Friday, November 18, 2011

The Iran Threat Is Now: International Atomic Energy Agency

Yesterday, resisting strong pressure from Russia and China, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report detailing Iran’s nuclear capabilities. The intelligence provided by the IAEA shows that Iran--gaining supplies and technology through clandestine networks, and aid from foreign scientists--is working towards the development of a nuclear bomb. The report reveals new and concrete information on the weaponizing of Iran's nuclear program. Among other things, the report details Iran's work towards developing and fixing a nuclear payload to its Shahab 3 missile, which has the capacity to reach not only Israel, but also Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and southern Europe. According to some U.S. national intelligence estimates, Iran was believed to have halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, but the information in the new report shows that Iran has continued to work to build a nuclear weapons capability.

In anticipation of the gravity of this report, the House Foreign Affairs Committee accelerated two bills to strengthen existing sanctions while expanding the list of companies and individuals subject to penalties, including an amendment focused on Bank Markazi, Iran's Central Bank. Though not yet scheduled, It is believed that these two bills (H.R. 1905 and H.R. 2105) will go to the full House of Representatives for a vote.  Notably, both bills have broad bi-partisan support and were approved unanimously by the committee, as amended.

The Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011 (H.R. 1905) is "To strengthen Iran sanctions laws for the purpose of compelling Iran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons and other threatening activities, and for other purposes." The bill, which currently has 349 bi-partisan co-sponsors, mandates targeted sanctions to pressure Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program, its unconventional weapons and ballistic missile development, and its support for violent Islamist extremism.  It also would close loopholes in both energy and financial sanctions, and counters the Iranian regimes' efforts to evade them.  For the first time, U.S. policy to prevent Iran from acquiring or developing a nuclear weapons capability would be written into law....

In light of the report, sanctions against Iran must be taken to the next level. Call and write your Congress members and urge that a time be set quickly to vote on H.R. 1905 and H.R. 2105. We should also push for Congress and the Administration to better enforce existing sanctions against companies that are doing business with Iran in violation of current U.S. law. Finally, we ask that you write to the IAEA to thank its leaders for releasing this report.

Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Nuclear Weapons and Iran's Global Ambitions: Troubling Scenarios

Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Iran's Nuclear Program: Credible Evidence of "Continuing" Work on a Bomb

Foreign Affairs. Seven Key Findings of the IAEA Report

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Hezbollah's Operational Plan for War with Israel
Mark Wallace. Iran: Syria's Big Brother

United Against Nuclear Iran

Eye On Iran

To read complete article, click here.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Passing of Evelyn Lauder marked by Jewish activists against breast cancer

Evelyn Lauder, who pioneered the pink ribbon
as the symbol of breast cancer awareness, died of ovarian cancer.
It’s hard to find a Jewish woman without a direct connection to breast cancer. With nearly one in 40 women of Ashkenazi descent possessing a genetic mutation that greatly increases their chances of contracting the disease, breast cancer, like Tay-Sachs and Gaucher’s, is a disproportionately Jewish disease.

So it’s little surprise that the passing this weekend of Evelyn Lauder, the refugee from Nazi-occupied Europe credited with inventing the pink ribbon -- the global symbol of breast cancer awareness -- took on a special Jewish significance. -- Suzanne Kurtz, JTA

To read more, click here.

Meet Dan Shapiro, the Hebrew-tweeting U.S. ambassador

Dan Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel,
reviews Israel's short-range anti-missile program
Iron Dome, Aug. 9, 2011
Shapiro says U.S.-Israel defense programs
like Iron Dome have brought the two nations closer.
(U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv)
The U.S. ambassador to Israel tweets in Hebrew.

A generation ago, the latter part of that statement would have been as shocking as the first part would have been incomprehensible.

The notion of an ambassador to Israel having a pre-existing affinity with the country, never mind fluency in its native tongue, was unimaginable. The U.S. State Department had a policy of not sending Jewish diplomats to the top post in Israel. The late Ezer Weizman, when he was Israel's defense minister in the late 1970s and early 1980s, teased Samuel Lewis, then the U.S. ambassador, by addressing him as “Shmuel Levy,” partly because the men had become friends -- but also because the notion of a Jewish ambassador to Israel seemed preposterous. -- Kampeas, JTA

To read more, click here.

