World War II Treasures Discovered in a Shoebox

At the Passover Seder, we recite the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. For Marc Shatzman and his family, there is also another Passover story to tell — how Shatzman’s maternal grandfather, Bruno Elkan, celebrated Passover as a Jewish American soldier in Europe in 1945:

While I was in Belgium I attended a Seder given by the seven Jewish families left in town. … The stories they told me are hard to believe but I know they are true. How they managed to survive the Hitler regime is hard to comprehend. They were lovely people & I felt quite at home.

These words were written by Elkan to his future wife, Adele Berkowitz, in a letter dated March 30, 1945. In a subsequent letter, he mentions a young girl at the Seder, who told him things that “no human being can understand.”

Bruno Elkan during World War II.

Through his letters to Berkowitz, Elkan created a first-hand account of the life of an American soldier in Europe during World War II. Until recently, his prolific wartime correspondence dwelled in a shoebox in Marc Shatzman’s closet. Although Shatzman never met his grandfather — who survived the war, but died from an allergic reaction at an early age — he feels connected to him, in part because of their physical resemblance. [Read more…]

Cattle Car of Dreams on Display at Barrack

Every year, the Holocaust Education and Reflection (HEAR) Club at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in suburban Philadelphia creates a special school legacy project, with the goal of keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive. One year, it was a flower garden dedicated to the children of the Holocaust. Another year, it was butterflies stenciled on the walls of the school stairwells, commemorating the poem The Butterfly, written by a young Holocaust victim, with the iconic line “I never saw another butterfly.”

Cattle Car of Dreams. Photo: Shira Stein.

And for 2017-2018, it is the Cattle Car of Dreams. At first, the project’s title seems a bit jarring. How could a vehicle that transported Jews to their deaths, obliterating their hopes for the future, be described as a “cattle car of dreams”? [Read more…]

State Sen. Daylin Leach at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy

Join us for a community conversation with State Sen. Daylin Leach to discuss issues of great importance to day school families, including day school scholarships, safety and school resources. Don’t miss this special opportunity to personally meet with Sen. Leach, whose district includes Barrack and the Perelman Jewish Day School Stern Center. Be part of the conversation, and let your voice be heard!

Please RSVP to Michael Litchman, (610) 922-2335.

Barrack Students Visit Home of the Paper Clips Project

From left to right, Maddison Barrack, Rebecca Shaid, Sarah Scheinmann and Emma Dorsch.

When their plane touched down in Tennessee, Emma Dorsch, Sarah Scheinmann, Rebecca Shaid and Maddison Barrack — four high school students from the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in suburban Philadelphia — did not realize that they were about to embark on a life-changing experience. Representing Barrack’s Holocaust Education and Reflection (HEAR) Club, the girls would be attending a dedication at Whitwell Middle School in rural Tennessee, home of the famous Paper Clips Project. [Read more…]

From Barrack to Broadway

David Treatman (left) and Alan Koolik (right), Columbia University students and theater producers in New York City.

David Treatman, a 2016 graduate of the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy,  and and his business partner, Alan Koolik, are two of the youngest producers on the New York theater scene. They are students at Columbia University: Treatman, a sophomore, and Koolik, a junior. [Read more…]

Children Teach Us Something Important on the Basketball Court

I recently went to the Wells Fargo Center to watch some kids play a pickup game of basketball. It was not your typical basketball game, however, but not because the kids were playing on the home court of the Philadelphia 76ers. This was a game involving students from the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr and the Al Aqsa Islamic Academy in Philadelphia. It was also the bar mitzvah project of Ari Abramovitz, a middle-school student at Barrack. [Read more…]

JBHA Open House and IAC Eitanim: High School Leadership & Entrepreneurship Program

The Jack M Barrack Hebrew Academy will have an open house and host the IAC. The Israeli American Council’s Eitanim program is a unique leadership and entrepreneurship project-based program for high school students, 9th-12th grade. IAC Eitanim allows the students to connect, explore, and experience Israel while preparing for college and developing professional skills.The program develops students’ creativity, self-learning skills, team-work skills, and a connection to Israel through real world challenges, while working with experts on creative ideas and innovative solutions and technologies.

Introductory meeting: Thursday 10/27 @ 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
First three sessions: 11/7, 12/18, 1/12 @ 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Second three sessions: 2/9, 3/16, 4/20 @ 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Third three sessions: 5/11, 6/1, 6/[email protected] 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

• The program includes 10 mandatory sessions and an optional summer summit
All sessions of the program are held in English and will take place at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy

• If you have any questions about the registration, feel free to contact Sharona Durry – [email protected] or call 267-250-3835

Michael Steinhardt: Keynote Speaker at Barrack Hebrew Academy

unnamedHow do we ensure the continuation of the Jewish people? This is the question that consumes Michael Steinhardt. Mr. Steinhardt is this year’s keynote speaker at the Jack M Barrack Hebrew Academy’s gala.

Michael Steinhardt’s connection to Philadelphia began with his education at Penn, where he earned a degree from Wharton. After making his fortune on Wall Street, Mr. Steinhardt decided to focus full time on his passion for the Jewish world. He created the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life. Among many other initiatives, he was one of the founders of Birthright.

Mr. Steinhardt sees a bifurcation in the American Jewish community today. “Virtually 100% of Orthodox students attend day school,” he said. “Among the non-Orthodox Jews, attendance is between 5% to 10%.” He would love to see more non-Orthodox Jewish students getting a really excellent education in day schools. It is his fervent hope that the future generations of Jews will care about Judaism and Israel, and will be able to express this in fluent Hebrew!

“The Jack M Barrack Hebrew Academy is a shining light,” Mr. Steinhardt told me. “It is an example for all the other Jewish schools to emulate.”

March 9, 2016
Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue | 4200 City Avenue, Philadelphia, PA

  • 5:30 p.m. Cocktails & Dinner
  • 7:00 p.m. Program
  • 8:15 p.m. Dessert

Purchase gala tickets.

Politicon at the Barrack Hebrew Academy

barrackThe eighth quadrennial Politicon afforded Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy students a unique opportunity to shape and challenge their views on key issues impacting the 2016 U.S. Presidential Primaries. Politicon is a bipartisan political conference involving not just students and teachers, but also members of the local political establishment. The day included workshops, a keynote address and a mock election.


Representing the Republican Party candidates are (from left); Tali Glickman, senior as Carly Fiorina; sophomore Mati Zeff as Ben Carson; Aaron Bernstein, senior, as Donald Trump; Ben Rothstein, sophomore, as Ted Cruz; Michael Montague, senior, as Jeb Bush and Elliot Bernstein, senior, as Marco Rubio.

Mock election have been held since 1988 at Barrack (then known as the Akiba Hebrew Academy), when history teacher Sharon Levin brought the tradition she had begun with her from a previous school. As has been the case with the elections, including 2008 and 2012, the school always represents the party out of Presidential power.

This year the school held a mock Republican Primary. Students playing Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush campaigned, held a debate a week prior to the event, and then gave their stump speeches at the end of Politicon.

The entire student body then voted. The results of the mock election were as follows:

  • Marco Rubio, 196 votes (Winner), played by JBHA senior, Elliot Bernstein,
  • Jeb Bush, 90 votes, played by JBHA senior, Michael Montague,
  • Donald Trump, 40 votes, played by JBHA senior, Aaron Bernstein,
  • Ben Carson, 15 votes, played by JBHA sophomore Mati Zeff,
  • Ted Cruz, 10 votes, played by JBHA sophomore Ben Rothstein,
  • Carly Fiorina, 1 vote by JBHA senior Tali Glickman, and
  • 7 write-in votes for other candidates

“The whole idea is to make students aware and active citizens, which at a school like Barrack is part of its mission statement,” explains Mrs. Levin. She sees this type of “experimental learning” as the perfect vehicle to involve the student body and, for some, to act as an initiation into futures of political activism.

Via workshops, students developed and challenged their views on: the death penalty; gun control legislation; discrimination in the workplace; immigration; the upcoming U.S. presidential election; and the media’s role in politics.

The keynote address was given by Republican Congressman Patrick Meehan (PA-7) who represents the school’s district in Congress.

Politicon Group Photo
From left to right:
Front row: Marcel Groen, Chairman, PA Democratic Party and Judge Risa Vetri Ferman, former Montgomery County District Attorney.
Middle row: Robert J. DeSousa, State Director for Senator Pat Toomey and his assistant, District Attorney Mark Bookman; Rena Shapiro, representing BuzzFeed; Sharon P. Levin, JBHA Head of School; Andrea Johnson; Dveera Segal, Professor of Law & Director of the Civil Justice Clinic, Villanova University; Ron Eisenberg, Deputy District Attorney of Philadelphia; Michele S. Levin, President, JBHA Board of Directors; and Jennifer Groen, Director of Admission & Strategic Engagement of JBHA.
Back row: Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro; Chester County Republican Party Commissioner Val DiGiorgio; Gary Kaplan, a market researcher; Bradley Bridge, Assistant Defender, Defender Association of Philadelphia; and United States Congressman Patrick Meehan.