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The Good(?) Old Days

Regarding the article, “The Omnivore’s (New) Dilemma,” [Mar|Apr 2010], concerning the many “exotic” dining options now to be found around campus … What exactly was wrong with Roy Rogers at 39th and Walnut or my beloved Hardees in the basement of Houston Hall? I mean, besides the obvious?

Matthew Arbit C’83 G’83 Highland Park, IL 

What Wasteland?

While I enjoyed reading about all of the new restaurants in University City the characterization of the neighborhood in previous decades as a “culinary wasteland” was hyperbolic and misguided—designed, I fear, to pump Penn’s role as the savior of the neighborhood.

The three longstanding restaurants on the 3400 block of Samson Street (Le Bus, the White Dog Cafe, and La Terrasse) all receive at least passing mention, but unmentioned is the fact that Penn once wanted to bulldoze the whole block and wipe out this vibrant, homegrown restaurant row as part of a misguided redevelopment plan.

When I began grad school in 1985, I ate frequently on the 3400 block of Sansom. I also ate at the Gold Standard (both the cafeteria and restaurant) in the Christian Association, at Eden (in the bottom floor of Grad Towers, an outpost of the restaurant empire of Stephen Poses, the Stephen Starr of 1980s Philadelphia), the Gardencourt Cafe (up on Spruce in the Gardencourt apartment complex, a great homey place for brunch), Salad Alley (in the former Urban Outfitters space on Locust), and I ate my first Thai food on Chestnut Street at one of the earliest white tablecloth Thai restaurants in Philly.

Sure, there are some spiffy new food trucks, but Magic Carpet has been offering great vegetarian food on the Penn Campus for more than 30 years now. I was delighted to buy lunch there when on campus in the fall.

And there were no decent grocery stores? Well, frankly, there really weren’t any great grocery stores in Philadelphia in 1985. Still, when I moved to Delaware County in 1990, I used to drive back in to the Thriftway on 48th Street, because I couldn’t get things like tofu or bulgur in Delaware County for love or for money. And let us not forget the Mariposa Food Coop, still out at 47th and Baltimore Avenue after all these years, across the street from the relocated Gold Standard.

Melissa J. Homestead G’87 Gr’98 Lincoln, NE 

The Bad(!) Old Days

I enjoyed Molly Petrilla’s article, “Dining a la Penn” [Mar|Apr 2010]. I’m glad to see just how far Penn’s dining service has come since the 1970s. Back then, students were once welcomed during Passover with fresh bagels! Also, the dining service sandwich workers routinely asked, “Do you want the round cheese, the square cheese, or the cheese with the holes?”

Jeffrey Goldstone W’79 Wynnewood, PA 

(Re)Sharing Our Strength

I read the March|April Food Issue, and my heart sank as I realized the missed opportunity to make Gazette readers aware of the 25 years that one of our fellow Quakers has worked to end hunger from Ethiopia to America. Bill Shore C’77 is the founder and executive director of Share Our Strength (, the leading organization working to end childhood hunger in America. 

To date Share Our Strength has granted $265 million to more than 1,000 organizations across the country that deliver direct, anti-hunger programs to communities large and small. In addition, for 15 years Share Our Strength’s Operation Frontline program has taught low-income families how to cook healthy meals on a budget. The program can be found in 19 communities nationwide and plans to be in 25 states by the end of 2010.

As a longtime member of the Share Our Strength board of directors I can attest to the integrity, professionalism, and effectiveness of the organization. Share Our Strength exists due to the dedication and commitment of one of Penn’s own and is worthy of serious consideration by everyone in the Penn community as a charity of choice. When we think about the joy of food, it is good to remember that Bill Shore and Share Our Strength provide a trustworthy and effective way to experience the joy of addressing childhood hunger in America.

Neil Braun C’74, parent New York 

The Gazette actually has run a feature article on Bill Shore. It appeared in the May|June 2005 issue, and was titled “Taking the Trouble to See.”—Ed.

Once Patients, Now “Street People”

With regard to the article “Architecture of Madness” [Mar|Apr 2010], on Christopher Payne’s book, Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals, your readers may be interested to know that most of the state mental institutions built in the last quarter of the 19th century followed precepts laid down by Dr. Thomas Kirkbride, superintendent of the Pennsylvania Hospital Division of Mental and Nervous Diseases at 40th and Market streets.

I spent my first year of psychiatric residency at the state hospital at Norristown, Pennsylvania, which was a typical Kirkbride design. In the early 1950s the classical buildings were gutted and rebuilt to the standards of the time inside of the original walls.

