July 30, 2021 | 21 Av 5781
Candlelighting 8:19 p.m. | Havdalah 9:21 p.m. | Vol. 64, No. 31 | pittsburghjewishchronicle.org
Its building is for sale, but Beth Israel Synagogue takes it ‘Shabbos by Shabbos’
NOTEWORTHY LOCAL Israel: 2022
Federation plans largest mission ever
are the basic things a congregation does. We still help each other and are still here for each other.” And yet, Posner, a member since 1972, isn’t pollyannish. She understands that Beth Israel, like so many other small shuls that have recently closed in surrounding areas — like Canonsburg, Monessen, Charleroi and Donora — is facing difficult decisions. Posner serves on the advisory committee for the Jewish Community Legacy Project, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that works nationally with small congregations, helping to facilitate planning based on a congregation’s stage of life. “For some, like Uniontown or Monessen or Oil City or New Castle or Latrobe, it’s ‘We know we’re going to close, what do we do?” said JCLP’s senior vice president, Noah Levine. “For others, like Washington, which is on the cusp, or Greensburg, they know they’re not going to close but they have issues dealing with sustainability.”
here are 35 states with laws or executive orders designed to hobble the boycott movement against Israel. Pennsylvania is one of them. When Ben & Jerry’s announced last week it would stop selling ice cream in portions of Israel — the areas the company referred to as “Occupied Palestinian Territory” — officials in several states started looking into whether their anti-boycott laws had been triggered. Officials in Florida, Texas, New York, New Jersey and Illinois are reviewing whether the move will require divestment from Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever. Pennsylvania Rep. Aaron Kaufer (R-Luzerne), the only Jewish Republican in the commonwealth’s legislature, is convinced Pennsylvania’s Act 163 of 2016, which prohibits state agencies or affiliates from contracting with companies engaged in a boycott of Israel, has been triggered by Ben & Jerry’s actions, and has taken the lead in seeing that it is enforced. Act 163 had wide-bipartisan support when it was passed in 2016. The House approved the bill 181-9, and the Senate 47-1. Last week, Kaufer sent letters to Gov. Tom Wolf, Attorney General Josh Shapiro and state Treasurer Stacy Garrity urging them to enforce Act 163. “Somebody, in my opinion, needed to call this out and say, ‘This has gone too far. I’m taking a stand,’” Kaufer told the Chronicle. “This cannot be condoned, and if I stay silent, I’m condoning what’s going on. I don’t want to see further businesses go down this pathway.” Anti-Israel decisions of the sort made by Ben & Jerry’s, and implemented by its parent company Unilever (which owns dozens of other brands, including Breyers, Lipton and Hellmann’s), are “prejudiced and antisemitic,” Kaufer continued. “This type of act is stoking
Please see Beth Israel, page 14
Please see Act 163, page 14
LOCAL An Olympian dad in Japan
Pittsburgher Douglas Schafer and his son’s basketball dreams Beth Israel Synagogue’s building has been on the market since July, 2020.
Photo by David Rullo
By David Rullo | Staff Writer
LIFE & CULTURE
New film features famed Jewish coroner Page 17
PA anti-BDS law could be triggered by Ben & Jerry’s Israel boycott By Toby Tabachnick | Editor
s a congregation still a congregation if it no longer employs a rabbi, is selling its building and isn’t offering High Holiday services? For Marilyn Posner, the answer is a wholehearted “yes.” Beth Israel Synagogue’s longtime rabbi, David Novitsky, no longer helms the bimah at the Conservative shul; the congregation’s building is on the market; and the board recently decided to not host High Holiday services this year for its approximately 30 family-unit members. Posner, a four-time past president, current secretary of the board and chairperson of the legacy committee at Beth Israel in Washington, Pennsylvania, is certain that the congregation is viable and will continue to perform valuable functions for its members. “Yes, we still have services,” she told the Chronicle. “We still remind people of their yahrzeits. We still pray for the ill. Those
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Headlines Federation’s Mega Mission returns — more mega than ever — LOCAL — By Sarah Abrams | Staff Writer
t’s been nine years since the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s last Mega Mission, a trip allowing community members to take a deep dive into Israel’s cities, culture and religious traditions. Now, following two crises in the local Jewish community — the October 2018 synagogue attacks and the pandemic — Mega Mission is back and even bigger than before. The goal is to take 500 community members to Israel in 2022, which would be the largest group ever to travel from Pittsburgh to the Jewish state. “Mega Mission represents an opportunity to show our community’s resilience,” Adam Hertzman, director of marketing for the Federation, told the Chronicle. “This is such a diverse community in terms of race, age and religious observation. Mega Mission brings together people from all walks of life to experience the importance of the Jewish community.” There are several different tracks that participants can choose from when joining the Mega Mission, which will run from June 13-22, 2022. The family track includes intergenerational families or parents with children ages 10 and older, and will be centered on family-friendly activities, according to Hertzman. The first-timer’s track is the ideal choice for those who have never been to Israel and includes sightseeing, outdoor adventures and city tours. There is also a young-adult track with activities that include meeting with an Israeli entrepreneur and indulging in local whisky and wine tastings. The itinerary for all programs includes several days in Tel Aviv, a Shabbat dinner in Jerusalem and a visit to Pittsburgh’s
Stacey and Scott Seewald on a hike during one of the first days of the 2012 Mega Mission.
Partnership2Gether sister cities of Karmiel and Misgav. There will also be multiple stops to allow participants to speak with locals and indulge in Israeli culture. Scott Seewald, a Mega Mission co-chair, was on the Federation’s previous Mega Mission in 2012. “The Federation did a great job of creating a Mega Mission of hundreds of people while still granting participants the ability to bond with people in our age group,” he said. “I have been to Israel before, and the Mission is different. The Mission can uniquely allow people to do activities which can only be
done on Mega Mission.” Limited subsidies are available for participants who sign up for Mega Mission. The early bird special provides a discount of $1,000 to the first 500 participants who register before Dec. 12. There is an additional $500 subsidy for the first 60 young adults — between the ages of 22 and 45 — to sign up for the young-adult track. The first 30 children to sign up for the family track will also get a $500 subsidy. A more detailed list of available subsidies can be found on the Federation’s website. So far more than 100 people have signed
Photo courtesy of Scott Seewald
up for Mega Mission, and registration is well ahead of where it was at this point in 2011, according to Hertzman. “It has always been such a great way to bring Jewish Pittsburgh together and, from our perspective, is a way to tell people about the work that the Jewish Federation does in a real, living way,” he said. Visit jewishpgh.org/mega-mission or email Jordan Tal at firstname.lastname@example.org to register for Mega Mission. PJC Sarah Abrams can be reached at sabrams@ pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.
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Headlines Rabbi launches free kosher food store in Squirrel Hill — LOCAL — By David Rullo | Staff Writer
s the coronavirus crisis exacerbated food insecurity for many Jewish community members, Rabbi Chezky Rosenfeld saw a need not being fully met by other programs and social service agencies. “A lot of the programs out there are restricted to people in different demographics and with various requirements,” said Rosenfeld. “I was being contacted by different people who were in need or people that were aware of other people in need.” At the same time, other families with a surplus of food were reaching out to Rosenfeld to see if he could find a use for it before it spoiled. So, the rabbi began picking up food left on porches and delivering it to others who needed it. Eventually, he said, he decided to set up “a central space where people can bring all this stuff.” The result is a free pop-up kosher store in the heart of Squirrel Hill, located in the former Shabbox space at 2118 Murray Ave., next-door to the Milky Way kosher restaurant. Because the pop-up space has a refrigerator and freezer, Rosenfeld can now include fresh items that he couldn’t previously store, as well as food that won’t be used immediately. Most important to Rosenfeld, the pop-up location allows community members to maintain their dignity while picking up their food. In fact, the rabbi makes it a practice not to be there when the free store is open. “I want it to be really open,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to feel like someone is watching who’s coming and taking things.” The store doesn’t have a sign-up list, registration or income requirements, and the food is available to anyone who needs it. While the store offers free kosher food, Rosenfeld said he doesn’t intend to compete with other services and organizations, like the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry. In addition to catering to different demographics, Rosenfeld said, he doesn’t have the capacity the food pantry does, and he isn’t offering the type of long-term solutions available from some other charities and organizations in the Jewish community.
The food available at the pop-up store, is a mixture of fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products and prepackaged meals like pizza and lasagna. Volunteers check the donations to ensure they are kosher. “And obviously, we only take closed packages,” Rosenfeld said. “We’re not taking things that are made in people’s kitchens.” In addition to private donors, Rosenfeld said he received a grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, which helped secure the rent for the pop-up store’s location, as well as equipment. The money came from Federation’s COVID-19 relief fund, said Adam Hertzman, the Federation’s director of marketing. To date, Federation has distributed more than $9.1 million dollars from that fund. “The emergency relief is targeted for emergent needs,” Hertzman said. “A pop-up food corner was something the relief committee saw that met an emergent need in the community.” Federation and its beneficiary agencies, including Jewish Family and Community Services and the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry, are seeing far more than the average number of families in need because of the pandemic, Hertzman said. The Federation can coordinate agencies to respond to needs quickly and efficiently, he added, pointing, as an example, to an emergency relief grant to buy a van shared by JFCS and Hillel JUC that is used for food deliveries. “This is built on decades of collaboration, communication and trust building, of which I would like to say, Federation played a key part,” Hertzman said. “It’s on the strength of that that we were able to meet some of the COVID relief needs in such a strong fashion.” Rosenfeld said he doesn’t have long-term plans for the free store, but intends to keep it open at least through the summer. “I’ve been approached by some people who have asked me about keeping it open through the High Holidays, where there’s a greater need,” he said. “We use a lot of food during that time. We’ll see. Right now, I have it planned through the end of August. We’ll take it from there.” The free pop-up store is open Thursdays, 9-11 a.m., and Fridays, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. PJC
David Rullo can be reached at drullo@ pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.
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Headlines Pittsburgh expat now an Olympian dad in Japan — LOCAL — By Adam Reinherz | Staff Writer
rowing up in Churchill, Douglas Schafer didn’t imagine that 50 years later he’d be in Karuizawa, Japan, or that his son Avi would be an Olympian, but life has a funny way of taking people to unexpected places — or in Avi’s case, bestowing unexpected height. A few days ago, Avi Schafer, a 6-foot, 10-inch professional basketball player and member of Japan’s national team, arrived at the Olympic Village in the Harumi waterfront district of Tokyo. “We always joke, ‘How did Avi get so tall?’,” said Douglas Schafer, speaking from his home in Japan. “And I say, ‘Well, he’s Japanese and he’s Jewish, which means you got two negatives on height, which actually equal a positive.” What will help Avi these next few weeks are the same things that brought him to the Olympics — practice, luck and his family’s unwavering support, according to his father. The elder Schafer, 54, had a familiar Jewish Pittsburgh upbringing. He was bar mitzvahed at Rodef Shalom Congregation and had a group of Jewish friends. He attended school in Churchill before transferring to Sewickley Academy in 10th grade. After graduating from American University with a degree in economic theory, he participated in the JET Program USA, an employment opportunity that places young international professionals throughout Japan. While in Japan, he met Sayuki Asai, a young Japanese woman who had studied in the United States, and they struck up a friendship. It was nice to hear a “friendly English voice from time to time,” Schafer recalled. After two months abroad, Schafer returned to the United States. He spent about a year in Washington D.C., where Sayuki was as well, and their relationship blossomed. In 1992, he returned to the Land of the Rising Sun, and the next year he and Sayuki were married. After working for his father-in-law’s vending machine business, Schafer started his own company, Toyo Beverage, K.K., which continues to import food and beverage products from the United States and Australia to more than 1,000 stores throughout Japan. He and Sayuki have three sons: Yuki Aaron, Avi Koki and Toki Tobias. The boys are now 26, 23 and 21, respectively. Avi is the only one who plays basketball, and his brothers are not as tall, their father said. Yuki, at 6-feet 2-inches, played soccer at Chapman University, where he studied business administration. Now he serves as Avi’s agent. Toki studies art at Pratt Institute in New York. When they were younger, the family lived in Kobe, Japan. During those years, Schafer was a board member of Ohel Shelomo Synagogue, a Kobe-based Sephardic Orthodox congregation. The rabbi was a Chabad emissary, and congregants were Israeli, Syrian, Armenian and American. “It kind of catered to everybody, and it was really nice and really welcoming,” said Schafer. “It was a beautiful thing because you didn’t have enough of any one group, so you had to all get along and work together as a synagogue.”
