Palestinian Olympic team goalie arrested for terror attack

The goalie of the Palestinian Olympic soccer team and Palestinian Red Crescent employees were among 13 West Bank residents arrested for an attack on Israeli soldiers.

The arrests in the Jan. 20 shooting attack against Israeli troops were announced Monday by the Israel Defense Forces. No injuries were incurred during the attack but a vehicle was damaged, according to the IDF.

Omar Abu Rois, 23, the goalie, is affiliated with the Hamas terror organization and works for the Red Crescent, according to the IDF. He carried out the attack with Red Crescent guard Salih Bar’al using AK-47 rifles procured by Munzar Abbas, 41,  an officer of the Palestinian “General Intelligence” in Ramallah who is responsible for security at the Red Crescent.

The IDF said the group, who all live in the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah, intended to carry out similar attacks in at least six other locations.

‘Forward 50’ heavy on politicos; Faith groups petition Supremes re Prop. 8

Forward 50 Heavy on Politicos

The Los Angelenos in this year’s just-released Forward 50 list include an Orthodox rabbi who suggested that Israelis should be able to decide the fate of Jerusalem, a rabbi who led efforts to fight Proposition 8 and a Westlake School for Girls graduate who this year was an Olympic-gold-medal swimmer.

The Forward 50, a list of Jewish movers and shakers published annually by The Jewish Forward, is heavy this year on Jews involved in politics, particularly in President-elect Barack Obama’s successful campaign and developing the new administration. Three of the top five standouts are Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s new chief of staff; Penny Pritzker, his national campaign finance officer; and Sarah Silverman, whose video for The Great Schlep encouraged Jews, young and old, to vote for Obama. (The other two members of the top five are kosher activist Rabbi Morris Allen and Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of the dovish lobby J Street.)

“Jews played an outsized role in the presidential election campaign, and, by the looks of it, will continue to do so in the new Obama administration,” Forward Editor Jane Eisner said in a statement. “This was also the year the kosher meat industry faced its greatest legal, consumer and ethical challenges and in the process exposed major lapses in the U.S. justice and immigration systems, prompting rabbis of all denominations to examine the moral dimension of a central Jewish tenet.”

Those honored from Los Angeles, in addition to Silverman, are: Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of B’nai David-Judea, who last fall wrote an op-ed for this paper that broke an Orthodox taboo and said Israel should have the independent freedom to negotiate over Jerusalem; Rabbi Denise Eger, founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami, a Reform synagogue in West Hollywood, and a leading activist against Proposition 8; U.S. Olympic gold-medalist Dara Torres, who at 41 stole the show in the Water Cube from everyone but Michael Phelps; U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys), who became chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee after the death of Holocaust survivor Tom Lantos; and, for the third time in six years, Daniel Sokatch, who served as founding executive director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance and left Los Angeles this summer to lead the San Francisco Jewish community.

— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer

Faith Groups Petition Supreme Court, Challenge Prop. 8

On Nov. 17, the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) joined a coalition of Christian organizations in filing a petition asking the California Supreme Court to invalidate Proposition 8, the statewide ban on same-sex marriage.

The petition argues that the controversial ballot measure threatens the U.S. guarantee of equal protection, and was too dramatic a revision of the state Constitution to be passed by voters without Legislature approval.

“The Progressive Jewish Alliance is proud to join with our friends in the Christian community who likewise recognize that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” PJA President Douglas Mirell said in a statement. “We hope our petition will remind the court and other faith communities of the dangers posed when a minority group … is deprived of equal protection by a simple majority vote. If Proposition 8 is allowed to take effect, there is nothing to stop voters from writing religious, racial or ethnic discrimination into California’s Constitution through the next statewide ballot initiative.”

Other signatories of the petition included the California Council of Churches, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. The PJA is the only Jewish organization to take part.

