Venezuelan TV personality accuses Israel of faking embarrassing recording


President Obama and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk speaking at a news conference in Warsaw, Poland, May 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk speaking at a news conference in Warsaw, Poland, May 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Poland is a stalwart American ally in Europe, a bulwark against an increasingly belligerent Russia and, with the recent opening of a major new Warsaw museum, is enjoying a flush of accolades for its belated embrace of its Jewish roots.

But there’s a thorn in the bouquet: Poland is seen as having the world’s worst record on the restitution of Jewish property lost during the Holocaust.

Officials of Jewish groups seeking restitution say they will be making a renewed push to put the restitution issue on Congress’ agenda and expect new pressure to advance the issue. But ratcheting up the pressure on Poland poses an acute dilemma for U.S. policymakers.

The country’s outlier status — it is the sole European country that does not offer private property restitution to survivors of the Holocaust or their heirs — makes it an obvious target for Jewish activists. But Poland is also among the most reliable U.S. allies and has close relations with Israel and American Jewish groups. Poland’s foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, will be featured next month as a guest at the American Jewish Committee’s annual conclave.

Perhaps as a result, few Jewish officials or members of Congress were willing to discuss the issue on the record. Requests for comment from the Polish Foreign Ministry and the Polish Embassy in Washington were not answered.

Efforts to pressure the Poles have remained largely in the realm of the rhetorical, with no legislation proposed to address the problem as was done in the past on other thorny issues of Holocaust restitution, like unpaid Holocaust-era insurance policies.

In January, during confirmation hearings for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the co-chair of the congressional Committee on Security and Cooperation in Europe, sought reassurances that Kerry would continue to press Poland on the issue.

Cardin noted that Poland tells heirs seeking compensation to turn to the country’s courts, an arduous and expensive process. It’s also a process likely to fail because the government refuses to advance legislation that could underpin such litigation.

Recourse to the courts, “a process that presents insurmountable obstacles for most victims of property theft and especially victims of the Holocaust, will ultimately be futile for most claimants, and even for a tiny fraction of successful claimants would be drawn out and needlessly burdensome,” Cardin said.

Kerry replied that he would “continue to encourage Poland to address property claimants’ concerns quickly and fairly.”

More recently, Wendy Sherman, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, brought up restitution in a March 17 security meeting with Polish officials.

Douglas Davidson, the State Department’s special envoy on the Holocaust, also is deeply involved in advancing the restitution issue, Jewish organizational leaders said. Davidson, who was traveling, could not be reached for comment.

Jewish officials also said that the Obama administration has been engaged on the issue, with the president himself bringing it up in his meetings with Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister.

Such entreaties, however, have largely failed to move the Polish government.

In November, Poland sent only a low-level diplomat to a conference in Prague on restituting private property. The conference featured the presentation of a paper by the Claims Conference and the World Jewish Restitution Organization describing the treatment of the restitution issue by successive Polish governments as a backward trajectory.

“While the government has issued numerous draft laws with respect to regulating private property restitution, Poland has never enacted a single law pertaining to immovable properties seized from private owners in the country during the Holocaust era and its aftermath,” the paper said.

In part, the problem is a result of vastly decreased U.S. leverage over Poland, where the restitution of private property remains deeply unpopular because of the potential for upheaval among the current residents of the properties. Restituting communal property such as synagogues and graveyards is more straightforward.

Moreover, nations that once cultivated U.S. Jews in their quest for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are now members of the alliance. And they have thriving economies, to boot.

“It’s a different world than it was 10 years ago for these countries,” one Jewish official said. “Poland is becoming a wealthier country than it was 10 years ago.”

An official of another Jewish group, speaking on background, said one avenue of pressure could be to withhold Jewish support for Poland achieving visa waiver status, a measure that would allow its citizens to enter the United States for 90 days without a prearranged visa.

But Rabbi Andrew Baker, the American Jewish Committee’s international Jewish affairs director, said such a move would be counterproductive.

“These issues are not popular with the domestic constituencies in any of the Eastern Europeans countries where we’ve pressed it,” Baker said. “The last thing we want is to make it more unpopular.”


Dov Lipman, an American-born haredi Orthodox Knesset member for the centrist Yesh Atid party, speaking on the Knesset floor, March 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Dov Lipman, an American-born haredi Orthodox Knesset member for the centrist Yesh Atid party, speaking on the Knesset floor, March 2013. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Dov Lipman has staked his budding political career on his reputation as a moderate haredi Orthodox leader, someone uniquely positioned to broker compromise between Israel’s increasingly polarized secular and religious communities.

