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September 10, 2021 | 4 Tishrei 5782

NOTEWORTHY LOCAL A chance meeting…a 40-year career

Harold Marcus retires from Israel Bonds Page 2

LOCAL Helping Federation expand reach

Candlelighting 7:19 p.m. | Havdalah 8:16 p.m. | Vol. 64, No. 37 |


Memories of 9/11

May you be sealed in the Book of Life.

By David Rullo | Staff Writer


wenty years after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the effects continue to be felt around the globe. Members of the Pittsburgh Jewish Community who were in New York on that day two decades ago share their memories here. Stories have been edited for length and content.

Mental health concerns are rampant. Jewish leaders are on the frontlines

The new parents

 Mark and Olga Pizov and sons

Photo courtesy of Olga Pizov

Jessica Brown Smith promoted to COO

And that was before COVID. Since then, the demand has only grown. “COVID was a disaster,” said Rabbi Moishe Mayir Vogel, executive director at the Northeast regional branch of the Aleph Institute, which serves people who are incarcerated or at risk of incarceration due to mental illness or addiction. “COVID was terrible for many reasons. It was a terrible time.” Vogel saw in his work in prisons and group homes a heightened version of the mental distress being experienced everywhere, he

Olga and Mark Pizov were living on Manhattan’s Upper West Side while Mark attended Columbia University. Their first son, Alex, born prematurely on Aug. 18, was in Cornell Medical Center’s newborn intensive care unit on that Tuesday, which began as any other day, recalled Olga. “I remember taking a shower and the phone kept ringing,” she said. “I thought, ‘What is happening?’ It was my cousin from Israel calling me — he knew about it before I did. I turned on the TV and I saw the news about the plane hitting the first building. As soon as I realized it was real, I walked straight out of the apartment with the intent to go to the hospital and just get a hold of our baby.” Olga, unable to reach Mark at Columbia, hailed a cab to get to the hospital across town, while Mark walked from Columbia to the Cornell Medical Center. “By the time I got to Central Park, people were coming uptown and you could see they were covered in soot,” recalled Mark, now a vice president at U.S. Steel. “You could look down and see the plumes of smoke emitting from downtown.”

Please see Mental Health, page 14

Please see 9/11, page 10

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LOCAL ‘Restoring dignity’

 Rabbi Alex Greenbaum outside Beth El Congregation of the South Hills

Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource

By David Rullo | Staff Writer and Chris Hedlin | PublicSource

JCBA repairs area cemeteries Page 4


abbi Alex Greenbaum of Beth El Congregation of the South Hills isn’t formally trained in mental health counseling. Most rabbis aren’t, he said. As to the amount of time he spends doing it, though? “For many of us, it’s most of our pulpit,” he said. When people reach out with mental health concerns, Greenbaum said his primary role is to help connect them with licensed therapists and other resources. Still, it makes mental health a huge focus of his work.

keep your eye on PittsburghJewishChronicle LOCAL

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Headlines After 40 years, Harold Marcus retires from Israel Bonds — LOCAL — By Toby Tabachnick | Editor


emember that story about how a young Lana Turner, sipping a Coke in a malt shop, was discovered by a Hollywood reporter, leading to an iconic career in film? Harold Marcus has a similar story. In 1981, when Marcus was a 30-year-old father of two, he lost his job after a reorganization at the private finance firm where he worked. One day, as he was eating breakfast alone in Bagel Nosh on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill, in walked Bill Cohen, then Israel Bonds’ executive director in Pennsylvania. Cohen came over to say hello, having recently met Marcus at a birthday party for Cohen’s grandson. He asked Marcus what he did for a living, and Marcus said he was looking for work. The rest, as they say, is history. “I came to Bonds by accident,” said Marcus, who will be retiring after 40 years working for Israel Bonds in Pennsylvania. “It was a total change of career path.” After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, Marcus began his working life as a copy editor and proofreader for American Institutes for Research. The company eventually closed its Pittsburgh office and relocated its operation to California, but Marcus did not want to move his family west, so he took the aforementioned job in finance. In 1981, when he met Cohen, Marcus had never even heard of Israel Bonds. But after Cohen explained to him the mission of the organization — helping to build the Jewish state’s economy through investments — Marcus was certain it was something he could do, and do well. He was right.

“A week later, there was a message on my phone,” Marcus told the Chronicle at the time. “The message said, ‘This is Warren Buffett. I got your letter.’ It took me 10 minutes to get my jaw off the floor.” That letter led to a series of events for Israel Bonds supported by Buffett, beginning with a dinner in Omaha in 2016 at which $60 million of bonds were sold — with Buffet buying $5 million worth on his own. Buffet enjoyed the event so much that he agreed to participate in three more. “To say that was the highlight of my career, it was — in one regard,”  Harold and Maureen Marcus  Photo courtesy of Harold Marcus Marcus said, but was quick to add appreciaIn the 40 years Marcus worked for Israel tion for the “amazing lay leaders, colleagues Bonds — the first 30 in Pittsburgh as a sales and investors” he worked with over the years. representative, the next 10 in Philadelphia “When I say ‘investor,’ it doesn’t matter as executive director of the Pennsylvania whether they’re investing $36 or $2 million region —he was responsible for securing — we have some of the most incredible significant investments in Israel, including clients with the highest Zionist ideals,” more than $300 million that stemmed from Marcus said. As a brokerage, Israel Bonds a chutzpadik letter he wrote to Warren is nonpolitical, and has clients that span Buffett in 2015. the gamut, “from the extreme right and When one of Israel Bonds’ longtime inves- the extreme left when it comes to Israel,” tors — an insurance company that had been he said. “However, they all believe in one acquired by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway thing: You can’t not support the State of — declined to reinvest as one of its sizable Israel, no matter which end of the specbonds was maturing, Marcus wrote to trum you’re on.” Buffett and asked for an opportunity to Marcus grew up in Stanton Heights and present his case. met his late wife, Maxine Cohen, when they

were 15 years old. They were married at 20 and were members of Temple Sinai, where Marcus taught religious school for 45 years. Maxine passed away just a few weeks shy of their 37th anniversary. In 2011, Marcus was promoted from sales rep to regional director of Israel Bonds’ Pennsylvania Region (which includes Pittsburgh). He married Maureen Wander Miller the same year, and they moved to Philadelphia, where the regional office is located. But he is still a Pittsburgher at heart. “I still tell people, if I cut my arm, I would bleed black and gold,” he said. “That’s my blood. It’s home.” Marcus, 71, has decided to stay in Philly in his retirement, but he comes back to Pittsburgh frequently to visit his children and grandchildren and, up until last year, his mother, who died just six weeks before she turned 100. While the decision to retire wasn’t easy, “because I love what I do, I’m still extremely passionate about what we do,” he said, Marcus and his wife are looking forward to taking some time to just enjoy life while they are “relatively young and relatively healthy.” That will include traveling and spending time with family, he said. Marcus’ last day at Israel Bonds will be Nov. 3, and he will be honored in Pittsburgh at an event on Dec. 9. His successor will be Ari Sirner, whom Marcus hired in 2018 as an Israel Bonds sales rep in Philadelphia. Sirner left last summer to work for the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, but got in touch with Israel Bonds and expressed interest in the job when he heard Marcus’ position would be available. “He knows the organization, he knows Please see Marcus, page 15

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Headlines Jessica Brown Smith named Federation COO — LOCAL — By Adam Reinherz | Staff Writer


fter 24 years as a staffer at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, Jessica Brown Smith has been promoted to the position of chief operating officer, putting her at the forefront of implementing the umbrella organization’s new strategic plan. Smith’s new role, which she assumed in July and which was announced publicly on Aug. 27, presents an opportunity to work with the Federation’s many divisions, including its community relations council, Jewish life and learning, and marketing, she said. Born and raised in Squirrel Hill, Smith began her Federation tenure more than two decades ago. After completing a degree in marketing at the University of Colorado Boulder, and living for a year in Israel, Smith returned to Pittsburgh with hopes of serving the Jewish community. She was hired as a marketing associate at the Federation in June 1997, and worked on various tasks, including preparing campaign materials, the annual report and invitations. “We were a much smaller shop back then and we did a lot more stuff internally,” Smith said. “So, I kind of worked on everything.” After several years with Federation’s

p Jessica Brown Smith, left, with Community Campaign co-chair Ellen Teri Kaplan Goldstein and Diane Samuels at the Jewish Federation’s 2021 Celebration, the donor thank-you event in June Photo courtesy of Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh

marketing department, she shifted to development where she began overseeing the annual campaign and other fundraising efforts. She learned about donor engagement and community impact, which will be helpful in her new position, she said. Serving as Federation’s COO “poses a really good opportunity and a challenge for me to work in another part of the organization and make a difference there,” she added. Although the Federation has evolved since Smith started with the nonprofit, she said its work continues to be critical. “When I first came to work at Federation, we were very much focused on raising money through the annual campaign and

allocating money out into the community,” Smith said. “Over my tenure, we’ve become a much, much more diverse and sophisticated nonprofit. Of course, we still raise money for the annual campaign, and of course we still make allocations out into the community, but we’ve also taken on the role of community convener and collaborator.” Smith cited Federation’s security-related work, the organization’s efforts to help the Jewish Cemetery and Burial Association of Greater Pittsburgh, and Federation’s ability to help the community with pandemic support — including providing personal protective equipment and securing loans from the Paycheck Protection Program — as

evidence of the organization’s reach. “The Federation has really become an organization that brings community together,” said Smith. Federation president and CEO Jeffrey Finkelstein praised Smith’s abilities, saying they would aid the organization and community in the days ahead. “Jessica’s long tenure and experience with the Jewish Federation and great record working with volunteers will be a tremendous asset as we move our new strategic plan forward,” Finkelstein said. Adam Hertzman, Federation’s director of marketing, said Smith will join a newly created executive leadership team, consisting of the organization’s chief executive officer, chief development officer, chief financial officer and chief operating officer. Smith, who enjoys hiking in Frick Park, biking on area trails and traveling to diverse Jewish communities, said she is looking forward to continuing to serve the Federation as its COO. Along with her two children — her son is a senior at The Ohio State University and her daughter is in ninth grade at Environmental Charter School — being a part of the Federation is one of “two things that are really my pride and joy.”  PJC Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@


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Headlines ‘Restoring dignity’: JCBA repairs Jewish cemeteries in Carrick

p Beth Abraham Cemetery, front gate and arch after work wa completed

— LOCAL — By Justin Vellucci | Special to the Chronicle


he Jewish Cemetery and Burial Association of Greater Pittsburgh (JCBA) is continuing to grow in leaps and bounds as it furthers its mission to repair and care for Jewish cemeteries throughout western Pennsylvania. The JCBA now owns, manages or maintains a total of 24 Jewish cemeteries in the Pittsburgh area — from New Castle to Uniontown to Johnstown, said Barry Rudel, the nonprofit’s executive director. The organization has been acquiring properties and collaborating more with local cemetery officials since it launched a reorganization campaign last year, at which time it was in charge of just 10 properties. Much of the JCBA’s repair work in recent months has focused on parcels in Carrick — namely the Beth Abraham, Shaare Zedeck and Marks cemeteries. The JCBA spent some $30,000 to cut down “dozens and dozens” of dead or dying trees; it also reconstructed walls, built a privacy fence along an adjoining property and rebuilt Beth Abraham’s front gate, Rudel told the Chronicle. “This is a story of restoring dignity to our sacred grounds,” Rudel said. “This was long overdue.” Beth Abraham is the third-largest Jewish cemetery in western Pennsylvania and the largest parcel JCBA helps maintain. Situated near Route 51, near the other two

