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‘Incitement’ director Yaron Zilberman tries to get inside the head of Yitzhak Rabin’s killer in his new film – Cleveland Jewish News

Posted By on January 16, 2020

LOS ANGELES (JTA) Over the past century, Jews have endured what filmmaker Yaron Zilberman calls a trilogy of traumas: the Holocaust, the Yom Kippur War and the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The Israeli-American writer, director and producer has spent much of his career exploring these ordeals, and his latest film is no exception.

Incitement focuses on the 1995 shooting of Rabin in Tel Aviv and specifically on the man who pulled the trigger Yigal Amir, the Orthodox child of Yemenite immigrants. It took Zilberman five years to research the path followed by Amir, from ambitious law student to murderer, and another year to put the film together.

The assassination of Rabin is arguably the most traumatic event in the history of Israel, Zilberman, 53, said in an interview. The murder of a Jewish prime minister was impossible to comprehend, and the circumstances leading to it were not, at the time, investigated in full perhaps to avoid a civil war.

The sense of a nation on the precipice is vividly re-created in Incitement, which takes viewers back to the mid-1990s and powerfully dramatizes the deep fissures then opening up over the pursuit of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

The signing that year of the Oslo II Accord promised to bring the country closer to a peaceful resolution to the conflict. But since the agreement called for the return of some of the land won by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967, a determined opposition virulently fought against any concession.

As passions intensified, protesters displayed effigies of Rabin in Nazi uniform or as Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Rabin, a former general who had engineered the Israeli victory in the 1967 war, was called a traitor at increasingly vitriolic public demonstrations.

The film shows newsreel footage of Benjamin Netanyahu, then a rising young right-wing politician and now prime minister, encouraging the protesters at one such event though not, he insisted later, advocating violence.

On Nov. 4, 1995, at 8:30 p.m. as Rabin left a peace rally in Tel Aviv, Amir emerged from the crowd and pumped two pistol shots into the prime minister. Rabin was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Amir is portrayed by Yehuda Nahari Halevi, an actor whose family lived in the same Yemenite neighborhood as Amir and who dominates the screen throughout most of the film. Critics have applauded his performance, but some have observed that his powerful portrayal might elicit the sympathy of the audience, his horrible deed notwithstanding.

That criticism doesnt surprise Zilberman, who co-wrote and directed the film. One reason it took so many years to make the movie was that Zilberman wanted to get into Amirs mind and avoid portraying him as a unidimensional monster.

In Zilbermans retelling, Amirs road perdition is paved with real or perceived personal slights and the misguidance of certain rabbis and even of his own mother.

The former led Amir to conclude that Jewish law permits, and even encourages, the killing of traitors. Amirs mother, in her short turn, drums it into her sons head that he is super-smart and destined for greatness.

On top of all that, his longtime girlfriend Nava (Daniella Kertesz) breaks up with him, leading Amir to conclude that her Ashkenazi family opposed her relationship with a dark-skinned Yemenite.

Just about every review of the film draws a parallel between the popular mood in Israel in the 1990s and the one in the United States today. Variety writes that the films portrayal of a divided democracy, in which provocative language from politicians and the media lead to lethal violence, is hardly a relic of history.

This plot summary sounds as if it could be ripped from recent U.S. headlines, the magazine said.

Zilberman doesnt dispute the parallels. Both Netanyahu and President Donald Trump are cut from the same political cloth and play off the same book and incite their respective bases while frequently pretending that the victim in a given situation is really the criminal, Zilberman said.

In Israel, the film is known by the punchier title Yamim Noraim literally Days of Awe, the collective name for the holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a period of self-examination and judgment. Incitement was deemed the best motion picture of the year in Israel and became the countrys automatic entrant for the Academy Award for best foreign film, though it didnt make the cut of the final 10.

Zilberman splits his time between New York and Tel Aviv. He is married to the film producer Tamar Sela and the couple have three children.

Incitement was co-written with Ron Leshem and Yair Hizmi. The film opens Jan. 31 in New York City and Feb. 7 in Los Angeles, to be followed by a rollout in other U.S. cities.

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'Incitement' director Yaron Zilberman tries to get inside the head of Yitzhak Rabin's killer in his new film - Cleveland Jewish News

CPD: Key questions on breast and ovarian cancer genetics – Pulse

Posted By on January 16, 2020

Learning Objectives

This module will update you on the role of genetics in breast and ovarian cancer, including:

Dr Marc Tischkowitz is a reader and consultant in medical genetics at the University of Cambridge and East Anglian Medical Genetic Service

There are a few key questions that can give an idea of whether family history needs to be explored further:

These four questions should identify the need for a more detailed investigation is required. It is crucial to ask about the paternal side. All the main cancer susceptibility genes can be passed on by either sex but as men rarely get breast cancer, the history can appear more distant on the male side. The cancer pattern can be masked if there are lots of males in a family, so it is important to ask about the male/female balance. If a woman has a paternal grandmother, aunt or cousins with breast or ovarian cancer this should be taken as seriously as a positive maternal history. Ask for this information directly, as it is often not volunteered. If I were only allowed one key message in this article, it would be always to ask about paternal history.

BRCA1/BRCA2variants are 10 times more common in those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, so it is important to ask about this where appropriate.

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CPD: Key questions on breast and ovarian cancer genetics - Pulse

‘Uncut Gems’ puts age-old Jewish stereotypes front and center. Why has there been no backlash? – Cleveland Jewish News

Posted By on January 16, 2020

(JTA) Almost every movie, TV show and other work of art gets put under Twitters sensitive microscope these days. Depictions of Jews in contemporary culture are especially of interest, given the wave of anti-Semitism rising across the country.

So in a sense it might be surprising that Uncut Gems, the critically acclaimed Diamond District thriller starring Adam Sandler that depicts a series of age-old negative tropes about Jews, hasnt been subject to a controversial level of public scrutiny.

