Barrack Students Win Theatre Honors at 2013 Cappie Awards


Left to right: Leksey Maltzman, Lev Ziskind, Leah Schatz, David Feinberg, Jesse Bernstein, Maya Kassutto, Anna Lieberman, Ilana Goldstein, and Josh Horowitz

— by Beverly C. Rosen

David Feinberg, a Barrack Hebrew Academy junior, won a Cappie award at the Philadelphia Cappie Award Ceremonies held last Sunday for the best performance by a comic actor in a play, for his performance in the Barrack student production of “Brighton Beach Memoirs.” Fellow classmate Maya Kassutto won the Spirit Award.

Cappies, the Critics and Awards Program for high school theatre and journalism students, awarded each year, honor student directors, actors, technicians, musicians, and theater critics in the greater Philadelphia region. Thirty-seven public and private schools in the city and surrounding suburbs participated in this year’s program and received nominations and awards from student critics. The critics, themselves, are also nominated for awards.

More after the jump.
Barrack Hebrew Academy’s student production of Neil Simon’s classic play, directed by Barrack senior Joshua Horowitz, received a total of eight Cappie nominations, including: Best Play, Best Direction, Featured Actor in a Play, Comic Actor in a Play, Comic Actress in a Play, Supporting Actress in a Play, Supporting Actor in a Play, and Lead Actress in a Play.

Prior to the awards ceremonies, held at the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center at Upper Darby High School, the nominees walked the red carpet in formal wear. “We are very proud of all our Cappie nominees and nominations,” shares Dewey Oriente, Barrack’s Drama Director, “and, given the size of our school, that our plays, directors, actors and everyone involved in our student productions receive Cappie nominations each year.”

Obama Sits Down With Rabbis

— by Rachel Shabad

Recently, White House Director of Jewish Outreach in the Office of Public Engagement Jarrod Bernstein sat down with President Barack Obama and White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew to meet with Jewish leaders from the Conservative and Orthodox communities. The group discussed a wide range of topics as part of “a continuing dialogue with various strands of the American Jewish community.”

Bernstein wrote:

At the meeting with Conservative Jewish leaders, the President was given the traditional blessing for heads of state by Rabbinical Assembly Executive Vice President Julie Schonfeld. The role of faith leaders in communities across the country was discussed and celebrated, with the President speaking to the important role these clergy play in our everyday lives. From the social safety net to advocacy on issues around the globe, leaders of religious movements have helped to make this a ‘more perfect union.’

The meeting with Orthodox leadership covered many topics, as well, including how the government and faith leaders can work together to ensure that all students get access to the services they are entitled to by law. The group discussed the President’s unshakeable support for Israel and our commitments to peace and security for Israel and the entire Middle East. The group finished its meeting with a brief visit to the Oval Office, where they presented the President with a copy of George Washington’s letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Rhode Island written in 1790.

List of attendees follows the jump.
Attendees at meeting of Orthodox Rabbis:

  • Dr. Simcha Katz, President – Orthodox Union
  • Rabbi Steven Burg, Managing Director – Orthodox Union
  • Mr. Nathan Diament, Executive Director for Public Policy – Orthodox Union
  • Mr. Yehuda Neuberger, Public Policy Chairman – Orthodox Union
  • Mr. Allen Fagin, Senior Vice President – Orthodox Union
  • Mrs. Shira Yoshor, Orthodox Union Community Network Leader, Houston, TX; Trustee, Yeshiva University
  • Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, President – Rabbinical Council of America
  • Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, Congregation Kehillath Jeshurun, New York
  • Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, Boca Raton Synagogue, Florida
  • Rabbi Benjamin Blau, Green Road Synagogue, Cleveland, Ohio
  • Rabbi Avraham Shmidman, Lower Merion Synagogue, Pennsylvania
  • Rabbi Shalom Baum, Congregation Keter Torah, Teaneck, New Jersey
  • Mrs. Ellen Lightman, Board Member – Orthodox Union

Attendees at meeting of Conservative Rabbis:

  • Rabbi Bruce Dollin
  • Rabbi Ed Farber
  • Rabbi Jeffrey A Wohlberg            
  • Rabbi Amy Greenbaum
  • Rabbi Debra Newman Kamin
  • Rabbi Daniel Greyber
  • Rabbi Danielle Upbin
  • Rabbi David M Ackerman
  • Rabbi Harold Berman
  • Abby Joseph Cohen:
  • Dr. Arnold Martin Eisen
  • Mr. Marc Gary
  • Rabbi Luis Felipe Goodman
  • Rabbi Joseph Howard Krakoff
  • Rabbi Andrea L. Merow
  • Rabbi Jack L. Moline
  • Rabbi Danny S. Nevins
  • Rabbi Julie Schonfeld
  • Rabbi Steven Curtis Wernick
  • Richard Skolnik
  • Rabbi Eric S Yanoff

First-Ever Presidential Passover Video Greeting

— by Jarrod Bernstein

Starting tomorrow night, the Jewish community in the United States, Israel, and throughout the world will come together to celebrate the holiday of Passover.

