August 5, 2022 | 8 Av 5782
Candlelighting 8:12 p.m. | Havdalah 9:14 p.m. | Vol. 65, No. XX | pittsburghjewishchronicle.org
NOTEWORTHY LOCAL Republican gubernatorial candidate goes off Gab Mastriano says he’s not antisemitic
Gesher HaChaim rethinks the post-Wasserman burial landscape
Feeding those in need: New food storage shed is a gamechanger for Project Shifra By David Rullo | Staff Writer
Leave ’em laughing
Carl Reiner honored at National Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York
A ‘very, very Jewish play’
Howard Elson opens in ‘The Sunshine Boys’ at South Park Theatre
Please see Burials, page 12
Please see Shifra, page 12
Rabbi Daniel Wasserman teaches students how to build a casket. By David Rullo | Staff Writer
we don’t want the frills. We don’t need a beautiful casket made out of who-knowswhat and hammered with nails because we don’t put nails in our caskets. We want it plain and simple.” Vogel stressed there are funeral homes available locally for those who want a more elaborate service — and that he is pleased they exist. But many Orthodox community members don’t want a formal funeral service, he said. “I’m a Lubavitcher and the Rebbe’s [funeral] wasn’t in a shul. It was from his office straight to the cemetery. That’s the way we do it,” Vogel said. “In Lubavitch, we don’t even do a eulogy. The Rebbe, who could have had beautiful eulogies, didn’t. It’s straight from the taharah to the burial.” Vogel said that by conducting burials in this manner the service is completed for a fraction of the cost. Stephanie Small, president of Gesher HaChaim’s newly constituted board, said Wasserman took pains to select volunteers willing to help the burial society before
he Aleph Institute’s Project Shifra helps more than 80 families weekly with their food needs. Rabbi Moishe Mayir Vogel, executive director of the Aleph Institute, communicates directly to families through a WhatsApp group when fresh food arrives. Until a few weeks ago, time was of the essence. The program’s ability to store food was limited and Vogel worried that some of it would go bad before those in need had the chance to pick it up. Shifra had only one stand-alone refrigerator/freezer located behind the Aleph Institute that Vogel used for perishables, including dairy products. Food that didn’t need to be refrigerated was left near the back door of the building on Beacon Street. That meant easy access for those who needed the food — but squirrels, birds and other “non-human” city residents would sometimes have the first pick of the products. Shifra is now able to ensure those getting the food are the families in need — either those in Vogel’s WhatsApp group or community members who learn of the deliveries through the Jewish Pittsburgh group on Facebook — thanks to a new 10-footby-16-foot “Shifra Shed” that contains an industrial freezer, a separate industrial refrigeration unit and shelves for bread and other non-perishable items. A new keypad lock keeps the food secure. “Squirrels do not know how to get in,” Vogel said. Vogel noted that during the pandemic, Shifra distributed more than $130,000 in food. Demand hasn’t slowed over the last year.
t isn’t easy replacing Rabbi Daniel Wasserman. Just ask the new board helping to steer Gesher HaChaim in Pittsburgh. For more than a decade, the burial society was a passion project of the rabbi who served as its president and did everything from picking up deceased community members to building caskets. No detail, it seemed, was too insignificant for Wasserman, who worked to ensure a dignified funeral for all in need. Now that Wasserman has left his post as rabbi at Shaare Torah Congregation and is moving to Israel, a committee will oversee the work of Gesher HaChaim, explained Rabbi Moishe Mayir Vogel, the executive director of the Aleph Institute who worked with Wasserman as part of the Vaad Harabonim of Pittsburgh. Gesher HaChaim, Vogel said, began as an alternative to traditional funeral homes for the Orthodox community. “It provides that resource without the frills,” he said. “In the Orthodox community,
Photo by Adam Reinherz
Headlines Mastriano campaign attempts to pivot, says it rejects antisemitism — LOCAL — By David Rullo | Staff Writer
fter a week of criticism, Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Doug Mastriano said he is not antisemitic. The backlash began after a July 13 article by WESA revealed that the Mastriano campaign paid social media site Gab $5,000 for “consulting fees.” While there was some speculation about what the campaign received for its money, the Huffington Post reported that new accounts on the platform automatically followed Mastriano’s Gab account. Gab is the website used by the man charged with killing 11 Jews at the Tree of Life building on Oct. 27, 2018. It is widely recognized as an online home for extremists and conspiracy theorists. On July 21, Pittsburgh community leaders spoke at a press conference calling out Mastriano for his presence on Gab and his unwillingness to delete or criticize those who commented on his posts with antisemitic remarks, many targeting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro, who is Jewish. “I reject anti-Semitism in any form,” Mastriano said in a statement on July 28. The far-right candidate went on to say that extremist speech is an unfortunate but inevitable cost of living in a free society. Mastriano did not directly address the antisemitic remarks left on his Gab page, but he did go on to attack Shapiro. “The only candidate in this election who wants to impose extreme policies in
of antisemitic comments and memes including those by Arizona Victoria who wrote, “Shapiro. Jew name. They’ve done ENOUGH damage to the world already so I hope no one votes Jews in this election,” and Dindunuffins Shekelstien @ GunTanTrapDaddy’s, who wrote, “Our ZOG is f------g disgusting. You gonna be just another Shabbos goy? Secretary of State (Foreign Minister)-jewish, Secretary of Treasurer (Finance Minister)-jewish, Secretary of Defense (War Minister)-jewish, Attorney General (Legal Affairs Minister)-jewish.” Mastriano, who was captured on video at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, did not remove or respond to any of the antisemitic and racist comments on Gab, but he did appear to delete his Gab account on July 28, after first making it private. State Rep. Dan Frankel, who represents the 23rd District, which includes Squirrel Hill, called Gab “a festering cesspool of intolerance.” Mastriano appears to have had a friendly relationship with Gab founder, Andrew Torba. Media Matters reported that p Doug Mastriano Image via Times Leader Video, creativecommons.org/licenses/by- in a May interview with Torba, sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons Mastriano praised Torba for Pennsylvania — inflation, crime, lock- “giving us a platform for free speech” and downs and mandates — is Josh Shapiro,” told him “Thank God for what you’ve done.” Mastriano said. Mastriano’s apparent deletion of his Gab Mastriano’s Gab page contained hundreds account came following criticism from
all sides of the political world, including the Republican Jewish Coalition. It also appears to have occurred after Torba began making provocative comments to the press, including the claim that Mastriano will not speak to non-Christian media outlets. The Jerusalem Post quoted Torba as saying, “My policy is not to conduct interviews with reporters who aren’t Christian or with outlets that aren’t Christian, and Doug [Mastriano] has a very similar media strategy where he does not do interviews with these people … These people are dishonest. They’re liars. They’re a den of vipers and they want to destroy you.” On July 28, Mastriano said that Torba does not speak for him, but he did not renounce the Gab founder or the antisemitic remarks on his page. He also did not respond to a request for comment from the Chronicle. The Shapiro campaign was quick to note the bond between the candidate and social media founder. “Doug Mastriano’s deep support for Andrew Torba and Gab goes so far that he has literally thanked god for Torba’s efforts to bring racist, antisemitic extremism into our communities — the very extremism that motivated the Tree of Life murderer, who used Torba’s platform moments before killing 11 Jewish people in Pittsburgh,” said Shapiro for Pennsylvania spokesperson Manuel Bonder in a statement to the Chronicle. “His refusal to denounce Gab and the virulent hatred his campaign is founded on is simply further proof that he is far too dangerous to be governor of Pennsylvania.” The Zionist Organization of America’s Greater Philadelphia and Pittsburgh chapters Please see Mastriano, page 8
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Headlines Trailblazing comedian Carl Reiner honored at National Comedy Center
p Rob, Annie and Lucas Reiner cut the ribbon on the National Comedy Center’s Carl Reiner exhibit. Photos by David Rullo
— LOCAL — By David Rullo | Staff Writer
ell, he was a big Jew,” Carl Reiner’s daughter, Annie Reiner, responded when asked about the impact Judaism had on her father’s writing. “6-foot-1-and-a-half,” Rob
Reiner, Annie’s brother, added to the delight of those in the room. When the accompanying laughter subsided, Carl Reiner’s daughter said that her father’s comedy was culturally Jewish. Her older brother concurred. “His upbringing and his Jewish background — it’s in everything,” the noted actor, director and producer said. “There’s a reason Jews are funny, because they experienced
p Rob Reiner interviewed by comedian Pat Hazell
horror and terror, and if you can’t find a way to laugh, you cry.” Carl Reiner, who died in 2020 at the age of 98, found more than one way to laugh through his years in stand-up comedy, television and film. Best known for his work on Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows” and the groundbreaking “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” Reiner also directed popular films including “The Jerk,” “The Man with Two Brains”
and “Oh, God.” The Reiner siblings — Rob, Annie and their younger brother, Lucas — were in Jamestown, New York, on July 27 to cut the ribbon on the National Comedy Center’s newest multimedia exhibit, “Carl Reiner: Keep Laughing,” which honors their father. The Reiners also participated in a special Please see Reiner, page 13
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Headlines Meet City Council District 5 candidate Barb Warwick people need and what they’re looking for out of their city councilperson.
— LOCAL — By Ethan Beck | Staff Writer
ollowing Corey O’Connor’s appointment to the post of Allegheny County controller, a special election for Pittsburgh’s District 5 City Council seat is set for November. So far, two candidates have tossed their hats into the race: Greenfield community advocate Barb Warwick and Squirrel Hill’s Doug Shields, who represented District 5 before O’Connor. District 5 encompasses nine neighborhoods, including Glen Hazel, Greenfield, Hays, Hazelwood, Lincoln Place, New Homestead, Regent Square, Squirrel Hill South and Swisshelm Park. Warwick spoke with the Chronicle about a variety of topics, from policing to traffic calming to gun violence. This interview was edited for length and clarity.
What makes you uniquely qualified for this position?
I think that what we really need on city council right now is community voices. I’ve been very active in my community in Greenfield and Hazelwood over the past years. I really have my ear to the ground on what’s going on in the community, what
What would be your first priorities if you join City Council?
The top things that I’m the most interested in is, one, traffic calming throughout the district. Another area of interest for me is out-ofschool activities. I would like to see programs that have ended since COVID [started up again], for example the after-school care at Magee Rec Center in Greenfield. I’d like to see the after-school program at the Burgwin Rec Center in Hazelwood resume, which is currently managed on a purely volunteer basis by the community. I would like to see that funded so that those community members don’t have to donate their time in order for the kids in the neighborhood to have a safe place to go after school.
You recently put out a statement praising the County Council for banning fracking in county parks. What else can a council member do to help further environmental goals?
I, myself and my community, spent six years fighting the Mon-Oakland Connector shuttle road, which was going to be built through Schenley Park, through a public park. I would love to see some type of legislation put forward to ensure that our public parks are
p Barb Warwick
protected and that we are not building new roads for vehicle traffic through our public parks, preserving those parks for recreation.
You volunteered for Ed Gainey, Bernie Sanders and other progressive politicians. Do you generally align yourself with the new progressive movement in Pittsburgh?
Yes, I do. I think it’s very exciting. I think that
over the years Pittsburgh has developed sort of an entrenched political network. That’s not to say that everyone who is part of that network is somehow bad. But it is important if we want to get community voices to elevate those voices. It’s important to get new fresh faces that are more focused on the community needs than we have seen certainly with the past mayoral administration. Please see Warwick, page 13
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Headlines Meet City Council District 5 candidate Doug Shields — LOCAL — By Ethan Beck | Staff Writer
ollowing Corey O’Connor’s appointment to the post of Allegheny County Controller, a special election for Pittsburgh’s District 5 City Council seat is set for November. So far, two candidates have tossed their hat in the race: Squirrel Hill’s Doug Shields, who represented District 5 before O’Connor; and Greenfield community advocate Barb Warwick. Pittsburgh’s 5th District encompasses nine neighborhoods, including Glen Hazel, Greenfield, Hays, Hazelwood, Lincoln Place, New Homestead, Regent Square, Squirrel Hill South and Swisshelm Park. Shields spoke with the Chronicle about a variety of topics ranging from policing to gun control to environmentalism and more. This interview was edited for length and clarity.
What makes you uniquely qualified for this position?
No one has the breadth of experience that I have had in city government. That’s 12 years as a chief of staff with Councilman Bob O’Connor and then eight years on the [city] council. It was a very difficult time — those were not easy days for the city. By
the time I was elected, the city had already gone into financial distress in 2003 and ‘04. When I took my oath of office, there was a lot of heavy lifting to do to get the city’s ship righted. Beyond the finance, there was still time for the people, of course. I have a record of accomplishment that people can actually review and judge for themselves.
What would be your first priorities if you join City Council?
My priority coming in is a really deep and abiding concern related to the state of affairs with our families and children in Pittsburgh. In January of this year, the U.S. Surgeon General announced at a press conference — an unusual press conference, too — to talk to us about a new crisis that has come to America, the mental health crisis our children are experiencing. When the city was basically broke, the first thing that got cut were programs that we had under the Parks and Recreation umbrella that were designed to go into communities and help families. They were the first thing out the door. It was called the Community Enrichment Program. But we have a problem here. Our children have been burdened with six years of terrible political discourse, openly racist, homophobic, antisemitic commentary being blasted into the community every day, and a pandemic. They’re watching television, watching children in other countries go
Photo courtesy of Doug Shields
through a war in Ukraine. They’re watching their classmates being slaughtered in their classrooms and in their neighborhoods. Someone asked me about this. They said, “Well, what are you going to do about guns, Doug?” and “What are you going to do about violence?” We need to have a real focus on
supporting families and children. If we don’t address this now, how do you think you’re going to get rid of guns? How do you think you’re going to address poverty and equality and equity if we don’t start building from the Please see Shields, page 6
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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 SUNDAY, AUG. 7 Temple Emanuel of South Hills’ Grief and Loss Group is open to anyone in the community who is looking for support after experiencing loss. The group meets both in person and virtually. For more information, call 412-279-7600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. 10 a.m. q SUNDAYS, AUG. 7-SEP. 11 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 bethshalompgh.org. q MONDAYS, AUG. 8-SEP. 12 Join Congregation Beth Shalom for a weekly Talmud study. 9:15 a.m. For more information, visit bethshalompgh.org. q WEDNESDAYS, AUG. 10-SEP. 14 Bring the parashah alive and make it personally relevant and meaningful. Study the weekly Torah
Shields: Continued from page 5
bottom of society that cares for one another and to build community?
