For Practically Professional Young Chefs

The Restaurant School Camp At Walnut Hill College  

— by Ronit Treatman

It’s January!  Time to snag a spot in the summer camp of your children’s choice!  One of Philadelphia’s hidden treasures is the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in University City.  It offers culinary camps for participants from age seven to fifteen.  I sent my three children to The Restaurant School camp a few years ago.  How did I decide that this would be a good choice for them?  I stopped at the Restaurant School’s Allison Mansion one day at lunchtime.  There, in the middle of what could have been a courtyard in Florence, I saw a chef instructor, surrounded by his students.  In one hand, he held a glass of red wine, in the other, a piece of chocolate.  I was ready to move in!  

More after the jump.

This is one of the best experiences I have ever provided my children with.  The first thing they learned was “safety in the kitchen.”  They were taught how to handle sharp chef’s knives properly, and how to avoid burning themselves.  Accident prevention in the kitchen was a big topic

Next, they were taught how to use knives and other kitchen implements.  They used these new skills when they chopped, sliced, and diced whatever they were preparing for lunch that day.  The whole school, students, faculty, and employees ate what was produced in the students’ kitchen.  This improved their math skills as they learned how to measure, and how to convert a recipe for four into a recipe for four hundred!

They learned about nutrition and preparing balanced meals.  Most importantly, they learned how to prepare food that was delicious!  Their flavor horizons were expanded, as they were encouraged to work with and taste foods that were not indigenous to our home kitchen.  Their classmates were an international assortment.  They came from the city, suburbs, and other states.  My children got to exchange ideas with all sorts of people.

One of the best benefits of this camp was the box of delicious food that would come home each day with the campers.  Samples of what was cooked were sent home for the whole family to try.  Cookies, pies, and chocolate truffles (prepared with the finest liquor!) didn’t even make it to the house.  The box of treats was passed around the car, as everything was consumed with gusto.  

What did the kids get from all this?  They cooked an amazing Passover Seder that year, completely unsupervised.  On the menu were Persian almond-saffron chicken, Moroccan lamb, coconut macaroons, hazelnut torte with apricot preserves, and a very decadent flourless dark chocolate cake.  They exhibited amazing teamwork, and were justifiably proud of themselves.  So plan a little escape for yourself and stop by the Restaurant School someday.  They have a model bakery (that challah really needs work!) and model restaurants where meals are cooked by the culinary students.  You can try some of their inexpensive treats and get a feel for the place.  This is one of the most outstanding camps I have ever sent my children to.  I highly recommend it.

Philadelphia Marriott Downtown to host over 900 Jewish teens December 25-29

Over 900 Jewish high school students from across North America will gather in Philadelphia December 25-29 for United Synagogue Youth’s annual international convention.  The convention, the largest annual gathering of Jewish young people, wraps up a year of events marking USY’s 60th anniversary, and will include an attempt – expected to be successful – to achieve the official world record for the most dreidels spun simultaneously in the same room; remarks by Gen. Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, the highest ranking Jewish member of the U.S. military; and student participation in community service work in Philadelphia.

United Synagogue’s organization for middle and high school students was established in 1951, and since then it has given Jewish teenagers the opportunity to come together to celebrate and learn about Judaism, develop a sense of Jewish identity, acquire leadership skills, and build lifelong friendships.  It has become one of the largest and most active Jewish youth groups in the world.

“Part of our objective is to teach the Jewish values of g’milut hasadim (performing acts of loving-kindness for others) and tikkun olam, which is, literally, repairing the world,” said Karen Stein, USY Convention Director.  “We make a positive impact on the surrounding community while teaching our youth the importance of helping others, regardless of faith or race.  It’s amazing how the positive energy generated by students’ experiences at Convention can have an impact for months afterward.  USYers return to their regions and chapters full of new ideas that give a real boost to the level of programming and involvement in USY.”

This year’s convention will feature volunteer opportunities for participants in community projects all over Philadelphia, including:

  • Stuffing stuffed animals for children in Israeli hospitals
  • Creating greetings to accompany Passover baskets to be sent to families in need
  • Learning to become a mitzvah clown for healing and laughter projects
  • Advocating for Israel
  • Engaging in sensitivity training on disabilities and Judaism
  • Collecting food for donation
  • Spending time with senior citizens
  • Supporting United Synagogue’s lone soldier program for non-Israeli soldiers serving in Israel’s armed forces
  • Collecting blankets for hospitalized children
  • Participating in the Israel Guide Dog Center program which trains seeing eye dogs
  • Bringing at-risk teenagers together in intercultural dialogue through the Camden Love/Hate program

As students come together to share in the traditions of Chanukah, they will endeavor to achieve the official world record for the most dreidels spun simultaneously in the same room.  The current record of 618 was set by Yeshiva University students last year.

