Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia This Entire Month

By Laurel Fairworth

2017 LogoThis year the Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia is all over the map in a theatrical way. Now in its 21st year, the festival kicked off on Saturday, March 4. The month-long film extravaganza, which runs through April 2, 2017, takes place in venues around the Philadelphia area including the Perelman at the Kimmel Center, the Ritz, the International House, Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy and the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. [Read more…]

Lantern Theater’s “Informed Consent” Raises Deep Issues, But Lacks Subtlety

The Lantern Theater Company’s Informed Consent is a play that is not afraid to tackle big ethical and scientific questions: Are our identities defined by biology or culture? If genetic testing can provide us with insight into our biology and diseases, then is it our responsibility to acquire this insight? Is not knowing an evasion of our ethical responsibility? Is knowledge always power? [Read more…]

Academy Ball a Huge Success

Adele Schaeffer with Governor Tom Wolf and First Lady Frances Wolf

Adele Schaeffer with Governor Tom Wolf and First Lady Frances Wolf

The Academy of Music Anniversary Concert and Ball, which benefits both the Academy and The Philadelphia Orchestra, always takes place on the last Saturday in January. In 2016, two feet of snow forced the last-minute cancellation of the entire event. But this year was a banner year, and the turnout for the Academy’s 160th anniversary was overwhelming. About 2,000 celebrants enjoyed a memorable evening of music, food, entertainment and fun. [Read more…]

Writers Resist Restrictions on Free Expression

Independence Hall. Photo: Wikipedia

Independence Hall. Photo: Wikipedia

Over 35 prominent Philadelphia authors, journalists and poets will read for hundreds of members of the literary community and concerned citizens at Philadelphia Writers Resist: United for Liberty on Sunday, January 15 at 2 PM to protest the potential erosion of cherished American rights such as free expression in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election. The event will be held at the National Museum of Jewish History and is free and open to the public.

“Philadelphia Writers Resist: United for Liberty” will take place in sight of Independence Hall. It will feature Beth Kephart, Liz Moore, Thomas Devaney, Nathaniel Popkin, Herman Beavers, Lorene Cary, Carmen Machado, Fran Wilde, former Philly Poet Laureate Frank Sherlock, and dozens of other members of the local literary community. Many of them will be reading seminal Philadelphia freedom texts from the American Revolution to the 21st century.

It’s one of 50 simultaneous Writers Resist events around the US, which will include readings and speeches by authors like Cheryl Strayed, Alexander Chee, and Mary Karr, former U.S. Poet Laureates Robert Pinsky and Rita Dove, and journalist Amy Goodman.

“Writers Resist” was conceived by poet and literary activist Erin Bilieu. She became concerned during the recent Presidential campaign about public cynicism and the disdain for truthfulness that have eroded democratic ideals.

“Writers are acutely aware when the uses of language are empty,” she said. “Whether you live in a red or blue state, or another country that cares deeply about the American experiment, there is no more important battle than our right to truth.”

“Philadelphia Writers Resist: United for Liberty” is being organized by local authors Nathaniel Popkin, Alicia Askenase, and Stephanie Feldman.

“We’re bringing together writers at the birthplace of American freedoms, and we’ll be reading from historic texts to remind us of the legacy we all need to protect,” says Popkin. “We’re coming together because as writers we must speak up for the First Amendment, for dignity and truth.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION
“Philadelphia Writers Resist: United for Liberty” Facebook page #WritersResist. “Writers Resist” is a national network of writers driven to #WriteOurDemocracy by defending the ideals of a free, just and compassionate democratic society.

EVENT DETAILS
“Philadelphia Writers Resist: United for Liberty”
Sunday January 15, 2017
National Museum of American Jewish History, Dell Auditorium
5th and Market Streets
2-5 PM
Free and open to the public.

Rocking and Rapping the Hanukkah Story With the Musical Group Six 13

Tonight we offer a double musical treat for Hanukkah from Six 13, a nationally renowned, all-male Jewish a capella group. An internet sensation, the group has also performed on national TV and radio, and in venues across the country and around the world. As described on their website, their music is “fueled by thumping beatbox, intricate arrangements, and soulful harmonies” with the goal of “connect[ing] Jews around the globe with their heritage through music.” The lyrics in Six 13’s Hanukkah videos below are impressively creative and thoroughly entertaining.

