World Report

BRUSSELS (JTA) — The presence of the head of Syria's Jewish community at meetings of world Jewish leaders last week in Brussels was a "clear, political signal from Syria," said Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress.

A few months ago, Syria would not have let the Jewish leader, Yousef Jajati, go to the meetings of the WJC and the European Jewish Congress, said Steinberg, who was in Europe last week for a series of meetings on Jewish issues, specifically World War II restitution.

Steinberg, in an interview, called Jajati's presence "very significant."

The WJC met Sept. 12 with Jajati, who talked about the conditions of Syrian Jews.

Jajati said at the meeting that some 250 Syrian Jews now live in Damascus and 50 live in Aleppo, Steinberg said.

In October 1994, the exodus of Syrian Jews concluded when Syrian Chief Rabbi Avraham Hamra immigrated to Israel. The emigration, which began in April 1992, brought nearly all of Syria's 4,000 Jews out of the country.

Crucifixes remain in Bavarian classrooms

BERLIN (JTA) — Students filing into classrooms across Bavaria last week for the first day of public school were met with crosses on the walls, despite a federal court ruling in August that prohibits the hanging of the crucifix there.

The ruling, which came in response to a complaint made by a couple in Bavaria, Germany's most staunchly Catholic state, had outraged many Bavarians and resulted in an unusual silence from Germany's 45,000-strong Jewish community.

To date, Ignatz Bubis, executive director of the Central Council for Jews in Germany, has not commented on the issue, though several prominent Jews, in letters to newspapers, have expressed support for the court's stance.

Edmund Stoiber, Bavaria's president, told the German media he believes that hanging a crucifix in a public classroom is constitutional. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl also disagreed with the ruling.

Unlike the United States, Germany does not have a strong tradition of separation of church and state.

Trial of bombers begins in Vienna

BONN (JTA) — Under strict security measures, a trial has begun in Vienna for the wave of letter bomb explosions that occurred in December 1993 in the Austrian capital.

Peter Binder and Franz Radl, suspected of carrying out the bombings, are the prominent Austrian extremists on trial as of last week.

The two defendants, both 28, allegedly sent 10 letter bombs within three days to Austrian politicians and clergy, all of whom supported the integration of foreigners into the country's general population.

Four of the bombs exploded, seriously injuring five people. One letter bomb reached Vienna's former mayor, Helmut Zilk, whose left hand was torn to pieces in the explosion.

Binder and Radl admitted to participation in neo-Nazi activities, but denied carrying out the letter bombings.

Binder and Radl are accused of belonging to the ultrarightist VAPO organization.

If convicted, both men face up to 20 years imprisonment.