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May 16, 2013

This week in power: WoW scuffling, IRS scandal, Newseum, Shavuot message

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A roundup of the most talked about political and global stories in the Jewish world this week:

Kotel fight
Last Friday, the Kotel was a spot for outrage and bickering as the Women of the Wall again arrived to pray on the date of the new month. Only this time they encountered much more resistance than ever before, as "religious teenage girls turned up in large numbers to protest the group’s insistence on praying at the wall in religious garb traditionally worn by men," reported The New York Times. Three people were arrested, though none of them WoW members since the court ruled in their favor some weeks ago and upheld their right to be at the holy site. "A democracy cannot tolerate the stifling of religious freedom, particularly when this freedom is expressed so innocuously with the wearing of tallitot and tefillin," said a Jerusalem Post editorial. "I have to ask. With all the good intention of Israel’s rabbinic leaders, how could they not see that this was going to happen? It isn’t as though protests in the past never had things like this happen. The fact is that this almost always happens," said Harry Maryles at The Jewish Press.

IRS snooping
A bombshell dropped late last week when it was revealed that the Internal Revenue Service had classified some conservative groups differently when it came to seeking tax-exempt status. The IRS quickly apologized. "Taking away a non-profit’s ability to receive tax-exempt charitable contributions is equivalent to a death sentence," said Commentary's John Podhoretz. The scandal hit the Jewish world when The Jewish Press wondered whether it had hit Jewish organizations. But not everyone bought it. "There are some red flags in The Jewish Press story, said geoconger at Patheos. "Though it is characterized as a news story, the article is a one-sided advocacy piece written by an individual closely associated with one of the organizations under IRS scrutiny. No names, dates or details are given though a powerful quote is supplied. Absent a name, it is difficult to judge its veracity."

Venezuelan reveal
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro flipped his story after long claiming that he wasn't maintaining ties with Iran, but now he's said publicly that he's not anti-Semitic because he descended from Sephardic Jewish ancestors. Maduro took over for Hugo Chávez, who had been critical of Israel during his reign and didn't exactly warm up to the Jwish Community there. “Chavez also opened the doors of Latin America to some of the world’s worst human rights offenders. In addition to the Iranians and their terrorist proxies, these included Sudan’s Omar Al-Bashir, Qaddafi, Mugabe, Saddam Hussein, and the Assad family," Sammy Eppel, a leader of the Venezuelan Jews, told IsraelNationalNews. Improved relations may come with time.

Newseum under fire
Washington, D.C.'s, museum dedicated to media and reporting is reportedly "reconsidering" its decision to honor a slain cameramen employed by a Hamas affiliate. The Newseum wanted to highlght Mahmoud al-Kumi and Hussam Salama, cameramen killed in November by an Israeli strike. They worked for Al Aqsa TV, an arm of Hamas “Serious questions have been raised as to whether two of the individuals included on our initial list of journalists who died covering the news this past year were truly journalists or whether they were engaged in terrorist activities,” the Newseum said. As of early this week, it had merely postponed the honor, not nixed it completely.

Shavuot takeaways
The annual spring festival celebrating the giving of the Torah came around this week, and some people got thoughtful in the leadup. "Shavuot is about participation, not commemoration. About joining a community of listeners. About experiencing the resonance of His expression," wrote Mendel Horowitz in The Jewish Daily Forward. And in each generation, we must recommit ourselves to the text, and to the creator, wrote Steven R. Edelman in the Fay Observer. "God has made a succession of covenants with various people in the history of Jewish faith. He made a covenant with Abram, then he made covenants with Isaac, and again with Jacob. None of the covenants replaced an earlier one. The covenant made at Mount Sinai continues."

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