The Latest from BZBI


Jewish Federation’s Adam Laver Lives Jewishly and Serves the Community

Adam Laver, a Rittenhouse Square resident, is a second-generation member of Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel in Center City. He had his bar mitzvah there.And now, Laver’s two children, daughter Alana and son Noah, are third-generation members at BZ-BI. And they also had their bat and bar mitzvahs there. See the full story in the March 13, 2024 edition of the Jewish Exponent here.

Program to Secure Local Jewish Institutions Takes on New Meaning after Oct. 7

Harold Grinspoon, the Jewish real estate developer, has a foundation that supports Jewish causes. It’s perhaps best known for launching PJ Library. But it’s also known for its Life & Legacy program that promotes “after-lifetime giving to build endowments that will provide financial stability to day schools, synagogues and other Jewish entities,” according to, the foundation’s website.  See the full story in the March 6, 2024 edition of the Jewish Exponent here.

Local Rabbis Went to Israel. What Did They See?

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey organized a trip to Israel from Nov. 5-7. Eleven rabbis joined Federation leaders to examine “the needs on the ground,” as a Jewish Federation web post put it. See the full story in the November 29, 2023 edition of the Jewish Exponent here.

The Weitzman’s Education Director Grapples with the Israel Situation

Rebecca Krasner, the new director of education at the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, welcomed a school group to the museum on Oct. 11. It was just days after Hamas attacked Israel. What would she say? See the full story in the October 18, 2023 edition of the Jewish Exponent here.

From the Jewish Exponent: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Rabbis Interpret Tu B’Av

The first sentence of the Wikipedia page about Tu B’Av may sum it up best. It says, “Tu B’Av is a minor Jewish holiday.” In old Jerusalem, it was a day to mark the start of the grape harvest. It was also an occasion on which young, unmarried girls “dressed in white garments and went out to dance in the vineyards.” (From Wikipedia but confirmed by several rabbis.) See the full story in the August 1, 2023 edition of the Jewish Exponent here.

From the Jewish Exponent: Temple BZBI Honors Long History

Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel in Center City is a combination of three different synagogues that once existed in Jewish Philadelphia — Temple Beth Zion, Temple Beth Israel and the Neziner Congregation. The first to open, Temple Beth Israel, did so in 1840. That makes BZBI the third-oldest congregation in Philadelphia, according to the history section on the temple’s website. See the full story in the December 20, 2022 edition of the Jewish Exponent here.

From the Jewish Exponent: When Is it OK Not to Fast on Yom Kippur?

As an Orthodox rabbi guiding Congregation Beth Solomon in Philadelphia, Rabbi Solomon Isaacson possesses a deep understanding of why it’s so important to fast on Yom Kippur. But let’s let him explain it. “God measures us. Our lives are at stake,” he said. “We fast to put ourselves in the mood to say, ‘Why are we fasting?’ That fasting brings to mind how serious the day is.”  See the full story in the September 28, 2022 edition of the Jewish Exponent here.

From the Jewish Exponent: Is COVID Still Shaping High Holiday Plans at Synagogues?

Before the High Holidays last year, when 5781 became 5782, Philadelphia-area synagogues planned to return to in-person services after the remote COVID year of 2020. But the delta variant altered those plans.  Many synagogues were in-person but with restrictions, and with many congregants choosing the virtual option. Now, going into this year’s High Holidays, when 5782 becomes 5783, shuls again plan to gather in their sanctuaries.  See the full story in the August 30, 2022 edition of the Jewish Exponent here.

From the Jewish Exponent: Listen, People

Parshat Vaetchanan

Every evening for the last 19 months, my wife and I have completed the same ritual. First, there is the poem: a simple bedtime story that we recite responsively. Then, the song: a familiar and soothing lullaby taken from summer camp.  See the full story in the August 10th edition of the Jewish Exponent here.

From the Jewish Exponent: Local Jews Search for Music from Holocaust

As Sam Gubins of Havertown explained it, under the most grotesque, horrible conditions imaginable during the Holocaust, the human spirit found a way to create beauty. That beauty was in the thousands of pieces of music crafted and performed by Jews as they fought to survive.

Now Holocaust Music Lost & Found, a nonprofit created by Manhattan resident Janie Press, is on a mission to recover that music for posterity. And two local Jews, Gubins and Barry Abelson of Rittenhouse Square, not only believe in the mission but are part of it. See the full story in the June 29 edition of the Jewish Exponent here.

From the Jewish Exponent: The Act of Seeing

Parshat Shlah Lekha

I was 17 when I started wearing tallit katan — the thin, four-cornered undergarment worn in order to fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzit — and I went to great lengths to hide my tallit katan from my parents: washing it by hand late at night and drying with rolled towels, slipping it between folded T-shirts when I put it away at night, carefully tucking in my shirts so it wouldn’t show.  See the full story in the June 22 edition of the Jewish Exponent here.

