I and other residents of the Main Line have been in lack of books since the bankruptcy of the Borders bookstore chain in July 2011, and the renovations of the Ludington and Bala Cynwyd branch libraries, the latter closing in December 2011. For a few months, we were bereft of all three resources, until Ludington reopened last September, and Bala Cynwyd reopened last month. Another pleasure awaits us at the newly opened Main Point Books, an independent bookstore in Bryn Mawr, run by local resident Cathy Fiebach.
Main Point Books stocks a broad range of books, with a particular emphasis on literary fiction. Fiebach is eager to hear from customers about the kinds of books they like, and especially about books they do not, because it helps her develop her inventory. (When was the last time you had fun chatting books with the staff at a chain store?)
One of the charming books available in the store is My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop, a collection of essays by writers on their favorite bookstores. Some of those stores are in the writers' communities, and others are their stops along a book tour. I have my own copy, and I told Fiebach that it is "armchair traveling" for me to read about lovely bookstores across the country. Her store could easily join their ranks.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg's funeral was held yesterday at the Park Avenue Synagogue. Among the speakers were Vice President Joe Biden, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). 41 Senators, Gov. Chris Christie and six members of the House of Representatives attended the event.
Frank Lautenberg was a man for his time. One of the greatest generation. The last of the Senate to have served in World War II. His story was an American story, but from his heart and for his lifetime, he was a kid from Paterson, New Jersey.
A note from our friends at the Keystone Research Center:
In a closely divided 8 to 6 vote today, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee approved Senate Bill 975, legalizing payday loans with annual percentage rates of more than 300%. The bill moves to the Senate floor, despite the opposition of veterans, seniors, faith groups, and a majority of Pennsylvanians.
The Keystone Research Center issued the following statement on behalf of the Coalition to Stop Predatory Payday Loans in Pennsylvania:
Senate Bill 975 rolls back the state's longstanding protections against predatory payday loans. Pennsylvania has been recognized by both the Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Defense for having among the strongest laws in the nation to keep out predatory payday lenders. A 2010 Pennsylvania Supreme Court case held that loans made in violation of existing law are illegal, even when made online.
Senate Bill 975 would undo those protections, harming working families across the state. With this bill comes a higher likelihood of bankruptcies in Pennsylvania, and payday lenders gaining direct access to borrowers' bank accounts. These are just some of the reasons that the bill faces opposition from a majority of Pennsylvanians.
The Coalition thanks those senators who stood with Pennsylvanians to oppose this bill: Senators Michael Stack, Lisa Boscola, Larry Farnese, Anthony Williams, Patricia Vance and John Rafferty. Democratic Chairman Stack made a passionate plea for the committee to do what veterans and others have asked: to reject this bill and keep our existing, strong consumer protections in place.
We are disappointed in those senators who stood with payday lenders by voting yes on this bill: Senators Pat Browne, Don White, Mike Brubaker, Kim Ward, Jake Corman, John Eichelberger, Joseph Scarnati and Jim Brewster.
An idea that blossomed in parlor meetings among local Jews in search of a responsive and evolving hub for prayer, education and religious exploration is celebrating a milestone anniversary this month. Congregation Kol Ami, located on High School Road in Elkins Park, is marking its 18th year as a Reform synagogue - a symbolic number that signifies "life" among Jews.
Nomadic Beginnings Where Member Input Was Key In its infancy, Kol Ami was nomadic, renting space for religious services from Abington Friends School, the Keswick Theater and Gratz College - a real challenge when a synagogue is attempting to grow. But according to Founding Rabbi Elliot Holin, the sense of community really came from the passion of the members, rather than the bricks and mortar of a building. "This was a group of people who were really committed to creating a hands-on, intimate synagogue, with programs based on the needs expressed by members," he explained. "Finding a permanent home was secondary, and we knew that opportunity would come later."
Instead, the fledgling congregation focused its energies on securing input on what its members really wanted from their new synagogue: What vision statement should guide the congregation? What type of religious school curriculum? What sort of dues structure seemed affordable to members? Critical questions were pursued with gusto by Kol Ami, further reinforcing the meaning of the temple's name - "voice of my people."
One question that never needed reflection was who would be chosen as the temple's rabbi. Elliot Holin had served as associate rabbi at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia for 10 years and had stepped down to pursue other interests around the time area Jews started brainstorming ideas for a new synagogue. The timing felt right, and he took the lead as Senior Rabbi of Kol Ami. Rabbi Holin's unique commitment to getting to know each member was well received, and membership grew from a handful of fledging members to the 200 families that make up the congregation today.
