Friday, February 4, 2011

Center for Jewish History Retires $30 Million Debt

The Center for Jewish History in New York has raised $30 million to retire its construction debt.
The amount was raised and donated by the chairman and founder of the center, Bruce Slovin; board members William Ackman and Joseph Steinberg; the Fairholme Foundation; and 19 other donors, the center announced last week in a news release.

The center was created 10 years ago after raising $100 million to bring together five historical organizations under one roof: the American Jewish Historical Society; the American Sephardi Federation; the Leo Baeck Institute; the Yeshiva University Museum; and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

It features more than 500,000 books and 100 million documents that include pieces of art, textiles and ritual objects, as well as music, films and photographs.

The collections range from the early modern era in Europe and pre-colonial times in the Americas to present-day materials from across the globe. The center provides access to a comprehensive collection of historic archival materials, including from Franz Kafka, Theodor Herzl, Moses Mendelssohn, Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein.  -- JTA

Opinion: Fire the Racist Rabbis

Can we live side by side with our Palestinian neighbors?
I was raised in the Wynnefield neighborhood of Philadelphia. As I child I recall the very few neighbors who were not Jewish.   I recall at least six synagogues, a Day School, a Jewish War Veterans Post, a Folk Shul, and many stores that catered to the overwhelmingly Jewish population....
It may seem sad to know that so many urban Jewish communities are no longer. But, on the other hand, Jews now live in suburban areas where they were once shunned. We are disproportionately represented in top universities which once limited our numbers. There are few places where Jews today are excluded because they are Jewish.

American Jews were at the forefront of the American civil rights movement. Our religion demands that we fight prejudice and provide for the weak of all peoples.
For this very reason I was deeply shocked and appalled to read of an edict signed by scores of Israeli rabbis forbidding the rental, or the sale, of homes or apartments to non-Jews (read: Arabs). Only a short time earlier, the revered former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav Ovadia Yosef, stated, “Goyim were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world – only to serve the People of Israel.” -- Rabbi Andrew Sacks, Director of the Masorti [Conservative] Movement's Rabbinical Assembly in Israel, Jerusalem Post

Hundreds of European Union Lawmakers Arrive for Pro-Israel Conference

Forums will be held where issues like the boycotting of Israel, the threat of terrorism and Israel’s business sector will be debated. 

 Some 450 European parliamentarians from 37 countries including all 27 members of the European Union were set to arrive in Israel on February 4 for a three-day conference that starts Saturday.

During the three-day event organized by European Friends of Israel, a pro-Israel lobby group, lawmakers will tour the country and meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. -- Gil Shefler, Jerusalem Post

To read the complete article, click here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Born into the Soap

Feminist and path breaker, Gamila Hiar uses local herbs grown in the Galilee to produce her famous soaps.
A Druze grandma from northern Israel has created a soap empire that has attained celebrity status, used by the likes of Justin Timberlake, Rihanna and Angelina Jolie.

When Israeli supermodel Bar Rafaeli comes to Israel for a visit, she makes sure to stock up on Gamilla's soaps for her glamorous friends around the world. She and other celebrities like Justin Timberlake, Rihanna and Angelina Jolie swear by the stuff, according to Fuad Hiar, the eldest son of Israel's most lucrative soap maker the 70-year-old Gamila Hiar.

Gamila is adept at the role of traditional soap maker. She's traditionally dressed, and as one would expect from an iconic grandmother figure, she has inherited her family's ancient "soap wisdom" from prior generations, using recipes from her grandfathers, and herbs from their gardens around the Galilee village of Peki'in. -- Karin Kloosterman, Israel 21c

To read the complete article, click here.

Facebook and Anorexia

Is Facebook use contributing to eating disorders
in young women?
According to clinical psychologist Esther Altmann, writing on the MyJewishLearning website, "Anorexia and bulimia are most prevalent within upwardly mobile demographic groups, and are amongst the most emotionally and physically devastating disorders affecting young Jewish women. The Jewish community has become increasingly aware that eating disorders are a serious health concern and, in some cases, a life threatening condition."

The fact that eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are so common among Jewish women means that the Jewish community should pay special attention to a new study by Prof. Yael Letzer, Prof. Ruth Katz and Zohar Spivak of University of Haifa in Israel. According to Viva Sarah Press, there is a connection between Facebook and eating disorders. According to the University of Haifa study, young women who frequently use the social networking site are more susceptible to eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. -- Rabbi Jason Miller, Jewish Techs, The NY Jewish Week

To read the complete article, click here.

Canada, Israel Rank Highest in Internet Usage

Study reveals Canadians spend more time online than any other nation; Israelis second with average of 2,300 minutes 

According to a study released by the private online data compiling firm, comScore Inc., Canadians spend more time online than any other nation.

Canadian users logged an average of more than 2,500 minutes online a month, totaling almost 42 hours.

Israel was second with an average of around 2,300 minutes.

The study also concluded that Canada has the largest number of Internet users per capita, with 68%. --‪Sarah Bauder, ynet news‬

‪To read the complete article, click here.‬

Athletes Gear Up for Jerusalem Marathon


Athletes from around the world will travel to Israel to compete in the first Jerusalem International Marathon, March 25. -- Canada Jewish Tribune

To read the complete article, click here.

To see details about this marathon and the route, click here.

More Cash Available for Holocaust Survivors in Canada

Although he is only 25, Asaf Segev is in a race against time. He volunteered for a few years with Aviv LeNitzolei HaShoah (Spring for Holocaust Survivors), a non-profit organization founded in 2007 to ensure that survivors in Israel receive all the rights and benefits available to them. Now he is in Canada with the same organization for the same reason.

Most people assume there is a government agency coordinating resources and contacting beneficiaries, but that is not the case. Even lawyers working in the field don’t have comprehensive knowledge of all the existing restitution.
New laws have been passed recently, including one in Germany, with a broader definition of employment, entitling anyone who worked in a ghetto, even in exchange for food and not money, to apply for compensation. -- Denise Rootenberg, Canada Jewish Tribune

To read the complete article, click here.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Byzantine Church and Mosaic Floor Uncovered at Hirbet Madras

Mosaic floor preserved almost in its entirety
(Photo courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority)
A large and beautiful mosaic floor and a church were uncovered in excavations carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority at Hirbet Madras in the Judean coastal plain - possibly the residence and tomb of the prophet Zechariah.... 

Hirbet Madras is known as the site of a large, important Jewish community from the Second Temple period until its destruction during the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 135 CE. Among the remains at the site are those of buildings, caves, agricultural installations and extensive underground hiding tunnels. The site was identified by a number of scholars as the location of a major community. -- Communicated by the Israel Antiquities Authority, via Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To view the complete article, click here.

Bringing College to the Disadvantaged

A college student mentors promising
young children as part of the College For All
program in Netanya.
Israel's College For All program provides up to 16 hours a week of personal tutoring, channeling bright but disadvantaged students from third through 12th grade to college and leadership roles.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste, goes the old commercial promoting college education. Testifying to the truth of that statement is Dr. Shmulik Weiss, director of the College For All program. Perhaps he, more than anyone else in Israel, knows what can be lost if promising young minds don't receive the support they need to develop. -- David Halevi, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Poles Want Auschwitz Moved on the Internet

The authorities at the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum have been asked
to change their domain names to either .com or .eu

Where’s Auschwitz? It may soon no longer be in Poland, at least according to the Internet: Bogdan Zdrojewski, Poland’s culture minister, has asked the directors of the Auschwitz-Burkenau museum—as well as their counterparts at the Majdanek and Stutthof concentration camps—to drop the .pl suffix from the museum’s Website.

“I’ve asked them to be consistent in using the appropriate German names of the camps and this applies also to the Internet,” Zdrojewski said. “At the moment the .pl is misleading and might make people associate the camps with Poland.” Luckily, we now have the Internet to help us correct such faulty notions as a history of murderous Polish anti-Semitism. -- Liel Leibovitz, The Tablet

Christian Leader Pivotal to Herzl’s Work Recognized

Rev. William Hechler

Israeli officials, int'l and local Jewish leaders attend tombstone commemoration of Rev. William Henry Hechler in London.

