Author Archives: Lindsey Bridwell

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Senators Pledge Support for Israel in Wake of Ground Operation

An Israel Defense Forces artillery corps fires shells at Gaza on July 18 after Israeli forces began a ground invasion into northern Gaza. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

An Israel Defense Forces artillery corps fires shells at Gaza on July 18 after Israeli forces began a ground invasion into northern Gaza.
(Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Hours after Israel Defense Forces began their ground operation in the Gaza Strip on July 17, Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) spoke on the Senate floor to express their support of Israel and its operation, while denouncing the Palestinian Authority’s unity government and the moral equivalency drawn by those critical of Israel’s actions.

Graham noted that moments before his speech, the Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution (S. Res. 498) expressing the Senate’s opinion that Israel has the right to defend itself in the face of rocket attacks from Hamas terrorists, calling for Hamas to end the attacks and calling on the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the Palestinian unity government and condemn Hamas’ attacks on Israel. The resolution also sailed through the Senate Foreign Relations committee Wednesday without objection or amendment.

The senator called the resolution symbolic, being passed on the day that Israel began its ground operation.

“The Senate does not see a moral equivalency here,” said Graham. “As Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu said, Israel uses missiles — helped in collaboration with the United States to produce the technology called Iron Dome — to defend civilians. Hamas uses civilians to cover their missile program, making human shields of their own people. That says really all you need to know.”

Graham also gave a stern warning to the Palestinian people about the prospects of peace if they do not dissolve the unity government and condemn Hamas’ actions.

“To the Palestinians who have formed a unity government: You need to break away from Hamas,” he said. “There will never be peace until you marginalize the terrorist organization called Hamas, until you reject what they stand for and the way they have behaved.”

“How can you obtain peace when one of the members of the Palestinian government, Hamas, has fired thousands of rockets, caring less where they fall?” continued Graham. “They could care less if it falls on a kindergarten or a military base. They just care to kill Israelis.”

After leaving the Senate floor, Graham told Washington Jewish Week that he was surprised it has taken Israel so long to begin a ground operation when asked to reflect on the news.

“They’ve done everything they could to de-escalate this, but Hamas is a terrorist organization that has fired thousands of rockets, and they could care less where they land. Eventually you have to do this,” he said. “You can only do so much from the air, you’ve got to go take ground back from the enemy. This is what the Middle East is like, and [to] those who are pushing Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territory without security being in place, I hope you’ve learned the lesson from Gaza.”

Rubio followed Graham on the floor, covering everything from the relationship between the United States and Israel to moral equivalency being drawn between Israel and Hamas by critics and the administration’s policies — which he believes are driving a wedge between the two allies. These policies include the failed U.S.-brokered Israel-Palestine peace talks and the Iran nuclear negotiations.

“Now as American policymakers, you ask, ‘What is our interest in this?’” Rubio said. “And I think it begins with a unique relationship that exists between the United States and Israel. It is the only vibrant democracy in that part of the world. Its alliance to the United States is unquestionable not just in international forums, but all over this planet. Israel is consistently on America’s side, time and again, in every one of our challenges.”

That, Rubio said, was the political reason, whereas there is also a moral reason, which is the “right of the Jewish people to have a country that they can live in peacefully” and that Jews will never again face a time where they have nowhere to go.

While saying that he did not want to insert partisanship into the issue, Rubio took a jab at the Obama administration for, as he later told Washington Jewish Week, “putting daylight” between the United States and Israel in the perception of some in the region.

“I am concerned about the position this administration is taking,” said Rubio. “I was concerned about the amount of pressure that the secretary of state was placing on the Israelis to enter into a negotiation — a negotiation with the Palestinian Authority that didn’t have the authority or the power to reach a peace agreement that they could possibly enforce, much less deliver on.”

“I think it’s safe to say that the relationship between the Israeli government has never been worse toward an American president for more than two decades,” said Rubio.

Following his speech, Rubio added that he believes Israel should do whatever is necessary to “convince Hamas that the price they pay is too high for what they’re conducting or to wipe out their capability to hit Israel” and that he believes Israel will perform the operation with “great restraint” as “everything Israel does.”

The passing of the resolution — and the senators’ remarks — came only hours after the Israeli prime minister gave the go-ahead to send ground troops into Gaza after a 10-day air operation failed to diminish the Hamas rocket barrage. Another stated objective, according to a press release from the prime minister’s office, is to destroy smuggling tunnels.

Earlier Thursday, prior to the ground operation, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) also addressed Congress’ support for Israel during his weekly news conference.

“I think we must send a clear, unified and public message,” Boehner said. “Israel is our friend, and Israel’s enemies are our enemies.”


dshapiro@washingtonjewishweek.com

JNS.org contributed to this story.

