Talmud – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster …

Talmud noun tl-mud, tal-md

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First Known Use: 1532

In Judaism, the systematic amplification and analysis of passages of the Mishna, the Gemara, and other oral law, including the Tosefta. Two Talmuds exist, produced by two different groups of Jewish scholars: the Babylonian Talmud (c. AD 600) and the Palestinian Talmud (c. AD 400). The Babylonian Talmud is more extensive and thus more highly esteemed. Both Talmuds formulate their own hermeneutics to convey their theological system by defining the Torah and by demonstrating its perfection and comprehensive character. The Talmud remains a text of central importance, particularly in Orthodox Judaism. Intensive modern Talmudic scholarship is pursued in Israel and the U.S. See also Halakhah.

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How an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man became a transgender activist

To the world, he was Jeffrey Smith, an ultra-Orthodox Jew and spiritual leader teaching the Torah to hundreds of students in Jerusalems Hasidic community. But inside, Smith was keeping a secret.

Since I was 5 years old, I really thought I was a girl, Smith, 63, told The Post in an interview last week from Israel, where she has been living for the past two years as an Orthodox Jewish woman following sex-reassignment surgery.

As a boy growing up in Patchogue, LI, Smith knew early on that something was amiss. But there was no Internet to tell her what being transgender was all about.

Whatever it was, Smith instinctively knew to keep quiet about it.

How does a 5-year-old in 1956 tell his mother hes really a girl? she said.

At Patchogue HS on Long Island, Smith dated women, but relationships were short-lived. I loved being with them, going to movies, but I always felt like I had to do more and it didnt feel right, she said.

Smith later attended George Washington University and, while pursuing a masters degree at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1974, embraced the Chabad-Lubavitch branch of Judaism.

I was drawn to the part about my soul and not about my body so much, said Smith, who was born Jewish but not raised religiously.

She soon took on the outward appearance of orthodoxy flowing beard and dark suits.

Its one thing that I have to look like a guy that was bad enough. But now I have to look like a Hasidic man, she recalled. I felt I traded my soul to get a soul.

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How an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man became a transgender activist

New York's Program for Jewish Genetic Health and Montefiore Health System Partner to Offer Subsidized Genetic Testing …

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Newswise NEW YORK, January 21, 2015 New York metropolitan area Ashkenazi Jewish women and men aged 25 and older can now opt to undergo testing for the three common Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA founder mutations at a fraction of the commercial price, thanks to a new, philanthropy-based initiative from the Program for Jewish Genetic Health (PJGH), a not-for-profit organization affiliated with Yeshiva University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Einstein), in conjunction with Montefiore Health System (Montefiore). This initiative, the first of its kind in the United States, makes this testing available to all Ashkenazi Jewish individuals, regardless of their BRCA-related cancer histories or their insurance/financial situations, both of which have been barriers to date.

Most insurance companies currently require people to already have had family members with cancer if they want to be covered for BRCA genetic testing, said Susan Klugman, MD, medical director for the Program for Jewish Genetic Health, director of the division of reproductive genetics at Montefiore, and professor of clinical obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health at Einstein. We at the Program for Jewish Genetic Health are not willing to wait for that.

Background Approximately 1 in 40 individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish descent carries one of three founder mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, a carrier rate tenfold higher than that of the general population. Females carrying a BRCA mutation face a significantly higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer in their lifetime, while male BRCA mutation carriers are at higher risk of developing prostate and breast cancer, among other cancers. BRCA carriers also have a 50 percent chance of passing the altered gene on to each of their offspring, who in turn will have an increased susceptibility for these cancer types. Individuals who find out that they are BRCA carriers through genetic testing have cancer risk-reducing and reproductive options.

Today, most health insurance policies cover BRCA testing only for those who are considered at high risk to have a BRCA mutation those with a significant personal or family history of these cancers. However, individuals who are at low risk to have a BRCA mutation those who do not have a significant personal or family history of cancer along with those with no health insurance, are faced with steep out-of-pocket costs. Testing for the three common Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA founder mutations via the traditional, commercial-based process can cost more than $600 for these low risk and uninsured individuals. The Program for Jewish Genetic Health is now providing testing for $100, along with complimentary pre-test genetic counseling courtesy of Montefiore.

According to the PJGH, one of the primary goals of the new initiative, that also includes a research component, is to identify new BRCA mutation carriers in this low-risk group who otherwise would have gone undetected. Recent studies from Israel have reaffirmed that the 1 In 40 carrier rate in Ashkenazi Jews also applies to these low risk individuals, and suggest that the risks to develop cancer in BRCA carriers coming from both low risk and high risk families may be more equivalent than originally thought.

The Process Interested participants aged 25 and older who self-identify as Ashkenazi Jewish will begin by visiting the PJGHs BRCAcommunity Study website (http://brcacommunitystudy.einstein.yu.edu/), where they can learn more about BRCA and the initiative, and then be directed to complete a detailed demographic form and personal/family history questionnaire. The PJGHs genetic counselors will analyze all responses and assign each participant into one of two groups. Those who meet National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) testing criteria (high risk) will be offered comprehensive genetic counseling and BRCA genetic testing through standard-of-care insurance-based processes. These individuals will be scheduled for appointments at the PJGHs clinical affiliate, the Division of Reproductive Genetics at Montefiore, or directed to the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) website to identify other available genetic counselors.

Individuals not meeting NCCN testing criteria will be considered low risk and invited for a group genetic counseling session which will be provided free-of-charge. After the session, those who would like to proceed with testing will submit a saliva sample that will be tested for the three common Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA gene mutations at the subsidized rate; this rate is thanks in part to a generous grant from the Foundation for Medical Evaluation and Early Detection.

When test results are available, all participants in either group who are found to be carriers will be scheduled for an in-person genetic counseling appointment to review their results. These individuals will be counseled about screening and risk-reducing and reproductive options, advised to inform their at-risk relatives about their genetic test results, and directed to support resources, in part through the network of the Program for Jewish Genetic Health. High risk participants who are not found to be carriers of the three common BRCA mutations will be counseled appropriately, including given the option to undergo more comprehensive genetic testing.

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Haredi Orthodox women launch Israeli political party

Jewish woman at the Wailing Wall. Image via Wikimedia Commons

A group of haredi Orthodox women have formed a political party in Israel ahead of the March elections.

The party, called Bzchutan, or In their merit, was announced Monday as a response to the existing all-male haredi parties, the Sephardi Shas and Ashkenazi United Torah Judaism.

Bzchutanmembers said the party will focus on womens issues such as support for single mothers, womens health and womens rights in Orthodox divorces, according to Haaretz.

There are many walls of fear for haredi women within their communities, Bzchutan leader Ruth Colian was quoted as saying in Haaretz. They have nowhere to turn in the Knesset.

In 2013, Colian unsuccessfully petitioned the Supreme Court to mandate that the existing haredi parties include female representation.

Last year, when the Marchelection was announced, a group ofharedi women relaunched a campaign to gain female representation in the haredi parties. They have made little headway thus far.

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Shekel Sinks to 4-Per-Dollar as Traders Test Israel

Israel shares a few key economic similarities with the European Union: growth is slumping, consumer prices are falling and benchmark interest rates hover around zero.

So when European Central Bank policy makers unveiled last week an unprecedented quantitative-easing program in a bid to fuel growth, weakening the euro in the process, one of the currencies that fell the most with it was the shekel. It slumped to 4 per dollar for the first time in two years on Jan. 23 as traders speculated that Israels central bankers could implement further stimulative policies of their own to bolster the economy.

Falling consumer prices and sluggish growth have prompted Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug to keep the benchmark rate at 0.25 percent since August. Shes also purchased foreign currency to weaken the shekel and help exports that account for a third of the $274 billion economy. With early elections looming in March, policy makers will likely leave the rate unchanged at their Jan. 26 meeting, according to the median estimate of 23 analysts.

Theyve talked about unconventional measures, but at this point theyre letting the weak shekel do all the heavy lifting, Win Thin, global head of emerging-market strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., said by phone from New York on Jan. 23. They cant cut rates anymore but they can encourage or accept more weakness.

The shekel fell 1.4 percent to 4.0090 per dollar in New York on Jan. 23, one of the biggest declines among 31 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg. It has weakened 2.8 percent this year, extending its loss since 2013 to 13 percent. The yield on the countrys 3.75 percent benchmark bond due March 2024 dropped four basis points to 1.8 percent at 10:24 a.m. in Tel Aviv, the lowest level since the notes started trading in January last year.