Directed by Jewish filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie, the movie features Sandler as Howard Ratner, a New York City jeweler who juggles a seemingly endless series of bets, hustles, false promises and scams throughout the more than two-hour production.

Howard is a sleazy, greasy, greedy, dishonest businessman who wears his hair slicked back and dons lots of ostentatious jewelry and clothing. Hes obsessed with making money perhaps to a clinical extent and is even shown to have exploited the work of people in Africa (Ethiopian Jews, to be exact).

Sandlers Howard, who another character calls a crazy Jew, is almost a parody of the anti-Semitic caricature that paints Jews as cheap and profit-driven.

Its not as if this is some arthouse film relegated to a few small screens Uncut Gems has made over $40 million at the box office and garnered serious Oscar buzz before this week, when it surprised critics by being shut out of the nomination list.

So why hasnt there been an angry response from Jewish organizations or on social media? And why are Jews some of the films biggest fans?

From left, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie and Adam Sandler at a screening of Uncut Gems in New York City, Dec. 3, 2019. The film failed to garner any Oscar nominations, surprising many critics. (Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images for The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

There are a few possible reasons, including that Sandler, the writers and directors are all Jewish. The Safdies, who are from New York City, said in a New York Times Magazine interview late last year that Sandlers comedy meant a great deal to them when they were young.

But the Jewish factor hasnt completely shielded films from such criticism. When Borat came out, for example, the Anti-Defamation League took Sacha Baron Cohen to task for promoting anti-Semitic stereotypes in a widely seen blockbuster, despite his good intentions.

Sandler has built up a large amount of goodwill among Jewish audiences over the years with his iconic Hanukkah Song and role as an Israeli hairdresser in the 2008 liberal Zionist classic You Dont Mess With the Zohan.

Hes been forward with his Jewishness, too, in a profession where Jewish performers habitually changed their names.Even in his lowbrow comedies, Sandler has played characters with names like Sonny Koufax, Dr. Danny Maccabee, Sandy Wexler, Chuck Levine and Dave Buznik.

In the Times profile, Sandler made a point of taking the reporter to the Hillcrest Country Club, a longtime stronghold for what he called Jewish big shots.

Uncut Gems never shies away from Jewishness. Theres a Passover seder scene, complete with Hebrew prayers. Jewish actress Idina Menzel plays Howards wife, while Judd Hirsch plays his father-in-law. Josh Ostrovsky, the controversial Instagram influencer known as The Fat Jew, has a small role owing to his long friendship with the Safdies.

Idina Menzel in her characters old bat mitzvah dress in Uncut Gems. (Courtesy of A24)

In a Slate interview, the Safdies said the humor of the film is explicitly Jewish.

[T]he early inspirations were these titanic 20th-century Jews, these overachievers, these overcompensators, these guys with interesting perspectives based on that, trying to work their way into society: the Rodney Dangerfields, the Lenny Bruces, the Don Rickles, the Al Goldsteins, Josh Safdie said.

But the main reason Uncut Gems has avoided controversy is likely because of how it approaches and depicts its Jewish protagonist and the larger Jewish world of the Diamond District with a real sense of authenticity.

The culture is not like an Ashkenazi Jewish lawyer from Westchester, Jon Hammer, a former Diamond District worker, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. The character was very accurately portrayed in mannerisms, clothing, jewelry, and even the love of the NBA (a lot of the guys I worked with loved the NBA).

The Safdies are descended from Syrian Sephardic Jews on their fathers side, a specific Jewish demographic that is well represented in the New York jewelry world, in the film and real life. They based the Howard character on both their own father and others in the Diamond District, where he worked in addition to lots of additional research. The Times profile called their script prep work pseudojournalism.

Sandler himself also immersed himself in the Diamond District, meeting and following around real jewelers to craft his character. The final product is a study of a real type of person from a real place that wasnt created to feed into anti-Semitic stereotypes.

In the Slate interview, the Safdies said they were well aware of portraying Jewish stereotypes and put them out there for a reason.

I think what you see in Howard is the long delineation of stereotypes that were forced onto us in the Middle Ages, when the church was created, when Jews were not counted toward population, and their only way in, their only way of accruing status as an individual, as a person who was considered a human being, was through material consumption, Josh Safdie said.

[A]s assimilation has accrued, the foundation, the DNA of the strive has become kind of cartoonized in a weird way. What youre seeing in the film is a parable. What are the ill effects of overcompensation?

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'Uncut Gems' puts age-old Jewish stereotypes front and center. Why has there been no backlash? - Cleveland Jewish News

Which whiskey is best for you? The ‘bourbon steward’ knows. – The Jewish News of Northern California

Posted By on January 16, 2020

Food coverageis supported by a generous donation from Susan and Moses Libitzky.

Stuart Cristol-Deman is well aware of the commonly held belief that when it comes to drinking alcohol, Jews are not big tipplers compared with some others. He used to fall into that category himself.

I didnt even drink in college like everyone else, he said.

So perhaps hes a funny candidate to become a certified bourbon steward. And even with that, he still doesnt drink much.

He traces it back to a mind-blowing taste of the spirit, when he sipped from a glass of Jameson Irish Whisky to this day he doesnt know which type while attending a culinary conference in Chicago. Before that, he had only tasted the occasional whiskey sour.

The flavor was so rich, with brown sugar and caramel and vanilla, these rich flavors like from baking, he said. And that sent on me on a journey.

Scotch and bourbon both fall into the greater whiskey category. Scotch comes from Ireland, bourbon from the U.S., often Kentucky.

The certification is offered by the Kentucky-based Stave & Thief Societys Moonshine University, which offers an on-site executive program and a less intensive online course, which is the one he chose.

The online course is just a book and then a test online and you also have to create a flight of three different whiskeys, and you compare and contrast them, writing tasting notes for all of them, he said. He used three California bourbons.

