Brazilian ‘Model Knesset’ Event Draws 120 Young Applicants

082815_mishmash_democracyThe Jewish Agency for Israel is organizing a Model Knesset event in Brazil for 120 young Jews and non-Jews who will simulate the work of the parliament in Jerusalem.

The event, which is scheduled to take place in Sao Paulo next month for the second consecutive year, will feature two days of mock votes and deliberations meant to simulate the Knesset.

The event on Sept. 6-7 is designed so that all major Jewish streams and political movements are represented, according to a statement about the project published last week on the website of CONIB, the umbrella group of Brazil’s Jewish communities. Delegates will include Israeli Russians, Ethiopians, Haredi Orthodox Jews and secular Jews under the age of 26.

Non-Jewish participants will include Arabs, Druze and Bedouins, according to the statement.

But participants will not all necessarily be able to choose which party or stream they will represent at the event, according to the statement that said that those who registered early will have priority in this regard over latecomers.

The exercise is meant to “get to know the complexities of social, religious, diplomatic and cultural issues in the State of Israel and the Middle East” and “experience the atmosphere in which decisions are taken” in the Jewish state.

Shipwreck Off Israel’s Coast, Long Unidentified, Linked to Early Zionist

082115_mishmash_historyA shipwreck discovered off Israel’s coast almost 40 years ago has been identified as likely a vessel belonging to Edmond James de Rothschild, a French Jewish banker and philanthropist.

Although discovered in 1976 off Dor Beach, near Zichron Yaakov, which is on the Mediterranean coast between Haifa and Tel Aviv, the shipwreck had not been studied until recently, when Haifa
University archaeologists undertook the project, Ha’aretz reported last week.

“The ship we have found is structurally consistent with the specifications of the Baron’s ships,
carried a similar cargo and sailed and sank during the right period,” said Deborah Cvikel and Micky Holtzman, who are investigating the shipwreck.

The archaeologists believe the shipwreck is the remains one of three ships dispatched by
Rothschild for use in a glass factory near Zichron Yaakov, which he built more than a century ago.

Rothschild, who lived from 1845 to 1934, was a vocal Zionist and supported several projects in Israel, including the glass factory, helping to found the town of Rishon Lezion and establishing the still-operating Carmel Winery in Zichron Yaakov. Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv is named for him.

Although they are not 100 percent certain the ship was Rothschild’s, “there seem to be more than a few items that connect it with Zichron Yaacov, with the glass factory at Tantura and with the baron’s ships,” they told Ha’aretz.

Radar Uncovers Remains of Great Synagogue of Vilna

081415_mishmash_europeA radar survey has found that significant pieces of Lithuania’s largest synagogue complex, which was damaged by the Nazis and destroyed by the Soviets, still remain but are buried underground.

The ground-penetrating radar survey conducted in June in Vilnius (previously called Vilna) by a joint team of academics from Israel and the United States will help guide an archaeological
excavation of the Great Synagogue and Shulhof of Vilna scheduled for 2016, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a news release.

Remains discovered under the site, where a school now stands, include sections of the Great Synagogue and possible remnants of its mikvahs. Built in the 17th century in the Renaissance-Baroque style, the synagogue was “the oldest and most significant monument of Lithuanian Jewry,” according to the news release.

Over the years, several other Jewish facilities sprung up around the synagogue, including
12 synagogues, kosher meat stalls, a Judaica library and several mikvahs.Vilna was a major center of Jewish learning and scholarship until the Holocaust.

The Israel Antiquities Authority is proposing that the 2016 excavation be conducted by a “mixed team of archaeologists and student volunteers from Lithuania, Israel and the worldwide Jewish
community with the aim of ensuring that Jewish-built cultural heritage is seen as an important and inseparable part of Lithuanian heritage.”

Chasidic Teen’s Poem About Day in Her Life Goes Viral

080715_mishmash_literatureA poem by a Chasidic teenage girl from Brooklyn has gone viral on social media.

