Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ba'Olam will return soon.

Ba'Olam will return soon with a new look
new articles of interest.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Canadian PM Harper pressured P.A. to drop U.N. bid

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper personally intervened to pressure the Palestinian Authority to drop its bid for upgraded status at the United Nations.

While in New York to accept an award and attend the opening of a new session of the United Nations at the end of September, Harper had "a short,  brusque meeting with [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas," the Globe and Mail newspaper reported Monday.

"In a little room at the United Nations, Mr. Harper skipped most of the pleasantries in a 15-minute meeting, according to sources briefed on the session, and told Mr. Abbas he had come to deliver a message: If you keep doing what you're doing, he said - referring to the Palestinian bid for upgraded status - 'there will be consequences,'" the newspaper reported.

"It was just one part of the bare-knuckle approach Canada has taken toward the U.N. bid, though largely out of public view," according to the newspaper

The P.A. is set on Nov. 29 to ask the U.N. General Assembly to approve Palestinian status as a non-member observer state. Abbas was rebuffed in an attempt last year to have the 15-member U.N. Security Council recognize a Palestinian state.

A source told the Globe that Canada has warned the P.A.'s envoys that their legation in Ottawa might be closed, and the Palestinian envoy,  Said Hamad, sent home.

In addition, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has told several people, including Palestinian representatives, that he would travel to New York personally to cast a vote against the U.N. bid, the Globe reported.

The more serious potential aspects of the "consequences" about which Harper warned have to do with money: Ottawa pledged $300 million in aid over five years to the P.A. starting in 2008, and that period is about to run out.

Meanwhile, Australia will abstain in the U.N. vote on the status of Palestine, despite the Prime Minister reportedly being intent on siding with Israel and America in voting against the motion.

Local media reports Tuesday suggested Julia Gillard was roiled by a backbench revolt inside the Labor Party, but Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who supported abstaining, denied the charges.

Expressing disappointment at the decision, Peter Wertheim, the executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said: "Rightly or wrongly, the decision to abstain will damage Australia’s international reputation for moral leadership on international issues, and thus our international standing.”

The opposition Liberal Party's Julie Bishop argued that the vote on whether to upgrade Palestine's status at the U.N. is "an attempt by Palestinian leaders to enable them to bring action against Israel through the international courts."

But Gillard and Carr issued a joint statement Tuesday backing the decision to abstain. "The Government’s position balances our long-standing support for the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and their own state with our concern that the only durable basis for resolution of this conflict is direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians," it said.

"Australia strongly supports a negotiated two-state solution that allows a secure Israel to live side-by-side with a secure and independent future Palestinian state." -- JTA

Hamas’ Lifeblood: Money

Saudi children in Jeddah deposit donations to aid the Palestinians of Gaza, January 2009.
(Omar Salem/AFP/Getty Images)
Saudi charities fund terrorists and their families—including Hamas’ late military chief Ahmed Jabari -- Gary M. Osen, Tablet

To read more, click here.

The archbishop's Jewish father

The new Archbishop of Canterbury's father, Gavin Welby, was a man of mystery, with a flair for reinvention and a story to rival that of the Great Gatsby.

Gavin Welby, the archbishop's father
The new archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, didn't even know his father's real name. He was born Bernard Weiler, the son of a Jewish emigre and an erratic alcoholic who once dated a Kennedy.
 Jason Lewis, Telegraph, UK

To read more, click here.

JCPA to Congress on budget: Remember the most vulnerable

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs is calling on Congress to think about “the most vulnerable among us” as it works on creating a budget and avoiding the fiscal cliff.

“We believe that deficit reduction should be carefully calibrated to ensure that the most vulnerable among us are protected, opportunity for all is promoted, and justice is pursued,” Rabbi Steve Gutow, president and CEO of JCPA, wrote in a letter that was delivered Monday to Congress.

“At this point, as millions remain out of work and the poverty rate continues to be unacceptably high, it is critical that the institutional pathways to prosperity remain open and wide,” the two-page letter said.

The letter, which lists numerous programs, calls on Congress to “support a balanced deficit reduction plan that promotes the health of our nation’s economy while also insuring the sustainability and effectiveness of anti-poverty programs.”

JCPA is the national policy umbrella group of the American Jewish community. -- JTA

World War II-era archbishop of Florence recognized as righteous gentile

Cardinal Elia Angelo Dalla Costa, the World War II-era Archbishop of Florence, has been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.

In an announcement issued Monday, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem said Dalla Costa was recognized as a righteous gentile earlier this year “for spearheading the rescue of hundreds of Jews in Florence during the Holocaust.” Dalla Costa died in 1961 at the age of 89.

Israel's Holocaust memorial said that during the Holocaust, Florence was the scene of a major rescue effort led by Dalla Costa and Jewish leaders, including Rabbi Nathan Cassuto.

“This Jewish-Christian network, set up following the German occupation of Italy and the onset of deportation of Jews, saved hundreds of local Jews and Jewish refugees from territories which had previously been under Italian control, mostly in France and Yugoslavia,” the Yad Vashem statement said.

It said Dalla Costa had “played a central role in the organization and operation of a widespread rescue network, recruited rescuers from among the clergy, supplied letters to his activists so that they could go to heads of monasteries and convents entreating them to shelter Jews, and sheltered fleeing Jews in his own palace for short periods until they were taken to safe places.”

A number of testimonies bear witness to his personal involvement in rescue activities, according to Yad Vashem. For example, Lya Quitt testified that she “fled from France to Florence in the beginning of September 1943 and was brought to the Archbishop's palace where she spent the night with other Jews who were being sheltered there. The following day they were taken to different convents in the city.”

Yad Vashem said it could not find any next of kin for Dalla Costa, so his Righteous Among the Nations medal would be kept at Yad Vashem. -- JTA

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

From Israel a new lab test to ID early lung cancer

If a certain percentage of the cells show abnormal fluorescent patterns, that indicates lung cancer
Israel’s BioView is pairing its imaging technology with fluorescent DNA markers to help doctors find this deadly cancer before it’s too late. -- Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs  

To read more, click here.

Reform congregation websites hosted by URJ are hacked

The websites of several congregations hosted by the Union for Reform Judaism were hacked and linked to anti-Semitic websites.

Following the weekend hacking, the URJ pulled down the websites for scanning and clean-up, according to Mark Pelavin, the URJ's senior advisor to the president.

In an e-mail to JTA, Pelavin said the sites were set to be brought back online by Monday evening, adding that URJ made some changes to its security protocol.

The hackers appear to be a group calling itself Moroccan Ghosts, according to Jeffrey Salkin, the Anti-Defamation League's New Jersey community director.

Since March, Moroccan Ghosts has hacked some 82 websites, mostly in the United States, but also in France, Britain, Vietnam, South Africa, Germany, Spain and China, the ADL said. The Facebook page of Moroccan Ghosts includes graphics reading "Free Palestine," as well as an Israeli flag ripped in half and on fire.

A member of the group, a 17-year-old hacker from Morocco who calls himself King Neco, in an interview from over the summer with Eduard Kovacs on the Softpedia website, identified as part of the organization's objectives "Defending Palestine and Jerusalem 'al Qods.' " --JTA

Dutch TV airs fake Netanyahu speech about targeting Gaza civilians

A Dutch news show stirred controversy with a fake video of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bragging to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about civilian deaths in Gaza.

“We are trying to maximize the number of civilian casualties. We prefer that,” Netanyahu is seen telling Clinton in the video, which the broadcaster Vara aired on Nov. 21 as part of the satirical corner of the prime-time news show De Wereld Draait Door. Approximately 1.5 million viewers watch the show every evening.

The video, made to appear genuine through seamless splicing of sound bites from previous speeches by Netanyahu, was spread by thousands of Twitter and Facebook users who advertised it under the headline “Netanyahu finally tells the truth.”

