Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Praying In Her Own Voice


Today a huge article about the women of the wall in the NY TIMES. Amazing. Powerful. Too bad they didn't mention our film about the subject matter.

Jerusalem Journal
Challenging Traditions at the Heart of Judaism

JERUSALEM — A struggle for the character of the Western Wall, this city’s iconic Jewish holy site and central place of worship, is under way, and it is being fought with prayer shawls and Torah scrolls.

On Friday, sheets of rain obscured the Old City’s ancient domes. But by 7 a.m. about 150 Jewish women had gathered at the Western Wall to pray and to challenge the constraints imposed on them by traditional Jewish Orthodoxy and a ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court.

Under their coats many of the women, supporters of a group of religious activists called Women of the Wall, wore a tallit, or fringed prayer shawl, a ritual garment traditionally worn only by men. Some wore their prayer shawls openly, an illegal act in this particular setting that can incur a fine or several months in jail.

Last month Nofrat Frenkel, 28, an Israeli medical student and a committed follower of Conservative Judaism, a modern, egalitarian strain, was the first woman in Israel to be arrested during prayers at the Western Wall, also known as the Kotel, for publicly wrapping herself in a tallit.

The police accused her of acting provocatively and in a way that upset public order. Ms. Frenkel said the investigation was still under way.

The Women of the Wall, who meet for prayers at the Kotel at the start of every Hebrew month, are at the vanguard of a feminist struggle in Orthodox Judaism and other more contemporary strains to adapt time-honored religious practice for the modern age. They came in droves on Friday, the first day of the Hebrew month of Tevet, to express their outrage over Ms. Frenkel’s case.

Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of Women of the Wall, which was founded in 1988, said she had never seen so many turn up in the month of Tevet.

“We are pushing the envelope. History is made of moments like this,” she said.

The group’s activities present a head-on challenge to the religious establishment, which is dominated in Israel by Orthodox rabbis who interpret and apply the rules of religious law in their strictest form.

The Kotel is defined in Israel as a national and holy site that is open to all. In practice, the women say, it operates like an Orthodox synagogue, with separate prayer sections for men and women and a modesty patrol to ensure that visitors are appropriately dressed.

Traditional Orthodox women pray individually, and quietly, by the Kotel’s massive beige stones, a remnant of the retaining wall of the mount revered by Jews as the site where their ancient temples once stood. Al Aksa mosque now sits on the top of the mount.

Critics of the Women of the Wall say that their practices — like holding organized prayers, singing out loud, carrying a Torah scroll and wearing prayer shawls — offend the more traditional worshipers at the site.

Twenty years ago, having suffered verbal and physical abuse as they prayed, the Women of the Wall petitioned the Supreme Court to have their right to religious freedom recognized, on grounds that the Kotel does not belong to the Orthodox establishment alone.

After a lengthy legal battle, the court ultimately ruled against the women in the interest of public order. Consequently, it is illegal for them to read aloud from the Torah or to wear prayer shawls openly by the wall. Instead, the authorities have allocated them a special area where they can conduct services in their own fashion, in an archaeological garden tucked around a corner, out of sight.

“These women come here like a persecuted group,” said David Barhoum, a criminal lawyer there on behalf of the Women of the Wall. If anything, he said on Friday, the criminal behavior seemed to be coming from the other side.

Across a partition, in the men’s section of the Kotel, a group of ultra-Orthodox men gathered to harass the women as they sang and prayed. The men shouted “Gevalt!” — expressing their revulsion in Yiddish — and called the women’s prayer an abomination. One or two threw objects and spat at them. In the women’s section, some Orthodox female worshipers joined in the insults.

Jewish religious law is open to interpretation. The Women of the Wall argue that even according to some Orthodox opinions, they are doing nothing wrong.

“Women are exempt from carrying out certain commandments, but not forbidden,” said Ms. Frenkel, who kept her prayer shawl hidden beneath her jacket by the Kotel this time around.

But the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, said “there is no value to prayer that creates controversy and offends other female worshipers” at the site.

The dispute is not about interpretations of religious law, he added, but about the sanctity and the accepted custom of the place. “On Friday the heavens wept,” he said.

Others saw the rain as a blessing in this parched land. The downpour was “so fitting,” said Simonne Horwitz, an assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan in western Canada, who said she had flown in especially for the event.

By and large, the inclement weather was on the side of the police who were sent to uphold the law and keep the peace.

There had been a plan for the women concealing their prayer shawls to open their coats, but Ms. Hoffman said most did not want to because of the storm.

Plans to take out a Torah scroll at the Kotel, and perhaps to read from it, were also aborted for fear the parchment would be damaged by the rain. Even so, one of the scrolls ended up with water stains.

Whether or not it was an act of divine intervention, the deluge allowed everyone to claim victory — the drenched women, their detractors and the police. The women were obviously wearing prayer shawls at the wall, but no arrests were made.

A version of this article appeared in print on December 22, 2009, on page A8 of the New York edition.


Thursday, December 10, 2009


A film I produced that my mother directed is finally getting some buzz.
Unfortunately it's because a woman was arrested next to the wailing wall for wearing a prayer shawl and opening up a Torah.
Sorry guys, I don't get it. This is the twenty first century, right?
A woman being arrested for offending a wall because of a prayer shawl?
Was the wall offended cause the woman wore a prayer shawl or because she wanted to read from the holiest of books?
A woman was arrested for being too religious and wanting to pray in the confined woman's section where no man is allowed into?
That is a crime in twenty first century Israel?