The 50-year-old resident of Moss Beach in San Mateo County says he is one of a handful of bourbon stewards in the Bay Area.

There are about 1,200 certified bourbon stewards now total, which is a lot more than a couple years ago, he said. The certification he got is the only one recognized by the Kentucky Bourbon Association.

The flavor was so rich, with brown sugar and caramel and vanilla. And that sent on me on a journey.

Even though hes certified, theres still much more to learn.

When he started out, Highland Scotches were like a bonfire in my mouth, he said, noting that at first he preferred Irish whisky because it was lighter in weight and often a bit sweet. But studying for the course opened up a whole world of bourbons.

Cristol-Deman offers the occasional bourbon tasting class and home-based cooking classes bagel-making is one of his more popular topics. He is also the cheese buyer for New Leaf Market.

He also considers himself somewhat of an amateur Jewish food historian, a natural combination of his interests.

While I grew up in an Ashkenazi household, my aunt married a Yemenite and Iraqi Jew from Tel Aviv, he said, and he appreciated having a Sephardic connection in the family. Sephardic food is so much better, and they have such a richer history as well, he said.

He grew up in Atlanta in a kosher home and attended Jewish day school for part of his education. He met his wife, Liza, when both were studying abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and they moved to the Bay Area so she could attend law school at Stanford. Theyve been on the Central Coast now for 21 years and are founding members of the Coastside Jewish Community.

Cristol-Deman spent over a decade as the buyer and manager of Toque Blanche, an upscale kitchen store in Half Moon Bay. When it closed in 2017, he began offering classes on his website before he got his job at New Leaf. Now he offers classes when he can find the time.

While he was always more of a cook than a baker, his quest to make a good bagel came from the absence of anything passable on the coast, he said.

I did a bunch of research, read six or seven recipes, and started tinkering around and combining different things, with the major thing being adding more salt, he said. Thats the thing missing from most bagel recipes, he said, and he should know: Hes a supertaster, or someone who has an unusually sensitive palate.

While at first he was just experimenting for himself and his family, once he had perfected his recipe, Cristol-Deman added bagels to his class list. He believes the more quality bagels there are in the Bay, the better. Theres room enough for all of us, he said.

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Which whiskey is best for you? The 'bourbon steward' knows. - The Jewish News of Northern California

Gaithersburg’s Jacob Blumenthal is leading the world’s Conservative rabbis – Washington Jewish Week

Posted By on January 16, 2020

Photo by Yossi Hoffman Photography.

When the Conservative movements Rabbinical Assembly was looking for a new chief executive, its search committee outlined the qualities it was looking for in its leader.

We spoke a lot about someone who can honor and validate the different types of rabbis and fields that rabbis work in but who can also kind of be someone who can innovate and do things outside the box, says Rabbi Aderet Drucker, co-director of the Den Collective in Washington and a member of the search committee. You want to have colleagues who are well trained and good scholars and love Judaism, who live Torah in their practice not just preach it.

That description sounded a lot like Jacob Blumenthal, founding rabbi of Shaare Torah in Gaithersburg. And when Blumenthal was hired last April to head the association of the worlds 1,700 Conservative rabbis, it was a time of change for the movement. For Drucker, it was a chance to welcome an old colleague as Conservative rabbis were trying new ways to energize their congregations.

Blumenthal is an innovator, she says. Hes sort of always been an entrepreneurial rabbi.

Other rabbis note his warmth and commitment to the people he works with.

Hes thoughtful, hes original, says Rabbi Aaron Alexander of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington. He cares deeply about Torah and Israel, and he believes that the ideology that drives the movement is well situated to meet the needs of American Jewry.

In his new role, which he assumed in July 2019, Blumenthal says his main purpose is to support and empower rabbis.

Its been, I would say, exciting, overwhelming, a tremendous learning experience and also very inspiring, says Blumenthal, 53.

He wants to create more networking and learning opportunities for rabbis, and says the Rabbinical Assembly will soon pilot a mentorship program.

One of the interesting things we discovered, as we were talking with rabbis, is that in the 21st century, mentorship works in two directions, Blumenthal says.

Older, more experienced rabbis may have tips on working with communities and teaching Torah, but younger rabbis can help with adjusting to new technologies and the changing world.

The news of Blumenthals hiring was a surprise to Shaare Torah, which he helped found in 1995. He left the congregation without a successor. An interim rabbi is now in place as the synagogue searches for a permanent replacement.

Rabbi Debra Newman Kamin, the Rabbinical Assemblys lay president, says Blumenthal handled the transition into his position beautifully and so skillfully.

Its not only that he understood the organization historically, what we were all those years, but he also had a very intimate knowledge of where we wanted to go, Newman Kamin says. Hes also very wise and very patient and very kind, so things that would maybe agitate someone who was new in the position, hes really able to step back and view it with a great deal of wisdom and kindness.

Blumenthal says he wants find out what rabbis need on an individual level, because every community, whether halfway across the world or in Greater Washington, is unique.

Thats why he visits Jewish communities around the world. He recently returned from the Abayudaya community in Uganda, which is home to about 2,000 Conservative Jews in eight small villages. Hes visited Buenos Aires and Israel, and is planning a route through several United States cities and Toronto.

He asks rabbis, What are you doing that gives you energy? Responses vary from new melodies and new ways of prayer to expanding education and interfaith work.

Its great, we have a lot to learn from each other, he says. I always say, my job is to go where the rabbis are.

Too fast or too slow?

Among the changes the movement is grappling with is how to be welcoming to interfaith families and what the role of a non-Jewish family member should be. Last year, Shaare Torah voted to allow non-Jewish family members to hold leadership positions. The vote was divisive, according to several synagogue members.

Its a move many Conservative congregations are considering. Blumenthal notes that the Rabbinical Assembly is a global organization whose rabbis are free to make the best decisions for themselves and their congregations. Drucker adds that the Conservative movement continues to change.

