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P.A. officially changes name to State of Palestine

NEW YORK (JTA) — The Palestinian Authority officially changed its name to the State of Palestine. P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas decreed Friday that the name would be changed to reflect the recent upgrade of the Palestinians’ status at the United Nations, The Associated Press reported.

Palestinian stamps, signs and letterheads will be changed to reflect the change, according to Wafa, the Palestinian news agency.

Last November, the U.N. General Assembly...

Center-left parties discuss forming bloc to beat Bibi

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich and Hatnua party chief Tzipi Livni have agreed to discuss forming a left-center bloc to prevent Benjamin Netanyahu from forming the next government. Livni on Friday called on Yacimovich and centrist Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid to join together in a bloc to defeat Netanyahu, the prime minister, in the Jan. 22 elections.

The call came a day after Yacimovich said...

Hagel likely Defense Secretary nominee

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama likely will nominate Chuck Hagel as defense secretary early next week, according to sources. Multiple sources in the national security and foreign policy communities, including two close to Hagel, confirmed reports Friday by NBC, Foreign Policy and Newsweek that Obama was poised to name Hagel to the post as early as next week.

White House officials have told the media that it would be premature...

Radical Catholic sect head declares Jews ‘enemies of Church’

TORONTO (JTA) — Jews are “enemies of the Church,” the head of a radical Catholic sect said in Canada. Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, made the remark during a Dec. 28 address at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy in New Hamburg, Ontario, about 90 minutes’ drive west of Toronto. He was reviewing the situation of the society, which opposes Catholic Church reforms...

Sweden to honor Wallenberg with annual memorial day

(JTA) — Sweden will honor World War II hero Raoul Wallenberg with an annual memorial day. Aug. 27 will be earmarked as the official Wallenberg day, Culture Minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth wrote in an Op-Ed that appeared Friday in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper, thelocal.se reported. Wallenberg’s sister Nina Lagergren also signed the piece.

The announcement comes at the end of a year of events marking the 100th anniversary of...

Auschwitz memorial attracts 1.43 million visitors in 2012

(JTA) — The Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp memorial and museum attracted a record number of visitors in 2012. There were 1.43 million visitors to the grounds of the former Nazi camp last year — the most in the museum’s 65-year history, the museum said on its website.

More than 1 million people have visited the memorial and museum annually for each of the last six years.

“Auschwitz in the last decade...

Despite opposition, Obama signs anti-Iran, defense bill

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama signed a defense funding bill that included Iran sanctions he had opposed. Obama on Jan. 2 signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which would sanction entities that circumvent existing banking sanctions on Iran by paying for Iranian oil with gold and restrict dealings with Iran’s ports, among other enhancements.

Obama administration officials had argued that the new restrictions would inhibit efforts to persuade other nations...

Community Day School wins runner up video prize

Community Day School (CDS) has won one of the runner up prizes in the Avi Chai Foundation Jewish Day School Alumni Video Contest. Members of the local community and those along the Gulf Coast registered 407 votes for the video by the former New Orleans Jewish Day School alumnus Max Vizelberg, now a sophomore student at Harvard University. The school wins $1,000, while Vizelberg gets a $500 cash prize.

CDS...

Montenegro bequeaths land for first synagogue in centuries

(JTA) — The government of Montenegro reportedly has given land to its tiny Jewish community to build the country’s first synagogue in centuries. The last of the paperwork came through on Dec. 31, according to Jasa Alfandari, president of the Jewish Community of Montenegro.

“We have been given a beautiful location in the center of the Podgorica,” the capital of the small Balkan country, Alfandari told JTA.

The site will...

Historic synagogues to meet in ritual objects spat

(JTA) — The leaders of two historic synagogues will hold a settlement conference over a set of ritual Torah decorations. A federal judge in Rhode Island will meet with the leaders of the Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I., and Congregation Shearith Israel of New York on Thursday to discuss a set of 18th century Torah bells, The Associated Press reported.

Shearith Israel is the first U.S. Jewish congregation and Touro...