Friday, December 23, 2011

The First War of National Liberation

Swiss illustration of I Maccabees.

This is the 2,179th anniversary of the world's first war of national liberation.  There have been many since. To a surprising extent, such wars have followed the pattern first established by the Maccabees. They, like later heads of independence movements, were leaders of a people conquered and occupied by a great empire. They fought to claim the right of national self-determination.

Resentment of foreign rule may simmer for a long time, but war is often remembered as beginning in a dramatic incident. -- By Diana Muir Appelbaum, Jewish Ideas Daily

To read more, click here.

Israel introduces first national air pollution reduction program

Haifa Bay.
Photo by: Baz Ratner

Ministry of Environmental Protection says program will substantially reduce emission of most harmful pollutants.

To read more, click here.

Prominent Jewish Athletes from Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated's list Includes the usual names--Sandy Koufax, Mark Spitz and Hank Greenberg--and 22 others.

To read more and see the accompanying photo gallery, click here.

Apple buys Israeli flash storage maker in $500m deal

An Anobit chip is already incorporated in Apple devices
such as the iPhone, iPad and the MacBook Air, above.
Photograph: Finnbarr Webster / Alamy/Alamy
Apple has bought Israel's Anobit, a maker of flash storage technology, for up to $500m (£319m), the Calcalist financial daily reported on Tuesday, following almost a week of speculation surrounding the companies.

The newspaper said Anobit's management was in the process of gathering its staff to formally announce the acquisition by Apple. There was no announcement at the time of writing on either company's website. The purchase is the first by Apple of an Israel-based company.

Flash storage is used in mobile phones and some computers to store data: it gives high-speed access but because it has no moving parts, unlike a magnetic hard drive, it is immune from knocks and magnetic fields. But such SSDs – solid state drives – are pricier and are a comparatively young technology. -- Charles Arthur and agencies via

To read more, click here.

Cheers! We're Not Poisoned — Or Are We?

Language Experts Float Dueling Theories on 'L'Chaim'
To Life: Our language expert revisits his column on ‘L’Chaim.’
Does it date back to an old custom of testing wine to see if it was poisoned?
Istock Photo
Two interesting comments have come from readers about my November 25 column on the Jewish toast “l’chaim,” which I traced back to a medieval custom, still practiced by Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jews, that is connected to the Kiddush, the traditional Sabbath and holiday blessing over wine.
To Life: Our language expert revisits his column on ‘L’Chaim.’ Does it date back to an old custom of testing wine to see if it was poisoned?
Istock Photo
To Life: Our language expert revisits his column on ‘L’Chaim.’ Does it date back to an old custom of testing wine to see if it was poisoned?

The first of these, from Harold Zvi Slutzkin of Jerusalem, begins with an improvement on my translation of the Aramaic words savrei maranan that precede the blessing. What they mean, Mr. Slutzkin points out, is, “What do you think, my masters?” and he continues:

“The opinion asked for was whether the wine might be harmful or even poisoned, as it was in the case of several assassinated monarchs of the Byzantine period — i.e., whether the drinker of it was destined for life or death. Only after the assembled company responded resoundingly ‘L’chaim,’ ‘For life,’ was the wine drunk.” -- Philologos, Forward

To read more, click here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Hanukkah, Marines!

Jewish Leathernecks light the way.
Getty Images/Image Source
When Jews begin their Hanukkah celebrations this week, they will commemorate a 2,200-year old revolt led by Judah Maccabee against a Greek empire attempting to crush the Jewish faith. For some, the holiday holds an added resonance, linking their military service to one of the greatest Jewish warriors of all time.

These are the Jews of the United States Marine Corps.

In the popular mind, a Jewish Marine may sound exotic. In fact, Jews have their own chapters in the history of the Corps. In his book "Semper Chai!" Howard J. Leavitt explains the compatibility with a refreshing lack of nuance: "[M]any Jews were—and are—Marines, and the basic and lofty precepts and spiritual underpinnings of the United States, the U.S. Marine Corps and Judaism are one and the same, without any differences or conflict." -- William McGurn, Wall Street Journal

To read more, click here.

Hanukkah at Whole Foods: Now with matzoh!