Chief Rabbi Council to probe wedding flap

The Israeli Chief Rabbinate Council said it will investigate the procedures of an organization of Modern Orthodox rabbis that performs alternative religious wedding ceremonies for non-religious couples.

The council could overturn an agreement between the Tzohar organization and the Religious Ministry that allows rabbis from the group to marry couples even if they do not live in the municipal rabbinate where one member of the couple lives.

Under the agreement reached last week, Tzohar can register the married couples in the community of Shoham, where the head of the organization serves as chief rabbi, while a new bill proposed to loosen restrictions on where marriages can be registered works its way through the Knesset.

According to ministry regulations, weddings must be registered with the municipal rabbinate where one member of the couple lives. A Jewish couple must have a religious ceremony in Israel in order to be recognized as married. Many travel abroad to marry in secular ceremonies. -- JTA

To read more, click here.

Dead Sea dipping may help treat diabetes

Dead Sea dip (YNet archives)
Photo: Herzl Yosef

A recent study by the Ben-Gurion University Health Sciences faculty reveals that short swims in the salty waters of the Dead Sea may help reduce blood glucose levels and improve the medical condition of diabetics.

The study, which took place in a heated Dead Sea water pool, showed that participants who remained in the water for 20 minutes had reduced their blood glucose levels by 13.5% -- YNetnews

Click here to read more.

Israeli educator wins major prize

Karen Tal, former principal of the Bialik Rogozin Campus in Tel Aviv, recipient of the Charles Bronfman Prize (2011), and featured in Strangers No More (winner of the 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary), was in Calgary recently for the Strangers No More screening and talk, the opener for the Calgary Film Festival.

Tal is a key educator in Israel, bringing struggling schools to a place of educational excellence, and showing how what makes this achievable is the power of diversity, tolerance and community involvement.

She is now taking the Bialik model to other struggling Israeli schools through a new initiative with education ministry backing, after having left her job as principal of Bialik just a couple of months ago, noting her “time there was a very special period in [her] life.” -- Rebeca Kuropatwa, Canada Jewish Tribune

To read more click here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jewish Traces in Unexpected Places: A Sefer Torah Arrives in Uganda

This is a truly amazing, unbelievable but true story about how a 51-year-old Jewish spinal surgeon from Plano, Texas, was successful in getting and delivering a Torah scroll to the Abudabaya community. To get the full impact of the story, you should read the coimplete article from the Dallas Post and Courier, which we link to here.

The Abayudaya community was founded in the 1920s by Ugandan warlord Semei Kakungulu, who rejected the Christian teachings of British missionaries and converted to Judaism.

After circumcising himself and his sons and ordering his male converts to follow suit, Kakungulu compiled a book of rules and prayers for members of his tribe. In it, he demanded strict adherence to commandments in the Old Testament.

Judaism thrived in Uganda, even after Kakungulu’s death in 1928. When Ugandan dictator Idi Amin came to power in 1971, he outlawed Judaism and threatened to execute anyone who practiced the religion. The decree fractured the Abayudaya and forced its most loyal adherents underground.

Freedom of religious practice was reinstated after Amin was deposed in 1979. About 1,500 Abayudaya Jews live in villages in eastern Uganda today.

Now that you know the story, watch and enjoy the video of the joyous celebration in Putti when the Torah was delivered by Dr. Lieberman. -- Jewish

To read more, click here.

Click on image below to see accompanying video

Buy Israel Week - November 28 - December 4

From Women's League and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

Women's League is pleased to support and participate in an ambitious effort to identify and promote a wide range of consumer products created and produced in Israel. At a time of increased international pressure on Israel, this initiative showcases Israeli brands and gives people easy access to purchase them.  It also will enhance brand recognition, improve companies’ images and their ability to be more competitive, and ultimately, it will strengthen Israel’s economy.

The online event will take place on the web site from November 28-December 4 and will feature manufacturer coupons and rebates, discount vouchers that consumers can redeem at local merchants, and advertising from some of the leading companies in Israel.