— Rachel Heller, Contributing Writer

Jewish Free Loan Establishes Housing Fund

The Jewish Free Loan Association (JFLA) has received a $100,000 donation from the Annenberg Foundation to establish a housing loan fund that will offer $3,000 interest-free loans to individuals struggling to pay their mortgage.

The fund is a direct response to the home foreclosure crisis, which, thanks to risky lending and the subprime mortgage meltdown, led to a majority of California homes sold last month being bank-owned.

“Given the current housing climate, it was critical that JFLA establish a fund that can meet the growing needs of our community,” said Mark Meltzer, executive director and CEO.

The housing loan fund will complement JFLA’s emergency loan program, which has provided $3,000 loans to help renters avoid eviction or cover a security deposit and has assisted homeowners with utility bills and emergency repairs.

JFLA has seen a surge in emergency loan applicants this year. The nonprofit plans to raise another $750,000 during the next three years through foundation grants and individual contribution and to increase the average housing loan to $5,000 within the next few years.

Loans are available to people of all faiths. For more information on loan programs or procedures, visit the JFLA Web site at or call (323) 761-8830.

— BG

Resource Guide for Elderly Visitors Available

The Older Adult Task Force is offering a free, quick reference for families who need advice about how to best accommodate older relatives throughout this holiday season.

OATF, a coalition of approximately 40 social service agencies in Santa Monica and West Los Angeles, says the guide contains information about social and health services, housing, transportation and financial assistance. Specifically, it highlights commonly asked questions and concerns and then “provides a listing of agencies with their phone numbers that can assist in addressing the relevant issues.”

The coalition has distributed the guide to relevant organizations, libraries, pharmacies, churches and recreation centers. To have a copy of the guide mailed to you, call (310) 394-9871, ext. 411, or send e-mail to A downloadable version of the guide is available at

— Lilly Fowler, Contributing Writer

Archdiocese, ADL Partner to Educate Teachers

California’s Catholic school educators will be better armed to field questions about anti-Semitism in the classroom, thanks to a three-day conference sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

The “Bearing Witness” program delved into the theological and political roots of anti-Semitism, as well as the methods for teaching certain delicate subjects in schools: anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and the historical relationship between Jews and Christians. The Rev. Dennis McManus, associate professor of theology at Georgetown University, and Rabbi Eliot Dorff, professor of philosophy at American Jewish University, were among the speakers.

The conference, held Oct. 28-30, culminated with a special Shabbat dinner that included participants, program alumni and ADL leaders. The program is now in its sixth year and has reached more than 1,300 schoolteachers.

— LF

Rude Israeli Olympic medalist ticks off Chinese, Peres apologizes

BEIJING (JTA)—Israel’s biggest source of pride at the Beijing 2008 Olympics became its biggest blight this past week, after ” title=”interview published September 5th”>interview published September 5th in Israel’s Yediot Aharanot.

That was his answer when the reporter asked him to describe his hosts in one word.

Zubari also said he didn’t feel very comfortable during the month and a half he spent in China, and was happy he wouldn’t have to see any more Chinese people.

“They are difficult,” he said. “They don’t speak the language, their rituals are strange and even their pronunciation is weird.”
He added he didn’t like Chinese food and missed his usual food. “I can live off hummus.”

His comments could be especially damaging considering China is about to send its ” title=”Chinese citizen living in Israel”>Chinese citizen living in Israel who takes issue with comments by Israeli telecasters during the Games.

Since Zubari’s story broke in the Chinese online press, articles and posts on the web in Mandarin are numerous. They range from outrage to observations that Zubari is just an ignorant youth.

The Shanghaiist in an ” title=”Talkback”>Talkback” section on the Ha’aertz website also has international comments including some Chinese readers.

Zubari clearly offended beyond the online message boards, however, as the Chinese embassy in Tel Aviv canceled a reception for Israeli Olympians set to be held last Wednesday.

President Shimon Peres even apologized to the Chinese ambassador on Wednesday, and Ghaleb Majadle, Israeli Minister of Sport, Science and Culture made an ” title=”op-ed”>op-ed suggesting that better PR training for athletes (especially young ones like 22-year-old Zubari) could have prevented the gaffe.

VIDEO: Tel Aviv rally protests religious persecution in China

Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy lead rally protesting Chinese persecution of Falun Gong and China’s involvement in Sudan

Big list o’ Jewish Olympians

Dara Torres on the Today Show, August 7, 2008

NEW YORK (JTA)—The following is a list of known Jewish athletes competing in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing:

United States

Fencing, Women
Sada Jacobson, saber

Rami Zur, 500-meter individual

Swimming, Men
Jason Lezak, 100-meter freestyle, relays
Garrett Weber-Gale, 100 freestyle, relays
Ben Wildman-Tobriner, 50 freestyle, relays

Swimming, Women
Dara Torres, 50-meter freestyle

Track and Field, Women
Deena Kastor, marathon


Artistic Gymnastics, Men
Alex Shatilov, all-around

Canoeing, Men
Michael Koganov, K-1 500 and 1000 meters

Fencing, Men
Tomer Or, foil

Fencing, Women
Dalilah Hatuel, foil
Noam Mills, epee

Judo, Men
Ariel Ze’evi, 100 kg
Gal Yekutiel, 60 kg

Judo, Women
Alice Schlezinger, 63 kg

Rhythmic Gymnastics, Individual
Ira Risenzon
Neta Rivkin

Rhythmic Gymnastics, Team
Kayta Pizatzki
Racheli Vidgorcheck
Maria Savnakov
Alona Dvorinchenko
Veronica Witberg

Sailing, Men
Gidi Klinger and Udi Gal, 470
Shahar Tzuberi, windsurfing

Sailing, Women
Vered Buskila and Nika Kornitzky, 470
Nufar Eledman, laser radial
Ma’ayan Davidovich, windsurfing

Doron Egozi, 50-meter rifle 3, 10-meter air rifle
Gil Simkovich, 50-meter rifle 3, 50-meter rifle prone
Guy Starik, 50-meter rifle prone

Swimming, Men
Itay Chama, 200-meter breaststroke
Gal Nevo, 200 and 400 individual medely
Guy Barnea, 100 breaststroke
Tom Be’eri, 100 and 200 breaststroke
Alon Mandel, 100 and 200 butterfly
Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or, 200 freestyle

Swimming, Women
Anya Gostamelsky, 50 and 100 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 100 butterfly
Synchronized Swimming
Anastasia Gloushkov and Ina Yoffe, duet

Bat-El Getterer, 57 kg

Tennis, Men
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich, doubles

Tennis, Women
Shahar Peer, singles
Tzipora Obziler, doubles with Peer

Track and Field, Men
Alex Averbukh, pole vault
Niki Palli, long jump
Haile Satayin, marathon
Itai Magidi, 3000-meter steeplechase


Hockey, Women
Gisele Kanevsky

Judo, Women
Daniela Krakower

Swimming, Men
Damian Blaum

Weightlifting, Women
Nora Koppel

Table Tennis
Pablo Tabachnik


Table Tennis
David Zalcberg


Adam Stern

David Zilberman, 96 kg
Ari Taub, 120 kg plus


Tennis, Men
Nicolas Massu

Great Britain

Josh West

New Zealand

Nathan Cohen

Soboroff heads effort for ‘Chai’ Maccabiah

While global sports fans are gradually shifting their attention to the Aug. 8 start of the Olympic Games in Beijing, Eyal Tiberger and Steve Soboroff are focused on the July 13, 2009 opening ceremony in Israel of the 18th Maccabiah.

Tiberger is the executive director of next year’s Maccabiah and of the Maccabi World Union, so his preoccupation is understandable.

Soboroff is an influential and politically well-connected Los Angeles real estate developer, who envisions the next Maccabiah as not only a celebration of Jewish sportsmanship and solidarity, but also as a profit-making enterprise.

