Genealogy at Limmud Philly

Dr. Stephen Cohen is a technical writer, part-time professional calligrapher of Judaica, and long-time genealogical aficionado. He has been researching his family for over forty years, collecting over three thousand relatives along the way. A founding member of the Beth El Synagogue (East Windsor, NJ) Genealogy Club, he was a presenter at Limmud Philly in early March. He gives lectures on genealogy, workshops on Hebrew calligraphy, and speaks exclusively Yiddish with his two children. In addition, he serves as President of the Sharim v’Sharot Jewish choir based in Lawrenceville, NJ, and has published choral arrangements.

For a symposium like Limmud Philly, where one people, Jews, gather for a weekend of learning, a seminar on how we Jews are actually related seems not only fitting, but bashert (a match made in heaven). Therefore, on the Sunday morning of Limmud Philly, I gave a talk on
“Introduction to Jewish Genealogy.” The topic included discussing not only what I call our current “golden age of genealogy” via the internet, but also what materials you can find in your own home to provide you with information about your family. When my Powerpoint-based lecture began, barely a minyan attended, but by the end there were around 25 participants of all ages.

More after the jump.
My session was based partly on a paper I co-wrote with a fifth cousin of mine in Israel for the Israeli genealogical journal Sharsheret HaDorot in 2007, to show how I constructed a coherent family tree starting with two brothers, Daniel and Ele Aron Kantorovitch from Lakhva, in Belarus, in the mid-19th century. I used Czarist passports, century-old birth records, interviews and correspondence with relatives, and the old Jewish standby, for whom are you named. Other items I mentioned as possible sources of genealogical data are b’nai-mitzvah certificates, the drawerful of yarmulkes we all possess, old War Ration booklets, ketubot (Jewish marriage contracts), death records, obituaries and other clippings from newspapers, citizenship papers, and old photographs.

From the internet, possible sources to find your relatives are the Ellis Island ship’s manifests (assuming your relatives immigrated through Ellis Island) along with other ports of entry (Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, San Francisco, Galveston). Airlines were required to keep manifests up to the 1950s, and you may find your relatives there, on their way to a European or Caribbean vacation. Many Jews entered via Canadian routes, including through Detroit and the Grand Trunk Railway from the Province of Quebec. We all remember last year’s Federal Census, required by law every ten years, and restricted from view for 72 years. Thus the Census records from 1930 and earlier are all open for examination, and you can find many cousins in them.

The Mormons have many records on microfilm (though not every possible record). A crucial piece of evidence in my tree-building was a Lakhva Jewish marriage record from 1894 for a son of Ele Aron Kantorovitch. Many of us have heard the bobe-mayses (fairy tales) that (1) the towns in Eastern Europe were destroyed, and (2) the records were destroyed as well. Neither tale is, for the most part, true; the found marriage record proves this.

As a historical aside, I mentioned the S.S. Morro Castle, the cruise liner that ran between New York City and Havana, Cuba, which my grandparents took on their honeymoon in 1933. I showed the cruise’s souvenir booklet listing my grandparents among the passengers, and images of the staterooms. The Morro Castle caught fire off the New Jersey Shore in 1934 and burned up, with hundreds of casualties, which my grandmother talked about once in a while. Information on the Morro Castle’s disaster and news articles about it can be found on the internet. Such details about your family can fill out your personal history from mere dry names and dates.

More recent research included using JewishGen.org‘s on-line Family Tree of the Jewish People to find a mekhutn (someone related by marriage) in Israel. This is a database composed of uploaded family-trees by Jewish genealogists world-wide. I have had my mitochondrial (maternal) DNA tested recently, and discovered that my maternal ancestry dates to the Middle East roughly 50,000 years ago (according to current anthropological understanding). An e-mail I received last June from an Israeli Kantorovitch cousin posed a new, unanswered genealogical question: one Kantorovitch relative apparently immigrated to London, England, and became a prominent rabbi in the mid-20th century. Who is he and where are his descendants?

In addition, I queried the Philadelphia-based audience members: on my father’s side, there were rich cousins who owned a factory in the mid-20th century that made Catholic-school uniforms. Their surname might have been Sherman, and-as my great uncle (of blessed memory) recalled-in the 1940s they owned a chauffeur-driven Packard. Where could I find information about them? Folks did have suggestions, such as a school-uniform store on Passyunk Avenue, an old Sherman Mills in Manayunk, and even some clothing factories on North Broad Street near a Packard dealership. If you know of this family or their factory, I would be most pleased to hear about it.