The contribution of a Christian chaplain to Theodor Herzl’s work and to the Zionist cause was commemorated in London on January 31 with a tombstone dedication at his unmarked grave.

Rev. William Henry Hechler was pivotal to Herzl’s diplomatic successes, allying himself with him and emerging Zionist movement and providing Herzl  with key introductions to German royal society. -- Jonny Paul, Jerusalem Post

To view the complete article, click here.

The Do’s And Don’ts Of Appealing To Boomers

By now it’s old news: Baby boomers are redefining aging, Jewish boomers are disengaging from community life, and the Jewish community is not well-prepared.

The salient question: Is the Jewish community ready to define our future by creating a just society that reflects Jewish values and respects the aging boomer population? Or will we simply allow the December 2010 Pew Research report, “Boomers Approach Age 65 Glumly,” to become a self-fulfilling prophecy? -- Paula Jacobs, NY Jewish Week

Abortion Rights Activists Decry House Bill They Say Attempts to Redefine Rape

Credit: CBS
Abortion rights activists are decrying the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," a House bill that seeks to expand prohibitions regarding federal funding for abortions - and which opponents say attempts to redefine rape.

The bill (also known as H.R. 3) ... proposes making permanent some federal bans for abortion funding ....

The "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," which currently has the support of 173 House members (including 10 Democrats), also prohibits employers and self-insured Americans from using tax breaks to buy private health insurance that covers abortion.

But the provision of H.R. 3 that has drawn the most widespread criticism from advocates of abortion rights is one regarding the exemption of pregnancies resulting from rape. The bill exempts a woman from the Hyde Amendment limitations only if she has become pregnant as the result of "forcible rape."

Critics argue that specifying the terms of rape as "forcible" in the legislation qualifies as a redefinition that excludes other forms of sexual assault - including statutory rape, which Mother Jones writes is often non-forcible. -- Lucy Madison, CBS News

To read the complete article, click here.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Indian Jews Fascinate Educator

Indian Jewish Boys
As a historian, Dr. Kranti Farias is concerned about origins and heritage, including her own.

When her son was born, people did a double take about her light-skinned progeny, who looked so different from his dark-skinned mother, she said. That’s when she learned from a relative that her family might have Portuguese blood in its lineage, dating back to the European colonization of parts of India, her homeland. -- Paul Lungen, Canadian Jewish News

To read the complete article, click here.

Chilean Miners Coming to Israel

The Chilean miners, who captured the world's attention by surviving 69 days in a collapsed mine last year, will touch down in Israel later this month as guests of the Tourism Ministry. The 'pilgrimage of thanks' tour is set for February 23 - March 2, 2011. -- Viva Sara Press, Israel 21c

To read the complete article click here.

Montreal Shoe Store Boycott Suspended Over Radical Group

The boycott of a Montreal shoe store that sells Israeli shoes has been suspended because a radical group wants to take part in the campaign.

The Palestinian and Jewish Unity group, or PAJU, has suspended for two weeks the weekly vigils it has held since October outside the Le Marcheur shoe store because of the intent to participate by the little-known Revolutionary Nationalist Movement Quebecers. The group had planned to demonstrate outside the store, which sells  shoes made in Israel, on Jan. 29.

In a statement, PAJU called the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement Quebecers "a national-socialist organization, thus representing the expression of the extreme right," and said it was "racist, anti-immigrant and views violence as a revolutionary instrument." -- JTA

To read the complete article, click here.

Super Bowl XLV: For Jewish Adults and Kids, Super Sunday Scores with Fun and Tzedakah

For Super Bowl XLV -- that's mem, hay in Hebrew --
an array of Jewish institutions is offering a schedule of events
including parties and pools, as well as opportunities to do mitzvahs. (Edmon J. Rodman)

On Super Sunday, the alefs and bets in Green Bay and Pittsburgh will be thinking about X’s and O’s. They'll even be up for a little friendly wager.

