Live video stream, updates of Egypt protests
Live video of Tahrir Square on what is being called the ‘Day of Departure’ in Egpyt.
Live video of Tahrir Square on what is being called the ‘Day of Departure’ in Egpyt.
Hillel Gets $10.7 Million Gift
Hillel announced Monday that it has received a $10.7 million grant, the largest in its history, to support the Campus Entrepreneurs Initiative, which employs students to involve classmates in Jewish life, and to expand a program piloted at UCLA that encourages Jewish learning through Talmudic studies at coffee shops and fraternity houses.
The Experiential Educator Exemplar Program (E3) focuses on reaching students through small group communities. The gift from the Jim Joseph Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting education of Jewish youth, will be paid over five years and will enable Hillel to expand the program to 10 new campuses.
“Young adults are looking at big questions in their life, questions like: Who am I? What will my legacy be? What kind of career should I have? Who will my partner be?” said Rabbi Daniel Smokler, a senior Jewish educator for Hillel who runs E3 at UCLA. “Jewish learning, meaning the text tradition, is a 3,000-year-old conversation about how to live a good life.”
Campus entrepreneurs — there are 114 at 12 schools — will engage about 7,000 students this year. The grant will help the program reach an additional 30,000 students during the next five years, Hillel officials said.
Both programs will build upon student experiences from immersive programs like Birthright Israel and social justice trips.
“Our strategic planning process told us that today’s students want to learn experientially and in a direct relationship with a teacher,” Julian Sandler, chairman of the Hillel board of directors, said in a statement. “Furthermore, students want to be engaged by their peers. CEI and E3 are direct results of this research.”
— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer
Drake Stays Mum on UC Irvine Anti-Semitism
UCI chancellor Michael Drake, confronted over his position at the opening plenary of Hillel’s summit Monday in Washington, issued a blanket condemnation of hate speech, including anti-Semitism, saying it had no place in society.
“It’s deplorable,” Drake said. “And we reject it absolutely.” Drake declined to comment, however, when asked after the summit how he feels about some of the anti-Israel activity that has taken place at UC Irvine. He said the university wished to remain “content neutral.” UC Irvine students have charged that they have been physically and verbally harassed by Muslim students, and that speakers are routinely invited to campus who compare Israel to Nazi Germany.
Drake’s participation in the summit generated vocal opposition from groups who say his refusal to condemn specific incidents of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity makes him unfit to speak at the event. Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life has rejected that position.
A representative of the Coalition of Jewish Concerns-Amcha interrupted the plenary following the opening remarks, seizing the microphone on the rostrum and accusing Hillel of adopting a “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude. The representative, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, also distributed a letter criticizing Drake.
A letter sent last week to Hillel’s president, Wayne Firestone, from 41 Jewish students condemned Drake’s invitation. Firestone met with the students last Friday. In a meeting with reporters following the plenary, Firestone reiterated Hillel’s position on the Drake invitation and said he was “proud” the organization had given the chancellor a platform. Firestone said Drake’s participation created a “public accounting” and was an opportunity to “build sensitivity” among university administrations to issues of Jewish concern.
Clinton, Obama Tied Among Jewish Dems
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are in a statistical dead heat in a poll of Jewish Democrats. In the mid-March Gallup Poll of the rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton received 48 percent of the Jewish Democrat vote and Obama 43 percent. That’s within the 6-percentage point margin of error of the sample of 368 Jewish Democrats.
The senators — Clinton of New York and Obama of Illinois — are also tied among Protestants. Clinton owns a substantial edge among Roman Catholics, while Obama leads among those with no affiliation and those affiliating with non-Christian and non-Jewish religions.
Rice Taking Peace Tour
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit Israel and the Palestinian areas to encourage peace negotiators to “do more,” her spokesman, Sean McCormack, said Monday, referring to the U.S.-guided peace plan calling for a freeze on Israeli settlement in the West Bank and an end to Palestinian violence, culminating in Palestinian statehood.
“I would just refer back to what the secretary herself has said on this, and that is that each side needs to do more, that they haven’t done enough,” McCormack said.
The precise dates of the trip have yet to be announced.
Saudi Interfaith Forum to Include Jews
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah plans to convene an interfaith conference that will include include Muslims, Christians and Jews, according to the Saudi-owned Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper. It would mark the first time that Jews have been included in religious dialogue in Saudi Arabia, according to Ha’aretz. Abdullah was quoted as saying he discussed the idea of the summit with Pope Benedict during a meeting several months ago.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Local Muslim Events Hurt, Help JewishTies
Recent Southern California Islamic gatherings attracting several thousand Muslims showcased various relationships between themselves and the Jewish community.
About 120 amateur athletes played in the first Muslim Football League tournament Jan. 4 in Irvine. It became controversial in December because the 14 flag football teams’ names included Soldiers of Allah, Mujahadeen and Intifada, the Arabic word for “uprising” tied to the current Palestinian Al Aqsa Intifada.
After Jewish leaders complained, two teams took new names and Intifada team members emblazoned theirs onto shirts. Imam Yassir Fazaga, of the Orange County Islamic Foundation, said the name was kept to honor nonviolent Palestinians and because the Intifada team is smaller than other squads.
The tournament was calm, far removed from six Jewish Defense League activists picketing on the other side of Irvine’s Heritage Park. Intifada lost the championship game, 18-6, to the league’s South Bay All-Stars.
Separately, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) hosted 3,000 Muslims at its Dec. 25-28 West Coast conference in Long Beach.
“American Jews and American Catholics have gone through certain experiences before us; they have carved out a path for a minority in this country,” said ISNA secretary-general Sayyid Syeed. “They have suffered a lot but through their suffering they have opened up this society as a pluralist democracy.”
An ISNA seminar outlined persecutions of Muslims in Chechnya, India and other hot spots. Syeed told The Journal that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “one among those. So therefore, they’re not the only issue.”
“Nothing should stand between us and American Jewish organizations,” Syeed said. “Because both American Jews and Muslims, they have the same destiny in America.”
Another Islamic event in Long Beach saw 1,000 people attend the Dec. 20-21 Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) convention. Three Democratic presidential candidates with varying levels of Jewish support — former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich — made phone pitches for Muslim votes, with Dean earning 67 percent of a straw poll of 800 MPAC conventioneers.
Similar to Judaism’s internal debates, MPAC convention speakers criticized Islamic fundamentalists. The ISNA gathering discussed Muslim families — similar to December’s Orthodox Union West Coast Torah Convention seminars on Jewish families — plus Muslims stereotyping non-Muslims.
“Just as we don’t like people stereotyping us as Muslims, we should also not stereotype others,” said ISNA speaker Suhaib Webb. — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer
The Return of Rabbi Wolpe
Rabbi David Wolpe will return full time to Sinai Temple following a hiatus of more than two months due to illness.
Wolpe, the senior rabbi at Sinai for the last seven years, had a seizure on Oct. 23 and later underwent surgery to remove a brain lesion.
Now, upon his recovery, he will be speaking at Friday Night Live at Sinai Temple on Jan. 13.
Friday Night Live, a Conservative Shabbat service and after-event for single Jews, takes place 7:30-10:45 p.m. at Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 481-3243. — Staff Report
Swastikas a Felony inN.Y?
A bill that would make swastika graffiti a felony wasintroduced in the New York state assembly. The bill, which would make the crimepunishable by one to four years in jail, was introduced earlier this monthfollowing several anti-Semitic acts in Brooklyn and Queens in the past twomonths, the Brooklyn Papers newspaper chain reported. Such graffiti currentlyis considered a misdemeanor
Israel Targeted atU.N.
Syria offered a U.N. Security Council resolution to rid the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction. The resolution, which comes after Libya’srecent commitment to end its WMD programs, is a veiled attempt to target Israel,U.N. diplomats say. It’s unclear, however, whether the resolution offered Mondaywill come to a vote.
“In terms of the U.S. position, obviously we share the samegoal of a weapons-free zone for the Middle East” as for “any other zone in theworld,” said Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. ambassador to the UnitedNations. But “trying to score political points in the Security Council byhighlighting or beating up on one country is not helpful.”
Syria is in its final days on the Security Council as arotating representative of the Arab group.
U.S. Presses forDeportation
The U.S. Justice Department is seeking to revoke thecitizenship of a World War II- era ghetto guard. Osyp Firishchak, 84, a Chicagoresident, is accused of involvement in the killing of Jews in the Lvov Ghettothrough his participation in the Nazi-sponsored Ukranian Auxiliary Police in1941.
He rounded up Jews, imprisoned them in ghettos, terrorizedthem, oversaw forced labor, killed those attempting to escape and sent othersto mass execution, according to a complaint filed Monday by the JusticeDepartment’s Office of Special Investigations. The auxiliary police isresponsible for sending 100,000 Jews in Lvov to killing sites, including theBelzec death camp. Firishchak entered the United States in 1949 and became acitizen in 1954.
Jew to Head ChileanCourt
A Jewish judge was made president of Chile’s Supreme Court.Judge Marcos Libedinsky, 70, was elected the new president of Chile’s SupremeCourt of Justice with 16 of 20 total votes. Libedinsky, who is open about hisJewish background, will start his two-year rule on Jan. 6. Chilean paperspraised Libedinsky, saying he is distinguished by his leadership capacity.
Red tape apparently is holding up plans for a memorial tomark one of Europe’s oldest Jewish burial sites. The 750-year-old site onPrague’s Vladislavova Street attracted international headlines several yearsago after Orthodox groups dedicated to preserving Jewish heritage in Europestaged a series of protests against the construction of an office and garageson top of hundreds of Jewish graves.
In 2000, the Czech government brokered a deal with local andinternational Jewish representatives and an insurance company developing theland, allowing construction to proceed as long as the remains were leftundisturbed.
Ukraine to Pay Up
Ukraine will pay more than $7.5 million to the families of40 Israelis who died when a missile hit a passenger plane in 2001. A straymissile fired during a military exercise hit the Russian airliner on Oct. 4,2001, killing 78 people aboard.
Among them were 40 Israelis, many on their way to Russia tovisit family. In the agreement ratified Dec. 25 by Ukraine’s Parliament, the101 relatives of the Israeli dead will receive nearly $200,000 each.
Border Spies Held
Two Arab residents of a town on Israel’s border with Lebanonare being held as Hezbollah spies. On Tuesday, Israel’s Shin Bet domesticsecurity service announced the arrests in Ghajar, whose Alawite townspeopleenjoy Israeli residency rights but largely vow allegiance to Lebanon or Syria.
Bisected by the border set after Israeli forces withdrewfrom southern Lebanon in May 2000, Ghajar is a site of regular drug and armssmuggling. The Shin Bet said the two arrested are suspected of giving Hezbollahinformation on Israeli military deployment in exchange for
Israel’s finance minister yielded on some funding demands asIsrael’s 2004 budget deadline looms. Israeli media said Tuesday that BenjaminNetanyahu had agreed to a Shinui Party demand for $45million in assistance foruniversity tuition. Around the same amount will go to grants for yeshivas, newimmigrants and settlement security, as requested by the National ReligiousParty and the National Union bloc.
Wednesday is the deadline for passing the $59 billionbudget, which includes sweeping public-spending cuts drafted by Netanyahu.
An Egyptian editor criticized Yasser Arafat for last week’sattack in Jerusalem on Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher. Newspaper editorIbrahim Sa’ada wrote that he didn’t appreciate the Palestinian Authoritypresident’s attempt to blame the Dec. 21 attack on Maher at Jerusalem’s Al AksaMosque on a fringe group of extremists.
Mexican Jews’ NewLeader
One of Mexico’s central Jewish organizations elected a newleader for 2004- 2005. Benjamin Speckman, a longtime Jewish activist who chairsthe financial committee of the World Maccabi Union and is a former vicepresident of the Maccabi Latin American Confederation, recently was electedleader of the Jewish Central Committee of Mexico’s Council of Presidents (JCCM).
Founded in 1938, the JCCM acts as the representative bodyof Mexico’s 40,000-strong Jewish community. The organization’s main objectiveis to promote cordial and open relations with the Mexican government and withother Jewish communities around the world.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Vandals Burn Survivor’s ChanukahBanner
Chabad of the Conejo installed a 6-foot menorah on the frontlawn of Victoria Monina’s North Ranch home on Dec. 16, after vandals burnt aChanukah banner that she hung over her garage.
Monina told The Journal that she hung the banner inanticipation of an upcoming Chanukah party, and that it was burnt sometime onSunday night. The banner was the only item on her property that was damaged.
“Two-thirds of the flag had been burnt, and there was onlyone piece left,” said Monina, 71. “I am really scared, I can’t sleep.”
A Holocaust survivor, Monina said she wanted the menoraherected to send a message to the arsonists.
“I had to hide the fact that I am Jewish once when I washiding from Nazis,” she said, “but I am only going to hide it once.”
Rabbi Moshe Bryski of Chabad of the Conejo, where Moninaattends classes, told The Journal that he put up two more banners as well asthe menorah.
