Friday, October 12, 2012

Pakistan’s Anne Frank?

My real name, Malala, means Grief Stricken.
For Pakistan and people across the globe, the good news is that Malala Yousufzai appears to be recovering. The 14-year-old was shot a day ago by gunmen who stopped her school van in Swat and singled her out by name. The Pakistani Taliban (as opposed to the Afghans) have claimed responsibility. Her crime was to speak out against the bombing of schools in her district where she felt that she and every other girl had the right to an education. After the Taliban took over the Swat valley in 2003 they issued an edict, saying that all schools for girls would be closed. Thus began a slow but systemic move to shut, attack or bomb schools across the area. -- Mahim Maher, Jewish Journal

To read more, click here.

Slovenia, Estonia announce new shechitah restrictions

Slovenia’s National Assembly is set to vote on a proposed ban on all ritual slaughter, which the European Union member country’s government recently submitted for approval.

Estonia, meanwhile, has reportedly imposed new restrictions on its already stringent slaughter policy.

Dr. Igor Vojtic, a member of the executive board of Slovenia's Jewish community, told JTA that the proposed ban came in animal welfare amendments which the government adopted last month.

Vojtic said it was not certain that the amendments would pass the national assembly vote, which is expected to take place within six weeks to eight weeks.

The amendments state that animals may not undergo slaughter unless they are previously stunned. Both Islamic and Jewish law require animals to be conscious when their necks are cut.

The Slovenian Ministry of Agriculture has not replied to a letter from the Brussels-based European Jewish Parliament, which called the amendments a danger to freedom of worship in Slovenia, Vojtic said.

According to the Slovenian news site 24ur, the Association of Islamic communities of Slovenia also has protested against the proposed amendment.

Slovenia, which entered the European Union in 2004, has a Jewish population of 400, according to the European Jewish Congress. According to the CIA World Factbook, 2.5 percent of Slovenia’s population of two million people is Muslim.

In Estonia, the Ministry of Agriculture has reportedly limited all ritual slaughter to licensed slaughterhouses, in a package of amendments to the Estonian Animal Welfare Act, according to the country’s public broadcasting company, ERR.

Even before the amendments, Estonia's policy on ritual slaughter was among the European Union’s strictest. Authorities must be notified 10 work days ahead of each planned slaughter and a government inspector oversees each procedure. The animals are stunned after their throats are cut -- a procedure known as post-cut stunning, which not all rabbis permit.

In August, the Conference of European Rabbis said that kosher slaughter could come under further attack this year in Europe.

CER President Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt explained that E.U. member countries are required to replace domestic laws on religious slaughter by January 2013 with European Regulation 1099, a set of new regulations meant to ensure animals do not experience “unnecessary suffering” at or near the time of the slaughter.

While the regulations allow exception for religious slaughter, they also allow “a certain level of subsidiarity,” or discretion, to each member state.

In 2011, the Dutch parliament voted in favor of a total ban on the slaughter of animals without stunning, but the Dutch Senate scrapped the ban in May 2012. -- JTA

Chavez wins re-election in Venezuela, defeating grandson of Holocaust survivors

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, an ally of Iran, won re-election, defeating Henrique Capriles Radonski, the grandson of Holocaust survivors.

Chavez took 54 percent of the vote to Radonski's 45 percent in the Oct. 7 poll. His term will end in 2019, extending his rule over the OPEC member state to two decades.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center expressed its concern over Chavez's re-election, citing the fact that Venezuela has Shahab 3 long-range missile launching platforms on the country’s Caribbean coast aimed at Florida.

“Hugo Chavez’s triumph can only strengthen Iran’s political and military penetration of Latin America,“ Dr. Shimon Samuels, director of international relations for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told JTA on Tuesday.

"Six more years of the Caracas-Tehran axis could be as perilous as an Afghanistan with oil,” he added.

Argentina´s president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, used Twitter to congratulate her regional ally.

"Your victory is also ours. Go Hugo,“ she tweeted.

Sergio Widder, the Wiesenthal Center’s director for Latin America, told JTA that “Chavez reportedly facilitated the recent dialogue between Argentina and Iran, clearly aimed at closing both the AMIA Jewish Center bombing investigation and Buenos Aires’ demand for extradition of the Iranians complicit in that atrocity.”

Since taking power in 1999, Chavez has become a global “anti-imperialism” fighter and a close ally of leaders from Iran, Cuba, Bolivia and Belarus. Chavez, a former soldier, has described Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as “genocide” and called Zionism racism.

Last July, Venezuela was accepted as a full member of the Mercosur regional free trade and political group, and will have increased influence in a bloc that also includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Mercosur's members all recognize a Palestinian state. --  JTA

How to Ship a Torah?

