Scientists Fêted at 190th Annual Franklin Award Ceremony

Previous Franklin Laureates included:
• 1889, 1899, 1915: Thomas Alva Edison. For the telephone, electricity, phonograph and more inventions.
1894: Nikola Tesla. For high-frequency alternating electrical current.
1909: Marie and Pierre Curie. For the discovery of radium.
1912: Alexander Graham Bell: For the electrical transmission of articulate speech.
1914, 1933: Orville Wright. For the arts and science of aviation.
1918: Guglielmo Marconi. For the application of radio waves to communication.
1935: Albert Einstein. For work on relativity and the photo-electric effect.
1939: Edwin Hubble. For studies of extra-galactic nebulae.
• 1953: Frank Lloyd Wright. For contributions to architecture including Philadelphia’s Beth Shalom Congregation.
• 1970: Jacques Cousteau. For placing man in the sea as a free agent.
• 1981: Stephen Hawking. For contributions to the theory of general relativity and black holes.
• 1999: Noam Chomsky. For contributions to linguistics and computer science, and insight into human thought processes.
• 2003: Jane Goodall. For pioneering studies with chimpanzees.
2008: Judea Pearl (father of Daniel Pearl) for work in computers and cognitive science.


UCLA professor Judea Pearl created the first general algorithms for computing and reasoning with uncertain evidence, allowing computers to uncover associations and causal connections hidden within millions of observations.

Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute has been presenting the Benjamin Franklin Medal to leaders in science and engineering since 1824. It is the longest running science award in the United States; its history eclipses the Nobel Prize which was first awarded in 1901. This year’s distinguished laureates join the ranks of some of the most celebrated scientists and engineers in history who have come to Philadelphia to receive the Franklin Institute Award. (See sidebar on the right.)

As master of ceremonies for the fifth consecutive year, Bob Schieffer pointed out past laureates who were in attendance before the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial at the Franklin Institute. Schieffer is the moderator of CBS’s Face the Nation and has interviewed every US President since Richard Nixon. He enjoyed the chance to return to Philadelphia:

I interview people in Washington. Not much happens there anymore. [But] these [scientists]  are people who get things done…. As Franklin said: “An investment is knowledge pays the best dividends.”

Physics Award

Daniel Kleppner is one of the great Jewish minds at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He designed the precision hydrogen maser clocks which made today’s global positioning system (GPS) possible. He invented these clocks for an entirely different reason — to prove that time is slowed down by gravity as predicted by Franklin Award laureate Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

Kleppner also devised techniques to create and manipulate Rydberg atoms. In recent years, Kleppner was indispensable in the creation of the long-sought Bose-Einstein condensate predicted by Einstein nearly a century ago. This is a rare and curious state of matter that is possible only at extremely low temperatures and may be instrumental to work in quantum computing.

Mechanical Engineering Award

Ali Hasan Nayfeh (VPI — Univ. Jordan) had a surprising journey to academic acclaim. He was born to illiterate parents in the Arab village of Tulkarm (טולכרם) during the British mandate of Palestine. (10 miles East of Netanya between Tel Aviv and Haifa). He quipped that if his father had listened to the local wise men he “would have been a camel driver” instead of a leading mechanical engineer. However, his mother encouraged him to study in the United States saying “Go ahead, but do not come back without earning the highest degrees.” He started at San Mateo Community College but followed his mother’s advice, earning his BS, MS and Ph.D. from Stanford University in four and a half years. He returned to the Middle East and founded the engineering school at Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan.

In a broad sense, Nayfeh’s specialty is about finding some kind of order and predictability in seeming chaos, whether in the form of vibrations and sounds occurring in jet and rocket engines, the movement of water around ships, or the oscillations of huge structures such as cranes and skyscrapers. Unless well modeled, dangerous consequences may result: A bridge may collapse; a ship may break apart; a building may fall; a plane may crash. Nayfeh’s developed new analytic methods  using multiple time scales in perturbation analysis for the solution of the nonlinear differential equations at the heart of these phenomena.

More biographies and videos follow the jump.
Life Science Award

Joachim Frank was born during World War II in Siegen, Germany. He has vivid memories of staying in bomb shelters during allied bombing raids and wonders whether the uncertainty of war creating a need for order in his mind which led to his scientific investigations. According to Karpas Mossman:

As an 8-year-old boy, Frank was fascinated by science and conducted chemistry experiments under the veranda of his family’s house. Frank, like many scientists of a certain age, entered physics through the portal of amateur AM radio. “When I was 12 or 13,” he recalls, “I bought the first stuff for building radios-very small devices. Later I took old radios apart and reassembled them.”