“We are conducting these surgical operations against schools, mosques, hospitals, children,” Netanyahu is heard saying, adding, “This is something I don’t have to explain to Americans.”

De Telegraaf, the Netherlands’ largest-circulation daily, reported that the video irked Israel’s supporters here.

“The video is tasteless but the show’s satirical corner spares no one, so this isn’t about agenda,” said Esther Voet, deputy director of the pro-Israel Center for Information and Documentation on Israel. “The problem is that the clip is humorless and technically a good forgery, so many people don’t understand its satirical nature.”

Timon Dias, a Sri Lanka-born columnist for the Dagelijkse Standard -- the Dutch equivalent of the Huffington Post -- said the video is “reminiscent of the many blood libels that already exist about Israel and Jews.” -- JTA

Poland’s Real Jewish Revival

(Photoillustration IvyTashlik; original photo Shutterstock Shutterstock)

Their parents and grandparents hid their Jewishness, but now some Poles are converting back to Judaism -- Denise Grollmus, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Polish court reportedly rules against allowing ritual slaughter

A constitutional court in Poland reportedly has ruled against allowing Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter in the country.

The Warsaw court’s ruling, which was made known on Tuesday, said the government had acted unconstitutionally when it exempted Jews and Muslims from stunning animals before slaughtering them as their faiths require, according to Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland.

Kadlcik told JTA that in addition to the special exception announced by the Polish Ministry of Agriculture, Jewish ritual slaughter, or shechitah, is permissible under the 1997 Law on Regulating the Relations between the State and the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland.

“It appears there is a legal contradiction here and it is too early to tell what this means,” he said. "We are seeking legal advice on this right now."

Poland has approximately 6,000 Jews, according to the European Jewish Congress.

According to Kadlcik, Poland has no kosher slaughterhouses but locally slaughtered kosher meat is nonetheless served at kosher cantines across the country.

“I’m not sure we will be able to keep serving meat there,” he said. -- Cnaan Liphshiz, JTA

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More travel restrictions for women in Saudi Arabia

A fully veiled Saudi woman walks into a mall in Riyadh.
Women's "guardians" are notified whenever one leaves the country.
When word started spreading last week that Saudi women -- already some of the most oppressed and restricted in the world -- were being monitored electronically as they left the country, activists were quick to express their outrage.

"It's very shameful," said Manal Al-Sharif, who became an icon of female empowerment in 2011 after defying the conservative kingdom's driving ban and encouraging other Saudi women to do the same.

Al-Sharif was one of the first prominent Saudis to start tweeting about the electronic monitoring issue -- describing the shock experienced by a couple she knew after the husband received a text message alerting him his wife had left Saudi Arabia, even though they were traveling out of the country together.

What surprised and disturbed them most, Al-Sharif told CNN, was the fact that the husband had not registered with the Interior Ministry to begin receiving such notifications. -- Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN

To read more, click here.

Women traveling alone are not allowed to enter the country unless they will be met at the airport by a husband, a sponsor or male relative. The Saudi Embassy advises women to dress conservatively in public; that means wearing ankle-length dresses with long sleeves and not pants. In many areas, particularly the capital, Riyadh, women are pressured to wear a full-length black covering called an abaya and to cover their heads. Women in restaurants not accompanied by a male relative often are not served, and religious police known as the Mutawwa travel in public watching for violations of social mores. Any public display of affection is considered offensive. A woman traveling with a man who is not her husband, sponsor or a male relative can be arrested. -- Jean Mann, Demand Media

To read more, click here.

Gaza imam’s edict: Violating cease-fire would be a sin

A Muslim imam in Gaza has issued a religious edict, or fatwa, that says it is a sin to violate the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Suleiman al-Daya issued the fatwa on Saturday night, according to Haaretz, after a top Hamas official said the terrorist organization would continue to stockpile arms although it was prohibited under the agreement brokered last week by Egypt. 

"Honoring the truce, which was sponsored by our Egyptian brethren, is the duty of each and every one of us," al-Daya said in his edict. "Violating it shall constitute a sin." -- JTA

American Networks Pick Up New Israeli Shows

Keshet Media Group
Israeli broadcaster Keshet continues to attract American television networks to its shows — though not necessarily American audiences.

With the exception of Showtime’s “Homeland,” the network has had no significant hit here. Its most recent export, the reality series “3,” succumbed after just two airings.

Not to worry. CBS just optioned “Mother’s Day,” a show about a 40-year-old single mom of three who has to juggle love, friendship and her career — and does so by lying.

Keshet sold two other shows as well. NBC closed a deal for M.I.C.E. (an acronym for “money, ideology, coercion and ego”) with Peter Berg of “Friday Night Lights” executive producing, writing and directing at least the pilot. It’s based on “Gordin Cell,” about a decorated Israeli Air Force pilot unaware that his immigrant parents are Russian spies.

ABC has given a go-ahead for “Tribes,” based on the series “Your Family or Mine.” A young couple come to realize they didn’t just marry each other, they married each other’s families. -- Curt Schleier, Forward

To read more, click here.

Amnesty International takes disciplinary action over official's tweet targeting Jewish parliamentarians

The leading human rights group Amnesty International (AI) has started disciplinary action against a senior member of staff at its London headquarters after he posted an offensive tweet targeting Jewish members of the British parliament. In a message he posted on Tuesday, Kristyan Benedict, AI’s campaign manager, said “Louise Ellman, Robert Halfon and Luciana Berger walk into a bar... each orders a round of B52s #Gaza.” Benedict was alluding to B-52 long-range strategic bombers, which is also the name of a popular cocktail, in his reference to three Jewish members of parliament. -- World Jewish Congress

To read more, click here.

Montreal radio host suspended over caller’s anti-Semitic statements

A Montreal radio host was suspended for indulging a caller who made anti-Semitic statements on the air.

Jacques Fabi on his show last week on CHMP 98.5 FM did not criticize the woman during her four-minute call for comparing Israelis to dogs and saying that the Holocaust was "the most beautiful thing that happened in history," the QMI news agency reported.

After the caller made the Holocaust comment, Fabi replied, "I wouldn't dare say something like that." Later he said, "You know that in this democratic country, you can't ever say anything offensive toward Israelis because it could cost you dearly. You can't ever have negative views of any nature toward the Jewish people, or there will be serious consequences. That's how it is."

A few minutes later, Fabi said that one must "wear white gloves when talking about this nice Jewish population of Montreal." According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., he also said, "If you asked me if the Jewish population can sometimes be annoying, I would say yes."

At no point did Fabi reproach the caller for making the anti-Semitic remarks or denounce the remarks themselves.

David Cote, a CHMP spokesman, told the QMI news agency that Fabi's comments were "unacceptable" and that the station has issued "sanctions" against him.

QMI reported that Fabi has been suspended, but it was unclear for how long.

B'nai Brith Canada is demanding an apology from the station and has sent letters of complaint to broadcast regulators. -- JTA

Monday, November 26, 2012

Kids under fire attend school via computer

While images of rockets from Gaza being shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome missile interception system have dominated the news, a quieter success story is transforming the beleaguered southern part of the country.

School may be suspended during the height of the fighting, but learning continues for many students – even in bomb shelters – thanks to technology that has been tested and deployed in recent years by World ORT, the world’s largest Jewish vocational training organization.

In the past week, World ORT Representative in Israel Avi Ganon, who manages the organisation’s Kadima Mada Technology Excellence Program, and several of his most dedicated staff members, have been dodging missiles as they shuttle between World ORT’s after-school programs in southern Israeli communities like Kiryat Gat and hand out laptops for students to use at home and in bomb shelters.

