First Read For April 3
News RoundupThe headlines American Jews are talking about today.

First Read For April 3

Texts stolen from Brooklyn shul; Author of ‘Babi Yar’ poem dies; Jewish cemetery in France vandalized; Prison sentence for former Montreal mayor.

Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko smoking a cigarette as he arrives in Britain at London Airport, April 28th 1962. JTA
Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko smoking a cigarette as he arrives in Britain at London Airport, April 28th 1962. JTA

Author of ‘Babi Yar’ poem dies

Acclaimed Russian poet YevgenyYevtushenko, whose 1961 poem about a Nazi atrocity in Kiev brought the slaughter to world attention, died on Saturday at 84 in Tulsa. He had served as a faculty member at the University of Tulsa after leaving the then-Soviet Uiion.

Mt. Yevtushenko, who was not Jewish, focused on war crimes and tyrannical dictators, the Washington Post reported. He gained international acclaim as a young revolutionary with “Babi Yar,” the unflinching 1961 poem that told of the slaughter of nearly 34,000 Jews by the Nazis and denounced the anti-Semitism that had spread throughout the Soviet Union.

Until “Babi Yar” was published, the history of the massacre was shrouded in the fog of the Cold War. Mr. Yevtushenko said he wrote the poem after visiting the site of the mass killings in Kiev, Ukraine, and searching for something memorializing what happened there — a sign, a tombstone, some kind of historical marker — but finding nothing.

“I was so shocked. I was absolutely shocked when I saw it, that people didn’t keep a memory about it,” he said. It took him two hours to write the poem that begins, “No monument stands over Babi Yar. A drop sheer as a crude gravestone. I am afraid.”

Theft at Borough Park synagogue

“Sacred texts” valued at more than $200,000 were stolen on Sunday from Congregation Maase Rokach in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood, the New York Times reports.

The theft was first spotted by “a person associated with the synagogue” who noticed significant damage to the basement door and saw that several books were missing from a book cabinet, according to the Times, which did not identify the stolen items.

Holocaust survivor, 91, celebrates her bat mitzvah in Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — Eugenia Unger, who usually displays the number tattooed on her arm by the Nazis, covered it with her Shabbat clothes and her tallit as she celebrated her bat mitzvah eight decades late.

Unger, 91, a Poland native who survived the Majdanek and Auschwitz concentration camps and often talks about her experiences at the Buenos Aires Holocaust Museum and in schools, was called to the Torah on Saturday at the Herzliya Jewish community center and temple in Buenos Aires.

Holocaust survivor Eugenia Unger, 91, of Buenos Aires celebrates her bat mitzvah. JTA

She told the Argentine radio program Radio Cultura on Thursday of her upcoming celebration that “the culmination of my whole life is my bat mitzvah. It is a ritual that is very important in Jewish life.”

The temple also organized a birthday celebration for Unger, a co-founder of the Holocaust Museum of Buenos Aires in 2000, on Friday night.

Unger, born Eugenia Rotsztejn in Warsaw, lived in the Warsaw Ghetto as a teen and was later taken to the two Nazi camps with her family, including her parents, two brothers and a sister. Unger is the only member of her family who survived the Holocaust. When she was liberated by Soviet forces, she weighed slightly more than 59 pounds.

After a journey across central Europe, she lived for two years in a refugee camp in Modena, Italy, where she met her future husband, David Unger. Both immigrated to Argentina in 1949.

Unger has written three books about her experiences and in 2011 was declared Outstanding Personality by the Buenos Aires city parliament.

French Jewish cemetery vandalized

Forty of 50 headstones at an 18th-century Jewish cemetery in France were smashed or toppled last week, JTA reports. The cemetery in Waldwisse, 215 miles east of Paris, is no longer in use. Police are investigating the attack, the second on the cemetery since 2014.

Over 40 Jewish headstones were toppled at this French cemetery. JTA

Deadline for ‘deadbeat’ rabbi

Velvel Butman, the 49-year-old son of Rabbi Shmuel Butman, director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization, is “an unemployed deadbeat dad who refuses to give his wife a divorce or pay child support,” according to the New York Post. Velvel Butman, the Post reports, “has been battling the court, and his own community, since he first refused to give his long-suffering wife a divorce five years ago.

He formerly worked for his father as an emissary of the Chabad-Lubavitch chasidic movement in Westchester County, but “was booted as a rabbi after a rabbinic court of Chabad Lubavitch ordered him to give his wife a Jewish divorce, called a get, and he refused,” according to the Post. A Brooklyn judge last week held him in contempt for failing since 2013 to pay child support and .said Velvel has 60 days to pay $78,400 or be thrown in jail.

Montreal’s ex-mayor sentenced to prison

Former Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum, the city’s first Jewish mayor, was last week sentenced to 12 months in prison and two years’ probation after being found guilty of corruption-related charges in January, the Canadian Jewish News reports.

Applebaum, 54, who served as interim mayor from November 2012 to June 2013, when he was arrested, was found guilty of eight fraud and breach of trust charges. Six other charges were either dismissed or stayed.

Netflix series covers murder of Israeli teen

A crime series on Netflix is reporting on the 2006 murder of 13-year-old Tir Rada in “the sleepy Israeli town of Katzrin,” the website reports.

The series, “Shadow of Truth,” “points a finger at the Israel Police”  for “insufficiently investigating the crime,” according to the website. The series is “the fruit of years of labor on the part of three young filmmakers, who, “like much of the public,” were suspicious of the police investigation.

Jewish center in Sweden closes after anti-Semitic threats

(JTA) — A Jewish center in northern Sweden will close after receiving anti-Semitic threats.

The members of the Judisk Föreningen, or Jewish Association, in Umea, decided Sunday at a meeting to shut down its building and end its activities, The Local-Sweden reported.

A view of Umea, Sweden, where a Jewish center has decided to shut down. JTA

The association has received threatening emails, and the building was vandalized with stickers of swastikas and spray-painted threats such as “we know where you live,” The Local reported, citing the Swedish-language SVT News Västerbotten.

“Too many things have happened lately which mean that Jewish parents don’t feel safe having their kids at the schools,” Umea Jewish Association spokeswoman Carinne Sjöberg told SVT. “Our children shouldn’t live in a world where they have to be ashamed for what they are, but it’s not possible to operate if people are scared.”

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