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The Penniless Immigrant Behind a Hot Dog Empire

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 7:00am
By Zachary Solomon for Jewniverse

Coney Island is famous for its seashores, sideshows, and salty breezes. But, of course, it’s also famous for its hot dogs—Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, that is. You may know it as the site of the similarly famous gut-clogging hot-dog eating contest.

Just in time for the iconic Brooklyn hot-doggery’s centennial is Famous Nathan, a new documentary by Lloyd Handwerker, grandson of Nathan Handwerker—yes, that Nathan.

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Lilith, Lady Flying in Darkness

Mon, 07/27/2015 - 7:00am
The most notorious demon of Jewish tradition becomes a feminist hero
By Rabbi Jill Hammer for MyJewishLearning.com

“Half of me is beautiful

but you were never sure which half.”

            Ruth Feldman, “Lilith”

Lilith is the most notorious demon in Jewish tradition. In some sources, she is conceived of as the original woman, created even before Eve, and she is often presented as a thief of newborn infants. Lilith means “the night,” and she embodies the emotional and spiritual aspects of darkness: terror, sensuality, and unbridled freedom. More recently, she has come to represent the freedom of feminist women who no longer want to be “good girls.”

Biblical and Talmudic Tales of Lilith
The story of Lilith originated in the ancient Near East,where a wilderness spirit known as the “dark maid” appears in the Sumerian myth “The descent of Inanna” (circa 3000 BCE). Another reference appears in a tablet from the seventh century BCE found at Arslan Tash, Syria which contains the inscription: “O flyer in a dark chamber, go away at once, O Lili!”

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The Life and Death of Steven Sotloff, Part 2

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 7:00am
A reporter’s friends use Facebook to try and save his life: Driven by a growing sense that the U.S. government could not or would not save Sotloff from captivity, a group of family members, colleagues, and Jewish communal leaders coalesced into a ragtag—and tragically unsuccessful—rescue effort.
By Jonathan Zalman for Tablet Magazine

This is part 2 of The Life and Death of Steven Sotloff. Read part 1 here.


A Year in Captivity

Late one Saturday last fall, I met Gregg Roman, the director of the community relations council for the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh, in the lobby lounge of the DoubleTree hotel in midtown Manhattan. Roman, 29, was in town to attend a meeting of the board of directors for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. He and Sotloff met as students at the IDC, in Herzliya, Israel, while Roman was trying out for the debate society.

“It’s not enough for us to learn about [the Middle East] in class,” Sotloff would say to Roman as they puffed away at Romeo y Julieta cigars and took in the view from his friend’s apartment—Lebanon to the north, Jordan to the east, Egypt and Gaza to the south. “We have to go there to really understand what’s going on.”

On his way toward my table, Roman ran into Ronald Halber, the executive director of the Jewish Community Council of greater Washington, and invited him to sit with us. Halber, I was told, was the main point of contact for all governmental and Jewish media relations for the family of Alan Gross during his imprisonment in Cuba. “That could be your next story,” he said.

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The Life and Death of Steven Sotloff, Part 1

Mon, 07/13/2015 - 7:00am
How a freelancer’s Heaven turned into Hell: Inspired by a blend of bravery, wanderlust, and humanism, a budding journalist ventured—without the kind of institutional structure and support that would have been common a decade ago—into an inflamed Middle East.
By Jonathan Zalman for Tablet Magaine

On July 15, 2013, Steven Sotloff arrived in Israel, a place he once called home. He planned on spending a week there, beginning with the wedding of his former roommate Benny Scholder, before heading off to report from Egypt, Turkey, Syria, and wherever else his vagabond reporting career might take him in the region.

It was familiar territory. In just under three years—from September 2010 to August 2013—Sotloff had published over 30 articles in 12 different publications while reporting from eight Middle Eastern countries. As a frontline freelancer, Sotloff often managed to be in the right place at the right time. He found and highlighted voices of marginalized people, and his writing rarely shied away from explaining deep-rooted and often ancient conflict. He witnessed violence and life under long-standing despotic regimes. He witnessed uprisings and civil revolutions, war and death. He was attacked and jailed. He found hope and he lost hope. He was often broke.

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Akhenaten and Moses

Mon, 07/06/2015 - 7:00am
Did the monotheism of Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten influence Moses?
Robin Ngo for Bible History Daily
Defying centuries of traditional worship of the Egyptian pantheon, Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten decreed during his reign in the mid-14th century B.C.E. that his subjects were to worship only one god: the sun-disk Aten. Akhenaten is sometimes called the world’s first monotheist. Did his monotheism later influence Moses—and the birth of Israelite monotheism?
In “Did Akhenaten’s Monotheism Influence Moses?” in the July/August 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, University of California, Santa Barbara, emeritus professor of anthropology Brian Fagan discusses this tantalizing question.

Egyptian King Akhenaten, meaning “Effective for Aten”—his name was originally Amenhotep IV, reigned from about 1352 to 1336 B.C.E. In the fifth year of his reign, he moved the royal residence from Thebes to a new site in Middle Egypt, Akhetaten (“the horizon of Aten,” present-day Tell el-Amarna), and there ordered lavish temples to be built for Aten. Akhenaten claimed to be the only one who had access to Aten, thus making an interceding priesthood unnecessary.    

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Zumba’s Jewish Matron Saint

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 7:00am
By Shannon Sarna for Jewniverse

One day in the mid-1990s, dancer and choreographer Alberto “Beto” Pérez forgot his usual music for the aerobics class he taught in Bogotá, Colombia. In a pinch, he reached for his favorite salsa tape and taught the class like a dance party. He and his students had so much fun that he gave it a name— “rumba”—and began teaching it all the time.

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Too Late for Moses: New Israeli App for Stutterers

Mon, 06/22/2015 - 10:59am
Haifa-based startup has picked up a handful of innovation awards and has sparked interest from around the globe.
By Arutz Sheva staff

An Israeli mobile app that uses the world’s first stuttering detection algorithm to help stutterers overcome their condition comes 3,500 years too late for the most famous Jewish stutterer, Moses, but not a moment too soon for present day sufferers of the condition.

NiNiSpeech is a mobile health solution that helps people who stutter (PWS) maintain fluent speech, and allows speech-language pathologists (SLP) to monitor their clients’ fluency in everyday settings, Yair Shapira, founder & CEO of NiNiSpeech, told ISRAEL21c.

The mobile solution, which will cost $50 to $100 monthly, provides the stutterer with immediate feedback on speech fluency by means of a buzz or vibration. This gives the stutterer a chance to monitor performance, improve fluency, achieve speech goals and gain rewards. The second stage of the solution, which is unique in the field, measures stuttering.

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Genes Of Most Ashkenazi Jews Trace Back To Indigenous Europe, Not Middle East

Mon, 06/15/2015 - 7:00am
By Matthew Mientka For Medical Daily

A genetic study of Ashkenazi Jews shows a “whiter” heritage drawn more from prehistoric Europe than from the Levant, home to the modern state of Israel.

A team of international researchers from Malaysia to Salt Lake City found in a study published Tuesday that most variance in mitochondrial DNA — passed from mother to daughter, like Judaism — derives from the indigenous peoples of Western and Central Europe, as opposed to the Levant, as previously thought. Four of the major “founders” of Ashkenazi Jewry derive most variance from European sources, accounting for some 40 percent of the genome. The remaining 60 percent from minor founders, too, comes mostly from Europe.

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The Making of Upsee

Mon, 06/08/2015 - 7:00am
The story of Debby Elnatan, who walked in her son's steps, and found out what parenting is about. Made for AIPAC, and screened on their 2014 National Summit.

The Making of Upsee from The Feel Makers on Vimeo.

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Thanks to Israel, Dental Care and Braces are About to Become a Thing of The Past

Mon, 06/01/2015 - 7:00am
From IsraelVideoNetwork

Israeli company gives orthodontics new bite! An Israeli company has developed a teeth-straightening device that frees patients from having to wear aligners or unsightly braces. The device, which they say is as effective as conventional straighteners, utilities an air-driven pulsating plate and is designed to be worn only at night.

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Natalie Portman Hits Her Stride

Mon, 05/25/2015 - 7:00am
What the most visibly Jewish actress of her generation can teach us about being ourselves—and handling tough questions about Israel
By Rachel Shukert for Tablet

It’s happened to all of us.

You’re at a trendy wine bar or dinner party—a nice one that uses cloth napkins and serves appetizers separately from the main course—when the dreaded “I” word comes up. And no, it’s not “isometrics” or “Ireland Baldwin.” It’s Israel.

At your table, the consensus is that Israel is full of whiny and hypocritical racists and bullies. A tight knot forms in your stomach: Do you assert support for the Jewish State, causing everyone to treat you as some kind of hateful right wing reactionary for the rest of the night? Or do you agree without caveat and feel ashamed of yourself?

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Meet the Egyptian-Jewish Owner of Kentucky Derby Winner American Pharaoh

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 7:00am
Ahmed Zayat, who lives in New Jersey, once named a yearling ‘Maimonides’ to promote peace among Arabs and Jews
By Jonathan Zalman for Tablet Magazine

On Saturday, like a tremendous machine, three-year-old bay colt American Pharaoh pushed ahead in the final furlong to take the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby. In a close second was Firing Line, followed by Dortmund.

American Pharaoh is owned by Ahmed Zayat, head of Zayat Stables, a 200-plus horse operation that competes at racetracks around the country. Zayat lives in Teaneck with his wife, two daughters, and two sons; 23-year-old, Justin, a student at NYU, currently manages the stables.
Zayat, 52, moved to the U.S. at the age of 18. He earned a graduate degree in Public Health at Boston University and founded Al Ahram Beverage Company, a distributor in Egypt, which he sold to Heineken in 2002 for $280 million. According to his bio, Zayat is also the largest shareholder in Misr Glass Manufacturing, a manufacturer of glass containers in Egypt. In 2010, the New York Times profiled Zayat and wrote about the businessman’s entry into the world of horse racing:

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The Crazy New Invention for Using Electricity on Shabbat

Mon, 05/11/2015 - 7:00am
By Jewniverse

For many observant Jews, not using electricity is one of the most salient aspects of Sabbath observance. But a new invention aims to change that.

By changing the way a light switch works, the patented Kosher Switch offers a novel — and, its backers say, kosher — way to turn light switches (and, perhaps, other electrical appliances) on and off during Shabbat.

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A Journey Through French Anti-Semitism

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 7:00am
By Shmuel Trigano, jewishreviewofbooks.com

If after the horrors of January 2015 there is any consolation for the Jews of France, it would seem to lie in the words of Prime Minister Manuel Valls. “How can we accept that people are killed because they are Jewish?” he cried out at a special session of the French parliament a week after the massacres at the Charlie Hebdo editorial offices and at the Hypercacher kosher supermarket. “History has taught us that the awakening of anti-Semitism is the symptom of a crisis for democracy and of a crisis for the Republic. That is why we must respond with force.” We are at war, he said, “with terrorism, jihadism, and Islamist radicalism” (he has spoken more recently of “Islamofascism”), but not, he added, “Islam and Muslims.” And yet, as someone who has lived through and documented the last two decades and more of anti-Semitism in France, I note that there is a problem with the inevitable reflexive warnings after every vicious attack not to slip into Islamophobia by conflating Islam and terrorism. It is a kind of automatic discourse in which the existence of a threat to Muslims erases the recognition of the hatred to which Islamic texts and doctrines have given rise, as expressed by the terrorists themselves. For there is a long history of Islamic anti-Judaism, and it is the reason for the attacks against the Jews.

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The Marathon and the Mikveh

Mon, 04/27/2015 - 7:00am
by Rabbi Danielle Eskow for MayyimHayyim Blog

As a monthly mikveh goer, I had always appreciated the cleansing experience of immersing in the water. The routine enhanced my own life, as well as my marriage. As a rabbi, I had witnessed the powerful experience of a new Jewish person immersing in the mikveh upon conversion. I had not yet experienced, either personally or professionally the powerful healing that the mikveh could bring. This all changed when the Boston Marathon Bombings occurred on April 15th 2013.

My husband ran the marathon that year and finished four minutes before the bombs went off.  I had been standing in front of where the first bomb went off.  For twenty minutes I could not find him, the longest twenty minutes of my life. That night when we finally were able to go home, I told my husband, “this was one of the hardest and worst days of my life.” Little did I know that the days that followed would be much worse.

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It’s 1933: Calling All Jewish Doctors to Istanbul!

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 7:00am
By Leah Falk for Jewniverse

In the 17th century, the Ottoman Empire was known as the “sick man of Europe.” When, after World War I, Kemal Mustafa Ataturk helped inaugurate the republic of Turkey, becoming its first president, one could say he overturned this reputation by the most literal means possible: by inviting 300 some German Jewish doctors, on the eve of World War II, to take refuge in Turkey.

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