From the Jewish Exponent: Jewish Baby Names become Classic, Modern

A story in this week’s Jewish Exponent describes how Philadelphia-area rabbis and cantors who officiate at baby-naming ceremonies are seeing parents both rediscover classic names and bring new ones into fashion. The story described how Rabbi Abe Friedman of BZBI notices a more conscious element to baby naming these days. To quote the story:

Often, parents will tell Friedman before a naming ceremony that they picked a moniker to honor a relative. The rabbi will respond by asking them to think about why they wanted to honor that relative, and then to explain those reasons to the child in a letter they read aloud during the ceremony. By the time they stand up to speak, they understand what stories, qualities and lessons they want to pass down from the elder to the child.  “I think parents are very aware of what they’re choosing,” he said. “This name is a container of meaning.” See the full story in the April 1 edition of the Jewish Exponent, here.

From the Jewish Exponent: Rabbi Abe Friedman’s Discussion of Parashah T’tzavveh

Rabbi Friedman writes: “This week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, which describes in minute detail the various garments worn by the kohanim (priests) during their service, seems likely to provoke the… question: Why all the fancy clothes? Is there anything truly special about these kohanim, or is it just their special outfits?

“Even as God designates the Levites and kohanim to serve in the Mishkan, the Israelites are just weeks out of Egypt; the same people who now take on a central leadership role were, not too long ago, toiling in the sun along with everyone else. By what right do they now separate themselves from the rest of the Israelites, living by a higher standard of purity and religious devotion? Donning the uniform, an external signifier of the role they were to play, served to remind the kohanim at all times that their role as leaders is actually a responsibility they take on — an act of service for the collective good — not personal aggrandizement.

“Parshat Tetzaveh offers all of us a reminder that we choose how we want to show up in each of life’s encounters — and we must choose deliberately and thoughtfully.”

See the full story in the February 10, 2022 issue of the Jewish Exponent here.

From the Jewish Exponent: Jewish Leaders Take a Stance on Abortion

In an article published on December 31, 2021, Rabbi Abi Weber discusses the Jewish position on abortion, following her recent study session. “What you’re seeing much more are rabbis, particularly American rabbis, feeling a need to really assert some of these very old Jewish ideas that are different from Christian ideas,” Weber said.

Like most considerations in Judaism, although clear halachic guidelines to follow exist, each scenario for an abortion must be considered on a case-by-case basis. “I know the experience of having potential life grow in my body, and there’s no doubt that it’s sacred, beautiful and special and can be such a wonderful experience for so many people,” Weber said. “And having been through that experience, I’m all the more aware of the toll that it can take on people. As a society, we need to be focusing on the person carrying the child.”

See the full story in the December 31, 2021 issue of the Jewish Exponent here.

From the Jewish Exponent: Jewish Leaders Monitor Omicron

BZBI’s Rabbi Abe Friedman is quoted in a story this week about how Jewish organizations and their leadership are preparing for a possible surge in COVID cases due to the Omicron variant.

“Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel in Center City has returned to in-person congregational life. The only restrictions are that, indoors, BZBI maintains masking and does not yet serve food. In the spring, the synagogue reopened. For a while thereafter, Rabbi Abe Friedman met regularly with a COVID task force of doctors in the congregation. Now, he just consults them as needed. After dealing with COVID for nearly two years, BZBI even has its own contact tracing protocol. Friedman and his staff put member names in a book. When congregants attend services, they put stickers next to their names. That way, if someone at the service comes down with COVID, everyone knows if they’ve been exposed.” See the full story in the December 11 issue of the Jewish Exponent here.

From the Jewish Exponent: Light Can Overcome the Darkest Night

Writes BZBI Senior Rabbi Abe Friedman about the Torah and Haftorah reading for Hannukah: “that a single jar of sacred oil could light the menorah in the Temple for eight days, until new oil could be produced in purity and brought to Jerusalem is one of Judaism’s best-known stories.

“We often look to this story for reassurance that, even in times of darkness and difficulty, all is never lost. The timing of our celebration reinforces this reading of the story. We celebrate Chanukah as we approach the winter solstice, as the nights grow longer.

“The Haftarah for Chanukah, the prophetic selection read on Shabbat morning, offers a different window onto the meaning of this holiday. The prophet Zekhariah lived in ambiguous times: the waning days of the Babylonian exile, the dawn of the Second Temple and the Jewish people’s return to our homeland in Israel. The facts on the ground could look very different, depending on one’s perspective.”

To read the rest of the story, see the December 4, 2021 edition of the Jewish Exponent.

From the Jewish Exponent: BZBI’s Rabbi Max Nissen and Beverly Socher-Lerner speak on Vaccine Approval for Kids

At Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel’s Neziner Hebrew School, 50 children are eligible for the COVID vaccine now that it has been approved for children ages 5-11. “A lot of our parents are really excited, and we already see many of our families having their kids vaccinated,” BZBI Director of Youth and Family Education Rabbi Max Nissen said. But while Neziner Hebrew School is held indoors with masks and social distancing, Makom Community continues to hold many classes outdoors until most or all kids are vaccinated. Beverly Socher-Lerner, Makom’s founding director, admits that staying outdoors as winter approaches isn’t ideal. “[Being outside] works, but it’s also hard,” she said. “There’s no noise barrier; there’s all the distractions of being outdoors; it’s busy.”

For the full story, see the November 18, 2021 edition of the Jewish Exponent.

From Leading Discoveries: From Fundraising to Gala Planning, Beverly Fassler Goldberg Does it All

Since 2016, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has been designated as the beneficiary of Party With a Purpose, a Philadelphia-based gala organized by the Friends of the AACR Foundation.  Beverly Fassler Goldberg, the president of the Party With a Purpose Committee, is the fundraising powerhouse behind the success of the annual gala having helped raise more than $2 million over five years. When asked what inspires her to devote so much time and energy to the galas, she explained, “I want to bring new hope and real help to people diagnosed with cancer. I feel so empowered to make a difference.”

Though the Party With a Purpose gala was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, Beverly hopes the event will happen again when it can be held safely. “I am looking forward to gathering in-person again to start planning the next event,” she said.

See the full story in the current issue of Leading Discoveries, a Publication of the American Association for Cancer Research.

From the Jewish Exponent: Tree of Life Shooting Still Impacts US Jews

When a white supremacist shot and killed 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 2018, it was “the deadliest attack on the Jewish community” in United States history, according to several media outlets.  It also changed the consciousness of the nation’s Jewish community, Philadelphia rabbis say. “It opened our eyes to the reality that antisemitism continues to exist and will continue to exist,” said Rabbi Abe Friedman of the Conservative Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel. See the full story in the October 29th edition of the Jewish Exponent.

From the Jewish Exponent: JFCS Chair Focuses on Mental Health, Diversity

Les Robbins, long-time Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel member, became the board chair of Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia’s on Sept. 1.

Les has been both the treasurer and assistant treasurer of the 25-member JFCS board; he served as a member of the BZBI board for several years in the 1990s and 2000s while his children were attending Hebrew school there; and he was a board of trustees member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.  Read the full story of his commitment to the Jewish community and his plans for helping JFCS evolve in the October 22 edition of the Jewish Exponent.

From the Jewish Exponent: How Do Clergy Relax Once the High Holidays End?

The 5782/2021 High Holiday season concluded Sept. 29 with Simchat Torah. Since then, area rabbis and cantors have emerged from their synagogues, breathed some fresh fall air and rediscovered their families and hobbies.

Rabbi Abe Friedman started taking her to Fitler Square Park every morning. Friedman does chalk art on the pavement for his daughter to observe. Last week, on different mornings, he drew a Torah, a nature scene and a Shabbat scene, with candles, grape juice and challah. “I fell into doing this because we were there in the park, and it just went from there,” Friedman said. “The weather’s been gorgeous.”

But for Friedman and his daughter, it’s not just mornings that they get to spend together. Now that the rabbi no longer needs to work seven days a week, he is his daughter’s primary caregiver on his day off. And when she naps, daddy gets some me time. Friedman goes down in the basement to tinker in his electronics workshop, where he fixes pedals for electric guitars.

“It’s a little bit sad to see it go,” the rabbi said of the High Holidays. “But then it’s like, deep breath.” You can read the full story in the October 8, 2021 edition of the Jewish Exponent.

Senior Rabbi Abe Friedman, Rebecca Krasner, and their home are featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer

In 2019, Rabbi Abe and Rebecca discovered a townhouse in Fitler Square that they liked. Previously used as a boardinghouse for students at the Curtis Institute 60 years ago the house was later divided into apartments in the 1970s. Neighbors suggested that conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein might have lived there while he was at Curtis.

Built about 1920, the house needed renovating before they could move in, and the full story in the Inquirer tells about how the renovation took place and how the family uses the space. You can view the full story here.

BZBI Announces Lynne Balaban as New Executive Director

On behalf of the Board of Trustees of BZBI, I am pleased to share with you that Lynne Balaban has accepted our offer to become the next Executive Director of BZBI. Lynne is a seasoned Executive Director with an impressive resume that includes leadership roles at synagogues and non-profits in South Florida, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Providence and Columbus. She currently serves as the Executive Director of B’nai Aviv in Weston, Florida. Originally from Philadelphia, Lynne and her family are returning to the area this summer when her husband Michael begins a new job as the CEO of Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

Lynne’s breadth of experience, coupled with a passion for Jewish education, tikkun olam, program development, strategic planning, and an ability to develop and manage people, made her an excellent candidate.

Our process for selecting an Executive Director involved multiple rounds of interviews by a Search Committee led by Arielle Kerstein and including Jeremy Bannett, Akil Bowler, Arlene Fickler, Gail Kroop, Nikki Morris, Matt Whitehorn and Rabbi Abe. I’d like to thank the Search Committee for their time, thoughtfulness and energy throughout this process.

Lynne notes, “I am excited for the opportunity to not only return home to Philadelphia, but also to work with the wonderful clergy, staff, board and families who are an integral part of the BZBI community. BZBI is a synagogue with a proud past and an even more promising future, and I look forward to being a part of it.”

Lynne will join BZBI in July, at which time we will set up opportunities for you to meet her. We look forward to welcoming Lynne and her family to BZBI!

All the best,

Nikki Morris

Miriam’s Advice Well: The Value of Pesah Sheini

BZBI member and Center City Kehillah leader Miriam Steinberg-Egeth is an advice columnist for the Jewish Exponent. Last week’s column addressed a question about what to do when you are unable to have a Passover Seder at the expected time.  Miriam’s advice is thoughtful and considerate; and proved a good jumping off point for a brief sermon by Senior Rabbi Abe Friedman on the history of Pesah Sheini, celebrated each year one month after the start of Pesah. For a full list of Miriam’s Advice Well columns, click here.

Statement of Solidarity with Asian American-Pacific Islander Communities

(Atlanta – March 17, 2021) As members of Atlanta’s Jewish community, The Jewish Community Relations Council of Atlanta stands in solidarity with the Asian American and Pacific Islander women and their communities against hate and violence. We mourn for the loss of life and our thoughts are with all the victims and their families. As Jewish tradition teaches, “Don’t stand by idly while your neighbor bleeds (Lev. 19:16).” We have an obligation to lift up our voices when faced with hatred and discrimination when fueled by race, ethnicity, religion or gender.

While the motivation has not been fully established, Tuesday’s killings in the Atlanta metro area follow a disturbing pattern of increasing violence and hatred directed at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, especially women. We condemn this violence and hatred, and we stand ready to support our AAPI neighbors and fellow Jews who are members of the AAPI community however we are needed.

Contact: Leslie Anderson, Executive Dir. at 770-366-7686;

Harold Kirtz, Board President, at 770-789-9378;

From the Jewish Exponent: Jewish Teachers Express Concern About School Districts Reopening Plans

Two members of BZBI — Joan Fanwick, a special education teacher at George W. Nebinger Elementary School in South Philadelphia, and Amit Schwalb, a science teacher at W.B. Saul High School in Roxborough — were quoted in an Exponent story published on February 17. The two were among thousands of educators in the School District of Philadelphia who taught outside in freezing weather to protest the district’s reopening plan, which required certain staff members to report to school in person for the first time in almost a year.  You can read the complete story here.

From the Jewish Exponent: Structures for Moving Forward, D’var Torah by Rabbi Valerie Joseph

The February 17 edition of the Jewish Exponent contains a D’var Torah for Parashah T’rumah by BZBI and Philadelphia Board of Rabbis member Rabbi Valerie Joseph, who writes that “This week, we see a tangible representation of God’s presence, created by the people. It is a lesson we can learn about recovery from the pandemic, addressing climate change and addressing other natural and man-made events of the recent past.” You can read the complete article here.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer: BZBI Member Joanne Perilstein on how 20 years of blindness prepared her to adapt to pandemic life

The January 22 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer features a story by practicing psychologist and BZBI member Joanne Perilstein about her training at a rehabilitation center 20 years ago, when she first required assistance with blindness.  “At the end of 11 months of training, I was expected to travel a “monster route,” in which I would visit four or five different places and demonstrate my skills at traveling independently with the white cane using public transportation. Both the training staff and I knew that mobility was not my strong suit. We all thought my plan was simple enough that I could succeed without getting maimed, killed, or hopelessly lost. Although my planning was extensive it still wasn’t sufficient preparation for what actually occurred.”

How the “monster route” training ended, and how it prepared her for life during the pandemic, can be found in the full story, which can be read here.


From the Jewish Exponent: Rabbis Friedman and Lewis help build trust among Interfaith clergy

Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy – including Rabbis Abe Friedman, Annie Lewis and Yosef Goldman – marched from 61st and Locust streets to the Philadelphia Police Department precinct at 55th and Pine streets on Oct. 27.  The day before, officers had shot and killed Walter Wallace Jr., a resident of Cobbs Creek, and, in protest, the clergy members, led by the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, chanted Wallace’s name and offered prayers, calling for justice.

Please see the full story in the November 5 edition of the Jewish Exponent.

From JTA and Times of Israel: Volunteering to aid voters in Philadelphia, rabbis encounter the unexpected: Peace and optimism

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) distributed a story on election day (November 3, 2020) describing the work of “a nonpartisan group called Election Defenders, which aims to assist voters waiting in line and potentially de-escalate conflict at the polls. They were also organized in the effort by T’ruah, a liberal rabbinic human rights organization.”  Rabbis Annie Lewis and Yosef Goldman were both quoted in the story.  Said Rabbi Annie: “Obviously, leading up to this day, I didn’t know how I would feel this morning. I was just very moved, hearing stories on the radio, seeing people voting, being out and talking to voters, talking to poll workers and other volunteers.” She added, “That feels hopeful to me. I feel part of something much bigger.” To read the complete story, click here.

From the Jewish Exponent: Fair and Free Elections Are a Jewish Value

In the October 29 edition of the Jewish Exponent, former BZBI board chair and member Arlene Fickler and Associate Rabbi Annie Lewis along with Rabbi Eric Yanoff (co-presidents of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia) wrote an editorial on election disagreement not ending in disunion. The authors state that “Rigorous disagreement is an essential element of a healthy democracy and is central to how we develop our ideas in Jewish discourse. Our rabbinic tradition teaches us that it is possible for us to disagree and still respect each other’s essential humanity.” To read the complete editorial, click here.

RBG Remembered in Historical Memorial

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the first woman and first Jewish American to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol. NBC10’s Tracey Davidson spoke to BZBI member and current board chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Arlene Fickler about Ginsburg’s legacy. Click on the image to view the video.

From the Jewish Exponent: Finding Strength in Yoga and Judaism

Dr. Deborah Glassman leads Shabbhakti, a series of Jewish-inspired yoga workshops, at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel. Now that the pandemic has forced participants into isolation, she has moved the classes to Zoom and created new programming designed to help people cope with the stress and uncertainty of their new reality.

Sharri Horowitz, a Shabbhakti participant, enjoys traditional services at BZBI but appreciates Glassman’s alternative approach to prayer and spirituality. For her, the physical aspect of yoga emphasizes the presence of God in individuals, and the mind-body connection feels moving and spiritual.

Please see the full story in the October 1 edition of the Jewish Exponent.

From the Jewish Exponent: It’s Time to Stand and Be Counted

Arlene Fickler wrote a follow up Op-Ed article in the September 23 edition of the Jewish Exponent that “This year marks the 24th time in which the United States is counting how many people reside within our borders through the 2020 census. I am writing to urge that, between now and Sept. 30, when the census counting ends, we all do our part to ensure that everyone is counted — both by responding to the census on behalf of our households, if we haven’t already done so, and by urging others to do the same.”

Please see the full story in the Spetember 23 edition of the Jewish Exponent.

From the Jewish Exponent: BZBI Leads Teen Racial Justice Group

After protests against police brutality and systemic racism rocked Philadelphia, Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel created the Philly Jewish Teen Racial Justice Action Group to help teens learn more about race.

“It just felt like a good opportunity to offer them a way to come together and think about what it is to get more directly involved with different kinds of activism, and organize specifically around Black Lives Matter and a whole conversation around police brutality and racism in our country,” said Rachel Beck, teen program coordinator at BZBI.

The group meets on Zoom once a week for 2½ hours, and there are seven sessions scheduled.

Please see the full story in the August 8 edition of the Jewish Exponent.

From the Jewish Exponent: Rabbi Ezekiel Nissim Musleah Dies at 92

Rabbi Ezekiel Nissim Musleah, who dedicated his life to religious leadership, inspiring students and chanting Torah from India to Philadelphia, died on July 14. He was 92.

“When Rabbi Musleah read Torah in the synagogue,” said Adam Laver, a lawyer and a longtime student of Musleah’s, “it was the voice of God.”

His family “could not stop him from telling stories,” said his daughter Rahel Musleah. By the same token, Musleah’s family, friends and acquaintances eagerly shared stories about the man who was “like a piece of baklava,” according to Rahel, quoting the Israeli writer Sami Michael. “One layer is sweeter than the next.”

Please see the full appreciation published in the July 22 edition of the Jewish Exponent.

From the Jewish Exponent: Edward R. Goldenberg Dies at 88

We are saddened by the loss of longtime BZBI member Edgar Goldenberg, husband of the late Carolyn Kominers Goldenberg. He is survived by four daughters, Marcy Goldenberg Kardon (Richard), Mindy Goldenberg Valenci (Richard), Diane Goldenberg Silverstein (Leon) and Lauren Goldenberg (Evan Klippel); eight grandchildren (and their spouses), two great-grandchildren and sister Ellen Pollack.

Please see the full obituary published on May 8 in the Jewish Exponent.

Stephen Fried on Epidemics, Science, Faith and History: Recording Available

BZBI member and author, Stephen Fried, has researched and written about the Yellow fever epidemic of 1793 in Philadelphia, the flu epidemics in America in 1918 and 1928, and the AIDS epidemic.

He also wrote a book about the pharmaceutical business in the 1990s. But it was his biography of doctor Benjamin Rush, who recognized the role of mass trauma and isolation on mental health after the 1793 yellow fever epidemic, that has the most relevance today.

With this deep background, on Thursday May 7, Fried wove a tale of American medicine, government, and the role of religion in medical care.

A recording of the even is available here and also on our Facebook page.

Philadelphia Enquirer Covers BZBI’s First Zoom Mitzvah

Rona Kobell, science editor and writer for Maryland Sea Grant College and instructor at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism wrote an opinion article for the Philadelphia Enquirer that was published on Sunday, April 19.  It describes the moving story behind the family’s decision to become BZBI’s first Zoom Mitzvah family, celebrating with niece Eve Kobell. She marvels at the impact of having “about 75 computers representing nearly 200 guests logged on to Zoom to hear Eve become a Bat Mitzvah.” The guests came from around the world, including England, Israel, Canada, and Bermuda.

Rona describes how Eve “read five passages of Torah, chanted her Haftorah portion, and led the service. Her proud parents embarrassed her with gushing speeches. From a half dozen countries, we threw candy at the computer screens.” She describes how life in large and small ways intrudes on our plans, and when “Rabbi Annie’s daughter climbed into her lap as she helped lead prayers, it was adorable.”

You can read the entire story on the Enquirer website here.

BZBI now supports mourners who want to say Kaddish

The Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards issued new guidance for congregations declaring this period a sha’at ha-dahak, a time of extreme pressure, during which special allowances can be made for ritual practice. Specifically, we are now allowing a “virtual minyan” of ten people connected by audio and video to recite Kaddish.

We hope you will join our Zoom minyanim at the regular BZBI minyan times to ensure that our members are able to say Kaddish. Also be sure to attend our virtual Kabbalat Shabbat and Havdallah services.  Many people in our community have yahrzeit each week, and your support for our virtual minyan is especially vital during this sha’at ha-dahak.

