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March 30, 2006

Community Briefs

http://www.jewishjournal.com/community_briefs/article/community_briefs_20060331

Westly Wants Pension Funds to Snub Iran

California State Controller Steve Westly called on the state's two largest pensions to check whether they have holdings in companies that would be subject to Iran-related sanctions.

"As fiduciaries protecting our retirees' benefits, we must act responsibly by taking action against companies sanctioned for facilitating weapons proliferation in Iran," Westly wrote in letters last Friday to the California Public Employees' Retirement System and California State Teachers' Retirement System.

Laws sanctioning companies that deal with Iran have been in place since 2000, but enforcement is likely to increase as the United States seeks to isolate the Islamic republic as it ignores calls to subject its nuclear program to international scrutiny.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) praised Westly and said he should serve as a model for other state officials.

"This is a very significant development that underscores the direct necessity for all mutual and pension fund managers to review their holdings and exposure to sanctions under U.S. law for investments in Iran," AIPAC spokesman Josh Block said.

Westly is a Democratic candidate for governor and his effort could burnish his credentials with Jewish voters. The other front-running candidates, Democrat Phil Angelides and Republican incumbent Arnold Schwarzenegger, also are expected to bid strongly for Jewish voters. -- Jewish Telegraphic Agency

A Local Plea to Save Darfur

"Do not stand idly by -- save Darfur" was former ambassador Koby Koomson's message to the audience that filled the sanctuary at Tarzana's Temple Judea. The recent event came on the heels of a gathering of 150 rabbis outside of the United Nations calling for international action in Darfur.

"The media have always conveyed the message that Africa doesn't matter and reports overwhelmingly on the negative. It's a continent that has been relegated as mysterious," said Koomson, a Washington D.C.-based business consultant and formerly Ghana's ambassador to the United States.

In his remarks, Temple Judea's Rabbi Donald Goor echoed the call to social activism: "We know the heart of the stranger, because we were the stranger."

The event, the congregation's first focusing on Darfur, was sponsored by Jewish World Watch, a Los Angeles-based effort to bring attention to human rights violations around the world.

"So many read about Darfur and pretend it's not my problem -- it's far away," Koomson told the crowd. "The world will buy a ticket to see the movie and have tears, then go back to their lives." -- Melissa Maroff, Contributing Writer

French Consul Condemns Anti-Semitism

"France cannot accept anti-Semitism and is pro-active in five separate areas to stamp out this scourge," Philippe Larrieu, the French consul general in Los Angeles, told some 300 congregants in a recent appearance at Congregation Shaarei Tefila on Shabbat Zachor, the Sabbath of Remembrance.

In introducing the consul-general at the Beverly Boulevard shul, Rabbi Nachum Kosofsky recalled the brutal murder in Paris last month of Ilan Halimi, a young French Jew, and said, "Our response to this meaningless crime is to remember."

Larrieu described a five-part initiative to stamp out anti-Semitism:

  • The Lellouche Act, which strengthened French laws against anti-Semitism;
  • "Repression," which he described as "the increase in penalties for anti-Semitic offenses, including crimes against property";
  • Communication, including a law prohibiting anti-Semitic broadcasts. It resulted in a ban on broadcasts by the Lebanon-based TV channel Al-Manar;
  • The creation of a committee chaired by the prime minister to fight racism and anti-Semitism;
  • Educational programs introduced in schools to counter racism and anti-Semitism. One day a year has been set aside to teach about the Shoah.
  • Larrieu acknowledged that anti-Semitism is indeed a problem in France but cited statistics from the Anti-Defamation League as well as the results of a poll published in the Israeli daily Maariv suggesting that anti-Semitism is hardly limited to his nation.

    The consul got a mixed review from congregants. One commented that Larrieu deserved credit for coming and could not have been expected to say anything very different. Another said that he left her with many unanswered questions.

    Larrieu summed up his visit saying that "dialogue with the Jewish community is very important" but added that his visit to Shaarei Tefila was the result of a personal invitation extended by Kosofksy and not a part of an orchestrated public-relations campaign. At the same time, he also said that French consulates throughout the United States are also reaching out to Jewish communities in response to the Halimi tragedy. -- Peter L. Rothholz, Contributing Writer

    Prom Clothes for Katrina Teens

    The United Jewish Communities (UJC) is sending prom clothes to children in areas ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. The umbrella group of the North American Jewish federation system sent more than 500 dresses and 400 tuxedos to teenagers in the region, part of the $28 million the UJC raised for Hurricane Katrina relief. -- JTA

     

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