Posted Jewish Journal
Did Tamarlan Tsarnaev kill three of his Jewish friends?
The Boston Globe is reporting that the former friends of the man assumed responsible for the Boston marathon bombings now wonder if Tamarlan Tsarnaev, who died after the bombings in a shootout with police, was the perpetrator in a grisly unsolved murder that took place in 2011.
On September 12, 2011, Brendan Mess, Raphael Teken, 37, and Erik Weissman, 31 were found stabbed to death in an apartment in nearby Waltham. The men had deep wounds to their necks, their bodies were strewn with thousands of dollars worth of marijuana, and police recovered $5,000 in cash at the scene. There was no sign of forced entry. Police said they believe the murders were "targeted and not a random act of violence."
Mess, who was Jewish, was a close friend of Tsarnaev. So friends thought it was especially strange when Tsarnaev did not show up at Mess's funeral.
"Tam wasn't there at the memorial service, he wasn't at the funeral, he wasn't around at all," a friend of the murdered men told the Globe. "And he was really close with Brendan. That's why it's so weird when he said, 'I don't have any American friends.'"
"He was somebody who was in contact with Brendan on a daily basis. Anybody like that, you would think they would have been around," Ray said.
Mess and Tsarnaev met at a Jiu Jitsu gym, and trained together regularly.
According to multple reports, Mess, Teken and Weissman were Jewish. Teken had attended Brandeis University, and Weissman took a active role in his synagogue. The murder took place about two and a half miles from the Brandeis campus.
Their murder, which a Waltham police officer called, "the worst bloodbath I have ever seen in a long law enforcement career," came on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 World Trade Center terror attack by Muslim extremists.
The Boston Globe first reported that police are now reinvestigating the case, which has so far gone unsolved. Former friends of the deceased say once they heard Tsarnaev's name mentioned in conjunction with the Marathon bombings, their suspicion grew.
"A few of my friends, without even speaking about it beforehand, have all been thinking this," said one former acquaintance.
The online newspaper WickedLocal.com carried more detailed news of the murdered men after their brutal deaths sent shockwaves through the community. According to the website:
Former CRLS teacher Larry Aaronson who attended the Mess and Weissman funeral services this week said hundreds of friends, neighbors and classmatesturned out to pay tribute.
“For me the greatest pain and deepest grief of these ghastly murders is the tragic mystery of why and how these two gifted and talented social geniuses, intellectsthat engendered so much love and generated so much generosity, nevertheless made certain choices that led to this death trap,” he said.
Weissman was Aaronson’s student in the now defunct The Pilot School at CRLS, where he enjoyed the vibrant culture but failed to grow academically, Aaronson said. Weissman enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the urban nightlife, he said, but was also a “ voracious reader” with a “creative mind” that he used to “challenge conventional wisdom.”
Despite its tragic and mysterious nature, the homicide of the three young men received little national attention. That's clearly about to change.
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April 16, 2013 | 4:32 pm
Posted JTA Staff
Justin Bieber, no stranger to controversy, stirred another one with his visit to the Anne Frank House.
Bieber, visiting the Netherlands over the weekend for a concert in Arnhem, visited the landmark on Friday night for two hours. Afterward he wrote in the guestbook, “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”
Of course, the comment made the Internet explode, since so many online already are dedicated to either loving or hating Bieber. Here was one comment: ”I just can’t believe that he would turn something that important into a publicity platform for himself. What a dirtbag.” That was just the tip of the iceberg.
True Beliebers (who did not spend their childhood hiding in the attic from Nazis) said in his defense that he is “just a human” and that it was “ironic that all of you are spewing hate. Isn’t this why Anne Frank and countless others had to go into hiding?”
Missing the point a little, but a good thought.
The authority on offensiveness, the ADL's Abraham Foxman, said Frank was a fan of celebrities and pop culture, so he doesn’t ”see anything wrong” with what Bieber wrote. At least Biebs dodged that bullet.
April 12, 2013 | 9:03 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS) has rejected accusations that the organization or any member of its staff attempted to shield a known pedophile from law enforcement.
Responding to reports that first appeared on April 10 in the Sydney Morning Herald, a respected Australian newspaper, the 157-year-old L.A.-based social services agency released a statement reaffirming its commitment to following “all mandated reporting laws to the letter.”
The statement also defended its former staff member, Debbie Fox, who until October 2012 was the director of children and family services at JFS, and who also served as director of the Aleinu Family Resource Center, an arm of JFS that serves the local Orthodox community.
“At no time did Aleinu staff ever shield a suspect from local or international law enforcement in any way whatsoever, nor would they ever do so,” JFS’ statement read. “Rather, Aleinu staff follows all mandated reporting laws to the letter, working closely with local law enforcement, without exception.”
The original report in the Herald, just one of a string of stories coming out about abuse within the Australian Jewish community, is connected to the case of a single unnamed alleged Jewish child abuser from Australia who later made his home in Los Angeles. That individual is, according to the Herald, under investigation by detectives in Australia. In 2011, the man’s case was brought to Fox’s attention by an unnamed accuser, who alleged that he had been molested by this individual in Australia.
According to JFS CEO Paul Castro, the alleged victim approached Fox hoping to “find a way to get the powers that be, within the Orthodox community, to pay attention to this individual that she identified as an alleged perpetrator.”
“He didn’t give us particulars, he didn’t give us details,” Castro said of the alleged victim. “He said it was something that occurred many years ago in a different community.”
As a result, Castro said, Fox never opened a file about the case, but she did bring the matter to the attention of a council of Orthodox rabbis that consults with Aleinu on matters where legal action is not possible but where the community’s interests may require that some protective action be taken.
“From our perspective and Debbie’s,” Castro told the Journal, “it was about how to connect the person who was making the allegations and the alleged perpetrator to resources within the Orthodox community.”
Fox contacted the Journal on April 12 but said she could not speak immediately with a reporter. She agreed to be interviewed within the coming days.
Rabbi Avrohom Union, the rabbinic administrator of the Rabbinical Council of California, is a member of Aleinu’s Halachic Advisory Board. Although he could not recall the details of the case, he said he did remember Fox bringing the case to the group’s attention.
But, Union said, as a matter of course, the rabbis on the board were not consulted about whether to report cases where the law clearly required it; Fox, Aleinu staff and JFS as an agency are all mandated reporters under California law.
Rather, Union said, “The matters that were brought to us were where there was no legal remedy, and we considered what additional steps could be taken to provide protection where there was a concern for the community.”
The Herald story, which ran under the headline “Jewish welfare group knows it is sheltering a paedophile,” focused on what JFS and Fox knew and did in 2011 after the unnamed alleged victim warned Fox about the unnamed alleged abuser. The article quoted from e-mails reportedly written by Fox and “obtained from U.S. sources” that suggest Fox was protecting a known abuser.
“I have no idea how anyone found out — but calls are coming daily from many sources,” Fox reportedly wrote in an e-mail that the Herald report claimed Fox had sent to the alleged abuser. “So far, we've been protecting you.''
But according to Nancy Volpert, JFS’ director of public policy and media relations, no one from JFS was contacted by the Sydney Morning Herald either before the publication of the story or since.
“They did not attempt to reach us through any of the media channels or through our main contacts,” Volpert told the Journal on April 12.
Castro said he had spoken with Fox in the days since the Herald’s article was published. In the original article, the Herald reported that “Ms. Fox did not respond to questions,” but Castro said Fox told him that she had not been contacted by any member of the Herald staff either.
Reached by phone in Melbourne, Richard Baker, one of the reporters who wrote the original story for the Herald, told the Journal on Friday that he had sent two emails to Fox's email address at JFS and received no response.
As of Friday morning, Fox was still listed as an active member of the JFS staff; by the afternoon her name and email adddress had been removed from the page.
Asked if JFS had looked at any of Fox’s e-mails dealing with the matter, Castro said that he had not, and was placing trust in Fox’s assertions.
“At this point, we have not done that,” Castro said. “Debbie is a long-standing employee with a tremendous reputation for ethics.”
For more on this developing story, visit jewishjournal.com.
April 11, 2013 | 12:00 pm
Posted by JewishJournal.com
Tonight, April 11 at 7 pm, you can tune into KABC-7 for a live broadcast of the Los Angeles Mayoral Debate from American Jewish University.
KABC is hosting the debate along with AJU, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, and it will take place on the AJU's Bel Air campus.
City Controller Wendy Greuel will face off against City Council Member Eric Garcetti in their first debate since the mayoral primary. The two have been trading barbs over the past week over education and budget, even challenging each other to impromptu debates.
The debate will cover the candidate's positions on the budget, education, traffic and other pressing issues. What's with the Jewish aspect? No, the candidates will not be pressed on their stand on kosher versus glatt kosher. But the 600,000-strong Jewish community of LA, long an active and integral part of the city's cultural and civic life, cares deeply about making LA the best city it can be. Thus, a debate.
The debate moderator will be KABC-7's Mark Brown, who will be joined by a panel of journalists: Adrienne Alpert (KABC7), Rob Eshman (Jewish Journal) and Gabrielle Tessier (Univision Los Angeles)
Dr. Robert Wexler, President of AJU, will welcome the audience and explain the evening's format.
Tune in or set your TiVO, or both: April 11, 7 pm, KABC-7.
Our profiles of each candidate are here:
April 5, 2013 | 2:26 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Francky Perez is a Moroccan-born singer whose songs have topped French charts. Just today he released via YouTube an English version of his French rap song "N'oubliez Jamais"-- Never Forget-- a rap song about... the Holocaust. In the Digital Age, Perez's song-- catchy, short, backed by strong images and a passionate delivery-- might just be the way a new generation of computer-obsessed kids first learns about the Shoah. That's what Perez is hoping, anyway. And his last YouTube video for a FRench charity garnered 1.6 million viewers and counting... so he may indeed be on to something.
I called Perez at his current home in Los Angeles to ask about the English-language "Never Forget."
The project began, he said, after a visit last year to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and memorial in Jerusalem. There Perez saw the image of a young boy in a concentration camp.
"I looked at the kid and he looked exactly like my second son. I had a shock. I needed to do something that expressed what I was feelingt, and I'm someone who uses rap music for therapy."
It took Perez six months to write and produce the music video. Most of the shooting took place in paris, where he used real streets to recreate the roundups that took place there.
Perez himself did not lose family in the Holocaust.
"I am Sephardic," he explained. "But sometimes when I talk to other Jews, I feel they think that being sephardic we don't feel this hell they went through. That's not true. Being Sephardic, I feel this is in my genes as much as an Ashkenazi. I suffer for my people, I feel it in my genes the same pain and suffering, not like the people who went through it, but like all Jews now."
Perez hopes a rap video will educate people in ways books and documentaries can't.
"I want this to go beyond the Jewish community, especially to teenagers," he said. " They learn by heart rap lyrics. Maybe this is the right vector to reach the young generation, through a rap song."
His hope is that educational organzations will help him distribute it to young people, either in DVDs or online.
"I hope its totally respectful to the memory," Perez said.
Watch it. It is.
March 29, 2013 | 11:50 am
Posted by Ryan Torok
Dan Kanter, Justin Bieber’s musical director and guitarist, visited Auschwitz-Birkenau on March 25, during Bieber’s 2013 “European Believe Tour” stop in Poland.
International March of the Living—an annual educational program that brings students from all over world to Poland in order for them to study the history of the Holocaust—arranged the trip for Kanter, who is Jewish.
“It’s been very intense and emotional today,” Kanter, 31, said, after walking the three-kilometer distance separating death camp Auschwitz and satellite extermination camp Birkenau.
On the evening of March 25, following Kanter’s visit to the camps, Kanter joined teen heartthrob and pop star Bieber onstage for a concert in Poland.
This was not the first time that Kanter, who became Bieber’s guitarist after performing with him on a popular Canadian TV show in 2009, has demonstrated his Jewish identity while working for Bieber. In April 2011, Kanter performed a Jimi Hendrix-style rendition of Hatikvah before Bieber stepped onstage to perform at Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park. And “Justin Beiber’s Musical Father Figure, Dan Kanter,” a 2011 story in the Journal, describes how Kanter is the reason that Bieber, a devout Christian, says the “The Shema” before every concert.
March 21, 2013 | 5:24 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
University of Southern California student Samuel Levine has died in an accident while on spring break in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico He was 22.
"Our deepest sympathies are with Sam’s parents and family members," said Steve A. Kay, dean of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, in a statement.
Levine, a junior majoring in psychology, died on March 12. He fell from the balcony of his hotel room while on vacation with other USC students and members of his fraternity, Sigma Chi, according to CBS Los Angeles.
In 2012, Levine worked as a student marketer for USC baseball’s program and as an intern at several companies, including Wasserman Media Group and Lineage Interactive, which are sports and entertainment marketing agencies.according to his LinkedIn profile.
Sports, apparently, played a big part in Levine's life: in 2009, he was hired to coach the freshman and sophomore boys basketball team at Oak Park High School, where he graduated from and where he was a star player, according to a 2009 article from The Acorn.
Synagogues from the Oak Park area—which falls in Ventura County but is adjacent to Agoura Hills—heard about Levine’s death, but the Journal has yet to determine which synagogue Levine’s family are members of, assuming they are members of one.
March 21, 2013 | 4:04 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
The sudden death of Porter Ranch 14-year-old Aria Doherty has had an impact on the Temple Ahavat Shalom (TAS) community. On March 19, middle school and high school students who knew Doherty, who died one day earlier after huffing cleaning supplies, gathered at Ahavat Shalom in Northridge to process their loss.
Doherty’s parents said Doherty, an eighth-grade student at Alfred B. Nobel Middle School in Northridge, went into cardiac arrest after inhaling a can of computer duster, according to a report from CBS Los Angeles.
Doherty was not Jewish and not a member of TAS, but many high school students whose families are members of TAS were classmates with Doherty at Nobel, according to Rabbi Barry Lutz of TAS.
TAS decided to reach out and offer support to these kids, Lutz said.
“We sent out an email to all parents and posted on all our Facebook pages saying that we were aware that this happened and thought it was very important they bring their kids to school so that they can be together, be here as a community, so we could respond to the grief we knew they were feeling and deal with the trauma that we knew many of them were certainly experiencing,” Lutz said.
Approximately 150 students—some from TAS high school religious program and some not—visited the synagogue on Tuesday night and participated in grief counseling with a Los Angeles Unified School district social worker and with a psychologist and took part in a discussion with residents of Beit T’Shuvah, a Culver City rehabilitation clinic.
Doherty’s mother, Carolyn, was among those who went to the synagogue on Tuesday, joined by Doherty’s older sister. Carolyn’s relationship with Ahavat Shalom stems from her having helped with the choreography of the synagogue’s Purim shpiel.
Lutz did not know Doherty, who was active in Nobel's drama department, but she attended b'nai mitzvahs of her peers from TAS. Fanny Arana, a TAS high school teacher and the theater arts director at Nobel Middle School, broke the news to TAS staff about Doherty's death.