Community Briefs


Israeli Businessman Arrested onSmuggling Charge

Israeli businessman David Menashe is being held in a federalprison in Los Angeles on charges that he tried to smuggle missile parts intothe United States without declaring their proper value and contents to U.S.Customs inspectors.

Menashe, 52, managing director of Kam-Tech Systems, Ltd. inTel Aviv, intended to transship the parts to China before his arrest in anundercover operation, according to prosecuting U.S. Assistant Attorney MaryCarter Andrues.

His lawyer, Donald Etra, said that Menashe was innocent ofall charges and was a respected member of the Israeli and internationalbusiness communities.

Menashe was arrested Feb. 12 in Los Angeles, pleaded notguilty on Feb. 18, and his trial is scheduled for April 8. Bail was set at$750,000, which, Etra said, will be posted shortly.

 According to the four-count indictment, Menashe and hiscompany tried to smuggle Hawk Missile and AIM-9 Missile parts into the UnitedStates “by falsely representing the value and contents of the packages to avoiddetection by customs inspectors.”

He disguised the missile parts as “Samples for Evaluation”and undervalued one shipment of an AIM-9 Seeker Section by more than $19,000,the government charged.  Etra was asked why Menashe would want to shipAmerican-made missile parts back into the United States.  He responded that asa seller of surplus parts, Menashe could frequently offer such parts morecheaply to the U.S. military than the original manufacturer.

Kam-Tech Systems, Etra said, was established in 1971 and islicensed in both Israel and the United States.

Andrues said that the import of the parts into the UnitedStates was not in itself an illegal act. Where Menashe ran afoul of the law,she said, was in not declaring their true value and contents and in planning totransship them to China.

Menashe’s wife, Mathilde, and daughter, Revital, havearrived in Los Angeles from Tel Aviv to lend their moral support. The Menasheshave an additional daughter and son.

If convicted, Menashe could face up to five years in prisonon each of the four counts. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

 

Thousands to Celebrate ShabbatAcross America

Some 700 Synagogues and temples — including 27 in LosAngeles — will celebrate Shabbat Across America on Friday night, March 7.Organized by the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP), the seventh annualShabbat Across America program introduces unaffiliated Jews to an authenticJewish Shabbat. The program consists of a Friday night service and kosher mealcomplete with singing and prayers, as well as discussions on different aspectsof the Shabbat such as the song, “Shalom Aleichem” (“Greet the Sabbath”). Todate, more than 430,000 Jews have participated in the program, and organizerexpect more than 70,000 people to be participating this year.

“Since Sept. 11, participation in all our programs hasincreased,” said Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, founder and executive director ofNJOP. “The people of the United States are under tremendous stress right now,Shabbat and faith can be a real antidote.  For more than 3,400 years, Jews havefound hope and comfort in their faith. Ancient traditions are as relevant now asever.”

For more information and to find ShabbatAcross America locales, go to www.njop.org .

— Gaby Wenig, Contributing Writer

 

Chabad Emissaries Visit Israel inSolidarity

On Feb. 26, 30 Chabad shluchim (emissaries) from all overthe West Coast went on a one-week solidarity mission to Israel. It is the firstof four such missions that West Coast Headquarters of Chabad Lubavitch haveplanned for 2003. While in Israel, the shluchim are to meet with terrorvictims, IDF soldiers who are on the frontlines, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,President Moshe Katsav and other Israeli officials. However, this mission isnot a political one, in accordance with Chabad’s philosophy of not interferingwith political matters in Israel.

The missions are the result of a resolution that was takenat the Kinus Hashluchim (Convention of Emissaries) of the West Coast held Jan.4-5.

The idea is that shluchim travel to Israel to offer support,and then return to America and arrange solidarity missions with theircongregations.

“Chabad shluchim at the convention took it upon themselvesto go there and demonstrate first and foremost their personal support for thepeople of Israel in this time of need,” said Rabbi Chaim Cunin, director ofpublic relations for Chabad.  “We are going there as a sign of solidarity andto offer courage and strength to the people of Israel, and it is everyone’shope that other people will follow suit and the communities throughout the westcoast will also visit Israel.” –GW

 

Shoah Foundation Receives $1Million Grant

Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual HistoryFoundation has been awarded a $1 million grant by the Andrew W. MellonFoundation to transmit its massive digital video archive, containing thetestimonies of more than 50,000 Holocaust survivors and witnesses, to USC, YaleUniversity and Rice University in Texas.

The archive will be transmitted remotely via Internet2, andthe grant will also support a pilot project to explore the research andinstructional uses of the material at the three universities.

