News Digest — 12/14/20

‘Each Survivor Is A Living Example Of The Triumph Of Light Over Darkness’

An annual event bringing together Holocaust survivors from around the world to mark Hanukkah was held online for the first time Sunday (13th) due to the coronavirus.

The event organized by the Jewish Claims Conference also paid tribute to those killed by the Nazis and raised awareness of anti-Semitism.

“Each survivor is a living example of the triumph of light over darkness, of good over evil,” said Gideon Taylor, president of the Claims Conference.  “You are heroes to the Jewish people and the Jewish world.”

The event included a livestream of speeches by survivors, their advocates, musical performances, and the menorah lighting from the Western Wall in Jerusalem and other locations around the world.

Among the survivors who spoke was Walter Breindel, who fled Austria at the age of four with his mother and brother.  Breindel recalled how he would normally spend Hanukkah with his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but is alone this year.

“Hopefully next year it will not be a memory, but we shall be together again,” he said.

Hanukkah began at sundown Thursday evening, December 10, and will end Friday evening December 18.



US To Remove Sudan From Terrorism List On Monday

Washington’s decision to remove Sudan from a list of state sponsors of terrorism comes into effect on Monday (14th), the US Embassy in Khartoum said.

“The Secretary of State has signed a notification stating that rescission of Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation is effective as of today (December 14), to be published in the Federal Register,” the embassy said in a statement.

Sudan has had the designation since 1993, on the grounds that ousted president Omar al-Bashir was harboring militant groups.  It cut Sudan off from financial assistance and investment.

The move comes after a 45-day Congressional review period following US President Donald Trump’s announcement of his intention to remove Sudan from the list, which came together after the announcement that Israel and Sudan intend to normalize relations.

In addition, the Trump administration promised to pass a bill by which no further lawsuits can be brought against the Sudan for its past support for terrorism, which included hosting Al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden for several years in the 1990s, after it paid over $300 million to victims of terror who already sued Khartoum.

The bill has faced obstacles in Congress, especially from Senators who seek to have 9/11 victims be able to sue Sudan.  Khartoum has relayed a message to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that they will not move forward with ties with Israel if the legal immunity legislation does not pass by the end of 2020.

Israeli officials have been lobbying Congress to pass the bill, without taking a position on 9/11 victims.



Oman, Indonesia Likely Next Countries To Forge Ties With Israel

Oman and Indonesia could be next in line to establish diplomatic relations with Israel in the coming weeks, a diplomatic source said Sunday (13th).

The Trump administration is continuing in its efforts to bring more Arab and Muslim countries into the Abraham Accords.  The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, have agreed to normalization with Israel, with Morocco’s announcement on Friday (11th).

US Vice-President Mike Pence plans to visit Israel in January, as first reported by The Jerusalem Post last week, Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis told Army Radio on Sunday (13th).

While in Israel he may announce another country will establish relations with Israel, he added.

The diplomatic source identified Oman and Indonesia as two countries with which talks have advanced and with whom normalization could be announced before President Donald Trump leaves office.

US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said more Israel-Arab normalization deals are on the way, when he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday (13th) in Jerusalem.

“The momentum is now on the side of the peacemakers,” O’Brien said, adding that “others will follow because the way of peace is far better than the way offered by terrorists….and radical clerics.”

“Peace deals are becoming a regular event,” O’Brien jokingly said.

“Nations in the region are putting aside old ideas and old grievances and embracing a better future based on shared goals and shared interests,” he added.



Moroccan Schools To Teach Jewish History And Culture

Jewish history and culture in Morocco will be part of the school curriculum — a “first” in the region and in the North African country, where Islam is the state religion.

The decision “has the impact of a tsunami,” said Serge Berdugo, secretary-general of the council of Jewish communities of Morocco.

It “is a first in the Arab world,” he told AFP from Casablanca.

The decision to add Jewish history and culture to school lessons was discreetly launched before the diplomatic deal was announced.

Part of an ongoing revamp of Morocco’s school curriculum since 2014, the new material will be included next term for children aged 11, in their final year of primary school, the education ministry said.

The move aims to “highlight Morocco’s diverse identity,” according to Fouad Chafiqi, head of academic programs at the ministry.

Morocco’s Jewish community has been present since antiquity and grew over the centuries, particularly with the arrival of Jews expelled from Spain by the Catholic kings after 1492.

At the end of the 1940s, Jewish Moroccans numbered about 250,000 — some 10 percent of the population.

Many left after the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, and the community now numbers 3,000, still the largest in North Africa.

While there was a Jewish presence in Morocco before the 18th century, the only reliable historical records date back to that time,” Chafiqi said.

Two US-based Jewish Associations – the American Sephardi Federation (ASF) and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (COP)– said they “worked closely with the kingdom of Morocco and the Moroccan Jewish community” on the “groundbreaking” academic reform.

“Ensuring Moroccan students learn about the totality of their proud history of tolerance, including Morocco’s philo-semitism, is an inoculation against extremism,” leaders of the two organizations said in a statement published on Twitter last month.



After Anti-Semitic Outrages, Austrian City Of Graz To Combat Hatred Of Jews

The southern Austrian city of Graz has unveiled a plan to combat anti-Semitism in the wake of two alarming incidents targeting Jews last summer.

On August 19, the synagogue in Graz was daubed with the slogan “Free Palestine,” following which Jewish community President Elie Rosen warned of a rise in “left-wing and anti-Israel anti-Semitism”

Two days later, Rosen was himself attacked by an assailant wielding a wooden club.  Rosen managed to escape the attacker.

Announcing the “Together Against Anti-Semitism” initiative at the Graz synagogue on Friday (11th), Rosen was joined by the Austrian government’s EU minister, Karoline Edtstadler.

Edtstadler described the initiative as a “struggle for society as a whole.”

“We have to remain vigilant, sensitize people and carry everyone with us,” she emphasized.

Rosen explained that the anti-Semitism initiative was built on educational efforts to make schoolchildren more aware of the culture and history of Jews in the Styrian region of Austria, at the same time training teachers to counter anti-Semitism in the classroom.

Last week, the Austrian Council of Ministers passed a “Law to Safeguard Austrian-Jewish Cultural Heritage,” more than doubling the government’s financial support for the Jewish community.

Austrian broadcaster ORF reported that the Jewish community’s budget would be increased from 1.3 to 4 million euros for “the protection of Jewish institutions, the promotion of inter-religious dialogue and the preservation of Jewish cultural heritage.”



Anti-Semitism: Hanukkah Menorah Toppled In Ukraine

A Ukrainian ultranationalist filmed himself toppling a Hanukkah menorah in downtown Kiev while shouting “death to Jews.”

The man, identified by the Ukrainian media as Andrey Rachkov, a provocateur with a criminal record, is the suspect of a police investigation after video of the vandalism emerged on Thursday night (10th), the Ukrainian news site Zik reported Saturday (12th).

Rachkov posted the video of his actions on Facebook adding, “How to treat foreigners who are engaged in usurption of power, occupation of territories, and genocide.”

As he toppled the large menorah, he shouted, “To Ukrainians the power, Jews to the graves.”

Rachkov attempted to topple another menorah elsewhere in Kiev but failed to bring it down because it was bolted to the ground, Zik reported.

Ukrainian nationalists have repeatedly targeted Jews in their protests against Ukraine’s Jewish President, Vlodymyr Zelensky.



The Table Used To Stop Monsey Attacker Is Turned Into A Menorah Stand

When a masked man entered and attacked a rabbi’s home and his guests, in Monsey, New York, on the seventh night of Hanukkah last year (December 2019), Joseph Gluck thought quickly.  He picked up a coffee table and threw it at the attacker, who subsequently followed Gluck outside the house before trying to enter a synagogue door.  The door was locked and the intruder fled.

The coffee table turned defensive weapon, has been turned into a dreidel-shaped menorah stand to memorialize Monsey’s own Hanukkah miracle.

“Emblazoned on its sides are the Hebrew words marked on dreidels typically in Israel – “A big miracle happened here.”  (Most outside of Israel are engraved with “a big miracle happened there,” referring to the miracle of the Hanukkah story in which the oil in the Temple lasted for eight days.)  In the case of the stand, the miracle is even closer to home.

Rabbi Yisroel Kahan, a leader in Monsey and a member of the Rockland Country Human Rights Commission, posted a photo of the coffee table and the menorah stand on Twitter saying the table was broken up after Gluck heaved it at the intruder.

One guest at the Hanukkah celebration at Rabbi Gluck’s home was severely injured in the attack and subsequently died of his wounds.