The problem is that Israel’s haredi leaders say he’s not actually haredi.

Once seen as a possible bridge between Israel’s growing haredi community and the secular majority, Lipman, a freshman member of Knesset from the centrist Yesh Atid party, has weathered a torrent of criticism aimed at discrediting his haredi bona fides since his election in January.

“He calls himself haredi and advocates positions that are universally rejected by the leading halachic representatives of the community and the community at large,” said Jonathan Rosenblum, a columnist for the haredi Mishpacha magazine. “It’s very hard for me to understand someone who is haredi being part of a party that signs off on these positions on [Jewish] conversion and homosexual marriage.”

Lipman supports a number of laws now being formulated that would roll back privileges long enjoyed by haredim in Israel, notably exemption from the military draft and the public funding of their schools. He favors the creation of an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall and belongs to a party that advocates the legalization of same-sex marriage.

And on top of all that, he wears a blue suit — not the traditional haredi black.

The attacks, Lipman says, show that haredi leaders are more interested in leveling personal attacks than debating policy. Laws under discussion — including one mandating the teaching of some secular subjects in haredi schools — benefit the haredi community, he says, without posing a threat to its way of life.

“It’s not a question of who’s haredi or not haredi,” he told JTA. “Let’s talk about the issues. Why should an ultra-Orthodox male not have math and English and enter the workforce?”

Lipman was a teacher and principal in Cincinnati and Maryland before moving to Israel in 2004 with his wife and three children. The Lipmans settled in Beit Shemesh, a Jerusalem suburb where simmering tensions between haredi and secular Jews erupted in 2011 after haredi men harassed an 8-year-old Modern Orthodox girl they believed was not dressing in a sufficiently modest manner.

Taking on the role of peacemaker, Lipman worked to find common ground between the sides. But local haredi leaders, the city’s mayor among them, believed he was opposing Beit Shemesh’s haredi sector.

In 2012, Lipman joined Yesh Atid, a new party that galvanized the Israeli middle class, in part with its promise to end the longstanding haredi draft exemption.

For the party, Lipman’s membership was a powerful symbol, a sign that Orthodox opposition to the draft was not universal. But Lipman’s support for the Yesh Atid agenda led to charges that he was being disingenuous and not truly a member of the community he claimed to represent.

“I ask one thing from MK Lipman,” Knesset member Yaakov Asher, of the haredi United Torah Judaism party, said in parliament on May 1. “Don’t speak as a haredi when you’re not really. Don’t make a joke out of people when you entered Knesset just because someone made a mistake and thought that because of how you look, you’re haredi.”

Lipman has said his ultimate goal is for Israeli haredim to adopt the lifestyle of their American counterparts, who often gain some secular education and work full-time jobs. But even American haredi leaders have lashed out at him.

Rabbi Aharon Feldman, who heads the Baltimore haredi yeshiva Ner Yisroel where Lipman was ordained a rabbi, called him “wicked.” And though Feldman apologized soon afterward, he has been unsparing in his criticism, calling Lipman “extremely misguided” and accusing him of eroding the holiness of the haredi community by compelling its students to study secular subjects.

“You attack the people who look like you the most,” said Menachem Friedman, an expert on the Israeli haredi community at Bar-Ilan University. “The most similar political opponents are seen as the biggest threats.”

Rosenblum, the columnist, said that what works in the United States won’t necessarily succeed in Israel. He noted that increasing numbers of Israeli haredim have been joining the army and the workforce of their own accord, and that compelling them to do so by law would push them into a defensive posture.

“If they see the government coming to change the haredi way of life, that’s a frontal attack,” he said. “When [politicians] seem to be in a mode of not simply coming to facilitate changes that are already taking place, the historical reaction is to resist with full force.”

Lipman hopes that once haredim deprived of government subsidies are forced to work, they will see the benefits of their changed circumstances. He acknowledged, though, that given the animosity he has faced, continued intransigence is at least as likely.

“The change will happen when they go to work and have education,” he said, adding, “It might take a generation or two.”


Sridhar Silberfein, Bhakti Fest
Sridhar Silberfein, raised in a Jewish family on Long Island, N.Y., is the founder of the Hindu yoga festival Bhakti Fest. (Rebecca Spence)

JOSHUA TREE, Calif. (JTA) — In 1968, only six years after founding the AEPi chapter at his Long Island University campus, Steven Silberfein took one of the thousand names of the Hindu god Vishnu and became Sridhar Silberfein.

