Friday, May 27, 2011

Picasso's Muse and Warhol's, Too: Gertrude Stein as Emperor of the Avant-Garde

Towering Stature: In this photograph by Cecil Beaton,
Stein towers over herself
as if her epic stature is too great
to be contained in the frame.
Cecil Beaton Studio Archive, Sotheby's
Before Gertrude Stein distinguished herself as an expatriate American writer and patron of artists in Paris, she spent some of her childhood in California, where San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum is now paying tribute to her. “Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories,” an exhibition of photographs, paintings and sculptures, focuses on Stein’s personal life — her friendships, her celebrity and legacy — more than on her poetry or novels.

The avant-garde writer became widely known in America after the 1933 publication of “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas,” which, despite the misleading title, Stein wrote herself, about life with her lesbian partner, Toklas. Additional favorable attention followed the 1934 Broadway opening of her antic opera, “Four Saints in Three Acts,” with music by Virgil Thomson and choreography by Frederick Ashton.

Stein’s success as a writer in America was preceded by education at Radcliffe College and years of residence in Paris. She became friends with Matisse, Picasso and other artists whose paintings Gertrude and her brother Leo could afford to buy, thanks to profits from their family’s San Francisco streetcar investments. -- Joel Schechter, Forward

To read the complete article, click here.

15th Annual CleanTech Expo to Be Held in Tel Aviv

The 15th annual CleanTech Expo in July will highlight Israel’s solutions for the energy and water needs of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
  Solar energy companies like Israel's Brightsource, attract a great deal of international attention.
Among Bloomberg New Energy Finance's top 10 cleantech pioneers announced in April were two Israeli firms - the solar energy company BrightSource and the water monitoring company TaKaDu.

Water and sun: That's pretty much what is setting the stage for this summer’s CleanTech 2011 conference. And what a place to do it - the sunny beach city of Tel Aviv. Those who follow industry trends know that the prominence of Israeli companies is so obvious that industry leaders like the Cleantech Forum have created special newsletter sections just to cover Israel. -- Rivka Borochov, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read the complete article and to view the accompanying videos, click here.

Is That Bacon On Your Plate?

Pork-flavored (but vegetarian) foods get rabbinic seal of approval. Can kosher ‘lobster’ be far behind?
Faux forbidden foods: The latest product from J&D Foods’ line of bacon-flavored creations is country-style “Bacon Gravy.”
This fall saw the publication of a Jewish children’s book called “Baxter The Pig Who Wanted To Be Kosher.”

If only little Baxter had known there is already a whole line of kosher “bacon” products. And they were dreamed up at a Jewish wedding of all places.

It all started when Justin Esch began waxing eloquent about the wonders of bacon to a table of people who kept kosher, claiming that everything should taste like the popular pork product. When he proclaimed the need for a bacon-flavored seasoning to add to food, the idea for Bacon Salt, which launched the J&D foods company, was born. --Amy Spiro, NY Jewish Week

To read the complete article, click here.

Former Thug Hopes to Be First African-American in the Knesset

Hardie packing an M-16 on a Shabbat some years ago.
He hopes to pursue politics in Israel.
Photo by: Marcus Hardie

26-year-old Marcus Hardie was dubbed by his L.A. gang "American Thug"; today he is an Orthodox lawyer who enlisted in the IDF as a combat soldier and has his eyes set on politics. -- Raphael Ahren, Haaretz

To read the complete article, click here.

Lose your job, lose your life?

Israeli Prof. Eran Shor at McGill Univerity, Canada, has found a strong link between unemployment and early mortality in men.
Rampant unemployment in America has caused higher rates of hopelessness than ever before. These are feelings that can end in suicide or deadly behaviors. According to a new study by the Israeli researcher Prof. Eran Shor at McGill University in Canada, employment can help keep a man healthy, and job quality may also play an important role.

Shor and his colleagues looked at data from millions of people around the world in the largest study of its kind. Using meta-analysis techniques, the researchers demonstrated a strong causal relationship between unemployment and length of life - especially in men. The rate of premature death for unemployed men was considerably higher, at 78 percent, than for unemployed women at 37%.

