Larry Brown Among Nine Philly Jewish Sports Hall of Fame Inductees


Brown coaching the SMU Mustangs

— by Debbie Weiss

The Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Adolph and Rose Levis Museum (PJSHOF) will be celebrating its 16th anniversary by honoring nine new individuals at a reception to be held on Monday, May 20 at the Gershman Y.  

The 2013 inductees include Ellen Barkann, Bob Brooks, Larry Brown, Fred Cohen, Josh Cohen, Ron Cohen, Bonnie Kay, Marc Rayfield and Pillar of Achievement honoree, Jed Margolis. In addition, the 2013 JCC Maccabi Games’ Team Philadelphia Graduating Athletes will receive special recognition.

More after the jump.
The inductees into the PJSHOF represent the best of the best: those who through perseverance, dedication, superior talent and skills, have risen to the top of their respective sports. Their names and achievements will be celebrated within the walls of the museum.  

Each PJSHOF inductee has been involved in sports as an athlete, coach, manager, administrator, team owner, or member of the media. They must have at least one Jewish parent and have lived within, or competed within, the five-county Greater Philadelphia area. They have joined a special group of approximately 130 past honorees.  

This year’s special class includes one of the most successful coaches in basketball history, one of the winningest football coaches in Philadelphia’s high school history, a top radio broadcast manager, and more.

  • Ellen Barkann, a competitive figure skater, achieved the highest level in all disciplines of her sport: singles, pairs and ice dancing. In 2012 she created a nonprofit organization, The Barkann Family Healing Hearts Foundation, whose mission is to provide grants and financial assistance to families in the area who are overcome by family crisis, long term illness or sudden loss of life.
  • Bob Brooks was a multi-talented athlete as the starting pitcher on the University of Pennsylvania’s baseball team, and as a three-year starter on the basketball court who earned All-Ivy and All-State honors in his senior year. He is a longtime community volunteer.
  • Larry Brown is one of the most successful basketball coaches, at college and professional levels, of all time. He is the only head coach to lead teams to an NBA title (Detroit Pistons, 2004) and an NCAA Championship (University of Kansas Jayhawks, 1988). He is also the only coach in history to lead eight different NBA teams to the playoffs. He also is the only U.S. male to both play and coach in the Olympics, winning Gold Medals in 1964 and 2000, and is enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. He is currently the head basketball coach at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.  

    Fred Cohen playing for Temple, 1956

  • Fred Cohen achieved a stellar basketball career in high school and the upper levels of the college game. Playing for the Temple Owls, he set an NCAA playoff record for 34 rebounds in one game, that remains intact. He played with All-Americans Hal Lear and Guy Rogers, and their 1956 team went to the NCAA Final Four. He went on to graduate Yale Law School and has had a distinguished law career as a professor, then activist and author in the area of correctional mental health law.
  • Josh Cohen ranked among the top ten tennis players in the world in U.S. Juniors, and number one nationally in every USTA age group from 12-18; he won the International Grass Court Championship, competed in all four Grand Slam tournaments, and reached the quarterfinals in the French Open. In 2012, Billie Jean King named him head coach of her team, the Philadelphia Freedoms.  
  • Ron Cohen has been the head football coach at George Washington High School for the past 28 years and is the winningest coach in Philadelphia’s history. He has been named Coach of the Year on nine different occasions. He holds the city record for most playoff wins with 55, and has coached seven Big 33 football stars, including four players who have gone on to play in the NFL.
  • Bonnie Kay has been a Philadelphia area competitor in golf tournaments for over 40 years, having won the Women’s Stroke Play Championship and the Mixed Pair Championship as well as various country club championships. As a proud player in two Maccabi Games in Israel, she won a team Silver in 1985 and a team Gold in 1997. She is a consulting psychologist to Fortune 500 corporations, city and state agencies, and private family-owned companies.
  • Marc Rayfield is the senior vice president and market manager of CBS, Inc. where he is currently responsible for live broadcasts of the Phillies, Eagles and Philadelphia Union as well as Temple, St. Joe’s and Villanova athletics. His purview at CBS includes oversight of KYW Newsradio, WIP, WOGL, WPHT and cbsphilly.com.    
  • Pillar of Achievement honoree, Jed Margolis has been dedicated to using sports to strengthen Jewish identity and pride and love for Israel throughout his 40 years working in the JCC World and at Maccabi USA, where he has served as executive director since 2002. One of the many highpoints in his Maccabi USA tenure came in 2009, when he was honored as a member of the Maccabi USA Leadership Team by The National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. He also represented the USA as a member of the Masters Men’s Gold Medal Basketball Team, coached by NBA Legend Dolph Schayes, at the 1995 Pan American Maccabi Games in Uruguay.

