The Chevra Provides Art and Community To Philly 20s And 30s Jews

Monte Carlo Masquerade at The Chevra. Photo courtesy: The Chevra

At 20th and Market, go down the road a little bit, and you’ll find an unassuming brown office building called The Chevra. But unlike the nearby bank and coffee shop, The Chevra’s purpose can’t be defined in one word.

In fact, their website does it in about 24: “multimedia venue & social network feat. a lounge, bar, stage, gallery & loft providing social, educational, spiritual, & volunteer experiences for Young Jewish Professionals & Grad Students.”

Leon Vinokur, Jon Erlbaum and Aryeh Shalom came up with the idea for The Chevra in 2002. According to Vinokur, their goal was to unite a variety of programming for young Jewish adults within one building. “We wanted to do something that was substantive and sophisticated and fun, social, and that had a really big lev, had a really big heart,” said Vinokur, who is The Chevra’s chief operating officer. [Read more…]

Naomi Adler Picked To Lead Philadelphia Jewish Federation


Naomi Adler

First Female CEO Takes Reins at Charity Group

— by Anne Cohen

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has reportedly appointed Naomi Adler as its first female CEO.

Adler, 47, has been selected as CEO, the Jewish Exponent reported.

The wife of a Reform rabbi, Adler left a career in law to pursue a calling in nonprofit fundraising and management. She currently serves as president and CEO of United Way in Westchester and Putnam counties in New York, a post she has held since 2008.

Though new to Philadelphia area, home to an estimated 214,000 Jews, Adler said she was honored, and excited at the idea of moving her family.

“I am extremely excited to partner with our leadership to set a vision for the future as this work is essential to so many in the community,” she said in a prepared statement.

Adler will reportedly take over Federation in early May.

This article originally appeared at forward.com, February 3, 2014.
Reproduced from here by permission of the Forward.

Do Good by Doing Well: Fight Hunger and Obesity at the Same Time

Did you resolve to get fit and lose weight in 2014? If so, you are not alone.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese. Meanwhile, the developing world is contending with the opposite problem: malnutrition.

The holistic health guru, Deepak Chopra, created the Weightless Project to address both of these issues.

By signing up, you pledge to keep your resolution to exercise more. The program’s sponsors will then contribute $1 to hunger relief for every 1,000 calories you burn, as measured by your calorie tracker device.

If you do your exercises well and keep your New Year’s resolution, you will be doing good in two ways at the same time: fighting both hunger and obesity.

Best wishes for a healthy new year!

After the jump: Watch how Oklahoma City residents lost a collective 1 million pounds moving from Men’s Fitness magazine’s list of fattest cities to its list of fittest cities.

The Power of Connecting

One Woman’s Mission through Matchmaking and Mentoring

— by Erica Brooke Fajge

Aleeza Ben Shalom loves meeting and connecting people-so much so, that she made it her career. “So much of the world is about relationships and building connections and bringing people together,” she says. “To me, it’s the most meaningful thing that I could do.”

More after the jump.
Since launching Marriage-Minded Mentor in February 2012, Ben Shalom has been offering her matchmaking and mentoring services to a variety of clients in the U.S. and all over the world, including Europe, Israel and South Africa. She explains that matchmaking is not enough; once a client begins dating someone for a period of time, she mentors the client as the relationship progresses, and she provides advice to help keep relationships strong, leading to marriage.

Ben Shalom works with singles looking for a serious relationship; couples, either dating, engaged or married, looking to strengthen their relationship; and even parents of singles who may be giving their children the wrong advice when it comes to dating, relationships and marriage.

Ben Shalom reveals that, in addition to helping people, she had always wanted to write a book-even though writing was not her strong point. Yearning to share her knowledge as an expert on relationships and marriage to a larger audience, she sought the services of an editor whom she, ironically, met at a wedding. With the help of her editor, Alisa Roberts, she learned much about writing and book publishing.

In May 2013, Ben Shalom released her first book, Get Real Get Married. Although she, herself, is an Orthodox Jew, the book is appropriate for anyone serious about getting married-the phenomenon she refers to as being “marriage-minded”-no matter what religious background one comes from.

Ben Shalom actually grew up in a secular household in Philadelphia and was always proud of her Jewish heritage, but it wasn’t until she became older that religion became a larger part of her life. “I was always searching for meaning in life,” she explains, and after spending time caring for a sick family member, she became inspired while taking part in a Jewish learning retreat.

For Ben Shalom, whose main goal is to “help as many people as possible,” being a professional matchmaker and mentor is the perfect career. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in interdisciplinary studies, an individualized major she designed herself, combining Jewish studies, children’s literature and environmental studies. Yet, upon graduating, she was unclear on what she wanted to do with her life professionally. Personally, her main goal was always to have a marriage and family. So, she decided to combine her passion for helping people with her belief in successful marriages stemming from healthy dating relationships; in essence, her design of a career is quite similar to her design of a college major and her design for her life in general.

However, Ben Shalom’s real education and training have come from being married and having a family. “Most of my education has come from life experience, which is often the greatest teacher,” she says.

This “life experience” refers to her 11+ years of marriage to her husband, Gershon, whom she met on a retreat in Orlando, Fla.; surprisingly, he was also from Philadelphia, and their commonalities just continued from there. Today, the couple has five children, including a brand-new addition to the family: baby, Avraham Levi.

Ben Shalom’s first endeavor in the world of professional matchmaking was as a matchmaker with SawYouAtSinai.com, and, through that experience, she became somewhat of a mentor. Building on her mentoring skills, she soon decided to develop her own singles network and charge for her services. Starting with only a curriculum and five clients in June 2011, Ben Shalom officially launched Marriage-Minded Mentor as a sole proprietorship in February 2012.

Her services soon started gaining publicity when Philly.com published a story about her and her successful new venture. And she, herself, can attest to its success: 14 of her clients have gotten married, and eight are currently engaged. That means eight weddings to attend in the next year alone!

According to Ben Shalom, “I want to empower and educate people to get from where they are now to where they want to be.” She adds, “If you know who you are and what you want, I can help you get it.”

However, Ben Shalom’s consulting services and book are not her only projects undertaken. She has booked a number of speaking engagements for audiences of various ages and backgrounds, including one with Hadassah, which featured a PowerPoint presentation with a question and answer session. That day was a success, she says excitedly, as a number of people were seeking her advice and showing their disappointment when the day came to an end.

In addition, Ben Shalom has spoken at a number of events with organizations geared for young professionals in their 20s and 30s, including events with the Jewish organizations WOW! and Oorah. She has also been involved with organizations in her hometown of Philadelphia, including the Tribe 12 Fellowship. Ben Shalom actually took quite an active role in the Fellowship, serving as a Fellow and, as a result, learning more about strengthening and promoting her own social entrepreneurial start-up, through seminars, coaching, mentoring, networking and a final “pitch” during Launch Night, held this year at the National Museum of American Jewish History.

Ben Shalom also shares her advice to another audience by hosting a weekly radio show called Lunch with Your Marriage-Minded Mentor, where she interviews guests and provides her expert advice. She says she wants to continue her show and also write another book in the near future.

Yet, her next biggest project-apart from being a new Mom again-will be training both married women and men to do what she does and become matchmakers and mentors themselves. “In addition to helping people get married, I’d like to actually train them to do what I do and help others in the same way,” she explains.

Training, consulting and mentoring come naturally for Ben Shalom, who says she always took on leadership roles in various clubs and organizations while growing up. “I always found myself to be a leader in whatever I got involved in,” she says.

At 36, this wife, mother, entrepreneur, consultant, matchmaker, mentor, speaker, author and radio show host, has found the meaning in life she had always been searching for.

