Rethinking Plans to Close Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia

Among the wonderful aspects of our Jewish community in Philadelphia is the close relationship we have with the State of Israel. We do not take that relationship for granted. It comes as the product of hard work, constant communication and, perhaps most importantly, personal contact. The close personal contact we have with Israel in Philadelphia comes from the warm relationship which we have with the Israel Consulate and, specifically, the Consul General.

I was saddened to receive the news that the government in Israel is considering closing our Consulate. Understanding the financial burdens which weigh on the State of Israel, I am sympathetic to the need to cut costs in many programs.  At the same time, the work of the Consul General and the Consulate creates the close and warm bond which we feel toward Israel, ultimately impacting positively on Israel’s economy through our support. We benefit from the Consul and his office through his personal presence at so many of our synagogues and Jewish Institutions. He provides a friendly and knowledgeable voice for the State when he speaks, contributing strong support for Israel when she is attacked, a voice of reason, warmth and encouragement for those of us who work to support Israel. [Read more…]

Kosher Locusts and More at Hazon’s Philadelphia Food Festival


Locust: the only kosher insect.

— by Ronit Treatman

Congregation Rodeph Shalom, which boasts one of the most beautiful synagogues in Philadelphia, will be the site of Hazon’s first food festival in Philadelphia on October 20.

Titled “Liberty, Food & Justice For All,” its goal is to bring hundreds of people across the Jewish community together around issues of food, sustainability and Jewish life, as well as to celebrate Philadelphia’s unique Jewish culture. I invite you to join me for my presentation about locusts, the only type of kosher insect. The more intrepid among you will have the opportunity to taste roasted, spiced locusts.

More after the jump.
Hazon is promoting this event for the community to create connection between our food choices and sustainability on one hand and Jewish identity on another.  The star of this first festival will naturally be the local Philadelphia sustainable food scene, which will be showcased through workshops, tastings, and how-to demonstrations led by Philadelphia based Jewish chefs, foodies, and activists. Participants will be taking part in interactive discussions covering food justice, green living, and Jewish food culture. Pickle making, beekeeping, and sustainable cooking using (CSA) community supported agriculture ingredients are just a few of the topics that will be covered during this day-long event. Local products and delicious, healthy food will be available for sampling and for purchase in Hazon’s Shuk, with items ranging from locally made soap to hand-crafted garden tools.

State Senator Daylin Leach (D-PA), a Philadelphia native, will be in attendance to give the keynote address on (GMO) genetically modified organism foods and labeling in Pennsylvania.  Rabbi Mordechai Liebling of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and Rebecca Frimmer, General Manager of Greensgrow Farms will be presenting as well.

The Festival will take place Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013 at Rodeph Shalom. Doors will open at 9:30 AM and activities will begin with morning services and yoga. To register visit the Festival’s website.

Mikveh Israel: “Synagogue of the Revolution”

— by Mark I. Wolfson

Kahal Kadosh Mikveh Israel, “The Hope of Israel,” is the oldest Jewish congregation in the city of Philadelphia, and the second oldest congregation in the United States. It dates its roots back to 1740 when Nathan Levy, upon the death of his child, applied for a grant of land at 9th and Spruce Streets from Thomas Penn, Proprietor of Pennsylvania, to consecrate as a Jewish burial ground.

More after the jump.
At the time of its founding, the only other Jewish congregation in the United States was Kahal Kadosh Shearith Israel in New York City. That congregation was formed by Dutch Sephardic Jews who were descendants of Spanish and Portuguese refugees of the Inquisition. A number of the early founding members of Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia were from prominent Sephardic families in New York, Charleston, Richmond and Savannah, and though another large number were Ashkenazi Jews, there was broad agreement to adopt the Spanish and Portuguese customs and rite that prevailed in the country at the time. The service and customs remain largely unchanged up to the present time.

Mikveh Israel is called “Synagogue of the Revolution” because the early founding members of the congregation were very involved in the activities that led up to the war, with many of them signing the Non-Importation Act of 1765. Many of the members were very active in the war effort itself, either directly fighting on the American side, supplying the army with food, ammunition, equipment, and clothing, or contributing funds that made the war itself possible and ensured an American victory. After the war, members of Mikveh Israel remained in regular contact with Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and the other leaders who wrote the constitution and shaped the country in its earliest days.

Obama Discusses Gun Violence With Law Enforcement Leaders

President Barack Obama met this morning with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and a dozen of his fellow police chiefs and sheriffs:

  • Police Chief Daniel Oates, Aurora, CO (scene of 2012 movie theatre shooting) seated two to Obama’s right,  
  • Police Chief Michael Kehoe, Newtown, CT (scene of 2012 Elementary School shooting) seated next to Biden,
  • Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, Montgomery County, MD (scene of many of the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks),
  • Police Chief Robert Villaseñor, Tucson, AZ (scene of 2011 attack on Rep. Gabby Giffords),
  • Police Chief Chris Burbank, Salt Lake City, UT (scene of the 2007 Trolley Square shooting),
  • Police Chief Janeé Harteau, Minneapolis, MN (scene of the 2012 Accent Signage Systems shooting),
  • Sheriff Douglas Gillespie, Las Vegas, NV (scene of the 2010 Federal Courthouse shooting),
  • Police Chief John Edwards, Oak Creek, WI (scene of the 2012 Sikh Temple shooting),
  • Sheriff Richard Stanek, Hennepin County, MN (scene of the 2003 Court Tower shooting),
  • Superintendent Garry McCarthy, Chicago, IL,
  • Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald from Story County, IA, and
  • Sheriff Larry Amerson from Calhoun County, AL

They discussed gun violence prevention in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, along with Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Biden’s chief of staff Bruce Reed.

Obama spoke for roughly three minutes about the importance of hearing from law enforcement leaders on the issue of gun violence and what communities across the country need from the federal government in order to curb the number of mass shootings throughout the the country.

Mr. Obama thanked the police chiefs and sheriffs for coming to the White House today and recalled the executive actions he took earlier this month, as well as his legislative goals, and called on Congress to work with the administration to pass them.

Transcript follows the jump.

Vice President Biden and I just want to thank the police chiefs and sheriffs who are here today representing law enforcement officials all across the country who obviously share our deep concern about issues of gun safety and how we can protect our communities and keep our kids safe.

A couple of weeks ago, I appeared along with Joe to present the administration’s ideas in terms of steps that we have to take. And I issued a number of executive actions that should be taken unilaterally in order to improve our collection of data to make sure that we’re coordinating more effectively with state and local governments, and to do everything that we could to improve the issue of gun safety and to make our communities safer.

But, as we’ve indicated before, the only way that we’re going to be able to do everything that needs to be done is with the cooperation of Congress. And that means passing serious laws that restrict the access and availability of assault weapons and magazine clips that aren’t necessary for hunters and sportsmen and those responsible gun owners who are out there. It means that we are serious about universal background checks. It means that we take seriously issues mental health and school safety.

We recognize that this is an issue that elicits a lot of passion all across the country. And Joe and my Cabinet members who have been involved in this have been on a listening session over the last several months. No group is more important for us to listen to than our law enforcement officials. They are where the rubber hits the road.

And so I welcome this opportunity to work with them; to hear their views in terms of what will make the biggest difference to prevent something like Newtown or Oak Creek from happening again. But many of them also recognize that it’s not only the high-profile mass shootings that are of concern here, it’s also what happens on a day-in-day-out basis in places like Chicago or Philadelphia, where young people are victims of gun violence every single day. That’s why part of the conversation that we’re going to be having today relates not only to the issue of new laws or better enforcement of our gun laws, it also means what are we doing to make sure that we’ve got the strongest possible law enforcement teams on the ground? What are we doing to hire more cops? What are we doing to make sure that they’re getting the training that they need? What are we doing to make sure our sheriff’s offices in rural counties have access to some of the resources that some of the big cities do in order to deal with some of these emergencies?

So I’m looking forward to a robust conversation. I know that this is not a shy group, mainly because they’re dealing with life-and-death situations every single day. But I’m very grateful to them for their participation. This is a representative group. It comes from a wide cross-section of communities across the country. And hopefully, if law enforcement officials who are dealing with this stuff every single day can come to some basic consensus in terms of steps that we need to take, Congress is going to be paying attention to them and we’ll be able to make progress.