4 JULY 30, 2021
The Schafer family at Toki Schafer’s June 2019 graduation
Avi Schafer shoots over NBA star and Team France member Rudy Gobert during a pre-Olympic tune-up game. Photos courtesy of Douglas Schafer
According to the World Jewish Congress, there are between 1,000 and 1,400 Jews in Japan. When the family moved to Tokyo nine years ago, they lived near the JCC and there was a greater number of Jews in the area. At that point the Schafers began to experience Judaism more socially than through synagogue attendance, Schafer said. When Avi told his parents about his dreams of becoming a professional basketball player, they were surprised — he hadn’t even played until he was 16. “The whole thing happened so quickly, and he was so determined,” said Sayuki Schafer, 55. She admitted that it sounded “ridiculous” or even “impossible,” however, “as parents we wanted to support him and whatever he wanted to do.” His mother said she and Douglas told Avi that if basketball was his dream, “You just do your best, and if you fail, you fail — but you just have to do your maximum effort.” Avi took the message to heart, and his skills improved through his later teenage years. For his senior year of high school, he attended Brewster Academy, a boarding school in
Wolfeboro, New Hampshire — NBA star Donovan Mitchell also went to Brewster — and in college he played at Georgia Tech before beginning his professional career with the Alvark Tokyo team in Japan. “For most athletes, family is hugely important,” said Douglas Schafer, who credits Avi’s brothers and American relatives with creating a tightknit, supportive bond. For many summers, before and after attending camp with cousins in Maine, Avi and his brothers spent time in Pittsburgh with Douglas’ parents, Loreen and Seymour Schafer. Those experiences with family and friends in Pittsburgh and worldwide helped Avi and the Schafers reach this Olympic moment, even if it was unexpected because Avi was relatively new to the game, Douglas Schafer said. Avi plays center and power forward. “He is a tough defensive player,” his father said. Adding some context, he talked about Team Japan’s game against Team France for its final tune-up before the Olympics. Playing 15 minutes, Avi guarded the 7-foot-1-inch Rudy Gobert of the NBA’s Utah Jazz, a two-time all-star and threetime NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
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“Avi held Gobert to 11 points and eight rebounds.” Julio Lamas, Team Japan’s head coach, noted Avi’s development during the past two years, “and most recently, his physical condition has reached the level of the world standard…. His understanding of tactics is high and he is still growing.” Even though in-person spectators are not permitted at this year’s Olympics, the television audience will be the largest Avi has ever played in front of. He played for Japan in 2016 FIBA Asia U18 Championship and the FIBA U19 World Cup, and for the Japan National team in the 2018 Asian Games, but the attention to the Olympics are on another level. Because it’s basketball, and given the NBA talent suiting up for Team USA, Spain or France, there’s a lot of media attention, said Douglas Schafer. “It’s surreal,” added Sayuki Schafer. Even for the most celebrated Olympians, competing in the Olympics may be a oncein-a-lifetime opportunity. With that in mind, Douglas Schafer said he gave Avi specific instructions before his son headed off to Olympic Village. “I told Avi, ‘This is a special thing, just take a deep breath and look around the stadium, look around the arena, at the other players’,” said Douglas Schafer. “‘Take it in and understand that this is so special, and you’re there, you belong there, and whatever happens, happens.’” “I’m really happy to be selected as an Olympic member,” said Avi in a prepared statement, courtesy of Team Japan. “When I came back to Japan from the United States and decided to become a professional in Japan, I made the decision with an eye on the Olympics. I’ve been aiming for the Olympics for the [last] few years, so I’m really happy to be selected as a member. It is held in my home country and I want to show Japanese people what I can do.” PJC Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@ pittsburghjewishchronicle.org. PITTSBURGHJEWISHCHRONICLE.ORG
Headlines Online platform promoting inclusion to launch in Pittsburgh — thanks to JRS — LOCAL — By Adam Reinherz | Staff Writer
onnectAbility, a new digital resource, is coming to Pittsburgh, and Jewish Residential Services is backing the endeavor. Set to launch on Aug.12, the quarterly blog will focus on a range of issues promoting inclusion of those with disabilities, said Nancy Gale, executive director of JRS. The digital content will include updates on local, regional and national resources for people with disabilities; advice regarding disability and inclusion etiquette; recommendations and reviews of books, films and other media that portray disabilities; a calendar of upcoming events; discussion of disability-related legislation; information on advocacy; and stories regarding individuals and their family members with disabilities. “Our vision isn’t just to have a newsletter or a blog, but actually a quarterly disability resource for the community,” said Gale. Pittsburgh’s Jewish community lacks such a guide now, said JRS director of development and communications, Caitlin Lasky. Several years ago, JRS and other Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh beneficiary
Richard Kaplan, Samuel Kaplan and Mara Kaplan attend a Mostly Musical Shabbat at Temple Sinai. Photo by John Schiller
agencies collaborated on Connections, a joint blog. Although organizations such as the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, JFCS and the Jewish Association on Aging all brought interesting perspectives to the table, said Gale, “there wasn’t one organization that had the ultimate ownership of
helping you plan for what matters the most
it,” and, as a result, it lacked a specific focus. Now JRS is guiding ConnectAbility, Gale said, and there is renewed energy and an eagerness to share a wealth of content and ideas with the broader community. The project gained steam after the JRS board’s approval in June of a new strategic plan, which includes a focus on
helping community members become greater inclusion advocates. Between Gale, Lasky, various program directors and an intern, there will be multiple JRS staffers contributing to ConnectAbility. While the specifics are still being fleshed out, a yearly content calendar has already been created. The fall quarter issue will focus on High Holidays inclusion and how congregations can bolster their efforts; the winter quarter issue will arrive before February (Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month) and address awareness and advocacy; the spring quarter issue will feature content that coincides with Mental Health Awareness Month in May; and the summer quarter issue will highlight children and families and include content on camp and Friendship Circle, as well as interviews with parents of young children with disabilities. Mara Kaplan, co-chair of Temple Sinai’s disAbility Task Force, said ConnectAbility’s commitment to interviews and storytelling is imperative. “What changes people are stories,” she said. “Stories are what get people to listen. Statistics don’t. Laws don’t. Regulations don’t.” Kaplan was interviewed by ConnectAbility Please see JRS, page 15
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Calendar Submit calendar items on the Chronicle’s website, pittsburghjewishchronicle.org. Submissions also will be included in print. Events will run in the print edition beginning one month prior to the date as space allows. The deadline for submissions is Friday, noon. q SUNDAYS, JULY 25- AUG. 22
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. The Book of Job is one of the most powerful pieces of writing in the Hebrew Bible. Focused on the question of “Why do the righteous suffer?” this book has universal significance. In this course, Rabbi Danny Schiff will offer a journey through the core themes raised by the Book of Job. $70. 10 a.m. foundation.jewishpgh.org q MONDAYS, JULY 26; AUG. 2, 9
Join Congregation Beth Shalom for a weekly Talmud study. 9:15 a.m. For more information, visit bethshalompgh.org. q WEDNESDAYS, JULY 28-AUG. 18
Join New Light Congregation for a weekly examination of Maimonides’ Mishna Torah Book on Repentance led by Rabbi Jonathan Perlman. Examine the journey of the soul, sin, forgiveness and the meaning of the High Holidays. 7 p.m. To register, email janet@ newlightcongregation.org. q SUNDAY, AUG. 1
Join the Westmoreland Jewish Community Council and make a High Holiday trivet followed by a potluck picnic lunch at Twin Lakes Park, pavilion 5. There is no charge for the picnic but there is a fee to create the trivet. 10 a.m. trivet making; 12:30 p.m. picnic. firstname.lastname@example.org
q MONDAY, AUG. 2
q MONDAY, AUG. 9
Join Beth Congregation of the South Hills for First Mondays with Rabbi Alex Greenbaum. This month hear guest George Savarese discuss “Target America: Russia’s cyberwar on the US.” Mr. Savarese has served as the host of the World Affairs Council’s “Global Press Conference” on KQV radio and has worked for AP Radio and National Public Radio. 12 p.m. Free. bethelcong.org
Join Classrooms Without Borders for a virtual tour of Israel. Monthly tours with guide and scholar Rabbi Jonty Blackman via Zoom. 7 p.m. For more information and to register, visit classroomswithoutborders.org.
q THURSDAY, AUG. 5
Hear Mystic Seaport volunteer, researcher and author Howard Veisz speak about Gerda III, a wooden lighthouse tender built in 1926 to resupply offshore lighthouses along the Danish coast. During the Nazi occupation of Denmark in World War II, the Gerda III took on precious cargo: clandestine groups of Jewish refugees that she transported to freedom. 7 p.m. Free and open to the public. Advanced registration required. This event will not be recorded. hcofpgh.org/events q SUNDAY, AUG. 8
Join Shaare Torah Congregation for Justice for People with Mental Illness. This free breakfast program will introduce you to some of the practical things you can do to make situations more just for people whose symptoms, medications or interpersonal methods make it difficult to handle stressors alone. Presenter: Linda Tashbook, author of “Family Guide to Mental Illness and the Law.” 8:30 a.m. Free. Join the 10.27 Healing Partnership for our third annual Rosh Chodesh Elul program, “Welcome the Month of Elul with Inspiration and Community.” This event is dedicated to helping community members prepare for the coming of the High Holy Days and anticipate the arrival of the third commemoration of 10/27/18. A diverse group of community scholars and teachers will hold sessions inspiring participants to be awake, prepared and grounded as we head into this spiritual and reflective time. Free. 2:30 p.m. Temple Sinai, 5505 Forbes Ave. bit.ly/3Bd1gH0
q THURSDAY, AUG. 12
Classrooms Without Borders, in partnership with the German Academic Exchange Service, is excited to offer the opportunity to watch the film “Oma and Bella” and engage in a postfilm discussion with director Alexa Karolinski and Jeffrey Yoskowitz, an expert on Eastern European Jewish cuisine and its history. Moderated by Kathleen Gransow, program director, German Academic Exchange Service. 3 p.m. classroomswithoutborders.org/omabella-post-film-discussion q TUESDAY, AUG. 17
From the recent conflict with Gaza to the internal political upheaval in Israel, there is a necessity to get an educated view from the “inside.” Classrooms Without Borders is offering an opportunity to hear from in-house scholar — Avi Ben-Hur — as he helps us navigate and understand what is happening with the cease-fire with Hamas and the change of leadership of the Israeli government. 2 p.m. classroomswithoutborders.org/ israel-update-2021 q WEDNESDAY, AUG. 18
Donate much needed blood during the Jewish Association on Aging’s blood drive in cooperation with Vitalant (aka the Central Blood Bank) at the JAA’s Squirrel Hill campus location, 200 JHF Drive, 15217. Free
q THURSDAY, AUG. 19-JUNE 30, 2022
The Alan Papernick Educational Institute Endowment Fund presents Continuing Legal Education, a six-part CLE series taught by Foundation Scholar Rabbi Dr. Danny Schiff. Earn up to 12 CLE credits. Each session is a stand-alone unit; you can take one class or all six. 8:30 a.m. With CLE credit: $30/session or $150 all sessions; Without CLE credit: $25/ session or $125 all sessions. For a complete list of dates and topics, visit foundation.jewishpgh. org/continuing-legal-education. q SUNDAY, AUG. 29
Join Classrooms Without Borders, The Ghetto Fighters House, South Africa Holocaust and Genocide Foundation for a discussion with Loung Ung, author of the bestselling memoir and the critically acclaimed 2017 Netflix original movie directed by Angelina Jolie, “First They Killed My Father.” For more information, visit classroomswithoutborders.org/loung-ung. q MONDAY, AUG. 30
Join Beth El Congregation for their Speaker Series with guest Seth Kibel. Kibel will present “The Jews of Tin Pan Alley,” exploring the lives and music of celebrated Jewish songwriters, whose achievements would come to dominate that body of work known as the “Great American Songbook.” Classic recordings, rare video clips, and “live” performances from the instructor will make this program as exciting as the music itself. 12 p.m. bethelcong.org PJC
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The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Volunteer Center’s August VOOM will be tree tending in Squirrel Hill with Tree Pittsburgh. Meet on Murray Avenue near Forward (across from parking lot between Starbucks and GetGo). Be prepared to get messy and dress appropriately. 6 p.m. Register at jewishpgh. org/event/voom-with-tree-pittsburgh.
Join the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh on Zoom to learn more about the Mega Mission 2022. The mission will take place in Israel June 13-21, 2022. This is your chance to hear the details and ask all your pressing questions. RSVP required to receive Zoom link. 7 p.m. jewishpgh.org/event/21mega-mission-2022-general-informationsession-7-11-2021
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Headlines Despite COVID restrictions, Pittsburgh students enjoying internships through Onward Israel — LOCAL — By Sarah Abrams | Staff Writer
nward Israel: Pittsburgh, the local branch of a heavily subsidized program allowing university students to travel to Israel for high-level summer internships, is up and running in person again after last summer’s program had to be conducted virtually because of the pandemic. The 29 participants in Onward Israel’s Pittsburgh cohort are either native Pittsburghers or attend a university in Pittsburgh. They are paired with an Israeli company based upon their skills, professional interests and future plans. The program was first established in 2012 under the umbrella of the Jewish Agency for Israel, but is now an independent U.S.-based nonprofit. It was conceived by Pittsburgher Cindy Shapira while she served on the strategic planning committee of the board of the Jewish Agency under the leadership of Natan Sharansky. The Pittsburgh branch of Onward Israel is one of the first to return to in-person internships for the 2021 summer session, according to organizers and, because of the ongoing pandemic, precautions had to be taken to ensure the safety of participants. Before boarding their plane to Israel, students were required to be fully vaccinated and tested for COVID within 72 hours of their flight. They were tested for COVID again at the airport upon arrival in Israel and required to quarantine until they received confirmation of a negative test result. After these precautions were taken, members of the Onward Israel: Pittsburgh cohort were allowed to attend their internships in person, without social distancing protocols, although masks on public transportation have been required. Members of the Pittsburgh cohort are interning for a broad range of companies and nonprofits. Sam Meyers, a rising junior at the University of Pittsburgh, for example, is interning as a Hebrew-English translator with a nonprofit called Paamonim, which helps Israelis with financial literacy. Etan Cohn, a rising junior at Carnegie Mellon University, is working in the field of data science for Myndlift, a company that makes neurofeedback therapy more accessible by offering it to patients remotely from their own homes. Cohn said the COVID restrictions in the
Some members of the Onward Israel: Pittsburgh cohort in Haifa
“ Thanks to the phenomenal work and
dedication of the Onward Israel team, even during such challenging conditions that we’ve experienced in the pandemic, our students were still able to have meaningful and productive internships and Jewish
— DAN MARCUS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND CEO OF HILLEL JUC Jewish state have been manageable so far. “We need to wear masks sometimes, for example on buses,” he told the Chronicle. “Other than these travel restrictions, Israel’s pandemic restrictions have barely influenced the trip. Israel has relaxed many mask
requirements early on in the trip, and tightened them a little bit with the risks from the delta variant. For us, that means wearing the masks during bus rides and at some restaurants, but not much more than that.” Onward Israel: Pittsburgh departed on June
Photo courtesy of Etan Cohn
9 and is set to return on Aug. 3. In addition to working at their internships, the participants have toured Masada and the Dead Sea, the Florentin neighborhood of Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem. Going to the Kinneret and staying at a Kibbutz for a night were also on the itinerary. “Thanks to the phenomenal work and dedication of the Onward Israel team, even during such challenging conditions that we’ve experienced in the pandemic, our students were still able to have meaningful and productive internships and Jewish education opportunities,” said Dan Marcus, executive director and CEO of Hillel JUC, who helps facilitate programming for Onward Israel: Pittsburgh. “Hillel JUC is so proud of the Onward Israel program and is grateful to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh for allowing us to provide our students with this remarkable program.” Onward Israel is subsidized by the Jewish Agency, the Beacon and Shapira Foundations, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. Onward Israel: Pittsburgh is organized by Sachlav. PJC Sarah Abrams can be reached at sabrams@ pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.
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Headlines JFCS critical needs support is stopgap to downward spiral — LOCAL — By Adam Reinherz | Staff Writer
hen the phone rings, Claire Burbea never knows who’s calling. It could be a single mother trying to get to work who doesn’t have child care. It could be a person who’s fallen behind on rent and needs help. It could be about the mounting costs of utilities, of which Burbea has fielded several calls of late. In her nearly 30 years with JFCS, Burbea, the social service coordinator for Jewish Family and Community Services, has answered countless questions and helped thousands of individuals. Sometimes, she helps by directing callers to other JFCS departments. Other times, she personally works with clients for weeks on end to address a problem. She is often surprised by a common response from people who have asked for financial assistance but their needs couldn’t be met. “I’ve been amazed over the years how people have thanked me,” she said, “just for talking to them,” even for just returning their calls. Burbea’s responsibilities at JFCS involve critical needs. And it’s those matters, explained JFCS President and CEO Jordan Golin, that aren’t always solved with a simple suggestion. “If someone needs mental health counseling, they can look for a therapist,” he said. “If someone needs career support, they can speak to a career counselor. If someone needs food, they can go to a food pantry. But there are a lot of issues that kind of fall between the cracks, and we refer to those as critical needs.” For example, one family that contacted
JFCS recently had their phone and internet service terminated, leaving the household cut off from communicating with the unemployment office, other family members and social services. Staff from JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry met the family members in a parking lot, agreed to pay some of their bills, provided food and connected them with representatives from JFCS Career Development Center to help with an unemployment application. Another example of critical needs involved a single mother of three children who had no choice but to stop working when the children had to switch to virtual school during the pandemic. Bills mounted and it became difficult to provide meals for her family, but the food pantry helped provide financial support, food and referrals for additional resources. When it comes to critical needs, the goal, said Golin, is to address problems in a timely fashion and to avoid a slippery slope that can lead to homelessness or life-threatening conditions. Allie Reefer, JFCS public relations specialist, explained that recent critical needs requests have run the gamut. Several callers were caregivers for an elderly or disabled parent and needed financial assistance. In other cases, people who lost their jobs during the pandemic needed help with rent. One caller, Reefer said, had just become unemployed and couldn’t afford to repair a broken refrigerator or buy a new one. Critical needs largely involve challenges “that can be solved or at least reduced if people have connections to the right resources,” said Golin. Someone like Burbea, or another skilled social worker who knows what services are available in the community, “can really help someone who’s experiencing a significant life challenge.” Simply answering the phone can provide initial help, but JFCS builds on that first
p Claire Burbea
Photo courtesy of Allie Reefer via JFCS
interaction through programs like SOS Pittsburgh, which is administered through JFCS’ Squirrel Hill Food Pantry and provides one-time financial assistance with funding sent directly to a third-party vendor or billing agency. SOS Pittsburgh recipients typically work with Burbea or Squirrel Hill Food Pantry director Matthew Bolton to manage immediate problems and create plans of action. Bolton said client need has grown since the start of the pandemic and credited SOS Pittsburgh, the food pantry and JFunds — a Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh initiative that brings together Pittsburghbased Jewish financial support services — with helping hundreds during this time. According to Reefer, between April 2020 and June 2021, JFCS Squirrel Hill Food Pantry distributed more than $410,700 in COVID-19 relief grants to over 620 households for housing, utilities, transportation, medical, child care, oxygen and other expenses. All of the grants, he said, were distributed by eight caseworkers who
coordinated through the food pantry, which also gave out 30 or more gift cards. Bolton noted that apart from pandemic-related expenses, the food pantry has continued helping people with Medicare and Medicaid issues, government benefit challenges and other general social service supports. He added that JFCS has provided more than 800 households with social services and referrals through its programs, as well as provided food to more than 1,000 households in the greater community. Golin credited the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh with playing a vital role in supporting critical needs. “In some ways it’s a luxury to be able to provide a service to help people who might otherwise slip through the cracks,” he said. “Because their needs are so varied, it’s hard to sometimes make a case for funding for a program like that, and the Federation’s support has really been important.” JFCS staffers Reefer and Burbea also lauded the Federation’s support, as well as United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Shear Family Foundation, Hillman Family Foundations, The Pittsburgh Foundation and individual donors. “People are not calling us to remake their lives, necessarily,” Burbea said. “They’re calling us about the terrible crisis or crises that they are finding themselves in.” The pandemic, Golin said, caused instability for many people who were stable prior to that. “What I hope that people would know and would consider is that we all are vulnerable at different times in our lives,” he said. “This is a service that’s really geared toward people who are in the crisis moment. And that that crisis isn’t just about other people: Sometimes it’s about ourselves.” PJC Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@ pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.
Mt. Lebanon High School students pair with Israelis during a year of pandemic learning — LOCAL — By David Rullo | Staff Writer
hen Israeli teacher Orly Zaltman was offered the opportunity to partner with a high school classroom in America, she assumed the students would be Jewish. But instead of being matched with a Jewish day school or Yeshiva, Zaltman’s students — 11th- and 12th-graders at the Ort Psagot High School in Karmiel, Israel — were partnered with the sophomores, juniors and seniors Julianne Slogick taught at Mt. Lebanon High School, a public school in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. The pairing turned out to be “a very good idea,” said Zaltman, who had been tasked with presenting her school and Israel to a wider audience through social media and other programs. “It worked out even better 8 JULY 30, 2021
because, when you talk with Jewish people, they’re already convinced of their feelings about Israel. This was an opportunity to show Israel to others.” The partnership appealed to Slogick, Mt. Lebanon High School’s global studies program director and social studies department chair, as an opportunity to collaborate with a teacher who shared her values and interests in helping students build cross-cultural competencies. “It turned out that that was exactly what this experience was for us,” Slogick said. “As much as it was about learning for the students and bringing the students together in exchanges, it was also — for me and Orly — a lot of learning as well, which is a beautiful thing.” The classes met three times in April and May over Zoom and discussed the topic of gender equality. “We wanted to have a conversation that we thought would be relatable to the students
— something that would allow them to be more personal and allow them to express themselves with less academic context and provide an opportunity for them to engage,” Slogick said. Zaltman found the lessons learned were universal, that “people are more similar than different,” she said. “That was the main conclusion. That they have the same concerns, you know, school and parents and love.” Both teachers worked hard to ensure the students had time to carry on conversations, said Slogick, noting that her students appreciated the opportunity to speak with the Israeli students and learned what it takes to carry on dialogue, both organizationally and interpersonally in this type of exchange. Of course, transatlantic communications often are fraught with challenges, even more so during a pandemic. Sometimes there were technological glitches, Slogick said, and the seven-hour
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time difference was an obstacle. While Slogick’s students were able to meet during their regular school hours, Zaltman’s students had to come back to school for the sessions at 7 p.m. As a result, rather than a regular classroom lesson, the Israeli teacher had to find students interested in an extracurricular activity after a long day of classes. More challenging for Zaltman were the difficulties of connecting with American students during the pandemic. While her class was meeting in-person, that wasn’t always the case for the Mt. Lebanon students, who were following a hybrid model where some students met in-person while others first had to connect virtually to their classroom before meeting with Zaltman’s students through Zoom. One of the goals of the program, Slogick said, was to help the Israeli students improve Please see Students, page 15
Headlines Synagogues made COVID-safe High Holiday plans. Then came the Delta variant — NATIONAL — By Shira Hanau | JTA
he leadership team at Ikar, a synagogue in Los Angeles, had just begun planning to move their services indoors. They had gone through a year of virtual services followed by several months of outdoor services for members vaccinated against COVID-19. Then the delta variant hit. Now the synagogue, like many across the country, is reevaluating how to organize its High Holiday services, balancing the high rate of vaccination within the community with the threat from the delta variant. The community’s medical advisory task force is setting a meeting for early August to decide what it can safely offer when Rosh Hashanah begins on the night of Sept. 6. “You want to make decisions way in advance, but the ball keeps moving and changing,” said Melissa Balaban, Ikar’s executive director. “And so in some ways, you know, giving it a couple more weeks and seeing what happens is going to be more helpful to us than making a decision right now.” Decisions about how to plan for yet another holiday season in the shadow of COVID are keeping synagogue leaders up at night. Those decisions range from whether or not to hold services indoors or outdoors, on Zoom or in-person or both, with masks or without, with social distancing or without, and with options available only to the vaccinated or without regard for vaccination status. For those attending services on the High Holidays, traditionally the most well-attended synagogue services of the year, that means yet another year of not quite “back to normal.” “Last year, even though we were in the thick of it, I think a lot of folks sort of went with, what are we going to learn from this, what are we going to take from it?” said Rabbi Sari Laufer of Stephen Wise Temple in Los Angeles. “Now we’re a year later and I think we’re not where we even thought we’d be this year.” For many synagogues, the assumption until just a few weeks ago was that the vaccines had made it safe to come back together in person. Many who observed the High Holidays last year over Zoom longed to gather as they always did. But the rapid spread of the delta variant has thrown a wrench in those plans. The risks delta poses to vaccinated people appear to be low — most of the coronavirus vaccines have remained effective at preventing serious illness and death from the delta variant, and the vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths from delta have been among the unvaccinated. Still, even vaccinated people who have been comfortable socializing with other vaccinated people in small groups may not
p Stephen Wise Temple in Los Angeles will offer multiple High Holiday service options, including an outdoor service for families with unvaccinated children Photo courtesy of Stephen Wise Temple via JTA
“ You want to make decisions way in
advance, but the ball keeps moving and
— MELISSA BALABAN, IKAR’S EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
be comfortable attending Rosh Hashanah services with hundreds of people. And for vaccinated parents of children who are not eligible for the vaccine, the calculations may be different. Several synagogue leaders said they would be planning multiple options for services, with the understanding that some of those plans would be scrapped at the last possible moment. At Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield, Michigan, the family service will be held at a local football field, with the rabbi and high school students who help lead the service stationed on the track. “That way everybody can physically distance in the stands, and we can spread out and use the sound systems to be able to project,” Rabbi Daniel Schwartz said. “For those families that aren’t comfortable being in person just yet, we’ll also have a livestream of the service, too.” Ikar will offer tickets to members only, who will be guaranteed a ticket to only one in-person service on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. There will also be a livestreaming option for each service.