A year later, the one-time Jewish fraternity brother escorted the Hindu teacher Swami Satchidananda to the stage at Woodstock to deliver an invocation in front of 500,000 flower children.

Surveying the crowd, Silberfein turned to the cotton-bearded swami and said, “Wouldn’t it be nice to get all these people chanting the names of God?”

“Forty years later we did that at Bhakti Fest,” said Silberfein, 73, referring to the Indian devotional music festival he founded in 2009.

Mounted twice a year in Joshua Tree, Calif., and now once a year in Madison, Wis., Bhakti Fest has become a fixture of the West Coast festival circuit.The May festival known as Shakti Fest, in honor of Hinduism’s divine feminine force, brought more than 1,500 yogis to the Mojave Desert last week for three days of chanting, breath work, yoga and a more-than-healthy dose of kale seaweed salad.

As blissed-out Californians floated around sipping coconut water and Vitamineral Green superfood, Silberfein, who has turned the festival’s operations over to his oldest daughter, Mukti Silberfein, schmoozed with artists with names like Durga Das and Arjun Baba.

Attended to by a bevy of young female assistants, Silberfein could easily be mistaken for a celebrity guru, though that’s exactly the impression he’d like to avoid.

“I’m just a regular guy,” said Silberfein, sitting in his air-conditioned RV. “I still bow down to the feet of people. I’m still scrubbing floors.”

Jews have long turned to Eastern philosophy to plug holes in their spiritual lives. Jewish Buddhists, or Jew-Bus, are perhaps the best-known example, brought to widespread attention in the best-selling “The Jew in the Lotus,” Roger Kamenetz’s 1994 account of a dialogue between rabbis and the Dalai Lama.

Less attention has been devoted to the phenomenon of Hin-Jews, who populate the ranks of America’s yogic elite in disproportionately large numbers. In addition to Silberfein and Ram Dass, who experimented with LSD at Harvard with Timothy Leary and is now revered as a master spiritual teacher, the biggest Western stars of the Indian call-and-response style of chanting known as kirtan are both New York-born Jews.

Silberfein credits his Austrian-Jewish mother with teaching him how to cook and clean, as well as the value of service. Growing up on New York’s suburban Long Island, Silberfein’s mother would take in Polish and Jamaican immigrant women and train them to clean houses, he recalled.

“It was a form of seva, of service,” he said, “but she didn’t equate that.”

To his mother’s dismay, Silberfein took that service ethic and applied it to his gurus, or Hindu spiritual teachers. His first was Swami Muktananda, a charismatic teacher whom Silberfein met while studying with Rudi, a Brooklyn-born Jew who in the early 1960s taught a form of eye-gazing meditation out of a storefront in Greenwich Village.

Rudi, born Albert Rudolph, hung photographs of Indian saints on the walls, including one of Muktananda’s guru, Bhagavan Nityananda. Silberfein said he first received shaktipat — the Hindu concept of spiritual transmission — by looking at Nityananda’s photo.

“I had an overwhelming feeling of love when I saw these pictures,” he said.

Govinddas and Radha performing on the main stage of the Joshua Tree Music Festival in Joshua Tree, Calif., May 18, 2013. (Rebecca Spence)
Govinddas and Radha performing on the main stage of the Shakti Fest in Joshua Tree, Calif., May 18, 2013. (Rebecca Spence)

In 1970, Muktananda asked Silberfein and Ram Dass, who would go on to publish the spiritual classic “Be Here Now,” to organize his first U.S. tour. Like Silberfein, Ram Dass — born Richard Alpert — also is Jewish, which led Muktananda to wonder why everyone he designated to his inner circle turned out to be Jewish.

“Someone said, ‘It’s because they’re the smartest guys around, they’re closely aligned with the Indian businessmen,’ ” Silberfein recalled.

At the time, Silberfein was a successful real estate broker. In 1978, he founded Desert Essence cosmetics and introduced tea tree oil to the Western market. But Silberfein attributes the affinity between Jews and Hindu teachers to something more numinous than the Jewish ability to negotiate.

“We were dissatisfied with the traditional Judaism we were being presented with,” Silberfein said. “We knew that the formless exists, that the form is not the real truth, but the Jews didn’t feel that.”

Since Muktananda’s death in 1982, Silberfein has been most closely aligned with Amma, the Indian holy woman known for giving hugs to followers who line up by the thousands for her embrace.

