Jewish Heritage Festival

Congregation Hesed Shel Emet in Pottstown, PA presents its 2nd Annual Jewish Heritage Festival – Sunday, May 22, 2016 from 11 am – 5 pm.  The Festival features kosher favorites such as brisket, corned beef, hot dogs, knishes etc.  We also offer dairy favorites such as kugel, lox and bagels, and blintzes.

Admission and parking are free. Enjoy entertainment for kids by Music Monkey Jungle, and for all ages – back by popular demand – Klezmer with Class.  Rabbi Ira Flax will offer Torah Talks and Jack Wolf will present a history of the Jewish Community of Pottstown.

Vendors and crafters will also be on site, as well as a robust basket raffle, and lots of goodies to take home from our bake sale.


Israel Independence Day Parade and Festival

The Jewish community of Philadelphia celebrated the 65th anniversary of the State of Israel with a parade and festival on Sunday, May 19, 2013.

Marchers in the parade organized at 20th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, near the Free Library of Philadelphia Main Branch. The parade began with a motorcycle color guard, followed by an ambulance from the American Friends of Magen David Adom. At that point, a handful of demonstrators holding a sign with anti-Israel slogan released black helium balloons to express their displeasure.

More after the jump.

Marching in the parade were:

  • Congregation Beth Or;
  • Volunteers For Israel;  
  • Kohelet Yeshiva High School;  
  • Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy;
  • Perelman Jewish Day School;
  • Lower Merion Synagogue;
  • Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia;
  • Israeli Scouts;
  • Temple Sinai;
  • Congregation Mikveh Israel;
  • Congregation Beth Am Israel in Penn Valley;  
  • Birthright Israel;
  • Tifereth Israel of Lower Bucks County;
  • Jewish Grad Network of Young Professionals;
  • the Avalon String Band;
  • Philadelphia Police and Fire Pipe and Drum Corps;
  • the Labor Zionist youth group Habonim Dror and Camp Galil;
  • Congregation Beth TIkvah B’nai Jeshurun;
  • Congregation Beth Zion-Beth Israel;
  • J Street;
  • Zionist Organization of America;
  • Gratz College and Jewish Community High School;
  • the Congregations of Shaare Shamayim;
  • Congregation Kol Ami of Elkins Park;
  • Congregation Or Shalom of Berwyn;
  • Congregation Adath Jeshurun and
  • Society Hill Synagogue.

The parade also featured an antique Volkswagen van advertising Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews; an SUV and trailer from the Philadelphia Union soccer team; and a truck and float from

The parade went down Race Street and stopped at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 12th and Arch streets, where the festival took place. The young people from Camp Galil asked the Police and Fire Pipe and Drum Corps to perform “Hava Nagila” on bagpipes, and they joined in a hora circle.

At the festival, agencies and organizations represented were:

  • Shalom Israel Tours,
  • Zionist Organization of America,
  • Nefesh B’Nefesh,
  • Philadelphia Jewish Voice,
  • Friends of the IDF,
  • Holocaust Awareness Museum,
  • Hebrew Free Loan Society,
  • Camp Galil,
  • Philadelphia Phillies and Union,
  • Volunteers for Israel,
  • National Museum of American Jewish History,
  • Kaiserman and Klein Jewish Community Centers,
  • Anti-Defamation League,
  • the Consulate General of Israel/Israeli Ministry of Tourism,
  • El Al Airlines,
  • Pinemere Camp,
  • Camp Harlam, Camp Ramah,
  • Jewish Relief Agency,
  • Einstein Healthcare Network,
  • Gratz College,
  • HIAS (formerly Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society-Philadelphia),
  • Jewish Family and Children’s Services,
  • Jewish Exponent,
  • Jewish Grad Network of Young Professionals,
  • Jewish Employment and Vocational Services,
  • J Street,
  • American Associates of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev,
  • Philadelphia Council of AMIT,
  • B’nai Zion Foundation,
  • Hazon,
  • Brith Shalom,
  • Hosts for Hospitals,
  • Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, and
  • Tikvah/AJMI (Advocates for the Jewish Mentally Ill).

Vendors displayed hand crafted jewelry and soap, ING Financial  Partners, and gifts from Jerusalem. There was sampling of Israeli wines, face painting for kids, demonstrations of the Israeli martial art Krav Maga, Israeli dancing, a caricaturist, the Avalon String Band performing, and palm reading at a Bedouin tent.    