Whole Foods: They’ve gone crackers over Hanukkah.
Photo by Jessica Goldstein,The Washington Post
On Saturday, I headed to Whole Foods in Foggy Bottom, where buying more than a dozen items may very well bankrupt my family. But that sketchy Safeway under the Watergate is closed so, you know, desperate times.

I see Whole Foods has a Hanukkah display. A whole display for Hanukkah! Change has come to America.

And then I see the classic supermarket screw-up: Whole Foods is selling matzoh. Matzoh and matzoh balls and a wide variety of matzoh-y things would be just spectacular if this were a) a Passover display or b) the cracker section, but it is neither. It is Hanukkah which, for the uninitiated, is not Passover and is not a holiday on which one eats matzoh. What Whole Foods is really displaying is a casual kind of ignorance for which there is no excuse.

The War on Christmas gets all kinds of sparkly graphics on the TV news, perhaps because Christmas decorations lend themselves quite nicely to all things sparkly. But for those of you who care about the less-sparkly things in life, this is what a swipe at Hanukkah looks like: It looks like a callous kind of carelessness, a sign that the great Whole Foods, which manages to ensure that organic pasta comes packaged in biodegradable boxes made of locally grown hemp, cannot devote all of 30 seconds to a Wikipedia search for “Hanukkah food. -- Jessica Goldstein,The Washington Post

To read more, click here.

The Terrorists in Europe's Backyard

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is a growing threat beyond North Africa.

Europe's security is being threatened by a terrorist organization that many people have never heard of. Last week, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), based in north Africa and active since 2002, posted pictures of five Europeans kidnapped in November and currently being held in Mali. Formerly known as the Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat, AQIM is an al Qaeda affiliate whose principal aim is to overthrow the Algerian government and establish an Islamic state governed by Shariah law in north Africa, Spain and Portugal. The group has a presence not only in Algeria but also in Mali, Niger and Mauritania. It has not yet solidified its foothold elsewhere in the Maghreb, including Morocco, Libya and Tunisia. -- Avi Jorisch, Wall Street Journal

[Mr. Jorisch, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, is senior fellow for counterterrorism at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C.]

To read more, click here.

Haifa’s Technion in New York State of Mind

Israeli university, Cornell win NYC bid for new grad school
Roosevelt Island the Queensboro Bridge.
Photo from Wikipedia

The Technion, the Haifa-based university that is Israel’s most prominent institute for science and engineering, is now going to have a foothold in the world’s other center of Jewish life: New York City. Cornell University, with which Technion was partnered on this project, won a competition to build a new science graduate school on 2.1 million square feet of free space from the City (which is also kicking in $100 million) on Roosevelt Island, which lies in the East River between Manhattan’s Upper East Side and the Astoria neighborhood of Queens. It is crossed by the Queensboro Bridge, also known as the 59th Street Bridge and, as of this year, officially known as the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. It is even serviced by the subway!  -- Marc Tracy, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Dutch Senate to appoint ritual slaughter commission

The Dutch Senate has delayed its vote on banning ritual slaughter and will appoint a commission to study putting new standards for such slaughter into place.

Undersecretary for Agriculture Henk Bleker said Wednesday that he will appoint the commission to establish standards for ritual slaughter, including how long an animal can remain conscious, The Associated Press reported.

The upper house of the Dutch government froze the vote after a majority of senators expressed their objection to the ban on kosher slaughter, or shechitah. The measure had passed the lower house of the Dutch parliament in June.The Senate had been scheduled to vote on Dec. 20.

Proposed by the Animal Rights Party and supported by the anti-Muslim Party for Freedom led by Geert Wilders, the bill requires that animals be stunned before slaughter. Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter must be performed with the animal fully conscious.

Animal Rights Party leader Marianne Thieme said she would submit a new bill banning ritual slaughter to parliament if the current one is defeated by the Senate in January, when it is likely to vote on the measure.

The European Union requires animals to be stunned before slaughter but makes exceptions for religiously mandated ritual slaughter. Nevertheless, ritual slaughter is banned in Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. 

About 1 million animals are ritually slaughtered each year in the Netherlands, according to The Jerusalem Post, of which a few thousand undergo shechitah. -- JTA

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What’s the most important message to learn from Chanukah?

What’s the most important message to learn from Chanukah? Is it a lesson about God’s miracle or about the Jews' overcoming adversity? Or is it about religious freedom?

