Posted by Julie Bien
Rarely do I find myself on the verge of tears when I read a story. As a journalist, I've developed an emotional teflon coating to shield me from even the most emotional anecdotes of love and loss--because frankly, otherwise the world just seems too bleak.
Today, I was forwarded a story by my publisher that would tug at even the taughtest of heart strings. I'm shaking as I write this, feeling my chest tighten up and trying not to cry at the office (never a flattering look), because lordy, does it hit close to home.
I'll preface the story with this: it is a story of hope, courage and strength when faced with the toughest of enemies--a body that has gone rogue.
Olivia Wise is a 17 year old from Toronto, and she's battling brain cancer.
What most people don't understand about brain cancer is that it can be the cruelest of thieves, robbing you of every part of your body and mind--but it's often impossible to know what part will go rogue and when.
Despite being unable to stand or walk (or easily breath, for that matter) Wise recently went into a recording studio for the first time and did a heartwrenchingly sincere cover of Katy Perry's hit single, 'Roar.' Her talent is undeniable and her spirit is obviously nearly-unshakable.
The emotional strength she must have is awe-inspiring. Having watched a good friend succumb to a brain tumor, and another continue to battle--now for nearly a decade--I've seen first-hand how brain cancer ravages the body.
According to the YouTube account that's hosting this video:
She couldn't walk or stand, she didn't have her full breath or the energy she used to, and she was managing her new pains and new limitations. While her physical condition was rapidly fading, her spirit remained untouched.
Olivia is a fighter and has gone through the fire, in fact, she was going through the fire while she recorded this song, but you wouldn't know it, because she was dancing right through it. She is an inspiration, a champion, and my hero. This is her Roar.
And in the email sent to us about this story, the sender notes:
[Olivia] used every last bit of her strength to make this video. We are trying to make sure that her voice is now heard around the world.
I have no doubt that this used all her strength, her deepest reserves and then some. When simply having a conversation is enough to wear you out, I honestly don't know how she did this.
And the lyrics, when sung by Wise, slowed down and accompanied by a simple piano, have taken on a whole new meaning. If I was Katy Perry, I'd be honored to have this rendition of my song recorded by someone like Wise.
In the end, it's the fragility of her voice that gets to me--that makes me think of my dear friend, Edd, who had an equally robust spirit despite his failing body.
Her strength reminded me of his strength, and in turn, of him, the friend I often talk to, even though I know he can't hear me anymore.
Olivia, thank you for being you. Thank you for making me think of my friend.
Your strength, your voice and your story are touching more people than you'd ever think possible.
May everything be easier for you from here on out. May your voice be heard around the world.
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October 19, 2013 | 6:53 pm
Posted by Susan Freudenheim
One day in early March 1954, Uri Herscher, just 12 at the time, ran away from his parents. His father, Joseph, a cabinetmaker, and mother, Lucy, a laundress, were having trouble making ends meet living in Israel. Together with Uri and his younger brother, Eli, they were meant to leave from Haifa the next morning to travel to the United States. There, the family would find a new home in San Jose, Calif., a thriving middle-class community with very few Jews, where Joseph’s sister had already set down roots.
But young Uri didn’t want to leave. In his short life, he had watched the creation of the Jewish state realize a long-held dream for the Jewish people, and especially those who had escaped the Shoah like his German-refugee parents. He felt tied to the land, and because of the loss in the Holocaust of all his grandparents and many other family members, he looked forward to joining the Israel Defense Forces and ensuring his country’s future.
America meant nothing to the young sabra.
Eventually, however, the boy was found, and he dutifully boarded the cargo ship and set out on 19 days of traveling rough seas to the United States. Young Uri even celebrated his bar mitzvah onboard the rocking vessel — immediately feeding his celebratory chocolate cake to the fishes. It was only when the boat arrived in New York’s harbor at dawn on March 24, 1954, that the waters finally calmed, and with that calm came a new beginning and a vision that has defined Uri Herscher’s life: The captain woke everyone aboard to see the welcoming figure of the Statue of Liberty.