This campaign has been organized by, Israel-America Chamber of Commerce, Manufacturers Association of Israel, Israel Export Institute, several Jewish media groups, and numerous organizations. 

Dead Sea drying up? That's so 120,000 years ago

Drilling at the Dead Sea last year. Research
shows that during the last Ice Age,
sea level was 250 meters higher than its current level.
Photo by: Daniel Bar-On

The Dead Sea may be drying up, but research by Israeli scientists and colleagues abroad shows that the water has risen and fallen by hundreds of meters over the past 200,000 years.

The goal is to study the region's climactic history and forecast possible changes in the future. The project should also provide rich information on the region's seismic history and conditions in the area that influenced human development. -- Zafrir Rinat, Haaretz

Click here to read more.

Unique archaeological discovery - Crusader inscription in Arabic

Photo courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority

Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem: "This is the only Crusader inscription in the Arabic language ever found in the Middle East." -- Israel Antiquities Authority via Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read more, click here.

Rabbi marries Orthodox gay couple

Two Orthodox men were married by an Orthodox rabbi at what might be the first Orthodox gay wedding.
Orthodox-ordained Rabbi Steve Greenberg presiding at same-sex wedding of Yoni Bock and Ron Kaplan in Washington, DC synagogue, 10 November 2011 (photo: Roee Ruttenberg)
Rabbi Steven Greenberg, who has been an advocate for gays in the Orthodox community, married Yoni Bock and Ron Kaplan last week before 200 guests at Washington, D.C.’s, 6th and I Historic Synagogue. The couple has been together since 2005 and agreed to marry in 2008, but waited until same-sex marriage became legal in the District of Columbia in March 2010 before planning a wedding.

Greenberg told the Jewish Journal that the ceremony he crafted is not technically kiddushin – the halachic, or Jewish legal, term for marriage. Rather, it is a legal partnership in which Bock and Kaplan each made a neder, a legal oath, to consecrate themselves to one another in body and soul. -- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Jewish Journal

To read more, click here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Israeli eye camp in Uzbekistan

During their visit, the Israeli doctors examined hundreds of patients, operated on many patients, delivered presentations and lectures and conducted consultations with Uzbek doctors.

Dr. Amos Mazover of Misgav Ladach in Jerusalem examines a patient
(Photo courtesy Israel Embassy, Tashkent)
Israeli eye doctors Yaakov Rozenman and Amos Mazover and operating technician Karina Kritz visited Uzbekistan in the context of an eye-camp mission in October 2011. The event was organized by the Embassy of Israel in Uzbekistan, under the auspices of MASHAV, Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation. All necessary equipment and medication for their activity were brought by the Israeli doctors from Israel. The project was coordinated with the Uzbek Ministry of Health and received its blessing, and the counsellor to the Minister of Health accompanied the Israeli delegation during their mission. -- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read more, click here.

New Cancer Vaccine in Phase III Clinical Trials in Jerusalem

A new cancer vaccine created by Israeli scientists has begun Phase III clinical trials at a Jerusalem hospital. So far, doctors are hopeful.
Studying cancer
Israel news photo: Flash 90
A new cancer vaccine developed by Israeli researchers has just started Phase III clinical trials at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem.

ImMucin is a 21mer synthetic vaccine composed of the entire signal peptide domain of the MUC1 protein.

The vaccine, produced by the Vaxil BioTherapeutics firm, is being tested against a type of blood cancer known as multiple myeloma. But if the vaccine works – and so far all the signs are positive – the VaxHit basic technology that supports the vaccine might also be used to fight other forms of the disease, according to the announcement on the company's website.  -- Hana Levi Julian, Arutz Sheva

To read more, click here.

Working Glass

A Jewish Museum exhibit on the New York Photo League shows how its photographers over-empahsized poverty for the sake of propaganda

Butterfly Boy, a 1949 photo by Jerome Liebling, in the New York Photo League exhibit.
(The Jewish Museum, New York, Purchase: Mimi and Barry J. Alperin Fund. © Estate of Jerome Liebling)
“The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951,” which opened at the Jewish Museum last Friday, captures better than any art exhibition I can remember the ways in which the propagandistic impulse both propels and stifles creativity. Mason Klein of the Jewish Museum and Catherine Evans of the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio have curated an exhibition that privileges the Photo League’s history more than its artistic legacy. It’s a little didactic: The photos are hung in mostly chronological order, the wall text is dry but information-rich, and the seven galleries are labeled with the expository concision of a high-school textbook (“Introduction and Precursors,” “The Great Depression,” etc.). It’s arguable that such pedantry is necessary: Though the Photo League launched tens of world-class careers, the organization itself is hardly remembered today. -- Alice Gregory, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Growing gender segregation among Israeli haredim seen as repressing women

On the No. 3 bus line in Jerusalem, women passengers pay their fare and walk directly to the back to find a seat.

Men, most of them haredi Orthodox with long sidecurls that brush the shoulders of their black wool suits, sit in the front section. Behind them, following a space of about two feet separated by the rear doors of the bus, sit the women and girls.

The Arab driver tersely explains protocol as he begins his route through a string of largely religious neighborhoods toward the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City.

“This is a ‘mehadrin’ bus,” he says, using the term for strictly kosher. “Women sit in the back.”

Even though an Israeli Supreme Court ruling has banned enforced separate seating, this is one of 63 private or public gender-segregated bus lines in Israel, according to Hiddush, an Israeli organization that advocates for religious freedom and equality. -- Dina Kraft, JTA

To read more, click here.

Amid recession, new rabbis find congregational jobs harder to land

Rabbi Jordi Gendra feels fortunate that he found a full-time job at Temple Beth Shalom, a central Pennsylvania Reconstructionist synagogue, shortly before the recession hit.

But now the 41-year-old spiritual leader is worried that the job he began in 2007 won’t last.

The budget of his Mechanicsburg synagogue is shrinking, the average congregant age recently surpassed 50, and there have been rumblings about reducing the rabbi’s hours to save money.

“They are going to try whatever they can to keep me full time because they understand that once I go part time, that will be a problem for membership,” Gendra said.

Gendra may be one of the lucky ones. Across the United States, finding pulpit positions is becoming more difficult. Some congregations are eliminating assistant rabbi posts. Others are eliminating cantorial positions and asking rabbis -- or congregants who know a little Hebrew and can play a guitar -- to take on those responsibilities.

Increasingly, rabbinical schools are reporting that graduates are working at community organizations or taking part-time gigs to make ends meet while they hold out hopes for a pulpit. -- Danielle Fleischman, JTA

To read more, click here.

Monday, November 14, 2011

WLCJ Israel Mission: Yoga at Kibbutz Hanaton

Click on image above, to see video.

An Israeli web app fights credit card fraud

The team behind BillGuard.
BillGuard scans your bills for scams, saving users more than $250,000 in first two months of beta testing.
 -- Brian Blum, Israel21c

To read more, click here.

Click on image below to see informational video.

Israel's offshore gas reserves poised to rise

Israel Offshore Gas Fiel
Israel’s reserves of natural gas, now under development in the country’s Mediterranean offshore, are poised to rise substantially in the near future, according to a senior government official.

“Israel’s potential gas discoveries stand at 1,000 billion cu m,” said Israel Natural Gas Authority Director-General Yehosua Stern, adding that Israel's proven gas reserves amount to 300 bcm, most of it in the offshore Tamar field.

However, Stern told delegates at a conference on energy and the environment that the reserves figure is expected to rise by a further 453 bcm after production tests are completed at Leviathan field. -- Eric Watkins, Oil & Gas Journal

To read more, click here.

Jewish Players Aim to Boost Israel Baseball Team

Three Jewish former major leaguers will help Israel field a competitive team in next year’s World Baseball Classic.

Shawn Green, Brad Ausmus and Gabe Kapler met this week in Los Angeles with Israeli baseball officials and promised to help out, the players told The Associated Press.

It is unclear whether any of the three would play for Israel themselves, the A.P. reported, though Green said that he would help “in any capacity.”

“If I felt like that was a role that the team needed, I would prepare for it…,” he told the A.P., adding: “I feel a strong connection to Israel and it would be an honor to put on the uniform.”

Peter Kurz, the Israel Association of Baseball’s secretary-general, told the A.P. that one of the three former ballplayers will likely be the Israeli team’s manager, and that all of them will help with coaching, recruiting and fundraising.

