French politician calls for kippah ban
(JNS.org) French politician Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front party, sparked controversy last w with a call to ban the traditional Jewish head covering – the kippah. Le Pen, known for her anti-immigrant and nationalist positions, has also long called for the banning of Islamic head coverings. “Obviously, if the veil is banned, the kippah [should be] banned in public as well,” the French daily Le Monde quoted Le Pen in an interview published Sept. 21. French President Francois Hollande denounced Le Pen’s call for a ban on religious head coverings, saying, “Everything that tears people apart … divides them, is inappropriate.” The president of the Conference of European Rabbis, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, said Le Pen has, “once again, exposed herself as being unworthy of the mainstream French political space,” according to the Jerusalem Post. France’s National Front party was founded in the 1970s by Jean-Marie Le Pen. Le Pen, who succeeded her father, placed third in last spring’s presidential election.
Israel to open talks with PA over gas fields
(JNS.org) Israel has agreed to hold new talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA) over the development of a natural gas field off the coast of Gaza, according to an Israeli Foreign Ministry report released recently. The field is estimated to hold 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. It was first discovered over a decade ago by British Gas after authorization by then-prime minister Ehud Barak, but has remained untouched since, “Development of the Gaza Marine gas field will generate revenues that could contribute dramatically to Palestinian fiscal sustainability,” the report said. However, it is unclear how Israel and the PA would go forward with the development of the field off the coast of Hamas-controlled Gaza, given that Hamas is a terrorist organization.
California students respond to anti-Israel resolution
Jacob Kamaras / JNS.org
After being caught off guard by a resolution condemning a measure intended to defend their state’s campus communities against antisemitism, pro-Israel students at the University of California-Berkeley have responded by highlighting what they call the resolution’s undemocratic nature. The 12-member University of California Student Association (UCSA) on Sept. 15 votes to condemn HR35 — a unanimously passed State Assembly resolution urging California schools to squelch nascent antisemitism and crack down on anti-Israel demonstrations. The UCSA, however, said HR 35 “is written to unfairly and falsely smear as ‘anti-Semites’ those who do human rights advocacy focusing on Israel’s illegal occupation, UCSA also called for the University of California Board of Regents to divest from companies doing business with Israel due to their alleged human rights violations.
Ariel Fridman, vice president of UC Berkeley’s Tikvah Students for Israel and an Emerson Fellow for pro-Israel advocacy and education group StandWithUs, told JNS.org that Jewish students learned of the UCSA resolution a mere half-hour before Rosh Hashanah and were “completely blindsided” by it. The group has since mobilized students. Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs, criticized the UCSA resolution’s “devious, undemocratic tactics. They essentially ambushed Jewish and other pro-Israel students by using secretive tactics, not notifying anyone who might disagree with the proposed resolution,” Rothstein said in a statement.
Film on Hasidic community is Israel’s Oscars entry
Ronen Shnidman / JNS.org
HAIFA—The Oscars foreign film entry from Israel this year will be “Fill the Void,” a work that reveals an inside perspective on Tel Aviv’s Hasidic community. The movie automatically gained its berth for this year’s Academy Awards after winning the Best Feature Film category at Israel’s Ophir Awards last week, along with another six of the 15 awards given by the Israeli Academy of Film and Television at Haifa’s Krieger Hall. “Fill the Void” had a remarkably strong showing for first-time feature film director and ba’alat teshuva Rama Burshtein, who is Hasidic herself. Her movie won half of the 14 awards it was nominated for, netting Burshtein awards for best director and best script, as well as best film. While 10 Israeli films have been nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, none have won the award yet. Last year’s nominee from Israel was Joseph Cedar’s “Footnote.”
One injured in French kosher supermarket explosion
(JNS.org) A package bomb exploded Wednesday inside a suburban kosher grocery store near Paris, France. One person was wounded.The explosion in Sarcelles (Val d’Oise) happened after two hooded individuals dressed in black entered the store in the morning, placed the package and threw what may have been a rock or a Molotov cocktail, according to different accounts from people on scene. “We might be Jews but this is our country, our life is here and we won’t be scared away easily. I just don’t understand why the police doesn’t take more drastic measures against those Muslim rioters,” said Charlie Levy, an owner of a business close the supermarket.
