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Israeli astronaut Colonel Ilan Ramon, who flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia this week, conducted an experiment on Mediterranean dust and climate that was conceived, built and managed by scientists from Tel Aviv University. It is being discussed as a possible permanent addition to the International Space Station.

Two additional Israeli-designed experiments are also aboard the vehicle. The “Space Science for Peace Experiment,” a project of Tel Aviv University Ph.D. candidate Yuval Landau and Bethlehem-born Tariq Adwan, focuses on the idea of panspermia, the possibility that life might spread between the planets by way of microorganisms living on meteors. A third experiment, designed by the Pathology Institute at Tel Aviv Medical Center, an affiliate of Tel Aviv University, examines the use of probiotic “friendly” bacteria in space to improve the function of astronauts’ immune and digestive systems. Astronauts are taking an oral supplement of the bacteria in flight to counter space travel’s effects.

Venezuelan Jews Log On

With massive strikes in Venezuela that have paralyzed the economy and triggered political chaos, the country’s Jewish schools are operating via the Internet, according to the Jewish Agency for Israel’s education department, which runs the schools. Students are logging on to the agency’s Spanish-language Web site, where six emissaries from the department teach the students Hebrew, Jewish and Israeli studies. Some 18,000 Jews live in Venezuela, and 90% of the 1,700 Jewish children there attend Jewish schools.

Scholarships for Refugees

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society is encouraging students to apply for its 2003 scholarship awards competition. HIAS-assisted refugees who immigrated to the United States after January 1, 1992 are eligible for the scholarship. Last year, 100 American students received awards from the 29-year-old HIAS scholarship program, which is intended for high school seniors preparing to enroll in post-secondary education programs and students in college, university or graduate programs. March 17 is the deadline for applications.

Water Woes Examined

Israeli and Palestinian water experts gathered recently at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology for the fifth annual conference of the Israel Desalination Society to discuss the area’s severe water problems. “Water is the only area in which Israelis and Palestinians are continuing cooperation, and making substantial efforts that this will not be harmed,” said Nabil Al-Sherif, head of the Palestinian Water Authority, in a statement.

Ramah Names Director

The National Ramah Commission, the Conservative movement’s camping body, is tapping Rabbi Mitchell Cohen to be its new national director. He will begin his duties July 1. Cohen currently serves as the principal of the Upper School of the Solomon Schechter Schools of Westchester. He will succeed Rabbi Sheldon Dorph, who will retire after 14 years in the position. During Dorph’s tenure the Ramah camp network experienced record growth, the commission stated in a press release. The Ramah camps now have seven overnight and six day camps that annually serve more than 6,500 campers. The commission also runs a teen travel program to Israel and Europe, as well as offshoot camps in Israel, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Scholar Gets Professorship

The Jewish Theological Seminary recently appointed Benjamin Gampel, an authority on medieval and early modern Jewry, as the Dina and Eli Field Associate Professor of Jewish History. Gampel is the author of “The Last Jews on Iberian Soil” and the editor of “Crisis and Creativity in the Sephardic World.” He is working on a book about the riots and forced conversions of 1931 on the Iberian peninsula.

Women’s Program Moves

The Jewish Feminist Research Group, a longstanding program of Ma’yan, a Manhattan Jewish feminist group, formally transferred its place of operation to the Jewish Theological Seminary, placing itself under the auspices of the Jewish women’s studies program there. Scholar Anne Lapidus Lerner, who founded the women’s studies program in 1995, will serve as the research group’s director.

Campus Hillel Wins Grant

The Northern Arizona University Hillel received a $52,000 grant to promote Jewish activities on campus for the next three years from the Benjamin Goldberg Memorial Trust, which was set up to assist Jewish education, social services and religious organizations. “We have many students coming to NAU with a Jewish background looking for a connection,” said Hedy Jacobson, a Hillel advisor, in a statement.

A Matter of Change

Fifth-graders and their families in Detroit are emptying their piggybanks this weekend to participate in the local federation’s Tzedakah Experience. The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and the DeRoy Testamentary Foundation is sponsoring its annual Tzedakah Experience on January 26 at Temple Beth El. The program is expected to yield over $8,000 in change, according to a federation press release.

The event is also sponsored by Temple Beth El, Agency for Jewish Education, Department of School Services/Jewish Experiences for Families, Jewish Educator’s Council, The Detroit Jewish News and Bank One Michigan.

USY Israel Program

Nativ, United Synagogue Youth’s College/Leadership Program in Israel, is accepting applications for Fall 2003. Participants spend a year between high school and college working on a kibbutz, studying at Hebrew University and engaging in special religious and leadership training experiences, or study at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem. For info, visit

Day School Parley

The Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education will hold its Jewish Day School Leadership and Donor Assembly February 2-4 at the Los Angeles Park Hyatt. Philanthropists and communal leaders from federations and schools will gather to discuss day school advocacy, fundraising and teacher and student recruitment. Jeffrey Swartz, CEO of Timberland and a PEJE partner, and Rabbi David Woznica, executive vice president for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, will address the assembly.

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