With His Assistance …

There must be at least a thousand jokes that begin, “A Catholic priest, an Orthodox rabbi and a Protestant minister enter a bar … .” I’ll begin this week’s column with a story about a Catholic priest, an Orthodox rabbi and a fine Jewish layman. They won’t be entering a bar together, that’s for sure. They won’t even be sitting face to face. But they will all be expressing their opinion about a very important and, unfortunately, very controversial concept: Zionism.

I made the acquaintance of the Catholic priest many years ago before he became a prominent bishop. We had a conversation recently in which he asked me to explain to him how certain very Orthodox Jews can espouse a doctrine of anti-Zionism. “After all,” he said, “if they believe in the Hebrew prophets and believe that their prophecies are to be understood literally, how can they possibly be against Zionism? Almost all the prophets speak of the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and see the repossession of the land of Israel by the Jewish people as the highest ideal.”

For my friend, the bishop, supporting the sovereign Jewish government in the land of Israel is an imperative of the Jewish religion. I found it very difficult to explain to him the reasons why some devout Jews do not even recognize the modern-day State of Israel.

Not long after this conversation with my Roman Catholic friend, I ran into another friend, whom I first met many years ago. He is a follower of a Hasidic sect that is antagonistic to the Jewish state and that frequently publicly protests Israel’s political and even military actions. He is a great scholar, and we have long ago learned to avoid discussing the topic of Zionism. He knows that my opinions are very different from his. Instead, we confine our conversations to his recent writings, which ironically are based upon the commentary on the Bible by Rabbi Moses Ben Nachman — Ramban or Nachmanides.

During this recent encounter, we again avoided discussing the topic of Zionism. I know his position well. He believes that it is absolutely wrong for Jews nowadays to reclaim the land of Israel but that we must wait for the coming of the Messiah to do so. He sees the current State of Israel as being the audacious embodiment of sinful hubris. He believes that the State of Israel is nothing less than the work of the devil himself. My own view is quite different, and we have long both been reconciled to the fact that we would never convince the other to change his opinion.

The third “player” in my little story is, sadly, long deceased. He was a gentleman back in the community where I was a pulpit rabbi. He described himself as a religious Zionist and, indeed, was very active in leadership capacities within organizations that were ardently Zionist. Yet, when his own children informed him that they were making aliyah and moving to Israel, he was very upset and shared his disappointment with me.

My connections with these three individuals often motivate me to return to sources in our sacred tradition to buttress my own point of view. One such source is this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Masei (Numbers 33:1-36:13). For me, this parsha is the basic enunciation of what some call “Religious Zionism.” In it, we read of the many, many wanderings of the Jewish people before they were privileged to possess the land of Israel. We read of the commandment to conquer the land, to settle it and to preserve it as an inheritance for our descendants. We learn in detail about the boundaries of the land and about the requirement of all Jews to assist in the process of its conquest. Is this all not what the world has come to refer to as Zionism?

Ramban, second only to Rashi as the most widely studied Jewish commentary on the Bible, remarks that in this week’s Torah portion we find one of the 613 commandments, namely the mitzvah to possess the land of Israel. He furthermore insists that this positive commandment applies throughout Jewish history, even today, and is not just of historical interest.

The biblical verse reads, “And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have assigned this land to you to possess” (Numbers 33:53), upon which Ramban comments, “In my opinion, this is a positive commandment, a mitzvat aseh. God is telling us to dwell in the land and to possess it and not to reject it in any way, nor to substitute any other geographical dwelling place
for it. Based upon this verse are the numerous eloquent remarks of our Sages on the importance of dwelling in the land of Israel and never leaving — to the extent that a husband can force his wife, and a wife her husband, to dwell in the land of Israel rather than elsewhere.”

In another of his writings (Hasagot L’Sefer Hamitzvot, Mitzvah 4), in which he enumerates the 613 commandments, Ramban emphasizes that this verse is to be understood as a command and not merely as a Divine promise that one day we shall dwell there.

Ramban echoes this attitude toward the land of Israel, and its central role in our religion, throughout his vast writings. Furthermore, he personally practiced what he preached and left his native Spain to live in the land of Israel and indeed to die there.

For me, Ramban is but one proponent of the religious imperative that underlies the modern State of Israel. Here are the words are of a much more recent proponent of this position:

“The land of Israel is not something external, not an external national asset, the means to the end of collective solidarity and the strengthening of the nation’s existence … The land of Israel is an essential unit bound by the bond of life to the people … The expectation of salvation is the force that preserves exilic Judaism; the Judaism of the land of Israel is salvation itself.”

These are words with which Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook opens his classic work, “Orot.”

