Friday, March 2, 2012

Opinion--Tablets: Ultraconservatives get it wrong on birth control: Americans should embrace Judaism’s nuanced approach rather than adhering to absolutes

(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photos Shutterstock.com)
…[Former Arkansas governor and one-time Republican presidential hopeful Mike] Huckabee said “Thanks to President Obama, we are all Catholics now.”

We [Jews] are not. If anything, when it comes to the issue of birth control, we’re all Jews, and we pretty much have been for a very long time.

The issue of birth control in Jewish law is—little surprise here—an extremely complicated one. The discussion begins with the very first chapter of the Good Book, which contains the very first mitzvah­—pru u’rvu, be fruitful and multiply—two words that whipped generations of rabbis into a frenzy of interpretation. -- Liel Leibovitz, Tablet

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Jewish blogger against "convention"--Why She Wants You to Know She's Pregnant

Sybil Sanchez, six weeks pregnant after four miscarriages, writes that the social convention of waiting to announce a pregnancy is harmful to women who have struggled with fertility. -- Sybil Sanchez, The Sisterhood blog via Forward

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Haredim Close Ranks to Fight IDF Conscription

Rabbi Steinman: We must give up
our lives pushing back conscription
Photo by Yossi Shachar/FLASH90
According to Kipa, Members of the Haredi Knesset factions Sunday night [Feb. 25] met at the home of Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Steinman, a dean at the Ponovezh yeshiva and a leader of the Haredi Degel HaTorah party, to discuss the Haredi response to the High Court’s recent decision to annul the Tal Law. The decision could potentially force thousands of yeshiva students into military service.
-- Yori Yanover, Jewish Press

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Opinion: Mormon ritual is no threat to Jews

In a column many years ago, I described how I once attempted to chart a family tree. Most of my father’s family had been killed in Auschwitz, and my efforts to trace their genealogy left me, I wrote, with a family tree that “has stumps where branches ought to be’’ and “gets narrower, not wider, as it grows.’’

A woman phoned me the morning that column appeared. She said she was a Mormon, and wanted to add the names of my father’s massacred relatives — the column had mentioned about 18 of them by name — to the Mormon Church’s vast genealogical archives. I told her that I certainly had no objection. Indeed, I was grateful for any gesture that might help preserve some remembrance of these family members whose lives had been so cruelly cut short.

At the time I knew nothing about “baptism by proxy,’’ the ritual that Mormons believe gives even souls in the afterlife a chance to accept their faith and thus enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only later did I learn that some Mormons, eager to save the souls of dead Jews, had taken to submitting the names of Holocaust victims for posthumous baptism.

The discovery didn’t trouble me at all. In Judaism, conversion after death is a concept without meaning; no after-the-fact rites in this world can possibly change the Jewishness of the men, women, children, and babies whom the Nazis, in their obsessive hatred, singled out for extermination. I found the Mormons’ belief eccentric, not offensive. By my lights, their efforts to make salvation available to millions of deceased strangers were ineffectual. But plainly they were sincere, and intended as a kindness. -- Jeff Jacoby, Boston Glove

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'Israel doesn't need recognition as Jewish state'

Photo by Ariel Jerozolimski

Former Mossad Chief Efraim Halevy states any treaty or agreement signed with Israel is tantamount to recognition, says unlike Jordan, Egypt, a Syrian peace deal was scuttled over recognition. -- Greer Fay Cashman, Jerusalem Post

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Breaking News:Beren Academy prevails in Texas tourney controversy

A Texas athletic league has reversed course and will reschedule tournament games that will enable a Jewish day school, the Robert M. Beren Academy of Houston, to compete.

The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, known as TAPPS, decided Thursday to reschedule a state boys' basketball tournament semifinal so that the Beren Academy of Houston can compete without violating the Jewish Sabbath. The game, which had been scheduled for 9 p.m. Friday, instead will be played in the afternoon.

The decision came just hours after the announcement that the team captain, along with teammates and parents, had enlisted the support of a prominent Washington attorney and filed a lawsuit against TAPPS and the Mansfield Independent School District, whose facilities are hosting the semifinals and finals of the 2A tournament.

TAPPS had previously declined two appeals this week from Beren to reschedule the game, which was to feature the Modern Orthodox school against Dallas Covenant. The final was originally set for 2 p.m. Saturday, which also conflicts with the Sabbath.

"We are thankful to the TAPPS for ultimately making the right decision," the school said in a statement Thursday. "The school administration and board was not involved in any legal action, and we regret that it took a lawsuit filed [by] parents to bring about this decision."

TAPPS in a statement posted on its website Wednesday had said that when the Beren Academy met with the association's board in 2009 to discuss membership, it was told that tournament games are scheduled on Friday and Saturday, and that the school's athletic director said he "understood" and "did not see a problem."

Beren's plight made international headlines this week. The team, which with a 24-5 record is playing the best basketball in its history, had earned a spot in the state semifinals last week with a 27-point victory in the quarterfinals. -- JTA

Daniel Pearl posthumously baptized in Mormon rite

Daniel Pearl
Daniel Pearl was baptized in a Mormon proxy ritual in another case of a prominent deceased Jew discovered to have been baptized posthumously in recent weeks.

Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter kidnapped and executed by terrorists in Pakistan in February 2002, was baptized by proxy on June 1, 2011 at a Mormon temple in Twin Falls, Idaho, the Boston Globe reported Wednesday.

The rite was discovered by Helen Radkey, a former member of the Mormon church who has become a whistleblower on such activity.

Only Mormons have access to the church's genealogy database, which also can be used to submit a deceased person's name for proxy baptism.

The discovery comes in the same month that it was discovered that the parents of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal were posthumously baptized last month, and Anne Frank was posthumously baptized earlier this month.

Also earlier this month, the names of the father and grandfather of Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel were found to have been submitted for proxy baptism.

Pearl’s parents, Judea and Ruth, told the Boston Globe that learning of the proxy baptism was “disturbing news.”

“To them we say, we appreciate your good intentions but rest assured that Danny’s soul was redeemed through the life that he lived and the values that he upheld,” the Pearls told the newspaper in an email. “He lived as a proud Jew, died as a proud Jew and is currently facing his creator as a Jew, blessed, accepted and redeemed. For the record, let it be clear: Danny did not choose to be baptized, nor did his family consent to this uncalled-for ritual.”

Pearl’s widow, Mariane, who is a Buddhist, called the posthumous baptism "a lack of respect for Danny and a lack of respect for his parents,” and echoed Wiesel in calling for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, a Mormon, to apologize on behalf of the church. -- JTA

Ethiopian Israeli Belaynesh Zevadia appointed ambassador to Ethiopia

Belaynesh Zevadia



FM Liberman: "I am proud to be the first foreign minister to appoint an Ethiopian ambassador on behalf of the State of Israel. I am certain that she will represent the state with honor and be a source of pride to all Ethiopian Israelis." --  Communicated by the Foreign Minister's Bureau via Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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Tumbling Down--The building that once housed Anshe Kanesses, one of the grandest synagogues in ‘Chicago’s Jerusalem,’ faces the wrecking ball after 99 years

Sheperd’s Temple/Anshe Kanesses in North Lawndale,
January 2012. (Susanne Helmert)By Rachel Shteir|
Constructed in 1913, the Anshe Kanasses synagogue was once one of 60 in North Lawndale; the Hebrew Theological College was diagonally across the boulevard. Stretching for blocks on Chicago’s Near South West side, the neighborhood, known as “Chicago’s Jerusalem,” was the country’s largest Jewish community outside of New York until the postwar era. The young Golda Meir worked in a library in North Lawndale; and prizefighter Barney Ross, comedian Shelly Berman, and bandleader Benny Goodman all lived there, said Herb Eisen, who leads historic tours of the city.

It has been years since North Lawndale was “Chicago’s Jerusalem.” In his 1991 book Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools, Jonathan Kozol singled out North Lawndale as one of the worst places to learn. So, it is not surprising that preservationists have failed to find funders who would help repurpose the building. -- Rachel Shteir|, Tablet

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Ashkelon gets architectural masterpiece

Ashkelon Music and Dance Center
Photo courtesy of Manuelle Gautrand Architecture


Kick your knees up and step in time, Ashkelon is getting a cultural makeover. The city's new performing arts center will feature a large auditoriums, a music conservatory, studios, a library and exhibition spaces. -- Viva Sarah Press, Israel21c

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Israeli delegation to UN Commission on Status of Women

The delegation will participate in the five main panels of the UN CSW 56th session and will host a special event in cooperation with Italy and Senegal on "Rural Women: From Vulnerability to Sustainability."

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent a delegation to New York to represent the State of Israel at the 56th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Taking place from February 27 - March 9, 2012, the Commission will focus this year on the theme of "the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges." The delegation will be hosted by Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor.