Frank studied earned his Ph.D. in 1970 under the direction of Walter Hoppe, an X-ray crystallographer, in Munich at the Max Planck Institute für Eiweissund Lederforschung.

One of the professors on the examining board, impressed, nominated him for the prestigious Harkness fellowship. Under the terms of the Harkness, Frank was funded for two years’ work in the United States at any laboratory that would have him, plus a generous stipend for traveling. On arrival in the United States, Frank headed for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA. The JPL might seem to be an odd destination for a specialist in microscopy, but “at the time,” Frank says, “they were the leading people in the world in image processing.” He was able to adopt the JPL software, to which he made his own electron-microscope-specific improvements.

The Franklin Institute’s award committee cited

Joachim Frank for the development of Cryo-Electron Microscopy [and] for using this technology to investigate the structure of large organic molecules at high resolution, and for discoveries regarding the mechanism of protein synthesis in cells.

Much of biology comes down to studying the smaller pieces of the larger whole: the structure and workings of DNA, RNA, the synthesis and folding of the proteins through which all life’s workings are accomplished. But these intricate processes occur at a level of existence that requires sophisticated techniques to capture, study, and ultimately understand. Joachim Frank has dedicated his career to extending the vision of science to previously unseen layers and depths.

Ever since its invention, electron microscopy (EM) has been one of science’s most powerful tools. Using a beam of electrons to probe matter at infinitesimal scales impossible with light microscopy, it has revolutionized the study of both the living and non-living universe. But it has its limitations, particularly in biology, where the radiation and hard vacuum needed for EM are anathema to living cells. Examining biological samples with EM generally means working with dead cells with a somewhat distorted structure unlike those in their native state. While dead cells are useful, their study doesn’t allow in vivo visualization of living processes. Using the techniques of cryo-electron microscopy and single-particle reconstruction, Frank has overcome these difficulties and accomplished unprecedented feats of structural biology, including some of the most detailed images yet seen of the ribosome and its workings.

The ribosome, the complex molecular machine that translates messenger RNA into functional proteins, has been a central touchstone for most of Frank’s work, both as a testing ground for the development of his microscopy and single-particle imaging techniques and as an object of study in its own right. Because the ribosome lacks the convenient crystallographic symmetry of other biological macro-molecules, it has proven notoriously difficult to fully visualize at high resolution. However, Frank made major strides in overcoming that problem. Devising techniques by which 2-D images from various angles (i.e., “single particles”) could be combined and averaged to create 3-D images, Frank the first three-dimensional images of the ribosome. He went on to develop the SPIDER software suite for the single-particle reconstruction of molecular structures, now used by researchers worldwide. In cryo-electron microscopy, a sample is examined after being frozen in vitreous (uncrystallized) ice, allowing biological macromolecules to be examined in their natural state without staining or other artifacts that can obscure structural detail. Frank used his image processing techniques in conjunction with cryo-EM to visualize the ribosome in action, showing protein synthesis as it happens. Perhaps his most notable achievement along these lines has been his discovery of the “ratcheting” motion that moves tRNA and mRNA through different parts of the ribosome during translocation.

Joachim Frank is a professor of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University in New York City. His lab is located at Columbia University Medical Center. He is married to Carol Saginaw, a Jewish woman from Michigan.

While I was speaking to him at the Franklin Institute, a guest came by to show him a necklace that she was wearing. The pendant on the necklace was a 3-d model of the ribosome structure which Frank had discovered from thousands of images. Indeed, Frank spoke in the institute’s video of the beauty in nature that can only be appreciated through science. Driving through the forest shortly after his discovery of the “ratcheting” motion of the two components of the ribosome he thought to himself how many trees there were, each with thousands of leaves, each with millions of cells, each with thousands of ribosomes constantly dancing in this “ratcheting” motion as they build new proteins and he felt privileged to have made the discovery which allowed him to be able to appreciate these processes which go on around us and inside us all the time.

Chemistry Award

Harvard Professor Christopher T. Walsh revolutionized “the development of antibiotics for the treatment of disease and provided the foundation for the new field of Chemical Biology.”

