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February 6, 2016 / 27 Shevat, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘birth’

The Demographics of Israeli Politics

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Israeli demographics have always made for a chaotic political culture. While to the outside world, it’s a nation of Jews, internally it’s a nation of Russians, Anglos, native Sabras, Yemenites, Syrians, Persians and a hundred others. Even the smallest group has its compartmentalized identities: the delicate differences between immigrants from a single country but different towns, the countless distinctions among its religious communities in their own way are united and disunited.

The politics of such a country encompass too many groups to list. There are the 19th Century Hungarian immigrants who came in preparation for the coming of the Messiah and have resented all other Jews who came before them or after them as usurpers: these form much of the Neturei Karta, a fanatical group that rejects the State of Israel. There were the German Jews who brought with them an equally fanatical efficiency, building chicken processing plants that were as clean as operating tables. There are the truly old Jerusalemites and the immigrants who have just arrived and are already learning to resent the new immigrants who get off the plane and expect to have everything handed to them on a silver platter.

Israeli politics are born out of the chaos of the nation’s demographics. Its Knesset is a room where fanatical atheists and the fanatical religious, urbanites and hill-dwellers, representatives of Russian and Middle Eastern Jews, settlers and Arabs, feminists and patriarchs, socialists and capitalists, scream at each other for hours, not always for the reasons you expect, and do nothing constructive. That makes Israeli politics a lot like everyone else’s politics, but it has its unique features as well.

The Israeli left is one of the few socialist movements in the First World to lose power because of immigration. Around the same time that Western immigration policies were being tuned to bring in populations with less investment in their new nations, new Israeli immigrants were more patriotic and nationalistic. To understand the effect, imagine that the United States today was being flooded, not with the morass of Mexicans, Haitians, Pakistanis and Kenyans, but with Irish and Italian immigrants who had no hesitation about flying the Stars and Stripes or identifying with their new country.

Russian and Middle-Eastern Jews who arrived in Israel (and the United States) were more likely to be conservative and to regard the left’s growing preoccupation with appeasing terrorists with suspicion. And in a two party system, their votes would have prevented the left from ever doing more than having a few token elected members denounce the state on the floor of the Knesset before slinking back to their cafes.

The Israeli left was never particularly fond of immigration to Israel. Their ideal from the start was a land settled by a cadre of young men and women, trained in their schools and indoctrinated with their ideology. British restrictions on Jewish immigration were not nearly as troubling to them as they were to the right. Israel, as they saw it, would be for a small chosen elite, a socialist enterprise that the vast majority of European Jews did not have the skills or temperament to participate in.

Their vision of a country consisting of collective farms and a few state-operated enterprises under a single union was ended by the Holocaust. While the right took the lead in smuggling Jews into Israel, particularly in the fading days of the war, the left had still not come to grips with a country being overrun by the kind of people they had wanted to leave behind.

The left seized power early on and, with the Altalena massacre, demonstrated that it was entirely willing to kill to maintain that power. But it couldn’t maintain it against the press of the ballot box. The system of patronage that it implemented was meant to marginalize the right, as well as those outside its club, the Holocaust survivors and Middle Eastern Jews, who were meant to play secondary roles in the life of the country.

One of the peculiarities of Israeli politics was that its left was nativist while its right took on the role of the defenders of marginalized minorities. A role reversal that was made possible because, while most Western leftist parties viewed immigration as a way to destabilize the nativist vote, the Israeli left saw immigrants as destabilizing their existing power base.

Mazal Tov, Mama Rhino!

Monday, June 18th, 2012

After an 18 month pregnancy, Tendra the rhinoceros gave birth to a healthy calf at the Ramat-Gan Safari on Friday, June 15.

This was the second successful birth for 20-year-old Tendra. Congratulatory messages have been streaming in from zoos all over the world.

White Rhinos are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity and every successful birth is vital for the prservation of this species.

Tendra’s first calf, Timor, is the only other white rhino born in the Ramat-Gan Safari in the past 20 years. Judging by past experience, Tendra is expected to be a good mother to the new baby rhino.

It has not yet been determined if the newborn is a boy or a girl rhino.

Claims Conference Employee Admits to Stealing $550K from Survivors, $57 Mil. Missing

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

An employee of the New York based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (the “Claims Conference”) pleaded guilty to defrauding her employers out of $550,000.

Zlata Blavatnik, 65, pleaded guilty to the charge that she had “produced falsified documents for myself” and “helped others in the same office” to make fraudulent “reparation” payments.

