Friday, January 28, 2011

Israel, ESA to Sign Cooperation Agreement

Photo by Visual/Photos
The sky is the limit – Israel on Sunday will sign a cooperation agreement with European Space Agency ESA.

Agreement with European Space Agency to focus on scientist exchange, joint conferences, cooperation between research institutions‬‬
According to the agreement, the two will collaborate on various fields of space science, including astronomy, astrophysics, solar system research, space and satellite engineering, environmental pollution monitoring and meteorology.
In addition, they will conduct joint research on natural disasters and hold space experiments in zero gravity conditions, as well as biological and medical research and space applications for urban planning and surveillance.
"The agreement with the ESA shows that Israel is considered a leading power in the field of space research," Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz told Yedioth Ahronoth.
"The framework agreement will promote projects that serve a mutual interest, such as scientist exchange and information exchange, joint conferences and cooperation between research institutions," he added.
Ahead of the official signing ceremony, a group of prominent scientists will arrive in Israel on Saturday. The delegation will include ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and ESA Director of Science and Robotic Exploration Prof. David Southwood. The two are scheduled to speak at the 6th Ilan Ramon International Space Conference in Herzliya's Fisher Institute.

"This is a significant opportunity for Israel and Israeli high-tech companies. It is the second largest scientific research body after NASA," said Head of the Israel Space Agency (isa) Zvi Kaplan.   --Edad Beck‬, Ynetnews

Coming Full Circle on Triangle Factory Fire

Among the volunteers who joined a sewing circle to remember the victims of the Triangle Waist Company fire 100 years ago, the talk around the table jumped from details of the historic blaze to an eerily similar fire that erupted in a garment factory in Bangladesh in December.

Several Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition members discussed the fire in a factory near Dhaka, Bangladesh, that killed at least 25 workers and injured another 100. More than a dozen trapped workers jumped to their deaths from the 10th floor to escape the blaze. The factory manufactured clothing to be distributed to the Gap and to J.C. Penney Co.

“Maybe we don’t smell the fire, but we get the ashes,” said Carmelina Cartei, head of the immigrant rights committee for the Triangle fire coalition.

Cartei, an adjunct women and gender studies professor at Hunter College, said the sewing circle and the coalition stood for more than just honoring the lives of those who died on March 25, 1911.

“I think we are also asking the question of, ‘Do we still have sweatshops?’ and in one way or another we do. We are in a sweatshop economy.”...

“It’s moving to me that Italian and Jewish women worked in the factory and now it’s Jewish and Italian women working for the centennial [commemoration],” said Annie Lanzillotto, an artist and writer who is heading the coalition’s outreach committee. But more than just honoring and remembering those who were killed, “we need to be accountable for where we export our work and our conditions,” she said. “These jobs are done by the same people, but on a different continent.” -- Maia Efrem, The Forward

The Chinese Discover Jews and Israel and Can’t Seem To Get Enough

Sino-Israeli Friendship:
Above, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (right)
greets Professor Chen Yiyi on a recent visit to Israel.
Photo by Yitzchak Harari
Back in 1991 Chen Yiyi was, as he puts it, a “bored” law student at Peking University. At the time, China was in the process of formalizing relations with Israel, and the Chinese Education Ministry and Israel’s Foreign Ministry selected his university as the site of China’s first Hebrew course taught by visiting Israeli teachers. When the class fell short of its eight-student enrollment target, Chen was persuaded to sign up to boost its numbers.

Little did Chen know at the time that he was embarking on a career in what would soon be a burgeoning field within Chinese academia: Jewish studies.

Chen, who is now director of Peking University’s Institute of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, teaches a Bible course at his school that is billed as a class in Tanach, using the Hebrew word for the Bible and drawing upon Jewish interpretations. Now in its eighth year, the class can accommodate a maximum of 200 students each session, but it regularly has 500 students sign up....

“The interest in Jews and Israelis goes way beyond business, way beyond technology, to a wish to understand what the Jewish nation is all about,” said Ilan Maor, joint vice president of the Israel-Asia Chamber of Commerce and a former Israeli consul general in Shanghai. -- Nathan Jeffay, The Forward

Judith Resnik--On the 25th Anniversary of the Challenger Disaster

The first Jew and second woman to travel to space, Judith Resnik lost her life in the tragic explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986, in which six other astronauts were killed. --  NASA
One of the seven crew members who died in the tragic explosion of the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, Judith (“J.R.”) Resnik was a pioneer for women entering NASA’s space program, and the second American woman astronaut to travel in space.

A talented scientist and a private individual, Resnik gave her deepest loyalties to her father, her career, and her close friends. Although she avoided publicity whenever possible, she was fun-loving and spirited; her romantic crush on actor Tom Selleck was often a source of good-natured teasing among her coworkers.

Born Judith Arlene Resnik on April 5, 1949, in Akron, Ohio, to first-generation Jewish Russian parents, Judith was a bright, curious child who, by kindergarten, could both read and solve simple math problems. Her father, Marvin, was an optometrist and a part-time cantor when he married Sarah Polensky, a former legal secretary from Cleveland Heights. After Judith was born, the Resniks had a son, Charles.

The Resniks were an upper middle-class Jewish family devoted to their religion and to all learning. Gifted in math and science, Resnik excelled in academics from a young age. She also attended Hebrew school and, by her teenage years, was an accomplished classical pianist. Teachers and friends described her as extremely bright, disciplined, perfectionistic, and personable. -- Lynn Cohen, Jewish Women's Archive

To read the complet article, click here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Remembering the Holocaust When the Survivors Are Gone

Yellow Stars of David are displayed in an exhibit at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, ahead of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011. Thursday will mark the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is designated by the United Nations General Assembly to commemorate the victims of Holocaust. On Jan. 27, 1945 the largest Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Poland was liberated by Soviet Red Army. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

January 27th marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, established by the United Nations in 2005 to remember past crimes with an eye toward preventing them in the future. The date chosen, January 27th, coincides with the date in 1945 when Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most deadly of the Nazi death camps.

Raising questions about a goal as laudable as preventing future genocides is always difficult. Raising questions about how we remember the Holocaust is about as safe as jumping into a shark tank with raw meat tied around one's neck. Well, here I go. -- Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, For God's Sake, Washington Post Blog

To read the complete article, click here.

German, Polish Leaders Honor Holocaust Victims

Int'l Holocaust Remembrance Day: Presidents gather at Auschwitz to honor 1.1 million killed at camp; study published on site preservation.

The memory of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War II was honored around the world on Thursday, the day which marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

German President Christian Wulff paid his respects on a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the biggest Nazi concentration camp, where about a million Jews were murdered during the war, accompanied by World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder and his Polish counterpart Bronislaw Komorowski.

"On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Jewish community and the survivors of the Shoah welcome the fact that President Wulff - who has only been in office for a few months and has already been to Israel - is visibly giving the issue of the Holocaust remembrance such a high political priority,” Lauder declared ahead of the ceremonies in Auschwitz and Birkenau. “Clearly, Germany's political leaders have learnt the lessons of the past, but much remains to be done throughout Europe to keep the memory of the darkest chapter in history alive, in order to prevent a future Holocaust.”

Wulff's official delegation also comprises several Holocaust survivors, the leaders of Germany's Jewish community, and members of parliament. Together with his Komorowski, Wulff will visit the International Youth Meeting Center at Auschwitz.

Events were held in capitals across the world. In Rome, a ceremony was set to take place Thursday evening at Rome's Great synagogue, organised by the local Jewish community and Jewish youth movements including World Bnei Akiva. At least 1000 people, Jews and non-Jews, participated including Rome's Mayor, Minister and Representatives of the Italian Prime Minister will participate, together with the Chief Rabbi and Jewish community leaders....Gil Shefler, Jerusalem Post

To read the complete article, click here.

Professor Becomes First Israeli to Win Cancer Research Award

Professor Yosef Shiloh, winner of cancer research award
Photo by: Alon Ro
Professor Yosef Shiloh won prize, including $10,000 grant, from world's largest organization for cancer research for discoveries made while researching rare degenerative disease.

Professor Yosef Shiloh, of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Medical School, has won the prestigious Clowes Award presented by the American Association for Cancer Research, it was announced this week.
This is the first time the AACR, the world's largest organization for cancer research, has given this award to an Israeli researcher. 

"Professor Shiloh is an international leader in his field and an extraordinary scientist," AACR director Dr. Margaret Foti wrote in the explanation for awarding him the prize. "His work has launched a scientific revolution and opened up new horizons in the understanding of how the living cell copes with DNA damage, which is among the main factors in cancer." -- Asaf Shtull-Trauring, Haaretz

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Swiss Report: Museums Should Investigate Nazi-Era Art

A Swiss government report has concluded that the country's museums should more intensively investigate whether they hold artwork looted during the Nazi era.

The report, published this week by the Federal Culture Office, summarizes the results of a survey of 551 Swiss museums on the state of their provenance research, according to the Claims Conference, the main Jewish organization on restitution issues.

The Swiss government commissioned the survey in 2008, in advance of the of the 2009 Holocaust Era Assets Conference in Prague. The outcome of the conference is also summarized in the newly released report.

The report of the survey's results found that information and awareness of the issue of Nazi-looted art should be improved in public and private museums; that museums need to intensify provenance research; and that access to the results of provenance research should be simplified.

Of the 416 museums that responded to the survey, 25 stated that works in the possession of their institutions may be affected by the issue of Nazi-looted art, while 43 reported that they had undertaken provenance research on works owned by their institutions.

Some 108 museums established after 1945 indicated that they have not conducted any provenance research.

At the end of the Prague conference, Switzerland was one of 47 countries that signed the Terezin Declaration, which included a commitment to continue working on this issue
The Nazis looted an estimated 650,000 art and religious items from Jews and other victims, according to the Claims Conference. -- JTA

Yad Vashem, Google Team Up to Put Shoah Data Online

Project will make Holocaust photos and documents available on Internet; first batch already hits web; viewers can add their stories.

The world's largest collection of Holocaust documents is going digital.

Israel's Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, is teaming up with Google to make its photographs and documents interactive and searchable on the Internet. The first 130,000 photos hit the web Wednesday.

Although much of Yad Vashem's archive was already available through its formidable website, the new project enables users to search keywords and data just like a Google search.

A social network-like component allows viewers to contribute to the project by adding their own stories, comments and documents about family members who appear in the online archives.

Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said even though that feature could be misused to post anti-Semitic comments, the risk is outweighed by the benefit provided to future generations seeking information about their ancestors.

"This is part of our vision — to connect Yad Vashem's knowledge and information to modern technology, and bring it to youngsters," he said.

The project started three years ago in the Tel Aviv skyscraper that houses Google's research operations in Israel. It was inspired by a Google initiative encouraging employees to spend 20 percent of work time on projects they feel are important.

Google used experimental optical character recognition technology to make text within documents and photos searchable in multiple languages.

The move is just the latest in Yad Vashem's digital outreach. Earlier this week, the memorial launched a version of its YouTube channel in Farsi to educate the country's most bitter enemy — Iran — about the Nazi genocide of 6 million Jews.

Yad Vashem's next priority is to digitize its collection of survivor testimonies.

The launch comes a day before the UN marks its annual Holocaust remembrance day.
-- Associated Press via Jerusalem Post

Yad Vashem’s survivor testimonies are available at

The photographic collection is visible at

Facts and Figures

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistical Communal Truths


Since the early 20th century, the American Jewish community has placed its faith in numbers — in data and statistics. Where words and images could be manipulated, numbers, it seemed, were unassailable and steadfast. They told the truth.

They held society accountable.

Little wonder, then, that so many American Jews were dismayed by the recent revelations that the findings of each storied National Jewish Population Survey were incorrect. That the community had predicated so much of its programming on inaccurate information was bad enough. Worse still was the sobering realization that numbers are not what they’re cracked up to be. Instead of being independent arbiters of reality, they’re its creatures.
For much of its modern history, though, American Jewry held tight to the fiction that fact resided in numbers. Armed with graphs, tables, pie charts and percentiles, the community’s leaders successfully wrestled with some of the mightiest problems that confronted the modern-day Jew, from criminality to the pursuit of community. -- Jenna Weissman Joselit, The Forward

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Section of Ancient Sewer Discovered in Jerusalem

Israeli archaeologists have discovered a new section of an 2,000-year-old drainage channel that links the ancient City of David to the plaza in front of the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site.

“It connects the dots between the where Jews lived in the ancient city of Jerusalem, the city of David, and the plaza. For the first time, they connect,” said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in an interview on Fox News.

Archaeologist Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa and his team first uncovered the sewer in 2007. The walls of the tunnel, made of ashlar stones 3 feet deep, reach a height of 10 feet in some places and are covered by heavy stone slabs that were the road's paving stones.

The channel also served as an escape hatch for Jews desperate to flee the conquering Romans after the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 CE. As the temple was being destroyed, people took shelter in the drainage channel and lived inside it until they fled Jerusalem through its southern end, the historian Josephus Flavius wrote in “The War of the Jews.”