Particularly at risk are those under 50. And not just any job will do the trick. Researchers believe that a man needs to be matched with a job at his skill level in order to avoid the stress that might lead to early mortality.-- Karin Kloosterman, Israel21c

To read the complete article, click here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chancellor's Blog: Week 2

Covenant requires community: vital, caring face-to-face communities that are the building blocks of the global community linking Jews across the generations and around the world. The task of building, maintaining, and transforming local communities remains one of the greatest challenges confronting Conservative (and every other form of) Judaism today. Fortunately, it is also one of our greatest blessings. What I most love about Conservative Judaism, I think, is the quality of the face-to-face communities in which it has enabled me to participate: the joy and depth of the relationships it has afforded my family and me as we walk the path of Torah. --
Arnold M. Eisen, Chancellor, The Jewish Theological Seminary

To read the complete article and to listen to this essay as a podcast, click here.

Op Ed: The Gilad Schalit Test

The legitimacy of the Hamas-Fatah unity deal should have to depend on whether the new Palestinian governing body releases the IDF soldier.  -- Alan Baker, Jerusalem Post

To read the complete article, click here.

Team Space Israel Aims for the Moon

Now an Israeli team of engineers hopes
to follow in the footsteps of some of the most famous US astronauts
by landing on the moon. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

A trio of Israeli engineers hopes to get its robot to the moon first, and win a $30 million prize - all in the name of showing schoolchildren that science is fun. -- Rivka Borochov, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read the complete article, click here.

Palestinian UN Bid Enters Unknown Territory

An orthodox Jewish man walks past
elderly Palestinians playing backgammon
in an alley inside Jerusalem's Old City.
AP Photos/Bernat Armangue
President Barack Obama threw down a gauntlet this weekend: no vote at the United Nations, he asserted, would ever create a Palestinian state.

The Palestinians hope to prove him wrong. But their planned bid for U.N. recognition this fall of a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem — territories occupied by Israel since the 1967 Mideast war — enters largely unknown legal ground, and the Palestinians are still trying to work out how best to work the U.N. labyrinth.

By a strict reading of U.N. rules, an American veto at the Security Council — which appears likely — would seem to derail any attempt to win recognition of Palestine as a U.N. member from the General Assembly, where there is widespread sympathy for the Palestinian cause. Never before has the assembly taken on a new member state without a nod from the council. --  Edith M Lederer and Karin Laub, Associated Press via

To read the complete article, click here.

Jewish Community Accounted for in Joplin Tornado

NOAA satellite image of a thunder storm minutes before a large tornado formed over Joplin, Missouri.
Two Jewish brothers who were reported missing in the wake of a deadly tornado in Joplin, Mo., are safe.

All the members of the small Jewish community in Joplin have now been accounted for, but many lost their homes and possessions in the tornado and are in need of basic supplies, according to reports.

The Jewish Federation of St. Louis said that at least four Jewish families have lost everything and are living in shelters. -- JTA

To read the complete article, click here.

Hadassah Offices Closing as Lifetime Members Increase

Sixteen Hadassah offices are closing in the United States as more than 24,000 women became life members of the organization this year.

The closure of the offices nationwide, and the consolidation of five others, is part of an ongoing plan to streamline the organization and reduce costs that began three years ago.

"These days, the organization just doesn't need so many individual brick and mortar campuses; what we need is to bring people and resources together to share ideas, and Hadassah is proud of the great progress it has made in doing so," a Hadassah spokeswoman told JTA.

"With the speed of communication these days, we just don't need as many offices; people can call each other up or send e-mails in order to get in touch. Even as a nonprofit -- in fact, especially as a nonprofit -- like all businesses, Hadassah works to be as efficient and effective with its members' contributions as it can."

Closures include the office in Cleveland and the consolidation of three offices in Boston that are located a few miles from each other.

Hadassah has 28 regions throughout North America, which include 597 chapters and 408 groups.

In 2009, the organization laid off 80 employees across the country, roughly a quarter of its U.S. staff. The efforts at streamlining, which already had been under discussion, came following a downturn in the stock market, as well as tens of millions of dollars in losses in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.

