Jewish Trainer’s Horse Wins Preakness

Art Sherman, who trained Preakness Stakes and Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, has been involved in horse racing for more than 60 years. (David Stuck)

Art Sherman, who trained Preakness Stakes and Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, has been involved in horse racing for more than 60 years. (David Stuck)

Long before he trained the horse that won the famed Kentucky Derby earlier this month and Preakness this past weekend, Art Sherman was just another student at Hebrew school in suburban Los Angeles.

“It was a little different in that era,” said Sherman, 77, who dropped out before his bar mitzvah after a case of mistaken identity resulted in his getting whacked on the head with a ruler by the morah.

“I got up and never did go back,” Sherman said, laughing.

Today, what began more than 60 years ago as a half-joking suggestion that Sherman become a jockey has landed him in the history books as the oldest trainer to ever saddle the winner of the Derby.

“I was always on the small side,” said Sherman, trainer of California Chrome, which took the top spot on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course. Horse races were always on the TVs at his father’s barbershop, said Sherman, and some of the clients told him, “Gee, you’re little enough to be a jockey.” So Sherman decided to give it a shot.

“It was great,” he said of his first experiences riding at a ranch in Ontario, Calif., where he worked as a stable hand before becoming an
exercise rider.

After spending some time breaking in young horses, Sherman, a native of Brooklyn, eventually moved up to racing.

“[Racing] is a different ballgame,” said Sherman, who had to learn to get along with the much more high-strung horses, many of which weighed 1,200 or more pounds.

He was a jockey for 23 years, during which time he won some races but said he existed mostly “under the radar.” He retired from being a jockey with a win in his last race and, after winning his very first race as a trainer, became hooked on prepping the horses for the track.

In addition to his high-profile win, Sherman enjoyed his time in Baltimore by sampling local food. Though he loves traditional Jewish food — “I call it soul food,” he said he was especially looking forward to eating some of the local delicacies.

With a Preakness win for California Chrome, the horse is just one win away from claiming the Triple Crown.

Baltimore, Washington students awarded Bronfman Fellowships

Beth Tfiloh junior Rafi Lehmann says he is “honored to be a part of the program.” (Provided)

Beth Tfiloh junior Rafi Lehmann says he is “honored to be a part of the program.” (Provided)

The Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel recently selected its 2014 cohort of high school students from around the country who will be given the opportunity for an immersive summer study in Israel.

Rafi Lehmann, son of Pam and David Lehmann, is a junior at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community Day School in Baltimore. Lehmann is the student government president and captain of the mock trial and model U.N. teams, participates in both the BT choir and chamber choir and is on the school’s varsity cross country and track teams. Outside of Beth Tfiloh, Lehmann has volunteered with an inner-city public school tutoring initiative and participated in The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s Teen Giving Initiative.

Lehmann has been to Israel several times but said he is “looking forward to being a part of this group, meeting exceptional people with diverse backgrounds and engaging in conversation to help me delve more deeply into my Jewish beliefs.”

He added, “I’m just really excited and honored to be a part of the program.”

Talia Goldberg, daughter of Pamela Reeves and Jeffrey Goldberg, is a junior at Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C. An accomplished singer, Goldberg is a member of the GDS singers, and the school’s chamber choir, touring choir and all-girls a cappella group for which she serves as the manager. Goldberg has also performed at Adas Israel, where she and her family are members. Outside of school, Goldberg volunteers at Martha’s Table, a food bank and social service center.

“I’m looking forward to meeting other kids who are as interested as I am in Judaism and Judaism’s place in the world,” said Goldberg. “I don’t go to a Jewish day school, so it will be cool to meet students who are as interested.”

For the application process, students were asked to write essays about experiences that have shaped them as well as essays about their relationship to Judaism. Qualifying students were interviewed in person for the second stage, meeting with a director of the program and faculty.

The Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel enables students to participate in a five-week immersive study with esteemed faculty as well as meet political and cultural figures in Israel. Recipients also work with a peer group of Israeli students who have been selected for the Israeli Youth Fellowship program. This aspect of the program, according to the organization, reflects founder Edgar Bronfman’s belief that “the future of Jewish peoplehood should be considered a global enterprise, forged through deep collaboration, discourse and friendship between Israelis and Americans.”

‘Discovery and Recovery’

This Haggadah, published in Vienna in 1930, was among the artifacts in the Iraqi archives whose stay in the U.S. recently has been extended by two years. (Courtesy of National Archives)

This Haggadah, published in Vienna in 1930, was among the artifacts in the Iraqi archives whose stay in the U.S. recently has been extended by two years.
(Courtesy of National Archives)

A much-debated artifacts collection from the historical Jewish community in Baghdad that was slated to return to Iraq will remain in the United States for an additional two years, following last week’s announcement of an agreement between Iraqi officials and the U.S. State Department.

The agreement extends the exhibit of a selection of the artifacts, which is touring the U.S. and has already been displayed at New York City’s Museum of Jewish Heritage as well as the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Previously, the artifacts were scheduled to return to Iraq in June.

“The government of Iraq notes with satisfaction the remarkable success of the ‘Discovery and Recovery’ exhibit of the Iraqi Jewish Archive. This exhibit has led to an increase of understanding between Iraq and United States and a greater recognition of the diverse heritage of Iraq,” said Lukman Faily, Iraqi ambassador to the U.S., in a statement.

The final agreement came last week as Brett McGurk, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran, met with senior Iraqi officials in Baghdad to
discuss terrorism prevention.

Though both Iraqi officials and the State Department have kept quiet about the agreement’s details, including the length of the exhibit’s extension, the office of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) revealed in a May 16 news release that the extension is for two years. Toomey’s office told Washington Jewish Week that the State Department informed it about the extension’s duration over the phone.

“The fact that this [archive issue] is even on the agenda and being discussed, and being resolved in a way that seems to at least for the time being satisfy all the parties — that’s remarkable!” Stanley Urman, executive vice president of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, told WJW.

The Saddam Hussein regime in 1984 forcibly seized the 2,700-item collection that has become known as the “Iraqi Jewish Archive” from the Bataween Synagogue in Baghdad. The archive includes community records, Jewish books and sacred items that belonged to the Baghdadi Jewish community.

“Since the material was confiscated in the first place form the Iraqi Jewish community, we got involved with the Iraqi Embassy and the State Department, telling them that this was stolen from our community and is the patrimony of our people,” said World Organization of Jews from Iraq president Maurice Shohet, who served on a 2010 committee that reviewed some of the archive’s materials.

“This is material that belonged to the [Jewish] community, and it’s extremely important because there are personal documents and so on,” he said. “There were materials that were spiritual, unfortunately like Torah scrolls, that were buried. We had to bury them last December because they were unfit for use.”

U.S. Army Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha discovered the artifacts in 2003 when it raided the headquarters of the Mukhabarat, Iraq’s intelligence ministry. The items were found in the basement, flooded under four feet of water, requiring a $3 million, decade-long restoration process by the U.S. Archives and Records administration.

According to Ambassador Faily’s press release, items not making up the exhibit, such as duplicates of books and materials unrelated to the Jewish community, will be returned to Iraq.

Jews made up a thriving community in Iraq dating back to 720 B.C.E., and as recently as the 1940s Jews made up around a quarter of Baghdad’s population. But a June 1941 pogrom called the farhud presaged a much larger exodus of Iraqi Jews over the next decade.

Most Iraqi Jews living in the U.S. are based in the New York City area, and they are hopeful that the artifacts will remain permanently at a location where they can be accessible to Jews.

Both the House and Senate proposed resolutions asking the State Department to renegotiate a 2003 agreement it signed with the Iraqi government to return all the archive’s items to Iraq following their restoration. The Senate version passed by unanimous consent Feb. 6.

