Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, joins Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as Democrats rally outside the Capitol. (J. Scott Applewhite)
From the IPT News Website
Note: To read the letter from Rabbi Aryeh Spero of the National Conference of Jewish Affairs, click here.
The National Conference of Jewish Affairs, led by Rabbi Aryeh Spero, gathered outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office Wednesday to protest her inability to condemn U.S. Rep. lhan Omar’s repeated anti-Semitic statements.
An earlier draft invoked a definition of anti-Semitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) — embraced by the U.S. State Department in 2010 – that includes “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”
Neither the original nor the final draft mentioned Omar by name, despite her statements that U.S. support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins,” meaning driven by campaign contributions, and insinuating pro-Israel people have greater allegiance to the Jewish state than to the United States.
The final draft omitted reference to the IRHA definition, but still condemned “the pernicious myth of dual loyalty and foreign allegiance, especially in the context of support for the United States-Israel alliance.” The revision also added language about anti-Muslim bigotry and other forms of hate.
The group never got to meet with Pelosi. Spero read a letter criticizing the Speaker’s “inability to convince your members that anti-Semitism should itself be condemned as a stand-alone poison and atrocity.” The protesters want Omar censured and removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Judea Pearl, president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, also submitted a letter critical of last week’s resolution. Pearl’s son Daniel was a Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and executed in 2002 by terrorists in Pakistan. Pearl urged Pelosi as a lifelong Democrat to “rid the House of Representative[s] of a new form of bigotry, directed again at Jews and lovers of Israel.”
The Pearl Foundation also urges Speaker Pelosi to denounce Rep. Omar’s antisemitism and remove her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Code Pink activists crashed the sit-in, expressing support for Omar and calling the people protesting anti-Semitism as “Islamophobes.”
As President of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, and a lifelong Democrat, I urge Speaker Nancy Pelosi to act boldly and decisively on Rep. Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic bigotry.
Our late son, Daniel Pearl, was not an Islamophobe, nor a foreign agent or a trader in “Benjamins”.
He was a principled American journalist, a champion of truth and a relentless peace-seeker, who was murdered for being a Jew and a lover of Israel. I plead with Speaker Pelosi to rid the House of Representative of a new form of bigotry, directed again at Jews and lovers of Israel.
And the hateful words pronounced by Rep. Ilhan Omar will continue to haunt and poison the future of American Jewry. However, we are concerned not merely with the harsh consequences of those words but with the obsessive hatred that produced them, and
the ultimate purpose for which they were enunciated — to erode American support for the State of Israel — the miracle that symbolizes Jewish history and Jewish aspirations.
We stand here to remind Speaker Pelosi of words she has spoken many times in the past, that US support for Israel is not only a
matter of mutual interest and shared values. Americans’ support of a homeland for the Jewish people is a moral imperatvie, a historical calling that should not be polluted with accusations of dual loyalty, or greed.
The Resolution passed by the House on March 9 condemns almost every form of hate on earth, except one — the anti-Zionist hatred waged against our brothers and sisters in Israel — Six and a half million refugees or descendants of refugees who have been denied normalcy for the past 70 years, besieged by hostile neighbors and confronted by daily existential threats from Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.
The anti-Zionist obsession that Rep. Omar now brings to the halls of Congress aims to strip these six and a half million people from sovereignty and abandon them, stateless, to the mercy of genocidal neighbors.
Americans cannot allow such moral deformity to stain the halls of their representative government.
The Democratic Party must remain a welcoming home to the many American Jews who have entrusted their energies, talents and dreams to this party.
We urge Speaker Pelosi to find Rep. Ilhan Omar unfit to serve on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
President, Daniel Pearl Foundation
Chancellor’s Professor, University of California Los Angeles
Steven Emerson is executive director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism. He was a correspondent for CNN and a senior editor at U.S. News and World Report. Read more reports from Steve Emerson — Click Here Now.
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Jewish brothers attacked and beaten in suburban Paris. Assailants saw off one brother’s finger.
JTA – Two Jewish brothers said they were abducted briefly and beaten by several men in suburban Paris in an incident that ended with one brother having his finger sawed off by an assailant.
The brothers were hospitalized in what was described as a state of shock following the incident Tuesday night in Bondy. A case report published Thursday by the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, based on a police complaint by the alleged victims did not specify their medical condition.
The kippah-wearing brothers, whose father is a Jewish leader in Bondy, were forced off the main road by another vehicle on to a side street, according to the BNVCA report. While the vehicle was in motion, the driver and a passenger shouted anti-Semitic slogans at the brothers that included “Dirty Jews, You’re going to die!” the father told BNVCA based on the complaint filed by his sons.
The vehicle forced the brothers to stop their car, and they were surrounded by several men whom they described as having a Middle Eastern appearance. The men came out of a hookah café on to the side street, according to the case report published by the news website JSSNews.
The alleged attackers surrounded the brothers, then kicked and punched them repeatedly while threatening that they would be murdered if they moved. One of the alleged attackers then sawed off the finger of one of the brothers.
According to CNN, “at one time, nearly 5 million Assyrian Christians lived in Iraq as a healthy minority, but their numbers have dwindled through the decades.
“Before ISIS, roughly 300,000 Christians remained in Iraq. But no one knows how many survived or how many will return home to restart their lives. Many of them, understandably, have lost hope. But no one knows how many survived or how many will return home to restart their lives. Many of them, understandably, have lost hope.”
