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Sunday, March 07, 2010

We've Moved!

After a good six year run on blogger, things have come to an end. Google decided to stop supporting ftp blogs. But don't worry, we're now all set up on our site with Wordpress! It's gonna be awesome!

The address remains the same...! Check it out!

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Lori: Practicing what was preached

Once upon a time Malkah posted a clip from Aish Hatorah's Lori Platanik where she praised her students for making Aliyah, but felt that was only possible because she, personally, stayed behind in America. So as much as she wanted to make Aliyah, she was needed where she was in D.C.

Yechiel (Jonny) posted a followup post where Rabbi Pinchas Winston rebuts that argument. The Rabbi explains that it's not her personally that is needed in D.C. but her role. And that Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita, explains, just like Hashem decided the role was needed and then filled that role with her - if she made Aliyah Hashem will find someone else to fill that role, if that role was indeed still needed. He speaks from the experience of his very own Aliyah when he asked his Rosh HaYeshiva for advice.

Well Rebbetzin Platanik just spoke about Aliyah again. She remarks how it's hypocritical to teach our children how important Eretz Yisrael is but get upset at them when they decide to make Aliyah. An excellent point and a very good watch.

Check it out above!

I just wonder if it's also hypocritical to teach our children about the importance of Eretz Yisrael, not get upset when they make Aliyah, but still not make Aliyah yourself?

At Kumah, we hope to greet Lori and everyone else in the airport when they make Aliyah very soon! Amen!

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Job Fair in Tourism

(courtesy of Israel National News)
The Tourism Ministry, together with all branches of the tourism industry, will hold an employment and training fair from 3:30 to 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, as part of the International Mediterranean Tourism Market (IMTM), taking place in the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds through Wednesday. About 2,000 jobs from about 40 employers in the hotel and tourism industries will be available, according to a ministry statement.

Colleges offering professional courses in tourism will also be represented. The ministry will also hold an employment and networking fair for tour guides on Wednesday from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the IMTM. It will feature work opportunities for veteran and newly qualified tour guides, as well as those finishing their studies.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

$15,000 Grant for Studying About Israel

March 1 is the deadline for the annual Schusterman Israel Scholar Awards. Five $15,000 awards will be given to students studying for academic careers in Israel-related fields. Here's the info:

The Israel Scholar Development Fund of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise is pleased to offer awards to encourage students to pursue academic careers in fields related to the study of Israel. Awards will be available to undergraduates and college graduates who have already been accepted to a graduate program, graduate students who have received master’s degrees in Middle East related fields who wish to pursue a doctorate and doctoral students who are writing dissertations related to Israel.

Each award will be for $15,000. The grants are renewable if funding is available based on the following benchmarks:

1. Undergraduates and college graduates who are accepted into MA programs related to Israel (paid in the fall of entering the MA program).
2. Acceptance into a Ph.D. program (paid in the fall of entering the Ph.D. program).
3. Passage of comprehensive exams.
4. Approval of dissertation topic.
5. Grant for research in Israel after either presenting two conference papers or giving two public lectures.

An individual may receive only one award in a calendar year.

Doctoral dissertation awards may be used for tuition, books, living expenses, travel costs, and other expenses to enable dissertation research. All other awards will be for tuition and books (any excess received over qualified tuition and related expenses may be taxable income to the recipient).

Only five new awards will be offered each year, so the process will be highly competitive. Award recipients will be invited to participate in two conferences each year for Schusterman Visiting Israeli Professors.

Proposals from candidates in all disciplines are welcome.

The competition is open only to U.S. citizens.

To be eligible, undergraduates and college graduates must:
Demonstrates an interest in Israel studies
Be accepted into a graduate program offering Israel-related courses..
Show proof of graduation before receiving the award.

To be eligible, Masters students must:
Show proof of receipt of a master’s degree before receiving the award.
Show proof of acceptance to a doctoral program.

To be eligible, Ph.D. candidates must:
Plan to do research primarily in original source material.
Write the dissertation on a topic that relates to the Middle East and specifically includes research on Israel.
Show proficiency in Hebrew and/or Arabic.
In addition, Ph.D. candidates must:

*Show evidence of passing the comprehensive exams OR
*Provide evidence of approval from their doctoral adviser or committee for the subject of their dissertation OR
*Present two conference papers or public lectures AND submit a plan to conduct research in Israel with documentation of approval by an Israeli institution.

