‘Race Against Time to Save Mum’

The family of a mum-of-two from Kenton, who is undergoing last-ditch treatment for a rare form of cancer, this week made an urgent plea to young Jewish News readers to register as bone marrow donors.

The emotional appeal was issued to those aged between 16 and 30 by Jonni and Caroline Berger, whose mother Sharon has Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.

Sharon, 61, entered a hospital isolation unit on Monday to undergo six weeks of aggressive chemotherapy, at the end of which a matching bone marrow donor needs to have been found.

Jonni said: “It is now a race against time. A match for our mum is most
likely to come from someone in the Ashkenazi community.”

The situation has been exacerbated by a cruel twist of fate. The best chance of a genetic match comes from the immediate family, but while Sharon’s three
siblings all match each other, none are a suitable match for her.

However, her children were determined that their mother’s fate should not come down to a stroke of bad luck, and last month launched the ‘Spit4Mum’ campaign, so named because of the way in which tissue-type is tested.

Orchestrated online through social media networks, their campaign has already increased the number of registrations. They have attended recent community events, such as Limmud and the Juefa football tournament, and have enlisted celebrities, including singers Charlotte Church and Danni Minogue, to help encourage those within the relevant age group to sign up.

“The response from the community has been amazing,” said Caroline. “We have had offers from old friends and fellow community members, as well as people we have never met before. People have offered to set up screening clinics to enable people to join the register.”

Dr Ian Ellis, a clinical geneticist in Liverpool, reinforced the family’s call for donor registrations. He said: “Genetic matches usually come from within the family and the Ashkenazi community is essentially one big genetic family, so there is a specific need for Jewish community members to register as donors.”

Jonni and Caroline’s efforts have already had an impact, and there were signs this week that the community is mobilising. Among the organisations actively supporting the Bergers’ drive were schools, including Emanuel and JCoSS, and youth programmes, including United Synagogues’ Project Chesed and Reform’s RSY-Netzer and Jeneration.

University students across the country were also beginning to show their support, at a time when many sit their January exams. Alex Green, president of the Union of Jewish Students, said: “UJS recognises the urgency and importance of this. We will continue to do our utmost to mobilise Jewish students around
the country to maximise the likelihood of finding a match.”

Sharon’s husband Stephen, who acts a volunteer courier for the Anthony Nolan Trust delivering samples across the country, said he was delighted at the social media frenzy generated by the plight of his wife, but confirmed his family’s desperate calls for young adults to register.

“There must be a bone marrow match for Sharon out there somewhere,” said Stephen. “We just need to find them. Finding a match would be better than winning the lottery.”

Full details of the Spit4Mum campaign can be found online at http://is.gd/Spit4Mum. The Anthony Nolan Trust can be contacted on 0303 303 0303 or online at www.anthonynolan.org. If you would like to support the campaign in your community, contact Jonni Berger at jonni@thebergers.co.uk

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Jewish Couple Among Superstorm Dead

The main umbrella group for Jewish communities, the Jewish Federation of North America, will raise the money for recovery and reconstruction efforts.

It comes after the superstorm, which tore through the Caribbean, eastern United States and Canada this week, left at least 130 dead, including more than 20 in New York.

Among the dead were Jacob Vogelman and Jessie Streich-Kest, a young Jewish couple, who were killed by a falling tree in Brooklyn.

JFNA President Jerry Silverman said in a statement: “We send our support and prayers to those affected by the hurricane, and stand beside them during the recovery and rebuilding.”

The Union of Reform Judaism also started a relief effort to help communities struck by the devastating storm, with URJ chairman Steve Sacks saying: “This storm will require a long-term, coordinated recovery effort.”

The news came as the Jewish community on the east coast slowly began opening its doors once again. The Jewish Cultural Centre in Manhattan and the UJIA Federation of New York reopened on Wednesday after the closure of schools and businesses across the city. Jewish organisations in Long Island however remained closed due to power outages.

Earlier, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had led evacuation efforts, leaving the financial capital largely shut down.

On Wednesday, US President Barack Obama surveyed the city’s wreckage and described the disaster as “heart-breaking.”

The Republican Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, was among those praising the president for his handling of the crisis so far, calling it “outstanding.”

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Nuclear Reaction

A nuclear Iran would spark a terrifying Middle East arms race “within weeks,” involving Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia – leaving the “fate of the region out of Israel’s hand”.

That was the stark warning delivered this week by Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak at Bicom’s annual dinner, held in central London on Tuesday night.

Barak said a nuclear Iran would mean Israel’s near neighbours Egypt and Turkey would follow suit “within years” and Saudi Arabia “within weeks”. He added: “The countdown to nuclear materials falling into terrorist hands will have begun.”

Barak was cautious about the effectiveness of diplomacy and sanctions against Iran. He said: “Based on experience, we’re highly sceptical about the chances of success.”

Barak’s speech, in which he spoke of meeting US presidents and operating undercover in Beirut dressed as a woman, could also have been interpreted as a message that Israel could go it alone against the Islamic Republic.

“Once Iran enters the immunity zone, fate will be out of our hands,” said Barak, adding: “Israel was founded precisely so our fate would remain in our own hands. We will not outsource responsibility for making a decision, not even to our closest and most trusted allies.”

Reflecting on the recent changes in the Middle East, he likened the Arab Spring to a “geopolitical earthquake on a scale not witnessed since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire,” adding that regimes were “falling like dominoes”.

Israel’s Defence Minister also used the occasion to praise the British government “for its leading role in the campaign to have Hezbollah added to the EU’s terror list” and acknowledged that the UK had been a “driving force” behind sanctions against Iran.

The speech, in which Barak reiterated his desire for a two-state solution, was well-received.

Board of Deputies chief executive Jon Benjamin said: “If only Israel’s critics could hear the earnest desire for a lasting and viable end to the conflict expressed from the heart of the Israeli government.”

Alan Beith MP, President of Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel, said: “Barak made an excellent speech, setting out the dangers posed by instability among Israel’s neighbours.”

Alex Brummer, vice-president of the Board of Deputies, said: “The speech was an important statement of great relevance to the British Jewish community. He made it clear that economic sanctions are biting hard on Iran and the UK and EU have been most helpful on this front. But Tehran now has a stockpile of enriched uranium. And leakage of this material and technology is a threat to Israel and the whole of the free world.”

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Landmark deal boosts trade ties between EU and Israel

The Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance (ACAA), which will make it easier to export Israeli pharmaceuticals and other goods to the 27 EU member countries, follows a two-year campaign by the Board of Deputies and other Jewish organisations across Europe.

The agreement passed by 379 votes to 230, with 41 abstentions, and will make it simpler for Israeli pharmaceuticals to reach European patients.

Elizabeth Harris-Sawcencko, director of public affairs for the Board of Deputies, said: “Common sense has prevailed. It not only makes good financial sense, with billions of euros in savings on Israeli pharmaceuticals, it also means that patients will be getting the best medications available on the international market.”

The ACAA removes the need for additional red tape when Israeli products are being imported into the EU, reducing both the cost of the medicine and the time it takes to reach the market.

Zionist Federation Director Alan Aziz said: “This is a great day for those who value patients over politics.”

The deal had been held up by groups such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. “This vote is a huge blow to the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sactions) movement,” said Jamie Slavin at the Board. “They may claim to be building a mass campaign, but are clearly gaining no traction.”

BICOM’s Dermot Kehoe reiterated this view. He said: “Those who campaigned against this should realise that peace will only be achieved through cooperation and understanding, rather than boycotts, divestment and sanctions.”

Sarah Ludford MEP, human rights spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, said: “It’s a fallacy to claim that refusing the agreement will somehow help deliver peace in the Middle East. Blocking this trade would do nothing whatsoever for Palestinians.”

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Israel and Iran take centre stage in White House Battle

Obama chided Romney for his aggressive stance on Iran in front of a university audience in Florida. The President said: “He’s often talked as if we should take premature military action. That would be a mistake.”

Romney hit back, accusing Obama of wanting to create “daylight” between Israel and the US, and spurning the Jewish state during an “apologetic” Middle East tour early in his presidency.

Romney added: “They noticed that you skipped them.”

