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March 29, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 29, 2013 PAGE 11A Report: 'Prisoner X' spy Ben Zygier tipped off Hez- bollah SYDNEY (JTA)--The man known as Prisoner X unwit- tingly leaked classified infor- mation to Lebanese authori- ties, leading to the arrest of two Hezbollah agents who were spying for Israel. Ben Zygier, an Australian- Israeli citizen who was work- ing for the Mossad, botched an attempt to recruit a spy for the agency, according to an expose in Der Spiegel. Zygier was attempting to restore his reputation in the Mossad by attempting to turn an enemy into an ally, ac- cording to the magazine. He had been returned from the field to a desk job at Mossad headquarters. In the end, however, He- zbollah managed to extract from Zygier the name of two Lebanese men working for Mossad--Ziad al-Homsi and Mustafa Ali Awadeh--who were arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in jail. The report said Zygier start- ed working with the Mossad in 2003 but was ordered back to Israel in 2007 because he was not delivering for the spy agency. He returned to Melbourne and operated independently in an attempt to restore his reputation, the magazine claimed. But as he tried to prove his bona tides to a man linked to Hezbollah who he wanted to Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA become a double agent, he was the one who became the double agent, leaking the classified information. On Dec. 15, 2010, the 34-year-old father of two was found dead in his Tel Aviv cell. Later reports said he hanged himself. Israel places closure on West Bank for Passover JERUSALEM (JTA) -- The Israeli military imposed a gen- eral closure of the West Bank through the end of Passover. The closure went into effect at midnight Sunday and will remain into effect until the night of April 2, according to a statement from the Israel Defense Forces. Itwas ordered by the minister of defense in accordance with IDF assess- ments, the statement said. Those in need of medical at- tention or humanitarian aid, or in exceptional cases, will be allowed to leave the West Bank with the authorization of the Civil Administration, according to the IDF. Female performers ex- cluded from Jerusalem music festival JERUSALEM (JTA)--Three female singers were asked not to perform at a music festival in the haredi Orthodox-dom- inated Jewish quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Liat Zion, the only female member of The Diwan Project musical ensemble, left the stage after performing for a half hour after being asked politely to do so by a produc- tion manager on the opening night of the four-day Sounds of the Old City music festival, which ended March 21. Two religious men had threatened the production manager if Zion continued to remain on stage, Ynet reported. Zion told The Jerusalem Post that she chose to leave the stage and understood that her performance in a haredi section of the Jewish Quarter made some of the residents and audience members un- comfortable. A second Jewish group with 15 members was asked prior to the event not to include its two female members in their performance. The group, Marsh Dondurma, refused to perform without the entire group and eventually went on stage as scheduled. Women sang and per- formed in other music festival locations throughout the city. The festival features Jew- ish, Armenian and traditional Arab music groups, as well as a mixed religious-secular audience. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Bar- kat in a message posted on Facebook condemned the exclusion of women from the festival. Liverpool shoring up aban- doned synagogue (JTA)--The British city of Liverpool will spend $100,000 to save a 77-year-old syna- gogue. The Greenbank Synagogue in South Liverpool, which was built in 1936, was listed as being "at risk" in 2010, three years after the area's Jewish community stopped using it, the Liverpool Echo reported, but the city hopes to secure its long-term future and help find a new use for it. The synagogue's decline was partly due to the falling Jewish population in the city, which in the last century has dropped to approximatey 3,000 from 11,000, according to the paper. Tunisian chief rabbi op- poses reserving parliament seats for Jews (JTA)--The chief rabbi of Tunisia reportedly added his voice to those opposing a plan to allocate special seats in the country's parliament to the Jewish community. Rabbi Haim Bittan told the online magazine African Manager last week that while he appreciated