World Briefs: UK’s Liberal and Reform Movements Merge as Progressive Judaism and more


UK’s Liberal and Reform Movements Merge as Progressive Judaism
In a major development for British Jewry, the United Kingdom’s Liberal and Reform Jewish movements are joining to create a unified Progressive Judaism movement after working separately for more than 120 years, reported.

The historic project, a culmination of decades of discussions and rapprochement, is to be led by the Reform movement’s newly appointed CEO, Rabbi Josh Levy — who is leaving his role as principal rabbi of Alyth (or the North Western Reform Synagogue) in London — and Liberal Judaism CEO Rabbi Charley Baginsky.

The union was made possible in part by the decision of the U.K. Reform movement in 2015 to accept patrilineal Jews — or Jews with a Jewish father but not a Jewish mother — as full members of communities. That American model is embraced by the Liberal movement, but most European Reform organizations require patrilineal Jews to convert to become full members of their communities.

Paul Langsford, co-chair of the Reform movement, assured members of both groups that “no one will be asked to change their synagogue name, their Reform identity or change their prayerbook.” He added that input from members was welcome and would help shape future policies.

The London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research reported that, as of 2021, there were 271,327 self-identified Jews living in England and Wales, up from 259,927 in 2001. They make up 0.46% of the total population of both countries.

Credit Suisse Impeding Probe Into Nazi Bank Accounts, US Lawmakers Say
The Senate Budget Committee accused Credit Suisse of impeding an investigation into former accounts at the bank that were held by Nazis, including many who fled to South American countries after World War II, JTA reported.

On April 18, the committee released two reports, one by an independent ombudsman the bank hired to oversee the investigation and one by a forensic research team. The bank fired the ombudsman, American lawyer Neil Barofsky, in November, months into his investigation.

“Credit Suisse’s decision to stop its review midstream has left many questions unanswered, including questions about the thoroughness of its prior investigative efforts, the extent to which it served Nazi interests and the bank’s role in servicing Nazis fleeing justice after the war,” Barofsky wrote in his findings, according to reports.

Jewish organizations have long claimed that in addition to playing a key role in financially supporting Nazi Germany, Credit Suisse held onto money looted from Jews long after the war. In 1999, the Swiss bank paid Jewish groups and Holocaust survivors a settlement of $1.25 billion in restitution for withholding money from Jews who had tried to withdraw their funds.

Russian-Jewish Dissident Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison for Treason
A Russian-Jewish dissident whose case has attracted support from human rights groups and prominent Jewish activists was sentenced to 25 years in prison for treason on April 17, reported.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, 41, received the harshest sentence given to a critic of the Kremlin in the 14 months since Russia first invaded Ukraine. The charges were issued roughly a year after Kara-Murza accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine during a speech to the Arizona state legislature. The charges included discrediting the Russian military and spreading “knowingly false information” about its actions in Ukraine.

Kara-Murza’s sentence came after years of tensions between him and Putin’s government that culminated in his urging for the West to impose sanctions on Russia as punishment for its war in Ukraine. He has been poisoned twice and has blamed the Kremlin for both instances, while the government has denied its involvement.

When Kara-Murza heard the sentence, his lawyer told the BBC, he took it as a sign of the effectiveness of his criticism. “My self-esteem even rose,” the lawyer quoted Kara-Murza as saying. “I realized I’d been doing everything right.”

Shake Shack Coming to Israel in 2024
Shake Shack, the American fast-casual restaurant chain famous for its burgers and milkshakes, is heading to Israel. reported.

The chain announced on April 19 on social media that a location will open next year in Tel Aviv, which has a robust burger scene — including local chains and international franchises including Burger King and McDonald’s. Over the next decade, the company announced, it plans to open 15 locations across Israel.

In keeping with its international strategy — Shake Shack has 120 international locations, in addition to 240 in the United States — the company says it will “collaborate with local purveyors and producers to create a one-of-a-kind Shack experience unique for the Israeli community.”

Shake Shack did not offer details about its local products. The company also did not respond to a request for comment about whether any of its offerings in Israel would be kosher.

Hebrew U. Researchers Develop New Method to Prevent Mosquito Bites
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers have developed a safe new method of preventing mosquito bites using a skin coating from naturally occurring cellulose nanocrystals, reported.

According to a study published in PNAS NEXUS, applying the thin CNC coating on human skin decreases the number of mosquitoes feeding by 80%. Cellulose CNCs are a renewable raw material produced from wood, cotton or other cellulose-rich sources and are used in cosmetics, composites, food packaging and medical devices.

“Combining CNCs with the mosquito repellent indole confirmed its excellent potential as safe and sustainable mosquito prevention,” said lead researcher Professor Jonathan Bohbot of the university’s Robert H. Smith Institute of Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture, Food and Environment.

CNC appears to act as a chemical camouflage to the many cues sought by the insects and was found to reduce the blood feeding in the deadly mosquito Aedes aegypti.

— Compiled by Andy Gotlieb

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