Baghdad priest: City’s Jews must leave after names in WikiLeaks

The handful of Jews remaining in Baghdad must leave because their names appeared in a WikiLeaks cable, an Anglican priest in the Iraqi capital said.

The priest said he is working with the U.S. Embassy to get the Jews to emigrate, the McClatchy news service reported. The embassy told the news service that it would work to protect the named individuals and that the United States would help to relocate them.

“Protecting individuals whose safety is at risk because of the release of the purported cables remains a priority,” the embassy said in a statement. “We are working actively to ensure that they remain safe.”

An official from a Jewish organization familiar with the situation told JTA that he doubts that the release of the Wikileaks cables has changed the security situation for Baghdad’s Jews. Over the last decade or so, various Jewish organizations and governments have offered Iraq’s Jews opportunities to leave, but they repeatedly have turned the offers down, the official said.

The last remaining synagogue in Iraq has closed due to the dwindling numbers of Jews.

The names were made public after the publication of a password that opened the encrypted versions of the cables available on the WikiLeaks website.

Priest, born Jewish, is ‘Torn’

In the opening scene of the documentary “Torn,” an official asks an elderly man for his name, and he replies, “Romuald-Jakub Weksler-Waszkinel.”

This name encapsulates the fate of Jakub (Yankele) Weksler, born 1943 in Lublin, Poland, to Jewish parents during the Holocaust years and adopted by a Christian Polish family to save his life. At 17, the one-time Yankele enters a seminary and eventually becomes Father Romuald Waszkinel, a Catholic priest.

As his Polish mother lies dying, she tells the 35-year-old priest that — like thousands of other Jewish children hidden by Catholic families and in convents during the war — he was born a Jew.

In the remainder of “Torn,” Israeli filmmaker Ronit Kertsner documents a man’s struggle to reconcile two faiths that he sees as one, but which the Christian and Jewish outside worlds view as mutually exclusive beliefs.

The man’s internal struggle is given external expression in his small bedroom, where a painting of Jesus is flanked by an engraving of the Shema prayer and a small menorah. Adjacent are faded photos of his Jewish and Christian mothers.

Over the years, the priest’s conviction grows that he must go to Israel to study Hebrew, and in his mid-60s he arrives at Sde Eliyahu, an Orthodox kibbutz, to enroll in its ulpan (intensive Hebrew-language program).

But here, as in Poland, Weksler-Waszkinel’s insistence that he is both Jewish and Catholic stumps even the generally sympathetic kibbutzniks and Israeli bureaucrats.

For one, Israel’s Law of Return, which grants automatic entry to any Jew, does not apply to those practicing a different faith, and no Christian monastery in Israel will accept him in their own ranks.

Weksler-Waszkinel, now known as Yaakov, is at first indignant (“You mean secularists like Marx and Trotsky are Jews, but not me?”), then agrees to forgo saying Sunday Mass at a church in Tiberias, but he refuses to take the final step.

“I can deny everything [about Catholicism], but not Jesus,” he proclaims, but adds later, “I am convinced the God of Israel loves me, as I love Him.”

As Yaakov continues his struggle, his great friend is the American-born chief rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, who becomes the mediator between Yaakov and his would-be Israeli compatriots.

One unforgettable picture symbolizes Yaakov’s duality. As he approaches the Western Wall in Jerusalem, he carefully adjusts his priestly Roman collar, and then his embroidered kippah.

Currently, Yaakov works as an archivist at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem and appears happy, filmmaker Kertsner said. He has been officially classified as a “permanent resident,” which allows him three years to decide whether to apply for Israeli citizenship.

Kertsner said that of the many thousands of Jewish children saved by Poles during the Holocaust, she knew of no other instance of a born Jew becoming a priest.

She brings a special empathy to the subject of her documentary. “When I was around 35, I learned that I had been adopted as a child, and then I went through a severe identity crisis,” she said.

Her American parents moved after World War II to Israel, where Ronit was born in 1956. She started, and continues, her career as a film editor, partly due to the influence of her uncle, the American actor David Opatoshu. As producer of “Torn,” she decided to also direct it when no one else wanted the job.

Her other documentaries — “Menachem and Fred,” “I, the Aforementioned Infant” and “The Secret” — also deal with identity crises. Asked if she plans on doing any feature films, she answered, “Why should I, when real life is so fascinating?”

The Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival will screen “Torn” on Aug. 10 at the Museum of Tolerance as part of its “Midsummer Night’s Film Festival” series. The film starts at 7:30 p.m., followed by a panel discussion with Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; the Rev. Alexei Smith, director of the Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles; and director Kertsner. Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, will serve as moderator.

