Fight BDS: Buy From Israel

The anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls to divest from Israel, to boycott Israeli products and academics, and to attack Israelis and Jews, is gaining strength every day.
One meaningful way that we can all fight back is by supporting Israel financially, one purchase at a time.

Whenever I celebrate an occasion here in the U.S., I make it more special with purchases from Israel. By purchasing Israeli products, I support Israel’s domestic economy and its international image, and get to share the bounty of the country of my birth.

If you order Israeli products from Amazon through the links in this article, The Philadelphia Jewish Voice gets a percentage of the sales, so we can support another good cause at the same time!

I invite you to join me in investing in Israel.

Israeli products


Please Support the Philadelphia Jewish Voice

Philadelphia Jewish Voice’s board members celebrate winning second place for online presence in the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association’s 2011 Newspaper of the Year Competition.

Dear Readers,

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is a completely virtual organization. All of our authors are unpaid volunteers, who write because they love to do so. We run a very tight ship, with few expenses and almost no advertising.

In order to continue doing what we do, we rely on you, our readers, to contribute financially.

We expect to implement some exciting changes to our site in the coming year. Please give as generously as possible — no amount is too modest.

Thank you!

To pay by credit card or paypal, click here:

Checks should be sent to the Philadelphia Jewish Voice treasurer, Eric Smolen, 327 Pembroke Road, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004.

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is organized pursuant to Pennsylvania’s non-profit corporation law. We have tax-exempt status under IRS Code Section 501(c)(3). Contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

More ways in which you can help after the jump.
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is an online community-based newspaper and we appreciate your commitment of any kind. Besides financial donations, you can help us in many ways:

Sincerely yours,

Dan Loeb,

Ronit Treatman

The Forward and the Jewish Journal of Boston Launch Partnership

Forward editor-in-chief Jane Eisner has strong ties to the Philadelphia Jewish community. Before 2008 when she became the first woman to edit The Forward, she was vice president of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, held a variety of positions at the Philadelphia Inquirer including editorial page editor, and taught at the University of Pennsylvania and Bryn Mawr College. Her TV program The Salon continues to air locally on TJC.

Collaboration Will Enhance Jewish Journalism in Greater Boston

The Jewish Daily Forward and The Jewish Journal, two of the American Jewish community’s leading news sources, are working together to expand their coverage and entice more readers to connect with the Jewish community in Greater Boston, nationwide and around the world.

Beginning in August, the Journal’s print edition will include a selection of news, interviews,  features and arts coverage from the Forward’s correspondents worldwide. And the Journal will launch a new website, hosted by the Forward, to provide a rich online experience worthy of the Jewish Journal’s in-depth coverage of the metropolitan Boston Jewish community.

Forward president and publisher Samuel Norich:

This is another step on a road we have been traveling for a century, toward providing the most comprehensive and credible coverage of American Jewry and the Jewish world. Because we believe a robust Jewish press is essential to the health of our communities, the Forward is pleased to work with the Jewish Journal to better serve Boston’s Jewish community, and we look forward to extending this collaborative model to publications in other localities.

In this partnership, each organization will retain its editorial and financial independence. The Forward, by working with the Journal, will extend its exposure in the Boston area and benefit from the Journal’s thorough knowledge of its community. The Journal will gain access to the Forward’s extensive experience in national and international journalism, digital media and marketing.

Barbara Schneider, publisher of the Jewish Journal:

We’re laying the groundwork to expand beyond our traditional base on the North Shore. By partnering with the Forward, the Jewish Journal can maintain its hyper-local approach to covering communal news and provide a more valuable service to the Greater Boston community. We will also be able to offer our community a more comprehensive and up-to-the minute website.

Everyone wins. The Jewish Journal benefits, the Forward benefits, and — more importantly — our readers and web users benefit from our ability to do more for them together than we can separately.

