Monthly Archives: February 2006

UPDATED: MURDER IN CROWN HEIGHTS

Voz Iz Neias is reporting a murder on Carroll Street between Schenectady and Utica in Crown Heights. A Lubavitch man was apparently shot in the head and his car set on fire.

Anyone have details?

UPDATE: Voz Iz Neis is now reporting the victim’s name, Ephraim Klein, a 47-year-old divorced father of three. Klein lived on Union Street in Crown Heights and was planning a trip to Israel this week for his son’s wedding. He was shot through the arm and chest, apparently in the heart.

$10,000 reward was announced for information leading to the arrest of the assailant(s).

UPDATE 2: Orthomom notes Y-net’s coverage.

UPDATE 3: Shmais has links to all local TV coverage of the murder.

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Filed under Crime

What Should Jews Do? Darfur Genocide Spills Into Chad

The conflict and resultant genocide in Darfur has now worsened and spread into neighboring Chad. The New York Times reports:

ADRÉ, Chad — The chaos in Darfur, the war-ravaged region in Sudan where more than 200,000 civilians have been killed, has spread across the border into Chad, deepening one of the world’s worst refugee crises.

Arab gunmen from Darfur have pushed across the desert and entered Chad, stealing cattle, burning crops and killing anyone who resists. The lawlessness has driven at least 20,000 Chadians from their homes, making them refugees in their own country.

Hundreds of thousands more people in this area, along with 200,000 Sudanese who fled here for safety, find themselves caught up in a growing conflict between Chad and Sudan, which have a long history of violence and meddling in each other’s affairs.

"You may have thought the terrible situation in Darfur couldn’t get worse, but it has," Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, said in a recent statement. "Sudan’s policy of arming militias and letting them loose is spilling over the border, and civilians have no protection from their attacks, in Darfur or in Chad."

Indeed, the accounts of civilians in eastern Chad are agonizingly familiar to those in western Sudan. One woman, Zahara Isaac Mahamat, described how Arab men on camels and horses had raided her village in Chad, stealing everything they could find and slaughtering all who resisted.

The dead included her husband, Ismail Ibrahim, who tried to prevent the raiders from burning his sorghum and millet fields. Like so many others in this desolate expanse of dust-choked earth, she fled west with her three children, much as people in Darfur have been forced to do in recent years.

"I have lost everything but my children," she said, her face looking much older than her 20 years. She is now a refugee, with thousands of other displaced Chadians, in Kolloye, a village south of here.

"We have three bowls of grain left," she said. "When that is gone, only God can help us."

American Jewish World Service has done good work during this crisis. Donations can be made securely online. Edah, the Modern Orthodox breakaway from the ever-calcifying Yeshiva University-inspired ‘Centrist’ Orthodoxy, has made this a front burner issue as well.*

On the other hand, haredim of all stripes and YU’s ‘Centrist’ Orthodoxy have been silent. It is exactly these people who are the first to claim antisemitism and condemn non-Jews for failing to help Jews.

But I wonder – if the Nazis had only killed Gypsies, had set up Auschwitz only to gas and burn them and not us, would Jews have done anything to save them? Should we have? If not, why not?

* [More ideas to help bring security to Darfur can be found on the SaveDarfur.org website.]

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Filed under Darfur, Haredim, Jewish Leadership, Modern Orthodoxy

“They Brought The Russians To Clean The Streets And The Ethiopians To Guard The Malls.”

The JTA has a new article on the tensions between the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel and the Falash Mura, descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity 100 years ago and who are now returning to Judaism and immigrating to Israel with the backing of the Rabbinut:

Rabbi Yosef Hadane, the [Shas-affiliated] chief rabbi for the Ethiopian Jews in
Israel [and the first Ethiopian Jewish rabbi], said the controversy had mainly to do with confirming which of
the new immigrants truly had Jewish roots.

“They want Jews to come, not non-Jews,” Hadane said.

He also said there were stark divisions between the communities when it
came to religious practice. The veterans, for example, prefer to pray
in the traditional Ethiopian language of prayer called Ge’ez while the
Falash Mura pray in Hebrew. The Falash Mura will also often only eat
food deemed kosher by the Chief Rabbinate while the veteran Ethiopians
follow kashrut standards set by their elders.

The two communities, Hadane said, live fairly separate lives in Israel.

As the JTA notes, rumors about the nature of the Falash Mura continue to proliferate in the Ethiopian Jewish community:

Adding to the sense of alienation are rumors circulating in the veteran
Ethiopian community that some Falash Mura return to Christianity once
they are in Israel, even attending church services. Suspicions have
been heightened by rumors that Christian missionaries who falsely
converted to Judaism are among those immigrating.

I have been told by a well-placed source that at least some of these rumors can be documented, and I am waiting to see that documentation. But, it appears to me the root of some of this is the fear that Falash Mura will use up meager resources, and that Ethiopian Jews will be left even further behind.

