Author Archives: Ebony Brown

With Grace

Nearly 20 years ago, a small group of women from The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore gathered together to talk about what many considered an unthinkable problem: domestic violence in the Jewish community. Sadly, there were neighbors, friends and relatives in Baltimore who were struggling with this issue and felt that they had nowhere to turn. CHANA changed that.

A program of The Associated, CHANA offered women support, guidance and protection, coupled with sensitivity to issues that were specific to observant Jewish women. The name CHANA was chosen because it means “grace” in Hebrew, and it embodied the way in which clients were treated by the remarkable women who started the organization. CHANA professionals and volunteers responded with urgency in times of crisis and always did so with great compassion.

For the women who have turned to CHANA since its earliest days, the organization has offered a lifeline in tumultuous times. We have heard from thousands of women that the services offered by CHANA literally saved their lives. As members of a community that deeply values every life, we know that our work has been both vital and transformative.

Through the years, CHANA has grown exponentially — an unfortunate outcome of both increased awareness in the community and a rise in incidences too. Today, CHANA has a very professional staff of six full-time and six part-time employees, led by a superb executive director who is both dedicated and tireless in her pursuit of justice for our clients. Over the years, we have created a Jewish crisis response to those faced with a variety of abuse in their relationships. CHANA has grown to add the Shofar Coalition, prevention and healing services for childhood trauma and sexual abuse, as well as the Elder Project, education and intervention services for older adults, to our scope of practice.

The expansion of CHANA’s reach is a testament to the driving force of lay leadership. Last summer, a strategic planning team found a way to do the impossible: put exact words to CHANA’s experience of nearly 20 years and chart where the community needs the program to go in the next decade. Our first step was creating new descriptive and dynamic mission and vision statements. Additionally, a list of 12 Jewish values was developed to illuminate the way in which our involvement in CHANA is fulfilling the moral imperatives central to our heritage.

I wish we lived in a world in which CHANA’s services were not needed, but that is, sadly, a pipe dream. Instead, as chair of CHANA’s board, I remain committed to working with professional and lay partners to ensure that these life-changing services are in place for those who need them and that we will continue to meet these problems head on.

We should all take great pride in the fact that our community has been able to offer the services provided by CHANA for nearly 20 years and will continue to do so as long as there is a need. It indicates that we are willing to face some harsh realities in our community and that we are able to serve the critical needs of those impacted by sexual abuse, trauma or domestic violence. If we do not uplift, support and care for the vulnerable, we cannot truly be a strong community.

Alyson Friedman is chair of the board of CHANA, a program of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. To learn more, visit chanabaltimore.org.

Fox News Reports the Truth

Saul Edelman’s snide comment about Fox News in his April 4 letter (“Fantasy vs. Reality”) cannot go without challenge. I am a retired media executive, highly qualified to comment.

Maybe the Jewish Times is not the best forum for the following remarks, but the JT opened the door by not editing out Edelman’s outrageous statement (“Ideology is not facts, except, perhaps, on Fox News”), which had nothing to do with the point of his letter.

Fox News is No. 1 rated. Period. Not No. 1 just with Republicans or conservatives, but with all. It is No. 1 because it tells the truth. Even though thousands of viewers like Edelman may disagree with Fox’s editorial stance, they know they are getting the complete story, both from Fox’s opinion shows and in its news reports.

MSNBC and CNN are battling for the bottom of the ratings. “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox is the top-rated cable show in the world, [and] Fox employs James Carville, Bob Beckel, and Juan Williams, hardly voices of conservatism. Left-leaning guests are the norm on Fox.

Anyone who depends on liberal media for news does not have a clue to what is actually going on. Edelman and his ilk should learn that the truth will set you free. It may tick you off, but it will set you free.

Robert Z. Goldberg
Annapolis

A Strategy for Jewish Continuity and Survival

For decades, study after study tells us that the Jewish community’s biggest fear remains Jewish detachment and assimilation. We remain Jewish for three reasons: religion, strong affinity and/or strong feelings of historical connection. All three of these reasons, however, are not preventing our assimilation rate, shockingly, from growing higher and higher. Those Jews who are connected are in the fold and understand why they are Jewish and why they want their families to remain Jewish. It does not guarantee their children or future generations will feel Jewish, but it provides a needed baseline. How do we all work together to stem our future losses?