“We decided to respond in the best way we knew how,” hesaid. “So we doubled our efforts, and put up two banners — one to replace theburnt one and one to make a statement that this Holocaust survivor would not beintimidated.” — Gaby Wenig, Staff Writer
Little Accord on Geneva
More Israelis and Palestinians oppose the unofficial “Genevaaccord” peace proposal than support it, a new poll says. Thirty-four percent ofIsraelis and 19 percent of Palestinians support the Geneva proposal, and 43percent of Israelis and 44 percent of Palestinians oppose the plan, accordingto the poll, carried out by the Palestinian Center for Policy and SurveyResearch and Hebrew University’s Truman Institute.
The poll of 1,319 Palestinians and 504 Israelis wasconducted in early December. The Palestinian side of the poll had a margin oferror of 3 percent; the Israeli side, 4.5 percent.
Jewish Dating BehaviorEyed
Nearly half of college-aged Jews have one non-Jewish parentand don’t exclusively date Jews.
Those are among the findings from the latest National JewishPopulation Survey (NJPS) about Jews ages 18 to 29, presented Sunday toofficials of Hillel, who were meeting for a professional staff conference in Princeton, N.J. The NJPS 2000-01 showed dating and social patterns differing, sometimesdramatically, between students who have one or two Jewish parents.
While the report shows that less than 1 percent of studentswith only one Jewish parent exclusively date Jews, 36 percent of those with twoJewish parents date only Jews. According to the NJPS, 48 percent ofcollege-aged Jewish students have two Jewish parents, 45 percent have oneJewish parent and 7 percent said neither parent was Jewish.
Gehry Pulls Out ofMuseum
Architect Frank Gehry quit designing a planned museum forPolish Jewry. Details about Gehry’s departure from the Museum of the History ofPolish Jewry, to be built on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto, were notreleased.
A design competition for the museum now will be held. ThePolish government has pledged to fund one-quarter of the museum’s $63 millionprice tag.
Sen. Clinton: Israeli Tactics Badfor Iraq
Israeli military tactics haven’t worked against thePalestinians and shouldn’t be used in Iraq, Sen. Hillary Clinton said. The U.S.military has blockaded troublesome villages with barbed wire fence and hasdemolished buildings suspected to be sniper nests. Reports have said thatIsraeli advisers were involved in training U.S. troops in such tactics, thoughthe Pentagon will not confirm that.
“Many of us were taken aback when we saw that article and wesaw the barbed wire and the fence,” the New York Democrat told the Council onForeign Relations last week. “It is very hard to build any fence that’s goingto keep a terrorist out. That is certainly the tragic lesson of Israel’sefforts against terrorism over all these years.”
Where’s the Menorah?
A Christmas tree controversy erupted at Indiana University.The dean of the university’s law school replaced a Christmas tree with twosmaller trees and a sleigh after some students and professor Florence Roitman,a Jewish professor at IU’s law school, complained that the tree constituted areligious display.
The dean says the new display represents Indiana woods andhas no religious meaning. But both Roitman and students who support aChristmas-tree display say the new display is not much of a change.
Ads Seek Info on Nazi-EraCriminals
Advertisements will begin running in Austria this week for acampaign aimed at finding Nazi-era war criminals. The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s”Operation: Last Chance,” which began last year in the Baltic states, offersfinancial rewards for information on suspected war criminals from World War II.Ads will be launched in Poland and Romania in coming weeks.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Congress passes Syria bill
Congress overwhelmingly passed a bill imposing penalties on Syria unless it takes action against terrorists under its control. The House of Representatives voted 408 to 8 on Thursday to approve Senate modifications to a bill the House passed in October. President Bush is expected to sign the bill before December. The Senate version gives the president the right to waive the sanctions every six months, allowing the administration the flexibility it demanded as a condition for not opposing the bill. If Syria does not end support for terrorism, end its occupation of Lebanon and stop producing weapons of mass destruction, the president can impose sanctions including a ban on the export of materials that could be used for weapons manufacture and restrictions on the movement of Syrian officials and planes.
Australia Freezes Hamas-Linked
Australia on Friday listed six senior Hamas leaders as terrorists and froze the assets of five charities that fund the group’s activities. The announcement follows U.S. action against exactly the same men and organizations in August. The individuals are Sheik Ahmed Yassin, Imad Khalil Al-Alami, Usama Hamdan, Khalid Mishaal, Musa Abu Marzouk and Abdel Aziz Rantisi. The charities include Committee for Charity and Aid for the Palestinians, in France; the Association for Palestinian Aid in Switzerland; the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund, or Interpal, headquartered in Britain; the Palestinian Association in Austria; and the Sanbil Association for Relief and Development, based in Lebanon.
Jerusalem Wall Murders
Palestinian gunmen killed two Israelis guarding the construction site for a security wall outside Jerusalem. Saturday night’s attack in the village of Abu Dis, just outside Jerusalem, might have been prevented were security regulations followed, police said. Three other guards in the crew were absent, and the site did not have proper lighting. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, in which the guards’ guns were stolen.
Red Cross Moves Toward Israel
The International Committee of the Red Cross is taking steps to advance membership for Israel’s relief agency. The Red Cross is promoting Magen David Adom’s inclusion in the federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.
In a meeting Nov. 19 in Switzerland, the committee’s vice president, Jacques Forster, told leaders of the World Jewish Congress that the committee has prepared a resolution allowing member countries to place a symbol of their choice inside a red diamond. That would address Muslim countries’ objections to the red Star of David, the symbol of Israel’s national emergency response organization.
The move doesn’t resolve the impasse over Magen David Adom — because of ongoing Muslim opposition, Switzerland isn’t yet prepared to call a convention of the national federations to approve the resolution — but the International Committee of the Red Cross move is an important step forward, Elan Steinberg, a special adviser to the World Jewish Congress, said.
Security Upped for British Jews
Under advice from police, the security level at British Jewish communal institutions has been raised to its highest state of alert. The Community Security Trust, the United Kingdom’s official Jewish security organization, took the decision in the wake of recent bombings of Jewish and British targets in Istanbul, and after a number of high-level meetings with police. In the past decade, the Jewish community has been at the top level of alert only after the Israeli Embassy in London was bombed in 1996 and after a spate of mail bombings in the capital in 1999.
“The psychology of terror today is more sophisticated that we have seen,” a CST spokesman said. “We have repeated time and time again that there is a specific threat to Jewish communities both here and abroad.”
What’s In a Name?
Daniel, Noa and Mohammed were the most popular Israeli names in 2002. Among girls, Noa was followed by Shira, Maya, Adi and Yael. For Israeli boys, Daniel was followed by Itai, David, Noam and Ido. Among Israel’s Muslims, Mohammed led the way for boys, and Aya among girls.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Baby Formula Firm Comes Clean
A German company admitted that its baby formula, implicated in the deaths of three Israeli babies, didn’t contain Vitamin B1. Representatives of Humana said the missing vitamin, also known as thiamine, was the result of human error. Two class-action lawsuits have been filed in Israel against Humana, which is majority owned by the American H.J. Heinz Co.
U.N.: Fence to Disrupt 600,000 Arabs
Israel’s security barrier would disrupt the lives of 600,000 Palestinians, a U.N. report said. But Israel said it is still determining how many Palestinians would be directly affected by the fence, which is being erected in an attempt to thwart terrorist infiltration into Israel proper. The U.N. report said the fence as planned would put about 15 percent of the West Bank on the Israeli side. The U.N. General Assembly has passed a resolution calling on Israel to stop building the fence, and the United States has called its route a problem.
Arafat Offers Olive Branch
Yasser Arafat offered Israel an olive branch as the Palestinian Authority Parliament approved a new Cabinet.
“We do not deny the right of Israelis to live in security alongside the Palestinian people in their own independent state. Let us end the cycle of fighting,” Arafat said on Wednesday in an address that dwelled on Israeli military crackdowns in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The speech made no mention of Palestinian terrorism. Dore Gold, an adviser to the Israeli prime minister, rejected the call as insincere.
“You can’t hold an olive branch in one hand and a ticking bomb in the other,” Gold said.
Israeli officials are disappointed that Arafat has won a power struggle to maintain security control in the new government of P.A. Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei. In his address to Palestinian lawmakers, Qurei vowed to rein in the “chaos” in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but stopped short of announcing steps against terrorism as required by the “road map” peace plan.
Ten Commandments Judge on Trial
A trial got under way of an Alabama judge who refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a state building. If Roy Moore, chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, is convicted of violating judicial ethics, he could face penalties ranging from fines and suspension to removal from office. A federal court ordered the monument removed on the grounds that it violated the Constitution’s ban on government promotion of religion. The case became a cause celebre for Christian activists.
Court to Rule on Pollard March
Israel’s Supreme Court will rule on whether supporters of Jonathan Pollard should get a permit to march in Jerusalem. Police wanted the supporters to curtail the march, which would take place Sunday during the United Jewish Communities’ General Assembly, in order to prevent traffic jams. Supporters of the Pollard march argued that police are allowing participants in the assembly to march through downtown Jerusalem on Monday.
Jenin Film Cleared
Israel’s Supreme Court overturned a ban on a documentary-style film accusing Israel’s army of atrocities in a 2002 battle in Jenin. “Jenin, Jenin,” directed by Israeli Arab actor Mohammed Bakri, was banned by the country’s Film Ratings Board following complaints by families of 23 soldiers who were killed in the West Bank refugee camp in April 2002. The Supreme Court agreed with Bakri’s appeal that the ban violated free speech legislation.
A U.N. investigation determined that no massacre took place in Jenin and found no evidence to support charges sounded in Bakri’s film, including one that the Israeli army dug a mass grave in the camp. Israeli critics have pointed out other glaring factual errors in the film that they claim are politically motivated.
Study: Don’t Cut Circumcision
Circumcision has significant health benefits for both men and women, a new Australian study says. Circumcision protects men from HIV and lowers the chance of cervical cancer in their partners, researchers at Melbourne University said. Following a report from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians which said there was little benefit, but a chance of harm, in circumcision the rate fell to 10 percent of males born in Australia. In the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics found the procedure’s potential health benefits are “not significant enough” to recommend the routine circumcision of newborns.
New Term Coined
A Washington Post columnist jokingly coined a new term to describe children of mixed marriages. In his humor column, Gene Weingarten says his term “julatto,” for people who are half-Jewish and half-Gentile, describes “many excellent people of my acquaintance, including my own children, the Czar’s children, Pat the Perfect’s children, the Auxiliary Czar’s children, and no less formidable a figure than Tom the Butcher, the editor of my column,” Weingarten wrote. He added, “You just know it is going to spread, because We control the media.”
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Pressure Builds on Ford
The Ford Foundation came under new scrutiny in Washington for funding anti-Israel groups. Following a JTA investigative series, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) told a foundation official Monday that the group should stop giving grants to Palestinian and other nongovernmental organizations that engage in anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity. The foundation, which insists it opposes such activity, gave millions of dollars to Palestinian and other groups that oppose the Jewish State. Meanwhile, a State Department official said the agency is reviewing Ford’s support for these groups for possible Justice Department action. The American Jewish Congress also is contemplating legal steps.
Jews Help Organize Anti-Israel
Pro-Palestinian activists from around the country will flock to Ohio State University this weekend for the Third National Conference on the Palestine Solidarity Movement. And the man who helped bring them there is a Jew.
Joseph Levine, faculty adviser to the Committee for Justice in Palestine, the local group hosting the event, says he grew up steeped in Judaism as a yeshiva student in Los Angeles. Levine nearly immigrated to Israel in the early 1970s.
“We essentially expelled the people that lived there … then we complain that they hate us,” he said.
Levine’s immediate goal is for Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders, allow the Palestinians to establish a capital in eastern Jerusalem and dismantle all Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Poll: Europeans See Israel as Threat
More than half of Europeans think Israel is the greatest threat to world peace, according to a new poll. The results of the poll published Monday by the European Union show that 59 percent of about 7,500 Europeans polled named Israel as the gravest threat to world peace. Fifty-three percent of respondents said Iran, North Korea and the United States pose threats to world peace.
“Europeans seem blind to Israeli victims and suffering,” said Haim Assaraf, spokesman at Israel’s mission to the European Union. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom downplayed the poll’s significance, saying it is important not to overreact to a single poll.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean at The Simon Wiesenthal Center, said, “These shocking poll results defy logic and demonstrate a racist flight of fancy that only proves that a systematic campaign vilifying Israel by European institutions, leaders and the media has embedded anti-Semitism more deeply within European society than in any other period since the end of World War II.”
Russian-Israeli Oil Deal
Russian oil will flow through an Israeli pipeline. The deal was announced Wednesday as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon returned to Israel from a three-day visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The oil will flow through a line run by the Eilat-Ashkelon Oil Pipeline Company, the firm said. The oil will travel to Asia.
French Jewish Students Sue
France’s Union of Jewish Students filed a lawsuit after two far-left student groups described the organization as racist. The student associations at Paris X University, the campus where the Paris 1968 student uprising began, distributed a tract on Tuesday accusing the Jewish student group of racism and of supporting “the colonization of Palestine and apartheid.” The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism, and the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between Peoples, issued statements defending the Jewish students.
