Friday, June 1, 2012

PJ Library Delivers 3 Millionth Book

Three million children's books have been delivered for free to Jewish children throughout North America to date. That benchmark number was celebrated in the PJ Library MetroWest community of New Jersey this month.

In commemoration of the 3 millionth book delivered, PJ Library founder Harold Grinspoon and PJ Library director Marcie Greenfield Simons hand-delivered Noah’s Swim-a-Thon to PJ reader Jordanna Goldstein, 6, her parents Cindy and Neil Goldstein, and her brother Ryan, 8.

PJ Library now sends 100,000 free books and music to families each month — up from just 200 a month in 2005. The program’s impact is felt throughout Jewish federations, community centers, synagogues, and other organizations that partner with PJ Library.

To read more, click here.

British exam board criticized for question on prejudice against Jews

One of Britain's leading exam boards is facing criticism for asking high school students to explain why there is prejudice against Jews.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has condemned an exam question in which students were asked in a religious studies test, “Explain, briefly, why some people are prejudiced against Jews.”

More than 1,000 students took the may 25 exam given by the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, or AQA, one of three major English exam boards.

The exam boards create the test questions, grade the exams and distribute the results.   

“To suggest that anti-Semitism can ever be explained rather than condemned is insensitive and, frankly, bizarre," Gove told the Jewish Chronicle. "AQA needs to explain how and why this question was included in an exam paper.”

According to AQA’s spokesperson, the relevant part of the syllabus covers prejudice and discrimination with reference to race, religion and the Jewish experience of persecution.

“We would expect [students to refer] to the Holocaust to illustrate prejudice based on irrational fear, ignorance and scapegoating,” AQA’s spokesperson told the Jewish Chronicle. -- JTA

Swiss supermarket chain to label West Bank products

A supermarket chain in Switzerland said it will label products originating from the West Bank as such instead of as from Israel.

The wholesaler Migros currently labels such products, ranging from potatoes to Soda-Club machines, as coming from Israel. The announcement was made on Tuesday.

The new labeling will be introduced in mid-2013, according to World Radio Switzerland.

“We want to ensure transparency, so that the customer can decide if he wants to buy the product or not,” a Migros spokesperson told WRS.

The move comes less than two weeks after the South Africa Department of Trade and Industry announced that products originating from Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank will be labeled as such, and not as Israeli products.

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

‘Family Guy’ appeals to ‘overprivileged Brentwood Jews’ in Emmy ad

"Family Guy" appealed for an Emmy Award by asking "overprivileged Brentwood Jews" to "let us into your little club."

The ad was created as part of the FOX comedy's "for your consideration" DVD mailer to Emmy voters, the Hollywood award news website Gold Derby reported. The awards are presented by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

On Twitter, "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane shared the photo, billing it "the Emmy ad the trades refused to run," referring to Hollywood trade publications.

It's not the first time the show has made Jewish tongue-in-cheek references in their Emmy appeals.

In 2009, the show became the first animated series since "The Flintstones" to earn an Emmy nomination for outstanding comedy series. According to, that year's mailer included the tag line, "You have to vote for us -- we did a Holocaust episode." -- JTA

Saudis Demand Punishment for McDonald's Toy They Say "Insults Muhammed"

Saudi Arabians are angry at a McDonald's toy which they say mocks their prophet Muhammad. According to a report appearing today (5/27/12) on the Arabic news website,, the McDonald's fast food restaurant "abused the Prophet Muhammad by placing his name at the base of a toy that is being distributed as part of the Happy Meal, a toy which steps on the name 'Muhammad.'" -- Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute

To read more, click here.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chancellor Eisen At the White House

Chancellor Arnold Eisen at the White House
Today, I had the honor of sitting across the table from the President of the United States in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. President Barack Obama and his Chief of Staff, Jacob Lew, wanted to meet with Conservative Jewish leaders from around the country. Our group—which numbered about 20—wanted to hear them speak directly, and perhaps more candidly than is the case in public, about key issues on our minds.

It’s hard to judge how our hosts felt about the meeting, though it was clear we had their full attention and engagement from start to finish. We, for our part, were pleased with the fact of the meeting, with much of what was said, and with how it was said. There was no clowning, no cheap shots at political opponents, no pretense of easy answers to difficult questions, no demagoguery, not even much preaching to the choir. Speaking for myself, I wished I had the chance to talk regularly or like this with the leaders of my country, at my dining room table or theirs. I got the sense that the President and his chief deputy would be open to every hard question I would throw at them—once we got to know each other better—would think about that question a lot, and would give good responses and reasons both when they agreed with me and when they did not. It was a worthwhile hour indeed.

To read more, click here.

Pro-Palestinian activists disrupt Israeli theater performance in London

Pro-Palestinian activists protested against an Israeli theater company's production of "The Merchant of Venice" at the Globe Theater in London.

Monday night's protests of the Habima company's production began outside the theater, where dozens stood waving Palestinian flags and calling for a boycott of Israeli products, according to reports. Pro-Israeli activists mounted a counter-demonstration. 

Inside the theater, Palestinian protesters during the performance began waving Palestinian flags and flashing signs against Israel. They were removed from the theater. The actors continued with the show.

Ticket holders had been warned not to bring extra bags and underwent extensive checks before they were allowed to enter the theater.

The Habima production of "The Merchant of Venice" is part of the Globe to Globe festival, a six-week event at the theater featuring Shakespeare's 37 plays performed in 37 languages. A Palestinian theater company is scheduled to perform "Richard II” in Arabic.

In an open letter published March 29 in The Guardian, three dozen British directors, writers and actors expressed "dismay and regret" about the Israeli production.

Habima "has a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory," the letter said, citing the fact that the company has agreed to perform in the culture centers of two large Israeli settlements and threatened repercussions against any actors or directors who decide out of conscience not to perform there.

"By inviting Habima, Shakespeare's Globe is undermining the conscientious Israeli actors and playwrights who have refused to break international law," the letter said.

In September, anti-Israel protesters disrupted a live BBC broadcast of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in London’s Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms summer classical music festival. -- JTA

Gait analysis made easy

Israeli startup SensoGo’s walking monitor aims to make orthopedic assessments more accurate and accessible. 
SensoGo will take gait analysis out of labs like this and into any doctor’s office. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
For millions of adults with the degenerative joint disease osteoarthritis -- the most common form of arthritis -- studying the way they walk provides clues to the severity and progression of the disease as well as how to treat it.

Israeli startup SensoGo is developing a new, inexpensive solution for gait analysis conceived by computer engineers and an orthopedist from Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.

Existing walking labs are too expensive to be a practical option for gait analysis, considering that about 27 million Americans alone have osteoarthritis and millions more suffer from other orthopedic problems affecting their legs. SensoGo aims to turn a walking lab into a common instrument in the orthopedist’s office.

“The idea here is to assess any orthopedic problem or orthopedic-related problem that relates to the leg, because eventually these problems will affect the way you walk,” says CEO Tal Anker, a PhD in computer science.

By supplying absolute data instantly via sensors attached to the patients’ legs as they walk for several minutes, SensoGo could help physicians make an accurate assessment of joint problems, particular in the knees. -- Rivka Borochov, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

To read more, click here.

French state railways to help Holocaust research

France's state rail firm SNCF signed an agreement with the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum Wednesday to boost research into the deportations of French Jews to death camps during World War II.

A spokeswoman for the Jerusalem museum told AFP that SNCF would provide it with testimonies and personal memories, as well as a contribution to the broader documentation of the approximately 80 mass transports of Jews from France.

"The 'Final Solution' could not have been carried out by the Germans without the extensive cooperation of many people at all levels of society and governments throughout Europe," Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev said in a statement. --

To read more, click here.

Frum Female Underground Films--A spate of Orthodox women are turning to filmmaking (some restrictions apply)

From the trailer of Lara Gedzelman’s film The Chairlady.
(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original stills via Vimeo.)
One afternoon this past winter, I waited at a cafĂ© in Boro Park for Yuta Silverman, an ambitious young filmmaker who lives in the neighborhood. Although I had watched four of her films in one week, I didn’t know what to expect. But when a beautiful red-haired woman entered with a beaming smile and an open, friendly face, I immediately recognized her as the star of Sheffield’s Manor, a film about a group of girls hiding in a Red-Cross house during the Holocaust that she wrote a few years ago in only three days and produced at almost no cost.

How, I wanted to know, did a religious girl from the Bais Yaakov yeshiva system become a filmmaker? -- Sara Trapper Spielman, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

1,600-year-old mosaic at Israeli synagogue damaged

In this handout image taken by Israel's Antiquities Authority
on Tuesday, May 29, 2012, in northern Israeli city of Tiberias,
shows a 1,600-year-old badly damaged mosaic.
Israel's antiquity authority says vandals have badly damaged
a 1,600-year-old mosaic in the northern city of Tiberias.
Authority archaeologist Gilad Kinamon says
the mosaic once formed the floor of a 4th century synagogue.
He says vandals smashed parts of the mosaic,
grinding it to a fine powder,
while other parts were badly scratched.
(AP Photo/IAA, HO)
Vandals badly damaged a rare 1,600-year-old mosaic in the northern Israeli city of Tiberias that formed the floor of an ancient synagogue, smashing parts to rubble and scrawling graffiti, antiquity officials said Tuesday.

Experts suspect extremist Jews who object, sometimes violently, to excavations they claim involve ancient grave sites. There was no claim of responsibility. Police are investigating.

Guards found the damage on Tuesday morning, said archeologists involved in the site.

The mosaic, dating 400 years after the birth of Jesus, was one of the best preserved and beautiful of its period, according to archaeologists. -- Diaa Hadid, Associated Press via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

To read more, click here.

Gilad Shalit joins Arab and Jewish cyclists for peace

Former captive soldier, Gilad Shalit, leads the Cycling for Peace run from his home in Israel's north to Acre.
Five years ago, the inaugural Cycling for Peace group bike ride started by the municipality of Acre (Acco) was dedicated to then-captive soldier Gilad Shalit. This year, organizers were excited to have Shalit leading the pack of about 500 cyclists on a 36-kilometer ride from the Shalit home to the multicultural seaside town of Acre, in northern Israel.

About 150 Arab Israeli citizens joined the ride on May 4 — the biggest turnout yet — showing that at least the wheels of peaceful intentions are rolling in the Arab and Jewish communities.

While Jews and Arabs live in relative harmony in mixed cities like Jaffo next to Tel Aviv, and Acre in the north, there are few opportunities to engage in face-to-face recreation and camaraderie. The two populations interact in the marketplace but beyond that they tend to stick to their own sides.

“It is very emotional,” recalls Lydia Hatuel-Czuckerman, the director of sports activities for the city. “Jews and Arabs are participating together each year for peace and tolerance. And accepting one another and living together as two nations. This is the idea behind this kind of event,” she tells ISRAEL21c.

It was her idea to see if Shalit could come along. “We dedicated the ride in the past to Gilad Shalit with lots of hopes and wishes for his return. This year it was natural to ask him to join us.”

Shalit rode at the front of the group with the leaders, and when the riders pulled into predetermined stops they were met with cheers from the local communities.

Ranging from the age of two — a young girl towed by her dad –up to 60 years of age, the Arab cyclists accepted the idea of riding with Gilad “very beautifully,” Hatuel-Czuckerman says. The complicated reality for Arabs in Israel often translates into divided loyalties, so it’s not to be taken for granted that Arab Israelis would join the ride in such numbers. -- Karin Kloosterman, Israel21c

To read more, click here.

Palestinian author in UAE stops US book project

Inclusion of Israelis prompts Abu Dhabi writer to push Texas university to halt publication

Palestinian author Huzama Habayeb
Photo by Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Palestinian author Huzama Habayeb during an interview at her residence in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Austin-based University of Texas was planning to publish a collection of short stories from women writers across the Middle East to honour the late US scholar Elizabeth (B.J.) Fernai, who had lived and written on the region. Huzama withdrew from the project when she found that two Israeli writers had been included on the list of proposed contributors. -- Mick O’Reilly,

To read more, click here.

