Lower Merion Yeshivot March Together at the Celebrate Israel Parade

The Lower Merion Jewish schools at Celebrate Israel Parade in NYC. Photo: N. Aaron Troodler

By N. Aaron Troodler

Carrying their large banners and waving Israeli flags with pride, three local Orthodox Jewish Day Schools from the Greater Philadelphia area marched together up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Sunday, June 3rd as part of the Celebrate Israel Parade.

For the first time ever, Caskey Torah Academy in Wynnewood, Kohelet Yeshiva in Merion Station and The Mesivta High School of Greater Philadelphia in Bala Cynwyd marched jointly under the banner of “The Yeshivot of Lower Merion, PA.” The three schools, which collectively educate over 600 students in the Greater Philadelphia area, traveled to Manhattan to take part in this exciting celebration marking 70 years since the founding of the modern State of Israel. Approximately 200 students, parents and grandparents from the three Lower Merion schools walked proudly, danced and sang Hebrew songs along the parade route.

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Make Your Counting Count

Rabbi Shaya Deitsch. Photo: Twitter

By Rabbi Shaya Deitsch

While you were on your way to the polls or at home in protest or apathy for last week’s primary midterm elections, did the inevitable thought creep up on you: “Why do I even bother? Does one vote even matter?” Spiraling further into self-depreciation, you may have even compared yourself to the “big decision makers” and questioned your right to have a say at all: “Who am I to have an opinion?”

True, our democracy gives us this right to vote, but beyond this right, does it really count for anything?

As we think about counting, and whether our counting—well, counts—it may have thematically dawned on us that we have just finished counting down the Omer, the tradition of counting the days between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot.  Daily, we verbally counted as a community and as individuals—one day of the Omer, two days and so forth for the last 49-days.

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Musical Program Tells the Story of Two Jewish Pianists in Nazi Germany

Two Pianos: Playing for Life uses music, live readings and narration to depict the story of two female pianists, who played for all-Jewish audiences after the Nazis had banned Jewish musicians from German public performances. The program premieres on June 9 in Philadelphia at the Mary Louise Curtis Branch of the Settlement Music School.

Romanian-born Anna Burstein and Polish-born Halina Neuman met in Germany in 1926 at the Leipzig Conservatory. Seven years later, by the spring of 1933, Hitler’s new regime was moving to exclude Jews from German life. Doors to orchestras with Jewish conductors were padlocked. Jewish performers and professors were attacked in the press and interrupted by uniformed thugs shouting, “Schweine Jude!” Their concerts and lectures were cancelled “to ensure public safety.” Then, new laws began excluding Jews from government employment, including over 50 city orchestras. Within two years, Jews were legally barred from nearly all aspects of German economic, political and social life.

Anna Burstein’s 1936 Leipzig Jüdischer Kulturbund card. Levin Family Collection. Reprinted with permission.

The Jüdischer Kulturbund (Jewish Culture Association) was formed by dismissed Jewish artists, enabling them to continue performing before segregated all-Jewish audiences. It was approved by the Nazis in July 1933, and branches quickly spread from Berlin to over 60 German cities, including Leipzig. Anna Burstein and Halina Neuman played two-piano concerts with the Leipzig Jüdischer Kulturbund under the Third Reich.

Concert photo of Anna Burstein, c. 1942. Levin/Hoffman Collection. Reprinted with permission.

Years later, in 1938, Burstein came to Philadelphia. She was among the exiles who fled the Third Reich to ultimately enrich their new American home with their talent. For 15 years, she performed at local venues, receiving strong reviews. In 1945, she joined Settlement’s piano faculty, where she taught for nearly four decades.

Halina Neuman. The Hoffman Family Collection. Reprinted with permission.

Neuman did not arrive in this country until 1951, after surviving the Warsaw Ghetto, the Polish Home Army uprising, labor and DP camps and post-war refugee stops. Finally, she followed her daughter to the United States, and three months later, gave her first American concert. She retired as a piano professor at Rutgers University.

The live readings in “Two Pianos” are based on first-person interviews with Burstein and Neuman, conducted 40 years ago by Burstein’s daughter and son-in-law, Nora Jean and Michael Levin. The couple spent decades researching, organizing and recapturing the family’s story in full context. Co-producers of “Two Pianos,” the Levins also narrate part of the performance with Neuman’s grandson, Dr. Kenneth Hoffman. Neuman’s grandsons contributed material to the program, as well as to the exhibit set up next to the recital hall, which includes some of the women’s original documents and memorabilia.

The music for the one-hour program will be performed by the acclaimed Russian-born, Wisconsin-based Four Hands piano duo Stanislava Varshavski and Diana Shapiro. Having met at Israel’s Jerusalem Conservatory, Varshavski and Shapiro went on to win numerous competitions and have now been playing together for two decades. Showcased on two grand pianos, they will perform excerpts from works played by Burstein and Neuman under and after the Nazis, including selections from Arensky, Brahms, Toch and Chopin. With their artist-in-exile stories echoing those of the characters they portray, Varshavski and Shapiro will also perform live readings based on the first-person interviews of Burstein and Neuman.

“Two Pianos” is being presented by The Jüdische Kulturbund Project, which seeks to keep the legacy of the Kulturbund alive through educational programs and performances like this one. The Project connects examples of Jewish artists living under Nazi rule with artists facing oppression around the world today.

“We are so excited to bring this story to life,” said Gail Prensky, creator, executive producer and project director of The Jüdische Kulturbund Project. “Music sustained these women and fueled their will, not just to survive during the darkest hours of Nazi Germany, but to thrive.”


“Two Pianos: Playing for Life” will premiere at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 9, in Presser Hall at the Settlement Music School’s Mary Louise Curtis Branch, 416 Queen Street, Philadelphia. A discussion, as well as a reception to meet the performers, will follow the program. Admission is free, but reservations are required because seating is limited. For more information, contact co-producer Michael Levin at [email protected] or at 202-828-3212.

Time to Revitalize Judaism: A Respectful Challenge to the Jewish Establishment

By Prof. Richard H. Schwartz

As author of Who Stole My Religion? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet, I was immediately intrigued by the title of Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo’s new book, Jewish Law as Rebellion: A Plea for Religious Authenticity and Halachic Courage. The idea that Jews should not blindly accept the status quo, but should use Jewish law as a source for rebelling against complacency, denial, injustice, oppression and more, with the courage to apply Jewish teachings to help promote a better world, excited me. [Read more…]

Basic Guide to Voting in the PA Primary

PA Primary 2018 Sample Ballot

PA Primary 2018 Sample Ballot

When is the Pennsylvania Primary? Tuesday, May 15th, from 7 AM to 8 PM.

Who can vote in the Primary? In Pennsylvania, only voters who are registered members of the Republican or the Democratic parties can vote in the Primary. Republicans only vote for Republican candidates and Democrats only vote for Democratic candidates. (In the November general election, every registered voter can vote for candidates of any party.)

How do I know if I am registered? You can check your voter registration status.

Can I register or change my registration from Independent to Democrat or Republican? No, it is too late. In Pennsylvania it has to be at least 30 days before an election for you to register or change your party affiliation.

 

There is an official voter’s guide from the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Unofficial candidate information and photos are available.

Other sources of information:

League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania.

Indivisible Chester County.

Local Philadelphia Newspapers.

Job Opening for Knesset Rabbi: Now Accepting Women Applicants

By Steven Beck

The Knesset in Jerusalem. Photo: Xiquinhosilva

For the first time in Israel’s history, a woman can apply for the position of Knesset Rabbi.

Several months ago, the Knesset published a tender for the position of Knesset Rabbi to replace the current rabbi who will be retiring in a few months. The tender required applicants to present a certificate from the Chief Rabbinate, a provision that excluded women from applying as they are barred from completing the Rabbinate’s certification exams.

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The Direction of Prayer

By Rabbi Chaim Galfand

Sunday, May 13, is Yom Yerushalayim, or Jerusalem Reunification Day. This Israeli national holiday celebrates the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 in the wake of the Six Day War. As we prepare to mark this occasion when the Kotel (Western Wall) and the entirety of the Old City came under Israeli control, it seems like a very appropriate time to answer a question that has been posed to me: why do Jews face east when they pray? [Read more…]

Remembering Barbara Bush in “the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”

On April 17, former First Lady Barbara Bush died at age 92. During her long and illustrious life, Mrs. Bush championed the cause of literacy — a passion that Bonnie Squires, board president of The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, had the privilege of witnessing in action. Squires covered the former first lady during a stop at the Free Library of Philadelphia, where Mrs. Bush was reading to a group of children. Squires specifically recalls the touching moment when the first lady put one of the children on her lap while she read. [Read more…]

Central High School and Israeli Druze Students Collaborate

—by Dani Neuman

After several months of communi­cating on the Internet, on April 22, a delegation from Amal’s Menachem Begin Compre­hensive High School in Safed and Amal’s Compre­hensive High School in the Druze village of Kisra Samia arrived in Phila­delphia to continue the entrepre­­­neurship project they began online with a team of science students from Central High School. [Read more…]

Lone Soldier Yom Hazikaron (Remembrance Day) Ceremony: The Sons We Lost

— by Sara Kalker

On Israel’s Memorial Day, which begins on the eve of April 17, 2018, the Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin will commemorate the hundreds of lone soldiers from abroad who gave their lives for the independence and continuous survival of the State of Israel. These brave young men and women fell far away from their family and birthplace, often leaving very few people, if any, to visit their graves or commemorate their lives on this momentous day.

The Lone Soldier Center will bring together hundreds of people for a special Yom Hazikaron (Remembrance Day) ceremony: one that honors and remembers our fallen lone soldiers. This ceremony is the only Yom Hazikaron ceremony in Israel to be conducted in English that is open to the public and will be available by live-stream to communities around the world. Our aim is to strengthen the connection of English speaking immigrants, tourists and students in Israel and abroad to Israel’s Memorial Day and the stories of Israel’s heroes.

This year’s ceremony will feature the mothers of fallen lone soldiers Alex Singer, Michael Levin and Max Steinberg, z”l, and a musical performance by musician Shlomo Katz.