President and Mrs. Obama will join them, continuing their tradition of hosting a small Seder at the White House. By now, the story of how that tradition began has been told and retold, but in the spirit of Passover, I’ll tell it again: In April of 2008, the President and his staff were on the trail in Pennsylvania in the midst of a long primary campaign. Weary from a long day of work and away from their families, a small group of staffers came together to hold an impromptu Seder. When then-Senator Obama got wind of the Seder, he gathered some other staff and friends and decided to join. At the end of the Seder, the President followed the traditional “Next year in Jerusalem” declaration with a pledge of his own – “Next year in the White House.” Each year since, he has followed through on that promise. This year, he also added a new touch, a video message to Jews everywhere wishing them Chag Sameach as they continue their own traditions or start new ones this Passover.

Transcript follows the jump.
I’d like to wish a happy holiday to all those celebrating Passover.

The story of the Exodus is thousands of years old, but it remains as relevant as ever. Throughout our history, there are those who have targeted the Jewish people for harm — a fact we were so painfully reminded of just a few weeks ago in Toulouse. Just as throughout history, there have been those who have sought to oppress others because of their faith, ethnicity or color of their skin.

But tomorrow night, Jews around the world will renew their faith that liberty will ultimately prevail over tyranny. They will give thanks for the blessings of freedom, while remembering those who are still not free. And they will ask one of our life’s most difficult questions: Once we have passed from bondage to liberty, how do we make the most of all that God has given us?

This question may never be resolved, but throughout the years, the search for answers has deepened the Jewish people’s commitment to repairing the world, and inspired American Jews to help make our union more perfect. And the story of that first Exodus has also inspired those who are not Jewish with common hopes, and a common sense of obligation.

So this is a very special tradition — and it’s one I’m proud to be taking part of tomorrow night, at the fourth annual White House Seder. Led by Jewish members of my staff, we’ll retell the story of the Exodus, listen to our youngest guest ask the four questions, and of course, look forward to a good bowl of matzo ball soup.

Michelle and I are proud to celebrate with friends here at home and around the world, including those in the State of Israel.

So on behalf of the entire Obama family, Chag Sameach.

Administration Addresses Jewish Community Security Issues


Senator Charles Schumer addresses Agudath Israel’s Legislative Breakfast

— by Boruch Shubert

A number of officials representing the United States government at key levels of influence addressed several hundred communal leaders at the Second Annual Legislative Breakfast of Agudath Israel of America earlier today at the Down Town Association in Lower Manhattan. Speaking to the event’s theme of “Safety and Security in Our Communities,” the officials outlined a variety of areas in which government agencies are acting vigorously to ensure the physical well-being of the greater Jewish community both domestically and overseas.

Delivering the Keynote Address, Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, noted that – with New York City continuing to be a major target for potential terrorists – her office has expanded its focus from the aggressive pursuit of terrorist prosecutions to include an emphasis on the prevention of terrorist acts. “We work closely with the FBI and the New York Police Department to immediately investigate any threats of terrorism,” Lynch asserted, highlighting multiple recent cases wherein potential attacks on public transportation and other largely populated areas were thwarted. Detailing specific concerns in this regard, the US Attorney informed the audience that the authorities are on the lookout for Al-Qaeda-mobilized single, “lone-wolf” individuals who may attempt to commit acts of terror on their own; homegrown United States-based terrorists; and global terror cells that gain strength and adherents through strategic communications via the Internet. Noting that more than 400 terrorists have been convicted in this country over the decade since the 9/11 attacks, Lynch strongly stated her belief that “our federal court system is a proven and effective method for prosecuting terrorists.” Ms. Lynch was joined at the breakfast by Marshall Miller, who has served as the deputy chief of the criminal unit and today was named criminal division chief.

More after the jump.


Jarrod Bernstein, President Obama’s Director of Jewish Outreach delivers Special Greetings at Agudath Israel’s Legislative Breakfast

The audience was also treated to Special Greetings from Jarrod Bernstein, President Obama’s recently appointed Director of Jewish Outreach, who was making his first public appearance in his new role. Bernstein was introduced by Rabbi David Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel, who recounted how – just two days before this past Yom Kippur – he received word that a large shipment of lulavim was being held up at the airport due to security-related bureaucratic red tape, thereby causing numerous Jews to potentially be unable to fulfill the vital mitzvah of arba minim on the impending Sukkos holiday. After a quick phone call to Bernstein – who was then an official at the Department of Homeland Security – the lulavim were released in a few hours.

Speaking on behalf of the president, Bernstein stated that the administration is “working daily to ensure Israel’s security.” Elaborating on this point, he noted that President Obama has requested from Congress “the largest-ever amount of funding for military assistance for Israel”; spoke at the United Nations resolutely on behalf of the vitality of Israel; and spends a significant amount of time advocating for increased sanctions against Iran.


A partial view of the crowd at Agudath Israel’s Legislative Breakfast

Reprising his appearance at last year’s Legislative Breakfast, Senator Charles Schumer reiterated Congress’ firm support for the security of Israel, specifically with regard to planned attempts to further cut off Iran’s banking powers and to fully fund Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. Turning to the domestic front, Schumer stated that “Agudath Israel does an amazing job caring for people in need with its social services,” and he asserted that – particularly with regard to education and job training programs – “we must cut our budgets carefully” so as not to endanger these vital services. “I have obtained many grants for the security of the community’s shuls and yeshivas,” the senator concluded, reaffirming his continuing close relationship with Agudath Israel.


Rabbi David Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel of America, speaking at the Agudath Israel of
America Legislative Breakfast.

The large audience – which included such dignitaries as NYC Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano, NY State Senator Daniel Squadron, NY State Assemblymen Alec Brook-Krasny and Rory Lancman, and New York City Councilmen Lew Fidler and Brad Lander – heard important remarks from several members of Congress with close ties to the Jewish community. Newly elected Congressman Robert (Bob) Turner spoke about his appointments to the crucial Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security Committees, and criticized both the United Nations and Iran for their anti-Israel stances. “We have to work hard to get regime change in Iran,” Turner declared. Avowing Congress’ strong backing of Israel, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney recalled the unusually enthusiastic response from the entire membership of Congress when it was addressed by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Commenting on the dismal economy, Congressman Jerrold Nadler spoke against the idea of massive spending cuts by the government, noting that “the community needs housing and food assistance now more than ever.” Separately, Nadler called on President Obama to criticize Palestinian President Abbas for refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and insisted that “there is no greater danger in the world today than Iran” due to its nuclear intentions, Nadler concluded.


Jarrod Bernstein, White House Jewish Liaison, addressing the Agudath Israel of America Legislative Breakfast.

The audience also heard from community activist Abe Eisner, who read a message of support for Agudath Israel from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo; Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer; New York City Controller John Liu; and Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz, Agudath Israel’s Vice President for Community Services, who highlighted the organization’s many valuable social programs. “Agudath Israel of America sponsors a broad range of communal social services affecting the lives of young and old throughout the New York City metropolitan area,” he explained. “Agudath Israel of America’s projects include job placement, vocational training and counseling services, housing and neighborhood preservation initiatives, as well as a host of senior citizen and children’s welfare projects – including a variety of initiatives specifically directed toward enhancing security and safety.” The Legislative Breakfast was chaired by Joseph Zelmanovitz, Esq, Partner in Stahl and Zelmanovitz, and was graciously sponsored by Health Plus, and Med Review and coordinated by the Friedlander group.

Many participants expressed positive sentiments on the very high level of discussion and the broad range of issues the various speakers broached. A venerable Who’s Who of influential legislative leaders made the effort on an early Monday morning to affirm the prominent role and political position the Orthodox Jewish community and Agudath Israel holds in the halls of government. One respected community leader seemed to sum up the feelings of those in attendance. “It is important to interact and dialogue with our government officials. That they clearly recognize and admire the importance of our community and Agudath Israel’s wide reach is even more impressive.”


Ezra Friedlander CEO of the Friedlander Group, Chaskel Bennett Board of Trustees of Agudath Israel of America, Jarrod Bernstein White House Jewish Liaison, Rabbi David Zwiebel, ESQ. Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel of America, Joseph B. Stamm President and CEO of Med Review, Event Sponsor, Jospeh Zelmanovitz Breakfast Chairman and Partner at Stahl & Zelmanovitz, Congressman Bob Turner, Abe Eisner, Mr. Leon Goldenberg, and Shlomo Werdiger who are members of the Agudath Israel of America leadership.

-U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer addressing the Agudath Israel of America Legislative Breakfast. Left to Right: Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz Agudath Israel of America’s Vice President for Community Services, Rabbi David Zwiebel, ESQ. Executive Vice President, Mr. Gedaliah Weinberger Chairman of the Board, Jospeh Zelmanovitz Breakfast Chairman and Partner at Stahl & Zelmanovitz, Joseph B. Stamm President and CEO of Med Review, Event Sponsor, Jonathan Zalisky, Senior Community Relations Coordinator of Health Plus, Event Sponsor, Chaskel Bennett Board of Trustees of Agudath Israel of America.




Congressman Bob Turner addressing the Agudath Israel of America Legislative Breakfast

Remembering the Victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

— David Karp

Susan Harris of Los Angeles visits the grave of her great uncle, Jacob Bernstein, on March 25, 2011, at Mount Richmond Cemetery in Staten Island, New York. Bernstein was among the 146 people who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25, 1911, and the Hebrew Free Burial Association held a memorial ceremony to honor the 22 victims of the fire it buried at the cemetery 100 years ago. The Hebrew Free Burial Association provides Jewish burial rites and a final resting place for impoverished Jews. The fire led to major changes in workplace labor and fire safety laws. (Photo/David Karp)