3 charged in scuffle at Calgary pro-Palestinian rally


Three pro-Palestinian activists were charged with assault stemming from a rally for Gaza in Calgary that turned violent.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists had converged July 18 outside City Hall in the western Canada city when a small group of pro-Israel demonstrators gathered across the street. A series of scuffles broke out and three people were assaulted.

On Tuesday, Aziz Mohammad Madi, 18, was charged with two counts of assault, according to Sunmedia, while Arlsan Khan, 27, and a 16-year-old who cannot be named under Canadian lawn are each facing one count. All three are scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 15.

It took police nearly a month to press charges because of the complexity of the investigation, Inspector Cliff O’Brien told Sunmedia.

“One of the challenges with an investigation like this is you have several hundred people who are very passionate and emotional,” he said. “And there are thousands of images out there, including video.”

Charges are also expected against a fourth man, whom police have identified but not yet found.

Vandal gets probation for spray-painting swastikas


A man who spray-painted anti-Semitic slogans on three Jewish sites in Calgary was sentenced to 18 months probation.

Anti-Jewish graffiti and swastikas were painted on a Holocaust memorial and synagogues in the largest city in the Canadian province of Alberta in November 2009.

The man, who cannot be named under Canadian law because he was a teenager at the time of the offenses, was caught in Winnipeg in March 2010 and returned to Calgary. He was charged with inciting public hatred as well as with mischief to a place of religious worship motivated by hate—the first time that charge had been laid in Calgary.

He pleaded guilty to the charges and admitted he had been a member of a white supremacist group. During sentencing, he met with two Holocaust survivors who explained the impact of his crimes on them. His lawyer said the young man no longer belongs to any neo-Nazi groups.

In addition to probation, the man was ordered to complete 150 hours of community service.

Canadian teen wanted for anti-Semitic graffiti


Calgary police have issued a Canada-wide arrest warrant for an 18-year-old male over a slew of spray-painted anti-Semitic messages.

The racist graffiti on mailboxes, signs at synagogues and a memorial for Holocaust survivors, which surfaced last November, included swastikas and the words “kill Jews” and “six million more.”

The teen is facing charges of mischief to property, as well as hate-related charges of mischief to a place of religious worship and inciting public hatred.

Canadian youth protection laws prohibit naming the suspect, who was 17 when the offenses occurred.

Police believe the teen may have ties to local racist groups.

“We believe that he is involved with racist groups within this city,” Police Supt. Trevor Daroux told the Calgary Herald. “I won’t say which one because I won’t give them the credibility.”

The Calgary Jewish Community Council praised the police for their diligence in the case.

“These charges send a very strong message that Calgary does not tolerate anti-Semitism or racism of any kind,” Adam Singer, the council’s vice president, told CBC News.

Dancing the Chai Life


When Sarah Sommer started the Chai Folk Ensemble with eight other young girls in 1964, she had modest expectations. The young women practiced Israeli folk dancing in Sommer’s basement in Winnipeg, Canada, stepping in time to recorded music. When they started performing for live audiences in 1967, the recorded music was replaced with a live musician — the mainstay of all folk performances — an accordion player.

Now, 40 years later, The Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble (Sommer died in 1969) is no longer dancing in basements or clicking their heels to accordion music. The nonprofit troupe is run by a board of directors and has a full artistic staff, including costume designers, choreographers from Israel and Argentina, and a technical team that ensures that Sommer’s Israeli folk-dancing vision stays alive. The troupe itself now numbers 47 — including eight vocalists, nine musicians and 20 dancers. They perform in large venues all over the world.

“I don’t think that Sommer ever imagined that it would be as large or survive as long as it had,” said Reeva Nepon, the ensemble’s administrative director. “It really is unique to North America because there are no other [folk] groups this large that have live accompaniment — you won’t find our dancers dancing to recorded music.”

The group’s repertoire has also expanded. They use the dances to tell the story of Jewish communities all over the world, incorporating, Chasidic, klezmer, Israeli and Yiddish influences to give a terpsichorean voice to far-flung communities such as Yemen or Morocco.

At their upcoming Los Angeles performance, for example, the show will close with the dance “Chasida” — the Hebrew word for stork. The dance depicts “Operation Exodus” — the mass migration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel in the late 1980s. In the dance, the performers, wearing sackcloth coats, make their way to the Promised Land. There they shake off their coats and hold them high above their heads, revealing the pristine white dresses worn underneath, and a moment of heart-soaring joy.

“The whole stage lights up and it is so explosive, and so powerful,” said Tracy Kasner-Greaves, Chai’s artistic director. “The performers beam and glow from the stage.”

The Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble will start its first tour of Southern California on Feb. 10 at the Fred Kavli Theatre for Performing Arts, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd., at 7:30 p.m. For tickets ($18-$54) call (805) 449-2787.

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