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April 13, 2012

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PAGE 2A Israeli medicine goes to pot HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 13, 201: Abir Sultan/Flash90 A worker tends to cannabis plants grown for medicalpurposes at a facility near Safed. By Karin Kloosterman Israel 21c While Americans petition state senators to legalize medical marijuana, and the Dutch simply go to an Am- sterdam caf to self-medicate, thousands of Israelis are en- rolled in a regulated medical marijuana program. As talk- show veteran Montel Williams recently saw for himself, Israel is one of the most progres- sive countries in the world to "legalize it." Israel's inroads into le- galizing cannabis for pain relief and managing terminal illness rest on the seminal research of professor Raphael Mechoulam the Hebrew Uni- versity in Jerusalem's Center for Research on Pain. Back in 1964, working from bags of hashish seized by the local police, Mechoulam isolated the active compound from cannabis, THC. He came to be a trusted consultant on Prof. Raphael Mechoulam is the world's leader in research into the medical uses of can- nabls. the topic to governments and individuals--even to a U.S. senator who was worried about his child's use of pot at jazz clubs--and urged that derivative compounds called cannabinoids be legalized for medical purposes in Israel. Mechoulam's work has in- spired generations of research teams around the world to look to marijuana for alleviat- ing medical conditions from chemo-induced nausea to chronic pain. His work led to the discovery of ananamides, naturally occurring THC-like materials in the brain. Mechoulam was recently awarded the Rothschild Prize in physical and chemical sci- ences in recognition of his contributions. With the help of his efforts, Israel started to develop policies so that medi- cal marijuana can be accessed by those who need it most. Mechoulam's lab was one of the stops on a recent tour of Israel's medical marijuana researchers by U.S. celebrity Montel Williams, who told re- porters that the United States could learn a few things from Israel's approach. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999, Williams advocates for research and Abir Sultan/Flash90 A pharmacist sells cannabis joints to people with health conditions. education on new directions in treatment, including medi- cal marijuana, through his MS Foundation. Williams says that medical marijuana helps ease his neuropathic pain and he's working to legalize it in the United States. Mechoulam acknowledges that Israel's approach is prob- ably the most advanced in the world, considering the numbers of patients taking medical marijuana in a su- pervised way. "At present, about six or seven thousand people get it for various reasons, for [chronic] pain and for cancer, as it's helping the symptoms of cancer by lowering the amount of opiates patients have to take," Mechoulam tells ISRAEL21c. That number is expected to rise to about 40,000 by 2016. "People who are in great pain who are taking opiates aren't really functional any- more. Taking THC as a medi- cal marijuana, or in its pure form, means that the opiates can be lowered, and then this person will have a better way of life," he says. The Health Ministry slowly began the program in 1994, but it really got going in 2002 under the direction of Dr. Ye- huda Baruch from Abarbanel Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Bat Yam. Patients of all ages may ap- ply for approval through their own medical doctor or through the Sheba Medical Center, and must pass a rigorous screening process. Those eligible include cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy; cancer patients with final-stage tumors; pa- tients enrolled in an Israeli HIV center; and people under treat- ment for chronic pain, Crohn's or ulcerative colitis, MS and post-traumatic stress disorder. When properly dispensed under medical supervision, medical cannabis has a very low rate of abuse, says Mechoulam. Still working as a research- er, Mechoulam is asked peri- odically to test the levels of THC in pot grown by licensed Israelis. And while he's happy with the country's progress, he says more research needs to be done on standardizing the dosages and incorporat- ing missing elements in the medical strain used in Israel. "Basically Israel is moving in the right direction. [THC] has to be better quantified, and cannabidial, apotentanti- inflammatory agent, needs to be present in the doses used in Israel," he says. Cannabidial alleviates possible undesirable side-effects of THC. These room-to-grow tips not withstanding, "Israel is one of the leading cannibinoid centers of research in the world. There are about two dozen groups working on it and people come from all around the world to see what we do," Mechoulam says. Tunisia's Jews keep wary eye on political developments By Armin Rosen Sabbath--while chattering in dictator through a popular, TUNIS (JTA)--Tucked on a quiet side street blocks from the Mediterranean Sea, the last kosher restaurant in the Tunisian capital is a thriving center of Jewish tradition