Tag Archives: Brooklyn

Jew of the Week: Arno Penzias

Arno Allan Penzias (b. 1933) was born in Munich. As a six year old, he was evacuated from Nazi Germany through the British Kindertransport rescue operation which saved 10,000 Jewish children. He was later reunited with his parents, who brought the family to New York. Penzias grew up in Brooklyn and went on to study physics. He graduated among the top of his class, then served two years in the US Army as a radar officer. From there, he got a research position at Columbia University’s Radiation Lab, where he helped to develop the maser (a “microwave laser”). After earning a Ph.D in physics from Columbia, Penzias got a job at Bell Labs to do astronomy research with microwave receivers. He was soon joined by Robert Wilson. The two noticed their antenna picking up an inexplicable signal. After ruling out all forms of interference, and carefully cleaning the antenna, the weak signal persisted. The two collaborated with another physicist, Robert Dicke, to show that this signal was the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, the remnants of the universe’s birth, as predicted by the Big Bang Theory. The existence of CMB confirmed that the universe had a beginning, with a burst of radiation, and simultaneously confirmed ancient Jewish teachings about the universe’s origins. The Zohar, a famous mystical commentary on the Torah that was first published some 700 years ago, explains that the universe began with a nikuda hada d’zohar, a singular point of radiance, from which all things were formed. The Zohar explains that this ever-expanding radiance continues to fill the universe, based on the words in the Biblical Book of Daniel (12:3) which describes the “radiance of the firmament”. In fact, this is how the book got its name, Zohar meaning “radiance”. Penzias’ and Wilson’s monumental discovery brought about a beautiful harmony between Torah and science, at once confirming both the modern Big Bang Theory and the holy words of the ancient Jewish Sages. The two physicists won the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics. Penzias continued his work at Bell Labs for a total of 37 years, rising to the position of Vice President of Research. He was made a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences. Penzias later moved to Silicon Valley to advise venture capitalists and tech start-ups. Despite being in his 80s, he is still a venture partner at New Enterprise Associates, and says he has “no plants to retire”.

Words of the Week

Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan.
– Arno Penzias

Penzias and Wilson at the antenna where they made their famous discovery

Jew of the Week: Rabbi Yehuda Glick

Israel’s Newest Member of Knesset

Yehuda Glick (Credit: Amitay Salomon)

Yehuda Glick (Credit: Amitay Salomon)

Yehuda Joshua Glick (b. 1965) was born in Brooklyn to an Orthodox Jewish family which made aliyah to Israel when he was nine years old. After completing his rabbinical studies, Glick began working for the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. In 2005, after some ten years, he quit the job to protest Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. He then served as executive director of The Temple Institute, an organization working to rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem through peaceful means. Glick is most famous for his activism with regards to permitting Jews to ascend the Temple Mount. This area is the holiest site in the world for the Jewish people, yet entrance to it is severely limited for Jews, and prayer there is currently forbidden to all but Muslims. As chairman of the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation and leader of the HaLiba group, Glick has worked tirelessly to end this racist policy, and to open the Temple Mount for visitation and prayer to people of all faiths. He envisions rebuilding a temple – “a house of prayer for all nations” – next to the Dome of the Rock. For leading prayer groups to the Temple Mount, Glick has been arrested multiple times. In 2013, he went on a hunger strike to protest a ban that forbid him to go to the Temple Mount. After twelve days without food, Glick was permitted to return to the Mount. In 2014, after giving a speech at a Jerusalem conference, an Arab man approached Glick and shot him four times in the chest before driving off on a motorcycle. Glick underwent multiple surgeries, and was unable to communicate or breathe on his own for a couple of weeks. Amazingly, he survived the assassination attempt. Shortly after, he joined the Likud political party, and was placed 33rd on its list. The party won 30 seats, making Glick third in line to become a parliamentarian. Over the past year, three Likud MKs resigned, including Moshe Ya’alon earlier this month. This opened the door for Glick to enter Knesset, which he did two days ago. His calls for peace, prayer, and human rights are truly universal, as he has stood by not only Orthodox Jews, but also Christian groups and Reform Jews (including the Women of the Wall) who aim to pray freely at Jerusalem’s holy sites. He has also spoken frequently about ending the plight of the Palestinians, and bridging gaps between Jews and Muslims. In addition to his own six kids, Glick is the legal guardian of six more children, and two foster children. He has been compared to Gandhi, and described as “earthly, wise, thoughtful, nonviolent, and compassionate.” Last year, he was awarded the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism by the Jewish National Fund.

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Words of the Week

If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.
– Ellen Johnson Sirleaf