Earth and Environmental Science Award

Lisa Tauxe (Scripps, University of California San Deigo) developed “observational techniques and theoretical models providing an improved understanding of the behavior of, and variations in intensity of, the Earth’s magnetic field through geologic time.”


Electrical Engineering Award

Until recently magnetic media stored information “longitudinally” as magnetic signals arranged end-to-end on magnetic disks or tapes. However, technology had already approached the theoretical density limit as nearby magnetic dipoles naturally repel each other making further miniaturization impossible without a new paradigm. Instead, Shunichi Iwaski (Tohoku) and Mark Kryder (Carnegie Mellon) arranged the magnetic signals side-by-side, that is perpendicular to the magnetic media, boosting capacity by orders of magnitude. Seagate commercialized the first PRM hard drive in 2006 and now “virtually all hard disk drives operate with PRM principles”.


Bower Science Awards

Additionally since 1990, the Franklin Institute has bestowed the Bower Science Awards made possible by a bequest by the late Philadelphia chemical manufacturer Henry Bower. The Bower Award for Achievement in Science includes a $250,000 prize, one of the most significant scientific prizes in the U.S.

Edmund M. Clark (Harvard) led in “the conception and development of techniques for automatically verifying the correctness of a broad array of computer systems, including those found in transportation, communications, and medicine.”

William H. George (Carnegie Mellon) was honored for “his visionary leadership of Medtronic Corporation, his promotion and writings on corporate social responsibility and leadership, as well as his extraordinary philanthropic contributions to education and health care through The George Family Foundation.”

Republicans Seek to Fight Against Obama in Syria


Republicans who had been criticizing President Obama for refusing to arm the Syrian opposition, suddenly became critics of any intervention whatsoever when the president proposed the limited strike.

— by Steve Sheffey

Republicans proved during the Syria debate that they will oppose President Obama simply for the sake of opposing him, all for partisan gain. Politicians used to at least pay lip service to a bipartisan foreign policy, but no longer.

Former Congressman Barney Frank summarized the situation accurately:

Many Republicans who had been criticizing President Obama for refusing to arm the Syrian opposition, and some of whom advocated American combat aircraft establishing a “no fly” zone against the Syrian air force, suddenly became critics of any intervention whatsoever when the president proposed the limited strike to penalize President Bashar al-Assad for his use of chemical weapons. Democracy does not require people who oppose a president’s military actions to stay silent in the interest of bipartisanship, but what we have here is the exact opposite: partisan opponents of the president completely reversing their position once the president moves in the direction they had previously attacked him for not taking.

Continued after the jump.

The argument that they are now critical of his doing anything because he is not doing more is not a serious one. There is a significant body of Republicans prepared to attack Obama for any decision he makes, even if that requires them to reverse positions they previously held.


Courtesy of Yaakov “Dry Bones” Kirschen.

President Obama outlined his foreign policy in his U.N. speech. The bottom line on Syria is that we have achieved all of our objectives without firing a single shot. On Friday night, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. That was a major victory for the U.S.

The U.S. position on Iran is also clear: Iran cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. A diplomatic solution is better than a military solution, but all options must remain on the table. Iran is willing to talk only because economic sanctions are taking their toll; it would be foolish to ease up, until and unless Iran backs up its conciliatory words with actions.

Israel and many others remain skeptical about Iran’s intentions. A senior Administration official said on Friday that:

The Israeli government has every right to be skeptical of the Iranian government, given the statements that have come out of Iran in the past — extraordinarily inflammatory statements about Israel, threats towards Israel’s existence — given that history, I think it is entirely understandable and appropriate for the Israeli government to be deeply skeptical…

We’ve made clear that words need to be followed by actions, and ultimately it’s going to be the actions of the Iranian government through this diplomatic process that is going to make the difference. And so when we consider things like potential sanctions relief, we’re going to need to see a meaningful agreement and meaningful actions by the Iranian government before the pressure that’s in place can be relieved… The bottom line for us is that Iran cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon.

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If Only Anne Frank Had Been Packing A Luger

Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher (R-OH) campaign video offensively blames Holocaust on gun control.


— by David A. Harris

Using the memories of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust to make a political point is never appropriate, under any circumstances. For Ohio Republican House candidate Samuel Wurzelbacher to imply that these innocent lives were taken because of gun control laws is simply beyond the pale. Wurzelbacher — who is just the latest in a long line of Republicans who seem to think it is acceptable to use the Holocaust for political gain-must apologize and remove this offensive video immediately.”

