Good News Friday

After an anniversary like today’s we need a Good News Friday post to put us into the mood for Shabbat.

On the subject of Kristallnacht, it is good news indeed that a rare 150-year old Torah scroll was discovered inside a shack on the site of the Lodz Ghetto:

A 150-year-old Torah scroll was found inside a shack in the Polish city of Lodz on a street that was part of the Jewish ghetto during the Holocaust.,fl_lossy/t_Article2016_ControlFaceDetect/431389

The Torah scroll found in a wooden shack in the Lodz Ghetto. . (photo credit: SHEM OLAM)

The scroll was transferred to the Shem Olam Holocaust Institute, established in 1996 in Kfar Haroeh by Rabbi Avraham Krieger, which then brought it to Israel.

The Lodz municipality was planning to demolish a number of old wooden shacks that had housed Jews. The scroll was found hidden inside a wall. Other Jewish artifacts were also found in the building and among its debris.

The Torah scroll was hidden by Jews almost 80 years ago in the ghetto and used on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.,fl_lossy/t_Article2016_ControlFaceDetect/431390

The wooden shack in the Lodz Ghetto where the Torah scroll was found.

“This is a historical finding and a rare piece of life from the ghetto that survived until today,” Krieger said. “The Poles continue to suppress our history. These lone wooden shacks left on the Lodz Ghetto streets were going to be demolished and the only evidence left in Poland of what happened in the Holocaust was going to be erased.”

Considering that the Lodz Ghetto was liquidated in 1944 after having held over 164,000 Jews, it is nothing short of a miracle that this Torah scroll was discovered still intact after all these decades. Kol hakavod to Rabbi Krieger of the Shem Olam Holocaust Institute for rescuing this Torah scroll, such a priceless part of our heritage.

Moving now to something as completely different as one could imagine from the ordeals of the Shoah, here is a beautiful heart-warming story from Israel. Yossi Goldin writes of his experience on El Al:

I am not someone that posts on Facebook often, but my recent experience on an EL AL אל על flight was so special that I wanted to take the opportunity to thank them publicly.

I flew into New York Monday morning for what was meant to be a two week trip for work for Midreshet Torat Chessed. On Monday afternoon I received a call from my wife back in Israel (who was pregnant in her 8th month) that her water broke and she was going to labor. I immediately went back to JFK airport and was able to book a seat on the flight that night to return to Israel. When we took off from JFK at 11:50pm that night, my wife was in the middle of labor, and I had no idea what was going to happen.

Yossi Goldin celebrates the birth of his child while he is praying aboard an El Al flight back to Israel

With no wifi on the flight, I wasn’t sure what I could do- I decided a few hours into the flight to approach one of the stewardesses, and after explaining to her that my wife was in labor (and clarifying that she was NOT on the plane) I asked if there was any part of the plane that had wifi so that I could check for any updates. She told me that there was no wifi on the plane but she asked for Shifra’s information- including what hospital she was in, her phone number- and said she would see what she can do.

I sat back down and began davening, not really sure what to expect. Ten minutes later the stewardess comes back to me with a tray that had on it a glass of wine and some chocolates and said “Mazel Tov, your wife had a baby boy- and everything is doing well!!”. Apparently, the pilot from the cockpit called Shifra on her cell phone on my behalf to ask how she was doing and for any updates, and Shifra was able to update him (after a minute of being in shock at being called from the cockpit of an airplane in flight).

Needless to say, this act of chessed was extremely special for both myself and Shifra- for me to be able to be updated on what was going on, and for Shifra to know that I was able to find out. We are so grateful to the staff at El Al for going above and beyond!

May we all continue to share only smachot!

What a wonderful only-in-Israel moment! And isn’t it fantastic to hear a good news story about El Al instead of the usual complaints? Kol hakavod to the pilot and crew of the El Al plane, and a hearty mazal tov to Yossi and Shifra Goldin! May we continue to hear only good news.

And since it is Rosh Chodesh Kislev today, the month in which Chanukah falls and we all overdose on sugar-loaded sufganiyot (doughnuts), it is extremely good news to lean that an Israel startup has developed a sweet protein to help cut calories (via Suzanne):

The surge in obesity levels globally – worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975, according to the World Health Organization — is causing food and health companies to scramble for ways to battle the glut and the gut.

One way is to decrease sugar intake, and food companies worldwide are struggling to find ways to cut the sugar content in their products but at the same time keep them tasting good. Israel’s SodaStream, which has successfully branded its fizzy drinks as a healthy alternative to super-sweet sodas, was snapped up earlier this year by US drinks giant PepsiCo Inc. for a massive $3.2 billion in cash, as a way to contend with falling demand for sugar-laden drinks.

Now, an Israeli food tech company, Rehovot-based Amai Proteins, says it has developed sweet proteins – based on those found in plants that grow along the equatorial belt — that can be used as sugar substitutes in a range of foods including sodas, yogurts, energy drinks, protein shakes, whipped cream, chocolate, spreads and syrups.

