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Hundreds of Copies of Anne Frank’s Diary Vandalized in Japan

Other Holocaust-related literature also reported damaged

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Anne Frank.(Courtesy)

According to an official of the Japan Library Association today, pages have been torn out of over 200 copies of Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl in multiple libraries across Tokyo, including those in Nakano, Nerima, and Suginami. In addition, Japanese media are reporting that other Holocaust-related literature was also found to have been vandalized.

The incident has drawn sharp condemnation from the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. “The geographic scope of these incidents strongly suggest an organized effort to denigrate the memory of the most famous of the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis in the World War II Holocaust,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center’s associate dean. “I know from my many visits to Japan, how much Anne Frank is studied and revered by millions of Japanese. Only people imbued with bigotry and hatred would seek to destroy Anne’s historic words of courage, hope, and love in the face of impending doom. We are calling on Japanese authorities to step up efforts to identify and deal with the perpetrators of this hate campaign.” (more…)

Israeli Courts Slam Refugee Detention Process

Judges cancel summonses ordering African migrants to detention facilities

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African asylum seekers, who entered Israel illegally via Egypt, enter the Holot detention centre in Israel's southern Negev Desert, on February 17, 2014. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

A number of judges in district courts in Israel have delayed or cancelled summonses received by African asylum seekers in Israel ordering them to report to the Holot detention facility, Haaretz reports. The judgements, which come on the heels of widespread protests by African migrants against a new detention policy, criticized various summons processes as fundamentally flawed for their failure to hold hearings before ordering asylum seekers to detention facilities.

According to Haaretz, Israel ordered more than 3,200 asylum seekers to Holot last month, threatening a penalty of imprisonment if they didn’t report there within 30 days. Only 40 percent reported to Holot on time. Judge Chany Slotky of the Be’er Sheva District Court “harshly criticized the government’s conduct” against a 29-year-old Sudanese man who had escaped persecution and torture in Sudan for belonging to a student organization at the University of Khartoum. Slotky ruled that the state had failed to inform him why he was being questioned, in addition to violating his right to legal representation.

The decision, though seemingly a step in the right direction, is being met with skepticism within the African community, explained Oscar Olivier, an asylum seeker from Congo and a community organizer with the African Refugee Development Center. “It will not be the first time judges say one thing and politicians do another,” he said over the phone from Israel, and recalled the Israeli Supreme Court judgment against short-term detention centers which led to the Ministry of Interior creating indefinite detention centers. “When the court ruling is in their interest, they support it, but when it’s not, they turn a blind eye. There is nothing wrong with Israeli law, which is democratic. The problem is that politicians don’t uphold it.” (more…)

IDF Draft Dodgers May Face Criminal Penalties

Knesset committee approves bill targeting Haredi men who defer army service

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Ultra-Orthodox Jews gather during a protest against their military conscription outside a military prison on December 9, 2013 in Atlit, Israel. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Two weeks after the Supreme Court of Israel froze funding to ultra-Orthodox yeshivas whose students deferred their IDF drafts, a Knesset committee has taken the next step towards enforcing ultra-Orthodox conscription. The Knesset committee responsible for drafting legislation dictating Haredi army conscription approved a provision to the equality of service bill yesterday which would impose criminal penalties on Yeshiva students who don’t fulfill their IDF service, the Times of Israel reports.

Under the bill, Haredi men between the ages of 18 and 24 can claim army exemptions only one year at a time. During a projected three-year transition period, a quota for the number of ultra-Orthodox enlistees will be set and increased steadily. If the Haredi community meets the 2017 quota—5200 enlistees—they will have to continue meeting the quota. If, however, they fail to meet the quota, all ultra-Orthodox men will be drafted into the army—facing criminal penalties if they do not. (more…)

Map Shows Every French Child Deported During the Holocaust

Interactive online map traces all child deportations to concentration camps

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(tetrade.huma-num.fr)

Of the 76,000 Jews deported from France and sent to Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust, 11,400 of them were children. Now, France is trying to trace those small footprints.