The organization announced Monday that national lifetime membership had increased since Jan. 1 by 24,023. The increase came as part of the organization's Centennial Campaign to recognize the 100th anniversary of Hadassah's founding. The lifetime memberships were available at the reduced rate of $100 instead of the regular $360.

Combined with annual memberships for 2011, total membership fundraising has hit more than $2.1 million this year. -- JTA

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The France That Hasn’t Shown Its Face to Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn sits during his bail hearing
at the State Supreme Court in New York on May 19.
The case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former director of the IMF and leading Socialist politician now accused of sexual assault, has left the French public shocked and scandalized in many different ways. But, curiously, there is one response that we have not seen: anti-Semitism.

Curious, because France’s long history with its Jews has often been troubled and it is at moments such as these that an ugly strain of homegrown anti-Semitism rears its head.

It’s a tradition that has its roots in late 19th-century populism. With the nation mired in a severe economic slump and governed by a venal and feckless political class, there was a ready market for demagoguery. In 1886, Edouard Drumont published a two-volume work, La France Juive (Jewish France), which became one of the era’s best sellers. Drumont declared that a cabal of Jewish bankers and financiers — “this hook-nosed tribe” and “sons of Abraham” — had taken the nation’s economy hostage. The newspaper Drumont founded during the Dreyfus Affair, La Libre Parole, brandished as its motto: “France for the French!”

But the anti-Semite’s Jew was polymorphic. Not only did he control the nation’s economic system, but he also conspired to bring down that very same system. Nationalists claimed that the ranks of those critical of liberal democracy were riddled with Jews, as well. During the last years of the 19th century, French Jews became synonymous with socialists; in the wake of World War I they were re-labeled as agents of communism. Banker or Bolshevik, the essence remained constant: the Jew was a relentless financial and political outsider who preyed upon the French nation. -- Robert Zaretsky, Forward

To read the complete article, click here.

Op Eds in Brief: Did Bibi blow it?

The New York Jewish Week’s editor, Gary Rosenblatt, thinks that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu badly misplayed his response to last week’s President Obama’s Mideast policy speech.
Rosenblatt argues that “Bibi should have responded positively to the speech instead of reinforcing his image that he rather than Abbas is the Mideast’s Mr. No.”
Instead, Rosenblatt writes:
…Bibi’s response – asserting that the pre-`67 borders were “indefensible” without acknowledging Obama’s reference to land swaps – echoed the famous resolution of the Arab League summit following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Known as “The Three No’s” – no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel – they indicated to the world the Arabs’ refusal to accept the reality of a Jewish state in the region.
The final communiqué of the summit insisted on the Palestinians’ right to all of Palestine and commitment to destroy the State of Israel.

There are those who say the Palestinians’ intentions have not changed. But Bibi didn’t give the world a chance to see that Abbas and his new partner, Hamas, barely able to talk to each other, are hardly prepared to negotiate with Israel.

Bibi’s swift and blunt rejection of Obama’s plan set the two leaders on a confrontational path that only later the prime minister backed away from, saying their differences had been overblown. But first impressions last the longest, and what the White House, the international community and the media picked up on this week was that Israel is saying “no” to the U.S. plan.
Meanwhile, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg was enraged, first by Netanyahu’s initial response to Obama’s speech and then by the Israeli prime minister’s remarks in his Oval Office press conference with Obama.
But Elliott Abrams, of the Council on Foreign Relations, thinks that Netanyahu responded “cleverly” and that Obama is the one who has treated his ally shabbily.
Abrams writes that the approach the president planned on taking in his speech should have:
been discussed with the Israelis instead of being dumped on their heads this morning with zero advance notice or warning or explanation, leaving them scrambling to figure out what it all meant. That alone suggests that whatever the “balanced” rhetoric, the administration persists in treating Israel as a problem rather than as an ally. The Israelis, by the way, responded cleverly to the president’s speech: Their statement said, “Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress.” Remember those posters with a photo of Bush and the caption “Miss me yet?” We know the Israeli answer.
-- Daniel Treiman, JTA

Analysis: Applause Heard in White House, Around World

Netanyahu could only dream of such a reception in Israel;
Congress' ovation was heard by Obama,
the Palestinians, the world at large.
The overall importance of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyanhu’s speech to a special joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday was not in the substance – he did not break any radical new ground – but rather in the overwhelmingly warm ovation he received.

