Friday, October 5, 2012

Museum housing Sarajevo Haggadah to close

The museum keeping the centuries-old Sarajevo Haggadah is set to close due to a lack of funds.

Jakob Finci, the longtime leader of the Jewish community in Sarajevo, told JTA that Sarajevo’s 125-year-old National Museum will close Oct. 4 due to a  “lack of money, financing and support from the state.” He called the decision “tragic,” but said he did not fear for the Sarajevo Haggadah, which he said would be kept in a safe place.

The museum has owned the Haggadah, handwritten in Spain in the 14th century and brought to Sarajevo following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, since 1894.

During the Bosnian war in the 1990s, the lavishly illustrated 109-page book became a symbol of the shattered dream of multiethnic harmony in Bosnia.

When the war ended in 1995, the U.N. Mission, along with the Bosnian Jewish community, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and the Yad Hanadiv and Wolfenson Foundations facilitated a $150,000 project to restore the Haggadah and prepare a secure, climate-controlled room in which to put it on display. The room was opened with a ceremony in December 2002.

Finci told JTA that in recent years, the actual Haggadah was displayed only four days a year -- the rest of the time a facsimile was shown.

The Bosnian central government no longer provides state funding for culture, and several other major cultural institutions also have been forced to close. -- JTA

Opinion: After Abbas: The End of the PLO's Old-Guard Monopoly

 "[Abbas's] resignation would actually be the most positive thing he has ever done for the Palestinians." — PLO representative.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas apparently believes that the Palestinians would not be able to survive for one day without him.

That must be why whenever he faces criticism from Palestinians, Abbas resorts to his old-new threat to resign.

Abbas is convinced that if he steps down -- as his critics and a growing number of Palestinians are demanding -- the Palestinian Authority will collapse and his people will face a new "nakba" [catastrophe].

But the truth is that the Palestinians would be better off in the post-Abbas era. His departure from the scene would mark the beginning of the end of the PLO's old guard monopoly over the Palestinian issue.  -- Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute

To read more, click here.

As Hillel Head Steps Down, Questions Mount For Campus Organization

Firestone leaving amid budget, fundraising pressures.

The announcement this week that Wayne Firestone is stepping down as president and CEO of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life next spring has set off a flurry of speculation as to why the 48-year-old professional would leave the top post he has held since 2006.
There appears to be no dramatic single answer, but based on conversations with a number of insiders at, or familiar with, the international organization (most of whom insisted on anonymity), it seems that the move was somewhere between voluntary and encouraged. And it underscored the strains and pressures involved in moving Hillel forward with a steep budget deficit, which has persisted for five straight years. The shakeup also comes at a time when about half of those who identify as Jewish on college campuses have a parent not born Jewish, and when many students are uninterested in engaging in Jewish life.

Given that reality, Firestone is widely credited for holding the line and instituting several major initiatives, including a new five-year program he advocated that involves paying students who are little involved in Jewish life on campus to reach out and engage other students with little involvement in Jewish life. -- Steve Lipman and Gary Rosenblatt, NY Jewish Week -- Steve Lipman and Gary Rosenblatt, NY Jewish Week

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Israeli-American prof receives genius grant

Maria Chudnovsky, an Israeli-American university professor, was one of 23 Americans to receive a MacArthur Foundation genius grant.

The $500,000 grants -- the foundation's fellowships for extraordinary originality -- were awarded Monday.

Chudnovsky, 35, who immigrated with her family to Israel from her native Russia when she was 13, researches graph theory in the field of theoretical mathematics. She received her undergraduate and master's degrees at the Technion in Haifa and a doctorate at Princeton University. She has worked as a professor at Columbia University since 2006.

Since 1981, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundationhas has awarded the grants to individuals who “have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction,” according to the foundation website.

Other 2012 winners include  Chris Thile, a mandolin player and composer; David Finkel, a Washington Post reporter on military affairs; and Dr. Eric Coleman, whose work in geriatrics helps patients transition from hospital to home. -- JTA

Jacob Behrman, publisher of Behrman House, dies at 91

Jacob Behrman, the longtime publisher of the Jewish educational material publishing company Behrman House, died at the age of 91.

Behrman took over the family business from his father, Louis, who founded the company, in the late 1940s.

Under Jacob Behrman's leadership, the company published several books and religious texts used primarily, though not exclusively, in religious school education over the past half century. According to the company website, Behrman saw the textbooks that his children brought home from religious school and believed he could improve upon them. These works include "The Traditional Prayer Book for Sabbath and Festivals" by David de Sola and the Jewish Heritage Series.

Behrman died on Sept. 23. -- JTA

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Women warriors of the Mossad

For the first time, women who command some of the Israeli secret service's most daring operations speak about their work and their lives.

They are one of the State of Israel's most important assets. If we sleep soundly at night, it's in large part thanks to them. If we win the next war, they will have a considerable share in the victory. Our security is entrusted to their hands, but, despite their importance to the country, you won't read about them in the newspapers, you won't see them on television, you can't applaud them. Recognition and glory are not their lot. You can't identify them, because they operate under cover. The women of the shadows.

Their brains invent daring and ingenious operations that make the difference between success and failure. They bring to bear a capacity to improvise, rare expertise, sophisticated weaponry, command of languages, and psychological insight. They have to get inside the mind of the other. --  Vered Ramon-Rivlin, Globes: Israel's Business Arena

To read more, click here.

As French community grows in Israel, baguettes join pita

French citizens in Israel voting at the French consulate in Tel Aviv
during the first round of a presidential election, April 22, 2012.
(Gideon Markowicz/FLASH90)
On a street off Independence Square, storefronts advertise "La Creperie Galette,” “Nouvel’hair” and “Agence Immobiliere.”

Families lounging under parasols at cafe tables chat in French and enjoy a sunny afternoon, Nearby, the Mediterranean waves lap up against tranquil beaches.

But in the local language, Independence Square is called not La Place de L’Ind├ępendance but Kikar Ha’atzmaut. And this scene takes place not in Nice or Cannes but in Netanya, a coastal Israeli city about halfway between Haifa and Tel Aviv.

The scene is not unique. -- Ben Sales, JTA

To read more, click here.

Down on America’s next big etrog farm

att Bycer showing off an etrog from his farm
in the backyard of his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., Sept. 20, 2012.
(Chavie Lieber)
Matt Bycer is like any other 33-year-old attorney who wakes up at the crack of dawn to exercise.

Except that rather than sweating to a P90X regimen, Bycer, in a T-shirt, shorts and cowboy hat, lugs 170 buckets of water across his backyard in Scottsdale, Ariz., to water his etrog farm.

The Phoenix native has been nurturing his citron project since he first started collecting etrogs in 2007. With a 60 percent survival rate for each etrog tree he plants, Bycer is optimistic that he’ll be up for production in five years and able to sell the valuable fruit to Jews across America. --  Chavie Lieber, JTA

To read more, click here.

Don’t Discard That Etrog!

The citron, essential for Sukkot rituals, can be put to many wonderful uses after the holiday. -- Toby Sonneman, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Proudly Bearing Elders’ Scars, Their Skin Says ‘Never Forget’

Uriel Sinai for The New York Times, left; Uriel Sinai/Reportage by Getty Images
Livia Ravek was branded with the number 4559. Now her grandson, Daniel Philosoph,
has the same tattoo. At right, three men who stood in the same line in Auschwitz have nearly consecutive numbers.
When Eli Sagir showed her grandfather, Yosef Diamant, the new tattoo on her left forearm, he bent his head to kiss it.

 Mr. Diamant had the same tattoo, the number 157622, permanently inked on his own arm by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Nearly 70 years later, Ms. Sagir got hers at a hip tattoo parlor downtown after a high school trip to Poland. The next week, her mother and brother also had the six digits inscribed onto their forearms. This month, her uncle followed suit.

“All my generation knows nothing about the Holocaust,” said Ms. Sagir, 21, who has had the tattoo for four years. “You talk with people and they think it’s like the Exodus from Egypt, ancient history. I decided to do it to remind my generation: I want to tell them my grandfather’s story and the Holocaust story.” -- Jodi Rudoren, NY Times

To read more and to see accompanying multimedia presentation, click here.

Attack on Malmo’s Jewish community triggers solidarity rallies

Some 70 demonstrators reportedly gathered in Malmo, Sweden, outside the local Jewish community center, to show solidarity with the Jewish community following an attack on its offices.

Hundreds are expected to attend a similar event Oct. 7 in Stockholm.

According to the daily Varlden Idag, the Malmo gathering Sept. 27 took place hours after two small charges exploded outside the building and bricks were hurled at its entrance. The building sustained some damage but no one was injured in the attack.

Malmo's police arrested two 18-year-old men shortly after the incident, but released them hours later. They are still considered suspects in the case, as their car was seen driving away from the scene of the explosion shortly after it happened, according to the paper.

Both denied any involvement in the explosion, Anders Lindell, a Malmo police officer and spokesman, told JTA. -- JTA

To read more, click here.

Jordanian tribe slams new Israel envoy

Obeidat tribe condemns appointment of its member as Jordan's new ambassador to Jewish state, saying 'all red lines have been crossed' -- Roi Kais, Ynetnews

To read more, click here.

Cuban Jewish leaders visit Alan Gross

Two Cuban Jewish leaders visited jailed American contractor Alan Gross and said they found him in "good spirits."

Adela Dworin, head of Cuba's Jewish community, and David Prinstein, president of the Patronato Synagogue and Jewish community vice president, spent two hours with Gross on Sept. 27 in the military hospital where he is imprisoned, according to reports.

The visit was to mark the High Holidays. Gross reportedly told his visitors that he fasted on Yom Kippur, and that he lifts weights and walks daily on the hospital grounds.

Dworin told Reuters that while Gross had been very depressed when she met with him four months ago, he seemed to have a more positive outlook about his future.
Dworin and Prinstein have had regular meetings with Gross in advance of Jewish holidays.

During the meeting, the Jewish leaders reportedly spoke about topics ranging from Gross' health to the U.S. elections, and of his love for Cuba, Dworin told Reuters.

Gross, 63, of Potomac, Md., was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison for "crimes against the state." He was arrested in 2009 for allegedly bringing satellite phones and computer equipment to members of Cuba’s Jewish community while working as a contractor for the U.S. Agency on International Development.

Earlier this month, a Cuban Foreign Ministry official rejected claims by Gross’ wife, Judy, that Gross was in ill health and said Cuba was willing to negotiate his release with U.S. officials, reportedly in exchange for five Cuban spies, four of whom remain in jail in the U.S.

Gross reportedly has lost more than 100 pounds since his arrest and his family says he is suffering from degenerative arthritis. His mother is dying and one of his daughters has cancer. -- JTA