For those who feel more comfortable gathering indoors in small groups, Ikar will encourage “watch parties” at private homes, where smaller groups of vaccinated members can gather to watch the livestream of services together. Balaban said the gatherings would “encourage people to be in community with one another, but maybe not in a big crowd, as people might not be comfortable with that yet.” At Stephen Wise Temple, masks will be required for vaccinated members in the main sanctuary. There will be a livestreaming option as well. And families with unvaccinated children can attend an outdoor service, also with masks. The Reform synagogue will also offer multiple Zoom discussion groups for those who wish to mimic the experience of being in services for most of the day, or for whom Zoom may be the only way they feel comfortable interacting with others. “We are planning a really multi-access experience,” Laufer said. At The Jewish Center in Manhattan, Shabbat services are held in the sanctuary
with two options: mask-optional sections for vaccinated people as well as mask-required and socially distanced sections for the unvaccinated. (As an Orthodox synagogue, the congregation doesn’t do Zoom or other livestreaming options on Shabbat and holy days.) It also hosts a service on the roof for those who feel more comfortable in an outdoor setting. Rabbi Yosie Levine said the plan is to keep these options throughout the holidays. “We actually just had a meeting about it this week with our advisory committee. And the conclusion of the meeting was that we’re not changing any of the guidelines,” Levine said, though he noted the committee would recommend that high-risk people should wear a mask to services. For many worshippers at this year’s High Holiday services, there will be some disappointment that services aren’t entirely “back to normal” yet. For others, the return to in-person services may be more than they are comfortable with. “I think there are some people who are going to be like, I can’t believe you’re making me be masked at an outdoor service, or I can’t believe you’re making me be masked at an indoor service when I showed you that I was vaccinated,” Laufer said. On the other hand, she said, “We definitely have people saying I just want to confirm that we’ll be able to stream services.” Laufer said the goal this year was to be safe, to gather in-person as much as possible and to upset as few people as possible. “Last year was easier, [though] emotionally much harder. The feeling of a sense of loss last year was really palpable for all of us,” Laufer said. “I think now it’s harder logistically, the flow charts we had to make — it made my brain hurt.” PJC
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JULY 30, 2021 9
Headlines — WORLD — From JTA reports
Anti-Defamation League partners with PayPal to research how extremists share money online
The Anti-Defamation League has joined with PayPal to research how extremists use financial platforms to fund criminal activity. The partnership will focus on “uncovering and disrupting the financial pipelines that support extremist and hate movements” by targeting “actors and networks spreading and profiting from all forms of hate and bigotry,” according to an ADL news release. Their findings will be “shared broadly across the financial industry and with policymakers and law enforcement,” according to the release. The ADL’s Center on Extremism will be one of multiple partner organizations in the effort for PayPal, a San Jose company that has become one of the world’s largest online payment platforms. The news release also mentions the League of United Latin American Citizens. The ADL, a nonprofit headquartered in New York City, specializes in combating antisemitism and other forms of hate. The PayPal partnership is the second it announced recently: It also announced a new relationship with the Union of Reform Judaism to launch an antisemitism reporting
tool that both the ADL and URJ will monitor. That announcement comes amid criticism from the left that the group too freely identifies criticism of Israel as antisemitism.
Canada will spend $5M to strengthen security at Jewish institutions, Justin Trudeau tells antisemitism summit
Amid an unprecedented number of antisemitic incidents in Canada, the government is set to spend more than $5 million to shore up the security of the nation’s Jewish community institutions. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement at a special virtual national “summit” on antisemitism. The new funding is part of his government’s Security Infrastructure Program to bolster the safety of at-risk minorities. A main message at the conference was that good intentions won’t be enough to rid the world of one of its oldest scourges. According to B’nai Brith Canada, more than 2,600 antisemitic incidents took place in Canada in 2020, a fifth consecutive record-setting year. Some 44% of them appeared to be related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the group said. “The rise in hate-motivated crimes against the Jewish community in the past few months is not only alarming, it’s completely
unacceptable,” Trudeau said. “As Jewish Canadians, too many of you have told me you’re feeling isolated and vulnerable.” Trudeau was among the number of prominent voices heard at the conference, which was chaired by Diversity and Inclusion Minister Bardish Chagger and former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler. Along with the many government officials, the participants included Jewish advocacy organizations, the Black community, educators, law enforcement and students. Annamie Paul, the Black-Jewish leader of Canada’s Green Party, told the conference that her support of Israel has led to a barrage of antisemitic hate against her. Trudeau noted in his remarks that measures already taken by his government to fight hate included naming Cotler as a special envoy to further Holocaust education and adopting the working definition of antisemitism developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Cotler said in a published interview that the summit was “timely” and “necessary,” but that action needs to follow words. “It can’t be just a one-time discussion,” he said. “It will have to be an action plan that is developed and implemented as a result of the discussion.” A related summit on Islamophobia will follow this one.
Algerian judoka quits Olympics to avoid Israeli opponent
An Algerian judoka reportedly pulled out of the Olympics after seeing his tournament draw, which would have pitted him against an Israeli opponent in the second round. “We were not lucky with the draw. We got an Israeli opponent and that’s why we had to retire. We made the right decision,” Fethi Nourine’s coach told Algerian media. Nourine would have had to face Tohar Butbul in the under 73 kg division. He similarly pulled out of the 2019 World Championships in order to avoid Butbul, according to The Times of Israel. Nourine is not the first athlete to intentionally evade an Israeli judoka. Iran’s judo federation has long forced its athletes to throw matches to avoid competing against Israelis. The International Judo Federation banned the Iranian team from international competition for a few days this spring over the policy, but reinstated them on March 2. At the 2016 Games in Rio, an Egyptian judoka refused to shake hands with Israeli Ori Sasson after losing to him. Sasson would go on to win a bronze medal in the over 100 kg group. On July 26, Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalrasool also skipped his judo bout with Tohar Butbul. PJC
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This week in Israeli history — WORLD — Items provided by the Center for Israel Education (israeled.org), where you can find more details.
July 30, 1992 — Yael Arad wins Israel’s first Olympic medal
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1966 and taught at the Tel Aviv Music Academy and Bar-Ilan University.
August 2, 1968 — Oil flows from Eilat to Haifa
Oil reaches Haifa on the Mediterranean Sea from Eilat on the Red Sea through a pipeline for the first time. The overland connection between Israel’s largest ports offers an alternative to the Suez Canal.
August 3, 1981 — Archaeologists, Haredim battle in City of David
Yael Arad, 25, becomes the first Israeli to win an Olympic medal, taking the silver in judo in the half-middleweight (61-kilogram) class in the Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
July 31, 1962 — Politician Moshe Feiglin is born
Moshe Feiglin, who runs for Likud chairman three times and wins a Knesset seat in 2013, is born in Haifa. He enters politics after launching an organization to protest the Oslo Accords.
August 1, 2016 — Composer Andre Hajdu dies Andre Hajdu, a prolific composer and ethnomusicologist, dies at 84 in Jerusalem. Hajdu was born in Hungary. He moved to Jerusalem in
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An excavation in Jerusalem’s Area G, on the eastern side of the City of David, is suspended amid attacks on archaeologists by Haredi Jews, based on claims that the site includes a Jewish cemetery.
August 4, 1888 — Writer Yitzhaq Shami is born
Yitzhaq Shami, an early writer of modern Hebrew literature, is born to an Arabicspeaking father and a Ladino-speaking mother in Hebron. He fills his stories and poems with Arabs and Mizrahi Jews.
August 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 response to terrorism. PJC
Please give to the JCC Critical Needs Alert #ONEDAY August 3, 2021 470,616 hours of high-quality child care delivered to working families this past school year
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JULY 30, 2021 11
Opinion Humility in pluralism Guest Columnist Yael Perlman
luralism has always been a central part of my Jewish identity, both in college and growing up in Squirrel Hill. My family is affiliated with New Light — the Conservative congregation where my father serves as rabbi — as well as Orthodox congregations. My three grandparents attend congregations from three different denominations. I am accustomed to Shabbat table discussions with Jews from all backgrounds and appreciate the range of rabbis, from Reform to Lubavitch, who live on my street. In college, I am a part of a vibrant Orthodox community but also regularly attend other minyanim. Most importantly, I see that students on campus respect and value the experiences of peers with different religious identities. But pluralism for Jews in Israel is vastly different, largely due to the control of the Chief Rabbinate. Israel is unique in that it is a democratic theocracy. The Rabbinate controls all aspects of Jewish life cycle events and acts as a gatekeeper for determining the Jewish status of any person wishing to live in Israel. As Israel is still learning to navigate these
challenges, organizations like ITIM, the Jewish Advocacy Life Center, have emerged in order to provide resources for those struggling to maneuver the difficult bureaucracies in the Rabbinate, and more recently, challenge them in court. In the assistance center, ITIM handles many cases for people wishing to prove their Jewish status — which is required of anyone who wishes to participate in life cycle events in the country, such as marriage or burial. For some, this means helping find the right documents or rabbis; for others, it means having to undergo a conversion, even if they were raised Jewish. Each case is different and reflects the diversity of people who live in Israeli society, many of whom the Rabbinate refuses to accept within its narrow definition of Jewishness. As an intern with ITIM this summer, I met with various players in the arena of religion versus state. The spectrum ranged from a Reform rabbi to the head of the Orthodox Beit Din in Jerusalem. We talked with those who wish to abolish the Rabbinate’s control of life cycle events, and with those rabbis who are upholding the Rabbinate monopoly over Jewish life and ritual. During each conversation, I was struck by the openness and willingness of people to meet and discuss these issues with us, even if we fundamentally disagreed. At one such meeting with Rabbi Ze’ev Litke, who runs an organization that proves Jewish status through genetic testing, a debate arose
about whether these tests help or hurt people wishing to prove their Jewish status. As I watched my colleagues passionately argue over the issue, I noticed the discussion was engaging and respectful. Rabbi Litke claimed there is a “Jewish gene” found in many Ashkenazi Jews which can be used as evidence in proving Jewish status for the Rabbinate. Rabbi Seth Farber, director of ITIM, claimed these tests often provide more doubt toward someone’s Jewish status and, when refused, raise questions for the Rabbinate. Despite their differences, they were able to conduct a civil conversation. While the two sides may disagree about the means, they both share the same end goal: helping the future of the Jewish people in Israel. To me, shared passion for the future of Judaism in Israel is what pluralism is all about. These small instances of civility prove to me there is a future for more inclusion and diversity within Israel. Pluralism requires a great amount of humility and respect from all sides, which even in the U.S. sometimes is hard to find. In Israel, I find this humility within institutions like ITIM, where many of the people fighting the existing religious institutions are in fact religious themselves. The fact that many of the dayanim at the Conversion Center (Giyur K’Halacha) formerly served in the Rabbinate and have now left proves to me that change is coming. After asking one of the founders of Giyur K’Halacha, a former Shas member, why he wants to convert
people outside of the Rabbinate, he stated that he would rather help people than make their lives more difficult. Throughout my time at ITIM, I have observed many frustrating cases of people who are simply trying to live their lives as Jews in the country. Still, I am in awe of the strongwilled nature of those working around me. After handling a difficult case, I often ask my co-workers their thoughts on these issues and what they think Israel could look like. Should the Rabbinate exist at all? Why do we need control over halachic issues in Israel? While I appreciate and value the religious aspects of the country, especially as a religious person myself, I see the forced Judaism that exists in Israel as tyrannical and suffocating. Without a humble and pluralistic approach, halachic Judaism, as enforced by the Rabbinate, will continue to hurt more people than it helps. When I come back to the U.S., I will continue to take these questions with me and ask how pluralism, both in Israel and in the diaspora, can continue to improve. Judaism never existed as a uniform religion, and imposing religious guidelines on everyone in the state of Israel only makes people feel resentful and marginalized. I am hopeful that the efforts of ITIM and other organizations fighting the Rabbinate will continue to create a more inclusive future for Am Yisrael. PJC Yael Perlman is a rising junior at Brandeis University.
