The Traveling Mitzvah Bear

— by Annette Powers

Twelve adorable stuffed bears departed from the Union for Reform Judaism’s (URJ) New York offices on a journey to over 100 early childhood centers in Reform congregations throughout the United States and Canada.

Izzy is looking at the Torah with some Ganon Gil Preschool friends while we were learning about Simchat Torah (Beachwood, Ohio).

Each of the bears — Bernie, Benny, Goldie, Hannah, Herbie, Izzy, Lily, Moishe, Rose, Sadie, Saul and Sylvia — will visit these centers over the 2011-2012 school year to teach young children about the importance of doing mitzvot (good deeds) and the value of hachnasat orchim (hospitality/welcoming the guest.) Each bear comes with a journal, the book Bim and Bom: A Shabbat Tale and ideas about what to do with the bears.

More after the jump.

Rose arrived at Glasser Preschool in Oak Park, IL just in time to make challah for Shabbat!

Some of the suggestions on the list include: preparing the students ahead of time by teaching them about mitzvot and hachnasat orchim, taking pictures of the bear doing good deeds with the students and making cards for the students who will meet the bear next on his travels.

The journal can be used for recording any photos, drawings, or writings related to the bears’ experiences while visiting. Participants can also share on the URJ Traveling Mitzvah Bears Facebook event page.

The book Bim and Bom by Daniel Swartz, donated by The PJ Library, illustrates the importance of mitzvot. The story tells of Bim and her brother Bom who work hard all week, and then spend Fridays doing good deeds. At sundown, they joyfully meet to celebrate the Jewish Sabbath together.

“The Traveling Mitzvah Bear program is a creative and fun way to instill young children with some of the most essential Jewish values,” said Cathy Rolland, URJ’s director of early childhood education, “We look forward to seeing the many creative ways early childhood educators will find to use these bears and the reactions of the children who get to enjoy them.”

Hannah came to B’nai Jehudah Preschool in Kansas. She helped us celebrate Shabbat!

“Our bear just arrived and we are anxious to introduce him to our students and start taking pictures and making memories,” said Arlene Kaufman, director of Temple Trager Early Childhood Education Center in Louisville, Kentucky. “This is such an exciting and innovative program. What a wonderful way to bring our Jewish schools together.”

The bears will gather at the Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism (ECE-RJ) booth at the 2011 URJ Biennial convention in December as a stop-over during their extensive travels.  

The Mitzvah Bowl

— by Cheryl Friedenberg and Val Franklin

This fall, as the leaves change color and the record-breaking heat and humidity are a thing of the past, parents begin carting back and forth to synagogue for bar or bat mitzvah lessons.

Many of these Philadelphia-area families are preparing their soon-to-be 13-year-old children for their bar/bat mitzvah. While four to eight months seems like a lifetime away, these young adults will reach this important Jewish milestone.

Before the big day, students will practice prayers, Torah and Haftorah portions, write their D’var Torah speech and select a mitzvah project. Mitzvah projects are becoming very creative and individually tailored, as more resources online are available. One local resource is The Mitzvah Bowl, which targets teens/parents that are searching for a meaningful mitzvah project. The website allows families to search hundreds of mitzvah project ideas that are easily organized by interest.

More after the jump.
As one parent, Stacy Emanuel, remarks,

Zac really wanted to have something to do with sports for his mitzvah project. Last summer, I was trolling the web for ideas when I came across your website. I saw info on PeacePlayers and the baseball collection drive and showed them to Zac. He checked out the information and really liked what PeacePlayers stood for. He loved the idea of running a 3-on-3 basketball tournament with his friends. He wanted to make sure that his project was going to be fun for him to do.

We are confident our website has helped hundreds of area bar/bat mitzvah students since its inception in May 2010.

Recently, Alex Smith, a May, 2012 bar mitzvah student, contacted us seeking advice on how to find a mitzvah project. He was interested in working with kids, but was very busy during the school week with school and sports. The Mitzvah Bowl suggested contacting Friendship Circle, a local organization where children and teens with special needs are teamed up with a teen volunteer to enjoy many of the social and recreational opportunities afforded to the community at large. Alex is excited to start his project.