When Amma makes her yearly pilgrimage to California, Silberfein drives her from San Ramon, the Bay Area town that serves as the center of her U.S. operations, to Los Angeles, where for many years he hosted her at his Center for Spiritual Studies in Topanga Canyon.

Silberfein used to live in Topanga Canyon, a hippie enclave in the Santa Monica Mountains northwest of Los Angeles. But he gave up his seven-acre ranch there nearly a decade ago when a visiting spiritual teacher told him that the property’s Vastu — the Hindu equivalent of feng shui — would never allow him to have a good relationship with a woman.

Silberfein, who is unmarried, has had three wives and four children, the youngest being 14.

“I thought, ‘Why didn’t you tell me that before?’ ” Silberfein said.

As Silberfein’s mother lay dying, she told him he’d eventually get a “good kick in the ass” for having spent his life driving gurus around and not getting enough sleep.

When Silberfein told her he was going to see the mother — by which he meant Amma — she said, ‘I’m your mother. Don’t you ever call anybody else your mother.’ “


NEW YORK (JTA) — Jewish groups are joining the effort to help those displaced by the tornado in suburban Oklahoma City.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, announced Tuesday that his organization will collect donations and distribute them to the American Red Cross and others on the ground in Oklahoma.

“We are numb with grief, and yet inspired by the heroic resilience of the people of Oklahoma,” Jacobs said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those impacted by this horrific tragedy.

“As other needs arise, perhaps including volunteers to assist with the clean-up and rebuilding, we stand ready to help in any way possible.”

The Jewish Federations of North America also has started a fund to aid the relief effort of the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City.

“Our hearts go out to all those who were in the path of this disaster and who are grieving the loss of their loved ones,” said Michael Siegal, chair of the JFNA Board of Trustees. “This was a terrible tragedy. The destruction of an elementary school filled with students and teachers was especially painful.”

B’nai B’rith International has opened its Flood, Tornado and Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund.

Meanwhile, the Chabad Community Center of Southern Oklahoma has opened its building as a shelter and is collecting supplies for those displaced by the tornado that hit Moore.


oklahoma tornado, moore oklahoma
A man walking over the ruins of his destroyed house following the deadly tornado in Moore, Okla., May 20, 2013. (Brett Deering/Getty)

(JTA) — A Chabad center in Oklahoma City opened its building as a shelter for those displaced by a deadly tornado.

The Chabad Community Center of Southern Oklahoma also is collecting supplies for those left homeless by the tornado that tore through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore on Monday afternoon, leaving at least 24 people dead, including several children, and injuring hundreds.

“While we feel the pain of others, we’re very thankful that we’re able to respond – to use all our energy and all our resources to let the community know we’re here to help,” Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, the Southern Oklahoma Chabad’s co-director, told

Goldman said he has received calls from individuals and organizations in New York, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, California and abroad with offers to help with relief efforts.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a letter of condolence to President Obama on Tuesday morning in the wake of the tornado.

“On behalf of the Government and people of Israel, I offer our heartfelt condolences to you and to the people of the United States on the massive tornado that struck in Oklahoma and exacted such a horrific toll in human life,” Netanyahu wrote. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this tragedy and their families at this difficult time.”


Benny Gantz, Israel, syria

JERUSALEM (JTA) – The Israeli military’s chief of staff,  Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, warned that Syria would pay the price if it continues to attack Israel.

Syrian President Bashar Assad “guides and encourages the widening of activity against Israel, in various dimensions and via the Golan Heights,” Gantz said Tuesday, hours after Syria fired on and damaged an Israeli army jeep, and Israel retaliated with a missile attack. “We will not allow the area of the Golan Heights to become a comfortable place for Assad.

“If Assad impairs the situation in the Golan Heights, he will have to bear the consequences,” the military chief warned at ceremony at Haifa University.

No one was injured when Syria opened fire on an Israeli army patrol early Tuesday morning in the Golan Heights, the Israel Defense Forces said. It was the third time this week that Syria targeted Israeli positions.

In retaliation, the IDF said an Israeli missile struck the source of Tuesday’s gunfire.

The IDF lodged a complaint with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, a peacekeeping force that was established in 1974.

The Syrian military claimed in a statement issued Tuesday that its military destroyed an Israeli military vehicle and its occupants. The statement said the jeep crossed the cease-fire line in the Golan Heights.

Gantz said that the nighttime patrol was clearly patroling along the border fence and did not cross into Syrian territory. Earlier Tuesday, Gantz toured the Israeli-Syrian border and talked with the soldiers and commanders of the Nahal Brigade who are stationed there.

Israeli troops manning a border observation point in the Golan Heights were fired on Sunday and Monday. The Israelis did not retaliate but lodged a separate complaint with the U.N. observer force.

Also Tuesday, Israel transferred an injured Syrian national from the border to a hospital in northern Israel for surgery to treat shrapnel wounds.


JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli soldier was killed in a mine explosion in the southern Golan Heights.

The soldier was taking part Tuesday in a minefield-clearing operation, according to the Israel Defense Forces, and was killed when an old anti-tank mine exploded. Two other soldiers were injured.

The mine reportedly was cleared and marked before it exploded. The explosion was believed to be a technical malfunction.

Maj. Gen. Guy Zur, the chief of the Ground Forces Command, appointed a team to investigate the incident, according to the IDF.

The mine-clearing operation is part of ongoing military operations and is not related to recent tension on Israel’s border with Syria.


(JTA) — Two New Jersey men accused of firebombing several synagogues in the state pleaded not guilty.

Anthony Graziano of Lodi and Aakash Dalal of New Brunswick, both 21, made their pleas on Monday in state Superior Court in Hackensack, The Record reported.

They were indicted in March on charges of bias intimidation, conspiracy to commit arson on a synagogue and aggravated arson, as well as attempted murder and terrorism charges.

Graziano was arrested in January 2012 shortly after the attacks in northern New Jersey’s Bergen County. Dalal was arrested two months later. Both remain in jail in lieu of millions of dollars in bail.

One of the alleged attacks, on Congregation Beth El in Rutherford, injured Rabbi Nosson Schuman, who lives with his family in the synagogue residence. Molotov cocktails thrown at the synagogue set fire to the bedroom of the rabbi’s family.


Sean Penn attending the congressional hearing in Brooklyn, May 20, 2013. (Suzzane Pollak)
Sean Penn attending the congressional hearing in Brooklyn, May 20, 2013. (Suzzane Pollak)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Actor Sean Penn urged a congressional hearing to pressure Bolivia to release a haredi Orthodox father of five under house arrest in the country.

Penn appeared Monday at a hearing on the case of Jacob Ostreicher of Brooklyn, who has been held nearly two years in Bolivia on accusations that he was in business with drug traffickers and money launderers. No proof has ever been provided in court.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who has gone to Bolivia in an effort to free Ostreicher, held the hearing.

Penn, an Academy Award winner well known for his social activism, told the hearing that he has spoken to Bolivian President Evo Morales and believes that although Morales has the best of intentions, the judiciary is so corrupt in his country that the president is powerless.

Penn urged Congress to write letters to the corporate sponsors of the Dakar Rally motorcycle race, which in 2014 for the first time will go through Bolivia. As the race is a huge moneymaker for the participating countries, Penn said pressure should be exerted on the sponsors to demand the release of Ostreicher.

If Ostreicher is not freed, Penn said, the race should be rerouted to avoid Bolivia, depriving it of money and positive publicity.

The actor said he was “not only personally and thoroughly convinced of Mr. Ostreicher’s innocence, but particularly alarmed by a consensus both among Bolivian officials that the unevidenced prosecution against Jacob Ostreicher was standard operating procedure in the fundamentally corrupt Bolivian judiciary.”

Ostreicher invested in a rice-growing venture in Bolivia and was managing the business when he was arrested on suspicion of money laundering.

Penn said Ostreicher’s only crime was “to have brought a successful rice concession and well-paying jobs to Bolivia.”

Ostreicher’s wife, Miriam Ungar, told the hearing that Ostreicher does not believe he will ever be free and often unplugs his home phone because he is too depressed to speak with his family.

During the hearing, Smith said he would be reintroducing his bill, nicknamed “Jacob’s Law,” that would deny entry into the United States “to officials of any foreign government, including their immediate family members “who are involved in failing to allow due process or are involved in any human rights violations against a jailed American.”

Several other congressmen spoke at the 80-minute hearing, including Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), Eliot Engel, (D-N.Y.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.)


(JTA) — A former teacher at a Seattle Jewish day school pleaded not guilty to charges that he molested young students.

Jordan Murray, 32, pleaded not guilty on Monday to four counts of child molestation. He is free on bail and was ordered by the judge to have no contact with children except his own three, who live with their mother in another state, according to KIRO-TV.

Murray, who taught first and second grade at the Torah Day School, is alleged to have molested two female students behind his desk in front of other students. He allegedly groped the girls after putting them on his lap.

He was fired following the incidents, which reportedly occurred late last month.

