First Read For June 20


New Jersey man charged with making anti-Semitic phone calls

A man in Ridgewood, N.J., faces bias crime charges after he allegedly called a North Jersey synagogue and left two voicemails ranting about a Nazi leader, according to the website. Temple Emanuel of North Jersey had reported the harassing voicemail messages to police earlier this month.

Jonathan Webman, 50, was charged with making the calls in which he allegedly ranted about Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler.

Bill Dana, comic actor/writer, dies at 92

Bill Dana, a performer of Hungarian-Jewish descent who earned fame in the 1960s with his “My Name … Jose Jimenez” routine, has died at 92, the Hollywood Reporter reports. Born William Szathmary, he took his stage name “Dana” after his mother’s first name “Dena” as he felt “Szathmary” was unpronounceable.

‘Hostile’ atmosphere for Jews on San Francisco campus

Students and Jewish community members yesterday filed a lawsuit against San Francisco State University and Cal State’s board of trustees, alleging that the San Francisco campus of the country’s largest public university system has long cultivated a hostile environment in which Jewish students are “often afraid to wear Stars of David or yarmulkes on campus, and regularly text their friends to describe potential safety issues.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California, was prompted by a confrontation in April 2016, when the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, was invited by SF Hillel to speak on campus. The suit states that protesters used bullhorns to drown out the mayor’s speech and yelled and chanted “Intifada,” “Get the [expletive] off our campus,” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” while university administrators allowed the disruption to continue and instructed campus police to “stand down.”

“SFSU has not merely fostered and embraced anti-Jewish hostility — it has systematically supported these departments and student groups,” the lawsuit said.

Is Israel secretly aiding Syrian rebels?

Israel has been secretly providing aid to Syrian rebels on the border in the Golan Heights for several years, JTA reports, citing a Wall Street Journal story. The aid includes cash, as well as food, fuel and medical supplies.

Rebels and the military loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have been fighting since 2011 in a civil war that at times has spilled over into Israeli territory with errant fire. The Israeli military has responded to the rocket and artillery fire that landed on Israel’s side of the Golan Heights.

ADL urges hate crimes probe in Muslim’s killing

The Anti-Defamation League has called on authorities to probe the slaying of a Muslim girl in suburban Virginia as a hate crime, JTA reports. “We urge the Fairfax County Police Department to investigate the murder as a possible bias crime,” Doron Ezickson, the ADL’s Washington, D.C., director, said in a statement yesterday.

The victim, Nabra Hassanen, had worshipped at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Washington’s northern Virginia suburbs in the pre-dawn hours Sunday before heading to a restaurant with friends for breakfast; she was assaulted while walking back to the mosque. Her body was found later in a pond. The crime is reportedly being investigated as a road-rage incident.

British Jews condemn attack at London mosque

Leaders of England’s Jewish community have offered their condolences for yesterday’s fatal van-ramming attack at a mosque in London, JTA reports.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis called the attack “a painful illustration of why we must never allow hatred to breed hatred,” and the Board of Deputies of British Jews condemned the attack, stating that “Hatred of people because of their religion has no place in our society. The way forward is to strengthen the moderate majority and repudiate and marginalize extremism of every type.”

Mandela’s Jewish defense lawyer dies

Joel Joffe, who was part of a defense team of attorneys, many of them Jewish, who defended Nelson Mandela in court in the 1960s, has died at 85, South Africa’s Swindon Advertiser newspaper reports.


JCC Manhattan named as recipient of Genesis grant

 JCC Manhattan was named yesterday among 22 recipients of grants from the Genesis Prize Foundation and the Jewish Funders network under a matching grants program created in honor of 2016 Genesis Prize Laureate Itzhak Perlman. The Breaking Barriers grants will fund programs that “promote inclusion of those with disabilities in Jewish life.”

World-renowned violinist and activist for those with disabilities, Perlman, received the 2016 Genesis Prize at a ceremony in Jerusalem. In lieu of accepting the prize money, he directed the funds to promote inclusion of those with disabilities in Jewish life, as well as to support young people pursuing careers in classical music.