Rabbi Craig Axler of Congregation Beth Or notes

What Cheryl and Val have done in creating The Mitzvah Bowl is not just a mitzvah in itself, it is an invaluable labor of love that will generate countless mitzvot over the years. The Mitzvah Bowl demonstrates so clearly that the work of Tikkun Olam (Repair of the World) starts with finding just one small space to repair and the good works flow exponentially from that first step. I am deeply indebted to them for their coordination, vision and labor in bringing The Mitzvah Bowl to the table!

If you are a parent of a bar/bat mitzvah student, don’t look any further than The Mitzvah Bowl – your guide to finding the ideal mitzvah project. Charitable organizations can be listed on the website by contacting us  at [email protected].

Have You Found A Match For My Mother Today?

— by Hannah Miller

He is only twelve but he knew his way around the large building with its many offices. He came every day and was known by the staff. He approached the entrance today. Tense. Anxious. His fists clenched in anticipation of what he would hear. His shoulders sagging in discouragement. But yet a tiny glimmer of hope in his eyes. The sign at the office door read Ezer Mizion Bone Marrow Registry. It was a simple sign but it contained the world. His world. He entered. “Have  you found a match for my mother today,” he asked.

The staff found it so difficult to answer the boy. He knew he would receive an official call from the office if there was good news but he couldn’t wait for that. And so he came every day. His mother was dying of cancer but a bone marrow transplant could produce the cure. It was her only chance. And it was a good chance. With the transplant, his mother would bake him cupcakes again. She would grin with joy when he brought home a 100 on a test and join him on a trek through the mountains on a family trip. She would remind him to do his homework and he would beg to go out to play and promise to do it later. She would get angry at him and scold him and it would be wonderful. But now? Now she just lay there on the hospital bed. She didn’t even smile when he handed her his report card full of A’s. A button had come off his shirt and she didn’t even notice.

You see, the transplant can only take place if a donor who is a genetic match can be found and Ezer Mizion, the largest Jewish Bone Marrow Registry in the world, had none. Genetic testing, unlike blood group testing, is very expensive. Ezer Mizion has close to 600,000 registrants but it is not enough. Many are saved but many are… not. Compassionate Jews the world over have become aware of the need for an enlarged Jewish registry as an insurance policy for worldwide Jewry and they contribute generously. As funding comes in, more are tested. Every day, new potential donors join the registry. The young boy will be there tomorrow again. He’ll ask his question again. And tomorrow the answer will be…

Giving Back, Going Green and Growing Bigger

— by Alicia Zimbalist

Foundation for Jewish Camp Presents Summer 2011 Trends

As summer 2011 winds down and record numbers of kids are coming home from Jewish camp, parents all over North America are wondering: What did my child do this summer at camp?  The Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) is pleased to share that amidst the lip dubs and flash mobs, campfire sing-alongs and Maccabiah competitions, kids of all ages were participating in a variety of amazing and inspiring activities at nonprofit Jewish overnight camps this summer.

More than 70,000 children and 10,000 counselors experienced overnight Jewish summer camp this year.  Over 10,000 of these campers did so with a need-blind incentive grant from FJC’s One Happy Camper program (OHC).  OHC works in partnership with over 67 organizations including Jewish federations, foundations, national camp movements, individual camps, the Jim Joseph Foundation (JWest), and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s PJ Library program (PJ Goes to Camp) to provide $700-1500 to families for their first, and sometimes second, summer at one of over 150 nonprofit Jewish overnight camps.

More after the jump.
FJC’s Specialty Camps Incubator camps, funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation, completed their second summer and shattered their expected enrollment numbers for summer 2011 with an increase of 67%.  The camps – 92Y Passport NYC, Eden Village Camp, URJ Six Points Sports Academy, Adamah Adventures, and Ramah Outdoor Adventure – offered 1,010 campers, hailing from 34 states and 10 countries, a new kind of Jewish camping.

The Jewish camp community continues to increase opportunities for children with special needs.  As many camps and camp movements already have well-established programs for children with emotional and developmental disabilities, many camps are creating new, more specialized programs going forward.  B’nai B’rith Camp in Oregon introduced Kehilah this summer, catering to children with physical and cognitive disorders and the Union for Reform Judaism recently announced a new initiative for special needs programs in their camps and Israel programs with Chazak, a program for children with communication and social delays at Eisner and Crane Lake Camps.  Dietary needs have also become a priority at Jewish camp.  New Jersey Y Camps partnered with the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University Medical Center to create the first of its kind a completely kosher, gluten free kitchen.

Greening has been a developing trend in Jewish camping with new innovations introduced each summer.  Many camps grow their own organic gardens and use a hands-on approach to teach campers about the environment, integrating Jewish values and lessons.  This summer, four camps participated in a gardening project by Amir which designed programs to guide in the creation and cultivation of gardens with Jewish educational components.  At Camp Tel Yehudah, Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake, Camp Ramah in California, and Camp Ramah in Canada, Amir representatives helped campers plan, nurture, and harvest new gardens.  The campers also decided how much of their crop they would donate to those in need and helped deliver their crops to local charitable organizations.  nurture Jewish camps are also beginning to take huge steps to lessen their carbon footprint now that basic changes – like changing light bulbs and forgoing disposables – have been made.  Shwayder Camp overhauled their waste water system to an eco-friendly cleaning system.  URJ Greene Family Camp is currently creating an Eco-Village, expected be ready for campers in 2012.  Camp JRF is also working on an Eco-Village which campers participated in the design of this summer and will help with the construction of next summer.

Caring for community and “repairing the world” — tikkun olam — is a key programmatic element of Jewish camp.  Throughout the summer, campers across embark on a variety of philanthropic endeavors on a national and local level.  Four camps piloted a new philanthropy program this summer with help from the Jewish Teen Funders Network (JTFN).  Aimed to provide campers with opportunities to engage in collective philanthropic giving with their peers while guided by Jewish values, camps created programs in which teen campers decided together how and where to donate money provided by JTFN.  Habonim Dror Camp Galil, JCC Maccabi Camp Kingswood, URJ Camp George, and URJ Green Family Camp participated this summer, building on the successful teen philanthropy programs already in place at several of the Ramah camps.  JTFN, in collaboration with FJC, is hoping to expand the initiative next year.

Another way camps modeled tikkun olam as well as pikuach nefesh (saving a life) for campers this summer was through Bone Marrow Donor Drives with the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation.  24 camps held drives for counselors and parents (when held on opening/visiting/closing days) to get cheek swabs which entered them into the worldwide registry for patients in need.  Almost 850 new donors were added to the registry from Jewish overnight camps alone between June and August 2011.

“We are so proud of all Jewish camps for what they are doing to create the next generation of strong, committed, compassionate Jews as well as maintaining a healthy planet for them to live on,” says Jeremy J. Fingerman, CEO, FJC.  “This summer, my staff and I collectively visited over 80 camps.  At every turn, we were overwhelmed with pride at the innovations taking place throughout the Jewish camp community.”

The Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) is the only public organization dedicated solely to nonprofit Jewish overnight camps. FJC employs a variety of strategies toward a single goal: to increase the number of children in Jewish summer camps.  To this end, the Foundation creates inspiring camp leaders, expands access to and intensifies demand for camp, and develops programs to strengthen camps across the Jewish spectrum in North America.  Through strategic partnerships on local and national levels, FJC raises the profile of Jewish camp and serves as a central resource for parents and organizations alike.  FJC works with more than 150 camps, 70,000 campers, and 10,000 counselors across North America each summer to further its mission.

JRA Special Food Distribution in Honor of Victims of 9/11

— by Amy Krulik
Senator Arlen Specter will keynote this National Day of Service Event

The Jewish Relief Agency (JRA) will hold its monthly September food distribution on Sunday, September 11th, 2011 as part of the National Day of Service to recognize the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Senator Arlen Spector will give the keynote address and will be joined by area civic and political leaders.  Volunteers from throughout the 5-county Philadelphia area, Southern New Jersey, and Delaware will join together to pack and deliver food to struggling families throughout the Greater Philadelphia area.

More after the jump.
Over 850 volunteers of all ages and abilities are needed to help pack and deliver over 3,000 boxes of fresh produce and non-perishable pantry items. Volunteers will meet at the JRA warehouse at 10:00 AM to pack food until about 11:30 AM. Most deliveries take about 30-45 minutes to complete. The JRA warehouse is located at 10980 Dutton Road, Philadelphia, PA 19154. Refreshments, including bagels and coffee, will be provided to all volunteers. A playroom is provided for our youngest volunteers should they need a break from the excitement of the warehouse.

“The tenth anniversary of 9/11 reminds us of the importance of volunteering and how it makes a difference in the lives of our fellow neighbors,” notes JRA’s Executive Director Amy Krulik. “We are so thankful for the dedication of all our volunteers who help our recipient families and work tirelessly to end the problems of hunger and food insecurity facing far too many people in our community.”

Families, individuals, organizations, and companies interested in volunteering on Sunday, September 11th, or at any of our monthly distributions, should email [email protected] or call 610-660-0190.

Detailed directions to the warehouse can be found on the JRA website. For more information about JRA and a complete list of upcoming distribution dates, please visit, email [email protected], or call 610-660-0190.

JRA is a dynamic, volunteer-driven organization whose goal is to help families and individuals struggling with food insecurity. Since it’s founding in 2000, JRA has been bringing volunteers together in the spirit of community and repairing the world. Through the efforts of JRA’s community of more than 12,000 volunteers, we are able to provide food relief packages to nearly 3,000 low-income families throughout the Greater Philadelphia area each month.  JRA is the largest hunger relief agency serving the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community and the third largest direct service food pantry in the region.  For more information about JRA, please contact Amy Krulik at 610-660-0190 or [email protected]

Philly Program Grows and Succeeds in San Fran

Jane Slotin, executive director of Partnership for Effective Learning and Innovative Education (PELIE); Helene Tigay, former executive director of the Auberbach Central Agency for Jewish Education in Philadelphia; and David Waksburg, executive director of the Bureau of Jewish Education in San Francisco, (BJE) at the BJE’s Annual Celebration. Photo credit: Yulia Goldshtrakh

PELIE Recognized for Bringing Successful Jewish Education Program to San Francisco

— by Katie Stinchon

Recently, more than 200 lay leaders, clergy, educators, and volunteers gathered at the Bureau of Jewish Education’s Annual Celebration  to honor five congregations for participating in a pilot program called NESS (Nurturing Excellence in Synagogue Schools), which initially took root in Philadelphia before being expanded by PELIE (Partnership for Effective Learning and Innovative Education) in San Francisco. PELIE was also recognized for their work transforming Jewish education at the local synagogues.

PELIE is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve complementary Jewish education in North America, change the perception the public has about the field, and attract new investors.

In 2008, PELIE awarded a grant to the Bureau of Jewish Education in San Francisco to bring NESS to Congregation Beth Jacob in Redwood City, Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto, Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael, Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco and Peninsula Temple Shalom in Burlingame. Since rolling out NESS in these schools, enrollment has increased 22 percent.

The NESS process engages parents as partners and results in a shared conversation throughout each synagogue. It creates religious school education that is aligned with the mission and values of the synagogue, and that ultimately educates parents alongside their children. NESS consultants provide on-site intervention and work with synagogue lay and professional leadership to develop custom-design plans to fit the needs of each synagogue. The goal of NESS is to provide Jewish youth with a meaningful educational experience in order to foster and develop a positive Jewish identity and increase community involvement. Its key components include adapting best practices for teachers from both secular and Judaic standpoints; professional training; school assessments; and leadership, organizational, and curriculum development.

Founded in 2007, The Partnership for Effective Learning and Innovative Education (PELIE) works to improve complementary (part time) Jewish education in multiple settings throughout the nation. PELIE accomplishes this through advocating, consulting, and researching the field; by highlighting and adapting models that work; and by funding with local partners to bring change to their communities. PELIE also works to bring technology into Jewish education along with a variety of other “tools” – assessment, organizational, and experiential – to impact the ever-changing field of complementary Jewish education.

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.

Send a Mother’s Day Card to a Loved One and Support Women at Risk

— by Ann Rose Greenberg

This year, as every year, Jewish Women International (JWI) honors the 45,000 women and children spending Mother’s Day in battered women’s shelters through our annual Flower Project. These families, and the shelters that house them, need aid and resources more urgently than ever.

JWI’s Mother’s Day Flower Project delivers hope — both in the bouquets, gifts and beauty products we send to 200 shelters across the United States on this special day, and through initiatives, supported by Flower Project proceeds, that work every day to educate communities, empower women and break the cycle of abuse. Over 70 synagogues and organizations have signed on to help raise awareness and funds for this important cause. For each $25 contribution, JWI will send a Mother’s Day card to any woman the donor chooses, thanking her for the inspiration to help women in need.

Local Participating Synagogues and Partners:

  • Kesher Israel Congregation, West Chester, PA.
  • Beth Israel Congregation of Chester County, Uwchland, PA.
  • Beth El, Allentown, PA.
  • Reform Congregation Oheb Sholom, Wyomissing, PA.
  • Women of Vision – Jeiwsh Community Foundation of Central PA, Harrisburg, PA
  • JWI Chapter 0368, Batim, Union, NJ
  • JWI Chapter 0941, Springfield, NJ
  • Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, Short Hills, NJ
  • Jersey Tribe, Morristown, NJ
  • String of Pearls Reconstructionist Synagogue, Princeton, NJ
  • Temple Har Shalom, Warren, NJ

Participating Local Shelters:

  • Laurel House, Norritown, PA
  • Alle-Kiski Area Hope Center, Tarentum, PA
  • Domestic Violence Center of Chester County, West Chester, PA
  • Women Against Abuse, Philadelphia, PA
  • The Safe House, Belleville, NJ
  • Women Aware, Inc., New Brunswick, NJ
  • Strength Our Sisters, West Milford, NJ
  • Jersey Battered Women’s Service (JBWS), Morris Plains, NJ
  • Shelter Our Sisters, Teaneck, NJ
  • WomanSpace Inc., Trenton, NJ
  • Sarah’s House, Newark, DE
  • Martha’s Carriage House, Wilmington, DE

(Entries in bold have a JWI Children’s Library.)

More after the jump

“When you’re a woman in a place like this you feel like you’re not a part of the world. But when people do things like this it makes us feel like we still matter and we still deserve to be loved,” said a shelter client at Hope House in Lee’s Summit, MO, a 2010 flower project recipient. “Usually we just get the necessities – a bar of soap, some shampoo. And I’m grateful to have those things, but it’s not very often you get something special – something that smells good, something that’s beautiful.”

“Throughout the year, JWI works on behalf of victims of abuse – building libraries in shelters, advocating for domestic violence legislation, and preventing abuse by teaching young people about healthy relationships,” says JWI Executive Director Loribeth Weinstein. “The Mother’s Day Flower Project is an opportunity to touch these women personally; to tell them that we care about them as much as the issue.”

JWI thanks Papyrus and OPI Products, Inc. for their partnership with JWI in delivering bouquets, gifts and beauty products to the shelters. This year’s card features the watercolor “Orchids,” generously donated by artist Sabina Wohlfeiler for use in the 2011 Flower Project.

Beginning as a quiltmaker, Sabina has been creating art since the 1970’s.  In 1989 she took her first watercolor class and was captivated by the medium’s immediacy and transparency.

Especially with watercolor, there is a unique “magic” that happens when artist’s intention interacts with water, pigment and brush.  It is that element of surprise that has kept Sabina working in watercolor, though she enjoys other mediums as well.

Though her subject matter varies, Sabina has continued  to paint flowers.  Georgia O’Keeffe’s statement that people “don’t really look at a flower” challenged Sabina to enjoy her garden at a deeper level and translate the beauty of a single bloom into a painting.

In 2002 Sabina traveled to Greece and did a series of monoprints, inspired by the vegetation she discovered on her numerous visits to the beach.  Seeing the “beauty” in a weed, really looking at the shapes, colors, and forms is what her prints hope to communicate to viewers.

Sabina is a member of Artists Alliance Northwest and ORA Northwest Jewish Artists.  Her work has been exhibited in group shows in Skopelos, Greece as well as locally at The Oregon Jewish Museum, The Portland Japanese Garden,Beaverton City Hall, Valley Art Center, and the Multnomah Art Center.  Her work is included in private collections in France, Germany, and Canada.

To learn more about Jewish Women International’s Flower Project, or to make a donation and send a card, visit their website or call 800.343.2823.

Four Questions for a Young Israeli Social Entrepreneur

Dyonna Ginsburg
Dyonna Ginsburg is the Executive Director of Bema'aglei Tzedek ("Circles of Justice"), an Israeli NGO that uses cutting-edge educational tools and social action campaigns to create a more just Israeli society informed and inspired by Jewish values. Upon completing her B.A. in political science at Columbia University, Dyonna Ginsburg made Aliyah in 2002 and obtained an M.A. in Jewish Education from Hebrew University. Dyonna is a frequent guest lecturer and has appeared on Israel's Channel Two TV, Galei Tzahal and Reshet Bet radio.

1. Your mission statement speaks of "empowering the next generation of young Israelis to engage their Jewish identity and become powerful agents of social change." How are you finding the response from young Israelis to you call for action?

The cynics among us point to an Israeli society that is moving away from a collective identity to radical individualism, and lament the bygone days of a pioneering spirit. My experience, however, is very different. On a day to day basis, I encounter hundreds of young Israelis who care deeply about shaping our society and are willing to give of themselves to create better and more just communities. In the early days of the state, we needed pioneers to build the country's physical infrastructure. Nowadays, we need pioneers to build the country's spiritual and ethical infrastructure. Many young Israelis, religious and secular alike, are looking for opportunities to return to their Jewish roots, and in particular to Jewish learning, as a source of inspiration for the pursuit of justice.

More after the jump.
2. Your Tav Chevrati is "a seal of approval granted free of charge to restaurants and other businesses that respect the legally-mandated rights of their employees and are accessible to people with disabilities." Can you describe the typical encounter you have with a business owner when you first raise this issue with them?

The Tav Chevrati has succeeded in reaching a tipping point in Jerusalem, where over a third of restaurants and cafes bear our certificate. In Jerusalem, there is now a waiting list of restaurants who have turned to us and are currently awaiting our approval. For the most part, these restaurants are interested in the Tav Chevrati not because they are more ethical than others; rather, because they understand the economic power of the certificate. As such, it is not really accurate to speak of our "first raising the issue" with restaurant proprietors. Instead, the restaurant owners are the ones who first raise the issue with us. One chef, who is the co-owner of three exclusive restaurants in Jerusalem, recently told us that, even though he doesn't personally connect to the ideas underlying the Tav Chevrati, one out of two of his customers demands to see the Tav Chevrati. In his own words: "If you can't beat them, join them!" This chef-owner, like 90% of the business proprietors who have received the certificate, had to make concrete changes – changes that cost him money – in order to abide by our certificate and its legally-mandated standards.

3. Israelis speak about the divide between the secular and the orthodox communities, but it seems that you work in both worlds, and try to combine them. Can you share the challenges and successes you are experiencing in that effort?

Bema'aglei Tzedek is unique on the Israeli scene, as our staff, volunteers and target populations transcend religious and political lines. I often say with pride that, in the last Knesset elections, every person on staff voted for a different political party. This reflects the true diversity of our activists. And, yet we manage to sit around the same table and find common ground, rallying around issues that should be consensus – fair labor practices, accessibility to people with disabilities, etc. – but all too often are not.

Bema'aglei Tzedek believes that a Jewish State is not just about public ritual observances, such as the fact that there is no public transportation on Shabbat or that Jewish holidays are official state holidays, but that it is also about the ethical fiber of this society – about taking care of the "orphan, widow and stranger in our midst."

4. How can Diaspora Jews be involved in your efforts?

If you ask a typical restaurant proprietor in Jerusalem which is a more important target population – local Israeli customers or the tourist population – the vast majority will respond: tourists. As such, the Tav Chevrati is the one initiative I can think of in which someone, who is visiting Israel, doesn't know a word of Hebrew, and knows little about the culture, can make an even greater impact than an Israeli peer just by buying a cup of coffee and telling the waiter that he or she came because of the Tav Chevrati. Jews from abroad, therefore, have an important role to play in the ultimate success of this homegrown Israeli initiative. For a list of Tav-certified opportunities or to find out other volunteer or donation opportunities, check out our website

Reprinted courtesy of Ameinu

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

— Robin Warshaw

Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. About 75% of patients die within 12 months of diagnosis. Only 6% survive for five years.

Little has been defined about risk factors for this deadly disease, but it is known that Jews of Ashkenazi descent are at significantly higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer than the general public. In the U.S., pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cancer killer. In Israel, it’s the third leading cancer killer.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is a nationwide network of people dedicated to working together to advance research, support patients and create hope for all those affected by pancreatic cancer. The organization began in 1999, when a handful of families who had lost loved ones came together to change the dire statistics of the disease. Now there are more than 70 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network affiliates across the U.S., including an active group that serves the Philadelphia region (the city and all of southeastern Pennsylvania).

More after the jump.
The Philadelphia Affiliate helps build public awareness about pancreatic cancer through education and outreach, taking part in community health fairs, visiting healthcare professionals and connecting patients/survivors with the free services and information offered by the national organization. Local affiliate members also advocate for more funding for pancreatic cancer, by taking part in phone-ins as well as visiting the area’s legislative representatives, in support of the Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act, re-introduced in the House and Senate in early 2011 by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ).

Increasing research funding is especially important. The survival rate for pancreatic cancer has remained virtually unchanged-and dismally low-for nearly 40 years. Yet the National Cancer Institute allots less than 2% of its research budget to pancreatic cancer. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network not only advocates for better federal research funding but also drives development of a robust research community through its own research grants program. This strategy encourages knowledge sharing, innovation, support for early-career pancreatic cancer scientists, and more.

Locally, the affiliate partners with the Cancer Support Community of Philadelphia (formerly The Wellness Community) to offer the only pancreatic cancer support group in the region. Free and open to all pancreatic cancer patients/survivors and their loved ones, these meetings, which are led by a professional oncology social worker, explore many issues related to treatment and living with pancreatic cancer.

Like all Pancreatic Cancer Action Network affiliates, the Philadelphia group is comprised entirely of volunteers. These members include patients and survivors, family caregivers, those who’ve lost loved ones, friends and health-care professionals. Their efforts expand the circle of support for those who are struggling with living with the disease, while they also fund-raise for increased research and other services of the national organization.

In the Philadelphia area, there are two major affiliate fund-raising events to benefit the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Night of Hope, a gala with live and silent auctions, will be held June 25, 2011, 7 pm to 11 pm, at the Hilton Philadelphia City Ave. Volunteers are needed to help with this event. Sponsorships and donations of auction items are appreciated. For details and information, contact Ferne Liez at [email protected]  

PurpleStride Philadelphia 2011, a 5K walk and run, will be held Nov. 5, 2011 at Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park (near the Please Touch Museum). Last year’s event drew 3,300 registrants and raised more than $478,000 for pancreatic cancer research and patient support. Volunteers, teams, individuals and corporate sponsors can all make a difference in the fight against pancreatic cancer through PurpleStride Philadelphia.

To learn more about PurpleStride Philadelphia or other affiliate activities-or to join the Philadelphia affiliate mailing list-please contact Robin Warshaw at [email protected]

The Philadelphia Affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is on Facebook or follow on Twitter @pancanphilly. Other information may be found on the affiliate page on the national organization’s website.