The students called Murray Rabbi Yaakov, using rabbi as an honorific title. He does not have rabbinic training.

Murray reportedly has no criminal record.


(JTA) — A former hotel security guard was indicted on a federal civil rights charge for defacing a Jewish school’s Torah scroll and prayer books.

Justin Shawn Baker, 25, was indicted last week for violating the civil rights of students of the Margolin Hebrew Academy’s Cooper Yeshiva High School of Memphis.

Baker was arrested in January after the school’s students and faculty showed up for a worship service in the conference room at the DoubleTree Hotel in Jackson, Tenn., and discovered the Torah scroll and prayer books damaged and covered with graffiti, including “Gentiles win, Jews lose” and “Submit to Satan.”

Approximately 50 high school students and faculty from the school were spending Shabbat at the motel on their way to a ski trip in the Smoky Mountains.


(JTA) — A Russian journalist apologized for writing that the Nazis should have “made lampshades of the forefathers of today’s liberals.”

Ulyana Skoibeda said Monday that she was sorry for making the statement in an article that appeared May 15 in the online edition of the Russian daily Komsomolskaia Pravda.

The office of the daily’s editor in chief said Skoibeda had been “seriously reprimanded.”

Her comment was widely interpreted as referring to accounts of the use of human skin harvested from dead Jews during the Holocaust for the making of lampshades at Buchenwald, a Nazi concentration camp.

She also had written, “We would have fewer problems now.”

Skoibeda was reacting to statements by liberal politician Leonid Gozman –- who is Jewish, according to Radio Free Europe -– on Stalin’s wartime anti-espionage persecution.


(JTA) — The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of a rabbi who said he was grounded from a frequent flyer program for complaining too much.

Rabbi Binyomin Ginsberg of Minnesota sued Northwest Airlines Corp. after his membership was revoked from the WorldPerks frequent-flier program.

In 2009, he filed a class-action suit against Northwest, which is now part of Delta Air Lines.

The case will be heard in the high court’s next term, which begins in October.

It was dismissed by the U.S. District Court in San Diego, but reversed in 2011 by a three-judge panel of a San Francisco appeals court.

Ginsberg said he complained about not being notified of flight cancellations and about lost or delayed luggage.

The rabbi said the airline told him he was removed from the program for booking too many full flights in order to receive free flights in exchange for being bumped.


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Palestinian Authority said it can join dozens of U.N. agencies, but has held off as the United States attempts to revive the peace process.

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Monday that the legal work has been prepared to allow the P.A. to join 63 U.N. agencies and conventions.

He said the Palestinians are working to make sure that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry succeeds in restarting the stalled peace negotiations.

“Make no mistake, we are exerting every possible effort in order to see that Mr. Kerry succeeds,” Erekat said. “No one benefits more from the success of Secretary Kerry than Palestinians, and no one loses more from his failure than Palestinians.”

Erekat also said Monday that the Palestinians have no conditions to resume negotiations with Israel, saying that a settlement freeze and the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails were obligations that Israel must fulfill.

The Palestinian Authority was upgraded last November at the United Nations  to a non-member observer state. After that, it was approved for membership in UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the only U.N. agency it has joined to date.

The United States cut UNESCO funding in the wake of the vote and Israel severed contact with the organization.

On Monday, Israel canceled a UNESCO inspection of sites in Jerusalem’s Old City, saying the Palestinians had politicized the agency’s visit.


WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. State Department’s religious freedoms report described “a continued global increase in anti-Semitism.”

“Of great concern were expressions of anti-Semitism by government officials, by religious leaders, and by the media, particularly in Venezuela, Egypt, and Iran,” the report released Monday said. “At times, such statements led to desecration and violence.”

It noted the continued “flourishing” of the Passover blood libel as well as Holocaust denial. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted the phenomenon in introducing Ira Forman, the new envoy to combat anti-Semitism.

“Ira has long been a champion of fair treatment for all, and he has worked extensively to combat intolerance,” Kerry said of Forman, who has been a longtime campaigner for the Democratic Party in the Jewish community.

In its Israel section, the report noted Orthodox Jewish hegemony in civil law as it applies to Jews, as well as restrictions on women’s prayer at the Western Wall.

It also noted how religious tensions at times erupt into violence, noting attacks on churches and mosques “in retaliation for government actions to restrict settlement activity in the West Bank and designed to exact a ‘price’ for actions settlers considered contrary to their interests” as well as Muslim attacks on haredi Orthodox Jews.