Shorts: World

Synagogue near Moscow catches fire

moscow (jta) | A wooden synagogue in a Moscow suburb caught fire in the early hours of Jan. 1 in a suspected arson attack.

No one was hurt in the incident in the town of Saltykovka. The building suffered only moderate damage because neighbors and local Jews were able to contain the fire, said Isidor Vaizer, a community leader.

He said it was too early to speculate on who was responsible for the fire, but indicated that earlier he had received a warning of a possible attack from security officials.

The community numbers about 500 people, Vaizer said.

Vatican said don’t return Holocaust kids, letter shows

rome (jta) | The Vatican instructed French churches that protected Jewish children during the Holocaust not to return the young Jews to their families at war’s end.

According to a letter from Nov. 20, 1946, published this week in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, the wartime pope, Pius XII, said that children who had been baptized while in the church’s guardianship should not be reunited with surviving members of their families, Ha’aretz reported.

“The documents indicate that the Vatican completely ignored the Holocaust and murder of Jews,” Amos Luzzatto, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, was quoted as saying in Ha’aretz. “There is a sticking to theological arguments as though this were an ordinary situation, when in practice these children were not entrusted to churches to convert to Christianity but to save them from murder.”

British poll castigates Israel

london (jta) | British newspaper readers ranked Israel as the country least deserving of international respect.

The Jewish state came in among the bottom five of two dozen countries ranked according to various standards of desirability in this week’s survey in the Daily Telegraph.

Brazilian city honors Arafat

sao paulo (jta) | The mayor of a Brazilian city inaugurated a statue of Yasser Arafat.

At 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, the mayor of Paraiba do Sul, Rogerio Onofre, inaugurated the statue of the late Palestinian Authority president.

According to Onofre, the city hall of the 39,000-person municipality received death threats and some 300 e-mails protesting the statue.

Mouthy soccer fans face charges

prague (jta) | Seven fans of a Czech soccer club were recently charged with chanting anti-Semitic slurs at a rival Czech team before an October game.

The Sparta fans were among 80 who were heard chanting, “You’re the dirt of the Czech league because you’re a bunch of Polish Jews.”

The city of Ostrava, home to the rival team, Banik Ostrava, is close to the Polish border. The seven fans charged were accused of vandalism and slandering a nation, ethnic group, race or faith. They face up to three years in prison.

The arrests followed the spraying of a giant swastika last week on a Holocaust memorial close to Ostrava.