U.S. Sens. Toomey, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the authors of the Senate resolution, all praised the new agreement.

“This is terrific news,” Toomey said in a statement. “These priceless artifacts will remain in the United States for at least another two years, protected and accessible for descendants and scholars. I don’t believe we should send this collection back to a country where their owners no longer reside. I applaud the State Department’s efforts and attention on this matter and will remain committed to permanently safeguarding these relics.”

The World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, which has been involved in the archive issue, prefers a different approach to the Capitol Hill lobbying that has taken place.

“I spoke with the Prime Minister’s Office of Iraq and I requested that the prime minister give these artifacts as a gift to the Iraqi Jews in New York whom I represent,” said Heskel Haddad, the president of WOJAC.

Although Haddad is happy about the U.S. exhibit’s extension, he believes that it is pride — more than the actual financial worth of the artifacts — that is preventing the Iraqi government from relenting on its demand that the archive return to Iraq. He believes that requesting the archive as a gift to the Jewish community, rather than engaging in negotiations and legislative pressure, would help the Iraqis save face.

“We [Americans] don’t do things in a way that would give [other countries like Iraq] some respect,” Haddad said.

“We did that with Egypt, we did that with Syria, and we did that with Afghanistan,” he said. “This is my only disagreement [with the approach on the archive].”

Meanwhile, requests are being taken from institutions throughout the U.S. and Canada on where to display the exhibit next. Despite the two-year extension, most reputable collections book their displays far in advance, causing a logistical problem.

Details including the location and duration of the next exhibit are still being determined, but “we hope to have something to announce soon,” a State Department official told WJW.

“We look forward to continuing our cooperation with the government of Iraq on this matter so that the exhibit can be displayed in other cities in the U.S.,” the official said.

Shohet, of the World Organization of Jews from Iraq, explained that the issue is “when you prepare for the exhibit, it takes 18 months.”

“So originally, when we were involved with preparing the exhibits and the Museum for Jewish Heritage was chosen, we knew at the time that we had enough time, but the whole thing came to be approved just recently,” he said. “So it’s hard for us to know when the next exhibition is, because all of them have plans ahead of time.” contributed to this story.

O’Malley Signs Bill to Curb Scam Charities

Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a bill last week that will help the state identify bad charities and give them enforcement power over charities that aim to scam Maryland residents.

“I became aware of it from constituents who said ‘I got burned,’” said District 11 Delegate Dan Morhaim, who sponsored House Bill 1352. “And when they get burned, they don’t want to give again.” District 10 Sen. Delores Kelley cross-filed companion Senate Bill 0964.

The bill coordinates Maryland’s attorney general and secretary of state offices to identify and regulate bad charities, and shut them down if necessary. It also raises money for an updated charity database that Morhaim and advocates hope will eventually make 990s, the IRS forms nonprofits file, searchable.

“It deals with the resource problem by raising fees on charities that collect over half a million dollars a year,” said Henry Bogdan, director of public policy at the Maryland Nonprofits Association, referring to the limited resources the Maryland Secretary of State’s Office can devote to combing through 990s. “Charities say it’s worth it to have a searchable system.”

It is estimated that Marylanders give $1.5 billion to charity each year, said Morhaim, who is a member of the boards of the Baltimore Humane Society, Unified Community Connections and Health Care for the Homeless. Computerized filing will be easier for nonprofits and will help the state identify bad nonprofits, he added.

Morhaim cited a 2013 report by the Tampa Bay Times called “America’s Worst Charities,” which listed 50 charities that spent from no money to 11.1 percent of donations on the designated cause. The nonprofits had names such as Kids Wish Network, National Veterans Service Fund and National Caregiving Foundation.

“They sound good, and their websites are good, and people are nice on the phone when they call,” Morhaim said. “It sounds very legitimate, and people give money, and maybe they know that 90 percent or 99 percent of it doesn’t go to the designated cause.”

A work group consisting of stakeholders from the IRS, the nonprofit world and the state is being formed to monitor this issue and improve the system in coming years, Bogdan said.

“It’s important for charities that the public has trust in them,” he said. “It’s a difficult environment; we have to make sure we have the capacity to deal with it.”

Songs from the Heart

From left: Israel Defense Forces Naval Ensemble singers Neta Barzilai, Adar Hayat, Ohad Sabagi and Zlil Halaf performed for approximately 400 attendees of the FIDF event at Beth El Congregation’s Offit auditorium. (Melissa Gerr)

From left: Israel Defense Forces Naval Ensemble singers Neta Barzilai, Adar Hayat, Ohad Sabagi and Tslil Halaf performed for approximately 400 attendees of the FIDF event at Beth El Congregation’s Offit auditorium.
(Melissa Gerr)

Four singing privates first class of the Israel Defense Forces Naval Ensemble had the audience clapping, singing and even dancing to the spirited and soulful songs they performed for the approximately 400 attendees in Beth El Congregation’s Offit Auditorium.

The event, presented by Friends of the IDF and Beth El Congregation, honored Charlie Levine, founder of the Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Midatlantic FIDF chapters, who was described in his introduction as “the spark that started it all … and kept it going.” The event also recognized Noah Abrams, son of Cheryl and Tim Abrams, for his bar mitzvah project Buckets for FIDF, a basketball tournament that raised more than $1,100 for FIDF. Also recognized and honored were the 65 lone soldiers and their families in Maryland.

“These soldiers are laying their lives down for Israel and every Jew worldwide,” said event co-chair Shirley Cohen. “We help them every way we can. If Israel is lost, we’re all gone.”

Vickie and Eugene Meyer also co-chaired the event, which raises awareness of and funds for the FIDF and the Lone Soldier program. Israel’s lone soldiers are those who choose to leave their countries of origin to serve in Israel’s military and whose families live abroad.

Approximately 950 lone soldiers join the army each year. An interviewee in a video shown that evening explained the program’s mission succinctly: When one thinks of Israeli soldiers, it conjures images of brave men and women in uniform. The FIDF addresses the needs of “the person in the uniform.”

FIDF supports the Israel Defense Forces in many ways such as assistance for widows and orphans, scholarships after service, host family support and other social needs of the soldiers. As the FIDF tagline says: “Their job is to look after Israel. Ours is to look after them.”

An emotional point of the evening occurred when Jo Ellen and Zachary Chattler of Baltimore spoke about their lone soldier son, Daniel, now on duty in Israel. When Daniel was a child, he was in awe of men and women in uniform and said they were his heroes, his father told the audience. This feeling and image stayed with Daniel as he grew older and participated in trips such as Taglit Birthright. His love for and dedication to Israel grew as well, his father explained.

Chattler read from one of his son’s emails, which detailed a story of how he unintentionally ended up riding a public bus while still in uniform. Seated across from him, a small boy watched Daniel closely for a while and the boy ultimately smiled at him. “At that moment,” read Daniel’s father, voice quavering, “I knew I was his hero.”

The naval ensemble’s energy, enthusiasm and melodic voices filled the auditorium for two 30-minute sets. Neta Barzilai, who served as emcee, added her powerful, gospel-like voice to the performance. Eyal Bor, director of education of Beth El schools, played clarinet with the group for one of its songs.

For singers Ohad Sabagi, Tslil Halaf, Neta Barzilai and Adar Hayat, and sound engineer Dor Laniado, all in their early 20s, it was their first time in the U.S., and they had expectations of the visit. Images of big cities, tall buildings and urban spaces such as New York filled their imaginations. They were pleasantly surprised to see how clean and green Baltimore and its suburbs are, how tightly knit and welcoming the Jewish community felt to them and that there are two JCCs in one city. Halaf enjoyed the Inner Harbor visit and mentioned it felt a little different than what she is used to — while there are tourists and shops in Israeli harbors too, there are also Navy ships and soldiers with guns.

