Friday, May 25, 2012

Will return Tuesday


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) and the Giving of the Torah

Center for Reform Jewish Life, San Diego, CA

The Torah describes Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) as a holiday based on agricultural themes. How did it come to be a commemoration of Matan Torah (the giving of Torah, Revelation)? -- From Jewish Values Online

Click here for a Orthodox answer by Rabbi Aryeh Klapper, a Conservative answer by Rabbi Mark Greenspan, and a Reform answer by Rabbi Cy Stanway.

Opinion: Olympic silence

London Olympic Logo
Photo by  Reuters
The Munich massacre should be commemorated not primarily as an Israeli tragedy, but as a tragedy “within the family of nations,” as Ayalon noted. -- Editorial, Jerusalem Post

To read more, click here.

Yemen rabbi calls for Jewish community seat in parliament

The chief rabbi of Yemen has called on the country's president to allow the Jewish community and other minority groups to have seats in the country's parliament.

"I demand the government's new attention to this, to work to allocate seats for members of the community in the Consultative Council and Parliament, in order to feel real citizenship, non-discrimination, a right guaranteed by our law and the Constitution," Rabbi Yahia Youssef Moussa said over the weekend in an interview with CNN Arabic.

Moussa said he emphasized to the president the importance of the Jewish community to Yemen and that the Jewish community would like to serve in the government in order to help its own community and all the people of Yemen. -- JTA

Rare trove of 3,000-year-old jewelry found at Megiddo

Lunette earrings
Photo: The Megiddo Expedition

The trove is among the most valuable ever found from the Biblical period. One of the jewels is an artistic work of art unparalleled by any found in our region. -- Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read more, click here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Opinion: Education in America Serves No Purpose Today

Americans have forgotten the reason why we educate children in America. As a result our children, schools, communities, and the nation are suffering.

It's the season of commencement speeches and interviews with beaming young graduates. High schools will graduate 2.7 million students this year, and colleges and universities will confer 3.4 million degrees. We are inundated with messages declaring that the purpose of education is to get a great job, make lots of money, and become personally independent. "Fulfill your dreams," is the oft-echoed refrain. Why aren't we exhorting graduates to be responsible citizens?

We have forgotten that there is only one purpose for an education system in a republic: to educate citizens. -- William E. White, Huffington Post

To read more, click here.

Internet Cafe on Front Line of Culture War

Skin Sites Banned at Brooklyn iShop. Don't Try Yahoo! Either

Not Everything on Web: Hasidim use computer kiosks
at a Brooklyn internet cafe.
Bowing to a local ultra-Orthodox rebbe,
the owner blocks many internet sites deemed inappropriate or critical.
Photo by Josh Nathan-Kazis
Joseph Oppenheim’s iShop, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, looks more or less like any other computer store. Oppenheim sells laptops and iPads, and charges for Internet access at a few Web kiosks in the back.

That Internet access, however, is heavily filtered. The porn site is blocked, but so is Yahoo! News. That’s because Oppenheim’s store is at the vanguard of one ultra-Orthodox rabbi’s efforts to keep Web access out of Hasidic homes.

If the Satmar rebbe Aaron Teitelbaum has his way, kiosks like the ones in Oppenheim’s store will be the only way that his thousands of followers will be able to access the Internet. -- Josh Nathan-Kazis, Forward

To read more, click here.

Opinion: A Dose of Nuance: Our hope (for what?) is not yet lost

Rabbi Daniel Gordis argues that some recent criticism of the lyrics of "Hatikvah" is rooted in a misguided sense that Israel should be just like America.
Photo: Marc Israel Sellem
It is our right, indeed our responsibility, to remind them that Israel is the fulfillment of a 2,000 year old dream, and a Jewish one at that. -- Daniel Gordis. Jerusalem Post

To read more, click here.

Op-Ed: Pluralism means finding your place in the Jewish story

Edgar M. Bronfman
For the past six years The Samuel Bronfman Foundation, which is named in honor of my father and that I now run with my son Adam, has held a conference called "Why Be Jewish?" It is an intimate gathering that seeks to explore an expansive question. This year, in conjunction with the Shalom Hartman Institute, we will focus on the idea of Jewish pluralism.

Jewish pluralism, to me, is about finding your place in the story of our people. All Jews share a narrative going back to the patriarchs and matriarchs who created us, and they are wonderful and complex stories to share, study and learn. Jewish texts root you in the world and allow you to understand yourself, your values and your culture, all the while speaking to our modern lives with ancient wisdom.

