US & Australian Commanders-in-Chief Deplore Sexual Assaults

On May 7, President Obama spoke out against sexual assault in the military:

The bottom line is: I have no tolerance for this. I expect consequences. So I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this, they’ve got to be held accountable – prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.

Stars and Stripes reports that Navy Judge Commander Marcus Fulton criticized the President as Commander-in-Chief for having made comments that might “unduly influence any potential sentencing.”

I could not disagree more.

We need more leaders like Australia’s Commander-in-Chief (see video below) who are willing to take a strong moral stand against not just sexual assault but also sexual harassment and sexual degradation. Each defendant is innocent until proven guilty, but once found guilty there should be no question about the seriousness of the charges leveled against them. If the military justice system does not understand this, then Congress should give the criminal justice system responsibility in this matter.

Chief of Australian Army message regarding unacceptable behavior

Message from the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison to the Australian Army following the announcement on Thursday, 13 June 2013 of civilian police and Defence investigations into allegations of unacceptable behaviour by Army members.
Military sexual assault survivor Trina McDonald delivers petition to Congress

Trina McDonald-who survived multiple sexual assaults while serving in the U.S. Navy-traveled to Washington, D.C., to deliver more than 215,000 signatures from her MoveOn.org petition and a CourageCampaign.org petition to Congress. Trina is calling on Congress to move the prosecution of military sexual assaults out of the chain of command. This change would make it safer for survivors like her to report their assaults.

American Associates of Ben Gurion U. Welcome Israeli Consul General


Israeli Consul General Yaron Sideman is welcomed to the American Friends of Ben Gurion University of the Negev reception in his honor by hostess AImee Katz and her daughter Kathy Katz-Hall. Photo by Bonnie Squires.

— by Bonnie Squires.

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, held a reception to welcome the new Mid-Atlantic Region Israeli Consul General, Yaron Sideman.  Aimee Katz, of Bala Cynwyd, hosted the event, with Julia and Steve Harmelin, Esq., serving as co-hosts.  Derek Gillman, President and CEO of the Barnes Foundation, spoke briefly about his pride in the fact that limestone from the Negev had been selected as the building material for the new museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Sideman had served previously in Lagos and in the New York Consulate.  He told the large group assembled about cooperative ventures between America and Israel, going on right now, particularly with military forces.

The Consul General talked about Israel’s concerns, regarding the Arab Spring and the unrest and uncertainty in the region.  During a question and answer period, he spoke of Turkey’s trying to gain favor with other Muslim countries, asserting that the break in relations between Israel and Turkey was initiated by the latter.

More after the jump.


Derek Gillman (right), President and CEO of the Barnes Foundation museum, introduced the new Mid-Atantic Region Israeli Consul General, Yaron Sideman, pointing out the architects of the new Barnes museum selected granite from the Negev for the new building. Photo by Bonnie Squires.

He also said that Tunisia, the country which initiated the overthrow of dictators in Arab countries, had benefited from Israel’s support in prior years, although he was not certain what Israel is doing currently or can do to assure the transition in Tunisia to a democratic state.

A few years ago, the American Associates had spent time in Tunisia before going on to the Negev in Israel.  The president of Ben Gurion University, Dr. Rivka Carmi, is a geneticist who has done much research on the occurrence of Fragile X Syndrome in communities of Tunisian Jews from Djerba who have migrated to Israel.

Connie and Sam Katz, co-chairs of the Philadelphia region’s AABGU, were unable to get back to Philadelphia in time for the reception because of Hurricane Sandy.  But the Charlotte and Dr. Carroll Weinreb, who will be honored at an AABGU brunch on November 11 at the Ritz- Carlton in Philadelphia, were delighted to be congratulated by Consul General Sideman at the reception.  Sideman will also be at the brunch and will be joined there by the Honorable Barukh Binah from the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.


Julia Harmelin (right) represented her husband, Steve Harmelin, Esq., who was traveling and could not make the reception. Photo by Bonnie Squires.