Our movement is evolving and some may say too fast and some may say too slow, Drucker says, but we are having those conversations.

Blumenthal says conversion and interfaith work have been the most fulfilling aspects of his job as a rabbi.

Youre talking with people who take nothing for granted. And everything they do that relates to Judaism is a conscious choice. Its inspiring to see the choices they make, he says. Those choices to engage in Judaism can be inspiring to our entire community.

In North America, at least, people of many different backgrounds are often part of the same community, Blumenthal says. That means congregations need to be aware of how they involve diverse membership in traditions and life cycle events.

Theyre part of our families. Theyre part of our communities. And we want to welcome them, he says. And I would even say more than welcome them, we want to embrace them.

All of the rabbis interviewed for this story say this is a time of change for the Conservative movement, especially regarding inclusivity and diversity.

I think were all learning and the Conservative movement is learning along with society about what it means to be a diverse community, says Newman Kamin.

A necessary center

At the same time, Newman Kamin and Blumenthal agree that the Conservative movement provides a necessary center point, especially in North America, between the Reform and other movements on the left that do not adhere to Jewish law, and Orthodox communities on the right.

Were in a cultural moment that seems to push people toward the extremes rather than toward the center, but I have a lot of faith that ultimately, its the center that needs to hold, Blumenthal says. And that a healthy society builds strong centrist institutions, and that includes strong centrist religious institutions. Those are spaces that value diversity, that embrace people with lots of different backgrounds and with lots of different ways of accessing Judaism.

Drucker says the conversations happening in the secular world on gender equality and bias training are seeping into the Jewish religious world. There have always been Conservative rabbis committed to social action, she says, but the movement as a whole is now making much bigger strides.

With rising anti-Semitism in the United States, Blumenthal says his outward presentation as a religious Jew hasnt changed. I still wear a kippah wherever I go, he says.

At the same time, he understands that other Jews may feel differently. And the fact that Jews can put their kippah in their pocket means that they need to commit to the struggles of other minorities who dont have the possibility of blending in.

There are other communities, particularly people of color, who deal with hatred and bigotry as well. And dont have the quote, unquote luxury of hiding their identity in ways that Ashkenazi-descended Jews might be able to, Blumenthal says. If nothing else, hopefully [being exposed to anti-Semitism] makes us very sensitive and committed to their struggle, too.

By all indications, the Conservative movement is shrinking in the United States. The 2013 Pew survey found that 18 percent of American Jews identified as Conservative, down from 25 percent in a 2001 study. In 2017, a Public Religion Research Institute survey found that just 14 percent identify as Conservative, and the Pew study found the Conservative movement to have the highest attrition rate of thethree major streams.

But Alexander says theres a growing trend of people needing to feel like theyre part of something bigger than themselves.

There is a large segment of American Jewry that is seeking a grounded, relevant, inclusive and deeply meaningful Judaism that extends far past each persons personal story, he says. What we need is leadership, teachers, layleaders to facilitate those kinds of connections for people in ways that are serious and devoted to the tradition as we understand it and capable of transcending the past while holding firmly to its roots.

In finding ways to engage those Jews, Blumenthal says hes seeing tremendous creativity from rabbis within religious settings. He says their passion and love for Judaism inspires him.

Regarding that engagement, whether it be between congregants or rabbis, the other rabbis who spoke for this article say Blumenthal is a great man for the job.

I think his ability to work in what we call in a conventional place for a clergy member but also think about what else we can do outside those walls is a good way to understand the beautiful gift and talent he brings to the Rabbinical Assembly, says Drucker.

And though he misses some aspects of being a pulpit rabbi, like the one-on-one connections with congregants, Blumenthal says he is now working with a congregation of rabbis.

I loved every minute of my pulpit experience, so I definitely miss it. But Im also inspired by what I do, Blumenthal says. Im inspired by [rabbis] every day in my work Its inspiring to see people build those communities and to do it in creative and powerful ways.

jhyman@midatlanticmedia.comTwitter: @jacqbh58

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Gaithersburg's Jacob Blumenthal is leading the world's Conservative rabbis - Washington Jewish Week

Electoral alliances are a game of life and death for Israeli parties – Middle East Eye

Posted By on January 16, 2020

The popular Israeli ritual called submit your election lists ended last night, for the third time in a year.

Thirty worn-out parties, some locked in unhappy alliances, partook again.

Some submitted their names fighting for political survival, some just to have their voice heard for a few minutes, while others joined the party just for fun.

Ever heard of a party called the Pirates? Now you have, and probably for the last time.

There are several of that kind, formed by people now forever entitled to add head of party and candidate in 2020 elections to their bio.

That aside, on both the right and the left there was a real, life-and-death game prior to registration, with fraught unifications and mergers.

It ended at 11.59pm, when short-of-breath party representatives came to register before the doors and the lists closed for good. As of midnight, nothing can be changed.

There is a big difference between the engines of unification on the left and right.

On the right, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu almost single-handedly imposed unions in an attempt to unify the right in one hermetic structure; on the left, unity came by the popular demand of the diminishing lefts supporters.

Ideology? A foreign notion. That is how it looks when the centre left preaches just not Bibi and the right claims only Bibi, as the premier is commonly known.

Survival is the name of the game: Netanyahus personal political survival and the survival of the flagging left as relevant political entity.

To Bibi or not to Bibi, that is the question.

Racism and regret: Palestinians in the Galilee mull voting in Israel

In a cynical political twist, the Palestinian Joint List - the slate whose politicians were recently defined by Netanyahus Facebook page as those who want to annihilate us - has become the exemplary role model.

With the far-right parties taking their unification negotiations to the wire, amid much acrimony, Likud members pointed to the Joint List as a perfect example of political wisdom politicians who managed to unify for their people despite their many differences.

Submission of the lists and the process of registration are much more than just technical steps towards elections in March.