Commander and deputy head of personnel for his unit, Avraham Gaon, 46, has served in the Israeli army for 29 years. Gaon came along as “the responsible adult” with the naval ensemble. He has traveled all over the world, but this was also his first visit to the U.S. The group spent three days in Baltimore before heading to Atlanta. Gaon’s visit with the Jewish community of Baltimore gave him a lasting impression.

“For the first time just yesterday, I understand, that all of us are one nation,” Gaon said.

Gaon said that he had always wondered, why would Jews live somewhere other than Israel? He imagined he might not feel the connection to Jews he met in the U.S. Maybe they feel Jewish, he explained, but do not feel for the State of Israel.

“Yesterday, all of them — the children, the host family, the people from FIDF — for first time in my life I understand, it doesn’t matter why they are here … all the Jewish people are one nation,” he said “Yesterday, it was eureka. It made me feel that we are friends, family, that we are strong together.”

Friends of the IDF
Washington, D.C. Chapter’s Third Annual Gala

From Holocaust to Independence
Honoring Rosemary Schindler
(Family of Oskar Schindler)

Thursday May 29 at 6:30 p.m. (reception); program starts at 7:30 p.m.

Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center
5701 Marinelli Road in Bethesda

For more information and tickets, contact 301-960-3531 or

Israeli group reportedly excluded from West Bank ‘peace run’

A group of six Israeli runners reportedly was excluded from the West Bank portion of a regional long-distance run.

Dubbed the Peace Run and led by Australian ultra-marathoner Paul Farmer, the course began in Lebanon and wound its way through Israel and the West Bank before ending Monday in Jerusalem.

The group of Israeli runners, organized jointly by the Yesha Council, an umbrella settlers’ group, and Regavim, a right-wing legal nonprofit, joined the run as it headed south down Route 60, a West Bank highway. But Regavim’s director, Ari Briggs, said that as soon as the group entered the run, the Palestinian contingent accompanying Farmer fell back and stopped running.

After a few miles, according to Briggs, Farmer told one of the Israelis that a delegation from the Palestinian Olympic Committee set to join the run would not come unless the
Israelis left. Although Briggs said he hoped participating in the run would highlight the Jewish claim to the West Bank, none of the Israeli runners lived in settlements.

The Israeli group stopped running at Farmer’s request. Briggs said he was disappointed that the Palestinians would not run alongside Israelis.

“It’s a peace run,” he said. “Let’s run together. I was very disappointed that they weren’t ready to run with us for even a meter.”

The Palestinian Olympic Committee has long had a policy of not training jointly with Israelis. In 2012, Palestinian Olympic delegation head Hani Halabi said that in protest of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, he refused to use Israeli facilities to prepare for the 2012 London Games.

Survey: 74 percent of French Jews mulling emigration

Nearly 75 percent of thousands of French Jews who participated in a recent survey said they are considering emigrating.

The survey, the results of which were released Monday by the Paris-based Siona organization of Sephardic French Jews, encompassed 3,833 respondents from the Jewish community of France, Siona said.

Of the 74.2 percent of respondents who said they are considering leaving, 29.9 percent cited anti-Semitism. Another 24.4 cited their desire to “preserve their Judaism,” while 12.4 percent said they were attracted by other countries. “Economic considerations” was cited by 7.5 percent of the respondents.

In total, 95.2 percent of all respondents to the online survey conducted by Siona from April 17 to May 16 said they viewed anti-Semitism as “very worrisome” or “worrisome.”

Slightly more than half, or 57.5 percent, of respondents said, “Jews have no future in France,” while 30.6 percent said there is a future for Jews there.

Asked whether they had personally experienced anti-Semitic incidents in the past two years, 14.5 percent replied in the affirmative, but of those, only 21.2 filed a complaint with police. Of the complainants, 27.6 percent indicated that their deposition had led to concrete results.

