Your First Read For Oct 16


Netanyahu praises Trump’s statement on Iran nuclear deal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called President Trump’s decision to refuse to declare Iran in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal “courageous,” according to JTA. “It’s a very brave decision, and I think it’s the right decision for the world,” Netanyahu said yesterday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Trump triggered a legislative review by Congress on Friday by refusing to declare Iran in compliance with the 2015 deal between six world powers, including the United States, and Iran, which trades sanctions relief for a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program.  Trump said in a White House speech that he would pull the U.S. out of the deal if he was not happy with the result.

Jewish leaders unhappy with People’s Party success in Austrian election

Jewish groups have called on the head of the conservative Austrian People’s Party to exclude a far-right party from the new government coalition following national elections yesterday.

JTA reports that Sebastian Kurz, head of the center-right Austrian People’s Party, or ÖVP, at 31, will become Europe’s youngest leader. His party came in first with a projected 30.2 percent of the vote. The far-right Freedom Party, or FPO, came in second place with a projected 26.9 percent of the vote according to exit polls, slightly ahead of the center-left Social Democrats Party of outgoing Chancellor Christian Kern.

The European Jewish Congress called on Kern to form a coalition of centrist parties and “not be beholden” to a party of the far-right in his new coalition government. “A party which has run on a platform of xenophobic intolerance and the targeting of immigrants must not be granted a seat at the governing table,” EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor said.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, who was the U.S. ambassador to Austria from 1986 to 1987, said in a statement: “It is sad and distressing that such a platform should receive more than a quarter of the vote and become the country’s second party. It is still full of xenophobes and racists and is, mildly put, very ambiguous toward Austria’s Nazi past.”

Muslims fight anti-Semtism in British city

A group of Muslim men have offered a “wonderful” gesture to their local Jewish community, after a synagogue in Leeds, northern England, was targeted recently with racist graffiti, the Independent reports. A swastika and a racial slur were daubed on the sign outside the Etz Chaim synagogue in Leeds on Tuesday night, surprising the community.

In response, four local Muslim men brought flowers to show support and solidarity, where they were welcomed by the synagogue. A member of the Etz Chaim community, Harry Brown, commented on Facebook: “I was truly humbled by [the] amazing gesture – the gift of flowers and your support. This is what we want to see, and equally the Jewish community should reach out not only to Muslim faiths but to all other faiths.”

The instigator of the gesture was 36-year-old Shahab Adris, regional manager of Mend, a not-for-profit company designed to reduce Islamophobia and increase engagement and development within British communities.

UNESCO has Jewish head for the first time

France’s former culture minister, Audrey Azoulay, was elected to head UNESCO, becoming the first Jew at the helm of the UN agency, JTA reports. Azoulay, who is Jewish, narrowly defeated a Qatari candidate.

Azoulay, who is UNESCO’s 11th director, was last year named culture and communications adviser to then president Francois Hollande. She is the daughter of Andre Azoulay, an adviser to Moroccan King Mohammed VI, and writer Katia Brami. She is a native of Morocco.

In the face of Arab divisions, France presented Azoulay as a consensus figure who could mend fences within the organization and sooth tensions caused by recent resolutions against Israel.

Police: Wind, not vandals, damaged college sukkah

A sukkah erected on the campus of Kansas State University was damaged by severe weather and not vandalism as first reported, according to JTA. The sukkah was found bent, destroyed and wrapped around a car on the night of the second day of Sukkot.

Divinity School appoints first Jewish dean

The University of Chicago Divinity School has begun its fall semester with a Jewish dean for the first time in its 125-year history, according to USA Today. Laurie Zoloth is apparently the first Jewish dean of any university-based U.S. divinity school, according to the Association of Theological Schools.

“We normally think of Jews as deeply integrated in the American academic system, so it is unusual that there is a discipline or an area where one could be the first Jewish academic anything,” Zoloth said. But divinity schools were aligned with a certain denomination, she noted, and were originally conceived as pathways to ordination for clergy of that faith. Many programs have shed their denomination as they have moved to focus on the academic study of religion.


Kosher winery damaged in California forest fire

A kosher winery in Northern California has sustained widespread damage from a wildfire that has raged along the southern part of the Silverado Trail in Napa County during the last week.

Ernie Weir, owner of Hagafen Cellars, the North Bay’s only kosher winery, said all employees are safe and the main winery building is intact, but that the fire destroyed fencing, all of the agricultural equipment, a guest house, nearly an acre of Cabernet Sauvignon vines and all of the property’s trees.