Shorts: World

Jews debate Chavez comment

caracas, venezuela (jta) | Venezuelan Jews said the Simon Wiesenthal Center rushed to judgment when it accused the country’s president of making anti-Semitic remarks.

The Forward reported that Venezuelan Jewish leaders and some American Jewish groups were writing to the center to say that it had misinterpreted Hugo Chavez’s remarks in a Christmas Eve speech, and had thereby “interfered in the political status, in the security, and in the well-being of our community.”

Chavez had said that while the world offers riches to all, “minorities such as the descendants of those who crucified Christ” have become “the owners of the riches of the world.”

The president of the Confederation of Jewish Associations of Venezuela, Fred Pressner, said, “We believe the president was not talking about Jews and that the Jewish world must learn to work together.”

Russian rabbi given new visa

moscow (jta) | Moscow’s chief rabbi, who was banned from Russia for more than nine weeks last year, was issued a new visa last week, good for one year.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, a Swiss citizen and Russian resident for 15 years, returned to Moscow on Friday, Jan. 13.

In late September, Russian authorities canceled Goldschmidt’s visa at a Moscow airport as he tried to re-enter the country from Israel; they cited vague security reasons.

Exhibit unveiled in China synagogue

beijing (ap) | A Jewish historical and cultural exhibition was unveiled last week in Harbin, the capital of northeastern China’s Heilongjiang Province.

Jewish immigrants came to Harbin mainly from Russia and Eastern European countries at the end of the 19th century and up to the middle of the 20th century.

The local synagogue was built in 1921.

Jewish Agency gets $50 million

moscow (jta) | The Jewish Agency for Israel accepted a $50 million donation this week from a Russian Israeli billionaire.

The donation from Arkadi Gaydamak is to go into a special fund for Jewish and Zionist education in the former Soviet Union and to assist at-risk youth in Israel.

In return for his donation, Gaydamak will be an observer on Jewish Agency committees dealing with education in the former Soviet Union.

Both Gaydamak and JAFI denied a report in Ma’ariv last week that Israeli police advised the agency not to accept Gaydamak’s donation.

Gaydamak, who reportedly made his fortune trading in arms and diamonds in Angola, was forced to leave France, his home since 1972, after authorities issued an international arrest warrant for him on suspicion of tax evasion and bribery.

Austrian fund gets full endowment

vienna, austria (jta) | The last obstacle to property compensation for Austrian Jews has been overcome with the full endowment of Austria’s General Settlement Fund.

The fund announced last week that the required $210 million mark had been reached, enabling disbursement of payments for properties seized by the Nazi regime in Austria.

Contributions to the fund came from the Republic of Austria, the city of Vienna and Austrian companies.

Initial payments were made after dismissal of the last class action against Austria in the United States and the official announcement of legal closure last month.

Some 1,700 applicants whose eligibility had been determined were informed about the possibility of these advance payments. Additional payments for 650 applicants are currently in preparation.