Please join our “minyan zoom chapel” at the links shown on the events page:

You can download the portions of the siddur Sim Shalom, the prayerbook used for the daily minyan or Shabbat services by going to this site.

Let us know if you have an upcoming yahrtzeit, questions or need technical support by completing a “contact us” form here.

BZBI suspending all in-person worship services until further notice

(Early Childhood and Youth & Family information can be found below this message)

We take this decision with a heavy heart, after extensive deliberation among the staff and board and under the guidance of medical experts. Although the suspension of worship services places a burden on all of us who seek grounding and support in our synagogue community, we believe the value of pikuah nefesh (preserving life) demands that we take proactive steps to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tissa, tells the difficult story of the Israelites’ worshipping a golden calf. In setting up the story, the Torah points to fear and uncertainty in our ancestors’ hearts: כי זה משה… לא ידענו מה היה לו, “This Moses… we do not know what has become of him” (Ex. 32:1). We now feel the same uncertainty. We have no way of knowing when we will be able to gather again as a community, or when other aspects of our lives might return to normal, and we face the same fears B’nai Yisrael wrestled with in our parashah.

Moses also faces a frightening uncertainty – B’nai Yisrael have not tested God to this degree before, and it’s not clear that the community can hold together under such pressure. In distress he cries out to God, הראני נא את כבודך, “Show me Your glory” (Ex. 33:18) – show me how this all ends, let me know it will all be OK. But God demurs; even God can’t give Moses the certainty he craves. Instead, God tells Moses, הנה מקום אתי, “I have a place for you with Me” (Ex. 33:21). God reassures Moses, “I can’t give you the guarantees you seek, but I can promise that you will always have a place beside Me, you will always have the benefit of my protection.”

God’s promise holds true for us as well; הנה מקום אתי, God is watching out for each and every one of us, and we are watching out for one another as well. Our community remains a spiritual home even when we are physically distant. We are organizing a team of volunteers to make outreach calls during the suspension of services, and we hope you will join in the effort. Please contact Rebecca Krasner if you are able to help make calls.

We will also be convening a live Zoom meeting at our regular minyan times (7:45am Monday-Friday, 5:30pm Monday-Thursday). You can connect with the Zoom meeting using this link. Although this will not constitute a formal minyan for the purposes of saying kaddish, it will offer us an opportunity to connect and check in. We will also recite a daily misheberach for healing, and we encourage you to email the rabbis with any additional names we should include in our prayers. If you need a minyan to say kaddish, or are interested in a live stream of Shabbat services, we encourage you to take part in Adath Israel’s live stream of their services.

The Neziner Hebrew School is suspending Saturday morning classes and shifting to an online format for weekday classes. Our Director of Youth & Family Education, Rabbi Max Nissen, will keep parents updated on how classes will go forward.

Parents will receive direct communication from Sara Goldfuss, our Director of Early Childhood Education, with details about the Early Childhood operations.

This morning’s E-Congregation email included details about our adult education classes shifting to an online-only format. If you have questions, please contact your instructor or the Temple Office.

The Temple Office remains open; if you have an upcoming appointment that you would like to change to a phone call or video conference, please contact the Temple Office.

Your rabbis are always available to support you in this time of fear and uncertainty. David Haas, BZBI’s Communications Coordinator, can help you schedule an appointment.

We pray that this Shabbat brings moments of rest, reflection, and spiritual nourishment.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Abe Friedman
Senior Rabbi

Rabbi Annie Lewis
Associate Rabbi

Harvey Friedrich
Interim Executive Director

Purim at BZBI had something for everyone

Purim at BZBI haD something for everyone (and then some)! Carnival, children’s parade, family dinner, Megillah reading, costume contest, and more. Join us next year! There were multiple opportunities to hear the Megillah, celebrate with new and old friends, and of course be goofy!

Here are some scenes from this year’s Purim at BZBI.


A Musical Journey: Saturday Night Soul Spa

Posted: March 2, 2020
Arabic and Jewish musical traditions combined this weekend for a spiritually rousing and heart-opening evening of music, prayer, and contemplation. The evening started with a moving Havdalah service to usher out the Shabbat. What followed was a musical journey led by Samuel Torjman Thomas, who has traveled many times to North Africa and learned to play the Oud along with more traditional western instruments. Hazzan Jessi Roemer, Rabbi Yosef Goldman and Rabbi Annie Lewis collaborated on the musical Melaveh Malkah. Saturday Night Soul Spa was co-sponsored with Society Hill Synagogue and Hadar’s Rising Song Institute.

Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel & Society Hill Synagogue to be Honored by HIAS Pennsylvania

Posted: September 17, 2019

Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel and Society Hill Synagogue will be the 2019 Honorees at HIAS Pennsylvania’s Annual Meeting for their cross-institutional collaboration in support of the Mbonigaba-Muzungu family, a refugee family from the Congo and Namibia.

Congregant Stuart Goodman Receives Award from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia

Posted: September 9, 2018

On Wednesday, September 11, at the meeting of the Jewish Federation’s Board of Trustees, Stuart
Goodman will be honored as one of the recipients of Federation’s Young Leadership Awards. You can read about this honor here.