With this video, Wurzelbacher joins the ranks of other Republicans such as presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, Governor Rick Scott (R-FL), Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Representatives Allen West (R-FL), Michele Bachmann (R-MN), and Trent Franks (R-AZ), WV Senate candidate John Raese and FL House candidate Adam Hasner who have shamefully abused the Holocaust to make political points.

Hunter Walker of the New York Observer reported today:

Samuel ‘Joe The Plumber’ Wurzelbacher, the 2008 campaign microcelebrity and Ohio congressional candidate, has an interesting theory about the Holocaust. Yesterday, Mr. Wurzelbacher released a campaign web video in which he blamed the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide on gun control laws.

‘In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917 one-point-five million Armenians, unable to defend themselves were exterminated,’ Mr. Wurzelbacher says in the clip. ‘In 1939, Germany established gun control. From 1939 to 1945, six million Jews and seven million others unable to defend themselves were exterminated.’

Mr. Wurzelbacher’s video features footage of him on a shooting rage blasting fruits and vegetables with a shotgun. As the clip draws to a close, Mr. Wurzelbacher, gun in hand, proclaims, ‘I love America.’

The description of the video describes gun ownership as ‘our last line of defense’ from tyranny and poses a rather existential question about Mr. Wurzelbacher’s produce shooting hobby.

‘If you hunt or just like shooting guns, the 2nd Amendment will always be a good thing. History also tells us it’s our last line of defense in the face of an out-of-control government,’ the description says. ‘And killing fruits and vegetables is… what?’

The Best of Congressman Barney Frank


Frank has often been accused of pushing “the radical homosexual agenda.” In the clip above, he defines exactly what that agenda is.

Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) stunned the country by announcing his retirement. Here are a few reactions we have received along with video highlights of his wit and wisdom.

Statement by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO):

Barney Frank was a groundbreaking pioneer and one of the most insightful, knowledgeable and humorous people ever to grace the halls of Congress. We will miss his leadership on a wide range of issues — from fighting to reign in Wall Street’s excesses and working to stabilize our economy to standing up for equal rights for LGBT Americans and curtailing runaway Pentagon spending. Congressman Frank championed the rights of all Americans, the economic security of all of our families, and a politics of inclusion and hope. It’s a great loss for the Congress but Barney leaves behind an enviable record of accomplishment. I will miss
his presence every day.

More after the jump.


In a recent Republican debate, Newt Gingrich said Frank should be thrown in jail for his role in the housing crisis. Frank responds to the video above.

Statement by NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris:

On behalf of the National Jewish Democratic Council’s leadership and staff, I am truly saddened by the news that Representative Barney Frank will be retiring at the end of his current term. For the last 30 years, Frank has been a leading voice for many Jewish communal concerns and a stalwart advocate for America’s middle class on Capitol Hill. Through his fierce advocacy for many Democratic and social justice causes, Frank truly represented the Jewish value of tikkun olam — repairing the world.

As we’ve experienced over the years, Frank has an unparalleled work ethic and a sense of humor to match. He leaves behind a strong legacy as one of America’s pioneering Jewish legislators in addition to the many pieces of legislation that bear his name. Frank’s absence in the House will be felt by all, and especially so for many in the American Jewish community who have looked up to Frank as a role model. We congratulate Frank for his distinguished career in the House of Representatives and wish him the best as he begins the next chapter of his life.

Barney Frank is asked by a Tea Party member if he would support a “Nazi policy” (public health insurance), Barney Frank responded, “On what planet do you spend most of your time? … Madam, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it.” Rep. Frank was in rare form that night, standing up to the uninformed shrieking of the right and offering a real lesson in how to argue with conservatives.

Origins of Democratic-Socialism in Israel: Foundations and Leadership

Origins of Democratic Socialism in Israel: Foundations and Leadership by Ivan C. Frank, Ph.D.

— reviewed by Jerry Blaz

During our current moment when Israel seems to be a Jewish embodiment of an American state with the bad fortune of living in a more chaotic neighborhood, it is easy to forget that Israel and the Yishuv, the Jewish settlement in pre-state days, did not have as its goal to become a “free-market economy.” Much of the early Zionist immigration to Palestine was oriented to creating a working class. Indeed, they were socialists.