In what was, at times, a personal and heated affair, Obama countered, saying: “When I went to Israel, I didn’t take donors, I didn’t attend fundraisers. I went to Yad Vashem. I went down to the border towns of Sderot.”
Obama also landed a punch on his opponent over Iran, reminding viewers that while he was trying to enforce international sanctions against the Islamic Republic, Romney was “still invested in a Chinese oil company doing business with the Iranian oil sector”.

Both candidates made sure Israel featured heavily throughout, with frequent mentions during the course of the debate.

Both said they would support Israel against a threat from Iran.
They agreed Iran could not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon and that sanctions were the right way to go, and agreed military and intelligence co-operation with Israel was paramount.

There were also areas in which neither candidate committed. Neither suggested that they would provide military support to Israel for any pre-emptive strike on Iran, when many suggest that America’s advanced air-to-air refuelling capability would help Israeli fighter jets cover the long distances involved.
The debate ended with Obama on the front foot, aiming to paint his opponent as out-of-touch and out of his depth. He said: “Governor, you want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.”

The media was quick to seize on Romney’s geographical gaffes, such as his suggestion that Iran needed Syria’s access to the sea, despite Iran having more than 2,500km of coastline bordering the Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.

While the final debate was taking place, the US and Israel conducted their largest ever joint military exercise, in a region of rising tensions.

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War Museum Defends Invite to Revisionists

Survivor groups in Lithuania led a chorus of disapproval after representatives from the country’s Genocide Centre were welcomed to the Imperial War Museum this week as part of an official visit organised by the Lithuanian embassy.
In May, the Genocide Centre supported the Lithuanian government’s reburial of former prime minister and Nazi collaborator Juozas Ambroazivicius who, in 1941, signed an order for the country’s Jews to be sent to concentration camps.

An estimated 196,000 Lithuanian Jews were killed in the Holocaust from a total population of 204,000.

The centre is also suspected by some of cultivating links with neo-Nazi groups and assisting with the organisation of an annual neo-Nazi parade through the capital, Vilnius.

Officials from Lithuania’s Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum also attended this week’s Imperial War Museum visit, to meet UK Holocaust historians and educators and explore ways to increase co-operation. Its deputy director, Dr Kamile Rupeikeite, issued a statement distancing his organisation from the Genocide Centre.

He said: “We have no intention of discussing common projects with the Genocide Centre because of its attitude to the Holocaust. Our trip should not be perceived as joining forces.”

Observers have repeatedly outlined concerns regarding the Genocide Centre. Dovid Katz, a Vilnius-based Yiddish scholar and founder of the website defendinghistory.com, said: “The Genocide Centre continues to try to sanitise the issue and glorify local participants in the Nazi slaughter of Lithuania’s Jews. The Imperial War Museum should have refused to host them. By doing so it gives legitimacy to the Genocide Centre and its museum.”

The Imperial War Museum, which houses Europe’s largest Holocaust museum, said: “We are hosting a visit by four museum professionals who are interested to learn more about our own Holocaust exhibition and its educational use. It is our role to discuss the exhibition with all parties if it furthers understanding of how best to deliver and educate on this subject.”
Head of research, Suzanne Bardgett, added: “We don’t turn any educators away – especially those who would benefit most from a visit.”

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No Faith In New Exams

Jewish educators warned this week that the status of Hebrew and religious studies could come under serious threat when GCSE exams are replaced by the new EBACC qualification.

The Board of Deputies has stepped up its campaign to lobby the government for the inclusion of religious studies as a core syllabus subject in the new English Baccalaureate Certificate, or EBACC, announced last week by Education Secretary Michael Gove (pictured) as the replacement for GCSEs from 2015.

With the consultation process concluding in December, the Board’s Jon Benjamin said: “There is currently no mention of religious studies being included in the consultation document [for the EBACC], so we will ask partner organisations for comments and pass these on to the government.”

Colin Spanjar, director of community issues for the Board, added: “Lots of Jewish students currently choose religious studies as a recognised GCSE. But if there is no formal qualification available under the new proposals, students would only end up with a certificate of attainment, which carries no weight beyond the school. This could adversely affect sign-up numbers.”