These facilities had a culture of their own which tended to institutionalize both patients and staff—which was not necessarily bad. In 1951 we had “bag ladies” at Norristown. Like today’s bag ladies they collected their possessions each morning and walked out—not onto city streets to beg and be hassled by police and passersby, but onto attractively landscaped, park-like grounds. They slept in steam-heated and well-ventilated, if somewhat crowded, wards, bathed regularly, ate three nutritious hot (but not necessarily appetizing) meals per day, received an annual physical and any needed medical care. Dr. A.P. Noyes, the superintendent, was an enlightened man who knew patients by name and insisted they be treated with respect.

It is unfortunate that legislative bodies of the various states mistook the arrival of “antipsychotic” drugs and community treatment as an opportunity to save money. The state hospitals were rapidly closed and emptied. Community treatment was not adequately funded. The state hospital patients of yesteryear became the street people of today. Many wind up in jail—where as many as 50 percent of misdemeanor inmates are estimated to be mentally ill—and where if they are treated at all, their treatment is unnecessarily expensive and less effective because of a setting more restrictive than that provided by any of the great old hospitals.

C. Brooks Henderson M’50 Gainesville, FL 

Though it didn’t come up in our story, Chris Payne writes extensively in his book about Thomas Kirkbride and his role in the development of the signature architecture of the state mental hospitals.—Ed.

Preserving the Past

I volunteer in a preservation effort for a state mental asylum that operated for 130 years and also is the second-largest hand-cut stone building in the world. The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (TALA), in Weston, West Virginia, is a “Kirkbride building,” designed to operate as a self-sufficient community. It was closed in 1994. Local citizens protested its neglect, but the structure was allowed to deteriorate until the state sold it a few years ago to Joe Jordan. Long an admirer of hand-cut stone, Mr. Jordan rallied his family and they dedicated themselves to TALA’s preservation.

Unlike many Kirkbride buildings, TALA retains 338 acres of its original campus and the buildings that existed in 1994. The Jordan family is making every effort to preserve them all. They have introduced a number of fundraising activities that benefit TALA and the local economy. This is truly a story of preserving the past and improving our county’s future. I hope fellow Penn alumni visit us for a historic tour of TALA. Our website is

I thank Mr. Payne for his work in preserving this quickly disappearing aspect of mental-health history. His book sounds fascinating. I look forward to buying it.

Brenda Reed ASC’83 Weston, WV 

Disturbing and Shameful

The story “Private Shetznitz” [“Elsewhere,” Mar|Apr 2010] was apparently intended to be amusing. But I found it disturbing and shameful.

The writer has clearly accepted the myth of Israel as a Zionist utopian enterprise lock, stock, and barrel. The reality of Israel is something quite different, beginning with the deliberate Zionist policy of dispossessing the native people of their country and destroying their society, a policy that continues relentlessly today.

While indulging himself in the myth of Israel, the writer becomes a willing partner in its reality. Moreover, one wonders how he avoided losing his citizenship as a result of serving in the armed forces of a foreign state, or why he didn’t volunteer to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Gary L. Leiser Gr’76 Vacaville, CA 

“Infamous” Error

In the essay, “Private Shetznitz,” reference is made on page 16 to “the infamous [Israeli] raid on Entebbe in July 1976.” The raid was anything but infamous—that is, notorious or outrageous—unless, of course, one was associated with the Ugandan military regime of Idi Amin.

Saul Rothman G’65 Washington 

The word appears in the book from which the essay was excerpted, and from context it is clear that the writer merely meant to say that the incident was well known. However, we should have caught the misuse and corrected it for the Gazette.—Ed.

Anti-Semitic Rantings

I am both shocked and angered by the inclusion of the essay, “Private Shetznitz,” by Joel Chasnoff. I can’t recall the last time I saw in print such anti-Semitic rantings. Mr. Chasnoff, a professed borscht belt comic of the Jewish persuasion, has clearly spelled out some of the most obscene comments about people of his faith. As false as the statements are, they are the exact types of vicious ammunition that Jew haters have used for centuries.

For example, “Jews aren’t known for military prowess.” Fact: in World War I, Jewish serviceman received over 200 Distinguished Service medals; in World War II, they received almost 300 Distinguished Service medals. In later wars, the US military has stopped keeping records of a serviceman or woman’s religion, but the number of honored Jewish service personnel continues to be impressive. An excellent website, “Jews in America’s Military,” describes Jewish participation from 1654 to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Haiti. Jews have participated and died in all American wars and conflicts far in excess of their statistical proportion of the US population.

“Jews make movies about war.” Fact: counting all war movies made from the 1970s to the present, Jewish directors and producers were involved with roughly 10 percent of them. The largest number of the most popular and acclaimed war movies were made by leading non-Jewish directors such as Martin Scorsese, Hal Ashby, Clint Eastwood, Francis Ford Coppola, Brian de Palma, and Oliver Stone.