For tickets or information about the screening, please call (800) 838-3006 or visit For more background on “Torn” and its director, visit

Leading priest blames Jews for Greece’s problems

A high-level priest on the morning show of the largest television station in Greece blamed world Jewry for Greece’s financial problems.

The Metropolite of Piraeus Seraphim also blamed world Jewry for other ills in the country during his appearance on Mega TV.

Mixing Freemasons with Jewish bankers such as Baron Rothschild and world Zionism, the Metropolite said that there is a conspiracy to enslave Greece and Christian Orthodoxy. He also accused international Zionism of trying to destroy the family unit by promoting one-parent families and same-sex marriages.

Thirteen minutes into the program the Greek host asked the Metropolite, “Why do you disagree with Hitler’s policies? If they are doing all this, wasn’t he right in burning them?”

The Metropolite answered, “Adolf Hitler was an instrument of world Zionism and was financed from the renowned Rothschild family with the sole purpose of convincing the Jews to leave the shores of Europe and go to Israel to establish the new Empire.”

Jews such as “Rockefeller, Rothschild and Soros control the international banking system that controls globalization,” the Metropolite also said.

The Metropolite of Piraeus Seraphim is not the only Greek priest with such extreme ideas, as Salonika’s Metropolite Anthimos also has preached similar ideas from his pulpit.

“Watching and listening to the program, I felt disgust hearing the Metropolite of Piraeus expressing himself like that against world Zionism, and shamelessly saying that Hitler with the help of Jewish bankers did what he did,” said Benjamin Albala, president of the Athens Jewish community.

Researcher tracing Jewish genes meets the Kohanim of Africa [VIDEO]

Dr. David B. Goldstein from Duke’s Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy talks about tracking the genetic history of the ancient Jewish priesthood (kohanim) and the Lost Tribe of Israel, the focus of his new book, “Jacob’s Legacy”.

For many people, genetics research conjures up frightening notions of racial or religious superiority — or the possibility of genetic discrimination. David B. Goldstein isn’t worried about either of these things.

“I take the view that there isn’t anything to be afraid of in our genetic makeups. So I really think that it’s interesting, fascinating even, sometimes important, but there isn’t anything scary lurking there,” said Goldstein, a professor of molecular genetics and the director of Duke University’s Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy’s Center for Population Genomics &Pharmacogenetics.

Goldstein, 44, even applies his open-research policy to a scientific study a few years ago that linked genetic diseases to intelligence among Ashkenazi Jews. He calls that work “speculative,” but he doesn’t rule out research into the issue.

“That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be really careful in how you present what’s been done,” he said. “I think you do, and I think we’ve seen mistakes in how work is presented. I think it’s really reckless to overstate results. But I don’t think there are any areas that are unwise to investigate, because I’m just not afraid of what we’re going to find.”

In “Jacob’s Legacy: A Genetic View of Jewish History,” recently published by Yale University Press, Goldstein uses the latest genetic methods — including genetic mapping and advanced DNA testing — to illuminate compelling issues in Jewish history like the biblical priesthood, the Lost Tribes, Jewish migration, and Jewish genetic diseases.

Goldstein’s most startling finding: There are enough Y chromosome similarities among many who call themselves descendants of the Cohanim, the biblical priestly caste, to argue for genetic Cohen continuity.

He and his colleagues tested these similarities by comparing the Y chromosomes of Cohanim with the chromosomes of other Jews. Sure enough, the majority of the self-identified Cohanim, whether Ashkenazi or Sephardi Jews, had the same type of Y chromosome. Further testing by Goldstein and friends leads him to estimate that the Cohanim were founded before the Roman era — and perhaps before the Babylonian conquest in the sixth century B.C.E.

Even Goldstein was blown away.

“The apparent continuity of the Cohen Y chromosome was an out-and-out stunner; I would have never predicted that to be the case,” he said.

He also finds genetic evidence for the idea that the Lemba tribe in Africa might have some Jewish origins, a finding that the media simplified by saying he had shown the Lemba are one of Judaism’s 10 Lost Tribes.

In the section on the Lemba, and indeed throughout the book, Goldstein is careful about his conclusions. For him, the research is more about shedding light on themes of Jewish history, such as exile and Diaspora. As he puts it in the book, “What makes a people a people? What binds them together through time? What alienates them from some and aligns them to others?”

As admirable as the book’s scholarship is its readability. Goldstein’s jargon-free writing and sense of humor courts readers who are not hard-core scientists. At different points in the book, he calls himself a “lousy mathematician” and as “having a bit of the gambler in my genes,” and, in the section about the alleged link between genetic diseases and intelligence, he writes, “Now we geneticists have a genuine kerfuffle on our hands.”

