The JW Q&A

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

‘Something Has To Change’

Benjamin Ish-Shalom is chairman of an institute that prepares students for conversion by Israel's rabbinic courts.

04/14/2014
Staff Writer
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Benjamin Ish-Shalom is president and founder of Beit Morasha in Jerusalem. In 2000, the university founded the Institute for Jewish Studies-The Joint Conversion Institute; Ish-Shalom is its chairman.

Benjamin Ish-Shalom: Wants conversions handled by local rabbis, not Chief Rabbinate.

Modern Fundraising For A Modern Israel

Under the retiring Peter Willner, American Friends of The Hebrew University increased its fundraising considerably.

04/09/2014
Staff Writer

Peter Willner will be stepping down this summer after 12 years as national executive director of the American Friends of The Hebrew University. During his tenure, AFHU increased its annual fundraising from $18 million in 2002 to $500 million by the end of 2013; last year the group raised $50 million. Willner spent more than 30 years in executive positions in the nonprofit sector, the Anti-Defamation League and UJA-Federation of New York. The Jewish Week caught up with him recently for a discussion about the philanthropic landscape in the Jewish community and the so-called “brain drain” of Israeli academics. This is an edited transcript.

Peter Willner: Stepping down from AFHU post amid concerns about Israeli “brain drain.”

Interpreting Noah For The 21st Century

Neuroscientist-turned-filmmaker Ari Handel talks about making "Noah" and rooming with a big-shot director.

04/01/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

Ari Handel, a neuroscientist whose career path ultimately took him to Hollywood, is the co-writer, with director Darren Aronofsky, of “Noah,” which opened last week. (It was the top-grossing film last weekend, with a haul of $44 million.) Handel was the executive producer of “The Wrestler,” “Black Swan,” and “The Fountain,” which he also wrote. Handel and Aronofsky, it turns out, were suitemates at Harvard. In a phone interview, Handel spoke about the challenges in making the film, which he also produced, and the critics who say the film strays too much from the Bible. This is an edited transcript.

Ari Handel: “There is biblical evidence about the need to protect the land.” Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

From Lobbying To Hobbying

Ron Soloway is retiring after 25 years of advocating on behalf of the local Federation's social service agencies.

03/25/2014

Any time social service funds are threatened by a budget axe, or strained by a crisis, Ron Soloway is on the phone, at City Hall or in the statehouse, warning of the impact on vulnerable people served by UJA-Federation of New York’s network of more than 100 agencies. After 25 years of lobbying, most recently as managing director for external and governmental relations, the Brooklyn native, 64, is retiring in June. He looked back, and ahead, in a recent interview. This is an edited transcript.

Reading and lawn bowling will soon be on Ron Soloway's agenda, but social justice commitment won't fade.

An American Captive In Iran Tells His Story

Imprisoned in Iran for 781 days, Josh Fattal writes a memoir with his fellow captives about the experience.

03/18/2014
Special To The Jewish Week

Josh Fattal was imprisoned in Iran for 781 days on the charge of espionage. In his new memoir, “A Sliver of Light,” co-written with Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd, he describes how the three friends went hiking in Kurdistan and didn’t realize they were near the Iranian border. They were told to come forward by soldiers they soon realized were Iranian. They were placed in cars, blindfolded and imprisoned. They would soon hear screams of torture, and they were uncertain if they would live or die. Fattal, who lives in Brooklyn and is pursuing a Ph.D. in history at New York University, spoke with The Jewish Week by phone. This is an edited transcript.

Josh Fattal: Co-author of “Sliver of Light.”   Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Kerry’s Framework: Key To Mideast Peace

Former Shin Bet head Ami Ayalon is stateside to promote the two-state solution.

03/11/2014
Staff Writer
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Ami Ayalon, a former head of Israel’s internal security agency, is a founder of Blue White Future, a nonpartisan political movement committed to a two-state solution for Israeli-Palestinian peace. He was here this week for a town hall meeting organized by J Street’s $1 million national “The 2 Campaign” to build the “great constituency” Secretary of State John Kerry has called for to promote a two-state solution.

Ami Ayalon: Former Shin Bet head favors two-state solution.  Gili Getz

A River (Of Ethics) Runs Through It

03/04/2014
Staff Writer
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The Graduate School of The Jewish Theological Seminary of America announced last week that is establishing a new academic program — a master’s degree in Jewish ethics. The program, to be headed by Alan Mittleman, a professor of Jewish philosophy at the school, will focus on such area as bioethics, business ethics and legal ethics. The Jewish Week interviewed Mittleman by e-mail. This is an edited version of the transcript.

JTS’ Alan Mittleman: “Many of the laws of the Torah have an overt ethical dimension.”

Partners In R&D

Ann Liebschutz heads the United States-Israel Science & Technology Foundation, which supports collaboration between the two countries.

02/25/2014
Staff Writer
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Ann Liebschutz is executive director for the United States-Israel Science & Technology Foundation (USISTF), a Washington-based nonprofit that facilitates research and development collaboration between the U.S. and Israel. It has just released its first U.S.-Israel Innovation Index, which measures and tracks America’s relationship between Israel and 15 other nations in innovation-related activities.

Ann Liebschutz: New study confirms Israel’s “strong” high-tech ties with the United States.

A Leap Of Musical Faith

Beloved singer-songwriter David Broza recorded his new CD at a studio in Jerusalem's only refugee camp.

02/18/2014
Managing Editor
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The latest project from the acclaimed Israeli singer-songwriter David Broza involves a leap of faith, both culturally and politically. For his new CD, “East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem,” Broza, 58, crossed over into the Arab part of the city to record at a studio in east Jerusalem’s only refugee camp. He recorded the ambitious session with both Israeli and Palestinian musicians (including Israeli-Arab singer Mira Awad and the Palestinian hip-hop duo G-Town), along with alt-country rocker Steve Earle and Wyclef Jean. The CD, Broza’s attempt to bridge cultures, also includes the Jerusalem Youth Choir, a group comprised of Israeli and Palestinian teens.

David Broza: Breaking musical, cultural boundaries. Michael Datikash/JW

Telling Immigrants’ Tales, The Old And The New

Born in Kazakhstan, Morris J. Vogel knows firsthand the immigrant experience conveyed in the expanded Tenement Museum.

02/11/2014
Culture Editor
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Morris J. Vogel, a social historian, has been president of the Tenement Museum on Manhattan’s Lower East Side since 2008. A first-generation American, like many of the people whose stories are told in the museum’s exhibitions, he was born in Kazakhstan; his parents escaped there during World War II to avoid the Nazis. After living in a displaced persons camp in Poland, the family moved to the United States in 1949.

Morris Vogel: Will lead expansion of Tenement Museum. Courtesy of Tenement Museum
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