Netanyahu could only dream of such a reception in Israel. Even his wife, Sara, received a standing ovation when she entered the hall.

The prime minister was applauded some 30 times, many of those accompanied by standing ovations.

The nearly four-minute ovation he received when he entered the historic chamber – including a brief period of rhythmic clapping that sounded more like the Mann Auditorium than Congress – was not only heard by Netanyahu, but also by US President Barack Obama, the Palestinians and the world at large. -- Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post

To read the complete article, click here.

U.S. House Approves Jewish Chaplains Memorial

 The U.S. House of Representatives voted to authorize the construction of a memorial in Arlington National Cemetery for fallen Jewish chaplains.

The bill was approved Monday night and now moves to the Senate.

Dozens of national and locally based Jewish and veterans groups, led by the Jewish Federations and the Jewish Welfare Board Jewish Chaplains Council of the JCC Association of America, have been working for nearly three years to establish a memorial for Jewish chaplains in Arlington National Cemetery alongside those for Protestant and Catholic chaplains.

The memorial, which has been designed and paid for by private donations, must receive congressional authorization before construction can begin.

Thirteen Jewish chaplains have been killed while serving in the military.

"I can think of no better expression of our nation's gratitude for our Jewish War Chaplains than the passage of this resolution during Jewish American Heritage Month, and a week before Memorial Day," said Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "The 13 Jewish chaplains who will be honored stood beside our troops and lent their strength during good times and bad, on the battlefield and off. This memorial will serve as an inspiration to all to learn their stories that are such an important part of our nation's history."

The congressional resolutions, initiated by Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) in the House, and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in the Senate, urge the provision of space "for a memorial marker, to be paid for with private funds, to honor the memory of the Jewish chaplains who died while on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States."

The design would be subject to the approval of the secretary of the Army.

The resolution notes the absence from the memorial of, among others, Rabbi Alexander Goode, one of four chaplains who relinquished their life jackets to soldiers when the USS Dorchester was sunk by German torpedoes in 1943 and went down together in prayer. -- JTA

62.5% of Israeli Arabs See Jews as Foreign Imprint

U. of Haifa study shows deepening Jewish-Arab divide over past decade; 37% of Arabs don’t believe millions died in Holocaust.

Photo: Ben Hartman
Over 62 percent of the Arab citizens of Israel believe Jews are a foreign imprint on the Middle East and are destined to be replaced by Palestinians, and a similar proportion believe that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state, according to a nationwide survey scheduled for release on Sunday.

The 2010 Arab Jewish Relations Survey, compiled by Prof. Sami Smoocha in collaboration with the Jewish-Arab Center at the University of Haifa, presents what its authors describe as a worrying decline in relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel over the past decade. -- Ben Hartman, Jerusalem Post

To read the complete article, click here.

Turkish President Calls on Hamas to Recognize Israel

President Abdullah Gul
Hamas should recognize Israel's right to exist, the president of Turkey, Abdullah Gul, told The Wall Street Journal.

Gul also called President Obama's call to create a Palestinian state on pre-1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps "a very important step," in an interview May 20 with The Wall Street Journal, a day after Obama's major policy speech on the Middle East.

Gul told the newspaper that Obama "has a point" when he said last week that Israel should not be expected to negotiate with a group that does not recognize Israel's right to exist. He said he has pressed Hamas on the issue, including in a 2006 meeting with top Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Ankara.

Hamas is ready to recognize Israel in pre-1967 borders, Gul said, but only at the same time that Israel recognizes a Palestinian state.