4 SEPTEMBER 10, 2021

cemeteries, Beth Abraham has more than 4,000 gravesites, Rudel said. The cemetery also is the home of 71 children’s graves, though there are only 40 markers for those graves. The JCBA plans to remedy that by building a children’s monument for those in unmarked plots. Next, the JCBA might be looking eastward. A Cambria County judge recently assigned control of three cemetery parcels near Johnstown to the JCBA, Rudel said. A big part of the reason the group is able to expand at such a pace is the support of the Jewish community, he said. “It’s been wonderful,” Rudel said. “We’ve had new gifts at all levels — both from individuals and family foundations. People are really committed to seeing the cemeteries sustained beyond their lifetimes.” Harvey Wolsh is the JCBA’s president. When he took over the leadership role, he said, the Carrick sites were near the top of his list. “I said, ‘Let’s make these cemeteries perfect,’” he told the Chronicle. Wolsh also is philosophical about the social significance of the sites. “It’s very important to keep our cemeteries in good condition — that’s our heritage, that’s our mission,” Wolsh said. “We owe it to our ancestors.” “It’s also an obligation to the community to keep these cemeteries in good shape,” he added. “And that’s what we’re gonna do.”  PJC Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.

p Tree work at Beth Abraham Cemetery 


Photos by Jonathan Schachter JCBA


Headlines Pre-Yom Kippur menu planners play it safe — or somewhat spicy — LOCAL — By Adam Reinherz | Staff Writer


e’s not running a marathon, but Dr. Alex Sax is preparing for his Yom Kippur fast as if he were. No, he won’t be running intervals up at the Schenley Oval or hill repeats in Oakland, but Sax, a Squirrel Hill resident who’s finished 52 marathons, does plan on hydrating and loading up on carbs in a familiar pre-race fashion. Forty-eight hours before Yom Kippur, which begins the evening of Sept. 15, Sax will start increasing his water and Gatorade intake. And, as the fast grows closer, he’ll become more cognizant of what he eats. “I eliminate sugary and salty products that will make me thirsty,” he said. With potato chips and ice cream removed from his diet, Sax’s go-to foods will be baked potatoes and rice, maybe a veggie burger. Swapping out sweet and savory items for less flavorful foods is a sound strategy heading into either Yom Kippur or a marathon, explained Sax, who’s also happens to be training for an upcoming race in Milwaukee. It’s a simple diet, but taking that approach works time and again, he said. For Israeli-born Naama Lazar, simplicity is likewise key when it comes to preparing for the Day of Atonement.

25-hour period that arrives each week, Yom Kippur offers a break and chance for introspection. Dan Marcus, president and CEO of Hillel Jewish University Center, wants students — many of whom are arriving on campus either for the first time or after a prolonged pandemic-related absence — to enjoy a meaningful Yom Kippur. This year, like most others, Hillel JUC will provide students a pre-fast meal of spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread and salad, said Rachel Cohen, Hillel JUC’s director of operations. It’s the same carbp It’s traditional to serve chicken soup with kreplach for the pre-Yom Kippur meal. Photo by L_Shtandel via iStock heavy menu Hillel typically provides, but Prior to Yom Kippur, Lazar and her The menu is relatively standard, as the food the goal is to have students well-fed and ready for the holiday, Marcus said. husband will eat some sweet potatoes, soup, itself isn’t the focus of the holiday, she said. Jeffrey Spitz Cohan, of Forest Hills, hasn’t salad and a protein-rich food. Whereas In its description of Yom Kippur, the Torah Lazar’s husband, David, typically eats fish, refers to the day as “Shabbat Shabbaton,” she opts for chicken. a Sabbath of complete rest. And, like the Please see Menu, page 15

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Calendar Submit calendar items on the Chronicle’s website, pittsburghjewishchronicle. org. Submissions also will be included in print. Events will run in the print edition beginning one month prior to the date as space allows. The deadline for submissions is Friday, noon. q


Film Pittsburgh’s ninth annual ReelAbilities Pittsburgh film festival will include 12 features and short films that explore and celebrate the stories of individuals living with disabilities. It is co-presented by and will screen at the Carnegie Museum of Art. The festival will also include questions and answers with visiting filmmakers, an art exhibit and receptions. ReelAbilities Pittsburgh brings people together to explore and celebrate the diversity of our shared human experience. Films will be shown at the Carnegie Museum of Art which is fully accessible. $15. q


Pittsburgh-based memoirist Dorit Sasson celebrates the launch of her second memoir with a book signing focusing on her first book, “Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces.” Free, but 100% of the proceeds of book sales will be donated to the Michael Levin Lone Soldier Foundation in honor of her father, Ahrom Elvaiah. Chabad of Squirrel Hill. 11:30 a.m. Avi Ben Hur unpacks the causes and core issues that relate to the Arab-Israeli Conflict. The goal is to make the subject accessible to educators and give them the tools to grapple in the classroom with the subject and with breaking news. Each section will be accompanied with suggestions for further exploration. 2 p.m. israeli_conflict Bake your own chocolate babka and a delicious challah for Shabbat with Chabad of the South Hills at the Mega BabkaChallah Bake. Pizza and crafts. Ages 3-12. $8/child before Aug. 30; $10 after

Aug. 30. Outdoor event. For questions contact Event is co-sponsored by PJ Library. 4:15 p.m. Join the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh for its 2021 annual meeting “Open Windows.” This year’s honorees are Meyer “Skip” Grinberg and Rabbi Moishe Mayir Vogel. 5:30 p.m. annual-meeting  q SUNDAYS, SEPT. 12, 19, 26;

OCT. 3, 10

Join a lay-led Online Parashah Study Group to discuss the week’s Torah portion. No Hebrew knowledge is needed. The goal is to build community while deepening understanding of the text. 8:30 p.m. For more information, visit q


Join Classrooms Without Borders for a virtual tour of Israel with guide and scholar Rabbi Jonty Blackman via Zoom. 4 p.m. For more information and to register, visit Moishe House resident Sunshine loves bad movies and wants everyone to join them for the cringe classic film “Twilight,” using Netflix’s Teleparty plug in. Pick up gift bags with popcorn and other treats before the movie to enjoy at home. 7 pm. Sign up at q


Learn more about the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Mega Mission over Zoom. The mission will take place in Israel June 13-21, 2022. This is your chance to hear the details and ask all your pressing questions. RSVP required to receive Zoom link. 6 p.m. q MONDAYS, SEPT. 13, 20, 27;

OCT. 4, 11

Join Congregation Beth Shalom for a weekly Talmud study. 9:15 a.m. For more information, visit 



See Israel with the one you love. Honeymoon Israel is open to couples of all cultural, racial, religious, gender and sexual identities who are looking to create connections with each other and to Jewish life. Open to couples with at least one Jewish partner. Each trip includes 20 diverse couples from the same city. Learn more at one of the information sessions: Sept. 14 at noon or 6 p.m. honeymoon-israel q

WEDNESDAYS, SEPT. 15, 22, 29

Bring the parashah alive and make it personally relevant and meaningful. Study the weekly Torah portion with Rabbi Mark Asher Goodman. 12:15 p.m. q


Come break the Yom Kippur fast at Moishe House. Due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases, this event will be capped at 10 attendees (plus our residents), and we will eat outside if weather permits. 7:30 p.m. Sign up at https:// q THURSDAYS, SEPT. 16-

JUNE 30, 2022

The Alan Papernick Educational Institute Endowment Fund presents Continuing Legal Education, a six-part CLE series taught by Foundation Scholar Rabbi Danny Schiff. Earn up to 12 CLE credits. Each session is a stand-alone unit; you can take one class or all six. 8:30 a.m. With CLE credit: $30/session or $150 all sessions; Without CLE credit: $25/session or $125 all sessions. For a complete list of dates and topics, visit continuing-legal-education. q


Join the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Volunteer Center and help decorate the sukkah at Solomon House, a Squirrel Hill Community Living


Arrangement which is home to three young men with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. Project will occur outside and be limited to 10. Masks which fully cover nose and mouth are required, regardless of vaccination status. 11 a.m. q


In cooperation with Tali Nates, founder and director of the Johannesburg Genocide & Holocaust Centre, Classrooms Without Borders begins a new Museums and Memorial series. Alongside CWB scholars, travel with museum historians, experts and contemporary witnesses to 10 different regions to explore the history behind the exhibits, discuss the nature of memory and memorials, and discover how the world remembers the Shoah and honors the lives we lost. 2 p.m. For more information and to register, visit classroomswithoutborders. org/holocaust_museums_and_memorials_ around_the_globe. Join the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Young Adult Division, Congregation Beth Shalom and Moishe House for an evening of wine and wisdom in the sukkah. Representatives of Chosen Wine, located in Dormont, will be sharing wisdom about great kosher wines. Preregistration required. 8 p.m. jewishpgh. org/event/yad-wine-wisdom q


Join the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh for a special online event to kick off a new year of adult learning and to honor the establishment of the Elaine Belle Krasik Fund for Adult Education. Pittsburgh Jewish Community Foundation Scholar Rabbi Danny Schiff will present “Start Worrying — Details to Follow,” an up-to-date analysis of current Jewish realities. 10:30 a.m. foundation-learning-inaugural-event PJC

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6 SEPTEMBER 10, 2021



Headlines Going into the depths of the Hill District — HISTORY — By Eric Lidji | Special to the Chronicle


uying poultry is usually a one-step process. You grab a package from the store. But not all that long ago, buying poultry was a two-step process for many people: You bought a chicken and then you dressed it, or you paid someone to dress it for you. And for many Jews, it was a threestep process. Between buying and dressing was slaughtering. You couldn’t just wring its neck. It had to be ritually slaughtered by someone who knew what they were doing — a shochet. The stakes were high. Certain blemishes can make meat non-kosher. Mayor Sophie Masloff once recalled such a moment from her youth in the Hill District, in the late 1920s or early 1930s. “When we brought a chicken to Rabbi [Eliyahu Wolf] Kochin and he said it was ‘trafe,’ not ritually fit to eat, we threw it out,” she told this newspaper back in 1977. “We never mentioned that we could not buy another one that week.” You can still keep backyard birds. City code allows as many as five chickens or ducks on a dedicated lot of 2,000 square feet or larger. You can see them wandering around out-ofthe-way parts of town. In the morning,


p The old Central Hill School was located at the crest of Bedford Avenue, near the current site of the Energy Innovation Center in the Hill District. Willa Cather started teaching at the school in spring 1901.  Pittsburgh Public Schools Photographs, Detre Library & Archives

sometimes you can even hear them. But these fowl are cultivated for their eggs, not their meat. That means there are far fewer of them than there were a century ago, and they have a lot more room to roam.

