Married for More Than Two Centuries: Four Couples Celebrate December Anniversaries

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It’s a tale as old as time: Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl. Boy seeks approval from girl’s Jewish parents.

Four couples at Brandywine Living at Dresher Estates each have their own version of that classic story. All four celebrate wedding anniversaries this month, totaling more than 253 years of marriage.

They graciously offered to tell us their stories. One couple preferred we not use their last name.

Bernie and Suzi Kaufman
Bernie and Suzi Kaufman

Bernie and Suzi Kaufman

Bernie, 83, and Suzi, 79, met at what was then the Philadelphia Museum School of Art during Suzi’s sophomore year.

She was waiting in a classroom for the instructor, “and in walked this brand new guy. I took one look at him and told my friends, ‘That one’s mine. Don’t bother him,’” Suzi recalled. (Bernie didn’t remember that moment.)

Coincidentally, they had a mutual friend who set them up, and they’ve been married 59 years as of Dec. 22. It snowed on their wedding day.

“My mother and her friends prepared most of the food — it was one of those old-fashioned kinds,” said Suzi, who fled Germany with her mother and older sister and went to England, then came to America, during World War II.

Suzi remembered a lot of her friends were divorced by their 10th year because they didn’t have much in common with their spouses — unlike her and Bernie.

They both became art teachers, but they never felt competitive toward one another.

“We weren’t competing, even when we were basically doing the same thing. He could draw; I couldn’t draw. He couldn’t paint; I could paint. So he would draw something and I would paint it,” she laughed.

“I always say, ‘Fight nice,’” Suzi continued. “We fought nice. We would have discussions that got a little loud. But basically that’s how we dealt with things. And we kind of stuck together for most things.”

“Nothing is worth fighting over,” Bernie said.

Pauline and Harry Gerstman
Pauline and Harry Gerstman

Pauline and Harry Gerstman

Pauline and Harry may be in their 90s, but they seem decades younger, inside and out.

“And I’m so happy to tell that I’m 92!” Pauline shouted.

Their marriage of 71 years is all based around family; they have two children and two grandchildren.

“They’re very devoted to us and proud of us. I couldn’t ask for more,” Pauline said.

They were extremely close with each other’s families, too. Harry came as a surprise to his parents — he was the ninth child born two days before his older brother was married in the backyard.

People at that wedding used to say, “We want to see the bride with her mother-in-law’s baby,” Pauline said.

Later, when he was out of diapers, the two met at a party Pauline’s uncle was throwing. He was a waiter in the Catskills and hired Harry to help at the party.

They got married in Brooklyn on Dec. 23, one of the first weddings of their families since the war.

“[Harry] just came home from the war in November, and we got married December,” she said. “My wedding day was the happiest wedding you ever wanted to see.”

The Gerstmans’ children came to Brandywine to celebrate their anniversary, and Pauline recalled older family memories.

“My parents loved him and his parents were crazy about me,” she said. “[My father-in-law’s] eyes used to light up like two electric bulbs and he used to hold me, and [my mother-in-law] used to say, ‘Don’t do it in front of the other daughters-in-law.’”

Adele and Dick
Adele and Dick

Adele and Dick

Before the immediacy of dating apps, there were blind dates.

Adele, 80, graduated from Penn and began student-teaching.

“One of the younger student-teachers said, ‘I really have a cute guy I’d like you to meet,’” Adele said.

That girlfriend asked Adele if she could give Dick, who’s now 88, her phone number. Adele was seeing a few people at the time and didn’t love the idea of a blind date, but she said yes.

After no buzz for a few weeks, her friend ran into Dick.

“It was just a coincidence that she was driving down Broad Street going into town and Dick was coming home from Center City in a convertible with the top down,” Adele remembered. “And they were driving side by side, and she called over to him, ‘Did you call that girl yet?’ He said, ‘No, but I will.’ And he did. And to be perfectly honest, it was love at first sight.”

They went out every single night that summer, got engaged in August, then married on Dec. 20, making this year their 57th.

“I guess it worked,” she laughed.

Jacqueline and Erwin “Buddy” Raphael
Jacqueline and Erwin “Buddy” Raphael

Jacqueline and Erwin “Buddy” Raphael

Jacqueline took a ride with a girlfriend one day in her convertible, and her friend offered to set her up on a double date.

They got to the guy’s house, went in and met Buddy’s brother (don’t worry, he was married).

After seeing Jacqueline, his brother ran to get Buddy.

“And that brother was very tall and handsome,” she said of Buddy.

