The Israel Video Network has announced the winner of the “Inspired by Israel” contest sponsored by The Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation.
The video, by Sivan Felder, is described as “a poetic look at our connection to Israel and her significance, through the eyes of a teenage olah chadasha.”
A total of $20,000 in cash prizes were awarded to the winning videos—including a $8,000 grand prize to Sivan Felder and Batsheva Shachnovitz for their video, “Olah Chadasha (New Immigrant),” a poetic exploration of a teenager’s journey in Israel after making Aliyah five years prior. During a 10-day period of public voting, entries in this year’s competition received more than half a million views in 236 countries.
The Israel Video Network launched the “Inspired by Israel” video contest in March 2017 in partnership with the Milstein Family Foundation. Here’s the video:
The “Inspired by Israel” video contest has started its 10-day period of online voting to determine which 10 video entrants will move on to the final phase of the contest and be evaluated by an elite panel of judges. Last year, hundreds of thousands of people around the world voted.
More than 80 individuals and groups entered the contest by creating videos that entertain, educate and inspire people about Israel. A total of $20,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to the winning videos, including an $8,000 grand prize.
Some examples of video titles are: “The Israeli heart and mind just transformed the lives of 1 million Africans forever”; “One Million Reasons You Should Love Israel”; “An anti-Semite visits Israel and discovers something completely shocking”; “If you thought the world could exist without Israel, you’re about to be proven wrong” and “Israel: A Light in the Storm.”
Following this period of public voting, which ends on March 29, the top 10 prizes will be selected by a panel of independent experts, including philanthropist Gila Milstein, Jewish Journal/Tribe Media President David Suissa and StandWithUs Israel Executive Director Michael Dickson. The winners will be announced on April 30.
Hosted on IsraelVideoNetwork.com, the contest is sponsored by the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation in partnership with the 12Tribe Films Foundation.
Click here to view the videos and vote.
On the morning after her 14-year-old daughter’s birthday sleepover, one Valley woman received a text containing a photo of a cupcake decorated with a swastika.
The photo came from the mother of one her daughter’s guests, who said her daughter felt uncomfortable the night before when one of the other teens drew the symbol during a cupcake-decorating session. “Imagine my surprise,” said the Valley woman, who has requested that her name not be used. Upon further investigation, she found that two of the girls posted the cupcake photo on Snapchat, along with snarky comments.
“A few of the girls expressed discomfort and offense at the decoration,” the mom told Jewish News via email. “My daughter told the girls she was offended and walked out of the room … Nobody thought it was funny. Another guest decided to smear the cupcake frosting and toss it in the trash. When I came downstairs, I saw several cupcakes decorated with sprinkles and chocolate, but I never saw the swastika one. The girls self-regulated their own party because after the incident, they spent the next few hours doing karaoke, opening presents and just chilling with each other.”
After the party, the birthday girl’s mom posted the cupcake photo on her Facebook page, with a brief explanation about what happened. By the next day, the cupcake made news around the world.
“I was absolutely surprised by the response to my Facebook post,” said the Valley woman, who works in public relations. “Not at the overwhelming reaction to a swastika on a cupcake – which is just not OK in any situation – but the vitriol at a certain political party. As I stated in my original Facebook post, this was not a political position, but more a statement about the environment we now seem to be living in, where racist, anti-Semitic, and mysoginistic acts or words are being allowed to fly with no huge reaction. Intolerance cannot be normalized regardless of who is in office — the human race will exist long past any one president’s term or terms of office, so let’s not lose our humanity. People still need to be kind and respectful to one another, regardless of color, religion, sex or political position.”
Not only did her Facebook post make international news, but similar to the childhood game of “Telephone,” inaccurate reports were published, such as the story headlined, “Arizona teens bring a cupcake with a swastika in icing to a Jewish girl’s 14th birthday party.”