They are in fact a crooked mirror that reflects the image of Israeli society in 2020 - or rather a mirror that reflects the crooked image of Israeli society.

In the midst of political chaos, it is hard to decide what is more telling and more alarming: the newly formed party of Larissa Trimbobler, the wife of Yitzhak Rabins jailed assassin Yigal Amir; or the fact that Netanyahu kept single-handedly plotting ways to bring Meir Kahanes racist disciples onto one of the lists.

Both, by the way, share legal motivation. Trimboblers party agenda is to get a retrial for her husband, as she said upon filing the forms to register her party.

The name she chose for the party is Mishpat Tzedek - Fair Trial in Hebrew.

Facing a raft of corruption charges, Netanyahu, meanwhile, needs one strong national-religious right wing to secure an immunity coalition that can keep him away from the wrath of the law.

He failed to do so in two previous election rounds; the timing is crucial for him.

Until the very last moment before registration closed, he made intense efforts to bringKahanist Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) and far-right Jewish Home into a union with Defence Minister Naftali Bennetts New Right.

He even threatened to fire Bennett from the position he coveted for so long, telling him he wont be able to continue as defence minister if he runs on a separate list without full unity on the right.

Netanyahu is afraid that one of his right-wing allies might fall below the electoral threshold and fail to win seats in parliament, with tens of thousands of coveted votes going down the drain - as they did in April and Septembers elections.

At the very last moment, he achieved partial success. The head of Jewish Home, Rabbi Rafi Peretz, caved in under pressure, broke his promise to Otzma Yehudits leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, and joined Bennetts party, leaving the Kahanists alone.

Netanyahu got the larger, reinforced far-right bloc he craved, but Otzma Yehudit is bound not to reach the electoral threshold in March and again waste votes the prime minister desperately needs.

Ben-Gvir, the follower of Kahanes racist ideology, is not necessarily worse than others Bennett chose to warmly embrace.

He is just the only one who chose to decorate his Hebron living room with a picture of Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 murdered 29 Muslim worshippers in the Ibrahimi Mosque.

Thatsort of display can tarnish the new liberal image Bennett is now trying to create for his far-right party.

In what was presented as an ultimate sacrifice minutes before the list submission deadline, Ben-Gvir offered to remove the photo from his wall. Too late.

Then he insinuated the Ashkenazi national-religious establishment rejected Sephardi, periphery-born members like himself.

One way or another the national-religious bloc is undergoing a major crisis. The lists are just a symptom of a much more severe sickness.

Liberal seems to be a flexible term in 2020 Israel.

Yisrael Beiteinus leader Avigdor Lieberman, who used to say, to the right to me there is only a wall, now promises to keep Israel liberal.

Liberal, according to Lieberman, means a government free of Arabs and Orthodox Jews. George Orwell would have a blast serving on the Central Elections Committee in charge of registrating the parties.

So far, the most symbolically important part of the registration process is not what is on the list but rather what is not.

Three letters disappeared this time from the Israeli political scene.

When voters enter the polling booth on 2 March, ballots bearing the three letters that have since 1992 represented Meretz, the only Jewish Zionist-leftist party, will be missing.

Future or funeral? Israel's Labor party could be on the verge of extinction

The Meretz-Labor union will be represented on the voting slips instead by the latter partys traditional letters: Alef, Mem and Tav (or Emet).

It might be more than symbolic. The Israeli Zionist-left is close to extinction. Labor, the party that established the State of Israel, is not from that political strand.

Labor leader Amir Peretz was reluctant to go into this alliance. He was practically forced to, choosing to define it just as a technical bloc. In the process, the unhappy union created many anomalies.

Number two on the list is Orly Levy-Abekasis, who once held the same position on Liebermans list.

Meretz, the one Jewish party that took pride in Jewish-Arab partnership, ended up with their only Arab candidate, Essawi Frej, as number 11 on the list, a spot hardly electable.

Frej is the one who single handedly saved Meretz in the September 2019 elections. He recruited over 40,000 Arab voters, thus allowing the party to reach the electoral threshold.Now he is left behind that very threshold. Personal survival of Meretz leaders tops principle of partnership.

The only optimistic voice on the left comes from former Labor MP Professor Yossi Yonah, a political scientist.

The unions might in fact be a positive phenomenon, he tells Middle East Eye.

They form some rainbow coalitions able to contain a variety of ideas and electorates who can share a common denominator. They came to be out of necessity, but might turn into something organically healthy.

Others commentators have busied themselves by teasing the Election Committee, asking if is ready for the fourth round. They were not necessarily joking.

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Electoral alliances are a game of life and death for Israeli parties - Middle East Eye

A Recent Peer-reviewed Article Reveals a New Spinal Surgery Technique Based on Carevature’s Cutting-edge Dreal Technology – PRNewswire

Posted By on January 16, 2020

TEL AVIV, Israel, Jan. 14, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Carevature Medical, Inc. announces a new article that has just been published at the International Journal of Spine Surgery, discussing a Modified Transforaminal Thoracic Interbody Fusion Approach.

The authors present a new technique for posterior unilateral thoracic discectomy, facilitated by the Dreal, "a novel, curved, shielded, high-speed device"; Introducing the Dreal ventrally to the dural sac allows removal of calcified and soft disc fragments without relying on forceful manual maneuvers and avoiding manipulation of the spinal cord, resulting in a "safer treatment for thoracic disc herniations, reducing complication rates and improving patient outcome."

The technique was developed by neurosurgeon Ely Ashkenazi, MD, at the Assuta Medical Center (Tel Aviv, Israel) in the past 5 years and has become a standard for treating such pathologies in transforaminal thoracic interbody fusion procedures (TTIF) as described in the article, as well as in more common transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion procedures (TLIF).

