SWIMMERS WORLD MAGAZINE by ANDY ROSS 14 February 2019, 05:11pm
On behalf of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the City of Fort Lauderdale, we are excited to fly in Benjamin Franklin to be honored by the City of Fort Lauderdale. On Tuesday, February 19th, 2019, the City of Fort Lauderdale will welcome a very special guest – Dr. Benjamin Franklin.* As portrayed by Mitchell Kramer of Philadelphia, Dr. Franklin is coming to Fort Lauderdale to personally thank Mayor Dean Trantalis, District 2 commissioner Steven Glassman, the other City Commissioners and the Taxpayers for authorizing $27 million dollars for the renovation of the International Swimming Hall of Fame Aquatic Center, of which he an honoree. Dr. Franklin will also visit the International Swimming Hall of Fame to open a new exhibit honoring his contributions to swimming. As Dr. Franklin first said of swimming in 1769, “I wish all were taught to do so in their youth. They would, on many occurrences, be the safer for having that skill, and on many more the happier, as freer from painful apprehensions of danger, to say nothing of the enjoyment in so delightful and wholesome an exercise…And if I had now children to educate, I should prefer those schools (other things being equal) where an opportunity was afforded for acquiring so advantageous an art, which once learnt is never forgotten.” “It was Franklin’s idea of “Every Child a Swimmer,” that led Fort Lauderdale’s Judge G. Harold Martin to lead the effort to bring the International Swimming Hall of Fame to this city back in 1961,” says ISHOF Historian Bruce Wigo. “Bringing Dr. Franklin to Fort Lauderdale is our way of honoring the City for keeping Judge Martin’s dream alive with its commitment to renovate the aquatic complex and the importance of swimming, water safety and drowning prevention to our community.” It was a little over fifty years ago, on December 28, 1968, that Dr. Franklin was recognized by the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF), during ceremonies at the grand opening of the ISHOF museum. Unfortunately, Dr. Franklin, having passed away in 1790, was unable to attend. “Fortunately,” said Dr. Franklin, “I now have the time from my busy schedule to make up for the ‘errata’ – of having missed my induction into the Hall of Fame 50 years ago.” Upon his arrival at Hollywood/Fort Lauderdale International Airport from Philadelphia, Dr. Franklin will be taken to the International Swimming Hall of Fame at 4:00 pm to inaugurate a new exhibit on his life and entertain visitors through a Question and Answer session in the ISHOF auditorium that is open to the public. At 6:00 PM, Dr. Franklin will attend a City of Fort Lauderdale Commission meeting to (1) receive a proclamation from the commission in his honor, (2) to make a statement regarding the importance of swimming for all and (3) to commend the commission for its $27M commitment to refurbish the International Swimming Hall of Fame Aquatic Center. At the conclusion of his brief remarks he will symbolically accept the induction plaque that was presented in absentia 50 years ago and will donate to the Hall of Fame a replica of the hand paddle he made and used when a boy, an original copy of “The Art of Swimming” (Published 1699, this was the book he studied extensively as a child) and a KEY similar to the one he used in his famous “Kite Experiment” in 1742. Both events are open to the public. Who: – Dr. Benjamin Franklin Day in the City of Fort Lauderdale What: – That’s right, Dr. Benjamin Franklin will be recognized by a Proclamation from the City of Fort Lauderdale for his first visit to the City, fifty years after his induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. As portrayed by Mitchell Kramer, Dr. Franklin will be here to thank the City for committing $27 million dollars to the renovation of the International Swimming Hall of Fame Aquatic Complex and its support of water safety and drowning prevention. When: Feb. 19, 2019. Where:2:30 PM Arrival at FLL 4:00 PM at the International Swimming Hall of Fame 6:00 PM at City Hall, Commission Meeting About Benjamin Franklin Dr. Franklin is without question the most noteworthy individual in the Hall of Fame, if not for being the most famous scientist of the 18th Century or the only founding father in a sports hall of fame, then for being the face of the $100 bill. But by all accounts, Franklin’s most impressive talent as a child was swimming and his first scientific experiments and inventions were with swimming hand paddles and swim fins – which are still in use today. In his later years he showcased his swimming abilities and promoted swimming as an essential life skill throughout his lifetime. Swimming is also responsible for introducing him to physics – as swimming and electrical currents are both studies in “Fluid Dynamics.” It was his understanding of the water that led to his discovery that electricity was a single “fluid” that could be captured by the lightning rod that led to him being regarded as the greatest research scientist of the 18th century. So, he is rightfully known as both the “Father of Electricity” and the “Father of Swimming in America.” About Mitchell Kramer Mitchell Kramer is a well-known Philadelphia actor and historian who has been portraying Benjamin Franklin for over ten years. He has performed for: The Library Company, the world’s oldest lending library founded by Ben Franklin, Historic Christ Church, Ben Franklin’s church, Valley Forge National Historical Park, Friends of Independence National Historical Park, The University of Pennsylvania, the country’s oldest university founded by Ben Franklin, and many other leading institutions. For more information www.mitchellkramer.com
Finding A Founder: Historic Interpreter Series Featuring Benjamin Franklin
Friends young and mature filled the Spanish River Library mezzanine to see Ben Franklin. Kind of. Mitchell Kramer, noted Benjamin Franklin impersonator, mingled with the crowd and posed for ‘portraits’ before presenting the life and times of one of our country’s most revered figures.