This emergency program is co-funded with the Jewish Federations of North America. So far, Ganon and his team have distributed 88 laptop computers in Kiryat Gat, 24 in Sha’ar HaNegev and 30 in Beersheba so that kids can stay connected.

 The laptops can be used for any purpose – they belong to the students themselves – although one suggested program stands out: a special adaptation of Kadima Mada’s innovative distance-learning system that has so far been used to enable sick pupils to “attend” school via laptop from their hospital beds.

As part of the emergency initiative, Kadima Mada is making available free “hours” of lessons on its platform to students in shelters, as well as additional hours to students already studying in the Soroka (Beersheba) and Barzilai (Ashkelon) hospitals under siege.

A total of 34 hospitals – including seven psychiatric units – are now covered by the program, which addresses Israeli law that requires children staying longer than 3 days in the hospital attend some sort of “school,” virtual or otherwise.

The need for the emergency expansion is clear. According to World ORT’s statistics, 10 of the organization’s schools, serving thousands of students in cities including Ashkelon, Ashdod and Gan Yavneh, have been closed due to the hostilities, as has been its “YOUniversity” Center of Excellence in Kiryat Gat. The latter is a World ORT-backed after-school education enrichment program that teaches science and technology to teenagers in five Israeli development towns: Safed, Nazareth, Dimona and Nahariya, in addition to Kyriat Gat.

Since students currently can’t get to the center’s Kyriat Gat location, this week the professor who teaches YOUniversity’s Applied Physics course brought the class to them, enthralling 20 teens in a local bomb shelter. Another YOUniversity plan will tomorrow bring a bus of students from Kyriat Gat to the center’s Nahariya campus for a day of R&R – enjoying the beach, going horseback riding, relaxing at the country club – as well as the usual high-level science activities.

Kadima Mada has partnered with the Israeli Ministry of Education and the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee on an ambitious program to create 1,000 “smart classrooms.”

The Schulich Canada Smart Classroom project is outfitting schools with interactive whiteboards, in-class voting “wands” and tablet computers for teachers to monitor their students’ progress in real time. Several hundred classrooms are already up and running. The project, which began in 2007, is due to be completed in 2013 at a cost of nearly $30 million.

World ORT is active in 100 countries and has benefited more than three million people – Jews and non-Jews – since its founding in 1880. Its initiatives annually reach some 200,000 people, both young and old, Jewish and non-Jewish, through a network of schools, colleges, training centers and programs in Israel, Russia, Argentina and many other nations. -- Brian Blum, Israel21c

Proposed measure would ensure kosher food goes to neediest pantries

Two New York lawmakers introduced legislation to ensure that kosher food pantries receive enough food as part of the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program.

Under the legislation introduced Monday by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Joe Crowley, both Democrats, the Department of Agriculture would target, label and track the distribution of kosher food to guarantee that meals are directed to kosher food banks most in need. Kosher meals currently are not tracked to make sure they end up in kosher pantries or specific communities.

“With food insecurity in New York reaching disturbing, historic highs and food banks facing extreme shortages of kosher meals, many families are at risk of hunger and malnutrition,” Gillibrand told JTA. “We must take steps to help the neediest observant families and children get access to nutritious food during these difficult times."

Crowley said, "Our legislation will help make it easier for these food banks to provide kosher meals and food items, helping them to better meet the needs of the communities they serve.”

According to William Rapfogel, CEO of New York's Met Council human services agency, nearly 400,000 poor or near-poor Jewish households citywide are struggling to get by and approximately 52,000 Jewish children are living in poverty. -- JTA

Canadian Islamic group charges Jewish school uses racist textbook

A Canadian Islamic organization is accusing a Toronto-area Jewish day school of using a textbook that vilifies Muslims.

In a Nov. 19 letter to Jewish groups, the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR-CAN, charges that a textbook used at the Joe Dwek Ohr HaEmet Sephardic School employs "inflammatory and hateful terms in describing Muslims."

CAIR-CAN alleges that the book, "2000 Years of Jewish History," describes Muslims as "rabid fanatics" with "savage beginnings."

"The entire chapter devoted to Islam presents a pernicious andextreme portrayal of Muslims and the Islamic faith. The material further denigrates the Prophet Muhammad as a 'rabid Jew-hater,' and falsely portrays Islam as inherently anti-Semitic and devoted to hating Jews," the group said in its letter to the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center For Holocaust Studies and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, or CIJA.

It said the text is used in grade 7 and 8 girls' classes at the Orthodox Jewish day school and "leaves impressionable young Jewish readers with a sense of suspicion and even intolerance towards their fellow Canadians."

The group wants the Centre for Jewish Education of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto to investigate.

No one from CIJA, the Wiesenthal Center or Ohr HaEmet responded to JTA's requests for comment.

CAIR-CAN's salvo comes on the heels of an investigation by Toronto-area police of a local Islamic school. Earlier this month, police cleared the school of hate crimes allegations following a complaint by Jewish groups. York Regional Police found that teaching materials at the East End Madrassah attacked Jews and "suggested intolerance," but were not criminal.

Part of the madrassah's curriculum encouraged boys to keep fit for jihad, compared Jews to Nazis, and referred to "Jewish plots and treacheries."

The complaint "prompted change" at the madrassah, noted CAIR-CAN in its letter, adding that the group "welcomes that change."

When police began their probe, the Toronto District School Board,  which rented space to the school, revoked its permit and the madrassah had to relocate. -- JTA

Israeli Doctors Uncovering Autism Links

Tel Aviv University campus
A new Tel Aviv University and Sheba Medical Center study has demonstrated that autism spectrum disorders share a common root cause with psychiatric illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar, the Jerusalem Post reported. Dr. Mark Weiser of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Sheba Medical Center has discovered that a family history of psychiatric diseases such as bipolar and schizophrenia is a risk factor for autism.

Based on studies conducted in both Israel and Sweden, children whose parent or sibling had schizophrenia were 2.6 to 2.9 more likely to have autism, while children whose parent or sibling had bipolar were 1.6 to 1.9 more likely to have autism, Fox News reported. Three data sets, two based in Sweden and one based in Israel, were used for this study to uncover the link between these mental illnesses. “We found the same results in all three data sets,” Weiser noted. -- Rachel Avraham, United with Israel

To read more, click here.

Opinion: The war on men

The battle of the sexes is alive and well. According to Pew Research Center, the share of women ages eighteen to thirty-four that say having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their lives rose nine percentage points since 1997 – from 28 percent to 37 percent. For men, the opposite occurred. The share voicing this opinion dropped, from 35 percent to 29 percent.

Believe it or not, modern women want to get married. Trouble is, men don’t.
 -- Suzanne Venker, Fox News.

To read more, click here.

Thursday, November 22, 2012



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Great American Deli Rescue

Bringing Jewish Eateries Back From Oblivion
Wise Sons: Evan Bloom (left) and Leo Beckerman serve up nouveau deli in San Francisco.
Courtesy Evan Bloom

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the American deli was in dire straits. The last quality holdouts, like the iconic Katz’s Deli in New York and Langer’s Deli in Los Angeles, were still going strong, but the deli landscape overall was rather desolate. Even in New York — dotted with as many as 3,000 to 4,000 delis only a few generations ago — just a handful of vibrant eateries remained.

For three years, writer David Sax visited delis in America and abroad to bear witness to an institution that was holding on for dear life. In his 2009 book, “Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen,” he describes feeling alternately hopeful and despairing. Delis faced “tremendous odds,” he wrote.

Today, there is a deli renaissance afoot.  -- Devra Ferst, Forward

To read more, click here.

Montreal gets its first Jewish mayor

Michael Applebaum
Photo from
The job may be temporary, but Montreal has its first Jewish mayor.

Michael Applebaum, 49, won a City Council vote to serve as interim mayor for a year, with a promise not to run in the next municipal election, which is slated for November 2013. He also is the first Anglophone mayor in a century of the predominantly French-speaking Canadian city.