He was actively involved with the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee in 1984 and watched closely as top organizer Peter Ueberroth transformed the games’ accounting ledger from a predicted sea of red ink into an unbelievable surplus of $225 million.

The Maccabiah is sometimes dubbed the “Jewish Olympics,” and the comparison is not completely out of line. It ranks as the world’s third- or fourth-largest sport event, following the Olympics and Asian Games, and tied with the World University Games.

Tiberger expects some 10,000 athletes, divided into junior, open, master and paralympic categories, at the opening ceremonies at the Ramat Gan stadium, hailing from 60 countries and competing in 35 different sports at some 75 venues.

The quadrennial Maccabiah represents a major boost for the tourist industry, Israel-Diaspora relations and Jewish unity, but it costs a lot of money — $27 million for the host country alone.

Finance is a subject with which Soboroff is thoroughly familiar as chairman and CEO of the extensive Playa Vista multiuse real estate project, a one-time Los Angeles mayoral candidate and former president of the L.A. City Recreation and Parks Commission.

He was also the driving force behind the creation of the Staples Center sports and entertainment stadium in downtown Los Angeles, for which the office supplies chain store paid $120 million to have its name on the venue’s portals.

So when Soboroff learned that the 2005 Maccabiah made only $2.5 million from combined naming, television, sponsorship and merchandise rights, his entrepreneurial instincts were aroused.

“There is no reason why we can’t get greatly expanded TV and radio coverage, get primary sponsors for each separate sport, and others for uniforms and running shoes, just for starters,” he said.

To put concept into action, Soboroff recently formed The Committee of 18 (for the 18th — “Chai” — Maccabiah), with members selected from the vast pool of entertainment, media, marketing, advertising, business and philanthropy talent in Los Angeles.

The know-how and contacts of these experts is priceless, but in addition the 18 members will pay for the privilege of dispensing their free advice and efforts.

The plan calls for each committee member to give or raise $50,000, which would bring in $900,000. The money will provide scholarships for 200 teenage junior athletes from poorer communities in the former Soviet Union, India and Latin America, who otherwise could not afford the trip.

Earlier this month, Tiberger joined Soboroff in Los Angeles for a 10-day visit to pitch the idea to 20 carefully selected prospects.

“No one turned us down, and we have nine definitely signed up,” Soboroff said. “We won’t give out the names until we have all 18 aboard.”

His project is not the first attempt to broaden the public outreach and financial underpinning of the Maccabiah, said Joseph Siegman, the Los Angeles-based founder of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and author of four books on Jewish athletes, from biblical times to the present.

“Back in 1985, ESPN had agreed to do two one-hour shows on the Maccabiah, with Budweiser beer as the underwriter, but we couldn’t quite put it together,” Siegman recalled.

The 1984 Olympic Games, for all their financial success, met with some criticism that excessive commercialization and corporate sponsorships had detracted from the higher ideals of the international sports competition.

Might the Maccabiah be similarly put down if the Committee of 18’s ambitious plans succeed, a reporter asked.

On the contrary, Siegman responded, since most of the foreign athletes must now pay their own way to compete in the Maccabiah, a steady source of outside money would give athletes of limited means a better chance to attend.

Soboroff agreed that, in a perfect world, athletes from wealthy and poor families would have an equal chance to participate. Until that time, though, some commercialization is necessary and would pose no threat if handled “with respect and taste.”

For his part, Tiberger gave assurances that the organizers will strike a balance so that commercial promotions will not overshadow the sport events.

Organizers of the 18th Maccabiah, headed by Israel Carmi and Jeanne Futeran, chairman and president, respectively, of both the Maccabi World Union and the International Maccabiah Committee, expect a series of tangible and intangible benefits from their efforts.

Israel counts on some 25,000 foreign spectators, who, together with the 10,000 athletes, will pump around $80 million into the national economy.