The Israeli currency is expected to trade near 4 per dollar through the end of 2015, according to the median estimate of 21 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. That compares with a three-year high of 3.4116 in July.

The shekel has fallen more than 14 percent since the Bank of Israel announced the first of two surprise cuts on July 28. A Bloomberg index of the most-traded Israeli stocks in the U.S. has climbed 2.4 percent during the period, including a 1.7 percent advance last week.

The risk of a political change in March that could spark violent flare ups with Hamas and Flugs efforts to stop deflation are bolstering bearish bets on the shekel, said Daniel Tenengauzer, head of emerging markets and global foreign-exchange strategy at RBC Capital Markets LLC.

The main combo for being long the dollar versus the shekel is an ultra-loose monetary policy stance with a lot of noise going into the elections, Tenengauzer, who predicts the shekel will reach 4.25 in the first quarter, said by phone Jan. 23. Because its so low-yielding and you have event risk, people say, Its a great currency to either have underweight in my portfolio, or be outright short.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called early elections Dec. 2 after clashing with members of his governing coalition over issues including peacemaking. The political turmoil hit an economy struggling to recover from the 50-day war with Gaza-based Palestinian militants in July and August.

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Shekel Sinks to 4-Per-Dollar as Traders Test Israel

Reclaiming Sephardic music, culture on road to Spanish citizenship

Noa (left) and Maya Dori with their grandmother, Lisa Romano. Photo courtesy of Noa Dori

When Maya and Noa Dori were kids growing up in Israel, they used to spend Shabbat with their grandmother Lisa Romano. One night, as Maya tells it, they walked outside and started to pinpoint the stars. Their grandmother quickly swatted Noas hand, furious.

She said, Its forbidden, Maya remembered during a recent phone call from Spain.

When Maya and Noa asked why, their grandmother told them, simply, that horrible things would happen to their fingers if they counted the stars. For years, the mystery behind this star-crossed obsession vexed the sisters.

As they grew up, Maya and Noa became more and more interested in their grandmothers Sephardic heritage, until finally, a decade ago, Maya decided to try reclaiming her Spanish citizenship. As part of her research, the answer to the star-counting mystery finally revealed itself.

During the time of the Inquisition in Spain, Maya explained, They were hunting people that said they converted to Christianity, but at home preserved their Jewish customs and heritage. [The Inquisition authorities] stood at the corner of the street, [on] Shabbat, waiting for those trying to pinpoint three stars.

Those who were caught were instantly recognized as Jews, and the Spanish would do terrible things to them, she continued. The fear of counting the Sabbath stars was then passed down through the generations, all the way to Maya and Noas grandmother.

When Maya went before the Spanish authorities to reclaim her citizenship, she told them the story of her grandmother and the stars. Now, Maya and Noa are hoping to help other Jews of Spanish descent reclaim their birthright by applying for Spanish citizenship. To do so, theyve founded an organization, Lisa Advisors, named after their grandmother.

Theyre holding a special evening of music and learning at the Roxbury Park Community Center in Beverly Hills on Jan. 29 at 6:30 p.m., hoping the Los Angeles Sephardic community will turn out to hear about their stories and to listen to some wonderful music.

Two years ago, the Spanish government announced a big project about giving Spanish citizenship to Sephardic Jews, Maya said. A lot of people dont know that they have a lot of things inside of their memory, inside of their family culture and history, that can be used as proof.

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Reclaiming Sephardic music, culture on road to Spanish citizenship

Israel Gains With Emigration of French Jewish Entrepreneurs

With a degree from the prestigious HEC Paris business school, five years at a global consulting firm, and a three-floor dream apartment in the French capitals 10th arrondissement, Mickael Nadjar had a comfortable and prosperous life in his native France.

Four years ago, he left it all behind and headed for Tel Aviv. While he initially came to lead a business project in Israel, Nadjar ended up staying because he was tired of the daily frustrations and slights endured by practicing Jews in France. After the Paris attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher supermarket this month, Nadjar says, more friends have started contemplating a similar move.

I would not raise my children in France, said Nadjar, 32, who now lives in Tel Avivs gentrifying Florentin neighborhood. When I was growing up, to say youre a Jew in France wasnt a problem. Now, Im not so sure.

Since his move, Nadjar has obtained Israeli citizenship and launched a technology startup that employs six people. His trajectory indicates an expected influx of French Jews to Israel may have an economic impact that goes beyond better baguettes and increased imports of Bordeaux grands crus.

Some 7,000 French citizens emigrated to Israel in 2014, more than people from any other nation. The Jewish Agency expects that number to roughly double this year due to a sluggish French economy, high taxes on top earners, and increasing anti-Semitism.

With experience in fields ranging from telecommunications to biotech to finance, those people could have an effect not unlike the Protestant Huguenots driven from France in the 16th and 17th centuries, who became an economic engine in the U.S., Canada, and several European countries. Frances Jews are on track to be the biggest infusion of human capital in decades to a country that has long seen its growth closely linked to whats called Aliyah — Hebrew for ascendance and a word that has come to mean Jewish immigration to Israel.

In the past decade, theres been migration from France for financial reasons, said Avi Mayer, a spokesman for the Jewish Agency, a non-profit group aimed at boosting immigration to Israel. Over the past couple of years, though, weve seen more and more people cite growing insecurity about terrorism. Since the recent attacks, he said, inquiries have tripled.

Dov Maimon, a French migr who studies migration as a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute, expects as many as 250,000 French — about half of Frances current Jewish population — to come to Israel in the next 15 years.

This is a huge opportunity for Israel — from an economic as well as a cultural perspective, said Maimon, who is working on a plan to lure the affluent with tax benefits and grants. One of the biggest drivers of economic growth in Israel has always been immigration.

Maimon says the challenge for Israel will be to attract wealthier, more secular members of the community, who are more likely to move to the U.S. or Canada — or simply stay in France. Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association, points out that many Jews in France remain tied to jobs and family there and view life in Israel, where war breaks out every few years, as inherently risky.

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Israel elections 101: Did merger of Arab parties create a power-broker?

UPDATE 8:40 a.m. Friday:Arab political parties in Israel agreed late Thursday to merge their lists for the upcoming Israeli elections after resolving a dispute over the sharing of any additional representation in parliament. The following story, published hours before the agreement was announced, explains the motivations for, and possible impact of, the merger.

NAZARETH, Israel For most of Israels history, a divided collection of parties representing the countrys Arab citizens has operated at the margins of national political life.But a first-ever push to merge three Arab parliamentary parties into a single slate for this March’s general election is generating optimism among a disillusioned minority that makes up one fifth of the electorate.

Their hope is that the merger, which appears imminent, could help install a more dovish coalition government that would restart the peace process with the Palestinians and redress decades of inequality for Arab Israelis. The Arab parties, which together control 11 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, hope to add anywhere from one to four seats.

But a nagging doubt persists: would such a strategygalvanize higher Arab voter turnout. While participation in local elections has been high exceeding 80 percent the trend in parliamentary elections has been downward. In 2013 it was 57 percent, lagging the overall participation rate by 11 percent, because of increasing alienation from the Israeli mainstream and frustration with their own elected legislators.

A united campaign would be a symbolic milestone with the potential to boost Arab voter turnout by about one-third, argues Nohad Ali, a sociology professor at Haifa University, who advised Israeli legislators to raise the threshold for parties’ representation in parliament.

Its an issue of identity. It will demonstrate to the [Arab] public that the unifier between us is greater than that which separates us, says ProfessorAli, who says his surveys show overwhelming public support for the move.

Offsetting that optimism over voter turnout are the political tensions that continue to alienate Arabs in Israel:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has campaigned hard for newlegislation elevating Israels Jewish character over its democratic traditions

Israeli police have shot dead twoArab citizens of Israelin the last three months

and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party has called for UmmEl Fahm, the second-largest Israeli Arab city, to be ceded toa future Palestinian statein exchange for Jewish settlements in the West Bank being made part of Israel.

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Palestine | Encyclopedia Britannica

Alternate titles: Eretz Yisrael; Philistia; Syria Palaestina

Palestine,area of the eastern Mediterranean region, comprising parts of modern Israel and the Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip (along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea) and the West Bank (the area west of the Jordan River).

The term Palestine has been associated variously and sometimes controversially with this small region, which some have asserted also includes Jordan. Both the geographic area designated by the name and the political status of it have changed over the course of some three millennia. The region (or at least a part of it) is also known as the Holy Land … (100 of 28,534 words)

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Palestine | Encyclopedia Britannica