Category Archives: Tikkun Olam


A Little known Irony:
From Rabbi Peter Tarlow

Lost in the tragedy of the massacre of the Pakistani school children was an irony relative to the hospital that the survivors of the schoolhouse massacre were taken to; namely Lady Reading Hospital. Do you know who Lady Reading Hospital is named after?

The Marchioness of Reading was born Alice Cohen, the daughter of a Jewish merchant in London. She married a barrister called Rufus Isaacs, who in 1921 as Lord Reading became Viceroy of India – the first Jew to hold the highest office in the Raj. (He was also the first Jew to serve as Britain’s Foreign Secretary and as Lord Chief Justice of England. He’s buried in the Jewish Cemetery at Golders Green.) Alice Reading devoted her time as vicereine to charity and health issues, and was the driving force behind the construction of proper medical facilities in Peshawar.

So here we are nine decades later: Jew-hate is endemic among the hard men of Islam. But, when it comes to treating wounded Muslim schoolchildren, the only game in town is a hospital founded by a Jew.

Submitted by Jerry Weissman


A little warmth as cold weather begins.
(Developed for fund raising purposes by the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, but still stirring.)

Submitted by Brian Schnitzer, MAJCO


In the early morning hours of November 9, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines. Thousands of lives were lost and hundreds of thousands impacted when the storm hit. Authorities and aid groups are struggling to deliver safe drinking water, food, and life-saving supplies to disaster zones.
The URJ General Disaster Relief Fund is collecting donations that will be distributed to aid groups working in affected areas.


There is snow on the ground, Thanksgiving (and Hanukkah) are next week, and that means Christmas is right around the corner! The Mercy Home (Women’s Domestic Violence Shelter) has already contacted me about covering the Mercy Home during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We have done this for many years as it allows the staff at this 24 hour facility the day to spend with their families.

Note that men can volunteer as long as there is a female volunteer also. No experience is necessary. If you are new, please e-mail or call Wendy (info below) for the location and details on how to volunteer.

If you can help out, please e-mail Wendy ( or call 727-4098. The shifts available are:

12/24 2-5 PM Nadyne & Jerry Weissman
12/24 5-8 PM Meriam Nagel
12/24 8-11 PM
overnight from 11 PM to 8 AM (Wendy will cover this one unless someone else wants to)
12/25 8-11 AM
12/25 11 AM to 2 PM
12/25 2-5 PM

We thank you in advance for helping!


Israeli ingenuity is responsible for some of the world’s most amazing medical advances.

Whether they’re futuristic, such as Given Imaging’s PillCam capsule endoscopy or Itamar Medical’s fingertip monitors for sleep disorders and cardiac issues — or cleverly simple, such as First Care Products’ Emergency Bandage – blue-and-white inventions are changing the face of healthcare in hospitals, doctors’ offices, homes and even battlefields worldwide.

About 1,000 Israeli companies are in healthcare or life-science products, including 700 in medical devices. Mergers and acquisitions involving Israeli healthcare companies totaled around $1 billion in the past year.

Just 12 of the newer Israeli medical innovations:

1. ApiFix system to correct severe curvature of the spine (scoliosis) minimizes risks, scar size, complications, recovery time and cost. The miniature ratchet mechanism has successfully been implanted in 15 patients so far.

2. Argo Medical Technologies’ Rewalk robotic exoskeleton from was featured on the hit TV show “Glee” and enabled paraplegic runners in London and Tel Aviv to complete marathons. The ReWalk Rehabilitation model currently is used by patients in rehab centers from New York to Dusseldorf. ReWalk Personal, for everyday home use, is available throughout Europe and awaiting FDA clearance in the United States.

3. Gamida Cell is developing stem-cell therapy products to treat blood cancers, solid tumors, non-malignant blood diseases such as sickle-cell anemia, autoimmune diseases and genetic metabolic diseases. On Sept. 9, the first patient was successfully transplanted at Duke University Medical Center (North Carolina) in the second Phase I/II study of NiCord, Gamida’s experimental treatment for blood cancers.

4. GI View Aer-O-Scope disposable colorectal cancer screening device, now in US trials, will make lifesaving colonoscopy screenings cheaper, safer and more accessible worldwide. The self-navigating, flexible Aer-O-Scope removes the risk of perforating the colon, provides superior imaging and can be used by a trained nurse or technician so a gastroenterologist does not have to be present.

5. IceCure Medical’s IceSense3 has been used by US doctors since 2011 to remove benign breast lumps in a 10-minute ultrasound-guided procedure that penetrates the tumor and engulfs it with ice. The system is being clinically tested over the next few years against small malignant breast tumors as well. The procedure is done in a doctor’s office, clinic or breast center, and the patient can get up and leave afterward with no recovery .