Using my Judaism in stand-up comedy Guest Columnist Steve Hofstetter
’ve been a stand-up comedian for almost 19 years. And every single time I’ve been on stage, whether the crowd likes it or not, I’ve also been a Jewish stand-up comedian. Humor and Judaism go together like latkes and sour cream. And like latkes and apple sauce. Humor, like a latke, is subjective. But a good joke, like a good latke, is part of being Jewish. Some of my early memories of synagogue revolve around Purim, where part of the ridiculous celebration is getting drunk enough to mistake the hero of the story for the villain. As kids, we didn’t drink. But we’d howl to see gags like our rabbi taking the bimah in several pairs of pants, always pretending that each one he removed was the last one. One of my favorite stories is about the Baal Shem Tov, an 18th-century Polish rabbi and the founder of Hasidic Judaism. While some people might assume the founder of Hasidic Judaism would be a person who took himself seriously, laughter was extremely important to the rabbi. The story I love (and relate to) is the one where the Baal Shem Tov said he felt the most spiritual when he saw people laugh. My theory is that humor is intertwined with Judaism because a sense of humor is born from oppression, as it is a defense
12 JULY 30, 2021
mechanism. Jewish people have turned to humor over the years to cope. And, like comedians, Jewish people identify with the underdog. Jewish culture also makes it easy to go into stand-up comedy. When my parents told their friends I was a comedian, the common response was “like Henny Youngman!” and then they’d wax poetic about seeing shows in the Catskills. But many of my non-Jewish friends didn’t even tell their parents about their career choice. And when they finally did, their parents certainly didn’t tell their friends. There are many Jewish comedians who play today’s non-Catskills circuit: synagogue fundraisers, on-campus events for Hillel and Chabad, and parents’ weekends at summer camps. Most of these comics have entire acts based on their Jewish identity. Their jokes are about subjects like cleaning the house for Passover, feeling different from your non-Jewish friends on Hanukkah, and separate seating on Shabbos (if the show is at an Orthodox shul). However, most of my act is not about being Jewish. I’ve done jokes about it over the years, sure. One of my first bits talked about stereotypes we deal with, and one of my favorite stories was explaining to a crowd that my grandfather used to take off from school for “Erev Yom Revii” (i.e. “Tuesday”). I’ve done entire albums where I don’t mention being Jewish at all. But whether or not my heritage is in my material, being Jewish has always informed my perspective.
The early joke I did about stereotypes relied on Jewish people being told they are cheap. After a show, a woman approached me with a thick drawl, and asked me why that’s true. I wanted to explain to her that the joke was mocking stereotypes, and stereotypes are a form of prejudice. I wanted to blame the woman for her reaction. Her reaction was my fault; I wrote and said the words she was reacting to. An artist is never responsible for how someone reacts to their art. But an artist is always responsible for how they react to that reaction. It was a tough realization, and I never told that joke again. I still address stereotypes; I’m 6’4” with red hair so I don’t look like an extra from “Fiddler.” In my current hour, I talk about some non-Jewish people’s surprise when they find out I’m Jewish, and also some Jewish people’s surprise when they find out I’m Jewish. The joke still discusses stereotypes, but it’s clear where I stand on the matter. I learned from my mistake, and I am more careful with my words now than I was when I started. My Jewish upbringing informs my perspective of being an underdog and provides me with a propensity toward gallows humor. But it also taught me to be a respectable part of community. From the mistake I made early on, I learned that the most important thing I can do with my comedy is not teach non-Jews what we traditionally eat each
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Hanukkah (though I do have a joke about it). The most important thing I can do with my comedy is set a good example. I have received hundreds of messages over the years from people who had simply never interacted with a Jewish person before. Whether they grew up in towns without Jewish people or they were purposefully raised to avoid us, I was the first Jewish person they ever listened to. They let me know that by listening to me, they learned that stereotypes are a form of prejudice. Not because I told them that, but because I showed them their preconceived notions of who and what a Jewish person should be were false. I am prouder of those messages than any joke I’ve written and any career goal I’ve accomplished. Those messages demonstrate that my approach to using Judaism in my comedy doesn’t just work for a show at a Hillel. It works to reach people who would never attend one. I’ve been a stand-up comedian for almost 19 years. And every single time I’m on stage, whether the crowd likes it or not, I am mindful that I am a Jewish stand-up comedian. PJC Steve Hofstetter lives in Stanton Heights, where he operates the Steel City Arts Foundation. For more information, or to see his show “Steve Hofstetter and Friends” at the Thunderbird Music Hall in Lawrenceville, visit SteelCityAF.com PITTSBURGHJEWISHCHRONICLE.ORG
Opinion Winners of Chronicle poetry contest selected
he Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle thanks all those who submitted poems to its second poetry contest. Once again, our judge was Yehoshua November. November teaches writing at Rutgers University and Touro College and has published two collections of poetry, “God’s Optimism” and “Two Worlds Exist.” He’s a winner of the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry, the National Jewish Book Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize and the Autumn House Poetry Prize. Two winners were selected in the adult division: “Jonathan and Mariam: IsraeliPalestinian Relations in Four Parts” by Judy Meiksin; and “Peacemakers” by Fred Bortz. The winner in the teen division is Jordan Poller-Prince for his untitled poem. Poets were asked to write on the theme of peace. In addition to their poems being published below, each winning poet will receive a $54 gift card to Pinsker’s Judaica, courtesy of an anonymous donor for whose generosity we are grateful.
Jonathan and Mariam: Israeli-Palestinian Relations in Four Parts
1. Jonathan: My Wife Buys an Oud from a Palestinian Store Owner circa 1948, almost the dawn before they open fire on us in the main street of Haifa where I join the Navy as a mapmaker while my wife composes on her piano, the oud on top, double sets of strings sounding together, I imagine, as she and the Palestinian perform together at the radio station, then later sip mint tea at his shop and she buys the oud. My wife buys an oud, requires lessons from the Palestinian musician who might be firing on me while I map the Lebanon horizon in moonlight, glimmering just across the Mediterranean Sea while my wife composes on the piano, striving—I imagine—to match the pitch of the strings on the oud as she awaits her lessons. My wife refers to the oud when she wonders whether Saed resides, still, on the other side of the hill as she says “I wonder how the oud would sound under the circle of eucalyptus trees on the other side of the hill” and I convince her to first hear how it sounds on our balcony in twilight before the sirens sound and I imagine dropping the oud off the balcony to draw her attention to songs she could be writing to encourage us mapmakers to wade, at times, PITTSBURGHJEWISHCHRONICLE.ORG
in malarial waters; I need her songs to pace my steps and my heart separate from the rhythm of the guns and shells, to turn my sweat into a shield— I need her to stop pining for Saed as if he’s a lover and his wife’s pregnancy is hers, but she tunes the oud to match her piano so she can play the lullaby he composes when they last sip tea at his shop, when she buys the oud with his promises to teach her how to play. 2. Mariam: An Israeli in My Living Room When I go to America, seeking choices with my husband, we choose science over a povertyridden refugee camp in Lebanon, we choose a three-story house over a key to a door demolished in Palestine. My laboratory lets me mix platinum in zirconia as an electrical conduit, a replacement for lithium batteries; but my husband prefers batteries; and my mother, the sun over the Mediterranean that separates her from her home; none of us choose the 80-year-old Israeli in my living room this evening whose wife knew my father, gone to Allah. None of us choose the club in Tel Aviv, possibly their granddaughter, an explosion that would never happen with platinum mixed in zirconia. My invention
— LETTERS — Challenge those who accuse Israel of apartheid
The article “Survey: A quarter of U.S. Jews agree that Israel ‘is an apartheid state’” (July 16) exemplifies what is wrong with many aspects of our young people today. All too many of them are beholden to a leftist ideology that is prevalent in our education system. Today’s schools and college campuses are a hotbed of extreme identity politics which preach that Israel (meaning all Jews) are bad and are oppressors. All too many Jewish youths are being taught this in school, and in some cases from the bima. Pirkei Avot 2:3 states, “Be careful [in your dealings] with the ruling authorities for they do not befriend a person except for their own needs; they seem like friends when it is to their own interest, but they do not stand by a man in the hour of his distress.” Anyone who is preaching that Israel is an apartheid state should be challenged and made to answer for their beliefs, whether in Congress, in the classroom or on the bima. Challenge them often and with fury. There is much information to counter their ignorance. The solution is Ahavat Yisrael (love for one’s fellow Jews), and this applies to all Jews whether observant or not. Andrew Neft Upper St. Clair
Why is Unilever still doing business in China?
Unilever sells ice cream in China, even though rules governing ethnic Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang Province require children there to learn to speak Mandarin Chinese instead of their native language at “re-education” schools; men in that province can no longer wear beards or fast during Ramadan; and the Islamic greeting of “Salaamu Alaikum” is forbidden. According to Time Magazine, daily life for Muslim minorities in Xinjiang involves surveillance, indoctrination and detention. The U.N. (not my favorite organization) estimates that over 1 million in China have been put into “re-education centers.” Similar actions are also appearing in Hong Kong and Inner Mongolia, and 2.8 million Tibetans are being gathered into “urban work groups.” Why would this be of concern to Jewish residents of Pittsburgh? Well, Unilever is the owner of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. When Ben Cohen (raised by Jewish parents) and his partner sold their enterprise to Unilever, it was with the provision that “progressive” policies would be followed and Unilever would not be doing business in places that did not meet with the Ben & Jerry’s standards. Ben & Jerry’s recently announced they would no longer be doing business in the West Bank (“Breaking a 2-month silence, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream announces boycott of Israeli West Bank settlements,” July 23). But it’s perfectly okay for Unilever to continue to do business in China. I guess I’ll be very content with other brands of ice cream from now on and forget about Ben & Jerry’s. Unless they decide to issue a particular new flavor. I wonder what “Hypocrisy” ice cream would taste like? Sheryl Stolzenberg Pittsburgh
allows fuel and air to pass by one another in close quarters—I should hate him for letting me grow up in dirt, dare him to try and make me cower this evening, but he grabs my hand in both of his, he says I’m cold. Cold as the key in my mother’s kitchen drawer? Yes, he says, cold as that. 3. Jonathan: Gold Band Before my granddaughter’s Bat Mitzvah I dream she’s outside an explosion of Bus 18; she’s drinking a lemonade, her paper cup overflows with ice cubes, so much so that when she finds a child’s finger, with a gold band, she places it in her cup, believing the gold will deter infection and the ice will keep it alive until authorities find the child for reattachment. I didn’t dream I would be in the living room of a lady scientist in America two days before my granddaughter joins the army and a call on my cell says she might be in the explosion
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Please see Poetry, page 22
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JULY 30, 2021 13
Headlines Beth Israel: Continued from page 1
Posner said that JCLP helps congregations identify triggers that affect their sustainability. “It could be that you can’t find enough members for a minyan regularly or you can’t get enough people to serve on your board or you’re lacking leadership or your finances are dwindling, and you can’t keep up with expenses,” she said. “If all that’s happening, then you have to do something significant.” Then she paused for a moment. “I think we’re there,” she admitted. “We still have a quorum at board meetings, and we do have Friday night services, we don’t always have a minyan, but we have services. We’ve cut back on our expenses. We haven’t hit all the triggers, but we’ve hit enough to start thinking about it.” The congregation’s current president, Judge Gary Gilman, said Novitsky opted not to renew his rabbinic contract with the congregation at the end of December. Novitsky, who is careful to say he hasn’t retired, still occasionally volunteers to lead the once-a-month in-person services. When he is unavailable, Posner’s husband, David, steps in. He also leads prayers during the congregation’s Zoom services but he can’t lead High Holiday services, so the building, which opened in December of 1955, will be empty those days. The board has spoken
minister moved away. “It’s a fairly large building,” Gilman said, “and we’re a small congregation now. As a consequence, the cost of maintaining a building that has more room than the congregation needs is costly.” It is unclear what the congregation will do after the building is sold. Will they rent another site, buy a smaller building, find a new rabbi? “There are a lot of things in flux,” Gilman p Beth Israel’s building features numerous large stained said, although he noted glass windows. Their fate remains uncertain once the congregation’s congregation sells its building. Photo by David Rullo the cemetery is well funded. with several area congregations about The 30,000-square-foot building, which possibly hosting its members for the High sits on more than five acres of land, houses Holidays instead. more Judaica than the congregation will “We’re 130 years old — 1891 we were need when it moves. Some of the objects will founded,” Posner said. “For the first time, go back to the families that donated them. we won’t have Rosh Hashanah or Yom A man from Illinois contacted Posner and Kippur services.” offered to come to the synagogue to remove The building that houses Beth Israel, the large stained-glass windows, ensuring he which has an assessed value of more than would find a new home for them. $1.6 million, has been on the market for a Other items, like the plaques that line the little over a year. The congregation decided many walls in the building, might end up to sell it after a church that was renting in the Rauh Jewish History and Program space there had to break its lease when its Archives at the Heinz History Center. The
JCLP will help find homes for other objects like extra Torah scrolls and a large chandelier that has hung in the building since 1971 when it was donated from the former Tree of Life Synagogue in Canonsburg, which merged with Beth Israel. “It’s kind of sad,” said longtime member Debbie Sekel, reacting to the news the building will be sold. “My kids grew up there. It’s kind of my home.” Sekel said she hopes the congregation will stay together, but realizes that a leader is required. “David [Posner] has been our pretend rabbi,” she said. “If he sticks with us, or there’s another person to take charge, then we’ll stay together. It just takes one person who’s willing to take charge.” Sekel said if Beth Israel dissolves, she’ll decide between attending services at the Carnegie Shul or the Parkway Jewish Center in Penn Hills. Sekel, who lives in Cecil Township, treasures the memories of her children celebrating life cycle events at the synagogue, and the women there beaming with pride. “They were so proud,” she said. “All those ladies that were there were like grandmothers to my kids. It’s just heartbreaking to see it go away.” “You go day by day,” Posner said, “Shabbos by Shabbos.” PJC
