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A Purim Message For Today

Bigotry, hatred and racism of all forms is wrong no matter what continent it occurs on and no matter the victims it claims. The Jewish community has known this for thousands of years.  After all, this week we are celebrating the victory of the Jewish community of Persia over the hatred state-sanctioned supremacy of its day.  When Queen Esther hesitated to stand up and call it …

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Today, all I have are tears. Tomorrow, maybe we can work to find a solution.

The universe cracks. That’s how you feel when your beloved and peaceful family member is violently torn from this world while they are at prayer.  That’s how more that 40 families feel right now half a world away.  I know because only 6 months ago I was in their shoes.  It’s like I am in a cruel time machine and it’s stuck on a repeating …

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MORE LIGHT!

Last night I stood in appreciation of the lights of the fully lit chanukiyah, Chanukah menorah.  Having lit 2 chanukiyot in our front window, Barbara and I basked in the light of 36 flickering flames including their reflections.  The lighting of the candles did what it was supposed to do: inform people outside of our house that we celebrate the miracle of light at this …

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This Chanukah, Celebrate the Community We Aspire to Build

Redefining neighbor from a geographic term to moral concept On Sunday night, members of the Jewish community around the world will begin our annual celebration of Chanukah.  It is the time honored commemoration of the victory of the Maccabees in the 2nd century BCE over the Assyrian Greeks and their allies who wanted to create a homogeneous cultural and religious community in which diversity was neither tolerated …

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Life & Legacy: Linda Simon’s Story

The Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh recently sat down with Linda Simon, a JCC board chair from 2004-2007 and hands-on volunteer who has held an almost uncountable number of leadership positions at the JCC. JCC: Linda, you have been an active part of our JCC for years, contributing and leading in so many ways. What got you started? LINDA: I grew up in Philadelphia and came …

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Our Kids Deserve Our Respectful Debate

These are extraordinary times. As noted in the Jewish Chronicle’s June 21, 2018, opinion piece, “The purpose of a newspaper,” the more polarized opinions become, the more we need lively, respectful debate over issues that are important to us. I couldn’t agree more. Respectful debate between people seems harder and harder these days.  A 2016 NORC Center for Public Affairs Research study found that that 74 …

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I Need Shabbat This Week

I need Shabbat this week because all I have heard is people talking over and through each other. I need Shabbat this week because all I have seen are images of children separated from their parents. I need Shabbat this week because all the values about family and human dignity I thought were foundational to our American way of life are being challenged. I need Shabbat this week …

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JCC Spotlight Newsletter

Summer 2018 Our new Mission Statement tells the story of the JCC: NURTURING PEOPLE: Early Childhood When will the cocoons become butterflies? Tatum, 4, and Piper, 3, are guided by their teacher Shardaya to observe, experiment and discuss this as part of a typical day in the JCC’s Early Childhood Development Center. Exploring nature is just one aspect of the child-led learning that educators nurture in our ECDC program—inspired by …

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Transfer the Feeling: The Beginning of Summer 2018

Transfer the feeling.  What feeling?  That feeling we all get when we drive into camp for the first time each summer.  As we crest over the hill and get a first view of the ball fields, there are butterflies, nerves, smiles, excitement.  It’s the feeling in the middle of winter when your parents tell you they signed you up for camp next summer, or when …

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What Does Israel Mean to Me?

I vividly remember the endless bus trip from Jerusalem to Kibbutz Hazorea in 1985.  I didn’t know a soul, spoke fewer than a dozen Hebrew words, and had never traveled overseas. But I had a longing to experience Israel, to learn the language and connect to people on their terms – not mine. The journey took me from the kibbutz to community service work in Ashkelon …

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The Power of Summer Camp

One of the steepest learning curves in my 16 months as the JCC’s Chief Program Officer has been in the area of summer camp. I grew up with only limited exposure to a day camp that was run out of my local high school in Rockland County, New York, and while I am a parent of two campers, I did not fully appreciate the impact …

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Updating Our Mission Statement

Over the past year, our lay and professional leadership went through the thoughtful and intentional process of updating our Mission Statement. Our goal was simple – to help our members, guests, professional staff, donors, partners and other stakeholders know more than what we do, but WHY we exist and who we aspire to be. Mission statements are more than just assemblies of words. Each word has weight and …

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EKC’s Tush Push: For even more magical Shabbats

Of all the things I love about camp, Shabbat is one of the things I love the most.  There is nothing more picturesque than the amphitheater on a Friday night.  The green of the forest, everyone dressed in white, the natural feel of the bima -- it all goes so well together. There is something so special and pure about it, because it brings a …

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Passover is All About Time Travel

Each and every year when we pull our wine stained haggadot off of the shelf and place them on our beautifully set Passover tables, we have two options. The first is the basic plan:  Read through the haggadah, go through the rituals, eat the symbolic foods because this is the way that we have done it for years and we think that we should just maintain …

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International Day of Youth Service: J-Serve

The International Day of Youth Service, J-Serve, is meant for Jewish (and non Jewish) teens from across each participating community to join together with other teens to volunteer at places within the community. The teens learn not only about ways to get involved, but also why it is a crucial aspect of life in their hometowns. J-Serve Pittsburgh this year occurred on Sunday, March 11, and had …

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International Women’s Day – #PressForProgress

As we celebrate International Women’s Day today, and Women's History Month during March, we understand the phrase #PRESSFORPROGRESS is needed more than ever.  We live in a world in which women’s voices have been suppressed when it comes to reporting sexual harassment, domestic violence and sexual assault in all areas of society.  Our contemporary conversations are a mirror of conversations and attitudes that have been going …

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JCC Camps: Preparing for Life’s Journeys

C O N N E C T I O N S • V A L U E S • G R O W T H • F U N This is our responsibility: To prepare the next generation for the journeys that lie ahead. We hope that every journey will be fair and just. We hope that every journey will be filled with joy and happiness. We hope that …

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Celebrating the Lunar New Year

You might be wondering why the JCC opens its doors to the Lunar New Year celebration. Let me begin by sharing a metaphor I just learned on a podcast by my teacher Rabbi Larry Hoffman of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.  While discussing the tension between being particular (having concern for and being interested in the Jewish community) and universal (having concern …

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Giddy-up y’all: It’s Time for Big Night

We don't want to spill too many beans but if you're wondering why we're making hay about this ole Big Night, jest sit a spell and read on. Big Night...well, it's about you and us. It's our hoedown where we can hoot and holler a big “thank you” for all your support for the JCC. It's your support that helps the JCC provide scholarships that help individuals of all backgrounds, abilities, religious affiliations …

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Tu B’Shevat – How can we celebrate nature and Israel in the cold of winter?

In Israel, another new year will soon be celebrated. Tu B'Shevat, the "New Year of the Trees," is observed on the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Sh'vat. Tu B'Shevat is not mentioned in the Torah. According to scholars, the holiday was originally an agricultural festival, corresponding to the beginning of spring in Israel. As in the case with many Jewish observances, a critical historical …

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The Bigger Picture

During the Chanukah season, we are reminded of the importance of light. "Light" is often used in the Torah to mean knowledge and wisdom. Embracing our role in lighting the world can be extremely powerful, both individually and collectively, and there is no better way to do that than “taking the show on the road” - to the JCC Maccabi Games®. Each year, the JCC of Greater …

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It’s about the oil

I'd been making latkes for many years before I finally realized something about this food tradition: Chanukah is the oil holiday - a celebration of miraculous oil that lasted 8 days. For me, good latkes are a small miracle too. Over the years, I've learned a few tricks to making (what I think are) the best latkes. The recipe: Joan Nathan's from her classic book, The …

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8 Nights of Light: A Chanukah Menorah Infographic

The menorah is perhaps one of the most widely recognized symbols of Jewish culture and is the centerpiece of the Chanukah celebration. But how much do you really know about it? We’re sharing the fast facts you need to know about the Chanukkiah – from its history and meaning to the logistics of lighting yours – because it’s so much more than just a candelabra!

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The Conversation Continues – Immigrants’ Stories, Faithful Responses

While our event on Thursday came to an end, the CONVERSATION about strangers, immigrants and refugees continues.  Dr. David Saenz posted this comment on the Pittsburgh Post Gazette web page and asked that we post it on the JCC website. Dr. Saenz began his life as an migrant farmer returning to the US a dozen times before gaining permanent residency.  He articulates a vision of American community that …

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Immigrants’ Stories, Faithful Responses

Rev. Liddy Barlow speaks at Faithful Responses to Strangers, Immigrants, and Refugees Faithful Responses to Strangers, Immigrants and Refugees: A Pittsburgh Conversation - Thursday, November 2, 2017, at the JCC This event, hosted by the Center for Loving Kindness and Civic Engagement, brought together clergy, lay leaders and community members, and refugees and immigrants who shared their stories: Their Stories   "When I first got here, people wouldn't talk to me because I was …

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Emma Kaufmann Camp: From “CIT’s” to “SIT’s”

Emma Kaufmann Camp’s (EKC) Counselor-In-Training (CIT) program is a 49-day leadership development training program, where young adults learn, through real-world experiences, how to become role models and mentors for children ages 7-15 years old as well as productive members of their home community. A critical component of EKC’s CIT program has been a 3-week immersive experience in Israel so that the CITs can weave their Jewish …

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Fun Facts about the Jewish High Holidays

It's a special time of year, a time to "Start Fresh." To help you prepare, we put together an infographic -- kind of a "fresh" take with interesting facts and information. Wishing each and every one of you Shanah Tovah Umetukah, "A Good and Sweet Year."