Turkey accepted Hamas when it won elections in 2006 in Gaza. It broke with Israel over the Gaza war in 2008, and the relationship was strained further when nine Turkish citizens were killed in an Israeli commando raid on a ship attempting to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza. -- JTA

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Our Better Angels: 
Religious Leaders Commemorate the 10th Anniversary of 9/11

 The Jewish Theological Seminary 
Union Theological Seminary
invite you to take part in the three-part series

Our Better Angels: 
Religious Leaders Commemorate
the 10th Anniversary of 9/11


The Reverend Dr. Serene Jones
President of the Faculty
and Roosevelt Professor of Systematic Theology
at Union Theological Seminary
and author of Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World

Dr. Ingrid Mattson

Immediate Past-President of the Islamic Society of North America,
Professor of Islam at Hartford Seminary,
and author of The Story of the Quran: Its History and Place in Muslim Life

Rabbi Dr. Burton L. Visotzky,
Appleman Professor of Midrash and
Interreligious Studies,
Director of the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies of The Jewish Theological Seminary, and
author of Sage Tales: Wisdom and Wonder
from the Rabbis of the Talmud

Each event will feature dynamic interactions among Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders as they discuss the resources within their traditions for dealing with trauma, mourning, and healing. Each discussion will be followed by a meditative musical offering by world-class musicians.
The Program
Monday, May 30
TRAGEDY in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Traditions 
featuring Triptych by Robert Sirota as performed by the Chiara String Quartet

Monday, June 6
MOURNING in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Traditions
featuring Bach’s English Suite as performed by pianist Simone Dinnerstein

Monday, June 13 
HEALING in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Traditions
featuring Bach’s Sonata #2 in D Major for Harpsichord and Cello
as performed by harpsichordist Kenneth Cooper and cellist Fred Zlotkin

All sessions will be held at
6:30 p.m.
at St. Paul’s Chapel of Trinity Church, Wall Street

209 Broadway (at Fulton Street), 
New York City
The program is free and open to the public, but seating is limited; reservations are required for each session. To register, or for additional information, call (917) 310-4923 
or email
Please arrive at least 15 minutes early to allow sufficient time for registration,
and have photo ID available.

Joplin Tornado Hits Town’s Small Jewish Community

At least two Jewish brothers are among the missing in the wake of a deadly tornado that tore through Joplin, Mo.

Other members of the small Jewish community there are in need of basic supplies, reported late Monday.

Rabbi Yehuda Weg, the Tulsa-based director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Oklahoma, drove to Joplin Monday night with a list of Jewish community members in need or missing and a car full of supplies, joining volunteers from the American Red Cross and local disaster agencies, according to

Weg travels to Joplin twice a month to supervise kosher production lines at several food manufacturers and to meet with the 15 to 20 Jews living there.

Weg said that those missing following the tornado included two brothers active in the Jewish community.

Some 116 people are confirmed dead and dozens are missing following what is being called the second-deadliest tornado in U.S. history. The tornado cut through Joplin Sunday evening, one of several tornadoes that hit the Midwest over the weekend due to a system of severe thunderstorms that also have caused massive flooding. -- JTA

Haitian Girl has "Rare and Complicated" Heart Surgery in Israel

Doctors at a Tel Aviv hospital arranged to have the child airlifted from Haiti for one of the rarest and most sophisticated heart operations in the world.
Amy Mariolata had just two years to live
when doctors from Sheba Medical Center stepped in
to give her revolutionary heart surgery.
Even after journalists stopped covering news from the storm-ravaged island of Haiti, Israeli doctors from Israel's Chaim Sheba Medical Center made a pledge to keep the Israeli humanitarian aid flowing.

Now, a 12-year-old Haitian girl recently went back home after one of the "most complicated, super-sophisticated, rare, lengthy, lifesaving heart operations in the world," performed by surgeons at Sheba's Children's Hospital.

Both the $30,000 operation and transportation costs to and from Israel for the patient and her mother were covered by Sheba, which is situated at Tel Hashomer just outside Tel Aviv and is Israel's largest medical center. -- Karin Kloosterman, Israel21c

To read the complete article, click here.