October 17, 2013 | 1:20 pm
Posted by Jana Banin, JTA
Good news “Girls” fans! The show’s return date has been announced, and it’s January 12.
“Girls” creator/star/promoter/mascot Lena Dunham virtually spread the word about season three yesterday, via an adorable Instagram selfie.
So mark your calenders. Or scrawl on a mirror with lipstick. Or you could tattoo it somewhere on your body. Whatever — the point is, save the date.
October 14, 2013 | 12:20 pm
Posted by Jewish Journal
Steve Greenberg is a political cartoonist. This week, he chose to lampoon the Tea Party with an editorial entitled "Tea-Hadist," and we, The Jewish Journal, chose to print it.
The purpose of political cartoons is to comment on both deep and topical political and social issues via satire. Political correctness has about as much place in an editorial cartoons as a bacon-cheeseburger has in a kosher market.
As Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman put it:
"Steve is a satirist. His point was that in pursuing their ideology, the Tea Party conservatives in the House are actually destroying government for others, as well as for the Republican Party, and ultimately their own movement. It's a point many Republicans have made: John McCain, Peter King and many others. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2013/10/07/republicans-fighting-back-against-the-tea-party/).
"Greenberg makes his point via a medium that doesn't reward subtlety.
"We love Greenberg because over the years his sharpest, angriest cartoons go after extremists of all stripes, those who would sacrifice others for their own beliefs. You'll find he reserves a special venom for radical Islamists.
"At the same time, we are especially sensitive to the impression many have that the cartoon somehow trivializes the horrific, real suffering wrought by Islamic terrorists. That is clearly not Greenberg's intention-- and I offer my apology to anyone who sees the cartoon exclusively in that light. I agree that even in the context of a political cartoon, this one was insensitive, and I apologize to those we have offended.
"The Jewish Journal, meanwhile, is committed to presenting a multiplicity of thoughtful voices on issues that matter to all Americans. We are guided not by what are perceived as narrow 'Jewish' interests, but by the larger Jewish value of vigorous debate leading to mutual understanding. Satire is part of that debate.
"You'll note on the same page of the print edition of the Jewish Journal as the Greenberg cartoon is the lead op-ed about Danny Lewin, a hero of 9/11, written by a contributor to the David Horowitz Freedom Center. (http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/the_legacy_of_9_11_hero_danny_lewin).The Center also has ties to the Web site that excoriated us for the Greenberg cartoon. The Jewish Journal happily embraces differing points of view ON THE SAME PAGE-- whereas so many sites and media outlets these days are just a uni-dimensional, sterilized echo-chamber of like-mindedness."
As a newspaper, our job is to foster discussion within the community. Readers, If you're interested in joining the discussion, please let us know what you think in the comments section below.
October 14, 2013 | 11:20 am
Posted by Jeffrey Hensiek
Brothers Aryeh and Gil Gat sing "The Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel on "Rising Star."
October 11, 2013 | 8:48 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
For the first time since most of the federal government shut down on Oct. 1, there appeared to be some hope on Capitol Hill on Friday that Congressional Republicans and President Obama could come to a compromise that will allow the federal government to be reopened, possibly in the coming days.
Such a deal – which could be coupled with a short-term lift to the country’s debt ceiling – would not just reopen National Parks and end the uncertainty facing those who depend on the federally funded WIC program. Ending the partial shutdown of the federal government will also bring back to work the approximately 175 employees who usually work in the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a little-known office that is tasked with overseeing the U.S.’s sanctions against Iran.
On Oct. 4, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that as a result of the shutdown, just 11 people were manning the OFAC office.
For Rep. Brad Sherman (D – Calif.), restaffing that office can’t happen soon enough, which is why he, together with Rep. Ted Poe (R – Tex.) and a bipartisan group of 13 other representatives, sent a letter urging President Obama to bring “most if not all” of the furloughed employees back to their desks by declaring them to be “essential.”
“There’s nothing more essential than preventing Iran from having nuclear weapons and an important part of that is having an effective sanctions program,” Sherman told the Journal on Oct. 11.