Jews Back Out of Dialogue
A French Jewish group refused to participate in an interfaith dialogue event because of a Muslim speaker accused of anti-Semitism. The Jewish Community Council in Seine Saint-Denis, an area covering the northern and eastern suburbs of Paris, said Sunday it would not attend the event at the European Social Forum later this month because of the presence of Tariq Ramadan. Ramadan, a professor of Islam at Geneva University and one of the leading Muslim thinkers in Europe, recently wrote that French Jewish intellectuals adopted stances solely according to their ethnic origin.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Father Allows Child’s Israel Study
A New York man dropped a court case aimed at preventing his daughter from studying in Israel. Vladimir Brichkov last week dismissed the case he had filed to keep his daughter away from Israel, due to the potential for violence there.
“She really wanted to go. Why should I stop her?” he said.
Brichkov’s daughter, Bianca, 15, is one of five North American students attending the Elite Academy, a three-year high school program through the Jewish Agency for Israel.
“The minute I see” the papers, “we send her to Israel,” said Ronni Vinnikov, the Jewish Agency’s emissary for Russian-speaking Jews in New York.
High Court to Hear Nazi Art Case
The Supreme Court will consider whether a California woman can sue Austria in U.S. courts to recoup Nazi-looted art. Maria Altmann, who fled Austria, is seeking $150 million worth of paintings that were stolen 65 years ago. Austria has appealed the case, questioning California court rulings that Altmann can sue Austria and the Austrian Gallery in the United States. Austria contends that the courts do not hold jurisdiction over foreign countries. Altmann is seeking six paintings by Gustav Klimt, two of which depict Altmann’s aunt. The case is likely to be heard early next year.
Corrie’s Parents Want U.S. Probe
The parents of an American activist crushed to death earlier this year by an Israeli military bulldozer want a U.S. investigation. Rachel Corrie’s parents said this week that they are not satisfied by an Israeli army investigation that concluded that the driver who killed Corrie in March could not see her because of the bulldozer’s size and armor plating. Corrie’s group, the International Solidarity Movement, encourages activists to obstruct Israeli military operations, such as the destruction of homes belonging to Palestinian terrorists.
Jewish Extremists Sentenced
Three Israeli Jewish extremists were sentenced to between 12 and 15 years in jail. The three men sentenced Tuesday were found guilty of attempting to set off a bomb at an Arab girls school in eastern Jerusalem in April 2002. Shlomo Zeliger Dvir and Ofer Gamliel each received a 15-year prison sentence, while Yarden Morag received 12 years.
U.N. Report Blasts Israel
Israel’s security fence in the West Bank is a an act of conquest, according to a U.N. investigator. The official, John Dugard, said in a U.N. report released Tuesday that the international community should condemn the fence, which he called a de facto annexation. Ariel Milo, communications director of Israel’s Mission to the United Nations, criticized the report.
“This report is another example of how the United Nations, instead of dealing with the fundamental problem of the region, which is the terrorism perpetrated by the Palestinians, chooses to pick on Israel, which it sees as an easy target in light of the clear anti-Israel majority at the United Nations General Assembly,” he said.
Fund Honors Slain Doctor
An Israeli hospital launched a fund in honor of an emergency-room physician killed last month in a suicide bombing. The American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem created the fund to honor Dr. David Applebaum, a U.S.-born physician who was among seven people, including his daughter, killed in a Sept. 9 attack in Jerusalem. Applebaum directed Shaare Zedek’s department of emergency medicine. More information on the fund is available at www.acsz.org, or at (800) 346-1592.
Calif. Paper Goes Hip
A leading Jewish newspaper is switching over to a magazine format aimed at attracting younger readers. The Jewish Bulletin of Northern California was replaced earlier this month by j., a glossy that will highlight features and columns by younger writers. The move was made after the paper’s circulation fell to 20,000 from 30,000 subscribers.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Jewish Agency AidsChildren
The Jewish Agency for Israel distributed $5,000 each tochildren who lost a parent in a terrorist attack. The agency’s terror victim’sfund is allocating a total of $2.5 million to some 400 children. The money wasraised by the United Jewish Communities’ Israel Emergency Campaign. The grantsgiven Wednesday were distributed in the form of a check to adult children or asavings account deposit for minors.
Acquittal in Rabincase
An Israeli undercover agent was acquitted of charges that hefailed to prevent the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Avishai Ravivwas acquitted Monday.
Raviv, a right-wing activist, was working for Israel’s ShinBet when Yigal Amir gunned down Rabin in November 1995. Amir is serving a lifesentence for assassinating Rabin.
Jewish Groups Back CorrieResolution
Several left-wing Jewish groups are backing a congressionalresolution that calls for an investigation into the death of a U.S. womankilled last month by an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip. The Rachel CorrieResolution, introduced last week by Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), expressessympathy to Corrie’s parents, and asks the governments of Israel and the United States to ensure that the situation will not be repeated. The resolution isbeing backed by Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel, the Tikkun Community,Not in My Name and smaller Jewish organizations.
Looted Nazi ArtReturned
The Israeli heirs of a Czech Jewish art collector whosecollection was looted by the Nazis in 1939 will receive more than 100 of thelooted works. Legal representatives for the descendants of Brno-based lawyerArthur Feldmann recently signed a restitution agreement that will return 135drawings by Dutch, Italian and German masters from the 16th to the 18thcenturies, currently held in the Moravian Gallery.
Israel committed “numerous, serious human rights abuses” inthe West Bank and Gaza, according to the U.S. State Department. In its annualhuman rights report, released Monday, the department found that at least 990Palestinians and two foreign nationals were killed in violence with Israel lastyear, and that Israel carried out targeted killings in “crowded areas whencivilian casualties were likely, killing 25 bystanders, including 13 children.”
The report also criticized the Palestinians for notcomplying “with most of their commitments, notably those relating to therenunciation of violence and terrorism, taking responsibility for all PLOelements and disciplining violators.”
Hebrew U. MemorialPlanned
A commemoration of last year’s bombing at Hebrew Universityis being planned on U.S. college campuses. On April 10, the North AmericanJewish Student Alliance (NAJSA) is planning to memorialize the July 31 bombingon campuses across the country with videos about each of the victims. NAJSAcurrently has reached 75 percent of its goal of 40 participating campuses.
Rabbi Retracts Anti-WarStand
The head of the Conservative movement’s main rabbinicalseminary backed off his public opposition to the war in Iraq. Rabbi Ismar Schorsch,chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, told The New YorkTimes he ordered the rabbinical school’s public relations department to issue aretraction of anti-war comments he had made during a March 20 prayer service,which he did not expect to be publicized.
“I did not think that I should go on a crusade while the waris on,” Schorsch said.
Hold the Joe, Yossi
Starbucks is shutting down its cafes in Israel. The sixcafes in the Tel Aviv area are slated to be closed at the end of the week.Analysts attributed the failure of Starbucks, which is ubiquitous in many U.S.cities, to competition from established cafes. Security issues and Israel’srecession also contributed to the chain’s failure.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Israel to Get Less Money
The United States will propose $3 billion less in
supplemental military aid for Israel than the Jewish State had requested. An
Israeli official in Washington confirmed that Israel would be offered $1
billion as part of a U.S. war costs bill, but the White House is proposing $9
billion in loan guarantees, $1 billion more than Israel sought.
Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon,
told American Jewish leaders that the supplemental aid for Israel has been
“sweetened” by agreeing to give the full $1 billion right away.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer has said the
supplemental package, which could total up to $100 billion, would be introduced
in the coming days.
British Soldiers Mute Religion
British Jewish soldiers serving in Iraq are being allowed to
erase mention of their religion from their dog tags in an attempt to escape
torture if captured. The British Ministry of Defense made the decision to allow
the removals following concerns expressed by the British Jewish community about
possible torture. There are an estimated 15 Jewish soldiers among the 45,000
British soldiers aiding the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Moynihan Dies at 76
Former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), who battled
the U.N.’s “Zionism is racism” resolution, died Wednesday at 76. In 1975, when
the United Nations denigrated Zionism as racist and called it a “threat to
world peace,” the then-U.S. envoy delivered an eloquent and emotional
defense of Jewish political independence that blasted the U.N. resolution as
anti-Semitic. “It had become a crime to be a Jew who wished to return to the
Jewish national homeland,” Moynihan later wrote. Moynihan led the campaign to
repeal the resolution, which was reversed in 1991. He also spearheaded efforts
to establish international recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Moynihan served in the Senate from 1977 to 1991.
Woman To Head CCAR
The Reform rabbinate will be led by a woman for the first
time. The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) has nominated as its
president Rabbi Janet Marder, 48, currently vice president of the CCAR and
senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills.
Marder will begin her two-year tenure March 29 at the CCAR’s
2003 convention, after an election that is regarded as a formality.
She will succeed Rabbi Martin Weiner, senior rabbi at
Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco. The CCAR, which represents 1,800
Reform rabbis in North America, is the largest group of Jewish clergy.
Chabad to Send Pesach Kits to U.S.
Chabad-Lubavitch is sending 1,000 Passover packages to U.S.
Jewish troops serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and elsewhere. Rabbi Mendy
Katz of the Florida-based Aleph Institute, a subsidiary of Chabad, led a team
of rabbis and rabbinical students who assembled the Passover kits at a Rahway,
N.J., warehouse this week. The packages contain Haggadahs, matzahs,
horseradish, gefilte fish and seder plates, Chabad spokeswoman Renee Glick
Meanwhile, the Jewish Community Centers Association, the
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s New York Metropolitan Region and the
Jewish Federation of Rockland County, N.Y., organized a $25,000 effort to send
Jewish soldiers kosher-for-Passover foods, the New York Jewish Week reported.
The United Synagogue is also sending solo seder kits for
soldiers in the field who cannot join communal celebrations, the paper said.
The Jewish Welfare Board’s Jewish Chaplains Council estimates there are 1,500
Jewish troops in the Persian Gulf.
‘Pianist’ Earns Oscar Gold
“The Pianist,” a searing film of one Jew’s survival in
Warsaw during the Nazi occupation, scored a major upset when it won three
Oscars this week. The film, which is based on a memoir by Wladyslaw Szpilman,
garnered Academy Awards for director Roman Polanski, actor Adrien Brody and
screenwriter Ronald Harwood.
Their victories illustrated once again the enduring hold of
the Holocaust on the imagination and sentiments of the film industry.
Polanski, who escaped from the Krakow Ghetto as a 7-year-old boy, was not present
at Sunday evening’s 75th annual Academy Awards. He is officially a fugitive
from the United States for having engaged in unlawful sexual relations with a
Less of a surprise was the Oscar for “Nowhere in Africa” as
the winner for best foreign film. “Africa” depicts a Jewish family that
resettles in Kenya after being forced to flee Nazi Germany.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Snow Hits Israel
Snow blanketed portions of Israel on Monday. Because of
heavy snow in the north, the Hermon ski resort and roads leading to the Golan
Heights were closed. In Jerusalem, which witnessed major traffic jams, schools
closed at 2 p.m. Other parts of the country were hit by heavy rains that
prompted flood alerts.
Ethiopia Criticizes Aliyah
Ethiopia denounced Israel’s plans for an immigration of
Ethiopians who claim Jewish heritage. “It is beyond Ethiopia’s comprehension
why anyone would wish to organize a mass movement of people from Ethiopia, when
everyone is free to leave the country in a normal and legal way,” a government
official told Reuters. After years of controversy related to eligibility, Israel
has announced plans to absorb some 18,000 Falash Mura Ethiopian descendants of
Jews forced to convert to Christianity. The immigration is expected to take
some two years.
Soldiers Sue Filmmaker
Five Israeli reserve soldiers who took part in the army
incursion into the Jenin refugee camp last year sued the Arab director of a
film on the operation. The plaintiffs who filed the $500,000 libel suit on
Wednesday said the film, “Jenin, Jenin” slanders the soldiers who fought in Jenin
and is falsely presented as a documentary. The lawsuit was also filed against
the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem Cinemateques, which privately screened the film
despite a ban on commercial screening. The director of the film, Mohammed Bakri,
said the film is “one large truth,” but not the Israelis’ truth.
Fired For Alleged Ties
The University of South Florida has fired a professor
arrested last week for alleged ties to the terrorist group, Palestinian Islamic
Jihad. Sami Al-Arian, a computer engineering professor, had been suspended for
more than a year, and the university claims that he abused his position.
Al-Arian and seven others were indicted on charges that he created a terror
cell at the school and funneled financial support to the Palestinian group.
Turkish Crew Rescued
The Israeli air force rescued 10 crew members of a Turkish
cargo ship that sank in the Mediterranean Sea. The boat’s anchor chain broke in
the stormy seas Tuesday, sending the craft adrift. According to the Jerusalem
Post, Israeli military helicopters plucked the Turkish crewmen from life boats
after their cargo ship began to go down. They were taken to a hospital for
Belgian Official Writes Letter to
Belgium’s foreign minister wrote an open letter to Israel,
expressing regret over the deterioration in relations between the two countries
over a Belgian court decision enabling the prosecution of Israelis involved in
the 1982 Lebanon War. In a letter addressed to “my Israeli friends” that was published
in Israeli and Belgian newspapers, Louis Michel said a Belgian law that grants
judges universal jurisdiction for war crimes is not specifically aimed against Israel.
He also promised to “vigorously oppose” anti-Semitism. Earlier this month, Israel
recalled its ambassador over the court ruling, which would authorize the
Belgian court system to try Ariel Sharon in connection with the 1982 killing of
Palestinians by Christian Phalangists in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps
after Sharon steps down as prime minister.
