the death was not criminally related, Israel Police said. The body was returned to the family. However, a Palestinian pathologist said in a separate report that there were signs of violence on his body, and the family said he was killed by “settlers.”

Hamas called for more such attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a security consultation for Tuesday afternoon following the attack.

He blamed the attack on “incitement led by Hamas and Abu Mazen” – the nom de guerre of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and blamed the international community for “irresponsibly ignoring” such incitement.

“We will respond with a heavy hand to the brutal murder of Jews who came to pray and were met by reprehensible murderers,” Netanyahu said following the terror attack.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is London, called Netanyahu to offer his condolences. “This simply has no place in human behavior,” Kerry told reporters, and called for Palestinian leaders to condemn the attack.

“Jerusalem bows its head in pain and sorrow on this difficult morning. Jerusalem residents peacefully praying in a synagogue in the heart of Jerusalem were cruelly slaughtered in cold blood while wearing their prayer shawls,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement. “We will not surrender to terror. We will stand strong and defend our city from those who try to disturb the peace of our capital.”


Yehuda Glick Says Palestinian Gunman Apologized Before Shooting Him

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 17:29

Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick said the Palestinian gunman who shot him apologized before firing.

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Op-Ed: Why the RCA’s conversion system is better than the alternative

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 16:46

Mikvah immersion is required for  conversion to Judaism.  (Mayyim Hayyim/Tom Kates)

NEW YORK (JTA) – In a recent JTA Op-Ed, Rabbis Marc Angel and Avi Weiss made a number of claims about the Rabbinical Council of America’s conversion system. While some of their arguments have merit, they paint only a partial picture of what we’re doing in the North American modern Orthodox community. And some of their arguments are just wrong.

Let’s review their claims point by point.

“The Israeli government recently moved to decentralize the conversion system by allowing local courts to convert individuals on their own.”

Yes and no. Conversion authority was extended only to courts run by municipal rabbis. Most rabbis in Israel still are not authorized to perform conversions. In fact, the new system is an Israeli version of the RCA’s current structure.

“The RCA accredits only those conversions conducted under RCA’s batei din, or rabbinical courts, using the GPS process.”

Individual rabbis are not barred from conducting conversions, and those who do still perform their own conversions find that they are accepted in their communities and by those who respect their conversions (no different than the model advocated by Rabbis Angel and Weiss). If the halachic standards of those conversions are accepted by the RCA’s Beth Din of America, then even those privately conducted conversions will be widely accepted. The advantage of the RCA’s system, known as GPS (for Geirus Policies and Standards), is that conversions performed by its rabbinic tribunals are guaranteed to receive the support of the Beth Din of America.

Centralization is dangerous.

Yes, centralization has the potential for corruption and abuse. That is why there were checks and balances built into the GPS system, why we do our best to ensure our batei din are comprised of people of integrity, and why – in light of the lacunae identified in the Rabbi Barry Freundel case – we are reviewing the entire system with a commitment to improve it.

But a decentralized system is also subject to corruption and abuse – even more so. Who supervises the individual rabbi and protects the conversion candidate from the same possible abuses that Rabbis Angel and Weiss are concerned about? Who protects that rabbi from undue political and financial pressures that may compromise his judgment? Who protects converts and their descendants from rabbis who “sell” conversions or whose conversions are not widely accepted?

Standards are overly strict.

Perhaps Rabbis Angel and Weiss are correct when they write that a “centralized beit din system almost invariably relies on the most stringent opinions of halachah, or Jewish law.” This goes to the larger question with which we struggle in many areas of Jewish law: What are proper halachic standards in any matter? Who has the expertise, authority and responsibility to make these decisions? How should decisions be made when they affect not only individuals but entire communities or the Jewish people? How do we responsibly navigate halachic disputes so that we respect diversity while maintaining integrity?

As in other areas of Jewish practice, we are directed by the guidance and decisions of our poskim – respected senior rabbis whose learning and experience have made them vital in setting standards for our community.

The RCA system causes emotional distress.

Yes, a more structured, less personal system can be more stressful than an ad hoc one. Rabbis Angel and Weiss cite incidents of insensitivity by regional batei din and rabbis. I do not deny such incidents have occurred, but I can cite many more instances of positive and warm interactions. In addition, sponsoring rabbis – who have an ongoing personal relationship with the prospective converts — are an important part of the GPS process.

And individual rabbis in a decentralized system can be insensitive, too.

We need to affirm and support rabbis in the GPS system who are doing it right and work with those who need to do better. Ultimately, widely accepted accreditation of one’s conversion reduces the stress for converts in the long run.

A centralized system limits access and results in fewer conversions.

I agree with Rabbis Angel and Weiss that all sincere and appropriate candidates for conversion should be converted. But they ignore the fact that the rate of those who successfully complete the GPS conversion process is very high. Meanwhile, the GPS Review Committee is evaluating ways we can improve.

“Out of town” cities suffer.