Selection Criteria:
Applications will be judged on a number of criteria, including:

*Candidate’s record of achievement and leadership potential.
*Commitment to scholarship and an academic career.
*Originality and creativity of the research proposal (for doctoral candidates).
*Importance of the proposed dissertation to the applicant’s field (for doctoral candidates).
*Competence of the applicant to complete the dissertation (for doctoral candidates).
*Extracurricular activities related to Israel.
*Language skills, with a preference for knowledge of Hebrew.

Application Process:
Complete application form
Submit transcripts
Submit two letters of recommendation that evaluate the student's potential to contribute to Israel studies.

*Undergraduates and masters students must also submit a 1,000 word essay that explains how they plan to translate their background and interests into an academic career in Israel studies. The essay should discuss why the student wishes to pursue an advanced degree, what area of research they are interested in, and what they hope to do with this knowledge.

*Doctoral students should write an essay that describes their dissertation topic and methodology and how their research will advance the field of Israel studies.
Submit evidence of proficiency in Hebrew and/or Arabic.

Complete applications including transcripts and references must be received by March 1, 2010. For application in MS Word, click here. For application in HTML, click here.

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Phat New Anti-Israel Film!

I am a sucker for a good piece of political propaganda. I have been continually impressed with the way the Dark Side slams Israel - sometimes war-making, sometimes victimized. I don't know about you, but I always fall for a little Good Cop, Bad Cop, and so I have to give this one some props for:

1. Awesome use of music from the hit film "The Matrix". WE ALSO LOVE THE MATRIX! Sweet!

2. Cool typing. The reading/picture changes factor is mesmerizing, and gives me that Israel-loathing high I've been looking for.

3. Novel angle. "I am Israel". I like it - so definitive.

4. Wily promotion. Who isn't interested in seeing a "documentary" about Israel? Maybe I'll spend an hour making my own counter-"documentary" on Powerpoint.

5. Smatterings of history. Hell, this person has used Wikipedia, people! Step off! If that a documentary does not make, I don't know what does. Little misrepresented allusions to complex historical events makes this a dependable account of yore.

6. Ahmadinejadian rhetoric. Where have I heard "Jews from Europe pounced on the land of highly photogenic people who had been living there for thousands of years" before? It's right on the tip of my tongue... give me a few minutes, I'm sure it will hit me like a nuclear bomb.

7. Re-heroization of failed Zionists. Begin and Sharon are back, and better than ever!

8. The Zionist Wishlist. Control of America AND the UN?! Ken Yirbu!

9. World class production. If it's on Youtube, it has to be true.

I want to give this one two keffiyahs up. Inshallah.

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Neo-Zionism at Work - "Free Loan Group Surpasses $100 Million in Interest Free Loans"

(From Israel National News) The Israel Free Loan Association (IFLA) reported that it reached a major milestone in 2009, surpassing $100 million in interest free loans granted since its founding. These loans have been provided to over 50,000 Israeli families from all backgrounds.

IFLA loans help Ethiopian immigrants move out of mobile homes and buy apartments, enable university students to obtain academic degrees, and allow ailing Israelis to undergo operations. The loans also assist families with handicapped children to purchase medical equipment, help struggling Israelis get back on their financial feet and enable Israelis to start a business or expand existing ones thereby supporting both themselves...

The non-profit IFLA started as a private initiative of Hebrew University Professor of Social Work Emeritus, Eliezer Jaffe. He came up with the idea after a visit to an immigrant absorption center in 1988. "Busloads of Ethiopians, straight off the airplane, had just arrived at the center, and I told myself we were witnessing history in the making - the ingathering of the exiles." Soon afterwards, a flood of Russians added nearly a million new immigrants to the population.

"After I came home, I thought to myself – you have to get involved. Some friends and I put our heads together and we remembered what the sage Maimonides had said about charity – the highest level being when you give a loan or a job too a person so they can get onto their feet and keep their self-respect.

“It has worked out well because after their first year in the country, immigrants receive little help from the Jewish Agency that helped bring them to this country. They don't have family networks, they don't have the language mastered yet, and they find it hard to get a job or learn a profession."

Although originally established for new immigrants, the IFLA has branched out to offer help Israelis of all backgrounds. “In 1990 we started with a donation of only $20,000 dollars,” says Jaffe. “In 2009 we succeeded in surpassing the $100 million mark in interest free loans granted. Who would have believed we could have come so far in so short a time?”