How do you think policing should look in Pittsburgh?
There’s been a lot of discussion about how we have to change policing. And I agree. We all talk about the mental health crisis we’re in right now, especially with our children. I don’t think it’s appropriate to burden a police department or an officer to have to deal with the social aspects of our society. We see models now coming out where police are being joined by teams, a mental health specialist and so forth. I want to tip my hat to former chief Scott Schubert. I think he really worked hard to try to build community relationships. I knew Scott when he was a lieutenant and he caught my eye as somebody who was really dedicated to his job and officers on the police force like him have done amazing work. I understand that. But on the other side of that coin, I was on the City Council when the city had to go into a consent order because police abuses were not being addressed properly. There was no action with regard to making sure that our police officers work within the law. You don’t want to have that aspect in your police department, where you’re putting your police officers up against a wall and expecting them to deal with problems that they’re not trained to deal with.
Following the County Council’s banning of fracking in county parks, is there anything else you think local government can do to further environmental goals?
Yes. As a matter of fact, I drafted that ordinance that was just passed in the County Council for 6
AUGUST 5, 2022
portion with Rabbi Mark Asher Goodman. 12:15 p.m. bethshalompgh.org/life-text. Join Temple Sinai to study the weekly Torah portion in its hybrid class available on Zoom. Open to everyone. Noon. templesinaipgh.org/ event/parashah/weekly-torah-portion-classvia-zoom11.html. q SUNDAY, AUG. 14 The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh presents Advanced Community Active Threat Training with Defensive Tactics. The four-part class will address the mind of an active shooter, predator versus prey, situational awareness and survival mindset; explore basic self-defense, using techniques such as Krav Maga; explore weapons awareness and disarming techniques; and advanced defensive tactics, including team tactics and reality-based training. 12:30 p.m. South Hills JCC. For more information and to register, visit jewishpgh.org/event/advance-community-activethreat-training-catt-with-defensive-tactics-2. Join the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle’s Book Club for its discussion of “The Finkler Question,” by Howard Jacobson. Noon on Zoom. Email drullo@ pittsburghjewishchronicle.org to register. q TUESDAY, AUG. 16
and meet some more. Enjoy an optional pre-game kosher meal in Picnic Park sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. Each game ticket purchased will also include a limited edition Pittsburgh Pirates Hebrew water bottle. 7:05 p.m. For questions, or groups of 10-plus, contact Joshua Avart at 412-325-4903 or Joshua.Avart@pirates.com. q SUNDAY, AUG. 28 Join the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh at the Squirrel Hill JCC for an introductory class to learn how to protect yourself, intelligently, through Mumon karate. You will receive training to prepare your mind and body to avoid or be capable of effectively defending yourself against real danger. Meet and practice with Dr. Paul Kovacs and Dr. Mark Weingarden, practitioners who have taught and trained non-commercially for more than 50 years. For ages 14 to adult. 1 p.m. jewishpgh.org/event/selfdefense-with-the-experts-mumon-karate.
q WEDNESDAYS, SEPT. 21-MAY 24
Join Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh to celebrate 80 years of chinuch at their new Greenfield campus. Welcome new parents and tour the building while enjoying wine and cheese, and participate in their annual raffle drawing and basket/silent auctions. Contact email@example.com to learn more. 6 p.m. $36 individual/$72 couple. yeshivaschools. com/support/endofsummer.
q THURSDAYS, SEPT. 29-DEC. 15
Join members of the Jewish community for the annual Jewish Heritage Night at PNC Park. This is a great opportunity to catch up with old friends
q WEDNESDAYS, AUG. 31-SEP. 28
[County Councilor] Bethany Hallam. So, I’ve stepped back, but I have been working all this time. I also wrote the legislation for the lease registry for [County Councilor] Anita Prizio. There’s a lot to be done with regard to dealing with our environmental issues. The county doesn’t have a Climate Action Plan. There are 130 municipalities in Allegheny County. I know that other municipalities are working on their own individual climate action plans. But I think it’s time that the city and the county begin to work on development, along with other municipalities, so that there’s consistency and some uniformity in our approach — and don’t forget economies of scale that benefit the taxpayer. We’ve got a lot of work to do here on that front.
Councilmember O’Connor had good relationships with the district’s Jewish community. Is there anything specifically that you’d want to do to continue this priority?
Would you support trying to revisit local gun control laws on the City Council, even with them being struck down by the state courts?
I’ve had a history of tackling problems people tend to avoid. Back when I was on City Council, we did pass the loss and stolen handgun ordinance. It’s pretty simple. If you lose your handgun — the most dangerous consumer product on our market — or lose any weapon, then it should be reported to the police. I don’t understand why the city has yet to pursue that. They never enforced it. I don’t have a problem with enforcing this. My argument has nothing to do with the Second Amendment because it’s a post-possession matter. You don’t have the gun anymore. How about letting us know that there’s a gun loose in the neighborhood somewhere? I say this is the most dangerous consumer weapon or consumer product on the market, and it goes missing. We should know about that. Before we do other things, it would be interesting to implement the things that we already have done.
group as they partner with Sunny’s Community Garden on a journey to address grief through the healing power of gardening and herbs. This five-week program involves self-expression through gardening and writing. The group is open to all adults who have experienced grief, no matter where they are on their healing journey, and offers an opportunity to connect and grow with others. 10 a.m. 5738 Forbes. Ave. 1027healingpartnership.org/seeds-of-resilience.
Join the 10.27 Healing Partnership’s holistic support
Yes. I’m not Jewish, but I ended up living on a kibbutz in Israel in 1973. In 1977, when I got married, I took my bride and we went, visited some people in Europe on a backpacking trip, nothing fancy, and then went back to Israel and lived on a kibbutz again for a year-and-a-half. That experience taught me a lot about security. I was there during the Yom Kippur War. I once went to pick up a package and when I got back to the kibbutz, [everyone said] “Oh, you’re OK.” And I’m like, “What happened?” And they said a bomb just went off down there. To this day, if I ride any kind of public transit, out of habit, I look under my seat. Those are things you just don’t forget. Also, during my time in council, I met the Jewish leadership to talk about security in the community. That was always a big deal when I worked with O’Connor. It was Bob that came up with the idea of parking police cars in front of synagogues, just to enhance that security, to do whatever we could to enhance security in the Jewish community because the threat was clear. Jewish institutions have been under attack for decades. We’ve had a history of shootings and horrible other things happen. The other thing that we all knew in those meetings was we can never do enough. You can never do enough, and that was born out with what happened to Tree of Life and our friends who were murdered in their house of worship. I’m sure that’s important to everybody in our community. Part of it is having sensitivity and understanding of what Judaism is, knowing what the holidays are and understanding Jewish tradition. That is really important if you want to be a representative of a community.
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Registration is now open for Melton Core 1: Rhythms and Purposes of Jewish Living. This 25-lesson course will take you through the year’s cycle — the life cycle traditions and practices that bind us together. Explore not just the what’s and how’s of Jewish living, but the why’s that go with them. 7 p.m. $300 per person, per year (25 sessions), includes all books and materials. Virtual. foundation.jewishpgh.org/melton-core-1.
Register now for the virtual course Melton: Social Justice – The Heart of Judaism in Theory and Practice. This 10-part Melton course highlights the Jewish call to action and provides a practical approach for achieving lasting change. Drawing from classic and modern texts, the course explores the communal connection that compels us to support the most vulnerable. 7 p.m. foundation. jewishpgh.org/melton-social-justice-the-heart-ofjudaism-in-theory-and-practic. PJC
The fifth council district is certainly diverse. You have an amazing Jewish population. When you look at what you’re trying to represent here, you really have to get down into the granular level of the community and in the Jewish community here. It’s incredibly important that people feel safe in their homes and in houses of worship. We have to do everything we can to enhance that feeling of security and safety. After all, the primary mission of government is doing productive work, and the safety of the people. That’s what drives my thinking. How do we address what we need to start supporting our families and helping families grow here? How it all comes back and ties in together about the health, welfare and safety of the community.
Is there anything else you’d want to add?
People ask me why I came back to politics, and the fact of the matter is, I guess I never really left. After leaving City Council, I spent four or five years working with a national advocacy organization, Food and Water Watch. And working with governments in Allegheny County about how we need to really start working in a more comprehensive fashion. We all grow together and I think we see that now. We see cooperative agreements for policing and so forth. I mean, the city of Pittsburgh has been doing that with Wilkinsburg, with their fire [department] and so forth. I’m not here to advocate for a merger, I’m just saying look how we can cooperate and help each other to develop plans that are responsive to our needs. We have done well in the city of Pittsburgh and there are some places around us that have not. I think there’s an obligation to be a mensch. Let’s let that rising tide flow instead of leaving some sitting at the bottom. PJC Ethan Beck can be reached at ebeck@ pittsburghjewishchronicle.org. PITTSBURGHJEWISHCHRONICLE.ORG
Headlines Ethan Beck completes Chronicle internship — LOCAL — By Justin Vellucci | Special to the Chronicle
than Beck speaks in musical terms. That makes sense, as the “mostly musical Shabbat” services he attended at Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill helped shape the writer’s view of Jewish Pittsburgh. But, in the background, there was always the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. “I’ve been reading it for as long as I can remember,” said Beck, whose basement bedroom is close to the mail slot where the weekly newspaper is delivered. “Writing about the local affairs of Jewish Pittsburgh? It became a great thing to do this summer.” Beck, who is entering his sophomore year in liberal studies at New York University, recently completed a summer internship at the Chronicle — to rave reviews. His internship was made possible by the Pittsburgh Media Partnership, a collaborative of news organizations founded in 2020 with the goal of supporting a vibrant media landscape. The Chronicle was of the PMP’s founding members. “It was such a pleasure working with Ethan this summer,” Chronicle editor Toby Tabachnick said. “He has a great attitude, his writing is strong and he came up with some great story ideas.” Tabachnick said she was most impressed by Beck’s “Retro Reviews” of older films with
Jewish themes and “the insightful piece he wrote about b’nai mitzvah ceremonies for those beyond the binary.” “I am completely confident that he will be successful in whatever endeavor he ultimately pursues,” she added. Beck bears the marks of a budding freelance journalist. While at Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), a magnet high school in downtown Pittsburgh, he wrote a few times for the school paper. When he arrived at NYU last year, he started doing likewise for the school’s Washington Square News. He also has grabbed bylines with other publications, such as VICE. Then there’s that love of music again. Beck penned several record reviews and spot features for Bandcamp Daily and Paste magazine. But the Chronicle holds a special place in his heart, Beck admitted. This summer, he wrote features on the Maccabi Games and the 115th anniversary of Temple Ohave Israel in Brownsville, interviewed political candidates and was a sensitive ear on everything from World Refugee Day to a documentary film about musician Leonard Cohen. “I wanted to get outside my comfort zone this summer,” he said. “I’m always hoping to do that more. I’ve really, really enjoyed it so far.” PJC Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.
