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Newsdesk March 28, 2003

Campus Incidents Up

The Anti-Defamation League released its annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents this week, showing that antisemitic incidents on college campuses totaled 106 in 2002, an increase of 24% over the previous year. Overall, the audit showed a slight increase in activity over the previous year, with 1,559 anti-Jewish incidents reported in 2002, up from 1,432 in 2001.

Referring to the group’s June survey on antisemitism that showed an increase in antisemitic attitudes, reversing a 10-year decline, Myrna Shinbaum, ADL’s director of media relations said, “it’s not surprising to see that some of these attitudes have been acted out.” Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director, said that unprecedented security at Jewish institutions following the September 11 terrorist attacks has prevented more incidents.

“We are deeply concerned that despite the strides we have made over the years, antisemitic incidents continue to be carried out in large numbers,” Foxman said.

The audit revealed a mixed picture across the country, with some states showing an increase in the number of incidents and others showing a drop. A sharp rise in activity was reported in the San Francisco Bay area, while the number of incidents in New York, the state with the most antisemitic activity in the country, decreased by 25%. The states showing the largest numbers of reported incidents in 2002 were New York, with 302, down from 408 the previous year; New Jersey, with 171, down from 192; Massachusetts, with 129, up from 126; Pennsylvania, with 101, up from 61; and Florida, with 93, down from 115.

HIAS Scores Detentions

A new American policy to detain asylum seekers from nations where Al Qaeda operates would unfairly ensnare Jews and others, a leading immigrant rights group charged. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society said a component of Operation Liberty Shield, which the Department of Homeland Security recently unveiled, “lumps asylum seekers” with “terrorists” by allowing immigration officials a wide net to detain anyone from countries where Al Qaeda sympathizers live or where the group operates.

“Inappropriately detaining people who may have been tortured or unjustly imprisoned and came here in search of safety and protection is wrong,” said HIAS CEO Leonard Glickman.

Belgian Hits Sharon Case

Belgium’s foreign minister criticized a lawsuit filed against Prime Minister Sharon of Israel under a controversial human rights law. Using a “universal jurisdiction” law that allows charges of crimes against humanity to be brought in Belgium, no matter where the actions occurred, a group of Palestinians filed a lawsuit against Sharon over his indirect role in the massacre of Palestinians by Lebanese Christians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps during the 1982 Lebanon War.

The lawsuit has led to a severe rupture in Israel-Belgium relations. “It’s not up to us, Belgium, to judge these people,” Louis Michel said last Friday on Belgian radio.

“It’s true that there is something absolutely provocative” and “foolishly moralizing to want to try and prosecute people who originate from democratic countries and where the separation of powers exists.”

Bush Picks Shoah Council

The White House announced the appointments of seven new members to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. Among them is Los Angeles lawyer Donald Etra, an Orthodox Jew who was an undergraduate classmate of President Bush’s at Yale University — where they both belonged to the secret Skull and Bones society. Etra is a regular guest at the White House.

The other appointees are Debra Lerner Cohen of the District of Columbia, Solomon Devinki of Missouri, David Flaum of New York, Eric Ross of New Jersey, Richard Sambol of New Jersey and Merryl Tisch of New York. Tisch is the wife of James Tisch, who chairs both the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organiztaiuons and United Jewish Communities.

Last year Bush tapped a longtime political supporter, Houston businessman and Anti-Defamation League leader Fred Zeidman, to succeed Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg as chairman of the council.

JTA Foreign Editor Dies

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s longtime foreign editor, Mitchell Danow, has died in Japan. Danow, 55, died of a heart attack March 20 in Kyoto. Born and raised in New York, Danow attended Yale University, where he studied philosophy. He worked for Newsweek and the Forward before coming to JTA in 1993.

Student Rabbi Slapped

An American rabbinical student was attacked in Berlin in what police consider an antisemitic attack. Police spokesman Uwe Kozelnik told JTA that the student, Mendel D., 21, was slapped in the face by one of four young men of Arab appearance while out walking Sunday. “He was recognized because of his clothing and because of his earlocks,” Kozelnik said.

Antisemitic Book Okayed

A Russian textbook that describes Jews as power-hungry and greedy is being allowed to remain in the country’s schools. A Russian court this week upheld an appeals court ruling that refused to allow an investigation into the textbook. The book on Russian Orthodoxy says Jews forced Pontius Pilate to crucify Jesus.

Passover Kits to Troops

Chabad-Lubavitch is sending 1,000 Passover packages to American Jewish troops serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and elsewhere. Rabbi Mendy Katz of the Florida-based Aleph Institute, a subsidiary of Chabad, led a team of rabbis and rabbinical students who assembled the Passover kits at a Rahway, N.J., warehouse this week. The packages contain Haggadahs, matzos, horseradish, gefilte fish and Seder plates, Chabad spokeswoman Renee Glick said.

Meanwhile, the Jewish Community Centers Association, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s New York Metropolitan Region and the Jewish Federation of Rockland County, N.Y., organized a $25,000 effort to send Jewish soldiers kosher-for-Passover foods, the New York Jewish Week reported. The United Synagogue is also sending solo Seder kits for soldiers in the field who cannot join communal celebrations, the paper said. The Jewish Welfare Board’s Jewish Chaplains Council estimates there are 1,500 Jewish troops in the Persian Gulf.

Site Gets Ladino Plaque

A memorial to some 150,000 Ladino speakers who perished during the Holocaust was unveiled at Auschwitz. The stone in Ladino, the language spoken by many Sephardi Jews, joins 20 others at the camp. Monday’s placement of the plaque follows a three-year campaign by JEAA, an international organization representing the Ladino community. The ceremony was opened in the presence of victims’ families and foreign diplomats by Simone Veil, former president of the European Parliament and currently president of the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah.

Rabbi Pleads Guilty

A rabbi pleaded guilty this week to inappropriately touching students and workers at a Jewish day school in Oklahoma City. According to the Associated Press, the incidents occurred between August 2000 and May 2001 at the Solomon Schechter Academy, also called the Oklahoma City Jewish Day School.

Rabbi Richard Marcovitz will face a maximum penalty of five years in prison, plus 15 years probation. According to news reports, if Marcovitz completes a rehabilitation program, he could be released in 12 to 18 months. As part of the settlement, he can never again work in a synagogue or teach children. The guilty plea came one day after a judge ruled that jurors could hear evidence that he inappropriately touched his female students while working in Pennsylvania in the 1960s.

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