Irwin and Adele Lipton were delighted to be part of the crowd which welcomed Consul General Sideman. Photo by Bonnie Squires.




Murray Shusterman, Esq., was delighted to meet the new Israeli Consul-General. Photo by Bonnie Squires.




(Left to right) Consul General Sideman chats with hostess Aimee Katz and friend of AABGU committee Dottie Wasserman before Sideman spoke at the reception in his honor. Photo by Bonnie Squires.

Sen. Arlen Specter’s funeral a tribute to his life of service


Arlen Specter and his wife, former City Councilwoman Joan Specter, enjoyed the Barnes Foundation opening gala this past May a few months before Specter learned his cancer had returned for the third and final bout. Photo: Bonnie Squires


Barack Obama and Joe Biden attend a press conference welcoming Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party at the White House April 29, 2009. Photo: Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images.


Sen. Arlen Specter and Gov. Ed Rendell during Specter campaign rally in Philadelphia, May 15, 2010. Photo: AP.


Sen. Arlen Specter was carried in a flag-bedecked limousine from Temple Har Zion to his eternal resting place at his family’s plot in Shalom Memorial Park. Photo: Daniel Loeb.

— by Bonnie Squires

Har Zion Temple was the site of the funeral for Senator Arlen Specter, and the thousands of people who poured into the main sanctuary, which had to be opened up to include the ballroom behind it, represented a cross-section of America.

Judges and lawyers and U.S.  Attorneys and academics and heads of charities and former Specter staffers by the score populated the seats at Specter’s funeral.  Candidates and former candidates from both sides of the aisle came to pay tribute to a mover and shaker who according to every speaker, did the right thing, the fair thing, even when voting for President Obama’s stimulus package would cost him his seat in the Senate.

Specter’s influence crossed political boundaries, racial differences, and economic backgrounds, as evidenced by the huge diversity of those in attendance to pay their respects to Joan Specter and her family.

Federal officials, past and present, like Senator Bob Casey, former Senators Ted Kauffman and Harris Wofford, and former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies; state officers, including Governor Tom Corbett; federal and state judges; leaders of academia; and hundreds and hundreds of other notables, like Gwen Goodman, former executive director of the National Museum of American Jewish History, and Lee Ducat, founder of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.  Ducat nodded as each speaker mentioned Specter’s passionate defense of funding for cancer research and stem cell research, even when various Presidents decided to cut funidng of the National Institutes of Health.

Chief among the notables, however, was Vice President Joe Biden, who teared up as he spoke about Arlen Specter, his dear friend, who always was there for him, especially in times of personal crisis.

Biden and Specter seved in the U.S. Senate, and Biden said in his remarks that he knew he had spent more time with Specter than anyone else in the sanctuary, sitting with him in the Senate and especially in the Judiciary Committee meetings and hearings.

Biden also let people know that he had foregone campaign stops in two critical swing states, Colorado and Nevada, to pay tribute to his dear friend at Har Zion Temple.

President Obama that very morning had ordered all American flags to be flown at half-staff on all government properties, military bases, embassies, etc., in the nation and around the world, to salute Senator Arlen Specter on the day of his funeral.

But the people asked to speak by Joan Specter were close personal friends, like Biden.  Like Ed Rendell.  Like Flora Becker, widow of Judge Ed Becker.  Like Judge Jan DuBois.  Like Steve Harmelin, Esq.  Like Shanin Specter’s long-time law partner, Tom Kline.  Like Shanin Specter, the Senator’s son, and two of Arlen’s four grand-daughters.

Perhaps most remarkable, in all of their praise of Specter’s fairness and acumen, was the telling of how, less than two weeks before his demise, Specter insisted on teaching his class on the Constitution at Penn Law School.   I guess that was why Penn President Amy Gutmann was also in attendance.

Probably half the people in the throng owed their careers to Arlen Specter, either through having been hired by him when he was either District Attorney, or having been appointed by him when he chaired the Judiciary committee.

