Friday, December 30, 2011

10 Things New Years Can Learn from Rosh Hashanah

New Year’s is a massive celebration we have been looking forward to for some time. Before We head off to the night club to party, before we pop that champagne cork, let’s take a few steps back. The New Year is not just a chance to party, it is also a time for starting over. Few of us really stop to contemplate the significance of the New Year. The self-improvement process that surrounds the Jewish celebration of the New Year, Rosh Hashanah, offer us an important opportunity for re-energizing, renewal and reflection that will help us in 2012. -- Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, Jewish Journal

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After 1,500 Years, an Index to the Talmud’s Labyrinths, With Roots in the Bronx

Daniel Retter teaching at Young Israel of the Bronx,
has compiled an index to 63 volumes of rabbinical discourse.
Librado Romero/The New York Times
The Talmud is a formidable body of work: 63 volumes of rabbinical discourse and disputation that form Judaism’s central scripture after the Torah. It has been around for 1,500 years and is studied every day by tens of thousands of Jews. But trying to navigate through its coiling labyrinth can be enormously difficult because the one thing this monumental work lacks is a widely accepted and accessible index.

But now that breach has been filled, or so claims the publisher of HaMafteach, or the Key, a guide to the Talmud, available in English and Hebrew. It was compiled not by a white-bearded sage, but by a courtly, clean-shaven, tennis-playing immigration lawyer from the Bronx. -- Joseph Berger, NY Times

To read more, click here.

Day Schools Stuck in Neutral

Enrollment Numbers Grow, But Only Among Ultra-Orthodox

Declining Numbers: Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak visits
the Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital.
Despite a massive push, enrollment is down at Jewish schools,
except for those serving the ultra-Orthodox.
Getty Image
Story by J.J. Goldberg, Forward

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Judea Pearl, father of slain WSJ reporter, is a leader in artificial intelligence

Judea Pear

Judea Pearl will receive the $75,000 Harvey Prize in Science and Technology from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology on March 29. -- Tom Tugend, JTA

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Ginzburg tops list of 50 Jewish beauties

Esti Ginsberg
Photo by: Wikipedia commons/Michal Bar

Model Esti Ginsberg voted in first place on list compiled by US online magazine Complex; Mila Kunis comes 2nd, followed by Rashida Jones. -- Ruth Eglash, Jerusalem Post

To read more, click here.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Masorti Supporters Hold Banners High at Demonstration in Beit Shemesh to Protest Haredi Campaign for Gender Separation

Urged by Israeli President Shimon Peres, Thousands Turn Out to Fight for Women's Rights and Freedom of Religious Expression, Values of a Democratic Jewish State Shared by Masorti Movement
Masorti'im of all ages hold their signs high at Beit Shemesh demonstration Tuesday night.
Anyone following news in Israel, this week must be shocked by reports in The New York Times and elsewhere of eight-year-old Na'ama Margolese being terrified to walk alone to her girls yeshiva, Orot, in the city of Beit Shemesh. This little girl from a Modern Orthodox family has been subject to verbal taunts of 'prostitute' and spitting by haredi men who consider her long-sleeve top and below-the-knee skirt immodest. Na'ama's experience followed several incidents in parts of the country in which women defied orders to sit in the back of a public bus. In another indication of growing religious extremism in Beit Shemesh, signs have been posted indicating separate sidewalks for men and women, triggering clashes between haredim and others, including local police and Israeli television, covering the events.

Israelis, from religious to secular, are outraged, and at the urging of their president, Shimon Peres, thousands came on Tuesday evening to this city between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to rally against the increasingly violent haredi campaign to exclude and marginalize women.

As you can see from the pictures taken at last night's protest, Masorti supporters were foremost among them, proudly raising signs identifying themselves with the Masorti movement. In a photo that appeared in both the Hebrew and English editions of the Israeli daily, Ha'aretz, Masorti is clearly front and center. -- Masorti (Conserviative) Movement in Israel

After 123 Years, Manischewitz Creates Kosher Food for Gentiles

A Print ad for Manischewitz gravies.
A print ad for Manischewitz Tiny Tams, a cracker.
In recent years, Jews who keep kosher rejoiced when popular foods that had been off-limits gained kosher certification, from Oreo cookies in 1997 to the Tootsie Roll in 2009.

According to Mintel, the market research firm, the growth in sales of kosher products — up 41 percent from 2003 to 2010 and projected to grow an additional 23 percent by 2013 — owes less to the popularity of keeping kosher or to new products than to existing products becoming certified.

Now, as mainstream brands increasingly pitch to kosher consumers, Manischewitz, the 123-year-old kosher brand, is doing the opposite: creating kosher products that also appeal to gentiles. -- Andrew Adam Newman, NY Times

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Pre-Army Students Clean-Up Mosques – and Israel’s Image

Torah students in Judea and Samaria are on a mission to clean-up mosques – and nationalists’ image – marred in “price-tag” vandalism.
'Price Tag' cleanup
Israel news photo by Amihai ben Saadon
Students from a pre-Army Torah academy in Judea and Samaria are on a mission to literally clean-up mosques – and the image of nationalists – marred in “price-tag” vandalism. However, mainstream media have ignored the campaign.

Approximately 50 youth last week damaged mosques and vandalized an IDF base in protest of demolitions of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria, and Opposition political leaders and mainstream media used the incidents as a launching pad for blanket accusations against the national religious community.

“In light of last week’s incidents in which extremists acted against soldiers and crossed all red lines, we discussed the issue and decided to express our total opposition to these acts by going to a mosque and cleaning it up,” said Rabbi Yair Ansbacher of the Eitan “mechina” at Maaleh Adumim. -- Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, Arutz Sheva

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Beit Issie Shapiro named Israel’s most efficient non-profit

Beit Issie Shapiro, a special needs organization in Raanana, was recognized as Israel's Most Efficient Non-Profit Organization.

The efficiency monitor Midot cited Beit Issie Shapiro after it was chosen by a public committee. The award was judged according to impact on society, leadership, management practices, financial planning, ethics, transparency and collaboration with others to increase its circle of influence.

Midot presented the awards earlier this month at its annual conference at the Suzanne Dellal Centre in Tel Aviv.

Supreme Court President Emeritus Meir Shagmar headed the committee, which was formed in cooperation with Maala-Business for Social Responsibility, Sheatufim-the Center for Civil Society and GuideStar Israel, an online resource about nonprofits in Israel.

Beit Issie Shapiro in the past 30 years has grown from serving 16 children with disabilities to helping 30,000 people annually. The organization also helps train thousands of therapists in Israel in its new therapies, and conducts research and shares best practices internationally.

Israel has 30,000 registered non-profit and voluntary organizations, 4,000 of which provide a variety of welfare, educational and support services. -- JTA

MyHeritage - Barking up the family tree

Israeli online genealogy service MyHeritage leads the market with some 800 million profiles in 38 languages.
MyHeritage co-founder Yuval Ben Galim has his own interesting family history
David Greenberg has been researching his family history for nearly 40 years, all the while believing that most of his relatives perished during the Holocaust. His grandfather, Isaac, had emigrated from Lithuania to the United States at the beginning of the last century and found it nearly impossible to access records on relatives left behind the Iron Curtain. His grandson, however, made a remarkable discovery, finding a 96-year-old aunt and 30 cousins still alive.

Greenberg had one thing going for him that his grandfather didn't: The Internet, specifically a web-based service from the Israeli company MyHeritage. When Greenberg and a member of the Lithuanian side of the family began to build their family trees separately, MyHeritage's "SmartMatch" feature put the two together.

Greenberg's story is just one of the many pairings that MyHeritage has facilitated in its nearly 10 years of operation. Company co-founder Yuval Ben Galim, 39, positively beams when discussing the role MyHeritage plays in enabling genealogical detectives to sleuth out their roots. -- Ariel Blum, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read more, click here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hanukkah Alegre!

A group of Washington-area Sephardic Jews gathers monthly to share traditional foods and converse in the disappearing language of their ancestors
The Hanukkah vijitas de al’had in 2009. (David Tarica)
In 2001, Sarajevo-born folk singer Flory Jagoda invited roughly a dozen other Sephardim in the Washington area to join her for conversation over burekas and bumuelos (fritters, or doughnuts). More specifically, she invited them for conversation in Judeo-Spanish, also known as Ladino, the language spoken by Jews in medieval Spain and later in the far-flung lands to which they fled after the expulsion in 1492.

Today, the language is all but forgotten, except by those like Jagoda who spoke it growing up. The group has grown to include more than 20 participants. At their monthly meetings—which members call vijitas de al’had, or “Sunday visits,” after a centuries-old tradition from the Old Country—the men and women eat Sephardic treats, sing songs, and study a Judeo-Spanish reading exercise, complete with vocabulary lists. -- Vox Tablet

To view slide should and Vox Tablet’s audio postcard of Julie Subrin visiting the annual Hanukkah gathering in 2009 for this audio postcard from our archives [Running time: 7:33], click here.

Shale oil project raises hackles in Israel

A drill which is boring 600 metres (2,000 feet)
underground near the Israeli kibbutz of Beit Guvrin
Photo by David Buimovitch, AFP
Among the serene vineyards and pine trees of Israel's wine-growing heartland, a towering drill is boring 600 metres (2,000 feet) underground, dredging up black rocks that smell like petrol.

This is oil shale, rocks saturated with kerogen, a material that turns into oil and gas under intense heat.

Huge deposits of this kerogen-rich rock lie deep underground in southern and central Israel in quantities which Israel Energy Initiatives (IEI) says could make the country an oil superpower and break its dependence on imports.

Shale oil production is often attacked for its high carbon footprint and for being prohibitively expensive, but the entrepreneurs at IEI insist they have found a cleaner, greener and cheaper method of extraction. -- Daniella Cheslow, AFP

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At Chanukah, Czech Jews marvel at blessings of Havel’s revolution

U.S. Ambassador Norman L. Eisen, his wife Lindsay Kaplan
and Alan Dershowitz and his family sing "Ma'oz Tzur"
after lighting the menorah on first night of Chanukah.
Photo by Ruth Ellen Gruber
On the first night of Chanukah, I stood in the splendid reception hall of the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Prague as the ambassador himself lit the first candle in an imposing gilded menorah and chanted the blessings over the flames.

Since it was the first night of the holiday, these included the Shehecheyanu – the thankful blessing recited when reaching a special or long-awaited moment: “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe who has given us life, sustained us, and allowed us to reach this occasion.”

How strangely fitting to recite this, I thought, at this very time and in this very place. Two days earlier Vaclav Havel had died, and many people were still in shock at the loss of the shy dissident playwright who had led the Velvet Revolution that ousted the communist regime in 1989 and gone on to become Czechoslovakia’s – and then the Czech Republic’s – first democratic president and enduring moral compass.  -- Ruth Ellen Gruber, JTA

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Santa Strife at Hoboken Public School after Religious Objections

’Tis the season for tension over religious displays in public spaces, and the latest flareup was triggered by Santa's appearance at a Hoboken public school. The event triggered bureaucratic maneuvering and a noisy web-based debate edged with hostility toward Jews.

Last week, a parent complained about the longstanding tradition at Hoboken’s Salvatore R. Calabro Elementary School to allow children to pose for Santa photos, said Superintendent Mark Toback, who would not reveal the parent’s name.

The district ultimately responded on the advice of its lawyer by adding photo opportunities with a Hanukkah menorah and a kinara, a candleholder used to celebrate Kwanzaa. That event took place without incident on Dec. 20. -- NY Jewish Week

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MK on women singing: Orthodox soldiers should use earplugs

Shas MK Nissim Ze'ev said Tuesday that male orthodox soldiers be allowed to use earplugs to block out women singing in official IDF ceremonies.

Speaking at a meeting of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women, Ze'ev also argued that such soldiers should have the right to serve in women-free units.

Head of IDF Manpower Directorate Maj.-Gen. Orna Barbivai shot back that nobody can tell a female soldier she can't sing in a ceremony just because she's a woman.

The committee meeting comes amid a growing national debate on women's rights and religious rights that has most recently erupted in clashes between police and haredi Jews in Beit Shemesh. -- Lahav Harkov and Staff, Jerusalem Post


IDF chief: Ceremonies where women sing mandatory for religous soldiers

Orthodox Israeli soldiers must attend formal military ceremonies at which women sing but can be excused from informal social gatherings, the head of the military said.

Israel Defense Forces Benny Gantz said Tuesday that female soldiers have equality in the military and that there is no ban on women's singing in the IDF. He made the statements during an interview on Army Radio.

Religious cadets walked out of an official ceremony earlier this year at which female soldiers were singing. The cadets were removed from the officer training program.

"The IDF has room for the service of women wherever they can contribute," Gantz said in the interview. Women can “contribute operationally, they can deal with situations, they can sing, the Hebrew singer is part of our culture,” he said. -- JTA

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Israel to send medical aid after Nigeria attacks

Men look at the wreckage of a car following
a bomb blast at St Theresa Catholic Church
outside the Nigerian capital Abuja.
The White House on Sunday condemned
the deadly Christmas Day bombings in Nigeria
as "senseless violence" as it offered condolences
to the Nigerian people over attacks blamed on an Islamist sect.
Photo by AFP Photo/Sunday Aghae
Israel is to send medical aid to people wounded in Nigeria's deadly blasts on Sunday that killed at least 40 people, a foreign ministry statement said, condemning the attacks.

"Israel condemns in the strongest terms these attacks carried out on Christmas Day, and expresses its deepest condolences over the deaths of innocent people," the statement said.

"Israel will supply with Nigerian authorities with medical aid to help the wounded."

The series of bomb attacks on churches during Christmas services and a suicide blast killed at least 40 people amid spiralling violence claimed by Islamists. -- AFP via Yahoo News

PM: No place for harassment or discrimination in Israel

Israel is liberal western democracy," Netanyahu says at weekly cabinet meeting following reports of haredim harassing 8-year-old girl; Steinitz describes haredi extremists as "villains"; Livnat: "Live and let live."

Photo by: Reuters/Uriel Sinai/Pool
Israel is a western, liberal democracy, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at Sunday's cabinet meeting. Netanyahu's comments came following a Friday night Channel 2 report that showed an eight-year old modern orthodox girl afraid to walk 300 meters to school because of harassment from some haredim because of her attire. -- Herb Keinon and Staff, Jerusalem Post

To read more, click here.

TAU develops cancer cluster bomb

Two Tel Aviv University researchers have developed a new method of destroying cancer tumors, which they say could be more permanent.

Based on "tumor ablation" a process through which the tumor is destroyed inside the body, Prof. Yona Keisari of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Prof. Itzhak Kelson of TAU's Department of Physics and Astronomy, have developed a radioactive wire, the size of a pin, which, when inserted into a solid tumor, releases lethal radioactive atoms that irradiate the tumor from the inside out.  -- Viva Sarah Press, Israel21c

To read more click here.

Building a sustainable Jerusalem, one kid at a time

Getting into the green spirit at the Bloomfield Museum

The Bloomfield Science Museum is training hundreds of third- through sixth-grade ‘Green Ambassadors' to care for their city's environment. -- Karin Kloosterman, Israel21c

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Israelis lead world in social network use, U.S. study shows

Report by internet marketing research company comScore shows Israeli internet more than double the global average for time spent on networks such as Twitter, Facebook. -- Oded Yaron, Haaretz

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Tim Tebow and the Lessons of Hanukkah

Jews tell two very different stories at Hanukkah -- three, if you count the tale about the oil that was not sufficient for even one day of lighting the Temple lamps, but miraculously lasted for eight. The relationship between the two stories may well be the key to the holiday's most important contemporary lesson -- and engage the theological question brought to popular notice this month by quarterback Tim Tebow. -- Arnold M. Eisen, Chancellor, The Jewish Theological Seminary, Huffington Post

To read more, click here.

Israeli Arabs enter Israeli Jewish classrooms

In an educational revolution of sorts, a growing number of Israeli schools are taking a novel approach to the instruction of Arabic: They’re hiring Arab teachers.

The initiative is about far more than teaching children a new language. Educators say they hope to break down barriers in a society where Jewish and Arab citizens have little day-to-day interaction and often view each other with suspicion.

“It is very important to get past the stigmas. We have a chance to get closer,’’ said Shlomit Vizel, principal of the Tidhar elementary school in Yokneam, a picturesque town in the rolling hills of Israel’s northern Galilee region. --Josef Federman, Associated Press via Boston Globe

To read more, click here.

Cuts Above

Barbados Blackbelly sheep on Brenner and Saunders’ ranch.
Ben Harris)

A back-to-the-earth Colorado couple raises top-quality, heritage-bred livestock to produce kosher, organic, premium cuts of beef and lamb -- Ben Harris, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Fortified ER installed in Haifa hospital

During the Second Lebanon War,
Hezbollah missiles struck a few meters
from the Carmel Medical Center.
A new NIS 59 million emergency department – fortified to protect patients, staffers and visitors from rockets and missiles and even biological weapons from beyond the northern border, was dedicated on Wednesday at Carmel Medical Center in Haifa.

During the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah missiles struck a few meters from the hospital. This gave the final push to build a protected emergency room.

The Haifa facility was built with 40-centimeter-thick walls made of cement that can stand up to missiles and close hermetically to prevent chemical weapons affecting those inside. Patient care will be able to continue during any such attack, the hospital said. -- Judy Siegel-Itzkovich

To read more, click here.

Attorney for Levi Aron: ‘Inbreeding’ was a factor in Leiby’s murder

A lawyer for the man accused of killing 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky said his client has a mental deficiency due to inbreeding in the Chasidic community.

