Archive for January 19, 2010

ADL says Pope’s visit to synagogue strengthened Catholic-Jewish relationship

January 19, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press Release)– The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said that the visit to the Rome Synagogue by Pope Benedict XVI “acknowledged the validity of Judaism and affirmed the Catholic-Jewish relationship.”           

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:
“Pope Benedict acknowledged the validity of Judaism and affirmed the Catholic-Jewish relationship by his visit to Rome’s main synagogue.  Like his predecessor Pope John Paul II, whose 1986 visit to the same Rome Synagogue was a message to the Christian world that Judaism was not superseded by Christianity and is a living dynamic religion with its own continued vitality and sacred purpose to do God’s will, Benedict sent the same message to prelates, priests and those in the pews.
“Pope Benedict has institutionalized for his and future papacies the fact of mutual respect by making it clear that the Jewish people are the people of God’s Covenant through Moses.  The Pope’s words cannot but help to bring greater understanding, respect and dialogue to our two connected faiths.
“While there remains a cloud over the relationship on issues relating to the Holocaust, there is no doubt that his visit to the synagogue confirms the importance of the Catholic-Jewish relationship and that we will continue to dialogue with mutual respect.”

Preceding provided by Anti-Defamation League

Cowles Mountain hike, Tu B’Shevat seder planned by Young Israel Jan. 30

January 19, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO (Press Release)–Young Israel of San Diego, a small Orthodox congregation located near the base of Cowles Mountain, plans to celebrate Tu B’Shevat  with an evening hike to the top of the mountain, weather permitting,  at 8 p.m., Saturday, January 30.

On return, hikers will enjoy a Melava Malka/ Tu B’Shevat seder featuring the fruits of Israel  at the congregation located at 7291 Navajo Road.  Live music will also be featured at the free event.

For more information, email

Israeli backpackers in New Zealand listen to Christian missionaries in exchange for cheaper lodgings

January 19, 2010 1 comment

HAIFA (Press Release)–Israeli backpackers find themselves hosted by Christian missionaries in New Zealand because of the good lodging deals that they offer; but during their stay, these Israelis also get unique spiritual experiences. This has been illustrated in a new study carried out at the University of Haifa’s Center for Tourism, Pilgrimage and Recreation.

“Even though the financial factor is the Israeli backpacker’s main consideration, the spiritual hospitality that they encounter makes the New Zealand experience exceptional,” says Prof. Yoel Mansfeld, Director of the Center for Tourism, Pilgrimage and Recreation Research who carried out the study.

Messianic Christians in New Zealand run an organization called HIT (Hosting Israeli Travelers), which organizes home hospitality for Israeli backpackers. These people open their homes to host some 2,000 Israeli backpackers each year for a token fee and sometimes free of charge. This is in accordance with their faith’s attributing an elevated status to the Jewish people, and hence an unmediated meeting with a member of the “Chosen People” is considered a religio-spiritual edict.

This study, which Prof. Mansfeld carried out with Prof. Alison McIntosh of the University of Waikato in New Zealand, performed in-depth interviews on this unique hospitality arrangement with New Zealand hosts and with Israeli backpackers, in order to examine their respective expectations and actual experiences.

The results show that each side has completely different expectations from the hospitality. The hosts are mainly interested, of course, in experiencing a religio-spiritual encounter simply by means of extending assistance to the Israelis. As one of the hosts said: “The most important benefit is being able to tell my Israeli guest about my religion, about Jesus and about my love for Israel.” According to Prof. Mansfeld, the hosts expressed a surprising expectation of benefiting from the arrangement by gaining knowledge about Israeli culture – but showed no real interest in explaining New Zealand culture to the Israelis in return. The Israeli tourists’ main expectation is simply minimizing boarding costs, and they have no interest in gleaning any cultural benefits besides clean sheets, hot water and cordial hospitality.

The second stage of the study examined whether these expectations are realized. It turns out that the hosts achieve all their goals and feel blessed for being able to host and assist the Israeli backpacker. The backpackers’ expectations on the other hand, are far from met – a conclusion that would probably not come as a surprise to the regular Israeli. Not only do they find out that some of the complimentary accommodations are very basic, but some also find out that the missionary preaching can be quite tiring.