Israel will be one of 16 countries invited to play in next year’s qualifying round, and the top four teams advance to the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

“Today, the idea of bridging the gap between the generations of American/Jewish baseball fans and baseball fans in Israel is an enticing prospect,” Ausmus wrote in an e-mail cited by the A.P. “Hopefully, this is the beginning of renewed and long interest in baseball in Israel.”  -- JTA via the Forward

To read more, click here.

What Do a Bunch of Old Jews Know About Living Forever?

Photo: Christopher Lane
Irving Kahn is about to celebrate his 106th birthday. He still goes to work every day. Scientists are studying him and several hundred other Ashkenazim to find out what keeps them going. And going. And going. The secrets of the alter kockers. -- Jesse Green, NY Magazine

Read more, click here.

Cerabino: So many days of Hanukkah, so few stamps

Have you thought much about holiday stamp parity?

You have if you're Ronald Scheiman, 74, of Boynton Beach, who has been fighting the lonely fight for more Hanukkah stamps for nearly 20 years now.

"I think all the Christmas stamps are beautiful," Scheiman said. "I don't have an objection to them. I just think there should be equal respect and recognition for Hanukkah."

The U.S. Postal Service, which issues a newly designed Christmas stamp every year, has had only four different designs for its Hanukkah stamp since 1996.

"They can find hundreds of different styles of menorahs and dreidels to use," Scheiman said. "It's a simple matter of 'Why not?' "  -- Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post

To read more, click here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Forward's Top 50 American Jews

Celebrate the 50
The Forward 50 is a snapshot in time, an impressionist picture of the American Jewish story during a given year. But because it’s an annual project, we also can discern subtle transformations in leadership and community over time. The Forward journalists who assemble this list pride ourselves on searching beyond the expected names and faces to elevate the impactful work of American Jews in arenas that might seem surprising. The baseball field. The concert hall. The scientific laboratory. The refugee camp....

A continuing concern is the paucity of women on this list. This year, the Forward 50 is again dominated by men, with women comprising slightly less than one-third of the names. This reflects the absence of women in significant leadership roles in American Jewry, but it also could be because we weren’t looking in the right places. Reader engagement in this process is essential, and I encourage you to let me know if there are worthy women, and men, we have overlooked. -- Jane Eisner, Publisher, Forward

Read more and to see accompanying video and multi-media presentation, click here.

Volkswagen AG donating $1 million to ADL

Automotive giant Volkswagen AG said it will donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League.

The money will go toward ADL workshops addressing issues at schools and in the workforce, including diversity training, programs aimed at cyber bullying and maintaining respectful working conditions, and anti-bigotry efforts.

"ADL's initiatives and programs align with Volkswagen AG's commitment to diversity in our workforce and in countries all around the globe,” Volkswagen board member Christian Klingler said in a statement Tuesday.

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman in a response to the statement said, "We are extremely gratified to have Volkswagen's generous support as a partner in the fight against anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry."

The Volkswagen group is the largest car manufacturer in Europe. Their brands include Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT, Skoda, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Scania. -- JTA

Can young Jews give as good as they get?

Birthright alumni give to some philanthropy projects; Birthright Next programs focus on engagement,
such as at a Tu B’Shevat cooking class last year.
Photo by Matt Gold of McGold Photography.
On the last day of a Birthright alumni mission to Israel last year, participants got a taste of something that was not a part of their initial trip to Israel: a fundraising pitch….

Birthright is credited with reframing the formative Jewish years for 200,000 young North Americans who have received the gift of a free trip to Israel over the last 11 years. The experience also put them squarely on the receiving end, and some wonder if it has also imbued this generation with a sense of Jewish entitlement.

But this group of 25 alumni — who each paid only $500 to go on the mission organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington — donated $14,000 to Federation while on the trip, signaling their readiness to pay it forward. The same group raised $22,000 for Federation in 2011, and, on top of that, members of the group organized a photo exhibit to benefit a program for Ethiopians they had visited in Israel, bringing in hundreds of people and raising thousands of dollars. -- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Jewish Journal

To read more, click here.