Israeli Chief Rabbi David Lau: Slur on blacks was a ‘joke’

Rabbi David Lau, the newly elected chief rabbi of Israel, said a remark he made about blacks that was widely condemned as racist was a “joke.”

Lau told haredi Orthodox students at a yeshiva in the Israeli town of Modiin Illit last week to stop hanging out at convenience stores to watch basketball on television.

“Why do you care about whether the ‘kushim’ who get paid in Tel Aviv beat the ‘kushim’ who get paid in Greece?” he said, using a derogatory Israeli term for blacks.

The remarks were first reported by a phone news service for haredim, Hakol Haharedi, and subsequently picked up by major Israeli newspapers.

In an interview Thursday on Israel Radio, Lau responded to the criticism by saying that Israelis “excel at taking a humorous remark and turning it into a headline.” He added, “The one and only headline is: You are yeshiva students so sit and study Torah.”

Lau was elected last month to a 10-year term as Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi. After the reports this week about his comment, he canceled a planned vacation abroad.

Paraguayan Jewish soccer boss suspended for racial slurs against Arabs

Paraguay’s soccer association has suspended the Jewish president of a team for hurling racial slurs at a colleague of Arab descent.

During a match last month, the president of Asuncion’s Olimpia soccer team, Marcelo Recanate, accosted Juan José Zapag, the president of a rival team.

Recanate will be suspended for four months and suffer a 60-month reduction in pay, Dr. Raul Prono of the ethics committee of the Association of Football in Paraguay said on Thursday.

In a recording of the incident, Recanate is heard repeatedly cursing Zapag “and all of his countrymen.”

Recanate has apologized for the insults in a press conference, which he convened shortly after the incident.

“I want to offer my apologies to the father of my fathers all the way to Abraham, and the patrimony of the Jewish and Arab people. There can be no place for racism against my brothers,” he said at the press conference.

Olimpia has won 39 national titles, more than any other team in Paraguay.

Israeli school bus driver suspended for slurring Ethiopian children

An Israeli school bus driver was suspended for making racist statements to Ethiopian children.

The driver’s comments were recorded during a bus ride and played for a school principal and the absorption center manager, Haaretz reported Wednesday. The route includes taking students from the immigrant absorption center in Mevaseret Zion to schools in the Jerusalem area.

Reportedly the driver called the children “smelly” and said that “You will never change, you stay the same s—- all the time.”

At a hearing within the bus company, the driver reportedly apologized and said that he acted the way he did because the Ethiopian children frequently vandalize his bus.

The incident comes on the heels of a demonstration by thousands of protesters Wednesday night in Jerusalem against racism and discrimination against Ethiopians.

A teacher’s slur roils La Cañada School District

In October, Cindy Wilcox, then a member of the La Cañada Unified School District’s (LCUSD) Board of Governors, made public that she had filed an official complaint against a teacher at the district’s high-performing public high school. The public reaction was mixed, immediate — and intense.

The complaint alleges that Gabrielle Leko, a tenured math teacher at La Cañada High School, made bigoted remarks during the 2011-12 school year to students in her ninth-grade honors geometry class, including calling a Jewish student “Jew boy.”

Wilcox, who earlier this month stepped down after two four-year terms on the LCUSD board, said in a recent interview that some who live in La Cañada Flintridge, a wealthy city in the San Gabriel Valley, have thanked her for speaking up.

“But other people,” Wilcox said, “said this should never be public.” One particularly blunt letter published in the La Cañada Valley Sun, a local weekly newspaper, began with the sentence, “Cindy Wilcox should be ashamed of herself and leave La Cañada!”

Wilcox filed the complaint in June after hearing reports from parents of Leko’s students. But because none of those parents would attach their names to her official complaint, Wilcox decided to go public in October in the hope of finding a parent or student who might corroborate firsthand, on the record, the allegations against the teacher.

Speaking with The Jewish Journal in November, Wilcox said her complaint referenced a number of biased comments allegedly made by Leko, including remarks targeting an Armenian student, female students and a student with a stutter, in addition to allegedly calling one unnamed Jewish student “Jew boy” and “my little latke.”

Unbeknownst to Wilcox, Debra Archuleta and her daughter, Alyssa Stolmack, now a 10th-grader at La Cañada High School and a student in Leko’s 2010-11 class, also had complained about Leko’s remarks. In February and March 2011, Archuleta had contacted Jackie Luzak, the school’s principal, and Stolmack also attempted to raise the issue with a counselor at La Cañada High School.

Despite their efforts, nothing happened, Archuleta told a packed LCUSD board meeting on Nov. 15. It was only when Archuleta learned of Wilcox’s complaint in an article in a local newspaper that she and her daughter decided to become the public face of the case against Leko.

“There has not been one other parent in this town that has been willing to do what my daughter and I have been willing to do, and I think it’s frankly shameful,” Archuleta said at the November meeting.

For Jews who live in La Cañada Flintridge, the situation has raised questions about anti-Semitism.

“Pasadena, San Marino, La Cañada — these have historically been kind of unwelcoming to minorities,” said Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater of the Pasadena Jewish Temple & Center. “All these areas had quotas on Jews.”

Grater estimates that at least 25 member families of his synagogue’s 520 live in La Cañada, which has no synagogue of its own.

Rabbi Rick Schechter of Temple Sinai of Glendale, which also draws families from La Cañada, said that in six years on the pulpit he has heard a few stories about anti-Semitic comments being made in area schools.

