First Read For Feb. 28


Is anti-Semitism office on Trump’s chopping block?

President Trump reportedly is considering cutting funding for several State Department special envoy positions, including one dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, as part of a forthcoming budget proposal, Haaretz reports.

According to the paper, the president, who is to address a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, will propose increasing defense spending by $54 billion and make cuts to federal agencies to accommodate the 10 percent defense increase in the new budget plan.

Congress in 2004 mandated the position of special envoy for monitoring and combating anti-Semitism in 2004. The State Department website page for the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism was among several pages taken down after the Trump administration took office.

Accused beater of Jewish Y head flees to Turkey

A New York man who was convicted of assaulting the head of the Kings Bay Y in Brooklyn outside the Barclays Center in 2014 has fled the country for Turkey, according to JTA.

Shawn Schraeder, 27, of Queens, failed to show up last week for his first appointment with probation officials, JTA reported. A spokeswoman for the Department of Probation said the department had been informed by federal authorities that Schraeder had left the country and is believed to be living in Turkey.

Schrader was convicted last September of assault, menacing and endangering the welfare of a child for punching Leonard Petlakh, the executive director of the Kings Bay Y, in the face following an exhibition game between the Brooklyn Nets and Maccabi Tel Aviv.  Petlakh was there with his two sons, ages 10 and 14.

Bomb threat at Jewish Museum in Sydney

Bomb threats against Jewish institutions aren’t limited to the United States – The Sydney Jewish Museum in Australia was put into lockdown on Tuesday after a bomb threat was made against the museum, according to the Australian Jewish News. Emergency services were called after a threatening phone call was made to the museum, prompting an immediate evacuation of the building.

Bomb detection dogs and teams of police searched the museum and surrounding areas, however nothing suspicious was located.

A wave of bomb threats against JCCs and other Jewish institutions in this country continued on Monday.

200 Israelis attend stranger’s funeral

More than 200 Israelis last week attended the funeral of a complete stranger — a Holocaust survivor from the Canary Islands who was buried in a Tel Aviv cemetery, JTA reported.

Hilde Nathan’s final wish was to be laid to rest in Israel alongside her mother, the United With Israel organization said on its website.

Nathan, who did not have a husband or children, died alone at 90. Knowing of her wishes, the Canary Island Jewish community, which numbers about 20, raised the money to fly her body to Israel for burial. The community put out a call through the Israeli media for mourners at her funeral, which was held Monday morning.

“Nathan always lived alone, but today it seems that the entire People of Israel has come to say goodbye. She lived alone but did not leave alone,” an Israeli Holocaust survivor, the only person at the funeral who was acquainted with her when she was alive, told the United With Israel website.

Israelis making popular assault weapon

Command Arms and Accessories, a nine-year-old Israeli firm, has begun manufacturing a version of the AK-47 assault rifle, according to The Daily Beast. The website reports that the business’ leaders, veterans of the Israeli Army, have obtained “official licensing from the original Russian manufacturer” and “are now venturing into the gun business proper with what they’ve named the ‘Alfa” Kalashnikov’ —a weapon that combines Israeli design prowess and other modern amenities with the qualities that made the old model into a global phenomenon.  It is, they claim, the world’s best assault rifle.”

Hunt for Nazi war criminals ‘almost over’

Efraim Zuroff, who for three decades as lead investigator for the Simon Wiesenthal Center “has led a global hunt for the men and women responsible for carrying out the Holocaust,” concedes that his work is “probably almost over,” Canada’s National Post reports.

The U.S. native, who has traced the “rat lines” that Nazis used to escape from the scenes of their crimes, has played a role in the trials or investigations of some 40 war criminals. He also successfully campaigned to have a law passed in Britain that allows war criminals to be prosecuted.

“More than 70 years after the last gas chambers were shuttered, old age will likely catch up with the remaining Nazi war criminals before justice does,” the Canadian paper reported. “There are a couple more years left, not more,” Zuroff said.