News Briefs

By Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Published February 16, 2007, issue of February 16, 2007.
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Cult Readopts Swastika

The Raelian movement, an atheistic cult making the claim that humans were created by aliens, has reverted to its original symbol: a swastika inside a Star of David. The movement, established by former French racing-car driver Claude Vorhilon, says its swastikas are an ancient symbol of peace. The group stopped using the symbol in 1992, replacing the swastika with a cross, when the symbol offended Jews whom the members had approached for support. Jews are important targets of the cult, since Rael (Vorhilon’s adopted name) believes that the ancient race of aliens he refers to as the Elohim created the human race in what is now Israel. The group has been trying to establish an embassy in Jerusalem for years, claiming that the Elohim will return once the embassy is built, but the Israeli government has rebuffed the group’s efforts. The Raelian Web site states that Raelians want “to educate the rest of the population about the true history of the swastika and to make sure their symbol is forever respected.”


Child Sets Shul Fire

A 7-year-old boy playing with a lighter caused at least $100,000 in damages to an Ohio synagogue. According to congregant Michael Berenstein, who was in the Ahavas Sholom synagogue when the fire broke out January 31, morning services had just concluded at the Orthodox congregation when he detected an odor of smoke throughout the building. Opening a storage room door, Berenstein found intense smoke and flames. Rabbi Jonathan Rosenberg instructed the few congregants still in the 1917 structure to leave. The child who caused the fire will not be charged criminally, but he was referred to a Juvenile Firesetter Program. Rosenberg said that the boy’s family was “in shock.” “They’re members, too, so they feel a tremendous loss,” he said.


Speech Causes Stir

An Israeli Arab lawmaker is to speak at Israel Apartheid Week. Balad party member Jamal Zahalka left for Montreal on Tuesday to participate in the weeklong event that aims to “forward the analysis of Israel as an apartheid state and to bolster support for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign,” according to the event’s Web site. The Jerusalem Post reported that legislator Otniel Shneller of the ruling Kadima party demanded that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz open an incitement investigation against Zahalka.


Gang Leader Sentenced

The leader of France’s racist and antisemitic Tribu Ka gang was sentenced to five months in prison by a court near Paris. Stellio Capo Chichi, aka Kemi Seba, 25, was found last week to be in criminal contempt of the law for calling a public official “Zionist scum.” He had been arrested the previous night following an altercation with police. Following a May 2006 demonstration in which 40 Tribu Ka members marched through a Jewish neighborhood, calling for death to the Jews, the group was dissolved by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. It was then reborn under the name Generation Kemi Seba. Chichi said he sees himself as “a militant defender of the dignity of French citizens.”


JAFI Chair Approved

Richard Pearlstone was approved as the next chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s board of governors. A longtime JAFI activist, Pearlstone was approved by the organization’s Advice and Consent Committee and will be formally voted in at the next board of governors meeting in June. “I am proud to serve the Jewish people in this capacity, and look forward to building strong and healthy partnerships” with United Jewish Communities, United Israel Appeal, Keren Hayesod and the World Zionist Organization, he said Tuesday, referring to JAFI’s traditional partners in the Jewish world. Pearlstone, 59, is a member of the Meyerhoff family, one of the major Jewish philanthropic families in the United States.


Street Named for Kahane

An Israeli town has a street named after the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, a newspaper revealed. Yediot Aharonot reported Tuesday that a dead-end alley in Or Akiva was named in honor of the controversial Kach party founder 15 years ago after Kahane’s assassination in New York. Kach, which the American-born Kahane founded after moving to Israel, was banned by the Knesset for its virulent anti-Arab platform and still appears on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist groups. Or Akiva’s mayor, Simcha Yosifov, was unapologetic. “In the four years that I’ve been mayor, no one has yet come to me to ask me to change the name of the street,” Yosifov said. “It hasn’t bothered anyone. He was a Jew, he had opinions and he was murdered by lunatics.”


U.S. Marks Terror Leader

The United States put a bounty on the head of a Palestinian terrorist leader. The State Department this week offered up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest of Islamic Jihad chief Ramadan Shallah, who is based in Damascus. Shallah is wanted for complicity in suicide bombings, murder, extortions and money laundering. Responding to the State Department’s announcement, Islamic Jihad said it will attack American targets if Shallah is taken into custody. The State Department offered a separate bounty for Mohammed Ali Hamadei, a Lebanese Hezbollah member suspected of involvement in the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, which resulted in the murder of an American sailor.

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