Imagine the scene in the Hill District at the turn of the 20th century. You had tens of thousands of people living in a neighborhood without parks, without yards, without even vacant lots. And yet somehow they


were getting their poultry live and nearby. Where were all those chickens living? The Pittsburgh Gazette revealed the answer on Dec. 8, 1901, in an article with the headline “Pittsburgh’s Mulberry Street.” It was written by Henry Nickelman, who wrote about everything from the local Chinatown, to children who lived in hotels, to celebrities. The headline referenced “Out Of Mulberry Street,” a recent book by muckraking journalist Jacob Riis. It told the stories of the people who lived in New York’s tenements. But not all spotlights shine the same. You can expose injustice while preserving the dignity of the oppressed. Nickelman doesn’t. He rents a room on Pride Street and wanders around the lower Hill District, reporting on the petty fights and the bad food and the ratty clothes of the Italian, Black and Jewish people who live in the neighborhood. “While Thanksgiving is by no means an established holiday among them, many of the Jewish churches and families observe it, if for no other reason than because they are always glad of any excuse to eat poultry. There are probably more fowls eaten on Pride and Bedford and Wylie in a week than are consumed in all the East End in months.” Everywhere, women are carrying live chickens in their aprons. Where are these birds coming from, he wonders? The crates Please see Hill, page 15

SEPTEMBER 10, 2021 7

Headlines — WORLD — From JTA reports

Amsterdam museum to return Kandinsky painting to Jewish family

Amsterdam said its city-owned museum should return a Wassily Kandinsky painting acquired from a Jewish family that was under duress during the Holocaust, JTA said. “Painting with Houses” — believed to be worth at least $22 million — will be transferred from the city-owned Stedelijk Museum to the family of Irma Klein, the museum said in a statement. The family has fought in the courts for about a decade to retrieve the painting, which prompted international pressure and protests in support. Klein and her husband sold “Painting with Houses” in the 1940s for the modern-day equivalent of about $1,600 because they needed money to survive the Holocaust. The painting is considered stolen by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

Anti-Jewish hate crimes drop in 2020 — or did they?

The FBI said that anti-Jewish hate crimes dropped 29% from 953 in 2019 to 676 last year, but some people are questioning the data, JTA reported. In all, hate crimes nationwide climbed to 7,759, up from 7,313 in 2019 and the most since 2008, the FBI said.

The FBI relies on hate crime reports from more than 15,000 police precincts nationwide, but a 2020 Department of Justice report found that 87% of precincts reported zero hate crimes in 2017. The Anti-Defamation League’s annual audit pegged the number of antisemitic incidents in 2020 at 2,024. “Data drives policy and without having a complete picture of the problem, we cannot even begin to resolve the issues driving this surge in hate and violence,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said, calling the lack of reporting by police precincts as “simply not credible.”

Canadian Jewish News restarts, eyes younger audience

The Canadian Jewish News, which shut down operations in April 2020, relaunched on Sept. 1 as a digital-first enterprise aimed at a younger audience, JTA reported. The largest Jewish news organization in Canada will prioritize digital content, including email newsletters and podcasts, and scale back its print edition from weekly to four times a year. CJN, which resumed producing a small amount of content over the past year, now employs seven full-time staffers. That’s down from 40 in 2013 and less than half of the 16 on the masthead when it closed last year. The COVID shutdown was “a bit of a gift” in disguise, said Marc Weisblott, CJN’s new managing editor. “That liberated the next iteration from

the customary publishing style,” he said. “It allowed us to reinvent what the CJN would be.”

Survey: half of Israelis don’t want to attend holiday meals with the unvaccinated

Fifty percent of Jewish Israelis said that they could forgo High Holidays meals if they knew unvaccinated people were there, The Jerusalem Post reported, citing an Israel Democracy Institute survey. About 43% said their decision wouldn’t be impacted by the presence of unvaccinated people. Those under 44 were less likely to skip the meal than their older counterparts. In Israel, 94% of those above 50 have received at least one vaccine shot, compared to 77% of those under 50. Of unvaccinated respondents, 22.4% said they weren’t against getting vaccinated but hadn’t gotten around to it. Twenty-nine percent said they were worried about the vaccine damaging their health, and 21% said they don’t believe the vaccines help prevent infection.

Greece appoints health minister who defended his father’s desire to see Jews in Auschwitz

Greece has appointed a health minister who defended the antisemitic writings of his father in court more than a decade ago. Thanos Plevris, who was named to his post as part of a government reshuffle, said

in a statement that he did not mean to offend anyone with his 2009 defense. In a statement that day, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece called on Plevris to apologize for defending his father and distance himself publicly from his father’s antisemitic rhetoric. Konstantinos Plevris was appealing his conviction for incitement to hatred for passages he wrote in his book titled, “The Jews: The Whole Truth.” The elder Plevris appeared to advocate for keeping Auschwitz, the former Nazi death camp, “in good condition,” allegedly for the day it would again serve to kill Jews. Defending his father in court, Thanos Plevris contested that interpretation of the Auschwitz reference. Even if it were true, he added, “What kind of instigation is this? What incitement is this? Is it that one is not allowed to believe and want to believe that ‘I want to exterminate someone?’” he said. The appeals tribunal acquitted Konstantinos Plevris. Thanos Plevris wrote on Facebook that he “completely disagrees” with his father and “never meant to offend the Jewish people and I apologize if I did.” The post followed the statement by the Central Board, the main Jewish umbrella in Greece. Plevris belongs to the ruling New Democracy party of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a center-right politician. Before joining New Democracy in 2012, Plevris belonged to the Popular Orthodox Rally, a right-of-center movement.   PJC

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JOIN5915 NEW CONGREGATION FOR THE 2021 HIGH HOLY DAYS 5915LIGHT Beacon • Pittsburgh, PA 15217 • Beacon Street •Street Pittsburgh, PA 15217 • JOIN NEW LIGHT CONGREGATION FOR THEEntrance 2021 HIGH HOLY DAYS Services to be held in the Ballroom and on Zoom. on Shady Avenue. JOIN LIGHT CONGREGATION FOR THE 2021 HIGH HOLY DAYS JOIN NEW LIGHT CONGREGATION FOR THE 2021 HIGH HOLY DAYS Services toNEW be held in the Ballroom and on Zoom. Entrance on Shady Avenue. Services toheld be held in the Ballroom and onZoom. Zoom.Entrance Entrance on Shady Avenue. Services to be in the Ballroom and on on Shady Avenue. Rosh Hashanah Yom Kippur Monday, September 6th: 7:30 P.M. Wednesday, September 15th: 6:40 P.M. RoshRosh Hashanah YomKippur Kippur Hashanah Yom th th th : 9:45 A.M. Thursday, September 16 : 9:45 A.M./5:30 P.M. Tuesday, 7 Rosh Hashanah Yom Kippur Monday, September 6 7:30 P.M. Wednesday, September 15 : 6:40 P.M. Monday, September 6 : 7:30 P.M. Wednesday, September 15 : 6:40 P.M. th


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Headlines Kol Nidrei: What it is and where it came from, explained by cantors — NATIONAL — By Jesse Berman | Contributing Writer


he first time Chizuk Amuno Congregation Cantor Randy Herman’s parents heard him sing the Kol Nidrei service, his father decreed that he never wanted to hear Kol Nidrei from anyone else again, Herman said. Herman was studying to become a cantor at the time and had been given a student cantorial pulpit for the High Holidays. From then on, wherever their son happened to be for Yom Kippur, Herman’s parents would travel there to hear him sing Kol Nidrei, even if it was halfway across the country. Commonly translated as “all vows,” Kol Nidrei asks God to retroactively absolve the community’s vows that were made, either mistakenly or under duress, over the previous year, said Cantor Melanie Blatt of Beth El Congregation of Baltimore in an email. It also asks forgiveness for any such vows in the year to come. The origins of Kol Nidrei go at least as far back as ninth-century Babylonia, and possibly even further, Herman said. The service may have been particularly relevant during Medieval times, when it could be fairly common for Jews to make vows of conversion to another religion on pain of death, Blatt explained. “This made the text of Kol Nidrei particularly appealing to include in the yearly service that kicks off the day of Yom Kippur, since it enabled people to start their year feeling completely Jewish and clear of all vows,” he said. Herman said that, in the past, some rabbis have found the liturgy of the Kol Nidrei prayer to be problematic, as some could potentially interpret it as permitting congregants to take their vows less than seriously. Some rabbis also viewed it as possible fuel for antisemitism, arguing “there are people out there who have it out for us, who say, ‘Hey, Jews can do whatever they want, they can kill people, because they’ve got this prayer that absolves them of all guilt,’” Herman said.


p Cantor Randy Herman 

p Cantor Melanie Blatt

Photo courtesy of Beth El Congregation of Baltimore

While some rabbis went so far as to suggest doing away with Kol Nidrei entirely, the Jewish community, whether for liturgical reasons or because of the melody’s haunting beauty, typically found this an unpopular suggestion, Herman said. “The people always revolted against [that idea],” he continued. “We have to have Kol Nidrei.” For centuries, the precise content of Kol Nidrei likely varied from one community to another, until the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, which permitted the codification of Jewish liturgy, Blatt said.

Some might be surprised to learn that the words of such an important and popular prayer aren’t actually Hebrew, but rather Aramaic, Herman said. He explained that Aramaic was the spoken, conversational language of many Jewish communities as far back as 2000 years ago. As it happens, Kol Nidrei is in good company, as the Kaddish is Aramaic as well, in addition to a few other prayers recited during the Jewish year. As for Herman’s father, he continued listening to his son singing Kol Nidrei until 2019, when he had reached his 90s and was approaching the end of his life. Herman flew

Photo courtesy of Cantor Magda Fishman

home from New York to Michigan to be with him the day before Yom Kippur. Before his return flight the next day, Herman asked his father if he would like him to sing Kol Nidrei there, and he received an enthusiastic yes. “I took out the book, and I did a whole production, and I sang from the bottom of my soul, and I sang him Kol Nidrei, and he was blissed out,” Herman said. That evening was the last time Herman’s father was out of bed, and after a second visit from his son a few days later, his father became unresponsive and later died. Herman takes comfort in knowing that his father died on Shabbat, which is interpreted by some as God calling the holy to return to God, and that he died just after Yom Kippur, which can be taken as a sign of dying spiritually clean. “It’s almost as if my singing Kol Nidrei that night, something happened where he was like, ‘OK, I’m ready to go,’” Herman said.  PJC Jesse Berman writes for the Baltimore Jewish Times, an affiliated publication, where this first appeared.

news. THEN GET THE FULL STORY. ❀ In the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. For home delivery, call 410.902.2308.



SEPTEMBER 10, 2021 9

Headlines 9/11:

The business trip Continued from page 1

The Pizovs eventually got to the hospital and were able to see their son. “They wanted to send us home,” said Olga, a clinical research consultant. “They were preparing the hospital, trying to get patients discharged to make room for survivors. Sadly, there weren’t very many. I told them, ‘I’m not going anywhere. My son is 4 pounds. He needs oxygen.’ We didn’t take him home that night, but we had to leave.” The Pizovs spent the evening with friends, and by the time they returned home, posters and photos had been plastered along the streets by people searching for their loved ones. The next day, Alex was released from the hospital. Olga spent the night listening to military planes flying overhead, coming up with exit plans in case of another attack and feeling concerned about the city’s air quality. “You could smell it from our apartment on 79th Street in the West End,” Olga said. “They kept reassuring us that the quality of air was fine, but then a lot of first responders got sick.” “It was a very traumatic homecoming for Alex,” she continued. “We moved to Ohio nine months later and I spoke with my doctor who said, ‘You have post-traumatic stress disorder.’ That makes sense because it was very hard to get back to things. It felt like the sky was falling.”

