Mishloach Manot For Tzahal: Offer Purim Treats To Israeli Troops

Do you want to make an Israeli soldier smile? Do you want to help her or him feel connected to Jews here in Philly? Sponsor a Purim gift basket — Mishloach Manot!

The goodies that go in the Mishloach Manot need to be bought: $10 pays for one solder, $300 covers a unit of soldiers and $1,000 provides for an entire division of soldiers.

Students write letters of appreciation and encouragement to soldiers presently serving in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), and Connections Israel delivers the letters on Purim together with Mishloach Manot. The letters are a way for us to feel personally involved with the soldiers, and the soldiers really appreciate knowing that they have our support and gratitude.

Naomi Adler Picked To Lead Philadelphia Jewish Federation


Naomi Adler

First Female CEO Takes Reins at Charity Group

— by Anne Cohen

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has reportedly appointed Naomi Adler as its first female CEO.

Adler, 47, has been selected as CEO, the Jewish Exponent reported.

The wife of a Reform rabbi, Adler left a career in law to pursue a calling in nonprofit fundraising and management. She currently serves as president and CEO of United Way in Westchester and Putnam counties in New York, a post she has held since 2008.

Though new to Philadelphia area, home to an estimated 214,000 Jews, Adler said she was honored, and excited at the idea of moving her family.

“I am extremely excited to partner with our leadership to set a vision for the future as this work is essential to so many in the community,” she said in a prepared statement.

Adler will reportedly take over Federation in early May.

This article originally appeared at forward.com, February 3, 2014.
Reproduced from here by permission of the Forward.

A Modest Proposal to Prevent the Jewish People From Dwindling

Steven M. Cohen and Kerry Olitzky published a great suggestion in the latest issue of the Jewish Exponent, “Conversion Shouldn’t Be the Only Path to Joining the Jewish People”. The only fault I can find in their proposal is failing to having the vision to move more swiftly and embrace the ultimate solution to the falling Jewish population.

Cohen and Olitzky show how we can boost the Jewish population by eliminating the conversion requirement. In this way, those who are “atheists, agnostic, secular, or even committed to another faith tradition” can become members of the tribe. Instead,

Candidates would be encouraged to sample a variety of areas of Jewish civilization – such as politics, literature, music, comedy, social action, learning, organized community, Israel and texts – and to achieve a level of familiarity with and competence in participating in American Jewish life.

For those who come to desire official recognition, there could be a public ceremony and a certificate of membership in the Jewish people. Jewish cultural experts … would constitute boards that would oversee the program and would attest to the validity of the affirmation.

More after the jump.
Nevertheless, forcing prospective members of the tribe to watch numerous Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg movies and having a board convene to certify them one at a time is a tedious process. It might take decades to even double the Jewish population at that rate.

Instead I have stumbled on a simply but ingenious proposal: Eliminate the superfluous requirement to appreciate Jewish humor and Jewish food. (After all, there are some fine humorless, gluten challenged, or even hard-of-herring Jews and no one is proposing kicking them out!) At that point, we no longer need to have this board of “Jewish cultural expert” and can process the affirmations more “Swiftly”.

In fact, let’s eliminate the need to have prospect members of the tribe affirm their desire to be Jewish. If Mormons can posthumously convert anyone without their permission then why can’t Jews convert living people without waiting for an “affirmation” of their desire to join the tribe.

So by the power invested in me by no one in particular, I hereby declare that all of humanity alive today is part of the Jewish people, and is hereby officially “encouraged to sample a variety of areas of Jewish civilization – such as politics, literature, music, comedy, social action, learning, organized community, Israel and texts – and to achieve a level of familiarity with and competence in participating in American Jewish life”.

Congratulation. In one fellow swoop the Jewish population has gone up from  about 14 million to over 7 billion. This solves not only the problem at hand but many others:

  • Intermarriage is no longer a problem since there are no longer any non-Jews to marry.
  • There will no longer be any need for a “two-state solution” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Since all Palestinians are now Jewish, there can be one state which will be 100% Jewish.
  • Iranian Ali Khamenei will now be Jewish, so presumably he will enjoy a bagel shmear instead of calling for the destruction of Israel.

The list goes on and on, although to be honest I’ll miss have shabbos goys around to turn on lights for me.

Israel’s Phillippino Workers in Gear; What Can We Do From Here?


Rabbi Howard Cohen recommends donating a “ShelterBox.”

— by Rabbi Goldie Milgram

Throughout Israel, workers from the Philippines, who primarily serve as aides and caregivers for the elderly, have organized collections of clothes, blankets and more for donation.

Approximately 39,000 Phillippinos live in Israel, and The Jerusalem Post reported: “The IDF, Foreign Ministry and Israeli and Jewish humanitarian organizations are sending aid workers to the Philippines to provide rescue and relief efforts in the wake of super-typhoon Haiyan.”

Free shipping through a Philippine carrier was organized by The Federation of Filipino Communities in Israel (FFCI).

More after the jump.
So what might those of us in the west best do at this time of crisis? Rabbi Howard Cohen of Burning Bush Adventures recommends Shelterbox, a well-respected option to my attention:

In this charity your donation is very concrete. Shelterbox delivers a box that provides essential items for addressing the issue of temporary shelter and more. The box contains an incredibly durable tent, stove, cooking set, blankets, water purification devices (very easy to use that last for months), some tools to help people rebuild their lives, plus more items. Each box costs about 500.00. The organization has only about a half dozen paid employees, everyone else is a volunteer.

For more general donations, the American Jewish World Service is coordinating a major effort, as is the Red Cross, and many other traditional non-profit and governmental responders, as reported by major news services.

Maccabiah: U.S. Wins Five Basketball Medals

MaccabiUSA: Basketball Open Men's &emdash; BASOMBasketball Open Mens

— by Amir Shoam

The U.S. won five medals — four golds and one silver — in the Maccabiah basketball tournaments last week. The open men’s team won the gold after beating Argentina 87-76. Daniel Robin scored 25 points for the winners, and Philadelphia-born Bryan Cohen added 14. The win marked a great year for Head Coach and Former Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Brad Greenberg, who also won the Israeli championship this year with Maccabi Haifa, and will coach Hapoel Jerusalem in the coming season. “It was an outstanding tournament, and our U.S. open team was really special,” he said to the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

It was an honor to coach some of the finest young men I have ever been around: hard working, unselfish, intelligent and emotionally mature. Lasting friendships were formed, and a love for Israel was enhanced. Next year in Jerusalem — for me it’s true!

More after the jump.

MaccabiUSA: Basketball Open Women's &emdash; BASOWBasketball Open Womens

In the open women’s tournament final, the U.S. defeated Israel 72-56. Jacqui Kalin finished with 22 points, including 6 three-pointers, 7 assists and 6 rebounds. Alyssa Baron contributed 16 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Next year, Kalin will play professionally in Israel with S.A. Ramat Hasharon. Head Coach Jamie Shadian said:

The Games as a whole were a once in a lifetime experience. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach players who are unbelievable people as well as talented athletes. Sharing such an emotional and inspirational month with this team will remain one of the most special experiences of my life.

The under-18 men’s team also beat Israel in the game for the gold medal, 78-62. The two standouts of the final game were Spencer Weisz (19 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists) and Anthony Firkser (19 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals). Head Coach Jamie Chadwin said:

The trip was tremendous. Not only for the basketball competition but for the cultural, emotional connection we all felt. The young men on the Youth Team were special in the way the competed, learned, and represented their country.

The under-18 women’s team cruised to the gold medal, beating Canada 77-26 (!) in the final game. Tournament MVP Drew Edelman, who will play for the University of Southern California in the coming season, scored 30 points and added 14 rebounds. Shelby Zucker finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds. “I could not be more proud of the team,” said Head Coach Sherry Levin.

Our dominant performance was a product of their hard work, dedication and unselfish team work. On the court it, was amazing to see them come together and execute the game plan against Australia, Canada and Israel. Off the court, we all experienced the wonders of Israel along with the meaningful connections to our heritage, which made the Maccabiah Games a lifetime experience to remember.

