A Tale of Two Readings: Lisa Grunberger to Read From Her Work

Philadelphia’s arts and culture life is, to use Ernest Hemingway’s felicitous phrase, “a moveable feast.” Writer and award-winning poet Lisa Grunberger has contributed to this life of art and culture since she moved to Philadelphia nine years ago.

Lisa Grunberger

Lisa Grunberger

Grunberger, the Arts & Culture editor of The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, is an assistant professor of English at Temple University. She has published two books: the poetry collection Born Knowing, and the modern Jewish folktale Yiddish Yoga: Ruthie’s Adventures in Love, Loss and the Lotus Position. Grunberger will be presenting her works in Philadelphia at both a poetry reading (October 8) and a book reading (October 15). [Read more…]

Poet Responds to Jerusalem Municipal WOW Ruling

The Jerusalem District Court ruled in [April] that women praying at the Western Wall with prayer shawls and tefillin does not constitute a violation of “local custom” or a provocation, and therefore, no justification exists for detaining and interrogating women who engage in these practices. [Haaretz] Poet Jennifer Rudick Zunikoff’s response arrives in verse:


Women wearing tefillin and talit at the Western Wall. Photo: Michal Patelle.

Jerusalem Knows My Name

I can pray,
I can dance
While wearing purple and gold
In the shadow of King David’s Tower,
Because this City of Gold
This City of Peace
This Jerusalem, is
My city.
Its stones are smooth from my caress.
Its alleyways
Recognize my footsteps.
Its people
Know my name.
The Shekhina sings from my heart
In a voice soft and strong and round…
I have not forgotten Thee,
O Jerusalem,
I have not forgotten Thee.
My City of Gold,
My City of Peace….
You have kept me, and
You have remembered.
You have remembered me.
Jennifer Rudick Zunikoff is a professional storyteller and teacher. She uses storytelling as an educational tool to inspire exploration of Judaism and spirituality. Her story “Rina and the Exodus”appears in National Jewish Book Award-Winning volume Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning (Reclaiming Judaism Press) http://jenniferstories.com

The Torathon: Evening of Learning And Fun Open To The Community

Temple Beth Hillel Beth El presents Torathon XXVII on the evening of Saturday, January 26, 2013. The Torathon, an evening of Jewish discovery, offers an enticing mix of Jewish Philadelphia’s finest scholars and leaders with three one-hour sessions of mini-courses on diverse topics that challenge the intellect and connect participants to Jewish religion, culture, and contemporary issues.

More after the jump.
So Who Goes to the Torathon? If you’ve been to one, you know. If you haven’t yet gone, read on! Is it for those who like to chime in with comments? Yes. And is it for those who want to sit back and just listen? Yep, that too. Is it for artsy folks who like poetry, drama, and music? Absolutely. What about the ones who want serious, scholarly discourse? Of course! Experiential sessions? Got it. Israel? Betach! (That’s Hebrew for “Certainly”!) The essential message is that the Torathon is for you, no matter what your interest.

The voices and points of access to our tradition are many — and that’s reflected in the offerings at our yearly Torathon. This is “Torah” writ large — “big tent” Torah that can encompass and draw in all of us.

Cast aside assumptions and feel the camaraderie that comes from sharing the experience of a special event. Put January 26 on the calendar and get someone to commit to coming with you.

The event offers a mix of Jewish Philadelphia’s finest presenters with three 50-minute mini-courses on diverse topics that stimulate the intellect and move the heart and connect participants with Jewish religion, culture and contemporary issues. While the final slate of sessions is subject to change, here’s a glimpse of what’s on tap from more than third presenters:

The Honorable Daniel Kutner, Consul General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region, will be featured at the keynote session. Cantor Eugene Rosner, Prof. Richard Freedman and the TBH-BE Choir are working on an interactive program of choral works that calls for audience impressions and analysis. Rabbi Ethan Franzel will lead an experience of Jewish/Hebrew chanting, while Rabbi Shraga Sherman will explore the key to accessing your mystical self. Rabbi Ben Richman will consider wisdom among the nations as he explores Jewish views on other religions. David Weinstein will look at Jerusalem and explore the city’s status under international law, while Dan Segal examines The New Israel Fund and democracy in Israel. Rabbi Yonah Gross will put Gilad Shalit front and center as he leads a discussion on the obligation to redeem captives. Rob Kitchenoff will keep you rooted as he speaks about rediscovering Jewish genealogy. Rabbi Chaim Galfand invites you to focus on your more immediate family and have your children age 6 through 12 join an interactive Jewish storytelling session where they play a role. (Save yourself the cost of a babysitter and have these same kids stay for ice cream and additional programming until 9 pm!) Dr. Sam Klausner will shed light on Lubavitch’s Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Rabbi Neil Cooper will bring his talent for text study to bear on familiar items from our liturgy as he focuses on the potentially contradictory descriptions of God found in two two well-known and often recited hymns, Yigdal and An’im Zemirot. Shulamith Caine and Adena Potok will take poetic license and share insights into the power of verse, as Deborah Baer Mozes guides you in releasing your inner playwright.

With so many different activities occurring simultaneously it is hard to know what to choose. Traditional as well as creative approaches to learning will be offered, so you’re sure to find much that interests you.

Registration at 6:00; Havdallah at 6:30; First session at 7:00. $10 admission, $5 for students, free to children 6-12. Light refreshments will be served.

In Praise of the Physical World

Leonard Gontarek’s Spiritual Poetry at the Public Library

A week before both Passover, when we commemorate both freedom and slavery, remembering always, that as long as anyone is oppressed we are all still slaves in Egypt, I had the pleasure to begin the week at the Philadelphia Public Library Monday Poets Reading Series, now in its 16th year. Run for fifteen years by Michelle Belluomini, the new director of the series, Kay Wisniesskik, explained that “Philadelphia has a lot of creative people.  This venture is special as we feature local poets who have published books and have often won prizes.  We want to expose people to the excellence of the Philadelphia poetry scene.”  

More after the jump.  

On April 2nd, at 6:30 pm in the stunning Skyline Room of the Parkway Central Library, poet Leonard Gontarek read from new work for about 40 minutes that held the audience, comprised of about 40 people, captivated.  Gontarek’s poems are filled with both praise and melancholy, both images of rebirth and death.  “Truth is very subtle like a thief in the night.”   In poems that sampled from the Bible and Bruce Springsteen, from Gilgamesh and Zen Buddhism, Gontarek writes, “everyone steals a glimpse, because it is spring.”

Gontarek is the author of four collections. His poetry collections include Déjà Vu Diner (2006) and St. Genevieve Watching Over Paris (1984). His poems have also been featured in Joyful Noise: An Anthology of American Spiritual Poetry (2006) and in Best American Poetry (2005). Gontarek’s honors include several Pushcart Prize nominations and two fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.   His new work is written in numbered sections, often consisting of one line of verse, which draws attention to the poetic line.  In an incantatory poem about masks and identity in a fragmented, post-modern world, Gontarek writes: “it’s all shadow and we wore many masks.”  

Where many modern and post-modern poets shy away from the word God or any hint at spirituality or transendence, in Gontarek’s lyrical, erotic, playful poems the physical and metaphysical are inextricably connected: To praise Buddha without belief “is cereal without milk” he writes.  From a poem about a $69 hotdog, that is a sensuous celebration of the physical world, to melancholic poems about “the math of sadness” Gontarek’s poetry provides a precise questioning of the world, never reducing its complexity but paying close attention to its paradoxes.

The evening ended with Gontarek paying homage to the poet Adrienne Rich, a Jewish lesbian poet, who died last week at the age of 82.  He read her poem “Perspective Immigrants Please Note” an apt selection.  Rich writes: “If you go through/ there is always the risk/ of remembering your name.”  Gontarek welcomed us to go through many doors with him on this Monday night in April.  

A 20 minute Q & A followed with the audience asking questions about craft and composition.   This was the last in the 2011-2012 series which will resume its Monday Poets Reading Series in the Fall.  There will be an open mike at the end of the readings “so local poets can get over stage fright” Wisniesskik explained.  

Monday Night Poetry Series. 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Skyline Room of the Parkway Central Library, 1901 Vine Street. Copies of the Featured Poets’ books may be purchased at the readings. For additional information, please call the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Literature Department at 215-686-5402.

An Evening of Learning and Fun Open to the Community


The When, Who, and What of Beth Hillel-Beth El’s Torathon.

