Celebrate Israel Festivals in 15 Cities Coast-to-Coast

By Meira Fine

This spring, the Israeli American Council is partnering with Jewish Federations, JCCs, and other organizations to host major Celebrate Israel festivals in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Las Vegas, Arizona, Seattle, Chicago and New Jersey from May 7th until June 11th. Additional celebrations will be hosted by community groups through IAC Beyachad (IAC Together) in many metropolitan areas, including Salt Lake City, Tucson, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Omaha. More than 50,000 pro-Israel Americans of all backgrounds and faiths will come together to celebrate Israel and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.The events will constitute the largest Israel celebration outside of Israel on record, a feat the IAC repeats each year.

“We are thrilled to bring people together from across the pro-Israel community to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification in what will be the largest celebration of Israel outside of Israel in history,” said IAC CEO Shoham Nicolet. “Israeli-Americans are very proud of the increasing role that we are playing as a bridge between the America and Israel, and within the Jewish and pro-Israel
communities here in the United States.”

Each event will feature its own depictions of Jerusalem’s reunification. In Los Angeles, a 24-ft. tall Towerof David, life-size replica of the Kotel, and past-and-present photography exhibit by Noam Chen will bring participants face-to-face with the Jewish people’s eternal capital. In Boston, attendees will enjoy an archeological dig, shop in a replica of the Machane Yehuda Shuk, and enjoy performances from a
range of Israeli and Jewish artists and student groups.

Past Celebrate Israel events have brought unique and iconic Israeli experiences to regions across the U.S. – from the more than 15,000 attendees who turned out years past in Los Angeles to hear the sounds of Israeli headliners, like Idan Raichel, to the thousands of participants who mingled in Tel Aviv beach sand in Boston.

Never Again!

Never again.

Since early January, over 50 JCCs have received almost 70 anonymous bomb threats, forcing the evacuation of babies, children and staff in 26 states. Proliferating anti-Semitic acts are reported on an almost daily basis, including broken synagogue windows, as well as Swastikas defacing holy places of prayer, the New York subway and private Jewish properties. In a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, a Jewish cemetery was desecrated, with more than 100 headstones knocked over or broken.

Screenshot from an AP video of the desecrated Jewish cemetery in Missouri.

Screenshot from an AP video of the desecrated Jewish cemetery in Missouri.

What is wrong with this picture? Is this our new “normal,” and are we simply to adjust to and accept this frighteningly unacceptable reality? [Read more…]

JCCs Receive Bomb Threats Twice in One Month

For Jewish community centers (JCCs) around the country, 2017 began with a series of security scares. On January 9, 16 centers in nine states received fake bomb threats, causing many evacuations and a disruption in normal operations. It was a similar scenario just nine days later when, according to the JCC Association of North America, a wave of bomb threats caused 27 JCCs in 17 states to quickly engage in security protocols to ensure the safety of their participants and facilities. [Read more…]

Jewish Federations of North America to Honor Jewish Service

253389_10151475517362099_1186874433_n– by Marla Cohen

The Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly will hold a ceremony honoring the Jewish military personnel who have served the U.S. on Tuesday, November 11, Veteran’s Day, at the National Harbor in Maryland.

The program will begin at 1:30 p.m. at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at 201 Waterfront Street, and will include both active-duty and retired chaplains who will share their own personal experiences serving Jewish men and women of the U.S. armed forces.

In addition to readings from the chaplains’ wartime experiences, the tribute will include video saluting the service of Jews in the military between World War I and the present. The Jewish Chapel Choir of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point will also take part in the ceremony.

The Jewish Community Centers’ Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) program will take center stage at the ceremony. JWB was created to administer to Jewish servicemen’s needs, and to vouch for the authenticity of the rabbis serving as chaplains. JWB’s chairman, Rabbi Frank Waldorf, said that “three dozen rabbis serve an estimated 10,000 American Jews serving around the globe.”

JWB is looking forward to its 100th anniversary, which will coincide with the U.S. entry into World War I.

