Wandering Jewish Marker Finds A Home In South Philly

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BY RORY McGLASSON

STATE, City and school officials rededicate Israel Goldstein historic marker on S. Broad Street on Tuesday. Goldstein marker had spent years in storage, but found a spiritual home on Tuesday.
Photo by Rory McGlasson

It’s taken a decade, but a historic marker depicting a former Southern HS student has finally found a permanent home.
Just over 40 people stood outside of South Philadelphia High School to re-dedicate a marker, honoring South Philadelphia-born Israel Goldstein.
The marker, which had been in storage after a business owner took it down in Center City, was rededicated on S. Broad Street on Tuesday.
“I call it the wondering Jewish marker,” said local historian Celeste Morello, who nominated the marker to the State Commission ten years ago.
She said, “Nobody seemed to want to give the marker a home. I tried the Jewish Museum, we had it in center city, but nobody seemed to really want to give it a permanent home.
“It’s a relief that we have found a permanent home for the marker, which is fitting, because it’s right outside Goldstein’s former high school.”
Southern HS Principal Otis Hackney said he felt the marker was the right fit outside of the school because Goldstein was an educator, who believed in equality for immigrants.
Members of the Southern HS Alumni Association, Councilman Mark Squilla and Southern HS JRTC Color and Honor Guards officials participated in Tuesday’s rededication.
Goldstein was born June 18, 1896, and died in 1986. The south Philadelphia-born Israeli rabbi, author and Zionist leader. He best known as one of the founders of Brandeis University. When Goldstein enrolled at Southern, the school program was called ‘manual training’, but his academic record proved to school administrators that there was more promise for academics servicing the immigrant population of south Philadelphia, according to Southern Alumni Association president Samuel Chatis.

SOUTH PHILADELPHIA Student Color Guard open marker ceremony. Photo by Rory McGlasson

Goldstein graduated from Southern in 1911, aged 15. He also graduated from the acclaimed teaching school, Simon Gratz, at the same time. Three years later he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, aged 17.
Born and Raised at 2nd and Fitzwater to strict Jewish parents, Goldstein was taught to focus on academic endeavors, as opposed to athletic. He later became the rabbi of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York, the second oldest synagogue in the city, from 1918 until his immigration to Israel in 1960. He was head of the New York Board of Rabbis, the Jewish National Fund, and the Zionist Organization of America, and helped found the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
Justin Moore, an African-American real estate developer and Brandeis University graduate, told students inside Southern auditorium that he was a “shining example of what Israel Goldstein believed in.”
“Israel Goldstein grew up believing you should not be perceived as just another poor immigrant kid from South Philly,” Moore said. “With hard work and dedication, you too can succeed in whatever it is you want to do.
Philadelphia Historic Marker Commissioner, Richard Sand told students, “Your lives should be committed to Goldstein’s three core values: Education. Equality. And Peace.”
“Students should think of these core values every time they pass the marker.”
Southern HS Principal Otis Hackney added, “When people tell you it was education that changed their lives for the better, please pay attention and listen,” Hackney advised students.
“It’s the truth. We hope somebody starting their journey here at South Philadelphia High School will one day end up with a historic marker dedicated for them.”

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2 Responses to Wandering Jewish Marker Finds A Home In South Philly

  1. I attended the ceremony, along with several fellow alumni of Southern. We are so proud and happy to have such a wonderful tribute to an alumnus and to our school. Shame on the Jewish Museum for refusing to allow this plaque in front of its facility!
    Our appreciation and thanks also goes out to the Philadelphia Record; its editor Jim Tayoun; and the photographer and author of this article Rory McGlasson. Also none of this would be happening without the efforts of Celeste Morello and the cooperation of the South Philadelphia Alumni Association, represented by Marc Adelman. Kudos all around!

    Josephine Pappalardo
    November 16, 2012 at 3:37 pm

  2. I have an additional comment. I am glad the plaque is where it is! It belongs to us–South Philly, South Philadelphia High School and South Phiadelphia High School alumni.

    Josephine Pappalardo
    November 16, 2012 at 4:45 pm

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