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Meet Google Israel’s Yossi Matias, The Genius Behind Many Of Google’s Most Stunning Achievements

Jewish Israeli News - Thu, 03/26/2015 - 8:52am
By Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels

You know that function on Google Search that finishes your sentences for you? Or what about the helpful information boxes that you often see at the top of a search inquiry? These central features of Google’s most valuable offering have helped the Internet giant beat out other worthy competitors, like Yahoo and Bing, and continuously do their share to make information more accessible.

What you may not know is that autocomplete, Google Trends, Knowledge Graph and a number of other features on Google were developed in Israel under the supervision of global Google VP of Search Yossi Matias. Tasked with establishing one of Google’s first research and development centers outside of the United States in 2006, Matias has been responsible for directing the Israeli R&D center towards stunning achievements and technological breakthroughs in the realms of search, big data, and internet privacy, as well as initiating impressive cultural entrepreneurship programs that too have “gone global”. In an exclusive interview with NoCamels, Matias paints a picture of just how important a member Google Israel has become in the company’s global family, and offers up his assessments on where the future of Israeli entrepreneurship is heading.

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Australian theater rejects Jewish act, cites ‘Zionism’

Jewish Israeli News - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 8:40am
Sydney’s Red ­Rattler Theatre refuses Hillel request to book venue for stage play because of ‘occupation of Palestine’
By Times of Israel staff

An Australian theater rejected a booking from a Jewish cultural group for a series of performances, saying it did not not host groups supportive of “the colonization and occu­pation of Palestine.”

The Red ­Rattler Theatre in Marrickville in Sydney responded to a request by Hillel, a Jewish organization for students and young adults, to hire the venue for a series of performances, reportedly about the Holocaust, with an email reading: “Our policy does not support ­colonialism/Zionism. Therefore we do not host groups that support the colonization and occu­pation of Palestine.”

The incident has angered the local Jewish community.

“It’s sad to see an artistic group practise outright discrimination and, worse, impor­ting divisiveness based on conflicts taking place far from Australia. We ought to be able to get along and work with each respectfully, despite political views or differences of opinion, ” said NSW Jewish Board of Deput­ies chief executive Vic Alhadeff, according to The Australian.

Attempts to contact the theater to explain that Hillel was apolitical were unsuccessful, said Alhadeff.

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Shabbat HaGadol/The Great Sabbath; Tzav

Torahportion Reform - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:00am
Leviticus 6:1-8:36

D'var Torah By Rabbi Robert Tornberg for ReformJudaism.org

What Can We Learn from Taking Out the Garbage?
In reading Parashat Tzav just one week after reading Parashat Vayikra, one cannot help but notice how, on the surface, these two portions are nearly identical. Both of them go into great detail about the five major kinds of sacrifices offered in the Tabernacle in the wilderness (and later in the Temple). There are, however, some obvious differences:

  •     In Vayikra, in the very first line, God instructs Moses to "Speak to the Israelite people" (Leviticus 1:1) and explain the laws of the sacrifices, while in Tzav Moses is told to "Command Aaron and his sons . . . " (6:1). In both cases very similar explanations of the various sacrifices follow.
  •     In Tzav, the entire end of the parashah (8:1-36) contains a detailed description of the consecration of the Tabernacle and the priests. No such description is included in Vayikra.

There are some more subtle differences as well. For instance, the order in which the various sacrifices in the two portions are described is different. And, in discussing the burnt offering (the olah) in Tzav there is a focus on a perpetual fire that must be kept burning on the altar (6:6). Both of these factors provide ample opportunity for interesting questions and a variety of responses, which will not be our focus here.

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Shabbat HaGadol/The Great Sabbath; Tzav

Torahportion Recon - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:00am
Leviticus 6:1-8:36

Rabbi Jeffrey Schein for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities

The Ascending Heart
A colleague of mine once summarized the inner power of Judaism in the following way: Judaism challenges us "to ethicize ritual, and ritualize ethics." Last week in this column we had a chance to explore what might be problematic in 20th/21st century Jewish life when ethics were stripped of ritual richness. This week, in parashat Tzav we see the opposite dynamic at work: the ethicizing of ritual.

