December 4, 2003
Settlement in Reburying Case
The largest funeral company in the United States settled a class-action lawsuit brought by Jewish families in Florida. Service Corporation International agreed to pay $100 million to Jewish families in Broward County in a lawsuit that included accusations that Jewish bodies were dug up and reburied. The settlement still needs to be approved by a judge. A similar lawsuit in Palm Beach County still is pending.
'Iran 11' Go Public
The families of 11 missing Iranian Jews are publicizing their plight and asking the United Nations to help. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Iranian American Jewish Federation submitted a letter Tuesday to the U.N. secretary-general, asking him to help discover the missing Jews' condition and whereabouts. The Jews went missing up to nine years ago after trying illegally to leave Iran, which has strict emigration laws for Jews. Until now, their families preferred backroom dealings. Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents, said they decided to go public because "there's been no movement all these years, so they really have nothing to lose."
Annan Blasts Fence
Kofi Annan says Israel's security barrier could damage prospects for peace. The U.N. Secretary General was reporting on Israel's compliance with a General Assembly resolution that demanded the barrier be dismantled. Routing the wall through parts of the West Bank, instead of alongside it, "could damage the longer-term prospects for peace," Annan said in the report released last Friday.
Jewish Extremists Guilty
Two Israeli Jewish extremists pleaded guilty to weapons-related crimes as part of a plea bargain. Yitzhak Pass, whose infant daughter was killed in 2001 by Palestinian terrorists, and his brother-in- aw, Matityahu Shvu, will not face charges that they planned to use explosives found in their car for a terrorist attack. Israeli officials believe the two were part of a cell of Jewish terrorists based in the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin. The plea bargain was announced Tuesday.
To Fund Religious Studies or Not?
The Supreme Court is hearing a case on state-funded scholarships to students of religion. Joshua Davey was denied a Washington state scholarship because he was to undertake pastoral studies at Northwest College. Orthodox Jewish groups have filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the study of religious texts is an essential component of the free exercise of religion. The American Jewish Congress has filed an opposing brief.
Bangladeshi Editor Arrested
A press freedom group is protesting the arrest of a Bangladeshi editor on charges of spying for Israel. Reporters Without Borders said it is dismayed at the arrest of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudury as he was set to leave the South Asian Muslim country for Israel on Nov. 29. Choudury was to deliver a speech in Tel Aviv to a writers group on the role of the media in Muslim-Jewish dialogue. Bangladesh and Israel do not have diplomatic relations.
More Trouble for Yeshiva
Australian police are investigating a fire that destroyed part of an apartment complex formerly owned by a yeshiva. The fire broke out last Friday after mattresses were placed in a pile and then set afire, a spokesman for the Sydney Yeshiva said. No one was injured. The yeshiva recently sold the complex in order to repay debts the yeshiva owed to Rabbi Joseph Gutnick, brother-in-law of yeshiva head Rabbi Pinchus Feldman. Chabad-Lubavitch representatives recently purchased the yeshiva.
An Online Guide to Restitution
The Claims Conference published an online guide to Holocaust restitution programs. The group's Compensation and Restitution at a Glance Chart now is available at the Claims Conference's homepage at www.claimscon.org. The guide provides a country-by-country breakdown of current compensation and restitution programs and appropriate contact information. Information on art and insurance policies relating to the Holocaust era and the Swiss banks settlement also is included.
"This online publication will aid Holocaust survivors and people working in agencies that assist survivors in navigating the sometimes complex process of applying for compensation and restitution," said Gideon Taylor, executive vice president of the Claims Conference.
Bush, Let My People In!
U.S. Jewish groups are pressing President Bush to allow all 70,000 refugees slots to be filled this year.
The 22 groups from across the political spectrum said that fewer than 30,000 of the 70,000 slots have been filled during the past two years.
"Our concern over the current status of the U.S. Refugee Program is based on our core values as Americans and Jews," said a letter from the groups dated Monday.
Arrest in Turkey Shul Bombings
Turkey arrested a man believed to have given the orders in one of the Turkish synagogue bombings. The suspect, whose name was not released, is believed to be behind the attack on the Beth Israel synagogue, one of two deadly attacks on Nov. 15. He was charged Saturday with treason, which is punishable by life in prison.
London Synagogue Attacked
A London synagogue had its windows broken in what police are describing as a hate crime. The Orthodox Edgware Synagogue was attacked with bricks after congregants left at the end of Shabbat on Saturday. It is the second time this year the shul has been targeted.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.