 Erica Miller

Photo courtesy by Jane Rudov

Erica Miller was flying to New York to attend a trade show with her business partner. They landed at the airport and headed into the city unaware of what had happened. “We knew nothing of what was going on until we were in a cab going over the Triborough Bridge,” said Miller. “The radio was on, and it was just pure static. The cabbie didn’t really speak English, but he was trying to tell us there was something going on. We looked at the horizon — the bridge overlooks the city — and we could see smoke coming from the first building, but we didn’t know what it meant. My business partner said, ‘Oh, there’s been a fire,’ and at that moment I saw a plane circling the other building. I’m a skeptic and said, ‘No, this is a terrorist attack. It’s not a random fire.’” They got as far as Brooklyn when their cab driver dropped them off near a

Marriott Hotel. “We were fortunate enough to be able to get in the lobby,” Miller said. “It was already a triage center. It turned out that the manager was from Allison Park and took pity on us and allowed us to have a spot in the lobby.” She looked out the window and “saw the most surreal sight, people walking over the bridge holding their shoes covered in white,” she said. “They were the survivors that had gotten out of the building and were getting out of the city the only way they could, which was over the bridge. “They were dazed,” she continued. “The smell of burning flesh outside — which is why everyone had their noses and mouths covered — was so intense and strong and hideous.” She and her business partner were able to leave the next day by bus. “I will forever remember that plane circling that second tower and hitting it, and remember the people walking over the Brooklyn Bridge carrying their shoes covered in white, and just the sheer but organized pandemonium that was going on, and, you know, the kindness of people trying to help other people,” she said.

The MBA and the architect

Laura Hopkins Young and her husband, Jeff Young, were living in New York on 9/11, although they weren’t yet dating. Laura had recently graduated with an MBA from Duke University and was working at Unilever in Connecticut. She

was on her way to an overnight training session in Connecticut on the morning of the terrorist attacks. “I remember driving up the FDR with my roommate, it being a beautiful sunny day,” she said. She learned of the attack during a morning meeting. “There were a lot of rumors,” she said. “We had colleagues in from Chicago and there were rumors the Sears Tower was going to be hit. Rumors were everywhere.” Unsure if she would be able to get back into the city, Laura stayed overnight at a friend’s house in Connecticut. “I have vivid memories of people crying on the island of the highway, random things throughout this beautiful day. We didn’t have cell phones and I felt disconnected. A friend of mine was able to get in touch with my parents.” When some semblance of normalcy finally returned, Laura recalled her daily commute and the train ride from Grand Central Station to her office in Connecticut. “The train would pull in and all the firemen would get on from working their shift from the pile and people would applaud and holler,” she said. Jeff Young moved to New York in 1997 after finishing graduate school in Philadelphia. He joined a large architectural firm on Wall Street, two-and-a-half blocks from the World Trade Center. Please see 9/11, page 16

This week in Israeli history — WORLD — Items provided by the Center for Israel Education (, where you can find more details.

In the opening

September 10, 1923 — Gush Shalom founder Uri Avnery is born

of the buds and in the rebirth of spring.

We Remember Them.

Three-time Knesset member Uri Avnery, who founds the Gush Shalom peace movement, is born in Germany. He fights in the 1948 war, then advocates a partnership with the Arab national movement.

September 11, 1881 — Literary Pioneer Yosef Haim Brenner is born

Yosef Haim Brenner is born in Ukraine. He publishes his first story collection in Hebrew in 1900. As an essayist, novelist and poet, he experiments with techniques such as blending languages. He is killed in Arab riots in 1921.

September 12, 1977 — Singer Idan Raichel is born

Lee & Lisa Oleinick 10 SEPTEMBER 10, 2021

Singer, composer and producer Idan Raichel is born in Kfar Saba. His music incorporates Middle Eastern, Ethiopian and other sounds through the award-winning Idan Raichel Project.


September 13, 1993 — Oslo Accords are signed

President Bill Clinton holds a White House signing ceremony for the Oslo Accords between the Israelis and Palestinians. Israel’s Yitzhak Rabin and the PLO’s Yasser Arafat famously shake hands.

September 14, 2014 — Supreme Court Justice Abdel Rahman Zuabi dies

Abdel Rahman Zuabi dies at 82. A judge on the Nazareth District Court for 20 years, he becomes the first Arab judge on the Israeli Supreme Court when he is chosen to fill a ninemonth vacancy in 1999.

September 15, 1891 — Writer Ben-Gavriel is born

Writer Moshe Yaacov Ben-Gavriel is born in Vienna, Austria. He serves in Jerusalem as an Austrian soldier in 1917 and fights for the British in World War II, after which he shifts from newspapers to novels and short stories.

September 16, 1949 — Israel joins UNESCO

Israel joins the Paris-based U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. But Israel withdraws from UNESCO in 2018 after repeated accusations back and forth regarding abuses of history.  PJC


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Opinion When the Afghanistan chaos became personal Guest Columnist Brian Burke


he chaos of the past few weeks as the United States withdrew from Afghanistan became personal for me on Aug. 27. A little over a week after my most recent blog post was published, I received an email through the contact form on the Chronicle/ Times of Israel website that put an “electronic” face to the true human toll the Taliban takeover and American withdrawal are having on millions of people. The email came from an Afghan SIV holder. I know his message was representative of how thousands of Afghans who worked with us over the past two decades feel. I was in utter shock. I have no idea how he found my blog, and I have not asked. The sense of fear in the email was palpable (to protect his identity and safety during the internet age we live in, I will not reveal his name or other personal details). He wrote about how the Taliban was trying to kill him and his family because he worked with the U.S. military. He said he tried multiple times to get to the Kabul airport but was unable to get through the crowds to even try to make it to the gates. The gentleman included the name of his supervisor during his time working with the

military. I immediately searched the officer’s name and scoured the internet for a way to contact him. And I found him. Now a college professor, I reached out to ask him about the individual and if he knew him. He affirmed he did and gave some background on the work he did with American forces. The man’s work “saved lives… without question,” in the words of the retired army lieutenant colonel. I told the man I was in contact with the colonel, who was also trying to use his connections to get the man and his family into the airport. He sent me the letter the colonel wrote on his behalf attesting to his identity so he could be admitted to the airport. It detailed his service and mentioned the certificate of appreciation he received from the U.S. Army. I spent the following hours reaching out to anyone I thought could be of assistance. I called and emailed the offices of Rep. Mike Doyle and Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, speaking to a Toomey staffer Friday afternoon and Doyle staffer Monday morning to give them the man’s information. I messaged someone I know who works at the Pentagon. I tried to connect with nonprofits working on this very issue. I sent a message to the State Department but got directed to a page that was a dead end with no information. Over the last several days, I have remained in constant email communication with the man, giving him updates on any information I got from speaking with the congressional

staffers or news about what was going on near the airport. The last U.S. military plane took off from Kabul a minute before midnight local time on Aug. 31. More than 120,000 people were evacuated on U.S. and coalition flights over the past few weeks, a genuine achievement. Sadly, the facts on the ground show that the operation was far from a success. Over 100 Americans who want to leave are still in Afghanistan. Tens — more likely hundreds — of thousands of Afghans (and their families) who worked with us and other NATO countries were left behind. Countless other at-risk Afghans are now at the mercy of the Taliban. The hero who emailed me was left behind. The State Department never contacted him. He did more for this country than most of us ever will. He has his SIV documents. He is being hunted down by terrorists. It didn’t matter. On the afternoon of Aug. 30, I sent the man — who I only know through words on a screen — an email saying the last U.S. flights had left. The Biden Administration, State Department, and Pentagon have all said that while the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan has ended, America’s commitment to the people there who helped us remains. But does it really? This country failed to keep the promises it made to thousands of people. What is the plan to help them now? What is the United States going to do to get this man, his family

and others like him out? Ask the Taliban pretty please with a cherry on top? I know there was nothing more I could realistically do. Yet reading desperate emails asking for help fills me with sadness and shame. I feel sick and like a failure. Hundreds of thousands of Americans served in Afghanistan and 2,461 heroes made the ultimate sacrifice. Besides members of the military, veterans, and Gold Star families, though, was Afghanistan really something most of us thought about until a few short weeks ago? The answer is clearly no. In the two decades since 9/11, the war has largely been far from us, literally and figuratively. As a society, we have focused more on the development and evolution of the iPhone than a seemingly far off conflict in a country few of us could even point out on a map. I like to think I am relatively knowledgeable about global affairs. I studied political science, international relations and history in school. Yet even for me, the war and its catastrophic ending were not something I felt personally beyond just being a civically engaged American who has grown up over the past 20 years. That all changed with an email from a man this country left behind.  PJC Brian Burke is a Pittsburgh native and 2019 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, where he studied political science, history, and Jewish studies. In college, he was involved with Hillel and the David Project, holding several leadership positions including president of the Pitt Hillel Jewish Student Union in 2018.

How not to ask for time off on the Jewish holidays Guest Columnist Eli Gottlieb


ey Allies: Please don’t schedule meetings or events on the Jewish holidays!” So says a meme that has circulated widely in recent days including the dates for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah. Seems like a pretty harmless and potentially helpful message to post on social media in the run-up to the High Holidays, right? I’m not so sure. I, too, have often had to seek special consideration from employers and colleagues for my religious observance. Indeed, being able to live my life by the rhythms of the Hebrew calendar without having to explain myself constantly or play catch-up on lost work days is one of many reasons I moved to Israel from the United Kingdom in my 20s. However, as a scholar of identity, a builder of pluralistic institutions and an adviser to organizations on issues of diversity, I believe posting such messages can do more harm than good. Former “Late Show” host Craig Ferguson has a great rule about when and when not to speak. Ask yourself three questions, he suggests: “Does this need to be said? Does 12 SEPTEMBER 10, 2021

this need to be said by me? And does this need to be said by me now?” The “Hey Allies” meme, which bears a badge indicating it originated with an Orthodox social justice organization, fails on all three criteria. First, it doesn’t need to be said. Few Jews in the U.S. observe the Jewish holidays in ways that clash with their work commitments. Fewer than half of America’s Jews fast on Yom Kippur. Many of those who do fast also abstain from work that day and at least the first day of Rosh Hashanah. But it’s a much smaller minority that won’t work on the first two and last two days of Sukkot. Suggesting otherwise betrays our own diversity. Second, it doesn’t need to be said by those saying it. Actually, let me rephrase: Those saying it — shouldn’t. What gives traditionally observant Jews the right to speak in the name of America’s less observant majority? Were a company or organization to black out the 11 (!) dates listed in the meme, it might lead “allies” to wonder why so few of their Jewish colleagues are taking these days off. And that risks exposing any Jew who works as usual on any of the listed dates as somehow less Jewish, or less serious about their Jewishness, than those who observe the holidays. In any case, those who do observe these holidays have many better ways to make the relevant accommodations in ways that don’t lump Jews together or pry them apart.

