The President of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Professor Uri Sivan announced today that the Technion will award an honorary doctorate to Pfizer CEO and Chairman Dr. Albert Bourla, for his extraordinary achievement in leading the record time development of the novel vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccine, which is helping to end the coronavirus crisis, is expected to serve as a model for the development of a wide range of future mRNA-based treatments.

 “As Chairman of the Board of Pfizer Inc., Dr. Bourla headed the trailblazing effort to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus,” explained Technion President Sivan. “In his 27 years with Pfizer, Dr. Bourla promoted multiple areas within the company, among them technological innovation. The development of the COVID-19 vaccine is an extraordinary biotechnological achievement that exemplifies the importance of science and multidisciplinary research. The vaccine, and similar ones, will bring healing to all of humanity and will rescue the world from the crisis that began at the end of 2019, with the epidemic outbreak. Dr. Bourla’s family history, as a son of Holocaust survivors from Thessaloniki, is a symbol of the remarkable vitality of the Jewish people, their liveliness, and their renewal capacity in the wake of the Holocaust.”

“I am moved by the news and honored to receive a degree from such an important and historical institution as the Technion,” Dr. Bourla said to President Sivan during a phone conversation informing him of being awarded the degree. “In my youth, I considered studying at the Technion; this is an emotional closure for me.”

Dr. Albert Bourla was born in Thessaloniki in 1961 to a Jewish family, part of which perished in the Holocaust. His family, who arrived in Greece from Spain following the Alhambra Decree, dealt in jewelry and diamonds, and their business spread across many countries. The Thessaloniki Jewish community, once the largest in Greece, had a population of approximately 80,000 in the 1930s. Approximately two-thirds of them perished in the Holocaust.

Dr. Bourla completed all of his academic degrees at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and holds a Ph.D. in veterinary medicine and reproductive biotechnology. In 1993 he joined Pfizer, one of the world’s leading biopharmaceutical companies, where he went on to hold a series of positions. He oversaw antibody development and served as Group President of Pfizer’s Global Vaccines, Oncology, and Consumer Healthcare business. In 2018 he was appointed Chief Operating Officer, and in 2020 he became the company’s Chief Executive Officer.

In recent years Dr. Bourla has led Pfizer in strengthening ties with technology companies and in adopting technologies such as artificial intelligence. At the beginning of 2020, following the global outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, he harnessed most of the company’s resources to develop a vaccine, meeting challenging schedules. Throughout the process, Dr. Bourla promised there would be no compromise with regard to the safety of the vaccine, and approval was obtained after an extensive study that included more than 40,000 subjects.The honorary doctorate will be conferred on Dr. Bourla during the next annual Technion Board of Governors meeting in November 2021.


                            FIDF Nat'l Dir. & CEO Steven Weil

Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) is excited to introduce “FIDF LIVE,” a new philanthropic initiative that aims to take audience engagement to a whole new level in the face of ongoing limitations posed by the pandemic. FIDF LIVE will be a high-level production broadcast experience, which will provide an alternative to in-person experiences and bring awareness of FIDF’s cause and activities to a broader audience.

As long as its supporters are unable to physically gather at FIDF’s community events and galas, travel to Israel on FIDF’s missions, visit soldiers on Israel Defense Forces (IDF) bases, or meet them in the United States, FIDF seeks to bring Israel to its audience, and offer direct access through this new platform.

The FIDF LIVE show, hosted by American stand-up comedian and author Joel Chasnoff, will air 30-minute episodes on FIDF’s website every other week at 8:30PM ET. The biweekly series debuts on Wednesday, Feb. 17. 

“In these challenging times, as we continue to face a global pandemic, it is our duty to find creative and forward-looking ways to engage with our FIDF supporters, who are also looking to safely engage with us,” said FIDF National Director and CEO, Steven Weil. “By launching FIDF LIVE, we are enabling the members of our community to take their meaningful connections with Israel’s soldiers to the next level, while continuing to provide them with much-needed support.”

“We have a great opportunity to put a face to the Israeli soldier and bring their stories straight into people’s living rooms,” says Chasnoff, the show’s host. “It’s a perfect way to engage with both longtime supporters and new, younger supporters and show them a little insight into what the IDF is really like. As a former Lone Soldier myself, I’m honored to be part of this project, and the one to bring this to them.” In the late 90s, Chasnoff, a Chicago native, served in the IDF Armored Corps. He is the author of the comedic memoir “The 188th Crybaby Brigade,” about that experience.

FIDF was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors as a 501(C) (3) not-for-profit organization with the mission of offering educational, cultural, recreational, and social programs and facilities that provide hope, purpose, and life-changing support for the soldiers who protect Israel and Jews worldwide.

Today, FIDF has 25 chapters throughout the United States and Panama. FIDF proudly supports IDF soldiers, families of fallen soldiers, and wounded veterans through a variety of innovative programs that reinforce the vital bond between the communities in the United States, the soldiers of the IDF, and the state of Israel.




                                             Moshe Silk

Agudath Israel of America congratulates Moshe (Mitchell) Silk upon his receiving the prestigious Alexander Hamilton award from the United States Treasury Department for his distinguished performance as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Markets and Development.

Mr. Silk was a founding member and Chairman of the Board of Agudath Israel of America Legal Support Services, which consists of attorneys throughout the country who provide legal assistance, often on a pro bono basis, to individuals and organizations in our community in a wide variety of areas, including helping employees facing discrimination due to their religious observance in the workplace, patients who are not receiving the health care that they and their families want for them, schools and other organizations seeking help obtaining government assistance to which they are entitled, and helping to draft and submit amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs in cases throughout the country of communal interest. The organization also provides educational programs for attorneys for CLE credits.  In that role, he helped recruit attorneys to join Agudah’s legal network, raise funds, and publicize the work of the organization. Mr. Silk also organized many educational programs for lawyers on vital topics. 

The Agudah congratulates Mr. Silk for his service with the Department of the Treasury and looks forward to his renewed involvement with Agudath Israel’s legal network. 



NEW YORK, NY -- The American Sephardi Federation (ASF) recently announced the launch of a new program -- the Sephardi House Fellowship -- designed to immerse Jewish college students in the intellectual and cultural legacy of the Sephardic tradition.

Henceforth, the ASF will appoint Sephardi House Fellows annually at colleges and universities nationwide, with the mission of creating a warm and welcoming environment in which to discover the vast diversity, depth, and vitality of the Jewish people. Through a dynamic yearlong learning experience, the Fellows will deepen their knowledge of the multifaceted Greater Sephardic world and explore the “seriously Jewish, yet worldly and cosmopolitan” classic Sephardic tradition, while also developing leadership skills and their passion for community building.

The program is led by educator, social entrepreneur, and artist Ruben Shimonov, with the full ongoing support of the ASF. The ASF is also proudly announcing this year’s appointment of 13 Sephardi House Fellows on campuses across the United States, ranging from UCLA to CCNY’s Macaulay Honors College. Chosen via a competitive application process, the Fellows have very varied Greater Sephardic backgrounds (Balkan, Bukharian, Egyptian, Greek, Lebanese, Moroccan, Persian, Syrian, Yerushalmi) and academic majors, including architecture, finance, neuroscience, mathematics, studio art, and physics. What unites them is a commitment to advance Jewish unity through our shared Sephardi roots.
“This is an incredibly accomplished and eclectic group of young leaders. I am excited for the journey that we will be taking together,” said Shimonov, who also serves as VP of the ASF Young Leaders and lectures at the ASF’s Institute of Jewish Experience.

“The wisdom and warmth of the Sephardic tradition has much to offer to humanity. In these challenging times, we need that resilient spirit that has been passed down through the ages in the form of Sephardic poetry, philosophy, music, food, and spirituality. In a moment where being Jewish on campus is not always easy, I feel Sephardi House can make a difference,” said Joshua Benaim, the visionary creator of the Sephardi House Fellowship. Benaim, a Harvard University and Harvard Business School alum, is the Founder & CEO of Aria Development Group.

“The idea for the Sephardi House Fellowship arose out of Josh’s love for the classic Sephardic tradition, appreciation for the challenges facing young Jews on campus, and a desire to honor his father, Carlos, one of the world’s premier perfumers,” said Jason Guberman, ASF’s Executive Director, who added: “With great enthusiasm, we welcome our inaugural cohort of Sephardi House Fellows for the 2020-2021 academic year.”

“Growing up in Tangier in a Sephardic Jewish family left an indelible imprint on my life and values. I want to ensure that the next generation will have the opportunity to experience this culture at an important moment in their lives,” said Carlos Benaim, a distinguished ASF Board Member.

Sephardi House Fellows receive individualized mentorship, full access to all ASF programs, a $1,000 stipend and additional support to further activities on campus, as well as participate in exclusive monthly sessions illuminating aspects of Greater Sephardi history, philosophy, and culture.
Esther Bentolila, a Sephardi House Fellow and junior at Cornell University, said: “I am beyond excited for this opportunity to bring Jewish students together from all walks of life to discuss different aspects of the culture, such as art, music, and literature. The contributions of great Sephardic Rabbis and thinkers is an area I particularly cherish, and I have a passion for Judaism and a hunger for knowledge.”

       3-9 Adar, 5781                                                          Feb. 15-21, 2021 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES--645th Web Ed.



