First Read For Jan. 30
News RoundupThe headlines American Jews are waking up to today.

First Read For Jan. 30

Iranian Jews caught up in immigration ban; criticism for White House Holocaust omission; Venice chief rabbi pushes city’s Jewish renewal.

Jacob, left, Miri and Tal Zlotnitsky holding up a poster welcoming Muslim arrivals at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, Jan. 28 2017. JTA
Jacob, left, Miri and Tal Zlotnitsky holding up a poster welcoming Muslim arrivals at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, Jan. 28 2017. JTA

Muslims are not the only people affected by the Trump administration’s new restrictive immigration policy.

JTA reports that the U.S. ban on refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries has affected several Jewish families. According to HIAS, the Jewish refugee support and advocacy group, the ban, which came Friday in an executive order signed by President Donald Trump, has plunged into further uncertainty the lives of a Jewish Iranian man in his late 20s and his middle-aged mother, who for the past year have been waiting in an unnamed country for a reply on their application for asylum in the United States.

HIAS CEO Mark Hetfield, citing privacy concerns and a desire not to further complicate the application process, declined to name the applicants or reveal their whereabouts. The man and his mother, he said, are trying to reunite with two of the mother’s daughters who are already in the United States.

“The ban affects hundreds of our clients, for whom it may be the difference between life and death,” Hetfield said.


Another action by the Trump administration has drawn criticism from the Jewish community.

The administration, in defending its decision to omit any mention of Jews or anti-Semitism from its statement on Friday that marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day, noted that Jews were not the only victims of Nazi slaughter.
“Despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered,” said Hope Hicks, a communications aide for the president.

The omission, a year after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came in for similar criticism for delivering a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day that failed to mention Jews, drew ire from American Jewish group, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted, “Puzzling and troubling @WhiteHouse #HolocaustMemorialDay stmt has no mention of Jews. GOP and Dem. presidents have done so in the past.”

The New York Times reported on Monday morning that the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Zionist Organization of America mildly rebuked the White House over the omission.


In Russia, Holocaust Remembrance Week has drawn the participation of schools, movie theaters and schools, in an attempt to educate citizens who are largely unknowledgeable about what happened to Europe’s Jews during World War II, the Moscow Times reports.

“But for all that has changed in the last few years, much has remained the same,” the paper reports. “For Russians, WWII was both a great victory and an enormous catastrophe. Over 25 million Soviet citizens lost their lives in the fight against fascism.

“Nazi Germany’s genocide of European Jews was seldom discussed publicly in the Soviet Union. It was virtually never mentioned on an official level,” according to the Times. “Even the word “Holocaust” was uncommon. Instead, the Holocaust was subsumed under the Soviet Union’s state narrative of the war, which emphasized the killing of Soviet citizens.”

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 brought the freedom to reevaluate official Soviet history, and the Russian narrative of Hitler’s genocide no longer existed in isolation from the Western narrative, in which the Holocaust plays a central role.


Michael Applebaum, Montreal’s first Jewish mayor, is facing a maximum five-year prison term after he was found guilty last week of corruption-related charges, almost four years after his arrest, according to the Canadian Jewish News.

Quebec Court Judge Louise Provost ruled that Applebaum, who served as interim mayor from November 2012 to June 2013, was guilty of eight of 14 counts, including fraud against the government, breach of trust, conspiracy and corruption. Sentencing arguments are scheduled for Feb. 15.

Applebaum was accused of extorting about $30,000 to $35,000 from businessmen Robert Stein and Anthony Keeler, and $25,000 from the engineering firm SOGEP while he was mayor of the borough of Côte des Neiges-Notre Dame de Grâce between 2007 and 2012. The bribes were demanded in exchange for favourable decisions on real estate development projects.

Applebaum, who was first elected to Montreal city council in 1994, became interim mayor in November 2012, after Gérald Tremblay resigned following damning testimony concerning his administration during the Charbonneau commission of inquiry into corruption in the Quebec construction industry. Applebaum was Montreal’s first Anglophone mayor in a century.


The Grand Canal in Venice. Wikimedia Commons

The chief rabbi of Venice, whose famed ghetto is commemorating its 500th anniversary, is trying to reinvigorate the city’s shrinking Jewish community.

Rabbi Scialom Bahbout, says the city’s Jewish community has to find new ways to “reinvent itself,” the website reports trying to get their Jewish citizens to remain in Catholic Italy.

Only 500 Jews remain in Venice, with another 500 in nearby Padua, Verona and Trieste, a small percentage of the country’s 30,000 Jewish population.

“Like the city of Venice itself, the community is becoming more and more of a museum,” Rabbi Bahbout said. “We need a city that is alive. It is difficult because most young people are leaving for places where they are assured of a more comprehensive Jewish life; in Italy, that means Milan or Rome,” he said. “Many also move to Israel, Paris or New York.”

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