commonwealth had no contacts with either Ben & Jerry’s or Unilever that would fall under the purview of Act 163. “The Act prohibits a ‘contract with a company to acquire or dispose of supplies, services or construction that exceed the applicable small purchase threshold’ that is engaged in a boycott ‘of a person or an entity based in or doing business with a jurisdiction which the Commonwealth is not prohibited by Congressional statute from engaging in trade or commerce,’” she wrote in an email. “After review, the commonwealth holds no contracts with Ben & Jerry’s or with its parent company, Unilever. Consequently, there are no enforcement actions indicated in this circumstance.” The Pittsburgh Jewish Coalition, which represents Pennsylvania’s Jewish communities before state government and with other Pennsylvanians, has been consulting with Kaufer since Ben & Jerry’s announced it would stop product sales in parts of Israel. “This is the first time Act 163 has been triggered,” said Hank Butler, executive director of the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition. The law, which applies to all state agencies and affiliates, including the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and state-related universities, parks and prisons, would prohibit them from selling Ben & Jerry’s products and require they terminate any contracts with Ben & Jerry’s, he said. “We understand that legislators and the attorney general are looking into this,” Butler added. In response to an inquiry from the Chronicle as to whether the attorney general believes Act 163 would prohibit a state-affiliated entity from selling any Unilever product, a spokesperson for Shapiro said in an email: “Our office is continuing to analyze all relevant avenues to ensure the Commonwealth
is doing all that it can to prevent the stain of BDS from taking hold in Pennsylvania.” In response to Ben & Jerry’s decision, Unilever released a statement saying that it remained “fully committed” to its presence in Israel, and that Ben & Jerry’s retained the right of its independent board to make “decisions about its social mission” when it was acquired by Unilever in 2000. “It’s unfortunate that Ben & Jerry’s chose to take a position contrary to its own parent, Unilever,” said Marc Zucker, president of the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition. “A boycott of areas subject to future negotiation ultimately may backfire, hurting both consumers and workers of all faiths and ethnicities who participate in the distribution of these products. Singling out Israel in this way offers no path to a two-state solution and interferes with progress toward peaceful reconciliation.” Kaufer remains determined to do what he can to ensure what he thinks is proper enforcement of the statute. Several of his colleagues in the legislature — both Republicans and Democrats — have extended their support, he said. “I’m asking the governor to not just address it with Ben & Jerry’s, but the larger corporate entity of Unilever is the one that actually made this corporate decision,” Kaufer said. “The independent board of Ben & Jerry’s forced the hand of Unilever, but Unilever has to realize this is a consequence for their business because they are the corporate entity that wholly owns Ben & Jerry’s, so they are the ones who are responsible for taking the right action, whether that means disregarding this or to change their policy. But something needs to happen or Unilever should be held responsible.” PJC
Act 163: Continued from page 1
the flames of antisemitism and I don’t want to see this happen to more and more businesses. This is something I felt very strongly about.” Kaufer said he met with the Israeli consulate, and sought counsel from his rabbi, before he sent the letters to Shapiro, Garrity and Wolf. The responses he received from Shapiro and Garrity were encouraging, he said. “BDS is rooted in antisemitism,” Shapiro wrote. “The stated goal of this amorphous movement is the removal of Jewish citizens from the region and I strongly oppose their efforts. Governor Wolf rightfully signed a bill 5 years ago which passed with broad bipartisan support to prevent the stain of BDS from taking hold in Pennsylvania. I expect Commonwealth agencies with jurisdiction to enforce the Act.” Garrity wrote: “I applaud Rep. Kaufer for bringing public attention to this issue. As the General Assembly stated in Act 163 of 2016, Israel is America’s dependable, democratic ally — and it is in the interest of the United States and Pennsylvania to stand with Israel by promoting trade and commerce, and to discourage policies that disregard that interest. Treasury will continue to thoroughly review every disbursement to ensure that Act 163 is followed.” The response from Wolf ’s press secretary, Lyndsay Kensinger, stated only that “DGS (Department of General Services) has reviewed existing vendor contracts and the commonwealth does not have any vendor contracts with Ben & Jerry’s or with its parent company. Act 163 of 2016 does not apply in this case.” Kaufer was disappointed by that response. 14 JULY 30, 2021
Pennsylvania Rep. Aaron Kaufer
Photo courtesy of Aaron Kaufer
“They’re not going as far as other states are going,” he said. “If Unilever allows Ben & Jerry’s to go forward with the boycott, according to Act 163 of 2016, Pennsylvania and its vendors must refrain from acquiring any and all Unilever assets or products.” The governor “should be using his authority to ensure that Pennsylvania vendors are not sourcing products from Unilever,” Kaufer continued. “He has fallen short in using his executive authority to ensure that Act 163 of 2016 is enforced.” Kaufer said he is taking steps to “make sure the legislative branch complies with this act as we have already made it clear that Pennsylvania stands up for its values and principles and firmly against antisemitism. It is now more important than ever for the attorney general, treasurer and governor to step up and fully enforce the law.” In a response to the Chronicle’s request for additional comment from Wolf ’s office, Kensinger maintained that the
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David Rullo can be reached at daverullo@ pittsburghjewishchroncile.org.
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. PITTSBURGHJEWISHCHRONICLE.ORG
Headlines Local Chabad rabbi now trained in mental health first aid — LOCAL — By Justin Vellucci | Special to the Chronicle
local rabbi has taken a definitive step toward safeguarding his flock’s mental health. Rabbi Henoch Rosenfeld, who founded and heads Chabad Young Professionals of Pittsburgh, recently completed a mental health first aid training course offered online by Jewish Family Services (JFS) Houston and Chabad of Uptown Houston. The course, which Rosenfeld took along with about 25 other rabbis, taught how to spot the signs of anxiety disorders, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and more, Rosenfeld said. While he is not trained to treat these disorders, he is trained to provide support and direct people to the proper professionals. The impulse to take the first-aid course came “from a recognition that something has to be done,” Rosenfeld told the Chronicle. “It was about recognizing the need to do something about this mounting crisis. Though society has made great strides, there’s so much more
JRS: Continued from page 5
for its debut issue. She said it was important for her to share her experiences because she believes it can make a difference. For the past five years, much of Temple Sinai’s disAbility Task Force’s programming centered around sharing stories about what
p Rabbi Henoch Rosenfeld and family
Photo courtesy of Henoch Rosenfeld
work left to do.” Mental health disorders account for several of the top causes of disability in established market
economies — in the U.S. and worldwide — and include depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder,
it’s like raising a child with disabilities, she said. When these stories are told, they impact listeners. Families who are raising a child with disabilities are reminded that they are not alone. Likewise, when someone who isn’t raising a child with disabilities hears these tales, they learn “that there are people in our community who have disabilities, and even though I can’t see those disabilities, this affects me.”
Kaplan said she’s excited the greater community will be able to benefit from ConnectAbility, from congregations trying to achieve better inclusion to individuals learning from someone else’s story. Gale stressed that ConnectAbility “isn’t just a resource, but an open conversation about disability inclusion. We really are better off as a community by being inclusive,
Students: Continued from page 8
their English proficiency. Zaltman noted that occasionally the American students would turn off their cameras, which prevented her students from seeing their facial expressions and reading their lips. “Even though they turned off their cameras sometimes,” Zaltman said, “they talked a lot and joined the discussion and were interested in what was taking place.” Slogick’s students learned how important it was to speak clearly and deliberately and to be thoughtful and reflective, she explained. The two teachers have kept in touch and are investigating if, and how, they can continue the same type of program next year. Zaltman said in Israel the program would most likely consist of many of the same student volunteers, but for Slogick it would be a new group of students. The twinning experience was coordinated by Debbie Swartz, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Israel and overseas planning associate, and Aya Ovadia, Partnership2Gether’s director in Israel. Both teachers had reached out to their in-country representatives independently, interested in connecting with an overseas PITTSBURGHJEWISHCHRONICLE.ORG
p Clockwise from top left: Mt. Lebanon teacher Julianne Slogick, Aya Ovadia from Partnership2Gether, and Israeli teacher Orly Zaltman meet online to discuss a twinning program between the two teachers and their students. Photo provided by Orly Zaltman
classroom, said Swartz. After the schools were connected, Classrooms Without Borders, another community partner based in Pittsburgh, stepped in to assist with the educational piece of the program. “I work on designing learning platforms for them to make a seamless experience,” explained Ellen Resnek, Classrooms Without Borders’ education programs and outreach manager. Resnek helped the two schools iron out
technological issues and introduced Flipgrid, a Google app, to facilitate the lessons. She also worked with the teachers to locate resources based on the topic they had chosen. “They were looking at women as changemakers,” she said. “That was their unifying topic, but they talked about the #MeToo movement and its equivalent in Israel. I pulled together resources of women entrepreneurs as changemakers in business and industry and education.”
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according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The National Institute of Mental Health Disorders, which falls under the National Institutes of Health, estimates that 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 18 “suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.” As a community rabbi, Rosenfeld is often the first line of defense for someone struggling with mental health issues or related problems, he said, comparing his role for area Jews to that of a first responder. “It’s something I think can help those seeking help,” Rosenfeld said. “We have to do something about it.” Rosenfeld said he was fortunate to hear about the course, which was conducted virtually due to COVID-19. The course was led by a rabbi and a social worker from JFS Houston. Rosenfeld said that the mental health first aid course is a program he’d love to develop or see developed in the Greater Pittsburgh area. “It’s definitely something I feel our community could benefit from,” Rosenfeld said. “It is on us to better spread awareness.” PJC Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.
and that’s something we want to emphasize in all the pieces we put out.” ConnectAbility will be shared by email and through JRS’ social media channels. Those interested in receiving the digital publication can sign up at jrspgh.org. PJC Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@ pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.
Although the program ended a few weeks before the most recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, both teachers think the experience helped their students understand the issue better. “They saw that Israeli students are the same as they are,” Zaltman said. “They probably learned that they have a lot more in common with their counterparts in Israel,” said Slogick. “They got the impression that their concerns and interests as teenagers are quite similar.” The two teachers also bonded through the experience. “Julianne wrote me [after the conflict began],” Zaltman said. “She was very worried about me and my family. She was concerned. It was very touching.” Partnership2gether’s Ovadia said that while it might seem surprising that a school in Mt. Lebanon and one in Israel would create a partnership during a pandemic, in the end, the coronavirus might be responsible for the connection. “They both wanted to connect to something bigger than the class where they usually teach,” she said. “We, as the partnership, were very, very happy to help them.” PJC David Rullo can be reached at daverullo@ pittsburghjewishchronicle.org. JULY 30, 2021 15
Life & Culture A stress-free recipe for spiced baked kibbeh — FOOD — By Jessica Grann | Special to the Chronicle
ibbeh is one of those traditional Middle Eastern delicacies that many of us want to eat, but don’t want to take the time to create. The spices of baharat and cinnamon create a mouth-watering aroma in your kitchen. While the ingredients are fairly basic, it’s time-consuming to prepare. Kibbeh has a meat shell and a meat filling, and the ingredients for both are similar. This recipe offers the taste without the stress of the preparation. You can make kibbeh as a main course or serve it as an appetizer. We often eat this for Shabbat lunch because it’s easy to reheat and serve. I prefer to use ground lamb, but you can use ground beef or a combination of the two. Spice baked kibbeh
In a food processor, shred the onion or, if you prefer, chop it by hand. Place a skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and sauté about ¾ of a pound of ground beef or lamb. When it is about half cooked, add the onion and spices and sauté until the onion is soft and the meat is fully cooked. Remove from heat and stir in the pine nuts. Set aside. For the shell: 1 cup fine bulgur wheat, or coarse bulgur if fine is unavailable 2 cups boiling water 1 ¼ pound ground lamb or beef (do not use lean meat) 1 medium onion, finely chopped 1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon pepper 1 teaspoon cinnamon ½ teaspoon allspice 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons pine nuts for garnish Chopped parsley for garnish
Photo by Jessica Grann
For the filling: ¾ pound ground lamb or ground beef 1 medium onion, finely chopped 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 teaspoons baharat spice, also known as Syrian or Lebanese 7 Spice ½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt ½ teaspoon ground black pepper ⅓ cup pine nuts
Preheat the oven to 400 F, and place the wire rack into the middle of the oven. Boil 2 cups of water in a kettle. Pour boiling water over the bulgur in a bowl, covering it, then place a plate over the bowl to help keep the steam in. Allow the bulgur to sit at least 20 minutes. You can rinse it with cool water if it’s still warm when it’s time to mix it. Scoop the bulgur into a mesh sieve to drain. Using your hands, push out any excess water from the bulgur and set aside. I finish this step before starting on the filling. Combine all of the ingredients for the shell and mix well with a food processor or by hand. If you have a small food processor, you may need to do this in 2-3 batches; if you mix by hand, use a large bowl and mix it really well so the ingredients combine and the consistency of the meat mixture becomes smooth. Lightly grease a 9-inch-by-13-inch Pyrex or rectangular baking dish.