Mussar: A Contemporary Path to a Spiritual Judaism

— by Miki Young

For many spiritual seekers, the complaint about Judaism is that it doesn’t seem like it has what it takes to be a springboard for a life of meaningful relevance. The lack of easily accessible contemporary theology seems to create a great divide between honoring the ancient and finding a way to appreciate the practice of Judaism as an integral part of everyday life. Other traditions and practices such as Buddhism, meditation and mindfulness seem to give both solace and a sense of growing personal empowerment that many Jewish practitioners seek in a harried time.

More after the jump.
Mussar, a daily spiritual practice based on an ethical concern for others does, in fact, tether that bridge between Jewish spirituality and religion.  Developed in 18th century Eastern Europe, Mussar which literally means “discipline” offers practitioners a way of looking at the world which transforms everyday actions into moments of holiness.

“I wanted to feel more spiritual about my life,” said Phyllis Jacobs, a student of Mussar Leadership, a program of Beth Zion Beth Israel in Philadelphia for the last four years. “But as a Jew I didn’t really know exactly what that meant. With Mussar, I’ve discovered a Jewish spiritual discipline with guideposts and reminders that help me to look at what’s important to me in the world, how I treat people. Mussar helps me to see something everyday that makes me feel like I am connected to something bigger than myself. In many ways, Mussar helps me to navigate my everyday life in a way that makes me more the person I really want to be.”

The pursuit of spirituality, defined as living a life that seems to offer a sense of something “bigger than oneself,” is a commonly expressed sentiment by those who attend the Mussar Leadership groups, held throughout the area and via videoconference in different parts of the country.  The tenuous connection often raised is how does practicing Judaism as an individual or even in a minyan really set the groundwork for that spiritual connection?

“Mussar is an incredible impactful practice for all of us who are living in an ethically, spiritually bankrupt society,” said Rabbi Ira Stone, who is considered one of the few contemporary Mussar theologians and authors in North America. The daily practice creates a very centered sense of mindfulness with regard to how we impact each other and the responsibility we must take for our own behavior and for each other. “Mussar is not the end but the beginning of a spiritual path,” he added. “It is a compelling reason for people to reengage in classical Jewish text and practice in a way that is often missing in the non-orthodox world.  And, I think through that engagement, we could actually save the world.”

The practice of Mussar is “catching on.” Synagogues of many different denominations have lectures, workshops and ongoing classes. At Mussar Leadership those classes are offered at synagogues and independent groups that are identified as Conservative, Jewish Renewal, Reconstructionist, Reform and unaffiliated.  Currently there is also a group of Rabbis in LA who are studying Mussar for their personal and communal development as well as training to be facilitators of the practice.

Many group participants said that their connection to Judaism has deepened as a result of attending Mussar groups.  “As part of this group, my level of study and interest in Judaism has certainly increased,” said Carol Daniels, who is training to be a Mussar madrich or group leader.  “I now study Torah and have a daily reflection of gratitude that has allowed me to use my own religion as a guide in my life that wasn’t available to me before.”

In addition to the benefit of becoming much more mindful about the responsibility a person has to society as a whole and to the individuals around him or her, participants say that the experience has given them a much deeper connection of community.

For Martin Jacobs who participates in a Mussar Leadership group at Or Hadash in Ft. Washington, what has been most valuable is finding connections with others and opening himself up to share the experiences of day-to-day life in a very safe, supportive environment.  “The insights others are able to give me about how I choose to live and act give me a very different viewpoint than I have by myself,” he said. His fellow group member Marianne Adler agrees.  “The group is key,” she said. “When I miss it I don’t like it.  Being part of the group is essential because I get to listen to everybody else and everybody has different things to work on and everybody brings something different to the group.”

Mussar Leadership groups are held at Beth Zion Beth Israel in center city and around the area.  For more information, email [email protected] or call 215-735-5148.

Additionally, Reclaiming Judaism is offering distance-learning certification programs for Jewish Educators that incorporate training in Mussar title 3 Mmm: Maggid, Mitzvah and Mussar.  

The Food Network’s Ninth Casting Season Begins In Philadelphia!

The Food Network is looking for those with a captivating personality who believe they’re at the top of the culinary game and want to inspire a Food Network audience through their passion for food and cooking!

Please find the details of our event below:

Philadelphia Open Casting Call
Date: November 8th, 2012
Time: 10am-2pm
Location: Loews Philadelphia Hotel
1200 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Please go online to apply and for more information on casting events!

