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January 24, 2017 / 26 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘academia’

Israeli Research Produces New Hope for Breast Cancer Patients

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

Weizmann Institute scientists have identified a promising new combination therapy for a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer, according to a recent report in the Cancer Research journal on the findings of their research.

Triple negative breast cancer is harder to treat than other types of breast cancer because it lacks three receptors that usually serve as targets for the anti-cancer drugs. As a result, treatment options are limited, and standard chemotherapy is often ineffective.

The potential dual-acting therapeutic strategy identified by Prof. Sima Lev and the research team not only inhibits tumor growth and survival, but also avoids the problem of drug-induced resistance.

In their study, Prof. Lev, postdoctoral fellows Drs. Nandini Verma and Anna-Katharina Müller of the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Molecular Cell Biology Department and colleagues identified a subset of triple negative breast cancer patients whose tissue samples expressed higher levels of two particular molecules: EGFR and PYK2.

Combining two inhibitors (right) was much more effective than either alone in preventing cancer growth, said Prof. Sima Lev.

Combining two inhibitors (right) was much more effective than either alone in preventing cancer growth, said Prof. Sima Lev.

EGFR – a cell-surface receptor – has been implicated in a number of cancers when it is over expressed due to mutations. PYK2 – a robust molecule previously discovered by Lev – plays a key role in breast cancer metastasis.

The scientists found that, in animal models, inhibiting either of these molecules alone led to a slight tumor reduction, but inhibiting them both together resulted in a more potent therapeutic effect, leading to a significant decrease in tumor size.

Hana Levi Julian

Hillel Rabbi Proud Drexel Honored Anti-Israel, Anti-America Noam Chomsky

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania bestowed an honorary degree on one of the U.S.’s most infamous anti-Israel, anti-American public figures this month. And on her Facebook page, the Hillel rabbi at Drexel posted a picture of herself with Chomsky and Drexel’s president at the ceremony.

“A representative of the Jewish community should probably not be in a photo op with him,” said one former Hillel student. “It is a bit disturbing that a figurehead of the Jewish community would allow herself to be next to him, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some students felt alienated and more hesitant to be involved in the organization after seeing such a photo.”

Drexel awarded 14 honorary degrees this year. The recipients of seven, including Chomsky, spoke at various graduation ceremonies.

Chomsky is one of the best known and most outspoken American critics of Israel. He has called the Jewish State such a consistent and extreme violator of human rights “that you hardly have to argue about it.” For that reason, he claims, U.S. military aid to Israel is in direct violation of U.S. Law. He also contends that peace proposals made by Hamas have been more “forthcoming” and sound than any proposed by Israel.

At least Chomsky rejects (sometimes) the claim that Israel is an Apartheid state. But that’s because he thinks Apartheid is too gentle a term for Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Arabs.

“To call it apartheid is a gift to Israel, at least if by ‘apartheid’ you mean South African-style apartheid. What’s happening in the Occupied Territories is much worse,” Chomsky said in an interview last year. Chomsky said that the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs is totally different than that of South African whites to blacks. He said that the “South African Nationalists needed the black population. That was their workforce. … The Israeli relationship to the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is totally different. They just don’t want them. They want them out, or at least in prison.”

Although he is distressed that the BDS (Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel) Movement has not yet been successful, he is very supportive of it.

Perhaps that is why it was so extraordinary to see a Hillel rabbi providing what would appear to be tantamount official support for Drexel’s decision to honor Chomsky.

Isabel de Koninck is Drexel Hillel’s executive director and campus rabbi.

A 2004 graduate of Brandeis University, de Koninck was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College from which she also completed a graduate certificate in Jewish Gender and Women’s Studies. Dee Koninck is an alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship and serves on the board of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.

At the ceremony at which Chomsky received his honorary degree, de Koninck, wearing an academic gown, posed with Chomsky and Drexel President John A. Fry. De Koninck’s official status as Hillel director and rabbi could be seen by the university as the official Jewish imprimatur for its awarding the honor to Chomsky.

De Koninck posted the picture on her Facebook page, underneath which she wrote: “That’s me with Chomsky and President Fry!”

In addition to being virulently opposed to Israel, Chomsky is also extremely harsh in his denunciations of the United States. For example, he publicly stated that the 9/11 attacks on America were not any worse than President Clinton’s use of cruise missiles against Sudan in retaliation for bombings in Nairobi.

Chomsky also denied there was proof of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks, and said the U.S. attack on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan would justify a retaliation scenario in which “Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.”

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Israel Parents’ Group Slams New Education Rules

Monday, May 18th, 2015

Israel’s national parent group has condemned new guidelines by the Education Ministry designed to ensure there will be no cheating on final exams.

The regulations call for student “lockdown” during the 45 minutes prior to the start of the Bagrut exams, which are similar to New York’s Regent exams.

Students will not be allowed to have access to their cell phones but will be allowed to study for the exams with regular study materials.

The National Parent Association stated its regret that the ministry chose not to consult or cooperate with its group. “The decision on the new guidelines is far-reaching and presents severe harm to students during their matriculation exams – the most sensitive and stressful time of their school year.”