Report Blasts Austrian Restitution
The Claims Conference welcomed a report commissioned by the
Austrian government that called Austria’s attempts at restitution “often
half-hearted and sometimes utterly reluctant.”
Reacting to the report, Gideon Taylor, the Claims
Conference’s executive vice president, said: “For decades, Austria did not
attempt to right the wrongs done to its former Jewish community.” He added:
“There seems now to be a new outlook on this matter, and we welcome the change.
We hope that the conclusions and recommendations arising from this report will
be properly and promptly implemented.”
The Claims Conference negotiated a restitution and
compensation agreement with Austrian government and industry in 2001 that was
worth approximately $500 million. The agreement covered payments for stolen
assets such as apartment leases, businesses and household items, and for
welfare benefits to aging, needy former Austrian Jews.
Bobsledders to Compete for Israel
One Canadian and two Americans have established a bobsled
team that they hope will compete for Israel in the next Winter Olympics. David
Greaves of Winnipeg, and Aaron Zeff and John Frank, both of San Francisco, have
received authorization from the Israeli Olympic Committee. All three have
applied for Israeli citizenship. They hope that their bobsled, Israel One, will
cheer the people of Israel.
Their newly formed Israeli Bobsled Federation has invented a
new Hebrew word for bobsled “mizchelet bob” based on mizchelet, the Hebrew word
High Court Refuses Kosher Case
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider reinstating New
York laws that set standards for the labeling of kosher food. The court
offered no comment when it refused the case Monday. Last year, an appeals court
struck down the New York laws, ruling that the laws improperly take sides in a
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
U.S. Gives Sharon TacitEndorsement
With elections only days away, the Bush administration isofficially neutral on the choice facing frustrated Israeli voters.Unofficially, it’s a different story. Officials here have already made theirpreference known — a tacit endorsement that is having an impact on the Israelicampaign, although it is unlikely to be the decisive factor.
In a dramatic break with the pro-Labor efforts of itspredecessors, the Bush administration has quietly signaled its support for the reelectionof Likud Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Pro-Israel activists said there are a number of reasons forthe administration’s preference, including a genuine affinity between Bushadministration hard-liners and Sharon. But one reason stands out: Iraq.
“This administration has an order of priorities,” saidStephen P. Cohen, a leading peace process activist and consultant for theIsrael Policy Forum. “The first priority is Iraq. The administration has workedout how to deal with Iraq with Sharon already and doesn’t want to change thatfactor in midstream.”
Washington wants extensive Israeli cooperation, including atleast a willingness to consider forgoing retaliation if Saddam Hussein repeatshis 1991 behavior and attacks Israel, plus intelligence sharing. It believes itis getting that cooperation from Sharon. It also wants no new surprises on theIsraeli-Palestinian front as it walks an international tightrope on Iraq.
“All the administration wants from Israel at the currenttime is quiet,” said Joel Singer, an Israeli lawyer and one of the architectsof the first Oslo agreement. “Sharon has managed to detect this wish, and isproviding exactly what the administration wants.”
Former Secretary of State James Baker complained that eachtime he had visited the region, Sharon — then housing minister and chiefpromoter of the settlers movement — announced new settlements. This timearound, Sharon has positioned himself as the one man who can keep the farright-wingers under control.
“Sharon has learned his lesson admirably,” Singer said. “Heis doing his part; that is why you have this mutual admiration club.”
The nod from Washington has not been lost on Israeli voters.
“One of Sharon’s strongest points in the campaign is that hehas successfully cultivated and managed the relationship with the United Statesand particularly with President Bush,” said Marshall Breger, a law professor atthe Catholic University of America, who has just returned from a three-monthteaching stint in Israel. “And that feeds into the view that he is the best manto protect Israel’s security and to get things from Washington and to ward off U.S.pressure.”
Breger said the administration has confirmed its preferenceby refusing to arrange high-level Washington meetings for Amram Mitzna, theLabor candidate whose campaign has sputtered from the start.
“An omission can be as significant as a commission,” hesaid. “The U.S. failure to engage with Mitzna also sends a major signal.”
But the cozy Bush-Sharon relationship will face newchallenges once the Iraq situation is resolved.
“Eventually, the focus will shift back to theIsraeli-Palestinian situation,” Singer said. “Then it will be a new ballgame.The production of quiet will not be the primary goal. There are plans that arenow on the back burner that will be pushed up.”
Last weekend, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz,speaking to the Washington Post, said that on the “day after” the impendingwar, the Bush administration will turn its attention to its delayed push for aPalestinian state and to controversial issues, such as settlements. — James D. Besser, Washington Correspondent
Choice of Libyan for Post SendsShock
It was a shock even for pro-Israel activists who have longbeen skeptical about the seriousness of the United Nations role as peacemakerand human rights advocate.
Despite strong U.S. pressure, the U.N. Human RightsCommission (UNHRC) elected Libyan U.N. Ambassador Najat Al-Hajjaji as its newleader.
Only three countries voted against Libya in the secretballot, with 17 states abstaining. Washington sources said “no” votes were castby the United States, Canada and Guatemala.
In recent weeks, several Jewish groups urged theadministration to take a tough line on Libya’s candidacy for the yearlongleadership post.
“The initial U.S. position on this was very tough,” saidAbraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, one of thosegroups. “This vote is an insult to all people who care about decency and humanrights.”
The ADL praised the administration for forcing a vote –putting the Libya question in the international spotlight — although thecommission kept the balloting secret.
“We took the steps necessary to ensure that there would be avote on this matter, so that we could leave no doubt about our objection to Libya,”said Ambassador Kevin E. Moley, the permanent U.S. representative to the UnitedNations in Geneva. “Calling for a vote was an unprecedented and historicaction, breaking a half-century tradition of election by acclamation.”
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conferenceof Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Libya’s electioncould be just the first step in its rise up the U.N. leadership ranks.
“The vote just compounds the problem created by Syriasitting on the Security Council,” he said. The Syrians are halfway into atwo-year rotation on the key U.N. body. “Libya could replace Syria; theirelection to the UNHRC chair paves the way for that.”
Hoenlein expressed frustration that nothing can be done toundo the vote, saying, “There doesn’t seem to be much that can be done in thisrotational system [for the UNHRC post]. “It underscores the skepticism andconcern so many have about the U.N. and the Human Rights Commission, where theyspend 40 hours criticizing Israel, 40 minutes discussing China, Iran, Iraq andthe rest of the world.”
Hoenlein said Jewish groups will intensify their work withhuman rights organizations to “encourage them to recognize the absurdity ofthis.”
Most groups don’t need much convincing. AmnestyInternational said the human rights situation in Libya has “seriouslydeteriorated” since the late 1980s.
Human Rights WatchÂ called Libya’s human rights record”appalling” and cited “the abduction, forced disappearance or assassination ofpolitical opponents; torture and mistreatment of detainees, and long-termdetention without charge or trial or after grossly unfair trials.”
Libya, now the U.N.’s chief human rights watchdog, has “been a closed country for United Nations and nongovernmental human rightsinvestigators.”
Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), the House Majority Leader,promised “even closer scrutiny of the U.N. within Congress” and said thatLibyan leader Moammar Kadafi’s “legion of Libyan victims could teach thecommission many things about the depths of human cruelty, but the immoralelevation of his dictatorship to its chairmanship is utter hypocrisy.”
DeLay also called the UNHRC a “protection racket for serialhuman rights-abusing regimes.” — J.B.
Affirmative Action Stirs NoHeat
Last week the Bush administration weighed in against acontroversial University of Michigan affirmative action that will be reviewedby the Supreme Court in April.
A handful of Jewish groups are submitting briefs, pro andcon, but there’s no heat to the debate within the Jewish community. Affirmativeaction, once a passionate issue for Jewish groups on both sides of the debate,is now pretty much a yawn.
Opposition to affirmative action has become mainstream, saidMarc Stern, legal director for the American Jewish Congress, which is stayingout of the Michigan case. “So there isn’t the impetus for Jewish involvementthat there once was,” he said.
Jewish groups are not as central to the civil rightsmovement as they once were. Some Jewish leaders who dislike affirmative actionalso worry that the proposed alternatives — laws requiring state schools toaccept top high school students, regardless of race — could work against manyJewish students, because they tend to be concentrated in a relatively smallnumber of school districts.
April Fools Day is the scheduled date for oral arguments ontwo cases involving the Michigan program that favors minority applicants inundergraduate and law school admissions.
Bush has ordered the Justice Department to file briefsarguing that such programs are unconstitutional and that alternative programsthat do not center on race — such as the performance-based system Bushinstituted in Texas — are available.
That prompted dissension within the administration.Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that he supports the school’srace-based policies, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said thatwhile supporting the administration action, she still believes race is anappropriate issue for college admissions officers to consider.
Last week was the filing deadline for briefs opposing theUniversity of Michigan plan. Briefs supporting the program are due in a month.
The Anti-Defamation League has already filed in oppositionto the Michigan plan. In a statement, the group affirmed its belief in the”fundamental value of diversity in higher education” but said that the Michiganprogram involves an unconstitutional use of race in determining admissions.
The American Jewish Committee (AJCcommittee) is gettingready to file on the other side. The Michigan program is “an appropriateresponse to the need to maintain diversity,” said Richard Foltin, AJCcommitteelegislative director.
“This is quite clearly not a quota; we are opposed toquotas,” Foltin said. “But we stand by the argument that schools can take raceinto account as a plus factor, among many other factors, in admissions.”
Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox group, expressedsupport for the president’s actions based on the group’s opposition to “anyimposition of quotas, goals and timetables” that discriminate “on the basis ofrace, sex, creed or national origin,” according to David Zwiebel, the group’sexecutive vice president for government and public affairs. — J.B.
Talks on Attacks Fail
Officials from Hamas and Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement concluded meetings in Cairo without any agreement regarding suicide attacks against Israeli civilians.
A Hamas representative, Osama Hamdan, left Cairo on Dec. 26, telling The Associated Press that meetings with Fatah would continue, but the two sides still differ on the “management of the conflict with Israel.” Fatah, along with Egypt, a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, are pressing Hamas to call a temporary halt to the attacks.
U.S. Urged to Link Statehood,
The Orthodox Union (OU) is urging the U.S. government to link support for a Palestinian state to political reforms and an end to terrorism. The OU, which represents approximately 1,000 modern Orthodox congregations in North America, issued a resolution backing legislation that would tie U.S. support for Palestinian statehood to a “visible and tangible commitment to peace” by the Palestinians. The resolution was issued during the OU’s annual convention, held Dec. 26-29 in Rye, N.Y.
Israeli Arab Barred
Israel’s Central Election Committee barred Israeli Arab legislator Ahmed Tibi from running for the Knesset. Tibi said he planned to appeal the Dec. 30 decision to the Supreme Court. Earlier, the election panel rejected a petition from the right-wing Herut Party to ban the Hadash-National Arab Union bloc, in which Tibi held the No. 3 spot, from participating in this month’s elections. The decision to bar Tibi came a day after the panel upheld the candidacy of Baruch Marzel, a former activist in the outlawed right-wing Kach movement. Both decisions went against the recommendations of the committee chairman and the attorney general.
Lieberman Meets Arab Leaders
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) met with leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain during an 11-day Middle East trip. Lieberman asked the leaders to be prepared to give the U.S. military full support in case of a war against Iraq. “I believe they heard the message, and my conclusion is that the American military and people won’t be disappointed by the reactions of the three allies,” he said at news conference. The senator also met with U.S. troops stationed in the Persian Gulf, giving them “the thanks of a grateful nation.”
U.S. Denies Bias
The U.S. State Department denied that it refuses to post Jewish diplomats to Saudi Arabia. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said Dec. 26 that overseas assignments are “free from discrimination,” and that there is no agreement between the United States and Saudi Arabia to avoid assigning Jewish diplomats to the country. Reeker’s statement came after a former U.S. official, Timothy Hunter told the Middle East Forum that Jewish officers in the State Department had a letter “J” placed next to their name, so that selection panels would not choose them for Saudi posts.
Canadian Hillel Sues
The Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) is setting up a legal defense fund after the Hillel at Montreal’s Concordia University filed a lawsuit against the school’s student union. In early December, the Concordia Student Union voted to ban Hillel from the Montreal school and cut off its funding, charging that Hillel distributed material advertising a volunteer program with the Israeli army. Under intense pressure, the student union later conditionally reinstated Hillel, but continues to withhold funding.
Hillel’s lawsuit, filed with Quebec Superior Court, seeks the unconditional restoration of funding, as well as $100,000 in damages. “Our involvement is intended to be a tangible demonstration of national community and organizational support for their actions,” CJC National President Keith Landy said. Donations to the legal defense fund may be sent to: Canadian Jewish Congress, Hillel Legal Assistance Fund, 1590 Docteur Penfield Ave., Montreal, Quebec, H3G 1C5.
Solzhenitsyn on Soviet Jews
A controversial book on the history of Russia’s Jews by Nobel Prize-winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn debuted in Moscow bookstores. The second book of the two-volume study, “Two Hundred Years Together: 1795-1995,” explores the history of Jews in Russia from 1916 to 1995, with a focus on Jewish participation in the Bolshevik Revolution and Soviet apparatus.