The timing of the reduction in staff at OFAC is of particular concern, Sherman said. The partial government shutdown comes just weeks after the newly elected Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, launched a charm offensive during his recent trip to the United States.
Rouhani appears to be more moderate than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad; some have argued that Rouhani’s election is proof that sanctions against Iran are having an impact.
“There is no doubt that the sanctions are having an effect and causing the Iranian government to rethink its development of a nuclear weapons program,” Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D – Long Beach) said through a spokesman on Friday, explaining why he signed Sherman and Poe’s letter. “Due to these sanctions, the President of Iran has opened up discussions with the U.S. regarding their nuclear ambitions. I strongly support those discussions. Now is not the time to take any steps that might lessen the impacts of these sanctions.”
By Friday afternoon, many in Congress – including Sherman – were optimistic about Congress and the President reaching a deal in the coming days to allow all government operations to resume – including the workers at OFAC.
But some Democrats bristled at what they saw as Sherman breaking with the party’s strategy. Until recently, the Administration and the party’s leaders in Congress were blaming the shutdown on Republicans and opposing any attempts by the GOP to restart parts of the federal government on a piecemeal basis.
“There was a sense of annoyance with Sherman’s antics on this,” a Senior Democratic staffer at the Capitol told the Journal on Friday. “It was again evidence of his failure to be a team player and to undermine the broader House Democratic message on the shutdown.”
Sherman and Poe circulated their letter to all members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; of 21 Democrats, seven other members of Sherman’s party came aboard, including four from California.
Even Sherman acknowledged that some members of his party had “concern” about reopening some parts of the federal government without an overall budget deal. But he said that while Democrats had opposed legislation introduced by House Republicans that would restore funding to individual programs – the House passed bills to restore funding for everything from Head Start to Homeland Security, to little effect – Sherman said that his party had supported the executive branch’s making decisions as to which operations are “essential.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recalled nearly all the civilians who work at the Pentagon last week; Sherman argued that the 175 staffers who work at OFAC were no less essential to the country’s national security.
It’s a view shared by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) - a spokesperson told the Journal that the pro-Israel lobby “absolutely” supported the Sherman, Poe letter – and by California Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D – Santa Monica), who sent a similar letter to President Obama. Signed by Assembly Speaker John Perez, Senate President Darrell Steinberg and a handful of other members of the state legislature, Bloom’s letter hammers home the same message: the federal government needs to do whatever it takes to get OFAC back to work.
“This is a national security issue,” Bloom told the Journal on Friday. “Just like the military personnel are continuing to work and doing their jobs, these folks need to be doing their jobs.”
October 9, 2013 | 2:20 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
Six of the eight Nobel Prize winners in the sciences, announced this week, are Jewish scientists, continuing and enlarging their remarkable record in earning the world’s most prestigious prize.
Three of the six are Israeli citizens or have close ties with Israeli universities. In Chemistry, new Nobel Laureates Arieh Warshel and Michael Levitt hold dual Israeli and American citizenship, while Martin Karplus fled with his parents after the Nazi takeover of his native Austria.The three were honored for developing multiscale models for complex chemical processes, such as photosynthesis in green leaves. Warshel studied at the Technion and the Weizmann Institute of Science and is now a professor at USC. Levitt also studied at the Weizmann Institute and is now affiliated with the Stanford University School of Medicine.
The prize for Physiology or Medicine was shared by Jewish scientists James Rothman of Yale and Randy Schekman of UC Berkeley. The third recipient was German-born Thomas C. Sudhoff of Stanford. The three were recognized for their discovery of “vesicle traffic,” the process by which proteins and other materials are transported within cells.
The most publicized award in the sciences this year went to physicists Peter Higgs of Britain and Francois Englert of Belgium. They are credited with predicting the existence of the Higgs boson, better known as the “God particle,” the ultimate stuff of which the universe is made. Englert is a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust and holds a special research appointment at Tel Aviv University. He is also a master of understatement, even for a theoretical physicist. When reporters called him and asked for his reaction on winning the Nobel Prize, Englert responded, “You may imagine that this is not very unpleasant, of course.”