Book Chat: The Secrets of Happy Families

— by Hannah Lee

Who doesn’t seek family harmony? What I found compelling about Bruce Feiler’s The Secrets of Happy Families was that the author did not seek out therapists, happiness researchers, or self-help gurus. Instead, he explored different disciplines, learning how to successfully apply their results to family management. I appreciate the affirmation from outside the social sciences.

The first chapter dealt with how to deal with stress points. Two of the techniques discussed were the use of a family flowchart/checklist (children love making checkmarks) and a weekly family meeting to discuss problems. These strategies were developed in the software industry and are now used in practically all forms of product development. Two startling strategies suggest involving the children, both in devising rewards and in assigning punishment, because they then become invested in the follow-through. The author wrote about the marvelous results that led to his sharing in his children’s emotional inner life, as our children often do not open up to us in this way.

More after the jump.
Another chapter discussed how to fight smart. Feiler writes that we spend about half our days negotiating — with our spouse, our boss, our clients — but most people do not understand its nature. Managing disagreements hinge on:

  • timing (6-8pm is usually the most stressful time);
  • language (“I” and “we” are signs of a healthier relationship than “you”);
  • length (the most important points are made in the opening three minutes); and
  • body language (eye-rolling, sighing, and shifting in the seat are signs of disrespect).

For this technique, Feiler went to the experts in negotiations: Bill Ury (co-author of Getting to Yes) and the Harvard Negotiation Project, which teaches people involved in the most difficult global issues of the day. Ury’s teachings involve a five-step process:

  1. isolate your emotions;
  2. go to the balcony (to see the big picture);
  3. step to their side (to understand their reasoning);
  4. don’t reject, re-frame; and
  5. build them a golden bridge.

This last point is especially important for families, as we live with our negotiating partners and we cannot leave anyone embittered.

When Feiler visited Joshua Weiss, cofounder of Harvard’s Global Negotiation Initiative and Ury’s business partner, he witnessed one family fight amongst the Weiss daughters (aged eleven, nine, and five). It was remarkable that the five-year-old was the one who stepped in as peace negotiator, asking each sister to state her case, without interruption. The middle sister had learned other techniques, such as “Stop, Think, Control” (a child’s equivalent of going to the balcony) and to consider the other person’s feelings. The eldest girl had already mastered some adult problem-solving strategies, demonstrated in separate incidents, for going to the balcony and trying to understand the other side.

Additional chapters in the book dealt with having difficult conversations with our families, improving marital relationships, and even how smart families share space. The final part of the book covers the fun-but-trying times of family vacations, sporting events, and reunions. You might not be ready to adopt all of the insights described, but it’s certainly eye-opening to learn about them.

Feiler had already published ten globetrotting books by the age of 43 when he was diagnosed with bone sarcoma. His twin daughters were only three, so he pondered how to maintain his connection with them in the event of his death. His novel solution was to create a Council of Dads, male friends from six different periods in his life who could serve to convey his values and perspectives to his daughters when they face milestones or difficult decisions. The resultant memoir of the same name is a lively account of how these men became important people in their lives, as their friends, not just friends of their father.
 
With the book The Council of Dads and now The Secrets of Happy Families (begun after his cure), Feiler is forging a new direction, one about relationships. I cautiously predict that his new career may reach even more readers than did his first bestseller, Walking the Bible, which inspired a television series. (Readers of The Council of Dads have created their own councils to deal with the pressures of different parenting situations.) The Bible is the greatest story ever told, but Feiler’s recent two books are his own stories and they shed a different light on our world.  

2012 Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge Continues

— by Benjamin Suarato

Rabbis and cantors in communities across the country representing all four major denominations are committing to living for one week on a food budget of $31.50, the average allotment for individuals on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly SNAP), as part of the 2012 Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge, running from the lead-up to the High Holy Days starting September 7 and continuing through Thanksgiving. Participating clergy will take the challenge in order to educate congregations and communities about the realities of hunger and raise a loud collective Jewish voice about this crisis.