Israel’s Davis Cup team moves to final
(Israel Hayom/exclusive to JNS.org) After falling short the past two years, Israel’s Davis Cup tennis team defied expectations over last week and advanced to the World Group stage of the annual tournament with a dramatic 3-2 road victory over Japan. “This team is doing amazing things,” said team member Andy Ram upon returning from Japan. Israel’s team includes Ram, Weintraub, Dudi Sela and Jonathan Erlich, and is captained by Eyal Ran. The World Group stage of the tournament includes the final 16 teams. Israel will face France on the road in the first round in February 2013. The last time Israel reached the World Group stage in 2010, it fell 4-1 to Chile in the first round.
Israeli technology fuels Europe’s largest fish farm
(JNS.org) Israeli amnon, known also as St. Peter’s Fish or Israeli (blue) tilapia, is quickly becoming a staple fish around the world, just like Israel’s fish-farming technology.Last week, Poland opened the largest fish farm in Europe, taking advantage of Israel’s high-tech methods that allow farmers to generate a larger amount of fish. Since tilapia tend to eat weeds, algae, and other underwater plants, growing them can also help keep rivers, lakes and even municipal water supplies clean. The Polish fish farm was opened by the Israeli company AquaMaof Aquaculture Technologies, which has developed a system that breeds fish under controlled temperature conditions in any weather or climate environment, cutting energy costs by some 70 percent, the company said, according to the Times of Israel. The 24,000-square-foot facility should produce about 1,200 tons of tilapia annually.
This new development comes in the wake of an agreement signed in August between Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and representatives from Kenya and Germany for a mutual project to use fish farming technology to purify Lake Victoria, thereby providing clean water to millions of people.
Shrinking Jewish communities offer incentives
(JNS.org) In the face of aging and shrinking ranks, many Jewish communities throughout the country have begun to offer financial incentives to attract new members, the New York Times reported. Advertised in Jewish publications or through word of mouth, synagogue relocation bonuses have included partial down payments on homes, discounted yeshiva tuition, repayment of student loans and even free memberships to the Jewish dating Web site JDate. Dr. Steven M. Cohen, director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at New York University, sees the financial incentives as being rooted in Jewish practice and anxiety over demographics. “Being Jewish is not an individual spiritual practice,” Cohen said. “There’s a free-floating anxiety about the future of Jews and whether there are enough children and grandchildren to continue these Jewish communities.”
St. Louis passenger asks State Dept. to protect Holocaust survivors’ rights
(JNS.org) At a U.S. State Department program on Monday marking the 73rd anniversary of the S.S. St. Louis voyage, honoree Herbert Karliner — one of the voyage’s surviving passengers — handed department officials a letter urging their so-far absent support of legislation that would aid the restitution of Holocaust-era insurance claims.
The Miami Beach, Fla., resident, whose mother, father, and two sisters were all murdered at Auschwitz, is seeking the payout of an insurance policy from Allianz that in 2011 was valued at $180,000. That claim, according to Karliner’s letter, is among the $20 billion insurance companies such as Allianz and Generali owe Holocaust victims and their families. While the proposed Tom Lantos Justice for Holocaust Survivors Act (H.R. 890) would “allow Holocaust survivors (or their heirs) to pursue civil actions in federal courts against insurance companies related to World War II-era insurance policies,” the State Department has opposed that legislation. “The Department of State has sought for many years to resolve claims for restitution or compensation for Holocaust survivors and other victims of the Nazi era through dialogue, negotiation, and cooperation rather than through litigation,” the department said in a memo this year.
Karliner wrote in his letter that the State Department “pretends to honor me and other Holocaust victims” at events such as the one held Monday, while at the same time “working hard to deny Holocaust survivors our legal rights.”