NEW HAVEN — Connecticut has an illustrious history of hosting visiting Israeli professors on sabbatical.  Over the years, Israeli professors have come from Bar Ilan University, Hebrew University, Ben Gurion University, The Schechter Institute and other esteemed Israeli institutions to teach at Wesleyan, University of Hartford, the Hartford Seminary and Yale University.

This semester, Yale University and the New Haven Jewish community are proud to serve as home to two Bar Ilan University professors and their families.

Professor Gershon Bacon, and his wife Brenda, and Professor Gil Diesendruck, with wife Vivian and children Alon, Talia and Noa, are both currently living in the Westville neighborhood of New Haven. Both families are attending the Westville Synagogue.

“It is wonderful to have families like the Bacons and the Diesendrucks in our communities each year,” said Rabbi Wes Kalmar of the Westville Synagogue. “They add immeasurably to the community and the synagogue, bringing with them a taste of the land of Israel, its Torah, scholarship, and vibrancy. The warm friendships that they develop within the community make it very hard to see them go at the end of the year, although we look forward to visiting them in Israel. It is a special brocha that our shul merits to have such a wonderful rotating membership.”

The memory of Polish Jewry Professor Gershon Bacon, professor of Jewish History at Bar Ilan University, lives in the Ramot Bet neighborhood in Jerusalem. He is primarily interested in the history of Jews in Eastern Europe, particularly Poland, during the 19th and 20th centuries.

“I am interested in the memory of Polish Jewry that has become enshrined in our collective consciousness,” reports Professor Bacon.

Bacon recently delivered the Irving Kroopnick Memorial Lecture at Westville Synagogue, entitled, “Polish Jewry on the Eve of the Holocaust: Historical Memory and Historical Reality.”

Bacon, at Yale for the fall semester, is teaching a course entitled “Jews of Poland in the Interwar Years,” which is jointly offered by the history and religious studies departments. During his sabbatical, he is working on a book entitled, “The History of the Jews of Poland in Modern Times,” to be published as part of the University of California Series on Modern Jewish communities.

Bacon has been in contact with graduate students and colleagues throughout the semester and notes playfully that, “in an era of email, cell phones and Skype, it is not hard to be in contact with Bar Ilan.”

The Bacons say they have enjoyed their stay in New Haven.

“All of the preliminary advertisements about the warmth and welcoming nature of the New Haven community have been borne out,” reports Bacon, who has become an active member of the daily and Shabbat minyanim at the Westville Synagogue. His wife, Brenda, is a participant in Westville’s weekly Shabbos text study group.

Prof. Bacon also praises the “Jewish and general goings on in the Yale community.” In particular, he has enjoyed the programs offered by the Yale Initiative for the Study of Anti-Semitism.

But the Bacons say that the do miss their family and friends in Israel. While four adult children and three grandchildren live in Israel, one son is temporarily living in Philadelphia as part of his wife’s University of Pennsylvania graduate studies.

Prof. Bacon jokes that, after many years of living in Israel, after making aliyah from America, he has “rediscovered that institution known as Sunday” which is typically a work day in Israel.

The Bacons have used Sundays to explore Connecticut, Rhode Island and other sites in the northeast. The Bacons return to Israel at the end of January.

An amazing adjustment
Prof. Gil Diesendruck, a resident of Renana, is a professor of psychology at Bar Ilan University. His primary area of interest is cognitive development and language acquisition in typically developing children.

Prof. Diesendruck will be at Yale for the entire academic year. In the fall semester, he is teaching a course entitled, “The Psychology of Culture.” While at Yale, Diesendruck hopes to write academic articles based on data he brought with him from Israel, and he hopes to collaborate with psychology department colleagues on projects of common interest.

In considering sabbatical destinations, Diesendruck selected Yale and New Haven for two reasons. 

“I know at least five people at Yale who are doing work related to what I do. And, we heard great things about the New Haven Jewish community-without the community and the knowledge that we’d find a Jewish day school and a community, we wouldn’t have been able to come.”

The Diesendruck’s three children attend the Ezra Academy in Woodbridge. “Ezra has been extremely welcoming and supportive-helping with English and with extra Hebrew attention.” The Diesendrucks further report, “We like the connection to Israel and Zionism in the school-singing Hatikvah every morning, etc.”

They have also found the Westville Synagogue to be “extremely welcoming” and report that the community, lectures, etc. have been intellectually stimulating.

The Diesendrucks, whose families are originally from South America, also rely on Skype and email to remain in contact with family and friends. “Our closest family is in Israel-it is tough for the kids to be separated from family.” But the Diesendrucks have made an amazing adjustment to life in America. The kids have made enormous strides with English, and they have made many friends at Ezra. And the family has also discovered Sundays, which they have spent exploring the Connecticut coast, Mystic, and Litchfield County.

“The biggest surprise for us has been the amount of water! In Israel, people travel to the north in the winter to see waterfalls and flowing rivers. Here, there are so many rivers. We are so envious!”

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Original Article Published on The Jerusalem Post

The eyes of the world are on the Boston Red Sox who are currently playing in baseball’s World Series against the Colorado Rockies. Star first baseman Kevin Youkilis was the subject of an amusing exchange last season between comedians Denis Leary and Lenny Clarke and the Red Sox announcers – all in the booth covering a Red Sox game. “That guy Youkilis is he Greek? Irish? No he’s Jewish!”; Another Boston athlete has been the source of some confusion this tennis season. “Amir Hadad – I didn’t know he was Jewish! I thought he was an Arab several Jewish sports fans reported, somewhat embarrassed. They did, however, note the irony of a Jew playing on a team named The Lobsters.”

Israeli tennis player Amir Hadad was one of five players on the co-ed Boston Lobsters World Team Tennis (WTT) team. World Team Tennis co-founded by Billie Jean King in 1974 features 11 teams from across the United States. Teams play a 14 ‘match’ season in the month of July. Unlike conventional first-to-six games sets (with winners being first to reach two or three sets) a WTT ‘set’ is the first player or team to win five games. A ‘match’ features five events – men’s singles women’s singles men’s doubles women’s doubles and mixed doubles. The winner of the match is the team to win the most games.

The six foot 185 pound right hander was born in Ramle and currently lives in Budapest with his wife of 10 years and their three-year-old daughter. Most of the Hadad family still lives in Israel and Amir reports that he plans to return to live in Israel in the future.

Hadad played for WTT’s St. Louis Aces in 2003 and 2004 and for the Boston Lobsters in 2006 and 2007. Hadad always enjoys the support he receives from the Jewish community while on the road. “The Jewish community is always so nice and supportive. I don’t spend so much time in Israel and it is tough to be away from home – and it is nice to come across Hebrew speakers on the road,” he says.

Hadad spent many years training at the Wingate Institute, where he frequently played with Israeli tennis players Andy Ram, Yoni Erlich, and Harel Levy. “We grew up there – Andy Yoni Harel and me,” notes Hadad, fondly recalling his days at Wingate. Hadad had hoped to meet up with Ram and Erlich during the WTT season – both were scheduled to play for the St. Louis Aces. Unfortunately they didn’t arrive in time for the Aces match against the Lobsters. Andy Ram and I spoke on the phone for an hour and a half.

Hadad 29 turned pro in 1995. He reached a career highest ranking of 87 (for doubles) in 2003 and a career highest of 180 for singles in the same year. He is currently ranked 842 in singles and 920 for doubles. Thus far in 2007 Hadad has reached the semifinals in two Futures tournaments. While Hadad has earned only slightly more than $20 this year he has earned a total of $248,588 during his 12 year professional tennis career.

In past years Hadad has qualified for several prestigious tournaments including Wimbledon, the French Open and the US Open. In 1999 Hadad lost in the first round in the Wimbledon singles tournament. In the 2002 French Open he lost in the second round. Hadad is perhaps best known around the world for playing doubles in the 2002 Wimbledon tournament with Aisam Ul-Haq Quereshi, a Pakistani Muslim. The pair reached the third round at Wimbledon after upsetting the 11th seeds in the second round.