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Shabbat is The First Labor Law

I was struck by this Samuel Rosenberg Image entitled 'Rest' in the spring when Melissa Hiller, Director of our American Jewish Museum, brought me to the Heinz History Center to see the exhibit "The Gift of Art". "For 100 years, the Friends of Art has purchased art to be given to the Pittsburgh Public Schools and enjoyed by tens of thousands of school children. Seeking to …

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The March on Washington – 54 Years Later in PGH

We are living in very challenging times.  Protesters, advocates, and politicians are trying to spin our moral compasses in such a way so that we have little sense of which way to step.  But we know in which direction we should march: the moral direction that is taught by all of our faith traditions, the direction of “love your neighbor as yourself” and “do not …

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Moral Compass

Elie Weisel taught us: One of the Just Men came to Sodom, determined to save its inhabitants from sin and punishment. Night and day he walked the streets and markets protesting against greed and theft, falsehood and indifference. In the beginning, people listened and smiled ironically. Then they stopped listening; he no longer even amused them. The killers went on killing, the wise kept silent, as …

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Early Childhood Development Center: The Sheva Journey Begins

Sheva (the number seven in Hebrew) has amazing power in Jewish thought and practice. It is also the name of the JCCs of North America Early Learning Framework and represents the seven core elements of exemplary early childhood practice profoundly rooted in the latest research on child development seen through a Jewish lens. What does this mean for the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh and its two …

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Sharing Ideas and History with Warsaw JCC

This week the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and Buncher Foundation gathered to celebrate 25 years of investing in an international leadership program for professionals and lay leadership through the  American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) that was launched in partnership with the Federation. In the past quarter century, hundreds of Buncher graduates in dozens of countries have helped build Jewish community.  One of the …

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Tisha B’Av: Our Eastern Walls

Each morning, as I leave my bedroom and head downstairs, I find myself facing east on the midpoint landing on my staircase.  Just before I turn right to make it all the way downstairs, I come face to face with these eternally contemporary words: If I forget you, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget itself. Let my tongue cleave to my palate If I do not remember her; If …

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Giving the Father’s Day Pledge New Meaning

For the fourth year in a row, I am joining scores of regional leaders in signing the Father’s Day Pledge #FathersDayPledge  #SouthwestPASaysNoMore. This declaration calls attention to the urgency to break the generational cycle of violence for children, teens and young adults by changing social norms around gender and partner violence of any kind. I remain engaged in this effort as a parent of two teenagers and …

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Cheesecake – The Taste of Shavuot

Holidays, especially Jewish Holidays, are not the best time to enforce a weight loss diet. Take Shavuot, which this year begins in a couple of days - on the eve of Saturday, June 9. For reasons that some attribute to parsing of Jewish law and others, to a tradition that evolved amongst Eastern European Jews, cheese and one of its sweetest uses, cheesecake, is a Shavuot treat. And so, a …

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Seder supplements to make your Passover relevant this year

What I love about the seder is that the ritual that began the night before we left Egypt has been transformed thousands of times over throughout the generations.  In fact, the Passover haggadah is said to be the most published Jewish book in history with editions that meet the needs of assorted Jews throughout history.  Just look at how many Maxwell haggadot are featured in …

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“Borcas” — Grandma Cele’s Beet Preserves

Another Passover Recipe My husband's Grandma Cele always talked about making her specialties just before Passover, and as a very old woman, she would bring in "help" to peel carrots for carrot candy and to prepare something she called "borcas." I did not grow up in a home with Old Country food traditions, so I didn't really know what she was talking about. In fact, after she'd …

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“Let All Who Are Hungry Come and Eat!”