The resemblance between Mr Kramer and Dr Franklin no doubt helped audience members fall into the fascinating and ‘useful’ life of a founding father. And a first person account, however theatrical, lulls you into what may have been. Franklin’s origin, interests and talents were revealed along with plenty of jokes and jabs, just how you’d expect from the witty statesman. Stories about Franklin’s wife and children, his audience with the king, inventions vs improvements and his personas were all on display. Even if you knew your Ben Franklin stats there was much to be enlightened by thanks to this unique medium; Kramer’s spirited and knowledgeable representation of Franklin inspired laughs but even more so understanding, reflection and wonder. After the presentation, ‘Ben’ answered questions that in some cases opened the door for even more.
This may have been what Benjamin Franklin appreciated most—questions and continued discovery. And as a co-founder of our country’s first lending library he surely would have directed us downstairs to continue our research.
Events such as this are part of the history and evolution of beloved meeting spaces filled with books. We read fiction, test data and learn about those who came before us in such a place. If you’re not a Friend of the Boca Raton Public Library, consider joining to help secure the wonder of books, learning and history. Peruse the downtown library’s bookstore run by the Friends. Or, spread the word about these special events intended to feed the minds and spirits of readers, writers, inventors and statesmen/women alike.
Philadelphia City Paper He Tells Tales, and Not Tall One August 11, 2005
The Brogan family from Chicago learn something new about Philadelphia on their visit to the historic district.Luke Yoder lay across his mother's lap, fighting exhaustion after a 90-degree day touring Philadelphia, his attention span all but nonexistent. It seemed that nothing could rouse the 5-year-old, especially not another story about a historical event or integral character in the nation's birth. But, lo and behold, while sitting in the lobby of the National Museum of American Jewish History, the young boy from Warrenton, Va., suddenly perked up.
A storyteller who just happened to be standing before him was using funny voices and various impersonations to illustrate the First Amendment right to express a dislike of - broccoli.
Surprising his family, Luke yelled, "Do it again!" when the man had completed his tale.
This could be considered just one of the coups achieved by Mitchell Kramer as part of his summer employment. He's spent almost an entire season telling stories about historic Jewish characters and religious freedom to the hundreds of tourists - and the just-plain-curious - who walk by his bench each day in front of the museum on Fifth Street in the city's historic district. On that particular Thursday, he took refuge inside to avoid a sudden shower.
'What Is an ATM'? Kramer is one of 13 storytellers stationed around Philadelphia at such attractions as the Betsy Ross House and Independence Square. These raconteurs are a part of "Once Upon a Nation," the city's summertime effort to enhance the city's tourist experience by offering some interactive ways to educate visitors. It's an initiative of Historic Philadelphia Inc., a nonprofit organization founded in 1994 by Mayor Edward G. Rendell.
In addition to the storytellers, who spin their yarns free of charge, visitors can take day or nighttime walking tours, or see performances dealing with history (these come with a fee). And then, to boot, costumed colonials - George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson - can be found waiting to chat at various points in the Old City area.
Kramer and friends wear no costumes, though they do sport yellow-collared staff shirts because, as the city's newest tourism ambassadors, they are also responsible for answering any city- or tourism-related question passers-by may have. Kramer described his role by positing a scenario: Try asking one of the various colonial characters where the nearest ATM might be or who sells the best pretzel in town and, aiming to always stay in character, you'll be met with a puzzled look and a question in return: "Just what is an ATM?"
Kramer - who this past academic year taught drama at Grover Washington Jr. Middle School in Olney - has nine stories in his repertoire, ranging from an explanation of freedom of speech and religion to stories about Jewish philanthropist Rebecca Gratz and Revolutionary War patriot Haym Solomon.
"Some of my stories are as silly as [the broccoli one]. I do voices, and am whacky and use characters," explained Kramer, 36, of North Wales. "Others are academic, and very much a gentle lesson about religious freedom or tolerance."
Though Kramer grew up in Philadelphia and is an eighth-generation member of Congregation Rodeph Shalom - his family can trace their synagogue membership back to the early 1800s - he says that through this job, he's learned more than he could have ever imagined about Judaism in this city.
After completing 100 hours of training in history, the art of storytelling and customer service, Kramer worked with the organization to iron out the details of the Jewish stories - and even contributed some of his own. In addition, the costumed George Washington (Dean Malissa), who also happens to be Jewish, offered certain tales of his own, including one about a famous letter the nation's first president wrote to the Touro Synagogue in Rhode Island.
"One of the goals of this project is to show that the history of Philadelphia and the history of America are not only the story of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin," said Kramer, who sits (or stands) at his station from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each weekday. "Though that's an important part of it, it's the history of regular people: the black people and the slaves and the Jews and the waves of Irish Catholic immigrants."
According to Cari Feiler Bender, spokeswoman for "Once Upon a Nation," the city has begun to reap dividends from the project. The storytellers have attracted 50,000 visitors in July alone, and the entire program welcomed 162,000 from its start over Memorial Day weekend up to and including July 31.
And, of course, those numbers translate into dollars, said Jeff Guaracino, spokesman for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, who pointed out that last summer, tourists spent $651 on an average two-night trip. Numbers for 2005 have not yet been released.
Though Kramer calls his gig the "most amazing job" he's ever had - despite some unbearably hot days this season - he said he's tried to understand how his job of telling stories, even the ones that have very little Jewish content, have affected the Jews of Philadelphia.
As such, he begins each story by asking listeners if they know what a synagogue is - he was appalled the first time the answer was "no" - and when he does explain it, he feels he has shed some light on Judaism, even if just a small amount.
"If visitors remember nothing else but the idea that lots of different religions can exist together, then it's done a little tiny bit of good for the Jewish community," said Kramer. "In Philadelphia and New York, it's not that big a deal, but for the rest of the country - the people from Montana and Virginia and Georgia or wherever - just knowing that there is a place with a dozen different religions that have lived together happily for hundreds of years is truly wonderful."
Actor Depicts a 'Frank' Colonial Patriot July 2, 2013 By: Eric Berger
Mitch Kramer, who portrays Maj. David Salisbury Franks, speaks with two children from Canada at the Independence Visitor Center. Mitch Kramer couldn’t impersonate Haym Solomon — someone else already had the plum role of portraying the Jewish financier who helped bank-roll the American Revolution — so he settled for a lesser-known but equally notable figure from the same period.
It’s been six years since he took on the role as Maj. David Salisbury Franks, the highest-ranking Jewish officer in the Continental Army. As a first-person interpreter, Kramer has become passionate about telling Franks’ story, which he says contains valuable lessons of embracing diversity and religious pluralism. The passion he has found for his character is “exactly the same as biographers” feel when they connect to their subject said Kramer, who worked as a drama teacher in Maine before moving back to his hometown of Philadelphia. “They’re not perfect people, but you fall in love with your characters. You find incredible qualities about them.” Most summer days, Kramer is one of some 40 actors haunting Independence Mall, wearing Colonial-era garb and interacting with visitors, using 18th century dialect and giving them a sense of their characters’ history and values. The program is run by Historic Philadelphia, a nonprofit organization that uses re-enactments and educational programing in the city’s historic district and beyond to make “our nation’s history relevant and real,” said the group’s chief executive, Amy Needle. “It’s very important that we’re not just telling the stories of our founders but all the people that made history,” said Needle, who also is Jewish.
