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Newsdesk January 20, 2006

Mayor’s Comments Panned

The Reform movement criticized New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin for suggesting Monday that Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast last year because “God is mad at America” and said he hoped the city would become “chocolate” again.

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism called the comments “offensive” and “misguided.”

Rabbi David Saperstein, the RAC’s director, said that the comments were a “distraction at a time when our nation is trying to rebound and recover from these horrific natural disasters.” Saperstein added, “We must focus on rebuilding and improving the lives of those affected by the hurricanes and on learning how to mitigate the damage from future natural disasters, and not waste time or energy assigning blame in God’s name.”

Suicide Law Upheld

Orthodox groups expressed disappointment at a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding Oregon’s assisted suicide law.

The high court ruled Tuesday that Oregon’s law, permitting doctor-assisted suicide, was not a violation of federal drug laws. Nathan Diament, director of the Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs, said that the ruling goes against Jewish teachings of the value and sanctity of life.

“The Bible instructs us to ‘surely heal’ the ill, not to speed their departure from this earth,” he said. The ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America also spoke out against Oregon statutes, which the group said “make it possible to commit murder.” Numerous other Jewish groups chose not to weigh in on the case but have been interested in its impact on end-of-life issues, a controversial subject in the Jewish community.

Six justices ruled in favor of Oregon, which allowed doctor-assisted suicide in a 1994 ballot initiative.

Poll: Teens Back Faith

Two-thirds of American teenagers said that religion and faith are important to them, a new survey says. But 39% of them are not sure how to connect to their religion, according to the 742 teens surveyed in the poll commissioned by the BBYO Jewish youth group. Some 52% of respondents said they are looking for less-conventional ways to connect with their religion. In other findings, 72% of teenage girls said that religion is important to them, compared with 64% of teenage boys. Also, 92% of respondents want a better connection to their religion.

Palestinian Film Honored

A drama about Palestinian suicide bombers won the Golden Globe for best foreign language film. “Paradise Now,” a Palestinian-Israeli co-production, was honored at Monday night’s award ceremony in Los Angeles. The Golden Globes are widely seen as a bellwether of results at the more prestigious Academy Awards.

While pro-Israel critics have slammed “Paradise Now” for presenting two suicide bombers sympathetically, it also has raised eyebrows among Palestinians for criticizing the terrorist group that sends them on their deadly mission. The film has had limited distribution in Israel.

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