First Read For Jan. 12
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News Roundup

First Read For Jan. 12

Here are the headlines American Jews are waking up to today:

On Inauguration day, soon to be President Trump dominates the headlines. Getty Images
On Inauguration day, soon to be President Trump dominates the headlines. Getty Images

Donald Trump’s last campaign ad before the Nov. 8 election featured the images of Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen, billionaire financier and Democratic donor George Soros and Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein — Jews all — and implied the kind international Jewish banking conspiracy that the Nazis regularly trotted out as an anti-Semitic trope. Now, President-elect Trump — in tweets and at his raucous news conference in New York yesterday — invoked Nazi Germany as he reacted angrily to what he called “fake news” from the intelligence community about his possible ties to Russia. “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?” he tweeted. And he reiterated the sentiment at yesterday’s news conference, saying that leaking such intelligence “is something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do.”

Jewish groups pounced, with the Anti-Defamation League and the Anne Frank Center calling him out for the reference to the Nazis. Trump’s Third Reich analogy “has shown the grossest possible insensitivity to the survivors of the Holocaust,” said Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center, according to the New York Times. “Either he is completely callous … or he is so ignorant of history that you would never want this man to be president.”

Jonathan, Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, called Trump’s remarks “not only an inappropriate comparison on the merits, but it also coarsens our discourse.”

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Will a Jewish country club near Washington, D.C., bar a former president from membership?

The New York Post raised that question, reporting on a debate taking place at the mostly Jewish Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md., where members are discussing whether to grant membership to Barack Obama, who leaves the presidency next week, due to his contentious relationship with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Several members of the club also cited Obama’s decision not to veto an anti-settlement resolution in the UN Security Council late last year.

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The head of South Africa’s main opposition party met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday, a few days after the country’s president repeated the government’s longstanding policy that discourages officials from visiting Israel, the Times of Israel reported. Mmusi Maimane, who heads the Democratic Alliance party, arrived in Israel earlier on what officials called a private visit focused on fostering business ties. He was accompanied by three senior DA lawmakers.

Maimane, who has been the leader of the South African opposition since 2014, also met with his Israeli counterpart, Isaac Herzog, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and several Foreign Ministry officials. Both the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv declined to comment on Maimane’s visit. The South African opposition leader declined requests for interviews.

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Operatives for the Hamas terrorist group hacked into dozens of Israeli combat soldiers’ cellphones by posing as attractive Israeli women on Facebook, according to JTA. Using Israeli women’s photos and identities stolen from social media, the operatives would initiate personal and intimate relationships with the soldiers and then ask them to download what they said was an application in order to video chat

The fake app gave Hamas control over the soldiers’ phones, allowing activation by the terrorist group of the camera and microphone, and access to contacts, videos and photos, as well as Whatsapp conversations and emails. The soldiers were not aware that their phones had been hacked.

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In a slap at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement,
Air Transat, a popular Canadian leisure travel airline, announced that it will begin non-stop, twice-weekly flights from Montreal to Israel for the first time this spring, the Canadian Jewish News reported. Israeli officials believe the airline’s action will entice more residents of Quebec to visit the Jewish state and may reduce airfares through competition.

The Montreal-based company said there will be guaranteed departures on Wednesdays and Sundays from June 18 to Oct. 30 from Trudeau Airport to Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport. This is Air Transat’s first Middle East destination. Connecting Air Transat flights from Toronto will be available for each of the flights.

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More than five centuries after Jews were expelled from Sicily, a tiny Jewish community will open its first synagogue in the island’s capital city of Palermo, the Religion News Service reported. At an official ceremony to be held on Thursday, the Catholic Archdiocese of Palermo will transfer to the Jewish community a chapel, the Oratory of Santa Maria al Sabato, which was built above the ruins of the Great Synagogue that once stood in the center of Palermo.

The Sicilian Institute of Jewish Studies and a Jerusalem-based organization, Shavei Israel, requested the transfer. It will formally take place on the anniversary of the decree that demanded the expulsion of Jews from Sicily during the Spanish Inquisition: Jan. 12, 1493. Sicily, at the time, was ruled directly by the kings of Spain via governors and viceroys.

The archbishop of Palermo, Corrado Lorefice, described the initiative as a “gesture of hope” designed to build dialogue between Catholics and Jews.

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