Girl, 11, killed when tree falls on cabin at Jewish camp in Indiana


An 11-year-old girl was killed when a tree fell on a cabin at a Jewish camp in Indiana.

The accident occurred early Tuesday morning at Camp Livingston in Bennington, which serves campers from various midwestern cities, including Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky.

A healthy tree was struck by lightning during a severe storm and fell on a cabin where campers were sleeping, the camp said in a statement. The camper was seriously injured and died of her injuries after emergency services arrived.  No other campers or staff were injured, according to the statement.

Grief counselors from Cincinnati arrived at the camp hours later to assist campers and staff in dealing with the news, according to camp officials. Every child at camp was also scheduled to call home on Tuesday.

One of the dead girl’s siblings also is at the camp, WKRC Cincinnati reported. The girl is from Columbus, according to news station.

Indiana anti-BDS bill passes state Senate


The Indiana Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill banning state dealings with entities that boycott Israel or its settlements.

The bill approved 47-3 on Tuesday, with bipartisan backing, defines “the promotion of activities to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel” as meeting the standard of “extraordinary circumstances” necessary under state law to mandate divestment from a company.

The state House of Representatives passed the measure in January.  Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican who was a pro-Israel leader when he was in the U.S. Congress, is expected to sign the bill into law.

“This will place Indiana among the select vanguard of states that have publicly defended the Jewish State of Israel using proactive legislation,” said a statement Wednesday by the Jewish Affairs Committee of Indiana, which led the lobbying effort for the bill.

The bill includes in its definition “territories controlled by the Jewish State of Israel,” effectively including any bid to boycott settlements in its purview.

It is one of over 20 bills that have passed or are under consideration in state legislatures that would counter the BDS movement; not all include language targeting settlements. The Obama administration has said that while it will continue to oppose efforts to boycott Israel, it will not oppose bids that specifically target settlements.

The businesses defined in the bill include commercial enterprises and nonprofit organizations, which would mean that the bill, once enacted, would apply to universities. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement has focused its efforts on campuses and scholarly associations.

Funds that would be mandated to divest from businesses that boycott Israel include the retirement funds of teachers and public employees.

Indiana House unanimously passes anti-BDS bill


The Indiana House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill banning state dealings with entities that boycott Israel.

The bill sent to the state’s Senate on Jan. 26 defines “the promotion of activities to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel” as meeting the standard of “extraordinary circumstances” necessary under state law to mandate divestment from a company.

The Indiana bill states that the effort to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel is “antithetical and deeply damaging to the cause of peace, justice, equality, democracy and human rights for all people in the Middle East.”

The bill is one of about a dozen now under consideration in state legislatures that would counter the BDS movement

The businesses defined in the bill include commercial enterprises and non-profit organizations, which would mean that the law, once passed, would apply to universities. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement has focused its efforts on campuses and scholarly associations.

Funds that would be mandated to divest from businesses that boycott Israel include the teachers’ retirement fund and the public employees retirement fund.

Elliot Bartky, the president of the Jewish Affairs Committee of Indiana, which lobbied for the bill, thanked the state House for its passage, and noted in a statement that its sponsor, House Speaker Brian Bosma, a Republican, had led passage last year of a non-binding resolution in the House condemning BDS; a similar resolution was approved in the Senate

“Speaker Bosma’s leadership role in support of Israel places Indiana at the forefront of states taking a strong position in favor of the United States’ closest ally,” Bartky’s statement said.

Should the state Senate approve the bill, Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican known for his pro-Israel leadership while he was in the U.S. Congress, is expected to sign it.

Camper Ethan Kadish’s condition still critical after lightning strike


Ethan Kadish, the only one of three campers still hospitalized after being struck by lightning Saturday at a Jewish camp in Indiana, remains in critical but stable condition.

The 12-year-old from Cincinnati requires help with his breathing and needs his chest cleared, according to his family, who set up a website, Caringbridge.org/visit/ethankadish, to provide updates on his condition.

“Ethan continues to work with his medical team on recovery,” the Kadish family wrote. “We want to let all of you know that his recovery is going to take time.”

The three campers were hurt when lightning struck without warning at about 1:30 p.m. on Saturday during an Ultimate Frisbee game on the athletic  field of the Goldman Union Camp Institute in Zionsville, Ind., the St. Louis Jewish Light reported. The other two children injured were Lily Hoberman, 9, of Missouri and Noah Auerbach, 9, of Kentucky. All three campers were admitted to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

It was not raining, nor was there a storm in the area at the time of the lightning strike, Indianapolis Police spokesman Kendale Adams told reporters.

