Hebrew word of the week: Pras/Prize

The Hebrew and English words sound similar, but they are not related at all. The English “prize” is a variant of price, related to praise, appraise. The Hebrew pras had a very humble beginning, originally meaning “half” of anything, particularly the half mina coin given to a slave as a reward for working hard to please his master, as in Mishnah Avot 1:3: “Do not be like slaves who serve their master to receive a little fare (pras).” Hence, “a premium, reward, prize.”

Related to p-r-s, “to split, divide; break bread (sharing it with the poor)” (Isaiah 58:7); parsah, “divided hoof”; prusah, “slice (of bread)”; and peres, “vulture”* (“breaks the bones of its prey”).

*Also connected is the last name of Shimon Peres, the former president of Israel, Hebraized from the Polish name Perski. Peres was also a cousin of the late American film star Lauren Bacall (born Betty Joan Perske).

Yona Sabar is a professor of Hebrew and Aramaic in the department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures at UCLA.

SpaceIL: Israel’s race to the moon

One day in 2015, a small Israeli spacecraft will land on and reconnoiter the moon, joining the United States and former Soviet Union in the world’s most exclusive extraterrestrial club.

That vision is not fantasy or chauvinistic braggadocio, but the sober prediction of Israel’s most experienced engineers and space scientists.

According to the leaders of the SpaceIL (for Israel) project, the unmanned micro-spaceship will pack more instrumentation into a smaller and lighter capsule than ever achieved before.

During a visit to Los Angeles in mid-February, Yariv Bash, founder and CEO of SpaceIL, and Ronna Rubinstein, the chief of staff, outlined the genesis, scope and anticipated impact of the moon mission.

In late 2010, Bash heard about the Google Lunar X competition, which offered awards up to $30 million for the first team to land a robotic craft on the moon that would perform several complex missions. For one, the craft had to move 500 meters (1,640 feet) from its landing site to explore the moon’s surface – or send out a search vehicle to do so – and beam high-definition videos back to earth.

Bash, an electronics and computer engineer, said that SpaceIL will traverse the distance in one spectacular jump. SpaceIL, by the way, is only an interim name and when the time comes will be replaced with an official designation.

Initial names suggested by the project staff include Golda, for the former Israeli prime minister, Ramon, for Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who perished in the Columbia shuttle disaster, and Hatikvah, Hebrew for “hope” and the title of the Israeli national anthem.

As soon as Bash absorbed the details of the Google competition, he posted one sentence on Facebook, asking, “Who is coming with me to the moon?” Among the first respondents was Rubinstein, a lawyer who now oversees the project’s organization, marketing and fundraising.

The total estimated cost for the project will be $30 million, of which $20 million has been raised so far, primarily from industry and private contributors. The Israeli government has allotted funds for 10 percent of the total cost, the maximum a government can put up under the contest rules.


Israeli President Shimon Peres visits SpaceIL. Photo courtesy SpaceIL

According to Israeli statistics, the government money will be well spent, since for every $1 invested in Israel’s 10 satellites and other high-tech research, $7 are returned in civilian and commercial applications.

The prize for the winning entry is $20 million, with another $10 million available in bonus prizes for accomplishing different aspects of the mission.

But it’s not the prize money that is driving the 11 full-time staff members and some 300 professionals who are volunteering their services evenings and weekends, after finishing their regular day jobs. In any case, any money won will go to schools to enhance math and technology programs.

“What counts for us is the impact the moon landing will have on Israelis and Jews around the world, to show what Israel is and what it can do,” Bash said.

Most important is to instill both pride and scientific curiosity in Israeli youngsters, Bash added. Together with the Weizmann Institute of Science, the project has launched a nationwide program of high school visits, which so far has involved 27,000 students.

Plans also call for lectures and exhibits in Diaspora communities, and Bash and Rubinstein will address a plenary session at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC during the first week of March.

Other key partners in the project are Israel Aerospace Industries, Tel Aviv University, Technion, Israeli Space Agency, Ramon Foundation and private companies like Rafael and Bezeq.

The Israeli spacecraft, whatever its final name, will compete against 24 other entries, of which 11 will be launched by various U.S. teams. Other competitors will come mainly from Europe and some from South American countries, but none from China, or, for that matter, Iran.

Early favorites are entries from the United States, Israel and Spain, Bash said.

Israel’s main strength, he noted, “lies in its nano-miniaturized technology, and SpaceIL will be the smallest craft ever sent into space.”

