Penn Alexander student’s artwork a creative clean water reminder at 42nd and Spruce

Posted on 22 August 2016

Street art

Lamees’s work turned into street art (Photo by West Philly Local).

You may have recently noticed the artwork of Penn Alexander student Lamees Abou-Hatab on the northwest corner of 42nd and Spruce.

Literally on the corner.

Lamees’s art work is a creative reminder that what you dump in the street drains will find its way into rivers and streams. Her work was chosen as part of a student art contest hosted by the Philadelphia Water Department and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary and was turned into street art over the summer. Lamees is heading into 7th grade this year. Congrats to her!  Continue Reading

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New Rabbi and Torah School Director at Kol Tzedek

Posted on 05 August 2016


The new rabbi at Kol Tzedek, Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari (Photo courtesy of Kol Tzedek.)

Kol Tzedek, the reconstructionist synagogue based at the Calvary Center for Culture and Community on Baltimore Avenue, has a new rabbi, Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari, and a new Torah school director, Rabbi Michelle Greenfield. Their first services will be this Saturday, Aug. 6.

A New York native, Fornari has served as director of the Boston-area Jewish Education Program and as a part-time prison chaplain. He was ordained from the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. As a student, he spent two years working at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) in New York, teaching, preaching, and providing pastoral care for congregants.

The synagogue’s search committee chair, Rob Auritt, told the Jewish Exponent that Fornari, who is transgender, has a “singular ability to engage people of all levels of Jewish experience and previous participation in organized Judaism, people of all sexual orientations and gender expressions, and those committed to anti-racism and to a multiracial Jewish civilization.”

Fornari replaces Kol Tzedek’s founding rabbi, Lauren Grabelle Hermann, who left for a position at the Society for the Advancement of Judaism in New York.  Continue Reading

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Black Orchid Foods co-owner hurt in house fire

Posted on 13 July 2016

We’re sad to report that Robyn Biv, co-owner of Black Orchid Foods (Facebook page), the West Philly vegetarian and vegan catering service, was recently hurt in a house fire.

A fire erupted in her home near 51st and Kingsessing that destroyed her kitchen – where her business is based. Robyn suffered burns and was hospitalized. She has made a huge impact on the Kingsessing area by feeding many people for free or using a “sliding scale” with dietary restrictions always in mind. Some of you may have also tried the food served by Black Orchid at the most recent edition of Go West! Craft Fest.

While Robyn is recovering in the hospital from burns to her face, eyes, arms and hands, her friends set up a GoFundMe page to help her with some expenses.

Please follow this link if you would like to donate and support Robyn with your messages:

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USciences names new president

Posted on 28 June 2016

katz_paulThe university’s Board of Trustees has named a new president, 18 months after the previous University of the Sciences president, Helen Giles-Gee, stepped down.

Dr. Paul Katz will serve as the university’s 25th president, according to an announcement by Board Chairman Marvin Samson. Katz, who has served as founding dean of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU), will begin his presidency on September 1, 2016.

“Over the course of more than 40 years in healthcare and higher education, Dr. Paul Katz has gained invaluable experience and has demonstrated skilled and visionary leadership, which will be a tremendous benefit to University of the Sciences,” Samson said in a statement.

Katz has been the chief architect, executive, and academic leader of CMSRU since 2010 and has held a variety of other executive leadership positions within medical schools and health systems, including senior vice president and chief medical officer at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, chairman of medicine and physician-in-chief at Georgetown University Hospital, and chief operating officer at Georgetown University Medical Center.  Continue Reading

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Viewing and funeral for West Philly teen killed in Orlando shooting set for this Friday

Posted on 24 June 2016


A viewing for Akyra Murray, the 18-year-old West Philadelphia woman killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fl. on June 12, will take place Friday, June 24, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Monumental Baptist Church located at 50th and Locust Streets. The funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. at the church and burial will be at Mount Peace Cemetery.

Akyra is the youngest victim of the mass shooting, in which 49 people were shot and killed. She graduated from West Catholic Preparatory High School earlier this month and was visiting Florida with her family. She went to the club with her cousin, Tiara Parker, and friend Patience Carter, also from West Philadelphia. Both Parker and Carter survived the shooting.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Akyra’s family.

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Gretchen Elise revisits the Cedar Park stage with her daughter

Posted on 14 June 2016

Cedar Park Neighbors presents free jazz on Fridays for the summer in Cedar Park - with Gretchen Elise and © Jacques-Jean Tiziou / www.jjtiziou.netFor more info: http://www.gretchenelise.comhttp://www.cedarparkneighbors.org

Gretchen Elise during her June 10, 2015 Cedar Park Jazz performance (Photo © Jacques-Jean Tiziou /

Gretchen Elise is a woman about town. You might recognize her from her performances at local community events or from her 9-to-5 as Director of Development at St. Mary’s Nursery School. You can catch her at the Cedar Park Jazz series on June 17 with her five piece band, with DM Hotep (David Middleton), the guitarist from Sun Ra Arkestra, along with The Authentic, Naeemah Maddox, Anam Owili-Egar, Brandon Kerakowski, Rick Martino and Luke Walker.


Gretchen performs during Make Music Philly Day at Arch St. Meeting House in June, 2014 (Photo by Ella Gahnt)

Growing up in Swarthmore, Gretchen has been playing music since she was a kid. She joined chorus, bell choir and took piano lessons. She wrote a song and sent it to her idol and former Olympic gymnast, Nadia Comaneci.

As a part of her creative process, Gretchen mentioned the need to integrate all aspects of her life, which makes the Cedar Park music series the perfect way to tie all aspects of her identity together.

Gretchen has worked on writing a song for the Cedar Park show with her 7-year-old daughter, who might even make a guest appearance.

“For me it makes sense to integrate my identity as an artist, as an educator, as a community member and as a mother,” she said. “I’m happiest when all of these things are integrated, which is why I think Cedar Park is the ultimate gig. It’s in my community, with my family, in a setting where there’s a park next door where my kids and other kids can play.”

Cedar Park Jazz Series is held every Friday through July 29, from 6 – 8 p.m. (weather permitting).

Rana Fayez

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