First Read For March 20


Holocaust survivors in Queens face eviction

Two Holocaust survivors who have “battled prejudice and war” are now fighting to stay in the Queens apartments they’ve called home for decades, the New York Daily News reports. “Both seniors are in danger of losing their Kew Gardens homes to a predatory landlord who says neither of them is paying market value for their homes, the paper quotes advocates for the seniors as saying.

Nellya, whose family asked that her last name be withheld, is an 89-year-old great-grandmother, trained as a doctor, who emigrated from Ukraine, lost her husband when she was 40 and raised two children by herself. She doesn’t speak English and is confined to a bed with several health problems. Four floors below, 93-year-old Solomon, a Ukrainian World War II veteran, lives by himself. He suffers from dementia and cataracts.

Four life sentences for Palestinian killer of Massachusetts Jew

The terrorist responsible for the death of Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year-old American Jew from the Boston area on a gap year program in Israel in 2015, was sentenced yesterday to four life prison terms by the Judea Military Court, the Jerusalem Post reports. Two other people –a 24-year-old Palestinian and a 49-year-old Israeli – were also killed in the November 2015 drive-by shooting committed by Mohammed Abed Odeh Harub at the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank.


Aaron go Bragh! Growing Israeli population in Ireland

Ireland has “one of the fastest growing Jewish communities in Europe,” the Times of Israel reported yesterday, on St. Patrick’s Day. The paper quoted Dublin-based Israeli lawyer Mattan Lass as saying, “The story of Irish Jewry has too often been depicted as a community in decline, but not anymore. There are now more than 1,500 new Israeli Jews here working in the IT sector.”

According to Lass, this influx could amount to over half of the Jewish population in Ireland.

In the past, Jewish immigrants to the country came mostly from Eastern Europe. At its peak in the 1950s the Jewish population on the island numbered more than 5,000, but that figure was down to 2,000 in the last census.

New Torah scrolls for Alt-Neu Shul

Prague’s historic Alt-Neu [Old-New] Synagogue yesterday received two new Torah scrolls, the first ones since World War II, Reuters reports. The Torahs, funded by donations to the Prague Jewish community, were written in Israel and brought into the synagogue in a ceremony that included scripting of the final letters by guests and members of the community, and a street dance.

“After years when Torahs were being destroyed, burnt … the community today celebrates with its rabbi a new Torah scroll after many, many years. That is the best expression of the development of the Prague Jewish community,” said deputy head of the Jewish Community of Prague, Frantisek Banyai.

The medieval synagogue is one of the oldest existing ones in Europe, the main attraction of Prague’s Jewish Town.

The Czech Federation of Jewish Communities estimates 15-20,000 Jews live in the Czech Republic. Before WWII there were about 125,000 Jews living in what is now the Czech Republic. About 80,000 were killed during the war.

Second Roman arch depicts the sacking of Jerusalem

Archaeologists in Rome have uncovered the remains of what they describe at the second triumphal arch dedicated to the emperor Titus and his success in putting down the Great Revolt of the Jews in the first century C.E., Haaretz reports.

The building, nestled between the bleachers of the Circus Maximus, the sprawling arena where chariot races and other competitions were held, is about a half-mile from the famous Arch of Titus on the Palatine hill, which famously depicts the menorah and other holy objects from the Holy Temple being carried in a triumphal procession following the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in 70 C.E.

Both arches were built around 82 C.E. by Domitian, who became emperor following his elder brother Titus’ brief, two-year reign.

Gay pride parade set for Jerusalem

Israel’s main gay pride parade this year will reportedly take place this year in Jerusalem, rather than in Tel Aviv where it is traditionally held, the Times of Israel reports. Although Jerusalem is Israel’s largest city, its gay pride parade has traditionally been much smaller than then one in Tel Aviv.

The initiative to hold the country’s 2017 main gay pride parade in Jerusalem was pushed for by the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance “in order to protest for equal rights for the LGBT community,” according to the paper.

In July 2015, the Jerusalem pride parade was the scene of a deadly stabbing spree, raising the event’s profile and leading to a much larger showing the next year.