Friday, October 19, 2012

Away until Wednesday


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Women of the Wall head arrested for singing at Western Wall

Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of the Women of the Wall organization,
holds on to a Torah scroll as Israeli police attempt to take it from her
and detain her, outside the Western Wall in 2010. Photo by AP
Jerusalem police arrested the leader of Women of the Wall for singing at the Western Wall.

Anat Hoffman was arrested Tuesday evening for “disturbing public order.” The organization posted on its Facebook page Wednesday afternoon that Hoffman was in court. "She is being accused of singing out loud at the kotel, disturbing peace," the post read.

Two other members of the organization, Director Lesley Sachs and board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun, were detained Wednesday morning by police for the same offense. They were released after being interrogated and fingerprinted at the police station in the Old City. According to the organization, the women admitted to wearing a prayer shawl at the Western Wall but not to disturbing public order.

Women of the Wall has held a special prayer service at the Western Wall each month for Rosh Chodesh, or the beginning of new month, at the back of the women's section at the Western Wall for the last 20 years. Tuesday night and Wednesday morning's prayer services for the month of Cheshvan were scheduled to be held together with delegates to the conference marking Hadassah's 100th birthday.

Hoffman was arrested Tuesday night after she had begun singing the "Shema" prayer, according to Haaretz.

In 2003, Israel's Supreme Court upheld a government ban on women wearing tefillin or tallitot, or reading from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall.

In August, Jerusalem police arrested four women for “behavior that endangers the public peace” and wearing prayer shawls. They were forbidden to enter the Western Wall Plaza for the next 50 days, according to the organization.

In June, Israeli police detained a woman wearing a tallit at the Western Wall and later questioned her for four hours after asking her to wear her prayer shawl as a scarf. In May, three women from Women of the Wall were stopped for questioning after praying at the Wall in prayer shawls. They also had been asked to wear the tallitot as scarves rather than shawls. -- JTA

Also see the Haaretz article by clicking here. 

Also see article in the Washington Post by clicking here.

Jewish groups pull out of interfaith dialogue over Protestants’ letter to Congress

Jewish groups pulled out of an upcoming meeting with Protestant colleagues over a letter from Christian leaders to congressmen calling for a possible suspension of U.S. aid to Israel.

“While we remain committed to continuing our dialogue and our collaboration on the many issues of common concern, the letter represents an escalation in activity that the Jewish participants feel precludes a business-as-usual approach,” stated a letter sent by seven Jewish groups to their Christian counterparts in canceling their participation in the Oct. 22 -23 meeting in New York.

The event, an annual gathering, is known as the Christian-Jewish Roundtable and began in 2004 when the issue of Protestant groups divesting from their financial portfolios operations doing business with Israel rose to prominence. Prior to the Protestants' letter to the lawmakers, participants had pledged to update one another on activities regarding Israel, such as the Palestinians' unilateral statehood push in the United Nations and the upcoming Israeli elections.

The letter by the Jewish representatives was signed by the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith International, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Rabbinical Assembly, the Union for Reform Judaism and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. The Anti-Defamation League had announced earlier this week that it would not attend the meeting. -- JTA

To read more, click here.

New Toronto Jewish campus sign of booming community growth

The $185 million Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus
is one of the most ambitious Jewish projects ever undertaken in Canada.
(Shai Gil Photography)
Standing in the sprawling new $185 million Jewish community complex just north of Toronto, Taali Lester Tollman sweeps her outstretched arm in a wide arc.

"Just a few years ago," says Tollman, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto's vice president of marketing, "all this was pasture."

Actually it was woodland, but no matter. On the space now stands one of the most ambitious Jewish projects ever undertaken in Canada.

Spread across 50 acres, the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Jewish Community Campus is testament to the dramatic growth of Toronto's Jewish population. The 200,000-square-foot complex, which officially opened Sunday, houses social service agencies, conference facilities, a Conservative egalitarian synagogue with afternoon classes, a day care and preschool, a theater and art gallery, a Jewish high school (with an elementary school slated next year), a residence for developmentally challenged adults and a gleaming 10,000-square-foot fitness center with three saltwater pools. There is underground parking for 350 vehicles and plans for an infirmary staffed by 10 doctors. It's all set on grounds wound with pathways and gardens. -- Ron Csillag, JTA

To read more, click here.

Opinion: Why young people are setting time aside for faith

A Conservative rabbi and a Seventh-Day Aventist minister talk about a resurgence of the Sabbath 

One woman in her early 30s, who formally converted to Judaism this past week, wrote in a conversion essay: “On Shabbat we are encouraged to live it up, to surround ourselves with friends and family, laugh, tell stories and go to bed knowing that we have a whole morning and afternoon ahead of us to spend however we like. We sing, raise a glass and toast life, then go make crazy, passionate love to our partner. I beg my not-quite-convinced friends to tell me which life, secular or religious, sounds more restrictive?”

Similarly, as a Seventh-day Adventist minister, one of us knows that among the greatest appeals of that faith community is its serious observance of the Sabbath. For Seventh-day Adventists, the Sabbath is at the center of religious life. -- Adam Greenwald,  executive director of the Miller Introduction to Judaism Program at American Jewish University; and Geoffrey Nelson-Blake, community organizer with the San Francisco Organizing Project; Washington Post

To read more, click here.

Cool old-new Arabic building wins award

The “green” building in Sakhnin.
In the unrelenting Middle East sun, one thing is very clear when you build a new home: it must work with the elements. Standing the test of time are traditional Arabic buildings that kept families and worshippers cool for centuries, long before air conditioning was invented.

A new “green” teaching and research center in the Israeli-Arab town of Sakhnin showcases some of the best traditional approaches to construction in the hope that it will inspire modern building practices. And on a less concrete level, the building is seen as a “green bridge” between the Arab and Jewish communities.

The Union of the Mediterranean recently awarded it first prize in a competition on energy conservation.

Architects anywhere can pick up on traditional Arab building techniques as a means to improve building efficiency, says Hussein Tarabeih, director of the Towns Association for Environmental Quality (TAEQ) for the six Arab-Israeli towns in the Beit Natufa Valley in the Lower Galilee. This is the association that commissioned the building.

“We have a lot of energy-saving elements built into the building,” Tarabeih tells ISRAEL21c. “And it was important for us that we use the community. We conducted a survey asking them what they wanted and involved the older people quite a bit. The truth is that much of the knowledge on the traditional elements has been lost so we had to learn from the beginning. But this is one of the purposes for creating this building. We wanted to preserve the old traditional techniques.” --  Karin Kloosterman, Israel21c

To read more, click here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Essay: When the Arab Jews Fled

A new movement insists that the founding of Israel created more than one set of refugees
A group of Yemenite Jews, newly arrived to Lod, Israel,
in 1948 after being airlifted en masse.
Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis
Fortunée Abadie is still haunted by the day in 1947 when mobs stormed the Jewish Quarter of the ancient Syrian city of Aleppo, shortly after the United Nations vote that laid the groundwork for the creation of Israel.

Aleppo, a city where Jews and Muslims had lived together for centuries, exploded with anti-Jewish violence. Mrs. Abadie, now 88, remembers watching attackers burn prayer books, prayer shawls and other holy objects from the synagogue across the street. She heard the screams of neighbors as their homes were invaded. "We thought we were going to be killed," she says. The family fled to nearby Lebanon. Mrs. Abadie left behind all she had: clothes, furniture, photographs and even a small bottle of French perfume that she still misses, Soir de Paris—Evening in Paris. -- Lucette Lagnado, Wall Street Journal
To read more, click here.

Cardboard bicycle can change the world, says Israeli inventor

Israeli inventor Izhar Gafni holds his cardboard bicycle
in Moshav Ahituv on Sept. 24.
Photo by REUTERS/Baz Ratner
A bicycle made almost entirely of cardboard has the potential to change transportation habits from the world's most congested cities to the poorest reaches of Africa, its Israeli inventor says.

Izhar Gafni, 50, is an expert in designing automated mass-production lines. He is an amateur cycling enthusiast who for years toyed with an idea of making a bicycle from cardboard.

He told Reuters during a recent demonstration that after much trial and error, his latest prototype has now proven itself and mass production will begin in a few months. -- Ori Lewis and Lianne Gross, Reuters via Jewish Journal

To read more, click here.

Heirs of owner of Nazi-looted ‘The Scream’ want explanation on display at MoMA

The heirs of a German-Jewish banker who claim the famous painting "The Scream" was looted from him by the Nazis want a New York museum to explain its history in its new display.

The 1895 work by Edvard Munch is set to go on display Oct. 24 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the New York Post reported.

New York billionaire Leon Black purchased the painting last spring at a Sotheby's auction for nearly $120 million.

Hugo Simon owned the painting in the 1920s and 1930s, but the banker and top art collector was to forced sell it and flee Germany after the Nazis came to power in 1933.

His heirs contested the sale before the auction in the spring, but now say it is a moral issue and are calling on MoMA to explain in its display the painting's "tragic history," the Post reported, citing Rafael Cardoso, a Brazilian curator and Simon’s great-grandson.

