Valley rabbi inspired ‘Joy’

David O. Russell, the writer and director of the film “Joy” recently called Rabbi John Linder of Temple Solel “one of the inspiring voices of the film.”


In an interview with Tara Hitchcock of AZ Family, Russell said that Linder surprised many people by  declaring mid-life that he was going to become a rabbi. “I knew him as a hockey player,” Russell said. (Read more about Rabbi Linder’s hockey playing here.)

When Russell attended Linder’s installation, he said that the rabbi presiding at the ceremony asked Linder, “Are you prepared to be the unanxious presence in the room?”

That phrase stuck with Russell and he had Linder in mind when he used it in the film, which is currently in theaters.

Watch the clip here.





Program gives iPads to every special education teacher in Israel


Uri Ben-Ari, left, founder and president of the Athena Fund, gives an iPad to a special education teacher in the city of Lod. Photo courtesy of the Athena Fund

Israel’s Athena Fund has announced a new program: iPad for Every Special Education Teacher in Israel.

Through the new program, about 10,000 special education teachers in Israel will receive iPad computers with specialized software and applications for students with special needs and various disabilities. Each teacher also will receive 120 hours of training. The program will enable students with special needs to communicate with their teachers, while training them to integrate into society, according to a press release from the Athena Fund.

The new program was launched in two cities in central Israel with a mixed population of Jews and Arabs – Ramla (72,000 residents) and Lod (74,000 residents) – and in the Circassian town of Kfar Kama (3,142 residents), located in the north.

This is Athena’s fourth program. The first – Laptop Computer for Every Teacher in Israel – was launched in 2006, the second – Laptop for Every Kindergarten Teacher in Israel – was launched in 2012, and the third – Tablet for Every Teacher of Science and Technology in Israel – was launched in 2014.

The decision to launch the iPad for Every Special Education Teacher in Israel program was made after the positive results of an iPad usage study were reported by special education teachers and students in two schools in the city of Rishon Letzion, near Tel Aviv. The  iPad enabled special education teachers and students to engage in meaningful learning. Access to the iPad was immediate, intuitive and led to enjoyment and motivation. The use of iPads resulted in challenging and rewarding learning and strengthened students’ motivation. In addition, the iPad improved interpersonal communication, and students with high-level thinking and comprehension skills were discovered. The iPad opened a window to the inner world of students with special needs, and helped improve student performance and quality of life.

In addition, the use of the iPad in the two schools in Rishon LeTzion substantially changed students’ lives. Interpersonal communication at home was also enhanced. Children who previously found it difficult to communicate with family and teachers expressed their feelings and desires by writing on the iPad. Significant improvement occurred also in motor skills and hand-eye coordination of children with special needs. Students fully completed tasks that they could not complete before. The iPad and the special applications also allow students with physical disabilities to cope better with their difficulties.

“Improving the teaching of students with special needs and their inclusion in society is a valuable contribution to the students, their families and the country,” said Uri Ben Ari, president and founder of the Athena Fund, in the release. “The contribution of iPads to special education teachers will enable them to help students fulfill their potential. Leveraging advanced technology will help reduce educational gaps, make various teaching materials more accessible and strengthen the social skills of students with special needs.”

The Athena Fund is a nonprofit organization established in 2006 in order to promote the empowerment of teachers in Israel by providing them with tools for self-fulfillment and professional advancement. The fund was founded by several prominent business leaders under the direction of  Ben-Ari (CEO of UBA Ventures and former executive vice president of Ness Technologies). The fund’s flagship initiative is the innovative Laptop Computer for Every Teacher in Israel program. This program has so far distributed laptops to over 11,000 teachers in 939 schools and kindergartens in 430 towns, cities and small communities in regional councils, together with professional training courses. The program’s goal is to provide a laptop computer and 120 hours of professional training to every teacher in Israel by 2018.