Currently, the monetary award for winning the Nobel Prize is $1.8 million, which is shared among the recipients in each category.
Still to be announced, as of Wednesday (Oct. 9), are the new Nobel Laureates in Literature, Peace, and Economic Science.
Announcement of the 2013 Nobel winners continues and enlarges the extraordinary record of Jewish recipients. According to Wikipedia, Nobel Laureates totaled 855 up to this year, of whom 125 were Jews, with another 60 counted as half of three-quarter Jews. In the sciences, the record was even more remarkable, with Jews taking 26 percent of the prizes in Physics, 27 percent in Physiology/Medicine, and 37 percent in Economic Science.
Since Jews make up only 0.2 percent of the world’s population, these are astonishing statistics and have led to considerable speculation about the existence of a “Jewish gene.” However, since Jews are not considered a distinct genetic group, the Israeli daily Haaretz looked elsewhere. It credited cultural aspects, such as the value Jews put on education, or that Jews had to be smart just to survive, whether amidst the tribal warfare of the ancient Middle East or later in exile.
One less positive aspect of all this concentration of mental power has been a brain drain of Israeli scientists to other countries, especially to the United States. For instance, Arieh Warshel, one of this year’s Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, received his Ph.D. at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot and then worked there for four years as a researcher. However, he was unable to get tenure, and with relatively few faculty slots open at Israeli universities, left for the United States.
October 2, 2013 | 3:28 pm
Posted by Julie Bien
I am having a hard time keeping my jaw from hitting the ground—or my head from banging onto my desk, for that matter. Our government just came to a grinding halt over whether or not I have the right to the affordable care-and-keeping of my reproductive organs.
Let me rephrase: The Republican party is so hell-bent on limiting my right to have affordable access to 100% legal medicine that they are willing to shut down the government—close the national parks, close the National Institute of Health, and prevent economically disadvantaged mothers from feeding their children with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.
An ideological battle is being waged on my body and the American people. Apparently, it is of little interest to the powers that be that affordable access to hormonal birth control not only costs the country less (fewer unplanned pregnancies) but also boosts the overall health of many women who take it.
Women who take the pill reduce their chances of developing uterine or ovarian cancer. For those who suffer from endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome, hormonal birth control is one of the only medications that brings relief from the symptoms. The list goes on.
Why isn’t their more outrage among the moderate Republicans? Don’t they realize that their party is being hijacked by the religious-right with many children bearing the brunt of their bullheaded idiocy? Do they think that nothing will win the hearts and minds of the public like children going hungry, or preventing scientists from doing their jobs (which help protect Democrats and Republicans alike from health emergencies?)
I am ashamed of my government. I am livid. I cannot think of a big enough F-You to shout at the petty, hollowed-out shells of human beings that have allowed this to happen.
I, a woman—owner of ovaries, fallopian tubes, and a uterus, demand that I am granted equal access to medical care. If I can’t have affordable access to birth control, then you, owners of XY chromosomes, cannot have access to Viagra. Or testosterone supplements. Or beta-blockers. Does that seem unfair? (The answer is ‘yes’—feel free to take that nugget of information and follow it to its logical conclusion.)
One of the main tenets of Judaism is Tikkun Olam, which literally means “repair the world.” How about we start with advocating for a society that does just that? We can begin by making sure everyone has affordable access to any medical care they need. And let’s shout as loud as we can when anyone gets in the way of that fundamental right.
Maimonides, the highly revered Jewish physician and scholar, listed health care first on his list of the 10 most important communal services that a city should offer its residents (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De’ot IV: 23).
Instead of doing just that, we have let it become an issue that is debatable. Let me clarify this for you: It is not debatable. It is our duty to provide healthcare. It is our fundamental human right to receive it.
If you truly believe that offering birth control coverage to your employees goes against your deepest beliefs, fine—you’re free to believe that! Don’t use it. No one will force you!
Here in America, we have freedom of religion. But you also need to accept that we have freedom from religion—and that means religious doctrine has no place in any national healthcare debate.