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Ghislaine Maxwell identifies as Jewish in prison, tapping into resources for incarcerated Jews

(JTA) — Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for her role in Jeffrey Epstein’s sex abuse ring, is receiving services from a nonprofit that supports Jewish prisoners.

Maxwell, whose father was Jewish, did not publicly identify as Jewish previously and is not considered Jewish under traditional Jewish law. The news was first reported by The Sun, a British newspaper, which said that Maxwell “has been rewarded with better food and more time off work.”

U.S. prisons are obligated to honor inmates’ religious obligations in most cases — meaning that Jews are often given access to kosher food, prayer supplies and changes in work schedules to account for Shabbat and holidays.

Prisons also offer services based on inmates’ self-identified religions, although chaplains may be asked to certify whether inmates hold sincere religious beliefs. (Certification requirements have faced legal challenges.) Sometimes the services are provided by nonprofit groups, even when the prisons employ religious chaplains of their own.

The nonprofit that is providing services to Maxwell at the Federal Correctional Institute in Florida is called Reaching Out, according to The Sun. It is one of several organizations operated by people affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement to serve those who are incarcerated; another, the Aleph Institute, supports prisoners with not only their religious needs while incarcerated but also in seeking clemency or parole.

Chabad is one of the most extensive purveyors of services to Jewish prisoners across the United States, in keeping with its mission to bring as many Jews as possible closer to their religion.

“We’re not helping them get out of prison, we’re helping them spiritually — to bring them to a state of mind which had they had exposure to, maybe they wouldn’t have done what they did,” Rabbi Zvi Boyarsky, now an Aleph Institute director, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2009.

Other organizations supporting Jewish prisoners include Jewish Prisoner Services International, founded in 1984 by B’nai Brith, and a newer group, Matir Asurim, founded by rabbis affiliated with Reconstructing Judaism. Its name comes from the prayer thanking God for setting free those who are imprisoned.

While the exact number of prisoners who identify as Jewish is unknown, the number appears to have risen over time. (That number played a bit part in deliberations over sentencing for the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, condemned last week to death.) A chaplain working in the New York state prison system told JTA in 2009 that the rise reflected a growing sense that Jewish prisoners had access to more perks.

One of those perks is kosher food, which a man incarcerated in Washington State praised in a 2021 JTA essay as good — “a rarity in prison.” It has not always been available: In the 1980s, a Texas prison canceled its kosher food option, saying that none of the prisoners using it were authentically Jewish — leading to a 1986 Supreme Court case ruling that rabbis, not prison officials, should determine who counts as Jewish. And Florida reintroduced a kosher food program in its prisons only under legal duress in 2013.

In some cases, people who are incarcerated have self-identified as Jewish or even converted to access kosher food. A character on the prison drama “Orange is the New Black” converted for that reason, reportedly prompting inmates as far afield as Scotland to do the same.

Maxwell’s claim to a Jewish identity runs through her father, a media magnate and possible spy who fled the Nazis as a child and was buried in Jerusalem after dying under mysterious circumstances in 1991.

Maxwell reportedly made use of her Jewish ancestry a few years ago, when she was alleged to have taken refuge in Israel while under investigation for her role in Epstein’s sex abuse scheme. She was arrested in 2020, convicted in 2021 and sentenced last year on five charges related to sex trafficking of minors as part of a scheme with Epstein, who died by suicide in a New York City jail in 2019.


The post Ghislaine Maxwell identifies as Jewish in prison, tapping into resources for incarcerated Jews appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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White House Calls Netanyahu’s Comments on US Weapons Deliveries ‘Perplexing,’ ‘Disappointing’

US White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US, June 17, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

The White House expressed “deep disappointment” over criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the United States on Thursday amid tensions between the two allies over Israel‘s war in Gaza.

“It was perplexing to say the least, certainly disappointing, especially given that no other country is doing more to help Israel defend itself against the threat by Hamas,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.

The White House response came as national security adviser Jake Sullivan and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken planned meetings with Netanyahu’s two top aides to discuss the Gaza conflict.

Netanyahu on Tuesday issued an English-language video in which he said Blinken had assured him that the Biden administration was working to lift restrictions on arms deliveries to Israel, an exchange the top US diplomat declined to confirm.

In a rare account of normally private diplomatic conversations, Netanyahu also said he told Blinken that it was “inconceivable” that in the past few months Washington was withholding weapons and ammunition to Israel.

Kirby addressed the comments in a briefing with reporters, saying the US had directly expressed displeasure to Israel.

“I think we’ve made it abundantly clear to our Israeli counterparts through various vehicles our deep disappointment in the statements expressed in that video and our concerns over the accuracy in the statements made,” Kirby said.

“The idea that we had somehow stopped helping Israel with their self-defense needs is absolutely not accurate,” he said.

Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Ron Dermer, Israel‘s minister for strategic affairs, will speak with Sullivan as a larger, more formal “strategic dialogue” meeting was being rescheduled, according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Blinken will meet with the Israelis at 3 pm, according to a senior State Department official.

Blinken said weapons shipments — with the exception of one with 2,000-pound bombs — were moving as usual given Israel faced security threats beyond Gaza, including from Hezbollah and Iran. He declined to comment on his private exchange with Netanyahu during a news conference on Tuesday.