Attorney Howard Greenberg continued to pursue an insanity defense for Levi Aron during a hearing Wednesday in a Brooklyn Supreme Court. Levi was shown in court via a live video feed from Rikers Island prison. He did not speak or look at the camera, according to reports.

"Look, everybody knows when blood relations have offspring, there can be genetic defects," Greenberg said during the hearing, according to the New York Post. "It's something that needs to be investigated down to the ground."

Aron is charged with murdering Leiby near his Brooklyn home in July. He said he picked up the haredi Orthodox boy in his car when the boy became lost while walking home from camp for the first time and asking for directions. Aron said he panicked after the boy was reported missing.

Parts of Leiby's dismembered body were found in Aron's freezer.

A psychological exam has found Aron competent to stand trial, although he has admitted to hearing voices. Aron has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and kidnapping.

New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) told the Post that Greenberg's comments on inbreeding show that he is a "sick, self-hating Jew who's making a mockery of this case." -- JTA

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Dry Bones for Hanukkah

Slain Wesleyan Student's Prophetic Book about Anti-Jewish Prejudice

Julia's Star - a book about Jewish identity and cultural acceptance,
written and illustrated by a young Johanna Justin-Jinich.
Picture gy Johanna Justin-Jinich.
When she was 15, Johanna Justin-Jinich wrote and illustrated a book about religious tolerance from a Jewish schoolgirl's perspective.

In the story, "Julia's Star," a dark-haired fifth-grader wears a Hanukkah gift to school one day — a Star of David necklace. Julia's friends are stunned. They whisper to each other and ask questions aimed at stereotyping the young girl. The ignorance upsets Julia but she works to educate her friends, inviting them to a Shabbat service at her synagogue.

In the end, Julia receives a handmade apology card from her friends.

"Even though in the beginning they made assumptions about her culture and religion, the girls were eager to learn about Julia's identity as a Jew," Justin-Jinich, who was Jewish, wrote in the book.

Justin-Jinich's story would prove startlingly prophetic.

Six years later, a mentally ill, anti-Semitic stalker would fatally shoot her inside a college bookstore café near the campus of Wesleyan University, where Justin-Jinich excelled in her studies and championed a number of causes, including the fight for civil rights. -- Alaine Griffin, Hartford Courant

To read more, click here.

Report: Hadassah Medical Center can’t meet payments

The Hadassah Medical Center has not been able to pay its suppliers, an Israeli business daily has reported.

Hadassah's debt to its suppliers is reportedly about $2.65 million, according to the Calcalist, a publication of Yediot Achronot.

The Hadassah Medical Center does not receive any Israeli government support, as it is owned by Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America.

The Hadassah organization lost about $90 million in the Madoff Ponzi scheme. Following the Madoff affair, Hadassah cut its annual support to the hospital, according to Yediot Achronot.

Hadassah told Ynet that "unlike other hospitals, Hadassah does not receive any budgeting from the government or the State health system. This is a temporary setback in a minor portion of the payments due to the fact that Hadassah has not received all of its due payments from various parties." -- JTA

Also see Ynetnews by clicking here.

UNESCO Stops Funding Children's Palestinian Teen Magazine Following SWC Protest

A day after a protest from the Simon Wiesenthal Center to UNESCO's Director-General over a Palestinian youth magazine which published materials exalting Hitler, UNESCO has agreed that it "will not provide any further support to the publication in question."

Zayzafouna, a magazine which supposedly promotes democracy and tolerance, published an article by a ten-year-old Palestinian girl who said that in her dreams, Hitler told her, “Yes. I killed them [the Jews] so you would all know that they are a nation who spreads destruction all over the world.” The article was brought to the public's attention by Palestinian Media Watch.

To read more, click here.

Israel easing restrictions on Palestinians for holiday

The Israeli army has eased travel and other restrictions on Palestinian Christians for the holiday season.

The Israel Defense Forces, in conjunction with the coordinator of government activities in the territories, announced the easing of restrictions on traveling outside the West Bank and Gaza Strip into Israel through Jan. 20. The move comes following an IDF meeting Tuesday with religious leaders from Bethlehem.

The IDF authorized 500 Christian Palestinians from Gaza to visit Israel and the West Bank to see family and participate in religious services. Christian Palestinians from the West Bank also will be permitted to visit Israel during the holiday season.

Some 400 Christian Palestinians will be permitted to leave Israel for travel abroad via Ben Gurion Airport, and 200 Christians from Arab countries can visit the West Bank. -- JTA