She bit her nails at the time — and still does — so Buddy said to her that day, “You bite your nails!”

“I was ready to kill him,” Jacqueline, now 88, laughed. “Anyhow, he made a date for that night and we went out to dinner.”

Her mother answered the door that evening, wondering who this man was. “Some jerk,” Jacqueline laughed. “I said, ‘He’s a nice guy but I don’t care for him.’”

“They had a two-story home and on the second story was made into a sewing room,” Buddy, 97, recalled. In that room he came across a photo of Jacqueline’s mother.

“When I saw what she looked like I said, ‘This woman’s for me,’” he joked.

They got engaged in December — and married on Dec. 11.

Now after 66 years, Jacqueline said she still loves everything about Buddy — and the feeling is mutual.

“She’s warm. She’s considerate. She loves people,” he said. “She’s just the world.”

Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0737

Now Everything Really Is Kosher at ShopRite Bakery in Northeast

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The display cases at the ShopRite on the Boulevard teem with kosher items. Jon Marks
The display cases at the ShopRite on the Boulevard teem with kosher items. Jon Marks

Yes, everything’s kosher.

That’s the answer to the biggest question Operations Manager Shawn McGrory has gotten since ShopRite at 11000 Roosevelt Blvd. announced its bakery is now completely kosher.

As part of a yearlong process, the store has brought in new pans, ovens, utensils, paper goods, you name it — all supervised by a mashgiach and Keystone K, Community Kashrus of Greater Philadelphia.

Richard McMenamin, whose family has owned the store for 20 years, first saw the demand for kosher products rise so steadily that he decided to build a special kosher section for meat, dairy and pareve.

A few years ago, he stepped down and passed the business on to his children, Sean and Bria, who’ve carried on the family tradition.

“The past year and a half, we’ve been building upon what Dad started,” company President Sean McMenamin said. “We’ve been having conversations internally and with Keystone K how we can better serve the community.

“One of the issues was a kosher bakery. As we continued to bring in more items, we gave real thought to it. We finally decided to make the investment in the facility and moved forward with the conversion.”

In case you’re wondering how easy it is to convert what was essentially treif territory to kosher, it’s not.

“It’s a long process,” explained Moshe Suissa, the mashgiach at ShopRite for 16 years, who supervised the transition. “We changed all the pans, all the tools. We got new ovens and then had to label all the products dairy, pareve and for the ultra-Orthodox.

“It’s not easy. You’ve got to change habits and make sure what pan goes with what product.”

Once all that’s taken into account, the actual baking itself really doesn’t change. And neither should the prices, since everything’s made on the premises.

“Twenty years ago, when I had the opportunity to purchase ShopRite on the Boulevard, I looked at the demographics of the neighborhood,” recalled Rich McMenamin, now retired, although he remains involved with the business. “When the first Passover came and I received deliveries, I never saw so much kosher product.

“I put it on display, and we were out of it three days before Passover.”

The best part now is hearing the customer appreciation.

“I’ve gotten a ton of customer compliments,” said McGrory. “Actually, it came from a lot of recommendations from customers asking to buy kosher bagels and donuts.”

Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0729

Rabbi Says UN Comments at Menorah Lighting Not Directed at Obama

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Adam J. Szubin, left, the Treasury's acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, finishes his remarks Sunday at the close to 4,000-strong 2016 National Chanukah Menorah Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse across from the White House as Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), prepares to take the podium. In his speech, Shemtov referred to the United Nations as a place of darkness and noted what Israel has recently faced there. Photo by Jeff Malet via Newscom.
Adam J. Szubin, left, the Treasury’s acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, finishes his remarks Sunday at the close to 4,000-strong 2016 National Chanukah Menorah Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse across from the White House as Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), prepares to take the podium. In his speech, Shemtov referred to the United Nations as a place of darkness and noted what Israel has recently faced there. Photo by Jeff Malet via Newscom.

WASHINGTON — The annual National Menorah lighting is a ceremonial event. Held on the Ellipse, it is used to mark the beginning of Chanukah and celebrate the American-Jewish community a stone’s throw from the White House. But a bit of controversy ensued Sunday when Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), criticized the 14-0 vote by the U.N. Security Council on Dec. 23 to adopt a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The resolution, which carried after the United States refused to veto and instead abstained in the vote, called Israeli settlements “a flagrant violation of international law” that damage the prospects of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Some of us are so sad about what happens [in the United Nations] with regard to Israel, we must remember that the way to counter any darkness, any disappointment is not with harsh rhetoric, not with anger, but by creating light,” Shemtov, son of Philadelphia’s Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, told the crowd, which was estimated as exceeding 4,000. “Because when we create light, the darkness dissipates and we look forward to the day when there will be no more darkness, there will be no more evil, there will be no more disappointments.”