(Reuters) – Belgian police on Sunday were hunting a gunman who shot dead two Israelis and a French woman at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, in an attack French President Francois Hollande said was without doubt motivated by anti-Semitism.
Security around all Jewish institutions in Belgium was raised to the highest level following Saturday’s shooting, while French authorities stepped up security after two Jews were attacked near a Paris synagogue.
Belgian officials released a 30-second video clip from the museum’s security cameras showing a man wearing a dark cap and a blue jacket enter the building, take a Kalashnikov rifle out of a bag, and shoot into a room, before walking out.
“From the images we have seen, we can deduce that the perpetrator probably acted alone and was well prepared,” said Ine Van Wymersch, a spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutor’s office.
“It’s still too early to confirm whether it’s a terrorist or an anti-Semitic attack; all lines of investigation are still open,” she told a news conference.
Officials appealed for witnesses to the attack in the busy tourist district which is filled with restaurants and antique shops. The entrance to the Jewish Museum was lined with flowers and candles, and will remain closed to the public on Monday.
“The anti-Semitic nature of the act – a shooting, with intent to kill, in the Jewish Museum of Brussels – cannot be denied,” said Hollande, speaking about the Brussels attack.
“We must do everything to fight against anti-Semitism and racism,” he told news channel I-Tele on Sunday.
Hours after the Brussels shootings, two Jews were attacked and beaten in Paris as they left a synagogue in the suburb of Creteil wearing traditional Jewish clothing.
POPE CONDEMNS ‘SAVAGE ATTACK’
The two Israelis, Emmanuel and Miriam Riva, both in their 50s, were described by friends as former Israeli civil servants who were in Belgium on vacation.
A Belgian man who was also injured in the shooting remained in critical condition in hospital, authorities said.
Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo spoke by telephone with Hollande and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and held talks with the Jewish community in Belgium.
Netanyahu, in a statement from his office, strongly condemned the Brussels killings. They were, he said, “the result of endless incitement against the Jews and their state”. He offered Israeli cooperation in the Belgian investigation.
An Israeli official said Emmanuel Riva had formerly worked for Nativ, a government agency that played a covert role in fostering Jewish immigration from the former Soviet Union.
Along with the Mossad and Shin Bet intelligence services, the agency was under the authority of the prime minister’s office.
Miriam Riva also formerly worked for the prime minister’s office, the official said without elaborating.
Friends of the couple interviewed by Israeli media said they both worked as accountants in government service.
Pope Francis, in Tel Aviv on Sunday, condemned the attack in Brussels, where about half of Belgium’s 42,000-strong Jewish community lives.
“With a deeply saddened heart, I think of all of those who lost their lives in yesterday’s savage attack in Brussels,” he said.
“In renewing my deep sorrow for this criminal act of anti-Semitic hatred, I commend to our merciful God the victims and pray for the healing of those wounded.”
At some 550,000, France’s Jewish community is the largest in Europe, though violence such as the 2012 murders of three Jewish children and a rabbi by Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah have prompted higher emigration to Israel or elsewhere.
France’s Agence Juive, which tracks Jewish emigration, says 1,407 Jews left France for Israel in the first three months of this year, putting 2014 on track to mark the biggest exodus of French Jews to Israel since the country was founded in 1948.
(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell and Dan Williams in Jerusalem, Leila Abboud in Paris, Justyna Pawlak and Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; Writing by Justyna Pawlak; Editing by Lynne O’Donnell, Sophie Hares and Eric Walsh)
by Sophie Imas , originally published on NoCamels.com.
“Killing these cancer stem cells is the holy grail of cancer treatments and therefore holds promise for complete eradication of cancer,” says Dr. Sarit Larisch of the University of Haifa.
These are not words pronounced lightly; instead, they follow more than a decade of research that could give hope to cancer patients worldwide. Along with her colleagues, Larisch has established the basis for developing a new, more effective treatment for cancer using a protein called ARTS.
ARTS is a protein, which along with a number of other proteins and enzymes, regulates what is known as apoptosis. Apoptosis is the process of programmed cell death which occurs when a cell is damaged, mutated or no longer functional. ARTS acts as a trigger for cell death, its presence allowing for enzymes called caspases to destroy the non-functional cell.
But this process is missing in cancer cells.
Destroying cancer cells using the natural process of self-destruction
Larisch’s research shows that unlike normal cells, cancer cells have an absence of the ARTS protein. “Without the ARTS protein, cells can’t be triggered to self-destruct. As a result cancer cells can survive and develop into a tumor,” she tells NoCamels.
“We have found that ARTS is lost in many types of cancers. Therefore, determining levels of ARTS in blood could provide a marker to alert to the possibility of developing certain types of cancers.” Consequently, Dr. Larisch believes that small molecules that mimic ARTS could restore the ability of cancer cells to be killed selectively using the natural process of apoptosis.
“ARTS-based cancer drugs could potentially change the treatment method of cancer worldwide,” Larisch tells NoCamels. “We have found that ARTS is particularly important for the death of defective stem cells. We therefore believe that ARTS-based drugs will specifically eliminate cancer stem cells (the cells that drive the growth of a tumor and are often resistant to chemotherapy or radiotherapy).