“Worst Day Ever?” by Chanie Gorkin was first posted last year on the Poetry Nation website, where Gorkin is a member. The poem was published in a collection of poems titled “Beyond the Sea: Odyssey” and put Gorkin, of the Crown Heights neighborhood, in the semifinals of the website’s July to December 2014 contest.

A copy of the poem, about a day in Gorkin’s life, was hung last week on a grocery store bulletin board, photographed and posted online. It was shared and liked thousands of times on social media, according to Poetry Nation.

Several days later Gorkin, an 11th-grader at the all-girls Lubavitch high school Beth Rivkah in Crown Heights, was identified as the author. The poem reportedly was written for a class assignment.

The work sounds pessimistic when read from top to bottom, but the reader is instructed at the end to reread it from the bottom up to find out how Gorkin really felt about her day.

It reportedly has been translated into several languages, including Hebrew, Chinese and Russian.

Gorkin’s mother, Dena, who first shared the poem on her Facebook page without crediting her daughter as the author at the teen’s request, told Poetry Nation that her daughter does not even know yet about the success of her poem since she is at summer camp and does not have access to a computer or the Internet. Dena Gorkin said she was “glad that it’s having a positive effect on people.”

Facebook Acquiring Fourth Israeli Company

073115_mishmash_businessJERUSALEM — Facebook is acquiring an Israeli startup company that has developed technology for operating a computer through hand and finger gestures.

Pebbles Interfaces, based in Kfar Saba, is Facebook’s fourth acquisition in Israel, the Israeli
business daily Globes reported last week. Facebook reportedly has agreed to pay $60 million for
the company.

Pebbles Interfaces made the announcement on its website, saying it was joining Oculus, which Facebook acquired for $2 billion. The acquisition is being made through Oculus, according to Globes.

“For the last five years, we’ve been focused on building a technology that extends human behavior, enabling simple and intuitive interaction with any consumer electronic device,” the announcement said. “At the same time, we’ve seen virtual reality make huge strides, changing the way people interact with one another. At the forefront of that shift is Oculus, and joining Oculus will help advance our vision building immersive experiences and revolutionizing digital
human interaction.”

It is not known whether the company’s employees will remain in Israel or not, according to Globes.

Potentially Exculpatory Testimony Unsealed in Rosenberg Case

072415_mishmash_justiceNewly unsealed court records may provide fodder for those who believe Ethel Rosenberg was wrongly convicted and executed.

Rosenberg and her husband, Julius, who were Jewish, were famously put to death in 1953 in
Ossining, N.Y., for conspiring to share atomic secrets with the Soviet Union.

The potentially exculpatory material is in testimony by Rosenberg’s brother David Greenglass that was unsealed last week, the Associated Press reported. Greenglass, who died last July at 92, was the lead witness in the McCarthy-era case against the Rosenbergs.

In the 1951 trial, Greenglass said he shared information he had obtained from the Los Alamos, N.M., headquarters of the Manhattan Project with the Rosenbergs and that he saw Ethel Rosenberg transcribe the information on a typewriter in 1945.

In the newly released 46-page transcript of a grand jury hearing on Aug. 7, 1950, which is believed to be the last material from the case to have remained classified, Greenglass made no mention of his sister’s typing and said he had never discussed spying with her.

Greenglass, who was indicted as a co-conspirator, served nearly 10 years in prison, then changed his name, The New York Times reported.

Tracked down decades later by a Times reporter, Greenglass said he had lied on the witness stand to save his sister from prosecution, according to the newspaper.

Greenglass said in the 1950 testimony that while his brother-in-law urged him to stay in the Army in order to “continue giving him information,” he never spoke to his sister about the topic.

“I said before, and say it again, honestly, this is a fact: I never spoke to my sister about this at all,”
he said.

After Greenglass’ death, the Rosenbergs’ sons, according to the AP, issued a statement saying that David and Ruth Greenglass had passed atomic secrets to the Soviets, then “pinned what they did on our parents — a calculated ploy to save themselves by fingering our parents as the scapegoats the government demanded.”