A new online interactive map shows the origin of every child deported from France between July 1942 and August 1944. The map was created by French historian Jean-Luc Pinol, and uses data collected by former Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld. (more…)

Robert Malley To Join National Security Council

Worked on the Arab-Israeli peace process under President Clinton

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Robert Malley in 2007. (Jamie Rose/Getty Images)

The White House announced yesterday that Robert Malley, whose last job in government was working on the Arab-Israeli peace process in the Clinton Administration, is joining President Obama’s National Security Council staff.

In a sign of Washington’s changing strategic priorities, Malley will be tasked not with helping Secretary of State John Kerry with his peace initiative, but rather with focusing on Persian Gulf affairs, managing the Saudi portfolio as well as the Iranian one. Obama is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia next month, where he will meet with a very angry King Abdullah, who believes the White House has crossed Saudi Arabia on virtually every major regional policy issue to have come up in the past five years—in Egypt, where Abdullah believes the Administration hasn’t been sufficiently supportive of the Saudis’ man, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi; in Bahrain, where the White House has been too critical of the Saudi-aligned royal family’s repression of the country’s Shiite majority; and in Syria, where for nearly three years now Obama has refrained from direct involvement while Bashar al-Assad, an Iranian ally, crushes the Sunni majority in an increasingly brutal civil war. That’s not even counting the issue of the Iranian nuclear program, on which, in the Saudi reading, Obama has failed to bring the revolutionary regime in Tehran to heel. (more…)

Jordanian Boy Named Yitzhak Rabin to Join IDF

18-year-old granted Israeli citizenship after 16 years of residence in Israel

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Yitzhak Rabin Namsy and his mother in March 1996. (Reuters)

Nearly 20 years after his assassination, Yitzhak Rabin is back in the news. An 18-year-old Jordanian boy named after the late prime minister has been granted Israeli citizenship and permission to join the IDF after 16 years of residence in Israel, the Times of Israel reports.

The boy’s unusual name choice—meant to honor the Israeli leader’s role in the historic 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty with Jordan’s King Hussein—brought much animosity upon his family in Jordan. After emigrating from Jordan to Israel with his mother in 1998, the boy—whose full name is Yitzhak Rabin Namsy—was informally adopted by the prime minister’s widow Leah Rabin and granted ‘temporary resident’ status. Since her death in 2000, the young Yitzhak has been struggling to obtain Israeli citizenship, determined to join the Israeli army. (more…)

Egypt Arrests Two In Alleged Israeli Spy Plot

Two Egyptians charged with giving information to two Israeli Mossad agents

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Two Israeli intelligence agents and two Egyptians were charged Tuesday with conspiring to spy for Israel, the New York Times reports. According to a statement released by the Egyptian public prosecutor’s office, “The public prosecutor ordered Ramzy Mohamed, Sahar Ibrahim, Samuel Ben Zeev and David Wisemen – two officers in the Israeli Mossad – to be sent to a Cairo criminal court for spying for the interests of the state of Israel.”

The two Egyptian men, who have been arrested and are in jail pending investigation, have been accused of providing the Mossad agents with information about Egypt “in exchange for money and gifts and sex,” Reuters reports. Ben Zeev and Wisemen’s whereabouts are unknown. (more…)

Nazis Wanted to Use Mosquitoes as Biological Weapons

German ecologist uncovers Nazi plot to spread malaria in enemy-territory

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(Shutterstock)

New research reveals that the Nazis attempted to use mosquitoes as biological weapons during World War II. In 1941, Heinrich Himmler ordered the creation of a research station based out of the Dachau concentration camp. The station claimed to be conducting defensive research aimed at protecting the German people from deadly diseases. However, evidence discovered by University of Tubingen ecologist Klaus Reinhardt shows that the station was actually working on a program to breed and disseminate malaria-ridden mosquitoes into enemy territory.