Briefs courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The radio station plays hits by Jennifer Lopez and Madonna,
and invites listeners to comment on issues such as what they’d do if they
discovered a friend was taking drugs.
It’s the type of fare broadcast to young adults from Malibu
to Miami. Except the disc jockey is speaking Arabic, and the listeners are in
the Middle East.
Welcome to Radio Sawa, the brainchild of Norman J. Pattiz,
founder and chairman of the biggest radio network in the United States. Since
March of last year, Radio Sawa (which means together in Arabic) has been
broadcasting in Arabic around the clock in the Middle East, targeting listeners
under 30 years old, who make up 60 percent of the region’s population.
Radio Sawa broadcasts a mix of Western and Arabic pop music,
interspersed with news updates and analysis, interviews and opinion pieces.
Potentially, millions of listeners can access Radio Sawa via AM, FM and
shortwave frequencies, as well as on the Internet (www.radiosawa.com) and on
digital radio satellite channels.
Pattiz, the founder of Westwood One, helped conceptualize
and launch Radio Sawa as a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
The BBG oversees the government’s nonmilitary international broadcasting
services, such as the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
While serving on a committee charged with reviewing the 61
different languages in which programs are broadcast, “it became obvious that
what we were doing in the Middle East was insignificant at best,” said the
59-year-old Southern California native. Once Pattiz pointed out the deficiency,
he soon found himself chairman of the BBG’s Middle East Committee.
Returning from a fact-finding mission to the region, he told
the U.S. House Committee on International Relations, “We have a vital mission
to counter misinformation and messages of hate regarding the United States by
broadcasting truthful news and information and by faithfully representing our
country’s government and culture.”
Â Polling of young adults in Amman, Jordan, last October
appears to indicate that the audience is listening. Forty-three percent of
respondents tuned in to Radio Sawa, more than any other station, and 25 percent
considered it their top source for news. Both figures were higher than those
received for any other station.
“I don’t know that we ever expected to get to these kinds of
numbers, but we certainly never expected to get to them that quickly,” said
Pattiz, noting that the percentages have increased since the October poll.
Pattiz acknowledged that Radio Sawa’s impact is “less
strong” with lower socio-economic groups than with “the more educated and more
affluent and those who have more of a connection with Western values. But we
have to start someplace,” he said.
Pattiz said that by presenting news objectively, Radio Sawa
more accurately represents the United States and its culture than other
available sources. For example, he noted that Al Jazeera, the Arab satellite TV
station in Qatar, recently aired a two-hour interview of former Ku Klux Klan
leader David Duke.
“This is who they chose to interview as a representative of
the people of the United States of America — David Duke. If that isn’t bone
chilling,” Pattiz said.
Like news regarding the United States, coverage of other
areas, including Israel, is intended to be presented without bias. Radio Sawa’s
news director is Mouafac Harb, a former Washington bureau chief for the
international Arabic daily newspaper, Al Hayat.
According to its Web site, one of Radio Sawa’s guiding
principles is that “the long-range interests of the United States are served by
communicating directly in Arabic with the peoples of the Middle East by radio.”
Pattiz echoes this sentiment.
“We’re certainly better off communicating with a major part
of the world where our efforts have been woefully inadequate,” he said. “If
they’re going to hate us, let them know who they’re hating, rather than just
blindly following a path that’s laid out by their government-controlled media.”
The BBG plans to expand on Sawa’s success on a number of
fronts. Soon, specific regions will receive their own individual programming
streams, with news and features of local interest delivered in regional
A new Farsi-language service, similar to Sawa, started up
last month in Iran. Plans are also underway for an Arabic-language satellite
television station to provide round-the-clock programming.
Pattiz is no stranger to Middle Eastern politics. As a
member of the Israel Policy Forum, an organization that promotes U.S. awareness
and involvement in the Middle East peace process, Pattiz has traveled to the
region to meet with Israeli and Jordanian leaders and has held a reception at
his home for Queen Noor of Jordan.
He also hosts monthly roundtable discussions at which
prominent community members meet with Israeli leaders, media representatives
and others with insights about the region.
Although his Radio Sawa efforts are performed on behalf of
the U.S. government, Pattiz acknowledged that promoting the free flow of
information in the Middle East benefits Israel, as well.
On the state level, Pattiz serves on the UC Board of
Regents. As a member of the board’s Investment Committee, he helps oversee
billions of dollars of university investments.
He expects to be part of a task force formed in response to
a controversial course description published for a UC Berkeley class, The
Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance. Pattiz said the task force will
“examine how this course description was allowed to be printed in the first
place, and look at the larger questions of academic freedom vs.
He also serves on the California Commission on Building for
the 21st Century, which looks at how the state should address future building
and infrastructure needs. Pattiz has served as president of the Broadcast
Education Association, trustee of the Museum of Television and Radio, is on the
the USC Annenberg School for Communication board and on the advisory board of
the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy.
At Westwood One, which he founded in 1974 as a one-room
operation, Pattiz spends much of his time conceptualizing projects and
arranging agreements with artists and recording companies to generate
entertainment programs for broadcast. The company has earned a reputation for
blockbuster entertainment programming, airing concerts by such megastars as
Barbra Streisand, The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen.
His professional, political and philanthropic activities
keep Pattiz busy, and he said he likes it that way.
“I’ve got plenty of things to keep me busy,” he said. “But
they’re all things I find incredibly interesting and enjoyable. I’m not
complaining about any of it.”
Norman J. Pattiz will be the keynote speaker at CommUNITY
Kavod on Tuesday, Jan. 28, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Irvine. For
more information call (714) 755-5555. Â
Israeli Sentenced For Hezbollah
A Lebanese-born Israeli was sentenced to six years in prison Wednesday for having contact with Hezbollah. Holon resident Nissim Nasser was convicted of having contact with a Hezbollah agent and passing information to the organization. Nasser’s contacts with Hezbollah were established via his brother, who lives in Lebanon, Israel Radio reported.
Israel Transfers P.A. Funds
Israel recently transferred some $28 million in frozen tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayed said Tuesday that in addition to the Israeli transfer, Saudi Arabia donated $15 million to the Palestinian Authority, allowing it to pay November wages to P.A. employees, Israel Radio reported.
Scholar Denies Scandal Role
A leading American Jewish supporter of the Middle East peace process denied reports that he made millions of dollars from a slush fund involving Yasser Arafat and an Israeli envoy. Stephen P. Cohen, a national scholar with the Israel Policy Forum and president of the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development think tank, told JTA he never had business dealings with the Palestinians. Cohen long has been involved in both behind-the-scenes and public efforts to forge Israeli-Palestinian ties. But he denied a report in the Israeli daily Ma’ariv last week that he helped Israeli envoy Yossi Ginossar illegally transfer $300 million in Palestinian Authority funds to a secret Swiss bank account controlled by Arafat, the Palestinian Authority president. Cohen also denied reports that he took a cut from cement and gasoline deals between Israeli and Palestinian companies. An aide to Ginossar told Ma’ariv that commissions from such deals netted millions of dollars for Cohen.
Mormons Baptizing Dead Jews?
Jewish and Mormon officials met to discuss new allegations that church members are still posthumously baptizing many deceased Jews, including thousands of Holocaust victims. Seven years after the church signed a legal agreement to do all it could to stop the practice, new evidence emerged that the church’s vast International Genealogical Index lists as many as 20,000 Jewish Holocaust victims and perhaps many more all evidently baptized by proxy after their deaths. Ernest Michel, a Holocaust survivor who is chairman of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, arranged Tuesday’s meeting in New York with Church elders Monte Brough and Todd Christofferson, who traveled from Salt Lake City to attend.
Hillel Ban Conditionally Lifted
The student union of Montreal’s Concordia University conditionally lifted its ban on the school’s Hillel. The ban was imposed Dec. 2 after the union accused Hillel of distributing fliers recruiting volunteers for the Israeli army. The Concordia Student Union lifted the ban this past weekend when it learned of Hillel’s intention to sue. The student union is demanding that Hillel must sign a document saying it will adhere to the union’s policy guidelines, which ban the distribution of literature the union deems offensive. Hillel officials say they haven’t received any document to sign — but made their own demands. Ariela Cotler, president of Hillel Montreal, said Hillel expects the ban to be lifted in writing, and also is demanding an apology for the ban. An emergency meeting of Hillel was scheduled for Tuesday night after the student union did not meet a Monday deadline for Hillel’s demands. The union’s council of representatives is scheduled to discuss the issue Thursday.
Will Arafat Visit Bethlehem?
Palestinian officials warned Israel against preventing Yasser Arafat from celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem for a second straight year.
Monday’s warnings came after an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Ra’anan Gissin, said Arafat should stay in Ramallah “because he has caused much tragedy to the Christian population.” But Gissin stopped short of saying Israel would bar Arafat from Bethlehem. Last year, Israel’s Security Cabinet decided to ban him from going to Bethlehem from his office in Ramallah. The Security Cabinet has not yet made a decision this year.
Three Killed in Settlement Attack
Three Israelis, including two teenagers, were killed by a Palestinian gunman who infiltrated a West Bank settlement Tuesday night. Linoy Saroussi and Hadas Turgeman, both 14, as well as Orna Eshel, 53, were killed when the terrorist opened fire on residents of Hermesh in the northern West Bank. Linoy and Hadas were killed as they were chatting at the entrance to Linoy’s house. The gunman later was shot dead by residents and soldiers. Two Hermesh residents, including Eshel’s husband, were moderately wounded, and a soldier sustained light injuries. The Al-Aksa Brigade, the military wing of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the attack. The gunman was identified as a 22-year-old resident of Tulkarm, Israel Radio reported.
Following the attack, a group of Jewish settlers assaulted Palestinian olive pickers and foreign peace activists in the West Bank.
The attack followed an Oct. 21 suicide bombing of a bus in northern Israel that killed 14 people.
Jewish Kids Among Hostage Deaths
At least four Jews, including two children, were among the dead in last weekend’s hostage crisis in Moscow, according to the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia. At least 20 Jewish hostages survived, some of whom are still recuperating in local hospitals.
Sniper Suspects Linked to Shul
The two suspects in the Washington, D.C.-area sniper case allegedly fired gunshots at a synagogue in Washington state last May. The latest allegations against John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo surfaced after a man in Tacoma, Wash., told police he had lent the pair his guns. The duo also is believed to be behind the killing last February of a Tacoma woman who was shot in the face when she opened the door to her house. Then, between May 1 and May 4, shots were fired at Temple Beth El in Tacoma. There were no injuries, and damage was minimal.
Church Affirms Interfaith Ties
The Catholic Church is more committed than ever to improving relations with Jews, a top Vatican official said.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican official in charge of relations with Jews, told an interfaith conference Monday that after 2,000 years of antagonism, Catholics and Jews may still disagree, but that they do so now as brothers.
Kasper spoke at a conference marking the 37th anniversary of the publication of Nostra Aetate, the landmark Vatican document that officially opened the door to Catholic-Jewish dialogue.
A Jewish scholar, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, told the conference that the Catholic Church was in an “almost impossible” position when it came to dealing with the Jews. “Basically, monotheistic religions cannot be tolerant,” he said. “Can you speak about two truths?”
Brazil’s Jews Wary of New Vice
Brazilian Jews are warily eyeing the nation’s newly elected vice president.
The victory of leftist presidential candidate Luis Inacio Lula da Silva in Sunday’s vote also swept his vice- presidential running mate, Jose Alencar, into office.
Alencar recently caused an uproar among Brazil’s 120,000 Jews after he declared on national TV that the only solution to the Middle East conflict was for Israelis to pick up and leave the region.
Alencar later apologized, but many Jews consider the apology politically motivated and insincere.
Briefs courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
‘Stop the Hate’ Workshop
Alissa Yamazaki, a 15-year-old Corona del Mar High School 10th-grader, still seethes over a
comment by a former teacher, she confessed to classmates during a sensitivity-raising assembly last month titled “Names Can Really Hurt Us.” When Yamazaki auditioned to sing songs from the musical “My Fair Lady,” the teacher told her, “We’ve never had a Chinese Eliza Doolittle.” Yamazaki, who is Japanese, told students, “My basic message is not to generalize, to consider the talents and personality of people.
“Ninety-nine percent of the human race has the same DNA!”
Yamazaki was one of six panelists to describe personal experiences with discrimination during the event, a pilot program presented this year by the Anti-Defamation League at five schools around the state .
Anti-bullying policies already are enforced in the Newport Mesa School District, but the workshop gives the issue greater visibility, says Sharon Fry, the school principal. “I don’t think kids do it with malicious intent,” she says, citing name-calling over physical features as a typical insult. “Kids don’t know how to respond, that they have a right to say ‘that’s not acceptable.'” — Andrea Adelson, Contributing Editor
New Federation Officials
Lou Weiss, influential in the development of nearly every Jewish organization in the county since the 1980s, will head up its most visible one over the next year. Weiss, 54, a marketing consultant from Laguna Beach, was elected president of the Jewish Federation at an annual meeting of community donors last month. A five-person nominating committee proposed the slate to govern the Federation, which last year dispensed $1.5 million, mostly to six Jewish agencies and three day schools.
