In wake of stabbing, Palestinians and Jews clash in Hebron

Hours after a Palestinian stabbed a Jewish man in the already tense West Bank city of Hebron, Palestinians and Jews clashed violently there.

In the aftermath of the stabbing Monday that left the Jewish victim critically wounded, dozens of Jewish residents marched in protest to Hebron’s old city, where they threw rocks at Palestinians, the Times of Israel reported.

The clashes, in which the Palestinians sent rocks back in retaliation, occurred outside the Tomb of the Patriarchs, where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah are believed to be interred. The site, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims, houses a synagogue and mosque.

Israeli security forces forced the Jewish protesters to retreat to Hebron’s Jewish neighborhood and restrained Palestinian demonstrators. There were no reported injuries or damage.

In the attack, a 21-year-old Palestinian man stabbed a Jewish man in his 40s near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, leaving several wounds to his upper body. The victim was moved to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, where he arrived in severe condition, according to the Times of Israel.

Israeli forces shot and killed the assailant, Ihab Fathi Miswadi.

Hebron, which is home to several hundred Jewish settlers and approximately 170,000 Palestinians, has been the site of several Palestinian terror attacks in recent days and has been the scene of some of the largest atrocities in the Arab-Israeli conflict. In 1994, Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein opened fire at Muslims worshipping at the Tomb of the Patriarchs mosque, killing 29 and wounding more than 125. In 1929, more than 60 Jews were murdered by Palestinians during a pogrom in Hebron.

World Briefs

Report: Saudi Sponsorship Hidden

Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship of an anti-Israel radio campaign
in the United States last year was reportedly hidden. The Saudi government,
through a Washington public relations firm, Qorvis Communications, spent
$679,000 alone on anti-Israel radio ads that ran in 15 U.S. cities last spring,
Time magazine reported this week. Qorvis initially said the ads were sponsored
by a consortium of Mideast policy groups called the Alliance for Peace and Justice.
But in a filing with the U.S. Justice Department last month, Qorvis revealed
that the funding actually came from the Saudi government, according to the

The Saudis spent at least $14.6 million on anti-Israel
public relations in the United States last year, according to The New York Sun

Sharon Seeks Help From California Rep.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reportedly asked a U.S.
congressman of Lebanese descent to assist in negotiations on a possible
prisoner swap between Israel and Hezbollah. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)
briefed Lebanese and Syrian authorities about the Israeli request and his plan
to comply with it, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported, citing the
Arab-language Al-Hayyat newspaper. In recent months, Issa has met with
relatives of captured and missing Israelis in Lebanon, the report said.

Protests Spur Hitler Show Revision

Under fire by Jewish groups, CBS executives will rework an
upcoming TV miniseries about the young Hitler. CBS President Leslie Moonves
said the upcoming “Hitler: Origins of Evil” will include new material in
addition to the biography upon which it’s based, due to concerns by some Jewish
scholars and organizations that the series would humanize Hitler, the New York
Daily News reported. “I don’t think anybody is going to walk out of this
miniseries saying, ‘Gee, you made Hitler into Tony Soprano,'” Moonves said.

Report: Arabs Threaten Olympic

Islamic extremist groups reportedly have threatened to bomb
the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens if security is assigned to a consortium that
includes Israeli companies.

In addition, Arab nations are threatening to boycott the
Olympics if the SAIC Team gets the security contract for the Games, according
to the Greek newspaper Avriani.

According to Avriani, a classified report from Greece’s
government security service mentions that the possibility of using a “Jewish
company” for security at the Games “will blow the Olympics into the air.”

The so-called “Jewish company” — the SAIC Team — actually is
a U.S. consortium that includes two Israeli companies and several Greek

The report says that some SAIC Team employees come from the
Israeli secret services. The report also notes the possibility of attacks
before the Games, as Muslim groups reportedly have threatened a bombing blitz
if a Jewish company receives the Olympic security contract.

