Ukraine’s President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky recently met with six chief rabbis who represent the country’s Jewish community of 500,000. The meeting was heavily publicized and positively received by the general Ukrainian public. It included Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki of Dnipro, Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz of Kharkov, Rabbi Avraham Wolff of Odessa, Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm of Zhitomir, Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski of Donetsk, and Rabbi Moshe Asman of Kiev. Topics of discussion included the growing Jewish population in Ukraine, what makes Jews stay, what makes Jews leave, and feedback from each Rabbi on the status of their community. The general sense is that the climate has become more welcoming to Jews and the proof is that the President-elect, who won by a landslide, is an open and proud Jew! In fact, according to Rabbi Moskovitz, Zelensky’s Jewishness wasn’t even an issue that came up during elections.
As a gesture of gratitude and appreciation for his support, a town square in the Tel Aviv suburb of Petach Tikvah will be named for U.S. President Donald Trump. The naming is scheduled to take place on America’s Independence Day. Dignitaries such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman will be in attendance. President Donald Trump is so well liked in Israel that not only did Netanyahu put in a request to name a Golan neighborhood after Trump, but currently there are plans for a train stop in Jerusalem to be named after him as well.
The Anatolian Toy Museum in Turkey claims that a doll displayed in one of their exhibits contains hair from a Jewish girl killed in 1941 in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Museum Director Emrah Unlusoy explained that the Nazis shaved the hair of all female prisoners and sometimes sold it to toy producers so that rich German children could have a nice doll to play with. The 78-year-old doll has been on display since 2017 and previously belonged to a collector from Auschwitz who agreed to give it to the museum. Jewish groups have gotten special permission to take a sample of the hair for genetic testing in the hopes of tracing the follicles back to living relatives, but so far, no results have been obtained.
Nicolas Bauman, a French widower with no children, left about $14.5 million to the State of Israel to assist families who lost loved ones in the military or to terrorism. In his will, Bauman specified that his inheritance should be allocated to establish an Israeli bereavement fund. He died in 2009, and Israel was only able to access the money now due to the lengthy bureaucratic process. The fund, which will operate for 10 years, will be managed by a Justice Ministry official and Keren Kayemet L’Israel-Jewish National Fund. Little is known about the donor, who was born in Hungary in 1912. There is no information on where he was during the Holocaust or how he ended up in France.
The Marine Corps is so impressed with Israel’s Iron Dome system (also known as SkyHunter) and its ability to thwart targeted attacks, that they are currently looking into acquiring the rocket blocking system for its own air defense arsenal. The Marine Corps is planning to begin testing and integration of the SkyHunter system with its own Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar but would not “discuss testing its outcomes or future results at this time.” The Iron Dome has a nearly 90 percent success rate, blasting more than 1500 targets. The IDF reports that the Iron Dome intercepted more than 240 of 690-plus rockets fired into Israel last month from Gaza. The United States Army also is in plans to purchase two Iron Dome batteries from Israel.
Starting this month, all new and renewed Israeli drivers’ licenses will display Hebrew dates along with the driver’s Gregorian date of birth and license expiration date. The idea was first proposed a decade ago and was approved by the Knesset back in 2015, but it didn’t become law until now to allow the Ministry of Transportation time to ensure that the new license will be accepted internationally. The idea to include Hebrew dates on licenses was introduced by Roni Paluch, a lawyer who based a legal argument on the Hebrew calendar and won. Paluch argued that the Transportation Ministry is obligated to include the Hebrew date on all its legal documents. Drivers have the right to object and request that their license not include the Hebrew dates.