Says orthopedic spine surgeon and lead author Michael Millgram, MD: "The Dreal curved high speed drill has proved a valuable addition to my clinical practice. It allows quick and thorough evacuation of disc material in TLIF procedures providing a large clean bony surface for fusion while reducing operating time. My impression is that TLIF procedures performed with the Dreal exhibit a considerably more robust anterior fusion than those procedures where disc space preparation was performed in the standard manual manner."

Dennis Farrell, President for Carevature Medical, Inc. comments: "This article presents one example of how Carevature technology has the potential to reduce the morbidity associated with spinal procedures. Our company is laser focused on improving outcomes through novel technology which is designed to safely, efficiently, and effectively remove pathology while retaining structural anatomy and minimizing the collateral damage often associated with spine surgery. We are committed to modernizing the tools that are available for decompression, many of which have not changed in decades. Carevature continues to research, develop, and launch solutions that advance the art of the decompression through our family of sterile packed, single-use, curved at the tip, shielded, and high speed bone cutting technology, and are looking forward to additional publications that share the benefits of our growing experience in cervical (ACDF, ACCF, and foraminotomy) and lumbar (foraminotomy, osteophyte removal) procedures."

To date, Carevature Medical's Dreal technology has assisted surgeons in over 1,500 cases, both non-fusion and fusion. The company's highly targeted approach has it working with medical systems and surgeons located across the US, in Chicago, Boston, Dallas, southern California, Michigan, North Carolina, and Florida, with plans to expand throughout 2020.


Carevature Medical Ltd. a privately held medical device company headquartered in Rehovot, Israel, is dedicated to developing advanced orthopedic surgery solutions that minimize trauma, resulting in long-lasting improved patient outcomes.

Media contact:Robert W. Cook, VP Marketing & SalesCarevature Medical, Inc.M: 260-417-1643E:

SOURCE Carevature Medical

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A Recent Peer-reviewed Article Reveals a New Spinal Surgery Technique Based on Carevature's Cutting-edge Dreal Technology - PRNewswire

At 17, I finished studying Talmud’s 2711 pages – The Jewish Star

Posted By on January 15, 2020

By Hila Schlakman

EFRAT I didnt start learning the Talmud to take a stand or voice an opinion. When I started learning a page of Talmud per day (Daf Yomi) at age 10, I didnt realize that anyone would even notice. To me, it was just something I did, a part of my day that was dedicated to learning Torah with my brother and father.

At ages 9 and 10 respectively, my brother and I had no idea what the commitment really meant. I knew that our being so young was pretty unusual. When my older brother had finished the Daf Yomi cycle at 17-years-old, it was considered a big deal. But other than that, studying Talmud daily seemed very normal to me. I wasnt even aware that the fact that I am a girl was a factor to consider.

The Daf Yomi has been a part of my home for as long as I can remember. My father and my older brother, Ari, first finished the 2,711 page Shas in 2012. They had started learning Talmud together in 2005 when I was three years old. I always saw them learning and bonding together. It seemed very natural, meaningful and important to me, but not out of the ordinary.

As a new cycle was approaching, my younger brother Yosi said he wanted to begin learning with my dad as well. I was ten at the time and looking for a project that I could take on for my Bat Mitzvah, so I decided to join. A few years later my younger sister, Bracha, joined as well. And ever since my grandparents moved to Israel, Ive had the privilege of learning with my grandfather too.

In my experience, the hardest part of learning the Daf is starting the practice. Deciding to learn every day for seven and a half years is an intimidating goal. Luckily, my dad was very determined, so once we decided we were starting, that was it. There were no exceptions: if you missed a Daf, you had to make it up another day. It can be hard at times, but thats part of the beauty of it the Torah is always a part of our lives, no matter what else we are doing.

It wasnt always easy. Not every Daf is interesting (although my dad might say otherwise), and with everything going on in our lives, it can be hard to find the time for learning. Thankfully, I had tons of support. My father always took time out of his day to learn with us, make sure that we understood the page, point out all of the interesting details and encourage us to develop our own thoughts and opinions. My family and friends were always there for me, displaying patience, understanding and encouragement.

The experience has taught me many things. I now have an understanding of what our religion is based on the concepts and ideas that go beyond mere technical points of Jewish law. I enjoyed reading the stories about Jews who lived during Talmudic times, the way our ancestors thought and how they shaped our religion and practice. These things have changed the way I think about Judaism and life in general.

Often, I found that what I learned in the Daf was directly connected to my life at the time. I think that anyone can relate to the Gemara and that it affects each person differently, depending on who they are and how they think.

The rabbis in the Gemara challenged every imaginable idea, but always with the understanding of the importance of Torah and belief in G-d. Respect was always maintained for the generations that came before, even as halacha was applied to new situations that arose.

I learned how to follow complicated discussions and seek deeper meaning in topics I would otherwise never have thought relevant to my daily life. I learned that its okay to be wrong or to admit what you do not know. I learned that one should stand up for their opinion, but that the real challenge is to truly listen and learn from what others have to say.

One of the remarkable things about the great rabbis in the Gemara is that most of them had other jobs. Learning Torah was of central importance, but they understood how Torah was to be integrated into peoples lives. My goal in studying the Daf was never to decide on intricacies of Jewish law, but to similarly integrate Torah into my daily life as a Jewish woman.

This Siyum HaShas or celebration of the completion of the 7-and-a-half year reading of the Talmud a page per day was a very proud moment, as three generations of our family finished the Talmud Bavli together in our home in Israel. I could not imagine a more special family experience.

This chapter of learning, at times leaning on my fathers shoulder with my brother on his other side, later to be joined by my younger sister and my Zaidy, has now ended. As I prepare to finish high school and move on to the next chapter of my life, I cant imagine a better experience to have bonded me to my family and to prepare me for a life of continued learning and new experiences.