Shemtov’s comments followed remarks by Treasury Acting Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam Szubin, who spoke about the Chanukah candles as symbols of hope. Szubin, who was representing the Obama administration, also helped light the menorah.

In his own speech, Shemtov said Szubin’s remarks reminded him of those made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he was serving as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in the 1980s.

Back then, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, who passed away in 1994, “told [Netanyahu], you are working in a place where there is great grief and darkness, but remember that in that place of darkness, you can only counter it by lighting a candle, by creating light.”

The mention of the United Nations led media outlets such as the Washington Examiner and the New York Post to report it as a direct criticism of the Obama administration’s policies toward Israel. Shemtov, though, said they took his words out of context, which were not intended to be a jab at the president.

“Of course the vote is a disappointment,” he said. “I still believe harsh rhetoric is not going to make any progress and I said as much. People will hear what they want to hear, that cannot be my responsibility. I can only be responsible for what I actually say.”

Shemtov stood by his criticism of the U.N.’s actions.

“Personally, the biggest problem I have on the vote is I find it hard to believe anything positive will come of it,” he said.

Shemtov added that Obama has always been courteous to him personally and that overall he thinks the president’s relationship with the Jewish community has stayed positive.

“The prime minister of Israel and its ambassador to the U.S. clearly stated many times, despite points of strong disagreement, the president and the administration have over time done many good things for Israel, and specifically because of that record I believe many in the American-Jewish community are baffled as to the practical utility of the position at the vote,” he said.

Daniel Schere covers politics for the Washington Jewish Week, an affiliated publication of the Jewish Exponent.

Holiday Project Delivers Cheer in the Form of Cookies

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▲ Lydia Levy, 5, helping to bake cookies at Congregations of Shaare Shamayim.
Eager kindergarteners were sprinkling chocolate chips or rainbow jimmies (sometimes both, if they were feeling creative) onto trays of cookies ready to head into the ovens at Congregations of Shaare Shamayim on Dec. 22.
The cookies were part of the synagogue’s annual Holiday Cookie Project and were baked in rounds, first by the students and later by two groups of older adults.
By the time the baking was finished, there were about 1,100 cookies — maybe a few less if Shaare Shamayim Executive Director Jacques Lurie got his hands on some, he laughed, adding that this is “a whole synagogue effort” — ready to be delivered on Christmas morning to doctors, nurses and staff at six area health care centers and hospitals.
Last year, the cookies were delivered to first responders, ambulance drivers, firemen and police officers.
“If they’re working over the holidays, it’s something to brighten up their night or day,” said kindergarten teacher Rebecca Tyer. “They’re not home with their families so hopefully they can enjoy some sweetness while they’re … helping their patients.”
The kids made cards with holiday greetings and pictures to go with the cookies.
“One of the most important parts of our program is to be able to teach the children that by performing good deeds, performing mitzvot, they have the capability of changing the world one good deed at a time,” said Sherri Herschfeld, preschool director, adding that they perform mitzvah projects all throughout the year.
This year, by teaming up with the larger synagogue effort to bake the cookies, it showed the kids a way to create change and bring joy to others.
“They’re baking 1,000 cookies. That’s a lot of cookies but it will be a lot of smiles as well,” she said.
Alex Verwoerd, 5 and ¼  (she was very specific), was baking with her classmates to make the doctors and nurses feel happy.
“They can’t go home with their families and celebrate, and they work day and night and day and night and day and night,” she said.
Grace Boston, 5 and ½, said the cookies looked good — and smelled good, too.
“I hope they feel happy,” she said, “because they don’t get to have food because they have to work all day and night.”
Lydia Levy, 5 and ¾, had fun baking that morning and wanted the hospital staff who gets the cookies to feel happy “because they’re not at home doing the holidays with their families.”
At around 2 p.m., the first group of adults came in to bake cookies called Santa’s Trash. (The final product — cookies with crushed potato chips, pretzels and chocolate chips — is more appetizing than its name suggests.)
“This is just a nice way of us saying thank you,” said Mindy Poliner, noting her daughter is a nurse. “She has worked every Christmas because it’s not her holiday, and she feels people should be home with their families. She works so that other people can stay home.”
For other baking volunteers, it’s a way of showing appreciation for the hospital staff.
“It was good to involve the children, it teaches them community service,” said longtime congregant Denise Ellner. “And for the adults, it’s good for us to give back to the community, too, and to show the people in health care that we think about them and care about them, especially if they have to work when it’s their holiday.”
“That there are people out there that care that they’re working on the holiday and that what they do is really important and really appreciated,” added Lynn Ratmansky, of the message it sends.
For Membership Coordinator Debbie Hersh, the project, which she organized, is a community builder — and a delicious one, at that.
“Cookies are universal,” she laughed. “I mean, can you ever walk into any place and turn down a cookie? Whereas latkes, people don’t always know what those are. So we want to make it so that more than just Jewish people can enjoy it. It’s really for everyone, whether they celebrate Chanukah, Christmas, whether they’re atheist — whatever it is, so that they can enjoy having a little bit of cheer. [To let them know] someone is thinking about them on the holidays.”
She was especially looking forward to the Christmas Day deliveries. “I’ve only done it once before,” she said, “but just seeing their faces and seeing that someone cares is so nice.”
Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0740
▲ Lynn Ratmansky and Sarah Meller making Santa's Trash cookies for hospital staff.
▲ Lynn Ratmansky and Sarah Meller making Santa’s Trash cookies for hospital staff.
▲ Sue and Hal Rosenthal (back row) helped deliver cookies to hospital staff on Christmas Day.
▲ Sue and Hal Rosenthal (back row) helped deliver cookies to hospital staff on Christmas Day.

