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Presenting: A cross between a pomelo and an orange and other novel Israeli produce varieties

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 7:00am
From The Jerusalem Post

Researchers at Israel's Volcani Institute show off their new produce varieties to eager chefs.
Would you like your tomatoes with extra lycopene? How about a sweet, easy-to-peel grapefruit, or even chickpeas that don't make you gassy?

These products - among many others - are what scientists at the Volcani Institute's Agricultural Research Organization (ARO) - the research arm of the Agriculture Ministry - are working on bringing to the market.

At an event for several dozen chefs from around the country, researchers presented their work - and its tasty applications - to an eager and hungry group at ARO's headquarters in Beit Dagan. The cooks from the Israel Chefs Association heard from four scientists about their fields of specialty: fresh herbs, citrus fruits, strawberries and chickpeas.

Dr. Nativ Dudai, who specializes in aromatic and medicinal plants and herbs at ARO's Neve Ya'ar branch and also lectures at the Hebrew University, says the "perrie" basil strain developed by the ARO is the most popular fresh herb in Israel, and also exported overseas.

"It's not just about the quality of the herb, but also their ability to grow year round, and their shelf life," said Dudai.

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A Eulogy for Elsa Cayat, Who Laughed at Her Killers

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 7:00am
Elsa Cayat was a French psychoanalyst and columnist who was murdered in the January 2015 shooting attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices. She was the sole female fatality at that terror site

In memory of the murdered ‘Charlie Hebdo’ satirist, book lover, therapist, Jew
By Delphine Horvilleur for Tablet Magazine

The following eulogy was given by Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur at the funeral of Elsa Cayat, in Paris, France, on Jan. 15, 2015. It is reproduced, in a translation from the French, with consent of the family.

Elsa used to begin each of her therapy sessions by saying to her patients: “So, now, tell me!”

So, I would like for us to listen to her invitation to hear other people’s words, and for us to speak, even if this cemetery is so far removed from her disarrayed office, even if the smoke from her cigarette no longer swirls in the air. Let us tell, at this place, who Elsa Cayat was, who she was for her parents, her brothers and sisters, her family, her partner, her nephews, her patients, her colleagues, for her Charlie Hebdo family, for her daughter.

We must tell how exceptionally intelligent this woman was, how vivacious she was in her wit and humor that you all knew. We must tell of the life of a woman who was out of the ordinary, as though we were telling a story—and I think she loved stories. Just as she loved books.

As a teenager she once told her sister: “You ought to read a book a day! Nietzsche, Heidegger, Freud … It doesn’t matter!” That was her minimum diet for culture and for her love of knowledge and for words, as she conceived of them.

Elsa was passionately in love with books, especially detective stories—because she adored plots and novels that you can’t put down and where the endings, she would say, let you “always discover who the killer was, and even his motive.”

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A Marriage That Changed the Course of History

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 7:00am
What Natalie Zemon Davis, pioneering scholar of early modern Europe, owes to her husband, and Martin Guerre
By Rachel Gordan for Tablet Magazine
The story of historian Natalie Zemon Davis, as she tells it, is largely one about the benefits that have accrued to an outsider. Sidelined during the early years of her career, her husband, the mathematician Chandler Davis, was arrested for creating and distributing Communist literature. In fact, in 1952, as a graduate student, Davis herself had done much of the research and writing for a pamphlet attacking the unconstitutional actions of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which was published anonymously by the University of Michigan Council for the Arts, Sciences, and Professions. As Davis later reflected, “the sexism of the House Committee members worked to my advantage in this instance: like legal authorities in early modern Europe, they assumed that if a married couple did something together, only the husband was really responsible.”

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The Top Ten Most Anticipated Jewish Movies Of 2015

Mon, 02/02/2015 - 7:00am
We look at those films coming out this year featuring stellar Jewish acting, directing, and writing
By: Caitlin Marceau for ShalomLife

Although it’s always sad to see another year pass us by, the start of a new calendar one brings with it the promise of new memories to make, resolutions to keep, changes in your life you want to (finally) make and, of course, some exciting new films to get even the most stoic of fans buzzing with excitement.

So sit back, and get pumped, as we countdown the top ten most anticipated movies of 2015 featuring some of the most talented Jewish actors, directors and writers in the business.

10. Insurgent

The second film in the Divergent series, Insurgent, is coming to cinemas this March. The story is the continuation of Tris’ saga to stop the Erudite faction from tearing her society apart, while also coming to terms with the loss of her parents and what it truly means to be divergent. Although many fans of the trilogy were less than enthusiastic about the first film’s adaptation, audiences have high hopes for the second, which features Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort.

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The First Jew Scalped for America: Francis Salvador

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 7:00am
From the Jewish Virtual Library

When we think of Jewish heroes of the American Revolution, Haym Salomon, the "financier" of the patriot cause or Isaac Franks, aide-de-camp to General George Washington, are the first names that come to mind. Rarely do we hear of South Carolina's Francis Salvador, the first identified Jew to be elected to an American colonial legislature, the only Jew to serve in a revolutionary colonial congress and the first Jew to die for the cause of American liberty.

Francis Salvador was born in London in 1747, the fourth generation of Salvadors to live in England. His great grandfather Joseph, a merchant, established himself as a leader of England's Sephardic community and became the first Jewish director of the East India Company. When George III ascended the British throne, Joseph Salvador arranged an audience for the seven-man delegation that officially congratulated the king on behalf of the Jewish community.

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Wagner and the Jews

Mon, 01/19/2015 - 7:00am
Two centuries after the great composer’s birth, his anti-Semitism remains a bitterly contested issue. Perhaps that’s because neither his defenders nor his detractors have come to grips with its, or his, true nature.
By Nathan Shields for Mosaic Magazine

In 2013, as the classical-music world lurched from crisis to crisis, with orchestras on strike and opera companies vanishing into thin air, the bicentennial of the birth of the towering German composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883) offered a brilliant exception to the prevailing gloom. Productions of his operas filled houses from Seattle to Buenos Aires, and the great companies of Europe and the United States vied to present ever grander stagings of the colossal 15-hour cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. At a time when so many preeminent musical institutions are collapsing into bankruptcy or labor disputes, Wagner is one institution that seems to endure.

Yet Wagner’s powerfully continuing appeal in terms of dollars spent and seats filled is only a part, and the less important part, of his enduring significance. Wagner has always been remarkable not only for the breadth but for the depth of his impact, a depth that can be measured both by the intensity of the devotion that his works inspire and by the fact that his devotees have included many of the intellectual and political elite of Western society. When his fame was at its zenith in the latter part of the 19th century, his most fervent admirers were as varied as the young Friedrich Nietzsche, the poet Charles Baudelaire, and King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who helped to bankroll Wagner’s great festival in the northern Bavarian town of Bayreuth.

Today the Bayreuth festival, dedicated exclusively to Wagner’s works, stands at the apex of German cultural life, counting Chancellor Angela Merkel among its regular guests, while the years surrounding the recent bicentennial witnessed an outpouring of reflections on and encomia to the composer from figures as divergent as the Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek and the Pope.

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Lone Star (of David) Story

Mon, 01/12/2015 - 7:00am
A ‘moving’ tale of a synagogue being trucked across Texas
By Samuel D. Gruber for Tablet Magazine

This is a moving story—really. This past week, during Hanukkah, the 121-year-old wood-frame, clapboard-sided B’nai Abraham synagogue of Brenham, Texas, has been sliced in pieces, trucked across four counties, and re-erected on the Dell Jewish Community Campus in Austin. For the first time in decades the synagogue will host a daily Orthodox minyan and be the central place for an active Texas Jewish community. Brenham native Leon Toubin, whose family has cared for the synagogue since most of Brenham’s Jews moved away, has mixed feelings. He’s devoted himself to keeping the synagogue ready for worship in Brenham but has to admit that Orthodox Jewish life isn’t coming back to the town. Leon is in his 80s, wants to see the old shul be a center for prayer again, and wanted to settle things while there was still time. He decided to look for new options and reached out to the Austin Jewish Federation.

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Lydda, 1948: They were there

Mon, 01/05/2015 - 7:00am
By Martin Kramer for Israel Hayom

Most Israelis know nothing about Ari Shavit's bestselling book, "My Promised Land: The ‎Triumph and Tragedy of Israel." Readers of Haaretz, where he's a columnist, may have seen it ‎mentioned in short articles celebrating Shavit's stateside success. But few Israelis have heard of ‎the book, and I'm guessing that only a handful have actually read it. That is because there is no ‎Hebrew edition.‎

Shavit wrote it in English for an American Jewish audience, upon the suggestion of David ‎Remnick, editor of The New Yorker. Haaretz at first reported that a Hebrew version would appear ‎at the end of 2013, and later that it would be published in the spring of 2014 (by Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir). But ‎while the book has also appeared in Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Hungarian, and Polish, there is no ‎sign of a Hebrew edition.‎

So Israelis have no clue that Shavit has added a massacre in the city of Lydda (Lod) to the litany ‎of Israel's alleged crimes in 1948. That's why I felt privileged to take part in a December 4 panel ‎on the conquests of Lydda and Ramla in 1948, sponsored by the Galili Center for Defense ‎Studies. The chairman of the center, Uzi Arad, suggested that I explain and analyze the claims ‎made by Shavit in his book, which I had already done in English for the web magazine Mosaic. (The ‎organizers also invited Shavit, but he was off collecting accolades in south Florida.)‎

I was youngest participant on the panel, and nearly the youngest person in the lecture hall, which ‎was full of veterans of Lydda and many other battles of 1948. These people are not historians, and ‎they do not necessarily know the big picture of how politics and military operations interacted. ‎They were not commanders (the officers are all gone); they were young soldiers in 1948, at the ‎bottom of the chain of command. They have also read a lot and shared recollections over the past ‎‎60-plus years, so you cannot always tell whether what they say about some episode is first-hand or ‎derives from something they read or heard. Finally, time erodes memory, as some are quite ‎prepared to admit.

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How Not to Help the Ultra-Orthodox

Mon, 12/29/2014 - 7:00am
Liberal democracies like Israel need and depend on pious people. But they don’t need to— and shouldn’t—subsidize grown men for not working.
By Peter Berkowitz for Mosaic Magazine
In the short space of 66 years, Israel has established a kind of polity never before seen in the Middle East, a polity that promises all citizens individual freedom and equality before the law. To an astonishing degree, particularly given the exceedingly dangerous neighborhood in which it dwells, the Jewish state has succeeded.

Not that the dangers, either from without or from within, should ever be discounted. Those from without (Iran, terrorism, the collapse of the Arab state system, stalemate with the Palestinian Authority, and so on) are well known; less so, those from within. Although the Israeli economy has made great strides in shaking off the remnants of its socialist roots, large sectors continue to underperform as government’s heavy hand impedes innovation and stifles competition. In addition, a restive Arab minority, approximately 20 percent of the citizenry, though generally aware that it enjoys the same freedoms enjoyed by Jewish Israelis—freedoms of which Arabs elsewhere in the Middle East can only dream—is increasingly impatient with the underfunding of its communities and its outsider status.

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The Sky Is Falling! The Sky Is Falling!

Mon, 12/22/2014 - 7:00am
A reanalysis of last year’s important Pew Study contradicts persistent alarmism about ‘vanishing’ American Jewry
By Leonard Saxe for Tablet Magazine

Fifty years ago, Look magazine—the second most widely circulated magazine in America at the time—featured a cover story, “The Vanishing American Jew.” The headline screamed “[n]ew studies reveal loss of Jewish identity, soaring rate of intermarriage,” and readers were told “Judaism may be losing 70 percent of children born to mixed couples.” The now iconic title and headlines notwithstanding, buried in the story was that membership in Jewish congregations and enrollment in Jewish religious schools had reached record levels. But the narrative was unequivocally bleak. A half century later, dire forecasts are again front and center. The release last year of the Pew Research Center’s A Portrait of Jewish Americans has unleashed a tsunami of doom and gloom punditry. With headlines that could have been cut and pasted from “The Vanishing American Jew,” shrill warnings about the dangers of intermarriage and the decline of non-Orthodox forms of Judaism have given rise to a refreshed narrative of a dismal Jewish future. But it is a distorted story.

Ironically, Look magazine folded less than 10 years after “The Vanishing American Jew” appeared. In contrast, the Jewish population has grown and today is expanding at a rate that matches growth in the overall American population. There are now more than 7 million Americans who have Jewish parentage or who converted to Judaism and identify as Jewish. Moreover, the expansion of the Jewish population has been accompanied, particularly over the past 25 years, by substantial growth in the number of Jews who are engaged in Jewish religious life and/or have visited and are involved with Israel.

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From rebbetzin to maharat

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 7:00am
By Dina Brawer, The Times of Israel

Did I always want to be a rabbi? The answer is no. It never occurred to me.

Growing up I already had a defined, robust role for me to serve my community as a woman. As a Chabad teen, I aspired to be a shlucha emissary, a role that provided a clear path to spiritual leadership – regardless of marital status. As a result, I took up numerous communal responsibilities — from teaching to coordinating a Lag B’Omer parade to designing interactive educational exhibitions – all of them enjoyable and fulfilling. When I later married a rabbi, my position as a shlucha remained unchanged, as did my desire to serve my community. The reason the role of shlucha was so effective in enabling me to serve, therefore, was because it was understood, defined, and clearly labeled.

After five years on shlichut, my husband and I moved to the UK where he took up a position as a congregational rabbi. Over the next fifteen years we served two London congregations. As a rebbetzin, I led community development strategy, counseled congregants, taught Torah — and baked plenty of challah. And yet, while I clearly had carved out a communal role for myself, I couldn’t avoid the nagging feeling that if it weren’t for my husband, I wouldn’t have that role. I felt this most acutely when at events outside the Jewish community. People asked us what we did. My husband replied that he was a rabbi. But what was I? What could I say? A rebbetzin? A rabbi’s wife? That would just beg the question — what exactly does a rabbi’s wife do? My husband’s title could capture, in one word, who he was, whereas I had to spend fifteen minutes explaining what exactly I did.

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Hamas, Inc.-How Hamas Amassed Its Wealth

Mon, 12/08/2014 - 7:00am
Gazans suffer, while their leaders continue to pile up the loot
By Moshe Elad for Tablet Magazine

The idea that hardline Hamas political leaders like Mousa Abu Marzook and Khaled Meshal who order violence in the name of jihad are also canny businessmen who have assembled financial

Nor is the combination of political and military roles with business empires unique to Hamas, or to other Islamist organizations. When I started my job as the Israeli Military Governor of Tyre district during the first Lebanese war and asked to meet with the local police chief, I was told, “He is available only during the morning hours. In the afternoons he takes care of his businesses.” “Businesses?” I wondered. “Yes,” said my informant, “he has a supermarket chain.”

During my two years in Lebanon I learned that almost every local office-holder and officer, whether in the public sector, police, or army, owned a private business. The police commander in question, for example, recommended that citizens who approach the police for help should purchase food from his private stores. Because Western values such as conflict of interests, transparency, and public efficiency are less recognized and less respected in this part of the world, most political leaders in the Middle East see public office as a route to making a fortune, and most of their constituents accept this behavior—with the hope of sharing in even a small part of the leader’s wealth.

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That Time I Picked Up a Hitchhiking Bubbe

Mon, 12/01/2014 - 7:00am
By Shanna Silva for Raising Kvell

We know the rule: picking up hitchhikers is bad. It’s been drilled into our heads from a young age, along with other stranger-danger situations and how to avoid them. Parents and educators teach children to be wary of strangers, and try to impart a survival savvy that they hope will never be needed. And in addition to the parental and school warnings are the many movies and TV shows that reinforce these concepts. We know that when a scene features a naïve driver picking up a hitchhiker, it will not end well for someone. Needless to say, we’ve been warned.

So then, what possessed me to pull over for a hitchhiker on my way to work?

I rolled my window down, and there she was: a woman with salt and pepper colored hair, a brown cardigan, and orthopedic shoes. She was at least 75 years old, and seemed to be in distress. She explained that she’d missed her bus, and was going to be late for an important doctor’s appointment. She told me the address of her doctor, which was coincidentally near my office, and she asked for a ride. What else could I do? I told her to get in.

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Arafat–Ten Years Later

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 7:00am
by Elliott Abrams for Council on Foreign Relations
Yasser Arafat died ten years ago, on November 11, 2004.

I am posting this “appreciation” a bit early, and anticipating an outflow of mourning and praise for Arafat next week. In fact, he was a curse to Palestinians.

To measure the damage Arafat did as the Palestinian leader, let’s begin with a comparison. Just 9 days before Arafat’s death, on November 2, 2004, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan died. Sheik Zayed’s death was not greeted with the global mourning, nor with the ceremonies and speeches at the United Nations that Arafat got. This is grotesque, because he was the father of his country, the UAE, and a model of sober, responsible, constructive leadership. Born in 1918 in one of the Trucial States, he lived as a Bedouin for all his early years. Yet he was wise enough to understand the modern world that was growing up around him, and to see the need for the Trucial States to federate when the British left in 1971. So he negotiated and  then led the federation. The enormous success of the UAE today, and its role as a key U.S. ally, owe an incalculable amount to this man.

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Forward 50: Susan Talve

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 7:00am
Forward 50 annually publishes its list of the 50 American Jews who have had the most impact on our national story.

 When Rabbi Jill Jacobs, head of the rabbinic social justice group T’ruah, wanted to travel to Ferguson, Missouri to support protesters, she got in touch with Susan Talve.

Talve, 61, is rabbi and spiritual leader of Central Reform Congregation, located a few miles from Ferguson, in downtown St. Louis. Ever since the August death of black teenager Michael Brown, Talve has been the most visible Jewish religious presence in a movement led by local black youth.

A longtime activist on social justice issues, Talve was recognized as one of America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis by the Forward this year for her local work in St. Louis combating gun violence.

Talve has been a regular participant in the recent protests in Ferguson, but she describes her role as one of support rather than leadership. “I go pretty much every night,” she told Haaretz. “It’s young people protesting and clergy showing up to model nonviolence and to listen to what they have to say.”

Over the past several months, she and her colleagues have continued to put their bodies on the line. One day in October, after they tried and failed to get arrested at an action outside the Ferguson police station, the Forward reached Talve by phone as she rode to visit a group of jailed ministers. She described a young member of her synagogue who lives in Ferguson: “He just wants to go to school,” she said. “He also doesn’t want to be afraid that when he walks on the street at night, that he’s going to be provoked, profiled and harassed because of the color of his skin.”

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In Germany, a Jewish community now thrives

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 7:00am
By Mike Ross for The Boston Globe


SINCE FIRST arriving in what would become Germany more than 1,800 years ago, Jews have searched for acceptance. No matter how desperate their attempts to demonstrate their standing as good German citizens — in some cases converting to Christianity, enlisting to fight in World War I, even trying to persuade their American counterparts to be less critical of the rising new leader Adolf Hitler — nothing brought them acceptance by their countrymen.

That, however, may be changing. Seventy years after the Holocaust, as anti-Semitism churns across Europe, the Jewish population on the continent is plummeting to record lows. New strands of hatred foment seemingly justified by the policies of Israel — a sovereign country thousands of miles away. And yet Germany has suddenly reemerged as a home for Jews.

Ask Cilly Kugelmann, the vice director of the Jewish Museum Berlin. Kugelmann is the daughter of two Polish Holocaust survivors who, as it is said, “grew up sitting on packed suitcases.” Today, she says she can’t think of anywhere else she’d rather live than Germany. “Germany is one of the safest places for Jews worldwide,” Kugelmann said.

In preparing to visit Germany for the first time, nothing was further from my own beliefs. In the place where my father’s family was slaughtered, I assumed that no Jew would ever again see Germany as their home. How could they?

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