And how far behind is the average Ethiopian Jew?

At an Ethiopian restaurant and bar a few blocks away [from Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market], veteran
Ethiopians gather at the end of the day. Among them is a 23-year-old
who calls himself Jimmy. He is bitter about his life, and says he does
not understand why the country is contemplating bringing more
Ethiopians here.

“We don’t feel like we are part of this
society,” he said. “If the first and second immigration waves did not
work, why should the third and fourth ones work?”

He works as
a security guard, he says, “like every other Ethiopian you have ever
met.” He then repeats a bit of immigrant humor, “They brought the
Russians to clean the streets and the Ethiopians to guard the malls.”

Jimmy said he hopes to fly to Ethiopia in the next few months on a
“trial visit” with a few other Ethiopian Israeli friends to see if,
perhaps, their futures are there, instead of in the Jewish state.

And that says more about the quality of Israel’s immigrant absorption than I could ever write.

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Filed under Ethiopian Jews, Israel

More On The Halimi Murder

Caroline Glick has new column on the Ilan Halimi murder. In it, she complains about the lack of coverage given by the Israeli media to this story. She also complains about the silence of the interim government, blaming that silence on their political philosophy and supposed cowardice:

No Israeli government minister, official or spokesman has condemned his murder. No Israeli official has demanded that the French authorities investigate why the police refused to take anti-Semitism into account during Ilan’s captivity. No Israeli official flew to Paris to participate in Ilan’s funeral or any other memorial or demonstration in his memory. The Foreign Ministry’s Web site makes no mention of his murder. The Israeli Embassy in Paris — which has been without an ambassador for the past several months — only publicly expressed its condolences to the Halimi family on February 23 – ten days after Ilan was found. This, when the French Jewish community considers Halimi’s murder to have been the greatest calamity to have befallen it in recent years; when aliyah rates from France rose 25 percent last year; and when Ilan’s mother has told reporters that her son had planned to make aliyah soon and was just staying in France to save money to finance his move to Israel. For its part, as Michelle Mazel pointed out in the Jerusalem Post Thursday, the French press has noted smugly that the Israeli media has not given the story prominent coverage. Halimi’s murder has not appeared on the front pages of the papers or at the top of the television or radio broadcasts in Israel.

Although appalling, the absence of an official Israeli outcry against Halimi’s murder is not the least surprising. Today, the unelected Kadima interim government, like the

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Filed under Crime, Current Affairs, Israel, Jewish Leadership, Sefardim

Guest Post: Blame The Victim

[This guest post is a follow-up to Dr. Soller’s earlier guest post on the Ilan Halimi murder.]

Blame The Victim:
A Similar Story about the Handling of a Murder of a French Jew
Jerome Soller, Ph.D.

One of the biggest issues for Ilan Halimi’s murder is whether the initial response by the French police was impacted by the victim’s religion and ethnicity and whether there is a resistance to identifying the crimes against Halimi as antisemitic.  Today, I spoke to Howard Copelan, who is the owner and publisher of the High Desert Advocate Newspaper and the owner of Coyote television, as well as a member of our synagogue (www.shaareitefila.com) .  He had a brother-in-law, Frederique Chekroun, who was murdered in France 15 years ago.    While the crime against Fredo was motivated by robbery, there are parallels to the French police response to these crimes against Sephardic Jews.

Mr. Copelan stated the following [4]:

"Distrust of Jews is widespread in the non-Muslim French world (in the right and the left).   When a crime is committed in France against a Jew, there is a suspicion that the Jews caused the problem.  The police might ask, ‘Are you sure he is kidnapped?’  There is a pervasive belief all Jews have money, are dishonest, and not trustworthy.

My own personal experience was when Fredo was robbed and murdered in 1991.  Fredo was a successful jeweler in the South of France.  The family notified the police.  The police assumed that he had run away from town with some of his stock and money.  They wrote it off as a runaway husband, and they told everyone that he had run away.  He became the suspect in his own disappearance.  They went through all of his financial records ad stocks.  They interrogated his wife.  He was a rich jeweler, and it did not even cross their minds that he was robbed and murdered.  They did not look for any other evidence that would support the possibility of murder.  So, they destroyed his reputation.  His wife had to live with that.  His children had to live with that.  When we were in France, a teller at a bank wanted to talk about Fredo’s "running away".  Do you know how disgusting that was?

For ten years, they did not treat it as a possible murder.  He was the most successful case of disappearance in French history (because he was dead).  About 8 years ago, there was a huge storm and his body was uncovered from a sandbar two miles from his home.  At that point, the French police had no leads or suspects.  They did not even apologize.  I believe if he had been a gentile Frenchman, it would have been a totally different story.  Like Halimi (a North African name that means "My Hope"), Checkroun also has North African origin.  They were both Sephardic Jews, so you get both the latent antisemitism and the dislike of all Algerians in France."

