Friday, January 20, 2012

Israeli Oscar entry ‘Footnote’ qualifies for shortlist

“Footnote,” Israel’s Oscar entry for best foreign-language film, has qualified for the shortlist of nine semifinalists.

The shortlist, which was culled from submissions by 63 countries, was revealed Wednesday by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The films will be winnowed to five when the final nominations in all categories are announced Jan. 24. -- JTA

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Frederica Maas, one of Hollywood’s oldest, dies at 111

Frederica Sagor Maas
Frederica Sagor Maas, whose tell-all memoir of her experiences in early Hollywood made her a celebrity at nearly 100, died Jan. 5 at 111, the second-oldest Californian and the world's 44th oldest.

Maas's memoir,  "The Shocking Miss Pilgrim," told wild tales of rampant sex, corporate shenanigans, and theft of her creative efforts. She wrote about seeing “It Girl” Clara Bow dancing naked on a table at a party at a time when sex among Hollywood insiders was as “humdrum as washing your face or cleansing your teeth.”

The New York Times said Maas’s life was like the plot of an old-fashioned movie.” She was a copy assistant for a New York newspaper and then became an assistant story editor at Universal Pictures, where she trolled for movie script ideas on Broadway. She studied journalism at Columbia University but never graduated, because her passion for early films took her into the fledgling industry. -- Alan D. Abbey, JTA

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From Chancellor Eisen: Rabbinic Training Institute 2012

Prayer and Learning in the JTS Courtyard
I spent much of last week in the company of about 70 Conservative rabbis—participants in the annual workshop sponsored by JTS that is known informally as “rabbi camp” and formally as RTI, the Rabbinic Training Institute. The schedule includes text classes in the morning offered by faculty from JTS and other institutions (I co-taught a course with Rabbi Gordon Tucker on the nature and authority of mitzvah and halakhah). In the afternoons there are professional skills workshops offered by experts in the relevant fields (e.g., psychology or management). The evening program features small groups aimed at spiritual growth and intensely personal discussion. There is a lot of study, eating, praying, and talking, interspersed with a little exercise or rest. I don’t know how the rabbis felt about RTI this year (buzz was good, I think) but I know how I (one of the few non-rabbis on the premises) felt about it: energized, inspired, and more confident than ever about the future of Conservative Judaism. -- Arnold Eisen, Chancellor, JTSA

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Opinion: A Rabbi’s Changing Role

The job of rabbi has clearly evolved over the centuries, the idea of a “pulpit rabbi” being a thoroughly modern invention. There were no rabbis, as we think of them, in Judaism’s formative biblical times, and the earliest rabbis were teachers and masters of jurisprudence, not clergymen. To this day, it is still not universally accepted in the synagogue world that a rabbi must deliver a weekly sermon, as would a Christian preacher.

With each landmark advance, from the printing press to the telephone to the Internet, halachic rulings and erudite teachings became accessible to Jews beyond the confines of geography. From the earliest beginnings of the rabbinate, visiting the sick and comforting those who are in mourning and grieving was always part of the equation, to some extent. But the revolution of chasidim and the rebbe-chasid relationship increasingly shifted the dynamic to the interpersonal. And the job of rabbi continues to evolve, with the modern synagogue expecting that a rabbi be a pastor, social worker or counselor, as much as anything else, and often on weekdays and on late nights, rather than on Shabbat mornings alone.

The problem, such as it is, concerns how rabbis are trained to reflect the new demands and circumstances. -- NY Jewish Week

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Network to connect Ramah alumni

The Ramah camping movement has established a network to connect its thousands of alumni.

The Reshet Ramah initiative, which was announced Tuesday by The National Ramah Commission of The Jewish Theological Seminary, is being funded by $1.8 million in grants from the Avi Chai Foundation and the Maimonides Fund. The network also will offer an opportunity to enhance Jewish community involvement.

