Shorts: U.S.

Menorahs vandalized in two states

mission viejo (ap) | A public Chanukah candlelighting ceremony proceeded as scheduled even though vandals destroyed the 15-foot menorah that was to be the centerpiece of the event.

More than 500 residents took part in the ceremony on the second night of the Jewish festival, using a 6-foot menorah lent by Chabad Jewish Center of Mission Viejo.

The 150-pound steel menorah was placed earlier in December on the town green in Ladera Ranch, a planned community near Mission Viejo.

One or more vandals struck, cutting its stem, breaking its lightbulbs and smashing its stars in what authorities have labeled a hate crime. Police believe the vandalism was a hate crime because a nearby Christmas display was untouched.

Those in Santa Fe, N.M., were less lucky. Branches on a 6 1/2-foot-wide, 8-foot-tall menorah were twisted and bent, glass tops on its candelabrum were thrown to the ground and electrical wires were yanked out Dec. 27.

The $1,000 menorah is salvageable “but there was quite a bit of damage,” said Rabbi Berel Levertov of the Chabad Jewish Center. It could not be lit the following night.

Jewish lobbyist pleads guilty

washington (jta) | A prominent U.S. Jewish lobbyist pleaded guilty to criminal charges this week.

Jack Abramoff, until last year Washington’s preeminent Republican lobbyist, on Tuesday, Jan. 3 pleaded guilty to two charges related to his purchase in 2000 of a fleet of gambling boats in Florida.

The plea suggests that Abramoff is ready to testify against a host of lawmakers, most of them Republican, on campaign-finance improprieties. Abramoff is still under investigation in a number of other cases.

There are allegations that he misused money from clients to fund some Jewish charities.

Former Nazi guard faces deportation

cleveland (ap) | Losing another round in court last week, John Demjanjuk, the retired autoworker accused of being a Nazi concentration camp guard, may be running out of legal options in his decades-long deportation battle.

The 85-year-old man once suspected of being the notoriously brutal guard known as Ivan the Terrible has 30 days to appeal a judge’s deportation order Wednesday, Dec. 28 that would send him to his native Ukraine.

Chief U.S. Immigration Judge Michael Creppy ruled that there was no evidence to substantiate Demjanjuk’s claim that he would be tortured if deported to his homeland. He said Demjanjuk should be deported to Germany or Poland if Ukraine does not accept him.

Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra said the judge’s decision “brings the government one step closer” to removing Demjanjuk from the United States.

Neighbors dispute anti-Semitic claims

new york (jta) | Claims by a Pennsylvania Jewish couple that they’re suffering anti-Semitic harassment are being disputed.

Mike and Paula Barber of Luzerne Township, Pa., say neighbors have poisoned their dogs, drawn swastikas on their house and tried to burn down the house because they’re Jewish, the Associated Press reported.

But neighbors say the Barbers are raising the claims to distract people from their noisy dog-kennel operation.

North American aliyah at 21-year high

new york (jta) | Some 250 North American Jews made aliyah last week.

More than 3,000 North American Jews moved to Israel last year, the highest figure since 1984.

The planeload of immigrants, which landed Wednesday, Dec. 28 at Ben-Gurion International Airport, is the seventh such flight in 2005 sponsored by Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization that facilitates aliyah for Jews from the United States and Canada, and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Dating site extends its purview

new york (jta) | The dating Web site says it is now open to all “marriage-minded Jewish singles.”

Frumster, which says it has married off 250 Jewish couples, had been open only to Orthodox Jewish singles.

Officials with the site say it has 20,000 active members worldwide.

Katrina victims get $135,000

los angeles | MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger announced a total of $135,000 in grants to five organizations working to provide continued relief for those affected by Hurricane Katrina during this holiday season.

MAZON has granted nearly $1 million to the affected region since September.