June 22, 2006
Presbyterian Church Fixes Divestment Damage
Two years after it angered Jews by passing a resolution calling for divestment from Israel, the Presbyterian Church (USA) is trying to undo the damage.
At this year's General Assembly in Birmingham, a church committee agreed Saturday night to ask the full assembly to replace its 2004 resolution calling for "phased, selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel" with a policy of "corporate engagement" that would restrict investments in Israel, the Gaza Strip and West Bank to peaceful pursuits. The full assembly was to vote on the resolution Wednesday.
The committee overwhelmingly agreed to the motion after days of deliberation in which it held open hearings and heard dozens of proposals.
Although the resolution does not formally rescind divestment, most took it to mean that the drive toward divestment had been stopped, and that the call for "corporate engagement" shows a more balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The resolution approved by the church's peacemaking and international issues committee:
- Calls on the church to restrict its investments that relate to Israel, Gaza, eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank to peaceful pursuits;
- Urges peaceful cooperation among Israelis, Americans and Palestinians, and Jews, Muslims and Christians;
- Calls for dismantling Israel's West Bank security barrier where it ventures beyond the pre-1967 boundary;
- Aims to submit these proposals to U.S., Israeli and Palestinian politicians and religious leaders.
Klimt Paintings to Leave LACMA
Los Angeles' loss is New York's gain, with the sale by local resident Maria Altmann of an iconic Gustav Klimt painting to the Big Apple's Neue Galerie, owned by Jewish cosmetics heir and philanthropist Ronald Lauder.
The gold-flecked 1907 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, Altmann's aunt, was sold for a reported $135 million, the highest known price ever paid for a painting.
In addition to the portrait, four other Klimt paintings were recently returned to Altmann and her family by the Austrian government, after a seven-year legal and diplomatic battle waged by Los Angeles attorney E. Randol Schoenberg.
The art works were seized from the Bloch-Bauer family by the Nazis, after their takeover of Austria in 1938.
Sale of the "Golden Adele" is a cultural blow for Los Angeles, and especially the L.A. County Museum of Art (LACMA), which is currently exhibiting all five Klimt paintings.
LACMA tried hard to keep the collection intact and permanently on home grounds, but was unable to come up with the necessary funds.
Altmann, a lively 90-year-old Cheviot Hills resident, is now planning a trip to Europe with her grandchildren, but doesn't plan to change her lifestyle.
"I'll stay in the house where I've lived for 30 years, keep driving my '92 Ford, and I don't need any new clothing," she told The Journal in an interview earlier this year.
Angelenos have one more week to view the Klimt collection at the LACMA exhibit, which closes June 30. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Ethiopian Immigration to Israel to Remain Flat?
An Israeli ministerial committee recommended that the government postpone a decision to double the number of Falash Mura allowed into Israel from Ethiopia. The Falash Mura are descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity and who are now returning to Judaism. The government decided several years ago to increase the number allowed into Israel each month, from 300 to 600. However, the decision was never implemented, and the committee said the move should be postponed further because of financial considerations. The recommendation comes as Israel's High Court of Justice is set to hear a petition next week on the government's failure to expedite the aliyah.
Reform Movement Center Opens in Jaffa
The Reform movement in Israel inaugurated a $12 million cultural center in Jaffa on Sunday. The facility, to be opened officially in October, will be called Mishkenot Daniel. The decision to put it in Jaffa was part of the movement's efforts to reach out to middle- and working-class families in Jaffa and Tel Aviv. The inauguration coincided with the first annual convention of the Association of Reform Zionists in Israel to be held in the Jewish state. The center is to include a youth hostel, auditorium, classrooms and a synagogue. Some prominent American Jews have donated to its building, and Israeli Reform movement officials hope local Reform congregants will help raise additional funds for the complex.
Israel Expands Residency Law
Israel expanded a law granting residency to children of non-Jewish foreign workers. On Sunday, the Cabinet approved a proposal by Interior Minister Ronnie Bar-On to ease the minimum age requirement for children whose parents work legally in Israel and who want to become citizens themselves. Previously, only children who were born in Israel or arrived before age 10 were eligible, but the bar has now been raised to 14. Other requirements for candidates are that they speak Hebrew and have lived in Israel for at least six years. After completing mandatory military service, they will become eligible for citizenship. The amendment was opposed by Cabinet ministers from the Shas Party, which said it would threaten Israel's demographic balance. But Bar-On argued that it applied to only a few-hundred potential candidates.
Kosher Restaurant to Open in Turkey
Yediot Achronot reported Tuesday that Silence Park, a new holiday resort to be launched in the city of Antalya next month, includes a glatt kosher restaurant, the first in Turkey. The restaurant will serve both meat and dairy meals, using both local fare and products imported from Israel. Antalya is especially popular with Israeli vacationers given its geographical proximity and cheap prices.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.