Briefs: CIA lifts lid on Israeli raid on Syrian reactor; Iranians raze Tehran shuls


CIA: Syria Could Have Made Two Nukes

Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor that was nearly ready to produce two bombs, the CIA chief said.

Michael Hayden said Monday that the secret, unfinished reactor that the United States believes Israel bombed Sept. 6 in northeastern Syria eventually would have made fissile material for bombs.

“In the course of a year after they got full up, they would have produced enough plutonium for one or two weapons,” he told reporters.

Israel has refused to provide details on the target of the air strike, leaving the CIA to deliver an extensive briefing last week on indications that Syria was pursuing nuclear weapons with North Korean help. In an apparent reference to help from Israeli intelligence, Hayden said that CIA’s disclosures were “the result of a team effort.”

Some Israeli experts have questioned the wisdom of the CIA giving such an expansive account on the reactor because it could compromise intelligence assets in Syria. But Hayden indicated there was no breach of trust with Israel.

“One has to respect the origin of the information in terms of how it is used,” he said.

GOP Lawmakers Target Carter

Two Republican congressmen introduced legislation that would deny the Carter Center federal dollars.

U.S. Reps. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) and Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) introduced the Coordinated American Response to Extreme Radicals Act , or CARTER Act, last week in the wake of former President Jimmy Carter’s recent outreach to Hamas.

“America must speak with one voice against our terrorist enemies,” Knollenberg said in a statement. “It sends a fundamentally troubling message when an American dignitary is engaged in dialogue with terrorists. My legislation will make sure that taxpayer dollars are not being used to support discussions or negotiations with terrorist groups.”

The Zionist Organization of American praised the legislation.

Carter’s Atlanta-based center focuses mostly on international development. The former president met with Hamas officials against the advice of the Bush administration. He defended his meetings as his attempt to help bring an end to the violence on the Israel-Gaza Strip border.

Pollard: I Don’t Know Kadish

Jonathan Pollard says he does not know alleged spy Ben-Ami Kadish.

Kadish, 84, allegedly passed American military secrets to Israel during the same period as the former Navy intelligence analyst.

Esther Pollard, the wife of the convicted and jailed spy, said in an interview that the first her husband had heard of Kadish was when his arrest was announced last week.

Kadish, a former U.S. Army engineer, is accused of spying for Israel between 1979 and 1985, a period coinciding with Pollard’s activities. Kadish is also believed to have been run by the same Israeli agent.

“He said he did not know Kadish and asked me if this would embarrass Israel, even though this was an affair that had been known for years,” Esther Pollard told Ma’ariv.

She further downplayed speculation that the new affair could hurt Israel’s efforts to win clemency for Pollard, who is eligible for parole in 2015.

Observers believe the U.S. government will likely deny the request.

“It won’t take long for this to drop from the headlines,” she said. “There will always be people who want to interfere, but this must not obscure Israel’s goal, which is to rescue its agent from jail in a foreign country.”

Iranians Raze Seven Synagogues in Tehran

Seven synagogues in Tehran have been razed by local authorities to make way for residential skyscrapers and urban renovation, L.A. Iranian Jewish leaders report. The synagogues were located in the Oudlajan neighborhood of Iran’s capital, a former ghetto with a dwindling Jewish population.

“It is a Muslim-owned area that in the eyes of a neutral observer would justifiably require a major renovation,” said Sam Kermanian, secretary general of the Los Angeles-based Iranian American Jewish Federation.

Oudlajan was the poverty-stricken site of Tehran’s Jewish ghetto nearly 100 years ago. After Iran’s Pahlavi monarchs gave Jews new freedoms more than 60 years ago, Tehran’s Jewish community gradually attained prosperity and left the area.

Kermanian downplayed the value of synagogues, saying that they were all but deserted.

“The synagogues there were mostly store fronts,” he said. “They were not the type of structures that would be considered significant historical monuments.”

While he believes the destruction of the synagogues was insensitive, Kermanian says he doubts anti-Semitism played a role.

Calls made to the Central Jewish Committee in Tehran for comment were not returned.

Tehran currently has 11 functioning synagogues, several Jewish schools and a Jewish library.

— Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer

Young Jews to Pledge Genocide Fight

Young Jews will pledge to fight all genocide during a Yom HaShoah gathering at Auschwitz. Some 10,000 participants in the annual March of the Living had planned to sign the pledge Thursday — Holocaust Remembrance Day — at the Nazi concentration camp in Poland.

The March of the Living Pledge commits each individual, the majority of whom are aged 16 to 22, “to fight every form of discrimination manifested against any religion, nationality or ethnic group.” It goes on to say, “After the Shoah the promise of ‘Never Again’ was proclaimed. We pledge to create a world where Never Again will become a reality for the Jewish People and, indeed, for all people. This is our solemn pledge to the Jewish People, to those who came before us, to those of our generation, and to those who will follow in future generations.”

The ceremony will be led by Brig. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, in recognition of Israel’s 60th anniversary. Following Thursday’s event, a global effort will attempt to enlist the support of the 150,000 March of the Living alumni to publicly state their condemnation of genocide past and present.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

U.K. Jews in danger; Olmert in Jordan; Israel in British Commonwealth?


Olmert visits Jordan

The Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem announced Tuesday that Ehud Olmert had made an unpublicized visit to Jordan for talks with King Abdullah II, a key regional power-broker. The two leaders discussed bilateral issues and developments in the Palestinian Authority as well as the wider regional situation, the office said in a statement.

Abdullah backs Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas against his Hamas rivals, even allowing a militia loyal to Abbas’ more moderate Fatah faction to be garrisoned in Jordan. Israel has agreed in principle to the militia’s transfer to Gaza.

Israeli Court: End Ban on Palestinian Students

Israel’s highest court ruled that a sweeping ban against allowing Palestinians to study in Israel is unreasonable. The High Court of Justice on Monday ordered the military to set criteria within 60 days for admitting at least some Palestinian students into Israel. The interim ruling on Dec. 18 came after the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies asked to join a court petition arguing against a total ban. Due to the ban, the institute, which is near Eilat, has not been able to enroll Palestinian students.

“Today’s ruling prevents the military from automatically vetoing the ability of Palestinian students to study in Israel,” said Noam Peleg, an attorney for Gisha, the civil rights group that argued the petition before the court.

For security reasons it has been increasingly difficult for Palestinians to study in Israel since the Palestinians launched their violent intifada in September 2000.

Israel to join British Commonwealth?

As a former British colony, Israel is being considered for Commonwealth membership. Commonwealth officials said this week they had set up a special committee to consider membership applications by several Middle Eastern and African nations. Speaking on condition of anonymity, diplomats said those interested in applying include Israel and the Palestinian Authority, both of which exist on land ruled by a British Mandate from 1918 to 1948. An Israeli official did not deny the report, but said, “This issue is not on our agenda right now.”

The Commonwealth expects some interested countries to hold off on submitting formal applications until its next summit, scheduled for November 2007. The Commonwealth offers trade and other benefits for member countries.

Hamas inspired by China-Taiwan relationship

Hamas’ supreme leader proposed that a future Palestinian state could exist alongside Israel like China next to Taiwan.”There are many countries in the world that exist next to each other without recognizing one another, such as China and Taiwan,” Khaled Meshaal said in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera published this week. Hamas is sworn to Israel’s destruction but has said it could enter a long-term truce in exchange for statehood in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel has rejected the proposal as a ruse for Hamas to consolidate power ahead of an all-out confrontation.

U.S. Delays Israel embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

President Bush again delayed moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move has been postponed every six months since the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which mandates that the U.S. embassy should be in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, passed in 1995. Bush wrote in a statement Monday that his “administration remains committed to beginning the process of moving our embassy to Jerusalem.” U.S. presidents have postponed the move to avoid angering the Muslim world, which does not accept Israeli control of Jerusalem.

U.K. Jews in more danger than Muslims

Jews in Britain are four times more likely to suffer hate crimes than are Muslims, according to police figures. The Sunday Telegraph reported this week on data collected from July to September. Crimes recorded ranged from assault and verbal abuse to vandalism and other criminal damage at places of worship. The Association of Chief Police Officers requested the statistics for the first time in 2006 following reports of Muslims being attacked after the Sept. 11 and July 2005 terrorist attacks in the United States and London, respectively. However, the results show that only one in 1,700 Muslims, as compared to one in 400 Jews, is likely to be the victim of a hate crime.

Bush talks values with Jewish educators

President Bush met with Jewish college students and higher education leaders to discuss the importance of a moral component in university life. Bush met Monday with four activist students associated with Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, as well as with leaders from seminaries belonging to all four Jewish streams and the heads of Jewish universities. Bush chooses a different theme for his Chanukah meeting each year, and this year appeared eager to link his war on terrorism with what he said was the battle against moral relativism on campus, participants said.

“He reiterated that the battle we’re involved in is not religious because terrorists can’t be God-believing people,” said Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University.

In related news, Bush joined Jewish members of his Cabinet in welcoming the fourth night of Chanukah.

“Today, by lighting the menorah, Jews around the world celebrate the victory of light over darkness and give thanks for the presence of a just and loving God,” Bush said at a White House ceremony attended by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

The traditional White House Chanukah party followed the lighting and the White House kitchen was made kosher for the event.

Conservatives might label food

The Conservative movement is considering labeling kosher food according to the ethical standards by which it is produced. A commission appointed by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly is debating the creation of a social responsibility certification. The commission was created in response to recent reports of unsafe working conditions and labor violations at AgriProcessors of Postville, Iowa, one of the nation’s largest kosher meat-packing plants.

The new label would be concerned primarily with protecting workers’ rights, in accordance with Jewish law. It would be an additional label placed onto food already carrying traditional kosher certification.

Mid East




Video Caption Goes Here
Photos: Mayor, Local Officials Carry Torahs to Beith David’s New Shul
Iranians Adopt Plan to Avoid Future Agunot
Greater Los Angeles Community News Briefs
World News Briefs from JTA

Nation-World Briefs


U.N. Asks Israel to Stop Making Nukes
A U.N. commission recommended that Israel refrain from manufacturing any more nuclear weapons as a step to a nuclear-free Middle East. The United Nation’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, chaired by weapons inspector Hans Blix, released its 60 recommendations on Monday. Regarding the Middle East, Blix recommended that most nations commit to not possessing any nuclear weapons. However, with Israel he recommended only that it commit to not manufacturing any more weapons. Israel is highly unlikely to agree to dismantle the 200 warheads it is believed to possess as the region’s sole nuclear power. Israel’s agreement would be a start, Blix said.

State Dept. Blasts Israel for Human Trafficking
Israel is on a U.S. State Department watch list of nations that fail to effectively prevent human trafficking. Israel was classified as being on the Tier Two watch list in the report released Monday. Tier Three is the worst classification, reserved for countries that fail to comply with minimum U.S. standards. Israeli law enforcement has made strides in cracking down on sex trafficking, the report said, but the same was not true of labor trafficking and “the estimated thousands of victims of forced labor were not provided with protection.” It described fees demanded of laborers ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, “a practice that often leads to debt bondage and makes these workers highly vulnerable to forced labor once in Israel,” it said.

FDA Approves Israeli Parkinson’s Drug
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved an Israeli drug that treats Parkinson’s, a chronic disease characterized by uncontrolled shaking and muscle stiffness. Marketed under the name Azilect, this is the first once-daily oral treatment for Parkinson’s to be distributed in the United States; it was developed by Technion professors Moussa Youdim and John Finberg and is being manufactured by Tel Aviv-based generic pharmaceutical giant Teva. The drug is expected to become available by prescription in the United States by July or August.

While not a cure, the drug slows the progression of the disease. Azilect works by blocking the breakdown of dopamine, which tells the body how and when to move.

Parkinson’s currently affects 1 million people in the United States.

“This is a welcome development for the more than 50,000 Americans who are each year diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, ” said Dr. Steven Galson, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Parkinson’s is a relentless disease with limited treatment options, and each new therapy is an important addition to the physicians’ treatment options.”

However, the FDA is warning that the drug could carry an increased risk of hypertensive crisis — a precursor to a stroke — if taken with tyramine-rich foods (cheese, chocolate, red wine), dietary supplements or cough/cold medicines. — Adam Wills, Associate Editor

Nazi Papers Declassified
The U.S. government declassified more than 8 million pages of files related to Nazi war crimes. The material including documents relating to the CIA’s employment of suspected Nazi war criminals after World War II. The members of the government’s Interagency Working Group said at a news conference Tuesday that the revelations pointed to the dangers of working with war criminals, as the United States did after World War II. Among other revelations, the papers show that former Nazis employed by the United States were more susceptible to recruitment as double agents by the Soviet Union. Additionally, the papers show that the United States had a strong lead on the whereabouts of Adolf Eichmann in 1958, but did not pursue it because of fears that his capture would expose the Nazi past of high-ranking officials in the West German government, which was allied with the United States.

Trump Fires Jewish Contestant
An observant Jew failed in his bid to become Donald Trump’s next apprentice. Lee Bienstock was fired Monday on the season finale of “The Apprentice.” Bienstock and another Jewish contestant, New Jersey’s Dan Brody, observed Rosh Hashanah together early in the season missing the third episode’s task but only Bienstock, who grew up in the New York area, stayed in the show long enough to observe Yom Kippur, missing another task.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

 

Nation & World Briefs


Ambulances Services Seal Deal

Israeli and Palestinian ambulance services signed an agreement they hope will ease Israel’s accession to the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. Under Monday’s pact signed between Magen David Adom and the Palestinian Red Crescent in Geneva, Palestinian ambulances are guaranteed speedier passage through West Bank checkpoints. The move is seen as key to mollifying Arab signatories to the 1949 Geneva Conventions who might otherwise have voted against a resolution, to be discussed next week, that would introduce a nondenominational red diamond emblem to the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, as Muslim states refuse to recognize the red Star of David. Swiss officials voiced confidence that the resolution would pass votes Dec. 5 and 6.

Kadima for Palestinian State

Ariel Sharon’s new political party accepts that a Palestinian state will arise alongside Israel. The Kadima party platform, published Monday, calls for “maximum security and assuring that Israel be a Jewish national home and that another state that shall arise be demilitarized, with terrorists disarmed.” The Israeli prime minister long opposed the idea of a Palestinian state before accepting it in recent years. Addressing members of his new faction in the Knesset, Sharon said he would not rule out a future coalition with his former party, Likud, even if it is led by his right-wing rival Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I favor achieving the broadest possible unity,” Sharon said.

Israel, Germany in Holocaust Grave Probe

Israel is helping German police identify the recently discovered remains of 34 Holocaust victims. The skeletons were uncovered last September in a suburb of Stuttgart that was formerly the site of the Echterdingen concentration camp. German authorities, who have a manifest of the camp’s inmates, turned to Israel for help in identifying the bodies. Yad Vashem said Sunday it would search its Holocaust archive for information that could be of use.

“This is a very rare case a mass grave with a relatively small number of bodies, accompanied by an orderly list of Jewish prisoners who were kept there at the time,” said Nadia Cohen of Yad Vashem’s information department. “All of this allows us to turn to our database in hope of identifying some of those buried there.”

Mubarak Calls Sharon Peacemaker

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said only Ariel Sharon can bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Sharon, of all the Israeli politicians, is the only one capable of achieving peace with the Palestinians,” Mubarak said last weekend in an interview with Spain’s ABC newspaper. “He has the ability to take difficult decisions, commit to what he says and carry it out.”

Mubarak praised Sharon’s decision last week to quit the Likud party.

“I think Sharon is serious in his efforts to achieve peace. The recent progress in Israel confirms this. He has left his own party to build another more centrist one, driven by his discontent with the rigid attitudes of his party on the peace process,” he said.

Asked about Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ failure to crack down on terrorist groups as required by the U.S.-led “road map” for peace, Mubarak counseled a wait-and-see attitude.

“You can’t demand now that the Palestinians disarm Hamas; it would complicate the situation,” he said. “The president is working seriously to stop the anarchy but he must be given time.”

Russian Bill Causes Alarm

Some Russian Jewish activists voiced concern that a new Russian bill on nonprofit organizations would harm Jewish groups. The bill that passed the Russian Duma on Nov. 23 would place nonprofits under greater state scrutiny. The measure could also prevent foreign nonprofits from operating branches in the country and force Russian nonprofits to reject money from abroad.

“The bill will make our life so much harder. We don’t know yet how we would operate,” said a top manager — who spoke anonymously — for a private Moscow nonprofit organization that spends most of its foreign donation money on Jewish projects.

The bill now requires two more readings in the parliament, expected to take place by the end of the year, before President Vladimir Putin can sign it into law. The lion’s share of the funding currently spent on Jewish causes in Russia comes from overseas charity sources.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

 

Nation & World Briefs


Church Condemns Israel’s Barrier

A Protestant church has condemned Israel’s West Bank security barrier. The proposal, passed Saturday by the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s assembly, denounced the barrier for causing hardships for Palestinians, and also called on the denomination to play a role in “stewarding financial resources — both U.S. tax dollars and private funds — in ways that support the quest for a just peace in the Holy Land,” The Associated Press reported. But it did not specifically mention divestment from Israel or companies that do business with Israel. The vote is the latest taken by Protestant churches to protest Israel’s security barrier.

Travel Warning Issued on Gaza

The U.S. State Department warned U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the Gaza Strip. The advisory, an intensification of prior warnings, calls on U.S. citizens to “avoid crowds, maintain a high level of vigilance, take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness and exercise caution in public places or while using public transportation” during Israel’s withdrawal, which began this week. It also reiterates prior calls on Americans to avoid travel to Gaza, postpone unnecessary travel to the West Bank and weigh the necessity of travel to Israel.

Roberts Backed ‘Moment of Silence’ in Schools

While working in the Justice Department for the Reagan administration in 1985, Supreme Court nominee John Roberts wrote in a memo to his supervisor that he would not object to a constitutional amendment on school prayer. Referring to a Supreme Court ruling that struck down a school prayer law in Alabama, Roberts wrote that the idea that the “Constitution prohibits such a moment of silent reflection — or even silent ‘prayer’ — seems indefensible.”

The memo was among nearly 5,400 pages of records pertaining to the Supreme Court nominee released by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Roberts also wrote in a memo that a California group’s memorial service to protest abortion was an “entirely appropriate means of calling attention to the abortion tragedy.” Roberts’ confirmation hearings are expected to begin early next month.

Sharon: More Withdrawals Possible

Ariel Sharon said additional West Bank settlements could be handed over to the Palestinians as part of a future peace agreement. Asked in an interview with the Yediot Achronot newspaper if Israel eventually would withdraw from other West Bank settlements, he said, “Not everything will be there. The issue will be raised during the final-status talks with the Palestinians.” Still, Sharon insisted that the large West Bank settlement blocs would remain intact. In addition, he reportedly noted, “I never replied when asked what the boundaries of the settlements blocs are — and not because I’m not familiar with the map.”

Fund to Buy Up Gaza Hothouses

A private international fund agreed to pay Jewish farmers in Gaza $14 million to buy most of the hothouses they will leave behind. Representatives for the Gaza farmers signed the deal Friday with the Economic Cooperation Foundation, the Jerusalem Post reported. The deal came days before Israel began evacuating the Gaza settlements. The foundation, which organized the collection of private donations to fund the project, will transfer the hothouses to a Palestinian Authority company. James Wolfensohn, Mideast envoy for the Quartet — the diplomatic grouping of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations that is driving the “road map” peace plan — was instrumental in raising funds for the transfer, and himself donated $500,000.

Bedouin Soldier Behind Bars

An Israeli soldier who killed a British activist in the Gaza Strip was jailed for eight years. Wahid Taysir, a volunteer from Israel’s Bedouin Arab minority, was sentenced by a court-martial last week to 10 years in prison for manslaughter and another 18 months for obstruction of justice but was told that three and a half years of the sentence would be suspended. It was the toughest punishment handed down to an Israeli soldier for an unlawful killing in a combat zone during the Palestinian intifada. The ex-sergeant confessed to shooting Tom Hurndall, a member of a pro-Palestinian activist group, in the southern Gaza town Rafah in 2003 and to falsely telling investigators that Hurndall had been armed. The court-martial said it chose not to give the defendant the maximum possible sentence of 27 years in prison because of his exemplary combat record and to pre-empt accusations that it was scapegoating a member of an ethnic minority.

Minority in the Homeland

Jews are no longer the majority of residents in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip combined, a study found. According to data supplied last week by the liberal daily, Ha’aretz, Jews constitute slightly more than 49.3 percent of the population in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The figures were supplied by Israel and the Palestinian Authority’s statistics bureaus. The paper included as non-Jews some 185,000 foreign workers in Israel and almost 300,000 immigrants who are not Jewish under Orthodox law. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said that the Gaza withdrawal would help Israel demographically by ridding it of responsibility for 1.4 million Palestinians. According to Ha’aretz, demographers say that after the Gaza withdrawal, the percentage of Jews within Israel’s borders will be around 56 percent, a majority that should last for around 20 years.

Oy, Mr. Tallyman

Harry Belafonte retracted his recent statement that Jews were “high up in the Third Reich.” But the singer and political activist told the Jerusalem Post that Jews had contributed to Nazism.

“Was it rampant? Absolutely not,” Belafonte told the Post. “But these things happen and people are not exempt from their behavior.”

To support his contention, Belafonte referred to “Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers,” a book that detailed how some Germans of partial Jewish descent served in the Nazi army during World War II.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

 

Briefs


 

D.C. Envoy Apparently to Stay

Israel’s ambassador to Washington apparently has received assurances from Ariel Sharon that he can continue in his post. Daniel Ayalon has been engaged in a public feud with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, and some media reported over the weekend that Ayalon had been fired, but sources tell JTA that the Israeli prime minister told Ayalon he was satisfied with his work and wanted him to continue until the end of his term. Ayalon reportedly was unable to secure a White House meeting for Shalom when he came to Washington earlier this year, and his assistant could not coordinate a meeting for Shalom’s wife with Madonna when the singer was in Israel last year. Israel’s U.S. ambassador reports directly to the prime minister, not the foreign minister, which has strained relations between Ayalon and Shalom. The Israeli Embassy in Washington declined to comment on the issue.

Court: Rabbi Can Sue

A San Francisco rabbi can sue a former president of the city’s Jewish Community Federation for defamation, a court ruled. Overturning the ruling of a trial judge, members of the First District Court of Appeal said Rabbi Pinchas Lipner can sue Richard Goldman for allegedly defamatory comments made in a documentary on Jewish philanthropy in the Bay Area, the Daily Journal reported. In the oral history, Goldman reportedly criticizes Lipner’s treatment of students and says the school he runs, the Hebrew Academy of San Francisco, is a financial drain on the Jewish community. In another portion of the interview, the Journal reports, Goldman compares Lipner to Hitler. Lipner’s lawyer said the comparison was especially painful because Lipner lost family in the Holocaust. The lower court had ruled that Lipner could not sue because of a statute of imitations. However, the appellate court said that because the interview was stored in a library for eight years before Lipner found out about it, it falls under the category of delayed discovery, allowing him to sue.

Travelers Insured

A new law prevents insurers in Washington state from life insurance discrimination due to travel. The issue is of concern to the Jewish community because some insurers were denying insurance based on past travel to countries on the State Department’s travel warning list, including Israel. Washington joins New York and Illinois in enacting such legislation.

Mass. Episcopalians

Oppose Divestment

The leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts came out against proposals to divest from Israel. Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, head of the 80,000-member diocese, which includes 194 churches in eastern Massachusetts, made the comments in a statement for two members of the diocese who, together with the American Jewish Committee (AJ Committee), are planning an Israel trip for church members in January 2006. James Kaufman, president of the AJCommittee’s Greater Boston chapter, praised Shaw’s “bold decision,” which he said followed 18 months of “often intense dialogue with the leaders of the Boston Episcopal community.”

The statement comes as several U.S. Protestant denominations, troubled by what they perceive as Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians, consider calls to sell holdings in companies that do business with the Jewish state. Kaufman said he hoped “other religious communal leaders who have considered the legitimacy of divestment will follow” Shaw’s lead.

Testifying in Tampa

Scores of Israelis are expected to testify at the Florida trial of alleged Islamic Jihad bank-rollers. Ha’aretz said Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Justice, in a precedent-setting step, would fly out as many as 100 Israeli terror victims and experts to next month’s trial in Tampa of University of South Florida computer engineering professor Sami al-Arian and three alleged accomplices. The defendants are accused of using U.S.-based Islamic and pro-Palestinian charities to raise funds that helped terrorists from the West Bank and Gaza Strip carry out attacks that killed dozens of people, including Americans.

Israel Seeks TV ‘Bachelor’

An Israeli cable TV station is seeking the perfect bachelor for a reality show. The station has begun a worldwide search for a foreign Jewish bachelor who wants an Israeli bride, the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot reported. The bachelor must be between 24 and 38, handsome, educated and financially secure. Auditions will take place in coming weeks in New York, Los Angeles and a European city. Candidates can be nominated at kuperman@hot3.co.il.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

 

Community Briefs


Yellow Star’s Powerful Makeover

The dreaded yellow Star of David, which the Nazis forced Jews to wear as a badge of humiliation, is getting a makeover.

In an interesting twist, two Jewish activists hope to denude the yellow star of its anti-Jewish connotations and make it a symbol of pride. Dr. Joel Geiderman, a board member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and University of Judaism professor Michael Berenbaum, former project director for the museum, have manufactured 5,000 yellow-and-white Star of David pins with the Hebrew word Shoah emblazoned across them. The Southern California residents want Jews and non-Jews to don the pins on Yom HaShoah, the day of remembrance for Holocaust victims — which started at sundown on May 5 — to make a statement of solidarity with those who perished and suffered. “We’re claiming the symbol and infusing it with pride and not shame or stigmatization,” Berenbaum said.

The pair eventually hope to create a nonprofit foundation to promote and raise money for large-scale manufacturing and distribution of the pins, which they hope will generate discussion about the victims of the Holocaust. Contributions of about $6,000 in seed money underwrote the first batch of pins, they said.

For Geiderman, a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the pins serve as sort of a tribute to his late mother, who passed away less than two years ago. A Czech Jew, she survived three concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Geiderman said his maternal grandparents and two uncles weren’t as lucky.

“My mother is a Holocaust survivor, and I think this is something I can do to help make sure people never forget what happened and to memorialize the victims,” he said.

For more information, e-mail Geiderman at jgeiderman@sbcglobal.net. — Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

LAPD, ADL Investigate Hate Mail

The Los Angeles Police Department, FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating a series of hate mail sent to Southland Jews. A number of large manila envelopes that appear to have been mailed out randomly to Jewish institutions, such as Studio City’s Congregation Beth Meir and Temple Shalom in Ontario, and home addresses of people with traditionally Jewish last names. On the front and back of the stamped envelopes were racist and anti-Semitic statements such as, “Jew Murderers,” and “Die Jews, Die.”

