4-10 Adar II, 5782                                         March 7-14, 2022 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES--665th Web Ed.



Russians struggle to withdraw currency

before sanctions take effect, BBCi

RUSSIA -- The rouble has slumped by 30% against the US dollar, after Western nations announced new sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

The new record low for the Russian currency comes after some of the country's banks were banned from using the Swift international payment system.

On Sunday, Russia's central bank appealed for calm amid fears that there could be a run on the country's banks.

Growing tensions also helped push Brent crude oil above $100 (£75) a barrel.

The move by the European Union, United States and their allies to cut off a number of Russian banks from Swift is the harshest measure imposed to date on Moscow over the Ukraine conflict.

The assets of Russia's central bank will also be frozen, limiting the country's ability to access its overseas reserves.

The intention is to "further isolate Russia from the international financial system", a joint statement said.

Russia is heavily reliant on the Swift system for its key oil and gas exports.

"Unless the Russian central bank and Russia's largest banks - which have already been cut off from correspondent banking - find an alternative means of reaching the global financial system Russia faces Iran and North Korea-style isolation from the global economy," Ari Redbord from blockchain analytics firm TRM Labs told the BBC.

Mr Redbord was formerly at the US Treasury Department, where he was a senior advisor to the Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

Investors were also wary on Monday after Vladimir Putin ordered Russia's military to put its deterrence forces, which include nuclear weapons, on "special alert".

"Financial markets are guided by the unfolding of events in Ukraine," said Katrina Ell, an economist at Moody's Analytics in Sydney.

"Announcements regarding sanctions and military action will remain market movers this week," she told the BBC.

Last week, Moody's said it was reviewing Russian bonds to possibly downgrade them to '"junk", which would put Russia in a league of riskier countries that usually have to pay more to borrow. Rival credit ratings agency S&P has already lowered the country to junk status.

At the weekend, Russia's central bank issued an appeal for calm amid fears that the new financial sanctions could spark a run on its banks.

It said it "has the necessary resources and tools to maintain financial stability and ensure the operational continuity of the financial sector".

In the first day of trading since harsh new sanctions were imposed, the Russian rouble plunged to a new record low against the US dollar. The euro sank more than 1%, while the price of oil surged.

The measures introduced this weekend increase the financial and social costs of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Russians are already waiting in long lines, worried that their bank cards may stop working or that limits will be placed on the amount of cash they can withdraw.

And some of the European operations of Sberbank, the Russian state owned bank, are failing according to regulators.

The new ban on the Central Bank of Russia's ability to use its roughly $630bn in foreign reserves undermines its ability to defend the rouble. Inflation is likely to go up because of the currency's weakness.

This leaves the central bank with a few options, including raising interest rates or limiting the amount of money that can be brought into or out of the country.

A run on Russian banks would see too many people trying to withdraw money. On Friday, Russia's central bank was forced to increase the amount of money it supplies to ATMs after demand for cash reached the highest level since March 2020.

On Monday, the bank said it had ordered brokers to suspend the execution of all orders by foreign legal entities and individuals to sell Russian investments.

It also said it had yet to decide whether to open markets other than foreign exchange and money markets on Monday.

Videos on social media appeared to show long queues forming at cash machines and money exchanges in Moscow.

Alexandre Moutin, head of investments at SMBC Private Wealth, believes "a bank run is already ongoing and will most likely intensify in the coming days".

"The military conflict will last longer than Putin expected and the reaction of the West and the global community might be more harmful that he expected too," he said.

On Monday, the European Central Bank (ECB) said several European subsidiaries of Sberbank Russia, which is majority owned by the Russian government, are failing or likely to fail due to reputational cost of the war in Ukraine.

Sberbank Europe AG, which had total assets of €13.64bn (£11.4bn; $15.2bn) at the end of last year, along with its Croatian and Slovenian units, suffered a rapid deposit outflow in recent days and is likely to fail to pay its debts or other liabilities, the ECB, which is the lenders' supervisor, said.-BBCi


In Wake of January attack on Texas Synagogue, new legislation would almost triple funding for nonprofit security grant program

The Orthodox Union today applauded the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security’s passage of a bill that would authorize $500 million each year for 2023-2028 for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), so that synagogues and other houses of worship, day schools and other nonprofits at risk of terror attacks can improve building security.

The Nonprofit Security Grant Program Improvement Act (HR 6825), introduced Friday by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), committee chair, and Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), ranking member, comes in the wake of the Jan. 15 hostage-taking at a Colleyville, Texas synagogue, as well as deadly attacks on other synagogues and churches nationally. The bill also directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the NSGP, to establish a dedicated office within the agency to administer the grants.