Greece also is reportedly concerned that one of the Israeli
companies on the team has signed a cooperation agreement with Turkey, Greece’s
longtime rival. Greece’s Ministry of National Defense noted that national
security could be compromised if the Israeli company gains access to classified

For this reason, the Israeli company’s insignia has been
dropped from a recent SAIC Team advertising campaign.

U.S. Holocaust Museum Turns 10

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum will soon commemorate its
10th anniversary. To mark the anniversary, the museum will present selections
of Anne Frank’s writings. The display opens on June 12, which would have been
the famed diarist’s 74th birthday, and runs through Sept. 12.

“Our first decade taught us that Holocaust history has the
power to speak to everyone — from inner city students to religious leaders,
from Naval Academy midshipmen to the police and FBI,” said the museum’s
director, Sara Bloomfield.

Since its dedication on April 22, 1993, the Washington-based
museum has welcomed nearly 19 million visitors, including 5.5 million school
children, 2.2 million international visitors and 72 heads of state, according
to museum officials.

Muslim Helps Save Brooklyn

A Muslim from Pakistan helped save a Brooklyn synagogue. The
man, who worked at a gas station near the Congregation Young Israel of Kings
Bay, became suspicious when another man came by several times to fill a
container with gasoline. The man called police when he saw the second person
dousing the synagogue with the gasoline. Police soon arrived at the scene and
arrested the alleged perpetrator, who said he wanted to “get back at the Jews.”
The gas station attendant, who was applauded by local Jewish officials and
politicians, said his religious beliefs prompted him to contact the police.

French Leaders Support Rabbi Injured in

Four former prime ministers of France came to a solidarity
service for a Paris rabbi who was stabbed earlier this month. Rabbi Gabriel
Farhi said his assailant yelled in Arabic, “Allah is Great,” but police say
they have not ruled out the possibility that the attacker was a Jew with
far-right political views who opposed Farhi’s Reform movement. Farhi was
lightly wounded in the Jan. 3 attack.

Last Friday’s ceremony in a small Paris synagogue was so
full that members of the crowd, which included France’s interior minister and
other government officials, had to stand outside. A letter of support also was
read from British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Chummy Dolphins Penned

Vacationers at the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat will no
longer be able to swim with the dolphins, after the sea mammals became a little
too chummy in hitting up bathers for snacks. Nature Reserve Authorities said
the dolphins had become accustomed to being fed by visitors and became
aggressive when they were met empty-handed, Israel Radio reported. As a result,
officials warned the public to stop feeding the dolphins and restricted the
mammals to the Dolphin Reef.

Russia Denies Reactor Deal with Syria

An announcement from the Russian Foreign Ministry that Moscow
is building a nuclear reactor in Syria was mistaken, according to a Russian
official. A senior adviser to the Russian minister of atomic energy, Nicolai
Shingrab, said that even though Syria and Russia have been holding “very
general” discussions on the matter for the past two years, no agreement has
been reached because Syria could not afford to buy

Bin Laden Key Chain a Hit

An Osama bin Laden key chain reportedly is popular among
Palestinians. “They’re very popular, especially among taxi drivers and
children,” a shopkeeper in Ramallah told the Jerusalem Post. According to the
merchant, the popularity of the key chains reflects anti-U.S. sentiment among

Three Palestinians Killed in

Three Palestinians were killed during Israeli operations in
the West Bank on Wednesday. In Tulkarm, Israeli troops shot and killed a
Palestinian youth who threw firebombs at them. Palestinians said another youth
was killed during clashes there. Near Jenin, a 45-year-old Palestinian was
killed during an army operation to arrest two Tanzim members armed with rifles,
grenades and ammunition. In Jenin, troops arrested four other wanted
Palestinians, including a local military commander who planned suicide attacks
in Israel.