Yes, there are only 12 regional batei din and this creates inconveniences, even burdens, on some prospective converts. Are there ways to be more accommodating? Perhaps. This is something the Review Committee needs to evaluate. But in the long run this is a small price to pay for the benefits of an appropriate regional system.

The GPS system undermines the local rabbi.

Have local rabbis been undermined by the centralization of kosher supervision? By the handling of divorce cases only by experts and a handful of recognized batei din? By the practice of using only leading rabbis to resolve questions related to agunot – “chained” women whose husbands refuse to grant them divorce documents? By the use of yoatzot halachah – women extensively trained in matters of Jewish family purity laws – to advise women in this area that traditionally has been the purview of local rabbis?

By the same token, no one is suggesting that only select rabbis be able to perform weddings.

We have evolved over time a hybrid system here in North America that combines both decentralized and centralized rabbinic responsibility in order to best serve the personal pastoral, spiritual and halachic needs of the community.

Pre-GPS conversions are being questioned.

Conversions always were subject to scrutiny when converts moved to new communities or needed to prove their Jewish status for one reason or another. This is the unfortunate reality of a system of law. Even before the GPS system, not all conversions received the stamp of approval of the Beth Din of America.

Just as centralized kosher supervision raised confidence in and delivery of kosher food and addressed many of the inconsistencies and scandals of earlier generations, GPS is meant to do the same.

* * *

Although we disagree on the issue of centralization, Rabbis Angel, Weiss and I all agree on the vital importance of “the welfare of converts, our communal health and our religious vitality.” We just have different formulas for getting there.

The GPS system may not be perfect, but we believe the alternatives are not as good. Can we do better? You bet. And we will. Because like Rabbis Angel and Weiss, we are passionate about the well-being of converts and the Jewish people.

(Rabbi Mark Dratch is the executive vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America.)

Netanyahu accuses Abbas of incitement in Jerusalem

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 11:25

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of incitement as the P.A.’s official media called for a day of rage in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu pointed out the call at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday.

On Thursday, Netanyahu, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordan’s King Abdullah II agreed after meeting in Amman to de-escalate the situation on the Temple Mount and make it clear that the status quo will be upheld.

“Abu Mazen must halt the incitement that leads to acts of violence,” Netanyahu said Sunday, using Abbas’ nom de guerre. “This is one of the roots of the inflamed moods that are fueled by Islamist extremist propaganda and propaganda by the Palestinian Authority.”

Netanyahu also called rumors that Israel intends to change the status quo on the Temple Mount  “a gross lie.”

Since capturing the holy site during the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel has severely restricted access for Jewish worshippers, in part not to inflame tensions. The status quo continues to restrict Jewish worship on the mount.

The day after the Jordan meeting, Israel removed its age limitation on entrance to the Temple Mount, for the first time in two weeks allowing Muslim men under the age of 50 to enter the compound that contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Army Radio reported.

The Palestinian Maan news agency reported Sunday that Netanyahu will meet again with Abdullah in the coming days to continue discussions over tensions surrounding the Temple Mount, citing  Jordanian parliament member Mohammed al-Katatshe.

Orthodox Jew stabbed in Antwerp in attack seen as anti-Semitic

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 03:18

LIEGE, Belgium (JTA) — An Orthodox Jewish man who was stabbed in the neck in Antwerp in a suspected anti-Semitic attack was released from the hospital.

Yehosha Malik, 31, sustained injuries classified as moderate on Saturday morning in the capital of Belgium’s Flemish region, the Gazet van Antwerpen reported. He was discharged the same day after medical staff determined his injuries were not life threatening.

In an interview with Hadrei Haredim, a Hebrew-language news website, Malik said he felt a jab to his neck “and saw a young man eagerly trying to stab again.”

Malik was on his way to synagogue in the city’s center, where a population of approximately 16,000 Orthodox Jews reside.

According to Malik’s account, the attacker fled after he was confronted by a witness, also an Orthodox Jew.

The region’s Forum of Jewish Organizations wrote in a statement that “there is very real chance we are dealing with an act of pure anti-Semitism.”

Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, called on European authorities to step up efforts to protect Jewish communities that are being targeted by Islamists and other parties.

“There is a war against the Jews on the Internet and on the streets,” he said. “Until there is a crackdown on incitement to hatred and anti-Semitism, then more people will believe that these types of attacks are legitimate. We call on European authorities to form a specially dedicated pan-European body to deal specifically with the wave of anti-Semitism and the threat of radical Islam that threatens Jews and the continent of Europe.”

Rabbi Menachem Margolin of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association said his group will set meetings with European Union officials to discuss “the severity of the situation and ways to combat such phenomena at their core, through education.”

Suspect in 1980 Paris Synagogue Bombing Extradited to France

Sat, 11/15/2014 - 07:10

A Lebanese-Canadian who is the main suspect in a 1980 bombing that killed four people outside a Paris synagogue has arrived in Paris and will be questioned in court on Saturday, a court source told Reuters.

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