Year after year, brisket after brisket, matzah after matzah… this line is the highlight of my Passover experience.  There is something that touches me deep down inside when we lift up that memory-laden-matzah and declare: Ha Lachma Anya This is the bread of affliction, the poor bread, which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in want, …

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J-Serve Pittsburgh: Teamwork in Action

Last June, four collaborating agencies – BBYO, Repair the World, the Volunteer Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and the JCC – came together to begin planning the largest Jewish teen service event of the year. Calendars were managed, Steering Committee applications were drafted, and each organization’s role was clearly determined and defined. Several months later and following a competitive application process, 17 incredible Jewish …

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J-Serve: A Day of Community Service for Teens

This Sunday, for the 12th consecutive year in Pittsburgh, more than 300 Jewish teens in 6th-12th grade will join together at the JCC for a day of community service, learning and fun, as part of J-Serve: International Day of Youth Service. Over six powerful hours, these inspiring teens will engage in Jewish values of tikkun olam, gemilut chasidim and meaningful Jewish reflection. (J-Serve Pittsburgh 2017 …

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Make a Meal of Hamantaschen!

Don't get me wrong; we LOVE traditional hamantaschen. Yiddish for "Haman's pockets" and also interpreted in old legend as Haman's three-cornered hat, some of us consider these delectable sweet pastries as a way to get back at Haman, the villain in the Purim story in the Biblical Book of Esther. To commemorate his downfall, we eat his hat! Miriam Szokovski, in an article on unique hamantaschen recipes, was really thinking outside the box, or …

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PJ Library Celebrates Authors & Illustrators Week

With the week of February 5th being Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week, what better opportunity than to highlight a few of my favorite PJ Library books!  As the director of PJ Library in Pittsburgh, I get the privilege of receiving nine wonderful, high quality Jewish children’s books every month - one for each age group from 6 months to age 8, and then one for …

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Community is our Middle Name

February 3, 2017 At this time of challenging and often contentious public discourse, we proudly wear ‘COMMUNITY’ as our middle name. From our founding at the turn of the 20th century, we helped thousands of immigrants and refugees become an integral part of the American dream.  As the work that we began in 1895 continues today in so many ways, we affirm our core value “to welcome …

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J Line – Teens and Jewish Values at Work

“For I, the Lord, love justice.” -Isaiah 61:8   “You shall love the stranger, for you were strangers.” -Deuteronomy 10:19 At J Line, we are proud to connect Jewish values to the pursuit of peace and justice in the world around us. Last Sunday, during Breakfast B’yachad (“together”), in light of Friday’s ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, I read aloud from a piece published in the Forward. The article tells …

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100 Letters – 100 Days

I would love to read the President's mail.  But of course, that would be illegal without his permission. We do get glimpses of the content of letters sent to Presidents of the past when they have shared stories of citizens as a way of illustrating American values.  They are American values expressed through the voices of citizens. As we begin a new administration, with the anticipation of the …

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Let Us Turn Our Thoughts to Martin Luther King

As our country celebrates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I hope that you see it as a call to action based on long-standing Jewish values.  Join me for a brief video-blog with music, quotes and intention.

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Celebrate the Slow Cooker

Among the many important events in the new year, January is National Slow Cooking Month. The ubiquitous slow cooker - the small appliance that makes it all happen - should not be taken for granted. How wonderful is it to be able to throw a bunch of ingredients into a Crock Pot just before leaving for work in the morning, set it on low, and then come …

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Mentoring Happens Every Day at the JCC

January is National Mentoring Month, which focuses on how mentors help ensure positive outcomes for our young people. The JCC – a diverse, dynamic community providing services for individuals of all ages—is a place where meaningful mentorship is encouraged and supported, every day. Effective mentorship is based on relationships of trust and the modeling of positive behaviors. Over the past few years, the JCC, recognizing the many …

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The Maccabee Way of Thinking

Each year, as I re-encounter the story of Chanukah, I am inspired by the persistence of a small group of Maccabees who fought for their core values in the face of seemingly incredible odds. When confronted with oppression and limitations, they thought broader and wider than any narrow definitions that others might have used to define them. No matter the historical circumstances, that 'Maccabee way of thinking' is …

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Personal Trainer Embodies Jewish Values

As the Membership Director at the South Hills JCC, I often hear comments from our members about the facility, the equipment, the classes, the water temperature in the pool and the instructors. I recently received a compliment about one of our newer personal trainers.  Mallery Fascetti has been a personal trainer at the JCC for less than 6 months.  In that brief time, she has built …

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Bring on The Light – Chanukah!

As the days get shorter during the end of 2016, Chanukah could not come any sooner. As I prepare for the Festival of Lights this year, I am particularly aware of the eternally contemporary message of the Macabees.  Way back when, around 2100 years ago, when the Assyrian Greeks radically changed the structure of society by not allowing our ancestors to celebrate Shabbat, study Torah nor perform …

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The Morning After: Be A Role Model

On Sunday, I blogged how I voted.  This morning, as we wake up to a peaceful transfer of power and a celebration of our democracy, I want to share my hope. Every single one of us has to be a role model for the other.  I am still committed to the confluence of Jewish and American values I wrote about on Sunday: We are commanded to strive to …

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I voted as a proud American Jewish citizen. Will you?