“This was one cupcake decorated by a 14-year- old,” said the mom. It was thoughtless and insensitive and she thought it was just being funny — but it wasn’t a hate crime nor was she trying to bully my daughter. I dare anyone out there to remember doing stupid things as a teen — we were just fortunate that social media wasn’t around to blow up everything.”
The mom said that her daughters and their friends also learned an invaluable lesson about the power of social media.
“Whereas this story has spread much further than I imagined and even wanted … it also allowed people to quickly see a photo and read a headline and assume a whole lot more than what actually happened. In the end, this was a thoughtless action by a young girl who learned some very important lessons. We all can learn lessons — whether we’re 4 or 14 or 44!”
The parents of the girls who posted the photos “were shocked that this happened and grateful that it had been brought to their attention,” said the mom. “Each parent had a meaningful conversation with their own daughter about the Holocaust, hateful symbolism, intolerance, sensitivity, friendship and standing up for what’s right. My family received heartfelt apologies from the girls who decorated the cupcake, which was enough for me. All the kids learned important lessons stemming from this event.”
Leisah Woldoff is managing editor of Jewish News.
Oftentimes, my life seems to be on one continuous loop – commutes to and from school, putting out a weekly paper, meal preparations and lots of laundry. I’m not complaining, but sometimes it’s nice to get a break from the routine. This past week has been a whirlwind of a break.
Thursday: I joined about 800 other women in our community at the Valley of the JCC for the Great AZ Challah Bake. This was part of the Shabbat Project, which reached 1,150 cities in 94 countries this year. An estimated 1 million people took part in celebrations on and around the Shabbat of Nov. 11-12, according to a press release I received.
The Shabbat Project’s goal of presenting an opportunity for Jewish unity was very welcome, especially this week after last week’s election spurred so much divisiveness, protests, and racist and anti-Semitic actions. According to the release, 8,000 women attended a challah bake in Buenos Aires, 15 families in a tiny Jewish enclave in Cancun, Mexico, kept Shabbat for the first-time and there was even a Shabbaton on board a cruise ship in the Atlantic.
Friday: My family and I joined about 100 other people for an outdoor Shabbat dinner in a cul-de-sac in a Phoenix neighborhood, organized through the Phoenix Community Kollel as part of the Shabbat Project. One of the beautiful things about Shabbat is sharing it with other people in a variety of ways. The weekend before, my family and I were in Flagstaff and celebrated Shabbat at Congregation Lev Shalom (previously Heichal Baornim), where we participated in a beautiful musical Shabbat service with congregants there.
Saturday: We celebrated a bar mitzvah of a friend’s son at our synagogue and coordinated some play dates.
Sunday: I traveled to Washington, D.C., for the American Jewish Press Association’s annual conference, which was held in conjunction with the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly (GA). After arriving at my hotel near Dupont Circle, I had vegetarian Indian food with colleagues from Nashville, Jerusalem and Dayton, Ohio then toured the National Museum of African American History and Culture as part of the GA.
Monday: The AJPA conference kicked off with a “Show & Tell” session that showcased AJPA newspapers around the country, and attendees shared multiple ideas with one another. Other sessions included Dr. Tehilla Schwartz Altshuler, director of the Israel Democracy Institute Media Reform Program, who spoke about the similarities and differences between American and Israeli media; and we learned about trends, tools and technologies of new journalism and new media from Yaakov Katz, editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, William Daroff, JFNA senior vice president for public policy and Sarah Tuttle-Singer, Times of Israel new media editor.
AJPA attendees were also invited to attend the GA Plenary, which featured Natan Sharansky, head of The Jewish Agency for Israel, and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Next, AJPA attendees headed to the International Spy Museum for the 35th annual Simon Rockower Awards reception. Plus we got to tour the museum, which was founded by philanthropist Milton Maltz and features a collection of international espionage artifacts. At the ceremony, Jewish News won first place for Outstanding Digital Outreach in Division B, for newspapers with a circulation of 14,999 or less.
Tuesday: I got a chance to meet with my husband’s cousin’s wife for breakfast. She’s an Israeli filmmaker who was in town to speak at a session at the GA and was heading back to Tel Aviv that morning. (A little plug for her – Rama Burshtein, who wrote and directed “Fill the Void,” just released a new comedy in Israel: “Through the Wall.”)
Next was a session about journalists who covered the 2016 presidential race and the struggles they faced, including anti-Semitic attacks.
The GA’s closing plenary was next, featuring a tribute to Shimon Peres, featuring his son Chemi Peres, chairman of the Peres Center for Peace; an address from JFNA President & CEO Jerry Silverman; and a video conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
who expressed high hopes for Israel’s future relationships with other countries, citing technology partnerships as an example.
That afternoon we had a session about solution journalism (attendees from the business departments of their newspapers had some separate sessions that focused on their work) and we finished the day with a dinner meeting of AJPA’s executive board. (And then I took an evening walk, about three miles total, to the White House, with a colleague from Nashville.)
Wednesday: The conference came to a close with a change in plans – an opportunity to visit the State Department with briefings from government officials: Ira Forman, special envoy of the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism; Chanan Weissman, the White House Jewish liaison; Tom Yazdgerdim, special envoy for Holocaust Issues; and Michael Yaffe, senior adviser of the special envoy to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
After that it was a lunch during AJPA’s annual meeting and then we all headed home to our respective cities – and newspapers and communities.
All of these experiences made me realize just how small our world is and how interconnected we are and how many people work so diligently to bring good into the world. Despite the feelings of divisiveness and hatred that have been expressed this past week in the aftermath of the election, we have to remember that all of that is nothing new – it has always existed and will likely always exist (Ira Forman said the same thing about anti-Semitism during the briefing at the State Department).
We need to focus on the good and work hard to bring out the goodness in the world instead of focusing only on the bad. Hearing about all the good being done around the world – the GA plenaries also included stories told by individuals from Greece, Israel, Morocco and the Ukraine – I felt some light was brought into the darkness that overshadowed the world in the days after the election.
And now on to all the laundry that piled up in my absence …
Leisah Woldoff is managing editor of Phoenix Jewish News.
Actor Jeremy Piven, who won three consecutive Emmys for his portrayal of the character Ari Gold on HBO’S “Entourage,” received an ambucycle last week from his buddies, recently retired NBA all-star Amare Stoudemire and current NBA star Omri Casspi. The ambucycle immediately became part of Israel’s national emergency medical services (EMS) organization, United Hatzalah’s, response team.
“Just the idea that we can use what we do with this life for good is a gift,” said Piven, in a release. “And I thank you for this gift. Use it well.”
Stoudemire, a personal friend of Piven, is no stranger to United Hatzalah. The former Miami Heat player and New York Knicks all-star was introduced to the organization during a previous trip to Israel. In 2014 Stoudemire launched a campaign entitled “Amar’e Saves,” to raise money for United Hatzalah. His efforts helped to raise close to half a million dollars in just one season. Now, Stoudemire is continuing to pay it forward and save lives by gifting Piven with an ambucycle in honor of Jeremy’s bar mitzvah. Casspi together with CharityBids CEO Israel Schachter and actor-promoter Dave Osokow partnered in dedicating the ambucycle in honor of Piven.
Piven, who won a Golden Globe and three consecutive Emmys for his portrayal of the character Ari Gold on HBO’s “Entourage”, celebrated his second bar mitzvah on the rooftop of the Aish HaTorah building a few hours before the beginning of the Sabbath. Following the closed ceremony, Piven’s entourage, including Casspi, Stoudemire and others, made their way to the entrance of the Western Wall Plaza where the ambucycle dedication ceremony took place.
Dovi Maisel, United Hatzalah’s Director of International Operations, presented Piven with the ambucycle. “When top-tier athletes and Hollywood celebrities use their personal achievements to make a positive impact, they become inspirational role models. Our role models at United Hatzalah come from all segments of the population and save lives everyday with ambucycles just like this one. This ambucycle that is being dedicated in your honor will go on to save more than 800 people a year,” said Maisel.
Stoudemire and Casspi unveiled the ambucycle, after which, Piven donned a United Hatzalah vest, sat on the motorcycle, and discussed his feelings upon the joyous occasion of his bar mitzvah and receiving this meaningful gift from his friends. “This is a hell of a surprise for me, and I am incredibly honored and thankful that you guys (referring to Stoudemire, Casspi, Schachter and Osokow) initiated this. So thank you for this gift.”
When asked to cut the ceremonial ribbon on the ambucycle, Piven quipped, “I’m not a mohel, but I played one on TV.” Becoming more serious, Piven added, “I feel totally honored, and the fact that these people are donating their time (to save lives) is incredible. Saving people, no matter who they are, is what life is all about. So thank you and Mazal Tov.”
The Omri Casspi Foundation, which helped organize the trip and the bar mitzvah celebration, is dedicated to bringing people, many of whom are celebrities, from the US to Israel in order to raise awareness of the beauty of the country. Traci Szymanski has, for the past two years, been working with the foundation and was involved in coordinating many of the aspects to ensure the current mission’s success. Also travelling with the group is welterweight champion Georges St.-Pierre, female poker pro Maria Ho, WNBA players Alysha Clark and Mistie Bass and NBA players Shaun Marion, Rudy Gay and Chris Copeland.
The makers of a new Steven Spielberg film are looking to cast a boy able to portray a Jewish Italian 6 year old. No acting experience is necessary – they’re looking for a “very special, real kid.”
Here are the details:
ROLE “EDGARDO”: BOY age 6-9 to play 6 years old. This is a unique and very challenging part for a truly special boy. The story deals with the complexity of an extremely intelligent and gifted child’s situation – his desire to return to his family and the faith of his ancestors, pitted against his ability to learn the Catechism and engage with the Pope on a level far beyond his years. He should appear to be a Jewish Italian child. We are not looking for any kind of Italian accent.
STORY LINE: “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara”— Steven Spielberg is making a film about the true story of EDGARDO MORTARA – a 6-year-old Jewish boy from Bologna who was reported to have been secretly baptized by a maid, and was deemed by the Catholic church therefore to be Christian. Pope Pius IX (to be played by Mark Rylance) decreed that the boy could not remain with his Jewish family. He was seized by the Papal State and taken to the Vatican where his indoctrination into Catholicism began. This was a cause célèbre of mid-nineteenth century European politics and the domestic and international outrage against the pontifical state’s actions may have contributed to its downfall amid the unification of Italy. This is an incredible story of real historical relevance.
Please note several CD’s are covering this project, per overall CD Ellen Lewis: We (Debbie DeLisi/DeLisi Creative) are covering people that live in all regions in the US/Canada, EXCEPT if LA, CA (CD Tannis Vallely) & NYC based (Rori Bergman). If you’re based in LA or NYC, submit to Tannis or Rori. If you are based in any other area — please submit to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To submit: Email email@example.com. Subject line: EDGARDO SUBMISSION / Name of boy, city/state. Body of email: Parents/Guardians contact info (names/phone), boys name/age/d.o.b, city/state of residence, along w/current non retouched photos. If you’d like to include a brief introduction, bio or resume, please do! Please note any related, special, or fun facts so we get to know him!
Tuesday, June 21 is International Yoga Day and in recognition of this, the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center is hosting four free yoga classes tomorrow.
“Yoga has so many benefits for both the mind and body that we wanted to take this opportunity to invite the community to experience it at no cost,” said Denise Krater, fitness director, in a release. “Regular yoga practice improves strength, balance and flexibility while releasing tension and stress.”
The J’s yoga offerings on June 21 include:
9:30 a.m.: Yoga Flow, which uses flowing movements paired with breath to release mind and body;
11 a.m.: Restorative Yoga, which aims to rejuvenate the body;
Noon: Gentle Yoga, which uses gentle postures to strengthen core and increase flexibility and is great for beginners; and
6 p.m. Power Yoga, which provides challenging poses to increase strength and stamina.
The classes are free and open to the community. Participants should wear comfortable clothes and bring water.
The Valley of the Sun JCC is an inclusive community center open to all ages, faiths, backgrounds and abilities. It is located at 12701 N. Scottsdale Road, just south of Sweetwater.
In a statement issued from Nevada last week, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed commended the VOSJCC for offering these free classes, as well as offering regular yoga training.
Yoga, referred to as “a living fossil,” was a mental and physical discipline for everybody to share and benefit from, which can be traced back to around 2,000 BCE to Indus Valley civilization, noted Zed, president of Universal Society of Hinduism, in the statement.
He further said that yoga, although introduced and nourished by Hinduism, was a world heritage and liberation powerhouse to be utilized by all. According to Patanjali who codified it in Yoga Sutra, yoga was a methodical effort to attain perfection, through the control of the different elements of human nature, physical and psychical.
The statement also included information from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which said that yoga may help one to feel more relaxed, be more flexible, improve posture, breathe deeply and get rid of stress. According to a recently released “2016 Yoga in America Study,” about 37 million Americans (which included many celebrities) now practice yoga; and yoga is strongly correlated with having a positive self-image. Yoga was the repository of something basic in the human soul and psyche, Zed added.
In celebration of Israel’s 68th Independence Day tonight, Nefesh B’Nefesh launches an emotionally charged video to accompany the joyous occasion and showcase the human mosaic of Israel. Watch it here.
From war hero to farmer, teacher to midwife, the video tells the stories of the everyday heroes who epitomize what makes Israeli society unique – the strength of its immigrants. Israel’s human mosaic illustrates both the diversity of olim (immigrants) and those who have dedicated their lives to securing and building the State of Israel.
The video pulls its title, “With these Hands,” from the Naomi Shemer song written for Yehoram Gaon, “Od Lo Ahavti Dai”, and emphasizes the building of the state, a project which began over 68 years ago and continues today.
Those featured in the video are:
• Capt. Ziv Shilon, who was seriously injured by an explosion on the Gaza border in 2012 and lost his hand. The story of his recovery has made Shilon into a household name in Israel as an icon of resilience, leadership and Zionism.
• Rena Rapps, a newlywed who made Aliyah from the US in 2014, on her 20th birthday with the dream of starting and raising a family in the Jewish State.
• Marta Weiss, a Holocaust survivor who at a young age survived Auschwitz-Birkenau camp among other horrific encounters. Last January, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Weiss represented the State of Israel at the United Nations in an emotionally charged appeal never to forget.
• Shmuel Jambrina, a 25-year-old soldier from Spain who served in the Nahal Brigade. He is now a reservist who is planning a career in education and starting a family of his own in Israel.
• Chana Deevon, who recently retired after 53 years of working as a midwife at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. She delivered nearly 40,000 babies over the course of her career, including her granddaughter and great-granddaughter. Four generations of the Deevon family appear in the video.
• Rabbi David Twersky, who immigrated to Israel in 2013 and now lives in Jerusalem. He made Aliyah in order to live out the aspirations and dreams of his parents and grandparents in the Jewish homeland, closer to the Jewish people.
• Shachar Nitzan, a third-generation farmer from Ein Vered. He studied agriculture in Rehovot and is farming the same land that his father and grandfather worked before him.
Source: Nefesh B’Nefesh
Katrina Shawver of Phoenix was working on a manuscript of her friend Henryk Zguda’s biography and was looking for information about what happened to him during the Holocaust. After contacting the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, she was shocked at the 130 documents she received with Zguda’s name on them.
The records included prisoner transport lists, registration paperwork, infirmary dates, work statistics and block transfers.
“I never knew this cache of documents existed,” says Shawver. “I think Henry would have been equally shocked.”