32nd Annual Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival Nov. 3-18

Many of us are still without power after Hurricane Sandy, so why not make the best of the situation and enjoy a great movie.

For the 32nd consecutive year, the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival is treating our community to dozen exciting films sure to please over the next two weeks (November 3-18).

PJFF Fall Festival

Click on links above for summaries and trailers of all of the Fall films.

A second series of films “PJFF Documentaries and Dialog” is scheduled for this winter, and we are looking forward to the PJFF New Filmmakers Weekend, April 20-21, 2013. Stay tuned for details!

Southeastern Pennsylvania ADA Honors Three Progressive Women

The Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter of the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) awarded three veteran progressive women activists at a ceremony held in the home of Bruce and Carol Caswell in West Mount Airy, Philadelphia, on Saturday, October 13, 2012.

The honorees were State Representative Babette Josephs, City Council member Marion Tasco, and Shelly Yanoff, Director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth.

More after the jump.
Attending the event were such local political figures as State Representatives Cherelle Brown, Mark Cohen, and Vanessa Brown; City Controller Alan Butkovitz; City Commissioners Chair Stephanie Singer and Commissioner Al Schmidt; and City Council members Maria Quinones-Sanchez and Bill Greenlee.

Glenavieve Norton, Chair of Southeastern Pennsylvania ADA, opened the program, saying that the honorees “have had significant roles to play in relation to ADA over their storied careers.” ADA, said Norton, was “founded in 1947 by Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kenneth Galbraith, Walter Reuther, Arthur Schlesinger, and others. National ADA has played a prominent role in the advancement of Civil Rights, Labor Rights, education reform, anti-poverty efforts, and Wall Street deregulation, among other things.”

The Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter, added Norton, “has played an equally prominent role in the establishment of our City Charter, in the Rizzo Recall movement, the election of W. Wilson Goode as our city’s first Black mayor, the Casey Five campaign to elect reform judges to Commonwealth Court, and the successful campaign to prevent the takeover of public schools by a for-profit company, among other things.

“Today the values of ADA,” said Norton, “dedication to democratic principles and good government, and the advancement of social and economic justice, are under serious attack. We take this mater very seriously. We have participated, both as an organization and individually in the voter ID coalition and are championing ethics issues in education reform. We are continuing our work, and will continue our work, on redistricting (City Council districts). We are the only organization that specifically has as a goal addressing good government concerns; we do so as they arise, and as we observe them, in our work and in our lives.”

National Liberty Museum Honors Collectors


Honorees Bob and Shelby Ford are joined by Gwen Borowsky and Arlene Silver at the National Liberty Museum awards reception and dinner., where the Fords were honored for their devotion to glass sculpture and their support of the museum and its mission. Photo: Bonnie Squires

— by Bonnie Squires

What do you do when your world-class glass scupture collection outgrows your residence?  If your name is Irv Borowsky, you buy an historic former bank building in Philadelphia and transform it into the National Liberty Museum.  You commission Dale Chihuly to create a four-story glass chandelier which indicates the flame of revolution and the fragility of freedom.  And then you hold an annual Glass Art Weekend & Auction Gala, and you honor supporters of the museum who are themselves connoisseurs of glass sculpture.  This year’s awards reception and dinner honored Shelby and Bob Ford and Inna and Alex Friedman.  Artist Therman Statom, who does unique things with glass, was also honored.

More after the jump.


Irv Borowsky, founder of the National Liberty Museum, and his wife Laurie Wagman greeted guests at the awards reception at the museum. Photo: Bonnie Squires


Patrons of the National Liberty Museum, including Herb and Phyllis Victor, and  Rhea and Dr. Morton Mandell, came to pay tribute to their friends who were the evening’s honorees. Photo: Bonnie Squires

The Museum houses one of the world’s most important collections of contemporary glass art to make the point that freedom is beautiful and strong, like glass, but also extremely fragile.  Through this unique metaphor, students learn that it is their responsibility to protect our nation’s heritage of freedom by making good and productive choices in their everyday lives.

Over 400,000 young people from the Philadelphia region and beyond have visited the Museum since it opened its doors in the year 2000.  Building on that success, the Museum created character education outreach initiatives that bring its message directly to area middle schools.  One such program, the highly successful “Young Heroes Outreach Program,” is funded by the proceeds of the National Liberty Museum‘s Glass Art Weekend & Auction Gala.  The money raised provides staffing, computers, lesson plans and classroom materials.  It also goes to forming a “Young Heroes Club” at each school, which empowers the students to identify and solve real-life problems they face in their school and community.