Lily’s mother, Michelle Hoberman, credited a staffer at the camp with saving her daughter’s life.

“One young man, a wilderness specialist at the camp from Pittsburgh, administered CPR and shocked Lily back to life. He was the angel who saved her,” Hoberman told the St. Louis Jewish Light. “Another young man from Cincinnati, Ohio, a college student, was there to assist him.”

Hoberman said the expected Lily to make a full recovery.

The families of the injured are setting up a fund to be used to support continued medical training for staffers and provide medical equipment and supplies, Hoberman told the newspaper.

Several hundred children in grades 3 through 12 are in residence at the camp, which is affiliated with the Reform movement.

The Iranian threat hits home


Amid analysis of the Iranian nuclear threat and how America should respond on a national level, recent attacks on Israeli embassies in India and Georgia has Jewish institutions asking a question that is much closer to home: Does Iran pose a local terror threat?

“Homeland security really starts as security in the neighborhood,” Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Jewish Federations of North America-affiliated Secure Community Network (SCN), told JointMedia News Service.

The national Jewish security perspective

SCN, which partners with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and 56 major Jewish organizations, is asking Jewish organizations “to remain vigilant, to ensure that they have tested their [emergency management and response] plans,” and if they do not have plans, to develop them, Goldenberg said.

“It’s a matter of record that Jewish institutions in the Diaspora have been attacked by both proxies of Iran as well as other extremist and terrorist organizations,” he said.

While there is “no specific or imminent threat against the American-Jewish community” at this juncture, according to Goldenberg, he said does not mean “some lone wolf, some cell out there, is still plotting and planning, and law enforcement doesn’t know about it.”

Though he said an attack by Iran isn’t necessarily “likely,” the October 2011 assassination attempt on the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington suggests Iran is “not beyond setting its sights on targets within the U.S. homeland,” said Ilan Berman, vice president of the Washington, DC-based American Foreign Policy Council.

Berman said “you’ve seen Iran strike Jewish targets in the Western hemisphere before,” citing bombings in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in both 1992 and 1994. More recently, he said there has been “a significant shift in Iranian strategy in terms of its willingness to target the U.S. homeland.”

“I wouldn’t necessarily say that Jewish targets are the most likely targets, but they certainly should be part of the calculation as you think about an increasingly emboldened Iran that’s willing to strike out against targets in the U.S. homeland,” Berman told JointMedia News Service. “They’re certainly in the mix.”

The local Jewish perspective

According to a Washington Post survey, California ranks first among the 50 states in “domestically focused counter-terrorism and homeland security organizations.” Sixty-four urban metropolitan areas are designated as “high-threat, high-density,” while the state has identified 623 sites as “potential targets.” One, the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport, was hit in 2002 in an attack that killed two people and wounded four.

California instituted a massive counterterrorist program well before 9/11. Measures first taken to protect the 1984 Summer Olympic Games led to the development of the Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in 1986. A Terrorism Early Warning Group (TEWG) was established in 1996. By 9/11, federal and state counter-terrorism authorities already had a loose-knit network of TEWGs and JTTFs. The California Emergency Management Agency (CAL-EMA), established in 2009, coordinates homeland security and emergency management functions.

Sinai Temple, the largest Conservative synagogue in Los Angeles, is a facility that also includes a day school, afternoon Hebrew school, and, according to Executive Director Howard Lesner, “has activities going on seven days a week.” The temple implemented enhanced security measures immediately after 9/11.

“The greatest change is getting in and out of the building,” said Lesner. Sinai employs a fulltime head of security—a retired law enforcement professional who remains fully armed. He works closely with an outside security agency that provides trained guards, some armed, some not.

“We are in constant contact with the local police department, the FBI and Homeland Security,” Lesner said. Entry and exit are limited to a single door, controlled by a fulltime, trained guard stationed outside the building.  Everyone entering the building is checked: employees must present identification, and their appearances are always prescheduled.

“If someone just shows up,” said Lesner, “that person is not allowed in.”

Temple Sinai members receive numbered identification tags for their cars, checked at a manned kiosk prior to pulling in to the parking area. To enter the synagogue building, a picture ID must be presented. The synagogue security system is tied in to both the local police and federal law enforcement authorities, enabling security personnel to check the records of every person seeking to enter. “The system is very successful,” Lesner noted, “and has prevented access to several persons identified as inappropriate.”

With funds provided by a grant from Homeland Security, a 24-hour, fully manned visual surveillance system further enhances security at Sinai Temple. Working in close cooperation with local law enforcement, the synagogue established a “red zone” prohibiting parking on all four sides of the full-block structure. The Los Angeles Police Department responds quickly to any perceived threat.  “When an unattended package was discovered, the bomb squad responded immediately,” recalled Lesner (the package ending up being benign).