It important to see how the experience of the Chekroun family fifteen years ago was similar to the experience of the Halimi family.  It is consistent with the following issues raised in an article from the European Jewish press [1] (which could have been more accurately titled: "Blame the Victim"):

"The French government was wary about drawing too heavy a link between the criminal gang responsible for Halimi’s murder and anti-Jewish sentiment, however.  Past incidents in which apparently anti-Semitic crimes turned out to be staged or committed for other motives seemed to lie behind its cautious stance.  A government spokesman, Jean-Francois Cope, told French radio that while there were ‘strong suspicions’ of anti-Semitic motives in ‘this horrible affair’, investigators were still getting to the bottom of the case. ‘Absolutely everything must be done to know all the details’ before conclusions about racism or anti-Semitism were drawn, he said. [3]"

Meanwhile, Marie Helene Amiable, communist mayor of Bagneux, the suburb where Ilan was murdered, organized a silent march on Thursday evening and refused banners against anti-Semitism.  It is ironic that some in France will censor signs that protest about antisemitism, but not recognize the existence of antisemitism or criticize the causes of antisemitism.  Thankfully, on Sunday approximately 100,000 people protested [1].

Likewise, I hope that Jews in other parts of the world will start to rally behind the French Jewish community, as this is an issues that impacts all Jews everywhere.  Israeli media, such as the Jerusalem Post and Ha’Aretz, have also heavily covered the events in France.  For example, an Israeli newspaper wrote

"As was the case in World War II, today the Jewish people in Israel and throughout the world is being targeted for annihilation by an enemy bent on world domination. Ilan Halimi’s monstrous murder is just the latest sign of this disturbing reality. [2]"

References:

1. European Jewish Press, Tens of thousands denounce racism and anti-Semitism in France, February, 2006,

2. Carolyn Glick, JPOST, Israel’s non-reaction to the antisemitic murder of Ilan Halimi, February, 2006,

3. Shirli Sitbon, European Jewish Press, Jewish community pushes inquiry on Ilan Halimi murder, February, 2006,

4. Jerome Soller, Interview with Howard Copelan on the Murder of Frederique Chekroun, February, 2006.

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Filed under Crime, Current Affairs, Sefardim

Is The Bogeyman Pastor Out To get You?

Rudin_book_1Again proving that Israelis do not really understand America, Shlomo Shamir of Ha’aretz has this one-sided foolish article about the ‘threat’ Evangelicals pose to America and Jews. Shamir’s piece is based on the new book by Rabbi James Rudin, formerly of the American Jewish Committe. I knew Rabbi Rudin years ago from our work on the NYC Jewish Community Relations Council’s Taskforce on Missionaries and Cults. My experience with Rabbi Rudin is positive. I found him to be a kind, caring compassionate man of high ethical standards. Although an ordained Reform Rabbi, he had affection for Orthodoxy, including Chabad. I think his fears in this case are overblown, perhaps because of his years combatting Christian missionaries, but I do not doubt his sincerity.

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Filed under Current Affairs, Religion

Rabbi Aron Tendler – ‘Martyr’?

Rabbi Aron Tendler and a small group of his congregants in Israel for a bar mitzva were a barred from entering the Temple Mount because they did not have ID. Rabbi Tender is claiming discrimination. But the need for ID is very well known. Why didn’t Rabbi Tendler’s group have any ID?

Tendler, grandson of the famous halachic
authority Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, said that he and his congregants did
not bring ID or other valuables with them because they had been at the
mikveh [ritual bath] and were afraid that while they were immersing
themselves their valuables would be left unguarded.

According to Jewish law, it is necessary to purify oneself in a mikveh before entering the Temple Mount.

Also, Tendler felt that it was preferable from a halachic point
of view to leave all mundane items outside the Temple Mount out of
respect for the holiness of the place.

Of course, the simplest way to solve that problem would be to have one of the group watch the valuables while the others use the mikva, and for the others to watch his belongings while he uses it immediately after. As for the "mundane items," ID – required in Israel and necessary for security reasons – would not fall under the category of "mundane items" Rabbi Tendler claims to be worried about.

So why leave the ID behind? Maybe this. Rabbi Tendler is under a cloud of suspicion. He has been accused by multiple women of sexual abuse and harassment. He resigned from his rabbinical post (effective later this year), in part, it is alleged, because of these allegations. Becoming a hero of sorts to his congregation’s base by being ‘persecuted’ by Israeli security services weeks after Amona may help him regain his post.

For those of you uncertain about the actions of the security service, what they did is called Profiling. It is in large part why Israel is as safe as it is.

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Filed under Israel, Modern Orthodoxy