New Leadership Program For Young Russian Jewish Families

The Klein JCC in the Northeast section of the city is partnering with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in the development of a unique new leadership program earmarked for young Russian professional Jewish families.

More after the jump.
Once enrolled, the young professionals will participate in a special series of lectures and seminars embracing Israeli history, culture and politics, as well as local philanthropy. The leadership development program will culminate with a subsidized week-long trip to Israel to experience first hand the history, culture and people of the Jewish state.

In making the announcement, Andre Krug, president & CEO of the Klein JCC, states:

We are seeking 10 young Russian professional Jewish families between the ages of 30 and 45 years with young children to take part in this special new leadership program. This program will provide is a very rare and stimulating opportunity for all of its participants to gain a deeper and more meaningful understanding of Israel and its people.

The mission of the American Jewish Committee is to enhance the well being of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide, and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world.

Now celebrating its 37th anniversary year, the non-profit Klein JCC provides social, educational and cultural programs, as well as vital social services for people living in Northeast Philadelphia and its surrounding communities.

Any young Russian professional Jewish families in the area who are interested in participating should contact Krug at the Klein JCC: 215-698-7300.

Olympic Insensitivity: IOC Refused London Games Minute Of Silence

— by Donna Schmidt

JCC Rockland’s petition on change.org is over 23,000 signatures strong and is far from over. The petition, started on April 13, 2012, asks for a Minute of Silence at the London Olympic Games and at every game thereafter for the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches killed by terrorists at the Olympic Village in Munich in 1972. The Munich 11 families have been asking for this honor in memory of their loved ones for 40 years. For 40 years the IOC has denied their request.

Yesterday, Emmanuelle Moreau, IOC head of media relations, told the Post, “The IOC has paid tribute to the memory of the athletes who tragically died in Munich in 1972 on several occasions and will continue to do so. However, we do not foresee any commemoration during the opening ceremony of the London Games.”

Ankie Spitzer (wife of fencing Coach Andrei Spitzer, one of the Munich 11) who started the petition with JCC Rockland had this to say, “I have not received any official response from the IOC. This is far from over. I continue to move forward in my pursuit for the honor my husband and the other men deserve. These men were Olympians and should be given this honor IN the Olympic Stadium not just outside of it.”

More after the jump.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey and Congressman Elliot Engel yesterday announced a Congressional Resolution and released a letter to the IOC. “The murder of 11 Israeli athletes by terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics was a tragedy that reverberated far beyond the Games,” said Congresswoman Lowey, Ranking Democrat on the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee. “It is necessary, important, and right to hold a minute of silence in recognition of the victims. The continued refusal of the International Olympic Committee to honor the memories of these victims is unfathomable, and I urge the IOC to reconsider its decision.”

“The murder of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches can no longer be ignored by the International Olympic Committee. It’s time that the IOC set aside a moment of silence to remember all of the victims,” said Rep. Engel, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “I urge the IOC to reconsider its appalling decision and stop standing in the way of an appropriate, solemn recognition of the horror which befell the Games 40 years ago.”

For more information about the Munich 11 and “The Minute of Silence” campaign, go to the Munich 11 website.  

The Philadelphia Tu B’Shevat Adventure


Orange Tree

— by Ronit Treatman

What do April 15th and the Shevat 15th have in common? Both are tax days! Two thousand years ago, the 15th of Shevat was when the twelve Hebrew tribes paid tithes to the Levites in Jerusalem. Tu B’Shevat, the fifteenth day of the month of Shevat, is described in the Mishnah as the New Year for Trees. During the times of the Temple, fruit tithes would be calculated beginning on Tu B’Shevat. Fruit that grew on trees after the fifteenth day of Shevat was counted for the tithes that were due the following year. These tithes supported the Levites, helped feed the poor, and paid for Tu B’Shevat festivities in Jerusalem.

Following the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans, the Jews were exiled from Israel, and tithes were no longer paid. The Jews in the Diaspora preserved the memory of Tu B’Shevat by remembering their connection to the Land of Israel. In the Jewish communities of Bukhara, Uzbekistan, and Kurdistan, Tu B’Shevat developed into the “day of eating the seven species.” The seven species are the seven fruits and grains that are listed in the Torah as special products of the Land of Israel. In the 16th century Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the famous mystic of Safed, and his students collaborated to create the Tu B’Shevat Seder. The observance of Tu B’Shevat has undergone many permutations
since that time.

How can you and your family enjoy this ancient holiday in present day Philadelphia?

Some hands-on ideas to bring your families the warming spirit of Tu B’Shevat this winter follow the jump.


Seven Species

The Longwood Gardens Seven Species Scavenger Hunt

This year, Tu B’Shevat begins on February 7th, at sunset, and extends through the daylight of February 8th. This holiday presents a great opportunity to visit Longwood Gardens. The outdoor gardens will probably be covered with snow, so the half mile long hothouse will be your main destination. The conservatory, built in 1919, resembles a crystal palace. As you step inside, you will be transported to a place where spring has already arrived. The warm air will envelop you. Your family will inhale the aroma of a garden in full bloom, see the beautiful colors of the plants, and hear the rustle of leaves and dripping of water as they explore the greenhouse. It will be fun to look for some of the seven species in the gardens. As is mentioned in Deuteronomy 8:8, the Land of Israel is described as a “land of wheat and barley, of [grape] vines, figs and pomegranates, and a land of olives for oil and [date] honey.” Here is a guide to help you find them.


Olive Tree

Grape Vines

Olives: In Biblical times, olive oil was very important for cooking, as a fuel for lamps, and for preparing soap. There is an olive tree in the Silver Garden.

Grapes: The Estate Fruit House has grape vines. In ancient times in the Land of Israel, grapes were used to make wine and vinegar. The fruit was eaten fresh off the vine. The grape leaves were used in cooking.


Figs at the Vine

Pomegranate Tree

Figs: A fig tree grows in The Estate Fruit House. Figs were eaten fresh, and used in cooking in Biblical Israel. Fig honey and alcohol were made from them.

Pomegranates: A miniature pomegranate tree (with tiny red pomegranates!) may be found in the Bonsai Display. In ancient Israel, pomegranates were used to make wine. Pomegranate juice was used as a dye. They were also a popular snack fresh off the tree.



Dates

Wheat

Barley

Dates: The wild date palm grows in the Palm House. Dates were eaten fresh or dry during Biblical times. They were made into honey. It is thought that when the Land of Israel was described as a “land flowing with milk and honey,” it meant date honey, not bees’ honey.

Wheat and Barley: Wheat was used to bake bread in ancient Israel. It was the staple of the people’s diet. Barley was used to cook porridge and barley cakes. Poor people relied on barley more than on wheat, since it was more plentiful. It was also fed to the cows and goats. Wheat and barley do not grow in the greenhouses of Longwood Gardens! I suggest planning in advance and ordering a bundle of wheat and a bundle of barley from Curious Country Creations.

You can bring these plants with you, and your family may admire them during the visit to Longwood Gardens. Then, the wheat and barley may be part of your Tu B’Shevat Seder decorations!

You can inform yourself about the plants that these fruits of the seven species come from, and admire their beauty at Longwood Gardens. After learning about all these beautiful plants by seeing, smelling, and sometimes touching them, it is time to go home and taste some of them! The way to do that is with a Tu B’Shevat feast!


Tu b’Shvat Seder

The Tu B’Shevat Seder

The first Tu B’Shevat Haggadah was called Pri Etz Hadar” or “Fruit of the Goodly Tree” in Hebrew. It was published in 1753. This Tu B’Shevat Seder was modeled on the Passover Seder. This Seder consisted of a festive meal that celebrated the Kabalistic diagram of the Tree of Life. The original purpose of the Seder was to restore G-d’s blessing by repairing and strengthening the Tree of Life. The traditional concluding blessing of the Tu B’Shevat Seder is “May all the sparks scattered by our hands, or by the hands of our ancestors, or by the sin of the first human against the fruit of the tree, be returned and included in the majestic might of the Tree of Life.” Fruits grown in Israel were served at the Seder and were related to the Four Worlds or “planes of existence” in the Kabbalah. These are Emanation, Creation, Formation, and Action, which are like the roots, trunk, branches, and leaves of a tree. Four cups of wine, symbolizing the four seasons, were also served. Participants read Biblical passages that discussed trees, sang songs about trees and nature, and danced dances inspired by trees. Almonds were important to this Seder because almond trees are the first to blossom in the springtime in Israel. The Kabbalists called this Seder the “Feast of Fruits. Turkish Jews called it “Frutikas Seder,” and referred to Tu B’Shevat as “Frutikas.”  You can follow the first published Tu B’Shevat Seder in your own home.


Almond Tree Blossoms

The Tu B’Shevat Seder was first embraced by the Sephardic Jews, and then by the Ashkenazi Jews. The Ashkenazi Jews developed the custom of eating fifteen different fruits in honor of the “Tu” (15 in Hebrew) in “Tu B’Shevat.” It became a tradition to serve carob, a hardy fruit that could travel well from Israel to Europe. Eating etrog (citron) from Sukkot that was either candied or preserved was another custom that developed. In the late 19th century the Zionist pioneers arrived to cultivate the land of Israel. Israel’s ecology had been harmed by many years of war, extirpation of trees, and desertification. In 1890, Rabbi Zeev Yavetz and his students planted trees in Zichron Yaakov in honor of Tu B’Shevat. The Jewish National Fund adopted this custom to help with the reforestation of Israel. Most recently, Tu B’Shevat has become the Jewish Earth Day. Nature, ecology, and environmentalism are celebrated.

In honor of the Tu B’Shevat Seder, your family may have fun making your home look and feel festive, with a tablecloth, some flowers, and the bunches of wheat and barley on the table. Red and white grape juice should be available. The juice should be served as indicated by the Tu B’Shevat Seder Hagaddah of your choice. Several links to free Hagaddas are provided below.


All of the Tu B’Shevat Hagaddot require the following cups of juice:

  • The First Cup: White grape juice, to symbolize winter.
  • The Second Cup: 2/3 cup white grape juice and 1/3 cup red grape juice, to symbolize a progression to spring.
  • The Third Cup: 1/3 cup white grape juice and 2/3 cup red grape juice, to symbolize spring.
  • The Fourth Cup: Red grape juice, to symbolize summer.

Fifteen types of fruit should be arranged on the table:


Almonds

Autumn Red Peaches
  • Fruit that is hard on the outside and soft on the inside:
    • Pecans
    • Almonds
    • Coconuts
    • Walnuts
       
  • Soft fruit with a pit in the middle:
    • Olives
    • Peaches
    • Cherries
    • Plums
    • Dates
       

    Ripe Carobs

    Fragaria Stawberry
  • Fruits with and inner pit and a tough skin:
    • Avocado
    • Carob
    • Pomegranate
    • Mango
    • Orange
  • Fruit is that which is soft on the inside and outside, and is entirely edible:
    • Grape
    • Fig
    • Strawberry
    • Raisin

You may display a picture of an almond tree in full bloom to learn about the first blossoms of spring in Israel. It is customary to serve a dinner which incorporates fruits and nuts in all of its courses.  Here is a sephardic recipe which includes all seven species.

Sephardic Seven Species Pilaf

  • 1 cup cooked barley
  • 1 cup cooked wheat berries
  • 1/2  cup cut up dried figs
  • 1/2 cup cut up dried dates
  • 1/2 cup sliced grapes
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Some very good recipes are available at Aish. There are many other recipes that may be found on the Internet. Following are links to some free Tu B’Shevat Seder Haggadahs that are available online. Many more may be found.

Plant A Tree

Following a visit to Longwood Gardens, and a Tu B’Shevat Seder feast, there is an opportunity to plant a seed and nurture a plant. It is too cold in January to plant a tree in Philadelphia. Your family can plant a tree in Israel with the Jewish National Fund. There is a delightful new tradition that you may adopt. You may plant parsley seeds in a pot. Then water ther seeds, give them plant food, and make sure that they are exposed to enough sunlight. If all goes well, in April, you will have a parsley plant that may be used for Karpas (green spring vegetable) in the Passover Seder.

From Seder to Seder, may it be a fruitful year of joyful celebrations!

Intergenerational Simchat Torah


Fifth graders from the Perelman Jewish Day School in Melrose Park, PA join with seniors from the Klein JCC in Northeast Philadelphia to mark the Jewish holiday of Simchas Torah which celebrates the conclusion of the annual cycle of Torah readings. Standing from left in the front row are, Selma Fleigelman, Zev Rosenberg, Bella Magerman, Helena Federman, Sara Weingram and Brynn Kantrowitz. Sharing the moment (back row from left) are Shelley Geltzer, Klein JCC adult services program director and Rabbi Chaim Galfand, of the Perelman Jewish Day School.

Now celebrating its 36th anniversary year, the non-profit Klein JCC provides social, educational and cultural programs, as well as vital social services for people living in Northeast Philadelphia and its surrounding communities.

Holiday Learning: Sukkot at the Klein JCC

— Stu Coren

Shari Beck-Nahman (center) pre-school director of the Klein JCC in Northeast Philadelphia, explains the meaning of the lulav and etrog, symbols of the seven-day Jewish festival of Sukkot to pre-school students Eden Bengera, 3, (left) and Jordyn Gomer, 2, (right) both also of Northeast, while seated in the JCC’s Sukkah. The Sukkah structure is symbolic of the 40-year period when the children of Israel wandered in the dessert in temporary shelters. Sukkot is a joyous fall festival also celebrating the bounty of the harvest and is usually accompanied by music, singing and dancing.
Now celebrating its 36th anniversary year, the non-profit Klein JCC provides social, educational and cultural programs, as well as vital social services for people living in Northeast Philadelphia and its surrounding communities. It is the largest senior center in the Philadelphia area and provides support to more than 4,500 seniors annually through a diverse array of programs. It offers outstanding services and innovative programs for area residents who range in age from early childhood through adult and senior years. The Klein JCC additionally delivers vital services and programs employing cutting edge practices and strategies. More than 30,000 children, adults and senior citizens are served annually in a warm and friendly comprehensive community center environment delivering a broad spectrum of high quality services to area communities that otherwise would not be served. The Klein JCC is located at 10100 Jamison Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19116 and may be reached at 215-698-7300 or on the web at www.kleinjcc.org.  

Clinton Stumps For Sestak at JCC


— Bonnie Squires

President Bill Clinton stumped for his friend Joe Sestak, running for U.S. Senate, at the Golden Slipper Center for Seniors at the Kaiserman JCC (Jewish Community Center) in Wynnewood, his first stop of a very busy day.  Clinton praised Sestak for having an economic policy plan which fit with Clinton’s philosophy and success.

The appearance at the Jewish community center was a last-minute addition to Clinton’s whirlwind Philadelphia schedule as he came to town to honor former British Prime Minister Tony Blair with the Liberty Medal Monday evening.  But Clinton, who had campaigned for Sestak when the Congressman first ran for office five years ago , seemed genuinely delighted to speak to an adoring Jewish crowd on behalf of his former military advisor.

Clinton told the audience that each year the Pentagon picks the brightest member of the military to send to the White House as military advisor to the President, and they had selected Joe Sestak to send to him.  


Sestak’s words to the JCC audience reminded us of Senator Arlen Specter’s appearance there, years ago, when Lynn Yeakel was the Democratic contender for U.S. Senate.  Specter won that close race.  Perhaps Sestak had that in mind as he continued his wooing of the Jewish community.  And Clinton proved once again that he is a huge magnet, even with only a few hours’ notice.

Clinton gave a detailed analysis of the current economic situation in the country, pointing out the success of his philosophy when his administration turned around a huge deficit and left office with a huge surplus.  He credited Sestak with having a detailed plan and vision for creating jobs in three areas which are vital: small business, manufacturing, and the green economy.  

(photo credit: Bonnie Squires)