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Yeshiva students graduate as intelligence agents

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The pre-military AMIT academy in Rosh Pina recently graduated a class of yeshiva students, who spent the last 17 years studying and training for army service in intelligence units and for positions in spy agencies. The academy is the only civilian institution that offers training and instruction specifically geared toward religious students.

The students conduct research, surveillance, translation, covert operations and counterespionage. They also watch Al-Jazeera, learn Arabic, and read the Quran while simultaneously studying the Torah and Talmud.
Eventually, these young men may be recruited to elite intelligence units within the IDF. Among the graduates of the academy is a senior official with the Shin Bet, Israel Hayom reported.

Report by Israel Hayom, courtesy of JointMedia News Service

Hikind Outraged Over Towns’ Endorsement of Barron

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New York City Councilman Charles Barron (pictured above) is well known for his racist and anti-Semitic political affiliations, as well as his anti-Israel activism. Local leaders are distraught over retiring Congressman Edolphus Towns’ endorsement of him. (Photo Credit: Thomas Good / NLN)‘Ed Towns has gone mad and will destroy his legacy. I hope it’s just a bad dream.’

State Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) released a statement on Sunday expressing his outrage that retiring Congressman Ed Towns is endorsing the highly controversial Charles Barron. Though popular among many in his district, Barron’s affiliations with the anti-Semitic black supremacist groups Nation of Islam and the New Black Panther Party, have caused a great deal of concern.

“Barron’s resume of race baiting and contemptible anti-White statements should disqualify him as someone worthy of public office,” said Hikind.

“Ed Towns has either gone mad or this is a belated April Fools joke in terrible taste,” said the assemblyman. “Our communities have stood with Ed through thick and thin and now he destroys his legacy by endorsing someone who is as radical as they come? Someone who hates Whites? It’s a shock and an embarrassment. I’ve always considered Ed Towns a friend and now he stabs us in the back.”

Hikind pointed to Barron’s statement that he’d like to slap the nearest white person an example of what Towns is inviting into Congress. “Barron wrote an editorial praising Muammar Gaddafi. He won’t salute the American flag. The list goes on and on. This is the type of person Ed Towns wants as a lawmaker? It’s either a bad joke or its insanity.”

Harvey Weinstein Subs for Piers Morgan

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Mega-movie studio executive Harvey Weinstein tried on a different hat last Thursday, May 31, when he stepped in as guest host for CNN personality Piers Morgan on Piers Morgan Tonight.  Weinstein, who with his brother Bob, started the very successful film studio Miramax, now runs The Weinstein Company, which produced such Oscar-nominted movies as The King’s Speech and The Iron Lady.  Weinstein taped his show on Thursday afternoon and conducted an interview with former President Bill Clinton.  Weinstein has been a long time Democratic Party and Clinton supporter.  Weinstein conducted an hour-long interview for the show with Clinton, which was wide ranging, talking about Clinton’s favorite movies, as well as how he keeps up his good looks, and what he thinks of Hillary Clinton’s job as Secretary of State.  Clinton told Weinstein that his favorite movie was High Noon, though he also loves Casablanca, The Lion in Winter, and Tom Jones.  Weinstein told Clinton that Hillary would go down as the best Secretary of State of all time, to which Clinton responded, “Well, she’ll rank very high.”  After the Clinton interview, Weinstein introduced a segment in which several celebrities talked about movies which impacted their lives.

How Israel’s New Real Estate Laws Affect You

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The government is looking to address the short-term demand for housing in Israel by forcing owners of vacant apartments to sell them to users. The government estimates that there are 140,000 vacant apartments nationwide, and that this new tax will trigger the sale of up to 15,000 units per year.In August 2011, thousands of Israelis participated in “tent city” demonstrations against the high cost of living, and particularly the lack of affordable housing. In response to these social protests, Prime Minister Netanyahu appointed the Trajtenberg Committee to address the complaints and to come up with recommendations to rectify the situation.

Two months ago, the Israeli government approved the committee’s housing recommendations and implemented a number of measures, including (1) forcing Minhal, the Israel Land Authority, to sell enough land over the next five years to construct 187,000 new apartments and (2) charging a double property tax (arnona) on all apartments that are vacant for over six months a year.