Franks is one such person whose contributions during the Revolutionary War aren’t widely known, even among Philadelphians. He spent five years under the command of Gen. Benedict Arnold, who eventually committed treason when he defected to the British side in 1780. By association, many thought that Franks had also been a traitor and, though he was exonerated, he never was able to fully restore his reputation. For Kramer, 44, one of the things that makes Franks such an admirable figure was his intellectual abilities — he spoke at least seven languages — at a time when Jews were widely viewed strictly as merchants. Kramer cited a book that describes Franks as the Jewish person George Washington would have been most familiar with.
The actor said telling Franks’ story creates an easy opening for sharing information about the ways different religions coexisted during the Colonial era. For instance, he notes that in 1776, 25 different religions were practiced in Philadelphia. He also tells how in 1788 many members of Christ Church donated money to help Congregation Mikveh Israel, where Franks was a member, overcome its financial struggles. In 2004, the two religious institutions joined to honor Franks at the Christ Church burial ground, where the patriot is buried, and to dedicate a plaque commemorating him. Franks died in 1793, at the age of 53, a victim of the yellow fever epidemic. Kramer said it’s not clear why Franks was buried in the church cemetery where Benjamin Franklin and other more well-known figures were buried, rather than in a Jewish cemetery.
The people who hear about Franks’ connection to different faiths “discover that these separate communities can be turned to as neighbors to help each other,” said Kramer, who is married and lives in Elkins Park. “It is the key to our future. It’s the key to our country’s future and our success. But, equally as important, it’s the key to the Jewish future. It’s the key to our strength.” Trying to animate those values for tourists helps Kramer ignore the hassles that come with walking around in a thick wool coat and a three-pointed hat when its 100˚ outside. But for him, it’s not the heat as much as people asking — sometimes 20 times daily — “Is it hot in there? To which he often responds, “A gentleman is not seen without his frock coat. Withstanding the city’s notorious summer temperatures is a point of pride. “When it’s 100 degrees and we’re outside doing a military muster with our wool coats on, I’m not a contractor. I’m not out building a tar roof,” said Kramer, who also portrays his character at schools, synagogues and churches and off season, is a storyteller. “I am happy at entertaining visitors for a living.”
Philadelphia City Paper
When you think of Benjamin Franklin—and soon you will, every day, if the folks celebrating the 300th anniversary of his birth do their job—you don't think of him as a religious figure. Even less as someone who would pledge his hard penny-saved-penny-earned coin to build a synagogue.
Yet Mitchell Kramer (pictured), official storyteller at the National Museum of American Jewish History, reveals that he not only helped to build the first synagogue in Philadelphia, Mikveh Israel, which shares its home with the museum, but also supported every other house of worship building campaign during his life here.
Mikveh Israel has the original subscription list, with Franklin's signature writ large, on display as the inspiration for their just-opened exhibition on Franklin and religious liberty. Kramer spins the image of Franklin as a man devoted to liberty: "His last position was at the head of an anti-slavery society. His last act was to petition Congress for abolition." To represent the day Franklin was finally laid to rest, Kramer recreates a vibrant scene, where every religious leader in the city, including those from Mikveh Israel, marched behind the hearse.
Kramer has a wealth of historical knowledge, but he works his crowd, so there's no fear of him going into dusty details. "If the kids are happy, the parents are too," he says. But if you ask a question, he's got the answer. An awestruck comment about his acumen prompts this laughter-filled reply: "I suck it all in! My whole life is building up to being on Jeopardy!" Test your own local history with him during storytelling sessions on Dec. 25 and beyond.
"Benjamin Franklin and Religious Liberty," through May 31, free; "Being Jewish at Christmas," Sun., Dec. 25, noon-4 p.m.; also storytelling performances Fridays, noon-3 p.m., Sundays, noon-4 p.m., and periodically from Dec. 27-30, free, National Museum of American Jewish History, 55 N. Fifth St., 215-923-3811, www.nmajh.org.