Friday, January 21, 2011

Get a New Set of Eyes from Israel

Researchers from stem cell company, CellCure Neurosciences
believe they have developed a new treatment for age-related
macular degeneration in the eyes.

An Israeli company is using a new stem cell technology to save the sight of aging baby boomers by replacing diseased cells with new ones.


Are "granny glasses" a thing of the past? Israeli company CellCure Neurosciences has developed a new stem cell technology for the treatment of age-related eyesight deterioration, which would replace diseased cells with fresh new ones. The innovative treatment, which is unprecedented in the medical field, would not just improve deteriorating eyesight; rather those who benefit from the treatment will feel as if they have a new set of eyes.

New cells halt disease
More than eight million people in the US and many millions more worldwide, suffer from age-related macular degeneration, the main cause of visual impairment in people over 50. The dry form of this disease, which CellCure plans to treat, affects the ability to see fine details. Thus, company CEO Charles Irving explains, "Those who are unfortunate enough to have this disease cannot read, drive, or see the faces of their grandchildren."
Age-related macular degeneration begins in the retina, when retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells begin to die. RPE cells are caretakers of the photo-receptors - the cells in the retina that enable the eye to see light and dark. Currently there is no drug treatment for this disease, which typically progresses gradually over time. -- I.C. Meyer, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To see the complete article, click here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Israel to Enter U.N. WOMEN Organization

The world's second female prime
minister, Israel's Golda Meir.
Israel is set to enter U.N. WOMEN, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, on Jan. 16. 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s involvement in the organization is essential to Israel and the advancement of women around the world.

“Since its establishment, the State of Israel has been known as a pioneer in the field of advancing women's status and has a proven record in the area of gender equality,” he said in a media statement. 

“Israel's influence in a prominent international body in the field is necessary because the issue of women's status is a main policy issue for us and because Israel's contribution to such a body from its inception could be considerable for the countries of the world," said Netanyahu.

Israel’s joining of U.N. Women was spearheaded by Deputy Minister for the Advancement of Women, Young People and Students Gila Gamliel. 

Gamliel explained that Israel’s membership in U.N. WOMEN’s Executive Board allows Israel to stress positive aspects about the country in the international arena. -- The Israel Project

Canada: Wave of Antisemitic Crime Strikes Montreal

In what police are calling related incidents, six Jewish institutions in the cities of Cote St. Luc and Hampstead were the targets of vandalism Sunday morning. Between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. one or more individuals hurled rocks shattering windows at five Cote St. Luc institutions: the Shaare Zedek, Beth Rambam, Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem, the Hebrew Day school attached to Beth Zion synagogue and the Yeshiva Yavne as well as one Hampstead synagogue: the Dorshei Emet congregation.

“Events of mischief were perpetrated towards Jewish institutions where objects were thrown at the windows of those buildings, causing minor damage. At this point, no suspects have been arrested and the investigation is ongoing,” said Simon Delorme, a Montreal police spokesperson. “We do not know how many suspects there are, however, our investigation team is looking into surveillance videotape from one of the institutions.”

As of now, police could not say whether Sunday’s events are related to the October act of vandalism at the Young Israel of Chomedey Synagogue, however, they did not rule out the possibility.  -- Daniel Smajovits, Jewish Tribune

To read the complete article, click here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Blood Libel Of Blood Libels

Under arrest in Kiev in 1911,
Mendel Beilis became a symbol for persecuted Jews.
Before the Metaphor There Was a Man, Mendel Beilis. 
The elderly Jewish woman in the nursing facility will turn 102 in a matter of days, her nearly lost mind swirling between dreams, illusion, memory and the moment. Sometimes there is a sparrow-like flicker because of a word, perhaps, that seems to send her far from the Bronx winter. If she hears “Sarah Palin” or “blood libel,” from a radio, perhaps at the nurses’ station, does she know, do the nurses know what she knows?

She is Rachel Beilis, and she was just 2 years old in 1911 — exactly a century ago — when soldiers came in the night to arrest her father, Mendel Beilis, a Ukrainian Jew accused of murdering 13-year-old Andrei Yushchinsky, to use his blood in the making of matzah.

Beilis, 37, was a brick factory foreman. The boy, already a raggedy drifter in Kiev underworld, disappeared on his way to school on a late winter morning in March. His mutilated body was discovered in a cave, drained of blood.

Blood libels were so normative that in 1909 The New York Times reviewed a serious book, “The Jew and Human Sacrifice.” -- Jonathan Mark, NY Jewish Week

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Major Funding Boost for Birthright from Israeli Gov’t Ups Ante for Philanthropists

Birthright Israel participants gather around philanthropist Lynn Schusterman,
a Birthright donor, at a Birthright event in Jerusalem, Jan. 6, 2010. (Birthright)
Boosters of Birthright Israel are hoping that the Israeli government’s decision to more than double its investment in the popular free 10-day trips for young Diaspora Jews will yield dramatic results.

But their hopes could be short lived if Jewish philanthropists fail to ramp up their own contributions to the tune of some $222 million over the next three years.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last week that his government would provide $100 million in financing to Birthright Israel from 2011 to 2013.

The funding, which will rise over the three-year period from $26 million this year to $40 million by 2013, is aimed at increasing the number of Birthright participants to 51,000 annually by 2013. Last year, 30,000 Diaspora Jews went on the program.

"It's a historic decision which is going to revolutionize the relationships of young Jews to the State of Israel," said Gidi Mark, the CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel. "It's going to bring, for the first time ever, the majority of young Jews to Israel."

That prediction will hold true only if Jewish philanthropists, who now fund about half the Birthright budget, increase their investment. -- Ben Harris, JTA

To read the full article, click here.

Survey: More E. Jerusalem Palestinians Prefer Israeli Citizenship

More Palestinian Arabs living in eastern Jerusalem would prefer to retain their Israeli citizenship after a two-state solution is reached than live in Palestine, a new study found.

Some 35 percent of Palestinian Arabs surveyed chose Israeli citizenship, 30 percent chose Palestinian citizenship and 35 percent declined to answer when asked their preferences for citizenship after a two-state solution is reached, according to a newly released survey conducted by Pechter Middle East Polls in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations.

Some 40 percent of respondents said they would move to a different home inside Israel if their neighborhood became part of Palestine, while 27 percent said they would move to Palestine if their neighborhood became part of Israel.

Those who chose Israeli citizenship most often mentioned freedom of movement in Israel, higher income and better job opportunities, and Israeli health insurance as their reasons. Those who chose Palestinian citizenship overwhelmingly cited nationalism/patriotism as their primary motivation.

Asked about a number of possible concerns about being part of Palestine or of Israel, the major concern on both sides was the possibility of losing access to the Al Aksa Mosque and the Old City, since the placement of a border remains uncertain.

The other leading concerns about becoming part of Palestine focused on issues such as losing access to jobs and free movement in Israel, and losing Israeli government-provided health care, unemployment and disability benefits, and city services. The leading concerns about becoming part of Israel focused on possible discrimination, losing access to land, relatives and friends in Palestine, and possible moral misconduct of their children.

Nearly half of the respondents said they believed that some Palestinian groups would continue the armed struggle even if there were a final peace agreement, and 63.5 percent said a new intifada is likely or somewhat likely if peace efforts collapse.

More than 1,000 Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem were surveyed last November by a West Bank-based Palestinian polling firm, the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion. The survey has a margin of error of 3 percent. -- JTA

Monday, January 17, 2011

Iran Downgrades Status of Tomb of Esther and Mordechai

Iranian authorities have downgraded the status of the tomb of Esther and Mordechai, while an official state news agency has publicized the Purim story as a Jewish massacre of Iranians.

Officials recently removed the sign that identified the mausoleum of the biblical figures in the central Iranian city of Hamadan as an official pilgrimage site. The removal of the sign signifies that its status has been downgraded, according to reports. The actions come about two weeks after a group of about 250 militant students surrounded the tomb and threatened to tear it down. Their threats were in response to alleged Israeli excavations under the Al-Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem.

