November 21, 2018

News briefs: Pope e-mails Jewish leader, SPN micro-grants and Israeli discrimination

Pope E-mails Jewish Leader in Response to Holocaust Sermon

Pope Francis e-mailed Menachem Rosensaft, an American law professor who deals with Holocaust and genocide issues, with a reflection on the place of God during the Shoah.

The e-mail was a response to Rosensaft, who had sent the Vatican the text of a sermon he delivered at New York’s Park Avenue Synagogue on the topic during the High Holy Days, Elizabeth Tenety wrote in the Washington Post’s On Faith blog.

Rosensaft, the son of Holocaust survivor parents, is general counsel of the World Jewish Congress and vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants.

In his sermon, which was published in the On Faith blog, Rosensaft had declared, “My parents’ entire immediate families were murdered in the Shoah. My mother’s five-a-and-half-year-old son, my brother, was one of more than one million Jewish children who were killed by the Germans and their accomplices only and exclusively because they were Jewish. Again, what possible transgressions could any of them have committed to cause God to turn away from them?”

How, Rosensaft asked, “can we believe in God in the aftermath of the Shoah? Shouldn’t an omniscient God have had to know that the cataclysm was being perpetrated? And shouldn’t an omnipotent God have been able to prevent it?”

Rosensaft concluded that God was indeed present during the Holocaust, within those inmates of the death and concentration camps who saved or helped others, such as Janusz Korczak in the Warsaw Ghetto who accompanied the children of his orphanage to their death at Treblinka, and Rosensaft’s mother, who with a group of other female inmates kept 149 Jewish children alive at Bergen-Belsen.

According to the Post, the pope replied, “When you, with humility, are telling us where God was in that moment, I felt within me that you had transcended all possible explanations and that, after a long pilgrimage — sometimes sad, tedious or dull – you came to discover a certain logic and it is from there that you were speaking to us; the logic of First Kings 19:12, the logic of that ‘gentle breeze’ (I know that it is a very poor translation of the rich Hebrew expression) that constitutes the only possible hermeneutic interpretation. Thank you from my heart. And, please, do not forget to pray for me.  May the Lord bless you.”

Schusterman to Award Micro-grants to 50 Jewish Projects

A new micro-grants initiative will award funding of up to $1,000 each for 50 different project ideas.

The #MakeItHappen micro-grants initiative, for creating Jewish experiences in communities around the world, was announced Monday by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network.

The submission deadline is Dec. 6 and the ideas will be selected on a rolling basis. Anyone 18 and older can submit a project idea. The project must occur before May 31.

Five of the ideas could receive funding of up to $5,000.

“#MakeItHappen is designed to empower young people to take that initial or next step on a leadership journey,” said Lynn Schusterman, chair of the Schusterman Philanthropic Network. “For many young Jews, these small grants embody a ‘first yes’ and a realization that the Jewish community values and is willing to invest in what they have to contribute to ensuring a vibrant Jewish future.”

Palestinian Who Planned Tel Aviv Bus Bombing Killed in Shootout

A Palestinian terrorist who Israel said was behind a 2012 bus bombing in Tel Aviv was killed in a shootout with Israeli security officials trying to arrest him.

Mohamed Aatzi, 28, was killed on the morning of Oct. 22 during an exchange of gunfire in the West Bank Palestinian town of Bil’in during a joint operation of the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Security Agency, or Shabak. I

Aatzi was among the planners of the Nov. 21 bus attack during Operation Pillar of Defense that wounded 29 passengers, according to a statement released by the IDF and Shabak.

He had been involved in activities of the Islamic Palestinian Jihad terror organization. Aatzi had been in hiding since the bombing and reportedly was planning another attack against Israeli civilians or army forces.

Two Palestinian men alleged to be Aatzi’s assistants, who have been jailed in the past for their involvement with the Islamic Palestinian Jihad, were arrested by security forces on Monday night and held for questioning.

“The outcome of this operation emphasizes that terror does not pay,” IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a statement. “Terrorists must know that there is no eluding the extensive intelligence and operational capabilities of the IDF, we will continue to seek out those that attempt to undermine and defy our way of life.” 

Texas A&M to Build a Campus in Israel

Texas A&M is set to announce the creation of a branch campus in Israel. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp are in Israel, where they will announce plans for Texas A&M Peace University in Nazareth on Wednesday, The New York Times reported.

The newspaper said Texas A&M would become the first American university to have a branch campus in Israel.

Perry and Sharp will be joined in the announcement by Israeli President Shimon Peres and Minister of Education Shai Piron.

Financing will come from private donors in Texas and around the world since Texas A&M is prohibited from investing public dollars in international campuses, the newspaper reported.

Students and teachers at the campus in Nazareth, a northern Israeli city of some 81,000 populated mainly by Arab-Israelis, will include Arabs and Jews, as well as international students and faculty, the university told the Times.

“I wanted a presence in Israel,” Sharp, who became chancellor in 2011, told the newspaper. “I have felt a kinship with Israel.”

Sharp and Perry were college roommates at Texas A&M.

Sharp involved evangelical pastor John Hagee in the project. Hagee, who has raised millions of dollars for Israel, helped connect university officials with Israeli leaders, The New York Times reported.

Israeli Swimmers Face Discrimination at Events in Arab Countries

The Israeli flag was removed from outside the venue of the FINA Swimming World Cup in Doha, Qatar.

A tweet was posted Sunday complaining about the flag’s presence before it was taken down from outside the Aspire Zone, according to the Doha News.

The international tournament took place Sunday and Monday.

Last week in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates at another FINA Swimming World Cup event, the results of the Israeli swimmers were not shown poolside or on television broadcasts, the word Israel was not spoken and the Israeli flag appeared as a white block in the pool lanes as shown on television, Haaretz reported.

In Doha, Israeli swimmer Amit Ivry finished second in the 100 meters with a record time for an Israeli swimmer of 58.66 seconds. Ivry had won a bronze medal in Dubai.

Israeli swimmer Guy Nevo said on his Facebook page that by the end of the Dubai competition, where Ivry took the silver and the male Israeli swimmers all made their final heats, “we finally became the Israel team. For the very first time, our name is mentioned in Dubai. A small record has been broken.”

Briefs courtesy of JTA.