Applebaum, who was elected to the City Council in 1994, replaces Gerald Tremblay, who resigned last week in a corruption scandal that linked him to graft and organized crime.

Elected to City Council in 1994, Applebaum is the first Jewish person to assume the office of mayor. The highest ranking Jewish official in municipal history was Joseph Schubert, who served as acting mayor of the city for three months in 1927 in a role that would be more accurately be understood today as deputy mayor or mayor pro tem.

Bilingual, though with rusty French, Applebaum was seen as a dark horse to succeed Tremblay. But he built support among his council colleagues.

"Mazel tov, Michael, on becoming the first Anglo-Jewish temporary interim mayor in Montreal history!" joked longtime Montreal Gazette columnist Josh Freed. The city's Jewish Twittersphere, he added, "is filled with jokes celebrating the unexpected victory, like one that said: 'Who's Montreal's most powerful new figure? Applebaum's mother.' " -- JTA

Harvard limits non-Jewish access to kosher meals

Harvard University Dining Services has moved to curb the number of non-Jewish students at Harvard Hillel who eat at the kosher dining hall.

A sign posted Nov. 9 at the entrance of the dining hall limited entry to “a member or an invited guest of Harvard’s diverse Jewish community,” The Harvard Crimson reported.

“The most important part of Hillel’s mission is hospitality,” Harvard Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Jonah Steinberg told The Crimson. “[The restriction] creates conflict with our inclusive and welcoming environment, but I understand HUDS’s concern about its budget.”

According to Steinberg, who has been in contact with HUDS, kosher meals at Hillel cost twice as much to prepare as meals in other dining halls.

“I don’t know how you could visually single out individuals as belonging or not belonging in a community,” Steinberg said. “I just hope we will work out a way with HUDS to make Hillel both a cost-efficient and a welcoming institution.” -- JTA

Israel fighting off millions of cyber attacks

Israel has repelled some 44 million cyber attacks on government websites since the start of Operation Pillar of Defense, a government minister said.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told reporters Sunday that all the attacks have been thwarted except one, which brought down a website for a short time.

On Saturday, the online terror group Anonymous announced that it had brought down 700 Israeli private and public websites, including the websites of several Israeli government offices, such as the Foreign Ministry and the Kadima Party. It did bring down the Foreign Ministry's Mashav department website, which coordinates Israeli aid missions to foreign countries, and the Kadima website remained down as of Sunday night.

The group also said it erased the database of the Bank of Jerusalem, though the bank's website is operational. It also released the personal information, including national ID number and e-mail, of at least 35,000 Israelis.

"For far too long, Anonymous has stood by with the rest of the world and watched in despair the barbaric, brutal and despicable treatment of the Palestinian people in the so called 'Occupied Territories' by the Israel Defense Force. But when the government of Israel publicly threatened to sever all Internet and other telecommunications into and out of Gaza they crossed a line in the sand," Anonymous said in a statement.

“We are ANONYMOUS and NO ONE shuts down the Internet on our watch. To the IDF and government of Israel we issue you this warning only once. Do NOT shut down the Internet into the 'Occupied Territories,' and cease and desist from your terror upon the innocent people of Palestine or you will know the full and unbridled wrath of Anonymous.”

One year ago, Anonymous launched a cyber attack on several Israeli government and military websites, including government ministries, the Mossad and the IDF, after Israel intercepted Gaza-bound ships attempting to break the naval blockade. -- JTA

Alumni of Canadian college angry over honorary degree for Carter

Queen's University in Canada is facing a backlash from some Jewish alumni over its decision to confer an honorary degree to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, a strong critic of Israel.

Shimon Fogel, head of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, told the National Post newspaper that his organization has received about 50 "angry and frustrated inquiries" from Queen's graduates concerned that the university in Kingston, Ontario, will confer the degree on Carter, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who has described Israel as an apartheid state.

"It's just a huge lightning rod for distress and disappointment," Fogel told the Post. "[Carter] simply doesn't meet the test of somebody that is seeking to offer a constructive contribution towards advancing peace. And it's in that context that we'd express real disappointment that a leading institution like Queen's would further legitimize or validate him by conferring on him this kind of award."

Carter, 88, and his wife, Rosalynn, are expected to attend the Queen's convocation in Kingston on Wednesday to accept honorary degrees paying tribute to "their philanthropic and advocacy work in areas such as housing and mental health," according to a statement from Queen's principal Daniel Woolf on the university website.

It will be Carter's first honorary degree from a Canadian university.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs pointed to Carter's 2006 book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," in which the former president characterized Israel as an apartheid state and questioned its commitment to a two-state solution. Three years later Carter apologized to the American Jewish community for "stigmatizing Israel" and asked for forgiveness.

While he's sure Queen's intended to honor Carter for his human rights work alone, Fogel said the university "failed to do their due diligence that would have flagged [his views on Israel] as problematic." -- JTA

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

US Jewish paramedics arrive in Israel to volunteer with MDA

Fourteen Jewish paramedics from New York will arrive in Israel on Friday afternoon to volunteer with Magen David Adom, MDA said on Friday.

They will be the first of dozens of paramedics scheduled to arrive from all over the world in the upcoming days to join and assists MDA paramedics in the South. --Jerusalem Post

More details to follow. See the Jerusalem Post.

Around the world, rallies held for and against Israel’s Gaza operation

Rallies in support of and against Israel's ramped-up military operation in the Gaza Strip were held throughout the world.

In Australia, about 4,000 Jews in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra joined in solidarity with Israel on Sunday in what rallies that were dubbed as “Code Red” by the Zionist Federation of Australia. The participants, many dressed in red, heard the 15-second “code red” siren that has echoed across Israel this week as Hamas continued to fire rockets across the Gaza border.…

Several European cities, including The Hague and Brussels, have seen protests against the Israeli offensive. -- JTA

To read more, click here.

Opinion: Rupert Murdoch’s Tweet About the ‘Jewish Owned Press’ Is Dumb and Offensive

Peter Beinart

Murdoch’s tweet that the press is ‘Jewish owned’ is downright dumb and offensive. Peter Beinart on the remarkable amount of idiocy and nastiness stuffed into 140 characters. -- Peter Beinart, Daily Beast

To read more and view related video, click here.

Rupert Murdoch Slams 'Jewish Owned' Media Bias

Media Mogul: Jewish Outlets Criticize Israel Too Much 
Rupe Tweets: Rupert Murdoch accused Jewish media outlets of being too critical of Israel.
getty images
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch slammed ‘Jewish owned’ media outlets for being too critical of Israel in its confrontation with Gaza.

The News Corp. chief Tweeted his feelings Saturday, but did not explain which outlets he was referring to, Politico reported.

“Why Is Jewish owned press so consistently anti- Israel in every crisis?” he asked on Twitter.

Murdoch, who portrays himself as a strong supporter of Israel, did not elaborate. But he did mention some media groups by name in another Tweet. -- Forward

To read more, click here.

Opinion: Facebook and the War from B'nai Brith Canada

As a recent convert to the world of Facebook, I am overwhelmed by its content and the extent to which individuals reveal their innermost emotions via the social media.

With the Jewish State, finally responding to the numerous missile attacks on its civilian population and, in return, much of Israel coming under a new barrage of the Iranian weaponry, Facebook seems to be an ideal petri dish for ideas, thoughts and feelings on the serious issues of the day.

The emotions displayed by many of my Evangelical Christian friends, who have been posting photographs of religious Jewish soldiers praying at historic holy sites, fill numerous Facebook pages with deeply moving content.One can hear the anguish in their messaging and, at the same time, feel their total resolve and conviction that the Almighty will not abandon the Jewish people and that will once again be victorious.

Equally touching were the many messages from my Israeli friends and several within the Orthodox community here in posted. They, like the Christian Evangelicals, have complete faith and hope and trust in the Almighty that he will once again protect his people. Their comments, insights, rabbinical sayings and the images they post all give tremendous chizuk- strength.

My secular Zionist friends have been equally adamant in their support for Israel and angered at the outrage of those in the media who portray a false image of what has transpired, in the context of Israel’s need to respond to the ongoing hostility directed against it by Gaza’s terrorist masters.

Yet there is another element of life with Facebook that has simply surprised me.For many of my Facebook friends, life goes on as if nothing is happening to the Jewish people.Instead we see pictures of cute dogs and cats chasing balls and comments from people describing their fine dining experiences or simply what they ate for supper. Their Facebook photos show fresh smiling faces, which appear totally oblivious to the fact that there is a war in the world in which, once again, six million Jews are coming under fire. It seems to have slipped under their radar screen.

I recall the outpouring of community concern in 1967, and again in 1973, and although there was no Facebook at the time, I am confident that no self-respecting, caring Jew would be writing and posting about the cute new trick that their dog learned this past weekend while the fate of is being determined.In this respect I think Facebook clearly demonstrates a growing disconnect between great numbers of the Jewish community and the general community as to the welfare and future of the Jewish State.

Perhaps for the general community, it is just another skirmish somewhere in the world and they are certain will once again be victorious because, after all, it is portrayed as a giant in the .However, in terms of the Jewish groupings on Facebook, I am concerned that it seems to be business as usual, with all the day-to-day pettiness being posted for friends to examine and comment on.Indeed, there are dozens of comments on new recipes or on the ubiquitous photos of animals, while our brothers and sisters in run for bomb shelters in fear of their lives.
I am blessed that the overwhelming numbers of my friends on Facebook share the convictions that I have and the desire to bring the truth about the dangers faces to the world. As for the rest, perhaps Facebook reflects a disconnect with reality that should give us pause.

I am delighted that the ability to spread the word has become easier, but I despair when I think of all those individuals whose days and lives are not touched by events now unfolding throughout the .I pray that these individuals find it within their hearts to use whatever means is at their disposal – including Facebook – to speak up in defense of the Jewish people.

Our strength lies in unity. Now is the time to let your voice be heard. -- Frank Dimant, CEO, B'nai Brith Canada

Hamas detains foreign journalists in the Gaza Strip

Hamas is not allowing at least 22 foreign nationals who wish to exit the Gaza Strip for Israel to do so. Among the foreigners being detained are nine Italian citizens, one Canadian, one South Korean, a French national and six journalists from Japan. In addition, two Turkish Red Crescent members have been refused exit.

This violation of the human rights of neutral foreigners is yet another example of Hamas’ attempts to manipulate and pressure the press.

For its part, Israel is keeping the Erez crossing into Gaza open, allowing passage to the foreign press, diplomats and humanitarian workers. -- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Monday, November 19, 2012

Has the High Commissioner for Human Rights gone mute?

Israelis do have human rights. The High Commissioner simply does not care about them. -- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read more, click here.


From B'nai Brith Canada:

As the war against Israel continues to escalate, we in Canada can play an important part by standing up for accountability in our media.

Terrorism is a threat to democracy. The terrorist organization Hamas may have been elected in Gaza but that does not change the fact that it is a terrorist group.

Here are the facts:
1. Hamas was designated as a banned terrorist entity under Canadian law in 2002 by the Liberal Government
2. Hamas seeks the destruction of Israel, not peace. The Hamas Covenant states, "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.'

There can be no equivalency drawn between Israel's right to defend its citizens on one hand and attacks carried out by terrorists on the other.

Demand that Canadian media outlets (television, radio, print and online) call it as it is -- Hamas is not a Militant group, it is a banned Terrorist group.

Here are some Canadian media outlets you can monitor and express your concerns to:





Editor-in-chief: Doug Kelly



Editor: Margo Goodhand

Please be polite at all times.  

Copy your correspondence to B’nai Brith Canada

The top 10 ways Israel hopes to beat diabetes

Photo by
The latest numbers from the World Health Organization indicate that one in 10 people has diabetes — more than 346 million people worldwide. Diabetes means the pancreas doesn’t produce or release the hormone insulin as it should, so the body can’t metabolize sugars properly. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

Type 1 diabetes, or juvenile diabetes, is characterized by a lack of insulin production. Type 2 diabetes is caused by the body’s ineffective use of insulin, often resulting from excess body weight and physical inactivity.

Left untreated, either form of diabetes can lead to cardiovascular disease, blindness and kidney failure. Currently, it can be treated by injections of insulin, but there is no cure.

Despite its small size, Israel is a major player in diabetes research, with scientists searching for ways to provide better prevention, treatment, and ultimately a cure for this globally rampant disease. ISRAEL21c brings you the top 10 projects in the field. -- Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c

To read more, click here.

Dial H For Hebrew

Guilty Non-Jew: Alfred Hitchcock showed little interest in Jewish matters.
But guilt and blame certainly play major roles in his work.
Getty Images
Alfred Hitchcock’s reputation as one of the greatest film directors of all time is safely in the can, so all that’s left to deal with is the man himself. Two new films — “Hitchcock,” a biopic starring Anthony Hopkins, and the HBO film “The Girl,” about Hitch’s troubled relationship with actress Tippi Hedren — have attempted to do just that. These films attempt to humanize — or dehumanize or demonize — Hitchcock, depending on your point of view.

What neither of these films mentions, however, and what you probably won’t hear much about in the renewed discussion of Hitchcock, is the chapter of his career in which he lent his formidable directorial skills to the British army for what eventually became “Memory of the Camps,” a documentary consisting exclusively of footage of concentration camps in the days after their liberation by Allied forces. -- Seth Rogovoy, Forward

To read more, click here.

Pius Brotherhood leader rejects charges of anti-Semitism as "defamation"

The superior in the United States of the ultra-conservative Catholic breakaway group Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), Fr. Arnaud Rostand, has rejected as “defamation” charges that his group “teaches or practices anti-Semitism, which is a racial hatred of the Jewish people whether on account of their ethnicity, culture or religious beliefs." Rostand issued a statement to the ‘Catholic News Service’ in response to comments by Cardinal Kurt Koch, the top Vatican official in charge of relations with the Jews, who said the Vatican's reconciliation talks with the SSPX did not signal a willingness to accept priests or members who hold anti-Semitic positions. -- World Jewish Congress
To read more, click here.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Could the BBC have done more to help save Hungarian Jews?

Nearly half a million Hungarian Jews were killed in a matter of weeks in 1944 soon after German forces invaded their country. Mike Thomson reveals how the BBC's Hungarian Service could have warned them of their likely fate in the event of such an invasion, but did not do so.

To read more, click here.

Superman is Jewish?: People of the comic book

Nothing is quite so purely American as the comic book, which is why it will come as a surprise to some readers to discover that philosopher Harry Brod regards Superman and Spider-Man and many other comic-book characters to be uniquely Jewish artifacts that offer crucial insights into the Jewish experience in America. -- Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal

To read more click here.

Opinion: If There Were No Jewish Newspapers?

Gary Rosenblatt,
the editor and publisher of The Jewish Week of New York
Media unites the community across religious and political lines. -- Gary Rosenblatt, NY Jewish Week

To read the article, click here.

Tel Aviv’s ‘Pita Nazi’

Oved Daniel serves sabich at his Givatayim shop. (All photos Doron Farhi)

Sabich, the ultimate Israeli street food, has made a legend out of quirky store-owner Oved Daniel -- Dana Kessler, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Opinion: Just Say No to Margarine

Jews have been hooked on fake butter for a century. It’s time to banish it from our kitchens.
Invented by a French chemist in the 19th century, when Emperor Louis Napoleon III demanded a form of butter suitable for the armed forces and lower classes, margarine has been laying it on thick to convince the public of its advantages over its more natural (and better-tasting) older sibling ever since.

The Jewish love affair with margarine started in 1911 when Procter & Gamble pushed Crisco (its new “scientific discovery”) on every housewife in America, sending free samples to grocers and having “Crisco teas,” a phrase that made me gag until I realized it was more like a Tupperware party to introduce the stuff to women rather than a new kind of drink. -- Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Six women detained for wearing prayer shawls at Western Wall

Six women were detained by Jerusalem police for wearing prayer shawls at the Western Wall as more than 100 women gathered there for the monthly Women of the Wall service.

The detainments Thursday, on the first day of the Hebrew month Kislev, follow the arrest at last month's service of Women of the Wall leader Anat Hoffman. Hoffman was not at Thursday’s service, as she was banned from the Wall for 30 days following her arrest on Oct. 17.

The detainments occurred before the service began as women were putting on their tallitot.

“We came to pray, especially today, for the peace of the state,” said Lesley Sachs, one of the detainees, referring to fighting in Israel’s South between Israel and Hamas.

Women of the Wall has held a special prayer service at the holy site nearly each month for the last 20 years on Rosh Chodesh, or the beginning of new Hebrew month, at the back of the women's section. Western Wall regulations dictate that women cannot wear tallitot, or prayer shawls, as it contravenes the “local custom” as determined by the Western Wall’s chief rabbi.

In 2003, Israel's Supreme Court upheld a government ban on women wearing tefillin or tallitot, or reading from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall

While many of the women at the service wore tallitot, most wore them in the fashion of a scarf, sidestepping the regulation.

Following Hoffman’s arrest last month, the Israel Religious Action Center, which advocates for religious pluralism, said it planned to submit a petition to Israel’s Supreme Court aiming to change how the Wall’s regulations are decided at the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which administers the Wall. Hoffman told JTA last month that Women of the Wall hopes to be given one hour to pray every month.

A mix of younger and older women attended the service, along with a handful of male supporters.

“It’s important for me to support women and men who want to come one hour a month,” said Laura Wharton, another detainee. -- JTA

News Analysis: Deterrence is the idea behind Israel’s strikes in Gaza, but how far will conflict with Hamas go?

The Iron Dome defense system firing missiles to intercept incoming rockets
from Gaza in the port town of Ashdod, Nov. 15, 2012.
(Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
Wage war to make peace.

That’s the idea behind Israel’s strikes this week against Hamas targets in Gaza, including Wednesday’s attack that killed Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari.

What’s not clear is how far Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense will go, what price Israeli civilians will pay in the conflict, whether it will succeed in its goal of deterring Hamas from future attacks on Israel and what consequences there might be for Jerusalem’s fragile relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Egypt. -- Ben Sales, JTA

To read more, click here.

As offensive rages, Hamas resorts to disinformation

Palestinians in the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City following an Israeli air strike on November 14, 2012
(photo credit: Abd Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Islamic movement claims it struck Tel Aviv, while eulogizing its slain military leader; Abbas condemns rocket fire on Israel. -- Elhanan Miller, Times of Israel

To read more, click here.

Study: Orthodox Jewish males transmitted mumps in school

A mumps outbreak in New York and New Jersey in which 97 percent of the more than 3,500 cases were Orthodox Jews was a result of the way Orthodox boys are schooled, according to a new study.

A study on the June 2009 to June 2010 outbreak in New York City, two upstate New York counties and one New Jersey county home to a high percentage of Orthodox Jews appears in the Nov. 1  2012 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Adolescents 13 years to 17 years of age, representing 27 percent of all the patients, and males, representing 78 percent of patients in that age group, were disproportionately affected, according to the study abstract. Most of the boys had been vaccinated against the disease.

Most of the boys that contracted the disease studied in Jewish yeshiva high schools, "where students spend many hours daily in intense, face-to-face interaction," according to the study abstract, leading to the mumps' spread.

The study concluded that  "intense exposures, particularly among boys in schools, facilitated transmission and overcame vaccine-induced protection in these patients." -- JTA

N.J. kosher cheese company bidding for recovery after Sandy

The New Jersey warehouse of Anderson International Foods
lost power from superstorm Sandy,
making hundreds of thousands of boxes unusable.
(Chavie Lieber)
A flooded warehouse, decomposed wall beams, sodden sheetrock, crumbling brick walls, a fried electrical system and about $2 million worth of rotten cheese waiting to be chucked: That’s only a glimpse of the woes facing Brigitte Mizrahi.

Mizrahi owns Anderson International Foods, a small kosher cheese company she founded in 1995, and her warehouse is located in an industrial area of Jersey City about a mile from the Hudson River waterfront. Although the facility isn't in the designated flood zone, it was under four feet of water soon after superstorm Sandy blew through town two weeks ago. --  Chavie Lieber, JTA

To read more, click here.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Forward releases its list of the top 50 Jews in America

The Forward releases its list of the 50 most influential Jews in America.

Top Five are:
  • Sheldon Adelson
  • Alys Raisman
  • Philip Glass
  • Lena Dunham
  • David Zwiebel
To view the complete list and the accompanying article, click here.

Female kosher supervisors deemed 'immodest'

Women requesting to join courses training kashrut supervisors discover they are now open to men only. Emunah organization threatens to petition Israel High Court against Chief Rabbinate -- Ynet

To read more, click here.

Israeli volunteers head to N.Y. to help in Sandy relief efforts

A delegation of Israeli volunteers is on its way to the New York area to assist the Jewish community in the wake of superstorm Sandy.

The volunteers, young adult Russian speakers, will be in New York for 10 days to assist the Jewish community, with a focus on Russian speakers, according to the Jewish Agency.  They will help distribute food and other essential items to the elderly and provide social visits, as well as clean communal buildings and synagogues that suffered heavy damage in the storm.

The delegation includes volunteers from pre-army programs and other programs run by the Israeli Scouts, as well as former camp counselors at Jewish Agency summer camps in the former Soviet Union.

Some 200,000 Russian-speaking Jews reside in the northeastern United States in areas badly damaged by the storm. Many of the elderly Russian-speaking Jews live in multi-story buildings in the New York area, some of which are still without electricity or phone service. The storm also damaged Jewish communal buildings, causing the cancellation of many community and social services. -- JTA

Space-age rapid transit to debut in Tel Aviv

Magnets pull skyTran vehicles off the ground.
If all goes as planned, within two years Israelis will be the first people to try out a futuristic rapid transport system designed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California.

The skyTran uses two-person modules that drive along a guide rail suspended from existing power lines. Magnets in the vehicle create a magnetic field around the metal coil inside the rail, causing the vehicle to lift up and glide 60 miles per hour on a cushion of air. The system uses very little energy and potentially could be powered entirely by solar panels.

“Our objective is to build a pilot project here so that we can make Israel the center of the skyTran world,” CEO Jerry Sanders tells ISRAEL21c.

The first route, on which construction could begin next spring, would run from the high-tech center in Atidim through the Tel Aviv University train station to the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Port. Another installation might be placed on Netanya’s congested east side and a third would take people into and around Ariel Sharon Park, a huge public “green belt” in central Israel.

Personal rapid transit (PRT) alternatives are in hot demand worldwide – especially in big countries such as China and India — as a means to relieve traffic jams and energy consumption. Underground solutions are expensive and street-level solutions just add more congestion.

