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Winning $12,000 Grant

How does a teacher communicate his great love of physics?  How does he get other people excited about the subject?

James Lincoln, who teaches advanced placement (AP) physics and AP environmental science at TVT Community Day School in Irvine, has received a grant of $12,000 for the school to support the Video Professional Development for the High School Physics Teachers project.  Lincoln, who is in his seventh year at the school, applied for the grant, known as the William F. and Edith R. Meggers Project Award, through the American Institute of Physics.

Lincoln, who is the president of the Southern California branch of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), has spent the past two years leading workshops.  Now he hopes the videos will take the information to a wider audience.

The objective of the Meggers Award, which awarded biennially, is to support projects at the high-school level designed to raise the level of interest in physics and boost the quality of physics education.  Lincoln is going to make 24 videos with proceeds from the grant – and the help of the film and television classes at the school.  He hopes for an additional grant to make 10 more videos.

Lincoln said that he could not do this without the school, which he described as “an oasis of learning.”  He added that TVT has “the best equipped high school physics lab in Southern California.”

“It’s easier to differentiate students for styles of learning when there are small classes,” said Lincoln, who used to teach in the Los Angeles Unified School District.  “There’s good communication, and I have a lot of freedom in how I teach.  I can use as many experiments as I can fit into the curriculum, and I have great supplies and facilities.”

TVT is a pluralistic Jewish day school with nearly 600 students.  Its mission is to challenge students to think critically and creatively to achieve their fullest potential in an inclusive, pluralistic environment; to prepare students to be leaders, active learners and responsible citizens; and to succeed at the finest colleges and universities.  TVT also strives to strengthen its students’ Jewish identities and inspire them to lead meaningful lives, steeped in Jewish values.

For more information on the award, see http://lincolnphysics.blogspot.com/2013/09/announcingwinner-of-meggers-project.html.

For more information on TVT, 5200 Bonita Canyon Drive, Irvine, CA 92603, contact (949) 509-9500 or www.tarbut.com.

Jewish Nobel Prize Winners

Francois Englert, a Belgian Jewish professor at Tel Aviv University and a Holocaust survivor, shared the Nobel Prize in physics.  The prize for Englert and Peter Higgs of Britain for their discovery of the Higgs particle was announced October 6.

Englert, 80, has had “close research ties” with Tel Aviv University for 30 years, the university said. He is a Sackler professor by special appointment at its School of Physics and Astronomy.  The Higgs particle, known as the “God particle,” is said to have caused the Big Bang.  Scientists confirmed the discovery of the Higgs particle, or Higgs boson, which Higgs first theorized in 1964, while working with the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland.

In 2004, Englert, Higgs and Robert Brout won Israel’s Wolf Prize, which is seen as a stepping-stone to the Nobel.  Meanwhile, Higgs, who worked independently of Englert, allegedly supports the academic boycott of Israel.

Jewish Americans James Rothman of Yale University and Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley, joined German-born researcher Thomas Suedhof of Stanford University in winning the Nobel Prize in medicine for their research on “vesicle traffic” — how proteins and other materials are transported within cells.

This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to three researchers for computer simulations that enable the closer study of complex reactions like photosynthesis and combustion, and the design of new drugs.

Martin Karplus of the University of Strasbourg in France and Harvard University, Michael Levitt of Stanford University, and Arieh Warshel of the University of Southern California share the honor and the approximately $1.2 million that accompanies it.

(From JTA, honestreporting.com and New York Times reports)

Launching Jewish Artists Network

Asylum Arts, a first-of-its-kind global network of Jewish artists, has launched with the aim of engaging more people with Jewish ideas, identity and community through the vibrant Jewish and Israeli cultural landscape. Asylum, which will connect and empower Jewish artists and cultural organizations around the world, will be supported in its pilot phase by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network.

Asylum will build capacity in contemporary Jewish culture on an international scale, bringing greater exposure to artists and cultural initiatives, providing opportunities for new projects and collaborations, and elevating the level of excellence and artistic activity. It will pursue its mission by hosting gatherings and trainings and providing small grants to foster connections between Jewish artists and arts organizations.

“In a world in which young Jews are seeking non-traditional opportunities for engaging in Jewish life, artists are creating meaningful, provocative Jewish experiences that provide a powerful way to connect to Jewish identity and expand the boundaries of Jewish life,” said Rebecca Guber, director of Asylum Arts. “Empowering Jewish artists from around the globe to advance their professional careers and connections helps to broaden Jewish culture and the collective Jewish narrative in the world.”