Meanwhile, Israeli police and soldiers on Wednesday
destroyed the homes of an East Jerusalem-based terrorist cell responsible for
killing 35 Israelis. The attacks attributed to the so-called Silwan cell
include last July’s bombing at the Hebrew University and suicide attacks at a
Jerusalem cafe and a pool hall in Rishon le-Zion. In another development, on
Tuesday, the army closed two Islamic colleges in Hebron. The action was part of
Israel’s response to the Jan. 5 double suicide bombing in Tel Aviv in which 23
people were killed.

Germany Bans Islamic Group

Germany’s interior minister outlawed an Islamic organization
that he accused of spreading anti-Semitic propaganda. The group, Hizb
ut-Tahrir, “is distinguished by the fact that it is active in universities with
anti-Semitic slogans,” Otto Schily told a Germany TV station Wednesday. He
added that the group had long been under observation by German authorities. The
Interior Ministry said the group advocates the destruction of Israel and the
killing of Jews.

Campaign for ‘Portuguese Dreyfus’

A Jewish group reportedly launched a campaign to clear the
name of a man known as the “Portuguese Dreyfus.” The Jerusalem-based Amishav
organization is trying to persuade the government of Portugal to posthumously
clear the name of Arthur Barros Basto, according to The Jerusalem Post. Basto
was a Jewish army captain driven out of the Portuguese military on trumped-up
charges in the 1940s. “This year marks the 60th anniversary of Capt. Barros
Basto’s discharge from the military,” said Amishav’s director, Michael Freund.
“He was a Jewish hero and role model, and his only transgression was that he
sought to inspire people to return to Judaism at a time when that was not
popular with either the Portuguese government or the Church authorities.”

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

In Cantor vs. Rabbi, Synagogue Is Victim

This High Holiday season, leaders of Temple Ner Maarav want people to know that they are still open for business.

Some might have thought otherwise of the Encino synagogue, which was rocked by a battle that divided members between the shul’s rabbi of 19 years and its more recently hired cantor.

But no. Despite a two-year conflict that cost both the rabbi and the cantor their jobs, caused nearly half the members to leave the synagogue and forced the other half to take out a second mortgage on the building, those who remained want to see that the synagogue not only survives but thrives.

Many temples have weathered storms — or failed to — over personality clashes between its leaders. But Ner Maarav’s civil war was particularly bitter, also causing the departure of the religious school and preschool directors along with the rabbi and cantor.

Now with half its original members and some bad memories to overcome, leaders of this 200-member family group are working several creative angles — including hiring a new rabbi and leasing space to a private school — to rebuild the shul.

Unlike some newer synagogues that hope to expand as much as possible, Ner Maarav is not seeking exponential growth. "Our goal is to have about 350 families," said Ian Smith, current Ner Maarav president. "We can’t really cope with more than that."

Temple Ner Maarav had never been a large synagogue. It was founded about 40 years ago when a group of members desiring a smaller congregation broke off from Valley Beth Shalom (VBS). Dubbing itself Temple Maarav, the group eventually merged with Ner Tamid, and, over time, evolved into a mostly senior congregation meeting in a aging building on White Oak Avenue.

At its peak, membership hit about 400 households.

The problems began about four years ago, Smith said. Friction — most say personality clashes — between Rabbi Aaron Kriegel and Cantor Hesh Mayersdorf began building, peaking in 2000 into a full-blown battle that resulted in both men’s dismissals just prior to the High Holidays in 2001. Kriegel eventually landed a position as spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Ahm in Verona, N.J. (the synagogue his father founded in 1936). Kriegel declined to comment for this story; Mayersdorf confirmed he is seeking another position.

"Still, we kept the temple going," Smith said. "Once we signed the [buyout] agreements with the rabbi and the cantor, we were able to say to the congregation last [High Holidays], ‘The world may be at war, but we at Ner Maarav, for the first time in many years, are at peace.’"

Smith and Maarav have their work cut out for them. They’ve borrowed money to buy out the contracts, "but we will have a balanced budget for the coming year and have stabilized the temple," Smith said.