The athletes range from 15-year-old juniors to master tennis players 75 and older who are expected to consume 450,000 kosher meals, 200,000 meals-to-go, and 1.5 million quarts of mineral water. Some 400 buses will shuttle competitors from and to events and an additional 400 buses will be available for guided tours to all parts of Israel.

About 3,000 police, soldiers and private guards will provide security around the clock.

As is customary, Israel will field the largest team of 2,500 athletes and officials, strengthened by Russian and Ethiopian immigrants. The United States will be second largest with 982 members, followed by Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Brazil and Mexico. Germany will send a 200-member team.

Some 35 percent to 40 percent of participants will be women, and soccer, as always, will have the most participants, with 70 competing teams — men, women, junior, open and master.

Besides the customary Olympic events, there will be Maccabiah competitions in lawn bowling, cricket, 10-pin bowling and futsal (indoor soccer), as well as bridge and chess.

What’s your Jewish I.Q.?

1. When was Judaism founded?
(a) 1000 C.E.
(b) 5000 B.C.E.
(c) 2000 B.C.E.
(d) 1000 B.C.E.

2. Who was the mother of Moses?

3. Who was born a Moabite, became a Jew and was the great-grandmother of King David?
(a) Rebekkah
(b) Deborah
(c) Lillith
(d) Ruth

4. Complete this line from Exodus 23:9: "You shall not oppress the _______ for you were _________ in the land of Egypt."

5. The Jews received the Torah at _____________ __________. God said there: "You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a ________ __________." (Exodus 19:6)

6. The phrase "Chosen People" refers to:
(a) God chose the Jews to be persecuted.
(b) God entered into a covenant with the Jews.
(c) Only Jews are made in the image of God.

7. The First Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C.E. by which power?
(a) Macedonia
(b) Rome
(c) Assyria
(d) Babylonia

8. The tragic last stand of the Jews in their revolt against Rome took place at:
(a) Qumran
(b) Jerusalem
(c) Masada
(d) Hebron

9. The Spanish Jews who chose conversion between 1391-1492 and continued to practice Judaism in secret were called:
(a) Kabbalists
(b) Marranos
(c) Pietists
(d) Sephardim

10. The first Jewish community in North America was established in this settlement by 23 Dutch Jews fleeing the Inquisition in Brazil:
(a) New Amsterdam
(b) Newport
(c) Charleston
(d) Savannah

11. In 1807, __________ freed the Jews from their ghettos, granting them citizenship.

12. The main wave of 2 million Jewish immigrants entered the United States in which period?
(a) 1914-1933
(b) 1860-1870
(c) 1880-1914
(d) 1933-1945

13. What Jewish person won nine Olympic gold medals in swimming and is considered the greatest swimmer in the history of the sport?

14. TRUE OR FALSE? Historians cite three factors that distinguish the Holocaust from other genocides: its cruelty, its scale and its efficiency.

15. During the Holocaust, what three countries resisted the deportation of their Jewish population?

16. "Hear O Israel the Lord is Our God, the Lord is One" is the first line of?:
(a) The Israeli National Anthem
(b) The Shemoneh Esrei
(c) The "Shema"

17. A mitzvah is:
(a) A prayer
(b) A commandment
(c) A sin

18. Where is it written:
(a)"We support the non-Jewish poor together with the Jewish poor, and we visit the non-Jewish sick alongside the Jewish sick, and we bury non-Jewish dead alongside Jewish dead, all for the sake of the ways of peace."
(b)"You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor. I am the Lord."

19. Fill in: "On three things does the world stand: Torah, service to God, and acts of ____________" (Pirke Avot).

20. TRUE OR FALSE? The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel offers "Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel" the "full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions."

Click here for the answers.

Test contributors include the American Jewish Committee, Jewish Outreach Institute, and The Journal editors.