“USY provides a positive forum for social, educational and religious programming for thousands of teens,” said Jules Gutin, USY Director.  “The annual USY International Convention allows hundreds of teenagers to come together with staff to share experiences and learn from each other in an environment that celebrates the best of Conservative Judaism – community, social action, learning, and, of course, fun.”

The students who attend also will enjoy:

  • Reunions with fellow summer program and camp participants
  • Celebration of a special musical tribute to USY’s 60th anniversary
  • Developing new friendships across the continent
  • Leadership training
  • Creative and inspiring prayer experiences
  • The election and installation of new international board officers
  • An address to students by Gen. Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, and the highest ranking Jewish member of the U.S. military

Sixty years after its founding, USY, and Kadima, its program for middle school students, continue to play a significant role in shaping the lives of young Conservative Jews and future Jewish leaders.  Tens of thousands of young people have been USY members, and USY alumni have risen to significant leadership roles, serving in the United States Congress, as CEOs of major corporations, and as presidents of influential Jewish organizations and prominent universities.

“USYers come to the International Convention because it is a tremendous opportunity to see old friends and make new ones from all across North America,” said Daniel (DJ) Kaplan of Orange, Ohio, 2011 USY International President.  “Convention is a great place to exchange ideas – there is a good chance that what works in one place can help another USY chapter’s program somewhere else.”

  • WHAT: USY International Convention
  • WHO: Over 900 Jewish high school students from across North America
  • WHEN: Sunday, December 25, 2011 through Thursday, December 29, 2011
  • WHERE: Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, 1201 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

A program of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, United Synagogue Youth provides a social, religious and educational forum where high school students can explore and celebrate their Judaism, live Jewish lives in accordance with Jewish ethics and values, and become better members of the Jewish and greater communities in which they live, all in the context of the Conservative movement.


How Chamin (Ancient Sabbath Stew) Came To Philadelphia

— by Ronit Treatman

Please enjoy this clip I filmed about how chamin (Portuguese cholent) came to Philadelphia.  It was filmed at Stenton Mansion, one of the best-preserved colonial homes in Philadelphia.  I would like to extend my special thanks to Marlene Samoun for permitting me to use her soulful rendition of the ladino folk song Morenika in this clip.

Jewish contact with Spain may go as far back as the Kingdom of Solomon.  It is thought that Southern Spain was the country of Tarshish.  Tarshish was the furthest place west that people could sail to from Ancient Israel in Biblical times.  There was a continuous Jewish presence in Spain until March 31, 1492.  

Recipes and more after the jump.

This was when the Alhambra Decree was issued, ordering the expulsion of the Jews from the Kingdom of Spain.  The majority of these exiles moved to Portugal, but they were expelled from Portugal in 1498.  As a result, the Spanish Jewish community was dispersed.  A large number of these Jews navigated the 8.9 miles across the Straits of Gibraltar and resettled in the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya).  A much smaller number ventured to America.  

They brought a very ancient dish with them.  Its oldest name is chamin, which comes from the Hebrew word “cham” which means “hot.”  Chamin is a dish that evolved so that Jews could comply with the rule of not kindling a flame on the Sabbath.  In the Mishnah it says “tomnim et ha’chamim.”  This oral tradition instructed Jewish people to “bury the hot.”  In the countries of the Maghreb, the Arabic word for “buried” or “dafina” was adopted for this dish.  No matter where they resettled, these Spanish and Portuguese exiles continued to cook the same special festive Sabbath dish.  The Jews who settled in Eastern Europe continued this tradition under a different name.  Their special Sabbath dish is called cholent.  This name is believed to derive from the Hebrew word “she’lan” which means “rested overnight.”  Several famous European dishes derive from chamin such as the French cassoulet, and the Spanish cocido madrileño.

As the days grow colder, chamin is the perfect comfort food to prepare for Shabbat.  I have a very special recipe to share with you.  My daughter, who is spending a trimester in Israel, enjoyed home hospitality with the Ben Moshe family.  Mrs. Yasmin Ben Moshe welcomed her Shabbat guests with her special Tunisian chamin.  She has generously agreed to share her recipe with us. This recipe has been passed down orally in the Ben Moshe family for generations.  Enjoy!