The therapy would also minimize common side-effects of conventional cancer treatment. “All currently available cancer drugs have unwanted side effects because they harm normal cells as well. In contrast, ARTS-based cancer drugs should only kill cancer cells because they act by specifically correcting the defect in their cell suicide program, caused by the loss of ARTS,” says Larisch.
13 years in the making
Dr. Sarit Larisch discovered the protein during her post-doctoral studies at the NCI/NIH , Bethesda, MD. This discovery was first published in the journal “Nature Cell Biology” in the year 2000. She has been working on this project ever since and has revealed how ARTS is essential for cell death on a molecular level. Cancer research was Larisch’s initial interest, which she returned to after the discovery of ARTS.
“After completing my PhD in Tumor Immunology, I became very interested in apoptosis. The decisions a cell makes which determine whether it will live or die fascinated me.” It was not until further in her career, when Larisch discovered the connection between the ARTS protein and cancer, that she began focusing on using the information gathered about this protein for the development of novel ways for cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Despite the success of her work, Larisch says that finding support and funding was not always easy. “I consider myself very lucky with the research support that we’ve gotten. Unfortunately, developing cancer drugs is very costly and goes beyond typical academic budgets. Right now, we’re ready to start developing ARTS-based cancer drugs. But we need more funding, to move full speed ahead.”
Her research received funding from the Israeli Science Foundation, the United States – Israel Binational Research Foundation (BIRD), as well as some private donors.
Larisch completed her education at the Hadassah Medical School of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She moved on to obtain her post-doctorate degree at the National Cancer Institute/NIH in the United States. Upon discovering the ARTS protein, she returned to Israel and founded her own research laboratory. She is currently the head of the Biology and Medical Sciences department at the University of Haifa. Larisch has had a Visiting Professor appointment at the Rockefeller University in New York for the past 12 years, where she works in close collaboration with Professor Hermann Steller and members of his lab.
Currently, she and her colleagues are in contact with several investors and pharmaceutical companies to obtain funding for ARTS-based cures. Larisch hopes to start developing ARTS-based cancer drugs as soon as possible and establish the ARTS protein as a biomarker of susceptibility to cancer.
by Sophie Imas , originally published on NoCamels.com. (Our thanks to United For Israel for forwarding this.)
By MICHAEL FREUND, Special to the New York Sun |
In a throwback to its darkest past, the German government recently decided to back an initiative which singles out Jewish-owned businesses and targets them for detrimental treatment. Joining 13 other European Union members, Berlin has reportedly agreed to support efforts aimed at applying special labels of origin to products manufactured by Jewish owned factories in Judea and Samaria.
The goal is to harm the livelihood of Jewish businessmen and entrepreneurs as a way of undermining the settlement enterprise. Needless to say, goods made by Palestinian-run plants in the territories will not similarly be branded.
This is an absolute outrage, one that is both morally obscene and historically indefensible, and the government of Angela Merkel should be ashamed of itself for going along with such a discriminatory practice. Whatever one may think of the peace process and the two-state solution, it should be obvious that treating merchandise differently simply because the person who owns the factory where it was made is a follower of Moses rather than Muhammad is an act of pure bigotry.
In light of its own sordid record during the 20th century, Germany and its leaders have a special responsibility to be exceptionally sensitive to such issues, particularly when they relate to Jews. After all, it was 80 years ago, in April 1933, that the Nazis launched a nationwide assault on Jewish owned businesses throughout Germany, painting yellow-and-black Stars of David on storefronts and discouraging people from patronizing them.
This was carried out under the slogan, “Kauft nicht bei Juden!” (Don’t buy from Jews!). Hence, for any German government to stand up and declare: “Don’t buy from Jews,” even if the proposal is limited to the Jews of Judea and Samaria, is downright chilling and should send a shiver down everyone’s spine.
No one is suggesting that Berlin is planning a second Holocaust, but there is no escaping the painful historical irony here.
However contrite Germans have been over their wartime record, they still do not see anything wrong with bestowing special treatment upon the Jews. What makes this exercise so exceptionally absurd is that those it harms the most are in fact the Palestinians.
According to statistics compiled by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the territories, more than 23,000 permits were granted to Palestinians to work in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria in 2012. Many Palestinian Arabs can be found working for Israeli companies based in one of the nearly 20 industrial zones located throughout the area.
And as a recent foreign ministry report noted, nearly half of these Palestinian workers are between the ages of 18 and 29, which means that the Jewish settlements are a major source of employment and income for young Palestinians joining the workforce.
Moreover, their average daily pay is 88% higher than what their fellow Palestinians are making in the Palestinian-controlled areas. All told, their potential annual income, says the ministry, amounts to more than a quarter of a billion dollars.
This means that efforts by Germany and others to delegitimize Jewish-owned businesses in Judea and Samaria could end up impairing the Palestinian economy far more extensively and painfully than Israel’s.
So just who is it that the Germans are really hurting here? The duplicity of the labeling campaign targeting Judea and Samaria is all the more apparent when one considers that no such campaigns are being contemplated for Chinese products made in Tibet, Russian items manufactured in Chechnya or Spanish goods from Catalonia. Only when it comes to the Jewish state do the liberals of Europe insist on drawing a line in the sand.
This is not only hypocrisy, it is hatred, pure and simple.
As the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman put it, “If the only country you want to single out is Israel, that’s anti- Semitism.”
It sure is.
From the Jerusalem Post.