A similar survey from 2012 showed a quarter of Jews who experienced anti-Semitic incidents filed a complaint, Siona noted in a statement, adding, “The results give cause for concern.”

Ninety-three percent said the French state had no efficient means for countering “Islamic exclusionist and pro-Palestinian propaganda,” whereas 93.4 percent said French mass media are partially responsible for France’s anti-Semitism problem. Roughly three-quarters said French Jewish institutions were helpless to stop anti-Semitism.

A similar number of respondents, 76.3 percent, said they were concerned by “the attack on ritual slaughter and circumcision,” compared with 16.9 who said they were not concerned.

Never Too Late

Ava Barron-Shusho taught adult students to “tame their inner gremlins” at Chizuk Amuno Congregation’s Luv2Learn Festival on May 18. (Provided)

Ava Barron-Shasho taught adult students to “tame their inner gremlins” at Chizuk Amuno Congregation’s Luv2Learn Festival on May 18. (Provided)

Middle school students saw the tables turned when they ushered their parents and other adults to their assigned classrooms as part of Chizuk Amuno Congregation’s Luv2Learn Festival on Sunday, May 18.

“I think it’s interesting for people who have been out of school so long to come here and get a sense of what it’s like,” said Hannah Wahlberg, a sixth-grader at Krieger Schechter Day School.

She, along with fellow KSDS students Charlie Hallock, Tal Boger and Ezra Suldan and Pikesville Middle School student Alex Hellman, took part in the event as ushers.

“It’s just good to get people in the community together and get them talking,” said Ezra Suldan, an eighth-grader.

It was not a coincidence that Chizuk Amuno held its inaugural learning festival on Sunday. As director of congregational life, Rabbi Paul Schneider explained that May 18 is Lag B’Omer, a traditionally somber time that coincided with the deaths of thousands of students of the Mishnaic sage Rabbi Akiva. According to tradtion, the plague that claimed their lives stopped on Lag B’Omer. So on the the 33rd day, Jews are given a reprieve from their solemnity and are free to enjoy themselves. Lag B’Omer is traditionally a time for picnics, barbeques and learning.

In coming up with the topics for more than 25 workshops, Schneider said he and co-chairs Marsha Manekin and Howard Cohen chose to provide a broad range of learning opportunities in Jewish and secular subjects.

“We decided to model the festival loosely after Ted Talks,” said Manekin, “by giving short presentations covering a lot of different subjects. People can get a taste of learning about technology, Wall Street, advance directives, Maimonides [and] archaeology.”

Participants chose up to three 30-minute sessions including one from co-chair Cohen, who taught contemporary art glass.

“What’s really amazing is that all presentations are given by school parents and synagogue members,” said Manekin. “None of the synagogue’s staff or administrators are teaching. It’s all lay people.”

052314_luv2learnAva Barron-Shasho, a parent of one KSDS alum and one eighth- grader, taught “Identify the Voice of Your Inner Gremlin and Learn How to Tame it.” Barron-Shasho, a life coach, said the course was meant to “teach people what’s going on in their heads.”

“The gremlin is that inner critic. It’s that voice, either very loud or subtle, that tells us we can’t do what we want to do,” she said. “We give it a lot of credence, but really it’s not logical. It keeps you from moving forward.”

Audrey Polt, who taught a class called “Album-Making as a Legacy: Connections to Our Past, Present, and Future,” had trouble selecting courses to take because of the diverse options. “All of the topics are very interesting. I hope they have this again,” said Polt, who decided to attend the course on advance directives. In another classroom, 10 or so couples were practicing salsa dancing in “You Can Dance at Any Age.”

The learning sessions were followed by a wine-and-cheese reception.

“When we reached out to people in our congregation, we realized what a magnificent community with such a wide range of talent and knowledge we have,” said Schneider. “Luv2Learn is a great opportunity for people who are reluctant to commit to many weeks to have an educational experience by committing to only one afternoon.  It’s a great way to spend Lag B’Omer.”