My session was definitely a two-way street of learning, as it ought to be at Limmud Philly.  

Faith Communities Organize Against Gun Violence


John O. Mason

Neighborhood Partners to End Gun Violence

On Sunday, February 13, 2011, the Neighborhood Partners to End Gun Violence, a group of religious communities organized to bring down handgun deaths, held its first meeting at First Presbyterian Church in Germantown. The group is based in the Northwest Philadelphia — including Germantown, Mount Airy, Chestnut Hill, Roxborough, Nicetown — and is affiliated with Heeding God’s Call, a religiously-based advocacy group against gun violence.

Congregations involved with NPGV include:

  • Mishkan Shalom Synagogue,
  • First Presbyterian Church in Germantown,
  • Chestnut Hill United Church,
  • Germantown Mennonite Church,
  • Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church, and
  • the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

The Reverend Linda Noonan, pastor of Chestnut Hill United Church, is one of the Co-Coordinators for NPGV. “The Northwest part of the city,” she says, “has the highest incident of gun-related violent deaths of the whole city… So it affects us very significantly in this corner of the city.” NPGV is a faith based organization, says Noonan, “that consists of churches, synagogues, faith-based organizations, and partnerships.”

Of the organization of NPGV, Noonan says, “Folk in the faith communities in the Northwest have been aware that we have the highest incident of gun related deaths in the city, and so we felt moved, as clergy and lay people and people of faith, to take action. Many of us are already connected with Heeding God’s Call, which is a broader citywide and national organization, and we wanted to focus specifically in the northwest corner and mobilize our congregations in this part of the city to take action with a specific gun shop in Philadelphia.”

More after the jump.
The illegal sale of guns, adds Noonan, “knows no neighborhood boundaries. Guns sold in one neighborhood are easily moved across the city and across state lines as well. While there are no gun shops in Northwest Philadelphia, we still have the highest incident of gun-related deaths.

“Our position,” Noonan goes on, “isn’t gun control, it’s reducing and eliminating the gun-related deaths in the city…Our mission is to pressure gun-shop owners to voluntarily sign on to the code of conduct which implements ten measures that would significantly reduce the likelihood that the guns they sell will not be resold illegally (a “straw purchase”) and used in violent crimes.”

The Code of Conduct for gun retailers, which NPGV and Heeding God’s Call advocates, includes videotaping the sale of guns at the point of transaction; a computerized crime gun trace system; a declaration by purchasers that they meet the legal requirements for purchasing a firearm; accepting only state and federally issued identification cards; signs alerting customers of the legal responsibilities; employee background checks for selling and handling firearms; employee responsibility training; daily and quarterly audits of inventory; no sales without background check results; and firearms in secure and locked cabinets.  

Bryan Miller, Director of Public Advocacy of Heeding God’s Call, says that HGC and NPGV are “explicitly non-legislative” (they do not participate in contacting state or federal legislators on firearms bills). “Although we will contact on specific legislation is moving, we’ll ask our members to make phone calls, but we don’t lobby in Harrisburg or Washington, we’re sort of behind the scenes if you will, but we do view our work as having an important long-term legislative effect. In order to pass legislation, you need to build grassroots support for it. That an important part of what we do.”

As for working with police, Miller says, “We contact the police before we do any public actions, like the ones we did at Colosimo’s (the gun store on Eighth and Spring Garden streets, since shut down), and soon at a couple of gun shops in Philadelphia. Although we obviously support law enforcement very strongly, we don’t work too closely together. Law enforcement’s goal is to deal with demand for illegal guns and the crimes that result. What’s we’re seeking to do is restrict the supply, it’s a whole different way of looking at it and a different set of activities… We focus on diminishing the likelihood of gun going from the gun shop to the street, and if there are fewer guns on the street, there are fewer people that are going to be able to use them.”

Bob Swenson worked as an internist and infectious disease doctor at Temple University Hospital for forty years. “That is the busiest emergency room in Philadelphia,” he says, “I think it’s the biggest in the United States. The level of gun violence was incredible, we were in the emergency room every day, trying to save somebody, many of which we couldn’t. The thing that got to me was seeing the people who survived — lives were altered forever. Fifteen-year-old kids who are now paraplegic or quadriplegic, I would see them over the years because of their infection, and they would die at twenty-seven. For me, the level of people maimed, it’s like a hundred and fifty thousand people a year in Philadelphia are shot and (they) survived. Many of those people are left with deficits that make their life difficult, and they eventually die at an early age because of complications.”