Over the past 20 years, the communal world has come to understand the importance of Jewish day schools and the State of Israel as the two best strategies in combating our assimilation. The recognition and growth of Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and community day schools through dynamic supporting organizations such as PARDES, PEJE, RAVSAK, SDSN and YU and federations throughout the country, as well as the growth of Birthright, is proof of these communal priorities. It is time to add the third prong to our strategy of Jewish continuity and survival.

For decades the communal response to the Holocaust has been based on perpetuation and memorials with the year-after-year promotion of Yom Hashoah, Kristallnacht, sending survivors as speakers to non-Jewish and Jewish day schools and survivor and generation groups and meetings. The day of firsthand accounts is sadly nearing the end, as our survivor generation is nearly over.

Relying on the same formula with second and third generations is not an answer. It is time for a new and bold understanding of how important the memory of 6,000,000 precious Jewish souls can have on our assimilation and continuity woes when connected and applied with similar strategies as our Jewish day schools and the State of Israel.

To succeed, those combating assimilation need to view the Holocaust through the new prism of post-survivor realities.

Combating assimilation is all about connecting Jewish souls to their feelings. Focusing in creative and unique ways on the lives of those who survived, had children, built successful lives from nothing within our local U.S. cities, and who established long and lasting relationships with the broader community, is one of many ways to reach back to the lives lost.

How we succeed in making these new and creative connections to engage our future lost Jewish souls is the question. Just 20 years ago, Jewish day schools and Israel were not believed to be credible responses to assimilation, and that has changed dramatically today.

Becoming creative with the memories of those who perished is just as vital to prevent the loss of future generations. G-d willing, may we continue to work together to find ways and methods to prevent the continuing loss of so many Jewish souls.

Harry Kozlovsky is a former chairman of the Holocaust Commission at the Baltimore Jewish Council and currently is a board member of the Jewish Community Centers of Baltimore.

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Gluten-Free

(istockphoto.com/Alexan2008)

(istockphoto.com/Alexan2008)

For the many members of the Jewish community who more or less avoid consuming chametz year-round, Passover brings welcome relief.

“Passover is a big treat for everybody,” said Chana Fishkind, who, along with her two sons, maintains a gluten-free diet. Her husband, she said, just goes with the flow.

Two years ago, Fishkind discovered that her youngest son, who is now 5, couldn’t eat gluten. While transitioning to gluten-free cooking for him, she realized that she was sensitive to gluten too and felt a lot better when she avoided the protein, which is commonly found in wheat and other grains.

While holidays such as Chanukah and Purim may require those who are gluten-free to avoid staples such as jelly doughnuts and hamantashen or seek special recipes, Passover is a holiday where, thanks to halachah, many of those with dietary restrictions can eat just like everybody else.

For Aviva Kidorf, who has severe allergies that require her to avoid gluten, Passover is her favorite holiday.

“Passover doesn’t affect me as much,” she said, comparing the spring holiday with other holidays in the Jewish calendar. Unlike the other holidays, when she watches her family and friends consume some of her once-favorite and now-forbidden foods, she is able to eat most things at her family’s Passover Seder table, although her additional avoidance of sugar does require her to bake her own special desserts.

“I don’t miss things [on Passover],” she said. “Just my Keurig.”

Fishkind and Kidorf are far from alone. Celiac disease, which causes an immune reaction to gluten, is especially common in the Jewish community. Unfortunately for many of the Jewish sufferers of celiac, many staple Jewish foods contain gluten — and lots of it.

“A lot of people have said to me, ‘Wow, I could never do that,’ and I said, ‘You would if you had to,’” said Fishkind. “It’s become a part of our lives.”

Both women’s diets require them to get imaginative in the kitchen. For Fishkind, whose youngest son also cannot have eggs and eldest cannot have nuts, potatoes are a staple. She’s also experimented with pancakes that use banana in place of dairy and flour and even found a recipe for avocado mousse she plans to try for the holiday.

“I have creative cookie recipes that don’t need eggs and use margarine instead,” she said. “I do potato kugel — I substitute zucchini for that. I’ve learned to work with things.”