“Hunger and food insecurity touch every one of our communities, but it is rarely talked about and frequently misunderstood,” said Rabbi Leonard Gordon, co-chair of the Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge representing the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and a member of the JCPA board. “The Food Stamp Challenge is a way for rabbis and cantors to make the invisible daily struggles of congregants and neighbors real while demonstrating the Jewish community’s deep commitment to help those in need. This includes education about the programs and assistance available.”

More after the jump.
“The involvement of rabbis and cantors from all streams of Judaism, in every region of the country is a testament to the centrality of ending hunger to the work we do as Jewish leaders and the unity of our community in elevating the conversation on poverty,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “This will be my third Food Stamp Challenge and each time, I am reawakened to the true struggle faced each day by those who depend on SNAP to put food on the table. It is a lesson that is now being brought to communities across the country through this committed involvement of religious leaders.”

SNAP participation has been functioning as intended, steadily increasing with the needs of those still struggling during the slow economic recovery, yet the program, one of the key instruments to addressing hunger in America, has been facing proposals of severe cuts to funding.

“On a budget of only $1.50 per meal, many SNAP recipients must settle for unsatisfying meals that lack the necessary nutrition and energy to meet the demands of work and family,” said Abby J. Leibman, President & CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “By trying to understand, even in a very small way, the challenge these families face, we will be better armed to protect SNAP from the threat of cuts.”

The 2012 Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge is being led by a unique partnership of organizations spanning the religious spectrum, including:

    the Jewish Council for Public Affairs,

  • MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger,
  • the Rabbinical Assembly,
  • the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism,
  • the Union for Reform Judaism,
  • the Central Conference of American Rabbis,
  • the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association,
  • Uri L’Tzedek,
  • American Conference of Cantors, and
  • the Cantors Assembly.  

Resources created for this mobilization, include sample sermons, advocacy opportunities, programming ideas, and other tools for engaging congregations and communities. The Food Stamp Challenge is open for others besides clergy who are interested in participating in this experience.  More information and registration can be found online.  

The Steering Committee that is providing leadership for the Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge includes:

  • Chaired by Rabbi Leonard Gordon of Congregation Mishkan Tefila in Chestnut Hill, MA (representing the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Lenny is also on the JCPA Board of Directors)
  • Rabbi Jay Kornsgold of Temple Beth El in East Windsor, NJ and Rabbi Ed Bernstein of Temple Torah of West Boynton Beach in Boynton Beach, FL  (both represent the Rabbinical Assembly)
  • Rabbi Harold Kravitz, Senior Rabbi at Adath Jeshurun Congregation in Minnetonka, MN (representing the committee as Chair of the Board of Directors of MAZON:  A Jewish Response to Hunger)
  • Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis, MO; Rabbi Neil Borovitz of Congregation Avodat Shalom in River Edge, NJ; Rabbi Nancy Kasten, an active teacher and volunteer in the Dallas Jewish community, board member of Hebrew Union College; and Rabbi Judith Siegal of Tempe Judea in Coral Gables, FL (representing the Union for Reform Judaism/Central Conference of American Rabbis)
  • Rabbi Shawn Zevit, who worked for the Reconstructionist Movement for fourteen years and now serves as the visiting rabbi at T’Chiyah Reconstructionist Congregation in Detroit, MI (representing the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association)
  • Rabbi Ari Weiss, Executive Director of the Orthodox social justice organization Uri L’Tzedek
  • Rabbi Sharon Brous, the founding rabbi of IKAR in Los Angeles, CA
  • Cantor Jack Chomsky of Congregation Tifereth Israel in Columbus, Ohio (representing the Cantors Assembly)
  • Cantor Shannon McGrady-Bane, co-chair of the ACC Social Action and Justice Committee (representing the American Conference of Cantors); and
  • Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs

For more information about the 2012 Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge, please contact Robin Rosenbaum, JCPA Poverty Campaign Coordinator, at: [email protected] or (202) 212-6037.

Jewish clergy in all communities have been weighing in about how the goals of the Jewish Community Food Stamp Challenge have resonated with their varied experiences:

“I am taking the Food Stamp Challenge along with my family because it is important to not only talk about the fact that so many people in America are in need of food assistance, but also that we take action. When I take the Food Stamp Challenge I will have a better understanding as to what people who receive food stamps are feeling each and every day. By encouraging the members of my congregation to join me in this endeavor we will be making a statement that we must continue this important work of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and advocate on behalf of those who are in need. This is what Judaism asks of us and what we must do.”

