NEW YORK — A new digital prayer book has been made available for Apple’s popular iPhone. The siddur, created by the Internet company RustyBrick, offers prayer texts in several versions, as well as a feature to determine appropriate prayer times based on location. A built-in data base helps users locate the nearest minyan. The prayer book can be downloaded through the iTunes application.
Citizen of Paris
PARIS — Captive Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit was recently named an honorary citizen of Paris. The title was bestowed on Schalit, a French-Israeli dual citizen, in a unanimous vote of Paris city council. The French town of Raincy also named Schalit an honorary citizen in November, while the Grenoble City Hall hung his photo in their building facade in December. Schalit has been held by Hamas in Gaza since 2006.
Citizen of Rome?
ROME — Rome’s mayor favours granting honorary citizenship to the eternal city to captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. During a public menorah-lighting ceremony, Mayor Gianni Alemanno said the proposal, put forward by Rome’s Jewish community, seemed like “an excellent idea.” Alemanno added that he wanted to extend the honour “to give a sign of solidarity to the Jewish community.”
ATHENS — Avriani, a leading Greek newspaper, called Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme “the Jewish Connection.” Under a front-page headline, the weekly devoted five pages of its Dec. 21 edition to the Madoff scandal, emphasizing at least six times that Madoff is Jewish and implying that Jews are behind the world’s financial problems.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton reportedly has tapped two Jewish deputies for the State Department. Jacob Lew and James Steinberg will be Clinton’s chief lieutenants, according to a report in the New York Times. Lew, the director of the Office of Management and Budget under president Bill Clinton, would focus on increasing the share of financing that goes to the diplomatic corps. The Bush administration had no such position. Steinberg was a deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration. The positions are subject to Senate confirmation.
TUNIS — Hundreds gathered at the Jewish cemetery in Tunis to pay homage to Rabbi Hai Taleb, a revered scholar who, according to legend, drank himself to death after his wife burned all his collected work. Attendance at the annual event was the largest ever, with as many as 700 guests from France and Israel present. Attendees poured boukha fig liqueur onto the grave as part of the ceremony. Rabbi Taleb reputedly died in the 19th century. He spent all his time studying Torah and producing written commentaries in one room, which his wife was not permitted to enter. She snuck in one day and shocked by the accumulated paperwork, burned everything. The rabbi took to drinking boukha until his death.
SANA, Yemen — The government of Yemen may relocate the country’s Jews from the Amran district and the city of Raidah to the capital, Sana, where each Jewish family will receive a plot of land, according to the community’s rabbi, Yehi Yaish. The move came after a suspected Muslim extremist allegedly shot and killed a Yemeni Jew in the northern town of Raidah. The suspect, a former pilot, demanded that Yaish Nahari convert to Islam or leave Yemen. Last week two petrol bombs were thrown at the home of Saadia Yaakov. No one was hurt. For more than a year, some 50 Jews have been living in Sana, after having been transferred from their hometown by order of the government in order to protect them from attacks by their Muslim neighbours. An estimated 270 Jews remain in Raidah.
Press for Arrest
WASHINGTON — Nearly 200 rabbis urged U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to press for the arrest of a Sudanese leader on genocide charges. The letter, sent by the American Jewish World Service and rabbis of all Jewish denominations, noted that the International Criminal Court is seeking an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, but Bashir is trying to defer the court’s investigation through measures in the United Nations Security Council. “The United States must stand by its stated commitment to block any attempt in the Security Council to suspend the ICC proceedings,” the missive stated.
SYDNEY, Australia — A pair of rare silver Torah crowns have been purchased by an unnamed U.S. buyer, amid a dispute in Australia over the sale of valuable Judaica. The rimonim, which date back to 1719 and which Sothebys described in its catalogue as “exceptionally rare,” were sold by the auction house in New York for $338,500 (US). The items were found by accident in a storeroom of the Great Synagogue in Sydney. Norman Seligman, CEO of the Sydney Jewish Museum, said that it was “a pity that something that has some significance to the Australian Jewish community is sold and leaves the country.”
Bnei Menashe Get Chanukah Books
JERUSALEM — A book about Chanukah laws and customs has been distributed to the Bnei Menashe of northeastern India in their native languages of Mizo and Kuki.
The Bnei Menashe, who were exiled from Israel some 500 years before the historical events commemorated in Chanukah and who reside primarily in the Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur, were unaware of the holiday until the modern era.
The Bnei Menashe claim descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, which were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago.
Shavei Israel, a non-profit organization designed to strengthen ties between Israel and the descendants of Jews around the world, printed and distributed the book.
“The Bnei Menashe are anxiously awaiting the passage of a decision by Israel’s cabinet to allow them all to come to Israel,” said Michael Freund, Shavei Israel’s chair and founder.