February 12, 2004
Vilnai: Labor Would Consider Government
Israel's Labor Party would consider joining Ariel Sharon's government if the prime minister has a plan to return to peace talks. The declaration Wednesday from Matan Vilnai, a leader of Labor, was the clearest to date that Sharon's ruling Likud Party can count on Labor's support if Sharon goes ahead with his announced plan to uproot most Jewish communities from the Gaza Strip. Vilnai said he was speaking on the party's behalf in an address to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Vilnai said unilateral withdrawal was dangerous, but that Labor would support it from the opposition because it favored the relocation of any settlements. On the other hand, he said, "If it will be part of a grand strategy, maybe we will be part of the government."
San Francisco Leader Resigns
The director of San Francisco's Jewish federation resigned. Sam Salkin, CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, resigned Feb. 5. The creation of the federation's first business plan last November completed his work there, Salkin said. The plan is a "road map for the federation for its foreseeable future," he said. "Having completed that road map and having fixed a lot of things that were broken and needed a lot of attention, it became clear to me that I had given the federation the best of what I had to give." Salkin, who called his federation position "a marvelous opportunity," said he was not yet ready to announce his next job, but that he would remain in San Francisco.
Israel Considering New Loans
Israel will consider whether to seek new loans with loan guarantees from the United States. Last year, Congress approved $9 billion in loan guarantees over three years, and Israeli and U.S. officials will meet in two weeks to determine whether the United States should release the second installment of guarantees. U.S. officials will determine Israel's ability to implement economic reforms on which the aid is contingent.
Maccabiah Compensation Finalized
An Israeli judge has finalized compensation payment to victims of the 1997 Maccabiah bridge tragedy. Judge Shmuel Berliner of Haifa District Court this week ordered the Phoenix insurance company to pay the final $440,000 on 70 claims that amounted to $15.5 million overall. Except for two Austrians, all recipients of the compensation are Australian. Four Australian athletes died when a bridge collapsed that had been built to carry athletes across the polluted waters of the Yarkon River to the opening ceremony of the 1997 Maccabiah competition. Ron Weiser, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, thanked Israel for making up the $10 million difference between the insured sum and the total compensation claim.
Peanuts, Pretzels or Jesus?
A pilot on an American Airlines flight suggested that non-Christians learn about Christianity. On a flight from Los Angeles last Friday, the pilot asked Christians aboard to raise their hands, and suggested that they spend the flight discussing religion with other passengers. The pilot then called non-Christians "crazy," a passenger claimed. Many passengers tried to use their cell phones to call relatives on the ground before flight attendants reassured them. The pilot, who recently had returned from a mission to Costa Rica, apologized for his remarks later in the flight. The airline is investigating the incident.
Mass. Rabbis Back Gays
A group of Massachusetts rabbis backed a state court's ruling legalizing gay marriage. In a half-page ad in the Boston Globe, 95 rabbis from the Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform movements called for the Massachusetts legislature to support the state Supreme Court's ruling that homosexuals have the right to marry.
Rabbi Daniel Judson of Temple Beth David in Canton said that he felt the media wrongly portrayed all clergy as opposing gay marriage. The $18,000 ad ran as state lawmakers prepared to consider a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages starting in 2006, and reclassifying any gay marriages that take place until then as civil unions.
Jewish Play Tours Europe
A Jewish-themed play by an U.S. playwright will be performed in four different countries in coming days. Jeff Baron's two-man play, "Visiting Mr. Green," will be performed in Hungarian in Budapest, in French in Paris, in Italian near Milan and in both French and Flemish in Belgium. The play recounts the complex relationship between two lonely New York Jews -- an embittered Orthodox pensioner and a young secular homosexual. It has been performed in countries from Serbia to Japan since it opened in the United States in 1996.
Briefs courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency.