Posted by Tom Tugend
Scholar recaps new research on Dead Sea Scrolls for TV
After 12 years of researching the Dead Sea Scrolls, UCLA archaeologist Robert Cargill couldn’t believe his luck last January when he finally got to penetrate archaeology’s Holy of Holies – the underground vault beneath the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem. There he read from the Isaiah Scroll, the oldest-known copy of any book of the Bible.
“Nobody I know has ever been down there,” recalled Cargill, the instructional technology coordinator for UCLA’s Center for Digital Humanities and an adjunct assistant professor of Near Eastern Languages and Culture. “As a scholar, it’s as close as you can get to a religious experience.”
The moving moment is captured in an hour-long exploration of new research on the Dead Sea Scrolls that will air next week on the National Geographic Channel. Religious texts dated between 150 BC and 70 AD and written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek on parchment or papyrus, the scrolls include the oldest known surviving copies of the Bible as well as religious commentary from the flowering of Jewish culture that followed the return from the exile in Babylon.
As the narrator for “Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Cargill talked to nine archaeologists and other scholars who are conducting research that is challenging old assumptions about the authorship of the texts.
Cargill also takes viewers to the Western Wall, one of the last remnants of Jerusalem’s Second Temple, where scrolls may have been kept and used prior to the first-century Jewish Revolt, as well as to an ancient sewer system beneath Jerusalem.
The documentary is scheduled to air Tuesday, July 27, at 9 p.m. It will be rebroadcast on Tuesday, Aug. 3, at 2 p.m. For more information, go here.
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July 22, 2010 | 2:05 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
A new research project may give new impetus to the 65-year old search to track down the original ownership of paintings and other art works looted by the Nazis, mainly from Jews.
The research involves the digital archiving of all German auction catalogues from 1930-1945, which includes the entire Nazi era, as major clues in this search.
Heading the project, “German Sales, 1930-1945” at the Getty Research Institute is Christian Huemer, under a $174,0000 grant from the U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities and the German Research Foundation.
Huemer will be collaborating with German experts from Heidelberg University and the National Museum in Berlin.
Two current examples illustrate the complexity and drawn-out timeline of current looted art cases.
This week, the Leopold Museum in Austria agreed to pay $19 million to the estate of Bondi Jaras, a Jewish woman, whose “Portrait of Wally” by Egon Schiele was confiscated by the Nazis.
Closer to home, the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena is embroiled in a lawsuit to force the museum to return two 500-year old works by Lucas Cranach the Elder to the heirs of a Dutch Jewish art dealer.
July 20, 2010 | 1:54 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
On vacation in Stockholm, Harry Wiland of the Media Policy Center snapped a shot of a disturbing scene: a silent protest calling for a boycott of Israel. My Swedish is rusty, but I’m pretty sure that’s what those T-shirts say.
July 19, 2010 | 7:03 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
Four safe deposit boxes containing a cache of Jewish writer Franz Kafka’s papers were recently found in a bank in Zurich. A court in Tel Aviv is now trying to decide who owns them.
The boxes, which were opened today, reportedly include a number of manuscripts, including one written in Kafka’s own hand. The Israeli daughters of Kafka’s publisher’s secretary claim that their mother left the boxes to them as part of their inheritance. The State of Israel claims that it should own the contents of the boxes, since Kafka’s publisher, Max Brod, migrated to Israel in 1939 to escape from the Nazis.
Brod had been told by Kafka to burn all of his manuscripts after his death, an instruction that the publisher ignored. Readers have Brod to thank for The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika.
If, among the papers, something worthy of publication is found, Kafka will face stiff competition from other dead scribblers. Roberto Bolaño, David Foster Wallace, and Mark Twain will all have books on the shelves in the coming year.
It’d be hard for them to match the success of Stieg Larsson, the dead Swedish journalist whose Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has been on the paperback bestseller list for over a year, and whose sequels are still selling briskly.
There’s one more deceased writer to keep an eye out for, though: JD Salinger, who died last year, allegedly left behind 15 manuscripts in a safe.
July 13, 2010 | 11:22 am
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
“Never forget the six-foot-tall man who drowned crossing the stream that was five feet deep on average,” (1) said Howard Marks in an aphorism-filled speech he gave last night. Organized by the Federation’s recently relaunched Finance & Investment Division, 150 men and women gathered in a conference room at the Century Plaza hotel to listen to the chairman of Oaktree Capital Management. Marks, who is in charge of managing the investment firm’s $19.8 billion, is widely known for the publicly available memos he posts on his firm’s website, and he gave last night’s audience plenty to think about.
In a talk called “The Current Cycle and the Long Term,” the value investor and consistent worrier first explained how the world got to where it is today and then outlined a few principles for investors to consider when planning for the future.
One major factor that Marks identified as having helped bring about the bubble and the resulting crash was what he called “expansiveness.” Every person and organization did this, but Marks’ most memorable description was the one he used to describe American spending habits to his European colleagues: “The average American has $1,000 in the bank, $10,000 on the credit card, makes $20,000 after taxes every year—and spends $22,000.” (2)
“People ask me when we’ll be back to normal,” Marks said. “I ask them what they mean by normal.” (3) Marks considers the years from 1992 - 2007 to have been “the best of times,” and he doesn’t think they’re coming back.
The main question that investors have to answer now? “What future do you want to prepare for? Do you want to prepare for prosperity or not?” (4) Marks isn’t talking about something you can achieve with positive thinking and a vision board; he’s telling investors that they should make decisions as if the market will not perform well. Why? “No one ever went bust preparing for tough times.” (5)
The recent tough times have even gotten Marks thinking about gold, which, he says, people speak about in religious terms, much in the way they speak about God. “I’m not going to convince you to believe in God; you’re not going to convince me not to.” (6) But the practical thinker has lately become more open to including gold in his clients’ investment portfolios—even if he can’t determine what a good or fair price for gold is—and he admits that its ability to retain value in a down market has a pretty good track record. “There’s no way to explain it,” Marks said, “but it’s probably done it [retained value] for 3,000 years, so there’s no reason to expect it to stop doing that this month.” (7)
Marks expressed doubts about financial regulation (8: “Yes, it prevents the next crisis; it also prevents the recovery we’ll wish we’d had”) and spoke with concern about the recovery to date (9: “There’s an overly heavy reliance on government stimulus and an artificially low interest rate.”) And he predicted that the next set of big market problems would arise in the commercial real estate market. (The explanation he gave for that can also be found here.)
But when would the problems in commercial real estate actually become too big to ignore? That question—“when”—is one Marks said that “no one” could answer, and cautioned that, “Being too far ahead of your time is indistinguishable from being wrong.” (10)
July 9, 2010 | 6:15 pm
Posted by JewishJournal.com
by Daniella Penn
The Chase Community Giving program, in which individuals vote for the local charity of their choice via Facebook, is nearing a close. Any non-profit with an annual budget of under $1 million is eligible, and hundreds of thousands of charities are participating. Chase will donate a total of $5 million to the 200 charities with the most votes, each receiving between $20,000-$250,000 to further their cause.
The first Chase Community Giving program began in October 2009 and attracted 2,000,000 voters. The top cash prize went to Invisible Children, which mobilizes American students in the campaign to release child soldiers in Uganda. One of the five runners-up, and the recipient of a $100,000 donation, was Chabad-affiliated Friendship Circle of Michigan.
In this year’s competition, two local Friendship Circle branches—Redondo beach and Conejo Valley— currently rank near the top of the leader board. The Friendship Circle, a Chabad-affiliated, non-profit, non-sectarian organization, “provides assistance and support to the families of children with special needs [by pairing] local teenagers with the children for a full range of ongoing specially tailored programs. Over 300 local teenagers have been trained and currently volunteer their time to assist the special needs children and their families.”
According to The Friendship Circle, funds received will be used to “help implement new innovative programs for the Conejo Valley Special Needs community.” The Friendship Circle is requesting that the community, through voting, help them attain those funds.
To cast a vote for Friendship Circle, visit www.VoteFC.com (voting ends January 12th).
http://www.jewishjournal.com/nation/article/friendship_circle_wins_100000_in_chase_challenge_20100126/ (article about FC Michigan’s win)
July 1, 2010 | 5:02 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
Russian Jewish math genius Grigori Perelman is refusing the million-dollar Millennium Prize for solving one of the most difficult open problems in mathematics, the Poincaré conjecture.
The Clay Mathematics Institute in Cambridge, Mass., confirmed Thursday that Perelman had called last week to refused its prize, but said he gave no reason. However, the news agency Interfax is quoting the reclusive Perelman as saying he believes the prize was unfair.
The Poincaré conjecture is one of the seven problems eligible for the million-dollar Millennium Prize, established by the Clay Mathematics Institute in 2000. Formulated in 1904 by French mathematician Henri Poincaré, the Poincaré conjecture is fundamental to achieving an understanding of three-dimensional shapes.
Perelman presented a proof of the century-old conjecture in three papers in 2002 and 2003 while he was a mathematician at the Steklov Institute of Mathematics in St. Petersburg, Russia. The proof followed the research program established by Columbia University mathematics professor Richard Hamilton.
Perelman resigned from his post in spring 2003 and has since stopped working in the mathematics field. According to a 2006 interview, Perelman is jobless, living with his mother in St. Petersburg.
The journal Science recognized Perelman’s proof of the Poincaré conjecture as the scientific breakthrough of the year in 2006, the same year Perelman rejected the Fields Medal, the mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
The reasons for Perelman’s rejection of the Millennium Prize are not totally clear. Interfax quoted him as saying he believes his contribution in proving the Poincaré conjecture was no greater than that of Hamilton, who first suggested a program for the solution.
“To put it short, the main reason is my disagreement with the organized mathematical community… I don’t like their decisions, I consider them unjust,” Perelman said.
Clay Mathematics Institute President Jim Carlson said Perelman’s decision was not a complete surprise given his history of declining previous math prizes.
Carlson told AP that institute officials will meet this fall to decide what to do with the prize money. “We have some ideas in mind,” he said. “We want to consider that carefully and make the best use possible of the money for the benefit of mathematics.”
July 1, 2010 | 12:31 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
British writer Christopher Hitchens announced plans to undergo chemotherapy to fight off cancer.
Hitchens said: “I have been advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my esophagus. This advice seems persuasive to me.”
The polarizing but popular author and journalist announced this news on June 30, on the website for Vanity Fair, a publication to which he contributes.
Hitchens was supposed to make an appearance in Los Angeles on June 28, to support his recently released memoir, “Hitch 22.” He was scheduled to appear alongside actor and activist Sean Penn. The Jewish Journal highlighted the event as a “Pick of the Week” in the paper’s weekly calendar.
I’ve only recently been introduced to Hitchen’s writing. I’m currently in the middle of “Hitch 22,” in which Hitchens, despite his ostensibly tough demeanor and scathing criticisms of various political figures, really shows off a vulnerable side when writing about his family.
I was looking forward to seeing him speak and was disappointed when the Los Angeles event was suddenly cancelled for reasons that were mysterious to me until now.
For more on Hitchen’s illness and plans for chemotherapy, read the Yahoo! News story