Congregant Ivy Weingram featured in Philadelphia Inquirer Article About Leonard Bernstein Exhibit at NMAJH

Posted: March 15, 2018

Ivy Weingram, Associate Curator at the National Museum of American Jewish History and a member of BZBI, was featured in an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about an exhibit she curated. Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music explores the musician’s Jewish identity and social activism in the context of his position as an American conductor and his works as a composer.

Congregants Penni Blaskey & Marcy Bacine to be Honored at Jewish Federation’s Women of Vision Fall Event

Posted: September 1, 2017

On September 15, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Women of Vision will celebrate their leadership by honoring outgoing Chair, Penni Blaskey, and installing the new Chair, Marcy Bacine at their Fall Event. To learn more about the Federation’s, Women of Vision, read here.

Congregant Joseph Neubauer awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Technion Society

Posted: July 26, 2017

On June 12, 2017, the Technion friends and supporters met at their annual Board of Governors meeting, where BZBI congregant and Technion Guardian, Joseph Neubauer, was among the elite group of individuals to receive an Honorary Doctorate from the institute.

Congregant Beverly Socher-Lerner’s Makom Program Featured in the Jewish Exponent

Posted: July 7, 2017

BZBI congregant Beverly Socher-Lerner’s Jewish after-school program, Makom Community, was featured by the Jewish Exponent in their article, Makom Accelerating to Higher Ground in Center City. Makom recently received the attention of San Francisco Bay Area-based UpStart’s Accelerator program, which will provide tips and coaching for the growing Makom organization.

BZBI USY Recognized as a “Chapter of Excellence,” Receives Other Awards

Posted: May 23, 2017

We’re thrilled to announce that BZBI USY has been recognized by EPA/Hagesher Region as a Chapter of Excellence at the annual Spring Convention held on May 7, 2017.  In addition, our chapter was recognized for “Leadership Program of the Year: Board Retreat”, and “Religion-Education Program of the Year: Teaching Torah to Teens Shabbat series”. Yasher Kokh-khem to our wonderful USYers, Molly Flanigan chapter president, Shana Weiner, advisor, and Terri Soifer, Teacher of Torah to Teens!  Way to go USY!

BZBI “Sanctuary Shabbat” Featured in the Jewish Exponent

Posted: May 15, 2017

The Jewish Exponent covered BZBI’s May 13 “Sanctuary Shabbat” event, where we welcomed Mayor Jim Kenney and a panel of interfaith speakers to speak about Philadelphia’s status as a Sanctuary City and the New Sanctuary Movement in general. Click here to read the article, “Synagogue Hosts Immigrant-Focused Shabbat with Mayor Kenney.”

Arlene Fickler Featured in Jewish Women’s Archive Blog

Posted: May 9, 2017

Diana Myers, a senior at J.R. Masterman High School, profiles BZBI’s president Arlene Fickler through the eyes of a young feminist in her blog post for the Jewish Women’s Archive, “Different Stories, Same Meaning.”

Terri Soifer Comments on iCenter in the Jewish Exponent

Posted: April 30, 2017

The Exponent covers The iCenter, a nonprofit that seeks to enhance Israel education. Terri Soifer, BZBI community engager and one of iCenter’s iFellows, comments on her experience with the organization and how it guides her approach to teaching about Israel in the article, “iCenter Fellowship Encourages Broader Approach to Education About Israel.”

BZBI Congregant, Michael Carrier, Wins Antitrust Writing Award

Posted: April 6, 2017

The Antitrust Writing Awards honored Michael Carrier for his work, Citizen Petitions: Long, Late-Filed, and At-Last Denied, naming it best article of 2016 in the Intellectual Property category.

BZBI Congregant, Matt Whitehorn, received Pro Bono Service Award

Posted: April 5, 2017

Villanova Law School awarded Matt Whitehorn the Pro Bono Service Award.

BZBI Congregant, David Smith, To Be Honored at Jewish Learning Venture’s Seventh Annual Celebration

Posted: April 4, 2017

Jewish Learning Venture will be honoring congregant David Smith for his leadership and guidance on Sunday, April 30th, at their seventh annual celebration. David Smith oversaw the merger of the Jewish Outreach Partnership and Auerbach Central Agency for Jewish Education that resulted in the creation of Jewish Learning Venture.

BZBI Early Childhood Children Donate Six Trees for Tu B’Shevat

Posted: March 7, 2017

Thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Laurie Wagman Playschool and Abigail R. Cohen Preschool, JNF has planted six trees in Israel for “All Who Are in Need.”

BZBI Responding to the Mount Carmel Cemetery Vandalism

Posted: March 2, 2017

Rabbi Yosef Goldman has been interviewed about the vandalism in the Mount Carmel Cemetery. You can hear him on the BBC’s The World Tonight (at 32:05), on CBC’s As It Happens, on ABC News, and in the Washington Post. Our President, Arlene Fickler is quoted in Billy Penn.

Teaching Torah to Teens Featured in the monthly “National Informal STEM Education” e-newsletter

Posted: February 7, 2017

BZBI congregant Spencer Glantz, a bionengineering PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania has worked with The Franklin Institute to help develop Building with Biology activities. Terri Soifer, our BZBI Community Engager and Teaching Torah to Teens facilitator, worked with Spencer to bring this program to BZBI. Learn more here.