In a mix of irony and good luck, Kol Ami found its permanent home in 2006, when Congregation Rodeph Shalom vacated its Elkins Park building to focus on growing a stronger presence in Philadelphia. Kol Ami moved into the building at 8201 High School Ave. Rabbi Holin found himself back in a building he knew well, only now as Kol Ami's spiritual leader.
Today, the building bustles with activity - worship services, dynamic and renowned speakers, community service projects, preschool and religious school classes, and adult education. Activities and offerings are ever-changing, based on an ongoing assessment of member needs and interests.
A Welcoming Home for Nontraditional Families
Kol Ami is blessed that many of its original members remain active today. Barbara Levy of Wyncote, 92, can still be found at worship services. Cory Newman makes the trek from South Jersey to Kol Ami because of the "high-quality people and the sense of belonging."
Bill Hyman and Janine Pratt, an interfaith couple, spearheaded the synagogue's first interfaith committee 18 years ago and, in doing so, helped create a welcoming environment for non-Jewish spouses. Their teenage daughters are now active members of the Jewish community. "Kol Ami is a place where you feel welcome regardless of how diverse your situation is," Hyman stressed.
The inclusiveness of Kol Ami, and the Rabbi's personal connection with all members, is the reason that the Long family is now celebrating its third generation of active members. After hearing of the positive
experience of his parents, David and Patty Ann Long, at Kol Ami, Ben Long and his wife, Jody, joined the synagogue and enrolled their older
daughter, Emma, in Kol Ami's progressive religious school. A few years later, her younger sister, Zoe, enrolled. Today, Zoe is a teen leader at services and sings in Kol Ami's choir while her dad reflects on his past role as congregation president. "Kol Ami has a legacy of family involvement, not just from ours, but from many, many members," David Long explained.
Eager to capture the spirit of what Kol Ami has meant to its members, a team of devoted volunteers has worked diligently to create a wall hanging that symbolizes the woodsy hill on which the temple is situated. All member families did their part by signing a section of the wall display. The beautiful collaborative project was presented to the congregation president in the name of the congregation earlier this month after a weekend of special commemorative events.
For Rabbi Holin, however, Kol Ami's path is just beginning. "We are constantly asking members for their feedback on their worship experience, their educational experience, what we can do to make their involvement with Kol Ami personally meaningful," he emphasized. "Member needs are always evolving, and we believe in evolving with them."
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), representing North America's largest Jewish congregational Movement, and Camp Harlam, the URJ's Philadelphia-based regional overnight camp, announced that they will open the first URJ-affiliated day camp in the summer of 2014.
The URJ's foray into Jewish day camping is a strategic initiative meant to complement the Reform Movement's focus on Youth Engagement and the URJ's North American Camp Committee's strategic plan. The expectation for the day camp is to be the first of its kind and a model, and other day camp initiatives will be considered for various target communities throughout North America in the coming years.
Rebecca Lewinson of West Windsor, N.J., who will reprsent the U.S. in the Maccabiah Games this summer, has already won almost any swimming title she competed for: at the New Jersey High School State Championship, she won the 100m Breast category three years in a row. She is currently a member of the Princeton University Swim Team, and won two Ivy League Championships in three years. In the 2009 Maccabiah, at the age of 17, she competed in the open age category and won the gold medal in 200m Breast, silver in 400m Medley Relay, and bronze in 100m Breast.
Last week, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett brushed away a question about Latinos working in his administration during a round-table discussion at The Union League in Philadelphia, telling the moderator, "If you can find us one let me know."
At the same event, Corbett said:
I represent every one of you. I've been elected by the people of Pennsylvania to make it better than I found it. We need to be able to develop a stronger relationship with all communities.... we're in the process now of getting much more connected with everybody, that we did not have before.
On May 20, Stephen H. Frishberg welcomed the 2013 inductees to the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. As Chairman of the Board, Mr. Frishberg recognized each individual's contribution to the field of sports in Greater Philadelphia.
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 received special recognition.
Continuity Elusive at Top of Nation's No. 6 Community Ira Schwartz, departed abruptly in early May, marking the fourth time the federation has lost its top professional leader since the early 1990s. That's unusual among big-city federations, where successful executives often last decades....