A total of 31 people have been charged in connection with the scheme, according to the FBI, including five former employees of the Claims Conference, which administered the programs.

The FBI is charging that, in exchange for kickbacks, those insiders, who were supposed to process and approve only legitimate applications, have knowingly approved nearly 5,000 fraudulent applications, resulting in payouts to applicants who did not qualify for the programs.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told reporters: “As I said when the initial charges in this case were announced, my office, working with our partners at the FBI, would not stop until we brought to justice those who are alleged to have stolen more than $57 million from the Claims Conference, thereby diverting money intended for survivors of the Holocaust.”

Bharara thanked the Claims Conference for “their outstanding, ongoing assistance in identifying the participants in this scheme.”

The Claims Conference, a not-for-profit organization which provides assistance to victims of Nazi persecution, supervises and administers several funds that make reparation payments to victims of the Nazis, including “the Hardship Fund” and “the Article 2 Fund,” both of which are funded by the German government.

Applications for disbursements through these funds are processed by employees of the Claims Conference’s office in Manhattan, and the employees are supposed to confirm that the applicants meet the specific criteria required for payments.

According to the FBI, as part of the scheme, a web of individuals—including five former employees of the Claims Conference—systematically defrauded the Article 2 Fund and Hardship Fund programs for over a decade.

The Claims Conference first suspected the fraud in December 2009, and immediately reported their suspicions to law enforcement, which conducted a wide-reaching investigation, resulting in unsealing the charges last October, 2011.

The Hardship Fund makes a one-time payment of approximately $3,500 to victims of Nazi persecution who evacuated the cities in which they lived and were forced to become refugees. Members of the conspiracy submitted fraudulent applications for people who were not eligible. Many of the recipients of fraudulent funds were born after World War II, and at least one person was not even Jewish.

Some conspirators recruited other individuals to provide identification documents, such as passports and birth certificates, which were then fraudulently altered and submitted to corrupt insiders at the Claims Conference, who then processed those applications. When the applicants received their compensation checks, they kept a portion of the money and passed the rest back up the chain.

From the investigation to date, the Claims Conference has determined that at least 3,839 Hardship Fund applications appear to be fraudulent. These applications resulted in a loss to the Hardship Fund of approximately $12.3 million.

The Article 2 Fund makes monthly payments of approximately $400 to survivors of Nazi persecution who make less than $16,000 per year, and either (1) lived in hiding or under a false identity for at least 18 months; (2) lived in a Jewish ghetto for 18 months; or (3) were incarcerated for six months in a concentration camp or a forced labor camp.

The fraud involved doctored identification documents in which the applicant’s date and place of birth had been changed. The fraud also involved more sophisticated deception, including altering documents that the Claims Conference obtains from outside sources to verify a person’s persecution by the Nazis. Some of the detailed descriptions of persecution in the fraudulent Article 2 Fund applications were completely fabricated.

From the investigation to date, the Claims Conference has determined that at least 1,112 Article 2 Fund cases it processed have been determined to be fraudulent. Those cases have resulted in a loss to the Claims Conference of approximately $45 million.

Manhattan federal Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman on Tuesday informed Blavatnik that she was facing a possible 40 years in jail for conspiracy and mail fraud.

But, according to the NY Post, Judge Pitman did not divulge the terms of Blavatnik’s plea deal, neither would the Manhattan US Attorney’s Office release a copy of the plea, which means that Blavatnik is probably cooperating with authorities in return for leniency in sentencing.

Parshah Behaalotecha: Moses and the Challenge of Adaptive Leadership

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

In this week’s parshah, Moses has a breakdown. It is the lowest emotional ebb of his entire career as a leader. Listen to his words to God:

“Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? … I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me – if I have found favor in your eyes – and do not let me face my own ruin” (Numbers 11:11-15).

Yet the cause seems utterly disproportionate to its effect. The people have done what they so often did before. They complain. They say, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Numbers 11: 5)

Many times before, Moses had faced this kind of complaint from the people. There are several such instances in the book of Exodus, including a very similar one:

“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death” (Exodus 16:3).

On these earlier occasions Moses did not give expression to the kind of despair he speaks of here. Usually, when leaders faced repeated challenges, they grow stronger each time. They learn how to respond, how to cope. They develop resilience, a thick skin. They formulate survival strategies. Why then does Moses seem to do the opposite, not only here but often throughout the book of Numbers?