Swenson heard of the organizing of NPGV several months ago when he decided “that I wanted to be involved, to try to do something, because…(in foreign countries), it’s like a hundred people are shot in Japan a year, and maybe three hundred in Great Britain. It’s something that’s at least in theory preventable.”  

Jewish Education More Affordable for Middle-Income Families


The Cozen Family

Valuable incentives to benefit middle-income families: Cozen Scholars Program gives $25,000 toward tuition to Perelman Jewish Day School.

Perelman Jewish Day School recently announced a new tuition-incentive program targeted to middle-income families and made possible by the generous support of local philanthropists Sandy and Steve Cozen. The Cozen Scholars Program is offered to new Perelman families with children entering kindergarten or first grade. Qualifying applicants will receive a valuable grant toward tuition – $5,000 for each of five years, totaling $25,000 per child.

The Cozens, longtime benefactors of many charitable causes, created this valuable program to help families that do not qualify for financial aid but also cannot afford the cost of tuition. Sandy Cozen was the driving force behind this idea. “As proud Perelman grandparents, we’ve seen firsthand what this school does for children. It is our mandate to connect as many students as possible to this outstanding institution – and to ensure the future viability of the Jewish people,” says Steve Cozen, founder and chairman of Cozen O’Connor, a Philadelphia-based law firm.

“Today more than ever, many people face difficult choices about finances – and often, private school is just not an option,” adds Shira Wohlberg, Director of Admission. “The Cozen Scholars Program helps middle-income families realize the dream of a Perelman education. We’re excited to offer this wonderful incentive to the community.”

A limited number of grants is available, and middle-income is broadly defined, giving many families the opportunity to attend Perelman. Other tuition incentives may be possible for families that are not eligible for this program. Parents are encouraged to contact the Admission office at 215-635-3130, to learn more about the program.

More about the Cozens and PJDS after the jump.
Sandy and Steve Cozen

For the Sandy and Steve Cozen, philanthropy is a way of life. Since their first trip to Israel in the 1970s, the couple made it their mandate to help Jewish people everywhere – and that same sense of responsibility extends to countless other charitable causes.

The Cozens are longtime benefactors of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the National Museum of American Jewish History, the Anti-Defamation League and the USC Shoah Foundation Institute. They are deeply committed to ensuring Jewish continuity through education and recently created “The Cozen Scholars Program” for Perelman Jewish Day School, which awards valuable tuition incentives over five years to new students from middle-income families.

They are also actively involved in helping others through the Charitable Foundation created by Cozen O’Connor, the Philadelphia-based, international law firm where Steve Cozen is Founder and Chairman. Their Foundation supports several non-profit organizations, including the Red Cross, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Catholic Charities, Habitat for Humanity, the Black United Fund, the National Adoption Center and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

The Cozens currently reside in the Philadelphia suburbs and enjoy leisure time with their children and grandchildren.

Perelman Jewish Day School

Since 1956, Perelman Jewish Day School, a Solomon Schechter affiliate, has educated students from kindergarten through eighth grade in three centers on two campuses in the Philadelphia area. The cornerstone of a Perelman education is its innovative dual-language curriculum that integrates Jewish and secular studies on both English and Hebrew. By learning to think, reason, speak and write in two languages, students develop one-of-a-kind critical thinking skills, while embracing their heritage and developing solid values.

Perelman’s students experience rigorous academics in language arts, mathematics, social science, general science and religious studies. They also attend sessions in music, art, computer and science laboratories and physical education.

The three Perelman campuses include the Stern Center in Wynnewood (grades K-5), the Forman Center (grades K-5) and the Robert Saligman Middle School (grades 6-8). The Forman and Saligman centers are both on the Mandell Education Campus in Melrose Park.

At Perelman, Jewish values and traditions are taught in the context of Conservative Judaism, though the school recognizes diverse forms of Jewish practice and welcomes students from all levels of religious observance.

Perelman Jewish Day School is a constituent agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and is accredited by PAIS, the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools.

