Hillary Clinton Receives National Constitution Center Liberty Medal

— article and photos by Bonnie Squires

The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia held another one of its world-class events last week, as Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received the Liberty Medal before an audience of 1,300 people.

The medal honors men and women of courage and conviction, who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe. Secretary Clinton was recognized for her advocacy of women’s rights and human rights around the globe.

More after the jump.


(Left to right) Bill Sasso, Esq., Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Jeffrey Rosen, CEO of the National Constitution Center, each praised Hillary for her life-long activities for the common good.

ABC News Anchor and Correspondent Elizabeth Vargas served as the mistress of ceremonies, and presenters included:

  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, chairman of the National Constitution Center’s Board of Trustees;
  • Dr. Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania and National Constitution Center Trustee;
  • Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter;
  • No Labels Co-Founder Mark McKinnon;
  • Journalist and Human Rights Advocate Roxana Saberi; and
  • National Constitution Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen, who presented the medal to Secretary Clinton.

Appearing in video tributes during the ceremony were:

  • Former British Prime Minister and previous Liberty Medal recipient Tony Blair;
  • Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan;
  • tennis legend Billie Jean King;
  • actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen;
  • News Political Commentator Cokie Roberts, and
  • other friends, sponsors and dignitaries.

Governor Bush and Secretary Clinton were both gracious in their remarks about each other, even though it is possible that in 2016 each of them will represent their respective political parties in the presidential election.


Dr. Amy Gutmann, Penn president, who chaired the Liberty Medal selection committee, gave a rousing speech about Hillary Cllinton’s accomplishments in gaining equality for women and minorities around the world. Gutmann also got excited when she predicted that Clinton would become the first woman president of the U.S.


(Left to right) Marciarose Shestack, Bob Rovner, Esq., Commissioner Josh Shapiro and his wife Lori Shapiro, and Bill Sasso, Esq., host of the reception.


(Left to right) Judge Marjorie O. Rendell, Tom Knox and Anne Ewers, CEO of the Kimmel Center, joined hundreds of guests at the President’s Reception.


(Left to right) Sandy and Steve Sheller, Esq., were delighted to talk with former Governr Ed Rendell.


(Left to right Patrons Barbara and Len Sylk are joined by Diane Semingson.


Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler speaks to her friend Dr. Afaf Meleis, dean of the Penn School of of Nursing.

Food Chat: The Rabbi Talks Turkey

— by Hannah Lee

As we prepare for our national holiday of thanksgiving — whether by dieting beforehand, shopping and cooking, or doing chesed — Rabbi Meir Soloveichik has some interesting insights on the curious halachic history of the Thanksgiving turkey. He is the Associate Rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York and director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University (a great nephew of “The Rav,” Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik) and recently nominated as one of the Forward’s 50 notable American Jews.  He spoke on Sunday to an audience of about 40 people at the newly opened Citron and Rose restaurant as part of its yearlong series on the philosophy of Jewish eating.

More after the jump.
Jews have embraced the turkey as food. According to the National Turkey Association, Israel is the world leader in turkey consumption at 26.9 lbs per capita, according to its latest survey conducted in 1999. The United States is second, with 736 million pounds of turkey consumed during Thanksgiving in 2011.

For some Jewish fowl history: The hoopoe was chosen as the national bird of the State of Israel in May 2008 in conjunction with the country’s 60th anniversary (following a national survey of 155,000 citizens). Rabbi Meir cries foul, because the hoopoe (duhifat in Hebrew) is treife (listed amongst the Biblical list of 24 forbidden birds); appears only once in a midrash; and when threatened, does not fight back but excretes a stinky fluid.  

Rabbi Meir votes for the yonah (dove), which is usually used to symbolize peace with an olive branch in its claws. Not so, says the Rabbi, quoting Kohelet that there is a time for war and a time for peace. Another historical anecdote: Harry Truman supposedly said to Winston Churchill that the American symbol is depicted with an eagle’s head tilted towards the olive branch, to symbolize the U.S.’s inclination towards peacemaking, but Churchill retorted that the eagle’s head should be on a swivel, to allow it to adjust for national security interests.

The Israeli national anthem has another stirring anecdote: when 30-year-old Moran Samuel won the gold in individual rowing (skulling) at the Paralympics Games in Italy this summer, the games organizers were not prepared with a tape of the Israeli anthem, so Samuel asked for the microphone and sang the anthem beautifully by herself. This was an athlete who’d already shown her fortitude when she had a rare spinal stroke. When she recovered, she trained to become a pediatric physical therapist and she switched from her sport of basketball to wheelchair basketball and rowing. Rowing, said Rabbi Meir, is the quintessential sport symbol of hope, with the individual pushing against the force of water towards dry land.

Another bird, the raven, also appeared in the Biblical account of Noah, but Jews have not adopted the raven, which is known as the symbol of despair and hopelessness. The American writer and literary critic, Edgar Allan Poe, agreed with this view in his 1845 poem, “The Raven,” with its refrain, “Nevermore.” The yonah, said Rabbi Meir, symbolizes hope for Jews, not peace.

Only the yonah and the tor (turtledove) are allowed on an altar in Biblical times. Both are archetypes of kosher birds, according to the Rema (Rabbi Moshe Isserles): they have an extra toe in back; a crop and gizzard that peels easily; and they are not predators that grab their prey from the air in a cruel fashion. The Rema further teaches that Jews may not eat any unfamiliar birds, unless there is a mesorah (tradition) of it not being a predator. So, how did Jews come to enjoy the turkey, which was a New World bird that became popular in Europe after the Cortes expedition of 1519?

The turkey comes from a land of no Jews (notwithstanding the conceit of Blazing Saddles, joked the Rabbi). So, how did the Rabbis of the 17th and 18th century reconcile their halachic concerns? The bird must come from a land of Jews and its Hebrew name, tarnagol hodu (תרנגול הודו, Indian chicken), gives evidence that it was thought to originate from India (where there were known Jews). The English “turkey” derives from the merchants of the Turkish Empire and in Turkey, the bird is known as hindi.  Notably, hodu also means thanks in modern Hebrew, sharing a syntactic root with the Hebrew word for “Jews,” yehudim.

Why did the poskim (jurists) change their position on turkey?  First, the farmers (even the Ashkenazi ones) knew that the turkey is not a predator, and second, the Sephardim have a mesorah of eating turkey. They may not have known of Benjamin Franklin’s documented preference of the turkey over the bald eagle, because it is not predatory; it is unique to the Americas (while eagles are found elsewhere); and it is a bird of courage that would defend itself.

When the Jews first arrived in what is now the United States, from Brazil in 1654, they found a resting place, said Rabbi Meir, “the land of the turkey has fulfilled the hope of the dove.”

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik gives thanks for living in a country where Jews are welcome to the White House (as he was during the Bush administration) and where he davened maaariv (the evening prayers) there.  He ended his talk with a reminiscence from the former British prime minister, Tony Blair, who noted that the prized possession of his American Jewish friend is his citizenship papers. Only in America have the Jews experienced freedom fully and welcomed as equal citizens in the public square. It is especially poignant that on Thanksgiving we Jews have a national mandate to thank God for this country of religious freedom.

Citron and Rose, located at 368-370 Montgomery Avenue in Merion, is open for dinner Sunday through Thursday. For more information, please visit their website and follow them on Twitter @citronandrose; their phone number is 610-664-4919. To schedule an appointment with Citron and Rose Catering, please email [email protected]    

Israel Featured Nation at Equality Forum


Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren

Israel was the featured nation at the Equality Forum, a worldwide LGBT rights conference based in Philadelphia, in May 3-6, 2012.

The forum began with a VIP kickoff reception held at the Gershman Y, Broad and Pine streets. In the lobby of the Gershman, the works of Israeli photographer David Adika were displayed, as part of the 13th Annual Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibit. Titled Equator, Adika’s photographs were displayed on the north, east south, and west sides of the lobby, representing similar regions in Israel.

More after the jump.