A retired local government employee in Sherman Oaks said the envelope he received earlier this month had the words, “Jewish child molester” and “The only good Jew is a dead Jew” written on the envelope. The man, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Journal that he did not open the envelope but instead gave it to the LAPD.

Similarly, a retired Westside teacher received a manila envelope more than a month ago with the words, “Jew Killers” written in large letters on the outside.

“I sent it to ADL,” said the woman, who also asked to remain anonymous. “I never opened it.”

The mailings seemed to have died down since the ADL’s press release last month.

“We’ve only had a handful more complaints,” said Amanda Susskind, ADL’s Pacific Southwest regional director. “It’s possible that this particular kind of thing had run its course.”

Those who received the envelopes said the writings did contain a specific threat to them. Police confirmed they are investigating the mailings but that the investigation is in its middle stage and that no arrests have been made. There are also questions as to whether mailing out anti-Semitic mail is a crime.

“You have a right to hate as long as you don’t harm anyone,” said former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor. “You have to make an actual threat…. This may be a hate incident, but not a h ate crime.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Milken Crowns Its ‘Idol’

And the new idol is … David Ashkenazi! Well, at least at Milken Community High School, and at least in the “Milken Idol” public-speaking competition. The contest for ninth- through 12-graders was designed to help students develop the critical skill of public speaking and feel more comfortable in front of large audiences, according to Richard Greene, Milken speech coach.

The students wrote and delivered

90-second speeches, ranging from Ashkenazi’s interpretation of “Never Again” and applying that lesson to the situation in Sudan, to how teachers and parents should value youngsters’ individuality and soul, not just the grades on their math tests.

The other winners were: Chanel Halimi (second place), Lena August (third place) and Jeremy Ullman and Adam Handwerker (tied for fourth place).

For more information on Milken go to www.milken.

Briefs


 

700 Gather to Protest Suicide Bombings

With the charred remains of Israeli Bus No. 19 as a backdrop, about 700 Angelenos gathered Jan. 30 at the Museum of Tolerance to take a stand against suicide bombings.

In a show of support with the community, guest speakers such as Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn; Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; and Carrie Devorah, a free-lance journalist whose sibling perished on the bus, inveighed against the destruction wrought by suicide bombings.

“This is my brother Scotty,” said Devorah, clutching a framed picture of him while fighting back tears. “It’s all that’s left.”

At the exhibition, signatures were gathered to petition the United Nations to declare suicide bombing a crime against humanity. Hier said that the scourge of suicide bombings represented a clear and present danger that called for a unified response from the international community.

“This hate threatens all of us: Jews, Christians, Muslims and people of all faiths,” he said. “Today, these fanatics can murder thousands. Tomorrow, they will have the technology and know-how to murder and maim tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands and more.”

Bus No. 19 came freighted with controversy both for its message and the messenger. Some local Jewish groups opted not to attend the event, because they considered it exploitive, inflammatory and a hindrance to Arab-Jewish reconciliation. Peace Now, the Progressive Jewish Alliance and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles declined invitations to participate.

And then there’s the messenger. Jerusalem Connection, an Evangelical Christian group owns the bus, and the group’s leader has rankled some in the community. Dr. James M. Hutchens said in a recent interview that Palestinians are not a distinct people, that a religious war between Muslims on one side and Christians and Jews on the other is taking shape and that true Muslims believe in Jihad or holy war.

Hutchens’ beliefs prompted the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to ask event co-sponsor, the Wiesenthal Center, to call off the exhibit. The center denied CAIR’s request.– Mark Ballon, Senior Writer

Board of Rabbis to Lead Christian Clergy Israel Tour

The Southern California Board of Rabbis is taking a tour group to Israel next week, largely composed of Protestant clergy from churches often at odds with Israeli policies.

“Christians and Jews who visit Israel see different things,” said Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, the board’s executive vice president. “We tend to see things from the Israeli perspective; they tend to see things from the Palestinian perspective. This trip is an attempt to say, ‘Can we do one unified mission, where we visit Israel and also meet with the Palestinians, and see and do the same things?'”

Diamond organized the trip with support of the local Council of Religious Leaders, which he chairs, and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which funds the Board of Rabbis. The Feb. 7-14 trip, with each of the 19 participants paying their own way, is centered on the council’s leadership of Jewish, Catholic and mainline Protestant leaders and will touch on Jewish-Protestant clashes over the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s calls last summer for divestment of church funds from companies doing business with Israel.

Traveling with Diamond and B’nai David Judea’s Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky will be local leaders from the Episcopalian, United Church of Christ, Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian churches, all of which have faced internal divestment debates.

Along with meeting Knesset members and Cabinet officials, the clergy tour group will meet Israeli journalists, such as Yossi Klein-Halevi; politicians from the recently elected Palestinian leadership; and Episcopalian/Anglican leaders at St. George’s College in Jerusalem. Diamond said that Saturday, Feb. 12, will be a free day for the Christian clergy to tour Bethlehem and meet their Arab Christian counterparts. – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Sympathetic Ear

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, chaplain for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, went to the site of the recent Metrolink crash in Glendale to provide counseling and a sympathetic ear. As medical examiners and coroners were removing the 11th and final body from the wreckage, Kravitz rushed to their side and led them in a short prayer. – MB

Synagogue Raises Funds for Darfur Genocide Victims

Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) hosted several-hundred people at its Jan. 31 Darfur awareness event, with the Encino synagogue announcing $45,000 in local Jewish donations for genocide victims in Sudan’s Darfur region.

“We fight with whatever weapons we have, and this is my weapon,” said actor Theodore Bikel, pointing to his guitar, before singing at the evening sponsored by the Conservative shul’s Jewish World Watch (JWW) group. Linking Jewish history to Africans slaughtered in Darfur, Bikel said, “It is always my fight. It is always our fight.”

Speakers stood at the bimah in front of a large picture showing a refugee mother and her child, with the headline, “Genocide in the Sudan: A Human Tsunami.” The event followed JWW’s mid-December Darfur event at the Skirball Cultural Center, which attracted more than 650 people.

Reform shuls Kol Tikvah of Woodland Hills and Stephen S. Wise Temple in Bel Air, Westwood’s Conservative Sinai Temple, the UCLA Hillel and the Jewish Community Foundation, have been sponsoring the Darfur awareness evenings.

“God is not in the cause; God is in the response,” said VBS Rabbi Harold Schulweis. The rabbi is the driving force behind JWW raising the funds for the Santa Monica-based relief group, International Medical Corps, and its Darfur refugee work in neighboring Chad.

Another $13,000 has been donated to the corps by students at Milken Community High School, organizers said. Students have been wearing green Darfur awareness bands. VBS day school students have raised about $1,100.

