Community Briefs: Eli Beer Honored


Penn Hillel Rabbi to Depart for New Job
Rabbi Mike Uram, the executive director of Penn Hillel, announced via email on Dec. 3 that he was leaving after 16½ years to head a project to build Pardes North America, an institute of Jewish studies.

“It is truly bittersweet because I still am so excited about Penn Hillel, about students and about the larger Penn family, but it feels like this is the right time. Penn Hillel, organizationally, is in a great place,” he wrote. “We have finished building an endowment, built a solid financial grounding for the organization and its facility, and have transformed a centralized regional Hillel structure into a collaborative network of independent Hillels that are all thriving.”

Uram won a National Jewish Book Award in 2016 for “Next Generation Judaism: How College Students and Hillel Can Help Reinvent Jewish Organizations.” He was also honored in 2017 with Hillel International’s Edgar M. Bronfman Award, established in 2014 to reward a “Hillel professional who has served the movement with distinction and honor.”
Rabbi Gabe Greenberg will serve as interim director starting Jan. 1. He also will head the search process for a new executive director.

Builder Irwin Robbins Dies at 91
Irwin Robbins, who built more than 5,000 homes and apartments in the Philadelphia area, died Nov. 30 in Jupiter, Florida. He was 91.
After graduating from Temple University with a degree in business administration, Robbins was working as a traveling salesman for his family’s burlap bag business when he decided to make a switch into home building, son Chris Robbins said.

Although Irwin Robbins lost money on the first job, he found a strategy that worked — building houses on lots owned by his customers. With partner Edward Meyers, Robbins began building more than 100 homes per year. By the late 1960s, they were planning their own communities. Ultimately, Robbins built more than 5,000 homes, his son said.

Aside from construction, Robbins started PFA Technologies in the early 1990s, which licensed analog videoconferencing technology and engineered early video calling for corporate computer network, and co-founded Asian importing company At Home International.

In addition, Robbins supported Jewish causes, including the JAFCO Jewish Children’s Village. He also assisted the Israeli Defense Forces in the 1980s with the renovation of a swimming pool in a captured Syrian military base in the Golan Heights.

Robbin, who was an Army veteran, is survived by his wife of 48 years, Beth Susan Robbins; his children, Andy, Nancy, Lisa, Chris and Jenn; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

National Liberty Museum Honors United Hatzalah of Israel Founder
The National Liberty Museum honored Eli Beer, the founder and president of United Hatzalah of Israel, with its Healthcare Hero of Israel award at a virtual event on Dec. 3.

The award is given to given to an Israeli whose life’s work has resulted in breakthroughs in health care research, technology and treatment.
United Hatzalah offers fast and free emergency medical first response through Israel, with more than 6,000 volunteers staffing it. Using GPS technology, the organization said its average response time is less than three minutes across Israel and 90 seconds in metropolitan areas.

The awards are sponsored by TEVA Pharmaceuticals, which has dual headquarters in Petah Tikva, Israel, and Parsippany, New Jersey. They recognize “inspirational heroes in health care research and treatment whose accomplishments have profoundly benefited their patients, their field and the global community.”

Beer almost died this year while battling COVID-19. He was in two induced comas and spent four weeks in a U.S. hospital.

Longtime Jewish Federation Employee Sandi Brecher Dies at 86
Sandi Brecher, who worked for Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia for many years, died Nov. 30 in Philadelphia, according to daughter Leslie Freeman. She was 86.

A native of Dayton, Ohio, she moved to Philadelphia in 1955 to be near her late husband Fred’s family and raise their own.

For many years, she was an administrator for the nursery school at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood. Later, Brecher worked for Jewish Federation, keeping the community calendar and fielding calls for Jewish Information Referral Service.

Brecher was a strong proponent of sending her children to Jewish overnight camp and created the Sandi Brecher Family Fund at Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, which provided camp scholarships.
She was a member of Congregation Kesher Israel.

Brecher also frequently traveled worldwide and often visited New York City to attend theater and enjoy the restaurants and shopping.
She is survived by her children, Leslie (Gary), Deanne, Neil (Emily) and Andrew (Dara); eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.


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