The JW Q&A

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

BRCA And Beyond At Shaare Zedek

09/24/2014
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Dr. Jonathan Halevy, whose specialty is liver diseases, has been the director-general of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem for the past 26 years. He is also chairman of the Israel Health Basket Committee, which determines which drugs, medical procedures and technology will be approved and subsidized by the national health care system. Shaare Zedek made news this month when breast cancer researchers there found that women who carry the BRCA1/2 genes are prone to breast and ovarian cancer — even if they have no family history of the cancers. Halevy was interviewed during a recent visit here.

Dr. Jonathan Halevy, director-general of Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

An Obama’s Jewish Connection, And Multicultural Journey

09/16/2014
Culture Editor
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At first glance, the resemblance is unmistakable — the diction, gestures, cadences of the deep voice of author Mark Obama Ndesandjo seem uncannily similar to his brother, President Barack Obama. In fact, with his shaved head, Ndesandjo looks like a younger, hipper, more smiling version of the President. But as he shows in his just-published compelling memoir, “An Obama’s Journey: My Odyssey of Self-Revelation Across Three Cultures” (Lyons Press), he’s very much his own person, exploring issues of identity, race and family, along with his Jewishness. The two men share a father, Barack Obama, Sr., but they were born to different mothers; the president is the son of the second wife and Ndesandjo is the son of the third, a Jewish woman named Ruth Beatrice Baker. (Ndesandjo’s parents divorced when he was 7, and he later took on the name of his stepfather, only to reclaim the Obama name in recent years.)

Mark Obama Ndesandjo: Pays tribute to his Jewish roots in new memoir. Lyons Press

Ukranian Jews Seen Looking To The West

Mark Levin of the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry says about 20 percent of Ukraine's Jews live in conflict areas.

09/09/2014
Staff Writer
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Mark Levin: Anti-Semitism is a constant in Ukraine, but the government is working to counter it.

God Talk

How can we move past 'post-traumatic God disorder?' Rabbis David Ingber and Alfredo Borodowski discuss.

09/02/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
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Editor’s Note: David Ingber is spiritual leader of Romemu, a popular congregation on the Upper West Side whose motto is “Judaism for the body, mind and spirit.” Rabbi Ingber grew up in a Modern Orthodox home and attended a number of yeshivas. His long and diverse spiritual search led to his ordination by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, the founder of Renewal Judaism. 

Rabbi David Ingber: “It is innately human to seek.”

A Robot Walks Into A Rabbi’s Office…

Rabbi Mark Goldfeder is working on a book about such questions as whether robots could some day be welcomed as members of the Jewish community.

08/26/2014
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Robots can hold a conversation, but should they count in a minyan? A chatbot at Britain’s University of Reading was heralded earlier this summer as passing the Turing test, showing a conversational ability that managed to fool people into thinking it was human. Using the fictional identity of a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy with the name Eugene Goostman, the robot convinced a third of a panel’s members that they were interacting with a fellow human being.

Rabbi Mark Goldfeder: Interested in “the line between humans and non-humans in Jewish law.”

Émigré Takes Helm Of Leading Russian Group

08/19/2014
Staff Writer
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The Genesis Philanthropy Group, best known for the $1 million Genesis Grant awarded to a member of the Jewish community who has achieved international renown in his or her chosen field (ex-Mayor Bloomberg was the first recipient), recently announced the promotion of Ilia Salita, the organization’s North American executive director, to CEO. In his new position, Salita, a native of Russia, will lead the private foundation’s global initiative to “develop and enhance a sense of Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews.”

Ilia Salita: Russian-speaking émigré community still can benefit from leaders from their ranks.

Assessing The ISIS Threat To Israel

08/12/2014
Staff Writer
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Jonathan Fine is a researcher at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism in Israel and an expert on the Middle East and Israeli studies. He is a member of the International Counter-Terrorism Academic Community and the International Center for Study of Radicalization and Political Violence in Kings College, London. He is also the author of the book, “Religious Violence in Judaism, Christianity and Islam: From Holy War to Terror.” The Jewish Week caught up with him for a conversation about ISIS and the radical Islamist group’s potential threat to Israel. This is an edited transcript.

Jonathan Fine: Most radical Islamic groups have roots in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Progress Seen In Iran Talks

Government advisor and scholar Robert Einhorn says Iran is cooperating because it truly wants sanctions lifted.

08/05/2014
Staff Writer
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Robert Einhorn is a senior fellow with the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative and the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution. Before coming to Brookings in May 2013, he served as the State Department special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, playing a leading role in the formulation and execution of U.S. policy toward Iran’s nuclear program with respect to sanctions and negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries (the U.S., Russia, China, Germany, France, Britain).

Robert Einhorn: “Iran genuinely wants an agreement that will lift the sanctions against it.”

New UJA-Fed. Exec Feeling Israelis’ Pain

07/29/2014
Staff Writer
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Eric Goldstein, who became CEO of UJA-Federation of New York on July 1, flew to Israel Saturday night with 20 other New Yorkers on the organization’s first solidarity mission since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas. Goldstein, 54, who had been a leading partner at the New York law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, has a long record of Jewish communal service. Most recently he served as UJA-Federation’s vice chair, president of the Beth Din of America, and as a board member of the Ramaz School. He spoke by phone Tuesday from the southern Israeli city of Beersheva.

Eric Goldstein: “Israelis are not callous; they mourn the innocent loss of life on both sides.”

LeBron’s Going Home

Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt is heading to Cleveland to lead Cavs.

07/22/2014
Special To The Jewish Week
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In May, David Blatt coached underdog Maccabi Tel Aviv to a thrilling Euroleague championship victory over Real Madrid in overtime. In June, the Cleveland Cavaliers hired Blatt as head coach. This month, LeBron James announced he was bringing his talents back home to the Cavs. There will be an enormous amount of pressure on Blatt, who has never coached an NBA game, but the reigning Euroleague Coach of the Year is no stranger to pressure. He was the first American to coach the Russian national team, leading them to a bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympics. In a phone interview from Las Vegas, where the NBA Summer League is taking place, the Massachusetts native, who played college ball at Princeton, professional ball in Israel, and coached in Europe for more than two decades, spoke about pressure, coming back to America, and his new team.

David Blatt: Will face a more rugged schedule as an NBA coach that he did in Israel or Europe. Wikimedia Commons
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