“Hitler repeatedly and strictly ordered that biological weapons should not be used, even for defensive purposes,” Reinhardt told Smithsonian.com. “However, his order of ‘extreme’ efforts into defense from biological weapons left the door open for those authorities that attempted to circumvent Hitler’s biological weapons ban.” Hitler had officially agreed not to use biological or chemical weapons when Germany signed the Geneva Protocol in 1925. (more…)

Simon Cowell’s Jewish Baby Boy

Girlfriend Lauren Silverman gave birth to son Eric on Valentine’s Day

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Simon Cowell, Lauren Silverman, and Eric Cowell. (Twitter)

“Very happy to say Eric was born at 17.45pm. Healthy and handsome,” Simon Cowell tweeted on Friday, announcing the birth of his son with girlfriend Lauren Silverman. This is the 54-year-old X-Factor producer and former American Idol judge’s first child, and Silverman’s second (she has an eight-year-old son, Adam, with her ex-husband.)

Rachel Shukert called their union, consummated while Silverman was still married to Andrew Silverman, a close friend of Cowell, one of the great A-list Jewish scandals of our time.

It’s the biggest, craziest, most perfectly blow-dried Jewish sex scandal (I bet you didn’t know Cowell’s father was an MOT, or did you?) since Jessica Sklar Nederlander left her husband right after the honeymoon for the recently de-Lonsteined Jerry Seinfeld, but with a jet-set international edge. It could be our version of the Happy Valley set, or all the bright (not-necessarily-so) young things surrounding the Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson, but somehow it all has a feel I’m choosing to call haimish-fabulous, like if Jackie Collins had written a novel set at Camp Ramah in the 1980s.

Silverman’s divorce agreement, which was finalized in the late months of her pregnancy, prohibits Cowell from seeing Silverman’s elder son, of whom she has joint custody, complicating the bi-continental parents’ travel schedule considerably.

There’s no word on the bris, but we’ll have reporters camped out in front of all the Upper East Side synagogues, TMZ-style.

Related: Move Over, Jessica Seinfeld! Lauren Silverman’s A-List Scandal Is the Best Ever

Megillas Lester: If Pixar Did The Purim Story

Watch the trailer for a new film that turns the Purim story on its head

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(YouTube)

Purim is the holiday of reversals of fortune, with (spoiler alert!) the powerful vizier Haman hung upon his own gallows and the downtrodden Jew Mordechai raised up to the royal court. But a new animated film looks to take this theme to a whole new level. Megillas Lester, a 3D feature to be released on iTunes and DVD on March 3, retells the Book of Esther from the vantage point of Doniel Lesterovitch (aka “Lester”), a boy who finds himself thrown into the Purim story and accidentally sets it awry when he uses his foreknowledge of events to convince Queen Vashti to appear at her husband’s party. The result: she is never cast out by King Ahasuerus, Esther never becomes Queen, and Haman rises unimpeded to greater and greater power. That is, unless Lester can find a way to set the story back on track. (more…)

Why Religious Judaism Is Tied To Nationalism

What subjects of a recent New York Times column get fundamentally wrong

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Snow covers Jerusalem's old city on December 14, 2013.(Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

This weekend, the New York Times ran a column by Mark Oppenheimer about what the author correctly identified as a small and curious minority of observant American Jews deeply opposed to Zionism. The piece was well-written and compelling, and Oppenheimer’s five interviewees all came off as thoughtful and morally minded. But none, alas, sounded very Jewish.

Uniting them all was a belief that Judaism, at its core, was somehow incompatible with the sort of earthly power on which states depend for their existence and which they apply daily in nearly every capacity. “I think nationalism and religion together are toxic,” said Stefan Krieger, a professor of law at Hofstra University. Corey Robin, a political science professor at Brooklyn College, put it even more poetically; “There are lots of ways to be Jewish,” he said, “but worshiping a heavily militarized state seems like a bit of a comedown from our past.”

You don’t have to be a noted rabbinical scholar to know that the past to which Robin alludes begins with a covenant that elects the Jews God’s chosen children and directs them towards the Promised Land, where they’re instructed to settle down and live according to the commandments of the Torah. (more…)

Mining the Jewish Experience For Meaning

One week, three very different cultural events in New York City

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David Krakauer.(GMD 3)

We all have experiential Edens—moments or events that create feelings that become totemic, and which we often find ourselves chasing to manifest again and again. A week in the mid-1970s epitomizes, for me, the range of Jewish cultural opportunities that always characterized New York, the city of my birth. That week, on Tuesday night, I caught Woody Allen’s stand-up act at the Americana Hotel’s Royal Box nightclub; on the following evening attended a four-hour shiur given by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, at Yeshiva University, and while I never again expect to reach the heights of that week, 40 years later, the quest continues.

