April 20, 2019

Israeli Technion Students Share Knowledge with L.A.

Technion students Roni Hillel (left) and Moran Lazar (right) visited Los Angeles to share their knowledge in their respective fields of study.

A couple of students from the Israeli Technion visited Los Angeles from Feb. 26-28 to share their knowledge about Israel’s tech startup culture.

Roni Hillel is studying environmental engineering and working toward her Ph.D. in environmental quality sciences. She is currently researching water and wind flows to help ameliorate pollution from areas that are surrounded by mountains.

“Winds on mountain slopes – or the actual microclimates – are actually determined by the slopes themselves of the mountains, so how steep or not steep these slopes are,” Hillel told the Journal. “As of today, there is not much physical understanding of these types of slopes.”

Hillel is modeling these slopes in a lab through a water tank, heating and other methods to simulate the climate itself on these particular slopes.

“We’re trying to get the best picture that we can to generate a model to be able to determine these little microclimates in the region and eventually to be able to predict how to drive pollution out of areas like that, urban areas,” Hillel said.

Hillel predicts that by the end of her Ph.D. program – which is expected to February 20 – her research will have advanced to the point where technology can be developed that can exterminate pollution from these areas while keeping the natural environment intact. However, it’s too early to get an idea of what exactly this kind of technology would look like.

“We don’t understand 100% the physical phenomena that’s occurring in nature, but right now we are trying to understand it as much as we can,” Hillel said. “The initial phase would be able to predict weather predictions better, to able to predict climate change better than we do today, because weather predictions today are only 33% accurate, and they’re proud of that, and they’re only based on statistics. So if we add a little bit of physical background into it, we can get much more accurate weather predictions.”

Hillel added, “Ultimately, driving pollution areas or urban areas like that, that would be the next step. But we’re not there yet.”

When it comes to environmental technology as a whole, Israel is ahead of the curve, as evident by numerous Israelis using solar power to heat their water and the use of desalination to obtain drinking water. Hillel suggested that the latter would be useful for California to embrace given the state’s prior droughts.

“It works amazing in Israel,” Hillel said. “Most of the water that’s supplied in Israel is actually from desalination plants and we even export water to countries around us Israel. It’s great technology, it’s always progressing because it has such a high demand and the water prices are dropping as technology advances.”

The other student, Moran Lazar, is studying behavioral sciences and management at The Technion’s William Davidson Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management. Her focus is on the kind of relationships among team members that cause startups to thrive and fail. Lazar cited a startup that provided imaging for apartment furniture as an example, as they were on the verge of receiving seed funding when the two founders ended their partnership over a business disagreement. Consequently, the startup failed.

“If I’m the best in technology, I would look for the best in marketing, the best in finance, the best in operations, and I would also look for partners that I trust, that I can build a strong connection and trustful connection with, so both the interpersonal connection and expertise and resource seeking are important,” Lazar told the Journal.

Lazar credited the Technion for how they “support women in academia” and provide “fertile ground for young researchers like Roni and I to become the best in Israel.”

Robert Rothschild, the Technion’s Director for Leadership Giving of Western Region, told the Journal that students like Hillel and Lazar sharing their Technion experience “makes them truly connect to the importance of the fellowships.”

“The qualities of these two women and others like them who are exceptional, and that this is what the Technion produces is great for Israel, it’s great for Technion, it’s great for all of us,” Rothschild said. “As far as I’m concerned, they are the gift that we provide all of our donors when they come every year because this is the future of Israel, and that’s the purpose of their trip.”

ISLAND OF SCIENCE: Technion Teams Up With Cornell to Bring Startup Nation to America

Cornell Tech campus construction is set to be completed in about 15 years. The campus is on Roosevelt Island. Photo by Iwan Baan

Roosevelt Island is a curious spit of land in the East River, nestled between Manhattan and Queens. It began as farmland, then housed a penitentiary and lunatic asylum and, later, hospitals.

Once home to the diseased and criminally insane, today it is home to a cutting-edge complex that is a marriage of Cornell University and Israel’s Technion Institute of Technology. Their union is launching new companies in an effort to create New York City’s own Silicon Valley. And, not incidentally, boost Israel’s image.

Based on what is already percolating at Cornell Tech and the related Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, they are on their way.

The Cornell-Technion marriage — and a great deal of philanthropic and city funding — has produced architecturally interesting, environmentally sensitive new buildings, which house academic programs and the nascent businesses.

Cornell Tech is the overall owner of the Roosevelt Island enterprise. Within it is the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, a first-of-its-kind partnership between the two universities that includes a double degree-granting master’s program and a post-doctoral fellowship designed to launch inventive tech businesses.

Cornell Tech and the Jacobs Institute moved into their new home in August, in time to open their doors for the current school year. The programs are housed in two buildings at the south end of the almond shaped, 2-mile-long, 800-feet-wide island. Elsewhere on the island, some 14,000 people now live in apartment buildings that first opened in 1975.

The story of the joint venture begins seven years ago, when then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a competition to create an applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island. Fifty educational institutions were invited to compete. Technion was the only one from Israel.

Technion President Peretz Lavie recalls asking Bloomberg why Technion was invited. The mayor told him that “you took Jaffa oranges and turned them into semiconductors and I’d like you to do the same in New York,” Lavie said in an interview with the Journal. At its home campus, Haifa-based Technion has 14,500 students majoring in engineering, science, medicine and architecture.

The ultimate goal of their union? To create New York’s own Silicon Valley.

The project’s ultimate goal is to be an economic engine for the city of New York and feed talent into the growing tech sector. In a Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute video, Bloomberg says he expects Cornell Tech to contribute $23 billion to New York’s economy over the next three decades.

It was a high-stakes, hugely visible competition. The mayor pledged nearly free use of Roosevelt Island and $100 million of the city’s money.

Once it decided to apply to the New York City competition, Technion forged ahead with a sky’s-the-limit approach.

“Designing a university from scratch is the fantasy of every university president,” Lavie said. He told Technion’s deans to “think out of the box. It is a new academic adventure. Let’s think about a new way of education that would be difficult to implement usually because universities are very conservative.”

Twenty seven universities, from Manhattan’s Columbia University to one in Korea expressed interest. Seven submitted complete proposals, with Stanford and Cornell considered the front-runners. After months of secret talks, Cornell and Technion decided to join forces.

“Technion didn’t have a chance” of winning the competition alone, said philanthropist Sanford Weill during a tour of the Cornell Tech campus on Oct. 26. Weill is chairman emeritus of Citigroup and a major donor to New York institutions, including Carnegie Hall and the Weill-Cornell School of Medicine. “Not because it wasn’t capable, with its graduates running half the high techs in Israel,” he said in a presentation welcoming about 200 Technion donors who were visiting the campus, “but because the Israeli government wouldn’t invest in the United States.”

Stanford dropped out after Cornell announced it received a $350 million then-anonymous gift toward construction costs. On Dec. 19, The New York Times reported that the Cornell-Technion partnership was the winner, which soon was formally announced.

Google quickly offered them free space to kick off their partnership until Roosevelt Island’s campus was ready. The new enterprise stayed at Google, whose building takes up an entire square block in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, from 2012 until August, when it moved onto Roosevelt Island with about 300 graduate students.

When construction on Cornell Tech concludes in roughly 15 years, plans call for 2 million square feet of educational space on two acres, accommodating 2,000 students and 280 professors.

At the moment, three buildings are finished. Two house classrooms, studios and offices: The Bridge, and the Emma and Georgina Bloomberg Center. The latter is named for Michael Bloomberg’s daughters and funded with a $100 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Nearby is a boxy, 26-story building called The House, which provides housing for 550 students and faculty. Built to Passive House standards, which require little energy to achieve a comfortable temperature year round, and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certified, it is designed to optimize energy consumption by using passive solar heating and cooling techniques and is essentially airtight.

Enormous arrays of photovoltaic panels top The Bridge and Bloomberg buildings. Under a rolling lawn outside, 80 tanks collect rainwater through the grass. They provide gray water used to water the lawn during dry periods and flush toilets inside the Bloomberg Center.

There are other ways the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute is special, as well. As the only overseas university approved to grant degrees on American soil, it is a jewel in Technion’s crown, Lavie said. While it is Technion’s first foray into international branching out, the Israeli university is slated to open its second international campus, in China, next month.

The Jacobs Institute, which occupies about a third of the overall Cornell Tech space, is named after donors Irwin and Joan Jacobs, who gave the project $133 million. Irwin Jacobs is a founder of mobile chipmaker Qualcomm.

The Jacobs Institute has two interdisciplinary parts.

One is a master’s degree program focused on “hubs” in health technology and in connective media. The 70 master’s students earn two degrees: one from Cornell and one from Technion. A third hub, now in the planning stages, will focus on urban cyber-physical systems, said Ron Brachman, Jacobs Institute’s director.

The hubs are designed to be flexible. They “could have a finite lifetime and be phased out when they’re no longer providing something unique you can’t get elsewhere,” Brachman said. “At other universities, programs go on indefinitely.”

Eva Stern-Rodriguez is a first-year master’s student focusing on connective media. In one required course, called Product Studio, students develop projects with potential real-world applications. She is collaborating with students from inside and outside of the Jacobs Institute. The app they are designing would connect skilled immigrants with nonprofit organizations to help them build financial stability.

Many immigrants don’t know how to access that kind of support, Stern-Rodriguez said, and “a lot of NGO [nongovernmental organizations] websites are hard to parse or out of date because they don’t have the money to do updates.” Their app will launch in English and Spanish presenting a curated list of NGOs meant to allow immigrants to find the information they need in one place.

In another class Stern-Rodriguez is taking on new media, students are partnering with media companies to develop new ways of fact-checking.

“You took Jaffa oranges and turned them into semiconductors, and I’d like you to do the same in New York.” — Michael Bloomberg

In the master’s program’s second semester, student teams compete to win one of four $100,000 awards given to projects with the best startup potential, said Jacobs Institute Director Brachman.

Plans for the Cornell Tech campus call for 2 million square feet of educational space on two acres. Photo by Iwan Baan

The last of the Jacobs Institute hubs will focus on “the convergence of the digital world and urban life,” Brachman explained. It relates to “intelligent transportation systems, smart buildings, the social media elements of governance and other types of urban planning, like urban robotics, which could be helping people and populations.”

The other part of the Jacobs Institute is its Runway program.

Runway offers salaried fellowships to post-doctoral students, providing the training, space and seed money they need to launch new tech companies. Each post-doc student has mentors both in their discipline and on the business side. They get instruction on finance and fundraising and the program files patents for them. The value of each fellowship, which lasts between one and three years, starts out at $175,000 for the first year, said Fernando Gomez-Baquero, a nanomaterials engineer recently appointed director of Jacobs’ Runway and Spinouts. In return, the Jacobs Institute gets a small ownership stake in the new business.

The first 21 post-doc fellows launched 17 companies, 14 of which are still in business, Gomez-Baquero said.

One Runway startup is Shade. It developed a small sensor to attach to clothing and measure the ultraviolet rays to which its wearer is exposed. Its first market will be people with autoimmune diseases triggered by sunlight, like lupus, explained its creator, Emanuel Dumont, in a presentation. Since sunlight also ages skin, it also has a potential market in the beauty industry, he said.

Another startup, Biotia, is aimed at battling hospital infections. One in 25 people admitted to the hospital acquires an infection there, according to Biotia, and one in nine people will die from that infection. The risk is even higher for cancer patients and others with compromised immune systems. Their product helps hospitals quickly sequence swabbed pathogens’ DNA to identify what it is and treat it appropriately. Their first major customer, a large hospital in Southeast Asia, has just bought the product, Gomez-Baquero said.

A third new product, already on the market — perhaps Runway’s most successful launch to date — is the Nanit baby monitor (see sidebar).

A product that failed was an app that would take a photo of food and provide nutritional information, Gomez-Baquero said. Its inventors “were very close to doing a partnership with Weight Watchers, but it didn’t work in the end. The market didn’t really want to pay for a service like that. It didn’t seem to be a viable business model,” he said.

The Bloomberg Center is one of three finished buildings on campus. Photo by Matthew Carbone

Runway is fine trying startups that fail, he said.

“We don’t measure ourselves by the ones that are successful. Our mandate as Jacobs and as Runway is to experiment. To really push the boundaries,” he said.

The Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute endeavor is also having a more prosaic impact. It has boosted fundraising for the American Technion Society, said Jeffrey Richard, its executive vice president. “[Now] when our staff, lay leaders and supporters are out in public trying to tell the Technion story, there’s much more recognition [of the university],” he said.

That’s showing up in its bottom line. In its last big fundraising campaign, which ended in 2014, the U.S. development organization for Technion raised an average of $84 million a year, he said.

“Now we’re averaging $140 million a year in campaign support. We’re definitely seeing increases,” Richard said.

“It makes things more tangible” to potential donors, said Reyna Susi Dominitz, who heads the Miami branch of ATS, during the Roosevelt Island tour.

“We don’t measure ourselves by the ones that are successful. Our mandate…is to really push the boundaries.” – Fernandez Gomez-Baquero

Daniel Doctoroff is CEO of Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet (i.e., Google-related) company focused on designing cities of the future. When Bloomberg was mayor, Doctoroff worked as New York City’s deputy mayor for economic development. He went on to run Bloomberg L.P., the financial information company.

While Doctoroff wasn’t involved in creating Cornell Tech or the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, he is familiar with the project, and bullish about its prospects for contributing to the technology industry and New York City’s economy.

“They’re still in the very early days,” Doctoroff said. “But it’s very encouraging. … It offers incredible promise.”

Debra Nussbaum Cohen is a freelance writer in New York.

Technion opens first Israeli university in China

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has laid the cornerstone for a research center in Shantou, China.

Construction of the Guandong Technion Israel Institute of Technology began Wednesday. The institute is the product of a $130 million gift from investor Li Ka Shing and will be a joint venture between the Technion and Shantou University.

“[T]he establishment of a Technion campus in China is more proof that Israeli innovation is breaking down geographic borders,” former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres said at the groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday. “I hope that the economic cooperation between these two countries will continue to expand, as both countries have much to share with, and learn from, one another.”

The campus will offer Technion engineering degrees at all levels, from bachelor’s to doctorate. The school plans to enroll an initial class of 100 students for chemical engineering in 2016. It eventually plans to enroll 4,000 undergraduates and 1,000 graduate students.

The $130 million gift by Li, who with a net worth of nearly $30 billion is the richest man in China, is the largest ever given to the Technion.

The Technion also recently opened a joint campus in New York City with Cornell University. Cornell Tech currently offers graduate-level degrees in a temporary site in Manhattan, but it is slated to open three new buildings on Roosevelt Island in 2017.

The Technion is located in Haifa and is Israel’s most prestigious engineering and science university.

Moving and shaking: Singing at Dodger Stadium, JNET, Amos Horev and more

Cantor Marcus Feldman of Sinai Temple sang the national anthem at Dodger Stadium on July 7 as the Los Angeles Dodgers took on the Philadelphia Phillies. Approximately 50 people from the Westwood-based Conservative congregation — including Rabbis David Wolpe and Jason Fruithandler — turned out to watch their cantor perform. 

Feldman, a Los Angeles native, told the Journal that it could not have gone any better, despite the Dodgers’ 7-2 loss.

“It was so much fun; it was thrilling. It was the largest audience I ever sang in front of,” he said in a phone interview. “You are oftentimes worried about forgetting the lyrics, [and] they have the lyrics up there, but I was focused on the flag.

“It’s one of those bucket-list things: You grow up going to Dodger games, and to be able to stand up on the field not just as an American but to be able to represent our people, especially in my profession, especially with all the anti-Israel stuff going on, it was a proud moment for me, my congregation and the Jewish community, too.”

Anyone who missed the game will have another chance to represent the Jewish people at Chavez Ravine on Aug. 30 for the Dodgers’ annual Jewish Community Day, when the team takes on the Chicago Cubs.

The Iranian-American Jewish organization 30 Years After has hired Shanel Melamed as its new executive director.

Shanel Melamed, new executive director of 30 Years After. Photo courtesy of Shanel Melamed

A graduate of USC, Melamed was born and raised in Los Angeles to “parents who fled the Islamic Republic of Iran shortly after the [Iranian] Revolution,” according to a press release. She previously worked at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, where she served as an adviser on issues of public diplomacy and public engagement.

Melamed succeeds Tabby Davoodi, who co-founded 30 Years After in 2007 and who concludes a three-year term as executive director, the release said. The search to replace Davoodi began in March. Melamed started July 15.

30 Years After President Sam Yebri was among those who expressed confidence that Melamed will successfully lead the organization into its next stage.

The organization, the release said, “strives in a nonpartisan manner to educate and engage Iranian-American Jews in American civil life.” 

Retired Israel Defense Forces Maj. Gen. Amos Horev — a former president of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and legendary war hero — shared his personal story before an intimate crowd during a July 10 luncheon with American Technion Society’s (ATS) young leaders.

Retired Israel Defense Forces Maj. Gen. Amos Horev, former president of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, and Diana Stein Judovits, director of the Western region of American Technion Society, nosh at Bedford and Burns restaurant in Beverly Hills. Photo courtesy of American Technion Society

“The participants were so touched to be with such a fascinating historical figure,” Diana Stein Judovits, director of the Western region of ATS said in an email. “Amos Horev’s story is the intersection of the history of Israel and the story of Technion’s role in transforming the state from a desert to an oasis and from an agricultural country to one of the most innovative nations in the world.”

ATS young leaders are members of the organization’s Ambassadors Leadership Development Program and are committed to the mission of helping ATS raise funds and awareness for the Israel Institute of Technology, according to a press release. Those present were: Paul Brandano, Gabriel Eshaghian, Tamar Geller, David Marcus, Lori Mars, Elan Mordoch, Michael Pycher, Joseph Shaposhnik, Michael Steuer and Sarah Weindling.

Additional attendees at the event, which took place at Bedford and Burns restaurant in Beverly Hills, included Rena Conner, president of the Southern California ATS chapter, and Journal President David Suissa.

The board of directors of the Jewish business networking organization JNET has elected Sandy Rosenholz of Senior Services Inc., as the new president of its Bel Air chapter. Rosenholz succeeds Alan Altschul of Open Mortgage, who has been the leader since 2013.   

Alongside his ownership of Senior Resources, Rosenholz has over 44 years of sales experience. 

JNET Tarzana AM chapter’s leadership team: Front row from left: Max Berger, Robin Kellogg and Ronit Krancberg. Back row from left:  Scott Margolin, Phil Blum, Victor Schwartz and Dean Piller. 

“We are thrilled that Sandy will be bringing his passion and exuberance to the Bel Air leadership team,” Jackie Mendelson, JNET board chair, said. “He is never short on ideas and will roll up his sleeves to make things happen. Sandy is a consummate networker with a lot to offer our membership.” 

JNET also has announced the opening of its 12th chapter, JNET Tarzana AM, the first chapter in the San Fernando Valley to offer morning meetings. The first meeting was held on July 7 at Temple Judea over bagels and coffee.  

The team is led by President Victor Schwartz of C-Suite Media Inc., and includes co-membership coordinators Dean Piller of Community Nationwide Mortgage and Scott Margolin of Eden Memorial Park; speaker coordinator Robin Kellogg of Robin Kellogg Associates; and public relations coordinator Philip Blum of Capstone Partners Financial & Insurance Services. 

JNET began in 2005 in the Conejo Valley, and chapters now exist throughout Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

— Ellie Frager, Contributing Writer

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com. 

Beyond book smarts: What this international medical school gives future doctors

For most pursuing a career in medicine, the long-haul investment in studying, training and preparing to become a physician is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Others have personal goals too, whether it’s to explore their Jewish backgrounds or spend time in a new location. Some choose to make the challenge a little more exciting by engaging in a new environment, being immersed in a different culture and picking up a new language. 

The benefits of studying medicine in Israel are numerous, especially at the world-renowned Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. Situated upon the Rambam Health Care Campus on the Haifa shores, Technion American Medical School (TeAMS) provides a top-notch medical education and extensive training at several of Israel’s best hospitals. At this prestigious medical school program, students get one-on-one time with leading faculty members, including two Nobel Prize winners and numerous researchers who have contributed to several medical breakthroughs and innovations. All students complete a thesis. Graduates can continue to residency programs in the U.S. 

The acclaimed academic and research repertoire attracts top students, but the students who actually enroll in TeAMS bring an extra uniqueness to the program. They are attracted to the school for unique reasons, hoping to get a more well-rounded education that will make them more compassionate and focused doctors.   Let’s meet some of the students beginning their medical careers at TeAMS this October.

Balancing Judaism and Medicine

For many observant Jews, there is a dilemma of maintaining a certain lifestyle while seeking a high level of professional training.  While Technion is not a religious institution, its location in Israel makes key issues like Shabbat, the Jewish holidays and kashrut much easier to address.

Josh Simons, an incoming student from Monsey, NY, said one of the things he liked most about TeAMS is the schedule. “It fits around the High Holidays and works perfectly for an observant student,” said Simons, who is starting medical school only one month after his release from a 14-month volunteer service in the Israel Defense Forces in the Netzach Yehuda battalion in the Kfir Brigade. Simons, who earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Touro College in Jan. 2013, served as a machine gunner in a religious unit.

“This is unparalleled for medical schools in general and even in Israel,” described Chris Thomas, an incoming student from Syracuse, NY.  “Studying at TeAMS is both a good place to keep up my religious observance and learning, and a solution for staying in Israel long term.” 

Thomas chose medicine after shadowing and admiring his father, an emergency room physician in New York. “Medicine seemed like the most selfless profession in the world,” Thomas said, thoughtfully reflecting upon how he used to visit patients on Shabbat at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. “This was a really profound experience – seeing the way people grappled with the experience of sickness and what a challenge that is… They meet the challenge and show incredible inner strength, bringing out faith and hope. But also at the hospital, I saw people devastated and crushed by illness. Overall, I was amazed at how much of a difference I could make by just visiting.”

 “Medicine is a sacred profession; as a healer, I can fill the charge of implementing G-d’s will in profound and meaningful ways,” Thomas said. “I am very happy to begin studying at Technion because I’ve only heard positive things, that everyone is so friendly and it sounds like a very positive environment,” he added.

Simons noted a similar thought, “It was by far the nicest program because people were so friendly and the staff is really impressive.” He recalled a “simple, pleasant and inviting” interview experience. “Plus the campus is beautiful and right by the beach,” he said with a smile.

The Diversity of Israel

Both Simons and Thomas plan to stay in Israel following graduation, like their classmate Ilana Barta, who made aliyah to Israel this past August from Teaneck, NJ. “It was good to know that I didn’t have to choose between my want to be in Israel and to be a doctor,” she said. “I was brought up in a home that emphasizes Israel as the homeland, and at the age of 8, I decided wanted to be a doctor.”

“I liked that TeAMS was a smaller program, with fewer students per class,” she explained. “My initial thought after speaking to students is that there is a more attention for each student, individual guidance and more interaction in the classroom. As a whole, the university is a really amazing, innovative place to be.”

Moreover, what attracted Barta was being at one of the most diverse campuses in Israel. Having studied foreign languages at Queens College, Barta knows Arabic, in addition to Hebrew. Barta and fellow TeAMS students participate in rotations at many of Northern Israel’s hospitals, which service Jews, Arabs, Christians, Druze, African refugees and others. 

TeAMS also caught the eye of incoming student Lydia Daniels, from the suburbs of Pittsburg, PA, because of its diversity. Daniels, who graduated with a bachelor’s in pre-med from Bob Jones University in South Carolina, was fascinated after studying about the Middle East region. 

“After my bachelor’s degree, I wanted to travel and study abroad. Because of the classes I took, I thought maybe to study in Israel,” she said. “I looked at all the different medical schools in Israel and was attracted to the family atmosphere here. I feel that we are all in this together and it not a competition.”

Daniels arrived in Israel six weeks before classes started to move into the dorms, take a Hebrew course and explore. “So far, it’s been a very good atmosphere,” she said. 

After medical school, Daniels hopes to work in the developing world, to serve a community and be immersed in the health and the culture to people around the world. “The human body is just amazing and the more I learn about it, the more it amazes me, and I want to bring my knowledge to the different areas of the world that need a whole lot of help.”

Such experiences make doctors more balanced and equipped to treat patients; they excel in the academics, have a grasp of research and technology, develop into more open-minded and compassionate people and gain hands-on experience.

Startup classroom

In a twist on the classic academic approach to entrepreneurship, Israeli universities are trending toward classroom-based incubators that allow students to put theory to the test in a sheltering atmosphere. After all, what better way to learn how to start a business than to actually start one?

The formula clearly works. Among the successful companies launched while their founders were in the Zell Entrepreneurship Program at Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), a private Herzliya university, are the eBay-acquired Gifts Project and Conduit-acquired Wibiya. LabPixies, Google’s first Israeli acquisition, was started by Zell alumni.

“The goal is to strike a balance between hands-on practice and academic methodology,” said Liat Aaronson, executive director of the 12-year-old program, which annually accepts 20 to 22 qualified seniors.

For Moran Nir, her 2009 academic year in the entrepreneurship center was key to her success with FunkKit, a customized sneaker-sticker product now sold online and in stores in 10 countries and growing.

“I always say that I’m not sure it would have happened without Zell,” she said. “It gives you a safety net so if your idea doesn’t work, nothing bad happens. And it introduced us to amazing, helpful people in the legal, financial and product development fields. The networking was the best aspect.”

Israel is a logical place for Zell and newer programs like it. The country boasts more high-tech startups and venture capital activity per person than any other nation in the world, and has produced more startups than Japan, China, India, the United Kingdom, Canada and South Korea.

In 2004, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s Bronica Entrepreneurship Center opened for undergraduates, graduate students, alumni and faculty.

“Our program is an entrepreneurship journey in three steps,” explained Uzi de Haan, who left a long career in industry to lead Bronica. “At each step, the commitment to start one’s own venture increases.”

For those who continue to the stage of actually launching a business, “We give them a link with the high-tech ecosystem, with accelerators, consultancy services such as Microsoft and private workshops for teams we feel are serious,” de Haan said. “Every year we have about 140 alumni teams, ending with maybe 30 potential candidates for starting ventures.”

Bronica also sponsors BizTech, a yearly business plan competition open to student or alumni teams from any university. 

“So far, 20 new companies have come out of that competition — one already had an exit and another has $20 million invested in it,” de Haan said.

This year, the Technion will offer a two-month pre-accelerator to all eight or 10 finalist teams. They’ll get mentoring, a business loan and workspace.

“If it works well, next year we’ll open it to foreign universities that have similar competitions, so they can send their best teams to Israel to expose them to Israelis and Israel’s ‘startup nation’ culture in the summer,” de Haan said.

The Bronica center works closely with the Technion’s master of business administration (MBA) department. “Some of the MBA students are interns for the companies in our accelerator,” de Haan said.

Next fall, the Technion will welcome its first class of international Start-uP MBA students.

“We conducted extensive research before deciding to launch this, because it is quite a unique academic program,” said Avital Regev Siman-Tov, managing director of the Technion’s MBA programs. She learned for herself that traditional courses are not sufficient for budding business people.

“I have a Ph.D. in medical sciences and an MBA, and my theoretical tools gave me the opportunity to be the CEO of a startup — and then what? The real world is a completely different arena,” Regev Siman-Tov said.

“Start-uP MBA will give a student the tools to use his own ideas to establish a company during the program itself, with the assistance of our academic and industry contacts. We will help students commercialize innovations, write business plans and follow up with internships.”

Israel’s startup reputation is the prime selling point for this program, which will be based not on the Technion’s Haifa campus but at the recently opened Sarona “lifestyle center” in Tel Aviv to facilitate field trips to startup country.

Students will be able to take courses at the new Technion-Cornell campus in New York City, and as the only Israeli member in Yale University’s Global Network for Advanced Management, Start-uP MBA will have collaborations with leading business schools around the world.

“Usually in global entrepreneurship programs they teach you how to behave in the global arena, while here we say, ‘Come and study how it is done in the startup nation,’ ” Regev Siman-Tov said.

Because not all ideas can become blockbusters, Zell’s Aaronson prefers to look at university entrepreneurship programs as people accelerators rather than venture accelerators.

“Sometimes success comes from failure,” she said. “Every year, one to four companies come out of the program, and a lot of those are still around. The ones that make the news have made an exit, but 20-some companies launched at Zell, or by Zell alumni, are employing people and developing products.”

Last year’s class included the founders of Roomer, a site for buying and selling hotel reservations that won $2 million in seed money. Feex, a crowd-sourced financial fee-reduction site, attracted its first investment from the founder of the hugely popular Waze, who mentored Feex’s founders in Zell.

Aaronson is pleased that other Israeli institutions of higher learning are starting similar academic programs (such as The Bengis Center for Entrepreneurship and Management at Ben-Gurion University) or community entrepreneurship nonprofits like Sif-Tech at the Hebrew University and StarTAU at Tel Aviv University.

“I believe the more entrepreneurs who are practicing safely in the university context, the better,” she said.

Serial entrepreneur Shimmy Zimels consulted with Aaronson after he agreed to head a new entrepreneurial program this year at the Jerusalem College of Technology, which offers participants stipends from a Canadian donor.

“It’s a totally new program — no other university in Israel gives funding in addition to educational support and mentoring for startup projects,” Zimels said.

During the fall semester, 25 applicants presented their business ideas, and during the spring semester the handful chosen as having the most potential are meeting with mentors and faculty members to get their concepts off the ground.

Ayla Matalon, who teaches at IDC, the Technion and Tel Aviv University and runs the MIT Enterprise Forum of Israel, pioneered the idea of combining academic studies with practical learning. Like Siman-Tov, she had found that the working world bore little resemblance to what she’d learned in the classroom.

“I always thought it is important to understand things from the roots and learn by action,” she said. “If you want to be a shoemaker, you become a shoemaker assistant first. Even if not all the students become entrepreneurs, they become much more aware of processes in the business environment that they should be aware of.” 

New Israeli study explains coral’s pulsation

This story originally appeared on themedialine.org.

Do you find yourself dragging; craving a nap in the late afternoon? You're not alone. Soft coral beneath the waters near the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat does the same thing.

A new study by scientists from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Technion, Israel's institute of technology, discovered that a soft coral called Heteroxenia, found in the reefs off Eilat, pulsates continually except for a period of one-half-hour just before sunset. The study does not answer the napping question, but the scientists do have a theory.

“During the day the coral uses the photosynthesis to generate its food, and during the night it goes through respiration like other animals,” Uri Shavit, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Technion in Haifa told The Media Line. “Just before sunset when the level of oxygen is very high it can take a rest without harming its metabolism.”

What the study, funded by Israel's National Science Foundation, was trying to discover was why, unlike all other species of coral, the Heteroxenia pulsates incessantly, using up valuable energy. The reason, they found, is that the level of photosynthesis, which transforms sunlight into chemical energy, is between five and eight times greater with the movement than without it.

“Corals, which are animals, are important for the ecosystem because they live in symbiosis with algae,” Maya Kremien, a graduate student at Hebrew University who worked on the study told The Media Line. “The pulsation creates the optimal conditions for the photosynthesis of the algae.”

The study appears in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States (PNAS). Kremien worked on the project for four years, developing an underwater measuring device called a particle imaging velocimeter (PIV) which measures the flow of water around the coral.

“By taking hundreds of thousands of images with the PIV, we basically have velocity vector maps,” Shavit said. “We found that the coral pulsates almost 24-hours a day. It's very beautiful. You can sit and watch it for hours.”

The study comes amid concern that the coral reef in Eilat, which is one of the most diverse in the world, has been gradually degrading. Of the nine miles of Israeli coastline along the Red Sea, less than one mile has been designated as a nature preserve. The development of the city of Eilat, sewage outflow and industrial installations have all taken a toll on the coral reefs.

In a previous study, the same group of Israeli scientists found that the motion of water is needed to increase the flow of oxygen away from the corals. This time they found that the pulsation means the coral will not be filtering the same water each time. In addition, each polyp, or coral flower, pulsates at a different rate.

The research could have some practical applications as well, in engineering or medicine.

“We are not there yet but there are a lot of interesting questions that could lead to practical use,” Shavit said. “Nature is very smart through evolution and people mimic nature in other fields. We learned to fly from birds, and to swim from fish.”

They are not sure what people can learn from coral, but they are sure it will be valuable.

Pogroms interrupted: The era of Jews fighting back

As I’ve been watching images of Hamas rockets falling on Israel, I’ve asked myself: If Hamas had the ability to murder thousands of Jews, wouldn’t they? And if Israel didn’t have a strong army, wouldn’t we surely witness another pogrom? 

Since the destruction of the Second Temple some 2,000 years ago, has there been a more physically abused people than the Jews?

How many Crusades and Inquisitions and pogroms have been recorded where Jews were virtually helpless to defend themselves?

Oh sure, we always managed to survive and pull through. We were strong with our values, our Torah, our culture and our wits in adapting to whatever limits were imposed on us.

But physically? We were always at the mercy of our landlords.

My ancestors in Morocco survived only because they knew their place. You never heard of a Moroccan Jew fighting for the same rights as Moroccan Arabs. Jews were the dhimmis, the second class citizens of the state. And still, there were stories of pogroms against Moroccan Jews.

The physical abuse of Jews reached its darkest and most murderous hour with the Holocaust.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, they say you have to reach your own bottom before you can turn things around. Well, the Holocaust was our absolute bottom.

Perhaps not coincidentally, within a few years we were blessed with our own sovereign state. What would happen now? Would our enemies still come after us?

Indeed they did, but this time, something weird happened.

The Jews fought back.

A ragtag band of Jews fought mano a mano against five invading Arab armies and won.

That miraculous victory saved Israel and signaled a new era in the story of the Jews.

The era of Jews Fighting Back.

We’ve been in that era now for 64 years, and the truth is, we’ve become pretty good at it.

This has shocked our enemies. After 2,000 years of seeing Jews cower so as not to get slaughtered, they've seen these weak Jews transformed into fighting warriors.

This doesn't seem very “Jewish.”

Even among Jews, this success has created a lot of handwringing and intellectual agony: What shall we do with all this power? Are we using it responsibly? Will it corrupt us?

I have to confess, I’ve had very little agony over this. The Jews’ ability to finally fight back has been a source of great satisfaction for me.

Of course, I’d be a lot happier if we were at peace and didn’t have to fight in the first place– if we weren’t surrounded by enemies trying to destroy us.

I wouldn’t have to shed tears when I’m alone in my car, thinking of Israel at war, or talk to my daughter in Herzliya about bomb shelters.

But if Israel is destined to live, at least in the near term, surrounded by enemies, what are we to make of this dark circumstance?

Is it possible that all this fighting might be serving an additional purpose, beyond the essential one of defending the country?

As I’ve been reflecting on all this, the thought occurred to me that maybe Israel is more than a country.

Maybe it’s also a statement.

An official statement that says to the world: The Jews will never go away.

This statement of strength after 2,000 years of weakness is so astonishing that it needed a singular, dramatic instrument to make the point.

And what better instrument than a strong country?

A country so powerful it has managed to thrive on so many levels despite being virtually under siege for 64 years.

So, that is my Jewish take on all this ugly fighting: Our enemies need to see, once and for all, that the Jews will never go away.

Maybe only then will there be peace.

The other night, at a Technion event at the home of Frank Lunz, our Consul General, David Siegel, said: “Our enemies have tried for thousands of years to destroy us, but they’ve always failed.”

The difference now is that we’re surviving on our own terms, not by cowering but by holding our heads high.

I’m sure some people will find this tone of defiance a little unseemly, not very nuanced.

But there’s no nuance in hatred. There’s no nuance in the desire to murder Jews. There never has been.

The statement that the Jews will never go away is a statement that must be made. We can thank Israel for making that statement in the most compelling way possible, even at the risk of upsetting a world not used to seeing Jews fight back.

At the Technion event, they played a video showing some of Israel’s global accomplishments, such as finding renewable energy, curing diseases and helping crippled people walk.

We can thank Israel for that statement, too: A world in which the Jews survive is not just good for the Jews, it’s also good for the world. 

Curing cancer: Nobel laureate Hershko on whether it’s possible

Pick up any newspaper and there are certain types of stories that repeat day after day.

Armed men are killing each other in this or that war, car and train crashes claim varying numbers of victims, tearful politicians acknowledge sexual misconduct, and somewhere a scientist is working on a promising research project that might lead, according to the headline, to a cure for cancer.

So, with all these heralded “breakthroughs” in cancer research by brilliant scientists, supported by millions of dollars in public and private funds, are we actually winning the drawn-out war against cancer?

Fortuitously, Technion — Israel Institute of Technology’s Dr. Avram Hershko, co-winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, was recently in Los Angeles, and the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), which supports his work, arranged an interview to provide an expert’s view.

Hershko, 74, and a child Holocaust survivor,  shared the Nobel Prize with a fellow Israeli and an American scientist for their discovery on how individual cells kill or get rid of malfunctioning proteins.

The way that proteins, which carry out the directives of genes, are formed in cells has long been a major research focus. But just as important is how to detect and eliminate “bad” proteins before they destroy or over-stimulate the “good” cells, leading to cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other dreaded diseases.

Among the benefits of Hershko’s past and continuing research has been the development of an effective drug against a specific cancer, multiple myeloma.

However, instead of focusing on Hershko’s own research, which has been widely reported, The Journal asked Hershko to make some sense of the layman’s confusion about the endless, and sometimes contradictory, claims of new advances to end the scourge of cancer.

The key to understanding the fight against cancer is that it is not a single disease, like polio, which can be prevented with a single vaccine or other magic bullet.

“There are thousands of different kinds of cancer, and just one kind, breast cancer, can be triggered by 15 different causes,” Hershko said.

Other experts narrow the list of cancer types, but the numbers are still impressive. The American Cancer Society, for instance, lists 71 types; other compilers cite 200 types.

The Imperial Cancer Research Fund in England enumerates six different theories, each by a distinguished scientist, to try and explain why apparently normally functioning cells at some point “begin to grow and multiply in an abnormal way in some part of the body … [and then] invade and destroy the surrounding tissues.”

Hershko is quite skeptical of claims and expectations of a “cure” for cancer. To achieve that, he says, “We must remove every cancer cell in a patient’s body. If only one remains, it can grow and proliferate again.”

Hershko’s prognosis is not as pessimistic as it sounds. Even absent a cure, the goal of cancer research, he believes, should be to point the way to treatments that will “not merely prolong life, but allow for a reasonably good quality of life” for years to come.

There has been considerable progress in developing such treatments against, for instance, breast cancer and leukemia, especially if these diseases are detected in their early stages.

Ask Hershko what he prizes most in his life, and it’s not the Nobel or other honors, but his six grandchildren. Unlike the stereotype of the ivory tower scientist, completely consumed by his work, Hershko spends two or three days a week taking the kids to school, sports games or dance lessons.

One key to such devotion may be his own childhood experiences, which he is reluctant to discuss, particularly with his family, “because I don’t want to traumatize my grandchildren,” he said.

He was raised in the Hungarian town of Karcag, where both his parents were teachers. In 1944, when Hershko was 6, Nazi troops arrived and deported Karcag’s roughly 1,000 Jews, two-thirds of whom perished in concentration camps.

Hershko’s family was relatively lucky. The boy, with his mother, brother and paternal grandparents, were put on a train to a labor camp in Austria, were they worked in the fields near Vienna.

The family was liberated shortly before the end of the war, in April 1945. Eventually, Hershko’s father, having survived forced labor camps in Hungary and the Soviet Union, rejoined the family. However, the boy’s maternal grandparents and other relatives perished in Auschwitz. In 1950, the Hershkos made aliyah to Israel.

In 1969, Hershko started his research on how the body cleanses itself of unneeded and malfunctioning proteins, but his work was largely ignored or dismissed for the next 10 years.

“People just weren’t interested in my research; they didn’t realize how important it was,” he said. “Some scientists started avoiding me.”

With his theories now validated by tests and the Nobel Prize, Hershko has become something of a celebrity and is often enlisted as an all-purpose maven by the media.

At the Technion in Haifa, Hershko carries the title of distinguished professor, which exempts him from the university’s mandatory retirement-age rule, and in conversation he comes across as a modest and humorous man.

His work is also supported through a research professorship, funded by the ICRF, an organization founded in 1975 by American and Canadian oncologists to help underwrite the work of promising young researchers in Israel and prevent their migration to more lucrative offers at foreign institutions. (See related story on Page 22.)

The ICRF draws its support from American and Canadian contributors, and its grants “are very significant and make a big difference,” Hershko noted. All grant recipients must conduct their research at Israeli institutions.

Last year, ICRF gave out 69 grants, totaling $2.5 million, to scientists at 22 Israeli universities, hospitals and medical centers, according to Lynn Addotta, director of operations for ICRF’s Los Angeles office.

Toward the end of a lengthy interview, Hershko expressed his apprehension about the perceived diminished interest of American Jews, especially the younger ones, in the future of Israel.

“We need your support in every way, not only money,” he insisted. “Israel is the only country we have.”

Opinion: Agreements with Israeli schools a turning point for UC Irvine

Few universities have garnered as much international attention and Jewish communal concern over student-led, anti-Israel and sometimes anti-Semitic activities on campus than the University of California, Irvine (UCI).

A history of incendiary demonstrations demonizing Israel; a revolving door of speakers sympathetic to Hamas and Hezbollah; accusations of harassment of, and threats to, Jewish students, and a pattern of unsatisfactory responses by campus administrators — at least until the 2010 suspension of the Muslim Student Union (MSU) for its role in the Michael Oren debacle — led this writer in a Jewish Journal cover story that year to wonder if UCI was safe for Jews. Some in the community had even accused the university itself of being anti-Semitic.

That’s why UCI’s new agreements with four Israeli universities are nothing less than historic.

During a momentous academic mission to Israel in March, Chancellor Michael Drake signed memoranda of understanding with Hebrew University, Ben-Gurion University and the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology, as well as a letter of intent with Tel Aviv University. These agreements recognize shared areas of academic interest and expertise and open the door to collaborative research, faculty and student exchanges, conferences and other initiatives.

Drake calls Israeli universities “natural partners” with which UCI shares a “synergistic series of competencies and approaches to problems.” Speaking with leaders of the Rose Project, Jewish Federation & Family Services’ program established in 2008 to create a comprehensive and proactive approach to addressing challenges at UCI, the chancellor cited the schools’ cultural and demographic similarities that help build strong relationships among faculty and administrators. He was clearly excited about the potential of these agreements for UCI and Israeli scholars and students.

The university is wasting no time getting started. While in Israel, UCI deans of physical science, medicine and engineering who accompanied Drake laid the groundwork for short- and long-term programs, some of which will launch this summer. Among these are student and faculty exchanges in electrical, civil and environmental engineering; visiting medical rotations, post-doctoral fellowships in the physical sciences; virtual conferences for medical school faculty; and a workshop on water resources. UCI also announced plans to establish “Communications 2025,” a major conference in Israel to explore the technologies needed for IT and communications in the next decade.

The notion that more positive discourse on college campuses can be generated through academia has fueled a number of initiatives by pro-Israel organizations, including the rapid growth in North America of multidisciplinary Israel studies programs. Embracing this approach, Rose Project leaders in 2008 began engaging the UCI administration in dialogue regarding the value a wider academic lens on Israel would have for building a civil campus climate. Significant steps with measurable progress have been achieved: Top pro-Israel speakers and Israeli officials regularly address the UCI community; Israeli journalists and academics are frequent guests in classes dealing with Israel and the conflict; the Israel Fellows Program of the Jewish Agency for Israel has added an important educational and advocacy component to the UCI Hillel agenda; and the Schusterman Family Foundation — in cooperation with the Rose Project — has established a visiting Israeli professor program that brings a scholarly, pro-Israel voice to campus to engage in broad education inside and outside the classroom.

The Orange County Jewish community has seen time and again the transformative effects of Birthright Israel, Hasbara Fellowships, Hillel and StandWithUs Israel programming – all of which are supported by the Rose Project — on participants’ understanding and perception of Israel. Now that UCI’s administration is actively seeking Israeli partnerships, a growing cadre of faculty and students are unequivocally empowered to have the kind of direct interaction with Israel and Israelis that we know will leave a lasting imprint on how they will view the country, its people and their contributions to society. Let’s hope they take up this mantle of opportunity and responsibility.

With the MSU’s notorious “Palestine Awareness Week” assumed to be three weeks away, anti-Israel speakers and their supporters will once again assemble on Ring Road to lambast Israel. And while that small but vocal group may continue to call on the university to divest from companies doing business with Israel, the UCI leadership has outright rejected calls for an Israeli academic boycott. Instead, it has set in place a positive path and vision regarding Israel that will have a profound impact on the campus climate for years to come.

Lisa Armony is a former Jewish Journal Orange County correspondent and now director of the Rose Project of Jewish Federation & Family Services.

Cornell wins ‘genius’ contest, to team with Technion for N.Y. campus

Cornell University will collaborate with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology for a new science campus after winning a competition to build New York City’s next “genius” school.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was expected to make Cornell’s victory official on Monday at the Weill Cornell Medical College in Manhattan.

The Ivy League school will receive free land on New York’s Roosevelt Island, as well as $100 million in city subsidies, to build a state-of-the-art science campus with Technion. The program is scheduled to begin in September at a temporary location.The campus is expected to take more than a generation to build.

Cornell, which received an anonymous $350 million grant, beat out six other universities and consortiums that submitted bids.

The campus will accommodate 2,000 students and include 2.1 million square feet of building space with classrooms, science laboratories, a conference center, housing and other facilities. It will feature environmentally friendly solar energy and geothermal wells.

“I am thankful and proud that this extraordinary individual gift will support Cornell’s goal to realize Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s vision for New York City,” Cornell President David Skorton said.

The week that was in Israel

Two Israelis made world headlines this week. In freezing Stockholm, Prof. Dan Shechtman of the Haifa Technion (Israel’s Institute of Technology) won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. In sunny Perth, Australia, Lee Korzits won the gold medal at the women’s Sailing World Championships, bringing her closer to the 2012 London Olympics.

While in both cases this is a huge personal accomplishment, I believe that it says something about the hotbed which has bred these two outstanding individuals: their country, Israel.

The 70-year-old Prof. Shechtman won the prestigious prize for discovering “quasicrystals”. Please don’t expect me to explain what those are. Even his wife, Prof. Tzipora Shechtman of Haifa University, has said she couldn’t. More than 40 years ago I tried to win acceptance to the department of chemistry at the Technion, but luckily for me, they rejected me. So I can’t interpret for you what the papers say about those mysterious “crystals whose atomic pattern is highly geometrical yet never repeats.”

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (RSAS), on the other hand, tried its best. “Contrary to the previous belief that atoms were packed inside crystals in symmetrical patterns, Shechtman showed that the atoms in a crystal could be packed in a pattern that could not be repeated,” the RSAS said.

The Swedes, with understatement, added an interesting note. “His discovery was extremely controversial. In the course of defending his findings, he was asked to leave his research group. However, his battle eventually forced scientists to reconsider their conception of the very nature of matter.”

Let me tell you in an Israeli style what really happened. In 1982, while on sabbatical at Johns Hopkins University, Shechtman mixed in his laboratory aluminum with manganese and then chilled it and studied the atomic structure with the electron microscope. Instead of finding disorder, as expected, he saw concentric circles, each made of 10 bright dots the same distance from each other. Four or six dots in the circles would have been possible, but absolutely not 10. In an interview at the Technion he recalled that the finding had caused him to say out loud in Hebrew, “There can be no such creature.”

His colleagues took great pains in reassuring him that indeed, “There was no such creature.” One of them brought him a book. “Why don’t you read it, and realize it can’t exist?”

“I know it can’t exist,” replied Shechtman, “but here it is.” Then came ridicule and expulsion. The worst was Prof. Linus Pauling, the double-Nobel laureate who, until his death in 1994, kept saying that Shechtman was “talking nonsense.”

Lee Korzits’ hard road to the top was different. Nobody could say anything once she came in first, and the only hostility she encountered was that of winds and waves. Already in 2003, the 27-year-old Israeli became the youngest windsurfing world champion. In 2006, however, following a board-surfing injury and professional dispute with the national team coach, Korzits quit competing for several years. The interval was marred with personal difficulties. Yet recently she made a tremendous comeback, and now, more mature and seasoned, she is preparing for the London Olympics.

Apart from the natural national pride, there is something of these two heroes which is engrained in the DNA of every Israeli, and indeed, in the Israeli collective. Like in Prof. Shechtman’s case, for decades people looked at the State of Israel with wonder, some with hostility, saying “There can be no such creature.” For how can there be a Jewish and democratic state? An island of democracy in an ocean of tyrannical regimes or chaos? A country void of any natural resources and under constant mortal danger, which has nevertheless produced a stable economy, blooming culture and ten Nobel Prize laureates?

A case in point is the way Israel has been fighting Arab terrorism. From day one we have proclaimed that the old laws of war, enacted when uniform-wearing armies were fighting each other, turned obsolete once the enemy became elusive, using un-involved civilians as human shields. We were reprimanded for that, because like in the laboratory at Johns Hopkins, this was not what the books were saying. Took some time and painful lessons for the world to change its mind.

And the story of the young sailor, isn’t that the story of the Jewish state in the first place? Rising from the ashes and suffering harsh blows, yet with strong will and perseverance, always aspiring for new peaks?

In his speech at the banquet in Stockholm, Prof. Shechtman said that “It is therefore our duty as scientists to promote education, rational thinking and tolerance.” Upon returning to his hometown, Haifa, Mayor Yona Yahav took him at his word. Soon, the Nobel Prize Laureate will lead a program to promote the teaching of science and technology in the city’s kindergartens. Lee Korzits, meanwhile, serves as a sport model for young generation in our country.

So much for one week in Israel.

Uri Dromi is a columnist based in Jerusalem.

Cornell, Technion joining for top tech campus

Cornell University and The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology will partner to create a world-class applied science and engineering campus in New York City.

The NYC Tech Campus on Roosevelt Island is set to combine the strengths of both institutions.

Cornell President David Skorton and Technion President Peretz Lavie made the announcement Sunday.

“By joining forces in this groundbreaking venture, our two great universities will employ our demonstrated expertise, experience and track record of transforming new ideas into solutions to create the global avenues of economic opportunity and tech leadership that Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg envisions,” Skorton said.

An integral part of the campus will be the Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute, a 50-50 collaboration between the two universities to form a graduate program to focus on bringing products quickly to the market.

The partners will be joining in a full-scale campus—not a satellite of either school—to open in 2012, initially in either leased space or existing Cornell facilities in New York City. The NYC Tech Campus is planned to grow to more than 2 million square feet on Roosevelt Island, accommodating nearly 2,000 graduate students and 250 faculty, as well as visitors and corporate researchers. Cornell and the Technion will collaborate in teaching, educating and advising students.

The universities’ proposal will be presented to the city by Oct. 28.

$30 million donated to Technion

The American Technion Society has received a $30 million commitment from the estate of Henry Taub and The Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation.

The gift, awarded Tuesday, will go to making improvements at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

From the fund, $25 million will go to the Leaders in Science and Technology faculty recruitment program. The other $5 million is scheduled to go to the university’s faculty of computer science.

In 2002, the Taubs established the Leaders in Science program with $10 million. The program works to attract internationally renowned scientific leaders to serve as senior faculty at the school. Forty-one new faculty have joined the Technion through the program since the fall of 2002.

Henry Taub, the founder of Automatic Data Processing, was a longtime supporter of the Technion. He died earlier this year.

“This gift is an investment in the future of the Technion and Israel,” said Marilyn Taub. “The Leaders in Science program was so important to Henry. He wanted to ensure that the university is able to continue its historic role as innovator and educator for future generations of engineers and scientists who will shape Israel’s future.”

Israeli among 4 Jewish scientists to win Nobels

An Israeli scientist won the 2011 Nobel Prize for chemistry, and Jewish scientists also took prizes in physics and medicine.

Daniel Shechtman, 70, a distinguished professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, was announced as a Nobel winner on Wednesday for his discovery of quasicrystals, mosaics of atoms that form regular patterns that never repeat themselves.

Shechtman, who receives $1.5 million for winning the prize, also is an associate at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and a professor at Iowa State University.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Shechtman’s 1982 discovery of quasicrystals changed the way chemists look at solid matter. His discovery had been rejected initially by the scientific community and caused him to be kicked out of his research group.

“I would like to congratulate you, on behalf of the citizens of Israel, for your award, which expresses the intellect of our people,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Shechtman in a congratulatory phone call. “Every Israeli is happy today and every Jew in the world is proud.”

Saul Perlmutter, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, was among three U.S.-born scientists who won the Nobel Prize in physics announced Tuesday. Perlmutter received the prize for his study of exploding stars that showed that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. He will receive a “coveted” lifetime parking permit on campus in honor of his prize, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Ralph Steinman and Bruce Beutler were named as Nobel Prize winners for medicine on Monday for discoveries on the immune system. Half of the prize money was awarded to Steinman, with the other half to be split between Beutler and biologist Jules Hoffmann. Israel National News reported that Steinman and Beutler are Jewish.

Steinman will receive the prize posthumously; he died three days before the Nobel committee made the announcement. Though he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four years ago, Steinman was able to prolong his life by using new dendritic cell-based immunotherapy—the same discovery for which he was awarded the prize.

Only living scientists typically are considered by the Nobel committee, but because its members were unaware of Steinman’s death when the winning names were released, no substitution winner will be announced.

Technion professor engineering a social conscience in developing countries

After he tired of prospecting for gold in his native Canada, Mark Talesnick moved to Israel, where he did exploratory drilling for the proposed Mediterranean-Dead Sea (Med-Dead) Canal project and founded the national ice hockey team.

Obviously, the Technion engineering professor is a man of pioneering spirit and imagination, and he is now applying his talents to provide cheap energy in remote Nepal villages, using natural raw materials that profligate Westerners tend to flush down.

At the same time, Talesnick is teaching a new generation of engineers that a social conscience, linked to innovative change, is as vital to their profession as designing the world’s tallest building or longest bridge.

Before we get to the technical stuff, back to ice hockey, as unlikely a sport in the Middle East as camel racing in North Dakota.

After Talesnick, born 51 years ago in Toronto but raised in Kingston, Ontario (which claims to be the birthplace of the game), decided to make aliyah in 1982, he started recruiting for his dream team.

A few expatriate Canadians and Americans showed up, as well as some sabras who had never been on ice, but were good on roller skates.

In its first game, Israel faced Spain and was trounced 23-4.

But in the next two games, drawing on the spirit that infused the ancient Maccabees, the Israelis beat the Turks and then the Greeks.

“After we defeated Turkey, the local band played ‘Hatikvah.’ That was an emotional high,” Talesnick recalled during a recent visit to Los Angeles.

Following this triumph, Talesnick went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees at the Technion and then joined the faculty of the civil and environmental engineering department.

In 2008, he established a chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

The organization was started in France in the 1980s, and in the United States in 2001 by professor Bernard Amadei of the University of Colorado, Boulder. Its mission is to improve the quality of life in impoverished communities and in developing countries through small-scale, low-technology projects.

EWB now has 300 chapters worldwide, including a professional chapter in Los Angeles and student chapters at UCLA, USC, Loyola Marymount and California State University, Los Angeles.

The Technion EWB team of some 25 Israeli and American students, of both genders, first looked to the Bedouin village of Kochle in the Negev, whose single generator provided a limited, erratic supply of energy.

One day, Talesnick heard from a villager whose brother was sick in a hospital and could not be released home unless his medications were refrigerated round the clock.

Talesnick passed the problem on to his students, who came up with a small cooler connected to a battery charged through solar panels.

A more complex challenge faced the team at Namsaling, a village of about 1,000 families near the border with India. Like other rural villages in land-locked Nepal, Namsaling had no gas or kerosene for cooking and heating, and so relied on wood from nearby old-growth forests.

The consequences were long-range deforestation and a high rate of respiratory diseases, especially among women, in the poorly ventilated kitchens and homes.

After considerable preparatory work in the lab and on the ground, the Technion team came up with a bio reactor, or biogas digester, constructed in an earth pit about 4.5 feet deep and 8 feet across, and topped by a concrete dome.

When a reactor is finished, animal and human waste and food compost is fed through an inlet into the digester compartment, where bacteria transform the waste into clean methane gas.

Bio reactors were already widespread in Nepal and India, but were built mostly by child labor and in a laborious and often dangerous two-month process.

The team designed an igloo-like aluminum framework, covered with 12 surfboard-shaped slices, which can be easily assembled, dismantled and reused. Initially, the slices were made of Styrofoam, which has now been replaced by locally grown bamboo, with the finished product resembling sushi mats. This method cut construction time to two weeks, while eliminating injuries.

Each reactor supplies a family with five hours of odor-free cooking gas a day; so far, 60 have been built.

Not counting travel expenses for the team members, the cost of building one reactor comes to $440. Private foundations and organizations contribute two-thirds of the amount and the villagers one-third, mainly through their labor and by housing and feeding the Technion team.

“It’s a win-win situation all around,” Talesnick said. “The villagers get gas for cooking and heating, and the residue is used as concentrated fertilizer for organic farming. Fewer trees will be cut down for fuel, and waste no longer pollutes the rivers, drastically cutting down on widespread diarrhea.”

Based on their hands-on experience, Talesnick and Amadei last summer conducted a program at the Technion on “Engineering for Developing Communities,” combining field and classroom work. A similar program is scheduled for this summer, from mid-July to mid-August.

“A major purpose of the program is to teach professional and future engineers that beyond technology they must understand the social, economic and health problems of non-Western societies,” Talesnick said.

He put special emphasis on grasping cultural differences, citing a project in the African country of Mauritania, where a well-intentioned engineering team installed pipes to carry water to individual homes.

Within a week, someone sabotaged the system by cutting the pipes. The culprits turned out to be the local women, who were used to gathering at the village’s water pump and missed their central social gathering place.

Talesnick noted that university engineering courses, even in developing countries, are designed to meet the needs of 10 percent of the world’s population living in technologically advanced countries.

“We need to turn our attention to the other 90 percent of the world,” he said. “At the Technion, I hope that in five years, 2 percent of all students, around 160, will be involved in our projects — not just engineers but educators, social scientists, health professionals and so on. That in itself would represent a paradigm shift in the education we give our students.”

For additional background information, go to www.ewbtechnion.wordpress.com. To watch a video of the reactor construction process, visit youtube.com/watch?v=FcczRnowRSc.

Technion gets $5 million to develop a better battery

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has given the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology a $5 million grant to further develop a light, long-lasting and environmentally friendly battery for energy storage.

The grant, which will be paid out over three years, will be used to create The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust Energy Storage Complex, the Haifa-based school’s American fundraising arm announced last Friday. Its ultimate goal is to help end the world’s dependence on fossil fuels.

“The Helmsley Trust is proud to be associated with the Technion in this very important project,” Sandor Frankel, a trustee of the Helmsley Trust, said in a release from the American Technion Society.

Two U.S. patents are pending for the Technion Si-air battery, a new type of silicon-air battery that was developed by Technion scientists.

The Energy Storage Complex will consist of three separate laboratories for conducting battery research.

The Helmsley Charitable Trust, established in 1999, has announced more than $410 million in grants to charitable organizations.

Is Bernie Madoff Jewish?  Very. Oy.

Bernard Madoff at a 2007 roundtable discussion with Justin Fox, Ailsa Roell, Robert A. Schwartz, Muriel Seibert, and Josh Stampfli.

“It’s all just one big lie.”

With those words Bernard Madoff confessed to senior executives of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities that the $17 billion hedge fund company  he  founded was nothing more than a Ponzi scheme.
According to Timeonline.com, Madoff is at the center of “the largest investor swindle ever blamed on a single individual.”
Madoff was arrested Thursday by Federal agents and charged with securities fraud.  In its complaint the Securities and Exchange Commission said Madoff was at the head of an “ongoing $50 billion swindle.”  He could face 25 years in prison.

The news that broke today on the front pages of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reverberated in Jewish communities across the world.

“A lot of Jewish charities had investments with him,” one prominent investor — who said he had no connection to Madoff — told The Jewish Journal. “So did a lot of Jews.”

The collapse of the Madoff business leaves a mess that is yet to be sorted out and whose victims are just coming to the fore.

But what’s already clear is that Madoff used his ties to the Jewish community to garner at least some of his ill-used funds.

UPDATE SUNDAY 1:41 p.m.:

By Sunday the initial casualty reports showed that Madoff’s crimes reached deep into the Los Angeles Jewish community. 

“It has come to our attention that the Jewish Community Foundation [Los Angeles] is included among a number of major institutions as well asindividuals who may have been victimized by an alleged fraud,” wrote Jewish Community Foundation Board Chair Cathy Siegel Weiss and President and CEO Marvin Schotland in a letter sent to board members.

Regretfully, the Foundation was one of those clients. Mr. Madoff was highly regarded and his firm has been one of the most prominent firms on Wall Street for decades. We were shocked to learn of this alleged fraud.

Some $18 million of the Foundation’s Common Investment Pool (currently valued at 11% of its assets) was invested with Madoff, according to the letter.The CIP represents endowments from a variety of long-established Jewish organizations. The Journal is investigating which participants were involved and how much they stand to lose, and whether officials can expect any sort of remediation.

Meanwhile, there are reports that many other local institutions and individuals have been hit by the scandal.  Senior Writer Brad Greenberg and blogger Dean Rotbart are investigating and verifying these reports and will have updates here.

Madoff is a trustee of the Yeshiva University and a long-time philanthropist in Jewish circles.
According to Yeshiva University, “Bernard L. Madoff, a member of the University’s Board of Trustees since 1996, was elected chairman of the Board of Directors of Sy Syms School of Business in 2000. Mr. Madoff is chairman of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, one of the nation’s largest third-market dealers in New York Stock Exchange and over-the-counter securities.
A benefactor of the University, Mr. Madoff recently made a major gift to the Sy Syms School.”
The first known charity victim, according to JTA, is the The Robert I. Lappin Foundation in Salem, Mass. which gave away about $1.5 million to Jewish causes.
After Madoff’s arrest, The Robert I. Lappin Foundation in Salem laid off all of its employees and locked its doors on Friday after its benefactor’s assets were frozen because they were invested with Madoff.

“Mr. Lappin investments were frozen,” the foundation’s executive director of the foundation Deborah Coltin told JTA. “The assets are frozen. We have no money. The foundation cannot access its money.”

Lappin, who was reached by JTA Friday afternoon, said that he lost $8 million – the entirety of his foundation’s money – because it was invested with Madoff. Lappin, who had been involved financially with Madoff since 1991 also took a “significant” hit personally. He said that he knew nothing of Madoff’s fraudulent activities.

The foundation, which gave away about $1.5 million per year to Jewish causes, let go all of its workers, one fulltime employee and six part-time employees.
Forbes details the fall of Madoff
“Bernard Madoff is a longstanding leader in the financial services industry,” his lawyer Dan Horwitz told reporters outside a downtown Manhattan courtroom where he was charged. “We will fight to get through this unfortunate set of events.”
A shaken Madoff stared at the ground as reporters peppered him with questions. He was released after posting a $10 million bond secured by his Manhattan apartment.
The SEC filed separate civil charges.
“Our complaint alleges a stunning fraud — both in terms of scope and duration,” said Scott Friestad, the SEC’s deputy enforcer. “We are moving quickly and decisively to stop the scheme and protect the remaining assets for investors.”
The SEC said it appeared that virtually all of the assets of his hedge fund business were missing.
Madoff had long kept the financial statements for his hedge fund business under “lock and key,” according to prosecutors, and was “cryptic” about the firm.
And Reuters has the story here:

REUTERS – Edith Honan and Dan Wilchins:

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bernard Madoff, a quiet force on Wall Street for decades, was arrested and charged on Thursday with allegedly running a $50 billion “Ponzi scheme” in what may rank among the biggest fraud cases ever.

The former chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market is best known as the founder of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, the closely-held market-making firm he launched in 1960. But he also ran a hedge fund that U.S. prosecutors said racked up $50 billion of fraudulent losses.

Madoff told senior employees of his firm on Wednesday that “it’s all just one big lie” and that it was “basically, a giant Ponzi scheme”, with estimated investor losses of about $50 billion, according to the U.S. Attorney’s criminal complaint against him.

A Ponzi scheme is a swindle offering unusually high returns, with early investors paid off with money from later investors.

On Thursday, two agents for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation entered Madoff’s New York apartment.

“There is no innocent explanation,” Madoff said, according to the criminal complaint. He told the agents that it was all his fault, and that he “paid investors with money that wasn’t there”, according to the complaint.

The $50 billion allegedly lost would make the hedge fund one of the biggest frauds in history. When former energy trading giant Enron filed for bankruptcy in 2001, one of the largest at the time, it had $63.4 billion in assets.
U.S. prosecutors charged Madoff, 70, with a single count of securities fraud.

They said he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $5 million.
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed separate civil charges against Madoff.

“Our complaint alleges a stunning fraud — both in terms of scope and duration,” said Scott Friestad, the SEC’s deputy enforcer. “We are moving quickly and decisively to stop the scheme and protect the remaining assets for investors.”

Dan Horwitz, Madoff’s lawyer, told reporters outside a downtown Manhattan courtroom where he was charged, “Bernard Madoff is a longstanding leader in the financial services industry. We will fight to get through this unfortunate set of events.”

A shaken Madoff stared at the ground as reporters peppered him with questions. He was released after posting a $10 million bond secured by his Manhattan apartment.

Authorities, citing a document filed by Madoff with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Jan. 7, 2008, said Madoff’s investment advisory business served between 11 and 25 clients and had a total of about $17.1 billion in assets under management. Those clients may have included other funds that in turn had many investors.

The SEC said it appeared that virtually all of the assets of his hedge fund business were missing.


An investor in the hedge fund said it generated consistent returns, which was part of the attraction. Since 2004, annual returns averaged around 8 percent and ranged from 7.3 percent to 9 percent, but last decade returns were typically in the low-double digits, the investor said.

The fund told investors it followed a “split strike conversion” strategy, which entailed owning stock and buying and selling options to limit downside risk, said the investor, who requested anonymity.

Jon Najarian, an acquaintance of Madoff who has traded options for decades, said “Many of us questioned how that strategy could generate those kinds of returns so consistently.”

Najarian, co-founder of optionmonster.com, once tried to buy what was then the Cincinnati Stock Exchange when Madoff was a major seatholder on the exchange. Najarian met with Madoff, who rejected his bid.

“He always seemed to be a straight shooter. I was shocked by this news,” Najarian said.


Madoff had long kept the financial statements for his hedge fund business under “lock and key,” according to prosecutors, and was “cryptic” about the firm. The hedge fund business was located on a separate floor from the market-making business.

Madoff has been conducting a Ponzi scheme since at least 2005, the U.S. said. Around the first week of December, Madoff told a senior employee that hedge fund clients had requested about $7 billion of their money back, and that he was struggling to pay them.

Investors have been pulling money out of hedge funds, even those performing well, in an effort to reduce risk in their portfolios as the global economy weakens.

The fraud alleged here could further encourage investors to pull money from hedge funds.

“This is a major blow to confidence that is already shattered — anyone on the fence will probably try to take their money out,” said Doug Kass, president of hedge fund Seabreeze Partners Management. Kass noted that investors that put in requests to withdraw their money can subsequently decide to leave it in the fund if they wish.

Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities has more than $700 million in capital, according to its website.

Madoff remains a member of Nasdaq OMX Group Inc’s nominating committee, and his firm is a market maker for about 350 Nasdaq stocks, including Apple, EBay and Dell according to the website.

The website also states that Madoff himself has “a personal interest in maintaining the unblemished record of value, fair-dealing, and high ethical standards that has always been the firm’s hallmark.”

In the wake of the scandal, Internet message boards are alive with anti-Semitic vitriol.
The web site dealbreaker.com provides a list of Madoff’s victims supplied by CNBC’s  David Faber:

  • Fund of Funds
  • European banks
  • remont Advisers
  • “market confidence”
  • JEWS

The comments on that page reveal the kind of anti-Semitic writing that scandals involving Jewish financiers unleash with clockwork precision.
A sampling:

  • LOL Jews!…
  • Looks like a lot of Jews might be converting to Muslim soon….in prison….
  • Now that the JEW has been thrown down the well, is our country free?LETS THROW A BIG PARTY!!!

The message boards at the web site Stormfront, where neo-Nazis go to play, is rife with comments like, “One of satan’s children doing what comes naturally.”

Hey. If it’s small comfort the prosecutor in the case is Jewish, and it was Madoff’s sons who turned their crooked dad in.

Thousands of small Jewish investors who played by the rules and worked and saved are now financially ruined because of this man. For all but your garden variety bigots, one horrifically monstrously putrid apple doesn’t mean squat about the whole tree.


No WiFi? WiPeer software says ‘no problem’

Whenever Technion computer science professor Roi Friedman visited conferences and lectures with his students, he found himself growing increasingly frustrated.

In an age of supposedly instant communications, he felt impatient that in locations without access to the Internet or a cellular network, there was no way to communicate or share files with fellow researchers, even though they all carried laptops and were often in the same hall or building.

The answer, he realized, was to develop a new solution.

One and a half years later, a team of doctoral students under Friedman’s guidance has developed WiPeer. The new software enables mobile and desktop computers to communicate directly with one another in a local area without any mediating factor, such as an Internet server. The software, which is available free on the Net, enables users to send messages, pictures, files, movies and games to one another wirelessly within a 100- to 300-meter radius.

Direct communication via computers has been technically possible for years. Any laptop or desktop computer with wireless connection capabilities should be able to communicate directly with another. The only problem is that this form of wireless ad-hoc communication is highly complex and requires a long configuration process. Even professionals in the field have shied away from tackling this problem.

“We always knew the possibility existed but it was just too complicated,” Friedman said. “When we wanted to share files, pictures or games it was much easier to just use a USB or disk on key.”

Work on WiPeer began in January 2006. It was undertaken as a doctoral dissertation by three of Friedman’s graduate students, Vadim Drabkin, Gabi Kliyot and Alon Kama. Their goal was to devise a solution that would not only solve their own communication problems, but which could also be put to use by the general public. As a result, the team focused on building software that looks attractive and professional.

“Typically when you build software in academia it is very rough and not always easy to use,” Friedman said. “Right from the start we made sure that WiPeer would have an attractive GUI [graphic user interface], could be easily installed and was simple and appealing to use.”

The user-friendly application platform enables simple communication between computers in close proximity — 100 yards inside a building and up to 300 yards in the open air. Users can transfer dozens of pictures from one computer to another in less than a minute, and even a 700 megabyte file can be transferred in up to 15 minutes. It is also possible to carry on chats without disturbing anyone in the vicinity or to play collaborative games like chess.

WiPeer is only available for systems that run Windows XP or Vista.

“It’s very fast and extremely simple,” said Friedman, adding that in addition to students and researchers, the software will also appeal to businesspeople, particularly those that travel frequently for their work.

“Employees who go abroad on company business may be seated separately from one another in the airplane,” Friedman said. “With this software, they can work together on their presentation during their flight.”

The software was completed earlier this year. Since it was published, several thousand people have


News Briefs from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Technion Gets $25 Million Gift From Californian

A California philanthropist has donated $25 million to the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. The gift from Lorry Lokey, founder and chairman of Business Wire, will be used to create a new combined life sciences and engineering center. The money came through the New York-based American Technion Society, which has raised more than $1.2 billion since its inception in 1940. “I feel that Israel has in the Technion an asset as valuable as MIT and Cal Tech combined,” Lokey said.

Technion Professor Aaron Ciechanover, a who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2004, will head the center.

U.S. Teachers Union Backs Israel

A major U.S. teachers union passed a pro-Israel resolution. Passed July 21 at the biennial convention of the American Federation of Teachers in Boston, the resolution supports Israel’s right to defend itself and condemns the “bombings, killings and kidnappings by Hezbollah and Hamas that precipitated the current crisis.”

The resolution also calls for the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, which demands that Hezbollah be disarmed and calls for negotiations leading to a cease-fire.

Initiative Aims to Boost Israeli Tourism

A major U.S. Jewish umbrella group launched an initiative to bolster tourism to Israel during the conflict with Hezbollah.

The program, launched by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, allows tourists to place reservations, which will be valid for up to a year, in northern Israeli hotels and kibbutzim. It is intended to provide a “continuing stream” of income to Israeli tourism and the people who work in that industry, the group’s executive vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein, said Monday in a conference call with reporters.

Israel’s Hotel Association and the Tourism Ministry are participating in the effort, in cooperation with the Prime Minister’s Office and the Gaza Development Authority.

Jewish Lawmakers Honor Israeli Air Force

Several members of the U.S. House of Representatives attended a July 19 gathering honoring the Israel Air Force Center, an Israeli nonprofit that promotes ties between the Israeli air force and the international community.”There are difficult days ahead for Israel,” said Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo). “I can’t tell you how profoundly grateful we are to the Israeli air force for what it does 24 hours a day. Members of Congress who are friends of Israel are honored and privileged to do our little bit to assist.”

Other Jewish members attending included Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) and Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles).

Saudis Warn of War

Saudi Arabia said Israeli actions could bring about a Middle East war.”Saudi Arabia warns everybody that if the peace option fails because of Israeli arrogance, there will be no other option but war,” Saudi King Abdullah was quoted as saying Tuesday, in reference to Israel’s offensives in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

Saudi Arabia championed a 2002 regional peace proposal under which Israel would be recognized by the Arab world if it gave up territories captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and allowed a “right of return” for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Israel rejected the preconditions, which are seen as demographic suicide for the Jewish state. The chief of Israel’s military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that Syria had put its armed forces on high alert and that there was concern in Jerusalem that it could “misread the situation” an apparent reference to Syrian fears that it could come under attack from Israeli or U.S. forces.

Turkey Would Consider Lebanon Role

Turkey would consider a role in a stabilization force in southern Lebanon. “If and when called upon, we will be giving positive consideration to whichever way we contribute, including the stabilization force,” said Burak Akcapar, a counselor at the Turkish Embassy in Washington. Turkey is to play a prominent role at talks in Rome on Wednesday hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice aimed at ending the Israel-Lebanon crisis. Akcapar said it was too early to consider whether Turkey would take a leading role in such a force, but noted that Turkey had successfully led such forces in recent years in the Balkans and Afghanistan. “We have a major stake in maintaining stability in the region,” he said.

Ukrainians Hold Pro-Israel Rallies

Demonstrators in two Ukrainian cities rallied in a show of support for Israel. An estimated 2,000 people, some of them carrying Israeli flags and banners reading “Stop the Terror,” “Yes, Israel” and “Ukraine and Israel Together” demonstrated Monday in Kiev.

Israeli Ambassador Naomi Ben-Ami, the chief rabbis of Ukraine, and Jewish and Christian leaders took part in the rally. Also Monday, some 1,500 people attended a rally in support of Israel in the city of Dnepropetrovsk.

In a related development, Alexander Feldman, a Jewish member of Ukraine’s Parliament, collected some 50 signatures from lawmakers on a petition urging the Ukrainian leadership to publicly support Israel in the current conflict.Last week, hundred of demonstrators rallied in Kiev and some other Ukrainian cities to protest Israel’s military operation against Hezbollah.

Poll: Canadians Back Israel

Almost two-thirds of Canadians see Israel’s military action in Lebanon as completely or somewhat justified, according to a new poll.

A survey conducted for the CanWest News Service and Global National found that 64 percent of Canadians are sympathetic to the goals of Israel’s counterattack against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Sixty-three percent of the 1,023 Canadians polled said that if any side should be required to make a major compromise to attain a cease-fire, it should be “those who kidnapped the Israeli soldiers.”

Israeli Children Get Donated Toys

Children in northern Israel received toys donated from North America. Canadian philanthropist Gerry Schwartz and his wife, Heather Riesman, along with the Toys “R” Us chain, donated toys worth approximately $50,000 to children in the northern Israeli towns of Nahariya and Shlomi.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Latkes That Last

Finally! You can now say goodbye to those weird frozen triangles of premasticated potatoes that pass for latkes after Chanukah has ended and the frying pan and grater have been packed up. Scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa have come up with an alternative way to preserve food, which promises to keep latkes frying-pan fresh — even months later — without extreme heat, chemicals or freezing. Instead, they zap the food with pulsed shockwaves — a process that takes a second, but kills microbes, harmful enzymes and bacteria. Since no chemicals are used, the flavor of the food remains the same, but its shelf life is increased exponentially.

"There is really a great need for alternative preservation methods in order to get safety and shelf life," said Dr. Hadassa Zuckerman, a lecturer in food engineering and biotechnology at the Technion, who helped develop this system. "There are many materials that cannot be preserved by heat or other methods because then they lose their functional properties."

Latke eaters are not the only ones who are going to be able to welcome this procedure. Shockwaves are also being used to preserve biological materials such as blood and plasma. "Without this system, it takes approximately one week to preserve plasma," Zuckerman told The Journal. "Our method takes a few seconds."

Zuckerman called this preservation method "revolutionary" and said that they are still testing its uses.

"We were convinced that latkes were only worth eating fresh out of the oven," she said. "Now we may all have to reconsider that notion."

Sign of Hope

The sign to the left, posted by Israeli Jewish and Arab students at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology around the elite Rehovot campus, reads: "We, the Arab and Jewish students of the Technion, who daily sit together in the same classrooms in cooperation and friendship, express our pain over the recent outbreaks of violence in our country. It is up to us to continue living here in mutual dignity, peace and security. We call on every Technion student to speak out against violence, and on every citizen to work on behalf of good neighborly relations."