Jewish Journal

Community Briefs

Posted on Mar. 6, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Israeli Businessman Arrested on Smuggling Charge

Israeli businessman David Menashe is being held in a federal prison in Los Angeles on charges that he tried to smuggle missile parts into the United States without declaring their proper value and contents to U.S. Customs inspectors.

Menashe, 52, managing director of Kam-Tech Systems, Ltd. in Tel Aviv, intended to transship the parts to China before his arrest in an undercover operation, according to prosecuting U.S. Assistant Attorney Mary Carter Andrues.

His lawyer, Donald Etra, said that Menashe was innocent of all charges and was a respected member of the Israeli and international business communities.

Menashe was arrested Feb. 12 in Los Angeles, pleaded not guilty on Feb. 18, and his trial is scheduled for April 8. Bail was set at $750,000, which, Etra said, will be posted shortly.

 According to the four-count indictment, Menashe and his company tried to smuggle Hawk Missile and AIM-9 Missile parts into the United States "by falsely representing the value and contents of the packages to avoid detection by customs inspectors."

He disguised the missile parts as "Samples for Evaluation" and undervalued one shipment of an AIM-9 Seeker Section by more than $19,000, the government charged.  Etra was asked why Menashe would want to ship American-made missile parts back into the United States.  He responded that as a seller of surplus parts, Menashe could frequently offer such parts more cheaply to the U.S. military than the original manufacturer.

Kam-Tech Systems, Etra said, was established in 1971 and is licensed in both Israel and the United States.

Andrues said that the import of the parts into the United States was not in itself an illegal act. Where Menashe ran afoul of the law, she said, was in not declaring their true value and contents and in planning to transship them to China.

Menashe's wife, Mathilde, and daughter, Revital, have arrived in Los Angeles from Tel Aviv to lend their moral support. The Menashes have an additional daughter and son.

If convicted, Menashe could face up to five years in prison on each of the four counts. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor


Thousands to Celebrate Shabbat Across America

Some 700 Synagogues and temples -- including 27 in Los Angeles -- will celebrate Shabbat Across America on Friday night, March 7. Organized by the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP), the seventh annual Shabbat Across America program introduces unaffiliated Jews to an authentic Jewish Shabbat. The program consists of a Friday night service and kosher meal complete with singing and prayers, as well as discussions on different aspects of the Shabbat such as the song, "Shalom Aleichem" ("Greet the Sabbath"). To date, more than 430,000 Jews have participated in the program, and organizer expect more than 70,000 people to be participating this year.

"Since Sept. 11, participation in all our programs has increased," said Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, founder and executive director of NJOP. "The people of the United States are under tremendous stress right now, Shabbat and faith can be a real antidote.  For more than 3,400 years, Jews have found hope and comfort in their faith. Ancient traditions are as relevant now as ever."

For more information and to find Shabbat Across America locales, go to www.njop.org .

-- Gaby Wenig, Contributing Writer


Chabad Emissaries Visit Israel in Solidarity

On Feb. 26, 30 Chabad shluchim (emissaries) from all over the West Coast went on a one-week solidarity mission to Israel. It is the first of four such missions that West Coast Headquarters of Chabad Lubavitch have planned for 2003. While in Israel, the shluchim are to meet with terror victims, IDF soldiers who are on the frontlines, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, President Moshe Katsav and other Israeli officials. However, this mission is not a political one, in accordance with Chabad's philosophy of not interfering with political matters in Israel.

The missions are the result of a resolution that was taken at the Kinus Hashluchim (Convention of Emissaries) of the West Coast held Jan. 4-5.

The idea is that shluchim travel to Israel to offer support, and then return to America and arrange solidarity missions with their congregations.

"Chabad shluchim at the convention took it upon themselves to go there and demonstrate first and foremost their personal support for the people of Israel in this time of need," said Rabbi Chaim Cunin, director of public relations for Chabad.  "We are going there as a sign of solidarity and to offer courage and strength to the people of Israel, and it is everyone's hope that other people will follow suit and the communities throughout the west coast will also visit Israel." --GW


Shoah Foundation Receives $1 Million Grant

Steven Spielberg's Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation has been awarded a $1 million grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to transmit its massive digital video archive, containing the testimonies of more than 50,000 Holocaust survivors and witnesses, to USC, Yale University and Rice University in Texas.