Philadelphia's federation announced Schwartz's departure late on May 3, a Friday afternoon. A statement and story published in the federation-owned Jewish Exponent disclosed no details about why Schwartz was leaving, saying only that the separation was effective immediately.
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.
Pennsylvania has become a state with a significant majority of voters registered as Democratic. Yet, our Congressional delegation, state Senate and state House of Representatives are all at least 60% Republican. A substantial part of the explanation to this is an adroit political redistricting: "packing" (squeezing the opposition's votes into a few districts) and "cracking" (splitting pockets of opposition voters into separate districts where they cannot form a majority) to preserve the dominant party.
Left to right: Leksey Maltzman, Lev Ziskind, Leah Schatz, David Feinberg, Jesse Bernstein, Maya Kassutto, Anna Lieberman, Ilana Goldstein, and Josh Horowitz
— by Beverly C. Rosen
David Feinberg, a Barrack Hebrew Academy junior, won a Cappie award at the Philadelphia Cappie Award Ceremonies held last Sunday for the best performance by a comic actor in a play, for his performance in the Barrack student production of "Brighton Beach Memoirs." Fellow classmate Maya Kassutto won the Spirit Award.
Cappies, the Critics and Awards Program for high school theatre and journalism students, awarded each year, honor student directors, actors, technicians, musicians, and theater critics in the greater Philadelphia region. Thirty-seven public and private schools in the city and surrounding suburbs participated in this year's program and received nominations and awards from student critics. The critics, themselves, are also nominated for awards.
ComedySportz players Jason Stockdale, Olivia Ciacci, Julia Frey and Matt Lydon competing for the Red Team.
— by David Dritsas
It may be cliché to say that laughter brings people together but if the cliché fits, well, I say you might as well wear it and wear it proudly.
When I was recently asked to write a an article for The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, I struggled a bit with what to say that didn't seem to be too much of a pitch for ComedySportz Philadelphia, the local improv comedy company I worked at for 12 years. But then I thought, "Talk about the community. That's a nice hook."
After all, the Jewish community has been a strong supporter of ComedySportz throughout its 20-year history, something for which both our Jewish and non-Jewish cast members and staff have been extremely grateful.
Cooking with the Calamari Sisters Through: May 19, 2013.
At: Society Hill Playhouse, 507 S. Eighth St.
Information: 215-923-0210 or ComcastTIX.
— by Lisa Grunberger
Cooking with the Calamari Sisters has two weeks left of a long run at Society Hill Playhouse, and if you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and "Screw the Gym, Pass the Lasagna," as the Calamari Sisters say and go to this fabulously entertaining show.
This campy, irreverent show stars Jay Falzone as Delphine Calamari, and Stephen Smith as his sister Carmela Calamari. Yes, this is a tour-de-force drag show, complete with audience participation, improvisation, risqué humor, song and dance, and real cooking. From sausage jokes to Jesus jokes, the Calamari Sisters strikes the right balance of campy irreverence and edginess — it's difficult not to laugh out loud, and laugh you will.
I had the opportunity to interview Jennifer Childs, Artistic Director of 1812 Productions, Philadelphia's All Comedy Theatre Company, about her new comedy, which she wrote and directed, It's My Party: The Women and Comedy Project. It's My Party began in 2010 with two questions: how do women use comedy and how does the usage change as they age. Through collage, cabaret, and stand-up Childs investigates gender stereotypes that lock women into certain roles, such as the ditz, the vamp, and the old maid.
In some ways, the play responds to Christopher Hitchens' provocative comment in a Vanity Fair article years ago, claiming that women aren't funny. The first act of this compelling show had the audience laughing on the opening night last Wedensday. The all-woman ensemble includes comedic veterans of the Philadelphia theatre. The play incorporates original and devised music by the cast and the musical director Monica Stephenson, and features a set by 1812 Productions' designer Lance Kniskern.
Bonin, a member of the JSPAN Board of Directors, provided an overview of the process by which redistricting is accomplished for state and federal elections in Pennsylvania, what role is played by the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission and which Constitutional provisions come into play. He also traced the history of litigation with respect to interpretations of key provisions of the state Constitution and explained how these likely may impact redistricting decisions currently before the Court.
Due to its similarity to soccer and the smaller field and number of players, futsal is an extremely popular hobby around the world. "Futsal in Brazil is like basketball or baseball here in the U.S. In fact, in younger ages they play it instead of soccer," explains Michael Monheit, chair and head coach of the U.S. futsal team for the Maccabiah Games.
Two years ago, Monheit established the American Futsal Academy in King of Prussia. "Before that, clubs in the area used futsal for practice, but there were no actual futsal clubs here," he said.
We established a new club in order to bring together the best futsal players in Greater Philadelphia, and we won the northeast championship in three age categories in our debut season, and in two age categories last year.
If you've recently heard the name Max Gottlieb, you are not the only ones. For the last month, the 19-year-old singer of Lower Merion has been performing several times a week in pubs and festivals around Philadelphia. "I stared performing at open-mic events, got bookings as music managers saw me, and so it rolled on," he explained.
Gottlieb has been playing guitar for five years, and first started performing with the Lower Merion High School a-capella group, but his career has taken a big step forward during the last four months. While on an immersion gap-year program in Israel, he started uploading home-made videos of himself singing and playing to his YouTube channel, and has already gained over 120,000 views.
This is a letter I never imagined writing, and am deeply grief-stricken to be writing. Rev. Bob Edgar, a great public servant and my friend, died last Tuesday.
I last saw him on Jan. 15, when he spoke at a gathering at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church near the White House, sponsored by Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, to protest Presidential inaction on the climate crisis.
He recalled the moment when as a seminary student he sat young and awe-struck in the balcony of that church, and heard Dr. Martin Luther King preach the need for a movement of the Spirit to heal America.
What is the most effective way to teach young people about entrepreneurship? To have seasoned businesspeople demonstrate how it is done. Entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Josh Kopelman, of First Round Capital, invited the third grade students at Perelman Jewish Day School's Stern Center to visit him at First Round. They will have the opportunity to present business plans to him and two other venture capitalists, Wayne Kimmel and Marc Singer.
The Festival will also recognize and present the short film The Earthquake by a local new filmmaker Danielle Lessovitz. New Filmmakers Weekend will be hosted by Dan Friedman, Managing Editor of The Forward.
Let's face it: some of the most fascinating places in the world are located in some of the most impoverished places in the world. You can't visit the Pyramids of Giza without driving through the slums of Cairo. The Taj Mahal, arguably the most beautiful building ever built, sits amid some of the worst poverty anywhere. Even vacationing on a beautiful Caribbean island, your luxury resort is an anomaly; the ugly truth is all around you.
I've been traveling for most of my life and, in fact, I lived in Tehran, Iran as a young woman back in the mid 1970's. Poverty was all around me there. I had a beggar friend that I passed every day on the street. We were warned not to give money to beggars because if you did, they wouldn't leave you alone and you might draw an unwanted crowd. So I didn't give him anything, and for his part, he never asked. We just had a friendly salaam and a smile for each other each day. But I always felt bad about it.
As I reflect on the events of the past 24 hours, my thoughts and prayers are with the 130 people who have been injured, to greater or lesser degrees, by the bombs that exploded in Boston. May they be granted speedy and complete recoveries. May G-d strengthen the hands of those who tend to their injuries and wounds. May those in need be granted healing, both physical and spiritual. I know that you join me in extending heartfelt sympathy and prayers for comfort to the families of the three victims who died from their wounds. I pray that those whose job it is to find and apprehend those responsible are successful in their work. May those who are guilty be brought to justice and be held accountable for these heinous crimes.
Americans for Democratic Action founders Hubert Humphrey (left) and Eleanor Roosevelt (center) with Adlai Stevenson (right).
— by John Oliver Mason
The Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter of the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) held its membership meeting in First Unitarian Church.
Guenevive Norton, chapter President, greeted the members and introduced Don Kusler, National Executive Director of ADA, "a voice for our causes in Washington." Horton listed ADA's recent activities, such as the campaign for earned sick leave, coalition work around voter ID legislation, merit selection of judicial candidates, endorsements for candidates in general and primary elections, and school funding and closing.
Don Kusler, National Director of ADA, spoke to the group, saying, "This is a sizeable group of people, dedicated to a single mission. You can get a lot done, and it's so important that we do this with our chapters and expand our chapter base." Pointing out that ADA members come from several backgrounds and deal with a variety of issues, Kusler said of the themes the members stood for, "one was equality, we talked about equality of education, equality of representation, equality when it comes to (ending) bias, I think that's the underlying theme where all interested in."