One of the board’s first tasks was to choose a new rabbi. Synagogue leaders decided to go in an entirely different direction from the traditionally Conservative, somewhat left-leaning Kriegel. In April of this year, Rabbi John Crites-Borak, a convert to Judaism, whose prior careers include working as an air traffic controller in the early 1980s and heading his own public relations firm representing primarily labor unions. Whereas Kriegel was a baby-boomer idealist with a more traditional approach, similar to rabbis like VBS’ Harold Schulweis and the late Melvin Goldstine of Temple Aliyah, Crites-Borak comes across as one of those laid-back-style rabbis who would be as comfortable sitting with the congregation as on the bimah.

Crites-Borak never expected to go into the rabbinate. The idea was first planted in his head during a dinner with author and Rabbi Deborah Orenstein. "The following Shabbat, I went to shul and it was parshat Re’eh, where it says, ‘I set before you today a blessing and a curse.’ We stood for the ‘Aleinu’ and this little girl, she was about 5 or 6, came over and started pulling on my jacket. I looked down and asked, ‘Can I help you?’ And she said, ‘Are you a rabbi?’ And I said no. And she said, ‘You should be a rabbi. You look like a rabbi.’ So I called up to the University of Judaism [UJ] and looked into the program."

Crites-Borak was hired to helm Ner Maarav part time, but already is spending most of his week at the synagogue. What does he consider the greatest challenge facing the congregation? The new rabbi doesn’t mention the financial difficulties nor its struggle to reestablish itself, but a more spiritual concern.

"Ultimately, I asked myself this question: At the end of my days, when I’m standing at the very edge of my grave, what did I want to be able to say about the days of my life?

"The challenge facing the congregants here is the same one that faces Jews everywhere: How do we connect Jewish tradition with everyday life? How do we make sense of Torah, not by what it says about how Jews lived 3,500 years ago, but how we can live in the everyday world?" Crites-Borak said. "That’s my job, to help people reconnect in ways that make sense."

With a rabbi in place, Smith and the board began exploring options for improving their operations. A decision was made to limit the preschool to 15 children and work on building up the religious school until improvements could be made to the dilapidated early childhood center.

Then Ami, a religious school program aimed at Hebrew-speaking children of the Israeli emigres, reached out to the temple for help. The school had operated out of the Valley Cities Jewish Community Center (JCC) for nearly a decade but when the JCCs were faced with financial problems last December, Ami director Shula Klein began looking for a new home for the program. Ner Maarav arranged for Ami to alternate days with its own religious school if Klein would take over as director of both schools, and the families of Ami students would join the synagogue for a nominal fee. Smith said the temple board hopes the Ami families will enjoy being part of Ner Maarav and spread the word to unaffiliated friends.

Another assist arrived in the form of the Sage Academy, a private, nondenominational school run by teachers from the defunct Castlemont School in Tarzana. Sage will rent the temple’s school building during the day, running their programs through the early afternoon after which time the religious school will occupy the building.

Despite the growing population of Jewish families moving into areas like Woodland Hills, Calabasas and Agoura, and competition from nearby VBS, Smith believes Ner Maarav can find a way to fill a niche in the Encino-Sherman Oaks area.

"VBS did a geographic survey of the area, and although a lot of the younger families have moved to the west, there are still a vast number of Jewish families in this area, and because we are not looking to have a 1,700-family congregation, there are enough young people around. We can encourage people to join us if we have the programs," Smith said.

Toward that end, the shul has mailed flyers to 5,000 unaffiliated Jews in the surrounding area with the help of a list provided by The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance. In addition, the synagogue is doing outreach to the Jewish Home for the Aging and is looking to create programs with the UJ.

"We don’t want it to be a separate entity, an island of its own, but to go out into the community," Smith said. "We want the community to know we’re here and want to be actively involved."

For more information about Temple Ner Maarav, call (818) 345-7833.