In Search of Israeli Cuisine at the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival

— by Debbie Fleischman

The Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival kicks off its CineMonday series on Monday, March 28 at 7:30 PM at the Gershman Y with the Philadelphia Premiere of In Search of Israeli Cuisine, directed by Robert Sherman.

A portrait of the Israeli people through food, In Search of Israeli Cuisine is a mouth-watering documentary that follows Michael Solomonov, the James Beard award-winning chef and restaurateur behind the Philadelphia dining establishment Zahav, as he returns to his homeland to discuss his culinary heritage. From Tel Aviv’s most exclusive eateries to street bazaars and simmering pots in family kitchens, Solomonov travels the length and breadth of Israel, meeting with an eclectic group of professional and amateur chefs, cheese makers, vintners, farmers, and fisherman, to define the ever-growing lexicon of Israeli cuisine. As Solomonov immerses himself in the local flavors of the myriad cultures that make up the Israeli people – Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Christian and Druze–Oscar-nominated documentarian Roger Sherman offers a behind-the-scenes look at a dynamic Israeli food scene rooted in centuries-old tradition. Sherman shines a light on the sectarian conflict when Palestinian cooks chafe as their savory secrets are adapted by Jewish chefs, and the story behind the ingredients that Israel produces using both ancient farming techniques and high-tech innovations.

The screening will be followed by a conversation with celebrity chef and restaurateur Michael Solomonov and director Roger Sherman, moderated by the Senior Editor of New York Magazine’s Grub Street, Sierra Tishgart. After the talk, Michael will be signing his cookbook, Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, during a separately-ticketed book signing/reception featuring hummus by Dizengoff (and other tasty treats) and Israeli wine.

Tickets to the Opening Night Film only are $15; $30 if attending the post-film book signing and reception; $60 for the film, book signing/reception, and Zahav cookbook. Tickets are available online or by calling 215-545-4400.

The Boy Who Left Everyone Speechless


Rabbis Charles Sherman and his daughter, Nogah Marshall.

— by Bonnie Squires

When Rabbi Charles Sherman’s son, Eyal, was 4 years old, a tumor was discovered in his brain stem.

Despite the severe consequences of a stroke following his initial surgery, leaving the boy unable to move or speak, Eyal’s brain remained as active as ever. Even though his vocal chords were paralyzed, he could mouth words, and his family, especially his mother, have learned to read his lips.

With the devotion of his family, and innumerable trips to doctors’ offices and hospitals, Eyal was graduated from high school and then from Syracuse University.

Rabbi Sherman’s book, The Broken and the Whole: Discovering Joy after Heartbreak, tells the story of the decades-long struggle to create a fulfilling life for Eyal.

Last week, Rabbi Sherman was the kick-off speaker in the series Open a Book… Open Your Mind created by the Sisterhood of Har Zion Temple and the Jane Fishman Grinberg Religious School in Penn Valley. All through March and April, various authors will be giving talks and signing books at the synagogue.

More after the jump.
It was a homecoming of sorts for the Syracuse, New York-based rabbi. His wife Leah had grown up at Har Zion, they had been married by Rabbi Gerald Wolpe at the synagogue, and their daughter, Rabbi Nogah Marshall, currently serves as an education director at Har Zion.

The book, like Sherman’s talk, floats back and forth between the initial illness, the months of Eyal’s being in a coma at NYU Hospital, and the artist Eyal has become today, holding a paintbrush between his teeth.

Sherman constantly wrestles with guilt and holding onto his faith, but he has arrived, after decades of self-work, at a place where he is comfortable with his G-d and with himself.

Sherman told me about a home-bound tutor, sent by the New York School District, to work with Eyal when he was in a coma. She came by bus every day to the hospital for the months that Eyal was there, and she cleared the room and spoke to Eyal, even though he was unresponsive.

One week, Sherman recalled, she brought a drum to the hospital room, and banged on it right next to Eyal’s head, teaching him the history and uses of the instrument. Until that time, Rabbi Sherman said, whenever he visited a member of his congregation in a vegetative state, he would talk to the doctor, the nurses, the family members, but never to the patient.

One day, however, Eyal finally woke up from his coma and mouthed these words: “Who was that woman with the damn drum?” Rabbi Sherman learned that there is still a person inside there, and we all need to speak to the patient.

The frankness of the challenges that both his son, his family and he himself have faced through the decades is admirable. And the strength of his faith, despite the frailties of his son’s condition, is inspiring. The Broken and the Whole: Discovering Joy after Heartbreak has lessons for all of us.

Time for Congress to Pass Nuclear Iran Prevention Act


Brad Sherman

— by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks, California)

Despite many positive elements, the deal reached in Geneva has a significant flaw: It allows Iran to continue to enrich uranium up to a level of 3.5%-5%, as long as it converts this from gas to uranium oxide metal.  

Six months from now, Iran will have its current stock of gaseous 3.5% enriched uranium and an additional stockpile of 3.5% enriched uranium oxide, which it could convert back to gas relatively easily.  

The United States negotiators in Geneva would have been in a much better position had Congress passed and the President signed the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act earlier this year. The more penalties and the more significant impact on Iran’s economy, the more concessions they could have secured.  

More after the jump.
Congress should act in December to pass two pieces of legislation concerning Iran:

  1. Improve the administrative effectiveness of existing sanctions. One example of this effort would be to make every company doing business with the federal government or any state or city certify that they and their affiliates conduct no business that violates any of our sanctions laws.  
  2. We need to enact a bill providing for massive new penalties on Iran. These penalties would go into effect on June 1 unless the President submits, and Congress adopts, a joint resolution that suspends the penalties because Iran has signed a reasonable permanent agreement.

Our negotiators need more leverage, not less. I look forward to working to enact that leverage next month.

Maccabiah: U.S. Wins Five Basketball Medals

MaccabiUSA: Basketball Open Men's &emdash; BASOMBasketball Open Mens

— by Amir Shoam

The U.S. won five medals — four golds and one silver — in the Maccabiah basketball tournaments last week. The open men’s team won the gold after beating Argentina 87-76. Daniel Robin scored 25 points for the winners, and Philadelphia-born Bryan Cohen added 14. The win marked a great year for Head Coach and Former Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Brad Greenberg, who also won the Israeli championship this year with Maccabi Haifa, and will coach Hapoel Jerusalem in the coming season. “It was an outstanding tournament, and our U.S. open team was really special,” he said to the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

It was an honor to coach some of the finest young men I have ever been around: hard working, unselfish, intelligent and emotionally mature. Lasting friendships were formed, and a love for Israel was enhanced. Next year in Jerusalem — for me it’s true!

More after the jump.

MaccabiUSA: Basketball Open Women's &emdash; BASOWBasketball Open Womens

In the open women’s tournament final, the U.S. defeated Israel 72-56. Jacqui Kalin finished with 22 points, including 6 three-pointers, 7 assists and 6 rebounds. Alyssa Baron contributed 16 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Next year, Kalin will play professionally in Israel with S.A. Ramat Hasharon. Head Coach Jamie Shadian said:

The Games as a whole were a once in a lifetime experience. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach players who are unbelievable people as well as talented athletes. Sharing such an emotional and inspirational month with this team will remain one of the most special experiences of my life.

The under-18 men’s team also beat Israel in the game for the gold medal, 78-62. The two standouts of the final game were Spencer Weisz (19 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists) and Anthony Firkser (19 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals). Head Coach Jamie Chadwin said:

The trip was tremendous. Not only for the basketball competition but for the cultural, emotional connection we all felt. The young men on the Youth Team were special in the way the competed, learned, and represented their country.

The under-18 women’s team cruised to the gold medal, beating Canada 77-26 (!) in the final game. Tournament MVP Drew Edelman, who will play for the University of Southern California in the coming season, scored 30 points and added 14 rebounds. Shelby Zucker finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds. “I could not be more proud of the team,” said Head Coach Sherry Levin.

Our dominant performance was a product of their hard work, dedication and unselfish team work. On the court it, was amazing to see them come together and execute the game plan against Australia, Canada and Israel. Off the court, we all experienced the wonders of Israel along with the meaningful connections to our heritage, which made the Maccabiah Games a lifetime experience to remember.

MaccabiUSA: Basketball Juniors Boy's &emdash; BASJBasketball Juniors Boys

The under-16 boys team won the silver medal after losing to Israel in the final. The team was led in scoring throughout the tournament by Spencer Freedman, Corey Sherman and, specifically in the final game, Jacob Orender. Jordan Baum led a long list of assist providers. Sam Fieldman and Michael Hayon were the team’s top rebounders. Orender was also the team’s best defensive player.

“It was an awesome and surreal opportunity to participate in the 19th Maccabiah,” said Head Coach Barry Kleiman. “The opportunity for my wife and me to visit Israel for the first time while representing the USA as a coach was beyond a life’s dream.”