JERUSALEM — Liat Negrin, an Israeli who has been visually impaired since childhood, walked into a grocery store here recently, picked up a can of vegetables and easily read its label using a simple and unobtrusive camera attached to her glasses.
Ms. Negrin, who has coloboma, a birth defect that perforates a structure of the eye and afflicts about 1 in 10,000 people, is an employee at OrCam, an Israeli start-up that has developed a camera-based system intended to give the visually impaired the ability to both “read” easily and move freely.
Until now reading aids for the visually impaired and the blind have been cumbersome devices that recognize text in restricted environments, or, more recently, have been software applications on smartphones that have limited capabilities.
In contrast, the OrCam device is a small camera worn in the style of Google Glass, connected by a thin cable to a portable computer designed to fit in the wearer’s pocket. The system clips on to the wearer’s glasses with a small magnet and uses a bone-conduction speaker to offer clear speech as it reads aloud the words or object pointed to by the user.
The system is designed to both recognize and speak “text in the wild,” a term used to describe newspaper articles as well as bus numbers, and objects as diverse as landmarks, traffic lights and the faces of friends.
It currently recognizes English-language text and beginning this week will be sold through the company’s Web site for $2,500, about the cost of a midrange hearing aid. It is the only product, so far, of the privately held company, which is part of the high-tech boom in Israel.
The device is quite different from other technology that has been developed to give some vision to people who are blind, like theartificial retina system called Argus II, made by Second Sight Medical Products. That system, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in February, allows visual signals to bypass a damaged retina and be transmitted to the brain.
By Amnon Shashua
Liat Negrin, an employee at OrCam who has limited sight, demonstrates the Orcam device, which helps her cross streets, read menus and shop at the supermarket.
The OrCam device is also drastically different from Google Glass, which also offers the wearer a camera but is designed for people with normal vision and has limited visual recognition and local computing power.
OrCam was founded several years ago by Amnon Shashua, a well-known researcher who is a computer science professor at Hebrew University here. It is based on computer vision algorithms that he has pioneered with another faculty member, Shai Shalev-Shwartz, and one of his former graduate students, Yonatan Wexler.
“What is remarkable is that the device learns from the user to recognize a new product,” said Tomaso Poggio, a computer scientist at M.I.T. who is a computer vision expert and with whom Dr. Shashua studied as a graduate student. “This is more complex than it appears, and, as an expert, I find it really impressive.”
The advance is the result of both rapidly improving computing processing power that can now be carried comfortably in a wearer’s pocket and the computer vision algorithm developed by the scientists.
On a broader technology level, the OrCam system is representative of a wide range of rapid improvements being made in the field of artificial intelligence, in particular with vision systems for manufacturing as well as fields like autonomous motor vehicles. (Dr. Shashua previously founded Mobileye, a corporation that supplies camera technology to the automobile industry that can recognize objects like pedestrians and bicyclists and can keep a car in a lane on a freeway.)
Speech recognition is now routinely used by tens of millions of people on both iPhones and Android smartphones. Moreover, natural language processing is making it possible for computer systems to “read” documents, which is having a significant impact in the legal field, among others.
There are now at least six competing approaches in the field of computer vision. For example, researchers at Google and elsewhere have begun using what are known as “deep learning” techniques that attempt to mimic biological vision systems. However, they require vast computing resources for accurate recognition.
In contrast, the OrCam technique, which was described in a technical paper in 2011 by the Hebrew University researchers, offers a reasonable trade-off between recognition accuracy and speed. The technique, known as Shareboost, is distinguished by the fact that as the number of objects it needs to recognize grows, the system minimizes the amount of additional computer power required.
“The challenges are huge,” said Dr. Wexler, a co-author of the paper and vice president of research and development at OrCam. “People who have low vision will continue to have low vision, but we want to harness computer science to help them.”
Additionally the OrCam system is designed to have a minimal control system, or user interface. To recognize an object or text, the wearer simply points at it with his or her finger, and the device then interprets the scene.
The system recognizes a pre-stored set of objects and allows the user to add to its library — for example, text on a label or billboard, or a stop light or street sign — by simply waving his or her hand, or the object, in the camera’s field of view.
One of the key challenges, Dr. Shashua said, was allowing quick optical character recognition in a variety of lighting conditions as well as on flexible surfaces.
“The professional optical character readers today will work very well when the image is good, but we have additional challenges — we must read text on flexible surfaces like a hand-held newspaper,” he said.
Although the system is usable by the blind, OrCam is initially planning to sell the device to people in the United States who are visually impaired, which means that their vision cannot be adequately corrected with glasses.
In the United States, 21.2 million people over the age of 18 have some kind of visual impairment, including age-related conditions, diseases and birth defects, according to the 2011 National Health Survey by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. OrCam said that worldwide there were 342 million adults with significant visual impairment, and that 52 million of them had middle-class incomes.
GE is banking on Oxitone wrist monitor to provide a heads-up for someone to get medical assistance before it’s too late.
By Karin Kloosterman. Israel21c.
A prototype of the Oxitone device, heading to market in about 18 months.
About half of all people at risk of death from heart attacks could gain the chance to live, once Israeli entrepreneur Leon Eisen’s new Oxitone device goes to market in about 18 months.
Using two optical sensors, and another special high-tech tool, he’s developed the world’s first “watch” that can just about tell when your time may be up.
It’s no joke: Oxitone was developed to cheat fate.