Photos courtesy of the Jewish Exponent.

Is This A World to Hide Virtues In? Phil. Live Arts & Philly Fringe

Live Arts Festival.  Live. In a world of the virtual – walk down a city street like Philadelphia these days and you will not see the whites of people’s eyes, but the tops of their heads, a world of television and film and staring at computer screens for hours– the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival is balm.   The Live Arts Festival is taking place right now, through September 17th at various venues throughout the city.   I attended Canyon, Twelfth Night, and Namasya, an Indian dance performance this weekend and urge you to run, don’t walk to at least one show this coming week.  You will be infused with live art, in real time – raw, alive, unexpected, and vibrant.

More after the jump.

I had the opportunity to interview John Jasperse, an abstract choreographer from NYC, whose new work, Canyon, was performed at the Wilma Theatre September 9 -11th.   From the program: “Six dancers, including Jasperse, create a space where the supremacy of the intellect is humbled into a state of awe, where you lose yourself in the transformative power of pure visceral experience. Integrating an evocative musical score and striking stage design, Canyon plays with engineered disorientation, sensory overload, spaciousness, fractured connectivity, and rapture.”  

A mysterious white box moves on the stage (and veers off the stage as well) throughout the performance.  An attentive spectator figures out that the box moves because there is a person underneath it.   But what purpose does the box serve?   What does the box symbolize?   After the 70 minute show, I asked audience members what the box meant to them:  Here are some of the responses:  A void,  space, a trace, life, funny.  And. . . . a box.   I was drawn to a little girl and asked her what the box meant: ” it’s a magic box.”   As it turned out she was the seven year old daughter of one of the dancers – James McGinn.   She spelled out her name: Madeline Lemi    McGinn explained that through their long rehearsal process, dancers engaged in an investigation of kinesthetic space.   He said the show was “very enjoyable to perform but exhausting.”  

Responding to what is the box question, choreographer Jasperse notes, “I’m interested  in leaving that space open.  I don’t want to impose a verbal language.  Things start to get juicy where language fails.”  

I asked him if any poets, whose very material are words, have inspired his work.  He said he loved John Ashbury’s use of language.  “It’s a refractory usage of language and images.”   “The box marks the passage of time.  It’s constant but doesn’t recognize the delineation of time and space.  It doesn’t register boundaries such as fence, lawn, lobby, room.”    In this way, the box disorients and destabilizes the space around us.  

Twelfth Night, or What You Will

In the Pig Iron’s dazzlingly innovative production of Shakespeare’s the Twelfth Night, or What You Will (playing through September 17th – tickets still available!) the Fool says “Nothing that is so is so.”   Directed by Dan Rothenberg with music by Rosie Langabeer and whimsical costumes by Olivera Gajic, the production is one of the most innovative renditions of Shakespeare I have ever seen.   The show begins with music – a live band enters with funky hats, bottles of booze and begin to play Balkan-gypsy-klezmer music whtat never stops.   The musicians will follow the actors around the amazing set, designed by Maiko Matsuhsima, complete with a roller-blade type curved space upon which the actors silde up to a balcony and down again.  The Philadelphia based Pig Iron, which began in 1995, is known for their experimental, physical theatre.   Twelfth Night marks the Pig Iron’s first full-on engagement with a “classic” script.    

A story about mistaken identity, doubles, that features dueling musicians, jesters, religious zealouts and much erotic misunderstanding this production is a flawlessly paced, superbly acted production.   Sarah Sanford, who plays Viola and James Sugg who plays Sit Toby gave mesmerizing performances.  The costumes become part of the fun, from the Duke’s seersucker suit and purple socks, to Sir Toby’s fuschia suit and gold chains.   The Duke is played by Pig Iron theatre’s co-founder and co-artistic director Digo van Reigersberg who performs as his alter ego, Martha Graham-Cracker, the tallest drag queen in the world, at L’Etage in Philadelphia.  

Where:  Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 South Broad Street (at Lombard).  Wheelchair accessible.   Student discounts available for all shows!    (215) 413-1318

Gei Oni, a film review

Gei Oni, directed by Dan Wolman
(2010, 105 minutes, Hebrew, Yiddish, and Arabic with English subtitles)

— Ben Burrows

Gei Oni, a film by Israeli producer-director Dan Wolman, was shown this weekend at Drexel University as part of the Philadelphia Israeli Film Festival. Wolman introduced the film, and took questions afterward. A film of light or darkness, of wide expanses or of tightly enclosed spaces, the cinematography is gorgeous, and focuses the audience on its major characters, Fania and Yechiel, with its deceptively simple visual palette. Fania arrives in Jaffa from late 19th century Russia with her baby daughter in tow, accompanied by Shuvale Mandelstam, who may be her husband, but later claims to be her uncle. They are fleeing the Russian pogrom, which killed Fania’s parents, and which has driven her brother Lolik mad and silenced. They are surprised when their relative in Jerusalem has not come to meet them at the port, and Shuvale travels to Jerusalem — only to find his relative, a newspaper editor, has fallen on hard times — so the new immigrants must rely on the charity of strangers. While Fania waits for Shuvale to return, she meets Yechiel, a recently widowed local farmer with two children from his previous marriage. Yechiel is clearly stricken by Fania’s beauty, although he must know she possesses few household skills, when she causes a small explosion while lighting a lantern near the hotel where she waits for Shuvale to return. A marriage is quickly arranged and celebrated, but there is a dark secret which prevents Fania from consummating the relationship. She tells Yechiel that she still mourns the death of her daughter’s father. Yechiel decides to accept her reluctance for the time being, and accepts responsibility to support her brother Lolik. Shuvale retires from the scene, and the new family returns to Yechiel’s village of Jauni.

More after the jump.
Wolman admitted during questioning to a number of interests in making this movie, from the novel Gei Oni by Shulamit Lapid. He wanted to portray a time when Jews actually purchased land from their Arab neighbors. He was interested in the positive romantic aspects of the novel, and did not include Yechiel’s death from malaria or Fania’s remarriage, as dramatic over-complications. He wanted to portray the different Jewish, Syrian Christian, and Arab Muslim cultures coexisting uncomfortably, with different levels of communication layered by the different practical experiences of male and female experience. As I watched the story unfold, I could not help but see parallels between the story of Fania and Yechiel with the stories of Sarah and Avraham. For so long as they pretended that Sarah was Avraham’s sister, the patriarchal couple brought plague to the land of Egypt, where they were sojourning. For so long as Fania kept her secret shame from Yechiel, one misfortune after another befalls the little settlement of Jauni. The Zionist and Biblical patriarchal couples seem equally distant to the modern eye, and both situations are resolved by a return to the Land, the Divine provision of additional people and resources, and the discovery of their mutual love for one another. By the final scene, Yechiel and Fania have brought new life into the world, and the village has begun to produce wheat from their rocky and difficult terrain.

Gei Oni is celebrated as an early feminist Israeli novel. The Jewish Women’s Archive describes Lapid’s Fania and her place in Israeli literature:

After several collections of short stories, Lapid first gained readers’ attention with her popular novel, … , which was the first Israeli book to be labelled “feminist.” Its feminism is, however, displaced, the action taking place in Palestine of the 1890s, thereby establishing a precedent in Israeli fiction for masking feminist protest by historical distancing. Framed in a narrative about first-settlers struggling with a harsh motherland, in a culture that kept gender roles distinct and separate, Lapid’s heroine, Fania, stands out in her attempt to cross boundaries. She is both mother and merchant, venturing out on the road alone, even defending herself against armed Arab horsemen when attacked.

The author had a life of her own, and made a family with Tommy Lapid, of blessed memory. Tommy Lapid was a member of the Knesset, and a champion of secular Shinui Party, which fought the influence of haredi restrictions into everyday Israeli life. Later in life, Tommy Lapid directed Yad VaShem: Preserving the Past to Ensure the Future.

Gei Oni had a difficult time finding distribution in Israel, despite Wolman’s extensive oeuvre, and his track record at attracting audiences. After being rejected multiple times, Wolman at last found a distributor willing to show his film. When Wolman saw the terms of his contract however, he saw that he might never be paid a cent, after the costs of the distributor (never enumerated) were subtracted off the top. When Wolman asked for a more specific enumeration of costs, or for an estimate of audience head count which might be required to achieve some payback, none was forthcoming. It was then that Wolman decided to arrange for his own private distribution of the film, at theaters who had shown his films in the past. He wrote and emailed everyone he could, and urged his friends to see the film in the first two weeks, explaining his predicament. The guerrilla distribution plan worked, and the film’s success in Israel has brought the film here to Philadelphia.