NORDIA, Israel – Eleven Bnei Menashe couples, all of whom recently immigrated to Israel from northeastern India, were remarried today in a festive and emotional group ceremony at Shavei Israel’s absorption center in Nordia, near Netanya, after completing their formal conversion to Judaism by the Chief Rabbinate.

The 11 couples were among 257 new Bnei Menashe immigrants who arrived in Israel a few weeks ago thanks to the Jerusalem-based nonprofit Shavei Israel and the Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano Shata. The 11 couples hail from the northeastern Indian states of Manipur and Mizoram and plan to settle in the city of Nof HaGalil, formerly known as Upper Nazareth, in the north of Israel.

“We wish the couples a hearty Mazel Tov and much joy, health and success here in their new home,” said Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund. “After realizing their dream of making Aliyah and returning to the Jewish people, these 11 Bnei Menashe couples now have an additional reason to celebrate. Despite the pandemic, they have now been remarried in a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony which symbolizes the new lives they are building here in the Jewish state.”

For the weddings the brides had their hair and makeup done and wore traditional white wedding gowns while some of the grooms wore traditional suits with Bnei Menashe tribal designs. In light of the Coronavirus situation, the ceremonies were conducted with permission from Israel’s Home Front Command and in accordance with Health Ministry regulations.

Among the couples who remarried were Maccabi Hnamte (72) and Sarah Hnamte (70) from the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, who have been happily married for 49 years. Their two children made Aliyah to Israel in 2003 and they had not seen them for more than 17 years until their arrival in the Jewish state just two months ago.

“We’re very grateful to make Aliyah and very excited to join our children and grandchildren at last,” the Hnamtes said. “After 49 years we have had the privilege to dress up nicely and get married again, only this time under a Chupah (Jewish wedding canopy) here in the land of our ancestors, the Land of Israel."

The Bnei Menashe, or sons of Manasseh, claim descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago. Their ancestors wandered through Central Asia and the Far East for centuries, before settling in what is now northeastern India, along the borders of Burma and Bangladesh. Throughout their sojourn in exile, the Bnei Menashe continued to practice Judaism just as their ancestors did, including observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals and following the laws of family purity. They continued to nourish the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.

Thus far, Shavei Israel has made the dream of Aliyah, immigration to Israel, possible for over 4,000 Bnei Menashe and plans to help bring more members of the community to Israel. Currently, there are 6,500 Bnei Menashe awaiting their return to the Jewish homeland.

Shavei Israel is a nonprofit organization founded by Michael Freund, who immigrated to Israel from the United States with the aim of strengthening the ties between the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the descendants of Jews around the world.

The organization is currently active in more than a dozen countries and provides assistance to a variety of communities such as the Bnei Menashe of India, the Bnei Anousim (referred to by the derogatory term “Marranos” by historians) in Spain, Portugal and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, the Jewish community of Kaifeng in China, descendants of Jews living in Poland, and others.


                                 Elan S. Carr

As U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Elan S. Carr spearheaded global diplomacy campaign tackling Jew-hatred, including groundbreaking agreements.

The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) recently announced that Elan S. Carr, the former United States Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, has joined its Advisory Board. Carr, who was appointed by the President of the United States and the Secretary of State as the country’s senior diplomatic representative on the subject of anti-Semitism, joins an impressive list of advisors helping CAM spearhead the fight against anti-Semitism across the world.

During his two years in office as the senior advisor to Secretary Pompeo on anti-Semitism, Carr negotiated groundbreaking agreements with foreign governments, convened the first-ever U.S. Government-sponsored conference on combating online hate and drove the establishment of important new policies on anti-Zionism, anti-Israel discrimination, and campus anti-Semitism. He regularly met with foreign leaders, often in foreign capitals to drive US policy on these issues.

Prior to joining the Trump Administration, Mr. Carr prosecuted violent felony crimes for more than a decade as a Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County. Carr is also an officer in the United States Army Reserve and he has received multiple awards for his two decades of military service. In 2003-04, he spent nearly a year on military deployment in Iraq.  

Carr joins CAM’s Advisory Board alongside additional new members, André Azoulay (Senior Advisor to King Mohammed VI of Morocco); Mario Bucaro (Ambassador of Guatemala to Mexico); Danny Danon (Former Ambassador of Israel to the UN); Andrés Roemer (UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Social Change and the Free Flow of Knowledge) and Dina Porat, (Professor Emeritus and Head of the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University and Chief Historian at Yad Vashem). All participated in an Advisory Board meeting last week.  They join existing Advisory Board members including Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, former US Senator Joe Lieberman, human rights icon Natan Sharansky, Frankfurt Mayor Uwe Becker, UK Lords John Mann and Eric Pickles, Albania’s former minister Valentina Leskaj, plus acclaimed Harvard academic Dr. Ruth Wisse.


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