Akiba Hebrew Academy graduates Michael Bihovsky, Adam Levinthal and Andrew Davies star in the newly-released, full-length musical animated comedy DVD Megillas Lester, presented by EMES Productions, produced by Kolrom Animation Studios, and distributed by ArtScroll.
Bihovsky, who directed and starred in One Grain More and Fresh! now voices Doniel "Lester" Lesterovitch, an average boy in a Jewish elementary school. While directing his school's Purim play, Lester gets a knock on the head from a fallen box of puffy paint and falls unconscious. Suddenly, Lester finds himself in the middle of the feast of King Achashverosh, and through a case of mistaken identity, it is Lester who is asked to go summon Queen Vashti to the party.
The Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia will mark its 18th year Saturday, March 8, with a screening of the comedy "Hunting Elephants" and a gala dessert reception at the University of Pennsylvania's International House.
The movie features Sir Patrick Stewart, joining Israeli acting veterans Sasson Gabai and Moni Moshonov in a cinematic romp in which three elderly men and a young teenager decide to rob a Jerusalem bank.
On Sunday, March 9, the International House will offer three movies. First at 2:30 p.m., "Hunting Elephants" will be screened again.
(CAMERA) On a number of college campuses, this week is "Israel Apartheid Week," a week where anti-Israel activists try to fool students into believing Israel systematically and legally oppresses minorities.
How can we help our children become academically accomplished? Parents want to do what is best for their children, but don't always know how they can help. According to a Northwestern University 2007 study of 35,000 preschoolers in the United States, Canada and England, when controlling for IQ, family income, gender, temperament, type of previous educational experience, and whether children came from single or two parent families, the study found that the mastery of early math concepts on school entry was the very strongest predictor of future academic success. "Mastery of early math skills predicts not only future math achievement, it also predicts future reading achievement," Greg Duncan, author of the study, said. "And it does so just as reliably as early literacy mastery of vocabulary, letters and phonetics predicts later reading success. The opposite, reading skills predicting math success, does not hold up." However, in early learning environments, most of the time and attention are focused upon early language and literacy skills.
Every U.S. administration has had disagreements with Israel, including on settlements and building in Jerusalem. But unlike many other administrations, the Obama administration has never threatened Israel, let alone taken action against it.
— by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center
Like millions of concerned people around the world, we hope that the emerging leadership in Ukraine will steer a course based on democratic values and inclusion, including guaranteeing rights and safety for its large Jewish communities and their communal institutions.
As the late Simon Wiesenthal said, "Where democracy is strong, it is good for Jews and where it is weak, it is bad for Jews." Nothing will better guarantee a future for Ukrainian Jewry than the end of violent confrontations and the restoration of true democratic rule.
When was the last time you heard about Chuck Hagel or Samantha Power from our Republican friends? Remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth that preceded their confirmations?
After taking office, Hagel issued a statement firmly reiterating our support for Israel and our commitment to stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Then, he went to Israel and finalized a huge arms deal with the Jewish State.
After taking office, Power reiterated our determination to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. She recently announced that the U.S. "strongly supports Israel's candidacy" for a seat on the U.N. Security Council and that she will "never give up" on that effort.
Last week, Obama appointed Robert Malley to the National Security Council, and those of us who are subscribed to the "right" emails are now being treated to another round of Republican hysteria, courtesy of recycled smears from 2008.
This week, the federal government released new comprehensive statewide and national data on how many Americans have enrolled in new, more affordable health coverage through the Affordable Care Act's Marketplaces.
The data shows that nearly 3.3 million people had chosen health plans through state-run exchanges as well as the federal exchange by February 1 — a 53% increase over the number enrolled a month earlier.
Many of these individuals are already receiving coverage as of January 1. Those who enroll by March 15 will receive their coverage starting April 1.
Open enrollment ends on March 31. Anyone who hasn't enrolled by then, may have to wait until 2015 for health insurance and may be subject to a penalty.
During a Monday meeting in her Philadelphia office, the regional director of the Department of Health and Human Services, Joanne Grossi, told local organizations working on enrollment that the area had achieved the second-highest percentage in the federal marketplace, after Miami. This ranking was among cities in the 36 states that allowed the federal government to run their insurance exchange. Some larger cities, including New York and Los Angeles, are in states that created their own insurance marketplaces.
More than half of the enrollees (55 percent) are women and nearly 1 in 3 enrollees in January were younger than 35.
Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania's CEO, Dayle Steinberg, said, "These numbers are not surprising, given the law's protections and benefits for women.
"That's why Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania is working to ensure that our patients and the communities we serve understand what they are eligible to receive."
The Kirk-Menendez bill started out as a bipartisan effort to increase pressure on Iran. It was introduced in December with 13 Democratic and 13 Republican cosponsors, amidst concerns that the clock was ticking and the interim agreement with Iran had not yet been implemented.
But once the interim agreement took effect, and after the administration shared more details about the plan, support for a vote on Kirk-Menendez began to evaporate, especially among Democrats. It began to look less like a bipartisan effort to do the right thing and more like a vehicle for Republicans to drive a wedge between pro-Israel Democrats and President Obama.
The bottom finally fell out on Thursday, when Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and 41 other Republican senators sent a letter demanding a vote. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the bill's co-author, responded by warning against making the bill a partisan issue.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) released a statement saying that, "We agree with the Chairman [Sen. Menendez] that stopping the Iranian nuclear program should rest on bipartisan support and that there should not be a vote at this time on the measure."
For decades, Abe Foxman has been a tireless voice against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all of its forms, always calling us to reject hatred and embrace our common humanity.
Michelle and I wish him well as he prepares to leave the leadership of the Anti-Defamation League — an organization that he built, and led with such passion and persistence. Abe is irreplaceable, but the causes that he has dedicated his life to will continue to inspire people in the United States, Israel, and around the world.
Take Issa Abd Rabbo. When he was released recently, he was welcomed home personally by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who raised Rabbo's hand in victory and referred to the double killer as a hero.
He calls men like Rabbo "the best of the Palestinian people".
Rabbo killed two university students, Revital Seri, 22, and her friend Ron Levi, 23.
Some on the far right are telling us that Secretary of State John Kerry threatened Israel with a boycott if peace talks with the Palestinians were not successful. In fact, Kerry and the U.S. strongly oppose and will oppose any boycotts of Israel.
Kerry was simply pointing out the irrefutable: If Israel is seen as unreasonably blocking peace negotiations, the chance of more boycotts against Israel will increase.
The State Department spokesperson, Jen Psaki, said on February 2 that, "At the Munich Security Conference yesterday, [Kerry] spoke forcefully in defense of Israel's interests, as he consistently has throughout his public life."
In response to a question about the peace process, he also described some well-known and previously stated facts about what is at stake for both sides if this process fails, including the consequences for the Palestinians. His only reference to a boycott was a description of actions undertaken by others that he has always opposed.
With the Winter Olympic Games underway in Sochi, Russia, the Jewish debate on the games mirrors the discourse taking place in the broader international and athletic communities.
While some Jews say they view the games purely as sport — with social or political issues not factoring into their evaluation — not all can ignore Russia's controversial "gay propaganda" legislation, political detentions, and allegations of Olympic corruption, and the recent terrorist threats against the games.
One Jewish resident of Moscow, Anya Levitov, said the various sensitive issues in Russia "make these games anything but an event to follow."
The Republican National Committee (RNC) announced the launch of a new start-up lab called "Para Bellum Labs, America!" The phrase "parabellum" was used by a German arms manufacturer as a name for its signature guns: first, the light machine gun used by the Kaiser's best during World War I, and then its most iconic gun: the Parabellum Pistole, or the "Luger pistol."