“In the case of Kissinger, we helped escalate a war.” Fact: Kissinger was one of the players; the most prominent men in charge during the Vietnam War were Richard Nixon (Quaker), Lyndon Johnson (Baptist), John F. Kennedy (Catholic), and Robert McNamara (Protestant). To relate one’s religion to the blame for the war is a bigoted and ignorant statement. I mention the religion of the main players to show that point.

“We prefer to leave the fighting of wars to the Gentiles.” Fact: as mentioned previously, Jews have served far in excess of their percentage of the population. I would suggest that Mr. Chasnoff visit the Normandy Military Cemetery in France or the Arlington National Cemetery and count the many Jewish stars at these sites. These honored fighting men rest alongside their Gentile brethren.

The Pennsylvania Gazette owes an apology to the many Jewish alumni of the University along with an apology to all alumni of goodwill who are offended by this article. Nothing less would be appropriate.

Barry Gordon WG’57 Rockville, MD 

A Disgrace

Joel Chasnoff admits that he looked like a clown in his military uniform. He is a clown, pretending to be something—i.e., a proud Jew—when, in fact, he is a self-hating Jew.

He falsely claims that American Jews do not serve in our country’s military. Allow us to correct Mr. Chasnoff’s lie.  Jews have fought in all of America’s wars, often in proportions greater than their percentage of the population.

Chasnoff mocks the Jewish-American doctors, lawyers, and professors who look “Jewish,” a la Joseph Goebbels. He suggests that the root of the problem in the Middle East is the Israelis’ hatred of the Arabs (or is it the pro-Israel fear-mongering fundraisers?), ignoring the violence, wars, and terrorism of the last 100 years.  He calls the Israeli raid on Entebbe in 1976 “infamous,” while claiming to admire Yoni Netanyahu.  Puzzling, or perhaps Chasnoff doesn’t know the meaning of the word.

Chasnoff is a disgrace to the Solomon Schechter School and the university that educated him.

Rochelle Hirshey Wolf G’81 
Lt. Nelson M. Wolf (MC) USNR (ret) C’64
 Wynnewood, PA 

Acronyms: Use With Care

In the more than 20 years since I was last employed at Penn I have counted on the Gazette to keep me apprised of developments at the University. 

I do need to point out the sometimes dangerous, or embarrassing, downside of our American propensity to create acronyms to communicate. We all know what UN, or IBM, or NFL, or numerous other comparable acronyms mean. But as anyone who has lived abroad, studied a variety of languages, or simply traveled can tell you, acronyms can mean one thing to the creator, but something very different for someone else when that acronym has an actual meaning.

May I suggest asking someone from Sweden, or Denmark, what comes to mind when they see the acronym in the headline, “Harnessing PIK Power to Engage Alumni” [“Gazetteer,” Mar|Apr 2010]. (If I may be helpful, the unique Penn acronym is a colloquial term for a certain male anatomical feature.)

Are we to expect a renamed “Poor PIK’s Almanac” in the future?

Thomas T. Winant G’69 Port Saint Lucie, FL 

Wind Power Works

In his letter, “Wind Power Facilities Harm the Environment” [Mar|Apr 2010], Arthur Plaxton shows himself to be an anti-capitalism, left-wing reactionary posing as an environmentalist. 

He writes: “Are the supposed benefits of generating enough electricity from wind to light parking lots and used-car lots through the middle of the night really worth the loss of Pennsylvania’s vast unspoiled natural beauty?” How about benefits such as hospitals, schools, police and fire stations, air-traffic control, emergency networks, street lights, and all the other lit places—aside from used-car lots—that benefit the community?

Robert M. Rosenthal W’60 Studio City, CA 

Bell and Obama

The obituary of Eddie Bell C’54 [Mar|Apr 2010] takes me back to the mid-1950s when he was my husband’s technician at General Electric’s D Street facility prior to completion of the Valley Forge Space Center. During his off-season with the Eagles, Eddie helped construct an experimental shock tube that would contribute mightily to the space race. A competent colleague, he became my husband’s fast friend, so we were initially perplexed when he declined an invitation to dinner.

You see, I grew up in Swarthmore, where the Quaker tradition does not recognize differences in skin color. During WWII, our friends and neighbors took in dozens of Japanese-American children whose parents were committed to detention camps, along with Jewish refugees and those escaping the London Blitz. Lillian Tomita was my dearest ally in Dr. Irwin’s Latin class, and Eva Slavinska, rescued from a concentration camp where she sang in a choir of internees, taught me to jitterbug as the American soldiers had taught her.