Asylum (www.asylum-arts.org) is an outgrowth of the successful Asylum: International Jewish Artist Retreat, held in March 2013 as part of a series of gatherings supported by the Schusterman Philanthropic Network. The first Asylum retreat brought together 60 international artists to build skills, knowledge and connections, both Jewish and professional. A key initiative of Asylum Arts will be a second Asylum retreat, scheduled for spring 2014 as part of the Schusterman Connection Points series.

In addition to hosting ongoing gatherings and training programs in locations around the world, Asylum will offer small grants of $1,000 to $3,000 to artists in its network to help move innovative projects from idea to reality. These grants will be given to projects that create opportunities for professional and creative growth, international collaboration and audience impact.

Asylum will be run by Rebecca Guber, who has demonstrated a deep commitment over the past 10 years to advocating for and supporting artists within the Jewish community. She served as the Founding Director of the Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists, which pioneered funding emerging Jewish artists as a strategy for creating new opportunities for Jewish engagement and is widely acknowledged for developing a new cadre of artistic voices in the Jewish community.

Asylum will be supported in its pilot phase by the Schusterman Philanthropic Network, which has long invested in arts and culture as a way to renew the city of Jerusalem as a modern, open capital and to enable Israeli and Diaspora audiences to connect with Israel through its fertile cultural landscape. Key Schusterman investments in this area include the Jerusalem Season of Culture, Artis and the Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artists Program.

“Asylum will help forge a much-needed global network of Jewish artists and organizations,” said Lynn Schusterman, Founder and Co-Chair of the Schusterman Philanthropic Network. “It will be a key addition to our broader efforts to create meaningful access points for young Jews to connect with their rich heritage and homeland through the vibrancy of Jewish and Israeli culture.”

Commemorating WOW Anniversary

On November 3, three North American missions from the Reform Movement will commence their journey in the Holy Land to honor the 25th Anniversary of the Women of the Wall, the group aimed at achieving social and legal recognition of women’s rights to wear prayer shawls, pray communally, and read from the Torah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The three missions include a lay and clergy mission with 80 participants (69 congregants and 11 clergy); a rabbinic mission from the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and the Women’s Rabbinic Network (WRN) with 17 Rabbis; and a NFTY Mission with five teens.

This group of 69 lay leaders, 28 clergy and five young people, will celebrate Rosh Chodesh Kislevtogether at the Kotel, engage in study with scholars at HUC-JIR, participate in a “Freedom Ride” to support desegregation on Israel’s public buses led by the Israel Religious Action Center and meet with Natan Sharansky, influential members of Knesset and senior government officials to discuss pressing issues of religious pluralism in Israel.

Delegates will also enjoy a gala celebration at Merkaz Shimshon/Beit Shmuel featuring remarks by WoW Chairwoman Anat Hoffman and former Member of Knesset Naomi Chazan. Renowned musician Julie Silver, cantors participating on the mission, and HUC Cantorial Students will provide entertainment.

Rabbi Karyn Kedar, Senior Rabbi of Congregation B’nei Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Deerfield, Illinois, commented, “Ours is a mission to fight for expanding recognition of religious pluralism in Israel. But let there be no mistake. Even as we stand in passionate opposition to discriminatory treatment of women at the Kotel, we must not take for granted that we do so in a democratic country where freedoms are guaranteed. We take our case to the Knesset, the center of political power. We take our case to the press, which is free and open. We travel without fear of persecution and we step onto the stage of history where the democracy and freedom of Israel are the cornerstones of the modern state.”

In addition to the congregational missions and the CCAR/WRN mission, there will be a North American delegation from the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) who will be in Israel representing the Reform Movement at the Zionist National Council, HUC-JIR Israeli Rabbinical Ordination, and the Jewish Agency Board of Governor’s meetings.

“Joining our Israeli brothers and sisters at the Kotel to express our support for a pluralistic Israeli society is at the core of what we do and what we stand for,” said ARZA President Rabbi Joshua Weinberg. “We look forward to bringing the message back to our members and our Movement in America.”

For more information on the Women of the Wall, please visit http://womenofthewall.org.il/.

Gathering To Remember

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, some 300 Jewish students and young adults from Germany will gather in Warsaw from October 31 to November 3 for the Fifth Annual Holocaust Education Summit held by The Jewish Agency for Israel.

Throughout the three-day conference, which is one of the largest annual gatherings of German Jewish young people and will take place in the heart of what was once the Warsaw Ghetto, participants will attend a series of workshops and vigorous discussions addressing core dilemmas relevant to today’s German Jewish community and exploring aspects of the Holocaust from political, philosophical, and historical perspectives. A large majority of the attendees are alumni of Israel experience programs, including Taglit-Birthright Israel; Masa Israel Journey; Onward Israel; and WAHL, a unique Jewish Agency program tailored for German Jewish young people.