p Ethan Beck
Photo by Mark Beck
Israeli embryo-selecting system to boost IVF success gets European green light — WORLD — By Nathan Jeffay | The Times of Israel
n automated Israeli-built system for predicting which IVF embryos are likely to result in pregnancies has received European approval for use in clinics, Tel Aviv-based Fairtility said Monday. The company said that the tool was already being used on a trial basis in 30 clinics in Europe and Asia when it received the CE Mark under European Medical Devices Regulation last month — and use is now expected to grow. Next year, the company will apply for approval by America’s Food and Drug Administration. When women undergo IVF treatment, there are generally several embryos, and the embryologist makes a judgment call regarding which are most likely to implant. They then select the most promising embryo or embryos. Fairtility is one of a handful of companies that provides AI technology to help embryologists with this decision, by examining images of each embryo and ranking their potential based on an analysis of past IVF cases. “The way that embryo selection is done today is very rudimentary and very subjective,” Fairtility CEO Eran Eshed told The Times of Israel, adding that peer-reviewed research
p The dashboard of Fairtility’s AI tool for analyzing embryos
published in Scientific Reports suggests that his tool is more likely to predict accurately whether an embryo will or won’t implant. “While an embryologist will be right in 60% of the cases, our AI tool got 78% in the test we did, which incorporated a large age range and demographic,” Eshed said. He explained that this research was conducted by judging the potential of embryos from past IVF cycles and cross-referencing the results with real-world information about which embryos actually implanted. Eshed and his colleagues have been developing the AI tool, which is called CHLOE EQ, since 2020. They used videos from
time-lapse incubation technology, which captures a single embryo image every 15 to 20 minutes, providing a detailed and continuous overview of the embryo as it develops. They then built the algorithm at the center of the technology by analyzing the characteristics of successful and unsuccessful embryos. Clinics don’t need any special hardware to use the tool — most already have the imaging systems, and they just integrate the software for analyzing the footage into their computer systems. Dr. Assaf Ben-Meir, Fairtility’s chief medical officer, said that the aim of the technology is to reduce the heartache
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Image courtesy of Fairtility
experienced by individuals and couples undergoing IVF when cycles fail. “As clinicians, our goal is to give patients the best options to get pregnant and reach a healthy baby,” he said. “Any process, tool or technology that can improve these chances is critical as it can decrease time to pregnancy, as well as the emotional and economic burden for patients. “This performance delivered by our tool is clinically significant and can potentially contribute to financial savings and better outcomes in the IVF space. Plus, the artificial intelligence tool has the advantage of accurate, objective, repeatable and automatic results with human error reduced,” he said. PJC AUGUST 5, 2022
Headlines Netanyahu’s annexation vow threatened Abraham Accords and US support, Jared Kushner says in new book — WORLD — By Philissa Cramer | JTA
hen Benjamin Netanyahu, then Israel’s prime minister, failed to meet his own deadline to announce a plan to annex portions of the West Bank during the summer of 2020, it wasn’t just his usual critics and advocates for the prompt creation of a Palestinian state who breathed a sigh of relief. The missed deadline was also a relief to insiders at the Trump White House, who knew that annexation would derail their ambitious effort to make peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. In fact, the very afternoon of the annexation deadline, a leading member of the Emirati negotiating team had for the first time told White House officials that if Netanyahu abandoned annexation, their country would fully normalize relations with Israel. But the officials did not know what Netanyahu would do. That is one detail contained in “Breaking History,” Jared Kushner’s book about his stint as special advisor to President Donald Trump, his father-in-law, in which Kushner describes the secretive negotiations that would result in the Abraham Accords, the historic normalization agreements between Israel and multiple Arab and Muslim countries. While much of what happened behind the scenes was established when the accords were announced or has been revealed in the two years since the first deal, Kushner’s book adds new details as well as a first-person account from a Trump administration official assumed by many to be advocating for Israel within the White House. In the end, in part because of the normalization deals, Trump is seen by many as having been a steadfast ally to Israel and its hawkish prime minister. But according to Kushner’s account, portions of which the Jewish Telegraphic Agency obtained in advance of its Aug. 23 release, Trump came close to a major breach in relations over the annexation plan. At one point, Kushner writes, two top officials — Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Avi Berkowitz, a Kushner aide — “made clear” that Netanyahu was running the risk of Trump publicly opposing annexation. “Additionally, with annexation, Bibi risked near-unanimous condemnation at the United Nations,” Kushner added. “And
Mastriano: Continued from page 2
said in a written statement that Mastriano’s comments fell short and that he must repudiate Torba. It called on the candidate to unequivocally and immediately specifically repudiate the anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist rhetoric made by Torba. “Further,” the ZOA statement read, “Mastriano must reject Torba’s endorsement 8
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Israel, according to Kushner’s account. “I tried to hide my excitement behind a poker face, but my mind was spinning,” Kushner writes. Later, Kushner says, Al Otaiba would make clear his country preferred to negotiate with the Trump team rather than directly with the Israelis. The United States wasn’t the only country considering serious consequences if Netanyahu moved forward with annexation. The United Kingdom warned that it would recognize Palestine as a sovereign state if annexation took place, in a threat Jared Kushner and Benjamin Netanyahu at the Embassy Dedication Ceremony in Jerusalem Photo from creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons that was first reported in an Israeli journalist’s book if he went forward unilaterally, there was back his annexation bid. (Friedman disputed earlier this year. Kushner writes that he no guarantee that our administration would that account to Times of Israel.) responded to the threat by arguing for annexblock the international sanctions against Kushner suggests that he had been a ation in an effort to prevent British officials Israel that might follow.” consistent voice for Palestinians at the nego- from learning about the normalization talks. In the end, Kushner writes, Netanyahu tiating table, writing that since meeting with The name “Abraham Accords” wasn’t appears to have been convinced that annex- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud coined until just hours before the first deal ation would be too costly for him and that Abbas in 2017, he had been pressing to was announced. “Until then, we had been normalization agreements would be a more draw a map that would delineate two so busy ironing out details that we hadn’t substantive boon for his legacy. But he says states that were separate and also benefi- thought to name the agreement,” Kushner the Israeli leader — known for being a cial to both sides. writes. As Jewish Insider reported in January, cautious and stubborn negotiator, willing to “We were struggling to convince Bibi, a the name was the brainchild of U.S. Army move goalposts in negotiations — didn’t go master negotiator, to agree to a compromise Gen. Miguel Correa, who led the U.S. negoalong easily with the accords being negoti- that would give tangible life improvements tiations alongside Berkowitz. ated by the White House without the direct to the Palestinians,” he writes. Kushner explains the backstory of the involvement of Israeli officials. Even as the Ultimately, Kushner deprioritized the peace Torah that he gave to the king of Bahrain, deal with the United Arab Emirates neared proposal in favor of the Abraham Accords, the second country to strike an accord with completion, Kushner writes, Netanyahu which he emphasizes inaugurated new busi- Israel. In 2019, he organized a conference revised his cooperation to say that the United ness opportunities for Israelis and Emiratis as there to advance the economic portions of States would need to broker three agreements, soon as the first was signed. Having negoti- his peace efforts; he recalls that the “Peace not just one, for him to set aside annexation. ated the first deal entirely without direct talks to Prosperity” workshop occasioned the “I couldn’t believe it,” Kushner writes. between the two sides — an unprecedented first minyan, or prayer quorum, in a historic The negotiations came during the spring arrangement — Kushner describes the heady Bahraini synagogue in decades. “It was a and summer of 2020, when Netanyahu was atmosphere of Abu Dhabi during the celebra- profoundly moving experience for those who struggling to cling to power and Kushner tory convening as that of a “blind date.” Even attended, but they noticed that the synagogue was trying to sell a detailed peace plan that on the first night of the trip, he writes, Israeli lacked a Torah scroll, which had to be written he had authored earlier that year, as well as and Emirati officials began talking about ways by hand,” Kushner writes. “Upon hearing this, explore brokering ties between Israel and to tie their financial systems together. The I personally commissioned one to be made Arab countries that would break the logjam emphasis is notable given Kushner’s post- for the synagogue.” The Torah was installed at of Middle East relations. White House efforts to broker business deals the synagogue in Manama, now newly renoWhat had appeared to be a triumphal leveraging the Abraham Accords. vated, in May 2021. moment at the peace plan’s January 2020 Among the other notable details in In an episode that had not previously been announcement had quickly turned into “Breaking History”: revealed, Kushner describes being treated tension after Netanyahu tied the plan to In Kushner’s telling, it was the United for thyroid cancer in 2019. He says he chose annexation. “That was not what we had Arab Emirates that initiated peace with not to share details about his health beyond negotiated,” Kushner writes, according to Israel. Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba told a tight inner circle that initially did not an excerpt obtained by the Times of Israel Kushner at a May 2019 meeting at the Trump include the president because of its personal in which Kushner says Friedman had unilat- aide’s home that his country was ready to nature, according to a report in the New erally assured Netanyahu that Trump would move forward with full normalization with York Times. PJC and support. Mastriano’s statement on the matter that he issued on July 28 does not go far enough and is minimizing of Jew-hatred by conflating it with economic issues and matters related to government policy in response to COVID are disturbing and insulting.” Despite the controversy, eight Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania issued a joint statement on Aug. 1 endorsing Doug Mastriano. The endorsement letter was signed by Glenn “GT” Thompson, Mike Kelly, Lloyd Smucker,
Dr. John Joyce, Fred Keller, Dan Meuser, Scott Perry and Guy Reschenthaler. “… [W]e are proud to endorse Doug Mastriano for Governor of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s families are struggling to put gas in their cars and food on their tables. Progressive policies supported by Joe Biden and Josh Shapiro have led to fewer jobs, higher crime rates, rampant drug addiction, and less freedom for Pennsylvania’s hard-working families … Doug Mastriano’s passion for life, freedom, and liberty make
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him the clear choice for our next Governor.” The statement did not mention the Mastriano campaign paying Gab to serve as a campaign consultant, Torba’s statements or the antisemitic comments left on the candidate’s social media page. In the latest Fox News poll, Shapiro is leading Mastriano by double digits, 50% to 40%. PJC David Rullo can be reached at drullo@ pittsburghjewishchronicle.org. PITTSBURGHJEWISHCHRONICLE.ORG
Headlines — WORLD — Maryland auction house defends sale of Hitler items, Eva Braun’s swastika-studded dog collar
An auction house in Maryland defended the sale of what it says were personal objects of Adolf Hitler, amid criticism from a European Jewish group, JTA reported. One of the priciest items in the catalog for the July 29 auction by Alexander Historical Auctions house in Chesapeake City, Maryland, is a candy dish estimated to be worth at least $3,000 that the auction house says belonged to Hitler and was stolen from his Berghof compound near Munich. Another similarly priced item is a dog collar said to have belonged to Eva Braun, Hitler’s wife, for her pet Scottish terrier. The leather artifact with a small metal plate that reads “wau” — the sound of a dog barking as it is described in German — is also studded with multiple metal swastikas. The European Jewish Association, a Brussels-based lobby group, condemned the sale in a letter, saying the items only give “succor to those who idealize what the Nazi party stood for” or offer “buyers the chance to titillate a guest or loved one with an item belonging to a genocidal murderer and his supporters,” wrote the group’s chairman,
Rabbi Menachem Margolin. Bill Panagopulos, the president of Alexander Historical Auctions, which has faced similar rebuke for previous sales — including one that featured the personal diaries of Josef Mengele, a notorious Nazi war criminal — dismissed the criticism as “nonsense and sensationalism.”
Tel Aviv U. ranks 112th worldwide
In National Taiwan University’s annual rankings of the world’s best universities, Tel Aviv University ranked 112th, up from 144th a year ago, The Jerusalem Post reported. The 874 universities included were given a grade based on the number of publications, the number of citations from scientific papers and research excellence. Hebrew University of Jerusalem ranked 273th, while the Technion placed 346th. Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Bar-Ilhan University and the University of Haifa ranked outside the top 400.
Neo-Nazi Marine plotted to attack Jews and others in ‘Rapekrieg,’ federal prosecutors say
A former Marine who belonged to a neo-Nazi group that counts willingness to murder Jewish children as a membership requirement has been arrested on charges stemming from a federal investigation into
his plot to commit mass murder, including against Jews, JTA reported. Matthew Belanger was an active Marine while conspiring online with members of a hate group called Rapekrieg, according to a July 14 court filing by federal prosecutors arguing that he should remain in jail while awaiting trial. Together with others from his Long Island, New York, hometown, Belanger had “procured weapons, uniforms, and tactical gear, and discussed committing attacks on a synagogue, Jewish persons, women, and minorities,” according to the court document. Belanger was also discharged because of his extremist activity, according to the court filing.
Lufthansa to create a position to fight antisemitism
Lufthansa Airlines is creating a senior management role dedicated to preventing discrimination and antisemitism two months after it barred a large group of Orthodox Jewish passengers from boarding a flight, JTA reported. However, an independent investigation the airline commissioned said there was no evidence of institutional antisemitism behind the incident, which CEO Jens Ritter deemed “categorically inappropriate.” During the May 4 incident, more than 100 Chasidic passengers were kicked off a
connecting flight from New York to Budapest because some of them had not worn masks and committed other flight violations, such as gathering in the aisles. In a Lufthansa letter dated July 22, the airline’s task force acknowledged that some of its crew members were “insensitive and unprofessional” in dealing with the passengers. But the report concluded, “The thorough investigation did not reveal any sentiments of antisemitism, prejudice or premeditated behavior by Lufthansa representatives.”
World’s largest ER debuts in Tel Aviv
The world’s largest emergency room opened in Tel Aviv on July 28, The Times of Israel reported. Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center houses the 86,000-square-foot facility, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Yair Lapid, President Isaac Herzog and others. The center is designed for both sudden casualties from war or terrorism, as well as regular emergency needs. There are 100 inpatient beds, which can be doubled in case of emergency. Philanthropist Sylvan Adams donated $28 million to the hospital, which is naming the ER in his honor. PJC — Compiled by Andy Gotlieb
This week in Israeli history — WORLD — Items provided by the Center for Israel Education (israeled.org), where you can find more details.
Aug. 5, 1953 — Special Forces Unit 101 is formed
Unit 101, an independent special forces section of the Israel Defense Forces, is launched with about 20 soldiers under the command of Ariel Sharon to provide a rapid, nimble response to terrorist attacks.
Aug. 6, 1923 — 13th Zionist Congress convenes
Meeting in Carlsbad, Czechoslovakia, the 13th Zionist Congress opens to discuss the British Mandate for Palestine and the work of the Palestine Zionist Executive, the precursor to the Jewish Agency.
Aug. 7, 1970 — War of Attrition ends
A cease-fire is signed to end the War of Attrition, which featured Egyptian shelling of Israeli positions along the Suez Canal, Eg yptian-Israeli aerial battles and commando raids by both sides.
Aug. 8, 1984 — Linguist Avraham Even-Shoshan dies
Hebrew linguist and lexicographer Avraham Even-Shoshan dies at 77 in Tel Aviv. From 1946 to 1958, he worked on the New Dictionary of the Hebrew Language, now known as the Even-Shoshan Dictionary.
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Aug. 9, 1982 — Terrorists attack Jewish deli in Paris
Two Palestinians from the Abu Nidal Organization attack a Jewish deli in Paris, Chez Jo Goldenberg, with grenades and machine guns. They kill six and wound 22 others.
Aug. 10, 1920 — Treaty is signed to dissolve Ottoman Empire
World War I’s victorious nations and the Ottoman Empire sign the Treaty of Sevres to break up the empire. The treaty incorporates the Balfour Declaration’s call for a Jewish national home in Palestine.