Two New Websites: Saving Jewish Families One Match at a Time


The latest surveys paint an alarming picture of intermarriage in the Jewish community: 47% of American Jews who married between 1996 and 2001 did so outside of their faith. While intermarriage affects only 6% of the Orthodox community, it reaches 32% of Conservative, 46% of Reform, and 49% of secular Jewish households.

Will our grandchildren be Jews?

The number of intermarriages continues to grow (in 1970 only 13% of American Jews intermarried), and only 13% of the grandchildren of intermarried couples continue to identify themselves as Jews.

To respond to this crisis intermarriage, we must encourage intra-marriage. The Philadelphia Jewish Voice has already written about Jdate which is an online Matchmaking service created in 1997. We are now pleased to announce two new online Matchmaking tools at your disposition.

  • The JMom: Geared towards Jewish parents and their single children, the site offers a unique, but old-fashioned, concept: “Let Mom decide.”
  • My Jewish Matches: 100% free, Independently funded, not-for-profit, online matchmaking service for Jews of any denomination. Members are certified to be Jewish, single with no criminal record.

Details Follow the Jump.
TheJMom.com Point. Click. Love. While dating sites have been around and grown increasingly popular throughout the past decade, there has never been a Jewish site that gave exclusive access to parents and made dating an official family affair. Until now.

The JMom breaks the mold of standard Internet matchmaking. Geared specifically toward Jewish parents and their single sons and daughters, the site offers a unique, but old-fashioned, concept: “Let Mom decide.”

“More parents are recognizing that making connections online can lead to love off- line,” said Danielle Weisberg, co-founder of TheJMom. “TheJMom.com puts parents behind the keyboard and lets them do the clicking and the matching.”

The goal of the site is to create a network of Jewish parents across the country who share a passion for finding their sons and/or daughters love. Members can browse prospective partners by city, email other parents for more information and take the initiative to set up dates. As a limited-time launch offer, from now until January 1, 2011, new members can receive free one year access. Moms – and their sons and/or daughters – can explore the site for free while home for the holidays and start 2011 off with a promising new dating scene.

Through exploring, Moms will find the site easy to navigate with three simple steps to begin the search:

  • Sign Up: Enter an email address and choose a password
  • Fill Out Your Information: Develop the profile of your son or daughter, and upload his or her photo.
  • Find a Match!: Use search tools to find the perfect match

You can browse potential partners in your child’s city, email their parents for more information about their children and family, and set them up on a casual date. All correspondence goes through the parents – so you would receive a message from another parent or vice versa. If/when both parents agree that their children might be a good match for each other, they can click an option in the message that says “Let’s set them up.” From there it is up to the kids to exchange messages, meet and determine if they are compatible.

TheJMom was launched in 2010 by siblings, Brad and Danielle Weisberg, and their good friend and programmer, Matt.

A year earlier, Brad and Danielle’s mother, Barbara, had asked numerous times to look at Brad’s online dating profile and search the site to see if she could find the perfect girl for him. Brad finally gave in and let her go to town, searching the site as she pleased. Two hours later, Brad came back to check on Mom and found her still completely engaged with the computer, searching with a list of about 10 different girls for him to contact. She had put more effort and time into the process than he could or ever would, and she enjoyed doing it. That was their first Ah-Ha moment. Additionally, Brad and Danielle’s Aunt Elaine set up her son Michael with a nice girl and two years later they got married. Hmmm…maybe Mom knows something we don’t?!

Dating is not easy these days for young professionals. It takes lots of time, money, and can be very stressful.

“Moms have been setting up their children for centuries,” said Weisberg. “We’ve made it simple for Mom to get online, and start hand-picking her son or daughter’s next date.”


My Jewish Matches

My Jewish Matches is the only 100% All Free, Jewish Relationship for Marriage Website that pre-qualifies its members to be Jewish and Single. Most so-called “Jewish” Dating websites do not pre-qualify their members and some even offer “willing to convert” as a membership category. As a result, anyone who signs up for these dating websites can join, whether they are Jewish or not, without qualification.