Don’t be misled — Goldstein’s book isn’t “Jewish Genetics for Dummies.” But he has taken cutting-edge science and made it accessible to the general reader willing to make an effort.

It wasn’t easy, admitted Goldstein, whose academic work focuses on medical genetics — specifically, why some people control HIV better than other people and why some people respond better to some medicines than other people.

“I started writing this just about 10 years ago. The discussions of the science were dreadful, incomprehensible. And so I just tried it again and again until I found ways that worked and that people didn’t complain about when I showed it to them.”

Part of the motivation for the book, Goldstein says, stems from guilt he feels because he remained in graduate school at Stanford and didn’t go to Israel when the 1991 Gulf War broke out.

“I did feel like I should do something. And I think doing some work eventually at least gave me some kind of connection to read about Jewish history as part of my job, and that definitely made me feel better. I guess I finally got over it and started going to Israel regularly, which I still do.”

He’s frank about the limitations of genetic history. “[G]enetics can never, however, replace, or even compete with, the painstaking work of archaeology, philology, linguistics, paleobotany and the many other disciplines that have helped resurrect some of the lost stories of human history,” Goldstein writes.

Understandably, though, he’s proud that his research has yielded some insight into some vexing issues, and shares the notion that what he is doing on some issues — say, the Cohanim — borders on the fantastic.

“The continuity of the Cohen paternal line is an astounding thing,” he said. “And it’s a little tiny bit of history that genetics tells you about.”

Peter Ephross’ articles and reviews have appeared in the Village Voice, the Forward and Publishers Weekly, among other publications.

VIDEO: Tel Aviv rally protests religious persecution in China

Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy lead rally protesting Chinese persecution of Falun Gong and China’s involvement in Sudan

VIDEO: Duke professor searches for ‘kohanim’ genetic marker

Dr. David B. Goldstein from Duke’s Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy talks about tracking the genetic history of the ancient Jewish priesthood (kohanim) and the Lost Tribe of Israel, the focus of his news book, “Jacob’s Legacy”.

Divestment Bad for Israelis, Palestinians

In the past year, several mainline American church bodies have favored divesting their assets from companies doing business with Israel. As an

Anglican priest, I find this very disturbing, especially so when my own American branch of Anglicanism (The Episcopal Church) has considered a similar course. I have discussed this with my friend, Rabbi John Rosove of Temple Israel Hollywood, which is near my parish of St. Thomas the Apostle. Our discussion motivated me to write to the appropriate national committees of my church to protest any possible divestment.

At the recent Anglican Consultative Counsel, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams opposed divestment. This statement echoes the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, when he also spoke in opposition to divestment.

Earlier this year, Massachusetts Episcopal Bishop Thomas Shaw publicly stated that he, too, is against any effort to divest funds from Israel.

“Divestment is especially inappropriate now,” said Shaw, at a time he described as a “period of hope for peace.”

And he correctly pointed out that divestment would also harm Palestinians because of the interrelationship between the Israeli and Palestinian economies. Shaw pronounced that he would “continue to work for the rights of the Palestinian people and a secure state of Israel.”

Subsequently, more and more bishops throughout the Anglican Communion are taking a public stance opposed to divestment. Most recently and notably, the Rev. Mark Sisk, bishop of New York, asserted that “now is the time to invest not divest” in the State of Israel.

Since the death of Yasser Arafat and the subsequent election of Mahmoud Abbas as leader of the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian-Israeli negotiations have reached their highest levels of activity and hopefulness in years. Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah joined together in a summit declaring a cease-fire. Abbas publicly declared that the war with Israel is over. Mubarak and Abdullah have agreed to return their ambassadors to Israel.

The relationship between Israel and other Arab nations has never showed such signs of hope. Israel unilaterally abandoned all settlements in Gaza and four in the northern West Bank. Major Palestinian areas are being restored to Palestinian control. In addition, the Israeli security barrier has been rerouted to include less than 5 percent of West Bank territory, and Israel has ended the policy of demolishing homes of Palestinians tied to terrorism.

In spite of this, in February of this year a Tel Aviv suicide bombing claimed the innocent lives of five Israelis and injured another 50. Most recently, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up Sunday near the central bus station in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, seriously wounding two security guards who tried to stop him in the first such attack since Israel began a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip this month.

