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Newsdesk May 6, 2005

Annan Reaches Out

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan hosted 50 Jewish communal officials from 24 countries this week in an effort to reach out to the Jewish community.

Vic Alhadeff, CEO of the Jewish Board of Deputies in New South Wales, Australia, captured a common reaction to the meetings when he credited Annan with trying sincerely to change U.N. culture in order to ensure fairer treatment of Israel, but noted that “you still have the same imbalances when it comes to voting on issues relating to Israel.”

There’s “a long, long way to go,” Alhadeff said.

The two-day exchange comes as Annan is under attack from American conservatives, who say that the U.N.-managed Iraqi oil-for-food program was plagued by corruption. It also follows several recent gestures by the U.N. toward the Jewish community, as Annan emphasized to the group. He noted a U.N. conference on antisemitism this past June, a commemorative General Assembly session in January devoted to the Holocaust and Annan’s appearance at the inauguration of Israel’s new Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.

While much remains to be done, Annan told the international delegation Monday afternoon that “the trend is unmistakable.”

On May 12, U.N. officials will meet with another Jewish delegation, when B’nai B’rith International holds its second annual U.N. mission with activists from around the world. The group will meet with dozens of U.N. officials to address human rights and treatment of Israel at the world body.

Job Lost Over Hitler Pic

The editor of an American college newspaper resigned after publishing a doctored photograph that compared Rudolph Giuliani to Hitler. Andrea Gissing apologized for the photograph in the March 17 issue of the Middlebury College paper, but said she might do it again if given the chance. The photo, which ran in the paper after Giuliani was selected as the school’s commencement speaker, showed the former New York City mayor sporting a Hitler-style haircut and giving a Nazi salute, The New York Times reported.

Columbia Search Begins

Columbia University crafted an Israel studies chair search committee that includes prominent Palestinian activists. Rashid Khalidi, director of Columbia’s Middle East Institute, and Lila Abu-Lughod, a professor of anthropology, are members of a committee to select Columbia’s new Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi chair of Israel studies. The move comes after an uproar at the university over claims by some Jewish students that anti-Israel professors harassed them. A panel that investigated the charges rejected most of the claims. Michael Stanislawski, who is a professor of Jewish history and associate director of Columbia’s Center for Israel and Jewish studies, chairs the search committee. Other members include Hebrew and comparative literature chair Dan Miron, of the department of Middle East and Asian languages and cultures; Ira Katznelson, a political science professor who chaired the committee that investigated charges of intimidation by anti-Israel faculty, and Karen Barkey, an associate professor of sociology.

Black Leaders Pressed

The Anti-Defamation League called on black leaders to distance themselves from a rally marking the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March. The group sent a letter to 30 black leaders, including the Rev Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton asking them to reconsider their support for the gathering, set to take place from October 14-16 in Washington. “While its stated goal of bringing together the African-American community is laudable, the involvement of Minister Louis Farrakhan and Malik Zulu Shabazz as co-conveners of the march taints the proceeding with the baggage of anti-Semitism and hate,” Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, said in a statement.

Poll: Europeans Know More

Europeans know more about the Holocaust than Americans do, according to a new study.

Sixty years after the end of World War II, only 44% of American respondents in an American Jewish Committee survey identified Auschwitz, Dachau and Treblinka as concentration or death camps. By contrast, 91% of Swedish, 88% of Austrian, 79% of Polish, 78% of French, 77% of German and 53% of British respondents labeled the camps correctly.

The AJCommittee’s study also found that Europeans were more likely than Americans to know that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

“The reality is the Holocaust occurred on European soil. It’s an integral and inescapable part of their history,” said Michael Berenbaum, a Holocaust scholar and a consultant on the development of Washington’s U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

David Harris, AJCommittee’s executive director, said the apparent lack of Holocaust knowledge among Americans in comparison to Europeans has more to do with historical ignorance in the United States than with issues about the Holocaust in particular.

“Generally, on questions related to history — whether it’s American history or world history — as a nation we don’t do terribly well,” he said. “With the additional factor of geographic distance, it only confounds the problem in this case.”

Skull Buried in Sweden

The skull of a 19th-century Jew was buried in Sweden on Monday. Levin Dombrowsky’s skull was separated from the rest of his body after an 1879 autopsy and may have been used then for racial research, The Associated Press reported. Dombrowsky, a 25-year-old immigrant from Poland, committed suicide in a Swedish jail while awaiting trial for theft. “This dark chapter in Swedish history… is over,” said Helmer Fischbein, a Jewish communal official in Malmo, Sweden, in an interview with the AP.

Reform Blasts Budget

The Reform movement slammed Congress for approving a budget that cuts social services while cutting taxes. The proposed budget “calls for up to $10 billion in cuts to Medicaid and other vital social service programs, such as Supplemental Security Income and the Earned Income Tax Credit, while at the same time expediting $70 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans,’’ Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said April 29, a day after both houses of Congress approved the 2006 budget and sent it to President Bush for his signature. Bush has said he will sign the budget bill.

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