“We are the most sophisticated PRT on the market … and also the least expensive, greenest and most efficient,” asserts Sanders. -- Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c

To read more, click here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Commentary: Back to the Wall--A letter to my sister, ‘on the fence’

Anat Hoffman, the Women of the Wall leader
arrested last month in Jerusalem, says her group
will return to the Western Wall to pray on Thursday
and urges other Jewish women to join her.
Photo: Marc Israel Sellem /The Jerusalem Post

The rabbi and others want you, as a non-ultra-Orthodox woman, to go pray at Robinson’s Arch, and not at the Kotel, where Am Yisrael has prayed for thousands of years. -- Anat Hoffman, Jerusalem Post

To read more, click here.

For Congregation Leaders, Hurricane Is Taking a Toll

Rabbi Marjorie Slome, left, held the Sabbath service on Friday
at West End Temple in the Rockaways in Queens
where prayer books and Torah commentaries were ruined by flooding.
Kirsten Luce for The New York Times
...Across the vast region hit by Hurricane Sandy, dozens of houses of worship are dealing with an extraordinary circumstance. Normally, their clergy members and lay leaders would be spending these weeks occupied with the urgent mission of feeding and caring for congregants hurt by the storm. But leaders of congregations whose buildings were flooded, damaged or destroyed are finding themselves in the emotionally difficult position of having to ask for help themselves.

In the Rockaways section of Queens, Rabbi Marjorie Slome visits her Reform Jewish congregation, West End Temple, each day to see what she can salvage. All of the prayer books and Torah commentaries were ruined when flooding filled the basement and reached up to four feet on the first floor. The sanctuary, offices and social hall were covered in inches of muck.

“I fully expected to come in here on Tuesday and open up my temple to serve the community and let it be a food distribution place,” she said. “And we couldn’t. Instead, I’m going around telling volunteers helping us, ‘It’s unsanitary: put your mask on; wear your gloves.’ ”...

One aspect of the storm’s aftermath is how some clergy members are themselves suffering, said Rabbi Daniel Freelander, senior vice president of the Union for Reform Judaism. Some rabbis, he said, had told him they found the week after the storm “one of the most exhausting of their lives.”

Some clergy members remain without power in their own homes, yet they spend their days calling and visiting their congregants, helping them through their losses and isolation. “It’s an emotional overload,” Rabbi Freelander said. “It’s like having 30 funerals in a week.”

Some congregations have flood insurance, but others do not, adding to that stress. While offers of help have poured in from all over, matching the resources with the needs can itself be a bewildering full-time task, particularly when communication through landlines is spotty, and when so many congregants are displaced....

Jewish congregations took special steps to deal with damaged texts that they view as sacred. In Brooklyn, where Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe of Brighton Beach, a Lubavitch synagogue and school, had been flooded under six feet of water, worshipers laid waterlogged Torah scrolls across the pews in an effort to salvage the parchment. Chesed shel Emes, an Orthodox emergency recovery squad, rushed to Ohab Zedek Synagogue in Belle Harbor, Queens, to pull holy books out of the water-filled basement. And in the Rockaways, volunteers at the West End Temple separated out a pile of damaged prayer books that according to Jewish law need to be buried.  -- Sharon Otterman, NY Times

To read more, click here.

Canadian lawmaker Cotler calls for recognition of Jewish refugees

Canadian lawmaker Irwin Cotler proposed a motion in Parliament calling for government recognition of some 850,000 Jews forcibly displaced from Arab lands since Israel's creation in 1948.

In his Nov. 8 motion, Cotler, a former Canadian justice minister, noted that by rejecting the U.N.'s Partition Resolution of 1947-1948, Arab states "launched their double aggression of a war against the nascent Jewish state and assaults on their own Jewish nationals, resulting in two refugee populations, Palestinian refugees and Jewish refugees from Arab countries."

The time has come, said Cotler, "to restore the pain and plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries to the international peace and justice narrative from which it has been eclipsed these past 60 years."

The motion calls on Canada to recognize that since 1948, there have been more than 170 U.N. resolutions on Palestinian refugees, "yet not one resolution that makes any reference to, nor is there any expression of concern for, the plight of the 850,000 Jews displaced from Arab countries."

It also asks that the annual Nov. 29 commemoration by the United Nations of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People "should be transformed into an International Day of Solidarity for a Two-People, Two-State Solution -- as the initial 1947 Partition Resolution intended."

Cotler, of the Liberal Party, wants Ottawa to recognize "that any comprehensive Middle East peace agreement must address and resolve all outstanding issues relating to the legitimate rights of all refugees, including Jews, Christians and other populations, displaced from countries in the Middle East."

He expressed hope that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs will hold hearings on the matter similar to ones in the U.S. Congress, the Italian parliament and the British Parliament, before which Cotler testified as an expert witness. -- JTA

Israeli fund, citing overflow of requests, turns away Holocaust survivors

A fund that helps Israeli Holocaust survivors pay medical expenses told recipients that it would stop receiving applications until next year, citing an overflow of requests.

The Israeli news site Ynet reported that the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel this week suspended the transfer of funds to more than 8,000 survivors eligible for benefits.

The foundation has been receiving 100 to 150 such requests every day this year and thus far has paid out $7.7 million to 9,100 applicants. Its dedicated budget for such reimbursements has a shortfall of $5.1 million, Ynet reported.

Rony Kalinsky, the foundation's general manager, blamed the government for the budget shortage, according to Ynet. The Finance Ministry said it had increased its contribution in recent years. The foundation operates independently of the state.

The fund reimburses low-income survivors for medical bills of up to approximately $1,000 that they already have paid from their own pockets. The reimbursements cover dental services, hearing aids and prescription glasses.

Established in the 1990s, the foundation is funded by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which covers 60 percent of its budget. Another 30 percent comes from the Israeli Ministry of Finance, and the rest comes from other donors.

The organization's overall budget this year was $112.5 million. -- JTA

Israel’s scientists make inroads against Alzheimer’s disease

Prof. Moussa Youdim with the drug he developed
Advances in brain science, drug discovery and memory enhancement are helping in the fight against a devastating and fatal condition. -- Avigayil Kadesh, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read more, click here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Rescued from Kristallnacht, a family Torah reaches a new generation

Charlotte Smith and Rabbi Jerry Levy
at the dedication of the family Torah scroll rescued by
her great-great-grandfather, at AlmaVia,
a senior residence community in San Rafael, Calif., Oct. 2012.
|Julie Ann Kodmur)
It was the "Night of Broken Glass" in Germany, Kristallnacht -- a national pogrom of death and destruction of Jewish property and the rounding up of Jews -- and Dietrich (David) Hamburger was in hiding.

Hamburger was the leader of a small congregation that met in his home in Fuerstenau, a countryside village in what now is the province of Niedersachsen. Someone had warned him about the coming onslaught, and on Nov. 9, 1938 he went into hiding in the local Catholic hospital.

"The cover story was that he was in for a hernia," said Edith Strauss Kodmur, his granddaughter and the family's historian.

This spring -- 75 years later and a continent away at a Californian winery -- Kodmur's granddaughter will have her bat mitzvah. And Charlotte Ruth Smith on that day will read from the Torah scroll that her great-great-grandfather rescued soon after that tragic night. -- Edmon J. Rodman, JTA

To read more, click here.

500 Rabbis Join Push for Alan Gross Release

Protest Set in Florida as Cuba Orchestra Plays

Picture from the Forward

More than 500 rabbis urged the release of Alan Gross, citing the possibility that he has a cancerous growth.

"We would urge your government to release Mr. Gross on humanitarian grounds," said the letter sent Sunday to Cuban President Raul Castro. "Alternatively, if despite his and his family’s suffering over the past three years in prison you remain determined to detain him, we would urge you to allow a doctor of his choosing to evaluate and treat him for whatever medical conditions that he may have."

The letter cites an assessment last month of Gross' Cuban medical records by Dr. Alan Cohen, a radiologist in Bethesda, Md., that said what Cuban doctors identified as a hematoma behind Gross' right shoulder is likely a tumor.