Sacrifices of the Heart

Yitzhak Magriso begins by asking why the phrase for one particular kind of sacrifice - an olah (burnt offering; literally a "going upward") - is often repeated twice when a single olah would have sufficed syntactically. The answer Me'am Loez provides is to suggest that one olah is a physical description of the burnt animal's smoky ascent to heaven. But a second "olah" is also happening within the heart of the person bringing the sacrifice.

We all have evil thoughts that seem to rise to consciousness unpredictably. With the right kavana (intentionality), the upward ascent of the sacrifice can-Yom Kippur like-atone for the straying heart and mind.

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Shabbat HaGadol/The Great Sabbath; Tzav

Torahportion Conserv - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:00am
Leviticus 6:1-8:36

By Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz | Director of Israel Programs, The Rabbinical School, JTS

The Fire Within
Parashat Tzav discusses the role of the priests in the Temple, and emphasizes the vigilance with which they were to offer sacrifices. As the parashah opens, Aaron and his sons are commanded to tend to the ritual of the burnt offering. “A perpetual fire will be kept burning on the altar, not to go out” (Lev. 6:6). On one level, those responsible kept the flames of the altar continually burning by adding wood every day, stoking the fire and keeping watch. The constant attention and dedication necessary for this daily task are impressive in themselves. But, what did this aish tamid (perpetual flame), symbolize? And how does this seemingly distant commandment inform our lives today as modern Jews?

In his commentary on the Torah entitled Ad Tumam (To the Very End), Professor Ze’ev Falk discusses the symbolism of this perpetual fire commanded by God. “The fire continually burning,” Falk writes, “expresses the presence of God’s Indwelling.” For it is not enough for the Israelites to offer sacrifices whose aim it is to bring them closer to God’s Presence. A visual symbol of God’s Presence must stand in their midst at all times. That symbol is the perpetual fire. Further, fire has both divine and human qualities: on the one hand, its mysteriousness and unpredictability make it very much representative of the divine; on the other hand, its fragility and ephemerality speak to humanness. It is truly a gift of God, maintained and strengthened by the hands of human beings. Torah, too, is a gift of God that requires human care to be perpetuated. “In the life of the individual Jew,” Falk writes, “the Torah expresses perpetuity: for in the Psalms it is written, ‘I will guard your Torah always’ (Psalms 119:44) and in Proverbs, ‘Guard the commandments of your fathers and do not abandon the Torah of your mothers; tie them to your heart always’ (Proverbs 6:21)” (Falk, 247). Passion for the teachings of the Torah ties us into an ancient history, a meaningful present, and a hopeful future.

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Teens' tweets on killing, bombing Jews deemed no threat

Teens - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:00am
Kevin Pentón, Asbury Park Press

JACKSON – A State Police sergeant's teenage daughter who dressed like Hitler and posted on social media a picture of a popular gathering spot for Orthodox Jews — with the caption "perfect bombing time" — may have behaved offensively, but not criminally, authorities said.

The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office examined the Twitter post and a cache of other pro-Hitler images by the Jackson teen and her associates and concluded that they did not amount to any credible threat.

"There was never any danger being posed to the community," said Al Della Fave, a spokesman for the office. "It didn't rise to anything criminal."

He added that the one teen's connection to law enforcement afforded her no special treatment — even as police remain on heightened alert for terrorism and threats conveyed through social media.

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Who Speaks for America’s Jews?

Students - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:00am
by Amram Altzman for newvoices.org

The question of who should speak for the Jews is not a new one, nor is the question of whether or not Israeli political or religious leaders can or should speak on behalf of American (or other Diaspora) Jews. It dates back to a series letters between Jacob Blaustein, then the head of the American Jewish Committee, and David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, detailing exactly how America’s Jews can and should support the Jewish State and what that support or allegiance would look like.

It was in those letters that America’s Jews were formally absolved from any allegiance to the Jewish State, and it was promised that America’s Jews would never have to choose between Israel and America. However, this would not be the end of the complicated question of whether or not Israeli political leaders can speak for the world’s Jews. These letters were exchanged in 1950, and, yet, we still conveniently seem to forget that until 1967 and Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War, Reform Judaism, was ambiguously Zionist at best when it passed its Columbus Platform in 1937, and was against the notion that the Jews were a nation for a large part of its history. The American Jewish Committee was officially “non-Zionist” until 1967. Indeed, the exchanges between Blaustein and Ben-Gurion were specifically to assuage the fear that American Jews would have to choose between being loyal to Israel and being loyal to America. To be sure, there were Zionist leaders, such as Judge Louis D. Brandies, and poet Emma Lazarus (of “The New Colossus” fame), who called for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine before the term “Zionist” was even coined. Neither Brandeis nor Lazarus, however, could speak for the majority of America’s Jews. And, yet, today’s leaders of the Jewish community in America like to tout Israel as the consensus issue around which American Jews can organize themselves.

