February 20, 2003
'Iran 5' Released From Jail
The last five Jews still held in an Iranian prison have been released, according to a U.S. Jewish leader. "We welcome [the news] and hope that it will now be permanent," Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Wednesday.
Earlier this year, the five were released on what Iranian officials referred to as a "vacation," but they were put back in jail this past weekend before getting their freedom. The five were among 13 Jews arrested in early 1999 for allegedly spying for Israel. In a case that drew worldwide attention, they were tried in the southern city of Shiraz, and 10 received prison sentences. Five already have been released after serving some of their time. Israel denies that the men were its spies.
Congress Cuts Israel Aid
U.S. foreign aid to Israel was cut last week during the annual congressional appropriations process. Due to a budget crunch, spending, including aid to Israel, was cut across the board at a rate of 0.65 percent.
The spending package, awaiting the president's signature, includes language that says no U.S. funds can be used to support a Palestinian state unless the State Department finds that the Palestinians have instituted reforms, including a change in leadership and the creation of a Constitution.
It also has provisions that require the United States to review the aid going to Palestinian-controlled areas and to
the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
El Al to Sell Shares
El Al will sell a 49 percent ownership stake in a public offering in May. The Israeli government will retain majority control of the national airline for the time being, but the other 51 percent of the shares will be sold at some point in the future, said El Al's president, Amos Shapira. The public offering is in line with a government decision taken about a year ago to privatize the airline, Shapira said. Even after all shares are sold, the government will be able to commandeer El Al planes in case of a national emergency, but shareholders would be able to reconsider El Al's policy of not flying on the Sabbath, he said.
Touro College to Open in Berlin
An American college with Jewish roots is planning to open a branch in Berlin. The goal of Touro College Berlin will be twofold: to provide an American degree in business administration and to offer a traditional Jewish education, school founder Bernard Lander said. The first classes will be offered in the fall.
Swiss Officials Can't Find Rabbi's Killers
Swiss officials said they have given up on finding those responsible for the 2001 shooting death of an Israeli rabbi. Prosecutors said last Friday that they have run out of leads in the search for the killer of 71-year-old Abraham Greenbaum. A father of 12 and the dean of a yeshiva in Bnei Brak, Greenbaum was visiting Zurich on a fundraising mission when he was gunned down on the streets.
Houston Federation Criticizes UJC
The Jewish federation in Houston is considering suspending its dues to the United Jewish Communities (UJC), federation insiders have confirmed. In a letter circulated to 20 large- to intermediate-sized federations last month, the Houston federation said the national system "had lost its way," according to the Forward, which first reported the letter. Houston cited what it said were flaws in decision making and overseas allocations.
Officials there also questioned whether UJC had "thrown away" $6 million on the 2000-01 National Jewish Population Study, results of which were shelved in November due to lost data. The letter comes as federation leaders of large cities prepare to meet during the first week of March to examine the role of the national system. Stephen Hoffman, the president and CEO of the UJC, would not comment on the development.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.