Shorts: World

Auschwitz’s director: Time for change

(jta) | The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum has a new director. Piotr Cywinski, who took over in late October, replaced Jerzy Wroblewski, who served in the position 16 years.

Fresh from a visit to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Cywinski said the Auschwitz museum is in need of a makeover.

“I want to renew the main exhibition, which is about 50 years old. It’s time to speak differently about this history,” said Cywinski, 34, a Pole active in Polish-Jewish dialogue who was a member of the Auschwitz International Council before taking the museum job.

The museum is known for its repository of prisoner artifacts, including some 2,000 private photographs that once belonged to prisoners, 8,000 letters and postcards sent by prisoners from the camp and 70,000 death certificates.

JCC opens in German town

(jta) |  A Jewish community and cultural center opened in Würzburg, Germany. Opening ceremonies took place Oct. 23  for Shalom Europa, a complex that includes a synagogue, classrooms and a documentation center for Jewish history and culture.

Speakers at the opening included Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany; Edmund Stoiber, prime minister of the state of Bavaria; and Ernst Cramer, chairman of the Axel Springer Foundation.

The complex is built around the site of an existing synagogue and houses the world’s largest collection of unearthed gravestones and gravestone fragments from a medieval Jewish cemetery, part of which will be on display.

Medieval Würzburg was a center of Torah study. Most of today’s Jewish community, which numbered 1,100 as of 2004, is made up of emigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Jewish woman is beauty queen

(jta) | Europe’s new beauty queen is Jewish. Alexandra Rosenfeld, 19, won the Miss Europe 2006 title in Kiev on Friday, Oct. 27.

Rosenfeld, a student who is also Miss France, walked away with $130,000 in prize money and a diamond-studded crown.

According to media reports, the Web sites covering the pageant were hit with anti-Semitic messages after Rosenfeld’s win.

Synagogue vandalized in Russia

(ap) | Unidentified assailants painted swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans on a synagogue in a Russian Far Eastern city.

The Oct. 26 incident took place in Vladivostok, about 9,300 kilometers east of Moscow, where the perpetrators wrote “Jews go to Israel” and scribbled offensive words on the Star of David, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia said in a statement.

Jewish leaders in Vladivostok believed the attack could be connected to a recent gathering of radicals and skinheads in the city.

“It is obvious that the xenophobic propaganda, as well as organized meetings of nationalists, give them (radicals) a sense of power,” the federation’s spokesman, Borukh Gorin, said in the statement.

Press watchdog rejects complaint

(jta) | Britain’s Press Complaints Commission rejected a complaint from a pro-Israel watchdog group against The Guardian. The commission said two articles written in February by Chris McGreal raising parallels between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa were presented as McGreal’s personal views, not as straight reporting.

“Inherent in freedom of expression is the right for newspapers to publish challenging and partisan material, which inevitably includes political judgments with which many will disagree,” the commission decided in the complaint brought by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

CAMERA had complained that McGreal used quotes and material to back up his claims, for instance, that Israeli Arabs are denied use of public land or that Muslims are banned from living in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, without presenting contradictory evidence.

The commission said readers would realize “that other versions of a historical account of the position in Israel would undoubtedly exist.”