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JFK documents reveal assassin’s CIA monitor was Reuben Efron, a Jewish spy who loved Midrash

(JTA) — For decades, armchair analysts scrutinizing the mysteries of the President John F. Kennedy assassination have fixated on who, exactly, opened his future assassin’s mail while he was under CIA surveillance.

As the conspiracy theory went, that person would have understood Lee Harvey Oswald’s relationship with the Soviet Union and thus could unlock new information about a possible Communist plot against Kennedy — or a U.S. government plot to obscure his true killer.

Last month, a new document dump in the ongoing declassification of Kennedy documents revealed the identity of the CIA screener: one Reuben Efron, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania.

The New York Times was the first to report Efron’s identity. “And that means — what, exactly?” the newspaper asked in its report. “A tantalizing clue to unraveling a complicated conspiracy that the government has sought to cover up for decades? Additional proof that the C.I.A. knew more about Oswald than initially acknowledged? Or a minor detail withheld all this time because of bureaucratic imperatives irrelevant to the question of whether Oswald was the lone gunman on the fateful day?”

A deep dive into Efron’s Jewish identity does not answer those questions. But it does reveal that Efron not only worked as a spy but had a deep knowledge of the spies in Jewish tradition. 

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency has confirmed that Efron spent time living in Israel before dying on Nov. 22, 1993 — 30 years to the day after Kennedy’s assassination. While there, he contributed five articles in the 1970s to the Jewish Bible Quarterly, a World Zionist Organization-affiliated publication based in Jerusalem, that channeled his expertise in espionage.

“Rahab and her premises were under surveillance of a counterintelligence team of the king of Jericho who soon established that the two men visiting Rahab were actually Israelite spies,” he writes in one of the essays, referring to a Jericho courtesan who, according to the Book of Joshua, assisted the Israelites in preparing to rout the Canaanites. Efron called Rahab “a prototype of a Mata Hari,” the World War I-era exotic dancer-turned-spy.

In one of the essays, Efron directly addresses the problem of spies incorrectly assessing their surveillance target — a critique that has been leveled about his read of Oswald. About the 10 spies who, in the Book of Numbers, returned to the Israelites unsettled by their venture into Canaan, he writes, “The militarily inexperienced scouts apparently had been unduly impressed with the prowess of the enemy and, as is frequent among Easterners, exaggerated his capabilities.”

The essays, three of which appeared in a series called “Military Intelligence in the Bible,” do little to illuminate either the Kennedy assassination or the inner life of the man who read Oswald’s mail. But  they do shed light on how he spent his retirement.

Efron was born Ruvelis Effronas in Simnas, Lithuania, on April 12, 1911, and attended a Jewish high school there (a “Hebrew gymnasium,” in his words), followed by Vytautas Magnus University in what is now Kaunas. He practiced law for five years in that city — a thriving hub of Lithuanian Jewish life that would become the site of the country’s largest ghetto under the Nazis — before emigrating, as his brother had done previously.

Efron immigrated to the United States in December 1939, arriving in Miami via Cuba. U.S. immigration documents list his profession as a salesman. According to a family history compiled by a relative, the following fall he enrolled at the Atlanta Law School, a night school that closed in the 1990s. He worked at a clothing store in downtown Atlanta until graduating in 1943.

He spoke Russian, Lithuanian, Hebrew, Yiddish and German and enlisted in the Air Force during World War II as an interpreter, according to a death notice published in the Miami Herald. After the war, the death notice said, he played a role in peace negotiations and in talks related to the resettlement of war refugees — among them, perhaps, members of his own family, but not his mother, who according to the published genealogy was murdered in the Holocaust.

For decades, Efron worked for the U.S. government, playing roles that are only now coming to light as secret government documents are made available to the public. His family history says only: “Reuben worked for the Pentagon.”

In addition to his now-revealed role reading Oswald’s mail, Efron pops up in another declassified document dealing with an area of amateur sleuthing that has garnered a following as intense, if not more so, than the Kennedy assassination.

In October 1955, Efron was traveling by train in the Soviet Union with U.S. Sen. Richard Russell, a Georgia Democrat, and a senior U.S. army official. The three men reported seeing two “circular and unconventional aircraft resembling flying discs or flying saucers … taking off almost vertically one minute apart.”

“After sighting, Soviet train men became excited and lowered curtains and refused permission to look out windows,” says the 1955 report, declassified in 2004. “U.S. observers firmly believe these unconventional aircraft are flying saucer or disc aircraft.”

In retirement, Efron apparently enjoyed the freedom to opine. Living in Washington, D.C., in 1971, he wrote to the New York Times urging the Nixon administration to reject proposals of a joint U.S.-Soviet force to police Egypt-Israel peace, saying it would ​​”communize the whole area.”

It’s not clear if he ever officially immigrated to Israel using its Law of Return, which grants automatic citizenship to Jews who move to the country. But the obituary in the Miami Herald said that Efron “commuted between Israel and the United States for many years, during which he studied Israeli law and was admitted to the Israeli bar.” The obituary said Efron was inspired by his mother’s work in Lithuania with Jews who were immigrating to Palestine.

