Jonathan Pollard was so convinced Friday that he was about to be released from prison that he started packing his bags. His tallit and tefillin, too.
“I heard about it from [my wife] Esther when I called her at 7 in the morning,” said Pollard, referring to news reports that he would be set free as part of the peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
The $1.25 billion figure that settled the claims of Holocaust survivors against Switzerland’s two largest banks was suggested by Brooklyn Federal Judge Edward Korman during an often testy, four-hour dinner meeting on the second floor of a sweltering Brooklyn restaurant.
“It was like a mock trial,” said one of the 20 participants.
Kiev, Ukraine — Rachel Landa, 90 years old and almost blind, has lived in the same one-room apartment here for 39 years. With a pension of $63 a month and without relatives in the area, she is nearly destitute, she told several American visitors, part of a mission of 54 professional and lay Jewish leaders from around the country who visited Kiev and St. Petersburg, Russia, on a whirlwind four-day trip last week. Landa is a former designer at a military factory who said she was in Siberia during World War II.
The deaths of 15 people — including 13 non-Jews — in an apparent terrorist attack last week at a Tunisian synagogue underscores the need for non-Jews to join Jews in fighting a wave of anti-Semitic violence, according to Israel’s deputy foreign minister.
“We have to act with all our strength, Jews and non-Jews alike, because anti-Semitism always undermines the fundamentals of society,” Rabbi Michael Melchior said.
In her first visit to the United States since becoming Austria’s vice-chancellor last year, Suzanne Riess-Passer had expected to meet with an official of the Anti-Defamation League and to receive plaudits for her government’s decision to put $210 million into an escrow account for 150,000 Nazi-era slave laborers.
Instead, she said in an interview here, she was snubbed by the ADL when it inexplicably cancelled her meeting.
If there was one Argentine official who made himself available to American Jewish leaders concerned about the AMIA bombing, it was former President Carlos Saul Menem — the man The New York Times said this week was paid $10 million to cover up Iran’s links to the terror attack.
Most major Jewish leaders met with Menem over the years — some repeatedly — always with the hope that he might cut through the legal tangle that was impeding the investigation into AMIA and the car bombing of the Israeli embassy two years earlier.
After an explosion at a dining hall at an American military base in Iraq killed 22 in December 2004, military dining facilities in the region imposed strict rules against anyone bringing in bags or boxes — except when Rabbi Sarah Schechter tried to enter with a bag of matzah and a box of kosher-for-Passover food.
“They are very strict about this,” Rabbi Schechter said, adding that the guard who stopped her was very apologetic but insistent.
Sri Lankan officials denied reports this week that their country had refused tsunami aid from Israel. The reports triggered criticism of Sri Lanka by the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano for declining Israeli assistance because it would have been furnished by the Israeli military.
Compounding the problem, a faulty translation by Catholic World News had led its Web site to run a story saying the Vatican newspaper had criticized Israel for not providing help to tsunami victims in Sri Lanka.
Two weeks after returning from Uganda, where he oversaw the conversion of about 300 members of the Abayudaya community to Judaism, Rabbi Howard Gorin of Rockville, Md., is already planning a trip back.
“This is not dunk ‘em and leave ‘em,” he said, referring to the mikveh, the ritual immersion conducted as part of the conversion process.
An Albanian Muslim whose father was honored by Israel for saving Jews during the Holocaust, was granted political asylum last week by a judge in Boston after he testified that Islamic fundamentalists threatened him and his family if he stayed in Albania.
“Thank you, thank you,” Bujar Veselaj told Immigration Judge Robin Suter after she ruled that his testimony was “extremely credible” and that he and his family had faced not only persecution but “extreme psychological torture.”