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Aug. 11, 2017 — Holocaust survivor dies as world’s oldest man
Holocaust survivor Yisrael Kristal, an artisan candy maker from Poland recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest living man, dies in Haifa one month before his 114th birthday. PJC
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Opinion Help make a difference for those struggling with the impact of inflation Guest Columnist Jordan Golin
e’ve all felt the impact of inflation in the past few months — the high gas prices, rising food costs, even rent is getting higher. In June, inflation rates reached the highest level they’ve been in 40 years, and while it is impacting all of us, some are feeling the weight more than others. Some common food items like fresh produce and eggs cost at least 25% more than they did in March of this year. Kosher food has increased in price, with kosher chicken prices up 9% in the last few months. Reports show that these price increases are impacting younger Americans at a higher rate, with one in three households of recent high school and college graduates seeking help with groceries and food from a food pantry or other charity in the last 30 days. And price increases are moving faster than salary increases. The rising costs of everything from gas to food to clothing is the unfortunate perfect storm for higher food insecurity in households.
Through JFCS critical needs funds and JFunds, people in our community can get help paying for things in an emergency or in challenging times in their lives, like now. Families who first spend their household budget on food may suddenly find themselves struggling to pay other essential bills. In the last few months, we have seen families, seniors and people with disabilities unable to pay all of their bills because of the higher costs. It can be easy to walk down the streets of Squirrel Hill or other communities and assume that everyone in the neighborhood will be OK during this difficult time. But inflation can and will impact individuals and families in a number of ways — and it’s important to keep in mind that no person or community is necessarily exempt from experiencing hardships, financial or otherwise. One unfortunate side effect of the rising expenses is that some people are forced to move into more affordable neighborhoods where they may not have easy access to important community services and resources.
While the JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry is able to provide services five days a week, not all pantries can be open on a daily or even weekly basis — meaning those with less resources also have less ability to get the food they need. We don’t have any way of knowing what the next few months or even the rest of the year will look like. Maybe our economy will slowly recover, or maybe these trends of inflation will continue into another recession. One thing I do know is that during times like these, the best thing we can do as a community is come together and care for our neighbors. We can do this by checking in with our friends and family or the people who live down the street. Ask people how they are really doing and listen when they respond. It’s important during these challenging times that we help to destigmatize seeking help — whether financial, medical or even emotional.
We can also do this by helping people connect to local resources that can provide assistance — whether it’s JFCS, JFunds, United Way of Southwestern PA 2-1-1 or one of the other amazing organizations that supports the community through the best and worst of times. Knowing the resources available can be life-saving. And if you have the time, resources or both, giving to these important community organizations can also be extremely helpful. Through JFCS critical needs funds and JFunds, people in our community can get help paying for things in an emergency or in challenging times in their lives, like now. Or people in need can reach out to the food pantry to receive hundreds of dollars’ worth of free food — from fresh produce to pantry staples to kosher and halal meat. Those who have the means to help and to give can change the world for even just one person who is struggling. Inflation won’t last forever. Food and gas prices will likely, eventually, decrease. The economy will ebb for a time before it flows again. But we, as a community, can make a difference in each other’s lives for a lifetime. PJC Jordan Golin, Ph.D., is president and CEO of JFCS.
Can Jews agree to disagree? Leaders gather in New York in search of ‘viewpoint diversity.’ Guest Columnist Andrew Silow-Carroll
ere’s a story I recently shared on Facebook: I was paddling my inflatable kayak on a lake in the Berkshires. Granted, it is not the sleekest or coolest-looking conveyance, but it gets the job done and it fits in the trunk of my car. At one point, I passed two guys in a very lovely canoe. One of the guys says to me, “That looks like fun!” And I say, “And you have a beautiful boat,” which it was. And then the guy in the stern of the boat says, “It’s a lot more expensive than yours.” His response sort of stunned me: Why was he talking about the price of our boats? Had my clunky kayak offended his sensibilities somehow? My Facebook friends mostly agreed with my initial reaction: The guy was a jerk. But then a few people weighed in with an alternative interpretation: The guy was actually making fun of himself for spending so much on a canoe. One friend, a Jewish educator, channeled the guy’s thinking this way: “Our boat might be beautiful, as you say, but I’m not sure it’s worth it, considering we could be getting a lot of fun from rowing in a kayak like yours and would have spent a lot less money to do it.” 10
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True or not, I love that interpretation. It reminds me of something from Pirke Avot, the Mishnah’s compilation of ethical principles: “Judge to the side of merit.” (1:6) That is, in life and conversation, give the other person the benefit of the doubt. How many conversations slip off the rails because we assume the worst of the other person? The story was fresh in my mind when I attended an invitation-only event last week on “viewpoint diversity,” put on by the Maimonides Fund. The day-long seminar brought leaders of various Jewish organizations together to discuss our society’s inability to engage in what the keynote speaker, NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, describes as “constructive disagreement.” In Haidt’s 2018 book “The Coddling of the American Mind,” he and coauthor Greg Lukianoff dissect a “callout culture” in which “anyone can be publicly shamed for saying something well-intentioned that someone else interprets uncharitably.” Because Haidt’s book is mostly about the college campus, I thought the day might shape up as an attack on “wokeism.” But the speakers and attendees were diverse, and liberals and conservatives alike fretted about the demise of civility and tolerance in their polarized worlds. A Jewish education professional said she is wary about bringing up Israel in front of donors, many of whom treat any criticism of Israeli policy as “anti-Israel.” And the leader of a right-leaning think tank complained about a left-leaning
Jewish “monolith” that dismisses the views of Jewish conservatives or considers them somehow “un-Jewish.” A considerable number of people spoke about what they characterized as self-censorship, fearing the consequences they or colleagues might face if they utter an ill-considered thought — or if their opinions diverge from emerging small-o orthodoxies on gender, race, politics and, once again, Israel. (I agreed to Chatham House Rules, which means I could characterize our conversations but not quote or identify participants.) After the event, Mark Charendoff, president of the Maimonides Fund, said he and his colleagues — Ariella Saperstein, program officer for Maimonides, and Rabbi David Wolpe of Los Angeles’ Sinai Temple put much of the program together — had been thinking about these issues for a while. “It seems to us that it’s just become more difficult to have some of these conversations,” Charendoff told me. “It started off with Israel — what are you allowed to express regarding Israel, and then, you know, politics in America has become obviously a dividing line. And it doesn’t seem to have gotten any better.” Although few if any members of Gen Z were taking part in the convening, the group born after 1995 seemed to be on a lot of people’s minds. That’s partly because of Haidt’s framing of the issue; in his book, he dates strict campus speech codes and polarizing identity politics
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to the arrival of Gen Z on college campuses. A leader of a secular Jewish group that works with young people said she is often under pressure from Gen Z-ers to take an organizational stand on hot-button issues, when her mission is to encourage participation from a politically diverse population. On the flip side, a leader working with the same cohort said Gen Z-ers complain that they were “lied to” about Israel by their Jewish elders, and that their own ambivalent or anti-Zionist viewpoints are shunned in Jewish spaces. Indeed, a few participants defended “red lines,” saying viewpoint diversity does not mean “anything goes.” As one fundraising executive told the room, “When it comes to Israel, the last thing I want is nuance.” When I brought this up with Charendoff, he said, “One-hundred percent I want to hear from young people who are uncomfortable with Zionism, because I want to understand why, and I think our young people are smart and passionate. That doesn’t mean … that we have to be completely neutral to who the convener of a discussion is and what their motivations are.” At times, I lost track of who is to blame for constricted speech and cancel culture, especially on college campuses. Is it the student governments at liberal universities that block campus Jewish clubs from organizing because their support for Israel made Please see Silow-Carroll, page 11
Chronicle poll results: Israel advocacy groups
ast week, the Chronicle asked its readers in an electronic poll the following question: “Which Israel advocacy group best represents your views on the Jewish state?” Responses to this question came in a way that is not typical for the Chronicle’s weekly poll. Whereas the vast majority of responses usually come in soon after our Wednesday email blast, this week there was an unprecedented surge of responses over the weekend; most of those responses said they identified with J Street. The Chronicle would like to remind our readers that the results of our weekly polls are not statistically definitive, and may not be an accurate reflection of the views of the broader Jewish community. Of the 282 people who responded to this week’s poll, 37% said “J Street”; 23% said “AIPAC”; 16% said “ZOA”; 9% said “AJC”; and 15% said they don’t know, or none of them. Sixty people submitted comments. A few follow. J Street really doesn’t represent Israeli interests; they are like a Trojan horse organization. J Street does not advocate for Israel. I am angered by AIPAC’s anti-progressive strategy in American politics. ZOA is one of only a couple of old-line
Silow-Carroll: Continued from page 10
other students uncomfortable? Or is it the Jewish groups that insist campuses that allow harsh criticism of Israel are making Jewish students feel unsafe? I also thought about the value of
Which Israel advocacy group best represents your views on the Jewish state?
AIPAC has a long, long history of standing up for Jews and Israel when many of our co-religionists ran in the other direction.
American Jewish Committee (AJC)
They all are Zionist. I am not. None represent me.
Don't know or none of them
Zionist Organization of America 23% (ZOA) The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)
Jewish organizations to maintain its purpose of standing behind Israel and the Jewish people. My relationship to Israel is mainly positive, but I do not appreciate the treatment of Palestinians. The New Israel Fund. AIPAC is the most balanced group. “viewpoint diversity” if one side or the other is playing fast and loose with the facts, or refusing to argue in good faith. Haidt warns against the tendency to “inflate the horrors of a speaker’s words far beyond what the speaker might actually say” — he calls this “catastrophizing” — but how do we respond to actual catastrophes? Viewpoint diversity
— LETTERS — Israel is not an ‘apartheid state’
The 225th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) erred in accusing Israel of apartheid (“Israel labeled an apartheid state by Presbyterian Church USA,” July 29). Israel is the nation-state of the Jews in which non-Jews have full civil rights. In signing the Oslo Accords nearly 30 years ago, Israel afforded Palestinians the opportunity to live under the administration of leaders of their own choosing. Unfortunately, their chosen leaders have betrayed the people’s trust. The heads of both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have long overstayed their elected terms, enriched themselves by embezzling monies donated for their people’s benefit and diverted humanitarian aid to efforts to destroy the nation-state of the Jews. Had the leaders instead prioritized the building of a Palestinian state willing to co-exist, peacefully, with the world’s only Jewish state, the Palestinians could have become productive citizens in their own state long ago. But Palestinian leaders flatly rejected several Israeli proposals that should have led to the establishment of that state. Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza didn’t result in creation of a state; it led only to an increase of the number and types of attacks from Gaza on Israeli population centers. While the world complains that Gaza is under siege, Israel supplies tons of food, medicine and fuel on a regular basis, attempting only to embargo goods the terrorists can use to attack Israelis. When Palestinian leaders say they accept a “two-state solution,” they envision a Palestinian state from which all Jews have been banished and a Muslim-majority Israel, peopled by the Palestine refugees (as designated by UNRWA). Very few of the “refugees” fled (or were forced from their homes) during Arab-initiated violence aimed at ridding Palestine/Israel of its Jews in the 1940s and 1967. The typical Palestine refugee was born in an UNRWA camp because the UN abets Arab and Palestinian leaders who insist that Israel must give the “refugees” the homes they claim their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents lost in what became the modern state of Israel generations ago. Unfortunately, the “refugees” have grown up seeing people highly honored and richly rewarded for killing Jews. Jews would be second-class citizens in a Muslim-majority Israel if they were tolerated at all. PITTSBURGHJEWISHCHRONICLE.ORG
ZOA is the only Jewish organization that reports on Biden’s antisemitic appointments.
ZOA does an excellent job of scanning the news about Israel and listening to what is said about Israel and points out when there are inaccuracies and asks for the facts to be repeated honestly. I’m solidly with AIPAC, but AJC also represents my views well. To even suggest that J Street is an Israel advocacy group is laughable. I am a committed Zionist. I am also committed to justice and equity in Israel. I oppose BDS, I oppose labeling of Israel as an apartheid state. I strongly disagree with both of those views. But I also believe that Israel has not done right by the Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza, and must do better. J Street best represents my views, but I am not wholly supportive of all of J Street’s may seem a luxury in debating, say, the climate crisis or threats to democracy. Still, the general thrust of the day was encouraging people to do their part in lowering the temperature in Jewish circles: to urge ideological opposites to listen to one another with more generosity of spirit, to assume the best of others and to consider the
positions either. I am still shaking my head in dismay that the AIPAC super PAC, misnamed the “United Democracy Project,” has endorsed over 100 “Stop the Steal” Republicans. These are candidates who have endorsed or kept silent on the Jan. 6 insurrection. Israel — indeed, the worldwide Jewish community — is poorly served by any person or organization that does not recognize the toxic effect of Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. If I had to pick a Jewish organization, it would be Jewish Voice for Peace. I think that J Street should address head-on the question of what a two-state solution would look like and how it might be achieved. If J Street gets more than 17%, it will destroy my faith in humanity. PJC — Toby Tabachnick
Chronicle weekly poll question:
With congregational affiliation declining, do you think Pittsburgh has too many synagogues? Go to pittsburghjewish chronicle.org to respond. PJC possibility that they may actually be wrong about a given issue. Because when it all comes down to it, we’re all in the same boat. PJC Andrew Silow-Carroll is editor-in-chief of the New York Jewish Week and senior editor of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, where this first appeared.