Douglas Greenberg, president and CEO of the ShoahFoundation, said that “the grant affords us the opportunity, for the firsttime, to open this electronic library to faculty and students at threedistinguished universities. Once the pilot project is completed, we hope tobroaden access to include institutions throughout the country and the world.”

The Shoah Foundation’s archive contains some 117,000 hoursof videotaped testimony, recorded in 32 languages and 56 countries. — TT

 

Torah Fair Highlights Bible Code,Israeli Heroes

Students at Emek Hebrew Academy Teichman Family Torah Centerpresented their annual Torah Fair last week at the school’s campus at Magnoliaand Sepulveda boulevards. Lower-division students in first, second, and third gradescompleted class projects. Fourth- through eighth-grade students were allowed towork in small groups or complete individual projects on any aspect of Jewishlife.

Seventh-grader Binyomine Levine created an exhibit on theBible Code, which arranges the Hebrew text of the Torah in rows and findsencrypted messages by skipping a set number of letters throughout the entiretext. Using special software, Levine found the name of Israeli astronaut IlanRamon intersecting the word “Columbia.”

“I really wanted to do a project on the Bible code, andafter the shuttle tragedy it just made sense to me to look that up,” Levinesaid.

Ilan Ramon was highlighted by another student, fifth-graderAvi Weinberg. “I’m not all that interested in the space program, but when Iheard about Ilan Ramon, I knew that was the project I wanted to do. I was soimpressed when I read about the things Ilan brought into outer space — akiddush cup and other Jewish things. He wasn’t Orthodox, but he made a point ofshowing the world that he was Jewish.”

In the past, prizes were awarded in several categories atthe fair, but in recent years teachers decided to remove the competitiveelement and focus more on appreciating students’ creativity and skills.

“In a time when war is imminent, it’s truly humbling to seethe innocence of children and the beauty they find in Torah and Yiddeshkayt,”said Mona Riss, an Emek teacher and the organizer of the fair for the past 13years. — Abbi Peretz, Contributing Writer

 

Settlers Share Experiences WithAngelenos

Two Israeli women toured Los Angeles synagogues in Februaryto share their experiences as long-time residents of Kedumim, the first Jewishsettlement in Samaria. Raphaella Segal and Shoshana Shilo came asrepresentatives of the Israeli branch of American Friends of Kedumim. Segal, afounding member of the community and the executive director of the IsraelBranch of American Friends of Kedumim, explained the especially harsh realitythat Jews in the disputed areas face as a result of the recent intifada.

“Our areas are more vulnerable. We live under constantalert,” Segal said.  

Nevertheless, the message that the woman hope to spread is amessage of hope.

“We want to bring a spirit of Zion — it’s still alive atKedumim — there’s still a pure spirit of Zionism,” Segal said, noting that 80percent of residents have remained at the settlement since the violence began.

Currently, Kedumim is home to 700 families. For Segal andShilo, the goal of their visit to the United States is to seek financialassistance, encourage aliyah and educate.

“We hope to create awareness, especially now,” Segal said.

— Rachel Brand, Staff Writer

 

Wiesenthal Center Denounces TombDesecration

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has petitioned a United Nationsagency “to vigorously protest the barbaric desecration of Joseph’s Tomb” aftera group of Jewish chaplains found last week that the site “is now destroyed,the building cracked open with hammers, a huge hole in its dome and the gravelittered with trash and car parts.”

In a letter to Franceso Bandarin, director of the U.N. WorldHeritage Committee (WHC), Dr. Shimon Samuels, the Paris-based internationalliaison director of the Wiesenthal Center, also called for the condemnation ofthe Palestinian Authority for violating its commitment to respect the  sacredsites of all religions.

Samuels noted, “In October 2000, under the pretext of theintifada that had been launched a few days earlier, Palestinian violencewillfully desecrated the tomb of the biblical patriarch in the vicinity ofNablus. The compound was set on fire and sacred Hebrew texts were burned.”

Samuels also notified the WHC, which serves as the UnitedNations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization watchdog for theprotection of the world’s cultural sites and historic monuments, that”Palestinian claims that Joseph’s Tomb was also sacred to them have beenvividly discredited. We would have expected global expressions of outrage hadIslamic or Christian sites been deliberately vandalized.”

Recalling that the WHC had condemned the destruction by theTaliban of two giant Buddhist statues in Afghanistan, Samuels concluded that,”We would expect a similar condemnation of this new crime against culturalheritage.” — TT