United States

Rabbis fight cremations in US

By Sue Fishkoff, California, June 18, 2009

As increasing numbers of Americans choose cremation, a national organisation of liberal burial societies is trying to promote burial among the non-Orthodox.

“We’re going on the positive offensive rather than the negative ‘don’t get cremated’ route,” said Rabbi Stuart Kelman, president of Kavod v’Nichum, a North American consortium of burial societies.

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Bibi bows to US as settlers removed

By Anshel Pfeffer, May 27, 2009

London became the venue this week for discussions between the Israeli and American leaderships over a new co-ordinated policy towards Iran and the Palestinians.

A team headed by Intelligence Services Minister Dan Meridor has been meeting a White House team to discuss President Barack Obama’s plans to talk to Iran about its nuclear programme.

The Israelis hope to receive a definite time limit to American talks.

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Shul ‘terror plot gang’ in court

May 21, 2009

Four suspected terrorists have been arrested by police who claim they caught them planting bombs near two Synagogues in the Bronx area of New York.

State prosecutors say James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, planned to detonate a car filled with plastic explosives outside the Riverdale Temple and the Riverdale Jewish Centre.

In April the group are said to have agreed on the synagogue they intended to attack and conducted surveillance.

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Cash crisis crippling US schools

By Gary Rosenblatt, May 21, 2009

Jewish day schools, found to be the most effective means of maintaining affiliation among young people in an increasingly assimilated American community, are in serious economic crisis.

Two burning questions are emerging: Can they survive? And who cares?

There are about 200,000 youngsters attending some 700 day schools and yeshivot in the US, about 80 per cent of which offer an Orthodox curriculum.

Ten per cent are Conservative schools, eight per cent are “community”, or non-denominational, and the rest are Reform.

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First black woman rabbi ordained in US

By Miriam Shaviv, May 21, 2009

Alysa Stanton is used to heads turning when she enters a synagogue; African-American Jews are still a relatively rare sight in mainstream American congregations. But next month she will be even more visible, because she will be sitting in the rabbi’s chair.

Stanton is about to be ordained by the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, making her the first ever female African-American rabbi. Soon after, she will join a small Reform congregation in North Carolina as its spiritual leader.

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‘Israel spy’ charges dropped by US judge

By Nathan Guttman, May 7, 2009

All charges have been dropped against Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, the two former pro-Israel lobbyists accused under the Espionage Act of passing classified information to Israel.

The case may be closed for the two defendants, but it is just the beginning of many open questions for the Jewish community.

The decision to drop charges was based mainly on the understanding that winning the case would be virtually impossible, given the high bar for conviction set by the district judge.

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Senate shock as lawmaker swaps parties

By Nathan Guttman, April 30, 2009

The only Jewish Republican in the Senate has defected to the Democratic Party, causing a potentially major shift in the senatorial balance of power.

Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter, one of the longest serving senators, has long been at odds with his Republican colleagues.

His moderate views on economic and social issues became increasingly unwelcome and he publicly disputed the Republican caucus’s decision to oppose President Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan.

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Profile: Arlen Specter

By Nathan Guttman, April 30, 2009

At 79, Arlen Specter was a rare Republican voice. The Jewish lawmaker from Pennsylvania started as a Democrat but joined the Republicans at a time when party leaders promoted the idea of a “big tent” which could accommodate moderates and conservatives.

But during the Bush era, moderates had been consistently sidelined in favour of conservative voices.

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‘Shylock’ off statute book

April 29, 2009

The offensive term “shylock”, referring to illegal money-lending, will be dropped from Florida’s statutes.

State governor Charlie Crist signed a bill this week removing the term from some provisions of state law after a campaign.

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Bugged US lawmaker ‘spoke to Israeli spy’

By Nathan Guttman, April 23, 2009

A row has broken out in Washington over a Jewish congresswoman’s links to pro-Israel lobbyists after her phone calls were wiretapped by the National Security Agency.

Rep Jane Harman, a California Democrat known for her strong ties with pro-Israel groups, was heard conducting a conversation with a “suspected Israeli agent”.

In the call, Ms Harman was asked to use her influence with the administration to help two former staffers of the pro-Israel lobby Aipac who are facing espionage-related charges.

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