Mrs. Yasmin Ben Moshe’s Tunisian Chamin

  • 2 1/2 cups wheat berries
  • 2 pounds of cubed lamb
  • 6 potatoes
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, in their shells
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste

Soak the wheat berries in water for one hour.  In a large pot, mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil with ¼ tablespoon of sugar.  Cook over high heat until the sugar caramelizes.  Add 2 1/2 cups of water, 2 teaspoons of paprika, and 2 teaspoons of cumin.  Bring to a boil, then add the wheat berries, and salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer until all of the liquid has been absorbed.  Add the cubed lamb and cover with water.  Add the eggs and potatoes.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 1/2 hour.  Set aside and prepare the dumplings and sausage.

Kouclas (Dumplings)

  • 1 cup cubed lamb fat
  • 1 cup ground bulgur wheat
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1 egg

In a pan, heat the olive oil, and then add the lamb fat.  When it is hot, add the garlic, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper, stirring well.  Stir in the cup of ground bulgur wheat.  Remove from heat.  Mix in the minced parsley and egg.  Blend everything together until it becomes a dough.  Form the dough into little round dumplings and place in the Chamin pot.

Machshi  (Sausage)

  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • 1/4 cup minced dill
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Vegetable casing or cotton straining cloth (cheesecloth)
  • Cotton twine

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.  Form a loaf with the mixture, and stuff it into the vegetable casing, or wrap it in the cheesecloth.  Tie both ends with twine.  Place in the chamin pot.  Make sure that all the ingredients are covered with water.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cover the chamin pot tightly and place in the oven overnight.  It should cook for 24 hours.

Serve the eggs and potatoes first.  Spoon plenty of gravy over them.  Offer salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper so each diner can spice it to taste.

Then serve the wheat berries, lamb, dumplings (kouclas), and sliced sausage (machshi).

As you experience your first taste of this chamin you will understand the wisdom of the old Ladino proverb:

Cuanto mas tienes, mas quieres.

The more you have, the more you want. and
534 South 4th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
326 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Sunday-Thursday: 11AM to 10PM
Friday: 11AM to 4PM (Summer) 10AM to 2PM (Winter)

Online Delivery:

An Embarrassment Of Kosher Riches On South Street

— by Ronit Treatman

Finally, kosher and organic can go on a date!  I was strolling down South Street, when I stumbled upon and  “Glatt Kosher” was painted in large letters on the windows.  Of course I had to try them both!  I discovered two places where the standard for both kashrut and food quality meet the expectations of a Higher Authority.  

I stepped into the restaurant, and was immediately taken by the stylish hardwood floors, granite countertops, and eye popping accent colors.  This place is definitely fun!  The free-range organic meat is imported from Uruguay.  I was impressed with the perfectly cooked to order, juicy lamb burger I had selected, served with a generous portion of French fries.  You can order free-range beef, chicken, and turkey patties.  They also have wild catch fish and vegetarian burgers.  You could go with their selection of sandwiches, hummus, fries, and salads as well. Soon, it will be possible to have the total soda fountain experience.  In about a week, will begin serving pareve milk shakes and ice cream.  If for any reason you become disgruntled while dining here, you can have the experience of the electronics customers in the You Don’t Mess With The Zohan movie.  You can cross the street and get your dinner at the competing kosher establishment:

More after the jump. is owned by the same gentlemen who brought us  Eyal Aranya and Yoni Nadav were inspired to establish these restaurants because of their love of good food. They have gained two toeholds in Society Hill.  At I sampled Israeli influenced rotisserie chicken and schnitzel.  They were moist and perfectly seasoned.  I was impressed with the colorful, crunchy selection of Middle Eastern salads, freshly prepared on the premises. is a miniature version of  If there is a large party, and some people want chicken and others prefer burgers, will accommodate all the diners. and are very stringent in their adherence of the laws of kashrut.  They each have an on-site mashgiach, Rabbi Dov A. Brisman.  Their Kosher Certification is from The Community Kashrus of Greater Philadelphia.    For those who have very observant relatives, or would rather let someone else do the cooking, a glatt kosher Rosh Hashanah catering menu will be available shortly.  

As I ate my lamb burger, I looked around the restaurant and took in the atmosphere.  There was a table full of teenagers from USY.  Middle-aged couples were enjoying an evening out on the town.  An attractive young couple may have been out on their first date.  Next time you make plans to go out, you don’t have to choose.  You can find kosher, and organic, and delicious!

The President’s Pennsylvania Problem

Crossposted from DemConWatch.

