First Read For Feb. 6
News RoundupThe headlines American Jews are talking about today.

First Read For Feb. 6

Trump a boon to Jewish-Muslim relations; sculptor Anish Kapoor wins Genesis Prize; LePen: French Jews should take off kipas.

Artist Anish Kapoor, pictured here participating in a solidarity march in London for migrants crossing Europe, is the recipient of the 2017 Genesis Prize.  JTA
Artist Anish Kapoor, pictured here participating in a solidarity march in London for migrants crossing Europe, is the recipient of the 2017 Genesis Prize. JTA

President Trump “is doing wonders for relations between Jews and Muslims in the United States,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

Many Jewish organizations have interpreted Trump’s executive order banning entry by citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries “as a call to arms,” according to the Times, which cited several recent interfaith rallies and conferences and prayer services across the country.

The president’s executive order “evokes painful memories of Jews who were forced to identify themselves with yellow stars before their extermination at the hands of Nazis — and of the countries that turned them away when they tried to flee,” the Times reports.


Sculptor Anish Kapoor was named the winner of the 2017 Genesis Prize.

Kapoor, who was born in Bombay to a Baghdadi Jewish mother and Indian father and at 16 moved to Israel, was named the winner on Sunday of the annual $1 million prize that has been dubbed the “Jewish Nobel,” JTA reports. Kapoor, who has lived in England since the 1970s, joins Itzhak Perlman, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and actor-director Michael Douglas as recipients. Kapoor created the Holocaust Memorial for the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London and the 70 candles for Holocaust Memorial Day in Britain in 2015, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

The Genesis Prize, awarded by the Genesis Prize Foundation in partnership with the Prime Minister of Israel and the Jewish Agency, recognizes individuals who have attained excellence and international renown in their fields and whose actions and achievements express a “commitment to Jewish values, the Jewish community and the State of Israel.”

Kapoor said he will use his $1 million award to help alleviate the Syrian refugee crisis and try to expand the Jewish community’s engagement in a global effort to support refugees. He has a long history of social activism and a commitment to social justice.



The leader of France’s National Front party has told an Israeli TV channel that she believes French Jews should be banned from wearing a kipa, as part of “the struggle against radical Islam,” according to the London Jewish Chronicle.

Marine Le Pen, who leads the far-right political force, said in the Israeli TV interview that “the dangerous situation in which Jews in France live is such that those who walk with a kipa are in any case a minority, because they are afraid.”



The new government that took power this month in Romania includes a native of Israel – 33-year-old Ilan Laufer, a successful businessman who was appointed State Secretary. The position, on the level of a deputy minister, involves a leading role in business development, commerce and entrepreneurship.

Laufer was appointed State Secretary of foreign trade in the new Romanian government under Sorin Grindeanu. Laufer was appointed by the head of the Social Democratic party, Liviu Dragnea, who is considered a “great friend to Israel,” Bloomberg News reports.

Laufer will not be the only Hebrew-speaking member of government in Bucharest. Andreea Păstârnac, who was up until recently the Romanian ambassador in Israel, was appointed minister in charge of Romanian citizens abroad. Păstârnac, who speaks fluent Hebrew, is a professional diplomat considered close to government officials in Romania.


Israel intends to put into motion a series of measures that will improve the economic situation in the Gaza Strip, on condition that Hamas return three Israeli civilians and the remains of two IDF soldiers that it is holding, a senior Israeli defense official told The Times of Israel.

The ideas were conveyed by international officials to the Hamas leadership in the Strip, which “showed interest in the economic steps,” the online paper reports. Hamas sources confirmed that the group had spoken to international officials and agreed to the various plans presented by Israel.

Hamas is believed to be holding hostage three Israeli men who crossed into Gaza of their own accord, Avraham Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, as well as Juma Ibrahim Abu Ghanima, whose presence in Gaza is unconfirmed. It also holds the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who the army determined were killed in action in the 2014 Gaza war.

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