Temple Beth Hillel Beth El presents Torathon XXVI, An Evening of Discovery, on the evening of Saturday, January 21, 2012.

More after the jump.
So Who Goes to the Torathon? If you’ve been to one, you know. If you haven’t yet gone, read on! Is it for those who like to chime in with comments? Yes. And is it for those who want to sit back and just listen? Yep, that too. Is it for artsy folks who like poetry, drama, and music? Absolutely. What about the ones who want serious, scholarly discourse? Of course! Experiential sessions? Got it. Israel? Betach! (That’s Hebrew for “Certainly!) The essential message is that the Torathon is for you, no matter what your interest.

The voices and points of access to our tradition are many – and that’s reflected in the offerings at our yearly Torathon. This is “Torah” writ large – “big tent” Torah that can encompass and draw in all of us.

Cast aside assumptions and feel the camaraderie that comes from sharing the experience of a special event. Put January 21st on the calendar and get someone to commit to coming with you.

The event offers an enticing mix of Jewish Philadelphia’s finest presenters with three 50-minute mini-courses on diverse topics that stimulate the intellect and move the heart and connect participants with Jewish religion, culture and contemporary issues. While the final slate of sessions is subject to change, here’s a glimpse of what’s on tap from more than third presenters:

The Honorable Daniel Kutner, Consul General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region, will be featured at the keynote session. Cantor Eugene Rosner, Prof. Richard Freedman and the TBH-BE Choir are working on an interactive program of choral works that calls for audience impressions and analysis. Rabbi Ethan Franzel will lead an experience of Jewish/Hebrew chanting, while Rabbi Shraga Sherman will explore the key to accessing your mystical self. Rabbi Ben Richman will consider wisdom among the nations as he explores Jewish views on other religions. David Weinstein will look at Jerusalem and explore the city’s status under international law, while Dan Segal examines The New Israel Fund and democracy in Israel. Rabbi Yonah Gross will put Gilad Shalit front and center as he leads a discussion on the obligation to redeem captives. Rob Kitchenoff will keep you rooted as he speaks about rediscovering Jewish genealogy. Rabbi Chaim Galfand invites you to focus on your more immediate family and have your children age 6 through 12 join an interactive Jewish storytelling session where they play a role. (Save yourself the cost of a babysitter and have these same kids stay for ice cream and additional programming until 9 pm!) Dr. Sam Klausner will shed light on Lubavitch’s Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Rabbi Neil Cooper will bring his talent for text study to bear on familiar items from our liturgy as he focuses on the potentially contradictory descriptions of God found in two two well-known and often recited hymns, “Yigdal” and “An’im Zemirot.” Shulamith Caine and Adena Potok will take poetic license and share insights into the power of verse, as Deborah Baer Mozes guides you in releasing your inner playwright.

With so many different activities occurring simultaneously it is hard to know what to choose. Traditional as well as creative approaches to learning will be offered, so you’re sure to find much that interests you.

The Torathon is open to the community. Admission is $10 per person, $5 for students with ID, and free to children 6 through 12.

New Arts and Culture Editor!

Lisa GrunbergerI am honored to join the Jewish Voice as the new Arts and Culture Editor.  I welcome you to send me any news you might have regarding the vibrant arts and culture scene here in Philadelphia.  If you have books to review, theatre productions, music, museum exhibits please feel free to contact me at art@pjvoice.com

I moved to Philadelphia from Manhattan four years ago to work at Temple University where I am an Assistant Professor in English. I teach creative writing in poetry and literature.   I grew up in Long Island and always dreamed of moving to New York City, but to quote short story writer, Anne Beattie, “I became disenchanted with New York when I realized that I felt as if I had accomplished something when I picked up the laundry, and got the Times and a quart of milk.”   In Philadelphia, it’s just easier to get things done — a walkable, beautiful city brimming with culture and art.  

From the Israeli film festival to the new Jewish Museum, from the World Cafe to the Kimmel Center, I feel fortunate to call Philadelphia my home.  

Lisa Grunberger is the author of an illustrated humor book, Yiddish Yoga: Ruthie’s Adventures of Love, Loss and the Lotus Position (Newmarket Press, 2009) which she has adapted into a musical (stay tuned!).  She teaches yoga and writing classes in Philadelphia.