Obama has his polling problems. In Pennsylvania, his approval rating has fallen to 46/48, his approval amoung Democrats is below the national average and PPP says:

Obama's poll numbers are worse in Pennsylvania than they are in places like Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, and New Mexico, all states that went Republican in 2004 even as Pennsylvania voted Democratic. The President's persistently poor numbers in a state that's gone Democratic in every Presidential election for the last 24 years probably make Pennsylvania the place where Obama should be most concerned about his current standing.

PPP goes on to attribute Obama's problem to Hillary Democrats. PPP also has bad news for Obama in North Carolina. Florida, even with Rick Scott, is not any more friendly.

There is something more concerning about Pennsylvania than the polling numbers, though, and that's the dollar numbers. First, let's look at the 2008 vote totals by county:


Philadelphia is actually the little blue area where the last “a” in “Philadelphia” is located. The big blue area to the left is Delaware County, To the left of Delaware County is Chester County, Above that, the dark blue is Montgomery County, and the light blue on the right is Bucks County. This is what gave Obama his win of the state with 54.7% of the vote, with, yes, an assist to the north, plus Pittsburgh, Erie and State College. 

Let's look at the money raised in 2008: (data from Open Secrets, all numbers rounded)

Totals 2008, Pennsylvania, $25.3 million collected statewide:

Top recipients:

Obama $ 11.4 million
McCain $ 4.6 million
Clinton $ 4.3 million
Giuliani $1 .3 million
Biden  $ 950,000
Romney $ 650,000

Overall for the Philadelphia Region (the counties cited above, plus the counties of Gloucester, Camden and Burlington in Southern NJ):

Obama $ 8.5 million
McCain $ 2.7 million

While other candidates received funding (for example, Romeny received $ 476,000) if you look at the ratio of Obama to McCain money, it's about 76% to 24%. 

In the top 4 zip codes, these were the Obama/McCain splits:

19103 (Philadelphia)
     Obama $ 557,000 (85%)
     McCain $ 98,000 (14%)
19010 (Philadelphia)
     Obama $ 307,000 (70%)
     McCain $ 129,000 (30%)
19087 (Wayne)
     Obama $ 264,000 (65%)
     McCain $ 139,000 (35%)
19085 (Villanova)
     Obama $ 186,000 (57%)
     McCain $ 137,000 (42%)

The Philadelphia Inquirer (17 July 2011, p. A3) took a look at the 2011 Q2 money in the Philadelphia area. (The counties above from PA and NJ.) Overall, Obama collected $ 227,190 and Romney collected $ 204,000. An additional $ 125,000 was taken in, in descending order by Santorum (PA only, he didn't get a dime in south Jersey), Paul, Pawlenty, Gingrich, Cain, Bachman and Johnson. The split here is 53%/47%, Obama to Romney. That's a little concerning. 

Also of concern is the money collected in the top ten zip codes. The data is arranged from most to least money, and identical zip codes are highlighted. All cities/town in Pennsylvania unless otherwise noted.


If you do the math, you'll find out that Romney collected $ 117,150 and Obama collected $ 85,193. Now admittedly, Obama tends to raise money from smaller donors, while Romney collects from larger donors. Thus, it's very likely that more humans (and ergo voters) donated to Obama than Romney. Further, it's early and the economy is in a completely different solar system than it was in 2007. But there are these two things…

The two most concerning zips to me are 19103 and 19087. 19103 (map) is part of Center City, and there is a concentration of über rich there, which can account for the relatively large Mittens draw. But it's also a very young area, with the largest proportion of residents being between 25 and 30 years old. (Source) Like I said, concerning.

And then there's Wayne. Zip code 19087 has an interesting history. It, along with zip code 19335 had their geographic areas defined well BEFORE zip codes were designated in the 1960's, by two very enterprising Postmasters. It used to be that the Postmasters were paid based on how many people received mail.  These guys took HUGE land areas, back when properties were large, even though the population wasn't there. Currently, 19087 is in three counties (Chester, Delaware and Montgomery). It's rich. It's educated. Data here. Most of all, though, it was an Obama stronghold in 2008. Again, like I said, concerning. 

More after the jump.

I live in 19087. And I know what the deal is here. For a candidate to win a precinct, or a zip code, a county or a state takes one of two things: a hugely strong, well-organized, on-message, well-funded candidate organization or an incredibly well-run, lock-step local party organization (think political machine). A combination of the two is optimal, but incredibly rare. 

In 2008, the Obama campaign officially arrived to our area on 1 April. Prior to that, Steering Committees had been put into place, including fund raising arms, outreach had been accomplished to online Obama support groups, and virtually no formal contact had been made with the local Democratic organizations, except to certain individuals who spanned both the Steering, etc., committees and the local organizations. 

