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September 5, 2012
National Briefs - Week of Sept. 6, 2012
Calif. Democratic Party Chair Apologizes
WASHINGTON (JTA) — John Burton, the chairman of the Democratic Party in California, apologized to those who took offense at his remarks comparing Republican statements to Nazi propaganda.
Following an uproar over the remarks, which were condemned by Democrats and Republicans, Burton issued a statement on Monday.
“To correct press reports of my recent comments about Republican lies, I did not call Republicans Nazis nor would I ever. In fact, I didn’t even use the word,” the statement said. “If Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, or the Republicans are insulted by my describing their campaign tactic as the big lie — I most humbly apologize to them or anyone who might have been offended by that comment.”
Speaking earlier in the day to a California radio station, Burton had said of Republicans in general and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan more specifically, “They lie, and they don’t care if people think they lie.” He also said, “As long as you lie, Joseph Goebbels, the big lie, you keep repeating it, you know.”
Goebbels was minister of propaganda for the Nazi Party and was a close associate of Adolf Hitler.
Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, criticized Burton for his comments.
“John Burton ought to know better than to bring the Nazis and their victims into our current political debates, but apparently the offense such remarks cause to Holocaust survivors and their families are of less concern to him than the prospect of political gain.”
N.Y. Rabbis Decry Vote on Circumcision
NEW YORK (JTA) — Haredi Orthodox rabbis in New York are accusing the city’s Department of Health of “spreading lies” in order to pass a law mandating that parents sign a consent waiver in order to use a controversial circumcision-related rite.
The health department is scheduled to vote next week on the waiver for the use of direct oral-genital suction, known as metzitzah b’peh. The form would indicate that parents are aware of the risk of infection.
Some 200 rabbis have signed a statement alleging that the department “printed and spread lies ... in order to justify their evil decree. It is clear to us that there is not even an iota of blame or danger in this ancient and holy custom,” the New York Post reported.
The controversy over metzitzah b’peh was reignited in March after it came to light that an unidentified infant died Sept. 28 at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center from “disseminated herpes simplex virus Type 1, complicating ritual circumcision with oral suction,” according to the death certificate.
Health department investigations of newborns with the herpes virus from 2000 to 2011 have shown that 11 infants contracted the herpes virus when mohels, or ritual circumcisers, placed their mouths directly on the child’s circumcision wound to draw blood away from the circumcision cut, according to a statement from the department. Ten of the infants were hospitalized, at least two developed brain damage and two babies died.
The rite is not used in most Jewish circumcision ceremonies, but many in the haredi Orthodox community still adhere to it. Haredi leaders have resisted calls to replace direct oral suction with alternative approaches used by some mohels, such as the use of a sterile tube or gauze to take the blood from the circumcision wound.
Wolpe Delivering Invocation at DNC
LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles was scheduled to deliver the invocation at a session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Wolpe said his prayer on Wednesday evening would focus on the ideals animating the United States. The prayer was set to precede speeches by Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts, and former President Bill Clinton.
This year, Wolpe was named the most influential rabbi in America by Newsweek magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by The Jerusalem Post. He is the author of seven books, and is widely known as a newspaper columnist and radio and television commentator.
South African University Distances Itself from Student Boycott of Israel
PRETORIA, South Africa (JTA) — Witwatersrand University in South Africa has distanced itself from a student association decision to boycott Israel.
In a statement released Monday, the Wits Executive Committee said it does not share the initiative of the Wits Student Representative Council, adopted Aug. 31, which calls for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, and for further support of the annual Israel Apartheid Week.
“The Executive Committee of Convocation of the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg would like to distance itself from the views and opinions expressed by the Students’ Representative Council with regards to a boycott of Israel,” the statement read.
“We, as a convocation, value the diverse views of all our members (i.e., academic staff and alumni) regardless of their race, religion, gender, culture, language, ideology or otherwise, provided that they do not exceed the limitations explicated in our Constitution. In our view, the diversity of people, programs and ideas is one of the greatest strengths that makes studying at Wits an enriching experience.”
The South African Union of Jewish Students welcomed the statement from the executive committee. Union chairman Daniel Katzew deplored the student council’s decision, on Monday calling it “a vicious and one-sided resolution aimed at shutting down all debate and discussion surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.’’
The resolution by no means represents the majority of students at Wits, according to Katzew.
In a statement released Monday, the Jewish students’ union condemned the resolution. “The brazen pushing through of such a resolution does a serious disservice to all Wits students wishing to engage in discussion surrounding the conflict, as it effectively ends any dialogue on the issue,” its statement said.
“This is a new attempt to censor political viewpoints and this stands in direct contrast to the spirit of a liberal academic institution.”
Berlin Police Probing Second Anti-Semitic Incident in a Week
BERLIN (JTA) — A second anti-Semitic attack in Berlin within a week has prompted the launch of a state police investigation.
Berlin police said Monday that 13 girls from the Chabad Or Avner primary school were verbally abused with anti-Semitic slogans by four teenage girls from the neighboring public school before their physical education class was to begin, according to the German news agency dpa. The Jewish school shares the gym with the secular school.The four alleged attackers, aged 15 and 16, also reportedly photographed the Jewish pupils with their cell phones. Two young men accompanied the attackers.
A teacher tried unsuccessfully to intervene and speak with the teens, but they fled. At least one was wearing a Muslim headscarf, dpa reported.
The incident follows a brutal attack on Berlin Rabbi Daniel Alter, who was beaten by several men after they asked him if he was Jewish. Alter required emergency medical treatment. The attackers also reportedly threatened Alter’s 6-year-old daughter.
Reaction was swift from political leaders and the head of the Jewish community in both cases. Following the latest incident Gideon Joffe, the head of the Berlin Jewish community, said that Muslims must confront anti-Semitism within their community.
Some 11,000 Jews officially belong to the Berlin Jewish community, and it is estimated that another 10,000 to 20,000 live in the German capital.