“If al-Qaeda should decide to target [us], there is little that can be done. But 99 percent of the crackpots—when they see security—move on to the next target. Presence makes the difference,” said Lesner. “We are very proactive. A community can’t spend enough money to protect its greatest assets—its children.”

What steps can Jewish institutions take?

The SCN’s Goldenberg said Jewish institutions should be training their staff and volunteers in security awareness, while being be very cognizant of suspicious activities and reporting them to local police. To that end, the SCN website (www.scnus.org) has an “Enter” section on its homepage providing free 24/7 online security training.

SCN’s online training is the “only one of its kind in the country,” Goldenberg said, and includes information on how to respond to an active shooter, security awareness, how to handle a suspicious package, and how to answer a bomb call.

The Jewish community “should not be panicked,” he said, but instead needs to “remain open for business.”

“We’re not stores,” Goldenberg said. “We’re places where people come to pray, people come to socialize, people come for social services from our community.”

“As long as the situation in the Mideast remains the way it does at this point,” he added, “we are asking our communities to remain very vigilant in how they are conducting business.”

Jewish college student missing in Indiana


Police, family and friends are searching for Lauren Spierer, a sophomore at Indiana University who is missing.

Spierer, 20, who is Jewish, has been missing since early on the morning of June 3, the Indiana Daily Student reported.

Fliers with the native New Yorker’s picture and information about her have been posted throughout Bloomington, the site of the university.

She was last seen leaving an off-campus sports bar less than two blocks from her apartment where she had spent the evening with friends, according to the student newspaper. She never made it to her apartment.

Spierer’s parents, Robert and Charlene Spierer, flew to Bloomington from New York on June 4 to coordinate the search, which has included the campus, the town and area woods and parks. Police said they had her cell phone and wallet, though it is not clear whether Spierer left them at the bar, according to the Daily Student.

A Facebook page, Lauren Spierer Missing, has been created. As of Monday morning it had nearly 1,700 friends.

Indiana U. fires suspect in anti-Semitic attack


Indiana University reportedly has fired an employee who was identified as a suspect in one attack in a series on Jewish targets.

Mark Zacharias, the scholarship coordinator of IU’s Hutton Honors College Scholarship, was let go after working at the university for seven years, The Herald-Times in Bloomington reported Tuesday. He has been charged with felony institutional criminal mischief.

Zacharias had turned himself in on Dec. 17 and was released after posting a $500 bond.

He was suspended without pay on Dec. 9, The Associated Press reported.

Zacharias is accused of using a rock to break the staff directory glass display case for the Robert A. and Sandra B. Borns Jewish Studies Program on Nov. 30.
He has not been officially connected to the other recent incidents on the campus.

The other incidents include rocks thrown through the windows of two campus Jewish student centers and a rock thrown through the window of an apartment above the Chabad Jewish student center just off the university campus. In the latter incident, the rock nearly hit a student and put a hole in the opposite wall.

Also, eight religious volumes in Hebrew removed from shelves at a university library were urinated on in eight bathrooms in the library area, according to reports.

More attacks hit Jewish targets at Indiana Univ.


The desecration of holy texts was among three new attacks on Jewish targets at Indiana University that come in the wake of two earlier incidents.

A rock was thrown Tuesday morning through the window of an apartment above the Chabad Jewish student center, located just off the university campus, nearly hitting a student and putting a hole in the opposite wall. Four non-Jewish students live in the Chabad apartment.

Less than an hour later, a rock was thrown at the staff directory glass display case for the Robert A. and Sandra B. Borns Jewish Studies Program, causing damage.

On Monday evening, eight religious volumes in Hebrew removed from shelves at a university library were urinated on in eight different bathrooms in the library area, according to reports.

Although no students have approached his office, Dean of Students Pete Goldsmith said he and his office are reaching out to the Jewish community and offering their support.

“It’s something that shouldn’t happen in the university community,” Goldsmith told the Indiana Daily Student newspaper. “It’s a place of tolerance.”

Uniform and plainclothes police officers have stepped up their presence around the vandalized areas, according to reports. The FBI has been brought in, since they appear to be hate crimes.

Bloomington police reportedly have a description of a suspect, allegedly seen at the site of one of the incidents. Reportedly it is a bearded male aged 40 to 50.

The rock thrown last week through the window of the Chabad House is now a piece of the foundation of the Jewish student center’s new 12-foot menorah, the Daily Student reported.

Meanwhile, Jewish students at the University of Ottawa have rebuilt a metal and wire menorah after their 10-foot-high menorah was stolen and later found badly damaged.

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