The first full week, locations were operational and hundred of pairs of boots were on the ground, calling, fund-raising, holding voter drives, door knocking, lit dropping. This was, you may remember, for a primary. It became more intense after the primary: no one left, more paid interns were dropped on the area. 

The local organizations across the counties were split between Obama and Clinton, but most fell in line after the primary. However, the canvass, phone bank, fundraising and all other aspect's organization and leadership came exclusively from the campaign. This was a problem for the primary in Philadelphia as the Obama campaign refused to work in concert with the machine, which held down Obama's numbers in the city. The mistake was not repeated in the general.

OFA is still here: they have some events, do some phone banking and fund raising. Their numbers are far below what they were in 2008. And support, as shown by polls, fundraising totals, and general conversation is well below the last campaign. A lot of people who worked, and worked HARD in 2008, won't be doing it again. Obama cannot win Pennsylvania without winning Philadelphia and running up huge numbers in the surrounding counties. This is more important this year given the decreased population in southwest Pennsylvania. He cannot win Delaware nor Chester Counties without their parts of zip 19087. (He can still win Montco without 19087.) 

Q2 fundraising, and the current polling data should be a wake-up call for the campaign. While Pennsylvania has gone blue for the last five presidential elections, the 2010 elections were a rout: we lost the Assembly, Senate, Governor's Mansion, a Senate seat, and four House seats. All that, and current statewide Democratic registration is 50.8%. (Since you want to know, its 37% GOP, with the rest minor parties or unaligned.) 

The local Democratic organizations will not be of much help. They are fractured: disheartened by 2009 and 2010, split by a very ugly Democratic Congressional primary in 2010, underfunded, and without a functional GOTV program. This means that OFA has to hit here hard, and start culling support if Pennsylvania is to stay blue for the 6th presidential election in a row. 

Will this happen? It's uncertain, and the is a microcosm of what could conceivably cost Obama the 2012 election. Sure, there's a lot of time, and Mittens may well not be the candidate. That would be good for Obama as he polls much better against all the other current characters. But no matter who the Republican is, Obama still needs to get his people out, ground up, as worked in 2008. To win here, Obama needs people like me. I gave money, collected money, ran voter drives, ran a call center, canvassed, fielded canvassers, housed an intern, blogged, and above all, got my people out. From March to the election, I conservatively put 30 hours a week into Obama's campaign. Obama has about 8 months to win me over: I'm hoping…

Jewish Gay Pride Strong at Philadelphia Parade

Dignity characterized Philadelphia's Gay Pride Parade yesterday. Each group marching past the review stands at Independence Mall stood tall and in the thousands, reflecting a growing and strong array of social service, religious and artistic, family and corporate support for equality across the full range of gender. 

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice was on the scene with a substantial booth at the six hour Penn's Landing party into which the parade participants and observers poured. Why? Rabbi Janet Marder put the matter most succinctly to my mind in the October 1985 issues of the Reconstructionist Magazine: "Reverence for tradition is no virtue when it promotes injustice and human suffering." All afternoon long, Jews and non-Jews of all ages and gender orientations came over to appreciate and explore our Jewish presence. We could see representatives of Beth Ahavah, the Delaware Valley's only gay and lesbian synagogue, as busy as we, across the courtyard. 

The progress in GBLTQ acceptance in Jewish life is substantial, albeit incomplete and insufficient. Since the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College led the way with unconditional ordination of gay and lesbian students in 1984, all the movements, save for for Orthodoxy have found their way to inclusive rites and ordinations. A few summers back National Havurah Institute offered programming to raise awareness of the leadership, challenges and needs of transgender Jews. In Jewish Renewal inclusion has long been manifest and encoded within its ethical platform.
"I'm so glad you're here," was what we heard over and over at the parade yesterday. We're offering a free raffle through the end of June with one of the prizes a free commitment ceremony with trimming donated from the flowers, cake, clothes and more.
More after the jump.