the sentiments behind the proposal, it ran against civil law and contrary to the principles that charac- terized Tunisia over the centu- ries as a country that did not make distinctions between those of different faiths. Wiesel, Edelstein to help select Genesis Prize winner (JTA) -- Eiie Wiesel, the speaker of Israel's Knesset and two former Israel Supreme Court justices are among those who will select the win- ner of a new $1 million prize for serving as a role model for Jewish values. The Genesis Philanthro- py Group, a consortium of mega-wealthy philanthropist- businessmen from the former Soviet Union, announced the formation of the two com- mittees that will determine the inaugural winner of the Genesis Prize, which will be given out annually. Dubbed the Jewish Nobel Prize by Time Magazine, the $1 million Genesis Prize will be awarded to an ac- complished, internationally renowned professional from anywhere in the world who is a role model in his or her community and who can inspire the younger genera- tion of Jews worldwide. The inaugural Genesis Prize will be awarded in the spring of 2014 in Jerusalem by the prime minister of Israel, the Genesis Prize Foundation said in a statement. Kutsher, a Borscht Belt matriarch, dies at 89 NEW YORK (JTA)--Helen Kutsher, the face of her family-owned resort in the Catskill Mountains for de- cades, has died. Kutsher, who came to be known as the matriach of what was called the Borscht Belt, died Saturday in Phila- delphia. She was 89 and spent much of her life in Monticello, N.Y., in a house on the grounds of Kutsher's Country Club, according to The New York Times. Her family owned Kutsber's for more than I00 years, maintaining the resort while others in the area such as Grossinger's, Brown's and the Concord closed down. The family still owns the resort, though it was leased three years ago to another operator, the Times reported. At the height of its popu- larity, the group of summer resorts known as the Borscht Belt served as the summer getaway for many East Coast Jews. Kutsher and her husband, Milton, who died in 1998, ran the resort together. Milton handled the business side, while Helen focused on the upkeep of the place and was its gracious hostess. Milton hired an athletic di- rector, a young RedAuerbach, who went on to fame as the championship coach of the Boston Celtics. Milton also hired a young Walt Cham- berlain as a bellhop, and the couple stayed friends with the Hall of Fame basketball player until his death in 1999. The resort featured per- formers such as Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, Joan Rivers, Jackie Mason, Jerry Seinfeld, Harry Belafonte, Billy Crystal and Tony Bennett--celebri- ties that Kutsher came to know well and could call on to entertain if an act fell through. In Florida, Venezuelan Jewish expats set down new roots By Gil Shfler SUNNY ISLES BEACH (JTA)--Sitting outside a Starbucks coffee shop in this small city north of Miami Beach, Paul Hariton recalls the dramatic night in 2002 when he and his wife decided to leave their native Venezuela. Leftist leader Hugo Chavez had just returned to power following a failed coup and the Haritons feared the politi- cal fallout. "We thought he was gone already," said Hariton, 56. "We came back from a big opposition demonstration in the city center where several people were shot, including one member of the commu- nity. A girl was shot in the head. She survived." The next day the Haritons were in Florida. Eleven years later they're still here. "For my kids it was a great move," Hariton said. "My oldest son is going to medi- cal school. My daughter just graduated and is working at the bank. And my youngest son is 17 and is applying for university." Over the past decade, thousands of Venezuelan Jews have followed suit, driven abroad by rising crime rates and the growing anti- Semitism many attribute to Chavez's harsh criticism of Israel and cozy alliance with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadine- jad. About 25,000 Jews lived in Venezuela in the 1990s--a number that has shrunk to 9,000 today, according to CAIV, the umbrella group for Venezuelan Jewry. "I can't tell you if 10 years from now we'll be half of what we are, but the trend at the moment is a decreasing one, which is very worrying Shutterstock Aventura, a suburb of Miami, has become the destination of choice for Jews from Ven- ezuela who leave their country of birth in search of greener pastures. for the community," said Efraim Lapscher, CAIV's vice president. Many Jews in Venezuela are determined