“Of the three instances that come to my mind,” Schechter said, a number that includes the Leko case, “two involve people of authority working for the school systems. It’s not a large number, it’s not an epidemic, but it’s certainly shocking.”

Still, many Jewish parents of LCUSD students or graduates say they don’t see anti-Semitism as a pervasive problem in the area.

“I have never encountered any signs of anti-Semitism or bias based on our ethnicity [Jewish] or country of origin [Israel],” Avi Zirler, a manager for a major Southern California utility company who has lived in La Cañada for 16 years, wrote in an e-mail. “Our kids, both graduates of LCUSD, do not bear scars of anti-Semitism either.”

As for Leko, Zirler called her “an equal opportunity offender.”

Leko declined to be interviewed for this article and is still teaching in the classroom.

An investigation conducted by an LCUSD assistant superintendent found Leko had “made inappropriate comments containing gender and ethnic bias during exchanges of banter with students during class time,” according to a Nov. 12 memorandum published by La Cañada Flintridge The memo directed Leko “to participate in individualized sensitivity and diversity training” and said the board could take additional disciplinary action.

The LCUSD board met in closed session before and after its Dec. 6 meeting, but did not announce any actions. Before the meeting, two newly elected board members were sworn in, one of them Andrew Blumenfeld, a 20-year-old student at Princeton University who is Jewish.

The board is scheduled to meet again in closed session on Dec. 21 to discuss the Leko matter.

Boy allegedly set Jewish girl’s hair on fire after making slurs

A Canadian teenager was arrested for allegedly setting a Jewish classmate’s hair on fire after making anti-Semitic remarks.

Winnipeg police have charged the 15-year-old boy with assault with a weapon following an investigation of the Nov. 18 incident in the hallway of a local high school. Police say he confronted a 14-year-old girl and made the slurs before pulling out a cigarette lighter and singing her hair.

The girl did not suffer any serious physical injuries.

Police weren’t notified of the incident until Nov. 25 and arrested the boy on Dec. 4, CBC News reported.

Staff at the high school told the Winnipeg Free Press that the boy was suspended immediately, and he was later withdrawn from the school by his legal guardian.

Police said a possible hate crimes charge must be approved by Manitoba justice officials.

Investigators said the boy’s Facebook page contained posts of an “anti-Semitic” and “Nazi” nature. A school official said the teens had exchanges on social media prior to the incident.

Shelley Faintuch of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg called the incident “a shocking act of violence that must not be tolerated. The allegation that the attack may have been motivated by ant-Semitism makes it of special concern to the Jewish community, but in actual fact, an attack like this affects all communities.”

Alan Yusim of B’nai Brith Canada said the incident “tears at the fabric of the community. I think there should be zero tolerance for any hate-motivated activity in our schools.”

Texas lawmaker apologizes for anti-Semitic slur

A Texas state representative apologized after using the slur “Jew them down” during a public hearing.

Larry Taylor at a legislative oversight hearing on Nov. 3 concerning a quasi-public wind insurance agency and its need to pay claims on time said “Don’t nitpick, don’t try to Jew them down.” He reportedly quickly added, “That’s probably a bad term.”

In a written statement following the hearing, Taylor said, “At a legislative oversight committee hearing today, I inadvertently used a phrase that many people find offensive. I corrected myself immediately when I realized what I had said. I regret my poor choice of words and sincerely apologize for any harm they may have caused.”

In an apology letter to the Anti-Defamation League, which slammed his use of the slur, Taylor wrote: “Anti-Semitism and intolerance have no place in our society and in our government. I understand the impact of my comments and am deeply sorry for the message that was sent. I have a deep respect for the Jewish people and their history, and hope to work to strengthen that relationship in the future.”

Taylor is running for a seat in the Texas state Senate next year.

UPDATE: Christian Dior designer fired over anti-Semitic slurs [VIDEO]

British fashion designer John Galliano was fired by the Christian Dior fashion house after harassing a couple using anti-Semitic and racist slurs.

Galliano’s firing as chief designer for Christian Dior was announced Tuesday, just days after he was suspended from Dior.

Galliano’s harassing of the couple in a Paris bar came to light last week. On Monday, a video of Galliano saying he loves Hitler also came to light.

Actress Natalie Portman, who is the face of Dior perfume and is Jewish, said on Monday that she would not be associated with Galliano.

“I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video of John Galliano’s comments that surfaced today,” Portman said in a statement. “In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way.”

The video, posted on the website of Britain’s The Sun newspaper and on YouTube, shows Galliano yelling at a different couple at the same cafe at a different time, and captures him saying “I love Hitler.” He also tells the couple, “People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f**king gassed.”

Last week’s altercation, which resulted in Galliano’s suspension, took place Feb. 24 at a central bar in Paris between Galliano, who reportedly had been drinking, and a couple—a Jewish woman and an Asian man—whom he did not know.

Story continues after the video.

Galliano reportedly said, “dirty Jewish face, you should be dead” to Geraldine Bloch, 35, according to the French daily le Figaro, which had access to police reports with eyewitness accounts of the event.

Le Figaro reported that Galliano then grabbed Bloch by the hair and shouted at her companion, Philippe Virgiti, 41, “F**king Asian bastard, I will kill you.”

The sought-after designer was taken into custody, questioned by police and tested for blood-alcohol levels before being quickly released.

Galliano denies making any racist statements and filed an official complaint for libel one day later, on Feb. 25.