“I absolutely love what I do,” she says. “There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. This is it for me.”

Creating a New Generation of Progressive Leaders

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice’s Networking Central column features different groups which make a difference in our community.

This year, I have been fortunate enough to participate in the Center for Progressive Leadership’s 2011 Pennsylvania Political Leaders Fellowship program. Over the coming months, I hope to share some of the lessons that I have learned, but first I would like to give you an opportunity to learn about CPL. [Read more…]

Beyond Hunger: Feast in the Field

— by Danielle Greenberg

On May 18, Heifer International hosted “Beyond Hunger: Feast in the Field,” a farm to fork celebration to raise funds and awareness for sustainable agriculture benefiting the Arkansas Delta and Nepal.  Heifer International is a global development nonprofit and partners with the world’s poor, through gifts of livestock and training, to help them become self-reliant. The nonprofit provides 30 kinds of livestock, trees, seeds and training in environmentally-sound agriculture to families in more than 40 countries, including the United States, Nepal, China, Brazil, Rwanda, and Armenia.  

More after the jump.
At Feast in the Field, guests enjoyed a family-style dinner featuring local foods prepared by the award winning executive chefs Joël Antunes and Ben Willis-Becker from Little Rock’s Capital Hotel. Guests also heard from distinguished speakers, Heifer project participants and a special musical performance by Cody Below, a former contestant on NBC’s “The Voice.”  Chef Tandra Watkins has graciously shared her recipe for strawberry shortcake.  It is a homemade vanilla shortcake topped with fresh, locally grown strawberries and homemade vanilla whipped cream.

Strawberry Shortcake

Shortcake:

  • 180g cake flour
  • 450g white chocolate, melted
  • 360g unsalted butter, softened
  • 240g egg yolks
  • 360g egg whites
  • 270g granulated sugar
  1. Thoroughly incorporate butter into melted chocolate. Whip the egg yolks and stir them into the chocolate mixture. Meanwhile, begin whipping egg whites, adding the sugar a little at a time, whip to soft peaks. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture in two parts.
  2. Fold the sifted cake flour into the batter, pour the batter into a greased 9″ cake pan filling it ¾ of the way to the top.
  3. Bake at 325ºFfor 25-30 minutes, or until the cake is done. Allow to cool, store well wrapped under refrigeration

Assembly:

  • Sweet whipped cream
  • Sliced Strawberries, sweetened with sugar

About Heifer International
Heifer’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. Since 1944, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in 40 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant.
 

Streit’s Matzo Raises Money for Documentary

— by Michael Levine

On Manhattan’s Lower East Side, in a series of four nondescript brick tenement buildings, sits the Streit’s Matzo factory. In 1925, when Aron Streit opened the factory’s doors, it sat at the heart of the nation’s largest Jewish immigrant community. Today, in its fifth generation of family ownership, in a rapidly gentrifying Lower East Side, it remains as the last family-owned matzo factory in America. This place is filled with history and tradition, and not only in the sense that the recipe for their product is 3,000 years old.

More after the jump.
The machinery still used here to bake and pack 40% of the nation’s matzo is as old as the factory itself. The owners still sit at their great-grandfathers’ desks, declining to clear the drawers of the contents left by their forbearers. They have, again and again, refused offers by developers for their real estate, and resisted modernizing the facility, worried of the potential effects on their fiercely loyal workforce, made of neighborhood residents and immigrants from around the world, many of whom have been working there for 30 years or more.  

And yet, while in many ways Streit’s may seem a relic from another age, they continue to thrive, consistently receiving more orders than they can fill.

In a neighborhood where the Jewish immigrants have long ago moved on, in a nation where progress and profits trump all else, where manufacturing has left the cities if not the country, where family businesses are bought out by giant corporations, and workers move from job to low-paying job, Streit’s remains a Lower East Side institution, and a glimmer of hope for the American Dream.

I’ve been working in documentary film and television (Showtime, A&E, History Channel, HGTV, and numerous independent projects) for the past nine years, and having deep family roots on the Lower East Side (my father’s side settled on Rivington Street in 1910), I am truly thrilled and honored to have a chance to make this film. It has been a dream of mine, for years, to tell this story, and seeing it come together has been nothing short of amazing. And while I’m at it, let me thank you again for your support! Your belief in this project is what promises to get me through all the sleepless nights of editing ahead — I’m so excited to get this film out into the world!

I’m also thrilled to be working on this project with the my producer, Michael Green, whose long and storied career in the world of food and drink (19 years at Gourmet Magazine, appearances on Food Network, Today Show, and much more), his experience as a producer across many forms of media, and his unwavering passion for this project, have made working on this film with him an extraordinary experience.

We are joining forces to create a film, a feature-length documentary, that will tell the story of Streit’s — of the factory, of the family, of its workers, of its place in the rich history of the Lower East Side and in America. It is a story of tradition, of resilience and resistance, of the perseverance of the Jewish people, and of immigrants of all faiths, so many of whom have found home in the Lower East Side, behind the doors of Streit’s, or in the matzo they bake.

In order to make this project possible, we are raising money with Kickstarter. So far, about 300 people have chosen to support us, and we have raised close to $30,000. Please help us reach our goal of $60,000.

Voluntourism: Packing Heart on Your Next Vacation


Street child in Bangladesh

— by Ann Craig-Cinnamon

Let’s face it: some of the most fascinating places in the world are located in some of the most impoverished places in the world. You can’t visit the Pyramids of Giza without driving through the slums of Cairo. The Taj Mahal, arguably the most beautiful building ever built, sits amid some of the worst poverty anywhere. Even vacationing on a beautiful Caribbean island, your luxury resort is an anomaly; the ugly truth is all around you.

I’ve been traveling for most of my life and, in fact, I lived in Tehran, Iran as a young woman back in the mid 1970’s. Poverty was all around me there. I had a beggar friend that I passed every day on the street. We were warned not to give money to beggars because if you did, they wouldn’t leave you alone and you might draw an unwanted crowd. So I didn’t give him anything, and for his part, he never asked.  We just had a friendly salaam and a smile for each other each day. But I always felt bad about it.  

Continued after the jump.
The commonly-used rationalization about the poor not knowing any better never held any truth for me. It’s more “there but for the grace of God go I” that sums up my feelings more accurately. I don’t know how you can witness other human beings struggling for their everyday existence and not get changed by it.

As much as I love to travel to exciting and exotic spots around the world, I have always had lot of trouble justifying my own good fortune being able to enjoy the best of what a country has to offer while the people there, many of them poor, are waiting on me and treating me like a king. I understand and agree with the logic that, by going, I am helping to create jobs and am contributing to the economy.  But it just doesn’t seem like enough.

A few years ago I read about a couple who, on their own, raised money, medical supplies and clothing at their workplace and church which they personally delivered to an orphanage in Nairobi. So when my husband and I decided to travel to Kenya we thought we would try the same thing. We raised several thousand dollars, lots of clothing, and had a local pharmaceutical company donate medical supplies which we then took with us to the New Life Children’s Home in Nairobi. We packed everything in old suitcases that we just left there. It wasn’t a difficult thing to do; it just took a little thought and planning. And we received way more than we gave when we had the opportunity to visit with those beautiful children and see the good work the orphanage was doing in a country devastated by Aids and other diseases.

More recently, when we visited Cambodia, we noticed wells that had signs on them. We asked our guide about it and learned that the wells had been donated by tourists who wanted to help when they saw the poverty that the people of Cambodia were living in. We decided to donate a well ourselves so our guide took us to an area near Siem Reap where the government had given small plots of land to the poor and the disabled. Many of these people had nothing but a shack to live in, and no water nearby. Drinking dirty polluted water was a common occurrence and people often became ill and even died because of it. So, we donated enough money to have a well built in an area where several families lived. Believe it or not, the well only cost us $200. For the cost of a utility bill here at home, several families would have fresh, clean water to drink. It was an easy thing to do. We didn’t even lift a finger.

There are a lot of non-profit organizations that offer what are called “voluntourism” trips, in which the travelers get involved in charitable work while they are visiting a poor country. And that is a great way to help. But if you are the kind of traveler who wants to go on your own, but still you’d like to do something to help while you are visiting, you can, if you seek it out. It doesn’t have to be Cambodia or Kenya. It can be closer to home, like in the Caribbean. Just do a little research ahead of the visit time to find an organization that is legitimate, contact them to see what they might need, and start a fundraiser of your own at your synagogue before you go. Tour guides are often a great source too. You have the added bonus of seeing for yourself that your donation is going to a good cause. I guarantee you that you will enjoy your trip a lot more if you leave something meaningful behind, rather than taking lots of things home with you.

Ann Craig-Cinnamon has spent 30 years in both radio and television broadcasting in the Indianapolis market. After living in Tehran, she developed a love for travel and has visited all 50 states and more than 70 countries on all seven continents. She is also the author of the new book, Walking Naked in Tehran.

Local Organization Helps Individuals Celebrate Passover

The Passover League of Philadelphia a not for profit charitable organization founded in 1933 with a mission to raise funds to help needy individuals and families celebrate the Passover holiday. It is supported by volunteers and many Philadelphia charitable organizations.

Seders funded by The Passover League are conducted at various community locations throughout the Delaware Valley. These Seders reach thousands of individuals who would normally be unable to celebrate the traditional Passover holiday. The Passover League serves Jewish veterans in various local hospitals. In addition, The Passover League helps fund the delivery of Kosher meals to homebound individuals and assists many people who are referred through crisis networks.

In order to make a donation, send a check to The Passover League, 215 N. Presidential Blvd, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004 or call 610-660-0530.

JCPA to Host “National Hunger Seder” at US Capitol

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger will host Members of Congress, Administration officials, school children, and other national faith, anti-hunger and anti-poverty leaders for the National Hunger Seder on March 20, 2013 at the US Capitol Visitor’s Center.

The National Hunger Seder is an adaptation of the traditional Passover Seder, telling the story of the Exodus with emphasis on the moral imperative to end hunger in America. The National Hunger Seder is the kick off to the 5th Annual MAZON/JCPA Hunger Seder Mobilization taking place in 27 communities around the country, which are designed to encourage participants to advocate to restore the 5.1% cut to the WIC program mandated by the sequester.

After the jump: JSPAN issues a Haggadah Supplement on immigration.
Participants in the National Hunger Seder Include:

  • Rep. David Cicilline (RI-1)
  • Rep. Ted Deutch (FL-21)
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-2)
  • Officials from the White House, the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Health and Human Services
  • Representatives from National WIC Association, Food Research and Action Center, Congressional Hunger Center, Alliance to End Hunger, Center for American Progress, Bread for the World, National Council of Churches, US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Islamic Relief, American Jewish World Service, Bend the Arc, National Council of Jewish Women, The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, JCPA, MAZON, Jewish Primary Day School and more.

Meanwhile, the Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN) issued a Haggadah Supplement titled Welcoming the Stranger to the Land. “We were immigrants in Egypt.  And we have been immigrants many times since then, until we achieved citizenship on American soil”, said Kenneth Myers, JSPAN’s Vice President.

The Seder is a time to reflect on our experience and the plight of others who have not yet achieved their freedoms here.  Millions of undocumented immigrants have no path to citizenship or the full freedoms we take for granted.  Consider what their status forever does to their lives, and how we can help them and America fulfill our common aspirations.

The Supplement can be viewed and downloaded here.