Archaeology has been a politically explosive issue in Jerusalem. Palestinians including the late Yasser Arafat have even questioned a Jewish role in ancient Jerusalem. At the Camp David in 2000, Arafat insisted that there never were Jewish temples on the Temple Mount.

Barkat said no excavations had taken place under Muslim holy places. “There is no tunneling under the Temple Mount. There is not and there will not be,” he said.

The entire tunnel could be opened to the public within a year. -- Israel Project

In Light of Shoah, Teens Feel Israel Should Aid Refugees

Photo by : Ariel Jerozolimski

Massuah Institute for Holocaust Studies poll finds 67% of teens aged 15 to 18 believe the Jewish state should help foreigners fleeing persecution.

Massuah Institute for Holocaust Studies poll finds 67% of teens aged 15 to 18 believe the Jewish state should help foreigners fleeing persecution.

Most teenagers feel that the lessons of the Holocaust require Israel to offer assistance to refugees, according to a survey released on Monday.

The poll, conducted on behalf of Massuah Institute for Holocaust Studies, showed about 67 percent of the 1,000 respondents, aged 15 to 18, believe the Jewish state should help foreigners fleeing persecution in their countries. In addition, about a quarter of young Israelis said the murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II was proof that “the world is against us.” -- Gil Shefler, Jerusalem Post

Taking Aim at Iranian Holocaust Denial

Phote by: Courtesy
Yad Vashem, Israel's central Holocaust memorial and documentation center, launched on Sunday a new YouTube channel in Farsi in what officials said was a bid to counter Holocaust denial in Iran, which has become bon ton under the country's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The channel, mainly featuring video clips of survivors' testimonials with Farsi subtitles, will join Yad Vashem's channels in English, Hebrew, Russian, Spanish and Arabic. The museum website already has a page in Farsi, the language spoken by 60% of all Iranians, which provides basic information on the Holocaust and the activities of Yad Vashem.

"I turn to the Persian people," Yaakov (Jackie) Handeli, a Holocaust survivor from Thessalonica told journalists at Yad Vashem. "Let them see me and invite me to Iran. I am the sole member left of my entire family, and only because I was born Jewish, nothing else."

Ahmadinejad has at various times both denied the Holocaust and acknowledged it, albeit only to attack it as a pretext for the existence of Israel. Ahmadinejad's virulent rhetoric on the Holocaust is often tied to his calls to eradicate "the Zionist regime," both seen as preparing the ideological ground for attacking the Jewish state. -- Daivd E. Miller, Jerusalem Post

Monday, January 24, 2011

Leaked Palestinian Documents on Peace Process Published

More than 1,600 leaked Palestinian documents about the peace process with Israel reveal that negotiators were willing to turn over nearly all the Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, and accept a shared authority of the Temple Mount.

The documents were leaked to the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network, which shared them with Britain's The Guardian newspaper. They began appearing in the two media outlets on Sunday night.

According to the documents, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told United States officials that the Palestinians were giving Israel "the biggest Yerushalayim in history," the Guardian reported.

The documents show that during negotiations in 2008 and 2009, Palestinian negotiators offered Israel all of the Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, with the exception of Har Homa, which now has 20,000 residents. PLO leaders also suggested trading parts of  the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah for land located elsewhere, according to the Guardian.

The Palestinian negotiators also proposed a joint committee to take over the Jewish and Palestinian holy sites on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The documents also show that the Palestinians agreed that Israel would take 10,000 Palestinians refugees under the right of return and that they would recognize Israel as a Jewish state. In addition, Israel offered to transfer Israeli Arabs to the Palestinian state.

The documents also show that Palestinian Authority leaders in the West Bank including President Mahmoud Abbas were warned in advance about the Gaza war, which began in December 2008 and lasted for one month.

The documents reportedly were leaked over several months from more than one source, according to a Guardian editors' statement. The identity of the leakers is being protected by Al-Jazeera and The Guardian.

On Monday, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat called the report on the documents "lies and half truths."  Ahmed Qureia, who led the negotiations in 2008, told The Associated Press that "many parts of the documents were fabricated, as part of the incitement against the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian leadership." Abbas said that nothing reported in the documents is secret, and that the PLO was updated on all offered concessions.  Abbas also rejected the report that said the number of Palestinians being allowed to return to Israel would be severely limited.  -- JTA

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jewish NGO Helps Uganda with Polio Vaccinations

Jewish Heart for Africa’s solar-powered refrigerators have helped vaccinate more than 65,000 kids.

