B&P groups aim to make community connections

Corner Office panel

The panelists in the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix’s “Corner Office: Lessons from Jewish Business Leaders” event on April 16 were (in front row, from left) Anthony Wanger, president of IO; Tammy Weinbaum, senior vice president and general manager at American Express; and Craig Weiss, chairman of Njoy. In back, from left, are Adam Goodman, president and CEO at Goodmans Interior Structures, who was the moderator; Eliot Kaplan, chair of the federation’s Business & Professionals Division; and Steven Schwarz, federation board chair. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix

Back in the day, I was involved in the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix’s Young Leadership Division, as a program participant and then as a board member and Mazelpalooza co-chair. Then, I had kids and shifted my focus elsewhere. Now that my children are a little older and I occasionally have some opportunities to get out a little more, I no longer fit in the “young adult” mode of YLD, which is now Young Jewish Phoenix (YJP). But fortunately, for those in my age range, the federation has relaunched its Business and Professional (or “B&P”) Division.

At the “Corner Office: Lessons from Jewish Business Leaders” event on April 16, it felt like a program for those who “aged out” of YLD (or YJP). And I mean that in a good way. I saw a couple of people who I used to see often at YLD events and even someone who I went to camp with up at Camp Charles Pearlstein (now Camp Stein) back in high school.

As Eliot Kaplan, chair of the Business and Professionals Division, said in his introduction that night, B&P groups are “a way to connect on a smaller level.”

“It’s a way to interact with other individuals that are doing what you’re doing, but also a way to connect to the Jewish community in Phoenix,” Kaplan told Jewish News. “What I’m hoping this is, is a way for us to reach out to many Jews in the community who just haven’t connected with the Jewish community yet. We have an untapped amount of people that I’m not sure that any of us know who they are or how many of them there are.

“My sense is that they exist and there’s a lot of them and if we can provide easy opportunities for them to enjoy themselves and hang out, that may be a way of getting them involved and ultimately that’s our goal: to have the Jewish community connect with each other so ultimately we’re helping all the charities [the federation is] supporting.”

Before the recession, the federation had several flourishing professional groups – one for doctors, one for lawyers and one for those in the real estate and finance industries. But after the recession hit, they just kind of fizzled out. “Nothing was happening, so they just sort of died from neglect more than anything else,” Kaplan says.

But last year, the federation relaunched the groups. The Cardozo Society – for lawyers – had a successful event in January 2014, which featured retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Then in June, the group held a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) event about “Legal Ethics on the Tube” and a November cocktail and networking reception. Earlier this year, the group held a CLE general counsel forum featuring general counsel panelists from companies such as American Airlines and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The federation also relaunched programs for real estate professionals in January 2014, beginning with the fitting topic of “Surviving a Real Estate Depression & Looking to the Future,” with Mark Sklar, managing director and partner of DMB Associates, a private real estate investment and development company. Another program highlighted new development in downtown Tempe and another in downtown Scottsdale. The group’s next event is next week: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 5, at Butterfly Wonderland, 9500 E. Via de Ventura, Scottsdale. The program is called “Cutting-edge development in Indian Country.”

Each group has its own infrastructure, Kaplan says. “Our goal is to keep these groups up and sustainable on their own so we want them to have strong leadership in each group.”

This week, the B&P Division is launching a third group: Chai Tech, for professionals in the technology and engineering fields. The launch party is 6:30-8:30 p.m. this Thursday, April 30, at Toasted Cork, 4301 N. Civic Center Plaza, Scottsdale. To register, visit jewishphoenix.org or contact Amanda Garcia at 480-634-4900, ext. 1202 or professionals@jewishphoenix.org.

JNF’s work with modern pioneers

After a group of 30 families was evacuated from their homes during Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005, they moved into a remote corner of the northwest Negev that borders Egypt and became modern-day pioneers.

In the years that followed, with help from Jewish National Fund, they transformed the desert into communities with organic farmlands.

Yedidya Harush was 17 when his family left his home in the community of Atzmona in Gush Katif  to start a new life in the Negev. He is now the JNF Halutza-Bnei Netzarim liaison for Negev Community Development and he is in the Valley this week to let the Phoenix Jewish community know about the Jewish communities being developed in Halutza. (Halutza is Hebrew for “pioneer.”)

He is speaking tonight about “Developing Communities in the Negev” at a JNF event in a private home and will also speak tomorrow night at a Valley Eruv Project screening of “Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Home Front,” 7:30 p.m. at Ahavas Torah: the Scottsdale Torah Center, which is presented in conjunction with the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival and several Valley Congregations in commemoration of Yom Hazikaron / Israel Memorial Day. (Cost is $18 adults, $10 students.)

When Yedidya and his family moved to Halutza, his was one of 30 families; now there are 250 families living in Halutza’s three communities and there are plans to build two more communities. Last summer, during the conflict with Gaza, JNF helped provide 50 shelters for the families; the shelters are connected to their homes since they are so close to the border that they only have a few moments’ notice. JNF has also helped build a synagogue, schools, trailers, parks and a playground and a medical center is currently being built.

Learn more about the development of Halutza here:

The smallest Bible in the world


A new exhibit, “And Then There was Nano: The Smallest Bible in the World,”offers an opportunity for visitors to examine the technological evolution of the Tanach from antiquity to the postmodern era. The exhibit opened today at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem and commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Nano Bible is a gold-plated silicon chip the size of a grain of sugar on which the entire Tanach – all 1,200,000 letters – is engraved. In this exhibit, it serves as a contemporary complement to The Dead Sea Scrolls, which are the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world.

This “Nano Bible” was created by scientists at the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Here’s an explanation of how this type of technology could be beneficial to the world, from a press release from the American Technion Society:

“Employing a modern incarnation of an ancient writing technique, this technological marvel demonstrates the wonders of present day miniaturization and provides the spectator with a tangible measure of the achievable dimensions. Dense information storage is not unique to human culture: The blueprints of all organisms are stored by nature at even higher densities in long DNA molecules and transmitted in this form over generations.

The term “nano” derives from the Greek word nanos, meaning “dwarf.” The unit nanometer measures one billionth of a meter, a ratio similar to the size of an olive compared to the entire planet Earth. Nanotechnology makes it possible to construct new materials stronger and lighter than steel, to desalinate water more efficiently, to deliver medications to designated parts of the body without harming surrounding tissues, and to detect cancerous cells in early stages. At the dawn of the nano age, scientists and engineers are discovering ways to harness such exquisite control over the elementary building blocks of nature for the benefit of mankind and our planet.”

Visit here to learn how the Nano Bible was made.

How would the Israelites view today’s freedom?

Last weekend, American Jews gathered around a seder table to celebrate Passover’s message of freedom and liberation from slavery and those who made it through the second half of the seder declared, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

And yet, after hearing a presentation by Evan Bernstein, the New York regional director of the Anti-Defamation League – and a former Valley resident — about “Anti-Semitism Today: Global to Local,” the cynical part of me wondered how the Israelites who left Egypt would have felt about how that “freedom” translates to today.

According to the 2013 Pew Study, only 70 percent of American Jews go to a seder, even though they have the freedom to do so without fear of being punished for observing their religion, as some Jews in other countries have been. Even the president of our country hosts a seder ­– and it’s kosher.

In France, Jewish families are pulling their children out of Jewish day schools and putting them into public schools or Christian day schools because they fear for their children’s safety and French Jews don’t attend synagogue services also because of fear, according to the ADL. But in America, both Jewish day school attendance and synagogue attendance is low – which was the case even before incidence of anti-Semitic acts in the U.S. rose by 21 percent in 2014.

According to Bernstein, the ADL considers anti-Semitism in Europe not as bad as it was during the Holocaust, but as bad as it was right before World War II.

A bright spot in that distressing news, however, is that many European schools offer quality Holocaust education programs and there are several museums devoted to Holocaust remembrance, he said. At a rally in Berlin in September 2014, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that there is no place for anti-Semitism in Germany and that fighting it is every German citizen’s duty. That wouldn’t have happened in Berlin right before the war. “Governments are aware of a problem that needs to be fixed and solved,” Bernstein noted.

In America, now is the best time to be a Jew than anywhere else at any time, he said. Jews are welcome to attend universities, join country clubs and can publicly identify as a Jew – such as by wearing a kippah – and yet, ironically, disengagement among American Jews is higher than it has ever been before.

Although the climate on college campuses regarding Israel is getting worse, one can’t necessary call it anti-Semitism because often Jews are involved in the anti-Zionism and BDS movements, he said. This stems from a lack of Jewish education when it comes to Israel.

“We’ve taken for granted that Zionism would transfer to the next generation,” he said, but it doesn’t happen by osmosis.

If young people aren’t aware of Israel’s history and are not educated about the region’s past, which led to the current conflict, then it’s easy to see how they view Israel as an aggressor rather than a small country trying to defend itself.

Even college students who attended Jewish day schools are affected, he said, because they were not exposed to anti-Israel sentiment while growing up and have no idea how to respond when they are bombarded with it once they are away at college.

One way the ADL has responded to these issues is by developing educational programs. Words to Action helps Jewish students address hostile college environments; A World of Difference Institute offers anti-bullying and anti-cyberbullying training; and No Place for Hate provides schools and communities with an organized framework for combating bias, bullying and hatred. The ADL also offers Holocaust education, an anti-bias curriculum and a variety of training programs for pre-K through 12th grade communities that focus on developing an inclusive culture and respectful school climate.

Bernstein emphasized how important it is to educate the next generation – both Jews and non-Jews – about these issues and encouraged the approximately 60 attendees  (mainly older adults) at the discussion – hosted by the Jewish Enrichment Center at Beth Joseph Congregation – to “get engaged in some way.”

“We can’t take it for granted how good American Jews have it,” he said, “and we need to know how bad it is elsewhere.”

For those who don’t remember a world without Israel, it’s easy to take it for granted that it will always exist, but for centuries, our ancestors prayed and longed for a home of their own. During Passover, as we remember those who wandered in the desert for 40 years and all of their descendants, let us do our best to ensure that when we say “Next year in Jerusalem,” it still remains a possibility.

ADL and FBI warn of cyber-attacks on Israeli, Jewish sites April 7

The FBI has warned U.S. companies that hackers from the Middle East and North Africa plan to conduct cyber-attacks in an “electronic Holocaust” April 7 to coincide with the second anniversary of the first #OpIsrael attacks on April 7, 2013, the date of Yom Hashoah that year.

Those attacks were conducted by the international activist hacker group Anonymous. There is evidence, according to the ADL, that this year’s attacks will be headed by an affiliate group, AnonGhost, which “frequently employs anti-Semitism as part of its cyber activity.” Besides the annual effort to hack Israeli government and institutional websites, the ADL reports that AnonGhost “appears to have already threatened individual Israelis with violence through mobile devices”  and “the group claims to have obtained personal information on more than 200 Israelis. One threat­en­ing text the group claims to have sent to an Israeli included an image of an infamous ISIS fighter with the cap­tion, ‘We are com­ing O Jews to kill you.’ A text sent to another Israeli man included an image of his family with the threat, ‘I’ll stick a knife in their throats.'”

“In the past three years, anti-Israel hackers participating in this campaign have targeted Israeli sites with limited success, but they are now widening their attacks to target individual Israelis with threatening anti-Semitic rhetoric,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “Israel and Jewish communities worldwide should be on alert, as digital terrorism takes many forms and hackers are getting more sophisticated.”

AnonGhost is unambiguous in its support of Hamas and ISIS (or Islamic State), the ADL said.

“While anti-Semitic themes existed in previous #OpIsrael campaigns, it had been primarily billed as a response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. AnonGhost’s participation and tactics thus far speak to the centrality of anti-Semitism in this year’s campaign, which serves as an extension of AnonGhost’s pro-terror activism around the world,” the ADL said in its warning.

The FBI’s threat assessment is that the AnonGhost and other hackers participating in #OpIsrael can mount low-level denial of service (DoS) attacks and deface websites. DoS attacks use a flood of log-in requests aimed at a target to overwhelm its capacity and cause the targeted sites to crash. According to the FBI, “the most likely targets for the campaign are Israel-based systems or the systems of worldwide Jewish-oriented organizations like synagogues or cultural centers.”

“Based on historical targeting preferences, the attackers will likely focus primarily on Israeli financial institutions, but may also target Israeli media outlets,” the FBI warning said.

“Given the perceived connections between the government of Israel and Israeli financial institutions, and those of the United States, #OpIsrael participants may also shift their operations to target vulnerable U.S.-based financial targets or Jewish-oriented organizations within the United States,” it also said. “Based on historical attacks, the FBI assesses that attacks which may spawn from #OpIsrael to target U.S.-based systems will likely constitute only a small percentage of overall activity.”

A video posted by Anonymous, which still appears to be involved in #OpIsrael, last week accused Israel of “crimes in the Palestinian territories” and threatened: “We will erase you from cyberspace in our electronic Holocaust. “As we did many times, we will take down your servers, government websites, Israeli military websites, and Israeli institutions.”