Below is a mention of the film and the case in Lilith Blog.
It's sad. Very sad that things like that can happen in the twenty first century.
But it also proved how important my mother's film is in spreading the word about the importance to fight for female equality also in the religious world.

Happy Hannukah everyone and hopefully the children of light will win over the warriors of darkness.



From Lilith:

Responding to Absurdity
In the aftermath of Nofrat Frenkel’s arrest at the Western Wall (her crime? wearing a tallit), Lilith has heard from a lot from all of you, asking what you can do. So when this letter from Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson (of the Women’s Rabbinic Network) arrived, it was clear it needed to be passed on. This is a great way to take a stand.

Dear Friends,
The arrest of Nofrat Frenkel for wearing a tallit at the kotel on Rosh Hodesh Kislev compels us to raise our voices and engage our communities in joint action. We invite you to join in a community-wide Day of Solidarity and Support for Women of the Wall (WOW), to take place on Rosh Hodesh Tevet, Thursday December 17th, the sixth day of Chanukah. With this national grassroots initiative, we will express our support for the rights of the Women of the Wall to assemble at the Kotel and to pray there with dignity, in safety and in shared community.

As with many other women’s grass roots efforts, each community, organization and institution shall develop its own program of prayer or study and shall reach out as widely as possible to its constituencies. For some groups, this day of solidarity and support will be in the manner of WOW, including tefillah and the reading of the Torah. For others, the program may be a “lunch and learn” text study session; or a women’s Chanukah observance. For yet others, it might be a gathering of three or more friends in a living room or office who will dedicate their joint prayer and/or study to the Women of the Wall. Some communities may want to add to their programs a screening of Yael Katzir’s film, Praying in Her Own Voice. We ask that you convene a program that shows your support for this initiative.

Please share your plans and document your activities by sending an email to jackie.ellenson@gmail.com. We also ask that you send a photo of your gathering to Judith Sherman Asher, judithrafaela@mac.com, who is a member of Women of the Wall in Israel. Please caption the photo with the names of the participants, the date, location of, and information about your program. Feel free to add a short message of support for Women of the Wall. This will greatly strengthen the morale of our sisters in Israel.

We hope you will join in a groundswell of support of American women for the Women of the Wall. We encourage you to send this letter to any other women’s groups who might want to participate. As Rosh Hodesh Tevet takes place during the week of Chanukah, the holiday of religious freedom, what better time to affirm the right of women to raise their voices in prayer at the Wall!

Sincerely yours,

Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson
Director, Women’s Rabbinic Network
Rivka Haut
Women’s Tefillah Network

Taken from :

Friday, September 11, 2009

8 Years.
Years have passed and the same questions still haunt me. What have we learned?
What have we learned as people? What have we learned as a society? What have we learned as humans?
Sadly, I can say not that much.

We are working on our 911 film in full gear, yet sadly a lot of people we approach for help tell us they are not ready to deal with Sept. 11 in any art form, especially not in film.

Is that all we have learned as a society? That pain is better not confronted in directly? That it is better to forget than to remember?

I believe one of the main reasons 911 happened was because we as a society tried to pretend we don't see things- and yet there is always those who will make sure we see them.

Most of us want to live our lives peacefully and focus on our immediate family and friends. But we live in a world where we must all be a part of society and the global village- cause the global village unfortunately has people like Bin Laden wanting to endanger some of it's members.

My grandfather was assassinated by a terrorist. So I know the pain lunatics like Bin Laden can do to individuals. The pain that is not part of a general statistic but part of a very specific family. My family.

We must fight these terrorists as a society but we must also fight not to become like them in our fight to eradicate them.

May we all be strong and to the families of the people in the towers and the firemen and policemen who lost their lives - my heart is with you today.



Monday, June 01, 2009

I found this article online and they referenced my interview on Israeli TV on Sunday.
What an online world that I'm in LA interviewed in Hebrew for Israeli radio in Israel and thanks to Google I find out it was written up in an English blog.
Thank you Rachel Neiman. You wrote very generously and kindly.


Nostalgia Sunday - Ephraim Katzir
May 31, 2009 - 10:06 PM by Rachel Neiman

Professor Ephraim Katzir, fourth President of the State of Israel, scientist and a founder of the Weizmann Institute, passed away yesterday at his home on the Institute grounds at the age of 93. Although perhaps best known abroad as Israel’s fourth president, Katzir’s contribution to the scientific development of this country was immense.
In addition to founding and heading Weizmann’s Biophysics Department, Katzir’s pioneering studies contributed to the deciphering of the genetic code, the production of synthetic antigens and the clarification of the various steps of immune responses. The understanding of polyamino acid properties led, among other things, to Weizmann scientists’ development of Copaxone, a drug manufactured today by Teva and used worldwide for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

Another major success was in immobilizing enzymes. Katzir developed a method for binding enzymes, which speed up numerous chemical processes, to a variety of surfaces and molecules. The method laid the foundations for what is now called enzyme engineering, which plays an important part in the food and pharmaceutical industries. For example, it is used to produce fructose-enriched corn syrup and semi-synthetic penicillins.