They can arrange with bosses and colleagues to reschedule, make up lost hours or use vacation time. In the unlikely event of such requests being denied, they can appeal to official guardians of employee rights, from HR departments to U.S. courts, which are highly accommodating of religious needs. I would also argue that having to raise these issues from time to time — and sometimes make difficult choices — is part of what it means to be an observant Jew, and in some ways is as core to our contemporary identity as the holidays themselves. But the problem is not just who is doing the saying; it’s also whom they are addressing. In the parlance of our times, “allies” is a dog whistle to the woke, who all too often see Jews as part of the problem rather than the solution — as a white, privileged class rather than an ethnic minority in need of protection or support. Worse, by appealing to non-Jews for special consideration on grounds of diversity and inclusion while failing to respect internal Jewish diversity and implicitly excluding non-observant Jews, the meme reinforces the far left’s tendency to view Jews as a religious and political monolith — as they did this year regarding Zionism, Israel-Palestine and the war in Gaza. Third, it doesn’t need to be said now. Uniquely among the biblical festivals, Rosh Hashanah does not commemorate a momentous event in the life of the Jewish


people, such as the Exodus or the Revelation at Sinai. Rather it commemorates the world’s creation and God’s judgment of humanity in its entirety. In other words, whereas all other feasts and fasts in the Hebrew calendar are particularist, Rosh Hashanah is universalist. It is, therefore, a time to reflect on what we have in common, not what separates us; to focus on rights and duties we share with all of humanity rather than on securing special treatment for ourselves. So how’s this instead: After making your own arrangements for the upcoming holidays, ask yourself whether there’s anything you can do to make it easier for other Jewish colleagues to observe them in the ways they prefer. Conversations will likely be more effective than social media posts. But if you do choose to post, consider something like this: “Dear friends: Over the next few weeks, many Jews will be observing holidays in a variety of ways. Please be understanding and helpful when a Jewish colleague takes off on some or all of those days, and let us know how we can reciprocate when you observe special days of your own. As Rosh Hashanah teaches us, we’re all in this together.”  PJC Eli Gottlieb is a cultural psychologist, advisor to government and nonprofit organizations on vision and strategy, and a senior visiting scholar at The George Washington University. This piece first appeared on JTA. PITTSBURGHJEWISHCHRONICLE.ORG

Opinion Rabbis are struggling to protect Jews’ physical and spiritual health. They deserve support, not shame Guest Columnist Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein


ver the past year, I have led efforts to teach, guide and coach rabbis and other clergy of every Jewish denomination. We have worked with over 500 individual members of the clergy, serving hundreds of thousands of people since the COVID-19 pandemic began. So let me say this to my dear clergy colleagues: As we celebrate another High Holiday season under the shadow of the pandemic, I know that there is nothing you need more than support in making impossible decisions about vaccinations, masks, social distancing and the integrity of worship. Which is why I am baffled as to why some would add to your burden with irresponsible, pain-inducing criticism that could only worsen the challenge, trauma and moral injury that our clergy are experiencing.

I agree that mitigating all risk at the expense of our Jewish way of life is untenable, and there are appropriate ways to debate safety measures during a public health crisis. Yet second-guessing rabbis like you, as you work overtime to protect your communities while meeting their spiritual needs, isn’t one. Those of us paying attention have seen your tremendous creativity and labor to ensure our people have meaningful spiritual and communal ways to learn and connect to Torah. I see you toiling to create innovative outdoor or remote opportunities for unvaccinated children to engage in Jewish learning and living; teaching congregants to lead backyard minyans; managing complicated technology for interactive remote services and study groups; introducing Torah treks and prayerful hikes; and other ways to help people engage with each other and practice traditions while reducing health risks. I hear your trauma at having buried the many older members of your shul who have died alone this year. When you gather again, the seats of many “regulars” will be tragically empty. I understand your fear that the

immunocompromised and younger, unvaccinated members may be endangered by the high risk that in-person gatherings can pose. I listen to you agonize as you balance the calls for individual choice and/or trust from some in your community with your desire to have proof of vaccine and/or testing and mask mandates to protect the vulnerable. Many of your communities model remarkable shared leadership as clergy, boards and medical advisors together make decisions carefully. Others of you suffer, having to carry out and even be blamed for decisions that you fear are dangerous. With every change, we see you creating backups to backups, even as it means having to do twice the work, ignoring your exhaustion and pastoring to flocks who require your help as they, too, deal with their justified angst. And I know that you are experiencing moral injury and burnout from this reality, and you also fear for your own and your family’s health, also feeling a loss of spiritual connection. Life under COVID is full of difficult calls, weighing physical against mental health;

children’s education against the threat of the virus; risks of gathering in our sanctuaries versus the atrophying of our communities and souls. No one wants to undermine centuries of religious choices and obligations. But you know preserving life is the paramount value of the Torah, and our tradition is rife with examples of moderating observances for our safety. You’ve contributed to and read myriad rabbinic opinions offering halachic and ethical ways to adapt for emergencies. . My dear colleagues, please know: You are enough. You are doing enough. You can and you must make decisions that are the best and safest you can make, to preserve the lives and the health of your beloved members (and yourselves). Ignore the naysayers. I pray those who see how hard you are working will raise their voices and bolster you with love. With all of the hugs, love and hope for your spiritual renewal.  PJC Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein is executive director of the Center for Rabbinic Innovation, a project of the Office of Innovation. This piece first appeared on JTA.

Chronicle poll results: In-person High Holiday services


ast week, the Chronicle asked its readers in an electronic poll the following question: “Are you planning to attend any High Holiday services in person this year?” Of the 348 people who responded, 55% said they would not be attending in-person services, but would participate online or on their own at home. Slightly more than a quarter of respondents (27%) said they were planning to attend services inside a building, while 3% said they would attend services in person, but only outdoors. About 8% of respondents said they were not planning to attend services in person, but they usually don’t participate in High Holiday services anyway. Sixty people submitted comments. A few follow. I don’t feel comfortable taking my child, who is too young to be vaccinated, into a public place.

Are you planning to attend any High Holiday services in person this year? 7.87% No, but I usually don’t participate in High Holiday services anyway.

6.41% Not sure yet.

27.41% Yes, I will be there in person inside a building.

3.21% Yes, I will be there in person but only outside.

55.10% No, I will participate by streaming or on my own at home.

more advance planning had occurred to permit outdoor services, which would have provided a safer alternative.

This survey is missing an important option: “I would attend an outdoor service if finding one wasn’t so difficult.”

99.5-plus survival rate of corona for anyone under 70. Early treatment stops symptoms and restores health. No need for me to be afraid of going to shul. Or anywhere else.

With the delta variant on the rise, I don’t think in-person services are prudent. I wish

If you asked me in June, I’d be inside, but not with the spiking COVID-19 numbers.


In “Yeshiva School’s wellness initiative carries on legacy of children’s advocate” (Sept. 3), we incorrectly stated that Yosef Hashimi’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer and also lost some of her hearing “recently.” Hashimi’s daughter was in fact diagnosed with cancer and lost some of her hearing 15 years ago. The Chronicle regrets the error.  PJC We invite you to submit letters for publication. Letters must include name, address and daytime phone number; addresses and phone numbers will not be published. Letters may not exceed 500 words and may be edited for length and clarity; they cannot be returned. Mail, fax or email letters to: Letters to the editor via email: Address & Fax: Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle,5915 Beacon St., 5th Flr., Pgh, PA 15217 Fax 412-521-0154

Website address:

I will be inside and wearing a mask with only vaccinated adults. I never enjoyed the experience when it was 100% safe to attend. I do not think that I will go out of my way and risk the delta variant just so I can fall asleep to my rabbi’s overly long sermon.

Scan the QR code or go to to respond.

It is a big loss not going to services. I cannot get into the feeling on the iPad. I miss the people. I miss my normal life, which will never be again. We will or do have a new normal. Ever since COVID and ZOOM, I lost my passion for participating in services. Prior to the pandemic I was a regular and read from the Torah at Shabbat services almost weekly.  PJC

— LETTERS — Afghanistan proves we’ve learned nothing since the Holocaust

As I watch the events in Afghanistan unfold, the remarkable brutality of the Taliban, ISIS-K, Al-Qaeda and others, I’m reminded of my own experiences. In my case, my family and I — our entire neighborhood — were marched through the streets of Debrecen, Hungary, at the hands of the Nazis, and directed to the train station to be herded onto cars for a trip to Auschwitz, which was diverted to Bergen-Belsen. The sick and elderly were beaten on their own streets. None of us dared to look back. The streets were crowded, but we were like ghosts, no one dared to look at us. Even at age 6, after 14 months in that camp, I learned that life was both precious and cheap. Sleeping with the dead will do that. It was only because of my mother, Rachel, that I lived to tell my story. My point is that in 77 years, the time between my story and the one now happening in Afghanistan, we’ve learned nothing, become no more civilized, become no less cruel. Maybe my great-grandchildren, who have yet to be conceived, will finally be witness to the end of this senseless hatred and violence.


This week’s Chronicle poll question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the coming year?


Judah Samet Squirrel Hill SEPTEMBER 10, 2021 13

Headlines most rituals of renewal, it works best with regular practice. “We know we’re most hydrated when we sip water throughout the day, not when we chug it at 11 o’clock at night,” she said. The other benefit of regular spiritual practice, Fife said, is the sense of community that emerges. “The relationality between generations — the comfort we have with one another — lays the groundwork,” she said. People who are hurting might call her, or they might call someone else in their community. She seeks to create a community fabric that can support people in moments of difficulty.

Mental Health: Continued from page 1

said. People were overwhelmed and afraid. Those who were isolated “suffered a lot.” Normally, this time of year — the days leading up to Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, a day of teshuvah, or spiritual return — might be a time when people reflect upon their mental health and commit to self-renewal, said Rabbi Jeremy Weisblatt of Temple Ohav Shalom, a Reform congregation in Allison Park. Not this year, though. “What I’m finding is the inability to even think because of the overload,” he said. “Are we closing down? Am I going to see others? Is the hug I’m giving someone going to kill them?” Concerns of this order are as old as the Torah, Weisblatt said. In the Book of Samuel, King Saul’s “soul is afflicted” until the shepherd David comes to play his harp for him — a kind of “music therapy,” Weisblatt said. The Jewish tradition is full of such examples of people confronting pain and suffering. The challenge for faith leaders, then, is to know their limits — those places where pastoral care should stop and mental health treatment begin and the boundaries they need to set for their own self-care, too.