Last week the Education Ministry explained that although officials realized the decision would cause “discomfort and unrest, and it is not perfect or ideal” the strategy had been reached “after examining all the other options, [and] analyzing the risks and chances they could be implemented.”

Ultimately, the ministry “found that this decision was the right one for the time being,” and maintained that “the rights of the students to take the matriculation exams be upheld.”

The lockdown strategy that is so vehemently being debated is designed ensure that students do not have time to access information about the exam while the questionnaire is being printed by school officials.

It comes in the wake of repeated incidents of cheating on the exams in various schools and population sectors.

This year’s questionnaire will be sent directly to the schools electronically via the Internet prior to the exam.

Hana Levi Julian

Torah & Norman Solomon

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Having just celebrated Simchat Torah, the festival of the Torah, the question of its source and authority remains at the very center of our current religious debate. But it’s a minefield, quicksand that can consume and even destroy the best of minds. In all the years I have worked in the rabbinate I have come across many devoted, hardworking men, but very few of them have been innovative thinkers of any note. Whatever gifts they may have had as speakers or writers, they have almost all avoided tackling fundamental theological issues. Some out of fear for their jobs, others out of fear of their peers, and of course others simply had neither the inclination nor the training to question and challenge core beliefs. It may be that the demands of the rabbinate are so overwhelming that they afford insufficient time. The fact is that almost all the intellectually creative rabbis I have come across throughout the Jewish world have left the full time rabbinate, mainly for academia.

Indeed it is in academia nowadays that all the creative Orthodox Jewish thinking is taking place. One can now find Charedi academics working in Israeli universities on what hitherto were always regarded as heretical approaches to Torah. Synagogues and communities, on the other hand, are centers of conformity and socialization. They do of course fulfill a very important need. Most people come to synagogues precisely to reinforce their social identity and needs and not to be forced into the painful process of grappling with ideas of faith.

I have just read Norman Solomon’s Torah from Heaven: The Reconstruction of Faith. It is an important book for anyone grappling with traditional Judaism. And it calls to mind the great Louis Jacobs controversy that rocked and soured Anglo-Jewry for so long.

Louis Jacobs was a product of traditional Yeshivot and Kollels, a Jew who adhered strictly to halacha throughout his life, a gifted teacher, a caring pastoral rabbi and, his biggest fault if you could call it a fault, a painfully honest man. He was a man of such impeccable stature and religious integrity that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe called him to give testimony at a court hearing in New York over the Rebbe’s library. In a small work, We Have Reason to Believe, he brought traditional sources to show how the idea that all of the Torah was given to Moses on Sinai, was a complex idea, with textual, historical, and philosophical problems that needed to be addressed, and indeed could be, in modern philosophical terms. He was a senior lecturer at Jews College, a pulpit rabbi and a candidate to succeed Israel Brodie as Chief Rabbi.

But appointing Chief Rabbis has always been a fraught, Machiavellian political process, as recent maneuverings perfectly illustrate. Louis Jacobs was blocked by an unholy alliance of envious, narrow-minded, and politically ambitious rabbis whose background was both anti-intellectual and fundamentalist. They needed an excuse to hound him out of contention for leadership of Anglo-Jewry, and they succeeded. The result was that he was treated immorally by the religious leadership of Anglo-Jewry to his dying day, even being denied an aliyah at his own grandson’s Bar Mitzvah under a much lauded Chief Rabbi who ought to have known better. One can think of no better example of the moral bankruptcy of Anglo-Jewish Orthodoxy. I myself was banned at one stage from contributing to an establishment publication called Leylah because I had written a sympathetic article about him.

Norman Solomon was a distinguished rabbi in the Anglo-Jewish Orthodox United Synagogue with whom I have had intermittent contact over the years and whom I admire and respect. We share a Cardiff connection, as well as Cambridge and philosophy. Intellectually rigorous, sensitive, and modest, he served major communities with distinction before retiring to academia. First he helped establish the Centre for the Study of Judaism and Jewish-Christian Relations at the Selly Oak Colleges, which put him in the forefront of interfaith activity, and then he became fellow in Modern Jewish Thought at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and a member of Wolfson College. Now, in the late stages of his career, he has tackled in public the very same issue that Louis Jacobs tried to deal with fifty years ago, but in greater depth and width.

It is a sad reflection on the current state of intellectual dishonesty and censorship in the Orthodox world that fundamentalism rules in the rabbinate. Only in academia can we find men like Marc Shapiro and Menachem Kellner, to name the best known, who are willing, from a position of committed Orthodoxy, to stand up and refuse to be deterred from examining honestly received ideas and showing how they are not simplistic clichés of belief but important, complex concepts that need more than superficial assent. Torah from Heaven stands with Marc Shapiro’s The Limits of Orthodox Theology as a seminal work that delves into the richness of our heritage to show that there is more than one way of looking at core religious ideas.