Lack of Jewish Life in Greece Just Myth

When twilight descends on mountain villages and sun-kissed beaches, sociable Greeks make their way to tiny sidewalk cafes. They toast the end of the workday with anise-flavored ouzo, accompanied by plates of broiled octopus and green olives.

Dinner in the taverna is a long, lingering affair filled with an array of garlicky salads, fish, meat and maybe a slice of phylo-wrapped kasseri. As the night winds down, life moves to the cafeneion, where sweet and potent Greek coffee and perhaps a nibble of baklava serve as the perfect nightcap.

Poets have been known to wax lyrical about “the glory that was Greece.” Yet a visitor to Greece today quickly finds that the glory’s not only in the past tense. While those who built the shrines to Zeus and Apollo are long gone, the people who inhabit modern Greece are unquestionably alive.

The nation’s once-proud Jewish population, which dates back to Alexander the Great, was largely decimated during World War II. But from Rhodes to Athens, Greece’s rich Judaic history and culture are being preserved, and the seeds of the Jewish community are beginning to take root again.

Athens, a megalopolis whose population tops 3 million, has all the hallmarks of a major city: museums, theaters, office towers, the occasional Starbucks. Still, it remains quintessentially Greek.

Armed guards in short, pleated skirts; tasseled caps, and shoes with floppy pompoms keep watch in front of Parliament, across the street from Athens’ Syntagma (Constitution) Square. At regular intervals, they solemnly perform an oddly lopsided strut, complete with high kicks and sustained balletic poses. It’s a hint that the impulse to break out the dance moves is deeply rooted in the Greek soul.

Part of the thrill of Athens is that history is everywhere. A shady café in Plaka borders the delightful Tower of the Winds, dating from the time when Julius Caesar’s Romans ruled Greece. On a shopping expedition to the Athens Flea Market, tourists find themselves skirting the Ancient Agora, where Socrates and Plato once strolled. The city’s main bus lines terminate not far from the massive, horseshoe-shaped Panathenaic Stadium. Built in the fourth century CE on the ruins of an earlier stadium, it was restored for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, and played a dramatic role in the opening ceremonies of the Athens Olympiad of 2004.

But what makes Athens most special is the large flat hill in its center — the fabled Acropolis. Visitors must wend their way on foot, past the charming restaurants and shops of the old Plaka district, to reach one of the world’s most dazzling sights. The Parthenon, along with the other ruined temples that gleam in the bright Greek sun, dates from the fifth century BCE. In ancient times this was the center of community worship, and it’s easy to imagine throngs of pilgrims bearing offerings for the goddess Athena here.

But not every ancient Greek worshipped a pantheon of gods and goddesses. In the marketplace under the Acropolis are the remains of a fifth century BCE synagogue, which still feature carvings of lulavs and a menorah. Happily, Athens can also boast Jewish sites of much more recent vintage. The city is home to the handsome Jewish Museum of Greece, built in 1997, which gives eloquent testimony to the lost glories of Greek-style Judaism. Today Athens’ small but vibrant Jewish community — comprising more than 3,000 of Greece’s 5,000 Jews — supports a day school, a youth center and a functioning synagogue.

Beth Jacob, founded in the 1930s, occupies an austere neoclassical building on a quiet street that was once the heart of a bustling Jewish quarter. It is open for Sephardic services throughout the year. Directly across Melidoni Street, one can also spot the historic (and well-guarded) Ioannina Synagogue, dating from 1903. Once the headquarters for Athenian Jews who embraced Greece’s ancient and unique Romaniote tradition, it is used on the High Holidays, but can also be viewed by special arrangement with the Jewish Community of Athens organization, which shares its premises.

Further afield, the traveler can find traces of Jewish life both on the Greek mainland and on many of Greece’s most romantic islands. One prime destination is Thessaloniki, also known as Salonika, where Jews who had fled from Spain in the 15th century found a safe haven under Ottoman rule. As late as 1900, almost half of the city’s population was Jewish. Now the 1,300 Jews still remaining in the area enjoy a community center, a school, and a kosher butcher, as well as a daily minyan. It’s possible to visit several charming Thessaloniki synagogues, along with a newly enhanced Jewish history museum that stands in the heart of the picturesque Modiano Market.

Jews planning to cruise the Greek islands can explore their heritage when they tire of beachcombing. In Corfu, a 300-year-old synagogue displaying a collection of Torah crowns is open every Saturday and by appointment. Remnants of Jewish life dating back to antiquity are found on Delos, Naxos and Zakynthos, among others. Chalkis, on the island of Euboea, claims to be the oldest Jewish community in Europe: today a 19th-century synagogue is a reminder of past glories. In Hania, Crete, an international archaeological effort led to the recent restoration of a Romaniote synagogue built in the middle ages. And a similar venture, spearheaded by Aron Hasson of Los Angeles, has helped preserve the Jewish historic sites of Rhodes. (See accompanying story.) The island’s 16th century Kahal Shalom, Greek’s oldest-functioning synagogue, now also plays host to the Jewish Museum of Rhodes. This informative museum makes an excellent jumping-off point for tours of the ancient Sephardic quarter known as “La Juderia.”

Most Hellenic vacations prove unforgettable because of the hospitality of the Greek populace, the beauty of the Greek landscape and the antiquity of the Greek culture. It’s no surprise that Jews lived contentedly on Greek soil for more than 2,000 years. Today’s visitor can revel in the splendors of Greece, while still pausing to remember the Jewish people who once made this land of sun and sea their home.


World Briefs

Olympics Ban Wanted

Jewish groups called on the International Olympic Committee to impose penalties after an Iranian athlete refused to compete against an Israeli. The Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called for action after Iranian judokan Arash Miresmaeili refused to fight Israel’s Ehud Vaks on Aug. 13.

Miresmaeili said he took his stance to protest Israeli treatment of the Palestinians, drawing praise from Iranian President Mohammed Khatami. The ADL said the entire Iranian Olympic team should be banned, while the Wiesenthal Center said that “all those who supported and took part in the decision” should be penalized. Iran refuses to recognize the Jewish state.

Arafat: Mistakes Were Made

Yasser Arafat admitted members of the Palestinian leadership had “misused” their positions. In a rare admission, the Palestinian Authority president told Palestinian lawmakers Wednesday that “nobody is immune from mistakes, starting from me on down.”

But Arafat did not say what specific action would be taken. It’s widely acknowledged that many Palestinian officials, including Arafat, profited from their positions atop the Palestinian Authority.

U.S. Forces in Israel?

The United States denied a report its forces were undergoing counter-insurgency training in Israel. The Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday that Iraq-bound U.S. commandos were being trained at Adam Special Forces base outside Jerusalem, but did not give details. In response, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv said no U.S. forces were currently undergoing training in Israel, though it didn’t deny that there might have been such cooperation in the past. According to Israeli security sources, in designing tactics for Iraq, many U.S. officials have drawn on lessons Israel learned in its sweeps for Palestinian terrorists.

Tourism to Israel Up

Tourism to Israel was up 58 percent in the first half of 2004 compared to the same time period in 2003. Nearly 822,000 tourists visited Israel in the fist six months of the year, according to statistics released by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics and the Tourism Ministry. An estimated 1.4 million tourists are expected to visit Israel this year.

‘Messianic Jew’ Can Distribute Pamphlets On

The University of New Orleans will allow a Messianic Jew to distribute literature on campus. The school settled a lawsuit recently with a female student who had taken the school to court after being blocked from distributing several pamphlets, including one that proclaimed, “Jews should believe in Jesus.” Religious literature previously had to be screened by the school. The American Center for Law and Justice, a civil rights group that filed the suit on the student’s behalf, said the policy is now consistent with the First Amendment.