Every Jew, regardless of belief and practice, should be able to see themselves in the narrative, values and rituals -- in all their permutations -- that bind us together as the Jewish people. We have an obligation as Jews to educate ourselves about our shared texts, common history and the traditions we have inherited. -- Edgar M. Bronfman, JTA

To read more, click here.

Denmark follows South Africa in allowing special labels for settlement goods

 Denmark's foreign minister said he plans to allow supermarkets to place a special label on goods originating from West Bank settlements.

The announcement by Villy Sovndal comes shortly after a similar initiative by South Africa.

“This is a step that clearly shows consumers that the products are produced under conditions that not only the Danish government, but also European governments, do not approve of,” Sovndal told the Politiken newspaper last Friday. “It will then be up to consumers whether they choose to buy the products or not.”...

The Israeli Embassy in Pretoria criticized the proposal in a statement issued Sunday. -- JTA

To read more, click here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Haredi Draft Could Cause Gender Issue

Discrimination Fears If Ultra-Orthodox Men Wind Up in IDF
Exempt No More? If the law that exempts Haredi men
from serving in the Israeli armed forces is changed,
they will join the ranks. But at what cost to Israel’s female soldiers?
Getty Images
After six decades of exempting ultra-Orthodox from the army, the Israeli government appears resolved to draft them. But the plan, widely popular among secular Israelis, may have unintended negative consequences for the tens of thousands of women serving in the military.

The planned Haredi draft — a product of the recent deal that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut with the Kadima party to bring it into his coalition — is widely deemed a fulfillment of basic democratic principles. “Equality of rights and equality of obligations is a fundamental tenet in a democratic society,” wrote Haaretz columnist Moshe Arens, a former government minister.

But some of the strongest advocates of democratic rights in Israel say that drafting Haredim could cause more harm than good. They believe that the demands Haredim will inevitably make, such as to consume only food prepared under special supervision, and their obedience to rabbis on all matters even when at odds with military commands, will disrupt army protocols and military discipline. And they worry most of all that the demands of Haredim when it comes to gender will disadvantage the thousands of women who serve, as they have since the state’s inception. There is intense controversy in Israel today about Haredi attitudes towards gender encroaching on the public sphere, such as on public buses where women — in violation of court rulings — are expected to sit at the back, and on billboards in Jerusalem, where pictures of women are conspicuously absent. -- Nathan Jeffay, Forward

To read more, click here.

Auction of Safra jewels raises $38 million for charity

An auction of jewels belonging to billionaire Lily Safra raised nearly $38 million for charity.

The auction, Jewels For Hope: The Collection of Mrs. Lily Safra, was held Monday at Christie's Geneva. A 32-carat Burmese ruby and diamond ring sold for $6.7 million, a world record for a ruby sold at auction, Forbes reported. In all, 70 pieces of jewelry were sold.

Proceeds were set to go to 32 charitable organizations through The Lily Safra Foundation. Among the organizations are ALEH: Caring for Israel's Disabled; A Computer for Every Child, Israel; the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at  The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; the Edmond and Lily Safra Children's Hospital in Tel Hashomer, Israel; and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

Safra is the widow of Lebanese banker Edmond Safra, who died in 1999. She has a net worth of $1.2 billion, according to Forbes’ most recent listing of the world’s wealthiest individuals. -- JTA

Polish agriculture minister says he won’t ban shechitah

Poland's minister of agriculture said he will not bow to activists and ban ritual slaughter in the country.

Polish Agricultural Minister Marek Sawicki said May 16 that banning ritual slaughter would be contrary to the Polish Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion.

"Under European Union law, ritual slaughter is acceptable and there is no reason to prohibit it," Sawicki also said.

The Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita reported over the weekend that one of the Polish slaughterhouses where ritual slaughter is conducted belongs to a colleague of the minister.

Polish animal rights organizations have been protesting against shechitah, or ritual slaughter, saying that animals slaughtered according to Jewish and Islamic law suffer much more than those killed in the traditional way.

The Polish Ministry of Agriculture authorized the use of ritual slaughter several years ago, but animal rights activists say that a Polish animal protection law does not allow it. Earlier this month activists asked the country's prosecutor to investigate whether the ministry is violating the law by allowing ritual slaughter.

Under Polish law, animals must be stunned before slaughter; the only exception is ritual slaughter.

Animal rights activists also believe that allowing ritual slaughter in Poland is illegal because it is not regulated by government act but by authorization of the minister of agriculture.

Polish slaughterhouses produce meat that is sent to Israel and to Muslim countries. -- JTA

Israeli soldiers meet with Polish civilians in Krakow

A delegation of some 180 Israeli soldiers held direct encounter sessions with local Jewish and non-Jewish civilians in Krakow during a five-day study trip to Poland.

The visit was part of Witnesses in Uniform, a program that has sent hundreds of Israeli soldiers to Poland to learn about Holocaust history onsite. The soldiers returned home at the end of last week.

The group visited the Warsaw Ghetto Heroes’ Memorial as well as the Treblinka, Majdanek and Auschwitz concentration camps.

In Krakow, the encounter and discussion groups with civilians marked the first time that the program had broadened its scope to explore issues of current Polish-Jewish relations, including the post-communist revival of Jewish communal life.

The soldiers met with about 30 Polish Jews and non-Jews, as well as about 10 foreign students studying the Holocaust at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University. -- JTA

Dial Zappix for customer service

Saadia Ozeri, CEO of Zappix.
When Israeli biotech executive Saadia Ozeri dialed a call center to get information about his mother-in-law’s cell-phone bill, he realized something was terribly wrong in the customer service department. “Every time I tried to speak to an agent I couldn’t find the right path,” he recalls. “I thought to myself: If this information was written down and provided visually it would be much easier.”

From this practical insight into the time-sucking, head-banging-inducing customer service call center world, the new Israeli high-tech company Zappix was born in 2010.

The solution it offers is straightforward and could change the way we interact with call centers –– without elevator music, annoying call robots or hard-to-understand foreign accents. Zappix shows users a visual map of the call center’s routing system. Instead of hearing “Press 1 to speak to a sales agent,” for instance, callers press numbers from a handy list of options and the call is routed accordingly.

Available as a free application in the coming months in the United States, Zappix currently works in Israel with about 50 companies — insurance brokers, banks, mobile service providers and even fast-food restaurants. Based in Rehovot, it has 70,000 Israeli users and nine employees.

Eventually Zappix intends to make money by offering its service to corporations looking for a new way to make customer service faster, better and more cost-effective. American consumers, Zappix found, aren’t too happy with outsourced call centers and will drop a call if they can’t get the information they need quickly. With competition between businesses increasing, companies can’t afford dropped calls or unhappy customers. -- Karin Kloosterman, Israel21c

To read more, click here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Do the Jewish Streams Have a Future?

Discussing the denominations: Rabbi Michael Balinsky, who is Orthodox;
Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz, a Reconstructionist leader;
Rabbi Steven Wernick, of the Conservative movement; and
Reform's Rabbi Rick Jacobs
Photo by Scott Weiner
When more than 60 local rabbis from different streams got together last week to talk about the future of denominations, the result was less a discussion about the alphabet soup of organizations than about how to meet the spiritual needs of Jews.

Titled "How Relevant are Denominations to 21st Century American Jews?" the Center City program illustrated the extent to which even national leaders of the movements view the future of the streams as inextricably linked with some of the pressing questions of the day: How can synagogues and other Jewish organizations survive financially? And how can synagogues, rabbis and other prayer communities adapt to changing technological and sociological currents and create meaningful Jewish experiences? -- Bryan Schwartzman, Jewish Exponent

To read more, click here.

The Israeli pharmacologist who kick-started marijuana research

Even as far back as the 1800s, scientists realized that
marijuana had many beneficial effects.
Photo by Abir Sultan/Flash90.
If some 7,000 Israelis can fill a prescription for marijuana to ease pain and enhance appetite, it’s only because half a century ago, Hebrew University Prof. Raphael Mechoulam isolated and synthesized THC, the main psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant.

Speaking at his office in the Department for Medicinal Chemistry and Natural Products at the Hadassah-Hebrew University medical school, theoctogenarian pharmacologist explains that scientists as far back as the 1800s realized the beneficial effects of pot but legal problems stifled serious study.

“The laws in many countries were such that people in academics didn’t want to work in this field,” the grandfather and still-active researcher tells ISRAEL21c. “Chemists couldn’t get cannabis and biologists had nothing to work with.” And funding was non-existent.

That’s why, 50 years ago, Mechoulam took a rather unconventional path to break the deadlock. -- Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c

To read more, click here.

Better stroke treatment

Thrombotech CEO Ruth Ben-Yakar

Israel’s Thrombotech is testing a ‘piggyback’ drug that greatly enhances the only existing medication to break up blood clots in the brain. -- By Rivka Borochov, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read more, click here.

The top 12 ways Israel feeds the world

Food security is a major concern for our rapidly growing planet. As resources dwindle and the population rises, smart solutions for better agriculture and safer food storage are essential.

No other single country – certainly not one as young and as tiny as Israel – has contributed more breakthroughs in this area than Israel.

Since the 1950s, Israelis have not only been finding miraculous ways to green their own desert but have shared their discoveries far and wide through channels including MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs….

Here are 12 major ways Israel helps feed the world. -- Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c

To read more, click here.

Why Israel is a hotbed for flash storage innovation

At the same time EMC was in Israel trying to strike a deal to buy XtremeIO, NetApp and Dell were also there vying for the flash storage array maker's intellectual property.

EMC's acquisition of the NAND flash storage company followed a similar move by Apple when it purchased Israeli-based flash drive maker Anobit in January.

"Particularly in flash memory they have really good talent over there," said Ryan Chien, an analyst with market research firm IHS iSuppli.

Flash storage is at the forefront of technology powering current industry trends such as cloud services, virtualization and online transaction processing. Because of that, flash development is a red-hot industry, analysts said. That fact has not been lost on Israel.

Israel has long been a nation that draws in big corporate R&D facilities and acquisitions. Microsoft and Cisco both built their first non-U.S. R&D facilities there, for instance. Google has two R&D centers in Israel now; Intel has four. Intel also has two manufacturing facilities

In 2010-2011, Israel was ranked No. 1 in the world in terms of the quality of its scientific research institutions by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum. It also ranked seventh in its capacity for innovation. -- Lucas Mearian, Computerworld via

To read more, click here.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Op. Ed.: Jerusalem as the eternal capital

It is easy for leadership to champion slogans, but it does not necessarily help us understand the reality of the city's fate.
City of David
Photo: Wayne Stiles
As we mark the 45th anniversary of the Israeli conquest of east Jerusalem on the third day of the Six-Day War, it is timely that we explore the concept of Jerusalem as the eternal, undivided capital of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. -- Ilan Bloch, Jerusalem Post

To read more, click here.

UPDATED: Board suspends Toronto Islamic school’s operating permit after row over anti-Jewish curriculum

An Islamic school that had been using teaching materials that disparaged Jews and encouraged boys to keep fit for jihad has lost its license to use Toronto District School Board property.
The board suspended a permit issued to the Islamic Shia Study Centre, which operated the East End Madrassah out of a Toronto high school until an outcry last week over the content of its curriculum booklets.

“The Islamic Shia Study Centre will not be able to permit TDSB property until the police investigation is complete and they are able to demonstrate that they comply with board policies and procedures,” Ryan Bird, a TDSB spokesman, said Wednesday. -- Stewart Bell, Canada National Post

To read more, click here.

Risk-free water disinfection

Greeneng's Nano Ozonator
Israel’s Greeneng Solutions makes low-cost, highly effective ozone systems for blasting germs right out of the water. -- David Halevi, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read more, click here.

Contamination found in Kotel prayer books

Public Health Association discovers bacteria contamination in samples from Western Wall prayer books. Site's Rabbi: Cause is women's crying
A recent examination of communal prayer books in the Western Wall shows large numbers of fecal bacteria, a contamination that far exceeds the normal rate.

The contamination was found in books both from the women's section and the men's section. Still, the Western Wall's rabbi argues that the blame is solely on the women that tend to hold the books close to their faces and shed tears. -- Dr. Itay Gal, Ynetnews

To read more, click here.

Breakthrough: Israel is Developing Cancer Vaccine

In a breakthrough development, the Israeli company Vaxil BioTherapeutics has formulated a therapeutic cancer vaccine, now in clinical trials at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem. If all goes well, the vaccine could be available about six years down the road, to administer on a regular basis not only to help treat cancer but in order to keep the disease from recurring.

The vaccine is being tested against a type of blood cancer called multiple myeloma. If the substance works as hoped — and it looks like all arrows are pointing that way — its platform technology VaxHit could be applied to 90 percent of all known cancers, including prostate and breast cancer, solid and non-solid tumors.

“In cancer, the body knows something is not quite right but the immune system doesn’t know how to protect itself against the tumor like it does against an infection or virus. This is because cancer cells are the body’s own cells gone wrong,” says Julian Levy, the company’s CFO. “Coupled with that, a cancer patient has a depressed immune system, caused both by the illness and by the treatment.”

The trick is to activate a compromised immune system to mobilize against the threat. -- Rivka Borochov, United with Israel

To read more, click here.

Opinion: The Fight Over Who Fights in Israel

Ultra-Orthodox Jews being escorted by Israeli soldiers on a pilgrimage
to the tombs of biblical figures in Nablus, the West Bank.
Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times
After decades of hand-wringing, deal making and court rulings, the question of what to do about the ultra-Orthodox — known as Haredim — and the army has now come to what Moshe Halbertal, a professor of Jewish philosophy at Hebrew University, described as “a boiling point, a moral crisis.” -- Jodi Rudoren, NY Times

To read more, click here.