Yes, Judaism is big on family and commitment, so it was a joy to hear many share that they'd already undertake a Jewish commitment ceremony with their local Philadelphia rabbi. And we often heard comments such as these: "Reb Goldie, did you know that our rabbi is out and she's amazing! and "Ours isn't a gay synagogue, our rabbi is gay. We're an everyone synagogue and we love our rabbi." 
Echoing in every moment, for me, was the memory of being a married student attending the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote back in the 1980s when gay and lesbian ordination was coming up for a vote in the moment. Accustomed to heterosexual privilege, my heart broke that a vote on the humanity and Jewish authenticity of those around me. As a student body we rallied together, making sure airfares were available to get all possible voters down to the decision-making body that would be meeting in Florida. How could a Jewish human's right to ordination could possibly be an issue if they were succeeding in their training and studies? Faculty and movement leaders held educational programs to help members prepare for the vote. Gay and lesbian ordination passed by an overwhelming majority.
The Reconstructionist movement report mentioned early in this report states: "Traditional Judaism spoke of the widow, the orphan, the deaf, and the blind as those most in need of protection. Justice for the vulnerable is a test of the ultimate values of a community or society. Jewish sources, prayers and rituals continually remind us that we were once vulnerable as a people, enslaved in Egypt. We speak of having been strangers in the land of Egypt .At various later points in Jewish history, we have been vilified and oppressed for no reason other than our identity as Jews. As a consequence, a major theme of Jewish tradition is the obligation to be sensitive to the needs of … those that society views as outcast. The Jewish people has a special concern about just and fair treatment …"
One of the many parade delegations is called PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. This year PFLAG was one of the smallest groups marching, which I find a cause for concern. Showing up and standing up for our neighbors' humanity, and in every extended family, the rights of those we love, is part of what it means to live a mitzvah-centered life. Next year, if you didn't this year, join us in "coming out" as Jews who do not accept discrimination as an acceptable way of life. 

Photo: Barry Bub.

Take A Walk Through Philadelphia’s Jewish History

— by Simmi Hurwitz

Enjoy the warmer weather by strolling through Philadelphia’s historic Jewish neighborhoods. If you come from Philadelphia, chances are that you once had a close family member living in the Jewish Quarter. Take a tour of memories when South Street was the center of Jewish life in the trendy part of Philadelphia now called Society Hill.

Professionally, I lead tours of Jewish Historic Philadelphia, and this is what LimmudPhilly hired me to do. As a presenter at the LimmudPhilly held in February, I felt like I learned as much as I taught.

The participants were a varied group in age, gender and knowledge.  Some added their experience, some simply took in each word with relish.

Hired by AJC in 1995 by Murray Friedman, I am the link with “continuity of identity” that is part of the mission of this great organization.  Actually my husband always says my mission is to convince people that everyone in the history of the city is Jewish.  He might have a point.

More after the jump.

We started our walk at the Gershman Y at Broad and Pine Streets, and made our way to the Mikveh Israel Cemetery.  It is a hidden treasure with some notable Philadelphians buried there, including Rebecca Gratz and Haym Saloman, as well as more than twenty war veterans  —  Revolutionary War veterans, that is.

We then headed to the old Jewish Quarter of the city —  a small area which was actually a ghetto without walls within our city from 1892-1920.  We talked in front of the 4 remaining synagogues,  several old businesses that
once flourished, and an old “shvitz” or two for good measure.

As I get older, my religion means more to me.  If we could get this feeling as children, how wonderful our future would look as a people.  Limmud is helping to generate this feeling.  Keep up the good work!

Contact AJC 215 665-2300 for more information.  Tours are by appointment.

Census 2010: Philadelphia Population Changes

Stephen Von Worley looked at 2010 Census data and compared it to the 2000 Census. Here is Philadelphia. Red indicates blocks whose population went down (solid red is complete depopulation), blue indicates blocks whose population increased (solid red indicates a doubling in population), and white indicates areas that did not have population in either census.

Check out other cities at Data Pointed. Philadelphia is unusual in that it does not show the general pattern of a red urban center surrounded by a ring of blue suburbs.

8th District City Council Candidate Howard Treatman Open House Sunday

Howard Treatman his wife Ronit , and their three children, Devorah, David and Hannah at their home in Germantown.

Howard Treatman, the newest candidate for City Council in the 8th District, which encompasses the heart of Northwest Philadelphia, filed his candidacy, turning in more than 2,200 petition signatures. Treatman, who has spent his professional life creating jobs and developing quality housing options, is running to increase jobs and community development in the District. Treatman, who has never run for office before and is a respected community leader, will open his campaign office on Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy later this week.

“I am running for City Council because for too long, political insiders have been more focused on their elections and not on the needs of our residents.  We can not keep doing things the way we have been if Philadelphia is going to be a place where people want to live and businesses want to grow. I’m going to work very hard to introduce myself to voters and bring new ideas to the debate. With no incumbent in the race and no clear frontrunner, this could be the most competitive race this year.”