Rabbi or therapist? They’re not the same

Nearly one in four people turns to a spiritual leader before seeking help from a mental health professional, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And yet, as Greenbaum explained, most rabbis receive little-to-no formal mental health training during rabbinical school. For that reason, he said, it’s important that rabbis respect their limits and communicate those limits clearly to their congregants. “They may use us as their counselors, but we’re not trained,” said Greenbaum, who was raised in Detroit. He recalled the story of a rabbi from his hometown who was fatally shot by a person he was counseling in 1966. It has stuck with Greenbaum as a lesson: Pastoral care and professional mental health treatment are not the same thing. “We must seek professional help,” he said. Despite his lack of training, Greenbaum understands why people might come to him

What about faith leaders’ own mental health?

p Rabbi Moishe Vogel at the Aleph Institute in Squirrel HillPhoto by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource

with mental health concerns. “I’m someone to listen,” he said. “I’m a friend, more than a counselor.” Weisblatt, of Temple Ohav Shalom, suggests the stigma surrounding mental health may be another reason people reach out first to a faith leader, rather than a licensed therapist or psychologist. The faith leader can then be a connector to that next level of care. That’s especially urgent if the person is at risk of harming themselves or others, Weisblatt said. In those cases, he immediately calls resolve Crisis Services, a partnership between Allegheny County and UPMC’s Western Psychiatric Hospital. “I’m certainly there to speak, but I say, ‘I have to report that.’” Several years ago, Weisblatt’s stepfather died by suicide. Since then, he’s been even more intentional about talking openly about mental health, including from his own experiences. “People need to know we’re here, and even if you say it 1,000 times like I have, you need to say it 1,001 because that one time could be the time they hear it.” Christine Michaels, chief operating officer of the Keystone branch of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, emphasizes how important these initial points of contact can be to someone’s mental health journey. “Tell your priest, tell your minister, tell your rabbi,” she said. “Go to somebody you trust, somebody you feel will help.”

Fostering spiritual health

p Kohenet Keshira haLev Fife

Photo by Nick Brilla/Nick Brilla Photography

14 SEPTEMBER 10, 2021

Rabbis are not mental health professionals. Spiritual health, though, is another matter. That is in their wheelhouse. Not connecting with the prayers, doubting humanity’s goodness, feeling Passover is “driving you crazy” — all are spiritual concerns people bring

to the table, Greenbaum said. In the aftermath of the Oct. 27, 2018, massacre at the Tree of Life building and during the pandemic, Greenbaum and others have also seen people struggling with questions about God: how to believe in God, or how God can be present amid so much tragedy and suffering. For Vogel, working with incarcerated Jews through the Aleph Institute, those concerns are ever-present. Many of the people he helps entered the prison system with histories of trauma or psychiatric conditions, and even those who were otherwise mentally healthy have experienced the trauma of incarceration, he explained. In his view, the Torah offers a “guide for life,” including counsel for self-care and care for others. “We’ve got to live healthy lives using the technology and using the resources that are available,” he said. “The fact that they’ve got to go to psychiatrists and psychologists” — that humans’ minds could become disordered or unhealthy — “is all in the Torah.” So, too, the Torah guides Vogel’s interactions with people who come to him for pastoral counseling. Humans cannot justify God’s actions, he said — especially not now, in the wake of the Holocaust. But, he continued, the Torah teaches “our job is not to justify.” Our job is to “improve ourselves” and treat all people with care and respect. “Every person is made in the image of God.” Kohenet Keshira haLev Fife of the post-denominational community Kesher Pittsburgh emphasizes the interconnectedness of mental, physical and spiritual health in her Jewish practice. Her goal, she said, is to help people connect with the Divine. In the process, she creates a space where people can slow down and let themselves feel emotions they may otherwise push away. “To me the highest compliment is when someone says, ‘I came to services, and I don’t know why, but I cried,’” Fife said. “I encourage people, ‘Let the tears come. Your tears are holy. There’s room for them here.’” According to Fife, there’s something therapeutic about this release, and, like


Faith leaders are frontline workers, said Patricia Campbell, executive director of the Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute [PPI], an interfaith counseling and psychotherapy center. At PPI, spirituality and the behavioral sciences go hand in hand, Campbell explained. The licensed therapists take a holistic approach to health, inviting people to draw their faiths into the healing process. During the pandemic, one way the PPI responded to an increased demand for its services was to expand its communitymental health training. For example, two of its staff members became certified trainers in the national Mental Health First Aid program, which teaches people how to identify and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Both Vogel and Fife have completed the Mental Health First Aid training. Campbell sees such programming as a way to support rabbis and other clergy as they, in turn, support their communities. Faith leaders have been dealing with the pandemic for about 18 months, she said. Earlier in the summer, they thought they might finally get a breather. But now that’s not the case — and now Jewish spiritual leaders are moving into Yom Kippur, a time of serious self-reflection, when congregants wonder what changes they should be making in their lives. The question Campbell hears many leaders asking is the same: “How do I get a second wind?” Fife of Kesher Pittsburgh said she navigates the sustained demands on her mental health by listening to her emotional needs, setting boundaries, sustaining ritual practices and sometimes sharing her vulnerabilities with her community, too. For Weisblatt, the Torah offers a stable ground in which his support for his communities is rooted. The Torah deals with “real human issues,” he said. “From sex to drugs to infidelity and more.”  PJC David Rullo can be reached at drullo@ Chris Hedlin is PublicSource’s faith and religion reporter. She can be reached at or on Twitter @ ChristineHedlin. This article was co-published with PublicSource, a nonprofit news outlet in Pittsburgh with a mission to inspire critical thinking and bold ideas through local journalism rooted in facts, diverse voices and the pursuit of transparency. Sign up for their newsletters at PITTSBURGHJEWISHCHRONICLE.ORG

Headlines Marcus: Continued from page 2

how we operate,” Marcus said of Sirner. “As a successor, he will come in and assess the

Menu: Continued from page 5

planned his pre-Yom Kippur meal yet but said Maimonides should be a helpful guide. Maimonides, a medieval Jewish philosopher and physician, advocated moderation, so whether it comes to drinking water or eating food, avoiding extremes is important, Cohan said. In years past before the fast, Cohan, executive director of Jewish Veg, a group that helps Jews embrace plant-based diets as a means of expressing Jewish values, has filled up on tempeh — a high-protein food made of fermented soybeans — along with rice or other grains. Cohan typically marinates his tempeh in soy sauce and maple syrup, and adds spice for taste, but said those seeking an alternative

campaign and keep what he wants to keep and change when he wants to change. But I’ve no doubt he will do an excellent job.” Looking back, Marcus marvels at the longevity of his career with Israel Bonds. “If you would have told me, June 1, 1981,

when I started that over 40 years from that day, I’d be retiring from this organization, I would have said, ‘You’re crazy.’ Looking back, you wonder where have 40 years gone. But I can honestly say there’s never been a day since June 1 of ‘81, that I’ve opened my

eyes in the morning and said, ‘Do I really have to go to work today?’ Yeah, I’m very fortunate.”  PJC

flavor can try mole, a spiced Mexican sauce, which he purchases at Reyna Foods in the Strip District. The great thing about tempeh, is “it’s super healthy and very hearty,” Cohan said. “And it will fill you up so you won’t be too hungry or too distracted by your fast.” Fresh off the NCSY Garden Sizzler — an annual event that welcomes several hundred people for a backyard gastronomic bonanza — Nina Butler, of Squirrel Hill, said she and her family will be eating steak as a pre-fast meal, and, as a side dish, soup with kreplach. There’s something “cosmically poetic” about preparing small dumplings, Butler said. More than 40 years ago, Butler first made kreplach for her in-laws. Decades later, she’s making them for her grandchildren, who live in the same home as her in-laws once did. Pre-fast menus differ from plate-toplate, and, for most people, these aren’t the

meals to explore new cuisine. According to Shayna Wolf, a local nurse, it’s best to play it safe when it comes to planning a pre-fast menu. Wolf suggests eating slow-digesting carbs, like whole grains, oats or brown rice, and also fats to slow digestion, like nuts, avocados or fish. While these foods can make fasting easier, Wolf stressed the importance of proper hydration. Approximately three days before the fast, begin drinking lots of fluids, she said. It’s possible to sneak these in through watermelon, grapes and other vegetables, but also make sure to “eat enough salt to retain the water, but not too much that you end up thirsty right before the fast.” Squirrel Hill resident Chayala Sokol also advocates proper hydration. Sokol said she and her family drink Gatorade and eat lightly salted chicken soup in the hours leading

up to the fast. The key component of their annual pre-Yom Kippur meal, though, is a family staple: a special potato dish made by Sokol’s mother, Belle Gutman, consisting of seasoned white potatoes prepared in squarelike form. Gutman bakes the potatoes to the point that they’re so soft “you could mash them if you wanted to,” said Sokol. The filling dish, which Sokol said her family looks forward to, is a welcome reminder that the holiday is coming. Even so, the tater-treat isn’t necessarily relegated to one meal per year — after all, grandmothers often have a soft spot — at least for a privileged few. At various points throughout the year, Sokol said, her mother will whip up the dish, but that’s only “if the kids really beg.”  PJC

Hill: Continued from page 7

at the butcher shops hardly seem enough. Then he gets a hunch. “In passing a Jewish grocery in that district, I had often noticed a particularly rank and noisome odor which seemed to rise from the grated cellar beneath the sidewalk,” he writes. “As the window was boarded underneath the sidewalk, it seemed improbable that the odor, singularly vile even for Pride Street, could not come from the cellar.” He talks his way into that cellar and discovers an underground coop — some 300 vermin-infested chickens living in total darkness. “The poultry business has always seemed so inevitably associated with wind and sun and open air, farmyards and cattle and work horses and barn fellowship, that there was a sort of unnameable horror clinging about this chicken pit, over and above the odor, which was horror enough.” Talk of the farm feels a bit out of place, and it turns out to be a clue. “Henry Nickelman” was one of the pseudonyms of Willa Cather. Cather was a young writer and schoolteacher in Pittsburgh at the time. She had come to the city from Nebraska in late June 1896 to take a job as a magazine editor. Sometime around March 1901, she began teaching Latin, composition and algebra at Central High School, perched at the top of Bedford Avenue. That fall, she moved into the English department. It put her in the heart of the Hill District throughout the school year, which might explain why the article focuses on scenes from November and May. No evidence suggests Cather ever lived in a Pride Street rooming house. That’s just a framing device. A lot of the Nickelman pieces contain similar inconsistencies, and scholars now PITTSBURGHJEWISHCHRONICLE.ORG  

p Two women drawing water from a hydrant behind a tenement on Poplar Way, a block down from Central High School, in February 1907. Sixteen families shared the outdoor spigot.  Jewish Community Center Photographs, Rauh Jewish Archives

assume they were fictionalized to some degree. The pieces feel like writing exercises, a way for an aspiring novelist to experiment

with narration and portraiture, rather than a way for her to fully enter into the lives of the people she is encountering or imagining.


Toby Tabachnick can be reached at

Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@

All this ambiguity makes it hard to know whether the underground chicken coop was real — and whether its presence reveals more about the Hill District or about Cather. Since the mid-1960s, Cather scholars have been debating whether her Jewish characters reveal an antisemitic outlook. Does she advance stereotypes or subvert them? The weight of that question conceals a smaller, but still heartbreaking one. How could someone who expressed such eloquent sympathy for the struggles of Scandinavian and Bohemian farmers in Nebraska have once been so cavalier about the struggles of Jewish and Italian immigrants in Pittsburgh, as well as Black people who had fled the horrors of Southern slavery to make a new life? It’s one of the great mysteries of her art. In her beloved novel “My Antonia,” the narrator Jim Burden recalls his grandfather’s prayers one Christmas morning on their farm in small town of Black Hawk, Nebraska: “He gave thanks for our food and comfort, and prayed for the poor and destitute in great cities, where the struggle for life was harder than it was here with us.” Cather wrote those lovely words, of course. What poor and destitute city folk did she have in mind? What great city would she have known but Pittsburgh? Did she recall the smell of that hidden chicken coop in the Hill District when she wrote those words? Perhaps, but that was 1918. Had her heart been shaped a little differently back in 1901, we might have been blessed with one of the greatest pieces ever written about the old Jewish neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Instead, we got feathers and chicken scratch.  PJC Eric Lidji is the director of the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center. He can be reached at rjarchives@heinzhistorycenter. org or 412-454-6406. SEPTEMBER 10, 2021 15

Headlines 9/11: Continued from page 10

He arrived at his office early the day of the attack and was talking to a colleague when the first plane hit. “We heard some sort of crash,” he said. “I wouldn’t even call it a crash. It was a noise. Our first thought was a cooling tower on a building exploded.” A colleague called to tell them that a plane hit the World Trade Center. “Our first reaction was that some sort of novice, amateur pilot lost his way,” Jeff Young said. “We had the bright idea to go up on the roof and see what’s going on. We were southeast of the tower. We saw where the wing popped out on the east side of the building. We were up there for a few minutes before building maintenance and security told us we had to leave.” He returned to his office and called his father in Pittsburgh. Debris was beginning to collect in the air near his window. “I’m on the phone with my dad and the second plane hit,” Jeff Young said. “Our building shook. That second hit made things pretty clear. My dad and I both agreed I had to get out of there.” He walked down Broadway, making it to the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.

“A ton of people were going across the Brooklyn Bridge trying to get out of Manhattan,” he said. “Fire engines and ambulances were screaming into the city. I stood there for about two minutes and thought, ‘I don’t need to be here.’” He walked the five miles to his apartment on the West Side. “I didn’t leave again for four days,” he said. Jeff Young’s company lost one person in the attack. They returned a week later to their offices. “When you stepped off the train on Wall Street, you got a whiff of something,” he remembered. “It was pungent. The pile was still burning a week later. We went to the office. They had scrubbed it over the weekend because of the air intake. People started to complain about nausea and headaches and were sent home. We stayed until 2:00 that day. And then, we just kept going back. One day became the next and things returned to normal at some point.”

The New Jersey transplant

Ken Selig moved from Pittsburgh to New Jersey shortly before 2000 and worked at a financial services company in Midtown Manhattan. “I’m not really a morning person, but we had an early morning meeting at like 8:30 or something ridiculous like that,” Selig recalled.

 Ken Selig 

Photo by Marta Perales Photography

“The news started coming in around 9:00. We ended the meeting and people went back to their desks to figure things out.” He set up a spare monitor on his desk tuned to CNN. “The initial order was to shelter in place,” he said. “Eventually they said, if you think you can find a way home, go. After a couple of hours we were told to evacuate the building.” By the time he left, the Port Authority was shut down, leaving a ferry as the only option for Selig to get back to New Jersey. “I was in a long line waiting,” he said. “I saw a policeman get a call over his radio and he broke down. That really stuck with me. During the walk from the office to the West Side, you could see plumes of smoke coming from downtown.” He had a cell phone and pager and used AOL Messenger. Like others, he had

difficulty communicating with people. “There were weird things going on,” he said. “There were some people I could text with from my phone and some I could text with my pager. …It was a lot of back and forth to let people know I was OK.” The attack affected him long after it was over. “It changes your frame of mind,” he said. “I remember later there was a problem with the power grid, with massive power outages, and everyone’s first reaction was, ‘This is another terrorist attack.’”

The rabbi

 Rabbi Daniel Yolkut

Photo by Adam Reinherz

Rabbi Daniel Yolkut was in New York City on 9/11, during a “very significant juncture” in his life, he said. The year before had been “a crushing year of terror in Israel,” recalled Yolkut, now rabbi at Congregation Poale Zedeck. “It was the Please see 9/11, page 18




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Torah Staying focused on the destination

9/11: Continued from page 16

first year of the Second Intifada. We were plugged into Israel and this constant sense of dread and terror and sadness. There was this feeling that as Jews and part of the pro-Israel community, that there was a cloud of terror over us that had now come to these shores.” Yolkut was working as an assistant rabbi in Teaneck, New Jersey. “There was a family in the synagogue who lost a brother in the Towers,” he said. “As someone just coming into his rabbinate and about to start my adult life, it had a very powerful impact on me.” The day before Yom Kippur that year, Yolkut was with a friend and was feeling depressed. “There was so much heaviness in the air,” he said. “We were looking for inspiration.” The rabbi and his friend saw that Rabbi Moshe Weinberger was speaking and went to hear him talk. Unbeknownst to them, the event was a memorial service for someone who had died when the Towers collapsed. Weinberger spoke of his friend, Shimmy Biegeleisen, who was killed in the attack, and recounted that another friend had gone to ground zero the day before Rosh Hashanah to stand where Shimmy had stood and scream the word HaMelech, as cantors do to begin the Rosh Hashanah morning service. “To go into Rosh Hashanah that affirms God’s sovereignty over the universe, he had to grapple with his friend’s death,” Yolkut said. “He had to stand there on the pile and make that commitment. That totally blew me away.” Then, on Oct. 11, Yolkut was reading a story in the Wall Street Journal, “How Five Lives Became One Horror When Terror Struck the Twin Towers.” Shimmy Biegeleisen was one of the people profiled in the story, which recounted how Biegeleisen spent the last moments of his life reciting Psalms from the Rosh Hashanah service. “The takeaway is, here’s a person that had a rich and extensive spiritual toolbox,” Yolkut said. “When he came to an unfathomable moment of crisis, he had something at his disposal to be able to transcend and connect to God at that moment.”

The FBI agent

In 2001, Shawn Brokos was an FBI agent assigned to the violent crime squad in Newark, New Jersey. “I vividly remember driving to my office,” she said. “I took 22 East. You see the whole Manhattan skyline. It’s exceptionally beautiful. I will never forget that morning, it was one of those tremendous blue-sky days that we get in September.” Brokos, now the director of community security for the Jewish Federation of Greater

Rabbi Yisroel Rosenfeld Parshat Vayeilech Deuteronomy 31:1-30

R  Shawn Brokos

Photo by Toby Tabachnick

Pittsburgh, said someone in her office erroneously reported that a helicopter hit the World Trade Center. Then they got word it was a plane. “We all were starting to gather around thinking this is not normal,” she said. “We learned that a second plane hit. We all saw a cloud of black smoke that was juxtaposed against that incredible blue sky. We were trying to watch the television news reports but we knew that this was something catastrophic.” After learning it was a terrorist attack, Brokos was tasked with helping to get a headcount of FBI agents, both in Newark and in New York City. “The cell phones were overloaded so we couldn’t communicate via cell phone, we only had our radios,” she said. Brokos and other agents then tried to make their way into the city. “We were trying to drive against the masses,” she said. “It was a sight to see — just hordes of people, the mass exodus from the city, trying to get to a place of safety — and we’re trying to run into the city to see what we can do to help.” Unable to make it into Manhattan, Brokos returned to her office with other agents and started the investigation into the attack. “Many of the hijackers had stayed in Newark,” she said. “We set up a command post. I don’t think I got home for three days. It was working day and night, around the clock. It was very, very difficult. “I’ll never forget that first night standing in Jersey City and looking across the river and watching helplessly as black smoke filled the air and everything was quiet,” she continued. “I had such a sense of helplessness because you knew the tragedy that unfolded, and you also knew that in law enforcement we’re supposed to help and restore a sense of peace and security in the community. I knew that that sense of peace had been forever shattered.”  PJC David Rullo can be reached at drullo@

eb Mendel Futerfas was a famous Chasidic personality who put his life on the line to teach Judaism during the time when communism had a firm grip on the Soviet Union. As a result, he was exiled to a Siberian gulag. While there, he became friendly with many others who were exiled, among them a non-Jewish circus master. Reb Mendel was fascinated by this profession, and in particular the skill of walking a tightrope. “Tell me,” Reb Mendel asked the circus master. “How is it that you can walk across a string, at an enormous height, and not lose

describes the last day of Moshe’s life. Yet the Torah tells us that even on the most difficult day, Moshe kept an ambitious approach, not leaving any opportunity behind. How could Moshe, on the last day of his life, still “keep on going?” The answer is simple: When you keep your eye on the goal and stay laser-focused on what needs to be done, the distractions and the stresses of life do not get in your way. We just celebrated Rosh Hashanah and we are shortly going to be observing Yom Kippur. For many of us, the past year-anda-half has been tumultuous and unnerving. So many unknowns and breaks from routine — so much so that for the second year in a row, the High Holidays have been upended by the unpredictable virus. We can easily get distracted by the current

When you keep your eye on the goal and stay laser-focused on what needs to be done, the distractions and the stresses of life do not get in your way. your balance? You must have tremendous skill with your feet?” “It’s my eyes,” replied the circus master. “When I step onto the rope I remain laser-focused on the pole at the other end of it. When I keep complete concentration on my destination, my feet and my hands fall in line and they are guided by my eyes.” “What then is the most difficult part of the rope walk?” asked Reb Mendel. “It’s the turn,” replied the performer. “When you have to take your eyes off the goal for that split second.” “So how do you not fall?” pushed Reb Mendel. “Ah,” said the performer. “I am sure not to get confused, and stay focused on my destination; during the transition, I can easily refocus as soon as I complete my turn.” The name of this week’s parshat is “Vayeilech,” which means “and he went.” It


predicament. Until the virus broke out, you may have had your eyes on a goal. Your life may have had a specific path, and you were heading on with a very clear destination in mind. Then you had to make a turn. The destination was not in sight and you began to get confused. Where were you going? Where were you coming from? The challenge becomes — like it did for the tightrope walker — to stay focused and realize that these distractions are temporary. If you concentrate on what your goals are, very soon the distractions will pass, and your destination will be once again in plain view.  PJC Rabbi Yisroel Rosenfeld is the rabbi at the Lubavitch Center and the executive director of Chabad of Western Pennsylvania. This column is a service of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.