Also new to the Federation is Alissa D. Duel, who joined as campaign director responsible for fundraising activities. Duel previously worked for a nonprofit that tapped celebrities to support worthy causes. Duel succeeds Jeffrey Rips, who held the post for 18 months and returned to his previous position as executive director of the county’s Hillel program. — A.A.
Several congregations will start seeing new faces from the pulpit over the summer.
After alternating for a year between synagogues in Camarillo and Fullerton, Rabbi Kenneth D. Milhander beginning this month will make Fullerton’s Temple Beth Tikvah his permanent home for at least three years.
Beth Tikvah’s alternate rabbi, Bernie King, beginning Aug. 23 will serve part time in the synagogue at Heritage Point, the Mission Viejo home for the elderly. King will alternate with Susan Deutsch, a cantorial soloist.
Rabbi Stuart Altshuler, of Chicago, will join Mission Viejo’s Congregation Eilat on Aug. 1. His predecessor was Rabbi Martin Cohen.
Also new to the area is Rabbi Rayna Gevurtz Zylberman, recently hired as the second spiritual leader at Newport Beach’s Temple Bat Yahm. Ordained last year, Gevurtz is a graduate of Cincinnati’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). Her husband, a physician, is in a rabbinic program and recently transferred to HUC-JIR in Los Angeles.
Another student from HUC-JIR, Adam Schaffer, is a rabbinic resident this summer at Fountain Valley’s Congregation B’nai Tzedek. He will be mentored by Rabbi Stephen J. Einstein. — A.A.
Bush: PLO Can Have D.C. Office
President Bush waived for six months a law blocking the PLO from having a Washington office. The waiver has been enacted twice a year since 1994, after the signing of the Oslo peace accords. The waiver is routine, but last Tuesday’s memo said future waivers would require the Palestinians to live up to their commitments to curb terrorism and incitement. The PLO representative to Washington, Hassan Abdel Rahman, has been working out of his home after the landlord evicted the PLO from its office last week for allegedly failing to pay rent. The PLO claims the landlord is biased against the group. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon canceled plans to visit Washington next week to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference. Instead, Sharon is expected to address the conference via satellite.
Britain Told to Crack Down on
Britain’s chief rabbi called for an immediate crackdown on Islamic militants in the country. Britain “has to crack down sharply on people attempting to radicalize the Muslim community,” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks told Reuters on Wednesday. The rise in militant Islam “is attributable to a small number of individuals who have come and delivered quite a violent message to impressionable young people.”
Germany Releases Tunisian Synagogue Terror
German officials released a man they had arrested a day earlier in connection with an explosion at a Tunisian synagogue. The man was released Wednesday after being questioned and after his apartment and those of his associates elsewhere in Germany were searched. Prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to link him to the April 11 explosion , which killed 15 people, 10 of them German tourists. Meanwhile, on Monday night vandals graffitied “Six million were not enough. PLO” on a synagogue in the western German town of Herford.
Travel Advisory for France
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is going the U.S. State Department one better by issuing a travel advisory urging Jewish tourists to exercise “extreme caution” when visiting France and Belgium. In its first such action, the Wiesenthal Center warned that in the past 18 months “there have been over 400 hate crimes against Jewish targets” in Paris and other French cities, including arson attacks against synagogues and beatings of Jewish pedestrians.
Last week alone, 15 hooded attackers, wielding metal bars, assaulted soccer players of a Maccabi youth team in a Paris suburb, while vandals defaced a Jewish cemetery in Strasbourg.
In Belgium, Jews “have been subjected to threats, intimidations and attacks, including a daylight assault on the chief rabbi of Brussels. Many religious Jews no longer feel safe wearing a skullcap in public,” the advisory noted. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Germany: Arms Boycott Temporary
Germany’s delivery of spare parts for the Israeli military has been only temporarily suspended, according to Germany’s foreign minister. Rudolf Scharping told reporters Sunday that Germany had wanted to send a strong message against escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to some media reports, Germany stopped sending military goods to Israel three months ago. In another development, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder renewed his suggestion that German troops be included in any U.N. peacekeeping unit sent to the Middle East.
Jewish Heritage Week Proclaimed
President Bush proclaimed this week as Jewish Heritage Week. In his proclamation, Bush noted the many contributions Jewish Americans have made to the arts, education, industry, science and the American way of life. “The values and traditions of Judaism have contributed greatly to our culture and history; and they have played a major role in the success of our great nation,” he said.
Israeli Population at 6.5 Million
On the eve of its 54th Independence Day, Israel’s population totals 6.5 million. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the population has increased eightfold since the establishment of the state in 1948. Of the 5.3 million Jews living in Israel, 63 percent are natives.
Israel accounts for 37 percent of the world’s Jewish population, compared to only 6 percent in 1948. Only the United States has a larger Jewish population.
Briefs courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency
More Hezbollah Attacks
The United States promised Israel it would warn Syria against an escalation along Israel’s northern border. Hezbollah continued to fire mortars and anti-tank rockets into Israel from Lebanon on Monday, lightly wounding a shepherd in one attack. Israel’s Security Cabinet decided to continue maintaining a restrained response to the cross-border attacks, in order to give diplomatic efforts a chance.
Netanyahu to Speak for Israel
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to serve as a spokesman for the Israeli government.
Netanyahu will “help clarify and present Israel’s positions,” an Israeli official said. Netanyahu’s assistance was sought by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the wake of negative coverage of Israel by the American media, despite the fact that Netanyahu will likely challenge Sharon eventually for the Likud Party leadership.
Meanwhile, Sharon announced Monday that he will add three new Cabinet ministers to the government: National Religious Party (NRP) incoming leader, Effi Eitam, a former brigadier general and political hawk; NRP’s outgoing leader, Yitzhak Levy; and Gesher Party leader David Levy. The Labor Party has warned that it may leave the government if Sharon broadens the governing coalition without Labor’s approval. Additionally, former Israeli ministers Avigdor Lieberman and Binyamin Elon are negotiating to return to the government.
Poll: Bush Backed on Middle East
Most Americans support President Bush’s handling of the Middle East crisis, according to a new poll. Sixty-seven percent say they approve of the president’s actions, according to a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll that was conducted April 5-7, but respondents were split over whether Bush has a clear and well thought-out Middle East policy.
Sympathy for Israel has gone up since early March, but most Americans said the United States should not take sides in the conflict. More than half of Americans view the Israeli military incursions into Palestinian areas as “legitimate acts of war” while 70 percent see recent violence committed by the Palestinians against Israelis as “acts of terrorism.”
Arrests Made in France Hate Crimes
More than 35 people were arrested in France for recent attacks against Jews. Nine of those were arrested in connection with the recent firebombing of three synagogues; the others for verbal or physical abuse. Fifteen of those arrested are under 18 years old. Most were people who had been in trouble with the police before, according to a police spokesman, who added that their actions were not organized. The recent spate of anti-Semitic attacks is believed to have been carried out by French Arabs motivated by the ongoing violence in the Middle East.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency
State Dept. Issues Warning, Recall
The State Department Tuesday warned U.S. citizens to defer travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. “Ongoing violence has caused numerous civilian deaths and injuries, including to some American tourists,” the department advisory said. “As a result of the ongoing violence, the Department of State has authorized the voluntary departure from Jerusalem of U.S. Consulate dependents.” Jewish leaders, while understanding the need to protect U.S. citizens abroad, expressed unhappiness with a move that could scare even more tourists away.
Papers Prove P.A. Link to Terror
Documents found in Yasser Arafat’s Ramallah headquarters show how closely the Palestinian Authority is tied to terrorism, Israeli officials charge. Among the documents found by the Israel Defense Force after seizing the Ramallah compound last Friday are requests from the Al-Aksa Brigades, the military wing of Arafat’s Fatah movement, for money to finance its terror attacks. The documents were found in the office of the Palestinian Authority’s chief financial officer, Fouad Shoubaki, one of the key figures in the Karine A arms smuggling boat intercepted by Israel in January. The documents prove that Shoubaki continued to do “business as usual,” even after his involvement in the smuggling attempt was discovered and Arafat pledged to investigate him, Israeli officials charged. Palestinians say the documents are forgeries.
Israeli officials also said that Israeli troops found stashes of counterfeit shekels and dollars, as well as plates to print money, in Arafat’s Ramallah headquarters. According to Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit, the Palestinian Authority president is responsible for printing several million dollars and shekels in fake money, which could have been used to undermine Israel’s already shaky economy, or to pay Palestinian terrorists operating in Israel, Israeli officials said.
U.S. Jews Attacked in Berlin
Several men attacked two Orthodox Jews in Berlin. German police said the men — who were described as having a Middle Eastern appearance — asked if the two Americans were Jews before pushing them to the ground on Sunday night. They suffered minor injuries. The attack came after German officials said they would increase security at Jewish sites following attacks on Jewish sites in Belgium and France, and following pressure from German Jewish leaders.
Meanwhile, The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations called on the leaders of France, Belgium and other countries in which there have been attacks against Jewish institutions “to act decisively to capture those responsible.” They issued a statement Tuesday saying, “These assaults have been tolerated far too long and led to the escalation in both the seriousness and frequency of the attacks.”
Activist’s Family Threatened
The Brooklyn family of a Jewish activist who supports Yasser Arafat says it is getting death threats. The family of Adam Shapiro says it has gotten calls from people calling him a traitor, the “Jewish Taliban” and threatening to kill him and his family. Shapiro, who was in Arafat’s Ramallah headquarters last Friday when it was taken over by Israeli forces, has been an outspoken member of a pro-Palestinian group voicing sympathy for the Palestinian Authority president.
Clinton Regrets Rich Pardon
Former President Bill Clinton said he regrets pardoning billionaire financier Marc Rich. Clintontold Newsweek magazine that he would not grant the pardon again “just for the politics.” Rich fled the United States to Switzerland in 1983 after he had been indicted on 51 counts of tax evasion, racketeering and violating trade sanctions with Iraq. His attorneys launched a major initiative on his behalf, courting Israeli and American Jewish activists to impress Clinton with Rich’s philanthropic activities. “It was terrible politics,” Clinton said of the pardon. “It wasn’t worth the damage to my reputation. But that doesn’t mean the attacks were true.”
Durban Anti-Semitism Condemned
The South African government condemned the anti-Semitism at last summer’s anti-racism conference as “disgraceful.” The nongovernmental conference was held in Durban last August, just before an official U.N. conference against racism. Jewish participants at the conference described the anti-Semitism there as the worst seen in public since the 1930s. Aziz Pahad, South Africa’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, said at the recent annual conference of the South African Zionist Federation in Johannesburg that Muslim activists had taken over the Durban conference and turned it into an anti-Semitic event, according to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.
11 Killed for Helping Israel
Palestinian gunmen killed 11 men suspected of helping Israel. Two masked Palestinian gunmen entered an intelligence building in the West Bank city of Tulkarm on Monday and killed eight men awaiting trial on charges of helping Israeli security forces, according to Palestinian witnesses. Three other Palestinians also accused of helping Israel were found shot dead elsewhere in the West Bank.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Russian-American Israeli-Palestinian Peace
The United States and Russia plan to step up efforts to end Israeli- Palestinian violence. President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a joint statement after summit talks in Washington on Tuesday that they would be “acting in concert with other key parties” to end the conflict. Israeli and Palestinian officials praised the statement. However, in a sign of the challenges ahead, Israeli and Palestinian officials traded new charges over who is to blame for the failure to halt the bloodshed.
New Israeli Primaries
The two candidates for leadership of Israel’s Labor Party agreed to new elections. The September primary was declared void amid allegations of voter fraud. The candidates, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg, agreed to limit harm to the party by holding a new vote.
Israeli killed by Arab Gunman
An Israeli man was shot dead by a Palestinian gunman in a village in central Israel. Aaron Ussishkin, 50, the security officer for Kfar Hess, was killed when he responded to warnings of a suspicious stranger in the village. Two other Israelis were wounded by the gunman, who is still being sought by police. Israeli security forces received warnings two days ago of an impending attack on Kfar Hess, according to Army Radio.
13,000 to Go on Birthright Trip
Some 13,000 young people are registered to go on free 10-day trips to Israel this winter. Of the number expected on the trip, sponsored by Birthright Israel, 8,000 are from the United States.
The program, which will include Jews from Hungary and Paraguay for the first time, works with young Jews from 17 countries. Birthright has sent 22,702 people to Israel since the program began.
Red Cross May Admit Israel
Israel’s relief organization may soon be admitted into the International Red Cross. “There is now, I think, a genuine willingness on the part of the leadership” of the International Red Cross to “find an answer” regarding Magen David Adom, American Red Cross chairman David McLaughlin told the Jerusalem Post.
He made the comment after he told the international relief organization that he plans to continue withholding annual dues because of its exclusion of Israel.
“I think there’s an increasing sentiment” that Magen David Adom “should be admitted. Many of the European countries are coming to that view, though not all of them,” he said.
BBYO Chooses New Leader
The largest nondenominational Jewish youth organization named its new international executive director.
Brian Greene was formerly executive director of Camp Ramah of California. B’nai B’rith Youth Organization has long been an arm of the Washington-based B’nai B’rith International and is in the process of becoming an independent nonprofit. It has approximately 20,000 teenage members around the world.
Nazi War Crimes Suspect Dies
A Nazi war crimes suspect died before he could be extradited to stand trial. Konrad Kalejs, 88, who was appealing his extradition to Latvia, died Nov. 8 in his nursing home in Australia. He reportedly suffered from dementia. For years, Kalejs has faced charges of being involved in the wartime slaughter of civilians when he was an officer in Latvia’s pro-Nazi Arajs Kommando unit. The militia is held directly responsible for the deaths of some 100,000 civilians, including 30,000 Jews, between 1941 and 1943.
Mistrial in Neulander Murder Trial
The case of a rabbi accused of arranging his wife’s murder has ended in a mistrial. Judge Linda Baxter declared a mistrial Tuesday after the jury said it had been unable to decide on all three counts against Rabbi Fred Neulander. Jurors deliberated for more than 40 hours over seven days before sending the judge a note saying they could not reach a decision. There is the possibility that Neulander will be tried again. Neulander’s wife, Carol, was found beaten to death at the couple’s home in 1994. Neulander, who had been the religious leader of one of the largest Reform congregations in southern New Jersey, could have received the death penalty if found guilty.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Sharon Held Responsible
Six Palestinians were killed when Israeli tanks entered a West Bank village, despite U.S. calls for Israel to withdraw from Palestinian-controlled territory. Israel said the six were killed when they opened fire on Israeli troops entering Beit Re’ema on Wednesday, and the Israelis returned fire. During the operation, Israeli soldiers arrested two terrorists allegedly involved in last week’s slaying of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi, an army official was quoted as saying. Israel said the operation in the village, located near Ramallah, was aimed at rooting out terrorists, but the Palestinian Authority said in a statement that it considers Prime Minister Ariel Sharon “and his chief of staff responsible for this planned massacre.”
Testimony: Rabbi Paid for Murder
A former private investigator testified that a New Jersey rabbi paid him to kill the rabbi’s wife and that the rabbi made the payment while sitting shiva after the murder was committed. Leonard Jenoff gave the testimony last Friday in the trial of Rabbi Fred Neulander, accused of arranging the murder of his wife, Carol, who was found beaten to death at the couple’s home in 1994.
Syria Blames Mossad for Sept. 11
The Syrian defense minister claims that Israel’s Mossad spy agency planned the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and told thousands of Jewish employees at the Twin Towers not to go to work that day, the Jerusalem Post reports. The Jewish conspiracy theory on the Sept. 11 attacks has gained credence across the Muslim world. American Jewish leaders have called on the Bush administration to refute the comments, made by Mustafa Tlas in Damascus, and to condemn them as anti-Semitism.
Teva May Produce Generic Cipro
Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals is one of five drug makers ready to produce generic versions of Cipro to help boost U.S. reserves of the antibiotic used to treat anthrax, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Middle East Book May Be Revised
A U.S. publisher may revise a book on the Arab-Israeli conflict after pressure from pro-Palestinian activists, according to the pro-Israel media monitoring group CAMERA. “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Middle East Conflict” uses straight text, humor and cartoons to give readers an understanding of the roots of Mideast conflicts. According to CAMERA, pro-Palestinian activists have mounted a campaign against the book that includes calling on supporters to have bookstores stop carrying the title.
Michigan Called a Terror Base
Areas of Michigan, home to hundreds of thousands of Arab Americans, are a major financial support center for radical Middle East groups, according to a report submitted to the U.S. Justice Department. The state’s police, which wrote the report, also said Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network, along with Hezbollah and Hamas, were among the groups thought to have a presence in the state.
Emilie Schindler Hailed as Rescuer
Diplomats and politicians attending the funeral of the widow of industrialist Oskar Schindler lauded her efforts to save Jews from the Holocaust. “Without Emilie Schindler, more than 1,200 Jews could not have been saved from a certain demise in the Nazi death camps,” Christa Stewens, social affairs minister for the state of Bavaria, said last Friday during a brief ceremony at the cemetery in the village of Waldkraiburg.
Briefs courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Birthright Extends Deadline
A program that sends young Jews on free trips to Israel extended its registration deadline to Nov. 5 in the hopes of attracting more participants for winter trips.
Officials with Birthright Israel, which has approximately 8,000 North American Jews signed up this year compared to 25,000 at this time last year, attribute the reduced registrations to the fact that Americans have been hesitant to make travel plans in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Praying Prompts Flight Fears
A Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta to Newark was diverted to Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday after passengers complained of two “Middle Eastern” men who were huddled in the back of the plane speaking a language other than English.
After the plane landed in Charlotte, investigators found that the two were Orthodox Jews who were saying prayers during the flight.
“Everybody is kind of on edge, and it just doesn’t take much to upset a lot of people,” an official at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport was quoted as saying.
The flight continued to Newark after officials were satisfied there was no threat.
Jews Blamed for Rejected Gift
A Saudi prince blamed “Jewish pressure” for the rejection of his $10 million donation to a New York relief fund. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal also said Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat thanked him for linking the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States to the Palestinian cause.
Last week, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani refused to accept the donation after the visiting prince said the attacks should cause America to “adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause.” Giuliani said the attempted linkage made by the prince, issued after he toured Ground Zero in New York, was “part of the problem” that led to the attacks.
Group: Settler Housing Up
The number of homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip grew by 62 percent since peace talks with the Palestinians began in 1993, according to Peace Now. Citing figures by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the group said Tuesday that in 1993 there were 32,750 housing units in Jewish settlements. Since then, another 20,371 have been added. The group, which favors dismantling settlements to secure peace with the Palestinians, said the peak year of construction in settlements was 2000, when former Prime Minister Ehud Barak was trying to reach a final peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Berkeley Prof. Gets Award
George A. Akerlof, a professor of economics at UC Berkeley, has won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for a landmark 1970 academic paper, titled “The Market for Lemons.” Akerlof used the example of a faulty used car sold to an unsuspecting customer to illustrate the concept of “asymmetric information.”
The theory showed that the assumed supply-and-demand working of the market, in which buyer and seller arrive at a fair price for a given product, fails when one party has information not available to the other side.
Akerlof told the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California that he is the son of a Jewish mother and a Swedish father. His wife, Janet Yellen, a Jewish native of Brooklyn, is also a distinguished economist and served as chair of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors from 1997 to 1999, when the couple lived in Washington.
Foundation Gets Grant
The National Science Foundation has awarded a $7.5 million grant to Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation for the development of speech-recognition software.
The software is to be used to help catalogue and recognize important words and phrases in 116,000 hours of videotaped testimonies by 52,000 Holocaust survivors, given in 32 different languages.
Johns Hopkins University, IBM and the University of Maryland will participate in the research project on automatic processing of video for search and retrieval on online systems.
Funds for Breed Street
Gov. Gray Davis has signed legislation appropriating $500,000 for the restoration of the Breed Street Shul in the Boyle Heights area of East Los Angeles.
The 78-year-old shul, once home to the largest Orthodox congregation in California, fell victim to neglect and earthquakes after the Jewish population left in the 1940s and was replaced by Latino residents.
Now, Jewish and Latino activists have joined hands to restore the shul — officially Congregation Talmud Torah — as a community center, small synagogue and history museum.
Briefs compiled by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor.
Five Settlers Arrested
Israeli police arrested five residents of a settlement near Jerusalem on suspicion of stoning Palestinian cars on a local road. The five were detained after two Palestinians filed complaints about being stoned from a car driven by young Jews. Israel Radio said the five admitted to the allegations.
Study: Regional War Possible
Israeli commandos killed two Palestinians early Wednesday morning who were allegedly planting a bomb in the area of Shavei Shomron, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank city of Nabulus.
Hamas Vows More Bombs
Hamas said it had suicide bombers in Israel awaiting orders to avenge the death of a Palestinian and his two children in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli army said Samir Abu Zeid, a member of Palestinian Authority Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction, was killed Sunday by a bomb he was preparing, and not by Israeli fire as the Palestinians claimed. There was no evidence of any shelling at the deceased man’s home, according to an Associated Press reporter.
A conference on transcendental meditation in Israel was canceled after the Interior Ministry refused visas to most of the participants. A ministry official said many of the attendees hailed from countries such as Ukraine and Moldova, where residents have exploited tourist visas in the past to remain in Israel illegally.
U.S. Opposes Mideast Observers
While the international observer force in the West Bank city of Hebron suspended its patrols after complaining to police over alleged abuse by Jewish residents of the town, the U.N. council discussed a resolution that would call for an international observer force to monitor the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The U.S., which has a veto on the council, opposes the Arab- and Muslim-backed resolution.
Police Testify at Inquiry
An Israeli commission looking into the killing of 13 Israeli Arabs by police during riots in Northern Israel last October began hearing testimony from senior police officers.
One witness agreed with a commission member’s assessment that a former commander deviated from his orders when he responded to the rioting.
Katsav vs. U.N. Forum
Israeli President Moshe Katsav sent a letter to 64 heads of state urging them to prevent the upcoming U.N. conference on racism from turning into a tool for condemnation of Israel. Katsav’s letter comes after proposals to denigrate Zionism as racism and condemn Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians have provoked considerable discussion in preforum meetings. The Bush administration has not yet decided whether U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will attend.
Conductor: I Want to Go Back
A Jewish conductor who created controversy in Israel when he played an encore last month by Richard Wagner, Hitler’s favorite composer, said he would like to perform again in the Jewish State.
An Israeli parliamentary committee has recommended that Daniel Barenboim be banned from conducting in Israel because of his actions at the July 7 performance of the Israel Festival.
Barak Gets Rich Questions
A U.S. congressional committee sent former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak a list of questions they want answered about his role in President Clinton’s controversial pardon of philanthropist Marc Rich. According to White House notes of conversations between Clinton and Barak, obtained by the House of Representatives’ Government Reform Committee, the two leaders discussed the pardon on three occasions.
Rabbi’s Jury Selection Launched
Jury selection began Monday in the New Jersey trial of a rabbi who allegedly arranged his wife’s death. Fred Neulander could face the death penalty if he is convicted in the 1994 murder of his wife, Carol.
Orthodox Rabbi Dies at 88
Thousands of mourners turned out last Friday for the funeral of Rabbi Avrohom Pam. One of the most respected leaders of fervently Orthodox Jews in America, Pam died early last Friday morning at the age of 88.
Faith-Based Leader Quits
The head of President Bush’s effort to open government programs to religious groups is resigning after seven controversial months. John Dilulio Jr., director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, will leave as soon as a transition team can be put into place, the White House said. Some Jewish groups back the Bush administration initiative, but most oppose it because they are concerned that an expanded partnership between the government and faith-based institutions could infringe on religious liberties.
Chagall Held Hostage for Peace
A group claiming responsibility for the recent theft of a Chagall painting from the Jewish Museum in New York says it will not return the painting until there is Middle East peace, according to The New York Times.
Authorities say the letter received from the “International Committee for Art and Peace” is not a hoax because it has information about “Study for ‘Over Vitebsk'” that could only come from someone who has the painting in his possession.
The painting was discovered missing the morning after a June 7 reception at the museum.
Members of the Iranian-American Jewish Association (IAJA) celebrated the 22nd anniversary of the house that Dariush built.
Dariush Fakheri, the outreach organization’s founding father, was honored at the Loews Santa Monica Hotel gala, along with members Fred Fouladi, Star Barlava, Asher Aramnia, Saeed Banayan and Pooya Dayanim. The Anti-Defamation League’s Marjan Keypour emceed the evening. Also present: Neil and Dora Kadisha.
George Hardonian, president of Council of Iranian-American Jewish Organizations, told The Circuit that the honors are overdue.
“They are truly grass-roots people who give of their time,” Hardonian said. “They’re not all affluent business people, but they are people who have done a lot for the local Iranian Jewish community.”
Rep. Brad Sherman, an instrumental ally to the Iranian Jewish community in bringing awareness to the Shiraz 13 prisoners, vowed to continue to “imply and apply economic pressure” on the Iranian government to release the remaining prisoners.
Over dinner, Shohreh Mizrahi, who in 1994 started IAJA’s Young Professionals Network, praised IAJA’s accomplishments.
“It’s been a very essential part of Persian Jewish life here,” Mizrahi said. “They get involved in different issues, relevant to young and old. I see [IAJA] as a voice of conscience of the whole community.”
IAJA reports that Dariush Frashidian, the imprisoned Iranian Muslim local, aided by Persian Jews and recently profiled in The Journal, has found work as a cab driver in Costa Mesa.
Remember Leora Sharone, first-place winner of the academic contest on Israel sponsored by Jewish Community Centers of Los Angeles? The 18-year-old had been seeking scholarship money to enable her to volunteer in Israel as part of the Habonim Dror Workshop. Guess what? — Leora sent The Circuit a thank-you card for bringing attention to her ambition.
“I was able to meet my scholarship goal and I will be attending the program next year in Israel,” she wrote. “Thank you very much!”
An Important Claim This Year in Jerusalem!
Dr. David Fox of Beverly Hills contacted The Circuit with the news that graduates of Yeshiva Rav Isacsohn-Toras Emes convened in Jerusalem in honor of Rabbi Yakov Krause, the school’s dean. Also addressing alumni were Rabbi Moshe Chadash and Shmuel Fasman.
