Mahmoud Ahmadinejad plans again to attend this year's summit at the United Nations in New York. The Iranian president told state television Monday he will fly to New York in September for the annual gathering of international leaders at the U.N. General Assembly. His speech, Ahmadinejad said, will discuss "ruling the world based on justice."
Ahmadinejad's attendance at the United Nations last year drew fierce protests over his statements against Israel and in denial of the Holocaust. The Iranian president used that visit to appear at Columbia University. A year before that, he took time out from the U.N. summit to address the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations in New York. -- Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Obama to Visit PA, Israel
Barack Obama will meet with Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank on his Middle East trip next week. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and senator from Illinois, will visit Ramallah on July 23 and will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Obama will first travel to Israel July 22-23, where he is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, President Shimon Peres and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Israeli officials.
Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, visited Israel in March but did not travel to the West Bank. Instead he spoke with Abbas by telephone.
Conference to Boost Holocaust Allocations
The Claims Conference will increase its allocations in 2009 by $23 million. The decision by the conference's board of directors at its annual meeting July 8-9 brings the overall allocation for next year to $193 million.
"Increasing Claims Conference allocations is essential to addressing the growing needs of Nazi victims as they age," said Julius Berman, conference chairman. "These funds are for home care, hunger relief, medical care, winter supplies, emergency cash grants and other vital services to Nazi victims worldwide."
The funds mostly represent the proceeds from the sale of unclaimed Jewish property in the former East Germany. The conference also will fund $18 million in Holocaust education and remembrance projects.
L.A. Rabbinical Student Wins Point Foundation Scholarship for Gays, Lesbians
A rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) has won a highly competitive scholarship from the Point Foundation, the nation's largest provider of resources for academic study in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
"One of my main motivations for becoming a rabbi is that I care deeply about repairing the world," said Rachel Timoner, whose Point Foundation scholarship will support the thesis research she will undertake during her final year at HUC-JIR.
"That concern comes from my own experience of marginalization as a lesbian," Timoner said. "The award from the Point Foundation supports that work."
Timoner, who is currently serving as a rabbinic intern at Leo Baeck Temple, said that through her thesis project, she hopes to expand the conversation about halacha (Jewish law) in order to engage Jewish communities in the larger global dialogue about some of our era's most pressing concerns.
"Many Jews have an ambivalent relationship to halacha," Timoner said. "But the three issues I'm raising in my thesis" -- the meaning of Shabbat observance, the treatment of workers and our collective treatment of the Earth -- "connect to a lot of urgent questions. It basically means asking, how should we live in the world?"
The Point Foundation was established in 2001 by Bruce Lindstrom, an entrepreneur who helped to launch companies that eventually became part of Costco and Sam's Club. Since its inception, the foundation has distributed more than $6 million in scholarships, which average about $30,000 a year, a figure that includes direct financial support, mentorship programs and leadership training.
Timoner, one of 27 Point Foundation scholarship recipients this year out of an applicant pool of 1,300, said that after her studies at HUC-JIR, she wants to become a congregational rabbi.
"I want to be with people through all aspects of life," Timoner said. "That's a rare privilege."
-- Nick Street, Contributing Writer
Kadima Heschel Graduates First Class
Kadima Heschel West Middle School, a transdenominational Jewish day school in West Hills, celebrated a milestone on June 17 when it graduated its first class. The 56 eighth-graders that graduated were part of the original 130 students who enrolled in the school one year ago.
The school, which serves sixth, seventh and eighth grades, was founded as a result of a middle school merger between Kadima Hebrew Academy in West Hills and Heschel West in Agoura.
The newly founded school's mission is to "provide students with the tools necessary to form a strong Jewish identity," while creating an environment conducive to learning and growth.
-- Molly Binenfeld, Contributing Writer
B'nai Mitzvah Contest Offers Photo Prize
Playing to the budding celebrity in every 13-year-old, Dave Lee and Jo Kaplan of Massachusetts-based Allegro Photography have created a b'nai mitzvah essay-writing challenge, with a top prize valued at $4,500 that includes a rock star photo shoot, coverage during the big day, as well as a coffee-table gallery book and a 300-image online album.
Essays should answer one of the following three questions: What aspect of your day would you most want us to capture in photographs and why? What does it mean to you to be Jewish in 2008? If you could invite anyone (alive or dead) to your celebration, who would it be and why?
Bar or bat mitzvah students with a celebration date from Oct. 15, 2008 to April 15, 2009 are eligible to enter the contest. The deadline for entrees is Aug. 15, and the winner will be announced Sept. 15 at the Allegro Photography Web site
However, if the site of the celebration is more than 125 miles from Boston, the winner's family is responsible for the photographers' travel expenses, including hotel accommodation and car rental.