Metro Briefs January 15

Metro Briefs January 15

Ronna Harris Askin
Ronna Harris Askin

Ronna Harris Askin is the new executive director of the Jewish Assistance Fund. She replaces retiring executive director Ellen Primis, who shaped the organization as its first executive director. Primis served for six years.

Harris is the president of the American Friends of Israel War Disabled, serves on the board of Congregation Beth Shalom, volunteers at Circle of EKC, a camp for grieving children, and chairs a subcommittee within Partnership 2Gether through the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. She previously was a board member of the Hebrew Free Loan organization.

Harris Askin said she follows the example set by her late parents, who although far from wealthy, were exceptionally generous and made sure she and her brother understood that as long as they had something, they had more than many others.

Harris Askin said her goals are twofold: to expand the JAF donor base and increase visibility in the Jewish community, especially with younger potential donors and then make sure JAF reaches all the Jewish people who are truly in need. JAF provides immediate financial assistance to Jewish people who are facing serious financial problems and are in need of food, clothing, shelter or medical, dental and hospital bills.

Visit for more information.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Main Branch will welcome klezmer band The Carnegie Shpil Company on Sunday, Jan. 25 at 2 p.m. The concert is being presented free of charge and open to the public.

The Carnegie Shpil Company, comprised of current students and alumni of the Pittsburgh universities, will be performing their mix of traditional and modern klezmer for audiences of all ages.

Contact the library at 412-622-3151 or find the band online at for more information.

Rodef Shalom Sisterhood Movie Night series will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a reprise of the award-winning 2005 Israeli film “Ushpizin” on Sunday, Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m.

The movie is in Hebrew with English subtitles. “Ushpizin” means guests, and the movie tells the story of a poor Chasidic couple living in Meah She’arim, whose luck begins to change when they receive a $1,000 gift that is followed by problematic secular old friends who invade their lives as guests in their sukkah.

“Ushpizin” won awards for best actor (Shuli Rand) and for best scriptwriter (his wife, Michal Bat Sheva Rand). The Washington Post called “Ushpizin” an important and cinematic milestone as it was actually filmed in the usually camera-shy, haredi Orthodox neighborhood of Meah She’arim. Shuli and Michal Rand, the main characters in the film, are both formerly secular Israeli actors who became religious later in their lives.

The film will be shown in Levy Hall on recently updated equipment and will be followed by light Israeli refreshments. The film is open to the community and there is no charge.

Jewish National Fund of Western Pennsylvania will hold a complimentary community breakfast (dietary laws observed) on Thursday, Feb. 12 from 8 to 9 a.m. at the Phipps Conservatory. Registration begins at 7:15 a.m.

Environmental policy expert Alon Tal will speak on “Milk and Honey or Toxic Pesticides?”

Tal is a professor at Ben Gurion University and one of Israel’s leading environmentalists. He established Israel’s Green Party and served as chairman until 2013. Tal founded the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, where Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian students join environmentalists from around the world in an advanced interdisciplinary research program.

Tal’s most recent books include “All the Trees of the Forest,” “Between Ruin and Restoration,” “Water Wisdom,” “Speaking of Earth” and “Pollution in a Promised Land.” He recently established the Tal Fund, a grassroots ecological initiative that provides small grants to environmental activists in Israel.

Contact Amy Jonas, director, Western Pennsylvania at or 412-521-3200 to make reservations by Feb. 2 and for more information.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency have earned the organization a four-star rating for the second year in a row from Charity Navigator, an independent charity evaluator.

Jeffrey Finkelstein, president and CEO of the Federation noted, “Federation lay leaders and staff take fiduciary and governance responsibilities very seriously. To have Charity Navigator recognize our efforts assures donors that we use funding wisely to enhance Jewish community in Pittsburgh and beyond. The four-star rating adds one more affirmation of our commitment to Jewish values.”

Since 2002, Charity Navigator has used data-driven analysis to award its four-star rating to only the most fiscally responsible organizations. In 2011, it started evaluating organizations’ accountability and transparency as well. Evaluations now assess governance and ethical practices and compose 50 percent of a nonprofit’s overall score.

The Federation’s rating and information about charitable giving are available at

Pittsburgh’s 14th Ward Democratic Committee announces that all six of the declared Democratic candidates for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court have confirmed their participation in the 14th Ward’s Democratic Supreme Court Candidates Forum scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 25 at 2 p.m. at the Eddy Theater, Chatham University, on Woodland Road. Doors open at 1 p.m.

The six candidates are Superior Court Judge Christine Donohue, Philadelphia County Common Pleas Court Judge Kevin Dougherty, Jefferson County Common Pleas Court Judge John Foradora, Superior Court Judge Anne Lazarus, Superior Court Judge David Wecht and Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Dwayne Woodruff.

“With three open seats on the state Supreme Court, this election will have a significant and far-reaching impact on the laws that affect Pennsylvanians for years to come,” said 14th Ward Democratic Committee chair Sam Hens-Greco.

The January Forum is co-sponsored by the 14th Ward Democratic Committee, the 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club, the Shadyside Dems and the Steel City Stonewall Democrats. The event is free and open to the public.

Governor-elect Tom Wolf has appointed Jewish Association on Aging President and CEO Deborah Winn-Horvitz to be part of his Aging Services Transition Team. The Aging Services Team will work with the outgoing administration to better understand the issues and challenges that face the executive branch.

“It is an honor to be called upon by the governor-elect to speak to the issues that are critical to elders today,” Winn-Horvitz said. “We are at a crossroads today in senior care, and are eager to discuss new care models that insure delivering the highest-quality care and lifestyle in the most efficient way possible, in order to ensure sustainability of the system. We all want Pennsylvania to be the best state in which to grow old.”

The JAA is a member of LeadingAge PA, an association of Pennsylvania not-for-profit senior services, which applauded Wolf’s decision to add Winn-Horvitz to the transition team.

Others on the team include Everett James, director of the Health Policy Institute, University of Pittsburgh; and Crystal Lowe, executive director, Pennsylvania’s Area Agencies on Aging.

Contact Beverly Brinn at 412-521-1975 for more information about the JAA.

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC are hosting a screening of the movie “No Evidence of Disease,” followed by an expert panel discussion on Human papillomavirus (HPV) in honor of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month on Thursday, Jan. 22 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Magee-Womens Hospital auditorium on the lower level, located at 300 Halket St. The program is free and open to the community.

The documentary and panel discussion will provide an education on ways to detect gynecological cancers at an early stage and potentially prevent gynecological and other HPV-related cancers from developing.

The film features a band of gynecological surgeons-turned-rockers who perform original music to raise awareness and research funding for cancer and spread healing through music. The HPV virus is responsible for nearly 27,000 new cancer diagnoses in the United States each year among both women and men. Panelists will also discuss the HPV vaccine, a safe and effective method to prevent HPV-related cancers.

The panel, moderated by Lynne-Hayes Freeland of KDKA TV, features:

Dr. Miriam Cremer, who also has a master’s degree in public health, is an associate professor at Cleveland Clinic and is president and founder of Basic Health International; Dr. Richard Guido, professor, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, Division of Gynecologic Specialties, Magee-Womens Research Institute and Foundation; and Dr. Ana Radovic-Stakic, an adolescent medicine and pediatric specialist at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Visit for more information on the HPV Vaccination Initiative.

Contact JHF program coordinator Sue Steele at 412-586-6710 by Jan. 16 to register.