Newsdesk November 28, 2003

By Forward Staff and Jta

Published November 28, 2003, issue of November 28, 2003.
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Hillel Leader Sued

Los Angeles freelance journalist Rachel Neuwirth filed a complaint against UCLA Hillel Director Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller and UCLA Hillel, Los Angeles Hillel Council and Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, in the Los Angeles Superior Court on November 20, seeking undisclosed damages for battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligent retention.

According to the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, the complaint revolves around a confrontation between Neuwirth and Seidler-Feller that took place on October 21, after a Hillel-sponsored lecture delivered by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.

Seidler-Feller’s backers have accused Neuwirth and her allies of simply trying to get the Hillel director fired because of his left-wing views on the peace process. Her camp has countered that Seidler-Feller’s alleged behavior proves he is unfit for the job of mentoring students.

Neuwirth’s complaint reportedly alleges that Seidler-Feller physically attacked Neuwirth. It also claims that Hillel officials have been aware of Seidler-Feller’s “well-documented history of bizarre, volatile, confrontational and violent behavior” for several years and have failed to exercise appropriate supervision and oversight of Seidler-Feller.

Donald Etra, attorney for Seidler-Feller, told the Journal that the lawsuit is a sham, and allegations regarding Seidler-Feller’s past misconduct are preposterous and without merit.

“The lawsuit also grossly mischaracterizes what happened,” said Etra in a prepared statement quoted by the Journal. “The complaint fails to mention that it was Ms. Neuwirth who was the provocateur. She confronted the rabbi in an angry and belligerent manner, and … spewed venomous words at him.”

Etra told the Journal that his client would “seriously consider” filing a countersuit.

Jungreis to Combat Antisemitism

Esther Jungreis, the 67-year-old rebbetzin best known for her popular public lectures on Judaism, is promising to address two topics during her current European book tour: the surge in antisemitism on the continent and how to find a nice Jewish girl.

Jungreis was initially slated to visit Amsterdam, Budapest, Berlin and London this week in an effort to promote her new book, “The Committed Marriage,” a celebration of Jewish matrimony. She also plans to counsel her audiences on how to deal with antisemitism, eschewing any invective or hostility. “I wouldn’t want to make it about that — we’re bigger than that,” Jungreis said.

“I’ll be speaking about the eternity of the Jewish people — the very fact that we survived,” Jungreis said. Great empires come and go, she added, but the Jews have survived.

The key message Jungreis plans to convey is that European Jews can solve their woes by finding a spiritual soul mate and leading a spiritual life.

Israelis Upset Over Fingerprinting Rule

Israeli officials are upset that citizens seeking visas for the United States will need to be fingerprinted beginning next month. Israel is seeking a waiver from enhanced visa security measures being implemented in U.S. embassies around the world but has not been successful in gaining an exemption. “While we understand there is enhanced security and the need for that, there is a common-sense difference” between people seeking visas from some other countries and from Israel, said Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Beginning next month, all Israelis between the ages of 14 and 79 will need to be fingerprinted to get a visa.

Katsav Clarifies Remarks

Israeli President Moshe Katsav retracted comments that nonreligious people are “secular babies.” But Katsav reiterated Monday that people raised outside of religion are less mature than religious people because they have not been shown both ways of life.

Medicare Bill Criticized

Several Jewish groups are speaking out against the Medicare bill. Jewish groups including B’nai B’rith International, Hadassah and the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism say the bill has major flaws, including gaps in coverage and minimal protection for low-income seniors. The bill passed Congress on Tuesday and is expected to be signed by President Bush within a week. “It’s very difficult to come out against a bill that would provide any assistance at all,” said Rachel Goldberg, assistant director for senior services and advocacy at B’nai B’rith International. “But we felt in rejecting the bill we are telling the House and Senate they need to do a better bill.”

Bush Urged on AIDS

The American Jewish World Service told U.S. officials that funds for treating AIDS in Africa should focus more on prevention and treatment.

Three African officials who lead AJWS-funded programs in Uganda and Zimbabwe told White House officials at a panel in Washington last week that too much U.S. funding for AIDS-related services is lost through corruption or bureaucracy.

The Bush administration arranged the forum to address ways to use $15 billion in U.S. money earmarked for AIDS treatment.

Ethiopian Deal Progresses

The push to bring to Israel some 20,000 Ethiopians who claim Jewish ancestry is gaining steam.

The Jewish Agency for Israel’s board of governors announced that the agency would share the costs of the operation.

“We all better be prepared to put this issue on our budget radar screen,’’ board member Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein said. Eckstein told a Jewish Agency subcommittee on immigration and absorption that the agency is cooperating with the government to help bring the Ethiopians to Israel. The deal will cost the agency tens of millions of dollars per year. The deal, in which Israel will determine a certain number of Ethiopians eligible for aliya and the Jewish Agency and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee will take over operation of the refugee camps where they live in Ethiopia, is being pushed by Jewish federations in North America.

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