First Read For Feb. 1
News RoundupThe headlines American Jews are waking up to today.

First Read For Feb. 1

Mixed reviews on Trump’s Supreme Court pick; Amona evacuations now underway; Jewish Agency funding JCC security measures.

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with Judge Neil Gorsuch after nominating him to the Supreme Court during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House January 31, 2017 in Washington, DC. Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with Judge Neil Gorsuch after nominating him to the Supreme Court during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House January 31, 2017 in Washington, DC. Getty Images

President Trump’s nomination of U.S. Court of Appeals judge Neil Gorsuch to an open seat on the Supreme Court has drawn a mixed reaction from Jewish organizations.

JTA reports that liberal groups oppose the president’s choice, while conservative ones are in favor.

Gorsuch is known to favor protections of religious belief in the public square and for business owners.

Among his opinions most attracting Jewish interest was Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby in 2013, when the appeals court upheld the right of a private business to reject the government mandate to provide contraceptive care under employee health plans. The Obama administration had offered leeway on such coverage to faith-based non-profits, but would not extend them to private businesses.

Gorsuch joined the majority in the appeals court ruling, which was upheld the next year by the Supreme Court. Liberal Jewish groups backed the government in the case. Orthodox Jewish groups favored Hobby Lobby, arguing for expansive allowances for consideration of religious beliefs by business owners. He has also favored displays of crosses on public lands, and has tended in his rulings toward the rights of gun owners, in favor of the death penalty and against abortion rights.

Bend the Arc, a liberal social action group, said it was “deeply concerned” by Gorsuch’s record. Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union’s executive director of public policy, said Gorsuch’s rulings “show a jurisprudential approach that venerates religious conscience and pluralism in American society.”


Security forces in Israel have started evacuating residents from the illegal outpost of Amona in the West Bank, after hundreds of youths streamed into the outpost to fight the evacuation. Several politicians, including a cabinet minister, have joined the protesters, according to Haaretz.

Israel’s Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi David Lau has called on the residents of Amona and those who are staying in the vicinity of the settlement not to act violently against security forces during the evacuation.


The Jewish Agency for Israel, which usually deals with immigration to Israel and Zionism among Jewish communities around the world, has been funding security measures for Jewish communities over the past four years in light of the rise in anti-Semitic incidents, according to the ynetnews website.

The Jewish Agency’s Emergency Assistance Fund for Jewish Communities has taken steps to protect 110 synagogues, 80 schools and preschools, and 75 community centers. This comes during a recent spate of bomb scares at JCCs in the United States.

The new measures include closed circuit television systems, and new fences and gates.

“We know that a terrorist looking to harm Jews will look for the easiest target, and any security measure standing in his way will contribute to deterrence,” explained Josh Schwarcz, the Jewish Agency’s secretary-general.



A Jewish teenager has been kicked out of a vocational school in Germany for allegedly raising his arm in the Hitler salute in the classroom, virtualjerusalem reports.

But Maksym M., 18, insists he was just raising his hand when attendance was taken at the Blindow-Schule in Leipzig. The state prosecutor declined to bring charges against him. The student’s teacher said that Stefan when his name was called in class, “raised his right arm with his palm flat, holding it at eye level.”

It is illegal in Germany to display the Hitler salute or other Nazi symbols.



A trade school in Canada that recently banned Israeli applicants because of Israel’s “illegal settlement activity” has rescinded the ban, following an intervention by B’nai Brith Canada and members of the Canadian Jewish community, Arutz Sheva reports.

Stav Daron, an Israeli engineering student and amateur carpenter, had hoped to take a course at the Island School of Building Arts on Gabriola Island in the province of British Columbia. However, when he tried to confirm his registration in January, he was told via email that, “Due to the conflict and illegal settlement activity in the region, we are not accepting applications from Israel.”

B’nai Brith Canada noted in a statement on Tuesday that refusing to provide a service on grounds of race, religion, ancestry or place of origin is prohibited by the British Columbia Human Rights Code. After receiving a legal letter from B’nai Brith, the school apologized for discriminating against Daron, noting that it had “decided to rescind any restriction placed on accepting students from Israel and apologize for any inconvenience.”

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