October 18, 2001
Birthright Extends Deadline
A program that sends young Jews on free trips to Israel extended its registration deadline to Nov. 5 in the hopes of attracting more participants for winter trips.
Officials with Birthright Israel, which has approximately 8,000 North American Jews signed up this year compared to 25,000 at this time last year, attribute the reduced registrations to the fact that Americans have been hesitant to make travel plans in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Praying Prompts Flight Fears
A Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta to Newark was diverted to Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday after passengers complained of two "Middle Eastern" men who were huddled in the back of the plane speaking a language other than English.
After the plane landed in Charlotte, investigators found that the two were Orthodox Jews who were saying prayers during the flight.
"Everybody is kind of on edge, and it just doesn't take much to upset a lot of people," an official at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport was quoted as saying.
The flight continued to Newark after officials were satisfied there was no threat.
Jews Blamed for Rejected Gift
A Saudi prince blamed "Jewish pressure" for the rejection of his $10 million donation to a New York relief fund. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal also said Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat thanked him for linking the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States to the Palestinian cause.
Last week, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani refused to accept the donation after the visiting prince said the attacks should cause America to "adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause." Giuliani said the attempted linkage made by the prince, issued after he toured Ground Zero in New York, was "part of the problem" that led to the attacks.
Group: Settler Housing Up
The number of homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip grew by 62 percent since peace talks with the Palestinians began in 1993, according to Peace Now. Citing figures by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, the group said Tuesday that in 1993 there were 32,750 housing units in Jewish settlements. Since then, another 20,371 have been added. The group, which favors dismantling settlements to secure peace with the Palestinians, said the peak year of construction in settlements was 2000, when former Prime Minister Ehud Barak was trying to reach a final peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Berkeley Prof. Gets Award
George A. Akerlof, a professor of economics at UC Berkeley, has won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for a landmark 1970 academic paper, titled "The Market for Lemons." Akerlof used the example of a faulty used car sold to an unsuspecting customer to illustrate the concept of "asymmetric information."
The theory showed that the assumed supply-and-demand working of the market, in which buyer and seller arrive at a fair price for a given product, fails when one party has information not available to the other side.
Akerlof told the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California that he is the son of a Jewish mother and a Swedish father. His wife, Janet Yellen, a Jewish native of Brooklyn, is also a distinguished economist and served as chair of President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisors from 1997 to 1999, when the couple lived in Washington.
Foundation Gets Grant
The National Science Foundation has awarded a $7.5 million grant to Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation for the development of speech-recognition software.
The software is to be used to help catalogue and recognize important words and phrases in 116,000 hours of videotaped testimonies by 52,000 Holocaust survivors, given in 32 different languages.
Johns Hopkins University, IBM and the University of Maryland will participate in the research project on automatic processing of video for search and retrieval on online systems.
Funds for Breed Street
Gov. Gray Davis has signed legislation appropriating $500,000 for the restoration of the Breed Street Shul in the Boyle Heights area of East Los Angeles.
The 78-year-old shul, once home to the largest Orthodox congregation in California, fell victim to neglect and earthquakes after the Jewish population left in the 1940s and was replaced by Latino residents.
Now, Jewish and Latino activists have joined hands to restore the shul -- officially Congregation Talmud Torah -- as a community center, small synagogue and history museum.
Briefs compiled by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor.