The JW Q&A

A weekly interview with notable figures and names in the news.

Taking Up The Torch At AJWS

Robert Bank, a pianist and lawyer who has worked at the agency since 2009, will succeed Ruth Messinger.


American Jewish World Service, the 30-year-old nonprofit organization that supports human rights and anti-poverty activism in the developing world and educates the American Jewish community about global justice, recently announced that in July, Robert Bank, executive vice president, will succeed Ruth Messinger as president. Messinger has headed AJWS since 1998.

Bank, a native of South Africa, moved to New York to study piano at Juilliard. He went on to study law at the City University of New York Law School and worked for the New York City Law Department and Gay Men’s Health Crisis before joining AJWS in 2009.

We caught up with Bank by phone earlier this month.

AJWS’ new head Robert Bank will follow in the footsteps of an icon, Ruth Messinger.

Speaking Out For An ‘Inclusive, Open’ Judaism

Daryl Messinger is the first woman to chair the Union of Reform Judaism.


Daryl Messinger made a little history recently in Orlando, the site of the Union for Reform Judaism’s biennial. A resident of Palo Alto, Calif., and an active board member of several organizations, Messinger was installed as URJ chair, becoming the first woman to hold that post. And she chanted Torah for the first time — in front of 5,000 worshippers at Shabbat morning services. Following the movement’s biennial, Messinger answered a few questions via email.

Daryl Messinger: Proud of “evolving, inclusive and unorthodox” Reform movement.

In Absence Of Talks, ‘Unilateral Steps’ Are Key


Orni Petruschka, a high-tech entrepreneur and Israeli chairman of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, which promotes coexistence among Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens, is one of three founders of Blue White Future. It is a nonpartisan political movement designed to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel. His two cofounders are Ami Ayalon, a former director of the Israel Security Agency, and Gilead Sher, a former Israeli peace negotiator. The Jewish Week caught up with him recently. This is an edited transcript.

Blue White Future’s Orni Petruschka: “The end game is the ’67 borders and land swaps.”

BJ Rabbi’s Next Move: Finding That ‘Still, Small Voice’

Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein plans to work as a mindfulness teacher based mostly in Costa Rica.


Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein announced recently that he will be stepping down from his full-time position at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun as of June 2017. While he will continue to serve part-time at BJ for three years after that, he plans to work as a mindfulness teacher, based mostly in Costa Rica. He’ll return to New York monthly and for the High Holidays. 

Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein: To lead mindfulness retreats in Costa Rica.

JCCs As The ‘Big Tent’

Global executive director Smadar Bar-Akikva says JCCs allow Jews and non-Jews from very different backgrounds to socialize.

Staff Writer

The leaders of Jewish community centers from 30 countries will meet in Jerusalem Nov. 3-6 for the 9th World Conference of Jewish Community Centers. With more than 1,000 JCCs around the world, the conference, convened by JCC Global, is billed as the largest international Jewish network. The Jewish Week interviewed Smadar Bar-Akiva, JCC Global executive director, by email; this is an edited transcript.

Smadar Bar-Akiva, head of JCC Global.

Teasing Out The Secrets Of Medieval Jewish Life

Marina Rustow, a scholar of the Cairo Geniza who grew up on the Upper West Side, wins a MacArthur 'genius' grant.

Culture Editor

Last week, Princeton scholar Marina Rustow was named a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, more popularly known as a MacArthur “genius” award. The $625,000 prize is a no-strings-attached award, recognizing individuals who are “pushing the boundaries of their fields, improving our world in imaginative, unexpected ways,” as the foundation’s president, Julia Stasch, explains. The Jewish studies specialist is one of 24 writers, artists, scholars and musicians selected.

MacArthur-winner Marina Rustow: “When they told me, I was in a state of shock.”

Sanctions Czar: It’s Time To Lift Them Now

Editor and Publisher

Adam Szubin, 42, the top U.S. Treasury Department official to monitor Iran’s sanctions compliance, was in New Jersey this week, traveling with Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.) and speaking to Jewish groups. Szubin is the product of an Orthodox home and day school education in Bergen County, N.J., and was a founder in 2002 of the DC Minyan, a traditional congregation with an egalitarian flavor. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, he has been with Treasury since 2004, and helped develop and coordinate policies on terrorist financing, money laundering, sanctions programs, rogue regimes, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and intelligence analysis. This spring President Obama chose him as under secretary of terrorism and financial intelligence, informally described as “the sanctions czar.” He spoke to The Jewish Week by phone several times this week, apologetically cutting short a late-night conversation to meet his chavruta (study partner) for their regular Torah study time.

Treasury Department official Adam Szubin: Seeking to allay fears in the Jewish community.

Against The Odds, AHA Nearing 15th Year

The American Hebrew Academy recently announced the establishment of a $150,000 scholarship program.

Staff Writer

The American Hebrew Academy, a Jewish non-denominational college preparatory boarding school located on a 100-acre site in Greensboro, N.C., will mark its 15th anniversary next year. The school recently announced the establishment of a $100,000 scholarship grant to “help … student applicants who otherwise would not be able to attend” the institution. Students from 28 states and 31 countries have attended AHA since 2001 (current enrollment is 137). We interviewed the school’s executive director, Glenn Drew, by email. This is an edited transcript.

American Hebrew Academy’s Glenn Drew: “Building name recognition” is big challenge.

Dershowitz: Iran Deal Is ‘Roll Of The Dice’

In a new book, written in just 11 days, the pundit says the deal will have lots of bad unintended consequences.

Managing Editor

In a bid to influence the congressional debate over the Iran nuclear deal “in real time,” former Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz has just published, in e-book form, “The Case Against the Iran Deal: How Can We Now Stop Iran from Getting Nukes?” (A print version, from RosettaBooks, is due later this month.) He worked fast — the book was written in 11 days. In it he argues that the deal is “a roll of the dice — or perhaps more aptly, a game of Russian roulette for us and our allies.” We interviewed Dershowitz via email.

Alan Dershowitz: Pens critique of Iran deal in 11 days.

A Non-Jew’s Take On Jewish Achievement

Steven Pease, a venture capitalist and CEO from Sonoma, Calif., has come out with his second book, 'The Debate over Jewish Achievement.'

Staff Writer

In 2009, Steven Pease, a venture capitalist and CEO from Sonoma, Calif., who specializes in turnarounds, wrote his first book, “The Golden Age of Jewish Achievements” (Deucalion), a thorough compendium of Jewish accomplishments in a wide variety of areas. Pease, a Protestant who came of age during the era of the Holocaust and the birth of Israel, “grew up sympathetic to Jews,” he wrote.

Author Stephen Pease: Probes Jews’ cultural accomplishments in new book.
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