Bombs Discovered in New York, Life Goes On

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A frequent traveler to both New York City and Washington, D.C., I was one of the thousands of commuters forced to change travel plans the morning of Sept. 19 after first responders discovered five explosive devices at the Elizabeth, N.J. train station, and Amtrak cancelled trains up and down the Northeast Corridor.

I rescheduled my meetings in Washington and spent the day in my office right here in Philadelphia. Compared to what could have been, my inconvenience, if you can even call it that, was insignificant.
As it turns out, save for the 29 people injured in a Saturday blast in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan that many are linking to the Elizabeth bombs, as well as the explosion of a pipe bomb in a New Jersey shore town, my experience was not unlike those of other ordinary Americans. The latest exposure to terrorism is far less than what Europeans have recently faced and what Israelis deal with on an almost-constant basis.
This is why I cannot fathom one particular headline emerging from the weekend’s events (also on Saturday, a man reportedly referencing “Allah” stabbed nine people during a rampage in a Minneapolis mall before being shot dead by an off-duty police officer). With a banner of “America under attack,” the headline, found on the website of the Daily Mail, referenced an “unprecedented trio of terror strikes” erupting “on U.S. soil within 12 hours.” “Are they linked and are more coming?” it asked.
Misjudgments happen all the time in media, of course. I’d like to think as an editor that I apply a certain attitude of “there but for the grace of God go I” to these things, but as I walked through a 30th Street Station protected by an earnest if not overbearing security presence — at each boarding gate, a fully-armed officer stood with his assault rifle ready — I wondered what was possibly “unprecedented” by the trio of incidents (four if you count the Minneapolis shooting)?
We were little more than a week past the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, when thousands died after four hijacked airliners brought down both towers of the World Trade Center, plowed into the Pentagon and crashed into an open field near Shanksville, Pa.
What happened last weekend, by contrast, while undeniably scary, was just the sort of outcome you would hope for in a world beset by terrorism of both the homegrown and radical Islamic varieties: Explosive devices were discovered, disabled and, in one case, detonated by law enforcement. A suspect named Ahmad Khan Rahami was apprehended. The injured went home. (According to news accounts, two policemen shot during a gun battle related to the arrest of Rahami were not believed to be seriously hurt.)
Some invoked the brushes with terror to lament the country’s failure to defeat terrorism and the major party presidential candidates vowed to break the so-called Islamic State, which said the Minneapolis shooter was one of its “soldiers.” One of the candidates pointed out that Israel profiles potential terrorists and, if the practice were used here, the incidents in New York, New Jersey and Minnesota might not have happened.
The problem with such rhetoric is that it oversimplifies the problem and draws a false analogy with a state that has been dealing with the scourge of terrorism for more than four decades.
Few, if any, serious people in Israel talk about eradicating terrorism. They contemplate ways to minimize its effects, accepting it as a given that, in a chaotic world, there will always be those who hate you more than they love themselves. So long as there’s someone out there willing to sacrifice his life for an untold number of victims, the threat of terrorism will remain.
To be sure, the Israelis have made remarkable progress in protecting their society. The profiling of likely suspects helps, as does the security fence separating the Jewish state’s populous center from Palestinian areas in Judea and Samaria. Its intelligence apparatus is top-notch as well, aided by cooperation with western agencies and technology funded by U.S. military aid (which will increase to $38 billion in 2018, according to the terms of a new Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel signed last week).
There is probably more that can be done here to protect the U.S. homeland, and Israel provides a ready example of what might be efficacious. But that’s assuming that we, as Americans, are in a state of danger equal to or more dangerous than that of our Israeli brothers and sisters. You cannot prove that assertion when bombs are discovered and disposed of, and an investigation starts bringing people to justice.
The system, in my mind, worked this time. With a fervent prayer that it continues to work, I look forward to life in America, the occasional inconvenience excepted, continuing as well.
Joshua Runyan is the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Exponent. He can be reached at [email protected]

Letters, the Week of Sept. 22, 2016

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Reader Welcomes an Issues Focus
I enjoyed reading the Sept. 15 “View from Here” column (“Take Two Pills and Call Me After Election Day”).
I could not agree more regarding the importance of focusing in “the issues.” But what are the issues? Israel, the economy, security, the American infrastructure, education? All of the above? There’s more, to be sure. But I think a good issues topic might be one in which we encourage all Americans, especially American Jews, to take a moment and ask ourselves, what are we here on earth to do; what are our values?
We should ask these questions of ourselves. Then maybe we can begin to participate together in the same movement, the movement toward doing the best we can not just for ourselves, but for each other.
Frank L. Friedman | Delanco, N.J.
Hillel Is the Real Jewish Story at Penn State
I am always happy to read about any Jewish involvement by college students (“Young Couple Mark First Year of Serving Penn State’s Many Jewish Students,” Sept. 8). I am glad there are students who have connected with Chabad. Nonetheless, your article makes it sound like Chabad is the only Jewish game in town. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Penn State Hillel has been “the” Jewish organization on campus for more than 60 years. Until recently it was the only Jewish organization, to the best of my knowledge. As a member of the Hillel choir, I had the privilege of singing for President Dwight Eisenhower and his younger brother, Penn State President Milton Eisenhower, at the dedication of the Eisenhower Chapel in 1955. My Hillel experience helped shape my Jewish involvement to this day.
Congratulations to Chabad for whatever they are doing, but congratulations to Hillel for reaching thousands of students each year.
Stanton Selbst | Class of 1957
Looking for a Wynnefield Resident — Want to Help?
I would like to locate a woman who was a profound influence on my life when I lived on Arlington Street in Wynnefield in the 1940s. Her name then, and perhaps now, was Myrna Rosenberg. She was a few years older than I was, and she read books all the time.
Myrna lived in the 5600 block of Arlington. Her father worked for the Philadelphia Record. She babysat for me and my brother sometimes, but mainly I remember the books she lent me, among them Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, when I was still in the first grade being given Dick and Jane primers.
I think that Myrna went to Temple University a few years before I did, and that she became a librarian. I hope she’s well and living a pleasant life. She’d be about 82.
Carole Stein Appel | Alexandria, Va.

Special Needs Summer Camp an Eye-Opening Experience

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This year, I had the incredible opportunity to be the “mother,” adviser and friend to 15 young adults with varying levels of disabilities who take part in the Vocational-Education Program (Voc-Ed) at Camp Ramah in New England. My children are third-generation campers and, for the past 10 years, either my husband or I have worked there while our children make great friends, live full Jewish lives and ignore us.

I had time in between jobs this summer and, because I have always loved working with Ramah’s Tikvah program for special needs campers, I felt it would be a great way to spend the summer. I knew it would be fun and lots of work, but I never could have imagined what a strong impact it would have on me as an individual, mother and professional. I did not anticipate how deeply connected I would become with each of these incredible young adults and just how much of an impact this program has on the participants, their families and the camp community as a whole.
From the first day when the gates opened to the last day, when our building once again became just an empty space, our Voc-Ed family shared many incredible moments. For most of our participants, camp was familiar, but for others, this was their first experience at Ramah Palmer.
I learned quickly that this was not going to be just another summer at camp, but one filled with lots of special moments that would deepen my understanding of the many incredible benefits of living in an inclusive community.
Let me share just a few of these here: Because of Kate, I will always have a special association with the Shema. Kate joined our Ramah family for the first time this summer. Like the rest of camp, Voc-Ed begins each day with the morning prayers. It was not obvious to us if the tunes or words were familiar to her, but she seemed to enjoy the singing, clapping and overall ruach.
When it came to the Shema, from the first day on, Kate watched intently as I gathered my tzitzit, wrapped them around my finger and kissed them in the traditional manner. I noticed and smiled to myself. The next week, Kate looked at me, grabbed the drawstrings from her sweatshirt and mirrored my actions. From that day on, Kate and I shared my tzitzit, taking turns kissing them at the appropriate times, smiling each time we did.
Another magic moment happened one morning early on. I was awoken very early — before sunrise — to sounds of a faint voice outside my window. Slightly annoyed, I got out of bed and there was my friend Eric, standing with a huge grin on his face, singing his favorite Beatles tune, “Here Comes the Sun,” over and over again. He was so happy and content, that I had no choice but to put aside my annoyance at being awoken so early and smile at the amazing scene in front of me. A 32-year-old adult with disabilities who lives 10 months a year in a group home in Brooklyn, N.Y., Eric clearly enjoyed being in nature. He woke me up each morning much earlier than I would have liked, but when he left camp early, I truly missed my morning wake-up calls.
I was often asked if I had training in special education as I seemed to fit right into the Voc-Ed program. My response was always the same — I am a mother and it’s not that different than taking care of young children.
That analogy was shattered the first time I was brushing a participant’s hair and found gray mixed in or when I had to help with other areas of personal hygiene. As any family member of an adult with disabilities will tell you, this analogy only goes so far.
The reality is that while intellectually and mentally, their bodies may be stalled, their bodies mature in all the same ways that others’ do. I have three children who I expect to mature typically and become pretty independent; with few exceptions, this is not the case for my Voc-Ed children.
I could fill pages with the many highlights of my summer but, as with other life experiences, it’s easy to focus on all fun and ignore the more difficult times. From this experience I have true admiration and respect for families caring for their children and siblings full-time, year-round.
This summer, I worked harder than I ever have. Aside from long days punctuated with little sleep, there were times where I felt unequipped to stop harmful behaviors, redirect anxiety or make sure everyone had their needs taken care of. Now home, I realize that I will never be able to fully thank the members of Voc-Ed 2016 for all that they have given me. I understand just how many gifts adults with disabilities have to offer — whether it is highlighting the meaning of a routine ritual or teaching me to take time and appreciate nature.
I miss my newly adopted children and look forward to our FaceTime calls, quick texts or pre-Shabbat calls. In my day-to-day routine, I miss the different perspective that being around kids and adults with disabilities adds to life and think about just how much richer all of our lives would be if we could find a way to make our schools, synagogues and workplaces more inclusive.
Camp lovers will always say that camp is the most magical place, a place where life is lived like no other place on earth. While there is certainly some truth to that, there are definitely lessons about communal living and the Jewish community that can undoubtedly be applied to “real life.”
I challenge us all, in the year to come, to think about how we can create more inclusive communities so that all of us can benefit from the gifts we can share with one another.
Abbey Frank is the assistant director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

Delco Neighbors Have Rallied After Swastika Incident

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So, needless to say, when I texted my dear friend and neighbor about what had happened, he immediately said that nothing triumphs over hate more than love.

Congregational Collaboration in the New Year

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Here’s a thought to take to High Holiday services next month: Collaboration between congregations can be a good thing.

Aging is Optional, Because Tovah Feldshuh Hopes It Is

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If you ask Tovah Feldshuh, she is going to live to 104.

That’s because the versatile and acclaimed stage and screen actress has decided to stop living in chronological linear time.

Having climbed Mount Kilimanjaro last year, hiked glaciers a few months ago, visited Siena for the biannual Palio horse race and countless other adventures, the 62-year-old Walking Dead and Yentl star has decided the time to live is now.

She will be sharing her viewpoint in a cabaret performance Aging is Optional (‘Cause God I Hope it is!) at the RRazz Room at the Prince Theater on Sept. 24.

“I wrote Aging is Optional (‘Cause God I Hope it is!) because that’s exactly how I feel, I mean 150 percent precisely, emotionally,” Feldshuh said. “My beloved, wonderful husband just lost his mother June 23, and I lost my mother just 24 months ago. It gets very, very clear when you are an orphan, where there’s no barrier between you and eternity, and your generation no longer has parents, it’s very clear that if you have good wine, if you’re a wine collector, the time to start drinking the good bottles of wine is now. There’s no longer time to wait or waste.”

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Tovah Feldshuh

Feldshuh — who chose to be known by her Hebrew name, Tovah, rather than her birth name, Terri Sue — decided to be an actress after she got on the waitlist for Harvard Law School. Fortuitously, she won a fellowship that same year to the Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

After spending two years understudying leading roles and playing 21 parts in 11 plays, she became somewhat discouraged.

Luckily, she could sing and dance.

“All of a sudden, they were mounting Cyrano: The Musical, and it was going to go to Broadway from the Guthrie,” she recalled, “and I could sing and dance and they gave me 14 lines in a red dress in that show to play the Foodseller. I had one scene along with Christopher Plummer, who played Cyrano, and I started the play and I made my debut at the Palace [Theatre].”

Though the musical was a bit of a flop, her career took off “on those 14 lines in a red dress” because she was seen by an agent. Eighteen months later, her name lit up a marquee as the titular role in Yentl, first off- and then on-Broadway, which earned her a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress.

Since then, she has played other Tony-nominated roles on stage, such as Golda Meir in Golda’s Balcony, as well as on TV in roles such as Deanna Monroe in The Walking Dead — she was recently bitten off, but will appear again in Philadelphia and other cities for the Walker Stalker convention — and the most Jewish of Jewish mothers as Naomi Bunch in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

In Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, her very first scene that she physically appears in involves a showstopping number titled “Where’s the Bathroom?” in which she (lovingly) nitpicks everything about daughter Rebecca, from her interior decorations to her appearance.

“I love to sing and dance, and I got this call. They handed me that role on a platter with a five-page solo called ‘Where’s the Bathroom?’ Are you kidding me? Who’d want to pass up an opportunity like that?” she said. “Particularly on the heels of The Walking Dead, which as much as I loved, was a serious, post-apocalyptic drama.”

Plus, the show gives her New York-bleeding heart a chance to relax on the West Coast as Crazy is filmed in California (sing it all together now: West Coviiiina, Califoooornia).

“I’m a New Yorker, first, last and always,” she emphasized, “but I have enjoyed more and more working in different countries and on different coasts.

“As I get older, California is much more in my rhythm, much more than it used to be as a younger person when I didn’t understand it all,” she continued with a laugh. “I was too peppy for that place when I was younger, but now it’s smooth going. If George Clooney comes out of there, how bad could it be? It’s gotta be a good place.”

As she takes on new roles, she is mindful of making choices that make her happy, which sometimes means she turns roles down — usually Jewish roles in off-Broadway productions.

“Been there, done that,” she laughed.

But her Jewish identity has certainly informed her career.

“I was chosen for certain things when I might not have been capable or qualified at all because they figured, ‘If her name is Tovah Feldshuh, playing a part like Yentl the yeshiva boy, she’s got to be right,’ you know?” she said. “So because of the perceived value of my name, I was given these Jewish roles, and because of my desire to do a good job I studied like a dog and I studied very diligently, whether it’s the Talmud and Kabbalah and things that Yentl explored and was curious about, or whether it was Middle East politics, which was Golda Meir’s primogenitor.”

While she acknowledges her breakthrough roles were her Jewish roles and she is grateful for the experiences, she is looking ahead to the future and what she wants to do — and what she is capable of.

Perhaps that includes starring in a television show that she writes or starring in a musical or playing a man. She took on the role of Grandma Berthe in the Broadway revival of Pippin a few years ago, which involved a trapeze act and reminded her of being a little girl, hanging upside down on a swingset.

“When I got to do Pippin, I was 3 years old again. I was back in that time,” she said. “When I see old friends from high school, when I see my husband, I don’t see him completely in 2016, I see him in 2016 and in 1976 when we met. So sometimes that takes will but I want this will. I want to function at this level. I want to stay young, I want to die young — not chronologically, I want to die at 104 — and I want to live, really live, until I pass away, until I leave my body.”

Feldshuh, who swims a half-mile every day in addition to taking time to do pilates and yoga, hopes that audiences who see Aging is Optional feel empowered to live the same way.

“If I can perform an act that deals with the different ways and different pathways into making aging optional, and not an obligation, think what they can do,” she said.

“I want to empower the audience to climb their own Kilimanjaro, to swim their own half-mile, to understand that a lean horse runs a long race,” she continued. “And to stand on their head and keep using their marbles until the day they leave their body. That’s my hope. I want the audience to go away with hope, in maintaining youth throughout their life.”

Tickets can be purchased online at princetheater.org/events/tovah-feldshuh or at the door the day of the performance.

Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0740

Torah Imparts Timeless Message That There’s Truly No Place Like Home

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As Perry Como crooned so beautifully, there’s no place like home for the holidays. He might not have had Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in mind, but the sentiment still resonates as we head into the High Holiday season.

Don’t Feel Like Cooking? Go to These Places Instead

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There are plenty of alternatives for places to go to get the family together to celebrate the New Year.

The Gluten Free Jewish Momma is Looking out for You

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The Gluten Free Jewish Momma bakes a special Rosh Hashanah challah and Jewish kugel for her daughter and husband and makes sure everything on the table is properly labeled.

Rosh Hashanah: A Honey of a Menu

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Honey forms a cornerstone on most Rosh Hashanah menus, symbolizing the hope for a sweet year ahead.