About The Forward

The Forward is a legendary name in journalism, chronicling the American Jewish story for 116 years. As a nonprofit, user-supported media organization, it remains committed today to serving the Jewish community and society’s greater good with a national, Jewish perspective, strengthening Jewish engagement with independent reporting and diverse commentary on current issues and the arts, in English and Yiddish, that meet the highest standards of public service in journalism and cultural expression.

Its news, analysis, features and arts coverage reach an audience of millions through the Internet at, as well as its newspapers published in both English and Yiddish. Forward journalists are regularly seen and heard on CNN, MSNBC and NPR, and its coverage is regularly cited by major outlets such as the New York Times, Israeli media and international wire services. The Forward’s excellence has been recognized with numerous professional journalism awards for reporting, editorials, design and web content.

About The Jewish Journal

The Jewish Journal is a nonprofit, independent, local paper that shines a light on all aspects of Jewish communal life in the Greater Boston area, while offering a broad spectrum of opinion on its op-ed pages.

Founded in Swampscott, Massachusetts, in 1977, the Jewish Journal is now based in Salem. Its mission is to inform, engage, educate and connect the Jewish community in the Greater Boston region. The newspaper is distributed free to families in more than 60 cities and towns in Eastern Massachusetts, and mailed to subscribers in other states.  

Please support The Philadelphia Jewish Voice

We at The Philadelphia Jewish Voice continuously strive for excellence. In order to improve your experience reading our publication, reach more readers and have a greater impact, we are in the process of upgrading our website. We need to raise $1,250 in order to reach our goal to make this possible. Please support us in this endeavor. No amount is too small, and every dollar raised will help us reach this very achievable goal. I hope that you will enjoy all our upcoming improvements.

Your tax-deductible donations will help give Voice to the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community.

To pay by credit card or PayPal, just click one of the buttons below:






or visit or send a check to:

Eric Smolen, Treasurer
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice
327 Pembroke Road
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is an online community-based newspaper and we appreciate your commitment of any kind. Besides financial donations, you can help us in many ways:

Thank you!

Happy New Year From The Philadelphia Jewish Voice

Philadelphia Jewish Voice’s board members celebrate being recognized with Second Place for Online Presence in the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association’s 2011 Newspaper of the Year Competition.

Dear Readers,

All of us at The Philadelphia Jewish Voice wish you a happy and prosperous new year.  It has been our pleasure to share our original content and creativity with you over the course of this past year.  We are unpaid volunteers, who do this work because we love it.  

I invite you to contribute your tax deductible donation to The Philadelphia Jewish Voice before this year ends.  Every dollar helps!  All monies will be used to improve our publishing platform and to enhance your reading experience.  

Sincerely yours,
Ronit Treatman

The Write Stuff: Tips To Help Get Your Letter to the Editor Published

— by Rabbi Avi Shafran

Sometimes — usually after the New York Times deigns to publish a letter of mine on behalf of Agudath Israel of America — I’m asked how one “gets a letter” published in a (rightly or wrongly) respected periodical.

Well, the first step is to become the spokesperson for a national organization.

Just joking. It may help a letter’s chances for publication if it is signed by an organizational representative. But it can also hurt them. In any event, most published letters are from individuals writing as such.

One doesn’t, however, “get a letter” published. All one can do is submit a good candidate, one with a chance of striking the fancy of a letters editor. Major publications can receive hundreds of letters a day, from which to choose a handful. There are no shortcuts here (unless the editor is one’s brother-in-law). But “Rabbi Shafran’s How-To Guide” for writing a letter to the editor, below, might be helpful.

Rabbi Shafran’s eight pieces of advice follow the jump.

