Metro Briefs May 30

Metro Briefs May 30

Helene Kessler Burke
Helene Kessler Burke

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh is accepting donations to help those impacted by the devastation of tornado damage in Oklahoma City and its surrounding suburbs.

“Our prayers are with the victims of this horrible disaster,” President and CEO Jeffery H. Finkelstein said in a prepared statement. “We can help bring immediate aid to the city’s residents. The Federation works with a number of heroic relief units that can help provide food, shelter and emotional support to the people of Oklahoma. We are obligated to help in whatever way we can.”

Donors may contribute online at, by calling (412) 681-8000 or by sending a check to the Jewish Federation Tornado Relief Fund, 234 McKee Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.

All funds collected by the Federation will be directed to social welfare agencies in the affected areas serving both the Jewish and general communities. The Federation will absorb all administrative costs, ensuring that 100 percent of all donations go directly to aid those most grievously affected.

This fund has been opened in addition to — not in lieu of — the 2013 Annual Campaign, which supports the programs and institutions that enrich Jewish life here at home, in Israel and in over 70 countries around the world.

For more information, contact Jessica Brown Smith, director of campaign and financial resource development, at 412-992-5248 or

HaZamir Pittsburgh will perform its season’s final concert Sunday, June 2, at 5:45 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill. HaZamir Pittsburgh, led by Music Director and Conductor Nizan Leibovich, is the local chapter of HaZamir: The International Jewish High School Choir, which performs Jewish choral music to audiences both locally and nationally.

The concert is free but a donation is suggested; a reception follows the concert. HaZamir Pittsburgh is sponsored by J-SITE, the teen department of the Agency for Jewish Learning, which is a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and the JCC.

Contact or 412-521-1101 for more information.

Rodef Shalom Congregation has announced that Helene Kessler Burke, a familiar face at the Shadyside temple, will serve as its program and youth director beginning in June.

Burke is returning to Rodef Shalom after previously serving as the congregation’s youth education and activities administrator between 2001 and 2008.

She also has worked at the Agency for Jewish Learning’s Synagogue Leadership Program and the Congregational School Improvement Initiative.

Burke joins the staff as part of Rodef Shalom’s strategic plan to transition from three rabbis to two, and create a position to develop and implement activities for adult education, festivals and holidays, and youth engagement. She was selected after a national search that drew applicants from across the country, according to the congregation.

Rabbi Arik Ascherman, director of external relations for Rabbis for Human Rights, will give a talk on the subject, “A Rabbinic View of Human Rights in Israel,” Monday, June 10, 7 to 9 p.m. at Rodef Shalom Congregation, 4905 Fifth Ave. in Shadyside.

Rodef Shalom, J Street Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee are presenting the program.

A native of Erie, Ascherman is a human rights activist and co-founder of Rabbis for Human Rights. He and his organization are well known for dispatching volunteers to act as human shields to protect the Palestinian olive harvest from vandalism and clashes with settlers living nearby. In 2004 to 2005 he was tried for civil disobedience after obstructing a bulldozer as it demolished houses in East Jerusalem.

Rabbis for Human Rights advocates for the rights of marginalized communities within Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Among those groups are Israelis, Palestinians, foreign workers and Sudanese refugees. The organization includes rabbis from the Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Renewal streams of Judaism.

Rabbis for Human Rights also has received the Speaker of the Knesset’s prize for its contributions to Israeli democracy and the Niwano Peace Prize for promoting interreligious cooperation in the cause of peace.

The program is free and open to the public.

The Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI) is seeking applications for the 2013 Fine Award for Teamwork Excellence in Health Care.

The Fine awards will recognize and reward teams that are providing quality, patient-centered, care at the end of life.

The Fine Foundation, led by Milton and Sheila Fine, and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, of which PRHI is an operating arm, established the award in 2008 to encourage problem solving and quality improvement in health care, and to foster an exceptional service mentality.

The Fines partnered with the JHF in order to fill this gap in the Pittsburgh region.

Three awards (Gold, Silver, and Bronze, with prizes of $25,000, $15,000, and $10,000, respectively) are granted to the health care teams whose efforts in health care quality improvement are exceptional.

This year, the Fine Awards will honor care at the end of life. All applications are reviewed by a national panel of thought leaders, and must provide credible evidence of sustainable quality improvement.

The award criteria and application is now available on the PRHI website, The submission deadline is June 10. Contact for more information.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh is beginning its annual Volunteer of the Year program.

The program celebrates the outstanding contributions of volunteers within Jewish Pittsburgh. The name of each organization’s volunteer will be published in an ad to appear in the Chronicle, and they will be further acknowledged in a slide show presentation at the Federation’s Oct. 2 annual meeting.

Contact Marylyn Navish-McCullough at 412-992-5251 or at for more information about the nomination process.

Congregation Beth Shalom has announced a date change for its preschool’s 25th anniversary celebration. The celebration will now be held Thursday, June 13, 6:30 p.m., together with the prekindergarten graduation program.

The 25th anniversary celebration will attract alumni and parents, former teachers and administrators from the preschool’s silver anniversary.

The community is invited to attend the celebration, which will be held in the congregation’s Samuel and Minnie Hyman Ballroom, 5915 Beacon St., Squirrel Hill.

Contact Beth Shalom at 412-421-2288 or to RSVP. 

The dancing and parade procession of Hillel Academy Sefer Torah L’Dorot will begin with the parade Sunday, June 2, at noon, at the the corner of Shady Avenue and Bartlett Street. The Torah is being dedicated by the Joshowitz family in memory of Isadore Joshowitz.

Jewish Community Day at Kennywood will be held Sunday, Aug. 18. Details will be provided as they become available.

Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ), representing over 500 sisterhoods, is currently celebrating its Centennial year. 

The latest volume in WRJ’s Covenant Series, “Covenant of the Generations,” was published this year in honor of the centennial celebration.  This fourth volume again contains spiritual reflections, poems and prayers written by women.  

Among the entries in this volume are poems from three Pittsburgh area women and Temple Sinai members: Nancy Dubuar, Esther Nathanson and Diane Rudov.

The authors will be recognized at the Sisterhood Shabbat service at Temple Sinai Friday, May 31, as well as at the annual meeting of the Women of Temple Sinai Sunday, June 9.

At Sisterhood Shabbat Friday, Arlene Smith, longtime member of Women of Temple Sinai (WoTS), will be honored as the “Unsung Heroine” of WoTS and her name will be submitted to WRJ for national recognition at the WRJ biennial coming in December.