I have visited Israel on three separate occasions (once in residence at St. George’s College, Jerusalem). While there, I had the opportunity to meet some prominent Anglican Palestinians in their homes. I also have traveled throughout the country, including the West Bank and visited Palestinian cities. Then, too, I have stayed on kibbutzim and been a guest in Jewish Israeli homes. I consider myself a priest with a social conscience and sensitivity, which might lead one to assume that I would blindly support the Palestinian perspective. And I have considerable sympathy for Palestinian concerns. However, I discovered that there are two sides to the extremely complex political situation involving the Palestinians and Israelis. Thus, I came to support both peaceful Palestinian self-determination and the security of the Israeli state. I believe a Palestinian state and a Jewish state can co-exist.

When it comes to divestment, it would be wrong to adopt a policy that so hastily condemns and punishes Israel. I sincerely hope that the leaders of the Episcopal Church — my church — would choose instead to assist in the development of democracy, the economy and the active peace effort within the new Palestinian government. By investing rather than divesting, we encourage the tentative overtures between the Arab world and Israel, and we use economic clout to pressure Syria and Iran to support the peace process rather than to sabotage it. Divestment, in contrast, would serve only to harden the extreme positions in both societies.

I am not alone in feeling this way. Given the mounting protests by Episcopal bishops and clergy, I am encouraged that any movement toward divestment from Israel will not receive sufficient support.

The Rev. Mark D. Stuart officiates at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Hollywood.


Finding Faith


Like the priest in her latest movie, directorLesli Linka Glatter is finding her own faith.

Set in aristocratic 1930s Boston, “TheProposition” stars William Hurt and Madeleine Stowe as Arthur andEleanor Barrett, an infertile couple who go to extreme measures toconceive. They employ the services of Neil Patrick Harris (yes,”Doogie Howser” himself), who falls in love with Eleanor. Thesituation leads to murder as the Barretts try to avoid a humiliatingscandal, and Eleanor seeks comfort in the arms of Father McKinnon(Kenneth Branagh), a young priest new to the local parish.

Realizing the potential controversy in her subjectmatter, Glatter employed two Catholic advisers during filming. “Ilearned that Catholicism is strict, rigid, but also has anunderstanding of human frailty,” she says. In the film, McKinnon “isin [the priesthood] for all the wrong reasons, but he ends up withhis faith.”

>Glatter, whohas Jewish ancestry on both sides of her family, was raised with asense of spirit rather than any specific religion. “I don’t know howto untangle my heritage,” she says. “I was raised with the idea thateverybody is looking for the same thing, but there are differentpaths of getting there.”

Glatter first decided to make movies while workingas a modern dance choreographer in Tokyo, where she met a man in his80s who told her six different stories. “I felt an obligation to passthem along,” she says.

She returned to the States and enrolled in the AFIDirecting Workshop for Women, where she turned her obligation into anAcademy Award-nominated short film. “I did everything you’re notsupposed to do. Three-quarters of it was in Japanese. It was really afluke of nature.”

Her work led to an apprenticeship on StevenSpielberg’s “Amazing Stories” series, for which she directed threeepisodes. Other television work followed: three movies for HBO, ahandful of “Twin Peaks” episodes, as well as “NYPD Blue” and “ER.”(She is directing the upcoming season finale of that series.) Herfeature debut came with “Now and Then,” an all-female coming-of-agecomedy with Demi Moore, Melanie Griffith and Rosie O’Donnell.

“The Proposition” was in development for more thanfour years before Glatter came on board. She was attracted to theperiod piece for its romantic appeal and the contemporary issues shethinks the material raises. “Humans think they have so much control,but, in reality, have so little. Women spend half of their livestrying to get pregnant…. It’s not to happen in a test tube in adoctor’s office,” the mother of a 6-year-old son says.

Glatter is hopeful that there will be an audiencefor her film, and that the subject matter won’t prove toocontroversial. She considers last week’s première a success.”When people stay late at the party, that’s always a good sign,” shesays.

Polygram, the film’s distributor, may be lesssure, opening “The Proposition” in New York and Los Angeles today, aswell as testing the film in two secondary markets. Depending on itssuccess, the film will open nationally later this spring. “It’s justone person’s opinion,” she says of reviews. “You can’t take every badreview to heart. You can’t read any of it. Either they really connectto it, or they don’t.”

As for the public, Glatter has gotten littlefeedback thus far. “The subject matter is unique. I don’t know ifit’s everyone’s cup of tea…. It certainly leaves a lot open fordiscussion.”

Like Father McKinnon, Glatter believes one needsto find faith in order to find material. “A big barometer to whetheror not I’m going to do a project is if I’m not going to be home topick up my son at school, then it better be worth it.,” shesays.

“Do something you’re passionate about and be verytenacious.”

Top, Father McKinnon (Kenneth Branagh) providescomfort to Eleanor Barrett (Madeleine Stowe), as her husband becomessuspicious in “The Proposition,” directed by Lesli Linka Glatter(above).