Take a little more than half of the shell mixture and press it across the bottom of the dish and about halfway up the sides. If your hands feel sticky, run them under water as needed, and continue to work the mixture. Spread the loose meat and pine nut filling mixture evenly over the bottom layer, then form the top layer with the remaining shell mixture. I make several patties as if I am forming hamburger patties, and I lay them across the top. Then I take a fork to evenly distribute the meat and to make sure there are no holes on the top layer; all of the “patties” you formed will combine across the top. Take a silicone spatula to fold the meat on the side of the dish in toward the middle to create a sealed edge all the way around the kibbeh, making a large rectangular meat pocket.
news JEWS CAN USE.
Smooth out the top layer with the spatula before inserting a knife slightly into the top layer, creating the cutting lines for the pieces. This is to create a guide for when the kibbeh is finished baking — don’t cut down far into the dish, just lightly score the top. Make 4 evenly spaced vertical cuts, then 2 horizontal cuts, to create 12 evenly sized squares. Score each square on the diagonal so there are 24 diamonds. Brush the top with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil before pressing one pine nut into the middle of each diamond. Bake for 40 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before serving. This recipe serves beautifully with pita, mezze and salatim. Enjoy! PJC Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.
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Life & Culture Celebrity coroner Cyril Wecht portrays himself in new film — FILM — By Justin Vellucci | Special to the Chronicle
orld-renowned medical examiner Dr. Cyril Wecht is the star of a new film in the making that bears his name. Well, sort of. Though Wecht, a prominent Jewish Pittsburgher who made a name for himself through his work on the JFK assassination and the O.J. Simpson murder trial, plays himself in “Cyril,” the real stars might be the film’s protagonist and antagonist: a white, conservative reporter interviewing Wecht and the Black, liberal cameraman capturing it on tape. The film, based on a play by August Wilson protégé Mark Clayton Southers, directed by Andrew Paul and shot in Pittsburgh, takes place on the day a Minneapolis policeman killed George Floyd; a sense of tension and dread, of collective reckoning and deep questions of social justice, pervade the film. A project of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Company, the film features extensive — and new — interviews with Wecht. “It sounds like a documentary, right?” said Paul, the producing artistic director of Pittsburgh’s Kinetic Theatre Company. “But Mark has woven this whole fictional drama around Dr. Wecht. What he’s written is sort of a Black Lives Matter film.” The film received an invitation-only screening in Pittsburgh for its donors and supporters last week, though you won’t be seeing it in Pittsburgh arthouses anytime soon. In order to enter it on the festival circuit, the film cannot have paying viewers before a festival premiere, Paul said. “Our hope is we can get it into a couple festivals in the fall and winter, then follow that up, once it has a name for itself, with a run in Pittsburgh,” Paul told the Chronicle. David Whalen, who plays a conservative reporter in the film, said Southers wrote the role, in part, for him. Whalen said few actors would want to portray a character embodying “flippant racism.” “That’s my job — to try to give it life,” said Whalen, who grew up in Pittsburgh, graduated from Point Park University and starred in about 50 local plays before moving to South Carolina. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are like my character out there. They’re human but they’re set in their ways. And they’re fearful of change.” Whalen knew he wanted to be involved with the project as soon as he read about it, and said, “Wow, this is really timely and interesting” after seeing the script. He said that although the film involves Wecht’s life,
p From left: Dr. Cyril Wecht, Sam Lothard and David Whalen in “Cyril”
p From left: Dr. Cyril Wecht, Jenny Malarkey and Cherrita Southers in “Cyril”
it also deals with race in America. Paul, for his part, had nothing but rave reviews for Wecht. He said that even at 90 years old, the legendary coroner and Allegheny County icon did not complain when shooting lengthy scenes or unfurling his colorful monologues about forensics. “He is a natural performer,” Paul said.
“And he’s a master storyteller — his takes on this stuff are just amazing.” Paul said he hopes the film will be entered into Sundance and Telluride festivals, among others. He’s preparing to answer a lot of questions about whether “Cyril” is a feature film or a documentary. Since Wecht plays himself and talks extensively about his life and career
STORIES COME TO life HERE.
Stills from film courtesy of Andrew Paul
in the feature, it might be hard to avoid being slotted into the documentary category. “In a way, though, that’s to our advantage,” Paul said. “I don’t know of many films doing what we’re doing.” PJC Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.
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‘Open up your hearts….’
Dr. Jonah and Robin Klein of Merion Station, Pennsylvania, are thrilled to announce the birth of their son, Oren Jude (Oren Yehudah), born on July 12, 2021 (3rd of Av). Oren is loved by his nearly 20-month-old sister, Eliana Aviva. Oren Jude is the grandson of Jessica Rudner of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, and Steven Rudner of Ardmore, Pennsylvania, as well as Rabbi Cheryl and Mark Klein of Margate, New Jersey (formerly Pittsburgh). Great-grandmothers are Carole Rudner of New Jersey and Betty Barlow of White Oak, Pennsylvania. Oren Jude is named in loving memory of his maternal great-grandfather, Warren Lee Rudner, and his paternal great-granduncle Judah Klein. PJC
Call for Shore-Whitehill Award nominations
ominations are being sought for the Shore-Whitehill Award, given annually by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and Jewish Residential Services to celebrate the Pittsburgh Jewish community’s champions of inclusion. Previous recipients of the Shore-Whitehill Award include Lisa Lederer, co-chair of the DisAbility Task Force at Temple Sinai for her effort in working against mental health stigma; Dr. Matthew Keller, former board chair of Jewish Family and Community Services, for his work for inclusion of people with disabilities; and Dorothy Pollon, a member of the board of directors of Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh, who has advocated on behalf of children and young adults with disabilities. Nominations will be weighed by the value
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of the nominee’s contributions as a champion of inclusion, and the commitment of the nominating organization to publicly honor the nominee, to “serve as a springboard for change and inspire further action by others,” according to a press release. The group or organization whose nominee is selected will receive a grant of $1,000 to help underwrite the costs of hosting a recognition event and/or inclusion activities to be held during Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month, which will be February 2022. The deadline for nominations is Tuesday, Aug. 31. For more information, or to access the nomination form, visit jrspgh.org or contact Alison Karabin at akarabin@jrspgh. org or 412-325-0039. PJC — Sarah Abrams
Rabbi Chuck Diamond Parshat Eikev Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:25
e wake up each morning thanking God for putting the breath of life into us. We pray, appreciating the continual acts of God’s creation each and every day. Yet this is not enough. We must remember who we are and where we came from. We must, as Moses enjoins the people of Israel as they prepare to enter the Promised Land, “revere the Lord your God to walk only in His paths, to love Him and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.” In this parshat, we are told to “circumcise” our hearts: “Cut away therefore, the thickening about your hearts and stiffen your necks no more.” The Etz Chaim commentary teaches us this means, the “foreskin” of our heart: “The foreskin is what blocks your heart and renders inaccessible to God’s teachings. It is a metaphor for the mental obstruction that has made Israel stubborn.” We live in a world filled with the wonders of God. Yet there is so much that calls out
for our attention, our caring, our action. We must be “God- like” in that we “show no favor and take no bribe, that we must uphold the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriend the stranger, providing him with food and clothing.” We are a people who have suffered greatly throughout history. How can we turn our backs on those who are suffering ? How do we ignore the atrocities both large and small of the world around us? We must open our hearts to the teachings of God and let those teachings guide us in helping to make this world a better place. There is a lot that needs “fixing,” so many causes that could use a helping hand. If all of us pitch in we can make a difference. In the famous words of Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers): “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now then when?” So “circumcise your hearts” and open yourself to the needs of the world around us. Shabbat Shalom, be safe! PJC Rabbi Chuck Diamond is rabbi of Kehillah La La.
