Newsdesk July 15, 2005

Cairo Shul To Reopen

A Cairo synagogue built in 1934 was slated to open Friday for the first time in many years.

Ha’aretz reported Monday that the head of Cairo’s Jewish community, Carmen Weinstein, and Israel’s ambassador to Egypt, Shalom Cohen, arranged to reopen the synagogue, which had been closed because so few Jews remain in Egypt. Cohen said the Israeli Embassy will help to maintain the synagogue.

Immigration Record Set

Two El Al Israel Airlines flights took off Tuesday, carrying the largest-ever, single-day total of North American Jews immigrating to Israel. The flights, sponsored by Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency for Israel, left Tuesday afternoon from New York and Toronto, packed with some 500 new immigrants. The planes are the first of six dedicated El Al flights this year carrying 3,200 North American immigrants to Israel through these organizations. This is the first year since 1983 that more than 3,000 North American Jews will be settling in Israel, and the first time a planeload of immigrants leaves from Canada. They were expected to be met at the airport in Israel by Prime Minster Ariel Sharon, Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Zeev Bielski.

Arab Wins ‘Jewish’ Gold

An Israeli Arab swimmer captured Israel’s first gold at the 17th Maccabiah Games. Asala Shehadeh, 17, finished first in the women’s 200-meter breaststroke on Sunday. The Maccabiah Games are often called the “Jewish Olympics,” but Israeli citizens of any faith are eligible to compete. The event was held before Monday’s opening ceremonies of the Maccabiah Games.

O.U. Slams Scout Ruling

The Orthodox Union criticized a U.S. federal court ruling barring Defense Department assistance to a Boy Scout gathering. The court ruled June 22 that government support of the annual jamboree was in violation of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause because Boy Scouts are required to make a nonsectarian oath of “duty to God.”

“The Boy Scouts is clearly a nonsectarian organization which welcomes participants of diverse faiths and backgrounds,” said the O.U.’s director of public policy, Nathan Diament, in a statement Monday. By providing the jamboree with temporary housing and other logistical support, the Defense Department gains the benefit of training personnel to perform these tasks in other instances and supporting the work of the Boy Scouts, Diament said.

Glickman Leaves HIAS

Leonard Glickman stepped down as president and CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Glickman’s departure was announced July 8. Chicago attorney Neil Greenbaum, former chairman of the organization, will replace him. Greenbaum said he hoped to continue the organization’s work aiding the immigration of Jews and other religious minorities to the United States. Glickman could not be reached for comment. Several HIAS board members declined to discuss his departure.

Annan Slams U.N. Official

Kofi Annan’s spokesman slammed a United Nations official for comparing Israelis to Nazis.

The spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general called comments by Jean Ziegler, a food expert at the world body, as “irresponsible,” according to news reports. Ziegler had made the anti-Israeli comments in an address last week to pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ziegler’s critics seized on the rebuke from Annan.

“Kofi Annan’s statement is a dramatic expression of non-confidence in Mr. Ziegler’s mandate,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based monitoring group.

The group praised Annan for “his continuing leadership in unequivocally denouncing the discourse of antisemitic demonization within the United Nations.”

Previously Ziegler has been criticized for repeatedly singling out Israel for opprobrium.

Peace Group Sued

A Jewish charitable organization in Los Angeles is suing a Texas evangelist and his organizations for breach of contract and injury claims for more than $2 million.

In court papers filed last month, the Friends of Israel Defense Forces alleges that K.A. Paul and officials at his humanitarian organization Global Peace Initiative — and a missionary organization run by Paul — had agreed to fly 92 people to Poland for the 60th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation and then on to Israel for a week before returning to America. But, the lawsuit claims, when members of the FIDF arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on June 18, GPI officials told them they had three options: to remain in Poland, continue to Syria or cancel the flight. Furthermore, according to the lawsuit, GPI had not preformed the proper actions to ensure the safety conditions and airworthiness of GPI’s airplane, Global Peace One.

The FIDF, which canceled the trip and unsuccessfully demanded a refund for the $800,000 it had paid for the contract, alleges that GPI “intended to use [the group’s] monies to repair and refurbish their aircraft so as to carry out the so-called peace mission to… such hostile countries as Syria, Libya, Iran and Sudan and find some pretext to cause [the group] to cancel its trip.”

This is not the only controversy GPI has faced. In February, the Houston Chronicle reported that leaders of a Washington-based peace organization were concerned that Paul misrepresented his objectives for a plane carrying relief supplies intended for tsunami victims, suggesting illicit deals between Paul and the president of Nigeria.

An official with GPI, David McQuade, currently in Damascus on a mission, said of the lawsuit, “We categorically disagree with [the group’s] position on this and will be coming out with an official statement on it soon.”

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Newsdesk July 15, 2005

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