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ZOA: Koran-burning ‘offensive, wrong and counter-productive’

September 8, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press Release)–The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has condemned the planned 9/11 Koran burning event organized by Pastor Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida.

 ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “We condemn this proposed Koran burning. The ZOA has not and will not support or condone burning religious scriptures of any faith.

“This proposed act of Koran-burning is not only offensive and counter-productive, but a diversion from real issues that concern us regarding extremism in the Muslim world.

 “The ZOA has countless times articulated its genuine and substantive concerns about Islamic radicalism. We must combat jihadists as well as other Muslim extremists who legitimize, rationalize or seek to dishonestly sanitize violent, totalitarian doctrines that involve the murder and subjugation of non-Muslims and moderate Muslims. We oppose tirelessly Islamist terrorism and those Muslims who work for the subjugation of America, Israel and indeed all non-Muslim countries, whether this is attempted by immediate, violent and blatant means, or by gradual, non-violent and covert means.

“We should be seeking out, promoting and working with moderate Muslims. It will not be possible to do so if we support or fail to criticize Koran-burning events such as the one proposed in Florida.

“It has been argued, including by General David Petraeus, that this proposed Koran-burning will serve as a pretext for Islamist assaults here and overseas. His statement is misconceived. These are not the grounds on which we oppose and condemn this event. 

“Burning the Koran should be opposed because it is offensive, wrong and counter-productive, not because it can be used to justify Islamist violence. If we take that approach, we will soon find that all efforts to oppose or challenge radical Muslims will be quickly condemned on the same grounds. This will morally and physically disarm us and encroach on our ability as a free society to challenge dangerous enemies.

“Radical Muslims need no pretext to attack us, so it is wrong to suggest that we are specially endangering ourselves by doing something, whether proper or offensive, to challenge them. Tragically, the attacks would come anyway, regardless of what we say and do today.”

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Preceding provided by the Zionist Organization of America, which in its news release used the alternative spelling of ‘Quran’ for Koran.

ADL condemns proposed Koran-burning

September 8, 2010 Leave a comment

NEW YORK (Press Release) — The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has condemned plans for a Koran burning in Gainesville, Florida and a rally in lower Manhattan featuring anti-Muslim speakers timed to coincide with the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“The Dove World Outreach Center’s threat to burn thousands of copies of the Koran is outrageous and horrific and must be forcefully condemned by all Americans,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “The tragedy of September 11 should never be exploited, and we should not let bigots defile the memory of the victims of 9/11 with offensive rhetoric and hate speech. That stands against everything this country and our long tradition of religious freedom represents.”

In Florida, with the message of “We Will Not Remain Silent in the Face of Religious Intolerance,” the League spearheaded an interfaith coalition against religious intolerance in response to the threatened mass burning of thousands of copies of the Koran by Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center. In an advertisement in the Gainesville Sun, the coalition stated, “There is no room for hatred in our society.”

“As ardent advocates of religious expression and freedom for all Americans – whether in the majority or minority – we firmly reject anti-Muslim bigotry,” the ad read. Signatories to the ad are the Rev. Dr. Michael Collins, University Lutheran Church and Campus Center; Keith Dvorchik, Executive Director of the University of Florida Hillel; the Rev. Meredith Garmon of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville; Father Roland Julien of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church; Rabbi David Kaiman of Congregation B’nai Israel; Pastor Gregory C. Magruder of Parkview Baptist Church; the Rev. Jim Merritt of Trinity Metropolitan Community Church; the Rev. Larry Reimer of The United Church of Gainesville; and Rabbi Andrew L. Rosenkranz, ADL Florida Regional Director.

The League has spoken out strongly against the planned Sept. 11 protest of the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero sponsored by Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), which is slated to include remarks from the outspoken anti-Muslim Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, and others, calling the rally “un-American.”

“This is not a place for political demonstrations, for advocacy, especially on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks,” said Mr. Foxman. “This is a place for memory, for families to be together and to remember their loved ones on that solemn day.”

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Preceding provided by Anti-Defamation League

Program will increase grants for UCSD-Israel cooperation

September 8, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO (Press Release)–The University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego), one of the nation’s preeminent universities, and the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF), an organization that promotes scientific relations between the U.S. and Israel by supporting collaborative research projects, have established the first-ever Multiplier Grants Program designed to enhance funding for current and future BSF research projects involving UC San Diego and Israeli research partners.

“This is the first time in the history of the BSF that we have formalized a partnership with an institution to provide targeted and enhanced funding, which resonates to the BSF strategic objective of increasing grant size,” said Yair Rotstein, Executive Director of the BSF.

“Larger grants are a powerful advantage for research advancements and we hope that with larger grants come greater results.”

The BSF-UC San Diego Multiplier Research Grants Fund will supplement BSF Grants awarded to research projects conducted by researchers at the university jointly with Israeli scientists. Israeli institutions partnering with UC San Diego on the BSF Grants include the Technion Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science, among others.

“A BSF Grant is highly prestigious in the scientific community,” added Art Ellis, Vice Chancellor for Research at UC San Diego and a previous BSF Grant recipient. “There are many examples of successful projects conducted by collaborating U.S. and Israeli scholars that were facilitated by BSF funding – this partnership is path-breaking.” 

Some 37 Nobel Laureates have participated in BSF-supported research projects, and the BSF has awarded $480 million to over 4,000 research projects. Many of these have led to important scientific, medical and technological breakthroughs with wide-ranging practical applications.

Research taking place at UC San Diego and Israeli institutions through BSF Grants include extremely diverse subjects such as:

• How the molecular mechanisms in plants can help reduce the need for water;
• The study of human embryonic stem cells aimed at developing therapies for heart failure;
• The calculation of magnetic fields to design electromagnetic devices;
• The development of information processing in two-way communication methods;
• The study of quantum physics and systems in magnetic fields; and
• The development of the largest cosmological calculation ever created. 

“We chose UC San Diego to launch the BSF Multiplier Grant program because of the world-class research taking place there,” continued Rotstein, of the BSF. “The University of California, San Diego has received many BSF Grants over the years, so we believed they would be an excellent partner to launch this unique grant initiative.”

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Preceding provided by UCSD and and the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation

A license plate wish at the New Year’s

September 8, 2010 1 comment

Melanie Rubin spotted this ode 'to life'

Did Spielberg turn Asperger’s Syndome into a billion-dollar asset?

September 8, 2010 3 comments

By Jay Tell

Jay Tell

ENCINO, California– Iconic movie mogul Steven Spielberg by some accounts has Asperger’s Syndrome,a mild to severe form of autism, which, among other symptoms, creates a compulsion to focus on one idea at a time. The Asperger’s diagnosis has been disputed by various sources on the Internet, though not by Spielberg directly.

Whether it’s true or not remains to be seen, but there certainly is no stigma to the condition. High-functioning over-achievers thought to have had Asperger’s, are Isaac Newton, Mozart, Beethoven, Edison, Einstein, Henry Ford, Bill Gates and many other creative geniuses. Symptoms can include poor social skills, avoidance of eye contact, limited facial expressions, obsession with an unusual project, disinterest in the ideas of others, dislike of being touched, thinking in literal or exact terms, a strict adherence to routine, and being over-talkative.

In 1971, when 24, Spielberg directed a low-budget ABC-TV movie called Duel, a car driver’s fears of being chased by a truck. In 1975, at 28, Spielberg read the screenplay for Jaws, from the best-selling novel by Peter Benchley. Spielberg asked Sid Sheinberg, president of MCA/Universal Studios, if he could direct the movie. The producer said Spielberg was too young for such an epic, and they already had a seasoned director. Spielberg said, “If something changes, please keep me in mind.”

Sure enough, at a meeting to discuss the film, the older director said, “I think the whale should do this….” Benchley turned to Sheinberg, and said, “I don’t want a director who doesn’t know the difference between my Great White shark and a whale, like Moby Dick.” They fired the veteran director and gambled on young Spielberg.

Spielberg started shooting with an unfinished script, a partial cast, and a labor strike looming over the industry. If those obstacles weren’t enough, no technology had been invented to create a 25-foot believable shark, so crews worked around the clock, fighting numerous mechanical breakdowns – and ultimately making special effects history.

To top it off, Spielberg made the dangerous decision to film off Martha’s Vineyard in the Atlantic Ocean, instead of in a studio tank or safer, inland body of water. He wanted the realism of choppy, unpredictable ocean waves and wind, rolling boats, realistic panoramic scenes, and was willing to take big risks to achieve a cinematic masterpiece.

On the set, Spielberg turned chaos into order, with rare vision and superb directorial skills. He was tested with many setbacks, but passed with flying colors. Jaws became a Hollywood blockbuster, grossing $260 million, which, in today’s dollars, is more than $1 billion. The movie changed the lives of everyone associated with the landmark film, and enhanced the world’s interest in sharks, who, in actuality, rarely attack humans.

The crew never got the shark to work right, but Spielberg’s genius, turning a negative into a positive, carried the day. He and his writers shot film by day, and changed the script each night, to imply the shark’s presence. Like his idol, director Alfred Hitchcock, Spielberg created masterful ocean suspense scenes – probing and penetrating the primal, visceral fears deep in our imagination.

