( JTA ) — The University of Maryland hosted an alternative graduation to accommodate 22 observant Jewish students who could not receive their diplomas at the regular graduation, which took place on the Sabbath.
The full university commencement was held on Sunday, May 21, but 19 of the university’s 34 individual colleges held their ceremonies on Saturday, according to Chabad.org.
The campus’s Hillel and Chabad student centers requested that the administration hold an alternative ceremony on Sunday, to which the university agreed.
On Sunday afternoon in the atrium of the student union building, each student was called up by name and received his or her diploma from William Cohen, the associate provost and dean for undergraduate studies, who represented the university.
“This graduation ceremony is separate from and still a part of the University of Maryland graduation exercises,” Paul Hamburger, a senior partner in the international law firm Proskauer Rose LLP and a member of the Chabad on Campus international advisory board, said during his commencement speech. “It is a testament to how you can find a balance between your Jewish identity and your integration into the world at large.”
( JTA ) — A group of children saved from the Nazis by Sir Nicholas Winton, known as the “British Schindler,” unveiled a monument in Prague to their parents.
The monument, called the Farewell Memorial, is comprised of a replica of a train door from 1939, with the imprints of hands of children on one side, and of parents on the other, the Associated Press reported. The memorial was dedicated at Prague’s main train station on Saturday.
Most of the children saved by Winton, who arrived in Britain on the Kindertransport and were taken in by British foster families, never saw their parents again.
Winton died in 2015 at the age of 106.
Winton, the baptized son of Jewish parents, was a 29-year-old stockbroker when he arrived in Prague in December 1938. He was planning to go on a skiing holiday in Switzerland, but changed his plans when he heard about the refugee crisis in Czechoslovakia, which had just been occupied by the Nazis. In the following nine months he organized eight trains that carried 669 children from Czechoslovakia to safety in Britain.
Winton’s heroism was unremarked until the 1980s, when his wife found evidence of the rescues. The discovery led to a reunion with some of the children, a documentary, and many honors, including a knighthood.
RIO DE JANEIRO ( JTA ) — In an unprecedented move, an Israeli Knesset minister met in public with officials from Gulf states and a Palestinian diplomat in Ecuador’s capital city Quito.
Israeli Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, who is a Druze Arab, attended last week’s swearing-in ceremony of Ecuador’s new president along with delegates from around the world. He credited President Trump’s efforts in the Middle East for bringing about his visit.
Kara tweeted that he was “surprised by the warm attitude of representatives from the Gulf states,” crediting Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel as a game changer.
Kara posted photos of him meeting with representatives from the Palestinian Authority along with delegates from Oman, Qatar, Yemen and other Arab nations.
The meetings were “open and cordial” and all sides “expressed their approval to move forward with the political negotiations,” Kara said in a statement.
“President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu are coordinating every step of this political initiative, and there is progress on the issue,” he said. “For the first time, after years of action in the political arena, [representatives of] countries from the Saudi coalition agreed to meet openly with me as a representative of the State of Israel.”
( JTA ) — The elderly Jewish woman and Muslim man whose photo mourning together at a memorial to the victims of the Manchester attack went viral on social media say they have been good friends for over 10 years.
Renee Black, 93, and Sadiq Patel, 46, from Blackburn, Lancashire, one of the most deprived and racially segregated areas in Britain, are both members of The Interfaith Forum, a voluntary group devoted to promoting harmony between different faiths and ethnic communities, the Daily Mail reported .
The two friends told the newspaper that they had intended to stop at Albert Square in Manchester to just pay their respects and leave a bouquet of flowers, but first Black and then Patel broke down thinking about all of the young lives cut off in the blast and remained at the site for a couple of hours, piquing the curiosity of passers-by.
“When I look at Sadiq, I don’t see a Muslim and when he looks at me he doesn’t see a Jew. He is one of my dearest and most caring friends. I don’t know what I’d do without him,” Black told the newspaper.
Patel, who is a devout Muslim, visits Black, who is Sabbath-observant, every few days, and drives her to Manchester to purchase kosher food.
JERUSALEM ( JTA ) — Israel’s Cabinet approved a plan on Sunday to build an elevator from Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter to the Western Wall that would allow more accessibility for handicapped people to the holy site.
The elevator and a pedestrian tunnel at its foot is estimated to cost $14 million.
The Ruderman Family Foundation praised the decision to build the elevator and make the Western Wall more accessible to people with disabilities.
“The Government of Israel made the right decision today to make Judaism’s holiest site, the Western Wall, accessible to people with disabilities by voting to build an elevator and passageway,” Ruderman Family Foundation president Jay Ruderman said in a statement. “For far too long, these ever-important sites were not completely accessible for people with disabilities, who account for twenty percent of the population. This decision will now ensure freedom to worship for all.”
The Cabinet’s weekly meeting was held in the Western Wall tunnels to mark the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.
They also discussed the construction of a cable car to the Dung Gate near the Western Wall in the Old City from the center of the city, and approved a five-year budget to develop the area around the Old City and to improve health, culture, welfare and education services in the city.
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