This is the fifth annual gathering of young German Jewish leaders, held in a different location each year and organized by The Jewish Agency with the support of the Claims Conference. The Jewish community in Germany has flourished in the last two decades following a wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union.  The community has expanded tenfold since 1989, to some 250,000 members today.  This dramatic growth, coupled with vast geographic dispersal across Germany, have presented a number of issues and challenges that distinguish this Jewish community from others in the Jewish world.

In recent years, The Jewish Agency has significantly expanded the size and scope of its efforts to engage the country’s widely-dispersed Jewish community, focusing on strengthening Jewish identity among teens, students, and young adults, and developing a new generation of Jewish communal leadership.  These efforts include the creation of unique Israel experience programs, targeted follow-up programs for Taglit-Birthright Israel alumni, support for grassroots communal initiatives across Germany, and partnerships with a vast range of Jewish communities and organizations.

Leading scholars, activists, journalists, and government officials from both Germany and Israel will lead sessions at the Warsaw conference, which will also be attended by prominent German Jewish leaders. In addition to the sessions, the event will feature a communal Shabbat experience and a tour of the Jewish history of Warsaw.

“The 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising represents an opportunity for Europe’s emerging Jewish leaders to grapple with who we are today as a people,” said Michael Yedovitzky, Director of The Jewish Agency for Israel’s activities in Germany. “These young leaders are working to define where German and European Jewry fits within the broader framework of global Jewish peoplehood and how our collective past ought to inform our approach to the future.”

Reopening Complaint

For 45 years, the Federal Government denied to Jewish college/university students a legal protection under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that it gave to all other ethnic groups such as African-American, Hispanic, Middle Eastern students.  Only in 2010 did the Federal Government through the Department of Education nominally extend such protection to Jews.  However, this August, the Department of Education dismissed complaints about civil rights violations against Jews on three University of California campuses, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and Irvine.

In October, University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin formally filed an appeal to the U.S. Department of Education- Office for Civil Rights (OCR), asking the department to reopen the complaint that she had filed in 2009, which was based on a long-standing and pervasive pattern of discrimination against of Jewish students at UC Santa Cruz in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Rossman-Benjamin’s original complaint charged that professors, academic departments and residential colleges at UCSC were promoting and encouraging anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish views and behavior, and creating a hostile environment for Jewish students.

Rossman-Benjamin’s 41-page appeal provided substantial evidence that the Office for Civil Rights’ characterization of her complaint was false, inaccurate and misleading, and that its investigation into her complaint was deeply flawed and completely ignored her extensive documentation of a hostile environment for Jewish students at UCSC.  “The extent of the inaccurate, false and misleading information contained in the OCR’s letter dismissing my complaint was astonishing. It suggested a clear intention to dismiss my complaint without considering the true merits of my allegations, and without a fair consideration of the anti-Jewish bigotry that Jewish students may face at UCSC.”

Rossman-Benjamin’s appeal also contains several pages of evidence that over the last year, Muslim and pro-Palestinian student groups and the legal, civil rights and advocacy groups that support them have waged a massive campaign targeting the three Title VI complaints filed on behalf of Jewish students at the University of California, including Rossman-Benjamin’s, and attempting to force the OCR to dismiss them.  “These groups even went as far as petitioning the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in order to pressure the OCR to dismiss my complaint!” said Rossman-Benjamin, who feels that the OCR’s dismissal of her complaint was in part a result of these groups’ massive campaign of pressure.

In addition, the appeal contrasted the OCR’s willingness to apply title VI protections to African American students at UC San Diego after incidents of alleged racial harassment with their unwillingness to consider the longstanding, pervasive and well-documented harassment of Jewish students at UC Berkeley, UC Irvine and UC Santa Cruz, and suggested that OCR was employing a discriminatory double standard that was anti-Semitic in effect if not in intent.

Rossman-Benjamin is also the co-founder of AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit organization whose mission is to expose and combat anti-Semitism on college campuses throughout the US. “With the OCR’s dismissal, on the exact same day, of all three Title VI complaints alleging anti-Jewish harassment on UC campuses, the Jewish community is justifiably worried that the federal government is turning its back on Jewish students and is no longer willing to protect them,” concludes Rossman-Benjamin.

The AMCHA Initiative is a non-profit organization dedicated to investigating, documenting, educating about, and combating ant-Semitism at institutions of higher education in America. The organization aims to diminish anti-Semitic behavior and protect Jewish students from both direct and indirect intimidation and harassment while attending colleges and universities.  AMCHA informs university administrators and the public about the ant-Semitic incidents, the individuals and groups that are perpetrating them, pressures university leaders to act.

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