A day at the zoo

As a journalist, I spend a lot of time in front of my computer, so it’s nice when an assignment gets me out of the office for a bit. It’s even nicer when the destination is The Phoenix Zoo on a beautiful autumn afternoon.

I was there to meet Yehuda Bar, the director of the Zoological Center of Tel Aviv-Ramat-Gan in Israel. Bar, who has been the director of the zoo for 17 years, is here for a two-day visit to The Phoenix Zoo, during which he’ll tour The Phoenix Zoo’s various facilities, including the Joyce Corrigan Memorial Animal Care Center, the Conservation Center and the Wild Science Workshop.

The purpose of the visit is for Bar and Bert Castro, President/CEO of the Arizona Zoological Society/Phoenix, to share ideas and to continue to build the relationship not just between the zoos, but the cities — Phoenix and Ramat-Gan are Sister Cities. Castro and a number of other Valley representatives, including Phoenix Vice Mayor Michael Johnson, visited Ramat-Gan last year to help celebrate its 90th anniversary; a visit to the Zoological Center of Tel Aviv-Ramat-Gan was part of the itinerary.

During my interview, Bar and Castro spoke about what they hope to learn from each other, the challenges that zoos face and the importance of zoological parks.

Want to know more? Read my article in the Nov. 1 issue of Jewish News.

Join the conversation

One of the topics discussed at Valley Beit Midrash’s Oct. 9 opening event – which featured the organization’s new director, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, interviewing Jerry Silverman, president and chief executive officer of The Jewish Federations of North America about “The Future of American Judaism: Challenges & Opportunities in the 21st Century” – was the results of the recent Pew survey, “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” which was released on Oct. 1.

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, left, interviews Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, at Valley Beit Midrash's opening event on Oct. 9. Photo by Joel Zolondek

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, left, interviews Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, at Valley Beit Midrash’s opening event on Oct. 9.
Photo by Joel Zolondek

Many of the survey results have been widely reported (Click here to check it out for yourself). Silverman, who has served as JFNA’s president for the past five years, called the survey, the first Jewish population study since 2000, “an amazing gift to the Jewish community because data is knowledge.”

But how can we use this data?

“What we need to do is listen,” Silverman said.

“We need to listen to those who are opting out,” he said. “We’ve got to be great listeners.” He called the Pew survey “a gift we have to use.”

Because the release of this important data is so recent, community leaders will need some time to digest what it means for their own community. “There is no one-size-fits-all” strategy, Silverman said.

So how will the Valley’s Jewish community use this information?

Here at Jewish News, we see our role in the community as a way to facilitate conversation between all the many groups with all their varying missions. In each issue, we aim to deliver, well, Jewish news – in an interesting, accurate format.

Although the Valley’s Jewish community is so spread out, our cyber community is available to anyone with an Internet connection. In addition to the Jewish News’ Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter feeds, the conversation can continue on the Jewish News website, jewishaz.com, through its new comment feature. Keep it civil, please; comments will be moderated.

Our website’s new interactive, searchable calendar is now also available. Synagogues and organizations are encouraged to create an account and submit their own events (this is in addition to the weekly calendar in the print issue). Since space isn’t limited on the online calendar, there’s no limit on how far in advance events can be posted.

Lastly, have you visited the Jewish News’ mobile website? Now you can continue the conversation on any of your mobile devices, anywhere you are.

Jewish genetic testing – an affordable option

While researching an upcoming story about the advances in infertility treatment, I ran across some information about the importance of genetic testing – and its high cost. For many Jewish couples that want to have a child, the cost can be prohibitive.

The Jewish Genetic Diseases Center of Greater Phoenix offers an affordable solution. The center will hold a screening event 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, at the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus. The testing costs $65 for individuals ages 18-45 and is free with a valid student ID. New this year: If you have health insurance, bring your insurance card and you’ll receive a free screening. You must pre-register and pay the $65 fee, which will be refunded. Also, the Jewish Genetics Disease Center will pay your required co-pay.

The center’s executive director, Randee Pri-Tal, says during the screening, the center will test its 1,000th person.

According to the center, one in four Jewish individuals of Ashkenazi Eastern European descent is a carrier for one or more Jewish genetic diseases, which includeCanavan disease, Tay-Sachs disease and Gaucher disease.

If you’d like more information, here are links to a few Jewish News stories we’ve written about genetic testing in the past:




To register for testing or for more information, visit jewishgeneticsphx.org or call Randee Pri-Tal at 480-668-3347.