Latest Helmsley Grants Target Israeli Innovation



The Helmsley Charitable Trust has announced more than $9.6 million in grants to four Israeli institutions, bringing the trust’s philanthropic investment in the Jewish state to a total of $131.8 million since 2009.

“These grants demonstrate our continuing philanthropic approach toward Israel,” Helmsley trustee Sandor Frankel said in a statement. “They strengthen Israel’s scientific, technological and medical research, benefiting the nation’s top tier institutions and academics. They also help to solve problems leading the global agenda. These grants will support Israeli innovation so it will continue to make Israel and the rest of the world a healthier and safer place for all.”

The trust is also funding the publication of a “fact-based historical record of the 2014 Gaza war” to support “IsraelZs image in the world as a free and democratic nation defending its citizens.”

The four institutions receiving grants this month are the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, whose $1.5 million grant will be used to develop land and water utilization strategies; the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, whose $2.24 million grant will fund the recruitment of biomedical science faculty; the Weizmann Institute of Science, whose two grants totaling $5.74 million will be used in the fight against inflammatory bowel disease and the development of magnetic resonance imaging protocols; and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

University Posts Rosenberg Letters Online

Public Domain

A new website on convicted Soviet spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg provides access to a collection of more than 500 letters between the couple while they were imprisoned.

The website,, was launched last week by the Howard Gotlieb Archival Center at Boston University.

Maintaining their innocence until the end, the Rosenbergs were executed on conspiracy charges for passing along secret information to the Soviet Union.

The controversial Cold War-era trial of the Jewish couple, and their executions in 1953, sparked worldwide protests and continues to capture the attention of students and scholars of law, history and politics as well as artists, musicians, filmmakers and the general public.

The extensive collection of letters, acquired from the Rosenbergs’ sons, Michael and Robert Meeropol, includes more than three dozen letters between the Rosenbergs and their lawyer, Emanuel Bloch, that have never been available to researchers or the public as well as more contemporary publications from the National Committee to Reopen the Rosenberg Case.

Additional material includes pamphlets, newspaper clippings, sheet music of songs about the Rosenbergs and the Rosenbergs’ wills. The letters between the couple are high resolution digitized images.

In the last letter Ethel wrote to her children, on June 19, 1953, she says she is innocent and goes to her death unafraid because she knows she is doing it for a greater cause.

“Eventually, too, you must come to believe that life is worth the living,” Ethel wrote.

The $50K Sukkah: Celebrating the Holiday in Style

101014_mishmash_sukkahWith its panoramic views of Jerusalem, plush seating area and decorative elements, this could be almost any other room at the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel. Except the floor is made of AstroTurf, the walls are made of transparent cloth, and the roof is a bamboo mat.

Welcome to one of a dozen private sukkahs built on the porches of the five-star hotel’s Penthouse Suites.

These 12 private sukkah suites represent the vanguard of holiday hotel luxury in Jerusalem. They carry an all-inclusive price tag of approximately $50,000 for a family of four for the eight-day holiday. The seating area in the 430-square-foot sukkah includes a wide red couch, two matching armchairs and a glass coffee table with a polished wood frame. There’s also a dining area and walls decorated with faux grapes hanging from a wooden weave.

Like most hotels in Israel, the Inbal also builds two huge sukkahs for the regular folks: huts that together can accommodate 600 guests at mealtime. But those who can afford a more intimate experience need not leave their penthouses during the holiday.

Waiters serve hot meals from a kitchen set up on an annex on the top floor. Guests dine with sterling silverware on a starched, white tablecloth. When the meal is over, waiters clean the table and bring in cots for guests who want to sleep in the sukkah at night.

The whole enterprise, whose planning began three months ago, costs the hotel around $100,000, including dozens of extra staffers for the penthouse floor, according to Alex Herman, the Inbal’s vice president of sales and marketing.

What Did King David Drink?



The small cardboard box in Elyashiv Drori’s palm looks like it’s full of black pebbles.

Closing the box quickly, he explains that it cannot be open for long. The pebble-like pieces, which were uncovered in an archaeological dig near Jerusalem’s Old City, are, in fact, remains of a kilo of grapes stored nearly 3,000 years ago. They were preserved under layers of earth from the era when David and Solomon ruled over the Land of Israel.