Let’s analyze the government’s new laws and the likelihood of their success. Thankfully the Israeli population is growing; unfortunately there are not enough apartments being developed to address the housing need. Due to the disparity between the scarce supply and tremendous demand, housing prices over the past half decade rose on average by 40% across the country and even higher in the major population centers such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The underlying reason for this shortage can be traced to Minhal’s historically slow pace of selling government land for development, which was deliberately done to create strong demand, causing land sale prices to rise and, in turn, increasing the country’s land sales revenue. The theory behind the Trajtenberg recommendation is that by forcing Minhal to sell land in bulk, prices for these lots are expected to drop significantly, which will translate into lower end-user sale prices.

Understandably, clients have asked me whether this situation will impact housing prices, and I believe that the answer is “yes” and “no.” In locations such as central Jerusalem where there are very few development opportunities and there are many people across the globe looking to buy, I cannot imagine that prices for well-located units will drop much, if at all. However, in areas outside of the population centers, I can see the influx of new housing units having a dampening effect on market prices.

Now let’s focus on the second new law: double taxation. The government is looking to address the short-term demand for housing by forcing owners of vacant apartments to sell them to users. The government estimates that there are 140,000 vacant apartments nationwide, and that this new tax will trigger the sale of up to 15,000 units per year. I personally expect a much smaller number of units will be sold, and a larger amount of these units will be rented out – which would be a perfectly acceptable result to the government, as their goal is to have these apartments used and not sit vacant.

One important issue is how the authorities will identify the vacant units. All suggestions that have cropped up have flaws. For example, examining electric usage won’t work, as many absentee owners keep refrigerators on, in addition to some lights on timers, thus their electric bills will not be indicative of a vacant apartment. This new vacancy tax will have no effect unless the authorities create a workable means of implementation.

In addition to more owners renting out vacant units on a long-term (one year or longer) basis, I also anticipate that a number of overseas owners will now consider renting out their apartments on a short-term basis between their visits in order to be in compliance with this new law. (As an aside, if you are an owner or potential renter, I would be happy to share with you a list of honest, experienced companies that focus on short-term rentals.

Gedaliah Borvick is the founder of My Israel Home, a real estate agency focused on helping people from abroad buy and sell homes in Israel. You may contact him at gborvick@myisraelhome.com. To read previous articles, please visit his blog at www.myisraelhome.com.

The War on Cola

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Now this isn’t a Jewish issue per se, but it is a New York issue. And if a two-liter of Coca-Cola, or Pepsi, or any other variety of sugary, effervescent beverage is a fixture on your Shabbat table (for this editor, it’s Dr. Pepper, though I usually opt for the low- or no-calorie variety), you might want to listen up.

First, the New York State government wanted to tax our sodas. Now, in restaurants at least, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to ban large sodas outright. Why not just be direct about it and tax obesity? Calculate an ideal height-to-weight ratio for each citizen, and force them to pay a certain amount each year for every pound exceeding said ideal. It creates a similar incentive for weight loss, and is more or less just as demeaning.

We say, the war on tasty beverages has gone too far!

Yes, non-diet soft drinks are a leading source of empty calories (and depending on who you ask, even the diet varieties pose health risks of their own, what with the artificial sweeteners and other chemical additives which can cause cancer in lab mice if you inject several ounces of the stuff into their eyeballs or something). But do you really think that a ban on super-sized beverages is really going to stem the tide of obesity? Since most of our readers (not to mention our editorial staff) are of the kosher-keeping persuasion, allow me to introduce you to something that’s popular in a certain non-kosher fast food chain. It’s called the “Double Down,” and it is quite possibly the treyfest food item in existence, but that’s not why I mention it here. The Double Down consists of bacon, two kinds of melted cheese, and some kind of “secret sauce” (I’ve never had it, but I’ve got a hunch that the “secret” is mayonnaise; lots and lots of mayonnaise), all served between two pieces of fried chicken (in lieu of bread). Now, under Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal, sodas larger than 16 ounces will be banned, but this culinary abomination will still be 100% legal (until the newly-emboldened government decides it can legislate the remainder of our diets).

You might take solace in the thought that something so appalling could only exist in a non-kosher restaurant. But rest assured, we have our version, too. I’m pretty sure, for instance, that the deep-fried, pastrami-filled eggroll was originally a kosher invention. And while kosher KFCs may be a rare site (I hear Miami has one), here in New York, kosher schnitzel joints abound.

My point can perhaps best be explained by way of a metaphor: It’s possible for Jews to obey the Torah, and yet still act in a self-destructive or otherwise deplorable manner. You can eat deep-fried schnitzel from morning until night. If the food is kosher, and if you remember to say grace before and after, technically, you haven’t broken any rules. Such a person who engages in gluttony (or other hedonistic pursuits) while technically following the rule is called a “naval b’rishus haTorah” (a lowlife with the Torah’s “permission”). And just so we’re clear, that is not how we’re supposed to live our lives.

Now, let’s apply this concept to society at large. If 32 oz. sodas are banned, a thirsty restaurant patron could simply order two sixteen-ouncers. Or again, taking away one’s soft drink of choice still leaves us with plenty of inappropriate high-calorie choices we can make.

So unless Big Brother is looking to legislate its own version of secular “kashrut” on New York citizens, let’s just stay off that slippery slope entirely. Thanks.

No One’s Gonna Rain on Our Parade

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So this year’s Celebrate Israel Parade was pretty spectacular. For those of you who weren’t able to be there, check out this week’s center spread (pages 28 and 29) – quite possibly the next best thing to having been there.

The parade didn’t go off completely without a hitch, however. In addition to a bit of inclement weather, several organizations (whom we shall not publicize further by naming here) with established anti-Zionist agendas were allowed to march in the parade. Neturei Karta was there on the sidelines, doing their thing and just generally being hilarious. And while the ardently pro-Zionist Eagles’ Wings Ministries were down Fifth Avenue, some members of the organization walked up and down the sidewalks and spreading “the word.”

Seriously, is the Israel Day Parade just like, Supermarket Sweep for missionaries? All those Jews together in one place, all those doomed souls… Fortunately for us, a modest contingent from Jews for Judaism was there, doing their part to keep Jews Jewish, a goal with which we at the Jewish Voice strongly sympathize.

Yet, despite all these imperfections, the Celebrate Israel Parade was an absolutely rousing success. Jews and gentiles of all stripes coming together to show their support for the State of Israel, which is both the Jews’ ancient homeland, and America’s only democratic ally in the Middle East (especially since the Turkish government has gone down the tubes).

The parade was preceded by the New York Road Runners’ Celebrate Israel Run, and the 19th Annual Israel Day Concert in Central Park, both of which were huge hits. All in all, it was a great day to be a Zionist.
We at the Jewish Voice would like to again express our appreciation for the hard work of the JCRC, the NYRR, and the Israel Concert-in-the-Park Committee in organizing the Celebrate Israel Parade, the Celebrate Israel Run, and the Israel Day Concert, respectively. A yasher koach/chazak u’baruch as well to the parade’s sponsors, including the UJA Federation of New York, the Jewish Communal Fund, State of Israel Bonds, MJHS, and the Jewish Agency for Israel. And last but not least, mazel tov to Mr. Heshy Rosenwasser, who just happens to be a former associate editor of the Jewish Voice, on his performance at the Israel Day Concert!

Syria: More Leading From Behind

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Kofi Annan, pictured, was jointly appointed by the UN and the Arab League this February as their envoy to Syria. (Photo credit: International Students’ Committee)Barack Obama’s response to the upheavals across the Arab world is bad news for Israel, which has endured Assad-sponsored terrorism and understandably fears the political chaos that is likely to sprout from a Syrian civil war.

The horrors currently unfolding in Syria offer further proof of what might reasonably be described as Kofi Annan’s law of international relations: Wherever Kofi Annan turns up, bloodshed is sure to follow.
During and after his scandal-ridden decade as UN secretary-general, Annan smoothed the ruffled feathers of brutal dictators like Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Kim Jong Il in North Korea.

In October 1995, Annan remained at the UN’s peacekeeping helm as Serb forces seized control of the Srebrenica enclave in Bosnia, slaughtering the entire male population, including young boys. When he stepped down from the secretary-general’s post in 2006, he lambasted not Russia or China—the two states that did the most to prevent the UN’s lofty human rights principles from actually being implemented—but the United States, for allegedly “seeking supremacy over all others.”

Despite this shameful record, the UN and the Arab League jointly appointed Annan as their envoy to Syria in February of this year, as Bashar al Assad’s assault upon his own people grew in intensity. Sure enough, with Annan on the spot promoting a six-point peace plan that Assad assented to in public but violated on the ground, the “violence”— a lily-livered euphemism for the carnage orchestrated by the Damascus regime—got worse.

Now, more than a week after the bloodcurdling massacre in Houla, in which the bodies of at least 49 children turned up in the wreckage left by the shabiha, Assad’s execution squads, the west is again agonizing over the question of intervention. So far, expelling Syrian diplomats is about as tough as western countries have got. (Had Assad’s ambassadors instead been arrested for complicity in crimes against humanity, the democratic world might not look quite so feeble.)

In any humanitarian emergency, the prospects for intervention can be either helped or hampered by the decisions of the immediate past. In the Syrian case, the appointment of Annan as chief envoy indubitably strengthened the hand of anti-interventionist states, most obviously Russia, Assad’s key international ally. As a result, in both political and military terms, intervention is regarded by western policy-makers as more complicated and therefore less attractive.

As the commentator Michael Weiss cogently explained in a recent opinion article on Syria, Russia has a clear policy based on its commercial and military interests. And that policy is based upon ensuring that Assad retains the lion’s share of control over a rapidly fragmenting Syria.

But what about the U.S. and its policy? In the wake of the Annan plan’s failure, the Obama Administration implored Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, to use his influence over Assad to bring an end to the killing. When it comes to “leading from behind,” a phrase that has been consistently applied to Obama’s response to the upheavals across the Arab world, Syria has provided the most notorious example.
Of course, that approach bore no fruit, which may explain why Administration officials— like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who accused Russia of aiding the spread of open civil war in Syria—are sounding more impatient with Moscow. Yet the overriding American priority now seems to be making the most plausible case against intervention.

“We’re nowhere near putting together any type of coalition other than to alleviate the suffering,” Clinton told reporters during a visit to Denmark. “We are working very hard to focus the efforts of those, like Denmark and the United States, who are appalled by what is going on, to win over those who still support the regime, both inside and outside of Syria.”

Clinton’s spineless rhetoric was accompanied by a further explanation that military action would require the support of the UN Security Council—another way of saying that, since Russia and China would never back such an outcome, don’t bother even thinking about it.

However, recent history demonstrates that the UN Security Council doesn’t have to be an immovable impediment. In 1991, lack of Security Council authorization didn’t stop the western allies from launching a military operation to protect the Kurds of northern Iraq following Saddam Hussein’s expulsion from Kuwait. In 1999, thanks to the efforts of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, NATO evicted the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic from Kosovo without a Security Council resolution.

And in 2003, Blair and US President George W. Bush courageously proceeded with a war to remove Saddam Hussein from power, in spite of the objections of the Security Council.

Sadly, this administration is not possessed of the same resolve. That’s bad news for western nations, since history has proven time and again that democracy and human rights are the best guarantors of political stability. It’s bad news for the regional allies of the west, most obviously Israel, which has endured Assad-sponsored terrorism and understandably fears the political chaos that is likely to sprout from a Syrian civil war.

Most of all, it’s bad news for the people of Syria, 12,000 of whom have already been murdered by the regime, with no end in sight. If we continue to desert them in their hour of need, we will be making new enemies in a region where we have precious few friends as it is.

Ben Cohen is the Shillman Analyst for JointMedia News Service. His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Ha’aretz, Jewish Ideas Daily and many other publications.

Israel’s Peace Quest 45 Years after Six-Day War

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This week marks the forty-fifth anniversary of the Six-Day War, the seismic event that has shaped the subsequent history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The war’s immediate results, Israel’s quick defeat of three Arab armies and its unplanned takeover of territories with large concentrations of Palestinian Arabs, raised issues that are still unresolved today.

Over the decades a widespread misconception has developed that an expansionist Israel “occupied” Palestine in 1967, and that an end to that occupation will bring a just peace to the region. However, what actually happened 45 years ago is entirely different.

In 1967, there was no Palestinian state. The Arab world had rejected two decades earlier the UN’s two-state solution to create an Arab state alongside a Jewish state. Indeed, Arab leaders could have created a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza between 1948 and 1967. Neither, in 1967, were there any “settlements” that today provoke the ire of Israel’s enemies, other than tiny Israel itself, nine miles wide at its narrowest point.

The West Bank and East Jerusalem were in Jordanian hands in 1967, and Jews were denied access to their holy places in violation of solemn international agreements. The Gaza Strip was under harsh Egyptian military control. The Golan Heights, held by Syria, were used to shell Israeli farming communities.

And the 1967 lines separating Israel from its neighbors, often called the Green Line, were not formal boundaries but rather armistice lines indicating where the armies stood in 1949, after the new state of Israel fought off the five Arab armies that sought to strangle it at birth.

In the weeks leading up to June 1967, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser announced a blockade of Israeli shipping in the Straits of Tiran, which provided Israel’s only maritime access to trading routes with Asia and Africa. The blockade alone was an act of war. He also demanded that the UN remove its peacekeeping forces from the Sinai. Shamefully, the UN complied, leaving no buffer between the mobilizing Egyptian army and Israel.