— Rabbi Jay Kornsgold of Temple Beth El in East Windsor, NJ

“With so much at stake in terms of how we are providing healthy, accessible and affordable sustenance in our country, inaction was not an option for me, challenged by my preparation for High Holy Days as visiting rabbi of Reconstructionist Congregation T’Chiyah in Detroit, to do more than only utter words and offer prayers for those in need. I have been spurred on by the wonderful response from friends, family, and clergy and members of faith communities everywhere. Let’s collect food for those in need this Yom Kippur and Thanksgiving and invite those who live with food insecurity to our sukkot, AND let’s work for systemic change for the millions who live on Food Stamps every day in our own communities, congregations and nation.”

— Rabbi Shawn Zevit who worked for the Reconstructionist Movement for fourteen years and now serves as the visiting rabbi at T’Chiyah Reconstructionist Congregation in Detroit, MI

“In my congregation, publicizing the Food Stamp Challenge has galvanized the community’s youth and social action leadership to make this a year to focus on hunger and food insecurity locally and in Israel.  Our students have adopted the slogan “Hunger is no Game” as the theme for the year (basing themselves on the recent movie, The Hunger Games”).  At a time when the social safety net is shredding and the alienation of rich and poor from their common humanity is increasing, taking the Food Stamp Challenge reminds us, in a small way, of our interconnectedness.”

— Rabbi Leonard Gordon of Congregation Mishkan Tefila in Chestnut Hill, MA (representing the United Synagogues of Conservative Judaism,  Lenny is also on the JCPA Board of Directors)

“We move about our communities like ships on non-intersecting courses across a vast ocean, not realizing how many among us are really struggling to feed themselves and their families on a daily basis.  The maze of public assistance in food and other resources is unknown to many of us — but is becoming known to more and more of us, even as powerful forces in our society seek to decrease the resources available to the growing number in greater need.  

“I hope that our involvement with this project will enable people to see and feel more clearly — and to remove the stigma attached to those who receive help.  I have long suspected that there are more needy among us than we know — that people internalize the idea that if they are Jewish they can’t be needy, so if they are needy, they mustn’t be Jewish — or full members of our Jewish community.  A project like this may shed some light and some heat.”

— Cantor Jack Chomsky of Congregation Tifereth Israel in Columbus, Ohio

“Our society is short on empathy for those in need. The Food Stamp Challenge is a tool to channel us away from indifference towards empathy for the food insecure. I’m taking the Food Stamp Challenge as a personal reminder to avoid indifference and to work with others to fight food insecurity.”

— Rabbi Ed Bernstein of Temple Torah of West Boynton Beach in Boynton Beach, FL

“The 18th century Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin said, ‘If you want to raise a person from mud and filth, do not think it is enough to keep standing on top and reaching a helping hand down to the person. You must go all the way down yourself, down into mud and filth. Then take hold of the person with strong hands and pull the person and yourself out into the light.’

“As Jews we know that it is not enough to make sure that others have enough to eat. We need to challenge ourselves to experience what those in need actually experience- the anxiety, the pain, and even the humiliation- so that we always remain motivated to fight for economic justice for all. At this time, when more children in this nation are food insecure than ever before, I feel compelled to motivate myself to find solutions in every way I possibly can. The Food Stamp Challenge is one path I am taking to motivate and inspire me to do my part to bring more light and wholeness into this New Year.”

— Rabbi Nancy Kasten, an active teacher and volunteer in the Dallas Jewish community, board member of Hebrew Union College

JCPA, the public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community, serves as the national coordinating and advisory body for the 14 national and 125 local agencies comprising the field of Jewish community relations.

The Traveling Rabbi


Photo by Sgt. Christine Samples
U.S. Army Chaplain Lt. Col. Avi Weiss wears a prayer shawl during Shabbat, a service held at the beginning of Sabbath, in the camp’s chapel Feb. 24, Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. He made his first visit to Leatherneck since his December arrival in theater.

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – There’s just not enough rabbis to go around. That’s why the only U.S. military rabbi currently serving in Afghanistan travels regularly from his base at Kandahar Airfield to other military camps here and uses the Internet to reach his congregation. It’s not a conventional role for a rabbi, but it helps him reach more people.

Army chaplain, Lt. Col. Avi Weiss of Chicago, a father of three and grandfather of 11, recently made his first visit to Camp Leatherneck since his December arrival in theater.