In the chapters that follow, Moses seems to lack the unshakable determination he had in Exodus. At times, as in the episode of the spies, he seems surprisingly passive, leaving it to others to fight the battle. At others, he seems to lose control and becomes angry, something a leader should not do. Something has changed, but what? Why the breakdown, the burnout, the despair?

A fascinating insight is provided by Professor Ronald Heifetz of Harvard University.

Heifetz distinguishes between technical challenges and adaptive challenges. A technical challenge is one where you have a problem and someone else has the solution. You are ill, you go to the doctor, and he diagnoses your condition and prescribes a pill. All you have to do is follow the instructions.

Adaptive challenges are different. They arise when we are part of the problem. You are ill, you go to the doctor, and he tells you that he can give you a pill – but you are going to have to change your lifestyle. You are overweight, out of condition, sleep too little, and are exposed to too much stress. Pills won’t help you until you change the way you live.

Adaptive leadership is called for when the world is changing, circumstances are no longer what they were, and what once worked works no more. There is no quick fix, no pill, no simple following of instructions. We have to change. The leader cannot do it for us.

The fundamental difference between the books of Exodus and Numbers is that in Exodus, Moses is called on to exercise technical leadership. The Israelites are enslaved? God sends signs and wonders, ten plagues, and the Israelites go free. They need to escape from Pharaoh’s chariots? Moses lifts his staff and God divides the sea. They are hungry? God sends manna from heaven. Thirsty? God sends water from a rock. When they have a problem, the leader, Moses – together with God – provides the solution. The people do not have to exert themselves at all.

In the book of Numbers, however, the equation has changed. The Israelites have completed the first part of their journey. They have left Egypt, reached Sinai, and made a covenant with God. Now they are on their way to the Promised Land. Moses’s role is now different. Instead of providing technical leadership, he has to provide adaptive leadership. He has to get the people to change, to exercise responsibility, to learn to do things for themselves while trusting in God instead of relying on God to do things for them.

Understanding Post Partum Feelings

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Dear Dr. Yael,

I gave birth a little over a year ago and, even though it was not my first child, I felt differently this time around. I have always been a happy-go-lucky person, but after having this baby I could not seem to return to my previous self. I was moody, short-tempered and gloomy. While some of these symptoms could have been chalked up to normal baby blues, they persisted and I was becoming scared.

I tried to tell myself that everything would be okay and that I just needed more sleep. This was partially true, but even when I got more sleep I didn’t feel like myself. After struggling for a few months, I decided to seek outside help. I was told that I was suffering from postpartum depression. This shocked me, as depression sounded serious. But I felt better knowing that there was a name for how I felt.

Since my depression was not severe (I was able to function and was not suicidal), I opted to try therapy and undergo an exercise regimen. Additionally, I made sure to get more sleep and not let myself become overwhelmed. In short, I learned to ask for help when I needed it.

I slowly began to heal and started seeing parts of myself return. With time, I no longer needed therapy. I still try to maintain my exercise routine and yes, I splurge more often on extra help than I formerly did because these things seem to help me keep my sanity.

Many women feel that they must be superwomen. I simply wish to tell them that while their feelings are understandable, they are not always realistic. If they have unusual feelings after giving birth, they should not think that those thoughts are just going to go away. Of course we all have bad days, but constant gloomy feelings are not normal – and no one should have to suffer in that way.

Please help others understand that postpartum depression is neither a death sentence nor an embarrassment. We all have things we need to work on, and if a new mother is feeling this way, she needs to seek help.

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous:

Thank you for your honest and important letter. Many people suffer from postpartum depression. And yes, there is a fine line between baby blues and postpartum depression. Baby blues (e.g. feeling mildly depressed and experiencing mood swings) after having a baby is extremely common, and most women experience these feelings. Symptoms include moodiness, sadness, difficulty sleeping, irritability, appetite changes and concentration problems. Baby-blues symptoms usually become evident a few days after giving birth and could last from several days to a few weeks. But sometimes the abovementioned symptoms are more severe and could last significantly longer than a few weeks. This is when, as you described above, it is time to seek outside assistance.

Here are some symptoms of postpartum depression:

· Lack of interest in your baby
· Negative feelings toward your baby
· Worrying about hurting your baby
· Lack of concern for yourself
· Loss of pleasure
· Lack of energy and motivation
· Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
· Changes in appetite or weight
· Sleeping more or less than usual
· Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Dear readers, if you are feeling suicidal or have significant negative feelings towards your baby, you need to seek medical help immediately. Certain anti-depressants can help alleviate these symptoms and can be used in conjunction with therapy, exercise, sleeping, and having some time for yourself, in order to conquer the depression. Please do not try to help yourself on your own if you are feeling these symptoms, as you are at risk of hurting yourself or your baby. I know that many people see depression as a weakness and an embarrassment, but it is not something you can control.