Along with his scientific research, Katzir was profoundly involved in the social and educational aspects of science. He headed a governmental committee for the formulation of a national scientific policy, trained a generation of younger scientists, translated important material into Hebrew and helped to establish a popular science magazine. He served as Chief Scientist of the Israel Defense Ministry and Chairman of the Society for the Advancement of Science in Israel, the Israel Biochemical Society, the National Council for Research and Development and the Council for the Advancement of Science Education. He headed the National Biotechnology Council, was a member of the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities and of numerous other learned bodies in Israel and abroad.

In 1973, Katzir was elected fourth President of the State of Israel, a position he held until 1978. Upon completing his term of office, he returned to research at the Weizmann Institute and also devoted himself to the promotion of biotechnological research in Israel and founded the Department of Biotechnology at Tel Aviv University.

In the later years of his scientific career, Katzir turned to new areas of research. In one project, he headed a team of Weizmann scientists that won an international contest for computer modeling of proteins. In another study, he was part of an interdisciplinary Institute team that revealed an important aspect of snake venom’s effects on the body.

Katzir’s brother, Aharon was another founding member of the Weizmann Institute, who headed the Polymer Research Department until he was killed in the 1972 attack at Lod Airport (today Ben Gurion Airport) carried out by Japanese terrorists. Today, on the radio, Aharon’s grandson, LA-based filmmaker Dan Katzir, talked about his grand-uncle and his advice as a surrogate grandfather. Despite the extreme family pressure to go into the sciences (his father is pioneering laser technology engineer Dr. Abraham Katzir), Dan said that Ephraim told him to follow his heart’s desire and, whatever he chose to do, to do it well.

Upon viewing Dan Katzir’s film about Yitzhak Rabin, Out For Love, Be Back Soon, his grand-uncle said that he wept not only for Rabin, but for Sadat and all those who wanted — and died — for the cause of peace in this region

The Weizmann Institute’s press announcement today, (from which I’ve borrowed liberally), cites an Annual Review quote from Katzir: “I have had the opportunity to devote much of my life to science. Yet my participation over the years in activities outside science has taught me there is life beyond the laboratory. I have come to understand that if we hope to build a better world, we must be guided by the universal human values that emphasize the kinship of the human race: the sanctity of human life and freedom, peace between nations, honesty and truthfulness, regard for the rights of others, and love of one’s fellows.”

They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Goodybe great uncle in YNET: Israel's largest news source:

פרס על מות אפרים קציר: תרומתו למדינה ענקית

נשיא המדינה פירסם הודעת אבל עם היוודע דבר מותו של הנשיא הרביעי: "חסרונו יורגש בכל צעד ושעל בתחומים הרגישים ביותר של ישראל". ראש הממשלה: "קציר תרם תרומה לביטחון ישראל ויושרו וצניעותו יכולים לשמש מופת". קציר יובא למנוחות בעירו רחובות, היום ב-18:00
רוני סופר

"נשיא המדינה לשעבר, הפרופסור אפרים קציר, היה אדם משכמו ומעלה, מדען בעל שם עולמי אשר תרם תרומה יוצאת דופן לביטחון מדינת ישראל". במילים אלה ספד נשיא המדינה, שמעון פרס, לנשיא הרביעי שהלך לעולמו.

הפרופ' קציר יובא למנוחות היום (א') ב-18:00 בבית העלמין ברחובות - וייטמן ליד אשתו נינה, שנפטרה ב-1986. קציר ביקש להיקבר ברחובות ולא בחלקת גדולי האומה בהר הרצל.

אפרים קציר נולד ברוסיה ב-1916, בשם אפרים קצ'לסקי. ב-1922 עלתה משפחתו לארץ ישראל.
הוא כיהן כנשיא המדינה בשנים 1973-1978. קציר מת בביתו שבמכון וייצמן ברחובות, בגיל 93. הוא היה מדען בעל שם עולמי בתחומי הביוכימיה והפיסיקה. לאחרונה אושפז למשך כמה שבועות בבית החולים "קפלן" בשל מחלה, אך שוחרר לביתו לאחר שיפור מסוים במצבו.

פרס הוסיף ושיבח את פועלו של הנשיא הרביעי: "הוא היה גם נשיא אהוב ומקובל וכדרכו צנוע ועמוק - הוא לא נכנע ולא התחשב בבריאותו ועבד ללא הרף למען המדינה, כאשר תוצאות עבודתו שזורות במפת הארץ, ברוחה וברמתה".

"תרומתו של אפרים קציר למדינה היא ענקית וחסרונו יורגש בכל צעד ושעל בתחומים הרגישים ביותר של ישראל. אזכור את אפרים לעולם ועד כאדם נפלא, בעל דעות עצמאיות ובעל מאור פנים לזולתו", סיכם פרס.

גם ראש הממשלה פירסם הודעה עם היוודע דבר מותו של הנשיא לשעבר

קציר ואמר כי המדינה כולה מרכינה את ראשה. "הנשיא קציר היה מחוייב למדינת ישראל בכל מעשיו והיה אחד מפורצי הדרך בתחום המדע ואחד המדענים הראשונים והבולטים במכון ויצמן. קציר תרם תרומה גם לביטחון ישראל ויושרו וצניעותו יכולים לשמש מופת", אמר.

