Globe Briefs September 2

Globe Briefs September 2

13 Jewish graves vandalized in Northern Ireland

Thirteen Jewish graves were damaged as headstones were smashed and knocked over at a municipal cemetery in West Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Police were called Friday afternoon to the scene, where smashed pieces of glass could be found atop overturned headstones.

Eight young people are said to have carried out the attack with hammers and blocks, with a larger crowd looking on, according to Northern Ireland Assembly member William Humphrey, Belfast Live reported.

Humphrey said he was “disgusted and appalled” at the vandalism, which the police are treating as a hate crime.

It isn’t the first incident of its kind in Belfast. In 2015, a memorial to a Christian Zionist officer was vandalized, and in 2014, windows at a local synagogue were smashed.

Italy’s national Jewish museum joins cultural sites donating a day of proceeds to earthquake relief

The National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah is among dozens of state museums and cultural sites that will donate all proceeds from visitors on Aug. 28 to aid earthquake victims and rescue efforts in central Italy.

The museum, which is under development, does not yet have a permanent exhibition, but announced it would donate its proceeds from visitors to its temporary exhibit on the Torah.

On Aug. 25, the culture minister of Italy announced that the Aug. 28 proceeds from state-run museums and archaeological sites all over the country would go to the area devastated by the quake that hit early Wednesday morning and urged Italians to visit them to show solidarity.

At least 291 people have been confirmed dead in the 6.2 magnitude temblor.

Meanwhile, more than 20 volunteers from the Israeli aid organization IsraAid have been working in the earthquake zone since Thursday along with other relief organizations, including volunteers from Islamic Relief Italia.

Italy’s national Jewish umbrella organization, UCEI, and the Rome Jewish community initiated a blood drive in Rome; among the donors was outgoing Israeli ambassador Naor Gilon. Local Jewish communities and UCEI have collected funds and material for relief operations, and UCEI opened a special bank account for earthquake relief donations.

Philadelphia artist paints over swastikas with flowers, has neighbors do the same

A Jewish artist in suburban Philadelphia turned swastikas painted on her trash can into a neighborhood demonstration of love and caring.

Esther Cohen-Eskin of Havertown discovered the Nazi symbol painted on her trash can on Aug. 19, the Associated Press reported. She and her husband have lived there for 20 years.

“The swastika is such a deep-rooted sign of hatred for everyone, especially Judaism, that I felt so targeted,” she told the AP on Thursday.

Cohen-Eskin decided to paint over the swastikas with flowers. Then she wrote a letter to her neighbors asking them to paint a swastika on their trash bin and paint over it as she had. Garbage cans throughout the neighborhood have been painted with flowers and other symbols of love and caring.

People as far away as Canada, Germany and Ireland called to offer their support. Some sent photos of their own decorated trash containers, according to the AP.

“It gave me a whole new reassurance in humanity,” Cohen-Eskin told the AP. “I feel invigorated by all the love. It’s exciting … it makes you feel there’s so much good out there.”

U.S. envoy’s son has bar mitzvah at his ancestors’ shul in Prague

The U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, Andrew Schapiro, celebrated his son’s bar mitzvah in the same Prague synagogue that his ancestors attended before the Holocaust.

The service for 13-year-old Alex Schapiro took place on Aug. 20 in the Spanish Synagogue, which was built for a Reform congregation and is now part of the local Jewish museum.

“It’s really cool and meaningful that I had my bar mitzvah at the same place my grandma — and my great-uncle, who was at my service — went for the holidays. I am really glad I could have it there, and I think my grandma would be too,” Alex Schapiro said.

His father noted another symbolism that resonated with him.

“To be back here not just as a Jewish family but also in this role of representing the United States, the country that gave my mother refuge and saved her life, surrounded by many members of both of our families, that was unforgettable,” the elder Schapiro said.

The diplomat’s Prague-born mother, Raya Czerner Schapiro, was 5 when the Nazis occupied Prague. Her parents sent her and her sister to the United States in October 1939. She died in 2007, but her brother attended his grand-nephew’s bar mitzvah.

Tamar Newberger, Alex’s mother, and his father brought Rabbi Asher Lopatin from the United States to officiate at the ceremony. The couple also had to arrange for a Torah scroll to be used in the service, as the one on hand was too aged and damaged to be considered fit according to religious laws.

“This group of United Synagogue Youth brought it over in a golf bag in June, and it will be used by Prague’s Masorti community,” said Newberger about the Torah scroll. United Synagogue Youth is the youth group of the Conservative movement, and Masorti is the Conservative movement’s overseas arm.

More than 200 guests attended Alex Schapiro’s bar mitzvah ceremony, including some 150 who made the trip from the United States. The party — a non-themed one, his parents said — took place in the ambassador’s residence. Among the guests were Pittsburghers Adrienne and Evan Indianer and their son Noah, cousins of the bar mitzvah boy on his mother’s side.

Evan Indianer was struck with the historical significance of Andrew Schapiro’s daily commute to work.

“The ambassador, on almost a daily basis, goes from the ambassador’s residence — a house that was owned first by a Jew, then by a Nazi general, then by Russians — by the house his mother lived in, and then to the U.S. Embassy that granted his mother the visa that saved her life.”