Hoop Dream: Jordan Farmar Returning to Maccabi Tel Aviv

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Jordan Farmar

Jordan Farmar, a Jewish NBA player who won two league championships as a member of his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, is heading back to Israel to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Farmar played 16 games for Maccabi Tel Aviv during the NBA lockout of 2011. The 6-foot-2 guard, a standout at UCLA, was on the Lakers for five seasons. He also has played for the New Jersey Nets and Los Angeles Clippers, who released him in January. Farmar averaged 7.7 points and 2.9 assists over his NBA career.

“I’m very excited, happy to have received this opportunity, and I’m ready for the big challenge,”
Farmar told the Maccabi website.  “I can’t wait for the moment that I return to the place that is like a home to me — the State of Israel, the city of Tel Aviv and Maccabi.”

Maccabi’s head coach Guy Goodes told The Jerusalem Post that the club is  “very happy” to have
Farmar returning.

“We all know about his massive, massive talent, endless offensive capabilities and his great experience in the NBA,” Goodes said.

Meanwhile, Omri Casspi, the first Israeli to play in the NBA, recently signed a two-year, $6 million contract to remain with the Sacramento Kings, which drafted him in 2009 and reacquired him for the 2014-15 season. Casspi averaged nearly 20 points per game during the second half of last season.

Jerusalem Family Renovation Uncovers 2,000-Year-Old Mikvah

A Jerusalem family uncovered an ancient mikvah beneath their home. Israel’s Antiquities Authority, which excavated the 2,000-year-old ritual bath, unveiled the find last week.

A trapdoor covered by a rug leads down to the bath in the living room of the Shimshoni family, who uncovered the site during renovations of their home in the Ein Kerem neighborhood. Christians have believed for centuries that John the Baptist, the ascetic Jewish preacher who inspired Jesus, was from Ein Kerem.

Amit Reem, an Antiquities Aauthority archaeologist, said the finding reinforces theories that the town was a Jewish settlement during the Second Temple period.

“The discovery of this mikvah strengthens the hypothesis that in the area of Ein Kerem today, there was a Second Temple Jewish settlement,” he told the Times of Israel.

Woman to lead Rome Jewish Community for First Time

The Colosseum in Rome.

The Colosseum in Rome.

For the first time, a woman has been appointed to lead the Jewish community of Rome.

Ruth Dureghello, 48, who has managed a Jewish day school in the city for the past seven years, was named president on June 23 at the first meeting of the new Rome community council, which was elected on June 14. There are 27 members on the council.

“It’s time to put aside any rivalries and work together for the good of the community,” Dureghello, who heads the For Israel list, said in her inaugural address.

In her address, she announced her intention to create a unity board that includes the other three lists that participated in the election.

The current community president, Riccardo Pacifici, was not eligible for re-election because of a regulation that prevents serving more than three consecutive terms. Pacifici is the founder of the For Israel list.

Coca-Cola Palestine Threatened with Lawsuit

JERUSALEM — An Israeli civil rights group has called on the Coca-Cola company to sever its ties with its Palestinian subsidiary over calls by its head to boycott Israel.

In a letter to Coca-Cola CEO Mukhtar Kent last week, Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center warned the company that actions by Zahi Khouri, CEO of Coca-Cola Palestine, violate U.S. and international laws and threatened a lawsuit.

“This letter is a warning to the Coca-Cola Company that it should rescind its franchise agreement with the Palestinian National Beverage Company, headed by Zahi Khouri, who openly advocates for BDS against Israel,” the Israel Law Center said. “The Coca-Cola Company should not affiliate itself with any person or entity calling for a boycott or similar effort against the Israeli government or the nation’s manufacturers, companies, products or services.”

The center also called on Coca-Cola to make clear that it will not support any kind of boycott against Israel.

In a Sept. 14 column in the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, Khouri expressed his support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. He also called for the international community to force Israel into a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

The Zionist Organization of America also condemned Khouri and called on Coca-Cola to immediately and publicly condemn and repudiate his remarks.