Perelman Teachers Have the Right to Organize: Interview

Jill Jacobs6

Rabbi Jill Jacobs. Photo: T’ruah.

Starting September 1, the Perelman Jewish Day School has ceased to recognize its teachers union.

Following the Perelman board’s announcement, The Perelman Teacher-Alumni-Parent Partnership sponsored a presentation in Bryn Mawr, “Work & Workers in Jewish Law: A Community Teach-In,” by Rabbi Jill Jacobs.

Jacobs is the founding executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, which mobilizes 1,800 rabbis and cantors and tens of thousands of American Jews to protect human rights in North America and Israel. The author of Where Justice Dwells: A Hands-On Guide to Doing Social Justice in Your Jewish Community and There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice through Jewish Law and Tradition, she is widely regarded as a leading voice on Jewish social justice.

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice caught up with Rabbi Jacobs for an interview soon after her presentation.

[Read more…]

Perelman Union Breaking Shatters Friendships

— by Rita Ross

Last March, the school board of the Perelman Jewish Day School held a meeting at which they decided to dissolve the teachers’ union. This was done with no negotiation, no discussion and no participation of the people whose lives this would most directly affect: the teachers.

The board decided unilaterally to have each teacher negotiate his or her own contract, with tenure and seniority being eliminated and a general clause in the new handbook stating that any teacher could be terminated at will, with no due cause.

Perhaps one of the troubling aspects of this non-negotiation termination of the union is in what has happened to the once-warm and caring relationship that the teachers shared with parents and board members. People who once had close friendships are now avoiding each other and do not even make eye contact.

More after the jump.
The union was in place when I first started teaching at the Solomon Schechter Day School (now called the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Jewish Day School). I have never known of any irreconcilable differences, although the tenure and seniority policy never overindulged the teachers. The union accomplished important things: It allowed dedicated teachers to feel valued and appreciated by offering health and welfare benefits, and the security of knowing that they were assured of employment.

In my tenure as a parent of an alumnus and a teacher of 27 years, I had always felt myself to be part of a community, a member of the Perelman family. How the board’s action can improve Jewish education and benefit our children and the teachers is hard to reconcile given the hard feelings that it has engendered.

Rita Ross taught first grade for 27 years at the Perelman Jewish Day School. She is now retired as a teacher and is the author of Running from Home, a memoir of her experience during the holocaust. She is a frequent lecturer on anti-Semitism and the need for tolerance.

Open Letter to the Perelman Jewish Day School Board of Directors

Dear Board members,

As the proud father of four children who have all graduated from or currently attend the Perelman Jewish Day School, I am writing to you to ask you to reconsider your unilateral decision to no longer recognize the union which has represented your teachers since 1976.

You assert that the relevant labor laws would otherwise impair your freedom of religion. I am not a lawyer, so I will not argue the legal basis for such a claim. However, I have serious reservations about the halachic, moral and social basis for your action.

This claim that union-busting is part and parcel of our exercise of religion sadly plays into the hands of those anti-Semites to whom the word “Jew” is a verb with a negative connotation.

In fact, exactly the opposite is true; our religion deplores strong arm tactics in employer-employee relations. The Perelman Jewish Day School is affiliated with the Conservative Movement whose Committee on Jewish Law and Standards passed a teshuvah (legal position) on Jewish labor law: Conservative day schools and other institutions must pay a living wage to their workers and “may not interfere in any way with organizing drives.”

More after the jump.
Historically, the Babylonian Talmud gives citizens the right to intervene between a employer and employee to insure the fairness of wages. More recently, orthodox Rabbis such as Eliezer Waldenberg and Moshe Feinstein have recognized the right of workers and even religious school teachers to bargain collectively.

The Jewish people is called upon to be “a light unto the nations”. We should be an example to others and impose a higher standard for ourselves. We should never seize our Jewish identity as a carte blanche to ignore community norms which even Walmart and McDonald are required to follow.

Your lawyers can might advise you about how far you can push the envelope of labor law, but they cannot advise you about derekh eretz.

The board has valid concerns about many issues (such as salary and tenure), but these issues should be addressed with respect at the negotiating table. The teachers do not have the right to get whatever they want in those negotiations, but they should have the right to sit at the table and be heard. If secular law perhaps does not require a religious organization to give unions a voice, then halakhah (Jewish law) and derekh eretz (common decency) does.

Please reconsider your decision and sit down to talk with the union before their contract runs out in August.

Yours, Daniel Loeb

PS: Tomorrow, you are holding your annual fundraiser. However, instead I will be making my donation to the Jack H. Barrack Hebrew Academy (even though I have no child who attends school there). By recognizing their teachers’ union, they show the kind of kavod (respect) which we hope our children will model.  

Treat Perelman Teachers with Kavod and Tzedek

— Ted Kirsch, president of AFT Pennsylvania

Last week, Perelman Jewish Day School notified its teachers that their 38-year union tradition would no longer be honored by the school’s administration and board.

The board’s unilateral action — taken without consulting parents or teachers — demonstrated a lack of respect for parents who entrust their children to the school and teachers, who have educated generations of students and instilled in them pride in their Jewish heritage.

The teachers have offered an olive branch, urging the board to rescind its decision and open a dialogue with teachers and their chosen representatives. The board has turned a deaf ear.

Now, without any dialogue, parents must accept an action that will likely result in the unjust dismissal of their children’s teachers.

More after the jump.
The teachers, who have been threatened with loss of their jobs, must agree to relinquish their rights and accept a lopsided employment agreement for that allows PJDS to “unilaterally change, revise, or discontinue its rules and policies,” to fire “any employee with or without notice and with or without cause” and “to make changes in employee benefits without prior notice.” If fired, Perelman teachers will not be eligible for unemployment benefits.

This is a terrible way for any organization to treat its employees. It is egregious for a Jewish school, dedicated to teaching Jewish values to young children.

The Perelman Jewish Day School teachers chose union representation because they believe, as I do, that we are stronger as individuals and as a community when employees are treated as full partners in the institution’s success.

Even in close-knit school communities, it is often difficult for teachers to advocate for the resources and services their students need without fear of reprisals. With flimsy employment agreements that guarantee nothing, it is unlikely that teachers will feel they can speak out on behalf of the best interests of students, families or the school.

The Jewish people have a long history of seeking justice for all workers. In Deuteronomy, God instructs us: “You shall not oppress the hired laborer who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your people or one of the sojourners in your land.”

Rabbinic law guiding employer-employee relations establishes the concept that both parties are kinsmen, not adversaries. Leviticus commands, “Thou shalt not rule over him with rigor.”

As a fellow Jew, a teacher and a labor leader, I urge the board to rescind its decision immediately and open a dialogue with teachers to resolve the issues that separate them.

Cooperation, rather than conflict, will strengthen Perelman Jewish Day School and the Philadelphia Jewish Community and demonstrate kavod (respect), chokhmah (wisdom) and tzedek (justice), traits we seek to instill in our children.

Ted Kirsch is a history teacher and president of AFT Pennsylvania, which represents 35,000 active and retired teachers and school employees in public, private and charter schools; community college and university faculty, graduate student employees and support staff and professional employees in state government. AFTPA is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and AFL-CIO.

Perelman Annual Tribute Event Raises $1.5 Million

— by Caren Barnet

The Perelman Jewish Day School Annual Tribute Event, held last week at the Academy of Natural Sciences, was a huge success: More than $1.5 million were raised for Perelman’s Annual Fund.

The evening included a special video presentation: The video on the right featured six of our students sharing the impact their Perelman education has had on them and their plans for the future.

More following the jump.
Close to 350 members of the Jewish community in Philadelphia, parents, grandparents, faculty members and Friends of Perelman, were in attendance.

The event also honored the Saligman family and paid tribute to Jay Leberman as the outgoing head of school. Next year, the Robert Saligman Middle School will become part of the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy. Leberman will be making a new home for himself as well, as he, along with his wife Aviva, fulfill their dream of living in Israel.

Perelman Jewish School Third Graders Learn Entrepreneurship


Josh Kopelman

— by Ronit Treatman

What is the most effective way to teach young people about entrepreneurship? To have seasoned businesspeople demonstrate how it is done. Entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Josh Kopelman, of First Round Capital, invited the third grade students at Perelman Jewish Day School’s Stern Center to visit him at First Round. They will have the opportunity to present business plans to him and two other venture capitalists, Wayne Kimmel and Marc Singer.

More after the jump.
The visit, which will take place on Thursday, April 25, is the culmination of a third grade unit of study about venture capitalism that began last fall. The students were taught basic business terminology and learned the steps to creating a successful business: starting with a big idea, developing a business plan, and considering such variables as the consumers, market, price, and location.


Singer (left) and Kimmel

The third graders were then asked to think about what sort of business they would want to start when they grow up. They formed partnerships with their classmates based on similar interests, and from there set out to develop a plan, and design their own businesses. In addition, Kopelman visited the third grade classes and taught an interactive lesson about the fundamentals of entrepreneurism and venture capitalism.  

The Stern third graders have continued to work with their business partners to further develop their big ideas, and look forward to presenting their business plans to the three venture capitalist dads. Who knows? Maybe an angel investment will occur!

Food Chat: The Smitten Kitchen


— by Hannah Lee

In the foodie world, we fans tend to follow our favorite authors from their humble blogging origins to their splashy success in the publishing and media worlds. Case in point, I have both cookbooks by Ree Drummond of Pioneer Woman. So, it was with tremendous regret that coming back from New York, I was too fatigued to attend a presentation by Deb Perelman at the Free Library last evening.  She was to talk about her new book, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Her website, The Smitten Kitchen, has inspired me and her other legions of fans to expand our gustatory horizons. The marvel is that she works from a tiny kitchen in a New York apartment.  She proves the point that talent heeds no boundaries and space is not a limitation.

Fig-Olive Oil-Sea Salt Challah recipe follows the jump.
I made her Fig-Olive Oil-Sea Salt Challah for a recent Shabbat and it was as spectacular as the author’s photos. The braiding was unusual also, because it was woven like the pot holders we used to make as children.


Photo by Deb Perelman.

Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah
From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Yield: 1 large loaf
Bread

  • 2 1/4 tsp (1 packet – 1/4 ounce or 7 grams) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup (85 grams) plus 1 tsp honey
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil, plus more for the bowl
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, or 1 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 4 cups (500 grams) all-purpose flour

Fig Filling

  • 1 cup (5 1/2 ounces or 155 grams) stemmed and roughly chopped dried figs
  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated orange zest, or more as desired
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) orange juice
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • A few grinds black pepper

Egg wash

  • 1 large egg
  • Coarse or flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

To make dough with a stand mixer: Whisk the yeast and 1 tsp honey into 2/3 cup warm water (110 to 116 degrees), and let it stand for a few minutes, until foamy. In a large mixer bowl, combine the yeast mixture with remaining honey, 1/3 cup olive oil, and eggs. Add the salt and flour, and mix until dough begins to hold together. Switch to a dough hook, and run at low speed for 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to an olive-oil coated bowl (or rest the dough briefly on the counter and oil your mixer bowl to use for rising, so that you’ll use fewer dishes), cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.

To make the dough by hand:
Proof the yeast as directed above. Mix the wet ingredients with a whisk, then add the salt and flour. Mix everything together with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together. Turn the mixture out onto a floured counter, and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, until a smooth and elastic dough is formed. Let rise as directed above.

Meanwhile, make fig paste: In a small saucepan, combine the figs, zest, 1/2 cup water, juice, salt, and a few grinds of black peper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the figs are soft and tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat, and let cool to lukewarm. PRocess fig mixture in a food processor until it resembles a fine paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Set aside to cool.

Insert figs: After your dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured counter and divide it in half. Roll the first half of the dough into a wide and totally imperfect rectangle (really, the shape doesn’t matter). Spread half the fig filling evenly over the dough, stopping short of the edge. Roll the dough into a long, tight log, trapping the filling within. Then gently stretch the log as wide as feels comfortable (I take mine to my max counter width, a pathetic three feet), and divide it in half. Repeat with remaining dough and fig filling.

Weave your challah: Arrange two ropes in each direction, perpendicular to each other, like a tight tic-tac-toe board. Weave them so that one side is over, and the other is under, where they meet. So, now you’ve got an eight-legged woven-headed octopus. Take the four legs that come from underneath the center and move the leg to their right – i.e., jumping it. Take the legs that were on the right and, again, jump each over the leg before, this time to the left. If you have extra length in your ropes, you can repeat these left-right jumps until you run out of rope. Tuck the corners or odd bumps under the dough with the sides of your hands to form a round.

Transfer the dough to a parchment-cover heavy baking sheet, or, if you’ll be using a bread stone, a baker’s peel. Beat egg until smooth, and brush over challah. Let challah rise for another hour, but 45 minutes into this rise, preheat your oven to 375°F.

Bake your loaf: Before baking, brush loaf one more time with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake in middle of oven for 35 to 40 minutes. It should be beautifully bronzed; if yours starts getting too dark too quickly, cover it with foil for the remainder of the baking time. The very best way to check for doneness is with an instant-read thermometer – the center of the loaf should be 195 degrees.

Cool loaf on a rack before serving. Or, well, good luck with that.

Dazzling Tree Photo Exhibit


Tal Shochat, Rimon (Pomegranate), 2010, C-Print, 48.25 x 51 inches, Courtesy of Andrea Meislin Gallery, N.Y.

— by Hannah Lee

Just in time for Tu B’Shevat (the Jewish New Year of Trees) on February 8th, the The National Museum of American Jewish History is featuring an exhibit of prints of trees from the “In Praise of a Dream” series by Israeli artist Tal Shochat.

The exhibit developed through a confluence of motives.  One was an intent to creatively use a long wall in their downstairs gallery to bring in visitors, who could then explore the many artistic and historical artifacts in the new museum, which opened in November, 2010.  At the time, the Andrea Meislin Gallery in Chelsea, New York was exhibiting Shochat’s work.  The Chief Curator and Director of Exhibitions and Collections, Dr. Joshua Perelman (not the grandson of the same name of the philanthropists Ruth and Raymond Perelman) arranged for a loan of seven of the largest prints in the series, which will be on display through Earth Day, April 22nd.

More after the jump.
For Dr. Perelman, this has been a dream job, coming from New York six years ago to help plan for the new museum, and he now supervises a team of seven curators, registrars, and exhibit technicians.  He’s planning additional displays for the concourse wall and more information will become ready when this series moves on.

Shochat’s prints are of real trees in real settings.  She picks her specimens and waits until the perfect moment to photograph them.  She sprays the trees with water to make them sparkle, and she also enhances the lighting and adds a black backdrop.  The size of the trees seem remarkably short, when comparing the size of the fruits to the trunks.

Tal Shochat has had solo shows at the Rosenfeld Gallery in Tel Aviv, where she lives, the Herzliya Museum of Art, and the Haifa Museum of Art.  Her work is on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and the Shpilman Institute of Photography in Tel Aviv.  Patrons interested in acquiring Shochat’s prints could contact the Andrea Meislin Gallery at [email protected].

The National Museum of American Jewish History is located at 101 South Independence Mall East in Philadelphia.  It is open Tuesday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Academy of Music Concert and Ball

Marc Rayfield, head of CBS Radio in Philly, and his wife Nicole, joined friends Haley and David Adelman at the President's Reception in the Academy Ballroom.

Marc Rayfield, head of CBS Radio in Philly, and his wife Nicole, joined friends Haley and David Adelman at the President’s Reception in the Academy Ballroom.

— Bonnie Squires

The 154th Anniversary Academy of Music Concert and Ball on Saturday night, January 29, 2011, was supported by many members of the area’s Jewish community.  A list of the major sponsors, plus a bird’s-eye view of participants, highlighted the important role which the Jewish community plays in the cultural life of Philadelphia and the region.

Photos of these community leaders follow the jump.
Linda Scribner and her husband David Paskin, M.D., were the first in the Academy of Music Ballroom, as Linda, as director of the Academy of Music, seems to be in charge of everything that night.
Linda Scribner and her husband David Paskin, M.D., were the first in the Academy of Music Ballroom, as Linda, as director of the Academy of Music, seems to be in charge of everything that night.

Senator Connie Williams, now chair of the Philadelphia Museum of Art board, had a chance to chat with the museum's Joe Rishel at the Academy of Music.

Senator Connie Williams, now chair of the Philadelphia Museum of Art board, had a chance to chat with the museum’s Joe Rishel at the Academy of Music.



Senator Bob Casey and his wife Terese (center) arrived at the Academy of Music with Richard and Betsy Sheerer.
Senator Bob Casey and his wife Terese (center) arrived at the Academy of Music with Richard and Betsy Sheerer.



Hope Cohen and Richard Green go through the receiving line at the Academy of Music.

Hope Cohen and Richard Green go through the receiving line at the Academy of Music.



Gary Steuer, Philadelphia director of cultural arts in Mayor Nutter's cabinet, attended the festivities with his deputy, Moira Bayleson.
Gary Steuer, Philadelphia director of cultural arts in Mayor Nutter’s cabinet, attended the festivities with his deputy, Moira Bayleson.



David Eisner, the CEO of the National Constitution center, was on hand with his wife Lori.

David Eisner, the CEO of the National Constitution center, was on hand with his wife Lori.



Marsha and Jeffrey Perelman enjoying the festivities.  Jeffrey serves on the Academy of Music Committee.
Marsha and Jeffrey Perelman enjoying the festivities.  Jeffrey serves on the Academy of Music Committee.



David and Sandy Marshall in the receiving line, standing with Academy of Music preisdent and CEO Joanna McNeil Lewis and musician Michael Mills.  Sandy served as co-chair of the Academy Ball.

David and Sandy Marshall in the receiving line, standing with Academy of Music preisdent and CEO Joanna McNeil Lewis and musician Michael Mills.  Sandy served as co-chair of the Academy Ball.



Peter Nero, of the Philly Pops, chatted with philanthropist Anne Hamilton at the President's Reception.  Hamilton chairs the Academy of Music Committee.
Peter Nero, of the Philly Pops, chatted with philanthropist Anne Hamilton at the President’s Reception.  Hamilton chairs the Academy of Music Committee.



John and Christina Saler enjoyed starting the evening at the Academy of Music Ballroom.

John and Christina Saler enjoyed starting the evening at the Academy of Music Ballroom.  



In the Bellevue ballroom, following the reception and concert, are (l to r) Allan Greenspan, M.D., his wife Justice Jane Greenspan (ret.), and Howard Silverman.
In the Bellevue ballroom, following the reception and concert, are (l to r) Allan Greenspan, M.D., his wife Justice Jane Greenspan (ret.), and Howard Silverman.


Photos courtesy of Bonnie Squires