Friday, April 1, 2011

The Archeology War

Tunnels, City of David
The Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) was founded in 1979 by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). It has three basic goals. The first is to spread a Saudi version of Koranic education throughout the Islamic world. The second is to publicize Islam to the non-Islamic world, both positively by touting Islamic civilization and its accomplishments—this it dubs "Dialogue among Civilizations"—and negatively, by protesting what it calls the "anti-Islamic campaign."

he third goal is to oppose the "Judaization of Al-Quds"—i.e., Jerusalem. To that end, a recent ISESCO meeting in Amman has bitterly attacked archeological projects in the Holy City conducted by "the Israeli occupation full breach of the relevant international laws and conventions."
-- Alex Joffe, Jewish Ideas Daily

To read the complete article, click here.

Yale's Secret Society That's Hiding in Plain Sight

Paul Souders / Corbis

In the shadows of Skull and Bones — an organization that boasts Presidents William Howard Taft, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and FedEx founder Frederick Smith as members — a secret society of a different stripe is flourishing as the modish club du jour. And this one was started by four men who 60 years ago would have been shunned by Bones.

Meet Eliezer, the secret Yale society that's hiding in plain sight...Founded in the fall of 1996 by Rabbi Shmully Hecht, Ben Karp, Cory Booker and Michael Alexander as an intellectual salon and Jewish leadership society, the group that started out as a social club for would-be and current leaders of the Yale community has blossomed into an organization recognized the world over, yet with a decidedly secular twist....

As time passed, the club that was founded by three Jews (one of whom is half African American) and an African-American Baptist (Booker, who was a Yale law student then and is now the mayor of Newark, N.J.) to be a place that would serve as a traditional Shabbat table for the most interesting Jews on campus has morphed into shevet achim gam yachad, a place for brothers to dwell peacefully together. Brothers and sisters, that is. Bones may have become more inclusive over the centuries, but Eliezer began as such, and for good reason. -- Adam Pitluk, Time Magazine

To read the complete article, click here.

Israel's PR Gets Brand New Face

"Many people see soldiers as nothing more than a uniform"
 Photo: Reuters
What does a group of former Israeli soldiers do when the world public opinion of Israel is on the rocks? They launch their own initiative in order to show a different side of the army they served in, a side that doesn't receive much international media coverage.

The group created a new website, Friend a Soldier and is encouraging visitors to ask them anything.

According to 24 years-old Daniel Nisman, CEO of, “Many people see soldiers as nothing more than a uniform. I wanted people to see the human side of the IDF.” -- Omer Shachnai, Ynet News

To view the complete article, click here.

Israel Company AnyClip Heads to Hollywood

Israel's AnyClip can help you mind memorable moments in film.
Israel's AnyClip has cut a dream deal with Universal Studios to bring favorite clips from the movie giant's enormous library to the Internet.
  -- Karin Kloosterman

To read the complete article, click here.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Jews of Yemen Staying Put

Yemeni Rabbi Yahya Youssef Moussa celebrates Passover
with children relocated to the capital, San'a,
from a northern province in 2009.
Long a target of campaigns by Jewish organizational officials in the United States and Israel to get them to emigrate, the Jews remaining in Yemen simply do not want to leave, according to a Jewish organizational official involved in the effort.

Earlier this month, Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, blamed the violence and unrest in his country and around the Arab world on “an operations room in Tel Aviv” that is “run by the White House.” Despite his pronouncements, Saleh has given protection and support to the country’s Jews at a compound in the capital city of Sanaa.

Though Saleh recently indicated that he could be convinced to step down -- he said he would yield power if he was certain Yemen would be left in “safe hands” -- the developments have not prompted an exodus of Jews from the country.

“They refuse categorically to leave,” said the Jewish organizational official, who insisted on anonymity. “They have been under a barrage of phone calls from relatives encouraging them to leave. Prominent ex-Yemenite rabbis were drafted as well and asked to call them, saying leave now before things get hectic and you can’t leave.”

Some appear to be making contingency plans to leave, the official added, but so far the community is sticking together.

Most of Yemen's remaining Jews live in Sanaa. -- JTA

Jerusalem Hosts First Marathon after Bombing

About 1,100 people run full marathon  Photo: Noam Moskowitz

Police deploy helicopters, observation units and special patrols to protect race, which participants and officials say symbolizes Israel's resolve not to succumb to violence‬‬. -- API via Ynet News

To read the complete article, click here.

A Jewish Community President who Can’t Be Called to the Torah?

Alexander Oscar, 32, the president of Sofia's Jewish community, speaks at a ceremony
marking Holocaust day in the Bulgarian capital, March 10, 2011. He is not halachically Jewish.
Ben Harris, JTA
To read the complete article, click here.

Sa’ar, Livni Object to Notion that Judaism Has No Streams

“There is no one Jewish stream, and there shouldn’t be one Jewish way of life
that monopolizes Judaism, education minister says in response to Margi.
Photo by: Sasson Tiram
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) reiterated on Monday his objection to the proposed conversion bill, which “will destroy the unity of the Jewish people and also hurt the relationship between Jews in the Diaspora and Israel.”

Speaking at the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly annual convention in Las Vegas, Sa’ar was referring to Israel Beiteinu MK David Rotem’s proposal to place all conversions in Israel under the responsibility of the Chief Rabbinate. -- Jonah Mandel, Jerusalem Post

To read the complete article, click here.

Cold Case: The Rosenberg's after 60 Years

Collage: Tablet Magazine
Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were convicted of spying for the Soviet Union on March 29, 1951. Sixty years later, the case still crackles with controversy. Why is it so hard to put to rest? -- Ronald Radosh, Tablet

To read the complete article, click here.

A Final Purim Thought

It’s a strange world, indeed, when the one place in the Middle East that seems the most stable and secure is the State of Israel. This is the spring of Arab revolt.

Tunisia has fallen, Hosni Mubarak is gone, Yemen is in danger, Hezbollah has taken over Lebanon, Saudi troops have moved into Bahrain, Jordanians are nervous, Syrian officers have fired on protesters, and in the skies above Libya allied missiles fly, seeking to destroy Muammar Gaddafi’s defenses.

Only in Israel do things seem quiet. It’s the nahafoch hu of the Book of Esther, a world in which what unfolds is precisely the opposite of what might have been expected.

The similarities don’t end there. --  Rabbi Daniel Gordis, Dispatche from an Anxious State

To read the complete article, click here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Jew by Choice: Elizabeth Taylor, 1932-2011

Whereas Judaism, unlike some other religions, discourages conversions, there has always been a certain amount of giddy excitement when a star, from Marilyn Monroe to Sammy Davis Jr., converts to the Jewish faith. Few, if any, such conversions, however, made the lasting impact of the ceremony at Hollywood’s Temple Israel on March 27, 1959, at which a 27-year old Elizabeth Taylor took the Hebrew name Elisheba Rachel and converted to Judaism.

Although some ridiculed this decision by Taylor, who died in the early morning of March 23 at age 79, she took it utterly seriously. -- Benjamin Ivry, Forward

Facebook Removes Page Calling for a "Third Palestinian Intifada," but Replacement Already Online

The Facebook page calling for a third Palestinian intifada was taken down on Tuesday, after widespread calls for it to be removed.

On the original page, Palestinians are urged  to take to the streets after Friday prayers on May 15 and begin an uprising in the vein of the first two popular uprisings. "Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews," reads the call. The page had more than 340,000 fans.

Although the page was removed, a new page already exists in its place with the same name of "Third Palestinian Intifada." -- Haaretz Service

To read the complete article, click here.

Tunisia Condemns Israeli Assistance Offer to its Jews

Tunisia's government condemned an Israeli government decision to offer extra financial assistance to Tunisian Jews wishing to immigrate to Israel.

The approval of the new program amounts to interference in Tunisia's domestic affairs and "an attempt by Israel to tarnish the post-revolutionary image of Tunisia," Tunisia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement, the Associated Press reported.

Under the plan approved at a Cabinet meeting Sunday, Tunisian immigrants will receive special financial assistance of more than $9,000 in addition to the usual aid provided to new immigrants.

"We know that there is real distress among the Jews of Tunisia, many of whom would like to immigrate to Israel," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the meeting. "We will increase the absorption basket in order to allow them to do so.

"Israel is the state of the Jews. It worries about Jews wherever they are -- those who are here and those who would like to come here."

Minister Sofa Landver said, "The Government of Israel must see to the needs of new immigrants who arrive here hastily from Tunisia, without sufficient advance preparation like other immigrants. This proposal, which was formulated along with the Jewish Agency, is designed to ease, and answer, the difficulties for the families that, given the sensitive situation, decided to come here."

About 1,500 Jews are living in Tunisia. Some 1,100 live in Djerba, with the rest in the capital city of Tunis.

Ten Tunisian Jews made aliyah to Israel with the help of the Jewish Agency in late January amid political upheaval and violence that led to the overthrow of Tunisian President Zein el-Abbadin Bin Ali.  --  JTA

Jewish Leaders Fast against Budget Cuts

Leaders of two Jewish groups are joining an organized fast to protest proposed congressional budget cuts to poverty programs in the United States and abroad.

The fast, initiated by HungerFast, a group led by anti-hunger activist Tony Hall, takes aim at proposed substantive cuts now under consideration in Congress that would target overseas food aid and domestic programs that provide food stamps, subsidized meals for preschoolers and their mothers, and subsidized heating for the poor.

Participants include the senior staff of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), the umbrella body for Jewish public policy groups, and Ruth Messinger, the president of the American Jewish World Service, a Jewish relief group.

Options for fasters during the March 28 to April 24 period include missing one meal a day; a liquid diet one day a week; a liquid diet; or living on $2 or $4 a day, which respectively are the international poverty level and what U.S. food stamps recipients receive.