6. InSightec’s ExAblate OR uses MRI-guided focused ultrasound to destroy tumors and uterine fibroid cysts without surgery. The company has begun a Phase III trial of its next product, ExAblate Neuro, to cure essential tremor — a common movement disorder – using the same non-invasive technology to significantly lower risk of infection, hemorrhage and brain damage.

7. IonMed’s BioWeld 1 bonds surgical incisions using cold plasma — instead of painful stitches, staples or glue – within minutes, sealing and disinfecting the wound with minimal scarring and recovery time. The CE Mark is expected in October, with European sales and US FDA approval process starting in early 2014.

8. Nano Retina’s Bio-Retina, a tiny implantable device inserted into the retina in a 30-minute procedure, turns into an artificial retina that melds to the neurons in the eye. Activated by special eyeglasses, the device transforms natural light into an electrical impulse that stimulates neurons to send images to the brain. The prototype is advancing quickly through clinical trials.

9. NanoPass Technologies’ MicronJet is a unique, FDA-approved single-use needle for painless delivery of vaccines into the skin using semiconductor technology. The product has been proven to generate superior immune response with less vaccine, because it does not go past the skin level. Licensed last year to Janssen Pharmaceuticals, MicronJet is being used by the US Center of Disease Control (CDC) in a large trial of polio vaccine for infants in Southeast Asia.

10. OrSense’s NBM-200 non-invasive blood monitor is relied upon by blood donation centers in 40 countries for continuous and spot measuring of potential donors’ hemoglobin level (to check for anemia) and other blood parameters. This device eliminates the need for finger pricking as well as biologically hazardous equipment and waste. Studies show that donors screened this way are more likely to become repeat blood donors. OrSense recently completed successful trials using its technology to detect hemorrhage and anemia in pregnant women.

11. Surpass Medical’s NeuroEndoGraft flow diverters redirect blood flow from a brain aneurysm (a bulge in a weak artery wall), so that a stable clot can form and the potentially fatal aneurysm no longer is in danger of rupturing. The family of devices has the CE Mark and has been used successfully in dozens of patients. US medical device manufacturer Stryker acquired Surpass for $100 million in October 2012.

12. VitalGo Systems’ Total Lift is the world’s only hospital-grade bed that can elevate a patient from a lying to a fully standing position — and all points in between — for treatment and transfer with no lifting required of the caregiver. Two major companies are distributing Total Lift in the acute-care and home-care markets in the United States.


It has crossed my mind that not everyone has access to the newsletter, and sometimes things happen too quickly to publish. So some of us thought it might be a good idea to re-establish a phone tree, where a caller calls one or two people and they each call one or two people and pretty soon everyone knows what’s going on — if someone needs help, if there is a birth or death in the family, if there is a happy occasion to be celebrated, if we want to plan a surprise for someone … — the possibilities are as limitless as your imagination.

If you are interested in participating in the phone tree, please call Meriam Nagel or e-mail Thank you.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the timely and insightful sermon which Student Rabbi Miriam Farber gave on Friday evening, April 19, repeated here for the benefit of the few who were there, and of the many who unfortunately were not there.

The local bookstore might be an endangered species, replaced by Amazon and e-books. But, if you find yourself in a Barnes and Noble, or even, imagine, an independent bookstore, somewhere in that shop is a shelf filled with Chicken Soup for the fill-in-the-blank Soul. Chicken Soup for the Teen Soul, Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul, Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Cancer Survivor’s Soul – the list of titles goes on and on. Chicken soup, that delicious Jewish penicillin, able to fix any ailment, physical or emotional, is now available in book form to provide sustenance, inspiration, and healing.

There are so many places to turn to when we need comfort. As Jews, as the People of the Book, chicken soup in book-form makes sense. Our own sources – the Torah, the prayerbook, the libraries full of the Jewish wisdom of the ages – provide comfort and healing. When we said Mi Shebeirach a few moments ago, we drew strength from the Torah itself. Chicken soup in its literal form makes sense to us too. Comfort food, whether it is chicken soup, mashed potatoes, ice cream, or whatever dish works for you, is a physical response to our emotional pain. On Monday afternoon, after a harrowing day of watching the news and avidly scanning social media, waiting for my friends in Boston to check in – I turned off the TV, went into the kitchen, and felt calmer making dinner than I had all day.

Our tradition offers us many options for how to respond at times of tragedy and trauma, whether a personal loss or a shared communal event. We have prayers and mourning rituals, and we seek the wisdom of those throughout our history who have struggled with the same questions and struggles we face now.