He also highlighted the uncertainty surrounding modern Hebrew studies. “There are currently 24 languages offered as a GCSE by exam boards, of which Hebrew is one. However, Hebrew is not mentioned in the new consultation document. It only talks of languages that are either ‘popular or beneficial for business.’”

Spanjar’s concerns echo those of many Jewish secondary schools. Spencer Lewis, headteacher at King Solomon High School, said: “I want to ensure religious studies and modern and classical Hebrew are included in any new qualifications. These are very important subjects in our schools and to our community.”

Charles Dormer of Immanuel College said: “I share the concern of many that the proposed EBACC certificate is narrow in scope and does not permit RS to count as one of the compulsory humanities subjects along with geography or history.”

And Rabbi D Meyer, headteacher at Hasmonean High School, added: “The possibility that less popular subjects such as modern and biblical Hebrew will be phased out is troubling.”

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Romney Hailed as ‘Realist’ on Mid East

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has told donors that Palestinians “have no interest” in peace with Israel and suggested that efforts at peace under his administration would languish, according to a newly released video of his private remarks to donors in May.

In the video, Romney is heard lamenting the current stalemate, saying that the pathway to peace was “almost unthinkable to accomplish”. He says that pushing Israel to give up land in disputed territories “is the worst idea in the world”, and that Iran would infiltrate a Palestinian state to threaten Israel in the same way it does in Lebanon.

In the video, filmed at an event hosted by Florida-based millionaire Marc Leader, Romney adds that in the event of Palestinian statehood, “the Iranians would want to do, through the West Bank, exactly what they did through Lebanon [and] what they did through Gaza. They would want to bring missiles and arms to the West Bank and potentially threaten Israel”.

The explosive comments by the Republican candidate, in which he infers that all Palestinians are “committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel,” sparked debate across the British Jewish community this week, with some suggesting Romney is right.

Likud Herut UK chairman Zalmi Unsdorfer said: “I see Romney as a refreshing realist. The Palestinian Authority shows no sign of recognising a Jewish state. In this situation there is every justification in maintaining the status quo.”

Alex Brummer, Vice-president of the Board of Deputies, said: “We know Mr Romney to be a good friend of Israel, but the British Jewish community believes a two-state solution remains the best way forward for a lasting settlement between Israel and the Palestinian territories.”

Romney’s comments, however, have led to concern by some who worry that, under a Republican presidency, US efforts to re-engage the two sides in peace talks would falter.

Others took exception to Romney’s apparent grouping of all Palestinians into the category of violent extremists. Alan Aziz, director of the Zionist Federation, said: “We disagree with Mitt Romney’s comments if they inferred that all Palestinians are committed to Israel’s destruction.”

Romney has been widely criticised both within and beyond the US for factual inaccuracies and the less-than-diplomatic way he made his points, but it is the timing of this latest video release that has raised eyebrows, with the election campaign entering its closing stages.

The Republican candidate is proving gaffe-prone. In earlier excerpts taken from the same dinner meeting, Romney is heard saying that almost half the American people were “victims” relying on benefits, and that his role “is not to worry about those people”.

Romney later admitted that his remarks were not “elegantly stated”.

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Motion to Bolster Chhurch ties with ‘Biased’ Group

A private member’s motion set to be voted on at a meeting in July of the Church’s highest legislative body, the General Synod, seeks to deepen links with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), which “brings internationals to the West Bank to experience life under occupation”.

Its website says participants – currently about 20 annually from the UK alone – provide “protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitor and report human rights abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace”.

The Board of Deputies, however, has accused EAPPI of creating “a cohort of very partisan but very motivated anti-Israel advocates” and fears that, if passed, the motion would “significantly raise EAPPI’s profile and legitimacy”.
The Board has encouraged community members to write to the Archbishop of Canterbury to make clear the strength of feeling on the issue.

A statement said: “Participants are expected to fulfil a minimum of ten
speaking engagements on their return, but most do many more in churches across the country.

“They are considered experts on the overall situation, despite having a very narrow experience which takes almost no account of the suffering of Israelis.”

The Zionist Federation, meanwhile, implored the Synod not to vote for the motion on 10 July.

It said: “The EAPPI presents its participants with such a biased and unbalanced view of the situation in Israel that, rather than extending this programme, the Synod should be looking to either change it drastically or end it altogether.”