‘A Rugrats Chanukah’ 20 Years Later

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screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-5-35-47-pmFor some people, nothing says the start of the holiday season better than classic movies, with perhaps It’s a Wonderful Life taking the honor of the most popular.
But for the Jewish millennials of today, there’s another cult classic that gets us in the Chanukah spirit: “A Rugrats Chanukah” — a special episode of the animated TV series Rugrats, which ran on Nickelodeon from 1991 to 2004.
For the two Jewish millennial writers of this article, now seemed like the perfect time to revisit our favorite holiday flick — and it did not disappoint.
The original episode aired on Dec. 4, 1996 — to put that in perspective, we were just barely 4 years old (sorry).
The story goes that Tommy Pickles — the lead rugrat always dressed only in a diaper, blue crop top and no shoes (very practical) — is celebrating Chanukah with his family for the first time, but he’s not sure what exactly the holiday is or what it means.
Tommy’s Jewish mother is making potato pancakes in the kitchen (his cousin Angelica gets excited to eat pancakes for dinner, then is sadly disappointed to discover latkes are just potatoes). “The miracle is these things have clogged our people’s arteries for 2,000 years, yet we survive,” Tommy’s grandfather says.
Meanwhile, Tommy’s non-Jewish father tries to create a mobile menorah, which is as adorable as it gets for an interfaith family in the ’90s.
They all go to synagogue (or, as Tommy calls it, the “synamabob”) where his Russian grandfather gets into some ruckus while acting out the story of Chanukah and Grandma sits in the pews knitting, as you do at shul.
In the babies’ imaginations, they too act out the story of Chanukah in biblical times, complete with Tommy actually wearing shoes (gladiator sandals) and playing Judah Maccabee himself: “A Maccababy’s gotta do what a Maccababy’s gotta do!”
The cartoon is astonishingly accurate and tells the story of Chanukah in a way that is clear and concise for kids (and to be honest, for adults, too). Scriptwriters David N. Weiss and J. David Stem even took the liberty of using Chanukah-related puns, such as renaming Phil (of twins Phil and Lil) as Philistine.
Granted, they left out some of the gorier details of fighting a war, but we were surprised in watching the episode how much of the story of Chanukah we actually forgot (sorry, Bubbe).
Overall, this episode was insanely clever for a kid’s show on Nickelodeon. We haven’t laughed this hard at a Chanukah TV special since the first time we discovered Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song” — or probably since the first time we watched this show as toddlers.
The bit where Lil suggests to Tommy — who thinks the menorah candles are for his birthday (every night) — that “maybe you’re all growed up now and need to get a job” had us laughing to keep from crying because of the realness.
The Yiddish phrases were flawlessly executed — “Oy gevalt!” exclaimed Tommy’s grandfather upon seeing that the newspaper used a picture of rival Shlomo instead a photo of himself for an article about their synagogue Chanukah play. And the characters all pronounced “Chanukah” with the exaggerated “ch” of every non-Jewish friend you’ve ever had trying to be sensitive and say the holiday correctly but with much more phlegm than necessary.
All the adult Jewish characters actually look like people we’ve encountered in our own synagogues, even the Pickles family.
As far as we’re concerned, the Pickles are the Jewish family of the ’90s, illustrating the troubles and tribulations interfaith families deal with on a regular basis, but especially during the holidays.
As Tommy’s father gets ready to leave, he tells mom Didi he’ll meet her at the church, to which his father, Lou, says, “It’s a synagogue, Hanukkah boy!”
In all, 20 years later, it seems the miracle of Chanukah is that this special is every bit as iconic — and educational — as it was when it first aired.
Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0737
[email protected]; 215-832-0740