This is the true “apartheid” in the Middle East. In the first three decades following 1948, Israel absorbed and uplifted 800,000 Mizrahi Jews who’d been thrust from their homes in the Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Surely, the numerous Arab countries, some oil-rich, should have rehabilitated a similar number of Arab refugees who share language, religion and culture with their own citizens. This is especially true because Arab countries went to war instead of helping the Arabs of Palestine achieve self-rule in 1948. It is deeply troublesome that some in the Presbyterian Church stand with those who have chosen violence over negotiation. Toby F. Block Atlanta, Georgia
Article didn’t mention former rabbi
I grew up in Pittsburgh, and my grandfather was Rabbi Kaplan, who served as the rabbi at Beth Hamedrash with Rabbi Ashinski for many years. My dad, the late Bernard Kaplan, helped keep the synagogue going for many years. There was no mention of either my grandfather or my dad in your article “‘A Hidden Gem’: The history of Beth Hamedrash Hagodol-Beth Jacob Congregation” (July 15). That’s a real shame because they helped keep the synagogue going for many years. I’m glad the article was written, but I wish their names had been part of the article. Miriam Kaplan Meltzer Rockville, Maryland 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 or email letters to: Letters to the editor via email: email@example.com Address:
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AUGUST 5, 2022 11
Headlines Burials: Continued from page 1
leaving Pittsburgh. The new governing body, she said, is committed to continuing Jewish burials with the methods Wasserman initiated while still updating the organization. “We’re writing bylaws, we have flow responsibilities,” Small said. “We are trying to take what was not entirely a one-man job — [Wasserman would] tell you that he could never have done this without the support of a cadre of people — from a person-led endeavor to a community-involved endeavor.” Gesher HaChaim is anxious to assist people with their burial arrangements, Small said, adding that it is helpful for people to make plans before they are needed. It’s also important, Small said, for people to understand that the burial society is different from the Chevra Kadisha, which prepares bodies for burial and provides shomers who stay with the deceased until
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Shifra gets donations from several sources, including 412 Food Rescue, the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank and Giant Eagle. Soon, the rabbi said, Shifra will begin receiving donations of kosher meat and chicken from Costco. It was the increase in donations that prompted the rabbi to secure the shed. “Families come before and after school to get food on a regular basis,” Vogel said. “Breads, fruits, vegetables and other food that has been delivered.” The rabbi is passionate about helping families obtain the food they need. Our society, he said, often is a story of the “haves and havenots” and, too frequently, after weddings and other events, food is thrown away. “That should be packed and frozen immediately and placed for the community to
they are buried. “We work hand-in-hand with the Chevra Kadisha,” Small said. “We could not do the work we do without them because it’s such a major part of an Orthodox burial.” Gesher HaChaim, she said, is responsible for everything from picking up the body, contacting the cemetery to arrange for funeral times, arranging with the Chevra Kadisha to do the taharah, helping the family, ordering death certificates and registering the death. “Everything traditional funeral directors do, Gesher HaChaim will continue to do in the model Rabbi Wasserman set up,” Small said. When Wasserman began offering funerary services, his efforts were the subject of litigation. After he conducted a religious burial in 2009, a commercial funeral director accused him of breaking state law and reported him to the State Board of Funeral Directors. That report led to the rabbi’s investigation by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation for “practicing as a funeral director without a license.” He was
investigated for 28 months due to multiple subsequent complaints by funeral directors for conducting the funerals of other members of his congregation in 2010 and 2011 under similar circumstances. In 2012, Wasserman won the right for religious organizations to conduct funeral and burial services without a licensed funeral director. At the time, Wasserman said, “This is an important victory for religious freedom in Pennsylvania … William Penn would be proud.” Gayle Kraut, who serves on Gesher HaChaim’s board, said the transition in organizational leadership since Wasserman’s departure has been seamless. In fact, she noted that the rabbi has made himself available to the burial society whenever it needs assistance. She said those in leadership were all chosen by Wasserman and there are myriad volunteers — from those building caskets to those picking up bodies — who are working to ensure that everything the rabbi oversaw continues to be handled competently.
pick up,” he said. “It’s wrong for a child to go to bed hungry, and it happens every day in every country. It shouldn’t be happening. We’re working to make sure that poor kid can go to bed on a full stomach.” Vogel knows, though, that he can’t solve food insecurity on his own and recommends those in need reach out to the JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry, which can help in a myriad of ways he can’t. But, as a Tier Two food distribution center, Shifra is not required to collect data from those it serves, so some community members are more comfortable seeking help there. “We don’t ask for any information,” Vogel said. “It’s none of our business. The food is here. Take it.” Vogel wants families to know they can take what they need from the new Shifra Shed without others knowing they have the need. “It’s discreet,” he said. “It’s as hidden as can be, thank God. We’ve got people from every walk of life coming here. There is no stigma.”
The construction of the shed, as well as the money for the new equipment, was made possible by community efforts, Vogel said. He credited David Nadoff Construction for helping construct the shed and installing a heating/cooling unit that will keep it below 84 degrees, helping to preserve the food. He also credited the Morris Foundation, Molly Davis, the Opportunity Foundation and UPMC. Project Shifra’s expansion doesn’t stop with additional food sources or the new shed, Vogel said. When the new school year begins, the program will provide meals at no cost for children. The government-funded food will be prepared at the Jewish Community Center of Squirrel Hill, which has a kosher kitchen and meets the highest standards of kashrut, Vogel said. The meals will be served in a new space Vogel and his wife, Nechami Vogel, secured on Murray Avenue. The former political office will be a place
p Rabbi Moishe Mayir Vogel stands in front of the new freezer and refrigeration units inside the new Shifra shed. Photos by David Rullo
AUGUST 5, 2022
“I think we realize that this is the responsibility of the community to figure out and not leave in the hands of one person,” Kraut said. Rabbi Elisar Admon, another member of Gesher HaChaim’s new leadership team, said the community will be an important part of the process moving forward. “Rabbi Wasserman used to be the halachic leader during the process,” Admon said. “Now families will go to their rabbi. We want the synagogue or community rabbi or family rabbi to be more involved in the process.” Admon hopes that the Pittsburgh Jewish community recognizes the value of Gesher HaChaim and is willing to help continue Wasserman’s vision. “Hopefully, the community sees this in a positive way and will be willing to be devoted to it,” he said. “If not, I’m not sure Gesher HaChaim can continue because no one is able to do what Rabbi Wasserman did, working 15-plus hours a day.” PJC David Rullo can be reached at drullo@ pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.
for women and their children to gather several times a week after school. There is enough room for the children to play in one room while their mothers meet in another room to have tea, hear a speaker or simply schmooze. The space is stocked not only with games, puzzles and art supplies but also with school supplies to help students prepare for the next academic year. Whether it’s food, school supplies or other types of aid, Vogel said the important thing is that the community knows there are resources available, and that people won’t be judged for using them. “That’s the beauty of this place,” Vogel said. “There are no questions. If you need a loaf of bread, come and take it. If there’s something else you need, take it. That’s what we’re here for.” PJC David Rullo can be reached at drullo@ pittsburghjewishchronicle.com.
p Project Shifra has added a space on Murray Avenue for mothers to gather with their children after school.
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Headlines Reiner: Continued from page 3
event, “Carl Reiner at 100: Celebrating A Comedy Legacy,” at Chautauqua Institution. The family donated 75 boxes of Reiner’s writing and other material to the center, which is the home of The Carl Reiner Department of Archives and Preservation. The archive includes thousands of pages of creative papers and business correspondence; unpublished comedy material; photographs; film footage and audio recordings; industry awards including Reiner’s Emmy award and Mark Twain Prize; and a collection of early drafts and final scripts from throughout his career. It also includes the chairs in which he and lifelong friend Mel Brooks sat most evenings as they ate together and watched television. National Comedy Center Executive Director Journey Gunderson said Reiner’s seven-decade career was remarkable not only for its longevity and consistency but also because his work inspired generations of artists and innovators working across a range of genres and media. “The National Comedy Center is proud to have had him as a founding advisory board member, to have named the Carl Reiner
Warwick: Continued from page 4
Councilmember O’Connor had good relationships with the district’s Jewish community. Is there anything specific that you’d want to do to continue this priority?
One thing that is really great right now is that the Yeshiva Schools are moving into the former St. Rosalia in Greenfield. I think that is an incredible opportunity to sort of connect these groups and these communities together. Again, this is not something that is finalized, but since pre-pandemic, I have been working with some of the members of the Greenfield School PTO on fundraising for a playground at Greenfield School. Because the Yeshiva school [at former St. Rosalia’s] would be right next to Greenfield School — there’s a fence separating the two — it would be really wonderful to see that playground operate as a shared space for the two schools in order to bring those two communities together.
Would you support trying to revisit local gun control laws on the City Council, even with them being struck down by the state courts?
Yeah, I mean, [the courts] are sort of a roadblock that goes beyond the purview of council. But I do believe that it’s worth continuing to try to find new ways to keep our community safe. Gun violence obviously has affected in a major way the Jewish community in Pittsburgh, but it’s also affecting other communities all around. I think, beyond legislating gun control, there are other ways that communities can work together and internally to try and mitigate these issues. PITTSBURGHJEWISHCHRONICLE.ORG
Department of Archives and Preservation in his honor, and now to be the exhibition home to his incredible archive, all so that people can continue to learn from his genius for generations to come,” she said. Before cutting the ribbon on the exhibit, youngest son Lucas called the center, which opened in 2018, a “mecca for comedians.” “My father is very happy to be here,” he said. “I’m sure he’s in this room right now.” Beginning a theme that was repeated throughout the day, Annie Reiner described her father as a “sweet” man. “He was famous for decades, longer than most people,” she said, “and I think that’s because he had a very open heart. I think that touched people and drew them to him.” Rob Reiner agreed. “I never met anyone that had a bad word to say about him,” he said. Rob Reiner recalled that his father was on television before the family owned a set. Once they bought one, Carl Reiner told his brood that he couldn’t communicate directly with them at the end of each episode of “Your Show of Shows,” but he would adjust his tie. “And that meant I love you and go to bed,” Rob Reiner said. The celebration of a universally beloved funny man was continued under a star-filled sky at the Chautauqua
Institution’s amphitheater. Hosted by comedian Pat Hazell and featuring Reiner’s children, National Comedy Center Director of Archives Laura LaPlaca and video tributes from Steve Martin, Dick Van Dyke, Lily Tomlin, Bette Midler and Mel Brooks, the tribute revisited the legacy of Carl Reiner through interviews and video clips. The event was filled with laughter but also poignant tributes from family and friends who spoke of the ways the comedy genius made a difference in their lives. Steve Martin, whom Carl Reiner directed in four films, called the comedian his “mentor.” “He was a father figure, the sweetest, charming guy,” Martin said. “He definitely gave me an example of how to be a better man.” Lucas Reiner, who is an artist, remembered advice his father gave him while attending art school. “I made a short film that was about three minutes long, and the first 45 seconds of the film were just black leader tape. He said, ‘Don’t do that. Just, you know, don’t,’” Lucas Reiner recalled. A special tribute was paid to Reiner’s wife, Estelle, who also occasionally appeared in films, including “When Harry Met Sally,”
directed by Rob Reiner. Hazell, who is doing work with the estate of Johnny Carson, had access to the talk show host’s film archive and brought a clip of Estelle Reiner singing on the late-night program. Lucas Reiner said his father loved his wife’s singing and would carry her stool, microphone and amplifier to various gigs every few weeks. “Carl Reiner: Keep Laughing” is now open at the National Comedy Center. The museum is less than a three-hour ride from Pittsburgh. The travel time might be daunting, but for comedy buffs, it’s worth the trip. As Rob Reiner told Hazell, his father’s influence on comedy is a lasting one. “When I was at the exhibit today, I was like, ‘Wow.’ You forget about the breadth of his work. I mean, he worked with Steve Martin and Mel Brooks and Dick Van Dyke. If you laughed at anything in the second half of the 20th century, it came from that writers’ room in Sid Caesar’s “Show of Shows”— my dad and Mel Brooks and Neil Simon and Woody Allen and Larry Gelbart and Joe Stein, everything you laughed at was them.” PJC
For example, I saw the article [that ran in the Chronicle] about the self-defense training at the JCC. That’s a great way to address the issue within the Jewish community. There are other ways, too. Perhaps in other communities where the violence is more youth-oriented, [we need] to bring the youth together, connecting with them in a real and meaningful way through local community groups in order to talk about the root causes of the violence, and get the perspective of the young people who are so deeply affected. The key with so much of what we’re trying to do is that the solutions need to be community-based as well. We can’t come in and impose a solution on everyone. It’s not going to work that way. But in order for communities to enact the changes that they want to see, they need that support from the mayor’s office, right, like [Gainey’s] Plan for Peace, but also lower down at the council level. The individual solutions are brought from the communities up, so then you have the support going in both directions to actually ensure that those solutions are effective.
throw money at the problem. There’s that side of things in terms of the efficiency of the police force, but then also improving trust and building trust within the communities. The way that that looks needs to be defined by the communities themselves. I was talking about how one in five budget dollars is being spent on law enforcement and how we need to evaluate how the department is operating. I think it’s also important to underscore that right now we are asking so much of our law enforcement officers. We’re asking them to do all things, address all problems. They don’t necessarily have the training or expertise, for example, to deal with mental health crises. I am fully on board with this overall approach from the mayor, to begin looking at public safety in terms of public health and seeing if there are ways that we can use those budget dollars to take some of the workload off of our officers. By bringing in social workers or other types of experts, we can make sure that every call is addressed by the appropriate person in order to have the best resolution to whatever crisis is going on.
connections. My top priority when it comes to community engagement is that I work for the people. If you call my office, if you send me an email, you’re going to get a meaningful response and follow-up. That’s not to say I’m going to be able to solve every single problem. But navigating the city is difficult for anybody. There are ways that city council can help constituents get to the services and get the help that they need,
In your issues page, you talk briefly about policing and where that intersects with policy. How do you think policing should look in Pittsburgh?
When we talk about policing, it’s very important for us to remember that one in five of our budget dollars is going toward law enforcement. That’s a huge number, [but] bumper sticker solutions are not effective. Something that the City Council is doing right now is an audit of the police force, to go in and really look at the day-to-day operations right within Pittsburgh Police to see if there are ways that the resources can be used more efficiently or more effectively. I don’t see a place where we can actually spend more than what we’re spending now. You can’t just
Is there anything you’d want to see the council emphasize or improve on?
I would like to improve access to the councilperson’s office. I think that the lion’s share of the daily grind of being a councilperson is fielding constituent issues, whether it’s those traffic calming issues or something with the retaining wall in the back, whatever it may be, the issues that people come forward with. I think that historically there is a disconnect. If you know someone or you’re on the committee or say you went to high school with someone, it’s easier to get in touch, right? Maybe you have a different expertise than somebody who just got here as a renter or maybe doesn’t have those same
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David Rullo can be reached at drullo@ pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.
Is there anything else you’d want to add?
One of the top reasons that I got involved in the race in the first place is one of the largest developments in the county is going up right in my front yard and Hazelwood’s front yard with Hazelwood Green. This has the potential to be an outstanding development; it’s right on the river, it could be beautiful. One of the nice things about it, too, is that when we think of development, we often think of things being torn down in order to build the new. That’s not the case here, which is green. This is pure, pure Greenfield. That said, I do want to make sure that the Hazelwood Green development delivers on its promise to improve quality of life in Hazelwood and does not fall into the same sort of gentrification situation that we have seen in East Liberty, in Homestead, with other developments around the city. Even with the best intentions, there’s going to be times where the needs of the development come into conflict with what’s good for the community. It is going to be critical over the next five to 10 years that we have somebody in that City Council that is an independent voice and [can] speak out and advocate for the community in terms of how that development is going to move forward. PJC Ethan Beck can be reached at ebeck@ pittsburghjewishchronicle.org. AUGUST 5, 2022
Life & Culture Actor Howard Elson stars in ‘The Sunshine Boys’ at South Park Theatre — THEATRE — By Justin Vellucci | Special to the Chronicle
art-time actor (and almost-retired dentist) Howard Elson said there’s one pitfall he didn’t expect when he was pegged to star as Willie Clark, one of the leads in Neil Simon’s classic play “The Sunshine Boys.” “This is a very, very Jewish play, but I’m the only Jew in it, so I have to explain everything,” Elson laughed. “They get it. They’re doing just fine. But I’m sort of the dramaturg in the play — of Jewishness.” Simon’s play, where a pair of aging vaudevillians with a complicated backstory reunite for a reprise spot on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” is running at South Park Theatre (Brownsville Road and Corrigan Drive, South Park) from Aug. 11 to 27. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Elson, who went to dental school in New Jersey, put himself through his undergrad years at Queens College by singing at nightclubs around New York City. Since then, he’s become an equity actor, starring in many semi-professional productions, including ones at Civic Light Opera.
practice in McKeesport more than six years ago, Elson, now 74, continued his day gig, starting a program for kids with behavioral issues at the Southwest Ambulatory Surgery Center in West Mifflin. On the acting front, he admitted he’s beyond excited to star as Clark, the performer from a long-retired vaudeville duo, in “The Sunshine Boys.” “‘The Sunshine Boys’ has been on my bucket list for a long time because the play is so wonderful,” Elson said. Elson said he enjoyed how the play allows the main characters to grapple with celebrity and employment, among other themes, as they prepare for their moment in the “Ed p Howard Elson Photo courtesy of Howard Elson Sullivan” spotlight. “They’re going to get Elson always has continued practicing together as old men, retired old men, to do dentistry, though. Even after closing a one more show,” he added, “and all of this
resentment and all of this comedy — it comes to the surface again.” Lorraine Mszanski, the executive director of South Park Theatre, who is producing eight shows between April and October this year, agreed. “We want each show to have a different feel,” Mszanski said. “Neil Simon is obviously well known, and the play had that familiarity. But ‘Sunshine Boys’ isn’t produced a lot.” “You’re going to have some juicy, meaty content to wrap your head around,” she added. “And I couldn’t do this show without Howard.” Elson was meant to play the role of Willie Clark before, sort of. The play was set to open two years ago ... then COVID-19 happened. Elson said he and his peers rehearsed for the soon-to-be-staged play in masks, and everyone was required to be vaccinated — all staples of almost-post-COVID life. “I still feel a little trepidation — I still go to the grocery store with my mask on,” Elson said. “The pandemic was hard on everybody. Everybody had it tough.” The play, though, is the thing, whether slowed by COVID-19 or not. “It’s a great study,” Elson said, “of what it’s like to still want to do things.” PJC Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.
Tisha B’Av and Tu B’Av: What’s the difference? — RELIGION — By Jillian Diamond | Contributing Writer
he Jewish month of Av is home to two holidays that, due to their proximity to each other and their similar names, are sometimes confused. But Tisha B’Av and Tu B’Av could not be more different, with one being a somber day of mourning and the other being a celebration of love. Tisha B’Av occurs a few days before Tu B’Av does, on the ninth of Av — this year, from the evening of Aug. 6 to the evening of Aug. 7. The holiday’s name means the ninth of Av. According to chabad.org, it’s known for being one of the saddest days on the Jewish calendar and serves as a reminder of the hardships that the Jewish people have faced. Multiple tragic events have occurred on Tisha B’Av historically, including the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and of the Second Temple years later. Other events observed during Tisha B’Av include the exile of Jews from England, the killing of the Jews in York and modern-day events like the Holocaust. “You sit on the floor and mourn as if a loved one just passed away,” said Rabbi Hyim Shafner, rabbi of Kesher Israel: The Georgetown Synagogue in Washington, D.C. “It’s a profound experience, the idea of exile. … It reminds you that something is amiss, things are not really the way they’re supposed to be.” Jews observing the holiday read the Book of Lamentations while sitting on the floor, and abstain from a number of things during 14
AUGUST 5, 2022
Tisha B’Av. Many fast for the entire period, do not wear leather and refrain from sexual encounters because it is not an appropriate time to have them. Swimming and bathing for pleasure are also discouraged, Shafner said. “We have a tradition to not make new [holidays] to commemorate tragedy,” Shafner said. “We wrapped them all into one big day.” On the other hand, there’s Tu B’Av, a much more lighthearted holiday with a less religious bent. Taking place on the 15th of Av every year (and with a name that similarly means the 15th of Av), Tu B’Av is commonly referred to as “Jewish Valentine’s Day” due to its associations with romance. It is said to be a lucky day for weddings, so many couples make it a point to have their wedding that day. This year, Tu B’Av begins the evening of Aug. 11 and ends the evening of Aug. 12. Like many other Jewish holidays, it initially started as a harvest festival, one meant to celebrate the beginning of the grape harvest, with Yom Kippur marking its end. But the date still had romantic significance even outside of the harvest, according to sefaria. org’s text on the two holidays. The 15th of Av is also noted as the day when the members of Israeli tribes were finally able to marry outside of their tribe, according to My Jewish Learning. Previously, romantic prospects were limited to those within one’s tribe, but Tu B’Av marked the lifting of these restrictions. Because of that, the holiday was once a popular matchmaking day for young unmarried women. In accordance with this and the grape
Credit: (ר.ארכיון ומוזיאון החאן הרדח )ע, creativecommons. org/licenses/by/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons
harvest, it was traditional for them to dress in white and dance in the vineyards to celebrate. Tu B’Av’s first mention in the Mishnah (Jewish collection of oral tradition) by Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel makes reference to this custom. “It’s a celebration of rebirth, renewal and reconciliation,” said Rabbi Levi Druk, director of Chabad of Downtown in Baltimore. In modern times, there are no particular
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rituals associated with Tu B’Av, but it is a popular marketing opportunity for the entertainment and beauty industries in Israel. The holiday is fairly commercialized, akin to Valentine’s Day, though to a lesser extent. Tu B’Av’s religious significance is minimal — it has no formal status as a holiday, and the only religious change made for it is that Tachanun, the confessional prayer, is not mandatory on Tu B’Av. Couples getting married also do not have to fast if their wedding takes place that day, according to chabad.org. So if the two holidays are so different from each other, why are they so close together? The stark difference in tone between Tu B’Av and Tisha B’Av may actually be the reason. “The Talmud lists six historic events that occur on [Tu B’Av] as reasons why we celebrate,” Druk noted. “A common denominator among these events is their being salvation and reconciliation that followed great pain and sorrow. Good which comes after evil.” Shafner elaborated on this idea. “Whenever the prophets talk about destruction, they also talk about rebuilding. It’s no coincidence that we have one of the happiest days of the year less than a week after Tisha B’Av. “You start from an exile of sadness. And then you go through a process of joy, a process of repentance,” Shafner continued. “And then, ultimately, you end up with much greater joy.” PJC Jillian Diamond writes for the Baltimore Jewish Times, an affiliated publication where this first appeared. PITTSBURGHJEWISHCHRONICLE.ORG
Life & Culture From ‘Wolfenstein’ to ‘Unpacking,’ examining Jewish characters in video games
p Brigid Tenenbaum of Bioshock
— VIDEO GAMES — By Jillian Diamond | Contributing Writer
ver the past few years, diversity in video games has become a hot-button topic in the gaming industry and in fan communities. Developers have been making a more concerted effort to include minority characters in the casts of their games and to account for a variety of experiences: those of people of color, LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities. Though increased diversity in games has been criticized as “pushing an agenda” by some, more people than ever are now able to have a gaming experience that reflects their own real-life experience. One area that is still lacking, though, is diversity of religion. Many video games do not touch on the topic at all, and the few that do make use of fictional religions or have characters celebrating holidays that are Christmas in all but name. As such, Jewish characters are a rarity in games, but there are still some out there. Their religious identities are not often integral to their stories, but their Jewishness still deserves to be acknowledged. There is certainly a need for more Jewish representation in media, which includes video games, but it is still important to take note of what representation is already out there, what it means to people and how it can be improved upon in the future. Some character summaries may contain spoilers for their respective games.
B.J. Blazkowicz - Wolfenstein (1981-present)
The “Wolfenstein” series is all about doing arguably the most Jewish thing a person can do: fighting Nazis. The ongoing series was foundational to the first-person shooter genre, being one of the first of its kind to achieve widespread popularity alongside “Doom” and “Quake.” “Wolfenstein”’s innovations in the genre would lead to some of the most well-known games ever, such as the “Call of Duty” and “Halo” series. But the series is not without its controversy, as one might expect from a game about killing as many Nazis as you can. The first game was banned in Germany due to its PITTSBURGHJEWISHCHRONICLE.ORG
usage of Nazi iconography, and in recent years some on the far right have taken issue with the series’ violent answer to fascism and its #NoMoreNazis advertising campaign in 2017. The main character of most of the games, William Joseph Blazkowicz, or “B.J.” for short, is a Polish-American Jew who acts as a spy and specializes in one-man missions. He’s an ardent antifascist who joins the American resistance against the Axis powers to investigate Nazi activity. The games pull no punches in displaying how B.J. and the developers feel about Nazis — in “Wolfenstein 3D,” B.J. can even assassinate Adolf Hitler himself. Blazkowicz’s Judaism remains vague in the games themselves, but there were hints sprinkled throughout that implied he was Jewish — the most convincing of which being his ability to read Hebrew. However, according to a statement posted on Kotaku in 2014, developer MachineGames aimed to “leave it up to the player to interpret” rather than stating that he was Jewish in the game’s text. Later that year, Blazkowicz’s character designer Tom Hall confirmed on Twitter that he designed Blazkowicz with the intent of him having a Jewish mother who was persecuted in the prewar period. This makes Blazkowicz himself Jewish as well.
Rabbi Russell Stone (and various other characters) - The Shivah (2006, 2013)
As far as indie games go, “The Shivah” could be considered one of the first to feature Jewish characters and themes. Published in 2006 by developer Wadjet Eye Games, “The Shivah” is perhaps the most Jewish game ever. It follows the tale of a rabbi struggling with his faith who becomes the suspect in the murder of a former member of his synagogue. “The Shivah” is a point-and-click adventure game in the style of games like the “Monkey Island” series and “Myst.” Like many of its genre contemporaries, it presents the player with multiple dialogue options that determine the ending they get. Where “The Shivah” differs is that the player cannot directly decide what Rabbi Stone will say next: They can decide his tone, as well as whether they want to give a “Rabbinical response” and answer a question with another question, but exactly what he says is up to him. The game’s conflict stems from an
p Dina Last of US II
interfaith marriage between two characters. Stone refusing to marry them and casting them out from his synagogue is what eventually leads to one’s murder. As the story progresses, he is forced to come to grips with his own ideals and whether the way he espouses his faith is really the right way to do it. The sanctity of marriage between Jews is something “The Shivah” creator Dave Gilbert says his mother felt very strongly about, and viewing it as a “very Jewish problem to face” led him to include it in the game. Gilbert made the game in a month after returning from teaching English in South Korea. While he was never particularly religious, he found the experience of being a Jew in a foreign country where the religion is uncommon to be somewhat alienating. “Whenever the subject came up, it was always ‘Oh, you’re Jewish, I’ve never met someone like you before,’” he recalled. “It was just really strange. “I made ‘The Shivah’ to reconnect with that Jewish part of myself. … I was just sort of venting questions I had, that I didn’t really have an answer for,” he added. In the 16 years since the game’s first release, Gilbert admits that he has found inaccuracies in the original game, and it is not an exhaustive look at Judaism and the issues that Jews may face in their communities. But these inaccuracies do not change the fact that “The Shivah” comes from a very personal place of reexamining one’s faith and coming to terms with it. “It exists as this thing I made when I was going through a transition of deciding what I wanted to do with my life,” Gilbert said. “But it just ended up taking off because of its subject matter.”
game’s Jewish cast stems from Levine writing of his own religion (though he now identifies as an atheist) and experiences. The most important non-villainous Jew in the game, though, has to be Dr. Brigid Tenenbaum. She is introduced as a geneticist and the creator of the Little Sisters, young girls who have been genetically modified to collect ADAM, a gene-altering substance, from around the underwater city of Rapture. She eventually comes to see them as her children and is protective of them. Her story is inextricably tied to her Judaism, as she grew up in Minsk during the Holocaust and became a prisoner in Auschwitz. She only survived because her intelligence was useful to the Nazi doctors who worked there, and they forced her to help them with their experiments or risk death if she refused. Tenenbaum’s character is complex — she is clearly racked with grief because of what she was forced to do in Auschwitz and what she did to create Little Sisters, and has grown attached to them perhaps as an outlet for that grief. Whether the player chooses to kill Little Sisters they come across or not has a significant effect on the story, with Tenenbaum assisting protagonist Jack if he spares them. Jack even adopts five little girls at the end of the game if the player has beaten it without killing a single Little Sister. Tenenbaum — and in a way, her identity as a Jewish woman during the Holocaust — is central to the plot of the Bioshock series. She is one of few characters in the first game who has not given into her instincts and is actively trying to make up for her past behavior.