Eisen tells ISRAEL21c that about half of the people who die from cardiac or pulmonary arrest would be alive if someone had been there to get them to the hospital in time. Oxitone is made to be worn on the wrist to provide a heads-up for someone to get medical assistance on their own, before it’s too late.
With all the technology out there — personal monitoring devices, crocodile clips for your finger, even those panic buttons — nothing helps if the user is not able to mobilize these devices in time. And many patients may not be able to read the signs that cardiac arrest is imminent.
That’s why Eisen developed a wearable watch-like mobile device –– synched with Bluetooth, Android or iPhone devices –– that takes minute-by-minute readings of heart rate and oxygen levels in the blood.
So potentially “disruptive” is this advance that Oxitone recently was chosen from 400 applicants to be among 13 companies – and the only Israeli one — in GE Healthcare’s Start-Up Health Academy Entrepreneurship Program. The three-year program provides healthcare entrepreneurs the tools to propel their product into the healthcare market.
Pain-free, always on duty
“Oxitone takes the pinch out; it’s worn on the wrist instead of the fingertip to provide continuous, wireless non-stop monitoring while you are walking, eating, sleeping or doing sports,” Eisen says.
Blood-oxygen levels are a critical parameter in monitoring COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which can prevent patients from getting enough air into their lungs.
COPD also accompanies chronic bronchitis, asthma and emphysema, leading to shortness of breath. It is estimated that COPD is the third-highest cause of death in the United States.
Oxitone non-invasively determines if a cardiac event is imminent by following blood-oxygen levels. It may also help people who suffer from sleep apnea, giving peace of mind to the wearer and their loved ones.
It looks like a watch, but it’s a sophisticated blood-oxygen and heart-rate monitor.
When heart rates change and oxygen levels drop, Oxitone sends alerts to pre-determined locations. It can also be used for long-term care, as physicians can access ongoing records to see how a patient is doing over time.
“My product facilitates an early clinical response for cardiac or pulmonary attack,” Eisen explains. “Because it is continuously monitoring, we can provide an emergency alert. With our device, people will feel better because they understand they are protected. This is the breakthrough.”
A telltale heart
Eisen is looking for a $3 million investment and looks forward to starting clinical trials on the device in Israel and the UK. Early R&D trials have already been done, he says. There is also a working prototype in hand, but just how the final Oxitone will look is yet to be determined.
Eisen was trained originally as a physicist. The 46-year-old moved to Israel from Moscow in 1999 and obtained a doctorate from Israel’s famed Weizmann Institute of Science. He then did a post-doc at Bar-Ilan University, where he learned about optical lasers. This work of several years enchanted him, and made him curious about applied sciences.
He started working as a freelancer, building various projects and sensors for high-tech companies.
In 2010, Eisen joined Israel’s startup nation culture by founding Oxitone, the name of the company as well as the device. The company is based in Ashkelon, inside the ATI incubator.
The “watch” will cost an estimated $200, plus a monthly service fee depending on use.
Spiegel was one of about 750 Jewish fighters who on April 19, 1943, launched an uprising that took the Germans off guard.
Boruch Spiegel, one of the last remaining survivors of the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising by poorly armed Jewish insurgents against the powerful Nazi German force that occupied Poland, has died. He was 93.
Spiegel died May 9 in Montreal, where he had spent the past four years in a nursing home, his son Julius Spiegel said Tuesday.
With Spiegel’s death, the tiny group of survivors of the legendary World War II revolt that was crushed 70 years ago this month grows even smaller.
Spiegel was one of about 750 Jewish fighters who on April 19, 1943, launched an uprising that took the Germans off guard. The fighters were overwhelmingly outnumbered and outgunned and the revolt never had a real chance, but the fighters still managed to hold out for a month, longer than some countries invaded by Hitler.
Ultimately, though, the Nazi revenge was brutal and involved burning the Warsaw ghetto down building by building. Only a few dozen of the Jewish fighters survived by escaping the ghetto through underground sewage canals to reach the so-called “Aryan side” of the Polish capital. Spiegel and his future wife Chaika Belchatowska were among them.
“He was essentially an ordinary guy forced by circumstances to do things that were out of character,” Julius Spiegel told The Associated Press.
After surviving the ghetto uprising, Spiegel and his future wife joined the Polish partisans and also took part in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, a larger city-wide revolt against the occupying Germans.
It’s not clear how many of the fighters are still living, but the number is certainly small.
When Poland held national ceremonies last month marking the 70th anniversary of the start of the ghetto uprising, officials in Warsaw said they believed there could be four survivors left. Only one, Simha Rotem, was visibly present at the ceremony, giving a speech and accepting a high state honor from the Polish president.
However, Havi Dreifuss, a historian and Holocaust expert with Tel Aviv University and Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem-based Holocaust research institution and museum, warned against trying to put a number on how many fighters remain, in part because it’s sometimes hard to distinguish fighters from other resisters.
She noted that aside from those with weapons, there were others who refused to obey Nazi orders to show up for transportation to death camps, and that an appreciation has grown over time for their resistance.
Spiegel is survived by his son, Julius, a retired parks commissioner for Brooklyn, daughter Mindy Spiegel of Montreal, and four grandchildren. His wife died in 2002.
Photo: Boruch Spiegel, AP
by Zach Pontz, Algemeiner Journal.
Warren Buffett meets with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House. Photo: Wikipedia..