Anglican Friends of Israel also calling for the motion’s rejection, saying: “Supporting such a biased organisation would undermine the Archbishop’s good work in signing the memo with the two Chief Rabbis in Israel – many Anglicans are as horrified as the Board.”

In 2006, the trio signed a joint declaration, which Dr Williams said was a step in “developing better mutual understanding and trust between the Anglican Communion and the Chief Rabbinate and worldwide Judaism.”

Speaking to the Jewish News, Geneva-based EAPPI programme associate Anne-Marie Vuijnier said the organisation “works with Israeli partners and is not anti-Israel. We don’t incite and we don’t take sides.”

Vuijnier denied claims by the Board that programme participants only spend “one day inside the Green Zone, normally in Sderot ”. She said it was in fact at least a week, but she confirmed that the group’s primary concern was “the occupation”.
The group lobbies the EU on political issues, including most recently on what
it calls the “forced displacement” of Palestinians from part of the West Bank.

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Habima Plays On as Globe Protesters are Thrown Out

Protests spilled into the building on both nights of the company¹s
performances of The Merchant of Venice on Monday and Tuesday.

One pro-Palestinian activist was arrested and one pro-Israeli audience member
was reportedly removed for challenging a protester during the interval.

The scenes echoed the disruption to the Israeli Philharmonic’s performance
at the Royal Albert Hall last year. Unlike in September 2011, however, this
week¹s disruptions were minimal, and the performances, in Hebrew, were
hailed a success. Habima played on as security and police quickly bundled
banner-waving protesters, some of whom shouted their message from the
audience or simply stood up with their mouths taped. Outside the theatre,
ejected protesters emerged through a police cordon to a hero¹s welcome from
fellow campaigners.

Boycott campaign representative Ofer Neiman said tempers flared between the
groups as the audience left. “As people were leaving the theatre, a few of
us chanted slogans. I did so in Hebrew, saying Israel was an apartheid state
and Habima was an apartheid theatre. I faced some very hostile reactions
then.”

The authorities had been prepared for trouble. Police numbers were high and
Globe security personnel were deployed in significant numbers around the
perimeter. Anti- and pro-Israeli protesters were kept apart on opposite
sides of the theatre entrance.

There were Jews and non-Jews on both sides of the divide. Among those waving
Israeli flags on Monday was Belfast-born Simon McIlwaine, a co-director of
Anglican Friends of Israel, who called the anti-Israel protest “unwanted,
unwarranted and disgraceful”.

The spokeswoman for the campaign, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, is herself Jewish.
Trying to make herself heard over her colleague’s rendition of Ode to Joy,
she said Habima had made itself a legitimate target for protest because
Israeli national interests were served by the theatre.

Stefan Kerner, director of public affairs for the Zionist Federation, said
the counter-protest, comprised of up to 150 people, was intended to show
that the theatre was welcome. “The pro-Palestinian groups want to stop them
coming and boycott Israel, and we want to show that there is a different
side of the story. We’re standing up for what we believe is right, and to
defend Israel¹s honour.”

McIlwaine agreed with the sentiment. “There is far too much hatred of Israel
going around at the moment, and I think it¹s important for us decent people
­Christians and Jews alike ­ to stand up and be counted.”

Habima was one of many theatres from around the world invited to perform at
the Globe as part of the Cultural Olympiad. In March, a group of prominent
figures from the arts world called for them to be disinvited.

There was general agreement in some quarters that the protest against Habima
had back-fired. Board of Deputies CEO Jon Benjamin said: “The boycotters
ended up politicising the event with the unintended consequence of the
Israeli performance being full to capacity and the Palestinians¹ being a
sideshow.”

Liberal Judaism¹s chief executive, Rabbi Danny Rich ­ who was joined at
Tuesday night’s performance by the Chief Rabbi and the Israeli Ambassador -­
said: “I am not a fan of boycotts, but even less so when they seem to apply
to Israel and not, for example, to Syria or Saudi Arabia.”

Pro-Palestinian campaigners defended their actions. One, Zoe Mars, said: “We
tried non-violently to convey the message that culture may not be used to
give a civilised gloss to a state that perpetrates human rights abuses.”

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