The Arab Apartheid

The real “nakba,” which is the story of the Arab apartheid. Tens of millions, among them Jews, suffered from the “nakba,” which included dispossession, expulsion and displacement. Only the Palestinians remained refugees because they were treated to abuse and oppression by the Arab countries. Below is the story of the real “nakba”

In 1959, the Arab League passed Resolution 1457, which states as follows: “The Arab countries will not grant citizenship to applicants of Palestinian origin in order to prevent their assimilation into the host countries.” That is a stunning resolution, which was diametrically opposed to international norms in everything pertaining to refugees in those years, particularly in that decade. The story began, of course, in 1948, when the Palestinian “nakba” occurred. It was also the beginning of every discussion on the Arab-Israeli conflict, with the blame heaped on Israel, because it expelled the refugees, turning them into miserable wretches. This lie went public through academe and the media dealing with the issue.  -- Ben Dror Yemini, Maariv (translated from Hebrew)

To read the complete article, click here.

How Kosher Is D.C.’s Kosher Food Truck?

 Jeff Kelly, owner of the kosher food van, greets customers
at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Washington.
David Weinberg had planned to be first in line to buy a nice corned beef sandwich from the kosher food truck that opened Friday in Washington. The Web consultant has long lamented the lack of kosher cooking downtown and, as a foodie, was thrilled to hear that “Top Chef” contestant Spike Mendelsohn would have a hand in the deli on wheels.

But when a block-long line formed at the truck in its first hour, Weinberg was not in it. He had called the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Washington, the area’s main certifier of Jewish restaurant kitchens, to ask whether it was all right to patronize Sixth & Rye, the mobile eatery launched by the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue.

“Unfortunately, they said no,” said Weinberg, 29. “I’m always excited to have a new kosher restaurant open up, and food trucks are just this awesome local food thing that is happening. But I assumed, wrongly, that it would be under the Vaad. Until it is, I can’t eat there.” -- Steve Hendrix and Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post

To read the complete article, click here.

Bringing Children’s Literature to little Digital Fingers

Founded by an Israeli father, Touchoo enables publishers to make children's books come alive through the iPhone and iPad.

Omer Ginor of Touchoo gained insights from his own toddler.
Kids love them and can't keep their fingers from fiddling with the attractive "buttons," and that's why parents -- and modern grandparents -- hand over their iPhones and iPads to keep the youngsters occupied.

They'll be happy to know that a wealth of new digital content, in the form of children's books, has now gone digital for the younger generation to explore with eyes wide open and fingers tapping touch screens. A new Israeli company is planning to launch opportunities for kids' book publishers into the stratosphere, or at least to the height of Jack's beanstalk. -- Karin Kloosterman, Israel 21c

To read the complete story, click here.

French Nationals to Elect National Assembly Representatives

Valerie Hoffenberg, France’s special envoy to the Middle East, is one of four Jewish candidates vying for new position.

Despite the impression one might receive visiting Tel Aviv in the summer months when hoards of vacationing Frenchspeaking Jews descend on the city, Israel is not part of France.

Nonetheless, it will soon have an official representative in the French parliament.

For the first time ever, France will allow citizens living in 11 newly created constituencies outside the country’s borders to elect their own representatives to the National Assembly in the June 2012 parliamentary elections. -- Gil Shefler, Jerusalem Post

To read the complete article, click here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Delhi's Last Ten Jewish Families Guard an Ancient Heritage

"Israel is in my heart, India is in my blood," says Malekar recounting legend of 4th century shipwreck that landed 7 families on Mumbai shores.

Photo: Reuters
In the capital of one of the world's most religiously-diverse countries, a Rabbi who has never been ordained bends ancient customs, ensuring New Delhi's ten Jewish families a place to worship.

Unlike traditional synagogues, there is no separation of men and women as Jewish-born worshipers, converts and followers of other faiths chant Psalms in perfect Hebrew, with doors thrown open to all. The service leader never asks attendees what religion they follow, and envisions his daughter becoming India's first female rabbi.

"Being a small community, we cannot be so rigid, so orthodox," says Ezekiel Isaac Malekar, honorary secretary of the synagogue whose unpaid job of thirty years has overlooked religious convention to keep this tiny group together.

