January 21st, 2015

Mysterious death of AMIA prosecutor raises questions

Hezbollah and the Argentine government have been fingered in the death of Alberto Nisman, who was found dead on Sunday


(JTA) — The mysterious death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman seems ripped straight out of a crime thriller.

Nisman — the indefatigable prosecutor collecting evidence of culpability in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people — was found dead in his apartment just hours before he was to present evidence to Argentina’s congress that he said implicated his country’s president and foreign minister in a nefarious cover-up scheme.

The charge? That the two agreed to whitewash Tehran’s role in the AMIA bombing in exchange for oil shipments to energy-hungry Argentina.

Nisman’s body was discovered late Sunday in his 13th-floor apartment with a single gunshot wound to the head.

Demonstrators at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires protesting the death of federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman on Jan. 19. The banner at left reads “I am Nisman. I am the republic.” (Photo: Movimiento Argentino de Fotógrafxs Independientes Autoconvocadxs Facebook page)

Demonstrators at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires protesting the death of federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman on Jan. 19. The banner at left reads “I am Nisman. I am the republic.” (Photo: Movimiento Argentino de Fotógrafxs Independientes Autoconvocadxs Facebook page)

Officials connected to the president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, quickly said evidence pointed to suicide, noting that a .22-caliber pistol and spent cartridge were found near Nisman’s body.

But the suicide theory was dismissed out of hand on the streets of Buenos Aires and among people around the world familiar with Nisman and his work investigating the AMIA attack. Instead, they said Nisman, 51, was the victim of foul play. The suicide theory lost more ground Tuesday with the revelation by the prosecutor investigating Nisman’s death, Viviana Fein, that no traces of gunpowder were found on Nisman’s hand. There also was no suicide note.

“The idea of suicide I think is nonsense,” Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told JTA.

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January 21st, 2015

At least 12 injured in stabbing spree on Tel Aviv bus

TEL AVIV (JTA) — At least 12 people were wounded, some seriously, when a Palestinian man stabbed passengers and the driver on a Tel Aviv bus.

Four victims, including the driver, remained in serious condition following the Wednesday morning attack on the No. 40 bus. Initial reports said 12 to 21 people were injured.

The assailant was shot in the leg by a commander in the Israel Prison Service who was at the scene of the attack and apprehended by police. Video of the attack was later posted on YouTube.


Medics evacuating an Israeli man in a stabbing attack on a Tel Aviv bus on Wednesday. (Photo: Flash90)

Police identified the assailant as Hamza Muhammed Hasan Matrouk, 23, from the West Bank city of Tulkarem who had entered Israel illegally, according to media reports.

The attack was the first in Tel Aviv since a soldier was killed in a stabbing attack at a train station in November.

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January 21st, 2015

Auschwitz liberation event set for Jan. 28

World Without Genocide will mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 28 in the auditorium at William Mitchell College of Law, 875 Summit Ave., St. Paul.

The event will feature the film Escape from Auschwitz, which includes archival footage of the camp and testimonies from survivors. Dr. Ellen Kennedy, executive director of World Without Genocide, will offer a talk titled “Prosecuting the Auschwitz Perpetrators.”

Attendees will also examine the establishment of the camp, the complicity of world organizations in its operation, and a bold attempt to raise awareness of the Nazis’ 1944 plan to exterminate all Hungarian Jews.

The event is open to the public and no reservations are necessary. Tickets are $10 for the general public, $5 for students and seniors, and free for Mitchell students.

For information, visit: www.worldwithoutgenocide.org or call 651-695-7621.

January 21st, 2015

JCRC to host Israel advocacy conference

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) will host the 2015 Israel Advocacy Conference 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8 at Mount Zion Temple, 1300 Summit Ave., St. Paul.

The conference is titled “From Confrontation to Conversation: Israel on Campus and in the Community.” The keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Asaf Romirowsky, Middle East Forum Fellow and contributor to the book The Case Against Academic Boycott of Israel.

Remarks will also be offered by Emily Soloff, AJC Interreligious and Intergroup Relations associate director; there will be a student panel moderated by Eliav Perez, of Hillel; and breakout sessions will address a variety of topics.

Breakfast and lunch will be included. For information and to register, visit: mnisraelconference.eventbrite.com.

January 21st, 2015

Twin Cities to mark Global Belly Laugh Day

The Twin Cities observance of Global Belly Laugh Day 2015 will kick off with a laugh-a-thon party 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 24 at Yantar Health Spa and Wellness, 800 Prairie Center Dr., Eden Prairie. The interactive session will be hosted by Sarah Routman, a Minneapolis-based laughter yoga leader and teacher.

Global Belly Laugh Day was first held in 2005 to promote the wellness practices pioneered by Madan and Madhari Kataria in India. They advocate spontaneous or intentional laughter as a way to lower stress, improve one’s mood, boost the immune system and promote peace.