Frankly, I am astounded and sorely disappointed that the RNC would put so little thought into the message of their new venture. Using the phrasing "para bellum" not only exploits horrific symbolism, but also communicates a fatalist & violent message toward any who differ with you.
The RNC should immediately repudiate the name of this venture, denounce the approach it suggests, and apologize to all the people this names offends — those of the Greatest Generation, those who have ever been victims of gun violence, and those in the Jewish community and beyond who were victims of the Nazi genocide.
Left to right: Mayor Michael Nutter and his wife Lisa with the Temple University School of Medicine's vice president for development, Nina Weisbord, and dean, Dr. Larry Kaiser.
— article and photos by Bonnie Squires
More than $1 million was raised at the American Academy of Music's 157th annual anniversary concert and ball in Philadelphia last weekend.
Despite bitter cold and snow-covered streets, the events attracted about 1,200 guests, including Mayor Michael Nutter and many Jewish philanthropists.
The event's theme was "Preserving the Heritage," and accordingly, the raised money will be used for installing a new HVAC system and other repairs to the historic Academy building — the first opera house built in the U.S.
The building resides in the Avenue of the Arts, and is often called the "Grand Old Lady of Broad Street."
Those who oppose the bill are not soft on Iran and are no less concerned about Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. They oppose the bill because, in their view, the bill violates the interim agreement, would lessen the likelihood of a diplomatic solution, and weaken the sanctions architecture.
This is not some kind of a litmus test. There are strong friends of the U.S.-Israel relationship on both sides of this issue. No one should equate support for new sanctions with support, or lack of support, for Israel.
Some people are judging the interim agreement by the standards of what we hope will be the final agreement.
The purpose of the interim agreement is to delay, not end, Iran's progress, so that Iran cannot run out the clock while we negotiate. It cannot and will not be the final agreement. If Iran does not fulfill its obligations under the interim agreement, it will lose even a limited sanctions relief.
"Jews in front of the Wall of Solomon" by Alexandre Bida, 1880.
— by Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch
Days before its opening, under pressure from Arab states, UNESCO suspended a major exhibit at its Paris headquarters on the Jewish people and Israel.
The UNESCO chief, Irina Bokova, justified her cancellation of Monday's Jewish exhibit by invoking UNESCO's alleged concern not to endanger the fragile Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Yet somehow, this noble principle of caution for peace never stopped UNESCO from excoriating Israel incessantly.
Since 2009, UN Watch has counted no less than 46 UNESCO resolutions against Israel, one on Syria, and zero on Iran, North Korea, Sudan or any other country in the world.
This malicious treatment is especially tragic because UNESCO was founded after World War II with the express purpose of combating the doctrine of the inequality of men and races. Today, as sadly, it has become a serial perpetrator of inequality.
One of Italy's newest culinary trends is coming from an unexpected source: the country's Jewish heritage.
The Cantone family, which has been producing goose salami for more than 40 years, wrote in its website that the connection between the area of Lomellina, Italy and the sausage is dating back to the 11th century.
Today, Italian goose salami is becoming much more popular, and even has a group of aficionados.
An Italian journalist and visiting scholar at the Center for Transatlantic Relations in Washington, D.C., Daniel Moro, said that "Italian goose salami is better than the meat from France."
When the U.N. gives credit to oppressive regimes, millions of human rights victims pay the price.
2014 begins tomorrow with China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia taking their new seats on the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Instead of elevating and legitimizing dictatorships, the U.N. should be advocating for the release of their political prisoners.
After the jump: Blaming the U.S. and Israel for the Boston Marathon bombings, questionable appointments of Iran and Syria, and blaming Israel for most of the world's troubles in the top-10 worst decisions list.
Remember the right-wing claims that once re-elected, President Obama would turn against Israel?
Instead, shortly after his re-election, he unequivocally supported Israel's right to defend itself in Operation Pillar of Defense.
