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Arrests Over Anti-Pope Posters in Jerusalem

Tensions high in advance of Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land this weekend

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Pope Francis at the Vatican on May 21, 2014. (ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)

Not all Jerusalem residents are excited about Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Israel’s capital. Two residents of the holy city were arrested for posting banners decrying the Pope’s imminent arrival, the Jerusalem Post reports. The posters called on Pope Francis to leave Israel and instructed him to return relics looted by the Romans during the Second Temple period.

When apprehended, the two individuals were found to have more of the posters in their bags. (more…)

Four Rabbis Indicted In Divorce Kidnappings

Charged with conspiracy to kidnap Jewish husbands refusing their wives a get

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(Shutterstock)

It’s one of the most morally complex issues to hit the Orthodox Jewish world in recent years. In a story which lies at the very crossroads of Orthodox Jewish law and secular U.S. law, four rabbis and one of their sons were indicted yesterday by a federal grand jury for allegedly conspiring to kidnap and force Jewish men to grant their wives religious divorces.

The men—Rabbis Mendel Epstein, 68, Martin Wolmark, 56, Jay Goldstein, aka “Yaakov,” 60, David Epstein, 39, and Binyamin Stimler, 38—hail from Brooklyn, Monsey, N.Y., and Lakewood, N.J. and face up to life in prison for conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and 20 years for attempted kidnapping. In addition, as the result of months of investigation, David Epstein, aka “Ari”—Mendel Epstein’s son—has been indicted. Goldstein and Wolmark face three additional counts of kidnapping, and David Epstein faces nine counts of kidnapping, tying this case to other cases from 2009 and 2010. (more…)

Seven Tons of Hummus Recalled in U.S.

After Texas health officials discover possible listeria contamination

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(Shutterstock)

Though few dips taste better with challah than hummus, maybe hold off on purchasing the chickpea spread this afternoon. Seven tons of hummus—that’s 14,800 pounds—have been recalled in the United States after it was discovered that the may contain the deadly bacteria listeria monocytogenes, Haaretz reports.

After Texas officials identified the possible contamination earlier this week, food manufacturer Lansal—which sells their products at stores like Trader Joes and Target—announced a voluntary recall of their product. Listeria, spread through the consumption of contaminated food, can cause infection and death among those with compromised immune systems, like children and the elderly. (more…)

For $1,000, A Pro Will Pack Your Kids for Camp

This year’s over-the-top summer camp trend involves professional organizers

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Packing for sleepaway camp can be tough. Those eight-week getaways nowadays require all sorts of necessities: clothing, athletic equipment, sheets, towels, bug spray, sunscreen, tevas, optional horseback-riding helmet, etc. Luckily, though, the professionals are here to help. According to the New York Post, parents are hiring professional organizers to pack their kids for camp. With rates of $250 an hour, these sessions can cost parents as much as $1,000.

It sounds absurd, but it’s apparently quite popular. Pros like Barbara Reich of Resourceful Consultants say they’re getting lots of request for the pint-size packing jobs. (more…)

Memorial Day Isn’t Just a Day Off

A new understanding of the holiday from a military perspective

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This week’s Torah portion, Bamidbar, teaches that war and community are inextricably linked. “S’u et rosh kol adat b’nai Yisrael…Take a census of the whole eidah of Israel,” God instructs Moses. It’s a seemingly simple assignment. Find the eidah and count it. The question is: what’s an eidah? The answer is not so simple. In Biblical Hebrew, the word eidah means both “community” (the entire population) and “fighting force” (only the men who were young and fit enough to serve as soldiers). So which did God mean? And why the choice of an ambiguous term? I would argue that the counting of either group was not as important as the connection between the two.

It is instructive to consider this connection as we approach Memorial Day, which isn’t so much a time for care packages or helping service members—important work for the rest of the year, particularly on Veterans Day or Armed Forces Day—as it is a time to honor the dead for their ultimate sacrifice. In the military community, if you’ve lost a friend or loved one, Memorial Day is about grief and pain. In the military community, Memorial Day remarks are spoken and heard in a context of the personal. (more…)