Here is their 2014 parody of the Taylor Swift song “Shake It Off”:

Six 13’s most recent Hanukkah song, which they performed at the White House for the president and the first lady, is a parody of the show “Hamilton”:

Light Up Your Night With the Fountainheads

Our selected Hanukkah suggestion for tonight is the catchy “Light Up the Night” by the Fountainheads. As described on their website, the Fountainheads are “an all-volunteer, student-led artistic project, led by young Israeli singers, dancers, and musicians, all students of the Ein Prat Academy for Leadership, who have joined forces to create new Jewish artistic content for today’s Jewish world.” Ein Prat is a beit midrash for young Israeli adults. Its mission is to help these 20-somethings “grapple with major questions regarding their Jewish identity, their allegiance to country, and their goals for adulthood.”

Here are the Fountainheads and “Light Up the Night.” Enjoy!

Hanukkah Book-Buying Ideas

For the book lovers on your Hanukkah gift list, reviewers Rabbi Goldie Milgram and E. Bub offer the following suggestions:

dreidels-on-the-brainGive Dreidels on the Brain by Joel ben Izzy on the first night of Hanukkah, and then discuss it on the eighth night. A delightful short volume based in the lifetime of most living grandparents. It’s perfect for grandchildren and grandparents as a shared experience. Through this story, they will love and get to know each other – and Hanukkah – in new and delightful ways. -Rabbi Goldie Milgram
 

mathematicians-shivaA simultaneously delightful and poignant novel, The Mathematician’s Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer pulls the curtain back on the competitive nature of academia. Discover how a prominent, fictional female mathematician gets the last laugh in a field of envious male colleagues. The Jewish mourning practice, known as shiva, which ensures those in mourning are softly supported and not isolated, serves as the backdrop for the shenanigans in this spicy offering. -Rabbi Goldie Milgram
 

cover 08122014New Mitzvah Stories for the Whole Family, edited by Goldie Milgram and Ellen Frankel, inspires good Jewish values across the generations through contemporary stories by over 40 authors. The book covers the full spectrum of Jewish life, personal orientation and family structure. Each tale is paired with a stimulating guide for reflection, discussion and action. -E. Bub

A Tale of Two Presidential Menorahs

By Alanna Sobel

sagamore_menorah_front_npsNear Oyster Bay on the North Shore of Long Island, you can walk in the footsteps of the 26th President of the United States. Theodore Roosevelt’s “Summer White House,” as it was affectionately known, is called Sagamore Hill National Historic Site in the park world. Heirlooms, hunting trophies, and souvenirs light up the 23 rooms of this house and fill visitors’ minds with ideas about who President Roosevelt was and what was important to him and his family.

In one of these rooms, you step through an archway of two African elephant tusks and find yourself surrounded by treasures. Measuring 30 feet by 40 feet, this space is called the North Room and was added to the home in 1905 to host social gatherings and special events.

Among those treasures are two golden menorahs. I’ve read that a 1909 photograph shows the menorahs on top of the bookcase in the front of the North Room and a 1948 photograph has them placed on top of the bookcase in the back of the same room.

The fact that President Roosevelt valued these menorahs so much that they were out on display and are now part of a park is incredibly special to me. Time and time again, national parks and their programs show me that the National Park System is as diverse as we are as individuals. I had no idea that a park honoring the life and legacy of President Roosevelt would have a connection to my Jewish faith.

The story goes that the two menorahs were given to President Roosevelt by Mrs. Leavitt of New York City, who is described in park records as a close friend of Martha Bulloch Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. For artifact-lovers like me, here is a letter dated September 4, 1883, from Theodore Roosevelt to his mother, Martha, in which he asks his mother to send his Aunt and Mrs. Leavitt his regards.

While Mrs. Leavitt and her husband were descendants of many generations of theologians, abolitionists, and Congregationalist ministers, and were known to care deeply about religion and theology, there is no indication that they were Jewish.

Having said that, the two seven-armed menorahs are symbolic of the Jewish religion. I specify seven arms because this style is different than the nine-armed Chanukiahs, which are lit when celebrating Chanukah.

While not much else is known about Mrs. Leavitt nor the menorahs, their existence is enough to help me feel like I’m part of the story too.

Maybe someday someone who is admiring all the home’s furnishings will recognize the menorahs and add their knowledge to this story. That is one of my favorite things about our national parks: every time we visit, we enrich these places and help the park community tell a more complete story.

Published in National Park Foundation.