Brigid Tenenbaum - Bioshock (2007-present)
The plot of the “Fate” series of games is difficult to explain, but the most succinct summary is that they are visual novels about mages who summon the spirits of historical and mythological figures — commonly known as “servants” — to fight each other in hopes of receiving a wish from the legendary Holy Grail. While not the most accessible series to play, as many of its games have never left Japan, it has managed to garner a passionate online fanbase.
“Bioshock” is a surprising well of Jewish representation. Ken Levine, creator of the series and director of the first game, stated in an interview with GameInformer that “pretty much half the cast” of the first game is Jewish. He listed Andrew Ryan, Sander Cohen, J.S. Steinman and Mariska Lutz as examples. It is worth noting that aside from Mariska, these characters are all villainous in nature and as a result their status as “good” Jewish representation is debatable. Still, the
PITTSBURGH JEWISH CHRONICLE
Avicebron - Fate/Grand Order (2015)
Please see Video, page 20
AUGUST 5, 2022
Life & Culture
Off-season roast chicken — FOOD — By Keri White | Contributing Writer
ometimes you just want a roast chicken. It seems a bit incongruous for this classic cold-weather comfort meal, which invariably ends up as a simmering soup, to appear on a summer table. But sometimes you just want a roast chicken. As the old saying goes, “In for a penny, in for a pound,” so we went autumnal for this dinner — roasting sweet potatoes and cabbage alongside the chicken. The plate was beautifully colorful, filled with superfood nutrients, and the bone broth we made the following day from the chicken carcass, while steamy, filled our freezer with an elixir that we will be thankful for when fall falls. Here’s what we did: Roast chicken with sweet potatoes
p Off-season roast chicken
For the brine: 4.5-pound roasting chicken 1 tablespoon salt 1 tablespoon sugar 1 teaspoon black pepper 1 tablespoon garlic powder 1 tablespoon white vinegar 1 lemon, cut in half
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in halves lengthwise (or wedges, if potatoes are large) Sprinkle of olive oil, salt and pepper
Place the chicken in a large pot, and fill it with cold water. Add the remaining ingredients, squeezing
Photo by Keri White
all the juice out of the lemon into the pot and adding the rind. Cover and allow it to brine in the refrigerator for 2-24 hours. When done, discard the brine, but save the lemon halves. Rinse the chicken, place the lemon halves in the cavity and place them in a large
roasting pan. (Use a pan larger than the chicken requires, as you will be adding the sweet potatoes later and will need the space.) Pour ½ cup of water or broth in the bottom of the pan, and roast the chicken at 350 F. While the chicken begins to cook, prepare Please see Recipe, page 17
Adam Reinherz returns from prestigious Shalom Hartman program
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hronicle Staff Writer Adam Reinherz was one of 13 Jewish journalists chosen to participate in the inaugural cohort of the Shalom Hartman Institute’s Seminar & Writers Workshop for Journalists. Reinherz was the only participant to come from a local Jewish news outlet. The program, which spanned the 20212022 academic year, combined intensive study of the nature, challenges and possibilities of the Israel–Diaspora relationship with a two-week summer residency at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Reinherz returned to Pittsburgh this week from Israel and said he was eager to convey the lessons learned. “Joining the Shalom Hartman Institute was a privilege I’m beyond thankful for,” Reinherz said. “This opportunity introduced me to the talented and dedicated individuals who care deeply about the future of Jewish peoplehood. I’m excited to share their teachings in my reporting, and look forward to continuing the millennia-old tradition of recording and reshaping Jewish life.” Throughout the seminar, Reinherz and fellow participants received mentorship
p Chronicle Staff Writer Adam Reinherz and Yossi Klein Halevi, senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem Photo courtesy of Adam Reinherz
from the Institute’s research center and staff. Access to a wide variety of professional development resources, scholars, and time and space to write were also provided. The Hartman Seminar & Writers Workshop for Journalists was supported by an anonymous donor. PJC — Toby Tabachnick
PITTSBURGH JEWISH CHRONICLE
Life & Culture Recipe:
dead of summer and the heat is oppressive. Trust me, your October self will thank you. If you really can’t stand the notion of this enterprise now, put the whole chicken carcass in the freezer in a zip-seal bag with all the drippings, and make the broth when the weather breaks. We simmered this overnight, cooled it and froze it in sealable containers for use in soups, risottos, to simmer vegetables, to add flavor to grains like quinoa and barley and to stretch sauces. It has already paid dividends. The beauty of this broth is that you don’t have to peel or chop anything. Just chuck it all in the pot!
Place all the ingredients in a large pot covered with cold water. Bring it to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer on very low heat for 12-24 hours. Cool, strain and use as desired or freeze. PJC
If you’ve roasted a chicken, it is practically a law that you must make a soup or broth out of the bones and freeze it, even if it is the
Bones, skin, fat and drippings from a whole roast chicken 2 stalks celery
Keri White writes for the Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication where this first appeared.
1 Continued from page 16
the sweet potatoes — peel, cut and toss them with a bit of oil, salt and pepper. After 30 minutes in the oven, remove the pan from the oven and place the sweet potatoes next to the chicken. Place it back in the oven for another 60 minutes until the chicken and sweet potatoes are cooked through. Herbed roasted cabbage
Serves 4 generously (chop the leftovers into salad tomorrow) 1 medium head cabbage, cut in wedges 2 tablespoons olive oil
tablespoon herb blend, such as Italian seasoning or herbs de Provence 1 teaspoon salt Generous sprinkle of fresh cracked pepper
Line a baking tray with parchment. Place the wedges on the tray, brush both sides with oil and sprinkle them with herbs and seasonings. Roast them in the oven alongside the chicken for 45 minutes until cooked through and beginning to brown at the edges.
2 carrots 1 onion, cut in half A few cloves garlic A handful of fresh herbs, such as rosemary, dill, thyme and sage, if you have them; if not, use ½ teaspoon of each dried 2 teaspoons each salt and pepper
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Translating the Torah, for good
Arlene and Paul Cullen of Fox Chapel are thrilled to announce the engagement of their daughter Leah Cullen to Craig Synan. Craig is the son of Crisey and Dan Synan of Hampton. Leah is the granddaughter of the late Selma and Harry Glick of Pittsburgh, and the late Jean and Jim Cullen. Craig is the grandson of the late Crisey and Jerry Ferrone and the late Bartholomew and Laverne Synan. Leah is a graduate of Juniata College, Craig is a graduate of Penn State University. Leah and Craig met at Resnick Roofing & Contracting where she is the director of branch operations and he is a sales professional. Leah and Craig live in Shadyside with their dog, Quinn. They are keeping the wedding small and intimate, only attended by their immediate families. The ceremony will be held at their house in November. PJC
Ivan Frank memoir available
ittsburgh author Ivan C. Frank has released his memoir, “The Israel I Knew.” The self-published book is billed as a “history of Israel” and a “literary narrative” of the years 1949-1962, covering the time he spent in the Habonim — the Labor
Zionist youth movement — and the 11 years he lived in Israel. The book is available at Riverstone Books and Amazing Books on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill. PJC — Toby Tabachnick
New adaptation of ‘Merchant of Venice’ to be read at Public Theater
he Pittsburgh Public Theater will present a staged reading of a new adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” on Friday, Aug. 12 at 5 p.m. on The O’Reilly Stage. The adaptation of the play grapples with its antisemitism and “refreshes the questions the play poses about bias and justice in 1594 Venice,” according to an announcement from the Public. “The Public gathers an extraordinary cast and creative team to tell a compelling version of the story that highlights the deep and impactful love between Shylock and his late wife, provides the Duke with a poignant arc as party and witness to the play’s injustices, and climaxes with a
revelatory courtroom scene.” The reading will be followed by a roundtable discussion “with visionaries, scholars, and cultural leaders from around the country about the impact and relevance of ‘The Merchant of Venice’ and the effectiveness of this adaptation in translating the problems and virtues of the play for a contemporary audience,” according to the announcement. The staged reading is free and open to the public, but registration is requested at pct.formstack.com/forms/merchant_of_ venice_rsvp_2022. Masks are required for this event. PJC — Toby Tabachnick
Rabbi Dovie Kivman Parshat Devarim Deuteronomy 1:1 - 3:22
ne of the first verses in this week’s parsha states: “On the other side of the Jordan, in the land of Moav, Moshe began explaining this Torah.” The term “explained” here is somewhat ambiguous. Our sages, though, clarify the meaning of “explaining the Torah” to mean that Moshe translated it into all 70 languages of the world.
and the day it was served as an idol were two different days. First, the golden calf was crafted and only on the next day did people serve it as a deity. In other words, the problem with Day Two was the sin, yet the nature of the problem of Day One was that something happened that made it possible for the sin to occur. This was exactly the issue with translating the Torah for King Ptolemy. When Hashem commanded Moshe to translate the Torah, that was a holy undertaking with holy intentions. But King Ptolemy wanted a Greek version of the Torah, a literal word-for-word translation. This would allow
Factually, though, after the sages translated the Torah for Ptolemy in an inexact fashion, while keeping the content accurate … This was a doorway which later allowed many of the deeper teachings of the Torah, those of Kabbalah and Chassidut (Hasidic philosophy), to become accessible to the modern world. This implies that translating the Torah from Hebrew into foreign tongues is a positive thing. Great. Yet in the writings of the same sages we find an anecdote that implies otherwise: King Ptolemy once made five Jewish elders write the Torah for him in Greek. That day was “as difficult for the Jewish people as the day the golden calf was made.” So, the first question is: If translating the Torah is a good thing, why does translating the Torah seem to be viewed in the opposite way in the story of Ptolemy? Second: Was translating the Torah into Greek really so terrible that it should be equated with making the golden calf, an idolatrous act!? The answer lies in the nuanced precision of our sages’ words. They didn’t say that translating the Torah was as bad as the sin of the golden calf, but rather as bad as the day the calf was made. What’s the difference? The difference is that the day the calf was made
for the possibility of someone coming along down the line and very severely misunderstanding the Torah, which could be the opposite of the true intent of its words. Factually, though, after the sages translated the Torah for Ptolemy in an inexact fashion, while keeping the content accurate, nothing bad resulted — unlike the incident of the golden calf. This was a doorway which later allowed many of the deeper teachings of the Torah, those of Kabbalah and Chassidut (Hasidic philosophy), to become accessible to the modern world. Today there is a plethora of these lifechanging teachings available in English, or in pretty much any language you or a friend may speak. Check them out. PJC Rabbi Dovie Kivman is executive director of Chabad of Erie County. This column is a service of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.