In 1982, Efron lived on Keren Hayesod street in Jerusalem bordering the neighborhood of Rehavia, genealogical records show. Rehavia, now a neighborhood bursting with ostentatious wealth, much of it American, was then a leafy and somewhat decayed enclave of aging “yekkes,” or German Jews, many of them from the university-educated class that had fled the Nazis, arriving in Palestine in the 1930s.

The address would have been a pleasant 10-minute walk from the offices of the Jewish Bible Quarterly. 

A staffer at the quarterly checked with surviving retired staff who worked during the late 1970s; no one could recall working with Efron. But his contributions to the quarterly are mostly preserved: JTA was able to locate three of the five essays.

In them, Efron comes across as an enthusiast of the ancients with a fundamentalist’s belief in the Bible as relaying an accurate historical narrative. 

“The Bible relates truthfully David’s charismatic personality, physical charm, as well as frailties and ethical shortcomings,” Efron writes, reviewing the clandestine means David and Jonathan employed in the Book of Samuel to determine whether Jonathan’s father, Saul, planned to assassinate David.

As befits someone writing for a World Zionist Organization publication, Efron draws parallels between ancient and modern Israel, and finds much to praise in both national expressions.

“It should be noted that in ancient as well as in recent times the people of Israel adhered to their promises and covenants with their neighbors,” he writes in describing Joshua’s sticking to his pledge to protect the Gibeonites despite their deception, the spycraft that is the article’s focus.

Efron deploys accounts of Israel’s modern spycraft to establish a continuum between biblical times and the 20th century.

“A recent example of such a secret encounter in Israel’s international relations is the now well publicized, but at that time very guarded meeting between the former Foreign Minister, Moshe Dayan, with the then Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister, Muhammed Hassan al-Tohami, in September 1977, in Morocco, which laid the groundwork for Egyptian President Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem,” he writes in the article about David and Jonathan.

Details about Efron’s identity and background exercised the community of JFK assassination theorists to a much lesser degree than the fact that a senior CIA official was tracking Oswald — and the tantalizing prospect that there was more to learn.

“The memo shows that high-level CIA officers were interested in the smallest details of Oswald’s life 17 months before Kennedy was killed,” Jefferson Morley, an author of multiple books about the CIA, and about Kennedy, said on his blog, JFK Facts, after the revelation. “If Oswald was the ‘lone gunman,’ as a substantial minority of Americans believe, the clandestine service had much more access to his personal information than most know.”

Efron had a wife, Edna, a brother, Irving, and no children. Said the death notice in the Miami Herald: “He was a most diligent and modest person.”


The post JFK documents reveal assassin’s CIA monitor was Reuben Efron, a Jewish spy who loved Midrash appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Europe Joins US in Urging Restraint by Israel After Iranian Attack as Diplomatic Pressure Mounts

A view of a crater on a damaged road, after Iran’s mass drone and missile attack, at a location given as Hermon area, Israel, in this handout picture released on April 14, 2024. Photo: Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS

Israel‘s European allies urged it on Monday to show restraint over Iran’s weekend missile and drone attack, calling on Israeli leaders to step away from “the edge of the cliff” of escalation in the Middle East.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet, which is empowered to decide on the country’s response, was set to convene on Monday afternoon, a government source said.

Israeli officials said the war cabinet, which also met on Sunday, favored retaliation but was divided over the timing and scale of any such response.

With the danger of open warfare erupting between Israel and Iran, and tension high over the war in Gaza, President Joe Biden has told Netanyahu the United States will not participate in any Israeli counter-offensive against Iran, US officials said.

Britain, France, Germany, and the European Union’s foreign policy chief all joined Washington and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in calling for restraint.

“We’re on the edge of the cliff and we have to move away from it,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, told Spanish radio station Onda Cero. “We have to step on the brakes and reverse gear.”

French President Emmanuel Macron urged Israel to set its sight on isolating Iran rather than escalating the situation. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned Iran not to carry out more attacks and said Israel must also contribute to de-escalation.

Russia has refrained from criticizing its ally Iran in public over the strikes but expressed concern about the risk of escalation on Monday and also called for restraint.

“Further escalation is in no one’s interests,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Iran launched the attack over a suspected Israeli airstrike on its embassy compound in Syria on April 1 that killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers including two senior commanders.

It followed months of clashes between Israel and Iran’s regional allies, triggered by the Gaza war that has spread to fronts with Iran-aligned groups in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq.

The weekend attack, involving more than 300 missiles and drones, caused only modest damage in Israel. Most were shot down by Israel‘s Iron Dome defense system and with help from the US, Britain, France, and Jordan.

The only serious injury reported within Israel was a seven-year-old who was hurt by shrapnel.

UNCERTAINTY

Asian shares fell and gold prices rose on Monday as risk sentiment took a hit, but oil prices dipped and Israel‘s shekel rose against the dollar.

“An attack was largely priced in the days leading up to it. Also the limited damage and the fact that there was no loss of life means that maybe Israel‘s response will be more measured,” said Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy at ING.