in a country of 10 million with nearly an entire Arab and Muslim population. Yet Jacob Lellouche, who has owned and operated Mamie Lily since it opened 16 years ago, says his business is hardly a Jewish bubble. Most of his customers are Muslim, and on a recent Thursday night, the restau- rant's cozy dining room is dominated by a large party of Tunisians sipping boukha--a fig-based liquor that Tunisian Jews traditionally drink on the By Helen Chernikoff New York Jewish Week The umbrella group serving Reform movement congre- gations is making organi- zational changes including firing and hiring in order to bring its structure in linewith the priorities of its new leader, Rabbi Rick Jacobs. Jacobs assumed the posi- tion at the movement's 2011 Biennial meeting in Decem- ber, when he also announced a new emphasis on both outreach to those unaffiliated with a synagogue and connec- tion with teens. Within a year of a child's bar or bat mitzvah, 50 percent of Reform families Arabic and French. Lellouche says the guests are liberal ac- tivists who have come to the restaurant to draft a statement on freedom of speech in the aftermath of the revolution that toppled Zine Abdine Ben Ali's regime in January 2011. "The civil society in Tunisia sustained the Jewish com- munity of this country," says Lellouche, explaining that relations between Tunisia's educated and politically en- gaged citizens and the coun- try's 1,500 Jews have always been mutually beneficial. "As long as there are Jews in the world there will be Jews in Tunisia," he says. But more than a year after Tunisia became the first Arab country to overthrow its nonviolent uprising, two religion-inspired political movements are challenging Tunisia's cosmopolitan politi- cal and social attitudes, and are threatening to reverse the country's long-standing moderation toward Israel and the Jews. Located just 80 miles off the coast of Sicily, Tunisia has been colonized by for- eign powers from the Roman Empire to modern France. But unlike other countries with a long colonial history, Tunisia has historically been a place where Middle East- ern and European values and ideas have converged, reinforcing one another Tunisa on page 19A upyernoz via CC Djerba Jews spending some time at the EI-Ghriba Synagogue on Tunisia's southern island. Reform umbrella restructures 900 congregations almost exclusively through regional or district offices. The union will be hiring specialists in Jacobs' priority areas--a total of 24 positions including part-time staffers and consultants--and it just fired 30 employees. The URJ has about 370 employees, most of them in New York. The union's budget between 2012 and 2013 will stay fiat at about $28 million. This round of restructur- ing is the URJ's second since 2008, when 60 staffers were fired due to budget constraints resulting from the recession, which had sharply reduced synagogues' revenue from membership dues. Those dues fund the URJ. Between 2005 and 2010, the number of URJ member households declined by 4.8 percent to 300,076; the num- ber of congregations fell to 897 from 909, said spokeswoman Annette Powers. Drooping synagogue affili- ation rates are a problem that crosses the lines of the liberal de- nominations. The United Syna- gogue of Conservative Judaism, which announced layoffs and structural changes in 2010 amid harsh member criticism, lost 6 percent of its congregations between 2001 and 2010. The number of member households fell 15 percent to 204,200. The pressures on individual congregations are causing them to question the value of their support organizations with a new intensity, said Dru Greenwood, who directs SYNERGY, UJA-Federation of NewYork's synagogue support effort. "In some cases it hurts to write that check to the URJ, so you want to make sure people are getting from the Union what they need," said Rabbi Robert Levine of Manhattan's Rodeph Sholom. Also in 2008, the URJ cut the number of regional of- rices from 14 to four, now in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York. In the long withdraw from synagogue life, Jacobs said then. In an attempt to more effec- tively tackle these problems, the Union for Reform Juda- ism is organizing itself into teams that will serve specific congregational needs, such as those of large congregations or those that need help with a particular issue, like youth engagement, social justice or interfaith outreach, said Mark Pelavin, a senior adviser to Jacobs. "We're moving away from the hub and spoke to a more highly networked model," Pelavin said. Until now, the URJ has com- municated with its almost term, the remaining offices might also close, although they will stay open for now, Pelavin said. Instead of focusing on brick-and-mortar offices, the URJ will do more to bring its members together, he added. "We'll do more convening," he said. "We'll pull together the temple presidents in Mil- waukee or find a creative way to help the temple treasurers in Southern California get together." Helen Chernikoff is a staff writer for The New York Jew- ish Week. Stewart Ain also is a staff writer for the Jewish Week, from which this article was reprinted by permission.