Super investor Warren Buffett,recently named to The Algemeiner’s Jewish 1oo list for his strong support of Israeli innovation, completed his acquisition of Israeli company Iscar Wednesday. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., antied up the $2 billion it needed to acquire a full stake after investing $4 billion for 80% of the company in 2006.
“I spoke with Eitan (Wertheimer, Chairman of Iscar) in January in Washington, and we decided that this was the time for us and the family to make the deal. I am very pleased,” Buffett said, when asked why he waited seven years to acquire full ownership of the company.
In an interview with Israel Hayom after the transaction, Buffett heaped praise on Israel.
“Israel is a great place to invest because of its people. There is no other place in the world where you find people with these qualities, as well as with the motivation and the ability to focus that you see at Iscar,” he told the Israeli newspaper.
With Buffett being the investor that he is, there was the inevitable financial advice query, to which Buffett responded: “I haven’t been to Israel recently so its hard for me to give advice, but I form my impressions from Iscar, and the company makes me believe that Israel has a bright future. Iscar will never stop, even if there is a slowdown in world markets. Iscar never stops innovating with new products and never stops satisfying its customers. With the excellent management at Iscar, I just sit in the back seat and let the car drive itself. I don’t have to do anything but rely on the management.”
Buffett, one of the richest men alive, does, however, have advice for Israel as a whole. “Israel should continue to do what it’s doing. You are a nation of entrepreneurs with amazing abilities. Israel must continue to provide them with the best and most comfortable work climate. That is the government’s responsibility: to create a comfortable climate for entrepreneurs.”
By Michael Freund
The Jerusalem Post
It was April 24, 1864, at the height of the American Civil War, and in between his duties as an infantryman, young Isaac J. Levy sat down in camp on one of the intermediate days of Passover to write a short letter to his sister back home.
Levy, who served in the 46th Virginia infantry unit, was a soldier in the Confederate army which was battling on behalf of the southern states that sought to secede from the United States.
The war had just entered its fourth year, and it would prove to be the bloodiest conflict in American history. New research published last year in the journal Civil War History by demographic historian J. David Hacker of Binghamton University revealed the death toll may have been as high as 750,000 people.
Levy and his regiment, which included his brother Ezekiel, who served as a captain, were posted at Adams Run, South Carolina, and the fog of war had cast a shadow over his observance of the holiday.
“No doubt you were much surprised on receiving a letter from me addressed to our dear parents dated on the 21st which was the first day of Pesach,” he wrote to his sister Leonora, with the word “Pesach” carefully printed in Hebrew letters. “We were all under the impression in camp that the first day of the festival was the 22nd,” and he had therefore unwittingly failed to observe the holiday’s start on the appropriate day.
But Levy went on to assure her that his brother had purchased matza “sufficient to last us for the week” in the city of Charleston at the cost of two dollars per pound, and that they were “observing the festival in a truly Orthodox style.” Sadly, just four months later, Isaac Levy was killed in the trenches during the Siege of Petersburg on August 21, 1864. He was 21 years old.
On the eve of the Civil War, which began in April 1861, American Jewry numbered an estimated 150,000 people, out of a total population of some 31 million. The overwhelming majority of American Jews at the time were recent arrivals: just a decade earlier, there had been 50,000 Jews living in the United States.
Most of the immigrants were German Jews looking for greater opportunity and freedom.
Like their fellow Americans, the Jews of the United States quickly found themselves caught up in the war between the North and the South, and it had a profound influence on them.
As historian Eli N. Evans has written, “For Jews in America, the Civil War was a watershed that involved Jewish soldiers from all over the nation.”
“Serving their countries under fire and fighting side by side with their gentile comrades in arms,” Evans argued, “accelerated the process of acculturation, not only through their self-perceptions, but also because of the actions of the community around them.”
Indeed, an estimated 10,000 Jews – 3,000 southern Confederates and 7,000 Northerners – fought in the war, with nine Jews reaching the rank of general and 21 attaining that of colonel.
One of the most famous American Jews in the military was Commodore Uriah P. Levy. A veteran of the War of 1812 against Great Britain, Levy had endured frequent anti-Semitism throughout his naval career. He briefly served in the Union Navy at the start of the Civil War but retired shortly thereafter.
Another Jew – Judah P. Benjamin – served as secretary of state and secretary of war for the Confederacy, overseeing the administration of the conflict for the South.
A number of Jewish soldiers distinguished themselves in the Civil War and were granted the Medal of Honor, the US military’s highest award, for exceptional bravery on the battlefield.
One such soldier, Sgt.-Maj. and Adjutant Abraham Cohn of the New Hampshire Infantry, was singled out by the assistant adjutant general of the United States for “conspicuous gallantry displayed in the Battle of the Wilderness [of May 1864], in rallying and forming disorganized troops under heavy fire; also for bravery and coolness in carrying orders to the advance lines under murderous fire in the Battle of the Mine, July 30, 1864.”
Jews also played a key part in helping to finance both sides in the conflict. German-born Jewish banker Joseph Seligman used his connections in the German and Dutch financial markets to help the North dispose of $200 million in bonds, thereby providing the federal government with a financial lifeline that enabled it to prosecute the war.
Despite the loyalty and courage they demonstrated, Jewish soldiers often encountered anti-Semitism, and Jews nationwide were subjected to accusations of being “war profiteers” and even aiding the enemy.