On the morning of Feb. 6, many hours before the NFC champion Green Bay Packers battle the AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV, Rabbi Shaina Bacharach of the Conservative Congregation Cnesses Israel in Green Bay, says her religious school will square off against the school at the Or L’Simcha, Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh. -- Edmon J. Rodman, JTA

Click here to read the entire article.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Woman Who Remade the Jewish Museum

Joan Rosenbaum Discusses Her Tenure, Her Museum and Culture in the Community

Madame Director:
In 30 years, Rosenbaum has constructed
an enduring "nexus of art."

Courtesy of the Jewish Museum
After 30 years as director of New York’s Jewish Museum, Joan Rosenbaum announced in December that she would be stepping down from the post at the end of June. Few would deny that during Rosenbaum’s tenure, the Jewish Museum has become a powerhouse of art and creativity, both in the Jewish world and in the larger New York art world. Since she took the reins of the museum in 1981, it has doubled the size of its physical location on Fifth Avenue and 92nd Street, expanded its permanent collection to more than 26,000 objects, put on innumerable noteworthy exhibits and ensured its own future by building an endowment of about $92 million. The Forward took the opportunity to ask Rosenbaum about the changes she has seen during her career, both at the Jewish Museum and in the wider spheres of art and Jewish culture.

Birds on the Wing over Israel

Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian
schoolchildren participate in joint activities
about birds as part of the

Migrating Birds Know No Boundaries project.
At least 500 million birds of 200 different species fly across Israel each spring and fall on their way to and from Africa, Europe and Asia. Israeli conservations are taking care of them along the way.

Late one December afternoon, a tractor-toted wagon took Judith and Shai Schwartz and three of their granddaughters on a guided tour around Agamon Hula Ornithology and Nature Park in the Galilee. Here at sunset, thousands of large migrating birds grab a bite before a nighttime dip in the lake.

"There were some 25,000 cranes crowded around us this evening," reports Judith Schwartz, a Kibbutz Ginosar resident. "One night last week there were 42,000. Your eyes can't quite believe what you're seeing. They stand in the lake all night, safe from the bobcats in the area. And here they rest, and lift off in their masses at dawn, blackening the sky like a swarm of gigantic locusts, to continue their 5,000 mile trip to their winter home in Africa." -- Avigayil Kadesh, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read the complete article, click here.

Shabbat in Liverpool: New CD Adapts Beatles’ Tunes for Services

The album cover of Shlock Rock's "Shabbat in Liverpool,"
which features Beatles' songs set to Sabbath prayers
and replicates the Fab Four's famed "Abbey Road" album,
was released in December 2010. (Shlock Rock)
When is it kosher to listen to the Beatles on the Sabbath?

When your chazan adapts the Kabbalat Shabbat Friday night service to the melodies of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Lenny Solomon, the founder of the song-parody group Shlock Rock, employed “nusach Liverpool” for a service in late December at the Young Israel of Hollywood, an Orthodox synagogue in South Florida.
 -- Michael Feldstein, JTA

To read the complete article, click here.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Family Roots

Newer DNA Tests Uncover Hidden Jewish Bloodlines

From top, Pickrell, Voss and Moore discovered their Jewish heritages through recently available DNA testing.
Graphic by Kurt Hoffman
Last April, Joseph Pickrell sent a tube of his saliva to the California genetic testing company 23andMe. After spending years studying other people’s DNA, the 27-year-old doctoral student at the University of Chicago decided he wanted to learn more about his own genetic ancestry.

When the results came back, they showed that Pickrell was largely of Northern European descent with a bit of Mediterranean blood in the mix. At the time, “I just thought, that’s about right,” Pickrell said.
Together with 11 friends and colleagues who had completed the same test, Pickrell then ran his genetic profile through a computer algorithm designed to tease apart genetic lineages more precisely. Strangely, the analysis suggested that two people in the group were of Ashkenazi descent: New York-based attorney Dan Vorhaus and Pickrell. This finding made sense for Vorhaus, a Jew who grew up in the Bay Area. But for Pickrell, who was raised Catholic in Chicago’s northern suburbs, it came as a shock. -- Elie Dolgin, The Forward

To read the complete arrticle, click here.