Human-rights experts have estimated that about 10,000 people a month were killed last year in Darfur, most of the victims were tribal residents killed by Sudanese military and Arab terrorists.

Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys), who sits on the House International Relations Committee, told the VBS audience, “Many other countries do not seem to view the situation with the same gravity as we do.”

On April 6, Sinai Temple will host another Darfur evening with American Jewish World Service President Ruth Messinger. – DF

 

The Nation and The World


 

Jews up Sudan Effort

Jewish groups will launch an educational program for at-risk Sudanese children. The program will take place in Chad, home to more than 200,000 people made refugees by Janjaweed terrorists backed by the Sudanese government. The $100,000 program is funded through a grant to the Jewish Coalition for Sudan Relief by the American Jewish World Service, the State of Israel, the UJA-Federation of New York, Union of Reform Judaism and United Jewish Communities of Metrowest, N.J.

Israeli Coalition Close

Ariel Sharon hopes to unveil Israel’s new government next week. Political sources said Monday that talks between the Israeli prime minister’s Likud Party and the influential Orthodox party Shas were close to fruition and that a new, broad coalition would be in place within a week. The main opposition Labor Party already is on board, though it remains unclear how many Cabinet portfolios it will get. Media reports said Sharon had wooed Shas by vowing to undo anti-religious legislation pursued by his former coalition partner, the secularist Shinui Party. Another religious party, United Torah Judaism, may also join the government in a bid by Sharon to offset Labor’s bargaining power.

Prisoner Release Seen

Israel plans to release dozens of Palestinian security prisoners. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Cabinet decided Sunday to create a ministerial committee that would decide which prisoners will go free and when, on condition none is serving time for terrorist attacks that killed Israelis. Jerusalem officials said the move was part of an agreement with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak under which Azzam Azzam, an Israeli accused of espionage, was granted early release from a Cairo prison last week.

Doctors Strike for Safety

Israeli doctors went on a one-day strike to protest a wave of attacks on hospital staff. Sunday’s action was declared after relatives of an elderly patient at a Tel Aviv hospital set upon and moderately injured her doctor last week. Authorities also have reported 47 attacks on Magen David Adom ambulance crews over the past year. Under the strike, only emergency care was provided at the nation’s hospitals. Health Minister Danny Naveh vowed to undertake legislation toughening laws against violence in medical institutions.

Study: Immigrants an Asset

A new study found that recent North American immigrants to Israel are a major economic asset to the Jewish state. Each adult North American immigrant represents about $200,000 in value to the Israeli economy upon his or her arrival, according to a study commissioned by Nefesh & Nefesh, a grassroots organization that encourages North American aliyah. The findings of the report and the announcement that almost 3,000 North American Jews immigrated to Israel in 2004 a 20 percent increase from last year – were presented at a news conference Tuesday sponsored by Nefesh & Nefesh and the Jewish Agency for Israel, which works with the private group.

Jewish Music Gets Grammy Nods

A Jewish music organization received two Grammy nominations. The Milken Archive of American Jewish Music received nods in the best small-ensemble performance category for its “Wyner: The Mirror; Passover Offering, Tants un Maysele;” and for David Frost for classical producer of the year, for five Milken CDs: “Adolphe: Ladino Songs;” “Brubeck: Gates of Justice;” “Genesis Suite;” “Jewish Operas Vol. 1;” and “Wyner: The Mirror; Passover Offering, Tants un Maysele.” The Milken Archive began releasing music in 2003.

French Ban Hezbollah Station

A French court ordered a satellite company to cease broadcasts from Hezbollah’s TV station. In its decision Monday, the Council of State, France’s highest administrative court, gave the Eutelstat satellite provider 48 hours to end the broadcasts. Failure to do so would result in a fine of around $6,500 for every day the channel continues to broadcast. Eutelstat hosts the channel, which broadcasts throughout the 25-member European Union. Among various claims in recent Al-Manar programs was the accusation that Jews spread AIDS in Arab countries. In the ruling, the court said that Al-Manar programs “fall within a militant perspective which includes anti-Semitic connotations.”

The American Jewish Committee recently wrote to U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow asking that Al-Manar be banned in the United States under existing counterterrorism legislation or by executive order.

Jews Take Sides on Commandments Case

Several Jewish groups are taking sides on a pending case at the U.S. Supreme Court on the public display of the Ten Commandments. A coalition of Jewish groups filed an amicus brief Monday on the case, Van Orden v. Perry, which involves a granite monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds. The brief suggests the monument violates the separation of church and state and shows an “unacceptable preference for Judeo-Christian faiths.” The brief is authored by the American Jewish Congress and signed by the American Jewish Committee, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Union of Reform Judaism, Americans for Religious Liberty and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. A separate brief submitted Monday by the Anti-Defamation League also asks the court to rule the commandments are unconstitutional; Hadassah also weighed in. The National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs, which represents the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America, is expected to file a brief in the near future supporting the display as constitutional and endorsing its religious pronouncements.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

 

World Briefs


Israel Asks U.S. Egypt Help in Gaza

The United States and Egypt want to know more about Israel’s proposal for Egypt to help secure Gaza after an Israeli withdrawal.

Dov Weisglass, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s chief of staff, and Giora Eiland, Sharon’s national security adviser, discussed the idea Monday in meetings with Condoleezza Rice, President Bush’s national security adviser, and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The Israelis are ready for a total withdrawal, but say they need Egyptian help to keep arms smugglers from crossing the Gaza-Egypt border.

U.S. State Department official said the proposal was not fully worked out and that the Americans are waiting for further details. If the Egyptians are willing, the official said, the United States could help them with incentives.

Nadil Fahmy, Egypt’s ambassador to Washington, said his country was interested in the proposal but needed to know more. Egypt would participate if the withdrawal were part of negotiations with the Palestinians, Fahmy told JTA.

“It has to be in the context of resolving the conflict on the basis of a two-state solution and ending the occupation,” he said. Israel has suggested that its withdrawal could be unilateral unless the Palestinians crack down on terrorism.

E.U. Presses Libya

The European Union called on Libya to join a free trade zone it has boycotted because of Israeli membership in the group. The European Commission said Monday that Tripoli immediately should send officials to Brussels to prepare its application to the group, whose purpose ultimately is to create a free-trade zone bringing together all the countries of North Africa and the Middle East. Libyan President Muammar Gadhafi recently expressed a desire to join the process, but he cannot take part unless he agrees to recognize Israel.

Bush Sends $20 Million to UNRWA

President Bush is sending $20 million to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza. The new allocation, authorized Thursday, is from the U.S. Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund, and will be distributed through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The request is a response to an appeal for $193 million for humanitarian needs for the Palestinian people, the State Department said.