In fact, it was at the height of the Civil War that the most infamous act of anti-Semitism in American history took place, when Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant issued General Order No. 11 on December 17, 1862, expelling Jews “as a class” from the Tennessee military district. When Abraham Lincoln learned of the order, he rescinded it.
To what extent Jewish soldiers during the Civil War were allowed to observe their faith is not entirely clear, though we can gain an insight from the experience of 19-year-old Private Joseph Joel of the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, an account of which he published after the war in the March 3, 1866 issue of the Jewish Messenger.
Joel had the good fortune of serving together with 20 other Jews, and as Passover approached in 1862, they found themselves encamped in Fayette, West Virginia.
Together, they “united in a request to our commanding officer for relief from duty in order that we might keep the holydays.” Their commander, Rutherford B. Hayes, who would later go on to become the 19th president of the United States, “readily acceded.”
Having been granted the hoped-for permission, Joel and his comrades went about making the necessary preparations for the holiday.
“Our next business,” he wrote, “was to find some suitable person to proceed to Cincinnati, Ohio, to buy us Matzos.”
Fortunately, they found a Jewish merchant who sold supplies to the army and was heading home to Cincinnati, and he agreed to help, sending them “seven barrels of Matzos” along with “two Hagodahs and prayer-books.”
Armed with some of the basics, Joel turned his attention to obtaining “the other requisites for that occasion.” A number of the Jewish soldiers were dispatched to the countryside to find various food items for the festive Seder meal while others stayed behind “to build a log hut for the service,” a possible reference to a temporary synagogue.
Given the difficulties of war, Joel and his fellow Jewish servicemen had to improvise as best they could. He recalled that “Horseradish or parsley we could not obtain, but in lieu we found a weed, whose bitterness, I apprehend, exceeded anything our forefathers ‘enjoyed.’” Similarly, Joel was unable to obtain the necessary ingredients to make haroset, the dish intended to remind participants at the Seder of the mortar used by the Israelites to make bricks in ancient Egypt.
So he and the other soldiers did the next best thing: They “got a brick which, rather hard to digest, reminded us, by looking at it, for what purpose it was intended.”
That evening, Joel and the 20 other Jewish soldiers sat down and conducted the Seder, one that he later said he would remember for the rest of his life.
“There, in the wild woods of West Virginia, away from home and friends, we consecrated and offered up to the ever-loving God of Israel our prayers and sacrifice,” he wrote.
“I doubt whether the spirits of our forefathers, had they been looking down on us, standing there with our arms by our side ready for an attack, faithful to our God and our cause, would have imagined themselves amongst mortals, enacting this commemoration of the scene that transpired in Egypt,” Joel related.
While a number of the participants in that memorable Passover commemoration later died in battle, Joel survived a number of wounds and after the war he moved to Staten Island with his wife.
With the deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery serving as one of Passover’s central themes, it is difficult not to wonder whether the Jewish soldiers of the North and South viewed the titanic struggle between the states through the prism of the festival, particularly since the issue of slavery lay at the heart of the conflict.
Did southern Jewish combatants see the irony when they recited the section in the Haggada which declares, “We were slaves unto Pharaoh in Egypt,” even as they fought to preserve the enslavement of blacks? Did Jewish Union soldiers imagine themselves as deliverers of another people from servitude? We may never know.
Nonetheless, despite the carnage of the fratricidal conflict and the ideological divide between the two sides, the onset of Passover occasionally still had a unifying effect.
In his 1961 classic, American Jewry and the Civil War, the late Bertram W. Korn relates a story signifying how the fraternal bond among Jews could overcome political differences.
“One day during a Passover,” Korn wrote, “Union soldier Myer Levy of Philadelphia was walking through a captured Virginia town, when he saw a boy sitting on the steps of his house and eating matza. When Levy asked for some, the boy leaped up and ran into the house shouting, ‘Mother, there’s a damn-Yankee Jew outside!’ The boy’s mother came out and invited Levy to return that evening for a Passover meal.”
The name of that gracious woman has been lost to history, but the power of her kindness, and the lesson it teaches, has not. Through her action, she paid homage to the words of the Haggada, which states: “Whoever is hungry let him come and eat, whoever is in need let him come and celebrate Passover.”
When we gaze back at the American Civil War, and the Jews who struggled to preserve their traditions even amid the gunpowder and cannon-fire, it is an example well worth remembering.
Source: NY Times
The smoke was still rising as Rabbi Herschel Schacter rode through the gates of Buchenwald.
It was April 11, 1945, and Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army had liberated the concentration camp scarcely an hour before. Rabbi Schacter, who was attached to the Third Army’s VIII Corps, was the first Jewish chaplain to enter in its wake.
That morning, after learning that Patton’s forward tanks had arrived at the camp, Rabbi Schacter, who died in the Riverdale section of the Bronx on Thursday at 95 after a career as one of the most prominent Modern Orthodox rabbis in the United States, commandeered a jeep and driver. He left headquarters and sped toward Buchenwald.
By late afternoon, when the rabbi drove through the gates, Allied tanks had breached the camp. He remembered, he later said, the sting of smoke in his eyes, the smell of burning flesh and the hundreds of bodies strewn everywhere.
He would remain at Buchenwald for months, tending to survivors, leading religious services in a former Nazi recreation hall and eventually helping to resettle thousands of Jews.