A Site of Their Own

A section of the Western Wall in Jerusalem set aside for women’s and mixed prayer services was officially inaugurated. The site, located on a section of the wall next to Robinson’s Arch, now home to an archeological garden, will be used starting Wednesday for all-women’s prayer services conducted by the Women of the Wall group. The site also will be used for mixed services held by Israel’s Conservative movement, which has been using the site unofficially for the past five years. The area has a separate entrance that will keep women away from direct contact with other worshipers, some of whom oppose some types of women’s public prayer in the Wall’s main prayer area.

Eugenics Proponent Running for Congress

A Republican candidate for Congress advocates incorporating eugenics into public policy. James Hart of Tennessee promises to use eugenics, the pseudo-science that was a precursor to the Holocaust, as the basis for policy proposals if elected. “Favored Races,” his political manifesto available on his campaign Web site, mentions Jews but doesn’t say which demographic groups would suffer under his proposals. Discussion boards on the site overflow with rejections of eugenics, which encourages selective breeding. Tennessee’s state GOP has denounced Hart’s platform and distanced itself from the candidate after failing to place its preferred Republican on the November ballot. Democrat John Tanner, an eight-term incumbent from the state’s Eighth District, is expected to prevail easily.

Nobel Prize-Winning Poet Dies

Nobel prize-winning Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz, died Aug. 14 at age 93. He was close to Jews and Jewish causes from an early age, and some of his most eloquent and disturbing works dealt with the Holocaust, Holocaust memory and the complex relations between Jews and Catholic Poles. One of his most famous poems, “Campo dei Fiori,” written in 1943, described how Poles outside the Warsaw Ghetto were oblivious to the fate of the Jews as the Nazis destroyed the ghetto. This and another Milosz poem about Polish indifference to the destruction of the ghetto sparked one of Poland’s first important public debates on the issue of Holocaust guilt and memory, which was carried out in a series of essays and articles in the late 1980s. In his Nobel acceptance speech in 1980, Milosz described how memory of the Holocaust was fading and becoming distorted, and how the complexities and nuances of history were becoming forgotten.

“We are surrounded today by fictions about the past, contrary to common sense and to an elementary perception of good and evil,” he said.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Torch Song Trilogy

Linda Gach Ray has been carrying the torch for years.

This week, she made it official by running the Olympic flame down a stretch of Figueroa Street as the torch was relayed through Southern California on its way to the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, which begin Feb. 8.

Nominated by her business partner for her charitable work, her balance of family and a full-time job and her inspiration to others, Gach Ray is one of 11,500 Torchbearers to carry the flame more than 13,000 miles through 46 states.

"Even though [my portion is] two-tenths of a mile, I feel this amazing part of the fabric of international unity," said Gach Ray, adding that she was proud to represent the Jewish community.

As a lawyer she has volunteered for Bet Tzedek, and she now sits on the advisory board for youTHink, a program of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Los Angeles’ Zimmer Children’s Museum. Additionally, Gach Ray co-founded a branch of the California Special Olympics in honor of a dear friend who died at 33. She also volunteers for Stop Cancer and the Beverly Hills Education Foundation.

Growing up in the shadow of Rancho Park’s Little League diamonds, she said she always wanted to play baseball. "But in my day, no one would have ever thought of the possibility of a little girl playing on a Little League team." Instead of breaking into women’s baseball, Gach Ray broke into women’s baseball ownership. Today, she and her business partner co-own the Provo Angels, a Utah-based minor league team affiliated with the Anaheim Angels.

A woman owning a team used to be more unusual than it is now. "[That’s] been my pattern," she said. "When I became a lawyer in the 1970s, I was a lot more of a novelty than I am now."

To prepare for the run, the 5-foot-2 Gach Ray trained with her family’s 140-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback named Spike, "who pulls me a little faster than I should go," she said. The training regimen was essential to Gach Ray’s success as an official Torchbearer. "You don’t want to drop that flame," said the mother of teenagers. "You don’t want to run like a dork and embarrass your children."