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January 31, 2008

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Philly Shul Arson

PHILADELPHIA — A fire at a Philadelphia shul has been ruled an arson. The Jan. 18 blaze – started with rags, officials said – damaged a classroom in the Germantown Jewish Center. Firefighters kept the blaze from spreading. Swastikas were painted on the building two weeks earlier.

Beating Condemned

NEW YORK — Rev. Al Sharpton condemned the beating of a yeshiva student by five black teens. Speaking in Harlem at a Martin Luther King Day event, the black leader said those who fight for their own rights are only as honourable as when they fight for the rights of all. The Jan. 18 attack on Samuel Balkany, 16, is being probed as a hate crime. Balkany said five teens in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights area kicked and punched him while yelling anti-Semitic slurs.

Jewish Man A Suspect

NEW YORK — A Jewish Brooklyn man pleaded not guilty to charges of anti-Semitic hate crimes. Police arrested Ivan Ivanov after finding weapons during a Jan. 20 search of his home. Ivanov, 37, who had been suspected of spray-painting anti-Semitic graffiti on houses, cars, playgrounds and two shuls in his area last fall, implicated himself during the search. After a judge set bail at $150,000 and ordered the Bulgarian national to surrender his passport, his lawyer told reporters Ivanov is Jewish.

Israel Seeks Early Bonds Redemption

NEW YORK— The government of Israel is asking 144,000 holders of long-term Israel Bonds to voluntarily redeem the debt instruments early.

The move is part of an effort by Israel to replace its high-cost, long-term bonds with bonds that mature earlier. Israel Bonds no longer offers bonds with a maturity exceeding five years, and it has reduced the sale of bonds that defer interest payments until maturity.

In a statement, Israel Bonds spokesperson Raphael Rothstein said, “Israel’s Finance Ministry recently adopted a debt management program aimed at ensuring continued economic strength. A key component is the reduction of long-term debt, including changing the structure of the country’s debt portfolio to securities with shorter maturities and bonds paying interest on a current basis.

“A second element of the program is reducing the amount of bonds maturing in certain specific years in order to better balance its repayment obligations.”

The goal is to retire $500 million (US) in debt by Feb. 29 and improve Israel’s credit rating, which would save as much as $1 billion in annual interest charges, the New York Jewish Week reported. (Countries with better credit ratings can borrow at lower interest rates.)

Israel has given Israel Bonds a $1-billion (US) goal for 2008, “a major responsibility underscoring the nation’s ongoing reliance on Bonds funding,” Rothstein said.

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