On January 27, I was at Manhattan’s Yeshiva University Museum at the Center for Jewish History, to attend a conversation between novelist (and Tablet contributor) Dara Horn and the museum’s director, Dr. Jacob Wisse. The topic was A Guide to the Perplexed, and it concerned Horn’s new novel of the same name which paints a picture contrasting the thousand-year-old life of the community which created the Cairo Geniza with a contemporary plot involving a software developer who invents an application that records every aspect of its user’s life. The discussion was taking place at the museum to publicize one of its current exhibits: Threshold to the Sacred: The Ark Door of Cairo’s Ben Ezra Synagogue, which celebrates the museum’s recent acquisition (in partnership with Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum) of a decorated and inscribed medieval wooden door that graced the ark of the synagogue in which Solomon Schechter discovered the Cairo Geniza in 1896, a story which was so thrillingly related in Adina Hoffman and Peter’s Cole’s 2011 Jewish Encounters series book, Sacred Trash. (more…)

Israel Testing Doggie DNA to Stop Owners in Their Tracks

Dog droppings not picked up in Jerusalem will be tested, and owners fined

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(Shutterstock)

Who let the dogs out? Or rather, who didn’t pick up after their dogs? Israeli authorities are developing a fool-proof way to find out: DNA testing.

The Jerusalem Municipality announced today that it is launching a pilot program to check the DNA of dog droppings not picked up in order to find—and fine—the owners, the Jerusalem Post reports. The initiative is part of an attempt to clean up the city’s streets and improve public health, since dog droppings can easily transfer diseases—of the 11,000 dogs registered in Jerusalem, eight percent have not been vaccinated.

“Our goal is not to increase the fines for dog owners, but to reduce, as much as possible, the local dog droppings hazard,” Dr. Zohar Dworkin, Director of Veterinary Services at the Jerusalem Municipality, told the Jerusalem Post. (more…)

All Hail Flappy BiBird

Guess who’s back to save the popular app?

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(Flappy BiBird)

Flappy Bird is the stuff app store dreams are made of: developed by a young Vietnamese designer named Dong Nguyen, the devilishly difficult game—involving a bird striving to fly through a set of pipes without touching anything—went on to become a pop culture phenomenon, earning $50,000 per day before Nguyen, citing the game’s highly addictive potential, decided to cease production, creating a robust black market for Flappy Bird knock-offs.

Google, Apple, and the other masters of the digital domain are cracking down on these fake Flappies, but a new Israeli game may change their mind: Flappy BiBird, which replaces the avian hero with the confident-looking mug of a certain silver-haired prime minister. (more…)

Popular Images of Jews in Krakow: Folk Art or Stereotypical Caricatures?

Exhibit challenged locals and visitors alike to rethink controversial figurines

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Cepelia, Łodz. (Photo by the author)

“Everybody wants to be a Rothschild,” an older Polish woman joked as we gazed at the wooden figurine holding a gold coin. These figurines are recognizable to many people who have been to Poland: they depict stereotypically devout Jews holding objects such as prayer books, musical instruments, or, more notably in recent decades, coins or bags of money. They provoke a wide range of responses from locals and visitors who see them for sale at markets and souvenir shops across the country.

Those varied reactions were what we hoped for that day last August, as I led a discussion at the Galicia Jewish Museum in Krakow, about a controversial exhibit, Souvenir, Talisman, Toy. The exhibit opened earlier that month during the city’s annual Jewish Culture Festival, and I had been involved with it for the past year. Curated by Professor Erica Lehrer of Concordia University, the participatory exhibit examined the phenomenon and history of the ubiquitous Jewish figurines in Poland. On one hand, it showed how these figurines have pre-war folk art roots and are widely perceived in Poland as bringing good luck to their owners. It also underscored how they are jarring images for some who visit the country, considering the decimation of Poland’s pre-Holocaust Jewish population of 3.5 million, now estimated to be somewhere around 20,000. (more…)

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