The JW Q&A

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

Teasing Out The Secrets Of Medieval Jewish Life

Marina Rustow, a scholar of the Cairo Geniza who grew up on the Upper West Size, 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.

Putting America’s Humanitarian Duty Into Practice

Rebecca Heller founded the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project as a law student.

Staff Writer

While studying at Yale Law School seven years ago, Rebecca Heller traveled to Israel on a fellowship, and made a side trip to Jordan, where she met with Iraqi refugees. Moved by their plight and the need for legal aid, she founded the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, which recruited lawyers and law students to offer assistance on a pro bono basis.

Rebecca Heller: Yale-trained lawyer offers legal services to Iraqi refugees.

When Bibimbap And Blintzes Share The Family Table

Helen Kim and husband Noah Leavitt are the leading experts on Asian-Jewish intermarriage in the United States.


Whitman College professors Helen Kim and her husband, Noah Leavitt are the leading, and virtually only, experts on Asian-Jewish intermarriage in the United States. The two — she’s Korean-American, he’s Jewish — recently spoke with JTA by phone from Walla Walla, Wash., where they live with their 6-year-old son Ari and 3-year-old daughter Talia. This is an edited transcript.

Helen Kim and Noah Leavitt, parents in an Asian-Jewish family, have pioneered study of such intermarriages.   Kim-Leavitt family

(Google) Search For Jewish Talent


Mimi Kravetz worked on employment branding at Google as a human resources marketing executive, helping the company attract and keep top talent by fostering an unconventional yet wildly successful work environment. Now, she plans to bring her own skills in recruiting and development to Hillel International as the organization’s first chief talent officer. Kravetz spoke to The Jewish Week from Silicon Valley, where she will launch Hillel International’s new West Coast office in August. This is an edited transcript.

Mimi Kravetz: New Hillel hire comes from branding shop at Google.

Finding Common Ground In A City Of Differences

Tel Aviv native Rabbi Aryeh Stern was elected the capital’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi last October

Staff Writer

Rabbi Aryeh Stern, a native of Tel Aviv who has served since 1982 on the staff of Jerusalem’s Mercaz Harav yeshiva, a leading religious Zionist institution, was elected the capital’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi last October. For political and bureaucratic reasons, the city’s two chief rabbi posts, chosen by religious and political figures, had not been filled for almost a dozen years. The rabbi, 70, who, unlike many charedi Israelis, has served in the Israeli Army in two wars, and his children and grandchildren have also done Army service. The Jewish Week interviewed him during a recent visit he made to New York for a Rabbinical Council of America conference. This is an edited transcript.

Rabbi Aryeh Stern: “Now there are people who actually answer to the public.”

A New Look, Message For An Historic Institution

Staff Writer

Ann Toback, executive director of the Workmen’s Circle since 2008, has led the organization through a rebranding process in which it has adopted a new Jewish learning-based mission rooted in intergenerational learning and cultural celebration. Taking a page from its history of progressive activism, Toback, a former union leader, has also launched an activist agenda focused on making $15-an-hour the national minimum wage. This is an edited transcript of The Jewish Week’s interview with her last week.

Ann Toback: Workmen’s Circle is creating new “opportunities for Americans to connect to their Jewish culture.”
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