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Obituaries HOZE: Lisa Sara Levenson Hoze — Zichrona L’Vracha — May her memory be for a blessing. Lisa Sara Levenson Hoze, wife, mother, grandmother, daughter sister, aunt, friend and mentor/madricha to many, passed away July 11 in Netanya, Israel, after a long illness. The daughter of Pittsburghers Naomi Schwartz Levenson (z”l) and Fred Harvey Levenson (z”l) and sister of Dan Levenson, Lisa was an active member in Pittsburgh Young Judaea, danced in the Rishona Israeli dance troupe, and attended Camp Tel Yehudah. She held regional and national positions and served on the executive boards

of both. Lisa graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School, where she played a leading role in “Gypsy” during her senior year. After graduation, Lisa participated in the Young Judaea Year Course in Israel. She had an exceptional experience, which culminated in her decision to make aliyah and build her life in Israel. As a young immigrant Lisa joined the Israeli Defense Forces. Her exceptional musical

abilities and ever-engaging personality were immediately recognized and she was assigned to the special IDF unit responsible for entertainment and cultural performances throughout the country and abroad. Lisa later became a physical therapist, earning her degree from Ben Gurion University and focusing her practice to work with rehabilitation. Lisa met her husband, Asher Hoze, in Israel and they raised two sons, Itamar and Yoav, in an observant home that blended the heritage of Asher’s Yemenite background​ with the Ashkenazi traditions in which Lisa was raised. Lisa was a dear and valuable

member in their religious community, where she was known for her warmth, humor, and ever-positive outlook on life. Lisa is survived by her husband, Asher, sons Itamar Hoze (Liza Roumani) and Yoav Hoze, two grandchildren Maor and Matan Hoze, brother Dan Levenson and nephews Jonathan and Joshua. The announcement of Lisa’s death brought an outpouring of messages from many old friends throughout the U.S. as well as Israel, whose lives had been touched by Lisa’s generosity, compassion and laughter. The family address is: HaRav Moshe Levin Street 12 Aleph, Netanya, Israel.  PJC

Life & Culture

An all-American journey through Blackness, whiteness, Christianity, Judaism, slavery and freedom — BOOKS — By Julia M. Klein | The Forward

“Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multiracial Jewish Family” By Laura Arnold Leibman Oxford University Press, 320 pages, $27.95


ace has always been an important category in American life. But its contours have never been fixed. Laws

denoting who should be classified as white — or Black — have varied from state to state, and over time. So, too, have social norms. As the legal scholar Daniel J. Sharfstein showed in his 2011 “The Invisible Line,” money, class and historical context could alter racial identification. In “Once We Were Slaves,” Laura Arnold Leibman examines similar issues through the prism of a single multiracial family that moved from slavery to freedom, from Blackness to whiteness and from Christianity to Judaism. “In the late 18th

and early 19th centuries, race was remarkably fluid for wealthy, racially ambiguous people,” she writes. Her subjects nevertheless encountered both economic challenges and racial prejudice, including from their chosen community of Sephardic Jews. Leibman, professor of English and Humanities at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, artfully employs both artifacts and archival documents to piece together a genealogical jigsaw puzzle. Starting with two siblings in Bridgetown, Barbados, she unspools a sprawling family history that

passes through Suriname and London and intersects with two historic Jewish congregations, New York’s Shearith Israel and Philadelphia’s Mikveh Israel. Leibman’s narrative is inordinately convoluted at times, an intricate account of relationships, commercial activities and intramural religious squabbles. Its tangents, meant to contextualize the story, can be difficult to follow, and the family names, which repeat through the generations, can be Please see Books, page 20


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owner paid the taxes. Inherited Roth IRAs continue to grow income-tax-free. Under the old law, the Roth IRA beneficiary could “stretch” the tax-free distributions over his or her life expectancy, like an Inherited Traditional IRA. Under the SECURE Act, an Inherited Roth IRA, subject to exceptions, must be fully distributed within 10 years of the original owner’s death. This doesn’t cause a massive income tax acceleration, but it does mean the beneficiary is losing many years of income-tax-free growth that was available to them under the old law.

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SEPTEMBER 10, 2021 19

Life & Culture Books: Continued from page 19

confounding. But the research is meticulous, a tour-de-force of historical reconstruction that eventually leads Leibman to present-day descendants of the Brandon-Moses family. Isaac Lopez Brandon (1793-1829) and Sarah Brandon Moses (1798-1829) were born into slavery. Their father was Abraham Rodrigues Brandon, a Sephardic Jewish Barbadian merchant whom Leibman describes as the richest Jew on the island. Their mother, (Sarah) Esther Lopez-Gill, enslaved by the Lopez family, was herself the product of an interracial union. (There are echoes here of the Hemings family saga, with its similar generational patterns and racial ambiguities.) Brandon’s relationship with Lopez-Gill endured more than 35 years. The two never married, but, unusually for the time, Brandon acknowledged his offspring, and treated them generously. He financed their manumission, paid for their schooling, and provided for them in his will. (He would later have a second family, with a much younger white woman, and the half-siblings would become close.) As a child, Sarah was baptized as an Anglican. But, given the chance and the choice, both Isaac and Sarah eventually

embraced their father’s religion. Traveling Israel would have had to declare himself to Suriname, where Jews of color were white. Given their three white grandparents, numerous if still not fully accepted, Isaac and America’s racial confusions, who’s to say underwent an adult circumcision, and Sarah they were wrong? The siblings’ lives stayed intimately a (surely less painful) ritual bath. intertwined. Isaac married In her father’s company, one of Joshua Moses’ sisters, Sarah later made her way to Lavinia, and he and Moses London for a boarding school became business partners. education. She even sat for an Then, a typical 19th-century ivory miniature, “captivating tragedy shattered the family: and precious,” a portrait Sarah died of complications attesting to her rising social from childbirth, leaving status. There, too, she met and behind nine children. Soon married a successful Jewish after, Isaac, too, lost his wife merchant, Joshua Moses, who  Laura Arnold Leibman Photo courtesy of following childbirth, as well took her back to New York. Oxford University Press as one of his two children. His Meanwhile, in Barbados,  Isaac was involved in an arcane surviving son, despite being married by an Episcopalian legal battle involving Jewish minister, would retain his voting rights, synagogue taxes and white privilege. family’s devotion. But both Isaac and Sarah’s descendants Even before the battle was would face economic adversity lost, he had left with his — making for a tale, Leibman mother for Philadelphia, a suggests, of “rags to riches, city of economic opportuand riches to rags, all within nity with an important free two generations.” Black community. Leibman prefaces her story In the United States, the with an account of Blanche siblings clung to their Jewish Moses’ 1942 appeal to the faith, but not their Black ancestry. The 1820 census American Jewish Historical listed both Sarah and her children as white. Society to recover rare family daguerreAnd to become a naturalized citizen in 1829, otypes, apparently lost while on loan.

The appeal must have worked because the images, including “the earliest known portraits of multiracial Jews,” became important sources for Leibman. A granddaughter of Sarah Brandon Moses, Blanche Moses was the family genealogist. But she never knew for sure who Sarah’s mother was, and, according to Leibman, had no idea of her African descent. When Leibman meets up with Isaac’s fourth greatgrandson, she worries about telling him that his ancestor was born enslaved and out of wedlock. It turns out that the man is thrilled by the revelations. One of his sons is a civil rights attorney, an unwitting link to the past. “Sarah Brandon Moses and Isaac Lopez Brandon’s history reveals the damage of reading Black Jews out of the American experience,” Leibman writes. To gain American-Jewish acceptance, she suggests, the two had to acquiesce in a form of cultural erasure. Later generations of their family would not know their full stories. “Once We Were Slaves” is a valuable act of reclamation — and a plea for what Leibman calls “a more equitable and inclusive future.”  PJC Julia M. Klein, the Forward’s contributing book critic, has been a two-time finalist for the National Book Critics Circle’s Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. Follow her on Twitter @JuliaMKlein. This piece first appeared in the Forward.

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Monday September 13: Goldie Bardin, Irene Berliner, Jeanette Broner Chernoff, Isadore Davis, Harry Dell, Otto Dubovy, Alvin Glass, Louis Goldenson, Tillie Kalson, Ralph R. Kartub, Herschel Klein, Ruth Levy, Arch Lhormer, Morris Marks, Evelyn Maryn, Leslie Lou Mullen, Sharon Ruttenberg Post, Dr. Sanford Press, Matilda Amdur Seidman, Rebecca Feiner Sigal, Max Sussman, Alice Tales, Bessie Shrut Weiner, Morris H. Winer Tuesday September 14: Joyce Berger, Libby Kaplan Cooper, Howard Harris, Harry Levin, Ernest Marcus, Aaron Barney ”Moldovan”, Ruth I. Perlman, Myer Reznick, Harvey Sandy Rubenstein, Rebecca Shiner, Elizabeth Silverman, Ruth E. Supowitz Wednesday September 15: Max Berezin, Florence F. Blass, Ida K. Borovetz, Henry Browarsky, Michael H. Cohen, Ruth Geduldig, Donald L. Klein, Hyman Leipzig, Leonard Levine, Marie Morris, Sarah Finkel Moses, Samuel A. Myers, Beile Levinson Ofshinski, Ethel Shaffer Pariser, Esther Y. Podolsky, Abraham I. Rose, Jessie Ruben, Harry Shapiro, Abe Sobel Thursday September 16: Louis Alpert, Eugene Brown, Louis Chotiner, Morris Cohenn, Ida Goldberg, Anna Halpern, Isaac Halpern, Eugene Rosen, Sylvia Rosenzweig, Alex Sherman, Freda Spokane, Minna B. Trellis Friday September 17: Charles Bahm, Herman Goldman, Ben A. Herman, Bernard Hoddeson, Jacob Jacobs, Ise Kramer, Frieda Miller, Benjamin Mossoff, Florence Rubin, Arnold Sommer Saturday September 18: Max Danovitz, Max Dobkin, Hyman J. Dobkin, Ruth P. Kamin, Sarah Kamin, Herman Lang, Mollie Levine, Rose Levine, Max C. Levy, Ruth O. Martin, Ida Osgood, Irving Leonard Podolsky, Estelle L. Schaeffer, Samuel Siegal, Alfred Supowitz, Rebecca Zeff

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SEPTEMBER 10, 2021 21

Community It’s so hard to say goodbye to summer

Starting the school year off right

Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh members gathered for an annual End-of-Summer camp. Over three days, friends visited the Pittsburgh Zoo, Simmons Farm and watched a movie. The summer camp was supported by the Dale H. and Jeane V. Smart Foundation.

Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh welcomed students and teachers back for another year of classes. A kickoff event for family and friends was held at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

p Simon Lloyd and Jacob Brodkey hang out.

p Mordechai Milch and his son Benny watch Rabbi Daniel Wasserman scuba dive at the PPG Aquarium.

p Paige Eddy and Ryan Silverman pick peaches and apples at Simmons Farm.

p Jill Bailey and Chavi Beck share a chat on their way to the zoo.

Photos courtesy of Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh

22 SEPTEMBER 10, 2021

p Ari Goldwasser and Morgan Freeman get ready for another year of learning.

p Tamar, Zaki and Nissim Noorparvar are all smiles. 


Photos courtesy of Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh


Community Pack it up, pack it in Temple Sinai members Mara Kaplan, Louise Malakoff and more than 100 volunteers helped order, assemble and deliver High Holidays gift bags in commemoration of Temple Sinai’s 75th Anniversary.

p Joe Weinkle, Laura Fehl and Reesa Rosenthal

p Marcy Morton and Carol Rosenthal

p Hadley Kalson

Quiet on set

p Sunshine Figlio

p Rick Kalson and Kellee Van Aken

Photos courtesy of Temple Sinai

p Residents of The New Riverview serve as extras in “Thanks to Her,” a film by University of Pittsburgh graduate Sam Orlowski.

Photo courtesy of Tinsy Labrie via Jewish Association on Aging

Mazel Tov and L’Chaim Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh held its annual dinner on Aug. 24 at The Pennsylvanian. The event honored Rabbi Yosef and Nechoma Itkin as Community Builders and The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

p Dr. Chaim Oster, president of the board; Rabbi Yossi Rosenblum, CEO and head of school; Rabbi Yosef and Mrs. Nechoma Itkin, recipients of the Community Builders Award


p Dr. Chaim Oster, president of the board; David Sufrin, board chair of the Federation; Jeffrey Finkelstein, president/CEO of the Federation; Rabbi Yossi Rosenblum, CEO and head of school Photos courtesy of Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh


SEPTEMBER 10, 2021 23

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