Rabbi Mendel Deitsch, a longtime Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in France and more recently in Israel, was brutally attacked at Zhitomir’s central train station early Friday morning, where he was discovered and transported to a local hospital. The Jewish Community of Zhitomir was alerted to the attack hours after Deitsch was admitted to the hospital; his condition is considered extremely critical. The motive for the attack remains unknown. Violent anti-Semitic attacks in Ukraine are rare, and there is no indication at this time that it was anti-Semitic in nature. Chabad Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm, chief rabbi of Zhitomir, is asking people to pray for Rabbi Deitsch. Read more here.Jewish Press News Briefs
Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine’
Following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Monday’s suspension of nuclear disarmament talks with the US over the latter’s challenge of Russian involvement in Ukraine and Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry announced on Tuesday that it had delivered one battery of the air defense system S-300 to Syria.
“It is true that one battery of the S-300 air defense systems has been delivered to Syria. It is to provide protection for the naval logistics facility in Tartus and the Russian Navy’s task force,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told reporters in Moscow.
Last year, Russia moved to Syria its newest air defense system S-400, and last March Putin announced that the S-400 systems and the short-range systems Pantsir-S1, a combined short to medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon system, would remain on permanent combat duty in Syria.
As the website Liberty Unyielding noted Wednesday, “nothing about the fight against the rebels in Syria requires an S-300V4-enabled, full-scale land war according to Russian doctrine. Nothing about it requires the level of air defense represented by the S-400, for that matter. The rebels don’t have anything at all that requires bringing either system to the fight.” Instead, the same website contends, “the system is being put there to mark and hold Russian territory against the US, our most advanced allies, and (potentially, someday) China.”
The White House has been watching helplessly as Putin suspended the treaty with Washington on cleaning up weapons-grade plutonium. Over the past three decades, Russia and the US have signed a series of accords to reduce the size of their nuclear arsenals. All that good work is being threatened now with Putin’s decree that suspended a 2000 agreement binding the two sides to dispose of surplus plutonium intended for use in nuclear weapons.
Asked by a reporter on Monday, White House Spokesman Josh Earnest admitted the Administration was “disappointed” by Putin’s move.
“The decision by the Russians to unilaterally withdraw from this commitment is disappointing, and the reason for that is that this agreement that went into force in 2011 pledged the disposal of thousands of nuclear weapons’ worth of plutonium,” Earnest stated, adding, “And this was an agreement that was reached by the United States and Russia because we’re the two countries that have the largest amount of this material and both leaders in Russia and the United States have made nonproliferation a priority. And certainly the United States is interested in limiting proliferation and trying to reduce the risk associated with potential nuclear terrorism. And again, we know that Russia’s leadership has recognized this risk. The United States has been steadfast since 2011 in implementing our side of the bargain, and we would like to see the Russians continue to do the same thing.”
Konashenkov responded to Earnest’s statement by saying the US “is to blame for the disruption of all September 9 ceasefire agreements on Syria and for letting the militants build up reserves again.” He continued: “It is the United States that has fallen through with a crash regarding the implementation of the September 9 ceasefire agreements. It failed to separate a single group of the so-called opposition from [Al Qaeda offshoot] Jabhat al-Nusra, thus letting the terrorists regroup themselves and replenish reserves.”
“Isn’t it the right moment for our US counterparts to recognize in public that the whole opposition in Syria they have reared all along and still keep under control are part and parcel of the same ‘umbrella brands’ Al-Qaeda and Jabhat Al-Nusra?” Konashenkov asked, and invited Earnest “to come down to earth from the sky.”
The plutonium accord is not the cornerstone of post-Cold War US-Russia disarmament, according to Reuters, which suggests that the practical implications from the suspension of the deal will be limited. It comes down, instead, to “powerful symbolism.”
This also comes down to a growing realization in the West that President Obama, in his zeal to foment the “Arab Spring,” has enlarged the political vacuum created by President GW Bush in the Middle East, and with the current White House’s policy of avoiding at all cost a “boots on the ground” military intervention in Syria or Iraq, Putin’s Russia is never going to leave, regardless of who gets elected President come November. Putin is grabbing this opportunity offered by a reluctant Obama to flank the West and guarantee naval access in the Eastern Mediterranean.
So far, Putin has planted Russian troops in Syria, forged long term relations with Iran, flirted with Egypt and with Israel — which receive about $6 billion annually in US aid, and patched up his relations with Turkey, a NATO member.
And, as Sen. Pence mentioned in Tuesday night’s debate (although he was off by a couple trillions), Putin’s Russia managed these sound regional gains with a mere $1.3 trillion GDP, compared with the US’ $17.9 trillion GDP (which is 13.7 times stronger).
It could be time for extensive language courses for Washington officials, except this time it’s the optimists who will study Mandarin, while the pessimists will take up Russian.JNi.Media
Israel Airport Authorities and workers at Ben Gurion International Airport are bracing themselves for the onslaught this week when 160 flights will depart to Uman, in Ukraine.
Some 30,000 travelers are flying to the grave site of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov on what is for many an annual pilgrimage on Jewish high holy days, arriving at the tomb of the 19th century Chassidic rebbe just before Rosh Hashana, the holiday on which he deemed it most important for his Chassidim to gather with him during his lifetime.
Rebbe Nachman, who lived from 1772 to 1810, was a great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov. He combined mystical teachings of Kabbalah with Torah scholarship in his teachings of the thousands of followers who were attracted to his movement, which was not dynastic, and not a traditional Chassidic court.
The concept of God taught by Rebbe Nachman, that one could speak to Him as a “best friend,” that He is someone with whom anyone could connect on the simplest of levels, made the Divine completely accessible, and God easily approachable to those who felt alienated by religion. To this day, the Breslov movement remains vibrant and continues to attract new followers.
Rebbe Nachman visited Israel from 1798 to 1799, spending time in Haifa, Tverya (Tiberias) and Tzefat.
In Israel, travelers to Uman are being asked to arrive at the airport four hours ahead of schedule in order to ease the processing due to the massive crowds that are expected.
Registration processing and passport control will take place both in Terminal 1 and in Terminal 3. Some 1.7 million travelers are expected to pass through the airport during this holiday season — about eight percent more than the number of travelers seen last year, officials said.Hana Levi Julian
President Reuven Rivlin is set to travel to Ukraine for a state visit Monday evening with the First Lady to participate in the 75th anniversary commemoration of the Babi Yar Massacre.
The president is scheduled to lay a wreath on Tuesday during a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Kiev, and at the memorial to the Holodomor, the mass starvation in the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33.
Rivlin will also meet with his Ukraine counterpart, President Poroshenko, and will also address a special plenary session of the Ukraine Parliament.
Later in the week, Rivlin will meet with Jewish community leaders in Kiev at the Intercontinental Hotel. He will also meet with Ukraine Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman at the prime minister’s office.
Rivlin will join other world leaders and other officials who are expected to attend a ceremony on Thursday commemorating 75 years since the Babi Yar Massacre.
The First Couple are scheduled to return to Israel on Friday morning, ahead of the Sabbath.Hana Levi Julian
Rabbi Aharon Goldberg, 55, and Shimon Liebowitz, 25, were arrested in Central Valley, NY, Tuesday, when they were meeting to plot the kidnapping and murder of a husband who is refusing to give his wife a get, federal officials said Wednesday. They were charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder for hire.
Prosecutors said the Liebowitz belongs to the Satmar community in Kiryas Joel, NY, and Goldberg, originally from Bnei Brak, Israel, is “a prominent rabbi in Kiryas Joel.”
The FBI said Goldberg and Liebowitz contacted an individual in early July to kidnap the husband and force him to give a get to his wife, on penalty of death. The man they recruited then contacted the Bureau about the plot and began recording his conversations with the two suspects. The code name for the plan was “Wedding.” They discussed kidnapping, torturing and forcing the get from the husband, either in the US or when he was on a trip to Ukraine. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Goldberg and Liebowitz paid the FBI informant about $55,000 for what he called a “chilling plot.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney Jr. stated in a press release: “As if the plan to kidnap the victim and force him to divorce his wife in this alleged conspiracy wasn’t bad enough, the plotters allegedly decided halfway through the arrangement to go a step further and add murder to the list of their planned crimes. Our country protects freedom of religious beliefs and practices, but no one is allowed to plot a kidnapping and murder regardless of their motivation.”David Israel
With the increase of hostilities on the Russian-Ukrainian border in recent weeks, 211 new immigrants from Ukraine landed Tuesday at Ben Gurion Airport.
