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Israeli woman is ‘Europe’s top young researcher’

Posted on:
March 29, 2012
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L’Oreal and UNESCO have named a Weizmann Institute biologist working in the field of probiotics for the award.

Multinational cosmetics firm L’Oreal and UNESCO have named a Weizmann Institute biologist working in the field of probiotics, commonly referred to as beneficial bacteria, “Europe’s top young researcher.” For her work in researching probiotics to treat disease, Dr. Naama Geva-Zatorsky will receive a two-year $40,000 postdoctoral scholarship.

During the past three years, young Israeli women have been able to apply for the program, which began 14 years ago and aims at promoting research among women starting out their scientific careers. There are only 15 annual fellowship winners around the world.

Among the members of the Israeli judges’ panel who selected her to compete with others in Europe are several senior Israeli women scientists, including Israel Science Academy president Prof. Ruth Arnon, Nobel Prize for Chemistry laureate Prof. Ada Yonath, Ben-Gurion University president Prof. Rivka Carmi (who is also a renowned pediatrician and geneticist) and Prof. Ephrat Levy- Lahad, head of the medical genetics department at Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

L’Oreal Israel CEO Nava Ravid said her company regards helping young women scientists as vital to their work. In the last century, 95 percent of all Nobel laureates have been men, she said.

“The world needs science, and science needs women, especially now,” she added.

Science and Technology Minister Prof. Daniel Herschkowitz said Geva- Zatorsky is living proof of the scientific power of Israel and the rising force of women in science. He said he hoped this was one in a chain of top prizes that she would receive for her work.

Knesset women’s lobby chairman MK Rachel Adatto, a physician by training, said the winner is an example of the growing number of Israeli women who contribute to science.

“I hope that her research will lead to an improved quality of life in Israel and in the world,” Adatto said.

Geva-Zatorsky arrived on Wednesday in Paris to receive her award and discuss her work, which aims at using “good bacteria” to treat diseases from gastroenterological disorders and diabetes to immune disorders and cancer. She noted that the body contains 10 times more bacteria than human cells, adding that “the bacteria that grow in the body from birth have a vital influence on our bodies and our health.”

Story via JPost

Judea Pearl awarded ‘Nobel Prize in AI computing’

Posted on:
March 23, 2012
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Father of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl wins Turing Award for artificial intelligence research which laid foundation for iPhone’s Siri, Google’s driverless cars

Judea Pearl, a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence, has been awarded the prestigious Turing Award this week.

Pearl, 75, was being honored for “innovations that enabled remarkable advances in the partnership between humans and machines,” the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) stated.

Pearl is a professor of computer science at the University of California, Los Angeles. He was born in Tel Aviv in 1936 and earned degrees from Technion in Israel, Rutgers University and Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. Pearl is considered a philosopher as well as a computer scientist.

He is the father of Daniel Pearl, a journalist for The Wall Street Journal who was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan in 2002.

Judea Pearl’s accomplishments over the last 30 years have provided the theoretical basis for progress in artificial intelligence and led to extraordinary achievements in machine learning. His research laid the foundation for such inventions as the iPhone’s Siri speech recognition technology and Google’s driverless cars.

“His work serves as the standard method for handling uncertainty in computer systems, with applications ranging from medical diagnosis, homeland security and genetic counseling to natural language understanding and mapping gene expression data,” the ACM said.

“His influence extends beyond artificial intelligence and even computer science, to human reasoning and the philosophy of science,” it added.

Pearl has been honored by the industry and his peers many times. Last year he was inducted into the IEEE’s (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) AI Hall of Fame, and he received the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computers and Cognitive Science from the Franklin Institute in 2008.

The Turing award, named for British mathematician Alan M. Turing and considered the “Nobel Prize in Computing,” carries a $250,000 prize sponsored by computer chip giant Intel and Internet titan Google.

Source: Ynetnews.com

Obama announces Medal of Freedom honor for Shimon Peres

Posted on:
March 4, 2012
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Israeli President Shimon Peres will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom this spring, President Obama announced at the American IsraelPublic Affairs Committee conference in Washington.

“Shimon once described the story of the Jewish people by saying it proved that, ‘slings, arrows and gas chambers can annihilate man, but cannot destroy human values, dignity and freedom,'” Obama said as he announced the award. “He has lived those values. He has taught us to ask more of ourselves and to empathize more with our fellow human beings.”

Obama spoke privately with Peres after the main conference session and congratulated him on the award. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is America’s highest civilian honor.

Delegates to the conference, who had an otherwise mixed reaction to Obama’s speech, greeted the announcement with applause.

“It’s extremely well-deserved, the man has dedicated his life to peace,” said Milton Salzer, a first-time delegate from Illinois. “His whole life he’s had the message, peace is the first alternative, war is the last.”

“He’s done a lot for the relationship between Israel and America,” said Jeffrey Freimark, a delegate from Florida. “There’s a bit of a political ploy to it, but nonetheless it’s good solid recognition of someone who’s every much deserving.”

The Israeli head of state spoke ahead of Obama at the conference, after being greeted onto the stage by a choir of children. Peres expressed hope that the younger generations in Israel’s Arab neighbors will embrace democracy, while emphasizing Israel’s need to defend itself against Iran.