He looks younger than his 61 years and has a friendly, approachable manner. His attire consists of the Army uniform and a black yarmulke that miraculously stays on his shaved head with the help of some bobby pins. His eyes rest on each person individually when he’s talking in a group, like an unspoken invitation for each one’s thoughts.

Anyone who wants to jump in the conversation, however, needs to act quickly. Keeping up with Weiss’ train of thought isn’t easy. He jumps from one topic to another and back again. It’s a habit that his wife, Elcya, teases him about often. Fortunately, Weiss stays on topic during services.

Before Shabbat, the Friday evening service observing the Sabbath, Weiss sat on a bench in Leatherneck’s simple, wooden chapel to talk about his ministry.

“Attempting to keep traditional Jewish laws is difficult in this environment,” said Weiss, explaining the shortage of rabbis in the military. “It’s a credit to the military that it does a lot to help someone practice their faith, but it’s still not necessarily the choice environment for someone who wants to live a certain way.”

More after the jump.
It may not be a choice environment for some, but the military managed to attract Weiss in 1974 and keep him for 37 years as an active duty and Reserve chaplain. He first joined just for the job, but stayed for the unique opportunity to minister.

“I really enjoy the military,” said Weiss. “I don’t want to be a synagogue rabbi. I enjoy jumping out of airplanes (with the 82nd Airborne Division). I really enjoy being in Afghanistan. You can touch people’s lives in ways you can’t possibly do in other places.”

Weiss joked that because people can’t go downtown on Friday nights, they’re more open to attending services, which makes his job easier.

Although people can’t hang out downtown, Weiss still has his work cut out for him. Schedules here make it difficult for some to attend services. Five came to Shabbat, but Weiss said he concentrates on individuals, not numbers.

The Jewish population in the military falls well below 1 percent according to Department of Defense statistics, but Weiss believes the actual numbers are higher and some just need to know they’re not alone.

“I try to encourage individuals to think about being more involved in their faith,” said Weiss. “I’m not really involved with the Afghanistan war or the issues. I’m more concerned with the individuals here. I can make a little bit of difference in someone’s life; even one person.”

Because he can’t be everywhere, Weiss stays connected with the community through the Internet. He uses email to answer questions and give advice to lay leaders who perform services when no rabbi is available. He also started an online newsletter, Kol Torah, with the help of his wife in Heidelberg, Germany. The newsletter keeps the community here informed of events and educates them on Jewish culture.

So while there may not be enough rabbis to go around, Jewish service members aren’t left on their own. Weiss uses the Internet and travel to make sure they get as much support as possible.

Food Stamp Challenge: The Week The Rabbis Went Hungry


— by Eric Harris

This week Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and other members of the RAC staff, is taking the Food Stamp Challenge. Part of “Fighting Poverty with Faith’s” initiative to focus people of faith on issues of economic justice and the need to sustain vital social safety net programs, Food Stamp Challenge participants live for seven days on the standard weekly food stamp allotment of $31.50. Rabbi Saperstein will participate in the Challenge from October 27th through November 2nd, joining a half dozen prominent Jewish leaders and ten Members of Congress in this effort to call attention to anti-hunger programs and educate the faith community on the plight of hunger.

We are honored to be able to participate in the Food Stamp Challenge, and experience even for a brief time the ongoing struggle of the millions of Americans nationwide who are confronting hunger on a daily basis. We have long advocated for anti-hunger programs, like SNAP and WIC that meet the needs of the 49 million food-insecure Americans but the Challenge places in stark relief how difficult it is to obtain enough food and nutritious food on a food stamp budget – and why we must do better as a nation.

Jewish tradition teaches that feeding the hungry is a vital responsibility. The Midrash says:

When you are asked in the world to come, ‘What was your work?’ and you answer: ‘I fed the hungry,’ you will be told: ‘This is the gate of God, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry.’

Participating in the Food Stamp Challenge will not, by itself, end hunger in America; that will take a sustained commitment by our nation and its leaders. To that end, we are hopeful that our participation in the Food Stamp Challenge this week will inspire others to advocate for policies addressing families and individuals who confront hunger nationwide. During these difficult economic times, easing the burden on those who are most vulnerable must be our number one priority.

All members of our congregations are being called to register online, and join us in the Food Stamp Challenge and use it as an opportunity to educate your synagogue and community.

Other food stamp challenge participants are listed after the jump.

Who else is taking the challenge?

Ask your Member of Congress to take the challenge too.