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Obituaries LEFKOWITZ: Bernard Lefkowitz was a fixture on Bellevue’s Lincoln Avenue for nearly 80 years. He started out as a soda jerk at his father’s drug store (Lebro), which he later inherited. He remained there as a pharmacist as the store transitioned to White Cross, Revco and CVS. Generations knew him simply as “Bernie the druggist.” He never met a stranger and couldn’t walk down the street without being stopped for medical advice, to chat, or, in later years, to reminisce. Bernard died peacefully on July 28 at the young-at-heart age of 95. He was preceded in death by his wife, Rita, and his sister, Beatrice. He is survived by his daughter, Diane Dexter, and son-in-law, Jim, who will miss him with every fiber of their beings; his loving nephews Rick (Rachel) and Jim (Tina) Moscowitz; and a cadre of friends, many from the Sewickley Men’s Club, which was his second family. There will forever be a gap in the hearts of those fortunate enough to know him. Services will be held at Ralph Schugar Chapel, Inc., 5509 Centre Avenue, Shadyside, on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, at 11 a.m. Visitation 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Interment West View Cemetery. schugar.com SCHACHTER: Jonathan L. Schachter passed away unexpectedly on July 25, 2022. Jonathan was the beloved husband of the late Andrea Schachter and son of the late Jeanne Schachter. He is survived by his loving and devoted daughter, Lauren, his father, Jacob, and his brothers, David (Debra) and Avram (Estaire), and many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. Jonathan was a devoted and tireless volunteer in Pittsburgh’s Jewish community. For several years he was the president of the JCBA (Jewish Cemetery and Burial Association) and served as a founder and active member of the New Community Chevra Kadisha. Graveside service and interment were at Beth Shalom Cemetery. Contributions in Jonathan’s memory may be made to the JCBA at jcbapgh. org/donate. Arrangements entrusted to Ralph Schugar Chapel, Inc., family owned and operated. schugar.com SHAPIRO: Michael Byron Shapiro tragically and suddenly passed away on the morning of July 24, 2022. Preceded in death by parents, Samuel and Pearl Shapiro. Beloved husband of Joan E. Shapiro who was by his side for 57 years; loving father of Erinn (Brad) Ummer, and Lauren (Trevor) Miller; brother of Barbara (Lenny) Macaluso, Claire (Ron) Kaplan and the late Nancy Shapiro. Devoted grandfather of Samuel and Joshua Ummer, and Ari and Meira Miller. Michael also had many friends and extended family members who are mourning this premature loss. Michael was a graduate of Penn State University with a degree in agricultural engineering. He was truly a renaissance man. He was an accomplished businessman, gardener, lifelong learner, mechanical genius, artist,
and loved being in nature. He spent his retirement restoring a 300-acre farm in the Laurel Highlands, where he created a trail network, constructed stone walls for his landscaping and planted enormous gardens with produce he loved to share. However, his favorite pastime was spending time with his family, especially his grandchildren, who were his pride and joy. Michael will be remembered for his youthful spirit and relatability. He was easy to talk with, kind, generous and willing to volunteer his time and help to anyone who needed it. Graveside services and interment were held at Torath Chaim Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Michael’s memory may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or PennFuture. Arrangements entrusted to Ralph Schugar Chapel, Inc. schugar.com STERN: Theodore Stern arrived in New York City in 1938, a 9-year-old refugee from Nazi Germany. The first in his family to go to college, he moved to Pittsburgh in 1958 with Elizabeth Spier Stern, his high school sweetheart, to join Westinghouse Electric’s nascent commercial nuclear energy business. He grew to become “Mr. Nuclear Power,” leading Westinghouse’s nuclear business around the world, then its Power Generation business, and eventually retiring as senior executive vice president and a member of the board of directors. That turned out to be just the beginning. Ted began investing in and mentoring smaller businesses. In his late 60s, he took over as chairman and CEO of a moneylosing long-distance reseller and built it into InContact, a billion-dollar software company delivering cloud-based call center functionality. He continued to be active in building businesses, stepping down from the board of one last NASDAQ company only in 2021 at 91 years old. Ted was equally devoted to his family and his community. He personally cared for Liz through five years of an increasingly devastating illness before her death in 2015, wanting for her never to need an outside aide. He remained an important mentor of his sons and grandchildren as they have built their own careers. He provided leadership to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and his synagogue, and support to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. Ted passed away on Friday morning, July 29, after a brief hospitalization. He is survived by his three brothers, Julius, Martin and Herbert Stern, and his sons and their families, Andrew, Joanne (Gold), Daniel and Zachary Stern and Jonathan, Joy, Jason and Jenna (Ventresca), and Jessica Stern. Services were held at Ralph Schugar Chapel, Inc. Interment Homewood Cemetery. Contributions in Ted’s memory can be made to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh or the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. May his memory be a blessing. schugar.com PJC
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THIS WEEK’S YAHRZEITS —
Sunday August 7: Harry Blumenthal, Israel I. Brody, Sarah Fish Hassel, Esther Klee, Isaac Latterman, Ruth Mazefsky, Joseph Ostrow, Morris Rubin, Isaac Schor, Malcolm Slifkin, Sadye Steinman Monday August 8: Robert Chamovitz, Miriam “Mitzie” Feinberg, Julius Field, Anna Rose Frieman, Nathan Gilles, Esther Glick, Sarah Geller Goisner, Saul Greenberg, Leonard Herbert Hochhauser, Annette Kranich, Mildred Golanty Krauss, Herman Labowitz, Minnie Landay, Benjamin Lazier, Sarah Sattler, Harry Silverstein, Clemens Simon, Dr. Morris Benjamin Weber, Hymen J. Wedner Tuesday August 9: Bess Baker, Marilyn Brody, Meyer Coon, Samuel Finkelstein, Meyer I. Grinberg, Irwin “Ike” Kitman, Blanche Labovitz, Albert H. Levenson, Dorothy Levine, Emil Mendlow, Jean Ostfield, Dr. Herman Pink, Hermina Schwartz, Harriet Taper, Benjamin H. Tauberg, Stuart D. Weinbaum, Lillian Wells Wednesday August 10: Morris Chetlin, Ida Daly, Miriam Friedlander, Bruce Robert Gordon, Max Harris, Sylvia G. Levine, Morris Linder, Ida Match, Jacob Mazer, Pearl C. Numer, Charles Olinsky, Goldie Faleder Recht, William Myer Rose, Simon Jacob Rosenthal, Reuben C. Solomon, Leonard Stein, Tsivia Topaz Sussman, Ray Weiner Wesosky, Florine K Wolk, Benjamin I. Young, Harry & Ruth Zeligman, Harry N. Zeligman Thursday August 11: Sam Baker, Harry Davidson, George Freeman, Paul Allen Friedlander, Ruthe Glick, Sophia Mintz Latkin, Benjamin D. Lazar, Tillye Shaffer Malyn, Mary Perilman, Margaret Racusin, Reva Rebecca Reznick, Katie Share, Ethel K. Stept, Cora M. Strauss, Morton A. Zacks Friday August 12: Anna R. Brill, Sam Friedman, Mitzi Davis Marcus, Belrose Marcus, Samuel Morris, Samuel Natterson, Phillip Nesvisky, Jacob Pearl, Nathan Rosen, Mayme S. Roth, Earl Schugar, S. Milton Schwartz, Becie Sokolerr Saturday August 13: Esther Bennett, Dr. Simon Berenfield, J. Richard Bergad, Frances Cartiff, Bertha Feldman, Solomon Kramer, Beverly Lebovitz, Abraham Leibowitz, Rose Lipser, Benjamin Plotkin, Samuel Sidney Sakol
In Memoriam Jonathan Schachter Jonathan Schachter dedicated himself to the Jewish Cemetery and Burial Association. He served as President of the Association, Executive Director, and Administrator in his many years of leadership. Jonathan cared passionately about the JCBA’s mission and was most important to us as part of our re-envisioning. The Officers, Board and Staff of the JCBA express condolences to Jonathan Schachter’s family on his passing.
Toby Perilman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Gertrude Stalinsky
Joel Broida . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Julius S. Broida
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Headlines Video: Continued from page 15
“Fate/Grand Order” is the franchise’s mobile entry, and while it contains historically Jewish figures from the Torah such as David and Solomon, the most curious piece of Jewish representation in the game is a figure players are less likely to be familiar with: Avicebron, better known as Solomon ibn Gabriol. Historically, Solomon ibn Gabriol was one of the most well-known Jewish poets and philosophers. He was born in 1021 or 1022, during an age where Hebrew, which had been a long-dead language, had only recently been revived. As a result, his work in the language garnered him a significant deal of attention. He was also responsible for writing the philosophical work “Fountain of Life,” which inspired the Kabbalists — practitioners of Jewish mysticism. “Fate” is notorious for bending the truth of the historical figures it features, though, and its depiction of Avicebron focuses primarily on the Kabbalism his teachings inspired. A matter-of-fact, reclusive person, he fights using golems: a reference to the fact that Solomon ibn Gabriol is rumored to have created golems to do his chores. Though a relatively minor character in a game with over 300 characters, he has a fairly complex characterization and is likely how many players found out that ibn Gabriol even existed.
Dina - The Last of Us Part II (2020)
Dina may be the most overt case of Jewish representation in an AAA (made by a major publisher and given a higher development and marketing budget, akin to a blockbuster) game. The partner of Ellie, the main character, Dina speaks openly about Judaism and Jewish practices. She wears a bracelet marked with a hamsa, has a chai symbol hanging in her house and notes that her sister would take her to a synagogue to pray. While her Judaism was never outright stated in game, it was a popular fan theory that was later confirmed by Naughty Dog creative director Neil Druckmann. “So I was like, ‘Well, it’s rare to see a Jewish character in a video game, and for her to own that,’” he said in a Mashable article. He also noted during a panel at the E3 video game conference that getting the light to reflect properly on Dina’s frizzy hair, a physical trait shared by many Jews, posed a particular challenge to the development team. In the zombie-infested, dire and often cruel world of “The Last of Us,” Dina provides Ellie with much-needed comfort and someone to talk with after the death of Joel, her guardian from the first game. The state of their surroundings puts pressure on both her and Ellie, and it is difficult to say if they will find a happy ending together in future games. But Dina still stands out as one of the most visible cases of Jewish representation in gaming: As of June 22, “The Last
of Us Part II” has sold 10 million copies on the PS4 alone.
Main character - Unpacking (2021)
Indie games have provided a fair amount of minority representation over the past few years. Due to their smaller audience, many are able to address more niche or sensitive topics such as race, gender and religion without the fear of alienating a mass consumer base. This can be seen in popular indies like “Celeste” and its discussion of transgender identity and mental health, and in upcoming titles like dating simulator “ValiDate” and its focus on the reality of pursuing romance as a person of color. “Unpacking,” a puzzle game by Australian development team Witch Beam, is a curious case in terms of its Jewish representation. By all accounts, the game has no characters who ever appear on screen or even any dialogue. But through the combination of block-fitting and home decoration that make up the gameplay, the player learns about the lives of the nameless homeowners they assist in eight different moves over the course of 21 years. The game’s primary narrative is communicated through the items the player is assigned to place or pack — among these are a dreidel, a menorah and mezuzahs to be hung on door frames, implying that the main character is Jewish. “Unpacking is all about learning about a person from the items they own,” said
Wren Brier, the game’s creative director. “We wanted to make the characters feel like real, three-dimensional people so that players could relate to them. One aspect of that is a religious and cultural identity. Our character happens to be an artist, and she happens to be queer, and happens to be Jewish. All of these are important parts of who she is.” The player never sees the main character, the boyfriend who gives her barely any room to place her things in their apartment or the woman she eventually starts a family with. But through its atmospheric storytelling, it tells a quaint but poignant narrative about a queer Jewish woman leaving her childhood home and finding happiness in a place she can call her own. “I just want to see more [Jewish representation],” Brier said. “Games rarely feature Jewish characters at all. And I’d like to see a greater variety of Jewish representation in popular media in general. The Jewish experience is diverse: We live all over the world, we come in every skin color and every level of religiosity, from ultra-Orthodox to atheist. It feels like the only Jewish people I see in popular media are white American Jews, usually in New York, or white European Jews during World War II. Those are, of course, valuable perspectives, but I think a lot of other Jewish perspectives are just not represented at all.” PJC Jillian Diamond writes for the Baltimore Jewish Times, an affiliated publication where this first appeared.
Join the Chronicle Book Club!
he Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle invites you to join the Chronicle Book Club for its Aug. 14 discussion of “The Finkler Question,” by Howard Jacobson. “The Finkler Question.” published in 2010, won the Man Booker Prize. From author Dara Horn: “This is a very funny book about middle-aged men fighting with each other and fighting
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to maintain their self-esteem in pathetic ways. It’s very accessible. Sam Finkler, a popular thinker, media personality, and bestselling author, and his friend Julian Treslove reconvene with their former professor, an older Jewish immigrant from the Czech Republic. The book is about how Jews are expected to cooperate with contemporary anti-Semitism. To be accepted, Finkler renounces
and demonizes the state of Israel. This book came out in 2010; only in more recent years has the UK started to grapple with the open anti-Semitism in its society.”
Toby Tabachnick, editor of the Chronicle David Rullo, Chronicle staff writer
How It Works
We will meet on Zoom on Sunday, Aug. 14, at noon. As you read the book, we invite you to share your favorite passages on a shared document you will receive when you register
Happy reading! PJC — Toby Tabachnick
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J CC 1 27 t h A NNUA L M EETI NG W E D NE S DAY, AUGUS T 3 1 , 2022 • 5 :3 0
L E V IN SON H A LL • 5738 FORBES AVENUE • S QU IR R E L HILL
2022 VOLUNTEER AWARDS ■ S.J. Noven Koach Award: Jeffrey E. Cohen ■ Rogal-Ruslander Leadership Award: William S. Goodman ■ Ida & Samuel Latterman Volunteer Mitzvah Award EKC Game, Set, Splash Co-chairs: Beth Goldstein and Jeremy Goldman Maria and Noah Jordan Lauren and Jason Kushner Dana and Michael Laidhold Elizabeth Goldberg and Michael Weisberg ■ Lillian Goldstein Senior Adult Volunteer Leadership Award: Marilyn Holloway ■ Caplan-Lieber Human Relations Award: Jocelyn Paulin
AUGUST 5, 2022
PITTSBURGH JEWISH CHRONICLE
Community Summer fun is no performance at JCC
Machers and Shakers
Campers and staff from the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh’s South Hills Day Camp, J&R Day Camp and Performing Arts Camp are having a blast this summer.
University of Pittsburgh student Eli Anish represented the USA delegation at the Maccabiah Night Race in Jerusalem. Held as both an event for the general public and participants in the 21st Maccabiah, the Jerusalem-based race featured entrants from around the world. Anish’s time of 1:15:39 resulted in a second-place finish overall and a first-place finish for Maccabiah participants.
p Who says pie day is only in March?
p Eli Anish represents the USA.
Photo by Adam Reinherz
p Members of Performing Arts Camp 2022 present “Matilda Jr.”
p Getting crafty during Camp Kindness day at J&R Day Camp
Photos courtesy of Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh
p Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle Staff Writer Adam Reinherz recently completed an intensive seminar for journalists and writers at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Reinherz was one of 13 members who examined a range of issues and texts underlying points of tension within Israel and in the Israel-Diaspora relationship. The Jerusalem-based seminar was the culmination of a yearlong focus on Jewish peoplehood. Photo by Noam Fine
Celebrating disAbilities through the Arts
t Pittsburgh Allderdice High School graduate and Queens University student Tanner Jacobson was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 10th round, with the 307th pick, of the Major League Baseball draft.
Photo courtesy of Tanner Jacobson
p Temple Sinai members Shirley Goldstein and Mara Kaplan enjoy each other’s company while promoting accessibility and inclusion. Photo courtesy of Temple Sinai
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AUGUST 5, 2022
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