Seizing An Opportunity


The Mini Mobile Robotic Printer was invented by Tuvia Elbaum and Matan Caspi.
(Photo Courtesy of ZUtA Labs Ltd.)

Living in the fast-paced world of evolving mobile technology, two young Israeli entrepreneurs have invented what they hope will revolutionize the one device that they feel “got left behind” and seems to have missed the mobile revolution train: the printer.

Tuvia Elbaum and Matan Caspi, both 29 and students at the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT), are the designers of the world’s first truly practical and operational mobile printer. Known as the Mini Mobile Robotic Printer and slated to be available to the general public in 2015, the printer—measuring 4 by 4 1⁄2 inches and weighing only a one-half pound —will allow students, business professionals and anyone in need to print their work from any location.

Elbaum said that he came up with the idea for a pocket printer “from my day-to day life.”

“I’m always working on the go from my smartphone, tablet and laptop in random places, and when I wanted to print something — a memo before or after a meeting, a term sheet, short contract, or even an essay for school — I had to run and look for a printer or wait until I got home or to the office,” he said. “When I went online to look for a portable printer, I only found printers that are either too big to really carry around or too small to print on a standard A4 page [size].”

When Elbaum noticed that all of the printers needed to have paper fed through the device itself, he thought, “Hey, why not put the cartridge on a robot and let it run around by itself, and that will allow the printer to be really small and yet print on any size of paper?”

Elbaum and Caspi were able to pursue their innovation after being accepted into an elite program at JCT known as the Friedberg Program for Entrepreneurial Excellence, which gives students the opportunity to advance entrepreneurial ideas from the “exploratory” to the “concrete” stages—offering them financial assistance, mentoring, workshops and more in order to help make their ideas become a reality.

The pair of entrepreneurs then formed a new company called ZUtA Labs Ltd. and launched a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter, which according to Elbaum “succeeded in raising over 125 percent of what we wanted (more than a half-million dollars) and included some big names such as Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple.”

While the pocket printer is still “a project in the making,” Elbaum said those who offered their financial backing “really wanted to be part of creating this product, which is incredible and [demonstrates] the true power of Kickstarter.” He hopes to “reward” those who contributed via Kickstarter by shipping them the first batch of the finished mobile printers in January 2015.

Also helping the entrepreneurs’ cause were rave revues the device received at the Microsoft Israel Corporation’s prestigious ThinkNext technology fair, recently held in Tel Aviv.

In terms of how the printer works from a practical perspective, Elbaum said it is “just like any other printer.” One’s mobile device, such as a smartphone or laptop, will “recognize it as a printer and connect through Bluetooth,” he said.

The printer features an inkjet cartridge that will last for more than 1,000 printed pages and a battery that allows for more than one hour of use per full charge. It is “designed to be used in the simplest way and offers the most simple user experience,” said Elbaum.

Shimmy Zimels, who heads the Friedberg entrepreneurship program at JCT, said that the venture of Elbaum and Caspi “is a great achievement” and that they “seized the opportunity we gave them” through the program.

Zimels — himself the CEO of, an Israeli company that converts polluted water into clean water — said he believes that the Friedberg program, launched in 2012, “helped push [Elbaum to Caspi] out of the gate,” providing them with “the combination of the right team, the proper funding, the mentoring and the access they had to the electronics laboratories at JCT.”

“We were a small accelerator to help them start their business,” he said.

But Zimels repeatedly stressed that Elbaum and Caspi, not the Friedberg program, should be given the credit for the invention.

Elbaum said he and Caspi, along with the rest of the staffers at ZUtA Labs, have already come up with several additions to the printer and are working on designs for other innovative products. But in the meantime, his plate is full with the launch of the robotic printer. He said, perhaps only half jokingly, that on top of everything else he “still has one class to complete in order to graduate” from JCT.

