June 1, 2021

Remembering and Honoring Henry Weinberg at Our Veteran’s Service

Filed under: Bill — michael @ 1:05 am

On Thursday, May 27, 2021, we gathered for the first time at a Federation event since this pandemic began over one year ago. I think it was fitting that our first gathering was to honor and remember our Veterans, and to honor and remember our dear friend, and community leader Henry Weinberg. Henry was a leading force for this annual tribute to our veterans at our community cemetery’s for as long as anyone can remember. He was also in charge of preserving the Agudath Achim cemetery, both physically, religiously and spiritually. Henry had an uncommon sense of duty, like the men and women we honored with our roll call of names. Bill Wallen spoke about Henry’s commitment to our Veterans as well as Henry’s commitment to community and service:

Remembering and Honoring Henry Weinberg at Our Veteran’s Service, May 27, 2021 by Bill Wallen

“Honor and Remembrance are key Jewish values.- in fact, they are Mitzvot, or holy obligations.  They are so important that we find them in The 10 Commandment, as part of our Covenant at Sinai.  We are required to “Remember the Sabbath…”, and “Honor our mother and father…”  In our rituals, we honor and remember our parents and other loved ones with Kaddish, Yizkor and Yartzeit.

This evening, in observance of Memorial Day, we especially honor our departed loved ones who have served and protected our Country in the armed forces. 

As Jews, we recognize that we stand on the shoulders of our parents, grandparents, extended families, and Congregation leaders who have nurtured, guided and protected us and helped us to reach this moment in our lives.  We thank them as well as God, when we recite the Shechecianu prayer.

For so many years, our annual Veteran’s Service was planned by our friend, Henry Weinberg.  This is the first year without him. He honored his father and his uncle and their devotion to the cemetery and continued their work. Henry was the chair of the Synagogue cemetery committee for 40 years, in fact he often was the committee.

Each year Henry would say to me, “When are we going to start planning the service?  Who do you think would be a good speaker this year?  Each year we would worry about the weather, as invariably we would have thunder showers looming, or a soaking rain the morning of the service.  Tonight we have perfect weather- maybe Henry had some influence on that.

Henry taught me about  turning the values of honoring and remembering into actions- middot into Mitzvot

Let us all follow his example.  We miss you Henry. Rest in peace.”

May 6, 2014

JDC and Your Federation is There

Filed under: Bill — michael @ 4:07 pm


Our Joint Distribution Committee – Centennial Anniversary



Wherever Jews are in need, JDC is there.  That has been true since 1914 when “the Joint” first started providing relief and rescue to Jews in war-torn Europe and Ottoman-ruled Palestine – and it is true today. Throughout the world, and particularly in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, the world’s poorest Jews depend on JDC. Today JDC is the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian organization – active in more than 70 countries around the globe. For 100 years, JDC has provided rescue and relief to Jews in need throughout the world.  For the last three decades, we have been working to help Jews in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union – the poorest Jews in the world – and to renew Jewish community life to provide a support system now and into the future.  In the Ukraine JDC is there – delivering food and other necessities to vulnerable Jews in Kiev and towns across Ukraine as civil unrest roils the country.

Each year, Our Federation gives a significant allocation to the JDC.  It is part of our mission: Kol Yisrael Averim Zeh v Zeh – “Every Jew is Responsible for one another”.  Your gift to the 2014 Campaign will help assure that we continue this mission.

November 25, 2012

Freeing the Soviet Jews- The Altoona Connections

Filed under: Bill — michael @ 4:01 pm




On November 12 at the National Conference of Jewish Federation, my friend Laura Bialis moderated a dialogue about the 1987 March on Washington D.C. for Soviet Jewry.  The dialogue was between Nobel Laureate Ellie Wiesel and Jewish Agency Executive Nathan Sharansky- who together planned the march.

The event took place on December 6th and the 250,000 people there included a bus full of children and adults from Altoona coordinated by our Sunday school.  It was thrilling to be a part of this historic event and to greet friends from other cities in PA and many other states- all there to seek freedom for our fellow Jews who were held hostage in the Soviet Union.

Sharansky had been freed from prison just several months before the March.  The event was the result of a grassroots effort of “students and housewives,” who began the education and advocacy of American Jews about the plight of our Soviet brothers and sister.

The story of their fight for freedom is told in the film Refuslnik– that was produced and directed by Laura Bialis. We showed that documentary at our Film Festival in 2009.  The film is available to borrow or purchase from the Federation office.

Laura is also the producer/director of Tak for Alt, the documentary on the life of Holocaust survivor and civil rights activist, Judy Meisel, who will  visit us again in April of 2013.

Our greatest connection to Soviet Jewry occurred in 1990, when we “adopted the Aryev and Belenitsky families and helped over 30 “new Americans” come to Altoona as their first homes in the United States.  Our community was blessed in having the opportunity to work together in this effort and be a part of a modern day Exodus miracle.