The United States in May paused a shipment of 2,000-pound and 500-pound bombs due to concern over the impact they could have in densely populated areas but Israel was still due to get billions of dollars worth of US weaponry.

Scrutiny on Israel‘s conduct in its military operation in Gaza has increased as the Palestinian death toll from the war in the Hamas-run enclave has increased. Israeli officials argue they have gone to unprecedented lengths to try and avoid civilian casualties, noting Hamas terrorists embed themselves within the larger population and use civilian sites as military operation centers.

The war started when Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists stormed across the border and attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 others hostage.

Biden in April warned Israel that the US would stop supplying it weapons if Israeli forces launch a large-scale offensive in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza that is considered the last major bastion of Hamas.

The post White House Calls Netanyahu’s Comments on US Weapons Deliveries ‘Perplexing,’ ‘Disappointing’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Israeli Actress Shira Haas Wins Award for Role in Upcoming TV Series ‘Night Therapy’

Shira Haas on the set of “Night Therapy.” Photo: Nati Levi

Israeli actress Shira Haas was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the Monte Carlo Television Festival on Tuesday night for her role in an upcoming Israeli television series titled “Night Therapy” that will premiere later this month.

Haas stars in the 10-part psychological drama alongside Yousef Sweid (“Munich Games,” “Game of Thrones”), as well as Lucy Ayoub, Yaakov Zada Daniel, and Firas Nassar, all of whom have starred in the popular Israeli series “Fauda.”

Haas, who accepted her award from the Monte Carlo Television Festival via video because she was in the United States filming, took to Instagram to thank the festival for her award.

“This is such a special project for me, a personal and genuinely (ongoing) healing one, and I can’t wait for you all to meet Yasmin very soon,” she wrote, referencing her character’s name in the show.

Written and created by Raanan Caspi, “Night Therapy” is about an Arab-Israeli psychologist named Louie (Sweid) who struggles to raise his two children after his Jewish-Israeli wife commits suicide. To be more present for his children during the day and to better balance his work and home life, Louie decides to shift his practice so he sees patients at night. Haas plays one of his patients — a computer genius named Yasmin who rarely leaves her home and prefers to spend her time in the virtual world instead of the real one.

“Through the gateway and magic of the late clinic hours, and flashback scenes where Louie acts as an unseen observer to their problems, the series depicts refreshing points of view on life, which often require unusual treatments,” according to a synopsis provided by Yes Studios, which is distributing the show. “Combining absorbing therapy sessions — written with the input of practicing psychologists — with storylines and characters from Louie’s personal life, ‘Night Therapy’ is a touching, emotional and sexy new drama series.”

The show premieres on Yes TV in Israel on June 30 and is being sold internationally by Yes Studios. The series is directed by Gabriel Bibliowicz and produced by Dafna Danenberg, Aviram Avraham, and Benny Menache at Eight Productions.

Haas previously had starring roles in the hit Israeli television series “Shtisel” as well as the film “Unorthodox,” for which she won an award. She also became the first Israeli television actress nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in “Unorthodox.” Haas Tribeca Film Festival for starring in “Asia,” in which she played a terminally ill character, and additionally won two best supporting actress awards at the Israeli Academy Awards. She is reportedly scheduled to appear in Marvel’s upcoming film “Captain America: Brave New World” as an Israeli superhero named Sabra.

The post Israeli Actress Shira Haas Wins Award for Role in Upcoming TV Series ‘Night Therapy’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Swiss Museum Sells Monet Painting in Settlement With Heirs of Former Jewish Owner Forced to Sell Artwork During WWII

A partial view of Monet’s “L’Homme à l’ombrelle.” Photo: Kunsthaus Zürich via Wikimedia Commons

The largest art museum in Switzerland announced on Wednesday that it is selling a painting by Claude Monet as part of an agreement with heirs of the artwork’s original Jewish owner, who was forced to sell it during World War II when he fled Nazi Germany.

The Kunsthaus Zürich said it reached a “fair and just solution” and “amicable settlement” with the heirs of Jewish entrepreneur Carl Sachs regarding the painting “L’Homme à l’ombrelle” (“Man with a Parasol”) from the late 19th century. Proceeds from the sale will be allocated between the museum and Sachs’ family.

Sachs and his wife fled Nazi persecution in Germany and moved to Switzerland in 1939. He was forced to sell “L’Homme à l’ombrelle,” and several other pieces from his art collection, to the Kunsthaus Zürich in order to make a living. “The sale of Monet’s ‘L’Homme à l’ombrelle’ to the Kunsthaus Zürich was the first work that Sachs had to sell due to the acute financial emergency just a few weeks after fleeing Nazi Germany to Switzerland,” the museum explained.

“A swift sale was needed to provide the couple with money to live on, and he was therefore acting under duress,” the Kunsthaus Zürich said. Sachs died shortly afterward in December 1943 and by that point he had sold 13 artworks from his collection.

Philipp Hildebrand, the chair of Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft, said: “Of course we regret that this wonderful painting will leave the Kunsthaus. At the same time, this step underpins the seriousness of our provenance strategy and our fundamental attitude towards a transparent and solution-oriented approach to works in our collection in which there are substantiated references to Nazis [or] there is a situation of a persecution-related predicament.”

The post Swiss Museum Sells Monet Painting in Settlement With Heirs of Former Jewish Owner Forced to Sell Artwork During WWII first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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