Holocaust. This investigation was brought on by Efraim Zuroff, a hunter of Nazis for the Simon Wiesenthal Center after he discovered a written testimony by a Finnish Waffen-SS officer who said he actively participated in the mass murder of Jews in Ukraine. There is also evidence that at least six Finnish soldiers acted passively during the Holocaust. The Finnish government has set up an independent survey to review the operations of the Finnish Volunteers Battalion of the Waffen-SS focusing particularly on their operations in Ukraine. Zuroff told the JTA that the probe will be “an important development” that is part of a broader process in Scandinavia, where Denmark and Norway acknowledged their troops’ roles in actively killing Jews only in 2014 and 2013, respectively. According to Yad Vashem, Finland had 2,300 Jews in its territory in 1939, when it openly refused to surrender to its German ally despite repeated requests.
Finland will look into the accusation that its soldiers were involved in killing Jews during the
Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, a book printed in 1546 (in Venice) and written by Rabbi Moses of Coucy, was recently discovered in Berlin’s University of Potsdam Library and returned to its rightful owners in Israel. The antique book was looted in Poland by the Nazis during World War II and was given to Berl Schor as part of a German initiative to return Nazi stolen heirlooms. The book, which explains the fundamentals of the 613 commandments of the Torah, will be added to the Schor’s extensive library collection. David Schor, Berl’s son, who is a lawyer and family historian, found out about the book by accident while searching his father’s maternal great-great-great grandparents name online. An image of a book appeared on the screen, and David knew it belonged to his family since it has the same stamps and signatures as many other books in his family’s library which houses Hebrew books dating back from the very beginning of the history of print. “These books were acquired not to decorate the bookshelves, but were intensely studied and passed on from generation to generation,” Schor said. “Though my grandparents did not survive that war,” he adds, “quite a few thousand volumes of their books did.”
L’Oréal made history when they signed a contract with Amena Khan, a British beauty blogger, to be the new face of L’Oréal Paris’ Elvive World of Care, a UK advertising campaign. The company was initially praised for their diversity efforts as Khan is a hijab-wearing Muslim. CNN applauded the move saying L’Oréal Paris is “breaking barriers” and that Khan is “empowering women.” But the positive publicity was short lived, and Khan was soon after fired from her position after reports surfaced of her anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric. French Jews quickly pointed out Khan’s 2014 Twitter posts where she referred to Israel as an “illegal and sinister state” and a “child murderer.” She also expressed her wish that Allah will ultimately defeat Israel. Upon losing her newly acquired title, Khan apologized for her tweets saying that she is stepping down from the campaign because “the current conversations surrounding it detract from the positive and inclusive sentiment that it set out to deliver.” A L’Oreal Paris spokesperson said they were not aware of the tweets when Khan was hired and that stepping down was the right move as they are a company “committed to tolerance and respect towards all people.”
The Soldiers’ Synagogue, a Siberian shul build in 1906 by Cantonists, Jews who were abducted as children and conscripted into the Czar’s army, was returned to the local Jewish community in Tomsk, Russia. The Cantonists were victims of a government policy from 1827-1856 where Jewish families were mandated to hand over 10 children aged 12 and older for every 1,000 Jews. The children were housed in military boarding buildings and drafted for 20 years; some were even forced into Christian conversion. The building was turned into a municipal facility back in 1930 and then an apartment complex before the city agreed to return the synagogue to the Jewish community, which has 1,000 members. The synagogue, which is made out of wood, is in dire need of construction before it can be functional again.
Israel installed a radar-based tsunami warning system, which can detect abnormally high and irregular tidal waves along its Mediterranean coastal beaches in Haifa, Hadera, and Ashdod. Once detected, the system issues pre-emptive warnings to the locals. The system is linked with similar stations in other Mediterranean nations like Turkey and Portugal, and the intent is to reach countries as far as North Africa. Another sensor system called “Truah” is being installed in the area adjacent to the Great Rift Valley, which will monitor earth movement for potential earthquakes. It is expected to be operational by 2019. The project is receiving assistance from the European Union.
Kosher food, even pre-packaged, will no longer be offered in the British Parliament’s nine cafeterias and “ethical reasons” is the cited cause. The decision came from its catering services who deem any form of slaughter that is non-stun to be cruel to animals. The initial request came from Jay Stoll, a senior parliamentary assistant to a Labor member of parliament, who advocated for more kosher food accessibility to the thousands of members, staff and visitors who frequent the British parliament daily. Kosher options, as well as halal, are said to be available but only by special request and only in the banqueting rooms. “I think this is pretty controversial. Morals are obviously subjective, but parliament’s catering services have taken a position that goes beyond the laws of the country,” says Stoll. UK law generally requires animals to be stunned before slaughter, but provides an exemption for halal and kosher meat.
Torah scrolls were stolen from Chabad of Hawaii’s shul located in the Ala Moana Hotel on the island of Oahu. The scrolls are valued at $50,000 each. One of the Torah scrolls dates back to 1850 and was written in Lithuania. Surprisingly, other valuable ritual items remained untouched and were left in the sanctuary. The Chabad is offering a $5,000 reward for the return of the Torah scrolls. “We’re horrified and shocked and saddened that someone would steal something as sacred,” Chabad director Rabbi Itchel Krasnjansky told a local TV station. “That someone would steal in itself is a terrible thing, but to steal a Torah scroll is really shocking.”
Thanks to efforts by the Claims Conference, for the first time ever, about 25,000 Algerian Jews will be entitled to a one-time German compensation in the amount of 2,556.46 euros (11,000 shekels) due to the persecution they endured while living in France between 1940 and 1942. During the war, Algerian Jews were stripped of their French citizenship, fired from their jobs, and unable to study in schools. “This is a long overdue recognition for a large group of Jews in Algeria who suffered anti-Jewish measures by Nazi allies like the Vichy Regime,” said Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference. “The Vichy government subjected these people to restrictions on education, political life, participation in civil society and employment, abolishing French citizenship and singling them out only because they were Jews.” Algerian survivors, who today mostly reside in Paris and Israel, are the last remaining group that will receive payments from Germany. The payments will start in July and the Claims Conference will be in charge of locating the survivors and distributing the funds.
There is a draft law currently being debated in Iceland’s parliament, which seeks to ban boys from being circumcised, and threatens to imprison perpetrators for six years, if they transgress this ruling. Progressive Party MP Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir is the one who introduced the legislation calling it a “child protective matter.” She believes that a child should have some say if they want to be circumcised or not. Jewish and Catholic leaders are protesting despite the fact that the potential law is being supported by several other Icelandic politicians.