News Brief

Isaac Rousso, president of the only B’nai B’rith lodge in communist Cuba, has died.

Rousso, 70, led Maimonides Lodge #1516 in Havana for nearly eight years, turning it into one of Cuba’s strongest international organizations, said Stanley Cohen, chairman of the B’nai B’rith Cuban Jewish Relief Project.

“It was a huge loss to everyone who knew him,” Cohen told JTA by phone from Pittsburgh. “The organization went from practically no members to 78 members in the time Isaac was active in B’nai B’rith.”

Among other things, B’nai B’rith publishes a monthly community newspaper, Fragmentos, at its new office on the fifth floor of Havana’s Centro Sefaradi. It also organizes Hebrew classes, holiday parties and occasional weekend retreats.

Rousso, who died Sunday night after a long battle with cancer, is survived by his wife and two daughters, one of whom lives in Cuba and the other in Israel.

Shimon Peres will inaugurate the controversial Paris Book Fair, which named Israel as the country of honor.

The Israeli president will participate in the book fair, which opens Thursday, as part of his four-day state visit to France.

There have been calls by a number of Arab countries including Tunisia and Egypt to boycott the book fair, similar to recent calls to boycott the Turin book fair, which will also honor Israel.

While Italian writers have risen to the occasion, noting that Israeli writers do not represent the Israeli government, French writers have remained silent about the call for a boycott in Paris. Some 39 Israeli writers are scheduled to attend the Paris Book Fair, including three Israeli-Arab writers.

After meeting Monday with President Nicolas Sarkozy and speaking with journalists at the Elys??e Palace, the Israeli president and community leaders attended a memorial ceremony for the yeshiva students killed in Jerusalem at Paris’ main synagogue, Synagogue de la Victoire.

Peres will address a breakfast given by the Organization of Industry and Trade Leaders in France, the Movement of the French Enterprises or MEDEF, and the France-Israel Chamber of Israel, where growing trade relations between the two countries will be discussed.

A debate by Holocaust denier David Irving at an Irish college was cancelled due to security concerns.

University College Cork in Ireland cancelled Irving’s March 10 appearance over security concerns after members of the debating club which invited him received death threats.

Irving had been invited by the university’s philosophical society to contribute to a debate on free speech and censorship, but the group withdrew its invitation to Irving on advice from administrators and police when a weeklong internet-driven protest campaign escalated into calls for violent protests at the event.

The controversial author did appear as a guest on Ireland’s most-watched television show on Friday, however. Police had to break up a small demonstration outside the Dublin studios of RTE, the national broadcaster, after protesters tried to prevent taxis from arriving there.

This is the third time an appearance by Irving has been cancelled in Ireland since he lost a high-profile libel case in 1998 against historian Deborah Lipstadt, who exposed his work on the Holocaust as fraudulent and anti-Semitic.

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