While Hadad and Quereshi never intended to make a statement by teaming up, their pairing made international news. The Pakistani Sports Board threatened to ban Quereshi for teaming with an Israeli Jew. In contrast Hadad received support from his fellow citizens and his government. In time the Pakistani government’s threat was rescinded and Quereshi was invited to join Pakistan’s Davis Cup team. Quereshi interviewed this summer after a grueling day of both singles and doubles at the Campbell’s Tennis Championships at Newport Rhode Island said he was proud of his partnership with Hadad at Wimbledon.

“We teamed up to do well not for the image he said. Quereshi is proud of his decision to play with Hadad and feels, You don’t mix politics and religion with sports.” Hadad still feels warmly toward Quereshi and affectionately tells the story of how they began playing together. “We played against each other twice and I beat him both times. The third time I asked him if he wanted to join me. We had one thing in common – tennis. We played great together and we have fun on and off the court.” Quereshi and Hadad clearly shared more than a love for tennis. Hadad reports that at tournaments the two stayed in the same hotel, ate all their meals together, hung out before the matches, practiced together and met each other’s families. “They are nice people. They are the same like us and they are comfortable to be around,” he said.

Following their success at Wimbledon, the two decided to team up again at the 2002 US Open. They were awarded a wild card by the tournament and won their first-round match. In February 2003 both were awarded the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award. I found out about it while at a tournament – the Belgrade Challenger – when an umpire came up to me and told me. I didn’t know how prestigious it was. Then I found out that people like Agassi Edberg Roddick and Nelson Mandela had received it. I have the trophy in my house says Hadad. Receiving the award was a great honor echoes Quereshi.

Both men hold firm in their convictions that sports transcends politics and religion. Hadad adds, “Everybody can connect through sports. The religion of the player doesn’t matter.”

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NEW HAVEN — Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, new assistant rabbi at Yale Universitys Slifka Center, has quickly fallen in love with her job and the Yale community.

One of the great things about Jewish life at Yale is that you dont have to define yourself here, she notes. There are people who are comfortable not committing themselves to one movement.

Holtzblatt explains that some students comfortably attend both the Conservative minyan and either Minyan Urim (separate seating minyan with women permitted to read Torah and lead parts of the prayer service) or the Orthodox minyan. While Holtzblatt, recently ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, will be working with the Conservative minyan, she will also be involved with many Slifka Center-wide programs including teaching classes and reaching out to unaffiliated students.

Holtzblatt praises the already strong Carlebach-style Friday night minyan and the Downtown (Conservative) (Shabbat morning) Minyan, which tends to mainly attract somewhat older community members. Holtzblatt will be working with Conservative students on campus by listening to what they need and helping them figure out who they are. Holtzblatt has thus far organized a meeting of 12 students who are committed to setting up a once a month Shabbat morning Conservative minyan, scheduled to start Oct. 20, which may evolve into a service which meets more often.

While Holtzblatt only joined the Slifka team at the end of the summer, she has already implemented and been actively involved with some out of the box programs, including a Rosh Hashanah Block Party on Wall Street-complete with apple tasting and honey bobbing–and a post Kol Nidrei Bang Out Your Sins drumming circle-a combination of drumming and learning about the meaning of teshuva (repentance).

Holtzblatt is a keen observer of the Slifka scene. She has noticed that 100-150 students walk through the doors at Slifka on a given Friday night and are finished Shabbat dinner by 8pm. She notes, We need to ask, What can we do to enhance their Shabbat?

Holtzblatt will undoubtedly draw from the training she received at Manhattans famed Bnai Jeshurun (BJ) Synagogue, known for its commitment to social justice and its innovative use of music in prayer services. At Bnai Jeshurun, she was actively involved in running programs for 20 and 30 somethings, which included Friday night dinners and a post-dinner tisch.

According to BJ Rabbi Roly Matalon, Lauren has made a tremendous impact here at BJ during her two-year Marshall Meyer fellowship. She has a strong commitment to building community through serious learning, prayer, and gemilut hasadim. She is passionate about social justice and has a clear understanding of how Judaism mandates our concern and involvement.

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A kosher lobster has been spotted in Boston this summer. And it is the Israeli variety.

Israeli tennis player Amir Hadad is one of five players on the co-ed Boston Lobsters World Team Tennis (WTT) team. World Team Tennis, co-founded by Billie Jean King in 1974, features 11 teams from across the United States, playing a 14 match season in the month of July. Each WTT “match” features five events — men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles. A WTT “set” is the first player or team to win five games. The winner of the “match” is the team to win the most games.

Hadad returned to the Lobsters for a second consecutive season after playing for the St. Louis Aces in 2003 and 2004. The 6′, 185 pound right hander (who hits with a two-handed backhand) was born in Ramle, Israel and currently lives in Budapest, Hungary with his wife of ten years, and their three year old daughter. Most of the Hadad family still lives in Israel, and Amir plans to eventually return there.

Hadad appreciates the support he has received from the Jewish community while on the road.

“The Jewish community is always so nice and supportive. I don’t spend so much time in Israel, and it is tough to be away from home-and it is nice to come across Hebrew speakers on the road,” he said, in an interview at the Beren Tennis Center at Harvard University before a recent match.

Hadad was looking forward to meeting up with fellow Israel tennis players Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich, who were on the roster of the St. Louis Aces for the summer WTT season.

Hadad fondly recalls his years learning and playing at Israel’s Wingate Institute. “We grew up there-Andy, Yoni, Harel Levy and me.”

Hadad, 29, turned pro in 1995. In 2003, he reached a career high, ranking 180 in the world for singles and 87 for doubles. He is currently ranked 864 in singles and 1284 for doubles.

Hadad has played in many tournaments throughout the world in his 12-year professional career. Hadad has won 11 Challenger doubles events, including Rome in 2006. In 2006, he also won Futures singles titles in Israel and China.

Hadad has also qualified for several prestigious tournaments including Wimbledon, The French Open and the U.S. Open. In 1999, Hadad lost in the first round (for singles) at Wimbledon. In the 2002 French Open, Hadad lost in the 2nd round.

Unique Partnership
Hadad is perhaps best known around the world for playing doubles in the 2002 Wimbledon tournament with Aisam Ul-Haq Quereshi, a Pakistani Muslim. The pair reached the third round at Wimbledon after upsetting the 11th seeds in the second round.

While Hadad and Quereshi never intended to make a statement by teaming up, their pairing made international news. The Pakistani Sports Board threatened to ban Quereshi for teaming with a Jew. In contrast, Hadad received support from his fellow citizens and his government. In time, the Pakistani government’s threat was rescinded, and Quereshi was invited to join Pakistan’s Davis Cup team.

Quereshi, interviewed after a grueling day of both singles and doubles at the Campbell’s Tennis Championships at Newport, Rhode Island last month, is proud of his partnership with Hadad at Wimbeldon.

He reports, “We teamed up to do well — not for the image. You don’t mix politics and religion with sports.”

Hadad recalls, “We played against each other two times-and I beat him two times. The third time, I asked him if he wanted to join me. We had one thing in common-tennis! We played great together — and we have fun on and off the court.” Quereshi and Hadad clearly shared more than a love for tennis. Hadad reports that at tournaments, the two stayed in the same hotel, ate all meals together, hung out before the matches, practiced together, and met each other’s families.

Following their success at Wimbledon, the two planned to team up again at the 2002 U.S. Open. They were awarded a wild card by the tournament and won their first round match. In February, 2003, both were awarded the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award.

Both men hold firm in their convictions that sports transcends politics and religion.

Hadad adds, “Everybody can connect through sports. The religion of the player doesn’t matter.”

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