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Rachel Timoner succeeds Andy Bachman as rabbi at Brooklyn congregation

LGBT - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:00am
From The Times of Israel

Rachel Timoner, a married lesbian mother of two, was named senior rabbi of Brooklyn’s Congregation Beth Elohim.

Timoner, the assistant rabbi at the Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles, will replace the eminent Rabbi Andy Bachman as head of the Reform synagogue, the daily Forward reported. She was the unanimous choice of the search committee, according to the Forward. Her appointment must be approved at a special membership meeting.

Bachman, a perennial presence on “top rabbis” lists, announced last March that he would be stepping down to pursue helping the general community on broader issues such as poverty, hunger and homelessness. He has served Beth Elohim, a large congregation in the Park Slope neighborhood, since 2006; his contract runs out at the end of June.

Timoner, a Miami native, has won awards for community service and her work with LGBT youth. She was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where she was a Wexner graduate fellow. She has a bachelor’s degree from Yale University.

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Passover Seder: 5 Ideas for a Kid-Friendly Pesach

Kids - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:00am
From MazelMoments.com

For the first time, I won’t be reading the Four Questions at our Passover seder! A new generation is taking over! While our seder has been pretty traditional and predictable for the last few decades, we are now thinking about how to make the Jewish traditions fun and engaging for the young children in our families.

We want to make Passover a memorable and fun learning experience for everyone! So we started to explore ways to create a kid-friendly Passover seder.  What we found was amazing and we can’t wait until the Seders!
We’ve put together our top 5 Ideas for Making a Child-Friendly Passover Seder.

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Spelunkers Stumble Upon Rare 2,300-Year-Old Treasure Cache

Traditions - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:00am
In one of the most important finds in northern Israel, three cave explorers unearth ancient coins and jewelry in stalactite cave.
By Ari Yashar for Arutz7Sheva

A month after the discovery of a massive hoard of gold treasure by divers off the coast of Caesarea, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has received reports of a find involving a cache of rare coins and silver and bronze objects 2,300 years old, in a cave in northern Israel.

According to IAA officials, this may be one of the most important archaeological discoveries in northern Israel in recent years, and requires in-depth research to decipher the secrets of the cave.

The story of the find begins two weeks ago, when Israeli Caving Club members Reuven Zakai, his son Chen, and their friend Lior Halony, journeyed into one of the largest and best-hidden stalactite caves in the north in preparation for a visit by the club.

The three spelunkered down into the cave, crawling through a narrow passage to enter it where they explored for several hours.

Chen, 21-years-old, says he forced his way into a narrow niche when he caught sight of something shining in the dark. He discovered two ancient silver coins that, it turns out, date from the reign of Alexander the Great, who conquered Israel at the start of the Hellenistic period (late 4th century BCE).

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New York symphony pulls composition with Nazi anthem

Jewish Music - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:00am
Rising composer Jonas Tarm’s ‘March to Oblivion,’ featuring quotation from ‘Horst Wessel,’ was to be performed in Carnegie Hall
By Lazar Berman, The Times of Israel

A composition from a budding young composer set to be performed Sunday at New York’s Carnegie Hall  was pulled because it contained a musical quotation from the Nazi anthem.

Estonian-born composer Jonas Tarm, 21, won a commission to write the piece from the prestigious New York Youth Symphony’s First Music composer’s contest. But Tarm’s nine-minute composition, entitled “Marsh u Nebuttya,” or “March to Oblivion” in Ukrainian, contained a 45-second musical quotation from “Horst-Wessel-Lied,” the Nazi anthem still banned in Germany and Austria.

The composition also featured a 45-second quotation from the anthem of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

NYYS Executive Director Shauna Quill told The New York Times that the move was “highly unusual,” but was undertaken “thoughtfully, but firmly, as soon as we learned the piece incorporated significant portions of music written by others that we determined were problematic for an orchestra such as ours to be asked to perform.”

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Mozzarella and Tomato Caprese Blintzes

Jewish Cooking - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:00am
By Samantha Ferraro for The Nosher

I’d like to think this caprese blintz is the epitome of my background. A blend of cultures, colliding different upbringings and introducing new memories.

I grew up, like many Brooklyn Jewish girls next door, on blintzes and bagels, on latkes and matzah balls and so did everyone around me. It was the norm. Jewish delis filled with freshly made bialys were the signature of my past and new worldly flavors are the introduction to my future.

You can imagine how my worlds collided when I moved to Hawaii when I was fourteen. The only Jewish girl in my school, the only one that had some reminisce of a east coast accent, the only know what knew what a blintz was. But alas, everything happens for a reason. My eight years living in Hawaii taught me patience and love of the land and introduced me to my Italian husband of (soon to be) 10 years who fell in love with traveling just as much as I did.

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Why I’m Done Throwing My Son Birthday Parties

Family - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:00am
Avital Norman Nathman for Kveller

My son turned 8 this past January. But this year, unlike the seven that came before, we didn’t have a party.

No worry about finding an indoor place that could hold enough kids–and their energy–in the midst of a harsh New England winter. No worrying about whether or not the party would even happen on account of a snowstorm. No juggling five or six different food allergies for fear of leaving any kid out. No buying a bunch of junk that most likely breaks or gets tossed out soon after for goody bags. No drooling over Pinterest, only to lament over a complete lack of any creative capability.

None of that. Because we didn’t have a party.

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The Mystery of the Oldest Hebrew Bible Continues

Jewish Books - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:00am

National Jewish Book Club Online Talk with Author Matti Friedman

The Aleppo Codex, written by the leading Jewish scribes of the 10th century, is the oldest known complete copy of the Hebrew Bible. Moses Maimonides declared it the authoritative manuscript on which all Bibles and Torah scrolls should be based. From the 14th century until 1947, it was kept intact by the Jews of the Syrian city of Aleppo. When it eventually arrived in Israel, almost half its pages were missing. Matti Friedman, who wrote a book on the subject, speaks about the codex and related issues. (Interview by Miri Pomerantz Dauber; video, 27 minutes.)


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Setting The Passover Table Made Easy

Interfaith - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:00am
This article has been reprinted with permission from InterfaithFamily 

Passover is the Jewish holiday that celebrates our freedom. Along with a ritual meal, we tell each other the dramatic story of our slavery in Egypt and our escape to become the Jewish people.

Did you know that the descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob weren't the only people to leave Egypt with Moses? Yes, even in ancient times there were others who chose to throw in their lot with the Israelites. Together they witnessed the splitting of the sea and together they walked safely across on dry ground. Today's interfaith families reenact that ancient joining together on Passover when they retell those events.

Retelling the story of our slavery is the core of the Passover celebration. Every generation before us has expanded the story with references to other times of slavery, added new customs and traditions. No need to be a slave to the past! Learn the basics and customize your seder!

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 For more information, recipes and great ideas for Passover, check out Jvillage's Passover Holiday Kit

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First-ever Canadian Haggadah has a distinctly north-of-the-border vibe

Holidays - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:00am
By Ron Csillag for JTA

In this rendition of the Passover story, the Children of Israel do not play ice hockey or drink kosher l’Pesach maple syrup.

But the first-ever Canadian Haggadah does have a distinctly Canuck vibe.

For one thing the Canadian Haggadah Canadienne is in three languages – English, French and Hebrew. And instead of the standard illustrations of the Israelites building the pyramids or Moses parting the Red Sea, it features archival photographs that trace the history of Canada’s Jewish community, the world’s fourth largest.

The volume offers “a Canadian perspective on our timeless story of freedom – our Jewish history as seen through Canadian eyes,” states its introduction.

Compiled by Rabbi Adam Scheier of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Montreal and Richard Marceau, general counsel and political adviser at the Ottawa-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the hefty (168-page) Haggadah aims “to deepen the Canadian Jewish identity by presenting something that’s uniquely Canadian,” Scheir told JTA. “It’s never been done.”

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Help David Duchovny and Shalom The Pig Get to Israel by Sundown

Going Green Jewishly - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:00am
By Abby Sher for Jewniverse

Maybe you first fell for David Duchovny as the DEA Agent in Twin Peaks. Or you tracked his every move in The X-Files as the steamily troubled Agent Fox Mulder.

Either way, it’s hard not to feel smitten all over again when you read his allegorical new book called Holy Cow. It’s a grim but hilarious look at how animals are eaten and revered, depending on your location. Duchovny looks a lot different from his X-File days. But his sly smile and tousled hair are still in place.

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Orthodox feminists say they don’t want a revolution

Feature Article - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:00am
Female rabbis and other religious Jewish feminists discuss the need for evolution and patience in the struggle for equal rights
By Amanda Borschel-Dan, The Times of Israel

Women were first counted in prayer quorums in liberal Judaism by the early 1800s. But it took until 1935 for the first female rabbi’s ordination — Regina Jonas in Germany — and another 37 years until the second.

Rabbi Sally Priesand was ordained through the Reform movement in the United States in 1972, followed by Reconstructionist Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso in 1974. By 1985, the Conservative movement followed suit, and there was an international domino effect of first female graduates from each denomination’s rabbinical schools.

For the young graduates, finding a receptive congregation and being hired for a pulpit position was the next hurdle. Even today this proves sometimes insurmountable in more conservative Jewish communities, often, ironically, in the Europe where the first female rabbi was ordained 80 years ago.

But now that women are the majority in seminary classes and lead hundreds of communities around the globe (albeit usually at lower salaries than their male counterparts), what about their sister suffragettes from Modern Orthodoxy who are just getting started on their feminist leadership journeys?

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Madeleine Kunin Never Felt Anti-Semitism in Vermont — but Switzerland Was Different Story

Jewish Israeli News - Fri, 03/20/2015 - 11:38am
By Madeleine May Kunin for The Jewish Daily Forward

Trailblazing Governor Felt Hatred in Europe
The only whiff of anti-Semitism that I experienced during my campaign for governor of Vermont took the form of a reporter’s question. He asked my campaign manager Liz Bankowski: “How are you going to deal with Madeleine Kunin’s liabilities?”

“What liabilities?” Liz asked.

“Well, she’s a woman, a democrat and she’s Jewish.”

Liz thought for a moment before posing him a question: “Has anyone said that being Jewish was a liability?

“Err, no,” the reporter weakly replied.

“Then it isn’t a story,” Liz said. With that retort, she quashed the story.

The main reason I didn’t experience anti-Semitism during my three terms as governor was that people couldn’t figure out the derivation of my name, or how to pronounce it. I sometimes speculate whether my life would have been different if I had married a Cohen or a Goldberg. I’d like to think not.

As it turned out, my name often morphed into something else — McCuen, McKeon, McKay, Cunin, or some other variation of Kunin, which gave me Irish or Scottish forbearers.

When, in 1984, I was elected as the fourth woman governor (in her own right) in the United States, several groups took credit. The American Medical Society ran this headline: “Doctor’s Wife Is Elected Governor.”

The Aufbau had a different angle: “Jewish Woman Elected Governor.”

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After electoral trouncing, what future for the Israeli left?

Jewish Israeli News - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 12:41pm
A lot of lessons can be gleaned from Tuesday’s results. Some of them might be uncomfortable
By Haviv Rettig Gur, The Times of Israel

A lot of groups are licking their wounds after Likud’s trouncing of the Labor-led Zionist Union on Tuesday.

The Israeli left, to be sure, did better than it has done in almost a generation. It rallied around the Labor party, energized the base, sent thousands of volunteers to “get out the vote.”

And it lost. Spectacularly.

In the process, politicians, pundits, pollsters and analysts learned some important lessons – not just in humility, but also in the changing face of the Israeli electorate.

The right learned that Likud is its great indispensable party, the big tent to which it rallies in times of danger. That ethos of underlying unity among the usually bickering factions of the right headed off on Tuesday the left’s most potent challenge in almost two decades. It won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

We all learned that the right knows how to get out the vote. Or, at least, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does. His method was simple: talk incessantly about the turnout of the enemy – the left, the Arabs, the shadowy foreign funding behind it all. It wasn’t exactly a noble or honest final few days in Likud’s campaign, but it worked.

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