For his work, Rabbi Schacter was singled out by name on Friday by Yisrael Meir Lau, the former Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, in a meeting with President Obama at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial.
In Buchenwald that April day, Rabbi Schacter said afterward, it seemed as though there was no one left alive. In the camp, he encountered a young American lieutenant who knew his way around.
“Are there any Jews alive here?” the rabbi asked him.
He was led to the Kleine Lager, or Little Camp, a smaller camp within the larger one. There, in filthy barracks, men lay on raw wooden planks stacked from floor to ceiling. They stared down at the rabbi, in his unfamiliar military uniform, with unmistakable fright.
“Shalom Aleichem, Yidden,” Rabbi Schacter cried in Yiddish, “ihr zint frei!” — “Peace be upon you, Jews, you are free!” He ran from barracks to barracks, repeating those words. He was joined by those Jews who could walk, until a stream of people swelled behind him.
As he passed a mound of corpses, Rabbi Schacter spied a flicker of movement. Drawing closer, he saw a small boy, Prisoner 17030, hiding in terror behind the mound.
“I was afraid of him,” the child would recall long afterward in an interview with The New York Times. “I knew all the uniforms of SS and Gestapo and Wehrmacht, and all of a sudden, a new kind of uniform. I thought, ‘A new kind of enemy.’ ”
With tears streaming down his face, Rabbi Schacter picked the boy up. “What’s your name, my child?” he asked in Yiddish.
“Lulek,” the child replied.
“How old are you?” the rabbi asked.
“What difference does it make?” Lulek, who was 7, said. “I’m older than you, anyway.”
“Why do you think you’re older?” Rabbi Schacter asked, smiling.
“Because you cry and laugh like a child,” Lulek replied. “I haven’t laughed in a long time, and I don’t even cry anymore. So which one of us is older?”
Rabbi Schacter discovered nearly a thousand orphaned children in Buchenwald. He and a colleague, Rabbi Robert Marcus, helped arrange for their transport to France — a convoy that included Lulek and the teenage Elie Wiesel — as well as to Switzerland, a group personally conveyed by Rabbi Schacter, and to Palestine.
For decades afterward, Rabbi Schacter said, he remained haunted by his time in Buchenwald, and by the question survivors put to him as he raced through the camp that first day.
“They were asking me, over and over, ‘Does the world know what happened to us?’ ” Rabbi Schacter told The Associated Press in 1981. “And I was thinking, ‘If my own father had not caught the boat on time, I would have been there, too.’ ”
Herschel Schacter was born in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn on Oct. 10, 1917, the youngest of 10 children of parents who had come from Poland. His father, Pincus, was a seventh-generation shochet, or ritual slaughterer; his mother, the former Miriam Schimmelman, was a real estate manager.
Mr. Schacter earned a bachelor’s degree from Yeshiva University in New York in 1938; in 1941, he received ordination at Yeshiva from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, a founder of the Modern Orthodox movement.
He spent about a year as a pulpit rabbi in Stamford, Conn., before enlisting in the Army as a chaplain in 1942.
After Buchenwald was liberated, he spent every day there distributing matzo (liberation had come just a week after Passover); leading services for Shavuot, which celebrates the revelation of the Torah to Moses at Mount Sinai, and which fell that year in May; and conducting Friday night services.
At one of those services, Lulek and his older brother, Naftali, were able to say Kaddish for their parents, Polish Jews who had been killed by the Nazis.
Discharged from the Army with the rank of captain, Rabbi Schacter became the spiritual leader of the Mosholu Jewish Center, an Orthodox synagogue on Hull Avenue in the north Bronx. He presided there from 1947 until it closed in 1999.
He was a leader of many national Jewish groups, including the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, of which he was a past chairman. He was most recently the director of rabbinic services at Yeshiva.
Rabbi Schacter, who in 1956 went to the Soviet Union with an American rabbinic delegation, was an outspoken advocate for the rights of Soviet Jews and an adviser on the subject to President Richard M. Nixon.
A resident of the Riverdale section of the Bronx, Rabbi Schacter is survived by his wife, the former Pnina Gewirtz, whom he married in 1948; a son, Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, who confirmed his father’s death; a daughter, Miriam Schacter; four grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
And what of Lulek, the orphan Rabbi Schacter rescued from Buchenwald that day? Lulek, who eventually settled in Palestine, grew up to be Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau.
Rabbi Lau, who recounted his childhood exchange with Rabbi Schacter in a memoir, published in English in 2011 as “Out of the Depths,” was the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel from 1993 to 2003 and is now the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv.
On Friday, when Rabbi Lau told Mr. Obama of his rescue by Rabbi Schacter — he thanked the American people for delivering Buchenwald survivors “not from slavery to freedom, but from death to life” — he had not yet learned of Rabbi Schacter’s death the day before.
“For me, he was alive,” Rabbi Lau said in an interview with The Times on Monday. “I speak about him with tears in my eyes.”
By Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, September 13, 2012
There are two positions one can take regarding the Iranian nuclear program: (a) it doesn’t matter, we can deter them; or (b) it does matter, we must stop them.
In my view, the first position – that we can contain Iran as we did the Soviet Union – is totally wrong, a product of wishful thinking and misread history. But at least it’s internally coherent.
What is incoherent is President Obama’s position. He declares the Iranian program intolerable – “I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” – yet stands by as Iran rapidly approaches nuclearization.