New Consul General Arrives in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA – August 28, 2012 – Mr. Yaron Sideman arrived this week to begin his post as Consul General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region, serving Pennsylvania, Ohio, Delaware, Kentucky and Southern New Jersey. Consul General Sideman now serves the region as Israel’s highest ranking diplomat. He joins Deputy Consul General Elad Strohmayer who arrived earlier this month.

More after the jump.
Israel is one of only five countries — including Chile, Italy, Mexico and Panama — that maintain a Consulate in Philadelphia. In addition, there are over 30 Honorary Consulates in the city.

Mr. Sideman replaces Mr. Daniel Kutner who completed his four-year term last week and was appointed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the new Deputy Director of the North American Division.

A Ministry veteran, Mr. Sideman served in his last position as Director of Congressional Affairs at the North America Division. His previous positions include Head of the North American desk at Diaspora and Interreligious Affairs Bureau, Consul for Public Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in New York and Political Officer at the Embassy of Israel in Lagos, Nigeria.

A graduate of the Israel National Defense College, Mr. Sideman holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Haifa University and a B.A. Degree in Psychology and Philosophy from Tel Aviv University.

The Consul General is responsible for strengthening relations between Israel and the Mid-Atlantic Region by building partnerships for enhanced economic, trade, academic and cultural exchange.

Delaware Governor Highlights Jewish Political Leadership Luncheon

Delaware Governor Jack Markell (center) was featured speaker at the recent Jewish Leadership Series luncheon.  Hosted this time by the law firm Cozen O’Connor, the Jewish Leadership Series brings together professionals interested in politics and elected officials.  Seen here with Governor Markell are (left to right) Michael Bronstein, the organizer of the event, and Israeli Consul General Daniel Kutner.

— by Bonnie Squires

The latest in the Jewish Political Leadership Series luncheons, organized by Michael Bronstein, featured Delaware Governor Jack Markell, with the law firm of Cozen O’Connor hosting the event.

A bi-partisan group of Jewish leaders, including the Israeli Consul General Daniel Kutner and several elected officials in Philadelphia and the suburbs were among the attendees.

Governor Markell expressed concern about the state government budget cuts in education, contrary to the initiatives and philosophy of the Obama administration.  He pointed out previous working relationships at the federal level, where President Reagan worked with Democrats to pass legislation, and where Bill Clinton worked with Republicans to further his administration’s objectives.

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Cozen O’Connor attorney Gerald Riesenbach (right) welcomes Delaware Governor Jack Markell to the Jewish Leadership Series luncheon.

Among the elected officials attending the luncheon to hear from Delaware Governor Jack Markell were Philadelphia City Commissioner Stephanie Singer (left) and Montgomery County Treasurer Jason Salus (right).

He also expressed concern that the minute Obama was elected, Senator Mitch McConnell voiced the lone goal of the Republican party: to defeat President Obama.  He called this “awful awful awful.”

Governor Markell said that education is one of the most important reasons that businesses can thrive in his state or any other state.

Governor Markell is currently the only Jewish governor in the country. He has an impressive national profile and is the former chair of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and currently serves as the National Governors Association (NGA) vice chair, slated to become chair in July.

He also has broad experience in the private sector, helping lead the wireless technology revolution as the 13th employee at Nextel (a name he coined), where he served as Senior Vice President for Corporate Development. His other prior business experience includes a senior management position at Comcast Corporation in Philadelphia, working as a consultant with McKinsey and Company, and as a banker at First Chicago Corporation.

He was elected Delaware State Treasurer in 1998, winning three consecutive terms, including his last re-election as treasurer in November of 2006 with an overwhelming 70 percent of the vote.  As State Treasurer, Governor Markell worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Delawareans through innovative programs aimed at cutting spending and improving fiscal responsibility.  He has been recognized in Delaware and across the country as a leader in promoting policies to help all people achieve their economic potential.

Photos: Bonnie Squires.

Two Fabulous Films About Kibbutzim and Refugees

— by Hannah Lee

The Academy Award winner for Best Documentary Short Topic for 2010, Strangers No More, was shown on January 30th as part of the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival as well as the 2011 documentary,  Inventing Our Lives: The Kibbutz Experiment, at the Prince Music Theatre.

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Inventing Our Lives: The Kibbutz Experiment, is Toby Perl Freilich’s 79-minute new film, which explores “the longest experiment in collective living,” says presenter Dr. Ranen Omer-Sherman, Professor of English and Jewish Studies of the University of Miami, and the “final word on the kibbutz movement has not been said.”  Freilich’s film intersperses interviews with the three generations of kibbutzniks (kibbutz residents) with actual footage from the time.

At its peak, the kibbutz movement only comprised 5% of the population in Israel, but its influence has been far-reaching, with its radical proposals for change in social organization– parenting even, as children were raised in separate children’s quarters– and economic cooperation.  It was said in the film that Israel’s defense forces and Knesset (parliamentary government) have both been affected, with many of its leaders coming out of the kibbutz movement.  Indeed, the current consul general of Israel for the Mid-Atlantic region, Daniel Kutner, hails from Kibbutz Ein Shemer where his family landed when they first arrived to Israel.

Philosopher Avishai Margolit of Hebrew University was quoted in the film calling the kibbutz movement “a children’s crusade,” because the pioneers were young men and women who’d moved to the barren land that was Israel before the intensive efforts at re-forestation and drying out the swamps.  They worked without older adult supervision and they taught themselves– many with an urban upbringing– how to work the land.  In the film, a first-generation kibbutznik called her peers “children of nature.”

The population in Israel in 1948 was 600,000 and four years later, the population tripled, mostly from the influx of immigrants from Islamic countries.  Alas, according to one person interviewed in the film, a major tragedy for the kibbutzim was that they did not try to integrate the newer immigrants.

The golden period was of the second-generation, who enjoyed the rewards of their pioneer parents– the kibbutzim now had running water and some even had swimming pools– while still proud that they were the heroes of a new country.  Then, two outside forces greatly stressed the movement:  In 1977, Begin’s Likud party of Oriental Jews gained power and rejected Labor’s Zionist ideals.  And during the 1970’s, inflation rose to 400%, and many kibbutzim could not survive the economic pressures.   The youth left and the remaining kibbutzniks were demoralized.  

At the Prince Music Theatre, Professor Omer-Sherman noted that two groups that have faced re-identification in modern times are the Negev Bedouin and the kibbutzim members.   Many kibbutzim experimented with privatization to lure new investments and new members.  Now only 1% of the remaining 270 kibbutzim are still purely socialistic and egalitarian.  Kibbutz Ein Shemer voted three times to reject a differential income plan; it passed on fourth try.  Kibbutz Tamuz in Beit Shemesh is an urban kibbutz—  another variation for bringing the original values to a contemporary society.

>Strangers No More is the 40-minute long documentary directed by Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon about the remarkable Bialik-Rogozin School in central Tel Aviv where students hail from 48 countries.  This public school, encompassing  Kindergarten through 12th grades, and in addition to the local citizens (mostly from the lowest socioeconomic sectors of Israeli society), it welcomes the children of migrant and refugee families, with and without legal status.  Professor Omer-Sherman noted while Jews have long had the Biblical tradition of welcoming the stranger; for the first time, Israel has the opportunity to do so and it’s finally with the power to help others.  But, does it have the will?

The staff and faculty of the Bialik-Rogozin School are shown as generous, patient, and kind, even visiting parents in their home when they cannot meet them at school for the regular student evaluations.  Principal Karen Tal (and now superintendent) extended her school’s hours from 7 am to 7 pm, when she realized that her parents worked way beyond the average work day, because  “We want to be like a home, and a home doesn’t close at 1 in the afternoon.

The film highlights one school year for three new students: 16-year-old Mohammed from Darfur who came to the school after witnessing the killing of both his grandmother and father; 12-year-old Johannes from Ethiopia and a Sudan refugee camp who had never attended school before entering Bialik-Rogozin; and Esther from South Africa who’d also witnessed her mother’s murder.   Mohammed is an orphan who has to work to support himself, but he is so determined to succeed that he “made up four years [of study] in one year.”  He wants to return to his own country and start a school modeled after the Bialik-Rogozin.  Johannes is struggling with the language and formal study until the school fits him for prescription glasses and he can finally see the teachers’ writing.  In just a few months, he is able to translate for a new boy in his native Tigrit.  In another poignant– and ironic  moment– Esther tells about her prized souvenir from her mother, a jewelry box for which “she must have paid a fortune” and the camera pans to show her layered plastic box.

The film does not detail the way that Tal financed her school, in order to provide her needy students with hot lunches, school books, and extracurricular enrichment (some lucky few get bicylces), but she reached out beyond Tel Aviv and Israel and has received financial assistance from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles (in cooperation with the Chais Family Foundation and the Rashi Foundation) and a committee that included support from high-tech companies and business leaders.

Afterwards, Professor Omer-Sherman reported on recent developments after the movie was released.  On the day the film won its Oscar, Esther’s family was threatened with deportation.  Last month, the Knesset approved “harsh new penalties on illegal migrants, a measure aimed at stopping the flow of African asylum seekers and economic migrants across Israel’s southern border with the Egyptian Sinai.  The amendment, to the existing Law to Prevent Infiltration, makes it possible to detain illegal migrants and their children for up to three years without a trial. Anyone caught aiding illegal migrants found to be carrying weapons, or trafficking in humans or drugs, could face prison terms of 5 to 15 years.” [10 January 2012, New York Times]  One angry audience member denounced this amendment and suggested diverting the money needed to enforce such measures to funding more schools like the Bialik-Rogozin , so that these children of circumstances beyond their control can become productive citizens and even serve in the Army.  Consul General Kutner rebutted this view, saying that Israel has become a magnet for Africans, not just political refugees but also economic aspirants to “the Promised Land.”  These government measures are a reluctant reaction to stem the tide of migrants, which totaled 400,000 40,000 last year.  That’s a big burden on a small nation.

The Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival concludes its “Documentaries and Dialogues” series with Eichmann’s End on February 6th at 7 pm.  

In addition, it’ll feature Louder than a Bomb and Live Poetry Slam on Sunday, February 12th, at 2:30 pm, also at the Prince Music Theatre at 1412 Chestnut Street.

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.

Israel Consulate Announces Philadelphia Yom Ha’zikaron Ceremony

The Consulate General of Israel in Philadelphia announces its Yom Ha’zikaron (Memorial Day) Ceremony for Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. On Sunday, May 8, 2011 at 7:30 p.m., the event will be held at the beautiful and historic Congregation Rodeph Shalom, 615 N. Broad St., in Philadelphia.

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This year, the ceremony will honor all of Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, with special emphasizes placed on local Jewish heroes.

“We are so incredibly honored to present this ceremony with the community, all of the bereaved families and with the families of Rita Susan Levine (z”l), David Solomonov (z”l) and Michael Levin (z”l),” said Philadelphia’s Consul General Daniel Kutner. “Along with prayers and musical selections, a film is being created to honor our local heroes, just for this event.”

Joan Levine Band lost her sister, Rita Levine (z”l), in a terror attack in July 1989, making her the first American to lose her life during the Intifada.

Michael Solomonov, owner of Zahav restaurant in Philadelphia, lost his brother, David Solomonov (z”l), in war.

Harriet and Mark Levin, lost their son, Michael Levin (z”l), during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Film creator Sally Mitlas of Mitlas Productions, LLC in Jenkintown, Pa., said the title of the film, “A Green Kippah,” is filled with symbolism and points to the color of a kippah worn in battle.

Mitlas, who is working tirelessly on the project, also said that the film focuses on the power of symbols.

“At the end of the film, Harriet Levin is holding her only son’s green kippah which he wore into battle. She looks at a picture of the three tzanchanim (paratroopers from the iconic 1967 Kotel picture by David Rubinger). We then dissolve into the Levin family meeting those same three soldiers – some 40 years later – and presenting them with Michael’s kippah. The soldiers in the picture were an inspiration to Michael.”

She said, “[The film] reminds us that when Israel loses a son or a daughter, it must be felt by every Jew around the world – not just by those living on Israeli soil.”

There are 44 local families who have lost family members to war or terrorism. Each year, the State of Israel and the Jewish people remember and mourn on Yom Ha’zikaron.

This ceremony is presented to the community by the Consulate General of Israel in Philadelphia, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Southern New Jersey.

Please bring a PHOTO ID with you to the ceremony.

For more information on the Yom Ha’zikaron event, please call 215.977.7600, ext. 511, email [email protected] or visit

To reach Michelle Effron Miller, Director of Media & Governmental Affairs at the Consulate, please write to [email protected]