to stay. They have businesses, a sense of cultural belonging and an impressive array of Jewish in- stitutions painstakingly built over decades. Yet uncertainty following the death of Chavez last month may send more overseas to join their friends and family living abroad, many of them in Florida. Just three hours by plane from the Venezuelan capital Caracas, the Miami region has similar weather, Spanish is widely spoken and is home to a large Jewish community, making it a favorite among Venezuelan Jews looking for a fresh start. Many of the newcomers have joined the Michael- Ann Russel Jewish Commu- nity Center in North Miami Beach, which is somewhat reminiscent of the Hebraica, the sprawling Jewish com- pound in Caracas. Though it lacks the Hebraica's dramatic surroundings--notably its location at the foot of the lush Avila mountain--the tennis courts, pool, well-kept build- ings and easygoing lifestyle are much the same. "There is a lot more use of facilities, not just for sports," said Ariel Bentata, a Venezu- elan Jew and the JCC's presi- dent. "It's more of a gathering place now, and that's a big change. This is something that Venezuelan Jews have brought from the Hebraica." Indeed, Caraqueno trans- plants are likely to bump into many familiar faces in these parts. Rabbi Pynchas Brener was chief rabbi of the main Ashkenazi synagogue of Caracas for 44 years until he retired here two years ago as he neared 80. "I could have stayed on for another three years; I was offered that oppor- tunity," Brener said. "But I didn't want to at this stage of the game, basically because of the tremendous personal insecurity [in Caracas]. And I have eight of my nine grand- children living here. So that's why I came." Florida may be the destina- tion of choice for Venezuelan Jews, most of whom live in Caracas, but it is by no means the only one. Smaller com- munities of Venezuelan Jew- ish expats exist in Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica and Guatemala--Spanish-speak- ing countries with small but robust Jewish populations. Others have resettled in Israel. According to the Jew- ish Agency for Israel, 1,290 Venezuelans have moved to the Jewish state since 1999, numbers that do not include the Venezuelan Jews who already were Israeli citizens before they moved. A Jewish official said the number of Jews in the latter category is "sizable." Some Venezuelan Jews have gone on to significant successes in their adopted countries. Venezuelan filmmaker Jonathan Jakubowicz is working on a movie starring Rober De Niro and Gael Garcia Gil Shefler/JTA In 2011 Rabbi Pynchas Brener retired to Miami after 44 years ofleading the Ashke- nazi community of Caracas. Bernal. Michel Kreisel was a member of the special effects team that won an Academy Award for "Life of Pi." Moses Naim, Venezuela's former minister of development, is now a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington and a respected columnist for Spain's El Pais. "Generally, more idealistic people or those with relatives came here," said Maor Melul, 37, a computer engineer who moved to Israel from Caracas in January. "The people who have a lot of money go to Miami. And generally those who go to Panama and Costa Rica are waiting to go back to Venezuelaifthings improve." Melul fell in love with Tel Aviv over a previous extended stay. Most of his friends in Israel are from Brazil, Venezuela's neighbor to the south, but if people mistake him for a Brazilian, he is quick to correct them. "In my room I have an indigenous clay doll with the colors of the flag of Venezuela Gil Shefler/JTA PauI Hadbm ls one of mang Venezuelan Jews who have relocated to the Miami area over the past two decades. and the stars," he said. "On my dining table I have a Ven- ezuelan flag. And of course there's the Venezuelan soccer team. I wore its T-shirt when I made aliyah. After you leave you start showing your colors, showing you are Venezuelan." For the most part, Melul feels detached from the place he had called home for decades. Most of his family and friends either died or emigrated. Only occasion- ally does he feel nostalgic, like when he goes through old albums. "I look at pictures of coco- nuts and the water and how l'd love to be there right now,  he said. "But I can'L  Hariton believes most Venezuelan Jews would not go back, even if things im- proved. They are settled in their new homes, he said, and think only sparingly of their country of birth. "I miss what ! had, whichis not there anymme," Hariton said. The communitywehad and country we had is not there anymore: