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Posted By on September 16, 2022

(Ken was Ivy League and Jesuit trained, and for some years a member of the Society of Jesus. He currently lives in Dharamshala. Kens a long time Zen practitioner and a friend. Hes taken an interest in my current deep dive into the Psalms project, and it inspired a poem cycle. This is the fourth of the cycle, first published at Kens Buddha SJ blog and shared here by permission.)

The McLeod Ganj Psalter RSV, Week 4

Only light rain today. The monsoon is breaking

Songs 15 to 22

The Introduction

Song 15, Psalm 59, And At Evening, Let Them ReturnSong 16, Psalm 130, De profundisSong 17, Psalm 71, Put Me to ConfusionSong 18, Psalm 34; 147, Bablu Called in TearsSong 19, Psalm 103, Prose & Poem at JimmysSong 20, Psalm 122, How I Rejoiced!Song 21, Psalm 109, Saying Yes in The Darkness


Buddhist Koans and Psalms? We Dont Need to Pick a Fight

War crimes by one party to a conflict never justify war crimes by another.

I was shocked in 1996 when I learned that the people who venerate the songs of David and claim to have made a covenant with the only One God showered cluster bombs on Qana in Southern Lebanon where Jesus is said to have performed his first miraclewater into wine. Why did you save the best wine for the end? Perhaps all the singing and dancing coupled with the veneration of the songs themselves as being inspired actually fostered, or at least reinforced this pernicious view that guns, bombs and self-defense killing are just facts of life. If this is the last word, its as bad as the first squibbles.

Im certainly not trying to pick a serious fight, not even a good-natured one, nor am I trying to diminish the importance of getting history right, or at least as close to right as we can manage, but dont tell me how to view the fire power or the chants of Davids armies. Almost 50 years ago a Jesuit friend was actually learning Hittite to reengineer their war songs and distinguish them from what Davids cohorts used to fortify their spirits before battle. A very Jesuit enterprise. I couldnt tell a Hittite from a Canaanite or remember who won, who was more war-like, who killed more people or took more booty. How are we to know that anyway beyond the propaganda of the victor? Anderson Cooper was not around to report the battles on CNN, and David, the religious conqueror, controlled the press release.

Catholic priests are still obliged to say the Holy Office every day. I checked. They read, contemplate, and pray with these ancient songs. What do they do when they come across horrific barbarism? Turn a blind eye? Explain it away as the result of the passage of time and cultural revolutions?

My friend the Zen teacher James Ford asked me to suggest a few psalms that I felt were authentic and still spoke to me. I made several attempts, but following the Zen adage not to pick or choose, I felt obliged to look at the whole body of work, every stinking bit of it.

Read, contemplate and pray. I accept the challenge. But I want to avoid reading from the impregnable fortress of first principles, though thats often where the psalmists language leads me. Thats just an ivory tower. I will try to look at them as poetry. Whats also important for me is trying to ask at least a few good questions. Maybe theres the possibility of starting to think about subjects near and dear to our heartsperhaps too near and too dearin ways that can crack some of lifes puzzles. But it has to start close to our hearts. Thus poems. This is the impetus for writing my very personal responses to these ancient and revered songs.

Like a good foot soldier in the struggle of Light versus Darkness, I checked footnotes for lines that interested me, and even referred to several in what I wrote. But the stories, especially ones with lots of footnotes, arent worth much if people dont or cant relate. I know from my own koan study that I actually dont need to know if Daowu in a case from the Shobogenzo is the same guy whos called Dogo in case 55 of the Blue Cliff Record. Im not immune to speculation, but will try to stay focused on my life and meditation. Ive spent a good deal of time deciding if my reader needs to see any footnotes. When it is important to identify who are Hittite, I have tried to write that information into the text.

As I read, contemplated and wrote, I was distressed that so many people died. It was not planned. It just happened. I told myself to keep writing. Perhaps dawn would break trough the gloom on its own. Two things: my life here in a small village in the Himalayan foothills is very different from my life in the West. Healthcare is primitive. People die young and unexpectedly. I live in a community of refugees and exiles near the Indian and Pakistani border. We are close to the border between Nepal and Tibet. The possibility of war never disappears. The sting of war is still fresh. I would like to think that my circumstance has opened a window into why these ancient songs have endured. Certainly modern Israelis claim that their life circumstances have allowed them to continue to sing the warlike parts of these songs in a way that Davids armies might have recognized.

They say that Thomas Aquinas towards the end of his life gave up the thread of his theological thinking and turned his hand towards poetrypretty bad poetry in my view but chaque un a son gout. I will close my collection with a riff on Aquinas who, at least in my imagination, faces death with a praise song on his lips.

And At Evening, Let Them Return

Psalm 59: 6-7

They return at evening: they make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city.Behold, they belch out with their mouth: swords are in their lips: for who, say they, doth hear?

Is Right Speech always smooth and easy?Next door complains about the howling dog.Haris daughter ties her up during the day.

Other neighbors complain.It is tough to hear.Dogs are pack animals.

Early this morning BabaParaded through the village toA cacophonous drum beat.

He and his friends wereCarrying Durga MataOn their shoulders.

Just begging rounds.We are expected to give.All the dogs barked, not at all in unison.Always difficult for words to match the tune.

De profundis

Psalm 130

This song of ascents is usually sung at funerals.

They say it was instantaneousNo one ever says exactly how he died.It happened just about the same timeAs we were driving home from dinner.

They also say that his cousin who drove the two-wheeler was drunk.That boy lay for days unconscious in the hospital.No one knows for sure. No one ever will.No one will blame him openly. That is just not done.

Rumors in our small communityAs ordinary as death and being late for work.Our driver was also high. We left him in the drivers hut while we ate.It was festival time.

Together with my friend Kumar,I head to the village to attendThe rituals of death.They are not foreign at all,Though the trappings are.He died on FridayIt was Holy Week.

Just to be there is enough.It has to be.Forget religion.It is all we can do.

In a darkened room, the women sit with his mother.They hardly move. No one speaks. No one can.I know trauma. I watch with my heart.I bow towards the shrine in a dark cornerWith his picture, some flowers.He was just a teenager.

I turn and bow to his father,He is the brother and uncle of several of the menWho do work for me.I am connected.Tears came to my eyes.

Of course mercy, of course forgiveness,But you, songster, get closest to the truthWhen you pray the difficult prayer for hope.Hope is difficult.

My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning,More than watchmen wait for the morning.

Psalm 130

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.

If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

Put Me to Confusion

Let me never be put to confusion.

In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion. . . . .Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come.

Psalm 71

I will sing a contrary song:Put me to confusion,Even my old grayhead,Go ahead, do it.

Or I will sow a seed of doubt myself.Not to rely on the stability ofAn uncertain stance.Is far too comfortableEven given my ageAnd lack of balance,Doubt is just more honest.Even though I might fall.

Lets look at a few of the pointsPushed by your songster.You did not take me out of my mothers bowels.

Pure folly.I prefer Dr. Spock although my mother was not a fan.She was always searching forFor the traces ofSome invisible guiding handWhich always remained beyond her grasp.His name was Doctor Mack.

You didnt teach me from my youth.The Jesuits did that, andThough they like to think of themselvesAs the agents of the Most High,They rely too much on Ovid and CiceroTo claim pure Yahweh lineage.

Of course you abandon the old and frail.If you didnt thered be no complaint.Dont feed me that tired old line aboutSelf-reliance when all resourcesAre depleted.Unless you are really Ayn Rand in drag.

A professor of leave-things-aloneIs rampaging in the living room, leaving a mess.I will look for evidence of courseBut most times it is not evenNecessary, is it?You said it and believeSo it is suspect.

I will only listen to the professor of leave-things-as-they-is.

Who am I to show your power?You can and should do your jobIf you even can.I will not do it for you.I will not apologize.

Bablu Called in Tears

Psalm 34:18. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 147:3, He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Bablu calledin tears.I could see his voice.I could feel raw painIf he were as nearas the palm of my hand.I would haveTried to hold himHis mother diedin the night.

Who can bind up his heart?Father killed,Perhaps murdered.Now his mother is also gone.He brought tea in the morningTo her lifeless body.

She had complained of sharp pain.Her left shoulder had gone numb.They took her to theAyurvedic doctor.She would not go to the hospital.Now her boys and her grandchildrenHave a hole in their hearts.

Pain and sufferingAre not democratic.Not everyone gets to vote.

Prose & Poem at Jimmys

Psalm 103: 15-16

The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field;the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.

The time and place for different kinds of speaking and singing.

It was mid-afternoon when Tara & I started uphill towards Jimmys up more steep stairs to the second floor efforts just to be there. More for four poet-activists, exiles and immigrants, reading Tibetan and English side by side. In India English always for subtitles. Could almost be mistaken as native Americans forced onto reservations or indigenous peoples of South corralled into reductiones by my Jesuits. Viewing like a Daguerreotype Dominant culture invades, steals land and resources. The extermination begins. I want to cry.

Tibetans have the upperhand capturing world attention through the charism of their Dalai Lama. Rigorous Buddhism written and practiced for centuries is perhaps more sophisticated than Black Elk Speaks, but the soft sounds of the Tibetan language; one young woman read as moving as Buffy Saint Marie. Just sounds. A man whose poem Just Shut Up lyrical, spiritual, fiery. Our Tibetan Bob Dylan sang a song he wrote, and then sang another with a man whod never performed in public before.

These gentle peoples fate still and always precarious. Spoke with several afterwards but kept my mouth shut about death and dying. They are aware of peril, but there is a time and place for different kinds of speaking.

You are not the firstNor will you be the last proud cultureDevoured by a conquering army.You know it.The wounds smart.No sauve of timeTo gently erode hard memoriesNo fading into mythNot yetThough that process has begun.Humankind survives.At least for now.Sing like theres no tomorrow.

How I rejoiced when I heard we were going to go to the house of the Lord

Psalm 122

Line Up

Determined to hearTrue Teaching.Id come all this way.

Firstly I go to the Security OfficeOn the Road to Bhagsunag.About 60 foreigners at the door.Though orderlyI take a number and wait.They check my passport,Run it through the computerPass.Copied in triplicateI get the badge of salvationOr at least an entrance pass.Theres a service charge.Line One.

I push my way through the crowdDown Temple RoadEveryone rushes.He always starts on time.Jammed up at the Temple GatePeople crush and shove.The entrance to Heaven isNameless and rude.Its India.The turnstile admits one by oneForcing order.Line Two can finally be called a line.

I rent a transistor radioWith earphonesSimultaneous translation,Mother tongue,Hindi and Chinese as wellWill the batteries last?Always questions.Will I even understand the questions?Another queue.More rupeesFor charity this time.Waiting for my change to be countedLine Three.

We slow to single fileFor the metal detectorAnd pat down.Pockets out.Men to one side. Women behind.Monks, nuns, no exceptions.No smiling.So close to intimacyIt becomes impersonal.Line Four takes time.

I search the lawn for a spot to sitAmong Tibetan families

Spread out on blankets.Kids play with cricket cards ofMuslim playersNo line of demarcation hereBut the monks higher up sit inNeat color coded rowsIn strange orange hats.Feathered mohawks in my mind.We wait for their chanting to end.Boredom joinsLine Five.

The steps up the throne are fewBut steep.Other hands lift and guide.Thats universal.It seems treacherousThe wonder of falling down.Behind the constant appeal for prayer,Fear is universal.Its a textual analysisOnly slightly dumbed downTo include spousal bedroom fightsLike an Irish pastorNot missing a chanceTo hit the heart of the matter..Line Six is a convoluted argument.

Salty Butter TeaMust be an acquired taste.Monks fill our cupsI know this is notSomething I can refuseEven though my gut reaction isTo spit it out.It tastes like piss.I sit and wait to hold up my cupFor just enough toSatisfy the bare minimum to be polite.The boy monk doesnt careWhat I want.Its not personal. Hes just sloppy.Line Seven spills over.

Stomachs growl,Its also his lunch timeNo tiffins for convenience.Uniformed guards from theIndian Army come to attention

And present arms.The admonition about arguingIn the bedroom requiresThe presence of automatic weaponsAnd live ammunition.India under threat from the PRC,That is a dangerous route.They guide his way to the lower level.Line Eight is armed and lethal.

Why an SUV to drive20 meters to his door?No crush of crowd.A smile and a waveSatisfy the superstitious ritualTo greet and bless.His stomach must be growling.Line Nine says its over.

We stand up to leave.The work of religion is done.The final Line is a prayerTo be delivered from it all.Today is the end of religions workGo back, all of you, to your homes.I leave before you,Eastward or westward,Wherever the wind might carry me.Tsui Unkei

King James Version

I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together:Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord.For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.

Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.For my brethren and companions sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee.Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.

Saying Yes in the Darkness

Psalm 109: 22-27

For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.I fade away like an evening shadow; I am shaken off like a locust.My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt.I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they shake their heads.Help me, Lord my God; save me according to your unfailing love.Let them know that it is your hand, that you, Lord, have done it.

I searched online for a referencePsalms saying YesI found a course for 17.99 USDThat promised Yes to G_dIn seven weeksUsing a formulaMagic costsI said No.

Saying Yes in the DarknessInvolves sayingYes to the dark godsIn no particular orderYes to murder and assassinationYes to vengeanceYes to bankruptcyYes to making an enemys innocent wife a widowYes to leaving his children homelessYes to condemning them to being denied compassionThe rotten sons of bitchesLeave no stone unturned.

I was worried that my songsHave been too much about all the deathAround us in our small villageBut that is a way of saying YesYes, saying yes in the darkness.

We dont need armies to do the killingLife exacts a toll before we take out our weapons.We dont even need to hear G_ds voiceTo know whether were right or wrong.

Shaken, thin and woundedI know who is poor and needy.It is me.You, O God, dont need to say a word.

I will sayYes to cancerYes to heart attacksYes to dementiaYes to being attackedYes to dying while youngYes to my own dying.

Excerpt from:


Chabad couple holds UAEs largest-ever Jewish wedding on anniversary of peace deal with Israel – JTA News – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Posted By on September 16, 2022

(JTA) Hundreds of Jews from all over the world have gathered in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, ahead of the two-year anniversary of its establishment of diplomatic ties with Israel.

But the crowds arent in town to honor the Abraham Accords at least not directly.

They came to party Wednesday at the largest Jewish wedding in the history of the UAE, which the bride and groom, emissaries of the Chabad movement who are living in that country, timed to coincide with the anniversary of the signing of the accords.

About 1,500 people, including dignitaries and Emirati royals as well as rabbis stationed around the world, attended the wedding of Rabbi Levi Duchman, 29, who was born in Brooklyn and has been living in the UAE since 2014, and Lea Hadad of Brussels, 27, according to the media relations department of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.

The wedding is a source of great national pride, as a demonstration and living experience of the Emirates longstanding investment in creating a culture of coexistence and religious diversity, read a statement to the media about the event.

Chabad emissaries, who typically stay for many years in their postings, are usually dispatched as couples. Only a few rabbis are appointed head emissaries, as Duchman has been, before they are married. Over the past eight years, he has overseen the opening of a Jewish school, Hebrew supplemental school, ritual bath and the government-licensed kosher agency of the UAE, which has a few thousand Jews, according to the statement.

Hadad knows what it means to be a Chabad emissary. Her father is the chief rabbi of Brussels, and her grandfather set up the Chabad community in Milan.

Duchman is one of several Orthodox rabbis working to cultivate Jewish life in the UAE, including Elie Abadie and Yehuda Sarna, who are not affiliated with Chabad. Prior to moving to Abu Dhabi, he lived with a sister and her family in Morocco, where he became committed to Jews in the Arab world, according to the Chabad statement.

The wedding date was carefully chosen not just to match the anniversary of the Abraham Accords but because the date in the Hebrew calendar is significant to Hasidic Jews, according to Chabad. Wednesday is the Hebrew birthdate of both the Baal Shem Tov, the 18th-century founder of the Hasidic movement, and Chabads founder, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi.

Read more here:

Chabad couple holds UAEs largest-ever Jewish wedding on anniversary of peace deal with Israel - JTA News - Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground. Granite Falls Advocate Tribune – Granite Falls Advocate Tribune

Posted By on September 16, 2022

Ellen Davis wrote about meeting the expectations of the land, she said, agrarians know the land, not as an inert object, but as a fellow creature that can justly expect something from us whose lives depend on it. Important in more than my Hebrew class was the comparison between the Hebrew word for ground or earth (adm) and the Hebrew word for man (dm). Understanding the land from that part of country is important because as Davis puts it, Both words are related to dm, ruddy; in the Levant, [eastern part of the Mediterranean area] brownish red is the skin tone of both the people and the earth. In Genesis 2:15, the writer says that man is put into the garden to till it and keep it. Davis unpacks this by digging into the Hebrew language again saying the verb used could also mean working for the garden soil, serving its needs. This made a huge difference to me when I was reading; it reminded me that we have been created to serve the earth.

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Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground. Granite Falls Advocate Tribune - Granite Falls Advocate Tribune

The essence of it – The Jewish Standard

Posted By on September 16, 2022

Last Sunday was September 11.

It seems somehow appropriate to write about it after it happened, because September 11 now is our past; it happened well within our living history, but its stopped being as visceral as it was a decade ago.

Even last year, on its 20th anniversary, it seemed closer somehow; in part but not entirely because so many people in uniform the police officers and firefighters from whose ranks the first responders had come, and to which so many of them could not return came and stood in solemn silence to remember.

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But now, it seems, we are past that. I wonder what it felt like on December 7 1962, 21 years after Pearl Harbor. I wonder its like now, where it feels remote and close, at the same time.

Because still, I find that when the sky is that perfect cloudless blue, so beautiful that you can cry from the beauty, I cant tell if I want to cry just for the beauty or also because of the memory of the smoke that smudged it when I looked south that day.

Sometimes I remember the sounds of those shellshocked days that came right after, when the bridges and tunnels reopened but armed men stood by each lane and looked into each car. I remember the sound of helicopters over the river, constant sirens in the street, and the terrible smells at night, when the wind blew northward.

Then as now, the start of the new year, the High Holy Days, followed close after September 11; in 2001, it was not quite a week later. I remember the disconnect we all felt; it made some of us cling more closely to religion, and thrust others of us away.

Now, too, we are living through a dangerous time, although the enemy is different. Now its more internal. Were fighting each other.

But I also am reminded of one of the signs, one among many, that was taped onto the statute at the end of my block. Its the Firemans Memorial, erected in 1913, featuring a bas relief of horses pulling fire engines and sculptures of women Duty and Sacrifice cradling dying firefighters.

Now, every year, police officers and firefighters hold a ceremony remembering the 9/11 victims there. Its deeply moving every year.

But in my minds eye I still see the handwritten sign that was posted there.

Kol haolam kulo, gesher tzar meod, it said in Hebrew, quoting a popular Hebrew song set to lyrics by Nachman of Breslov. Vehaikar lo lifached klal. And it supplied the English translation: All the world is a narrow bridge; the essence is to have no fear. No fear at all.

Its a hard thing, to move ahead with no fear. Probably not within reach. But this week Askhenazi Selichot starts, and then Rosh Hashanah next week, and then Yom Kippur, and the rest of the holidays, with their complicated rituals and bone-deep memories.

And the thing of it, the essence of it, is to move forward. To live with the fear. To see the blue beyond the smoke.



The essence of it - The Jewish Standard

Not teaching math and science – another double standard for the ultra-Orthodox in Israel – All Israel News

Posted By on September 16, 2022

Headline in the Hebrew newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, on Sept. 13, 2022. Headline is translated as "Core studies paid the price of the (politcal) agreement"

In Israel, both state and religious schools must teach core subjects such as math and science in order to be eligible for governmental funding.Failure to do so will greatly limit their financial assistance.

However, this may soon change if Benjamin Netanyahu forms a coalition and becomes prime minister. In exchange for political support, Netanyahu promised to give more government funding for ultra-Orthodox religious schools yeshivas even if they dont teach the core subjects of math and science.

Just as theres a double standard whereby all ultra-Orthodox men and women do not need to serve in the Israeli military, another double standard may soon be on the horizon as standardized education is now a political pawn.

The background

As the next Israeli election is approaching on Nov. 1, 2022, all kinds of deals are being made by political parties who attempt to consolidate into one block to ensure passing the threshold of 3.25% of the vote. One such deal is between Netanyahu and the United Torah Judaism party.

United Torah Judaism (Yehadhut HaTorah in Hebrew) is actually comprised of two ultra-Orthodox religious parties: Agudat Israel, made up of various Hassidic groups, and Degel HaTorah, made up of a Lithuanian Jewish stream. Although the two ultra-Orthodox groups have been allied up until now, the recent issue that separated them is the teaching of core subjects, math and science.

Agudat Israel intended to teach all core subjects, which resulted in the ire of Degel HaTorah which is bitterly against such a move as they feel that yeshiva students should focus on studying the Torah. Netanyahu needs both parties in order to win in the upcoming elections. If the two parties run separately, theres a chance that one party or both parties will not have enough votes to pass the threshold and thus enter the Knesset.

Netanyahu understood that Degel HaTorah would split from Agudat Israel if they were to implement their core study plan. Therefore, Netanyahu resorted to the oldest trick in the book money to make sure this wouldnt happen. In most settings, this is tantamount to bribery, but in the political arena, its, unfortunately, considered shrewd politics.

Netanyahu promised both parties that their government funding will not be at risk if they choose to forgo the teaching of core subjects, something which flies against Israels basic values of providing quality education for all of its children whether secular or religious.

The takeaway

In the end, the price for a Netanyahu government will be at the expense of Israeli students who will be the losers of crucial educational studies which prepare and equip youth for competing in the marketplace as they build a future for themselves and the families they hope to have one day. Israels ultra-Orthodox children should not need to bear this price.

Biblical perspective

(Deuteronomy 25:13-15)13Do not have two differing weights in your bagone heavy, one light.14Do not have two differing measures in your houseone large, one small.15You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live longin the land theLordyour God is giving you.

(Proverbs 20:10)Differing weights and differing measures theLorddetests them both.

The Bible is clear on not having different measures. Thus, different measures in basic education based on religious or ethnic background should not even be an option for political maneuvering. The criteria for government school funding should be the same for all sectors of Israeli society

Read the original here:

Not teaching math and science - another double standard for the ultra-Orthodox in Israel - All Israel News

$55 million gift to Penn is aimed at stopping breast cancer before it starts – The Philadelphia Inquirer

Posted By on September 16, 2022

Nearly 30 years ago, scientists discovered a pair of mutations that sharply increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Yet so far, surgery to remove those organs is the only preventive option for people with either of these mutations, which occur in genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2.

The sister of a woman who died from ovarian cancer hopes to change that with a $55 million donation to the University of Pennsylvania.

Mindy Gray and her husband, Jon, president of the Blackstone investment firm, announced the gift Thursday.

The money will support research on cancer interception detecting abnormal, cancerous cells at the earliest stages and disrupting their progress before the disease gets underway. That could include giving patients an anticancer vaccine, one of which already is undergoing tests at Penn Medicine and elsewhere.

The gift will establish an institute within Penns Basser Center for BRCA, which was created in 2012 with an earlier, $25 million gift from the Grays. The center is named for Mindy Grays sister, Faith Basser, who died of ovarian cancer in 2002 at age 44.

Susan Domchek, executive director of the center and an oncology professor at Penns Perelman School of Medicine, said the new gift will help in developing vaccines and early-stage treatments.

Its an amazing opportunity, she said.

All told, the Grays have now given $110 million to the Basser Center over the years. In 2013, sister Shari Potter and her husband, Len, also established an annual $100,000 Basser Global Prize to fund research on BRCA, which stands for BReast CAncer.

Everyone has a pair of BRCA genes, which produce proteins that help to repair damaged DNA. But one out of 200 people has a mutation in one of the two genes, disrupting the ability to suppress cancerous cells. The mutations are more common in people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, occurring in 1 out of 40 people in this population, Domchek said.

Women with one of the mutations have a 50% to 70% chance of developing breast cancer over their lifetime, compared with 12% in the general population, she said. The mutations also raise the risk of male breast cancer, though that is less common.

Mutations in either of the two genes also increase the risk of ovarian cancer, especially those in the BRCA1 gene. The mutations also are associated with increased risk of prostate and pancreatic cancer, though this is more likely in the case of BRCA2.

Unlike many slow-growing prostate cancers, cases in people with these mutations tend to be especially aggressive, Domchek said.

The prostate cancer that occurs is the kind men die of, not that they die with, she said. This is the kind of prostate cancer that needs to be found and treated.

Yet just one in 10 people with either mutation is aware of it, the physician said. The family learned after Faith Basser died that she had one of the mutations.

Citing patient privacy regulations, Penn Medicine said it could not disclose the health status of other family members.

In a statement provided by Penn, the Grays said they gave the money to turn research into options for patients.

The dream of intercepting these cancers at their earliest stages or preventing them in the first place is no longer science fiction, the couple said.

Read more from the original source:

$55 million gift to Penn is aimed at stopping breast cancer before it starts - The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Pope Addresses The Heart Of The Belt & Road Initiative In Kazakhstan – Silk Road Briefing

Posted By on September 16, 2022

By Chris Devonshire-Ellis

One of the more unusual state visits was made this week as Pope Francis, the Head of State of Vatican City, turned up in Kazakhstan to meet with President Tokayev and attend the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions being held in Astana.

The two-day meeting, which takes place every three years, brought together religious leaders from around the world to focus this time on how religious leaders can foster the spiritual and social development in the post-pandemic world. Over 100 delegations from 50 countries attended the Congress, made up of religious, cultural, civil, governmental, and non-governmental representatives.

Pope Francis was personally invited by the Kazakh president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Other senior clerics who attended included the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Ahmed el-Tayeb, Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau,and many other spiritual leaders.

The conference included four main sessions:

The Role of Religions in Strengthening Spiritual and Moral Values in the Modern World.

The Role of Education and Religious Studies in Respectful Coexistence of Religions and Cultures, and in Strengthening Peace and Harmony.

The Contribution of Religious Leaders and Politicians in Promoting Global Interreligious Dialogue and Peace, Countering Extremism, Radicalism and Terrorism; and

Womens Contribution to the Well-Being and Sustainable Development of Contemporary Society and the Role of Religious Communities in Supporting Womens Social Status.

Some of these subjects veer directly into politics and regional development.

In his speech to the Congress, the Pope commented that In the name of the fraternity that unites usthis shared nature then creates naturally a common bond, an authentic fraternity and expressing hopes for the encounter of religions to be based on human relationships marked by respect, sincere dialogue, respect for the inviolable dignity of each human being, and mutual cooperation.

He then directly inserted the use of religion into contemporary politics by stating The pursuit of transcendence and the sacred value of fraternity can inspire and illumine the decisions that need to be made amid the geopolitical, social, economic, ecological, but fundamentally spiritual crises that many modern institutions, including democracies, are presently experiencing, to the detriment of security and concord among peoples. We need religion, in order to respond to the thirst for world peace and the thirst for the infinite that dwells in the heart of each man and woman.

He also paid tribute to Kazakhstan, recalling how the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan has been a land of encounter involving ideas, faiths, and trade along the ancient silk road route.

Reflecting on how to offer spiritual and social support in a post-pandemic world, the Pope focused on four challenges we all face and urged religions to work together toward a greater unity of purpose. The Covid-19 pandemic put everyone in the same boat, the Pope observed, adding how it exposed our common vulnerability and need for help.

He praised the powerful sense of solidarity that resulted from the pandemic but warned that the world must not squander it. He said religions are called to be present on the front lines, as promoters of unity amid the grave challenges that risk dividing our human family even further.

The Pope then added that believers are called to care for humanity and become artisans of communion, witnesses of a cooperation that transcends the confines of our community, ethnic, national and religious affiliations. He said we begin by listening to the poor, the neglected, the helpless show suffer in silence and general disregard.

What I propose is not only a path to greater attentiveness and solidarity, but also a path to healing for our societies. For poverty is precisely what enables the spread of epidemics and other great evils that flourish on the terrain of poverty and inequality he said.

The second global challenge the Pope highlighted is the challenge of peace. Although discussed by religious leaders especially in recent decades, the scourge of war and confrontation still plagues the world, he observed. This requires a leap forward by the great religions to actively unite and commit to peace, the Pope said, if people of our day are to be inspired to engage in respectful and responsible dialogue.

The third challenge facing us is fraternal acceptance, the Pope explained, noting how every day children, born and unborn, migrants and elderly persons, are cast asideyet every human being is sacred. It is especially the task of the religions to remind the world of this, the Pope said, recalling the massive exodus of people today caused by war, poverty and climate change. He said, it is our duty to be mindful that we should regard others as the same as us, and in them to see the face of a brother or a sister.

Let us rediscover the art of hospitality, of acceptance, of compassion. And let us learn also to be ashamed: yes, to experience that healthy shame born of compassion for those who suffer, sympathy and concern for their condition and for their fate, which we realize that we too share. This is the path of compassion, which makes us better human beings.

The final challenge we all face is care for our common home, that we protect the natural environment from the damage we cause through pollution, exploitation, and devastation. He noted how the mindset of exploitation is destroying our common home and leading to an eclipse of the respectful vision of our world.

The Pope summarized his address with a plea: May we cultivate open and fraternal friendships through frequent dialogue and luminous sincerity of purpose. May we never aim at artificial and conciliatory forms of syncretism, but firmly maintain our own identities, open to the courage of otherness and to fraternal encounter.Poverty is the greatest threat to the world today because it breeds violence and greed.Our days are marked by the plague of war, the inability to reach out to another. We must listen to the most vulnerable, those in need. The pandemic has demonstrated all the inequalities on our planet.

The occurrence of the Congress at this particular time is a salient one, as increasing tensions between East and West, disruptions to supply chains, and the imposition of energy, food and other shortages all threaten the entire global population. There was criticism for just about everyone within the Popes comments, while pleading for solidarity. It is an unfortunate measure of todays world that figures such as the Pope have to give speeches such as this in the hope of reaching the politicians and world leaders who really should be listening.

El-Tayyeb, for his part, representing the Islamic world, stated We are talking together about strengthening social ties between religions and respect between people.

It is not the only time the Vatican has addressed global institutions. In June this year, the Holy See addressed the World Trade Organisation again seeking to promote solidarity and multilateral dialogue, coming at a time of intense US trade pressure on other countries. It could be construed that the Vatican is a supporter of free trade and a rules-based global trade society, which has been somewhat lacking in recent months.

One hopes the messages given will permeate through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisations summit, which Tokayev is attending, as well as the upcoming UN General Assembly.

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Who will / should win the Ophirs? – Blog – The Film Experience

Posted By on September 16, 2022

A special guest report from Israel about the upcoming Israeli film awards - Editor

Top contenders for the Israeli Oscar

by Johnathan Tsuria

The 2022 Ophir awards will take place at September the 18th, and the film which wins the top prize will represent Israel at the Oscars. For most Israelis, that is the only point of interest about these awards, as they are plagued by countless decisions that prevent moviegoers here from caring. The major problem is that there is zero connection between the films released so far in cinemas and the films which end up competing for the awards. For example, from the 5 nominees for Best Picture, only one (Where is Anne Frank) was released before the nominations were announced. Another (Cinema Sabaya), was released after they were announced, and the presumed frontrunner (Karaoke) will be released only after the ceremony. The other two (Valeria Is Getting Married, 35 Downhill) have no release date scheduled for Israeli cinemas apart from presumably their qualifying showings. Last year's winner, Let it Be Morning, wasn't reelased for regular moviegoers until the spring of 2022.

Generally, I have to say that the nominations were something of a disappointment. Great films like June Zero and All I Can Do were mostly shut out while something like Where Is Anne Frank snagged a best picture nomination surely because the voters think it may do well at the Oscars It got one other nomination, for sound, and thats it. However, there are good films nominated so lets try to predict who will win...

Best PictureKaraoke, Cinema Sabaya, 35 Downhill, Where Is Anne Frank, Valeria is Getting Married

KARAOKEWill Win: Karaoke. The film is a major crowd-pleaser at festivals (including Tribeca where it premiered) and audiences are connecting and relating to its tale of an elderly couple dreaming of being something more.Could Win: Unless they decide that Valeria is Getting Married, now playing at TIFF, has more chance to get into the Oscar line up, in which chance it may nab the top prize. This is the result when Best Picture voting is synonymous with Oscar submission.Should Win: Cinema Sabaya. Though it's a small movie about municipal workers taking a film class it's a masterwork.

Best Director: Moshe Rozental, Karaoke; Orit Foucs Rotem, Cinema Sabaya; Michal Vinik, Valeria is Getting Married; Yona Rozenkier, 35 Downhill; Maor Zaguri, Virginity


Will Win: Karaoke. As with the Oscars in America, a Picture/Director Split is becoming more common at the Ophirs. But splits usually happen for a reason and it's hard to see a viable one this year.Could Win: Virginity. Maor Zaguris film has a certain bonkers quality to it so if youre into it than youre really into it. And the film was liked enough to get major nominations, even if it presumably just-missed the Best Picture field.

Should Win: Orit Foucs Rotem for Cinema Sabaya. A debut so strong and confident that you just want to make sure shell get the opportunity to make a second film something a lot if Israeli directors (including past Ophir winners) have had trouble achieving.

Best ActorNominees: Moris Cohen, The Silence; Sason Gabay, Karaoke; Yoel Rozenkier, 35 Downhill; Maor Levi, Virginity; Yakov Zeda-Daniel, Valeria is Getting Married

Will Win: This is Sason Gabays to lose. Even if by some chance viewers are unimpressed with the film, his performance shines bright. If he wins he'll become the first actor in history to win 4 Ophirs. He previously won forTime For Cherries(1990),The Band's Visit(2007), andGett(2014).The Band's Visitwas, of course, very popular in its US theatrical release (eventually inspiring a Tony winning Broadway musical), though it was disqualified as an Oscar submission in its year due to too much English dialogue spoken in the film.

Moris Cohen in THE SILENCECould win: Moris Cohen is great in The Silence, and he managed to get a nomination even though the film was largely shut out. But did enough people see the film? Should Win: Sason Gabay, without a doubt.

Best ActressDana Ivgy, Savoy; Dana Ivgy, Cinema Sabaya; Levana Finkelstein, The Silence; Lena Frifeld, Valeria is Getting Married; Rita Shukrun, Karaoke

Sason Gabay and Rita Shukrun in KARAOKE

Will Win: Its hard to imagine Gabay winning without Rita Shukrun also taking the prize the film works because of their chemistry and dynamic. Also, Ophir voters tend to be a bit unimaginative; If they like a film, they vote for it across the board.

Could Win: That said the Ophirs really love Dana Ivgy, and may want to give her a 4th Ophir to cement her place within the Academy but will they know which of her performances to choose? Lena Frifelds excellent turn in Valeria I'm guessing is a close third.Should Win: Strong options, but I would personally vote for Dana Ivgys turn in Cinema Sabaya.

Supporting ActorAvraham Shalom Levy, Valeria is Getting Married; Doron Tavori, The Gospel According to Judas; Dean Miroshnikov, Like There is No Tomorrow; Lior Ashkenazi, Karaoke; Moni Moshonov, All I Can Do; Shmuel Vilozni, 35 Downhill

Shmuel Vilozni and (leading man) Yoel Rozenkier in 35 DOWNHILL

Will Win: Shmuel Vilozni is the heart of 35 Downhill, a father and son drama, and they liked the film enough to give it 11 nominations. Since Lior Ashkenazi is the weaker link in Karaoke, Im betting on Vilozni.

Could Win: But a Karaoke clean sweep could happen easily and Ashkenazi is very popular. If he wins, it'll be his fourth Ophir (he previously won for Late Marriage,Footnote, and Foxtrot all of which were Israeli Oscar submissions with Footnote becoming an Oscar nominee).

Should win: A toss up between the Tavori and Miroshnikov both great in very different roles. But I have to choose, Tavori by a hair. Its that voice so commanding yet reaffirming.

Supporting ActressAviva Negosa, 35 Downhill; Esty Zakheim, The Silence; Joanna Sayid, Cinema Sabaya; Moran Rosenblat, Like There Is No Tomorrow; Tiki Dayan, Children of Nobody

Will Win: In a cast of mostly anonymous actors, Joanna Sayid stands out. Given the film's multiple nominations, it makes sense to award its standout character.Could Win: Ophir voters so sometimes fixate on young women that flirt with the Hero and/or the audiences expectations. Aviva Negosa could benefit from this in 35 Downhill. Should Win: Esty Zakheim is great (as always) in The Silence in the role of the Ex-wife who still has a good (non-romantic) relationship with the protagonist. She brings much needed heart to a film that sometimes feels akward.

Best ScreenplayVirginity, Karaoke, 35 Downhill, Savoy, Cinema Sabaya, Karaoke, Valeria is Getting Married

Will Win: I may be contradicting myself, but Im gonna go a limb and say that the Ophir doesn't go with a fullKaraokesweep, and that theyll give the Screenplay to Yona Rozenkier for35 Downhill. They liked the film a bunch, it won at the Jerusalem Film Festival and Rozenkier is a well liked figure in the industry.

Could Win: but a clean sweep forKaraokeis a too real possibility.

VALERIA IS GETTING MARRIEDShould Win: Valeria is Getting Married has a premise which fills you with dread. But the film surprises you and is brimming with life, humor, and humanity all because of its precise screenplay. Cinema Sabaya is also worthy, but as its been said There can only be one.

Have you seen any of these at festivals? Which are you most curious about?

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Who will / should win the Ophirs? - Blog - The Film Experience

Glossary Of Jewish & Judaism Terms |

Posted By on September 16, 2022

by Min Straussman

In 1585, a mining expert named Joachim Gans landed on Roanoke Island in the New World. He is considered the first Jewish person to visit the Americas. Almost 70 years later, in 1654, the first Jewish community was founded in what was then known as New Amsterdam, and what we today call New York City. They came, like so many other early Europeans to the continent, in search of religious freedom. In the time since, the Jewish community in the United States has continued to grow significantly. Today, more Jewish people live in the United States than anywhere else in the world except Israel.

May is Jewish American Heritage Month, which is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the long history and rich diversity of Jewish life in the United States. Needless to say, things have changed a lot since 23 Sephardi Jews fleeing the Portuguese Inquisition first settled in 1654. We are going to use the opportunity this month to talk about terms like Sephardi Jews, what they mean, and how they help us understand the many different kinds of Jewish American heritages.

The Jewish community is tiny in comparison to the population of the United States. As a result, many people only know about Jewish American life from sources like television shows or movies. This can lead to stereotyping or worse about Jewish people and culture. To help set the record straight, we are going to talk about a variety of aspects of Jewish American life and language many may not be entirely familiar with.

Note: Some sections of this article mention anti-Semitism as well as politics concerning the nation of Israel. While we understand the topics are very sensitive, its important to recognize them within the larger context of Jewish identity, life, and culture.

For many years, especially following World War II and in reaction to the anti-Semitic use of the word, it was considered offensive to refer to someone as a Jew, using the proper noun form of the term. Instead, it was preferable to use the adjectival form, Jewish. We see this in the phrase Jewish American.

However, in the past decade, there has been a movement to reclaim use of the word Jew by some members of the Jewish community. Essentially, instead of saying I am a Jewish person, some choose to say I am a Jew. Despite this movement, when using the term it is important to pair it with the indefinite article a or no articles at all, rather than the definite article the. While the difference may seem minor, using the definite article implies a stereotypical, monolithic Jewish figure, which is anti-Semitic. Lastly, the use of Jew as a verb is undeniably offensive.

Additionally, the spelling of anti-Semitic itself is controversial, with some arguing that the hyphen should be dropped. You can read a summary of this debate here.

Like in any community, there are a wide variety of preferences and opinions within the Jewish community about how we wish to be described. As a general rule, it is always best to ask someone what their personal preferences are. That said, there are some basic guidelines to consider when using the terms Jewish or Jew.

Like any religion, Judaism has many different denominations or internal religious divisions. In the United States, liberal Jewish traditions such as Reform and Conservative Judaism are especially prevalent. Here are some of the Jewish practices you can find in the US:

Regardless of the tradition they practice, Jewish people give immense importance to the holiday of Passover. Learn about the significance of the holiday here.

In the United States, there are Jewish people of every race, color, ethnicity, national origin, language group, you name it. Despite common stereotypes, there is no particular way a Jewish American looks or sounds or acts or is named. To put it bluntly, not all Jewish Americans are white Ashkenazim who live in New York City and eat lox and bagels. Like all Americans, theyre an incredible mix of cultures and experiences. We cant possibly cover all of these experiences here, but we wanted to touch on a few of the different Jewish cultural groups in the United States:

By the middle of the 18th century, most Jews in the United States were Ashkenazi, of German or Eastern European descent. The language many members of this Jewish community spoke was Yiddish, a mix of German, Hebrew, Polish, and other languages. Yiddish is written using the Hebrew alphabet and is read from right to left. Today, only the Orthodox speak exclusively Yiddish, but many American Ashkenazi Jews still sprinkle their language with Yiddish words and phrases. Some of these terms have filtered into the wider American lexicon and you may recognize them:

If youre interested in learning more words and phrases that come from Yiddish, check out our primer here.

While Jews of different denominations and cultural backgrounds have different practices, there are some terms that come up across the board.

Zionism is a global, political movement for the creation and support of a Jewish state in Israel. There is a long history of American Jews supporting Zionist movements and causes. However, it is important to note that Zionism is a political movement, not a religious one. That means not all Jews are Zionists and not all Zionists are Jews. For example, an evangelical Christian who supports a Jewish homeland in Israel is a Zionist, even though they are not Jewish.

Today, many Jewish Americans, especially and increasingly younger ones, are critical of Israel. One popular outlet for this criticism is BDS, or Boycott, Divestment, Sanction, a movement that puts economic pressure on Israel to change its policies towards Palestinians.

The question of support for Israel is a highly contentious one for the Jewish American community. That said, we should keep in mind that the Jewish American community is distinct from the Israeli one in many ways. As we have seen, there is a lot more to Jewish American cultural and religious life than Zionism.

There are hundreds of Jewish American organizations that have worked for decades to create political and social change. Some of these groups support Jewish Americans specifically, others work on behalf of marginalized communities regardless of religious denomination. A few examples of prominent Jewish American organizations are:

This article has drawn on a variety of sources about Jewish American culture. Obviously, weve only highlighted some of the key elements here, and we encourage you to keep learning more on your own. We found these sources invaluable, and theyll provide a great start to your own studies:

If youre interested in hearing even more from us about the unique history of the Jewish people in the United States, check out our entry on Jewish American Heritage Month. With over 400 years of history in North America, there is a lot to discover about Jewish American life, past and present.

Min Straussman is a freelance writer and educator from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A frequent contributor to and, his work has also appeared inHey Alma,beestung, and other publications. He lives in Paris.

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Glossary Of Jewish & Judaism Terms |

Jewish cuisine as a force to connect Israelis and American Jewry –

Posted By on September 16, 2022

(September 15, 2022 / JNS)

For people around the world, food is arguably the most natural entry point to gathering and to learning more about one anothers cultures. It is no coincidence, then, that food could very well be the next force that unifies the Israeli people and American Jewry.

Growing up in New England, I was accustomed to traditional Ashkenazi foods like bagels and lox, stuffed cabbage, and chicken soup with matzo balls. But once I met my wife, Shira, a native Israeli, I was exposed for the first time not only to Israeli ethnic cuisine but also to the diversity within that spacefrom the Persian stewGhormeh sabzito the Yemenite pastryJachnun.

The impact of this immersive culinary journey extends far beyond the palate. It shatters stereotypes about Israeli cuisine.

Today, as the discourse surrounding key issues in the Israel-American Jewry relationship occasionally veers in a controversial or even confrontational direction, food offers a more relatable way for members of the worlds two largest Jewish communities to connect. It helps them transcend the stereotypes that they may hold regarding one another, interact in an unfiltered and authentic manner, and discover new and surprising layers of their cultures.

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That sentiment is the essence ofJewish Foodie, a 10-part original video series that was launched last month by the Ruderman Family Foundation. The series aims to encourage Israelis to deepen their knowledge about U.S. Jewish communities, and Jewish Americans to become better acquainted with their rich and diverse heritage and culture, all accomplished through a rich and fascinating culinary and cultural journey to Jewish and local food across the U.S.

Jewish Foodie takes viewers on a tour of the broad diversity of American Jewry as a whole and its communities in particular through the innovative vehicle of food. The episodes focus on the personal stories and cultural influences associated with Jewish food in the Northeast, with its bagels and lox, knishes, delis, hot dogs, Chinese food and vegan fare; the Southeast, including BBQ, bourbon and baked goods; the Southwest, featuring tacos, Jewish-style burgers with latkes (Jew Boy Burger), huevos rancheros and rodeo food; and the Midwest, with pastrami sandwiches, bison burgers and Chanukahgelt-making.

While the series strives to expand Israeli viewers awareness of the Jewish food landscape in the U.S., many American Jews also stand to learn something new. During my childhood, Jewish-style or kosher cuisine hardly seemed as diverse as I know it to be today. Bagels were only available at kosher bakeries, not in supermarkets. Boston had just one kosher restaurant (Rubins deli, which closed in 2019) and virtually no sushiof the kosher or even non-kosher variety. On Passover, we essentially ate matzo and cream cheese for an entire week.

Jewish Foodie reveals the far more diverse mosaic that exists today, alongside the broader character of Jewish communities and their members. The shows host, well-known Israeli actor and comedianOri Laizerouvich, discovers hidden gems from the burekas of Hot Springs, Arkansas, to thehuevos rancheros-style shakshuka of Austin, Texas, to the HavdaChallah (a mashup of the end-of-Shabbat ceremony and challah) of Jackson Hole, Wyoming,to the music-and-food session that brings together Orthodox Jews and African-Americans in Memphis, Tennessee.

The series representsour Foundations latest effort tostrengthen the bond between Israel and American Jewry. It builds off the momentum generated in June with our launch of the Third Generation online series, which introduces candid conversations between American and Israeli grandparents with their grandkids, covering the generational gaps and points of view on Jewish life and Israel.

Jewish Foodie is a seamless next step in pursuit of this mission. Given how food is such a powerful connector between people, it is an ideal vehicle for forging warmer ties between Israelis and American Jewsenabling them to not only break bread, but also to break down stereotypes.

Jay Ruderman is president of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

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Jewish cuisine as a force to connect Israelis and American Jewry -

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