Group Collects Money for Haitians

A Jewish group is collecting money for humanitarian aid
in Haiti. Donations can be sent to the American Jewish World Service at: AJWS,
Haiti Relief, 45 W. 36th St., 10th Floor, New York, NY, 10018, or online at

World Briefs


Bush: Happy Rosh Hashanah

President Bush asked Jews to “pray for peace” in his annual Rosh Hashanah message. “May we build a future of promise and compassion for all, and may the coming year be filled with hope and happiness,” Bush said in the presidential message, released Tuesday. He also called on Jews to find inspiration from Abraham and Isaac’s “willingness to sacrifice everything to do right.”

Israelis Bodies Found

Two bodies found in California may be the remains of a pair of Israelis who disappeared last December. FBI agents on Sunday were led by suspects arrested last week to a shallow grave near Barstow, where Ben Wertzberger and Adar Neeman were believed to be buried, The Associated Press reported. Authorities say the two probably were killed after a drug-related dispute with the suspects.

Iraq Off-Limits to Israel

Israel will not be allowed to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq, Iraqi officials said. Speaking at the International Monetary Fund conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Iraq’s interim planning minister said Israeli entrance into the Iraqi market is “out of the question,” Agence France-Presse reported. A member of the U.S.-appointed transitional Governing Council, Adel Abdul Mahdi, added, “There is no intention to recognize Israel.”

Israeli officials are in Dubai this week for the IMF conference.

Al-Qaeda Planned Attack on El Al

Thai police reportedly foiled an Al-Qaeda plot to down an El Al airplane and attack Israeli passengers at Bangkok International Airport. A man arrested three months ago by police in Thailand was found to have detailed plans of a plot to attack passengers in the terminal and shoot down an El Al plane with a shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missile, Israel’s Channel 2 reported. Al-Qaeda operatives are the prime suspects in an attack last November on an Israeli aircraft in the skies over Kenya. The plane managed to evade those missiles and land safely in Tel Aviv.

Bernard Manischewitz Dies at 89

Kosher food giant Bernard Manischewitz died Saturday in New Jersey at age 89.

Manischewitz was the last in his family’s line to run the kosher food giant B. Manischewitz Company, the Newark “Star-Ledger” reported. The food company was sold to private investors in 1991 after it had been in the Manischewitz family for three generations. Renowned for its sweet wine and matzah, the business was founded in Cincinnati in 1888 by Bernard’s grandfather, Rabbi Dov Behr Manischewitz. The company opened a second factory in Jersey City in 1932, eventually moving operations there. Born in Cincinnati, Bernard joined the company in the 1940s after graduating from New York University. The company expanded under his tenure but also weathered a scandal in the mid-1980s over price-fixing for matzah. Bernard Manischewitz was a Jewish philanthropist, serving as president of New York’s United Jewish Appeal and of New York’s Shearith Israel synagogue. Manischewitz is survived by his wife, son, daughters, six grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

Former Israeli Ambassador Dinitz
Dies

Simcha Dinitz, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States and chairman of the Jewish Agency, has died. Dinitz, 74, died Tuesday of a heart attack in Jerusalem. Born in Tel Aviv, Dinitz joined the Haganah in pre-state Palestine and served in the Israel Defense Forces during the War of Independence. He spent 37 years in a variety of public posts, including the Knesset, the Foreign Ministry, Golda Meir’s Prime Minister’s Office and the Jewish Agency, which he headed from 1987 to 1994. Dinitz served as vice president of Hebrew University in Jerusalem and was a diplomat in Rome and Washington for prime ministers Meir, Yitzhak Rabin and Menachem Begin. Dinitz’s public career ended in 1996 when he was found guilty of fraud and breach of trust connected to misuse of Jewish Agency credit cards, though Israel’s highest court overturned the conviction a year later. Dinitz, whom Israeli President Moshe Katsav called “one of the leaders of the nation,” leaves behind his wife, three children and eight grandchildren.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

World Briefs


Peres: Saudi Proposal ‘Interesting’

Shimon Peres described a peace proposal by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince as “positive.” In an interview with Saudi television, Israel’s foreign minister said Crown Prince Abdullah’s proposal for Arab League states to normalize relations with Israel, in exchange for full withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem, was “interesting and positive.”

In a column this week in The New York Times, Thomas Friedman recounts a recent interview in which the prince said he had been just about to make the proposal — but then decided not to, because of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s policies. Still, he said, his idea had been to “find a way to make clear to the Israeli people that the Arabs don’t reject or despise them — but they reject what their leadership is now doing to the Palestinians, which is inhumane and oppressive.” Arafat said this week he would consider the proposal.

Hamas Leader Calls for Worldwide
Jihad

The spiritual leader of Hamas called on Muslims around the world to launch a holy war to liberate their countries from U.S. influence. “Sons of Islam everywhere, the jihad is a duty, to establish the rule of Allah on earth and to liberate your countries and yourselves from America’s domination and its Zionist allies,” Sheik Ahmed Yassin said in an open letter.

P.A. Linked to ‘Axis of Evil’

The White House referred to the Palestinian Authority as one of a number of regimes that “invite terrorism and that practice terrorism.” On Feb. 13, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer also linked the Palestinian Authority to the “axis of evil” that President Bush described in his State of the Union speech.

Fleischer told reporters that the president placed great importance on education in countries “known to foster terrorism,” citing Iran, Iraq, North Korea and the Palestinian Authority as examples.

Ruling May Void Sharon Trial

A ruling by the International Court likely will block any chance for Belgium to try Ariel Sharon for war crimes. The court ruled Feb. 14 that Belgium cannot prosecute former and current world leaders because they have diplomatic immunity.

A Belgian court is slated to rule March 6 whether the Israeli prime minister should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. Sharon faces lawsuits filed by Palestinians and Lebanese accusing him of responsibility for the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon, which was carried out by Lebanese Christian militias allied with Israel.

AJCommittee Helps Afghan Refugees

The American Jewish Committee gave $50,000 to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees for relief in Afghanistan. Monday’s contribution is the second major donation from the AJCommittee to the U.N. agency, and the second time the group has worked with them to aid Muslim refugees.

Boycott Threat Gains Momentum

A Catholic group joined a proposed boycott of an upcoming show at New York’s Jewish Museum. “Usually, it’s Catholics whom the ‘creative types’ in the artistic community like to offend. Now it’s Jews,” William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said in a statement. The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors earlier called for a boycott. The museum says the exhibit, slated to open March 17, seeks to present Nazi horrors in a thought-provoking manner. Critics say the exhibit is an affront to the Jewish community in general and Holocaust survivors in particular.

This Ain’t Barbie

New dolls featuring Nazi leaders are sold out. Mike Fosella of suburban New York said he created 50 dolls of Hitler and Josef Mengele, the notorious concentration camp doctor, only for serious collectors and history buffs. The dolls cost $170 each. Kenneth Jacobson of the Anti-Defamation League told the New York Daily News that Fosella “has the right to conduct business, but society can determine what is offensive.” Fosella plans to continue the series with dolls of Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels.