Unfortunately, many Jewish dating websites are charging high membership fees during difficult economic times. A group of single Jewish professionals with Rabbinical input felt it was time to finally take a stand and respond by creating a not for profit, 100% completely free, pre-qualified Jewish-Singles-Only Website, regardless of religious affiliation. There are no false or expired profiles as all members are current and real! My Jewish Matches has a maximum three-month non-visit policy and standards to screen and qualify all prospective members through a very brief questionnaire. Anyone who is not Jewish, is currently married or separated, has withheld a divorce from an ex-spouse for money or custody, has a criminal record or a history of violence is not allowed to join. My Jewish Matches is a completely funded and full-service International Jewish Relationship website with no charges of any kind ever.

The dedicated volunteers at My Jewish Matches have  spent two years developing the My Jewish Matches.Com website as “The Jewish Singles Meeting Place” and have successfully elevated the standards in Jewish Dating Websites. As they are non-profit, they do not have to accept membership from just anyone because they are willing to pay. The website was created for one purpose – to serve the world-wide Jewish Community by introducing Jews and encouraging them to meet and marry other Jews

The website just started a few months ago, but already has created its first match: Noach (member 108) and Irene (member 73) from Israel are soon to be married in Israel. Mazel Tov to the Happy Couple and Yasher Koach to My Jewish Matches.

Networking Central Presents J Street

— Harold Jacobs

J Street is the home and voice of pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans.  It is an organization which provides voice for mainstream American Jews and others who, from their progressive and Jewish values, believe that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essential to Israel’s survival as the national home of the Jewish people and a vibrant democracy. J Street advocates urgent American diplomatic and political leadership to achieve a two-state solution; it fosters broad  debate on Israel and the Middles East in national politics and in the Jewish community.

More after the jump.
J Street represents Americans who support Israel in its desire for  security as the Jewish homeland. J Street believes that a two-state solution is in the best interests of Israel, the Palestinian people and the United States.

J Street advocates vigorously in Congress, the  Executive Branch, the media and the Jewish community to ensure that government officials and community leaders see the breadth and depth of support for its views on Middle East policy among voters in their states and districts and in the country at large.          
Visit the J Street Website for more information or to sign up for their email list.

The J Street family consists three legally separate organizations.

  • J Street itself is a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation, and a registered lobbying organization, which uses advocacy, organization and education to achieve its goals on Capitol Hill and with the Executive Branch. One of its activities has been to invite its listserve members to join in email letters urging policy positions to President Obama, Secretary Clinton and members of Congress, most recently a letter to Secretary Clinton urging action to close the gap resulting from the breakdown in the Israel-Palestinian negotiations.
  •  J Street PAC is a political action committee. It endorses and raises money for federal office candidates who support active American leadership to achieve peace through the two-state solution.
  •  J Stret Educational Fund, Inc. is a 501(c)(5) charitable organization.  It educates targeted communities about the need for the two-state solution, It also uses the J Street listserve to circulate news of matters affecting  progress and`stumbling blocks in the two-state solution.  Locally, J Street Local, [email protected] organizes information events and spreads the J Street message.

Thanksgiving Hunger Quiz

In honor of Thanksgiving, here is a Hunger Quiz from the Jewish Federation:

  1. People are hungry because there is not enough food for everybody on our planet.
    • True
    • False

  2. You can tell if someone is hungry by how they look.  
    • True
    • False

  3.  How many children does the United Nations estimate die every day from causes related to hunger and poverty?
    • 40
    • 400
    • 4,000
    • 34,000

  4. How many people a month in the Greater Philadelphia area does the Mitzvah Food Project of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia serve?
    • 250
    • 1,000
    • 2,000

Answers are the jump, along with hunger relief resources.

Answers to Hunger Quiz

  1. False.  Each year a total of 470 pounds per household is thrown away.
  2. False
  3. 34,000
  4. 2,000

Now that you have learned more about the problem of Hunger, please support one of the local organizations dealing with this important issue.

Good Deeds Day


Leading Israeli volunteering project goes global April 3, 2011.

The leadership team of Ruach Tova (Good Spirit), part of the Arison Group, has completed a highly successful visit to the United States to promote Good Deeds Day, Ruach Tova’s flagship
project in the Jewish world. Initiated by the Group’s owner, businesswoman and philanthropist Shari Arison, Good Deeds Day each year brings together tens of thousands of Israelis to do a good deed for someone else.

The trip’s highlight was the team’s visit to the United Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in New Orleans, where they met with representatives of Jewish communities from around the world in order to extend the day’s global outreach in 2011.

More after the jump.
In its eye-catching specially created display area, the team met with more than 50 representatives of different federations and organizations that were interested in hosting the upcoming Good Deeds Day in their communities, as well as with student organizations from more than 40 campuses that looked into including Good Deeds Day in their activities.

Following the tremendous success of Good Deeds Day in Israel, where it has become part of Israeli culture, Shari Arison has made it her mission to turn the annual event into an international day of good deeds. Since its inception in 2007, Good Deeds Day has touched the lives of many thousands of people; last year alone, more than 70,000 volunteers throughout Israel and several locations in the Jewish world took part in more than 1,000 different projects in cooperation with dozens of municipalities and leading organizations.

Among last year’s many exciting projects, hundreds of gardens were planted in social services facilities around the country and 5,300 gallons of paint were used to brighten up clubs for troubled teens, schools for the disabled and nursing homes. Soldiers organized activities for senior citizens, and schoolchildren cleaned up parks and packed food packages for the needy.

Good Deeds Day is organized and implemented by the Arison Group’s Ruach Tova nonprofit organization, which is supported by the Ted Arison Family Foundation.

As Shari Arison says, “the Good Deeds Day project began with thinking about the opportunity and the privilege that have been given to us to do good deeds for our fellow human beings, for the community by placing the emphasis on the abilities that abide in every one of us. A good deed is anything, large or small, that moves us to give and afterward to feel good about having given. Even a smile given to another person is a good deed.

Good Deeds Day has turned into the leading day of such giving. Many companies and private individuals have joined the activities and contributed greatly for the benefit of others. This year, I am seeking to expand the activities from Israel to the entire world and to fulfill the biblical injunction ‘For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah.’ As part of my calling and my vision of a better world, I ask that through Good Deeds Day, we will work to influence people all over the world to act to make the world better – a world in which people can help other people and their communities by doing a good deed.”

The International Good Deeds Day will take place on Sunday, April 3, 2011 to enable volunteers from all over the Jewish world to take part in the Israeli initiative. In Israel, Good Deeds Day will be held two days later on Tuesday, April 5.

Ruach Tova’s Chairman Rafi Elul notes that “based upon the wonderful work of past years, more and more individuals, groups, businesses and organizations are inspired to join in Good Deeds Day each year. Everyone seeks a path to social action whose focus is to be more involved and to bring about change for the benefit of others. Ruach Tova’s volunteer activity every day of the year has grown immeasurably and constantly reminds us anew of the importance of Good Deeds Day.”

Old City Jewish Art Center Brings Light to High Holidays


Show features new work by thirteen local artists

— Neil Greenberg

In Jewish terms, the practice is fairly recent – only 200 years old – of reading Psalm 27 twice daily during Elul. But it’s a powerful tradition today, and one that informs the new “L’Dovid Ori” show at the Old City Jewish Art Center, which opens First Friday, September 3, from 5 – 9 p.m. and will be up until October 27, with an Artists’ Reception and Grand Opening on Wednesday,
September 15, from 6:30 – 9 p.m.

The psalm is called L’Dovid HaShem Ori, “To David – the L-rd is my light.” Rabbi Menachem Schmidt, who founded the gallery, says he hopes the joy and hope expressed by these artists “will bring a warm and welcome light to difficult times.”

More after the jump.
Despite mentioning enemies, armies and war, the psalm expresses reassurance that we will always be able to face these evils with G-d’s help. Cynthia Blackwood, who curated the show, said “I gathered a number of translations and sent them all to the artists, asking them to use the words as an inspiration. The works they came up with in response are breathtaking and uplifting. This may be our best show ever.”

Ms. Blackwood, who owns The Frame Shop in Elkins Park, designed the show to “embrace you as you come in,” with the words of the psalm running all along the gallery walls, spread among the artworks. Food and wine will be served during the show, and the community experience will be enhanced with a Taste of Shabbos dinner at 9 p.m.

True to the spirit of the Chabad movement in which he is highly respected, Rabbi Schmidt wanted Jewish artists of all backgrounds to participate. “We don’t think people have labels,” he
said. “If you have a curiosity about your heritage, come on in.” Motivated by the teachings of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, “the Rebbe,” Chabad is non-judgmental and inclusive, opening its doors to anyone with a questioning mind and a spiritual nature.


The thirteen artists who are represented work in many media, from oils to calligraphy to handmade paper. Mordechai Rosenstein, an internationally known artist, did a mixed-media work that includes Hebrew block lettering rescued from a printer. “A friend in London, Irv Kline, was walking through the East End and found a printer who was going out of business. There were beautifully carved letters that were waiting to be thrown out! He got there just in time, and sent me many of the letter blocks.” The cache stayed in Mr. Rosenstein’s studio for a while, until some of the letters found a home as the word Ori (light) in his work for this show.

Calligrapher Karen Shain Schloss recounted how Ms. Blackwood’s call brought back memories of a trip to Mexico years ago. “It was a difficult time in my life, but I found this labyrinth in Rancho la Puerta, and I was drawn to it every day. Walking there gave me a sense of serenity. Then when Cynthia told me about the show and the psalm, I flashed back on that image, and used it to express the sense of conquering trouble that came into my life.”

Paper artist Rhea Dennis came by her inspiration by talking with friends and family. “The more I discussed the psalm with others, the more I was moved by the idea, and finally came up with the piece I’m showing.”

The Artists’ Reception on the 15th will have some other features to liven up the proceedings. Philly favorite Ben Laden will provide the music, and The Shofar Factory will bring a number of shofars to add to the aural merriment. There will also be a reading of Psalm 27 and commentary by the artists themselves.

“L’Dovid Ori” First Friday, September 3, 5 – 9 p.m., Taste of Shabbos 9 p.m. Featuring works
by Lucy Barr, Sandy Berman, Cynthia Blackwood, Leah Caroline, Rhea Dennis, Harriet Finck,
Debra Kapnek, Emily Ennulat-Lustine, Mordechai Rosenstein, Barbara Rosin, Karen Shain
Schloss, Joye Schwartz, Mark Segal and Deborah Ugoretz. Artists’ Reception September
15, 6:30 – 9 p.m. Show open September 3 through October 27. Gallery hours: T-Th 1-6 or by
appointment. Old City Jewish Art Center, 119 N. 3rd St., Philadelphia, 215.923.1222. A project
of the Jewish Heritage Programs.

Open Your Tents



IHN Executive Director Rachel Falkove reads to one of the children in the Interfaith Hospitality Network program.

— Elisha Sawyer

At this time of renewal, follow the teaching of Abraham and Sarah.

A number of synagogues around the Greater Philadelphia area are actively participating in a creative solution to the growing problem of family homelessness and in doing so are following in the Abrahamic tradition of offering hospitality. Through their involvement with Interfaith  Hospitality Network/ Family Promise and its affiliates throughout Pennsylvania, synagogue members are bringing about Tikkun Olam (repair of the world).

An example of such a network is Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network (NPIHN), which formed 19 years ago. Germantown Jewish Centre, along with several area churches, banded together to take turns opening up their buildings to homeless families. Since then the non-profit organization, with a core staff of three and a modest network of support staff and area congregations, has moved 275 families – approximately 770 individuals – from homelessness to stability. The program proves to be successful as over 92% of families that have completed the NPIHN program do not return to homelessness.

More after the jump.



Germantown Jewish Centre member Ellen Ufberg helped Octavia decorate her new home upon relocation to permanent house from staying at Interfaith Hospitality Network congregations. She continues to mentor Octavia and her 3-year-old son Keyon.

Rachel Falkove, Executive Director of NPIHN, attributes this success to congregational involvement. “Without the congregations, we wouldn’t be able to do this work,” says Falkove. “We wouldn’t have local space within the community to accommodate the families. But more important than the congregational space are the congregational volunteers who offer companionship, encouragement, mentoring, and networking opportunities.”

After being accepted into the NPIHN program, families are offered career and education planning, financial literacy instruction, parenting education, individualized therapy, and material support. During their stay with the program, calm and quiet emergency housing is provided by a network of 30 synagogue, church, and mosque congregations. Congregations that do not have the physical space to host families may also participate as a co-host or a partner congregation. “It’s a great way to get to know who your neighbors are,” says Falkove.

“We are the custodians of a building that can serve quite well as a temporary home to homeless families,” says Rabbi Kevin Bernstein, Education Director of the Germantown Jewish Centre, which has been working with NPIHN since its inception. Rabbi Bernstein cites references in the book of Genesis to Abraham and Sarah’s commitment to hospitality to strangers.

Falkove, a member and former president of the Germantown Jewish Centre explains, “The injunction to ‘Remember you were a stranger in the land of Egypt’ means something. These programs help remind us why we’re here, why we’re in the city, why it’s important to continually put attention into our own community and to use the community as a springboard to make the world a better place.”

With the contribution of members of two synagogues in the network, Mishkan Shalom and Germantown Jewish Centre, NPIHN’s families are not simply given a temporary place to stay. Members cook dinner for the families (12-15 individuals) every night during their stay with the synagogue. They dine with the families and spend the evening at the residence, helping with homework or simply socializing. A volunteer from the congregation also stays overnight at the host residence, acting as a liaison between the families, NPIHN, and the congregation.

“Though our regular contact with homeless families, we have become familiar with the real faces of the individual homeless,” says Rabbi Bernstein. “This has helped dispel the myth that the homeless are emotionally or physically disabled or incompetent. They’re simply poor and without a home.” Raising awareness about the reality of homelessness in Philadelphia and nationally is crucial, as family homelessness is on the rise, creating a host of other social and economic problems.

The children in these families have switched schools multiple times. Children from homeless families often lack the resources to participate fully in school and fall behind their peers or simply become truant altogether. “Every time a child needs to relocate to a different community, change schools, change friends, and lose connections, the child loses several months of academic progress. There is also a great deal of psychological damage done when combined with stressed parents, and the prevalence of reactive attachment disorder, that is difficulty in forming lasting relationships,” explains Falkove.

Approximately 2.3 to 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness at least once a year. Families with children make up 34% of the homeless population and this number is growing. The City of Philadelphia Office of Supportive Housing estimates that on any given night in Philadelphia, 1,000 children stay with their families in a shelter. Countless others wander around uncounted, couch-surfing to avoid being in shelters.

“Children who grow up homeless are more likely to experience homelessness as adults,” says Falkove. “Our ultimate goal is to end the tragic cycle of homelessness for each family. As the Talmud teaches us, ‘Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.’ And so we celebrate every success story.”

Other IHN’s in the Greater Philadelphia area with synagogue involvement include the Mainline IHN, which works with the Beth David Reform Congregation; the Ambler IHN, which works with Beth Or and Or Hadash; and the Delaware County IHN which worked with the Suburban Jewish Community Center B’nai Aaron.

For those interested in helping to end family homelessness, Rabbi Bernstein recommends getting involved with your local IHN (for a list of local affiliates, visit www.familypromise.org), volunteering at community kitchens and shelters, and identifying advocacy campaigns involving aimed at public policy solutions to homelessness. For more information on NPIHN, contact Rachel Falkove.

Raised airline prices create an additional opportunity to help others

— Rafi Glazer

These days airlines charge for nearly everything. Checked baggage, carry-ons, snacks, even additional leg room are now fair game for an industry trying to stay afloat.

Every once in a while, though, something good can come out of increased prices or added difficulties.

48 families sent their children to give of themselves for the summer, and the flight is another wonderful opportunity to do something good.

June 27th marked the beginning of the 60th year of the American Jewish Society for Service (AJSS), an organization which encourages high school aged Jewish students to volunteer their time and efforts helping those less fortunate.

These 48 students, who have arrived either in Kansas City, KS, Little Rock, AR, or Avery County, NC, will serve with Habitat for Humanity, food pantries, veterans services organizations, and whatever other local agencies are in need of volunteer labor.

In preparing for this trip, participants had to find a balance between bringing everything they need for 6 weeks, and avoiding the additional costs required by the airlines.

One mother came up with a brilliant suggestion. Instead of shlepping all the bed linens, towels, sleeping bags and other large bulky objects, why not by them once they get there? This way the participants will have the materials they need, without having to pay for the extra luggage.


The best part of the suggestion was what to do with all these things at the end of the summer? To bring them home would defeat the purpose of avoiding the extra fees. Why not donate these gently used sheets, towels, sleeping bags, and whatever else, to people in the community who could benefit from them?

After giving of their time for six weeks, AJSS volunteers have the opportunity to leave a parting gift to those who they have come to know. Even when AJSS leaves, the impact that our volunteers made will still be tangible. The houses they helped construct, the food they distributed, the time they gave, and even the bedding can go to someone in need. What a great legacy for high school students to leave.

Good deeds can come from everywhere, even from raised prices. Just don’t tell the airlines, or they might make people pay for using the airplane restrooms.

Rafi Glazer is a program associate for the American Jewish Society for Service.