World Autism Center in Jerusalem

ICARE4Autism's future home
at Mount Scopus, Hebrew University
At the first global research and education center for autism, to be built in Jerusalem, the plan is to integrate all the systems that work.

Everyone asked 'Why Jerusalem?' when Joshua Weinstein decided to set up the first global research and education center for autism in the holy city.

The American researcher, hailing from the ICare4autism International Center for Autism Research and Education in New York, who has opened schools and centers in both New York and Israel, has a simple answer: "Because it's the capital of the world."

To read the complete article, click here.

Women Airborne Mechanics Flying High

"Every little error can cost lives."
Photo by Haim Hornstein
 They rescue injured people, operate helicopter equipment and get their hands dirty with grease and oil. Yedioth Ahronoth reporter accompanies two only IAF female airborne mechanics, learns that women can do everything – even better than men

3:00 pm – The Desert Birds Squadron at Hazerim base. A group approaches the Black Hawk helicopter; two pilots, airborne mechanics course commander Major Eran, and Merav and Hofit – both donning flight coveralls.

The helicopter blade spins vigorously; the noise of the engine is near-deafening. Merav and Hofit examine the equipment on the helicopter and strap themselves to the floor of the chopper. Everything is almost ready. Now all that's left to do is gather the hair in a pony tail, put on the helmet and take off. -- Adva Cohen, Ynetnews

To read the complete article, click here.

No More Fear

Jewish Market Day on Próżna Street in Warsaw.
Milan Durovic

After World War II, many Polish Jews abandoned their faith. Now their children are rediscovering the religion and culture that was hidden from them.

Malgorzata Lubinska, a 50-something Warsaw resident, always knew there was “something strange about our family,” she says. When she was in her 30s, she learned what that something was: Her family had been Jewish. After World War II, violence toward Jews and discrimination were facts of life in Poland; those who chose to stay were, almost by definition, those who were prepared to leave their Jewishness behind, as did Lubinska’s family. But as things have changed, a new generation that includes Malgorzata is exploring the faith and culture their parents took pains to conceal. Lubinska spoke to Natalie Kestecher for the Australian radio documentary “My Fear of Poland,” produced for ABC Radio National’s 360documentaries, in which Kestecher traces her family’s Polish heritage and explores the country’s Jewish renaissance. Vox Tablet presents Lubinska’s story, and you can find the entire broadcast here. -- Vox Tablet

Commentary: Recent Unrest in Arab World Is Not about Us

Photo by AP

How the Egyptian revolution debunks the "Israel-is-the-cause-of-Mideast-instability" myth.

From an Israeli perspective, one of the most striking elements of the evolving revolution in Egypt, Tunisia and other parts of the Arab world is the degree to which all of this is not about us.

For the tens of thousands of protesters who took to Egypt’s streets over the weekend, defying the curfew and calling for the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, Israel and the Palestinians were simply not on the agenda.

And the same was the case during the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia earlier this month, and in the demonstrations intermittently taking place in Jordan, Yemen, Algeria and Morocco. No cries of death to Israel, no signs to “lift the siege” of Gaza, no chants against housing projects in Ariel....

It’s clear that the tidal wave of popular anger against the Arab world’s “moderate” regimes would be washing over those regimes regardless of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.... -- Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post

Click here to read the complete article.

Israel's Cabinet to Declare Water Emergency

In most of the country this winter, precipitation has been at or below one-third of the multiyear average.

The cabinet plans to declare a water emergency on Sunday due to this winter’s meager rainfall − the first step will be to require desalination plants to operate 24 hours a day.

The cabinet will approve payments linked to this operation, which includes the use of electricity at peak hours.

In most of the country this winter, precipitation has been at or below one-third of the multiyear average.

The cabinet will also require desalination plants to be able to operate at full capacity by mid-May. The Water Authority will be told to reduce pollution of groundwater that stems from the activities of arms producers throughout the country. According to a Water Authority report to the cabinet, the supply of natural water has declined in the past 18 years from 1.35 billion cubic meters annually to 1.17 billion cubic meters, or 13 percent. ‏-- Amiram Cohen, Haaretz