Globe Briefs March 10

Globe Briefs March 10

Rally for Robert Levinson urges US-Iran cooperation for his release

The family of  Robert Levinson, a Jewish-American who disappeared from Iran in 2007, held a rally calling on the United States and Iran to work together for his release.

Some 200 people attending the rally Saturday in Coral Springs, Florida, where Levinson lives, pinned yellow ribbons to their clothing and held signs with the hashtag reading #WhatAboutBob. The ribbons were reminiscent of the Iran hostage crisis in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, when dozens of Americans were held captive in Iran.

Members of the Levinson family, representatives of the FBI and politicians spoke at the rally, the Sun Sentinel newspaper reported.

Wednesday will mark nine years since Levinson, a private detective and former FBI agent, went missing from Iran’s Kish Island during what has since been revealed as a rogue CIA operation.

At the rally, glass jars were filled with 3,288 hand-painted yellow rocks, each representing one day that Levinson, 68, has been held hostage.

The Obama administration said in January that Iran will “deepen its coordination” with the United States in efforts to find Levinson and return him to his family. Last month, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved a nonbinding resolution urging Iran to fulfill its pledge to help find Levinson.

10 Israelis indicted in US for employing illegal workers at mall kiosks

An Israeli-American man who owns kiosks in shopping malls in several U.S. states was among 10 Israelis indicted for illegally employing 140 Israeli nationals to sell Dead Sea beauty products.

Omer Gur Geiger, of Raleigh, N.C., and nine other men and women were arrested last week and indicted Friday in a Virginia federal court. They are employees of a North Carolina-registered company, Stanga, operating mall kiosks selling products said to be made from Dead Sea minerals under the All That’s Natural label.

Stanga was registered in North Carolina in 2007 with Geiger as the agent. It is part of a larger venture called Rasko, which reportedly recruited Israelis to work in the U.S. kiosks, helping the Israeli nationals obtain travel visas, or B-2 visitor visas, in order to enter the country, according to the indictment.

FBI agents tracked more than $14 million in sales over the past five years. According to the investigation, many of the Israeli salespeople did not have work visas and the company did not pay taxes on the employees, the NBC affiliate WRAL-TV reported.

“The object of the conspiracy was for the co-conspirators to use the proceeds of their conspiracy to defraud and commit offenses against the United States to transport foreign nationals on B-2 visas to the United States for the purpose of those foreign nationals on B-2 visas engaging in work, and to pay, house, and transport those foreign nationals on B-2 visas once they were in the United States,” according to the indictment.

Gur was charged with 34 counts of conspiracy to defraud the United States, visa fraud, encouraging and inducing illegal entry, harboring illegal aliens, transporting illegal aliens and conspiracy to launder money, WRAL reported, citing the indictment.

The young Israeli salespeople are known to be aggressive in their sales pitch. They generally use their commissions and earnings to fund post army treks.

The other nine named in the indictment are Boaz Ben Cnaan, Shlomo Genish, Zion Sason, Eyal Katz, Rita Berkovich, Ido Rodes, Guy Mazon, Shimon Mizrahi and Shai Yona.

45 rabbis sign petition backing Bernie Sanders’ economic agenda

Some 45 rabbis from all religious streams have signed a petition backing the economic policies of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

The petition posted March 3 by “Jews for Bernie,” a group backing the candidate, does not itself endorse the bid of Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont, to seek the Democratic presidential nomination. It remains open for signatures.

It does embrace his economic outlook however, with its emphasis on redressing economic inequality.

“We are compelled to lend our voices in support of the economic agenda expressed by Senator Bernie Sanders, which seeks to elevate those living in dire poverty, to restore America’s middle class, and to abate the enrichment of America’s wealthiest at the expense of America’s neediest,” the petition says.

The petition quotes Jewish texts, including the Bible, the Talmud and the Shulchan Aruch to make the case “not to subvert the rights of the poor and the worker, but to attend to their needs.”

“We declare support for the economic reforms expressed by Senator Sanders in the hope that all candidates for public office will embrace the goal of an economically just society,” it says.

Most of the signatories are U.S.-based, although three live in Israel; all are U.S. citizens. They represent all streams, including Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Renewal.

Among them are Aryeh Cohen, a professor of rabbinic literature at the American Jewish University in Southern California, Rabbi Yaakov Komisar, who teaches at the Ezra Academy, an Orthodox middle school in Forest Hills, New York; Rabbi Alana Suskin, the director of strategic communications at Americans for Peace Now, and Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, the director of the Social Justice Organizing Program at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

Sanders is the first Jewish candidate to have won a presidential primary, last month in New Hampshire. He has won seven nominating contests so far, four fewer than the Democatic front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton, a former secretary of state.