In addition to group events, the organizers of Global Belly Laugh Day are asking people around the world to stop for a laugh at 1:24 p.m. on Jan. 24. Routman will hold a special celebration from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Ronald McDonald House Charities–Upper Midwest, 818 Fulton Street Southeast, Minneapolis.

She also invites anyone to join her after 2 p.m. for a laughter flash mob in public places.

The event is free and open to the public. For information, visit: www.laughwithsarah.com/category/blog.

January 14th, 2015

Concert marks Auschwitz liberation anniversary

The Apollo Male Chorus will offer a ‘musical menora’ of works to celebrate survivors and liberators on Jan. 27


The atrocities performed at Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration and work camps are part of a sad legacy shared by all peoples. While the majority of those who survived or died there were Jews, many other minorities, such as Gypsies and homosexuals, suffered alongside those who wore the yellow Star of David.

It is fitting, therefore, that a concert celebrating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz be organized and performed by a nonsectarian group. The Apollo Male Chorus will present “The Liberation of Auschwitz” on Jan. 27 — exactly 70 years to the day from when the camp was liberated by Allied forces. The performance will take place at the Ted Mann Concert Hall on the West Bank Campus of the University of Minnesota.

Sean Vogt, artistic director and conductor of the Apollo Male Chorus, explained his motivation for organizing the program.


“At one point in my life, I thought I’d be a minister and had to study Hebrew,” he said. “That started my interest in the Jewish people.”

Things took a turn in a different direction and Vogt is now choirmaster for the Cathedral of St. Paul. He is also an organist.

“In 2013, I was asked to accompany a choir for a tour along the Danube and we did a side trip to Auschwitz,” he said. “I was deeply moved by what I learned. And I was touched even more by the personal story of a Dutch man who, as a child, had given water to a trainload of Jewish prisoners headed to the camps.”

Vogt realized that he had just enough time, upon returning to the United States, to organize and prepare a concert to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation.

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January 14th, 2015

Editorial: Je suis Charlie?

Jews in France did not have a good year, in 2014. And 2015 is shaping up to be much worse.

In last week’s carnage perpetrated by three lunatic adherents to radical Islam, 17 souls were murdered. The Jan. 7 massacre at Charlie Hebdo, the satirical tabloid newspaper in Paris — where eight staff members (including Jewish cartoonist George Wolinski and Jewish columnist Elsa Cayat), and four others, including two police officers, were gunned down — shocked the world.

Then, on Jan. 9, Amedy Coulibaly, a comrade of Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, the Charlie Hebdo gunmen, stormed Hyper Cacher, a kosher supermarket in east Paris, and murdered four Jews.

In a phone conversation with a Parisian TV station during the police siege of the store, Coulibaly, who also had killed a female police officer in Paris on Jan. 7, admitted that he was in league with the Kouachi brothers. Further, he told the BFM TV channel that he acted to defend “oppressed Muslims,” especially in Palestine, so he purposefully targeted Jews.

The three killers are dead; but France, Europe and much of the world are grappling with the ramifications of the tragic events that transpired in Paris last week.

“Let’s be clear: France is under assault,” writes Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Paris office, in a piece included in this week’s AJW print edition. “The enemy is in our midst. Extremists, faithful to a brand of Islam that celebrates violence and martyrdom, have no respect whatsoever for the core, longstanding French values of democracy, pluralism, freedom of expression — and, indeed, for life itself.”

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December 24th, 2014

Twin Cities Jewish Humor Festival kicks off Jan. 17

The sixth annual Twin Cities Jewish Humor Festival will run Jan. 17-31 at the Sabes JCC, 4330 Cedar Lake Rd. S., St. Louis Park (one event takes place at the St. Paul JCC).

This two-week Fringe-like festival combines one-act plays, one-person shows, music performance, stand-up and improvisational comedy, storytelling, film, visual art, workshops and more — all in celebration of the Jewish contribution to the world of humor.

An eclectic group of presenters and performers features both local and national talent, including Cory Kahaney, Dan Kamin, Hanoch Piven, Samson Koletkar, Aaron Friedman and more.

Opening Night will feature comedian Cory Kahaney with special guest Jan Slavin 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17. Kahaney is every woman: mother, daughter, wife, ex-wife. This year, she appeared on a new TV special for Nick Mom and The Late Show with David Letterman, and made her fifth appearance on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. She was featured on the first season of NBC’s Last Comic Standing and made it to the finale, where host Jay Mohr called her performance “flawless.” Other television credits include Comedy Central Presents: Cory Kahaney, The View and many episodes of Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher.

Chicago-based comedian and singer Slavin recently played to 23 sold-out houses in Funny Old Broads, and has received critical acclaim for the many variety shows and cabarets that she hosts around the Windy City.

Tickets are $15 in advance or $18 same day, which includes the Opening Night Pre-Show Celebration with food and drinks at 6:30 p.m. in the JCC Lobby.

The rest of the festival schedule is as follows: Keep reading →

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