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                            27 Cheshvan-3 Kislev, 5779                                 Nov. 5-11, 2018 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES --  614th Web Ed.


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(l-r) Rabbi Avi Schnall, director, Agudath Israel of America's

New Jersey Division &  Assembly Deputy Speaker Gary Schaer

Agudath Israel of America Archives photo

Thanks to a proposed bill initiated by Agudath Israel of America in response to an incident at a local college last Yom Kippur, New Jersey students may no longer be forced to choose between observing their religion and facing academic penalties.

Under current New Jersey law, college students who miss an exam due to a religious holiday are guaranteed an alternate exam date. However, the law is limited to exams and does not prevent a student from being penalized for missing classes due to a religious holiday. This glaring omission from the law was highlighted by a situation that arose last Yom Kippur. After a student missed two days of classes on Rosh Hashana, her professor notified her that she would fail the semester if she missed any more classes. Caught in a no-win situation, the student had to decide whether to observe Yom Kippur or pass the semester.

When Rabbi Avi Schnall, New Jersey Director of Agudath Israel, learned of the incident, he approached Assembly Deputy Speaker Gary Schaer (D) to request his assistance. In response, Assemblyman Schaer introduced Assembly Bill A3440, which states that an “institution [of higher education] is not permitted to impose any type of penalty on a student who is unable to attend class for reason of a religious observance.” Concurrently, Senator Vin Gopal (D) introduced an identical bill in the State Senate where it passed unanimously, 38 – 0.

The bill was heard in the Assembly Higher Education Committee hearing on September 13, where it also passed unanimously. Committee Vice Chairman Robert Karabinchak (D) joined Assemblyman Schaer as a primary sponsor of the bill and expressed his strong support for the bill during the hearing. “This bill is simple, it’s fair, and I’m 100% behind it.”

"We’re grateful to Assemblyman Schaer for his leadership and initiative on this important matter, as well as to Assemblyman Karabinchak and Senator Gopal”, says Rabbi Schnall, “and we look forward to having the bill passed by the full Assembly and moving on to the governor’s desk. New Jersey students should never be penalized for their religious beliefs.”

To read the full copy of Assembly Bill A3440 click here. Click here to email Assemblyman Schaer and here to email Assemblyman Karabinchak to express your support for this bill.



LOS ANGELES -- David Todd Neuman, 59, a former life insurance agent, of Thousand Oaks, pleaded guilty to one felony count of embezzlement and one count of false impersonation after using seniors' personal documents to apply for veterans benefits and stealing over $187,000 in benefit payments. Neuman was sentenced to 120 days in county jail and 36 months of formal probation.
"I have zero tolerance for agents and brokers who scam insurers and victimize consumers, especially seniors," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "Neuman violated the tenets of his license when he used his position of trust to take advantage of vulnerable seniors and line his pockets with ill-gotten gains."
An investigation by the Riverside County Sheriff Department revealed that Neuman falsely presented himself as a financial planner associated with the Department of Veterans Affairs and provided information to senior widows on survivor benefits. He obtained documents from the victims including their husbands' military records, death certificates, and their marriage certificates. Neuman then used the documents to apply for death/survivor benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Neuman diverted over $187,000 in payments to his own bank account and the victims did not receive any benefits.
Neuman's license was immediately suspended by the California Department of Insurance (CDI). This case is being prosecuted by the Riverside County District Attorney's Office and was filed under the Life and Annuity Consumer Protection Program (LACPP), which was established through Assembly Bill 2316 (Chan).

The LACPP established this fund to be used exclusively for protecting consumers of life insurance and annuity products in the State of California by both the CDI and local district attorneys.



REHOVOT, Israel -- The Executive Board of the Weizmann Institute of Science, headed by Shimshon Harel, announced that they have elected Professor Alon Chen to be the 11th president of the Weizmann Institute of Science. 

The board accepted the recommendation of the Presidential Search Committee, headed by the chair of the International Board of the Institute, Professor Jehuda Reinharz. Out of several candidates presented to the search committee, its members unanimously voted to put forward Chen’s name for the position.

Chen will take office on December 1st, 2019, when the current president, Professor Daniel Zajfman, who took office in 2006, will complete his term.

Chen is a neuroscientist and head of the Department of Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science, as well as a director at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany. In addition, he heads a joint Weizmann-Max Plank Lab for Experimental Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Neurogenetics and is an adjunct professor at the Ludwig Maximilian University Faculty of Medicine in Munich.

Chen was born in Israel in 1970. He received a BSc in life sciences, magna cum laude, from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in 1995 and, through a direct track from the Weizmann Institute of Science, a PhD magna cum laude in 2001. In parallel, he attained an MBA from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. From 2001-2005, traveling on Rothschild and Fulbright scholarships, he conducted postdoctoral research at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California, where he began to investigate processes in the brain that regulate mental stress and anxiety.

Chen returned to the Weizmann Institute in 2005 as a senior scientist in the Department of Neurobiology, and was awarded an Alon Fellowship by the Israel Council for Higher Education – Israel’s highest award for returning scientists. In 2012, he became an associate professor and a full professor in 2017. In 2013, Chen was appointed a director in the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry and head of the joint lab.

In his research, Chen focuses on the biological processes by which stress and anxiety develop in our bodies, as well as the mechanisms in the brain that are activated by these mental states and are meant to regulate them. His research also questions how these response mechanisms are over- or under-activated in various psychiatric disorders. In the search for a basic understanding of how animals and humans respond to stress and anxiety, Chen and his colleagues have uncovered genes, proteins, and neural circuits that play crucial roles in these phenomena. They have also discovered epigenetic (meaning controlling gene expression, but not in the genes themselves) mechanisms and information processing circuits in the brain that are tied to anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and metabolic syndromes.

In his current positions as head of the Department of Neurobiology at Weizmann and director at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Chen has amassed a wealth of experience in management – and particularly in managing successful scientific research. This experience includes handling large budgets and obtaining resources, as well as working with scientific councils, executive boards, public authorities, scientific faculty and management, graduates, donors, and stakeholders.

Chen is able to describe complex scientific processes in language that all can understand, a manager who encourages good team spirit in his workplace, and a natural leader who knows how to identify opportunities and translate difficult challenges into novel solutions. Chen also invests his time and energy in scientific education and in making science accessible to the general public.

Chen is married with two children.

Following the announcement of his appointment, Chen addressed the members of the International and Executive Boards, Weizmann Institute of Science faculty and staff, and friends:

“I would like to thank the members of the Presidential Search Committee, the Weizmann Institute of Science International Board, the Institute scientists, its staff and friends for giving me the opportunity to take the reins of this leading scientific institution, to continue to reach new heights of excellence and educational and scientific endeavor.”