Nation & World Briefs

Israel: No Hamas in Elections

Top Israeli leaders confirmed that they do not want Hamas to take part in Palestinian elections. It’s up to the Palestinians to “decide if they would like to have real elections,” Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told journalists in New York on Monday, noting that electoral gains by Hamas would “move us backward maybe 50 years.”

On Sunday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that Israel wouldn’t stop elections that include Hamas, but also would not provide any support, which would make it difficult for the Palestinians to proceed.

The participation of Hamas, which maintains a terrorist military infrastructure and is committed to destroying Israel, would be “unbearable” for Israel, Sharon said.

Sharon Inaugurates UJC Project

Ariel Sharon endorsed a United Jewish Communities (UJC) effort to bring the remaining Jews of Ethiopia to Israel. The Israeli prime minister helped launch Operation Promise in a meeting last Friday with UJC leaders and supporters.

“I believe this must be a joint effort of Israel and the Jewish world,” Sharon said. “It is our duty, and so it is your duty.”

The program aims to raise $160 million to aid the emigration of Ethiopian Jews and the mainstreaming of Ethiopians already in Israel, as well as provide assistance to struggling elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union and help strengthen Jewish identity among young Jews there. The initiative is supplemental to the regular federation campaign.

EU Aid for Palestinians, Israel

The European Union (EU) boosted its funding to the Palestinian Authority. EU officials in Brussels said this week that the 25-nation bloc would increase its 2005 allotment to the Palestinians to more than $340 million, around 17 percent more than originally planned. The extra funds are intended to help reconstruction in the Gaza Strip, which Israel left this month. The Palestinian Authority expects to receive an additional $270 million in donations from individual E.U. member-states this year. The European Union also will give grants to environmental projects in Israel.

The European Commission announced more than $7 million in grants to environmental projects in the European Union’s neighboring countries, including two projects in Israel. The Upper Galilee Regional Council will receive more than $440,000 for the sustainable use of resources. The other Israeli recipient, the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership, will receive around the same amount to help local governments throughout Israel build their environmental programs.

Israeli Police Cleared in Killings

Police involved in the killing of 12 Israeli Arabs during pro-Palestinian riots were cleared of criminal charges. The Israeli Justice Ministry said Sunday that there was insufficient evidence to indict any police personnel in connection with the October 2000 shootings, which put a major strain on racial relations in the Jewish state.

According to the head of the ministry’s Police Investigations Unit, the families of Arab youths shot dead during confrontations in Galilee refused to cooperate with the probe, making it impossible to assign guilt for the killings. Israeli-Arab lawmakers decried the ministry’s decision, saying they might try to sue police officers in international courts.

Several Israeli police were wounded in the 2000 riots, and a Jewish driver died after being hit by a rock thrown at his car by rioters.

Spielberg Foundation Comes to USC

Some 52,000 testimonies by Holocaust survivors and witnesses, videotaped by Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation, will be housed permanently at a new University of Southern California institute.

The collection of testimonies, making up the world’s largest visual history archive, will be transferred to USC Jan. 1, according to both Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation and USC’s Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education.

Moving the collection to USC will ensure its preservation and access, said Spielberg, adding, “All of us know that the survivors and witnesses have given us a precious gift, whose wise use will build a better world for this and future generations.”

USC President Steven B. Sample noted, “The foundation’s preeminent collection of Holocaust materials will advance academic research and scholarship for centuries as we continue to honor the memory of Holocaust victims and survivors.” –Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

N.Y. Party Kicks Out Candidate

A political party in New York booted one of its leaders for making anti-Semitic statements. The Independence Party said comments by Lenora Fulani had hurt the party’s credibility. Fulani said earlier this year that Jews “had to sell their souls” for the State of Israel and had become “mass murderers of people of color” to keep it, comments that the party said were “phenomenally offensive.” Fulani also has labeled Zionism “Jewish corporate nationalism.” The Independence Party is backing Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his re-election bid this year.

Nazi-Hunting Attorney Dies at 60

Edward Stutman, a trial attorney at the U.S. Office of Special Investigations (OSI) who successfully brought cases that revoked the citizenship of 13 Nazis, died at age 60. Stutman, who served with OSI from 1992-2004, died Saturday in Washington of lymphoma, Eli Rosenbaum, the director of OSI, the Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting unit, announced. He was buried Monday in his native Philadelphia.

Stutman traveled to remote areas of Russia to gather evidence and often faced long odds in making his case but nevertheless he often won. In 1999, Stutman launched a re-prosecution of John Demjanjuk, a decision termed “courageous” by The Washington Post, not least because an Israeli court had acquitted the Ukrainian native of being “Ivan the Terrible,” a notorious mass murderer at Treblinka. Under Stutman’s prosecution, Demjanjuk could not shake the allegation that he had lied about being a Nazi death camp guard, and he was ordered deported from the United States this year. Stutman was the leading expert on Trawniki, the Nazi facility in Poland where death camp guards were trained.

Torahs Saved From New Orleans

Jewish groups saved Torahs from the New Orleans area that were in danger because of Hurricane Katrina. Some 25 scrolls were rescued by a makeshift coalition of representatives from the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, national leadership from the Reform movement, rabbis from Baton Rouge and New Orleans and local law-enforcement officials.

“Among the 25 we saved were also a few that were rescued from the Holocaust, and here they’ve survived a second horrific disaster,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, the director of the Reform movement’s Washington-based Religious Action Center. Chabad officials rescued at least 15 scrolls.

“It is a bittersweet occasion,” said Rabbi Zelig Rivkin, the executive director of Chabad Lubavitch of Louisiana. “Hurricane Katrina has destroyed our homes, synagogues and our city but has not destroyed our community.”

U.S. Jews of Mixed Origins Rising

Up to 20 percent of an estimated 6 million U.S. Jews, or 1.2 million people, are African-American, Asian-American, Latino, Sephardi, Middle Eastern or of mixed race. That’s the major finding of research conducted over the past four years by the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research, contained in the book “In Every Tongue” by the institute’s president, Gary Tobin, and co-authors Diane Tobin and Scott Rubin.

The figures are substantially higher than the usual estimates of 10 percent to 14 percent, the authors say. The research and interviews also showed that some of these Jews feel alienated from their ethnic or racial communities and from mainstream American Jewry but they continue to identify strongly with both.

Included in the population count are Latino “hidden” Jews reclaiming their Jewish roots in the American Southwest and long-established communities of African-American Jews in cities such as New York and Chicago.

Air Force Builds Chapels in Europe

The U.S. Air Force is to unveil separate chapels for Jewish and Muslim servicemen and women at its main European base in Germany. The synagogue and Muslim prayer room in Ramstein were created alongside the base’s interfaith South Chapel. The synagogue was schedule to open this week with a ceremony two weeks before the Jewish New Year. Rabbi David Lapp, the director of the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, and Rabbi Donald Levy, the base’s only Jewish chaplain, will officiate. Some 50,000 Americans are stationed in and around Ramstein.

According to Levy, about 60 worshipers are expected to attend High Holiday services at the base. The JWB Jewish Chaplains Council operates under the auspices of the JCC Association, the umbrella organization for the Jewish community centers in North America.

Neo-Nazi Concert Held in Czech Republic

Approximately 500 people attended a concert of neo-Nazi bands in the Czech Republic. Activists say Saturday’s concert in Krtetice was the largest meeting of supporters of extremist groups in the Czech Republic this year. The police did not intervene in the event, where undercover witnesses said participants chanted racist slogans, “Sieg Heil” and the name of Rudolf Hess, one of Hitler’s closest aides.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Rabbinical Dispute Strikes Ukraine

A majority of Ukrainian rabbis blasted the election of a new chief rabbi as illegitimate. More than 30 Chabad rabbis affiliated with the Federation of Jewish Communities, the region’s largest Jewish group, issued a statement Sept. 15 saying that the election of another Chabad rabbi, Moshe Reuven Azman of Kiev, to serve as Ukraine’s chief rabbi was “illegitimate” and “insulting to the feelings of every believer.” A chief rabbi “can be elected only by rabbis working in Jewish communities of that country,” the statement said, referring to the fact that Azman’s election Sept. 11 was endorsed by a group of secular Jewish leaders but not by any rabbinical authorities.

The vast majority of rabbis permanently working in Ukraine these days are Chabad rabbis affiliated with the federation. Unlike other Orthodox rabbis working in Ukraine, Azman, who is Russian-born, is not affiliated with the Chabad-led federation and for years has received support from Vadim Rabinovich, a Ukrainian business magnate and leader of the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress who initiated the election for chief rabbi.