Friday, April 20, 2012

Christians for Palestine

(Christ at the Checkpoint via Flickr)
A vocal majority of evangelical Christians are zealous supporters of Israel. But a growing movement seeks to align them with the Palestinian cause.

For most American Jews and Israelis, evangelical Christians are synonymous with zealous, biblically inspired support of the Jewish state—so zealous, in fact, that it makes some Jews uneasy. But the days when Israel could count on unconditional support from evangelicals may be coming to an end.

Last month, a conference convened in Bethlehem by Palestinian activists and Christian clergy long at odds with the Jewish state managed to bring a number of leading lights from the evangelical community in North America and Europe to the Holy Land. Many of the speeches at the conference touched on themes that one would commonly hear at a BDS teach-in, like blaming the entire Middle East conflict on Israel’s occupation and the settlements.

Indeed, the name of the conference, Christ at the Checkpoint, is indicative of the different direction this segment of the evangelical movement is heading toward. -- Lee Smith, Tablet

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Test question raises concerns among Jews

An Ohio Graduation Test question asking for the Arabs’ perspective on the founding of the state of Israel has raised concerns among members of the Jewish community. Objections range from bias to over-simplification of history.

Tenth-graders in public and private schools across Ohio took the OGT March 12 to 16 in five subject areas. Makeup testing took place the following week.

A two-point question on the OGT’s social studies assessment upset many Jewish students, according to Joyce Garver Keller, executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities lobbying group based in Columbus.

“I would suggest there are some students traumatized by the question,” Garver Keller said. “I have received emails and calls from all over the state.” -- Sue Hoffman, Cleveland Jewish News

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With fond memories of native land, Iranian Israelis worried by talk of war

Molok Shamshiri, an Iranian-Israeli restaurant cook,
left Iran in 1964. (Ben Lynfiel
Avi Nobel lived in Tehran and is sure the Iranian people want peace.

"There are a lot of poor people there and what they want is food and to work, not a nuclear bomb," says Nobel, a spice seller here whose goods include some imported from Iran through third countries.

Still, he believes that Iran's nuclear program must be stopped -- by an Israeli airstrike, if necessary.

"It will have to be done because if [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad has a bomb, there is no doubt he will use it," Nobel says.

Nobel and others interviewed in this mini-enclave of Persian restaurants and spice shops in south Tel Aviv have a more nuanced -- and cautious -- view of a possible war with Iran than do many other Israelis. -- Ben Lynfiel, JTA

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Toronto Holocaust Survivor Turns 105 at Kensington Place

Birthday girl Chana Wallace and
Kensington Place's Community Relations Manager,
Tarah Wronzberg

Chana Wallace Credits Tea, Love and “Being Kind” for Her Longevity
It's no wonder Chana Wallace, a Holocaust survivor who recently celebrated her 105th birthday has lived this long. After all, she drinks lemon tea every day, loves and is loved by her family and most of all, when asked what her longevity secret was, Wallace said, "I like to live, don't think of things in the past, and I’m kind to people." -- Elise Kayfetz, Shalom Life

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Young Professionals In The Israeli Workplace

Recent olah professional in her medical office.
Against overwhelming odds, Israel has matured into an economic powerhouse boasting a strong currency, a lower unemployment rate than the US and the EU, and a rich and diverse culture. With all that Israel has to offer, aliyah is increasingly becoming a normative lifestyle choice for recent college graduates and young professionals from western countries. While there are many reasons that Jewish people of all ages and backgrounds decide to pack up their lives and start anew in Israel, two common denominators seem to account for the ever increasing numbers of young professionals (aged 18-35) moving to Israel in recent years: idealism and opportunity. -- Laura Ben David, NY Jewish Week

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Aging Survivors Can’t Forget

The command is to never forget the Holocaust—but some survivors wish they could, as late-onset PTSD brings back vivid memories they can’t escape
Holocaust survivors in New York City socialize at a luncheon hosted by Selfhelp in 2008
(Selfhelp Community Services)
Many of the estimated 200,000 living Holocaust survivors face a new trauma in their final years, as they are overwhelmed by terrible memories they’ve successfully contained for 70 years. In some cases, the return of these memories is the outcome of a natural instinct, as we age, to look back over our lives. For others, it’s the result of what has been termed late-onset post-traumatic stress disorder, which brings on flashbacks, bouts of paranoia, and other debilitating symptoms. Reporter Karen Brown introduces us to survivors and their family members (including Howard Reich, whose documentary film Prisoner of her Past chronicled his mother’s mental decline), as well as social workers and specialists working with them, to find out more about this painful last chapter in a survivor’s life, and about what can be done to help them. [Running time: 17:00.]-- Vox Tablet

To hear program, click here.

Counting the Days, Up or Down

Cancer patients find unexpected significance,
and a new perspective on the present and the future,
in the Jewish ritual of counting the Omer
The mitzvah of Sefirat HaOmer, or counting the Omer—the 49 days from the second day of Passover until the day before Shavuot—is often overshadowed by the frenzied build-up to Passover and the exhaustion that sets in after the Seder. But for one group of cancer patients I met, counting the Omer carried a unique significance, and how they counted the Omer revealed a great deal about how they viewed their illness and handled their treatment.