More than 65,000 kids have received vaccinations over the past three months thanks to Jewish Heart for Africa’s solar-powered refrigerators, Rachel Ishofsky, JHA’s associate executive director, told The Jerusalem Post by phone from Uganda Wednesday night.
In August 2009, Uganda was declared Polio-free, but in September 2010, the World Health Organization confirmed two new cases. As a result, the Ugandan government decided to vaccinate 2 million children under the age of five.
However, the Ugandan Health Ministry needed a way to refrigerate the vaccines somewhere along the way between the capital and the door-to-door vaccination route in some of the rural areas, Ishofsky said. Aware of JHA’s success in providing solar-powered refrigerators to rural health clinics not far from the two cases, district health offices reached out to local JHA staffer Dr. Samson Wamani.

JHA uses Israeli solar technologies in rural medical facilities to provide light for nighttime medical care, and to power 50- 75-liter solar-powered refrigerators.

Health workers would come get the vaccines being stored in the refrigerators and then go out on bikes door to door to inoculate the children. --  Ehud Zion Waldoks, Jerusalem Post


As southern Sudan votes on independence, Sudanese refugees working in the resorts of Eilat consider returning to their own promised land

A Sudanese refugee in Tel Aviv on Sunday, 
when voting started in South Sudan’s week-long independence
referendum. -- Ashley Makar
As polling stations opened on January 9 in Sudan, for a referendum on southern Sudanese independence, Sudanese asylum seekers crowded Tel Aviv’s Lewinsky Park to rally for change in their home country. One man was shaking a Star-of-David tambourine, waving the flag of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, and carrying a cross with an eagle at Christ’s feet. Crowds were chanting “Bye, Bye, North Sudan,” giving voice to the overwhelming majority of southern Sudanese who hope to secede from the Khartoum government. A Sudanese community leader thanked the Israelis who welcome them to the country and explained to those who don’t, “We are not migrant workers; we are not infiltrators; we are asylum seekers.”

Michael (his name and that of the other refugees in this article have been changed to protect their security) is waiting on a kibbutz to go home to Sudan. Until he quit his job, he would commute from the kibbutz where he lives to the resort where he works. On 12-hour shifts, he would serve gelato, latt├ęs, and microbrews on the main drag in Eilat, where all walks of diaspora rub elbows: Americans on birthright trips; Russians who’ve made aliyah; E.U. citizens who summer in Israel; Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers who, after crossing the Sinai on foot, are working service jobs that fuel Eilat’s tourism industry.

But that source of cheap labor in Israel is drying up. One hundred and fifty Sudanese have already returned to what they hope will be a vision of prosperity and peace in an independent southern Sudan, liberated after this week’s referendum. There are 14,000 Eritreans in Israel who could fill the shoes of Sudanese workers who repatriate, but Israel is implementing a new policy that prohibits work for those who entered the country illegally. Now, Israelis who employ illegal workers will face prohibitive fines.  -- Ashley Makar, The Tablet

Roaring Back At The Tiger Mom

Harsh parenting note? Amy Chua and her two daughters.
Jewish mothers get in some parenting
licks in favor of guilt, play, community.

I recently learned the expression “Shanghai Jew” and, political correctness be damned, I just can’t resist using it to describe Amy Chua.

Chua is the Yale law professor and “Tiger Mother” who has quickly ascended to Sarah Palin levels of notoriety — no small accomplishment in a week when Palin herself was getting oodles of publicity for whining about “blood libel.”

Now, I’m not calling her a Shanghai Jew because she is a first-generation Chinese American married to a Jewish man. Rather, because “Shanghai Jew” is an admiring Chinese term for one who is “clever in business” — and while Chua’s Harvard graduate degree is a JD, not an MBA, the woman is not just clever, but brilliant.

By tapping into two of America’s biggest sources of anxiety —parenting and the loss of our superpower status to China — Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” (Penguin) ranked No. 6 in sales on the day it was released, virtually unheard of in publishing. (A feat that no doubt disappointed her father, who she wrote once told her she’d “disgraced him” by winning a second, rather than first, place.)...

To be a “Chinese” parent, “you have to be hated sometimes by someone you love and who hopefully loves you, and there’s just no letting up, no point at which it suddenly becomes easy,” she writes. -- Julie Wiene, NY Jewish Week

To read the complete article, click here.

To read the feature article on "Tiger Mothers" in Time Magazine, click here.