Jewish Woman Granted Divorce From Comatose Husband

Israeli Rabbinical Court issues groundbreaking ruling

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A Rabbinical Court in Safed, Israel, has issued a groundbreaking ruling, granting a divorce to a woman whose husband has been in a coma for seven years, Haaretz reports. Jewish law requires that both parties consent to divorce; though a comatose husband is grounds for dissolving a marriage according to Jewish law, in practice, the rabbinic courts tend rule conservatively, rarely granting a wife permission to leave an incapacitated husband. This court, however, invoked a rare legal procedure called a “Gett Zikui”—a divorce of credit—in order to free the woman, who is 34 years old, from her marriage. The court published a lengthy 93-page ruling explaining their decision. (more…)

Israeli Arrested For Instigating Beating of Arabs

Used social media to call for assaults, one of which was caught on camera

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(Shutterstock)

Until last week, Chaim Gamliel was just a guy with a mission: keeping Arab men from dating Jewish women. Armed with nothing more than a Facebook page, a few WhatsApp groups, and the pseudonym “Yossi Cohen,” the 24-year-old vigilante would post instructions to his group “Jews Against Assimilation.” With racial purity as his guiding light, Gamliel took it upon himself to have the group’s members report on mixed couples. He would then share the information and encourage others to attack those named.

He was finally taken seriously by a group of three boys, aged 16 and 17, who attacked an Arab clerk in Jerusalem under Gamliel’s instructions, Arutz Sheva reports. The three were caught on camera beating the clerk, and were arrested last week. They have been charged with racial crimes and attacks. (more…)

Sheldon Silver Blaming Stuff on Sheldon E. Silver

N.Y. Assembly Speaker enjoys the perks of having a common Jewish name

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver sit in a classroom at P.S.1 on Henry St. on April 3, 2014. (Susan Watts-Pool/Getty Images)

In March, the New York Times published an article highlighting New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s involvement in a late 1970s push to keep a 20-acre lot in his Lower East Side district free from the construction of new affordable housing (the vast lot remains vacant to this day, to the consternation of housing advocates). The article reported that the young assemblyman, along with his longtime friend William Rapfogel, the disgraced former CEO of the Metropolitan Council for Jewish Poverty who last month admitted to stealing $7 million from the charity, worked behind the scenes, at times under the auspices of an organization known as the United Jewish Council, to promote certain developers and advocate proposals that were aligned with their goal of maintaining the neighborhood’s Jewish character.

It’s a pretty damning revelation. Silver, however, has an alibi. According to a new Times article, the assemblyman says it wasn’t him doing some of the things they accused him of doing, it was another Sheldon Silver. Sheldon E. Silver, to be exact: a local Brooklyn lawyer who also briefly worked for the United Jewish Council. (more…)

Literary Festival Draws Crowds, Stirs Drama

This week’s International Writers Festival in Jerusalem

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Jerusalem's Old City. (THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

The fourth International Writers Festival opened Sunday night at Mishkenot Shaananim in Jerusalem, playing host to 10 authors from around the globe and dozens of Israeli writers. Held every two years, the festival is almost as well known for its backdrop: jaw-dropping views of the Old City and an atmosphere both ancient and effervescent. But like almost everything else in this city, the festival is not without its complexities.

The festival, which runs through Friday afternoon, has a program packed with readings, film screenings, and sessions where Israeli authors engage in dialogue with their counterparts from abroad. Most of the big names of Hebrew literature are on display, with the “three tenors”—Amos Oz, A. B. Yehoshua, and David Grossman—appearing alongside representatives from the younger generation, including Etgar Keret, Shimon Adaf, and Dorit Rabinyan. (more…)

Sinkhole Forms Outside Katz’s Deli

Water main ruptures outside iconic New York City restaurant

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Sinkhole outside Katz's Deli in New York City. (Twitter/@NYCityAlerts)

Locals and tourists heading to Katz’s Deli for lunch today may find an unexpected obstacle between them and their pastrami sandwich. A 55-year-old water main burst this morning, flooding the street and creating a 20-foot sinkhole just outside the Houston St. eatery, the New York Daily News reports.

The city’s Department of Environmental Protection quickly shut off the main, which left five businesses — including Katz’s — and eight residential buildings without water, officials said.

The 125-year-old deli, however, remains open amidst the chaos and clean-up crews. “We’re open, but we’re using bottled water, not tap water,” an employee said. (more…)

Drew Barrymore Loves Rosh Hashanah

The actress also enjoys challah, french fries, and gardens

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Actress Drew Barrymore arrives for the red carpet premiere of 'Blended,' May 21, 2014 at TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California. (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Drew Barrymore dropped by Billy on the Street, the delightful Fuse game show where comedian Billy Eichner alternately screams at celebrities and random strangers in New York City. They played one of Eichner’s favorite games: Would Drew Barrymore Like That? Eichner played it with Will Ferrell last year, but something about having Barrymore herself play was extra special.