I live in Pennsylvania, where things matter this year in presidential politics, and I already voted through absentee ballot because my schedule won’t allow me to vote in person. Sitting on my family room couch as I looked at the ballot, I took into consideration my shared identity as an equally proud American and Jew, as I cast my vote.  I want to share with you ‘how’ …

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Aging Mastery Program – The Jewish Way!

I am writing to you with wishes that you live until age 120! Pupu…. Many of us know that Jewish wisdom teaches us that Moses lived until he was 120 years old. Oy! Could you imagine? But the thing is, that we often forget the description of Moses at age 120. “ Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eyes were undimmed and …

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OY!!??!! What is going on in Politics? A Yom Kippur Exploration

My concern about the US political discourse has been simmering for months.  It all came to a boil this weekend with videos and commentary and photo opportunities and debate and more commentary....  I am simply embarrassed about the level of discourse and wish it would change.  Do you? Without getting political, I did a little soul searching in the the great Jewish wisdom tradition of Mussar, values …

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Recipe Makeover – Rosh Hashanah Edition

With the holiday season upon us, it’s easy to let loose and celebrate with loved ones and food. Lots and lots of food! While it's healthy to make exceptions during times of celebration, you can help yourself by sticking with your goals during the holidays. One food ritual for Rosh Hashanah is eating apples dipped in honey. If you searched for recipes that include both honey and apples, …

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The Jewish Holidays are LATE this Year

Yes, the holidays are late this year...but they are coming. It is the middle of September and I have yet to dunk one piece of apple in a bowl of honey.  How about you? The holidays are late because last year, as a part of the regular calculations to ensure that the Hebrew intercalcualted solar/lunar calendar stays on time (Passover always happens in the Spring) we added …

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Rachel Marcus: A Lifetime of Service to the Community

“Take a look at these photos,” says Rachel Marcus, handing over a snapshot of three campers in T-shirts, smiling broadly, and a beautifully composed black and white photo of a young girl sitting on a counselor’s lap, both laughing gleefully. “Happy kids,” Rachel says, characteristically matter-of-fact. “That’s what we’re about.” Marcus, JCC Associate Executive Director,  has been focused on providing programs that enrich the lives of families and children …

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The JCC’s Philosophy of Early Childhood Learning

Reggio and Jewish Values Enrich Our Early Childhood Program We often are asked how the Reggio Emilia Approach (REA) to learning--the philosophy that we embrace at the JCC Early Childhood Development Center preschool--prepares children for Kindergarten and for life. As part of the Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative, which provides educator professional development opportunities and program support, ECDC actively melds Reggio principles with Jewish values. The world-renowned REA, …

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The Untold Story of Gino Bartali – Le Tour de France Legend

For the next three weeks Le Tour de France will dominate all conversation in my household where race coverage will be blasting from every electronic device from sun-up to sun-down. Most discussions center on routes, team tactics, doping scandals and tour favorites. My thoughts every July, though, turn to Italian cycling champion and humanitarian Gino Bartali. Italian cyclists have been crowd favorites since the Tour began …

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Shavuot – Come! Look in the Mirror

We do it every day.  Maybe twice.  Maybe three times.  And each time we look in the mirror, we very well might see something different: a hair out of place, a blemish, a twinkle in the eye, a sense of calm…. Jewish wisdom encourages mirror-gazing…. of a different type.  You see, our collective mirror stood from ground to sky at a place called Mt. Sinai shortly after …

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Father and Son: Klezmer Insights

PSO Brings Music for the Spirit to the JCC The JCC's Katz Theater will be the site of a special Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Music for the Spirit event - Father and Son: Klezmer Insights on Wednesday, June 15. Noah Bendix-Balgley, the former Concertmaster of the PSO, will share a behind-the-scenes look at Klezmer in anticipation of the June 17-19 world premiere of his new violin concerto, Fidl-Fantazye: A Klezmer Concerto. …

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CDS Artwork Shines at AJM

The artwork included in Community Day School’s (CDS) Student Art Show at the American Jewish museum, organized by CDS art teacher Jeremy Lerner, reverberates with playful exploration and buoyant energy. The works are based on curriculum around aesthetics, the principles and elements of design, and analysis of the methods and concepts artists throughout history have used. Some of the student artists reference specific artists including Constantin …

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Israeli Cuisine: A Culinary Feast

We're all proud (and sometimes surprised) that Pittsburgh has been anointed a culinary capital, but a recent JFilm presentation of the film In Search of Israeli Cuisine, hosted by once Pittsburgher Michael Solomonov, reminded me that the 'Burgh may not be at the very epicenter of the food universe. Israel may well be. Solomonov, now a famous Philadelphia restaurateur (Zahav, Federal Donuts, Percy Street Barbecue), leads us to eateries all over …

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Dayenu! Have we done enough yet?