About the time I married and we moved into an apartment in Chestnut Hill, screaming women in pink hair-rollers became favorite subjects of Philadelphia TV stations. The defiant housewives from Springfield, Ridley Park, and suburban communities throughout the area were illogically united in the belief that those of a darker skin color had no right to move into their neighborhoods. When they were not yelling slurs and questionable language into open microphones, many toiled long into the night telephoning the homes of families who dared cross the invisible line they had constructed.

We were not in Swarthmore anymore. Now we understood Eddie’s reluctance to make an appearance in an all-white neighborhood.

Armed with athletic ability, gentility, and intelligence, he prevailed. It is heartwarming that wise and powerful human beings like Eddie Bell are today recognized for their talents and humanity. Their courage made possible the steps forward this nation has enjoyed during the past few decades.

At the same time, it is terrifying to observe a new generation of community terrorists emerge bearing weapons, shouting epithets at those who disagree, and demeaning a brilliant president who is determined to preserve a nation open to all of goodwill.

It is ironic that I read Eddie Bell’s obituary a week after my husband died. Perhaps, if there truly is life after death, they will work together once again to forge a better life for future generations.

Emily Pritchard Cary CW’52 Scottsdale, AZ 

One of the Finest, but not the First

I write to suggest a minor correction in the obit for my good friend Edward B. Bell.  Although Eddie was one of the finest to wear the Red and Blue on Franklin Field, he was not “the first African American captain of Penn’s men’s football team.”  That honor went to my dear friend Robert Arthur Evans C’53. Bob followed me in the role of captain of the Penn team.

Harry K. Warren C’52 Brunswick, ME 

A Towering Presence

It was with great sadness that I noted the passing of Dr. Dell Hymes [“Obituaries,” Mar|Apr 2010].  When I was a sophomore at Penn, I signed up for a folklore class on Native American life and language, taught by Professor Hymes.  When I attended the first class, it was clear the course was heavily focused on linguistics, for which I had no background whatsoever.  I was way over my head, and I approached Dr. Hymes after class to tell him that despite my interest in the subject,  I intended to drop the class. “No, no, no!” he protested. “You are exactly the person I want to have in my classes!”

Based on his continuing support I stayed, and although the class was difficult for me, I learned a lot and never worked harder. Now, 35 years later, what I most remember from the experience was Dr. Hymes’ towering presence, his warmth and good humor (he and his wife Virginia hosted the class for dinner at their house—a unique experience for me as an undergraduate), and his down-to-earth brilliance. He will be greatly missed.

Linda F. Willing C’76 Grand Lake, CO 

Full Credit Not Given

Your meat-and-potatoes obituary on Dr. Russell L. Ackoff [Mar|Apr 2010] did not give full credit to his standing in academic and professional spheres. In some circles, Dr. Ackoff was considered the “Father” of Operations Research.

Michael Brown C’69 Houston 

A Forgotten First

While your obituary [Mar|Apr 2010] noted many items in Dr. Edward C. Raffensperger’s long career, you omitted one “first” that is extremely important, in my view. In 1970, when I began medical school with Dr. R. as my adviser, at our first meeting he informed me that the previous fall, when I had interviewed with other aspiring men and women, it had been the very first time that the School of Medicine did not hold a separate, segregated interview day—all interviews then were on Saturdays—for women applicants.  It seems his wife, Dr. Libby Rose, a pediatrician, had informed him that he wasn’t going to continue that “tradition” when he became chair of the school admissions committee! Thanks to him, the Class of 1974 began with a “whopping” 12 percent women!

Marcia J Coleman M’74 Philadelphia 

Military No Match For Politics

I congratulate you on the Gazette, which is of uniformly high quality. While the selected articles tend to be slightly left leaning, the response in the “Letters” has always been pretty balanced.

There are a number of interesting stories in the Jan|Feb 2010 issue, but I was mostly interested in a story by David Jones called “Pinstripe Generals” [“Expert Opinion”]. He seems very interested in increasing the role of the State Department in the control of the military, and indeed we are seeing some of this in Afghanistan, where a soldier may not return fire at an enemy if it would endanger civilians. Since the Taliban are all civilians, this presents a very difficult and dangerous task for the military.

But there are already many cases where the political arm has succeeded in clamping a firm arm on the generals. Consider the Soviet army, which had a political commissar with every unit ensuring political correctness at any cost. Our previous experiences in Vietnam and Korea show that our political generals are much stronger than the military generals.

John T. Fallon W’48 Avalon, NJ 


Last issue’s “Window” highlighting the makeover of the Koja and Rami’s food trucks on campus neglected to mention the creator of the designs that were applied to the trucks. Our apologies to artist—and alumna!—Shira Walinsky GFA’99.

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