"A soft tissue mass in an adult who has lost considerable weight must be assumed to represent a malignant tumor unless proven to be benign," Cohen wrote.

Most of the rabbis signing the letter are American and represent all streams, including leaders of religious umbrella bodies. A number of the rabbis are from Israel and Canada.

Gross, 63, of Potomac, Md., was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison for "crimes against the state." He was arrested in 2009 for allegedly bringing satellite phones and computer equipment to members of Cuba’s Jewish community while working as a contractor for the U.S. Agency on International Development.

Gross' wife, Judy, was due Sunday to join a rally for his release to take place outside a performance in West Palm Beach, Fla., by the Cuban Symphony Orchestra.

Half of Jewish communal organizations have taken significant steps to welcome gays and lesbians and their families, a new survey found.

A new survey of Jewish communal organizations found that 50 percent of them have taken significant steps to welcome gays and lesbians and their families.

The Jewish Organization Equality Index provides benchmarks for gauging and improving policies regarding gay, lesbian bisexual and transgendered persons at North American Jewish communal organizations. The index was released Sunday by the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT civil rights organization.

Some 204 Jewish communal organizations, or about 10 percent of the organizations invited to take part, participated in the survey.

The index found that 98 percent of participating membership-based organizations offer same-sex couples family memberships; 90 percent use inclusive terms in their publicity materials; and 73 percent have a written non-discrimination policy.

The index also found that 75 percent of participating organizations have not specifically recruited LGBT individuals to their lay leadership board in the past three years, and that 79 percent have not targeted the LGBT community in workplace recruitment efforts.

“We applaud the organizations that participated and are taking important steps to foster LGBT inclusion, but we still have a long way to go until LGBT Jews -- indeed, all Jews -- are embraced as full and vital members of the Jewish family in every aspect of communal life," said Lynn Schusterman, a major Jewish philanthropist and one of the index's funders. "We have an opportunity to use these findings to truly commit ourselves to the vital but challenging work of forging a culture in which inclusivity, diversity and equality are paramount. The question is: will we?”

Other funders include the Morningstar Foundation, Stuart Kurlander and an anonymous donor. -- JTA

Jewish Australian, 99, celebrates his bar mitzvah

A 99-year-old man living in Australia celebrated his bar mitzvah.

Isaac Volinsky joined a group of about 40 Jews from the former Soviet Union at a Chabad house near Sydney’s Bondi Beach last week for the first time.

When Rabbi Eli Schlanger discovered that Volinsky had never been to the weekly “120 Club” for elderly expatriate Soviets, he asked the Odessa native if he would like to put on tefillin. Schlanger said Volinsky told him he never had a bar mitzvah.

“It was an amazing scene,” Schlanger said. “The first time a Jewish boy puts on tefillin is regarded as his bar mitzvah and all the club members treated it as a simcha. They were all standing and singing ‘mazel tov.' ”

Schlanger, who speaks Yiddish and “enough Russian for the elderly to smile,” said Volinsky was “absolutely mobile and lucid.”

Volinsky, a former colonel in the Russian army, will celebrate his centenary in six months. -- JTA

London soccer club threatened with legal action if ‘Yid’ chants don’t stop

London's Tottenham Hotspur soccer team defended fans who call themselves "Yids," saying they adopted the term as a defense against anti-Semitic taunting.

The Society of Black Lawyers this week threatened to file a complaint with the Metropolitan Police by Nov. 20 unless Tottenham Hotspur and the Football Association make greater efforts to end what they say is anti-Semitic chanting.

In a statement in response, the team said the terms were used to push back against abuse.

"Our fans adopted the chant as a defense mechanism in order to own the term and thereby deflect anti-Semitic abuse," the team said. "They do not use the term to others to cause any offense."

Supporters of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club in the 1970s appropriated the terms "Yid," "Yiddo" and "Yid Army" as a defense against fans from opposing teams who taunted them with the epithets.

Tottenham is a north London neighborhood that in the early 20th century had a substantial Jewish population. The team has long enjoyed Jewish support and was one of the first British teams to farm Israel for players.

The Society of Black Lawyers says Tottenham's tolerance of the term encourages racist chants from fans of rival teams, often during matches held at Tottenham’s White Hart Lane stadium. -- JTA

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Chosen: Jews in the 113th Congress

The next US Congress will have 10 Jews in the Senate and 22 in the House of Representatives, a decline from the 113th Congress. -- JTA

To view more, click here.

Opinion: Let’s Dance at The Kotel

In another response to the recent arrest of Anat Hoffman, one rabbi argues that we need to stop battling for the religious outcomes of the Kotel and return to the business of being Jewish. -- Rabbi Ben Greenberg*, MyJewish Learning

Rabbi Greenberg is senior rabbi of BMH-BJ: The Denver Synagogue, Denver's largest and oldest Modern Orthodox synagogue

To read more, click here.

Hail to the chief: Americans eyed in search for Britain's top rabbi

David Karp / AP, file
Although the official selection committee for a new chief rabbi remains mum, the Jewish press has put Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, the leader of a thriving congregation in the Bronx on the most recent short list. Rosenblatt denies that he is a contender for the position. -- Rachel Elbaum, NBC News

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Intel injects $5m. in Israeli education project

Intel CEO Paul Otellini is in Israel to launch the chip-maker’s new partnership with the Ministry of Education. Their joint project includes a $5 million investment – by Intel – in Israeli high schools over the next four years. At a press conference in Jerusalem, Otellini said the project’s goal is “to double the number of high school students completing their science and technology matriculation certificate.” Intel is currently investing $100 million worldwide in education. “We are perhaps the largest private employer in Israel and most of those employees have technological know-how. Some of our most sophisticated engineering efforts are carried out in Israel,” said Otellini. “We have been in Israel for 40 years and we have done many things. We’re here for the long term and we will decide next year regarding our next factory,” he added. -- Israel21c

Sunday, November 11, 2012


This Sunday, November 11, is Veterans Day, the day on which we remember and honor men and women of the armed forces. What better way for members of Women's League for Conservative Judaism to commemorate this day then to contribute to the 2012 biennial convention's Value Our Vets chesed project.

In this initiative, Women's League members have undertaken the commitment to provide food and necessities for veterans (and their families) who stay temporarily at the West Los Angeles Fisher House while undergoing medical treatment at the Los Angeles VA facility. We are asking sisterhoods, individual members, family, and friends to provide gift cards for local grocery stores, restaurants and pharmacies that will help defray some of the costs incurred by the families. We will accept monetary donations and purchase gift cards that will be included as part of the major gift. Your contribution will be a small token of our respect and gratitude for those who have contributed so much.

Scientology makes few waves in Israel

The main hall of the Scientology center in port city of Jaffa Tel Aviv, Israel.
Ariel Schalit

The Church of Scientology has apparently found one place where its presence doesn't set off alarms, protests and demonstrations, and that place is one of the world's most religiously fraught countries, Israel.

In August, Scientology opened a gleaming new headquarters in the ancient port city of Jaffa, part of Tel Aviv. Since then, visitors and the curious have streamed through with no incidents.

And this in a country where Jews and Muslims harbor clashing claims over the same holy sites, sometimes sparking violence, and competing Jewish streams disparage each other openly and often.

Scientology has confronted charges in many countries that it is a dangerous cult that brainwashes its followers and confiscates their assets. Its leaders deny that....

Germany, France and Russia are among the governments that keep a close eye on Scientology, and court cases have been filed against the church in some places.

In contrast, there hasn't been much public opposition in Israel.

While a 1987 Israeli parliamentary commission declared it a cult, the practice of Scientology in Israel is legal. The new headquarters has some 200 staff and claims to serve thousands.  -- Lauren E. Bohn, The Associated Press via the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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