Posted by Jeffrey Hensiek
Brothers Aryeh and Gil Gat sing "The Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel on "Rising Star."
12.18.13 at 12:05 pm | With the American Studies Association's boycott. . .
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12.16.13 at 9:58 am | Politifact.com's 'Lie of the Year Award'. . .
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12.16.13 at 2:26 pm | Jewish Journal blogger, and American settler,. . . (262)
10.12.09 at 4:49 pm | Is it time to claim the explorer as an MOT? (242)
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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.
October 2, 2013 | 9:35 am
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
In the 36 hours since the Pew Research Center released findings from its multimillion-dollar survey of American Jews – among them, that American Jews are intermarrying at ever higher rates, that one in five has “no religion,” and that Jews seem to think a good sense of humor is as essential to Jewish identity as Israel is – the reactions from scholars and leaders have begun to come out.
Many of the reactions amounted to little more than a shrug.
“The results confirm what I’ve been saying for years: the liberal denominations are declining, and Orthodoxy is growing, precisely because of high birthrates and high retention rates,” Jonathan Boyarin said in a statement circulated by Cornell University, where he is a professor of Modern Jewish Studies.
Jewish community leaders across the country agreed that the study’s results simply weren’t news. The findings, Jennifer Gorovitz, CEO of the Bay Area’s Jewish Community Federation said in a statement, reaffirm trends “that have been in play for years and which have long concerned Jewish communal leaders nationwide.”
And some heads of major Jewish organizations and movements sounded downright dismissive of the findings – and in some cases, of the opinions of those who responded to the Pew survey.
A sizable minority of American Jews – 38 percent – may have told Pew they believe the Israeli government is making a “sincere effort” to come to a peace deal with Palestinians, but nearly half of all Jews (48 percent) disagreed with the statement. Three-quarters of American Jews don't trust that the Palestinians are making a sincere effort to reach a peace deal, but 44 percent agreed that "the continued building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank hurts the security of Israel."
The aggregate of American Jewish opinion didn't seem to matter much to leaders of major Jewish organizations that regularly take positions on matters relating to Israel. Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, has regularly taken the position that Israeli settlements are not an obstacle to peace. He told the Forward that he doesn't lead by poll results.
“I think it’s interesting, we need to be aware,” Foxman told the Forward. “But I’m not going to follow this.”
Conservative Jewish leaders, asked about the Pew study’s finding that their movement only represents 11 percent of young American Jews, downplayed any suggestion that a contracting Conservative movement was evidence of failure.
“I want to focus on our quality,” Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University, told the New York-based newspaper.
But if some leaders aren't likely to heed the results of the Pew study, Jay Sanderson, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, told the Journal on Oct. 2 that the study had to be a "wakeup call" for American Jewish leaders, if they wanted to stem the tide of assimilation and intermarriage among Jews in America.
"This is information that most everybody understood," Sanderson said, "and we as a Jewish community haven’t been wiling to do a study like this because we were afraid, honestly, of what the results would be."
Greg Smith, director of U.S. religion surveys at the Pew Research Center, said he hopes the study “will be used as a good, valuable source of information about the characteristics, attitudes, beliefs and practices of Jews in the United States for many years to come,” but as a “nonpartisan, nonadvocacy” organization, the center wouldn’t be pushing any particular agenda.
There are others in the Jewish community who are attempting to advance an agenda in a way that takes account of the Pew study’s findings.
Significant majorities of American Jews -- 62% -- believe that being Jewish is “mainly a matter of ancestry and culture”? Maybe a renewed focus on Jewish culture makes sense as a way of bringing large numbers of Jews into Jewish life.
That’s the argument Shayna Kreisler, senior program director of the 14th Street Y in New York City, made in an essay that appeared in eJewishPhilanthropy recently, in which she decries the closures of various Jewish culture organizations, including the Six Points Fellowship and JDub.
“The Foundation for Jewish Culture recently announced that it will be closing its doors in 2014,” Kreisler writes. “As someone who has spent the last 12 years working at the intersection of Jewish life and cultural expression, I see these closures as not only sad, but naive bordering on ignorant.”
Sanderson said that Los Angeles -- precisely because it is a city to which Jews move with the express intention of assimilating and disappearing -- has been facing these questions for longer than other communities have, long enough that organizations have begun to come up with possible answers.
"This is a country where trends and culture and social issues migrate from west to east," Sanderson said. "The issues in the Pew study are more significant in Los Angeles -- and on the other hand, there are things happening in L.A. that aren’t happening anywhere else. This is an oppoortunity for us to make Los Angeles a laboratory and stem the tide and turn around what looks like a declining jewish community."
September 12, 2013 | 9:58 pm
Posted by Emily Kane
September 11, 2013 | 6:18 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
Ron Hirsch, a homeless man who was accused of setting off a bomb outside Chabad in Santa Monica, died on Aug. 24 while in federal custody. The cause of death was ischemic heart disease, various media reported.
Federal prosecutors have filed an order to dismiss the indictment of Hirsch in the wake of his death, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press.
He was being treated at a federal medical center in North Carolina at the time of his passing. He was 62.
Hirsch suffered from mental health problems that caused his trial to be postponed multiple times, Patch-Santa Monica reported. A court document co-signed by his attorney and the U.S. attorney’s office includes a request for his trial to be pushed from June 2012 to January 2013 and for a Sell hearing, which determines whether the government can force a defendant to take medication so that he will be mentally competent enough to stand trial.
Hirsch made national headlines in April 2011 after he was arrested on suspicion of setting off a pipe bomb outside Chabad of Santa Monica. Initially, authorities believed the explosion, which did not cause any deaths or injuries but blew a hole in the roof of a home adjacent to the shul and caused minor damage to the shul’s exterior, to be the result of an industrial accident.
He was linked to the crime after authorities discovered a sales receipt for bags of a demolition agent with his name on it near the scene of the incident.
Arresting Hirsch proved not to be so easy, though. Authorities caught up to the homeless transient four days after the blast, in Cleveland Heights, where he’d fled to, after a citizen there recognized him and notified the authorities. Because he left the city after the incident, he faced local and federal charges.
A federal grand jury indicted him on use of an explosive to damage property and three other charges. He stood to face up to 70 years in prison.
Hirsch pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Despite Hirsch’s actions, Rabbi Isaac Levitansky, co-director of Chabad of Santa Monica, the intended target of the explosion, believed Hirsch had not meant to cause anybody harm, and he expressed sadness over the man’s death.
“Hopefully his soul is a better place now, not locked up in prison, but going to eternal resting place,” Levitansky said.
September 3, 2013 | 10:46 am
Posted by Lauren Izso, JPost
Read more on JPost.com.