On Friday night, as my family and guests retold the time-honored story of our journey from slavery to freedom, my son Micah inserted his seder gift into the festivities.  He explained how he had been studying Civil War history in school and thought that it might be appropriate to read the Emancipation Proclamation at the seder. The Emancipation Proclamation January 1, 1863 By the President of the United …

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Yummy! Matzah

So many of us have an ongoing relationship with matzah.  You might be one of those people who loves it so much that you eat Tam Tams all year round.  You might have a preference for a brand either out of habit or as the result of an intentional taste test.  You might be dedicated to a particular type: Egg, Whole Wheat, Lightly Salted….  You …

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Get your tickets now: JFilm festival  opens tomorrow

Opening tonight is one of my favorite events - JFilm: The Pittsburgh Jewish Film Forum. Every spring, JFilm brings in a whole range of films from Israel and around the world—true stories, comedies and dramas that often wouldn’t make it to town otherwise, some provocative, some moving, some roaringly funny and almost all, a treat. For me, one of the most enjoyable films from previous festivals is …

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Pet Memberships now Available

Imagining Tomorrow: Pet Memberships Let me share an interesting stat with you. According to a recent study by the USDAW, 34% of family households in the United States own a pet. When you narrow this geographic range to Pittsburgh, this figure jumps to 47%. Given the growing trend in pet ownership, the JCC has recognized an opportunity to spread our impact through the animal community. That is why I am pleased to announce the JCC will begin …

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An Illustrative List of the 613 Commandments.

Community Spotlight: Classic Lines Bookstore The book "The 613" immediately caught my eye as I perused the shelves at Classic Lines, the cozy bookstore located on Forbes Avenue, adjacent to Commonplace Coffee. Wondering whether there was a connection with the 613 Jewish Commandments, I asked the proprietor Dan Iddings if in fact there was one. That is exactly what the book is about, he told me. Mr. Iddings says he is …

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PJ Library Launches New Program: PJ our Way

PJ Library, a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh in partnership with the JCC, is expanding! A new program, PJ Our Way, will provide books to children ages 9-11 who live in the Pittsburgh community, bringing Jewish books into older children’s lives as effectively as PJ Library has done with younger children over the last ten years. Building on the success of PJ Library, which …

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Pittsburgh and Israeli Teens Connecting Through Jewish Music

Imagine 390 Jewish teens coming together from around the world, to perform original, and classic, Jewish choral arrangements – from V’hi Sheamda, to Hallelujah, to Tfilah L’Tzahal - to a full house at Carnegie Music Hall, which had sold out months in advance. What a moving vision that would be! Fortunately, this vision becomes a reality every spring, when 27 international HaZamir chapters descend on New …

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Which Purim Character are you ?

Purim is the Jewish equivalent of Halloween--in Spring We dress up in costumes, have our faces painted and eat homemade hamantashens. Still deciding on a costume? Take this quiz, find out which Purim Character you are and pick your costume accordingly. Then come join us--we have planned quite the extravaganza. The JCC will host Peace * Love * Purim at the JCC in Squirrel Hill on Sunday, March 20, from 1-4 pm. There …

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Square Cafe–With Love

Community Spotlight: Sherree Goldstein, Community Champion It’s often said that it takes a village to raise a child. It’s no stretch to say that it takes a Sherree Goldstein to raise a community. “In 2003 I had the vision to bring fresh seasonal and local food to Regent Square,” Goldstein writes on the restaurant’s website. “The quality and tastiness of the food were as important to me …

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Creating Chutz-Pow

Artist Marcel Walker illustrates Superheroes of the Holocaust I recently visited the studio of artist Marcel Walker, one of the illustrators behind Chutz-Pow: Superheroes of the Holocaust. Chutz-Pow is a graphic novel series developed by the Holocaust Center that focuses on civilians during the Holocaust who resisted Nazi ideology and risked their safety by coming to the aid of victims. Marcel and I had just met at …

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Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. Will Knock Our Socks Off at Big Night

Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. has invoked Frank Sinatra more than once to sing his way through adversity. As a West Virginia boy transplanted to the violent streets of Detroit, where, he says, “you could lose your life in a fight on a basketball court,” he’d calm down his buddies by singing Fly Me to the Moon. ”They would bust out laughing,” he says. “They thought …

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I’m Thinking of Spring

Even as we dig our way out of our first (and hopefully last) major snow storm of the winter, I am thinking about SPRING. After all, Tu biShvat begins on Sunday, January 24 at sundown. If you have cabin fever and want to bring spring into your world, might I suggest three things: Plant a tree in Israel!  No need to wait for your next trip, just click …

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Repair the World: Living the Value of Tikkun Olam

Tikkun Olam or to “Repair the World” is a continuing theme through different movements in Judaism. In all of these, a common thread has to do with the universal value of taking responsibility for the welfare of others. Like the Dao of eastern philosophy states, “Love the world as yourself; then you can care for all things.” And the revered 12th century rabbi and physician Moses Maimonides, "Whatever I want for myself, …

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What Have We Been Up To On the J Line?

At J Line, we often recognize a reflection of our own lives, and most pressing questions, in the stories we encounter – in the text, in film, in humor, and even in Hebrew. (And we even enjoy ourselves while doing so!) Under the guidance of Ronit Pasternak, our Hebrew students learn Hebrew as a modern language. In early January, advanced students began discussing the concepts of …

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May I tell you of PFC Nathan Hilu?

Turns out that 90 year-old artist Nathan Hilu, based in New York’s Lower East Side, has Pittsburgh roots. No Hilus remain in the area, however, so the name is unlikely to have a ring of familiarity. Hilu, the subject of American Jewish Museum’s upcoming March exhibition, is an enigmatic character who draws ferociously with any medium he can get his hands on. His writing (drawn memoirs) …

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Are there any mentschen on the grid-iron?

You and I have heard it described as 'our generation's immaculate reception'.  What happened on Saturday night in Cincinnati electrified Pittsburgh.  I saw the game slipping away from the Steelers throughout the 4th quarter to only be surprised with the victory. Victory wasn't the only thing slipping away.  Morality slipped away too.  Marc Hardin described it well: ...Call the late and fateful penalties and all of the …

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PJ Library: Creating Community All Around Town

How many books does it take to grow a community? PJ Library, a Jewish family engagement program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh in partnership with the JCC, seems to have come up with the formula. In December, PJ Library reached a huge milestone: 1,000 children in the Greater Pittsburgh area are now active subscribers. The milestone caps a growth of 38% in the past year. Expansion has not only occurred in the …

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I am Not Done SCREAMING!

Will you SCREAM with me about HATE SPEECH and how it can lead to HATE ACTION? Elie Weisel teaches us: One of the Just Men came to Sodom, determined to save its inhabitants from sin and punishment. Night and day he walked the streets and markets protesting against greed and theft, falsehood and indifference. In the beginning, people listened and smiled ironically. Then they stopped listening; …

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Countdown to our 10th Big Night

If our past Big Night events have anything to tell us about what to expect at our special 10th anniversary Big Night on April 2, it’s that you never know what you’ll encounter when you arrive. You might be greeted by hippie protesters (2011: Peace, Love and the IKCs) and when you walk in the door, get stared down by Men in Black (2010: Party with …

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Yiddish at the JCC: Keeping Memories Alive

Mary Marks keeps memories alive. Once a week for the past 20 years, she has volunteered to lead a Yiddish Conversation class. “She gets a mob,” said one of the students at a recent session. The class was started in 1989 by Ann Cohen, whose hand-written transliterations are still being used today. When Cohen passed away in 1995, Marks became the class leader. The class starts with …

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STAND UP! Be the SHAMASH

Each and every year, as we light the candles for Hanukah, we are very particular to ensure that the shamash serves its purpose. You know what I am talking about: the shamash (helper candle) is supposed to a light the fire for all eight days.  It has a weighty responsibility, that shamash, when it comes to the rituals of Hanukah.  Without a shamash, the other 36 …

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We need more light!

Ain’t it the truth.  We can’t seem to tune on the news, pick up our phone or read the paper without feeling a great sense of darkness nowadays.  Shootings in Colorado Springs, San Bernardino and Pittsburgh, let alone Paris and the challenges of refugees fleeing their homelands for fear of their lives… we need more light! Thank God for Hanukah.  Every year, as we enter the …

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“Self Portrait” — a Portrait of Hope

As we retreat into the warmth of family and holiday tradition, we’d like to share a poem that envisions the shared values of our community. Self Portrait The Day After The Paris Massacre Today I identify with my All-Clad colander on the granite counter between my kitchen and the table where sits my racially, all-clad American family. I pour a boiling pot of noodles through the colander into the sink. The water runs off but the noodles stay, ready for …

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412 Food Rescue Boards the J Line

A special program at the JCC with J Line on Sunday defined for me the positive direction in which we’re moving, and our own potential and enthusiasm to bring Jewish learning to life for teens. Last Sunday morning, in partnership with 412 Food Rescue, nearly 40 J Line teens and staff met at the JCC to pack more than 120 bags of food for local students in …

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How quickly will our pulse return to normal after Paris, Beirut, Sinai…?

