The JW Q&A

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

Moving Past ‘Post-Traumatic God Disorder’

09/02/2014
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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

Former Face Of IDF: ‘What Is Israel’s Goal?

Avital Leibovich can hear rockets in her house, and gives her kids a briefing every morning.

07/15/2014
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Avital Leibovich became director of the American Jewish Committee’s Jerusalem office after leaving the Israel Defense Forces in April following a nearly 23-year career. Leibovich served in a wide range of senior media and public relations positions within the IDF, including as the face of the IDF for the international community during two prior wars with Hamas in 2008 and 2012. She spoke to The Jewish Week Tuesday morning about the latest Gaza conflict.

Avital Leibovich: “The age of traditional war is mostly gone.”

‘Don’t Test Our Power’

MK Ofir Akunis says a third intifada would be a losing proposition for the Palestinians.

07/08/2014
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Ofir Akunis is the Likud Party’s deputy minister for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a member of the Knesset. From 2010 until 2012, he served as the Knesset’s deputy speaker. In addition, Akunis, 41, has also served as both chairman and speaker of the Likud Party. He was interviewed last week during a visit here.

Likud member Ofir Akunis: Given “huge changes in our region,” Israel should be “careful” about peace steps.

Seeking ‘Fixes’ On Court’s Women’s Rights Rulings

07/01/2014
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Jody Rabhan became director this week of the Washington operations of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), succeeding Sammie Moshenberg, who retired after 33 years with the organization. Rabhan began her career two decades ago as a graduate fellow at the Baltimore Institute for Jewish Communal Service. She continued as a lobbyist for six years before pausing to start a family. She then worked as a private consultant for Jewish nonprofits, specializing in advocacy and development projects. Two years ago she returned as Moshenberg’s deputy. She and her husband have two sons and live in Bethesda, Md.

NCJW’s Jody Rabhan
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