Our double Torah portion this week is called Acharei Mot-Kedoshim. Acharei Mot occurs immediately after the death of Aaron’s sons. The opening words of the portion, which give the parasha its name, mean, “After the death.” The other half of our double parasha, Kedoshim, falls at the center of the Torah. It consists of the Holiness Code, two chapters filled with laws guiding us in our human relationships. The Holiness Code lays out how to build a holy society. The word Kedoshim means holy, appearing at the beginning of Leviticus 19: Kedoshim tihyu – You, the people of Israel, shall be holy.
Acharei Mot-Kedoshim. After death…holiness. After moments of trauma and fear, our tradition teaches us, through the juxtaposition of these two portions, that we must respond with acts of holiness and kindness towards our neighbors, towards strangers, to continue to build a holy society, even at the time when that holiness seems least attainable.

The stories of acts of kindness in the past several days have almost blocked out the blackness of Monday’s tragedy. First responders, including medical personnel who only expected to treat dehydrated runners, ran towards the explosions, saving countless lives. They took to heart the words we find in our Torah portion this week, “Lo ta’amod al dam rei’echa – do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” Marathon runners, physically exhausted from the exertion of running 26 miles, kept on running past the finish line, to give blood at Boston’s hospitals, embodying the value that pikuach nefesh, saving a life, takes precedence over everything else. Over one thousand Boston residents opened up their homes to host marathon runners from all over the world who found themselves without a place to sleep on Monday night. These generous hosts taught us what it might mean to fulfill the commandment, “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him…you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” ’doshim tih’yu ki kadosh ani Adonai Eloheichem. You shall be holy, for I, Adonai your God, am holy. Our human capacity to do holy acts is a result of our creation b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God.

Earlier tonight, in the Gevurot, we praised God as the someich noflim – the Lifter of the fallen and as the rofei cholim – the Healer of the sick. We credit God with these acts of kindness, but perhaps God acts through us, through the human hands that reach out to lift someone off the ground, through the wisdom of human doctors and nurses, through the human arms that embrace the person who just needs an understanding hug, through the human shoulders upon which the bereaved cry.

The Talmud teaches, “Just as God clothes the naked, so should you; just as God visited the sick, so should you, just as God comforted the mourners, so should you; and just as God buried the dead, so should you.”

Rabbi Shai Held adds, “Just as God is present when people are vulnerable and suffering, so should we be.” We are holy when we act in the ways that God acts, when we run to do our small part to build a holy civilization.

What does it mean for us to be present with suffering, to run towards tragedy, rather than in the opposite direction? For us, this week, it doesn’t need to mean getting on the next flight to Boston or West, Texas, or being glued to the unceasing news coverage that has marked this week. Instead, perhaps the way that we become kedoshim, holy, is through remembering that our holy acts are needed all the time, not only at times of national tragedy. Kedoshim offers two chapters full of ideas for bringing God’s holiness into the world every day, starting with honoring one’s parents and celebrating Shabbat.

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat teaches us what this might look like, writing, “God is in the friend who offers to hold a newborn so its exhausted mother can take a shower and get some sleep. God is in those who gather for shiva so the mourner can say kaddish in the presence of a minyan. God is in the friend who makes a pasta salad and brings it to the home of a woman whose husband has slipped a disc and can’t get out of bed. God is in the parent who rocks a sick child in the middle of the night. We find God in our acts of love for one another.”

These everyday acts of kindness bring God into the world, healing, slowly, our brokenness. Kedoshim is the Torah portion at the very center of the Torah. And at the very center of Kedoshim is the most simple, yet most difficult commandment: V’ahavta l’reyacha kamocha – Love your neighbor as yourself. Rabbi Hillel taught that this verse is the ENTIRE Torah – all the rest is commentary. The rest of the Torah teaches us how to love our neighbors, giving us concrete tasks to do, whether at a time of tragedy or on any old Thursday, those tasks of caring for the sick and feeding the caregivers, of being present with people when they are most vulnerable.

Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, in an essay in which he struggles with belief in God after the Holocaust, declares, “Faith is living life in the presence of the Redeemer, even when the world is unredeemed.” Rabbi Greenberg suggests that there might be moments of redemption, even if we have not yet achieved a complete redemption for the entire world. Even at our darkest moments, when we lose our faith in humanity, in God, and in ourselves, we still hold onto the belief that redemption is possible, and even near. We search for those moments of redemption, sparks of light and hope that illuminate the dark night of helplessness and despair.

May we reach beyond our own brokenness and pain to make God’s presence felt in our world, by using our hands to ease the pain of the sick, our words to comfort the suffering, and our ears to listen to the voices of the scared. Y’varcheinu Adonai v’yish’m’reinu – May God bless us and protect us.


Contributed by Karen Semple, who says:
I understand people have different political points of view; however, this is an inspiring tribute to the late Margaret Thatcher that tells a little-known story about her part in saving an Austrian girl during WWII.
Karen Semple


URJ Camp Kalsman JTFN! Partnership Announced.

