Syria's president said his country was bracing for a possible attack by Israel. Bashar Assad told a Kuwaiti newspaper last weekend that, in the wake of the Lebanon War, he believed Israel had no intent of pursuing peace talks with Syria.
"Syria expects Israeli aggression at any time," he told Al-Anba. "Naturally, in the absence of peace, war can happen. Therefore, we have begun making preparations within the framework of our capabilities."
Jerusalem officials, in response, reiterated Israel's stance that it sought no confrontation with Syria. In Israel, Assad is regarded as having been frustrated by Syria's inability to win back the entire Golan Heights through diplomacy. Israel rules out such preconditions for talks, and has called on Damascus to stop supporting Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist groups if it is sincere about peace.
Israel condemns North Korean nuclear test
Israel joined the global condemnation over North Korea's nuclear weapons test. After Pyongyang stunned the world Monday by announcing it had conducted its first controlled atomic blast, Israel's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the move was "irresponsible and provocative" and "could pose a serious threat to the stability of Northeast Asia and to global and international security."
Israeli officials noted that a nuclear-armed North Korea was likely to help Iran attain its own atomic arsenal. Army Radio quoted a senior Israeli diplomat as calling for tough Western action against North Korea, including, if necessary, resorting to military force.
Supreme Court docket piques Jewish groups' interest
Jewish civil liberties groups are looking forward to a relatively quiet U.S. Supreme Court session in 2006-07, with none of the major church-state issues that have roiled the community in recent years. Instead, Jewish groups are focused on two cases about issues that don't directly affect Judaism as a religion, but that traditionally have held the attention of Jewish civil libertarians: abortion and segregation. The court will hear two cases Nov. 8 in which federal courts struck down parts of the ban on partial-birth abortion, which President Bush signed into law in 2003. In Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, pro-choice groups argue that the legislation does not have adequate health exceptions for women at risk, and bans such abortions as early as 13 weeks into gestation. Jewish groups opposed to the ban and filing friend-of-the court-briefs include the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Jewish Congress and the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW).
The other case capturing Jewish interest involves attempts to desegregate districts in Seattle and Lexington, Ky. Groups filing friend-of-the-court briefs include the ADL, the American Jewish Committee and the NCJW. The Jewish groups favor the municipalities. In both instances, the municipalities are introducing desegregation measures because natural demographic trends have rolled back desegregation efforts from the 1970s. In some cases, schools have become more than 85 percent minority.
Jewish interest was piqued because the Bush administration is backing parental groups that oppose the desegregation measures in the cases, Parents Involved v. Seattle and Meredith v. Jefferson County. The cases, which have been combined, will be heard in late November or early December.
New Jersey Federation as emergency training model?
New Jersey may become the first state to use its Jewish federation system to train citizens as emergency first responders. State police and homeland security officials met with representatives from each of New Jersey's 12 federations on Oct. 4 to discuss how they could offer CERT training to their employees and others in the Jewish community.
The federation trainee programs, and those who pass through them, would join a network of trained citizen emergency first responders run out of the federal Office of Homeland Security, which has some 2,500 training programs nationwide.
The New Jersey training would be offered for free through county offices of emergency management, according to Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Secure Community Network, the organization that facilitated the meeting. The group operates a communications network that keep tabs on the security of the Jewish community and helps Jewish organizations with security matters.
Goldenberg, who has been talking with representatives from the United Jewish Communities (UJC) federation umbrella about getting the training into all of UJC's 155 federations, said the Jewish community needs to be prepared to respond to emergencies in the post-Sept.11 world, especially after a shooting this summer at the federation in Seattle.
Israel opens pious maternity ward
An Israeli hospital unveiled a maternity ward designed for ultra-Orthodox Jews. The five new delivery rooms at Jerusalem's Bikur Cholim Hospital feature a special partition that allows the birthing mother to see her husband sitting beside her, but not for him to see her, Ma'ariv reported Monday. This provision satisfies Orthodox requirements of modesty. The rooms also have the options of stands for women's wigs and piped-in Chasidic music.
According to the newspaper, the renovations cost Bikur Cholim some $1.3 million, most of it donated.
"The delivery rooms are the hospital's flagship," said hospital director Barry Bar-Tziyon.
Sukkot record crowd at Western Wall
A record number of Jews turned out for Sukkot services at Jerusalem's Western Wall. An estimated 65,000 worshippers attended Monday's prayers at Judaism's most important site, which included the traditional blessing of the Cohanim, or high priests.
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, director of the Western Wall and Holy Places authority, described it as the largest turnout in a quarter-century.
Righteous Gentile Is Poland's Presidential Nobel nominee
Polish President Lech Kaczynski has nominated a Righteous Gentile for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Ha'aretz reported that Irena Sandlar, 96, was a member of the Polish underground group, Zegota, which was dedicated to saving Jews during the Holocaust. In 1965, she was recognized by the Yad Vashem Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority for smuggling Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. The children were either adopted by Christian families or sent to convents, but Sandlar recorded their real names so that they could eventually be reunited with their Jewish families, according to Ha'aretz. She would become the first Righteous Gentile to receive the prize.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency