Philly is Primping for #PHLDNC

Constitution Center

Constitution Center

It’s Independence Day weekend in Philadelphia and ohhhh… the sites and sounds. There are spectacular things to do and see… and some things will remain (and be added!) for the DNC Convention the last week in July.

I brought my nieces and my sister-in-law to, of course, the Constitution Center yesterday both to see the newest version of Freedom Rising, and the renovation of the Bronze Room. To me it really is the happiest place on earth. For this weekend, there are displays and demonstrations on the front lawn of Colonial times: a blacksmith and a weaver, just to name two of many.

Remember, the Constitution Center is hosting PoliticalFest, which will run July 22-27. It’s inexpensive and will be a terrific experience. You can get your tickets (good for all six days) at the convention website. If you’re credentialed, PoliticalFest is free.

This is a great place to get a sense of all the historical things you can tour in Philadelphia. Independence Hall. (The original home of the Declaration of Independence, and compilation of the Constitution.) Betsy Ross’ House. (Our first flag!) Effreth’s Alley. (The oldest, continuously occupied street in the United States.)

We then crossed the street to the Independence Visitor Center and at the south end, the Liberty Bell.

In the Visitor Center, we were greeted by two donkeys. There are 57 of them around Philly comprising the Donkeys Around Town program. They are created by local Philly artists to celebrate the states, DC and the territories, all in celebration of the DNC coming to town.

The Vermont Donkey

The Vermont Donkey by Philadelphia artist Sam S. Petner

The Rhode Island Donkey

The Rhode Island Donkey by Philadelphia artist Kathryn Pannepacker

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Rocky Statue formerly located in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Rocky Statue formerly located in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Stilt people at visitor center

Stilt people at visitor center

We then crossed the street to the Independence Visitor Center.

There’s more to see in the Visitor Center, including a Rocky statue and stilt people. Normally, I take visitors out on the second floor veranda of the Constitution Center, point past the Visitor Center, down the grassy mall to Independence Hall and remind them that the Founding Fathers and their families were guilty of treason against the crown, and risked life, limb and everything they held dear to fight so that we could breathe free today. This year, as I looked out at the crowds and the displays all I could wonder was about the juxtaposition of the coming Convention. Would this be Chicago ’68 redux? Would the arrests of the 2000 GOP convention be repeated, with so many people arrested that they were housed in the Armory at NAVSUP? What will happen on the streets and in the hall?

Philadelphia's Chinatown

Philadelphia’s Chinatown

No time to dwell, however, because there was more to see. If you’re coming to Philadelphia for the Convention, and you decide to come down to the Historic Area, you can walk out the north end of the Convention Center, turn east, and you’ll be in Chinatown. Philadelphia’s Chinatown is the third largest in the US, only San Francisco and New York’s are bigger. Our Chinatown is on a path of extension, both up and out towards the north. There’s great food, interesting shops, and I need to spare a word about the bakeries. As someone who is about 99% sweet tooth, I always scope the bakeries, and embrace the differences between, say, the macarons at good French bakeries, the cakes at Austrian bakeries, cannoli at Italian bakeries, and oh I could go on. The Chinatown bakeries should be Chinese, but for some reason, they all seem to carry Philly soft pretzels. Along with cheesesteaks, Philly soft pretzels are considered a delicacy when made right, but, well, not Chinese and I’m a purist.

Jess hugs her favorite delegate: James Madison.

Jess hugs her favorite delegate: James Madison.

Get excited! Come to Philly. The Convention will be a unique undertaking. I close this a picture of myself hugging my favourite delegate of all time at any gathering… James Madison. (And yes, you too can hug your pick fave in the Bronze Hall at the Constitution Center.) I think a lot about his Federalist Paper #10, on factionalism, and wonder what he would think about the upcoming floor fight over the Platform. What all the Founding Fathers would think about the possibilities regarding both Cleveland and Philadelphia. Perhaps they would be enamoured of the idea of sea change taking hold against a country that has become a corporatist country: a concept that didn’t exist in their day.

PJVoice is Going to the Democratic National Convention

dnc2016We’re pleased to announce that PJVoice has been credentialed to attend the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia from July 24 – 28, 2016. We plan to post both here on our website and via our twitter feed (@PJVoice). We will be sharing our experiences, showing pictures of people we meet, covering events and making you feel as if you’re there.

Most people only know the part of political conventions that are shown on the television in the evening, but there is much more! Business of the party is handled at business meetings and caucus meetings throughout the day. Events are planned by NGOs, businesses and other organizations. After the day’s events, there are after-parties, concerts and receptions. In addition, there are multiple public events relating to politics, history and just plain fun.  [Read more…]

Flyers Founder Ed Snider: 1933-2016

Ed Snider

Ed Snider (AP Photo/George Widman)

Ed Snider, the Philadelphia Flyers founder whose Bullies became the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup, died Monday after a two-year battle with bladder cancer. He was 83.

Snider was weakened by cancer, the disease that kept him from his beloved Philadelphia Flyers. General manager Ron Hextall went to Snider’s home in California in December before a scouting trip, watching what would be their last Flyers game together on TV. The St. Louis Blues led 3-0 in the second period, souring the mood. [Read more…]

Food Chat With Michael Solomonov

Remember a few years back when Americans thought Israeli food meant hummus (which they mistakenly pronounced as hum-mus, as in soil or decayed plant matter)?  Michael Solomonov was amongst the individuals who changed the public’s perception of Israeli cuisine.  On Sunday, Main Point Books in Bryn Mawr welcomed superstar chef Solomonov and his partner, Steve Cook to speak about their new cookbook, Zahav, which has been selling like the proverbial hotcakes.  The cookbook is fine for kosher households, because the recipes do not call for shellfish and do not mix meat and dairy ingredients.  If you cannot get a table at the restaurant, do get the gorgeous book and have fun trying the recipes!

Before Solomonov won the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic in 2011 and he became a national celebrity through the pages of Bon Appetit and Food and Wine, Michael was a youngster who moved between Israel and the United States with his parents.  He was a picky eater and he had no ambition in life.  When he got a job at a bakery in Israel, working 14-hour days for $2.50 an hour, his family was simply relieved that he was not in jail.  However, the pivotal moment for Michael’s life was the death of his younger brother, David, who was killed while on volunteer duty during Yom Kippur of 2003, just days before his release from the Israeli Army service.

The search for meaning eventually led Michael to a sober life, focused on presenting the best of Israeli cuisine, applying Middle Eastern techniques and spices to locally sourced produce.  When it’s not sustainable to import tomatoes in January, he can simulate the taste of Israeli food with local pumpkin and persimmon.  What is particularly inspirational about his journey is that he and his family could not have predicted his career trajectory.  With much hard work and learning on the job — they were on the brink of closing the currently wildly popular restaurant Zahav — Michael can serve as a poster child for the late bloomer, one who was not engaged by school.

Solomonov and his partner will soon launch the Rooster Soup Company, a deli-style place that serves only sandwiches and soup, the latter made from the bones and parts of the 1,000-plus chickens used in their Federal Donuts operation (that serves only donuts in the morning and fried chicken in the afternoon).  All the proceeds from Rooster Soup will benefit the Broad Street Ministry to their work in providing meals and services to vulnerable and homeless Philadelphians.  It is set to open at 1526 Sansom Street (in the former home of Sansom Street Kabob House).

Another exciting project of his of note to foodies is the January release date of his documentary, >The Search for Israeli Cuisine, which will be picked up by PBS in the spring.  Solomonov was followed around Israel by two-time Academy Award nominee and James Beard Award-winning filmmaker Roger Sherman.  They filmed each day at five locations and Michael marveled that each food venue was new to him, who’d lived there.  So imagine the novelty to us Americans, who are merely visitors to the Holy Land.


It may be surprising to learn that a major culinary revolution is taking place in a country so frequently associated with political drama. In just thirty years, Israel has gone from having no fine food to call its own to a cuisine that is world-renowned.

Chef Michael Solomonov, a young, inspiring Israeli born American grew up in Pittsburgh. Solo, as he's known, travels all over Israel, eating and talking about how ethnic traditions from across the diaspora have been incorporated into one diverse Israeli cuisine.
This is the story of cultures coming together, foods that are brought from far and wide and become Israeli cuisine. Our cameras follow Solo as he shows Americans a cuisine whose time has come.

Jewish Community Set to Welcome Pope Francis

StandWithUsAdforPope'sVisit-9-14-10-11-15. 001-Pope Francis will arrive in Philadelphia on Saturday, September 26. The previous day, at 3:00 p.m., Jewish and Catholic Philadelphians will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, Vatican II’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to non-christian religions, in which antisemitism was condemned, at Saint Joseph’s University. Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a close friend of Pope Francis, will be the featured speaker.

StandWithUs will welcome the Pope with seven billboards highlighting the shared Judeo-Christian values of the Jewish and Catholic communities. These posters will have images depicting the historic meeting between the Pope and Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu during the Pope’s visit to Jerusalem in 2014. They will be displayed until October 11, in high-traffic areas and various locations where the Pope is scheduled to speak.

“The photos chosen for the posters capture the respect and affection between the Pope and the Prime Minister, and remind viewers of the values we share including freedom and the protection of religious and human rights,” said Joseph Puder, director of StandWithUs/Philadelphia. 
Israel, the sole democracy in the Middle East, is the only place where Christians can safely practice their faith.
“Israel recognizes 15 distinct religious groups and allows each to practice as they wish,” added Ferne Hassan, the associate director of StandWithUs/Philadelphia.
The Christian population in Israel increased from 34,000 in 1948 to 163,000 in 2014.  Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the Christian population has grown in the last half century.

Obama, Congresspersons Call for Justice System Reform at Local NAACP Convention

President Barack Obama pressed the 10,000 conventioneers at the NAACP to help him effect domestic reforms, including the criminal justice system, as well as investments in education.

President Barack Obama pressed the 10,000 conventioneers at the NAACP to help him effect domestic reforms, including the criminal justice system, as well as investments in education.

The thousands of NAACP delegates, alternates and supporters who descended on the Philadelphia Convention Center for the 106th national convention of the NAACP were rewarded for their travels and loyalty. Many members of Congress spoke at the plenary sessions and themed workshops.

President Barack Obama, just on the heels of the successful negotiation with Iran, flew from Washington to Philadelphia to address the NAACP convention. His speech focused on domestic priorities, with no mention of the Iran deal, but the news spread and no one needed to be reminded that the President has had a couple of really good weeks.

Speakers like Congressman James Clyburn (SC-6) and U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger, spoke passionately about the need to reform the criminal justice system, to root out discrimination and profiling and unequal sentencing for African Americans.

President Obama, in his speech, explained why he commuted sentences for dozens of prisoners who, if they had been charged and sentenced today, would have received far less severe prison terms for non-violent drug offenses or possession of drugs like marijuana. He gave examples of ex-offenders he had just met, who had served their sentences and then redeemed their lives. They are now tax-paying citizens.

Right before I came out here, I met with four former prisoners, four ex-offenders. Two of them were African American, one of them was Latino, one of them was white. All of them had amazing stories. One of them dropped out of school when he was a young kid. Now he’s making film about his experience in the prison system.

One of them served 10 years in prison, then got a job at Five Guys — which is a tasty burger — and they gave him an opportunity, and he rose up and became a general manager there, and now is doing anti-violence work here in the community.

It was a treat to watch the NAACP session on resolutions, the debates from the floor, the challenges to the chair, the re-counts, the urging of the NAACP member from Georgia to pass a resolution requiring the removal of ALL Confederate flags from every single state’s public grounds. This amended resolution, or “game-changer,” as the NAACP calls them, passed overwhelmingly.

And it was heartening on the day of the first plenary session to hear Cornell Brooks, the national president of the NAACP, tell a story about a baby born down south who weighed only three pounds and was not expected to survive until night-time. But the doctor who delivered the baby told the mother to pray, if she believed in God. Brooks said the woman called for a chaplain in the hospital, but no preacher or minister was available. But here was a rabbi serving as chaplain, and he came and prayed with the mother.

Senator Bob Casey was featured at the NAACP Convention opening plenary session.  He urged the 8000 attendees from around the country to contact their members of Congress and push for Casey's funding bill for universal early education.

At the NAACP Convention opening plenary session, Senator Bob Casey urged the 8000 attendees to contact their members of Congress around the country and push for his universal early education funding bill.

Then Brooks delivered the punch-line: “And that is why I am standing here today!”

Although I did not hear a mention of the three martyred civil rights workers, Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney, I thought about them often as I traveled the halls of the Philadelphia Convention Center from plenary session to workshops. Listening to heroes like Congressman Jim Clyburn, Senator Bob Casey (PA), Congresswomen Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) and Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), and Senator Corey Booker (NJ), was inspirational.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who heads up the Democratic National Committee, urged the conventioneers to register to vote and get involved in politics.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who heads up the Democratic National Committee, urged the conventioneers to register to vote and get involved in politics.

Wasserman Schultz, from Florida, who heads up the Democratic National Committee, focused on voting rights reform in her address to the entire corps of NAACP members. She told me about the unfairness of the voter ID laws in many states and of her intention to increase registration and voting patterns of African Americans.

I bumped into Joyce Kravitz, the president of Tikvah/AJMI, the Philadelphia region’s nonprofit agency for families with members dealing with mental illness. Kravitz, a social work professor, has been an NAACP member for many years, and she attended this year’s convention with her former student, an African American social worker.

Pennsylvania state Representative Jim Roebuck, who has been advocating for Governor Tom Wolf’s budget which restores funding for pre-K and public education, was in attendance. Congressmen Chaka Fattah (PA-2) and Brendan Boyle (PA-13) accompanied President Obama on Air Force One from D.C. to the convention.

NAACP has made national news every day of the convention, and President Bill Clinton and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch made the closing day of the convention memorable.

Photo credit: Bonnie Squires

Fighting BDS With Billboards

Billboard-Wars-2[1]— by Ferne Hassan

The pro-Israel billboard visible on I-95 at Lehigh Road since March 5 is a part of a much bigger campaign.

StandWithUs (SWU) has countered anti-Israel messages on mass transit and highways across the U.S. since they first appeared in 2007. For the first time, SWU is running a billboard in Philadelphia. Reinforcing the U.S.-Israel relationship, the billboard’s run will last four weeks. It tells commuters, “Now Is the Time to Stand With Israel. Join Us.” [Read more…]

Paid Sick Leave Legislation Is a Moral Victory

Philadelphia’s legislation on paid sick leave is good news for the Jews, and everyone else in Philadelphia.

Linda Lempert and Eleanor Levie at City Hall

Linda Lempert and Eleanor Levie protesting at City Hall.

Last Friday, the Philadelphia City Council passed an earned sick days bill with a vote of 14-2, and Mayor Nutter signed it into law. The bill will mandate that Philadelphia employers with 10 or more workers must provide them with one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours or five days a year.

Philadelphia is the 17th city to pass earned sick days. This is not about a handout, but an earned benefit that is long overdue.

Why is this a Jewish concern? Because it is about compassion, respect, and dignity for all those created in God’s image. A worker who has a proven track record should be able to take time off to deal with illness or injury, or that of a child or elderly parent, without worrying about losing pay, or their job.
[Read more…]

Philadelphia to Host 2016 Democratic National Convention

Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney were nominated at the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney were nominated at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. They went on to defeat Vice-President Al Gore and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) in the 2000 Presidential Election.

Mayor Nutter commented on the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) decision, that Philadelphia will host the 2016 Democratic National Convention the week of July 25, 2016:

We believe that it was our proven track record of hosting big events safely and efficiently with a dynamic team of top-tier professionals to organize and manage a conference of this magnitude, paired with our City’s tremendous amenities, its accessible location and historical significance, which made Philadelphia the ideal choice for the 2016 DNC.

The last time Philadelphia hosted the Democratic National Convention, President Harry Truman was nominated to run against Gov. Thomas  Dewey (R-NY) and three dozen Southern delegates walked out to form the Dixiecrat Party and nominate Gov. Strom Thurmond (R-SC).

The last time Philadelphia hosted the Democratic National Convention, President Harry Truman was nominated to run against Gov. Thomas Dewey (R-NY) and three dozen Southern delegates walked out to form the Dixiecrat Party and nominate Gov. Strom Thurmond (R-SC).

The DNC’s technical advisory group evaluated cities across the country, looking at factors such as hotel capacity, transportation, security, financing and logistics.

The DNC chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, said that “In addition to their commitment to a seamless and safe convention, Philadelphia’s deep rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering.”

Additional details on the convention structure, host committee, and staff, will be made available in the coming weeks.

Should Philly Host the 2016 Democratic National Convention?

Philadelphia is one of the five locations in contention to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention to nominate the Democratic candidate for president and vice president:

The Democratic National Committee is seeking public input on the site selection process. You can click on the name of one of the cities above to comment on why that city would be a good or poor site for the 2016 convention.

The CEO of the Committee, Amy K. Dacey, said that her team and her “are visiting Philadelphia to meet with city officials and great local Democrats, and to get a feel for the energy.”

Philadelphia last hosted a national political convention in 2000, when the Republican Party nominated George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney.

The Republican National Convention will be held June or July 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.