More after the jump.
They were more interested in getting Jews who would do the manual labor and the crafts that often were accomplished by non-Jews in many countries from which they came. At the same time, most of those who came to “the Land” during this period were socialists. They didn’t have confidence that the general socialist movements sweeping would solve the Jewish vulnerability of intermittent anti-Antisemitism of the region where they lived, mostly in the “Pale of Settlement” in Eastern Europe. These Socialist-Zionists reached Palestine and comprised the Chalutzim or pioneers, the most important segments of the population that created the State of Israel.

This little book by Dr. Frank is a source-book for the history of this movement that saw socialism as a solution for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel, Eretz Yisrael.  How and why this came about is explained in a cursory language for a story that could easily take a series of books, but is told in an economy of only 115 pages. For someone who believes that Israel was always a capitalist bulwark, and is unfamiliar with the real narrative, Origins of Democratic Socialism in Israel is a good eye-opener.

The origins in the Bilu movement — Bilu is an acronym of a Biblical expression meaning “House of Jacob let us ascend” (to Eretz Yisrael) — in the 1880s had more prosaic plans, like starting a farm and hiring local people to work the land for them, was sponsored by philanthropists like the Montifiore brothers and the more famous family, the Rothschilds. They created “colonies.”

The socialist emphasis of an aliyah (or “ascent” as immigration of Jews to Eretz Yisrael was [and is] called) came with the second aliyah, a wave of newcomers that became the workers’ movement, generally between 1905 to 1918. This period witnessed a great deal of experimentation in creating institutions, some of which didn’t “take hold” and others that at a later time, came to characterize the Jewish State. There was the organization of “kvutzot,” small groups of workers who shared their resources communally. There was the Jewish National Fund that began to purchase land in “the name of the Jewish people” (who doesn’t remember the omnipresent blue box?) and which held to that truth until the state took over much of the JNFs work.

In 1917 the first communal settlement, a kvutza called Degania was established on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Workers attached to the G’dud Ha-avodah or workers’ battalions went to work doing hard labor Jews did not generally engage in while in diaspora, like paving the roads and draining the swamps. These were key developments in the establishment of a new Zionist institutional structure.

The third aliyah commenced in 1919 and brought the idea of the large kibbutz, a commune comprising several hundred members. Ein Harod was established in the Valley of Jezreel, and a problem that had been previously discussed, the fate of the nuclear family placed in a communal setting, thus losing its economic function, was evident for anyone who made the commune home. At a later date, when the kibbutz/kvutzot movement reach a stasis and maturity, the communal children’s house was one of the first social institutions in the communal settlements to begin to disappear, with the children returning to the more conventional spending their nights in their parents’ quarters rather than under the watch of a kibbutz member, usually trained for this kind of duty, in the children’s house.

And it also created a divide that became almost permanent in the movement. Ben Gurion did not favor the large kibbutz, while Yitzhak Tabenkin, leader of the kibbutz movement, was in favor, and the ideological difference was felt through the movement and probably was an element in the great pillug or split-up of the United Kibbutz Movement in the 1950s, though the precipitating factor was external. Hapoel Hatzair becoming the larger part of the Labor Party, and Tabenkin’s group, Faction B (Si’ah Bet), which later became Achdut Ha’avodah. Achdut Ha’avodah joined with Hashomer Hatzair to create Mapam together. Later Achdut Ha’avodah quit Mapam over Soviet anti-Jewish actions, and was an independent faction for a period, and has been a part of Labor again for many years.  

As a result of these ideological differences, Hakibbutz Hameuchad movement had found some of its kibbutzim physically split up by the great pillug of this United Kibbutz movement, and was to suffer a smaller convulsive split several years later with the more radical elements of its membership over what was then called the Snehist faction, again over stances regarding the Soviet Union, which was also the incentive for Achdut Ha’avodah to leave Mapam and become an independent political party. These radical elements left their kibbutzim, some going to Yad Hanna, where the majority of the people were “Shnehists” and others going to the city. The term “Snehist” comes from the name of the leader of this movement, a former chief of staff of the Haganah by the name of Moshe Sneh, who went further left than the Labor Zionists.

This had already been reflected in the Mapai (Labor) orientation of the Chever Haq’vutzot (the kvutzah) movement while the Kibbutz Hameuchad movement was largely oriented towards Si’ah Bet. Perhaps, the largeness of some of the Kibbutz Hameuchad kibbutzim contributed to their problem when a large area of commonality of thought was necessary for a commune to remain intact, but I know personally of some of this ideological mischief occurring in small kibbutzim as well.