Nasser and his Syrian allies publicly announced to their own people and to the world that the coming war would bring Israel’s annihilation. “The existence of Israel has continued too long,” proclaimed Radio Cairo on May 16. “The battle has come in which we shall destroy Israel.” Twenty-two years after the Holocaust, another enemy contemplated the destruction of the Jews.

After Israeli pleas for international help in challenging the blockade went unanswered, its leaders felt compelled to launch a preemptive attack before Egypt could get its planes in the air. Despite Israel’s clearly expressed pleas to Jordan’s King Hussein to stay out of the conflict, the king tied his country’s fate to Egypt and Syria. Thus, the war’s end found not only Gaza, Sinai and the Golan under Israeli control, but the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well.

Perhaps naively, the Israelis believed they could barter their newly acquired territories in return for peace. But even dramatic defeat could not persuade the Arab world to accept the reality of a Jewish state. The Arab Summit Conference in Khartoum on September 1, 1967, resolved “No peace, no recognition, no negotiations” with Israel.

To be sure, in later years Egypt and Jordan bowed to the inevitable and negotiated with Israel, resulting in peace agreements. Israel has shown its readiness for territorial compromise in exchange for guarantees of peace by relinquishing the Sinai and then Gaza. And it remains ready to negotiate with the Palestinian leadership, which, sadly, avoids face-to-face talks and refuses to even acknowledge Jewish historical ties to the land.

Those who seek to rewrite history suggest that there was a “Palestine” occupied by Israel. There was not. They further assume that Israel violated international borders in 1967. There were no borders, only armistice lines. They claim Israel was the aggressor but, in fact, it acted in self-defense and fought off the Arab aggressors. They consider Israeli settlements the cause of the conflict, even though there were no settlements before 1967. The conflict was, and remains, rooted in the refusal to countenance a Jewish state, whatever its size, in the Middle East.  

As politicians, diplomats and journalists continue to grapple with the consequences of the Six-Day War, a clear picture of the dramatic events of that time is essential for moving toward a resolution of the conflict.

 

Michael Schmidt is executive director of the American Jewish Committee’s New York office.

Swiss Report Assesses Israel’s 2011 Economic Performance

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Swiss Business School IMD conducted the analysis which ranked the Israeli economy the 19th most competitive in the world for 2012.IMD: Israel Economy Ranks 19th Most Competitive in World

According to a report in The Jerusalem Post, a recent analysis published by a Swiss institution ranked Israel’s economy 19th in a 2012 World Competitive Index. Though Israel placed two spots lower than its 2011 ranking, it’s economy showed signs of improvement in a few essential categories, including “inbound direct investment,” unemployment rate, and real gross domestic product per capita.

The research was led by IMD, a Swiss business school. Hong Kong’s economy ranked 1st among the 59 countries involved in the study, outperforming such leading economies as those of the United States, Switzerland, Singapore, and Sweden.

Qatar (10th) and the United Arab Emirates (16th) were the two highest-ranking Middle Eastern countries.

The IMD study was first conducted in 1989, and has been published annually since. It is widely regarded as an accurate analysis of global economic competitiveness among nations, and ranks countries on the basis of statistics and executive surveys in four categories: economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency and infrastructure.

Direct investment in Israel’s economy burgeoned from $5.5 billion to $11.4 billion in 2011, and real GDP per capita grew slightly from 2.27% to 2.98% during the same period. Unemployment decreased from 6.6% to 5.6% in 2011, as well.

Though Israel’s rankings changed in some categories, it still retained its preeminence in research and development, placing first in business and total expenditure in R&D and “public and private sector venture”. Israel also placed second in entrepreneurship, innovative capacity, and scientific research, and other related metrics of “business infrastructure”.

Among the categories where Israel fared less well was in “direct investment abroad,” which dropped from $7.96 billion to $3.32 billion in Israel during 2011. General economic performance was a sores port for the Jewish state yet again, as Israel placed 36th for the third consecutive year, falling behind due to the expensive costs of living, an inadequately sized workforce, and insufficient exports.

The IMD report suggested Israel should extend efforts in the upcoming year to narrow its economic gap, encourage labor among minorities, maintain existing business infrastructures and generate new ones.
The report also found that Israeli executives tend to welcome globalization but remain uninformed on the importance of implementing economic and social reforms. Ireland placed first in both metrics.

Northfield Opens New Boro Park Branch

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The grand opening of Northfield Bank’s new Boro Park BranchResidents of Boro Park’s Jewish community gathered recently to celebrate the opening of a new branch of Northfield Bank.

The new installation is located at 4602 13th Avenue, and visitors to the site on Tuesday, May 22, were greeted with a wonderful sight. Popcorn stands offered kosher snacks to passersby, tall jugglers wore smiles and showed off their skills, and blue and green balloons—reflecting the color of Northfield’s iconic signage—were laid out in abundance. In a tent housed adjacent to the nascent bank, Northfield employees graciously gave interested observers various freebies, and, inside, prospective bank clientele—including this reporter and the publisher of the Jewish Voice—were given a warm welcome and seized the opportunity to learn all about the history and future of Northfield’s business ventures.

Sitting down with Michael Widmer, executive vice president of Northfield, and Robin Lefkowitz, senior vice president and director of business development at the bank, the JV learned about what the new Boro Park branch means in the context of Northfield’s past. As the fifth division to open in the borough—other locations include Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Gravesend, and Highlawn—the continuing presence of Northfield in Brooklyn mirrors the business strategy employed by the bank in recent years. With the ultimate aim of expanding from New Jersey to Long Island, Northfield’s executives realized not to long ago that Brooklyn was actually a region replete with financial opportunity. Having reproduced a number of branches in relatively short period of time, Widmer and Lefkowitz said Northfield—which opened in 1887— plans to continually expand in the borough and have ten total branches operational within a year or so.

Asked about how Northfield plans to deal with nearby competition—13th Avenue is renowned for its distinctive banking presence—the two leaders of the financial institution began listing some of the unique characteristics of its Boro Park operation and its appeal to the neighborhood’s businesspeople. First citing the staff—Raymond Barcia, vice president of Northfield and the manager of the new branch, has more than twenty years of experience with clients of the sort found in the new location— Widmer and Lefkowitz mentioned how its credit card processing, mortgage, e-banking, night-drop, and no-minimum-balance-for-deposit services put it a step ahead of its competitors.

Following the meeting with Northfield’s top brass, we rolled out of the new venue amid smiles and celebration. As we departed, we watched others walk in curiously to scout the premises. It was a pleasure to all present to see the unveiling of a new community institution before their eyes.

New ‘Jewish’ Minority Label Irks CUNY Professors

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The focus groups run by Joyce Moy, Director of CUNY’s Asian Research Institute, led to the implementation of the new ‘White / Jewish’ ethnic category for CUNY faculty.A new plan by the City University of New York to institute a separate category for “White / Jewish” faculty members has raised the ire of some CUNY professors. A report on CUNY’s Diversity Action Plan, recently released by Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, laid out the proposed innovation as a means of increasing the inclusion and recruitment of minority groups.

While the university system claims that “some faculty” are in favor of the label, to help them stand out from white instructors in general, a number of CUNY professors have expressed their outrage. “This is, as far as I know, the first time a religion has been introduced into any affirmative action document,” said David Gordon, a history professor at Bronx Community College and the Graduate Center. “What would the response be to a category ‘White/Methodist?’ Silly? Irrelevant?”

Hershey Friedman, deputy chairman of the Finance and Business Management Department at Brooklyn College, was similarly upset. “It’s an insult and idiotic,” he fumed. “Most Jews are brown-skinned. We also have black Jews and Asian Jews. Once you mix religion with race you’re opening a Pandora’s Box — and you look stupid.”

The new ethnic category was decided upon after a steering committee directed by Joyce Moy, director of CUNY’s Asian Research Institute, ran a series of faculty focus groups based on “identity.” The groups included “African-American/black, Asian, White/Jewish, LGBT, Hispanic/Latino, Individuals with disabilities, and Italian-American.” According to Michael Arena, a spokesman for the City University of New York, “In addition to a group organized for white faculty, some faculty expressed a strong affinity and need for a focus group comprised of Jewish faculty members. Such a group was assembled, and it contributed to the effort of gathering facts and opinions from a wide cross-section of groups at CUNY campuses.”

The backlash has come from Jewish professors who believe the new designation may even be harmful to their presence on New York campuses, in the event that Jews are discovered to be “overrepresented.” In the words of one Jewish professor at Kingsborough Community College, “White is in every way a detriment to be categorized, because of the push to hire minorities.” And adopting an extremely satirical tone, an Irish-Catholic Lehman College instructor cracked, “I can get yellow stars to put on my colleagues’ arms,” an obvious reference to the badges that Jews were ordered to don in Nazi-occupied Europe.