The biblical Queen Esther was the second wife of Persian King Ahasuerus, identified as Xerxes I; Mordechai was her uncle, who also raised her.

The Iranian state news agency Fars has been reporting that Esther and Mordechai were responsible for the massacre of more than 75,000 Iranians, an event recorded in the Book of Esther, which is read on the Jewish festival of Purim.

The reports, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center citing Fars, also call the tomb an arm of Israeli imperialism that impugns Iranian sovereignty; report that its name must be wiped away in order to teach Iranian children to "beware of the crimes of the Jews"; call for the shrine's return to the Iranian people; and say that the site must become "a Holocaust memorial" to the "Iranian victims of Esther and Mordechai" and be placed under the supervision of the state religious endowments authority.

In a letter to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Director-General Irina Bokova, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's director for international relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, urged UNESCO to "call upon the Iranian authorities to take appropriate measures to terminate this campaign of racism and desecration."

"It is perhaps time for UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee to establish instruments for the universal protection of holy sites," Samuels concluded.  -- JTA

Jewish Official: Montreal Acts of Vandalism are Not Isolated

Acts of vandalism at five Jewish facilities in suburban Montreal are not isolated, according to the head of the city's Jewish Community Security Coordinating Committee.

Windows were smashed early Monday morning at four synagogues and a Jewish school in the heavily Jewish suburbs of Cote Saint-Luc and Hampstead.

Rabbi Reuben Poupko, the security committee's chairman, said the vandals likely attacked early Monday, at approximately 2 a.m.

"There have been similar incidents over the past few months that haven't garnered any attention," he told the Montreal Gazette. "It's increasing in intensity and frequency."

Police say there is surveillance video available to assist in the investigation. Poupko said security cameras had been installed in the last few years due to the rise in attacks on Jewish communal buildings.

"We felt this was a necessary investment," he said.

Talking about Monday's vandalism, Poupko told the Canadian media that "These are cowards who act under the cover of darkness, who fling rocks in the middle of the night, and they will not determine how the Jewish community behaves or gathers for prayer or for study. We will continue to use our institutions despite these continued assaults on our buildings."

Last March, a synagogue in a neighboring suburb was defaced with swastikas and ritual objects were desecrated.

Two months ago, another synagogue in nearby Laval, Quebec, suffered extensive damage after vandals placed a garden hose into a pipe that led into the building's oil tank and left it to flood overnight. More than 600 gallons of oil spilled onto the back lawn, causing contamination and other damage to the building. -- JTA

Sunday, January 16, 2011

You’re Young and Jewish: Discuss


 Leif Parson


On a cold Saturday morning in May 2007, Nicola Behrman, a playwright from Los Angeles, stood in a bare conference room at a ski lodge in Park City, Utah. She was surrounded by 60 strangers, tucked shoulder-to-shoulder in a circle — all members of a group called Reboot, which since 2002 has conducted an annual conference for young, affluent Jews to discuss their ethnic and religious identity, in between spa treatments and walks among the ponderosa pines of the Wasatch Mountains.

Each attendee had been asked to pose a question related to being a Jew. Ms. Behrman, who grew up Orthodox in London but hadn’t been to a synagogue in years, recounted a story about her beloved grandmother’s appointment book, which on May 31, 1965, contained the words, “susan, dentist,” a reminder to take her daughter in for a checkup. Why didn’t Jews write down life lessons for those left behind after they died? Ms. Behrman was wondering. She picked up a white card from a table nearby, scribbled “susan, dentist ...” in green ink and posted it on a corkboard at the back of the room. The act felt cathartic.

“I do not think I regretted my Jewishness,” Ms. Berhman said recently of her time before Reboot. “But when I look at my life, I hadn’t expressed my Judaism in any way.”
For Jews disconnected from their heritage, the three-day summit — one part Bohemian Grove, one part Masons — is an off-the-record free-for-all of cultural and spiritual inquiry. (The gathering, which will mark its 10th anniversary this spring, is also free, at least for first-time attendees.)
-- Laura M. Holson, NY Times

To view complete article, click here.