Although each of the speakers, including life-long friends Flora Becker, Judge Jan DuBois, attorney Steve Harmelin, Governor Ed Rendell, Specter’s son Shanin, and Vice President Biden shared wonderful anecdotes and memories of Specter, going back to Penn undergraduate and Yale Law School days, it was two of Specter’s granddaughters who made the greatest impact.  Sylvie Specter, by the way, is a friend and classmate at Penn of Biden’s own granddaughter.

Sylvie and Perri Specter told us that their grandfather had spent two weeks before his passing, working on yet another book – one that was a memoir with photographs from his amazing collection.  They announced that the family plans to complete the book and have it published, joining the array of Senator Specter’s other remarkable books.

Rabbi Kieffer, Rabbi Knopf and Cantor Vogel of Har Zion contributed to the testimonials, making this a remarkable send-off for a remarkable man.

8 New Members Inducted Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame


(L-R) Richard Cohen, inductee; Buzz Bissinger, inductee; Glenn Fine, inductee; Lisa Hoffstein, inductee; Stephen H. Frishberg, board chair; Phil Kendall, accepting on behalf of George Katz; Rich Yankowitz, inductee; (front) Al Schrier, board member; (behind Al), Lewis Katz, Pillar of Achievement recipient; Fred Shabel, inductee; and Michael Barkann, master of ceremonies and Hall of Fame member.

— by Scott D. Bluebond and Debbie Weiss

The Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Adolph and Rose Levis Museum (PJSHOF) celebrated its 15th anniversary by honoring eight new individuals in a reception held on May 21, 2012 at the Gershman Y at Broad and Pine Streets in Philadelphia. The 2012 inductees include Buzz Bissinger, Richard Cohen, Glenn Fine, Lisa Hoffstein, George Katz, Fred Shabel, Rich Yankowitz, and Pillar of Achievement honoree, Lewis Katz. In addition, the 2011 JCC Maccabi Games® Team Philadelphia Graduating Athletes received special recognition.

The inductees into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame represent the best of the best, those individuals and teams who, through perseverance, dedication, superior talent and skills, have risen to the top of their respective sports. Their names and achievements are celebrated within the walls of the museum. Each PJSHOF inductee has been involved in sports as an athlete, coach, manager, administrator, team owner, or as a 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 120 past honorees. This includes the Philadelphia SPHAs, a championship basketball team that was dominant between the two World Wars and later became the NBA Warriors; Philadelphia Phillies senior vice president and general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., NFL Films founders Ed and Steve Sabol; Philadelphia Flyers founder Ed Snider; NBA Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes, and many others.

More after the jump.
This year’s special class includes coaches, charity founders, sports managers and a prize-winning writer:

  • Buzz Bissinger is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, author, and now talk show host, best known for his
    non-fiction book, Friday Night Lights.
  • Richard Cohen is a world class tennis and squash player known also for his tennis coaching prowess.
  • Glenn Fine is a former inspector general of the United States Department of Justice and Rhodes Scholar, who was a 10th-round draft pick by the San Antonio Spurs.
  • Lisa Hoffstein, University of Pennsylvania tennis star, is president and founder of “The Katie At The Bat Team,” dedicated to empowering inner-city children to achieve their full potential through participation in athletics.
  • Posthumous awardee George Katz was a boxing manager famous for handling his boxers with extreme caution. He guided many good Philly contenders including Gil Turner and Kitten Hayward.
  • Fred A. Shabel has been vice-chairman of Comcast-Spectacor, the high profile sports and entertainment organization, for the past 32 years.
  • Rich Yankowitz, longtime head basketball coach at Dobbins Tech, is the winningest coach in Philadelphia Public League history.
  • Pillar of Achievement honoree Lewis Katz is a Camden-raised entrepreneur, former owner of the New
    Jersey Nets and New Jersey Devils, and philanthropist. He is director of the Katz Foundation, which supports a variety of charitable, educational and medical causes. He joins a distinguished group that includes Irv Kosloff and Ike Richman, Sam Rabinowitz, and 2011 inductee, Steve Cozen.

Al Shrier served as ceremony chairman; Jay Goldberg, nominating committee chair; Harriet Beloff Goodwin; décor chair; and Louis Schmidt, publication chair. Deborah P. Weiss is the director and Stephen H. Frishberg is chair of the board.

The Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and its sports museum honor local Jewish teams and athletes, many of whom actually played their sports in the Broad Street PJSHOF location. Founded in 1997 to celebrate the contributions of local Jewish pioneers and heroes in the sports world, the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame soon expanded to a full-fledged museum with an endowment from the Levis family. It is located in the old YM-YWHA, where many of the basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, track and swimming stars practiced and played. There are lockers filled with uniforms, equipment and other memorabilia representing Jewish athletes associated with local teams like the Flyers and 76ers. There is also a gripping memorial remembering the Israeli athletes who were killed during the 1972 Munich Summer Olympic Games.

The mission of the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame is to provide the community with tangible and lasting evidence of the past, present and future of Jewish sportsmen and sportswomen in the Greater Philadelphia area and to instill community pride in Jewish accomplishments in the field of sports and the role sports has played in preserving Jewish culture. The hall and museum reflect the obstacles Jews had to overcome in order to excel in sporting endeavors locally, nationally and internationally; portray the instrumental role sports has played in Jewish life; and provide continuity to future generations of Jewish athletes. Celebrating 15 years in 2012, the PJSHOF is open Sunday through Friday and provides tours by request. Please call 215-900-7999, write info@phillyjewishsports.org to learn more.

A Philadelphia Hero: Michael Levin 1984-2006

A Voice Called: Stories of Jewish Heroism
Editor’s Note: On the eve of Yom Ha’atzmaut — Israel Independence Day — Jews throughout the world mark Yom Hazikaron — Israel’s Memorial Day — to remember the soldiers who gave their lives. Israel needed heroes like these to win its independence and facing existential threats around it, Israel continues to need heroes like these to safeguard its independence.

I just read A Voice Called: Stories of Jewish Heroism by Yossi Katz. I heartily recommend this collection of articles about some of the great Jewish heroes of modern times. The stories are written to shed light on Jewish history and to inspire the reader to live in the present with pride and dignity and to help build a better future.

The Philadelphia Jewish Community can be proud to count among its ranks one of these heros: Michael Levin. We thank Yossi Katz and Gefen Publishing for permission to reprint his story. (All rights reserved by Gefen Publishing.)

You can't fulfill you dreams unless you dare to risk it all.
Michael Levin: Acharai!

  • Born in Philadelphia 1984 — Made Aliyah to Israel in 2003
  • Joined Israeli Paratroops, fulfilling a personal dream
  • Rushed back to Israel to rejoin fellow soldiers in battle when Israel attacked
  • Fell in battle against Hizbullah terrorists on August 1, 2006

“You can’t fulfill your dreams unless you dare risk it all”

Yossi Katz— by Yossi Katz

Michael Levin grew up like most American-Jewish kids. Born on February 17, 1984 and raised in Philadelphia, he graduated from Council Rock High School in 2002. Michael’s maternal grandparents were survivors of the Holocaust and passed on to him a legacy of pride and strength in his Jewish heritage. As a teenager Michael was active in the HaGesher Region of United Synagogue Youth (USY) and attended Camp Ramah in the Poconos. He loved sports and was an avid fan of Philly teams especially the Philadelphia Phillies.

In February 2001, Michael came to Israel for two months to study the 4000-year history of the Jewish people at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI). While in Israel Michael expressed his desire to make Aliyah (move to Israel and become an Israeli citizen) and serve in ZAHAL-the Israel Defense Forces. Michael proved to be an outstanding student at AMHSI and was especially moved by the stories of Jewish heroes like Judah the Maccabee, Shimon Bar Kochba, Rabbi Akiba, Hannah Senesh, Eli Cohen, Avigdor Kahalani and Yonaton “Yoni” Netanyahu. The most moving moment at AMHSI for Michael was on the last day of the program when his class visited the grave of Yoni Netanyahu, hero of the 1976 Entebbe rescue mission, at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem. Michael looked up to Yoni as a role model and a hero and was touched by Yoni’s words from a 1975 letter:

By ‘past’ I mean not only my own past, but the way in which I see myself as an inseparable part, a link in the chain of our existence and Israel’s independence.

Like Yoni, Michael also saw himself as a link in the chain of Jewish history and felt an obligation to defend his people and dreamed of serving in the Israel Defense Forces.

After graduating high school, Michael attended “Nativ” — USY’s Year Course in Israel and in his “Nativ” yearbook wrote the words that would become his motto:

“You can’t fulfill your dreams unless you dare risk it all”

Michael was neither a daredevil, nor a gambling man. He was a sweet, funny, humble, kind, loving human being who loved life and lived it to the fullest. He simply believed that life wasn’t worth living unless there was some ideal
you loved so much that you’d be willing to sacrifice your life for it. For Michael — that ideal was Israel.

In 2003 Michael made Aliyah to Israel and began studying Hebrew at an Ulpan (intensive course in speaking Hebrew) on Kibbutz Yavne. Like all Israelis, Michael was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and reported to the Army Induction Center at Tel Hashomer. As he was being processed, the officer in charge noticed his papers had not been finalized due to his new status in the country. The officer told him that he couldn’t ben drafted at this time. Undeterred, Michael went outside the Army Induction Center and climbed up a trash dumpster and snuck into the 2nd floor of the building. When the officer discovered him, he hollered at Michael and said, “No one can get thru the front door here without papers” to which Michael smiled and replied, “What makes you think I came thru the front door?!!” The officer pulled some strings and arranged for Michael to be processed as an Israeli soldier. He later remarked, “I’ve been here at the army induction center for 20 years and some kids don’t want to be here and look for ways to get out but Michael was the first kid I ever met who ‘broke in’ to be inducted into ZAHAL!”

Once in ZAHAL, Michael volunteered for the IDF’s finest combat unit, the red-bereted Paratroops. During his basic training Michael learned to parachute. Small in size, 5’6″ and weighing only 118 lbs, Michael was blown off course on his first jump. Afterwards his officers had to tie weights to his parachute to keep him from drifting. Despite his small size, Mike was a fierce fighter with a lion’s heart. At the end of their basic training the Paratroops go on a 90-kilometer march to Jerusalem where they receive their red berets at Ammunition Hill, a famous battle site from the 1967 Six Day War. In 2001, while at AMHSI, Michael had learned about the heroism of the Paratroops in
that battle from one of the surviving veterans who spoke to his class. Now he was receiving his red beret on that hallowed ground. Michael described that day as one of the happiest in his life!

Mike was not only a brave soldier but he remained a loving son and brother. He once said, “I’m not worried about dying! I’m just worried about what
it would do to my family.” Michael held a special status in ZAHAL called Chayal Boded, given to lone Israeli soldiers whose parents do not live in the
country. Military service is tough enough for most young Israelis but they are comforted knowing they will come home on their Shabbat leaves to a warm and loving family. Michael had none in Israel, making his service that much tougher.

In June 2006, Mike received a 30-day leave from the IDF to visit his family back in Philadelphia. Michael, who had a great sense of humor, wanted
to surprise his mom and dad and worked out a cute prank with his older sister, Elisa. When he arrived in Philadelphia that summer he had Elisa put a gigantic cardboard box with real Fed-Ex markings on the front steps of their home. Michael got into the box and had his sister tape it up and ring his parents’ doorbell. When Mrs. Levin saw the package, she tried to carry it into the house, but it was too heavy. Suddenly Michael jumped out of the box and screamed, “Surprise!!” This story is indicative of Michael’s loving heart and playful spirit.

Michael spent quality time with his family and visited friends at Camp Ramah in the Poconos. When some friends expressed their worries to Michael about his safety in an elite combat unit of the Israeli army, he responded philosophically, “I’m doing exactly what I want to do and going exactly where I want to be, and if God should decide to call me home, I’m fine with that.” During his visit to Philadelphia, Michael told his parents that if anything ever happened to him, he wanted to be buried on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. On July 12, 2006 the Lebanese terrorist organization, Hizbullah attacked Israel and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers — Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. The Hizbullah, dedicated to Israel’s destruction and armed by Iran, began shelling Israel’s northern cities. Michael heard that his unit was sent into battle and he promptly told his family that he had to cut his visit short to rejoin his comrades at arms. He rushed back to Israel and rejoined his unit —  the 890th battalion of the Israeli Paratroops, then fighting inside Lebanon. Michael’s unit was on a mission in the Lebanese village of Ayta al Shab, a Hizbullah stronghold, when they came under heavy missile — gunfire. Held up in a house, Michael fought bravely but on August 1, 2006 he was tragically killed by a Hizbullah sniper. His fellow soldier and friend, Shlomi Singer,
described Michael’s last moments:

I heard a round of gunfire and saw Michael lying on his stomach. I knew in my heart he was dead. I lifted him to one of the houses where I tried to revive him, but there was no chance. I said quietly in English, “I love you Michael and I am so sorry.” He was wearing a big green kippah and before we went into Lebanon, I put his kippah on my head and said the Shema… praying that we all come back safely. After Michael was killed we placed his body on a stretcher and carried him for several kilometers between the cliffs and rocks to bring his body to safety. It was the final honor and respect that we could give him.

Michael’s family was notified in Philadelphia of his death in battle and they immediately flew to Israel for his funeral. One of their biggest worries was if they’d be able to find a minyan (a quorum of 10 necessary for communal
prayer) for the ceremony, as they had no family in the country. They arrived at Ben Gurion Airport on August 3, 2006 and drove right from the airport to the National Military Cemetery on Mount Herzl. When the car arrived at the cemetery, the Levins saw thousands of people gathered there. Michael’s father was confused by the large crowd and thought there were 10 or 15 other funerals taking place at the same time. The soldiers escorting the family told them that Michael’s was the only funeral being held at this time and all the thousands of people in attendance, most of whom who had not known Michael, were there to honor their fallen son. Immersed in their shock and grief but embraced by a loving and grateful nation, the Levins buried their son on the hills of Jerusalem, the city he loved with all his heart… just a few yards from the grave of his hero — Yoni Netanyahu.

Michael’s mother, Harriet, at first had wanted her fallen son buried near her home in Philadelphia but her Rabbi convinced her that it was Michael’s last wish to be buried in the land he loved. She said that when she and her husband, Mark, saw all the people who had come to honor Michael; they knew they had made the right decision.

Harriet said that about a month after the funeral, a friend of hers from Philadelphia went to visit Michael’s grave on Mount Herzl. When the friend reached the burial site, she was shocked to see there was an Israeli soldier sitting on the grave drinking a cup of coffee with a small gas burner and finjan (coffee pot) next to him. Thinking he was acting improperly in the cemetery, the woman asked him what he was doing there. The young warrior answered softly, “Michael was my best friend in the army and every Friday afternoon just before Shabbat, we’d sit down and drink a cup of coffee together and shmooze about life. Now, just like before, I come visit Michael every week just before Shabbat and drink a cup a coffee and chat with my best friend.”

Harriet Levin said that if Michael had been buried in Philadelphia, probably only a handful of family would visit his grave but at rest at home in Israel, hundreds come every week to pay their respects to the young hero from Philly with the contagious smile and the heart of a lion.

Michael was buried on the afternoon of Tisha b’Av on August 3, 2006. Tisha b’Av is a fast day where we commemorate the many tragedies that have befallen our people on this black date in our history: the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, the fall of Betar during the Bar Kochba revolt, the expulsion of the Jews of Spain in 1492 and the transportation of over 300,000 of Warsaw’s Jews to the gas chambers in Treblinka in July 1942. As a sign of mourning we do not wear Tefillin during the morning service on Tisha b’Av but we do put on Tefillin during the afternoon service that day as a sign that life must continue and we must move on from destruction and mourning to comfort and rebirth. It is fitting that Michael was buried on the afternoon of Tisha b’Av and not in the morning. His death was a tragedy that tore into the hearts and souls of all who loved him but Michael’s legacy to us is one of hope and commitment. As he smiles down on us from above, his memory will best be honored not by remembering so much how he died but more importantly how he lived. The motto of the Israeli Paratroops is “Achari!” (“Follow Me!”) Michael set a dugma isheet — a personal example of how to live a life as a committed Jew with passion and pride dedicated to the Jewish People, to the Torah and to Israel. His legacy commands us all — “Achari!”

Postscript: Michael Levin’s mother, Harriet Levin, once told this author that Michael was a normal American-Jewish kid. She said he was just like you and me and added,” You know he wasn’t always an angel… at times he made mistakes and could get into trouble.” In many ways though, that makes Michael even more inspiring. He wasn’t a “Superhero”! He was just the kid from down the block, but when his people and Israel needed him- he was there!

A moving documentary film by Sally Mitlas has been made about Michael Levin called A Hero in Heaven. For more information on the film go to www.aheroinheaven.com/.

Israel 63rd Anniversary at National Museum of American Jewish History


— by Bonnie Squires

Philadelphia Israeli Consul General Daniel Kutner held a celebration of Israel’s 63rd anniversary at the National Museum of American Jewish History, and hundreds of area residents and VIPs turned out.


Mayor Michael A. Nutter (left) joined Consul General Daniel Kutner (right) for the celebration.

Sam Katz, Rabbi Aaron Landis, Councilman Jim Kenney, and Joseph Zuritsky (left to right) were among the people who came to the National Museum of American Jewish History to celebrate Israel’s 63rd anniversary.

More after the jump.

The Honorable Daniel Kutner (left) welcomes Dean Moshe Porat of Temple University’s Fox School of Business  (right) to the reception. Mayor Michael Nutter offered his well wishes to Israel on the occasion of its 63rd anniversary. (Left to right) Rabbi Eliseo Rosenwasser, of Har Zion Temple, and Liliana Elkouss were pleased to see former Congressman Patrick Murphy at the celebration.

Saving the Stiffel Center


“Save Our Stiffel” is the name of a newly-formed group dedicated to keeping the Jacob & Esther Stiffel Senior center, 604 Porter Street in South Philadelphia, from closing due to lack of funds.

Programs held at the Stiffel Center include classes in Yiddish; art, poetry and music classes; cultural and travel experiences; health and exercise programs; traditional holiday programs; daily hot kosher lunches; fitness and wellness classes; medial and legal advice; chaplaincy services; and a thrift shop.

Laurel Katz, actor and radio host, is part of the effort; “No one had organized,” she recalls, “a committee to raise the funds that are needed, because we found  out fairly recently that that Stiffel is operating on a $200 thousand annual deficit, and they need $200 thousand by June 30th, and a promise for future funding, because they want to close it.” The Stiffel Center is a branch of the Klein JCC.

More after the jump.
“There were sort of reasons why,” the Stiffel clients were late in being informed of the closing, adds Katz, “It’s a little confusing and unclear, but the way I went into this is to not think about what happened in the past and what brought us here, but what can we do now, immediately, right away, to remedy this problem, to keep the center open, and that’s my sole focus.”

The committee to save the Stiffel, says Katz, has formed very recently, and “We since have a press release, and we are called ‘Save Our Stiffel’, SOS. No one had really organized something, there wasn’t any organized group, and now there is, and the word is out. We are organized, and we had a very encouraging meeting with a lot of very passionate people, and also people that are very plugged into assorted places in the community. We’re in the process of drawing up a packet to present to people who have the ability to write decent checks, because really, $200 thousand is not a lot of money. If someone wants to write a $200 thousand check, we’ll name the auditorium after them.”

The packet, says Katz, will tell the history of the Stiffel Center, “with the immigrants of South Philadelphia, not just Jews, (but including) the Italian community, and we’re going to get that out to whoever we can.” The packet will focus on people who can write big checks. Along with this will be a more grassroots approach, with such ideas as a concert at the center and a silent auction. “It’s going to be like a blitz,” says Katz, “it has to be because of the time issue.”

Stay tuned to the Philadelphia Jewish Voice for further developments as they occur.

For Your Romantic JDate: Meme

Spring has arrived in Philadelphia, putting my unmarried relatives in the mood for romance.  A shy young man in my family called me for advice about a JDate, a date from the Internet based Jewish dating community.  He was very interested in a young lady he had only met online, and wanted to take her out to a special place.

“First, set the tone by picking the right ambiance,” I suggested.  I told him to invite her to Mémé, in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood. One of my favorite places in Philadelphia, it makes me feel like I am enjoying a meal in a Bistro in Paris.  I love watching the food being prepared in the open kitchen. “You can make a reservation for dinner this week,” I encouraged him.  “Or suggest brunch,” I added.  “You can reserve a table on the sidewalk and invite her to bring her dog.  The staff will welcome him with a bowl of water.”  

More after the jump.
“You may have butterflies in your stomach when your date arrives,” I said to my relative.  “Order a glass of wine to help you both relax,” I advise.  I love Mémé’s excellent selection of French, Italian, and domestic wines.

Being from my family, he cut straight to the food, “What should we order?” he asked me.  That is a very good question, since the menu does not stay the same for long here.  Chef David Katz is very creative and adventurous.  The cuisine is mostly inspired by France, Italy, and the Mediterranean.  One item that David Katz does not get to take off his menu is the roasted bone marrow with grilled bread.  This delectable dish would have made Julia Child drool all over her manuscript of Mastering The Art Of French Cooking.  “Definitely order this appetizer,” I tell my young man.

“I don’t know what surprises will be in store for the main course when you go there,” I said.  The food in this restaurant is New American Cuisine.  David Katz explains, “Nobody in America is an American, except Native Americans.  You need to go to a reservation to taste their traditional food.”  What this means for Chef David Katz is cooking the dishes that the American immigrants brought with them from the Old World, using the finest local and organic ingredients, and employing the best cooking techniques. Chef Katz, who has been cooking professionally since age fourteen, does not try to mask the flavor of the food.  He coaxes out the natural taste and aroma so we may appreciate each ingredient.”  On his mother’s side, David Katz’s family traces its lineage back to Spain, Morocco, and then America.  His personal New American food echoes the Moroccan flavors of his childhood.  One such dish is the Moroccan Spiced Lamb Loin with grilled eggplant, harissa, and lemon oil.  “If you see something Moroccan, be sure to try it,” I encouraged the eager courter.

“To conclude the meal, order the chocolate ganache cake with vanilla gelato, even if she says she does not want dessert!” I instruct the young suitor. “This is the cake that explains without words why there are no vanillaholics!”  “It will be on the menu,” I tell him.  “David Katz would probably have a riot on his hands if he dared take it off!”

In Moroccan French, “Mémé” means grandmother.  It is very sweet that David Katz has chosen to honor his grandmother by naming his restaurant for her.  She is probably there in spirit saying, “Nu!” to all the couples present.  “After your date finishes the last crumb of your chocolate cake, take her on a lovely walk through the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood,” I tell him.  “Enjoy the warm spring breezes, the fragrance of the flowering trees, and the singing of the birds.  This JDate will be great!”  And so will Mémé!  

Mémé

2201 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 735-4900
www.memerestaurant.com