Yet again, we are under attack.  The attack is two-fold. It is life-threatening.  People across our globe are being killed and oppressed because too many of us are not embracing the concept “Love your neighbor as yourself” as a way of life.  The devastation in the Sinai, Beirut and Paris (just to mention a few of our current challenges) are the recent expressions of this hatred. It is also …

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The Dodgers are Still in Brooklyn

My Hat of Choice: Brooklyn Dodgers My Dad, Jerry, still thinks that the Dodgers play in Brooklyn! He won’t give up on that reality even though he and I, along with my son Micah, have actually been to a Dodgers game in Los Angeles. It is my Dad’s honor that I wear a Brooklyn Dodgers hat as my baseball hat of choice (except when I am …

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What will they say when?

What if they are writing my eulogy today? Not to be morbid, but it is time for me to start thinking about what they might say at my funeral.  Trust me, I have many years left, (God willing), but it is still time to think. I got to thinking about this when I stood in front of a replica of the very simple mule drawn wagon that …

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If I Still Shout Today…

When is Enough Enough? I had a moment this summer.  I went to one of my favorite big box stores to buy some screws for a project.  The middle-aged salesman helped me politely and then asked what type of drill I had.  I told him that I have a regular drill.  He clarified for me that I would need a hammer drill to install these screws …

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“You Didn’t Build That!” – “We Built That!”

Who Started Your Journey? The political theater of the 2016 election has made me nostalgic for an earlier time: the 2012 election. You might remember that President Obama made the comment in Roanoke, VA, "You didn't build that." He intended to point out that every generation builds on the successes of previous generations.  The Republicans countered with the phrase, "We built that!" Not only did the …

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Walking Tall

We all know people, we might have even done it ourselves…. There are times in our lives when we stand tall, above all the rest, because we know that we must.  Maybe it was easier to do way back when on the playground, “That’s not fair!” we might have yelled.  It took a little more courage to do in the high school locker room, on …

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J Film Presents ReelAbilities Film Festival

Next week begins a week-long festival in Pittsburgh "Celebrating the Lives, Stories and Artistic Expressions of people with Disabilities." 80% film, 20% photography, the festival runs Thursday to Thursday, starting on October 22. Two amazing photography projects will be on display: Change How You See, See How You Change Rick Guidotti’s non-profit organization, Positive Exposure, utilizes photography to transform public perceptions of people living with genetic, physical and behavioral differences. The …

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A Simchat Torah Message

As we prepare to celebrate Simchat Torah (the annual ending and beginning of the Torah reading cycle in synagogue), I want to let you know that there are 304,805 letters in every Torah Scroll.  Each and every one of them is a handcrafted work of art written by a scribe with special quill, ink and intention.  If one of these letters were to be missing, …

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Sukkot – Yet Another Holy Day

Just when we thought we made it through the Holy Days, here comes another one: Sukkot. I find it ironic and insightful that Jewish Wisdom gives us the impression that with the end of Yom Kippur we are secure, well written in the Book of Life. Yet, just a mere 5 days later, we place ourselves in a hut (Sukkah) whose roof is liable to blow off …

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Entering the Season of Books

As our finger tips scroll through the rest of the summer weeks listed on our phones, we are preparing to enter the season of books. Our students are anticipating the end of summer reading assignments – so many pages divided by so many days… ‘I can do this… tomorrow’. Our business leaders are preparing to close the books on the 3rd quarter of 2015 and open …

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Stop Hunger Now

This year, we will challenge ourselves by translating the words from our mouths into the actions of our hands. The World Food Program reports: Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That's about one in nine people on earth. The vast majority of the world's hungry people live in developing countries, where 13.5 percent of the …

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Shabbat Shalom from J&R Day Camp

Shabbat Shalom J&R Day Camp Families, What an incredible ending to our 1st week of Camp as we welcomed in our 1st Shabbat! It’s incredible to see how much our campers have done in only one week. Some of our weekly accomplishments include: We have planted, maintained, and cooked with all of our veggies and herbs in our very own sustainable garden. We have returned to the nature of …

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