  1. Never Write and Send a Letter.
    That is to say that, after writing one’s letter, one should tear it up (or delete it from the screen). At very least, set it aside for a few hours. Letters always improve with subsequent re-writes, and excesses of emotion in a first draft tend to be softened somewhat-usually a good thing-in a second one.
  2. Cut.
    Long letters, like long sentences (like this one), are more demanding of readers, and trying to address all five points one would like to make when readers only have patience to consider one or two is counterproductive since it is confusing and off-putting, and since most readers in any event tend to just skim letters pages and settle on the shortest, punchiest offerings. Brevity is best.
  3. Become The Other.
    As one writes — and re-writes — a letter to the editor, it is important to put oneself in the minds of readers. If writing in a non-heimish Jewish publication, how will it strike a non-Orthodox Jew? A baal teshuvah? If in a non-Jewish publication, how will it strike a non-Jew? Considering one’s letter from an assortment of different perspectives will often inspire a well-chosen change of phrase or word or thought. Engineering a letter to engender empathy or respect isn’t always possible; but when it is, it’s a good idea.
  4. Resist Negativity.
    There’s a fine line between well-earned indignation and ranting. It’s best to couch even deserved criticism in words that earn a reader’s consideration rather than inspire him to grunt and move to the next letter.
  5. Keep Your Eye on the Prize.
    Remember that the overarching, ultimate goal is not to “score points” or even, necessarily, to present an unassailable argument. It is to affect others, to make them think about what you have to say. A point won at the expense of the reader’s good will is a tactical loss. Always think tachlis (substance).
  6. Write for the Uninformed.
    Don’t assume that the reader knows what you do. Include a reference to the article or editorial it addresses, and its date. And, if you use a Hebrew or Yiddish word or Jewish concept, include a succinct definition between commas or parentheses.
  7. Bait the Editor.
    Give your letter something “tasty” to help make it stand out from others the paper may have received on the same topic. It might be an original insight, your special credentials for addressing the issue, some surprising fact, or a bit of humor or cleverness (in which latter cases it should be tried out first on one’s spouse).
  8. Pay Attention to Packaging.
    Substance is paramount but superficiality counts. Misspellings or grammatical errors are invitations to editors to file a letter in the “circular file.” In addition, a letter to the editor should always include the telephone number[s] of the writer, so that the editor can call to confirm that it was indeed sent by the person signed to it.

Of course, the most important factor of any good letter to the editor is that it has something cogent to say. So before using the checklist above, see to it that your letter meets that requirement. If it does, even if the editor isn’t your brother-in-law, go for it!

New political book roasts flaws in governing

College students threatened with doubled school-loan interest rates can thank a stale, anachronistic political process on Capitol Hill that makes as much sense as the antics on “Seinfeld.”

In fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid must have modeled his negotiating skills on Seinfeld pal George Costanza when he allowed Republicans to retain their filibuster power, which they abuse at nearly every opportunity, according to the new e-book Amending America: To Change Policy, Change the System. This close look at our governing system is written by Philadelphia Jewish Voice writer Bruce S. Ticker.

Excerpts of Amending America were published in The Philadelphia Jewish Voice earlier this year under the working title, American Vision.

More after the jump.
Amending America builds a compelling case that the Constitution’s rules and other glitches in the system facilitate gridlock in Congress by shortchanging the clout of larger states in the Senate; allowing the two-party system to undermine independent candidates; treating Washington, D.C., residents as second-class citizens; and, of course, depriving Americans of a direct vote for our presidential preference. The book offers recommendations to level the playing field for all 308 million of us.

Jewish Heritage Night with the Philadelphia Soul

You are invited to join the Philadelphia Jewish Voice and the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community at the Wells Fargo Center for an exciting, family-friendly evening of arena football as the Philadelphia Soul take on the Pittsburgh Power during the Soul’s Jewish Heritage Night, Sunday, June 24 at 6:05 pm. In addition to the non-stop action that arena football brings, the evening will also feature kosher food and Jewish themed entertainment.

Each ticket costs $28.

Ticket prices have been reduced to $19!

Tickets can be used for Jewish Heritage night or for any 2012 Philadelphia Soul regular season home game. A portion of the proceeds will support the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

Contact [email protected] if you have any questions.

See you on June 24th!

Meetup with Philadelphia Jewish Voice Writers At LimmudPhilly

If you are planning on attending Limmud Philly this weekend, be sure to stop by the Philadelphia Jewish Voice’s table this Sunday, April 29 any time between 11am and 3pm. You’ll get a chance to meet our Living Judaism editor Rabbi Goldie Milgram, our Kosher Table editor Ronit Treatman, myself and other members of the Philadelphia Jewish Voice community. There will be free bumper stickers, books and mitzvah cards available for purchase, and you’ll be able to see what herbs Ronit has growing in her garden.

If you weren’t thinking of attending Limmud Philly 2012, please do. Click here for details about this year’s Limmud, and see our coverage of

Please come. We would love to meet you.

  • Location: Friends Select School, 17th & Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA
  • Time: Sunday, April 29, 2012, 11am-3pm.

Academic Transfer

In order to understand her identity, an Irish Catholic student at the University of Virginia had to follow her passion: a major in Jewish Studies

Editor’s note: Anne Grant worked as editorial assistant for the Philadelphia Jewish Voice during the summer of 2011. She had to step down in the Fall when she returned to her studies in Virgina, but she continues to “tweet” for us. (Follow #PJVoice on twitter.) She was a great help, and we are still looking for someone to continue her work for us.

Anne’s story is reprinted courtesy of Anne Grant and Slate following the jump.
“You’re running away from who you are,” a family member warned me before I left for a spring break trip with my university’s Hillel. I couldn’t blame him: I am a blue-eyed, baptized Catholic, the product of a lifelong religious education set in classrooms with crucifixes hanging on the walls and statues of the Virgin Mary standing in the doorways. Most of my childhood classmates came, as I did, from large Catholic families with conspicuously Irish and Italian surnames. Despite my total immersion in all things Catholic throughout my upbringing, however, I always felt acutely estranged from both the Church’s religious precepts and Catholic culture overall. But on the cusp of that trip, I felt for the first time that, rather than escaping from an identity, I was actually starting to figure mine out.

A few years before, a totally unexpected encounter with the Jewish Studies department at University of Virginia turned into a consuming intellectual passion. Now, three years and many experiences with Jewish life later, I have found that Jewish Studies has become much more than simply an academic pursuit for me. In the strange, twisted, but amazing trip that has been my college experience, Judaism has provided me with the friends, mentors, values, and spiritual community that I didn’t even know I had been seeking. What started as an avowedly intellectual interest has influenced the entirety of my life.

I grew up in a very loving, very religious Irish Catholic family in the Philadelphia suburbs-the kind that flies a surprisingly tasteful flag featuring the scene of Jesus’s birth, illuminated by a spotlight, outside our front door during the Christmas holidays. During my childhood, my parents brought my three siblings and me to Mass every Sunday, where we squirmed and giggled our way through the weekly sermons. Cultural Catholicism pervaded our lives, from the elaborate religious rituals that we regularly observed to the social conservatism of our parents.

In ninth grade, I was enrolled in a strict, all-girls’ Catholic high school-a world of assigned lunch table seats and abstinence-only sex education. Rather than bulldogs or wildcats, we were, unfortunately, the Marians. Marians were required to observe all sorts of rules, the most undeniably humiliating one being the requirement to introduce formal dates to a welcoming line of benign but intimidating nuns.

We still had fun, of course. My friends and I invented imaginative games in our Latin class and threw the occasional breakfast tailgate at my parking spot before homeroom. We joked incessantly about our mandatory yearly assemblies with a local pro-life, chastity-promoting Catholic organization, from which we always received bright red stickers that asserted, “I’m Worth Waiting For!” But, though frustrated with Catholicism, by a large majority we identified with the politically and socially conservative views of our parents. I discussed with pleasure “building a wall” for the “illegals” and withholding taxes for the wealthy, and my government class contained one endearing but lonely liberal-a spike-collar-wearing Hillary Clinton devotee with multiple piercings and a pink streak in her hair.

When I started my first year at the University of Virginia, I felt ecstatic to finally experience freedom. Like so many of my peers’ college choices, my own decision to attend U.Va had been uninformed; I had no idea what I wanted to study or who I even was. My chance introduction to Judaism occurred when one of the first students I met, on one of my very first days at school, invited me to attend a Shabbat dinner at U.Va’s Hillel. Being a spacey 18-year-old with virtually no social inhibitions, I agreed.

At that time-before the Hillel’s new multimillion-dollar addition was completed-Shabbat dinners took place on long, crowded tables on old hardwood floors in two rooms featuring posters about Israel and ceiling-high bookcases filled with texts about Judaism. The warm lighting, the books, and the other students who seemed suspended in that hazy, magic time between the end of the school day and the weekend ahead-it all seemed so homey. I was utterly, inexplicably besotted. Of course, I was also utterly, comprehensively Catholic.

But, as I now realize, this new exposure to Judaism coincided with the emergence of some festering issues with Catholicism’s theological precepts. That fall, I enrolled in a course about the Hebrew Bible-during which it dawned on me that no one, including me, had to read the Bible as God’s Word. Still, I wasn’t sure what this meant for observance. During my Bible professor’s office hours, I would interrogate the petite, bewildered woman about her belief in God and Christianity. Repeatedly, she replied that she couldn’t share with me her own personal views, only the academic discourse.

The following semester I enrolled in a Jewish history course. I was astounded by the Jewish historical narrative and Jews’ contributions to intellectual and cultural life despite one horrendous instance of persecution after another. The American Jewish immigrant experience seemed particularly fascinating: Yiddish theater, Tin Pan Alley, you name it-for whatever reason, I was into it.

With the help of my obliging Jewish history professor, who took the time to respond to my theological queries during office hours with even more thought-provoking responses, I began to make peace with the religious teachings of my upbringing and explore new religious philosophies. And then he made an unexpected suggestion: that I consider majoring in Jewish Studies. Having no better ideas at the time, I decided to pursue it.

The next year, I became even more involved in Jewish life. I started going to Shabbat dinners every Friday night with my growing network of Jewish friends, several of whom I met in my quirky, close-knit beginners’ Hebrew class. One weeknight at Hillel, I was startled to find myself teaching a recent convert how to braid challah. I also took an incredible class about Jewish philosophy with a soft-spoken professor who explained the development of Jewish thought from Spinoza through post-Holocaust thinkers. From him, I learned for the first time about the compatibility between atheism and Jewish religious observance. Now, here was a philosophy that I could get behind! As a lifelong skeptic, I loved Judaism’s encouragement of theological inquiry, of questioning rather than knowing the answers. In addition, as I read more about Jewish thinkers who had existed on social and religious margins because of their Jewishness, I felt an odd affinity with them. In my (somewhat dramatic) perception, I was the ultimate Jew: a non-Christian, non-Jewish insider-outsider who perilously straddled the lines of membership in both communities. I didn’t fit anywhere.

Through Hillel, I also formed close friendships with several older, intellectual Jewish students, who began to influence my increasingly left-leaning views with their advocacy of typically liberal political causes and interest in tikkun olam.

One spring, I accompanied them to Miami for one of Hillel’s weeklong service trips-the group’s only non-Jew. I didn’t really know why I wanted to go on a specifically Jewish trip, but I’m glad I did. While in Miami, we spent time at the Jewish Federation there. As we sat in the Federation’s conference room, festooned with blue-and-white crepe decorations, we listened to speeches about Israel advocacy, social justice, and the 4,000-year-old Jewish legacy. Surprised at the fervor of these talks by wealthy and influential Jewish leaders who were mostly middle-aged men, I looked around at my group quizzically, but no one else even batted an eye. Despite my friendships with everyone in the group, I was suddenly aware that I lacked the exposure to the kinds of people and conversation that my Jewish friends had. No matter how much I learned in school, I could not replicate the actual lived experience of American Jews without having grown up as one.

I began to hate explaining that yes, I am a Jewish Studies major but, no, I am not actually Jewish. When my parents’ friends brought it up at dinner parties or during holidays when I went home for break, I tried to change the subject immediately or talk about my siblings’ lives instead. I think that many of these people from home suspect that I am using my academic life as an act of rebellion, the intellectual’s equivalent to selling drugs or getting a navel ring. (I would argue, though, that selling drugs seems a lot more profitable to me than majoring in Jewish Studies.) And all along, I kept vehemently claiming that the religion itself did not interest me.

During my third year in college, I enrolled in a class about Jewish ritual. I had to: It was a required course. Sitting in the back row with one of my equally disinterested friends, I felt only annoyance. I would have rather taken a class about Israel or Zionism, and here I was wasting time learning about Jewish weddings, bar mitzvahs, and the like.

As the class progressed, however, I had to admit that I liked the way our professor elucidated the connection between important life events and their physical recognition with rituals. Once, this professor assigned us a short paper with which we were to record our observations of an on-campus Jewish religious event. I took the assignment in a different direction by composing an affectionate portrayal of Jewish life as I had come to know it with a description of Hillel’s Yom Kippur services. I talked about my Hillel crew-my friend whose parents begged her to show up on Friday evenings and High Holidays in the hopes that she would defy the crushingly majority-Christian demographics of U.Va and one day meet a nice Jewish boy. I also talked about my token “intellectual” Jewish friends, the “eat-and-run” crowd of scruffy, Doonesbury lookalikes who showed up for High Holiday dinners and left conveniently before services. I went on and on, comparing the march of students to services from Hillel to that of kids on the way to a much revered but dreaded summer camp tradition. Once again, as a student of Jewish history and culture, I observed these Yom Kippur services from within the community but ultimately outside it.

I expected a C or C-minus with instructions to follow directions next time, but instead I received an A+, with a request to attend my professor’s office hours sometime. I began visiting her often; we talked about religion and identity in depth, and I began to consider the obvious benefits of participation in a spiritual community.

I admit that my situation is an odd one. Having traveled to Israel and completed most of my Jewish Studies course requirements, I am embarking on my last semester at U.Va and feeling very much a part of the Jewish community. I’ll be finishing an undergraduate thesis about the U.Va Jewish community, and I plan to apply to graduate school for Jewish Studies in a year or two. When in conversation with someone about Jewish life or Jewish traditions, I often accidentally say the word “us” or “we” when referring to the Jewish community. If I find a guy at U.Va inexplicably unattractive, I sometimes find myself explaining to my friends that he is, regrettably, way too goyish-looking. When Friday afternoons roll around, my friends-Jewish and non-Jewish-know to expect a probably bossy-sounding mass text message from me inviting them to Hillel that evening. Unlike most of my Jewish friends, however, I don’t receive any pressure to go there, or to fast on Yom Kippur, or to meet a nice Jewish boy.

And I have come to increasingly dislike Christmas-the buildup, the hype, the packed malls, and the materialism. (As Jewish holidays literally celebrate suffering, I think they would be a welcome and interesting change for me!) And I have made the decision, however reluctantly, to formally convert in the future. But, while this certainly sits toward the top of my to-do list post-graduation, I am not looking forward to the process. Conversion seems like a formality, a “box-checking,” to publicly legitimize the group affiliation that I felt very strongly and naturally from the beginning of my relationship with the Jewish community.

I do sometimes worry that some karmic Christian retribution will one day bite me in the tuchus. What if one day I have children and end up producing little self-hating Jews who bury themselves in Philip Roth and major in Christian Studies in college? What if they only support Israel so that Jesus has a place to land during the apocalypse? For now, though, I have enough on my hands with my own identity.

Anne Grant is a student at the University of Virginia.