Recently, I was sitting crossed-legged on the floor of my mother's house, digging in her old green cardboard suitcase full of photographs and thank you cards. I poured over the black and white photographs from Odessa, depicting our family and close friends. There were also many pictures in color, of my mother surrounded by her former piano students, whom she taught over the years of her life in Philadelphia, which were proudly taken after numerous concerts my mother had presented. There were pictures of my mother's students, and even her students acting in a musical play that she had directed based on the lives of Clara and Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt and Felix Mendelssohn. Strewn among the photographs were dozens of cards from the parents of my mother's students, with words of gratitude for changing their children's lives through her teaching. With deep sincerity they thanked her for bringing forth their kids' potential and talent in music. They described her as being not only a teacher, but a great mentor and role model.
Nashirah, the Jewish chorale of Philadelphia, under the artistic direction of Jonathan Coopersmith, will hold its annual Spring Concert at Society Hill Synagogue on Sunday, April 21, 2013.
Nashirah is the only auditioned community-based chorale in the Greater Philadelphia area that performs exclusively Jewish and Jewish-themed music. The 90-minute program, "Sabbath Variations," will celebrate the Jewish Sabbath service as performed from the seventeenth century through today, and from Yemen to Israel to the United States.
Over 100 prominent Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) lay leaders and supporters from the United States and Panama, including a delegation from Philadelphia, were accompanied by over 50 IDF officers as they toured the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in Poland as part of the ten-day FIDF "From Holocaust to Independence" journey to Poland and Israel.
The delegation visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, which was the largest of the Nazi's Concentration Camps. The delegation also listened to the personal story of a Holocaust survivor from Israel, Asher Aud, in Auschwitz 2-Birkenau, where mass exterminations of Jews took place throughout the war.
Popular vocal actress Sharon Sigal brings her celebrated Salon of Music and Theatre to Wynnewood on May 4 at 7:30 p.m. to benefit the A Way In Jewish Mindfulness program.
The salon, held in an elegant private home for a limited audience of 50 people, will include Sigal singing the music of Yip Harburg (the lyricist for songs like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"), accompanied by internationally-known pianist Samuel Heifetz. The program also includes original works by actors Polly MacIntyre, Arnold Kendall and Ben Kendall, and comedy by Karen Meshkov. In addition, noted flutist Lisamarie McGrath -- who, with percussionists Kara Barnett and Connie Paolino, makes up the Mystic Pulse Ensemble -- will present a selection of improvisational music.
Tickets are a minimum of $50 per person and include not only the entertainment but also a sumptuous appetizer/dessert buffet including wine, coffee and soft drinks. All donations over $20 are tax deductible.
The May 4 program is the 21st salon produced and hosted by Sigal over the past decade. Because they are held in private homes, the salons have a special kind of intimacy, she says.
"Many of these artists typically perform on huge stages in big theaters, distant from the audiences," says Sigal. "A salon gives people an opportunity to enjoy the artistry close-up. The evening allows the audience to mingle with the performers as well as enjoy each others' company after the show."
Tickets must be purchased in advance, payable by check to A Way In, c/o Sharon Sigal 627 Haverford Rd., Ardmore, PA 19003. For more information, email Sharon@sharonsigal.com or call 610-649-0274. All proceeds from the salon will benefit A Way In Jewish Mindfulness program, based at Roxborough's Mishkan Shalom.
"So much thanks to Sharon for bringing us together in joy and celebration," says A Way In founder Rabbi Yael Levy. "As the Psalmist sings, 'How good it is to come together. How blessed are we to have each other as companions on this sacred journey through life.'"
When the Respect for Marriage Act (the legislation that repeals the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA]) was first introduced and debated in the Senate in 2011, I began to focus on the issue of same-sex marriage much more intensely than I had before. As a candidate for the Senate in 2006 and 2012, and as a Senator, I have supported civil unions. I also supported strongly the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), was a leading co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and had stated publicly that I opposed efforts to enact constitutional prohibitions on same-sex marriage. In the six years I have been in the Senate, there have not been any floor votes to repeal DOMA or to legalize same-sex marriage. Both questions have now been argued before the Supreme Court and are being debated across our country. After much deliberation and after reviewing the legal, public policy, and civil rights questions presented, I support marriage equality for same-sex couples and believe that DOMA should be repealed.
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