Yet despite the occasional lack of satisfaction and unmet expectations, it seems that the Israeli backpackers still emerge spiritually uplifted from the unique connection that they make with their hosts, which is deepened as they become acquainted with more members of HIT over the course of their travels around New Zealand. This spiritual gain is expressed in a sense of nationalistic pride in their Israeli identity.

Asked what they expect from the HIT hosting network in the future, the Israeli respondents stated that those guest-houses where standards were bleak, ought to upgrade their facilities and suggested that the hosts moderate their missionary zeal.

Prof. Mansfeld summarizes the study: “It appears that despite the unique spiritual connection that is created, the Israeli backpackers are more interested in the financial aspects of the hospitality arrangements and in cutting the costs of their trip by using especially cheap accommodation options.”

Preceding provided by the University of Haifa

Jordanian sources point finger at Iran for attempted car bombing of Israeli diplomats

January 19, 2010 Leave a comment

JERUSALEM (WJC)–The failed bomb attack against Israeli diplomats in Jordan last week could have been carried out by a local al-Qaeda cell acting on instructions from Iran, sources close to the Jordanian intelligence community have told the ‘Jerusalem Post’. The unnamed sources said that the attack had come in response to the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Massoud Ali Muhammadi in Tehran.

Ali Muhammadi was killed by a remote-controlled bomb on a motorcycle. The Iranian regime immediately blamed Israel and the United States for perpetrating the attack. Jordanian al-Qaeda supporters had received money and explosives from Tehran to attack the Israeli diplomats’ convoy, the Jordanian sources told the ‘Jerusalem Post’.

On Monday, the Arab news channel ‘al-Arabiya’ reported that an Amman taxi driver had been arrested by Jordanian police on suspicion of involvement in the bombing.

Last week, a remote-controlled bomb placed by unknown terrorists was detonated when a convoy with two Israeli diplomats coming from Amman was driving toward the Allenby Bridge crossing between Israel and Jordan. No one was injured in the blast. The bomb was placed on a main highway linking the Jordanian capital with the border area.

Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Norway’s Foreign Minister rejects charges his country is anti-Semitic

January 19, 2010 Leave a comment

JERUSALEM (WJC)–Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, who visited Israel this week, has told the newspaper ‘Haaretz’ that there were forces in Israel that unfairly portrayed Norway as an anti-Semitic country. “There are references to anti-Israel sentiments in the Israeli press. I see part of that as a campaign which is being organized and orchestrated from circles who point out enemies of Israel [in Norway],” Store said.

Last summer, media reported that a Norwegian diplomat who had compared Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza with the Holocaust had been promoted, and that Norway had honored the novelist and Hitler admirer Knut Hamsun with celebrations and a commemorative coin on his 150th birthday.

Ahead of Store’s visit this week, a ‘Jerusalem Post’ columnist had described the current Norwegian government as “rabidly hostile” toward Israel, and a Norwegian opposition leader said that Israeli concerns about Norway were “understandable.”

Store said these incidents were not representative. “When I read these allegations in the Israeli press – and some of them I find almost a smear against Norway – my response is: Go and check with the leaders of the Norwegian Jewish community. You will get a [different] story. Yes, there is this gruesome phenomenon of anti-Semitism, also in our society. But I don’t buy it at all that Norway is one of the worst cases.”

Rejecting criticism over his contribution to the back cover of a controversial book on the Gaza war by Norwegian medics, Store said he merely applauded the authors for speaking up about what they saw, without judging the validity of their conclusions. In the book, which contains eyewitness testimony by two Norwegian doctors in Gaza, the authors Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse accused Israel of perpetrating a “systematically implemented and comprehensive massacre.”

“What I said was that during the Gaza war, all independent press was closed out and that when there is no coverage, the first victim is the truth,” Store told ‘Haaretz’, adding: “I believe that these doctors reported what they saw. I believe that was important.” His comment for the book’s cover did not mean that he endorsed the book’s content, Store emphasized.

Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Nine West Bank settlers arrested for mosque attack and vandalism

January 19, 2010 1 comment

JERUSALEM (WJC)–Israeli police have arrested a group of militant Jewish settlers in the West Bank for alleged vandalism, including an attack on a mosque in a nearby Palestinian village in December.

Nine settlers were arrested for attacks on Palestinian property, including five linked to the torching of a mosque last month.  The vandals burned prayer carpets and Muslim holy books, and left graffiti at the site which said “Price Tag” – a slogan referring to the price of the Israeli freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank. 

The settlers accuse the Israeli government of caving in to pressure from the United States. They also said that police had used excessive force, including beatings, confiscation of cameras and damaging property, during the raid. 

The mosque attack was broadly condemned by Israeli officials.  Cabinet Minister Uzi Landau said the perpetrators should spend time in jail: “Just to make it clear: In our society, they are moral and social lepers.”

Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Jewish, Israeli organizations provide service, raise millions for Haiti

January 19, 2010 1 comment

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti (WJC)–Jewish humanitarian organizations in the United States and Canada have already raised millions of dollars for Haiti relief aid since the devastating earthquake that hit the Caribbean nation a week ago. Among the top fundraisers are the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), which has received US$ 2 million so far, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), which until now has collected US$ 1.5 million.

The JDC’s coordinator of disaster relief, William Recant, was quoted by the ‘Jerusalem Post’ as saying that total donations via the Jewish community could well reach US$ 10 million, as outreach continues over the coming weeks and months. “This is a very unique disaster and the response has been overwhelming. People want to help,” Recant said. Over 100,000 people are feared dead, and millions have been made homeless in the capital Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas.

Both JDC and AJWS have already delivered direct relief to people on the ground. “There has been extraordinary devastation in some of the smaller towns as well,” AJWS spokesman Joshua Berkman said. He noted that the group’s coordinator in Haiti was living out of his car because his home had been destroyed in the quake. “They’re getting no international relief, so it’s very important that somebody is there providing for the people who are desperately in need,” Berkman added.

The JDC, alongside other Jewish groups, has been distributing aid dollars to Israeli services, including the Israel Defense Forces’ field hospital and IsraAID. Israeli efforts in particular received praise for already being fully operational. CNN reported on Monday that Israel was the only state so far to have sent a field hospital equipped with all that was required for surgical operations. Doctors from various missions had sent patients requiring surgery to Israel’s makeshift hospital, particularly those whose condition is critical, the news network said.

On Monday, Israeli teams rescued a woman who had been trapped for six days under the wreckage of Port-au-Prince University. The team used special equipment to begin lifting parts of the rubble and carefully managed to create an opening, preventing the structure from collapsing.

If you want to donate to the Jewish relief efforts in Haiti, visit the following websites:

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

American Jewish World Service

Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

Bang or ‘Boom,’ it’s still a leap of faith

January 19, 2010 Leave a comment

By Carol Davis

SAN DIEGO–There are some who, like myself, believe in the Big Bang Theory. Then there are others who believe in evolution and then there are those who believe in the literal translation of the bible. Who can say what’s right, wrong or otherwise. It matters not, but in his dark comedy boom where a theory of evolution meets a theory of doom, Peter Sinn Nachtreib’s ninety-minute (or so) piece reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode in living color with lots of noisemakers, flashing lights and special effects.

Nachtreib’s play boom is the most produced show this season according to Artistic Director (and director of this production)  of the San Diego Repertory Theatre Sam Woodhouse. In his opening night welcoming remarks before the show, Woodhouse noted that the play is being mounted in no less that fourteen theatres across the country.

It premiered in New York in 2008 and was a Pulitzer Prize nominee. Now all sci-fi fans can revel in this almost made for prime time TV sit-com as it makes its way through the universe satisfying someone’s quest for the answers of those questions posed above: how did it all begin and how will it end?

Armed with three very talented actors Steven Lone as Jules, Rachael VanWormer as Jo and Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson as Barbara (narrator/witness/ Rod Serling reincarnate?) this little tale of Man? Boy? (Adam?), Woman? Girl? (Eve?) and story teller, boom starts off in Jules’ campus basement/lab apartment (we learn later it’s a bomb shelter) where he has been hoarding enough food and supplies to last him through any catastrophic disaster, which he believes to be imminent. 

He’s a marine biologist, and gay. As a graduate student at his unnamed university, he’s been studying the spawning habits and sleep cycles of fish (something he did in his real life work as a research assistant, watching fish spawn for four months off the coast of Panama, while an undergraduate at Brown University in Rhode Island), ergo the interest in the fish. Jo is journalism major who answered his ad on Craigslist for someone to have “sex to change the course of the world”.

She comes on to the scene expecting great sex because of the ad. She’s on it or rather all over him! Right from the get go it’s all about the sex for her.  Her journalism project is on random sex in a decaying world. He, on the other hand needs a little foreplay like an explanation of what he’s about, his parents and their disastrous demise and where he’s from. (Did he say he was from Worcester?)

Nachtrieb’s dialogue comes fast and furious between the two and it’s a kick to watch them as she tries to undress/seduce him while he wants to talk to her about his family tree. It’s clever, slick, charming and more often than not, brings about a chuckle or two.

About two minutes into the play though he confesses he’s gay. (Of course the gay thing wasn’t mentioned in the ad). He wants to explain his theory of fish evolution. She’s looking for a story and doesn’t have an interest in marine biology, the apocalypse or him. This is not a case of opposites attracting. It’s more like train crash waiting to happen.

While the two grope, go around in circles about the end of the world he confesses his goal here is to save humanity since he’s already determined life, as we know it will be destroyed sooner rather than later.

She freaks out when she learns he wants her to have his babies so together they can rebuild the world! The thought of having a baby coming through her body sends her flying off into the purple, double bolted, locked steel door that not only won’t open, but it knocks and shocks her out completely.

AND THEN BOOM! Lights, camera, action! Barbara steps in or down.

Definition: Boom: the sudden radical change in the state of things.

Barbara (an imposing Thompson) stops the action, comes down from her command post (a second story platform equipped with timpani, gongs, switches and TV monitors) to inform us that what we’ve just seen is a museum or theme park attraction of what life might have been like thousands of years ago. She tells us that as the docent and storyteller she gets to manipulate the couple and this is only one version of what might have happened.

From here, it’s a leap of faith as to where the story goes. And while it’s charming and the idea sounds like fun, it puts a whole new slant on the way we digest the play.

As mentioned earlier, Nachtrieb’s boom is clever and fun but without the support of an excellent cast, it could have been disappointing. Rachael VanWormer is a woman in perpetual motion as she tries to maneuver around, over and under Lone. Her timing is perfect and she seems to be quite the escape artist slinking and outlasting her partner in the art of lovemaking. Just when we least expect it, she has her notebook out and she’s taking notes, talking to the fish (oh yes, there is a fish tank right in the middle of the stage) and/or crashing into doors.

He on the other hand is a hopeless nerd who ‘gets no respect’. Lone is perfect as Jules. He’s a quirky, oddball and misfit who is ready to move mountains to prove his theory regardless of who might or might not be paying attention. He just doesn’t get it; or maybe we don’t. It’s hard to say. And while the chemistry doesn’t jell for Jules and Jo, it’s a great combination for Rachael and Steven. The two are perfectly matched as too opposing fields in the yin and yang world of their relationship.

Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson is her usual strong willed, strong presence; strong personality and force directing the action and stopping just long enough to give her own rendition of the way things might have been up to this point.

 She goes on about what the fish might be thinking and then moves on to her own detailed story of her own conception. It’s a captivating story and one that has the audience’s ear. She’s a master storyteller. Her calm manner is an ideal contrast to the frenetic actions of Jules and Jo.

David Lee Cuthbert’s busy set is just what the doctor ordered in the Lyceum Space especially the upper level with all the gadgets and instruments. Jennifer Brawn Gittings costumes fit the personalities. Tom Jones background music lends a good contrast to the wilder side of comets crashing and drums vibrating.

Director Sam Woodhouse has cause to celebrate for pulling off this entertaining and thought provoking San Diego local premiere of Nachtreib’s popular boom! It continues through Jan. 31st.

Where: Lyceum Space 79 Horton Plaza downtown San Diego

Dates: Wednesdays 8PM; Thursday and Saturdays 8PM; Sunday 7PM; (2PM Jan 30th only)

Tickets: $29-47 (student discounts $18)

For more information visit or call 619-544-1000.

See you at the theatre.