Shorts: World

Sarkozy inaugural stresses tolerance

France’s new president called on his nation to be more open and tolerant in his inauguration speech this week. Nicolas Sarkozy stressed that more than ever the French people have to fight intolerance, sectarianism and anti-Semitism.

Speaking at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Wednesday, May 16, Sarkozy said “order and authority is needed” to deal with security challenges. On foreign policy, Sarkozy reiterated his proposal to create a “Mediterranean union.” Sarkozy was to take part later in the day at a ceremony commemorating members of the French underground killed during World War II. — jta

Crimean city hosts joint b’nai mizvah

The Reform congregation in a Crimean city hosted joint Ukrainian-British b’nai mitzvah. Five boys from Kerch were joined by two of their peers from Northwest Reform, a large Reform congregation in London, for the coming-of-age ceremony May 5.

The London congregation has been supporting the Ukrainian congregation for five years. Rabbi Alexander Dukhovnvy, head of Ukraine’s Reform, or Progressive community, said one of the boys from Kerch announced that he was reading from the Torah on behalf of his grandparents, who had been prevented from doing so during Soviet times.

“The entire congregation became quite emotional when this boy said he was restoring Jewish tradition in his family,” Dukhovny said. Kerch is one of the few Reform congregations in the former Soviet Union to have its own synagogue, a historic building restored to the community by the government a decade ago. — jta

Brazil rabbi, pope exchange blessings

Pope Benedict XVI was blessed by a rabbi — and blessed him back — last week in Brazil. The pope met Reform Rabbi Henry Sobel and other religious leaders May 10 during the pontiff’s five-day visit to Sao Paulo.

“I’m feeling very light. It’s not every day that a rabbi gets a blessing from the pope,” Sobel said.

Sobel called Benedict “a friend of the Jewish people” who “understands the importance of the interdependence of Christian and Jewish traditions.” With more than 30 years at the helm of Latin America’s largest shul — the 2,000-family CIP — Sobel gained a strong reputation as a defender of human rights during Brazil’s 1964-85 military dictatorship, and is well known in Brazil for attempting to strengthen relations among Jews, Christians and Muslims. Lately he has been in the news after he was arrested on suspicion of shoplifting on a visit to Florida. — jta

Estonia opens first postwar shul

Estonia this week opened its first synagogue since World War II. The 200-seat synagogue is in Tallinn. Estonia is home to some 3,000 Jews. The synagogue is headed by Rabbi Shmuel Kot, sent to the city by Chabad seven years ago at the behest of the local Jewish community. “I am the first rabbi after the Holocaust,” Kot said. “The last rabbi was killed by the Nazis.” — jta

Norway neo-Nazi acquitted

A Norwegian appeals court acquitted a neo-Nazi leader of insulting Jews.

Tore Tvedt was cleared by the Borgarting Court of Appeals despite having made numerous anti-Jewish statements in a 2003 interview with VG, the largest newspaper in Norway. In the interview Tvedt, 64, said “the Jews are the main enemy,” “evil murderers” who “killed our people.” He added, “They are not human; they are parasites that shall be rooted out.”

Tvedt had been convicted of insulting Norway Jews and was sentenced to 45 days in prison and two years probation. The appeals court ruling declared that his statements were not racist, Aftenposten reported. — jta

Ukraine Shoah memorial vandalized

A Holocaust memorial was vandalized in western Ukraine. The mass grave in the town of Khmelnitsky was desecrated last month, the local Jewish community reported.

The monument was established after World War II on the site of a Nazi wartime massacre of 8,000 Jews. Local Jewish activists cleaning the site in April discovered that the monument to Holocaust victims had been damaged and the plaque broken.

The activists appealed to the town council to build a fence along the perimeter of the memorial. Police are investigating, but no progress has been reported. — jta