Nevertheless, the kibbutz movement, though inordinately influential during these early days, comprised only about three percent of the Jewish population of Israel. Yet its members were influential in the Zionist institutions and in the state institutions. In fact they were in the front-line of the creation of the state and were active in the Haganah and the pre-state “shock brigades” or Palmach.

Today, with Labor in the decline, history has been rewritten to give more credit to the right-wing underground movements like the Irgun Zvai Leumi, usually called by the Hebrew acronym Atze”l and referred to often as the “Irgun,” and its offshoot, the Lochmei Cherut Yisrael, known by the Hebrew acronym Lechi.

My own personal historical memory of a different pre-state history was the unwillingness of the right-wing groups to accept the discipline of the Zionist movement which had put limits on how the nascent state would oppose Arab opponents, like differentiating between friendly and non-friendly villages, treatment of civilians, etc.

When the state was established all the military groups accepted the discipline of the new state, and one of Ben Gurion’s first acts after the army was formed was to disband the Palmach because of its reputed leftish kibbutz orientation. The right-wing organizations were not brought in as organizations though many joined the army as individuals. These ideological differences continued and, to some extent, still continue to this day, a time when Israel is currently ruled by its most rightist government since its establishment.

Dr. Frank also outlines the development of other workers’ institution like union, the Histadrut, which began in 1920, its Sick Fund, Kupat Holim; its contracting arm; Solel Boneh, Paving and Building; T’nuva, the marketing cooperative of the workers’ settlements; Hamashbir Hamerkazi, which was the buying coop; Bank Hapoelim, which was the “workers’ bank;” the Labor exchanges where people could find employment, and even a publishing house, Am Oved. Most of these organizations were attached to the Histadrut through a holding firm called Chevrat Ovdim or Workers’ Community.  How these various industrial and organizational arms of the Histadrut  have developed since then is this description of Koor, which handled manufacturing of steel, and other manufacturing now describes itself:

Once a socialist vision, now a model of capitalism, Koor Industries is Israel’s leading holding company” and so it brags its capitalist characteristics, and is an indication of the changes that have occurred in Israel since the Labor-led governments have become a part of this past.

In general, the role played by the Histadrut can be summed up in the words of Ronald Sanders in his 1966 book, Israel: The View from Masada 1st edition:

The Histadrut was, in fact, in a unique historial situation; it had not only to serve as an instrument for organizing workers and as the creator of such welfare institutions as a system of socialist medicine but also had to be the medium for the development of an economy. In time the Histadrut became as much an entrepreneur — and a large-scale one, at that — as it was an organizer of labor. From the point of view of Histadrut ideologists in the early days, this arrangement made the organization all the more a potential instrument for the creation of a society that would be socialist and worker-owned from the outset. It is only in recent years that contradictions have clearly emerged from the fact of being both a national labor union and the largest employer of labor in the country.

During the pre-state days, while Dr Frank doesn’t dwell on it, there were at least three more waves of immigration which included the larger wave of German Zionist immigration, before the state-sponsored mass immigration called Kibbutz Galuyot, the ingathering of the exiles.  

Some of the personalities whose prominence Dr. Frank mentions in the establishing of a socialist-Zionist philosophy and movement were Ber Dov Berochov, A.D. Gordon, Berl Katznelson, Manya Shahat, who, with the aforementioned Ben Gurion and Tabenkin, and their roles are described by Dr Frank. Each individual deserves his or her own biography.

Today, Israel is a capitalist, free-market economy, and as such, has the internal problems of all such economies as the tent cities in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities can attest to, and socialist Zionism seems to have been eclipsed by this capitalism. Many kibbutzim have often ceased to epitomize communal living, but are now often members who have a cooperative share in a meshek or agricultural/industrial group of enterprises, very often worked by outside labor rather than members of the kibbutz, many of whom are already retired. Those members who do work, receive wages in addition to their share of any profits the meshek earns, and the wages are generally commensurate with the level of skill of the member-worker, just as it would be for an hired worker.

Their children have deserted the “old homestead” for other endeavors. After all, it was their parents’ choice to become Chalutzim (pioneers), and not theirs. So very often, after army service, many of the children find other life-paths. However, there have been cases during this period when the economics have created the aforementioned tent city protests, there have been reports about kibbutz children, now adults, returning. While the story isn’t finished, it would be a nice conclusion to say: “Your future is filled with hope, declares the LORD. Your children will return to their own territory.”Jeremiah 31:17.