The premise of the game is simple: Eichner lists an item and Drew Barrymore has to say whether or not Drew Barrymore would like it. French fries: yes; gardens: yes; milk chocolate: no (Barrymore gets a few wrong). Eichner throws out Rosh Hashanah, to which Barrymore tentatively responds “Drew Barrymore would love Rosh Hashanah?”

She’s right, Eichner shouts: “Drew Barrymore isn’t Jewish per se but she enjoys tradition and you can bet your ass there’s nothing she likes more than a ritual, plus you know she’s going to bring up Steven Spielberg 900 times during dinner.” (more…)

Swiss Court Rules Nazi Salute Not Always Illegal

No longer a punishable criminal offense if used as a personal statement

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German nazi Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his army parade in Prague on March 15, 1939, the day of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Wehrmacht. (-/AFP/Getty Images)

The Nazi salute, outlawed as a criminal offense in countries like Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic, remains a thorny legal issue in other European countries. In Switzerland, a 1995 anti-racism law criminalized the use of racist symbols in promoting discriminatory ideologies. But yesterday a Swiss court ruled that the symbol isn’t in fact a criminal offense if it’s used as a personal statement, the Associated Press reports.

The Federal Tribunal’s ruling, titled “Hitler salute in public not always punishable,” said the gesture is a crime only if someone is using it to try to spread racist ideology to others, not simply declaring one’s own conviction.

It seems to be a rather small technicality, considering the instantaneous associations most people presumably make upon seeing a Nazi salute being performed. (more…)

Spend Summer on Spielberg’s Hamptons Lot

The director’s East Hampton property can be yours (for $24.5 million)

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Cannes Film Festival artistic director Thierry Fremaux, Steven Spielberg, and Kate Capshaw during the 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival on May 25, 2013 in Cannes, France. (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Steven Spielberg is looking to sell the East Hampton getaway he bought for $20 million in 2008—except this time there’s no house on the waterfront property, and it costs $24.5 million. The director tore down the original home (built in 1900, sad face) after he bought it, and never built anything in its place, the New York Post reports, making the “E.T. sell home” joke themselves so you don’t have to.

The 3.2 acre lot is one of several properties Spielberg owns in the area, the others of which presumably have houses on them. (more…)

Stanley Fischer Confirmed to Federal Reserve

Former Israel Central Bank chief will likely become next vice chair of the Fed

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Stanley Fischer testifying to the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee on his nomination to be the vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System on March 13, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. Senate confirmed Stanley Fischer as a member of the Federal Reserve in a 68-27 vote today, leaving the economist well on his way to succeeding Janet Yellen as vice chairman of the Fed. Fischer, who has dual American and Israeli citizenship, retired as the head of Israel’s Central Bank in January 2013 after nearly a decade in the post. He previously worked at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Fischer’s name surfaced quickly as a likely successor when Yellen ascended to the role of Fed chair in December, with his legacy of keeping the Israeli economy on track during the economic downturn likely a strong factor in his appeal. (more…)

Prince Charles Likens Putin to Hitler

Compares Russian leader’s annexation of Crimea to Nazi invasion of Poland

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Prince Charles at an official ceremony at Grand Parade on May 19, 2014 in Halifax, Canada. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

The latest public figure to find himself in the news for making a Nazi comparison is none other than Prince Charles, who on a visit to Canada made an offhand remark likening Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine to Hitler’s annexation of Poland. Charles, acting in an official capacity as a British royal, was touring an immigration museum in Halifax, Nova Scotia when he struck up a conversation with a volunteer there named Marienne Ferguson, who told him that her family had fled Poland before the Nazis invaded in 1939, the New York Post reports.

Ferguson, who volunteers at an immigration museum that Charles visited, said when she told Charles about her family background, he replied that Putin is doing the same thing as Hitler. Russia recently annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region.

According to NBC, the Prince of Wales’ people played down the significance of the statement, saying, “We don’t comment on private conversations but we would like to stress that the Prince of Wales would not seek to make a public political statement during a private conversation.” (more…)

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