השר לענייני מיעוטים, פרופ' אבישי ברוורמן, פירסם גם הוא הודעת אבל: "אפרים קציר היה נשיא מדינת ישראל, מדען דגול וציוני בכל רמ"ח אבריו. איש שלמרות כל הסבל והטרגדיות שעבר בחייו - תמיד היה מלא אהבה אנושיות וחיוביות. הוא היה לי ידיד איש יקר ומורה דרך, הוא שייעץ לי להוביל את פיתוח הביוטכנולוגיה בנגב".

ועדת השרים לטקסים וסמלים בראשותו של שר התיירות סטס מיסז'ניקוב צפויה להתכנס לפני ישיבת הממשלה, כדי לדון בסידורי הלוויתו הממלכתית ובטקס האשכבה של הנשיא הרביעי

סיכמתי עם הקב"ה: "אל תרחם עליי"

למרות מצבו הבריאותי והגעגועים לאחיו, פרופ' אהרון קציר, שנרצח בידי מחבלים, לפרופ' אפרים קציר, הנשיא הרביעי של מדינת ישראל, יש ספר חדש, וגם אהבה איתנה, שגורמת לו להמשיך ולהיאחז בחיים. "המדע מושך את ליבי", הוא אומר רגע לפני יום הולדתו ה-93, "והוא זה שגורם לי להחזיק מעמד"
יובל קנר

כבוד הנשיא לשעבר: "אחי אהרון היה בוגר ממני בשנתיים וחצי. כשהוא נרצח הרגשתי כאילו חלק מגופי נעלם ונהרס. לא אשכח כשנקראתי לזהות את גופתו. הייתי במצב איום".

הסיבה הרשמית לקיום הריאיון עם פרופ' אפרים קציר, הנשיא הרביעי של מדינת ישראל, הוא ספרו האוטוביוגרפי "סיפור חיים" שיצא לאחרונה, בתום עשר שנות כתיבה. הספר מתאר את סיפור חייו וחיי אחיו, פרופ' אהרון קציר, שהפכו לאייקונים בעולם המדע עוד בחייהם. פרופ' אהרון קציר נהרג בהתקפת המחבלים בראשות קוזו אוקומוטו בנמל התעופה בלוד בשנת 1972.

קטע מתוך הראיון עם פרופ' קציר

אבל הספר היה רק תירוץ. על האיש בן ה-93 מגינים בחירוף נפש אנשי מכון ויצמן לבל יתראיין ללא השגחתם הצמודה. הוא מרותק לכיסא גלגלים אבל מצבו הפיזי מטעה. גם בגילו המופלג, פרופ' קציר חד כתער, ברור, צלול ומצויד בחוש הומור.

כשהוא נזכר באחיו הגדול אהרון, חתן פרס ישראל למדעי הטבע (1961) ומבכירי המדענים של ישראל, הגעגוע צובט את ליבו. "היינו מאוד קשורים האחד לשני", הוא אומר, "היינו מתבודדים וכותבים יחד מאמרים".

בתחילת דרכם המדעית, למדו השניים באוניברסיטה העברית. "יום אחד קורא לי פרופ' פרקטה, רקטור האוניברסיטה", מספר קציר, "ואומר לי, 'יש לנו שני אחים מוכשרים, אחיך ואתה. אין לנו כסף להחזיק כאן שני מלומדים, אז אחד מכם צריך ללכת. החלטנו שזה אתה'. אז עזבתי, אמרתי, זה גורלי. אחר כך שוחחתי עם אהרון והוא אמר, 'יש פתרון טוב יותר, שנינו נעזוב ונעבור למכון ויצמן'. קיבלנו הזמנה מחיים ויצמן, שאמר, 'יש כסף ויהיה מצוין'. באותו יום עזבנו שנינו את האוניברסיטה העברית".

למה הספר יצא רק עכשיו?

"חשבתי שבשל גילי הגיע הזמן לספר את תולדות חיי, למען הנכדים שלי, הבן שלי, אולי למען הדורות הבאים, שיידעו מעט על חייו של הנשיא הרביעי. אני כבר בן 93, אז חשבתי שהגיע הזמן".

פרופ' קציר מתגורר בבית צנוע בלב מכון ויצמן, כמעט מאז הקמתו של המכון, בשנת 1949. מלבד הרמפות שהוקמו בבית לטובת כיסא הגלגלים שלו, נדמה שכמעט דבר לא השתנה בו. הריהוט פשוט ומדפי העץ קורסים משלל התארים ותעודות ההוקרה שקיבל במרוצת חייו.

כשאשתו נינה קציר הייתה בחיים (הלכה לעולמה בשנת 1985), היו מתקיימים בבית הנשיא אחת לשבוע מפגשי-סופרים לילדים. היום, מלבד מטפלו האישי ומזכירתו המסייעת לו במחקריו, פוקדים את הבית מעטים. התקשורת לא מרבה להיזכר באיש, שהיה מועמד לפרס נובל על חלקו בחקר פולימרים של חלבונים ושעל שמו קרויים בתי ספר ומלגות למצטיינים ברחבי הארץ. עיקר נחמתו הייתה ועודנה בחומר הכתוב ובנפלאות המדעים.

"כשהתחלתי ללמוד באוניברסיטה העברית בירושלים, למדתי מתמטיקה, לא ביולוגיה", הוא אומר, "איכשהו נמשכתי לביופיסיקה, מביופיסיקה לביוטכנולוגיה, מביוטכנולוגיה למדעי החיים. נושאי מדעי החיים עדיין מושכים את ליבי באופן יוצא מן הכלל, ושם באמת ההתפתחות פנטסטית, מפני שכל אחד רוצה לדעת מדוע כואבת לו הבטן או מדוע הרגל לא פועלת".

מדי שנה חוגגים לפרופ' קציר חבריו במכון ויצמן יום הולדת. זו הזדמנות לקיים את האירוע ככנס מדעי שאליו מוזמנים מדענים בכירים מהארץ ומהעולם. מאז גיל 60, מדי עשור הופך יום הולדתו ל"סימפוזיון על ביופיסיקה וביוטכנולוגיה", כנס בינלאומי שנמשך ימים ספורים. כשמלאו לו 90, נערך לכבודו כנס דומה אליו הוזמנו מדענים רבים מהעולם. ב-16 במאי יחגגו לו שוב יום הולדת, אם כי הפעם, לבקשתו, ייעשה הדבר בצניעות יתרה.

"חלק מן האנשים שכל כך אהבתי כבר אינם בחיים, אבל כן, זה היה עולם יוצא מן הכלל", הוא אומר, "אני אומר בצחוק, שסיכמתי עם הקדוש ברוך, שכל עוד אוכל לקרוא, לכתוב, לעבוד ולעשות קצת מחקר ופיתוח, תן לי לחיות. ברגע שאתה רואה שאני הופך לאלצהיימר, לא יודע מה שאני מדבר, אז מספיק, אל תרחם עלי. בינתיים הוא כנראה עסוק מדי אז הוא מרשה לי לעשות מה שאני רוצה. אז יהיה לי יום הולדת כנראה באמצע מאי. אני מודה באשמה ולא מכחיש, נולדתי ב-16 במאי 1916".

מה הדברים שגורמים לך אושר?

"אני צריך להודות על האמת, המדע והפילוסופיה של המדע מושכים את ליבי באופן יוצא מן הכלל, וזה, אני מודה, גורם לי להחזיק מעמד, כי בלי זה היה קשה להחזיק מעמד לגמרי. זה נפלא שיש מקצוע או נושא שמושך את ליבך. החברים שלי מביאים לי עיתונים וספרים שאני יכול לקרוא. יעקב שרת, הבן של משה שרת, הביא לי אוסף מאמרים קצרים על אביו - 400 עמוד. בלילה אחד גמרתי את זה, כי זה משך את ליבי. גם כשאני קורא דבר מקצועי, זה נותן לי כוח להמשיך לחיות".

Goodbye great uncle!

The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Former president Ephraim Katzir dies
May. 30, 2009
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich , THE JERUSALEM POST

Prof. Ephraim Katzir, the fourth president of Israel and one of its greatest scientists, died on Saturday night after a long life full of achievement mixed with sorrow.

He was cared for until his death at his home on the Weizmann Institute of Science campus in Rehovot.

He was born in Kiev on May 16, 1916, to Yehuda, an accountant with fiercely Zionist ideals, and Tzila Katchalski. The couple lived in Lodj in Poland, where Ephraim's only sibling, Aharon, was born.

However, the family moved to Kiev because of World War I. After migrating on to Bialystock, economic problems in the country and ideology induced the Katchalskis to make aliya in 1925.

After graduating from Jerusalem's Rehavia Gymnasia high school, Ephraim enrolled at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he studied botany, zoology and bacteriology before finally concentrating on biochemistry and organic chemistry.

In 1941, he completed his doctoral thesis on simple synthetic polymers of amino acids and continued his education at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and Columbia University, as well as Harvard University.

While studying in Jerusalem he participated in the first noncommissioned officers' course given by the underground Hagana and later became intensively involved in the IDF's Science Corps (known as Hemed), which was founded when the War of Independence broke out.

Working together, Aharon and Ephraim developed new types of explosives to supplement the Jewish paramilitary organization's precious store. But the product was so malodorous that they had to do their lab work in a cave in Jerusalem's Sanhedria quarter.

"When I entered a bus, people used to run away because of the stinky smell. Only years later did we learn how to eliminate the smell from that material," Ephraim recalled.

When the war ended, Ephraim and his brother, who was a very promising young chemist, joined the fledgling Weizmann Institute. Ephraim founded and headed the biophysics department, while Aharon was invited in 1948 by Chaim Weizmann to join the institute as head of the department of polymer research. Aharon became a professor of physical chemistry at the Hebrew University in 1952.

Their close relationship was tragically cut short when Aharon was among those murdered in the Lod Airport massacre by Japanese Red Army terrorists on May 30, 1972 - an event that broke his brother's heart.

Ephraim Katzir's initial research centered on polyamino acids, which are synthetic models that facilitate the study of proteins. His pioneering studies contributed to the cracking of the genetic code, the production of synthetic antigens and clarification of the various steps of immune responses.

The understanding of polyamino acid properties led, among other things, to a team of Weizmann scientists' development of Copaxone, a drug used worldwide to slow deterioration from multiple sclerosis.

Another major success was in immobilizing enzymes. Katzir developed a method for binding enzymes, which speed up numerous chemical processes, to a variety of surfaces and molecules. The method laid the foundations for what is now called enzyme engineering, which plays an important part in the food and pharmaceutical industries. For example, it is used to produce fructose-enriched corn syrup and semi-synthetic penicillins.

Later, he focused at Weizmann on polymers (large molecules composed of repeating structural units connected by covalent chemical bonds), specifically on immobilized enzymes and polyamino acids, which led to the development of synthetic antigens and the production of synthetic vaccines.

One practical application of his work was his development of a synthetic fiber used to sew up internal wounds that dissolves in bodily enzymes.

Katzir was always profoundly concerned with the social and educational aspects of science. He headed a government committee for the formulation of a national scientific policy, trained a generation of younger scientists, translated important material into Hebrew and helped to establish a popular, Hebrew-language science magazine.

He served as chief scientist of the Defense Ministry and chairman of the Israel Society for the Advancement of Science, the Israel Biochemical Society, the National Council for Research and Development and the Council for the Advancement of Science Education.

He also headed the National Biotechnology Council and was president of the World ORT Union.

A long-time socialist, Katzir supported the Labor Party and was urged by prime minister Golda Meir in the spring of 1973 to present his candidacy for the presidency to succeed Zalman Shazar after her favorite for the job - Prof. Aharon Katchalski-Katzir - had been murdered.

He later related that he didn't really know what a president was supposed to do, but he did recall that in 1952, when the first president Chaim Weizmann died, the post been offered to Albert Einstein (who turned it down). Powerful Labor Party finance minister Pinhas Sapir told the reluctant Katzir he would build him a lab at Beit Hanassi so he would not be separated from his beloved science during the five-year-term, but this never happened.

He formally hebraicized his surname to Katzir ("harvest") when he became president, but he remained bashful in public and reluctant to give up his scientific research and teaching. In what was perhaps his most momentous meeting as president, he welcomed Egypt's president Anwar Sadat to Israel and Jerusalem in 1977.

During his five years in office, he and his late wife, Nina, an English teacher by profession, paid special attention to the problems of society and education and were consistently eager to learn more about all sectors of the population.

About four months after moving to Beit Hanassi, Katzir symbolically led the nation through the Yom Kippur War, with its horrific death toll, anti-government demonstrations, Meir's resignation and the appointment of Yitzhak Rabin to replace her. Katzir was well received at the White House by Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

In 1977, the Likud defeated Labor and a new bipartisan era began. Beit Hanassi was the scene of talks with party heads and the president's symbolic request to try to establish a coalition.

Katzir never had the charisma or gift for gab that some Israelis prefer in a leader; at dull ceremonial events, he surely was dreaming of his lab, microscopes and test tubes. He always smiled shyly and looked people in the eye when he shook their hand, but a veil of sadness seemed to hang in the background.

In addition to the murder of his brother, his daughter Nurit died of carbon dioxide asphyxiation at 23 when she fell asleep at home without being aware of a burning kerosene stove and sealed windows; daughter Irit, a "sensitive poet," died at 43 in "tragic circumstances," and Katzir's wife, Nina, died of cancer 23 years ago.

Their son Meir (a mathematics professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, who has three adult children) and Aharon's son, Prof. Abraham Katzir (an expert in infrared physics at Tel Aviv University) survive him.

Upon completion of his term of office he returned to research at Weizmann and was named "institute professor," a prestigious title awarded by the Weizmann faculty and administration to outstanding scientists who made significant and meaningful contributions to science or to the State of Israel.

He also devoted himself to the promotion of biotechnological research in Israel and founded the biotechnology department at Tel Aviv University.

The creation of this department was a continuation of his efforts to establish science-based industries here. Katzir helped create several companies based on the fruits of his scientific research.

In the later years of his scientific career, Katzir turned to new areas of research. In one project, he headed a team of Weizmann scientists that won an international contest on computer modeling of proteins. In another study, he was part of an interdisciplinary institute team that revealed an important aspect of the effects of snake venom on the body.

Katzir authored hundreds of scientific papers and served on the editorial and advisory boards of numerous scientific journals. International scientific symposia were held in Rehovot and Jerusalem to celebrate his 60th, 70th and 80th birthdays.

Into his 90s, Katzir's former students - leading professors themselves - came to his home where he was wheelchair bound and brought their scientific articles before publication so he could comment on them.

Katzir was a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and of numerous other prestigious bodies in Israel and abroad, including the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the Royal Society of London, the US National Academy of Sciences, the Academie des Sciences in France, the Scientific Academy of Argentina and the World Academy of Art and Science.

He was a visiting professor at Harvard University, Rockefeller University, the University of California at Los Angeles and Battelle Seattle Research Center.

In addition, Katzir won the Rothschild and Israel prizes in natural sciences, the Weizmann Prize, the Linderstrom Land Gold Medal, the Hans Krebs Medal, the Tchernikhovski Prize for scientific translations, the Alpha Omega Achievement Medal and the Engineering Foundation's International Award in Enzyme Engineering.

He was the first recipient of the Japan Prize and was appointed to France's Order of the Legion of Honor.

The magazine Annual Reviews quoted Katzir as saying: "I have had the opportunity to devote much of my life to science. Yet my participation over the years in activities outside science has taught me there is life beyond the laboratory.

"I have come to understand that if we hope to build a better world, we must be guided by the universal human values that emphasize the kinship of the human race - the sanctity of human life and freedom, peace between nations, honesty and truthfulness, regard for the rights of others, and love of one's fellows."

At the age of 92 last year, Katzir completed a 362-page, Hebrew-language autobiography called Sipur Haim (A Life's Tale) - an apt reflection of his modest manner.

The volume is packed with a mind-boggling cornucopia of people, dates, places, events and facts from as long as eight decades ago, and reflected the fact that his life had been intertwined with some of the most memorable events of the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

"I believed with all my heart that science will bring peace to this country, renew its youthful vigor and create the sources for new life, both spiritually and materially," he wrote in a biological chemistry journal in 2005. "I have been lucky enough to spend my life in pursuit of my goals, with some success and considerable satisfaction."

After he and his former biology student Amos Carmel, a journalist at Yediot Aharonot, completed the writing of his autobiography, Katzir told The Jerusalem Post: "I didn't take notes during my long career and didn't save any documents. Everything came from memory, with Amos's help.

"I felt that before I meet the Almighty, I wanted to write a book my son and grandchildren could read and so that scientists will see that they can accomplish things outside scientific life as well."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

TAU physicist's 'infrared fibers' can defend water supplies from chemoterrorism

TAU physicist's 'infrared fibers' can defend water supplies from chemoterrorism
May. 19, 2009
jerusalem post staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
A Tel Aviv University physicist has developed a system to monitor the safety of a building's or community's water supply in real time, which could combat the threat of contamination due to industrial spillage, natural disaster or sabotage.

Although most people take the safety of their drinking water for granted, ordinary tap water could become deadly within minutes, says Prof. Abraham Katzir of Tel Aviv University's School of Physics and Astronomy.

Modifying special fibers developed in his lab, Katzir can detect "colors" in the infrared spectrum that distinguish between pure and contaminated water. Connected to a commercial infrared spectrometer, the fibers serve as sensors that can detect and notify authorities immediately if a contaminant has entered a water reservoir, system, building or pipeline.

In the lab, the fiberoptic system detected poisons, such as pesticides, in amounts well below the World Health Organization safety threshold. Preliminary field experiments have already been done at several European sites, and the results were reported recently in the Journal of Applied Spectroscopy.

Once in use, the sensor system would be one of the first real-time water monitors to provide protection from chemoterrorism attacks - a threat to which water supplies in places like the US are particularly susceptible.

"It's unlikely that someone will poison the water supply in Afghanistan," says Katzir, "but America is in grave danger and needs to arm itself against chemical threats to its drinking water.

"With our naked eyes we can't distinguish between pure water and water that contains a small amount of alcohol or acetone. They're all clear. We can't do it even with a spectrophotometer, which measures visible colors," explains Katzir.

"But we can clearly distinguish between liquids using an infrared spectrometer which can distinguish between 'colors' in the invisible infrared spectrum."

The special fiber sensors make it possible to monitor the quality of water in a remote location, such as a lake, a river, or a pipeline, and detect trace amounts of contaminants in real time, adds Katzir.

Water management executives in Florida's Everglades and officials in Germany are among those who have expressed an interest in using the technology.

"Toxic materials are readily available as pesticides or herbicides in the agriculture industry, and can be harmful if consumed even in concentrations as low as few parts per million," says Katzir.

Cities like New York are especially susceptible to a chemoterrorist threat. With many skyscrapers holding water reserves on the top of the building, a terrorist only needs to introduce poison into a tank to wreak havoc.

"A terrorist wouldn't have to kill tens of thousands of people. Only 50 deaths - as horrible as that would be - would cause nationwide panic," Katzir says.

Currently, water authorities in America test water reservoirs usually once every day or two, with no system in place to detect chemical threats instantaneously.

"This new system can cut millions of dollars from the cost of testing water manually," he says,

The fiber sensors developed by Katzir are made of insoluble, non-toxic, and biocompatible materials.

"You can eat them and nothing will happen to you," he notes.

Katzir's determination to fight terrorism through science has a personal side as well. His father, world-renowned scientist Prof. Aharon Katzir, was assassinated by the Japanese Red Army in a terror attack in 1972.

"I am trying to walk in his footsteps by doing applied research that can be a practical tool in an important battle," he says. "This system can be ready for use in less than a year."

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Washington Jewish Film Festival VS The Yiddish Theater Film

A lot of people have been calling and emailing me why has my film on the Yiddish Theater not played in Washington DC. I tried to explain but you didn't believe me when I said It'll never play in Washington DC. NEVER!!! Please let it be. There's no point in continuing to do a follow up with me. Friends, it's not in my hands.
Yiddish Theater: A Love Story will never play in DC. There's no love for it there.
Some of you have been persistent emailing me every few month- still not believing that those who choose films in DC hate this one. I'm sorry to break the news to you guys who do care about Yiddish and live in Washington. You'll have to see this film somewhere else. The Jewish film festival in DC has rejected the film three times.
YES. You heard it right. THREE TIMES.
That's a strike out!!! So please don't contact me again. You can email me to : dan@newlovefilms.com and I'll update you where the film is playing. It's playing every month in many places around the country.

For those who liked my other films and don't know what this one's about - it's about the woman who single handedly kept Yiddish theater alive in the US and kept the last theater running and thanks to her the oldest Yiddish theater in the US is alive and kicking. She's a charming holocaust survivor that made it her mission to keep the culture Hitler wanted to kill alive in the US.
Guess there's no room in the Washington Jewish Film Festival for a film about that subject matter.

