Shorts: World

U.K. Jews outraged by boycott vote

Jewish organizations throughout the United Kingdom expressed dismay over a decision this week by Britain’s Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) to consider a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

The union, which represents 120,000 university teachers, passed the motion Wednesday, May 30 by a vote of 158 to 99. Seventeen members abstained.

A full debate is expected in UCU branches across Britain, with the aim of a vote on an actual boycott at the union’s conference next year. Motion 30 condemns Israel for its “denial of educational rights” to Palestinians and calls for UCU branches to discuss an academic boycott of Israel over the next year. — jps

Vietnam holds first bar mitzvah

A bar mitzvah ceremony was held last month in Vietnam, the first in the country’s history.

The bar mitzvah boy, Omri Rafaeli, has been traveling with his family across Southeast Asia for the past nine months. When his 13th birthday was approaching, his father asked the Israeli embassy in Hanoi to help organize the ceremony.

In light of the difficulty to arrange a minyan, the ambassador’s deputy, Nati Brooks, suggested holding the event at the same hotel where a delegation of Israeli Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon was staying. In honor of the occasion, Brooks brought a 150-year-old Torah scroll he owns for the May 19 ceremony. —

South African group: Same-sex marriages OK

The South African Union for Progressive Judaism will allow Jewish couples of the same gender to marry.

“This decision was arrived at after long and thoughtful deliberation and in the spirit of what Progressive Judaism is about — inclusion of all Jews regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity,” said Steve Lurie, the union chairman.

The union made the decision at its National Assembly meeting May 6. “There should be no distinction in the status of religious marriages of same-sex partners and heterosexual couples,” he said, adding that the move went a long way to repudiate prejudice.

In December 2006, South Africa became the fifth country in the world to grant same-sex couples the same status and rights as heterosexual marriage partners. — jta