I write this column as the State of Israel and its inhabitants face a most difficult challenge, the onslaught of rockets aimed at them by a hostile enemy. At this moment, perhaps more than ever before, we draw our strength and our hope from the knowledge that it is the Divine will that we dwell in His land and that we serve Him by defending it. With His assistance, we will succeed, and the land will continue to prosper materially and to flourish spiritually to an even greater extent than ever before.

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb is the executive vice president emeritus of the Orthodox Union.

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Forman

072514_miles-FormanSheryl (nee Newman) and Nick Forman and big sister Lila happily welcomed Spencer Matthew into their family on June 9, 2014.

Spencer’s Hebrew name, Shmuel Moshe, is after great-grandfather Samuel Berman, great-grandmother Sydele Newman and great-grandfather Morris Newman. Proud grandparents are Jerry and Sandy Newman of Owings Mills and Lois and Alan Forman of Pittsburgh.

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Local Businesses Hold Their Own

Ray Hinish, who owns Expert Nutrition Center and the building that houses The Flying Avocado Café and Admiral FITT Personal Training, welcomes the competition Foundry Row will bring. (Marc Shapiro)

Ray Hinish, who owns Expert Nutrition Center and the building that houses The Flying Avocado Café and Admiral FITT Personal Training, welcomes the competition Foundry Row will bring.
(Marc Shapiro)

When Foundry Row is up and running in 2016, an LA Fitness will be next door to Lynne Brick’s and only a few miles from Brick Bodies and Planet Fitness, all three owned or franchised by the same local company.

But Lynne Brick, president and founder of the female-only Lynne Brick’s and coed Brick Bodies and operator of local Planet Fitness gyms, isn’t worried about another national fitness chain coming to the Owings Mills area.

“We’re a hometown business, locally grown,” Brick said. “We’ve been at it for 30 years now, and I think a lot of people in the community know our name.”

Other business owners share Brick’s sentiment and even look forward to the new center being built at the former site of the Solo Cup factory and the increase in traffic they expect to bolster interest in the area.

“We know what we’re doing here. We’re established here,” said Larry Lawrence, a manager at Beauty Supply in the Painters Mill Shopping Center. “If there’s more traffic, it’s better for business.”

In June, Foundry Row developer Greenberg Gibbons announced future tenants LA Fitness, Sports Authority, DSW, cosmetic shop Ulta, Panera Bread, fast-casual Mediterranean eatery Zoe’s Kitchen, cook-to-order Smashburger and build-your-own eatery Nalley Fresh. These businesses will join Wegmans, the anchor of the center with a 130,000-square-foot store.

If past projects are any indication, Brick and Lawrence may be accurate in their assertions, said Jesse Tron, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers.

“In most areas, there’s a large shopping complex with a collection of national brands and there’s typically a Main Street with local retail, local mom-and-pop shops,” he said. “Typically there is a coexistence there. Different retail formats serve different purposes for different consumer wants and desires.”

Tron added that projects such as Foundry Row often bring people to the area, who then find local retailers that don’t necessarily have the marketing dollars to reach potential customers.

“This is giving us an opportunity to keep people here,” said Colleen Brady, president of the Reisterstown-Owings Mills-Glyndon Chamber of Commerce, noting that people often travel to Towson or Hunt Valley for some of the same stores that will open at Foundry Row. “It’s a good way for us to look around and see what is in our backyard.”

Those backyard businesses may have an advantage over national chains, Brick theorized, by having visible owners who are often invested in the community. Her company, for example, is involved with the Reisterstown Festival and supports local 5K runs and community groups, and the owners can be spotted at the gyms, talking to customers and doling out workout advice.

“I’m not sure a big chain is going to be capable of doing that,” she said.

Ray Hinish, who owns the building that houses the Flying Avocado Café, Expert Nutrition Center and Admiral FITT Personal Training on South Dolfield Road, welcomes the competition.

“I think there are plenty of hungry people to go around,” he said. “A little competition never hurts, it only helps you become better.”

He believes the smallness of the business also helps, as some people are turned off by chain establishments.

For others, the coming of Foundry Row is an opportunity to look toward the future. Jessica Normington, executive director at the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is discussing updating its strategic plan, which is about 10 years old. The plan would look at the chamber’s vision and goals, its board structure, bylaws and what businesses the chamber would like to attract to the area.

“Right now, we don’t know how it’s going to impact [the area],” she said. “We could see a whole transformation that could trickle down to Pikesville.”

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Eclectic Sounds Come to Baltimore

071814_oregon-ridgeOregon Ridge Park will host international reggae stars, guitar virtuosos, bluegrass heavy hitters and bigtime indie rockers this summer.

The Believe in Music Festival on July 26 and the Hot August Music Festival on Aug. 16 bring diverse, multigenre lineups featuring up-and-coming local bands, national acts and internationally renowned artists.