JCPA staffers will miss one meal a day for the two weeks before Passover, which begins on April 18. Messinger will fast for a week, starting Monday: two days on water and then five days on liquids.

Also supporting the effort is Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger. -- JTA

Maryland House Passes Holocaust Train Bill

France's national railroad must publish its World War II-era records if its American subsidiary is to win a Maryland train contract.

Under legislation approved unanimously Monday by the Maryland House of Delegates, SNCF must catalog and put online records relating to its transportation of 76,000 Jews and other prisoners from the suburbs of Paris to the German border from 1942 to 1944. The company was paid per head per kilometer to deport the Nazi victims, according to reports. Critics say that since the war, the company has refused to apologize for its actions.

SNCF owns Keolis America, which is bidding to run two lines of the Maryland Area Regional Commuter train service. The company says it can complete the required work in less than six months, according to reports.

To become law, the bill would have to be reconciled with a previously passed Senate version.

The California state legislature passed a bill similar to the Maryland one, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the measure. Last year, Keolis won a contract to run Virginia's commuter rail.

The company has defended itself by saying its employees were under the control of the occupying Nazi forces. SNCF has posted material on its website claiming that “many railway workers took part in the French resistance.” -- JTA

Body Image: Virtual Autopsy?

How to reconcile religious prohibitions on autopsies with the need to determine a cause of death
-- Sarah Weinman, Tablet
Virtual autopsy image courtesy of the Center of Forensic Imaging
at the Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Bern, Switzerland.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Few New Passover Haggadahs, and a Facelift for an Old Favorite

From left to right, the changing look of the Maxwell House Passover Haggadah:
the original from 1934, the most recent photo collage
and the newest version out this spring.
(Joseph Jacobs Advertising)
Nearing its 80th birthday, perhaps it was time the most printed Passover Haggadah in history had a major facelift.

The Maxwell House Passover Haggadah, which has had more than 50 million copies published, hits the shelves -- and supermarkets -- this spring featuring its first new English translation since 1934, the year it was originally printed. -- Sue Fishkoff, JTA
Arthur Szyk's magnificently illustrated haggadah is being released
this spring in its first widely available format since 1940. (Abrams)

To read the complete article, click here.

Haitian Double Amputee Returns from Israel with New Legs

Sounlove Zamor lost her legs in the magnitude 7 quake in Haiti last year.
An L.A.-based group helped her get rehabilitated.
(Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times / March 20, 2011)

After Sounlove Zamor lost her limbs in last year's quake, an L.A. group arranged for her to get prosthetics. She's grateful to be walking well, but in her impoverished homeland, she feels there is nowhere to go. -- Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times

To read the complete article, click here.

Argentinean Prosecutor: Bombing Probes Continue

Argentinian legal authority denies report that investigation into 1990s attacks on Jewish targets in Buenos Aires stopped at urging of Iran. -- Gil Shefler, Jerusalem Post

To read the complete article, click here.

Anti-Israel High School Event in Calgary Shut Down

n anti-Israel event at Western Canada High School was nipped in the bud thanks to quick action taken by diligent parents, help from Jewish community leadership and sensitivity shown by the school administration.
The school’s Amnesty International Club – with the knowledge of teaching staff – had planned an educational event for last Wednesday on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including what they termed a mock checkpoint.

Following complaints to the school administration from a handful of parents, an investigation found that the students had been planning a tabling event. They apparently did not realize the coincidental timing with Israeli Apartheid Week on university campuses, nor were they aware of the bigger picture concerning the checkpoints.

Anita Bromberg, B’nai Brith Canada’s national director, legal affairs, said the organization had a lengthy conversation with school principal Kim Hackman, who expressed appreciation for being informed about the possible repercussions that the originally planned event could have produced.

Bromberg suggested that parents appeal to both the province and the school board for “clear direction to ensure that activities unfairly delegitimizing the Jewish state would be contrary to school policy,” and that they, along with educators, look to programming to begin to educate the students and the broader community on the complex issues facing the Middle East.”

According to Bromberg, Hackman was “most sensitive to the issues and, true to his word, took immediate action to rectify the situation. The parents as well as the administration should be commended for their proactive approach.

“Meetings are ongoing to ensure continued cooperation,” she said.
-- Atara Beck, Canada Jewish Tribune

Tending Creatures Great and Small

Reptiles, snakes and lizards - and lots of birds - are the most common patients at the Israeli Wildlife Hospital and Rehabilitation Center at the Zoological Center of Tel Aviv, otherwise known as the Ramat Gan Safari.

Dr. Yigal Horowitz says most of these creatures land in the hospital due to human carelessness or malice.

Whether it's a heron with a broken wing, or a seagull whose leg got snared in a net, the hospital gives tender loving care to each animal it receives. The Israeli Nature and Parks Authority runs the facility jointly with the Safari. -- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To view the accompanying video, click on the video below.