November 10, 2012

Do Not Stand Idly By

Filed under: Bill — michael @ 3:52 am




Friday November 9th marks the anniversary of Kristallnacht- the Night of Broken Glass in 1938 Germany.  That night the Nazis carried out a program or organized riot against the Jews throughout Germany and Austria.  During a 24 hour period: 200 Synagogues were set ablaze; 7,500 Jewish owned  stores and shops were looted and their windows smashed; cemeteries were desecrated; 91 Jews were murdered and 30,000 Jewish men were seized and sent to concentration camps.  This program marked a change from the economic and social discrimination that the Nazis had perpetuated to actual violence and destruction.  It was the beginning of the Holocaust and “Final Solution”.

News of Kristallnacht spread throughout the world- but there was no meaningful response.  In Germany, people watched and participated in the looting.  In other countries, the Nazis were condemned but there was no action taken against them.  The Nazis realized that they were free to continue and escalate their attacks against the Jews, other minorities and on the other countries in Europe.

We are commanded n Leviticus 19:16 (in the Holy code) not to stand idly by when the blood of our neighbors is shed or when others are suffering.  The world stood idly by then.  We must remember that tragic lesson and reach out now whenever our neighbors are suffering.

April 29, 2012

WISE Women

Filed under: Bill — michael @ 2:35 pm



Many members of the Jewish community spent a special evening at The Casino on April 18 to help WISE Women of Blair County recognize and honor Rozzie Sky, Community Service Volunteer for 2012. Rozzie was described as a woman of “faith, family and community involvement who brings her unique blend of enthusiasm, creativity and commitment to everything she undertakes – and she undertakes a lot!”  Mazel Tov to Rozzie and to the WISE Women organization for their wisdom in honoring her for many volunteer efforts to both the Jewish and general community.  We certainly are proud of Rozzie’s contributions as she joins so many other women in our Jewish community who practice our values of caring for each other, welcoming the stranger and loving your neighbor. Many of these women have been honored in prior years by WISE Women and the YWCA. They include: Nancy Devorris, Judi Sue Meisner, Shirley Pechter and Charlotte Morris as Community Service volunteers; Barbara Hollander – Arts and Letters; Bernice Levinson and Mickey Port – Non-Profit/Government, and Mary Jo Jubelirer – Education.  So many of our women are truly partners with God in the completion, perfection and repair of the world. May they go from strength to strength.


March 3, 2011

Film Festival sets record in 2011

Filed under: Bill — michael @ 9:50 pm




The Twelfth Annual Jewish Film Festival was our most successful – so far. Record crowds enjoyed our fine dinners and great films. Interest in the festival has grown over the years and is now a highlight in the winter schedule for both the Jewish and general communities.

We averaged about 90 people at the dinners where people relaxed, socialized and enjoyed the fine food prepared by Paula and Dave Binus and the special desserts from Maxine. The dinners are the real “community building” component of the festival where people can spend time with old friends and meet new ones.

Based on your suggestions, the Film Festival Committee selected movies that were a little “lighter” and more entertaining for this year. They also added more of an Israeli flavor – two of the films, The Little Traitor and For My Father were made and took place in Israel. Both were well attended and received. Dr. Matt Evans shared his knowledge of Israel in his introduction of For My Father. The Little Traitor, introduced by Mike Cohen, was a heartwarming story of an Israeli boy in 1947 Jerusalem.

The film with the largest attendance (185 people) was Yoo Hoo Mrs. Goldberg, which was the story of Gertrude Berg introduced by Rabbi Audrey Korotkin. The older generation remembered her pioneering radio and TV shows and younger people learned about her influence on current TV comedies.

Our last film, Inside Hana’s Suitcase, introduced by Jan Housman, was a fan favorite. It told the story of a wonderful Japanese teacher and her students who researched the history of a suitcase belonging to a young girl who was a victim of Auschwitz. There were wonderful messages of respect for others and hope for the future.

All of the films are available to borrow from the Federation.

Help us plan for next year. We welcome your suggestions for films that both educate and entertain. Let us know what topics or kinds of films you prefer – either through a comment to this blog or by emailing the Federation office at altfed@atlanticbb.net.

July 7, 2010

Summer Interfaith Series – Wedding Customs and Rituals

Filed under: Bill — drexelroth @ 9:44 pm




This year’s Matter of Faith Summer Series will be held on Consecutive Tuesdays evening from July 13 through August 3 at various settings. We will learn about the mix of theology and secular customs that have influenced wedding rituals in Judaism, Buddhism, Western Christianity, Eastern Orthodox and Islam.

The series begins on July 13, at 7:00pm at Agudath Achim Congregation with an examination of the Jewish wedding – focusing on the ketubah, liturgical music, the chuppah, breaking of the glass etc.

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