As a competitor, one can never be “happy” with a silver medal, but as a coach of many years and games, one learns that there is always a team at the end of a game with fewer points than the other, and in this case that was our team.

I commend the Israeli team for their fabulous effort and great sportsmanship; their win had nothing to do with luck. I commend our team for refusing to give in and continuing to compete until the final buzzer.

Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve never lost a game, I just ran out of time.” We simply ran out of time that day, and remain grateful for the opportunity we had to compete.

House Passes Tough Bipartisan Iran Sanctions Bill

(BBI) B’nai B’rith International applauds the House of Representatives for passing the bipartisan Nuclear Iran Prevention Act on July 31 by an overwhelming majority. By reducing Iran’s oil exports and further shackling its economy, the bill would send an important signal to new Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani about the cost of continuing the country’s unswerving pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The legislation seeks to decrease Iranian oil exports from 1.25 million barrels per year to 250,000 barrels by the end of 2014. It would also expand the blacklist of Iran’s various economic sectors and further limit the country’s access to overseas foreign currency reserves. Sanctions against Iran have already drastically limited the country’s oil exports and severely hampered its economy.

B’nai B’rith calls on the Senate to expeditiously pass a companion bill. Any delay in the legislative process would only serve Iran’s dilatory purposes.

While a new president prepares to take office in Iran, Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei has shown no sign of slowing Iran’s nuclear development. Iran’s ongoing installation of advanced centrifuges has brought it nearer to weapons-grade uranium production, which is the linchpin for nuclear weapons capability.

Iran has consistently used negotiations to stall the international community. Diplomacy can succeed only if the United States and its allies broaden and strengthen the current sanctions framework against Iran.

Comments from Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) follow the jump.  
Jewish Council for Public Affairs

The best response to Iran’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons capability is further isolation from the international community, which is threatened by this program,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “The sanctions legislation overwhelmingly passed yesterday sends a strong message to the Teheran regime that continues its involvement with global terror and its support for the brutal Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. We applaud the House action and will encourage expeditious passage of a parallel measure in the U.S. Senate.

Of course, sanctions are merely a means to an end, and we support the administration’s ongoing efforts to resolve this issue through diplomacy if possible,” said JCPA Chair Larry Gold. “While Iran’s new President-elect remains untested – and the posture of the Supreme Leader appears to remain unchanged – the U.S. and international community are well served by maintaining economic pressures. We hope that Iran’s leaders will choose the welfare of their people over this misguided and dangerous pursuit of nuclear weapons capability.

Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL)

I voted in favor of this critical new round of sanctions because we simply cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran. The overwhelming bipartisan support for this bill reaffirms Congress’ commitment to preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability. While the United States should continue to utilize and exhaust diplomatic channels, we must continue to implement and enforce crippling economic sanctions and reserve the right to use military force if necessary. Our policy is one of prevention, not containment, and I will continue to support legislation aimed to curbing Iran’s dangerous nuclear program.

Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA)

Today the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) and House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) in February 2013, passed the House of Representatives.  

“Iran’s recent election of a so-called ‘moderate’ President has done nothing to change two important facts:  Iran is still pursuing nuclear weapons capability, and the Supreme Leader is still the leader and decision-maker of Iran’s military and nuclear program,” said Congressman Sherman following the vote. “I am urging my Senate colleagues to pass this legislation and send it to the President for his signature.”

The Nuclear Iran Prevention Act expands current sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran for oil purchases and third party transfers of Iranian crude oil, which have sometimes allowed Iran to side-step sanctions.

On May 22, 2013, the House Foreign Affairs Committee marked up the new sanctions bill and passed it unanimously.  Congressman Sherman contributed provisions through four amendments that were adopted unanimously that:

  • Add the knowing transfer of uranium mining and milling equipment to Iran to current sanctions law.
    Require a certification from prospective federal contractors that they (and affiliates) conduct no business with Iran that is sanctionable under this bill.
  • Expand sanctions on individuals who transfer technology used to repress dissidents in Iran by imposing harsher sanctions beyond just government procurement contract prohibitions and expanding the scope of sanctions to include affiliates of these individuals.
  • Strengthen current nonproliferation law under which the President must designate countries that allow a substantial diversion of certain sensitive goods, services, or technologies to Iran as “Destinations of Diversion Concern” (DDC) – and authorize harsher sanctions on such countries.
  • “This bipartisan Iran sanctions bill will broaden economic sanctions, strengthen human rights sanctions, and increase oversight of the enforcement of current sanctions,” Sherman added.