Ilan Samish, left, the founder and CEO of Amai Proteins working in his lab (Courtesy)

Sweet proteins, he explained, are up to 3,000 times sweeter than sugar by weight, with a 4-gram teaspoon of sugar equivalent in sweetness to less than 2 milligrams of a sweet protein.

“These ultra-sweet proteins… bind to the sweet-receptor on the taste bud just like sugar but are then digested just like a protein, thus not causing an insulin response, not presenting calories and, unlike other sweeteners, they have no effect on the microbiome, liver and kidneys,” Samish said.

However, these jungle-made proteins in the jungles are produced in small amounts, and they are not all identical. They also have an aftertaste, Samish said.

Samish and his team of computational protein designers studied the DNA makeup of the natural proteins and recreated it. They also redesigned it to decrease the aftertaste and to be able to make it in greater quantities.

The company, which began in The Kitchen Hub incubator of Israeli-based foodmaker Strauss, has already created a protein-sweetened soda for SodaStream with 50% to 80% less sugar content in a variety of flavors, including lemon, orange and coconut. Amai is also collaborating with Danone and PepsiCo, Samish said.

Wow, what a brilliant development! With so many overweight people, and diabetes becoming a scourge of Western society, this new protein has the potential to solve all these problems at one go. Kol hakavod to Ilan Samish, the founder and CEO of Amai, who developed this protein. I am sure we are looking forward to noshing on doughnuts with no effect on our sugar levels or our waistlines!

With this sweet thought in mind I wish you all Chodesh Tov and Shabbat Shalom!

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5 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. Pingback: Good News Friday – 24/6 Magazine

  2. Reality says:

    What a great post .Thank you.
    Shabbat Shalom

  3. Brian Goldfarb says:

    To add to the Torah Scroll item at the head of this article, last year (2017) we (my wife and I, accompanied by a friend) went to Westminster Reform Synagogue to hear a presentation on the ME by Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev. Before Ragev’s address (and most informative it was) we went to a presentation by the Synagogue’s Rabbi on their collection of saved Torah scrolls.

    It may or may not be well known, but the Nazis saved a large number of scrolls from destroyed communities for a projected museum of a vanished race (us Jews) which, as we know, didn’t happen – that we disappeared, that is. While many love to kill us, wholesale, somehow we collectively manage to survive.

    In the early 1950s, an art collector and art historian, Eric Estorick, American and Jewish, was on an art collection trip to the then Czechoslovakia (a Soviet satellite) and was approached by the Soviet rulers who, strapped for cash, asked him if he was interested in buying these 400+ scrolls. Being a canny businessman, he temporised and said he’d let them know.

    On his return to the UK, he contacted the Westminster Synagogue who found a donor, and the Scrolls were purchased and brought to the UK and this synagogue. One day, after their arrival, a (probably very orthodox) Torah scribe appeared at the synagogue, offering to rescue (by repairing and rewriting where possible) those Scrolls which were rescuable. Thereafter, every day, except for Shabbat and festivals, for a number of years, he came and did this task.

    Note that this man did not find going to a Reform synagogue a problem: the Scrolls were of vital importance. Those he rescued and returned to liturgical use have been donated to Jewish communities around the world who did not have Scrolls of their own, for whatever reason. The rest, mostly, remain at there synagogue, with some exceptions: one of them is on permanent display in the Reading Room of the Wiener Library (the Library of the Holocaust) in Russell Square, London, where I volunteer.

    As to Mark Regev’s talk: he implied (diplomats are good at that) that the ice might be starting to melt in the ME and especially among the Gulf States. How prescient was that!?

    Oh, and a last word on Mr Estorick: together with his wife, he founded an art gallery (the Estorick Gallery) in Barnsbury in London, focussing on Italian art of the late 19th & 20th Centuries. Further, he is mentioned, in passing, in the major book on the Monuments Men (those following behind the Western Allies in 1944-5 to reduce and return looted art) that underpins the recent film of the same name. The book is The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves by Robert M. Edsel. If you read it and find the reference to Eric Estorick, please email the gallery of the same name with the exact reference: they really would like to know!

    Another last word: last Thursday (8th November) we, together with 6 friends, all of us members of United Synagogues, went to Westminster Abbey for a Service of Remembrance and Hope on the 80th Anniversary of Kristallnacht. There were many Jews there, including Rabbis from the Reform and Liberal wings of Judaism but not one representative of the United Synagogue (unless the Israeli Ambassador – the same Mark Regev – counts as that)…and, yes, they were invited. Note that the Abbey din’t hold the Service on the actual date, which would have been a Friday evening, and thus during Shabbat, but the day before.

    We have written our letters to the Chief Rabbi (and the Jewish Chronicle) asking why they refused the invitation.

    Sorry to have written, effectively, an article on this!

    • anneinpt says:

      What a marvellous comment/post Brian! Thank you! No need to apologize, on the contrary! I love this comment. This story of the Sifrei Torah is wonderful and heart-warming.

      I think with your permission I shall use part of it for a post on the fast of 10th Tevet.

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        If any of it is reusable, for any occasion, please use it. Only those who are not our friends need permission to use my words!

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