Briefs courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Briefs


Arabs Allege Pokemon Conspiracy

Pokemon, which includes video games, trading cards and cartoons belatedly sweeping the Arab world, has been "exposed" as standing for "I am a Jew" in Japanese and as part of a Jewish-Zionist conspiracy to turn children away from Islam.

Full-scale anti-Pokemon campaigns are underway in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Oman, Qatar and Dubai to foil the alleged Jewish plot, according to a front-page story in the April 24 Los Angeles Times from its Cairo correspondent.

Despite assurances from Nintendo, which launched Pokemon in 1995, that the trade name stands for "pocket monsters," the video games and related items have been stripped from store shelves in Saudi Arabia and turned away at ports, while schools have set up collection points to turn in clothing decorated with Pokemon figures.

A fatwa (religious edict) issued by Saudi Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al Sheik urges all Muslims to beware of the game, noting that most of the cards bear "six-pointed stars, a symbol of international Zionism and the state of Israel." — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Head Reprimanded

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council criticized its chairman for writing a letter asking President Clinton to pardon financier Marc Rich and dissociated itself from the pardon request.

In a resolution that received unanimous support, the council said it had been a mistake for Rabbi Irving "Yitz" Greenberg to write a letter on Rich’s behalf, but it also accepted Greenberg’s apology and commended Greenberg for his efforts in Holocaust education.

Birthright to Fund Trips

A program that offers free Israel trips to young Jews is seeking grant proposals for trips that focus on specific professions or interests or accommodate physical disabilities. Birthright Israel "will award grants only to the most innovative proposals," said Marlene Post, the group’s chair. In a separate development, Birthright Israel was planning to host an Israel Independence Day party in New York on Wednesday for the program’s alumni.

El Al Cuts Costs

El Al Israel Airlines is trying to reduce costs as a result of a sharp downturn in tourism to Israel caused by continued Palestinian violence. Measures announced Tuesday include halting flights to 10 destinations, reducing the airline’s workforce and selling eight old planes. Last year, El Al lost an estimated $109 million.

Bush Honors Shoah Victims

President Bush said the Holocaust is "defined as much by the courage of the lost as by the cruelty of the guilty."

Speaking to hundreds of people gathered April 19 in the Capitol rotunda on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Bush urged the teaching of conscience, moral discernment, decency and tolerance to stop evil from triumphing again. — All briefs from Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Briefs


Auschwitz Disco Ordered Closed

The governor of the Polish province of Krakow ordered the closure of a disco located in a former tannery where inmates of the Auschwitz concentration camp worked. The dance club, located about one mile from the main Auschwitz camp, opened last summer after local authorities ignored protests and granted an investor a permit to operate the disco.

Groups Want U.S. to Give Rewards

Jewish organizations are concerned about a U.S. State Department report released late last month that said the United States still will not offer rewards for information about American citizens killed by Palestinian terrorists.

In the semiannual report, the State Department said its international program offering rewards for information leading to the arrest or conviction of terrorists who have hurt U.S. citizens does not apply to Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

British Media Called Biased

Biased British media coverage of the Middle East crisis is contributing to an increase in anti-Semitic attacks in Britain, the director general of Britain’s Board of Deputies warned.

Writing in the latest edition of the quarterly Journalist’s Handbook, Neville Nagler said the British media “must realize the danger of unbalanced, biased news coverage.”

Coalition Takes on Religious Right

A coalition bringing together Jewish and Christian groups in the United States is mounting a challenge to the religious right on issues such as abortion and welfare reform.

The Progressive Religious Partnership says clergy and lay leaders should play a more powerful role in the ongoing national dialogue about morality and politics.

TWA Customers File Lawsuit

Frustrated TWA customers filed a class action lawsuit against the bankrupt airline for suspending its New York-Israel route just before Passover.

The lawsuit, filed April 4 in Brooklyn, seeks unspecified compensatory damages.

Rice Berates Egypt Over Arafat

U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice had a heated exchange with Egypt’s foreign minister last week, according to Israel Radio.

Rice told Amre Moussa that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat is responsible for terror attacks, adding that Egyptian officials have not done enough to convey to Arafat the danger of his actions.

All briefs from Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Nation/World Briefs


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.

Nation/World Briefs


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.

Nation/World Briefs


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.

World/Mideast Briefs


Jewish relief agencies and the government of Israel are mobilizing to send rescue missions and humanitarian aid to Turkey, in the wake of a devastating earthquake that, at press time, may have claimed more than 4,000 lives.

The Israel Defense Force sent a 200-member rescue team to Turkey to help dig through the rubble for survivors.

Israel is planning to send three planes of emergency aid and personnel to help victims of Tuesday’s powerful earthquake. Among those expected to travel to Turkey were members of the IDF disaster unit, which specializes in locating and extracting survivors from collapsed structures. Israeli President Ezer Weizman phoned Turkish President Suleyman Demirel to express his condolences.

The American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in conjunction with the United Jewish Communities (UJC) is accepting donations for earthquake relief. Donations will be used for non-sectarian earthquake relief. (Those who want their donations used solely for Turkey’s Jewish community should note this on the memo line of their check and on the envelope).

No Turkish Jews appear to have been killed or injured in the disaster, and none of the country’s Jewish institutions has been damaged, said Leon Levy, president of the New York-based American Sephardi Federation.

“Most of the damage was not where Jews normally live,” said Levy, who is of Turkish descent and in frequent contact with the Jewish community there. Later reports, however, indicated some damage to Jewish community buildings in Istanbul, including synagogues.

Ten Israeli tourists vacationing in the Turkish hills are still missing after the quake.

Sallai Meridor, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, was quoted in the daily Ha’aretz as saying that while none of Turkey’s 23,000 Jews was hurt in the quake, many are hesitant to return to their homes in Istanbul for fear of more houses collapsing.

In recent years, Turkey — a short plane ride from Tel Aviv and a strategic ally of Israel — has become a popular tourist destination for Israelis.

Donations can be sent to the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, 5700 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 2702; Los Angeles, CA 90036 and earmarked for Turkish Earthquake Relief. They will be immediately forwarded to the JDC.

Barak to Congress: Cool It

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has explicitly asked members of Congress to stop trying to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“We do not want to give the Palestinians any pretext for delaying the peace talks or postponing them,” Barak told Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., and Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., on Wednesday in Jerusalem, according to sources who were briefed on the meeting. Barak specifically asked the lawmakers to wait at least six months before taking up any new initiatives on the embassy.

Barak’s move to stop congressional initiatives on Jerusalem could slow the rush of candidates who have staked out positions on the issue in recent weeks.

Last week, Republican front-runner Texas Gov. George W. Bush and former Sen. Bill Bradley, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, both expressed support for moving the embassy. First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has launched an all-but-announced Senate bid from New York, has also endorsed the move. — Matthew Dorf, JTA