New Measures Against Iran

— Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA)

I applaud the Treasury and State Department for adopting additional measures against Iran today, but the measures in place are still too timid to cause the Iranians to abandon their nuclear weapons program.

I am pleased the President has adopted an explicit policy providing for sanctions against companies that provide goods, services and technology for — as opposed to investment in — Iran’s oil and gas sectors, and to provide for sanctions against those that help Iran’s Petrochemical sectors.

While investment was clearly covered by the Iran Sanctions Act, whether the mere sale of goods, services and technology alone is sanctionable was left vague by the statute.  This is a change I had urged during the deliberations on the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act last year, and the President finally addressed it in this new order.

More after the jump.
The designation of additional entities under the existing Executive Order targeting proliferation is also welcome, but we still have only designated a relative handful of the entities warranting such sanction.  Far more is necessary.  Also, foreign companies that continue to do business with those Iranian entities designated need to face tough penalties.  That still is not the case under the President’s orders, but is addressed by language I authored in the legislation currently being considered by Congress.  

The designation of Iran under Section 311 of the Patriot Act as an area of money laundering concern could have a significant impact, but we need to actually punish those foreign financial companies that continue to do business with Iran’s banks, including the Central Bank.  The action announced today will only require that US banks take greater measures to ensure that their foreign partners do not allow the Iranians to access the US financial system through them.  

Congress still needs to enact tough Iran sanctions legislation, sooner rather than later, including the Iran Threat Reduction Act and legislation that I introduced, the Stop Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program Act.    

House Committee OK’s Bill Targeting Iran Military, Nuclear Program

— by Ben Fishel

Today, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs passed two major sanctions bills targeting Iran for greater economic and diplomatic pressure, and strengthening the nonproliferation regime against Iran, North Korea, and Syria.  Both bills, sponsored by Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, included major provisions authored by Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA).  The Committee voted to pass the Iran Threat Reduction Act and the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Reform and Modernization Act.  Congressman Sherman is the lead Democratic cosponsor of the latter bill.  

I urge the House leadership to swiftly bring this important legislation to the House floor for passage.  We must send a tough message to Tehran: stop your nuclear weapons program, or else face serious economic consequences.  We must send a tough message to Iran’s remaining business partners: stop doing business with Tehran or you will be forced to stop doing business in the United States.  Sanctions have had some impact on Iran’s economy &mdash as Ahmadinejad recently admitted &mdash but we need to ramp up the pressure much more and fully enforce all Iran sanctions passed by Congress.

More after the jump.
The Iran Threat Reduction Act is a comprehensive bill tightening sanctions against the Iranian government, military, and energy sector.  

The bill includes several important portions authored by Congressman Sherman:

  • Requiring an expedited campaign at the Treasury Department to sanction the hundreds of front companies and agents that operate on behalf of the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and provides for tough sanctions against foreign companies that do business with them.
  •  Sanctioning the purchase or issuance of Iranian sovereign debt, including government bonds or bonds issued by a state-controlled firm.
  •  Effectively ending the “Halliburton loophole” by sanctioning parent companies for the activities of a foreign subsidiary that would violate current U.S. sanctions.
  • Requiring the State Department to better define and publish the types of goods, services, and technologies that enable Iran to disrupt the flow of information and monitor and crush dissent in its population, and whose transfer to Iran will cause the company in question to be sanctioned by the U.S.

The Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Reform and Modernization Act improves existing law targeting firms and countries that assist these countries’ nuclear and other advanced weapons programs.

Iran, Syria, and North Korea are proliferators of nuclear weapons technology and work together to threaten U.S. interests and allies around the globe. This bill would provide the U.S. with tools to strengthen the international nonproliferation regime against these violent, authoritarian states.

The bill includes provisions authored by Congressman Sherman that would provide for sanctions against firms that provide any of the countries with equipment or technology relevant for mining or milling uranium.  Iran is facing a uranium shortage, and has been searching for foreign sources of uranium, as well as trying to improve its domestic capability to mine uranium.  Under the bill, anyone that assists in either effort would be subject to penalties.

In April, Congressman Sherman introduced the toughest Iran sanctions bill ever, the Stop Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program Act.  The provisions authored by Sherman in the bills approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee today are based on legislation in the Stop Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program Act.