‘Touchdown Israel’

The Jerusalem Lions line up against the Tel Aviv Pioneers. The two teams are IFL arch-rivals. (provided)

The Jerusalem Lions line up against the Tel Aviv Pioneers. The two teams are IFL arch-rivals.

Almost four years ago, San Francisco-based documentary filmmaker Paul Hirschberger began learning all he could about the North American-style of tackle football that is being played in Israel.

He has turned the research into his first sports film, “Touchdown Israel,” about how the growing sport is bridging cultural gaps in Israel.

“I was looking for my next film project and in doing my research I had read a feature story in The New York Times about tackle football being a growing sport in Israel,” Hirschberger said. “I contacted Andrew Gershman and Ari Louis of Israel Sports Radio, who covered football in Israel, and that began my nearly three-year odyssey to tell the story of football in Israel.”

He decided to use much of his own money to tell a story that has many facets to it and showcases how sports can be a tool to bring people together as teammates.

“What I ended up with was ‘Touchdown Israel,’ a feature-length documentary that presents the broader religious and cultural diversity that is Israel and illustrates how sports can be both metaphor and unifier for the world around it,” said Hirschberger. “American football has set down real roots in the Holy Land. The playing levels vary widely, but the cast of characters is utterly compelling: Israeli Jews, Arabs and Christians as well as Americans living in Israel and religious settlers.”

He added that the game is played in a uniquely Jewish way, with some players putting helmet on over their yarmulkes and some player will davening before the game starts.

An important part of the film, Hirschberger said, is the history of the game, which began in 1988 with the establishment of the American Football in Israel (AFI) group. The group grew to more than 90 contact and non-contact flag football teams. In 2005, the AFI established the Israeli Football League (IFL), which is devoted to American-style full-contact tackle football.

“They play an eight-man game [instead of 11 like in the U.S.] because the fields are smaller than the regulation 100-yard football fields that we are used to here in the United States,” he said.

Hirschberger credits Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, and his late wife, Myra, for advancing the game and sports in Israel in general. Although he had some safety concerns initially, Kraft worked with sponsors to build fields and get uniforms for teams in the league. The league honored him in its name, the Kraft Family Israel Football League.

“Kraft Field is likely the only place in the entire Middle East you’ll find Palestinians and Jewish settlers embracing after a big win,” Hirschberger said. The IFL has grown from 25 players in Tel Aviv to a thriving league of more 600 players and 11 teams throughout Israel, he added.

The 2014 league is comprised of the Tel Aviv/Jaffa Sabres, the Tel Aviv Pioneers, the Ramat Hasharon Hammers, the Jerusalem Lions, the Judean Rebels, the Jerusalem Kings, the Haifa Underdogs, the Beersheva Black Swarm, the Petach Tikva Troopers, the Northern Stars and the Rehovot Silverbacks.

“In many ways, Israelis are perfectly suited to play the game of football,” explained Hirschberger. “They have all served their country in the military and love the strategy that goes into the game along with the physical contact.”

While covering the football side of the story was interesting, Hirschberger was also inspired by watching Israeli, Arab, Christian, Thai and Palestinian players work together as teammates. The film focuses on the friendship of three particular players: Jeremy Sable, a Conservative Jew who played youth football in Philadelphia but wouldn’t play on Shabbat and gave the sport up until his family moved to Israel, Saud Kassas an Arab from Jaffa, and Roni Srisuren, a Christian from Thailand who lives with his family in Israel.

“I got the three of them together in a bar and we just talked about everything,” Hirschberger said. “Each young man spoke in detail about growing up with a total lack of understanding of the religion and backgrounds of others. Yet, it was through football these three men became friends for life.”

Hirschberger is taking the film on the festival circuit before he releases it nationwide. He will start at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, head to the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and then the Toronto Jewish Film Festival. He is in discussions with film distributors and hopes to announce local showings soon.

To see previews of “Touchdown Israel” and get the latest news on where it is playing, go to touchdown