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Newsdesk February 28, 2003

AMIA Indictments Sought

Prosecutors are asking the judge in charge of investigating into the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires to issue arrest warrants against 16 people, including Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and top Hezbollah operative Imad Mughniyeh. The move by the prosecutors was seen by observers as a way of pressuring the judge, Juan José Galeano, to issue an indictment against Iran and Hezbollah, which he has been preparing for years and has repeatedly postponed issuing.

El Al Sides With Union

El Al, Israel’s national airline, is backing out of its contract with a New York hotel involved in a labor dispute. According to a letter obtained by the Forward, the carrier is giving Shimmie Horn, managing director of the Washington Jefferson Hotel, 90 days notice that El Al “does not intend to renew” its agreement with the establishment and will vacate the rooms it lets there by May 21.

El Al came under pressure from a number of American unions and Israel’s Histadrut-General Federation of Labor to vacate its contract with the hotel, whose workers have gone on strike. The workers, most of whom have signed pledge cards to be represented by the Hotel and Restaurant Employees union, are alleging that Washington Jefferson is resisting their union effort and violating labor laws. The unions accused El Al of “strikebreaking” and said its actions would endanger the American labor movement’s substantial investments in Israel. The chairman of the National Committee for Labor Israel, Jerry Goodman, said that El Al values its relationship with the Histadrut and therefore decided to get out of the contract.

Austria Issues Report

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany welcomed a report commissioned by the Austrian government that called Austria’s attempts at restitution “often half-hearted and sometimes utterly reluctant.” Reacting to the report, Gideon Taylor, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, said: “There seems now to be a new outlook on this matter, and we welcome the change. We hope that the conclusions and recommendations arising from this report will be properly and promptly implemented.”

N.Y. Rabbi in Sex Bust

A leading New York rabbi was arrested for allegedly trying to solicit a 13-year-old girl for sex on the Internet. Rabbi Israel Kestenbaum, director of the Jewish Center for Spiritual Care of the New York Board of Rabbis, allegedly began a sometimes lurid online chat with an undercover detective posing as a teenage girl and was arrested after arranging to meet her at a Starbucks in New York. Following the arrest of the 54-year-old Kestenbaum, the board issued a statement saying he was immediately being placed on administrative leave.

Cleric Found Guilty

A London-based Muslim cleric accused of supporting Osama bin Laden was found guilty of urging his followers to kill to kill Jews and others. Sheik Abdullah Faisal was convicted of three charges of incitement to murder. Faisal, who was arrested by British anti-terrorist police last year, will be sentenced next week. The charges are punishable by life imprisonment.

Source of Singer’s Success

Norah Jones, who won five Grammys at Sunday’s music awards ceremony, had her start at a Jewish community center in Manhattan. Jones performed at Makor some two dozen times, according to Brice Rosenbloom, director of Makor’s music programming. “Makor was, at one time, the biggest place she was performing,” Rosenbloom said. Makor was where Blue Note Records saw Jones perform before signing her. It was also where her father, Ravi Shankar, a legendary Indian musician, first saw her perform.

UJC Garners $6 Million

United Jewish Communities has garnered nearly $6 million for programs that serve the elderly. The money will be used for Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities, areas where large populations of senior citizens have resided for a long period of time. The program allows the elderly to receive federal services while remaining in their communities. The money will be distributed to Jewish federations in Albuquerque, N.M.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Detroit; southeast Florida; Las Vegas, Nev.; Los Angeles; Minneapolis; Pittsburgh; Philadelphiam, and Washington.

Storm Slams Jerusalem

A snowstorm brought Jerusalem to a halt Tuesday. Roads to the capital were closed, schools and banks shut, and police urged residents to stay home. At the Knesset, committee meetings were canceled. Heavy snow also fell in the West Bank, with road closings reported around Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah. Snow accumulated to as much as 18 inches in the Golan Heights.

Diplomat Dies at 74

Israeli diplomat Shlomo Argov, who was the target of an assassination attempt that launched Israel’s 1982 war in Lebanon, died Sunday at the age of 74. Argov, who served as Israel’s ambassador to Britain, was shot in the head by Palestinian gunmen from the Abu Nidal group in London on June 3, 1982. Several days later, Israeli forces entered Lebanon. Argov, who was paralyzed in the attack, had required constant hospitalization since the shooting.

Coexistence Rabbi Dies

Rabbi Eugene Weiner, a champion of Jewish-Arab coexistence, died of cancer Sunday in Haifa at 69. A native of New York who was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Weiner immigrated to Israel 30 years ago and became a professor of sociology at Haifa University. In 1989, together with philanthropist Alan Slifka, he founded the Abraham Fund, which fosters coexistence between Jews and Arabs. From 1996 to 1999, Wiener worked in the former Soviet Union for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

Peres: Israel Has Nukes

Shimon Peres has confirmed that Israel has nuclear weapons. In a February 20 address in Jerusalem to a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the former prime minister briefly referred to his efforts during the 1950s to convince Israeli officials to develop nuclear weapons. Israel succeeded in becoming one of five or six countries in the world with a “nuclear option,” Peres said, breaking Israel’s long-standing policy of ambiguity about its nuclear capabilities.

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