A multi-denominational exploration with Conservative answer by Rabbi Jason Miller, Reform answer by Rabbi Brooks Susman, and Orthodox answer by Rabbi Reuven Bulka.---Jewish Values On-Line

To read more, click here.

New Book Reveals Systematic Hate, Veneration of Terror by Palestinian Authority Even During Peace Process

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), an Israeli research institute studying Palestinian society and its leadership through its Arabic language media, today announced the release of Deception: Betraying the Peace Process, a new book describing the systematic hate speech used by the Palestinian Authority (PA) even as they portray themselves to the world as pursuing peace.

At a press conference today, the authors and human rights activists warned that the hate speech and incitement against Israel by PA leaders is the fundamental impediment to achieving peace. In the book, authors Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik document numerous breaches in the PA's commitments to recognize Israel, to cease hate incitement and to reject violence and terror - requirements established by the international community and accepted by the PA.

The book meticulously catalogues hundreds of examples of hate speech, glorification of terrorist murderers and other anti-Israel communication, detailing efforts to spread hate even among school-aged children.

To read more, click here.

Knesset committee advances marriage bill

A Knesset committee has approved a bill that would allow couples wishing to marry to register with any rabbinate in the country….

Jewish couples now must register with the rabbinate in the city or region of residence of one member of the couple. -- JTA

To read more, click here.

Israeli officials escalate war of words with N.Y. Times

Israeli officials are stepping up their criticism of The New York Times, slamming columnist Thomas Friedman and arguing that the newspaper is an unfit venue for an Op-Ed from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a scathing letter first leaked last week to The Jerusalem Post, Ron Dermer, a top aide to Netanyahu, declined an invitation for the prime minister to write an Op-Ed for the Times. By way of explanation, Dermer cited what he alleged was the newspaper's anti-Israel tilt.

"It would seem as if the surest way to get an Op-Ed published in The New York Times these days, no matter how obscure the writer or the viewpoint, is to attack Israel," he said.

Dermer's letter came just days after Friedman, a frequent critic of Israeli settlement policies, asserted that U.S. congressional support for Netanyahu was "bought and paid for by the Israel lobby." -- Staff, JTA

To read more, click here.

Allen, Spielberg and other Jews grab Golden Globe nominations

Famed directors Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg led the list of Jewish nominees for Golden Globe Awards.

Allen with his “Midnight in Paris,” a critical and commercial success, was rewarded with three nods: best motion picture (musical or comedy), director and screenplay.

Spielberg's “War Horse” was nominated for best motion picture (drama) and “The Adventures of Tintin” for best animated feature film.

The Golden Globe nominations, which were announced Dec. 15, are seen as a predictor for the Oscar races. -- JTA

To read more, click here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hanukkah Recipes From Chocolate Cake to Onion Rolls

From chocolate cake to onion rolls, recent Jewish cookbooks offer a tantalizing range of recipes for Hanukkah treats to complement the latkes -- Joan Nathan, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Opinion: The 7 Wonders of the Jewish World

The Dead Sea
Photo by Marc Israel Sellem

A new list: The 7 Wonders of the Jewish World, with “world” not being a geographical location, but the full realm of Jewish experience. -- Natan Slifkin, Jerusalem Post

To read more, click here.

At 100, the doctor is still in

In Goldman's cluttered office are diplomas, photos of him and family through the years and other trinkets that he's collected over time. Much has been given to him by appreciative patients. He says the space may look messy, but he knows where everything is.
Dr. Fred Goldman still makes house calls.

He must, he explains. That’s where the patients are.

“If they’re sick and can’t leave home,” he said, “I go to see them.”

On Monday, they came to see him. Patients, friends and family — some using walkers, some in strollers — gathered in numbers passing the century mark at the Avondale office Goldman calls “the dump,” to throw a surprise birthday party for the internist who is the oldest licensed physician practicing medicine in the state of Ohio.

Dr. Fred Goldman is 100. -- Cliff Radel,

To read more, click here.

Foods of Israel: Sunflower Seeds

Photo by Sarah Melamed
At one time every Israeli, especially male soccer fans, knew how to crack sunflower seeds. It was a perquisite to living in Israel, along with not so subtle line jumping. Those without this talent were looked upon as outcasts.

Chucking the shells directly on the sidewalk was part of the local custom. At bus stations piles would accumulate to the size of termite hills. By a quick glance at the height of the mound, it was possible to estimate the duration of the commuter’s wait, and indirectly the efficiency of the town’s public transportation.

While most Israelis are proficient with single seed shelling, some have become professional. They load fistfuls in their mouths and fire the shells like a submachine gun. Attempting to imitate this feat will only lead to appendicitis from swallowing the wrong parts, or the very least indigestion.

Sadly, modernism has taken its toll.  -- Sarah Melamed, Forward

To read more, click here.

Broadway-bound musical on Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach debuts in U.S.

Broadway World calls ‘Soul Doctor: The Journey of a Rock Star Rabbi’ the 'first major Jewish-themed musical since Fiddler on the Roof.'
“Soul Doctor,” a new Broadway-bound musical, tells the story of the beloved and controversial father of popular Jewish music, Shlomo Carlebach. It will debut in South Florida on December 24, with shows first in Miami Beach, then in Fort Lauderdale.

Steve Margoshes, the composer/orchestrator of such Broadway hits as Elton John’s “Aida,” The Who’s “Tommy” and “Smokey Joe’s CafĂ©,” has woven 30 of Carlebach’s hit songs into the show.

“Soul Doctor” traces Carlebach’s childhood escape from Nazi Germany, his discovery of gospel and soul music during his unlikely friendship with Nina Simone; his rise as a “Rock Star Rabbi” in the 1960s; and his personal conflicts to keep his family together while traversing the globe. -- Jewish Journal via Haaretz

To read more and see accompanying videos, click here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Jewish US Army vet recalls lessons learned in Iraq

US soldiers leaving Iraq
Photo by REUTERS
As the last US combat troops left Iraq on Sunday, bringing the nine-year conflict to a close, Jewish war veteran Ilya Bratman reflected on his time in the country.

The former US Armored Corps serviceman, who is in Israel for a Limmud FSU leadership summit, remembered the highs and lows of his military career and his near brush with death.

“We were taking off from Baghdad International Airport in a Hercules C-130 when the pilot began maneuvering wildly,” he said. “It’s a cargo plane – there are no seats – so we were thrown around inside hitting the walls. Some people were knocked out and many others were screaming.” -- Gil Shefler,Reuters via Jerusalem Post

To read more, click here.

Dramatic drop in number of Israeli nurses

'In New York, nurses earn much more' (archives)
Photo by Yaron Brener

Israel ranks 22nd in number of medical caretakers in developed countries. 'In a few years we'll really have to import nurses from India,' says head nurse at Wolfson Medical Center

Daniel Edelson, Ynetnews

To read more, click here.

A year of healing after the great Carmel fire

A massive inferno last December took a devastating toll on the northern Israeli biosphere, but there's some good news 12 months later.
Battling the December 2010 fire.
Photos courtesy of the KKL-JNF archive
Winter flowers are blooming in the Carmel Forest.

This colorful sight is a welcome sign of regeneration in the vast woods of northern Israel, which in early December last year suffered a devastating forest fire.

Israeli firefighters got help from 18 countries to put out the Hannukah blaze, but not before it claimed the lives of 44 people, displaced 17,000 more, damaged thousands of homes and scorched more than one third of the Carmel Forest's millions of pine, oak, cypress and pistachio trees as well as killing porcupines, jackals, foxes, wild boars, songbirds and snakes.

One year later, there are signs of life in the charred areas.  -- Abigail Klein Leichman , Israel21c

To read more, click here.

100 Greatest Jewish Films ranks films for the 100 greatest Jewish films. Do you agree?

To read more, click here.

'Kosher electricity law' pulled

‪‪Following public pressure, national infrastructure minister backs away from bill forcing Electric Corp to operate power stations 'according to Halacha'‬‬

Israel's National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau Concerned over status quo
Photo by Ohad Zwigenberg
National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau decided Sunday to pull the "kosher electricity bill", which would have forced the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) to operate power stations "according to halachic demands" and allowed the Rabbinate to cut off power.

Landau's plan to promote the bill generated thousands of angry responses on Websites and social networks, including a Facebook group which organized a demonstration outside the Knesset. -- ‪Ran Rimon‬, Ynetnews

To read more, click here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

More Needed For Jews With Special Needs

Disabilities conference seeks to stir communal conscience.
At the special needs funding conference, two Jewish deaf activists, Alexis Kashar, left,
with Academy Award-winner Marlee Matlin
 All of us have “special needs” — to use that kind euphemism for the most unkind physical, mental or cognitive disabilities. Most of us simply don’t know it yet.

Alexis Kashar, who is deaf and president of the Jewish Deaf Resource Center, and a civil rights lawyer on behalf of the physically and learning disabled, recalled a litigation in which the opposing lawyer discovered that his own newly born son was deaf, only to seek advice from Kashar’s firm about how best to educate him.

Marlee Matlin, an Academy Award-winner who has been deaf since infancy, told of meeting Henry Winkler when she was a child, later learning that Winkler was dismissed when he was a child for being “slow,” and a “dumb dog,” before his dyslexia was properly diagnosed. -- Jonathan Mark, NY Jewish Week

To read more, click here.

Need Hanukkah gift ideas? Look at these Children’s Books from 2011

An illustration from Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King by Richard Michelson. (Zachary Pullen)
Need Hanukkah gift ideas? From a tale of a Shabbat princess to a Lower East Side detective story, here are the year’s best Jewish kids’ books

A book opens more worlds than a toy, a piece of jewelry, a handheld-gaming device, or an iPod. (OK, maybe not an iPod.) So, here’s a list for all your kid-giving needs this Hanukkah, from the littlest people of the book to the most sophisticated teenagers.

Happy reading, and happy Hanukkah.  --  Marjorie Ingall, Tablet

Listings include:
  • Picture Books for Very Young Readers
  • Picture Books for 4- to 8-Year-Old Readers
  • Chapter Books for Middle-Grade Readers
  • Chapter Books for Young Adult Readers
To read more, click here.

In Mallorca, a year of breakthroughs for descendants of Jews

According to legend, an indentation in a stone wall
near the site of an ancient Mallorcan synagogue
is from centuries of Cheutas running their fingers across it. (Alex Weisler)
A stone's throw from the majestic Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, commonly referred to as La Seu, is a dusty cobblestoned alleyway that serves as a hidden reminder of Mallorca's complex Jewish past.

Carrer de Monti-Sion, or Mount Zion Street, has borne witness to the triumphs and tragedies of this Spanish island’s community of Chuetas, the descendants of Mallorcan Jews who kept their Judaism secret after they were converted forcibly to Christianity during the Spanish Inquisition. A synagogue once occupied the site that is now the Monti-Sion church, down the street from a restaurant advertising "Sefardi style" food. Legend has it that a long, thin line indented in the stone is the result of Chuetas running their fingers along it for centuries.

The Chuetas, who number an estimated 20,000 of Mallorca’s 860,000 residents, were shunned historically by the island’s Catholic majority as well as its tiny, predominantly expatriate Jewish community. Easily identifiable by their surnames, Chuetas were bullied and insulted. They were refused marriage by the wider Mallorcan community. And they were prevented from entering university.

But after centuries in which they were treated as pariahs, the Chuetas are having a banner year. -- Alex Weisler, JTA

To read more, click here.

Reports: Apple to open Israel development center

Apple will open a development center in Israel focusing on semiconductors, according to reports.

The development center would be the first to be opened outside of Apple's California headquarters, the Israeli business daily Globes reported.

Aharon Aharon, a veteran in Israel's high-tech industry, reportedly has been hired by Apple to head the center, Globes and Calcalist reported Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.

The announcement comes as the company enters talks to acquire its first Israel-based company, Anobit Ltd. of Herzliya, a flash storage solutions provider.

Apple's corporate vice president of research and development, Ed Frank, is currently visiting Israel, according to Globes. Calcalist reported that Frank is meeting with several Israeli high-tech companies.  -- JTA

Orthodox rabbinic group won’t take position on reparative therapy for gays

The Rabbinical Council of America said it will not take a position on so-called reparative therapy for gays.

In a statement released Monday, the RCA, the main umbrella group of centrist Orthodox rabbis, said it will neither “endorse nor reject any therapy or method that is intended to assist those ... struggling with same-sex attraction.” It further affirms that any therapy should be performed only by licensed practitioners.

RCA President Rabbi Schmuel Goldin told JTA that the statement did not represent a shift in the group's position. -- JTA

To read more, click here.