U.S. Report

LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Jews and Latinos from throughout the Los Angeles metropolitan area participated in their first joint festival.

Sunday's Fiesta Shalom was timed to take place between the Sept. 16 Mexican Independence Day and the start of Rosh Hashanah.

The festival was developed to heal the rift that developed two years ago in a state Senate race, when the Mexican-American candidate narrowly beat a Jewish opponent amid mutual charges of racist campaign tactics.

Bill Clinton signature a sigh of relief for Jews

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Clinton has signed a bill designed to ensure protections for religious groups and secure religious liberties for prisoners.

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act will make it harder for cities to use zoning laws to restrict the activities of religious institutions.

Jewish leaders celebrated, as synagogues and Jewish schools often face unnecessary resistance from local authorities, but conceded that the act was a far cry from the much broader bill introduced at the beginning of the session, which was intended to replace the overturned Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

New machzor issued by Orthodox Union

NEW YORK (JTA) — The N.Y.-based Orthodox Union is releasing a transliterated High Holy Days prayer book with a line-by-line English translation.

O.U. officials say they recognize that the Rosh Hashanah service can be challenging for people who are not adept at reading Hebrew or following ancient texts.

Meanwhile, the fervently religious organization joined with a Jewish funeral home here to create a fixed price of $2,495 to $2,795 for funerals.

The agreement between the O.U. and Parkside Memorial Chapels follows a report issued by a New York consumer panel criticizing the funeral industry for charging $6,700 on average and noting that Jews, who must bury their dead as soon as possible, are hit particularly hard by the high rates.

Museum won't hold author's book-signing

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The capital's U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum refused to sponsor a book-signing for an Atlanta man's Shoah memoir.

Museum officials said a senior historian read Ben Hirsch's "Hearing a Different Drummer" and questioned the accuracy of the passages. The book includes the story of an uncle who said the Nazis forced him to make soap from victims at Auschwitz.

Most Holocaust scholars dismiss as a myth the belief that the Nazis made soap from the bodies of Jews.