The archive will be transmitted remotely via Internet2, and the grant will also support a pilot project to explore the research and instructional uses of the material at the three universities.

Douglas Greenberg, president and CEO of the Shoah Foundation, said that "the grant affords us the opportunity, for the first time, to open this electronic library to faculty and students at three distinguished universities. Once the pilot project is completed, we hope to broaden access to include institutions throughout the country and the world."

The Shoah Foundation's archive contains some 117,000 hours of videotaped testimony, recorded in 32 languages and 56 countries. -- TT


Torah Fair Highlights Bible Code, Israeli Heroes

Students at Emek Hebrew Academy Teichman Family Torah Center presented their annual Torah Fair last week at the school's campus at Magnolia and Sepulveda boulevards. Lower-division students in first, second, and third grades completed class projects. Fourth- through eighth-grade students were allowed to work in small groups or complete individual projects on any aspect of Jewish life.

Seventh-grader Binyomine Levine created an exhibit on the Bible Code, which arranges the Hebrew text of the Torah in rows and finds encrypted messages by skipping a set number of letters throughout the entire text. Using special software, Levine found the name of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon intersecting the word "Columbia."

"I really wanted to do a project on the Bible code, and after the shuttle tragedy it just made sense to me to look that up," Levine said.

Ilan Ramon was highlighted by another student, fifth-grader Avi Weinberg. "I'm not all that interested in the space program, but when I heard about Ilan Ramon, I knew that was the project I wanted to do. I was so impressed when I read about the things Ilan brought into outer space -- a kiddush cup and other Jewish things. He wasn't Orthodox, but he made a point of showing the world that he was Jewish."

In the past, prizes were awarded in several categories at the fair, but in recent years teachers decided to remove the competitive element and focus more on appreciating students' creativity and skills.

"In a time when war is imminent, it's truly humbling to see the innocence of children and the beauty they find in Torah and Yiddeshkayt," said Mona Riss, an Emek teacher and the organizer of the fair for the past 13 years. -- Abbi Peretz, Contributing Writer


Settlers Share Experiences With Angelenos

Two Israeli women toured Los Angeles synagogues in February to share their experiences as long-time residents of Kedumim, the first Jewish settlement in Samaria. Raphaella Segal and Shoshana Shilo came as representatives of the Israeli branch of American Friends of Kedumim. Segal, a founding member of the community and the executive director of the Israel Branch of American Friends of Kedumim, explained the especially harsh reality that Jews in the disputed areas face as a result of the recent intifada.

"Our areas are more vulnerable. We live under constant alert," Segal said.  

Nevertheless, the message that the woman hope to spread is a message of hope.

"We want to bring a spirit of Zion -- it's still alive at Kedumim -- there's still a pure spirit of Zionism," Segal said, noting that 80 percent of residents have remained at the settlement since the violence began.

Currently, Kedumim is home to 700 families. For Segal and Shilo, the goal of their visit to the United States is to seek financial assistance, encourage aliyah and educate.

"We hope to create awareness, especially now," Segal said.

-- Rachel Brand, Staff Writer


Wiesenthal Center Denounces Tomb Desecration

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has petitioned a United Nations agency "to vigorously protest the barbaric desecration of Joseph's Tomb" after a group of Jewish chaplains found last week that the site "is now destroyed, the building cracked open with hammers, a huge hole in its dome and the grave littered with trash and car parts."

In a letter to Franceso Bandarin, director of the U.N. World Heritage Committee (WHC), Dr. Shimon Samuels, the Paris-based international liaison director of the Wiesenthal Center, also called for the condemnation of the Palestinian Authority for violating its commitment to respect the  sacred sites of all religions.

Samuels noted, "In October 2000, under the pretext of the intifada that had been launched a few days earlier, Palestinian violence willfully desecrated the tomb of the biblical patriarch in the vicinity of Nablus. The compound was set on fire and sacred Hebrew texts were burned."

Samuels also notified the WHC, which serves as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization watchdog for the protection of the world's cultural sites and historic monuments, that "Palestinian claims that Joseph's Tomb was also sacred to them have been vividly discredited. We would have expected global expressions of outrage had Islamic or Christian sites been deliberately vandalized."

Recalling that the WHC had condemned the destruction by the Taliban of two giant Buddhist statues in Afghanistan, Samuels concluded that, "We would expect a similar condemnation of this new crime against cultural heritage." -- TT

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