The National Liberty Museum is grateful to the many collectors and artists who recognize their connection to the Museum’s mission by generously donating and purchasing work at the auction.  The glass art community has been a major supporter of the Museum from the very beginning and will certainly continue to be a factor in the Museum’s success in the years to come.

The National Liberty Museum is located in historic Philadelphia at 321 Chestnut St.  It is open 10am to 5pm Tuesday through Saturday and 12-6 pm on Sunday.  Hours extend to 7 days a week during the summer months.  The facility is fully wheelchair accessible.  

Rodin Museum Gala Attracts 350 Patrons


Chair of the Philadelphia Museum of Art trustees, the Honorable Constance Williams, joins His Excellency François Delattre, the French ambassador to the U.S., and Michael Scullin, Esq., Honorary French Consul in Philadelphia. Photo: Bonnie Squires.

— by Bonnie Squires

Jules Mastbaum, the Jewish philanthropist who, in the early 20th century, created and donated to the City of Philadelphia his fabulous collection of Rodin sculptures and the “jewel box” of a museum to house it, would have been very pleased with the number of Jewish philanthropists who turned out on September 15 for the Rodin Gala and fundraiser.

Mastbaum, who made his fortune as a movie theater mogul, spared no expense in having his “jewel box” of a Beaux Arts museum designed and built to house his collection.

More after the jump.  


Daniele Cohen, her husband Jerry Grossman, and her French-born friend Michele Rosen, who served on the Rodin Gala Committee. Photo: Bonnie Squires.


Committee members Hope Cohen (left) and Richard Green (middle), of Firstrust Bank, join Marina Kats, Esq. (right). Photo: Bonnie Squires.


(Left to right) Roberta and Carl Dranoff join  Constance Williams at the gala. Photo: Bonnie Squires.


(Left to right) Sheldon Margolis, committee members Jeanette and Joe Neubauer, and Marsha and Dr. Richard Rothman. Photo: Bonnie Squires.


Joyce and Dr. Herbert Kean. Photo: Bonnie Squires.


(Left to right) Lyn Ross and Leslie Anne Miller, Esq. Photo: Bonnie Squires


In the Balzac room at the Rodin Museum, Joe Rishel, of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum, welcomes (right) Iris Cantor, of the Iris and G. Bernard Cantor Foundation, and  (left) Iris’ friend Pamela Hoefflin. Photo: Bonnie Squires

The four-year restoration of the Rodin Museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway was guided by the original blueprints and now sparkles as it did when it first opened in the 1920s. Joe Rishel, the Art Museum’s curator of the Rodin Museum, escorted Iris Cantor, Chairman and President of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, to the gala. Her foundation, a major collector of Rodin sculptures, has loaned the massive “The Three Shades” to the museum, and it sits in the rejuvenated Rodin Museum gardens.

You could not walk two steps without bumping into either a patron of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which also runs the Rodin Museum, or a genuine Francophile.  In fact, the French Ambassador to the U.S., the Honorable François Delattre, was in cheerful attendance, along with Catherine Chevillot, Director of the Musée Rodin in Paris, and Michael Scullin, Esq., the Honorary French Consul in Philadelphia and Wilmington..

Among the 350 guests who paid a lot of money to attend the gala and to support the Rodin Museum at 22nd and the Parkway were many leaders of the Jewish community.  Many of them are also major donors at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and other arts and culture institutions in the region, including Lynne and Harold Honickman, Richard Green and Hope Cohen, Lyn Ross, and the chair of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Honorable Constance Williams.

After hors d’oeuvres and cocktails in the fabulous gardens, as well as remarks inside the totally restored museum, guests were treated to a gourmet dinner in a tent on the grounds of the museum.  Going from day to night, the sculptures and gardens glowed, first in sunlight, and then in artificial lights after sunset.





Admiring the sculptures are Judge Arlin Adams and his wife Neysa.
Photo: Bonnie Squires.



(Left to right) Alison Perelman, her mother Marsha Perelman, and friend Maya Capellan.
Photo: Bonnie Squires.



(Left to right) Lynne Honickman and Joyce deBoton
Photo: Bonnie Squires.