The Israel Free Loan Association is the largest free loan organization in the world. It lends out $15 million every year to Israelis of all backgrounds. Unlike conventional charity where money is depleted, the source funds for free loans are preserved and more loans are recycled to provide funds to others.

Click here for more information.


Yishai says: Notice one thing - this way of banking is exactly the way the Torah prescribes lending in the Land of Israel. Neo-Zionism is about a renewal of our ancient ways in our modern life. It is about giving life to the Torah and engendering a society, that will be a light unto the nations because it will bring down the amazing guidelines of G-d into this corporeal world!

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Kumah's Amazing, Unbeatable, Crunchy Munchy Tu B'Shevat Seder

We offer for your Tu b'Shevat-dining pleasure, written with our own dirt-encrusted hands, the Totally Awesome Kumah Tu B'Shevat seder! May it help you dig deeper roots in the Land, and taller branches in the Heavens.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Zionism, not Cynicism

Israel has lots challenges: We have two hostile Iranian outposts on our borders, not to mention Iran itself building a bomb with our name on it. When we fight to defend our citizenry we get the Goldstone Report. The world is trying to stop us from building in our capital. We have a hostage in Gaza and we are being asked to release murderers for his freedom. We have very few friends abroad, and inside Israel we are often divided.

It is not surprising that in such an atmosphere, some people succumb to cynicism. But just as the darkness seems to have the upper hand, suddenly there are bright moments that delight us, remind us what Israel is all about, and shoo away the cynicism. Aliya is just such a cynicism buster. Aliya shows us that Israel continues to attract Jews from all over the world to take part in the most exciting project of the Jewish people in two-thousand years...

However, two recent articles in the Jerusalem Post seem bent on putting a dark spin on aliya as well:

In an op-ed entitled "What American aliya?" (Dec. 16) Haviv Rettig Gur wrote :

...Aliya as a phenomenon, as a movement, as a national project, has come to an end. Some 3,000 American olim come to Israel every year from a community whose population is at least 4.2 million strong... for all intents and purposes, North American aliya is currently at zero.

Then, as a follow up (Dec. 29), Michael Hirsh wrote "American aliya - an exercise in futility" stating:

I ask the well-meaning people at NBN and the Jewish Agency: With which powers of persuasion do you believe you were endowed that will sway someone to whom Israel is an afterthought into leaving everything behind and becoming an oleh? Perhaps that explains the current rate of "success," one-10th of 1 percent.

What negativity! This year was the first time in a decade that there was a rise in the number of new immigrants to Israel: 16,200 compared with the previous year's 15,440. 2009 also saw the largest number of Jews (3,767) make aliyah from North America since 1983. Amazingly, with all of Israel's challenges, aliya is on an upward trajectory - so why knock it?

Nay-sayers won't tell you that North American aliya has already become an economic success for Israel. According to a recent Deloitte audit, the entire population of Nefesh B'Nefesh Olim (6,493 households) has generated government revenues of 989 million shekels while the estimated costs of bringing them were only NIS 528 million. Also, the estimated contribution of American aliya (between 2002 and 2008) to the Israeli tourism industry (parents and pals coming to visit olim) is calculated at NIS 347 million, which brings the net contribution of recent North American aliya to a jaw-dropping 808 million shekels!

And North American aliya is bound to keep growing because immigration has never been easier: Israel has finally gotten the bureaucratic process right through the advent of Nefesh B'Nefesh. At the same time, amazing Anglo communities like Modiin and Ramat Beit Shemesh have sprouted up, making absorption a walk in an ever-more-manicured park. And as though Providentially, just as Israel's bureaucratic and community infrastructure are in place, the economic climate in the US has made aliya more attractive then ever before. In fact, measurable interest in aliya has more then doubled since the onset of the global economic crisis.

The aliya cynics point to the paltry 3,000 Olim a year and conclude that North American aliya is a failure. But since when do we value people as merely numbers? If the dream of gathering in the Exiles is happening only 3000 people at a time is that worthless? When one greets new immigrants one sees the faces of children kissing the ground, the faces of elderly rabbis crying, the faces of El Al pilots glowing with pride. "Total failure"? More like total ecstasy!