Elliott Abrams named to religious freedom commission

Elliott Abrams, a foreign policy veteran of the Bush and Reagan administrations, was named to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The U.S. Congress appointed Abrams to the nine-person panel this week. He had chaired the commission from 1999 to 2001.

Abrams, who last served in government as George W. Bush's deputy national security adviser, with responsibility for the Middle East.

He is currently a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.

Abrams also teaches at Georgetown University's Program for Jewish Civilization. This spring, Abrams taught a course in the program titled "U.S. Politics and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: 9/11-2012."

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent body, has members appointed by leadership in both houses of Congress and by the president.

Abrams was named by Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The announcement of his appointment on May 17 came the same day that President Obama named the Rev. William Shaw, a Baptist leader, to the commission.

Earlier this month, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House minority leader, named Sam Gejdenson, a former congressman and the son of Holocaust survivors, to the panel. -- JTA

Top Saudi Cleric: Ban Christian Churches in Arabia; Let Girls Marry at 10

In late April of this year, the Wahhabi grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdullah Aal Ash-Sheikh, who controls all Sunni Muslim clerics in the desert kingdom, announced that girls could be forced into marriage at age 10 or 12, without their consent, by contractual arrangement between families.

Aal Ash-Sheikh delivered this opinion in an address to faculty at the Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh – known to ordinary Saudis as "the terrorist factory." Aal Ash-Sheikh said, "Our mothers and grandmothers got married when they were barely 12. Good upbringing makes a girl ready to perform all marital duties at that age."

The Saudi chief cleric then proceeded to conflict with repeated promises of the Saudi King, Abdullah, to foster interfaith respect and dialogue, by calling, in mid-March, for the destruction of all Christian churches in the Arabian Peninsula. Responding to a query in Kuwait by Muslim clerics affiliated with the "Revival of Islamic Heritage Society," favorable to Wahhabism, Aal Ash-Sheikh based his argument on a weakly-transmitted hadith, or oral commentary on the life of Muhammad, in which the Prophet allegedly mandated that there should not be "two religions" in Arabia. -- Irfan Al-Alawi, Gatestone Institute

To read more, click here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bahrain protests have complicated job for Houda Nonoo, first Jewish ambassador from an Arab nation

Bahrain’s Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo — the world’s first Jewish ambassador appointed by an Arab country —
greets guests during a National Day reception at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington.
She was appointed to Washington by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa in 2008.
Arab Spring has complicated the job for Bahrain’s Houda Nonoo, the first Jewish ambassador from an Arab nation.

To read more, click here.

Petra, Jordan’s famous city of stone, faces a preservation struggle

Petra's most famous monument, al-Khazneh, or the Treasury, has a two-story facade with Greek-inspired columns. It is known to film buffs as the temple where Harrison Ford found the Holy Grail. (Christine Dell'Amore for the Washington Post.)
To read more from the Washington Post, click here.

Klaas Carel Faber Dead: Fugitive Dutch Nazi Criminal Dies In Germany

The flag parade of Hitler's militia (SS and SA) at a Nazi Rally
in the Luitpold Stadium at Nuremberg. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A Nazi war criminal who escaped from a Dutch jail and lived as a fugitive in Germany for 60 years has died at the age of 90, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said on Monday.

Klaas Carel Faber, number two on the Center's list of most wanted Nazi criminals, was sentenced to death in 1947 in the Netherlands for the killings of at least 11 people at a staging post for Dutch Jews being taken to concentration camps.

His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment but he escaped in 1952 and fled to Germany, where he became a citizen and had lived since 1961 in the Bavarian town of Ingolstadt.

He had long resisted attempts by his native Netherlands to extradite him and died shortly before prosecutors in Ingolstadt were preparing to detain him, said Efraim Zuroff, head of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Nazi-hunting group. -- Erik Kirschbaum, Reuters via Huffington Post

To read more, click here.

What Happened to Israel's Reputation?

Planes perform in Tel Aviv during a military parade
marking Israel's 64th anniversary this year.
AFP/Getty Images

How in 40 years the Jewish state went from inspiring underdog to supposed oppressor. -- Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, Wall Street Journal

To read more, click here.