The Israel Foreign Ministry has been working in recent years to increase Israel's involvement in the UN's global agenda, particularly in the areas of women empowerment and sustainable development, in which Israel's efforts have won recognition, in Africa and elsewhere. -- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Shabbat conflict sends Orthodox Day School hoops squad to the sidelines, not semi-finals

Chris Cole, the coach of the boys' basketball team at the Robert M. Beren Academy in Houston, says his squad is peaking coming off its 27-point victory in the state tournament quarterfinals.

Apparently the Stars, who with a record of 24-5 are having the best season in school history, won't be able to show off their game in the rest of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools 2A tournament.

The semifinals are being held on Friday night and the finals on Saturday afternoon, conflicting with the Jewish Sabbath, and Beren's appeal to change the starting times  was rejected Monday by the association. Beren thus is forced to forfeit.

Beren, an Orthodox Jewish day school with 67 students, had asked the association to adjust the start time of Friday’s game to earlier in the afternoon and, if necessary, begin the championship game on Saturday evening.

The quarterfinals game against Our Lady of the Hills Catholic High School of Kerrville on Feb. 24 had been played earlier than scheduled to accommodate Beren, and the other three semifinalists in the 2A category -- schools with enrollments of 55 to 120 students -- reportedly were willing to follow suit.

“Just as TAPPS doesn’t schedule games on Sunday in deference to Christian teams, we expected that as a Jewish team, there would be grounds for a scheduling change,” Beren’s head of school, Rabbi Harry Sinoff, told JTA.

But TAPPS would not acquiesce, prompting Beren to withdraw from the competition. On Monday, TAPPS changed the tournament bracket on its website, crediting the Kerrville team with the victory and advancing Our Lady of the Hills Catholic to the semifinals against Dallas Covenant on Friday. -- JTA

Jewish Agency sending $1 million in emergency aid to Greece’s Jews

Most Greek Jewish communal institutions said to be on brink of collapse -- Aaron Kalman, Times of Israel
Natan Sharansky speaks at a Jewish Agency gathering. (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)
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Preseason victory for Mets—against a kosher vendor

The New York Mets can prevent a kosher food vendor from selling its wares on Shabbat, a federal judge ruled.

Judge Jack Weinstein of U.S. District Court in Brooklyn ruled Tuesday against Kosher Sports Inc. and ordered the Englewood, N.J., company to pay damages since it stopped paying its fees.

In his ruling, Weinstein said that Kosher Sports' contract with the Mets did not give the company the right to sell concessions at all events, the New York Post reported. The judge did not deal with the issue of whether the stand was actually kosher if it sold products on Shabbat.

Kosher Sports, the owner of three stands at the Mets' CitiField in Queens, signed a 10-year deal with the team in 2009, but it stopped paying its annual fees after the National League club refused to allow the stands to operate on the Sabbath.

The vendor launched its $1 million lawsuit two years ago, claiming that it had lost a half-million dollars in profits because its stands were not allowed to open on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons. Kosher Sports said it had received permission from kosher-certifying authorities to open the stands to sell food items on the Sabbath, but the rabbi who certifies the stands denied the claim.

The Post reported that a federal magistrate will iron out the details of how much the vendor owes the Mets and if the company will still have a contract with the team.

Kosher Sports' stands at CitiField sell hot dogs, sausages, knishes, hamburgers, beer and other food. -- JTA

Iran TV declares Oscar win victory over 'Zionist regime'

Asghar Farhadi, director of Iranian film "A Separation",
kissesing his award for Best Foreign Language film
during the 84th Academy Awards
in Hollywood, California February 26, 2012.
Photo by: Reuter


Official reaction to the victory of 'A Separation' in the Academy Awards cast in nationalist terms and in the light of Iran's confrontation with its arch-foe, which also had a film, 'Footnote.' -- The Associated Press via Haaretz

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‘Jewish Earmark’ program in U.S. faces deep cuts

Guidelines issued by U.S. Department of Homeland Security eliminate a built-in preference for religious groups that was among the reasons Jewish organizations were the top recipients of grants under the program. -- Nathan Guttman, Haaretz

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

‘The Artist’ salvages Jewish pride at Oscars

French director Michel Hazanavicius, best director winner
for his film "The Artist," poses with his Oscar backstage
the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California on Feb. 26.
Photo by REUTERS/ Mike Blake
Jewish director Michel Hazanavicius won top honors at the Oscars for "The Artist," while Israel's entry in the awards, "Footnote" by Joseph Cedar, lost to an Iranian film.

“The Artist,” a black-and-white homage to Hollywood’s silent film era, won five Oscars -- for best picture, director, actor, costume design and original musical score -- at the ceremony Sunday at the Kodak Theater. Hazanavicius is a French Jew whose parents and grandparents survived the Nazi occupation by hiding in the French countryside. Producer Thomas Langmann is the son of famed French director Claude Berri, whose parents were Eastern European Jews and whose first film, “Two of Us,” dealt with a French Jewish boy hiding from the Nazis.

In addition, veteran Woody Allen won the golden statuette -- as always in absentia -- for his original screenplay for “Midnight in Paris.”

Israel’s contender, “Footnote,” which depicted the rivalry between father-and-son Talmudic scholars, lost out in the best foreign-language film category to the Iranian entry, “A Separation.” An Israeli movie has made the list of five Oscar finalists in four of the last five years but without garnering the top prize. Also falling short in the category was Poland’s “In Darkness,” a Holocaust-era film about a dozen Jews hiding in underground sewers during the Nazi occupation of Poland. -- JTA

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Shalit travels to U.S. for NBA All-Star Game

Former captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is in the United States, where he will attend the NBA All-Star Game in Orlando, Fla.

Shalit is the guest for Sunday's game of leading sports agent Arn Tellem. He also was scheduled to attend other events related to the game.

In America, he also may meet with U.S. lawmakers and White House officials in Washington to thank them for their support in working toward his release from five years in captivity in Gaza, Ynet reported. Shalit was released last October in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Shalit had traveled overseas last month to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysee Palace in Paris. He is a dual French and Israeli citizen.

Last month he had attended a Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball game at Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv.  -- JTA

Birthright has contributed $535 million to Israel’s economy

Taglit-Birthright Israel has contributed more than $535 million to Israel's economy since the trip's inception in 2000, the organization said.

The contribution to Israel's tourism industry comes from providing transportation, lodging, food, training, security, entry to tourist sites and air travel during the free 10-day trips to Israel for Jews aged 18 to 26.

Since the beginning of the project, more than 7,100 groups have come to Israel, filling more than 2.2 million hotel beds and traveling around the country for more than 71,000 days in buses. The participants have spent more than $75 million in gift and souvenir shops, according to Taglit-Birthright.

The organization brought groups that boosted the tourism industry during Operation Cast Lead and the Second Lebanon War.

"In addition to achieving our goals of connecting the Jewish youth to Israel and to their communities, strengthening their Jewish identity and creating a network of support for the country through our alumni, the project has had a major impact on our economy and the tourism sector,” said Gidi Mark, the CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel.

“Not only is the project contributing to the economy and thus providing employment for thousands of Israelis, but it is also an investment in the future. Many of our participants are not satisfied with visiting Israel only once; they fall in love with the country and return for many more visits, and their enthusiasm affects their families and friends who, in turn, decide to visit. In this way, we also create an infrastructure for Jewish tourism in the years ahead.”

More than 17,000 young Jews from 32 countries will be visiting the country during Taglit-Birthright Israel's winter 2012 season.

Taglit-Birthright Israel receives a major portion of its funding from the Israeli government. -- JTA

Greek political party stresses commitment against anti-Semitism

Antonis Samaras, the leader of Greece's New Democracy Party, reaffirmed his personal and the party's commitment against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

Samaras stressed in an e-mail to the American Jewish Committee that the party's core values -- total opposition to racism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial -- remain unshakeable.

He was reacting to an AJC statement last week expressing concern over the inclusion of two lawmakers, Makis Voridis and Adonis Georgiadis, in the New Democracy Party who have expressed or associated themselves with insulting anti-Jewish views. Voridis and Georgiadis recently re-signed from the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally, or LAOS, and plan to run as candidates for New Democracy, one of the leading parties in Greece, in April's elections.

"We welcome the reaffirmation from Antonis Samaras of his party's foundational values," AJC Executive Director David Harris said in a statement issued last Friday.

AJC has been in contact with Samaras for more than 20 years, since he was foreign minister of Greece.

“It is deep in the ideological DNA of the Greek society and, of course, New Democracy, to categorically oppose racism in all its forms, to strenuously oppose anti-Semitism and to strongly oppose all Holocaust denial,” Samaras wrote to AJC. “As a matter of fact, these are more than party core values. These are deeply rooted cultural premises shared by the Greek people as a whole, from generation to generation.