If you had strep throat, would you tell yourself to stop being so childish and instead pull yourself together? Would you be embarrassed to talk about antibiotics because other people will think less of you as a person? Of course not! Regardless of what some may think, mental health works the same way. If you are suffering from neurological or hormonal changes that are severely affecting your mood and functioning abilities, you need to take the necessary steps to get better.

On Matzah & Mohels

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Pesach means bite-sized sweet kidney mangos and the return of the longon. Shavuot brings back the pomelo. Chanukah means miniature Mandarin oranges. And its always star-fruit for Rosh Hashanah. While our palates might have changed, along with our knowledge of Southeast Asian fruit, when it comes to Pesach it’s really all Osem and Yehuda Matzot for us.

I have worked hard to develop a neatly refined talent at being able to rid our apartment of chametz pre-Pesach. Nothing is left and little is wasted. I calculate and know just when to stop buying, what to purchase in smaller quantities and what we can do without for a day or so. Where my shortcoming lies is in my ability to predict how much matzah we will need. I am always grossly short. The kids always seem to eat ten times the amount they did the year before.

It is day three, a few years ago, and my supply is already running critically low. I work out, based on our current rate of consumption, what our needs will be.

It is still early. I am confident there will be an ample supply in the Koshermart, our small but well-stocked market in the Jewish Community Center. The market opens at 10. I am there at 10:15. The parking lot is crowded. This can’t bode well. “Matzah!” I simply exclaim to the clerk. “No more. Maybe you choose something else. Some gefilte fishes? Potato chip?” she responds.

“No matzah?” I confirm.

I let out a frustrated and exasperated long sigh.

Then Grace the cashier approaches. She leans close to me and whispers “meet me in the parking garage at 7pm tonight.”

I nod my head twice. Once in agreement. The second time to add effect.

It was very cloak and dagger. We met in the parking garage at the aforementioned time and she approached my car with four boxes in hand. Constantly looking over her shoulder.

“I thought the Koshermart was sold out,” I offer hesitantly.

“Yes, all sold out but restaurant upstairs have enough for whole Chinese army. I charged your account.”

And so I was to bring my matzah home with a clear conscious.

And while the excitement of this episode might perhaps have been slightly enhanced, it is not altogether overstated. We are not in New York, Los Angeles or Jerusalem. Our supplies are limited. Living somewhat off the radar clearly requires more careful planning.

As the story above shows, by day three of Pesach, the store is stripped of its supply save for perhaps a random sampling of Egg Matzah, Gluten Free Matzah, Onion Matzah and the new High Fiber Matzah. And since I continue to grossly under-buy, the same family has had to bail us out nearly every year for the past few years, passing their extra boxes of matzah to us. This has now become almost part of our Pesach tradition.

By day five, our Synagogue will typically email an announcement asking all those who will have extra boxes to please drop them off at the JCC and they are redistributed accordingly to the families that are running low. It is a comfort to know I am not the only one who can’t seem to get it right and that the demand for matzah is never unmet with a bit of communal cooperation.

When I think matzah, I of course also naturally think mohel. This association, for me, was forged because my eldest son’s brit milah was on the first day of Pesach 11 years ago. This was hardly an accident though. Having worked in the legal medicine field, I was perhaps a bit controlling when it came to things medical.

When I realized I could, if left to natural processes, potentially give birth on Pesach and miss my sedarim, I explained to my doctor in New York that as 38 weeks is full term, I could induce early and we both could have stress free chagim. Dr Goldman, also intent on making it to a family bar mitzvah around the same time, was quite amenable to the plan. And when it came to finding a mohel who would be able to walk to us, it was again not an issue.

When it came to the birth of my second son in Hong Kong, five years later, I learned that while matzah is sometimes heard to come by, a mohel always is. Though as a community we have a fairly high birth rate and our demographics are disproportionately young, we are small. And though we are rich in many Jewish institutions, we are without a mohel.

We must import our mohalim from the UK, Australia, Israel or the US. And like with our matzah, this is a communal effort and we share when we are able. Many “shidduchim” are made between expecting mothers. It is always welcome news to hear that another family is expecting a boy within days of yours. Flights, hotels and the other mohalim-associated costs can than be split. Some also require money to replace their salaries while they are away, some insist on business class seats, while others simply request a donation to a charity.