“But clearly, there is still plenty of uncertainty and it all depends on how Israel now responds.”

Iran’s attack also caused travel disruption, with at least a dozen airlines cancelling or rerouting flights, and Europe‘s aviation regulator reaffirming advice to airlines to use caution in Israeli and Iranian airspace.

Two senior Israeli ministers have signaled that retaliation is not imminent and that Israel will not act alone.

“We will build a regional coalition and exact the price from Iran in the fashion and timing that is right for us,” centrist minister Benny Gantz said.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel had an opportunity to form a strategic alliance “against this grave threat by Iran.”

Israel remained on high alert, but authorities lifted some emergency measures that had included a ban on some school activities and caps on large gatherings.

Iranian army chief of staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri has warned Israel not to retaliate, and told Washington that US bases could be attacked if it helps Israel do so.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Tehran had informed the United States that the attack on Israel would be limited and for self-defense, and that regional neighbors had been informed of the planned strikes 72 hours in advance.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on Monday, however, that no pre-arranged agreement was made with any country prior to the weekend attack. US officials said Tehran had not warned Washington.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak rejected Iran’s assertion that it provided advance notice before attacking Israel.

The post Europe Joins US in Urging Restraint by Israel After Iranian Attack as Diplomatic Pressure Mounts first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Israel Says It Shot Down Iranian Salvo ‘Shoulder-to-Shoulder’ With US

Crews work on an Israeli Air Force F-15 Eagle in a hangar, said to be following an interception mission of an Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel, in this handout image released April 14, 2024. Photo: Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS

Israel‘s repelling of a massive Iranian drone and missile salvo was fully coordinated with the Pentagon, which had a US operational liaison officer in the control room of the Arrow ballistic air defense system, a senior Israeli official said.

The United States, along with Britain, France, and Jordan, helped Israel intercept the bulk of the weekend barrage and potentially stave off escalation between the regional enemies.

At least half of the hundreds of pilotless one-way planes, cruise missiles, and surface-to-surface missiles, which Israel said carried a total of 60 tons of explosives, were shot down by Israeli warplanes and aerial shields, according to local media.

Israeli officials said much of the work was done by their Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 high-altitude defense systems, which were developed jointly with the Pentagon and Boeing Co.

Arrow’s interceptor missiles cost between $2 million and $3.5 million a piece, according to Israeli industry sources.

Moshe Patel, director of missile defense at Israel‘s Defense Ministry, said Arrow and lower-altitude interceptors were synced with counterpart US systems in the region.

“The systems share information, for a joint picture of the sky, and the sky was certainly busy,” Patel told Channel 12 TV.

“Afterward, there is also coordination in battle doctrine. An American officer sits in the control room of the Arrow weapons system and essentially conducts the coordination with the US systems, shoulder-to-shoulder.”

There was no immediate comment from US Central Command, which oversees Middle East operations. On Sunday, it said US forces destroyed more than 80 of the drones and at least six of the ballistic missiles aimed at Israel.

Israel said 99 percent of all the projectiles were downed in time, limiting the toll to injuries to one person and damage to one military base. That surprised even Zvika Haimovitch, a retired brigadier-general who formerly commanded Israel‘s air defenses.

“[This was] well-synchronized and coordinated between all the elements — the air, the ground forces — and, yes, to be honest it is a great percentage and much more than we expected if you would have asked me three days before,” he told Reuters.

“But we need to be sure that we will be ready for the next time because for sure there’ll be a next time,” he said. “We need to take as an assumption that the Iranians will do their homework next time and will try to challenge our systems. That means we need to be one step before and not after our enemies.”

Daniel Gold, director of weapons development at Israel‘s Defense Ministry, told Channel 12 television that work was already under way on more advanced Arrow models 4 and 5.

Arrow 3 shoots down incoming ballistic weapons above the atmosphere, using a detachable warhead that slams into the target in space.

The Maariv newspaper reported that Arrow 3 downed 110 missiles outside Israeli air space, at a potential cost of up to $385 million. The Israeli military had no immediate comment on that. Asked on Army Radio how much the interceptions had cost Israel, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said he did not know.

Mindful of the need for thrift in the face of foes on several fronts, Israel in 2022 said it was developing a laser-based missile shield to deliver shoot-downs as cheap as $2 each.

“I believe that the laser will be in the next few years one of our main solutions in dealing with a variety of threats — rockets, missiles, drones, UAVs, and more,” Haimovitch said.

The post Israel Says It Shot Down Iranian Salvo ‘Shoulder-to-Shoulder’ With US first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Israel’s ambassador to Canada says his country faces critical decisions after a night of Iranian missile attacks—and urges Canada to list the IRGC as a terrorist group

Israel is at a crucial juncture after Iran fired more than 350 ballistic and cruise missiles at the Jewish state overnight on April 13, according to Israel’s ambassador to Canada. “We are facing one of the most critical moments in the history of the State of Israel when a country like Iran starts an attack […]

The post Israel’s ambassador to Canada says his country faces critical decisions after a night of Iranian missile attacks—and urges Canada to list the IRGC as a terrorist group appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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