Treatman’s real estate firm has created jobs and provided quality homes in cities all over America.  He recently completed a two-year term as president of Germantown Jewish Centre in West Mt. Airy and he sits on the board and real estate committee of Mt. Airy USA. The organization is currently working with developers to build a new mixed use development on the long-blighted corner of Chew Avenue and Washington Lane. Howard lives with his wife Ronit and three kids in Germantown, where the family has resided for 17 years.

“Across the District, the voters I’ve been speaking with have been concerned with bringing development back to our vacant land and our empty storefronts,” Treatman said. “They want safer streets, better schools and more jobs. They’re looking for someone independent in City Hall, someone who will represent their interests, not the same insiders who have stood in the way of progress. I intend to run a very aggressive campaign over the next ten weeks, and I intend to win.”

Writing for Philadelphia Magazine’s Philly Post blog Wednesday, Mt. Airy resident Sam Katz declared Treatman “a dark horse” in the race and predicted a Treatman victory.

“Howard jumped into the race later than the other candidates, but we’re right alongside the frontrunners now in terms of our campaign structure,” campaign manager and 8th District native David Scholnick said. “When we got started, the political insiders didn’t know who he was, but now there’s a lot of interest in the campaign, and our opponents have taken notice.”

The week began with a big final push for petitions, and on Tuesday the campaign turned in more than 2,200 signatures-almost triple the 75o required to be on the ballot. The same day, Alan Tu of wrote, in the first news story about the campaign, “Howard Treatman is basing his bid for Philadelphia City Council on thinking big.” The media attention continued on Wednesday when Philly Post praised Treatman’s independence in its roundup of the City Council races.

The campaign launched its website, yesterday, and began adding fans on Facebook.

“My campaign is pushing forward and pulling together a lot of support,” Treatman said. “From one end of the district to the other, the people I’ve spoken with are eager for new ideas and a new face in City Council, and that’s exactly what I bring to this race.”

Open House at Campaign Office

This Sunday,  8th District City Council candidate Howard Treatman will host an open house at his new campaign office on Germantown Avenue in Mt. Airy. Voters will have the opportunity to meet the candidate and enjoy light refreshments.

  • Sunday, March 13, 2011, 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
  • Treatman for Council Campaign Office,  7151 Germantown Avenue, 2nd floor, Philadelphia, PA 19119.

Howard Treatman is a Philadelphia native who has lived and raised a family in Germantown for the past 17 years. A successful businessman and political newcomer, Howard has always been dedicated to community service and neighborhood improvement in Philadelphia.

Howard has always made community service a priority, and it has been his second career. Howard recently finished a two-year term as President of Germantown Jewish Centre, a congregation dedicated to social action and community partnership. He is a board member of Mt. Airy USA and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, and he is an active member of West Chelten Neighbors.

Howard grew up in Lower Merion and graduated from Friends’ Central School. He couldn’t wait to move into Philadelphia. He majored in Design of the Environment at the University of Pennsylvania and went on to Cornell Law School where he earned his J.D. in 1986. After law school, he moved back to Philadelphia, where he co-founded Harvest Equities, a national real estate development and investment firm.

During his 25-year career, he has made projects happen that have created jobs and improved urban neighborhoods all over the country. He has been involved in major urban redevelopment projects in cities such as Boston, Baltimore, Denver, Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston and San Antonio. Through his work with multi-family apartments, he has provided quality housing for thousands.

At Mt. Airy USA, Howard also serves on its Real Estate Committee. Mt, Airy USA has led the way to establishing the Germantown Avenue Streetscape project and the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District. The organization works to target vacant and blighted storefronts for redevelopment and provides housing counseling and foreclosure prevention assistance. Howard, through his work at Mt. Airy USA, is currently developing the Mt. Airy Transit Village, a mixed-use project on a long blighted lot at Chew Ave. and Washington Lane.

As a President and board member of Germantown Jewish Centre, Howard’s proudest accomplishments were building community and moving the Centre to a sustainable financial model. The Centre is active in international social movements, such as the Darfur Relief Coalition, as well as local initiatives such as the Henry School Project and the Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network, which provides temporary housing in the synagogue for homeless families. A cornerstone of the community with a congregation of over 500 families, the Centre was a founding member of the Neighborhood Interfaith Movement.

