Globe Briefs July 7

Globe Briefs July 7

Orthodox groups file petition to stop egalitarian section at Western Wall

A group of Orthodox Jewish organizations is hoping Israel’s High Court of Justice will stop a non-Orthodox prayer section from being added to the Western Wall.

The group filed an urgent petition Wednesday opposing a government plan that was announced in January but has not yet been implemented, the Kol Hazman news site reported.

According to the petition, the government’s decision, setting aside a section of the holy site where men and women can worship together and women can read from the Torah, is invalid because neither the government nor its advisory committee consulted beforehand with the Chief Rabbinate.

LIBA, an organization that promotes Orthodox Judaism in Israeli society, filed the petition along with several other religious groups, according to The Times of Israel.

The Chief Rabbinate has been outspoken in its opposition to the plan. Israel’s former Sephardic chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, said earlier this month that liberal Jewish proponents of a non-Orthodox prayer space are “wicked” people who would “find themselves outside” the Jewish people if their lineage was examined. Allowing such a space, he said, would be an “unforgivable wrong.”

Amar, now the Sephardic chief rabbi of Jerusalem, earlier this month also led an Orthodox prayer service at a space near the Western Wall that for years has been reserved for egalitarian worship. That prompted a protest egalitarian prayer service later that week, which haredi Orthodox Jews disrupted by throwing bottles, singing loudly and shouting “You are not Jews.”

Veteran NY Rep. Jerrold Nadler handily defeats gay Jewish primary challenger

Longtime New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler handily defeated a Democratic primary challenge from Oliver Rosenberg, a gay, Orthodox Jewish former Republican.

Nadler, who has served New York’s 10th District since 1993, had 25,527 votes, or 88 percent, to Rosenberg’s 2,949 votes, according to unofficial figures. It was the first time in two decades that Nadler had faced a primary challenge.

One of the country’s most Jewish congressional districts, the 10th spans Columbia University, the Upper West Side and the West Village in Manhattan and the Brooklyn haredi Orthodox neighborhood of Borough Park.

Rosenberg sought to portray Nadler as a stale politician out of touch with his constituents, and attacked Nadler on his vote in favor of the Iran nuclear deal. The New York Daily News endorsed Rosenberg based on the Iran issue.

Nadler supported the deal after receiving a letter from President Barack Obama answering his concerns. The veteran lawmaker agreed with critics that the deal was flawed, but said he was “convinced it is the best option for achieving our overriding security imperative.”

Rosenberg, 30, a California native and graduate of Yeshiva University, is a former J.P. Morgan investment banker-turned-high-tech entrepreneur. He came out as gay in 2008 during a panel discussion at Yeshiva University, and in 2014 started Or Chayim, a monthly Orthodox Shabbat service on the Upper West Side for LGBT Jews.

Tunnel used by Jews in Lithuania to escape Nazis uncovered

A tunnel in Lithuania used by Jewish prisoners to escape the Nazis has been uncovered by an international research team near Vilnius.

The Israel Antiquities Authority in a statement last week announced the discovery of the 100-foot-long tunnel at the Ponar Forest massacre site.

Ponar prisoners used the tunnel, which was located with a new technology called electrical resistivity tomography, an imaging technique used to find underground structures.

Along with the Israel Antiquities Authority, the tunnel was found through the efforts of the University of Hartford, Advisian, the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum and the PBS series “Nova.”

Some 100,000 people, of whom 70,000 were Jews from Vilnius and the surrounding area, were massacred and thrown into pits in the Ponar forest near the Lithuanian capital during World War II. With the retreat of the German forces on the eastern front and the advance of the Red Army, a special unit formed in 1943 was tasked with covering up the tracks of the genocide. In Ponar, the assignment was given to a group of 80 inmates from the Stutthof concentration camp.

At night the prisoners, whose legs were shackled, were held in a deep pit previously used for the execution of Vilnius Jews. During the day they worked to hide the mass graves and burn the corpses.

Some of the workers decided to escape by digging a tunnel from the pit that was their prison. For three months they dug using only spoons and their hands.

On the night of April, 15, 1944, the prisoners cut their leg shackles with a nail file, and 40 of them crawled through the narrow tunnel. They were quickly discovered by the guards and many were shot. Some 15 managed to cut the fence of the camp and escape into the forest. Eleven reached the partisan forces and survived the war.

After World War II the location of the tunnel was lost; several attempts to find it were unsuccessful.

“Nova” is planning to screen a documentary next year on the history of the Jews of Vilnius and the discovery of the tunnel. The partners in the discovery plan to expose the tunnel for public viewing is part of the memorial for the victims of Vilnius and the surrounding area, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.