Next to his laboratory at Ariel University, Drori — an oenophile who has judged international wine competitions — already has barrels of wine made from grapes that have grown in Israel for two millennia. Finding a living sample of the 3,000-year-old grapes will be the next step in his years-long quest to produce wine identical to that consumed in ancient Israel.

“It’s not interesting to make chardonnay in Israel because there’s chardonnay that comes from California,” said Drori, the agriculture and oenology research coordinator at the Samaria and Jordan Rift Center of Ariel University. “But if you can make wine in Israel that isn’t elsewhere and that connects to the history here, that’s much more interesting.”

Today, there are hundreds of Israeli wineries, but they largely use varieties of grapes that are indigenous to Europe. By finding grapes native to Israel, Drori hopes to bring Israeli winemaking back to its roots.

One major hurdle: The area’s past Muslim rulers prohibited alcohol consumption for centuries, and many indigenous grape varieties all but fell out of use. But some of the grape varieties survived.

Cremisan Cellars, a winery outside Bethlehem run by Italian monks, has produced a dry white wine called Hamdani Jandali that is made from two species indigenous to the area. Drori has found mentions of Jandali and Hamdani grapes in Second Temple-era texts from 2,000 years ago and is preparing to showcase kosher wines made from the grapes at a festival next summer.

“We want wine that’s good because of its quality and its story,” he said. “Our goal is to interest the vineyards to bring the antique species back.”

Jewish Women’s Foundation takes a giant step forward

092614_mishmash_philanthropyThe Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Greater Palm Beaches plans to become the first of 24 national Jewish women’s funds affiliated with a local federation to establish itself as an autonomous organization.

“Twelve years ago, an insightful and committed group of forward-thinking Jewish women came together to implement a new philanthropic model for affecting social change to support women and girls in our community and around the world,” said Tami Baldinger, CEO of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Greater Palm Beaches. “Our local Jewish Federation saw the potential, supporting and nurturing our foundation to the point that our trustees felt ready to launch it as an independent entity.”

Strengthened by major donations, including a $1 million gift from a single donor, the trustees decided that independence would enable the foundation to deepen its impact, tell its story more broadly and bring more women into its ever-widening circle of stakeholders.

The Jewish Women’s Foundation has awarded more than $1.5 million in grants to organizations in the U.S., Israel and around the world that empower women and girls to achieve social and economic equality. In the coming year, the foundation plans to make at least $200,000 in additional grants, using social change philanthropy, advocacy and education to ensure that women and girls can reach their fullest potential

As an independent organization, the Jewish Women’s Foundation will be able to fully execute on its social change vision and go beyond the limits of the Federation’s mission of direct service, say officials. An autonomous Jewish Women’s Foundation will also be able to ensure accountability to its stakeholders, build its own infrastructure and make its own investment decisions.


Study: Test All Women of Ashkenazi Descent for BRCA Defect



JERUSALEM — All women of Ashkenazi descent should be screened from age 30 for the BRCA gene mutation that causes breast cancer, an Israeli study recommends.

The study, by a research team headed by Ephrat Levy-Lahad of Shaare Zedek Medical Center, was published last Friday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America and mirrors a recent call by geneticist and discoverer of the BRCA gene Mary-Claire King of the University of Washington for all women of 30 years of age to undergo screening for the gene.

Until now, Ashkenazi women have been tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes only if a close blood relative had breast or ovarian cancer or were identified as carrying the gene.

The research was conducted on a random group of Jewish women of Ashkenazi origin who did not necessarily have a family history of the disease.

Many of the women identified during the study as being mutation carriers would not have known otherwise, according to the study. The mutation can be handed down to women through their fathers.

Trailblazing Cheese Whiz Preps Special Holiday Fare

090514_mishmashIf you’re going to Brent Delman’s home in the New York City suburb of Yonkers on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, don’t expect to see the typical meat menu.

Delman and his physician wife, Patricia, plan to host a dairy lunch on the first day that features casseroles and quiches. The meal also will feature a cheese tasting with tropical fruits such as guava, dates and figs.

The sharpness of the cheeses and the sweetness of the fruits make a delicious combination, he said.

What do you expect from someone who dubs himself “The Cheese Guy”?

Delman has plans too for the holiday’s most symbolic food.

“When you drizzle honey over the cheese,” he said, “it’s just a beautiful combination.”

