Rocks tossed through a kosher bakery’s windows, Sabbath worshipers harassed on the way to synagogue and violent attacks by bat-wielding thugs would seem to fit reports coming out of Europe amid growing concerns there of resurgent anti-Semitism.
But increasingly, such tales are coming from a less likely source, Australia, where the South Pacific nation’s 100,000 Jews are facing a wave of anti-Semitism that last year exceeded, by 8 percent, a previous record set five years ago.
When Holland imposed a ban recently on a type of kosher slaughter, international Jewish leaders worried about far more than the difficulty observant Dutch Jews might face in obtaining rabbinically certified steak or cholent meat.
Noting that such a ban was an early step of Hitler’s Third Reich, some fear the action is part of a growing assault on Jewish life linked to the spread of anti-Semitism sweeping across Europe.
As more details emerged this week about Israel’s surprise air strike against a Syrian target two weeks ago, there were heightened fears that a miscalculation by either side could lead to the all-out war that some had predicted would occur this summer.
Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East adviser to six secretaries of state, said he believes the Sept. 6 air attack increased the chances for war more than three decades after the 1973 Yom Kippur War was ended by a truce that has been scrupulously adhered to by both sides.
In a sign of how divisive the “Who is a Jew” question can become, the first non-Orthodox conversions in nearly 40 years took place between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur in the Czech Republic and Poland in the face of fierce Orthodox opposition.
Because the Orthodox in both countries would not permit the use of their ritual baths, the 38 conversions had to be moved to outlying cities.
In the belief that nothing gets Jews more involved in their community than a trip to Israel or seeing a Jewish community in distress, UJA-Federation is revamping its missions programs to give participants a deeper understanding of the communities they visit and the work of the philanthropy there.
Officials of UJA-Federation of New York are taking a cautiously optimistic view of Birthright Israel, the $300 million effort to provide a free, 10-day trip to Israel for diaspora youth.
“We share their goals and look forward to the opportunity to sit down with the Birthright leadership to learn the specifics of the project as it evolves,” said John Ruskay, UJA-Federation’s chief operating officer.
Jewish leaders have rejected the assertion of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami that he will not intervene in the case of 10 Iranian Jews convicted of spying for Israel.
“He has to use his influence to see that justice is done,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “We believe that he has to be involved when there is an injustice.”
While Jewish leaders joined in hailing this week’s announcement that the human genetic code had been deciphered, their enthusiasm was tempered by their knowledge of how the Nazis tried to use eugenics to create a master race.
As Syrian President Hafez Assad was buried Tuesday following a fatal heart attack three days earlier, all eyes shifted to his son Bashar to see if the military and political establishment that thrust him into his father’s shoes would remain loyal to him.
Leaders in several countries also expressed the hope that Bashar, 34, a British-trained ophthalmologist, would break the stalemate that has prevented a Syrian-Israeli peace treaty.
As the Jewish community awaited a verdict as early as next week in the trial of 13 Iranian Jews charged with spying for Israel, a prominent rabbi charged that a massive prayer vigil he had planned in their behalf was “sabotaged” by a major Jewish group.