World Report

MOSCOW (JTA) — One of Ukraine's biggest shuls has been seriously damaged in what Jewish leaders suspect was an arson attack.

The fire early Monday at the Central Choral Synagogue in Kharkov destroyed the grand hallway of the five-story shul, but did not reach the building's sanctuary, said Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz.

The fire damage is estimated at about $1 million. No one was in the building at the time of the blaze. Police said the cause of the fire is not clear, but Jews said they believe it was an anti-Semitic attack.

Moskovitz said the synagogue would continue to function.

The 1910 synagogue, which has 1,000 seats, is the only functioning synagogue in Ukraine's second-largest city.

Israel defense minister meets China's leader

BEIJING (JTA) – On an official trip to China, Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai said this week he received assurances the country would not give Iran technology that could be used for weapons of mass destruction.

Mordechai made the comments after a 90-minute meeting Wednesday with Chinese President Jiang Zemin in Beijing.

Mordechai is in Beijing to build defense and economic ties between Israel and China.

He is leading a delegation of high-powered industrialists. Israel sees the developing superpower as full of potential for lucrative defense-industry deals.

Mordechai earlier visited Shanghai, where he met with navy officials, other generals and the regional mayor. Mordechai also visited the abandoned Ohel Rachel synagogue in Shanghai.

Generali directors approve settlement

ROME (JTA) — The board of directors of Italy's largest insurance firm has approved the agreement to pay $100 million as part of a settlement of Holocaust-era claims.

The board of Assicurazioni Generali last week made its agreement conditional upon the acceptance of the settlement by all other parties involved in the negotiations, including the relatives of survivors and the Jewish groups who participated in the talks.

The board added that it would work with an international commission to probe survivors' claims that European insurers refused payments on policies taken out by Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

Before reaching the settlement, Generali was one of 16 insurers facing a class-action lawsuit suit for $16 billion filed on behalf of survivors.