The CUNY report, “Building on a Strong Foundation,” cites “positive changes in the gender, ethnic and racial composition of the faculty,” with several minority groups increasing their ranks over a two-decade period. According to the report, whites made up 61.8 percent of the system’s full-time faculty in 2010, down from 73.6 percent in 1990. Blacks constitute 12.7 percent of CUNY’s faculty, a slight increase from 11.6 percent, while Asians shot up from 4.2 percent to 10.6 percent.

The CUNY report further noted that, among all of the university system’s students over the two decades that were surveyed, whites fell from 39.3 percent to 30.1 percent, but blacks also dropped from 29.8 percent to 25.4 percent. The number of Hispanic students noticeably increased from 20.1 percent to 27.1 percent, and Asians went up from 10.6 percent to 17.1 percent. The report does not include any numbers regarding Jewish faculty or students.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who just this past week declared that the New York State Attorney General should investigate complaints of anti-Semitism within the hiring process of faculty at Brooklyn College, described the new Jewish category as “abhorrent.” 

“I think it goes to the idea of, ‘We have enough of this group, let’s get more of that group,’ ” Hikind said. “Diversity is a wonderful thing, but I think the university should hire the best and most qualified educators. If that means all professors are Asian, so be it.”

Free Holocaust History Seminar for Teachers in Jewish Schools on Sunday, June 10 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust

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The history of Italian Jewry is complex and fascinating. Even though under Mussolini Italy was a Fascist country, a high percentage of Italy’s Jews survived the Holocaust.The Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust announced last week that it is inviting educators from Jewish schools to participate in an education seminar entitled The Holocaust in Italy. Part of STAJE (Shoah Teaching Alternatives in Jewish Education), the seminar is scheduled to take  place on Sunday, June 10 from 12:30 PM to 4:45 PM

The history of Jews in Italy during the Holocaust is complicated and fascinating, the museum explained in its announcement. Italy was a Fascist country, yet the percentage of Jews who survived the Holocaust was high. Professor Ariella Lang of Barnard College will speak about the development of the Italian Jewish community from Italy’s unification in 1871 to the deportation of the Jews in Rome in 1943. Dr. Susan Zuccotti will examine the action and inaction of the Vatican and the Catholic Church in Italy. Mrs. Bruna Herzfeld, the daughter of the late chief rabbi of Venice, will give survivor testimony. The day will conclude with a presentation by Alessandro Cassin and Natalia Indrimi on further resources for the study of the Holocaust in Italy.

The program is free of charge, however space is limited and pre-registration is required. To pre-register or for more information, please contact Dr. Paul Radensky at pradensky@mjhnyc.org or call (646) 437-4310. A light lunch for teachers will be available at 12:00 noon (dietary laws observed).

Public transportation or parking for teachers will be reimbursed up to $17 per person or vehicle upon presentation of original receipt.

This seminar is made possible by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany: The Rabbi Israel Miller Fund for Shoah Research, Documentation and Education.

About the Speakers

Ariella Lang is the author of Converting a Nation: A Modern Inquisition and the Unification of Italy (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2008). A lecturer in the Departments of Italian and Comparative Literature at Barnard College, Lang earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2003. Her areas of expertise include Jewish-Christian relations, the Holocaust, and Jewish film.

Alessandro Cassin is an Italian journalist based in New York. He covers culture and the arts for L’Espresso, Diario and The Brooklyn Rail. He is the editor of the online column Printed Matter for Centro Primo Levi.
Dr. Susan Zuccotti is an independent historian living in New York. She is the author of the award-winning Under His Very Windows: The Vatican and the Holocaust in Italy. Her next book, which is forthcoming by Indiana University Press is Père Marie-Benoît and Jewish Rescue: How a French Priest Together with Jewish Friends Saved Thousands during the Holocaust.

Natalia Indrimi is the Director of the Primo Levi Center in New York.

As App Economy Skyrockets, Innovative School Trains New Generation of Developers

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Yaakov Relkin from Monsey, New York is a recent graduate of Newton Academy who is now earning a salary well into six figures as lead app developer for a large venture capital funded startup. Shimi Hochman, another recent graduate who runs his own thriving independent app development business, Simple Simon Apps, says “the investment I made in Newton Academy has already repaid itself many times over in the first year since I graduated.”

Avi Mandelbaum had no background in computer programming, and never considered being an app developer until he heard about Newton Academy. “After graduating,” reports Avi, “I founded freelance app development shop LM Mobile with fellow graduate Eliezer Liebman. We already have quite a few ongoing projects, and a waiting list of clients.”

These are just a few of the success stories shared by graduates of Newton Academy, a revolutionary program training students for careers developing apps for smartphones and tablets like Apple’s’ iPhone and iPad, a job market where the average starting salary is about $90,000 a year.

“This year, Apple flew by Exxon to become the biggest company in the world,” says Newton Academy founder Binyamin Bauman. “Consumers are purchasing a staggering number of iPhones and iPads; more than 500,000 every single day,” he continues. “Every second, users of these devices download more than 500 apps, which are the core programs that make iPhones and iPads so powerful and magical.”

This large and fast growing market that is still in its infancy has resulted in a severe shortage of trained app developers, and there are thousands of excellent job openings waiting to be filled. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this trend will continue to accelerate during the coming decade with this occupation category growing faster than any other.

If they don’t want a 9-to-5 job, graduates can open up shop as freelance contractors, creating apps for businesses on a project basis. But for those with true entrepreneurial spirit, the sky is the limit. Many independent developers, called “indies”, have made small fortunes selling their creations in the App Store. Successful apps such as Instagram, which was recently acquired by Facebook for a staggering $1 billion, often get purchased by larger companies.

Newton Academy’s innovative program “flips the classroom”, a revolutionary approach to teaching in the Internet age that has been proven to achieve far more effective mastery of a subject than traditional methods. It’s called a ‘flip’ because students work together on homework under instructor guidance, and study the curriculum lessons at home with immersive video lessons that include graphics, animations, diagrams, and tutorials.

“This enables each student to learn at his or her own pace,” says Bauman. “Each module is first mastered with the help of instructors and fellow students before the student moves along to the next module. This also enables students to learn part-time or full-time while reaping the benefits of ongoing teacher assistance and peer interaction.”

Newton Academy’s training program is fully online. It takes about a year to complete, and it is designed for students who have no prior programming experience.

Every Newton Academy student who completes the academic curriculum gets a guaranteed apprenticeship. Newton Academy mentors and guides graduates closely while they create and market their first full-fledged app. Newton Academy also provides students with job placement assistance by leveraging its network of trusted recruiters and employers who are urgently seeking trained app developers.

Newton Academy is now accepting applications for its online training program, which begins on July 2. Available spots are filling fast. For more information, contact Newton Academy by phone at (800) 385-1397; by email at binyamin@newtonacademy.org, or visit www.newtonacademy.org.

Hachnasat Sefer Torah

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Date & Time: Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 10:00 AM
Location: Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/
Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School
110 South Orange Avenue, Livingston, New Jersey 07039

We invite you to fulfill this unique mitzvah by participating in the writing of a Sefer Torah honoring Mrs. Susan H. Dworken, JKHA Head of School, on the occasion of her retirement from our Yeshiva after more than 25 years of outstanding educational leadership.

By participating in the writing of this very special Sefer Torah, you will perpetuate a sacred tradition and help Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School fulfill its mission to inspire in every student a lifelong love of Torah, Mitzvot and Maasim Tovim.  For detailed information about sponsorship opportunities, please visit www.jkha.org/events to specify your donation and attendance for the June 10th event.

Every dollar raised by the Sefer Torah writing campaign will directly benefit the students of JKHA/RKYHS, thanks to the generosity of Robin and Brad Klatt, who have underwritten the Sefer Torah to express their Hakarat Hatov to Mrs. Dworken for the timeless Jewish values she has instilled in their children Sam, Jenny, Jonathan and David, all graduates of our Yeshiva.

We invite you to demonstrate your commitment to Jewish day school education by supporting our Sefer Torah campaign. 

Lincoln Square Synagogue Annual Dinner

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Date & Time: Sunday, June 10, 6:00 – 9:00 PM
Location: Lincoln Square Synagogue,
200 Amsterdam Avenue, NYC

Dinner will honor Rabbi Elli and Elisheva Ausubel. For more information, go to www.lss.org, or e-mail info@lss.org.

Music Under the Stars – Israeli-American Night

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Date & Time: Sunday, June 10, 7:00 PM
Location: Harry Chapin Lakeside Theatre at Eisenhower Park,
East Meadow, Long Island (Parking fields 6 & 6A)

Free Concert Starring Israeli superstar David Broza, a modern troubadour of urban folk-rock, and Howard Leshaw & the Golden Land Klezmer Orchestra. Take the Meadowbrook Parkway to Exit 3 (Stewart Avenue) or Exit 4 (Hempstead Turnpike).
For information call 516-677-1867; on day of performance call 516-572-0355.

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