Bush Signs Security Aid
President Bush signed a law giving $25 million to protect Jewish sites and other nonprofit institutions. On Monday, Bush signed the Homeland Security Appropriations Act, which earmarks money for high-risk nonprofit institutions to be doled out by the Department of Homeland Security. Jewish organizations, including the United Jewish Communities and Orthodox Union, had pushed for the aid, to allow for Jewish community sites and synagogues to secure their premises from terrorist attacks. Some Jewish groups opposed the bill, arguing that providing federal funds to houses of worship would smash the barrier between church and state.
Berman to Presbyterians: No Thanks
A Jewish congressman rejected an offer to discuss the Presbyterian General Assembly's decision to divest from Israel. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys.) led 15 representives last month in condemning the Presbyterian G.A.'s decision. In a reply, the church stood firm in its July decision to divest from companies trading with Israel, but offered to discuss the issue.
"It has been very disappointing to us that the U.S. Congress has not proven to be an ally or a balanced arbiter in the negotiations for peace in the region," the letter to Berman said.
Berman said he would continue to pursue dialogue with Presbyterian ministers and lay leaders, but said the letter from the church's Washington office turned him off.
U.S. Court Throws Out Generali Claims
A federal judge dismissed Holocaust-era lawsuits against a major Italian insurer. The 20 class-action suits survivors and their heirs filed in New York, Wisconsin, Florida and California against Assicurazioni Generali are preempted by a federal policy of resolving Holocaust-era insurance claims voluntarily through a private commission, U.S. District Judge Michael Mukasey said in his ruling Friday. Generali lawyers welcomed the dismissal, and said they remain committed to paying all claims.
Ginsburg Pursues Justice
A mezuzah on the door is OK, but no one knows how Ruth Bader Ginsburg will judge the public display of the Ten Commandments. The Supreme Court justice, who will consider this term whether displaying the Ten Commandments violates church-state separation, described the large, silver mezuzah on her chambers' doorpost, as well as the biblical injunction, "Justice, justice shall you pursue." She did not mention the Commandments in her 10-minute speech Monday to the United Jewish Communities' Lions of Judah function for major women donors. Ginsburg said she and Justice Stephen Breyer were both mindful of their Jewish heritage.
"I am a judge, born, raised and proud of being a Jew. The demand for justice runs throughout the Jewish tradition," she said.
Report: Anti-Semitism Threatens French Democracy
Anti-Semitism and racism are threats to French democracy, according to a government-sponsored report. In a 70-page document presented Tuesday to Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin, the report's author, Jean-Christophe Rupin, called for increased judicial involvement to fight anti-Semitism in schools, and the creation of a national center to compile details and statistics on anti-Semitism and racism. More controversially, Rupin also suggested combating "radical anti-Zionists who were anti-Semitic by proxy" by the creation of new legislation that would outlaw comparisons of Israel to apartheid or Nazism. Figures for anti-Semitic incidents in France between January and September this year reached some 166 acts and 166 threats, more than the total for all of 2003. However, de Villepin said there had been a sharp drop in anti-Semitic incidents since June.
Shake-up at Russian Jewish Group?
The Russian Jewish Congress (RJC) is likely to have a new president in an apparent attempt to restructure one of Russian Jewry's leading organizations. During a closed-door meeting Tuesday, the group's leading donors approved Vladimir Slutsker to replace the current president, Yevgeny Satanovsky, JTA has learned. A banker and member of Russian Parliament's upper house, Slutsker is little-known to the public. A newcomer to Jewish public life, he joined the RJC leadership only this month by making a financial contribution of $250,000. Slutsker is believed to be close to Vladimir Ressin, the Jewish deputy mayor of Moscow, who has sought to overcome the existing split between the RJC and its major rival, the Federation of Jewish Communities, the Chabad-run organization that is the largest Jewish group in Russia. RJC leaders still will have to vote on the choice of Slutsker as president.
In an interview with JTA, Satanovsky downplayed the importance of the development and denied that any change in leadership has taken place.
Teen Diary Like Anne Frank's
There seems to be another Holocaust-era diary similar to Anne Frank's. The diary and love letters written by Helga Deen, a Jewish 18-year-old, to her Dutch boyfriend recently were donated to a Dutch archive. Archivists in the Dutch city of Tilburg on Tuesday announced the rare discovery. Deen kept the journal during the final month of her detainment from April-July 1943. She then was shipped off to a concentration camp in Sobibor, Poland, with her brother, father and mother. All four died there.
Jewish Internet Radio Launched
B'nai B'rith is launching a 24-hour, Jewish music station on the Internet. The Jewish group said the station, launched Monday at www.bnaibrithradio.org, is the first of its kind in the United States. B'nai B'rith plans to bring it to satellite stations, and to launch Spanish and French versions later this year. The station will broadcast Yiddish, Israeli, Jewish American, instrumental and Chasidic music, and will feature Saturday night singalongs.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency