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Playing for Peace
So you think you can do a better job than Ehud Olmert or Mahmoud Abbas of bringing peace to the Middle East? Now players of the computer game PeaceMaker (above) can “play the news,” making political moves based on events presented using actual news reports and footage.
One of a new genre of sociopolitical games, PeaceMaker was created by Israeli Asi Burak, 36, and American Eric Brown, 31, who met as graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and founded the company Impact Games (www.impactgames.com).
“It’s an excellent educational tool and a great way to get to kids over 13,” Burak says of the game. “People don’t really understand the news, and the interactive form is much more effective than TV or newspapers.”
Thousands of copies of PeaceMaker, which allows play in English, Hebrew or Arabic, have been sold in more than 60 countries, including the Arab nations of Lebanon, Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Impact Games is now developing versions for other worldwide conflicts. —Esther Hecht
Don’t Change That Channel
Stay tuned, America. There could be a cable television channel coming to you on Comcast featuring Jewish foreign films, kosher cooking shows, children’s programming and breaking news from Israel.
Shalom TV (www.shalomtv.com) debuted in Philadelphia and northern Delaware in 2006 and became available in Baltimore, northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., last May. If the channel proves a success, Comcast could take it nationwide.
Rabbi Mark Golub, Shalom TV CEO, promised “exciting Jewish programs of an entertaining nature and educational nature.”
“The content complements our commitment to offer programming that meets the diverse interests of our customers,” said Comcast spokesman Josh Kodeck.
Subscribers pay an extra $5.99 a month for the service in Baltimore and Washington, and $7.99 in Philadelphia. —Lisa J. Huriash
I’d Like to Engineer the World a Coke
Employing their renowned technological savvy, Israeli researchers have created the world’s first line of artificial coloring- and preservative-free Coca-Cola products. The family of products includes Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Fanta, Nestea and other popular drinks; all the new versions are said to maintain their familiar tastes. Coca-Cola Israel (www.cocacola.co.il) is so far only selling the beverages—which, like the originals, are kosher—in the Jewish state. —Libby Goldberg
Play Ball, Says the Rabbi
Two professional sports teams in California—baseball’s San Francisco Giants and basketball’s Golden State Warriors—have adopted an eccentric Lubavitch personality as “The Rally Rabbi.”
Rabbi Yosef Langer, founder of Chabad of San Francisco, blew the shofar as a rally call before the first pitch at a Giants game in August 2006. He was such a hit that for this summer’s annual Jewish Heritage Night on August 8, the Giants modeled a bobblehead doll (left) after his likeness as a gift to fans. It’s complete with a long black coat, signature Borsalino hat and flowing white beard.
Expanding definitions of what it means to be a Hasidic rabbi in the 21st century is nothing out of character for Langer. To get around San Francisco, he drives a three-wheeled motorcycle lovingly called “The Mitzvah Bike.” —Lisa Alcalay Klug
Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend
Suzyn Waldman has two things in common with legendary Dodger Sandy Koufax: They both made careers in baseball and they both take off for Yom Kippur.
Since 2005, Waldman, 58, has provided color commentary for New York Yankees radio broadcasts, making her the only woman ever to do that for more than a year for a major league team. A breast cancer survivor, she’s also an accomplished singer who once starred in the musical “Man of La Mancha” opposite Richard Kiley.
Waldman (below) has a stipulation in her contract with the Yankees that she can take off for both High Holidays. This history-making commentator once told The Jewish Week of New York that Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez asked her why Jews do not work on Yom Kippur.
“I told him ‘the Scriptures don’t say do not play on Yom Kippur unless the Yankees are still playing,’” she said. —Peter Ephross
Celebrating Judaism Alfresco
The inspiration for this sukka—made of cedar, steel and net siding—comes from architect and SukkahSoul Company founder Susan Shender’s spiritual searching, and from her disappointment in traditional sukka kits.
While enrolled in a Florence Melton Adult Mini-School Jewish program some years ago, Shender and her study partners decided to erect a sukka. But the outdated kit they had to work with came lacking instructions and aesthetic appeal, and the finished product had to be stabilized with additional slats of wood. The challenge of designing a striking and sturdy sukka immediately appealed to Shender. Building on the commandment to beautify the mitzvot, she turned her professional expertise to creating a simple-to-assemble and attractive sukka that stores easily. The result is the SukkahSoul sukka (www.sukkahsoul.com).
“Love of the ritual and appreciation for sources came together for me in the beauty of a good design, and it was a profound experience,” Shender says. “I hope the beauty of the physical environment deepens delight and pleasure in the celebration of this holiday.” —L.G.