Shorts: U.S.

Sharansky: Obama a ‘risk’

Natan Sharansky, a former Israeli Cabinet minister and a political writer, told Shalom TV in a recent interview that a Barack Obama presidency would constitute a political “risk” for Israel.

By contrast, Sharansky characterized Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, as less risky, calling him “a person who has absolutely a great record of supporting Israel.”

Sharansky said that whatever the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, the future of the Jewish state ultimately is decided by Israelis. — jta

U.S. revokes visas for Gazans

The State Department announced this week that three Gazans with Fulbright scholarships would not be admitted to the United States after “new information” was received about them.

U.S. officials declined to give further details.

In June, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came out in support of visas for the three Fulbright scholars after Israel, citing security concerns, refused to give them permits to leave the Gaza Strip.

Four other Palestinians who won Fulbrights were allowed to leave Gaza. — jta

Anthrax suspect praised Jews

Bruce Ivins, the scientist who killed himself last week as he faced arrest for the 2001 anthrax attacks, was an evangelical who believed Jews were God’s chosen people.

The Frederick News Post in Maryland republished his letters. In one letter he praises a rabbi for refusing to engage in dialogue with a controversial local Muslim cleric.

“By blood and faith, Jews are God’s chosen, and have no need for ‘dialogue’ with any gentile,” Ivins wrote in 2006.

The anthrax attacker appeared to be a radical Islamist, writing in notes, “Death to America, Death to Israel, Allah is Great.” — jta

American Jewish Congress opposes church-state ruling

A ruling by a federal appeals court in Colorado has some Jewish officials and legal experts warning of a major constitutional turnaround that could substantially erode the separation between church and state.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled last month that the state cannot deny financial aid to Colorado Christian University.

The American Jewish Congress described the ruling as a “constitutional counter-revolution.”

The university argued that a state policy denying financial aid to students studying at the school infringes on the Constitution’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion.

The court agreed, ruling that students should not have to “choose between their religious beliefs and receiving a governmental benefit.”

The fear among some Jewish officials is that the ruling could provide ammunition to various efforts to repeal provisions preventing the government from funding religious institutions.

The Anti-Defamation League’s Denver office also criticized the ruling, calling it “a serious setback for religious liberty in Colorado.” — jta

Jew for Jesus runs against Israel critic

The Republican challenger of a Democratic congressman known for his strident criticism of Israel is a Jews for Jesus supporter.

Mark Ellmore, a long-shot challenger to Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), founded Know the Truth, a Web site that promotes fundraising for Jews for Jesus, among other proselytizing Christian groups, the Washington Jewish Week reported this week.

Ellmore, a Bank of America consultant, told the newspaper that he had seen Jews who were involved with the group “transformed” by the experience. He said he should be the more attractive prospect for Jewish voters because he is a stronger supporter of Israel. — jta

Birthright may cut program

Birthright Israel is poised to turn away more than 2,000 students this coming winter due to budgetary pressures.

Birthright Israel CEO Shimshonn Shoshani said the dollar amount in donations has stayed consistent, but its value against the shekel has dropped significantly. At the same time, a 15 percent rise in energy and programming prices means that this winter fewer students will make the trip if more funds don’t come in.

Last winter, 17,000 students visited Israel through the organization compared to 15,000 expected this winter semester starting in December. —