First Read For March 1


Cautious praise for Trump speech

President Trump earned cautious praise from Jewish groups after his condemnation of anti-Semitism in speech to a joint session of Congress last night, but it was accompanied by a clear call for translating his words into concrete action, the Times of Israel reports.

“B’nai B’rith International welcomes President Donald J. Trump calling attention to recent anti-Semitism during his address,” the group said in a statement. “We now look forward to forceful measures taken by the administration to respond to these anti-Semitic acts. Anti-Semitism is a human rights issue, a distinct phenomenon that must be addressed as such.”

“Thanks @POTUS for condemning #hate against Jews & immigrants,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said on Twitter. “Now let’s fight it. See our plan. Let’s do it together.”

Trump, at the start of his speech, called the recent wave of bomb threats against Jewish institutions and desecration of Jewish cemeteries a reminder “of our nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that remains.”

Check back later today for more analysis on the President’s address.

Nazi’s son returns stolen artworks

The elderly son of a Nazi official has returned three artworks that his family looted during World War II, in a ceremony in Krakow, Poland, according to the israelnationalnews website.

Horst von Waechter of Austria, said he sought to “mend some of his father’s wrongdoings.” In the ceremony, he returned an 18th-century map of Poland built into a small table, as well as two historic drawings that his mother had appropriated in late 1939, shortly after her husband, Baron Otto Gustav von Waechter, became governor in Krakow, a southern Polish city occupied by German and Austrian Nazis.


‘More openness’ for Muslims to join Israeli Army

Col. Wagdi Sarhan, head of the Israeli Army’s minorities unit, says he notices a growing number of Israeli Arabs who are enrolling in the Israeli Army, according to NBC News.

NBC News reports that these recruits, who defy tradition — and often their communities — to serve in the Israeli military reflect a changing relationship, in some circles, between Israeli society and its Arab Muslim minority.

“There is more openness among Arab Muslims that are not Bedouins to volunteer and join the army,” Sarhan said. “We’re talking about recruitment of dozens of Arab Muslim youth and we are hopeful that the numbers will grow.

“The army is a great platform to strengthen the bond between the Arab population to Israeli society,” Sarhan said. “We understand that by serving in the army they will become more connected and more positive towards the state.”

New Muslim soldiers in the army take their oath to the state while holding the Quran, rather than the Torah as Jewish soldiers do.

Vatican opens menorah exhibit

The Vatican and the Jewish community in Rome are marking a new step in relations between the two religions by co-sponsoring the soon-to-open, first-ever joint exhibition on the Menorah, which represents their shared roots, according to the Catholic News Agency. Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said “we must know the Jewish roots of Christianity and we cannot be Christian without knowledge of the religion of the Jews.”

Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome, called the exhibit “a small but important example” of how Catholics and Jews can “work together for a better world.”

The exhibit, “Menorah: Worship, History, Legend,” will be shown simultaneously at Rome’s Jewish Museum and the Braccio di Carlo Magno Museum in the Vatican, located under the left colonnade in St. Peter’s Square.

It will run May 15-July 23 and will include roughly 130 pieces, including menorahs from different periods and depictions of them in paintings, sarcophagi, sculptures and medieval and Renaissance drawings and manuscripts.

More on this here.

Bill would fund Israeli-Palestinian cooperation

Two congressmen have introduced a measure to establish and provide money for an international fund to promote peace between Israel and Palestinians, JTA reports.

Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) and Joseph Crowley (D-NY) this week introduced a bill that urges the United States to establish — in cooperation with the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority, regional governments and the international community — a fund to promote Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, dialogue and joint economic development.

The International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace Authorization Act of 2017 would require the U.S. to provide at least $50 million to the fund annually from 2017 to 2021 and provide two bipartisan representatives to serve on its board.

The Alliance for Middle East Peace, the American Jewish Committee, and the Jewish Federations of North America praised the effort.

Moses cartoon angers Jews, Muslims in Turkey

A satirical weekly in Turkey has drawn the fury of Muslims and Jews for publishing a cartoon that is considered insulting to Moses, a sacred figure for both members of both faiths, the Turkish-based news website reports.

After a “barrage of complaints” on social media, Gırgır, a magazine distributed for free and sponsored by the Sözcü newspaper, apologized for the cartoon and its publisher announced that the magazine would be closed and the artist behind the cartoon will be sued, according to the website.

The cartoon depicted Moses walking with other Israelites through the Red Sea, fleeing Egypt – as he speaks, some in the crowd make fun of him and some swear at him for “grandstanding.”

Turkey’s Jewish community condemned, “humor based on insulting what is sacred” and urged the state to “take the necessary measures against hate crimes that are committed through writing or humor.”