"Our openness, our liberal approach is what allows us to survive. For reading the Torah, you must require ten men, a minyan. But I made radical changes, because why should we discriminate between women and men? I count the women."

In the small Judah Hyam Synagogue, tucked between one of the city's most popular markets and most expensive hotels, the tight community, as inconspicuous as the small black plaque outside, gathers every Friday to bring in Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath. -- Reuters via Jerusalem Post

To read the complete article, click here.

Cedar Wins Best Screenplay Award at Cannes Festival

Israeli director receives praise for movie 'Footnote'; film actor Shlomo Bar Aba sends congratulations, says script is "extraordinary."

Israeli director Joseph Cedar won the Best Screenplay Award on Sunday at the Cannes Film Festival for his movie Footnote.

The film, which stars Lior Ashkenazi and Shlomo Baraba, tells the story of a rivalry between a father and a son who are both Talmudic scholars. -- Hannah Brown and

To read the complete article, click here.

Israel: Communication Satellite Superpower

Spacecom's rapidly growing satellite fleet provides communication capabilities for many of the world's highest-demand markets.

An artist’s rendering of the AMOS-4 satellite, the fifth communications satellite
set to be launched by Israel's Spacecom, sometime next year.

Many people are surprised to learn that Israel is among the world's top communication satellite superpowers.

Israeli company Spacecom will launch the fourth in its AMOS satellite series this year, to be followed by the fifth in 2012, the sixth in 2014 and more to come.

The AMOS satellite fleet will provide coverage over many of the world's fastest-growing and highest-demand satellite markets, including the Middle East, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), Asia and Africa, and positions Spacecom as a multi-regional satellite operator reaching more than 80 percent of the world's population. -- Hadass Geyfman, Israel21c

To read the complete article, click here.

Texas Senate Passes Mezuzah Bill

The Texas State Senate has passed a bill that would require homeowner associations to permit religious displays on their doors, including mezuzot.

Under the bill passed late last week, the religious item must be under 25 inches and remain in the doorway, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The bill will return to the House for a wording amendment,

In 2008, Florida's state legislature passed a similar bill. -- JTA

A New Generation of Jewish Delis Embraces Sustainability

Can a Jewish deli be a Jewish deli without pastrami?

That’s the question Saul’s Restaurant and Deli in Berkeley is facing after refusing the delivery of a truckload of pastrami because it did not meet the deli's sustainability standards.

“We found out it is no longer hormone- and antibiotic-free, so we put it back on the truck and took it off the menu,” explained Saul’s co-owner Peter Levitt, who has been a leader in artisanal food sourcing for more than a decade. “We’re going to hear a lot of backlash from our customers these next few weeks.”

Levitt was speaking at the so-called "Jewish Deli Summit" that he and his business partner Karen Adelman convened May 19 at Berkeley’s Jewish community center. -- Sue Fishkoff, JTA

To read the complete article, click here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Schechter Rebranding Effort Takes On Hurdles

Conservative day school network hoping
new name, ‘compass’ logo spark turnaround.
It’s been a long time since the Conservative movement’s Solomon Schechter day schools — challenged by shrinking enrollment, competition from newer community day schools and Hebrew charter schools, and a denomination in demographic decline — have had an opportunity to celebrate.

But last Wednesday at the Jewish Theological Seminary, a light at the end of the tunnel came into view. Or more accurately, a bright red “rose compass” — a six-pointed red-and-pink logo meant to evoke both a Star of David and a compass — which was unveiled, along with a new name and marketing strategy.

The Solomon Schechter Day School Association, an umbrella for 49 schools, is becoming The Schechter Day School Network, with the tagline: “Engage The World.” And while “Solomon” has been dropped from the materials, the schools’ namesake — the Romania-born scholar-rabbi who discovered the Cairo Geniza, served as president of JTS and founded what is now the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism — will get new attention. -- Julie Wiener, NY Jewish Week

To read the complete article, click here.