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Jewish Johnstown’s largest and most prominent family is the Glossers. Arriving from Antopol, Belarus in the early 1900s, two significant branches of this very large family tree established the longstanding Glosser Brothers department store and then later the regional Gee Bee chain, and M. Glosser and Sons, starting in scrap metals and diversifying into steel manufacturing. Both branches, and their many generations of leaders, made and continue to make a difference in the quality of life throughout Western Pennsylvania and in Israel, with offspring of this far flung family carrying on the traditions of tzedakah in a most meaningful and appreciable way wherever they live. The general community held the Glosser Family in high esteem. The name “Dave Glosser” carried weight. Be it “Store Dave”, the Glosser “Brother” known as a brilliant merchant, or “Scrap Dave” a giant in Johnstown industry and whose legacy established the David A. Glosser Foundation, these “Daves” got things done. Both were involved with 1936 Johnstown Flood relief, and were key to lead gifts for the Cambria County War Memorial, YMCA, and Conemaugh Memorial Hospital. The entire Glosser Family was steeped in Zionism going back to when family members served in World War I’s British Jewish Legion. Much of the Glosser Family is buried within Israel Isaiah’s section of Grandview Cemetery. For more information about JCBA cemeteries, to volunteer, to read our complete histories and/or to make a contribution, please visit our website at www.JCBApgh.org, email us at email@example.com, or call the JCBA office at 412-553-6469
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Obituaries BRODY: Marilyn Brody, on July 21, 2021. Marilyn lit up the room. She maintained friends from her early days at HB Davis and Colfax Schools, to her days of modeling in Florida, to her wonderful neighbors at Beacon Hill. Marilyn was the sister of Dorothy Dresbold Greenberg and the late Jeanette Meyers. She is survived by nieces and nephews, Joel Dresbold (Amy), Cherie and Michelle Dresbold, Martin Meyers (Julia) and Arlene Meyers; great-nieces and -nephews Elizabeth, Ben, Lyle, Seth, Cara, Beth and the late Ron Meyers; and great-great-nieces and -nephews Kennedy, Lincoln and Miles. Marilyn leaves behind her treasured cat and dog, Chloe and Sammy, who will be adopted by Dorothy and Michelle. Those who knew Marilyn were blessed. Services were held at Ralph Schugar Chapel, Inc., 5509 Centre Ave., Shadyside on Sunday, July 25, 2021, at 11:30 a.m. Interment Pliskover Cemetery, Kennedy Township. Contributions in Marilyn’s memory may be made to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, the Jewish Association on Aging, 200 JHF Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15217, or to a charity of the donor’s choice. Arrangements entrusted to Ralph Schugar Chapel, Inc., family owned and operated. schugar.com. FEINBERG: Miriam (Mitzi) G. Feinberg, of Pittsburgh, passed away peacefully on July 20, 2021. Mitzi was born on Aug. 24, 1930, in Kittanning, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of Ben and Ethel Cowen. Mitzi is survived by her loving husband Robert; children Vicki Cayuela (Jeff Plymell), Glen (and late son Neil); grandchildren Lauren and Ben Baer, Ali Cayuela, Jordan and Bob Dornin, Hannah Feinberg, Mia Feinberg, Nick Griffiths and Max Feinberg. Mitzi is also survived by four great-grandchildren, Arielle, Ruby, Beau and Jake. Mitzi was beloved by all for her commitment to her family and friends. Mitzi was a loving wife to her husband, Bob, for 70 years. Bob and Mitzi’s marriage is an inspiration to all that knew and loved her. Cryptside services and entombment were held at Beth Shalom Cemetery. Contributions may be made in Mitzi’s memory to the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, 5115 Centre Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15232. Arrangements entrusted to Ralph Schugar Chapel, Inc. schugar.com
KRANICH: Annette R. Kranich, on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. Beloved wife of 62 years to Joel Kranich. Loving mother of Dana Braun (Mark) and Jay Kranich (Tracy). Grandmother of Hannah, Benjamin, Christian and Geoffrey. Annette was a graduate of Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh. She graduated from Pine Manor Jr. College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and the University of Pittsburgh, Class of 1960. She held a master’s degree in education from the University of Pittsburgh and taught for most of her 30 years of teaching at Beltzhoover Elementary School in Pittsburgh. She was one of the founding members of the Pittsburgh ALS Association. She loved to travel and was a superb cook. Special thanks to caregivers, Lisa, Charice, Kim and Rose. Services and interment private. Contributions may be made to The ALS Association, W. PA Chapter, 416 Lincoln Ave., Millvale, PA 15209 or charity of donor’s choice. Arrangements entrusted to Ralph Schugar Chapel, Inc., family owned and operated. schugar.com LEBOVITZ: Beverly (Kordish) Lebovitz, on Sunday, July 25, 2021. Beloved wife of the late Allen W. Lebovitz. Loving mother of Jeff (Robin) Lebovitz and Paul Lebovitz (Mark Caldone). Devoted grandmother of Sean Lebovitz. Sister-in-law of Claire (Morris) Weinbaum. Sister of the late Herbert Kordish. Also survived by nieces and nephews. Graveside service and interment were held at Beth Shalom Cemetery, Contributions may be made to Rick Lebovitz-Emma Kaufmann Camp Fund, c/o Jewish Community Center, 5738 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15217 or Adagio Health, 2 Gateway Center, Suite 500, 603 Stanwix St., Pittsburgh, PA 15222, (adagiohealth.org). Arrangements entrusted to Ralph Schugar Chapel, Inc., family owned and operated. schugar.com STEIN: Judith (Heiser) Stein, on Thursday, July 22, 2021, after a long battle with ALS. Beloved wife for 64 years to Alvin J. Stein. Loving mother of Adele (Warren) Sufrin, Shari (Mark) Klafter and Betty Sue (Larry) Rich. Daughter of the late Cantor Mordecai G. and Elly Heiser. Grandma of Ilana, Rena, Leah and Dana Sufrin, Naomi and Rebecca Klafter, Andrew and Ellie Rich. Also her loving caregivers from JFCS. Judith was a schoolteacher with Pittsburgh Public Schools for 30 years. Services were held at Ralph Schugar Chapel, Inc. Interment B’nai Israel Cemetery. Contributions may be made to The ALS Association, W. PA Chapter, 416 Lincoln Ave., Millvale, PA 15209. schugar.com PJC
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Sunday August 1: Sarah Aronson, Irwin George Berman, Nathan Corn, Milton David Daniels, Abraham Herman, Ida Garber Hytovitz, William Kaplan, Samuel S. Lewinter, Leon Loibman, Morris Middleman, Hazel Rose Newman, Samuel Simon, Harry Suttin, Merle Weitz, Leah Wekselman, Samuels Zionts Monday August 2: Eda Yitta Katron Ash, Etta Borof, Etta Borof, Charlotte Charapp, Lois Pearlman Diamond, Dora Fargotstein, David Finkel, Ronald Friedken, Arthur Friedman, Faye Glasser, Libbie Glasser, Rebecca Goldstein, John J. Gruene, Esther F. Horelick, Charles Laufe, Kenneth Phillip Levenson, Pauline Loibman, Anne P. Morris, Merle M. Pearlman, Mary Plung, Harry Serbin, Clara Ida Shapiro Tuesday August 3: Samuel Danzinger, Abraham Gernstat, Samuel Green, Elliott Hansell, Jennie Herron, Richard Lebby, Dina Schiff, Tzulel Seiavitch, Hymen Weiss, Gussie Wright Wednesday August 4: Andrew Cohen, Minnie Drosnes, Lena K. Friedman, Benjamin Heller, Elenora Soupcoff Heller, Hyman Herman, Norma Kalmenson, Phillip Lerner, Bessie Mallinger, Shirley Markowitz, Molly Pollock, David Rabinovitz, Meyer Maier Talenfeld, Jacob Wells, Joan Elise Ratowsky Whitley Thursday August 5: Marion Jessica Blumenfeld, Helen Finkel Eger, Esther Fried, Max Hadburg, Lottie Heller, William Katz, Rose Lieber, Louis Olitzky, Bettie Olender Polak Tanur, Anita Ohringer Ruslander, Gabrielle Heliene Segall, Sam Weinberger Friday August 6: Hazel R. Dickler, Sam Garfinkel, Samuel Goldenson, Philip Goodman, Abraham Katz, Samuel Krasik, Jack Morris, Abraham S. Robins, Albert Shapiro, Fay Oppenheim Stein, Mollie E. Swartz, Fannie Cohen Weiner, Saul H. Weissman, Myers L. Zacks Saturday August 7: Ruth E. Bell, Harry Gottesman, Eugene I. Hilsenrath, Frank Kress, William S. Mason, Rosa Perlstein, Dorothy Miller Ryave, Gertrude Siegel, Lillian Linder Silverman, Frank Solomon
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Real Estate RELATOR SERVICES
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Life & Culture Meet the rabbi who still blows the shofar every night at 7 to salute health care workers — COMMUNITY — By Shira Hanau | JTA
abbi Janise Poticha had been blowing the shofar on her terrace every evening at 7 for five months when the daily ritual began to take on a new meaning. Her sister contracted COVID in August and, after a week and a half at home, had to be hospitalized and later intubated. “She spent a great amount of time closer to death than life,” Poticha said. Unable to visit her sister in the hospital, Poticha continued to join the 7 p.m. cheers for health care workers by blowing the shofar, a ram’s horn, every evening from her Upper West Side apartment’s terrace. For Poticha, a rabbi at Temple Sinai of Massapequa on Long Island, the shofar reminded her of the binding of Isaac when Abraham slaughters a
Poetry: Continued from page 13
of the night club in Tel Aviv. This scientist knows the view of Israel from a refugee camp in Lebanon, might have played on the same horizon I mapped out for our Navy before she was born. Let luck have it that if my legs give way, the scientist will offer crutches, if my fears give way, she’ll turn on a shortwave radio, if her choke gives way, we’ll be another step closer to the ionosphere. 4. Mariam: Blame & the Palestinian Refugee Status in Lebanon • My mother blames the Jews, my father—the ‘48 war. My brothers blame the rich, my threeyear-old stomach—the U.N. For keeping me hungry. The Lebanese blame the Syrians, The Israelis—the Arab Nations; my cousin blames no one But says—when we become school children—I found out we’re made up Of atoms that roll around wherever there’s space, and I decide To be an atom. • Like an atom, I can choose to be part of a crystal wall, know my position, or amorphous in order to look for others like me, willing to be carried in an air wave without hate or love, blame or self-doubt, but rather curiosity: when we’re hungry, how do we draw water out of sand? when we’re cold, how do we store the sun? 22 JULY 30, 2021
p Since the early days of the pandemic, Rabbi Janise Poticha has kept up her shofar-blowing at 7 p.m. daily as a salute to health care workers.
Photo by Lydia Orias via JTA
ram in place of Isaac, allowing Isaac to live. “During that time, not being able to when we’re falling in the heat, how do we wrap a lizard skin around ourselves and when we meet the enemy let us ask How can I help you? How else will I know whether the enemy is Israeli or everybody’s fear of one another? • Unlike fear that will unwelcomingly penetrate a wall, atoms gravitate toward others that complement them, that is, complete them, that is, create bonds to repel too much heat and dig a channel welcoming more atoms; we don’t ask, Do you support the government’s decision to put up barbed wire? Or Did you help set off that bomb.... We say, I got more money from the Science Foundation—let’s buy that microscope so we can figure out where these atoms are going and I’ll leave the window open so you can still get into the lab.... • Left-wing Americans want to know whether to believe The Israelis or Palestinians on the news and my answer is Go to Lebanon. Go to Israel. Go to the West Bank and Gaza. Go to the Old City in Jerusalem. That’s crazy, you say? It is July 22, 2006 and a group of Moslems launch rockets Today from a location nearby Tyre, where my mother lives in a refugee camp. Some of their rockets land in Akko, where my mother’s sisters Live. Israel strikes back with bombs. I want to go to Tyre today to be part of a wall to shield my mother and her grandchildren. It’s crazy, because I’m not an atom forming
be near her or her immediate family, the blowing of the shofar to me became another symbol of life as it was a symbol of life for Isaac,” Poticha said. The evening salute to health care workers was started in March 2020 but abandoned by most people within a few months as the first wave of the pandemic ended. For Poticha, for whom the cheer became a ritual, there needed to be some kind of formality to the way it ended rather than letting it peter out. Her sister would spend several months in the hospital before moving to a rehab facility and eventually going home. Even after celebrating that milestone, Poticha continued to sound the shofar at 7 each evening — to the disappointment of some of her neighbors. The week after receiving her first dose of the vaccine this spring, she blew the shofar at 7 as always. Now, however, she felt a new sense of hope. “Wow, you know, maybe there will
be a light if everyone does this,” she thought to herself. When Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York would begin reopening last month, Poticha figured perhaps it was the moment to end the cheer. “I actually thought, well maybe this is the time that we stop doing us,” she said. “I asked some of the people that were in the cheer and they were like no, we’re going to [keep doing it], this is still important.” She added: “That was about three weeks ago. And the numbers are coming back up.” So Poticha is still sounding the shofar and praying for the day when it does make sense to end the evening salute. Asked when she might stop participating, the rabbi said she could not predict. “The numbers are continuing to go up, frontline workers continue to be very stressed with what is happening,” she said, “and there are too many people not vaccinated.” PJC
part of a crystal structure Impenetrable by other atoms.
sparkle in the breeze. This is what makes you at peace. The beach with the waves lapping against the shore with the seagulls flying in the sky. The children in the water without a care in the world. Now picture this: Bombs dropping from the sky shattering houses and sending debris flying. Guns going off and the children screaming as they run for cover. The parents now crying as their child is no longer with them. The silence of the empty ness in their hearts and houses. Their child’s laughter that plays on repeat in their head. They’re finally at peace, their own type of peace, knowing that they aren’t alone. They tell themselves that I’m not the only one dealing with these despicable acts. There were promises made to fix these problems but yet still, still everyday you see another mass shooting, another bombing, another act of violence carried out on a group of people. When will it end? When can we just be each other’s friend? When will we learn that paper beats rock and words beat violence? A meeting of groups doesn’t require the troops to teach that there are other ways to get your point across. Another loss, another step back. How long does it take to get back on track? Try to help others but help yourself too. Come at the problems together and then maybe we will be able to find peace. Instead of arguing about who is right or who is wrong, accept both opinions and find common ground that both parties can agree on. Whether there is a world with no violence or a world with no hate, the only thing I know is we’re far away.
It is July 23 and I wake up from a dream: My mother visits me In Pittsburgh. She’s down the way, by the river, with one of her grandchildren. As I look closer, it’s not them, I just want it to be. — Judy Meiksin
Waterfowl paddle in a pond’s bucolic waters, Unaware of the beaver, who gnawed the trees To build the dam that tamed a wild forest stream. Deer browse on tender shoots in the underbrush Growing in once-dead matter, transformed to soil, Thanks to bugs and microscopic life. Doves coo in nests on branches While raucous woodpeckers dine below, Controlling insects thriving in the bark. We share those gentle creatures’ world With pollenators, predators, scavengers, All responding to this call to do their part: “Shalom!” That is your call, too. How will your life answer it? — Fred Bortz
A butterfly with its beautiful wings oPeNiNg and cLoSiNg while the rain falls around you. The sunlight hitting those orange and brown leaves makes them
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Community No shortage of summer fun
Campers at James and Rachel Levinson Day Camp spent the week climbing, laughing and making new memories.
p Reaching new heights
p Beth El Congregation of the South Hills members enjoy a Squirrel Hill backyard concert in support of the congregation. A string quintet composed of members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra performs an eclectic selection of pieces. Photo by Jim Busis
Macher and Shaker
u Fred Segal of Squirrel Hill won first place for his impeccable Jaguar at the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix in Schenley Park. Photo by Jim Busis
What’s new at the JAA p Who wants s’more?
p An AHAVA resident celebrates July 4.
u This bunny is funny.
p Staff and residents enjoy an embrace and cake at Weinberg Village. Photos courtesy of Tinsy Labrie
Photos courtesy of Emma Curtis via the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh
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via Jewish Association on Aging
JULY 30, 2021 23
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