The inaugural Believe in Music Festival lineup boasts Thievery Corporation, a Washington, D.C.-based collective of musicians and DJs that play a danceable mix of jazz, reggae, dub and world music; Rodrigo y Gabriela, a Mexican guitar duo that Believe in Music founder Kenny Liner calls “jaw-droppingly amazing;” roots reggae legend Jimmy Cliff; rootsy, soulful band Lake Street Dive; electronic rock duo Boombox; and local legends The Bridge and DJ Who featuring the Believe in Music Kids.

“Thievery Corporation was really supportive of the cause and really liked the idea and was on board on right away,” said Liner, who founded the Living Classrooms program Believe in Music in the fall of 2012. “We built the lineup around them.”

The cause Liner referred to is that of his program, which aims to uplift and provide a creative outlet for inner city students through a multifaceted music education. He just finished teaching his second school year of students at the Perkins Homes, Baltimore’s largest housing project. This summer, he started teaching classes at the Carmelo Anthony Youth Development Center, which is also in downtown Baltimore.

Liner’s program includes music history, rhythm lessons in which students play in a bucket band, melody and harmony, group vocal ensembles, an “American Idol”-style contest and individual and group songwriting.

“I’m just so grateful that it’s still going and that I’ve gotten all the support I’ve gotten to keep it going,” he said.

Liner started the program about a year after The Bridge — for whom he plays mandolin, percussion and beatbox, a form of vocal percussion — stopped touring in 2011. The band still plays locally a few times a year, as it will at the festival on July 26.

He partnered with area promoter All Good Presents to throw the festival. Promoter, talent buyer and All Good co-founder Tim Walther previously worked with Believe in Music on a benefit show at Pier 6 Pavilion in Baltimore last summer.

“Believe in Music creates an incredible opportunity for underprivileged kids to experience what music can do for the soul,” Walther said via email. “Kenny knows this first hand and we are honored to work with him on this one day event, the Believe in Music Festival.”

Walther and his company took this summer off from throwing the annual multi-day, camping music and arts festival, The All Good Festival, so the timing worked out. Walther said Liner’s cause attracted a lot of bands, and a headliner as diverse as Thievery Corporation allowed the rest of the lineup to be equally as eclectic.

“The Believe in Music concept garnered interest from every artist that we approached. The beautiful thing for me was that the process expanded my musical reach and led me to bands that I had never listened to before,” he said. “I would suggest that the diversity of the lineup sets us apart from the rest.”

Not only has a major regional promoter partnered with Believe in Music, but the Jewish community is also rallying behind Liner’s cause. The Center for Funds & Foundations, an arm of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, recommends donating to Believe in Music on its list of funding opportunities.

While the upcoming fundraiser and music festival is overflowing with big-name bands, Liner is equally excited for the day’s first performances, which will be by his students. The performances, being refined at the program’s summer classes, will feature bucket drumming, singing, rapping, dancing and more.

“A lot of them have never performed before. So they’re excited but they’re nervous. It’s going to be awesome,” Liner said. “There’s some real talent. They’re singing Destiny’s Child and it’s [ridiculous].

The Believe in Music Festival is July 26 at Oregon Ridge Park, 13401 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville. Gates open at 11 a.m. Tickets start at $59. Visit believeinmusicfestival.com.

Hot August Music Festival
As the music scene has changed, so has Brad Selko’s festival.

“I wanted to change. I needed to change,” said Selko, who first threw the Hot August Blues and Roots Festival at his Monkton farm 21 years ago.

With the festival growing larger and the music more diverse, Selko rebranded his festival this year and renamed it the Hot August Music Festival. It takes place on Aug. 16 at Oregon Ridge Park.

“I think it’s probably the best one I’ve put together,” he said. “The diversity is really great and it seems to be attracting people.”

Festival headliners include Old Crow Medicine Show, a Nashville-based old-time string band, progressive acoustic trio Nickel Creek and indie folk-rockers Dr. Dog. Other performers include blues guitarist Tab Benoit, Brooklyn funk band Turkuaz, seven-piece funk and soul band Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, bluegrass band Cabinet, and Americana band Houndmouth. Local performers include blues/soul/funk singer-songwriter Ursula Ricks, electro-rock quartet ELM, soul-singer Bosley, rock trio the Jordan August Band and folk-rockers The Solicitors.

In addition to its three stages, this year’s festival features improved festival infrastructure, a larger kids area and an Eastman guitar auction, proceeds from which will be donated to musical organization Common Ground on the Hill’s programs for at-risk youth.

As for the name change, Selko, who attends a lot of concerts and is constantly listening to new music, said it’s about staying with the times.

“I think you have to stay on top of what’s going on in music,” he said.