MaccabiUSA: Basketball Juniors Boy's &emdash; BASJBasketball Juniors Boys

The under-16 boys team won the silver medal after losing to Israel in the final. The team was led in scoring throughout the tournament by Spencer Freedman, Corey Sherman and, specifically in the final game, Jacob Orender. Jordan Baum led a long list of assist providers. Sam Fieldman and Michael Hayon were the team’s top rebounders. Orender was also the team’s best defensive player.

“It was an awesome and surreal opportunity to participate in the 19th Maccabiah,” said Head Coach Barry Kleiman. “The opportunity for my wife and me to visit Israel for the first time while representing the USA as a coach was beyond a life’s dream.”

As a competitor, one can never be “happy” with a silver medal, but as a coach of many years and games, one learns that there is always a team at the end of a game with fewer points than the other, and in this case that was our team.

I commend the Israeli team for their fabulous effort and great sportsmanship; their win had nothing to do with luck. I commend our team for refusing to give in and continuing to compete until the final buzzer.

Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve never lost a game, I just ran out of time.” We simply ran out of time that day, and remain grateful for the opportunity we had to compete.

Larry Brown Among Nine Philly Jewish Sports Hall of Fame Inductees


Brown coaching the SMU Mustangs

— by Debbie Weiss

The Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Adolph and Rose Levis Museum (PJSHOF) will be celebrating its 16th anniversary by honoring nine new individuals at a reception to be held on Monday, May 20 at the Gershman Y.  

The 2013 inductees include Ellen Barkann, Bob Brooks, Larry Brown, Fred Cohen, Josh Cohen, Ron Cohen, Bonnie Kay, Marc Rayfield and Pillar of Achievement honoree, Jed Margolis. In addition, the 2013 JCC Maccabi Games’ Team Philadelphia Graduating Athletes will receive special recognition.

More after the jump.
The inductees into the PJSHOF represent the best of the best: those who through perseverance, dedication, superior talent and skills, have risen to the top of their respective sports. Their names and achievements will be celebrated within the walls of the museum.  

Each PJSHOF inductee has been involved in sports as an athlete, coach, manager, administrator, team owner, or member of the media. They must have at least one Jewish parent and have lived within, or competed within, the five-county Greater Philadelphia area. They have joined a special group of approximately 130 past honorees.  

This year’s special class includes one of the most successful coaches in basketball history, one of the winningest football coaches in Philadelphia’s high school history, a top radio broadcast manager, and more.

  • Ellen Barkann, a competitive figure skater, achieved the highest level in all disciplines of her sport: singles, pairs and ice dancing. In 2012 she created a nonprofit organization, The Barkann Family Healing Hearts Foundation, whose mission is to provide grants and financial assistance to families in the area who are overcome by family crisis, long term illness or sudden loss of life.
  • Bob Brooks was a multi-talented athlete as the starting pitcher on the University of Pennsylvania’s baseball team, and as a three-year starter on the basketball court who earned All-Ivy and All-State honors in his senior year. He is a longtime community volunteer.
  • Larry Brown is one of the most successful basketball coaches, at college and professional levels, of all time. He is the only head coach to lead teams to an NBA title (Detroit Pistons, 2004) and an NCAA Championship (University of Kansas Jayhawks, 1988). He is also the only coach in history to lead eight different NBA teams to the playoffs. He also is the only U.S. male to both play and coach in the Olympics, winning Gold Medals in 1964 and 2000, and is enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. He is currently the head basketball coach at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.  

    Fred Cohen playing for Temple, 1956

  • Fred Cohen achieved a stellar basketball career in high school and the upper levels of the college game. Playing for the Temple Owls, he set an NCAA playoff record for 34 rebounds in one game, that remains intact. He played with All-Americans Hal Lear and Guy Rogers, and their 1956 team went to the NCAA Final Four. He went on to graduate Yale Law School and has had a distinguished law career as a professor, then activist and author in the area of correctional mental health law.
  • Josh Cohen ranked among the top ten tennis players in the world in U.S. Juniors, and number one nationally in every USTA age group from 12-18; he won the International Grass Court Championship, competed in all four Grand Slam tournaments, and reached the quarterfinals in the French Open. In 2012, Billie Jean King named him head coach of her team, the Philadelphia Freedoms.  
  • Ron Cohen has been the head football coach at George Washington High School for the past 28 years and is the winningest coach in Philadelphia’s history. He has been named Coach of the Year on nine different occasions. He holds the city record for most playoff wins with 55, and has coached seven Big 33 football stars, including four players who have gone on to play in the NFL.
  • Bonnie Kay has been a Philadelphia area competitor in golf tournaments for over 40 years, having won the Women’s Stroke Play Championship and the Mixed Pair Championship as well as various country club championships. As a proud player in two Maccabi Games in Israel, she won a team Silver in 1985 and a team Gold in 1997. She is a consulting psychologist to Fortune 500 corporations, city and state agencies, and private family-owned companies.
  • Marc Rayfield is the senior vice president and market manager of CBS, Inc. where he is currently responsible for live broadcasts of the Phillies, Eagles and Philadelphia Union as well as Temple, St. Joe’s and Villanova athletics. His purview at CBS includes oversight of KYW Newsradio, WIP, WOGL, WPHT and cbsphilly.com.    
  • Pillar of Achievement honoree, Jed Margolis has been dedicated to using sports to strengthen Jewish identity and pride and love for Israel throughout his 40 years working in the JCC World and at Maccabi USA, where he has served as executive director since 2002. One of the many highpoints in his Maccabi USA tenure came in 2009, when he was honored as a member of the Maccabi USA Leadership Team by The National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. He also represented the USA as a member of the Masters Men’s Gold Medal Basketball Team, coached by NBA Legend Dolph Schayes, at the 1995 Pan American Maccabi Games in Uruguay.

An Ethiopian Jew’s Journey

— by Hannah Lee

I met Barak Avraham, known as Malaku in his native Amharic, during his 2-week tour of the United States on behalf of AMIT, which supports a network of 108 schools and programs in 29 cities in Israel. Avraham’s personal story is a marvelous case study of how AMIT schools turn around individual lives and whole towns. His trek began at age 9 when he walked, with his mother and four siblings, for three weeks from their village of Abu Zava to the city of Gondar in Ethiopia. Sleeping outdoors at night, they were at the peril of anti-Semites, who recognized them as Jews and strangers. (His non-Jewish father, already divorced, stayed at home.)

More after the jump.
Back in their village, his maternal family dreamed of going to Jerusalem, a place like Paradise where people wear white garments and they do not have to work. After waiting eight months, they were accepted for flight aboard the covert Operation Solomon, which airlifted over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews in a 36-hour mission in May, 1991. Before boarding, Avraham’s mother buried their remaining Ethiopian money, birr, because she thought they would not need money in the Promised Land.

Avraham’s memories of his childhood in Ethiopa included Pesach, when they eagerly anticipated the gift of matzot delivered by shluchim (emissaries), homemade soccer balls fashioned from old socks and electrical wire, and a world without television or cars, just as life was lived 200 years before. The transition from a traditional society to a modern one was especially hard for the elders, such as his grandparents who arrived later. His family spent a year in an absorption center, merkaz klita, learning to adjust to Israeli ways, including eating with forks and knives. Ethiopian foods, such as teff and injera, are eaten with the right hand.

Growing up in a rough neighborhood and with a single mother, Avraham lost his way when he was in his “foolish teen years,” tipesh esrei, when he was expelled from one school after another. No one wanted him any longer. This was a painful period for his mother, who cried in shame and sadness. “I decided that I was going to change. That if my mother was going to cry because of me, it would be with pride, not from sorrow.” On the advice of a friend attending school at the AMIT Kfar Blatt Youth Village in Petach Tikva, he wrote a letter of appeal to the director, Amiran Cohen. A visionary educator, Cohen had him sign a pledge of changes he would make in his life.

Cohen, who became a special friend, and the support network of surrogate parents, teachers, and social workers helped Avraham focus his intelligence. He had always been told that he had “much potential.” Upon passing the bagrut, matriculation exams, he was accepted into an elite intelligence unit in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and served with distinction as an outstanding soldier. His mother cried with pride and joy at this completion ceremony.

The IDF taught him discipline and it broadened Avraham’s horizons. He listened as his army mates of different backgrounds from all over the country shared their dreams for the future. He knew then he had to get an education, which was assisted by an IMPACT scholarship from the Friends of the IDF. He was the valedictorian and the top Ethiopian student graduating with a degree in government diplomacy from The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya. Later, when he earned a master’s in public service, also from the IDC, he gave a speech before an audience of 4,000 and his mother cried again from joy.

Now 30, Avraham is an entrepreneur and founder of an Internet start-up company and manager of a teen community house in Petach Tikva. He is also coordinator of a new program at the AMIT Rambam Elementary School in Netanya. Rambam was a failing school. The Ministry of Education appealed to AMIT to rescue this school, and AMIT now plans to designate it a magnet school, an innovative model that brings together in one school the top-achieving students with the most needy ones. Avraham’s program includes football (soccer to Americans), mentoring, and parent support. Coming from the same poor neighborhood and background, Avraham gives the children confidence that they, too, can succeed.

Avraham’s newest dream is to join the Knesset in the next election. A Social Democrat, he parts ways with the older Ethiopians who tend to vote Likud, although “it’s capitalist,” and they’re poor but they vote for the country’s security needs. His mother, for one, cannot bear to hear anything bad against Israel. (The Yesh Atid party, which won 19 seats in January, has two Ethiopians in its cabinet.) Barak Avraham’s future was paved by the caring leaders and staff of the AMIT schools.

This Is How They Light The Menorah At Technion

Technion students Eyal Cohen and Tomer Wassermann from the Mechanical Engineering faculty and Matan Orian and Dvir Dukhan of Industrial Engineering and Management take on the challenge to build a Rube Goldberg machine that lights the Chanukah menorah.

Behind the scenes video of the making of the film follows the jump.
 

US Initiatives Support Israel’s Economic Stability and Growth

As part of this week’s meetings of the U.S.-Israel Joint Economic Development Group (JEDG), U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Israeli Finance Ministry Director General Doron Cohen today marked the extension of the U.S.-Israel Loan Guarantee program in an event in the Diplomatic Room of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The officials signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishing a new framework for administering the recently extended U.S.-Israel Loan Guarantee program, which is designed to help the Israeli government access financial resources from private capital markets at affordable rates, in order to promote the country’s economic growth and stability. Along with the Loan Guarantee Commitment Agreement administered through the U.S. Agency for International Development, the new framework affirms the United States’ confidence in Israel’s strong economic fundamentals and the Government of Israel’s solid track record of policy implementation.

“Israel is a vital partner and ally of the United States,” said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. “The continued availability of this loan guarantee will allow Israel to continue to enjoy access to capital markets at affordable rates in the years to come.”

On July 27, 2012, President Obama signed legislation extending the U.S. loan guarantee program for Israel to 2016. This will allow the U.S. to provide access to up to $3.8 billion in future loan guarantees as part of a $9 billion commitment made by the U.S. in 2003.  The loan guarantees, together with effective management by the Israeli government, have helped support Israel’s strong economic recovery.  

“Israel appreciates the longstanding extraordinary support of the United States for Israel and the relationship between two countries that have so much in common,” said Israeli Finance Ministry Director General Doron Cohen. “The JEDG and Loan Guarantees program have contributed to the security and stability of the Israeli economy, and the JEDG will continue to enhance the relationship between our countries.”

More after the jump.
The JEDG, which is being held in Washington on October 24-25, is the primary economic dialogue between the United States and Israel.

The Israeli economy grew by 4.6 percent in 2011, and the Bank of Israel projects the economy to grow by 3.3 percent in 2012, making Israel one of the region’s strongest economies.  The Bank of Israel has been successful in keeping inflation on target, maintaining an inflation rate of 2.1 percent in September. Israeli officials have also been successful in reducing the country’s debt in recent years.