The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) announced Monday that it would change admission policies to accept openly gay students at its rabbinical school. Arnold Eisen, chancellor-elect of the Conservative movement's flagship institution, made the decision after consulting with the seminary community and conducting a movement-wide survey, both of which found strong support for the change.
In December, the movement's legal authority, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, endorsed three opinions on the question of homosexuality. Two upheld the movement's traditional stance barring gay clergy and commitment ceremonies, while a third opened the door to gay rabbis and commitment ceremonies while upholding the biblical prohibition on male intercourse. The conflicting opinions enabled individual Conservative institutions to make their own policy decisions.
In Los Angeles, the rabbinical school at American Jewish University (formerly the University of Judaism) has already admitted two openly gay students for the fall term. The movement's other seminaries in Jerusalem, Budapest and Buenos Aires are not expected to follow suit.
Olmert, Ban Ki-moon meet
Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert met with the United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon Monday in Jerusalem. In remarks after, Ban suggested that Israel and the international community give the newly formed Palestinian Authority unity government "some political space" to meet international demands that it renounce terrorism and recognize Israel.
Ban, who refused meetings with Hamas officials, added that both sides must take steps toward peace.
"I would like to see this new government act against the firing of rockets from Gaza," he said of the Hamas-Fatah coalition. "In the same spirit, Israel's actions are also very important," he added, citing settlements, outposts and checkpoints in the West Bank.
Ban visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in his first official visit to the country, and was scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni before continuing his Mideast tour to Amman and Riyadh for an Arab League summit.
Saudi Arabia bars Israeli journalist
Saudi Arabia reportedly barred an Israeli journalist traveling with Ban Ki-moon on his Mideast tour. The New York Times reported that Orly Azoulay, 53, Washington bureau chief of Yediot Achronot, was to be part of a group of 11 reporters accompanying the U.N. secretary-general. A dual citizen, she applied with the other journalists using her French passport. Despite requests from Ban's office, the Saudi consulate in New York returned the journalists' passports, but didn't stamp Azoulay's. Ban was to go to Riyadh on Tuesday to attend an Arab League summit meeting. He arrived in Israel on Sunday; the Jewish state granted visas to all 11 journalists, including at least three who were Arab- or Iranian-born and traveling on European passports, the Times reported.
Seattle Federation returns to building
The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle returned to its old building after a shooting spree last summer forced it out. The group moved into the building in a ceremony Sunday. The building had been remodeled since July 28, when a gunman killed Federation worker Pam Waechter and wounded five others. The $1.1 million renovation includes improved security, more bright, open spaces and a large picture of Waechter. The shooting site was turned into conference rooms. The decision to move back was not an easy one, federation member Robin Boehler told KomoTv.com.
"Some people felt that we should move to another location. Others thought it was important to come back. This is our space and we should move back into it," she said. "The majority of the folks thought that we should come back, that this is our space and we shouldn't be chased away by an act of hate."
Rice Mum on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations
Washington has no intention of taking over Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Condoleezza Rice said.
"I don't intend by any means to take control of the Israeli-Palestinian bilateral dialogue," the U.S. secretary of state said Monday after meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Jerusalem, according to Ha'aretz. "I think it is very important."
Rice, who is in the region holding parallel talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, was expected to meet later Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Sylvia Heschel dies at 94
Sylvia Heschel, wife of the late theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel, died Monday in New York City. She was 94. Born Sylvia Straus in Philadelphia and raised in Cleveland, Heschel was a classically trained pianist who taught and performed in New York, according to The Associated Press. She was sometimes credited with inspiring her husband's passion for music. The couple met during World War II in Cincinnati, their daughter Susannah Heschel, a professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth College, said.
"They were both at a dinner party and my mother was asked to play," she said. "She played and he fell in love with her."
They were married in 1946. Sylvia Heschel traveled widely with her husband and read over his speeches before he gave them, their daughter said. A funeral service is scheduled for Tuesday in New York City.
Poll: Palestinians split on international conditions
Palestinians are split on whether their government should accept Israel and stop terrorism in order to get more international aid, a poll found. A study by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 48 percent of Palestinians think the new Hamas-Fatah coalition should renounce terrorism, recognize Israel and accept past peace deals.
Rejection of these terms has blocked direct aid to the cash-strapped P.A. since Hamas took power in March 2006, although indirect aid has skyrocketed to counterbalance it. An equal number believe their government should not accept Israel. The poll, conducted last week, surveyed 1,270 Palestinian and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Katsav questioned again
Moshe Katsav is to be interrogated again in his sexual misconduct case. Israeli Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz approved the move Monday in light of new information in the case against the suspended president. Katsav, who faces possible charges of rape and other sexual offenses, was given a three-month suspension by the Knesset House Committee. He has denied all wrongdoing, and vowed to step down from his position if indicted. A hearing that will help decide whether to indict him has been set for May.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.