A new congregation in Savannah, Georgia was looking forward to celebrating the high holidays together for the first time, but they needed something pretty important: a Torah.

They contacted our museum to arrange a loan. I had shipped items from our collection before, but I was curious if any special precautions needed to be taken with a sacred artifact like a Torah. Was there any specific ritual? Did it need to receive the Traveler’s Prayer before shipping?

Like most people of my generation, when a question like this arises, I first turn to Google. I typed “shipping a Torah” in the search bar. Nothing.  I then consulted with my co-worker, who also happens to be a rabbi, and together we determined with the proper packing the Torah would be safe in the hands of shipping professionals, gentle handling required, but no prayers necessary. So I took the Torah measurements and called FedEx, to find a proper box and get this special delivery underway. --  Rachel Jarman, Southern & Jewish Blog, MyJewishLearning

To read more, click here.

Robert Lefkowitz, a Jewish biochemist and doctor, shares Nobel in chemistry

Robert Lefkowitz, a Jewish physician and biochemist, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry with Brian Kobilka, a Stanford University researcher.

Lefkowitz, 61, and Kobilka, 57, won for “groundbreaking discoveries that reveal the inner workings of an important family ... of receptors: G-protein-coupled receptors,” a posting Wednesday on the website of the Nobel Prize stated. Understanding how these receptors function helped further explain how cells could sense their environment, according to the text.

They will share a $1.2 million grant from the Nobel Prize Committee.

Lefkowitz, a New York native who works at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute of Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina, and Kobilka worked together to isolate and analyze a gene that led them to discover that “the receptor was similar to one in the eye that captures light. They realized that there is a whole family of receptors that look alike and function in the same manner,” the Nobel Prize website said.

A day earlier, the Nobel Prize Committee in Stockholm announced that Serge Haroche, a French-Jewish physicist, had won the Nobel Prize in physics with David Wineland of the United States. The 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to Dan Shechtman of Israel’s Technion.

In 2008, Lefkowitz received the U.S. National Medal of Science. The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles reported at the time that he was one of three American-Jewish recipients that year of the nation's highest honor in science and technology.

In an interview that appeared this summer on the Duke website, Lefkowitz is quoted as saying, "I was clearly destined to be a physician, I dreamed about it from the third grade on. Wouldn’t trade that part of my experience in for anything. I LOVED medical school." He also said that "I do regret that my dad died thinking I would be a practicing cardiologist, never dreaming what the future held for me."

Lefkowitz's father, who died at the age of 63, "never got to see any of this play out," Lefkowitz said. -- JTA

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Top 10 ways Israeli scientists are battling breast cancer

One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.
Israeli scientists hope to improve the odds. Photo by
One out of every eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. It is the most commonly diagnosed non-skin cancer in women worldwide, and also strikes thousands of men.

Though the three areas with the highest breast cancer rates are Western Europe, Australia/New Zealand and Northern Europe, Israel has taken a leading role in researching causes and treatments. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s very first international research grant was awarded in 2001 to Shaare Zedek Medical Center’s Dr. Ephrat Levy-Lahad to do a comprehensive Israeli Breast Cancer Study, now an international model for genetic breast cancer prevention screening.

Over the past 12 months, ISRAEL21c has reported on exciting news in cancer research from Israeli laboratories. We present 10 of the most promising advances here with our hope that breast cancer may soon be relegated to history. -- bigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c

To read more, click here.

Women’s group battles anti-Semitism in Italy

Photo: Arthur Wolak
A new Jewish women’s group in Italy is taking a stand against what it sees as a growing legitimization of fascism and anti-Semitism in the country.

The group, Binah, protested the latest event appearing to signal renewed legitimization of Italy’s fascist past, when a mausoleum and park honoring a fascist commander was inaugurated in Rome in August. - Lisa Palmieri-Billig, Jerusalem Post

To read more, click here.

French Jew, American researcher share Nobel Prize in Physics

Serge Haroche, a French-Jewish physicist, has won the Nobel Prize in Physics jointly with David Wineland from the United States.

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2012 went to the scientists "for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems," the website of the Nobel Prize said.

According to the BBC, the pair developed solutions to pick, manipulate and measure photons and ions individually, allowing an insight into a microscopic world that was once just the province of scientific theory.

Haroche, who was born 68 years ago in Casablanca, Morocco, told Le Figaro that he "had a hard time understanding" the news when a representative of the Nobel Prize committee called him on his cellular phone to say he had won what is considered the highest form of recognition of scientific excellence.

Haroche, of Collège de France and Ecole Normale Supérieure, will share a $1.2 million grant from the Nobel Prize Committee with Wineland, a researcher at the Maryland-based National Institute of Standards and Technology and at the University of Colorado.

Le Figaro quotes Haroche as saying he was walking with his wife down the street when he received the call from Sweden. He said he had to sit down on a bench before passing on the news to family.

Richard Prasquier, the president of CRIF, the umbrella organization of France's Jewish communities, told JTA: "The achievement belongs to the scientists, but a small part of me is also proud today." Mutual friends described Haroche to Prasquier as "a truly brilliant thinker, known for his creativity," Prasquier said.

Prasquier noted that Haroche had worked closely with Claude Cohen-Tannoudji - also a French Jew of North African descent - who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1997.

The Algeria-born Cohen-Tannoudji, 79, is still an active researcher at Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. -- JTA

Jewish Groups Refuse to Meet with Abbas

Major American Jewish organizations refused to allow Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to use them as a shield and convenient excuse not to engage in direct negotiations with Israel, according to one influential leader.

The position taken, and the strong message sent, by the American Jewish leadership is in stark contrast to that of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), which has held separate meetings this year with Abbas in Ramallah and with King Abdullah II of Jordan in Amman.

Abbas “has no real interest in either the truth or in serious negotiations: he wants everything handed to him on a silver platter,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. -- Joanne Hill, Jewish Tribune Canada

To read more, click here.

Meet Israel’s head magician

Master illusionist David Copperfield with Pelled.
Dahlia Pelled takes two ordinary rubber bands and stretches one with her fingers. Then she scrunches up the second band and “melts” it into the first until they become one, not more than four inches in front of your eyes.

Though the president of the Israeli Society of Magicians has many other neat tricks up her sleeve, rubber-band sleight of hand is her trademark. Photographs on the walls of her Givatayim office overlooking the Tel Aviv skyline show her doing magic for former US President Bill Clinton, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, and Israeli Prime Ministers Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Olmert.

After witnessing Pelled’s slick trick, Biden quipped that he would love to take her along to sensitive meetings in the West Bank. -- Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c

To read more, click here.

Apple’s new maps leave out Jerusalem

Google Truck maps out a city
Modfos /
We’ve come to expect it from the BBC? But Apple? Maker of the beloved iPhone? The company that thinks different; that’s proudly inclusive of creativity and implies that, if we all just buy iPhones, we will usher in a grand era of world peace?

OK, maybe buying an iPhone doesn’t do all that. But it doesn’t help get us any further in the let’s-all-get-along direction when Apple leaves out Israel’s capital in the latest version of the company’s i-device operating system.

According to an article in JTA, “the map included in Apple’s new iOS6 operating system reportedly does not show Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” while every other country on the map has its capital listed. JTA further reports that the world clock included in the operating system “lists Jerusalem without an affiliated country.” -- Brian Blum, Israelity Blog

To read more, click here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Netanyahu announces early Knesset elections

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced early national elections.

In a news conference Tuesday evening, Netanyahu announced that elections for the 19th Knesset will be held a year early. Though a date has not yet been announced, it is expected that the vote will be held in early 2013, most likely in February.

A February election will be four years since the last Knesset election. The Knesset will return on Oct. 15, after which the government likely will  pass a resolution to dissolve.

Netanyahu held meetings last week and on Tuesday with the heads of the other parties in his government coalition to decide whether to work to pass the 2013 budget or go to early elections. If the government cannot agree on a budget, it is grounds to go to elections. -- JTA

To read more, click here.

Torah Scribe At Brooklyn Temple Serves As Symbol For Jewish Women Seeking Religious Equality

Credit Linda Coppleson Facebook
Sunday night is the final night of Sukkot, a Jewish holiday that is supposed to remind Jews of their ancestral escape from slavery. For many Jewish women this Sunday also signifies new progress in their pursuit of religious equality.

Linda Coppleson is one of few female Torah Scribes in the world, she is responsible for quill penning the sacred words of the Torah at a Brooklyn Temple.

“Each Torah has about sixty-two pages, most of the pages have four columns each on them,” she told CBS 2′s Amy Dardashtian.

Coppleson spends five hours every day crafting each letter. The process takes a year and a half, and when she is done the Torah will be the first on the east coast to be written entirely by a woman. -- CBS New York

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

Opinion: Even When the Arabs Benefit From Us They Can’t Say So

It is always amazing to me that the depth of the Arab world’s unhappiness with our presence in this part of the world makes it impossible for them to recognize the benefits that some Arab governments have received as a direct result of our being here.

A case in point is the Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZ) which exist in both Jordan and Israel as a result of the peace agreements we signed with both countries and through the cooperation, as well, of the United States government.

In principle, the QIZ concept developed during the Clinton-Rabin years, allows for products manufactured in both countries to be exported to the US duty free as long as there is a small percentage of the product with “Israeli content.” -- Sherwin Pomerantz, Thoughts from the Israel Street

To read more, click here.

Jewish and Christian groups in N.Y. subway ads urging tolerance

A Jewish group and a Christian group are hanging ads in the New York subway system urging tolerance.

The ads being placed by Rabbis for Human Rights-North America and Sojourners, led by the Christian author and social justice advocate Jim Wallis, will go up on Monday and aim to counter a pro-Israel advertisement that reads "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

The ad by Rabbis for Human Rights reads, “In the choice between love and hate, choose love. Help stop bigotry against our Muslim neighbors.” The Sojourners ad says, “Love your Muslim neighbors.”

The ads reportedly will be hung near the anti-jihad ads in the same Manhattan subway stations, according to The New York Times.

A federal judge last Friday ordered the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority  to hang the pro-Israel ad sponsored by Pamela Geller,  the founder, editor and publisher of and executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative. -- JTA

Mila Kunis is ‘Sexiest Woman Alive’

The "Sexiest Woman Alive" moved to the US to escape anti-Semitism.
(Photo credit: CC BY/Gage Skidmore via
US edition of Esquire bestows annual title, noting her family’s escape from Soviet anti-Semitism -- Nathan Burstein, Times of Israel

To read more, click here.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Four Species smuggled to Iran, Syria

Some 150 etrogim (citrons) and five kits of the Four Species were transferred to the Jews of Iran and Syria ahead of Sukkot in a secret operation involving smugglers and local collaborators, allowing the Jewish communities to celebrate the holiday in traditional form in spite of the hostile Muslim environment.

The person behind this complicated and dangerous operation is Rabbi A.H., who serves as a community rabbi in a European country. -- Kobi Nahshoni, Ynetnews

To read more, click here.

Opinions: Should genetically engineered foods be labeled?

An on-line debate about labeling genetically engineered foods. These articles from the Jewish Journal present both pros and cons.

To read the pros, click here.

To read the cons, click here.

Thousands of Christian Israel supporters gather for Feast of Tabernacles

The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem hosted more than 3,000 tourists from more than 100 countries Tuesday night for the annual Feast of Tabernacles event. Public officials from around the world were in attendance, among them legislators from the United States., Canada, Brazil, Finland, Spain, Holland, Germany and Italy. The event was planned by International Israel Allies Caucus Foundation, whose chairman is former MK Rabbi Benny Elon, as well as the World Jewish Congress and the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the participants in a recorded video. "Year after year you come from over a hundred countries to march through the streets of Jerusalem; and in doing so, you remind the people of Israel that we are not alone. You remind us that there are people across the world who recognize that in returning to Zion, the Jewish people have returned home," he said.

On Wednesday, the various public officials are set to hold a press conference with Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein on maintaining worldwide support for Israel and on dealing with the Iranian nuclear program. -- Israel Hayom, World Jewish Congress

In protest, Haaretz does not print edition

Protesting 100 layoffs of its employees, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz suspended its daily edition for one day.

Employees of the paper did not produce its Thursday edition, protesting the refusal of the paper’s management to meet with representatives of the employees, according to the Times of Israel.

The paper is expected to resume publication on Friday, when Israeli papers print an expanded edition -- akin to Sunday papers in the United States.

In an open letter in response to the printing freeze, Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken said the layoffs are a painful but necessary sacrifice to keep the paper running.

“In recent years I’ve made a huge effort to ensure Haaretz continues to exist and fulfill its unique role in Israeli society, in addition to being a reasonable place of employment,” wrote Schocken, according to the Times of Israel. “Keeping Haaretz alive requires harsh measures which made no one happy.”

The Israeli daily newspaper Maariv also is facing substantial layoffs due to declining revenue. Maariv’s employees have protested the measures. -- JTA

Canadian Prisoners Can Continue to Seek Spiritual Council of Their Own Faith

Minister Vic Toews' office confirmed that contrary to published reports, inmates in Canadian prisons will not be forced to seek spiritual guidance solely from Christian ministers.

Frank Dimant, CEO of B'nai Brith Canada issued the following statement:

“B’nai Brith Canada has received assurances from Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews that inmates of all faith traditions will continue to be ministered to by chaplains representing their own religion.

"Toews issued an open letter in which he similarly stated that he wishes to 'take the opportunity to reassure you that our government strongly supports the freedom of religion of all Canadians.'

"We have been advised that the volunteer chaplain and full-time chaplaincy programs will continue and that these programs are ministered by representatives of all faith groups." 
--B'Nai Brith Canada