CeaseFirePA To Hold Day Of Action Against Gun Violence

— by Rabbi David Straus and Adam Kessler

The horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was a tragedy that has been a jarring reminder of the disturbing prevalence of gun violence in our country and culture. Our outrage has stirred us from our complacency and we will not wait for the next atrocity to finally act.

As the nation mourns, we must also look forward and dedicate ourselves to preventing a future massacre. Yet, despite the media attention given to such mass shootings, we must remember that nearly 1200 Pennsylvanians lose their lives, and thousands are injured due to gun violence every year. Nationally, over 31,000 people die from gun violence each year. If the civil rights movement was the moral issue of the ’60s for our community, eradication of gun violence in our society ought to be the moral issue of our time.

More details after the jump.
We ask that you join us and CeaseFirePA at the Capitol Building in Harrisburg on Wednesday, January 23, 12:00 PM for a Day of Action as we take a stand against gun violence. This is the first joint session in Harrisburg since the shooting in Connecticut.

There will be a noon rally and press conference in the East Wing of the Capitol. After the rally and press conference we will visit the offices of our State Representatives and Senators to make our presence felt and our opinions heard.

If you have special ties with either your State Senator or Representative, please contact Robin Schatz, our Director of Government Relations, so that we can let them know that you will be coming by their office on Wednesday afternoon.

CeaseFirePA advocates for sensible laws like more effective background checks for those legally purchasing guns, mandatory reports of lost or stolen legal firearms, national sharing of relevant data, closing loopholes that enable evasion of our laws, and working to remove assault weapons from being sold in Pennsylvania.

Please RSVP to Salena Camara by Wednesday, January 16 with your name, address and phone number, and please indicate if you would like to travel by bus or would prefer to go on your own. Based upon your response we would like to order a bus and travel together for a very minimal fee.  

International Jewish Funders Network Convenes in Philadelphia


Al Berger and Carol Auerbach, husband and wife, each heads up a private family foundation.  The Auerbach Agency at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia was founded by Auerbach when she lived in Philadelphia.  Now, as a board member of the Jewish Funders Network, she divides her time between New York City, Seattle, and Jupiter, Florida.

For the twenty-first year, the Jewish Funders Network convened its annual international conference, this time in Philadelphia at Loews Hotel.  The theme this year: What’s Your Story?  The Power of Narrative to Drive Change.

Andy Goodman, the keynote speaker, entertained the audience while transmitting very important points, about how to inspire others to support the various philanthropies represented by the 315 attendees.  

Dorit Straus shared the story of her chance encounter on a New York subway with the famous violist Joshua Bell, learning that Bell was the proud owner of a Stradivarius violin which had once belongs to an earlier generation’s highly regarded violinist, Bronislaw Huberman, who had a dream of creating an orchestra in Palestine.  Huberman managed to collect hundreds of professional musicians, saving them from the Nazis, and eventually establishing the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

More after the jump.


(left to right) Haim Emil Dahan, of Israel, greets Michael and Kristin Karp at the JFN conference at Loews Hotel in Philadelphia.  The conference attracted 315 individual donors, founders and staff members of private Jewish foundations.

Straus enlisted Academy-award-nominated filmmaker Josh Aronson to make a documentary film about the life of this almost forgotten hero, the violinist she credited with having saved her entire family.  Straus is serving as the executive producer of Aronson’s film, which they hope will be completed for a premiere in December 2011 for the 75th anniversary of the Israel Philharmonic.

Straus illustrated the way in which a story motivated the philanthropy.

Carol Auerbach, founder of The Auerbach Family Foundation, and the Auerbach Central Agency for Jewish Education in Philadelphia, spoke to the plenary session about the new technology and means of communicating with a larger audience and with the naxt generation of donors and philanthropists.

The afternoon workshops on Sunday included the well attended Strategic Investment in the New Media Space, moderated by Joshua Miller of the Jim Joseph Foundation, who explained a grant process aimed at 18 to 40-year-olds which involved a collaboration of three funders.


Gwen Borowsky, of the National Liberty Museum, and Eunice Miller, founder of the nonprofit Linkages, enjoyed the sessions at the JFN conference.

Miller introduced a panel, consisting of Lucy Bernholz, president of Blueprint Research and Design;  John Bracken of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; and David Bryfman, of The Jewish Education Project, focusing on engaging teenagers.
   The seesion alerted the funders to the existence of  the new on-line charity engine, “Kickstart,” which helps all kinds of projects and charities raise funds in a short period of time on the internet.
   There was a lively session on Jewish education with the interesting title, “Nor Your Zade’s (and Bubbe’s) Hebrew School.”
   Another added benefit, besides the quality of sessions and speakers, and the line-up of visits to the National Museum of American Jewish History, as well as the Barnes Museum beofre it re-locates to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, was the opportunity for philanthropists and representatives of foundations from across the country, even from across the globe, to network and share experiences.


Josh Aronson, filmmaker, and Dorit Straus, executive producer of Aronson’s film, inspired by Straus’ encounter on a New York subway with the famous violinist Joshua Bell.  Bell was carrying a Stradivarius once owned by a Jewish violinist, Bronislaw Huberman, who pioneered the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, gathering Jewish musicians who had fled the Nazis and saving 1000 lives in the process.  The film in progress, for which they showed clips, is entitled, “The Orchestra of Exile.”

Martin Lautman, Ph.D., and Betsy Sheerr were delighted to pose with the incoming president and CEO of the Jewish Funders Network, Andreas Spokarniy.

Among the hundreds of Jewish philanthropists gathered in Philadelphia for a three-day conference of the Jewish Funders Network, are (seated) Mark Solomon and Carol Auerbach, and (standing left to right) Paul Silberberg, Robin Batoff, and Morey Goldberg.  The three men are all part of CMS Industries in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, which was a main sponsor of the JFN conference.

Philanthropist Charles Bronfman (right) receives a special award at the Jewish Funders Network from JNF past presidents Murray Galinson and Mark Cherendorff.  Video tributes included one from Shimon Peres.



Charles Bronfman’s 80th birthday happened to fall on the day he was honored in Philadelphia by the Jewish Funders Network.  Representing a group of students who had benefited from Birthright, the Bronfman-supported program which provides the gift of first time educational trips to Israel for Jewish young adults  to strenthen participants’ personal Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish people, are Penn students Elayna Zach and Adam Levinson, alumni of the Birthright program.



At the awards luncheon at the JFN international conference at Loews Hotel in Philadelphia, Bonnie Roche-Bronfman, a nationally recognized architect, was very proud of her husband, the honoree Charles Bronfman, head of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies.  Roche-Bronfman had recently organized and served as set designer for a New York theatrical production, “From the Fire,” commemorating the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and tragedy.

Photos: Bonnie Squires.