Most came from the embattled regions in the eastern part of Ukraine, arriving on the 19th flight sponsored by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) since hostilities broke out between the two countries.
“There has been a significant increase in calls from potential Olim to the IFCJ representatives in Ukraine and we are doing everything to give them the best possible service so that they can begin new and secure lives in Israel, which was and still is the home for any person who is part of the Jewish people,” noted Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, IFCJ president.
Approximately 4,000 immigrants have fled to Israel from Ukraine on flights sponsored by the organization since December 2014. Among those who arrived Tuesday were 37 children who are to begin their studies in Israeli schools in two days, including nine in the first grade.
Natalia S. arrived in Israel with her mother and son, and said that she was forced to leave the city of Marinka in the Donetsk region in Eastern Ukraine after the extensive bombing in the city that began in April 2014. The building where her family lived was bombed and some of their neighbors were killed.
Natalia explained that her family’s Jewishness was kept secret by her grandmother who had survived the Holocaust, while her husband, Natalia’s grandfather, was in a concentration camp. As a result, she says, “we knew we had Jewish roots but did not have the documents to prove it.”
According to Natalia, during one of the family’s visits to the Holocaust Museum an employee at the site advised her about which archive to search in order to find documents that would prove their Jewish roots.
“Because of the advice we were given, we went later to the archive and found my grandmother’s documents. In the documents, we read that she had changed her name and her father’s name, from “Alia” and “Avraham” to “Lisa” and “Peter,” she said. Natalia, her mother, and her son are planning to settle in Akko. Among Tuesday’s group of new olim there were seven babies, including two who were only six months old. The oldest person on the flight was age 82, and the average age of the group was 34. The preferred destination for the immigrants was Haifa, where 42 of the new arrivals elected to settle.
Most of the olim came from the Dniepropetrovsk region, which has become one of the preferred destinations for refugees escaping the embattled areas in Eastern Ukraine because of its proximity and the fact that it is still in Ukrainian hands.
The IFCJ assists the Olim to Israel with special grants of $1,000 for each adult oleh and $500 for each child, in addition to financing the flight to Israel. This support is provided by the organization in addition to the standard basket of benefits each immigrant receives from the Israel Ministry of Aliyah and Absorption. The organization also arranges the absorption of the new immigrant families with the various local authorities prior to their arrival in Israel, recruiting locals to accompany the new olim as they seek housing and employment and settle in to their new surroundings.Hana Levi Julian
The front doorway of a synagogue in Kolomia in western Ukraine was sprayed with a swastika and anti-Semitic slogans Thursday night, an official of the local Jewish community has told TPS. The official, Jacob Zlishiker, said the identity of the perpetrator is not known, and added that these things are routine in this city, and police are treating them very seriously.
The local Jewish cemetery also sustained some damage overnight.
Kolomia, which used to be the most developed city in the region before the war, boasted a large Jewish community, with about 19,000 Jews out of a general population of 43,000. The Jewish community was “culturally vibrant and complex,” influencing the Jewish culture of Galicia, according to the website Jewish Galicia & Bukovina. Before the war there were some 50 synagogues in Kolomia, among them the magnificent Hoiche Shul, a Yerushalmi synagogue, several Hassidic kloizes and even a Zionist synagogue.
In 1941, all of the Jews of Kolomia and its environs were concentrated in a ghetto that was divided into three separate sections. In 1942, these sections were burned and the entire population of the ghetto was annihilated: some were murdered in the city streets, others were taken to the Belzec extermination camp, and the rest were shot in the forest outside the village of Sheparivtsy, near the city.
A few dozen Jews returned to Kolomia after its liberation by the Soviet army and they continue to maintain a small community around the synagogue.David Israel