Recently, that work has become increasingly easier. With the growing popularity of gluten-free food among even those with no dietary restrictions and increased awareness of conditions such as celiac, options for those like Fishkind and Kidorf have exploded in stores such as Wegmans and Whole Foods. Fishkind even sells her own baked goods, including doughnuts and hamantaschen, and business has been great. A lot of her customers aren’t even Orthodox.

Matzoh options have also expanded over time. While years ago people with gluten ailments may have been unable to partake in the eating of matzoh, now there are multiple companies that produce gluten-free varieties, although some special rules apply.

“Growing up, we never heard of such a thing. But a lot of the food products are changing to make it cheaper to make,” said Fishkind. “When my older son first started it was horrendous.”

hnorris@jewishtimes.com

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O’Malley Signs Decriminalization, Medical Marijuana Bills

Maryland legislators passed an effective medical marijuana bill and decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. (David Stuck)

Maryland legislators passed an effective medical marijuana bill and decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. (David Stuck)

Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a new medical marijuana bill and a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The Maryland General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a bill that would make possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a fine, and a bill that allows doctors to prescribe marijuana and dispensaries to fill prescriptions for patients.

“We have a workable bill. I think it’s responsible, I think it’s safe,” said Del. Dan Morhaim (D-District 11), a longtime advocate for medical marijuana and sponsor of the bill that passed. “It’s just like any other medicine, it should be another tool in the toolbox.”

Doctors will have to apply to Maryland’s medical marijuana commission to become certified to prescribe the drug, and will be able to prescribe 30-day supplies of marijuana to patients they have on-going relationships with.

“The most important thing for us is that patients are actually able to access the medicine they need for their conditions, and having medical marijuana available through dispensaries is the most important component of that,” said Rachelle Yeung, a legislative analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project.

Initially, there will be 15 dispensary licenses available. Growers can also operate as dispensaries, Morhaim said. The commission is expected to pass regulations governing how the new bill will be carried out by Sept. 15.

“I feel really good about where we are,” Morhaim said. “Last year’s bill didn’t work but it did set up a framework, it set up a commission, it set up a structure.”

House Bill 1101, signed into law by O’Malley last May, established the independent, 12-person Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission. The bill stipulated that a medical marijuana program would have to be under the direction of an academic medical center, defined as a hospital that operates a medical residency program and conducts research with human subjects overseen by the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

Although regulations for the academic medical centers had yet to be adopted, officials at the University of Maryland Medical System and Johns Hopkins University indicated to legislators they did not intend to participate in the program.

Under the new bill, any doctor certified by the commission will be able to prescribe a 30-day supply, the size of which will be determined by the doctor and dispensary, as well as the route of administration for the marijuana.

“There’s specific language that says that the commission is encouraged to be sure that there are appropriate different kinds of strains, shown to work with the different ways they’re processed,” Morhaim said, which could include tinctures and oils.

There is a large data collection component in the bill, which will allow the commission to track patient outcomes and other statistics, and help guide future decisions.

Morhaim expects dispensaries to open within three to six months after the commission passes its regulations in September. After a year, the commission will reevaluate the program and the number of dispensaries, taking into account geography and other factors.

“The key thing is to get medicine into the hands of patients under appropriate circumstances, learn from that and determine what will be the adjustments,” Morhaim said.

As for the decriminalization bill, Yeung did not have as much high praise, calling it one of the weakest bills in the country because of the low possession amount and the increasing fines.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” she said. “The question of a criminal market remaining in place came up during the floor debate in the house, and that’s still an important issue, which is why a system that would tax and regulate marijuana would be best.”

The decriminalization bill, which mirrors a bill Sen. Bobby Zirkin introduced during last year’s session, would impose a $100 civil fine on possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana for a first offense, with fines increasing to $250 and $500 for the second and third offenses, respectively.

“It’s the right public policy,” Zirkin said. “All this bill is, is a recognition that this pseudo-criminalization is an ineffective policy.”

Zirkin said drug use and drugged driving has not increased in any of the 17 other states that have decriminalized marijuana.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Del. Heather Mizeur, Attorney General Doug Gansler and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown all said they support decriminalization. And although Gov. Martin O’Malley was hesitant earlier in the session, he signed the bill Monday.

“I think he became aware that this was the politically smart move and, especially since he has national ambitions, it would have been career suicide to veto this bill,” said Yeung.

mshapiro@jewishtimes.com