Catholicism reacted to the challenge of science in the nineteenth century by retreating behind the walls of certainty and dogma, insisting on papal infallibility. Orthodox Judaism has now adopted this mode. But I believe the easy access that modern technology and the internet gives us to the variety of texts and opinions that have existed in Judaism over thousands of years is taking the seals off the archives. The light shed will inevitably open minds and produce new approaches. The current battle over conscription in Israel gives the impression that the Charedi world in its entirety is set against secular education. But in reality, the interesting fact is that more and more Charedim are getting PhDs in Judaica nowadays, which means that new ideas are simmering within the fortress of Orthodoxy.

Orthodoxy lives by practice rather than theology. I get really offended when zealots try to suggest that unless you believe a specific formulation of whatever, then you are “beyond the pale”. The Torah does not use the formulation, “You must believe,” which is a very Greek idea. Instead it posits certain fundamental assertions and leaves it up to us as to how we understand them. If God did not insist on a rigidly defined credo, why should we? If we want to retain critical, thinking, and open minds, we must offer intellectual rigor, not just religiously correct slogans. This book gives us a history of the issues and how different thinkers over the centuries have dealt with the challenges of the Torah. It is a major contribution. Thank you, Norman.

Jeremy Rosen

Monitoring Professors Who Hate and Attack their Country

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Israel Academia Monitor, an organization devoted to monitoring anti-Israel academics, hosted a conference in Tel Aviv with the goal of drawing attention to the fact that anti-Israel academics exploit their positions of influence in order to promote an anti-Israel agenda.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon does not lie solely within universities abroad, but also exists within Israel. These professors utilize their position as a means to prove the justness of their cause while the fact that they are Israeli adds a sense of legitimacy. The danger is tremendous. As Cicero once wrote, “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within.”

The first speaker to address the conference was Prof. Ofira Seliktar, who noted the orchestrated campaign to delegitimize Israel utilizing soft asymmetrical conflict.

Soft components of this conflict are designed to delegitimize the target country and improve the image of the challenged group” as well as the “causes they represent,” Seliktar said.

The founders of the Neo-Marxist critical perspective, according to Seliktar, were the first to adopt soft asymmetrical conflict, which Edward Said in turn applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Michael Gross, another speaker at the conference, pointed to professor Neve Gordon of Ben Gurion University, saying that Gordon has “a long track record of calling for boycotts of Israel” and has referred to “Israel as a so-called fascist Nazi apartheid-like state.” 

In addition, other professors at Ben Gurion University behave similarly, including Oren Yiftachel, who devoted “most of his career to misrepresenting Israel as an apartheid regime;” Lev Grinberg, who is best known for “accusing Israel of committing symbolic genocide” when Israel killed the leader of Hamas and compared Hamas terrorists to the “Maccabee heroes”; and Eyal Nir, who teaches chemistry at BGU and “is not only anti-Israel but was in the media in the past year for openly calling for critics of the left to be murdered.”

Panel at Israel Academia Monitor Conference, Tel Aviv

Panel at Israel Academia Monitor Conference, Tel Aviv

In the concluding session of this conference, I participated and spoke about how soft asymmetrical conflict was applied at Ben-Gurion University, where anti-Israel activism was quite widespread as part of an orchestrated campaign to educate international students to view Israel negatively.

Examples of this included the social coordinator at the time, Noah Slor, organizing anti-Israel trips, professors teaching about Israel in an anti-Israel propagandist style; and instances of pro-Israel students, such as myself, facing intimidation for having the chutzpah to speak out against the anti-Israel activism that was taking place on campus.

For example, Professor Yiftachel was teaching international students that “Israel is in a colonial situation with the Palestinians,” “the whole Israeli state is what you call an ethnocracy,” “Ashkenazis colonize the Mizrahim,” “Israeli Arabs have ghetto citizenship,” “Israel is like Sudan in ethnocratic structure,” and that “Israel imposes Judaism on her Palestinian citizens.”

When I attempted in the past to write exposés on this, Yiftachel arranged to have me intimidated by the then head of the Middle Eastern Studies department, Dr. Avi Rubin, who threatened “possible ramifications” and the involvement of the university’s legal department. While every thing turned out fine for me in the end, due to Israel Academia Monitor providing me with legal representation, not all students who are outspokenly pro-Israel at BGU are this lucky.

Here’s a brief portion of my concluding remarks:

When you combine people like [Professor] Yiftachel… [and] a social coordinator who, by the way was the one who organized the demonstrations on the campus in favor of the Gaza Flotilla … it has an indoctrinating effect.

I emphasized that choosing to speak out against this intimidation wasn’t an easy decision. Nevertheless, what the international students are taught is important, for many of these students will return to their countries and may hold prominent positions within the government as experts on the Middle East.

I concluded:

 

[I]t is important to study the Middle East; but not in the way that it is currently being done. It needs to be done in a way that you actually learn; that you actually gain some insight, a marketplace of ideas,” I explained. “It shouldn’t be only one opinion. And oh, you can’t challenge it if you don’t have a Ph.D. That’s not how it works. Students also have academic freedom and my academic freedom should be respected just as much as anybody else.

Visit United with Israel.

Rachel Avraham

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/united-with-israel/monitoring-professors-who-hate-and-attack-their-country/2013/05/06/

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