At 17, I finished studying Talmud's 2711 pages - The Jewish Star

The Woman Who Earned a Place Alongside the Rabbis of the Talmud – Mosaic

Posted By on January 15, 2020

This is the second in a series of occasional essays by David Wolpe on lesser-known figures in Jewish history. The first, on the biblical king Josiah, is available here.

If youre ever moved to ransack the Jewish past for voices you may feel are missingthe marginalized, the hushed, the heretical avatars of Jewish historytheyre right there, hiding in plain sight. The Bible itself tells us of problematic prophets like Jephthah and Samson. The Talmud preserves the voices of Elisha ben Avuyah, the esteemed rabbi who became a heretic, and of Reysh Lakish, the bandit who became an esteemed rabbi. In short, theres ample room in the tradition for those whose origins or whose identities are not, lets say, mainstream.

Perhaps no presence is more powerfully symbolic in this connection than that of Bruriah: the woman whose erudition, sharpness, and wit earned her a place alongside the rabbis of the Talmud but whose reputation at the hands of later commentators, both medieval and modern, would meet a varied and sometimes cruel fate.

For anyone with even vaguely modern sensibilities, the position of women in the Talmud is problematic, to say the least. While hundreds of men are quoted in that great work, women rarely are, and numerous rabbinic statements slight their capacities and characters (even as some do praise them). Bruriah is the lone female who is cited repeatedly as a religious authoritya fact that calls for special attention.

Several traditions about Bruriah are scattered throughout the Talmud and other contemporaneous rabbinic works. Lets begin with the basic facts. She lived in the earlier part of the 2nd century CE, and was the daughter of the great Rabbi ananiah ben Tradyon, whose martyrdom is described in a prayer, Eyleh Ezkrah (These I Recall), recited each year on Yom Kippur. She married Rabbi Meir, a distinguished talmudic sage and a friend and disciple of Rabbi Akiva.

And she had an enviable mind. According to Rabbi Yoanan, a later sage, she learned 300 traditions in a single day from 300 masters (Psaim 62b). This is said in the context of reproving another rabbi who had foolishly imagined he could master a subject in three months when even Bruriah, with all of her vast learning, could not master it in three years. It is one of several instances where Bruriah is shown to be not only smart but smarter than.

The same point is made more explicitly in another passage in which Bruriahs opinion on a halakhic matter is cited alongside her brothers. Hearing both opinions, another rabbi declares that Rabbi ananiah ben Tradyons daughter said better than his sonbetter, in other words, than the brother with whom she grew up and who presumably received a more extensive rabbinic education than she. No wonder that generations of women have drawn inspiration from this brilliant exemplar of learning who, as one scholar puts it, was the precursor to Isaac Bashevis Singers (or Barbara Streisands) Yentl the Yeshiva Boy.

Nor was Bruriah shy about displaying her gifts. Three stories demonstrate this particular quality. One features a student, another a Sadducee, and the third a well-known sage.

In the first, Bruriah finds a student reciting his lessons in a whisper, kicks him, and then bluntly rebukes him for not reciting out loud. The contrast between her boldness and his reticence could not be starker.

The second goes like this:

A certain Sadducee said to Bruriah, It is written [Isaiah 54:1], Sing, O barren one, who did not bear children. She should sing because she didnt bear children?

She said to him, Fool! Cast your eyes to the end of the verse where it is written: For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her that married, says the Lord. What, then, does barren one who did not bear mean? [It means]: rejoice, assembly of Israel, which resembles a barren woman who did not bear sons [destined for] Gehenna like you. (Brakhot 10a)

The Sadducees, frequent antagonists of the rabbis, were known for the kind of biblical literalism on display in the passage above; by sharp contrast, the rabbis emphasized tradition and exegetical latitude. Heated rhetoric was not foreign to their disputes, and Bruriah, for her part, does not hesitate to impugn both this Sadducees learning and his character. In defending the honor of the rabbinic tradition, she also demonstrates her superior familiarity with Scripture and proves her polemical skill. (Obviously, she herself would never have thought that the verse in question does anything but liken Israel-redeemed-from-desolation to a woman who, at first infertile, then becomes a mother of many.)

Then theres the third one, about the well-known sage:

Rabbi Yosi the Galilean was going along the road. He met Bruriah. He said to her, By which road shall we go to Lod? She said to him, Galilean fool! Did not the sages say, Do not talk too much with a woman? You should have said, Which [way] to Lod? (Eruvin 53b)

Of the three short dialogues, this is the most multilayered. The passage, as has been pointed out by several astute commentators (I think particularly of Tova Hartman and Rachel Adler), is deeply ironic. Instructing a rabbi how not to talk to a woman, Bruriah both undercuts the legitimacy of the admonition not to talk to a woman at allsince her words prove more valuable than hisand proves her superiority in wit. Additionally, she makes it impossible for Rabbi Yosi to respond, since anything he says will compound his offense. Finally, at least in this instance, Bruriahs knowledge of the world also exceeds Rabbi Yosis, since she is the one who has been asked for directions. She thus emerges his instructor in learning as well as in life.

But the best-known stories about Bruriah show her schooling not just any sage but her husband, the great Rabbi Meir. In this oft-quoted tale, the usually acerbic Bruriah calms the anger of her famous husband:

Certain brigands who were in Rabbi Meirs neighborhood used to trouble him greatly. He prayed that they die. Bruriah his wife said to him, What is your opinion [i.e., on what have you based your prayer]? Because it is written [Psalms 104:35], let sins cease? Is it written sinners? [No,] sins is written. Furthermore, cast your eyes to the end of the verse, and they are wicked no more. Since sins will cease, they [i.e., the sinners] will be wicked no more. So pray that they should repent and be wicked no more. He prayed for them, and they repented. (Brakhot 10a)

Here Bruriah uses a grammatical nuancethat the key Hebrew word here should be read as ataim (sins) and not confused with otim (sinners)to make a theological point. Although both her grammar and her theology have been disputed, the end of the story confirms her intuition. Moreover, Bruriah is affirmed as one whose gifts of both heart and mind are at least equal to those of her husband and arguably superior.

Scholars have pointed out that we rarely see Bruriah in the roles the Talmud generally associates with women: raising children, cooking, or shopping in the marketplace. Instead, we mostly see her speaking and acting almost as if she were one of the rabbis. The one exception, a vignette in which she is cast as a mother and wife, is perhaps the most memorable of all:

[Here is] another explanation of the verse, A good wife who can find? (Proverbs 31: 10): it once happened that Rabbi Meir was sitting and lecturing in the study house on a Sabbath afternoon, and his two sons died. What did their mother do? She laid the two of them on the bed and spread a sheet over them. After the waning of the Sabbath, Rabbi Meir came home from the study house. He said to her, Where are my two sons? She said, They went to the study house. He said, I was watching over the study house, and I did not see them. She gave him a cup for havdalah [the ceremony marking the end of the Sabbath], and he recited the havdalah prayer. He again said, Where are my two sons? She said to him, They went to another place and will soon come. She set food before him, and he ate and said the blessing after the meal.

After he blessed, she said, Master, I have a question to ask you. He said to her, Ask your question. She said to him, Master, some time ago a man came and gave me something to keep for him. Now he comes and seeks to take it back. Shall we return it to him or not? He said to her, Daughter, whoever is entrusted with an object must return it to its owner. She said to him, Master, I would not have given it to him without your knowledge.

What did she do? She took him by the hand and led him up to the room. She led him to the bed and removed the sheet that was on them. When he saw the two of them lying dead on the bed, he began to cry and say, My sons, my sons! At that moment she said to Rabbi Meir, Master, did you not say to me that I must return the trust to its owner? He said, The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21).

Rabbi anina said, In this way she comforted him, and his mind was set at ease. (Midrash Mishley 31:10)

Here the usually sharp-tongued Bruriah marshals her learning to make a profound theological point: that our lives are not our own, nor do they belong to our parents or loved ones, but ultimately to the Creator of all Who bestowed them upon us. It is far easier to pay lip service to such an idea than to live by it, particularly at moments of acute pain. Bruriah ascends to the very heights of rabbinic wisdom, combining parable, Scripture, and tenderness with deceptively simple command.

Were also witness to her keen understanding of Rabbi Meirs needs. Since, once he knew the truth, he might not have been able to recite havdalah or even to eat, she sees to it that he can do both before revealing the awful news to him. Although, according to the convention of the time, he is addressed as master and she as daughter, it is evident throughout who of the two is the master.

As with other rabbinic figures from this era, it is impossible to determine anything about the historicity of the Bruriah stories; they appear in multiple texts, all written hundreds of years after she lived. The late scholar David Goodblatt has argued that she was an amalgam of different traditions about multiple numbers of different women. But there is one story about Bruriah that appears much later and gives everyone pause.

To understand it, we must first look at a peculiar and arresting tale in the talmudic tractate Avodah Zarah. In it, Rabbi Meir, at his wifes urging, travels to Rome in order to rescue her sister from a brothel. He succeeds in his mission by dint of miraculous means. And then, the story concludes, He arose and fled to Babyloniasome say because of this matter, while others say because of the Bruriah incident.

According to the first optioni.e., because of this matterMeirs activities in Rome somehow landed him in trouble with the authorities, forcing him to flee to a land beyond the edges of the Roman empire. But then there is the second option: the tantalizing hint at the end about the Bruriah incident, which is nowhere recorded in the Talmud or in other contemporary works.

Many hundreds of years later, in his commentary on the Talmud, Rashi (1040-1105) explains that mysterious incident by means of a disturbing anecdote:

Once [Bruriah] mocked the sages statement [Kiddushin 80b] that Women are flighty. [Rabbi Meir] said to her, By your life! You will eventually concede [the correctness of] their words. He instructed one of his disciples to tempt her to infidelity. He [the disciple] urged her for many days, until she consented. When the matter became known to her, she strangled herself, while Rabbi Meir fled because of the disgrace.

Some later rabbinic authorities discount this story; others credit it. Most modern scholars doubt its antiquity. Surely, they say, it reflects, at the very least, a deep ambivalence toward a female scholar whose gifts and character were the equal of rabbis otherwise regarded as the normative shapers of Judaism. We might also note that the anecdote casts Rabbi Meira renowned sage and among the most important figures in the Mishnahin a rather appalling light.

We may never resolve this particular puzzle, but from the anecdotes concerning Bruriah and other women in the Talmud we can at least draw one conclusion: namely, as the scholar Judith Hauptman has argued, that women in the talmudic period possessed a deeper familiarity with Jewish texts and sources than we assume. The need to run a home in accordance with complicated laws of kashrut and purity, the wisdom gained from listening to the shop talk of husbands, gave many women a grounding in Jewish law and lore. Against this background, what distinguished Bruriah was not only her unusual mind but her willingness to speak publicly about such mattersthat, and the rabbis willingness to record her words. This was something done with very few women, and with none nearly so extensively as with Bruriah herself.

Given her propensity to wrangle with, and to best, her rabbinic interlocutors, its clear that she was unsettling, even threatening. That her voice was nonetheless preserved is a tribute to the magnitude of her giftsand perhaps also to the early spread of her fame. When her martyred father ananiah ben Tradyon was wrapped in a Torah scroll by the Romans and set on fire, he was asked by one of his students what he saw in his agony. He famously answered: The parchment is burning, but the letters are ascending to heaven.

Perhaps ananiah knew how skillfully his own daughter would capture those letters and preserve them, encouraging women throughout the generations to learn, to debate, and to find their voice.

Excerpt from:

The Woman Who Earned a Place Alongside the Rabbis of the Talmud - Mosaic

Daf Yomi Fever: How Daily Talmud Study Is Sweeping the Nation – Jewish Journal

Posted By on January 15, 2020

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