Back in 1991 Chen Yiyi was, as he puts it, a “bored” law student at Peking University. At the time, China was in the process of formalizing relations with Israel, and the Chinese Education Ministry and Israel’s Foreign Ministry selected his university as the site of China’s first Hebrew course taught by visiting Israeli teachers. When the class fell short of its eight-student enrollment target, Chen was persuaded to sign up to boost its numbers.23
The controversy over what is dead according to Jewish law is no longer an intramural question among Orthodox rabbis on either side of the Atlantic. In Britain it is now being played out in public. As in the United States, the emotional question of organ donation is the battlefield. The most recent round of arguments began in early January, when the London Beth Din, the religious court associated with the United Synagogue — Great Britain’s Orthodox umbrella group — and its chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, issued guidelines on organ donation. The beit din’s ruling was that brain stem death is not death for the purpose of heart and lung donation; a person is dead under traditional Jewish law, or Halacha, only when there is a cessation of cardio-respiratory function.3
The news that one of the country’s largest Jewish foundations will close in two years, its assets to be divided among the foundations of its founder’s heirs, is shining a spotlight on a major question in the Jewish philanthropic world: How will Jewish philanthropic giving weather the transfer of assets from one generation to the next?
Among the volunteers who joined a sewing circle to remember the victims of the Triangle Waist Company fire 100 years ago, the talk around the table jumped from details of the historic blaze to an eerily similar fire that erupted in a garment factory in Bangladesh in December. Several Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition members discussed the fire in a factory near Dhaka, Bangladesh, that killed at least 25 workers and injured another 100. More than a dozen trapped workers jumped to their deaths from the 10th floor to escape the blaze.
A long-running feud between Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross and its American fundraising affiliate is coming to an acrimonious end that is expected to result in the Israeli group increasing its influence over the American-based charity. Magen David Adom, Israel’s leading provider of emergency medical help and blood services, is expected to renew its contract with American Friends of Magen David Adom, the American organization that raises more than $20 million annually for the Israeli group.6
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