Last spring, an intriguing analogy bubbled up from the chat rooms and waiting rooms frequented by many of the people who receive care at our oncology department in Israel. These cancer patients intuited a parallel between the formal counting of the Omer and the nearly ritualistic counting of days during their radiation treatments. As it happens, the average course of radiation treatment spans seven weeks, the precise duration of the period of the Omer. -- Benjamin W. Corn, Tablet

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Philip Levine, Fierce About Poetry

Philip Levine. (Geoffrey Berliner, courtesy Library of Congress)
The U.S. poet laureate on growing up Jewish in Detroit, playing tennis in verse, and hanging on to his memories, which are the source of his art -- Jake Marmer, Tablet

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Opinion: Why it pays to restore synagogues in the Arab world

The Christian Science Monitor treated us to a fairy tale the other day, with Nicholas Blanford gushing about the Maghen Avraham synagogue, now being restored in Beirut:

The interior has been restored to its original décor with sky-blue walls, arched windows, and whitewashed columns with small brown painted streaks that mimic the fossilized shells in the original limestone columns. Work is expected to be completed by summer, and the first rabbi in nearly four decades is expected to arrive soon.
“Once the rabbi is here, we will be able to hold weddings again,” says a Jewish Council member in Lebanon who oversaw the restoration. He declines to allow his name to be quoted, illustrating that Lebanese Jews still prefer to maintain a low profile....
Here the CSM enters the realms of complete fantasy. -- Lyn Julius, Times of Israel

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Crisis-hit Greek Jews fear for their future

The donation box at Beth Shalom Synagogue
in Athens. Community donations have dropped by 50 percent
since the start of the financial crisis. (Gavin Rabinowitz)
Patricia Alcalay, 24, has been unemployed since she finished her nursing degree in December 2010. Her father lost his job four months ago, a year shy of retirement.

Her older sister, who was studying abroad, meanwhile, found work in the Netherlands and is not coming back to Greece anytime soon.

Stories like these have become common among the Jewish community in Greece, which like the rest of the Greek population is struggling to stay afloat in a country engulfed in the fifth year of an economic crisis that shows no sign of abating.

Approximately 5,000 Jews live in Greece -- about 3,500 in Athens, 1,000 in Thessaloniki and the rest scattered elsewhere -- and community leaders say they are laboring to maintain Jewish institutions and deal with the additional heavy demands on welfare programs. -- Gavin Rabinowitz, JTA

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Google grants virtual tour of Israel Museum

After months of mapping the displays by bicycle, joint project enables visitors to view artifacts from a pixel-length away
Curator Debby Hershman holds a 9,000 year old Neolithic stone mask
during the launch of Google Art project at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, on Tuesday
(photo credit: AP/Oded Balilty)
Until Tuesday, if history buffs wanted a glimpse of the Israel Museum’s vast collection — including a 9,000-year-old carved human face found in the Judean Desert — they had to travel to Jerusalem to see it.

Now, through a joint venture with Google Inc., people from around the world can examine the ancient Neolithic artifact, which the museum says is the oldest in the world, in greater detail than ever before with a simple click of a mouse from the comfort of their own home. -- Associate Press via Times of Israel

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Gourmands discover Jerusalem’s market

Vegetables for sale at the shuk.
Machane Yehuda, Israel's largest and most ethnically diverse outdoor market, is attracting a whole new breed of culinary tourists.

If busloads of Tel Avivians and hordes of European backpackers are hiring guides to take them through the shops and stalls of Jerusalem's Machane Yehuda outdoor market, you know something hip must be happening here.

The shuk, as it's better known, is Israel's latest hot spot for culinary tourism. The mix of exotic produce, spices and juices (tamarind drink, anyone?), Mediterranean fish, readymade delicacies and rare cheeses -- many of them sold by descendants of original vendors from a hodgepodge of countries -- makes for a colorful sensory experience. -- Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c

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15th Century Machzor in Christie’s Books and Manuscripts Auction

Christie's is auctioning a stunning, 400-page Machzor from 1490 Italy.
ArtDaily reports that on April 16-17, Christie’s New York will unveil “a rare and splendid example of Renaissance Judaica,” an illuminated manuscript Machzor that will be included in the May 11, 2012 Books and Manuscripts auction at Christie’s Paris.

With more than 400 pages, this manuscript, printed on vellum (calf’s skin) is a festival prayer book written in Hebrew, created in Tuscany, and probably Florence, circa 1490. It is being offered at auction for the first time, at a value estimated between $540,000 and 800,000.

According to ArtDaily, the illuminating manuscript was purchased in Frankfurt before 1908 and was subsequently owned by Edmond Bicart-Sée. It has never been publicly exhibited and has remained in the possession of his descendants in Paris for over eighty years.-- Tibbi Singer, Jewish Press

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Times' Matzo Story Forgot About Israel

Shulamit Seidler-Felder

[Last] weekend’s New York Times Magazine brings an interesting story about the seemingly bulletproof business model behind American matzo manufacturing. The problem is that it omits a key ingredient in the global matzo marketplace: Israel.

Every year for one week, about 2% of the U.S. population is forced to buy matzo, says writer Adam Davidson. Because kosher food production is costly and complex and requires knowledge of Jewish law, it’s almost impossible for big U.S. companies, such as Kraft and Sara Lee, to compete.

“As long as they don’t change Passover, we have built-in sales,” Aron Yagoda, co-vice president of the Lower East Side matzo manufacturer Streit’s, tells the Times. -- Paul Berger, Forward

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Dumb, Dumberer, and Dumberest

The Three Stooges
(Will Sasso, left, Chris Diamantopoulos, and Sean Hayes).
(Peter Iovino/Twentieth Century Fox)

In their new yuk-fest The Three Stooges, the Farrelly Brothers deracinate a Jewish classic. But the brutish schtick got old a long time ago. -- J. Hoberman, Tablet

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