Shawver had only met Zguda for a year before he passed away in 2003, but his widow granted permission for Shawver to write his life story. Through the documents, she corroborated many facts about Zguda’s nearly three-year imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps as a Polish political prisoner during World War II.
“When I met Henry, I became fascinated that he had been through hell and back, a firsthand witness to Nazi crimes,” she says. “He had no children to leave this story to, and it would have been lost forever had I not captured it.”
Shawver is just one of more than 20,000 people who have successfully turned to the museum for help in their search for documentation about the fates of their loved ones and other Holocaust survivors — victims of the Nazis and their allies.
With more Holocaust survivors getting older and dying, getting accurate and complete information from the museum’s massive archives to requesters as soon as possible is more crucial than ever.
Since an important archive called the International Tracing Service was opened in 2007, the museum has provided a free service that has united generations of families and tracked long-lost family members, helping Holocaust survivors, their children and grandchildren, to fill in the blanks in their family history.
“What is the greatest fear of survivors today? That when they are no longer here, what happened to them would be swept under the rug,” says Paul Shapiro,
head of the museum’s Office of International Affairs who was instrumental in pushing to open the ITS archives. “These millions of original documents are an insurance policy against forgetting.”
With more than 150 million pages of documents relating to 17 million people, the ITS collection contains a wealth of information about survivors and victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution and about displaced persons.
Facilitating research questions like Shawver’s is the job of the museum’s top-notch team of ITS researchers. Holocaust survivors and their family members contact the museum on a nearly daily basis with queries about relatives, and sometimes using nothing more than a first or last name, the ITS researchers try to find documents that will shed light on the experiences of these Holocaust victims.
Much of the museum’s information comes from the ITS archive, established by the Allies after World War II to help reunite families and trace missing people. The archive, located in Bad Arolsen, Germany, includes millions of pages of documentation from World War II. It was kept closed until 2007, when, with help from the museum, it was opened to the international community. Now, 11 nations have access to copies of the archive, and the museum holds the U.S. copy.
The museum has received requests, both online and in person, from across the U.S. and from 75 countries around the world. Free of charge, the museum’s researchers scour their own collections as well as the ITS archive in search of relevant documents.
The museum receives, on average, more than 250 requests per month. To date, the Museum has provided information in response to more than 23,000 requests, and researchers have assisted about 400 visitors onsite at the museum.
For more information, visit ushmm.org.
Source: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
This Passover, PJ Library is partnering with Yehuda Matzos to engage families in Jewish life.
Yehuda Matzo, a company in Israel – with its U.S. distributor, Kayco/Kedem Food Products – is providing in-kind advertising to create awareness and further Jewish identity, a first for the company. This is also the first time PJ Library is partnering with a company to co-brand a product on a national level, according to a release.
This year, the PJ Library logo will appear on the matzah packaging and a unique URL will direct families to the PJ Library enrollment/sign-up form.
In addition to co-branding on Yehuda Matzo boxes nationwide, the PJ Library national team is providing resources to professionals across the country to create programs for families around the matzah boxes and Passover themes.
“What a better way to get more Jews further involved into Jewish tradition than by teaming up with PJ Library and the great work they do reaching out to both affiliated and unaffiliated Jews,” said Mordy Dicker, executive vice president of marketing and business development for Kayco/Kedem-Kedem Food Products, in the release. “Through the outreach that PJ Library does, we hope that the next generation of young Jewish people will have a deeper sense and understanding of being Jewish.”
PJ Library is an international program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, which partners with Jewish philanthropists and communities to distribute high-quality Jewish children’s books and music to families with children ages 6 months to 8 years. The free books are delivered each month to families’ homes.
In Arizona, there are PJ Library communities in Flagstaff, the Greater Phoenix area, Prescott and Southern Arizona. Sign up here.
To learn more about upcoming PJ Library events in the Valley, visit PJ Library, Phoenix on Facebook.