“Today, there are hundreds of families in Greece, taking pride for rescuing Greek Jews during the Nazi occupation of our country. I know well since my family is one of them. -- JTA
Voridis and Georgiadis

ALSO SEE

The other concern about Greece: Antisemitism

Greece has been repeatedly in the headlines in recent months for one simple reason - because of that small country's massive debt crisis and the huge implications it has for the wider EU. But there's another reason that the world should be paying attention to Greece.

In Greece, antisemitism seems increasingly to be entering into the mainstream. While Greece has a long history of anti-Jewish sentiments, it may seem surprising that this upsurge is occuring at the present time given that Greece has a very small of Jewish population of 6,000, and Israel and Greece have been forming a stronger relationship over the past couple of years. Some speculate that the recent resurgence is linked to the Greek debt crisis that began in 2009. -- Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC)

To read more, click here.

The Jews of France

French Jews Mostly Side With Sarkozy

Uphill Battle: French President Nicolas Sarkozy is far behind in the polls.
He gets far more support from Jews than from the public as a whole.
Getty Images
Trailing in Polls, Incumbent Counts on Jewish Support --  Robert Zaretsky, Forward

To read more, click here.


ALSO SEE

Anti-Semitism in France drops 16.5% in 2011, study shows

People dining at a restaurant in Paris.
Photo by: Dreamstime
Study, released in light of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, reveals ten-year-low in recorded anti-Semitic incidents; about 50% of incidents recorded in greater Paris area.  --  Revital Blumenfeld, Haaretz

To read more, click here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

No Apartheid in Israel: Ambassador Oren's Statement on Israeli Apartheid

In October 2011, Richard Goldstone, the South African Jurist who aided his country’s transition from its apartheid policies, published the following in the New York Times:
“While “apartheid” can have broader meaning, its use is meant to evoke the situation in pre-1994 South Africa. It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations.”
As the Ambassador of Israel to the United States, I unequivocally refute the charge that Israel is guilty of pursuing a policy of apartheid and, in fact, regard that allegation as deeply offensive. Apartheid refers to a legal system that segregates all aspects of civil society and in which a minority rules over the majority. Israel in no way resembles that system, and any assertion to the contrary is an affront to the true victims of apartheid. -- Dr. Michael Oren, Ambassador of Israel to US, The Consulate General of Israel

To read more, click here.

They're the Top! Jewish Oscar Winners, From Allen to Zinner

Photo by Wiki Commons
It’s no secret that Jews and Jewish-themed movies have heavily influenced American filmmaking. This year, stalwarts such as Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg have been nominated for Academy Awards, as were the Israeli film “Footnote” and the Polish Holocaust movie “In Darkness.”

In addition to celebrated directors, actors and screenwriters, there are plenty of artists in less recognized roles who have picked up their own Oscar statuettes. In this selection, we list our picks for the best Jewish Oscar winners of all time, from actors to art directors, sound editors to costume designers. -- Ezra Glinter and Eitan Kensky, Forward

To read more and to see the accompanying slide show, click here.

Canadian boycott and buy-cott at Sears

Pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel groups take sides on the department store chain’s stocking of Israeli products such as Ahava cosmetics and Keter Plastic
A pro-Palestinian group in Canada has called for a boycott against Sears because it carries Israeli products.

Canadians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East asked Sears last month to drop its Israeli products, including Ahava cosmetics and Keter Plastic, the Canadian Jewish News reported.

The group said in a letter to then-Sears president and CEO Dene L. Rogers that many of the firms’ “products are sourced and manufactured in illegal colonies located in the occupied Palestinian territories,” the newspaper reported.

Sears continues to sell the Israeli-produced products.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs responded by calling for a “buycott,” calling on its supporters to shop en masse at Sears.

Canadians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East earlier this month also wrote a letter to Cirque du Soleil asking the acrobatic troupe to cancel an August performance in Tel Aviv. -- JTA via Times of Israel

Israel world's 2nd most educated country

Israel is the second most educated country in the world, according to a new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Known around the world for its technological innovations and brainpower, Israel placed second in terms of the number of its academics. Canada, with a population of 34 million people, placed first in the survey.

The OECD 'Education at a Glance' report shows that 45 percent of the Israeli population has a post-secondary education. Canada boasts a 50% rating in the same category.

