October 5, 2006
Congress OKs bill barring military chaplains from mentioning Jesus in official prayers
The U.S. Congress rescinded language in Pentagon orders that allowed military chaplains to mention Jesus in official prayers. Controversy over including similar language in the Defense Authorization Act, a critical spending bill, dogged attempts to pull the bill out of a Senate-House conference committee before Congress recessed for midterm elections.
The conferees ultimately decided to strike the language and order the Pentagon to rescind its earlier instructions. Mikey Weinstein, a former U.S. Air Force officer who led the battle to remove the language, applauded the decision. "We welcome the opportunity Congress has afforded to discuss the appropriate role of religion and chaplains in the military," Weinstein, who is Jewish, said last week in a statement issued by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which he founded. "The passage of this bill will be a victory for those of us who have been fighting so assiduously to protect both the rights of the men and women in our armed forces and the United States Constitution."
Austrian extremists gain in elections
Two far-right parties with a history of anti-Jewish rhetoric made gains in Austrian elections. National elections held over the weekend saw a 50 percent rise since 2002 elections in the percentage of votes for the Freedom Party and the Alliance for Austria's Future. Members of both parties have expressed antipathy toward Israel and are known for their campaigns against Muslims living in Austria.
The left-leaning Social Democrats won the election with nearly 36 percent of the vote, followed by the center-right People's Party with 34 percent. The Freedom Party came in third with 11 percent, and the Alliance for Austria's Future, run by right-wing extremist Jorg Haider, received 4 percent of the vote. The Social Democrats and People's Party are expected to form a governing coalition.
Federal legislation Includes grant for Federation model elderly care program
A Jewish federation model to facilitate care for the elderly in their home communities will be included in federal grant legislation. The United Jewish Communities, the umbrella body for North American federations, launched the "Aging in Place" initiative in 2002, helping 40 communities in 25 states obtain federal dollars for naturally occurring retirement communities. The model was featured in a U.S. Senate hearing this year to consider re-authorization of the Older Americans Act. As a result, a federal grant program for the retirement communities is included in language agreed to by House-Senate conferees.
Swiss stage pro-Israel rally
Approximately 3,000 demonstrators held a pro-Israel rally in the Swiss capital. Saturday's rally in Bern called for the Swiss government to support Israel's right to exist and show solidarity with the Jewish state's fight against terrorism. Twenty organizations signed a resolution urging the government to refuse negotiations with terrorist groups that reject the existence of the Israeli state.
British House of Lords member faces probe by party over Israel lobby remarks
A member of Britain's House of Lords will be investigated by her party for comments about the "pro-Israel lobby." Liberal Democrat Party members have announced that Baroness Jenny Tonge's position in the party will be reviewed in response to her public remarks.
In a speech that recently aired on BBC Radio, Tonge said, "The pro-Israeli lobby has got its [financial] grips on the Western world. I think they've probably got a certain grip on our party."
More than 20 of her peers in the House of Lords wrote a letter to the Times condemning Tonge's comments, stating, "Baroness Tonge evoked a classic anti-Jewish conspiracy theory," and that her language "as a member of the House of Lords, was irresponsible and inappropriate.''
In early 2004, she was fired from her position as Liberal Democrat spokeswoman on international development for saying she could understand why a Palestinian would become a suicide bomber and also that she would consider becoming one were she a Palestinian.
Remains of Czech Jewish graveyard found
Evidence of a medieval Jewish cemetery was discovered in the Czech Republic. Researchers from a preservationist organization in the city of Pilsen say they found documents in the city archive revealing details of what they believe was one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Czech lands in the 14th century.
The cemetery's existence was already known, said archaeologist Radek Siroky of the West Bohemian Institute for Heritage Conservation and Documentation, but the new documents reveal more specifics about its location.
He said that only excavations, approved by religious authorities, could provide more details about the cemetery's size and the nature of the Jewish community there.
Briefs courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.