At liftoff, it will weigh 120 kilograms (264 pounds), but on landing, after burning off its fuel, it will weigh less than 40 kilograms (88 pounds). To get into orbit, SpaceIL will piggyback onto a commercial rocket, either American or Russian, at a cost of between $3 million to $5 million.

To Israelis watching the moon landing from 239,000 miles away, “it will be the most exciting reality show of all,” Bash hopes.

The impact on Israelis, especially young people, would be similar to that created in 1969 by astronaut Neil Armstrong as he descended from the Apollo spacecraft to the moon’s surface, proclaiming, “That’s one step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Israeli supporters of SpaceIL already have their own inspirational motto, taken from Theodor Herzl’s words as he prophesized the future creation of a Jewish state.

“Im Tirzu Ein Zo Agada” – “If you will it, it is no dream.”

For additional information, visit www.spaceil.com.

U.S. author Eggers will not accept Gunter Grass prize in person

American author Dave Eggers said he will not travel to Germany to accept a literary prize from the Gunter Grass Foundation.

Eggers said in a statement that the organizers should have postponed the award ceremony following the controversy over Grass’ recently published poem claiming that Israel is endangering world peace by threatening Iran.

“I felt it best if I did not attend in person,” Eggers said in a statement issued by his German publisher. “The issues raised in Grass’s recent poem are not issues I am prepared to speak about, and I would have been expected to comment on them repeatedly.”

Eggers was awarded the Albatross Prize, which includes a cash award worth about $56,000, for his 2009 novel “Zeitoun,” about a Syrian-American man’s experiences after Hurricane Katrina. Israeli author David Grossman is a past recipient of the prize.

Eggers had requested that the prize money be given to German organizations that work on interfaith dialogue, Haaretz reported.

Grass, a Nobel Prize-winning poet, was declared persona non grata and banned from ever entering Israel following the publication of his poem earlier this month in Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and other international papers.

Raheb will get German prize despite growing opposition, organizers say

Jewish groups are ramping up pressure to have a prestigious German prize withdrawn from a Palestinian pastor who is accused of making anti-Semitic statements.

The Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem is one of four recipients of the German Media Prize to be presented Friday. He has said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, among others, has no rightful claim to a Jewish heritage.

“It is outrageous to consider Raheb a partner for peace as long as he engages in anti-Israel invective,” Deidre Berger, head of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee, told JTA.

A German Media Prize spokesperson told JTA on Tuesday that the event will take place as planned. Former German President Roman Herzog will make the presentations.

Jewish groups including the AJC, the German-Israel Society and B’nai B’rith International have called for the prize to be withdrawn. At the very least Herzog should make his criticism clear, Berger said in a letter to the ex-president.

Raheb is “known for his radical theology that has both racist and to some extent anti-Semitic traits,” Berger wrote. “By contesting Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state he negates one of the most important pillars of German foreign policy.”

In a speech to the 2010 Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Bethlehem, Raheb discounted Jewish roots in Israel and said that Palestinian Arabs share DNA with King David and Jesus, but that Netanyahu does not. The speech was removed Tuesday from the conference’s website.

In late January, B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel Mariaschin wrote to Media Control, the firm based in Baden-Baden that sponsors the prize, underscoring that Raheb “is distinguished by an extensive record of highly offensive statements that, any positive work notwithstanding, make him ill-suited to receive the endorsement implied by a prestigious German honor that has been bestowed on the likes of Helmut Kohl, Hillary Clinton, Rudolph Giuliani, Angela Merkel and the Dalai Lama.”

Other recipients of this year’s prize are Sakena Yacoobi of Afghanistan, Stanislaw Petrow of Moscow and Denis Mukwege of Congo.

New Jersey man wins $25,000 in Manschewitz cooking contest

Stuart Davis of Cherry Hill, N.J. won the $25,000 grand prize in this year’s Man-O-Manischewitz Cook-Off.

The annual kosher cooking contest, which took place Thursday, is sponsored by Manischewitz, the nation’s largest maker of processed kosher food products, including the eponymous matzah.

The contest , which draws thousands of entries from across the United States, requires contestants to submit recipes featuring at least two Manischewitz products, and no more than nine ingredients total. This year, one of the ingredients had to be Manischewitz Ready to Serve Broth.

Davis was one of five finalists showing off their stuff in Manhattan for a panel of judges including celebrity chef Jacques Pepin. Davis’ winning recipe? Chicken and egg Donburi, on a mound of rice.

Oscar Ballot 2009

Thank you for visiting jewishjournal.com. The Oscar contest is now closed.

Oscar Ballot Thank You

Thanks for participating!



Say It Again

How many times can you say “Passover” during the seder? For instance: “Pass over the salt.” “Please pass over a soup spoon.” Keep count and decide what the winner gets for a prize!

White Chocolate Almond Matzah

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

4 to 6 square matzahs

1 (12 ounces) bag of white chocolate chips

1 cup crushed almonds

Preheat oven to 400? F . Line a cookie sheet with foil. Lay matzah on it in a single layer. Melt 1 cup butter and 1 cup sugar in saucepan. Pour and spread over matzah. Bake at 400? F. for five minutes (have an adult help you). Remove from oven and pour a 12-ounce bag of white chocolate chips over matzah and spread it around evenly. Return to oven for 30-60 seconds to melt the chips, then remove. Spread chocolate evenly over matzah with a knife. Sprinkle crushed almonds over the whole thing. Refrigerate overnight and then break it into pieces and enjoy! Makes 4 square matzahs.




Good Deed Indeed

Earth Day is about healing all creatures on the Earth. Here is a chance for you to do a good deed by entering The Good Deed Contest.

Here’s what you will do:

1. Do a good deed (an amazing one!)
2. Write an essay, telling what you did, what motivated you and what you got out of the process, and send it to: Abbygilad@yahoo.com

The will receive a Baskin-Robbins gift certificate and get the essay printed in an upcoming issue of The Jewish Journal.

Answer this quiz question from the California Wildlife Center for a sweet prize:

What do you do if you meet a rattlesnake?

a. Throw rocks at it to make it go away.
b. Walk away slowly and quietly.
c. Hiss at it to threaten it.

Talk to the Animals

Here is another Earth Day-related event that you might want to check out:

California Wildlife Center Open House,

26026 Piuma Road, Calabasas, May 1, noon-4 p.m.

Unscramble what you will see there:


Penny for Your Thoughts

Go to Google.com and type in Pennies for the Planet. Find out how you can collect pennies and help save the big cats around the world through the World Wildlife Fund.




Presidents Day is on Feb. 21. And in this week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, it describes what would be a tipe of presidential inauguration for Aaron and his sons as the high priests of Israel.

Presidential Puzzlement

Answer this quiz correctly for a presidential prize!

1) Which president was responsible for Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat signing a peace agreement?

a. Bill Clinton

b. Jimmy Carter

c. John F. Kennedy

2) Who was the American president Israel declared its independence in 1948?

a. Theodore Roosevelt

b. Thomas Jefferson

c. Harry S. Truman

3) Who was the first president to attend a synagogue?

a. George Washington

b. Calvin Coolidge

c. Ulysses S. Grant

Answers From Last Week

Honest Abe Quiz: 1b, 2a, 3b


For the Kids

Dance, Torah Dance

The Ba’al Shem Tov, a famous rabbi, once said: “The Torah wants to dance, but she has no feet. You must be her feet.”

On Simchat Torah, we do precisely that. We dance with our Torahs, because we have finished reading it from start to finish. The Torah is like a dance: it circles round and round.

Quiz for Torah Wiz

How long does it take to write a Torah?

a. 2,000 hours
b. One year
c. Six months
d. A and B.

A Torah is not
considered kosher if :

a. One letter is added
b. One letter is deleted
c. One letter is
touching another
d. All of the above

A Torah scroll that is
not kosher must be:

a. Burned
b. Buried
c. Dismantled
d. Erased

Math Madness

Solve this problem to discover how many letters there are in each Torah. Send in the answer and get a prize.

600,000/2 + 5000 – 195 = ?

Crowning Glory

The Torah is written with Hebrew letters that have crowns on them, because they are like kings and queens. Draw a line between the words and their matching Hebrew letter:











Carpenter Parents Step Up for Kids

You can hear envy in the voice of Los Angeles City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel. It is a subtle envy but one well known to certain parents in Studio City who, like Greuel and her family, live next to, but not in, “The Promised Land.”

“We’re actually just outside the boundary of Carpenter,” Greuel said.

She refers to Carpenter Avenue School, where about 900 kids from kindergarten through fifth grade receive arguably the finest primary education in the notoriously dysfunctional Los Angeles Unified School District. To live within the boundaries of Carpenter, or to get a rare waiver permit allowing your child to go there, is a sought-after prize.

“When you tell people your kids go to Carpenter, they’re like, ‘Ahhhh,'” said Harriet Diament, who has two boys at the school and graduated from there in 1976. “That name has a lot behind it.”