Letters, the Week of Dec. 29, 2016

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Call It Like It Is: Judea and Samaria
You should not have used the expression “West Bank settlements” in your Dec. 22 editorial “Trump’s Man in Jerusalem.”
Calling them “Judea and Samaria,” which is what they were called for thousands of years, including by the United Nations in 1947, and not “the West Bank” actually strengthens the case of those Jews who advocate a two-state solution by making the territorial concessions they’re willing to make mean something.
As Yoram Ettinger pointed out five years ago in Israel Hayom, Jordan invented the “West Bank” in 1950 “to assert Jordanian rule and to expunge Jewish connection to the cradle of Jewish history.” Until then, even Ottoman and British official records referred to Judea and Samaria. Jordan’s action is exactly what the Romans did 1,800 years earlier when it renamed defeated Judea as Palestine.
“Settlements,” though, is a dirty word. It is both self-disrespecting and counterproductive.
Jerome R. Verlin | Elkins Park 
Land Names Are Anti-Israel
I regret the use of the terms “West Bank” and “settlements” (“Trump’s Man in Jerusalem,” Dec. 22).
Judea and Samaria were the 3,000-year-old names for the eastern part of the Land of Israel, until the Kingdom of Jordan illegally conquered and annexed the area in 1948. Jordan called it the West Bank to emphasize that it was now part of Jordan.
The term “settlements” is the pejorative term for Jewish communities.
Please stop using these anti-Israel terms.
Henry Frank | Southwest Philadelphia
American Jews Clinging to the Past
In the lead-up to the presidential election, attorney Lynne Kessler Lechter cogently argued against voting for Hillary Clinton (“This Jewish Grandmother Is Riding on the Trump Train,” Oct. 27). Coincident to that, a letter to the editor appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, written by a self-identifying Jewish man. In it, he railed against Donald Trump as a narcissist and liar, going so far as to employ a frayed metaphor relating Trump’s political ascendancy to Germany in the 1930s.
It is my belief that many Jewish Americans cling to a post-FDR anachronism of a Democratic Party that no longer exists, replaced by one that demands intellectual conformity and embraces leftist political philosophies, which include overt anti-Israel and barely concealed anti-Semitic views. I would advise a reread of Lechter’s fact-filled opinion piece.
Steve Cohen | Richboro

Editorial | In a World of Darkness, Let Chanukah Light the Way

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Chanukah is always special, but this year the holiday took on added significance for me. Yes, it was the first time since 1978 that the first night coincided with Christmas Eve, but truth be told, save for having more time to shop for gifts for my kids, I didn’t really give the confluence of the holidays much thought at all. (And actually, we don’t do the presents-every-night thing. With a family our size, such a strategy could quickly break even the most liberal of budgets!)
The Festival of Lights has long been associated with dispelling darkness. It takes place when daylight is in short supply. In accordance with Beit Hillel, we add a candle to the menorah on each successive night. And rabbinic commentaries stress the power of the menorah to illuminate the darkness of night.
Throughout our people’s history, in the darkest of hours even, our ancestors have found ways to kindle the menorah. At last year’s Chanukah parties at the White House, one of the menorahs featured was crafted by an artist who, as an inmate at one of Auschwitz’s sub-camps, secretly fashioned them out of nails as a way to keep his spirits up. And a 1931 photograph making the rounds on Facebook shows a tiny menorah in a window staring down a Nazi flag on the building across the street.
Driving down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, around City Hall and east on Market Street Monday night in the annual menorah parade organized by Lubavitch of Philadelphia, you might not have noticed the darkness that, although quintessentially and qualitatively different from that which descended upon Europe in the 1930s and gave birth to the Holocaust, still exists in the world. The train of cars, each with a bright candelabra atop its roof, finished their journey, well past nightfall, in the middle of Independence Mall for the lighting of a giant 30-foot-tall menorah by Rabbi Abraham  Shemtov, who just steps away in 1974, held the first public menorah lighting in the United States.
Such public displays of Jewish pride would have been unthinkable decades ago, and downright dangerous in other parts of the world in all but the last 20 years. But this week, capitals throughout Europe, South America and Africa hosted similar celebrations. In being able to publicly celebrate Chanukah, and to block rush hour traffic in order to do so, speaks volumes about how far the Jewish people have come. And yet, our homeland is being assaulted in a manner unseen for close to 40 years.
On Sunday, Shemtov’s son, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), seemingly called out the Obama administration for refusing to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria a “flagrant violation [of] international law.” That he did so at the National Menorah Lighting in front of the White House and on the heels of a speech from Adam Szubin, an acting undersecretary at the Department of the Treasury, drew headlines such as these: “Rabbi rips into Obama at National Menorah Lighting” (New York Post) and “Rabbi uses National Menorah lighting to trash Obama UN move” (FOX News).
The younger Shemtov’s comments may have been taken out of context, but the passion and urgency behind them were certainly justified. Although the Security Council resolution doesn’t carry the same weight as one that can be enforced through sanctions or military power, it encourages continued Palestinian intransigence as well as a precedent in cases that might be decided by the International Criminal Court. Whereas the White House has long argued that the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies in negotiations, the net effect of last week’s Security Council action will likely be the delay of any agreement.
Already this week, a Palestinian official was telling CNN that he held Israeli sovereignty over West Jerusalem in doubt, based upon the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan that called for what is today Israel’s capital to be an international city. His claim, just days after the U.S. refusal to use its veto, as it has in the past, represents an expansion of Palestinian negotiators’ maximalist claims.
Dark days indeed.
But the message of Chanukah isn’t just that light dispels darkness; the holiday’s power lies in its ability to transform the darkness into light. In the immediate aftermath of the Security Council vote, some well-meaning but misguided members of our community took to social media to blame pro-Israel members of the left for voting for Obama and thereby planting the seeds from which sprouted the White House’s betrayal of the Jewish state. That’s like saying anyone who voted for Reagan in 1980 set the stage for his administration’s stabbing Israel in the back at the Security Council in 1981, when it unanimously excoriated Jerusalem for destroying Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor.
The fact is, although the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump appears to be very pro-Israel — he has promised to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and his nominee for ambassador to Israel is a supporter of the West Bank community of Beit El — recent history is full of American presidents ultimately sacrificing Israeli interests in the pursuit of the holy grail of Middle East peace. That’s why trying to pin the blame for presidential actions on one side of the Jewish community or the other is so dangerous, and actually allows the darkness from without to creep within.
No, the proper response is to find ways to unite the disparate elements of our community. Defense of Israeli interests should not be a partisan issue, and it shouldn’t be a wedge with which to split us apart. Those on the left and the right might have legitimate differences as to strategy, to technique and to rhetoric, but the light that animates them all is their embrace of their Jewish identities and their love of the Jewish land. This is our chance to answer the darkness by appealing to the light inside of us all.
Joshua Runyan is the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Exponent. He can be reached at [email protected].

Making the American-Jewish Community Great Again

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By Bonnie Glick

Why is it that the tendency of the Jewish community is to splinter over the tiniest of disagreements, to near battle stations when issues as critical as the existential threat to Israel posed by Iran’s nuclear capabilities become an issue of contention? Our ancestors are, no doubt, terribly puzzled over the petty infighting that has emerged into public displays of disaffection. We used to keep our infighting private — if Jews were arguing among themselves, it was never something we’d share with the outside world.

Now there is a visceral response to air each and every seemingly minute grievance through real or virtual bullhorns. It’s not just our ancestors who are puzzled; the rest of the world is too.

For example, there was a recent hullabaloo over whether or not to attend the Chanukah party thrown by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. A generation ago, we would all have attended proudly, bragged about our affiliation with whichever organization we were involved and noshed politely on latkes. This year, not only did Jewish organizations not attend, they actually boycotted it. Why? Because it was held in the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Really? The president-elect was not even on the guest list!

Perhaps I’m too kind when I point out the behavior exhibited by supposed leaders of the organized Jewish community. What kind of statement is made when we boycott our own events? How on earth did the Jewish Federations of North America — as middle-of-the-road an organization as they come — get sucked into this mess when it decided to not attend?

I’m disappointed in the way we are treating each other, the way we respond to members of our own community. Perhaps we should take a look at what some people outside our community have been up to in ways that relate to us directly.

I just had the honor of attending a series of events where Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan made outreach to the Jewish communities in the very blue state. I traveled with the governor to Israel in September as part of a Maryland Trade Mission, and he gave me the added honor of lighting one of the Chanukah candles on the menorah in his house during his annual Chanukah party.

Hogan made stops last week in Maryland’s Montgomery County, where he visited and toured the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington and he was feted by a Chanukah presentation by children across the street at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. Earlier in the week he visited with members of the Baltimore Jewish community, an hour away, where he stopped at the Bais Yaakov School for girls and announced a doubling of state grants, to $10 million, for school choice for students at the school.

While he was in Baltimore, suburban Washington and Annapolis, the governor joked about how, during his September trade mission, he brought the different Jewish communities together, in peace, at the Wailing Wall. He used this as a comical precursor to establishing peace in the Middle East.

It was funny, but only a little bit funny. Because we all recognized that underlying his intuitive view of our community, he saw the fissures.

Our bickering is on display to people outside our own “community.” They view American Jews as being splintered. Politicians view segments of the Jewish community rather than the community as a whole.

Are we really big enough to be segmented?

Perhaps our Jewish community should take a deep breath. Instead of shooting from the hip and assuming that the incoming president portends doom and gloom, maybe we should see how he is prepared to govern. Instead of taking nuanced views about how Israel should or should not behave (as if it is up to us to have a say in that at all), or the role that Jewish organizations and synagogues should play in building up (not tearing down) the U.S.-Israel relationship, maybe we should judge the measure of the man and his administration by the policies he enacts.

When I was a kid growing up in the Jewish community on the South Side of Chicago, we acted as a community — we acted together. Although our community was not huge, it supported three synagogues (one Conservative and two Reform) and an Orthodox minyan hosted at the University of Chicago’s Hillel House; a Jewish community center; and a K-8 Jewish day school.

The day school, perhaps, best exemplifies the small Hyde Park Jewish community. The Akiba Schechter Jewish Day School was formed in 1972 when the Akiba Jewish Day School, an Orthodox school in South Shore, merged with the Conservative Solomon Schechter School in Hyde Park. The “Conservadox” merger was done in recognition that neither school had the population to go it alone, and that jointly they could continue the important mission of Jewish education and community building on Chicago’s South Side.

Over the years, the Jewish community united each May for the annual Walk With Israel, rallied together against Nazis marching in Skokie, supported the efforts of those seeking to aid refuseniks in the Soviet Union, shared in each other’s joys, and supported each other through life’s difficult stages of grieving and loss.

Sometimes it’s not a bad thing to look back at how things were done in the past. It was nice to be in a community that supported its members and didn’t take them down to make a stand and to earn a sound bite on the news or a tweet on Twitter.

Whoever was advising Jewish organizations to boycott the Chanukah party may not have had the community’s best interests at heart.

Bonnie Glick is a nonprofit executive and veteran American diplomat and businesswoman. She lives outside Washington, D.C. 

Devotion to Founding Principles the Key to Long-term Success

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As the CEO of a hospital named after Albert Einstein, I’m often asked which of our namesake’s quotes is my favorite. My answer is unexpected but always the same: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

Our ability to keep moving has enabled Einstein Healthcare Network to survive 150 years and grow from a 22-bed hospital in an old farmhouse to a comprehensive health care provider and education leader with hospitals and health centers across the Philadelphia region.

We’ve adapted, adjusted and advanced — to the changing financial environment, to new trends in health care, to the dizzying onslaught of new technologies.

Other urban hospitals have not survived this torrent of change. The startling truth is that nearly half of the urban hospitals in 52 major cities closed between 1970 and 2010, according to a recent study. In the two years between 1998 and 2000 alone, 113 urban hospitals closed, according to the Federal Inspector General.

Some hospitals simply followed their more affluent patients to the suburbs to capture larger reimbursements from private insurers. Others were doomed by competition, which led to over-expansion, duplication of services and ultimately, mergers, acquisition and closures.

Even now, hospital beds remain empty, as health care rapidly pivots toward outpatient and ambulatory care. New technologies and medications enable patients to be treated without hospitalization. Ongoing consequences from economic upheaval continue to force some people to avoid, or delay, treatment.

Einstein has been buffeted by these same circumstances, of course.

Einstein began in 1866 as the Jewish Hospital with a motto that appeared over the building’s entrance: “Dedicated to the relief of the sick and wounded without regard to creed, color or nationality.” This powerful phrase — groundbreaking at the time — assured Jewish Civil War veterans, freed slaves, women and children, immigrants, and the impoverished that they could rely on us for outstanding medical care delivered with compassion and without discrimination. We’ve long since changed our name, but the Jewish ethic of tikkun olam — literally, “repair the world” — is still our guiding principle.

Our commitment to serving a vulnerable population informed our decision not to abandon the urban neighborhood we serve today, even when we acquired a suburban hospital 12 years ago and subsequently opened a new hospital just four years ago. The expansion was a strategy to diversify our payer mix and support our efforts in Philadelphia, as our neighborhood began to show the wear of fleeing middle-class residents.

While we grow in other locations to enlarge our patient base and safeguard our financial security, we’re staying put: atop Philadelphia’s longest street, once the main north-south artery before the advent of expressways, next door to a public transit hub, surrounded by row houses and modest storefronts.

Our Philadelphia campus remains the largest independent academic medical center in the region, training more than 3,500 health professional students a year. We know that urban hospitals play a pivotal role in maintaining the vibrancy and health of a city. We not only care for some of the city’s most vulnerable populations, but we anchor challenged neighborhoods, maintaining stability by providing thousands of jobs and acting as an oasis for folks with a tenuous foothold in society.

Indeed, Einstein’s patients are so diverse that interpreters translate 45 to 65 languages every year, including some African dialects that are virtually unknown. One out of four residents in our urban zip code makes less than $10,000; one in 10 is older than 65 and living in poverty; nearly 90 percent are minorities; the median income is half the average median income of the United States. Many of our patients remain uninsured despite the expansion of Medicaid and are beset with chronic conditions associated with poverty, such as heart failure and diabetes, which require consistent treatment.

Our neighborhood would suffer immeasurably, as others across the country have, if we closed our facility. Instead of abandoning these patients, we’ve worked to find creative solutions to provide access of care with enhanced services at our outpatient care centers and physician practices throughout the city. We’ve also added satellite centers for MossRehab, Einstein’s rehabilitation facility, which is ranked among the top 10 in the nation.

Surviving 150 years in an urban setting that has undergone tumultuous change required a strategy and vision that propelled our growth while reinforcing our mission. We set out to change the world and adapted to a world that changed us — while we remained devoted to our founding principles.

Barry R. Freedman is the president and CEO of Einstein Healthcare Network.

Editorial | Obama Abstains on Israel

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At the recent White House Chanukah parties — the last such affairs under the outgoing Obama administration — there were smiles and warm feelings all around between the president and American Jews. That was in keeping with the administration’s oft-repeated assertion that it is the most supportive of Israel in history. That the White House has been so vocal on this point throughout some rather public disagreements with the Jewish state, particularly over the Iran nuclear deal, was a phenomenon frequently explained and supported by the high level of cooperation between Israel’s defense establishment and the Pentagon.

Given the events of late last week, however, one can’t help but wonder just how deep and how sincere the administration’s professed support of Israel really is. More to the point, what exactly was President Barack Obama thinking when less than a month before leaving office — and with all the death and destruction being wrought in other parts of the world — he refused to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution that declares Israeli settlements in lands acquired in the Six Day War as a “flagrant violation [of] international law”? What drove the U.S. abstention on what was so clearly a one-sided resolution? And what caused the reversal of established and repeatedly confirmed U.S. foreign policy, which maintained (up until last week) that the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies in negotiation?

Could this dramatic departure really have been driven by so petty an issue as Obama’s personal animosity toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? Frankly, we’re not sure. But there doesn’t seem to be any better explanation.

The administration has gone to great lengths to try to justify its actions, amid reports that Washington greenlighted the resolution and encouraged its presentation to the Security Council. According to Secretary of State John Kerry, the resolution made sense, since it was designed to preserve the two-state solution. The assertion was almost universally challenged by pro-Israel supporters on the left and the right who all argued (for different reasons) that the resolution likely destroyed any remaining prospects for peace and will likely drive Israelis and Palestinians further apart.

Opinions abound on what drove Obama to do what he did, what other things he might do before he leaves office and the likely success of efforts on Capitol Hill to undo Obama’s parting shots. And no one knows what actual steps will be taken by President-elect Donald Trump, his new foreign policy team and his new ambassador to Israel, although trends seem to point in a generally more pro-Israel direction.

This much is certain: U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon admitted earlier this month that the international body unfairly targets Israel. Yes it does — and this time with the support of the U.S. president. Although Trump promises to usher in a new era of American and Israeli cooperation, the outgoing administration seems hell-bent on making that a tough climb.