The Nonprofit Security Grant Program is currently funded at $180 million, and the Orthodox Union has been pressing to double that amount to $360 million for 2022. The new legislation, as an authorization bill, may modify the existing NSGP program, but can’t guarantee, the increased funding. The House and Senate Appropriations committees—and each full chamber—will determine final funding levels.

The Orthodox Union, through its Teach Coalition divisions, also has successfully championed state-level security funding programs. In New York, for example, Teach NYS pressed for increased monies for the state’s Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes, with proposed funding at $25 million, and $45 million for Nonpublic School Safety Equipment for 2022; in Pennsylvania, in the most recent budget cycle, the state’s Nonprofit Security Grant Fund awarded $5 million to nonprofits at risk for hate crimes, thanks to advocacy by Teach PA; in New Jersey, with help from Teach NJ, the amount proposed for state NSGP funding is $2 million for 2022. In Florida, Teach FL’s push for Jewish day school security funding helped result in $4 million approved for 2021-22.

This week, OU Advocacy Center Chairman Jerry Wolasky and Executive Director Nathan Diament sent this letter to the House committee in support of the bill. The legislation will next be considered by the full House.

Orthodox Union President Mark (Moishe) Bane stated:
“We at the Orthodox Union are constantly seeking new avenues to protect and increase safety for our community and all faith communities. We cannot wait for another attack such as the one we just witnessed at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, or the horrific killing of innocents at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue four years ago, before we as a nation take the necessary actions to protect Jewish people in America.”

Diament, who helped spearhead the creation of the original NSGP legislation more than 15 years ago, stated:
“We already are aware that limited funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program left more than half of eligible organizations who applied for the grants empty-handed in 2021. We commend Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) for their leadership on this important legislation and helping ensure our nation’s most vulnerable institutions have access to the protection they so badly need. We urge the House and the Senate to pass this legislation swiftly.”

The Orthodox Union, or Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, is the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization.

The Nonprofit Security Grant Program, administered by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, provides grants of up to $150,000 apiece to synagogues and other houses of worship as well as parochial day schools and other nonprofits at risk of terror attacks.


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JERUSALEM -- We are pleased to share with you that, this past Tuesday, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court put an indefinite hold on the eviction of the Salem family from their home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

The Salems have been living in the home since 1951, when they leased it from the Jordanian government. After 1967, the family rented the apartment from a Jewish family, the Haddads, who were the owners before 1948. The Haddads, however, have since sold their interest in the property to a rightwing Jerusalem city council member, Yonatan Yosef, who is now pushing for their eviction.

While the court reportedly based its ruling on security considerations—the rising tensions in the city, which could boil over throughout Israel and Palestine, and the sensitive timing, as both Passover and the month of Ramadan approach—the decision itself is a victory: It affords the family time to submit an additional appeal, and allows the coalition of organizations campaigning for the Palestinians of Sheikh Jarrah an opportunity to amplify their message, domestically and internationally. Partners for Progressive Israel will continue to be part of that vital effort.

Meanwhile, in the Knesset, Meretz MK Mossi Raz has submitted a bill that would repeal the blatantly discriminatory statute which provides the legal cover for the displacement of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the transfer of their homes to settlers. The 1950 Absentees' Property Law allows Jews to reclaim the property they owned before 1948, but denies that same right to Palestinians. Though it is unlikely to pass, the bill serves as another vehicle to shed light on the injustice of the evictions.

Partners for Progressive Israel will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates on breaking developments.


The clothes retailer's owner, Inditex, will shut all 502 stores of its eight brands, including Bershka, Stradivarius and Oysho, from Sunday.

Payment giant Paypal cited "violent military aggression in Ukraine" as the reason to shut down its services.

Samsung -- Russia's top supplier of smartphones - is suspending shipments over "geopolitical developments".

Other global brands, including Apple, H&M and Ikea, have already stopped selling in Russia.

The clothes store closures are expected to hit more than 9,000 of Inditex's employees who work in Russia.  The Spanish-owned business told the BBC it was drawing up a plan to support them.

"In the current circumstances Inditex cannot guarantee the continuity of the operations and commercial conditions in the Russian Federation and temporarily suspends its activity," the Zara owner company said.

Adam Cochrane, an analyst at Deutsche Bank Research, told Reuters that logistical difficulties and the weakness in the rouble - resulting in large price increases for the Russian consumer - would make "operations difficult for all retailers importing into Russia".

Russians rush to buy furniture and household goods in Ikea before the store closes in St Petersburg. Other brands that have halted their business in Russia include:

Online payments company Paypal has also shut down services in Russia but said it would support withdrawals "for a period of time".

This would ensure that account balances were dispersed "in line with applicable laws and regulations", it said.


By Simon Browning, business reporter

Fashion and technology. Some of the biggest interests for young people around the world. But today, young Russians are having their choices and access to them severely restricted, as huge global businesses continue to turn their backs on Russia.

Samsung sells the most popular smartphones in Russia, but when current stocks sell out, there'll be little option to get an upgrade because Samsung is stopping its shipments.

And Zara, known for its up-to-date and on-trend fashions, will be unavailable for fashion-conscious Russians as the shutters stay down in its shops and the website closes.

We don't know how they'll respond, but the Ukrainian deputy prime minister thinks restricting access to tech will motivate young Russians to object to the invasion.

And as more Western retailers close, what reasons are these business owners giving to their Russian employees about the reasons?

Samsung, the leading supplier of smartphones in Russia ahead of Xiaomi and Apple, will suspend shipments to the country. It is unclear whether Samsung's shops will close.

Reports suggest that Ukraine's vice-prime minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, who is responsible for digital operations, wrote to Samsung's vice-chairman to urge them to temporarily cease supplying services and products to Russia.

"We believe that such actions will motivate the youth and active population of Russia to proactively stop the disgraceful military aggression," Mr Fedorov said in the letter posted on his Twitter account on Friday.

Russia attacks Ukraine: More coverage

In other developments, Russia's national airline, Aeroflot, has cancelled nearly all international flights from 8 March, because of what it called "additional circumstances" impeding its operations.

Domestic routes and flights to neighboring Belarus will continue unchanged, the airline said.

The EU, UK, US and Canada have all banned Russian airlines from their airspace - severely restricting the number of destinations available, and making other routes more difficult.

Russia has reciprocated with airspace bans of its own. International sanctions have also been directed at Russia's airline industry, making it difficult for Aeroflot and other Russian airlines to operate normally.

Earlier, the Foreign Office advised all British nationals who did not need to be in Russia to leave the country using the remaining commercial routes.


SACRAMENTO – As California’s booming zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) market continues to lead the nation, Governor Gavin Newsom lifted up the state surpassing 1 million plug-in electric cars, pickup trucks, SUVs and motorcycles sold in California – more than the total sales in the next 10 states combined. New data also show that California, with only 10 percent of the nation’s cars, now accounts for over 40 percent of all zero-emission cars in the country.

The governor traveled to Stockton this week to visit Michael Macias, the owner of the millionth electric vehicle sold in California. Macias, a Central Valley native, received several rebates and tax credits on his purchase of a new Volkswagen ID.4. Watch the Governor’s conversation with Michael here.

 New data show that California’s ZEV market is leading the nation in every category, including support for low-income EV consumers. California’s 1 million electric vehicles sold surpasses the total sales in the next 10 states combined, and it’s seven times more than the next closest state, advancing a historic $10 billion ZEV package to expand access and affordability, support build-out of infrastructure

“This milestone is a testament to the success of California’s nation-leading policies and investments to support our bold ZEV goals while driving down costs for all,” said Governor Newsom. “Creating a clean transportation future is the most impactful step we can take to fight climate change. We’ll continue using our market dominance and historic investments to accelerate the ZEV transition globally while expanding access and affordability across the state, especially in underserved neighborhoods.”

Bolstering a critical component of California's climate action, the Governor has advanced bold investments and policies to move forward on the state’s ZEV goals, including the California Blueprint’s proposed $6.1 billion in additional funding to create a $10 billion total ZEV package. The historic investment will help make ZEVs more affordable and convenient for all Californians. The state has also implemented targeted policies to help more middle- and low-income consumers buy these ultra-clean vehicles. To date, over 30,000 low-income consumers have been assisted under the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, which will now only apply to affordably priced electric vehicles.

“Investing in a ZEV was the perfect opportunity to put my principles of being a good steward of the earth into practice,” said Macias. “The rebates available in California are a huge help for middle class and low-income individuals who feel priced out, and help make sure the communities most impacted by pollution and climate change have the chance to benefit from ZEVs.”

Over the past 10 years, annual sales of plug-in electric vehicles in California have gone from just 7,000 in 2011 to more than a quarter of a million sold in 2021, making up more than 12 percent of all light-duty vehicle sales last year. California also leads the nation in all other zero-emission vehicle metrics, including the highest level of public funding, the largest EV market share percentage and the most extensive public charging infrastructure. The success of the state’s programs has led to ZEVs becoming a top export, and has spurred major advances in manufacturing and job creation.

The Jewish Observer,

Los Angeles