“To Bigotry no Sanctions, to Persecution no Assistance”

George Washington. Painting: Gilbert Stuart

George Washington. Painting: Gilbert Stuart

I love the Fourth of July, my second favorite American holiday after Thanksgiving.  My family invites our friends and neighbors to watch the neighborhood parade that passes in front of our home with us, but how else to celebrate?  One year I went to the special exhibit on “To Bigotry No Sanction,” that was at the National Museum of American Jewish History.

The most thrilling part of the exhibit was seeing that the famous phrase, “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance,” was first coined by a Jew — Moses Seixas, in a letter on behalf of the Congregation Kahal Kadosh Yeshuat Israel, also known as the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island.  (The Hebrew name sounds like a contemporary merge.) [Read more…]

Film Chat: “The Wedding Plan”

Promoted during the Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia, the film The Wedding Plan finally opened for American audiences, after having received three Ophir Awards, or Israeli Oscars. In Hebrew with English subtitles, the film was written and directed by Rama Burshtein, an Orthodox Israeli, and the creator of the award-winning 2012 film Fill the Void.

In “The Wedding Plan,” protagonist Michal is a 32-year-old religiously observant woman, who runs a mobile petting zoo. Excitedly planning for her upcoming wedding, she is shocked when her fiancé reluctantly admits that he doesn’t love her. Nevertheless, she decides to move forward with her wedding preparations, trusting that if God wants her to be married, He will find a husband for her. The wedding is scheduled for the last night of Hanukkah, leaving exactly one month for a new groom to materialize. Her family is doubtful, and even her rabbi wonders what will happen to Michal’s faith if she doesn’t find a groom under the chuppah.

An American director would have made this film into a romantic comedy, but Burshtein aimed for something deeper, more poignant. Her debut film, “Fill the Void,” is about a religious woman who must make a decision about whether or not to marry her late sister’s husband. Burshtein writes and directs stories set in the religious Jewish world, but which illuminate human emotions common to us all.

Food Chat: The Evolution of Jewish Cooking

As part of the national celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month, the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) hosted Evolution of Jewish Cooking in America, a conversation with Steven Cook, Joan Nathan, Michael Solomonov and Molly Yeh. The event was moderated by food writer and editor Devra Ferst. It was held before a capacity crowd of 230 people, with others tuning in via Facebook. [Read more…]

Film Chat With Michael Solomonov

The film In Search of Israeli Cuisine, featuring Chef Michael Solomonov, is being screened from March 31 to April 6 at the Ritz 5 in Philadelphia. In light of this special screening, we offer the following review of the film, written by Philadelphia Jewish Voice contributor Hannah Lee. This review was originally posted on Lee’s blog, A Cultural Mix, in March 2016, and also includes an overview of the post-film discussion. [Read more…]

The Antidote to Idol Worship

Photo Credit to the Office of Rabbi Sacks.

Photo Credit to the Office of Rabbi Sacks.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks recently returned for another visit to Kohelet Yeshiva, the Modern Orthodox high school in Merion Station, for Shabbat services, and gave a drasha (sermon) entitled “The Idols in Our Lives: Contemporary Echoes of the Golden Calf.” The legendary British rabbi served in London for over 20 years as the former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. He has received numerous awards and honors — including the prestigious Templeton Prize — and has written more than 30 books. [Read more…]

There Is No Such Thing as Sanctuary

As of October 2015, sanctuary status was claimed by 326 counties, 32 cities and four states, according to Philippe Weisz, managing attorney of HIAS Pennsylvania. Despite these numbers, Weisz explained that there is actually no such legal entity as “sanctuary,” since the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operates freely. Weisz spoke during the inaugural session of HIAS Pennsylvania’s education series Welcoming the Stranger: Considering Immigration and Refugee Issues from a Jewish Perspective. The series provides background into American law and policy on these issues, as well as teachings on Jewish values. [Read more…]

Jews From Islamic Lands Speak on Muslim Immigration

The president’s travel ban for people from seven Muslim countries (now temporarily suspended by federal judges) has provoked outcries from the liberal community in the United States. Rallies and other acts of dissent have sprung up in most major cities. I last wrote about the response to the travel ban in the general Jewish community. I now seek to learn more from Jews who have lived in Muslim countries. [Read more…]

Stand Against Hate Rally

Stand Against Hate Rally. Photo: Philly.com.

Stand Against Hate Rally. Photo: Philly.com.

On Thursday, March 2, Independence Mall in Philadelphia was filled with supporters of the “Stand Against Hate” rally.

The speakers included Governor Tom Wolf, Mayor Jim Kenney, State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Rabbi Avraham Shmidman of Lower Merion Synagogue, and Rabbi David Strauss of Main Line Reform.

Also speaking were Nancy Baron Baer of the ADL and members of the inter-faith community. [Read more…]

What Makes America Great

U.S. Internment Camp for Japanese-Americans.

U.S. Internment Camp for Japanese-Americans.

Seventy-five years ago, on February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt authorized the deportation and incarceration of Japanese-Americans with Executive Order 9066. This power was used to declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire West Coast, including all of California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona. Nearly 130,000 mainland Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated from their West Coast homes during the spring of 1942. No civilians were found to be agents of espionage.

There has been a spike in hate speech since the November elections, which has liberated people to say in public what was not acceptable before the campaign. [Read more…]