The report shows that the 10 most educated countries in the world are: Canada, Israel, Japan, US, New Zealand, South Korea, Norway, the United Kingdom, Australia and Finland. -- Viva Sarah Press, Isarel 21c

How Come No One Wants to Help Gaza?




The Palestinian Center for Human Rights announced that Palestinians -- not Israel -- were to blame for the electricity crisis.

Who is stopping the Palestinians from turning the Gaza Strip into the Middle East's Hong Kong? Is it Israel, the Palestinians themselves or the Arab countries?...

When Israel left the Gaza Strip back in 2005, the Palestinians had the opportunity to turn the coastal area into the Arab world's Singapore…. --  Khaled Abu Toameh, Stonegate Institute

To read more, click here.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Changing Face of Israel's Families

What does the average Israeli family look like? The past decade has seen a slight decrease in the number of people per household and an increase in single-parent families.

According to information released by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday, ahead of Family Day, the number of single women who gave birth on 2010 nearly doubled compared with the year 2000.

Statistics show that 1,132,000 of families are couples with children; 427,600 are families of childless couples and 223,100 are single-parent households. The rate of single-parent families in Israel (6%) is similar to that in Italy and Spain. In the United States, some 14% of the population is classified as single-parent families and in Germany the number stands on 16%.

Nearly 13% of Jewish families are single-parent families as opposed to 10% of Arab families. In 91% of the cases, a woman is the head of the household. Most of the single-parent households are the result of a divorce;16% have never been married; 15% live apart; and 12% are widowers. -- Ynetnews

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Israeli-led team of scientists discovers longevity gene

A team of Israeli and U.S. scientists has discovered a gene that increases longevity in mammals.

The team, led by Dr. Haim Cohen of Bar-Ilan University's Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, and including researchers from Hadassah Medical Center, the Hebrew University and Carnegie Mellon University, said the discovery increases the likelihood that similar activity can be found in a human gene. The results were published this week in the scientific journal Nature.

A gene from the Sirtuin family, SIR2, when activated by a low-calorie diet, was found to prolong life, according to a news release from Bar Ilan University.

Cohen and his team fed two groups of mice a high-fat diet containing 60 percent more fat calories than average. The mice with the SIR2 gene removed developed the diseases associated with aging, while the other mice remained healthy.

Preservation of the SIR2 family of genes during evolution indicates the importance of the genes in critical life processes. In each organism in which SIR2 has been found, including yeast and worms, the gene regulates lifespan, but this was yet to be proven in mammals. Last year, scientific literature carried many reports on the extent of the SIR2 gene's involvement in the lifespan. More than 30 research groups debated the issue in the pages of Nature and another leading scientific journal, Science, but no final conclusion was reached. -- JTA

Opinion: Anne, for a New Generation

A view of the 150 to 170-year-old chestnut tree from the house
where Anne Frank lived in Amsterdam, November 16, 2007.
Credit: Reuters/Jerry Lampen
I was unexpectedly moved when, 18 months ago, the chestnut tree outside Anne Frank’s hiding place in Amsterdam fell over. Rotting and ancient, the tree collapsed along with its support structure.

This tree has suddenly re-appeared in my office in the form of Jason Lazarus’ video loop “The top of the tree gazed upon by Anne Frank while in hiding (Amsterdam).” Playing continuously downstairs in the gallery of the new exhibition “Do Not Destroy: Trees, Art and Jewish Thought” at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, this meditative 2008 film is nothing more than a 15-minute view of leaves rustling in the wind, re-creating what the young Anne Frank would have seen out the window of her hiding place.

This act of imaginative empathy stands in for our culture’s odd and intense obsession with Anne Frank, and offers a view into how a new generation of American artists sees Anne Frank — or “Anne Frank” — as a giving tree of inspiration, angst, satire and sadness. -- Daniel Schifrin, The Jewish Week (NY)

To read more, click here.

Modern Times

Beth El congregants at the synagogue for Tisha B’Av, c. 1951, in Hennepin Co., Minn.
(Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest)
Herman Wouk wrote a foundational text for American postwar Modern Orthodoxy, and for the emancipated Jewish literature in its wake -- Rachel Gordan, Tablet

To read more, click here.

The Jew and Hitler's Bug



Jewish Gearhead in Nazi Germany: Josef Ganz behind the wheel of the May Bug,
his small car prototype that became a prototype for the Beetle.
rvp publishers
Was Jewish Engineer Brains Behind the Fuhrer's Favorite Car, the People's Car? -- Lillian Swanson, Forward

To read more, click here.