Remember what our Republican friends told us about Obama when he ran for president in 2008?
Here is what they did not tell us:
that Obama would always back Israel at the U.N.,
that he would never cut aid to Israel, and
that regardless of any disagreement with Israel, he would never even threaten retaliatory action against Israel.
This is a far cry from the George W. Bush days, when loan guarantees were cut in response to settlement activity and when the U.S. stood idly by as the U.N. condemned Israel.
More after the jump including The Cartoon Kronicles' review of 2013.
If your alma matter or the college your child attends is not on the list, find out why.
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) voiced his opposition to the ASA boycott last week, and this week, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) penned a stinging rebuke to the ASA president, Curtis Marez:
I believe such action by the ASA is another example of the unfair double standard Israel is regularly and unfairly subjected to by organizations such as yours...
Unfortunately, your response that "we have to start somewhere" when queried about this contradiction only serves to highlight your organization's bias against Israel.
If you must "start somewhere," than I strongly suggest the ASA turn its attention to Syria, where Bashar al-Assad's forces have indiscriminately shelled universities, killing students even as they sat for exams.
The Jewish Educators Assembly (JEA) will appoint Michael Schatz of Elkins Park, Pennsylvania as its national president, during its annual conference in Atlanta on January 26-29.
Schatz is the director of the academic program of the Jewish Community High School, and an adjunct instructor at Gratz College. He has been active in JEA for 15 years, and has served on JEA's board of directors, as an officer and as the chair of national conference.
The American Association of University Professors said in an official letter that it opposes academic boycotts, including the ASA boycott, as violations of academic freedom.
The Anti-Defamation League wrote in a press release, "This shameful, morally bankrupt and intellectually dishonest attack on academic freedom by the [ASA] should be soundly condemned by all who are committed to the ideal that open exchange of ideas is the most effective way to achieve change."
Targeting Israeli institutions solely because they are in Israel — the only democratic country in the Middle East where scholarship and debate are encouraged and flourish — is based on a myopic and fundamentally distorted perspective of Israel and the conflict and is manifestly unjust.
Comments from Ambassador Oren, Rep. Schneider, JStreet, Peter Beinart and Jeff Goldberg follow the jump.
PA Minister Mahmoud Al-Habbash: "In less than two years, the Prophet returned and based on this treaty, he conquered Mecca. This is the example, this is the model."
— by Toby Klein Greenwald
David Makovsky, on leave from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was recently named to the State Department's Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiating team. Makovsky will be a senior adviser to Martin Indyk, who leads the team.
Makovsky, when asked a number of questions regarding his own writing and views on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, replied that he cannot have any contact with journalists, and referred me to a State Department official.
In an article Makovsky published in The Atlantic last January, he wrote:
President Abbas has also appeared recently on Israeli television, stating that he renounced any personal "right of return" to his home town of Safed — and that Palestine today means the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, but not pre-1967 Israel, "now and forever."
The U.S. should ask him to repeat those assurances, along with his public disagreement with Hamas about its rejection of the principle of peace with Israel.
Therefore, my first question was:
Has Abbas, in fact, ever made these assurances in Arabic? Or disagreed with Hamas in Arabic? And what about the fact that the focus of the Palestinians' plan of action is on the "right of return" to the area of Israel, as opposed to living in the West Bank?
The State Department official, in lieu of Makovsky, replied, "Regarding that first question, I will have to talk to my colleagues; I need a little bit longer. It will take some research."
After several days and phone and e-mail reminders, I did receive the following answer:
Unfortunately we have no additional comment...
The fact that a State Department official cannot (or will not) give answers to this critical question may indicate that there is a gap between the wishes of the U.S. government regarding the Palestinians' plans, and the reality on the ground.
This challenge is the most important civil rights case in Pennsylvania in years. As the case progresses through the lower courts and perhaps up to the Supreme Court, it could be a very suitable capstone to Aronchick's long and illustrious public career.
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