Bel Kaufman: At 100, Still a Teacher, and Quite a Character

Bel Kaufman, author of "Up the Down Staircase," the seminal book on the hardships
and joys of teaching in New York City, celebrated her 100th birthday.
Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times
When Bel Kaufman sits you down on her sofa and asks, “Are you comfortable?” the right answer, she reminds you, requires a Yiddish inflection, a shrug and the words, “I make a living.”

At 100 years old, Ms. Kaufman is still shpritzing jokes, Jewish and otherwise, which is in her genes. Her grandfather was the great Yiddish storyteller Sholem Aleichem, a writer who was able to squeeze heartbreaking humor out of the most threadbare deprivation and wove the bittersweet Tevye stories that became the source for “Fiddler on the Roof.”

This year, Ms. Kaufman did something more than tell jokes. She became one of the few adjunct professors in her age cohort and taught a course on Jewish humor at Hunter College, her alma mater. One of the jokes the class dissected:

“The Frenchman says: ‘I’m tired and thirsty. I must have wine.’ The German says: ‘I’m tired and thirsty. I must have beer.’ The Jew says: ‘I’m tired and thirsty. I must have diabetes.’ ” -- Joseph Berger, NY Times

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Saudis Arrest Activist Challenging Ban on Women Drivers

Saudi authorities have arrested an activist who launched a campaign to challenge a ban on women driving in the conservative kingdom and posted a video on the internet of her behind the wheel, activists said….

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that does not tolerate any form of dissent and applies an austere version of Sunni Islam, in which religious police patrol the streets to ensure public segregation between men and women.

Women are not allowed to drive and must have written approval from a designated guardian - a father, husband, brother or son - to leave the country, work or travel abroad.

The campaign Alsharif launched is aimed at teaching women to drive and encouraging them to start driving from 17 June, using foreign-issued licences.

While there is no written law that specifically bans women from driving, citizens must use locally issued licences which are not issued to women, making it effectively illegal for them to drive. -- Asma Alsharif, Reuters via Guardian, UK

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Suppressing the Protein that Packs on Pounds

Israeli scientists believe that suppressing a certain brain protein
could help obese people ose weight
- but the tactic seems to work only for females.
A protein called tyrosine phosphatase epsilon (PTPe, for short) plays a key role in obesity, according to study results published in the journal Cell Metabolism by researchers at Israel's Weizmann Institute.

Prof. Ari Elson and his team in the institute's molecular genetics department made the discovery when working with female mice that were genetically engineered to lack PTPe. Originally intending to investigate osteoporosis, they had removed the mice's ovaries. This typically causes mice to gain weight to the point of obesity.

However, the scientists were surprised to find that the genetically engineered mice remained slim. Even after eating a specially formulated high-fat diet, they burned more energy and had more stable glucose levels as well. -- Israel21c

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Mixed Media: Women Editors, But Not In Pictures

Behind the Hillary photo controversy is one of print journalism’s few success stories: a thriving, albeit restricted, haredi press.
A copy of Di Tzitung, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nowhere to be found.

Is Hillary Clinton too sexy?

Apparently that is what some haredi newspapers in Brooklyn thought recently when they removed an image of the Secretary of State from the iconic photo from the White House Situation Room taken on the night of the military operation to kill Osama bin Laden.

The obliteration of Hillary — once by Photoshop and once by cropping — stirred a debate in media and religious circles about the practice of fervently Orthodox newspapers not to run pictures of women in their publications. -- Ari L. Goldman, NY Jewish Week

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Birthright Tapping Alums, Parents

New campaign going well despite tough economic climate.

Birthright Tapping Alums, Parents
It’s been hailed widely as a way to keep the younger generation of Jews  in the fold, so to speak. And it’s been panned by some as a thin exercise in Jewish solidarity, long on party atmosphere and short on substance.

But one thing is for certain: Birthright Israel is shaping up to be is something of a philanthropic outlier.

At a time when fundraising by nonprofits continues to decline — the Jewish Federations of North America reported a $13 million drop last year compared with 2009 — contributors appear to be flocking to the new campaign launched by the Birthright Israel Foundation.  Stewart Ain, NY Jewish Week

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