An unseen shark – as when the girl swimmer is suddenly jerked back and forth, screaming in horror before being pulled down – can be more frightening than if we saw the shark. Spielberg turned mechanical shark failures into a scary cinematic powerhouse. When asked if he likes ocean swimming and boating, he said, “No, the sharks are waiting for me, and they have a score to settle.”

Spielberg went on to direct and produce phenomenally popular films, including Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET, Goonies (starring my nephew Sean Astin), Indiana Jones, The Color Purple, Twilight Zone, Gremlins, Back to the Future, Empire of the Sun, Always, Hook, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Amistad, Schindler’s List, Band of Brothers, Artificial Intelligence, Saving Private Ryan, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, Catch Me If You Can, Munich, Transformers, and many others. Almost everything he touches turns to gold.

In 1994, Spielberg received his first Best Director and Best Picture Oscars, for Schindler’s List, which won seven Oscars. He donated his profits from that immortal film to the Righteous Persons’ Foundation, and to the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which traveled to 57 countries to capture memories of more than 50,000 survivors of the Holocaust, in 32 languages, forever preserving priceless eye-witness accounts.

To date, Spielberg’s films have grossed more than $10 billion, and have won numerous worldwide nominations and awards. He’s personally won three Oscars, and the coveted Irving Thalberg Award, which is presented to creative producers whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production. This puts him in the company of Alfred Hitchcock, Darryl Zanuck, Hal Wallis, Samuel Goldwyn, David O. Selznick, Ingmar Bergman and many other great directors.

He also won the Cecil B. DeMille Golden Globe Award, which recognizes a lifetime of achievement in motion picture arts, and the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1994, with Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, Spielberg created Dreamworks, which produced American Beauty, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Antz, Shrek, War of the Worlds, and many other major movies, TV shows, CD’s and video games. Forbes Magazine listed Spielberg’s personal net worth at $3 billion, not bad for a kid who, at 13, charged local kids 25 cents to see his 8mm film shorts.

Spielberg’s miracle first break, when another director made a “whale” of a mistake, proves that luck can play a critical role in our lives. However, once given that chance, with Jaws in 1975, Spielberg’s brilliance, genius, courage and hard work began creating world-class, magical films, one after another, spanning four decades. He inspired us look to the stars, with Close Encounters and ET, and to look inward, with Amistad and Schindler’s List. All over the world, millions line up to see his movies, knowing, when they see his name, they’re guaranteed an unforgettable journey.

If you have a limiting disability, such as obsession to detail, knowing how Spielberg used Asperger’s Syndrome to his advantage, can be your inspiration – and to us all. You can turn your “problem” to an asset, knowing your potential has no limits. Spielberg’s parents divorced when he was a teen, which can be devastating, but which he also used to his advantage. He focused on his visions, his imagined worlds – and our culture is richer for his work. He created movie history, and a real life success story.

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Tell is a Los Angeles stamp and coin dealer and freelance writer. He grew up in a Las Vegas Jewish newspaper family, and wrote, among other articles, a Bobby Darin Tribute. Email jaytell@hotmail.com

SDSU’s Jewish Studies Department tells public program for fall

September 8, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO (Press Release)–The Jewish Studies program at San Diego State University has announced its schedule of public events during the fall semester:

October 4,  7 p.m.  Preview and Panel Discussion of PBS Series: God in America, Professors Lawrence Baron, Khaleel Mohammed, and Rebecca Moore, SDSU.  Sponsors: The Anti-Defamation League; SDSU Jewish Studies and Religious Studies. 201 Arts and Letters Building 201,  SDSU
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October 13 , 3 p.m. (25th Anniversary of Jewish Studies Program Lectures) “From Frank Sinatra to Anne Frank: The Holocaust in Hollywood Film, 1944-1959,” Professor Lawrence Baron, SDSU. 301 Geology, Mathematics, and Computer Science Building, SDSU/ (Across bridge and right turn from Parking Structure on S.E. corner after I-8 Exit onto College) 
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October 17 , 1 p.m.:  (25th Anniversary of Jewish Studies Program at SDSU): “Jews of the Pacific Coast: Reinventing Community of America’s Edge,” Ava Kahn, University of California, Berkeley; Ellen Eisenberg, Willamette University. Sponsors: College of Liberal Arts, Jewish Studies Program. 220 West Commons, SDSU Campus (Paid Parking in Lot W.) 

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October 28, 7 p.m. Common Chords Concert: The Shared Roots of Islamic and Jewish Music ($10 per ticket, but free for SDSU faculty and students).Salman Ahmad, Fred Benedetti, Samir Chatterjee, Elizabeth Schwartz, Yale Strom. Sponsors: President’s Fund, Jewish Studies Program, Center for Arabic and Islamic Studies, Daniel Pearl Foundation Music Month.  Smith Recital Hall, 101 Music Building, SDSU Campus.   
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November 7  12 p.m., “Burnt Books: Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav and Franz Kafka.” Rodger Kamenetz  in Conversation with Gabriel Sanders.Sponsored by Tablet Magazine, A New Read on Jewish Life, SDSU Jewish Studies Program,  Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037                                                                  
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November 17,  3 p.m.   (25th Anniversary of the SDSU Jewish Studies Program)”What are Jewish Girls and Boys Made Of?:  Gender in Books for Jewish Adolescents,” June Cummins-Lewis, SDSU.301 Geology, Mathematics, and Computer Science Building, SDSU.(Across bridge and right turn from Parking Structure on S.E. corner on College after I-8 Exit). 
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All programs are free (except for non-SDSU community members attending the Common Chords Concert) and open to the public.  For further information, contact Lawrence Baron, 619-594-5338.

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Preceding provided by SDSU’s Jewish Studies Department

On clergy who step from pulpits into headlines

September 8, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM — Let me welcome Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida to join Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of SHAS, and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the promoter of Cordoba House to the Pantheon of religious leaders whose commotions have ranged beyond local and national borders.

There is no requirement that members of this Pantheon be judged for their wisdom, or even their knowledge of the religious traditions they claim to lead. Enough that they have done something to produce headlines in many countries.
God forbid that I would hint that such distinguished persons do not understand the nature of the religions they claim to lead. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are comprehensive in the ideas apparent in their writings and customs. Love, hate, fanaticism, tolerance, moderation, and lots in between appear in these monotheisms. Jones, Ovadia, and Rauf have provoked sharp criticism from those who share their faith, but distant themselves from what they are promoting.

Jones’ call to burn the Koran reminds me of a personal experience. In 1965 I was teaching at Florida State University in Tallahassee, and signed on to a research project investigating how local governments were dealing with rapid development around Cape Canaveral (or maybe by then it was Cape Kennedy). On several Sunday mornings I made the long drive across central Florida in order to begin interviews on Monday. Looking for something to hear on the car radio I happened on sermons that shocked me for the virulence of their anti-Catholicism. I had read of the Pope being called the devil and whore of Rome, and of his plans to rule the world, but had never heard those things spoken by living preachers. I felt that somewhere between Tallahassee and the Florida coast, perhaps near Gainesville, I had fallen off the edge of civilization.

I see these columns as my part in conversations, rather than one-way reports of truth as I see it.
Comments on the nuttiness of Israeli concerns with Summer Time and Yom Kippur brought me a note from a friend who once worked in the Kansas Governor’s Office, screening the mail from citizens. One letter came from a farmer intense about the damage done by Daylight Savings Time. By his reckoning, the extra hour of sunlight was destroying his crops.
Another friend who gets these notes, along with some of his students, are at the University of Florida. I’ll rely on them to report if they know of anyone joining the burning of Korans, and if there are still preachers burning up the airwaves with curses against Rome. Newspapers report that Jones’ church has only 50 members, but that he is receiving Korans from elsewhere for his pyre.

Jones has received more attention than the fire that destroyed a mosque being constructed near Nashville, Tennessee. Jones is a preacher explaining his intentions, rather than an anonymous arsonist.

We will see the downside of Jones’ crusade–as well as that mosque burning–in whatever is added to attacks against American troops, or by noisy parades and denunciations. Rabbi Ovadia’s call on the Almighty to destroy the Palestinians has brought something between ridicule and protest from Palestinians and others, including Israeli Jews. Rauf’s efforts to create an Islamic Center near Ground Zero has resulted in polls showing a majority of Americans opposed, as well as comments from Muslims divided between those who fear the repercussions, applause for his expressions of multiculturalism and moderation, and from those who admire what they see as his furthering the Muslim conquest of the United States.

Ranking Americans have condemned Jones in the strongest of terms. His feeble gesture may be enough to undue whatever Barack Obama was able to achieve by his Cairo speech and everything else he has done to distance his wars against Muslims from a conflict with Islam.

In these disputes along the borders between religion and politics, everyone can claim to be on the side of God and Justice. Jean Paul Sartre’s description of the God-shaped hole in the human heart alludes to the near universal phenomenon of belief, while leaving room for the hole to be shaped differently in each of us. The Pantheon is ecumenical. It offers a home for those who hate as well as those who love.

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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University.