Jew of the Week: Eytan Stibbe

Second Israeli in Space

Eytan Meir Stibbe (b. 1958) was born in Haifa to Jewish parents who had made aliyah from the Netherlands. He grew up partly in the United States. Stibbe joined the Israeli Air Force and became an F-16 fighter pilot. He served under the command of Ilan Ramon, who would go on to become Israel’s first astronaut. Stibbe served with distinction, and once tied a record by shooting down four enemy aircraft in a single battle over Lebanon in 1982. In another mission, he downed a total of five Syrian aircraft! Stibbe was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, and went on to teach at the IAF Flight Academy. Altogether, he served with the Israeli Air Force for some 43 years. Meanwhile, in 1984 he joined Israel Aircraft Industries to help modify and improve Israel’s own Lavi fighter jet. The following year, he co-founded Elar, a new Israeli military tech developer. When he left the company in 2011 and sold all of his shares, he had become a millionaire. Stibbe then turned his attention to his new Vital Capital Fund, which invests specifically in projects designed to alleviate poverty and clean up the environment. The Fund has helped bring sanitation, electricity, and healthcare to millions of people around the world, and has won numerous awards for its philanthropic work. Stibbe has always dreamed of following his mentor Ilan Ramon to space. He purchased a $55 million ticket on board a SpaceX craft, in collaboration with Axiom Space, which took off on April 8th for a ten-day mission. This is the first ever privately-funded human mission to space, and Stibbe is now only the second Israeli ever to go to space. He is not only a passenger, but also doing important scientific work, carrying out a total of 35 experiments, including on space radiation, optics, and quantum communications. Because of several delays, the Rakia mission (from the Biblical Hebrew word for outer space) ended up overlapping with Passover. And so, Stibbe took with him a Pesach seder kit prepared by Chabad, with shmurah matzah and four mini-cartons of grape juice (wine is prohibited on the ISS!) The return trip has also been delayed due to poor weather, and is expected to finally return to Earth this Sunday.

Passover: Fighting for Freedom

Words of the Week

Moses spoke not about freedom but about education. He fixed his vision not on the immediate but on the distant future, and not on adults but children. In so doing he was making a fundamental point: It may be hard to escape from tyranny but it is harder still to build and sustain a free society. In the long run there is only one way of doing so – to defend a country you need an army, but to defend a civilization you need education.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Jew of the Week: Madeleine Albright

First Female Secretary of State

Marie Jana Korbelova (1937-2022) was born in Prague to a Jewish family. Her father was a Czech diplomat and when Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia in 1938, the family fled and ended up in Britain. Traumatized by what they had experienced, and distraught over the loss of their parents and many other relatives in the Holocaust, the Korbels decided to convert to Catholicism and bury their Jewish identity for good. They did not tell their children that they were Jewish. After the war, the family return to Prague and Marie Jana went on to study in Switzerland, where she changed her name to Madeleine. When the Communists took over Czechoslovakia in 1948, the family fled again, this time to the US. Madeleine studied political science and wrote for The Denver Post, where she met her husband, journalist Joseph Albright. She went on to earn her Ph.D, focusing on the Soviet Union, and became fluent in Russian. In 1980, she was given a research grant at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and explored Poland’s solidarity movement. She traveled across Poland for a long time and became fluent in the language. When she returned, Albright became a professor at Georgetown University, and also a foreign policy advisor for the Democratic Party. In 1993, Bill Clinton selected Albright to be the ambassador to the UN, and in 1997 she became the US Secretary of State, the first woman to hold the post and the highest-ranking women in the history of US government. One of her key moves was getting the US involved to stop the massacres in Bosnia, arguing that there was no point having a “superb military… if we can’t use it”. In 1998, she formulated NATO’s “3D” policy of “no diminution, no discrimination, no duplication”. After leaving government, Albright briefly served on the board of the New York Stock Exchange. Although she had been vocal about stopping Saddam Hussein back in the 90’s, she opposed the Iraq War. She ran a consulting firm, and also returned to teaching at Georgetown. Albright was awarded multiple honourary degrees and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Last year, she was on Forbes’ list of “50 Over 50” influential people. Altogether, she spoke 8 languages. Sadly, Madeleine Albright passed away last week after a battle with cancer.

When Madeleine Albright Found Out She’s Jewish

Russia, Ukraine, and the Coming of Mashiach

Words of the Week

Such is the way of fools: Once they achieve a little knowledge and awe, they think they have achieved a high level and don’t realize how ignorant they are.
– Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa

Jew of the Week: Rav Chaim Kanievsky

Prince of Torah

Shmaryahu Yosef Chaim Kanievsky (1928-2022) was born in Pinsk (then Poland, now Belarus) and made aliyah with his family to Israel when he was six years old. He never left the Holy Land thereafter. His father was the great “Steipler Gaon”, Rabbi Yaakov Kanievsky, and his maternal uncle was the famed Chazon Ish. Following in their footsteps, Kanievsky became a rabbi, too, and was recognized as a sharp scholar at a young age. As a yeshiva student during Israel’s Independence War, he briefly served in the newly-formed IDF and defended Jaffa (though he did it spiritually, spending most of the time at his post learning Torah!) He then married the daughter of another great rabbi, Rav Elyashiv. Rabbi Kanievsky typically studied Torah for about 17 hours a day. He would wake up at midnight to pray Tikkun Chatzot (mourning for the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the Jewish people) and then learned for the rest of the day, starting with eight (double-sided) pages of the Talmud Bavli, followed by eight pages of the Talmud Yerushalmi, and then selections from a number of Jewish legal codes, the Tanakh, as well as Midrashic and Kabbalistic texts. What normally takes a typical rabbi a lifetime to study, Rav Kanievsky would complete every year! He was famous for his total mastery of all Torah texts, with photographic memory and an ability to mentally “scan” these texts for any word or phrase. He was often called the “Prince of Torah”. In addition to his studies, Rav Kanievsky wrote over a dozen popular books and commentaries. Hundreds of people would line up daily to ask questions and request blessings. His blessings were known to be fulfilled, often miraculously, and his legal rulings were followed closely by religious Jews, especially those in non-Hasidic Ashkenazi communities. He regularly responded to thousands of letters, too. Rav Kanievsky lived simply in a small apartment in Bnei Brak his whole life. After the passing of Rav Shteinman in 2017, he was widely-recognized as the supreme authority on Jewish law, and the top gadol hador. Sadly, the Prince of Torah passed away shortly after the conclusion of Purim last week. He had completed his yearly study cycle the previous day. Some 750,000 people came to his funeral, making it among the largest in Israel’s history.

Words of the Week

In a lottery, it is not the ticket that wins but the person.
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky