Temple University announced April 20 that it has suspended Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity in the wake of several allegations, including sexual assault.
“The university has received multiple credible reports from various sources alleging underage drinking, the excessive use of alcohol, possibly drugs and sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, during social activities at Alpha Epsilon Pi,” according to the university’s police department.
The rights and privileges of the fraternity (known as AEPi) were suspended pending investigations by both the university and Philadelphia police.
Temple also said it has increased the police presence “in various areas including the 2000 block of Broad Street” during the investigation.
A spokesman for AEP’s national organization did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
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The family of Bernard and Ruth Spekter congratulates them on their 71st wedding anniversary. They are parents to Michael Spekter, Barbara Ghen (Emil) and the late Robert Spekter; grandparents to Matthew (Anna), Evan (Terri), Katie (Neil) and Eirinne; and great-grandparents to Isabelle, Willem, Olivia, Elsbeth and Jacob.
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Irene and Michael Duretz of Horsham and Nancy and Samuel Levine of Yardley announce the engagement of their children, Jaime Ashley Duretz and Adam Michael Levine.
Jaime graduated from Gwynedd-Mercy University with a master’s degree in nursing. Adam graduated from Temple University – Maurice H.Kornberg School of Dentistry.
Jaime is the granddaughter of Martin Duretz and the late Nancy Duretz, and Edna Price and the late Jack Price. Adam is the grandson of Edward and the late Lilian Dordick and the late Abraham and Phyllis Levine.
The couple are planning an August wedding
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More than 60 Republican and Democratic lawmakers attended a Tuesday lunch on Capitol Hill hosted by the Israeli-American Council to mark the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel, which begins on Wednesday night.
Among the lawmakers there were House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).
“Israeli-Americans contribute so much and serve as a critical link in our special relationship with Israel. I am proud to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence with my dear friends in the Israeli-American community,” said Graham.
The IAC’s leadership, including chairman Adam Milstein, CEO Shoham Nicolet and IAC for Action chairman Shawn Evenhaim, attended, as did other high-profile business and community leaders, including Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson.
“The U.S.-Israel relationship is—and must always be—rooted in bipartisanship. As we see from the incredible crowd of Democratic and Republican elected leaders here this afternoon, America’s alliance with Israel is an issue that can bring us together across party lines,” said Milstein.
In the past year, several key pro-Israel bipartisan legislation championed by IAC for Action group were passed by Congress, such as the Taylor Force Act, which conditions U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority on ending the practice of paying the families of deceased terrorists.
Additionally, a resolution recognizing Israeli-Americans’ contributions to the United States, as well as legislation aimed at combating the BDS movement, were also passed. On the state and local level, more than a dozen states have passed anti-BDS legislation supported by IAC for Action.
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The rallying cry of “Never again” is arguably most associated with the Holocaust, but in the weeks since the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, the phrase has also been adopted in the fight against gun violence.
It was fitting then, perhaps, that on the morning of April 11, walking into the state capitol in Harrisburg, a crowd of people engulfed the main stairway holding signs promoting gun control while upstairs, in the Governor’s Reception Room, a Yom Hashoah ceremony was about to start.
The Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hosted the 34th annual Civic Commemoration of the Holocaust on April 11, featuring speakers and survivors who marked the occasion in one of many ceremonies across the state and in Philadelphia.
Rabbi Eric Cytryn of Beth El Temple in Harrisburg recalled Pope John Paul II’s visit to Yad Vashem, in which he asked, “How can man have such utter contempt for man?”
“Let us reject contempt,” Cytryn said, “and then let us respond with respect and dignity, always treating our neighbors in a dignified manner, and pray that it is our children and grandchildren who learn from our shortcomings to find love for their diverse neighbors in their hearts.
“May this be a year in which we truly transform ‘Never again’ from a slogan into a truth.”
Political figures such as Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Mike Turzai and Lt. Gov. Mike Stack joined others like Tim Crain, director of the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education at Seton Hall University, and Hannah Adler, a Linglestown Middle School student and Schwab Holocaust Essay winner, to give impassioned remarks, urging the day’s attendees to never forget the Holocaust and learn from its lessons.
“Like the tattooed numbers placed on so many Jewish arms by the Nazis, the Holocaust — its memories of horror, pain, treachery and murder — is tattooed on each one of us,” Turzai said.
Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-District 19) and Rep. Dan Frankel (D-District 23) presented Senate and House resolutions respectively marking the ceremony and its significance, and shared remarks of their own — including Frankel’s personal connection to the Holocaust. His mother-in-law was a survivor.
Frankel explained House Resolution 823, which marked April 8 through 15 as “Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust” and recognizing April 12 as “Holocaust Remembrance Day” in Pennsylvania.
Dinniman also pointed to the righteous who hid Jews. “How many of us today would have taken that risk?” he asked.
A moment of silence preceded a candle lighting in which six electric candles were “lit” by survivors as well as those lighting them in someone’s honor.
Michael Sand, chair of the ceremony, also called on attendees who were children or grandchildren of survivors to stand and share names and stories of their families.
Stack urged for instilling the message in younger generations. He referenced last summer’s march in Charlottesville and the recent chemical weapons attack in Syria to note that “seeds of fascism and hatred are still finding fertile ground on the fringes of our society.”
“Let us raise our voices and say together once again: Never forget. Never forget. Never forget,” he said.
In Philadelphia, ceremonies and events marked Yom Hashoah throughout the week. Abrams Hebrew Academy observed the day with speakers like Marvin Raab, who discussed his parents’ experience in the Holocaust, and students and teachers who are relatives of Holocaust victims and survivors.
A Yom Hashoah ceremony featuring Bettina Hoerlin, author of Steps of Courage: My Parents’ Journey from Nazi Germany to America, marked the beginning of a week of events at Drexel Hillel, which also included celebrations for Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut.
The echo of the shofar reverberated on the walls of Congregation Rodeph Shalom on April 15, signaling the beginning of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and Jewish Community Relations Council’s 54th annual commemoration of the Holocaust.
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“Today we affirm the innocent lives lost in the Holocaust have not and will not be forgotten,” said one speaker during the reading of names as wreaths were placed along the edge of the bimah.
The theme of this year’s ceremony was “Rescuers Among Us,” and stories of Jewish men and women who saved other Jews during the Holocaust were told by a mix of students to a crowd of varying ages.
Nashirah chorale and The ChaiLights A Cappella sang selections such as “Zog Nit Keyn Mol” while survivors and community members lit candles and shared remarks.
Susanna Lachs Adler, chair of the Jewish Federation, noted the upcoming 75th anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.
“Every age needs its heroes, and our time is no exception,” she said, citing Charlottesville, the uptick in anti-Semitism nationwide and globally, and Poland’s controversial law forbidding blaming the country for any crimes committed during the Holocaust.
“History has taught us we cannot be bystanders,” she said. “Every instance of baseless hatred should be a call to action. Anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, xenophobia — it is all the same. And it is our duty, individually and collectively, to denounce each and every instance of discrimination when we see it.”
Audience members shook their heads as she also referenced — and repeated — the recent survey by the Claims Conference that found 66 percent of millennials cannot say what Auschwitz was.
“We cannot allow that memory to fade,” she said.
Rene Boni and Roslyn Don stood on either side of their mother, Shirley Don, and held on to her throughout the ceremony.
The 89-year-old survivor from Slovakia greeted cousins and friends after the conclusion of the program.
“We come every year with her, and, of course, we see all of our cousins whose family was also survivors — their parents — so we come from a big survivor family that settled in Philadelphia,” Roslyn Don said.
Shirley Don and her late husband, who was also a survivor from Poland whom she met in a displaced persons camp after the war, were part of bringing the Monument to the Six Million Jewish Martyrs to Philadelphia, the site of the future Holocaust Memorial Plaza.
Of the plaza, Boni said, “I feel a sense of urgency about [the survivors] getting older and the first witnesses, so I’m so glad that this more permanent thing is going to be there.” l
Ilene Lechtzin had just turned 25 in 1989 when she was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure, but a kidney donated by her father saved (and changed) her life.
The pediatric nurse was so taken by the experience that she began working on the transplant floors of area hospitals.
But Lechtzin, now 53, finds herself in a familiar predicament: She needs another kidney, as she’s entered Stage 5 renal failure. And she’s not able to work these days.
“The main thing is I’m always tired,” the Huntingdon Valley resident and Northeast High School graduate said. “I’m on a very restricted renal diet to preserve my remaining kidney function.”
Lechtzin has touched base with Renewal, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that educates and also works to match kidney donors with recipients in the Jewish community.
Renewal is hosting a kidney donation awareness event April 25 at 8 p.m. at Lower Merion Synagogue in Bala Cynwyd. Speakers will include Lori Palatnik, an author and founder of The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project. She will describe her own experiences as a kidney donor. There will be a question-and-answer session as well.
Rabbi Josh Sturm, Renewal’s director of outreach, said there will be testing on the spot to check for donor compatibility, although results take a couple of weeks. The test involves swabbing the inside of a person’s cheek.
Sturm noted that there are about 96,000 people in the United States awaiting kidneys for transplants, but only about 17,000 receive them each year — and 5,000 to 6,000 people annually die waiting.
“Most people do not know anything when it comes to kidney donation,” Sturm said. “I knew nothing until I began working with Renewal.”
In its 11-year history, Renewal has helped arrange about 1,500 transplants, said Sturm, who will speak at the event. That includes 81 in 2017; last year, 150 people were added to the organization’s waiting list.
The April 25 event is not a fundraiser, but is purely to raise awareness, he said, adding that good matches often are found at events involving testing. Renewal organizes about 20 of these events every year.
“We don’t persuade anyone. This has to be something a person wants to do on their own. Kidney donation is not for everyone,” Sturm said, adding that the organization lends a helping hand where it can to donors. “We take the donors through the process and to the finish line.”
Renewal had a similar event locally in March 2017 for Rachel Stone, a Denver woman whose husband, Eric, has local ties. Sturm said Stone had a successful kidney transplant in the fall, although it was not arranged by Renewal.
Lechtzin is also working with Etz Chaim, the Elkins Park-based Jewish engagement and education organization. She took a trip with the organization, which learned of her medical condition, Director of Programming Gevurah Davis said.
Teaming up with Renewal seemed a natural fit, she said.
“So many people want to help make the world a better place, but don’t know they’re able to donate a kidney,” she said. “It’s amazing the impact you can have.”
Lechtzin thus far has managed to stave off the need for dialysis, but that likely won’t continue for too much longer. She recently underwent a procedure to enable dialysis access.
Sturm said that once a person begins dialysis it becomes harder to find a donor match. And dialysis is not as effective as a healthy kidney.
“The reality is dialysis does 10 to 15 percent of what a healthy kidney does,” he said in a 2017 Jewish Exponent article. “After five years on dialysis, there’s a 27 percent survival rate. After 10 years, it’s 10 percent. Dialysis is not a long-term answer.”
For her part, Lechtzin, who is on other kidney waiting lists as well, has her fingers crossed.
“I’m hopeful. I have to be hopeful,” she said, adding that she set up a Facebook page called Kidney Needed for Ilene. “The hardest part is the ask.”
Sturm noted that kidney disease is an often under-recognized medical issue, especially considering that kidneys filter and clean 200 liters of blood each day, while helping to produce red blood cells, control blood pressure and maintain bone health.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, one in seven American adults (about 30 million people) likely have chronic kidney disease (CKD) yet are unaware of it, and one in three are at risk. CKD can shorten life spans by five to 11 years; more than 95,000 people with kidney failure died in 2014.
Risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, family history of kidney failure, being aged 60 or older, and being a member of minority populations that have high rates of diabetes or high blood pressure.
Early detection and treatment can help slow or stop chronic kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation. That includes diet, exercise and medications. However, treatment with dialysis or a kidney transplant is needed after the kidneys fail.
Because donor kidneys are so rare, many people end up on dialysis.
Settlement Music School will honor three generations of alumni at its 110th Anniversary Gala, including Philadelphia-area real estate developer Leonard Mellman.
Mellman, 94, is a 1939 Settlement alumnus and current member of the School’s Central Board of Trustees. He studied theater at Settlement every Friday night at the age of 15.
“Settlement is like another home to me. It is a world so special that everyone should know it,” he said. “I have seen [Settlement] as a model for what my life should be like. It has made an unbelievable difference in my life.”
In addition to Mellman, Settlement will honor guitarist Kevin Eubanks, the former music director of The Tonight Show Band with Jay Leno, and Harriet Go, a Settlement alumna from the 1990s, who is a special education teacher at Richmond Elementary School in Port Richmond.
The gala — which will celebrate the lifelong impact of receiving an arts education at Settlement Music School — will be held April 28 at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel in Philadelphia. Proceeds will benefit Settlement programs and the $2 million in financial aid it distributes each year to make these programs accessible to all.
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This year’s Day of Education and Inspiration from Hadassah Greater Philadelphia aims to shatter — or at least crack — the glass ceiling women face in the business world.
The April 25 event from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the William Penn Inn in Ambler will feature Jane Golden, executive director and founder of the Mural Arts Program; Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation Leslie Richards; and Lisa Hostein, editor of HadassahMagazine.
The idea is to “see … what they encourage as far as breaking the glass ceiling, whether they were discriminated against and how they worked it out,” event co-chair Elyse Topolsky said.
Each speaker will have an hour to present and answer audience questions. More than 200 people have signed up.
For Richards, a longtime Hadassah member, the chance to give something back to the organization is deeply personal and important.
“Hadassah’s a big part of why I’m where I am. … When I was a young stay-at-home mom, [it was Hadassah] who helped with mentoring and showed me what a leader is and gave me opportunities to do political advocacy, which really developed my approach,” she said.
Mentors at Hadassah taught her “the value of going outside of your comfort zone for things you believe in,” she said.
When she joined Hadassah about 25 years ago, Richards found public speaking terrifying. Then one day, she was at a Hadassah national convention where the group was debating whether to keep meeting annually or move to a biennial model. Someone pushed her toward a microphone and asked her to speak.
Richards spoke about having to miss the previous year when she was nursing her daughter and how, if the convention was biennial, she would have to go four years between events if she missed one.
“It was short and sweet and to the point, and the women of Hadassah made me feel like I had really been part of this larger decision,” she said.
As Pennsylvania’s first female transportation secretary, Richards feels that part of her position is to act as a role model for other women.
“All the women coming up in their careers will see a woman in the highest level of this agency and won’t second-guess how high they can climb,” she said.
After her confirmation, Richards said women came to her office “with tears in their eyes” to express how happy they were to see a woman in the job.
“I had been told by several of them that in the past, it had been uncomfortable for a female to even come up on the eighth floor, so this was a big change,” Richards said.
One thing she wants to get across is that you don’t have to follow a traditional career path to reach the highest levels. Richards spent most of her working life in part-time positions and was a stay-at-home mom for eight years.
She also emphasized the importance of building a support network, both in and out of the office. That can include soccer moms, running buddies and other women at Hadassah functions.
Though she didn’t befriend people with that in mind, “when I ran for elected office, it was the friends I made in all of those groups that really catapulted me to the top,” she said. “Ask for support when you need it. I think women are hesitant to ask others to help. … I learned early on … people are very eager to support you in any way they can.”
She tries to pay forward the mentoring she received through Hadassah by setting up mentoring groups for women in her department and at colleges across Pennsylvania.
Richards said she sees an increase in the number of women running for office and seeking spots that men have traditionally dominated.
She said she often thinks of a Golda Meir quote: “Whether women are better than men I cannot say, but I can say they are certainly no worse.”
Beth Lipoff is a freelance writer.
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In response to what he called a “mismanaged” situation, Paul S. Levy stepped down from his positions as University of Pennsylvania trustee emeritus and Penn Law School overseer as of April 6.
The action comes in response to the ongoing controversy over a video of professor Amy Wax claiming she has not seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of the law school’s class, and “rarely, rarely in the top half.” The video resurfaced in early March.
“I can think of one or two students who’ve graduated in the top half of my required first-year course,” Wax said during the September 2017 video chat on the platform Bloggingheads.
After urging from students, alumni and the community — including the school’s Black Law Students Association — Penn Law Dean Ted Ruger barred Wax, who is Jewish, from teaching a required first-year civil procedure course.
Her status, tenure and seniority remain, however, and she will teach a full course load of electives next academic year, per The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Levy wrote in a letter to Penn President Amy Gutmann, which was posted in full to The Daily Pennsylvanian website, that he considered Ruger’s decision a “serious error” and the treatment of Wax “unacceptable.”
He noted that Ruger had not provided the data to either prove or disprove Wax’s claim.
“Preventing Wax from teaching first-year students doesn’t right academic or social wrongs,” he wrote in the letter. “Rather, you are suppressing what is crucial to the liberal educational project: open, robust and critical debate over differing views of important social issues.”
Later, he wrote, “Penn Law has entered the world of micro-aggressions and ‘snowflakes’ and that is not a world I choose to be a part of.” Given Wax’s “teaching stature and litigation experience,” he added, it was not enough reason to bar her from teaching the required course “just because some students might be uncomfortable in her class.”
Much of the incident is linked to previous controversial statements Wax has offered. One that has been repeatedly highlighted is an August 2017 Inquirer op-ed Wax co-authored promoting the idea of “bourgeois culture” and values laid out in the 1950s.
In it, she criticized the “single-parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-‘acting white’ rap culture of inner-city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants.”
Levy, a 1972 Penn Law graduate and founder and managing director of a New York private equity firm, noted that Ruger sought opinions from alumni before making the decision to bar Wax from teaching but not his. Levy, who was previously CEO of Yves Saint Laurent, chaired the Board of Overseers from 2001 to 2007, per the DP.
He and his wife have donated large gifts to the school, including establishing the Levy Scholars Program and the reconstruction of the Levy Conference Center.
In an email to the Exponent, Levy wrote that his views remain unchanged.
“Support has been tremendous from all quarters, even sitting professors and trustees and students, alums and complete strangers,” he wrote. “I wish Penn well despite this travesty of justice and academic freedom and norms.”
On April 12, Wax received an award for “academic courage” by the National Association of Scholars in New York City, according to a DP article.
She gave a talk titled “The Price of the Push for Equality of Result,” discussing the op-ed and decision to bar her from teaching the first-year class.
“[Ruger] speculated that black students assigned to my class may be adversely affected — what does that mean?” she said per the DP story. “Any claim that I deliberately downgrade minority students is a non-starter; first-year grading is blind.”
Opera Composer Honored for Show that Debuted Locally
Opera Philadelphia Composer-in-Residence David Hertzberg received the Best New Opera award April 13 from the Music Critics Association of North America (MCANA) for The Wake World, which debuted in Philadelphia in September 2017.
“The Wake World represents a deeply personal vision, an attempt to render in lurid detail the strange, frightening, in-articulable mystery of imagination, into which I poured every iota of my creative being,” Hertzberg said. “To have this work recognized by a jury of such distinguished and probing musical minds is inexpressibly gratifying and moving.”
“David Hertzberg is a gifted composer-librettist whose experimental, site-specific work for Opera Philadelphia was an outstanding example of today’s rich contemporary opera scene,” MCANA President John Fleming said.
Jewish Educator Diane A. King Dies at 92
Former Gratz College Professor Diane A. King died at her Rydal home on March 27. She was 92.
King attended Gratz College at the age of 14 (the college waived its age requirement) and earned a teaching certificate in Jewish education, according to son Louis King. She later earned a chemistry degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
King taught at Germantown Jewish Centre for 17 years, also earning both a master’s degree and a doctorate of education from Dropsie College. She then taught at Gratz into her 80s.
In 1983, she received the Humanitarian Award from the Federation Allied Jewish Appeal Israel Emergency Fund. She also was the first woman to earn an honorary Ph.D. from the Jewish Theological Seminary and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jewish Educators Assembly in 1998.
First Kosher Wine, Now Conversion for Amar’e Stoudemire
Former NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire is converting to Judaism, according to JTA.
Stoudemire, 35, told an HBO reporter on April 8 that he is “in the process” of converting. He was speaking at an Israel Summit at Harvard University.
Stoudemire has said he has “Hebrew roots” for several years and lived in Israel in 2017 playing basketball for Hapoel Jerusalem, a team he partially owns.
Earlier this year, Stoudemire launched a line of kosher-for-Passover Israeli wines.
Survey: Knowledge of Holocaust Lacking in United States
More than four in 10 millennials believe that substantially less than 6 million Jews (2 million or less) were killed during the Holocaust, according to a survey conducted by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference).
In addition, 45 percent of Americans can’t name a single concentration camp.
“The study found significant gaps in knowledge of the Holocaust,” Claims Conference board member Matthew Bronfman said. “We must take a look at these results and determine where and how best we can begin teaching the next generation these critical lessons, which must resonate for decades to come.”
Seven out of 10 say fewer people seem to care about the Holocaust than previously.
A majority (58 percent) believe something like the Holocaust could happen again.
More than nine out of 10 respondents believe all students should learn about the Holocaust.
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