November 30, 2006
Conservative Movement to vote on gay marriage
The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, the movement's highest legal authority, is expected to vote next week on five separate teshuvot, or responsa, that range from a complete overturn of the traditional prohibition on homosexual intercourse to a restatement of the committee's 1992 decision upholding the ban.
Implicit in those opinions are views on whether gays and lesbians should be ordained as rabbis and whether Conservative clergy can officiate at commitment ceremonies. Committee members were loath to speculate this week on the final outcome, but insiders expect the committee to endorse both the traditional ban and a more liberal opinion -- leaving it to local rabbis to make determinations for each community.
But that's hardly a foregone conclusion, and the liberal opinion could still fail, particularly if the committee determines that lifting the ban on homosexual intercourse is so substantial a break from halachic precedent that it entails a takanah, an act of legislation overturning an established tradition. A takanah requires an absolute majority of the committee's 25 members, or 13 votes, to pass. A normal interpretive teshuva requires only six votes.
Report: Jerusalem talks to Barghouti
Israel's government has been holding indirect talks with a Palestinian politician jailed for orchestrating terrorist attacks. Channel 2 television reported Monday that Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah lawmaker sentenced to five life prison terms in 2003, helped broker this week's Gaza Strip cease-fire at the behest of the Olmert government, which contacted him through Chaim Oron, a Knesset member from the Meretz Party. Oron declined comment. According to Channel 10 television, the previous Israeli government of Ariel Sharon also communicated indirectly with Barghouti. With Israel and Western power brokers scrambling to offset the influence of Hamas among Palestinians, there has been growing speculation that Barghouti, who professes moderate political views, could be released as part of a rapprochement deal.
West Bank truce seen
Israel and the Palestinian Authority are trying to extend the Gaza Strip cease-fire to the West Bank. Following Sunday's declaration of a Gaza truce, spokesmen for both sides said negotiations were under way for a similar deal in the West Bank.
"I hope we are going to move in the next few days to have a similar arrangement in the West Bank," Saeb Erekat, an aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, told Israel's Army Radio. Israeli diplomatic sources confirmed this in comments to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. Extending an olive branch, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that Israel was willing to evacuate settlements in the West Bank to make way for a Palestinian state, but only on condition that the Palestinians abandon violence.
Israel allows pro-Abbas deployment in Gaza
Israel agreed to allow Mahmoud Abbas to send a loyal security force to the Gaza Strip. Israeli sources said Tuesday that the Palestinian Authority president had requested permission to redeploy the 1,000-strong Badr Brigade, which is currently stationed in Jordan, to Gaza, and that it had been approved by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. There was no immediate date given for the move, which would strengthen Abbas' hand against the rival Hamas in Gaza and could help cement an Israeli-Palestinian truce declared in Gaza over the weekend. The United States has voiced interest in bolstering Abbas' security forces, especially given the buildup of Hamas terrorists.
Holocaust hero Werber dies at 92
Jack Werber, who helped rescue some 700 Jewish boys at a Nazi camp, died at age 92. Werber suffered a fatal heart attack Nov. 18 in his hometown of Great Plains, N.Y. Born in Poland to a furrier, Werber was separated from his wife and daughter in 1939 and taken to Buchenwald. In 1944, a transport of 2,000 prisoners came to the camp, including some 700 boys. Werber, the barracks clerk, worked with fellow inmates to hide the youngest throughout the barracks and find easier jobs for the older ones. He obtained the complicity of some Nazi guards who were beginning to fear war-crimes charges. After the war, Werber moved to the United States, where his older brother, Max, his only surviving immediate relative, had settled. Werber remarried and started a business in the 1950s, selling coonskin-style caps made popular by Disney's "Davy Crockett" television show.
OU agrees to oppose Israeli policy
The Orthodox Union (OU) adopted a resolution empowering its leadership to publicly oppose Israeli government policies. The measure was approved by delegates at the group's biennial convention in Jerusalem on Saturday night.
It was part of a broader resolution on Israel's security challenges. The resolution noted the continued launching of rockets from Gaza more than a year after Israel's withdrawal from the coastal strip and expressed skepticism about any policy that relinquishes territory without obtaining security and peace in return. Other resolutions adopted at the convention concerned the plight of evacuated Gaza settlers, the need for a "proactive" response to substance abuse in the Orthodox community and the genocide in Darfur.
Palestinians start English-language newspaper
A privately owned English-language newspaper was launched in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Associated Press reported that The Palestine Times began circulation Monday with 5,000 subscriptions. The new daily says it is not affiliated with any political party; its first edition included op-eds from a Hamas spokesman, a Fatah spokesman and an independent analyst, the AP reported. Circulation in Israel and an Internet edition are planned.
Canadian Muslims send anti-Semitic cartoons
The Canadian Islamic Congress circulated anti-Semitic cartoons to Jewish homes in Ontario, B'nai B'rith Canada charged.
According to a B'nai B'rith statement, Jewish residents of London, Ontario, received the cartoons in their mailboxes along with political flyers from the Canadian Islamic Congress, days before a Monday federal election.
One cartoon shows Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper draped in an Israeli flag with a slightly exaggerated hook nose, reminiscent of stereotypical anti-Semitic depictions of Jews.
Australia sees increased anti-Semitism