Contact: David Berkman, Director 425.284.4484

Naomi Skop Richter, Jewish Teen Funders Network 212.726.0177 x215

Bellevue, WA – March 6, 2013 – URJ Camp Kalsman was selected as one of 38 North
American summer camps to participate in the 2013 Camp Philanthropy Program of the Jewish
Teen Funders Network (JTFN), a youth philanthropy project of the Jewish Funders Network.
Through the JTFN Camp Philanthropy Program, Camp Kalsman will create a Jewish teen
foundation, in which campers will work together as a “foundation board,” giving away real
money to non-profit organizations of their choosing.
Located on 299 acres outside of Arlington, WA, URJ Camp Kalsman serves campers from the
greater Pacific Northwest community, from Oregon to British Columbia, Alaska to Montana,
Washington state, and beyond. Committed to core values of respect, peace, kindness, and our
relationship to teva (nature), we build a warm and caring community where campers have fun
and experience the excitement and warmth of belonging to a Reform Jewish community.
Recognizing the potential of Jewish youth philanthropy programs to empower and educate
teens about effective philanthropy and Jewish values, JTFN awarded 38 grants to Jewish
summer camps committed to creating high quality Jewish teen philanthropy programs. In
addition to a grant of $1,000, JTFN will work closely with grantees on program development and
staff training.
Through the grantmaking process, campers will review grant proposals from non-profit
organizations, visit potential grantees, and determine which organizations to support; the
philanthropists-in-training will examine Jewish texts, traditions, and values related to giving. The
program encourages campers to “learn by giving” and will generate at least $38,000 in grants,
with each teen foundation awarding a minimum of $1,000. The program is generously supported
by the Maimonides Fund.
Jeremy J. Fingerman, CEO, Foundation for Jewish Camp sees the pilot program as a valuable
contribution to the field of Jewish summer camping. “FJC sees this JTFN program as a
wonderful opportunity for campers to experience the act and the impact of Tzedakah on their
world. Besides benefiting the recipients, the campers are learning valuable life lessons of
responsibility and teamwork and gaining insight into the diversity of the non-profit world.”
Indeed, Camp Director David Berkman appreciates the power of Jewish youth philanthropy. “At
Kalsman our purpose is to create committed lifelong Jews. Campers are concerned about and
invested in the world around them. Our responsibility, therefore, is to help them learn to be
leaders in the community, which means the giving of time, of energy, and of money. With the
help of JTFN, our campers and staff will be better prepared to be the Jewish leaders of
tomorrow,” he said.
About URJ Camp Kalsman’s Project
About a dozen 11th graders, who are selected to be summer 2013 Camp Kalsman Counselors-
in-Training (CIT), will become the camp’s very first cadre of “philanthropists-in-training.” In
addition to learning how to be future Jewish camp counselors, the CITs will devote themselves
to learning about and alleviating food insecurity. The teenage grantmakers will collect donations
of food from camper families, as well as harvest fruits and vegetables from the gardens and
trees in camp, for delivery to a local food bank. The CITs will also visit area nonprofits to gain a
firsthand perspective on the power of tzedakah (justice, “charity”) and Gemilut Chasadim (acts
of loving kindness).
About Jewish Teen Funders Network
The mission of the Jewish Teen Funders Network (JTFN) is to provide Jewish teens with hands-
on opportunities to engage in collective philanthropic giving with their peers, guided by Jewish
values. A program of the Jewish Funders Network, JTFN is committed to increasing the number
of Jewish youth philanthropy programs around the country, and the number of teens involved in
these programs. JTFN also aims to enhance the Jewish educational value of these programs by
providing curricular and programmatic resources on Jewish values and philanthropy.


Once again, it is time to start thinking about signing up for shifts at the local Domestic Violence Shelter for Women (Mercy Home), so that the dedicated 24/7 staff there can spend Christmas with their families.

Here are the shifts we need to fill:

  • Monday, 12/24: 2-5 PM
  • Monday, 12/24: 5-8 PM
  • Monday, 12/24 8-11 PM
  • Tuesday, 12/25: 8-11 AM
  • Tuesday, 12/25: 11 AM — 2 PM
  • Tuesday, 12/25: 2-5 PM

To comply with the Mercy Homes rules, men are welcome to help cover a shift as long as they are accompanied by a female. For those of you who have never done this before, it is a great mitzvah to help out with the Mercy Home and the women who reside at the shelter. Duties include answering the phone (a script is provided, and an on-call staff member is available if you need help), monitoring the alarms, and signing residents in and out. Residents often stay with friends or family members during the holiday, so there may be only 1 or 2 residents on the premises — or none, so be sure to bring a good book to read or a movie to watch.

If you are able to help, or have any questions, please contact Wendy Weissman at 727-4098 or The location of the shelter is confidential, so once I have the volunteer list, I will tell you where you need to be.

Thanks in advance.