Mann Power ‘Closet’ Conspirators
The Circuit caught up with celebrated French writer/director Francis Veber (profiled in an August 1999 Journal article) as the longtime L.A. resident was anticipating the New York premiere of his latest comedy, “The Closet” (“Le Placard”). The Miramax release is a special occasion for Veber, a Paris-raised Jew who is one of France’s most commercial filmmakers. “The Closet” reunites him with cinematic partner-in-crime Gérard Depardieu, star of Veber’s hilarious ’80s hits, “La Chévre” and “Les Compéres” (and the inspiration for the less-appetizing American remakes “Pure Luck” and “Father’s Day,” respectively).
Film aficionados know that Depardieu is the hardest working man in cinema, dancing at both Hollywood and French weddings. This evidently took its toll on the actor last August, when Depardieu was rushed into emergency quintuple bypass surgery a day before starting “The Closet.”
“I came to the hospital and he looked like Moby Dick,” Verber said with characteristic candor. “I kissed him and he said, ‘Wait for me.'”
Veber waited. Five weeks later, Depardieu was ready to roll. Still, Veber had concerns regarding his old friend.
“I make a lot of takes. I didn’t want to kill him,” said Veber, “but he is strong.”
So are the performances in “The Closet,” according to Veber. The movie centers around a milquetoast accountant (Daniel Auteuil) who learns that the condom manufacturer he works for wants to fire him for being too boring. So the accountant schemes to convince co-workers that he is gay; a fabrication that makes him an object of intrigue. Hilarity ensues.
If this comedy of errors sounds dicey, have faith in Veber, a master of farce since his screenwriting on “La Cage Aux Folles” (successfully remade as “The Birdcage” by Mike Nichols ). Evidently, the premise works — a hit earlier this year in France, “The Closet”‘s Gallic success echoed 1998, when Veber’s “The Dinner Game” grossed second only to “Titanic.” Incidentally, “The Closet” also reteamed Veber with Thierry Lhermitte, who so precisely portrayed the arrogant Brochant in “Dinner Game.”
Veber visited corporate workspaces before writing “The Closet.” Despite his research, there were details he couldn’t have anticipated before his Parisian shoot.
“We had to go to Japan and visit a condom factory, and then rebuild that on the set,” Veber said. “All the condoms in France come from Japan.”
“The Closet” opens July 6. Limited release.
125 Years Strong
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR)celebrated its anniversary with a day of study and celebration. HUC-JIR’s cantorial alumni provided entertainment at the event, co-chaired by Rabbi Lawrence Goldmark of Temple Beth Ohr and Paul Lippe. At 125 years, HUC-JIR is the nation’s oldest institution of higher Jewish learning.
Israel Buries Bomb Victims
Israeli soldiers cry during the burial of Sgt. Ophir Kit, 19, at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem on Sunday. Kit and Sgt. Aviv Izak, 19, were killed last Friday when they responded to a call to help a jeep with Israeli license plates that supposedly was stuck but turned out to be a Palestinian suicide bomber who detonated his explosives as they approached the vehicle.
Israel Tightens Hebron Blockade
Israel tightened its blockade of the West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday after a fierce gun battle pitted Palestinian gunmen against Israeli settlers and troops. The battle erupted Monday after Palestinian snipers opened fire on a settler enclave in Hebron, wounding five Israelis, one of them a 7-year-old boy. Twelve Palestinians were wounded in the ensuing battle. The head of Palestinian security in the West Bank, Jibril Rajoub, later called the sniper attack a “mistake.”
ADL: Editorials Are Pro-Israel
An overwhelming number of the largest daily newspapers in the United States support Israel and criticize the Palestinian Authority on their editorial pages, according to a survey carried out by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
As a follow-up to a December 2000 survey, the ADL based its latest findings on more than 50 editorials from major U.S. newspapers between May 22 and June 18.
Slave Labor Lawyers Pressed
The leader of Germany’s Jewish community called on lawyers to forgo part of their payment for handling Nazi-era slave labor cases.
Paul Spiegel urged the lawyers on Sunday to give up some of the estimated $51 million due them, as a gesture of respect for the former slave laborers.
“Earning money should not come before moralistic intentions,” Spiegel said.
In another development, the Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli officials are criticizing Spiegel for saying that some 30,000 people who entered Germany as Jews in the past several years were not Jews according to Jewish religious law.
“It’s strange that the leader of German Jewry is advising the German government on who is a Jew,” said Israel’s deputy absorption minister, Yuli Edelstein, himself an immigrant from the Soviet Union.
Maccabiah Move Hurts Hotels
A decision by the organizers of the Maccabiah Games to house the athletes along the coast and not in Jerusalem will result in a loss of $1 million for Jerusalem hotels, the chairman of the Jerusalem Hotel Union said Tuesday. A Maccabiah spokesperson said that due to the smaller than expected number of participants in the Games, organizers had decided to let the athletes choose for themselves where they wanted to stay, and the athletes had chosen to be close to the sports facilities in Haifa and Caesarea.
Swiss March for Slain Rabbi
About 500 people marched in Zurich to call on Swiss officials to find those responsible for the June 7 shooting death of a 71-year-old rabbi visiting from Israel. During the June 20 march, a rabbi said “Kaddish” at the spot where Rabbi Abraham Greenbaum was killed.
Briefs courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Insurer Faces California Lawsuit
Relatives of Holocaust victims filed a class-action lawsuit against Italy’s largest insurer for allegedly failing to pay claims dating back to the Holocaust era. The lawsuit, filed against Assicurazioni Generali in a San Francisco court, seeks remedy for as many as 20,000 Californians whose relatives were killed during the Holocaust and held insurance policies that were never honored by the firm.
Ethiopian Emigre Gets Doctorate
An Ethiopian Jew who immigrated to Israel 10 years ago is the first emigre from that country to have received a doctoral degree in the Jewish state. Anbessa Teferra was one of 238 doctoral recipients at a ceremony Sunday at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Peres, Katsav to Run for President
Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres will be the Labor Party’s candidate for president. A former tourism minister, Moshe Katsav, will be the Likud Party’s candidate. The current president, Ezer Weizman, announced this week that he will resign in July, three years before his second five-year term ends. Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg said the Knesset will vote by secret ballot on July 31.
Lawyer: ‘Iran 13’ Should Be Freed
Iran has no “just” choice but to free the 13 Jews facing trial on accusations of spying for Israel, the defendants’ lead lawyer said Monday.His comments to reporters came after the 10 main defendants appeared in court for what may be their last closed-door hearing. Three other defendants remain free on bail and did not have to appear in court.
Settler Leader Warns Barak
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak risks being assassinated if he uproots Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a leader of a settler group said.If Barak carries “out this dangerous plan, his days could be numbered,” Shlomo Riklin said in a radio interview. Riklin is a leader of Second Generation, a group of young settlers who have set up outposts on West Bank hilltops to prevent land transfers to the Palestinians.
Charedim Blamed for Fire
The Conservative movement is blaming fervently Orthodox Jews for attempting to burn down the front door of a Conservative synagogue in Jerusalem. “It is inconceivable to think of such desecration being perpetrated by Jews in the Jewish homeland,” the Conservative movement said. Last year the Ya’ar Ramot Synagogue, in an area with a large fervently Orthodox population, was sprayed with graffiti promising to “turn your Purim into Tisha B’Av.”
Lesbian Couple Wins Court Case
An Israeli lesbian couple won the right Monday to be registered as the mothers of a son born to one of them through a sperm donor. In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court on Monday ordered the Interior Ministry to register Nicole Brener Kadish as an adoptive mother to Matan, the 4-year-old son of her lesbian partner, Ruthy Brener Kadish.
Cuban Jews Inaugurate Temple
The Cuban Jewish community marked the inauguration of a newly renovated temple, Bet Shalom, in Havana. Attending last weekend’s ceremony were Jewish delegations from several countries, according to Radio Havana.
Arson Guts Philadelphia Shul
A fire set by arsonists destroyed a Philadelphia synagogue. Police said the fire had been set at Beit-Harambam Congregation early Saturday morning by one person who broke in through a back window.The fire destroyed Torahs and prayer books, gutted the synagogue’s interior and left some 300 congregants without a house of worship.
Groups Help Lebanese Refugees
The American Jewish Committee donated $10,000 to provide humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese refugees who found asylum in the Jewish state after last week’s Israeli troop withdrawal from Lebanon.Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, is mobilizing a relief effort for the refugees. The group says it was contacted by the Israeli government to collect toiletries, clothing and shoes. Grant to Help Shoah RescuersA Swiss fund for needy Holocaust survivors plans to make a $2 million grant to support Christians and Muslims who rescued Jews during the Holocaust.The grant is being made to the New York-based Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, which currently provides financial support to more than 1,700 rescuers in 30 countries.
From the beginning, there were clear indications of the kind of year that lay ahead.
As the Days of Awe approached last September, President Clinton reached for a High Holidays prayer book and turned to the Yom Kippur liturgy in his search for the right words of contrition following his dalliance with a loose-lipped Jewish paramour.
Members of Congress then figured Rosh Hashanah was as good a day as any for a nationwide viewing of Clinton’s videotaped grand jury testimony, and with that auspicious beginning, so began the carnival of insanity that was the Jewish year 5759.
In recognition of some of the year’s bizarre antics from around the Jewish world, here’s a gaggle of awards and observations:
Least convincing martyr: Monica Lewinsky, who, in her authorized biography, compared herself to Holocaust diarist Anne Frank and Jewish World War II heroine Hannah Senesh. The presidential seductress said she identified with the plight of Frank because independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s “bullying” tactics had her “living in constant fear.” And during her darkest hours, Lewinsky said she was sustained by thoughts of Senesh, who parachuted behind enemy lines to rescue Allied prisoners from the Nazis and organize Jewish resistance.
Most menacing Jewish lobbyist: Bill Goldberg. The 6-foot-4, 285-pound World Championship Wrestling star made his debut on Capitol Hill in February as a lobbyist for the Humane Society. Jesse Ventura may have already blazed the trail from wrestling to politics, but with all due respect to Minnesota’s governor, he couldn’t carry Goldberg’s tefillin strap.
Best theatrics on the campaign trail: In a private meeting with Jewish supporters last October, then-Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., called his opponent, then-Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a “putzhead.” He also referred to the heavyset Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., as “Congressman Waddler” and proceeded to waddle around the stage like a duck. A month later, D’Amato found himself with plenty of time to practice his lame-duck routine.
That’s why they pay him the big bucks: James Carville, one of three American political consultants who advised Ehud Barak in his successful campaign for Israel’s prime minister, said Israel’s campaign was not that different from America’s electoral process. “Who won,” he quipped, “came down to who got that all-important Jewish vote.”
An honorary doctorate in psychiatry for displaying uncanny insight into the adolescent mind: Following the Colorado school shooting, Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., said at a House hearing on gun control that if high schools were allowed to post the Ten Commandments, “we would not have the tragedies that bring us here today.” It wouldn’t have anything to do with those military-style assault weapons that Barr has so staunchly fought against banning.
Most outstanding commentary on the House’s passage of legislation permitting public displays of the Ten Commandments: “Congress probably should spend more time obeying the Ten Commandments and less time trying to exploit them for crass political purposes,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
Runner-up in the previous category: After President Clinton said he would talk to lawmakers about “another option” to the Ten Commandments measure but declined to provide specifics, several pundits speculated that he was probably thinking of something more along the lines of nine commandments.
They should have been given honorary seats in Israel’s Knesset: A comedic lineup of single-issue parties campaigned unsuccessfully during Israel’s election. Among them: the Casino Party, which sought to legalize gambling; the Green Leaf Party, which sought to legalize marijuana; the Right of the Man in the Family Party, dedicated, apparently, to boosting the right of the man in the family; and the Natural Law Party, predicated on the idea that transcendental meditation is the answer to the Middle East’s woes.
Most thinly veiled anti-Semitic utterance: Jerry Falwell told a conference on evangelism that he believes the Antichrist is probably “alive and here today,” and when he appears, “of course, he’ll be Jewish.” What the founder of the now-defunct Moral Majority didn’t say was that he’ll also be a gay Teletubby named Tinky Winky, and he’ll reveal himself onstage amid a throng of demons at Lilith Fair.
Best career move: Former U.S. Rep. Jon Fox, a Jewish Republican, took up substitute teaching in Philadelphia after losing his re-election bid, thus trading in one body of unruly, obstinate juveniles for another.
Most unsavory bit of imagery conjured by a foreign dignitary: Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas, accusing Yasser Arafat of selling out his people, said the Palestinian leader has made one concession after another to Israel — “like a stripper.” Tlas further mused: “But a stripper becomes more beautiful with every layer she removes, while Arafat becomes uglier.” You can leave your kaffiyeh on, Yasser.
Clearest indication that Y2K is approaching: All sorts of interesting people began emerging from the woodwork and descending on the Holy Land, including members of a Denver-based apocalyptic cult who were arrested for planning millennial mayhem to try to bring about the second coming of Jesus. Anticipating hundreds of thousands of Christian pilgrims, Israel’s Tourism Ministry said it wants to welcome everyone to “the place where it all began” and has touted such events as a motorcycle rally from Rome to Jerusalem; a formation of a human ring around the Dead Sea on New Year’s Eve; and a “Million Tourist March” to promote world peace. There are no plans yet for a jai alai tournament against the Western Wall, but stay tuned.