Rare is the public school that has a dinner-dance fundraiser on a soundstage at CBS Studio Center, with Greuel one of several honorees at the May 22 Motown-themed event. Silent auction items included two tickets to this week’s climactic taping of Fox TV’s “American Idol” courtesy of the show’s producer, a Carpenter parent.

But Carpenter once had a rough stretch; the 1990s reclaiming of its strong reputation had a lot to do with committed parents led by an innovative Jewish principal.

“I want parents to be active in their children’s education,” said Joan Marks, Carpenter’s principal from 1985 to 2000 and now the elementary school principal at the Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School in Northridge.

Located on a speedy, flat stretch of Laurel Canyon Boulevard south of Ventura Boulevard, Carpenter Avenue Elementary School had a solid reputation for teaching kids, many from upper-middle class Jewish families living on winding, Spanish-named streets in the hills above Studio City. With streets named Dona Pegita and Dona Lisa, Jewish children called their neighborhood “The Donnas.”

By the early 1980s, mandatory busing saw parents pulling their kids out of public schools and enrolling them in private schools. The local school populace nearly vanished; of 469 students at Carpenter in 1985, only 60 lived in Studio City. Only seven kindergarteners were locals.

Marks was determined to not let Carpenter face closure by the school district. In August 1985 she met with eight Studio City parents, several of them Jewish, and they began lobbying other parents to bring their kids back to Carpenter. They had booths at local events, passed out flyers, talked to neighbors and rang many Studio City doorbells.

It worked. On the morning in 1993 Carpenter began accepting applications for open enrollment for kids outside the school’s strict residence boundaries, some 60 parents were at the front door, bleary-eyed.

“They actually camped out all night to get in,” Marks said.

The Jewish influence in Carpenter’s rejuvenation is not specifically Jewish like a synagogue, but more Jewish influenced like the broad community work of Bet Tzedek Legal Services. The principal and many Carpenter teachers are Jewish. The 2003-2004 school year had a student body that was 74.7 percent Caucasian, 9.6 percent Latino, 9.1 percent Asian American and 6.2 percent African American.

The 16th annual dinner dance was put on Parents For Carpenter (PFC), the Marks group now headed by Janet Loeb, a Jewish mom who soon will have her fourth child enter Carpenter. Loeb was active in Jewish Federation young leadership activities before PFC, and one of PFC’s incoming co-presidents, Neil Cohen, has been a leader at North Hollywood’s Reform Temple Beth Hillel. PFC funds the school’s music, dance and physical education teacher salaries plus gives money for a media lab and gives stipends for teachers and supplies that poorer schools buy with Title I federal education funding, which Carpenter does not receive due to Studio City’s high income levels.

Standing before about 40 tables of parents, including several actors known for small “Seinfeld” roles, Loeb spoke of Carpenter’s future challenges, including possible school district budget cuts of $50 per child.

“You may be required to pay for books, paper, paper towels and pencils,” Loeb said. “We are here to make sure our kids get the best and I mean the very best.”

The 20-plus aisles of silent auction items included donations from Studio City’s legions of successful entertainment industry executives, Grammy tickets, autographed DVDs, a week in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Dodger dugout seats and a personalized “Spongebob Squarepants” CD by “Spongebob” voice Tom Kenny, a Carpenter parent.

But along with organizing unglamorous fund-raising like car washes, Carpenter parents also can be as demanding of their public school’s teachers as parents paying $20,000 to have their kids at private schools for virtually the same quality of education.

“The parents are there, they’re in your face,” said Nazzi Kaufman, who teaches Carpenter’s gifted class, meaning she interacts with the parents of highly gifted kids.

Her friends who are teachers at other schools sometimes have lonely parent-teacher nights.

At Carpenter, Kaufman said, “Sometimes I have to have double sessions because they’re so involved.”

For the Kids

November Madness

In Old English, the month of November was called "blood month." It was a month of animal sacrifices that took place to prepare for the long winter. But what is the etymology of the word "November?"

Here’s a hint: The Roman calendar began in March (similar to the Jewish calendar, which begins in Nissan, around Passover). Send in the answer for a prize.

Autumn Arrives

Joshua Goldberg, 12, wrote this poem for his history class at A.J. Heschel Day School:

I peer out of my window to gaze at the autumn sky.

The wind whispers

through the trees.

A scent of roses fills my nose.

Leaves fall on to my windowsill — how I long to feel their smoothness.

It starts to drizzle and I can taste the little droplets on my tongue.

The feeling of autumn surrounds me, now it’s time to embrace it’s presence…

Kids Page

Before Pesach, we get rid of all the chametz in our homes. Chametz is anything that rises, like bread. So the night before Pesach, after the whole house has been cleaned, we hide 10 small pieces of bread around the house and search for them by candlelight. You know, at the seder, we search for something too. This time, it is not bread we look for, but matzah! We search for the afikomen. Whoever finds it wins a prize!
Find the afikomen!

The Yiddle Riddle

Q: What happened to Pharaoh’s blue sandal when he dipped it in the Red Sea?
A: It got wet!

Sent in by
Adam Slomiak, 12,
Thousand Oaks

Jewish Journalism

Last week the American Jewish Press Association held its 19th annual conference in Washington DC. Part of the proceedings always include a closing night dinner where reporters and their newspapers are honored for Excellence in Jewish Journalism. These are known as the Simon Rockower Awards.No room for immodesty here. There are 10 different categories for awards, each of which includes first and second place prizes and one honorable mention (presumably third place). The Jewish Journal submitted stories written in 1999 by members of our staff, for six of the 10 categories. We won five prizes, the largest number given to a Jewish weekly this year.

Julie Gruenbaum Fax was awarded two first place prizes, one for Excellence in Personality Profiles (“Gay, Orthodox and a Rabbi”), and one for Excellence in News Reporting (“A Day in Shul with the Dalai Lama “). The entire staff took first place for Excellence in Comprehensive Coverage of a story – the sad occasion being our “Coverage of the North Valley JCC Shootings.”Naomi Pfefferman took a break from her entertainment beat and received an Honorable Mention for Excellence in Feature Writing (“Crypto-Jews Unmasked”), and I was awarded second place for Commentary and Editorial Writing (“Jewish in Europe”). To anticipate your question, receiving all these awards, it feels great.

Farewell to J.J. Goldberg

I hope you have read J.J. Goldberg’s column on page 5. It’s smart, savvy and humane, all at the same time. It is also, alas, his farewell column for us.

J.J. Goldberg, 50, has been selected to be the new editor at the (English language) Forward newspaper in New York, succeeding founding editor Seth Lipsky. It is both a natural and an inspired choice. But it also means that his writing will now appear in that newspaper, probably in the form of editorials.

Under Lipsky, the Forward took an aggressive stance towards the Jewish establishment, not because of its bureaucratic fumbling so much as for its (perceived) liberal ideology. Goldberg, who is the author of “Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment,” says “I want to tell the truth, but I don’t want to humiliate anyone.” We wish him well.

Good for the Jews

Early this week, I received a telephone call from one of our readers who wanted to know if the Supreme Court’s decision on California’s blanket primary law was “good for the Jews.”

I started to hedge, to explain that it wasn’t a Jewish issue, but then caught myself and halted. Hung for a sheep, hung for a goat, I told myself. Yes, I said authoritatively, the Court’s ruling that the law was unconstitutional and therefore void was “good for the Jews.” Satisfied, the caller broke the connection. No further explanation seemed necessary. But the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that – ideology aside – in fact I had provided the generally correct answer.

In our state’s blanket primary, you may recall, there is only one ballot and every voter can cast his or her ballot for any one candidate, regardless of political party. Everyone has the opportunity to jump parties or to claim a party affiliation, even for this one occasion alone. It sort of converts the primary into a general State election.

Not surprisingly, Republican and Democratic party leaders dislike the open primary and are pleased with the Court’s ruling. They want the political parties to be more cohesive, to reflect something akin to party loyalty and discipline. They want more control.

The Court’s back of the hand to the blanket primary appeared to second their objection when it called the law “a stark repudiation of freedom of political association.” Political parties should be free to determine their candidate and even to carve out their own identity, the Court was saying. How is this particularly good for the Jews?

Our voices in both parties count far beyond our numbers. So party discipline and party control generally works to our advantage, whichever party we favor. The blanket primary, however, seems to me only half a step away from populism. It is a second cousin to cyberspace chat rooms. Single issue groups of voters who want to exercise a determining role in a party’s local election – whether it be over banning books, abortion, prayer in school – can theoretically affect the choice of a party candidate… and then disappear.Historically, populism in America has championed the underdog against the oligarchs; called for a more equitable sharing of wealth and power. At the same time, populism has often been nativist, anti-immigrant, narrow in its acceptance of Jews and Catholics and blacks, and anti-intellectual. This was true for George Wallace of Alabama as well as for 19h-century founding populist leader William Jennings Bryan.

Politics of course is anything but static. Ask the same question – Is it good for the Jews? – 20 years from now, maybe even within the decade, and you might receive a different answer. But for now, I’m with the Supreme Court.