BZBI Congregant, Natalie Hess, Featured in the Jewish Exponent

Posted: January 9, 2017

BZBI congregant Natalie Hess was featured in the Jewish Exponent’s article, “NMAJH Honors MLK Day through Civil Rights Reflections, Full Program of Events” about her story as a Holocaust survivor and how it connects to her work within the civil rights movement.

Rabbi Ira Stone Featured in Hadassah Magazine

Posted: January 2017

BZBI’s Rabbi Emeritus, Ira Stone, was quoted in Rahel Musleah’s article “Mussar: Jewish Spirituality for the Modern World.” Rahel, (BZB’s congregant Rabbi Musleah’s daughter) reflects on the history of the modern day interest in Mussar and explains Rabbi Stone’s connection with Mussar.

Denine Gorniak Featured on “Living Well with Pat Nogar”

Posted: December 6, 2016

Our bookkeeper and bicycle chef, Denine Gorniak, has a segment on LMTV’s “Living Well with Pat Nogar” sharing her favorite recipe for stuffed cabbage. Click here to watch the episode, where she is the third chef featured. You can email Denine for suggestions on how to make a kosher version of her recipe.

Mazel Tov to Jeanette and Joe Neubauer

Posted: December 1, 2016

Mazel Tov to Jeanette and Joe Neubauer for being named a Dame and Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Saint Gregory the Great for their dedication and exceptional service to the World Meeting of Families Philadelphia.

Mazel Tov to Adam E. Laver, JFCS’ New Board Chairman

Posted: September 1, 2016

Mazel Tov to our BZBI member, Adam Lave, on assuming the role of Board Chairman of Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia.

Tamar Fox Profiled

Posted: July 11, 2016

Learn more about BZBI congregant, Tamar Fox, and her life as a write, elected official, and a foster parent.

Mazel Tov to Joseph Neubauer

Posted: May 27, 2016

Mazel Tov to BZBI congregant, Joseph Neubauer, on being honored at the National Museum of American Jewish History Only in America Gala in New York City.

Rabbi Abe Friedman Comments on Kitniyot in the Jewish Exponent

Posted: April 14, 2016

The Exponent covers the Conservative Movement’s ruling in November that now permits Ashkenazi Jews to eat kitniyot on Passover. Rabbi Friedman comments on the ruling in the article, “Passover Arrives with a Bigger Menu.”

“BZBI’s True Colors” by Masters Group Design

Posted: March 8, 2016
At BZBI we work with our member, Lisa Weinberger’s creative team at Masters Group Design. We love working with Vicki, Benjamin, and Lisa, and they wrote a wonderful blog post explaining how their work with our website has led to further branding initiatives.

Congregant Ilana Trachtman receives the Signature Grant!

Posted: January 11, 2016
Mazal Tov to our member Ilana Trachtman, recipient of a Signature Grant from the Covenant Foundation! Ilana will be working with the Seattle Jewish community on a collaborative theater/video performance that explores the Biblical narrative of Rachel and Leah.

Cindy Citron Featured in the Jewish Exponent

Posted: December 21, 2015
An informative article about our Neziner Hebrew School Principal Cindy Citron and how she has worked with resources in the Philadelphia Jewish community to help support her aging parents. Click here to read the article, “There’s No Place Like Home Care.


Congratulations, Adam!

Posted: December 4, 2015
We are very proud of our member, Adam Laver, having been awarded the Ben Levy Community Service Award from the Brandeis Law Society.

New Rabbis, New Year, New Messages

Posted: September 11, 2015 in The Jewish Exponent
By Rachel Kurland and Marissa Stern

Philadelphia Welcomes Rabbi Abe

Posted: July 29, 2015
The entire BZBI family welcomes Rabbi Abe Friedman to Philadelphia. By the looks of this video, a lot of other Philadelphians are excited that he has moved to Philadelphia, too.

BZBI Welcomes Rabbi Abe from Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel on Vimeo.

Beth Zion-Beth Israel Names Its New Rabbi

Posted: July 9, 2015 in The Jewish Exponent
By Marissa Stern

Torah and Haftarah Commentaries are now online!

Posted: April 30, 2015
Weekly Torah commentary from the Jewish Theological Seminary and Haftarah commentary from the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem are now only a click away. Find them on our Worship page.

Rabbi Goldman and Rabbi Lewis Featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer

Posted: April 15, 2015
A beautiful article about our own Rabbi Yosef Goldman and Germantown Jewish Centre‘s Rabbi Annie Lewis about love, relationship-building, and their road to parenthood. Click here to read the article, “The Parent Trip: Annie Lewis and Yosef Goldman of Mount Airy”.

Graphic Novelist’s Debut: ‘A Bintel Brief’ about Jewish Life in Old New York

Posted: February 22, 2015 in
By Tirdad Derakhshani, Inquirer Staff Writer

National Jewish Leadership Development Program Launched in Philadelphia

Posted: January 22, 2015 in The Jewish Exponent

Rabbi Ira Stone Honored for 25 Years of Leadership

Posted: October 28, 2013 in The Jewish Exponent
By Michael Elkin