Delman, 51, will be using cheeses he ages in his cheese cellar three steps below ground in his home in Yonkers, which borders the Bronx.

He has 300 wheels and blocks of such varieties as havarti, provolone, cheddar, Swiss, Gouda, Pecorino Romano and several variations of parmesan. With the High Holidays approaching, Delman is preparing a line of brie that he considers ideal for Yom Kippur break-fasts, when eager eaters look for what to slather on their bagels.

The cheeses he ages are certified kosher by the Orthodox Union. Those he cures in such solutions as oil, beer and wine are not yet OU-certified.

Conservative Movement Expanding Access

082914_mishmash_philanthropyThe United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, with support from the Ruderman Family Foundation, will launch an initiative to transform Conservative congregations into truly inclusive communities for people with disabilities.

Through the grant, the UCSJ will work with its affiliated congregations to develop comprehensive visions and action plans on inclusion. The goal is to create congregations where everything — from the entryway to the bima, from education programs to prayer services, from social activities to the very attitudes of congregants and leaders — allows people with disabilities and their families to participate fully and comfortably in congregational life.

“Many of our kehillot have begun to meet the need for inclusion, primarily in the architectural arena,” said Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of the Conservative movement’s umbrella group. “But few have been able to undertake the intense research, reflection and planning needed to make inclusion a spiritual and programmatic reality.”

The UCSJ will use the Ruderman grant to hire an inclusion specialist who will collaborate with its leadership consultants in working with congregations. The USCJ team will create an “action community” of 10 to 20 congregations that demonstrate the interest and readiness to study and work intensively on developing a realistic blueprint for change that will then be shared with other congregations.

“Inclusion of people of all different abilities is already an intrinsic value held by generations of younger Jews,” said Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “Working toward the goal of building an inclusive community, our foundation is proud to partner with United Synagogue to help encourage the establishment of inclusive synagogues across North America and thereby making our Jewish community more welcoming for all.”

Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

Roger Waters (Images Distribution Agence Quebec Presse/Newscom)

Roger Waters (Images Distribution Agence Quebec Presse/Newscom)

During the current conflict in Gaza, a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others have gone further by actively supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. Many of these celebrities endorse popular brands and products.

Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem: Actors Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, who are married, signed an open letter along with dozens of other Spanish film stars, denouncing Israel’s Operation Protective Edge as “genocide.” Cruz has endorsed products such as Lancôme, L’Oréal, Mango, Ralph Lauren, and Agent Provocateur. Bardem appeared in a campaign for Doctors Without Borders.

Roger Waters: The front man for Pink Floyd has long been an outspoken supporter of the BDS movement. He has refused to perform in Israel and has called on other musicians to cancel their concerts there, He has compared Israelis to Nazis. In the 1990s, Volkswagen sponsored the tours of several bands, including Pink Floyd, and issued a special edition Golf car named after the band.

Danny Glover: In 2009, the actor signed on to a declaration condemning Israel as an “apartheid regime” and dismissing the work of Tel Aviv filmmakers featured in the Toronto International Film Festival as “Israeli propaganda.” In 2010, Glover became a brand ambassador for the nutrition company Eiro.

Another Wartime Aliyah Airlift

081514_mishmash_IsraelDespite tensions surrounding the war in Gaza, 338 new immigrants from the United States and Canada departed John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Aug. 4 on an aliyah charter flight to Israel. The special Nefesh B’Nefesh flight was organized in cooperation with the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel, JNF-USA and Tzofim Garin Tzabar.

Included in the group of olim were 108 young men and women who will be serving in the Israel Defense Forces.

The large group included 37 families with 107 children. The passenger list also included 65 immigrants moving to Israel’s periphery as part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh and Keren Kayemeth L’Israel Go North and Go South programs. Altogether, the group will be settling in every part of Israel, from Ma’alot in the north to Eilat in the south.

They hail from 27 states and three Canadian provinces and range in age from a 6-week-old baby to a 93-year-old great-grandparent in a family of four generations making aliyah together.

“I find it profoundly inspiring that we have a 747 jumbo jet filled to capacity with people from the North American Jewish community making aliyah, especially at such a challenging time,” said Nefesh B’Nefesh co-founder and executive director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass. “To see that Jews everywhere, young and old, religious and secular, are determined to fulfill the dream of helping to build the Jewish state is truly amazing.”