Left to right: Equality Forum Executive Director Malcolm Lazin, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, and Houston Mayor Annise Parker

Of his photography, Adika said, “It’s about the place I come from, and I wanted to give a record from Israel.” Asked whether his sexuality affects his work, Adika says, “Yes, but it’s not my agenda. My sexuality is not my agenda, it’s part of my identity. Of course it reflects (in his works), but it’s not very particular, it’s in it, but it’s not talking about it.”    

Explaining the exhibit on the walls of the lobby, Adika said, “Here there are four walls, the south wall, the north wall, the east wall, and the west wall. Each wall are related to their (equivalents) in Israel.” The south wall, he said, shows the Dead Sea, which is in the south of Israel; “I want to show in this work,” he added, “two (opposing) forces, the one that sinks, like this, it’s a sinkhole, and the one that floats, when you’re in the Dead Sea, you float.” The opposite forces at work, added Adika, were “sinking and floating, with all the metaphor you can think of.”

Debra Blair, Chair of the Board of the Equality Forum, said of Israel as a featured nation, “We’ve had several key countries from around the world, that are in stages of Gay liberation. I think to look at Israel, amongst the number of countries we’ve looked at, it’s just timely. There’s quite a bit of controversy around  having Israel, and that’s all the better for us, because that means we’re pushing the envelope for folks to be seen in terms of what they’re trying to do to get in a better place for equality for LGBT citizens.”

Elaborating on the controversy around Israel, Blair added, “With any particular country that has extenuating issues, that may or may not even deal with the LGBT movement, there will always be folks that, when you decide to honor or feature a particular country, they look for things to say, ‘Oh, they’re doing this, they’re doing that wrong.’ We’re simply focusing on the issues of LGBT civil rights around the world. When you have folks coming in to talk about what Israel may or may not be doing in terms of their political positions, or things of that nature, that’s where we put the stops on.” The focus, said Blair is “what (Israel is) doing to move the LGBT citizen to a different place of visibility.”

What has Israel done towards LGBT equality? “They have a number of initiatives,” replied Blair, who is an Assistant Professor in the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management of Temple University. “One of things we look at are those countries that are looking at (the LGBT) market as a potential tourism market. They, like many other countries around the world, are looking at the LGBT market and saying, ‘Come to Israel, we are a great destination.'” Israel, said Blair, has “challenges like every other place around the world around freedoms, but (Israel is) trying to be pro-active, to be welcoming.”

At the start of the kickoff, Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director of Equality Forum, spoke of the history of the Forum, stating that the organizers called it “a civil rights summit,” adding, “People in our own community really didn’t believe us, they thought we were engaging in hyperbola. Back when we said (the Forum) has an international focus, there was a moment in time when people were not focusing internationally, in terms of our national organizations…

“We’re (of Equality Forum) proud of our history,” added Lazin, “As you know, we co-produced (the documentary) Gay Pioneers, at a moment in time when very few in this community knew who Barbara Gittings was.” Gittings, along with Frank Kameny, were, as Lazin put it, “the father and mother of our organized (LGBT) civil-rights movement. We make the film Gay Pioneers with PBS and went out across PBS (stations) and schools across the country.”

Daniel Kuttner, Counsel-General of Israel to Philadelphia, said, “Israel resides in a rough neighborhood…but in spite of the hardship we sometimes bear, Israel is a state (with a) thriving cultural life-music, dance, theater, literature, I could go on,” as Kuttner commended David Adika, “whose photographic art is critically acclaimed throughout the world.” Kuttner gave his thanks to the University of the Arts, the Gershman Y, and Equality Forum for their work in putting together the events of the Forum.

Malcolm Lazin presented the Forum’s Distinguished Service Award to local philanthropist Mel Heifetz. “Many of you know Mel,” added Lazin, “because of his really remarkable philanthropy, there is certainly in the Philadelphia region who has been more philanthropic across the board to the LGBT community.” Heifets, said Lazin, helped to pay off the mortgage for the William Way LGBT Center, located at 13th and Spruce streets, and has donated generously to the AIDS community and to gay-friendly political candidates.