Newsdesk February 3, 2006

Coleman To Lead Prayers

Senator Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican, was scheduled to lead the annual national prayer breakfast, the first time a Jew has done so. Coleman was set to lead prayers this week at the breakfast, a non-government event organized by the Fellowship Foundation, an evangelical group. Some rabbis complained of proselytizing Christian literature at last year’s prayer breakfast.

School Gets $15 Million

A Jewish community day school in Maryland received a $15 million gift. The Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School received the gift — $10 million to enhance its educational programs and a $5 million matching endowment for scholarships — from Robert and Clarice Smith and Robert and Arlene Kogod through the Charles E. Smith Family Foundation.

The head of the school, Jonathan Cannon, said that the $10 million, given over a 10-year period, will allow the school to better integrate subjects like arts and sciences; develop experiential, informal educational programs; and offer professional development programs to teachers. The gift is believed to be one of the largest to an individual Jewish school.

Academy Reopens

A Jewish school recently reopened in New Orleans. The Torah Academy reopened earlier this month, welcoming 28 students from nursery school through eighth grade — slightly more than half the students it had before Hurricane Katrina, according to the New York Jewish Week.

Another Jewish school in New Orleans, the New Orleans Jewish Day School, delayed its reopening from January to August because too many students are attending schools in other cities this year.

Bukharians To Make Aliya

An entire community of Bukharian Jews plans to emigrate from the United States to Israel. Rabbi Michael Borochov, a leader of the New York community, which hails from Uzbekistan, was quoted as saying recently that hundreds of community members were in talks with the Jewish Agency for Israel about moving en masse to Beit Shemesh.

“The community understands that it is important to settle in Israel,” Borochov told the Israeli daily Ma’ariv. “We want to bring all of the Bukharians from New York. If the government gives us support and benefits, I am certain that everyone will immigrate to Israel.”

The Jewish Agency confirmed that talks were under way.

Chavez Meets Officials

Venezuela’s president met with local Jewish officials after being accused of making remarks some consider antisemitic. Freddy Pressner, president of the Venezuelan Confederation of Israelite Associations, said he believes Hugo Chavez’s remarks were not antisemitic, according to Reuters.

In a speech given in late December, Chavez said that while the world offers riches to all, “minorities such as the descendants of those who crucified Christ” have become “the owners of the riches of the world.” The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center said the remarks were a veiled attack on Jews. Chavez insists he was referring to the wealthy elites and not to Jews.

In a speech given Tuesday, Chavez described claims of antisemitism as “part of the international aggression against Venezuela.”

Vienna Plans Shoah Center

The University of Vienna will build a Holocaust center in honor of Simon Wiesenthal. The center to honor the late Nazi-hunter will include thousands of documents, including files from the country’s wartime resistance and the country’s Jewish community. The center is expected to cost $17.1 million and be completed by 2010.

Bias Up in Ireland

Recorded incidents of antisemitism in Ireland increased during the first half of 2005. In a submission to the European Information Network on Racism and Xenophobia, the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism reported incidents of antisemitic vandalism in Dublin in three of its bimonthly bulletins for the year.

However, most if not all the damage done to Jewish property in the capital is believed to be the work of one man, David Hughes, who was convicted in September of criminal damage. The bulletins note a significant drop in reported antisemitism following Hughes’s arrest in June 2005.

Publisher Honored

Jewish groups in Ukraine criticized Ukraine’s president for honoring a lawmaker who was the head of a newspaper that published antisemitic articles. Last week, President Viktor Yuschenko awarded Ivan Spodarenko his country’s highest award, the Hero of Ukraine medal.

Spodarenko, a Socialist lawmaker, is the head of the editorial board and former longtime editor of Silski Visti. In 2004, the newspaper published an article asserting that 400,000 Jews served in Nazi S.S. forces during the German invasion of Ukraine in World War II.

With its circulation of 500,000, Silski Visti is one of the most widely read Ukrainian newspapers, catering mainly to rural readers. In 2002 and 2004, the newspaper published a series of antisemitic articles that outraged the Jewish community. The paper was sued over antisemitic articles in 2004 but the case was closed in 2005 without a verdict. Last April, Spodarenko was among the signatories of an antisemitic letter calling for a stop to “the criminal activities” of the organized Jewish community in Ukraine.

Autopsy Sparks Riot

Ultra-Orthodox Jews rioted in Israel over an unauthorized autopsy conducted on the body of one of their community members. Police discovered the body of an 89-year-old religious woman in Kiryat Ata on Monday and, suspecting murder, ordered an autopsy, which is generally banned by Orthodox law.

Hearing of the move, which was apparently conducted without consulting with the woman’s family or community, hundreds of fervently Orthodox Jews blocked streets in Jerusalem and scuffled with police.

Kadima Unveils List

Ariel Sharon is absent from the Kadima Party’s candidate list for the March 28 elections. Despite proposals to place the comatose prime minister on the roster as a symbolic show of faith that he will recover from his January 4 stroke, Sharon was not among the 50 candidates named Tuesday by Kadima. Israeli media reported that Kadima’s election jingle and posters will refer to Sharon.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert tops the candidate list, followed by Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Avi Dichter, a former Shin Bet chief, is fifth, three places ahead of Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, suggesting that Mofaz’s key portfolio could pass hands if Kadima wins the elections.

Despite Olmert’s calls for further Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank, the Kadima list includes two settlers.

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Newsdesk February 3, 2006

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