Joseph Levine was president of Golden Slipper Club and Charities 30 years ago when the organization first started working with the Passover League of Philadelphia.
On Monday, his son, Brian Levine, the new president of the Passover League, formalized an agreement to merge the two organizations, signaling the end of an era for a group that was founded 80 years ago. Since 1933, the organization has provided grants for community seders that serve needy individuals and families and also delivers Passover food packages to people who are homebound.
The agreement means the league will operate under Golden Slipper auspices, but it will maintain its own separate endowment and continue to determine how grants are allocated. Leaders of the league said they had been looking to merge with another organization because its board members were getting older and the organization’s profile in the Jewish philanthropic community was much less visible.
While the move might sadden some who have seen how much the seders help during Passover, members of both organizations say the merger will only serve to reinvigorate the league, which will retain its name for now and continue its mission.
The organizations already shared strong ties. The largest recipient of funding from the league was Golden Slipper’s annual seder; and Golden Slipper, whose other causes include a summer camp and a center for senior citizens, had provided the league with office space in Bala Cynwyd and staffing for bookkeeping and other tasks.
Joseph Levine, the president of the funeral home that bears his name, said he was “kvelling,” as he saw his son further a relationship that he had begun in 1983. He insisted that the merger will only serve “as a shot in the arm” for the organization, which will benefit from the resources and large membership base of Golden Slipper.
The league represents tradition at a time “when the age of assimilation is upon us. You do anything you can to hold onto that tradition,” Levine said.
When the league first started assisting Golden Slipper, the latter organization held its annual seders at the Broadwood Hotel on North Broad Street. Levine said some seniors who attended back then hadn’t had a square meal in weeks and would wrap the extra chopped liver in napkins to take home.
Golden Slipper started providing doggy bags to seniors after that and grew to serve more than 600 people. They eventually moved the seder from the hotel, which was demolished, first to Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park and then to Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley, where it has been held since.
But in recent years, the number of people attending the seders has declined. About 425 people attended last year, according to Paul Geller, executive director of Golden Slipper, though he also said the number of attendees has always waxed and waned over the decades.
Paul Perlstein, a past president of the league, said his group has also funded seders that served Jewish members of the armed services, veterans and people who were incarcerated, but those populations have also shrunk in recent years.
He said the league has reached out to help fund seders of groups with younger populations, like Hillel, and also now helps a number of synagogues’ seders in the Northeast. The attorney said the Inglis House, a residence and community center for adults with disabilities in West Philadelphia, receives league funding for its annual seder, which he always attends and describes as very emotional.
Despite the fact that its board members and supporters are aging, the league still distributes more than $50,000 each year for seders that serve more than 1,000 people, Perlstein said.
“Without this merger, the Passover League would slip into irrelevance,” Perlstein said. “But I feel so energized by this. Golden Slipper dwarfs us, but they couldn’t be more accommodating, more welcoming, more warm.”