Simon consigned "The Scream" to a Swiss gallery before he and his family left Germany for Paris. In 1940, after the Nazis invaded France, Simon and his family immigrated to Brazil on fake passports. -- JTA

Workmen's Circle Study Finds A New Kind of Jew

One in six American Jews are engaged and unaffiliated, look outside synagogue for Judaism

About a million of the six million American Jews say being Jewish is very important to them, but that they find their Jewish engagement outside of a synagogue, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The survey shows that there is a third way to be Jewish, its sponsor, the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring, wrote in a press release. A person can be an observant Jew, who attends synagogue; a cultural Jew, who enjoys Jewish humor or an “engaged and congregationally unaffiliated” Jew.

“These Jews represent an opportunity for engagement. Their interests and distinctiveness make them candidates for a deeper involvement in Jewish life, while their social profile explains some of their tendencies to distance themselves from conventional religious life,” said Professor Steven M. Cohen of New York University. --Helen Chernikoff, NY Jewish Week

To read more, click here.

Moshe Dayan’s gravesite vandalized on yahrtzheit

The grave of Moshe Dayan was vandalized on the anniversary of the former Israeli defense minister's death.

Graffiti reading "The minister of failure, on behalf of the fallen" was painted in red on Dayan's gravestone early Tuesday morning, 31 years since the date of his death.

A memorial service was held at the site in the military section of Nahalal cemetery in northern Israel on Oct. 14.

The Defense Ministry in a statement issued Tuesday "strongly" condemned the attack. The ministry said it sent members of its Unit for the Commemoration of the Soldier to repair the gravestone.

Dayan served as defense minister during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He also served as chief of staff for the Israel Defense Forces from 1953 to 1958. -- JTA

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Jewish communities grapple with baby boomer retirement boom

Seniors participating in a Zumba class
at the JFCS Center for Senior Enrichment in Phoenix, Ariz.
Courtesy JFCS
Every Jewish community wants more Raymonde Fiol among its active retirees. The question is whether those communities are prepared to meet the needs she and hundreds of thousands of "younger seniors" and older ones will have in the near future.

Now 76, Fiol has resided in Las Vegas for the past 11 years. She belongs there to a synagogue, Hadassah and Na’amat USA, a women's Zionist organization. Her volunteer time largely is spent as president of the Holocaust Survivors Group of Southern Nevada. In spare moments, she and her husband of 56 years, Philip, enjoy the area’s nature parks and attending lectures....

She and her husband are part of the area’s growing senior population. The Jewish community is thought to have a larger share of people ages 65 and over than America generally, based on statistics from the last National Jewish Population Study and the 2010 U.S. Census. With the baby boomer generation entering the 65+ age group, experts say Jewish institutions will have to work hard to keep up with what is expected to be a growing need for social services and social offerings among Jewish elderly. -- Neil Rubin, JTA

To read more, click here.

Opinion: Will Jordan Be Next to Fall?

Getty Images
Protests against the monarchy—the biggest since the Arab Spring began—are bad news for Israel and the U.S. -- Lee Smith, Tablet

To read more, click here.

Brought Together by Cancer

Israeli and Palestinian breast-cancer survivors build camaraderie as we face a common enemy
The author (in blue) hugs one of the Palestinian women in her group, Ibtisam.
Photo by Vanja Cerimagic
The hot flash begins at the soles of my feet and races up my legs to my chest, scaling higher until sweat beads on my forehead. The hormonal medication I take to prevent any breast cancer cells I may still harbor from binding to estrogen is knocking my internal thermostat out of whack.

Fanning my face with my left hand, I raise my right.

“Can we please open a window?” I ask in English. “I’m on Tamoxifen.”

Before the interpreters can convert my words into Bosnian and into Arabic, the room erupts into laughter.

In Breastcancerland, “Tamoxifen” requires no translation. -- Ruth Ebenstein, Tablet

To read more, click here.

'Jewish Indiana Jones' Bound For Prison

The odd case of the self-styled, globe-trotting "Jewish Indiana Jones"  took a sad turn Thursday when Rabbi Menachem Youlus was sentenced to more than four years in federal prison for fraud.

Youlus, known for remarkable tales of rescuing Holocaust-era Torah scrolls, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court on Feb. 2 to having defrauded more than 50 victims, misappropriating some of the donations and secretly depositing them into the bank account of his Wheaton, Md. store, called the Jewish Bookstore. Youlus also defrauded his charity, Save A Torah, Inc. and its donors of $862,000, according to prosecutors.  JTA and NY Jewish Week

To read more, click here.

Rabbis, NYU imam and Chelsea Clinton share interfaith prize

Two rabbis, an imam and Chelsea Clinton were among the recipients of an annual award from the Temple of Understanding, a U.S. interfaith dialogue body.

Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, 33, received the Juliet Hollister Award for 2012 for founding and leading the Jewish Learning Fellowship at New York University.

The New York Jewish Week credited him with building “a reputation for engaging Jewish students in creative ways and for encouraging interreligious dialogue, especially through his close friendship with NYU Imam Khalid Latif,” who is also among the award’s seven recipients.

Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, a Dutch Holocaust survivor and former president of the European Union for Progressive Judaism, won the award for “including interfaith-oriented leadership” in work on sustainable development, the Temple of Understanding’s website said. His work “helps build bridges between the cultures, spiritual traditions, and generations.”

“It is important to finally understand that openness increases when one no longer feels one’s identity is threatened,” Soetendorp told JTA.

Clinton, the daughter of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, received the award for trying “to improve access to relatively low-cost, high-quality health care services around the world” through the Clinton Foundation founded by her father in 2001.

The other two recipients are May Rihani, the Lebanon-born co-chair of the United Nations' Girls' Education Initiative, and James Alexander Forbes, founder of the Healing of the Nations Foundation of New York.

The award is to be presented at a ceremony Tuesday in New York. -- JTA

Monday, October 15, 2012

In Israel, biotech is a woman’s world

Compugen CEO Anat Cohen-Dayag
Women are the superstars of the vibrant Israeli biomed industry, filling leading roles as entrepreneurs, CEOs, funders and head researchers in this increasingly significant field.

On the business side is a passel of chief executive officers packing PhDs, including Kinneret Savitsky of BioLineRx, Anat Cohen-Dayag of Compugen, Pnina Fishman of CanFite BioPharma, Einat Zisman of Hadassit, the technology transfer company of Hadassah Medical Organization, and Yael Margolin of Gamida Cell.

On the investment side are biotech veterans such as Ruth Alon of Pitango Venture Capital, Israel’s largest fund of its kind; Michal Geva of TriVentures; Hadar Ron of Israel HealthCare Ventures; Anat Naschitz of OrbiMed; Dalia Megiddo of 7 Health Ventures; Elka Nir of Giza Venture Capital; Pennina Safer of Medica Venture Partners; and Ronit Bendori of Evergreen.

On the academic side, you’ve got Scientific American 50 list-ers such as Technion-Israel Institute of Technology biomedical engineering Prof. Shulamit Levenberg and Tel Aviv University microbiologist Prof. Beka Solomon.

Females comprise about 65 percent of Israel’s biotechnology workforce, and about 13 percent of top management positions in companies listed on the Tel Aviv Biomed index. -- Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c

To read more, click here.

Arlen Specter, longtime Pa. senator, dies at 82

Arlen Specter, the longtime moderate Jewish Republican senator from Pennsylvania whose surprise party switch helped pass President Obama's health-care reforms, has died.

Specter, 82, died Sunday at his Philadelphia home following a long struggle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, his family told The Associated Press.

He was first elected to the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania in 1980, and his 30 years as a senator was a record in his state.

Specter was a combative moderate Republican with an interest in foreign affairs. Throughout the years he maintained contact with the Assad regime in Syria, even as it became more isolated, and offered himself as a broker for Syria-Israel peace talks.

As his party grew more conservative, he bucked it on social issues and health funding. Specter broke with the Republicans in 2009, joining Democrats because, he said, "the Republican Party has moved far to the right." The switch effectively ended a long tradition of the Republican Party having at least one moderate Jewish U.S. senator.

Specter was especially embittered by a close 2004 primary race against Pat Toomey, a conservative Republican, feeling that the GOP establishment had not done enough to protect him.

His crossover helped Obama secure passage for his health-care reforms.

Specter's roots were in the Democratic Party. As a young assistant Philadelphia district attorney, he served on the Warren Commission in 1964 investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

He ran against his boss in 1965 on the GOP ticket, defeating him to become Philadelphia's district attorney.

Specter's turn to the Democrats in 2009 did not salvage his career; he was beaten by Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) in the primaries after Sestak depicted Specter as an opportunist. Toomey went on to defeat Sestak in 2010. -- Ron Kampea, JTA

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Jewish Temple Encourages Worship Through The Arts

Most Jews in the United States belong to either the Conservative or the Reform branches of the faith. But in Los Angeles, music, drama and dance are the focus of one Jewish synagogue that has decided to go outside tradition. The Beverly Hills Temple of the Arts at the Saban Theater is the largest arts synagogue in the country, and it's celebrating its 20th anniversary.  But not everyone approves of its methods. 

Located in the Beverly Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, one synagogue is also a theater where people come for an experience unlike traditional Jewish services.  David Baron is the founding rabbi of the Beverly Hills Temple of the Arts. “We operate within a theatrical space with lighting and sound that relates to a theater. Our prayer books are all Biblical works of art," he said.

Baron says his synagogue does not belong to any mainstream Jewish movement.  He tries to create a religious experience by fusing religion with art - drawing , in large part, from Hollywood's talent pool. -- Elizabeth Lee, Voice of America

To read more and view accompanying video, click here.

Krakow congregation gets first Torah scroll—a gift from Italian Reform community

Krakow’s Progressive Jewish community received its first Torah scroll, which was donated by a sister community in Milan, Italy.

The scroll arrived at the Beit Krakow community on Oct. 5 along with several members of Milan’s Beth Shalom Jewish Reform Congregation, according to Magda Koralewska of Beit Krakow.

Rabbi Leigh Lerner of Beth Shalom and the community’s president, David Ross, presented the scroll at the Galicia Jewish Museum, which has functioned as Beit Krakow’s building since the congregation was established in 2009.

The initial contact between the communities was made in March in Amsterdam, when delegates from both communities were speaking at the biannual conference of the European Union for Progressive Judaism.

“They had several scrolls,” Koralewska said of Beth Shalom, which was established in Milan in 2002.  “We in Krakow had none. It made sense.”

Also attending the event in Krakow was Miriam Kramer of London, the chair of the European Union for Progressive Judaism. It was her first visit to Poland.

“I felt it’s the best sort of wedding that I could ever here,” said Kramer, who took her post earlier this year. -- JTA

Google Cultural Institute preserves Jewish content in first exhibits

Google introduced a new online historical collection of digitized material, highlighting several Jewish themes, events and institutional partners in its first wave of exhibits.

At least 13 of the Google Cultural Institute's inaugural collection of 42 featured exhibits consist of materials from the Anne Frank House, the Polish History Museum, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Foundation France Israel and Yad Vashem.

Highlighted exhibits announced Wednesday include the testimony of Jan Karski, the World War II Polish resistance hero who tried to convince Allied leaders of the horrors of the Holocaus,; as well as the saga of Edek Galinski and Mala Zimetbaum, a couple who unsuccessfully attempted to escape Auschwitz.

Visitors to Google’s new online multimedia museum can also see the last known photograph taken of Anne Frank and browse featured historical events that include the Nuremberg Trials, the 1948 Arab-Israel War and the 1958 bombing of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation in Atlanta.

The new resource comes one year after Google published the Dead Sea Scrolls online, the result of a partnership with the Israel Antiquities Authority. -- JTA

In Eastern Europe, homegrown giving and volunteerism is taking root

Dasha Fedoseeva, standing, was among the volunteers
at the Rosh Hashanah auction and gala fundraiser
at Moscow's Radisson Royal Hotel on Sept. 19, 2012.
The money went to benefit a Jewish orphanage.
(Ilya Dolgopolsky)
Wearing an elegant dress and a name tag, Dasha Fedoseeva flitted among the tables during a recent Jewish community dinner in Moscow just after Rosh Hashanah.

Fedoseeva wasn’t just a guest. She was part of a team of young Jewish volunteers whose goal was to mingle and charm older guests into increasing their donations to local Jewish charities.

Organized by the Russian Jewish Congress, the gala dinner and auction raised $85,000. In 2011, the Congress allocated $385,000  to a Jewish orphanage in Moscow -- all the money was raised locally in fundraising drives.

The raising of substantial funds locally is a sign of something that was almost unthinkable just a few years ago in former Soviet bloc countries. -- JTA

To read more, click here.

Anti-Semitic messages inundate Jewish Agency Facebook page

The Jewish Agency for Israel's Facebook page was inundated with hundreds of explicitly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic messages.

The attacks earlier this month were confirmed Thursday by the Jewish Agency. The messages were deleted soon after they were discovered, it said.

The attack of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic messages coincided with the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, which began on Oct. 6, 1973. Many of the message writers were Egyptian, according to the Jewish Agency.

The messages included swastikas, violent imagery and anti-Semitic messages in Arabic, English and poor Hebrew. One message read, "WE ARE COMING FOR U … JUST WAIT THE EGYPTIAN HOLOCAUST COMING VERY SOOOOOON." Another read, "May Allah help the Mujahideen in Palestine kill and destroy your nations, your people, your army." Some of the messages referred to the war as an Egyptian "victory."  --  JTA