An Egyptian's Scientist's Journey from Wariness to Warmth

Dr. Ahmed Moustafa of Cairo has a message for his fellow Arab scientists: "Separate politics from science and give Israel a try. See for yourself."

Egyptian Dr. Ahmed Moustafa in Israel to study Parkinson's Disease
   "If people could see the 'other side' of Israel, its books and movies and science, I think that might make a difference," says Dr. Ahmed Moustafa in Israel to study Parkinson's Disease.
When Dr. Ahmed Moustafa announced his intention to conduct medical research in Israel during the summer of 2008, his family feared for his life and his friends feared for his sanity.
But the Cairo University graduate, who has a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from the University of Louisiana, was eager to accept an invitation from Jerusalem's Hadassah-Hebrew University School of Medicine and Al-Quds University to enhance his study of Parkinson's disease.

"Some of my friends in Egypt advised me not to embark on such an 'unethical' trip," Moustafa recently wrote on the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East website. "For many in Egypt, setting foot in Israel is unthinkable. But the Palestinian professors whom I consulted did not voice such criticism; they encouraged me to visit Israel. My friends in the United States did not make such criticisms either, and I realized that many Americans and Europeans who visit Israel hold different views on Israeli politics, yet they discuss their opinions openly with Israelis."

Wariness due to ignorance
Now 33, Moustafa is doing post-doctoral work at Rutgers University in New Jersey - his home base since 2007 - developing computational models that demonstrate how Parkinson's disease affects a patient's ability to learn, memorize and pay attention. His research also has applications for a greater understanding of schizophrenia.

At the end of November, he was enjoying a visit from Dr. Boris Rosin, with whom he worked at the medical school during the summer of 2008 in the physiology lab of Prof. Hagai Bergman. Neuroscientists at the Hebrew University play a key international role in understanding Parkinson’s, he says.

Moustafa explains that widespread wariness regarding Israel is not due to educational indoctrination in Egypt, but rather the result of unflattering newspaper reports and cartoons as well as a lack of exposure to anything Israeli. --Avigayil Kadesh, Israel Ministsry of Foreign Affairs

To read complete article, click here.

The Healing Of Debbie Friedman

Beloved singer, songwriter Debbie Friedman
Beloved singer, writer, musical game-changer dies at 59.

 Her music used in services in Reform, Conservative and Orthodox congregations

To a broken generation, Debbie Friedman delivered a mystical truth: You don’t have to be cured to be healed.

She, who suffered for so long from elusive, debilitating neurological illnesses that finally took her life Sunday after 59 years, understood, with humor and faith, that she was singing and writing with one foot in Heaven and the other on a banana peel. It was as if from Heaven, however, that her most ethereal music seemed to come, transforming not only lives but whole denominations.

She emerged in the 1970s, as if from a cornfield, from campfires in a Wisconsin summer camp, and an untethered Reform childhood in Minnesota where her parents wouldn’t even send her to Hebrew school, relenting only when she begged.

Without rabbinic, cantorial or even musical training, Debbie — even in formal settings she was always Debbie — nevertheless did more than anyone to upend the old Western European model of Reform Judaism, with its magisterial formality, organs, operatic cantors, let alone its scientific skepticism about the power of a blessing....

Born in upstate Utica in 1951, Debbie and her parents moved to Minnesota when she was 5, her father finding a job in a Rayco garage, working on seat belts and mufflers. The move was hard for Debbie, who missed her grandparents back in Utica; they were her prime religious influence.
She remembered her grandmother’s farmhouse, where her grandmother, with covered head, would wave in the Shabbat candles with a blessing.

“What are you whispering, Bubby?” asked young Debbie.

“Oh, I make blessings on all the ones who are in Gan Eden (paradise),” said her Bubby.

Her grandparents’ home remained vivid to Debbie, as a holy, magical world; the red dimpled glasses for seder; the sukkah decorations; the bedtime Shema.