Howard lives in Germantown with his wife Ronit , and their three children, Devorah, David and Hannah. His commitment to our neighborhoods and his dedication to public service are the values that led Howard to enter the race for City Council. From his experience, he knows what it takes to create investment and jobs. It is this experience and vision that he will take to City Council. Howard will bring integrity, fresh ideas and an indep

Gei Oni, a film review

Gei Oni, directed by Dan Wolman
(2010, 105 minutes, Hebrew, Yiddish, and Arabic with English subtitles)

— Ben Burrows

Gei Oni, a film by Israeli producer-director Dan Wolman, was shown this weekend at Drexel University as part of the Philadelphia Israeli Film Festival. Wolman introduced the film, and took questions afterward. A film of light or darkness, of wide expanses or of tightly enclosed spaces, the cinematography is gorgeous, and focuses the audience on its major characters, Fania and Yechiel, with its deceptively simple visual palette. Fania arrives in Jaffa from late 19th century Russia with her baby daughter in tow, accompanied by Shuvale Mandelstam, who may be her husband, but later claims to be her uncle. They are fleeing the Russian pogrom, which killed Fania’s parents, and which has driven her brother Lolik mad and silenced. They are surprised when their relative in Jerusalem has not come to meet them at the port, and Shuvale travels to Jerusalem — only to find his relative, a newspaper editor, has fallen on hard times — so the new immigrants must rely on the charity of strangers. While Fania waits for Shuvale to return, she meets Yechiel, a recently widowed local farmer with two children from his previous marriage. Yechiel is clearly stricken by Fania’s beauty, although he must know she possesses few household skills, when she causes a small explosion while lighting a lantern near the hotel where she waits for Shuvale to return. A marriage is quickly arranged and celebrated, but there is a dark secret which prevents Fania from consummating the relationship. She tells Yechiel that she still mourns the death of her daughter’s father. Yechiel decides to accept her reluctance for the time being, and accepts responsibility to support her brother Lolik. Shuvale retires from the scene, and the new family returns to Yechiel’s village of Jauni.

More after the jump.
Wolman admitted during questioning to a number of interests in making this movie, from the novel Gei Oni by Shulamit Lapid. He wanted to portray a time when Jews actually purchased land from their Arab neighbors. He was interested in the positive romantic aspects of the novel, and did not include Yechiel’s death from malaria or Fania’s remarriage, as dramatic over-complications. He wanted to portray the different Jewish, Syrian Christian, and Arab Muslim cultures coexisting uncomfortably, with different levels of communication layered by the different practical experiences of male and female experience. As I watched the story unfold, I could not help but see parallels between the story of Fania and Yechiel with the stories of Sarah and Avraham. For so long as they pretended that Sarah was Avraham’s sister, the patriarchal couple brought plague to the land of Egypt, where they were sojourning. For so long as Fania kept her secret shame from Yechiel, one misfortune after another befalls the little settlement of Jauni. The Zionist and Biblical patriarchal couples seem equally distant to the modern eye, and both situations are resolved by a return to the Land, the Divine provision of additional people and resources, and the discovery of their mutual love for one another. By the final scene, Yechiel and Fania have brought new life into the world, and the village has begun to produce wheat from their rocky and difficult terrain.

Gei Oni is celebrated as an early feminist Israeli novel. The Jewish Women’s Archive describes Lapid’s Fania and her place in Israeli literature:

After several collections of short stories, Lapid first gained readers’ attention with her popular novel, … , which was the first Israeli book to be labelled “feminist.” Its feminism is, however, displaced, the action taking place in Palestine of the 1890s, thereby establishing a precedent in Israeli fiction for masking feminist protest by historical distancing. Framed in a narrative about first-settlers struggling with a harsh motherland, in a culture that kept gender roles distinct and separate, Lapid’s heroine, Fania, stands out in her attempt to cross boundaries. She is both mother and merchant, venturing out on the road alone, even defending herself against armed Arab horsemen when attacked.

The author had a life of her own, and made a family with Tommy Lapid, of blessed memory. Tommy Lapid was a member of the Knesset, and a champion of secular Shinui Party, which fought the influence of haredi restrictions into everyday Israeli life. Later in life, Tommy Lapid directed Yad VaShem: Preserving the Past to Ensure the Future.

Gei Oni had a difficult time finding distribution in Israel, despite Wolman’s extensive oeuvre, and his track record at attracting audiences. After being rejected multiple times, Wolman at last found a distributor willing to show his film. When Wolman saw the terms of his contract however, he saw that he might never be paid a cent, after the costs of the distributor (never enumerated) were subtracted off the top. When Wolman asked for a more specific enumeration of costs, or for an estimate of audience head count which might be required to achieve some payback, none was forthcoming. It was then that Wolman decided to arrange for his own private distribution of the film, at theaters who had shown his films in the past. He wrote and emailed everyone he could, and urged his friends to see the film in the first two weeks, explaining his predicament. The guerrilla distribution plan worked, and the film’s success in Israel has brought the film here to Philadelphia.