Shaare Zedek Celebrates 200th PGD-IVF Birth

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

With over 13,000 circumcisions under his knife, Rabbi David Fuld has witnessed far too many babies born with horrendous and debilitating genetic diseases, some of whom will never live to see their own Bar Mitzvah. For years, the plight of these children, as well as the financial and emotional price their families were forced to pay disturbed him to no end.

Discussing it with his wife Anita, they decided there must be something they could do to help families that wanted to have children, but were at high risk of having children with devastating genetic diseases.

Rabbi Fuld began searching for a solution and came across the research of Dr. Yury Verlinsky in Chicago. Born in Siberia, the doctor immigrated to the U.S. after – as a Jew – he was forbidden to practice medicine in the former USSR. Verlinsky had developed a genetic screening process called “Polar Body Analysis”, in which a by-product of the egg’s division during meiosis is detached and tested for genetic diseases on a molecular level, with no damage to the rest of the egg.

Rabbi Fuld cut a deal with Verlinsky, and a partnership began where Verlinsky’s technique and research would be developed and a testing and fertilization treatment facility would be established in Israel.

Rabbi Fuld began searching for a hospital in Israel that had both the capabilities and ethical standards he wanted to set up a PGD (Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis) and IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) center.

The search eventually led him to Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem, well known as “the hospital with a heart,” Shaare Zedek is unique in that it is guided by halachic (Jewish) law and is heralded for the high quality of treatment it offers its patients. Both were important standards for Rabbi Fuld.

Dr. Yonatan Halevy, Director General of Shaare Zedek introduced Rabbi Fuld to Shaare Zedek’s geneticist Professor Ephrat Levy-Lahad.

Rabbi Fuld offered Professor Levy-Lahad $250,000 to set up of a PGD-IVF research laboratory and treatment center, and she laughed as she explained to him that it would cost at least ten times that amount. Typically speaking, it can cost as much as $30,000 per child for PGD-IVF treatment, though over the past two years, Israeli insurance companies have begun to subsidize much of the cost for the first two children.

Rabbi Fuld, wealthy from his real estate holdings, understood the message. The rest, as they say, is history.

The first baby using PGD-IVF was born in 2005, and on Thursday, May 10, 2012, Shaare Zedek celebrated its 200th baby born using this technique. And there are many more babies in the pipeline.

Shaare Zedek: One of a kind

While there are seven genetic screening and fertilization centers in Israel, Shaare Zedek is the only one checking on the molecular level, compared to the more common chromosomal testing. This means the tests are more accurate and able to detect more genetic diseases. No other hospital in Israel has created as many children, and just as important, no other hospital has had as high a success rate in testing, impregnation, and live births as Shaare Zedek.

As anyone who saw the classic dystopian film Gattaca would recall, there are serious ethical issues that must be considered with PGD. PGD can test for gender and other genetic issues completely unrelated to health, which opens up an entire Pandora’s box.

Shaare Zedek is the only Israeli hospital with its own in-house ethical committee, which decides if the applying couples should receive PGD treatment, as well as ensuring that the entire process conforms to Halachah. The department assists Jews and Arabs alike.

Furthermore, as IVF treatments can be personally invasive on a physical and emotional level, the department’s staff of 30 are unusually sensitive to this potential discomfort and act accordingly.

There is also the issue of what happens to the fertilized, but diseased, embryos. Those embryos are used for testing to help the doctors improve their research and treatment. Before beginning treatment, the couples sign a waiver giving their consent.

Rabbi Fuld shared with The Jewish Press a few stories of the people he helped.

One ultra-Orthodox couple, based on genetic screening before marriage, knew they could never have children, as the risk was too high. But what could they do? They had fallen in love, and decided to marry anyway. Not having children was the price they were willing to pay to stay together. But they continued to search for a method that would work for them, and hearing about Shaare Zedek’s groundbreaking research, they flew to Israel for treatment.

Needless to say, they now have a healthy child.

In another unusual story, Shaare Zedek treated a couple afflicted with a form of dwarfism. Research at other hospitals had determined that it’s basically impossible to help such couples conceive a child, much less a healthy one. Yet today, there is a healthy child walking around Jerusalem, who will grow to normal height.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/shaare-zedek-celebrates-200th-pgd-ivf-birth/2012/05/10/

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