Southern Jewish Memories

— by Hannah Lee

Already 38 years in print, Eli N. Evans’s The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South has garnered high praise by the late Israeli statesman and author, Abba Eban, who wrote of Evans: “the Jews of the South have found their poet laureate.”  Humbly identifying himself as “the grandson of a peddler,” Evans began his lecture at The National Museum of American Jewish History on October 16th by noting that being raised as a Southerner and a Jew were unique experiences that shaped his sense of self and of home.  In describing his boyhood in Durham, North Carolina, he said “I grew up like every other Southern boy– with a bicycle in the neighborhood and football, basketball, and picking honeysuckle in the spring.”
[Read more…]

An Israeli Oleh’s Sukkot Festival Success


— Elana Frank

It was only 9 months ago that I decided to take the plunge and make Aliyah to Israel. Our family and friends thought we were daring and slightly nuts to move into a non Anglo-Saxon community like Karmiel where only 1% of the population speaks English.  Trust me there were (and are) moments when I too think we are crazy.

But my goal was clear.  If I was going to become a true Israeli, I wanted to not only reap the benefits of eating chumus and falafel while gazing at the beautiful Northern mountains but truly immerse myself in the real and challenging aspects of Israeli society.  Stuff I think the average American, and perhaps even a typical Israeli, might not even know.  

The same held true for my job aspirations.  My background is in diversity work and consensus building.  In the instant I visited Kfar Hassidim Youth Village and saw first hand their struggle to rejuvenate their campus and bring opportunities and joy into the lives of their Ethiopian, Bnei Menashe, Russian and at risk Israeli youth, I knew that this was the challenge for me.

I want to help people understand that youth villages do exist and need our help.  The Executive Director and I understood that in order to begin creating meaningful and substantial relationships we must bring public awareness to Kfar Hassidim Youth Village, the students, and their needs – what better way than through a festival created with direct involvement and participation of the students themselves.  And besides, who can honestly say no to cotton candy?!?

We aimed to convey the message that we are not just the “Kfar” built in 1937 with the sole mission of settling European immigrant children and youth in a new country. Today, Kfar Hassidim Youth Village has taken on even greater challenges, and expanded into a center for youth of many cultures and expanding needs. Today we take responsibility for a new diversity of Israeli immigrants which include over 600 Ethiopian, Bnei Menashe, Russian, and at risk Israeli youth.  Often, these kids come from unstable homes, or are borderline learning disabled and fall “between the cracks” in their local school system. Now, at the “Kfar” with the support of a growing and nurturing staff, these young people confidently and proudly aspire to obtain their high school diplomas, enter the army or a national service program, acquire higher education, secure jobs, and ultimately, establish their homes and families in Israel.

In the months that lead up to our big day, I got to know the students and learned all about their immigration experiences. I have to admit, I felt like one of them, without a solid grasp of the Hebrew language and a lack of understanding of Israeli cultural norms and expectations. I mean, is it acceptable for Israeli vendors to bargain their reservation price?  Or for a printing company to tell me “its ok” that he didn’t center a flyer properly on a page? I must have also sounded quite silly trying to negotiate with newspapers and websites in my broken Hebrew to place ads.  As an immigrant it took many more hours to convey my vision for the event to all involved.  But in the end, as I drove through the front gate and past the ‘welcome to the festival’ sign that the students painted, I knew that the day would be a success.

On Monday, September 27, 2010 Kfar Hassidim Youth Village’s first annual Sukkot Family Festival was indeed a hit. Over 1,000 people from all parts of Israel and 400 Olim Chadashim (like myself) were bused from various parts of the country with the help of Nefesh B’Nefesh.  Our attendees got a flavorful taste of what it is to live at the Kfar while keeping company with actual students and enjoying the festival atmosphere.  They bought beautiful items from local vendors, participated in high spirited drumming circles, watched their kids have fun with arts & crafts, made their own pita, took tractor rides, jumped in moon bounces and visited our on site Ethiopian Hut, dairy farm, and olive oil press.

Just as I, an immigrant from a privileged country was able to succeed at a daunting and challenging task, it’s now clear to me that our immigrant youth, once given the skills and tools that Kfar Hassidim Youth Village has to offer, will have all the opportunities in the world at their feet.