In the late 70's there were only 3 million Jews in Israel, now we are approaching 6 million. We have doubled in the last 30 years! No other country can claim that. Yes, it's mainly due to Russian Aliya, and a relatively high birthrate. But the point is that Israel wants to grow, and every Jew counts. Therefore, we must tirelessly continue to push aliya from all parts of the globe - and with special focus on American Jewry, the last major bastion of the Diaspora.

However, aliya cynics do have a point when they tell us that American Jewry is entrenched. It is. But that is not a reason to give up on our Jewish family back in the old country. To the contrary - it is precisely now, when the wheels of North American aliya are finally turning, that we must redouble our efforts to encourage Western Jews to come home.


It is in this spirit that I present three positive ideas of how to help galvanize Western Jews to seriously consider aliya:

* Aliya Day. There are well known state holidays which are used as springboards for massive educational undertakings. Yom Haatzmaut is a national celebration, but it is also a day of award ceremonies, concerts, and gatherings. Yom Hazikaron has its cemetery memorials and the siren that so powerfully reminds us of the IDF's sacrifice. Yom Hashoah educates us about the horrors of the Holocaust.

The time has arrived to unveil a new state holiday called Aliyah Day. Aliyah Day will be celebrated in Israeli schools with children getting up and telling the tale of their family's aliya. On TV, the stories of the various communal and personal immigrations will be told. Prizes will be given out to aliya activists, absorption workers and immigrants who have made a difference in Israel. Each year a different community will be featured and celebrated.

Simultaneously, Aliya Day will be celebrated in all pro-Israel institutions in the Diaspora. There, the discussion will focus on the importance of aliya, and the centrality of Israel. Aliya Day will use the proven model of a State holiday to celebrate the fact that we are all immigrants, and put aliya back onto the national agenda.

* Aliya Rally. There is a powerful force in Israel which, so far, has been totally untapped. Western olim, immigrants to Israel, are typically the most vocal supporters of continued Western aliya. If you enter the home of an oleh and broach the topic, you will find that from Raanana to Kiryat Arba, Western olim are highly enthusiastic about aliya and would like to see Jewish emigration expedited. We should harness the great passion of these people, and give them a platform to be heard.

Many rallies are held in Israel every year, but most of these rallies are anti-something, like calling for an end to some government policy. However, the aliya rally is different – it is positive and reaches out to Diaspora Jews with love and encouragement.

In a large venue in Jerusalem, like Teddy Stadium or the Sultan's Pool, the rally will be a professional production, with musical acts and speeches by well known personalities. Participants taking part in the rally will hold up placards that read: "Come Home My Brother / Sister", or posters of an Israeli passport with the words "Your Name Here" on the front. From the stage and in the crowd, we will call on our fellow Jews to come home and be our neighbors. The rally will raise aliya consciousness amongst Western Jews, empower olim in Israel who feel strongly about aliya, rekindle love of the homeland in native Israelis, and show the world that Israel still calls on all her children to come home.

* Aliya Boat. For American Jews in the US, the occasional press article or video clip about American aliya fails to persuade them that aliya is the future. It's just something they can brush off. We need to change that – we need to make the movement of Western aliya so spectacular and evocative that world Jewry will not be able to ignore it.

Enter the Aliya Boat. Evoking the nostalgia of old-world Jewish immigration, the Aliya Boat, this generation's 'Exodus', will bring 3000 Olim to Israel in just one journey. A plush cruise liner, the Aliya boat will sail for two weeks from the northeastern coast of the U.S. to one of Israel's port cities. Throughout the journey, an Israeli naval ship will escort the Aliya Boat as both security and honor guard.

While on this 'cruise' the almost-new immigrants will be busy: they will begin their Hebrew training at the on-board ulpan, take care of governmental paper work, and begin preparation to deal with their new home and environment. On the boat, children won't be strapped into constrictive seats for hours; instead, they will be 'enrolled' in an Israeli gan. Elderly folks can rest and play shuffleboard. Adults will begin friendships that will last a lifetime.

The romantic retro-iconography of the Aliya Boat will make news for two weeks straight. Embedded reporters and a documentary crew will record the epic tale. In Israel, a massive confetti welcome will make the arrival of the Aliya Boat one of the most moving spectacles of our time. It will be just too awesome of an event to minimize, and it will force every Jew in the world to rethink his or her position onaliya.

Indeed, this is not the time for cynicism. It is a time for Zionism. It is a time to think big and act big. If you will it, it is no dream.


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Thursday, January 21, 2010


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Future: Shai Agassi, Denmark, and soon Israel