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Newsdesk April 8, 2005

Mormons, Jews to Meet

At a meeting in Salt Lake City next week, Jewish communal leaders are expected to ask top officials of the Mormon Church to halt the practice of posthumously baptizing Jews.

Recent studies of a church database that tracks the postmortem rites have turned up numerous entries for Holocaust victims, synagogue members and Jewish celebrities, including the Marx Brothers, according to Helen Radkey, a genealogy researcher who has been critical of the church.

A 1995 agreement, forged after Jewish communal leaders discovered 400,000 Holocaust victims had been baptized, was supposed to have stopped the practice.

Under Mormon rules, a living member of the church stands in for the deceased person during a ritual immersion. The ritual is based on the Mormon belief that those who lived before the church’s founding in 1830 should have the chance for eternal salvation. The deceased can choose whether to accept or reject the conversion, according to church doctrine.

While both sides say they are entering negotiations in good faith, Radkey is concerned that Jewish names mysteriously disappeared from the database after she released a report last month. Officials at the church, which is officially know as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, would say only that they “are looking forward to discussions with our Jewish friends.”

C-SPAN Backs Down

C-SPAN canceled plans to air a lecture by Holocaust denier David Irving. The network had planned to air a talk by Irving to “balance” a talk by historian Deborah Lipstadt, but after Lipstadt got wind of the plan she refused to allow cameras in to a recent talk she was giving at Harvard. Instead, early this week the network aired a program featuring an interview with a reporter who covered a 2000 trial in which Irving lost a libel lawsuit against Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, after Lipstadt accused Irving of being a Holocaust denier. More than 500 scholars had signed a petition protesting the decision to pair Irving and Lipstadt. At the beginning of the program, C-SPAN executive Connie Doebele defended the network, but she said that her use of the word “balance” in describing the original intent was wrong.

Antisemitic Incidents Up

Antisemitic incidents in the United States are at their highest levels in nine years, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The group’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, released Monday, reported 1,821 incidents in 2004, up from 1,557 in 2003. Increased activity by neo-Nazi groups and more reports of anti-Jewish harassment in schools contributed to the increase, the report said. The audit compiles data from 44 states and Washington, using crime statistics and reports from the ADL’s regional offices.

Edward Bronfman Dies

Edward Bronfman, a publicity-shy member of the Bronfman family, died Monday at 77 of colon cancer. Bronfman was the nephew of Samuel Bronfman, founder of Seagram Co. Ltd. In recent years, Edward Bronfman focused his efforts on philanthropic activity, supporting, among other causes, the Hebrew University, United Jewish Appeal and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. He was awarded the Order of Canada in 2000 for his charitable work.

Bush Fills Policy Slot

President Bush nominated a Jewish career diplomat as undersecretary of defense for policy. Eric Edelman, currently ambassador to Turkey, will replace Douglas Feith, who announced his plans to retire this summer. Feith, who also is Jewish, has been a lightning rod for criticism of the Iraq war. Bush is believed to be quietly purging his administration of the war’s architects; he recently named Paul Wolfowitz, his Jewish deputy defense secretary, as World Bank president. Edelman previously served as a national security adviser to Vice President Richard Cheney, and as ambassador to Finland.

Expelled Rabbi Protests

A noted rabbi recently thrown out of a national Orthodox rabbinical association for alleged inappropriate conduct is challenging the reasons for his expulsion.

The attorney for Rabbi Mordecai Tendler sent a letter to the Rabbinical Council of America challenging the group’s contention that Tendler did not cooperate in an investigation of alleged sexual misconduct launched after at least eight women complained to various rabbis.

The letter was sent by attorney Daniel B. Schwartz, who described himself as a member of and counsel to Kehillat New Hempstead, the Monsey, N.Y., synagogue where Tendler serves as religious leader. He also questioned the RCA’s public statement that Tendler’s conduct was “inappropriate for an Orthodox rabbi.”

“That statement is vague,” Schwartz wrote in his letter — which was addressed to RCA executive vice president Rabbi Basil Herring.

The congregation, Schwartz wrote, is “currently in the process of forming a response to RCA’s expulsion of Rabbi Tendler.”

Herring was not available for comment.

Schwartz’s letter also asked the RCA to turn over “any physical or DNA evidence” it may have that led to Tendler’s expulsion.

The lawyer was referring to a newspaper report that physical evidence of an extramarital affair would soon be publicized by the RCA.

The letter asked the RCA to explain how it could have verified such physical or DNA evidence without a comparison sample from Tendler.

“Please provide us with the actual samples so my client can have a laboratory of its choosing analyze it,” Schwartz wrote.


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