So sad that Washington Jewish Film Festival organizers and selection committee chose to ignore this film for so many years.

So why is Washington still off limit to the Yiddish theater film?
I don't have a clue why they don't want to show the film. I truly don't.
I don't live in Washington. I know very few people in Washington.
I guess they didn't trust the amazing reviews of the NY TIMES and the LA TIMES and every major newspaper in NY and LA.
I guess the fact the film succeeded so well in LA and NY wasn't a reason to give it a one time showing in Washington DC.

Friends, thanks for writing and calling me and asking me to bring the film to Washington. If it was up to me- I'd do it. But it's not. I'm grateful all of you thought about me.

I have no clue why they don't want to show this important human story that's also an important historical document about Jewish life in the US. Normally, I would say call the JCC and talk there to their programming director and tell them how much you enjoyed the film - but I don't think it'll help. I've been talking with various people in Washington now for three years. I think it's a done deal. This film is dead in Washington. There's no point in talking with anyone there. I think it's unanimous. They HATE the film!!!
It's OK. The film has had such a tremendous life- got so much press. Was loved by EVERYONE who saw it. Played in the top three Jewish Film Festivals in the world: San Francisco, Jerusalem and Toronto.
Played in endless other Jewish Film Festivals, JCC's, Synagogues and other locales.

This film will play in every major city in the world- except for Washington DC. The capital of the United States.

There's no point in fighting anymore friends. It seems that in this case, the good guys lost. The festival is run at the JCC and if they really wanted to show it, they could have found two hours to program it in their schedule. The festival is only a week, but the JCC shows programs all year.
3 years of rejecting this film is over 1000 days that would have been suitable for showing this film.
I live far away from the politics of Washington DC. I do not know why they don't want to help this documentary that has proven itself beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Something is going on over there in Washington and it's sad. Hopefully it's not politics cause politics in Jewish film festivals like politics in many other organizations can many times lead to stagnation, becoming irrelevant and eventually to dissappearing.
I'm sure some at the Washington Jewish Film Festival feel their festival will live forever cause it's Washington and there's a thriving Jewish community there.
But I say look at General Motors and Chrysler friends. They also thought they're invincible cause people will always drive car. But the fact people drive cars don't mean they'll always drive a Chevy...
The fact any organization makes a killing a few years in a row- don't mean it'll always be this way.
Festivals can also run dry very fast and just as fast disappear when they stop caring about their audience.

Not wanting to make a stand at keeping Yiddish Theater alive in the US is a statement.
I don't know what it says- but I hear it loud and clear!

I could just move on. Pretend I don't care. Say hopefully they'll show my future films, like they've shown my previous films.
But I am offended by this.
I am.
I am offended as a filmmaker.
I am offended as a person who cares.
I am offended as a Jew who's relatives escaped Nazi Germany and feels it's important to keep the Yiddish Theater alive.
I am offended as someone who did give his time to help keep this culture and the ONE woman who dedicated her life to keep it alive.

Passover is soon here. The holiday celebrating independence. Leaving behind the idea of being a slave.
I am moving forward. But I will not forget that which I have left behind.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Here's an interview with me that appeared in a Long Beach newspaper and also in the Long Beach Art Blog.
Below is the article and the link to it's website. It relates to the screening of the film this month at the Film Festival there.


Dan Katzir, the director of “Yiddish Theatre: A Love Story” is a funny guy. He has a lot of things to say and laughs a lot. Even though he just turned forty years old, he undoubtedly has the soul of a 20-year-old. His film “Yiddish Theatre: A Love Story” is one of the four films being shown at the Long Beach Jewish Film Festival. He was the only director that I met with to interview for a story about the Festival, so I feel a little more strongly about this film than the others. It truly is beautiful. The film simultaneously warms and breaks your heart. Here are some things that he had to say about his experiences with dreaming, Yiddish theatre, filmmaking and Long Beach:

He said that the most important message of the movie is, “not to let go of your dream. Because too many times in our society we believe in instant gratification. If you don’t get immediately what you want-move on to the next dream. But that’s not the way. The whole thing with the dream is that you have to chase it. And the more elusive it is, the harder you have to chase it. Not give up. And I think that’s why this one woman (Zypora Spaisman, a Yiddish theater actress from Dan’s documentary, “Yiddish Theatre: A Love Story”)- she kept her theater running for 50 years. She was always on the verge of bankruptcy. But she continued with that crazy dream of teaching people about this old, forgotten language (Yiddish).”

“As a filmmaker, all of my documentaries…are all very emotional.” he said, “So I always go for emotion. I think today more and more filmmakers and artists in general are going more for color and pizzazz and fast edit. They’re trying to get pace but what it lacks is heartfelt. I personally like stuff that moves me emotionally.”

He also said that Long Beach is a very sleek, sophisticated city. But, he said, ““I’m sure that even the people who live in the brand new houses have some connection to very old history which is their own. Cause even if they live in a brand new city,” he giggles, ” their parents, and grandparents and great grandparents probably lived in a rotting and molding old city somewhere on the planet.”


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dad on Reuters :

Well, my dad's latest invention just appeared on Reuters which is published all over the world.
Very cool segment and very important breakthrough invention. Below are the segment from the original Reuters as well as the segment from Japanese TV.