Source: LA Times

The ‘Tel Aviv Museum of Art’ named ‘Best Museum’ by Travel+Leisure Design Awards 2012

Posted on:
February 17, 2012
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Best Museum

Herta & Paul Amir Building, TelAviv Museum of Art

Designed by Preston Scott Cohen

Wedged into a tight, triangular site within the city’s central cultural complex, this piece of architectural origami uses a soaring, twisting, 87-foot-tall atrium, called Lightfall, to link a series of refreshingly uncomplicated galleries. In contrast to many dramatically shaped new art museums, it succeeds in being at once breathtaking and deferential to the art on display.

From the Jury

“The Tel Aviv museum is quite a piece of sculpture, but it is a sculpture that accepts art.” —Billie Tsien, architect

Honorable Mention: Clyfford Still Museum, Denver; designed by Allied Works Architecture; 1250 Bannock St.; 720/354-4880; clyffordstillmuseum.org.

For full list of awards click here

Israeli Arab musician wins Yoko Ono Lennon Courage Award

Posted on:
February 16, 2012
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Violinist Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar will be recognized for his work to encourage Jewish-Arab dialogue and coexistence through classical music education.

Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar, a 34-year-old violinist and the director of the Polyphony Conservatory in Nazareth, will be awarded the Yoko Ono Lennon Courage Award for the Arts.The prize has been awarded annually since 2009 by Ono to artists from various fields for their efforts to promote peace through the arts.Ashkar founded Polyphony in March of 2011 in order to promote tolerance and co-existence through classical music education. “The organization believes that through music we can develop equal opportunity for music education and dialogue between Arab and Jewish youth in Israel,” Ashkar said.

Ono met Ashkar at a concert in New York this month featuring Majd Mashour (15), a student at the conservatory, and Uri Tivon (17) from Tel Aviv. The concert was one of two organized by Polyphony in February.

Among the guests at the event were Yoko Ono and former Beatles impresario Peter Brown. “Peter Brown called me on Friday to tell me that Yoko Ono had decided to give me the prize,” Ashkar told Haaretz.

“The win gave me the feeling that there are people in the world who believe in our path,” he said, adding that he hoped more people in Israel would hear about the work of his organization thanks to the award.

“I realized that an artist seeking to tell the truth in her art takes great courage. I recognize the courage required to bring children together from Israeli and Palestinian communities to find commonality in music as a very powerful and effective beginning towards Peace,” Ono wrote on her website.
Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar is a member of the West-Eastern Divan orchestra, founded by conductor Daniel Barenboim and Palestinian author Edward Said in 1999. He studied music and physics at Tel Aviv University, and also studied at the Rostock Academy of Music and Theater in Germany.

The cash prize will be awarded by Ono to Ashkar and four additional artists at a ceremony at New York’s Museum of Modern Art on February 26.

Source: Haaretz.com

Israeli Rabbi named Sweden’s Straight of the Year by the Swedish GLBTQ Magazine, “QX”

Posted on:
February 15, 2012
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It’s not every day your local rabbi is recognized by the queer community, but for Rabbi David Lazar, it’s actually happened twice — and on two different continents.

Lazar, the current chief rabbi of Stockholm’s Jewish community, was honored last week by the Swedish GLBTQ Magazine, “QX”, as its Årets Hetero (straight person of the year) at a star-studded gala, Gaygalan.

This is Lazar’s second such award. While still a pulpit rabbi in Israel, the American immigrant received the Yakir Hakehila award from Tel Aviv’s homo/lesbian community.

“I could probably be in the Guiness Book of World Records,” chuckles the fifty-four year old during a short trip to Israel this week. “I’m the only rabbi with a gay award on two continents.”

Lazar wasn’t able to receive his Israeli award in person as the show unfortunately fell on Shabbat. This time, as a nominee in a foreign country, Lazar felt he should make every effort to attend, and the father of five brought his wife Sascha too: “I realized that if I get this, I’d better look the part and show up with a woman.”

Pleased “just to be nominated,” the modest rabbi hadn’t really entertained the notion of winning, but he prepared a short statement in Swedish just in case.

“Five minutes before the award was announced I was still looking up the word ‘honor’ in Google. I was nervous, it was very Hollywood-y, and this is such a huge honor.

“But really, it’s not my honor as much as an honor for the entire [Jewish] community.”

Lazar, a leading figure in Israel’s Masorti Movement, has been on the frontlines of gay rights in Israel since the 1990s. In the early 2000s, he was the first rabbi to marry same-sex couples in the Holy Land. When asked to take his current position in Sweden in 2010, Lazar told the hiring board he had every intention of continuing on this path.

“For me, it’s a matter of human rights, ” Lazar said in a television interview in Sweden after receiving the prize. “Every human being was created in the image of God… we see God in each other… Nobody is abnormal; everybody is part of normality.”

Lazar was interviewed with Swedish soccer player Anton Hysen, who is only the second player to come out of the closet while still playing. The first player, Justin Fashanu, came out in 1990 and tragically took his life in 1998.

“I am worried that young people are afraid to be who they are… We can’t let young people lose hope like that,” said Lazar on Swedish television. And so, since taking his new pulpit at Stockholm’s Great Synagogue, Lazar has implemented a Rainbow Kabbalat Shabbat and initiated numerous ecumenical programs working against hate crime, prejudice and hate speech.

Lazar, who is the head of the entire Stockholm Jewish community, says that in general, he has received positive feedback from his flock. “Even members of the Orthodox synagogues congratulated me the next morning.”

He sees this award as the beginning of the next stage in the relationship between his community and the GLBTQ community. Seeing as he plans to stick around for the long run, he asks, “Does this mean I’m Swedish now?”

Source: TimesofIsrael.com