Some 250,000 participants and staff have attended Ramah camps and programs in the movement's 65-year history. Ramah, the camping arm of the Conservative Jewish movement, runs eight overnight camps and four day camps, as well as youth programming in Israel. More than 9,000 campers and staff members participate in Ramah programs each summer. 

In addition to helping to strengthen the Ramah movement, the network is designed to "recharge Jewish community and connections to Israel through new programming and partnerships with other Jewish organizations," according to a statement from Ramah issued Tuesday.

The global alumni network will feature "generational, geographic, and interest-based educational, spiritual, and Israel-focused programs," according to Ramah. Plans include regional and national shabbatons and other types of retreats at camps, online learning opportunities, and enhancement of programs such as the Ramah Service Corps. -- JTA

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Israeli American is owner of capsized cruise liner

Rescuers stand in a boat next to the Costa Concordia cruise ship
that ran aground off the west coast of Italy, at Giglio island on Jan. 15.
REUTERS/Remo Casilli
Israeli-American businessman Micky Arison is the CEO and chairman of the company that operates the cruise line whose ship ran aground off the Italian coast.

Arison, who also owns the National Basketball Association’s Miami Heat, is the head of the Carnival Corp., of which Costa Cruises is a subsidiary.

Arison, 62, is the son of the late Carnival Corp. founder Ted Arison. He is No. 169 on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires, with a net worth of $5.9 billion.

The luxury cruise liner Costa Concordia struck rocks near Giglio Island off the coast of Italy, tearing a hole in the hull, and began sinking on Jan. 13.  11 people are confirmed dead and up to 23 missing of the 4,200 passengers and crew on board the ship.

Arison said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened” by the disaster, The Wall Street Journal reported. -- JTA and Reuters via Jewish Journal

PA shares Israel's nuclear Iran fears

The Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Salam Fayyad,
The Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Salam Fayyad, has attacked the behaviour of Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and said that he shares Western - and Israeli - concerns with the Iranians' nuclear project.

Speaking in his Ramallah headquarters, Prime Minister Fayyad said that the Palestinians were "greatly harmed" by the Iranian leader's conduct.

President Ahmadinejad, he said, should stop acting as a supposed spokesman for the Palestinians. The Iranian president was concerned only with increasing Iranian influence in the region.  -- Stephen Pollard, Jewish Chronicle

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Winnipeg Conservative synagogue to host gay wedding ceremony

A Winnipeg synagogue is about to become the first Conservative shul in Canada to host a same-sex wedding ceremony.

On Jan. 21, Shaarey Zedek Synagogue will be the venue for the renewal of marriage vows between two men wed in a civil service in Vancouver in 2004, the Winnipeg Jewish Post and News reported. --JTA

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U.S. Jewish Population Pegged at 6 Million

New Separate Reports Add to Demographic Consensus

Two new independent studies have found that there are between 6.4 million and 6.6 million Jews living in the United States today, representing about 1.8% of the population. Though the studies used drastically different methodologies, they appear to point to a growing consensus on the number of Jews in America, a figure that has been elusive in recent decades.

“It seems we have different methods that are pointing to somewhat over 6 million Jews,” said Steven M. Cohen, a sociologist of American Jewry at the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at New York University’s Wagner School. “You consider the reliability of each study, and it seems that many are pointing in the same direction.”

The most recent figure of between 6.4 million and 6.6 million is about 20 percent higher than the previous estimate of 5.2 million proposed by the 2000 National Jewish Population Survey, which was sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America. That study has since been widely criticized as flawed, an assessment now accepted by the survey’s sponsor. -- Naomi Zeveloff, Forward

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Yiddish--Israel's Mother Tongue?

Mendy Cahan in Tel Aviv.
Photo by Daniella Cheslow
A passionate, crusading Yiddisher tries to keep the Eastern European language alive in the cosmopolitan center of the Jewish state
-- Daniella Cheslow, Tablet

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Will be away until Thursday!