First Read For May 17


Ex- U.S. intelligence official: Trump’s disclosure puts Israeli spy’s life at risk

An Israeli spy’s life is at risk as the result of President Trump’s reported passing of classified information to senior Russian officials last week, according to the Times of Israel.

The paper cites the opinions of Matt Olsen, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, who told ABC News that Trump’s disclosures pose a threat to “future sources of information about plots against us,” and Dan Shapiro, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, who said the “careless” handling of sensitive information would “inevitably cause elements of Israel’s intelligence service to demonstrate more caution.”

The New York Times reported yesterday that Israel was the country that provided the U.S. with the classified intelligence that the president shared with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak last week.The spy tipped handlers off about an Islamic State plan to blow up a passenger plane headed for the U.S. by hiding a bomb in a laptop.

Officials said the intelligence provided by the spy was so sensitive that it was shared only with the U.S. and was conditioned on the source remaining secret.

Survivors’ group opposes Sarsour speech at CUNY graduation

A group of about 100 Holocaust survivors has written a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking him to stop anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour from speaking at a City University of New York graduation next month, the Jerusalem Post reports.
CUNY has chosen to maintain its invitation for Sarsour to address graduates of its School of Public Health and Health Policy on June 1.

Sarsour, among the organizers of January’s Women’s March on Washington, is an outspoken critic of Israel.

“What Linda Sarsour advocates for – boycotts against Jewish businesses in Israel and random acts of violence against the innocent – are no different than the things that we personally experienced,” the survivors wrote in their letter. “This is a frightening reality that we hoped we would never see again. But what makes matters worse is to again see good people and respected institutions responding with indifference.”

Rabbi sues city for loss of chaplaincy job

A former Jewish chaplain who worked in a Brooklyn federal prison claims in a complaint filed with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons that his bosses discriminated against him — and ultimately fired him — for his religion, according to the Daily News.

Rabbi Naftali Ausch, a chasidic Jew from Williamsburg and certified chaplain, is suing the federal prison system and his former bosses who, he said, subjected him to the discrimination, created a hostile workplace and retaliated when he complained. The rabbi began working as a chaplain in the Metropolitan Detention Center in July 2009.  He had a Monday-to-Friday schedule, which let him attend morning prayers and make it home at the end of the work week for Shabbat.

But in 2012, a new supervisor who was a Jesuit priest put Ausch on a Sunday-to-Thursday schedule that interfered with Rabbi Ausch’s morning prayers; when he didn’t show up on a Sunday when Purim occurred, he was disciplined and docked pay, he said.

The rabbi was fired in October 2015 for bringing in tefillin, which prison authorities claimed was contraband.

Rabbi’s widow sues for denial of insurance payment

The widow of a longtime New Jersey rabbi who died of cancer in January has filed suit against her late husband’s insurance company, alleging it canceled his $1 million life insurance policy when he missed a single payment while suffering from his illness, the website reports.

Rabbi Joseph Strassfeld, 66, was the founding dean of Yeshiva Ohr Simcha in Englewood, a high school and study center. In January 2008, years before he became ill two years ago, the rabbi took out a $1 million life insurance policy with American General Life Insurance Company, naming the school as beneficiary, according to a lawsuit filed in Bergen County Superior Court.

After Strassfeld’s death, his wife of 44 years, Helen, was named executrix of his estate. When his widow tried to acquire the insurance money for the school she found out the policy had been canceled because her husband missed a $315 payment. “For the next 22-23 months, until his death in January of 2017, Rabbi Strassfeld was gravely ill,” the suit states. “He was often, as a result of these therapeutic interventions, delirious and not in control of his faculties,” the suit states.

In February 2016, “during a foregoing period of delirium and after more than eight full years of faithful payment of the monthly premium on the life insurance policy, Rabbi Strassfeld missed a $315 monthly premium payment and American General terminated the life insurance policy,” the suit states.

Court dismisses kaporot suit in California

A federal judge in California rejected an animal rights group’s lawsuit against a California synagogue that practices kaporot, the ritual slaughter of chickens before Yom Kippur, U.S. News reports. Judge Andre Birotte Jr. ruled that Chabad of Irvine does not engage in an “unfair business practice” by charging for the killing and disposal of chickens used in the rite.

Birotte said in his ruling that the Chabad synagogue “does not participate nor compete as a business in the commercial market by performing a religious atonement ritual that involves donations.”

Chickens used in the ceremony were once given to the poor but they are now generally disposed of because of food-handling laws.

Kipa-wearing man assaulted in Marseille

A Jewish man told police in the city of Marseille in southern France that he was assaulted yesterday on the street by a hammer-yielding man while wearing a kipa, JTA reports.

The incident took place in Marseille’s central 6th district, approximately half a mile from the city’s Grand Synagogue of Marseille. The alleged attacker produced a hammer, threatened the Jewish man and struck him with the instrument without causing injuring him before fleeing the scene.

Tzvi Amar, president of the local office of the Consistoire, the French Jewish community’s organization responsible for religious services, in January last year urged Jews to “remove the kippah during these troubled times” because “the preservation of life is sacrosanct.”

Amar’s statement followed the stabbing of a Jewish man in Marseille in January of 2016, allegedly by a 15-year-old Muslim radical. In October 2015, a French man of Algerian descent stabbed a Jewish man who was returning from synagogue in Marseille and assaulted two others, including a rabbi.

Marseille has 80,000 Jews in a total population of approximately 850,000. About a third of its residents are Muslim, according to estimates.